The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: Lakers

NBA Courting Los Angeles

Feb. 18, 1960, Lakers

Feb. 18, 1960

Los Angeles was being courted.

"We don't regard the games as test contests—Los Angeles fans already have shown they appreciate big league sports," Marty Blake told The Times leading up to the Lakers' games at the Sports Arena against the St. Louis Hawks. Blake, a longtime NBA official and draft guru, was identified as the Hawks' business manager. "Of course I can't say who will get a franchise there or when but I know the Lakers are interested in moving to your town."

The Times was looking ahead to the available college talent that the Lakers might be able to pick up. Since the Cincinnati Royals had territorial rights to Oscar Robertson, the paper speculated the Lakers might have to decide between Cal center Darrall Imhoff and West Virginia guard Jerry West.

"How can they lose?" Mal Florence suggested.

They picked correctly, of course, getting West to join their young star Elgin Baylor. Imhoff was drafted by the New York Knicks, eventually played four seasons with the Lakers and was part of the package traded to Philadelphia for Wilt Chamberlain.

--Keith Thursby

Lakers Seeking New Home

Feb. 5, 1960, Lakers

Feb. 5, 1960: The Lakers were inching closer to a new home in Los Angeles.

The team's owner, Bob Short, was complaining about life in Minneapolis while the team was adjusting its schedule to play two games in February at the new Los Angeles Sports Arena.

Short said the Lakers' previous owners should have sold two veterans, George Mikan and Jim Pollard, to get some money before they retired. "Other teams better fixed financially can get by with letting their veterans retire," Short said. "In this business when you want to stay ahead of the sheriff you keep moving."

Speaking of moving, the Lakers announced two days later plans to play the St. Louis Hawks in L.A. on Feb. 21-22. Short said he wanted to see if fans would support games on consecutive nights. If the Lakers moved to L.A. without another NBA team heading west, back-to-back games would be scheduled to reduce travel costs.

More than 10,000 fans attended a Lakers game at the Sports Arena despite what The Times called "inclement weather." Wonder what it was like in Minneapolis that day?

--Keith Thursby

Nixon, the ‘Indispensible Man’


“You Remember Her?”

Feb. 1, 1960, Republicans 

Feb. 1, 1960, Nixon 

NBC Opera Company

NBC used to have an opera company. Amazing, no? Although I can’t say I’ve ever heard of Virginia Copeland (Gordoni), David Poleri or Chester Ludgin.

Feb. 1, 1960, Goliath

Goliath and the Barbarians” in Colorscope! 

Feb. 1, 1960, Sports

Paul Zimmerman takes a look at “Hot Rod” Hundley of the Lakers and Guy Rodgers of the Philadelphia Warriors.

Feb. 1, 1960: Republican National Chairman Sen. Thruston B. Morton (R-Ky.) comments on the results of a Gallup poll showing that the party was losing strength. He talks about the effect of Vice President Richard Nixon being unchallenged as GOP nominee and praises President Eisenhower, while saying Eisenhower has "concentrated more on running the country than on building the party. Morton also notes: "Complacency has been our serious weakness."

Plot Alleged in Finch Killing

Jan. 19, 1960, Finch Trial 

Jan. 19, 1960, Finch Trial 

Donald Williams testifies about a murder-for-hire plot in the Finch killing.

Jan. 19, 1960, Finch Trial

Jan. 19, 1960, Finch Trial

Jan. 19, 1960, Finch Trial
Jan. 19, 1960, Humphrey

Sen. Hubert Humphrey (D-Minn.) challenges Vice President Nixon to a series of debates with potential Democratic candidates. 

Jan. 19, 1960, Cash McCall 
Cash McCall” is opening in Los Angeles.

Jan. 19, 1960, Lakers

Jan. 19, 1960: A DC-3 carrying the Lakers from St. Louis to Minneapolis makes an emergency landing in a snow-covered cornfield near Carroll, Iowa. Elgin Baylor says it’s a miracle the plane landed safely.

USC Coach Turns Down Lakers' Offer

June 13, 1969, Dumb Artist

"Who Wants a Dumb Artist Around Who Can't Even Keep Out of Trouble?"

June 13, 1969, Sports The Lakers offered their coaching job to a very successful college coach who wouldn't even have to relocate.

No, not John Wooden.

USC Coach Bob Boyd turned down the job after meeting with owner Jack Kent Cooke and general manager Fred Schaus. "We expect to have an improved team next winter and should be representative in the Pacific-8 Conference," Boyd told The Times' Mal Florence.

Boyd might have been overshadowed by Wooden but he was an outstanding basketball coach. USC was 216-131 during his tenure from 1967-79. Who knows how well the Trojans would have fared in the NCAA tournament if more than one team per conference had been able to advance, as is the case today.

So the Lakers' search went on. Boyd apparently preferred facing the Bruins rather than the Celtics.

--Keith Thursby

The Fabulous Forum

Nov. 21, 1968, Forum
Los Angeles Times file photo

Nov. 21, 1968: Chick Hearn in a Forum luxury box.

Jan. 2, 1968, Forum

Art Rogers / Los Angeles Times
Dec. 31, 1967: Usherette Patricia Sanderling wears a "mini toga" at the new Forum.

The Times ran a long story by Bob Oates questioning whether Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke was planning to sell the Forum, the Lakers and the Kings.

I remember the Forum as an exotic place, far from home after a long jaunt down the 405, where the Lakers of Wilt, Jerry and Elgin played. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen--a little bit of Vegas glitz to my 12-year-old eyes.

So Oates' description of the Forum caught my interest and stirred some memories:

"The lobbies are a bit small, the concession stands few, the hallways narrow, it is said to be a costly building to operate and the ice machine hasn't always worked. The negatives, however, are overmatched by the Forum's plus factors--the touches of Cooke: the colorful carpeting, the theater environment, the short-skirted usherettes, the neat directional signs."

Cooke, of course, eventually did sell it all and the Lakers and Kings moved to Staples Center.

--Keith Thursby

Teacher Puts the Broom to Process Server in Communist Probe; Meet Wilt Chamberlain

June 6, 1959, Terry

"Terry, What's Wrong?"

June 6, 1959, Jackie Leonard Beating

Police have few leads in the beating of boxing promoter Jackie Leonard, who was left partially paralyzed. Leonard had testified before the State Athletic Commission on corruption in prizefighting.
June 6, 1959, Red Probe

June 6, 1959, Teacher
Kindergarten teacher Ruth Adair Bishop, 54, whacks Grant P. Lewis with a broom when he tries to subpoena her to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

June 6, 1959, Mystery Plane

A B-24 Liberator that vanished on a bombing run on Naples, Italy, on April 4, 1943, is found in the Libyan desert with no sign of its crew: 1st Lt. William J. Hatton; 2nd Lt. Robert F. Toner; 2nd Lt. D.P. Hays; 2nd Lt. John S. Woravak; Tech. Sgt. Harold S. Rispslinger; Tech. Sgt. Robert E. La Montte; Staff Sgt. Guy E. Shelley; Staff Sgt. Vernon L. Ford; and Staff Sgt. Samuel R. Adams.

June 6, 1959, Gun Ad

Our favorite Pasadena gun shop has muzzle-loading shotguns. I can't imagine there was much demand for them, but maybe they looked good hung on a wall.
June 6, 1959, Shavuos

Jews prepare to observe Shavuos.

June 6, 1959, Sports Column Dodgers Wall

Frank Finch says Walter O'Malley didn't bring the Coliseum fence close enough.
June 6, 1959, Dick Shawn

Dick Shawn, best known today as L.S.D. in "The Producers," performs at the Cocoanut Grove.


Akron has Hakata figures.
June 6, 1959, Exploting Women
The women's club convention takes on a controversial subject: portrayal of women in American culture. Unfortunately, our story is vaguely written and incomplete.

Mrs. Walter Magee contended that the " 'loss of such a priceless possession' (respect for women) results from mass media downgrading of woman through overemphasis on bodily measurements and presentation of lower moral standards of conduct."

It difficult to be sure, but the resolution evidently called for some sort of boycott, which was strongly opposed by California delegates because the movie industry was a strong supporter of the women's clubs federation. The resolution was amended to remove the call for a boycott.

June 6, 1959, Exploit

Vincent Price delivers the closing speech!


June 6, 1959, Wilt Chamberlain Long before he became a Laker, Wilt Chamberlain was part on Los Angeles history.

Chamberlain would be part of the first NBA game played in the new Sports Arena Oct. 1. His Philadelphia Warriors would play the St. Louis Hawks in an exhibition game to help open the arena. It would not be Chamberlain's first pro appearance in L.A. He played a game with the Harlem Globetrotters.

--Keith Thursby

Lakers Looking for New Coach?

June 4, 1969, Sharman Stories about coaches being hired or fired are tricky. If things aren't finalized, there's every reason for caution. So it's not unusual to read a story that says a team is close to hiring a coach or is expected to fire a coach. This story about the Lakers' search for a new coach was a little different.

Bill Sharman, the coach of the ABA's Los Angeles Stars, was expected to be named the Lakers' new coach, according to sources. What's weird abut Mal Florence's story was the quote from Sharman:

"I keep hearing things through the back door. But I've had no contact with the Lakers--anyway nothing direct."

You don't often have the potential coach go on the record like that. Maybe Sharman was campaigning for the job, or perhaps he was that close to being hired. Sharman eventually got the job, but had to wait a couple more seasons.

He went with the Stars when the franchise moved to Utah and they won the ABA title in 1970-71. The next season he was back in L.A. and led the Lakers to an NBA title. Makes one wonder if the Lakers missed a chance for a couple more championships.

--Keith Thursby

U.S. Calls for Release of POWs; Lakers' Coach Quits, May 20, 1969

Richard Nixon and South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu agree to meet. View this page

May 20, 1969, Sports The soap opera that was the 1968-69 Lakers had at least one more teary chapter.

Butch Van Breda Kolff resigned, headed to Detroit after two seasons as coach of the Lakers. His decision "for the best interest of all concerned" came after the Lakers blew a 2-0 lead in the finals to the Boston Celtics, losing in seven games.

The Times' Dan Hafner left no doubt why the coach was leaving: "Apparently Van Breda Kolff's days were numbered from the day the club acquired [Wilt] Chamberlain from Philadelphia." Player and coach didn't get along, and when that happens the coach almost always loses.

Speaking of  Wilt, he was called out by the Celtics' player-coach, Bill Russell, for leaving Game 7 with an injured knee. Van Breda Kolff wouldn't put him back in, saying later that the Lakers were "doing well without him."

Russell said in a May 22 story, "Any injury short of a broken leg or back isn't good enough."

Wilt's response, a day later: "He is a man and I suppose subject therefore to his own opinion. Why he has chosen to enlighten the world with it, only he knows."


Tony Conigliaro was getting letters, not about baseball, but about his love life.

"Here's one from a 75-year-old woman," he said to The Times' Ross Newhan. "She writes: 'How an innocent boy like you can get mixed up with somebody like her I don't know. I don't like the idea of you marrying her.' "

Conigliaro, the dashing young right fielder of the Boston Red Sox, had fallen victim to a familiar Southern California curse. He was dating an actress.

Mamie Van Doren's name and photo had been in sports stories before, as the girlfriend of boxer Art Aragon and pitcher Bo Belinsky. She had married and divorced a minor league pitcher, Lee Meyers.  

Newhan wrote: "Conigliaro shook his head and said, "Most of the letters are sad ... you know, from 16-year-old girls who just don't want me to get married."

Conigliaro's life had enough subplots for a movie. He was one of baseball's brightest young stars when he was beaned by the Angels' Jack Hamilton in 1967. His injuries included a fractured cheekbone. He missed all of 1968 but fought his way back into Boston's lineup. He hit  20 home runs in 1969, then 36 in 1970. His reward was a trade to the Angels, of all teams.

It was a disaster. He played only 74 games and hit only four home runs, retiring in a bizarre early-morning news conference in Oakland after a 20-inning, 1-0 loss. Newhan's story in 1969 included assurances from Conigliaro that his vision was OK, but he described things very differently in 1971.

"When the pitcher holds the ball, I can't see his hand or the ball. I pick up the spin on the ball late by looking away, to the side, I don't know how I do it. I kept it away from the Red Sox," he said.

There was one more comeback in 1975. But he hit only .123 in 21 games. Conigliaro suffered a massive heart attack in 1982 and died in 1990.

Newhan's story ended with a discussion of romance and dating amid a batting slump.

"I'm tired," said Conigliaro. "I'm under a strain. I'm not going to have another date for a long time." He was asked to define a long time. He smiled and said: "About a day."

-- Keith Thursby

The Latest Fashions; Dodgers vs. Angels? May 7, 1969

May 7, 1969, Broadway

OK, ladies, fess up. How many of you dressed like this? The scarf on the arm thing is really intriguing--what kept it up? And those glasses! But to be honest, I usually enjoy the bold, dramatic artwork in the fashion ads, which gave the pages some style and elegance.

May 7, 1969, Sports The Dodgers turned down a request from the Angels to extend the Freeway Series into the regular season. We're not talking about interleague play -- just a long-delayed spring training game.

The Angels wanted to finish their exhibition series on an off day for both teams. You can't blame them for trying -- the Angels were 6-1 against the Dodgers since they began playing each other in spring training. The teams had each won a game in 1969, with the third game rained out.

You know the regular season is going badly when you're trying to line up a meaningless exhibition.

Dodgers Vice President Red Patterson wired Angels General Manager Dick Walsh to decline (this was long before the two executives could Twitter each other). Patterson said the Dodgers would want to use one of their starting pitchers against the Angels, and "with our club shooting for a division championship, breaking into the regular rotation would not seem too wise."


-- Keith Thursby

Times Wins Two Pulitzers; Lakers Lose, May 6, 1969

May 6, 1969, Cover  
Above, the edition of The Times that most people received at home. A team headed by George Reasons, with Art Berman, Gene Blake, Robert L. Jackson and Ed Meagher wins a Pulitzer for a series on government corruption. Bill Tuohy wins a Pulitzer for coverage of the Vietnam War.
May 6, 1969, Mosey Edition

This is the "Mosey" edition, nicknamed for the news editor, that The Times put together for late street sales. These appear in the collections of Times' front pages because they have huge headlines--but they don't represent what the paper actually looked like. 


May 6, 1969, Lakers The Boston Celtics won the deciding game of the NBA Finals, depriving the Lakers of a title they believed they finally would win.

Otherwise, how do you explain the balloons?

In one of the oddest footnotes in modern professional sports, the Forum's rafters were filled with balloons that would be released when the Lakers won. "They might remain in their roost for some time to come," Mal Florence wrote in The Times after watching Boston's 108-106 victory.

There were plots and subplots galore.

--The Lakers were built around three superstars, with Jerry West leading the way despite an injured leg. He was named the final's most valuable player and got a car instead of a championship.

--Wilt Chamberlain injured his knee and left the game with about five minutes to play just as the Lakers were cutting into the Celtics' lead.

--Chamberlain wanted to get back in the game but was kept on the bench by Coach Butch van Breda Kolff: "I told him that we were doing well enough without him." The Lakers and van Breda Kolff would soon part company.

--Former Laker Don Nelson gave Boston a three-point lead with about a minute left when his shot from the free-throw line "as luck or fate would have it ... hit the front rim, bounced high into the air and then settled into the net," Florence wrote.

--West scored 42 points but took only one shot in the last four minutes.

--Parts of the game were far from pretty. Several players were in foul trouble and the Lakers missed 15 consecutive shots during one part of the third quarter.

You could feel the disappointment in The Times' coverage. Here's my favorite lead, from Chuck Garrity:

"The colorful balloons hung there in the dark rafters of the Forum. ... The USC Trojan band, hired to march around blaring "Happy Days are Here Again" quietly tucked their instruments back into their cases. ... The Lakers were non-champions of the world of professional basketball again."

--Keith Thursby

The fourth quarter of Game 7 has survived on Youtube. Here's a section where the Lakers rally and Chamberlain hurts his knee.

Lakers Lose to Celtics, May 4, 1969

May 4, 1969, Sports

May 4, 1969, Lakers The NBA Finals had become an endurance test.

The Celtics won Game 6, 99-90, at the Boston Garden to force a final deciding game back in Calfornia. Jerry West played despite a pulled hamstring and scored 26 points, which was 13 under his average for the series.

"You want to come up with the greatest performance in your life in the championship test but you're now in the 100th game and the body is weakening," Boston's John Havlicek said. "It's just a case that the body can take only so much."

West said the Lakers would have won if "I could have played a normal game."

Boston's player-coach Bill Russell didn't think West was limited because of the injury, a remark that might have been in jest but was pounced on the following day by Times columnist John Hall:

"The Celtics may very well win it all once again in the grand finale tonight in the Forum, and it is to their credit that they have hung in there again against the odds, but they should be thanking whatever lucky stars or planets one thanks that a freak muscle pull in the final meaningless minutes of a fifth game that was already iced did more to maintain their tradition than all the cigars in Red Auerbach's many mouths."

--Keith Thursby

[Hey Keith--look at the ad on the runover! Learn how to raise chinchillas in the privacy of your own home!--lrh] 


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