‘Hoosiers’ legend Bobby Plump identifies with Saint Peter’s March Madness run

If anybody in America is aware of what a miracle basketball group seems like, it’s the man who hit the final shot that gained tiny Milan Excessive College the Indiana state championship in 1954, which impressed the film “Hoosiers.” 

All these years later, a tiny college from Jersey Metropolis is starring in its personal real-life film, and Bobby Plump — the inspiration for Jimmy Chitwood in ”Hoosiers” — understands higher than most anybody why Saint Peter’s has captured so many hearts and imaginations. 

“That’s nationwide, where we were only statewide,” Plump advised The Submit, “but that ended up being worldwide with the movie ‘Hoosiers,’ but they’re having a great time, I’m sure of that.” 

The Peacocks, 40 miracle minutes from the Closing 4, battle North Carolina on Sunday night time, and Bobby Plump is for certain they’ve a shot. 

“My impression would be that they’re not thinking, ‘Oh, my goodness, we’re here, what the hell is gonna happen to us?’ ” Plump mentioned. “They’re enjoying similar to they performed in the course of the season. And, you recognize, unusual issues can occur. 

“They’ve got a great possibility of winning this thing.” 

The Peacocks will really feel the identical love from the Wells Fargo Middle that Plump and his Milan Indians felt at Butler Fieldhouse (renamed Hinkle Fieldhouse in 1966). 

“I like the way they distribute the ball,” Plump mentioned. “Their offense is great. I believe they bought a terrific defensive group. 

“They’ve bought a terrific probability right here. All people besides people who graduated from the college they’re going to play is gonna be for ’em. Identical to in our scenario, everyone at Hinkle Fieldhouse, it seated 15,000 again then, everyone besides the group we had been enjoying was for us. 

Bobby Plump, right, during the 1954 Indiana state high school tournament semifinal.
Bobby Plump, proper, in the course of the 1954 Indiana state highschool match semifinal.

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

Plump, now 85, has owned Plump’s Final Shot, a famend Indianapolis sports activities bar identified for its breaded tenderloin sandwich, since 1995. His Final Shot, a soar shot from 16-to-17 toes out with three seconds left gave Milan — inhabitants 1,150 — the 32-30 victory over Muncie Central that continues to be the stuff of legend in Indiana. 

“How big of an upset? Well, it was big enough that 40,000 people came to Milan the next day,” Plump recalled, “and Milan’s a city of 1,100. You’ll be able to’t get 40,000 in a city like that. It was probably the most main upset ever — and nonetheless is in Indiana basketball match historical past. No person thought Milan was gonna win besides these from Milan. 

“The year before, there were fans from Milan that had to borrow money to get back home because they bet on Milan. They cleaned up the next year.” 

Muncie Central didn’t get a desperation shot off earlier than the buzzer. 

“The tickets were $3.50, you saw two games that morning and early afternoon, and the championship that night, there are people that have come into our sports bar restaurant to tell me they paid $20 to get in to see that final game,” Plump mentioned. 

He can nonetheless bear in mind the roar that adopted Plump’s Final Shot. 

“It almost took the roof off of Butler Fieldhouse and then everybody swarmed the court,” he mentioned. “I believe we had been up on the court docket an hour-and-a-half earlier than we went all the way down to the dressing room. 

“We stayed in Indianapolis that night time. Milan is simply 45 miles due west of Cincinnati, 80 miles away [from Indianapolis]. That subsequent day we drove down, there was an 18-mile lengthy caravan behind us. We bought to Sunman, which is 9 miles away from Milan. Automobiles had been parked alongside the aspect of the highway and folks had been strolling. And we had been stopped, and a good friend of mine bought out of his automobile, they had been behind us in that 18-mile lengthy caravan, he advised his spouse, ‘I’m gonna stroll, you drive.’ He walked the 9 miles and beat her to Milan. They’d state police in Milan to protect the city, they closed down the city. 

“They estimated between 30 [thousand] and 40,000 folks got here to Milan that day they usually got here from 5 totally different states. We had been a bunch of naive youngsters. You understand what we thought? ‘Hey, look what happens when you win a state tournament!’ We thought that occurred all over the place. Effectively, it didn’t. 

“But when the movie came out, it took it worldwide. A year-and-a-half ago, I got two letters from kids in Paris, France, asking for my autograph. Nine months ago, a sports announcer from Spain called a friend of mine, wanted to know if I’d be on his program. So the movie ‘Hoosiers’ just took this thing worldwide. It was always in Indiana and the neighboring states. But they made a great movie, and I’m very thankful for it.” 

Bobby Plump speaks at an Indiana high school pep rally.
Bobby Plump speaks at an Indiana highschool pep rally.
Francis Specker

Milan coach Marvin Wooden (Gene Hackman performed the coach within the film) instructed Ray Craft to inbound the ball to Plump. 

“Bob,” Plump remembers Wooden telling him, “you just dribble around until there are maybe five or six seconds to go and you can drive all the way, stop and shoot a jump shot.” 

It didn’t unfold that method, nevertheless. 

“Guess who took the ball out of bounds? I did,” Plump mentioned. “But you know what? Ray got it back to me and it worked all right.” 

Plump remembers Wooden asking guard Bob Engel earlier than the season if he would think about shifting to ahead. Plump recollects Engel telling the coach: “I’ll move to forward if you think it’ll make us a better team.” 

To today, that tells Plump the whole lot about why Milan was a champion … and why America has been an eyewitness to magic from Saint Peter’s. 

“We may not have had the best talent up and down the line, but we had the best team in the tournament,” Plump mentioned. “Saint Peter’s probably got those same type things. A good team will often beat great talent, that’s why Saint Peter’s is there. Further than that, Marvin Wood didn’t have an ego so big that he forced everything down our throat. If he didn’t know the answer, he sought the answer.” 

Saint Peter’s coach Shaheen Holloway appears to know the reply. Exit, Kentucky. Exit, Murray State. Exit, Purdue on Friday night time. 

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

Was Plump rooting for Saint Peter’s? 

“I am now,” he mentioned. “I had two daughters and a son-in-law graduate from Purdue. A little difficult for me to root for Saint Peter’s against Purdue.” 

New York and New Jersey, at the least till now, have been principally removed from the basketball hotbed that Indiana — the Hoosier state — has without end been, lengthy earlier than the film. 

“If you lived in Indiana the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s even into the ’90s, you lived that story,” Plump mentioned. “I probably have given 500 or better speeches to high schools and different clubs and things. It still resonates.” 

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Plump grew up in a small Indiana city referred to as Pierceville. 

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

He by no means dreamed of profitable the state championship. 

Bobby Plump
Bobby Plump

“We thought winning the county tourney was the biggest thing,” Plump mentioned. “We never thought about winning the state tournament. It never entered our mind until we got there.” 

You had higher consider that profitable the nationwide match has entered Saint Peter’s thoughts. 

“It’ll be a tough game,” Plump mentioned, “but I wouldn’t bet against ’em.” 

He was requested what recommendation he may need for the Peacocks. 

“Their coach has plenty of advice for them,” Plump mentioned, and chuckled. “My advice wouldn’t mean anything. But if I was talking to ’em I would just tell them to continue having fun, do what they’ve been doing all during the season and during this tournament. It’s a game, it’s another game like the other games. Play it like you’ve been playing. You’ve done pretty well.” 

It was time to go. 

“Go Saint Peter’s!” Bobby Plump mentioned.

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