Friday, June 8, 2007

Mayer: Hoag unlucky in ‘52


If Kansas University and Charlie Hoag had been blessed with the medical presence of a Jeff Randall or Oklahoma's Don O'Donohue in 1952, KU well might have won its second straight NCAA basketball title. Charlie was that good, until : we'll get there.

Dr. Randall is one of those orthopedic geniuses who can do what he does so well because of pioneering by O'Donohue. Randall figured in basketball player Brandon Rush's recent knee surgery; progress reports sound good. Hoag should have been so lucky.

In 1950 the Big Seven Conference revealed three of the greatest sophomore football halfbacks ever seen - Hoag of Kansas, Bobby Reynolds of Nebraska and Billy Vessels of Oklahoma. They also could play defense.

The trio tore up the league in '50 and were en route to new glory in '51. Vessels, however, ripped a knee; they said he might never walk right, let alone play for the Sooners. Except OU had Dr. O'Donohue. Don was so proactive they joked that if a Sooner hurt a knee in a workout, O'Donohue would be probing to find the trouble before they could get the practice pants off the kid.

Vessels spent much of his junior season in a cast after repairs by the O'Donohue team. Not too bad a job. All Billy did in '52 was win the Heisman Trophy. Things were going great for Hoag, too; he and Vessels had been picked All-American by Collier's Magazine and other outlets. But that was before the Nov. 1 trip to Kansas State. Charlie was routinely shoved out bounds by K-State's Veryl Switzer, stepped on a storm drain and, whorp! - heard something snap.

Sports medicine was pretty primitive then. Local doctors did all they could to get Hoag back into action, but nobody thought of sending Charlie to Norman to see what Don O'Donohue could do. One of the saddest KU sports scenes I recall was the brilliant Charlie limping off after he gave it one final try in the finale at Missouri.

Oh, yeah, the '53 basketball season? Mongoose-quick Hoag was also a track discus letterman and at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds a key man on the '51 and '52 basketball teams. He was one of KU's seven Olympic champions that summer, and people came home from Helsinki raving about how good he'd be for the Jayhawks.

Then football drydocked this true gridiron great. Yet KU with Dean and Allen Kelley, B.H. Born, Hal Patterson and Gil Reich reached the NCAA court finals and fell to Indiana 69-68 in a game where Charlie Hoag's quickness and worldwide experience would have made the difference. KU also might have averted most of its other five losses if Charlie Hoag had been sent to O'Donohue, or if there had been a team physician with the expertise of Jeff Randall.

I hope KU athletes such as Brandon Rush appreciate what a phenomenal sports-medicine operation is orchestrated by Dr. Larry Magee with talent such as Jeff Randall at hand. I know Wayne Simien does. And you can't note the 2007 KU health program without paying tribute to a couple of former Lawrence High and KU football stars who got it started - the late John Wertzberger and "little brother" Ken.

I remember trainer Dean Nesmith thought he'd died and gone to heaven when they bought him a second whirlpool bath. What they've got up there now is better than the hospital layouts in a lot of smaller towns.

But, oh, how I wish we could have done a version of "Clap hands and here comes Charlie!" in '52-53. Look it up, yuppies.


pepper_bar 13 years, 5 months ago

Why does Mayer keep writing these stream-of-consciousness essays vaguely themed around Brandon Rush's knee?

ryanjasondesch 13 years, 5 months ago

In the past I would have stopped reading at 1952. Now I stop at Mayer.

JayhawkPhil 13 years, 5 months ago

When is the Journal World going to get rid of this guy?

quigley 13 years, 5 months ago

What's with the yuppie attack at the end?? He has finally lost it.

dbegert 13 years, 5 months ago

I like how he references Collier's Magazine. I've only heard of that magazine once before: in an episode of The Simpsons when Mr Burns mistakes Homer for one of the magazine's writers. The joke was to show how old, out-of-touch and dated Mr Burns is.

Christopher Johnson 13 years, 5 months ago

seriously, what is this jerk's problem with brandon rush? He obviously doesn't hate all KU players . . . he seems to have some respect for at least Wayne Simien. What did Brandon Rush do to Kansas University or to you to hate such a great guy? Keep writing your crap about 50+ years ago. It's great to have a living historical archive, but it sure bores the crap out of those of us who know nothing of some of your obscure multi-decade old forgotten players. Keep writing your ancient stories and stop hating on current players. If you're going to live in the past, stop playing the "times were so much better back in the days I walked 15 miles uphill both ways" card. Retire senile man.

Kuhawkdave 13 years, 5 months ago

The only reason I read any of Mayer's columns anymore is so that I can see the comments left by others. They are more entertaining than the poor excuses LJW calls articles that come from this ancient know-nothing.

pepper_bar 13 years, 5 months ago

If I were a recruiter trying to steer a kid away from playing ball for KU, I would bring a pile of Mayer columns to bear as examples of local Mr-Burns-style press coverage of the 'Hawks. Sure, every city has its own tempestuous media personalities who don't take the rah-rah route, but LJW sure does its own unique version of providing a soapbox for backward critiques.

JayhawkPhil 13 years, 5 months ago

Mayer keeps talking about those old guys like they were his bosom buddies. My guess is that they didn't like him back then either. I know I didn't like his writing back in the 60's any more than I do now. Writing critical columns is one thing(even necessary sometimes), being a cheap shot artist is another. It is embarrassing when he does it against other teams and unforgivable when he does it to people in our own program. This is not the kind of guy we want associated with Kansas athletics. Come on LJW, boot this guy out to pasture!

Jaydub 13 years, 5 months ago

Did I miss something? Is he calling us Yuppies???

JayhawkPhil 13 years, 5 months ago

On another note-- While I welcome all the Mayer bashing you guys can muster up, I think many of you are a little to hard on Woodling and particularly Keegan. Yes, both have written a few dumb columns but Keegan has written many more insightful ones than I have seen in JW before he came here. Sometimes he gets a little critical but usualy he is on target and sometimes someone needs to point out the "emperor has no clothes". Woodling, on the other isn't particularly insightful but you have to admit he is occassionally entertaining. The JW sports section may not compare with the Topeka Capitol, which I think has the best Sports Section in the midwest--at least from a local sports perspective, but, if you iqnore Mayer, I don't think the overall writing is that bad. It isn't any worse than the 'Good Cop-Bad Cop routine wh have with Ponanski and Whitlock at the KC Star.

Kirk 13 years, 5 months ago

I like reading about our tradition. So what if the old boy's prickly. Everyone sounds the same.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.