Monday, May 3, 2010

Syracuse Tries to Keep Nationals Memories Alive

From 1949 until 1963, the Nationals represented Syracuse in the NBA and won a championship in 1955. Almost 50 years after the Nats moved to Philadelphia and became the 76ers, they have gradually started to become forgotten (click here to listen).

"I think they tend to be something that an older generation, certainly a generation that was around at that time, identifies with and is aware of it. I think younger people in the community are not aware of it," said Dennis Connors, Curator of History for the Onondaga Historical Association.

The championship banner hangs from the War Memorial rafters, lost among banners (above right) honoring the defunct Stars and Blazers hockey teams and Canastota boxer Carmen Basilio.

"They probably should have a showcase with some photos and some memorabilia," Nats author David Ramsey said. "They should probably have a plaque, this is where the Nats won the 1955 NBA title."

Less than a mile from the War Memorial, a plaque below an oversized shot clock (above) says "this clock honors the rule that changed basketball and saved the NBA." In 1954, Nationals owner Danny Biasone and GM Leo Ferris created the 24-second shot clock to increase scoring and speed up the slow, boring game.
"It made the game more exciting as well so it has a tremendous impact not only on the N-B-A but on basketball and other sports," Syracuse Sports Corporation President Bill Motto said.

The monument is in front of an Armory Square Starbucks instead of across the street from the War Memorial because it's quite visible, Motto said. "What's great about it is it's in such a place that so many people can view it every year, all year around."

In Driver's Village in Cicero, is The Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame. Although not the most conventional place for a hall of fame, four Nationals are enshrined here, owner Danny Biasone and players Billy Gabor, Paul Seymour, and Dolph Schayes.

"For people who go there and see the visuals and see the memorabilia, see Dolph's number four jersey (below), that keeps the Nats alive, so to speak," Hall of Fame Historian Bob Snyder said.

Soon after Schayes and the Nationals moved away, Dave Bing, Jim Boeheim, and the Orange replaced the Nats as Syracuse's basketball team. The memory of the Nationals faded as years went by and generations passed, with the hall of fame enshrinements, shot clock monument, and championship banner, small reminders of a team and era that once was.

"It's rare to have a memory that is just pure happiness," Nats author Ramsey said. "Used to be, every year there's fewer people who smile and think about that day, because they die unfortunately."
It is important for the community to remember the Nationals, just like any other part of its history, History Curator Dennis Connors said. However, history goes through cycles, so even if Syracuse's memory of the Nats faded away, it could be re-discovered 50 years from now.

1 comment:

  1. Johnny Gee, Chick Meehan and Bob Nugent all played for the early Nationals, before the NBA days.