Left to right: Cliff Hagan, Adolph Rupp, Lou Tsioropoulos, and Frank Ramsey.
Frank Ramsey, Kentucky Wildcat and Boston Celtic star died today at the age of 86.
Ramsey, a 6-foot-3 guard from Madisonville, Kentucky, was born on July 31, 1931. He was a multi-sport athlete at Kentucky playing baseball and basketball. Ramsey helped Adolph Rupp and the Wildcats win the NCAA title over Kansas State in 1951.
In the fall of 1952, a point-shaving scandal erupted involving three Kentucky players. This forced Kentucky to forfeit its upcoming season, which was Ramsey’s senior year. This made Kentucky the first college sports team to recieve the “death penalty”.
Ramsey was selected in the 1953 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics. He would return to Kentucky though despite graduating. In 1953, the Wildcats would go 25-0 and were offered a bid into the NCAA tournament. However, NCAA rules prohibited graduate students to compete in post-season play. The Wildcats declined their bid because they would have to play without Ramsey and two other Cats in Cliff Hagan and Lou Tsioropoulos, which would’ve jeopardized their undefeated season.
Ramsey scored 1344 points at Kentucky, which at the time was fourth all-time in UK history, and grabbed 1038 rebounds, a school record which was later passed by another Kentucky legend in Dan Issel.
He played nine seasons with the Boston Celtics winning seven NBA titles and played with guys like Sam Jones, Bob Cousy, and Bill Russell. After Ramsey’s rookie year in 1954, he spent one year in the military and then rejoined the team. In the next eight seasons he would go on to win those seven NBA titles. In 623 games for the Celtics, Ramsey scored 8378 points, averaging 13.4 points per game. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1981. His #23 jersey is retired by the Celtics.
Ramsey is also known as the “original sixth man”. He felt more comfortable coming off the bench and Red Auerbach, coach of the Celtics at the time, wanted him fresh and in the lineup at the end of close games. Ramsey is the first in a series of sixth men who won a championship ring with the Celtics.
“You have to remember that as a rookie I was playing behind two all-star guards, Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman. I was happy. I got to play plenty of minutes. Tommy Heinsohn was a ‘two cigarette at halftime man,’ which meant after seven minutes I would get to play the rest of the game.” Ramsey said in an interview with The Sports Column.
Wow, two cigarettes at halftime. Times have changed.
“The minute the season was over we all took summer jobs. We didn’t make enough playing basketball to support a family all year. When the season was over we didn’t touch a basketball until training started the next year”.
He worked for a grocery store and a construction company in Madisonville during the summer months.
Ramsey was also a coach for one year (1970-1971) in the ABA with the Kentucky Colonels, who were led by a rookie Dan Issel and Loui Dampier. Ramsey was named head coach seventeen games into an eighty-four game season, following Gene Rhodes and Alex Groza. Ramsey had a record of 32-35 and coached the Colonels to the playoffs, where they would lose to the Utah Stars.
On November 15, 2005, Ramsey’s house was destroyed in a tornado that hit Madisonville. One of his plaques was found miles away from his home, and Ramsey was found unhurt. Since 2008, Ramsey has been a president of Dixon Bank in Dixon, Kentucky.
He always loved Kentucky. Rest in Peace, Mr. Ramsey.