Archive for Saturday, July 22, 1995

MAYER COLUMN

July 22, 1995

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There is agreement among former players that a lot of basketball jerseys which should be hanging in Kansas University's Allen Fieldhouse aren't there.

Some additions should be made as soon as possible, while the honorees can still show up and be feted properly. I don't mean a begging job for moody Wilt Chamberlain, but people who deserve and will appreciate the occasion.

A number of guys who know far more about KU basketball than I ever will think one of the first such additions should be the shirt of Ferdinand Pralle, better known as Fred. Fred's now about 80 and living in Florida. The good news is that some very important and influential people are working to give this outstanding KU alum his due.

Word is that coach Roy Williams and former KU coach Dick Harp have a local hand in the proceedings. I know that in the Kansas City area people like Dr. Bob Allen, son of the Fabulous Phog, and former football-basketball All-American Ray Evans have firm shoulders behind the wheel.

People who knew Pralle as a Jayhawk and saw him play here and later with the Phillips Oilers contend Fred was as great a player as basketball produced in the 1930s. Harp, a sophomore in 1938 when Pralle was a senior, contends that Fred under the proper conditions could have been the Michael Jordan of his day.

"The best word for him is 'magnificent,'" the admiring Harp will tell you. "Mercy, if he had been playing in today's climate where you can train the year around and compete and perfect your skills all the time, no telling what might have happened. He was about 6-3, strong, quick, had every physical trait you could want in a player, and was as fierce a competitor as I've ever seen."

Dr. Allen, a well-known surgeon and a KU star in his own right in the 1939-40 glory days, is every bit the Pralle fan.

"It seems to me that somewhere along the line, we've lost sight of the great players at Kansas in the 1930s. There were many, but Pralle was absolutely as outstanding as any man I have ever seen on a basketball court."

"He made all-conference in 1936, 1937 and 1938 at Kansas, won All-America status and then went down and was all-AAU at least six times, maybe more, for Phillips. That's when AAU basketball was the best thing in the world, superior to the then-NBA," Allen told me during a recent Kansas City conversation.

"Fred's jersey should be up there in the fieldhouse. There are a lot of others, too, but the first addition should be Pralle. My god, what a star! He played on several teams that had only marginal talent. ... he personally could carry them to victory. Kansas won the Big Six title all three seasons he played here."

Allen played at Lawrence High and was on his dad's KU freshman team the year Pralle was a senior.

"We all were in awe of Fred. When we scrimmaged the varsity we never could deal with him," Allen said. "But one night I was feeling pretty cocky and decided I'd try to show him a few tricks of my own. Fred drove for the basket and as he went by I bumped him just enough to knock him off balance so he missed the shot.

"He ran a semi-circle and cut back over the area where I was and looked me dead in the eye. I can't repeat what he said, but he made it clear that 'Sonny Boy' better never, ever even think of trying that again."

Dr. Allen recalls the night Pralle had a horribly swollen ankle and Kansas didn't have a prayer of winning without him.

"Doc (dad Phog) taped a basketweave pattern on the ankle as tight as Fred could stand it." Allen commented. "Even so, Pralle could not put the full weight on his taped foot and spent the whole game, without relief, playing on his one good leg and tiptoeing on the injured one. He controlled the game despite that. I've never seen a guttier performance on behalf of a team. If Fred Pralle's jersey isn't up there pretty soon, there's something terribly wrong with the selection process."

One thing that often is overlooked about the incredible repertoire of Phog Allen is that he was a widely sought and accomplished osteopath -- and why he became one.

When Phog got the coaching bug, he also deduced that the way to win the most games was to get the best players you could and then get and keep them in the best possible physical condition. He was a master at dealing with athletic injuries and repeatedly figured out ways to heal performers. There still are people in Lawrence, none of them even athletes, who swear that treatments by "Doc" were almost magic.

The late Don Ebling used to tell about the time he hurt a knee in a Friday night football game at Lindsborg. They told him his career as an athlete was finished. But his coach brought Don, his knee swollen the size of a basketball, to see Phog the very next day. Allen did some mumbo-jumbo, waved his wand (oh, those marvelous hands) and Ebling played football the next Friday night. Then he played football and basketball at KU.

But enough for the medical report. Let's give Fred Pralle the honor he deserves while he can be here to savor the event.

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