Ex-Bullet Buddy, women's superstar Blaze add their haul of fame

February 13, 1994|By Steve Jacobson | Steve Jacobson,Newsday

His championships came in an era preserved by the flattop haircut Buddy Jeannette wears at age 76, when the basketball he watches hardly resembles the basketball he learned. Carol Blazejowski's championship came Wednesday.

On the road from Fond du Lac to Sheboygan there were six of them in a 1928 Pierce Arrow with no lights. "The lights just went out," Jeannette recalled. "Boy, oh boy, lucky we had a big moon."

That was pro basketball.

Blazejowski carries the identification "Blaze" like Magic or Larry. She scored more points in college basketball than anybody but Pete Maravich. Her professional basketball was one season of stardom with little reward.

Blaze and Buddy were named to the Basketball Hall of Fame Tuesday. The road wasn't easy.

"This certainly is the happiest day of my life," she said. "For all those people who thought, 'What's she doing . . . ' " There was no need to complete the sentence. This was as high as it gets.

Also elected were coaches Chuck Daly and Denny Crum, and Cesare Rubini, a household name in Italy as a player and a coach.

Jeannette began when there were laces on the basketball, and often the ball didn't bounce straight. He was around when Hank Luisetti introduced the one-hand shot, and two-hand coaches resisted it. He guarded Bob Davies, who introduced the behind-the-back dribble. Nobody dunked. He'd player-coached the Baltimore Bullets to the championship of what became the NBA before he ever saw a jump shot. Nobody could imagine that man could hang in the air.

He saw the development of the shot clock and coached in the league with the red-white-and-blue basketball.

"I think it's too rough today," he said. I may have missed a look in his eye.

Blaze grew up playing against the boys because they were playing basketball. She grew up flowing against the tide of the girls who thought

whatever it was they thought in suburbia then.

There were few girls in her neighborhood in Cranford, N.J. "If I wanted friends, I had to play basketball," she said. "All day long."

She dealt with the boys' egos she dented.

"Sometimes they'd rough you up more than necessary," she said. Mostly there was no gender involved, because she could play.

"I wasn't as strong and not as tall and couldn't jump as high," she said. "None of them could shoot as well."

Her recognition "legitimized girls playing basketball," she said. "To all of the others: Too bad!"

She is the NBA "director of marketing, non-apparel," which means "Huffy and Spalding." It is her professional basketball; she was the leading scorer in the only season of the Women's Basketball League, but there was no place for it.

If she reveals a trace of resentment, she earned the right. She came before her time. By her count, women's basketball is 20 years old, born when the old six-player half court game was dying with bloomer gym shorts. She played in the first women's Final Four with Montclair State in 1979. She was selected for the 1980 Olympic team that didn't go to Moscow.

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