That all changed on Nov. 3, 1916, when the Charlestown Pirates under coach Arthur Blythe traveled to Henryville High School to play in their first competitive game.
“I was amazed reading about Henryville, because they were the first team we played back in the 1916 season and they played the game on a dirt floor. They didn’t have a basketball floor,” Ledbetter said.
Beginner’s luck didn’t help the Pirates that night. Charlestown lost to its regional counterparts 12-11. Not to worry though. Only seven days later, Charlestown avenged its inaugural loss by beating the Hornets 24-21.
Ledbetter found in his investigation that basketball has changed quite a bit since Charlestown first adopted the sport. Imagine a time when players had to jump for the ball after every made basket. Between these breaks that slowed down the game and the 3-point shot almost half a century away, scores remained low during the early years.
In the decades that followed, coaches changed and different players emerged to continue the Pirate tradition. Ledbetter said his book gives the history of these leaders and their contributions to the school and the sport.
“Each coach brought their own personality and brought a new level of the game to the young boys here in Charlestown, going way back to where Arthur Blythe was the first coach,” he said. “All those coaches had some effect on our program and where we are today. We might not see it that away, but when you put it all in to one little box or one little book and you see it back to back ... I see that gradual change in each little phase of our basketball program and how we developed.”
Not a stranger to the feel of a leather ball, Ledbetter experienced the thrill of running up and down the court firsthand when he played for Coach John Wood at CHS in the late 1950s. A self-described bench warmer, the 1961 graduate said he learned to love basketball while watching the other players on the court. Later, he’d cheer on his own brother, Ben, from the stands. Ben went on to coach the basketball team in the late 1990s.