Hat tip to Bruce for alerting me to the article. I missed it.It's not often a small Baptist college 40 miles from the nearest known sin merits an article in the New York Times. It concerns the girl's basketball team the Hutcherson Flying Queens. You have no idea the laughs have heard every time I mention that the team was known as the Flying Queens!
This article brought back many memories:
I attended WBC (now WBU) from 1972 till graduation in 1976. 1972 was Harley Reddin's last year to coach the Queens. Talk about a retirement send off. As the article mentions he coached the team to 131 consecutive victories. What it left out was his famous last timeout comments he gave to the team a few seconds before their defeat that ended their string. To paraphrase he told them that they had held their heads high while winning and to go out and hold their heads high in defeat. I'm glad to report that at 91 he's still alive and quoted in the Times piece.
Claude Hutchinson was the millionaire oil and ranch man who sponsored the team. He flew them to their games and just before I arrived built the gymnasium for the school. I ran many miles in that building on bad weather days over the three years I ran for the team and if you know that part of the country they have many bad weather days. It had a rubberized playing court supposedly intended to minimize shin splits. When I went back for my 20th reunion it had a wood floor and that didn't seem right.
My freshman year a few of us on the track team played a pick up game with some of the Queen Bees (JV team). We got waxed. Too bad there wasn't a three point line because the first thing I learned about women's basketball (Albuquerque didn't have this as it was before Title IX) is that they can swish from the mid-court line. There is no defending them! I never made that mistake again. One ego bruising was enough.
I dated a Queen and I can remember how happy she was to be playing by Men's rules at the college level. A few weeks later I joined a basketball official's squad and had to learn high school women's rules. Talk about stupid. Three girls on each side of the half court line, they couldn't cross over, only three dribbles before a shot or pass. The seasoned officials did warn us newby's about toss ups. Guys do a vertical jump, girls swing their arms out to get momentum before a jump and many a man stayed put too long after tossing the ball up and got a fist in the groin. I made sure to back out quick. I only officiated a few women's games and didn't like them. Mostly I did 7th and 8th grade boys games. The one thing I noticed was that 7th grade girls were better than 7th grade boys. 12-13 year old boys for the most part have a hard time with coordination. 8th grade boys and 8th grade girls were pretty even. In 9th grade girls were through puberty and plateaued. 9th grade boys were four to six inches taller than the girls and much much quicker and stronger.
My sophomore year the Queens held a tournament the week before school started. They had a Thanksgiving tournament and Christmas tournament. They hosted a spring break tournament, won the WAAU national championship and played an exhibition game against the Russian touring team the week after school let out. The Russians had a girl 6'8" poor Pearl Worrell was our tallest at 6'1". My junior year they had a whole new team and were never the same after that.
There were only three top notch women's teams in the country then. Wayland, Delta State and Immaculata. We had a joke which I've heard elsewhere: There are three things which should be done in the dark; Sex, kick the can and women's basketball. Most of the teams the Queens played were horrible. They'd win by sixty or more points. It was pitiful. The coach would leave the top players in for most of the game and ride them just as hard thirty or forty points up as if they were down in points. At the time I couldn't figure this out. One of the unofficial rules of sports is that you don't run up the score. When I saw them play the other top notch teams and lose it was usually in the last few minutes where they ran out of gas and it dawned on me that he had to ride them and let them play most of the game against lesser opponents to get them ready for the few teams that could challenge them.
I only met Claude Hutchinson once. My senior year I was working in sporting goods of a Howard's department store (this was pre-Wal-Mart). He came in to buy a hunting and fishing license. Looking at his driver's license to fill out the form raised my eyebrows just a bit, and since he was over 65 the cost was 25 cents. The richest man in all of West Texas and I rang up a sale of one quarter.
Marsha Sharp was a senior my freshman year. After graduation she became an assistant coach and eventually left to take over Texas Tech's women's team winning a national championship. In many of the trips into Texas over the years we've driven through Lubbock and Marsha Sharp Avenue always catches my eye. It's not often you actually know the person a street is named after.
The article mentions that while the women were flying the men's team was riding in a bus. My first two years the cross-country and track teams traveled in a faded blue 1960 Chevrolet Suburban. We called it the Blue Goose (my sophomore year they painted it white and it became the snow goose). In back it had two facing seats with enough room to put a suitcase in the middle and we could play cards to pass the time. The seat closest to the door had a jump seat that folded up to let everyone in. We called it the rocking chair and there was always a fight over who was forced to sit on it for the trip.
We did fly my sophomore and junior years in the Hutchinson Bonanza planes to Salina Kansas for the National Cross Country championships. When we were flying back the first time coming up to Amarillo. The caprock rises up from lower plains, and I could see the small clouds between us and rising cliffs. It was beautiful. The next year we waited three hours as they tried to get one of the planes to start. They spun the propeller and sprayed ether into the carburetor and finally it started. As we were getting in I wondered if I really wanted to fly in something that obviously didn't want to work. Made it home just fine.
Bill Hardage was the coach and he flew one of the planes both times. After he retired from coaching he piloted the University's plane. He flew to San Diego three years ago to pick up a new plane for WBU. He got caught in a storm and crashed.