Tagged: West Virginia

1955: Golden Age of West Virginia High School Basketball

I’ve been contacted by many who have shared great insights on the sports and athletes mentioned here at StubbyCurrence.com. I was lucky to hear from Josh Hall, whose dad is Don Hall, a 1955 Logan Wildcats center named to that year’s West Virginia High School Basketball All-State Team by a selection board overseen by Stubby Currence.

Hall found the 1955 All-State selections “fascinating” and points out “Jerry West was relegated to the Honorable Mentions in spite of averaging 24.5 points per game and being named Player of the Year in the powerful Kanawha Valley Conference as a junior for East Bank.”

Oh, I would have loved to ask Stubby why!

Hall has since been in contact with 16 of the 18 living members of the 1955 First, Second, and Third Team West Virginia All-Staters and has complied a book. Here is the intro:

1955 West Virginia High School Basketball: Introduction

By Josh Hall

If a basketball enthusiast was to select one year to chronicle out of nearly a century of West Virginia High School basketball, they could find few more interesting and historic than the 1954-1955 season.

The basketball world in 1955 looked somewhat different than it does today partially due to slow integration. Major League Baseball was integrated in 1947. The NBA (which consisted of only eight teams) was integrated in 1950. In the West Virginia High School ranks, there would be two more seasons after 1955 before complete integration. Bill Lewis of Grafton High School, however, became the first black player in the history of the West Virginia High School Basketball State Tournament in 1955.

The way the game was being played was changing too. This was the era of crew cuts, Chuck Taylor All-Stars, narrow foul lanes, and players who were still referred to as “cagers”, but the mid-50’s marked a transition to the modern game. Two hand set shots were becoming modern jump shots. The fast break was the weapon of choice for many teams. Games were often played at a frenzied pace before packed and in many cases, rowdy gymnasiums. Three of the state’s top teams; Mullens, Wheeling, and Huntington High Schools, averaged nearly 90 points per game. In 1955, single game team scoring records were set three times in a one-month span.

One constant, however, has been the source of pride that high school sports teams have been to communities throughout West Virginia and in the 1950’s, the toughness of their basketball teams often reflected a town’s identity. “Coal Camp” towns produced lean, hard-nosed, gritty players. One such team, the 1955 Logan Wildcats, went 22-3 with wins over both 1955 state finalists.

The following is a compilation of games, scores, teams, and players from the remarkable 1954-1955 West Virginia High School basketball season. Some of the highlights include:

  • The season included most of the players that would make up the roster of West Virginia University’s 1959 NCAA Finals team.
  • A 146 to 110 contest between Wheeling and Weirton…still the highest scoring game in West Virginia High School basketball history.
  • At least seven different players had 50 points in a game.
  • The undefeated regular seasons of Class “A” schools, Gauley Bridge and Clarksburg-Washington Irving and the Class “B” school, Gassaway.
  • Charleston-Garnet defeated Beckley-Stratton to win the W.Va. Athletic Union Championship.
  • Fairview beat Chattaroy to win the Class “B” state championship.
  • Mullens defeated Huntington to win the Class “A” state championship.
  • The 1955 West Virginia All-Stars would be called the states’ best ever to battle Kentucky.
  • A player with a record 40 points per game scoring average and five others who averaged over 30.
  • A player who overcame a childhood bout with polio would lead his team on an amazing run in the state tournament with an historic scoring spree.
  • And a junior from East Bank High School would show his first signs of greatness in 1955 and would eventually become one of the greatest in basketball history.

The 19th All-State Team (1955) included First Team: Forwards Leo Byrd of Huntington, Wille Akers of Mullens; Centers Theryl Willis of Big Creek and Nick Humley of Wheeling, and Guards Alex Hawkins of South Charleston, Robert Smith of Stonewall Jackson, Robert Hart of Clarksburg Washington Irving.

The 19th All-State Team (1955) included First Team: Forwards Leo Byrd of Huntington, Wille Akers of Mullens; Centers Theryl Willis of Big Creek and Nick Humley of Wheeling, and Guards Alex Hawkins of South Charleston, Robert Smith of Stonewall Jackson, Robert Hart of Clarksburg Washington Irving.

Special thanks to Josh Hall! If you have a question for Josh or are interested in a copy of the book, email me at stubbycurrence@gmail.com and I’ll make sure to connect you.


Never yesterday’s news

The Dad once told me about a cold day in April when he was leaving Bluefield. It was 1981 – the day after his father Stubby’s funeral. He pulled the car into a gas station to fill up before driving his family back 400 miles back to Cincinnati, and he came face-to-face with his pop. Stubby’s photo glanced up at him from the trash can. It was his obituary on the front page of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

He said grief came over him in that moment. It brought it home that Stubby was literally and figuratively yesterday’s news. A family lost its patriarch. A town lost a significant champion.  But sons lost their father. A wife lost her partner. Co-workers lost a friend.

Unfortunately, the grief is back. We recently lost The Dad. Like many deaths, it was a long time coming but too sudden, too soon. The Dad loved to tell stories about the sports scene he grew up in. He loved reminiscing about the neighborhood baseball games in which he played while living on Pen Mar. He was devoted to the 1959 Bluefield Beavers Football State Champs until the very end. He put West Virginia Mountaineers stickers on anything that wouldn’t move.

Even though we don’t have The Dad anymore doesn’t mean his stories are done being told, or our stories here are over. Even though the newsprint has long been recycled, the memories are old and dusty, and those we have loved may have gone on, we still have their stories to tell.

And Dad, I’ll miss you.

Love, Melissa

Bluefield vs. Bramwell

I got a stumper for you today. Well, probably not for YOU, but for me, because I didn’t get a chance to ask The Dad about this one. Here is a photo from Stubby’s archives. Unfortunately, we’re losing the image to the ages.

Bluefield vs. Bramwell. Click photo to zoom.

Bluefield vs. Bramwell. Click photo to zoom.

From what I can tell, it is a photo of a baseball game with the catcher and batter at home plate. The crowd is behind them and baseball bats on in the foreground. But Stubby’s caption reads fine: “Bluefield vs. Bramwell – Glenwood Park, Aug. 1922. Bluefield easy winners over League winners – Walters, at bay.”

I wanted to share this one because this game was played 90 years ago this month. But the stumper is the dates. According the Bluefield Blue Jays website, the Blue-Grays (a precursor to the Blue Jays) were formed in 1924, two years later than this game was played. I’m confident Stubby got the year right, so I’m guessing games were being played before the League was formally formed. The town of Bramwell also lists 1924 as the start of the Coalfield Baseball League:

Interesting Fact: In 1924 “The Coalfield Baseball League.” consisted of four teams in the league including the Bluefield “Blue Grays,” the Gary “Coal Diggers,” the Pocahontas-Bramwell “Indians” and the Coalwood “Robins.”

Even 90 years later, I’m glad Bluefield was victorious.


The Beau Brummel of Bluefield

Stubby Currence, Colts Baseball

The Beau Brummel of Bluefield?

I love a good sassing, don’t you? I found this gem by Duke Ridgley, the longtime sports editor of the Huntington (WV) Herald-Dispatch and the man credited with nicknaming Marshall University the Thundering Herd.

Diamond Dust by Duke RidgleyDidja know?
Ripley-It-Or Not, Virgil (Stubby) Currence, the Beau Brummel of Bluefield and the man who annually picks the All-State High School Basketball Team, is the youngest athlete ever to captain a college baseball team in the United States. You Don’t believe it? Well-l-l, it’s as true as Truth. At the ender age of 16 Mr. C was captain and shortstop of the Davis & Elkins club. That was the year D & E had a perfect season on the diamond. They played nine games and lost all nine of ’em..And for dragging this skeleton out of the closet I have reserved a place for myself behind the No. “8” ball in “Stubby’s” dog house.
Good one, Duke! I love the Beau Brummel reference. As if! Exhibit A on that one.