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Pee Wee Lakeman and the History of Madison Basketball

Mr. Madison

Mike Barrett  The Tribune, Seymour, IN

December 5, 2015

Say the name Pee Wee Lakeman in Madison, and nearly everyone will know whom you’re talking about.

In fact, most people don’t even know Pee Wee has a real name and that Pee Wee is just a nickname given to him by his brother when he was a small boy. To know Pee Wee is to know of his quick humor, amazing penchant for remembering basketball stats and names from decades ago and his obvious love for Madison High School basketball.

The only other name for Pee Wee that could work is Mr. Madison. But even those who have been around him for a long time aren’t sure of his real name. That doesn’t bother Pee Wee because he’s fine just being one person.

“I played tennis with this guy for years,” he said recently. “And then one day, he looked at me and said, ‘Pee Wee, what’s your real name anyway?’”

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Pee Wee grew up wanting to do one thing — be a Madison Cubs basketball player — and that wasn’t an easy thing to do for a small kid at a state basketball power. In fact, he was cut twice at the middle school and early high school levels before finally becoming a Madison Cub during his sophomore year.

“I didn’t care if I played or not. I just wanted to be on the team. I just wanted to wear the Madison Cubs uniform, and it’s all I thought about,” he said proudly.

When Pee Wee finally made the team, he didn’t play much at all for Madison Cubs coach Bud Ritter. Eventually, though, through hard work, he became a starter his senior year on one of Madison’s greatest teams in the 1958-59 season. That year, the Cubs won 22 games and lost only twice, the final one in the semistate.

When Pee Wee talks about his playing days, you can see the twinkle in his eyes. During his varsity days at Madison, he played with three Indiana All-Stars, starting with Larry Shingleton, who was in the same class with Pee Wee. Shingleton went on to play for the University of Cincinnati, where he won two national championships.

The other two were Buster Briley in 1960 and Larry Humes, who was Mr. Basketball in 1962. Briley is still Madison’s all-time leading scorer with 1,985 career points.

“That was a great time in my life, and it was an honor to play with those guys. They were very special,” Pee Wee said.

For Pee Wee, Madison basketball is more than just a lifetime of great memories. For him, it is his life. He is consumed with it, and seldom does a day pass that he does not do something related to Madison Cubs basketball. Pee Wee doesn’t know why he loves Madison basketball so much. He just knows he always has.

That love has led to exhaustive and nonstop research of the Cubs program, which goes back to the early 1900s. He has every box score of Madison Cubs basketball he could find dating all the way back to 1904.

His handwritten sheets include every point scored by every player who ever wore the Madison Cubs uniform. His devotion to the program has developed past a hobby, past a passion. To him, Madison Cubs basketball is his family.

“I feel like anyone that’s ever worn a Madison Cubs jersey is my brother,” he said warmly.

Not only can Pee Wee tell you about the stats, he can give you detailed descriptions of games that were played 50 years ago, and he can tell you more about a player than just his stats. He can tell you about the player’s family, what he did after high school and what he’s doing now, just like he’s talking about someone in his family.

Not only can Pee Wee recite stats from the past like he’s reading from a book, but he can tell a story as good as anyone, and he says they’re all true. Pee Wee says growing up, his hero was a Madison player named Ed Orrill, who later became a varsity basketball coach at a small high school in Indiana.

“I would go and visit him, and he lived in a little town called Roachdale over in Putnam County. Now that’s a funny name, but it wasn’t far from Raccoon, Indiana, which was in Parke County. That’s two pretty good names, and they’re both true,” he said.

Only Pee Wee can tell a story like Pee Wee. His punch line is always on time with an ability to impact his listeners in a humorous manner, such as the story he likes to tell about how coach Ritter got upset with the team after a loss at Brownstown and decided to lay down some rules.

He said everyone will be home and in bed by 10 o’clock from this point on. One of the team’s stars raised his hand and said, “Coach, I’m always home and in bed by 10 o’clock, and you can ask my younger brother.” Without missing a beat, coach Ritter looked at the player and said, “I’ve already checked with your brother, and he said you’re never home and in bed by 10 o’clock. In fact, he said you’re never even home by midnight.”

Pee Wee also witnessed what is now called star treatment.

“Coach Ritter had a rule on road games that the bus would leave at 5 o’clock unless you were one of the stars,” he says with a smile. “One time, it was exactly 5 o’clock, and one of our best players wasn’t there. Everyone started to get anxious about leaving the player behind. Coach Ritter was starting to get very nervous when all at once, he looked at our assistant coach and told him to go back inside the gym and make sure we hadn’t left some equipment. Sure enough, the player showed up about 10 minutes later, and coach Ritter told him to be glad we forgot some equipment or we would have left you.”

But Pee Wee says with another smile, “When the assistant coach came out, he sure wasn’t carrying any equipment.”

Pee Wee loves to talk about Madison basketball to anyone who will listen, and if he doesn’t have a good story to share or some meaningful statistic, he’ll pass on information that he thinks everyone should know. Like the story of Ray Eddy, who coached the Madison Cubs to the 1950 Indiana state championship and became the head coach of the Purdue Boilermakers the very next season.

“Ray even played at Purdue with John Wooden in the late 1920s,” Pee Wee enthusiastically reminds us.

Speaking of coaches, Pee Wee has personally met every Madison coach since the early 1930s, even though some of them coached at Madison before he was born.

Pee Wee says the most unusual basketball game he ever saw was in the 1955 sectional at Madison between Madison and the Scottsburg Warriors. Scottsburg had won the last two sectionals, and the high-scoring Warriors were on a roll, having already scored 98 points against Hanover and 83 against Madison Shawe in the sectional.

Fans packed the Madison gym for the championship game expecting to see a wild, high-scoring game. But coach Ritter had other ideas and instructed his team to stall the entire game. Pee Wee says it was just crazy, and that Madison would just stand there holding the ball for long periods of time. In the end, the strategy kept the game close, but it wasn’t enough for Madison to pull off the upset, as Scottsburg won 17-16.

After high school, Pee Wee started working for The Madison Courier in the sports department. But in 1967, he accepted a job as the sportswriter for The Scott County Journal.

In Scott County, he developed strong relationships with the two varsity basketball coaches in the county, Austin’s Jim Whitaker and Scottsburg’s Jim Barley. Some 45 years later, Pee Wee has great memories of both men.

“Jimmie Whitaker was a great guy, but I used to kid him because he was a sharp dresser. I always told him he dressed like a mortician,” Pee Wee said. “The guy had coal black hair, and he slicked it back and always wore a black suit with a white shirt. He loved to smoke cigars, and we had a lot of fun. Jimmie Whitaker loved the Austin Eagles.

“Now Jim Barley was all basketball all the time. The guy was the original gym rat. He lived in the gym. He was the most competitive guy I was ever around.”

In 1970, Pee Wee left The Scott County Journal to pursue other interests.

Pee Wee says Oscar Robertson was the greatest player he has ever seen and believes he is one of the few people to see Robertson (1956), George McGinnis (1969), Scott Skiles (1982), Damon Bailey (1990) and Cody Zeller (2011) play in person while they were in high school. While that may not matter to most people, it does to Pee Wee because we’re talking about five of the greatest players ever to play Indiana high school basketball.

While Pee Wee’s knowledge of Madison basketball is greater than anyone living, his broad education of Indiana high school basketball across the state also is amazing. Name a great team or great player from any time period, and Pee Wee knows something about them.

Not one day goes by that Pee Wee doesn’t talk basketball to someone, many days to former teammates or to former Madison players from other years and on some days to anyone who will listen. Pee Wee has learned that people in Jefferson County love to talk basketball with him, and nothing makes him happier.

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