The other day at Lakeside Golf Course at Toluca Lake, I ran into Tommy Hawkins, a long-time local broadcaster who also worked for years in community affairs with the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Southern California Sportscasters Association luncheon.
“I broke Doug in,” he told Lisa Bowman, a previous broadcaster by herself.
“You did?” she reacted.
“Just ask him,” responded Hawkins.
We nodded by having an amused smiled.
“How’d you break him in?” Bowman wondered.
“Introduced him around. . . revealed him the ropes,” related Hawkins. “Assured him that Wilt (Chamberlain) wouldn’t bite his mind off. . .”
We nodded once again, and started taking into consideration the 1968-69 NBA period for which I became a wide-eyed, naive, energetic, young reporter assigned to cover a Laker group that not only had Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, but less popular players like Mel Counts, Johnny Egan, Keith Erickson, Billy Hewitt, Freddie Crawford and, needless to say, Tommy Hawkins.
During the time, Hawkins ended up being a 32-year-old, 6-foot-5 book ahead away from Notre Dame inside the tenth period when you look at the NBA, plus it would turn into their final one.
For a great part of the normal period, I happened to be truly the only journalist traveling using the 11-man Laker team, and became type of its de facto man that is 12th.
Really, by mid-season I became addressed as a result because of the players, and would play cards together with them throughout the airplane trips and stay invited to possess supper together with them whenever on the way and would drive the coach using them towards the arenas.
Tommy Hawkins certainly ended up being quite accommodating, as were the Laker broadcasters, Chick Hearn and Rod that is hot Hundley an inveterate skirt-chaser on a group full of such kinds.
Blessedly, I became in a position to keep an affable relationship with the volatile Chamberlain after a fairly erratic come from that he took exclusion to something I experienced discussed him when you look at the L.A. Herald Examiner.
“Wilt Chamberlain was the tallest spectator during the Forum yesterday evening,” is just how we started one of many my tales in evaluating Chamberlain’s listless work throughout a Laker loss.
Well, a short time later on, he arrived at me and said, “Who in the (bleep) do you consider you are writing that (bleep)? across me personally into the hallway of this Forum offices, looked down threateningly”
Utilizing the disdain that is brazen of, we pointed to my chin and said challengingly to him, ‘Go ahead, Wilt, hit me personally. I’m broke. I would like the amount of money.”
Wilt Chamberlain regarded me personally with a inquisitive appearance, shook their mind, also handled a weak look, and strolled away.
He’d be certainly one of my closest buddies in the group from then on event, and I also can’t remember exactly how many times that period and also the next when we’d rent cars and drive around urban centers like Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Boston watching the feminine scenery.
The mentor of the Laker group had been Butch van Breda Kolff, and he and we had a strained relationship during that period as a result of my close friendship with Chamberlain, as did VBK and Chamberlain.
We took Chamberlain’s part on a few passionate disagreements he had with van Breda Kolff that We made general general public, and Frank Deford also had written in a Sports Illustrated article that the Herald Examiner ended up being Chamberlain’s paper and also the L.A. occasions ended up being VBK’s, that was accurate.
Nevertheless, meet latin brides despite our differences, van Breda Kolff never ever snubbed me personally, also welcoming me to have Thanksgiving supper aided by the united group in Philadelphia.
It had been so various in those times for the newspaperman than it’s now.
The Lakers now have actually their very own airplane, and article writers aren’t permitted to travel about it.
Nor perform some authors now continue the group bus to your arena, when I routinely did.
Nor do they drive the trains, when I did aided by the group from New York to Baltimore to Boston on a single journey.
Nor do they get back utilizing the group after games into the resort, when I constantly did.
I’d scurry up to my space, pound out my tale for a typewriter, then get a cab towards the nearest Western Union workplace, where somebody would telex it back once again to my L.A. workplace.
Chick Hearn always kept everyone loose with their one-liners that are sarcastic and I also frequently ended up being the receiver of these, since was the dour Laker trainer, Frank O’Neil.
We played plenty of gin rummy games that season with Rod Hundley and Elgin Baylor, who had been a card that is skilled and whom also were certainly one of my senior school athletic idols.
Into the sporting pages as he is now, Baylor was standoffish and guarded, but had a sense of humor he often kept hidden, while Jerry West was an affable chatterbox albeit most of his chatter never made it.
Chamberlain had been a loner whom went his very own method off court, and I also can’t let you know what amount of early night telephone calls on off times we received from Chamberlain welcoming us to have supper I always readily accepted with him, which.
Chamberlain gained extensive notoriety later on inside the life as he advertised in a novel which he had sex with 20,000 females, a claim which inspired laughter from those of us whom knew him well and knew their proclivity for monumental exaggeration.
It had been a great, giddy time for me personally, and you will find countless stories i will tell but won’t because I’m perhaps not Jose Canseco and betray juicy tidbits that weren’t intended for general public publicity.
The group would win 55 season that is regular, plus it need to have won the NBA name.
Bill Russell would walk from the Forum flooring for the last time on might 5, 1969, when he would lead the Boston Celtics to a 108-106 win over the Lakers in Game 7, once more obtaining the better of Chamberlain, in addition to Baylor and western.
Jerry West wept later, and, sheepishly, i have to acknowledge used to do for a second, too, a reporter that is young up within the feeling of the dark minute of a group with that I had become therefore closely aligned.
Jack Kent Cooke, the Laker owner, would fire Bill van Breda Kolff a couple of days later on, and Joe Mullaney will be the advisor the season that is next we once more chronicled the group.
The 1969-70 Lakers additionally would lose into the NBA finals in a casino game 7 towards the nyc Knicks.
But no rips arrived on the scene of my eyes following the setback.
The happy purity that suffused my soul through the entire previous period had disappeared forever.