By BOB WHITE
It seems that attending the boys’ Sweet 16 basketball tournament at the Jefferson County Armory in Louisville in 1949 sent me on my way to becoming a sportswriter.
At the time, I was living with my grandmother in Lexington so I could complete the eighth grade at Lafayette Junior High after my mother and father had moved to Louisville where he took a job in the pressroom of The Courier-Journal.
Our next-door neighbor in Lexington was Newell Hadden, who refereed high school football and basketball games. He called my mother and told her he had two tickets for the three-day state tournament. He asked her if he could bring me with him and she said yes.
In those days all eight first-round games were played on a Thursday. That made for a long day but I didn’t mind. I had become a big Lafayette fan and the Generals were in the Sweet 16 that year.
Playing in that tourney were Cliff Hagan of Owensboro and Frank Ramsey of Madisonville, who became teammates the next season at the University of Kentucky, and after that they became standout players for the St. Louis Hawks and the Boston Celtics, respectively, in the NBA.
Gayle Rose, who played for Paris, also was in the ’49 tournament and he joined Hagan and Ramsey at UK.
To my delight Lafayette – coached by Ralph Carlisle, my gym teacher– made it to the championship game on Saturday night, but lost to Owensboro.
All Hagan did was score a then-record 41 points in Owensboro’s 65-47 victory.
Lafayette’s best player then was a junior, Bob Mulcahy, who led the Generals to the state crown in 1950. Mulcahy, who played college ball at Eastern Kentucky, later coached Louisville Seneca to Sweet 16 crowns in 1963 and ’64.
After graduating from Atherton High in Louisville, where future University of Louisville All-American Charlie Tyra was a classmate, I attended UK and decided to major in Journalism.
Lucky for me, the assistant sports editor of the UK newspaper – The Kernel—was in my fraternity and he asked me to cover intramural sports on campus.
I took my diploma from UK in June, 1957, and worked four months for the Cynthiana Democrat before taking a job in Cleveland,. Tenn., which is 20 miles north of Chattanooga. A year and a half later, my favorite professor at UK – J..A. McCauley—called me and said he had an interview for me with C-J Sports Editor Earl Ruby the next week.
I started at The C-J on March 2, 1959, and in August, 1962, I replaced the legendary Earl Cox as the head high school writer. Cox moved up to an administrative position and later became Executive Editor of The C-J and Louisville Times.
I covered Kentucky highs for 38 years full-time. When I retired in Oct. 1, 2000, I was asked if I would freelance for the paper after that. I did for 15 years, mostly writing high school stories.
Even now, I often wonder where I would be today if McCauley hadn’t called me and if I hadn’t gone to that Sweet 16 shootout in 1949.