Chasing history was one of the most enjoyable parts of serving at the MHSAA for nearly 34 years. Researching information, but especially what I considered for a long time to be talking to the “old guys” (now I’m one of them) and soaking up their verbal histories of our games.
It also involved chasing down old photos, broadcasts and game films – especially those which preceded our more modern video era beginning in the 1990s.
When I arrived at the MHSAA in 1987, there was a shelf of old 16mm film canisters of an assortment of Boys Basketball Finals from the 1950s to the 70s – certainly not a complete set. The Association would shoot some game action from each quarter and the trophy presentations. They’d be sent out to the participating schools to show to the students (I remember watching a Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart game in 1967 when I was in fifth grade). Some would find their way back to the office – most would not.
Will Robinson, the legendary Detroit Public School League coach who led Pershing High School to the league’s first MHSAA titles (in 1967 and 1970) after a district-imposed hiatus from 1931-61 from statewide tournaments, would pull my chain every time we saw each other about those games featuring Spencer Haywood and Ralph Simpson, among others. We never found them.
So it became a project to try and track down as many old game films of state championships as we could.
Any conversation with someone with a history tone always included a question about the whereabouts of a game film or video. One of those recently bore fruit.
When Crystal Falls Forest Park played in the 8-Player Football Finals at the Superior Dome in Marquette back in 2017, I spent a lot of time talking with living legend Bill Santilli, who led the Trojans to the Class D crown in the very first year of the tournament in 1975, and who would later coach the school to a second state title (2007) and serve as athletic director. He said he had a box on his desk collecting dust that he didn’t know what to do with – that box contained an old video tape from that game.
I uttered four little words – “Send It To Me.”
After a while the tape arrived in East Lansing, and I got our video production friends at When We Were Young Productions/Rush Media in Wisconsin on it. This winter, they found someone who could convert it and sent me a file that was recently posted to the MHSAASPORTS Channel on YouTube. You can watch the Trojans play Flint Holy Rosary by Clicking Here or watching above.
There are all kinds of old game films/videos and artifacts in attics, closets, garages, etc., in every town. Two of our Muskegon historians – Ron Pesch, the MHSAA’s history guy; and the old broadcaster, Jim Moyes, who called games on the radio for years in the Port City – can tell stories of their own about discoveries they have made. Moyes found all kinds of mementos while working on his book on the history of high school track & field in Michigan, and sitting with Ron at this year’s Girls Basketball Finals, he told a story of finding the mother lode of photographs from one of his other historical passions – silent film star Buster Keaton – who spent ten summers in the Actor’s Colony in Muskegon.
Pesch found a listing for Eleanor Keaton, Buster’s widow, using a telephone book (remember those?), made a phone call and shortly thereafter, on a vacation to California, was in her living room where he was loaned a photo album and family scrapbook containing all kinds of images from their time in Muskegon. Many of those images appear in a soon-to-be-released documentary, while the album and scrapbook now reside in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences library in Beverly Hills, Calif. You can preview the film by Clicking Here.
So if you think you have something of a state championship that could be utilized on a bigger platform and enjoyed by everyone, drop a note to [email protected]. If something needs to be converted to a more modern format, you’ll get a copy back, and the footage will be eventually viewable on the MHSAA’s YouTube channel.
To help guide your search, think in the following terms:
► Just about anything before 1990. But there are gaps during the 90s that need to be filled as well.
► Only Championship games and Semifinal games, unless something momentous occurred (like Richie Jordan’s 60-point game for Fennville against Bridgman in a Regional Semifinal in 1965, which is still an all-time tournament single-game record for boys basketball).
► For a list of what’s in the MHSAA archives prior to 2000 – Click Here. A long-term project is to get all of the games on the list and up to about 2010 uploaded to the YouTube channel. Most games from 2013-14 on can be viewed on the NFHS Network, and some games between 2010 and 2013 are available for purchase as DVDs from PrepFilms.com.
PHOTO Posing with the championship trophy after the 1975 Class D Football Final are (left to right): Forest Park tight end Bryan LaChapelle, quarterback Richard Mettlach, head coach Dick Mettlach and running back Bill Santilli.