1964 Pekin Chinks Basketball Team Home
In the spring of 64 I was a sophomore at the University of Illinois rooming with Bruce Guftason, who had graduated from Pekin Community High School in 1961. Pekin was a town of 30 thousand near Peoria in the central part of the state.
Two doors down from our dorm room was another Pekin graduate (John Roberts). I had been the starting point guard for Dawdy Hawkin's 1961-62 team which had finished with 18 wins with the tallest player being 6' 2”. We played a full court press the entire game and got a lot of steals and fast breaks. Dawdy had continued to use that style and in the 63-64 season he had a young team with four starting juniors and one senior at center. The center might have been 6'4” tall. The rest of the guys were 6' or less.
They had nine losses when the regular season was over and nobody figured they would go far but somehow they got into the final eight which meant that they would be coming to Champaign to play at the Assembly Hall which was right across the street from our dormitory.
As soon as Bruce found out they were coming he arranged for five rooms on our floor facing the Assembly Hall to display a large letter in each window which spelled out “PEKIN” and could be seen from the street and in front of the Hall. We were on the top (fourth) floor. We had to take a lot of razing from the rest of the guys in our dorm because Pekin wasn't given much of a chance.
I'm sure the word got out and Dawdy probably took the players to see the display to make them feel at home. Because they sure played like they were at home. The first night they played Glenbard East from from Chicago. The just annihilated them. They pressed the whole game and put on a passing, shooting, and defensive clinic and won by 41 points (84-43).
The next night as we were approaching the gate I heard the people in front of me taking about the Chinks. I heard him say “They won't beat this team by 40 points.” They were playing Rock Island, another team from near Chicago. Well the young man was right. This time they only won 69-36 by 33 points. But it was a similar story that night also. By now the papers were saying that Dawdy Hawkins was putting on a clinic.
Meanwhile in the other bracket Decatur was playing the Cobden Appleknockers. Cobden was a town of only nine hundred people in southern part of the state and somehow they had five guys on their team that were 6'5” or better. I figure the jolly green giant must have come through town right after WWII. Decatur was favored but Cobden upset them. So the finals were set – it would be the Appleknockers vs the Chinks.
I'm sure the whole town of Chicago was thrilled. Not only were both teams south of Peoria - they were also both all white.
It looked like Pekin was going to repeat their performance of the prior two games as they went into half time with an eleven point lead. But Cobden hung in and as the game approached the final minutes the unthinkable happened. Cobden turned the tables and went into a full court press. I can still see what seemed like an awkward attempt by giants to press a smaller faster team, but the tactic had caught Pekin off guard and the Chinks lead was whittled down to several points in the waning seconds.
It was nerve wracking but Pekin was able to hang in and win 50-45. It was the happiest day of my life up to that point. And to top it off I went out with a girl from Pekin after the game and got my first piece of ass. I was no longer a virgin.
When I got back to the room about three in the morning there were about five Pekin Chinks sleeping in my bed. Apparently some of them had seen the Pekin sign in the windows and came up to party and Bruce let them stay the night. I grabbed them one by one and pulled them off my bed and onto their feet. I then got into bed and pulled the covers over me and looked up at them standing there and motioned and told them to get on top. They all piled in on top of me. I was so tired that I slept like a baby until 9 in the morning.
Sunday morning the Chicago Sun Times had in huge letters on the top of their paper “CHINKS WIN.” I never was able to figure why they gave us such a headline unless they were trying to shame the Chicago teams into performing better the next year. Or maybe they wanted to make sure all the hip people in Chicago knew that these yokels downstate were so dumb they didn't even know that the term Chinks was supposed to be pejorative.
Anyway with their 4 starting juniors as seniors the next year they went on to be undefeated throughout the 64-65 season. Dawdy had gotten me a ticket to the regional finals where Pekin was pitted against a very good Manual team and I had to watch Manual upset Pekin. I was upset because when Pekin was behind in the final seconds Dawdy had decided to start fouling and I felt he should have tried for a steal instead because of his team's outstanding defense. Dawdy's strategy didn't work as Manual made every free throw.
The surprise was the next year (66-67) after the four seniors that had won the 64 state championship had left Pekin won the state title again with Fred Miller and a center named Moran. Fred went on to star at the U of Ill in the late 60's and early 70s.