web analytics
March 29, 2015 / 9 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Milt And Wilt – Mitzvah Men


Up in the Catskills, a man named Yossi Zablocki is trying to save the last blintz palace of my generation’s youth. The place is called Kutsher’s Country Club.

Once, in another world, I spent a lot of time there covering basketball players and boxers in training for their big fights and sports clinics that drew 500 high school and college coaches from all over the country for a week each summer to study under coaching giants like Red Auerbach, Nat Holman, Ara Parseghian and Adolph Rupp.

The man who made it all work was Milton Kutsher.

It was also a time when that slice of the world, comprised of a great wall of kosher hotels affectionately known as the Borscht Belt, had its own lifestyle, bringing with it a ritual of family summers that didn’t need jet air travel or Caribbean beaches or the green felt tables of Las Vegas.

This was the world of stomach-bending meals, group activities, games of “Simon Says,” and stages that served as training grounds for future giants of comedy.

And the soft, summer evenings were punctuated from one end of the “Jewish Alps” to the other with the steady thump, thump, thump of basketballs dribbled against asphalt and the perfect punctuation mark of the swish as the ball arched through the net.

Everybody had a team of pseudo-busboys and bellmen straight off college campuses. Who could ever forget the sight of the world’s tallest bellhop out of Philadelphia – a man named Wilt Chamberlain – and a surrounding cast of players featuring talent like Frank Ramsey, Cliff Hagen and Neil Johnson?

But all of that pales against the memory of what Kutsher put together with the Maurice Stokes Basketball Game.

The story begins in 1958 on an airplane bringing the Cincinnati Royals home from Detroit, where they had been seven-point losers to the Pistons in the first of a best-of-three, opening-round NBA playoff series.

The plane was more than halfway to Cincinnati when Maurice Stokes, a man with a spectacularly impressive body and who, at 6-feet-7, had been the NBA’s third best rebounder, suddenly collapsed.

That he did not die right there was the direct result of a determined flight attendant who raced for an oxygen tank. That he did not die en route to the hospital in Cincinnati was the direct result of an alert pilot’s radio message and a dedicated EMS team.

That he continued to live for 12 years, during which time he taught himself to speak again and became wheelchair ambulatory, was the result of his own refusal to die.

And that he could defy every medical prognosis surrounding his affliction with encephalitis during that period was the direct result of the remarkable self-sacrifice of teammate Jack Twyman, the determination of the best players in the NBA, who set an unequalled standard for caring, and the total commitment of a Catskill hotel owner: Milton Kutsher.

It was Twyman, a Cincinnati resident, who camped out in the hospital, had himself declared Stokes’s official guardian and managed the money while he struggled to find more. And it was Kutsher who set in motion the vehicle that cut into the debts, paid the bills and kept on paying them.

Kutsher gave new meaning to the phrase “Do the right thing” by creating the Maurice Stokes Basketball Game, which drew NBA All-Stars and became a lifesaver for the needy in the basketball community.

Back then salaries were more modest, there was no NBA pension plan and a lot of family members of basketball players needed help.

It began when Twyman, desperate for funds to keep Stokes alive, happened to hold a chance conversation with Kutsher.

“We got a hotel and we got an outdoor basketball court,” he told Twyman. “You tell the players to get here and we’ll house them, we’ll feed them and we’ll sell the tickets.”

Nobody who ever played in the game asked for a plane ticket to get there. Started on an outdoor court, the game ultimately moved into a gym that held 4,000 and sold out every time.

In a world of far too many ersatz heroes, I-got-mine role models and what’s-in-it-for-me superstars, the game was a success thanks to Kutsher and a handful of NBA players with a social conscience.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Milt And Wilt – Mitzvah Men”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
18,000 Iranian Centrifuges
Netanyahu Warns Iran-Yemen-Nuclear Deal Axis ‘Dangerous to Humanity’ [video]
Latest Indepth Stories
Father Gabriel Naddaf with soldiers

My beliefs & actions have led to numerous death threats against me; my excommunication by my church

Islamic Relief Worldwide Logo

In November 2014, Islamic Relief Worldwide was classified as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates.

Safran-032715

Too rarely appreciated for its symbolic weight; it can represent freedom and independence.

Erica Pelman is a spiritually-driven woman. She is founder and director of “In Shifra’s Arms” (ISA), an organization that offers aid to pregnant Jewish women of all religious backgrounds practically, financially and emotionally. Its arms are open to any pregnant woman in need whether single, divorced, separated, or from a financially-strapped family. “Presently, we are […]

Many so-called “humanitarian NGOs” frequently abuse Israel by applying false moral equivalencies

Israeli history now has its version of “Dewey Defeats Truman” with headlines from 2 anti-Bibi papers

In God’s plan why was it necessary that Moses be raised by Pharaoh, away from his own family&people?

In their zechus may we all come to appreciate that life is a fleeting gift and resolve to spend every precious moment of it as if it were the last.

In any event, Mr. Netanyahu after the election sought to soften his statement on Palestinian statehood and apologized for what he conceded were remarks that “offended some Israeli citizens and offended members of the Israeli Arab community.”

A worthy idea any way you look at it.

There is something quite distinctive about the biblical approach to time.

The Waqf kept control of the Temple Mount due to Dayan’s “magnanimity in victory” after 6 Day war

The event promotes “1 state” solution (end of Israel as a Jewish State), BDS, lawfare against Israel

I rescued you?! You’re doing me a favor letting me help you!

More Articles from Jerry Izenberg

Up in the Catskills, a man named Yossi Zablocki is trying to save the last blintz palace of my generation’s youth. The place is called Kutsher’s Country Club. The man who made it all work was Milton Kutsher.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/milt-and-wilt-mitzvah-men/2010/07/21/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: