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Bingham to Celebrate 100 Years of Basketball Success


With the completion of the first Bingham High School gymnasium building in November 1915, Bingham High was able to organize its first basketball team.  The first Bingham Gymnasium is located in the picture at the left  The first competitive basketball game was held in January of 1916.  With the start of basketball in November, we will begin the commemoration of 100 years of Bingham basketball success.  The following is a short history of the beginnings of basketball at Bingham High School.

The first issue of the Bingham Bulletin in 1891 observed in an article:

Kicking the football is the chief amusement in Bingham everyday between the hours of six and seven p.m.  Big, little, old, and young do the kicking act to perfection and seem to enjoy it. (110)

Based on community interest, it was only natural for football to be the first sport established at Bingham High School, but Bingham Canyon’s space limitations made playing football difficult.  The Bingham Miners, who were naturally competitive and loved sports, would have to wait until 1915 to compete in sports again.  The opportunity came with the completion of the school’s new gymnasium in November 1915.  Homer Christensen was hired as the “physical director” and started Bingham’s basketball program.  In these early days of high school sports, there was generally one coach for all competitive activities.  Bingham played its first league basketball game against Grantsville in January 1916.  The Salt Lake Herald reported on the contest:

Grantsville—Jan. 21    Bingham proved no match for Grantsville here tonight in the first division A basketball game of the Salt Lake Division of the state high school basketball league.  Grantsville won 57 to 18.  The score at the end of the first period was 27 to 9.

  1. Jefferies, a freshman, played a remarkable game for Grantsville at forward. None of the Bingham boys showed great experience on the floor although they gave indication of being able to learn before the end of the season.  This is the first year in the game for Bingham. (111)

The box score of this initial game tallied the following:


Field     Foul     Foul      Total

Goals    Tries    Goals     Points

Anderson,  lf ……………….   15          14          7        37

  1. Jefferies, rf………………… 6           0             0        12

Steele, c………………………..  3          0            0          6

Stromberg,  c………………….              1       0             0         2

Erickson,  lg……………………0          0             0        0

  1. Jefferies, rg………………….0           0             0        0

TOTALS                       25          14            7       57


Field      Foul      Foul     Total

Goals     Tries     Goals    Points

Guyman, lf……………………. . 2           6          1         5

Corey (Perry?), rf……………… 4            4          2        10

Culleton…………………………0            1          1         1

Adderley, lg……………………..0           0          0         0

Nichols, rg………………………0             0                   0        0

Miller, rg………………………. 1            0          0         2

Totals……………..7            11                   4        18

Referee – Winchester       (112)

The first home game for the Miners came a week later against Tooele.  This landmark event in Bingham sports, unfortunately, found the home team on the losing end of the score by a 7 to 51 margin.  Bingham’s inaugural basketball season proved to be a learning period that paved the way for the future successes. (113)

Basketball, win or lose, soon became a vital part of student life, and eventually the whole town of Bingham fell in love with the sport.  Games played in the small Bingham gymnasium were packed with fans whose noise shook the structure to its foundation.  With tremendous support from the local community, Bingham’s teams rarely lost a game in their gym, which—when full—had people sitting on the out-of-bounds lines, in the bleachers, on the race track, and behind the baskets.  Willard Nichols (Class of 1928) remembered that when an out-of-bounds play was made, the officials had to ask half of the crowd to move back.  Also being a yell leader, he knew the secret of getting more noise out of the fans.  He said that it was essential to have cheers that were short, peppy, and worked the crowd into a frenzy. (114)

Marion Dunn (Class of 1941), who as a little boy attended many of those early games, described an intermission:

Young boys would come to the games and lie under the bleacher seats peering at the game through the legs of seated customers.  At halftime the lights would be turned out, and the fans would toss coins onto the floor.  The boys would scramble out from under the stands and pick up coins when the lights came on. (115)

He added that the Bingham fans were always generous. (116)

Playing on their own basketball court, located on the gymnasium’s third floor and encircled by an elevated indoor track that cut the corners off the playing floor, gave Bingham teams a built-in advantage.  Tommy McMullin, who would coach Bingham teams for many years recalled, “The track was just like having an extra guard.  We didn’t lose too many games on that floor.” (117)

Bingham’s biggest sport’s rival in the early years was Jordan High School.  Before long, the Bingham/Jordan games became one of the more spirited rivalries in Salt Lake County.  The keenness of these competitions was evident from the hard fought game played in February 1918.  At half time, with Bingham leading 18-11, Bingham students started to snake dance around Jordan’s gymnasium.  During the snake dance, a fight broke out between some of Jordan’s boys in the stands and some of Bingham’s boys on the floor.  The fight soon escalated into a brawling free-for-all encompassing the entire gymnasium floor.  When order was restored, Jordan went on to win the contest.  Immediately after the game, Bingham students exited the gymnasium and refused to participate in the post-game dance claiming that Jordan’s students were poor sports.  It seemed as though the spirit in the stands matched the spirit on the floor. (118)  Even though sportsmanship could lapse at times, being a good sport was part of Bingham’s athletic programs.  An editorial in the Bingham Press-Bulletin outlined some concerns:


An Editorial

What constitutes a good sport?  What is the meaning of the word good sportsmanship?  Many will say a “good fellow.”  Many will say to play the game clean.

The last mentioned is true enough, but is the point really covered?  During the games of basketball played last Monday evening at the high school, the writer was chagrined as well as disgusted to notice many grown-ups yelling and guffawing the visiting players while trying to make a foul pitch.  This is not only unsportsmanlike, but ungentlemanly.

Should the same thing happen to our teams while on foreign floors, the probability is that the teams would come back and say they lost the game by a few points because the crowd showed themselves poor sports.

It is a known fact that Bingham Canyon is famed for its good sportsmanship, for its men and women who can lose as well as win.  It doesn’t take a very smart person to win and grin.  It’s the fellow who loses and bobs up with a smile that is really worth while.

Last year at this time an editorial on this subject appeared in the Press-Bulletin, and that it was read was made manifest by the discontinuing of jeers when an opponent is trying to make a point for his team.  Let us take heed and abolish this abominable practice. (119)

Athletes who demonstrated good sportsmanship and excelled in their sport could earn an athletic sweater at the end of the year.

Helping Bingham’s athletes to foster good sportsmanship were the school’s coaches.  Homer Christensen (1915-1919), Bingham’s first athletic coach, was followed by Stubby Petersen (1919-1920) and Pesty Jarvis (1920-1921). (120)  In 1921, Tommy McMullin (1921-1936), a star player at Utah State College in Logan, came to Bingham and became a basketball legend.  In the next 13 years he took the Bingham cagers to the state tournament 12 times.  This was quite an accomplishment in a time when teams had to win their division title or finish second to obtain a state birth.  Unfortunately, the Miners could never capture the state championship during his mentorship.  Coach McMullin later recalled, “We were always after the championship, but we could never make it.  Something always happened to us.” (121)


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Bingham to Celebrate 100 Years of Basketball Success