In the spirit of the 2012 Olympics in London, we decided to take a walk down memory lane to 1904, when the Hiram College men’s basketball team captured Olympic gold in St. Louis.
Hiram has the distinction of being the only college in the country with a team Olympic gold medal. The men’s basketball team won that medal during the 1904 Olympic Games, the third modern Olympics and the first year a medal would be awarded in the demonstration sport of basketball.
The Hiram squad was selected to compete because of their status as one of the top collegiate teams in the state of Ohio and went on to defeat Latter Day Saints University (now Brigham Young University) for the Olympic Intercollegiate World Championship.
The accomplishment was also selected as one of Sports Illustrated’s Most Intriguing Events of the 20th Century.
An eye-witness account by then-team manager W.H. Harmon read:
“That the trip was of undoubted benefit to Hiram itself no one can deny. But the real benefit is to be derived from the lessons taught us by this victory. The self-sacrifice and perseverance shown by the team are seldom found in any school or team. Throughout the course of hard training and the strenuous season that preceded the games themselves, the spirit exhibited by the boys cannot be too highly commended. It proved to me, possibly more than any other one thing in my college career, what the Hiram training and the Hiram spirit is capable of and makes me proud of the privilege of having been the manager of ‘the best team Hiram ever had.’
I take this occasion to publicly extend the thanks of the team and its manager to those who contributed so much to the success of the trip, to the students and the alumni who gave moral as well as financial encouragement, to Coach Brown whose services were invaluable to us, and to Mr. Vincent who did more work than any one else in raising funds.
An Olympic championship is not won every year and so the value of it is all the more enhanced. Let us not belittle the honors the boys brought home to us, but on the contrary let us not be puffed up with unseemly pride. Vanity is not conducive to a good team and Hiram cannot afford to let the standard be lowered. Cherish always the memory of this triumph but in the futurue strive to attain companion honors so that our enemies cannot say, ‘They won one championship, and it swelled them all up.'”
Take a look at what others have written about the Terriers’ victory in 1904:
- Sports Illustrated (November 29, 1999 issue): Could Be the Start of Something Big
- 1904 Team Manager W.H. Harmon’s eye-witness account
- Hiram Magazine (Winter 2000 issue): Going for the Gold: Hiram’s Glory
- St. Louis Dispatch (July 13, 1905 issue): Terriers World Champions
- Warren Tribune Chronicle (August 15, 2004 issue): Basketball Anniversary has Local Tie