Bowls, Tournaments and Sports History

Dublin Core


Bowls, Tournaments and Sports History


Many of us spent New Year’s Day watching one football game after another. When I first tuned my radio in to these events back in the 1940s, there were only five bowl games — Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton and Sun. Early in World War II, they moved the Rose Bowl to Durham, N.C. (Duke being the team chosen to represent the East) for fear of a Japanese attack on California.

Eastern’s first bowl was the Tangerine Bowl. Later, the 1A championship game was called the Grantland Rice Bowl. Eastern played four times, winning twice.

I notice that Connecticut is ranked highly in national basketball standings these days. In earlier years, when Kentucky and Western played in Madison Square Gardens, the top teams from the East were Long Island University, Rhode Island State and City College of New York. Fred Lewis played for Long Island before going to the Marines. After the war, he transferred to Eastern, where he ranked in the top national scorers with his set shot from the back of the circle.

In my high school days (1943-47), the Madison High Royal Purples basketball team went to the state tournament three out of four years. In 1944, the team included Alonzo Nelson, Jack Rodgers, Doc Ferrell, Leon Duncan, Dick Webb and Ben Johnson.

They defeated Kirskville 41-24, Berea Academy 28-27, and Berea High 34-25 to win the district. They took the regional with wins over Georgetown, 44-26, University High, 36-27, and Irvine, 37-34.

In the state tournament at the old Alumni Gym in Lexington, Madison beat Hindman, 45-32, and Valley, 26-25, before losing to Dayton, 41-32. The Purples captured third place in the state with a 40-28 win over Olive Hill. Harlan won the 1944 championship over Dayton, also by 40-28. Nelson hit 11 straight free throws and made the All State team along with Wah Wah Jones.

The 1944-45 Madison team only lost two games and moved through the district with wins over Waco, 43-40, Berea Academy, 36-24, and Berea High, 31-29. In the regional, the Purples defeated Lawrenceburg, 39-34, Georgetown, 49-21, and University High, 31-16.

In the state at the old armory in Louisville, Madison beat Paducah Tilghman, 53-51, before losing to Central City, 32-28. Team members included Jack Rodgers, Harold Moberly, Dick Webb, Leon Duncan and Blaine Clark.

The 1945-46 Madison five were Ray Coy, Harold Richardson, Harold Moberly, Theodore Dunn and Blaine Clark. After beating Kirksville 43-25, the Purples were eliminated by Berea High, 34-33. In the finals, Waco, led by Delbert and Sherman Fritz, defeated Berea, 29-23. Waco lost to Frankfort 51-25 in the regional.

The 1946-47 season found six Model seniors leading the team — Coy Richardson, Moberly, Dunn, Bill Kersey and Ballard Luxon. They swept the district, defeating Berea Foundation, 31-27, Central, 36-29, and Irvine, 24-23. Madison played Irvine again in the regional, winning 32-24. Guy Strong led the Irvine five. A 47-29 win over Frankfort and a 41-37 victory over Lafayette put Madison in the state again. There, they beat Dawson Springs, 59-43, with Moberly setting a tournament record with 32 points, before losing to Hazard, 40-39. Maysville won the championship over the Brewers, 54-50.

Thus ended a fabulous four years for Madison High. Much credit for this run must go to their coach, Bob Ackman. Where did I fit into all of this? I played on the “B” team and wrote up the games for the Richmond Daily Register.

The 1944 third-place finish in the state stood as the best effort for Madison until 1970. That year, Robert Brooks led the Purples to the state finals. That result made us No. 2. Brooks also was chosen Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball. But, that is another story.

In the next column, I will talk about Red House and Waco in the state basketball tournament, give some more district results and mention the White Hall girls state tourney team.


Dr. Fred Engle




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Dr. Fred Engle, “Bowls, Tournaments and Sports History,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed May 28, 2022,