Tigerland: A look back at East High School’s incredible year in 1969

Published:

History was made in 1969 at Ohio State’s St John Arena. The Columbus East High School Tigers claimed a resounding 71-56 victory over the Canton McKinley Bulldogs in the state basketball championship game.

Add to that, a state baseball championship in the same year. No school had done that before.

“It's just a great story with drama, the 1960's, great athletes... guys who were my heroes,” said Wil Haygood.

The prize-winning author and Columbus native, calls Tigerland a book he just had to write.

It’s about black teens from an inner-city school who looked beyond the civil rights upheaval that gripped the country back then to demonstrate excellence in sports.

“There was so much pain around the country and in the city, that to see an athletic unit come together and see them relentlessly winning week after week after week, that was their victory against injustice in America, right there," Haygood said.

Ernie Locke played on the championship baseball team that year.

Advertisement - Story continues below

“We never hung our heads down. We knew we had a job to do. everybody was laser focused. We had a job to do and that was go in there and win that game," he said.

Star East High basketball player, Dwight "Bo Pete" Lamar said, basketball and sports always had a way of bringing people together not separating them.

He ended up at East after leaving North High School after the coach told him he’d have to cut-off his Afro if he wanted to continue playing on the team.

“They did it in an era when there were riots in the street over the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy,” said Haygood.

And, in the process of winning those championships, they cut down a net of racial prejudice to become ambassadors for peace.