Just A Bit More About Westley

As I was out on my morning walk the day after learning of Wes Unseld’s passing — wearing my #31 throwback — I ran into my pal Bruce, a long time Cardinal fan.

We, of course, shared our sadness about Unseld. What I found interesting is that the specific game he remembered is the one I mentioned the other day, the Cincy game when Wes got in deep foul trouble in the 1st.* Bruce remembered four fouls in the first, and reminded me how Unseld, after intermission, would guard with hands by his sides and not move, with the Cards in a zone. Then when the shot would go up over him, he’d snare every rebound.

*I find it fascinating that, as much as we both love Unseld, and were locked in during his entire career at U of L, we both independently remembered the same game, and few moments from any other. 

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I read everything I could about Unseld on the interweb, and just wanted to pass on a few tidbits gleaned from other writers’ work and observations.

What flabbergasted me most was that Unseld smoked in the locker room.


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Wes’s actual height was always a curiosity.

He was listed as 6-8. But everybody knew that to be a fiction.

The number that most believed to be true, at least my recollection, was 6-6 3/4.

In one piece I consumed, Unseld had revealed to the writer that he measured 6-4 5/8 before the draft.

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Unseld’s son/father relationship with Bullets’ owner Abe Pollin has been well documented.

Apparently Unseld never had an agent, and never signed a written contract. Handshake only year to year.

As it is told, the two would meet when it was time to “negotiate,” and write what they thought Wes was worth for the upcoming season, and come to agreement. Apparently Wes’s “demand” was always less than Pollin’s “offer.” Pollin always paid the higher amount.

One year, instead of an increase, Unseld asked Pollin to buy and donate the building that would become the Unselds School.

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One journalist talked about an informal survey he took to learn how the players idled their time when traveling on the road? Reading. Playing cards. Etc, etc.

When Wes was approached, he was asked what he was reading?

“James Joyce.”

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Though I had a class with his wife Connie, I never really knew Unseld at U of L, except to just nod and say hello.

But I had a number of friends who went to Seneca with him, and were buddies.

One I quoted in my first piece the other day, “Bird” Mocerf, who played freshman ball with him.

In the late 70s, another pal, who didn’t go to Seneca, but was part of our group, lived in Cleveland and went to a game when the Bullets were in town. And was able to engage Unseld before the game.

He’d maybe met Unseld once back when, if that.

Talking to Wes, he was like “I grew up in Louisville, watched you play for Seneca, yada yada, yada,” when Wes interjected, “I remember you, your Bird’s friend.”

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I loved Rick Bozich’s memory of how Unseld actually picked him up at the airport, when the scribe went to Baltimore to do a story about Wes. Then took him back when he was leaving.

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But my favorite of all the many observations I’ve read or heard this week is from Michael Wilbon on PTI.

“Wes Unseld is the best man I ever met.”

— c d kaplan

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3 thoughts on “Just A Bit More About Westley

  1. Chuck,
    Last time I saw Wes was around 1983. He stopped by to see my father during one of his trips to Louisville. He knew my Dad from the old ULAs days and just wanted to come see him and say hi.
    Wes was an ALL AMERICAN in LIFE.

  2. I have a lovely story about Wes Unseld. He and I were in the 1968 graduating class at UofL. One of my majors was French and we were giving a French play on the steps next to The Thinker. We needed someone to play God. I believe one of the faculty ask Wes if he would play God. He said yes, but he did not know a word of French. I was the lucky person who tutored Wes his lines in French. He was such a lovely soul and as I recall, he loved playing God!

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