Museum announces endowment fund to preserve ‘Milan Miracle’

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - It is considered one of the greatest moments in Indiana sports history: the Milan Miracle.

Sixty-five years ago, the unlikely underdog story unfolded in front of 15,000 fans. In the 1954 state basketball championship, the Milan Indians upset Indiana powerhouse Muncie Central on a last-second shot. The school had an enrollment of only 161 students, and their team's victory became an inspiration to small town teams everywhere.

The game wasn't just special for the players, but also the town they represented.

A museum formed to keep their legacy alive, and today people from all over the world pay it a visit.

"We’ve had visitors from all 50 states and 38 countries," says board president, Tom Kohlmeier.

The museum came about thanks to the efforts of a Milan transplant named Roselyn McKittrick.

Roselyn moved to Milan a year after the game. It meant so much to her that she began collecting memorabilia.

Those pieces would eventually be put on display along with items from the 1986 movie, 'Hoosiers,' which was based on the team's season.

In March, McKittrick passed away and the museum board now hopes to preserve the museum and her memory.

"She understood what they story meant to the town's people, and she wanted to preserve it. She wanted this story to live long past 1954," says board member, Graham Honaker.

On Saturday, during a team reunion the museum board announced the creation of an endowment fund.

They hope to raise 2 million dollars over the next 3 years, and they named the fund after a person they call 'Milan's 13th player,' Roselyn McKittrick.

"Roselyn’s dream that the museum would stay in Milan for years to come," says Honaker. "This campaign, and reaching it’s goal would enable it to do so.”

Ahead of the reunion, members of the team spoke with FOX59 at Hinkle Fieldhouse, where the championship game was played. While many things there have evolved over the years, the players say some things will never change.

"I think it just brings back fond memories," says Ray Craft, the game's leading scorer. "You walk in here, you think about the last shot, you think about the 15,000 people."

Teammate Roger Schroder says, to this day, it's still unbelievable.

"We should start this with once upon a time because it’s almost like a fairy tale," he said.

It is a fairy tale about a small town team playing on the biggest stage in Indiana basketball. Most people from Indiana know the story. Some people could likely tell you every play of the game, but only a handful know how it sounded and felt when Bobby Plump's last shot went through the net.

Plump says there's one question people still ask: "What went through your mind when the shot went up?"

"Nothing," says Plump. "Truly, nothing.  If you think, it’s too late. You just react."

He certainly remembers what happened afterwards.

"The buzzer went off and pandemonium. I’m telling you, we must have been on the floor an hour and a half after that game."

It gave the small town Hoosier kids more than they could imagine. Nine of the ten players that dressed for the game went to college. Many of them received scholarships.

"By our background we eliminated the person that says, 'Well, I couldn’t do that,'" says center, Gene White. "We lived it."

The real inspiration may also be the bond created between friends. They haven't missed a reunion 64 years in a row.

"You think, 65 years that’s when people retire and we’re still going through things, and it will continue that way," says Schroder.

He added that basketball was more than just a game to him. It changed his life.

The same could be said for Bobby Plump.

"It broadened my spectrum," says Plump. "I was a shy, bashful kid in high school. I really was. It was hard for me to talk to people I didn’t know. I finally realized through all of this that people are just people. That’s hard to understand when you live in a town of about 75 people, and there aren’t many chances for interactions."

No matter who you ask on the team, there seems to be a consensus. They're all just happy to be a part of the story.

"it’s amazing," says Schroder. "Something that was so significant in our lives is also significant in so many people’s lives even 65 years later.

For more information about the museum and the endowment you can head to: https://milan54.org/

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