The Iron Five Basketball Tournament originated at the California School for the Deaf, Riverside in 2009 under Sports Coordinator, Jeremias Valencia, who envisioned a national basketball tournament for MIDDLE SCHOOL.
The Story Behind the Name: “Iron Five”
Many people know the story of Gallaudet’s Five Iron Men and their legendary success on the basketball court during the 1943 season.
In March of 1943, with a 4-11 regular season record, the men’s basketball team at Gallaudet was seeded last in the Mason-Dixon Conference and was scheduled to play in the first round of the conference tournament against Randolph Macon College, a team that had beat the Bison twice during the regular season. With only five players, captain Paul Baldridge, Don Padden, Earl Roberts, Roy Holcomb, and Hal Weingold, the Gallaudet team won three straight playoff games with NO substitutions!
Nobody had expected Gallaudet to even win one game. The shame of being the last-place team in the conference left Gallaudet in the hallway to dress up while Randolph Macon had the best dressing room with many perks. However, with Gallaudet’s win against Randolph Macon 48-39 in the opening game, the Five Iron Men took over the best dressing room.
Next up was American University, who had also beat the Bison twice during the regular season. Down 22-8 midway through the first half, Gallaudet, led by Baldridge, caught up with American, and went on to win, 45-40.
Gallaudet then faced the University of Delaware for the championship. Unable to play against Delaware during the regular season, both teams did not know their opponent. That didn’t matter, as the Bison went on to win, 42-40, over the Blue Hens.
The Gallaudet run through the playoffs was so impressive that the committee voted the entire Gallaudet squad to the all-star team – an accomplishment that has never since been matched.
The success of the 1943 basketball team is a story of teamwork, courage and overcoming adversity, and has proved to be a story of inspiration for many other basketball teams across the decades. That is why we have chosen to name our basketball classic after these five Iron Men, so that our young middle school basketball players can continue to be inspired by the story and believe in themselves.
The Iron Five Classic tournament has been on hold.