Charles "Stretch" Murphy
Have you ever wondered how Marion High School came to have the mascot “Giants?" It was not by accident. The school acquired the nickname “Giants” from the 1926 basketball team because four of their five starters stood over six foot tall--extremely lofty for that time. Standing at an astounding six foot six and three-fourths inches was Charles “Stretch” Murphy. Charles is the namesake for all of Marion basketball and other athletic teams. The legacy of Giant pride and outstanding athletics at Marion High School began with Charles “Stretch” Murphy.
To understand how great Stretch was you first have to understand that the game of basketball had many different rules when he played than it does today. There was no three point line until the 1960’s, which was well beyond Murphy’s playing time. Without the three point line the goal of the game was to get it close to the basket and score it down low. With a dominant big player in the post, this goal could be easily achieved. But perhaps the most significant change in the rules is the elimination of the center jump. Up until 1936 basketball games were interrupted rather frequently. After every made basket or free throws, the two teams were brought back to center court and game resumed with a jump ball. A team with a dominant big player could control the tip and possession at every jump ball. This is where six foot six inches Stretch Murphy became a crucial part of the game. Murphy was able to control the tip at will and allowed his teams to control the basketball. The Giants drew up plays off of the jump balls so they could get effortless baskets. Murphy was also an insurmountable defensive force down low, holding opponents to very few field goals down low. With his post presence on the defensive end and his ability to control the tip and to give Marion possession after every made basket, he led Marion to its first state title in 1926.
1926 State Champions
The 1926 Marion Giants basketball team accumulated twenty-seven wins with only two losses. Their only losses were to a very good Kokomo team and also to Bloomington. They averaged 45.8 points per game in an era when teams rarely ever scored thirty points. A Marion newspaper writer, Bern M. Boxwell, predicted that the Kokomo Wildcats would win the state that year. As you could guess, that did not go over well with the Giants, and they proved so in Regional play. The Giants got revenge against Kokomo when they eliminated the Wildcats at the Kokomo Regional 24 to 8. Marion beat Evansville Central 29-22 in the semifinals which led them to the championship game to face Martinsville, a team whom which they had already conquered earlier that season. The championship games were played at the Indianapolis Exposition Building on March 19th and March 20th, 1926. Both Marion and Martinsville had been in the Sweet Sixteen the year before, so they were accustomed and well-prepared for the challenging tourney play. The gigantic Marion team thumped Martinsville in the state championship, 30-23. Charles Murphy contributed two field goals that game and one free throw, accumulating for five points. It was not his scoring that led them to victory that game, but rather his leadership and skill to control possession of the game.
Murphy’s accomplishments included averaging 10.4 points a game and scoring 704 points throughout his high school career. He was chosen to the second All-Century Team. During his collegiate play he was a three-time All-American for Purdue and was captain of an undefeated 1930 team that won the conference title. Pursuing his career further, he played professional basketball for the Chicago Bruins and Indianapolis Kautskys. “Murphy was part of the second group inducted into the Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame”, according to the Chronicle Tribune “Top Players 1926-45”. Charles “Stretch” Murphy was arguably the first dominant big player in the sport of basketball. He led the Big Ten in scoring in 1929 and also set two scoring records: the most points scored in one game (28 points against Ohio State) and most points in one season (143). Again in 1930 he continued to show his greatness on the court by leading the Big Ten in scoring for the second consecutive year. Stretch guided the Purdue Boilermakers to conference championship titles in 1928 and 1930. Hall of Famer John Wooden, who Murphy played against in the state championship game in 1926, and played with at Purdue, called Murphy the “Most valuable player of his time”. Many say he was like the Wilt Chamberlain or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of his time. Charles was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1960 and also into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1963. In 1999 he was named one of Indiana’s Fifty Greatest Players by the Indiana Pacers.
Charles “Stretch” Murphy is a legend for Marion Giant basketball, and his legacy brought greatness to Marion athletic teams after him. He began the era of astounding Marion Giant High School athletics. Marion is well-known today for their great basketball players and basketball teams. The first of these was Charles Murphy and he led his team to the first state championship for Marion. This 1926 championship team began Marion’s reputation as one of the greatest basketball cities, in the best basketball state in the nation. Without Charles Murphy's talents, Marion might not have that great reputation. In this sense, Charles “Stretch” Murphy changed the path for Marion’s future for the better. He shaped Marion athletics and brought attention to the little city. Later generations had big shoes to fill, and without them, some of the other great players out of Marion might not have reached their full potential. Marion athletes today might not realize how much of an effect someone from 1926 can have on them today, but Charles Murphy has a very lasting affect on Marion athletes. Every time a basketball team walks onto the gym floor to practice or to perform in Bill Green Athletic Arena, players and fans look up and see the seven state championship banners hanging on the wall. Those banners give the team confidence and motivation to strive to become the next team to hang a banner. Marion’s mascot, the Giants, is a lasting tribute to the game's first great big man, Charles “Stretch” Murphy (1907-1992).
- Murphy Charles C. (“Stretch”). http://www.hickoksports.com/biograph/murphystretch.shtml. Ralph Hicock. 2002-2004.
- “Top Players 1926-45”. Chronicle Tribune. Friday, December 16, 2005.
- “Charles ‘Stretch’ Murphy”. http://hoopedia.nba.com/index.php?title=Charles_%22Stretch%22_Murphy.
This article was written by Heath Rose as a project in Mr. Munn's IU/ACP U.S. History class and submitted on May 18, 2009.