(He could shoot the basketball onetwothreefourfive….
….and how do you like your browneyed boy now, Mr Death).
Only now am I remembering and beginning to understand the words of the poet, eecummings, which I read so long ago.
Jack Twyman was 78, I thought he was older.
I am old enough to remember him in short shorts in black & white.
He played for the Rochester Royals of the NBA in its early days.
One day in March, 1958 his teammate, Maurice Stokes, in reaching for the ball, went over the head of one the Minneapolis Lakers.
He landed on his head, finished the game and days later went into a coma.
He never truly recovered.
His brain was damaged.
Jack Twyman took care of him.
Not like a teammate, but rather like a brother.
In fact, Jack Twyman defined, or rather redefined just what brotherhood ought to be.
The NBA in those days was its own Club of Men.
There was the Boston Celtics’ Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman.
There was the NY Knicks’ Carl Braun and Sweetwater Clifton
There was the Fort Wayne Pistons’ George Yardley
There was the St Louis Hawks’ Bob Petit and Cliff Hagan
There was the Syracuse Nationals Dolph Schayes and Al Bianchi
There was the Minneapolis Lakers’ George Mikan and Slater Martin
There was the Philadelphia Warriors’ Paul Arizin and Tom Gola
And of course, Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes of the Rochester Royals.
They and others were the basketball heroes of my childhood.
But what defined Brotherhood and separated it so distinctly and permanently from a simple Club of Men was the ethic and the actions of Jack Twyman.
He cared for Maurice Stokes in every way he could until he passed away in 1970.
By which time Maurice was finally , finally, able to communicate to his “brother Jack” by typing the words, ” Dear Jack, how can I ever thank you.”
When I was a senior in college, one of my roommates, Don Paige from Detroit, told me, “Friendship is finding 6 men to carry your coffin.”
Funny isn’t it, what you remember of your four years in college.
The more time I spend with the FJMC, the more I discover and am reinforced by the reality, for me in any case, that Brotherhood has increasingly less to do with Jewish Men in Jewish Life.
Rather it has to do with finding those elusive 6 men and forging strong and unbreakable bonds with them.
And if the day ever comes when I will need a Jack Twyman in my life, then I will know who to call and who will come.
And the reverse will also be true.