Tuesday, April 19, 2005

"You got to love it, baby"

I was talking to Lisa B. of High Touch Megastore and she indicated that she has heard that Hot Rod will not be retiring completely, but will continue to calling the radio games for the Jazz. That is some how fitting, since that is how I best remember Hot Rod as a kid since the Jazz were not on TV much in those days. They were a new team, didn't have a very wealthy owner, and were losing constantly. They couldn't even swing a constant local TV gig. (Does any one but me remember when they tried a few seasons playing some games in Las Vegas trying not to die as a franchise?) Now, of course, they have their own TV station and you can pretty much see all the games there.

I recall those games on the farm by the radio while I did my homework looking out my window to moon lit fields when Dantley scored his umpteenth point weedling his way inside the paint with his snake-like move, or the Golden Griff actually hit a three pointer, or Frank Layden got thrown out of the game. It was all narrated by a much more firey Hot Rod: a man who would regularly yell at referees as they passed and say things like "NBA officiating at its finest!" Or would show his disgust with everything (including the Jazz) at the end of the game by "slamming the refigerator door" on them. His play-by-play could make you see the basketball as it rimmed in or out of the basket. His passion was evident in his then solo commentary.

All that calmed down, of course, when the Jazz started winning and Hundley's personal life got him into trouble one too many times. He calmed down markedly, and even stopped bitching about the worst of the refs towards the end. Only once in the past 10 years have I seen a glimpse of the snide Hot Rod of the 80s. Once while bantering with his sidekick Booner, he actually went on a mini-slamfest of a player on the oposing team who'd never lived to his potential. The most redolent line was "And that caps off the waning of a mediocre carreer."

So yeah, I will miss Hot Rod, even though he has been sanitized these days. He is still funny and interesting to listen to, even if he doesn't bait the other team or the refs as much.

And so here are some Hot Rod annecdotes, even though he will be around for, I should hope, a long time:

1) While on the radio after an outage that knocked out power for Northern Utah for nearly 24 hours he said "I was stuck on the escalator in Cross Roads Mall for 5 hours!"
2) According to the Little Brown Book of Annecdotes edited by Clifton Fadiman
Rod Hundley and Bob Leondard were notorious for their off-court activities when they were teammates on the Minneapolis Lakers. Having missed a team plane flight after a night out, they were summoned to the offices of team owner Bob Short. Hundley was called in first. After observing that they had been warned for their misbehavior many times, Short told Hundley that he was being fined $1,000. (Hundley noted he was making $10,000 a season at the time; so a player earing the $500,000 usual today would have to be fined $50,000 to match that fine. Relative to earnings, Hundley's fine was the largest ever5.)

When Hundley left Short's office to call Leonard in, he found him worrying over how much money he could afford to pay without his wife finding out. "How much?" he asked anxiously.
"A big one, baby, a big bill," replied Hundley.
"A hundred dollars?" ask Leonard.
"A hundred, hell. A thousand," Hundley told him. Tears came to Leonard's eyes. "It's a record," said Hundley consolingly.
Leonard brightened. "Let's go out and celebrate," he said. (293-294)
3) And again,
Hundley roomed for a while with Elgin Baylor, one of the greatest scorers in the history of the National Basket Ball Association. One night in New York..., Baylor set a league record by scoring seventy-one points in one game. That night Hundley scored two points. As they got into the taxi for a ride back to their hotel, he put an arm around Elgin and noted triumphantly, "What a night we had, buddy! Seventy-three points between us." (294)
4) And finally
Hundley picked up a lady at a bar and as they talked he realized that she was a prostitute. "How much do you get?" he asked.
"Twenty-five bucks," she replied.
"Too rich for my blood," said Hundley.
"How much do you get?" asked the woman, laughing.
"Twenty-five cents," he said.
"You're on," the woman replied.
After they had spent the night in a hotel bedroom, he awoke to find her gone. On the dresser she had left a shiny new quarter. ("I save it as a souvenir for years," said Hundley.) (294)

(Work Cited, Fadiman, Clifton, editor. The Little Brown Book of Annecdotes. New York: Little Brown, 1984.)


  1. This is a nice piece.

  2. Anonymous8:46 PM

    "With a gentle push and a mild arc, the cowhide globe hits home!"

    Damn, Clint, this is the first I've heard of Hot Rod's retirement. This is a passing of an era.