An ode to Eddie

Thanks for the assist

You never know what a difference a good Samaritan’s deed can make.

Eddie Doucette once shared a story with me about a life-changing one that was done on his behalf.

Doucette, as a youngster growing up in Massachusetts, was a fan of the Boston Red Sox, but he didn’t have a television set or radio on which to follow the team. He used to stop outside a local appliance store and peer through the storefront window to watch Red Sox telecasts on a TV stationed on a nearby table.

On one inclement-weather day, the store’s proprietor saw Doucette on the sidewalk and invited him inside to sit down and watch the Red Sox on another TV. Doucette became mesmerized as he sat for hours listening to Curt Gowdy, then the voice of the Red Sox.

“I decided at age 12, growing up in Massachusetts as a diehard Red Sox fan, what I wanted to do for a career,” Doucette said. “I wanted to make the game as exciting for the listeners as it was for me. I had to be their eyes and ears.”

Doucette, coincidentally enough, returned to Massachusetts on Sept. 7 to receive the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Curt Gowdy Media Award in the Electronic Media category during the Hall of Fame enshrinement events.

The award is presented annually to members of the print and electronic media whose longtime efforts have made a significant contribution to the game of basketball.

Doucette became the original voice of Bucks basketball in 1968 and devoted himself to the franchise for its first 16 seasons, including Milwaukee’s NBA Championship campaign of 1970-71.

During Doucette’s time behind the microphone, he developed his own legion of ardent followers. One of them aspired to follow him one day just as he once dreamed of following Curt Gowdy.

Forty five years of following the Milwaukee Bucks have left some indelible impressions on me. I am convinced, though, that one of those impressions made a far greater impact than the rest, and that impact will never be exceeded.

It wasn’t left by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, with his trademark sky-hook.

It wasn’t imprinted by Oscar Robertson, with his regal aura and that season-long triple-double in his resume.

It wasn’t made by Jon McGlocklin, with his rainbow jumpers from the parking lot and his sheer class.

No, my guess is that its creator never even wore a Bucks uniform -- at least while one of their games was going on.

The tool of his trade wasn’t a basketball; it was a microphone.

His name is Eddie Doucette.

Eddie was the Milwaukee Bucks’ very first icon. And like Kareem’s sky-hook, Oscar’s season-long triple-double and Jonny Mac’s rainbow jumper, Eddie possessed something that no one in Bucks history will ever duplicate.

It was his passion, which came across loudly and clearly with inimitable flair.

When folks tuned their radios to the Bucks games of the late 1960s and into the decades that followed, Eddie made sure they were informed, entertained and always excited.

Beyond all of that, I was beckoned. And I will be eternally glad that I paid attention.

Before Eddie and the Bucks came to town, basketball was just another sport for me. Like most of the other kids in my neighborhood, football was my favorite. Growing up in Packers Country had that effect on little shavers (and big shavers) back then and it still does today.

But Eddie, with the help of those pioneers in forest green, red and white, changed all of that. The 1968-69 Bucks became one of the most successful expansion teams in professional sports history, and Eddie made sure everyone within earshot knew about it.

You really couldn’t blame Eddie for getting as live-wired as he did behind the microphone. After all, Milwaukee, which lost the Hawks to St. Louis before it really had a chance to embrace them, had pro basketball again. And though the Bucks won just 27 games in their first year, they averaged 110.2 points per game – a scoring avalanche by today’s standards.

And that was before they came of age. In Kareem’s rookie year, the Bucks averaged better than 118 points and made the Eastern Division finals.

When Oscar arrived the following season, they matched that average and won 10 more regular-season games. They proceeded to mow down the San Francisco Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers in the first two playoff rounds, four games to one, before obliterating the Baltimore Bullet in the Finals. Finally, on April 30, 1971, Eddie Doucette proclaimed these words full-blast over my trusty Philco: “The Bucks are the World Champions!!!”

From those days forward, a kid who once wanted to be a lawman, a fireman and then a quarterback when he grew up became driven to be like Eddie. He figured that anyone who could be as passionate as Eddie was about doing his job every day had to work in a pretty good place, and he wanted to be there one day, too.

The Good Lord made it happen. Forty five years since Eddie helped plant the seeds, the grassroots are still firm.

Eddie didn’t realize this at the time, but he and his young protégé lived in the same neighborhood.

One day while riding my bicycle, I stopped at an intersection where a big, sleek sedan crossed my path. Behind the wheel was none other than The Voice of the Milwaukee Bucks. He was gone before I could overcome my bewilderment and wave, but many times over the next few years, I did wave. And he always waved back.

Eddie left Milwaukee for the West Coast several years later, but before he did, he left a far greater legacy than the one he left me. Thirty one years ago, shortly after his own son was stricken with cancer, he and Jon McGlocklin founded the Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer (MACC) Fund. Since then, the charity has raised over $42 million to fund the battle against childhood cancer, and Eddie's son, Brett, became a cancer survivor.

I am sure that I have a lot of company when I thank God for putting Eddie Doucette in my life.

Each year, when I get my Bucks media guide, I always check out the team records. And though there is one team record that will never appear in the guide, I know that in my book, it will never be broken:

Eddie Doucette will always be my Bucks career assist leader.

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