I know that this is a blog about the game of baseball. And while today is the start of another exciting season for many Major League teams, it is also the 20th anniversary of a very sad day in Philadelphia. The day that one of it sons lost his life way too early.
I had never met Hank Gathers, only heard the stories about how this young man, along with buddy Bo Kimble, had torn up the Philly Public League at Muriel Dobbins Tech. And then how they migrated west to suburban Los Angeles with another former Philly guy Paul Westhead to create a style of basketball that will never be duplicated.
The point totals were staggering… 145, 126, 152, 122, 144, 131, 150, 157. They went on and on… all season long. Led by those Philly pals, LMU even came back to Philly that year to beat some of their former former high school foes in wins over St. Joseph’s and La Salle.
Gathers, who led the nation in scoring the year prior, had missed a couple of games earlier in the season due to a fainting spell from an irregular heartbeat, but had been cleared to play and was getting back into the groove when he collapsed after a dunk in the 2nd Round of West Coast Conference tournament.
The best efforts of trainers and doctors couldn’t save Gathers life. And while the rest of the conference tournament was not played, the Lions went on to play in the NCAA Tournament. They beat New Mexico State, scoring 111 points, followed by a win over defending champion Michigan, scoring 149 points. A slow-down by Alabama came up short, 62-60, before UNLV beat the Lions, 131-101.
Many people remember Kimble shooting free throws left-handed in honor of his friend. It was his little bit that he could do at the time.
Now Kimble runs the Fourty-Four For Life Foundation, designed to spread awareness about heart disease.
I never met Hank Gathers, but I wished that I had. Many friends of Hank’s have spoken so highly on him on Facebook today.