Fan Moments V: Early Days at Freedom Hall

I loved going to Cardinal games in the early years at Freedom Hall, where they started playing full time in ’57.

Actually I’ve loved going to Cardinal games anywhere anytime, but, you know what I mean, work with me here.

My parents got season tickets, so we weren’t beholden any longer to dad’s employer for use of his seats, as we were at the Armory.

And, during one of those seasons in the late 50s, if under a certain age, kids could get a pass to get into all the games for, like, a dollar.

For the whole season, not per game. A Knot Hole Gang kind of thing.

Or, so I recall.

My pal Larry, whose folks were also super fans and season ticket holders, and I would roam the arena. There would only be 4000 or so for those games, so we could sit most anywhere we wanted.

A lot of times, we’d sit up at the top, far away from any fans. And announce the games.*

*If I’d have received even a scintilla of career counseling in high school, I would have been directed to Syracuse or Northwestern or some other school with majors in media. But, I had only two conversations with our guidance counselor at Atherton. Total. The first, my junior year, when he suspended me a day for throwing a piece of orange in the lunch room. True. Again, at the beginning of my senior year, when he advised they were wiping the suspension off my record, for college application purposes. Where was the career direction, dude?

I did actually announce U of L games one season, my senior year in law school, over the campus radio station. Which was transmitted into the dorms through the electrical wiring, or something. 

I remember a couple other moments from back then, neither of which was on the court basketball related, other than I never missed a game.

Like the time when I was 13 and was a Teen Age Disc Jockey for WKLO. Fifteen minutes a night for three nights. And I attempted to listen to my taped self on my transistor radio, during a Cardinal game. Reception: Not good.

Then there was the time they started selling these cinnamon-covered donuts at the concession stand. Larry loved those donuts. I was known to eat one or two my portly self.

There are a few totally hoops related moments in the 50s I’ll mention.

Most especially sitting courtside mid court when the Cards made the Final Four in ’59, though it wasn’t called that back then.

In the 60s, my pal The Professor and I would go to all the games. He had his license a year ahead of me, and a car, his “titty pink” Lark.

We’d buy cheap seats, but in those days you could usually always find places to watch courtside. Attendance really didn’t start to ratchet up until the arrival of Wes Unseld, and a year later, Butch Beard and Jerry King.

The one game I recall most vividly, which I’ve written about many times before, was against Eastern Kentucky. When Card guard Ron Rubenstein hit a corner jumper at the buzzer for the W. Which shot was only there to take, because homer Cardinal zebra Max Macon had stopped the clock, when the ball went out of bounds.*

*In those days, the clock didn’t automatically stop when the ball went out. 

The other distinct actual hoops memory from those early 60s is the Bradley game. When U of L blew a big lead in the last minute against the nationally ranked Braves, led by Chet Walker. Total meltdown.

 * * * * *

Here’s a memory everybody who attended U of L back ion the day has.

Dealing with Harry Bockman, who checked IDs at the student entrance.

 * * * * *

The haze of cigarette smoke over the court.

Which was bad at Freedom Hall, even worse at the Armory.

When Dayton was the Cards biggest rival in the early 50s, my dad got us tickets in the nose bleeds so we could be at a tilt against the Flyers. The smoke was so thick, it was literally difficult to see the action on the court.

 * * * * *

OK, here’s a couple fan moments that are related to U of L football, not hoops.

Both involve ace Cardinal linebacker from the early 60s, Doug Buffone. He was a bright guy, we took Economics together. He later starred for the Duh Bears for years.

And, after checking the records, contrary to my memory, was never an All-American at any level. But he was good. As George Halas discovered, after choosing Doug in the 4th round.

The on the field moment came during a game — I wouldn’t have the slightest idea which one — when a Cardinal DB intercepted the ball, and was taking it down field. Buffone peeled back to carve a path, and, hurling himself totally horizontal, took out three guys with one block.

To this day, best block I’ve ever witnessed.

The other Buffone moment came in the infield at the Derby. He was in repose under some shrubbery with his girl friend. A character from around town, big guy about 275 pounds, who shall remain nameless, who was wearing a big broad brimmed straw hat, saw the lines to the men’s room, and decided he’d relieve himself in a nearby bush.

Need I tell you who might have been under that very bush?

Buffone, a really nice guy, disinclined to gratuitous violence, except on the the gridiron, did take umbrage at being urinated upon.

At which point, he stood up, pulled the transgressor’s hat down over his face and dropped him with a single blow to the chops.

— c d kaplan



2 thoughts on “Fan Moments V: Early Days at Freedom Hall

  1. You coulda woulda shoulda been the next Chuck Tirico or Sean McKaplan…just think… if you didn’t go to Atherton you could have been a Syracuse Orange! Oh, how the world would have changed…

  2. The Ranch House offered Junior Booster Buttons for 50 cents, good for the whole season and sit anywhere you like. The best season ticket ever.

Comments are closed.