SPECIAL FEATURE

Crispa’s long, winding road to Grand Slam

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1975 PBA Grand Slam champion Crispa
PHOTO FROM EDDIE ALINEA’S FILE

What Toyota did to Crispa in the PBA’s inaugural year in 1975—winning the first two conferences of the country’s pioneering play-for-pay league—the Redmanizers returned the compliments the following season.

The Redmanizers of coach Baby Dalupan and team manager Danny Floro marched triumphantly, too, in the still untitled First Conference and the Second Conference did even better tough by ruling the All-Philippine championship where the then Tamaraws (nee Comets) failed.

With that title victory, the Redmanizers relegated their archenemies as bridesmaids the entire year. Or whipping boys as many Crispanatics would put it. The league’s first Grand Slam, a reminiscent of the Floro family franchise’s domination of the amateur ranks a decade earlier, raised the number of championships to four straight to the Tamaraws’ pair.

That, likewise, served as signal to the emerging dynasty the Floro-Dalupan team manager-coach tandem would build in the net 10 years that followed. For the longest and most fruitful partnership would produce five more until a new generation of Redmanizers would win a second Triple Jewel in 1993. But that’s another story.


Because of the relative ease Crispa disposed off Toyota in the First and Second Conferences, everybody, almost everybody, anyway, expected the Redmanizers to sweep the All-Philippine finale in another ho-hum fashion.

But no. Dalupan and his boys, in fact, had to struggle past Mariwasa in a playoff to earn their seat in the finals for a sixth consecutive championship series with the Tamaraws. A 100-106 loss to coach Dante Silverio’s charges in the semis forced them into that winner-take-all playoff with the Porcelain Makers.

And to the credit of the dashing Silverio and the Tamaraws, Toyota took the opening salvo, 100-90, with spitfirish Francis Arnaiz leading the attack with 32 points in a game where Crispa hit a measly 32.99 percent from the field as against 40.37percent of the Tams.

Crispa and Toyota entered the Araneta Coliseum tied 19-all in their head-to-head personal battle since the start of the play-for-pay league a year back. ,

Game 2 saw the lady luck abandoning the Redmanizers anew, losing an overtime 117-118 squeaker, thank or no thanks to their awful shooting from the line and costly miscues in the extra five-minute extension. It was the first time in their personal feud that a game was decided in OT.

It was again Arnaiz who beat the Redmanizers, by scoring six of the Tamaraws’ eight-point binge that wiped out a 115-110 spread going into the final one-minute and 40 seconds and negating Atoy Co’s game-high 40-point performance. The Tamarraws were a game short of doing what the Redmanizers did them in the 1975 season besides denying their bitter rivals the season sweep.

While the Tamaraws were whooping at up at the dugout in anticipation of ending a title draught in the season, gloom enveloped the Crispa dressing room following the defeat. “Dadaan sa butas ng karayom,” was what Dalupan could only say in reference to his Redmanizers’ chances of reversing the tide in Game 3 of the series.

Floro agreed, telling his boys on the eve of the third game: “Never mind if we lose this championship. Forget the grand slam. But let us not allow the enemy to beat us three straight. If we win tomorrow, I would still be happy if we lose the fourth game, “

And as if on cue, the Redmanizers, from imports Cyrus Mann and Bill Bunton to team captain Rudy Soriano, Co, the injured Bogs Adornado, Philip Cezar, Abet Guidaben, Freddie Hubalde, Bernie Fabiosa, Cristino Calilan, Tito Varela, Joy Dionisio, David Cezar, Rey Franco and Rey Pages showed they were not made of ordinary stuff. They played what their fans wanted them to, proving to all and sundry they were not the best local squad for nothing.

Co topscored anew in Game 3, jumping, driving and weaving from afar for 34 points in handing Crispa a 15-point 70-55 advantage in the third quarter, which Toyota never headed on. Mann had 22pointds, 12 in the second period as he outclassed the celebrated Byron “Snake” Jones and Howard Smith the whole of the 48-minute contest.

Dalupan attributed Crispa’s comeback in his ploy pitting each Redmanizer one-on-one against the Tamaraws plus the successful double-teaming on Arnaiz by Fabiosa and Calilan. Crispa tied the series 2-all in the fourth encounter on the same defensive pattern, while Co continued to fill in the slack left by Adornado who suffered an injury in their Second Conference title conquest.

The Tamaraws brought with them the victory banner for the third time in Game 5 at the Araneta Coliseum but found no time to roll it out, bowing for the third straight time, 110-92. Co continued waxing hot with 39 points and virtually clinched the finals, MVP had there was one. Calilan, again, put the chains on Arnaiz and Mann asserted his authority off both boards.

“I couldn’t ask for more from the boys, ” Dalupan said after the victory. “Tulong-tulong sila at walang sisihan. “Everyone gave their best even if a player just played for only a few minutes.”

Floro, for his part, said he was happy that the season ended without untoward incident unlike the previous inaugural season that was marred by players’ fights. It was in emerging victor in this particular Conference that he declared this as the most prestigious and while quite few disagreed with him that time, this time his assertion went undisputed.

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