Music, Pop Culture

The Band. Woodstock Comes To Irvington.

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Original publish date:  April 11, 2019

You are cordially invited to come over to the Irving theatre this Saturday, April 13th from 2 PM to 4 PM and talk about music. This is the 50th anniversary year of Woodstock, the concert that changed both the culture and history of music while defining a generation. More importantly, this event will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first live concert by The Band at the Winterland ballroom in San Francisco California. The Band (Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson) not only change the face of rock ‘n roll, they almost single-handedly created the movement that became known as “Americana” music. Although known by many as Bob Dylan’s backup band, as we shall see this Saturday, there is more to the fellas than meets the eye.z big pink 3c
When these five self-described bearded “Cowboys” appeared on the January 12, 1970 cover of Time magazine (a first for an American band by the way) they were described as “The New Sound of Country Rock.” They came to epitomize Woodstock, the community and the concert, although they landed at both quite coincidentally. In an era when other bands were writing and performing songs about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, The Band were performing songs about reflection and history created in the basement of a little pink house in the Catskill Mountains. The songs dripped with sentiment, depth and meaning straight out of the pages of American history even though four out of the five members were Canadians.Woodstock-poster
This Saturday I will host an in depth discussion about The Band and its impact on American music. Joining me will be local radio legends Dave “the King” Wilson, Ed Wenck and Jay Baker. The program will start at 1:30 p.m. with live music in the Irving theatre performed by The Mud Creek Conservancy, the acoustic duo of Ed Wenck and Josh Gillespie. Occurring before the presentation this will be their first live performance. The duo will play and explain a couple of The Band’s best-known songs for us during the discussion as well. The program will also include a live podcast of “Firehouse Irvington” by Kevin Friedly and Jay Baker after the show. We invite you to come out, share thoughts, ask questions and even bring your guitar to play and sing along in what promises to be a show for the ages.The Band
Channel 13’s Nicole Misensik and Brandon Kline will be on hand to assist with questions from the audience and Dave Wilson will act as the official emcee. The program will feature film clips of The Band on stage, taped interviews and historic photographs that, combined with the discussion, will help form a more complete history of what many critics believe was the greatest band in the history of rock ‘n roll. The band’s iconic lyrics will be discussed as well as their motivation and meaning and songwriting process. Not to mention some interesting connections to pop culture events and personalities that lasted well before and long after their breakup in 1976.
bd triumphThe Band was born only after the near fatal motorcycle accident involving the world’s most famous electric folksinger changed their direction. And, although The Band’s first album “Music From Big Pink” debuted on July 1st, 1968, the band from West Saugerties, New York did not perform live until the spring of 1969 a continent away in San Francisco. The album was created start to finish in two weeks time with no overdubbing, unheard of for its day. What’s more, The Band very nearly didn’t take the stage at all; saved only after legendary promoter Bill Graham picked a hypnotist out of a bay area phonebook to right the ship. The little-known stories of these great incidents will be discussed this Saturday.
Most people forget that The Band even performed at Woodstock, let alone was a headliner. We will discuss how mismanagement not only kept The Band out of the film and off of the soundtrack, it kept Bob Dylan off of the stage. All but only the most devoted fans realize that The Band not only performed at Woodstock, but also at the largest concert in the history of music alongside the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers at Watkins Glen New York four years later. And then there was the 1970 Festival Express tour across Canada featuring Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and The Band. The Festival Express was a 14 car long train that stopped in three Canadian cities: Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary, during the summer of 1970, that ultimately became one long non-stop jam session and never ending party fueled by drugs and alcohol.
2To understand The Band, one must also understand the era into which it was born. Big Pink’s 1968 debut was also the year of student protests against the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King and Robert F Kennedy’s assassination, riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Black Panther demonstrations, feminists protesting the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, Apollo 7 and 8’s moon landing rehearsal flights, Charles Manson gathering his cult members at Spahn Ranch and Nixon’s nomination for president. To many, America was coming apart at the seams and the divide between generations had never seemed wider. This band, formed out of a classically trained musician, a teenaged alcoholic, a butche’rs apprentice, a Jewish Native American grifter and a veteran performer from the Mississippi Delta, stepped forward to bridge the gap.
The Band 19While considered the fathers of the history conscious “Americana” music movement, make no mistake about it, these guys were quintessential rock and rollers. Fast cars, fast women, and fast times punctuated the lives of each member of The Band. They started in the age of rockabilly, while Elvis Presley was still shaking things, up and finished at the dawn of hip-hop. They crossed paths with Hollywood movie stars, gangsters and presidents. Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, Conway Twitty, Tiny Tim, Jack Ruby, Martin Scorsese and Jimmy Carter all play a part in the story of these four Canadians and one self-described “cracker” from Arkansas to create a mystique that still surrounds them today, long after three out of the five band members have passed.
Not only is this Saturday’s event timed to coincide with an important anniversary in the history of The Band, it is also taking place on “National Record Store Day”. There will be live music outside the Irving theatre beginning early in the day and lasting long after this presentation concludes. The program will start at 2 PM, admission is free, but we ask that you please make a donation at the door to the weekly view newspaper to help support the Free Press of Indianapolis.

Creepy history, Indianapolis, Irvington Ghost Tours, Pop Culture, Television

Whispers from the Grave.

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Original publish date: October 18, 2018

This will be my 16th season of leading October ghost tours in Irvington. Along the way I have made many friends, some of whom return year after year to take a stroll through haunted Irvington. I have been fortunate to meet many talented and famous people who have come on the tours. I have connected with family members of the personalities I talk about on the tours and I have been privileged to hear first-hand accounts and stories that mirror the fun and spooky atmosphere of autumnal Irvington. That is what makes October in Irvington so special to me.
whispersThis coming Saturday, October 20th at 2 PM, several of those famous friends will be here in Irvington at the Irving theater to share their talent with our community in a program I have called, “Whispers from the Grave. Testimony of Irvington’s Most Famous Crimes.” Over the past decade and a half I have gathered testimony, witness accounts, personal statements and personality sketches of the characters, both good and bad, from the stories I share on the tours. This Saturday, local celebrities, journalists and members of the media will lend their talents to the voices of these characters. Much of this spoken word performance will offer accounts that have not been heard for over a century. This testimony, told in its entirety using the words of the subjects themselves, is always poignant, sometimes shocking and often scandalous.
The doors of the Irving theater will open at 1 PM this Saturday and will close promptly at 2 PM for the start of the presentation. No one will be admitted after 2 PM out of respect for the performers and the solemn content. Parental discretion is advised and content may not be suitable for all audiences. This is the real thing in the performance promises to prove the old adage that “truth is stranger than fiction.” The performance is free to the public, but a $ 5.00 minimum donation is requested. The proceeds will benefit the Free Press of Irvington.

Photo by Lauri Mohr Imaginemohr photography.

Those of you who have taken my tours understand that an Irvington ghost tour is really a history lesson disguised as a ghost story. Over the years proceeds from the tours over the years have helped fund many local philanthropic endeavors including the Irvington food bank at Gaia works, the IHS / Bona Thompson Museum, Halloween festival, the Irvington Council, the children’s Guardian home, the Girl Scouts, and several scholarships for local high school students. This Saturday’s presentation will be an opportunity for guests to better understand the foundation of the ghost tours by hearing accounts from the people who lived it.
daveJoining us Saturday will be long time Q 95 star and stand up comic Dave “the King” Wilson reading the words of DC Stephenson. David Curtis Stephenson was the Grand Dragon of the Indiana Ku Klux Klan who reigned supreme here in central Indiana during The Roaring 20s. Stephenson controlled Indiana politics from the governor’s office to the mayor’s office with Klan money and influence from his University Avenue home here in Irvington. Gathering testimony and statements from Stephenson’s made all the more harder by the fact that after his 1925 trial for murder concluded, the official court papers mysteriously disappeared.
Nicole2 – time Emmy award-winning former WTHR on air personality & meteorologist Nicole Misencik who will be voicing Madge Oberholtzer. Tragically, Madge was the undeserving victim of DC Stephenson’s crime in the spring of 1925. Madge was an Irvingtonian and former student at Butler College whose death at the hands of Stephenson brought down the Ku Klux Klan, which was the most powerful organization in the country at the time. Madge’s testimony was so graphically detailed that when it was read aloud in open court in Noblesville Indiana, women fainted and grown men got up and left the room. Nicole will recount Madge’s 9 – page deathbed declaration and its entirety for the first time in public and nearly a century.
brandonFormer WTHR reporter Brandon Kline will be voicing Pinkerton detective Frank Geyer, the man who brought America’s first serial killer to justice. Brandon will wear the hero cape by voicing this legendary Pinkerton agent who is dogged determination alone solved Irvington’s first murder, that of 10-year-old Howard Pitezel. Brandon’s hero duty will be doubled when he also voices Irvingtonian lawyer Asa J Smith who recorded Madge’s deathbed declaration in what promises to be a most memorable exchange with his wife Nicole.
JulieBoomer TV personality, longtime WZPL radio host and former WISH – TV alumni Julie Patterson will be voicing the last wife of HH Holmes, Georgiana Yoke. Ms. Yoke, a native of Franklin Indiana, is easily the most unknown character in the presentation. Georgiana’s family has deep connections to Indianapolis’east side at both Garfield Park and Holliday Park. Georgiana narrowly escaped death at the hands of her husband and, after his death by hanging, could not escape the cloud of suspicion that hung over her in Indianapolis after her husband’s crimes were revealed. Julie’s interpretation of Georgiana will also include her court testimony, some of which was delivered by her husband HH Holmes while acting as his own counsel.
edEd Wenck, long time local radio host, journalist, author and on-air television personality, will be voicing America’s first serial killer HH Holmes. Allegedly responsible for over 200 murders, Holmes admitted to killing 27. The arch fiend came to Irvington in October 1894 on the heels of the 1893 Chicago world’s fair. His crimes are numerous, gruesome and unspeakable. Ed will voice America’s first serial killer using Holmes’ own words which are guaranteed to make your skin crawl.

Sgt. Jo Moore

Special guest Jo Moore, retired IMPD Sergeant, will be voicing the unsung hero of the Holmes saga in Irvington, Detective David S Richards. Sgt. Moore will help outline the details of the alleged “Curse of HH Holmes” that lingered for over a quarter century after the serial killer was hanged. Sgt. Moore has been instrumental in meticulously researching the lives and duty roster of Indianapolis policemen whose honorable recognition is long overdue. Jo has also led the charge to create a museum archive honoring fallen members of Indianapolis police departments past and present. Her own son, Officer David Moore, prominent among them.





These Circle City personalities, all of which are friends of Irvington, have strong backgrounds with the press and public service. Their individual love of Indianapolis history will shine through during their performances. It promises to be an afternoon to remember. So join us this Saturday, October 20th at 2 PM inside the Irving theater for this unique performance. Remember, parental discretion is advised and the content may not be suitable for all audiences and most importantly, no one will be admitted after 2:00 PM.


ABA-American Basketball Association, Indianapolis

Richard P. Tinkham’s ABA Indiana Pacers. PART II

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Richard P. Tinkham, Robin Miller & Bob Netolicky.

Original Publish Date: March 26, 2018

Richard P. Tinkham Jr., who visited the Irving Theatre in Irvington last Sunday, is one of the true pioneers of the American Basketball Association, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Mr. Tinkham was in the Irv, along with co-authors Bob Netolicky & Robin Miller, to sign copies of their new book, “We changed the game.” Mr. Tinkham, co-founder of the ABA and the Indiana Pacers franchise, knows all of the league’s secrets. He was instrumental in the creation of Market Square Arena and co-chaired the ABA merger committee that sent four ABA teams into the NBA and helped lead the ABA/NBA consolidation. As detailed in part one of this series, that road to merger was a long journey. Dick Tinkham was there for every step.

Oscar Robertson- The Big O.

Indianapolis native Oscar Robertson delayed the first merger attempt in 1971 with a court case and subsequent injunction that ultimately doomed the league. Before the 1975–76 season, the Denver Nuggets and New York Nets tried to defect from the ABA to join the NBA. The owners of the Nets and Nuggets had approached John Y. Brown, Jr. (Kentucky Fried Chicken magnate and future Governor of the Blue Grass State) in an attempt to get his Kentucky Colonels to join their attempted defection. Brown refused, saying he would remain loyal to the ABA.
Instead, the two teams were forced by judicial order to play a lame-duck season in the ABA. Ironically, the two would be defector teams had the last laugh as they would end up playing for the championship that final season (The Nets beat the Nuggets 4 games to 2).
This attempted defection exposed the emerging financial weakness of the league’s lesser teams. Soon, the ABA began it’s death throe. Perhaps the best illustration of league instability can be found in the New Orleans / Memphis franchise. The New Orleans Buccaneers were among the original 11 teams. In 1972 the Bucs moved to Memphis and began a 5 year identity crisis. The team left New Orleans and became the Pros, then the Tams and finally the Sounds. That last Memphis team looked an awful lot like the Indiana Pacers.

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Mike Storen’s team with former Indiana Pacers Rick Mount, Freddie Lewis, Mel Daniels & Roger Brown.

The team was led by Mike Storen, former vice president and general manager of the Indiana Pacers. Storen stacked the Sounds with former Indiana players Mel Daniels, Freddie Lewis, Roger Brown and Rick Mount along with Hoosier hot shot Billy Shepherd. Prior to the start of the 1975-76 season, the Sounds moved to Baltimore, Maryland. The team was initially named the Baltimore Hustlers, but public pressure forced them to rename it the Claws. The Claws folded in October of 1975 during the preseason after playing just three exhibition games. Mel Daniels, disappointed at the Claws’ demise, retired rather than play for another team. Later Daniels recalled that the Claws’ players were encouraged to take equipment and furniture from the team office in lieu of payment.
Not long after the Claws folded, the San Diego Sails followed suit. The Sails (formerly the Conquistadors) were the ABA’s first and only expansion team. While the departure of those two teams may not have been a surprise, when the Utah Stars, one of the ABA’s most successful teams, folded, the league dropped from 10 teams to 7. The Virginia Squires folded in May following the end of the season.
That left six teams standing: the Kentucky Colonels, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, New York Nets, Spirits of St. Louis and San Antonio Spurs. With settlement of the Oscar Robertson suit on February 3, 1976, the final merger negotiations began. Dick Tinkham says “Calling it a merger is a misnomer, the NBA said it was an expansion draft, but in truth, it was a massacre.” During the June 1976 negotiations, the NBA made it clear that it would accept only four ABA teams, not five. In addition “The NBA required that the remaining four ABA teams pay a $ 3.2 million expansion fee by September 15, 1976,” states Tinkham.

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ABA Kentucky Colonels owner (& future Governor) John Y. Brown,

On June 17, 1976, Kentucky owner John Y. Brown folded the Colonels for a $3 million payment from the remaining teams. In addition to the $3 million he received for agreeing to stay out of the merger, Brown also sold Gilmore’s rights to the Bulls for $1.1 million. Additionally, the Portland Trail Blazers took Maurice Lucas for $300,000, the Buffalo Braves took Bird Averitt for $125,000, the Pacers took Wil Jones for $50,000, the Nets took Jan van Breda Kolff for $60,000, and the Spurs took Louie Dampier for $20,000. Ironically, with all of those funds, Brown bought the NBA’s Buffalo Braves for $1.5 million, and later parlayed the Braves into ownership of the Boston Celtics.
Lawyer Tinkham points out that although Brown came out smelling like a rose when the ABA folded, it was the owners of the Spirits of St. Louis who struck the best deal with the use of one obscure Latin term inserted at the tail end of their “merger” deal. “As part of the deal, none of the four teams would receive any television money during the first three seasons, on top of having to pay one -seventh of their annual television revenues of the defunct Spirits team in perpetuity.” That term, “In Perpetuity”, would prove most advantageous in the years to come.
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The 1976 ABA-NBA “merger” saw the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, New York Nets, and San Antonio Spurs join the NBA. The deal was finally consummated on June 17, 1976, at the NBA league meetings in the Cape Cod Room at Dunfey’s Hyannis Resort in Hyannis, Massachusetts.
Perhaps fittingly, brothers Ozzie and Daniel Silna made their fortune as pioneers in the manufacture of polyester, the fabric that defined the 1970s. After failing to buy the Detroit Pistons, an NBA franchise that began life in Ft. Wayne, the Silnas’ purchased the ABA’s Carolina Cougars. The Cougars began life as the Houston Mavericks in 1967. Just as future North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Jim Gardner had bought the Mavericks and moved them to North Carolina in 1969, the Silna brothers bought the Cougars with the expectation of moving it to St. Louis. In 1974, St. Louis, Missouri was the largest city in the United States without a professional basketball team.
The 1975–76 Spirits season had not gone well in either attendance or wins. In May 1976, due to attendance problems, the Spirits announced that they were going to merge with the Utah Stars. But the Stars folded before the merger could occur and instead, the Spirits wound up with some of Utah’s best players. Then in an effort to be included in the ABA–NBA merger, the Silna brothers proposed selling the Spirits to a Utah group, buying the Kentucky Colonels franchise, and moving them to Buffalo to replace the Buffalo Braves. Seems that the Silna brothers were always looking towards a future in the NBA. That deal didn’t happen either.
The merger included the Spirits of St. Louis players being put into a special dispersal draft. Marvin Barnes went to the Detroit Pistons for $500,000, Moses Malone went to the Portland Trail Blazers for $300,000, Ron Boone went to the Kansas City Kings for $250,000, Randy Denton went to the New York Knicks for $50,000 and Mike Barr went to the Kansas City Kings for $15,000. It must be noted that, in all, twelve players from the final two Spirits of St. Louis rosters (1974–76) played in the NBA during the 1976–77 season and beyond: Maurice Lucas, Ron Boone, Marvin Barnes, Caldwell Jones, Lonnie Shelton, Steve Green, Gus Gerard, Moses Malone, Don Adams, Don Chaney, M. L. Carr and Freddie Lewis.
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But that wasn’t the end of the line for the Silna boys. Together, they managed to turn the ABA-NBA merger into one of the greatest deals in the history of professional sports. First, the remaining ABA owners agreed, in return for the Spirits folding, to pay the Silnas’ $2.2 million in cash and that 1/7 share of television revenues in perpetuity. As the NBA’s popularity exploded in the 1980s and 1990s, the league’s television rights were sold to CBS and then NBC, and additional deals were struck with the TNT and TBS cable networks; league television revenue soared into the hundreds of millions of dollars. The Silnas’ continue to receive checks from the NBA on a yearly basis, representing a 4/7 share of the television money that would normally go to any NBA franchise, or about two percent of the entire league’s TV deal.
That deal turned into at least $4.4 million per year through the 1990s. From 1999 through 2002 the deal netted the Silnas’ another $12.50 million per year; from 2003 to 2006 their take was at least $15.6 million per year.The two Silna brothers each get 45% of that television revenue per year and their merger, Donald Schupak, receives the orher 10%. As of 2013, the Silna brothers have received over $300 million in NBA revenue, despite the fact that the Spirits never played a single NBA game.
In 2012, the Silna brothers sued the NBA for “hundreds of millions of dollars more” they felt were owed them for NBA League Pass subscriptions and streaming video revenues that claimed was an extension of television revenues. In January 2014, a conditional settlement agreement between the NBA, the four active former-ABA clubs and the Silnas was announced and the Silnas’ received an estimated $500 million more from the former ABA teams. Ozzie Silna passed in 2014 at the age of 83. Daniel Silva is a successful philanthropist living in New Jersey.
In the first NBA All Star Game after the merger, 10 of the 24 NBA All Stars were former ABA players, five (Julius Erving, Caldwell Jones, George McGinnis, Dave Twardzik and Maurice Lucas) were starters. Of the 84 players in the ABA at the time of the merger, 63 played in the NBA during the 1976–77 season. Additionally, four of the NBA’s top ten scorers were former ABA players (Billy Knight, David Thompson, Dan Issel and George Gervin). The Pacers’ Don Buse led the NBA in both steals and assists during that first post-merger season. The Spirits of St. Louis’ Moses Malone finished third in rebounding, Kentucky Colonels’ Artis Gilmore was fourth. Gilmore and his former Colonels teammate Caldwell Jones were both among the top five in the NBA in blocked shots. Tom Nissalke left the ABA to coach the NBA’s Houston Rockets in the first post-merger season and was named NBA Coach of the Year. Yes, the ABA left its mark on the NBA instantly.
And where was Richard P. Tinkham, the man right in the middle of all of those previous league negotiations when the merger news was announced? “I was driving home from the airport when I heard the news on the radio,” he says, “It was great news, but people have no idea what it took to pull it off.”
ABA 50th_BLF[2]On Saturday, April 7th, Indianapolis will host the 50th reunion celebration of the ABA with an evening banquet at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse and a special daytime public event at Hinkle Fieldhouse from 11:00 to 3:00. The public is invited to attend this once in a lifetime event that will include a special ABA 50th anniversary ring presentation for all the players followed by a Guinness World Book of Records attempt to set the mark for most pro athletes signing autographs in a single session.
Special guest ring presenters for this charity event include Mayor Joe Hogsett, Senator Joe Donnelly, Congresswoman Susan Brooks, City Councillors Mike McQuillen and Vop Osili, WISH-TV personality Dick Wolfsie and Rupert from Survivor. It promises to be a very special event. Dick Tinkham will be there too, watching over his players as they gather for one last collective hurah. Oh, and the man paying for those player rings? None other than Spirits of St.Louis owner Dan Silva. Paying it forward, “In Perpetuity”.

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Mayor Joe Hogsett, Dick Wolfsie, City Councilman Michael McQuillen, Senator Joe Donnelly, City Councilman  Vop Osili, Dr. John Abrams, Scott Tarter, Rupert Boneham, Ted Green & Congresswoman Susan Brooks.
Photo by Ron Sanders.
ABA-American Basketball Association, Indianapolis

Richard P. Tinkham’s ABA Indiana Pacers. PART I

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Alan E. Hunter & ABA Indiana Pacers legend Richard P. Tinkham.

Original Publish date: March 19, 2018

This past weekend the Irving Theatre played host to a book signing. Bob Netolicky, Robin Miller and Richard P. Tinkham visited the Irv for the official release party of their new book “We changed the game.” The book tells the story of the Indiana Pacers and the ABA from the very beginning by the men who lived it. Netolicky and Miller shared funny stories about the league that kept the crowd of 150 guests in stitches for the duration. However, even though he spoke in measured tones, sometimes barely above a whisper, it was Mr. Tinkham who kept the crowd on the edge of their seats.
z 914lSM8JoKLDick Tinkham is the Rosetta Stone of the American Basketball Association. He was there during the embryonic stages of the league forward. Dick explained how the ABA was originally designed to be a six-foot or under player league…gasp! He revealed how the Pacers team almost folded at the close of the 1968-69 season…gulp! And he continued with tales of crucial deals made in airports, hotel rooms, restaurants and bars…wheeze! Yes, Dick Tinkham knows where all the bodies are buried.
Mr. Tinkham talked about early attempts by the ABA to lure Indianapolis native and hall of famer Oscar Robertson away from the NBA Cincinnati Royals. In 1967, Tinkham had hopes that Robertson might jump to the upstart Pacers. Robin Miller pointed out that Oscar had a $100,00 guaranteed contract and that “the Big O wasn’t going anywhere”. Mr. Tinkham then disclosed that it was Robertson who advocated that the Pacers travel to Dayton Ohio and check out a young man named Roger Brown. That signing changed the face of this city and arguably, saved the ABA. Ironically a few shot years later, Oscar Robertson would pop up again, this time as the foil for the ABA.
In June of 1971, only three years after the ABA began play, NBA owners voted 13–4 to work toward joining both leagues. A merger between the NBA and ABA appeared imminent and Dick Tinkham was right in the middle of it. After the 1970–71 season, Basketball Weekly reported: “The American basketball public is clamoring for a merger. So are the NBA and ABA owners, the two commissioners and every college coach. The war is over. The Armistice will be signed soon.” During this short-lived courtship, the two leagues agreed to play pre-season interleague exhibition games for the first time ever.
At last Saturday’s event in the Irving theatre, Dick Tinkham detailed how he met privately with Seattle SuperSonics owner Sam Schulman, a member of the ABA–NBA merger committee in 1971 to work out details for the merger. Schulman asked Tinkham how much it was going to take to get each ABA team (there were 11 at the time) to move into the NBA. Tinkham revealed to the gathered crowd that this was a question he had not anticipated and was totally unprepared to answer. Dick, thinking fast on his feet, replied that it would take $ 1 million for each team. Schulman agreed and phoned NBA Commissioner J. Walter Kennedy to announce that an agreement had been reached for a merger.

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Seattle Supersonics owner San Schulman with ABA standout Spencer Haywood.

Schulman told the commissioner that he was so adamant about the merger that if the NBA did not accept the agreement, he would move the SuperSonics from the NBA to the ABA. Not only that, but Schulman threatened to move his soon-to-be ABA team to Los Angeles to compete directly with the Lakers. The owners of the Dallas Chaparrals (now the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs) were so confident of the impending merger that they suggested that the ABA hold off on scheduling and playing a regular season schedule for the 1971–72 season.

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1971-72 NBA Milwaukee Bucks.

The first NBA vs. ABA exhibition game was played on September 21, 1971 at Moody Coliseum in Dallas, Texas. The first half was played by NBA rules and the second half by ABA rules, including the red, white and blue basketball and 3-point shot. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA Milwaukee Bucks barely squeaked past John Beasley’s ABA Dallas Chaparrals, 106-103.
Down 12 points with 10 minutes to go, Chaps Gene Phillips hit six straight shots in fourth quarter to rally his team. The Chaps went ahead 103-102 with 24 seconds remaining on a pair of free throws from guard Donnie Freeman. With the Chap’s defense collapsing on Jabbar, McCoy McLemore hit a 15-foot jumper with 11 seconds left to give the Bucks a 104-103 lead. The Chaps’ Steve “Snapper” Jones missed a 10-foot baseline jumper with five seconds on the clock. Bucks Lucius Allen made two free throws for the final score. Bucks’ stars Oscar Robertson and Bob Dandridge missed the game. Dandridge was appearing in a Willamsburg Virginia court settling a traffic ticket and Oscar Robertson was in Washington D.C. fighting the merger.

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1971-72 ABA Dallas Chaparrals.

Officially, the litigation was known as “Robertson v. National Basketball Association, 556 F.2d 682 (2d Cir. 1977)”, but it became forever known as the Oscar Robertson suit. Robertson, as president of the NBA Players Association, filed a lawsuit in April of 1970 to prevent the merger on antitrust grounds. Robertson, still smarting from his unexpected trade by his college hometown Cincinnati Royals to the Milwaukee Bucks, sought to block any merger of the NBA with the American Basketball Association, to end the option clause that bound a player to a single NBA team in perpetuity, to end the NBA’s college draft binding a player to one team, and to end restrictions on free agent signings. The suit also sought damages for NBA players for past harm caused by the option clause. The court issued an injunction against any merger thus delaying the ABA-NBA merger.
Robertson himself stated that his main gripe was that clubs basically owned their players: players were forbidden to talk to other clubs once their contract was up, because free agency did not exist back then. In 1972, the U.S. Congress came close to enacting legislation to enable a merger despite the Oscar Robertson suit. In September 1972, a merger bill was reported favorably out of a U.S. Senate committee, but the bill was put together to please the owners, and ended up not pleasing the Senators or the players. The bill subsequently died without coming to a floor vote. When Congress reconvened in 1973, another merger bill was presented to the Senate, but never advanced.
lfMeantime, the ABA-NBA exhibition games continued. In these ABA vs. NBA exhibition games, the ABA’s RWB ball was used for one half, and the NBA’s traditional brown ball was used in the other half, the ABA’s three-point shot (and 30 second shot clock) was used for one half only, in some games, the ABA’s no-foul out rule was in effect for the entire game and the league hosting the game provided its own referees. NBA refs wore the traditional B&W “zebra” shirts while ABA refs wore shorts matching the ball: red, white & blue. Most of the interleague games were played in ABA arenas because the NBA did not want to showcase (and legitimize) the ABA in front of NBA fans. On the flip side, ABA cities were eager to host NBA teams because they attracted extra fans, made more money, and proved both leagues could compete against each other. Results from those first few years were not highly publicized by either league.
Although they didn’t count for anything except pride, ABA / NBA exhibition games were always intense due to the bad blood between the leagues. During these ultra-competitive games players (including future Hall of Famers Rick Barry and Charlie Scott who played for teams in both leagues) were thrown out with multiple technical fouls. Likewise, Hall of Fame coaches like Larry Brown and Slick Leonard (who coached in both leagues) often ended up listening to interleague games in the locker room after being ejected.
After the 1974-75 regular season, the ABA Champion Kentucky Colonels formally challenged the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors to a “World Series of Basketball,” with a winner-take-all $1 Million purse (collected from anticipated TV revenues). The NBA and the Warriors refused the challenge. Again, after the 1975-76 season, the ABA Champion New York Nets offered to play the NBA Champion Boston Celtics in the same fashion, with the proceeds going to benefit the 1976 United States Olympic team. Predictably, the Celtics declined to participate.
In the later years of the rivalry, buoyed by younger players, better talent and the home court advantage, ABA teams began winning most of the games. Over the last three seasons of the rivalry, the ABA steadily pulled ahead: 15-10 (in 1973), 16-7 (in 1974), and 31-17 (in 1975). The ABA won the overall interleague rivalry, 79 games to 76 and in every matchup of reigning champions from the two leagues, the ABA champion won, including in the final pre-merger season when the Kentucky Colonels defeated the Golden State Warriors, sans $ 1 million dollar purse.
The Oscar Robertson suit would eventually seal the fate of the ABA and for the entirety of its pendency it presented an insurmountable obstacle to the desired merger of the two leagues. The worm was beginning to turn.

Next Week- Part II including details of the April 7, 2018 American Basketball Association Reunion in Indianapolis.