Wes, The Big E, and the Cap Centre
Greetings from The Booth!
All is quiet on the Shenandoah University Athletic scene until the start of Fall sports (come on football!), I thought I’d take you on a 40-year trip down memory lane in the latest installment of VFB. But first, I want to let you into the world of heartbreak and disappointment that comes with being a WVU Mountaineer fan.
As I often say, you can’t make this stuff up. Last weekend I was following the fortunes of the WVU baseball team as they hosted an NCAA regional tournament. Leading 9-1, the Mounties were well on their way of disposing of Texas A&M when a dreaded rain delay happened.
(Some backstory here: during the NCAA selection show, the cameras showed a shot of the Texas A&M baseball team laughing aloud at the mention of WVU hoting a Regional for the first time since 1955. The laughter subsided when it was announced that the Aggies would be going to Morgantown.)
After the rain delay, A&M proceeded to get to within 9-7 before WVU got one back to lead 10-7. In the bottom of the 9th, with the bases full of Aggies and needing just one out, West Virginia gave up a walk-off grand slam to lose 11-10 and were ousted from the tournament. You could almost see it coming…
Now, on to happier things. This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Washington Bullets’ return trip to the NBA Finals (their last Finals appearance, by the way) after winning the NBA title in the 77-78 season. The Bullets kept the momentum going in the 78-79 campaign, posting a league-best 54-28 record, and were a fun team to watch.
The Bullets were led by “The Big E,” Elvin Hayes, who averaged almost 22 points per game. He and Wes Unseld combined for over 1800 rebounds that season, and Bobby Dandridge, Mitch Kupchak, Phil Chenier, Kevin Grevey were all great pieces of the puzzle.
The Bullets rolled into the playoffs, disposing of Atlanta and San Antonio, setting up a rematch of the 78 Finals with the Seattle Supersonics. This time the Sonics would return the favor, winning the NBA Chapionship 4 games to 3. 1977-79 would be the high-water mark for the Bullets, as they finished below .500 the next two seasons and have won only 5 playoff series since the Finals appearance in ’79.
Good times…good times.
(Another footnote: The TV voice of the Bullets in 78-79 was the late great Jim Karvellas. I acutally have a slight connection, as I attended college briefly with his son at Alderson-Broaddus, where I believe he played soccer.)
The Bullets played their games at the old Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. As “Spinal Tap” filmmaker Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner) would say, “don’t look for it, it’s not there anymore.” 2019 marks the 20 year anniversary of the closing of the “Cap” Centre. I have great memories of that building. Yes, I saw some Bullets & Capitals games there, often stopping at the Rt. 29 Diner in Fairfax in the late hours after those games. The fries and gravy were the fuel that propelled us back to Winchester.
But I also saw my share of WWF “house shows”, and some great rock concerts like the David Bowie “Serious Moonlight” Tour. And, you Shenandoah University basketball fans might remember our (in)famous game with Georgetown, where the Hornets enjoyed a very brief 3-2 lead over the Hoyas. Somewhere there is a picture of the scoreboard as proof. Yes, it happened at the Capital Centre.
And with that, I think we’ve tied things together like an episode of Seinfeld. RIP Bullets, RIP Cap Centre. Thanks for the memories!
So long from the Booth! Until the next visit, GO HORNETS!