He honed his skills on the playgrounds of Brooklyn, playing at the most famous of the street basketball courts Rucker Park. Before he ever played his first organized basketball game at Boys High School in Brooklyn when he was a junior, he already was a basketball legend on the streets. Beating a player like Lew Alcindor one on one can do that for your reputation. It was rumored that it was not a chance occurrence, that he beat Lew regularly. He was destined to be the greatest basketball player of all-time, yet it was all taken away from him. The NBA banned him from playing in the prime of his career and redemption would come too late. He never reached the lofty goals that were destined to be his.
Connie Hawkins just may be the greatest basketball player that you never heard of. His story does contain a belated redemption, but it was too little, too late. Let me start at the beginning. Coming out of high school Connie was recruited heavily, and he accepted a scholarship to play at the University of Iowa. While Connie was a freshman, a point-shaving scandal broke out in New York. During a federal investigation, the name of Connie Hawkins came up. Connie was never named as a conspirator; indeed it was obvious that he was not involved. The year was 1960 and freshman players were not permitted to play. Iowa, fearing NCAA reprisal, booted Connie from the school. He was grilled by New York City detectives and denied legal counsel. His rights were continuously violated.
The NBA banned him from playing in its league. He played for a season for the now defunct American Basketball League Pittsburgh Rens and was named the league’s MVP. When the league folded the next season, Connie then played for the Harlem Globetrotters for the next three seasons. In 1967 Hawkins played for the American Basketball Association‘s Pittsburgh Pipers and led them to the league championship. Connie was both the regular season and playoff MVP. The next season Hawkins had knee surgery and missed most of the season. That takes us up to 1969.
Connie’s lawyers had sued the NBA for $6 million while he was playing for the Globetrotters and the case was finally settled in 1969. The NBA paid Connie a $1.3 million settlement and assigned his rights to the expansion Phoenix Suns. In his “rookie” season with the Suns, Connie put up 24.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. To put an exclamation point on his season, he had 44 points, 20 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 blocks and 5 steals the last game of the season. He was named All-NBA First Team. Due to serious knee problems, Connie was forced to retire after seven NBA seasons.
I first met Connie Hawkins after the 1972 season. I was the manager of a huge record and tape store in downtown Phoenix which was called Circles Records and Tapes. One day I walked into a competitor’s record store, Milano’s, to check out their record inventory. I saw this huge man looking at some jazz, and I immediately recognized him as Connie Hawkins.
“Hi Connie, I’m Harvey”, I said. “Do you like jazz?”
“I like jazz, R&B, Motown, just about everything”
“Connie, let me give you my card. I manage a new record store a couple of miles from here. Milano's has 8 bins total. I have over 100 bins of just jazz”.
Connie came in and was blown away by our inventory. We really were the biggest record store in the nation. One time the Blackwood Brothers came in and found three of their records that were out of print and that they desperately wanted, but that is another story along with Van Cliburn visiting one day.
Connie asked me to put aside all the new records that he liked each week, and he would come in on Tuesdays and buy them from me. He never once refused a record that I picked out for him.
One day he needed a needle for his player and I told him that we only had cheap needles. “That’s okay, Harvey. Charlie Scott has a $5000 system and mine cost $100. I can’t hear a difference between them.” So I gave him a needle.
We had a ritual. Connie and I would sneak out to the parking garage and I would give him one, and only one, Kool cigarette to smoke. He said it was from his days on the streets. It was our secret and I promised that I would never betray him.
One day towards the end of the summer Connie came in to the store all excited. “Did you hear Harvey?”
I had heard the rumors that he might be traded to the Lakers. “Do you want to play for the Lakers?” I asked.
“More than anything in the world, I want to play for the Lakers.” he said.
“Then I know that it will happen for you Connie. The NBA owes it to you.” Connie was soon traded, and I figured that I would probably never see him again.
Lady Luck intervened for me once more about 30 years later.
I walked into Casino Arizona and the poker room one day and saw Connie Hawkins sitting down to play. I wondered if he could remember me. He got up later for a break and I approached him. “Remember me, Connie?” I said.
“You got a Kool?”
I believe that if Connie had not been denied those eight years in the NBA, he might just have been its greatest player. He was Doctor J before Doctor J and could soar like a Hawk. Even with the limited playing time, he was voted one of the Top NBA players of All-Time.
The NBA trade deadline was today. One notable trade had Kevin Garnett returning to the Minnesota Timberwolves, who he starred with for 12 years. It is a classy move by the Wolves, who will give Kevin a wonderful sendoff on an incredible 20 year NBA career.
The Suns were very busy, making three trades including trading Goran Dragic to the Miami Heat. The Heat scored a winner on that trade. I can see Goran taking them to the NBA Finals. He is that good.
Portland Trailblazer Jerome Kersey passed away at 52. That’s too young. RIP
Larry Fitzgerald signed a two year contract to stay with the Cardinals.
Marcus Mariota scored some of the highest scores ever on the Wonderlick test.
Jameis Winston has small hands, less than 10 inches.
Half the spring training teams have already reported and the rest report tomorrow. It was 80 degrees here in Phoenix today, not sure about Florida.
Kung Fu Panda is fat.
The Arizona Diamondbacks signed a $1.4 billion television contract with Fox Sports.
The NFL Combine will be running on the NFL Network for the whole weekend.
The Daytona 500 is Sunday.
Do you remember Connie Hawkins or do you have any potpourri to add? You can comment on the way out, and don’t forget to peruse the madman, IHateMillen------>
I'm unable to load any pictures and I don't know why!
I am suffering from A major case of writers block or is that bloggers block. Ive been going thru the daily motions trying to think of something to write about today. total blank
I'm off to Florida next Thursday so I'll be looking for guest hosts for the 26th of Feb and the 5th of March.
I'm all done talking about the snow and cold weather we've had here this Winter,
my good friend Jon that lives in Arizona who is originally from MA said the other night,
"Harry, just move"
It's on me now, I have options and oppertunity so it's on me if I stay...no more complaining.
I'm dusting off the golf clubs, I emptied the bag and all of the pockets. I found 3 water bottles with a few drops in each, an empth Sam Summer Ale bottle, 2 broken tees, sand, a towell that went straight to the trash, a broken 3 iron...oh yeah, I remember breaking that after I hit a shot into the water on hole 5.
I found a score card from Locust Valley, 45 on the front nine and 49 on the back nine...a 94? I'd be happy with that when I hit the course in Fl next week.
My putter has a load of dirt in the head...I can't figure that out...I only use it on the green.
My son and I are trying to decide which truck to take to FL,
Both get between 15 and 19 mpg, both are extended cabs. His has a bed cover mine does not but the golf bags and other supplies will fit in my back seat.
I read this morning that Peyton Manning is ready to commit to another NFL season with the Broncos for the paltry sum of 19,000,000. Kubiak says he wants Peyton...Elway says he wants Peyton. lets face it, the Broncos are a playoff team with Manning and are not without him. Julius Thomas wants to be the highest paid TE in the game, Demarius Thomas wants to win but wants to get paid too. Wes Welker says he's ready to come back after much dicussion about his head injurys.
The Broncos are over the cap and may ask Manning to take a pay cut...this will be interesting.
Derek Jeter and Peyton were part of the SNL 40th anniversary show.
A local reporter asked the question, "Why not Brady on SNL?
the answer: Gisele and a warm beach in Costa Rica
MLB is getting closer and I can't wait. The Red Sox were rumured to have made an offer for Cole Hammels to the Phillys.
Phila laughed off the Victorino, Justin Masterson, Jackie Bradley offer and said they wanted at least two top prospects including Mookie Betts
The Ditkahs got back on our winning ways last week, we are in a battle for position here in the second half of the season. I've been off my game and Jake, out top bowler has missed a couple of weeks due to vacation.
This past week I put 7 strikes together for the first time in a while and finished game one with a 248, my son Luke complimented that with his first of three games in the 220's My bride was way over her average for the the night and the sweep was on.
Mrsharry also won the 50/50 weekly raffle to the tune of $135 bucks...not to shabby, the last time I won it was $12.
Hope you all have a great day and check out Lanz over to my right, with the Lanz's and his Zebra tails he never seems to be without something interesting to say
Hello folks and welcome to this week’s Grumble! Not much to grumble about this week… finally got word from the nut factory and they want me to start on the 23rd! I’ll be the inventory cycle count specialist… or in other words, a big cheese down at the nut factory! Really looking forward to getting back to work!
Today is Friday the 13th as some of you may be aware... strangely enough the first of two consecutive Friday the 13th's we'll have this year. That's right, it comes up again in March... then again in November!
In the world of sports, not a whole lot to grumble about either… well, aside from only having the NHL/NBA to watch these days. College ball too, but I don’t really get very into that until the Tourney to be honest. We’ve got some hot stove/MLB news, but the majority of that action has cooled off as well.
Here in Detroit, we held our collective breaths on Tuesday as DH Victor Martinez went under the knife for his latest knee surgery. Last time around, it cost him an entire season… this time, just 4-6 weeks. He’ll be a little rusty when the regular season starts, but it really is the best case scenario for this team! Turns out Jeff was right all along.
But with spring training little more than a week away from starting at this point for many teams, let’s do a little baseball talking/prognosticating here. Honestly, if one team won the offseason in my eyes, it was the Chicago White Sox. The Cubs grabbed headlines with Lester and Maddon, but the Pale Hose made a series of solid moves that might just have them sneaking up on the Tigers in the AL Central. The best move by far was the trade they swung with the Oakland A’s, acquiring SP Jeff Samardzija for a package of players (not much of a loss collectively). Samardzija is an All-Star caliber pitcher that joins a staff anchored by perennial Cy Young candidate Chris Sale and up and coming starter Jose Quintana. They also added some solid pieces to the bullpen, adding lefties Dan Jennings and Zach Duke and closer David Robertson to an already solid bunch. But pitching was not the only issue that was addressed… the Sox signed 1B/DH Adam LaRoche (26 HR, 92 RBI with WAS last year) and OF Melky Cabrera (.301 with 16/73 with TOR), as well as seasoned utility man Emilio Bonafacio, to an already talented lineup that features 2014 AL ROY Jose Abreu… but with protection this time around! Not saying it is a definite, but this is a team that could surpass the Royals and Indians and give the Tigers a real run for their money in 2015. The Twins shouldn’t be much of a threat to anybody, despite giving the biggest contract in club history to a pitcher in luring over Ervin Santana to join their rotation.
The NL Central… always a crap shoot. Your usual contenders in St.Louis, Cincy, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee pretty well stood pat. St.Louis probably made the most noise by adding Jason Heyward to their lineup. The biggest movers here were the Chicago Cubs, who added Jon Lester to the rotation and Miguel Montero behind the dish. The biggest question for the Cubs is who steps up behind Lester in that rotation… and whether or not their talented yet unproven young stars will pan out this season. Once again, this division should be a major crap shoot… so why not the Cubbies, especially if Kris Bryant makes the squad and gives Rizzo some protection in the lineup in 2015! Don’t forget about the Maddon factor… he’s always got a few tricks up his sleeve!
As for other teams to watch in 2015, how about the Padres? They’ve done some moving and shaking this offseason, adding OFs Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, and 2013 AL ROY Wil Myers for an all new outfield, and signed free agent SP James Shields in a rare spending spree from owner Ron Fowler. Shields joins rising stars Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross, as well as Ian Kennedy and Brandon Morrow to form what could be a solid rotation in what could be a wide open NL West this coming year. I’d tell you more about the Arizona Diamondbacks, but the guy to the left of me is the expert on that! But with San Francisco losing its biggest threat in the lineup to Boston and the Dodgers facing continuous bullpen woes, why can’t this be the year one of the weaker sisters of the NL West comes up to bite the top dogs in Cali?
Over in the AL West, there isn’t much buzz around the Houston Astros… but there should be! The Stros have a solid young nucleus of players, led by Altuve, Springer, and Jon Singleton, and added some veterans into the mix. If a few of their young pitchers get things figured out in that rotation, watch out. They made some pretty solid additions to the bullpen this offseason, adding Luke Gregorson and Pat Neshek to the fold. With the Angels being the constant choke artists they are, and the A’s dumping salary once again, why can’t it be the Astros year to make a little noise… or at least finish above .500? Of course, the Seattle Mariners might have a lot to say about that with their solid rotation, bullpen, and the addition of Nelson Cruz to their lineup! The Rangers? If they can get some PT out of Prince Fielder and a member or two of their pitching staff to stay healthy for the season… they could be somewhat of a threat.
Heading out East… the AL East should be interesting this year, as opposed to last year when the Orioles pretty much ran away with it! The big question there is, does that rotation hold up for another year the way it did in 2014? We all know the Sawx made some major moves this offseason, adding the two biggest hitters on the market in Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez to a lineup that already featured Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz… their major question mark is starting pitching, with Rick Porcello currently listed as their #1 starter! The pen is still solid, so if the five guys they have lined up can be solid, they could make a legit run at the AL East title. The Yankees still exist… unfortunately… and as a result we still have to talk about them when we’re talking AL East! The rotation is pretty much the same as last year, with Tanaka hopefully (for their sake anyhow) as is the lineup (with the addition of A-Fraud, fresh off his year long suspension by MLB), and the bullpen has been made over to account for the loss of David Robertson to Chicago, with Andrew Miller being the biggest offseason acquisition. The Jays are looking stout, and always are a tough win with the lineup of mashers they have picking up Russell Martin from Pittsburgh and Josh Donaldson of Oakland. Tampa… well, they’re still Tampa, but minus Joe Maddon. Luckily, nobody will be there to witness their epic suckage this year… unless the Yankees are in town anyhow!
The NL East was Washington’s for the taking last year, and they did just that by a whopping 17 games! Things aren’t looking much better for the division’s also rans this year, as the Nats signed FA SP Max Scherzer to a gigantic contract over the next seven years, and he joins what was already one of the best rotations in baseball! Scherzer, Strasburg, Zimmerman, Gonzalez, and Fister. When Doug Fister is your #5 starter, you’re in pretty damn good shape! The Mets actually finished in second place last year… albeit 17 games back… and pretty much look the same as they did in 2014. Atlanta lost an Upton and Heyward from their lineup, but added Johnny Gomes and Nick Markakis to replace them. The pen is solid, but the starting rotation is a massive question mark, but they did add Shelby Miller in the Heyward trade. Still… not expecting much more than perhaps a second place finish out of this squad… at best. Miami still has Stanton, who signed a massive contract this offseason… but not much else unless Christian Yelich lives up to his high draft pick status. Dee Gordon was a solid add, but not enough for this team to get anywhere near the Nats. The Phillies… nothing new there. They’ll be the team everybody is calling at the trade deadline, the question will be whether or not they’re actually selling this time around.
As the NBA hits its’ All-Star break, big news out of Sacramento as the Kings and George Karl, the 8th winningest coach in league history, have agreed to terms on a contract that pushes Tyrone Corbin right out the door! Corbin, who took over for Mike Malone in mid-December, will be replaced after the All-Star break. Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy publicly blasted the Kings for their treatment of Corbin, saying that they made a “mockery” of their “very public” courting of Karl. Van Gundy went on to say that Corbin is a class act, and that he has been treated very, very poorly by the Kings organization. As for Karl, it seems that his up tempo style of play will be a fit for a very young Kings team. The biggest question will be how he and the Kings biggest star, Demarcus Cousins, co-exist!
Over in the NHL, Winnipeg dumped troubled Evander Kane off on the Sabres, getting a decent haul in return for that sack of damaged goods! Can’t wait to hear all the bitching, pissing and moaning this guy is going to do in Buffalo!
The story of the day in the NFL is the 2015 Philadelphia Eagles team calendar. Evidently, the team is under fire for placing WR Riley Cooper on the month of February... which is also black history month. I've said this before and I'll say it again... what the hell happened to "race doesn't matter"? How is this even a fucking "controversy"? The team has come out and told everyone who listened that they are sorry for "overlooking" this... yeah, they are actually apologizing for this ridiculous bullshit! Once again, an example of a time where someone should look at an "outraged" party and tell them to shove it up their ass!
Over in college football, Jeff covered the douchebaggery of Bobby Petrino earlier this week, and just how seedy the world of coaching/recruiting really is. Cutting a kid’s scholarship without even so much as a fucking phone call… what a gutless, dickless little coward that guy is!
Speaking of gutless and dickless, the NCAA has reinstated Pedo State’s full bowl revenue share for 2015. Essentially, this means that less than three years later, these pieces of shit are completely and totally free and fucking clear. I have no words for this… I really, really don’t. I am on the verge of just boycotting college football because of it… every time I see these sick fucks it makes me want to vomit with rage! I’m not going to go into another anti-Penn State, anti-Peterno, anti-pedophile rant here… but where the hell is the justice here? Anybody? Just disgusting.
Before I call it a week, I’d like to pass on a resounding rest in peace to a pair legendary coaches in the world of college basketball. First and foremost, to Dean Smith of North Carolina. The guy was a great coach on the court, and an even greater person off the court. Not only did he win at a historic rate (retired as the all-time wins leader in D-1 history), but the strides he helped Chapel Hill, North Carolina make in terms of race relations were epic. He is a man who truly deserved the recognition he received a few years back from President Obama, receiving the Medal Of Freedom back in 2013. Jerry Tarkanian also passed away this week. The former UNLV, Fresno State and Long Beach State coach was 84. Tark was known for his trademark shaved head and for biting a towel on the sidelines during games. He went to four Final Fours and won one title with UNLV back in 1990. An interesting note on Tark, his mother was a refugee of the Armenian genocide of World War I (you know, that genocide nobody ever talks about).
That’s my grumble for the week folks. Thanks as always for reading and for any comments you leave on the way out! Have a great weekend Gabbers, and be sure to stop by and check out what Harvey's got in store for you on the left there.
We are just a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting to their prospective baseball spring training sites. It does not matter if one’s hometown is freezing cold or buried in wintery snow, because the advent of spring training signals the yearly coming of spring and the beginning of America’s National Pastime. Better weather and times are ahead. Even Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow cannot stop the yearly excitement of the young men of baseball as they begin their preparations for yet another new season.
I have been a fan of baseball since 1954, when I was seven years old and was introduced to the game by my military father and his friend the Chaplain in Heidelberg, Germany. We listened on the Armed Forces Radio Network. They were Army men and I called the Chaplain the Watermelon Man, because he always wore the colorful shirt for me because he knew that its many watermelons always fascinated the seven year old boy that I was back then.
It was World Series time, 1954. My dad and the Watermelon Man had a vested interest in the proceedings because they both hailed from Akron, Ohio, just a hop, skip, and a couple of miles from Cleveland, the home of the American League champions, the Cleveland Indians. I was born in Akron too, and they told me that I should listen to the games with them to root our team on.
It was not much of a Series for the Indians. They lost 4-0 to the New York Giants, but I had listened to baseball on the radio for the first time, an activity I would soon learn to love. I asked the Watermelon Man who his favorite player was. He told me that Larry Doby on the Indians was a trail-blazer. He then handed me a baseball card and said, “This is for you. He is my favorite player.” I looked and it was Willie Mays! My baseball card collection was born that day.
A couple of years later, my Dad got stationed in Little Rock, Arkansas. The schools there were being integrated as a result of “Brown V. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas 1954”. My Dad and the U.S .Army were there to insure that the segregation stopped. I was now ten and was completely clueless about what was going on. I went with my Mom to a Woolworth 5&10 cent store in Little Rock. The lunch counter had seats there that said “white only” and “colored only”. The restrooms there said “white only” and “colored only”. Even the water fountains were marked “white only” and “colored only”. I took a sip of water.
A woman started to scream at me that I was a _____lover. My mother immediately came to help and pushed the woman away. I was crying and asked my Mother what I had done wrong. My Mom assured me that I had done nothing wrong and had only done right. She said, “Harvey you merely drank from the same fountain as the Watermelon Man, and he would be so very proud that you did”. That was a lot to comprehend for a ten year old boy. I grew up a lot that day.
I have been a fan of baseball for 60 years. Here are some milestones from my love of the game:
Favorite publication: The Sporting News. It was once a newspaper that came out weekly. It had only baseball news and was called The Bible of Baseball. You could follow every team; from their minor league teams through the major league teams with box scores for every game. In the late 1950’s it was the only way to follow baseball.
Favorite game: A.P.B.A. Baseball game. It made me a historian of baseball by forcing me to learn the history of baseball and its players. I will forever be in debt to this wonderful game
Favorite memory: The Arizona Diamondbacks winning their first World Series in 2001 was amazing. To beat baseball’s best team ever the New York Yankees was awesome.
Least favorite memory: The Yankees losing the 1960 World Series to Pittsburgh when Bill Mazeroski hit the World Series’ first walk-off home run. The Yankees outscored the Pirates 55-27 and still lost.
Favorite individual memory: The Mickey Mantle/Roger Maris duel trying to pass Babe Ruth. Maris did it in game 162. Mantle stopped at 54 when he was injured the last three weeks.
Favorite Rookie: Mark Fidrych (Detroit Tigers) was 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA in 1976 and he was a hoot to watch.
Favorite rookie: Fernando Valenzuela (LA Dodgers) was 13-7 with a 2.48 ERA in 1981 and won the Cy Young Award. He was, like Fidrych, a hoot to watch.
Favorite Uniform: NY Yankee Pinstripes. (Runner up The Detroit Tigers).
Favorite ballpark: The old Yankee Stadium.
Favorite player: Mickey Mantle
Favorite player today: Paul Goldschmidt
Favorite Movie: Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, the Natural
Most unusual statistic: Roberto Clemente had exactly 3000 hits.
Best player ever: Babe Ruth (by far)
Favorite book: The Teammates by David Halberstam
Favorite song: Centerfield by John Fogerty and Talking Baseball by Terry Cashman
Most unbreakable career record: Cy Young 511 wins
Most unbreakable game record; Fernando Tatis two grand slams in one inning
Favorite childhood memory: listening to my short wave radio at night trying to pick up baseball games
Favorite childhood memory: Getting up every morning as soon as the newspaper was delivered to check the baseball box scores
Favorite childhood memory: Playing baseball every day all summer long with the neighborhood kids
Favorite childhood memory: playing APBA Baseball with my best friend Bill Oxner
I hope that you have some baseball memories and milestones to relate. Please pass them on in the comments section on your way out and please check out my buddy IHateMillen who is right over there--->.