Dr. Pelham Mead
Chapter 6a new addition Brownie and the Basketball tournament
One day while we were all at the mess tent, Captain Tillen and Sergeant Stanton were bragging how good their 10th Army “C” company basketball team was. Brownie head all this bragging and thought we sailors could get together a team of three, and play 3 on 3 basketball against the Army guys. What the Army guys did not know was that Brownie was the pride of Jersey City, New Jersey and at 6 ft. 3inches tall he could out jump, and out shoot most guys 6ft. 8 inches tall. “You know Sergeant that you Army guys should play us Navy guys in a game of basketball for some big money or food,” Brownie proudly stated. I tried to discourage him since I hadn’t played basketball in years, and Linc was still a little weak with his injured shoulder from shrapnel. But, there was no dissuading Brownie from bragging, and setting up this big basketball tournament. Captain Tillen put down $100 bucks for the winner of the tournament of best 2 out of 3 games of 21 points. Brownie accepted, and Linc, and I reluctantly agreed to play.
The next day Brownie had us training to play basketball. We drilled and drilled for hours until we could not walk. Brownie would cover their tallest player and Linc and I would take coverage for the other two players. I heard from one of the Army guys that their three guys played for the pros when they were civilians. That worried us, but did not stop us. I must have shot 500 foul shots and turnaround jumper shots from the foul line that day and the next day. Linc was good at layup shots from either side of the basket and Brownie was a great set shot shooter from anywhere on the court. Each night we would jog around the Army campground to improve our cardiovascular performance since we were always winded when we played basketball for a hard five or ten minutes.
That weekend Brownie told Sergeant Stanton that we were ready to play on Sunday after lunch mess. Sunday came around fast and we all skipped lunch in an effort to feel lighter and meaner for the games for best of 2 out of 3 games of 21 points each. Each team must win by two points if the game is tied at 21 points each. At 13:00 hours on Sunday we assembled on the dirt basketball court in front of the whole company C division of the 10th Army Division. It was sunny and relatively cool at 70 degrees. Brownie worked on his set shots and I worked on a foul line turnaround jump shot. Linc was making layups look easy. Suddenly, out came the Company C squad of basketball players all of whom were over 6ft. 5 inches tall. We seemed to be overmatched in height right from the start. Rasheed Martin, Bo bo Fox, and Maurice Green were the front three players for the Army. All of these guys had played for semi-pro leagues in New York and New Jersey. Brownie had played against all of them when he was playing semi-pro basketball before the war.
Our chances didn’t look good but we played the tournament anyway. $100 was a lot of money in those days and $100 dollars of credit in food supplies was even better.
Nurse Polly was there with her staff of Army nurses to cheer on the Army team and in Polly’s case Linc himself. I noticed something special between the two of them when I was shooting on the court. Could Polly and Linc have a little thing going on?” I asked myself. “No matter, good for them,” I thought.
The game started off fast with them dunking the ball on almost every shot leading us by 12 points; 19 to 7. They won the first game and we came back in the second gam when Rasheed Martin fell, and bruised his knee and could not return to play. The Army brought in a substitute player for Rasheed who was too injured to continue playing. We out-scored them with set shots and driving layups in the second game. Now in the third game we were tied 18 points to 18 points. Brownie was fouled by Maurice Green given him two shots. Brownie made both shots and were up 20 to 18. A layup by Linc sealed the game for us at 22 to 18. We were so excited that we all danced around the court. Captain Tillen paid up with the $100 dollar bet and we worked a deal with him to allow us to purchase Army surplus food. Even though we all doubted Brownie, it turns out he was a great basketball player and a great leader.