U.S. Open Quiz: 1) What player with the initials G.L. won the
Open in 1961? 2) What player with the initials O.M. won it in
1969? 3) What player with the initials T.J. won it in 1970? 4)
Who finished 2nd to Johnny Miller in 1973? [Hint: Initials are
J.S.] 5) Who finished 2nd to Hale Irwin in 1974? [Hint: Initials
are F.F.] 6) What player with the initials C.B. has two second
place finishes in the last 20 years? Answers below.
Stories from the ABA
In honor of the match-up between two former teams from the
American Basketball Association, San Antonio and New Jersey,
for the NBA championship, I thought I’d pull up some old stories
from the ABA days that I previously used in this space back in
1999 and 2000.
First up, Marvin “Bad News” Barnes.
It was 1974 and the St. Louis Spirits of the ABA won a bidding
war for Providence star, Marvin Barnes. Barnes was a classic, as
spelled out in Terry Pluto’s book on the era, “Loose Balls,” the
best history of the league.
One day Marvin was late for practice (he always was) and the
coach asked him why.
“I lost my car in a lot downtown,” said Barnes.
“What kind of car is it?” asked Coach McKinnon.
“A Bentley,” said Barnes.
There couldn’t have been 3 Bentleys in all of St. Louis.
Another Barnes habit was showing up just 20 minutes before a
game. He’d stuff his face with food while getting taped and
then, as the team warmed up, would sit with his women in the
stands. After losing a road game, Marvin would shout when the
team got back to the hotel, “Party hardy, gentlemen. Party
Coach Joe Mullaney had this Barnes experience. “I was
coaching the Spirits and it was right at the end of the first half.
Marvin got the ball about 20 feet from the basket on a breakaway
and there were about 4 seconds on the clock. He could have
walked in and dunked it. Instead, he took three steps
BACKWARDS and heaved up a 3-pointer. It was the most
undisciplined, outrageous play I had ever seen at any level of
Broadcaster and former ABA star, Steve Jones. “The morning
after a game, we’d be on the bus ready to go to the airport and
Marvin would come out with a woman on each arm. He would
kiss them both a couple of times before he got on the bus.”
At one point Barnes bolted the Spirits for two weeks because
teammate “Jumpin’ Joe” Caldwell told him he was being
screwed on his contract. Caldwell’s agent, Marshall Boyer, was
a mess. Harry Weltman, the Spirits owner, said of Boyer, “I had
lots of conversations with the guy and none of them made any
sense. He would close his conversations by saying, ‘Men move
at night.’ What the hell did that mean?”
Barnes was never on the early morning flights so one day the
Spirits had a game in Norfolk after playing in New York.
Everyone called Marvin from the airport and he just said that
he’ll catch a later plane. So Marvin missed the 9:00 am, 11:00
am, and 1:00 pm flights. When Barnes finally got to LaGuardia
he found that all the flights to Norfolk were gone. So Marvin
started explaining his plight to some folks and was told that the
only way he could get to Norfolk was to charter a plane, which is
what he did, cutting a deal for a private plane to take him there.
Barnes arrived about 10 minutes before the contest.
“Boys, game time is on time,” he announced upon his arrival.
Marvin was wearing a big, wide-brimmed hat and his floor-
length $10,000 mink coat. He had a bag of McDonald’s
hamburgers and fries and, opening his coat, everyone could see
he had his uniform on. Of course he had 43 points and 19
rebounds that night.
Meanwhile, during the game, the pilot showed up to get paid (he
certainly wasn’t going to trust Barnes to send him a check) so
Barnes ended up writing one out for about $1,000 right in the
middle of the contest. [Source: Bob Costas, the St. Louis Spirits’
radio announcer at the time.]
Among the other great characters of the old ABA was Ladner, a
6’4”, 220-pound forward who in five seasons played for four
teams – Memphis, Kentucky, Carolina and New York. He
averaged 11.6 points and 8 rebounds and also made two all-star
Ladner was attending Southern Miss when the scouts came
calling, but he was drastically out of shape and only Memphis
took a flyer on him. While he was listed as being much taller,
Ladner made up for his lack of stature by being incredibly strong
and a hustler. He was one of the great offensive rebounders in
the game. And, oh, the stories. Following are some snippets,
again from Pluto’s “Loose Balls.”
There was the time Wendell went diving for a loose ball and
smacked into a glass water cooler, head first, requiring 48
stitches. This was Game 6 of the 1973 playoffs. A reporter
remarked to Ladner’s coach, Babe McCarthy, “It seems Wendell
doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘fear.’” McCarthy
responded, “That’s right; of course, he doesn’t know the meaning
of many other words, either.”
Once when the team was flying into Washington, D.C., Ladner
looked out the window and, spying the Washington Monument,
said, “I bet that’s the Washington Post.”
Ladner was also known to be a big fighter. Steve Jones recalls
that Memphis was playing the Pittsburgh Condors and their
psycho, John Brisker. Brisker came up to Jones and said, “I hear
you’ve got this tough white kid on your team.” Jones said,
“Ladner can fight. I wouldn’t mess with him.” Brisker replied
that they would find out that evening. Jones describes what
“(After the selfish Brisker got his 30 points) he decided it was
time to go after Wendell. John threw an elbow at Ladner, who
didn’t pay any attention to it and just ran down to the other end
of the court. The next time down, Brisker threw another elbow,
and Ladner went crazy. It became more like two bulls trying to
gore each other than a basketball fight. In their next game, they
got into a fight at the jump ball to start the game.”
Former player and coach Tom Meschery related his own tale
about Ladner. “He had a two-track mind – basketball and sex.
He used hair spray before games and at halftime so he’d look
good for the ladies.”
And there is this one. Wendell went to see a doctor and said he
had a discomfort in his groin area. Ladner was single at the time
and the doctor said, “It looks like you’ve been having sex too
Wendell said, “You think so?”
Doc: “Well, how many times a day do you have sex?”
Wendell: “I don’t know, three or four times.”
Doc: “Wendell, that’s too much.”
Wendell: “Well, it’s never with the same girl.”
Wendell Ladner died in a plane crash in 1975 at the age of 26.
Finally, back to Brisker (this is a bonus tale from a 2/01 Bar
Chat), he was an all-star for the Pittsburgh Pipers / Condors,
playing between 1969-72. His second and third seasons he lit it
up for 29.3 and 28.9 points per game, combining his bruising
inside game with deadly long-range bombs. But there was a
whole lot more.
Teammate Charlie Williams: “He was an excellent player, but
say something wrong to the guy and you had this feeling he
would reach into his bag, take out a gun and shoot you.”
Once, future all-star Billy Knight was practicing with the Pipers
while attending the University of Pittsburgh. “The first time I
played a game against Brisker, he just turned toward me and
busted me in the mouth. (And then) he just stood there, waiting
for me to do something about it. I didn’t do anything. He just
Brisker liked to pick on the big guys. So Pittsburgh brought in
an ex-football player to take care of him during training camp
before he busted up their lineup. The first time he would step out
of line, the footballer was to level him. Former ABA team
official Dick Tinkham describes what happened next.
“So the two guys are going at it and the football player said, ‘The
hell with you, I’m gonna get my gun.’ And Brisker said, ‘If
you’re getting a gun, then I’m gonna get my gun.’ Then the two
guys ran off in different directions. The coaches called off
Along with Warren Jabali and Ladner, Brisker was the roughest
player in an often out of control league. Dallas coach Tom
Nissalke related how the team owner would give him a
checkbook so Nissalke could pay out bonuses for outstanding
play right after the game. [Times were different, back then,
especially with this league.] Well, one day the team was on a big
losing streak with Pittsburgh as the next opponent. The coach
had to shake things up.
“The first guy in this room who decks Brisker will get $500.”
Lenny Chappell (normally a reserve at the time) asked if he
could start. At the jump ball to open play, Chappell flattened
Brisker with a punch. None of the officials saw what happened.
[They were all looking up, after all.] The bad boy was out cold
and Dallas ended up breaking their losing streak.
After three years in Pittsburgh, Brisker went to Seattle of the
NBA for the ‘72-‘73 season. His play rapidly deteriorated as it
became well-known that he was using drugs heavily. [Brisker’s
scoring average dropped to 12.8, 12.5 and 7.7 for his three years
in Seattle.] At the age of 28 he was out of basketball.
Then in March 1978, John Brisker headed to Liberia, claiming he
was going to start an import / export business. What is known is
that he called his girlfriend from Uganda some 4 times that April.
That’s the last anyone heard from him.
Rumor has it that he became a mercenary. Others say he was
invited by that great basketball fan, Idi Amin, to play hoops for
him, only to be killed by a firing squad when Amin was toppled
in ’79. For the purposes of clearing up his estate, a King County,
WA court declared John Brisker legally dead in 1985. But if you
think he’s alive and know his whereabouts, drop us a line!
Major Threats to Our Oceans
The recently produced Pew Oceans Commission study has been
in the news lately. I perused it and came up with the following
items that are a bit depressing, if you’re in the least bit an
--A National Academy of Sciences study estimates that the oil
running off our street and driveways and ultimately flowing into
the oceans is equal to an Exxon Valdez oil spill (10.9 million
gallons) every eight months.
--In the U.S., animal feedlots produce about 500 million tons of
manure each year, more than three times the amount of sanitary
waste produced by the human population.
--Based on EPA estimates, in one week a 3,000-passenger cruise
ship generates about 210,000 gallons of sewage, 1,000,000
gallons of gray water (shower, sink, and dishwashing water),
37,000 gallons of oily bilge water, more than 8 tons of solid
waste, millions of gallons of ballast water containing potential
invasive species, and toxic wastes from dry cleaning and photo-
[Yikes, I was on a cruise ship this big for 4 weeks this winter. I
wonder what the impact was from my 168 beers! Don’t answer
--A December 2000 storm resulted in the escape of 100,000
salmon from a single farm in Maine, about 1,000 times the
number of documented wild adult salmon in Maine.
--A salmon farm of 200,000 fish releases an amount of nitrogen,
phosphorus, and fecal matter roughly equivalent to the nutrient
waste in the untreated sewage from 20,000, 25,000, and 65,000
--Over the past decade, nearly one million non-native Atlantic
salmon have escaped from fish farms and established themselves
in streams in the Pacific Northwest.
[That’s why there haven’t been any “Free Sammy!” movies, I
--As of 2001, the government could only assure us that 22
percent of fish stocks under federal management (211 of 959
stocks) were being fished sustainably.
--By 1989, populations of New England cod, haddock, and
yellowtail flounder had reached historic lows. In U.S. waters,
Atlantic halibut are commercially extinct – too rare to justify a
directed fishing effort. Populations of some rockfish species on
the West Coast have dropped to less than 10 percent of their past
--Typical trawl fisheries in northern California and New England
trawl the same section of sea bottom more than once per year on
average. Bottom-dwelling invertebrates can take up to five years
or more to recover from one pass of a dredge.
[Hell, at least that’s better than Cubs and Red Sox fans!]
--Worldwide, scientists estimate that fishermen discarded about
25 percent of what they caught during the 1980s and the early
1990s, about 60 billion pounds each year.
--Recent estimates suggest an increase in mean sea-surface
temperature of only 2 degrees Fahrenheit could cause the global
destruction of coral reef ecosystems.
[To be fair, this could occur naturally, of course. As for global
warming raising the sea levels, heck, it’s rained so much in much
of the country the past few months that the eastern half of the
U.S. may tumble into the Atlantic in one giant mudslide. This
would have the positive benefit, however, of canceling the
remainder of the New York Mets schedule, putting us Mets fans
out of our misery.]
--More than 175 non-native species thrive in San Francisco Bay.
[“Bush Man” down at Fishermen’s Wharf now qualifies as a
native specie. Yes, you have to have been there.]
--Congratulations to the New Jersey Devils for their 3rd Stanley
Cup in 9 years. Unfortunately, I remain a Rangers fan. And then
we have this NBA championship, where I am torn between the
Nets and Tim Duncan’s Spurs. But, boy, the play has largely
--No wonder the New York Times has problems. Last Sunday,
in a piece in the “Week in Review” section (I was first with this
term, by the way), covering cheating in baseball, the reader was
treated to the following tidbit.
“In 2001, the Wall Street Journal reported that several players on
the 1951 Giants – of Bobby Johnson’s ‘shot heard round the
world’ fame - .”
You read that right. Bobby Johnson. TRY BOBBY
THOMSON, YOU FREAKIN’ MORONS!!!!!!!!!
--As predicted, the Yankees’ Juan Acevedo was released
following his disastrous performance in blowing Roger
Clemens’s third effort at 300.
--I saw where George Foreman is being inducted into the
International Boxing Hall of Fame, so I had to look up the others
that are enshrined. In the ‘modern’ category, among the
heavyweights you have Ali, Frazier, Sonny Liston, Ken Norton,
Floyd Patterson, and Michael Spinks.
I don’t know the eligibility requirements, but I’m assuming Larry
Holmes isn’t in because enough time hasn’t elapsed since his
retirement, but it got me thinking about my youth, and the best
era ever for the heavyweight class. Some other names many of
you will remember from the 60s and 70s:
Oscar Bonavena, Jerry Quarry, Ernie Shavers, Ron Lyle, George
Chuvalo, and Jimmy Ellis.
But in looking at Sonny Liston’s record, I forgot just how good
he was, and I bet some of you could win some coin with this one.
Liston’s last fight in 1970 (shortly before his drug overdose that
same year) was against Chuck Wepner.
And here’s another name in the middleweight / light-
heavyweight class that brought back memories, Nino Benvenuti.
Finally, the Hall has a ‘non-participant’ category and I couldn’t
believe that Howard Cosell wasn’t in it. After all, I wouldn’t
have just rambled the last few paragraphs if it hadn’t been for
Howard’s broadcasts on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.”
--13-year-old Michelle Wise has qualified for the U.S. Women’s
Open, along with a 15-year-old, Morgan Pressel. [July 3-6] Wie
is playing in another LPGA tournament the week before. She is
the real story, not Annika.
--Here are my picks for the U.S. Open this week; Hale Irwin,
Don Pooley, Tom Kite and Tom Watson. If you detect a pattern,
yes, these are all Champions Tour players. I’ll also follow Bill
Haas, a Wake Forest junior and son of Jay Haas, the latter also in
Top 3 songs for the week of 6/10/67: #1 “Respect” (Aretha
Franklin) #2 “Groovin’” (The Young Rascals) #3 “I Got
Rhythm” (The Happenings)
U.S. Open Quiz Answers: 1) Gene Litler won the Open at
Oakland Hills in ’61. 2) Orville Moody won it in ’69 at
Champions GC (Houston). 3) Tony Jacklin won in ’73 at
Hazeltine (Chaska, MN). 4) John Schlee finished 2nd to Johnny
Miller in ’73 at Oakmont. 5) Forrest Fezler was runner-up to
Hale Irwin at Winged Foot in ’74. 6) Chip Beck has two runner-
ups; in 1986 (along with Lanny Wadkins) at Shinnecock (Ray
Floyd won it), and in ’89 (along with Mark McCumber and Ian
Woosnam) at Oak Hill (Curtis Strange won).
“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
Next Bar Chat, Tuesday.