Summer Reading: High Above Courtside

Next in my Summer Reading series is High Above Courtside:  The Lost Memoirs of Johnny Most by Mike Carey with Jamie Most, Sports Publishing LLC; 2003.  If you think Tommy Heinsohn is the biggest Celtics homer, you never listened to Johnny Most. Every opposing player was the enemy and every Celtic was a saint. This book is a tribute and a memoir of one of the great figures in Celtics history.   A legendary NBA pioneer and one of the game's most intriguing characters, Johnny Most was the Celtics' play by play radio broadcaster for all of their first 16 championships and 37 years overall.  His autobiography is the ultimate insider's in depth look at the personalities of the players and coaches who were a part of all of those championship teams.

You'll find some fascinating and little known facts about Johnny including the fact that he was a World War II hero, he spent several frustrating years pounding the pavement in search of work before landing bit parts on soap operas.  He served as a quiz sho stand in and accepted one line roles in the United Nations "FM Playhouse" and then served as an assistant  program director for tiny Oil City, Pennsylvania's only radio station, where he was the DJ, newscaster, and sports reporter.  He was also fired from that job for slugging the station's owner.

Johnny Most was certainly a colorful character and as one referee said, "Johnny could cause a riot at a High Mass" with his emotional, pro-Celtic descriptions.  He turned shoving matches into "bloodbaths" and minor fouls into "vicious muggings."

In the words of Celtics GM, Danny Ainge, "The Celtics had thirteen guys on the active roster - twelve wore uniforms and the thirteenth - Johnny Most - was high above courtside." 

Here is an excerpt from the book that gives an inside look at the personalities and interactions behind the scenes..   
     Red picked on Heinsohn because he knew Tommy could shrug it off.  He also knew that no one else on the team wanted to be picked on the way Tommy was scolded.  By yelling at one guy, Red succeeded in getting every member of the team to do his job with a minimum of errors.  Using Tommy as a scapegoat was perfect motivation - even if Tommy didn't quite grasp the reason that he was always Red's target.
     Tommy usually took his frustration out on Frank Ramsey, who was the team's "little old lady," sort of a tattletale.  For example, Tommy nearly always hitched a ride to practice with Cousy, because they both lived in Worcester.  Cousy was the type of guy who arrived barely five or 10 minutes before practice.  Because Bob didn't tape his ankles, he'd be ready to go when Red blew his whistle.  Heinsohn, however, always had his ankle taped, usually causing him to be a few minutes late for the start of practice.  Whenever this happened, Ramsey would immediately run to Red and demand that Tommy be fined for his tardiness.  "He's three minutes late,"  Ramsey would whine to Red.  "That's 50 cents a minute.  He owes $1.50.  Make him pay, Red.  Rules are rules."
     None of the other players cared about the fines, but Ramsey would whine and pout until Red agreed to enforce the $1.50 penalties.  Tommy paid the fine, but he always found a way to get even with Frank.  He'd patiently wait for a chance at revenge.  Sometimes Tommy would let a week or two go by before getting even. 
     Ramsey had a routine where he'd stay15 or 20 minutes after practice to work on his free throw shooting.  While Frank was tuning up his game, Heinsohn would walk into the locker room and grab a pair of small scissors.  Then he'd go over to Ramsey's locker and snip off all but one or two thread  threads from Frank's shirt buttons.  He also cut through all but a sixteenth of an inch of Ramsey's shoelaces.  When Ramsey would enter the locker room, Tommy would casually head to the showers.  Ramsey would shower a minute later and then start to get dressed.  Shortly afterward, with Tommy sneaking a peak, Ramsey would be muttering to himself.
     As Frank put on his shirt, one button after another would snap off.  Then he would attempt to tie his shoes, only to get angry as the laces ripped apart as he was tying the knots.  "Anyone have a shirt I can borrow?" he'd ask.  Of course, none of the players were about to lend Frank a decent shirt and spoil the joke.  So Frank would walk out of practice with a wide open shirt that was missing three or four buttons and with a pair of brown shoes that were tied with white sneaker laces.  What was even more comical was that Frank didn't put two and two together and figure out that Heinsohn had tampered with his wardrobe.  Instead of blaming Tommy, Frank blamed his own wife for not spotting the frayed threads and worn out shoelaces. 
  I highly recommend this entertaining and informative book to every Celtics' fan.  You won't be able to put it down as you look behind the scenes at one of the most colorful characters in Celtic lore and the team he loved.

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