SPECIAL FEATURE

The legacy of Reddy Kilowatts

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Robert Jaworski during his playing-coach days in the PBA. PHOTO FROM EDDIE ALINEA’S FILE

Someone said that encouragement is simply reminding a person of the “shoulders” he’s standing on, the legacy he’d been given.

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Last season when the Meralco Bolts first made it to the finals of the Governors’ Cup of the PBA’s 41st season against crowd favorite, the Ginebra Kings, and were told of the rich tradition their predecessors, the Reddy Kilowatts, had established as early as when basketball was first played in the country, coach Norman Black cannot hide his amazement on the historical value attached to their campaign.

“It’s an additional motivation for us all. I’ll tell the boys about that so they’ll further be inspired our efforts to win the title,” Black told this writer then.

That, as everybody knows, is now history as Meralco lost to Ginebra in Game 6 of their best-of-seven championship series on a last second three-point shot by import Justin Brownlee. Not bad going home with the runner up trophy.

“Yeah, not bad at all. At least we’re the second best,” Black said the next time we met after the smoke of battle had been extinguished. The Bolts didn’t win their rings but a second place finish could be the start of something big for the Manny V. Pangilinan franchise.

This year, in that same conference, the Bolts are in the title playoff anew against the same Gin Kings in their bid to add to the Kilowatts’ crown jewels won I932 during the infant year of the sport, which is now the Filipinos’ favorite pastime, and in 1969, 1970 and 1971 in the era of the Manila Industrial Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA).

Meralco might not have seen action yet when basketballs was first played here, incidentally by women in 1911 during the Manila Carnival Athletic meet, forerunner of the now defunct Interscholastics. The sport was then called “sissy’s game.”

But it is believed though that the Meralco Athletic Club was already in the midst of things when the Manila Carnival management did away with the women’s play and introduced Filipino the game to Filipino boys few years later competing against the Manila Sporting Goods, University of the Philippines, Manila Interscholastic Association, National Collegiate Athletic Association culminating in eventually stashing away with the National Open plum in 1932.

The Meralco Athletic Club became a member of MICAA when what turned out to be the country’s premier amateur commercial league opened shop in1968. The Reddy Kilowatts, coached by their second mentor Lauro Mumar, who succeeded Tito Eduque, won the 1971 edition, beating the Baby Dalupan-mentored Crispa, 65-58 in the title playoff.

The Reddy Kilowatts and the Redmanizers set the stage for the finale by finishing 1-2 in the six-team field. Meralco topped the preliminary round with a clean 5-0 win-loss card, followed by Crispa, 4-1. Other teams in the cast were Mariwasa, Yco, San Miguel and Yutivo.

Leading the Kilowatts’ campaign were players from the just-disbanded Ysmael Steel Admirals – Alberto “Big Boy” Reynoso, Alfonso “Boy” Marquez, Jimmy Mariano and Orlando Bauzon—reinforced by Ramon Lucindo, Robert Jaworski, Fort Acuña, Francis Arnaiz, Bobby Salonga, Arthur Herrera, Larry Mumar and Jumbo Salvador.

The demise of the YCO-Ysmael Steel rivalry following the breakup of the Admirals in 1968, opened the gate for the Reddy Kilowatts -Redmanizers rivalry starting in 1970. The bitter rivalry came into full-blown during the 1971 MICAA All-Filipino championship, when Reynoso and Jaworski punched referees Eriberto “Ting” Cruz and Jose “Joe” Obias for what was the duo perceived questionable calls against Meralco.

Reynoso and Jaworski were meted lifetime suspension that was lifted so the two can join the national in the 1973 Asian Basketball Championship won by the Philippines.

Besides the Reinforced MICAA crown, Meralco also crowned itself the 1969 National Seniors and the 1970 National Invitational champions.

Reynoso, Jaworski, Bauzon, Acuña and Arnaiz went on to form the nucleus of the Toyota Comets in the PBA in 1975, thus, extending their rivalry in the pro-league.

Incidentally, Jaworski became the playing-coach of the Ginebra franchise in the PBA, reason why he’s been regularly attending every Gin Kings game whenever they make it to the finals.

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