NBA FOOT NOTES:
WIZARDS ARE FOR REAL & AN OPEN LETTER TO SIR CHARLES BARKLEY!
First, congratulations to the Washington Wizards for their great 2014 NBA start. Its their best in decades. Wednesday night's 111-95 victory over Kobe Byrant and the LA Lakers was a great TEAM victory. A lot of credit goes to Coach Randy Wittman. I know it is early but they are keeping hope alive in a city that has nowhere to run and nowhere to hide with the continued demised of the Washington Pro Football team and RGlll. The Washington Nations baseball team despite a great regular season that ended with them crashing back to earth in the play-offs are now saying "Wait until next year." The Washington Caps continue to be a puzzle to its fans and ownership. If the Wizards stay healthy (NeNe has taken his annual leave of absent due to injury) but it should be an action packed and competitive NBA season (I predict another play-off run if they stay healthy). Byron Scott Laker coach says, "John Wall is the fastest guard in the league and he is a headache to the defense--stay tune.
On another note I saw ESPN's Michael Wilbon in the Wizard's Media press room before tip-off last night. We have finally agreed to disagree and I think we have a better understanding when it comes to a difference of opinions (its not personal). Last night I asked him had he heard the latest opinion of his good friend and colleague NBA great Charles Barkley (Mike has written two books on Barkley)?
He said "No I have been on the air all day, what did he say now?" I sort of summarized the interview that I heard on CNN that has now gone viral.
The interview was on race relations in America as it related to Mike Brown and Ferguson and the NY choke hold victim Eric Gardner. I sit there in shock as Barkley talked about today's cops being a blessing in the black community and he did not think the death of Eric Gardner was murder. This brought to mind an episode seen of the classic soap opera, Dallas. Sue Ann Ewing enter an unlock hotel room and found her husband the womanizing J. R. Ewing in bed with another woman. J. R. looked up and said "Who are you going to believe me or your lying eyes.
The same could be said of Charles Barkley and the Grand Jury that allowed the offending NY cop to go free without a trial. Mike said, "I am not unaware of the interview." I found it amazing he had not heard especially, being in a press room full of his colleagues. But I took him at his word.
Mike said "Charles called me on Thanksgiving inviting me over to his house. I now wish I had gone but it was family time and I begged off, but I will be seeing him tomorrow and get his take." In the meantime, Kenny Smith ESPN's NBA analyst working along side of Barkley and Shack O'Neal decided to write an Open Letter to Sir Charles. The letter had the tone of the definition of Diplomacy once defined to me by a Colonel stationed on Bolling AFB. I kept butting heads with the Commander (my boss) of the base as it related to community issues. One day the Colonel took me to lunch and gave me the definition of Diplomacy. He said, "Harold the definition of Diplomacy is being able to tell someone to go to hell and have them looking forward to the trip!"
I think Kenny Smith hit the nail on the head with his Open Letter to Charles Barley (see below).
I hope this finds you in the way I always see you, in great spirits, with great joy and full of life. There are some things I want to openly say to you that sometimes in conversation get lost.
Firstly I lied! You are the greatest Power Forward of all time. It’s not (Tim) Duncan or (Karl) Malone, they had size and height that you weren’t blessed with and you never had near the talent around you that they were blessed to have. Contrarily you took your teams to similar heights. Secondly, you are a champion in my book. Effort and determination is what makes a champion, not a ring.
Lastly, you are the most entertaining person in sports television (partly because I throw you so many assists lol).
However, what I consistently find interesting is how writers and media members view your insights in politics, and now race relations, with the same reverence as your insights in sports.
They did it in the Trayvon Martin trial and now with Mike Brown and the decision in Ferguson. It’s not that you shouldn’t ever have an opinion, but you are often quoted alongside the likes of Al Sharpton and even President Obama. I would hope that Sharpton or President Obama would never be referenced with you when picking the next NBA Champs!
The body of work that our Black Civil Rights leaders put in by planning, executing and activating does not justify you being in the conversation. While your body of work on the court very few compare to nor should be mentioned when you are giving your expert analysis. Again, I respect that you have an opinion on Ferguson. And here’s mine.
The question must be asked: Why is there so much distrust in the police and the legal system from the African American community? Without manifesting what the effects of slavery still have today, Dec 1st still marks only 59 years since Rosa Parks sat on that memorable bus. Many of our parents and grandparents have lived through those times and have passed those stories on to all of us. Those civil rights changes were at one time the law! They were not illegal.
So did the protection of the law by the courts and police make it right? Obviously not, so as African Americans we still know and feel that there are laws and jurisdictions that severely penalize the poor and, most importantly, African Americans greater than any other group. Some laws were initially made without us as equals in mind; that’s just the facts. So the thought process that it’s not for us or by us will unfortunately lead to distrust.
When someone is in “the struggle”, which many of our black communities are in, they are living with a lack of educational facilities, high unemployment and poor recreational facilities. The masses involved in “the struggle” will react in several ways. They can overcome it, challenge it, live in it, or fall victim to it … For those of us who are decades removed from “the struggle” because of our life through sports or business, we now have to acknowledge that every option listed exists. If not, then we are the ignorant ones.
That leads me to the looters and civilians burning buildings which you referred to as “scumbags”. Here’s an analogy: If you put 100 people on an island with no food, no water, no hope of a ship coming, then some will overcome it and be resourceful, some will live in it, others will panic and others will show horrific character, which is wrong. But not to understand that all alternatives are possible is wrong as well.
I was also disheartened to see the reaction of burning buildings and looters by some. However, when you are in “The Struggle” to not expect that that potential reaction is foolish on our part.
The real issue is learning to positively manage your anger so you can be heard. It’s not that they are “scumbags”, their emotions won’t allow them to rationally think through their anger. I applaud that you have done a great job in your anger management in recent times … but not always.
Mike Brown wasn’t about race relations, nor Trayvon Martin or even Hurricane Katrina for that matter. It’s about trust. Do I trust you to help me off the island? If so, do you have my best interests at heart? Do I trust that you will you send a ship or allow me access to build my own ship?
And you were right Chuck, let’s not discredit that there are great police officers in all neighborhoods, but let’s not credit that we shouldn’t have doubt.
See you Thursday night!
NBA SPORTS MEDIA SAD NOTE: Byrant Burwell who once was a sports columnist for the now defunct Washington Star newspaper here in DC has died (RIP).
HATTIE T CONGRATULATIONS:
TO A SUPER STAR IN THE GAME CALLED LIFE ON OUR 46th WEDDING ANNIVERSARY--NOV 30, 1968-NOV 30, 2014
Civil Rights icon-Educator-Community Activist-Historian
MARION BARRY: I REMEMBER THE DC MAYOR FOR LIFE!
MARCH 6,1936--NOVEMBER 23, 2014
I remember Marion Barry, when he first blew into Washington, DC in 1965. He was like a midwestern hurricane. He came in as the Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNNC). His credentials, he coordinated and led the African-American Civil Rights Movement in Tennesee and student sit-ins.
When he arrived in DC I had just returned home after spending two years chasing my dreams of playing in the NFL without success. I was home looking for a job when my friend Petey Greene alerted me that the United Planning Organization (UPO) a self-help community organization was hiring. Petey knew the Director Jim Banks and told me to meet him at the 11th & U Street NW office the next morning.
UPO hired three Neighborhood Workers for the Shaw/Cardozo community. Petey Greene, H. Rap Brown and me. The rest is community and media history. Coincident, that this would be the same year the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee would decide to make Washington, DC its home base? Who would have thought that Petey Greene, H. Rap Brown, Harold Bell and Marion Barry would share and work on the same U Street corridor (Black Broadway) together? (continued@headline news)
THE MOST DANGEROUS GANGS IN AMERICA:
THE POLICE DEPARTMENTS & THE 1%?
I watched recently as a white retired captain on the Philadelphia Police Department said, "Police Departments in America are all corrupt. They do the bidding for the 1% who control all the wealth."
Made sense to me. All my brothers were involved with law enforcement. My older brother Bobby was a U. S. Marshall for 20 years, my younger brother Earl was a member of the DC Police Department for 13 years and the baby Tyrik (Billy aka Puddin) was on the wrong side of the law, he served time for drugs. He got his act together and later worked for boxing promoter Don King (Photographer). Each were raised in a single parent household. Our heroes were our grandmother and mother. Poppa was a rolling stone.
Bobby and Earl served with honesty and integrity and there were times when I had to intervene on their behalf because of racism in both organizations. I have spend the last 50 years working up close and personal in the war zones with police departments in DC, Md. and Virginia. Not a bad job by Grandma Bell and Mommy B who taught us to be honest and have integrity. When it comes to cops, I have seen the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Ferguson in 2014 was Washington, DC in 1968. The assination of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King mirrors the assination of Michael Brown. Ferguson was a sit-up for the black community much like the bitch sit-up of Marion Barry by the FBI in 1989. It looks like these set-up cycles have a shelf life of every 20 years plus.
When the 1968 riots hit DC I was working in the U Street NW corridor as a Roving Leader for the DC Recreation Department. I watched along with my co-worker Willie Wood and U.S Marshall in charge Luke C. Moore as the city burned without any law enforcement intervention! The White House had issued an order for law enforcement agencies to only moderate the situation.
While the city burned and the looters looted no-one made a move. The next day there were wholesale arrest but by now the damage was done. The black looters had destroyed their own communities---sound familiar? In 1968 you could buy a home in the U Street corridor for $50,000 today it would cost you $750,000 to live there. Guess who is on the outside looking in?
In Ferguson, why would it take 100 days for the Grand Jury to reach a decision on whether to send Darren Wilson to trial or cut him loose? The reason, they were plotting ways to turn the table on the black community and the likes of Al Sharpton. As doom's day drew near for the decision, the Governor calls out 400 National Guardsmen. It is then announced that the decision reached by the Grand Jury will be announced at 8:00 pm on Monday night. The time stretched out to 9:00 pm!
My question, why would you wait to annouce the decision in the dark of the night with a powder keg of pissed off people waiting on the outside to explode? Where were the called up National Guardsmen when the "Mom & Pop" businesses own mostly by black folks were burned to the ground and police cruisers were set ablaze? Nowhere in sight, something is wrong with this picture?
You often hear police officers talk about how they put their lives on the line everyday they hit the streets. Some of the most tragic police brutality atrocities have come out of LA, NY and Prince George's County. For the past several decades black men in America have put their lives on the line every time they leave their homes and places of employment. Their mode of transportation matters very little. They can be walking (Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown) or Driving While Black (DWB). They are caught between a rock and a hard place. Often they don't know who to duck, the police or the thug, sometimes they are one of the same.
My wife often questions me why is it I wear my cap backwards like so many of today's teenagers. Its a simple explanation, "I wear it backwards as a defensive ploy to help ID me as a hip black man!" I am still working in the inner-city among young people who have no respect for today's senior citizens. The elderly have become prime targets for harrassment today's youth. The cops are even scare of them. Which explains why they are shooting first and asking questions later.
America police departments are made of a body of cops who are cowards and they are being protected by a Code of Silence. There are some Good Cops out there but they are outnumbered by the Bad Cops!
My brother Sgt. Earl K. Bell (aka Bull Bell) was a Good Cop for 13 years on the DC Police Department. I was his checks and balances. Whenever I heard he had crossed the line. I was there to remind him who he was and where we came from.
In 1976 he turned in a couple of his cowardly colleagues who were brutality abusing BLACK only prisoners in the DC cell block on the weekends. He warned them "Not on my watch!" A black cop named Musgrove and white cop continued the abuse. When my brother came to me for advice I told him to take them to our homeboys, Chief Maurice Turner and Ass't Chief Marty Tapscott. When they looked the other way, he turned them into the U. S. Attorney's Office. They both were indicted. Musgrove was sent to jail and the white cop disappeared with no jail time. Musgrove appeared his sentence and it was overturned. The department rewarded Musgrove (he retired as an Inspector) and they punished my brother with the Code of Silence.
I took the case to our homeboy, DC Congressman Walter Fauntroy. He immediately called Mayor Marion Barry who was out of town but he was able to reach him on his cell phone. I was standing there when Marion promised Walter he would look into the situation as soon as he returned to the city---he never did. It was doing this office visit that Walter asked me about rumors of Marion's drug use. My response, "Walter you are as well connected to the streets as I am. You know the real deal."
In the meantime, I would later encountered Marion's Chief of Staff Elijah "Baby" Rogers at Face's Restaurant. Rogers was a long time friend of my wife Hattie and her family, he hailed from South Carolina. I brought the problem to his attention and he promised to look into it---he never did.
The Code of Silence was later enforced by a coward who was also a native Washingtonian, Chief Ike Fulwood. It was Fulwood who carried out the Code of Silence when he discipline my brother by taking him off the streets and assigned him to office duty at the Police & Fire Clinic. This was after I had made a personal one on one visit to him at the 14th Precint on Benning Road, NE. It was there I asked for an update on my brother's status. He said, "I got your brother's back" famous last words.
In 1988 on his first day driving to his new assignment, he had a head-on accident with a 18 wheeler on an unknown icy roadway on the Suitland Parkway bridge crossover. I was 10 minutes away when I got the call from his son telling me to get over SE Community Hospital his dad had been involved in an accident on the way to work. I was living in Suitland so I took the Suitland Parkway to Souther Avenue that led to the bridge. I was detoured around the accident and got a first hand look. I said to myself, "He has got to be dead" it was so horrific. Once arriving at the hospital the doctors told me he was hanging on but there was little hope he would survive.
"Bull" Bell did survive against all odds. The accident left him paralized from the waist down. He was confined to a wheelchair until he died in a abused Maryland nursing home on August 1, 2013.
Several years ago the Code of Silence raise its ugly head again in the LAPD which has a long and storied history of police brutality. The code was also responsible for the death of a black cop in who tried to expose corruption in the department. I regret, he had to take the lives of others to get their attention, but evidently they pushed to his limit. Like my brother he was a decorated police officer with a clean record. He took his own life after the LAPD cornered him in a blazing cabin fire in the mountains.
We don't seem to be learning anything from Rodney King, the black unarmed brother they shot 50 times in NY City or the one they recently choked to death on a New York street in broad daylight. Trayvon Martin and now Michael Brown and the list goes on and on. The bottom-line we also have cowards walking among us (politicians, etc.). Recently, I had a "Friend" say to me, 'Man folks don't understand why you have not committed sucide.' The reason, I have never been caught up in things and I am comfortable in my skin.
It looks like help is on the way with our young who are saying "Enough is enough." Bravo!
It has been said “Don’t ever look back because someone might be gaining on you.” In the case of Black people in America there was never a need for White folks to look back.” We have yet to gain on them!
For example; in 1969 the income for White households doubled that of Black households. In 2011 when people measured the progress of blacks in America, the first thing they pointed to was a Black President in the White House.
The real measure of success in America has always been financial success. In 2011 the average White household still doubles that of a Black house hold (1969 and 2009 Census).
In February 2011 I coordinated and hosted a series of Black History Moments in Sports at the historical and World famous Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington, DC. Much of the series was spend honoring unsung heroes in the Black Community.
In February 1926 the legendary and great writer/poet Carter G. Woodson gave us Black History Week and in 1976 Black History Week evolved into Black History Month. This disproves the myth of White folks giving us the shortest month of the year. The month of February and the annual tribute was a Black man’s idea!
The most popular tribute at Ben’s Chili Bowl was the one paid to Gary Mays who as a young child had his left arm blown off by an accidental blast from a shotgun, he was 5 years old.
Gary moved to Washington, DC from West Virginia at the age of twelve. His story of growing up on the tough streets and playgrounds of Washington, DC should be on a movie screen.
He had a double whammy growing up he was a black male child and had one arm. Gary grew up in NW DC in a neighborhood where it would have been a challenge for a two armed kid.
The bullies that he encountered would make today’s bullies look like choir boys. Thanks to a knockout punch in his powerful right arm and hand allowed him to take names and kicked ass.
The powerful punch was developed early thanks to his uncle Charles Aubrey who was a semi-pro baseball catcher in West Virginia. During backyard catch games Gary was on the receiving end of his uncle’s many fast balls thrown high and sometimes low and in the dirt. This daily drill helped to prepare him as young kid to be a one of a kind athlete.
When Gary left for D.C. to live with his mother, one of his Uncle Charles’ teammates gave him a parting gift, it was a baseball glove. The rest is baseball history and what legends are made of today.
Once he had arrived in DC he started playing organized baseball at the age of thirteen with young men years older on a team called the Georgetown Panthers.
Gary picked Armstrong Technical High school to take his athletic skills to the next level. He was already a playground legend and still his baseball coach Major Robinson was a skeptic. He didn’t think Gary could make his team. But it didn’t take him long to make a believer out of Coach Robinson.
He was not only a feared catch but was a power hitter his bat was just as feared as his throwing arm.
I first heard of Gary through my older brother the late Robert Alfred Bell better known as Bobby. My brother played second-base on the Armstrong team.
We grew up with my grandmother and Bobby would come home and tell stories about the feats of his one armed teammate. I thought he was making these stories up until I saw “The One Arm Bandit” with my own eyes.
I was a student at Brown Middle school in the early 50s when Gary and Elgin Baylor were the talk of the town.
Brown Middle School is located at 24th and Benning Road in NE DC. It sits on a hill like no other school system in America. There are three other schools located within a stone’s throw of each other. First there is Spingarn High School the home of NBA Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor and Dave Bing, next is Charles Young Elementary, and directly behind it sits Phelps Vocational High School and at the end of the street there is Brown Middle School.
The basketball court that sits directly across from Brown is the site of some memorable playground basketball games that included the likes of Gary, Elgin, Bing, John Thompson, Willie Wood, Willie Jones, etc. Elgin and Dave are in the NBA Hall of Fame and Willie Wood is in the NFL Hall of Fame. The late Len Ford of Armstrong is the other student/athlete in the NFL Hall of Fame.
The DC Public School system is the only public school system in America that can lay claim of having four student/athletes in the NFL and NBA Hall of Fames.
Directly across the street from Spingarn is historical Langston Golf Course where I got to see Heavyweight Boxing Champion Joe Louis and legendary golfer Charlie Sifford up close and personal.
This unique school setting allowed me to watch my brother and Gary play at least twice a year.
This historical hill and school system are an endangered species. In the near future this hill will be the home of the rich and famous with million dollar homes and condoms replacing the schools.
The golf course will become a country club for the residents who will definitely not look like us. They will dock their boats on the Anacostia River and travel by streetcar on Benning Road to work and back home.
There is no way in hell the city is building street car tracks for Black and poor high school students to share with rich White folks! “The Educational Hill” will disappear right before our very eyes and become the Residential Hill.
Gary said, “This has been in the plans for decades.”
When he became a high school senior he was built like a linebacker at 5-foot-11, 185-pound with an arm and wrist so powerful he threw would be base stealers out with ease.
The Washington Star, Daily News and the Times Herald
ignored his great feats on the field of play. Despite the non-recognition he was still named as one of three finalists for the Paris Trophy, given to the city’s top prep baseball player. This was a statement in itself since the only thing preppy about Gary was he sometimes wore a sweater to school.
Gary won the sportsmanship award, but he didn’t win the city’s MVP award. He was not chosen for the MVP or selected to play at the whites-only, season-ending All-High, All-Prep Game at Griffith Stadium. Since he played in Division II athletics in the DC Public High Schools he was not eligible.
He was definitely worthy, according to the Washington Daily News, Gary batted .375, yielded zero stolen bases and didn’t make a single error. The paper noted that the recognition was earned and not based on “sympathy” it was his pure talent that got their attention.
In June 1954, The Washington Senators’ held their annual tryout camp, home to hundreds of hopeful young men and more than a dozen major league scouts. During those three days Gary was the best player in Griffith Stadium.
This is the same ballpark where he once wasn’t allowed to compete in a prep all-star game. In a camp-closing scrimmage, Gary threw out a base runner and hit the only home run, a 350-foot drive over the center-field fence. He was unanimously voted camp MVP.
He dominated a group of players that included future Washington Senator outfielder Chuck Hinton. Chuck went on to have a 11-year major league career. Gary did not receive a contract offer.
A Major League scout explained to the Daily News that Gary could never be an effective catcher because “he’s at a disadvantage on a ball thrown in the dirt.” This statement was just a smoke screen and use to cover up his racist and bias attitude for not offering Gary a contract.
Gary dismissed the racial overtones as, “That is the way it was and no one ever said Life was fair.”
It was Gary’s basketball coach Charlie Baltimore that gave him the tag “The One Arm Bandit.”
One day in practice Coach Baltimore got pissed off after Gary had stolen the ball for about the sixth time he screamed at no one in particular, “How in the hell do you guys keep letting that “One Arm Bandit steal the ball?” The name has been with him ever since.
In 1954 months before desegregation was outlawed in all public schools in America by the Supreme Court, Armstrong and Spingarn High School played each other for the Division II basketball title.
Gary and his teammates would face the greatest basketball player to ever touch a ball in the annals of DC basketball—Elgin “Rabbit” Baylor.
In one of the biggest games in Division II basketball history and against all odds Armstrong would meet undefeated Spingarn and “Basketball God”, Elgin Baylor for the title. The two teams had met twice during the regular season and Baylor had averaged close to 50 points in the two victories.
Armstrong Coach Charlie Baltimore knew he had no chance of beating Spingarn if he didn’t find a way to stop Elgin Baylor. Just before tip-off he called his Captain Gary Mays and teammates together.
He instructed everyone on the floor to play a zone defense with the exception of Gary. He was told to play Elgin Man to Man. Coach Baltimore said “I want you to stay with Elgin regardless of where he decides to go including the bathroom and once he gets there, you sit on the toilet paper!”
The final score Armstrong 50 Spingarn 47. Gary held Elgin to 18 points half of his regular season average on his home court, talking about against all odds!
The defense Coach Baltimore devised was called a Box In One the same exact defense my high school Coach the late Dr. William Roundtree had asked me to play my senior year at Spingarn. Until I heard Gary’s story on why he was able to hold Elgin to 18 points I was walking around thinking I was the first high school basketball player to play in a Box In One!
There were three other things that Gary and I had in common we were both raised by our grandmothers (early years) we worn the number 23 as high school athletes and we were both were piss poor students.
I was in the same boat with Pittsburg Steeler’s QB Terry Bradshaw you could spot me the C-A in cat and I still could not spell it.
The similarities end there he was easily the greatest all-around athlete in the city. He could swim like a fish, played pool and held his own with the sharks and hustlers.
Gary was due to graduate in June 1954 but he had to return to Armstrong to get credits for English and a piano class. He passed both courses and graduated in January 1955.
He wanted to take his athletic skills to the next level by attending college and had been asked by the legendary basketball coach Johnny McLendon to play for him at Tennessee State University in Nashville. The late Coach McLendon was a class act and he was one of the finest coaches to ever coach the game of basketball. He was an innovator and created “The 4 Corners.”
As bad luck would have it Elgin Baylor and Dunbar High School student/athlete Warren Williams came home on a college Christmas break and asked Gary to join them at the College of Idaho.
They made him an offer he could not refuse and Gary joined them for the 54 hour ride by train where Black faces were in short supply. They joined R. C. Owens who would later go on to be an All-Pro wide receiver for the NFL San Francisco 49ers.
During his tenure in the NFL he and NFL Hall of Fame QB John Brodie created “The Alley Oop” pass play. The pattern consisted of Owens running straight down the field and Brodie throwing the ball as far and high as he could get it. Owens would use his basketball skills to out jump the defender for the ball.
In the meantime at the college of Idaho, Elgin, Warren, Gary and R. C. were pioneers during the 50s. There was an unwritten rule that no school could play more than three blacks at time, but the College of Idaho was different.
He reminded me of the great NBA legendary coach, Red Auerbach, as the basketball coach, Sam Vokes walked to his own drum beat.
He wore two hats, he coached basketball and football. He needed players and he would not allow their color to be used to disqualify them.
The school was located in Caldwell, Idaho a small town located near the Oregon border.
The town of Caldwell took some getting use to when Gary decided to go to town he would stop the traffic and the people. They would stare at him. The looks he received were looks of surprise and not hate. They had never seen blacks before.
The locals were very friendly. Winning can do wonders and the town’s folks fell in love with the black players. The school’s basketball team was suddenly hot and could not be stopped.
Elgin averaged 31.3 points and 18.9 rebounds a game. R.C. Owens grabbed 37 rebounds in a single game. The team went undefeated in the Northwest Conference. Where once you could not give tickets away the school was now turning away fans.
Gary hardly ever got any playing time but he could have cared less! He was having so much fun. He and Elgin would put on “Globetrotter-like” dribbling exhibitions during halftime.
The town had really embraced the players and Gary says “I had the best seat in the house, on the bench.”
Gary played baseball for the Coyotes (the team’s nick name) and worked at a Caldwell sporting goods store. He befriended the white owner, Pat O’Connor, a well-known war hero. The two would go hunting and Gary would borrow a shotgun from a local dentist he had befriended.
O’Connor took Gary on sales trips along the Oregon border and he would speak to the school children.
He would entertain the children by tying and untying his shoes. The kids loved it but all good things must come to an end.
In a March 7, 1955, an article was published in Sports Illustrated that said, “The College of Idaho was winning games by admitting academically unqualified athletes.” A blind man could see where the fingers were being pointed.
The fingers were being pointed at Elgin, Warren, R. C. and Gary. They were identified as the “Usual Suspects.”
It was reported that Elgin earned all Bs during his first semester. I would guess if you checked Elgin’s high school transcript you would ask yourself how in the hell could this guy get all Bs?
Coach Vokes stood his ground for the Black athletes against the school administrators. He was fired following the basketball season.
Elgin left for the University of Seattle, which he later led them to the Final Four. Warren Williams transferred to Virginia Union University in nearby Richmond, Virginia and Gary went back to Idaho in the fall, but he didn’t like the new basketball coach. He quit school and returned to DC.
Once home he received a couple of letters from the owner of the Harlem Globetrotters, Abe Saperstein. He offered Gary a tryout but he decided he did not want to be a part of the Globetrotter’s side show.
He started his own construction company, drove a cab, ran a numbers book in what is now known as the DC, Maryland and Virginia lotteries and had one of largest black own liquor stores in DC.
Gary was always a self starter. It would be 50 years later before he returned to Caldwell, Idaho. The occasion, the Coyotes were inducting the 1954-55 basketball team into its basketball Hall of Fame.
R. C. Owens and Gary were the only Black players to return for the induction ceremony. The town folks remembered him and the weekend he spent there for the induction was a love fest.
Today Gary Mays is 75 years old and has a “Family Tree” that consists of Donna his wife of 20 years, a daughter who has her college degree in Communications and a 16 year old son who is a computer whiz.
He loves talking about his 9 year old cousin, Cameron an upcoming track and field superstar or his cousin, A’dia Mathies, who was Miss Kentucky Basketball in 2010.
The 2011 Black History Month tribute, recognition by ESPN Magazine and the City Paper was great and long overdue. The one thing that he enjoyed most was the discovery that he is the original “One Arm Bandit.”
The two men laying claim to that title are John S. Payne a rodeo rancher and Larry Alford II a golfer. There are pictures of them using prosthesis to aid them in their pursuit of excellence. Gary is the only one that uses the one arm to play in the Game Called Life. This Black History fact makes him “The Original One Arm Bandit.”