Thursday, March 8, 2012

Jaworski Files 2

1. In the late 60's, Robert Jaworski was a superstar player with the UE Red Warriors and Coach Baby Dalupan's most coveted treasure in his lineup. After ending his stint with the Warriors, Jaworski was able to play for the Crispa Redmanizers in the MICAA for a few months before joining the arch rival Meralco Reddywatts. This is where Jaworski found his trek to superstardom paved and easy. Of course, Dalupan felt slighted about the Big J's transfer and eventually, the two became arch rivals all the way up to the PBA ranks.

2. In 1972, in a game between Crispa and the Big J's Meralco team, Crispa was ahead 65-50 in the closing minutes of the game. A foul was assessed against Big Boy Reynoso of Meralco, causing a bit of commotion as Reynoso didn't take the call well. Pandemonium ensued when Reynoso ran after referee Joe Obias (later to zebra in the PBA) and when Obias reached the Meralco bench, Jaworski socked him (the Big J was not on the playing court when the incident ensued). Reynoso and Jaworski were thrown out and later suspended by the MICAA and subsequently banned by the BAP. During Martial Law, then President Marcos lifted the ban and allowed the two to play again with a stern warning to avoid a similar incident from happening. The two later went back to Meralco and then with the Komatsu Comets upon the Reddywatts disbandment in 1974.

3. In 1977, a rumble erupted in the dugout after the game between Crispa and Toyota. At that time, all the players exited in the same dugout simultaneously and taunting became prevalent. This soon came to a head with Ramon Fernandez of Toyota and Atoy Co of Crispa coming to blows and the entire cast of both teams joining the fray. The next day, then Metrocom Chief Prospero Olivas apprehended all the players and brought them to Camp Crame. All 24 players were detained and jailed overnight despite the pleas from Commissioner Leo Prieto, legal counsel Rudy Salud and PBA president Domingo Itchon. They were later released after a day. While this may have had a traumatic effect on the players, the heated rivalry didn't end between the two protagonists.

4. Jaworski was always aligned with the Silverio group, the owners of Delta Motors Philippines, exclusive distributors of Toyota. Fernandez on the other hand, had his problems with his coach Dante Silverio and team owner Ricky Silverio (cousin of Dante). Jaworski was the true leader of the Toyota team, especially in his MVP season in 1978. But when Fernandez started dominating and was a near winner of the MVP award the succeeding year, some cracks in the relationship began to foster. At the end of the 2nd conference of 1979 (where Toyota lost to Royal Tru Orange in the championship), Dante Silverio accused Fernandez and teammates Abe King and Estoy Estrada of allegedly "dropping" their games to the team's detriment. Silverio, as head coach, decided not to field in these three superstars. Team management however overturned Silverio's decision, forcing the Toyota coach to resign. Jaworski, feeling bad about Dante's resignation, intimated that he found it hard to accept the decision of team management for disciplining erring players. This further strained the relationship of the two Toyota superstars.

In 1982, with Jaworski sidelined most of the season with a hamstring injury, Fernandez came out on his own and became Toyota's new leader. He carried the team to two titles, and became the MVP for that season. This was the start of the power struggle between Fernandez and Jaworski in the Toyota camp.

5. In the 3rd conference, the All Filipino, of the 1980 season, Crispa was blitz-krieging its way to a sweep of the entire tournament. They won 9 games in the eliminations, 5 games in the quarterfinals and 3 games in the semifinals to easily snatch the first Finals seat with a 17-0 card. Toyota struggled a bit but eventually made it to the Finals themselves - a fitting climax to an eventful season. The first two games of the Finals were won by Crispa, making their slate an immaculate 19-0 with just a win away to crown themselves as the first legitimate All Filipino champion team (the previous 5 seasons saw cellar-dwelling teams being reinforced by an import). 

Then came the dramatic Game 3. Toyota coach Fort Acuna didn't field Jaworski in the starting lineup as he used to do, and didn't put Jaworski in the entire first half of the game. At the end of the first half, with Crispa ahead, Toyota team manager Pablo Carlos approached Acuna and asked him three times why Jaworski was benched. In all three occasions, Acuna gave him the cold shoulder. Miffed by the disrespect, Carlos sacked Acuna right there and then and immediately appointed himself as interim coach of the Tamaraws at least for the entirety of the game. The Big J was re-inserted in the lineup at the start of the 3rd quarter and played practically the entire 2nd half. Although he didn't exactly put in the numbers he was used to doing, the emotional lift brought about by the controversy carried the Tamaraws to a shocking 97-94 victory against Crispa. This snapped the Redmanizers' historic attempt to sweep the tournament unbeaten and made the Finals series at 2-1 in favor of Crispa. Crispa, numbed by the loss but relieved of the burden of sweeping the tournament, got themselves back on track, routing Toyota in Game 4, 105-91 for their 4th AFC jewel in 6 years - a fitting Christmas gift for the Crispa fans and players themselves.

In July the succeeding year, Acuna died because of suicide, drinking a bottle of Baygon insecticide. It was never publicly announced the reason for Acuna's giving up of his life, especially coming from a decent and smart person that he was. Speculations became rife that Acuna never recovered from his being sacked in Game 3 of that finals, arguably, the second most controversial Finals game in the history of the PBA, next only to Anejo's walkout in the 1990 Open Conference. But people close to Acuna denied this, although they admitted that Acuna was at a state of depression after the incident. Similarly, no one really knew what was going inside Acuna's mind when he didn't field the Big J in that game. Insiders say there was no animosity involved, it was just a tactical maneuver on the part of the coach in an effort to stop the rampaging Redmanizers. It was too bad though that he never explained this, if this was the case, to his team manager, otherwise, the incident would have been avoided altogether.

6. When Toyota disbanded at the end of the 1983 season, the entire team was sold to Basic Holdings, Inc., the holding firm that ran the Lucio Tan companies including the newly-formed Asia Brewery, Inc., makers of Beer Hausen. At that time, the Tans were looking forward to participating in the PBA and go up against corporate rivals San Miguel Beer. They penciled Fernandez as their franchise player with Jaworski and Francis Arnaiz supporting him. Abe King was already shipped to Gold Eagle Beer to become the franchise player of the Cojuangco team. 

Jaworski and Arnaiz didn't take the "lock, stock and barrel" sale well and publicly accused then Toyota team manager Jack Rodriguez of treating them like commodities than human beings. Rodriguez hid the sale from the players until the deal was consummated, an issue that stuck out like a sore thumb for the Big J and Mr. Clutch. In a television program hosted by Jullie Yap Daza (Tell The People), Jaworski and Arnaiz angrily told Rodriguez that it wasn't right to sell them "por kilo." The two, along with a few others like Arnie Tuadles and Chito Loyzaga, refused to sign with the Tan company, leading to a deadlock. Eventually, La Tondena President Carlos "Honeyboy" Palanca, III decided to take in Jaworski and Arnaiz, along with Tuadles in Ginebra. This led to a new rivalry between Fernandez's Beer Hausen versus Jaworski's Ginebra.

7. At the start of the 1985 season, Jaworski had enough of Coach Turo Valenzona who was then running the Ginebra team. Palanca sided with the Big J and sacked Valenzona, along with other players loyal to him (Gary Vargas, Steve Watson, Joseph Herrera, and Willie Generalao). Jaworski took over as head coach and had a mini-revamp in the lineup. Some players who came in were Leo Isaac, Chito Loyzaga, Ed Ducut, Rolly Buhay among others. Valenzona later became head coach of Tanduay, paradoxically, Fernandez's new team (after being traded for Abet Guidaben). A new rivalry ensued between Ginebra and Tanduay.

8. The 1990 walkout in the Open Conference would probably be the biggest controversy the PBA has experienced in history. In Game 6 of the finals between Formula Shell and Anejo Rum 65, and with less than 3 minutes to go in the 2nd quarter, Jaworski and team manager Ber Navarro instigated a walkout for alleged "biased officiating" on the part of the refs. What triggered this was how the refs called ticky tacky fouls on Anejo, a stark contrast to the physicality allowed in the first 5 games of the Finals. At the time of the walkout, three players of Anejo already had 5 fouls each, including import Sylvester Gray. Triggering the move was referee Rudy Hines' assessment of a foul on Rey Cuenco, a call disliked by the latter. Cuenco slapped the nape of Hines and was immediately ejected from the game. The crowd pelted the court with debris and the game was halted, leading to Anejo's walkout. They were asked to come back after 15 minutes but never returned. The PBA, under Rudy Salud, assessed the team with a P550k penalty, the highest ever in PBA history.

9. Jaworski had a lot of nemesis inside the court. It was probably because of the Big J's popularity and physicality that challenged a lot of players to go head to head against him. Notable players that Jaworski had rivalries with, aside from his previous Crispa rivals, include Romulo Orillosa of Shell, Romy Ang of Shell, Bay Cristobal of Great Taste, Glenn Capacio of Purefoods, Onchie Dela Cruz of Shell, Willie Generalao of Tanduay, Totoy Marquez of Shell and Purefoods, and Jojo Lastimosa of Purefoods and Alaska. It was with Lastimosa that saw the Big J getting suspended for a couple of games after landing a phantom punch that was seen by everyone in the coliseum and on television except for the three zebras. In that play, Jaworski was headed for a layup when Lastimosa, his godson in marriage, undercut the Big J, making the latter fall dangerously under the basket. In the next play, with the Big J inbounding, he landed a solid punch to the solar plexus of Lastimosa, a punch that surprised instead of hurting Lastimosa more. Til today, the two protagonists have yet to patch up their differences. In the recent Legends All Star game in 2005, Jaworski shook the hands of everyone except Lastimosa.

10. In 1997, Allan Caidic went up for a rebound but hit teammate Nelson Asaytono upon his descent and fell badly head first on the floor. A commotion ensued as Caidic laid in the floor hardly moving, and then throwing up. Concerns were raised that Caidic may have experienced a concussion. The Big J, growing impatient with the lack of action from PBA officials, gestured to the officials using the "slit the throat" act, making fans think that he was insensitive to Caidic's precarious situation. Note that prior to this accident, Jaworski already complained to the PBA that San Miguel, Caidic's team and coached by Ron Jacobs, went around PBA rules by using the 20-second injury timeout per half by having the players feign injury. Jaworski got a major PR backlash which was later quashed with his visit to the hospital and checking on his co-UE superstar and once player in the 1990 Beijing Asian Games.

11. In 1999, it was deja vu time once more for the Big J. Already a Senator after placing 8th overall in the 1998 senatorial elections, he remained head coach of Ginebra but was merely on leave. Team owner Danding Cojuangco decided without consulting the Big J to put in Allan Caidic as Jaworski's assistant, a move that slighted the latter. The Big J resigned as head coach and player of Ginebra, saying Cojuangco's move was a form of disrespect to his position as coach of the team for almost 14 seasons. Eventually, the two would patch up and Cojuangco would help Jaworski in his 2004 reelection bid by having him the endorser of Ginebra prior to the start of the campaign period.

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