I have never shied away from my love for the long-departed Albany Patroons basketball team. Two championships, five regular-season titles, and a slew of NBA players and coaches came from our little Continental Basketball Association team.
And today I want to take a moment and salute one of those former Patroons and his successful involvement with another pro basketball circuit.
David Magley played for the Albany Patroons during their 1983-84 championship year. The 6’8″ small forward from Kansas spent a few weeks with the Cleveland Cavaliers organization prior to his Patroons run, then he moved on to the coaching ranks.
The Albany Patroons have always had a special place in my heart and in my sports memory. I was a fan during their days at the Armory; I cheered for them when they moved to the Knickerbocker Arena; I cried when they moved to Hartford; I celebrated when they came back to the Armory; and I cried again when the team – and the Continental Basketball Association – bit the dust in 2009.
And within all those moments, I saved several treasures and collectibles, including some game-worn uniforms, basketballs, programs and pennants.
In today’s blog, I want to share with you a nice little collectible series from the Patroons’ years – their player trading cards. There were several seasons where the Pats either manufactured their own trading card packs, or they were produced as part of a league set. Sometimes these sets were given away at the game; others were purchased at the souvenir stand or through the CBA front office.
The Patroons first took the court in the CBA’s 1982-83 season, and several players from their Opening Day roster were featured on a 90-card league set. The set, manufactured by the trading card company TCMA, featured Albany Patroons stars Frankie J. Sanders (the “J” stood for Jumpshot, in case you were wondering), Mike Davis (the first Albany Patroon to earn an NBA call-up), and Patroons head coach Dean Meminger.
Also in that trading card set was former Albany Patroons player (and two-game coach) Sam Worthen, who took over as coach when Meminger was fired, and ran the team until Phil Jackson was hired. Recently, Sam Worthen worked as the head coach of the Washington Generals – yep, the team that has gone winless against the Harlem Globetrotters for nearly four decades.
During the 1989-90 season, the Continental Basketball Association partnered with ProCards, a company that produced team card sets for minor league hockey and minor league baseball squads. Each CBA squad had their team cards in cellophane “team sets” packs, which were either given away or sold at the Patroons’ souvenir stands.
The lineup for the 1989-90 Patroons card set included future NBA star Mario Elie and Vincent Askew, as well as Patroons roleplayers Clinton Smith and David Popson. Note the spelling of “ALBANY” on Popson’s jersey. This was the Patroons’ transition season from the Armory to the Knickerbocker Arena; but it appears that most of the photos in this set were taken during an Armory contest.
Now we go to the 1990-91 Patroons squad. Again produced by ProCards as part of cello-wrapped team sets, this Patroons series features more action shots and less “close-up” photos. This was the squad that went 50-6 in the regular season and sent several players to the NBA. The set includes cards for Vincent Askew and Mario Elie, as well as for former NBA player Albert King (trying to make a comeback by playing on the Patroons), George Karl (this was his second go-round as Pats head coach), and Terry Stotts (who would later become an NBA head coach).
The 1990-91 Patroons squad were the first U.S. pro basketball team to finish with an undefeated home record in nearly 50 years, as their 50-6 run included going 28-0 at the Knickerbocker Arena. Unfortunately, a massive winning record in the CBA means that your players will get called up to the NBA around playoff time, and that’s what happened to the Pats. Without Vincent Askew or Mario Elie in the lineup, Albany was quickly eliminated in the playoffs by Wichita Falls. Grr.
The Continental Basketball Association created another league set in the 1991-92 season, again working with ProCards. This was the Patroons team that was built for a hometown crowd, as its lineup included former Siena superstar Marc Brown. Unfortunately, the roster went into a massive flux, and the team limped into the playoffs, only to be eliminated in an opening round “play-in” match.
This set actually includes – believe it or not – Derrick Rowland’s rookie card. Yeah, yeah, I know, Derrick Rowland’s been an Albany Patroon for so long, the team should have been named the Rowlands. But when Derrick entered the CBA in 1982, he was a member of the Rochester Zeniths, and was not part of the 90-card CBA TCMA set. By the time the Patroons had trading cards again, Derrick wasn’t on the team when the photographer came around. So in his final year as an active player – he finally gets a rookie card, which you can see at right.
The CBA and ProCards ended their partnership after the 1991-92 season, and the Patroons moved out of Albany after the 1992-93 abortive “Capital Region Pontiacs” season. Less said about that, the better.
But the Patroons did return to the CBA in the 2005-06 season, and during the 2006-07 season a set of trading cards was produced by the team itself. I should know, I was the photographer for those games – yep, me and my little Nikon D70 and my 80-200 f/2.8 telephoto.
The 2006-07 Patroons set featured the team’s stars from that season, so fans could acquire trading cards for T.J. Thompson, Jamario Moon, Felipe Lopez and John Strickland. And during the time when Jamario Moon was starring in the NBA, that little trading card at left actually had some serious collectible investment value – I heard at one point the card could sell for over $50. Today, it’s probably worth about $3. But that’s speculation for you.
The set also included trading cards for head coach Micheal Ray Richardson, and a card for the team’s mascot – a furry panda bear named Lido. No, don’t even ask me how the Patroons ended up with a panda bear for a mascot. No, don’t ask me why he’s named Lido. Go ask Jim Coyne, it was his idea.
So I thought today you might appreciate seeing some of Albany’s sporting history, as it appeared on vintage trading cards. This is cool in and of itself.
Fritz Walker was a huge fan of the game, in spirit as well as size. His heart and love for the Patroons was as large as his body, and the team accepted him as its own official mascot. An accomplished photographer, Fritz took pictures of every player and every play. When teams came to Albany, Fritz took their team photos. “When you think about Fritz,” Lowes Moore told the Times Union’s Tim Wilkin, “you think about him out having a good time and enjoying life. He was the kind of guy you would never think would pass away.”
Walker’s dancing brought him his greatest notoriety. During the fourth quarter, or if the Patroons were starting to lose, Fritz would step onto the field during a time out, dancing and bouncing and shaking while the public address system played “Shout!” He danced during the Patroons’ first telecast on ESPN, and Fritz’s boogie appeared on some “lighter side of sports” videotape compilations.
Depending on the opponent, he varied his dance with a prop or two, as team statistician Doug Dickinson remembered. “I will never forget in 1985, when the Puerto Rico Coquis were in the league, he came to a game dressed up with a grass skirt on, with a big sign on him, ‘WHAT THE HELL IS A COQUIS?’ It’s just the funniest thing you ever want to see.”
And Walker saw lots of Patroon games – even the ones outside the Armory. “He’d make at least one road trip a year with them,” said Dickinson. “He went on a 10-day road trip through Savannah, Georgia, Tampa, Biloxi, and he went on the road with them. When we had teams in Worcester, Bangor, Lancaster, he’d call me up, ‘Doug, let’s go.’ So we’d get in his car or my car and we’d go to the games.”
Tim Wilkin’s favorite Fritz Walker story involved the 1988 Championship Series. Down 3 games to 2, the Patroons arrived in Newark for a connecting flight to Albany. Walker was there to greet them. Gary Holle gave his gold credit card to Walker, and told him to get the Pats some dinner in Jersey, on Holle. Holle suggested the team dine at McDonald’s or a sub shop, but Walker shrewdly asked Micheal Ray Richardson (who knew the area best) to find an eatery somewhere in town.
Richardson happily obliged, and the Patroons devoured ten main courses (along with three entrees apiece) at a 5-star restaurant. When the waiter arrived with the bill (almost $800, including tip), Walker handed over Holle’s credit card without another word. Buoyed by Fritz Walker’s kindness (and by a four-course meal apiece), the Patroons won the last two games of the Championship.
For most people, there are four seasons – spring, summer, autumn and winter. Fritz Walker had two seasons on his calendar – Patroons season and A-C Yankees season. The A-C Yankees honored Walker’s memory by creating the Walker Cup, a trophy given to the most valuable Albany-Colonie player (past recipients include major leaguer Bernie Williams and Olympic gold medalist Dave Silvestri).
A banner was raised in the Armory – “FRITZ” was all it said. A white circle bearing Fritz’ name was painted on the floor, the spot where Walker danced for the fans.
The crowd observed a moment of silence.
Just then, the strains of “Shout” played through the speakers one more time. “A little bit softer now – A little bit softer now – A little bit louder now – A little bit louder now – A little bit louder now – A little bit louder now – A little bit louder now – A little bit louder now!”
“Shout!” blared through the public address system, a tribute to the man who boogied every fourth quarter of every Pats game. Some of the crowd sang along, some cheered, others clapped.
And during the game, which Albany won 110-103, many couldn’t take their eyes off the white circle on the court. Or the “FRITZ” banner hung in the rafters, in an area reserved for championship banners.
The 6th Patroon would have been proud to be included in such regal company.
I am a long-time fan of all things related to the Albany Patroons. I keep an eye out for the progress of former players and coaches, and I have several former Pats as Facebook friends, Twitter followers and even an Instagram contact or two.
I am also a supporter of the TBT Basketball Tournament, the summer independent hoops tournament that is now entering its third year. Last year, I supported Team Mill Rats, an offshoot squad that featured several players from the National Basketball League of Canada’s Saint John Mill Rats.
At one point last year, the team would have included former Albany Patroons and NBA superstar Jamario Moon. But at the last minute, Moon jumped to another team, and the Mill Rats were clobbered in their first round appearance.
So now comes this year’s tournament. Do I go back and support the Mill Rats again … or do I follow my fandom and support Jamario Moon’s team?
Here, let me answer it.
For the 2016 TBT Tournament, I am lending my support to the squad known as Clutch ATL. Clutch ATL is entering the South Division of the TBT Tournament, and besides Jamario Moon, the squad also includes former Atlanta Hawks All-Star Paul Millsap, his brother from Middle Tennessee State Abraham Millsap, and international pro basketball star Brion Rush.
Oh wait, did I forget to mention that the team also includes Jamario Moon, who went from the Albany Patroons to eventually be teammates with, at one time or another during his NBA career, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Shaquille O’Neal and Blake Griffin? Yeah, that Jamario Moon.
So here’s what I ask of you, my fellow blog readers and hoops fans.
Click on this link and support Clutch ATL in the TBT Basketball Tournament. Every vote that Clutch ATL gets brings them closer to qualifying for the 97-team knockout bracket. And once they get in the game… just wait until J-Moon gets the basketball and flies through the air.
Yeah, I know I could support Team Mill Rats again… I could… but I would rather support my man J-Moon. Besides, what other basketball player do you know that also sings along with whatever’s on the radio – and then dances around with his kids – and then posts that sing-along to his Instagram account? 🙂
Forget all the other pro sports teams that came and went through this area. The Albany Patroons were the best and most beloved.
From 1982 to 1993, and then from 2005 to 2009, the Patroons won two CBA champions and five regular season titles. They sent nearly two dozen players and coaches to the NBA, and their stints in the Capital District were both magical and exciting.
That being said… I thought you might appreciate some news regarding the Patroons.
No, they’re not coming back for a third run through the CBA. The CBA died in 2009.
No, they’re not coming back in another league, such as the D-League or the PBL – although a well-stocked Patroons roster would most likely clobber everybody else in the building.
Actually, thanks to the production company Upside Collective, the Patroons are coming back – as a documentary.
Here’s a quick teaser interview with Derrick Rowland – and if I have to explain the greatest player to ever wear gold and kelly green to you, you are dead to me – as he talks about some of the head games coaches would play to keep players sharp each night.
Upside Collective is also looking for any and all Patroons memorabilia, including pennants, jerseys, game programs, T-shirts, tickets and other collectible souvenirs. If you have any memorabilia or articles that you feel would be appropriate for the documentary, please visit the website at patroonsmovie.com.
Those memories in the Armory will always be with us. And this documentary now gives us the chance to recapture those memories and share them with future generations.
You know … back when Albany professional sports was cool.
By the time you read this, I’ll be on the road with a precious cargo – six of my best photographic artworks – for “Drop-Off Day” at the New York State Fair. This seems to be part of an all-encompassing “drop-off-3-day-weekend” with my three entries for the Big E shipped yesterday, and my four (5) entries for Altamont being couriered to the Fairgrounds tomorrow.
So as I’m driving along the New York State Thruway with my entries… I’m thinking about things. Again. I do this a lot. So bear with me on these things.
I’ve attended back-to-back funerals this week. Last Wednesday was the services for my aunt Dolores. It was a very dignified service and the staff at St. Thomas the Apostle did an excellent job. If I could say one thing about the journeys of my life, it always seems that at some point in time I will find myself at St. Thomas the Apostle for baptisms, for weddings, and for funerals. Such is the way of the world.
The next day, I attended a funeral service for one of my teachers at my high school, Ahmed Naqi. This was my first experience attending a funeral at a mosque, and although I couldn’t understand any of the imam’s commands or prayers, I did understand the devotion and piety and spiritual strength of the attendees as they prayed for the soul of a good man. The whole experience of two very emotional funerals left me, for lack of a better term, spiritually drained.
I’m 6,000 miles away from the big 100,000 mile marker for the Blackbird. With that in mind, I’m looking at replacing anything and everything in terms of the car’s belts, fluids and the like. If I can keep this car going for another 53,000 miles after that, I’ll have surpassed the mileage achieved by my first car, the 1991 Pontiac 6000. It seems so long ago that I owned that “beater with a heater.” Almost a lifetime and a half ago.
I’ve been enjoying the Sirius/XM satellite radio in my car, especially the old-time-radio dramas and comedies and westerns on the Sirius/XM Radio Classics. If the schedule works out the way it should, I’ll enjoy episodes of Our Miss Brooks (Eve Arden in a hilarious sitcom about a high school teacher), the Phil Harris – Alice Faye Show (bandleader Phil Harris and his wife, movie bombshell Alice Faye, in their own domestic comedy), and a Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar marathon (Bob Bailey in the transcribed adventures of an insurance investigator with an action-packed expense account). Good stuff. Combine that with a Gunsmoke episode, a sci-fi story from X Minus One, and an experimental broadcast from the CBS Radio Workshop, and it’ll be a fun trip today.
I’ve been rebuilding my white tower computer system for the past week. It’s involved reformatting my entire C: drive, upgrading to Windows 10, and reinstalling all my software. Luckily I was fortunate to store my photos and writings and music and other materials on ancillary hard drives, so they weren’t lost in the crash. It’s just been a pain in the tuchus to get everything reinstalled. And when I figure that I’ve worked with personal computers going all the way back to the old TERAK standalone desktop computers at Hamilton College, going forward through a Packard Bell 386 laptop I purchased at Sears, and a few second-hand computers bought at various locations throughout the Capital District – none of which are around any more – if we were talking in the language of science fiction, I’m currently on the Tennant edition of my tower, having just regenerated from my Eccleston edition. Please do not ask me to explain this, or I will club you upside the head with a sonic screwdriver.
There was a recent article in Forbes magazine about the National Basketball League of Canada, my winter employer. It was a very positive and fair article about the league and its accomplishments. And I should mention that the league’s Commissioner, David Magley, is a former member of the Albany Patroons. I’m telling you, being a Patroon is a good thing for your future career.
If someone had said to me fifteen years ago that I would go from a Nikon CoolPix 800 camera to nearly a dozen digital and film cameras, I would have thought they nuts. Just goes to show you what happens over time. Then again, I wouldn’t have brought six artworks to Syracuse today had I known all this.
You know how some people can fall down the Wikipedia rabbit hole? My rabbit hole is YouTube. I start pulling videos for K-Chuck Radio and next thing I know, I’m watching a documentary on electronic tabletop football. Yeah.
I’m driving by Hamilton College, my alma mater, right now. Dear is thy homestead, glade and glen… okay, enough of that. I realize that one of my pictures, The Walkway, is among the six that I’m bringing to Syracuse this year. It’s also the first photo from dear old Ham Tech that I’ve ever entered into competition.
This photo was taken with my first “gifted camera,” a Rolleiflex Automat MX that was donated by my good friend Teri Conroy. I’ll probably see Teri when she brings her Wunsapana Farm llamas to the Big E this year. As for “gifted cameras,” I’ve received two more in the past year – a beautiful Leica M3 and a sturdy Argus C3, both rangefinders. Next year, I believe that those cameras will produce images that will be competition-season worthy.
It’s a beautiful day today. Beautiful days are good things. They’re rare and precious, and they disappear before you’re finished enjoying them.
Time to keep driving. I’m almost at Syracuse now. Turning Stone Casino is just ahead. No. Not stopping. At least not this time. Maybe on the way home to give me a “driving break.” That, and I have to decide if I really want to make a charitable donation to the Oneida Indian Nation or not. Maybe I’ll just enjoy the wonderful world of Sav-On gasoline.
In about a week or so, the local Hess gasoline stations will convert to Speedway gas stations. What does that mean? Most likely… no more Hess toy trucks in our area. Serious bummer.
For the first time in what feels like forever, I’ve actually skipped watching a Marvel movie on opening night. Yep, I didn’t go out to watch the new Fantastic Four movie. And that’s odd for me, because I love the Fantastic Four. How times have changed.
All right, listen. I’m going to keep driving. But I want everybody to have a good day today, get some sunshine and enjoy the beautiful summer.
The 2015 Tournament, the million-dollar winner-takes-all hoops matchup in which 97 basketball teams will compete in a single-elimination matchup, is now underway. The first games were played yesterday, and I’m not going to bore you with scores at the moment.
What I am going to do, though, is go through all the rosters of the 97 different squads, and see if I can find some Albany Patroons in this here tournament.
And lo and behold, I did find some. And some of them are on teams that could go all the way to the finals. So where are the gold and kelly green alumni in this tournament?
See how many of these names you remember.
Gabe Freeman (6’6″ forward, Costa Mesa JC) on Team Mill Rats. Gabe played for the Patroons in the 2008-09 aborted season, the final season for the Continental Basketball Association. In 15 games, he averaged 14.3 points and 9.7 rebounds, as the Pats reached the Continental Basketball Championship round for the fourth and final time in team history.
Jamario Moon (6’8″ forward, Meridian CC) on Team Trained to Go. Wait, wasn’t he also supposed to be on Team Mill Rats? Yeah, he WAS… but apparently he got an offer to play on team that represents closer to his home. At least he’s in the tournament. And they won their first game of the tournament on Friday morning, a 94-84 triumph over team AEBL.
Rashaad Powell (6’5″ shooting guard, Idaho) on Team Seattle Pro Am. Powell played in the 2007-08 Patroons season, that was the year Vincent Askew proved that he had no business ever coaching a professional sports team. Powell was one of the few shining stars for the Patroons that year, averaging 11 points in 26 games. Unfortunately for Powell, Seattle Pro Am was eliminated in the first round of The Tournament. Bummer.
Okay, so we’ve found some Patroons. Now let’s see if there are any alumni from Siena College in the game. And yes, there are. Three of them, in fact, and they all play for Team Liberty Ballers out of Philadelphia.
Ronald Moore (6’0″ point guard) played for Siena from 2006 to 2010. His overseas professional career included winning the Hungarian Cup championship in 2013.
Kenny Hasbrouck (6’3″ guard) played for Siena from 2005 to 2009. He became the first Siena grad to participate in an NBA game, and he currently averages 20 points per game (and an All-Star appearance) for a team in Italy.
Ryan Rossiter (6’9″ power forward) played at Siena from 2007 to 2011. Rossiter did spend some time in the D-League, and currently plays in Japan.
So at least you know that there’s some Capital District representation in The Tournament.
For more information on the teams, the rosters, and the scores, visit The Tournament at this link. And while you’re there, you can watch live streaming of all games, so you can root for your favorite teams from the comfort of your home computer or tablet.
And if you want to dust off that Patroons pennant or that Siena game worn jersey… that’s fine as well.