Milan to honor 70 years since state championship that inspired the movie 'Hoosiers'

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Posted at 12:50 PM, Mar 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-19 12:51:14-04

MILAN, Ind. — The 1954 state championship basketball team from Milan High School has gathered for a reunion at least once a year since the historic game. It's the team that inspired what's considered the greatest sports movie of all-time, "Hoosiers."

The fact still astounds Bobby Plump, a guard on the 1954 state championship team. He repeats it for emphasis as almost to verify the fact himself.

"In the past 70 years we've had a lot of appearances together," Plump said. "It's amazing it lasted this long. It's remarkable."

The Butler University Hall of Famer is a great-grandfather with a warm smile and an endearing personality.

The way he narrates basketball history makes visitors forget how often he's recounted Milan's moment over seven decades. There is a genuine brotherhood among the eight living members of the team.

"I think everybody appreciated exactly what happened and how it changed their lives," Plump said.

The Milan team will converge on Milan High School for the 70th anniversary of the state title on March 23. Admission is free and open to the public starting at 11 a.m.

"It's most meaningful that the celebration will occur in Milan - it's where our journey began and remains a place that we hold dear to our hearts," Plump said.

Six Milan players, including Plump, are scheduled to be in attendance. "Hoosiers" actors Brad Long ('Buddy') and Steve Hollar ('Rade') along with screenwriter and producer Angelo Pizzo have also committed to the reunion.

Following the formal ceremony, Milan players and "Hoosiers" actors will sign autographs at the school gymnasium. This reunion will undoubtedly be a special gathering.

"It's part of Indiana heritage," Ray Craft, a guard on the 1954 team, said. "It's just an amazing story. This won't die."

Memorabilia from the team and movie are housed at the nearby Milan '54 Hoosiers Museum. Visitors from all 50 states have walked up the museum entrance steps for a glimpse into Indiana basketball history.

Milan '54 Museum Tickets for the 1954 state final were selling for five times face value outside of Butler Fieldhouse the night of the game. "I just think it's a story that will never go away because of all the pieces that have created it," said Brad Long, who played 'Buddy' in the movie and is on the museum board of directors.

"A young group of guys against all odds beat a bigger school - a much bigger enrollment school - then they go on in their walks of life successful."

While "Hoosiers" doesn't try to replicate the Milan story, it does make sure to accurately capture the final 18 seconds of the state final including Plump's jump shot.

Plump is synonymous with the game-winning shot and Hinkle Fieldhouse. But, he'd prefer his legacy to be more than the sport.

"I'd like to be remembered as a good basketball player but more importantly as a good person," Plump said.

The movie, like the real-life Milan state title, is interwoven into the legacy of the Milan players and community.

Long, 61, is a grandfather who wants to make sure the Milan story is never forgotten.

"Everybody thinks about what they've done in their life, what people maybe they've touched, what life that they could do to leave the world a better place," Long said. "And so as I get older I suppose it's just a thing that I realize as time goes on and these guys are getting older we need to be sure that their legacy continues on."

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