I just put in my order for a commemorative Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame ring. I’m flooded with a TON of emotions and want to capture this moment.
My college, Wayland Baptist University, was honored with Enshrinement into the Basketball Hall this year. (Note: We were Wayland Baptist College until our name change to Wayland Baptist University in 1981.)
This, from the Wayland Athletic Department (April 6, 2019):
“What has been more than 70 years in the making culminated Saturday morning when the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced its 2019 induction class, including the Wayland Baptist University Flying Queens. The program was inducted on the strength of its history, impact on the game and continued success over a long period of time.”
A little history…. There were NOT a lot of opportunities for young girls, nor women for that matter, when I was growing up. In the late 60’s, young girls who liked sports were called “tomboys” and you might imagine what women who played sports were called.
Well, I was one of those “tomboys.” I liked to watch sports, play sports, and read about sports all the time. It was my “outlet.” There were no female role models for me. I fell in love with Bill Russell, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Mickey Mantle, Johnny Bench, Jean Beliveau, Gordie Howe, Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers.
I played baseball, basketball and street games with all of the neighborhood kids. I begged and begged my parents to let me play on the same baseball teams as my older brothers. After all, I played with them all during the week and why not on the weekends and in tournaments? I just didn’t understand the logic that somehow something changed when they put on a uniform and things were “organized.” I was a very pissed off ten-year old!
My first love was basketball. I had a basketball “Jones” (Cheech And Chong “I have a Basketball Jones.”) I loved the feeling of jumping, flying, floating, dribbling and shooting. I was the only girl with a basketball that I ever saw until I entered junior high school—7th grade. Then finally, I could play basketball! I was in heaven!! I think it was the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) that provided this outlet.
I’m not sure when I started playing softball, but it must have been around the same time and with the same CYO groups. So, it was basketball in the fall and spring and softball in the summer. By the way, all the kids were involved in bowling leagues in the winter in Western New York! 🙂 My first “athletic” trophy was in bowling. We were dead serious about this in WNY! It was the Buffalo Bills and bowling – don’t mess with that.
I started watching Sunday NBA games on TV whenever they were on and I could gain control of the one TV in the house. I cherished the times I could watch the “Big Dipper” (Wilt Chamberlain) vs Bill (Russell). The 1970 Knicks were a dream team too. That roster had the likes of: Dick Barnett, Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere, Walt Frazier, Phil Jackson, Cazzie Russell, Dave Stallwoth, and the amazing Willis Reed. However, for all time, it was The Boston Celtics that were even MORE memorable: Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, Sam Jones, John Havlicek, Jo Jo White, Dave Cowens, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, and Larry Bird.
By the time I got to high school (1966-1970) there were very strange rules put on girls’ basketball by athletic conferences. We played “6 man” basketball. There were 2 kids that always played defense (they stayed on one side of half court), 2 that always played offense (they stayed on the other side of half court) and 2 “rovers,” 2 players who could play both offense and defense. How crazy is THAT?! So, we basically played 4-on-4.
We could only play something like 2 games a week. The (white, male, older) organizers didn’t want us to permanently hurt ourselves, should we want to bear children someday, or something like that. Meanwhile, I was playing 3 – 4 games on Saturday and then maybe again on Sunday in basketball tournaments playing AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) ball.
I really came into my own when my dad asked Mr. Larry O’Connor if I could get a try out for his basketball team, called the North Tonawanda Shamrocks. They were “THE” team to play for in Western New York! The Shamrocks also fielded a softball team. In the summers of 1967 and 1968 I had watched them play and knew they were tremendous athletes. So, when my Dad told me I was going to get a “try out” with the Shamrocks I was beyond crazy happy, nervous, scared, excited, out-of-my-mind ecstatic.
I was given a ride to basketball practice by some of the players whom I had admired in softball. I don’t think I said one word in that car ride. I just ran around like a fool during that practice as I really didn’t know how to play organized, good fundamental basketball. We were done with practice before I knew it and we were heading to the cars. No one was saying anything to me. So, I ran up to Mr. Larry O’Connor and asked if I had made the team. The 6’6” Mr. O’Connor looked down at me and said: “Don’t call me Mr. O’Connor, and just keep coming until I tell you not to come anymore.” Holy moly, I had no idea if I made the team or not, but those were the best words anyone could have said to me.
Well, it turned out that I did make the team, and I played basketball and softball for the Shamrocks, season in and season out from 1968 until (one basketball game in) 1980. I’m proud to be able to say that I played for the Shamrocks in three decades—the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s!
Those early years were amazing developmental years for me, and I made great friends, gained tons of confidence, and learned many, many life lessons. I even learned how to shoot a jump shot that women weren’t learning at the time. Boy, I could jump! I even got invited to play for the country of Japan while playing in a regional tournament in New York City. They wanted me on their national team so that I could teach the “jump” shot.
During my college freshman year, a friend of mine at Erie Community College was training for a spot on the US Olympic Cycling team. I began playing around with a dream. I asked him if the United States had a women’s basketball team. He didn’t know but he gave me the address for someone in the US Olympic movement in New York City. So, I wrote a letter asking for a chance to be on the US Women’s Basketball team. That letter somehow ended up on the desk of one Mr. Harley Redin at Wayland Baptist College in Plainview, Texas.
Mr. Redin wrote me back using the backside of the original letter that I wrote to the person in New York. He said that women’s basketball wasn’t an Olympic sport yet, but they did have a team for the Pan Am games, and that he was the coach of the 1971 team. He suggested that I plan a visit to Wayland Baptist College. So, off I went in January of 1972 to try out for Wayland Baptist Flying Queens. I think this personal initiative demonstrated how many lessons I had learned playing basketball and softball—most importantly to show the confidence in myself.
After the tryout, I wasn’t offered a scholarship but was told to come back and enroll after I graduated from Erie Community College in 1972 and see what would happen.
The Shamrock softball team made it to the National Fastpitch Softball tournament in Tucson, Arizona that summer. My folks drove down to the Tucson tournament with my younger brother and sister and on the way, they dropped off my stuff at Wayland in Plainview, Texas.
I enrolled and started classes and basketball at Wayland during the fall semester of 1972. I came in as a Junior but could have extended my time and playing days because I decided to double major in physical education and psychology.
I had a horrible Junior year. It was tough mentally, emotionally, spiritually, culturally and athletically. In every way possible, it was bad! I was relegated to the “junior varsity” – the Queen Bee’s. How humiliating. I wished I had chosen to go to Wayland’s rival, Immaculata University in Pennsylvania. I was homesick. I called my dad every week. I didn’t understand the West Texas dialect, religion, culture or quiet prejudice against “Yankees.” This was just at the end of September!! I had October, November and December to get through! My dad pleaded with me to just hang in there. Things would change, I would change, this would make me a better person, blah, blah, blah…. I wanted to transfer. I asked my dad to help me, but he said “No, I didn’t raise a quitter.” He always asked us kids to continue with something until a “natural” break in what we were learning happened. For me, this meant at least the end of the Fall semester – NOT the end of September.
I was stuck! I was stuck with Texans. Okay – so, Wayland, the Queen Bees, and Texas it was.
Then things DID start to change. I changed my roommate, I changed my attitude, I changed how I viewed and interacted with Texans. My dad sent me a little book: “Speak Texan in 30 minutes or less.” My Queen Bee friends started helping me out. I decided to throw myself in school. I definitely was going to get a double major AND graduate in 1974.
My college roommate, Amy Dillard, was instrumental in helping me stay and thrive at Wayland. My teammates and classmates were helping too. Wayland was starting to grow on me, and I totally forgot about transferring. I got involved with the college newspaper and a couple of campus organizations. I stayed and graduated from Wayland Baptist College in May of 1974 with a double major and a 4.0 in Psychology.
I feel as if I really grew up in West Texas. I came to love Texas, those crazy talking Texans and my time and life at Wayland. I even started thinking about graduate school at Texas Tech in Lubbock. It looked like my future just might be in Texas. It was during my time at Texas Tech that I got drafted to play professional fastpitch softball. It was the new league that Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, and others were starting. We got to meet them at the inaugural game.
Mr. Bill Breski was one of the founding members of the International Women’s Professional Softball league. He named his team: The Buffalo Breski’s. Yes, I played for that team. Our league was the first women’s professional team sport in the history of the United States. We started our games as the 1976 Montreal Olympics, where the first women’s basketball competition, also happened. https://sites.google.com/site/iwpsoftball/the-teams/buffalo-breskis
It was hard to watch the US Olympic Committee put together the first women’s basketball team that would play in the Olympics in Montreal in 1976. Not ONE player from Wayland Baptist College was on that roster. I believe that Janice Beach (from Oklahoma) and Brenda Moeller (from Iowa) were the top 2 women basketball players in the United States at this time. Both played for the Wayland Flying Queens. I was incensed that these two and other Flying Queens were ignored for the Olympics.
May 28, 1976—the first night of Women’s Professional Softball league play. The game was held in Buffalo, NY with the Buffalo Breski’s playing The Connecticut Falcons. We all autographed one of the softballs and were told that it was going into the Softball Hall of Fame. Here I was, a professional athlete AND going into the Softball Hall of Fame for being part of that historical game. https://sites.google.com/site/iwpsoftball/
Fast forward, 43 years later. I get an email from the Hutcherson Flying Queens Foundation stating that, as a member of the Flying Queens women’s basketball program at Wayland (1948-1982), I am eligible to purchase a commemorative Hall of Fame ring celebrating Wayland’s 2019 Induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. I put on my vintage Wayland Baptist College jersey and began thinking about this opportunity.
Should I get a ring? I felt as if I really didn’t earn it. I never played varsity for the varsity team. I played for Marsha Sharp, the coach of the Queen Bees, who went on to an actual Hall of Fame coaching career at Texas Tech and actually is in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
All of this history and all of these emotions came flooding back. I thought of all of the lessons I learned, all of the friendships I made, and all of the obstacles I’d overcome… because of Wayland. Then, I ordered my commemorative Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Ring AND will wear it proudly, as a member of the Wayland Baptist College Women’s Basketball Family!
Yes, I bought ring and I will wear it . . .
. . . For all of the blood, sweat and tears from playing women team sports in the late 60’s, early 70’s.
. . .For putting up with all of the crazy rules and notions that people had about girls and women in sports.
. . . For all the names I have been called, all the names that all of us had to endure.
. . .For knocking down the doors for all of the girls and women who would come after us.
. . .As a reminder that there still is prejudice and discrimination in the United Sates, and in the world against women, people of color, people who are just different.
I will wear it for ALL of the young girls around the world that now have female athletic role models.
I will wear it for me and for my dad, my family, my teammates, and for all the right reasons.