MU / KU Battle Flares in 1961 – Reprinted From The Platte County Landmark
I contribute a weekly column to the Platte County Landmark under the “Rambling Moron” name. It’s a great Northland Newspaper and well worth a subscription. The following is an copy of my article
which appeared in the 2/16/12 edition – printed with permission.
A 1961 BRAWL PART OF HISTORIC RIVALRY
This year marks the final scheduled time that the University of Missouri and the University of Kansas play each other in collegiate sports.
Let that sink in a little bit. That sentence doesn’t look right on paper. It’s like the participle is dangling, or something. That can’t be right, can it?
Well, for the time being, the two schools will focus on playing within their conferences. Missouri, with it’s new inclusion into the Southeastern Conference (SEC) has abandoned the MU/KU rivalry, or so many Kansas fans will tell you. Missouri fans will say that Kansas is too chicken to find a way to play the game.
This also seems a lot like the fights I get into with my wife. We know we’re mad at each other, but we don’t really know why. Oh, sure, most fans will tell you that the rivalry started around the Civil War. But it was also a series of “Jayhawking Raids” into Missouri and “Quantrill’s Raid” into Kansas that led to savage murders of residents in both states in 1861.
The reverberations of those raids are rooted deeply into the fiber of being a Missourian or a Kansan. Hatred was likely also a contributing factor in a signature fight between MU and KU during a basketball game in 1961.
Jump back to 1960, when the result of a football game between the two schools was reversed. KU originally won the game in which both teams were nationally ranked, and MU was undefeated at that point in the season. Kansas fullback Burt Coan let the Jayhawks to a 23-7 victory. Coan was ruled ineligible by the Big Eight Conference because of illegal recruiting, so the game was given to Missouri. The game is recorded as a win by both universities in their official records to this day.
The hatred was still fresh when the basketball teams met in early 1961 and the game was littered with technical fouls. According to an account in the Columbia Tribune, Missouri Freshman Basketball Coach Norm Stewart said what happened next was “the whole series of events building up.”
A hard foul of Kansas forward Wayne Hightower led him to swing at Missouri guard Charlie Henke in the face. This touched off a brawl of epic proportions which was broadcast live on ABC national television.
The reporter was the venerable Jack Buck whose call included the quote “Brother, they are really slugging in there.” The fight was violent and extended, lasting several minutes. When order was restored, both Hightower and Henke had been ejected and police officers had lined the court.
The fight left both teams with black eyes, but it did inspire the struggling Tigers to rally and beat the Jayhawks 79-76 in a stunning upset at Brewer Fieldhouse in Columbia.
The event, even 50 years later, still evokes emotion about those “Chickenhawks” or those “Missouri slavers.”
But the rivalry endured. Sure, the emotions are still raw, but the games were still played. And they meant more than just a typical regular season game. To end it would mean stopping something that needs to naturally play out. I hope both universities can find a way to keep playing these games. Because these games NEED to be played. This rivalry needs to continue.
For most, we don’t really know WHY we hate each other, but we do know that we MUST keep hating each other.
(Chris Kamler is active on Twitter, where he is known as @thefakened. Reach him through his web site at ramblingmorons.com)