Last weekend, when the Final Four frenzy surrounded us from all sides, I had difficulty keeping my mind under control when it wanted to drift back and forth to some of my memories of SU and Syracuse Nats basketball games.
Although I was an avid Syracuse Nationals fan in the 1950s and early 60s, I also attended SU games at the War Memorial back in the days before games were played in Manley Field House.
I remember going to SU games at the War Memorial when the first Orange player that I remember by name – Dave Bing – played. I don’t remember Bing’s teammate, Jim Boeheim.
The War Memorial was occasionally included in the SU home venues, which included Archbold Gymnasium, Manley Field House and finally, the Dome.
The Syracuse Nationals (Nats) players that I remember from the early Nats games included player-coach Al Cervi; Dolph Schayes; Paul Seymour; Billy Gabor; Red Rocha Earl Lloyd, who was the first African-American to play in the NBA; Red Kerr; Wally Osterkorn; and Larry Costello.
For a couple of years, I was a member of the Syracuse Nats’ junior fan club. We had special sweat shirts and reserved seats behind our favorite team.
If you want to think about how long ago that may have been – when I first started going to basketball games the players wore short shorts instead of the knee length baggy pants of today.
One of the last SU games that I went to was a few years ago at the Dome. A friend got some tickets but my wife’s work schedule wouldn’t let her join us.
Sue wouldn’t miss the basketball action but she loves to watch Otto the Orange, the SU mascot. During one of his runs down courtside, Otto ran up the aisle closest to our seats and extended his arm towards me for a high-five. Forget the game; you can guess the first thing I told my wife when I got home. She was so envious – and still is.
There was an ad on TV this NCAA tournament season which stretched reality a bit by telling us that the tournament field would be expanded to include over 200 teams. We see one of the teams of basketball misfits that has received a bid.
The picture in my mind immediately switches to the gym at Roosevelt School when I was a teenager. As long as we paid the janitor, our “team” was allowed to rent the gym for a couple of hours of running around and trying to get the basketball into the basket. We had a great time and followed up with a visit to Enrico’s for pizza and Cokes.
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