music friday: the magic tour
double bill: john woo meets jacques demy

before it was roaracle

It's a story likely to interest only sports fans from the Bay Area.

In 1962, Franklin Mieuli bought the NBA Philadelphia Warriors, moved them to the Bay Area, and renamed them the San Francisco Warriors. Most of their home games were played at the Cow Palace (which was actually in Daly City), and then later at Civic Auditorium in SF. The Oakland Coliseum Arena opened in 1966, and the Warriors played more and more of their home games there. By 1971, the Arena was their only and permanent home, and the team was renamed the Golden State Warriors. They won the NBA championship for the 1974-75 season, coached by Al Attles, who was just announced as part of the newest class of members of the Hall of Fame.

Then came the dark years ... they went 9 years without making the playoffs, and then, after a brief resurgence, had another streak of 12 years without a playoff appearance. After that streak was broken (for one year), they proceeded to miss the playoffs for five more years, making a total of one playoff appearance in 18 seasons. At that point, Steph Curry blossomed, first under coach Mark Jackson and then under Steve Kerr, the team's fortunes finally went upwards, and now, the Warriors have won three championships in the last four seasons.

Meanwhile, time passed until the name of their home became the Oracle Arena, naming rights for sports stadiums having become a major way for teams to get additional money. Warrior fans were famously loyal through the bad years, and when they were rewarded with champions, they rose to the occasion, such that the Oracle became known as the Roaracle.

Meanwhile, four years before Mieuli bought the team, baseball's New York Giants moved to San Francisco. Soon afterwards, their new home was built, called Candlestick Park. It went down as one of the worst ballparks in baseball history. The Giants played at that shithole for 40 years, never winning the World Series (they only made it to the Series twice), before moving to their new, beloved park in China Basin, where they eventually won three World Series.

The Warriors have built a new arena, called the Chase Center, to be opened for next season. It's location? San Francisco, next to the Giants ballpark, which this year was renamed to match its new sponsors: Oracle Park.

It's been a long time since it was affordable to attend Warrior games, but there was a period when my wife and I went to quite a few games. In particular, she worked for awhile at a car dealer that had complimentary Warrior tickets for salespeople to offer to prospective buyers. When those tickets went unused, the sales force could take them for themselves. When the tix were still untaken, my wife would sometimes grab them, which is why we spent some time sitting at half court in the lower bowl, enjoying the Warriors. These were not great teams ... this was during that first nine-year streak without a playoff appearance. There were remnants of the old champs ... Al Attles was still coach, Franklin Mieuli was still owner, Clifford Ray was finishing his career as the only remaining player from the championship team. Not a great team, but with some colorful characters ... there was Lloyd Free, who scored lots of points and changed his name legally to World B. Free, and the future Hall-of-Famer Bernard King, who one night, during a loss against the Dr. J-led 76ers that we attended, scored 50 points (to this day, I can close my eyes and see Bernard running down the wing).

But one player stood out above all others for my wife. She was a new fan to the game ... she's never been much for sports on TV, never really got into the day-to-day soap opera of a season, but she found she liked going to Warrior games in person and taking in the excitement of the individual game, if not the season as a whole. The Warriors had the first pick overall in the 1980 draft, and they chose a 7-foot center named Joe Barry Carroll. This coincided with my wife getting those freebie tickets, so we saw a lot of J.B., and perhaps since she was a bit of a rookie just like him, she took him on as her favorite player. His play rewarded her fandom ... he played every game his rookie season, averaging 18.9 points and 9.3 rebounds a game and being named to the first-team All-Rookie squad. His next season was only a slight drop. But Joe Barry was unpopular with the fans. The reasons were complicated ... if you're interested, look up the names Robert Parish and Kevin McHale ... but I always thought part of the problem was that he showed no emotion on his face when he played. Among his many nicknames was "Joe Barely Cares". This would piss my wife off no end ... not his play, which she liked, but the fans' reactions. I still remember one game, it was poster night, and the young fellows sitting in front of us were badmouthing J.B., and she started hitting them atop their heads using her rolled-up poster.

I bring all of this up because tonight will be the final regular-season Warrior game at the Roaracle, so there's a lot of nostalgia going on.

Here's Bernard King back in the day ... he wore #30 with the Warriors, which will be retired some day because the man who wears that number now is Stephen Curry.

And World B. Free, who had a pair of the biggest thighs we'd ever seen:


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