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Milan Miracle That Inspired Hoosiers Film Turns 60

Five distinctions of the famous game and the movie that came of it.

Like the pickle atop a tenderloin sandwich, these occasional briefs from The Hoosierist make a good thing (his monthly Q&A column) better.

All Indiana natives know that Hoosiers is the greatest movie ever made, and that the 1954 IHSAA boy's championship game, in which tiny Milan (enrollment 161) beat Muncie Central, is the most awesome sports contest in the History of Awesome. On this, the 60th anniversary of Milan's win, The Hoosierist found a few differences between the Milan Miracle and the 1986 movie it inspired.

1. The Hoosiers film crew couldn't get quite enough warm bodies to fill the stands at Hinkle Fieldhouse for the championship game scenes, so they fudged with creative camera angles. But vacant seats weren't an issue during the actual Milan matchup, when Hinkle was packed tighter than a grocery store the night before a blizzard. Ducats were scalped for as much as $50, back when half a Benjamin could buy a decade's worth of Pomade.

2. The movie's Hickory Huskers team was portrayed as a Cinderella squad that came out of nowhere to win it all. But the real Milan team was far from unknown, making it all the way to the state semifinals the previous year and racking up a glittering 19-2 regular-season record before bringing home the hardware in '54. They didn't sneak up on anybody, which makes their achievement even more impressive.

3. Milan knocked off Muncie Central for the state title, but their most significant tournament match-up was arguably their semi-state pairing against a little outfit you might have heard of, Crispus Attucks. That team included the legendary Oscar Robertson when he was just a (barely) beatable sophomore. The next season, Attucks claimed the first of two back-to-back state titles.

4. The Hoosiers championship game ends with a clutch game-winning shot. So did the Milan game, but with a critical (and bizarre) difference. That battle was a "defensive struggle" that ended with a laughably low 32-30 score. Towards the end of regulation, Milan star (and Indiana legend) Bobby Plump simply stood on the court and held the ball for 4 minutes, 13 seconds before missing a shot. Several possessions later, he held it for another minute before finally making his move with 18 ticks to go and nailing the now-famous shot to win it:



5. While most of Hoosiers is pure Hollywood hooey, its final, game-winning shot is completely faithful to Plump's own net ripper, mirroring his every cut and juke on the way to hoops immortality. As Plump himself told The Saturday Evening Post in 1987, "From the time the ball was in bounds after the final timeout, the movie was accurate."

 

Have a question about anything Indiana-related? Send it to hoosierist@indianapolismonthly.com.

Hoosiers pamphlet courtesy Historic Knightstown Inc.