Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Streak: The Tenth Time, Out Of The Last 55 Times, That Clemson Lost A Basketball Game in Chapel Hill…

W. Wilbur Shaw Sr. was still alive…

The Streak: Game Ten, December 10, 1952 – North Carolina 82, Clemson 56.  

Game 10 of The Streak was the last Southern Conference match-up between the two old foes.  Clemson would finish the year 8-10 and 6-8 in the SoCon while UNC fared much better winning 15 conference games and losing six. The Tar Heels were 17-10 overall.

If you don’t know who Wilbur Shaw is, you should. Chances are you have stared in wonderment at the incredible event he brought back to life after World War II.  If you are living right, you might have actually been to that little car race that happens each Memorial Day weekend called the Indianapolis 500.

W. Wilbur Shaw Sr.
Warren Wilbur Shaw was born in Shelbyville, IN on October 31, 1902.  He won the Indianapolis 500 race three times, in 1937, 1939 and 1940 and he finished second in 1933, 1935 and 1938, fourth in 1927 and seventh in 1936.

During World War II, Shaw was hired by Firestone to test a synthetic rubber tire at Indy which was closed due to the war. He was dismayed by the dilapidated condition of the already-historic racetrack. Then-owner Eddie Rickenbacker, the famed World War I flying ace and president of Eastern Air Lines, padlocked the gates at the beginning of WWII and let the great race course slowly begin to disintegrate.

Eventually, Rickenbacker informed Shaw that what was left of the track would be demolished and the land turned into a housing subdivision unless Shaw had a better idea.  

Shaw did. 

He recruited Tony Hulman of Hulman & Co., who had made a fortune on Clabber Girl baking soda.  A lifelong fan of automobile racing in general and the Indy 500 in particular, Hulman purchased the Speedway from Rickenbacker in November 1945 for $750,000.

Bill Shaw with pictures of his dad.
Hulman promptly appointed Shaw president with complete day-to-day control.  Shaw's hard work only cemented the reputation of the 500 as the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

It seemed as though Shaw and Hulman had a "Midas touch" at the Speedway.  Hulman poured money into improvements, and Shaw delivered the world's greatest race to ever-growing and enthusiastic crowds year after year.  The Indianapolis 500 of the late Forties and early Fifties was a special event, and Hulman made sure the world knew it was Shaw’s hand that was on the wheel.

Shaw was married and had one son – long-time friend of T.A.H. W. Wilbur Shaw Jr. (Bill to his friends back in Virginia) who currently lives in Indianapolis. 

Although he survived a heart attack suffered when he ran up a hill at a Soap Box Derby race in Akron, Ohio, the senior Shaw died in an airplane crash near Decatur, Indiana on October 30, 1954, one day before his fifty-second birthday.  His son Bill was nine-years-old at the time.

Shaw’s obituary is here.

To read more, click here.

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