6.03.2017

Bob Cousy's Retirement

The first time he tries that Fancy Dan stuff in this league, they'll cram the ball down his throat.- Pro scout's evaluation of Bob Cousy prior to 1950 draft

The vignette will remain, for those who were at the Boston Garden that St. Patrick's Day afternoon in 1963, a moment frozen in time.

The man in short pants, wearing Boston Celtics jersey No. 14, was at center court trying to tell the 13,909 in attendance what the day meant to him. He was having trouble, fumbling words, pausing to brush away the tears.

He tried and tried, and still the words wouldn't come. And the packed house fell silent, perhaps feeling an empathy for the emotions it knew must be surging through the man.

Joe Dillon of South Boston, a 32-year-old water-division worker for the Metropolitan District Commission and also a walking sports encyclopedia, decided to break the silence. Dillon had the voice for it, a voice that could shatter glass.

"If you ever heard Joe Dillon's voice," said a friend, "you never forgot it."

Certainly, nobody who was at the Garden that afternoon ever forgot it.

"We all love ya, Cooz," thundered Dillon, his words reverberating off the Garden rafters and cutting through the smoke-filled silence like a knife through butter.

The tension was broken. Cheers cascaded down from the stands then, and though Bob Cousy broke down and sobbed at least 25 times during a seven-minute speech that took 20 minutes, he made it through the most emotional tribute to an athlete in Boston history.

The decks were so awash with emotion that even Dolph Schayes, scoring star of the visiting Syracuse Nats, wept copiously.

"It was raining outside and pouring inside," wrote Boston Globe sports editor Jerry Nason.

But then, nobody expected that this farewell to the man who had brought a new dimension to the game of basketball would be a lah-de-dah tea party.

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