The Sweet Sixteen Louisville-Duke basketball game in Indianapolis and the emotion which took over the arena when Louisville’s Kevin Ware suffered a horribly broken leg quickly reminded me of what probably was the most emotional ending to any state basketball tournament game ever played in the UNL Coliseum.
On March 11, 1939, Falls City High was playing Jackson High (now Northeast) for the Class A state championship. With 20 seconds remaining and the Tigers leading 22-20, Bob Heinzelman drove in for a layup. He was fouled hard and both he and the Jackson player went down. The Jackson player landed on Bob’s right leg and both bones snapped just above the ankle.
Most of what follows comes from the account written by Jim Ramsey, Journal sports editor. ( I was attending UNL and was in the stands.)
“Referee Lee Gossman of Omaha immediately called time and rushed to Heinzelman’s side.
“’Ref, my leg’s broken,’” the Tiger player said.
“The official took one glance at the dangling foot and rushed to the scorer’s desk to report that the break was serious.
“Dr. J. E. M. Thompson, Lincoln bone specialist, was summoned.”
“The ambulance found it difficult to make its way through the heavy traffic and the game was held up for 30 minutes.
“Meanwhile, word of the gravity of the injury spread throughout the huge Coliseum and a hush immediately fell over the throng of more than 4,000 persons.
“At least half a dozen persons were known to have fainted, including two men who were carried down to the floor. Tears poured down the cheeks of nearly everyone in the big field house.
“Coach Jug Brown had rushed to Heinzelman’s side.
“’Let me get up and shoot those free throws,’”Heinzelman implored when the mentor reached his side.”
As the injured player was wheeled out to the ambulance, “Merritt Robson, Jackson coach, offered to concede the game to Coach Jug Brown but the rules would not permit this. Harry Hess (now a retired CPA living in Omaha, the only member of that championship team still living) was sent in to replace Heinzelman, the weeping Falls City players took their places and the game was resumed. Hess made one of the two free throws and the game ended 23-20 before Jackson could get off another shot. The Tigers had won the state championship.”
“When Coach Brown arrived at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital after the game, Jug informed Bob that he had won the game and the state Class A championship for the Tigers.
“’That ‘s good enough for my dough,’ was the reply of the gritty player.
“Ironically Bob’s mother, Mrs. Lucy Hauser, was being treated for influenza at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital when her son was admitted.
“The statewide publicity he received was tremendous. Fund drives were organized over the state, including one at Falls City, to help pay the basketball player’s medical and hospital expenses.” (I remember that infection set in following Bob’s surgery and he was critically ill for several days.)
There was conjecture as to whether Bob would ever play basketball again.
He sure showed us. Later, when he was attending UNL he was in the starting lineup for both the Cornhusker basketball and baseball teams.
Just as in the Louisville-Duke game, I feel sure that anyone in the stands for the Falls City-Jackson game back in l939 will never forget the ghastly sight of Bob Heinzelman’s right foot dangling by the skin. I hope that Kevin Ware’s leg will heal just like Bob’s did and that he again will star on the basketball court for the Louisville Cardinals.
Bob was the father of Mrs. Chick (Carole) James.
Sometime ago when I listed local eating places of yesteryear I missed some but I have had good help in adding to the list. The name of the upscale restaurant I couldn’t recall and which was destroyed by fire within a year was The Russett. Here are some others: Broadstone’s, Airport Drive-In, Medlock’s Café, Candlelight Cabin, Bud and Dot’s Café, Burger King, Cochran’s Café, Dale Larimore’s Barbecue, Mutt and Jeff’s, Bullock’s Made-Rite and the Vets Club.
Coming to my rescue were Spike Bennett, Bob Ferguson, Ralph Birdsley, Kenny Zentner and Scott Massin. Like Massin, I enjoyed devouring those delicious sandwiches and salads at Sally Stanton’s Candlelight Cabin, which had been the Stantons’ home at what now is Stanton’s Lake Park. Incidentally, going along with the Candlelight name, all of the dining room was lighted only with candles at each table.