Friday, July 17, 2015

UOMS Hoops History

Like other NBA fans, now that the playoffs, the Finals, and free agency season are all over, I've been stuck waiting out the long basketball drought before the regular season starts (and praying no more Blazers rookies hurt themselves in the summer league!). Luckily, my basketball fever was recently satiated thanks to our department Twitter...
My primary, unspoken question was obviously, "who is this cute kid in the bow tie?"
A few weeks ago, I tweeted this great image of basketball players from the University of Oregon Medical School and Dental School on the bench with a special guest, looking for more information or identification of the players. My request worked: Through Mark Kemball, HC&A friend and Director of Alumni Relations at the OHSU Foundation, we received some information from Dr. Mark Hattenhauer, Medicine Alumni Council President. He identified the gentleman on the far right in the "Dental" jersey as Dr. James Litchfield, a 1965 graduate of the School of Dentistry. 

The ID was useful in two ways: It gave us a positive identification of one of the players, and narrowed the image date down to a relatively small date range. Because of the narrowed date range, I was able to search for information in a selection of issues of "What's Going On," a bimonthly publication for faculty, staff, students, alumni and supporters of UOMS. Lo and behold, I found the February 1963 issue in which the image was published, accompanying an article about the new Student Activities building: 

The article identifies the player on the left as Jim Burns, UOMS sophmore, and confirms the player on the right as Dental School student Jim Litchfield. The two played together on the medical-dental varsity team (the medical and dental schools also played against one another, presumably below the varsity level). Between them sits Jim's son (and "number one fan") Steven. Below are several more images from the same year, including the original that the editors of "What's Going On" used for their cover: 
"Basketball ace" Jim Litchfield and teammates in a huddle, 1963
Freshman medical student Jack Gambee (42) and the medical-dental varsity team play unidentified Oregon State team

Looking at older issues, I learned that the regular University of Oregon Medical School team was known as the Medics and the Dental School team, the Yankers. The two had a little "Civil War" rivalry of their own. Here's the evidence in a "Sports Desk" item from the February 1958 "What's Going On":
Our own UOMS basketball rivalry! 

It turns out that the Medics had a history of victory: Checking the 1950s issues of "Report to the Alumni," I found the photograph of the 1955 City of Portland Metropolitan League champs, the UOMS Medics! The team went 14-0 in their season, competing against teams from colleges like George Fox, Reed, Concordia College, and the UOMS Dental School. I was also interested to learn that the basketball team was more than just a student affair, with Dr. James Lium, assistant professor of clinical anatomy acting as coach, and Dr. Hugh Anderson, resident in pathology acting as manager. At the time, the team was sponsored by the Alumni Association, to the tune of $110 per year. 

According to the "Report to the Alumni" article, the championship trophy was displayed in the Medical School Library (now our OHSU Auditorium/Old Library!) until the following season. 

I'll close with an image of your 1955 Metropolitan League champs, the Medics:
Lto R: Dave Sears, '58, Dick Brust, '58, Bob Haney, '58, Jerry Toole, '55, Bob Watson, '58, Bill Haney, '58, Dick Schultz, '58, Bob Neill, '55, and Coach James Lium, assistant professor of clinical pathology
Did you or a family member play basketball at UOMS? If you've got stories or souvenirs to share, we'd love to hear from you! Send me a line at

No comments: