Peabody earned first trip to state tourney in 1939

It was an exciting time in Peabody in March 1939 as the Blue Warriors made their first trip to the state tournament.

Earlier in the school year, the football team had posted a sparkling record of 7-1, their only loss coming in the last game of the year against Marion. The loss cost Peabody the Cotton?wood Valley League title as Marion claimed the top spot.

The football team was coached by Glen Davis, who performed double duty: He also was the basketball coach. Davis had some gifted athletes on the team, including Hoyt Baker, Roque Sanchez, James Waterman, Menno Ediger, Edmer Cornel?son, Floyd Hansen, Ron Gaines, Melvin Stovall, John Janzen and John Sanchez.

The Warriors opened the season with a tough 31-29 loss to Florence. They followed that with six-straight wins before losing to Marion, 29-21.

The middle of the season brought a respite, but it was not by design. Much of Kansas was straining to contain an outbreak of scarlet fever. By orders of the county health officer, the schools were closed in Peabody for a minimum of one week.

?All church services in Pea?body will likewise be dispensed and no school children will be allowed to attend the theater,? wrote the Peabody Gazette. ?It is hoped that at the end of this one week vacation the spread of the disease will be checked.?

The vacation of sorts worked. Finally back to competition, the local lads posted impressive wins over Burns, Council Grove, Hillsboro and Florence. As best as can be determined, Peabody ended the regular season with a record of 12-2.

The team advanced into the Hillsboro district tournament. There, Peabody defeated Lincolnville, Hillsboro and Roxbury to move on to the Class B Newton Regional Tournament.

The Warriors were joined in Newton by teams from Burrton, Roosevelt of Emporia, Halstead, Galva, Inman, Walton, Elmdale, Buhler and Towanda. Inman was the class of the gathering and had tied for first in the very competitive Mid-Kansas League.

Peabody was hardly intimidated. They now had a record of 15-2 and had defeated some powerful teams as well. The Warriors entered the regional with confidence: They believed they had the necessary ingredients to do quite well, not only in the regional but even beyond it.

The Warriors opened the tournament with an easy 36-19 victory over Burrton. The star of the game was Hoyt Baker. The Topeka Capital-Journal had noted that the sophomore was nicknamed ?Blondie.? Whatever he was called, Baker could play some serious basketball. All season long he had been a consistent scorer from the forward position and his talents had helped carry the load for the Warriors. In this contest, Baker tossed in 22 points.

He followed that performance with a 20-point effort as Peabody edged Roosevelt High of Emporia. Against Roosevelt, Baker had a sterling game but the hero was Edmer Cornelson, who managed to score the winning basket in the last few moments of play.

Now in the finals, Peabody was finally pushed aside by Inman, 26-25. Baker, Cornelson and Melvin Stovall each received all-tournament recognition. In the end, Baker was the leading scorer of the three-game event as he totaled 59 points (19.7 points a game).

Despite the loss to Inman, Peabody was awarded an at-large invitation to the Class B State Tournament in Hutchin?son. The Warriors were there joined by 15 other teams: Lebo, Sublette, Page City, Benedict, Mankato, Nickerson, Powhattan, Bison, Prescott, St. Marys, Glendale, Inman, Virgil, Clear?water and Haddam. Downs, the defending state champion, did not qualify for the tournament.

Nickerson, Inman and Page City were the early favorites, but the ?story? was tiny Glendale. The school, located just west of Salina, had a most unusual team. Glendale High had no gym and the basketball team was confined to having all of its practices (and some games) on outdoor courts. Despite those hardships, Glendale had lost only one game the entire season.

In the first round, Peabody edged Mankato, 38-34, but then was defeated by Nickerson in the quarterfinals. Nickerson went on to claim the title. For Peabody, the season ended with a 17-4 record.

After the tournament, Hoyt Baker was an all-tournament selection. In those days, the award was similar to the all-state teams of today. Baker may be the first such boy from Peabody to receive such a coveted state basketball award.

The school would have several other chances at the state tournament. Led by the ?smooth? play of Dick Myers, the Warriors qualified for state in both 1962 and 1963. In 1962 the team lost to Melvern in the title game, but in 1963 they claimed the Class B championship when the Warriors edged an unbeaten Hill City team, 50-49. But for Peabody the first team to state will always be the 1939 squad.

Next, Durham will experience some state basketball madness of its own.

? 2011 by Steven Michael Farney. All rights reserved. Ideas, comments or questions: contact smf2guard@yahoo.com

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