FROM THE COURT TO THE RUNWAY

IMG_1672

March 24th, 2016

As a kid growing up in cold New England (Boston) during the Great Depression, I became a Basketball Junkie from the time I was 10 years old. It was not only my escape from reality; it provided a great deal of joy in the Depression era.

Most of the time, I was playing in my socks. I would slip and slide, as well as constantly falling.  I dreamed of having a pair of my own sneakers.

I held out little hope!  After all, in wet and snowy weather, I often walked to school in the snow with shoes that had holes in the soles. My mother many times would go the local laundry, get some cardboard sheets, which the laundry would use to stiffen shirts after they had been washed and ironed.

The cardboard served a purpose.  Mom would cut the cardboards in the shape of our shoes, place them inside our shoes and in such a way would help keep our feet dry.

Yet, one day when I was in the 5th grade at the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow School, my father surprised me, he brought me a pair of my own Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers.  Oh sure they were second-hand, but it made no difference.  I had my own sneakers.

I remember them well, they were canvas and they were black with high tops. I am sure my dad got them from the Salvation Army.  They were too big for my feet and I still slipped and slid. Wearing two pair of socks helped somewhat!  It made no difference to  me, after all I had my own sneakers.

When I told this story to my daughter Lisa and son-in-law Danny, they suggested I look into the rise of the sneaker culture.  It has grown from just Black High Tops mostly used only for Basketball and work, never to be considered a couture statement… to a fashionable accessory.

Leather shoes were the only accepted form of dress when going out for dinner, working in an office, or any social gathering. Women always wore shoes in the latest style of the day… to wear sneakers to any social function was Taboo…. How times have changed!

Sneakers have gone from the Basketball Courts to the Fashion Runways of the world. Join me for a little bit of history about Sneakers.

Let’s go back in history.

Sneakers are truly not a new phenomenon. In the late 18th Century people wore rubber soled shoes called “plimsoils”. The “plimsoils” were pretty crude – for instance, there was no right or left foot and they were flat with no support. The Sneaker, as we were to come to know it for years, was first manufactured in 1892.

The U.S. Rubber Company came up with more comfortable rubber sneakers with canvas tops.  They called them “Keds”. By World War I, they were being mass-produced. Because they were so quiet, they were given the nickname “sneakers” since a person could easily sneak up on someone.

Just like over the years Frigidaire had become synonymous with electric refrigerators, Kleenex became the catch phrase for soft paper tissues and Hershey’s, for the longest time, was the only name used when describing chocolate candy bars, Sneakers became the nomenclature for rubber soled shoes.

In 1917, Marquis Converse produced the first shoe made specifically for Basketball. It was called Converse All-Stars. Six years later, an Indiana hoops (that’s what the game of Basketball used to be called) star named Chuck Taylor endorsed the shoes and they became known as the Chuck Taylor All-Stars.

Those are the only shoes most of us knew and what we grew up using. To this day, they are still considered the best-selling Basketball shoe of all time.

In 1924, sneakers became International.  In that year, a German named Adi Dassler created a sneaker that he named after himself: Adidas. This brand became the most popular athletic shoe in the world.

American Olympian Track star Jessie Owens wore Adidas when he won four Gold Medals in the 1936 Olympics.

In 1977, while I was still President of FOX Sports, I was approached by Adi’s brother Rudi.  It seems Rudi and Adi were fighting and Rudi was going to leave Adidas to launch his own brand. So, Rudi and myself were joined by my boyhood friend Earle Wolfe who at the time was in the apparel business and the late Stan Greeson, then President of the Harlem Globetrotters, at my FOX office to meet with Rudi and discuss his United States plans for the new brand.

At the meeting, he showed us his marketing concept and invited us to join him. We discussed the possibilities after Rudi left.  Unanimously, we decided to pass on the proposed opportunity.  Rudi launched the brand with others and called  it “Puma”.

During the first half of the 20th Century, Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars were all we knew to wear to play Basketball.  Adidas, on the other hand, became synonymous with the sport of Soccer. Sneakers were used only for playing sports.

 

However, in the 1950’s, it all began to change.  Sneakers started to expand from the locker room and made inroads into the world of fashion. Actually, it was kids who started wearing them as fashion statements. The fad expanded as teenagers joined the parade after they had seen James Dean wearing Sneakers in the popular movie Rebel Without a Cause.

But it was in 1984 that Basketball made its first fashion statement.  That was the year that Michael Jordan of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls signed with Nike to wear and help design a shoe called Air Jordan.  Michael, the most exciting Basketball player of his era with a legion of followers was the perfect salesman.

Air Jordans became the first $100+ Sneaker.  Even after he retired, his shoes continued to be best sellers. Today, many more athletes like LeBron James and Steph Curry have their own shoe lines.

One thing the Sneaker companies have always done is capitalize on different ways to increase sales volumes. To me, as an ardent 5th Grader, I shall always remember Converse putting on a Hoops Clinic at my Grammar School.

Chuck Taylor for whom the All-Star shoe was named was there as MC.  However, the star of the shoe was a man named Bunny Levitt. Bunny had made 499 consecutive foul shots before he missed. He gave us a demonstration. WOW!

For an impressionable 10 year old who lived to play Basketball, this was a moment to never be forgotten.

Soon, based on the Air Jordan success, Adidas, Reebok, New Balance, Skechers and some of the great Fashion houses, (not famous for Sneakers, but other pieces of apparel) were following suit.

They changed the way Sneakers looked.  They added wild colors and in some cases did away with laces.  Many color coordinated their products with complete outfits.  Soon, they were not only made for every sport… skate boarding, walking and “cross training” among them, as well as for everyday wear.

In addition, new sneaker technologies were perfected to increase comfort and better performance. Where the “plimsoils” were flat and were not the most comfortable footwear, Nike’s Air Jordans used little pockets of gas to create better cushioning. Reebok introduced the Pump, ( air pumped into shoes to make them fit more snugly).

The beat goes on- – one company , for example, built a spring in the soles to reduce foot stress.  However, all these innovations come with a price, Today, sneakers, many times called athletic shoes often cost more than $100.

Today, many of my friends no longer wear what we call conventional shoes… they live in Sneakers which often times show up on Red Carpet events as part of a Tuxedo ensemble… still there continues to be dynamic changes.

The Future Hall-of-Famer from Japan

Ichiro-and-Shelly

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Some two-plus decades past, a charming young Japanese man walked into my office in Santa Monica, California.  You know how it is!  Sometimes you meet someone special and a bond is formed.

This was such an instance.  His name is Tsubohiko Kuboki.  Hard to pronounce for we Americans, so he is simply called. “Tee”.

It seems that Tee was interested in representing a product that the organization I was with had the worldwide rights to. You may remember it, it was called the Abflex.

In case you don’t remember it, or for that matter, never heard of it, let me describe what it was and what it did.

It was a device that looked like a miniature stealth bomber.  All one had to do was place the front part against one’s abdomen and utilizing a series of specially designed exercises which basically consisted of pushing the unit back and forth against one’s stomach muscles.  In such a way, the muscles would become taut and toned.

It not only worked, but when we brought it to Asia, it literally flew off the shelves.  Thousand of units were sold while Tee and I became fast friends.  Or, as he has often said when I introduce him to someone new, “Shelly is my brother by a different mother”.

In our work together, he realized I was a baseball junkie.  Thus, whenever we could on my many visits to Japan, we would try to get to the Ball Park. Primarily, we would see the Yumiori Giants.  In the Central League of Japan, they are like our New York Yankees… perennial champions…. (note: I am a Red Sox fan)

Years earlier, while in the U.S. Military, during the time of the Korean War, as Sports Director of Armed Forces radio Far East, I was a frequent and familiar face at the Pacific League games.  Just as we have two leagues, American and National, Nippon Baseball, (Japan’s MLB), has the Pacific and Central.

It was fun!

The Tom Selleck movie, Mr. Baseball dramatically showed the Japanese passion for the game. It is Japan’s National Pastime and they have always allowed two American Baseball players on each team. Often times they were retired from MLB and were considered superior to the homegrown ball players.

Lefty O’Doul and fellow major leaguers including Babe Ruth did a series of exhibitions in Japan in the 1930’s and are considered responsible, to a great extent, for bringing about the great love for Baseball in Japan.

An interesting sidebar is that on one such tour, among the players was a journeyman catcher named “Mo Berg”.  Ironically, Mo Berg was an avid photographer and wherever the tour went, he took pictures of everything. It was at President Roosevelt’s request.

Mo Berg’s photos of both Nagasaki and Hiroshima were later to be used in 1944 by Air Force General Jimmy Doolittle when he dropped the Atomic Bombs that brought about the end of World War II. In essence, Mo was America’s first Atomic Spy.

Today, I know Lefty O’Doul would be so proud and happy to see all of the great Japanese Players in the Majors … and no one is greater than the player who has been represented by my little brother “Tee”.

He is a future Hall-of-Famer and he is known by the finest accolade, only one name. A few elite celebrities from all fields have earned and are tagged with such a sobriquet.  Names like: Pele, Ali, Kareem, Madonna, Cher and Lebron are such appellations.

He is simply called “Ichiro”. His real name is Ichiro Suzuki. Tee has represented him in many areas for quite some time and it is Tee that I owe a debt of gratitude for calling to my attention, his exploits.

At the age of seven, he joined his first Baseball team and asked his father to teach him to be a better ballplayer. The two of them had a daily routine that went on for years… It consisted of throwing 50 pitches, fielding 50 infield balls and 50 outfield balls, and hitting 500 pitches … 250 from a pitching machine and 250 from his father.

His first glove as a Little Leaguer had the word “Concentration” and from the time he was a Little Leaguer he was given the nickname “Baz” which in Japanese means fast.

When Ichiro joined his High School Baseball team, the coach had strict orders from his dad, “never to praise him no matter how good he might be. He has to become spiritually strong. He built strength and stamina by hurling car tires and hitting Wiffle balls.

In high school, his cumulative batting average for all four years was .505. In spite of this, due to his small unimposing frame, the Japanese professional leagues did not draft him until the final round in 1991. He weighs only 124 pounds and stands slightly less than 5’9”.

He is proud of what he has achieved and because of his slight frame, he hopes that kids look on him as a regular guy who with that kind of physique can still get into the record books. They look on him as proof that anyone can succeed with hard work and dedication .

Let’s look at his records!

He made his Pacific league debut in 1992 and until he joined the Major leagues in 2001.  He played for the Orix Blue Wave.

And boy, did he play…. He set a single season record with 210 hits in a 130 game season.  The first player in Japanese Baseball to top 200 hits , the record has since been broken twice, but only when the season was extended to 144 games.

In that same year, his .385 BA was a Pacific league record and it was to be the first of 7 consecutive Batting Titles. He also won 3 straight Pacific league MVP Awards.

In November 1998 while playing in a series of exhibition games against a visiting team of Major League All-Stars, he batted .380 and stole 7 bases. He was lavishly praised for his play.  Still his slight frame kept Major league teams from pursuing him.

However, that series kindled his desire to play in the United States. Always a go-getter, he chased what had become his dream. Finally, the Seattle Mariners stepped up to the plate and bid $13million to bid in an auction for the right to talk to him.

Winning the bid, they signed him to a 3 year, $14million contract in 2000. However, due to an agreement between Major league Baseball and the Pacific League, he could not play in the Majors until 2001.

In spite of all this, Seattle still felt he was too frail to succeed against Major League pitching and wouldn’t have staying power over the 162 game season. They thought they were taking a great risk in signing him.

Ichiro proved them wrong.

Japanese are noted for their manners and consideration.  Having no preference for a particular number, Seattle assigned him #51. This was the number worn for years by the former Seattle Ace Randy Johnson.  Ichiro was hesitant to take the number. He,  actually  sent Johnson a personal message promising not to  “bring shame” to the uniform.

His trepidation was unfounded, he had a remarkable 2001 season… a rookie-record 242 hits, the most by any Major league player since1930. With a .350 Batting average and 56 stolen bases, Ichiro was the first to lead his league in both categories since Jackie Robinson.

Today, he broke or holds many records.  Among them are: Most hits in a season, 262; most seasons and most consecutive seasons with 200 or more hits, 10; most career consecutive stolen bases without being caught, 45; most hits for two consecutive seasons, (tied with Ty Cobb).

While playing in Japan, he garnered 1278 hits. In the MLB so far he has 2935 hits… a total of 4236 hits. This combined amount is greater than Ty Cobb’s 4191 as well as Pete Rose’s 4256 and he is still playing. Nonetheless, MLB will not consider the combined total as a legitimate record.

I did not list his many Golden Gloves nor his overall fifteen year career BA of .314. To include every record I would be writing a small booklet

It’s amazing! This humble young man who very few gave a chance of surviving the grueling MLB schedule, will undoubtedly be the first citizen of Toyoyama, Japan to be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Oh!  That’s outside of Nagoya!

My How Time Has Flown

 

FullSizeRender

March 10, 2016

It seems like only yesterday but it was actually 45 years ago and I was involved.

Franklin Freed, a music promoter from Chicago while having lunch with his friend, Chicago Water Commissioner Eugene Dibble, he learned something that would bring about the Greatest Fight of the 20th Century. Dibble was a principal in Astro Investments, a Brokerage firm geared to helping  African/American Clients. One of his clients was Muhammad Ali.

Ali, who had been suspended for three years was just starting to Box again.  With the suspension lifted, Ali fought  two contenders who were ranked in the top ten, of the Heavyweight Division … Oscar Buenavena and Jerry Quarry. Slowed only slightly by a little Ring Rust, Ali beat both men handily.

As he was discussing his Portfolio and investments with Dibble, he confided that he wanted no more warmup fights, he was ready and wanted to fight Joe Frazier who had become the Champion in Ali’s absence. Yet he and Frazier had never fought each other. Ali wanted back the title which he considered his.

Thus, this was the conversation between these two Chicago friends. Frank, ever the promoter, asked Dibble how much money did he feel it would take to get the two men in the ring.

Given the figure, Frank  knew he did not have that kind of liquidity, but he immediately thought of Jerry Perenchio. Jerry, who later would go on to become one of America’s greatest Entrepreneurs, at the time was one of Hollywood’s top booking agents.

Among his client list was a galaxy of the era’s musical giants. In order to raise the necessary guarantee he solicited many of them to participate.

Henry Mancini, Sergio Mendes, Ed Ames, Bobby Gentry, and Andy Williams were among the clients that stepped up to the plate. They took a large position and Jerry filled out the commitment with others from the financial community.

Jerry divided the country into sections and sold this group their own parcel.

With the money guaranteed , ($5,000,000…large for that time, dwarfed by today’s standards), “The Fight” (that’s what it was labeled), was scheduled for Madison Square Garden… the date, March 8, 1971… exactly 45 years ago.

I often ask people that I meet about different outstanding events. The question, “Where were you?”  On March 8, 1971, I was at Madison Square Garden and it truly was a night to remember.

It was an historic night.  Not only were there two undefeated World Champions who each claimed the right to the title , but it was the first massive Closed Circuit TV event.

Jerry put together what he considered the “A” team. Jerry’s late partner Freddie Dale, my very dear friend, a genius at booking arenas was slotted to seek the Closed Circuit Venues to showcase the fight. He almost singlehandedly sold rights to over 100 countries and set up enough locations which were to be filled by 1.5 million viewers.

Jerry brought in the Video Techniques team of Barry Burnstein and Hank Schwartz.  Two giants who respectively had no peers.  Barry would answer the calls of all the venue promoters and fill their equipment needs.

As for  Hank, a graduate of MIT, he was the man who made sure that all the equipment supplied was not only running right and the picture received was at its purest.  If the halls, the theaters, the bars, the private residences like the Playboy Mansion, or any venue that had purchased rights, had a problem, he was mister fix-it.

Hank, a brilliant Director figured camera angles and other never-before tried ideas to make the viewing most pleasurable.

For example, knowing that the TV camera lenses of the day would show the equivalent of Sun Bursts when shooting anything White such as the Ring Canvases, he came up with an answer.. His solution was simple… paint the Canvas Blue.

Budweiser jumped at the chance and we sold them the Ring Canvas for their logo.  This was the first time this form of advertising which was to become a staple, was ever used.

In every other fight thereafter the canvas was painted blue. Finally, when new equipment was developed, the problem canvases no longer had to be painted blue. That was only one of many contributions that were to bear his signature in years to come.

As for me, I was in every major city over a 45 day period.  My job was to aid the local promoters in setting up ways to organize and implement a campaign and market it.  I did not get home at all during that period. I resided for almost two months straight in a two-bedroom suite at New York’s St. Regis Hotel which I shared with Freddy Dale.

On more than one occasion, I witnessed men with briefcases filled with $100 dollar bills (century notes), sometimes holding as much as a million dollars, or more, each trying to outbid the other for the rights to a certain geographical area, state, or venue. Freddy, of necessity, turned down more than he accepted.

It was a roller coaster ride and it was to be the biggest money purse since 1927 when Dempsey fought Tunney. Dempsey/Tunney was the first million dollar fight.  It was pegged to be a $990,000 purse per fighter for Tunney’s rematch with Dempsey.

Supposedly, the story goes that Gene wanted it to be the recipient of the first $1million dollar purse in Boxing history, he sent Promoter Tex Rickard his personal check for $10,000 so that he could say he was paid a Million Dollars.

My challenge was to let everyone worldwide know the historic importance of March 8, 1971.  I used every promotional trick I had learned in my first forty years on this planet.

The promotion included actor Burt Lancaster. Burt, a former amateur Boxer. had been hired to be the color commentator alongside Boxing’s greatest voice Don Dunphy for the Closed Circuit TV of the fight.

Burt and I had a Lear Jet and in the space of two weeks went to 30 cities where at each airport we held a Press Conference… we never left the Airport.  It was a huge success… the idea of one of the world’s most renowned actors calling a fight was interesting and the draw.

As for Don Dunphy, he came out of retirement for this fight.  The last TV fight he had called was Marciano v. Louis and that was in 1951… 20 years earlier.

That night at Madison Garden was electric. Frank Sinatra had been assigned by Life Magazine as their Ringside photographer.  A young UCLA coed named Christie Brinkley was the fight’s official photographer.

It was a night of celebrity.  Anyone who was anybody was among the spectators. Madison Garden was completely sold out and tickets were at a premium.

As tired as I was, I sat at Ringside with the great Joe Louis and golfer Doug Sanders. The crowd was cacophonous … in all the future events I would do, I would never again experience such a raucous crowd and the goose pimples that permeated my body that night.

And it’s interesting, how perceptions can change. Before I met Ali, I was prepared to dislike him.  After all, I like so many other American Kids had gone in the military.

However, to know him, I came to realize that his belief in his religion was genuine and not just to avoid military service.  The more we worked together, I came to admire him as a man.  He was thoughtful, kind, considerate, and gentle while in the ring he was the exact opposite.

To be trite, the phrase “you should never judge a book by its cover” is an adage I live by.  After all, Ali once said, “I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be who I want”.

The 1936 Olympics and the movie “Race”

Jesse Owens

March 5, 2016

 

Earlier this week, Susan and I went to our local theater.  The movie we saw was entitled Race.  It was most enjoyable, but like all movies based on reality, the producers took a bit of poetic license.

I repeat, I enjoyed the movie.  However, based on personal interviews, I hope to bring an insight to a marvelous incurrence in sports, Jesse Owens 4 Gold Medals.  Over the years, future Olympians have individually won more medals… in the one-year they competed, Eric Haden won 5 in Speed Skating and Missy Franklin won 4 in swimming.

Matt Biondi won 8 over three Olympiads; Carl Lewis won 9 over 4.  However, the all-time winner is Michael Phelps, with 6 in one and 18 overall, Mark Spitz won the most in one Olympiad, 7 in 1972. This remains the most ever in a single Olympiad.

Mark, being Jewish was under guard and urged to pull out because at the Munich Olympics that year,  terrorists had invaded the Olympic Village and massacred 11 Israeli athletes.

Getting back to the movie “Race”, no one athlete had to overcome the overwhelming feeling of hate and bigotry that Jesse Owens, a Black American sprinter, faced in 1936…36 years earlier.

Adolph Hitler, the Chancellor of the Third Reich (Nazi Germany) staged the Berlin Olympics to showcase and prove to the world, the superiority of his pure –bred Aryan race… white supremacy. Jesse was to prove Hitler’s premise to be a fallacy.

The movie as far as it went, sugarcoated many of the main points.  Let me attempt to set the record straight.

In the late fifties, early sixties, I was working for WJWTV in Cleveland. Ohio. This brought me into close contact with Jesse who on occasion was not only a guest on our shows, sometimes anchored our sports desk.

Jesse came out of East Cleveland. His speed in high school, had coaches from all over the country looking to give him a scholarship. He was dirt poor and he saw college athletics, like so many youngsters today, as his way out to a better life.

His arrival on the Ohio State Campus was met with disdain and nothing but taunts. His was the victim of many vicious acts. Once when returning to his dorm room, his pillow was hung over the door jam with a hangman’s rope and scrawled on the wall was “Go Home Nigger”.

He wanted to quit many times, but his soon-to-be wife plus pressure from the NAACP convinced him to stay in school. Later, because of the rising prejudice and bigotry in NAZI Germany, the same NAACP tried to convince him he should not go to the Olympics.

However, his girl friend Ruth who would become his wife in 1935, prevailed upon him to go. Until the day he died 45 years later, she still remained his constant supporter and soul mate. On the team, there was one other Black athlete, Ralph Metcalfe and two outstanding sprinters who happened to be Jewish. They, Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman, with Frank Wycoff and Foy Draper were scheduled to be the 4 x 100 meter United States Relay team.

Fate, however, intervened. In the movie, it shows where Avery Brundage, the head of the Olympic Team at the time in compliance with the wishes of Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, determined that the Jewish runners, Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman should not run.

Hitler, at the time, had started his purge of Jews throughout Germany sending many as slaves to concentration camps and others to their deaths in the gas chambers.  The picture portrays Brundage as a man who reluctantly replaced Stoller and Glickman on the relay team with Metcalfe and Owens.

In my conversations with Glickman and Owens, nothing could be further from the truth. Brundage, in fact who himself had been a great amateur athlete, (in 1912, he competed on the same team as Jim Thorpe, always finishing second), was appalled that on his team there were Jews and Blacks, both of whom he considered inferior.

On the ship going over to Germany, they were made to feel inferior. So when it was suggested, the Jews should not run, he readily acquiesced.

However, according to Marty Glickman, he and Stoller always felt that Brundage himself might have suggested to the Fuhrer that the Jews should not run.

I met Marty when I was working for the Music Corporation of America and just as I had a few conversations with Jesse back in Cleveland, I spent a great deal of time with Marty in NYC.

Marty, was already a successful broadcaster. He had been the voice of the New York Knicks and was doing  sports on all three networks. We worked together in the early sixties.  At the time he was tutoring young announcers. In the early days of HBO, it was Marty who established the way their announcers would sound.

Both he and Jesse remained fast friends until Jesse’s passing.  Marty could not forget that when Avery Brundage told Jesse and Ralph that they would be running the 4 x 100, they refused.  They were not interested in politics, they were only interested in the fact their fellow athletes who had trained for years for this one opportunity were to be denied.

The movie touches on it slightly that both Ralph and Jesse would not run the “Race”, unless Marty and Sam gave them their blessing. What it doesn’t show is that even though he didn’t like Blacks, he threatened the two of them that if they didn’t race he would see to it that they were stripped of any medals they had won, or possibly might win.

Ralph and Jesse refused!… all the time knowing what the consequences might be.

Marty and Sam did not want their friends to suffer and pleaded with them to run.

As fate would have it, the 4x 100 was Jesse’s fourth Gold Medal. After the race was over, Hitler left the stadium before he would shake Jesse’s hand. Although he did shake after Jesse’s first victory.  The movie does not show this.

Ironically, years later I was to find out that Marty was my friend David Friedland’s cousin… and I shared with David, a 2013 HBO disc entitled “Glickman.” It wan HBO Special and I believe it can still be sen on Netflix.

Survivors of the Holocaust have a phrase “Never again”. Today, unfortunately, as the World War II generation leaves us, memories fade. The Horrors that were once so vivid, to many of today’s young adults and children is a myth.

We must never forget!

Basketball’s Tallest Man

EddieEinhorn

February 29, 2016

Over the years Basketball players have become physically bigger and taller in stature.

It has been almost three quarters of a century since Bob Kurland, the first 7footer and George Mikan who was 6’10” came along to usher in the era of the “Big Man” and forever change the game of Basketball.

In the early 1940’s, Kurland playing for Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) led the Aggies to two NCAA Championships while at the same time, George Mikan would lead his school, DePaul to NIT Championships.

At that time, the NIT (National Invitational Tournament) with the nation’s top 8 teams, played at Madison Square Garden in New York, was considered by many to be the real Collegiate Championship.

The NCAA though wasn’t very glamorous, lacked luster and although it was the officially sanctioned championship, the best  teams would play in the NIT.

Back in the 1960’s, Eddie Einhorn standing only 5’4”, when no one else saw any value in the Tall Man’s game of Baseketball, brought the NCAA games first to Radio and then TV.

This made him Collegiate Basketball’s all-time “Tallest Man”.

Eddie was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.  Without Eddie, his talent, and his business acumen, “March Madness”, soon to be upon us, would never have become one of the world’s most exciting annual sports events, and would probably never have existed.

Eddie, who was my friend, was 80 years old this week when he died from complications of a stroke. He was one of a kind and many of his trail-blazing sports projects are part of his legacy.

I worked alongside Eddie throughout part of the 60’s, the 70’s, and a bit of the 80’s. Under all kinds of pressure, you could always find Eddie, the coolest guy in the room armed with an infectious smile, a quick wit and a dervish-like mind that never stopped spouting ideas.

Eddie’s career in Broadcasting actually started when as a Law Student at Northwestern, working out of his dorm room, he put together a network from a handful of radio stations to broadcast the National Collegiate Basketball Tournament .  Eddie was both the producer and announcer.

It was the late 1950’s.  At the time, College Basketball only had a small regional following for local teams. Eddie was able to purchase the radio rights for a tiny fee.

Recently, the NCAA Tournament was sold for 14 seasons to TV for more than 11 billion dollars,

In the 1960’s, he put together his own Ad Hoc Syndicated  Network,  “TVS”, but the  NCAA product was met with little, or no interest. Eddie, however, did not stop , he saw what he believed what the future might bring.  Not even he, as he often told me, could imagine how big it would become.

The actual breakthrough came on Jan.20, 1968.

UCLA, with Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) at center, took a 47-game winning streak into the Houston Astrodome to face the also undefeated University of Houston and its star center, Elvin Hayes. The Dome at the time was only three years old and considered the “8th Wonder of the World”.

More than 52,000 people attended… an extraordinary number for a basketball game, even today. Millions watched on Eddie’s TVS. Eddie through tireless effort had put together a syndicated network of 150 stations in 49 states.

Many of the stations were affiliated with the day’s only three networks – CBS, NBC, or ABC and angered the parent networks when they broadcast the game instead of carrying their network program… millions watched.

Eddie had proved that once shown the product the fans would flock to view it. He was right!

In 1971, along with Eddie, Howard Zuckerman and myself, we put on the first NBA/ABA All-Star game. The fledgling ABA was seeking to compete successfully against the established NBA. The game was Broadcast on TVS and over 37,000 people filled the same Astrodome.

Using the rules of each league for a half, many were different, it had most of the day’s great players. It featured the NBA’s best including Oscar Robertson, Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe and Dave DeBussechere. The ABA’s best at the time were a bunch of no names like Charley Scott and Mel Daniels.

It was a tight game with the NBA winning by five points but the most valuable player was the ABA’s Rick Barry, who later after the merger of the leagues was to become an NBA All-Star.

For me, the highlight of the game and a part of Basketball lore was personal. It was the fact that our NBA center from the Milwaukee Bucks did not show up in Houston to play that day. Lew Alcindor was married in a Musiim ceremony in Washington, D.C. and forever changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

I took his unworn 7’2” sweat suit, with the name “Alcindor” on the back (the last official time it would ever be used) home to my 13 year-old son Steven.  Since Steven never grew into it, I donated the entire outfit to the Helms Sports Hall-of-Fame.

Eddie went on to become Executive Producer of CBS Sports.  Here he revitalized the lagging CBS Sports Spectacular, making it the most watched weekend Sports program with the exception of live major events.

When Eddie learned that I was a member of the General Assembly of International Sports Federations and I was going to the 1978 Annual Congress, he joined me. It was his first visit to any International Sports Meeting.

Here he discovered a Treasure Chest of Sports disciplines that had never been seen on TV. As a result, in his new capacity at CBS, he signed many to Network contracts and gave Sports Spectacular an exciting new look.

At the meeting there were representatives of the Olympic Sports as well as countless others from all over the world like Cycling, Yachting, and Softball that wished to be included in the Olympics. The 1984 L.A. Olympics was well represented by my pals Rene Henry, Mike O’Hara, and the late Hal Uplinger, also one of Peter Uberroth’s lieutenants, Dick Sargent.

Upcoming Olympic Venues including Nagano Japan, Athens, Sarajevo and Melbourne were there.  Also in attendance were others like Atlanta, Lake Placid, Sochi, Salt lake City, Barcelona and Beijing looking for support to become host cities.

Eddie moved with ease cementing new relationships and building his CBS base.

He gave so much more to the world of sport.  His last active position prior to falling ill was as part owner and President of the Chicago White Sox.  In this capacity, he negotiated not only the White Sox TV deals, but he was responsible for putting Major League Baseball on a solid footing with a multi-billion dollar Broadcast package.

Eddie, was one of a kind.  As I said, although diminutive in stature, when it came to sports he was always the “Tallest Man” in the room, especially in the world of Collegiate Basketball.

When you watch March Madness take a moment to remember the man who made it all happen.

R.I.P… Eddie Einhorn