Fifty-five years ago, on Jan. 16, 1953, the Thayer Bobcat basketball team was involved in an unfortunate "incident" in the championship game of the West Plains Invitational Tournament.
The tourney was held annually in the Armory building in Peoples Park in West Plains. The Bobcats were the defending tournament champs,having won the previous year led by All-State player Bud Edwards.
West Plains had several returning lettermen from the previous year and went into the finals of the tournament by winning over a good Winona team.
The scrappy Bobcats, with only one tall player, won handily over Salem, Ark., and the Couch Indians in the tourney's early rounds, before beating the top-seeded Alton Comets in the semi-final game by wearing them down (Thayer had 31 fouls). Alton led by seven points at the end of the first quarter and the score was tied 25-all at the half, then Thayer won going away in the last two periods.
The all-bleacher seating in the Armory was packed on the cold Saturday night the finals were held.
Alton won the consolation game, then the Bobcats took the floor against the Zizzers, in what was a close, hard-fought game.
With three minutes remaining on the clock, the ball was batted back near the center of the court. One of the West Plains players and a Thayer player were down on the floor scrambling for the ball, when a middle-aged fan from West Plains ran out onto the court and hit the Thayer player.
The man then ran for the exit, but the Thayer players downed him. That's when all, you know what, broke loose.
Bystanders and people from the stands, including women, got in on the action.
It took a good while to restore order. Ironically, one of the referees was a Missouri State Trooper who became transparent during the melee. The game finally resumed with West Plains winning by a narrow margin.
The West Plains team was made up of Jim Lashley, Ron Manning, Ed Richards, Charles Miller, Gale Newman, Dale Delarm, Junior Barnet, Steve Evans, Bill Trout and Bill Walker. Danny Smith was the equipment manager and Jim Peters the coach.
The Bobcat players were Pat Carter, Joe Hilton, Max Evans, Tom Morgan, Bert Miller, Eddie Heffner, Logan Terry, Gene Rooney, Joe Childers and Dick Mooney. Carroll Parrot was the coach. Don Springfield was the Bobcat sports reporter who had the unenviable task of writing about the ruckus.