Wheelchair Basketball Comes to YU

Reminiscences from Bernard Hoenig (YU ’58)

I graduated from YU in 1958. Actually I was in the class of “55 but left in 1954 to go to law school (at that time New York Law School accepted students after three years of college). I came back in 1957-58 to get my B.A. because I thought that I wanted to teach law. Most Law Schools required their instructors to have an undergraduate degree.

During my initial three years in YU,  I was on the Commentator’s Sport’s staff and ultimately became Sports Editor in 1953/54.  I was a contemporary of Marvin Hershkowitz, Abe Sodden, Elihu Levine, Abbie Gewirtz, Leon Green, Red Blumenreich and other legendary Y.U. ball players. Most of my “On the Sidelines” columns were written about the Macs.

At one time – in fact, only for one game –  I actually “played for YU”  when the annual game against paraplegic veterans was to take place. All of the Macs were ready, willing and able to play but Red Sarachek vetoed it.  He feared that his boys would be hurt while playing in wheel chairs, as was required. At Red Sarachek’s suggestion (no one, including Red, wanted to cancel the game),  the Athletic Department student members (Managers, sports writers) who had previously played ball (I was on B.T.A.’s team in 1947-1951) volunteered to “sit in” for the YU team.   We donned Y.U. uniforms and competed in wheel chairs against those amazing veterans who of course, clobbered us.  I ended up high scorer with 10 points. I think the final score was something like 60 to 17. Red, of course, was right. A number of us were injured – none seriously – when colliding with the other team’s wheelchairs or crashing into the sidelines and being thrown to the floor. All of us came away with huge blisters on our hands from “braking” our chairs but with great admiration and respect for those brave young men (most of whom were combat veterans from WWII or the Korean War). We were all proud to represent YU — It was a rewarding experience.

The real story behind the game was Red’s concern for the welfare of his players but his insistence that, somehow, YU had to be represented; the pride in wearing the YU uniform; the injuries that we shrugged off when interacting with those brave paraplegic vets…

All of the YU players played with heart and great compassion. And, when the game ended,  the veterans lined up and applauded the YU team for their efforts.

That game will never be forgotten by me and my teammates.