Partenheimer thrived at Birdseye in the ’60sMay 14, 2020
BY COREY STOLZENBACH
Sometimes, individual players shine even if that’s not always the case for the teams they play for.
Take Roy Partenheimer from Birdseye. The Yellow Jackets didn’t post a single winning season during the four years the 1965 graduate played for them. But their record improved each year, with Partenheimer playing a pivotal role through that. Birdseye went from a team that won two games when Partenheimer was a freshman, to one that hovered around .500 and won a game in the sectional tournament when he was a senior.
Partenheimer played on a young team his freshman year, and a lack of size did not help either. The Yellow Jackets didn’t have a single player who was listed at 6 feet tall entering the season. They finished the 1961-62 campaign with a 2-17 record — their last game being an emphatic 91-38 loss to Jasper in the sectional.
Partenheimer and the Yellow Jackets took each offseason to play a lot and better themselves.
“I worked on my shooting a lot all summer long for every summer I was in high school,” Partenheimer said.
He described himself as an outside shooter most of the time, and reflected on how many more points he would have had if the 3-point line existed back then. Partenheimer also used quickness to drive to the basket.
If he worked a lot on his shooting during the summer, it obviously showed in his sophomore year when he was second on the team in scoring. His 165 regular-season points were a shade off of junior Paul Jackson’s team-high 188, though the needle barely moved. The Yellow Jackets doubled their win total, going 4-15 in the regular season.
They had the misfortune of drawing the Wildcats again in their first sectional tournament game. The rematch in 1963 wasn’t quite the drubbing like the 1962 game was, but a 73-43 Jasper victory made Birdseye one-and-done again.
A common theme for Birdseye when Partenheimer played there was that the team often had the lowest offensive scoring average among teams at the Huntingburg sectional. This was the case his sophomore year when the Yellow Jackets averaged 43.4 points per game in the regular season and 47.5 points per game his junior year, with Partenheimer doing a lot of the heavy lifting.
“[Birdseye coach Larry Meyer] knew I could score, and we had a guard, Joe Cook, he also started,” he said. “He could pass. He’d set me up for a lot of shots, good open shots.”
The Yellow Jackets didn’t draw Jasper in the sectional again in 1964. This time, it was Winslow, and Birdseye, who went all of 5-15 in the regular season, very much had a chance of advancing in the tournament. The Yellow Jackets led by eight with just over five minutes remaining in the first half, though the Eskimos found themselves ahead at the break. Birdseye’s Ralph Andry made a shot, but the buzzer had already sounded.
The game remained tight throughout, and the Yellow Jackets enjoyed an ever-so-slim 44-43 advantage after three quarters. When the Eskimos tried to widen the margin a bit, the Yellow Jackets closed the gap, but Jackson fouled out. Birdseye was very much alive when Andry fouled Winslow’s Jim Marshall, who made the Yellow Jackets pay at the free throw line. Marshall dropped a game-high 19 points to help narrowly deny Birdseye from moving on in the sectional.
“Coach Meyer, he pushed us a lot to get better, and we just worked hard on defense, offense and getting into shape,” Partenheimer said.
Partenheimer broke out in a big way in 1964-65. The 360 points he tallied in the regular season was second only to Alan Matheis of Dubois for all of Dubois County. This was an uptick from the 228 he tallied as a junior. The Yellow Jackets finished 8-9 in the regular season, which was six more wins than Birdseye won when Partenheimer was a freshman.
There’s a lot that can be said about Birdseye’s matchup with Holland in the 1965 sectional. Perhaps it was that game when Partenheimer’s star shined the brightest of all. He totaled 39 points, playing a large role in Birdseye finally breaking through for a sectional tournament win. But the one time the Yellow Jackets won a sectional game with him on the team, he wasn’t on the floor.
Partenheimer fouled out, but the Yellow Jackets still found a way to win in an 83-78 triple overtime thriller. But he was an integral reason the game even made it to overtime in the first place. Rich Kamman had the two go-ahead free throws to put the Dutchmen ahead, 73-71, with five seconds remaining. But Partenheimer was not going let his team be denied again. His bucket before the buzzer forced OT.
“I was going to try to score or get fouled, one way or the other,” he said. “It went in.”
He drew his fifth foul with 41 seconds to play in the first overtime, but Partenheimer had enough confidence in his teammates to make things happen, and sure enough, they stepped up in his place. The game was knotted, 78-78, before the Yellow Jackets went on a 5-0 run to win their first sectional game since 1957.
A second sectional win, however, did not happen, as Huntingburg eliminated Birdseye, 74-54.
“They were just a lot stronger than what we were, it seemed like,” Partenheimer said.
Prep basketball ended for Partenheimer, but not basketball altogether. He continued to play basketball after Birdseye, but it wasn’t any college that came calling — it was Uncle Sam. Partenheimer had been drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War, ultimately making the trip to Vietnam itself. He was stationed at Fort Meade (Md.) and recalled his time playing basketball being around three months. Partenheimer estimated this went on in late 1967 and early 1968, leaving the military in May of the latter year.
He’s worn different hats within the community these last several decades. Partenheimer has worked for Kimball International, as a firefighter and has spent decades with the Birdseye Fire Department. He’s been a councilman on the Birdseye Town Council in recent years, too. Partenheimer, 73, just resigned from his council post in April, but has always been committed to making Birdseye a better place to live.
“I still try to help people if they need help around here,” he said. “I’m just here for them if they need me.”
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