by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
In the late 1940s and early 1950s many small towns had men’s basketball teams allowing young alumni a chance to play on a recreational team. Some of these teams formed on their own and others were sometimes sponsored, usually by local merchants.
Referred to as “town teams,” they would schedule games with other nearby towns. By 1950 my father, in his late thirties, was too old to play so he was the “coach.” I use the term loosely because today they would probably be described as a “pick-up” team. Most of his players had been outstanding high school players, and there were two or three that had played some small college basketball. Their designed plays were usually made up in the huddle and could more likely be thought of as “trick” plays. Grain Valley’s town teams were usually successful, often defeating their opponents from Blue Springs, Buckner, Levasy, Lone Jack, Oak Grove, Hardin, Polo and the likes.
Then, during the 1953-54 season a women’s basketball team was formed. Known as Red Ridge Runners, I can remember twelve different women who played with the team at various times. They would practice in the school gymnasium one or two nights each week.
Mildred and Charlie Napier owned the hardware store in town and sponsored the team, which meant they bought the pretty red uniforms with white belts and numbers, and they paid the league and tournament fees, occasionally with help from other merchants. Charlie was the coach and I believe Mildred could best be described as the team’s business manager.
They joined a league which played at the Armory in Kansas City on Sunday afternoons. In 1955 they won the league play and earned the right to participate in a national tournament held at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.
Although Grain Valley lost in the first round, Louetta Snodgrass was the National Women’s Basketball Queen.
Visit the Grain Valley Historical Society’s website at www.grainvalleyhistory.com and follow them on Facebook @grainvalleyhistory.
Front Row: Virginia Ruth Tate, Doris Reeder, Naomi Fay Webb, Patsy Uptegrove
Row Two: Charlie Napier, coach, Aleen Corn, Doris Jean Brown, Louetta Snodgrass, Mary Ellen Brown, Alice Anderton and Mildred Napier, manager.
Photo credit: Grain Valley Historical Society