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Barrett Reflects on First Trip to NYC

By Mark Janssen
 
 
Ernie Barrett is 81 years of age, but the former Kansas State basketball All-American remembers his first trip to New York City like it was just a couple of seasons ago.
 
"It was early in the year and we took a TWA Constellation that was driven by four motors," said Barrett. Laughing, he added, "It was hardly a jet like we know them today."
 
For Barrett, a product of the south central community of Wellington, it was an anxious journey as it was his first trip that wasn't by wheels.
 
Chuckling, Barrett said, "I remember Colorado was recruiting me out of high school and sent me an airplane ticket, but I never used it because I had never been on a plane, and didn't ever want to be."
 
While the record book says K-State went to play Long Island U in his junior season, the former Wildcat guard says he doesn't remember that being the case.
 
What he does remember, however, is that Dec. 2, 1950 trip to NYC as K-State tipped off the 1950-51 season in Madison Square Garden against Long Island University. The Wildcats would end up 25-4 that season and reach the Final Four, but one of the losses came in this game to the Blackbirds of LIU. It was a loss that would be avenged later in the season when No. 7 K-State topped No. 4 Long Island, 85-65, in Ahearn Field House.
 
"We didn't know it at the time, but that was one of the games that was fixed," said Barrett of the first game versus LIU. "They were favored by 11, but they won by just one (60-59). I remember their coach Clair Bee shouting, 'You guys are going to throw it away; you guys are going to throw it away,' so I don't think he knew about it.
 
"The only time you could really see that something was up on the film was when Don Upson, who was 5-foot-9, went up and got a rebound and went right back up and scored over Sherman White, who was 6-8, and he just stood and watched him."
 
Like the game was two weeks ago, Barrett rattled off the names of "... Sherman White was a 6-8 forward, Ray Felix was a 6-10 guy, and there was a guy named Adolph Bigos. Sherman White ruined his career by fixing games, while a couple of the other guys weren't really that good, but they were in on it."
 
Barrett's memory was right on.
 
With Salvatore Sollazzo, a New York jeweler and gambler being the brains behind the operation, players were given $1,000 to throw the game, or at least not cover the betting line. K-State was an example as official reports had the spread at 7.5 points, but LIU won by only one.
 
Reports have White being arrested on Feb. 20 at a YMCA in Brooklyn, just one day after he had been named The Sporting News Player of the Year. The publication was already in print, so White, who averaged 27.7 points per game, was given the award.
 
"I knew it was just a matter of time. I was in a fog," said White. "As far as I was concerned, my life was shot."
 
White was right. He served nearly a year at a prison on Rikers Island, and later only played for the Wilkes-Barre Barons and Hazleton Mountaineers in the Eastern Professional Basketball League, as compared to being a projected No. 1 pick in the 1951 draft.
 
Barrett says playing in the historic Madison Square Garden was the highlight of that 1951 K-State trip, but he also remembers the team going to see the Rockettes perform.