Saturday, February 21, 2004

Milan 1954 remembered

A look back at 'The Miracle Men of Milan'

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Milan: The legacy of '54
Milan 1954 remembered
The stuff dreams are made of

Fact and fiction
Championship game box score
Where are they now?
Making a Milan pilgrimage, and digging deeper into the Milan story
Video: End of the 1954 championship game
Photo gallery: Milan: Past and present
As with all great stories, the story of "The Miracle Men of Milan" has not diminished one iota in the past 50 years.

"After 50 years, and all of the publicity and the movie, 'Hoosiers,' I think it might stick around a little while," says Bobby Plump, 67, flashing the same ear-to-ear grin he had as an 18-year-old after sinking "The Shot" that sunk giant Muncie Central on March 13, 1954, in the Indiana State High School Basketball Championship.

"Milan - 1954" was ultimate tale of the underdog, a 161-student school beating a 2,200-enrollment school, the sports equivalent of David slaying Goliath.

Milan's miracle arguably out-miracles even the "Miracle on Ice," the shocking hockey victory over the Soviet Union by United States' collegians at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.That upset is celebrated in the new movie, "Miracle."

It is why the basketball tale made nationally famous in the still popular movie "Hoosiers" (1986) will never die -- even though many of the high school students here are sick of hearing it...the flame-keeper for a Milan Museum is struggling to make the project happen...and efforts to revitalize the tiny town of 1,900by attracting a major industry to town have so far failed.

Today, the Milan Indians play the Muncie Central Bearcats at the Muncie Fieldhouse in a game that will be nationally televised on ESPN Classic. It is yet another golden nugget that occasionally pops up, 50 years after the gold rush.

Reporter John Erardi and photographer Michael Keating went in search of more such nuggets one Saturday two weeks ago. Here is what they found.

A story about a different kind of gold rush. A story about one town's struggle to again overcome tremendous odds -- this time not to create a legend, but to live up to it. A story of why "Milan 1954" continues to have such a grip on so many of us.

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