While interviewing former legislators for the Indiana Legislative Oral History Initiative (ILOHI), I learned that many stories in the Indiana General Assembly’s history transcend politics. Some illuminate the human, humorous, and collegial side of the assembly. Perhaps one of the funniest occurred back in 1987 during a group excursion to an Indiana University basketball game. This is the story of how former Republican legislator John Coldren accidentally left former Democratic legislator Mark Palmer behind.
The night was Wednesday, January 28, 1987, and legislator John Coldren had just gathered a group of fourteen legislators, including Mark Palmer, to go see Indiana University play the University of Illinois in Bloomington, Indiana. For context, this wasn’t just any IU basketball team, this was the Hoosier team that would later go on to win the National Championship. Thus, the traveling party focused its attention on what promised to be an exciting game rather than on mundane details of getting there and back. The legislators arrived at the game and disembarked from the bus in time to watch IU beat the University of Illinois in a close game, 69 to 66. However, after the game, Palmer stepped away to say goodbye to his wife and friends who had come to the game separately and were seated away from him. Little did he know that while he was enjoying his brief parting exchange of pleasantries his ride home was already leaving. Because John Coldren and the other legislators were in a rush to be on their way, no one bothered to do a headcount as they boarded. Coldren describes the situation, stating, “We come flying out there and the van’s right there at the door and I want to beat the traffic back to Indianapolis. We get back to Indianapolis and when everybody gets out of the van at the State House, I go, ‘did anybody see Mark Palmer?’ And they said ‘no.’” Thus, the only trace of Mark Palmer was his coat that was left in the van.
Palmer recalled the episode this way: “And so when I went to where the van was parked, it was gone. And so, I didn’t know what to do.” Finding himself alone in Bloomington, Palmer was desperately trying to find a ride home. Luckily for him, he happened to know the father of Indiana University star player Steve Alford, whose father Sam had been Mark Palmer’s high school basketball coach. So, when he ran into Alford after at the game and explained the situation, he was subsequently invited to dinner with the Indiana University basketball team. As a result, Palmer dined with the team and received the offer of a ride home from one of the attendees. Due to a sudden turn of fortune Palmer found himself in a pretty good situation.
While Palmer was dining with the future NCAA champions, though, Coldren was scrambling to find him, calling Palmer’s roommate in Indianapolis to see if he had seen him. Keep in mind these were the days before cell phones and the internet. Unfortunately for Coldren, Palmer’s roommate hadn’t seen him either. This led Coldren to call the state police to look for Palmer. As Coldren describes, “I call the state police down in Bloomington, asking them if a legislator had come over to see if there was a way to get a ride back to Indianapolis…I think that made the front page of the Indianapolis Star.” Fortunately, Palmer would get home safely and Coldren would be able to stop worrying. Palmer arrived home around midnight and soon received a call from Coldren checking up on him, allowing them to piece together what had transpired.
When the legislators returned to the State House together the next day, there were quite a few jokes about the whole debacle. The House even drafted a resolution about Mark Palmer being lost and then found. Coldren would make a sign for Palmer to wear, proclaiming “MY NAME IS MARK PALMER IF FOUND PLEASE RETURN ME TO HOUSE.” Additionally, Palmer would make a humorous speech on the House floor about the incident, talking about how both Republican and Democratic legislators didn’t realize he was gone. Feigning suffering, he concluded, “The thing that hurt the worst was that no one realized I wasn’t there until they got back to Indianapolis…It was a bipartisan lack of effort.” In response, Coldren delivered his own speech and noted jokingly, “Making 14 out of 15 shots in basketball is considered good, but when you have only 14 out of 15 in a van, you’re considered a bad driver.” 
Yet, the story doesn’t end there. Palmer would get revenge against Coldren with the help of some legislative colleagues and the president of Indiana University, John Ryan. The day was February 4, 1987, and Coldren and another group of legislators would go to a game to see Indiana University play against Michigan State University. After IU’s win, President Ryan and some legislators conspired against Coldren on behalf of Palmer. At the game’s conclusion, President Ryan invited Coldren to visit the IU locker room. While Coldren was in the locker room, the rest of the legislators slipped away without him and drove home. Eventually, they let Coldren in on the joke and gave him a ride home. Subsequently, the next day on the House floor, Speaker of the House Paul Mannweiler made a statement: “John Coldren 1. Mark Palmer 1. No rematch is planned.”
 Bell, “Party of Lawmakers Misses Mark.”