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Another Basketball Friendship Renewed

I have written before of my many wonderful connections and friendships developed from having played or coached “The Game.” It is a bond, perhaps weakened, over time, due to the lack of similar intense contact that never really breaks and a bond that lasts forever, even beyond a player’s death. My last article, about the 1972 game between the Knights and the Millionaires and my life-long friendship with very much alive Larry Moore, begot yet another welcomed renewal of such a basketball friendship when Lou Gingrich from the 1970-71 Millionaires team reached out to say how much he liked the article and how many good memories it brought back to him.

Lou, now a retired dentist living in Carlisle, and I first met on the two outdoor basketball courts in front of then-Bishop Neumann High school. Those two full courts have long since been dismantled and are now a parking area. In the summers of 1969-70 & 1970-71 on any given Sunday, if you did not get to those courts by 1 p.m., you were unlikely to get into a game, as so many players would descend on those courts. One problem for me was that my mother always had to have a full-course cooked meal around noon every Sunday. Luckily, I lived only about ten blocks from the Courts, so after cramming down mashed potatoes, beans, and turkey or ham, I would stuff my basketball between the bars of my 10- speed bike and fly those ten blocks in what seemed seconds, looking forward to testing my skills against all comers. We would run for hours, only taking a break to run across the street to the Billtown cab company to grab a well-deserved drink from their indoor water fountain, then head back to play some more.

Sweet Lou, as we liked to call him, had shoulder-length hair, uncommon back in the day, but he carried it off well. He was one of the smoothest players I’ve ever played against—he seemed to glide around the court, coupled with his superior all handling and pinpoint passing made him a particular challenge to play against. On that Millionaire 1969-70 team, while Mike “Brill” Baggett was without question the main gun, it was Lou’s keen court sense and passing skills that made that team run. Lou piled up a lot of assists by getting the ball to “Brill” as his patented catapult-like left-handed shot was practically unstoppable. Lou and I became good friends, but each went our separate ways as happens when the playing days are over.

Some 20 years later, while going to law school in Harrisburg, I popped unannounced into Dr. Gingrich’s Dental office, with a waiting room full of anxious patients, walked up to the receptionist window, and asked if Dr. Gingrich was available. With a somewhat incredulous look and with a wave of her hand toward all the waiting patients, she said, well, he is a little busy at the moment. Tell him that Peck (my bball nickname) is here to see him, I countered, to yet another skeptical stare. About 10 minutes later outcomes Dr. Gingrich in full dental gear and yells “Peck,” giving me a big hug—as all his patients looked warily on. After only a few minutes of reminiscing, we exchanged contact information. He invited me to join him, and Mike Baggett in the Carlisle outdoor 3-man basketball tournament held the last Saturday in June. I immediately said yes and let him get back to his patients. Those 3-man league adventures will have to wait for another day. For now, I’m just again thankful for the renewal of yet another friendship forged from “The Game” with Lou Gingrich. Hopefully, in the Spring, to share a pint or two together in person.

Paul Petcavage

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