Roundup For Coach: His Love For Baseball, More Reflections From Major Newspapers & SI.com Archive

It is another big day in the diamonds for our baseball and softball teams. So I will start this roundup post on Coach noting his love for baseball. Tom Hoffart from the Daily News wrote about Coach's love for baseball in his Dodgers Notebook yesterday. Reading that article I learned something I didn't know before. Coach was once offered a job to manage a MLB team:

True story: The Pittsburgh Pirates once offered their managerial position to John Wooden.

The UCLA basketball coach was at a dinner in Los Angeles in the 1960s, seated next to Pirates general manager Joe Brown Jr., son of great Hollywood comic actor Joe E. Brown.

During the course of the evening, Joe Brown Jr. found out Wooden, who by that time had been coaching in Westwood some 15 seasons, was a big baseball fan. By the time the meal ended, Brown asked Wooden if he'd be interested in managing a team that included future Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente and had won the 1961 World Series.

Wooden said he couldn't do it. Since he never played the game professionally, he didn't think the players on the team would respect him. But Wooden kept a newspaper clipping in his wallet of a story recounting the incident, if only to prove to those who doubted it happened.

Wooden once said of that proposal: "I told Joe (Brown) I don't know who would have been run out of town first, him or me."

Coach shared that story with Joe Torre, who became close friends with Coach over the years. Torre visited Coach last week and described his experience to Hoffarth:

Torre said he "had the good fortune" to visit Wooden at the UCLA hospital on Wednesday prior to the noon Dodgers-Arizona game, and said Wooden seemed to perk up when told Torre was in the room.

Wooden also on occasion went to the New York Yankees locker room when the team was in Anaheim and would visit with Torre and Angels manager Mike Scioscia.

"Derek (Jeter) was one of his favorites, which was understandable considering the way he plays the game," Torre said of the Yankees captain.

That officially means no one can give yours truly a hard time for liking the Yankees, while rooting for the Dodgers. :-) Back to diamond notes and Bruins, our softball team is going to take the mound against Georgia at 10 am PST (less than an hour) and our baseball team will be taking on the winner of LSU/UCI game later today at 6 pm PST. We will have open threads tracking both of those teams.

More after the jump on Coach.

Reading through the obituary in the LA Times, I was floored when I read this bit about the Coach, when he took a job as athletic director and coach of the basketball and baseball teams at Indiana State Teachers College (now Indiana State University) in Terre Haute:

Again, his teams had winning seasons, but the young coach might best be remembered for a game his squad did not play. In his first season, Indiana State earned a spot in the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Basketball tournament but was told that its lone black player, a reserve guard, was not welcome. Wooden declined the invitation.

The next season, the Sycamores, with a 27-7 record, were invited again. After discussions between Wooden and tournament officials, Clarence Walker became the first African American to compete in the postseason tournament.

That is a pretty stunning detail I never read about before. It is just another little datapoint  on what this man was all about. The Washington Post obituary is also a wonderful read, which recounted the following story of Coach mopping the gym floor before practice at the "B.O. Barn" for 17 years:

Mr. Wooden went to UCLA in 1948, inheriting the worst team in the Pacific Coast Conference. In his inaugural season, he led the Bruins to the first of his 19 conference championships. Until a new arena was built in 1965, his teams practiced for 17 years at the "B.O. Barn," an antiquated gymnasium shared with the wrestling and gymnastics teams. Mr. Wooden mopped the floor before practice every day.

Lastly, the old Gray Lady ended its obituary with some telling comments from Marques Johnson (well Johnson's comment is LOL funny) and the Captain:

For most of his retirement, large crowds flocked to his speeches, usually revolving around his "Pyramid of Success," 15 conceptual building blocks of traits like industriousness, alertness and poise, held together by faith and patience. In recent years Wooden simply sat in a chair and spoke for up to an hour without notes, hoping to impart his wisdom to newer generations. His former players said they did not appreciate Wooden's life lessons when they were young, but the precepts stuck with them.

"At the time it was like, ‘Pyramid, shmyramid,' " Marques Johnson said. " ‘Where's the party at? Where are the girls at?' I didn't want to hear anything about principles and living a life of integrity at that time. But as you get older, and you have kids, and you try to pass on life lessons, now it becomes a great learning tool." [...]

Wooden always described his job as teacher, not coach. "He broke basketball down to its basic elements," Abdul-Jabbar wrote in The New York Times in 2000. "He always told us basketball was a simple game, but his ability to make the game simple was part of his genius."

Abdul-Jabbar recalled that there "was no ranting and raving, no histrionics or theatrics." He continued: "To lead the way Coach Wooden led takes a tremendous amount of faith. He was almost mystical in his approach, yet that approach only strengthened our confidence. Coach Wooden enjoyed winning, but he did not put winning above everything. He was more concerned that we became successful as human beings, that we earned our degrees, that we learned to make the right choices as adults and as parents.

"In essence," Abdul-Jabbar concluded, "he was preparing us for life."

If you want to read more about the Coach, you can also wade through the amazing archive from SI.com, which has articles over last 50 years covering our Wizard of Westwood.

If there are specific articles, quotes that are hitting you today or last few days, don't be shy to share them with us. If you want to share something short throw up in the comment threads or fanshots. If you want to reflect (and trust me it really helps your soul), lay it out and share it with us via Fanposts.

While we are all remembering Coach here on the BN, the content that has been coming up in last 48 hours have been nothing short of beautiful. Keep them coming. We will make sure to keep them organized and send them over to UCLA athletics, who will be sharing with them with the Coach's Family. So keep them coming.

GO BRUINS.

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