SI Vault
Frank Deford
October 24, 1966
Elg is...well, I guess the best way to put it is that Elg is the kind of guy that when he's not around, you know he's not around.—JERRY WEST
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October 24, 1966

A Tiger Who Can Beat Anything

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Some things, perhaps, have not yet changed sufficiently. Last January he was in a hotel room in Boston, running the Lakers because Coach Fred Schaus was in St. Louis at the All-Star game. It was the first one to which Baylor had not been invited. All the great years did not make up for one season as a cripple. In St. Louis, Schaus and Mohs were discussing this. Finally Schaus called Baylor to say it had been arranged that he could sit on the bench as an honorary All-Star. However late a gesture, it was a rare tribute. Baylor told Schaus he would call him back.

He did not think about it for long, though, for Dick Barnett, Baylor's old teammate, was not in St. Louis either. At that time, Barnett was the third leading scorer in the NBA. A white player had been picked instead because, some said, there were not enough white faces on the All-Stars. Baby, don't play. Baylor called Schaus back and said he would stay in Boston.

When the Lakers returned to Los Angeles Ruby Baylor was there to meet her husband, and together they went over and thanked Fred Schaus. Schaus watched the Baylors walk away, and he remembers the feeling he had, because he says he has never been so touched or so proud of the man.

The Baylors went home. They have two little children—Alan, 6, and Alison, 2—and two very big German shepherds, Brutus and Caesar. The home on the hill is beautiful. "When you're a Negro lucky enough to be in my position." Baylor says, "how you show yourself is important for all Negroes. I think that every day I serve by showing that I can conduct myself as well as anyone.

"We all work hard to get into this league, because it is one chance we have. And besides, we have to be that much better to beat out a white player. And then everyone asks where the white players are. I've seen so many of them come into this league, and they've had great talent. But they didn't last—they married some money or got a good outside job, things that don't happen to us." He leaned forward. "You give us a chance in other things, and you'll get your white ballplayers back right away."

A long way from the Baylors' house at another time, when Fred Schaus was scouting in North Carolina, somebody asked him if he thought Baylor was the finest ballplayer ever. Schaus smiled and thought. Finally he gave the motel table a little slap. "Yeah," he said, "if there were money on the table, I'd take Elg over anybody."

Somebody else there agreed, but said, really, if there were money involved, Baylor would win at any game, whatever it was. Whatever. Schaus smiled again. "Yeah," he said. "That too." A tiger beat anything.

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