Hart the Athlete?
There is much written within the articles from various papers and posted on this website which subtly and not so subtly refers to Gene Hart as "Hart the football star", "local football legend, Gene Hart", "Locust Grove football hero...".
I have done some research on Hart's career as a football player for the Locust Grove Pirates. I could not find a whole lot to corroborate the claims of the newspapers in either the Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City) or the Tulsa World or Tulsa Tribune. The Daily Oklahoman reported much more about high school football and they gave some information where Hart is mentioned. At the same time, I can not find any articles that go along with the long standing rumors that Hart was an All State Football player or that Gene Hart was recruited by Division 1 college football teams.
At best, and at this point in my looking into the topic, it appears that Hart was a good athlete. He had some good games, especially during his senior year at Locust Grove, but he was not All State or Division 1 caliber. The topic warrants more research and the place to do this would be the library in Pryor, Oklahoma where I would expect to find more detailed articles about Hart as a football player.
As someone who keeps a close eye on high school football in Oklahoma today, I can say that a player does not have to be an All State level athlete in order to be considered a local hero or a local football star. It takes some great plays in important games. It takes toughness. It takes a few memorable events for people to later say, "I remember him. He was a fantastic football player back in high school..." And this memory is sparked by a certain play, the toughness that was exhibited by the player or a series of memorable events in a player's career.
Apparently Hart also played basketball and I have not yet looked into the details of his time on the team. But his basketball skills were never mentioned in the newspapers. In Oklahoma football is king. It seems that there was element about Hart's skills in football, or even the rumors of his skills in the game, that helped create the sympathy that many local people began to feel for Gene Leroy Hart, "the local football hero".
Number 39: Gene Leroy Hart. From his Locust Grove Pirates team photo
Gene Hart in his Locust Grove (LG) letter jacket. Pictured here most likely with his girlfriend and future wife, the mother of his only child.
An example of the articles that were written about Hart which mention his football playing days in Locust Grove, Oklahoma.
I could only find Hart's name mentioned during his senior year, that being the 1962-63 school year. Below are the results of all the games I have found published. The Locust Grove Pirates had a very successful year. I am missing at least one game in the 1962 season, but it appears the Pirates had a very successful 7-1 season. Going strictly by the published details available, Hart's best game appears to be on October 7th 1962. The team's only loss was to Coweta on November 4th 1962.
Further down you will see that Gene Hart was one of the state's high scorers with 56 total points by November 21st 1962.
Locust Grove competed in class 16B during the 1962 season.
On November 21 1962 The Daily Oklahoman listed the top scorers in the state and Gene Hart was the 3rd highest scorer in class 16B. He had scored 56 points at that point.
In the week of November 4 1962 Locust Grove had their first loss of the season against Coweta losing by a score of 44-6.
In the week of October 27 1962 Locust Grove beat Westville, Oklahoma, 22-14.
Hart seems to have thrown a pass in this game to Danny Henson for a TD.
In the week of November 17 1962 Locust Grove gets back to winning by shutting out Kansas, Oklahoma 24-0.
October 6 1962 Locust Grove tied Vian by a score
of 12-12. At that time ties were decided by the number of times a team got past the 50 yard line into the opponent's territory. Based on this, Locust Grove was declared the winner of the game.
This seems to be Hart's best football game with 17 tackles and an interception which put the Pirates in the position to ultimately score in the last minutes of the game bringing the final score to a tie score. Hart played the positions of running back and linebacker.
In the week of October 21 1962 Locust Grove defeated Colcord,
28-8, extending their winning streak. Hart scored a TD in this game on a 12 yard run.
In the week of September 23 1962 Locust Grove beat nearby Salina,
In the week of September 30 1962 Locust Grove handily blanks Oaks, Oklahoma,