Thursday, February 22, 2007

Basketball and the Foleys

You won't get too far in discussing any Foleys from this family without the subject of basketball coming up pretty quick. This season is especially sweet for us as the Salukis from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale are having an excellent season. Forty years ago, the Salukis were national champs. And a Foley played an important role on that team as well.

the 1946 Southern Illinois Normal University Men's Basketball Team was a rag tag bunch who all hailed from within 50 miles of the campus in Carbondale. Rag tag because many young men had just returned from World War II. One player, Quentin Stinson, didn't join the squad until January when he enrolled after discharge from the army. The Foley in question was my uncle, Dick Foley, one of two players who hailed from the campus city.
Dick Foley was one of the nicest men in the family and a hero and role model to many of us. He raised his three daughters with laughter and Lorraine, in that order. He always had a smile on his face and a kind word. He was a true southern (Illinois) gentleman.

Dick's team defeated Indiana State 49-40 in the Championship game of the NAIA national tournament. It was the first national championship for SIU. The Maroons, as they were then known, defeated Panzer College, Loras College, Nevada and Loyola University on their way to the title game.

The team recently was recognized at the Salukis/Creighton game and gathered at a restaurant to share memories. In the stands at the game was Nancy Gonzenbach, retired professor from SIU and daughter of Joanie Foley, my half-sister. Nancy shared her feelings with me and with Dick's daughter Patty Mercurio by email. It brought the 1946 reunion and recognition closer to home. Thank you, Nancy!

The 1964 Rockhurst College Men's Basketball Team was also a champion of the NAIA with another Foley in the program. My brother John Foley was a Freshman Team player who did not compete with the varsity at the time. However, after winning the NAIA, Rockhurst was invited to tour Mexico the following summer while playing exhibition games against the Mexican Olympic Team. Senior players had graduated and Freshman Foley toured Mexico.

John went on to play two more years of basketball at Rockhurst. During this time, my Dad and I drove to Kansas City for a varsity game just before the Christmas break. I can remember that John scored 16 points and the Hawks won.

The last championship worth mentioning here belongs to my son, Timmy Foley. In 1994, Tim was a member of the Davenport West High School team that would go through the regular season and the state basketball tournament, large school division, undefeated. The season was exciting as we had a very special group of senior players. Tim was a junior and saw limited action but did distinguish himself in a couple ways. First, he made every shot that he attempted at the state tournament in Des Moines. He was 4 of 4. And he had a special moment that was captured by a photographer for the Des Moines Register. Tim went in at the end of the semi-final game and made a three point basket at the buzzer. His celebration in the arms of other West Falcons is captured here.