Monthly Archives: May 2020
So long, St. Louis–for the time being
St. Louis (both the city itself and the county) will re-open tomorrow, just as I’m heading back to Russell. Even though I would like to stay, there comes a time when travelers must return home. Tomorrow will be that day for yours truly.
Even though there wasn’t much to do, this venture was a success. I got what I came for (White Castle, Pibb Zero, Vienna Beef Polish sausage, Nathan’s Famous bagel dogs, capicola and mortadella, steaks for Father’s Day), discovered some new things (provel cheese, soap at Whole Foods) and rediscovered something I really like (sushi, as long as it doesn’t have cream cheese).
The bad news? I won’t be eating White Castle or provel again until I return to St. Louis, save for the leftover White Castle I eat on I-70 west tomorrow and the 24 slices of provel I’m bringing back. The good news? Dillons in Hays sells sushi, Pibb Zero and the cold cuts are available in Salina (as long as Dillons keeps them in stock), and Whole Foods is in Wichita. I can also order soap online.
The hotel in Chesterfield is isolated from restaurants and stores, but I’m used to that at two of the hotels I frequent in Kansas City, one at Briarcliff and the other near Kansas City International Airport. There’s easy access to Interstate 64 from the Chesterfield hotel the same way I-29 is easily accessible from KCI and US 169 is easily accessible from Briarcliff to get me to I-29 or I-35.
I usually don’t like first floor rooms, but this week, it has made life easy. It’s near a side entrance AND the dumpster, a daily double. I bring my trash out each day and throw it over the doors instead of leaving it in the hallway and/or letting it pile up. The doors to the dumpster have been open the last two days, allowing me to dispose of boxes and the cartons the Pibb Zero came in. It will make loading the Buick much easier tomorrow–I won’t need a cart. With all the things I’m loading, it’s great to have a first floor room near a side entrance!
Here’s hoping the Cardinals will be playing at Busch Stadium by this time in July, and the Blues will be on their way to successfully defending the Stanley Cup. St. Louis loves its sports more than nearly every other major city in America, and without the Cardinals and Blues, something seems off in the Gateway City.
Coincidentally, I’ll pass by the Truman Sports Complex in Kansas City (unless I detour at Interstate 470 in Independence and go around the south side of the metro area on Interstate 435 to Kansas Highway 10). The Royals are hoping to be playing at Kauffman soon, and the Chiefs want to start on time, which means they host the NFL’s first game of the 2020 regular season on 10 September vs. the Texans.
That’s it for me from St. Louis. But as MacArthur famously said, I shall return.
The NBA’s Memorex Moment
Forty years ago tonight, the Los Angeles Lakers were in Philadelphia, looking to defeat the 76ers in the sixth game of the NBA World Championship Series and bring the Walter Brown Trophy back to southern California.
If the Lakers wanted to avoid a seventh game at ingelwood less than 48 hours later, they would have to do so without the 1979-80 Most Valuable Player.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who won his record sixth MVP as the Lakers went 60-22, one game behind the Celtics for the NBA’s best record, suffered a high ankle sprain on his left ankle during the third quarter of the Lakers’ 108-103 victory two nights prior.
Abdul-Jabbar played the fourth quarter on the injured ankle and scored 14 points in the stanza, giving him 40 for the night. The 76ers’ woefully weak center combination of Darryl Dawkins and Caldwell Jones helped Kareem’s cause. When Philadelphia finally upgraded its center situation three years later, the results were much different. I’ll get to that later.
On the advice of Lakers team doctor Robert Kerlan and trainer Jack Curran, coach Paul Westhead and the rest of the Lakers, including 20-year old rookie Earvin Johnson, made the cross-country flight to Philadelphia without the 33-year old legend, who was seeking his second NBA championship, but first since winning it all with Milwaukee in 1971.
Philadelphia was quite fortunate to be in a game six to be honest. They nearly blew a 23-point lead at Ingelwood in game two, and it took a late flurry in game four, highlighted by spectacular baseline up-and-under by Julius Erving, to pull out a three-point win. The Lakers won easily in games one and three, then won a tight game five.
Most national pundits believed Philadelphia would exploit Los Angeles’ hole in the midlde and sent the series back to California. The simplest option would be to move Jim Chones, the former Cavaliers All-Star, to center and insert Mark Landsberger at power forward.
However, Landsberger had been overpowered by Dawkins and Jones when giving Abdul-Jabbar a rest earlier in the series, and he forever became a highlight film staple after Dr. J drove around him in the fourth game.
Westhead and assistant coach Pat Riley made a bold move.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson wold start at center, allowing defensive ace and long-range shooting specialist Michael Cooper into the backcourt with Norm Nixon.
Magic was only 14 months removed from leading Michigan State to a 75-64 victory over Indiana State and its superstar, Larry Bird, in the NCAA championship game at Salt Lake City, the highest rated college basketball game ever, a distinction it still holds 41 years later.
Though not old enough to consume alcohol in most jurisdictions, Magic played well beyond his years the evening of 16 May 1980.
Johnson turned in the greatest individual performance in an NBA championship game, before or after, with 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists as the Lakers routed the 76ers 123-107 in front of 17,000 shocked patrons at The Spectrum. The game was tied 60-60 at halftime, but after Los Angeles scored the first 14 points of the third quarter, Kareem could celebrate at home, and mayor Tom Bradley could announce the exact date and time for the first victory parade in the City of Angels in eight years.
Too bad most of the United States could not watch Magic’s scintillating performance in real time.
CBS, which televised the NBA from 1973 through 1990, inexplicably chose to air game six of the 1980 championship series on tape delay.
The NBA’s television ratings were in the toilet, and CBS did not want to preempt prime time programming for a basketball game which might draw a third to a quarter of the ratings of one of its primetime powerhouses.
When games were played in the Pacific Time Zone, CBS aired them live at 23:30 Eastern/22:30 Central after the late news. The Mountain Time Zone was delayed by an hour, but the Pacific zone was delayed by three hours unless the local affiliate preempted the prime time schedule and showed the game live.
Los Angeles obviously aired the games live. So did Portland and Seattle, where enthusiasm for the NBA was unbridled. The Trail Blazers were Oregon’s first major professional sports team, and remained that way until the Timbers joined Major League Soccer. The Super Sonics were THE thing in Seattle, even with the Seahawks and Mariners both starting play in the late 1970s.
The other market in the west to air all games live? Las Vegas, for obvious reasons.
Games two and five started at 20:30 Pacific. Yes, they were live in Philadelphia, but how many people stayed up until 01:45 the next morning to watch them to conclusion?
Meanwhile, weeknight games in the other three time zones were tape delayed to air at 23:30 Eastern and Pacific/22:30 Central and Mountain. CBS pulled the stunt during game two of the 1979 championship series from Washington, but it DID air game five live nationwide.
In the 1980 championship series, games three and four in Philadelphia were played Mother’s Day weekend, Saturday at 15:30 Eastern and Sunday at 13:00 Eastern. CBS would not be as fortunate for game six.
On the surface, CBS’ choice was logical. Do not preempt two of your highest rated shows, The Dukes of Hazzard and Dallas, the latter ranking number one for all television shows in 1979-80.
There was one flaw in CBS’ logic the evening of 16 May 1980.
Dukes and Dallas were already airing reruns.
J.R. Ewing was shot on 21 March 1980, seven weeks before Earvin Johnson became truly Magic.
All three networks ended their 1979-80 seasons in late March or early April, fearing the Screen Actors Guild would go on strike in the spring or early summer. That came to pass in June, and it delayed the opening of the 1980-81 season until November (America didn’t find out Kristin Shepard shot J.R. until 21 November, two months later than CBS had hoped), December, or even January (NBC did not air the first episode of Hill Street Blues until 15 January, 10 days before it broadcast Super Bowl XV).
With reruns already airing, it would have hurt nothing to air the game from Philadelphia live at 21:00, but CBS figured old episodes were better than new basketball.
Again, if you were living in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle and Las Vegas, you were in luck.
The other place to air the game live? Atlanta, where the CBS affiliate refused to show NBA games not involving the Hawks. However, an independent station figured the sports fans of north Georgia needed something other to watch than the pitiful Braves on WTBS, so it aired game six live.
Therefore, large markets like New York, Chicago, Houston, Detroit, Dallas/Fort Worth, San Francisco, Washington, Baltimore, Phoenix and Miami were all out of luck. San Francisco and Phoenix, of course, could have aired the game live and only would have had to adjust the regular Friday night programming back at most 30 minutes for game overrun.
It was well past bedtime for myself and my brother. Then again, I doubt there were very many NBA fans in New Orleans in the spring of 1980, since the 1979-80 season was the first for the Jazz in Utah after five seasons in the Crescent City. Utah probably should have let the new team in New Orleans reacquire the Jazz nickname when they moved in 2002, but that’s too confusing to go into right now.
There were a lot of negative articles written about CBS tape delaying the deciding game of the NBA championship series, but it didn’t change anything, at least in the short term.
The 1981 championship series featured the Celtics for the first time since 1976, and the Rockets for the first time ever. Houston won the Western Conference at 40-42, defeating the 40-42 Kansas City Kings in the conference finals.
With a team from the Eastern Time Zone taking on a team from the Central Time Zone, it meant tape delay at least twice, and possibly four times if the series reached a game six.
The first two games in Boston tipped at 19:35 Eastern, meaning a four hour for those not in Boston or Houston. Games three and four from Houston were live on Mother’s Day weekend. Game three was the last Saturday game in an NBA championship series, and game four started at 12:05 Central so CBS could televise golf afterwards.
Game five tipped at 21:00 Eastern and aired at the standard 23:35 Eastern/22:35 Central.
The sixth and deciding game started at 21:05 Central, the latest start to an NBA championship game in the Central Time Zone. Boston won in six, the first of their three championships with Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale.
Philadelphia and Los Angeles met again for the NBA championship with one major difference: all games were televised live on CBS.
The NBA agreed to start its regular season later beginning in 1981-82, allowing the championship series to be played after the network prime time seasons ended in mid-May. There were four weeknight games, including the clinching game six on 8 June, where the Lakers prevailed and left the 76ers as the NBA’s bridesmaids for the third time in six seasons.
The 76ers finally realized they needed a big change at center in order to stymie Kareem. Billy Cunningham made the biggest change he could by acquiring Moses Malone from the Rockets, and on 31 May 1983, Philadelphia had its first NBA championship in 16 years, sweeping Los Angeles.
The NFL and Major League Baseball would never dare to air any playoff game, let alone a championship contest, on tape delay. The NHL has aired just about every Stanley Cup Finals game live in Canada since the 1950s, but in America, its coverage has been far worse. Many cities had no NHL on television from 1976-79, and from 1989-92, most couldn’t see any NHL games because of an asinine deal with SportsChannel America, which thankfully no longer exists.
The German Bundesliga returned today, albeit without fans. But it’s LIVE SPORTS. NASCAR races tomorrow at Darlington.
Let’s hope there’s light at the end of the tunnel, although the alarmists hope we’re sitting at home twiddling our thumbs without anything to watch until 2021 or later.
Beards and no masks? I’ve got a REAL problem.
Day six in St. Louis featured trips to two supermarkets in St. Peters not too far apart. I counted seven people not wearing masks. All were male, and all but one had a beard.
It wasn’t the first time. In nine of the ten grocery stores I have visited in St. Louis, more than 80 percent of the maskless people were men with beards. I have rarely encountered a woman without a mask.
I told Peggy this. I prefaced it by saying she might not like it. Her son, Conor has worn a beard since he was in high school, and her three sons-in-law all have them, although Sam, Chelsea’s husband, does go clean shaven frequently.
I would trade my father’s facial hair for mine. My father could not grow a beard if he went without shaving for a full year. He tried growing a porn star mustache in November 1976, which looked pathetic. He had the mustache on the day of my baptism, and every time I looked at that picture, I didn’t know whether to laugh or gag. Sometimes I did both.
The only time I went an extended period without shaving was when I was in the hospital. The first time I saw my face in the mirror I nearly threw up. It was ugly. The most I ever go without shaving is one day. I don’t shave with the double edge safety razor every day right now, but I have a high-end Braun electric to touch up.
Notice I sad “9 of 10” grocery stores in the second paragraph. That’s because the 10th was Whole Foods, which won’t let you in if you’re not wearing a mask. The store provides masks, but if you don’t want to wear it, you have to leave immediately.
I don’t know how much the surgical masks I am wearing prevent against catching COVID-19, but they definitely prevent against sneezes and coughs spreading. I sneezed today in Dierbergs, and I felt good knowing the particles didn’t spread.
I feel better with the blue surgical masks than with a cloth mask. Two ladies were wearing Blues masks at Schnucks. Too bad I don’t know French or I would have said “Go Habs” in French. Montreal did beat St. Louis in both meetings this season, about the only thing that’s gone right for the Canadiens this season. Hey, at least it is still 23-1 Montreal over St. Louis in times winning the Stanley Cup.
N95 masks would be the best, but the doctors need them. I hope Dr. Custer and the rest of the staff at Hays Medical Center has been able to secure them.
I still have not seen blue surgical masks sold anywhere except Hen House in Johnson County, where I’ve seen them at the Leawood and Prairie Village locations. Speaking of Prairie Village, everyone who goes out in public in that city now has to wear a mask, thanks to an ordinance passed by the city council there.
I’m curious to find out how many people in Hays are wearing masks now. I’m going there Tuesday to Walgreens to pick up medication. I may stop at Dillons just for fun, because heaven knows I don’t need food after all I’m bringing back from St. Louis.
I gorged myself yesterday on sushi, plus I ate a salmon filet and grilled cheese.
The grilled cheese was not made of cheddar, swiss or provolone. I decided to try a St. Louis specialty.
It’s called Provel, and it’s a processed mix of the three cheeses I just mentioned. It is used as the main cheese (instead of mozzarella) by St. Louis pizza chain Imo’s, where pies are baked on a thin cracker-style crust and cut into squares. Many St. Louis residents swear by it and will never eat pizza without Provel, but others dislike Provel and want good old mozzarella.
The Provel grilled cheese was very tasty. I’m going to bring some back to Russell and have my parents try it. I’m not big on processed cheese; I will eat Velveeta and “American” cheese, but it is far from my favorite. However, Provel may grow on me and I may start bringing back lots of it from St. Louis, the same way I do things from Kansas City.
I skipped White Castle yesterday but went back today. Got a crave case (30), which will tide me over through today and tomorrow. I doubt I’m going out tomorrow, because the forecast calls for heavy rain. Monday is supposed to be the perfect day for an eight hour drive, with cooler temperatures and abundant sunshine.
One thing I am really hating about shopping right now is the ban on reusable bags. God I hate those flimsy plastic bags. I get a lot of angry looks from baggers and checkers when I request paper and not plastic.
Growing up in New Orleans, we didn’t have to ponder that question. If you shopped at Schwegmann’s Giant Supermarkets, you got paper and you liked it. The bags were so ubiquitous around the Crescent City they were known as “Schwegmann bags”. Unfortunately, Schwegmann’s went bankrupt and closed its last stores just before the start of the millennium.
Forty years ago tonight, a magical sporting event took place. Too bad few people witnessed it live. I’ll get to it in my next post.
Motorcycles more important than a pandemic? Maybe in Missouri
Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of a day Boston sports fans treasure…and St. Louis sports fans want to forget.
On Mothers’ Day 1970, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1941 by completing a four-game sweep of the Blues in the Finals. Boston clinched the Cup when Bobby Orr, probably the greatest defenseman (defenceman for the Canadians) to ever lace up a pair of skates, scored 40 seconds into overtime of the fourth game.
The game-winning goal wrapped up a phenomenal season for the 22-year old, who became the first defenseman to win the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer (goals and assists), then took home the Norris (best defenseman), Hart (Most Valuable Player) and Conn Smythe (playoff MVP) trophies, becoming the first player to win four major awards in one season.
Orr’s backhand beat one of the game’s greatest goaltenders, Glenn Hall, but what was more memorable was the photo captured a split second after the goal. It shows Orr suspended in flight after he was tripped by the Blues’ Noel Picard. It is the most iconic photo in NHL history, and certainly one of the best-known photos in North American sport.
It took the Blues 49 years, one month and two days to even the score. Right now, the Blues should be defending the Cup in the playoffs, but of course, COVID-19 has put life as we know it on hold. If the NHL cannot complete the regular season and playoffs, will the Blues keep the Cup, or will the NHL require it go back to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto? The hope of commissioner Gary Bettman and every hockey player, coach and fan is the season is completed one way or another.
For once, I agree with Gary Bettman. Mark it down.
Speaking of St. Louis, your lazy blogger got up at 04:45 today and departed 1224 North Brooks at 05:30 for a trip to the far side of Missouri. This comes exactly three weeks after I left Russell for Kansas City.
My parents know nothing of where I am. They know I left this morning, but that’s it. Peggy knows where I am. Larry knows where I am after I just texted him. Crista will know tomorrow at 14:00.
After farting around in Kansas City for an hour filling up my gas tank, buying bread at Hen House in Leawood and purchasing treatment for scars left over from a grease burn at Target in Martin City, I was on my way to the opposite side of the Show-Me State.
One major difference between how Kansas and Missouri have responded to COVID-19 can be seen in the electronic road signs along Interstate 70.
In Kansas, all signs have now been targeted towards reducing the spread of the disease. Signs read “Wash Hands, Cover Mouth, Save Lives”; “If Fever Strikes, Stay Home” and other ominous messages.
Some of the signs say “Stay Home”, but I’m ignoring those. It has nothing to do with my parents. Seriously. It’s all me. They need a break from me every so often. EVERYONE needs a break from me every so often: Peggy, Caitlyn, Crista, Dr. Jones, Dr. Custer, Robb, Larry, Liz, Brenda…whomever. I can only be tolerated in small doses. It’s not their fault. They do their best to put up with me. All of them deserve sainthood.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly went too far too fast by calling off the remainder of the 2019-20 school year when she did. She could have waited a couple of weeks like most states, including the three which border Kansas. I’m surprised Kelly did not extend the stay-at-home order, which expired last Monday.
You would never know there’s a pandemic if you read the road signs on I-70 in Missouri, at least from Blue Springs to Wentzville.
None of this business about washing hands. None of this business about staying home. Instead, the Missouri Department of Transportation reminds drivers constantly to be alert for motorcycles and to share the road with Harleys and Kawasakis.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has been raked over the coals by the Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch for what they see as a lackadaisical response. The Star has praised Kelly while pounding Parson, and the same is true of the Post-Dispatch comparing Parson to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker., whose state is still under severe restrictions; however, if you took the Chicago area out of the equation, Illinois would be much closer to Kansas and Missouri in terms of cases and deaths.
Speaking of Illinois, it is forbidden for Kansans like myself, unless I want to quarantine for 14 days when I return to Russell. Believe me, there is absolutely nothing I want or need in Illinois, although it would have been nice to have the option to zip through on I-64 heading towards Louisville and Lexington.
If Kansas were still governed by Sam Brownback, or worse, Kris Kobach were governor, I can only imagine just how bad it might be in the Sunflower State. I’m guessing neither Brownback nor Kobach would have issued a stay-at-home order, and Kobach might have made it much worse by threatening to sue—or actually suing—the federal government. Notice I didn’t mention Jeff Colyer, who became governor after Brownback became an ambassador in 2017, because Colyer is far more level-headed than Brownback or Kobach and would have done something to head off the virus at the pass.
I don’t particularly like most of Kelly’s stances (I didn’t vote for any of the three major candidates for governor in 2018), and while I wish she would have waited a little longer to close schools—it probably would have happened regardless—her course was probably as balanced an approach as there could be.
The White Castle in Columbia provided a great caper.
I attempted to place an order for pickup before leaving Kansas City. However, I kept getting an error stating the restaurant would not be open at that hour. I was trying to place an order for shortly after noon. I used the app on both my phone and tablet, and then tried to order from the regular website as well, but nothing. I did, however, place a 16:45 order for the O’Fallon location.
I pulled off I-70 at a rest stop and e-mailed White Castle technical support, explaining I was getting a message that the location was closed. When I arrived in Columbia, there were numerous cars in the drive-thru lane at White Castle. I then called their customer support hotline to explain the online ordering snafu. I chose not to wait any longer, and instead got back on the road.
It turned out I was the one with the snafu.
The Columbia location—the farthest west in the United States as far as I know—is now closed on Monday and Tuesday. I received a reply from White Castle headquarters in Cincinnati which mentioned it, but gave no explanation.
I then shot back that there were cars in the drive-thru, but the representative told me the closure was true.
The good news? Wentzville was only 80 miles away. If I waited seven hours of driving (well, seven hours after leaving home; there was a lot of wasted time in Kansas City and at that rest stop 70 miles west of Columbia), I could make it 80 more miles.
Wentzville, a booming town in western St. Charles County 40 miles west of downtown St. Louis, provided me a good laugh or two.
The QuikTrip was one piece good news, two pieces bad.
The good: I could buy a fountain drink! I could not at any Kansas City location during my trip last month, nor could I purchase one today in Overland Park. However, I walked right up to the fountain like the pre-COVID-19 days in Wentzville. The differences: no styrofoam cups and no refills, so I had to buy a new cup and pour it into my black mug.
First, the restroom was incredibly dirty. I have never seen a QuikTrip restroom that filthy. Never. And I have been frequenting QuikTrips for 14 years in Wichita, Kansas City, St. Louis, Omaha and (once) Tulsa.
Second, NOBODY was wearing a mask other than the boob from Russell. I’ve made the mistake of not wearing a mask at times, although when I nearly entered the QuikTrip in Overland Park, I caught myself and went back to my car to get it.
On to White Castle, and only the boob from Russell was wearing a mask. St. Charles County has greatly loosened its restrictions, so patrons can go into a restaurant to pick up food, although there is no seating. Six employees, no mask. Four other guests, no masks.
I put the maskless people behind me, because I was damn hungry. White Castle never tasted better.
The Schnucks in Lake St. Louis was almost the complete opposite of the QuikTrip and White Castle in Wentzville. Every employee had a mask on, and nearly every customer did, too. However, at the White Castle in O’Fallon, only the boob from Russell wore one, although no other customers entered during the 10 minutes I waited.
The outlet mall in Chesterfield is a ghost town. That’s because St. Louis County still hasn’t loosened its restrictions. But as long as White Castle, Schnucks and Dierberg’s are doing business, I’m a happy camper.
I’ve crossed the Missouri River on I-64 three times already. Over/under is 14 for this trip, which will go until at least Friday, maybe longer. My yellow rain slicker will get a workout. The weathermen and ladies are expecting a lot of rain in the Gateway City this week.
I’m not as tired as I could be after a long day. But it’s time for me to stop blogging for tonight.
One day, two tales in the Big Apple
Fifty years ago yesterday, two notable events occurred in New York City within hours of each other. (Yes, it’s still 8 May for a few more minutes in Kansas, but it’s 9 May in NYC, so yesterday is appropriate).
One, the Hard Had Riot, was one of many regrettable episodes in the more than 400 years of the city once known as New Amsterdam (“Even Old New York was once New Amsterdam”, a famous line from the famous They Might Be Giants song, “Istanbul not Constantinople). Occurring four days after Sandy Scheuer, William Schroeder, Jeffrey Miller and Allison Krause lost their lives at Kent State, 200 construction workers mobilized by the New York State AFL-CIO attacked more than 1,000 students protesting the war and mourning the Kent State four.
Apologies to Ms. Scheuer’s family and friends for misspelling her name with an extra “R” in previous posts.
It began at 07:30 with a memorial for Scheuer, Schroeder, Miller and Krause at Federal Hall. Four hours later, construction workers broke past a pathetic police line and started beating the protesters, especially those men with long hair, with their hard hats, steel-toed shoes, and anything else they could find.
Four policemen and 70 others were injured. Fortunately, nobody was killed.
This was not the case in January 1976 when union members murdered a non-union worker at a chemical plant in Lake Charles in the midst of Louisiana’s push to become the last southern state to pass right-to-work legislation.
Six months later, after right-to-work cleared both chambers of the Louisiana legislature, the leader of the right-to-work campaign, Shreveport advertising executive Jim Leslie, was murdered in Baton Rouge by a sniper acting on orders of Shreveport police commissioner George D’Artois, who attempted to use city funds to pay for his election campaign. Leslie flatly refused D’Artois’ bribe, and paid for it with his life. Rat bastard D’Artois dropped dead in June 1977 before he could be brought to justice. It would have been lovely to see the S.O.B. rot in Angola.
Back to 8 May 1970 in the Big Apple.
Nine hours after the construction workers attacked innocent protesters who had the nerve to exercise their First Amendment rights, the Knickerbockers met the Los Angeles Lakers at Madison Square Garden for the championship of the National Basketball Association.
Hours after the Kent State shootings, the Knicks won Game 5 107-100 at MSG to take a 3-2 series lead despite losing the NBA’s 1969-70 Most Valuable Player, Louisiana native and Grambling alum Willis Reed, to a serious leg injury in the first quarter. Los Angeles led 51-35 at halftime, but committed 19 turnovers in the final 24 minutes, leading Lakers fans to believe their franchise was cursed, if they didn’t already.
Two nights later, with Reed back in New York, the Lakers destroyed the short-handed Knicks at The Forum 135-113 behind 45 points and 27 rebounds from Wilt Chamberlain.
The teams flew commercial from LAX to JFK the next morning, leaving them approximately 30 hours to rest for the winner-take-all game.
Charter flights were not the norm in the NBA or NHL until the late 1980s, which means the likes of Chamberlain, Reed, Jerry West, Bill Bradley, Walt (Clyde) Frazier, John Havlicek, Bill Russell, Dave Cowens and Oscar Robertson flew charters very rarely, and Kareem didn’t fly them for the majority of his career. Same for Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Rod Gilbert, Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull and Jean Beliveau, although Les Habitants (the Canadiens) may have been flying charter before the American teams.
The Lakers were planning a glorious return to LAX Saturday morning, then a parade similar to the ones enjoyed by the Dodgers following World Series wins in 1959, ’63, and ’65.
The Knicks wanted to be honored with New York’s third ticker tape parade for a championship sports team in 17 months, following the Jets in Super Bowl III and the Mets after the ’69 World Series. In between the Jets and Mets, Neill Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were honored with their own parade for Apollo 11.
Sadly for most of the 19,500 who passed through MSG’s turnstiles that Friday evening, the Knicks’ chances appeared dim without Reed.
Then, the NBA’s version of Moses parting the Red Sea occurred.
ABC announcers Chris Schenkel and Jack Twyman lamented the Knicks’ fate without their MVP, but as they went on, Twyman excitedly noticed Reed coming out from the tunnel.
Reed took the court with Bradley, Frazier, Dave DeBuesschere and Dick Barnett for the opening tip.
Eighteen seconds later, Reed, who could barely walk, took a jump shot from 20 feet.
A minute later, Reed scored again to make it 5-2.
Willis Reed did not score another point.
He didn’t need to.
His defense against Chamberlain spooked The Big Dipper, who was limited to 21 points, although he led all players with 24 rebounds.
Frazier picked up the offensive slack with 36 points and 19 assists, and New York rolled to a 113-99 victory in a game which wasn’t that close.
The Knicks were NBA champions for the first time. New York had its third championship team in 17 months. Prior to that, the Big Apple went six-plus years without a title after the Yankees won the 1962 World Series. The Giants were in the midst of 29 seasons without a title, with Super Bowl XXI a little less than 17 years off. The Rangers’ Stanley Cup drought stood at 30 years in 1970 and would last 24 more. The Islanders and Devils (Kansas City Scouts/Colorado Rockies) didn’t exist, and the Nets were an afterthought until they signed Julius Erving.
The Knicks won the title again three years later by defeating the Lakers in five games, one year after Los Angeles got the monkey off of its back by ousting New York in five.
Since 1973, the Knicks have been to the championship series twice, losing to the Rockets in 1994 and the Spurs in 1999. The Lakers have had slightly more success, winning five championships in the 1980s and five more in the 21st century.
Today’s Knicks are an outright disgrace to Red Holzman’s championship teams. Thankfully, the surviving members of the 1969-70 Knicks didn’t have to put up with having to watch the 2019-20 Knicks at a 50th anniversary reunion; it was cancelled due to COVID-19. Owner James Dolan is a douchebag who continues to anger fans with his outright stupidity and callousness. Isaiah Thomas is a sexual harasser who should be in prison, but Dolan loves him, so he still has a high-paying job with the Knicks.
That’s more NBA than I care to discuss, so I’m signing off.
COVID-19 and Kent State: two sad stories of American history
Kansas’ stay-at-home order has expired. Some businesses have reopened, but many have not.
This was evident today when I went to Hays.
The Wendy’s at the corner of Vine and 43rd north of Interstate 70 was doing quite a business. Ten vehicles in the drive-thru, elderly couples sitting at the tables outside, and people inside the restaurant for the first time in seven weeks.
The nearby Applebee’s and Old Chicago were not seating customers, although they were accepting takeout orders.
I haven’t missed sitting in a restaurant. I’ve been able to procure takeout from Chick-Fil-A without difficulty. Unfortunately, Arby’s and Popeye’s don’t have mobile ordering, which stinks, because I could really go for Popeye’s right now. Then again, the chicken would get cold on the 70-minute drive from Salina to Russell.
The three large cities in southwest Kansas–Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal–are all overrun with COVID-19. Each county has more cases than Sedgwick County, where Wichita is located.
Coincidentally, the same thing has happened in Nebraska. The three large cities of south central Nebraska–Grand Island, Hastings and Kearney–have more cases between them than either of the state’s large metropolitan areas, Lincoln and Omaha.
Missouri also lifted its stay-at-home order, although Kansas City and St. Louis are still locked until at least May 15. St. Louis couldn’t care less about lockdown right now; all the Gateway City wants is for the Blues and Cardinals to return.
Today marked the 50th anniversary of the infamous shootings at Kent State University in northeast Ohio. Sandy Scheurer, William Schroeder, Allison Krause and Jeffrey Miller were killed, and nine others injured when members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire during an anti-Vietnam War protest. Krause and Miller were participating in the protest, but Scheurer and Schroeder were innocent bystanders who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Due to COVID-19 and the closure of every college campus in the United Staes, the celebration at Kent State was quite subdued, a far cry from what organizers of the school’s May 4 Committee hoped for. Had campus been open, it’s likely Kent State’s most famous alumnus would have appeared (see below), not to mention Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, and possibly three of the school’s greatest athletes, Jack Lambert, Antonio Gates and Julian Edelman.
One of Krause’s classmates was a freshman from Monagaha, West Virginia named Nicholas Saban, who, of course, would become the most successful college football coach of the last 50 years, leading LSU to a national championship in 2003 and Alabama to titles in 2009, ’11, ’12, ’15 and ’17.
Saban and a classmate were walking to a dining hall and saw the shooting unfold. He rushed back to West Virginia after campus closed to spend time with his longtime girlfriend, Terry Constable, now better known as Miss Terry, Nick’s wife of almost 49 years.
There was another future Southeastern Conference football coach on Kent State’s campus that day.
Gary Pinkel was a tight end for the Golden Flashes who went on to earn All-Mid-America Conference honors. He eventually followed in Saban’s footsteps as head coach at Toledo before going to Missouri in 2001.
When Pinkel arrived in CoMo (to differentiate from the other Columbia in the SEC), Mizzou was in sorry shape. The Tigers were a powerhouse under Dan Devine throughout the 1960s, and even though they fell on hard times after Devine left for the Green Bay Packers in 1971, Mizzou bounced back to respectability under Al Onofrio and Warren Powers.
When Powers was fired after the 1984 season, the Tigers tanked. Woody Widenhofer, Bob Stull and Larry Smith all failed miserably in pulling Mizzou out of its funk. Sadly, the thing Mizzou is best known for during the tenure of those three coaches was the infamous Fifth Down Game vs. Colorado in 1990.
It took Pinkel a few years to get it going, but when he did, Mizzou zoomed to heights it had not seen since Devine’s glory years. The Tigers reached #1 in the polls in 2007 following their victory over Kansas, although their hopes of a date with Ohio State in the BCS championship game ended with a loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship. LSU was the beneficiary, ending up as national championship following their victory over the Buckeyes in New Orleans.
Mizzou ended up #5 in the polls following the 2007 season, and repeated it in 2013, the Tigers’ second season in the SEC. The Tigers have struggled since winning the SEC East (why is Mizzou in the SEC East when it is farther west than five of the seven SEC West schools?) in 2013 and ’14, but it hasn’t relapsed into the pitiful form it showed from 1985-2000, when it became roadkill for Colorado, Oklahoma and Nebraska, and later, Kansas State.
Here is an excellent New York Times retrospective of Kent State.
Given the late hour, I’ll end it here.