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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

Pantagraph's Man in the Street Interviews -- the Wesleyan-ISNU Basketball Break

I found this interview not because of an interest in basket ball, but my interest in the Man in the Street interviews the Pantagraph featured for a short time. I had heard vaguely about a break in the Wesleyan - ISNU athletic rivalry, but never concerned myself with finding out WHY the break occurred. The pivotal game was played on February 16, 1937 and was the second time the two teams had met that season. Wesleyan came out on top both times. The Pantagraph's reporter did not mention any misbehavior on the court in his report of the "aggressively fought" game, but a small column did announce that ISNU was challenging the win due to the suspected ineligibility of one player -- Joe Yurieci. (below)

He had apparently only been playing with the Titans for two weeks and had been playing for other teams during the season, leading to this argument. The situation was further confused by the claims of the ISNU officials that the break was a bilateral agreement, and the Wesleyan officials claim that no agreement had been entered into. The break involved basketball only -- games between the football and baseball teams would continue, lending some credence to one of the reasons for the break -- no basketball arena was large enough to hold the massive crowds that attended the cross city games. (all photos here are from the Pantagraph Negative Collection and are owned by the McLean County Museum of History. You can explore the 36000+ photos by following the link on the McHistory website!!)

The Man on the Street interviews explained some of the bad feelings --

Evelyn Napier (no photo), an ISNU student, who had attended her first game in 1937 called the game not a basket ball competition, but a "big scrap before an audience." She felt the break called by ISNU was well advised.

Rex Darling, a member of the "N" Club, felt that a break would not have a healing effect, but would create more hard feelings.

Mariada Duesing was a member of the ISNU student council. She observed: "The action taken here on the basketball situation is very wise, because of the attitude of the spectators. Their feelings have overshadowed the game." Henrietta Trapp, (no photo) Vidette staffer, felt that the game had not been antagonistic. John Dohm, editor of the Vidette, was completely taken by surprise by the school's decision.

On the Wesleyan side, the publicity director, George Wasem, said that :The breaks are all for Wesleyan. I see this move as one of the final steps in taking Wesleyan out of ordinary class and allowing her athletic prowess to to expand with the major rivals of the country. This is no reflection on Normal, but Wesleyan is just on the way up to bigger things."

Becky Fiegenbaum (left) felt that the rivalry was bad for school relations and that two colleges so geographically close to one another should play and work in harmony. She called for a more thoughtful solution than a break in relations.

Louis Pitcher (right), a IWU cheerleader, favored the break and said that after a short break, both parties would realize what they were missing and come back to the table with better attitudes.

Dave Swanson, IWU senior class president, did not favor the break and denied that the attitudes of the students had been fairly summed up.

Martin Tayman was somewhat belligerent in saying "Looks like Normal is not quite tough enough for Wesleyan cagers." He enjoyed the rivalry.

Lelah White

Alice Marquis and Lelah White (left) agreed that there had been a failure of sportsmanship during the game but did not point fingers.

The final result of the interviews? Out of twenty interviewees, 7 approved the break and 13 felt it was unnecessary. As for Joe Yurieci, by the fall semester he was no longer at Wesleyan. He had been an athlete in basketball, football and baseball in college and later in 1937 was a baseball player for the Wapella Shamrocks, if any one remembers them! I don't understand college eligibility and how Joe played for a team outside the college before he graduated in June 1938, so I won't even try to explain it. During WWII Joe Yureici served in the Pacific for two years in the navy. For 50 years he worked with the Louis E. Davis American Legion post youth baseball program in Bloomington! For his living he was a rural mail carrier, but his work with the Legion baseball was a labor of love.

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