Start talking Geneva sports with Allen Mead and the names and memories come flying.
I apologize because I'm going to misspell some of these—Gus Lynch, Chester Sherman, Al Stark, Bob Lamphere, —Allen remembers them all, and I guarantee he'll slap me around verbally for any spellings I got wrong.
At 94, Allen Mead is as sharp as a tack. He has a beautiful corner apartment at the Carriage Oaks senior living center now, and that's where Geneva basketball coach Phil Ralston, Geneva Athletic Hall of Fame committee member Kurt Wehrmeister and I met him last Thursday, when Ralston presented Allen the plaque that formally inducts him into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Allen was nominated in the "media" category by Ralston, an IBCA board member, who said Allen's selection was not only unanimous but hailed by IBCA members as a "no brainer" and long overdue.
They got that right.
No one has ever covered Geneva sports more completely, more thoroughly, more professionally or more personally than Allen Mead.
"My favorite (basketball) recollection is when we beat East Aurora," Mead said. "That was when East had Ernie Kivisto as coach. They were on their home floor (in 1981) and had a trophy all set up to commemorate Kivisto's 300th win, or some milestone like that, and we beat them 74-70."
A lot of credit for Mead's induction has to go to Ralston—who has become perhaps Geneva's pre-eminent basketball historian through his own research efforts, and who recognized that Allen had to be in the Hall of Fame after reading up on old issues of The Geneva Republican.
You can see a hard copy of one of those old issues pictured here. It's another great moment in Geneva basketball history—the 1963 special edition of The Republican that Allen held onto for these many years and on Thursday donated to the .
In 1963, Geneva was one tiny school that in Hoosiers fashion made the state's Elite Eight—when there were no size categories for the run at the state title. Like Allen himself, it is the stuff of Geneva sports legend.
On the front page of that issue, Allen describes the celebration as "the biggest downtown crowd in Geneva since the bank burned down."
If you were out and around in Geneva in the 1940s, '50s, '60s, '70s or '80s, you knew Allen. He covered news and wrote columns and editorials, but he also knew every athlete in every Geneva sport. And for any Geneva athlete, you knew you really made it, not when you were named all-conference, but when you were bestowed one of Allen's signature lemon drops.
Another of Allen's signatures, of course, was "Out & Around," a column of Geneva miscellany, and "Voice of the Grandstand," which was the sports equivalent. If you want to learn about Geneva sports history, there really is one source: The Geneva Republican during the years Allen was at its head.
"I remember when we beat Dundee," Allen said Thursday. This was sometime around 1949 or 1950, if my notes are right, and the scorekeeper was sick or couldn't make the game for some reason. "So I kept the books and that was the year we beat them," Allen said.
This is one of those stories that I was afraid I'd never post because I knew I couldn't do it justice. You can't condense a lifetime into a handful of paragraphs, and Allen Mead deserves a lot more than what I wrote here. In sports, there are icons—Jack Nicklaus in golf, Michael Jordan in basketball, Babe Ruth in baseball, Wayne Gretzky in hockey, Jim Brown in football—you can argue with me about who's the best ever in any professional sport.
But there is no argument about who's the best ever when it comes to covering Geneva sports.
It's Allen Mead—who now rightfully takes his place in the state hall of fame.
Allen Mead received his plaque Thursday afternoon that commemorates his 2011 induction to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. In the Class of 2011, he joins Batavia basketball coach Jim Roberts and retiring Batavia head varsity football coach and athletic director Mike Gaspari, who will be inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
He also joins my friend Kurt Wehrmeister, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame last season.
The man who made the presentation was Phil Ralston, Geneva's head basketball coach and the IBCA board member who nominated both his rival, Jim Roberts, and Allen.
And More Background on Allen Mead
This from Kurt, an edited version of a note he forwarded to Phil and I think was part of Allen's nomination petition:
Allen Mead, who graduated from Geneva High in 1933, covered Geneva High basketball for The Geneva Republican (and certainly no other news outlet) for 47 years, from 1939 (the year in which he earned a master's degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin) through 1986.
He took ownership of The Republican from his uncle, Cadwell P. Mead, in 1950. He held the joint titles of Editor and Publisher until 1972, when he hired David Rogers (Geneva Principal Tom Rogers' father) as Editor in 1972. Allen remained Publisher and majority owner from that point until 1986, when he and Dave sold the newspaper to Wayne Woltman in 1986.
Allen was one of the founding members of the Little Seven Sportswriters' Association during the 1950s and '60s; this group was far from a ceremonial group during that period; indeed, they (not the coaches) selected All-Conference Teams in football every November, and in basketball every March.
The most appropriate image that I can think of is one that Geneva Athletic Director Jim Kafer incorporated into the plaque (posted with the other Viking Athletic Hall of Fame plaques outside his office) when Allen was named to our Hall in 2002. As you'll see, it is a candid of Allen at his typewriter in his office at The Republican, in white shirt and skinny tie, roughly circa 1960, when Allen would have been in his early- to mid-40s. (He was born in November 1916 and will celebrate his 94th birthday this November.)