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Vote for Herb

Sports fans have one more week to vote for Hall of Fame

Posted: November 27, 2012 - 1:07am
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Herb Didrickson during one of his Sheldon Jackson Junior College seasons.
Herb Didrickson during one of his Sheldon Jackson Junior College seasons.

It is the last week of voting for the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2013.

According to ASHF executive director Harlow Robinson the 2013 class will be announced at a press conference on Monday, Dec. 3.

According to long-time southeast basketball historian Gil Truitt there is only one way to vote: go to www.alaskasportshall.org and click on Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, click on vote, find public ballot and put in Herb Didrickson as number one.

“Herb Didrickson is the finest basketball player I have ever seen,” Truitt said. “This includes players I have seen and competed against in high school, the United States Army, City League competition in Southeast, in the collegiate ranks in the “South 48,” as well as AAU competition “Down South.”

The following is an article by Steve Agbaba that ran in the Urban Native News in 1972. Agbaba graduated from Fairbanks High School in 1944 and starred in all sports and is considered to be a “Sports Legend” among old-timers in the interior city. His reputation with Senior Citizens in Southeast was like-wise legendary. He was a super play-by-play broadcaster and takes his place along side Southeast Hall of Famers Vern Metcalfe, John Hope and Terry Pegues.

Herbie Didrickson

I guess if you hang around long enough, someone might think you know what you are doing. That’s just about the way I feel when I write about one of the greatest athletes I have ever seen in the world of sport.

The game of basketball has changed since the time I first became involved with the “Wolverines” of Fairbanks, this was a good town team from the late thirties and early forties. I was lucky enough to be selected “water boy” for the exciting team owned, managed and coached by a guy who is now nearly a legend in the north country of Fairbanks, which by the way, is the place of my birth … the reason I mention the fact that I was “water boy” because it is a phrase that isn’t used anymore because the basketball teams of today are without the service of “little boys who push carts containing towels, lemons, salt, oranges, and of course, water”, so the point of reference is made to let the reader know that I have watched the game of basketball and played the sport before the advent of the one-handed push shot, was around many years before the mandatory, or at least preferred jump shot.

I am not one of the ancients in Alaska but I have watched the sport FOR AN AWFUL LONG TIME. Having been born in Fairbanks and spending my lifetime in Alaska, plus the fact that I have spent my adult life behind the microphones doing play by play broadcasts of basketball games (or so it seems).

I have watched basketball players from Ketchikan to Pt. Barrow with all the stops in between, and I have been fortunate enough to be “front row-center aisles” at most of the tournaments held in Alaska, either as a spectator or as a broadcaster.

There have been numerous occasions in the past few years (I’m getting older) to be a guest speaker during the banquet season or when the time comes to “hand out the hardware” during my talk in front of young people or older folk, whether the sport is basketball, baseball or hockey. I always manage to bring in the one story about an Alaskan boy who has provided me with more thrills, more excitement than any athlete I have ever seen on the field of competition (this covers a lot of ground).

My favorite athlete is a soft-spoken, mild mannered Tlingit, who calls Sitka “Home”. He happens to be Herbie Didrickson … When I first started doing basketball games in Juneau … the townspeople used to always say: “Just wait until the Gold Medal Tournament starts, you’ll see some good players come into town” This really didn’t impress me too much because I had spent my lifetime in Fairbanks and had had the opportunity to see a great many young fellows stationed at Ladd Field, kids who had been college stars from some of the finest schools in America. I had to watch all of the games at home and after all, what was there left for me to see?

Well, those Gold Medal tournaments opened by eyes up to a team called “Sitka ANB” when I first heard the name of the team I was so ignorant about their history, I thought the “ANB” was actually A and B and I asked someone what the A stood for and what the B stood for. When my informant told me it stood for Alaska Native Brotherhood I said “I’ll be damned”

I didn’t know anything about the Didrickson family and I never even knew the family played basketball … Then one day I watched “Sitka ANB” take the floor for a Gold Medal basketball game and I stood stupefied, I watched five fellows who were born in Southeast Alaska captivate a gymnasium filled with screaming fans and the like of Herbie Didrickson, Moses “Mighty Mo” Johnson, Roger Lang, Joe Truitt and Buddy Lang showed me more talent assembled on one team than I had seen in my lifetime. Not only were they capable of playing basketball but they had the “x” quality that enables very few teams to hold their followers in nearly a spell-bound trance … they thrilled people and people responded to their ability as I had never seen a rooting section before or since …

America knows about the followers of the FIGHTING IRISH of Notre Dame but Notre Dame just maybe doesn’t know about the Sitka ANB …

Herbie Didrickson stood about five feet eleven inches, but had springs in his legs which enabled him to “clear the boards” with the giants of the game. He had the best hands going … nobody ever dribbled in the key hole like Herbie … He was a non complaining basketball player, who never was ejected from the game and I don’t think he ever had a technical foul called against him in all the time he ever played the game he loved, this certainly speaks well of him as a human being … Herbie never ever made predictions about where the “ANB” might finish in any tournament and he never wrote any stories for the newspapers, there wasn’t any interviews on the radio after the ball games. All Herbie Didrickson ever did was play basketball, and he played it in such a fashion, with as much talent and with a “love” of the game that held me entranced. I could see the “joy” in the game when Herbie performed.

I predict Herbie will go down in history as member of the “ALL TIME ALL STAR ALL NATIVE TEAM. There are other athletes around this state who are highly touted and I am not denying they have accomplished much in the field of sport … BUT,

I’m speaking from my memories and in my opinion, Herbie Didrickson is by far the most exciting athlete I have ever watched in any sport, not just basketball. I could talk all day about this man.

Herbie holds a special place in my heart … Herbie made me appreciate the game of basketball for what it is … basketball has been good for Didrickson and vice versa … he has proven that you don’t have to be a “giant” in sports if you have the competitive spirit. Nobody in any sport showed me as much “class” as a shy, non-complaining, mild mannered Tlingit Indian who could HAVE MADE THE FIRST TEAM ON JUST ABOUT ANY COLLEGE IN THE COUNTRY. But you know something, he’s like most of us, he wouldn’t leave Alaska because he knows, it’s heaven on earth to be a vital part of your birthplace, and by golly, he isn’t only a vital part, Herbie Didrickson is in the history books.

Note: The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame has many worthy nominations. Just as in political navigations, you can’t complain about the voting outcome if you don’t cast a vote. Find an Alaskan worthy of this honor and select him or her.

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