Martin Luther King Jr. and Historic Mines come together in this remarkable tale from modern history. I told a version of this story on West Bremer Radio.
The Toowoomba Mountaineers is an Australian regional basketball team that wrote itself into folklore when it won back-to-back State League Championships in 1990 and 1991.
If there had been a national championship for state leagues back then, they would have won that too. The Mountaineers then were simply the best basketball club team ever in Queensland history.
Just look at the names – National Basketball League legends like Dave Nelson, Tom Gerhardt, dual-Olympian Danny Morseu, and future NBL stars like David Blades and John Rillie.
There was Pop Dickerson who captained the University of Hawaii. He’s still the highest scorer in State League history, and one of the best players ever to come to Australia not to play in the NBL.
Also on that team was Sidney Mines. They called him The Doctor, Spiderman, and El Sid. No one who witnessed his signature goosestep dribble will ever forget it. It mesmerised opponents as he glided to the basket for the softest of finger rolls with a doctor’s precision.
In his first year in Australia in 1981 he scored a phenomenal seventy-six points in a single game. Later he pulled down an all-Australian record forty-nine rebounds in a single game, and that was against the Australian Olympic centre at the time John Dorge. I remember that match clearly because I played in it. When I saw what Sid was doing, I subbed myself out to ensure that the statistics were being recorded accurately for the ages.
In 1999 he won his last State League Championship with the Southern Districts Spartans when he was forty-three years old, which is another record that still stands.
Sidney was also a schoolteacher and began his Australian career at Ipswich’s Basil Stafford Centre which was a facility for intellectually disabled people including children. He then taught at Ipswich State High School for twelve years and played for the Ipswich Eagles state league team, among others.
But there’s a lot more to Sidney Mines than that.
He was born in America’s deep south in Marengo County, Alabama, in a town called Faunsdale. Today it has a population of less than one hundred. Sidney was the eighth of nine siblings so his family made up most of the town.
This was just down the road from the cities of Selma, Birmingham and the state capital Montgomery. These places were sharply in the spotlight during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
When Sid was born in 1956, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was in full swing. That’s when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat.
Sid was just six years old when his parents put him in the cotton fields to pick cotton from sun-up to sun-down.
He still remembers the Alabama governor who blocked the two black students from entering the University of Alabama. A week later Martin Luther King Jr. made his “I Have a Dream” speech. Then there was the bombing of the Baptist Church in Birmingham.
When Sidney was nine years old his father Johnny Mines Jr. was a part of the town hall meetings for the Bloody Sunday civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. The marchers were attacked by police.
Sidney was sixteen when one of his childhood friends was found lynched.
But basketball brought Sidney Mines to Australia, and to that famous Toowoomba Mountaineers team.
In 2005, he was inducted into Concordia University basketball Hall of Fame – that’s where he played his college basketball in Nebraska.
In Brisbane in 2014, he was inducted into the Runcorn State High School coaches Hall of Fame – that’s where Runcorn’s basketball court was already named the ‘Sid Mines Court’ in his honour.
And just last year, he was inducted into the Marengo County Hall of Fame. That’s Marengo County in the deep south of Alabama. Sid couldn’t attend the ceremony because of Covid-19. He was the first-ever African American from Faunsdale to be inducted there.
That’s quite a piece of history for someone who went into the cotton fields at six years old to now be in hall of fames around the world.
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A VERSION OF THIS STORY TOLD LIVE ON RADIO.
Martin Luther King Jr and wife Coretta Scott King leading the march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama March 1965 – Encyclopædia Britannica
Toowoomba Mountaineers 1990 – Toowoomba Mountaineers from Sidney Mines
Sidney Mines with the Ipswich Eagles – Sidney Mines
Sydney Mines at 12-years-old – Sidney Mines