I Phoned Moses But, No, He Didn’t Give Me A Scoop

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In Petersburg, Virginia only the famous ‘Civil War Crater’ made a bigger impact on the town than a guy named Moses.


The year 1974 brought a sunny spring to the University of Maryland’s Athletic Department.

How so?

The men’s basketball program had a Letter of Intent signed by the nation’s top high school star, Moses Malone.

Courtesy: WTVR.com

The 6’10” center had led the Petersburg, Virginia team to two undefeated seasons and two straight Virginia state championships. He was on his way to Cole Field House and the Maryland Terrapins.

Or was he?

Back then, I was doing a daily five-minute “Rip and Read” (as they call it) sportscast (plus the weather) on a now long forgotten TV station in Washington, DC. The soft-spoken Joe Blair, Maryland’s legendary Director of Sports Information, kindly allowed me into his loop. (Joe later moved on to perform the same function for the Washington Redskins. But that’s a story for another day).

“Joe,” I boasted. “I worked in Petersburg, Virginia a few years ago on WPVA. I can find out whether this kid is planning to honor his commitment to Maryland. He might bolt to one of many other college teams that are hot on his trail.”

I had good reason to say that, too. Malone was expected to propel any collegiate team to the top. Maryland’s (coach at the time)–another legend by the name of Lefty Driesell–had to be biting his nails!

I managed to get Malone’s phone number and then called him. I explained my earlier Petersburg connection and begged him to let me in on his plans. The answer that would give me a real scoop!

Instead of getting a scoop, I got this: “I don’t know.”

Well, a couple of days later, Malone knew. He shattered Maryland’s dreams by making the huge leap from high school headliner to his next destination–pro basketball star.

Malone’s first stop was the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association. But that was just the beginning. Over his pro career, “The Chairman of the Boards” (as he as called) set countless records in scoring and rebounding, most notably for the Philadelphia 76ers and the Houston Rockets.

Malone was MVP of Philadelphia’s 1983 NBA Championship team. He ended up being a 12-time NBA All-Star and was named MVP three times. He’s now in The Pro Basketball Hall of Fame.

As for Petersburg, Virginia…all I can say is this: only the famous Civil War Crater made a bigger impact on the town than a guy by the name of Moses.

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About Samuel H. Johnson

As a student at Miami University (Ohio) I spent a lot of time at the campus radio station WRMU and the FM outlet, WMUB. After graduation, I worked at various radio and TV Stations in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC. I was a DJ, sports reporter, and on-air public affairs host/producer, winning three local Emmy awards. Along the way, I appeared in three major movies: G.I. Jane, CONTACT, and Runaway Bride. Today I live in Phoenix, Arizona with my wife, Laraine, and our two daughters, who live nearby. I enjoy writing about sports–mostly my own off-beat and sometimes humorous observations. I also like to write about history. I’ve written several books, including The Cherokee and the Slave. My favorite athletes (current) are Larry Fitzgerald, Ben Roethlisberger, Kawhi Leonard, and Roger Federer; (future) are Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis, and Paul Watson; and (past) Lenny Moore, Sonny Jurgensen, Bobby Mitchell, Charley Taylor, Steve Nash, Johnny Unitas, Charlie Joiner, Marques Haynes, Elgin Baylor, Dr. “J”. My unsung star is Bob Boyd, Los Angeles Rams wide receiver, 1950-57, and winner of the 100-yard dash at the 1950 NCAA Championships.



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Comments (I Phoned Moses But, No, He Didn’t Give Me A Scoop)

    William M. Toney wrote (12/09/17 - 4:27:06AM)

    Sam,
    Just wanted you to know that I just read this latest article. As always, it is interesting and insightful. I am amazed at your vast experiences.