“Easy” Ed Macauley是塞爾蒂克第一位球星，最早的三巨頭之一，他的背號22號在1963年和Bob Cousy的14號一起被退休。
Michael D. McClellan
"Easy" Ed Macauley never won a championship with the Boston Celtics, and yet he is indirectly responsible for giving birth to one of the greatest dynasties any sport has ever known. He played only six seasons in a Boston uniform, and yet his legacy is so great, and his mark so indelible, that his No. 22 was retired, along with Bob Cousy's No. 14, on a blustery October afternoon way back in 1963. His relationship with team founder Walter Brown was nonpareil; Brown thought so highly of the lithe gunner from St. Louis that he gave Macauley veto power over that dynasty-launching trade involving the draft rights to Bill Russell. In many ways he was Brown's favorite son, a fellow Catholic who represented the Celtics with dignity, style and class, a player who became one of the most recognizable faces in a league struggling to complete against baseball and football for the hearts and pocketbooks of the ticket-buying public. Oh, and he could flat out play: Macauley, along with Cousy and Bill Sharman, formed the nucleus of the Celtics through much of the 1950s, executing Red Auerbach's up-tempo game to perfection, packing fans into the fabled Boston Garden and introducing the world to the vaunted Celtic fast break.
Few people today know who Ed Macauley is, or why he is such an important piece of basketball history. There are those who can recite the highlights – MVP of the first NBA All-Star game, the first Boston Celtic to average 20 points in a season, a six-time All-Star while wearing the green-and-white – but such facts are nothing more than meaningless trivia when the man himself is not taken into account. Macauley played the game at a pivotal time in history, as set shots and stall-ball slowly gave way to an exciting new brand of basketball. He was a glimpse into the future, a hint at things to come. He was an amalgam of traditional Midwest values, big city flair and modern day star power. One suspects that, had he played baseball for the New York Yankees at that time, "Easy" Ed Macauley would have been one of the most recognizable faces in America.
A late bloomer, Macauley didn't start playing basketball until the eighth grade – but when he did, he quickly found himself hooked on the sport that would thrust him into the national consciousness. It seemed that everywhere the young Macauley went, a basketball would almost always be in tow. It was a curious thing to those around him. They simply couldn't understand the boy's passion for this relatively new sport, nor could they understand why he would play alone, for hours on end. If only they could have opened him up and looked inside. Only years later, long after induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, did Macauley offer such a peek into what made him tick.
"Just remember," he once advised, to those interested in the secret to his basketball success, "that if you're not working at your game to the utmost of your ability, there will be someone out there somewhere with equal ability who will be working to the utmost of his ability. And one day you'll play each other, and he will have the advantage."
Raised by devout Catholic parents, Macauley found the discipline and structure of Catholic schools much to his liking. He played sophomore ball for St. Louis University High, a Jesuit institution, though he was still years away from distinguishing himself as a fluid-shooting big man with major college potential. It wasn't until his senior season that Macauley blossomed, earning All-State honors for his fluid shooting style, precise hook shots and innate court sense. Recruiters were fast to take notice; Macauley received scholarship offers from a diverse group of Division I schools, from elite national powers to schools with campuses far from his native St. Louis. The choices were as dizzying as they were flattering. Ultimately, Macauley decided to play basketball in his own backyard, attending the college with perhaps the least impressive basketball program – St. Louis University.
The Billikens, who had been without basketball since the onset of World War II, were also without a permanent head coach and devoid of a talent base on which to build. This meant starting from scratch. Everything from the ground up. Necessity, therefore, dictated that the program's resurrection hinge on filling the roster with local cage stars. Macauley's signing, while key to the rebuilding process, did not signal the beginning of a dynasty; rather, it marked the start of an arduous climb to what was then college basketball's summit – the NIT championship game.
Macauley continued to hone his game during his freshman and sophomore years, but it still wasn't enough; the Billikens found themselves struggling with the traditional powers in the Missouri Valley Conference – namely Oklahoma A&M – as well as with the signature teams in the Midwest, Kansas and Indiana. Head coach John Flannigan, himself a former cage star with decent skills, challenged Macauley each day in practice, pushing him to become more than ordinary. Flannigan saw something special in his 6'8" post player, despite Macauley's rail thin frame, and he gradually geared the Billikens' attack to take advantage of Macauley's strengths. St. Louis University became a running team, choosing to dictate the tempo at every opportunity. By the end of the 1947 season, the Billikens were playing an exciting, competitive brand of basketball, luring fans to Kiel Auditorium in droves and setting the stage for a bigger things to come. Macauley finished his sophomore year as an All-Missouri Valley First Team selection, and by being honored as a Helms Foundation Third Team All-America.
A coaching change prior to the start of the 1947-48 regular season threatened to derail the Billikens' momentum, but the selection of Ed Hickey instead lifted the program to the next level. Hickey's three-lane fast break was perfectly suited to Macauley's style. Kiel Auditorium blowouts became the norm, while the new head coach and the burgeoning team star became affectionately known as "Mutt & Jeff". St. Louis finished the season with a 24-3 record, earning a berth in the 1948 NIT tournament – then the premiere collegiate tournament in the land. Macauley repeated as an All-Missouri Valley First Team selection, while receiving Helms Foundation First Team All-America and National Player of the Year honors.
The best was yet to come. The Billikens rode its fast break into the finals of the NIT tournament, defeating New York University for the championship and touching off a wild celebration back home in St. Louis. Macauley was named the MVP of the tournament. And while the train ride home took three days, thousands of frenzied fans were there to greet the team upon its return.
Macauley's senior season started with the team ranked No. 1 in the nation. He ended it by being named a Consensus First Team All-America, and by being named the Associated Press Player of the year. The Billikens failed to repeat as NIT champions, but Macauley had firmly established himself as one of the greatest collegiate players of his generation.
In the NBA's early years, when teams were struggling to build fan bases, the draft included territorial picks. Before the start of the draft, a team could forfeit its first-round pick and instead select a player from its immediate area, presumably with a strong local following. The NBA's St. Louis Bombers wasted little time in forfeiting its own No. 1 to snag the hometown hero who had put the Billikens' basketball program on the map. Macauley spent one largely unforgettable season in a Bombers' uniform, averaging 16 points-per-game and proving that his game was equally suited to the pros. The Bombers folded after that season, the players were thrown into a dispersal draft, and Macauley was awarded to the Boston Celtics.
The year was 1950, and the addition of Macauley was one in a series of franchise-defining moves for team owner Walter Brown. The Celtics were struggling on the court, Brown was losing money, and the team was searching to find an audience. Brown responded by hiring a fiery young coach named Arnold "Red" Auerbach. He then got lucky on two other fronts: The Celtics backed into the rights to Holy Cross point guard Bob Cousy, who had been the property of the Chicago franchise until it folded, and Macauley came to Boston via St. Louis. The three men instantly formed the nucleus of the Boston Celtics, giving the team credibility in a town where college hoops had long been king.
Like Hickey at St. Louis, Auerbach preached an attacking brand of basketball, which played to the strengths of both Cousy (passer extraordinaire) and Macauley (deadeye marksman). Macauley averaged 20.4 points-per-game during his first season in a Boston uniform, while earning All-NBA First Team and NBA All-Star honors. The inaugural NBA All-Star Game was also held that season, with Macauley representing the Celtics in front of the partisan Boston Garden crowd. His game-high 20 points earned him Most Valuable Player honors and, as the first MVP of the league’s midwinter classic, a special piece of NBA history.
Despite the overhaul, the Celtics were still far from contending for a championship. The team lacked size and toughness. Bill Sharman’s arrival the following season helped, but he was a backcourt compliment to Cousy and not the big man that Auerbach needed in the middle. Bob Brannum played the role of enforcer, dishing out hard hits whenever an opponent decided to play rough with Boston’s two young stars, but even that wasn’t enough to put the Celtics over the top. Macauley repeated as an All-NBA First Team selection, appeared in his second consecutive All-Star Game, and established himself as one of the NBA’s first true offensive threats. He also grew increasingly close to team owner Brown, whom he viewed as something of a father figure. Macauley, in turn, became like Brown’s surrogate son, a valuable player but also a person considered part of the family. It was a relationship that would last until Brown’s death on September 7th, 1964.
“Walter was Catholic and I was Catholic, so we had that bond,” Macauley said, years later. “He was a very special man. He kept the Celtics going financially, using his own money when times were rough. He believed in his team and his league. He was a big part of building the NBA into what it is today.”
The 1952-53 season saw Macauley erupt for a career-best 46 points against the Minneapolis Lakers. The Celtics also qualified for the playoffs, defeating bitter rival Syracuse to win a playoff series for the first time in team history. NBA All-Star Game and All-NBA First Team selections followed his stellar play, but critics derided him as not being big enough to lead a team to a championship. It was a familiar refrain that would continue over the next three seasons, as Boston could not break through to the NBA Finals.
Following the 1955-56 season – Macauley’s sixth with the Celtics, each of which included an All-Star Game appearance – Brown and Auerbach found themselves in position to acquire the draft rights to college sensation Bill Russell. Russell was the defensive stopper the Celtics had longed for, and the St. Louis Hawks were in a position to draft the San Francisco’s powerful shot blocker. Hawks owner Bob Kerner balked, until Macauley’s name was thrown in to sweeten the pot. Macauley, for his part, welcomed the news of a pending trade; his son, Patrick, had suffered brain damage following a bout with spinal meningitis, and Macauley was already considering retirement in order to return with his family to St. Louis. The trade brought a dynasty to Boston, as the Russell-led Celtics went on to 11 championships in a 13-year period. It also allowed Macauley to continue playing basketball. And two seasons later, the Hawks were world champions. Macauley had a ring to go along with an NIT championship in college, and a few short years later he would become, at 32, the youngest player ever inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
While never a part of a title team with the Celtics, Macauley remains one of Boston’s favorite sons. His No. 22 was retired by the team, and his contributions to this storied franchise will never be forgotten.
You were born on March 22nd, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri. Please tell me a little about your childhood – what memories remain with you after all of these years, and how was your family affected by the Great Depression?
My father was a lawyer, and his family was from a farm up in Calhoun County, Illinois, which is about thirty miles north of St. Louis, so the Great Depression really didn't affect us. We were fortunate in that regard. As far as growing up, I had two sisters, and I guess you could say that we had a normal family. Dad was a lawyer, as I said, and he did pretty well. We used to spend summers at his mother's house on the farm. It was a nice house with no electricity, and no indoor plumbing. It had a wood stove [laughs]. So while our summers weren't boring, they weren't that eventful, either.
I went to a Catholic grade school – St. Barbara's – and I was tall for my age. So tall that my mother, after the second grade, suggested to the teacher's that I looked like I'd been held back. I was a very good student, so they talked about it and decided to let me skip the third grade. I didn't play many sports in grade school. We had a basketball team that didn't win a game. I wasn't very athletic. So my basketball experience wasn't much to speak of, and it wasn't anything like what you see with some of the kids today. You see kids start playing as early as the first and second grade, and some of the them keep playing right into the NBA. I started several years later than that.
You were a three-year letter winner at St. Louis University High School. Please take me back to this period in your life.
St. Louis University High was a Jesuit high school. I talked to my counselor, and I asked him about playing basketball at St. Louis U. High on the freshman team, and he said that that wasn't going to be possible. He said that a new class called 'typing' was starting up, and that it was going to be held after school from 3PM until 4PM, and that I was in the class. He said that that's when the freshman class practiced. So he told me to forget about freshman basketball and to concentrate on typing [laughs]. I didn't argue, because the Jesuits didn't ask you – they told you. So that's what I did during my freshman year – I learned to type and I didn't raise a fuss about it..
But just because I couldn't play on the team didn't mean that I was disinterested in basketball. So after typing class I'd go to the outdoor courts and shoot. If I was really lucky, I'd get to go into the gymnasium. I was a substitute center on the sophomore team at St. Louis U. High. The center on the team was a man named Larry King. He was a good athlete, but his father was in an accident on the job – he was a laborer, or a carpenter or something – and in those days they didn't have Social Security and all of the other benefits that they have today. So Larry had to literally quit school and go to work to help support the family, and I got to play. I didn't play very well, but at least I was on the team and getting taller every year.
As a junior I played on the varsity. We had a fair year, nothing spectacular. But I kept practicing and working – by myself many times, and also with the team – and people would always say, 'Why are you always practicing? Why don't you have some fun, and go out and do other things?' But I just liked basketball and I was tall, and in those days tall people really stuck out [laughs]. Basketball is just what I did for enjoyment.
My senior year was really the first year that I had a breakout year. I was the All-District center, and I was All-State. We played in the state tournament – we didn't win it, but we finished in third place overall. I started getting scholarship offers from colleges, and I didn't know anything about what that meant. It was all new to me.
It has been said that your mother allowed you to choose any college that was “Catholic and in St. Louis". Please take me back to your decision to play collegiate basketball at St. Louis University.
I got offers from all over – Kentucky, Notre Dame, Boston College, Missouri, St. Louis University, and a few more. But my father was an invalid at that point in his life – he had been in an automobile accident and was pretty much confined to his bed. So for whatever reason, I decided to go to St. Louis University which didn't have a very good basketball team. In fact, the year before they didn't even have a basketball team at all – this was due to World War II…there just weren't very many men around. I think I agreed to go there before they had even hired a permanent coach [laughs].
The interim head coach was a man named John Flannigan, who was a great player in what was then known as the Industrial League. He was a magnificent gentleman who really taught me a lot. He used to scrimmage against me and beat my brains out [laughs], but he prepared me for what was coming. Many people today don't have any recollection about that league, but Philips Petroleum Company and other corporations would have basketball players on their payroll. Anyway, we didn't do too much as a team during my freshman year. One thing does stand out: I had the pleasure of playing against Bob Kurland, the dominant big man from Oklahoma A&M. Bob was seven feet tall and weighed about two-fifty – I was six-eight, and weighed about one hundred seventy-five [laughs]. That night he put up 58 points against me, which was a new collegiate scoring record at that time. Fortunately, he graduated that year [laughs].
I kept practicing and trying to get better – I didn't have many dates in high school, and none during the first part of my college career, so basketball was my primary form of entertainment. I worked hard during my freshman and sophomore years – I got to play as a sophomore, I had a good year, but I wasn't doing anything that might draw national recognition. We won the Missouri Valley title that year. My junior season was my breakout year.
I want to ask you about that. But first, you earned your nickname, "Easy Ed" as a freshman at St. Louis University. Please tell me how you earned your now-famous moniker.
We had a tradition of rotating our captains before every game, and Coach Flannigan came to me and let me know that is was my turn. It was an honor – and I was really nervous. He said that all I had to do was lead us out of the dressing room then through a door and onto the court. That’s the only thing I had to do, and I really didn't want to mess it up. So I did it; I pushed the door open, ran down the other end of the court with the ball and took a couple of shots. When I turned around there was no one else there. Nobody had followed me, because the National Anthem was being played. I was so nervous I didn’t even hear it [laughs]. The fans started to yell ‘Take it easy, Ed’, since the game hadn’t even started. Our sports publicity man liked that so much that he started using it in press releases. It stuck, and I guess it turned out to be a very appropriate nickname.
You led Saint Louis University to the NIT championship on March 18, 1948, this at a time when the NIT was the premiere tournament in college basketball. Please take me back to that championship run – what memories do you have of those big wins over Bowling Green, Western Kentucky and New York University, and what was it like to be recognized as the tournament MVP?
Ed Hickey had been hired as the head coach – the president of the university fired Flannigan even though he had a great record, because they had gotten into an argument and couldn’t' see eye-to-eye. Hickey came in from Creighton and we just took off…we had great backcourt men…Danny Miller and Bobby Schmidt. Danny flew 35 missions over Germany during the war, and Bobby was in the Marines. D.C. Wilcutt was one of the forwards – he fought in the Philippines against the Japanese. Hank Raymonds, who later coached Marquette, was on the ball club. We had a good mix. I started scoring. We didn't the Missouri Valley title – we lost to Oklahoma A&M again – but we only lost three or four games that year. We were invited to the National Invitation Tournament up in New York, and at that time it was considered the premiere tournament. If you paired the teams who played in the NIT tournament against those in the NCAA tournament, the NIT probably had the better teams. At that time the NCAA was picking conference winners, and some of those conferences down south didn't play very well. Some of the guys on those teams were just football players trying to stay in shape [laughs].
We went to the NIT tournament and won it. We became the darlings of New York City, because we used the fast break, and we really got down the floor in a hurry. I was still skinny, but I could score. We won our first game against Bowling Green. They had Charlie Share, a big 7'0" center who went on to play several seasons in the NBA. We won our next game against Western Kentucky – I didn't have many points in that one, but the team played brilliantly. We faced Dolph Schayes and Ray Lumpp in the final game against New York University. Both were great, great players. We were the underdogs and the fan favorites heading in, because NYU was playing at home and had won 19 straight games heading into the final. But we weren't intimidated. We had beaten Holy Cross and their star, Bob Cousy, and we had beaten Yale. I played probably the best game of my life up to that point. I had 24 points – we won fairly handily, with Schayes playing against me – and I was named the Most Valuable Player in the tournament. The City of St. Louis just went wild [laughs]. We didn't get home for three days, because we didn't fly – we rode trains back then. We stopped at Niagara Falls for a day or two. When we got home at Union Station there were 15,000 people there waiting for us. It was a very special moment, because everyone on the team was from St. Louis.
You were a First Team All-American selection in 1949, as well as the Associated Press Player-of-the-Year.
Yes. Both were great honors, and it was nice to be recognized in that way. We started off undefeated and went down to the Sugar Bowl, where they had a basketball tournament two days before the football game. Four teams were involved – Holy Cross with Cousy, Kentucky with Beard, Groza and all the guys, Tulane, and St. Louis. We beat Holy Cross, and Kentucky beat Tulane. We beat Kentucky by two-or-three points in the finals. Groza and I had fair games. The next week the very first Associated Press basketball poll was published. They had been doing football polls for quite a while, but they hadn't had a basketball poll up until that point. St. Louis University was ranked number one in the country in that first poll, and we were able to hold the top spot the second week, too. And then we played Oklahoma A&M, and we lost to them again [laughs]. Oklahoma A&M took the top spot, Kentucky came in at number two, and we were number three in the country.
It was great for the city and the school. The people in St. Louis didn't even know what it meant [laughs]. They couldn't imagine a college team from St. Louis being ranked number one in the nation. The fans were just phenomenal. They'd never seen anything like this in the city as far as the colleges were concerned. There was just a great following by the fans at that time. We had great backing. We had to move out of our gymnasium and go down to a public building, Kiel Auditorium, and played against our real rivals – Notre Dame. We had played Notre Dame them all four years, and the first two years we had lost all four game. My third year we beat them. We went back up there my fourth year, the fans were just rabid, and we crushed them [laughs]. I had a great night that night. As I walked off the court with three or four minutes to go, the Notre Dame fans gave me a standing ovation. Someone at the school told me that that had never happened before [laughs].
So we went back to the NIT, but we lost in the first game to Charlie Share and Bowling Green. They had an Olympic tryout that year, and we were asked as a team to come back to play it. There were four teams – a service team, the winners of the NCAA and NIT tournaments, and an industrial league team – but two of our guys, D.C. Wilcutt and Danny Miller, were getting married that summer, and they couldn't go. So we decided as a team not to go back for the tryouts. It would have been an honor to represent my country, and it would have been a great experience, because in those days the United States always won the gold in Olympic basketball.
In 1949, you were the territorial selection of the NBA's St. Louis Bombers. Please tell me a little about your time spent in a Bombers uniform.
I would have to say that that's the worst team I ever played on [laughs]. We had a lot of nice guys, but they liked women and they liked booze, and every once in a while basketball would get into the mix. So we didn't do very well. I had a good year – I think I finished fifth or sixth in scoring in the NBA that season.
Interestingly, St. Louis University was very popular at Madison Square Garden when I played, and Ned Irish [Basketball Director of Madison Square Garden] was a friend of our coach, Ed Hickey. When the Bombers folded, Ned tried to buy the team to get me [laughs]. He'd seen me play a lot in New York, but the league put a stop to that very quickly. So the ballplayers went into a pool, and the other teams got to pick them. I was picked by Boston, so I went up there.
You arrived in Boston the same season as two other Boston Celtic immortals – Red Auerbach and Bob Cousy. Please share your insight into each of these men; what made each of them so special?
That same year, Cousy had graduated from Holy Cross. Red Auerbach didn't want Cousy. He didn't draft him and he followed that up by making the now-famous 'local yokel' comment in the press. Later that year a couple of other teams folded. They had another drawing in New York, Auerbach had the last pick, and Cousy was the last player left. Max Zaslofsky came from Chicago, and Andy Phillip came from Chicago – they ended up going to New York and Philadelphia, respectively. So that's how Cousy and I wound up in Boston together. We had no idea that we’d ever be there – we'd played against each other in college, and we admired each other.
The Boston Celtics really weren't that special those first six years that I was there. Cousy was phenomenal, and I was very good. We were on the All-NBA team, and I was the Most Valuable Player of the first NBA All-Star Game. And then [Bill] Sharman arrived. But we didn't have enough ballplayers. And when I say that, I'm not criticizing the people that were there. The other teams had better overall teams that we had. Syracuse had Dolph Schayes, Freddie Scolari and Paul Seymour. New York had Dick McGuire, Harry Gallatin and Ernie Vandeweghe, and we always had a tough time with them. We would finish second or third in the league, and go into the playoffs and usually get knocked out right away. I think we got out of the first round once. So when I say our ballplayers weren't good enough, I'm not knocking them at all, because they were as good as they could be. From top to bottom, we just didn't have the talent that the other teams had. We didn't win anything for the six years that I was there.
Your relationship with the late Walter Brown was clearly special – in many ways, it was a father-son relationship. Please tell me about Mr. Brown; what did he mean to you on both a professional and personal level?
Walter was one of the greatest men in sports, but he wasn't a self-promoter. He was just a great Catholic man that loved athletics. He probably overpaid his people too much. He was a great Red Sox fan – he used to attend every Red Sox game during the summer. He had a young daughter, and his daughter liked me more than she like Bob Cousy [laughs]. She was about eight at the time, and there weren't too many girls, no matter how old they were, who liked me at all [laughs]. Anyway, Walter and I really respected each other…we were both Catholic. Walter was just a great figure in sports. But as I've said, we didn't win anything while I was playing for him.
Let's talk money. Today the NBA is big business, and players pull down extravagant salaries. It was a different world back then – many of your contemporaries held down second jobs during the offseason. What was the pay scale like in the 1950s?
I think at that time I may have been the second-highest paid player in the NBA. They had to draft me in St. Louis. I had a $10,000 salary with a $7,500 bonus if I played well, and I played well. I was making $17,500. George Mikan was making anywhere from $25,000 to $28,000, I'm not exactly sure how much. Guys like Cousy were probably making $7,000 to $8,000. Not many guys were over $10,000. Some guys were under $5,000.
At that time, friends and teammates from college were working regular jobs and making $400 a month. They were buying homes, buying cars, and starting families. So while the highest paid players made more than someone working a regular job, the difference in salaries wasn't as vast as what you see today. As a result, there was more camaraderie on teams back then. There was probably less jealousy on a ball club because nobody was getting rich, and we were playing because we liked to play ball.
You were MVP of the first All-Star Game, which was held in the fabled Boston Garden. Please take me back to that inaugural midwinter classic.
I was on the All-Star team each year that I was there, and the inaugural All-Star Game was held during my first season with the Celtics. I don't know if you've been to an All-Star Game lately, but they are extravaganzas. There's dancing, and bands, and guys jumping on trampolines. Well, the first All-Star Game in Boston was almost cancelled, because they didn't know if there would be enough people in the stands to even hold it. Cousy and I represented the Celtics – we were in Boston, so we arrive at the Garden and meet the other players in our locker room. We didn't have a luncheon, or a big ceremonial dinner, or any of that. Today they have huge luncheons, and all kind of hoopla. The second All-Star Game was also held in Boston, and I think we had a small luncheon for that one. We were on our own for that first All-Star Game [laughs].
That first game was quite an experience. Joe Lapchick was our coach – the Knicks were in first place – Harry Gallatin was on the team, and Dick McGuire, and those were guys that we hated [laughs]. Suddenly, we were on the same team. I had to walk in and say, 'Hi Dick, hi Harry, let's go win a ball game'. And somehow we were able to put aside our differences and do just that [laughs].
Bill Sharman joined the Celtics for the start of the 1951-52 season. The addition of Mr. Sharman created one of the greatest scoring trios in NBA history. Please tell me a little about the great Bill Sharman, and also about the versatile scoring punch provided by the trio of Cousy, Sharman and Macauley.
Billy was a great shooter, and he was strong. He was baseball player who played in the major leagues, as you know, so he came to the Celtics with a lot of game experience. Major league baseball is a obviously a different game, but there are things that you learn that are going to be helpful in basketball. He was a great shooter – one of the greatest free throw shooter in the history of the game.
Cousy was phenomenal. Every scorer loved to play with Cooz, because if you were open you were going to get the ball. He made everyone on the ball club better. If you weren't open, and he had to take the shot, then he was a great scorer himself.
CELTIC-NATION We weren't big – we had Bob Harris and Bob Brannum at the corners. They weren't great scorers. Brannum was 6'5", and he was strong, but Harris was built like me. So guys like Brannum and Harris really had their work cut out for them – they were matching up against guys that were taller or heavier, and they did a hell of a job. We played games with the best ballplayers we had. We just didn't have the talent that the Knickerbockers had on its roster, or the talent that Philadelphia had, or even the talent that Syracuse had from top-to-bottom. We had great scorers, but we just didn't have rebounding. We didn't have great defense. As a result, we never won the Eastern Division. A lot of people looking at our team would marvel that we won as much as we did. It took the outstanding scoring of Cooz and Sharman and myself to stay competitive. If we had dropped just one of those three people we would have really been in trouble. I always kid Red Auerbach – whenever I see him, I ask him how come he waited for Bill Russell to starting winning all of those championships [laughs]. CELTIC-NATION The Celtics were doing it just to make a few bucks. Many of the teams were not only in trouble, many of the teams also went broke. Chicago, for example. St. Louis. As far as the players were concerned, we wanted to play basketball. And if that was part of it, you just did it. Even the guys who weren't making great money were making more than some of the guys that they went to school with. They were certainly having more fun than someone sitting in an office, or someone working as a carpenter. It was the same thing that the baseball people went through fifty or sixty years ago. You just barnstormed and picked up a few bucks along the way. Now it's completely different. It's ridiculous now – players have their own valet and everything else [laughs]. CELTIC-NATION So I was back home in St. Louis, and I didn't know what I was going to do. We didn't have the financial resources that people have today, so I didn't even know if I could even come back to Boston. About that time, Walter called and said that there was a deal pending, and that if it goes through, the Celtics will get Bill Russell and that I would go to St. Louis. But he also said that he didn't want to make the deal. He said that he couldn't imagine the Celtics without me. We were that close. But I said, 'Walter, I don't even know if I'll be able to come back to Boston because our son's situation.' It wasn't a case of having unlimited finances, to where we could hop on an airplane as a family and have a nurse come along with us. Jackie would have had to stay home and care for Patrick while I was in training camp, and while I was away on the road. So I called Walter and asked him to do me a favor and do the deal – which he did. Then he said, 'Well, you haven't signed your contract for next year, do you want to sign it now?' I said no, because I thought I'd best work out a new deal with [Hawks owner] Ben Kerner. I did okay on the deal, but in those days I didn't know Ben Kerner as well as I knew Walter [laughs]. That's the way it happened. But if I said that I wanted to come back to Boston, I sincerely believe that that might not have prevented Auerbach from getting Russell. Auerbach was a great judge of talent, and a great negotiator, as was Ben Kerner, so there may have been another way to get Russell. In that particular situation it worked out well for everybody. Very clean. CELTIC-NATION And when you look at championship rings, you could fill a book with the number of great players who have never won an NBA championship, or a World Series title, or a Super Bowl ring. So, as a member of a team that wins a title, you could be the tenth man on the team, but you've got something. You've got that ring that is prized by everybody in the sport. And as I've just said, some fantastic ballplayers have never won a championship. And yet you're the tenth man on the championship team and you've got a ring. Everybody wants one. So, to win that championship was very special to me. And to win it in for the fans in St. Louis, that was an unbelievable experience. Something I'll never forget. CELTIC-NATION I'm proud of being the youngest player ever inducted. It's an honor no matter when it comes. You know what it means – at least I did. As the years go by, it's not a greater thrill, you're just happy that you're in the hall of fame, and you're happy that you can participate in the activities sponsored by the hall. And then as other great ballplayers are enshrined – the Bill Russells and the Bob Cousys, people like that – you realize how we all make the hall of fame a unique organization. It's not easy to get in there [laughs]. CELTIC-NATION CELTIC-NATION
On March 6, 1953, you scored a career-high 46 points against George Mikan, easily the most dominant big man of his era. How hard was it to match up against a player so physically imposing?
We didn't win because we didn't have any size on the club. I was 6'8", 185 pounds, and we're playing against Harry Gallatin with the Knicks – he outweighed me by fifty pounds. We're playing against George Mikan, who was 6'10". I always had good games against George. He couldn't stop me and I couldn't stop him. Those 46 points were the highest point total of my career.
The Boston Celtics conducted annual preseason barnstorming tours throughout New England, often playing up to 17 games in twenty-one days, all against the same opponent. What were these trips like, and do you have an amusing story or a fond memory that you would like to share?
We'd travel and we'd play the town teams, which was always very dangerous because they wanted to break your leg or rough you up [laughs]. We'd travel by car, and everybody fought not to be in Auerbach's car because he drove like a maniac. It was very, very taxing. You'd play a game at night, go back to the hotel and get some sleep, and then drive 60-to-100 miles the next day and do it all over again. And like I said, we were playing against some town teams, too. They were playing against the pros, so they wanted to make a name for themselves. This was their big chance – 'Gee, if I break Macauley's leg that'll be great, we might win.'
In 1956, you were a part of the biggest trade in NBA history, going to the St. Louis Hawks in a deal that allowed Red Auerbach to draft Bill Russell. Not many people realize this, but you could have actually voided the trade. Instead, you opted to move back home and help care for your son, Pat, who was ill at the time. Please take me back to this period in your life.
The year before that transaction, my wife Jackie, my daughter Mary Ann, and my son Patrick were in Boston. I played a Sunday afternoon game and came home, and Jackie said that there was something wrong with Patrick. He had a terrible fever. We took him to Boston Children's Hospital, one of the best in the country, and handed him over to the doctors. We waited and waited and waited. When the doctors came back, they told us that Patrick had spinal meningitis. We said, 'What's that?' They told us that it was very serious. It's a disease that carries a high fever, and depending on how long the fever lasts will determine what happens. Unfortunately for Patrick, it lasted long and it was high, and it destroyed his brain. He was a cerebral palsy boy, and he died when he was thirteen.
The Hawks won the championship following the 1957-58 season, your second with the team. After nine hugely successful seasons in the NBA, what was it like to win a championship for your hometown fans?
There are two or three things about sports. You can ask every player the following question: Aside from the money and the hoopla, what do you want most? I think most would say that they want a world championship ring, because that's what you play for. That's what you think about when you're growing up. The second thing would be induction into the hall of fame. To me those are the two things that stand out above the rest. One of them – induction into the hall of fame – you have some control over. The other – a world championship – is something that you really don't have individual control over. So you can be the greatest basketball player in the world, and you're not going to win a world title unless you have great men around you. Wilt Chamberlain is a prime example; I don't consider him the greatest player ever, but he was still one of the best. Wilt didn't win a title until Alex Hannum started coaching the Philadelphia ball club.
In 1960, you became the youngest player ever enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Did you fully appreciate the honor at the time, and have you gained a greater appreciation for it as the years have gone by?
Being inducted into the hall of fame is the crowning achievement. It says that you did the things that you had to do. You're not going to be in the hall of fame unless you worked real hard. You're not going to be in the hall of fame unless you took care of yourself and played well. So I think those two things – a ring and induction into the hall of fame – are the things that every ballplayer would like to do. Now, some players don't have the ability and they know that they're not going to get there. But if you feel that you belong and you're not in, that's a tough thing.
In 1989, you were ordained as a deacon in the Catholic Church, and in 1993 you co-authored a book entitled " Homilies Alive: Creating Homilies That Hit Home".
I co-authored the book with Msgr. Francis Friedl – he was Father Francis Friedl at the time – and it was very well-received within the Catholic community. Since then we've created a web site to broaden our goal of disseminating ideas that can be used by Priests and Deacons as they prepare their homilies. The web site address is http://www.homiliesalive.com, and it has been very successful – we've had nearly a million hits since we brought the site up four years ago. We give homily workshops in Canada and United States to other deacons and other priests. It has been a wonderful, rewarding experience.
Final Question: You’ve achieved great success in your life. You are universally respected and admired by many people, both inside and outside of the NBA. If you could offer one piece of advice on life to others, what would that be?
Live by the tenets of your chosen religion. Work hard in your chosen profession. And while you may not end up with great power or wealth, you will have peace of mind.
We weren't big – we had Bob Harris and Bob Brannum at the corners. They weren't great scorers. Brannum was 6'5", and he was strong, but Harris was built like me. So guys like Brannum and Harris really had their work cut out for them – they were matching up against guys that were taller or heavier, and they did a hell of a job. We played games with the best ballplayers we had. We just didn't have the talent that the Knickerbockers had on its roster, or the talent that Philadelphia had, or even the talent that Syracuse had from top-to-bottom. We had great scorers, but we just didn't have rebounding. We didn't have great defense. As a result, we never won the Eastern Division. A lot of people looking at our team would marvel that we won as much as we did. It took the outstanding scoring of Cooz and Sharman and myself to stay competitive. If we had dropped just one of those three people we would have really been in trouble. I always kid Red Auerbach – whenever I see him, I ask him how come he waited for Bill Russell to starting winning all of those championships [laughs].
The Celtics were doing it just to make a few bucks. Many of the teams were not only in trouble, many of the teams also went broke. Chicago, for example. St. Louis. As far as the players were concerned, we wanted to play basketball. And if that was part of it, you just did it. Even the guys who weren't making great money were making more than some of the guys that they went to school with. They were certainly having more fun than someone sitting in an office, or someone working as a carpenter. It was the same thing that the baseball people went through fifty or sixty years ago. You just barnstormed and picked up a few bucks along the way. Now it's completely different. It's ridiculous now – players have their own valet and everything else [laughs].
So I was back home in St. Louis, and I didn't know what I was going to do. We didn't have the financial resources that people have today, so I didn't even know if I could even come back to Boston. About that time, Walter called and said that there was a deal pending, and that if it goes through, the Celtics will get Bill Russell and that I would go to St. Louis. But he also said that he didn't want to make the deal. He said that he couldn't imagine the Celtics without me. We were that close. But I said, 'Walter, I don't even know if I'll be able to come back to Boston because our son's situation.' It wasn't a case of having unlimited finances, to where we could hop on an airplane as a family and have a nurse come along with us. Jackie would have had to stay home and care for Patrick while I was in training camp, and while I was away on the road. So I called Walter and asked him to do me a favor and do the deal – which he did. Then he said, 'Well, you haven't signed your contract for next year, do you want to sign it now?' I said no, because I thought I'd best work out a new deal with [Hawks owner] Ben Kerner. I did okay on the deal, but in those days I didn't know Ben Kerner as well as I knew Walter [laughs].
That's the way it happened. But if I said that I wanted to come back to Boston, I sincerely believe that that might not have prevented Auerbach from getting Russell. Auerbach was a great judge of talent, and a great negotiator, as was Ben Kerner, so there may have been another way to get Russell. In that particular situation it worked out well for everybody. Very clean.
And when you look at championship rings, you could fill a book with the number of great players who have never won an NBA championship, or a World Series title, or a Super Bowl ring. So, as a member of a team that wins a title, you could be the tenth man on the team, but you've got something. You've got that ring that is prized by everybody in the sport. And as I've just said, some fantastic ballplayers have never won a championship. And yet you're the tenth man on the championship team and you've got a ring. Everybody wants one. So, to win that championship was very special to me. And to win it in for the fans in St. Louis, that was an unbelievable experience. Something I'll never forget.
I'm proud of being the youngest player ever inducted. It's an honor no matter when it comes. You know what it means – at least I did. As the years go by, it's not a greater thrill, you're just happy that you're in the hall of fame, and you're happy that you can participate in the activities sponsored by the hall. And then as other great ballplayers are enshrined – the Bill Russells and the Bob Cousys, people like that – you realize how we all make the hall of fame a unique organization. It's not easy to get in there [laughs].