Friday, 08 June 2018 16:06

Robert Bostick: An Upstate New York Basketball Hall of Fame

SARATOGA SPRINGS — In the Friday, May 18, publication of Saratoga TODAY Newspaper, an article called “Four New Hall of Famers” ran, speaking of four local basketball players being inducted to the 2018 class. Excluded was other local, Robert Bostick, a St. Peter’s graduate, now known as Saratoga Central Catholic High School. We at Saratoga TODAY strive to correct any errors on our behalf. Below is Mr. Bostick’s remarks on his Upstate New York Hall of Fame induction.

“Basketball, loving the game was not an option. Mom played during the Depression in local games presented as entertainment and distraction from the harshness of national economic collapse. Her team, one of many in the Schenectady-Troy area played for “pot luck” as payment for their performance. When I was nine, she commandeered a ladder and nailed an apple basket, sans bottom, to the tall elm in our side yard. And, with a newly purchased basketball began her tutorial and my journey with a sport she taught me to respect and love. Brightness from the street light allowed me to practice until bedtime. Mom showed me a variety of shots; her forte, however, was dribbling. By the time I reached junior high, I had been jumping rope about an hour a day, rain or shine. She said, ‘you won’t be 6’5” but you’ll out jump them because you’ll build your legs, thighs and reflexes.’ She was so right.  I took great satisfaction in soaring over taller guys grabbing rebounds and ‘tipping in.’ I continued to jump rope well into my fifties while playing in men’s leagues and pick-up games. We were all delighted when the new St. Peter’s high school and gym was completed.  The new basketball court was a dream come true. One of the first things I did was ask Coach Duval if I could have a key to practice whenever I could.  He laid down the ground rules and for three years after school, weekends, holidays, I’d slip into the gym and work out. It paid off. I led my high school, St. Peter’s Academy, was All-County total career points, average points per game, and rebounds (1955-56 & 1956-57). I received a scholastic/ athletic scholarship from LeMoyne College in Syracuse. Le Moyne didn’t have an indoor basketball court. We practiced and hosted games at Syracuse University and when we could, until it snowed and became freezing cold, practiced on the LeMoyne campus’ outdoor basketball/tennis court.   I led the junior varsity squad in scoring and rebounds, 1957-58. Family issues forced me to drop out after my first semester during the 1958-59 season. As expected, 18 months into a really nice job, Uncle Sam drafted me and invited me to march in the U.S. Army.  I respectfully, declined his kind invitation, preferring instead to fly, and enlisted in the Air Force. There were few opportunities to play basketball during basic training. However, I did locate the indoor court and on weekends played non-stop pick-up games from early morning until late at night, well late for the Air Force, 9 p.m. Once the four-week orientation was completed, evenings were free and I captained the basketball team for our Crypto Communications Flight. It wasn’t league play, but it was organized to the extent that you stayed on the court until you lost a game; whoever scored 21 points first or won by two when tied at 20.  I know we won a lot of games because of the side bets. That lasted from March ‘til the end of May. I was sent to Shepard Air Force base for advanced crypto training. An NCO saw me dunking at an outside court and told me that if I practiced with the Squadron team I’d never get KP. I never busted a spud.  Because I already had my duty assignment, Taiwan, I declined the Base Commander’s offer to stay at Sheppard playing for the base team. As much as I loved basketball, I just couldn’t pass up an overseas assignment where I knew from checking around, I could continue to play basketball.  After a month’s leave in California, I shipped out to Formosa Taiwan and the Shu Linkou Air Station, Taipei. The little air station had a huge gymnasium, brand new, typhoon proof. Basketball court, bleacher seats, weight room, other training equipment, the works.  It became my barracks away from the barracks. By the time the interIsland Inter-service league kicked off in late October, I was ready. Had been named co-captain of the base team with the nickname, Popup, not only because I was a few years older than most of the guys but also because I could dunk with ease. It really stuck after a play I designed during a scrimmage against a much taller Army Communications Squad.  I would go to the foul line or not too far from it without the ball and yell Popup, jump as high as I could and whoever had the ball lobbed it to me while in the air and I’d shoot. It wasn’t an Ali Oop because I was at or just beyond the foul line. It worked most of the time, particularly when the game was close. That moniker was given to me by a 5’9” guard from Tennessee, named Willie Morton who was a Marques Haynes clone because of his dribbling and playmaking. My first season, 1961-1962, I often played center at 6’0”. I played forward in 1962-1963 Was named MVP 1961-1962 and 1962-1963 for the Intra/InterIsland Championships. A sports reporter for the Stars and Stripes said to me, ‘You had a great game Bob, you hardly ever miss.’  I said, ‘Well that’s not the object of the game.’ While there is no doubt that my love for the game stems from my Mom, I had the one thing that all MVP’s must have … An abundance of desire.  Without it, you can be good, you can enjoy the game, but you can’t be the MVP.”

Congratulations on your induction, Mr. Bostick.

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