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Ralph Beard "troubled soul" worth a read.

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Ralph Beard "troubled soul" worth a read.

Post  MULECHOPS on Sun Feb 19, 2012 1:56 am

Hope that a troubled soul now rests in peace
BEARD, ONE OF UK'S GREATS, WAS 'CRUSHED' BY HIS MISTAKE - by Mark Story, Lexington Herald-Leader (November 30, 2007)
On a sunny October day in 2002, I sat in a Perkins restaurant in Louisville with Ralph Beard.

During the 100th year of University of Kentucky basketball, I'd gone to talk with the player that old-timers say might, even now, be the greatest ever to wear Blue & White.

I spent two hours staring into the most haunted pair of eyes I've ever seen.

"It wouldn't bother me," Beard said that day, "if another basketball season never came around. I really mean that. Every year, it just brings it all back."

In the long, rich narrative of UK basketball, Beard -- the star guard on the famed Fabulous Five who died yesterday, three days short of his 80th birthday -- was a tragic figure of Shakespearian pathos.

A lightning-quick guard famous for his ability to hit the driving layup with either hand, "Rapid Ralph" was a dogged defender who taught himself to be a competent two-handed set shooter.

Along with classmate Wallace "Wah Wah" Jones, Beard was the centerpiece of the greatest era in UK basketball history.

From 1946 -- when Beard and Jones joined Adolph Rupp's varsity team as freshmen -- through 1949, Kentucky played in the finals of a national tournament four straight years. The Cats won the NIT in 1946, finished second in '47, then won back-to-back NCAA crowns in 1948 and '49.

Beard "was one of the best players in the country. He was one of the toughest guards I've ever seen," Wah Wah Jones said yesterday.

That 1948 team -- with Beard and Kenny Rollins at guard; Alex Groza at center; and Jones and Cliff Barker at forward -- lives forever in UK lore as The Fabulous Five. It became the standard against which all Kentucky teams are measured.

Having grown up poor before becoming a star athlete at Male High in Louisville, Beard was driven by a need to succeed that bordered on the manic.

"The most competitive person I ever knew," said Joe B. Hall, the former Kentucky coach and a college teammate of Beard.

Babe Ray was a high school rival of Beard at Manual High. Ray went on to play college football at the University of Louisville with future NFL great Johnny Unitas.

"Beard was just like Unitas," Ray said yesterday. "Some dang way, he would find a way to beat you. He just couldn't let himself lose."

Which is why jaws hit the ground all around Kentucky when Beard was arrested in 1951 and accused of shaving points.

The only three-time All-American in Kentucky basketball history and several teammates (including Groza) were charged with accepting money from gamblers in exchange for affecting the margin of games during the 1948-49 Kentucky season.

Beard admitted taking the money. But to his dying day, he maintained that he never actually did anything once the games started to affect either the outcome or margin.

"I swear on my kids' eyes," Beard said that day in Louisville, "that I never did anything to affect the score of a basketball game."

Why take the money then?

"I had no money. None," he said quietly. "I know people have a hard time of understanding, but it was just after the Depression. I'd never had anything. If people were going to give me money ..."

His voice halted.

Whether he actually did anything for the $50 here, $100 there that he was getting to aid the gamblers, Beard paid dearly for taking the money.

After their UK careers ended, Beard was among members of the Fabulous Five who became player-owners of the Indianapolis Olympians of the NBA.

When the ex-Kentucky players were convicted, Beard and Groza were banned from the NBA and were forced to give up their ownership stake in the Olympians.

Rupp disassociated the convicted players from UK basketball. When the NCAA banned Kentucky from playing a varsity schedule in 1952-53 because of rules violations that were uncovered as a result of the point-shaving scandal, it only added to Rupp's fury.

Beard hit bottom. Adrift without his identity as a ballplayer, Beard's first marriage crumbled.

"The scandal crushed him; it just crushed him," Hall said yesterday. "It took a lot of his spirit away, a lot of his self-esteem."

Showing the grit that characterized him as a player, Beard eventually steadied himself. He re-married, and with the help of his beloved Betty, raised a family and built a new life.

Beard became a success in business. He learned to channel some of his legendary competitiveness to the golf course.

Yet he remained haunted by what could have been. Without the scandal, Beard almost certainly would have become a Basketball Hall-of-Famer and been remembered as one of the sport's greats.

Instead, he is all but forgotten outside the state of Kentucky.

"There's not a day goes by that I don't think about what I lost," Beard said that afternoon in 2002. "Basketball was my life. It was what I lived for. To lose it like that ..."

As his voice tailed off, Beard aimed those impossibly sad eyes across the table.

Those eyes have now closed forever. One hopes a good man who paid dearly for a youthful mistake at last rests in peace.

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Re: Ralph Beard "troubled soul" worth a read.

Post  MULECHOPS on Sun Feb 19, 2012 2:00 am

Season Games
Played FG FT FTA % F Total
Points
1945-46 30 111 57 110 51.82 69 279
1946-47 37 157 78 115 67.83 71 392
1947-48 38 194 88 149 59.06 80 476
1948-49 34 144 82 115 71.3 55 370
Total 139 606 305 489 62.37 275 1517

A great player forgotten.
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Re: Ralph Beard "troubled soul" worth a read.

Post  BestdamnUKfanperiod on Sun Feb 19, 2012 2:40 am

Good post Mule! Very interesting.
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Re: Ralph Beard "troubled soul" worth a read.

Post  Californication on Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:01 pm

Great post. RIP Ralph.
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