I will have an editorial Quick Take on the Lakers and their mess after the dust has settled. If I were to write it now, I’d be just another writer with an immediate opinion. I prefer to be just another writer with an opinion later when less national emphasis is placed on same. But make no mistake about it; I know what that editorial will read.
It took place on May 26, 1959 at County Stadium in Milwaukee. Pittsburgh’s Harvey Haddix pitched a perfect game through 12 innings of the scoreless tie. In the 13th., his teammate, Don Hoak, made an error. Hank Aaron was then walked, and Joe Adcock hit a walk-off double to end the 13-inning affair and give the Braves the win. Not only did Haddix pitch a perfect game for 12 innings, but Braves starter, Lew Burdette, pitched 13 innings of shutout ball for the Braves. So, in fact, both Haddix and Burdette made it the greatest game ever pitched.
Story of the Week
Jerry West was a standout basketball player at the University of West Virginia, having been named the NCAA Final Four MVP. West could flat-out shoot the ball. He poured in 25,192 points across a 14-year NBA career. He owns the fourth highest career points-per-game average in NBA history at 27.0. He appeared in 14 NBA All-Star Games, and was named MVP of the 1972 classic.
West was the Lakers’ "Mr. Outside" to teammate Elgin Baylor’s "Mr. Inside." A large enough percentage of his deadly missiles came from such long range that, had there been a three-point line at the time, his scoring totals would likely have been anywhere from 25-30% higher than they were. "Mr. Clutch" always was a very accurate description of this great showcase guard. And he was the best pure shooter in basketball history.
Jerry West captured but one league scoring crown. Why just one? He was the victim of terrible timing. It seems there was a guy in the NBA who made a steady practice of winning scoring titles; that player was Wilt Chamberlain. And another reason West was able to capture but one title was the fact that he had to share the ball with another scoring genius, teammate Elgin Baylor, and later Chamberlain himself when Wilt became a Laker, and Gail Goodrich, another shot bomber of the early ‘70s.
When it came to postseason playoff time, no one was more proficient than West. For starters, there was his spectacular 55-foot game-tying shot in Game 3 of the 1970 Finals against the Knicks. Twice he averaged better than 40 points per game for a playoff series, and his 46.5 in the 1965 series against Baltimore is an all-time mark. I have never seen a better clutch shooter than Jerry West; if I needed one shot to win a game, one shot, it would be West who would get that ball.
After his playing days, he was coach of the Lakers for three seasons, leading the team to playoff births all three years. And as the team’s General Manager for so many years, he built the "Showtime" Lakers, then rebuilt the team into the recent championship Lakers. He had a parting of the ways with the Lakers (Jerry Buss didn’t think he needed the best exec in NBA history; he was dead wrong, and the present turmoil in L. A. is proving it. If West were still in charge, the Lakers franchise would not be in disarray as it is now.) but took his general management brilliance to Memphis where he and Coach Hubie Brown have built the Grizzlies into a playoff team. Watch out for the Memphis Grizzlies; they’re a coming team with great management and a solid young nucleus of floor talent.
Jerry West is on the NBA’s 15 All-Time Greatest Players list. The great #44 was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980.
Last Week’s Trivia
Marvin Harrison and Terrell Owens are the only NFL receivers with more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns over the past four seasons.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who are the only two players in MLB history to hit home runs in their first two at-bats? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.