Monday, January 24, 2011


Hall of Famer Stankewitz was one of a kind


By Jim Franz
Published: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 4:05 PM CDT
Additional Information 
by Erin Hovland-Moffitt

Well-liked Beloiter left an impressive sports legacy

People are making a pretty big deal about Brett Favre playing football into his 40s.

Obviously they never met Vince Stankewitz.

Vince, who passed away last Wednesday at the age of 81, was a member of two state championship teams at Beloit High School in the 1940s and five decades later, in 1995, won another title playing basketball in the U.S. Senior Olympics.

Vince was a Hall of Fame inductee in his hometown as well as two different colleges, an armed service star athlete, a world traveler as a player and coach of barnstorming basketball teams in the 1940s and ’50s and father to a pair of outstanding athletes.

In 2007, on the eve of his induction into the Beloit Historical Society’s Sports Hall of Fame, Vince said, “I was lucky to be able to be a part of some really good teams and I’ve had a great time.”

Truth be told, those teams were lucky enough to have the affable Beloiter on their roster.

“There was only one Vince Stankewitz,” said Bill Watson, who played on barnstorming basketball teams with him as well as city league teams from the old Pop House. “He was a legend. He was very well-liked. He never had anything bad to say. Vince’s philosophy was, ‘Don’t worry about anything because tomorrow is a new day.’”

Born in Beloit in 1929, Vince excelled at Beloit High in golf and basketball. He was a member of the school’s 1945 state championship golf team that included co-state medalist Bill Goessel, Ted Perring and Lloyd Larrabee.

“They only took the top scores so they didn’t count mine,” he said in 2007. “But I got them in the conference tournament the following year.”

Vince shot a 76 for medalist honors in the Big Eight Conference Tournament in May, 1946.

“I was lucky they played that tournament at Muni that year,” he said.

Vince was also a member of Beloit’s fifth state championship basketball team in 1947. The team started a colossal front line — for that time — that included 6-foot-4 Vince, 6-3 Al Parker and 6-7 Big Eight scoring champion Bob Wegner.

“When we went to a zone (defense) it really made it difficult on teams,” Vince said.

After tying for the Big Eight title, Beloit breezed through regional competition in the one-class tourney and won a sectional title at Lake Mills. In the first round at state, Vince and Co. avenged an earlier loss to Madison East by winning 45-38. Vince scored a team-high 14 points. He added 11 in a 63-36 rout of West Allis Central in the semifinals and 13 more in a 56-37 rout of Hurley for the title. Beloit finished 18-6.

After high school, Vince played for the House of David basketball team, traveling with the squad on junkets to South America and Europe. Not a single member of the team was actually affiliated with the real House of David Colony, a religious sect in Benton Harbor, Mich., but to add to the illusion that they did, each member of the team was required to grow a beard. Dempsey Hovland had played for the House of David which required a vegetarian diet and not shaving. He and  Doc  Witte  who had also been a House of David basketball squad member were allowed to put a ball club together on their own, running it out of Beloit, Wisconsin.
Members of the Colony never cut their hair, shaved or ate meat. Vince said growing the beard was the extent of the authenticity for team members.

“People really looked at you funny when you grew those beards,” he said. “Not many people were wearing them back them.”

The team traveled by plane throughout South America.

“The planes were big cargo-type planes,” Vince said. “There weren’t roads to travel. We brought our courts along with us and it took about a day to set up. We set up in bullfighting rings..”

The team was good enough to routinely dispatch local all-stars, but also served as the “straight men” for the Harlem Globetrotters. Winning then was not only discouraged, it was forbidden.
One team beat them and they sent them home,” Vince said.

That doesn’t mean he always played nice.

“The Trotters hated to play against Vince,
” said Watson, another former Beloit High star hired to play House of David ball. “He couldn’t really jump, but he was a big guy and he’d jump into them. He was pretty rough. Around the basket, He was very strong.”

Watson also played with Vince on another barnstorming team, the All-American Indian All-Stars. Owned by Dempsey Hovland .

“We did have one actual American Indian (on the team),” Watson said. “Vince went by a couple of names on the team, including ‘Tall Bear.’” That Native American was Harry McGlauphlin  an expert trick ball handler who was recruited from the Sioux Reservation by Hovland for his team.
Another former “Indian” as well as Beloit College player, Howie Katzenberg, said he remembers Vince’s nickname on the team as “Vinny Soo

“He was a super great friend of mine,” Katzenberg said. “Off the court, he was the quietest, nicest guy in the world. On it, he was a rugged ballplayer. Guys would go in for a layup and he’d just knock ’em down. He wasn’t dirty, but he was really rough.”

Loras College and then was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1953.

He had grown to nearly 6-6 by 1953, but the Army took him anyway. His height and athletic ability allowed him to stay state-side, where he played for various post football, baseball and basketball teams. During his Army service, he became good friends with future big leaguer Tito Francona, whose son, Terry, now manages the Boston Red Sox.

After leaving the Army, Vince returned to Milton, played ball and finished up his degree in 1956.

“They didn’t watch transfers too carefully back then,” Watson said. “Rumor had it Vince played for a couple of other colleges, too.”

Vince was inducted into the Milton College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1983 and joined the Loras College Athletic Hall 10 years later, going in as a member of the 1949-51 basketball teams that went a combined 45-16.

Vince coached the Texas Cowgirls for Dempsey Hovland in 1960 when they played at U.S. Army bases in Spain, Italy and North Africa on a tour arranged by the State Department. The Cowgirls, decked out in western apparel, complete with six-shooters in holsters strapped to their sides, were the nation’s No. 1 female basketball attraction at the time.

Vince played for the old Pop House teams in the city league and returned to the basketball court to play and win the Illinois Senior Olympics title in 1995 with Katzenberg. They earned a fourth place in the national tournament.

The Stankewitz legacy didn’t end there. He and his wife Delores had a daughter, Dori (Hughes), who was a record-setting All-American fast pitch softball pitcher at Florida Southern University and a son, Larry, who has won four City of Beloit golf championships, most recently this past August.

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