Brother Martin High School Varsity Basketball Team, 1973-1974. LHSAA AAAA State Champs. Don Newman is #11, bottom right. (courtesy Brother Martin High School)
Donald Newman, BMHS Class of 1975
We lost a good guy yesterday. Don Newman was a year ahead of me at Brother Martin. He was a basketball player, a member of the 1973-1974 Louisiana LHSAA 4-A championship team. Newman was point guard for that team, and the next year, as a senior. He also played baseball while at BMHS.
After Brother Martin, Don went to LSU, for a year, where he played basketball and baseball. He transferred to Lake City, then Grambling, he played one game at Lake City and not at all for Grambling. Newman landed at University of Idaho, where he played from 1978-1980.
Don was drafted by the Boston Celtics in the third round in 1980. He was the last person they cut before the start of the 1980 season. He signed with the Montana Golden Nuggets of the CBA.
In 1981, Newman tried out for the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL, as a cornerback. He never played football in high school or college. He didn’t make the team, but did play in Canada,first for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Montreal Concordes, Ottawa Roughriders, and Hamilton TigerCats. He began his coaching career at high schools in Idaho. Newman got his degree from Idaho in 1987, and moved up to collegiate coaching.
After coaching at Moscow (Idaho) High School, Newman took an assistant job at Washington State. He moved from there to head coach at Sacramento State, then Arizona State. He moved to the NBA from ASU, working as an assistant for the Bucks, Nets, Spurs, and Wizards. While with the Spurs, he earned two rings, as an assistant coach on the 2005 and 2007 championship teams. Newman was still with the Wizards when he passed yesterday.
High School Memories
Don was point guard on the “Robey team” in 1973-1974. Rick Robey was the classic big-man-in-the middle, and Don was the ball handler. Don was as important to the team as Robey, because when Rich would get into foul trouble, it was up to the rest of the guys to pick up the slack. Newman was the leader. Mind you, the rest of the team was pretty good as well, but Don was the best athlete, and I’ll go as far to say that he was a better overall athlete than Robey.
After the state win, Robey graduated and went on to the University of Kentucky, and then the Boston Celtics. That next year, it was up to the four juniors from the state team to keep it going. Newman, along with LeRoy Oliver, Reggie Hadley, and Rodney Montgomery were the subjects of many a “can they do it without Robey” articles. Junior Mike Litwinowicz stepped into the center position, when they weren’t running more of a small-ball offense. Sophomore Dwayne Vantress also got a bit of varsity time in 74-75.
The team didn’t repeat as state championships, but they did win the Catholic League a second year. While many at the school and in the media considered that a let-down, I was proud of those guys. They were under incredible pressure. Brother Martin won state in 1969-1970, 1970-1971, then again in 1974. The school also won state in football in the 1971 season. The combining of Cor Jesu and St. Aloysius made the teams from those early years powerhouses.
I didn’t know Don well, even back on Elysian Fields. I had one class with him, a one-semester religion class. I pretty much kept my head down in religion, but that’s a story for another time. I knew a lot about Don even though we weren’t really friends because I was a sports statistician. In the days before even electronic calculators, you had to be able to do two-digit division in your head to knock out shooting percentages. When Johnny Vitrano (JV coach and assistant Varsity coach) was breathing down your neck to get the halftime percentages back to Head Coach Tommy Kolb, you had to think fast!
But having coach bug us was part of the fun. The best perquisite of the statistician’s job was you got to sit at mid-court, at the scorer’s table. Front-row center to see these guys play. While Robey was gone, my junior year was much more exciting. There were a number of games in my sophomore year where I didn’t get to do the book for varsity. There were juniors and seniors who got the mid-court seats. By junior year, though, I was one of the lead statisticians. Keeping the score book or the shot chart for Don, LeRoy, Reggie, Snake, Mike, Bean (Vantress) was a blast. Yelling our lungs out for them up front, even on the other team’s home side–don’t tell Brother Neal, SC, but he should have charged us a fee for doing the games.
Rest in Power, Don. You were one of the good guys.
The Denver Zephyr
Promotional photo for the Denver Zephyr
The Denver Zephyr – Chicago to Denver
The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad operated streamlined passenger rail service from Chicago to Denver, from 1936 to 1973.
Denver Zephyr poster
The Route of the Denver Zephyr:
Denver Zephyr poster
The Zephyr consist included coaches, dining cars, Pullmans, and observation cars. The original Budd trainsets operated until 1956. They were then reassigned to Burlington subsidiaries, running from Denver to Dallas-Fort Worth. Burlington took delivery of new Budd trainsets that included VistaDome cars. The DZ operated a VistaDome car as a coffee shop called the ChuckWagon. This second incarnation of the DZ began operation in October, 1956. The train’s route was also extended, past Denver, to Colorado Springs.
Amtrak took over passenger service in the US in 1971. The company operated the DZ daily, from Chicago to Denver. The Denver Zephyr service was discontinued in 1973.
Kansas City Blues logo
In 1901, the Kansas City Blues moved to Washington, DC, to become the Washington Senators. Kansas City immediately formed a new team, under the Blues banner. That AAA-league team stayed in the city until 1955. The Philadelphia A’s re-located to KC that year, so the minor league club needed a new home. They found one in Denver. The team took the name “Bears,” playing in the American Association through the 1962 season. For the 1963 season, the team moved to the Pacific Coast league.
Denver Bears logo
In 1985, the team changed its name to the Denver Zephyrs, an homage to the streamliner train. The team kept that name until 1993.
Denver Zephyrs logo
Major League Baseball awarded Denver a franchise in The Show that year. When the Colorado Rockies came to town, the AAA club had to move, again. This time it was to New Orleans.
Roller Coaster to Ball Club
A minor league ball team usually changed names when it moved. The Zephyrs were able to keep their name in New Orleans, though. The city’s long-time amusement park, Pontchartrain Beach, was the connection. Pontchartrain Beach’s signature roller coaster was the “Zephyr.” When the Denver team came to town, the name connected with the locals. The entrance to the Zephyr roller coaster even looked like a streamliner train! It made sense to keep the Denver logo.
New Orleans Zephyrs logo
The team did just that, until this year. Now, the New Orleans AAA team is the New Orleans Babycakes.
MiLB New Orleans – Baseball on Tulane Avenue!
Pelican Stadium, 1921 (Mendes photo via HNOC, in the public domain)
Opening Day for MiLB New Orleans is almost here! The Pelicans are now our NBA basketball team, but we still have MiLB, with our Zephyrs.
Baseball is a Big Deal in New Orleans, and has been since the sport’s early days. We were a Spring Training spot for several teams in the early years of the 20th Century. Baseball is played at all levels here. Itty-bittys start with T-ball, moving up to the kids a bit older, using pitching machines. I’ve even seen some playgrounds where the teenage umpires pitch for both sides! As the kids get older, they move to pitching for themselves. Then they hit middle school, and the playground leagues get more organized and serious.
High school baseball is a big deal in New Orleans, with the Catholic League usually generating the most interest. At the college level, LSU Baseball is huge, given how often the Tigers and Lady Tigers make their respective NCAA tournaments. The University of New Orleans Privateers an Tulane Green Wave also have loyal fan bases. Over the years, the three-way rivalry between the these colleges has been promoted extensively, with challenge tournaments against schools from other states, even. The politics of NCAA baseball, particularly with three schools who are all in different conferences can be challenging, but when the fans want good baseball, it’s hard to say no.
Pelican Stadium, located on the corner of S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues, in Mid City, was a great home to MiLB, and many were sad to see it torn down. By the time AAA ball returned to New Orleans, it made more sense to build a ballpark in the ‘burbs, and Zephyr Field, the “Shrine on Airline”, has worked out nicely.
Still, of all of these baseball games going on in and around town, it’s the AAA ballclub I like best. Major League Baseball teams play in “cathedrals”, but sometimes worshipping in a minor league “parish church” is more fun. Not to mention less expensive.