KC’s sports growth extended beyond the professional ranks

08/13/2014 12:01 PM

08/17/2014 7:14 PM

The start of March Madness

The NAIA Tournament is the nation’s longest continuous college basketball tournament, and former Star sportswriter Sid Bordman, 90, attended the first one in 1937. He was 13.

Through the early years, great teams and players passed through Kansas City for what amounted to the national small-college tournament. But in the 1940s and 1950s, when the NCAA finals were often played in Kansas City, the enthusiasm and attendance for both championships were similar.

The best team of all? Probably the first three-time winner of a national college basketball tournament, coached by a local legend.

Clearing the field for football

With able-bodied young men heading off to World War II, college football took on a different look starting in 1942. Service teams, including many with former college or professional players, were formed and played games against college programs.

One of early service teams was the Iowa Pre-Flight Seahawks, who represented the U.S. Navy pre-flight school at the University of Iowa. They walloped Kansas in their opening game, beat Minnesota, Michigan and Nebraska among others, and met Missouri in Kansas City in the season finale.

Future Star sports reporter Sid Bordman was there that day, and like all spectators at Blues Stadium, a special request was made of him.

Early days of high school sports

There are currently 104 high schools in The Star’s coverage area. When Fritz Kreisler, 82, who started his career at The Star on Oct. 22, 1957, covered the high school scene, he could remember just about all of the schools he covered and it wasn’t a long list.

This was long before school districts swelled and high schools broke off in different directions (Blue Springs South, Lee’s Summit West, Shawnee Mission North).

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