Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
The Celtics returned home to Boston Garden for Game 3 of the NBA finals against the Lakers and the change of scenery seemed to help the home team and tire the visitors. Boston won, 111-105, to trail 2-1.
Laker fans could point to bad shooting nights by Jerry West (24 points after 53 and 41 in the first two games) and Elgin Baylor (11 points) but the Celtics were the aggressors.
Larry Siegfried, a tough guard who had 24 points for Boston and helped supply more pressure on West, talked openly after the game about his image.
"I know there are rumors that I'm a dirty player but I think the fans confuse a hard player with a fearless competitor. Jerry West is a great player and I admire him and I wouldn't do anything to hurt him," Siegfried told The Times' Mal Florence. "But I can't play like he does. I have to dig out there all the time. Shots don't come easy for me.
"I'm sorry that people boo me in other cities. But I can accept that as long as they accept me as a human off the court."
Siegfried must have anticipated Fred Schaus' comments after Game 4 about the Celtics' physical play. Schaus, the Lakers general manager, was fuming over how his team was treated.
"It's the same thing every damn year. [The Celtics] are hacking, slashing and knocking people down," he said. "Look at [Larry] Siegfried. He's always shoving and pushing and gets away with it because they do it so consistently. It's a shame the way they permit them to play. ... There are two sets of standards in the NBA: The Celtic system and the rest of the league."
Jerry West scored 53 points to lead the Lakers past the Celtics, 120-118, in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. It's hard to imagine any one player on a team with West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain scoring that many points in a single game. It's even more difficult to comprehend a game where the winning team needed all those 53 points to squeak by.
West had been double-teamed in the Western Division finals against the Atlanta Hawks but was the benefit of man-to-man coverage in Game 1. West ate it up. He hit 21 of 41 shots (remember, no three-pointers) and added 11 of 13 free throws.
"It was an incredible game, really a classic," West told The Times' Mal Florence. "There weren't many turnovers or bad spots. ... As for me, it was just one of those nights where everything happened to work."
This was the seventh time West had scored 50 or more points. His teammate, Baylor, held the playoff scoring record at that point with 61 against the Celtics in 1962.
Bill Russell, the Celtics' player-coach, didn't seem too worried. "When we score 118 points it usually is enough for us to win," he said. "We aren't going to panic or get upset because we lost by two points."
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.
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.