I was to first introduce the principles, founder and old friend Dr. Keith Feder, Chairman of the Board Richard Katz, Dr. Carol Frey (Mrs. Feder), and then host a live auction of gourmet wines, fine jewelry, and exotic trips.
The night began with some great wine tasting and gourmet hors d’oeuvres that I enjoyed mostly with another old friend John Van Boxmeer and his great wife Judy who were back in town only a couple of weeks after Boxy had coached his Swiss league hockey team to the finals in the beautiful city of Lausanne, Switzerland (the town where the International Olympic Committee and it’s museum preside on the banks of Lake Geneva and where I had the priviledge to visit in 2007). If you’re not familiar with Van Boxmeer, he played in the NHL for many years (won a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens) and since has been a longtime coach who I worked with for 5 years as the play by play voice of his Long Beach Ice Dogs of the now defunct International Hockey League. And to put this all in order for you, Dr. Feder was the team doctor the entire time I was there. As we got closer to dinner being served (a phenominal meal catered by the great Fleming’s Steak House) little did I know while watching the approximate crowd of 350 people file into the beautiful showroom of Lexus Santa Monica, that one of them would be my boyhood idol (and longtime friend) Elgin Baylor. Yes, the same Hall of Famer who long before Kobe, Michael, Magic and Bird was known as the best ‘pound for pound’ basketball player of all time. And not only did Elgin and his lovely wife Elaine and daughter Crystal end up sitting next to me at dinner, but I was asked to make a special introduction announcement for Elg along with his former Lakers mates Keith Erickson and Lucious Allen who were all on hand to honor these special student athletes.
Think of how YOU might feel if an athlete that you had most admired as a kid not only befriended you…but then later got the once in many lifetimes opportunity to introduce him just how you wanted to (from the heart) to a well-receptive gallery? And boy did I ad-lib that intro with passion as in…if you never saw Baylor play “you missed out on one of the all-time greats”…that this was a man (as the late great Chick Hearn had told me several times) who if not for his presence, the Lakers may’ve either had to move from L.A. in the early 60’s or go under all-together? And then I stressed (as I have for over a year now to the Lakers organization) that if anyone deserves a statue in front of Staples Center, it is the man who put them on the map and kept them here-Elgin Baylor! The crowd reaction was stirring and probably more emotional for me than anyone else…but I soaked it in like a giant sponge and then went on with my night’s work.
The event went very well raising lots of money for the program and then when there were just a few remaining in the previously packed showroom, I sat and chatted with the Baylors and his longtime friend (and WCSMF Board member) Mitch Huberman and his wife for about 90 minutes as we were the last to leave. And when Elg gets going he can be one of the great story tellers, many to be included in his upcoming book which hopefully will be written sometime during this year?
The night ended with me driving home thinking how lucky I am to have been put in that position and how it couldn’t have worked out any better! Thanks to Jill Sleight for the invite and thanks to Elgin Baylor for giving me a lifetime of memories that few will ever have!
For more information on how to give tax deductable donations to the ‘Team to Win’ program please contact Jill Sleight at the West Coast Sports Medicine Foundation in Manhattan Beach, California via their website at http://www.wcsportsmed.com.