Salute to Miami Senior High: The Wheel Deal

With apologies to the Norman Maclean character in A River Runs Through It, I am now haunted by cogs. But, in the words of a future saint — be not afraid — it is a friendly haunting.

AA300_It all began with an entry in Howard Kleinberg’s book, The Stingaree Century. Last night, I was reminded that Jonas Hodges had played the cog card — as in, “I’m just a small cog in …” — on the TV program 24. Then this morning, I watched a fascinating video about ingenuity at Babalu and saw a real cog in action.

The first cog didn’t so much jump out at me as it ambled over slowly, not unlike how a 95 year-old Gardnar Mulloy might approach a microphone at a Hall of Fame dinner, and proceeded to pull up a chair in my head.

Mr Kleinberg [Class of 1951] highlighted the following from a ‘Did You Know That …‘ section of The Stingaree–the Miami High School [MHS] school newspaper–dated January 22, 1926:

  • MHS enrollment has doubled in the last year [to almost 2,000]
  • That we need a new building [it would come 2 years later]
  • Pete Desjardins, current a MHS student, is a world champion diver
  • The Stingarees are the current state basketball champs
  • MHS is the southernmost large U.S. high school
  • That you are a cog in the wheel that makes up MHS

What would my high school predecessors have thought when they read that last item? Who aspires to be a cog in the wheel? Who is even OK with being a cog in the wheel? I am in a position to answer those type of questions, at least for my fellow ‘cogs’ who also attended the great Miami Senior High School.

If I had stumbled upon that item 50 years later when I was a junior at MHS in 1976, I suspect I would have quickly realized they were probably referring to kids like me–average student, cut from the basketball JV, some club activity and spent 37% of my waking time at MHS doubled over in laughter–shrugged and thought, ‘cool.’ You see, while no one aspires to be ‘just’ a cog in the wheel, you are more than OK with it when you love the wheel. And I loved that MHS wheel, then and now.

Saturday night I attended an event intended to recognize some of the *spokes in our wheel. The ‘spoke’ folks were the Class of 2009 Sports Hall of Fame [HOF] inductees. It was a wonderful evening, marred only briefly when a politician, who did not attend Miami High, actually read an actual proclamation onstage. The inductees and their presenters were:

  • Vince Schaefer, son Chuck [Class of 1964] accepted / Bob Kaufman [Class of 1962]
  • Pete Silas [Class of 1949] / Lester Johnson [Class of 1948]
  • Gene Bennett [Class of 1952] / Ray Moretti [Class of 1953]
  • Raul de Quesada [Class of 1968] / Manny Crespo [Class of 1968]
  • Douglas Edwards [Class of 1989] / Shakey Rodriguez [Class of 1971]
  • Udonis Haslem [Class of 1998] / Frank Martin [Class of 1983]
  • Gardnar Mulloy [Class of 1932] / Claude Potash [Classy, but no Class]

As I sat and listened to the ceremony, including a particularly moving speech by Raul de Quesada–who touched on the issue of the changing demographics at MHS during his time and the sacrifices made by his, and likely most of the Cuban-American parents of those in the audience–the evening became less about individual athletic achievements and more about the people with whom those achievements took place. While the physical place is important, even our beautiful and historic building is not the main thing. It was the MHS community being celebrated that evening, not the least of which by all the inductees, whose humility and appreciation was a common thread across the many generations onstage. In fact, evidence as to the greatness of our MHS community was not limited to those onstage.

Sitting behind me was inductee Douglas Edwards’ extended family. Basketball skills aside–three very accomplished coaches [Kaufman, Rodriguez & Martin] all agreed that Edwards was the most talented high school player they had ever seen–what might be most impressive about him is that family sitting quietly in the audience. Douglas was one of three Edwards [Steve and Allan would follow] who eventually played for MHS. All were talented and successful, but I can semi-gossip and tell you that how people who know them speak of the Edwards family when they are not present, would make them blush if they were. Just quality people.

Sitting in front of me was Helen Grier [Class of 1951], a cog that evening, but a ‘spoke’ herself, I later learn, a few years back [HOF 2002]. Sitting to my right, the most beautiful cog of the evening–Nora Galego [Class of 1979]–was taken on a fascinating recap of MHS history by Ms Grier, which I was privileged to eavesdrop on. More on Ms Grier from Kleinberg’s book:

Helen came back to Miami High in 1983 as an English Teacher. She also was an adviser to the Miami High Times and, in 1992 became head librarian upon the retirement of Patricia Temple. In November 1992, she was stricken with a rare virus that cost her the use of her eyes. Undeterred, Helen went through training at the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and returned to Miami High’s library in 1993 as a reference librarian, where she continues in the schools centennial year [2003]. “The kids don’t mind using their eyes for me,” she told Miami Herald Publisher David Lawrence in 1993. “I find them to be very receptive. They go through the halls helping me.”

If I had sat elsewhere, the stories would have changed, but not the message. The message is that there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who were Stingarees and those who wish they had been.

I imagine that Gardnar Mulloy has better things to do with his time. But if he so chose, being a motivational speaker is clearly one of his options. Mr Mulloy gave a funny and seemingly whimsical talk. Given his age, there is a natural tendency to watch him and try and gleam tips about his longevity. I took much from what he left unsaid. A man whose career included being a lawyer, a Navy commander during World War II, and a tennis champion, chose to not look back at those accomplishments, but rather joke about his very early athletic failures, or as he put it, the “failure of coaches to recognize his talents.” Like the drop shots he is known for, it was a nice touch to end the evening.

There are only two kinds of people in the world: those who were Stingarees and those who wish they had been. I [Class of 1977] know because more than a few teachers–Coach Kaufman and Mr Dorste come to mind–told me so back then, and I have lived it ever since.

*- If anyone attempts to lecture me on the mechanical inconsistencies of my cog, spoke and wheel analogy, except for the newly inducted HOF/engineer Mr Silas, I will pay MHS cogs who didn’t get to graduate [for excellent reasons] to hurt you.

The Miami Herald article about the HOF dinner is copied in full at end of post.

Big night at Miami High

Posted on Sun, Apr. 19, 2009

Miami Herald Writer

For nine illustrious decades, Miami Senior High has been a dominant fixture in Florida high school basketball.

On Saturday night, members old and new of the vaunted program gathered in one historic auditorium.

That’s where Miami Senior finally gave the best basketball program in the state its due by enshrining six members — whose graduating years ranged from the late 1940s to the late ’90s — as the school’s first basketball Hall of Fame class.

Before Saturday night, the school honored only former football, baseball and soccer players.

Inducted Saturday night were: big man C.J. ”Pete” Silas (class of 1949), former All-State guard Gene Bennett (1952), honorable mention All-American Raul De Quesada (1968), former NBA player and star forward Douglas Edwards, Miami Heat power forward Udonis Haslem and legendary coach Vince Schaefer.

Also inducted with that class was a man whose success spanned several decades: former tennis star Gardnar Mulloy, who will turn 96 in November and won the Wimbledon doubles final in 1957.

”Our committee is a blend of the old and the younger,” said committee member Fred Darwick, one who pushed for the enshrinement. “And the enthusiasm to do this was great. I think it’s obvious that with the blue and gold, and with the Miami High tradition — from Mulloy in ’32, to Udonis Haslem in ’98 — the feeling is the same: Miami High tradition is the best.”

It’s pretty hard to argue with that.

Ever since the Florida High School Athletic Association began the state basketball championship in 1922, nobody has dominated it like the Stingarees. They have claimed 19 state championships — six more than the runner-up — have made 52 state tournament appearances and have 153 wins in state tournaments.

The Stingarees’ state titles date from 1925 to 2005.

And although presenters, inductees and video tributes honored that legacy on Saturday, pretty much everything that was spoken about Miami Senior seemed to go back to Schaefer.

Schaefer, whose son, Chuck, accepted the honor on behalf of his father, was Miami Senior coach for 37 years — from 1945 to 1981 — finishing with 704 victories. During that tenure, his teams won five state championships. He also was an assistant coach on the football team, which won 12 state titles during his time.

”The person responsible for all of this — whether directly or indirectly — is Coach Schaefer,” said Killian’s Bob Kaufman, a former assistant at Miami High. “There’s just no getting around it. In fact, we all owe our coaching careers to Coach Schaefer.”

Haslem, who enrolled at Miami High as a junior in ’97 and led the school to back-to-back state championships, was a four-year starter at the University of Florida and is now a starter for the Heat.

He couldn’t attend the ceremony because he was in Atlanta preparing for Miami’s first-round playoff game against the Hawks on Sunday night.

Instead, Haslem’s parents accepted the honor on his behalf. Former coach Frank Martin introduced him, and Haslem thanked the six-member committee in a video.

Edwards, a 6-8 forward best known for leading the Stingarees to the 1987 Class 4A state championship as a sophomore, which ended a 31-year drought, was proclaimed by several presenters as the best talent they had ever seen.

That included former coach Marcos ”Shakey” Rodriguez, who now heads up the basketball program at Krop High.

‘Through all of my years coaching, I often get asked, `Who is the best player you’ve ever coached?’ ” Rodriguez said in his speech. “And I find myself not even giving it a thought.

“It comes out quickly, and abruptly, and without hesitation. The name Doug Edwards pops out of my head.”

That same assurance also might be given when asked which is the best basketball program in Florida.

About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
This entry was posted in 2TG Favorites, Miami Senior High and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Salute to Miami Senior High: The Wheel Deal

  1. Laura Stroemer Miller - 1954 says:

    Love how you are so able to express the inner souls of Stingarees past and present. Hopefully, you won’t mind my putting excerpts now and then on my FB page to make everyone wish they had been a Sting!!!!

  2. Mind?! – If you don’t follow up, I might bring legal action
    Coming from someone whose devotion and service to MHS is well known, your comment is greatly appreciated Laura

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