A VIDEO OVERVIEW
The Greatest Sports Stories in the History of Indiana™ is a thoughtful reflection of why we are, and will always be, loyal fans of sports in Indiana.
A special collaborative venture between Indiana Sports History, LLC and the
Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association, and made possible by our generous sponsors.
About the Greatest Sports Stories in the History of Indiana™
When Bob Hammel, Angelo Pizzo, and Brent Slinkard went to lunch in the spring of 2015, The Greatest Sports Stories in the History of Indiana™, was conceived. Given Indiana’s bicentennial and our state’s extraordinary sports history, these stories had to be told, and it was a mission from the start to see this done, and done right.
The next step was to find the best journalists in the state to write the stories, and by partnering with The Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association, the project was scaled with over 450 individual nominations, and later a rank order of the 25 Greatest Sports Stories in the History of Indiana. Tom Kubat, president of ISSA stated, “Our members enthusiastically embraced being involved in this special project, both in terms of nominating and voting for the top stories and, especially, writing the stories for the book”. (ISSA hall of fame sports journalists wrote most of the stories in the book.)
The first public exposure to the project was a 3-hour radio broadcast on July 14, 2016 on Network Indiana and ESPN 1070 The Fan. The program captivated listeners with stories, replays, ad sub-plots that make Hoosiers proud. The second public exposure was a 168 page commemorative book released in the fall of 2017, highlighting the top 25 Greatest Sports Stories in the History of Indiana™. Other activities are planned to help promote this important history and to celebrate the project.
The Greatest Sports Stories in the History of Indiana™ is a thoughtful reflection of why we are, and will always be, loyal fans of sports in Indiana.
Tom Kubat, Brent Slinkard, and Bob Kravitz, discuss the project with Rich Nye.
Book is now available!
Online or through bookstores: Barnes & Noble, Sam's Club, Amazon and multiple book retailers
Printed by MT Publishing - Evansville, IN.
With special essays from:
Honorable Joe Kernan
This beautiful book illustrates the 25 Greatest Sports Stories in the History of Indiana™ with contributions by many of Indiana’s most distinguished sports journalists:
Listen anytime to the podcast on 1070thefan.com
Thanks to Our Team and Advisory Board Members
"Without four gentlemen in particular, this project would not be a reality. Thanks to Bob Hammel and Angelo Pizzo (our prized sports storytellers of all time) for your counsel, commitment and shared vision. Without hundreds of hours of work and leadership by Tom Kubat and Doug DeFord, this project would still be just an idea. With an outstanding advisory board and project consultants, this project gained state and national attention all coming together to pay respect to our great Indiana sports history." - Brent Slinkard
Brent Slinkard - Project Visionary and President Indiana Sports History, LLC
Bob Hammel - Indiana Hall of Fame Sportswriter and author
Angelo Pizzo - Screenwriter and film producer: “Hoosiers” and “Rudy”
Tom Kubat - Indiana Hall of Fame Sportswriter and author - President of I.S.S.A.
Doug DeFord - Project Advisor and V.P. Indiana Sports History, LLC
Greg Rakestraw - ISSA Board Member and ISC Vice President
- Project Consultants -
Lynn Houser - Indiana Hall of Fame Sportswriter and author
Honorable Joe Kernan - American politician and 48th Governor of Indiana
Judge Edward W. Najam, Jr. - Indiana Court of Appeals
Sandy Searcy - Former Asst. Commissioner Indiana High School Athletic Association
Mark Thompson - President, MT Publishing Company, Inc.tm
Top 25 stories as voted by sports journalists throughout Indiana.
#1 - Tiny Milan upsets Muncie Central in the 1954 Indiana high school boys state championship basketball game. It was a true David vs. Goliath sports story that became the inspiration for the classic movie “Hoosiers,” arguably the greatest sports movie ever. Bobby Plump led the Milan High School basketball team that won the state championship in 1954, upsetting Muncie Central. Voted Mr. Basketball, he later was named by Sports Illustrated as one of the 50 greatest sports figures from Indiana in the 20th century.
#2 - Indiana University’s men’s basketball program is among the elite in the college game. The 1976 national championship team is the last team to finish the season without a loss. IU has won five national championships and produced 44 consensus first-team All-Americans.
#3 - The Indianapolis 500, “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” has had an overwhelming impact on the city, state and beyond. Three of the biggest names in 500 lore are drivers A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears, the only four-time winners of the race.
#4 - High school basketball is king in Indiana. Fans have flocked to games to see the great teams, coaches and players. More than 40,000 attended the 1990 state title game. Twelve of the largest 15 high school gyms are in Indiana, including the top five. Indiana’s famous single-class high school basketball tournament was discarded in 1998, in favor of a multiple-class setup. That created much controversy and meant the end of the dream of another Milan-type upset.
#5 - The Indianapolis Colts, relocating from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984, have appeared in the playoffs 16 times, won two conference championships and won one Super Bowl, defeating the Chicago Bears, 29-17, in Super Bowl XLI.
#6 - Bob Knight coaches Indiana University’s men’s basketball team to unprecedented heights. Nicknamed "The General,” Knight coached IU to three national championships, in 1976, 1981 and 1987. Overall, Knight won 902 NCAA Division I games, the most all-time at the time of his retirement.
#7 - Oscar Robertson led Crispus Attucks to two state high school basketball championships, breaking the color barrier. He went on to win three NCAA scoring titles with Cincinnati and is the only player to average a triple-double for a season in the NBA.
#8 - Notre Dame’s football program arguably is the historic face of college football. The Fighting Irish have won 11 consensus national titles, produced 33 unanimous All-Americans and a record seven Heisman Trophy winners. ND has the second-most victories in Division 1 football.
#9 - Peyton Manning’s impact on the Indianapolis Colts and the city. A five-time league MVP and one of the NFL’s all-time great quarterbacks, he played for the Colts for 14 seasons and led them to victory in Super Bowl XLI, defeating the Chicago Bears, 29-17.
#10 - Larry Bird, “The Hick from French Lick” was an All-American at Indiana State and then an NBA superstar with the Boston Celtics. Birds clash against Magic Johnson and Michigan State in the 1979 NCAA title game remains the all-time highest-rated college game.
#11 - Mark Spitz attended Indiana University to train with legendary IU swimming coach Doc Counsilman. Spitz won seven gold medals at the 1972 Summer Olympics, winning every event in world record time considered one of the greatest individual achievements in Olympic history.
#12 - Martinsville’s John Wooden was the first player to be named a three-time All-American while playing for Purdue University. He became known as the “Wizard of Westwood” for coaching UCLA to 10 NCAA titles in 12 years, including seven in a row.
#13 - Damon Bailey, a legend among the many greats to have played Indiana high school basketball. He led his Bedford-North Lawrence team to a state championship in front 40,000 fans in the then-Hoosier Dome and went on to have a successful career at Indiana University.
I#14 - Indiana University’s 1967 football team produced the school’s only trip to the Rose Bowl, where it lost to Southern California, 14-3. Known as the “Cardiac Kids,” IU was led by the terrific trio of QB Harry Gonso, WR Jade Butcher and RB John Isenbarger.
#15 - The ABA Indiana Pacers were the most successful team in league history, winning three championships in four years. In all, the Pacers appeared in the ABA finals five times in the league's nine-year history.
#16 - Butler University’s men’s basketball team advanced to back-to-back NCAA title games in 2010 and 2011. In the highest-rated championship game of the decade, Duke edged the Bulldogs 61-59 in the 2010 title showdown in Indianapolis.
#17 - Indiana Pacers reach the 2000 NBA Finals. The Los Angeles Lakers of the Western Conference took on the Pacers of the Eastern Conference for the title. The Lakers won the series 4 games to Reggie Miller played his entire 18-year NBA career with the Indiana Pacers. When he retired, he held the record for most career 3-point field goals made. Miller led the league in free throw accuracy five times. Considered by many the Pacers all-time greatest player.
#18 - Lebanon’s Rick Mount was the first high school athlete to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Noted for his deadly jump shot, “Rick the Rocket” became Purdue University’s and the Big Ten’s all-time leading scorer, scoring 2,323 points.
#19 - Tony Hinkle shaped Butler University's athletic tradition. For nearly half a century he was a teacher, coach and athletic administrator. From 1934 to 1970 he served as Butler's head coach in basketball, baseball and football. The university’s famed Hinkle Fieldhouse is named after him.
#20 - Knute Rockne’s biography at the College Football Hall of Fame identifies him as "without question, American football's most-renowned coach." His teams were 105-12-5 with five undefeated seasons and three national titles. Rockne was 43 when he died in a plane crash in 1931.
#21 - On January 19, 1974, Notre Dame’s men’s basketball team beat UCLA 71-70, to snap the Bruins streak of 88 consecutive victories. Coincidentally, that streak began after losing to Notre Dame exactly three years earlier on January 19, 1971.
#22 - PURDUE CRADLE of QB’S Drew Brees proved a lot of doubters wrong with his outstanding careers at Purdue University and in the NFL. After leading Purdue to the 2001 Rose Bowl, Brees has become one of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks, leading New Orleans to a Super Bowl victory. Evansville’s Bob Griese was an All-American QB at Purdue University, leading the Boilermakers to a 14-13 victory over Southern California in the 1967 Rose Bowl. As a pro, he led the Miami Dolphins to three straight Super Bowls, including victories in 1972 and ’73.
#23 - Fort Wayne’s Rod Woodson was a two-time All-American at Purdue University before turning in a 17-year Hall of Fame career in the NFL. Woodson holds the NFL record for interceptions returned for a touchdown (12) and his 71 interceptions are third-most in NFL history.
#24 - The Zellers, the first family of Indiana high school basketball. Stars at Washington High School, Luke (Notre Dame), Tyler (North Carolina) and Cody (Indiana) all were nearly straight “A” students, all were voted Mr. Basketball and all won at least one state championship.
#25 - With basketball the king of sports in Indiana, Franklin High School’s team, nicknamed “the Wonder Five,” won three state titles in a row, 1920-22. Marion and Lawrence North have since pulled off the trifecta.
ADDITIONAL STORIES receiving multiple nominations BY SPORTS JOURNALISTS THROUGHOUT INDIANA
Evansville’s Don Mattingly had an outstanding 14-year career with the New York Yankees. A six-time all-star, “Donnie Baseball” finished with a career .307 batting average. He later managed the Los Angeles Dodgers for five years, and currently is manager for the Miami Marlins.
Evansville’s Calbert Cheaney was a unanimous All-American basketball player at Indiana University. In 1993 he was named national player of the year, and is the Big Ten’s all-time leading scorer, with 2,613 points. He went on to play in the NBA for 13 years.
Scott Skiles leads Plymouth to an overtime victory over Gary Roosevelt in 1982’s state championship game. A first-round draft pick out of Michigan State, Skiles played 10 seasons in the NBA. He holds the NBA record for assists in a game with 30.
New Castle’s Steve Alford is one of the most popular players to perform for Indiana University’s men’s basketball team. At IU, he became the school’s all-time leading scorer and, as a senior, led the team to the 1987 NCAA title.
Coach Lou Holtz resurrected Notre Dame football in the 1980s. His 1988 team went 12–0 and was the consensus national champion. Holtz's teams posted an overall 64–9–1 record.
He took ND to nine consecutive bowl games, still a school record.
James "Doc" Counsilman is recognized as the pre-eminent swimming coach in the United States. Besides coaching the Indiana University men’s swimming team to six consecutive NCAA titles, he served as the head coach of the U.S. Olympic teams in 1964 and 1976.
Jack Mollenkopf is considered one of the greatest football coaches in Purdue history. Mollenkopf is the school’s all-time leader in Big Ten wins (58) and conference winning percentage (.637). He led Purdue to its first Rose Bowl appearance in 1968.
After leading Bloomington South to a football state championship, Rex Grossman became a consensus All-American quarterback at the University of Florida, finishing as the runnerup in the 2001 Heisman Trophy voting. He later led the Chicago Bears to a berth in the Super Bowl.
Steve "The King" Kinser of Bloomington was a sprint car racer who won 20 championships in the World of Outlaws series. In 2008, ESPN named him No. 25 on their list of top all-time race car drivers.
Joe Tiller rejuvenated a Purdue football program that had endured 12 straight losing seasons before his arrival in 1997. Tiller coached Purdue to 10 bowl games in 12 seasons, including the 2001 Rose Bowl. With 85 victories, Tiller is the school’s all-time winningest coach.
Terre Haute’s Bobby "Slick" Leonard hit the game-winning free throws as Indiana University won the 1953 NCAA championship. Leonard played professionally and coached the Indiana Pacers for 12 years, leading the Pacers to three ABA championships.
Scott May was on Indiana University’s 1975-76 undefeated NCAA championship team, leading IU in scoring and being voted the national player of the year. He won a gold medal with the U.S. basketball team in the 1976 Olympics and played in the NBA.
Fort Wayne has been credited for being the birthplace of the NBA. Fort Wayne Pistons owner Fred Zollner brokered the merger of the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League in 1949 from his kitchen table.
George McGinnis played 11 seasons in the ABA and the NBA. He was drafted into the ABA from Indiana University in 1971. In the 1970-71 season at IU, McGinnis became the first sophomore to lead the Big Ten Conference in scoring and rebounding.
Indiana Fever wins the 2012 WNBA title. The Minnesota Lynx, champions of the Western Conference, faced the Fever, champions of the Eastern Conference. The Fever defeated the Lynx 3 games to 1.
Purdue's two Rose Bowl appearances. The Boilermakers, led by quarterback Bob Griese, defeated Southern California 14-3 in the 1967 Rose Bowl. With Drew Brees at QB, Purdue lost to Washington 34-24 in the 2001 game in Pasadena.
George Taliaferro was the first African-American drafted by an NFL team. As a three-time All-American at Indiana University, he led the Hoosiers to their only undefeated Big Ten championship. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981.
Judi Warren, Indiana's first Miss Basketball, led Warsaw High School to the 1976 state championship, the first year the state sanctioned a girls tournament. Warren hit five free throws in the final 64 seconds to clinch a 57-52 victory over Bloomfield.
The Little 500 is a bicycle race held annually on the campus of Indiana University, and it is attended by more than 25,000 fans each year. The 50-mile race inspired the movie “Breaking Away,” which won the 1979 Golden Globe Award for best film.
Indianapolis becomes known as “the amateur sports capital of the United States.” Besides being the headquarters for the NCAA, Indianapolis has hosted many college Final Fours, in addition to being the site to many track and field and swimming and diving Olympic Trials.
Notre Dame’s women's basketball team made it to the NCAA’s Final Four in four consecutive years (2011-14). Ten years earlier, the Fighting Irish won the 2001 national championship, defeating Purdue University in a 68-66 thriller in St. Louis.
LaPorte high school baseball coach Ken Schreiber compiled a record of 1,010-217 in 38-plus years with the Slicers. His teams won a record seven state titles, he was voted Indiana’s coach of the year eight times and national coach of the year three times.
Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian is noted for returning the school’s football program to national prominence, winning NCAA titles in 1966 and 1973. He is widely regarded, alongside Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy, as being a part of the "Holy Trinity" of ND coaches.
In 2013, Indiana University’s baseball team opened its new stadium, Bart Kaufman Field. IU’s first season in its new digs was one to remember, as it advanced to the College World Series, for the first time in school history, finishing the season 48-14.
Gene Keady is Purdue’s all-time winningest men’s basketball coach, with 493 victories. He was the Big Ten coach of the year seven times, leading Purdue to six league titles. Keady’s 265 Big Ten wins are second only to Bob Knight’s 353.
Bill Mallory turned Indiana’s historically struggling football program into one of respectability. IU’s all-time winningest coach, his teams played in six bowl games. He led IU to back-to-back Top 20 seasons and was voted Big Ten coach of the year two years running.
Branch McCracken coached the Indiana University men’s basketball team to two NCAA titles, in 1940 and 1953. His teams were known as the “Hurryin’ Hoosiers” because of McCracken’s emphasis on the fast-break style of play. His IU teams were 364-174.
Kokomo’s Jimmy Rayl was a two-time All-American at Indiana University. He made up for his skinny frame (175 pounds) with his deadly shooting, averaging 20.6 points per game for his career. He still holds Indiana’s single-game scoring record, twice pouring in 56 points.
Before playing and coaching in the WNBA, Stephanie White led Purdue to the 1999 NCAA women’s basketball championship and was voted the top female player in the nation. At Seeger High School, she was Indiana’s Miss Basketball and Gatorade National Player of the Year.
Valparaiso University’s Bryce Drew hit a 23-foot 3-point shot at the buzzer to give the No. 13-seed Crusaders a 70-69 first-round victory over No. 4-Mississippi in the 1998 NCAA tourney. Valpo advanced to the Sweet Sixteen before losing.
Terre Haute’s Anthony Thompson rushed for 5,299 career yards at Indiana University and set the then-record for career touchdowns with 65. He won the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Award as player of the year and also finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Jeff Gordon, an adopted Hoosier who moved to Indiana as a teenager, won the NASCAR season championship four times, the Daytona 500 three times and the Brickyard 400 five times. He is third on the all-time Sprint Cup list with 93 career wins.
It has become known as simply “The Shot,” one of the great moments in NCAA championship game history. Keith Smart’s 16-foot jumper with five seconds to play gave Indiana a 74-73 victory over Syracuse in 1987, and the school’s fifth national championship.