Barry Warner: The back story of how the Game of the Century between UH and UCLA was born

UH beat UCLA in the Game of the Century. Wikipedia

After sending scores of black high school hoops players out of Texas in the 1950s and mid-60s due to segregation, things changed for University of Houston basketball coach Guy V. Lewis.  Along with longtime athletic director Harry Fouke, Lewis took a bold step forward.  It was time to open the doors to non-white players.  There was one name that stood out: Don Chaney, a highly publicized guard from Baton Rouge, Louisiana

"One of my main desires was to get out of Louisiana,” Chaney recalled. “I’d never been out of state.”

Chaney, who earned Parade Magazine and Scholastic Magazine All-American honors at McKinley, didn’t go too far away. He chose the University of Houston. So, too, did future NBA Hall of fame legend Elvin Hayes of Rayville.

“It was a very difficult transition for a lot of reasons,” Chaney said. “I had never been around white people before.”

The recruiting of Hayes was totally different.  After scoring 44 points in the state segregated championship game won by Rayville, the Big E got two lines in the paper; the white title game got a full page.  He was recruited by Wisconsin, where his sister was finishing up on her Master’s Degree. The only other schools were from the SWAC, all black universities in the Deep South.  Texas Southern was located a mile from the UH campus.  Their hoops coach, Dave Whitney, called Guy V. and offered to take him to lunch.  Lewis was ready to talk strategy, x’s and o’s when the TSU coach told him of his problem. There was this amazing talent in Rayville, La. named Elvin Hayes.  In those days you played four years -- no one and dones of today’s era. Whitney simply did not want Hayes to attend Grambling and play for Coach Fred Hobdy against TSU for eight games during four years.

On the eve of the National Signing date set by the NCAA, Lewis and longtime assistant Harvey Pate drove to Louisiana. The mission of Tate’s was in Baton Rouge to get Chaney’s letter signed for UH, while Lewis headed to Rayville to take care of Hayes. But there was a big problem, solved in part by a Jewish kid from the east coast recruited by Lewis like a star player.

Howie Lorch was the student manager who came to Texas from Schenectady, NY. His best friend growing up was a three-sport athlete, Pat Riley, a friendship that remains seven decades later.

When the two Louisiana recruits came to Houston for their visit, Lorch was their host. Having his own car was a huge plus.

Lewis knew he could not lose Hayes, a diamond in the rough, once-in-a-lifetime recruit.

The housing issue was a deal breaker. Hayes was extremely introverted and shy off the court.  But he and Chaney were totally at ease during their visit to the campus, especially with Lorch as their host and driver.  There was a big problem in the Hayes home the night before signing date. Elvin was brooding in a separate room over housing at the dorm.  He had one person he wanted as a roommate.

What was the coach going to do to solve the problem?

“If I don’t get to room with (Lorch), coach, I’m not coming to Houston.” Hayes said at the time. The Big E was in another room when Lewis called his student manager and said, “Howie we have a problem.  Elvin wants to room with you or he’s not coming.”  Lorch replied, “Let me speak with him.  Elvin came to the room to hear the cheerful voice of the New Yorker. “I look forward to being your roommate in the fall.”

Howie was more than a roomie, helping Elvin come out of his shell, working with him on his public speaking. The Big E was countrified and a big city like Houston was a huge challenge. He arrived with a cardboard suitcase, two pairs of jeans and a pair of sneakers one size too small.  The next day Lorch took him downtown to a store specializing in big men.  For the first time in years, Hayes had shoes with wiggle room in the toes. That was the start of a friendship that still exists today. Lorch is now one of the top private wealth managers in the nation for Wells Fargo.

The Game of The Century

Life changed for Hayes and basketball fans forever in the Astrodome on Jan. 20, 1968, in what was dubbed "The Game of the Century" between the Cougars and the UCLA Bruins.

UCLA was led by Lew Alcindor (more famously known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), who had a scratch on the cornea of his eye and played the worst game of his college career.

That did not matter to Hayes or the Cougars. "He had something to prove,” Lorch said of Hayes. “Elvin had more pride than any 10 guys put together, and he was on a mission. He wanted people to find out who Elvin Hayes was.

“We ran down the ramp and they had a red carpet all the way out on the field. I still get goosebumps when I think about it. It kind of reminded me how the gladiators must have felt back in Roman times. It was almost like being under a microscope. It was surreal, almost out of the movies. You knew you were surrounded by people.”

Men were dressed in their Sunday best, decked out with hats. It certainly was a different look than today’s casual fans.

In the end, the Cougars pulled the upset, 71–69, ending the Bruins' winning streak. The Big E outscored Jabbar 39-15.

Without question it was the hottest ticket to get in my young career.  Politicians, astronauts, everyone wanted to go.

Thanks to my relationship with both Judge Roy Hofheinz and Jack O’Connell -- who would form the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau -- that was not a problem for me.  My clients and friends were taken care of, all at face value.

Even though it could have been easy money, no way was I going to make money off of my friends and clients.  Life is too short. Being an eyewitness to history was priceless to me.


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Houston loses in San Francisco

Astros drop back-and-forth middle game to Giants to even series

Houston's offense couldn't keep up with the Giants on Saturday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With the impressive win in the opener to start the series, the Astros entered Saturday's middle game against the Giants with an opportunity to not just secure the series but surpass San Francisco for the best record in the league. They'd have to wait to take that crown, as the Giants would out-slug the Astros to even the series.

Final Score: Giants 8, Astros 6

Astros' Record: 64-41, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jay Jackson (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-3)

Teams trade blows early, Giants chase Greinke out early

The teams traded blows early in this one, with the Giants tagging Zack Greinke with six runs, all on homers. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the second to start the scoring before hitting one in each inning through the fourth: two-run blasts in the third and fourth, then a go-ahead solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, putting them ahead 6-5 at the time. Greinke would face one more batter, allowing a single to end his lackluster day: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4 HR, 93 P.

Houston's offense kept things close to try and keep Greinke in a position to win, going up 3-1 in the third on a two-run Aledmys Diaz homer and another coming in on an error. After San Francisco scored four unanswered to make it 5-3, Diaz homered again in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to one run before Yuli Gurriel would tie it with an RBI double.

Astros stay in it, but Giants even the series by winning the slug-fest

With Greinke exiting with no outs in the fifth, Houston handed the ball to Phil Maton, acquired in the recent Myles Straw trade, to make his debut for his new team. He worked himself into a jam, allowing a single and hitting a batter to load the bases with one out, but was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to strike out the side and strand all three runners, keeping it a one-run game.

That proved pivotal in the top of the sixth, as with two outs, Martin Maldonado would launch a game-tying solo homer, making it 6-6. Blake Taylor took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the inning but would face just three batters, getting two outs while leaving one on as Dusty Baker moved on to Cristian Javier. Javier would watch the Giants retake the lead, getting back-to-back singles to bring in a run and make it 7-6.

Javier stayed in the game in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff single but erasing it by striking out the next three batters. Still a 7-6 game in the bottom of the eighth, Yimi Garcia made his Astros debut but did not keep the score there, allowing a leadoff solo homer to make it a two-run game. The 8-6 score would go final as Houston's offense came up empty again in the top of the ninth, setting up a rubber game in the finale.

Up Next: The series finale will get underway at 3:05 PM Central on Sunday in San Francisco. Luis Garcia (7-5, 3.19 ERA) will take the mound for Houston, going opposite Logan Webb (4-3, 3.36 ERA) for the Giants.

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