As a graduate of Blue Island Community High School (now Eisenhower) in 1958 and the high school sports editor of the Chicago Daily News and Chicago Sun-Times for 33 years, I had the good fortune and privilege to observe the outstanding sports programs at Bloom and Thornton that once dominated the south suburbs and the state of Illinois.
It's all about tradition. Thornton had it from the day Lou Boudreau enrolled in 1931. Bloom had it in the 1950s and, in case anyone forgot, added to it in the 1970s. Look it up. Few high schools in Illinois enjoy the winning tradition inspired by so many outstanding coaches and athletes as Bloom Township. You can be very proud of your achievement.
I recall Cecil Sarff's unbeaten 1957 football team. Leroy Jackson, Chuck Green, Homer Thurman, Roger Elliott, Bruce Frobes, Chuck Boling, Leroy Blackful, Ron Barbizzi and their friends came to Blue Island and won 28-0. I still think it was as good as any high school team I've ever seen.
At the same time, Ralph Steben's track and field team was winning an unprecedented four consecutive state championships with Jackson, Thurman, Fred Macklin, John Llorca, Lynn Griffin and Elzie Higginbottom.
Hey, I played baseball against Jerry Colangelo and Jim Bouton. In a summer league game, I singled off Bouton. In those days, his name was pronounced Boot-on. When he played with the New York Yankees, it was Bout-on.
And Bert Moore's 1956-57 basketball team, with Thurman, Green, Colangelo, Bobby Bell and Paul Goebel, finished 27-2 after losing to Elgin 53-52 in the supersectional at Hinsdale. Colangelo always has said it was the most disappointing loss of his career, amateur or professional. How much better could they have been if Grady McCullom had been eligible?
They didn't get to Champaign. But Wes Mason's 1974 and 1975 teams did. Both finished second. In the 1970s, Mason put together an array of basketball stars who filled the gym and contended for titles every year...Gary Clark, Mark Barwig, Larry and Robert McCoy, Audie Matthews, Kelvin Small, Larry Lowe, Claude White, Richard Thomas.
The Bloom/Thornton and Bloom/Thornridge matchups in the 1970s were classics, never-to-be-forgotten rivalries.
So what happened? Where has the tradition gone? What does it take to get it back?
From the time I returned to Chicago in 1968, I learned one undeniable fact about high school sports: The best programs are run by administrators who are very supportive, who believe that participation and success in extra-curricular activities are an important part of the educational process.
… Look around you. Look at the high schools that have perennially strong sports teams. Hinsdale Central, Evanston, New Trier, Simeon, Mount Carmel, Wheaton Warrenville South, Rockford Boylan, East St. Louis. In many cases, the principal is a former coach and the alumni are eager to pass the torch to the next generation..
What is tradition? Webster defines it as "an inherited pattern of thought or action." It is something that is built brick by brick over a period of time, not one year by one team. The Yankees are tradition. The Cubs aren't. Notre Dame is tradition. Northwestern isn't. Mount Carmel is tradition. Bloom should be.
"Bloom Trojan Nation"
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The following pages of this website is devoted to the collective sports history of Bloom High School. The authors and contributors are primarily Bloom alums, coaches and student athletes. Enjoy and contribute.
Dear Trojan Nation,
Synonymous with high school basketball coverage in Illinois, Taylor is the retired sports editor of the Chicago Sun-Times. His award-winning journalism has become a staple for high school fans interested in following Chicago/South Suburbs schools or learning about the Illinois’s rich sports history. Taylor was inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.
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