Bath Balyki High School “Thunderbirds”

Bath Balyki High School (side view)
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Home of the Thunderbirds

The History of Balyki High School

Bath (population 310) is a small town located on the banks of the East Branch of the Illinois River. The town is situated on the western edge of Mason County on Il. Rt. 78, approximately 9 miles south of Havana.

There is limited information available on the IHSA web site ( regarding the high school. There is listed a Bath-Lynchburg High School and a Bath Balyki High School under Boys Basketball. Lynchburg is a township around Bath and Kilbourne is a town near Bath. Hence, the name Balyki comes from BAth + LYnchburg + Kilbourne.

The school faired quite well in boys’ basketball. The last season listed on the IHSA web site is for girls volleyball covering the 1987-88 season. Bath Balyki HS was deactivated in 1992. Former Balyki School Board member Doug Blessman tells us the following about the end of Balyki High School:

“I was Vice President of the Balyki School Board and the closing date was June 30,1992. The school board met sometime around the 30th of June 1992, and as no new or old business was presented a motion was made to sign and die, and that concluded all school activity. In December the Board presented a motion to stop all athletic competition between Havana and Balyki for the 1991-1992 year.Several things were done to make the transition as smooth as possible,including all Balyki students (except seniors) were transported to their new school. At arrival each student was greeted by an Havana student of the same class,these mentors were to take the Balyki student to all their classes and to show them where classrooms, restrooms, offices, and everywhere they needed to go.  I would go to the high school Principal,Mr.Emme every fall for 5 years to check on the Balyki student’s progress.  Mr Emme told me that the Balyki students had acclimated very well and that there was no fighting that was feared by some people of the Balyki school district.”

The students from Bath are now attending the Havana school system.

Two great website addresses helping keep the Thunderbird Spirit alive can be viewed at:  and

The pages were developed alumnus Kenny Crookes, a great fan of the Glory Days site. These pages are fun to read with some classic photos from the “glory days” of Bath Balyki High School!

If you have any further information regarding Bath Balyki HS, please complete a school submission form.

Balyki High School Quick Facts

Year opened:            1954

Year closed:             1992

School nickname:     Thunderbirds

School colors:           Blue, Silver, and White

School building:        Still standing/vacant, used for storage

School Fight Song:   “Cheer, Cheer, for Ole Balyki”

Notre Dame University Fight Song tune –

                                          Thank you to Angie Haarman for the lyrics.

 Cheer, Cheer for Old Balyki…
Our team will never, ever say die,
Boys are Loyal, girls are too,
They’ll fight to win for the white and blue

They’ll make some baskets, they’ll raise the score…
They’ll buckle down and bring in some more…
Victory for the Thunderbirds,
They’re winning again tonight…

B – B – BAL     Y – Y – YKI  

                                BAL   YKI

                                BALYKI !!!!!!!

Welcome to the Thunderbirds Gymnasium
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Thunderbird Mascot
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Balyki High School


The Thunderbirds were forces to be reckoned with in boys’ basketball all the way to the end of the Balyki H.S. existence. The boys’ basketball teams won 1 District title and 2 Regional titles, the last one coming during the 1985-86 season. We are told there were some classic battles on the hardwood between Bath Balyki and Havana prior to their merger. Their best seasons as can be researched are listed below.

We are also told that the Balyki High School building in Bath (pictured at the top of this page) housed its gymnasium on the second floor. The gym was said to be quaint but sturdy. This gym was later converted to other uses for the school when the new “Thunderdome” gymnasium was built.

The “Green Duck Trophy”
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Submitted by Ted Connolly –

As the Bath Balyki HS “Thunderbirds”

1955-56    5-17                                            Coach Ernest Oest

1954-55    6-18                                            Coach Ernest Oest

1956-57  10-13                                            Coach Robert Rees

1957-58  20-8         District Champions       Coach Robert Rees

1958-59  16-11                                            Coach Ed Butkovich

1959-60  15-11                                            Coach Ed Butkovich

1960-61    5-17                                            Coach Ed Butkovich

1961-62    7-15                                            Coach Ed Butkovich

1962-63    8-13                                            Coach Ed Butkovich

1963-64    3-19                                            Coach Ed Butkovich

1964-65    9-16                                            Coach Larry Huber

1965-66    9-12                                            Coach Larry Huber

1966-67    8-17                                            Coach Larry Huber

1967-68    7-15                                            Coach Larry Huber

1968-69    9-14                                            Coach Larry Huber

1969-70  12-12                                            Coach Jim Crum

1970-71  11-14                                            Coach Fred Sherwood

1971-72  17-8                                              Coach Fred Sherwood

1972-73  20-6     Regional Champions        Coach Fred Sherwood

1973-74    2-20                                            Coach Fred Sherwood

1974-75  13-11                                            Coach Fred Sherwood

1975-76  10-15                                            Coach Fred Sherwood

1976-77    9-13                                            Coach Jim Doolin

1977-78  11-11                                            Coach Jim Doolin

1978-79  16-11                                            Coach Jim Doolin

1979-80  12-15                                            Coach Eric Sarff

1980-81    6-17                                            Coach Eric Sarff

1981-82    4-20                                            Coach Eric Sarff

1982-83    9-15                                            Coach Eric Sarff

1983-84  14-13                                            Coach Eric Sarff

1984-85  21-7     (nice record)                       Coach Eric Sarff

1985-86   24-4    Regional Champions        Coach Eric Sarff

                          Sectional Runner-up

1986-87   14-12                                            Coach Eric Sarff

1987-88   21-5    Mason County                   Coach Eric Sarff

                         Tourn. Champs


Coach Eric Sarff (who also played at Bath during his high school years, and was one of many Sarff’s who played at the school down through the years) put together a very good basketball squad which had a 21-5 season record.  Mike Willing, Alen Dearing, Rich Justice and Scott Friend did the bulk of the scoring.  Others who contributed were Brian Carron, Chuck Ranson, Scott Snyder, David Session, Roger Prater, Jason Miller, Bryan Mapes and Shane Richardson.

They took the Mason County tournament with a decisive 73-53 win over San Jose in the semi-final and then edged Manito Forman 61-59 to claim the championship.

Their season ended in the Regional tournament semi-final, losing to Havana 55-45.  The Mason County Democrat newspaper wrote a brief description of the Balyki-Havana game which summed up their rivalry:  “Havana and Balyki share a long-standing rivalry on the court and the intensity of that relationship showed in the game.”


1988-89   20-7                                       Coach Eric Sarff

1989-90   12-15                                     Coach David Kibelkis

1990-91   13-15  Final Season                Coach David Kibelkis


Balyki and Havana split two games, ending a basketball rivalry dating back to the 1920’s.  Pat Price and Aaron Session both topped the 1000 career scoring mark for coach David Kibelkis.  Final record: 13-15.


by Phil Shadid

The Thunderbirds (mostly known in Mason County as the T-Birds) played their final boys basketball game on Feb. 20, 1991.  It was a loss to county rival Havana, 74-68, in the semi-final of the Lewistown Regional.  Balyki’s scoring for the Havana game: Price 22, Session 22, Atkins 10, Dossett 9, Pratt 5.  The last victory for the T-Birds was the day before, when they beat Astoria, 62-55.

The best season in the history of the school was 1985-86 under the coaching of Eric Sarff.  The team had a final record of 24-4, won the Havana Regional and was runnerup to Warsaw in the Bushnell-Prairie City Class A Sectional tourney.

Balyki won the New Salem Conference with a perfect 7-0 record, and finished second to Mason City in the annual Mason County tournament.  The school’s final County championship occurred in 1932 when they were known as Bath-Lynchburg.  (Mason County had eight high schools at one time, but after 1991 it was down to just three, ending a tournament tradition that lasted 71 years.  The five schools which went out of existence were Bath Balyki, EastonForest CityKilbourneSan Jose; only Havana, Manito Midwest Central and Mason City Illini Central remain.)

An unusual mark was written in the 1986 Regional as Balyki held all three of their opponents to 64 points each. They beat Bushnell-PC 66-64, beat Lewistown 69-64, and won the tournament over Havana, 68-64.  The victory over Havana secured the traveling trophy “Green Duck” which is now on permanent display in the Bath Community Center (see photo on this page).  Green Duck history is courtesy of Ted Connolly.

The stars of the 1985-86 team were Mark Clark (who later was a major league pitcher) and Troy Fletcher.  Others who played big roles on the team were Don Heye, Tony Hardy, David Lane, Mike Willing, Alan Dearing, Corey Fanter, Mark Fornoff.”

**More from our good friend Phil Shadid:

Information regarding the MASON COUNTY BOYS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT, which was held for 68 years, and ended in 1989:

Bath BALYKI won one County Tourney championship, while finishing second 4 other times!!

The ‘Green Duck’ (photo is on the Bath webpage) was a traveling trophy which Mason County high school basketball teams competed for between 1947 and 1989.  It was a hand-carved wood decoy donated by the Pekin Daily Times newspaper.  The first team to win the duck was Manito, which defeated Forest City on Nov. 14, 1947.  Manito could keep the trophy until they were beaten by another Mason County team.  So the duck was exchanged a few times in the 1947-48 season and was last won by Havana at the close of the campaign.  The following season (1948-49), Manito wound up with the best record in the county (22-3), won the trophy back from Havana, and kept it until the next season.

As teams warmed up prior to the start of a game, the Green Duck was brought out and placed in the middle of the court so that everyone knew what was at stake.

Bath Balyki won the Green Duck in 1988 when it claimed the county championship.  However, the next year, the final year of the county tournament, Havana won the championship, but the duck was no where to be found.

Many years later, it was discovered at the Bath community center and is proudly displayed in that building.  Some folks in Havana would like to retrieve the duck, but it’s unlikely that Bath will give it up!””

Girls Volleyball

Bath Balyki offered girls’ volleyball and some of the seasons are recorded on the IHSA web site. In fact, the years of 1975-88 are listed on the site. The best record is listed below.

1986-87    14-  7                                                     Coach Dena Lienberger

Balyki’s Own Mark Clark
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Submitted by Beau Spencer

Boys Baseball

The Thunderbirds also offered baseball for their students with the earliest game dating back to as far as 1956, when they fell to Lewistown in a close game, 6-5.  One of the more famous athletes to grace the field at BBHS was a player named Mark Clark.  An excellent ball player, Clark played professional baseball for the Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, and St. Louis Cardinals.

As one fan wrote to us:

“I am a 2002 graduate of Lewistown H.S., which is just across the Illinois River from Havana. (Bath) also offered baseball. They had a star player named Mark Clark (who) later went on to play for the Rangers and the Indians. Their school colors were blue and white and they were called the Thunderbirds. Hope this helps.”

Joey M.   submitted March 14, 2005

Mark Clark’s Chicago Cubs baseball card is pictured above to the right!!

Girls Basketball

The Lady Thunderbirds played basketball as well. The following records were provided to us by our good friend Phil Shadid.

1979-80   5-7                                                          Coach Stanley Butler

1980-81   7-10                                                        Coach Stanley Butler

Other Sports Offered

Bath Balyki High School probably offered more sports for its students. Cherie Smith (Class of 1987) offered this bit of information:

“I went to Balyki and graduated in 1987. Eric Sarff was the Boys Sports Athletic Director. Dena Leinberger was the Girls Sports coach. We also had a golf team for a little while, the coach was Coach Lounsberry.”


The very last sporting events both occurred on May 14, 1991.  The girls softball team lost in the Lewistown Regional and the boys baseball squad were defeated in the Rushville Regional.

On May 24, 1991, eighteens seniors graduated, and the school closed forever.

Great Players    

Other great players for Bath Balyki included Jason Miller, Troy Fletcher, Lee Griffin, and Trevor Moore

Great Coaches

*Ed Butkovich – Coached at Balyki in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He went on to have a career record of 628-400 after moving on to Mt. Pulaski.

From Ted Connolly regarding Coach Butkovich:

Ed was my coach and he was at Balyki from 1959 till 1964. Also I have a story on about the local Green Duck trophy and I have also attached a photo for you. See the story at the following direct links Havana, Illinois – Strike Up The Band  and Havana News – Topix .”


Michelle Miller:

“I was there the last year. We were all sad to see it go, …Balyki will forever live in our hearts.”


Goes out to the Village of Bath, Havana Public Library, the A. Lincoln Presidential Library for microfilm records of State Journal-Register (Springfield) and Mason County Democrat (Havana).

Thank you also to Phil Shadid, for his interest in keeping the memories of schools like Bath Balyki alive and well!!


Seeking Further Information

We are seeking information regarding Bath Balyki’s storied past. Please contact us via e-mail at or write to us at:

Illinois HS Glory Days

6439 N. Neva Ave.

Chicago, IL  60631

Bath-Balyki High School from the Front
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Balyki vs. B.P.C.
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1985 Havana Regional
Balyki Vs. Chandlerville 1983-84 Season
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                                                                                                                  At Chandlerville….What a Crowd!!!!

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