Late UK star deserves to be in hall of fame

Ralph Beard was one of my athletic heroes when I was a youngster. Like so many young boys in the late 1940s shooting two-hand set shots on an alley basketball goal, I often fantasized I was Ralph Beard.

My dad and I listened to many UK basketball games on the radio in those pre-television days. In the sixth grade, I started a sports scrapbook that included articles, pictures and UK game results that specifically featured Beard.

In early March 1949, when I was 11 years old, my dad took me to see the “Fabulous Five” play in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament at the old Jefferson County Armory in Louisville. What a thrill that was!

During the past few years, I wrote two letters to the editor to two different newspapers saying Beard belonged in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Following the publication of both letters, Mr. Beard called me on the phone and expressed his appreciation for my letters. I was on cloud nine talking to one of my boyhood heroes of 60 years ago. And to think that he took the time to call me, that says a lot about the kind of person Ralph Beard was.

If anybody belongs in the Basketball Hall of Fame, it is Beard, who should have been inducted while he was still alive. He was one of the greatest players of his two-hand set shot era and would be great in any era.

After 56 years, one would think Beard could be forgiven for making the mistake of taking a few hundred dollars for agreeing to shave points in two collegiate games.

After a brief stint with the Indianapolis Olympians of the NBA, Beard paid dearly by being banned from playing professionally the game he loved so much and played so well.

Over the last 56 years, Beard displayed more-than-adequate, humble repentance. He acknowledged his transgression at the time it was revealed, was sincerely sorry for what he did and lived as a model citizen the rest of his life.

I believe Beard was resigned to the fact he would not get into the Basketball Hall of Fame during his lifetime. Also, I believe he realized that earthly halls of fame do not come close to matching his now richly deserved heavenly reward.

I’m grateful to Beard for being an important part of my childhood and for giving me the opportunity to talk to him on the phone many years later. His life brought me and countless others much joy.

Paul L. Whiteley, Sr.

Louisville resident