Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Time Dad turns off the Elgin boiler

This is where my father went shoulder to shoulder with the boiler.

Mel Streeter was a genius in himself. He played at the University of Oregon in the early 1950s, when he was the only black player on his teams. (Imagine that as soon as you see Duck, banging with Black Talent in this weekend’s NCAA Tournament.) After moving to Seattle with my mom, she plays in the powerful, UU League of Seattle favorite, wide- Favored open style, where games were played in front of a crowded crowd and often featured prominently in the pages of the game.

The boiler was a part of that mixture. He suited up for the powerhouse AAU team: Westside Ford.

Now I wish I had asked my father more about his one and only game against Baylor, about that league and about that time. But Dad died 15 years ago. Some of the history of the closer we were, will always be disconnected from me. I don’t know which team he was in when he played against Baylor. I don’t know if it was a big game with high stakes – such as a fight that helps decide who will land in the AAU National Championship.

Thankfully, I remember one well on my father’s face, as he talked about how in a tall, lithe and powerfully forward matchup between a head-to-head, he gave Baylor two first-half points . Oh, and Dad never let any of his four sons forget that while he was holding Baylor, he was illuminating the scoreboard. Before my older brother John knew that I was writing this column, the moment he heard of Baylor’s death, he sent me a text with his recollection of the well-told story of our family: ” Dad scored 11 in the first half! “

But how did the game end?

Whenever he would get behind the story, my dad would always smile and bring me closer, telling me that this short story was not really about him.

As it turns out, being shown angry, Bayer came out in the second half to teach Mel Streeter a lesson. As Dad pointed out, the entire half of the game was essentially a stigma, as Beiler hit the shot to rotate my father, sorting or shooting arrows. Beylor did not just turn the tables: she discovered that she was a different kind of cat. He locked up Dad with a lockdown defense, and tortured Dad for 24 points.

Whenever my father told this story, usually when we shot at the basket, which was in our old garage, he never gave up. His smile widened and his face lit up, as he stared straight at me and spoke of the boiler in awe. “There was nothing I could do,” Dad would say. “That was too much right now.”

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