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Lakers Honor Elgin Baylor, March 22, 1969

March 22, 2009 |  8:00 am


1969_0322_sports
Michael "Pinky" Higgins dies. The former infielder and Red Sox manager had planned to return to work as a scout for the Houston Astros. He was 59. 

1969_0322_baylor It's odd--maybe even a little chilling--to see an old story you associate with your own childhood.

The Lakers gave Elgin Baylor a night at the Forum, a thank you to a great athlete for his years and accomplishments. I was there, a 12-year-old Baylor fan at his first pro basketball game, star struck and shell shocked at my good fortune.

The Forum was a glamorous place then, still shiny and new. I had been to a few Angel games the previous two baseball seasons but Anaheim didn't have a star power of the Lakers and faraway Inglewood. Yes, to this almost teenager from Norwalk, Inglewood was glamorous. This was my first glimpse of the big time.

Why my parents got tickets to that game is a mystery but the timing was perfect. Baylor was my favorite Laker, although I have no idea why I picked him over Wilt or Jerry West or some mere mortal. Any Laker game would have been special, but this was so much more.

We had great seats, on the floor behind one of the baskets. How did they manage that? I can remember Chick Hearn introducing Baylor and I can remember him sitting for a moment in an empty chair in front of us, waiting for his turn to walk onto the court.

He was within reach but I froze. I remember my dad gently poking fun at me, probably something I have done with my own kids. Until looking at the old newspaper stories this week, I had no memory of the opponent or who won. As if any of that mattered.

I recently received an email from a reader who had been to a baseball game as a child at old Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. He vividly recalled seeing a baseball player walk by him on the way to the clubhouse. He realized that the memory might not make sense. Why would the player be in the stands after the game?

I know how he feels, but are the details as important as the emotions those memories trigger? Sure, it would be nice to have film of that night so I'd know for sure how close Baylor sat to my family. The real value would be cementing the memory of my parents' gift, an adventure that has stayed with me through the years. Reading the old newspaper stories brought it all back, every fuzzy detail that I've second-guessed and wondered about.

I've decided that at this point, the fine points really don't matter. Since I can't confirm my memories, why worry whether I need to correct them. Instead, I'll cherish them.

--Keith Thursby

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