Sunday Round Table: Who is Quincy's most iconic sports figure?

Posted: Jan. 27, 2013 12:09 am Updated: Feb. 17, 2013 1:15 am

Each week, The Herald-Whig sports staff and a member of the WGEM sports staff will debate a pertinent topic. Here is this week's question:

"Who is Quincy's most iconic sports figure?"


Matt Schuckman, Sports Editor

In the places you least expect it, the Quincy High School boys basketball program kickstarts a conversation.

In 1996, while covering the Big 12 Conference men's basketball tournament in Kansas City, a colleague from the San Antonio News Express casually asked where I grew up. When I told him Quincy, Ill., I was expecting the usual follow-up question: Is that near Chicago?

To my surprise, he says, "That's the home of the Blue Devils and Bruce Douglas, right?"

Now fast forward 16 years. Sitting in the stands overlooking the first tee at the TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tenn., while waiting for Quincy native Luke Guthrie to tee off, a member of the sparse gallery asks which newspaper I work for.

Again expecting little response, I tell them The Herald-Whig in Quincy, Ill. Before I can explain why I'm in Memphis to cover Guthrie's PGA debut, the gentleman taps his daughter with the back of his hand and says, "That's the home of the Blue Devils. They were great with Bruce Douglas and Michael Payne."

The notoriety this community has gained because of the success of the high school basketball program is often staggering. To top it all, it made a humble, talented man one of the most recognizable names this city has ever produced.

We're blessed to have an Olympic medalist, a PGA Tour veteran, several Major League Baseball players and a couple of NFL products call Quincy home.

Still, one name resonates far beyond Quincy's city limits.

That name is Bruce Douglas.


David Adam, News Coordinator

Quincyans probably are the worst people to ask when it comes to choosing the city's most iconic sports figure.

A handful of names figure into the debate: Bruce Douglas. Caren Kemner. D.A. Weibring. Sure, there might be a few others who could be considered, but for the sake of this discussion, let's concentrate on those three.

Certain pockets of Quincy fans will make their case for each of them, because they have loved watching them for years and admired seeing them represent this city. Ask people who don't live in Quincy, however, and many of them haven't heard of any of them.

Kemner was once considered the greatest volleyball player in the world, but few people follow the sport outside of those few weeks in the summer every four years. Her U.S. teams won one medal -- a bronze -- in three Olympic appearances.

Weibring made millions during a long career on the PGA Tour, but he never won a major and three of his five PGA victories were at a small tournament in the Quad Cities.

Douglas was twice the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year and was a first-team all-Big Ten pick in 1984 at the University of Illinois, but his lack of a substantial NBA career makes him less-than-memorable to the rest of the world.

So when people who don't live in Quincy think of this city's most iconic sports figure, who do they think of?

How about the Quincy Blue Devil?

Quincy High School's basketball program is one of the state's most recognizable and has been for decades. It hasn't been the case lately, but QHS churned out some pretty good players who had their moments in the national spotlight in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Visiting teams who have been to a game at historic Blue Devil Gym (or even the old gym at 14th and Maine) don't soon forget it.

Opposing teams have hated playing here for years, but few forget the experience.

Editor's Note: David Adam worked as a sports writer for The Herald-Whig from 1988-98.


Ben Marth, WGEM Sports Director

When I was fortunate to land a job at WGEM in 2002 it didn't take long for the first question to float my direction: "You do know who Bruce Douglas is, right?"

I knew of Quincy's beloved native son largely based on his playing days at the University of Illinois. But I quickly learned Douglas was the Gem City's guy, not Champaign's.

The second question was practically instantaneous: "Ever been to a QHS basketball game?" I had not, but was informed the experience had exactly zero parallels around the country. A few months later, I discovered that was indeed valid.

Combine one of the most tradition-rich basketball programs in America with the best player it's ever produced, and you get the most iconic sports figure in Quincy's illustrious athletic history, Bruce Douglas.

The numbers speak for themselves: 2,040 career points, 709 rebounds, and 643 assists.

But the biggest? 123. As in the amount of victories he played a major role in manufacturing during his Blue Devil career.

My only disappointment? I never got to see him play.


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