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On Elgin Baylor’s passing, two stories come to mind.
At the end of Baylor’s postgame interviews, Chick Hearn would say, “And for being our guest on tonight’s postgame show, Elgin, I am pleased to present you with this $50 certificate for Harris & Frank clothiers.” With a smile and a wink, and without fail, Baylor would say, “Chickie, you keep it. You need it more than I do.”
In 1960, a disabled plane carrying the Minneapolis Lakers was preparing to make an emergency landing in an Iowa cornfield during a blizzard. While teammates huddled and prayed, Baylor reportedly grabbed his overcoat and headed to the back of the plane to lie down, saying, “If we’re going to crash, I might as well go comfortably.”
The epitome of cool, on and off the court.
I saw Elgin fly. A friend’s dad took us to the Sports Arena in 1963 and we had seats eight rows up looking down the baseline. Baylor’s takeoff on the other side of the lane was so smooth as he soared under and around the bodies of three defenders across the lane and uncoiled to square his shoulders and kiss one off the glass. He was in the air forever. Elgin flew when antiaircraft was legal and there was no such thing as giving up a layup.
I’ve seen all the high fliers since. None was as pure as Elgin.
While growing up a Laker fan in the 1950s and ‘60s, the players were much more accessible than they are today. After the game in the old Sports Arena, fans could take the escalator down directly in front of the player locker rooms and wait for them to emerge, schmooze with them, have items signed and pictures taken.
Elgin Baylor was the classiest, friendliest, coolest dude on the team and carried on conversations with fans all the way until they finished escorting him to his car. He was that popular and that accommodating and never failed to engage with any fan who sought him out. Considering the times and the racist slurs he often faced, especially when the Lakers were on the road, he was one very special gentleman.
As a chaplain’s assistant and 40th Infantry Division reservist back in August 1961, I was sent to Camp Roberts by the Army for two weeks of summer field training. Our division had two chaplain’s assistants, a special position with much freedom, the other assistant being Elgin Baylor. During the day my job was to practice on the chapel organ, while Elgin was allowed to practice on the base’s basketball court.
Around noon, he and I would drive a truck out to the field where the troops were on training exercises and bring them cold soft drinks and snacks. After our daily two-hour supply run, we would come back to base camp and resume our “summer training.” I played the church organ for Sunday services, but don’t recall what Elgin did with his spare time. I remember him as a modest giant who never acted like the megastar he was becoming.
If Julius Erving was a doctor, then Elgin Baylor was a surgeon. RIP Mr. Baylor. You were a class act.
What a difference one point makes. If Michigan State had held on to defeat the Bruins in the First Four, UCLA would have limped into the locker on a five-game losing streak to pack their bags. Dylan Hernandez’s accolades would likely have turned to vitriol. One would hope that he and UCLA fans do not return to being frontrunners if the Bruins are denied by Alabama in the Sweet 16. The players deserve unconditional support, especially considering the extraordinary demands of a hellish season.
Is it only me, or others that are annoyed by Mick Cronin’s fussing with his mask during games? Somebody get the guy a mask that fits, for one, and then ask him to wear it!
Both L.A. Times writers and USC fans are falling all over themselves about how Andy Enfield has created an elite basketball program with a great future based on this season. First, Enfield is in his eighth season so it’s certainly a very long timeframe to build a program. The current team was “built” by hiring an assistant coach who is the father of two elite players in order to recruit them and a includes slew of transfers.
In addition, the NCAA has given the program an NOA (notice of allegations) so you can assume sanctions against the coach and his program are in their future. So I would say to USC fans, enjoy it while you can. This season is an anomaly and not sustainable.
The Trojan hoopsters must hate music. First they beat Drake, then Kansas. It’s too bad they won’t get to play (Loyola) Chicago.
In a perfect world, the Sweet 16 would be composed of the top four seeds from each region. The skill of the selection committee in identifying quality teams would prevail in such a case. However, in the current mix, nine of the 16 are from seeds below expectation. Does this speak to the limitations of the committee or perhaps to the complexity of this year’s college basketball program dealing with a pandemic?
Here’s a clue — in 2019, only two (No. 12 Oregon and No. 5 Auburn) of the Sweet 16 schools were outside the top four for each region!
A strong viewpoint
Kudos to Bill Shaikin for his exceptional commentary, which included a history of the intersection of policies, politics, and sports, as it pertains to the recent bill signed into law by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, which is the most overtly racist piece of legislation enacted in memory, because it restricts voting access (disproportionately impacting voters of color), while exerting greater legislative control over the election process, which heretofore has always been under the purview of the Office of the elected Secretary of State.
Hank Aaron must be turning over in grave.
Sports has been a chief catalyst of effectuating change in America for years, as laid out by Mr. Shaikin, and while some may quarrel with his piece appearing in the Sports and not Op-Ed section, it is a testament to The Times for placing it in the only appropriate place to get the attention of readers who, by and large, do not evince interest in anything except who won, who lost and why.
Call Aaron Bros.
Is it me, or is it sad that catcher Will Smith (the far better hitter) does not start because he doesn’t “frame” his pitches as well as Austin Barnes? I say bring on the TrackMan robot cameras. A strike is a strike and a ball is a ball!
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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.