When I was a lad, I was nutso for basketball and we played ball at Morrill playground. There were two baskets, one on the Rockwell Street side of the playground and the other on the Maplewood Street side--with a half city block between baskets. Needless to say, a fast break was an exhausting experience. We limited full-court games to one a week.
When it rained or snowed, we would sneak into the gym at St. Rita High School or go to the gym at the Lutheran church. More about the Lutheran gym in a moment. If the priests at St. Rita caught us sneaking in, they'd kick us out, except for one priest, Father Nash. Nash was a great guy and he always would join us in a pickup game.
In my day, the long shot of choice was a two-handed set shot; the underhanded shot was reserved for free throws. But Nash learned the game in a different time, so his long shot was underhanded and he could swish 'em from half court. When it was time to choose up sides, Nash was always the first guy picked.
One day when we were in grammar school, one of the nuns overheard my buddy O'Grady talking about playing in the gym at the Lutheran church. She scolded him, reminding him it was a mortal or some such sin to enter a Lutheran church. And he should go to confession and mend his ways. O'Grady was undaunted and still credits his unstoppable hook shot to Martin Luther.
On Feb. 11, Barbara and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. I should mention she honed her basketball skills at McKinley Park. The days of the underhanded set shot are long gone, and O'Grady's hook shot is but a memory, but he was there along with other lifelong friends to join the anniversary celebration. And so were 10 grandchildren, one great-grandchild and nieces, nephews and cousins. Folks from red states and blue, from Georgia, New Mexico, Illinois, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and California joined the clog-dancing celebration and listened to the stories about basketball as it once was played. What a grand day it was.
When Frank isn’t being grateful for all the memories he and Barbara have shared, he can be reached at email@example.com.