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Music, sports the times of a life/Paul Peterson

November 7, 2012
By Paul Peterson - For the Gazette , The Daily Mining Gazette

The familiar strains of the song came over the radio just recently and created a sports time passage of sorts for me.

Buffalo Springfield was singing its blockbuster hit "For What It's Worth." And suddenly, it was March of 1967, a time of anti-war protests, long hair and mini-skirts.

It's often been said that music, more than anything else, represents the times of a person's life.

When I heard the classic tune, I instantly flashed back to the Class C basketball showdown between L'Anse and Wakefield at Hedgcock Fieldhouse in Marquette.

Both teams came in undefeated that long ago winter and the Purple Hornets were the defending state champions. With 6-foot-6 center Gerry Gerard and shooting aces Deane Kent and Bob Fredrikson, the LHS cagers were a formidable outfit.

But Wakefield had its own 6-6 center in Al Inkala and a strong supporting cast. The Cardinals of coach Jim Daniels also played solid defense.

The end result before more than 5,000 fans at Hedgcock was a 71-58 win that wasn't as close as the final score would indicate as Inkala effectivly neutralized Gerard.

Other songs also bring back vivid memories for me.

Take the 1957 Jimmy Rodgers hit, "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine." Hula hoops, crew cuts and pegged jeans were the craze of that era.

On a cold night in mid-December of that year, Chassell put its 42-game winning streak on the line against archrival J.A. Doelle in a game played at the old Houghton High Gym.

The Panthers often played games at bigger gyms to accomodate crowds that wanted to see the two-time state champions. In the vernacular of today, they were a hot ticket.

On this night, the CHS cagers had their hands full with the Spartans, who gave them some of their toughest games during the streak.

When Doelle ace Don Michaelson scored with under 10 seconds to play, CHS was looking at a 62-60 deficit.

But unsung Chassell reserve Bob Belhumer was fouled at midcourt as time expired. He made both ends of the 1-and-1 chance to send the game to overtime - the only OT game in what would eventually become a state record 65-game string.

Chassell's ultimate clutch player, Don Mattson, took over in the extra session to spark a 72-66 win.

"We were never closer to losing ... than that night," Mattson said many years later.

Fast forward to late March of 1981. Kim Carnes had a mega hit in "Bette Davis Eyes." It was also the time of the Iran hostage crisis, Rubik's Cube and the death of disco. And the Michigan Tech hockey team was in the NCAA Final Four at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center.

Coach John MacInnes had a team that peaked late that season behind All-American defenseman Tim Watters and goaltender Frank Krieber, the former Houghton High standout.

A freaky bounce off the sideboards gave Minnesota a quick lead in the opening-round game and the Huskies never recovered in a 7-2 defeat.

MacInnes, who was battling health problems, looked tired and pale as he took questions at the postgame press conference.

"Minnesota played very, very well," the MTU skipper simply said. "And we didn't play very well."

Tech hasn't been to a Final Four (now known as the Frozen Four) since.

The Houghton High gym was demolished long ago. Hedgcock Fieldhouse was regrettably turned into a student services building a decade ago. And the old arena in Duluth was replaced by a sparkling new facility (AMSOIL Arena) just last season.

Fans can never return to those great venues. But maybe they can reverse the time machine for an instant by tuning into the golden oldies on the radio ...



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