News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 30, 2014

Hughes, News & Views: West Vigo graduate earns 600th victory as coach; Looking back at 1979 championship game

David Hughes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — I haven’t written a column since before the Super Bowl, so now’s a good time to get a few things off my chest:

• Congratulations to Mike Fields — a 1969 West Vigo High School graduate, a 1973 Indiana State grad and a former Terre Haute Tribune part-time sportswriter — for posting the 600th victory of his baseball coaching career.

He accomplished the feat March 3 when his Harmony High School squad defeated Orlando Oak Ridge 11-2 down in Florida.

I almost forgot to mention that the game went 10 innings. Yes, Harmony scored nine runs in the 10th inning.

Fields, 62, has since boosted his win total to 606. But he’s not likely to add a bunch more because he says he’s retiring as coach at the end of this season. He’ll stay at the school to teach driver’s education.

“It has been a lot of fun, but it is time [to step down],” he told me over the weekend. “Hopefully I have helped a few kids along the way become better persons. It has never been about the wins and losses. It has been about the relationships you build with your players.”

Fields is the 15th high school baseball coach in Florida history to record at least 600 victories, but he still has his share of followers in the West Terre Haute area — primarily his parents, Bill and Evelyn.

Mike Fields and his wife Leigh have two sons, Trent and Chase, and two daughters, Steff and Mika.

Harmony owns a 12-7 record in 2014.

• This is slightly old news now, but former Terre Haute North boys basketball coach Jim Jones chalked up the 700th triumph of his 47-year career earlier this month when he guided Springs Valley over Crothersville 54-37 in Class A sectional action.

According to John Harrell’s “Indiana Boys’ Basketball” website, the state’s all-time wins list looks like this:

1. Jack Butcher (retired) 806; 2. Pat Rady (active at Cloverdale, still living in Terre Haute) 739; 3. Bill Patrick (active at Tippecanoe Valley) 730; 4. Howard Sharpe (deceased, Terre Haute legend) 723; 5. Bill Stearman (retired) 714; 6. Jack Keefer (active at Lawrence North) 705; and 7. Jim Jones (active at Springs Valley) 700.

Three of the top seven have strong Terre Haute connections. We should be proud.

• This past Wednesday (March 26) marked the 35th anniversary of the legendary Indiana State vs. Michigan State NCAA championship game, which unfortunately was won by the Spartans 75-64.

The Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson showdown in Salt Lake City is still the highest-rated game in the history of televised college basketball and is often credited with kick-starting the popularity of modern-day “March Madness.”

Hopefully, you’ve read all or most of my past stories about the players and coaches who were involved in that classic matchup. But I’ve never put in the paper what I did that night.

Now that the statute of limitations is up…

As an ISU sophomore/journalism major and a part-time newswriter for the Terre Haute Star, I had purchased a ticket for the Final Four through the university. But my plan to ride on a small private plane to Salt Lake City with others fell through two days before the Saturday semifinal contest against DePaul. Something about too much weight being a safety issue. I wasn’t that heavy.

I was disheartened about being unable to go in person, especially since I had been one of the most vocal student spectators at Indiana State home games in Hulman Center. (Shoutouts to Curtis “Bootman” Franklin, Rick Petty, Freddie Overhoff, Jon Holtmann and the late Kenny Myers for being among my partners in crime.)

Anyway, I decided to meet up with some people at the Pizza City on North Second Street to watch the Monday night title bout that the whole country couldn’t wait to see.

Upon arrival, I discovered Pizza City may not be a large enough building to accommodate the number of fans who showed up to view the game on one of those newfangled big-screen TVs. Somehow, though, we survived and watched the Sycamores fall behind in the first half.

I was 19 at the time and not old enough to drink alcohol legally. But Pizza City was a restaurant, so I could be inside while the 21-plus crowd drank.

And drink they did. The small restrooms had loooong lines to get in at halftime, so I stepped outside hoping to find relief. In the parking lot, I witnessed more men urinating side by side against a wall than I’ve ever seen in my life.

Yes, I reluctantly joined them. I had to pee! Over the years since then, I never could pull up to Pizza City’s lot without cringing.

Anyway, even you youngsters should know how the second half went down in 1979. ISU rallied but fell short and ended up 33-1. Magic Johnson and Greg Kelser played great … blah, blah, blah.

Feeling depressed after the loss, I walked downtown because I heard there would be a night-time gathering along Wabash Avenue to celebrate Indiana State’s wonderful season. At first, it remained peaceful with hundreds of Hauteans and ISU students yelling and screaming their support for the team, even though the team was in Salt Lake City.

Some — me? — climbed on top of street lights. Motorists honked their horns repeatedly. It was fun. I was smiling again.

For a while.

As the size of the mob increased into the thousands and extended to the Ballyhoo Tavern and other campus locations, blood-alcohol levels rose and a few idiots tried their best to ruin the festivities.

One motorist in a sports car acted as if he would drive into a large group of pedestrians on Wabash, until he slammed on his brakes at the last second. Then some of the startled pedestrians reached inside the car to punch the driver for almost killing them. I was standing a safe distance away but saw the whole thing.

Then there were hoodlums who fired an object through the Hillman’s window that protected its front display case. They ran to the opening and stole pieces of jewelry. Soon afterward, I joined a handful of good citizens who stood in front of the crime scene to prevent further thefts until police arrived.

Within an hour or so, the night turned into the type of chaos that Terre Haute hasn’t seen since. Several arrests were made (not me!), but I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.

Except an ISU victory over Michigan State.

• You diehard NFL fans probably noticed that former Denver running back Knowshon Moreno signed a one-year contract with the Miami Dolphins last week.

A first-round disappointment early in his pro career, Moreno busted loose for 13 touchdowns (10 running and three receiving) as part of the Broncos’ record-breaking 2013 offense. Yet the team made very little, if any, effort to re-sign him as a free agent this offseason.

I became fond of Moreno in 2012 because of the intensity he showed while running the football and blocking for Peyton Manning. Plus, he helped me win barrels full of money in fantasy football last season (insert “smile” symbol here).

Don’t be surprised if the Broncos regret their decision to let Moreno walk come December when they’re struggling to make the playoffs with a battered Manning trying to stay healthy.

And don’t be surprised if the Indianapolis Colts end up being the AFC’s No. 1 seed in 2014, although they might miss the improving Donald Brown, who signed with San Diego this offseason.

On a related note, I’m still not sure what to make of Trent Richardson. Somebody please help me figure out this guy.

• This isn’t sports-related, but I’m sorry to hear that longtime WTHI-FM Hi-99 disc jockey Diane was let go last week.

I don’t always listen to country music. But when I did, it was when Diane’s friendly voice graced the Wabash Valley airwaves.

• On this fine Sunday, please say an extra prayer for veteran coaches Mike Saylor and Chad Smith.

They’re not in the best of health these days, so I’m sure they would appreciate it.

David Hughes can be reached after 4 p.m. by phone at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at 812-231-4224; by email at; or by fax at 812-231-4321. Follow TribStarDavid on Twitter.