Miami High School State Basketball Championship Team of 1951

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ASU Archivist and Historian Dr. Christine Marin talks to HORIZONTE about story of the Miami
High School state basketball championship team of 1951.

>> It's the story of a copper
mining town -- Miami, Arizona --
that came together in 1950 to
1951 for the love of basketball.
A legendary basketball team and
their great coach, Ernie
Kivisto, making history.
A story that is now being
published internationally.
Joining me to talk about this in
our "Get To Know" segment is
Dr. Christine Marin.
Dr. Marin is the archivist,
curator and historian at the
Department of Archives and
Special Collections at the
Hayden Library at A.S.U.
Dr. Marin is also a contributor
for "Barriozona" magazine.
Dr. Marin, welcome back to
"Horizonte."
>> Thank you very much.
>> This is a fascinating story.
Kind of Arizona's version of the
HOOSIERs.
Give us the general outlines of
this story.
>> It's a wonderful story of
triumph over adversity and a
great story about how struggle
defines character.
In this small little copper
mining town in post World War II
Arizona, we have the third
generation of Mexican
immigrants.
Young Mexican American boys who
come together to play
basketball.
>> And these are the sons of
what you refer to as the G.I.
generation?
>> The G.I. generation.
They saw World War II and lived
through the depression and
they've examples of struggle and
adversity, but at the same time,
they come to Miami to find work
and build that American dream
for themselves, but mainly for
their children.
The third generation, these
children.
And we have these young boys who
go to a segregated elementary
school and come away with dreams
of their own and they're
children of poverty.
They are the children of
parents -- some young boys are
raised by single women.
Fathers are miners.
Sometimes fathers die of a
disease, and they go through all
of these challenges but at the
same time, they love basketball.
They know they have skills of
some kind.
They've that talent.
Boys who probably don't even
have basketballs or shoes or
anything like that until they go
to school and they have in this
case of this team, for the very
first time, their own basketball
shoes and own uniforms.
>> And a fantastic coach.
>> And a wonderful coach.
Ernie Kivisto, the son of
Finnish immigrants.
This young boy, Ernie, played
for Marquette and Notre Dame and
learned a new technique that his
adversaries had no way of
knowing.
Now we know today it's hard
court press and we know
different kinds of names for
these skills of play.
But it was Ernie Kivisto who
brought his skills as a
basketball player after having
played to this small town.
>> And the '50-'51 season is the
time period you focused on.
>> It was the championship
season.
>> But he was extremely
successful.
His team only lost eight games
over a four-year period.
>> He instilled in his players
discipline and hard work and
also team -- team play, and
building the team together.
The game or that day's event
wasn't just about one player or
one star, it was about the team
and they all came together
despite ethnic adversaries or
racial conflicts, brought them
together for the love of
basketball and the love of the
game.
>> And some of what they had to
deal with was the jealousy
engendered by their success.
Five 100-point games?
>> That's correct.
The coaches from other teams
accused the coach, Kivisto, of
almost requiring the team to
play and to score high.
And as a result, for example,
they might have played Clifton
and maybe Clifton lost by maybe
a score of 40 as opposed to 100
for the Vandals.
Miami vandals.
But it wasn't he was telling his
team to score high just for ego
or to call attention to the town
or himself.
I think in the long run, what
really happened was calling
attention to this kind of a team
that had skillful players, they
had players who were athletes
with talent.
They had a town that loved
basketball and supported the
team.
They also had individuals who
came from all over the state to
watch them play, top teams --
Phoenix Union, the Scottsdale
Beavers.
They played adversaries from
Clifton and Florence and NOGALES
and teams in their class, but
driven to play and win for the
coach because in the end, he
rewarded them with confidence
building.
>> And the system, the playoff
system back then was different
so that in the end, you would
have what were the two best
teams in the state regardless of
size playing each other?
>> Two best teams in the state
playing outside perhaps their
class.
If Miami played class B, they
went to the semifinals to play
other teams from other classes.
Phoenix Union came from a higher
class, but to win in the
semifinals, they played other
teams that were commensurate to
their skills.
But to play the championship
team, they had to play the best
team and happened to be they
played the Carver High School,
the Monarchs.
>> And tell us about that.
>> This is a story of the period
of time when segregation was the
law in terms of education in
Arizona.
This is before integration came
along in 1952-53 in the schools.
When the laws changed, it
required schools to consider
school integration, but it
didn't require high schools to
integrate.
It was their choice.
But it did require elementary
schools to integrate.
>> So the championship game was
teams from two segregated high
schools?
>> Between the Miami Vandals
whose young boys attended in
their pre-school period
segregated schools, and the
Monarchs, the African-American
school.
They called it the Negro school.
It was played by two teams with
young boys who attended
segregated schools.
>> And your essay has been
published and part of an
international publication.
>> The Journal of International
Sport is known worldwide and
this particular article of which
we speak was published in a
thematic issue called "Latinos
in Sports."
And invited to submit a
manuscript.
The editor from Texas Tech
University liked it and it
became published in this
international journal.
>> Congratulations on that and
thank you for sharing this great
story with us tonight.
>> Thank you very much.
>> Next week I sit with the
police chief.
And that's next Thursday at 7:30
on "Horizonte" and that's our
show for tonight.
I'm José Cárdenas.
For everyone here at
"Horizonte," have a good
evening.

Dr. Christine Marin:ASU archivist and historian;

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