The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update


February 2, 2013

Jim Bailey: AHS basketball nightmares have taken on a different character

Recently I had one of those strange dreams about going to a basketball game. This time I was going to an Anderson High School game at the present location. But instead of bleachers, spectators were sitting in restaurant-style booths surrounding the court. They were all taken, so I settled for an embankment overlooking the end of the court.

A far cry from dreams I used to have about the Wigwam, once the second-largest high school gym in the world. With thousands and thousands of fans scrambling for all available seats, I obtained tickets in one of the outlying sections. Only in my dream, you couldn’t see the court from half the sections in the Wigwam, and you had to listen to the crowd reaction to tell what was going on.

Dreams, of course, are a far cry from reality. Even in the days when 9,000 screaming fans jammed every corner of the arena for sectional and regional games and even some regular-season contests, you could see perfectly (even if distantly) from the highest seats in sections XX and YY.

There was one group of fans, of course, who couldn’t see the playing floor. Those were the ones outside who hadn’t been fortunate enough to get tickets to the sectional. They tuned in on radio and held out hopes of wangling tickets or passouts from fans departing between games or at the end of the night after their teams lost.

That practice had begun at the original Wigwam, which burned in 1958. The previous March I had been one of those fans, my first adult season ticket number not having been drawn for the sectional distribution. There was, however, one difference between the old and new Wigwams: You could get a glimpse of the playing floor through the main entrance doors on the north end. Not that you could tell much about what was happening, other than from the roar of the crowd.

That particular night one of those in the crowd outside was a former classmate of mine, who ironically had a ticket but was there to peddle it in exchange for cash. By the end of the first quarter I had a seat (albeit up at rafter level) and watched the Indians, led by Norman Delph, avenge the previous season’s sectional loss to Elwood, led by Darrell McQuitty. As things turned out, both Delph and McQuitty played on the Indiana All-Star team that June.

In the 1960s, when the new Wigwam opened, basketball on Friday and Saturday nights was the place to be. Particularly at tournament time, when nobody complained about seats on the upper rim: “At least I’m in the Wigwam,” they’d say.

Contrast that to today when counter-attractions galore have reduced the allure of high school basketball and AHS fans can fit comfortably in a gym that seats less than 3,500.

Jim Bailey’s reflections on Anderson’s past appear on Sunday. His regular column appears on Wednesday. He can be reached by email at

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