1937 Melrose Shamrocks: The Championship Season

My Inspiration

My Grandfather – Jim Carr

When I was trying to decide the topic for my Independent Study, I looked at a number of options.  My family also suggested many different topics.  However, the story of the Melrose Shamrocks’ state basketball championship was most appealing for a number of reasons.

One reason is because I think the story is inspirational.  It is inspiring to think that out of nearly 900 high schools in Iowa, tiny Melrose High School could win the State Tournament.  Before the tournament, no outsiders gave them a chance.  After all, how could a town that was much smaller than many of the schools in the tournament hope to win?  However, the team’s hard work, practiced skills, and belief that they could always win the next game made the unthinkable a reality.

I was also inspired by the fact that the team stayed in close touch over the decades.  My grandfather, Jim Carr, often talked about his Melrose teammates and kept in touch with them throughout his life.  Years after Coach Hlubek had moved on to coach in other places, he also kept in touch with his players.  In 1962, the 25th anniversary of the championship, Coach Hlubek wrote to my grandfather, “Your friendship is a source of inspiration to me.  There is between all of us a spirit of fellowship that would be hard to find elsewhere.”

Not only is the story of the 1937 Melrose basketball team inspirational, it is also a well-known part of Iowa sports history.  Every few years, a major Iowa newspaper has a story about the “giant killers” from Melrose.  The articles always recount how Melrose, with its 66 students, is the smallest school to win a state basketball championship.  They also tell that Melrose, at 33 – 0, was the first undefeated champion.  The fact that Melrose captain, Walt O’Connor, went on to be a basketball star at Drake and a college All-American, also make the Melrose story part of Iowa sports history.  The story is also Iowa’s version of the small town basketball champions of the movie “Hoosiers.”  However, the actual Melrose story is more interesting than the later fictionalized story of “Hoosiers.”

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