Archive for Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fan memories of ‘57

Readers share their memories of the ‘57 game, whether they were there or not

March 15, 2007


Dick Sengpiehl, Lawrence

Yes, I was there in Municipal Auditorium for the championship game in 1957. The triple overtime defeat was as exciting as it was gutwrenching. The starof the Tar Heels was Lennie Rosenbluth, and he was good that night as was Wilt Chamberlain. I was a student at KU at the time, a classmate of Wilt's, and attended the majority of Wilt's home games, including his freshman game against the varsity(freshmen not allowed to play at the time)and his epic 52-point explosion against Northwestern, the first game of his college career. I will always remember his taking off behind the free throw line and dunking it.

If there would have been a time clock during the NC-KU game, I believe KU would have won easily. Unfortunately, opponents when they were lucky enough to beat KU would do so by stalling. On defense, several players would collapse on Wilt, which would partially prevent him from scoring.

In my opinion, Wilt was the best player ever, a tremendous athlete, who was equally at home on the track where he high jumped, won the league hop,skip, and jump, and reportedly could run a 48-second quarter mile.

Garry M. Wright, El Dorado

I have been a Jayhawk fan since the fall of 1952, just a few months after the '52 championship. I was only 12 years old. I have remained a Jayhawk fan ever since (55 years), both in basketball and football. I've stuck with them through thick and thin. It was not my privilege to attend the '57 championship game. I had followed them as much as I could that year with my trusty radio and occasionally on TV. But usually there was more snow on the screen than anything else.

The night of the game we were having a full-fledged blizzard in Western Kansas (I'm from Sublette and was a junior in high school). I was trying to listen to the game, but the reception wasn't the best. But I was getting most of what was happening.

It was the third overtime, down to six seconds, we (KU) were ready to throw the ball in and one point down. I thought that we had a great chance of scoring, especially with Wilt under the bucket. I was on pins and needles. Then it happened. . . I lost my radio reception and there was nothing that I did, bang the radio, turn it around, upside down and whatever else I may have done, that would do any good. I couldn't even get the after game comments. In fact it was two days before I could find out that we had lost the game. I'll never forget that game, even though I had to wait two days to learn of the final outcome.

Carl E. Stallard, Winter Park, Fla.

Having grown up in Lawrence, having obtain a business and a law degree from KU, and living in Kansas City during my early career, I was naturally a serious KU basketball fan.

The disappointment with that loss to North Carolina was a heartbreak, because with Chamberlain, we thought we could beat anyone at any time. As Phog would say, with him and four cheerleaders we should win any game. Perhaps if we had the time clock that we now have, we might have won more games than we did.

After leaving Kansas City, I was living in South Carolina for a few years. During that time, I had the occasion of attending a civic dinner in Columbia, S.C. At the dinner was Frank McGuire, the coach of North Carolina, for that fateful game. I was naturally curious to learn how he viewed that game, probably about 10 years after the game.

He seemed anxious to express his opinion. He said that I would remember that North Carolina got off to a fast start and was leading, if not dominating, KU. Later, KU began pressing and not only caught up with North Carolina, but took the lead. Coach McGuire then commented that coach Harp of KU made a major mistake by stalling the game rather than continuing with their more spirited game.

He then informed me that Kansas was clearly the better team, and should they have played 10 games, that Kansas would easily have won at least seven of them.

Barbara Jackson

I was there, my husband and I went with some friends. It was held at the old Municipal Auditorium downtown. Place was not even half full as I remember. There were two games, one for third and fourth, which went into two or three overtimes if I remember correctly, and then came the KU game. It was exciting, Wilt was great and KU should have won, but North Cariolina had a guard, Lennie Rosenbloom or whatever, really can't remember his exact name, but he was also great. In the third overtime, I believe, he more than anyone one was responsible for the Carolina win. Needless to say, Carolina had all white team so I was so proud of KU for having Wilt. He was probabily the greatest along side Gale Sayers in football who I also saw play many times as my future son-in-law was on the same football team.

Tyson T. Travis (KU '67), Pine Bluff, Ark.

Just like the Kansas-North Carolina basketball programs, our Kansas family is inbred with North Carolina connections.

My grandparents (who lived in Coffeyville, where my parents grew up) discovered Western North Carolina in the early 1930s as a respite from dust bowl Kansas, and after vacationing and renting there for several years, started building a summer cottage just outside of Waynesville in 1937. Our family still owns it, 70 years later. By the way, this is about 25 miles west of Asheville, home of Roy Williams and Christian Moody. I was born there in 1945, while my parents were working in a World War II defense plant. Later, our family moved to Lawrence so my dad could attend KU.

The 1956-57 season started out well when my father, Ken Travis, somehow secured tickets and took me to see Wilt Chamberlain's KU debut against Northwestern. I think he scored 52 points, which I believe is still a KU record.

I wasn't as religious a KU fan as I am now, and we didn't attend the championship game in KC in person, but planned to watch it on TV at home (a 12" oval black-and-white.) To our complete surprise, our next-door neighbors from Waynesville dropped in on a cross-country swing to spend the night, so we watched the game in Lawrence together with our North Carolina neighbors. The game, of course, was one of the best championship games ever, and by the end of the third overtime, we were all limp. No hard feelings or fist fights broke out, however, as we were all good sports.

I started attending KU games regularly in '58, as a KU basketball ticket-holder, I think you got six games in the north bleachers for $1.00, kids from fourth grade through junior high could attend. Sorry to say, that program's long gone in the interest of putting higher-paying students and fans in those seats, but it started me off as a lifelong KU fan. Wish KU could still afford to bring up the younger fans this way.

I remember Wilt's debut and the triple overtime championship as though it were yesterday. Hope KU can put together another run like 1988.

Cliff Roark (KU '65)

My Dad (Olen B. Roark) graduated in '33 and subsequently taught in the Business School, I believe from '38-'42. On the eve of the '57 finals, there was a horrible blizzard in Western Kansas(Scott City). Electrical power outside of Scott City was non-existent for several days. We still had non-dial phones in '57. I vividly remember Dad picking up the phone and asking the operator to connect us with 878-J-2 (home of Sonny and Harriet Jones....both KU graduates). Dad told the operator that this would be an extended call and that it was not to be interrupted under any circumstances (little did he know how long!). Sonny and Harriet shared their one phone that night to listen to the triple overtime game. 1957 the transistor radio was almost non-existent and Sonny and Harriet at the time had no electricity. One phone for a three-overtime that's a true Jayhawk!

Ralph Butler (KU J-School '57)

I was a senior at KU...majoring in radio and T.V. in the Journalism School. I was a staff photographer for the UDK...and was lucky enough to be the designated student photographer for that game. I took pictures with a Rolliflex double lense reflex camera. I also saved the UDK articles relating to the KU loss in triple overtime. Since Wilt Chamberlain was our tallest KU player, I took many photos of him 'flying' through the sky to the hoop.

My biggest memory of that game is being right under the basket the entire time...and feeling so badly for Wilt and the other KU Jayhawks when the game was over and they lost...then driving back to the photo lab at KU to process the film and make 8x10's for the UDK editors to use in the student paper the next day.

William Goetze

Who will forget Tommy Kearns, the NC guard, jumping center against Wilt Chamberlain? Or Kearns throwing the ball high in the air just seconds before the final buzzer ending the third overtime? Or Lennie Rosenbluth's lack of playing time after fouling out? And my recollection is that Ron Loneski had a heck of a game for the Jayhawks!

Steve Bunten (KU '60)

I was a freshman at KU in 56-57 and with a fraternity brother went to KC to see the game. I don't remember how or where we got the tickets, nor does he, but we suspect they came through his father. There is also a chance we got them from Dean Smith, who was a good friend of my brother. Tickets were not hard to get and I recall no concern about our being able to get in.

We joined the crowd at the Meuhlbach before the game. The level of excitement was less than what it is these days, with infinitely less media hype. All of us expected KU to win, especially after Carolina had to endure a three-overtime game in the semifinals. I remember the seats were pretty good - most of the seats in Municipal Auditorium are pretty good. We were about mid-court, not too high. I remember it being a slow game with Carolina holding the ball and trying to keep it from Wilt. I remember Wilt blocking one shot that went into the balcony.

Even then I was a devoted KU fan, having had three brothers go to KU before me. I grew up in Topeka and had to endure associating with K-State people, but my heart was in Lawrence. I started going to KU football games in 1947 and never missed a home game until I went into the Air Force in 1961. I can recall my father taking me to a game in 1952 in Hoch Auditorium. I saw the KU-Washington semifinal game in 1953 when the Kelly brothers stole the ball the first four times Washington brought it across the time line, with an 8-0 result. I say this to emphasize my commitment; the loss to Carolina is still devastating after all these years.

My only lasting recollection is total dismay. After the game I went back to Topeka and tried to sleep it off. No such luck; it still hurts.

John McCartney (KU '62)

One of the sports highlights of my life was to have been on the top row of Municipal Auditorium in KC for the UNCKU championship game in 1957. My father took me to the second college game I had ever seen (the first was Wilt's first varsity game against Northwestern when he scored his career high of 52). What a great game. I was so excited about KU I subsequently waived my admission acceptance to Michigan State and entered KU in the fall of '58. Additionally, I had the opportunity to wear the Jayhawk mascot costume for three years ('59 '62).

Having lived in the Raleigh, N.C. area for several years, I met two of the members of that NC team. It was interesting to listen to their perspective of the "big game."

I bleed crimson and blue. I am a KU basketball fanatic. Thanks to satellite T.V., I haven't missed a game in many years. Moreover, I trace the roots of my love of KU to that '57 game.

John C. Scott Ulm, Tucson, Ariz.

I grew up in Indepencence, Kan. My father's hometown was Lawrence. My grandfather helped build the old Frasier Hall. My grandmother died in 1952 at 99 years of age. Her home was burned by Quantrill's Raiders. She, of course, was a young girl during the Civil War. Her daughter, Jennie, married a pharmacist who owned Coe's Drug Store on Massachussetts St. for many years, apparently a hang out for decades of KU students into the fifties.

My father, Joseph H. Ulm, was a 1928 graduate of KU. My mother's father owned a rooming house at 1400 Tennessee Street, which was home to many KU students.

Driving in many snowstorms from Independence to Lawrence was a common occasion.

There were no tickets to the KU vs. North Carolina finals in 1957. My father learned of a doorman at the arena who would allow you in for $100, a small fortune in those days.

We paid the money. We sat in an aisle high up in the Municipal Auditorium and watched in disbelief as the Chamberlain shot failed in the overtime. My father was mute for days.

As a long-time radio talk show host in Tucson, Ariz., and former state senator from Tucson, I have honored the Jayhawks every season for forty years. I have played the KU fight song and sung the "Rock Chalk" on the air and survived threats. Our home is a shrine to the 'Hawks. A stained glass Jayhawk is lit after every basketball victory. The "Rock Chalk" is changed. Great joy rains in our home. My children, Mark, 40, my daughter, Leslie, 38, and our granddaughter Gena, 8, have been brought up Jayhawks. My younger daughter, Stephanie, a junior at the University of Arizona, proudly displays the Jayhawks bumper sticker "Arizonan by birth, Jayhawk by the Grace of God."

Our pride, our identity, our joy is tied to Jayhawk basketball. We have lived and died by wins and losses. The worst, in 1997 at the hands of Arizona, and two painful losses in the first round of the NCAA tournament the past two years. Our faith never waivers, our hope is endless and we are Jayhawks forever.

My memories of my father, who passed away in 1969, are inseparably linked to Jayhawk basketball.

Thank you for allowing me to remember

Bill Brookman, Cleveland, Okla.

1957 was my freshman year at KU and Louis Armstrong had a concert the same night as the championship game. The concert was held in the old Hoch Auditorium early that night. Louie "Satchmo" Armstrong was a great trumpet player, and his concert was over before the game.

At the end of his concert he announced that he was going to perform a free show

at the Student Union Ballroom, because all he wanted to do was meet Wilt Chamberlain.

So we all moved to the Student Union where they had set up several T.V.s (black and white) around the ballroom. The students watched the game and it was late, three overtimes. When it was over, Louie played and we all danced until the team got there about 2:00 AM. Louie met Wilt and everybody was happy. Normal closing hours were 1:00 AM on Saturday night, so they extended them(very rare) that night.

Barry Steeves

I was 10 years old in 1957. I'd played a little back yard basketball, occasionally attended Chanute High School games with my parents and, as was common then, listened to sports on the radio. My folks had even seen Wilt play in Allen Field House, but I wasn't along on that outing.

My world of basketball expanded miraculously one night, however, when I fiddled with the radio dial and happened upon a KU basketball game. Well, not just any basketball game, but what turned out to be the barn burner of a championship game between KU and North Carolina. As everyone now knows, the game see-sawed up to the end and went into overtime; then did the same thing again. My memory is of three overtimes (that may be one too many, I'm not sure) that had the emotions of a 10-year-old sports fan jumping then falling, then jumping then, finally, falling as our team came up short. But what a glorious ride. On that night, when I was allowed to stay up way past my bedtime, I discovered the astounding human drama of sport played at its highest level.

My own athletic skills were modest, though that didn't keep me from playing some intramural ball nor does it keep me from continuing to be physically active today. But I was forever branded as a sports fan that night listening to a KU basketball game. Rock Chalk Jayhawks!

Thanks for letting me share a memory.

David L. Schwartz (KU '57), Naples, Fla.

I was a senior at KU and attended the game in the old Kansas City Municipal Auditorium with my father and three fraternity brothers. We bought our tickets after KU qualified for the Final Four, paid list price and sat about ten rows up between the center line and the free throw circle. The game itself is well documented, so I will give you some trivia as I remember it.

Ron Loneski, arguably the second best player on the team, was actually recruited as a package with Wilt. Branch McCracken, the Indiana coach, was extremely confident that he would get Wilt. He had convinced Loneski that he should go where Wilt went. As a result, when Wilt chose KU, they got Loneski as a bonus. Phog Allen once stated that Branch McCraken was the best recruiter that KU ever had.

Blaine Hollinger and Bob Billings, both members of that team, were from Russell. They both held basketball scholarships and also held Summerfield Scholarships, which at the time was the most prestigous academic scholarship offered. I know that Blaine was a Phi Beta Kappa and I am fairly confident that Bob was also. My memory also tells me that John Parker was a Summerfield Scholar but I am not sure about that.

Bob Billings' accomplishments are well known around Lawrence. Bob was the younger brother of Richard Billings, a high school classmate of mine, who was the President of the Class of 1957, which will hold our 50 year reunion in April. The Billings brothers are substantial contributors to the Dole Center.

Blaine Hollinger graduated from the KU Medical school, became a medical doctor and is a world reknowned expert on hepatitis, lectures around the world and still does research at Baylor Medical Center in Houston. He was my best friend at Russell High School.

I am sure that Blaine was on two state championship high school basketball teams and I believe Bob, who was two years younger, was also on two.

Ron Johnston, a KU classmate and fraternity brother of mine, was also on that team. I recall that the loss was exterely disappointing to all of the team members and staff, but recovered quickly and went on with with their lives as would be expected.

I lived in North Carolina from 1979 to 1999, and without exception, when basketball was discussed with people of my generation, that game became the center of discussion. It seems that the whole state of North Carolina watched it on television. As a group, they felt as fortunate to have won the game as we at Kansas felt disappointed in losing.

Dick Ohmart

My memories of that are as follows. I cannot swear to the accuracy of this. I graduated from KU in 1958, from KUMC in 1962, but memories have a way to fade, replaced by oft repeated stories.

I graduated from KU in 1958 so I was on the hill for the 1956-57 basketball season. I played in the pep band for the basketball games and attended all of the Allen Fieldhouse games that year. The Big Seven was probably the toughest conference in the NCAA at that time. KU's 11 wins were as difficult as the NCAA Tournament. K-State had Bob Boozer and Jack Parr. They won the NCAA championship the next year. KU's lone defeat in the Big Seven was by Iowa State, who also had a fine team. They played a slow down game with a box-and-one defense, with the box guarding Chamberlain and the one guarding whoever had the ball. Iowa State won 39-37.

After winning the Midwest Regional, KU advanced to the finals in Kansas City. We were certain KU would win the tournament. Not only was Chamberlain dominant, but Maurice King and Ron Loneski were outstanding players. After beating San Francisco in the semifinal game, the KU team faced North Carolina and coach Frank McGuire. He didn't use the I-State defense, but often had two defenders guarding Chamberlain, with a third quickly joining the duo defending him.

In the third overtime, with North Carolina leading by a point and a few seconds left, KU was to throw the ball in under the NC basket. All they needed to do was throw the ball to Wilt and drop it in. KU would win! But three NC players surrounded Wilt and couldn't move to get the ball. I think it was King who received the ball and didn't have e decent shot and couldn't score. North Carolina won.

In Lawrence, the campus was ready to celebrate the win. Louis Armstrong and his band were set to play a dance after the game. Although crushed by the loss, the dancers carried on. The evening was not a total loss. A year later I married the girl I danced with that night.

Bob Lutz

I was just 10 at the time and not sure I had even been to a college basketball game before. My dad had somehow gotten tickets to the 1957 Championship game and I was really excited about seeing Wilt square off vs. Lenny Rosenbluth of UNC. At that time I think the championship games were frequently played in Kansas City and Lexington, Kentucky, so it didn't have quite the drama of traveling a long way to see the Hawkers play. I do remember watching Rosenbluth in warm-ups and watching how effortlessly he could shoot the ball. Time after time, nothing but net. The game was close and I sat on the edge of my seat from the tip-off through all three overtimes. The thing I remember most was how at the end of the game their guard threw the ball so high in the air that I thought it would hit the loud speaker system perched at the top of the Municipal Auditorium. I knew he was happy but I thought he had caused a turnover until I realized that by the time the ball came down the game was over. It was a truly great experience and one I'll never forget.

The only thing that was more thrilling was watching the 1988 championship game with my 10-year-old son when Danny and the Miracles wove their magic. Two great games. Different outcomes, but both equally exciting.

Jerry Peterson

In 1957, I was a sophomore engineering student at KU. Louie Armstrong had scheduled a concert on the Hill. It turned out that was the same night that the championship game was played in Kansas City. I had gotten tickets to the Louie Armstrong concert. The morning of the game, my dad called and asked if I wanted to go to the basketball game, as he had been able to get tickets. Of course I wanted to go to the game. After the game, when I had returned to Lawrence, I was told that Louie was at the student union waiting for the team to return. I went to the union and there they were playing and having a good time. Louie said that he was waiting for the team because he wanted to meet Wilt. Turns out I got to see the ball game and hear a concert both.

Ray Borth (KU '66)

I shall never forget the KU vs. North Carolina Final Four basketball game for the NCAA Championship played in March 1957 at Municipal Auditorium, Kansas City, Missouri, when the "unbeatable Wilt-the-Stilt" and the other four players for KU lost to North Carolina. I was not there to witness the game in person.

With the vivid imagination of a 13-year-old, 8th grade student/farm boy living on a farm 7.5 miles north of Plains, Meade County, Kansas (25 miles East of Liberal, KS on Highway # 54) myself, my brother Larry Borth (later recruited to play basketball in 1959 by Dick Harp at KU) and my parents, Jay Otto and Cledythe Borth (now both deceased, and HUGE KU basketball fans,Coach Roy Williams, while still at KU wrote a personal sympathy card to my mom after my dad died in July 1999) listened to that famous basketball game on a transistor radio during the worst blizzard that had hit SW Kansas in decades. All of our power had gone out for over a week. Snow at 15 inches of depth driven by 30-35 mph winds into snow drifts that became 30 feet high in places around the farm buildings kept us inside, bundled-up, hearing reports on the radio that a Santa Fe Chief passenger train was stuck in a snow drift somewhere between Plains and Meade, Kansas for several days had our attention......however, the thing that kept us going was hoping that we would be able to pick-up "the game" that KU and Wilt were playing in KC against a team that I had never heard of before, North Carolina. Because we knew nothing about this opponent, we just knew that victory for the Kansas Jayhawks would be ours for the taking. After all, we had the unstoppable "Wilt-the-Stilt" on our team, the first seven -ooter that most of us in Western Kansas had ever heard of. Our sports news came to us out of Hutchinson and the Hutchinson News Herald.

When the game went into overtime, we were shocked that anyone could play with Wilt and our KU Jayhawks. When the final buzzer blew and we had lost, I know that I felt as low as I had ever felt. And now I look back on the loss that my parents were feeling with the blizzard, crushed-in machine sheds, smashed/ruined farm equipment, loss of livestock, etc. and realize that this was a special time that our family spent together that will long be remembered by myself and my brother.

I know that is when I first fell in love with Kansas basketball and what it stands for, and what it meant to my family.

Later, my brother Larry was recruited to play basketball in 1963 at UCLA with a fellow that I had never heard of, John Wooden, when I was a junior at KU. Wooden recruited him after one year of basketball at Hutchinson Community College and a few years of Marine Corps duty. He got cut and did not make the ultimate UCLA team that came to Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo., in March of 1964 to start coach John Wooden on his winning string of some ten straight NCAA Championships. Coach Wooden had Larry working out with two other UCLA players before the official season started in the Fall of 1963. Some fellow with what Larry said was a "girl's name" - Gail Goodrich; and a young black guard from "back East" that could really dribble and shoot the ball, a fellow by the name of Walt Hazzard. Wooden loved the players from the mid-states. On that first NCAA Championship team there was a tall black player from Topeka that played center for that team by the name of Fred Slaughter.

Wow! The memories of basketball....KU....Municipal Auditorium....North Carolina....UCLA....Wilt-the-Stilt....NCAA Championships....Family.

Thanks for allowing me to remember all of these wonderful things for a few more moments.

My wife and I have had season basketball tickets at Allen Fieldhouse since the days of Monte Johnson, Larry Brown, Roy Williams, Bill Self and Danny Manning starting in 1986. On December 9, 1989, I took my mom and dad to Allen Fieldhouse, for mom's first time at Allen, to watch Roy's Boys beat the University of Kentucky and Rick Pitino 150-95. That is the absolute loudest noise I have ever heard, bar none. My parents met at Kansas State University in Manhattan back in 1937 and attended K-State. From that KU vs. UK game on December 9, 1989, to the day that my dad died in 1999 and mom in 2005, my parents were thereafter hooked on KU basketball, and I will always know that the emotional tie to Kansas basketball started 50 years ago in the frozen snow packed fields of Meade County for our family while listening to a small transistor radio and yelling for our beloved KU Jayhawk basketball team. How could they lose to North Carolina?

But they did, and we survived the blizzard of March 1957.

My wife Raena (Reiss) Borth and I both graduated from Kansas University in 1966. She is now in her 41st consecutive year of teaching elementary education (SM School System) and I graduated from Washburn School of Law in 1969 and have practiced law in Johnson County, KS since moving to this area in 1971. Larry Borth is a dentist/periodontist in St. Louis, MO.

John Gjovig

First, the 1957 NCAA championship game between Kansas and North Carolina remains the most exciting game I ever saw in person, maybe ever. It was for the championship, it involved my team, it was between the number one, undefeated team and the number two ranked team. And it was the first important date with my new girlfriend.

The things I remember most - I had no trouble getting good seats in the upper level, the triple team they put on Wilt, the refereeing (it hasn't changed much) and the kiss I got from my girlfriend, remember it was the 50's.

Did I mention that girlfriend is now my wife of 47 years. Good times!

Roger Theis, Wichita

I remember the '57 Final Four from the wondering eyes of an eight-year-old attending the spectacle with my parents. Even in a less saturated media era, I had a firm understanding going in that Carolina was No. 1 led by their star player, Lenny Rosenbluth. I remember that the whole game seemed in slow motion, when after scoring 80 points the night before against USF, the end of regulation ended with a tie at 40(or 43?). I seem to remember that an altercation occurred during the game when Pete Brennan of Carolina squared off against Wilt, but Brennan(the instigator) had the good sense to back off. To my memory, the possessions were few in the overtimes and neither team hardly scored. I remember a Carolina player named Quigg making two foul shots with six seconds to go, but believed that we could still get the ball to Wilt for the victory. Etched in my memory is the agony of a too-low pass to Wilt that was intercepted and the ball being thrown to the ceiling with time ticking away. Although we had lost 54-53, I remember that once in the hallway, I looked back to the scoreboard through the small porthole windows of the Municipal Auditorium doors hoping that the score might have changed in KU's favor. Overall, I was proud of the team despite the disappointment. It was part of making me a Jayhawk forever.


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