Many Memories At LHS’ Bateman Gym; Final Games This Weekend
By Mike Perleberg
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – Lawrenceburg High School will say goodbye to its historic gymnasium this weekend.
After 50 years of hosting hundreds of Tigers boys and girls basketball games, George “Bud” Bateman Gym has developed some critical structural issues. Demolition will start in coming weeks. A new gym will be erected in its place with the opening planned for the start of the 2015-2016 school year.
The final two games to ever be played at the gymnasium – affectionately called “The Bud” by students, staff, and alumni – will be played Friday and Saturday.
Former Coach Has Fond Memories Of Bateman Gym
The gymnasium opened in 1964, allowing Lawrenceburg High School’s smaller gym to be converted into additional classroom space. It was named for a longtime boys basketball coach at Lawrenceburg High School, Bud Bateman, who coached from 1942-1961. He then went to fight in World War II. Following the war, Bateman returned to the sideline and continued to coach the Tigers from 1965-1968. To this day, his name adorns the entryway at the visitors baseline of the court.
Marvin Pitcock coached the basketball Tigers from 1968 until 1975. He recalled coming from a small country school in Decatur County to coach in the Spirit City.
“The first time I was in the gym I was left with a big first impression,” Pitcock, now 75-years-old, remembered. “It was the biggest, best gym in the county. It was big enough we were able to hold sectionals there.”
The bigger gym allowed for Lawrenceburg’s basketball programs to increase their profile in the region. All of a sudden, bigger schools like Richmond and Connersville were willing to play home-and-home series with the Tigers, Pitcock says.
The old coach, who resides in nearby Hidden Valley, believed Bud Bateman Gymnasium provided the Tigers a great home-court advantage, particularly in the days of single-class basketball and larger crowds.
“The school had a large pep band, which made it loud. The crowd used to have to sit in bleachers that they would set up on the stage,”
That stage was sealed off years ago to create the high school wrestling team’s practice room. It’s the wall at the baseline of the court where a large Tiger logo is painted.
The Tigers certainly enjoyed success throughout the gym’s history. Sixteen boys teams won sectionals. So did two Lady Tigers squads. Pitcock’s son played on Lawrenceburg’s only regional championship team in 1992, along with LHS Athletics Hall of Famer and 16 letter winner Kelcey Mucker.
Mucker may have been the best individual player Pitcock saw play for the Tigers in The Bud. The Mahoney twins, Dan and Dennis, played a role in helping the Pitcock’s Tigers to place five straight sectional championship markers on the gymnasium banners from 1969 through 1974.
“They were a really good pair of guards,” Pitcock says.
The best game he ever saw at the historic gym? That was an easy question, though not a happy memory for Pitcock. He remembered a game in 1973 in which the 4th ranked Jennings County High School Panthers came in undefeated, led by Bill Harmon.
Inside the final minute of the 4th quarter, Lawrenceburg led by a bucket. A referee signaled a rare face guarding technical foul against a Lawrenceburg player. Jennings County made two free throws and scored another basket to take the lead and win.
“Boy, I was hot,” Pitcock remembered.
|George “Bud” Bateman Gymnasium Fun Facts, by Pete Arnold
-It took one year to dedicate the gym to George Bateman as he was injured from a fall on the ice out front on the original date and the school waited for one year until he got better.
-The Red Heads lady pro basketball team played the staff in 1980.
-There have been at least three donkey basketball games since 1964.
-The gym floor has been refinished and repainted approximately seven times.
-There have been many graduations, veterans’ day celebrations, vocal music and band concerts. It was even the venue for the funeral of former Lawrenceburg Mayor Paul “Truck” Tremain, Sr.
-It has also been the stage for a frisbee presentation and a group of professional skate-board riders.
-There are many retired jerseys in the gym including an NFL player, a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, and cheerleader Seazun Clark, who worked for the Indianapolis Colts and the Indiana Pacers.
Today’s Tigers Coach Says Emotions Come With Emptying Out Old Gym
John Blackwell succeeded longtime head coach Mike Pratt (19 years, 218 wins) two seasons ago. If he sticks around, he could be the first Lawrenceburg boys hoops coach in the school’s next gymnasium.
“Everybody is going to miss the gym we’re saying goodbye to. It’s been a great gym and means a lot to a lot of people,” Blackwell says.
“Knowing it’s the last couple games, some of the other sports programs are already packing up their stuff and moving it out into trailers to make way for the construction, there’s a lot of emotion with a lot of people invested (in the gym).”
Though the past will be fondly remembered, the future of Lawrenceburg basketball is bright.
“The plans look great. We’ll have a beautiful facility that is going to be great for our athletic department, our school, and our community. There’s a lot to be excited about,” says Blackwell.
Hear Eagle 99.3’s full interview with John Blackwell below.
Friday night’s game is Lawrenceburg’s homecoming versus U.S. 50 rival South Dearborn. Longtime high school trainer Ray Furney will be honored as he prepares to retire. Dr. Jim Swanson of Dearborn County Hospital will also be recognized.
On Saturday, the Tigers will host Connersville in George “Bud” Bateman Gym’s final game. There will be special ceremonies before the varsity contest. Fans are asked to wear black to “black out The Bud.” Alumni, former players, and the community are invited to witness the final home game.
You will hear both games Friday and Saturday on Eagle 99.3 and worldwide at www.eaglecountryonline.com.
Eagle 99.3 thanks Lawrenceburg High School Athletic Director Jeo Vogelgesang and assistant Judy Reese for providing the yearbook photos.