You may have watched the classic basketball movie Hoosiers, about a small town Indiana basketball team that beats the big city school. But did you know that the movie was loosely based on the town of Milan, Indiana?
Today’s small town trip is to explore the 1954 Milan Hoosiers Museum, the largest collection of Hoosiers movie memorabilia in the world, and things from the real life team!
You see, the Milan High School was very small. In the days before class ranking, it didn’t matter how small you were–you still played ball against the large schools! This school had an enrollment of 161 students (58 of the 73 boys in the school tried out for the team) in 1954 yet they managed to keep moving up in the ranks.
The State Championship pitted the Milan Indians against the Muncie Bearcats, a school with more than 1660 kids! The Bearcats may have been bigger and fancier, but the Milan Indians made an end-of-game basket that won the game!
Their story, and the frenzy that followed, inspired the hit movie Hoosiers. You can browse through the cards and notes received by fans while at the Milan museum, like my favorite: a congratulations letter signed by everyone in a small town diner. If that’s not typical of us small town folk, I don’t know what is.
Really, it’s not surprising to find a museum centered around a long ago basketball team. We Hoosiers love our history. When you combine it with our other love, basketball, well, it’s a natural fit!
But the 1954 Milan Hoosiers Museum is more than a clearinghouse for Milan memorabilia, it has been and continues to be a community effort. It’s a museum where the people really care about preserving the memory of a very special day in their history.
Folks find Milan Indians items from the season (and even the big game) in their homes, the school, and even their garages. They don’t rush to list these things on online auction sites but they turn it over to the museum for safe-keeping, forever preserving their town history.
This Milan, Indiana museum is an amazing tribute to the hometown heroes of 1954.
Maybe you’ve seen the movie. Maybe you saw the actual game! But somehow, someway, you probably heard about the small town team that won. Now, you can see the real thing.
Happily, Milan ’54, Inc. has recently received a grant from Pacers Sport and Entertainment which will help them purchase, preserve, and display Milan’s basketball legacy in the new museum location (located right next door to its current locale).
Special thank you to Ripley County for hosting little Indiana and family. An extra special thank to Roselyn M. (Milan’s biggest cheerleader!) for her time.