Milan ’54 Team Member Bob Engel Dies
By Mike Perleberg
Milan 1954 team member Bob Engel, shown in his playing days and in a 2012 photo, died on Tuesday, January 5. Photos courtesy Milan ’54 Hoosiers Museum.
(Milan, Ind.) – A teammate on the storied 1954 Milan High School boys basketball team has died.
Robert “Bob” Engel died on Tuesday, January 5 at an assisted living facility in Portage, Michigan. He was 79.
Engel was a senior guard and wore number five for the ’54 state championship team from a school of just 161 students. The Indians defeated 2,200-student Muncie Central team in the title game 32-20. That year’s Milan team served as the inspiration for the film “Hoosiers”.
“Oh yeah. He was very proud of being a member of that team,” brother-in-law Rich Hartman said Wednesday as he volunteered at the Milan ’54 Hoosiers Museum.
Though teammate Bobby Plump called him a college-caliber player, Engle’s basketball career ended after high school due to a back injury and family circumstances. After Milan and basketball, Engel joined the Army. He eventually went to work for General Motors in Michigan in the 1960s and enjoyed a long career with the company, Hartman said.
“He was a well-respected guy up there. They called him ‘Hoosier’,” said Hartman.
In his final months, Engel was able to enjoy a few more experiences related to the state title run more than 60 years ago. Despite health issues this past October, he traveled from Michigan to the Milan ’54 Museum to record a video interview for a new multimedia display in the museum’s replica player lockers. A few of Engel’s former teammates including Plump had gone to visit with him on December 27, Hartman said.
Services for Engel have not been announced.
Engel is the second player from the 1954 Milan team to pass away, leaving nine living members. Ron Truitt, who was the team’s starting forward, died of cancer in Texas in 1988.
The team’s coach, Marvin Wood, fell victim to cancer in 1999.