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McClary, Harold W. (1907-1994) -- Husky basketball's first Big Man

HistoryLink.org Essay 4048 : Printer-Friendly Format

Harold "Stork" McClary, a six-foot-seven-inch center for the University of Washington Huskies in the late 1920s and early 1930s, was one of basketball's first talented "big men." In the 1928, 1929 and 1930 basketball seasons, the UW Huskies, under coach Clarence S. "Hec" Edmundson (1887-1964), won three successive Pacific Coast Conference, Northern Division titles. Contributing greatly to the Huskies' success was their tall, lanky center, "Stork" McClary, who was selected three times for the PCC Northern Division first-team all-conference squad. In 1929, Harold McClary was chosen by Knute Rockne for his "All-America Team."

Harold William McClary was born on September 19, 1907, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to William and Maude McClary. William McClary, who worked for the Great Northern Railroad, brought his family to Seattle in 1917. By 1920, the McClary family had established their permanent home in West Seattle where Harold attended high school. He was a good student and an excellent athlete. In 1925, Harold "Stork" McClary helped lead the West Seattle High School "Indians" to their first city championships in both football and basketball. He was chosen to be a member of the Seattle City 1925 all-star football and basketball teams.

Because of his athletic ability and six-foot-seven-inch stature, Harold McClary received a scholarship to the University of Washington, enrolling as a freshman in the fall of 1926. He turned out for freshman basketball and made the team without much difficulty. "Stork" worked hard that first season (1927), under the tutelage of freshman coach Dorsett "Tubby" Graves, improving his ball handling skills and learning to use his height to best advantage.

In the 1928 Husky basketball season, Harold McClary made the varsity squad, second string. Toward the end of the season, hard work and perseverance paid off, and "Stork" moved into the starting lineup. During this year, the Washington Pavilion (renamed for head basketball coach Hec Edmundson in 1948) opened its doors for the first time with three games against the University of Illinois, which the Huskies won, 2-1. The Huskies went on to win the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC), Northern Division title, but lost the conference championship to the University of Southern California Trojans in Los Angeles. Harold McClary made the PCC Northern Division coaches, all-conference first-team.

The 1929 Huskies found "Stork" McClary and his teammates winning 17 straight games (18-2 for the season) and the Pacific Coast Conference, Northern Division title. The University of California Bears won the conference against the the University of Washington Huskies before 9,000 fans at the Washington Pavilion in Seattle. Harold McClary was again named to the PCC Northern Division first-team all-conference squad. In addition, Knute Rockne, famous coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, selected "Stork" McClary as a member of his 1929 mythical "All-America Team." Rockne declared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "The University of Washington won the Pacific Northwest championship though losing in the final series for the Coast championship. McClary, a six foot seven center, has been largely responsible for Washington's fine showing. Under the basket, he was always a scoring threat and he handled himself very cleverly for such a big man."

In 1930, the Husky basketball squad elected "Stork" McClary, captain of the team. He was one of the best centers in the country by now, quite lithe and agile for a man so tall. For the third year in a row, the Huskies won the Pacific Coast Conference Northern Division title. But again, the Huskies lost the conference championship to University of Southern California Trojans in Los Angeles. Also for the third time, Harold was chosen by the coaches of the Northern Division, Pacific Coast Conference, for the all-star basketball first-team.

Harold W. McClary graduated from the University of Washington, School of Forestry with a Bachelor of Science degree on June 16, 1930. One month later, on August 5, 1930, he married another UW graduate, Roberta Anna Bellazzi. The couple moved to Tacoma, Washington, where he began working in the wood products industry. While living in Tacoma, "Stork" played basketball for the Tacoma Semi-Pros. Semi-professional basketball teams, usually sponsored by local businesses, were quite active and popular in the Northwest from 1920 through 1950. The teams played demanding schedules, winding up the basketball season with tournaments and a championship play-off. Television and the expansion of professional basketball in the 1950s and 1960s, were mainly responsible for the demise of the semi-professional leagues. Ironically, college basketball became more popular than ever.

Harold and Roberta McClary had two sons, Douglas Neil, born November 24, 1931, and David Harold, born March 24, 1934. Like their parents, both sons went to the UW, attaining their own levels of prominence in sports and academics. Harold McClary spent his entire career in the wood products industry, becoming an expert in plywood manufacturing. He retired as vice president and general manager of the Simpson Timber International Division in Shelton, Washington.

Harold W. "Stork" McClary died on December 15, 1994, at age 87. He will always be remembered by the University of Washington Huskies as their basketball team's first "big man."

Sources:
Chuck Bechtol, "The McClary Family of Washington," Washington Alumnus, Summer, 1952, p. 10; West Side Story ed. by Clay Eals (Seattle: Robinson Newspapers, 1987); The Tyee 1930 (Seattle: Associated Students of the University of Washington, 1930); "Thornton Gets Most Credit as Gridders Pick All-Star Team," The Seattle Times, December 2, 1925, p. 2; "Husky Five Defeated By 27-26 Score," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 7, 1928, p. 21; "Near Regulars Fight for Jobs with Freshmen," The Seattle Times, December 8, 1929, p. 29; "Great Rally by Huskies Falls Short," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 3, 1929, p. 19; "McClary Put On Rockne's All-America Team," Ibid., March 31, 1929, p. 19; "Oregon Pushed Out of Title Picture, 32-25," The Seattle Times, March 1, 1930, p. 8; "Huskies Land Three Men in All-Star Lot," Ibid., March 2, 1930, p. 25; "U.S.C. Gets Lead in Early Dash; Final is 37-29," Ibid., March 11, 1930, p. 20; "Harold W. McClary," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 16, 1994, p. B-4; "Services for Ex-UW Star To Be Held Today," Ibid., December 21, 1994, p. D-2.


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Harold W. (Stork) McClary (1907-1994), West Seattle Indians, 1925
Courtesy Daryl McClary


Harold W. McClary (1907-1994), 1930
Courtesy Daryl McClary


 
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