Quick Takes


    New England rolled up 52 points Sunday against hapless Washington. Fine, but why keep Tom Brady in the game into the fourth quarter with a 38-0 lead after the third period? Why run the risk of an injury to your best player at that point? Bill Belichick’s logic escapes me; one good QB hit, and their season could be over. Are the Patriots after records or a Super Bowl win?


    The antics of Belichick and Brady pale by comparison to this story. Smith Center scored 72 points in the first quarter of a Kansas high school football game Tuesday night on the way to an 83-0 win over Plainville. Smith Center forced six turnovers in the first quarter as it racked up what is believed to be a record for points in a quarter by a high school team. The defending state champion has outscored its opponents 640-0 so far this season, including a 69-0 win over Plainville earlier this year.


    I’m no Red Sox fan, to be sure, but I was pulling for Jon Lester to have a strong outing, and he did just that. He’s a recovering cancer patient as I am, so I was very pleased to see him turn in that stunning Game Four performance while his great team put the Rockies out of their misery.


    The Rockies were an absolutely tremendous investment in 2007. They got to the World Series with a total team payroll of $54 million, #25 out of 30 teams. Boston’s payroll by comparison was $143 million, second high in baseball. (Of course, the average ticket price in Denver is 75 cents, and the average ticket price in Boston is $300, but that’s beside the point.)


    Thanks to Rick Dames, my friend and the best minor league radio hockey color guy in the business, for this info. Saturday night, all three New York City area NHL teams played at home. The Rangers, Islanders and Devils drew 48,961 fans collectively for home games the same night. That is tremendous. Too bad the NHL can’t draw television fans like they draw in-person fans.


    Tommy Lasorda stated this morning that Joe Torre “will be a good fit for the Dodgers.” That means it’s a done deal, although it hasn’t been made formal yet as of this writing.


Story of the Week



    Earl Lloyd was an African-American basketball player, the first black man to play in a National Basketball Association game.

    A native of Alexandria, Virginia, Earl Francis Lloyd led West Virginia State to two CIAA Conference and Tournament Championships in 1948 and 1949. He was named All-Conference three times (1948-50), and was All-American twice as named by the Pittsburgh Courier (1949-50). As a senior, he averaged 14 points and eight rebounds per game while leading West Virginia State to a second place finish in the CIAA Conference and Tournament Championship. In 1947-48, West Virginia State was the only undefeated team in the United States.

    Nicknamed "The Big Cat", he was one of three African-Americans to enter the NBA at the same time. It was only because of the order in which the teams' season openers fell that Lloyd was the first to actually play in a NBA game. The date was October 31, 1950, one day ahead of Charles “Chuck” Cooper of the Boston Celtics and four days before Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton of the New York Knicks. Lloyd played in over 560 games in nine seasons. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound forward averaged 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

    Lloyd played in only seven games for the Washington Capitols before the team folded on January 9, 1951. He then went into the Army at Fort Sill, Okla., before the Syracuse Nationals picked him up on waivers. He spent six seasons with Syracuse and two with the Detroit Pistons before retiring in 1960. Lloyd retired ranked 43rd in career scoring with 4,682 points. His best year was 1955, when he averaged 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds for Syracuse, and the Nationals won the NBA title by defeating the Fort Wayne Pistons four games to three. Lloyd and Jim Tucker were the first African-Americans to play on a NBA championship team.

    Lloyd once said, "In 1950 basketball was like a babe in the woods; it didn't enjoy the notoriety that baseball enjoyed." Like Lloyd, Clifton and Cooper had solid but not spectacular careers. After retiring as a player, Lloyd was a Detroit Pistons assistant coach for two seasons and a scout for five.


    Charles “Chuck” Cooper was the first black player drafted by a National Basketball Association team. The Boston Celtics selected Cooper, an All-American at Duquesne University, in the second round of the 1950 draft.

Cooper made the team and played in the NBA for six stormy seasons, when ability often mattered less than skin color.


    Owners of white-only hotels refused to rent a room to Cooper, separating him from his teammates on road trips. On barnstorming exhibitions in the South, the Celtics were told to leave Cooper behind. Boston management and many opposing white players backed his right to play, but that made the harassment no less ugly.


    After the jeering stopped and Cooper returned to the workaday world in Pittsburgh, his breakthrough was largely ignored or forgotten. Author Ron Thomas set out to change that. He examined Cooper's life and those of other trailblazing players for his book "They Cleared the Lane: The NBA's Black Pioneers."


    In the 1970s and '80s, Thomas covered the NBA for the San Francisco Chronicle and USA Today. Even though basketball was his beat, he knew more about Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers than he did about the black players who integrated the NBA.


    Thomas thought an important story had been overlooked. He made a mental note to interview Cooper, but put off the job until it was too late. Cooper died in 1984 at age 57. Thomas had never spoken to him.


    Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton was the first African-American to sign a contract with a NBA team. He debuted for the Knicks in 1950. Legend has it he was given the nickname of "Sweetwater" as a boy because of his love of soft drinks.


    Sweetwater played eight seasons for the Knicks and the Detroit Pistons, averaging 10.0 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He played in the 1957 NBA All-Star game at 34 years, becoming the oldest first-time All-Star in NBA history. Sweetwater Clifton also played for the New York Rens and the Harlem Globetrotters. He played professional baseball with the Chicago American Giants in the Negro League. Clifton passed away in 1990 at age 67.


    We can’t possibly imagine what life was like for the black pioneers who were so abused while simply trying to utilize their talents to make their lives better. It wasn’t just in sports, but in all walks of life.


Last Week’s Trivia


    What player holds the all-time NCAA mark for most rushing yards in a game? TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson rang up 406 rushing yards in a game against UTEP in 1999. College or the NFL, it’s all the same to this great back.


Trivia Question of the Week


    Who holds the single-game NHL record for most points by a player? It was an incredible performance. See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.