Dan Manoyan made another trip to Granite City on Sept. 17.
The “Men of Granite” author made his first appearance at the Lincoln Place Heritage Festival, an annual event to celebrate the history of the Lincoln Place neighborhood west of downtown Granite City.
For several hours, he signed books and sold “Men of Granite” T-shirts at the Lincoln Place Community Center.
“It’s a good way to meet people,” said Manoyan, who lives in Wisconsin.
He was invited to the festival to honor the 1940 Granite City boys’ basketball team, which won a state championship. “Men of Granite,” published in 2007, tells the story about the team, which had players who grew up in Lincoln Place.
“They were an underdog here in this city,” Manoyan said. “As you know, the reason we’re celebrating is because of this neighborhood of Lincoln Place. It was very separate from the rest of Granite City in 1940. All five starters were from the neighborhood. They lived within a couple of blocks of this building.”
Manoyan also got to talk to the festival crowd about the status of “Men of Granite,” a film based on his book. Lack of funding has delayed the movie’s production.
“We were close to starting up a year ago and I got a phone call from the producer the week before it was supposed to start shooting, saying we ran out of money,” Manoyan said. “So needless to say, I wasn’t too happy about that and I’m sure you all not too happy about that either.”
But Manoyan said he’s positive the movie will be made.
“The project is very much alive,” Manoyan said. “We’re looking for new investors and I’m here to tell you today that it’s going to get done. Just be patient. That’s what they tell me all of the time. I have to be patient, too.”
“Men of Granite” was published in November 2007 by Author House in Bloomington, Ind. There are 24 chapters of the book, plus statistics from the 1940 state tournament.
Manoyan started on the project in spring 2006. Babe Champion and Gus Lignoul, who graduated from Granite City in 1951 and 1946, respectively, helped Manoyan gather research for the book.
Manoyan said the book has been drawing a lot of interest since it was published 9 years ago.
“The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association has it on its website,” the author said. “The last time I checked, the IHSA had a link to it on its website. It’s not just in Granite City. There are basketball fans throughout the state of Illinois and throughout the country who are interested in this. It’s kind of Illinois’ version of Hoosiers. It’s not the same type of story, but it’s the story about an underdog high school team that made good.”
Most of the players on the team came from Hungarian, Armenian, Yugoslavian and Macedonian backgrounds.
“The town didn’t put much credence in this,” Manoyan said. “The coach of the team (Byron Bozarth) wasn’t even sure he wanted them on his team. What he didn’t realize was for years these kids were over at this building (Lincoln Place Community Center) learning how to shoot buckets, and they learned very well. They were a very skilled and cohesive group.”
Andy Phillip, Andy Hagopian, George Gages, Evon Parsaghian and Dan Eftimoff were the starters on a Granite City team that finished 29-5 and beat Herrin in the championship game in 1940.
“All five of these guys went on to represent their country in World War II in all four branches,” Manoyan said. “Andy Phillip and Evon were U.S. Marines and fought in the Pacific. Andy Phillip was one of the first men to land in Hiroshima as a forward observer. Evan fought major battles in South Pacific. Andy Hagopian was a bombardier and flew 27 flights over Germany during World War II. Dan Eftimoff was in the artillery in the United States Army during World War II and George Gages was in the U.S. Navy. All in all, they represented their country with honor, not just in basketball, but later in life, proving that immigrants can and do make a difference in this country.”
The team also included Ebbie Mueller, Everett Daniels, John Markarian, Sam Mouradian and Ed Hoff. Hagopian, Markarian and Daniels are the only living members from the 1940 squad.
Manoyan made his sixth trip to Granite City since the book was published nine years ago. He visited the town last summer.
“I love to come back and see what’s going on here,” said Manoyan, who worked as a sportswriter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel when he started working on “Men of Granite.”
Manoyan published his second book in 2013 called, “Alan Ameche: The Story of the Horse.” It told the story about the Baltimore Colts fullback who scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime of the 1958 NFL championship game against the New York Giants.
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