‘Hoosiers’ Legend Bobby Plump Identifies With Saint Peter’s March Madness Race

If anyone in America knows what a miracle basketball team looks like, it’s the man who struck the last shot that won the Indiana State Championship at tiny Milan High School in 1954. , which inspired the movie “Hoosiers”.

All these years later, a small Jersey City school is starring in its own real-life movie, and Bobby Plump – Jimmy Chitwood’s inspiration in “Hoosiers” – understands better than anyone why Saint Peter’s has captured so many hearts and imaginations. .

“It’s national, where we were only statewide,” Plump told the Post, “but it ended up being global with the movie ‘Hoosiers,’ but they have a great time, I’m sure.”

The Peacocks, a miracle 40 minutes from the Final Four, face North Carolina on Sunday night, and Bobby Plump is certain they have a chance.

“My impression would be that they don’t think, ‘Oh my God, we’re here, what’s going to happen to us?’ “Said Plump. “They’re playing like they’ve been playing all season. And, you know, weird things can happen.

“They have a great possibility of winning this thing.”

The Peacocks will feel the same love of the Wells Fargo Center that Plump and his Milan Indians felt at Butler Fieldhouse (renamed Hinkle Fieldhouse in 1966).

“I like the way they distribute the ball,” Plump said. “Their attack is wonderful. I think they have a great defensive team.

“They have a big chance here. Everyone, except those who have graduated from the university where they are going to play, will be for them. Just like in our situation, everyone at Hinkle Fieldhouse, there were 15,000 seats at the time, everyone but the team we were playing against was for us.

Bobby Plump, right, in the 1954 Indiana State High School Tournament semifinals.
Bobby Plump, right, in the 1954 Indiana State High School Tournament semifinals.

“I’ll tell you, don’t count Saint Peter’s out.”

Plump, now 85, has owned Plump’s Last Shot, a renowned Indianapolis sports bar known for its breaded tenderloin sandwich, since 1995 – the 32-30 win over Muncie Central that remains a legend in the Indiana.

“How big is an upset? Well, it was big enough that 40,000 people came to Milan the next day,” Plump recalls, “and Milan is a city of 1,100 people. You can’t have 40,000 in a town like that. It was the biggest upset of all time — and it still is in Indiana basketball tournament history. No one thought Milan was going to win except those in Milan.

“The previous year there were Milan fans who had to borrow money to go home because they were betting on Milan. They cleaned up the following year.

Muncie Central did not receive a blow of desperation before the buzzer.

“Tickets were $3.50, you saw two games that morning and early afternoon, and the championship that night, there were people who came to our sports bar and restaurant to tell me they paid $20 to watch that last game,” Plump mentioned.

He still remembers the roar that followed Plump’s final blow.

“It almost took the roof off Butler Fieldhouse and then everyone flooded the field,” he said. “I think we were on the pitch an hour and a half before going down to the locker room.

“We stayed in Indianapolis that night. Milan is just 45 miles west of Cincinnati, 80 miles [from Indianapolis]. The next day we drove down, there was an 18 mile long caravan behind us. We arrived at Sunman, which is nine miles from Milan. Cars were parked along the road and people were walking. And we were stopped, and a friend of mine got out of his car, they were behind us in this 18 mile long trailer, he said to his wife, ‘I’m going to walk, you drive.’ He rode the nine miles and beat her in Milan. They had the state police in Milan to guard the city, they shut down the city.

“They estimated between 30 [thousand] and 40,000 people came to Milan that day and they came from five different states. We were a bunch of naive kids. You know what we thought? ‘Hey, look what happens when you win a state tournament!’ We thought it happened everywhere. Well, it’s not.

“But when the movie came out it took it all over the world. A year and a half ago I got two letters from kids in Paris, France, asking for my autograph. Nine months ago , a sportscaster from Spain called a friend of mine, wanted to know if I would be on his program. So the movie ‘Hoosiers’ took this thing all over the world. It was always in Indiana and the Neighboring States But they made a great movie, and I’m very grateful to them.

Bobby Plump speaks at a pep rally at an Indiana high school.
Bobby Plump speaks at a pep rally at an Indiana high school.
Francois Specker

Milan coach Marvin Wood (Gene Hackman played the coach in the film) asked Ray Craft to send the ball to Plump.

“Bob,” Plump recalls Wood telling him, “just dribble until there’s maybe five or six seconds left and you can drive all the way, stop and take a jump shot. . »

It didn’t turn out that way, however.

“Guess who took the ball out of bounds? I did,” Plump said. “But you know what? Ray gave it back to me and it worked out fine.

Plump recalled Wood asking guard Bob Engel before the season if he would consider moving up front. Plump recalls Engel telling the coach, “I’ll move on if you think it will make us a better team.”

To this day, it tells Plump why Milan was a champion…and why America has been an eyewitness to the magic since St. Peter’s.

“We may not have had the best talent down the line, but we had the best team in the tournament,” Plump said. “Saint-Pierre probably has the same types of things. A good team will often beat great talent, that’s why Saint-Pierre is there. Further than that, Marvin Wood didn’t have such a big ego that he forced everything down our throats. If he didn’t know the answer, he was looking for the answer.

Saint Peter coach Shaheen Holloway seems to know the answer. Exit, Kentucky. Exit, Murray State. Get out, Purdue Friday night.

“We’re in Big Ten territory, and there are a lot of Purdue fans around,” Plump said. “There were people who still wanted Purdue to win, but the majority of people, if they don’t have the Big Ten connection or Purdue being the last team in the Big Ten, obviously they’re all for Saint Peter’s. ”

Did Plump support Saint-Pierre?

“I am now,” he said. “I had two daughters and a son-in-law who graduated from Purdue. A bit difficult for me to support Saint Peter’s against Purdue.

New York and New Jersey, at least until now, have been mostly far from the basketball hotbed that Indiana — Hoosier State — has always been, long before the movie.

“If you lived in Indiana in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and even the 90s, you lived this story,” Plump said. “I’ve probably given 500 or more speeches at high schools and different clubs and stuff. It still resonates.”

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Plump grew up in a small town in Indiana called Pierceville.

“My dad, when I was in fourth grade, built a backboard, bought a goal and a basketball and gave it to me for Christmas, hung it in the highest place possible, which was in ‘about nine feet,'” Plump recalled.

He never dreamed of winning the state championship.

Bobby Plump
Bobby Plump

“We thought winning the county tournament was the most important thing,” Plump said. “We never thought about winning the state tournament. It never occurred to us until we got there.

You better believe winning the national tournament has entered Saint-Pierre’s mind.

“It will be a tough game,” Plump said, “but I wouldn’t bet against them.”

He was asked what advice he might have for the Peacocks.

“Their coach has a lot of advice for them,” Plump said with a laugh. “My advice would mean nothing. But if I spoke to them, I would just tell them to keep having fun, to do what they have been doing all season and this tournament. It’s a game, it’s another game like other games. Play as if you were playing. You did quite well.

It was time to go.

“Go to Saint-Pierre!” said Bobby Plump.

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