In the 1968-1969 Illinois high school basketball season, tiny Bluford High School, having just over a hundred students, reeled off an unbelievable winning streak of twenty-five games. An Almost Perfect Season: A Father and Son and a Golden Age of Small Town High School Basketball chronicles this fascinating story, telling it through the eyes of one of the starting players, Randy Mills.
On that once-in-a-lifetime Bluford team were some truly gifted basketball players—Bob Ed Osborn, Jack Michels, Rod Stover, Ed Case, and Ed Donoho—and, as the title suggests, those days, now fifty or more years past, seem like a forgotten golden age. It was a time of single class basketball, a time when even the smallest of schools, their gyms packed with fanatic fans for every game dreamed of going to the state finals, the “big dance.”
Embedded in the book is also the deeper story of how the narrator’s days of playing basketball for the Bluford team drew his distant father and him closer together for that short but happy time. Indeed, the bulk of the raw data for this book came from the scores of newspaper and Illinois Sports Prep Special clippings Randy Mills’ father, Keith Mills, had cut out and carefully placed in a shoebox, a cardboard container that had once held a pair of Randy’s Converse gym shoes.
Other newspaper stories, especially those written by the leading sports editors of that day in the region—John Rackaway of the Mt. Vernon Register News, Merle Jones of Carbondale’s Southern Illinoisan, and Pete Swanson of the Evansville, Indiana, Sunday Courier—were found after extensive searches online.
It was these creative sports writers and others like them who, like the bards of old, spun the stories, set the themes, and chronicled the victories, defeats and the sometime tragedies of the Illinois basketball season.
In the book’s final summation the author noted, “I always thought there would be time, when Dad had reached a mellower age, for us to resolve his unshared life with me, that I would finally hear the many interesting and meaningful stories of his life’s journey. When Dad died in 1978 of a sudden heart attack, he left me without this resolution. Thankfully I have this book, a story that remembers a time and place of utmost importance to both of us, a time when viewed from the present lingers in soft sunset colors, a golden age of small town high school basketball.” Rich in long lost basketball action photos and wonderfully invoking the hot crowded small town gymnasiums of the 1960s, ultimately, An Almost Perfect Season is a deeply moving personal history, a story of the soul.
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