Another too-brief stroll through AC's sports past
A Few Good Sports Moments
Another too-brief stroll through AC's sports past
By Raymond Tyler --> ALTHOUGH WE DON'T have an NBA team like Philly or New York City does, Atlantic City still gets respect because of the players that have shined on the playground, high school and college courts. This week, in celebration of local black sports history, my "too-brief look back" starts with area hoops.
The Playgrounds. Late March to mid-September used to be the hoops holiday season. AC's best outside hoops was played on Pennsylvania Avenue. Pre-And 1 ballers like Avery Jordan, Bill Hadley, Bobby Coleman and Ken Wilburn made that long-gone playground the closest thing we had to Rucker Park.
In the '80s and '90s playgrounds and blacktop made neighborhood stars out of residents like Carl "Ahree" Hall (Maryland Avenue), Greg "Big Country" Lister (Brigantine), Rob and Danny Middleton and Mike and Kenny Davis (both from Venice Park) to name a few.
In the early '90s to 2000 great players of all levels and ages met Sunday mornings at Jerome Avenue in Margate. From Memorial Day to Labor Day players would come out before the sun got hot to show off their skills. Many of them can still tell you their win/loss record or career stats at that court.
The Seagull Classic. The Battle By the Bay is OK. But the Seagull Classic was "the truth!" The best tournament this area has ever seen took place during the Christmas Vacation break at Holy Spirit. Not to mention all the local talent that came through. I saw Tyrone "Mugsy" Bogues and Reggie Lewis (both of whom went on to the NBA) dismantle my Vikings as members of Baltimore's Dunbar Poets. The funniest time was when a team from Crenshaw, Calif. came in dripping Jheri curls. I thought they were the all-Rick James squad. Unfortunately, after one too many violent incidents in the stands, the Seagull Classic faded to memory. But for years it was a great place to socialize and see great basketball being played.
Atlantic City High vs. Camden. Ali and Frazier had nothing on the ACHS-Camden games. For Camden it was Billie Thompson, Milt Wagner, Kevin Walls, Dajuan Wagner and then, most times, straight to Louisville and coach Denny Crumb. For us it was Willie Glass, The Pitts Brothers, Ralph Tally, Rodney McKoy, Bobby Martin and Quentin Price. The winners (too often Camden) got the top Jersey Hoops respect. We joked that the game never officially began until the visiting team bus was tipped over.
Willie Glass' St. John's Career. As a freshmen in 1984, Willie Glass, of St. John's Red Men, was bigger than any college hoops star is right now. At the time, Division One basketball was literally a Jr. NBA. Glass, an ex ACHS star, played in one of the most publicized conferences, the Big East, and every night he'd go to war with Chris Mullins, Mark Jackson, and Walter Berry. On these nights he'd easily get 10-plus rebounds, 16 or more points and dunk in the face of Patrick Ewing, and anybody else in front of him. Glass' all-around game was tight and his dunks were so special that when Slam magazine rated their 50 greatest dunkers of all time, they rated Glass ahead of several NBA Slam-Dunk Champions.
I just got started and there's no room to talk about Laurie Carter at Virgina University, the games of female ballers like Nancy Paxon, the 2005 Champion Vikings, Coach Eugene Allen, or Romaine Haywood, Lou Roe, Chris Ford, Marty Small, Tory Cavalieri, Kevin Brooks, or the tragic death of Edgar Allen. Maybe next year.
Boxing by the Beach
When Don King was allowed to promote in AC, it was no big surprise for me to look up from my $6.25-an-hour job and see Larry Holmes or Mike Tyson. The biggest names in boxing could be found around town training, shopping and partying. We'll end this week with a brief look at AC boxing history.
Mike Tyson Destroys Michael Spinks. Tyson was the most feared force of nature since the great white shark (and not as friendly in the ring as jaws was to his prey.) You might catch AC's Larry Lee with Tyson's camp entering the arena on an ESPN classic re-broadcast of Tyson's local fights. Lee was in the building for the 1988 Tyson/Spinks bout in AC: "I knew when Butch Lewis ordered a re-tape [of Tyson's hands] it wasn't going to be a good night for somebody. Mike got a little upset ... punched a two- foot hole in the dressing room wall." Lee adds, "I know a lot of people who were in the building that night missed the whole thing. People were milling around, talking or whatever, when the fight started. Then they heard all this noise and tried to get back to their seats but it was a wrap." Spinks was knocked out and back in his dressing room in record time.
Bruce Seldon. One local paper ran quotes from residents dissing AC's Seldon for losing to Tyson in the 1996 WBA Heavyweight Title bout. I say, for one thing, I couldn't do the sit ups it takes to be heavyweight champ, not to mention the roadwork. And secondly, I'm not "no punk," but I wouldn't fight Tyson with a mace and a suit of armor. Seldon was the champ and most of the people who had something negative to say never wore a pair of boxing gloves.
Leavander Johnson Becomes the Champ. Atlantic City's Gail Jasper is making history this year as the first female boxing inspector for the NJ State Boxing Commission. She says of the late fighter, "Leavander's championship was so important to this city because we needed another champ." She adds that Johnson was "a strategic fighter."
Raymond Tyler is a freelance writer who has written about varied subjects for several of the country's leading urban magazines.
"On Saturday, June 2, we're going to have an all-star boxing legends tribute. What we're trying to do is get together all of the boxing personalities. Whether they are boxers, managers, promoters, ring announcers, referees, you name it, we're trying to get together everybody to celebrate the contribution that they have made in making Atlantic City the boxing mecca that it is."
Just over five years ago, when I attended a rally at the new Police Athletic League building for newly crowned World Lightweight Champion Leavander Johnson, I knew in my heart this would be one of many years of celebration for Johnson, his family and the Atlantic City community.
Sedaka and the Globetrotters