merle_harmonIt wasn’t an uncommon sight to see a kid tooling around town on his bicycle with a baseball mitt hooked on the handlebar, looking for a game. That “kid,” who always wanted to play professional baseball, missed participation in high school sports because in the early 1940’s Salem didn’t have a baseball program his sport He went on, though, to become one of the nation’s premier and most versatile sportcasters, Merle Harmon, a 1943 SCHS graduate, was inducted into the Salem High School
Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.

He broadcast major league baseball for 30 years, spending seven seasons as the voice of the Kansas City A’s prior to their departure for Oakland, two with the Milwaukee Braves, followed by three seasons with the Minnesota Twins and then back to Milwaukee to become the voice of the Milwaukee Brewers. Bob Uecker joined Harmon in the Brewer booth and over the next ten years they became one of the hottest broadcast teams in baseball.

Meanwhile, Harmon joined NBC Sports, first as an independent and then exclusively, and handled the Major League Baseball Game of the Week, NFL Football, NCAA Basketball and special assignments for Sportsworld. He was named as one of the anchors for the 1980 Olympic telecasts in Moscow but President Carter banned the U.S. teams from participating.


john_sebastianFrom a two-hand set-shot artist to a trick shot artist, a one-year basketball star at Salem High School and a four-year star at Southern Illinois University, John “Junior” Sebastian was inducted into the Salem High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.

After finishing the three years at Odin High School, Sebastian came to Salem for his senior year and was the leading scorer for the 1938-39 Salem Wildcats, the first team coached by Hall of Famer, the late Michael E. Lenich. Teamed with Richard Robb, Bill Finks, the late James “Hezzy” West and fellow Odinite Jim Bradley, Sebastian led the team in scoring with 223 points of the 626 scored that year.

The Wildcats had a 15-6 record and finished third in the North Egypt Conference. One memorable game was a 5345 victory over Centralia in Trout Gym, when Sebastian’s two-handed “kiss-shot” netted 28 points. He graduated from SIU in 1947, leading the team in scoring for three years. He has been elected to the SIU Sports Hall of Fame.


howard_wagonerA triple-threat halfback who lettered in football all four years at SCHS, Howard “Bud” Wagoner, was inducted into the Salem High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.

A 1946 graduate of SCHS, Wagoner was the key running back on the Salem team that posted an 8-2 record, outscoring their opponents 273-60. Salem, conference champions in 1943 and 1944, missed a third straight NEC title by only a 7-6 loss to Flora.

Wagoner’s team leading 171 points in 1945 was the second highest total in the State. He scored 25 touchdowns and converted 21 extra points from placement. He also threw six touchdown passes. He carried the ball 196 times, netting 1569 yards for an eight yard average. As a team, the Wildcats gained 3152 yards.


The Salem Wildcat Basketball team that is recognized as one of the best in the school’s history, a team that holds the best won-lost record of any Salem basketball team, was inducted into the Salem High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.

The 1947-48 Wildcats ranked from No.2 to No.4 in the State all season ran up a record of 27-3. They captured the North Egypt Conference championship with an 11-1 mark, repeating the championship they won the year before when they were a predominately junior team. Members of the team, selected as the tournament squad, were Carle Blackwell, Darrell Brame, Jim Bredar, Kenny Burchett, Bill Chance, Bob Frala, Bob Hayden, Glenn Holler, Mark Johnson, Richard Laney, John McMackin, Bob Warden, and their coaches, the late Michael E. Lenich and Steve Lenich.


mark_johnsonA life-long Salem resident and one of the first outstanding “big men” in Salem basketball, Mark Johnson, was inducted into the Salem High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.

Johnson was a member of the 1947-48 basketball team that compiled a 27-3 season mark, the best in Salem’s history. With Johnson leading the way, Salem was North Egypt Conference champion with an 11-1 record. That team was also inducted into the Hall of Fame. Johnson, at 6’5″ was the tallest of the Wildcats that year, leading the team in scoring with 429 points. When he was a junior, the Wildcats also won the North Egypt title, also with an 11-1 record. In high school, in addition to basketball, Johnson also participated in football and track.

After graduating from high school, Johnson attended the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University, graduating in 1953, and he played basketball there. He served in the Air Force from February, 1954, to February, 1956, and in August of 1956 was hired to teach in the Salem Grade School system at Oak Park and Central. At the same time he was junior varsity basketball coach at SCHS, a position he held until 1975. He also served as assistant football coach at SCHS.


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