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New book brings Belfry championship team back together after 70 years

Belfry Bats book
Posted at 6:14 PM, Aug 04, 2023

RED LODGE — Even after 70 years, Wayne Cadman still remembers almost every detail of Belfry's state basketball championship games.

"I don't know why that is, because I'm not that intelligent," Cadman joked.

Maybe it's because the Bats' accomplishment was so unique. Belfry won three consecutive Class C boys basketball titles from 1952-54, which is still the only three-peat in Montana Class C boys basketball history.

"We're the only ones, huh?" asked Curtis Royce, who played on the 1952 team. "That's a pretty great feeling."

Belfry trophies
Belfry's 1952, '53, and '54 state boys basketball championship trophies were on display Friday during an event at the Carbon County Historical Society and Museum in Red Lodge.

Cadman and Royce, the only two players still alive from those teams, gathered at the Carbon County Historical Society & Museum Friday along with friends and family to honor that feat, which is chronicled in a new book, The "Golden Bats," written by 1955 Belfry graduate Glenna Rae Cammack Alevizos.

"We wouldn't be here today without Glenna. She's the real star of this team," Cadman said to the crowd.

Over 100 people packed into the museum, many of which were family members of players from the championship teams. Two daughters of Tom MacDonald, Cadman's high school best friend, were excited to finally meet the man they'd heard so much about.

"He was a good dad and my best friend, and I miss him every day," one daughter said.

"He was the best man in our wedding," Cadman answered.

"I know! I heard that!" she answered back.

Wayne Cadman
Wayne Cadman (left) talks to the daughter of his high school best friend Tom MacDonald. Cadman and MacDonald were two of three members of all three of Belfry's state basketball championships from 1952-54.

Alevizos arranged the special reunion, after deciding to write a book about some of her fondest high school memories.

"It did put Belfry on the map," Cadman said. "I think there was 132 Class C towns in the state of Montana at that time. To be No. 1, that has a lot to say for itself."

Alevizos interviewed former players and family members for the book, including Alice Rae, wife of head coach Bob Rae, and Friday's true guest of honor.

"I'll be 101 (years old) on Sept. 2," Rae said. "It just creeped up on me!”

Alice Rae
100-year-old Alice Rae smiles during an event honoring the 1952-54 Belfry state championship basketball teams, coached by her late husband Bob Rae.

A common theme of many of Friday's stories was the blending of Bearcreek and Washoe students with Belfry, after the Bearcreek school closed because of the Smith Mine Disaster, which killed 75 people and destroyed the area. Cadman was a Bearcreek student.

"We didn’t want to go anywhere. That was our home," Cadman said. "But we knew we had to do something."

Belfry turned out to be just the right place.

"They were more than welcome," Royce said. "You couldn’t ask for a better bunch of boys to be around and play with."

Glenna Alevizos and Curtis Royce
Glenna Rae Cammack Alevizos (left) shows a photo of Belfry High School graduate Curtis Royce (right) in her new book, The "Golden Bats," which chronicles Belfry's Class C boys basketball state championship three-peat.

"Bearcreek didn’t have other sports, they just had basketball," said Cadman. "That’s what we did."

That talent, combined with Rae’s coaching ability, was a match made in heaven. Rae moved to coach Butte High School after the three-peat, and promptly won two more titles there in '57 and '58. Alice still lives in the Mining City and still follows the game.

"Oh all the time," she said with a smile. "When you go to every game, you get used to it. You like it really well."

It brought entire towns together - and still does.

Belfry basketball
Numerous pieces of memorabilia were on display inside the Carbon County Historical Society and Museum Friday honoring the 1952-54 three-time Class C boys basketball champion Belfry Bats.