Monday, March 18, 2013
the last book I ever read (The Big O by Oscar Roberston, excerpt eight)
from The Big O: My Life, My Times, My Game by Oscar Robertson:
On October 20, 1960, more than eight thousand people—the largest crowd in Royals’ history—came to the Cincinnati Gardens to watch my regular-season debut. Our game against the Lakers was also notable for the introduction of my Olympic co-captain and supposed rival, rookie Jerry West. The large photo on the front of The Cincinnati Enquirer’s sports page the next day featured me, driving for a layup, and scoring with my right hand.
I had a triple-double that night, scoring twenty-one points to lead the team and amassing twelve rebounds and ten assists. The Enquirer called it “perhaps the finest performance in four seasons, as (the Royals) rang up more points than any one Cincinnati team in history.” Of me, a columnist said: “His superb faking and generalship thrilled the fans, and there is no doubt he will be one of the greatest.”
So I began my initiation. There were eight league teams back then, and we played seven games in as many cities in ten days. We’d get up early in the morning, get onto a bus or go to the airport, and hit a city. At the arena, we had to tape our own ankles before games, because there weren’t trainers for anything other than serious injuries. Dolph Schayes and Bob Pettit were among the guys I know who broke their wrists and still kept playing. I’d estimate that eighty percent of the league played with charley horses, jammed thumbs, and pulled muscles back then, and the only thing the trainers offered for relief were freezing sprays of ethyl chloride.
After games, you went back to your hotel for a good night’s rest. The next day at the airport, you waited for your flight, then fell asleep on the plane, cramped in those little airplane seats. We flew on rickety little DC-3s; any gust of wind shook them back and forth, and if we were playing in California, we’d have to stop six or seven times along the way. Guys received eight dollars a day in meal money, and the Royals always booked us into cheap, fleabag hotels. We’d arrive in the dead of night, get to our rooms, and discover the beds were too short. I used to have to put a suitcase at the end of the bed for my feet.