Exploring the Legacy of the ‘Whiz Kids’

web1_BillColumnDuring the past 101 years the Bellevue Redmen highschool basketball team has appeared in eight state basketball tournaments. Four of the tournaments were sponsored by Ohio Wesleyan and the last four were sponsored by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, beginning in 1923.

Bellevue and Lorain, both members of the Little Big Seven basketball league, met in the finals with the Steelers winning 15-14 on a last second shot. However, Bellevue’s Redmen co-captain Gene Dudley sank a 15-footer in a Redmen 36-34 win over Middletown for the coveted crown in 1945.

Through this column, we tell the story of the “Whiz Kids” of 1945, a name given to the team by Bellevue Gazette Sports Editor Fred Edwards…

The late Edwards, wrote this article for the The Bellevue Gazette following the death of Paul Brown on Aug. 5, 1991:

“Paul Brown, a great coach and a fine gentleman, whose death attracted the attention of sports celebrities from around the globe to Ohio, was a frequent visitor to Bellevue during the 1940s and early 1950s. He was also the principal speaker at the Bellevue High School basketball banquet in 1946.”

At the time Edwards served as master of ceremonies and introduced Paul Brown.

“Through the late Henry Strobel who was the Bellevue High School football and basketball coach at that time and also through Ed Masonbrink, who was the BHS principal, I had enjoyed the pleasure of becoming personally acquainted with Paul Brown prior to the banquet.

“He and Coach Strobel were old friends having grown up together as neighbors in Massillon, went all through school together, played as teammates in football at Massillon High School, then went to Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, where they were roommates in the dormitory and teammates for four years on the Miami football team.

“Ed Masonbrink and his wife Martha, then residing on Fairfield Ave., had been close friends with the Browns for many years. Masonbrink, prior to coming to Bellevue, was know as one of the best game officials in Ohio and also earned the name ‘Honest Abe,’ because he was such a stickler for the rules. After leaving Bellevue following World War II, in which he served as a naval officer, Masonbrink became the principal of Canton McKinley High School.

“The Browns visited the Masonbrinks and the Strobels in Bellevue rather frequently in those days and would include me (the Edwards) in their get togethers. I wrote the sports in those days for The Bellevue Gazette, in addition to my duties as business manager. Those duties brought me into contact with Paul Brown when he was coach of the Massillon Tigers and with one of the leading sportswriters in the state, Luther ‘Lute’ Emory of Massillon who was married to a Bellevue girl. Through the urging of Emory and other leading small city sportswriters we jointly launched a campaign to get Paul Brown the job a head football coach at Ohio State — and our campaign was successful. Up until that time no high school coach had ever been named to a head coaching position at a major university.

“Coach Brown, who was a very thoughtful and appreciative individuals, never forgot what the small city sportswriters had done for him and all of us received the royal treatment whenever we visited the university, or later on, the Cleveland Browns. We were always welcome, as well as our wives and children at training camp, where the whole family was asked to fine with the team at the training table. Brown had a fondness for kids, kept a drawer full of chocolates for them and would send to the storeroom for the inevitable Brown’s jersey even though it was several sizes to big for the little fellows. And oh how those items were prized by the children.”

Edwards friendship with Harry Strobel began in June 1942 when he was named head coach of the Redmen’s football and basketball teams.