|1937 Melrose Shamrocks: The Championship Season|
Before the 1937 season, the ten Melrose basketball players
were so unknown that newspapers covering the tournament didn’t spell their
names correctly, radio announcers pronounced “Hlubek” four different ways,
and the Melrose team was one of only three teams that didn’t have its
picture in the State Tournament Program. After the tournament, the team was
invited to numerous banquets and parties. Just a few years
later, Walt O’Connor was named the Outstanding Iowa Amateur
Athlete for 1940, Jim Thynne was playing for Creighton University, and
Coach Ad Hlubek was a coach in high demand. Things sure had
Coach Ad Hlubek – Melrose was coached by Adolf (“Ad”) Hlubek (pronounced “Loo-beck”). He claimed to be only a student of the game of basketball, and said that he learned all that he knew about basketball from a rulebook that “only cost 10¢.” If you asked him where else he got his ideas, he would tell you his tip-off plays were from Michigan, his set offense was from Wisconsin, and his sliding zone defense was from a friend in Kansas.
Hlubek was both the basketball coach and the Superintendent
of Schools at Melrose. The
Official Program for the 1937 State Tournament referred to him as
“Klubek.” Ad Hlubek came from
Fort Atkinson. He went to
Columbia College in Dubuque.
He coached at Fort Atkinson and Exline before Melrose. Melrose was the first basketball
team he coached past the Sectional Tournament. Hlubek started coaching basketball
at Melrose in 1933. Hlubek
was colorful and got excited easily.
After one game during the regular season, he said to the crowd,
“Let’s give three cheers for the referee.” After the final game of the 1937
State Tournament, he said that he “felt faint,” and quoted a popular radio
show of the time, proclaiming “Hello Ma, hello Pa!” After Melrose won the
championship, he also said that the Marshalltown team was the “finest team
in Iowa.” He often paced the
sidelines with a stopwatch, because he didn’t trust the official
Walt O’Connor made the news again on St. Patrick’s Day in
1997. O’Connor was driving
his car in Des Moines when his heart stopped. Ironically, a basketball coach and
a restaurant employee who knew cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or “CPR,”
resuscitated him. The
newspaper story at the time noted that while at Mercy Hospital, O’Connor
was retelling the tale of his at-bat against Warren Spahn when his nurse
rushed into the room. She was
trying to find out what he was doing. When she found out that he was
reminiscing, she ordered him to stop by telling him, “it’s making your
heart race on the monitors out there.”
Ray Parks – Ray Parks played
guard on offense and forward on defense. He was a 16-year-old junior during
the championship season. His
best play of the season came during the State Tournament. Parks made the game-winning shot
against Geneseo and scored seven of Melrose’s 20 points against
Newton. Against Marshalltown
in the final game, he scored eight points for a tournament total of 31
points. He was on the
all-tournament team in 1937, and also was named to the third team of
The Des Moines Register’s all-state teams in both 1937 and
1938. During the 1938 season,
Ray Parks was the Melrose captain and the star of the team.
Jim Carr – Jim “Ladd” Carr, a
17-year-old junior for the championship team, was a defensive standout for
the Shamrocks. Carr
alternated between forward and guard, depending on the circumstances, but
played the entire championship game at guard. One of his primary duties for the
team was to stay back on defense and stop the fast break. He also started for the team in
1938, which was knocked out of the State Tournament in the first
round. Jim Carr is my
grandfather and I am proud of his accomplishments both on and off the
Mike Kasper – Mike Kasper, ironically,
was nicknamed “Irish Man,” even though he was the only Slavic member of
the team. During the
championship run, he was a 17-year-old sophomore. Kasper transferred to Melrose from
Bucknell for the 1937 season, and played forward. While at Bucknell, his team played
Melrose and lost horribly. Mike Kasper came in to replace Ed
Callahan after his injury in the second-round game against Newton, and
played extensively in the last two games of the State Tournament.
Ed Callahan – Ed Callahan was
originally a forward in his freshman year, but played at guard frequently
in 1937, as a 16-year-old sophomore.
He was often a starter during the 1937 season. Callahan sprained his ankle in the
second round of the State Tournament, against Newton, and had to sit out
the last two games of the tournament. In 1938 and 1939, he was the star
“floorman” for Melrose, because of his ability to run up and down the
Ray Navin – Ray Navin was backup
center behind Jim Thynne for two years. He also played forward
sometimes. Navin was an
18-year-old senior during the 1937 State Tournament. He played in the first-round
cliffhanger against Geneseo, and in the semifinals against Rolfe, to rest
the starters before the finals that same evening.
George Pavlik – George Pavlik, a
small, but capable, player was a reserve guard. He was an 18-year-old senior who
saw some action in the regular season, but did not appear in the State
Robert Parks – Robert “Red Bob” Parks
was a reserve forward at Melrose for two years. He was a 17-year-old senior when
Melrose won the state championship.
His only tournament action was against Rolfe, in the semifinals,
when he and Ray Navin saw action in order to rest some of the starters
before the championship game that night. During the regular season, he was
a proficient scorer. Robert
Parks was Ray Parks’ older cousin.
Bernard Lee – Bernard Lee, a
15-year-old, was the only freshman to make the varsity squad for Melrose
during the 1937 season. He
joined the team midway through the season, when Dan Ryan quit the team to
fulfill duties at home.
Although Lee did not see action during the State Tournament and
rarely played during the regular season “unless someone fouled out,” he
showed promise as a guard.
His father, Bob Lee, was nearly as infamous as his son for his
actions during and after the final State Tournament game. In jubilation after the clock ran
out for Marshalltown, Bob Lee threw his hat into the air, never to see it
again. The next day, a
bareheaded Bob Lee held the flag and led the parade that greeted the team
on its return to Melrose.
Even though only about half of the players are still living,
the story of the 1937 Melrose team keeps being retold. Every few years, an Iowa newspaper
runs a story about the team.
Some coaches also tell their players about the giant killers from
Melrose. However, the real
excitement of the 1937 championship is in the stories that get passed down
to the children and grandchildren of the players.