By Jean Doran Matua, Editor
Award-winning sportswriter Patrick C. Borzi has written a book that just came out Nov. 6: “Minnesota Made Me.” It features dozens of the state’s most accomplished athletes, coaches, broadcasters, and executives. The book is available at amazon.com.
Right in the middle of the book – between Lou Nanne and Toni Oliva – is Eden Valley’s own Elvera “Peps” Neuman. Although best known today as the “blanket lady” at Gopher Women’s Basketball games, Neuman was quite the basketball star in her day. That was way before women’s basketball was even a thing.
Neuman was included in John A. Molina’s book “Barnstorming America: Stories from the Pioneers of Women’s Basketball” just a few years ago. He calls Neuman the Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth of the barnstorming era, when traveling women’s teams were the only way to play competitive basketball. Neuman owned her own team, the Arkansas Gems who played hard basketball against men’s teams, and showed off Harlem Globetrotter-style tricks at halftime to entertain the crowds.
Since then, she has become a regular feature at Gopher Women’s games as well as Eden Valley-
Watkins girls’ basketball home games. She is the quintessential fan of girls’ and women’s basketball.
The auxiliary gym (or the “old” gym) at EV-W high school was recently named for Peps Neuman. It was in this very gym where she started her own high school league of sorts. In her professional career, that gym was her off-season practice gym, and her team played several competitive games there as well.
The Tri-County News has done a couple of feature stories on Neuman, including when the EV-W superintendent surprised her at halftime during a game to announce the naming of the Peps Neuman Gymnasium. Another story ran in February this year when Neuman was presented a “Breaking Barriers” award at the 32nd annual Minnesota Girls and Women in Sports Day at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. Those stories were cited in the bibliography of “Minnesota Made Me.”
Neuman lives in Clearwater, and still attends church in Eden Valley. You’ll see her at home girls’ basketball games, center court and way up in the bleachers. Or you’ll see her at Gopher Women’s Basketball home games, running up and down the court with her Gophers blanket. Wherever you do see her, be sure to say “hi” and “thank you” for all she’s done for the sport.