Emails in on Wayman Tisdale
Ed wrote about my claim that Tisdale was the most impactful athlete in state history: “I’m not sure I agree with you that Tisdale and Kurland had the greatest impact of players on any sport in Oklahoma, though I’m not certain at this point that those were your exact parameters. I thought about it for a couple of days, and here’s what, or whom, I came up with to challenge. Billy Vessels. Yes, one player can make more difference on a basketball team than on a football team. But football remains more important in Oklahoma than basketball is. Maybe it always was. But football really took off in Bud’s day, and Billy had a lot to do with it. He played on our first national championship team, 1950. He won our first Heisman. He wowed the nation on TV, even in defeat against Notre Dame. Football became really entrenched as numero uno in state. OU started winning national titles. And OU players started winning Heismans. OU had not been a powerhouse often before Vessels, but it has been more often than not since he played. I write not against Tisdale and Kurland, but on behalf of Vessels, admittedly my favorite Sooner football player.”
I’ll stick with Kurland and Tisdale, but I’ll grant you this. The television factor is worth considering. Vessels was OU’s first TV football star, and that packs a punch.
Jason wrote about Wayman Tisdale: “I read your piece on athletes of impact in the state of Oklahoma and looked through the photos of Wayman that were on the website and was reminded of how he changed my view of Oklahoma basketball. I loved Oklahoma football and watched or listed to every game I could. But when it came to basketball, I loved the Lakers and paid little attention to the Sooners hoops team. That is until Wayman showed up. Soon my interest in pro basketball began to wane and my love for college basketball grew. Also, as a young Christian kid, I was always looking for athletes who let their faith shine in a positive manner.”
Wayman Tisdale made basketball a big deal at OU. Pure and simple.
Roger also wrote about the athlete-impact question: “The discussion most interesting to me concerned Mickey Mantle. Mickey’s success with the Yankees no doubt attracted many Oklahoma athletes to the idea of playing professional baseball – but I don’t think Mantle induced many baseball players to come to Oklahoma. In fact, outside the state of Oklahoma, I suspect that most baseball fans are no aware that Mantle was from Oklahoma. Certainly not many consider that fact important. Growing up in the late 1940s (in the city of Chicago), I was very aware that Joe DiMaggio was from San Francisco, but there was much less said about Mantle’s home state – or Ted Williams (San Diego). My best friend was a Yankee fan and Mantle was his favorite player, but I don’t think we ever discussed Mantle’s home state. Everyone knew Ty Cobb was from Georgia (the Georgia Peach) and that Babe Ruth was from Baltimore. I know Luke Appling was from Georgia. Certainly if Mantle had played for a Major League team in Oklahoma we would all be more aware of his Oklahoma roots.”
Well, first off, of course Mantle didn’t attract baseball players to Oklahoma, and that was never the issue. The issue was impact of an athlete on the state, and my point was that Mantle made a bunch of Oklahomans Yankee fans. I think that’s without question true. The Yanks had a big presence here before Mantle, because they’re the Yanks. As for where Mantle grew up, I can’t claim to know what the rest of America knew in the 1950s. But I know that New Yorkers’ image of Mantle was closely linked to his Oklahoma roots; it was part of the romantic notion of the Mick.
Jeff also wrote about Tisdale: “Great coverage on Wayman. His passing was, of course, tremendously sad and shocking. As you have artfully and accurately stated, Wayman was one of a kind. What a great ambassador and example for all of us. In December 1982, my family went to the Rainbow Classic. OU, North Carolina, Missouri, Arizona State, Virginia Tech were all entered. North Carolina beat Missouri in the finals and OU won the consolation after losing to North Carolina (a good game, by the way) in the semis. After the finals, the all-tournament team was announced. G-Jon Sundvold, G-Byron Scott, F-Michael Jordan, F-Sam Perkins, C- Steve Stipanovich. Quite an all-star team but no Wayman, no Dell Curry and no Brad Daugherty. However, the last award was for Most Outstanding Player. ‘Wayman Tisdale, freshman of Oklahoma!’ We were all thrilled.”
To quote Genesis, there were giants in the land in those days.
Steve: “Good job on the coverage on Mr. Tisdale’s passing. Very touching. To me he seemed like a great, great guy. And God blessed him with other talents as well. Out of the spotlight, was he pretty much the same kind of guy?”
Yes, Tisdale seemed to be, though that’s the thing. He so rarely was out of the spotlight.
Roadrunner wrote that my column about Tisdale’s impact was “on target. I graduated OU in 1956. Your analogy about basketball and wrestling was correct. While at OU I went to all wrestling matches. It helped that we had a very good team. After graduating and living in OKC, I never attended an OU basketball game, but I would drive to Norman for wrestling matches. That changed when Wayman came to OU. The whole attitude of the crowd changed, including me. If memory serves, OU gave a scholarship to brother William and a job to his father. I guess that is the price of recruiting. Kansas did likewise when it got Danny Manning.”
Well, OU did indeed give William Tisdale a basketball scholarship the year before; William was a good high school player at Tulsa Washington, though probably not Big Eight caliber. But there was no job for the Rev. Louis Tisdale. He was needed elsewhere, pastoring the Friendship Church.
On to other topics. Mike wrote about the Justin Chaisson case: “As you will recall, in 2008 a black high school football player named Josh Jarboe was recruited by Stoops. At the time, Jarboe already had two misdemeanor convictions. One was for receiving stolen property and the other for carrying a gun onto his school campus. Later Jarboe made a vulgar gangsta video of himself talking about guns and shooting people. He put it online at youtube. For this he was kicked off the team. Justin Chaisson is white and was recruited by Stoops in 2009. In contrast to Jarboe, he is guilty of a violent crime. He forced his ex-girlfriend into a car, punched her, assaulted her with a screwdriver and threatened to kill her. As of this moment (May 21, 2009) Chaisson has not been kicked off the team. Is racism a factor?”
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