The January, 1939, basketball game between New Castle high and Butler high dominated the sports pages of the New Castle News for three days, causing even news of Joe Louis’s defence of his world champion title to be squeezed into a few column inches. The winning team stood a good chance of taking the section three title, which New Castle had taken from Butler the year before. The honour of the town was at stake.
The lead sports story on the day of the game told of New Castle’s hopes that James Clark, one of the team’s star players, would carry the game. He was bound to give the showdown everything he had—not only was it the biggest game of the year, but it was to be his final game for the team as he had completed six semesters and would be ineligible to play after that night. The sports reporter acknowledged that it would be hard to replace James. That was a problem for another day, though; the only thing that mattered now was that he would lead his team to victory and go out in glory.
However, on the night that that story went to press, as the papers were being printed and folded and tied in bundles ready to hit the streets the next day, James—dressed in his team jacket—and two other boys were arrested and charged with aggravated assault and battery and highway robbery after mugging a man named Lloyd Peak in Moravia street. All three were sent to the county jail in default of bail.
New Castle played without James and lost the game, 28-21. Butler high went on to take the title.
That summer, James joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, a last-resort relief programme that sent unemployed young men to government labour camps where they cut down trees, dug ditches and cleared streams for $30 a month.
New Castle high didn’t reclaim the section three title until 1942.Sources: New Castle News (18 Nov 1937, “Bombers Start Floor Workouts”; 24 Jan 1939 “New Castle And Butler Will Play Here Tonight”; 25 Jan 1939, “Three Face Charges In Hold-Up Case”; 25 Jan 1939, “New Castle High Loses To Butler High 28-21”; 3 March 1939, Sports page stub; 17 July 1939, “CCC Exam Is Being Conducted Today”).