ESCANABA - The passing of Bob Ranguette marks the second departure of an old area luminary this year. U.P. Sports Hall of Famer George Shomin of Escanaba died May 29.
Ranguette, 82, died Aug. 21. After serving in World War II, he played basketball for two years at Michigan State University
Frank Rodman of Hermansville said "I consider Bob Ranguette possibly the finest center in U.P. sports history, for the 1946-56 era for sure."
Rodman, the face of the Hermansville Gold Medal Classic independent basketball tournament for most of its 70 years, vividly recalls Ranguette's performances along with so many other outstanding players of that time.
"He was a rebounder, he could play the pivot, and he had a helluva hook shot," said Rodman. "Basketball competition at the time was the best, it was top notch. Ranguette was the best because he played in the best era."
Rodman put Ranguette ahead of fabled Mel Peterson of Stephenson and Tony Machalk of Hermansville at the pivot. "They were a hair behind," he said.
In 1947, Ranguette won the Joe Rodman Trophy as MVP of the Hermansville Independent Tournament (now the Gold Medal Classic) as Bark River Tom Swifts beat the Iron River Sentinels 67-45. He also was the single-game and tournament scoring leader and was named all-tournament.
While discussing Ranguette, Rodman brought up a batch of standouts from that era. He called Escanaba's Tom Dufour "the best guard at that time."
Other memorable participants include Ed Gauthier, Tom St. Germain, Bill Jennings, Ray Trewhella, Boosta Stanaway, Frank Miketinac, Stan Jensen, Louie Kositzky, Tom Villemure, Frank Fazi, Bud Cooper, Jug Girard, Jim Alvord, Al "Skinny" Dagenais and Gary Lundin.
Rodman also recalled some of the standout teams from that span, such as Tom Swifts, Hermansville Silver Foxes and Escanaba Delta Hardware.
"Escanaba had a tournament at the time too," Rodman said, with games played in the junior high gym. "They used to pack the gyms. Independent basketball was at its peak at that time.
"This was right after the war and they had all returned from service and were in the peak of their careers. That was the best basketball players of the time."
The Gold Medal Classic took a break during WW II. Glenn Fleetwood, Don "Punky" Hill, and George Maule joined Rodman in keeping the event flourishing in the tiny Hermansville Community Center. Ray Bray and Bob Maule are now in charge and it is still going strong.
If you're a basketball player, you have to play in the Gold Medal. If you're a basketball fan, you have to be in the Gold Medal stands.
"When the Hermansville Silver Foxes battled Bark River Tom Swifts, particularly, also the Delta Hardwares, it was like the Packers-Bears game," Rodman said.
The wives or girl friends of the players usually accompanied the players and relaxed later at Rodman's Bar or Tom Swifts, he recalled, noting the wonderful camaraderie of the groups after the games.