If you have extra time, I highly recommend any of the books on the history of the Celtics franchise, or any of them written by former Celtics on their time with the team. I have been working my way through them and there are some very fascinating stories in them. Things were a lot different in the league way back then. Here are a couple of stories from Heinsohn, Don't You Ever Smile? by Tommy Heinsohn.
Let's begin with a story about Tommy's rookie year and his experiences with training camp:
I hadn't signed my contract yet, so I went to see Walter Brown about an adjustment. Fortunately, Red was back home in Washington, otherwise I probably would have wound up with less money. I explained to Walter that my situation had changed because I was going to replace Macauley, a star in the league. I asked if there was a chance for a bonus in my second year if I did well in my first. (His first contract was for $9,000 a year for 2 years.) He asked how much I was thinking about. I told him in the neighborhood of two thousand dollars. He said fine and wrote it into the contract. I didn't see Auerbach all summer. He was down at Kutsher's in the Catskills, playing poker and tennis. The next time I saw him was at training camp and he said nothing about the raise I had gotten out of Walter Brown, though I had to wait a year for it. Money was not on Red's mind at that time, anyway. He was thinking of torture. Not just for me, but for all the poor souls invited into his horror chamber. Our training camp was at the Boston Arena, where the steps were high and plentiful. You cracked one joke or laughed a little and you would run all the steps. Since I had a sense of humor, I ran the steps more than anyone. Red was supposed to have been in the Navy during World War II, but the Celtics were convinced he had been a Marine drill sergeant at Parris Island. He ran a camp like he was getting us ready to storm Iwo Jima rather than Fort Wayne or Minneapolis. I found out why in my first game against the Knicks. It was in Madison Square Garden. I got into the pivot and cut off Ray Felix; he stuck his knee out, and I had a charley horse in the right leg. In the second quarter, I got into the pivot and cut the other way; he stuck his knee out, and I had a charley horse in the other leg. I had only played a half and I had run out of legs. Auerbach was aware that the rookies in the NBA had to prove they were tough enough to survive. Joe Lapchick had a quaint way of putting it. "They ask you the question in this league," he said, "and if you don't come up with the right answer, you're in trouble. Felix was one of those who asked me the question in my very first season. Ray was a big, awkward fellow but not shy when it came to throwing punches. He and Russell once staged the world's tallest fight in the first game of a double header at Syracuse. I had the rematch with Ray in the second part of a double header in Madison Square Garden. I think I landed a right to Ray's armpit and he missed me with a hook before they broke it up. It was a rougher league when I first came into it. Now they jump over a player under the boards. Vern Mikkelsen of the Lakers and Joe Graboski of Philadelphia, the first schoolboy to play in the league, would go through you. It was all muscle. I remember Auerbach telling me how to play Mikkelsen. "He can't shoot outside," said Red. "He's got a lousy two hand shot. Let him shoo the outside shot and then block him off the boards." A very simple instruction. Mikkelsen got out there, I backed off him five feet, he shot the two hand set and missed it. I turned and stood there to block him off the boards. Meanwhile, he's 230 and coming at me. He didn't go around, he went through my back and came out the front. He shoved me so hard, my sneakers burned. For this test of strength and courage, Auerbach prepared me by insisting I play under 220. I was 235 my last season at Holy Cross, but Red wanted me slimmer for quickness, or it might have been his way to get even with the Germans. There was no doubt in my mind I needed more strength when I had to handle the muscle of an Ed Kalafat, mean down to his name. There was no time to consider maintaining weight in the camp Auerbach ran and ran and ran. He must have had a deal with the guy selling sneakers to the Celtics the way he ran us. We scrimmaged twice a day. We had 2 1/2 hour practices and never stood still. We ran all the time. No water, nothing. The training period then was almost six weeks, so there was plenty of time for Red to enjoy himself. His pet idea for getting us in shape was three on three full court games, losers stay on. That was after the wind sprints, the scrimmages, and running the stairs. He got us so agitated, we had fights among ourselves on the court. Heinsohn, of course, was Red's whipping boy, so I ran until my hair hung - and I always had a crew cut. He made sure I would be out there for at least five games. The fix was in. He would give me two teammates that would guarantee I'd lose. Red was funny that way. He would call all the fouls and settle all the arguments. He would push me until everyone got a pain in the side from laughing at my predicament. He pushed me because he somehow knew that I could be pushed without breaking - too much.
Here's a great story about Tommy and Frank Ramsey and their practical jokes on each other:
He [Frank Ramsey] was meticulous down to the clothes he wore. Everyone came to practice with leisure slacks and shirts. Not Mr Ramsey. He always wore a jacket, button down shirt, and tie, as though ready to go to the bank. That game me the inspiration for a practical joke. Ramsey, you see, was a practical joker himself, and I was his target. It developed into a running thing between us. He was an avid reader, so whenever he put his book down on the plane to visit the watershed, I'd reach over and rip out the last chapter. I don't think he ever found out who got the girl or committed the murder. His idea of a big joke was to scheme with Cousy and Buddy Leroux, the trainer, to get me fined by Auerbach for being late to practice. Cousy, my chauffeur, would grab an extra cup of coffee, and Leroux would tape my ankles slowly just to delay me. Ramsey would stand at the head of the stairs and yell: "Red! Red! He's four minutes late! That's a dollar! Make him pay the dollar, Red!" One day I had a long talk with Frank. I told him I knew what he and the others were doing and suggested he get off me. "What do you mean?" he said, feigning surprise. "You can't walk in late all the time and expect us to wait for you." I advised him not to be my keeper. "I'm going to do what I have to do," he said, carrying it to the ultimate. He was having a great laugh at my expense. So I devised a campaign just for him. I'd fix him for this: "Red! Red! He's four minutes late!" Frank would come into the locker room, remove his jacket, and hang it up. Now, most people wearing a button down shirt wouldn't yank out the tie. Frank was meticulous, remember? He unbuttoned the two buttons first, took off the tie and hung it up, then took off the shirt. He went through the ritual every day. Normal people just didn't do that, but Frank was different. His shoes always were immaculately shined and he would put them down perfectly parallel near his locker. He wasn't the most stylish individual, but everything had to be just right. For three full weeks, four or five practice sessions each week, I waited until he hung up his clothes and left. Then I took a razor blade and cut one of those buttons three quarters of the way through before I went upstairs to practice. Sure enough, Frank would be there chirping: "Red! Red! He's four minutes late!" After working out, Ramsey would take a shower, slip into his pants, put his shoes and socks on and his shirt, work the tie into place, and go to button the buttons, and one would come off in his hand. "I got to get that Jean to fix these buttons," he would say, referring to his wife. The next day I did something else. I cut one of his shoelaces three quarters of the way through. He would put on the shoe, yank the lace, and it would snap. "Oh gee," he'd say while tieing a knot. Then I would go back to the button and he would go through the same routine. For a change of pace, I would take his belt and force the metal prong that fits into the holes through the other side so it didn't work. He'd get dressed and couldn't buckle his belt. ONe day the button, one day the lace, one day the belt. He never suspected a thing for three weeks. Finally one day in the dressing room he came over to me. "Hawk," he said, "are you doing these things to me?" I indicated I didn't know what he was talking about. "Hawk," he said, Let's have a truce." I said: "What do you mean, a truce? I'm not doing anything to you. What kind of truce would you want? Are you doing something to me? Are you bothering me in some way?" I won by default.
Finally, here is another story about Frank Ramsey and his practical jokes on another of his teammates:
Conley was a perfect pigeon for Ramsey. We were on a plane one day going to Cincinnati, and they began serving cocktail sandwiches. Conley was very hungry. He hadn't eaten all day. When he saw the size of the sandwiches he got up and asked the guys if they wanted their sandwiches, and they told him they did. He went back to his seat starved. Ramsey, sitting directly in front of Gene, leaned back and pointed to a woman across the aisle. "That woman over there," he said to Conley, "just asked if I wanted her sandwiches. Apparently she doesn't want them." Conley sat back, reached across the aisle, and plucked the sandwiches off her tray. She turned, and he was just about to thank her when she screamed: "What are you doing? Who do you think you are, taking my sandwiches like that?" That upset Conley, and he admonished Ramsey for embarrassing him that way. Frank apologized and promised never to do it again. We got off the plane and headed through the airport, and Conley couldn't find the men's room. Whom did he ask? Ramsey, of course. Frank pointed at a door. Go through that door there," Conley was told. Gene walked through and wounded up smack in the ladies' room. Ramsey moved to the luggage area laughing so hard, he was crying. He saw Conley coming and started running. They ran outside the building and four times around the quadrangle at the Cincinnati airport before Gene gave up.
This is such a great book and if you are a Tommy Heinsohn fan, or even just a Celtics fan, I highly recommend it. Stay tuned for more great stories from this book.