LA GRANGE – Nearly 200 Morton High School alumni, coaches and well-wishers gathered May 17 in the La Grange American Legion Hall to pay tribute to their school’s award-winning athletes of yesteryear.
Some came from as far as Alabama to witness the creation of the J. Sterling Morton High School Athletic Hall of Fame and to share battle stories about the school’s award-winning teams from 1927 through 1985-86 and the star athletes who made them great.
“It was time to recognize 90 years of excellence by creating a Hall of Fame,” said emcee Dwight Pawlowski, Class of 1962, in a release.
Bill Hapac and Dave Kocourek were the only two individual honorees, joined by 12 teams.
Hapac, a 1935 graduate, was all-state in baseball and basketball while at Morton and All-American in both sports at the University of Illinois. After serving in World War II, Hapac returned to Morton to serve as coach from 1952-1967. The gymnasium at Morton East is named after him.
Kocourek, Class of 1955, won AFL titles with the San Diego Chargers in 1963 and the Oakland Raiders in 1967, which made it to Super Bowl II. He played in seven AFL championship games and was an AFL All-Star from 1961 through 1964. He died in 2013 and his brain was donated for research into the effects of repeated head trauma sustained in sports.
Teams named to the Hall of Fame were the boys basketball teams of 1927, 1931-32. 1940-41 and 1950-51; the baseball teams of 1930-31, 1942-43, 1951-52, 1960-61 and 1969-70; and three undefeated teams – the football teams of 1964-65 and 1969-70 and the girls softball team of 1985-86.
Also honored was Jim Regan, Class of 1941, the coach of the undefeated football teams.