Next in my series of reports on books for your summer reading pleasure is Heinsohn, Don't You Ever Smile? by Tommy Heinsohn, Doubleday, 1976. I enjoyed this book tremendously as some of the anecdotes that Tommy includes had me laughing out loud as I read it. Tommy and Bill Russell entered the league in the same season and many don't realize that it was Tommy Heinsohn, and not Bill Russell, that was the Rookie of the Year that season, which was their first championship season. Over the next 8 years, the Celtics went on to win another seven championships with Tommy as a big part of the reason for their success.
In this book, Tommy tells it all - the triumph and the glory of the years under Red Auerbach as coach along with the difficulties and frustration of the rebuilding years that followed. There are memorable games, stories, anecdotes, and personal insights on every page as Tommy writes about how the Celtics were rebuilt into a championship team after the Russell years were past. Sometimes the 70's are overlooked between the dynasty of the 60's and the Big 3 of the 80's but they shouldn't be because of players like Havlicek, Cowens, Silas, White, and others and a coach like Tom Heinsohn.
This book is not only informative but also one of the more entertaining books I have read on the Celtics. Tommy has done a masterful job of telling the story of his playing days and his rebuilding effort as a coach. Here is an excerpt from the book that I think you will enjoy. This is a story about Tommy's initial broadcasting experiences. If you think a broadcasting team of Mike and Tommy is a bit biased toward the Celtics, how about a Tommy and Red Auerbach broadcasting team. Now, that is one I wish I could have heard.
"Hey," said Red Auerbach, during the summer of 1966, "we're going to be televising road games this season on Channel 56. Are you interested in doing the play by play?" I gulped. I had never minded going one on one with Chamberlain or Lovellette or Maurice Stokes, but doing play by play made me apprehensive. "I've never done anything like that, Red," I said, skeptically. "Play by play is a tough job." He assured me I could do it and shouldn't worry about it. Once more I was being advised to belt Wilt because it wouldn't hurt Red. He had the strategy all worked out, naturally. "What we'll do is get Marty Glickman and have him break you in," he said. "He'll train you for a few games. He's agreed to do it. Give it a shot." I was shaken but grateful because it was ideal therapy after my unfortunate experience that year with withdrawal pains. Marty broke me in for three or four games. I acquired the feel of the microphone, the pace of the game, the commercials, and the entire mechanics. I borrowed the Celtics' videotape equipment and practiced at home games. Fred Cusick, the sports director of Channel 56 would sit alongside and review my homework after the Boston Garden games. I practiced as often as I could until they finally decided I was ready for Marty to leave me on my own. I had no color man, nothing. I did every commercial, every lead in, and the halftime interviews without a problem, which made me feel great - like the night I scored 47 points in Seattle. Only this time, a star was born in Baltimore. I sweated frequently that first show but I drank enough Cokes to cool me off. That led to the discovery of an occupational hazard of TV announcers. It is called the relief stoop by truck drivers and other patrons of the highways. It is called something more descriptive by ballplayers when they go to the dressing room at half time. Anyway, I discovered that if you drink lots of liquids, and commercials ran about a minute and you were the sole announcer, there was no time left for other things. I was quite uncomfortable for a while until experience provided the answer, as it generally does. "Folks," I would say, "we're going to pause now for station identification." Those turned out to be the longest station breaks in history. They had to keep it going until I ran to the men's room and got back to the mike - and I was never know for my speed even when I wasn't racing with a handicap. It think my only fluff the night of my first solo flight involved the lead in to the Friday night movie: Yankee Doodle Dandy. "Make sure you remain tuned in immediately following the game," I said, for Yenkel Doodle Dendy." Then I said: "Of course, that's a Jewish movie." I was proud of myself. Howard Cosell couldn't have ad libbed like that - and probably wouldn't have. Whenever I made mistakes, I would have more damn fun doing it. I had learned about mistakes, remember? Still, it was a tedious, difficult one man job for an amateur Johnny Most. I kept telling the people at the station that they must send someone with me for at least half time. Help me. I had to as least go to the men's room. Triple spot the commercials because it was way up on the second floor. That's how Boston's version of Huntley and Brinkley or the Frick and Frack of the airways developed. Despite great expense and with little concern for me, they gave me Auerbach as color man. He didn't do all the games, which indicated the people at the station had some compassion after all. The new broadcasting team worked the games in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, primarily. I did others by myself. If Thomas Edison had known his inventive mind might lead to Auerbach and Heinsohn on television, he would have gone into medicine. Red loved peanuts almost as much as Chinese food and was forever eating them during the telecasts. We were working a playoff game in Philadelphia and he dropped the bag on the floor. As Red reached for the peanuts, Chet Walker drove toward the hoop and was leveled by Larry Siegfried. Everyone in the arena and watching television at home had seen the play except Red. He had been involved with a more important matter. Walker was stretched out when Red finally looked to the court. "What's he doing?" he screamed into his mike. "Is he pulling that same old jazz about twenty seconds?" Red was referring to the unlimited automatic timeouts NBA players had been known to take and fake for one reason or another. Each team now is entitled to only one twenty second "injury" time out a half with no questions asked, and some players, such as Bill Russell and Walt Frazier, made a career out of the opportunity to rest. "He's not hurt," Red told the home audience. "He wasn't even in on the play." I'm sure the viewers must have flipped the dials to see what game Red was watching. I knew he had made a mistake because of the peanuts and I had to say something to cover. "Red," I said informatively, "He was driving toward the basket and Siegfried hit him." A normal person wouldn't have touched that with a ten foot pole, but Red was not one to give up that easily. He could take any side of a debate and argue vigorously, and convincingly. He had chosen to say Walker had not been in on the play, and everyone was stuck with that. "He wasn't involved in the play," he said, brusquely. Now he had me on the hook. How do I get out of that one? It had become a battle of wills. A one on one confrontation and I had the ball. Walker was still on the floor, and the great television debate continued. "Siegfried knocked him down," I said, lowering my voice and hoping Red would take the hint. "He was not in the play!" insisted Red, his voice rising. "Okay, Red," I finally said. "Have it your way. He was not in the play, but would you settle for this - he was in the movie?" I'll say this for Red - he had me thinking all the time as to how to escape his situations. He was totally undisciplined and uninhibited. He told it like it was - as long as it favored the Celtics. But it was fun and some times funny.
This is definitely a must read for any Celtics fan, especially if you love Tommy Heinsohn as much as I do or if the 70's are an enigma for you between the 60's and 80's championship teams.