Hiram Becker

Hiram Becker

Inducted: 1984

25 years coaching: Ithaca, Cadillac, Bay City Handy, Saginaw Arthur Hill, Chesaning.

The Cherry Street Gang made headlines in Mount Pleasant.

And Hi Becker was in the middle of it all. Becker, a three-year starter for the Central Michigan University football team, went on to a successful coaching career at Chesaning, Ithaca, Cadillac, Bay City Handy and Arthur Hill before retiring.

Becker, who died in 2003, was a Bridgeport native and Saginaw High graduate. He is a member of the 2008 class of the Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame.

"He probably identified himself more as a Central Michigan guy than anything else," said his son, Hi Becker Jr. "He had a great group of friends from Saginaw who all went to Central. They remained friends their entire lives.

"They were called the Cherry Street Gang. They were legends, and still are. People still talk about the Cherry Street Gang."

Dr. Rod Borchard, 91, was a member of the "gang."

"Hi was a gentleman," Borchard said. "He was the treasurer of the Cherry Street Gang because he was the only one we could trust.

"There were six of us, the first group to live off campus without a housemother. The president and dean of the school came to check out the house. Both said they couldn't think of a better group to be the first.

"We never had a party or anything like that, but we had poker games all the time. We had this big round table downstairs and there was always a card game going on."

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound tackle led the Chippewas to a 18-5 record in his three seasons at CMU. Becker graduated in 1941 and began coaching in 1942 at Chesaning. After one year at Chesaning, Becker took over at Ithaca for five seasons then moved on to Cadillac in 1948.

During his time at Cadillac, Becker won two Class B state titles and won 26 consecutive games over four years. Becker also coached the track team to a state title.

"He turned down college jobs from places like Michigan State and Central Michigan," Becker Jr. said. "He didn't want to recruit. He didn't want to get into the business of sports. You played the game for the sake of the game."

Becker moved on to Bay City Handy in 1960 and led the Wildcats to a Class A state title a year later. He followed with another coaching move, returning to Saginaw to lead Arthur Hill to two Saginaw Valley League titles in five years.

In 25 years of coaching, Becker was 122-80-12 with 10 conference titles and seven undefeated seasons. Becker already belongs in the CMU, Michigan High School Coaches Association, Cadillac and Bay County halls of fame.

"This is appropriate," Becker Jr. said. "Saginaw is where he started and the last place he coached."

Becker was a late bloomer in organized sports.

"He never played organized sports until he got to high school," Becker Jr. said. "But when he was 7 or 8 years old, he began caddying at Bridgeport Country Club. It was the first sport he ever learned, and golf's honor system about playing by the rules stayed with him his entire life.

"He was successful because of his integrity. He approached other sports like he learned to approach golf. You played by the rules, you behaved like a gentleman. You played with honor."

Golf also let a lasting impression on his wardrobe.

"He always coached in golf shoes, complete with spikes," Becker Jr. said. "They were comfortable and they fit. He wore a size 16, and those were hard to find in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. We always got two magazines at our house -- Sports Illustrated and King Size. I grew up thinking King Size was a regular magazine that everybody got.

"My dad was 6-5 and had a hard time finding clothes, so he ordered them out of a magazine. Sometimes he'd go into a store and he would find clothes that fit. He'd buy as many as he could. He'd walk out of a store with armfuls of shirts.

"He was a big man, in many respects."

From the web and Hugh Bernreuter is assistant sports editor for The Saginaw News. 

 



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