Jerry West Digital Collection

John Antonik

Oral History Clips

John Antonik
Additional Interviewees:
Delana Bierer
Jonathan Coleman
Interview Date Tesim:
Clip 1:
JA: ...the pre-game introductions. This is something else that was interesting. Jerry may have told you this story. In the beginning, Frank Stevens was our public address announcer. He used to announce Jerry... they would announce guard, guard, forward, forward. Jerry, I think, played forward at the time. He was not the last player introduced. What happened was the applause was so loud for Jerry that he
would drown out the player that they announced after Jerry.

JC:    This is a good detail.

JA:    Jerry did not like that. So the solution was to announce Jerry last, so it wouldn't drown out the applause.

JC:    Did Jerry ask for that? He didn't ask for much then.

JA:    No, I think it was something that they concluded, because [Jerry] was so upset that the other players weren't getting the recognition. As you talk to some of his teammates, they'll tell you that reporters would crowd around Jerry, and Jerry'd say, "Well, talk to Bucky," or
"Go talk to Bobby Joe," or "Go talk to Ronnie," and "They had just as much to do with it as I did." He was like that. There was a story that Bobby Joe told me. He was so shy - I'm sure you've gone into that - and they had to really bring out his personality. There was a story when he was a freshman...back then there weren't any games on television, so the only way you knew Jerry West was either through the newspapers or through the radio. He was well-known, even though people didn't always know what he looked like. There was a freshman game he played here, and all the young kids would try to gather around the locker room to get Jerry West's autograph. Well, they may not know who he was. Jerry, at the time, was very shy and awkward and didn't like doing that, so he tried to sneak out of the gym. Bucky Bolyard got a sign-

JC:    You mean at the end of the game?

JA:    At the end of the freshman game. Well, the older guys, like Bucky Bolyard and Smith, were fun-loving guys. They liked to tease Jerry, so they got a sign on the back that said "Jerry West All-American" and taped it on his back as he was walking out. He patted [Jerry] and said, "Hey, Jerry. How are you doing, Buddy?" and put the sign on his back as he's trying to sneak out of the gym.

JC:    That's a good detail.

JA:    All these kids see that sign, and just run and mob him . [Jerry] was so mad, and Fred gets-

JC:    Does he know he has the sign on his back?

JA :    No, he does not find out until later. He couldn't figure out why these kids mobbed him. Fred find out about it, so he calls Bobby Joe and Bucky into the locker room the next day, and he 's pissed. He says, "Don't do this. Don't you understand? Here's this guy, and here you 're trying to...," so they got read the riot act, because here they are trying to tease him. Fred's just trying to get him involved with the team and not leave and go back to Cabin Creek .

JC:    Which he did a couple of times .

JA:    Yes, I went down to get him a couple of times .

JC:    He ran off a couple of times. He does that. Did you know that, Delana? He disappears.

DB:    Yes, I've heard that detail.

JC:    He knows how to disappear.

JA:    Fred read them the riot act. Even then they knew. But, eventually, they brought him into their circle. That was a very close-knit team, and a lot of those guys shared common experiences. They had similar hardships in their lives. A lot of them came from towns, villages, with less than a thousand people. Their circumstances were poverty, coal­ related.

Clip 2:
JA: ...coaches from Bucky Waters on, people would always call them and say, "Come to our town; we've got the next Jerry West." And they would go on a wild goose chase to some little village in West Virginia. There were no more Jerry Wests. There was a great line...Roy Mccue from the Pittsburgh Press - he's still alive -

JC:    There was talk about Rod being.. Rod told me that.

JA:    Roy Mccue had one of the great lines ever by Jerry. He said , "The Jerry Wests of this world do not come in pairs." People would call up the coaches, but there were no more Jerry Wests. Everybody was looking for the next Jerry West. There are no more. That' s what each coach from that point on was always searching for. There' s a great side story. A guy from Burnsville named Danny. I don't know if you've heard this. The guy scored a hundred points in a game. I have the article. This was in 1960 or 1961. This would be when Jerry was a senior, I think. A little town, Burnsville, West Virginia. A reporter from the Washington Post comes up and does a big magazine piece on it. The guy just wasn't any good, but everybody said he was the next Jerry West. He wasn't good enough to play at WVU, so he goes to Richmond. They had a commemorative story in the Washington Post about thirty years later - "The Ballad of Danny Heater." But every good player that came up was called the next Jerry West. Rod Thorn went through that. Rod Thorn had an awful time here, because Rod was probably one of the first prodigies. His dad raised him. He was a minor league pitcher, and from the time Rod was four years old, he was going to be a professional athlete. Rod played on the Rinky Dinks and toured the state. Hot Rod Hundley had met Rod when he was in junior high school. That's how well he was known. Rod looked like Jerry, had a crew-cut haircut, was given Jerry's number, but he wasn' t Jerry West.

JC:    They gave him forty-four? [JA affirming .] I don't think Rod told me that.

JA:    Gave him forty-four
A&M 3884; Series 13
Author Jonathan Coleman interviewed John Antonik and Delana Bierer for the book West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life. Antonik is Director of Digital Media for the West Virginia University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and author of four books on WVU sports.

Clip 1:
Antonik tells an anecdotal story about Jerry’s early days in basketball.

Clip 2:
Antonik discusses how there will never be another Jerry West in the world.
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Personal Names:
West, Jerry, 1938- and Antonik, John
Corporate Names:
West Virginia University--Basketball.
Oral Histories