Bobby Plump didn’t have any easy childhood. But he grew up to become one of the most remembered Indiana basketball players. He made the winning shot for tiny Milan High School to win the 1954 state championship.
Bobby Gene Plump was born Sept. 9, 1936, in tiny Pierceville, not far from Milan. He was the sixth child of schoolteacher/factory worker Lester Plump and his wife Mabel. Bobby was a sickly child – “certainly not someone you’d think would grow up to play basketball,” he notes – and contacted Rocky Mountain spotted fever when he was four years old. One year later, Bobby’s mother died from a blood clot that traveled to her heart.
Heading off to elementary school in Milan, Bobby thought “it was the most humongous place I’d ever seen.” In fact, the building seemed so big that the youngster got lost on his first day of school.
When school was over and their chores done, the Pierceville boys would play ball – baseball and basketball, using a peach basket nailed to a smokehouse. For Christmas 1944, Bobby got a Christmas present that still makes his eyes light up. Under the tree was a round wrapped package with his name on it – his very own basketball.
“My Dad had made a backboard and fastened a rim to it,” Bobby recalls. “It was the greatest Christmas present I ever got.”
After that, it was hard to stop Bobby. He played every chance he got even in hard Hoosier winters when the weather was so cold that his fingers would crack. “I’d just tape them to keep them from bleeding and keep on playing.”
All that practice on less-than-perfect courts paid off when Bobby Plump and his friends, the Pierceville Alleycats, got inside a real gym. When Bobby earned a place on the Milan Junior High team, the stage was being set for the 1954 basketball showdown.