Herskowitz on George Mikan

Mickey Herskowitz is the dean of Houston sportswriters, and several of his previous columns have been highlighted on this blog. Mr. Herskowitz is at his best when his columns address the legends of sports, so the death earlier this week of the National Basketball Association’s first true big man — George Mikan — gave Mr. Herskowitz an opportunity to pen another strong column. Here are a couple of tidbits:

In the fall of 1949, Slater Martin was an All-America guard out of Texas, a 5-10 rookie hoping to land a spot on the roster of the Minneapolis Lakers. Mikan was a foot taller, in his fourth year and the greatest attraction in a league struggling to survive.

Martin remembers his first glimpse of the legendary center . . .

“I was just shooting at a basket from the side of the court, and he walked over to where I was and said, ‘Hey, throw me that ball, I’m going to shoot some free throws. Will you fetch ’em for me?’ I said, sure.

He was a very, very good free-throw shooter. Shot them the old way, underhanded, between his legs. He finally missed one and then he said, ‘That’s enough, you can go now.’

“He thought I was the ball boy.”

Mr. Martin goes on to describe Mr. Mikan’s playing style:

Mikan was, in Martin’s words, “a teddy bear off the court.” But he played the game without mercy. One of his victims was his brother Ed, a 6-8 center for the short-lived Chicago Stags.

“He had to guard George,” Martin said. “I felt sorry for him. After the game, we went to a tavern his parents owned. Ed was all bruised and nicked up. He had a cut over his eye, scratches on his face.

“Their folks were Croatian. His mother called him Georgie. This night she said, ‘Georgie, why you beat up your brother like that?’

“He said, ‘Mama, if you had been out there I’d have beat you up, too.'”

Read the entire piece.

1 thought on “Herskowitz on George Mikan

  1. While researching another subject, I came across a fact that practically stunned me. It was the fact that Mickey Herskowitz’ name was not already in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Like many long time Houston baseball fans, I assumed that Mickey’s name had already been chosen for the J.G. Taylor Spink Award long ago since the award had been around since 1961.
    Now I am finding out that many members of the BBWWA are arbitrarily defining requirements for the award based on either personal opinion or for reasons that are in fact completely wrong or for the latest name on the baseball writing horizon.
    One local Houston sports columnist mentioned to me that he thought the requirement for being considered for the Spink Award is one must be a baseball beat writer when I brought up the name Mickey Herskowitz as a nominee for the Spink Award. Is there actually an etched in stone set of requirements for being considered for the award? I don’t think there is.
    What I have been unable to find out is simply why Mickey Herskowitz’ name should not already be in Cooperstown among his baseball writing peers.
    It is certainly a fact that Mickey’s name should have been considered for the award years ago.
    It is also a fact that Mickey was among those responsible for helping George Kirksey and Craig Cullinan bring Major League baseball to Houston in the late 1950’s. And it is also a fact that Mickey was among the first if not the very first major league baseball beat writer in Houston and probably in Texas. Not only that but Mickey also authored Mickey Mantle’s autobiography among other sports related and baseball related books and subject over the years. Should Mickey’s name now not be considered for the award because he is now retired or because he didn’t spend his entire career as a baseball beat writer or because he is now simply too old for the younger generation of baseball beat writers to consider for the award?
    I’ve been informed that the local Houston chairperson of the BBWWA will not lift a finger to help Mickey Herskowitz get his name on the ballot for the annual Spink Award and thus in Cooperstown. As a lifetime fan of baseball in Houston, Texas and a grandfather whose children were also raised as Astros fans since the inception of the team in 1962, I am literally outraged that a true legend as Mickey Herskowitz cannot even receive support from his own local peers in Houston for the Spink Award.
    Having not received a single word of reply to two e-mails to the local Houston chairperson of the Baseball Writers Association of America, I am writing to ask local Houston fans – no, pleading with local Houston fans to lend their support however they can to help get Mickey’s name on the ballot and hopefully finally see Mickey Herskowitz take his rightful place in Cooperstown. E-mail the Chronicle’s opinion columns. E-mail all of the Houston local sports writers such as Jose de Jesus Ortiz, Richard Justice, Brian McTaggert, John McLain, etc. but especially Ortiz.
    I hope all Houston Fans will consider lending their time and talent to this worthy effort. I cannot begin to express in words how much it would mean to myself and to every other lifetime baseball fan in Houston if we could finally see our own legendary Mickey Herskowitz in Cooperstown.
    James Anderson
    Rearcher and Columnist for the
    Texas Baseball Hall of Fame

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