Editor’s note: A few weeks ago, we asked readers to help out with an informal poll indicating some of the “power sports families” in Beloit history. Several responded in detail and since we’re all about informing the public about great local sports, past and present, you’re going to see some of their family trees described here. Our first starts with a Hall of Famer.
BELOIT—Eddie Polglaze was born Sept. 22, 1917 in Rewey, Wis., where his father worked in a lead mine for $2.50 a day.
“He raised eight kids on that,” said Eddie in an interview for our Legends of Sports series in 1996.
Only one of them would go on to become a charter member of the Beloit Historical Society’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1986. All the branches of this great Beloit sports family began with Eddie, who was a standout during a tremendous period of success at Beloit High School.
In 1928, the Polglaze family moved to Brooks Street in Beloit. Eddie’s father found work at Fairbanks Morse and the youngster found plenty of neighborhood chums to hang out with and play sports. Guys like Jim Tilley, “Hooks” Leffingwell and Red Stickler.
At Lincoln Junior High, Eddie played football, basketball and ran track, laying the groundwork for an outstanding athletic career.
He was a member of the 1935 WIAA state runnerup team and two years later was a captain and starting guard on Jake Jacobson’s 1937 state champion. That squad used its speed to offset a lack of height. Polglaze was 5-foot-8. Clyde Hoffman was 5-6 and the rest of the lineup was all 5-10: Eddie May, Leffingwell and Walter Rief.
“We had five track men and all we did was run,” Eddie said. “I think we really were the team that started the fastbreak in Beloit.”
While the basketball team played its games at the Fairbanks Morse gymnasium with a capacity of only around 300, the football team drew thousands to Strong Stadium. In 1936, Eddie was an outstanding halfback on Beloit’s undefeated football team. The starting backfield included three other Hall of Famers: Al Farina, Jack Gilmore and Eddie May.
“Strong Stadium was always full,” Eddie remembered. “We were the first team to play under the lights there in 1936.”
The high school also ran its track meets at Strong Stadium. Eddie won the Big Eight Conference 100-yard dash as a sophomore. He and Eddie May jointly held the school’s 100-yard record until the late 1960s, each recording a time of 10-seconds flat.
“I used to go up against Eddie all the time,” Eddie said. “The first 60 yards, I had him. But he was stronger than I was and he’d always pass me in the last 40.”
Beloit had no high school baseball team, but Eddie played plenty of fastpitch softball over the summer. In 1936, he was a catcher on the Liberty Trucking team which won the state title.
After graduation, he played football for Jordan College, then left school to play baseball for the Chicago Cubs’ minor league team in Eau Claire. After two months of that, he returned home. He married Harriet Tilley in 1940 and two years later joined the Beloit Fire Department. He finally retired as a captain in 1974.
He still played plenty of fastpitch in his spare time. In one memorable game in 1946 between Walt’s Bungalo of Beloit and the Madison Kips, Eddie caught all 20 innings and all 29 strikeouts by winning pitcher Otey Kueltz. Eddie finally won the 3-2 marathon for Beloit with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 20th.
“Eddie Sr. was the real deal,” Gary Polglaze said. “He was a little buy, but he was really fast. He owned that 100-yard dash record for years and he played on a state championship basketball team. He was a helluva a catcher in fastpitch and baseball, too. Everything started with Eddie.”
Eddie and Harriet had four sons and that’s where the sports linagle continues.
• Eddie Polglaze Jr., who became a career Beloit Police Officer, first played baseball in the Air Force and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds. When that soured, he went on to play a lot of softball. His two sons, Johnny and Bobby, were both exceptional hockey players at Beloit Memorial. Johnny’s son, Nate, was also a good hockey player at Beloit Memorial.
• Jerry Polglaze followed his father and became a career fireman. He also played a lot of softball. Just like Eddie Jr., Jerry found himself watching a lot of hockey as a dad. Both his sons played at Beloit Memorial: Jeff and Kevin. Jeff’s son, T.J., is currently playing Division 1 hockey at Michigan Tech after playing for the Purple Knights and later the Janesville Jets.
• Bobby Polglaze played football at Beloit Memorial, but was better known as one of the high scorers on a 1968 basketball team that finished second in the WIAA state tournament. He had a tough choice in the spring. He ran 10.1 in the 100 as a sophomore, but switched to baseball his next two years and was one of the quickest players in the Big Eight. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bob went on to play many years for the Beloit Blues and later softball.
• The fourth son, Herman Michael, played basketball and baseball at Beloit Memorial. He was a starting guard on the 1971 team. Like most of the Polglazes, he played a whole lot of softball.
• That’s not where it ends for the Polglaze name in sports. Eddie’s first cousin, Ernest Polglaze, also had two sons who contributed a great deal to the local sports scene. Dennis played baseball at Beloit Memorial and Gary played golf and basketball there. He was a starting guard alongside Herman Polglaze in 1971.
They weren’t always buddies.
“Herman hit a home run off me in the City Little League City Series Championship in 1964,” Gary said.
Later they were teammates on various successful softball teams.
“We played in world tournaments with four or five Polglazes on a team,” Gary said. “We played hundreds of games a summer for many years at a high caliber level. That was when it was big out at the King of Diamonds.”
Gary was also quite a golfer, winning Championship Flight in the Beloit City Golf Tournament in 1988 and runnerup on several other occasions. He won five Beloit Country Club Championship Flight titles.
“The older guys played basketball and baseball, softball and golf ,” he said. “All the younger generations turned into hockey players.”