By Glen Sparks
Dave DeBusschere threw a fastball just like he crashed the boards. Hard.
The 6-foot-6-inch Detroit native, born Oct. 16, 1940, is more familiar to basketball enthusiasts than he is to baseball fans. DeBusschere spent 12 seasons in the NBA, playing in 440 games for the Detroit Pistons and 435 games for the New York Knicks. He averaged 16.1 points per game and 11.0 rebounds.
DeBusschere made eight NBA All-Star teams and six all-defensive teams. He played on the 1969-70 and 1972-73 championship teams, alongside great players like Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and Bill Bradley. In 1996, DeBusschere was named as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983.
So, the big guy probably made the right decision when he opted for a hoops career over a career in baseball. He starred in both sports at Austin Catholic Preparatory School in Detroit and the University of Detroit.
DeBusschere earned All-American honors in basketball as a sophomore, junior and senior, leading his squad to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) in his first two seasons (in the days before freshman eligibility) and to the NCAA tournament in his senior campaign. He also made All-American in baseball for the Titans.
The Chicago White Sox signed DeBusschere in 1962 as an amateur free agent. The Detroit Pistons selected him that same year as a territorial pick in the NBA draft.
The right-handed hurler enjoyed a fast start to his baseball career. He went 10-1 with a 2.49 ERA in 14 games with the Savannah/Lynchburg White Sox of the South Atlantic League. The hot prospect struck out 93 batters in 94 innings. Impressed, Chicago called up DeBusschere late in the season. Against, big-league hitters, he mostly struggled with his control. Over 18 innings, he only gave up for earned runs, but he walked 23.
From there, DeBusschere left to play basketball. He averaged 12.7 points per game and 8.7 rebounds in his first NBA season, earning himself the league’s 1963 All-Rookie squad.
DeBusschere spent his entire 1963 season with Chicago. He compiled a 3-4 won-loss record and 3.09 ERA. More importantly, he cut his number of bases on balls to a more manageable 34 in 84.1 innings. He tossed a shutout against the Cleveland Indians on Aug. 16, giving up six hits, striking out three and walking one. A scouting report said DeBusschere had a “fireball and better than an average curve.”
And, it was off again to the hardcourt. Injuries limited DeBusschere to just 15 games in his sophomore campaign. The 1964 baseball season didn’t start off as expected, either. DeBusschere spent the entire season in the minors. He did the same thing in 1965.
Meanwhile, healthy again, DeBusschere averaged 16.7 points per game and 11.1 rebounds for the Pistons in 1964-65. In the fall of ’65, he decided to leave baseball behind and concentrate on basketball.
The Knicks traded for DeBusschere on Dec. 18, 1968, for guard Butch Komives and center Walt Bellamy. DeBusschere retired after an All-Star season in 1973-74 and later served as a Knicks executive. He died May 14, 2003, of a heart attack at the age of 62.
(This is another one of the occasional non-baseball posts on the Dazzy Vance Chronicles. Back to baseball tomorrow.)
By Glen Sparks
Wilt Chamberlain did something amazing 53 years ago tonight in Hershey, Pa. He made 28 of 32 free-throw attempts. Yuck, yuck. The notoriously poor foul shooter scored 72 other points that night on 36-63 shooting, becoming the first and still only NBA player to hit the century mark in one game.
You can read more about the record-breaking night in this post. In honor of Wilt’s 100-point effort, I am posting a quiz about Wilt and other NBA players, teams and coaches. The quiz has 13 questions in honor of Wilt’s uniform number. Good luck!
(This is Part II of the first non-baseball post in the history of the Dazzy Vance Chronicles.)
By Glen Sparks
You probably know the picture. It is black-and-white, more than 50 years old, and set in a musty locker room. Wilt Chamberlain, center for the Philadelphia Warriors, slender, muscular, not a bit of fat on his 7-foot-1-inch frame, holds up a piece of paper that reads “100.” A rubber band hangs on one wrist. His long legs look sharply bent. He is smiling, and, incredibly, he still looks fresh. Like he could do it again. Like he could do something mythic one more time. Wilt Chamberlain had just enjoyed that sort of game, and he enjoyed just that sort of NBA career.
The Warriors drafted Chamberlain in 1959. He averaged 37.6 points and 27.0 rebounds a game as a rookie. He followed that with an even greater sophomore campaign (38.4 points and 27.2 rebounds). He set the single-season scoring mark both times.
(This is the first non-baseball post in the history of the Dazzy Vance Chronicles.)
By Glen Sparks
Wilt Chamberlain did a whole lot of “are you kidding me?” sort of stuff in his NBA career.
He scored a record 100 points one game, grabbed a record 55 rebounds in another game, averaged a record 50.4 points one season. … This 7-foot-1-inch center even led the league in assists, a point guard stat, in 1968. … Ok, here is one: An NBA game lasts 48 minutes. Chamberlain averaged 48.5 minutes a game in the 1961-62 campaign. (He played in every minute of 79 of 80 games, plus overtime action.)
So, naturally, he gets to be a 2-inch postage stamp. The U.S. Postal Service and the Philadelphia 76ers plan to dedicate two Wilt Chamberlain Forever stamps during a halftime ceremony at a Dec. 5 game in Oklahoma City versus the Thunder.
Donald Hunt, a writer for The Philadelphia Tribune, led the effort to put Wilt on a postage stamp. The NBA legend joins other so-honored athletes such as Babe Ruth, Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson and Jesse Owens. Kadir Nelson, a San Diego artist, and author/illustrator of We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, designed the stamps. One illustration is of Chamberlain playing for the Philadelphia Warriors in his younger days. The other is of The Big Dipper playing with the Los Angeles Lakers as a veteran.