Fan has seemingly been everywhere (except a UK basketball game)
Sports fan Ernie Henninger saw Jackie Robinson play baseball. He was in a crowd at Fenway Park that rose in a show of reverence as Ted Williams walked to the plate upon returning from injury.
Henninger attended the first Super Bowl and two Rose Bowls. He’s been at the Kentucky Derby (Chateaugay’s victory in 1963) and the Indianapolis 500 (could not remember the winning driver). He saw former Kentucky greats Ralph Beard and Alex Groza play basketball for the Indianapolis Olympians, a team in the infant NBA. He watched in awe as future football Hall of Famer Jim Brown played lacrosse. He recoiled at the spectacle of an especially bloody game of rugby in Australia.
On this Derby weekend, it’s timely to note that Henninger has gone to the races at Hollywood Park, Del Mar, Santa Anita and Churchill Downs. None come close to the beauty of Keeneland, he said.
“Unlike Johnny Cash, I haven’t been everywhere, man,” he wrote in an email inspired by an old country song. “Not even close.”
One stunning blank space in the resume of this sporting Zelig is a Kentucky basketball game. And Henninger, 86, has lived in Kentucky (Harrodsburg, to be exact) since 2005. Nor has this man for all seasons ever been to an NCAA Tournament game.
Henninger has an exacting taste when it comes to basketball. He likes it best on the high school level.
“Beyond that, I think the players are too good for the game,” he said. “It’s as if Boris Spassky is playing checkers.”
Spassky held the world championship in chess from 1969 to 1972.
Henninger admired the most recent UK team. He saw the Cats of 2018-19 as “not only good players, but good sportsmen.”
But Centre College’s teams are more to his liking. The price is right. The seats are close to the court. He can more easily relate to the action. He and his wife, Melva, try to attend a Centre College game each season.
Among Henninger’s sports memories are:
▪ Paying $12 for two tickets to the first Super Bowl. Green Bay beat Kansas City on Jan. 15, 1967, in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. “Not keeping those ticket stubs is one of my great regrets,” he said. “No one realized at the time it would become what it has become.”
▪ Stumbling upon a Boston Marathon. “I was in Cambridge, Mass.,” he said. “I suddenly saw some people running right down the street in at first what looked like their underwear. But then I realized they were wearing track clothing. It turned out that was the Boston Marathon. I had no idea the Boston Marathon was on that day. It wasn’t that big an event back then. That was in the ‘50s.”
▪ Watching Harvard play Syracuse in lacrosse. “All I remember of that was an awesome guy on the Syracuse team sending Harvard players flying like duck pins as he charged the goal,” he said. “I asked a fellow standing beside me on the sideline, and he told me that Syracuse player was Jim Brown.”
▪ Attending an indoor track meet in Los Angeles around 1967 or 1968. He and Melva sat in the balcony facing the landing pit for the long jump. “All of a sudden, there is this body hurtling toward us,” he said. “Of course, it came nowhere near hitting the balcony. But it was still pretty startling.”
The jumper was Bob Beamon, who on Oct. 18, 1968, won the gold medal in the long jump at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. He set a world record with a leap of 29 feet and two and one-half inches. That broke the previous record by nearly 2 feet (to be exact, 21 and two-thirds inches).
Henninger, who taught physics at DePauw University, is a sports fan with a history that begs a question: What sporting events remain on his bucket list?
“Actually, I kind of feel satisfied that I have done just about everything that I’d care to do,” he said. “If I do any more sports attending, I’d like to get to Saratoga Springs, partly to get to one more horse racing venue, and the area is interesting.”
Former UK standout DeMarcus Cousins has asked that his longtime nickname of Boogie be shelved. The betting website BookMaker.eu raised the possibility of a replacement nickname: Doobie Cousins.
With D’Angelo Russell of the Brooklyn Nets having been cited for possession of marijuana, the betting site set odds last week on who would be the next NBA player arrested or cited on a marijuana-related charge.
BookMaker.eu made Cousins a 9-2 favorite to be that player. J.R. Smith was the second choice at 5-1. The third choice was Robin Lopez at 6-1 with former Louisville player Montrezl Harrell the fourth choice at 15-2.
The 10 players listed by BookMaker.eu also included former Florida standout Joakim Noah (10-1), former UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball (10-1), Houston Rocket James Harden (12-1) and Golden State Warrior Klay Thompson (25-1).
John Lester, a spokesman for BookMaker.eu, said that the odds are not intended to point an accusatory finger at a player nor meant as a prediction.
“Instead, we approached it by thinking of who are some of the more rebellious figures in the league who might be willing to throw caution to the wind . . . ,” he wrote in an email. “As well as some of the league’s more colorful characters who might be the favorites to (commit) a minor transgression that may cause them to run afoul of the law.”
Former UK standouts Keith Bogans and Tony Delk were not selected in the BIG3 Draft last week. Of course, the BIG3 is a 3-on-3 basketball league that made a stop in Rupp Arena in its debut season of 2017.
The overall No. 1 pick in this year’s draft was a familiar name: Royce White. Playing for Iowa State, he scored 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds in an 87-71 loss to Kentucky in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
A fear of flying adversely affected White’s NBA career. At the BIG3 Draft, he wore a shirt adorned with the words “I flew here.”
Another first-round pick was former Ohio State center Greg Oden.
Former Kansas guard Mario Chalmers was taken in the third and final round. He made the three-point shot that sent the Jayhawks’ 2008 national championship game against John Calipari-coached Memphis into overtime. Kansas won the title.
A news release on the BIG3 Draft listed one team’s coach as “Dr. Julius Erving.”
This prompted a Google search. Had Erving earned a doctorate degree? Had he received an honorary doctorate?
According to Wikipedia, a high school friend gave Erving the nickname of “doctor.” He became known as “Dr. J.”
After returning to his alma mater of UMass and earning a bachelor’s degree, Erving received an honorary doctorate.
Before his team played North Carolina in the Sweet 16, Auburn Coach Bruce Pearl spoke highly of the Tar Heels’ freshman point guard, Coby White.
“If he was at Murray State, they would be talking about Coby White like they talk about Ja (Morant),” Pearl said. “He’s a very, very similar player.”
In Auburn’s 97-80 victory, White made four of 15 shots (zero of seven from three-point range) and scored 15 points. He had a minus-17 on the plus-minus scale.
Mock NBA Drafts support Pearl’s contention. As of last week, NBADraft.net and Yahoo had Morant being selected second and White sixth. CBSSports had Morant and White being picked third and fourth, respectively.
Former Kentucky player Reggie Hanson has written a book about his time as a Wildcat. The book is titled “10 Life Lessons: Learned as a Student-Athlete.”
The lessons learned involved such topics and attributes as perseverance, overcoming adversity, leadership, time management, sacrifice, discipline and venturing outside a comfort zone.
Promotional material for the book suggests the book is intended to help prepare current college athletes for life beyond college and future college athletes for what to expect in college.
To Anthony Epps. He turned 44 on Saturday. . . . To Larry Steele. He turns 70 on Sunday (today). . . . To former UK president Lee Todd. He turns 73 on Monday. . . . To Heshimu Evans. He turns 44 on Wednesday. . . . To Jarrod Polson. He turns 28 on Wednesday. . . . To J.P. Blevins. He turns 40 on Wednesday.