Kentucky Dateline Articles
- Footnotes in History -

While searching through old microfilm looking for information on past Kentucky games, it's hard to not be distracted by all the other tidbits of information which catch your eye, both inside and outside sports. Often there are some interesting bits of information which do relate to UK basketball in some way or things which are not well known but turn out to be significant in some way.

I try to note this type of information when I see it, and in the past have taken a few of them and written them up as posts to on message boards to provide a different dimension to the topics (and to help pass away the dog days of summer.) Below I've taken some of these posts and put them together in one place and with some additional links and graphics. Some of the information is interesting, some important points in history (whether it was known at the time or not) and some is just goofy. Hope you enjoy them.

Dateline Spring 1902 - Birth of Big Blue

While looking through some archives at the UK library, I ran across an article published on January 8, 1961 in the Louisville Courier-Journal weekly magazine entitled "Birth of the Big Blue." This was written by the Courier-Journal's Lexington correspondant Gerald Griffin.

The article basically talks about some of the early days in UK basketball history, and interviews three people: former player Dr. H.H. Downing (who played in 1908), former coach and administrator S.A. "Daddy" Boles (who came to Kentucky in 1916 and was the head basketball coach in 1918) and former player Dr. E. Cronley Elliott.

It was Elliott who caught my eye, since I had never heard of him and I knew of no record of him ever playing basketball for Kentucky. Reading further it became apparent as to why, since Elliott claims in the article that he played basketball in 1902; a year before the first official game was known to have been played at Kentucky (February 6, 1903 against Georgetown College.

According to the article:

"This century was an infant when the University of Kentucky, then known as Kentucky State College, annoyed the taxpayers by building its first gymnasium on the Lexington campus.

It wasn't much by modern standards, but it provided shelter for a few athletic young men eager to work off steam during the long dry season between football and baseball. So they formed a basketball team.

That carefree decision in 1902, could be called the birth of the Big Blue.

Dr. E. Cronley Elliott, a retired Lexington dentist, was a member of that hardy crew which played for fun, without coach, captain or athletic scholarships."

Architect's sketch from 1900 of the proposed new gymnasium building which would become Barker Hall. For more information about the architect, James Russel Scott, and his plans for the building see this link.

I had not heard of cases where students played basketball in the gymnasium prior to the official games held in 1903, but I wasn't surprised at reading this since it would seem to be natural that the students would take advantage of a gymnasium as soon as it opened.

Although there are some discrepancies in the literature as to when the gymnasium in Barker Hall actually became available to students, it appears likely that it was early in 1902. This is based on claims (in the 1904 yearbook and elsewhere) that the women actually had formed a basketball squad in 1902, along with articles in late 1901 in the Lexington Leader stating that the gymnasium was nearly complete and ready to be handed over to the University in conjunction with the decision by the College in to create a Physical Eduction Department and to hire a gymnasium instructor for the women, Frances Offutt, in December of 1901.

What did strike my curiosity was the claim by Elliott that not only did they play in the gym for fun, but that they played games against the local Lexington YMCA.

Again, according to the article:

"The team didn't even have a schedule the year Dr. Elliott played, although that forerunner of the celebrated Wildcats of recent years did play a couple of games with a team representing the Lexington Y.M.C.A."

E. Cronley Elliott circa 1961
If true that games were played with teams outside the University, this is uncharted territory since not only is there no known record of them, but these games predate the generally accepted start of the program by a full season. Unfortunately, it's highly unlikely that any records remain from these games, including what the dates and scores were, which individuals participated in them etc.

Beyond that, it's extremely unlikely that these games were officially sanctioned or endorsed in any way by the University given the general hostility by the administration toward organized athletics at the time. If anything, it is surprising that basketball at Kentucky started as early as it did. As Gregory Kent Stanley noted in his book Before Big Blue "UK's first president, James Kennedy Patterson, attempted to ban all sports, believing that their legacy was limited to broken noses, legs, and arms, wasted time, idleness and 'a heritage of demoralization.'"

So while the information in this article likely will never be sufficient to alter the official record, it does give a glimpse into an earlier, previously forgotten time, and provides a reminder that there are still areas to be explored when looking back through Kentucky's rich basketball history.

As a follow-on to this, I should note that upon reading Elliott's claim, I wanted to verify that he indeed was present at Kentucky during the time stated (1902) and confirm that he wasn't mistakenly thinking of the 1903 season where he potentially could have been one of the group of students who were loosely organized under Walter Mustaine and instructed to start playing basketball (as described by Russell Rice in his book Big Blue Machine.)

One notable difference suggesting they were distinct situations concerned the game ball. In the Courier-Journal article it was noted: "In Dr. Elliott's time they wore gym suits which they bought themselves. But the school generously provided them with a ball and hung iron hoops at each end of the gym."

In comparison, Rice's account of the 1903 team in Big Blue Machine specifically mentions that the players were responsible for raising money to purchase a ball. From Big Blue Machine:

"I remember chipping in to help buy the ball," said Thomson R. "Tommie" Bryant, who had just turned 90 in January of 1975. "It was one of those you inflated with a foot pump and then laced. If something had happened to it, we couldn't have played."

Based simply on this discrepancy over the ball, they appear to be different situations. It does make one wonder what happened to the ball in 1902 however!

E. Cronley Elliott circa 1900
Confirming that Elliott was indeed present in 1902 was made slightly more difficult because there was no yearbook published that year. But a call to the UK Alumni Association confirmed that Elliott graduated from the University in 1902. Furthermore, Russell Rice checked his records and confirmed that Elliott had played quarterback on the 1900 Kentucky football team (the article claimed that Elliott had also been a quarterback in football and had played baseball in college).

Update: Since that time a special football memento of the 1900 season was published on the UK archive site which shows E. Cronley Elliott in his football uniform, and lists him as quarterback of the team (see photo to left).

So the information not only checks out, but based on his graduation date it appears extremely unlikely that Elliott was even still around campus in 1903, eliminating a lapse in memory as to the exact year as a likely possibility. In other words, I haven't found reason to doubt any of Elliott's claims as stated, including that he and others were playing basketball at Kentucky in 1902.

P.S.: According to records, after the article was published Dr. Elliott died the following year in 1962 at the age of 82.

Another update supports the idea that Kentucky students played games during the Spring Semester of 1902. This comes from an article in the February 9, 1902 edition of the Lexington Morning Herald which notes that "The teams will be organized this week. Dates have already been arranged with K.U. and the Lexington Y.M.C.A." The article goes on to provide names of various students who will try out for the team, including Cronley Elliott.

February 9, 1902 Lexington Morning Herald

None of the players named in the article ended up playing for Kentucky the following season, and it has yet to be confirmed exactly when or if these games took place, beyond the claims made by Dr. Elliott above.

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Dateline February 14, 1908 - Skating through History

As part of going through old microfilm looking for UK boxscores, sometimes you run across things which just tease you. Especially the early part of the century where information is hard to find (if it's even there) and doesn't give a lot of detail. It seems newspapers during those times were formatted a lot differently than they are today or even as they were in the decades to follow.

For example, instead of lengthy articles, the newspapers seemed to be composed of mainly short one or two paragraph snippets about various topics scattered across the page. To make things even more frustrating when trying to locate specific items, the topics were not really organized into identifiable sections as you see today's newspapers. So it wouldn't be surprising to find mention of a basketball game located just about anywhere. Next to a marriage announcement, details of a farm accident or a recipe for an ointment, it doesn't seem to matter where it went.

Anyway, below is a small article I happened to run across while glancing through some microfilm looking for UK games in 1908. From the Friday February 14, 1908 Lexington Leader:

A couple notes from this.

1.) As you might have guessed, there is no official record of such a game played on February 17 in the UK record book. [and no record of State College (UK) playing the high school that year] So if it was played, it would be one which has not been reported to date.

2.) Unfortunately from looking at the Monday & Tuesday papers (the day of and day after the game was supposed to be held), there is no mention of it (if it was played at all) at least in the Leader.

3.) Playing on skating rinks apparently wasn't an unheard of thing. Judging from the advertisements of the time, it seems skating was a pretty popular past-time in Kentucky at the turn of the century and it would seem a skating rink would be an ideal place to hold a basketball game, given the crude state of gymnasiums at the time. [I did a quick web search on the history of roller skating and it claims the first practical roller skate was developed by someone in Massachusetts in 1863 and over the next 20 years, it became popular in the US]

Centre College around that time used to play at a place called the Danville Rink. Advertisements for the Rink would mention the game time, and then say that you could skate before and after the contest. And I recently found from a Vanderbilt list that one of Vanderbilt's early gymnasiums (the Hippodrome in Nashville) where they played in the 1930's and early 1940's, was also a roller rink.

FWIW, in the same paper was an advertisement for the Mammoth in Lexington which gives some more information.

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Dateline January 30, 1917 - The Goat-Boy Strikes !

There's really no good reason to post this story about UK's game against Rose Polytechnic, but hopefully some will enjoy it. The game was unimportant and a blow-out. But I thought I'd mention it anyway because it does strike some interesting visual images and I think is the best I've seen at commenting on the rough play during those times.

Here's the link to the game,

First of all, the beat writer (Tom Underwood) that wrote the game summary is one of the more entertaining UK beat-writers I've seen coming out of the Lexington Herald. If you like the style of this story, I'd suggest reading all his stories from that year. (Be sure to check out future Western coach Ed Diddle's tactics during free throws while he played for Centre a few games prior to this game)

The story also makes any interesting reference to the style of play the Rose squad employed. Back then, most teams kept at least one player back to defend the goal, the back guard. UK even had a player (Ellis Johnson) win all-american honors for his ability to play this position [it couldn't have been for his scoring, he averaged 3.3 points per game in his career] Sometimes the back guard would sneak up near half-court and pop a long shot (the courts were generally much smaller than they are today) but generally stayed back and weren't much of an offensive threat. The Roses instead brought a new method of attack which Underwood thought novel enough to comment on. They brought all five guys onto the offensive end at the same time ! Underwood writes:

I found that interesting to see how thoroughly unimpressed Underwood was with this tactic, which although it would take at least another decade (not sure exactly when things changed significantly) would overtake offensive philosophy.

Finally, the story goes into some detail about the rough nature of the game at that time. The goat reference if priceless IMO. I have to wonder what constituted a foul back then ? Incidentally, the referee for that game, was Robert Hinton, coach of the Georgetown team (who had played and beat Rose Poly the night before in a rough game). It sounds strange today but at least at that time, it was not unusual that a coach of another team would be called to referee a game. For example, when Centre and UK played, the Georgetown coach would often officiate. When UK and Georgetown played, the Centre coach would be called to duty. I've seen where former UK coaches would come back the next year and officiate a game, likewise former UK players would be called on to toot the whistle. John DeMoisey (former UK All-American) seems to have been an official for many years after he left UK and called many UK games. (Of course more recently, George Conley (father of UK player Larry) used to officiate games Kentucky played in during the 60's, but that's not quite the same.)

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Dateline January 1918 - Old Man Winter 1, Wildcats 0 or The Curse of the Miami Big Reds

Sometimes things just aren't meant to be. At the beginning of the 1918 season, Kentucky was scheduled to travel by train to Miami (OH) University for a game. They never made it however. Here is the story as published in the Kentucky Kernel, 1/17/1918

The 1918 Kentuckian noted the snowed-out game

The game was never rescheduled for that year. They did play however, the following year. Here is the pregame for that which talks about more hardships in getting these two schools together.

Published 3/16/1919 in the Kentucky Kernel

As is turned out, the game wasn't worth the wait for the Wildcats. They were swamped 38-14. :-(

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Dateline February 26, 1922 - A Fork in the Road

From the February 26, 1922 Lexington Herald:

I found this article interesting on a number of levels. For one, the article doesn't mention this but Kentucky was already part of the SIAA (which later became the Southern Conference which later split into the SEC and ACC) at the time. If UK had joined this midwest conference, the entire backdrop would have changed from a Southern university to a midwestern one. I wonder how things would have played out in this scenario in terms of UK building its basketball legacy. This conference would have gone up against the well established Western Conference (which later became known as the Big Ten).

I also found it very interesting and even prophetic Rockne's quotes about how people view teams which don't subject themselves to the rules and regulations of a governing body, seeing how Notre Dame has been one of the biggest holdouts in terms of joining a conference (and remains so today with respect to football).

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Dateline February 9, 1923 - Stung by Cupid's Arrow

published in February 9, 1923 Kentucky Kernel

FWIW, Fest, who was the team captain, stayed on for the remainder of the basketball season. Married life must have been good for him as he had two of his best games of his career, a career-high 17 points against Tennessee a day after the above article was published and 14 points against Sewanee in the season finale.

Fred Fest
1916 Martins Ferry
High School
Mary Harris
1917 Martins Ferry
High School

Postscript: According to genealogical records, a son, Fred Fest Jr., was born in Martins Ferry OH in 1924 and the couple eventually moved to West Virginia, settling in Weston. The couple divorced however in 1944. Mary Harris died in 1969 and Fred, who later remarried died in 1974.

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Dateline January 1926 - Scouting Goes High Tech

from the Kentucky Kernel in late January


Dateline February 4, 1926 - A Surprise at the Door

On February 4, 1926 was played one of the most unexpected games in UK's history when the Washington & Lee basketball squad (coming all the way from Lexington, Virginia) showed up in the morning at the Athletic Director's door and claimed they had a game against UK that evening. This was news to UK and they had to scramble to put together the match in time. UK went on to win the game. Here is the boxscore.

Below is the game summary as written in the Lexington Herald.

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Dateline June 28, 1928 - Washed Away

One event that is little known, which potentially affected the history of Kentucky's basketball program happened not in any game, but during the off-season. In the summer of 1928, the city of Lexington endured numerous rainfalls which left the ground saturated with water. On June 28, 1928, a torrential downpour led to flooding throughout the city.

Downtown Lexington

Alumni Gymnasium was not immune to the flooding, having been built in a relatively low point near an area of campus which was once a marsh.

Water reportedly reached the playing surface. But more significantly, the basketball offices were housed in the basement of the building, which was completely immersed. Whatever records that had been accumulated on the program to date were completely destroyed. Soon thereafter, Adolph Rupp came onto the scene and completely changed the program's fortunes. What occurred prior to Rupp's arrival was quickly relegated to the far past. Only decades later when Russell Rice began to research UK's history was much of the information on the early years reconstructed. A task made significantly more difficult due to the loss of information that summer of 1928.

Alumni Gymnasium was awash in the Summer of 1928

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Dateline February 19, 1931 - Positively Perfect

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Dateline November 29, 1932 - A Longer Bed

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Dateline January 6, 1933 - Kentucky's First Action Photo

While action photos of football games were common throughout the 20th century, action photos from basketball games were extremely rare until the late 1930's and 1940's. This may be due to the difficult lighting and limitations of filming indoors with the equipment of the time.

Until recently it was thought that the first action photos of a Kentucky game were taken during the memorable game between UK and New York University in Madison Square Garden on January 5, 1935.

However recently some earlier photos have been discovered, thanks to the fact that more and more collegiate yearbooks have been made available on-line.

The earliest action photo found to date is from Creighton University which hosted two games against Kentucky in January 1933. It's not known whether the photo was taken from the game on January 6, or January 7, but it does clearly show UK All-American Forest "Aggie" Sale (#24) defending agsint the dribbling of Creighton's center Willard Schmidt (#11). Also seen near the top of the photo is another UK All-American John "Frenchy" DeMoisey. A third Kentucky player stumbling back on defense is unidentified.

Two All-Americans from Kentucky (Sale and DeMoisey) are seen in this early photo

Another action photo recently found in a yearbook is from Tulane the following 1933-34 season. This photo shows UK's Andy Anderson grabbing a rebound in front of Tulane's Walter Jahncke (#16). Again this photo may have been from a game December 21, 1933, or the following evening on December 22.

Andy Anderson makes an appearance against Tulane

Another interesting early photograph was found in the Atlanta Journal during the 1934 Southeastern Conference Tournament held in Atlanta. The photo shows John DeMoisey shooting a layup while being watched by Dave Lawrence.

This photo is noteworthy because it didn't occur during an actual game. It was staged after the Kentucky-Florida game to recreate a shot which occurred during the game. Prior to the contest, the Kentucky players and coaches had agreed to provide the newspaper with an 'action shot' after the game. To their credit they honored their commitment even though the Wildcats had been upset by the Gators moments before.

John DeMoisey (#7) and Dave Lawrence (#8) recreate a shot from the Florida game

It should be noted that there is an even earlier photograph which was found within the Naval Academy yearbook from 1928. The yearbook had a number of action photos from a distance, some of which MAY have been against Kentucky, which played a game in Annapolis on January 18 of that year. But the distance is too far to identify the teams or players.

A potential action shot between Navy and Kentucky, we may never know

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Dateline February 14, 1938 - A Shot from Above

Many I'm sure are familiar with the movie Field of Dreams, where Kevin Costner hears the voice "Build it, and they will come." But did you know that Kentucky has a similar type of story in it's vast history ?

Joe Hagan
The year was 1938 and Kentucky was hosting a very strong Marquette team. The game came down to the wire and with the score tied and in the waning moments, Joseph "Red" Hagan let loose a 48-foot shot which gave UK the win. This was the game where the Governor of the State, A.B. "Happy" Chandler bounded out of the stands after the victory was sealed and drove a nail in the spot where the shot was taken. Apparently Hagan shot the ball out of divine inspiration. The following from the Lexington Herald:

One important thing to note about this shot was that Hagan shot it with plenty of time left on the clock for Marquette to come back and tie the game (unlike, for example Vernon Hatton's shot vs. Temple where he had no choice but to shoot because the time was nearly out.) With his taking such an improbable shot and giving Marquette a chance to score, the odds were running heavily toward him being the goat. In fact, even though Hagan made the shot, Marquette did have multiple chances to at least tie the score, but they failed on each occasion. You can read more about that game at the following link:

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Dateline March 4, 1938 - The Greenies Strike

Ran across a game summary from the late 1930's that I found interesting. This UK squad was undefeated in the conference, although they did lose a few out of conference games.

What I found interesting was not so much the game itself but a paragraph deep in the text.

For those who didn't catch it, that tournament UK missed was the inaugural National Invitational Tournament, which predated the NCAA Tournament by one year. In those early days, the field consisted of 2 local New York teams, 2 Eastern teams and 2 from the Midwest or Far West. That particular field included NYU and Long Island, Temple and Bradley (presumably this counted as an Eastern team ?) along with Oklahoma A & M and Colorado. Temple won that tournament.

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Dateline January 21, 1939 - A Familiar Face Returns

With the impending arrival of Rick Pitino in Lexington to coach a game against the Big Blue and all the hub-bub that's going to (and already has) create. Some may not know that this is NOT the first time a former head coach at UK came back to coach against his former team. It's happened before.

John Mauer
John Mauer, the successful coach before Rupp, left UK and went to Miami of Ohio where he coached until he took the job at Tennessee where he had some tense battles with Kentucky and Adolph Rupp. Mauer later coached at Florida also.

So I thought it appropriate to mention what happened when Mauer returned to Lexington for the first time. Here's some snippets from the (admittedly tame) pre-game story by the Lexington Herald's Ed Ashford:

Perhaps a bad omen, but Kentucky played poorly that game and Tennessee was able to escape with an upset on UK's home-court. Here's the boxscore and game writeup.

In fact, of the first 15 games played between Mauer and Rupp, Mauer held his own with a 7-8 record. This included two UK losses in the SEC tournament championship game. I wouldn't like to see how UK fans would handle a similar scenario with "Traitor" Rick ?

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Dateline December 21, 1939 - We're Here, Where's the Gym ?

The city of Asheville NC was looking to open a newly built Municipal Auditorium in the winter of 1939. The building, constructed at a cost of nearly $250,000, was paid for by donations from the local community along with money from the city and grants from the Public Works Administration. The land for the auditorium was donated, and sat next to the existing Vanderbilt hotel.

The 1939 conference champions of the Southern Conference (Clemson) and the Southeastern Conference (Kentucky) were invited to Asheville to inaugurate the newly built arena.

The game was held December 21 of 1939. The only problem is that the newly built auditorium was not yet ready. An alternative gymnasium was used for the event, that of the American Enka Corporation which a Dutch-based textile company located in nearby Enka. The Enka gymnasium had been built a few years earlier in April of 1937.

The game went on and Kentucky won a convincing 55-31 victory. The Asheville Municipal Auditorium was opened a few weeks later, although Kentucky never got to play in it, and in fact has never returned to the city.

Asheville Auditorium next to the Vanderbilt Hotel

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Dateline January 7, 1940 - Donkey Basketball at its finest

From the January 7, 1940 Lexington Herald

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Dateline - March 14, 1942 - A Game Played for a Cause

March 1942, the United States was getting back on its feet and preparing for a long war, having just weathered a surprise attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor a few months before and declaring war on enemies on each side. To help with the effort, a game was scheduled between Kentucky and the Great Lakes Naval Station in Louisville to raise funds for the Navy Relief Society.

Program from the Game
Kentucky, along with most every school, ended up playing a number of military bases during this time period. But this was no ordinary military base. The Naval Station, based outside Chicago on Lake Michigan, boasted an impressive athletic tradition, which included some historic football teams.

The teams put together by the Naval Station during the second world war was literally a who's who of former college basketball players prior to the war. The team UK faced in 1942 had no less than six former All-Americans, including Lee Huber who had been an All-American at Kentucky under coach Adolph Rupp. The others were "Junie" Andres and Bill Menke (Indiana U), Frank Baumholtz (Ohio U), Bob Calihan (Detroit) and Dick Klein (Northwestern)

Also on that team was Forrest (Forddy) Anderson of Stanford who went on to be a well-respected coach at Bradley and Michigan State.

UK facing 6 players who held All-American status may well be a record. One team which may give them a run for their money is the Great Lakes team of the following year.

That team again featured Dick Klein but also had former All-Americans Ed Riska (Notre Dame) Bob Davies (Seton Hall) George "the blind bomber" Glamack (North Carolina), Forrest Sprowl (Purdue) and Gilbert Huffman (Tennessee).

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Dateline - January 24, 1943 - Recruiting them Young

Warning: This message only has a very slight link to UK. It talks about former Notre Dame coach Elmer Ripley and some of his players (which included ND player Billy Hassett) and was IMO quite an amazing story. I ran across this article, and having recently written the series history between Notre Dame and UK recognized the names.

As an aside, Hassett played for Ripley when Notre Dame played UK in 1946

and earlier played against UK while Clem Crowe was the coach at Notre Dame.

If you read the series history, you might remember that after George Keogan died in the early 1940's, Notre Dame went through a string of coaches.

Anyway, this article doesn't deal with Notre Dame or UK at all, but with what happened prior to that when Hassett and Ripley were at Georgetown in Washington DC. From the Lexington Herald-Leader in 1943.

A couple things I found noteworthy, beyond the main fact that these schoolboys ended up playing for and succeeding with Ripley.

FWIW, I sent that article to a guy who runs a very good historical website devoted to Georgetown and he wasn't aware of the story, even though he's written a short (but interesting) history of the Georgetown program.

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Dateline January 1, 1945 - Quizzing the Kitty

from the Lexington Herald, January 1, 1945 while UK was in New York City playing Clair Bee's Long Island Blackbirds after winning a squeaker over Temple in Philadelphia a few nights before and Wyoming before that (in Buffalo NY of all places).

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Dateline February 28, 1947 - Sometimes you have to leave some behind

from the February 28, 1947 Louisville Courier Journal:

Postscript - Kentucky went on to win the SEC Tournament that year by following their Vanderbilt victory by beating Auburn (84-18), Georgia Tech (75-53) and Tulane (55-38), despite Alex Groza being less than effective with a lame back. Kentucky went on to participate in the NIT that year, but Brannum was again missing from the traveling squad as he had decided to transfer to Michigan State. The following year, Brannum and the Spartans nearly upset Kentucky's Fabulous Five in a packed Jenison Fieldhouse. Brannum went on to play six years in the NBA.

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Dateline December 30, 1950 - In Remembrance of a (Chump)ion

In December of 1950, the Herald ran a short article talking a little bit about this inglorious season in UK history. (along with a team photo which I haven't seen anywhere else)

So in the name of remembering the good with the bad when it comes to UK's history, here's the article.

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Dateline March 21, 1952 - Pulling Back the Welcome Mat

Some may have seen that in the 1952 NCAA Tournament, No. 1 ranked Kentucky got beat by No. 10 St. John's in Raleigh, at the North Carolina State's Reynolds Coliseum.

This was a huge upset, as earlier in the year, Kentucky hosted St. Johns in Lexington and won the game convincingly 81-40.

According to Tev Laudeman's book, The Rupp Years

Solly Walker
Some may question why the teams were staying in a dormitory in the first place. As it turns out, there's a story behind that. Lexington Herald editor Ed Ashford mentioned it in his Saturday morning March 22 column, "It Says Here--."

Ashford wrote:

While there had been a few times before 1952 when NCAA regionals were held in the South, this was the first time they hosted black players, among them Solly Walker of St. John's and Jesse Arnelle of Penn State. (Arnelle would score 25 points against UK in the earlier round game and would in later years earn All-American honors.)

In McGuire's book, Frank McGuire - The Life and Times of a Legend, it mentions a part of this episode in history although it doesn't mention the dormitories at all (which actually leads to questions whether the black players even stayed in the dormitories or not). [I should mention that McGuire's recollections don't always square with other information I find from other sources.]

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Dateline December 12, 1953 - Somethin' Just ain't Right

It looked like just your typical thrashing of the Xavier Musketeers by the Kentucky Wildcats. Frank Ramsey scored 27 points and Kentucky won the game going away 81-66.

Typical except for one detail which postponed the game for a number of minutes. According to Ed Ashford's column in the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Cincinnati Gardens

JPS Note: In an interview in the 1970's, Rupp mentioned the incident and gave Cliff Hagan full credit for noticing the goals were not set properly.

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Dateline December 18, 1960 - Grounded

The charred remains of the airplane nose lies on the ground
After a loss to unranked Temple in Philadelphia in December 1960, the Wildcats were looking forward to finally getting out of town and returning to Lexington the following day. However it turned out they had more difficulty leaving the city than they did solving the Temple Owls defense.

The Kentucky contingent arrived at the Philadephia Airport in two cars to board a chartered flight back home. However as the first car pulled up to the tarmac, they found the plane they were to board was on-fire. Only the pilot and co-pilot were aboard at the time and luckily they escaped without harm.

It turned out that the planes batteries had been charged as part of the pre-flight preparations, however after the battery connections were removed, the charging equipment was inadvertendly left in place. When the plane began to taxi to another position, it ran over the equipment and the fire was started, which eventually resulted in the nose of the aircraft burning off.

After much work, and assistance from the athletic director, a new flight for the entire party was arranged. Just as the team was finally settled in, an announcement came over the PA system that "Passenger Lickert" had to leave the plane to make room for another passenger with a guaranteed seat. Upon hearing this, another passenger on the flight recognized that "Passenger Lickert" was UK star Bill Lickert and graciously he offered his seat, opting to take a later flight.

The team finally arrived back at Bluegrass Field later in the day, later than they expected but thankful to be back home.

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Dateline March 19, 1966 - Not a whole lot new under the sun

Included in the aftermath of UK's loss to Texas Western in the 1966 National Championship game, Lexington Herald Sports Editor Billy Thompson wrote a couple of snippets in his 'Pressbox Pickups' column concerning the earlier game with Duke.

You can file these under 'these sound familiar, haven't I seen these recently ?' So much for originality !

From the March 20th, 1966 Lexington Herald.

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Dateline April 28, 1966 - Be Careful of First Impressions

Dan Issel of Batavia IL is the all-time leading (men's) scorer at the University of Kentucky with 2,138 points. And he went on to an outstanding ABA and NBA career, scoring 27,482 points and was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.

But Issel almost didn't end up at Kentucky, and it can all be traced to a rather innocuous excerpt from the student newspaper.

According to an excerpt in Tev Laudemann's book The Rupp Years (1972):

Dan Issel

"Issel finished with a 33.9 scoring average and a career total of 2,138 points.

All this from a player who was third choice on UK's shopping list in 1966.

Issel, who twice had been an All-State and All-America high school player at Batavia, Ill., got a message fast when he visited the UK campus. He picked up a copy of the school newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel. There was a story in it about the recruiting campaign being waged by UK assistant coach Joe Hall.

There were players mentioned at every position, including two centers. There were the name of Mike Casey, Jim Dinwiddie, Randy Pool and Terry Mills. Nowhere did Dan find his name.

'I couldn't help but feel I wasn't No. 1,' Issel said later. He went home and signed with Wisconsin. After UK failed to sign the two other centers on its list, Hall renewed efforts to land Issel."

While this makes for an interesting story, searching through the Kentucky Kernel archives it's not clear that Issel was necessarily the third choice.

George Janky
An article published in the Kernel on Friday April 22, 1966 indicates that Issel's campus visit to UK was that weekend (i.e. April 23-24). The article mentions George Janky of Chicago St. Rita's prominently along with Joe Bergman of Clinton, Iowa along with Issel.

Based on the description in Laudemann's book, what Issel likely saw on his visit and is referring to was an article written a few weeks earlier in the Kernel ("Top Alabama Basketballer Signs Grant with Wildcats", Kentucky Kernel April 5, 1966.) which did mention that big men recruits Janky and Bergman were scheduled to visit UK in the near future. The article only mentioned Janky and Bergman, although it didn't explicitly say these two were the top two, or only recruits at the position.

Excerpt from April 22, 1966 article
Excerpt from April 5, 1966 article

After Issel's campus visit, an article published on April 28 noted that one scholarship opening remained available for one of the three big men possibilities, along with guard Rick Mount of Lebanon IN who might be too talented to pass up. (Mount ended up at Purdue where he was a prolific scorer, ending up as Purdue's all-time leader.)

Excerpt from April 28, 1966 article

This third article lists Janky, Bergman and Issel, and while Issel is mentioned third, the article indicates that the lone remaining position was still up for grabs.

It is noteworthy that in his book Joe. B. Hall - My Own Kentucky Home that Hall gives specific information about the recruitment of these players which gives some insight into UK's preference. Noted Hall:

The need for a good, big man was evident. The top center prospects in the nation that year were Joe Bergman of Iowa, George Janke of Dayton (sic), and Dan Issel of Batavia, Illinois. Each signed with other universities, but Joe B. refused to give up. "We recruited Janke and Issel hard," he said, "then we concentrated on Issel."

Issel would say later that during a visit to Lexington he picked up the school newspaper and failed to find his name mentioned in a story about basketball recruiting. "I could not help but feel that I wasn't number one," he said, "so I went home and signed with Wisconsin." Issel's father, who had wanted his son to sign with Northwestern, convinced the prep All-American to visit UK one more time. Airport manager Logan Gray rolled out the red carpet and the city gave Issel a rousing welcome. He signed with the Wildcats.

As it turned out, Bergman signed with Iowa but after his freshman season transferred to Creighton to finish his collegiate career. Janke signed with Dayton where he faced Kentucky in a UKIT game in 1967 (outscoring Issel 19-13).

While all three players were drafted after college, only Issel played in the NBA.

Dan Issel (#44) in white battles Dayton's George Janky (#35) and Don May (#21) for a rebound

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Dateline January 1969 - The Race for 1,000 Victories

As the 1968-69 Season progressed, the 1,000 Victory mark came down to a three-way race between the University of Kentucky, Kansas, and Oregon State. These teams had been vying for the top spot in all-time victories since the early 1960's when Kentucky put themselves in contention and challenged for the lead. The teams were in a neck-and-neck race for the lead for a number of seasons.

Article from Albuqueque (NM) Journal, January 8, 1969
At the beginning of the 1968-69 season, Oregon State held the lead with 988 victories, Kentucky was close behind with 987 while Kansas began further back with 984 victories. The race to being the first to reach the historic milestone of 1,000 victories would be one that was full of not only drama but also some dispute over the true totals.

The dispute originated in 1966 after Kentucky's National Runners-up Season where the team was invited to the World University Games, held in Tel Aviv Israel. Kentucky entered the international competition against university teams from around the world and won the event, going 5-0.

Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp considered the games to be legitimate victories to add to both Kentucky's and his own all-time record, especially considering that UK was representing the United States at the NCAA's urging. "If they (the games) weren't important enough to count, why did they send us!" asked Rupp. The NCAA was petitioned to update their records to account for the games, but they never did so. (Soon after Rupp's claim was made public, Oregon State (who were struggling that year, and were already out of the 1000-win race) noted that they had already eclipsed the 1000-victory mark with 27 victories during an international tour of Australia in 1967. The Beavers too were turned down by the NCAA however.)

Rupp was winding down a career which saw him break records, and with each record there was now a difference of five games between what Kentucky recognized and what the NCAA did. On January 6, 1969, Kentucky beat Mississippi State in Starkville and celebrated what they considered to be a historic milestone. They ate a small cake at their hotel room to mark the event. In addition prior to the following game against Florida in Lexington they celebrated the 1000-victories again with "a gigantic white cake." Representatives from each decade of Kentucky basketball were on-hand. After lighting the candles, the cake was in danger of melting so the UK players rushed the court and blew them out.

Kentucky Players blow out the candles

But to the rest of the world, Kentucky and Kansas we're still locked in a tight battle for the legitimate honor. According to the article shown at the right (published on January 8), Kansas stood at 997 victories to Kentucky's 995. The Jayhawks were considered the odds-on favorites to achieve the mark first, except for two things:

The first setback to the Jayhawks was they unexpectedly began to lose games. First Kansas was beaten by their arch-nemesis Missouri on January 11 and then got beat by Iowa State two days later (a team the Jayhawks had just beaten the week before by 33 points). Meanwhile Kentucky continued to slice through the Southeastern Conference opposition and steadily made up ground on the Jayhawks.

Kentucky vs. Kansas
Table showing chronologically game-by-game cumulative wins using the NCAA numbers prior to the start of the 1968-69 season.
But what sealed the fate of the Jayhawks was the fact that they had loaded up their schedule in the early part of the season (having played three more games than UK had up to the point of the article) and were due for some downtime. After their win on January 18th against Kansas State (to give them victory #998), Kansas didn't have another game scheduled until February 1, nearly two weeks later.

Meanwhile Kentucky continued to win and assumed the title with a victory over Alabama (with Rupp's former player C.M. Newton coaching the Tide and facing his mentor for the first time) on January 27, 1969. Of course, Kentucky didn't celebrate this milestone as they had already celebrated and eaten their cake three weeks earlier. Instead Kentucky was celebrating Rupp's 800th victory, a milestone which of course the NCAA failed to recognize . . . until five victories later.

(JPS Note #1: Due to adjustments made to the record over the years, this victory total is no longer correct. The adjusted record which is now the official NCAA record shows Kentucky with two more victories than they claimed previously, which means that the actual game Kentucky hit the 1,000-victory mark was in a game against Tennessee on January 18th. In addition, Kansas' 1000th victory should now have occurred February 1, against Colorado based on current records. So Kansas must have modified their all-time record also at some point.)

Postscript - It would be nice to end the story there, but there were some other factors as play. Below is a coin minted by the Franklin Mint to commemorate the event. As you may notice, the date shown is January 13, 1969. This date is a game against Georgia, not the earlier game (1/6/1969) against Mississippi State (which included the five games in Tel Aviv) and not the later game (1/27/1969) against Alabama which was generally acknowledged at the time.

Franklin Mint coin to commemorate UK's 1000th win. On the opposite face is a tribute to Rupp's 800th victory.
So what is causing this discrepancy ? Reportedly prior to the Florida game on January 11, Kentucky announced that they had searched through their archives and had found three additional unreported victories (and two losses). These wins were an 11-10 victory over the Lexington YMCA on Feb. 18, 1903, a 16-14 victory over Kentucky University (now Transylvania) on Feb. 15, 1907 and a 20-10 victory over Georgetown College Feb. 6 1904. (Note that the stated reason for finding these additional games was that the Media Guide at the time had a number of games without scores, and work was done to go back and better document these early games. As part of this work, additional games were uncovered.)

The additional three victories meant that even discounting the five victories in Israel that the NCAA didn't recognize, that UK now claimed that their 1,000th victory came against the Georgia Bulldogs on January 13, 1969.

Kansas also commemorated their 1000th victory
Postscript #2 - It's not clear when the NCAA approved these additional victories. One news article I found (on January 19th) stated that the NCAA had approved them and thus the victory over Georgia January 13th was the officially recognized 1,000th victory. Other articles claimed that the game against Alabama was the 1,000th. Regardless, two of the claimed victories (the one in 1903 and the one in 1907) are supported very well by newspaper accounts of the game, and did make it into the record book that is acknowledged today. The victory in 1904 against Georgetown was apparently based on information in the school yearbook, but that is not currently listed in the official record, so presumably the claim was not accepted and dropped.

The inclusion of these two verified games does not completely explain how UK's record at the time squares with the current total as it is known that subsequent changes were made. For example, a game against Louisville in 1914 was added to the official record in the early 1990's. Looking at Media Guides from the late 1960's to the 1970's as compared to today, it's clear that changes were made to the early years. Without going thoroughly through every subsequent media guide, it's very difficult to know exactly when these changes were made, and more pertinent to me, why. (ie there may have been games that were dropped due to lack of first-hand evidence, which may have actually been played.)

I should note that for anyone who has spent any time digging through century-old microfilm looking for evidence of past games, it's not surprising in the least that previously undiscovered games can be located. It's actually to be expected given the lack of emphasis on basketball at the time and thus relatively poor record-keeping that was associated with it along with very poor communication when reporting game information. (especially accounting for the 1928 flood mentioned earlier in this page which literally wiped out all historical records at the time.)

All anyone needs to do is to locate an extremely old media guide for a school and compare the list of official games to what is claimed today. Most universities will have updated their list as the years go by and people have a chance to conduct more thorough research and better document the early eras.)

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