News Release

Mormon Missionaries Beat Olympians at Their Own Game

"Mormon Yankees" Video Explains 1950s Church Basketball Success

Fifty years ago, Mormon missionaries in Victoria played exhibition games with Olympic teams from around the world prior to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. They called their team the "Mormon Yankees" and they brought favorable publicity to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when they started out-scoring the Olympians.

Members of the Australian Olympic team said they appreciated the boost the missionaries gave to the game of basketball. "It was a new sport in Australia. They showed us how to play the game. They raised the standard and taught us," was one reflection.

The missionaries were asked to practise and play games with various Olympic teams in the weeks preceding the official games. Composed mostly of missionaries serving in the Victoria District of the South Australia Mission, the team played the Russians, Chinese (Taiwanese), Chilean, French, American and Australian Olympic teams.

They defeated all but the Russians and the Americans, who eventually won the Olympic silver and gold medals respectively. After the Olympics, the Mormon Yankees then traveled to Tasmania and played three exhibition games against the Chinese team, winning two out of three games.

Reports in the Church News of 17th November 1956, indicated that "throughout the games, literature of the Church was distributed to the hundreds of spectators which has resulted in a growing interest of investigators and a great deal of favorable publicity for the Church in Australia."

To view "Mormon Missionaries: Giants On and Off the Court", click here.


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