‘We Can Never Know Enough About the American Revolution’

The 1998-S Crispus Attucks $1 was struck to commemorate the 275th anniversary of the birth of Attucks and to honor the nation’s Black Patriots.

By Jim O’Neal

A friend, Oscar Robertson, NBA Hall of Fame player, gained notoriety in 1955 by leading Crispus Attucks High School to the Indiana state championship, becoming the first all-black school in the nation to win a state title. In 1956, Oscar and his teammates won the state championship again, and this time they became the first Indiana high school to complete a season undefeated.

Crispus Attucks was the first person killed in the Boston Massacre (March 5, 1770) and many consider the former slave the first casualty of the American Revolution. In the 1850s, he became a martyr for the abolitionist movement. His probable mixed-race heritage – African and American Indian – allowed both African Americans and Native Americans to leverage his fame in their struggles for justice.

Despite the many eyewitness accounts, scholarly research and dozens of highly acclaimed books, this period is filled with alternate versions and is a continuing source of debate and uncertainty.

A common denominator in many of the high-profile events of the era is the city of Boston, with the Stamp Act of 1765 being a convenient place to start. This was an egregious act of the British Parliament putting a tax on all printed matter – newspapers, books, playing cards and legal documents. It aroused a storm of protest in all the colonies, with Boston’s reaction particularly violent. A Stamp Act administrator was burned in effigy and a mob ransacked the governor’s mansion.

Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, but insisted they maintained the right to pass laws regulating all trade and issuing new taxes at will. This caused protests that were even more violent and into this highly volatile situation, Britain landed 4,000 troops in Boston, strictly “in anticipation of a crisis.”

By 1770, Boston was in an economic decline and the population of 15,000 was smaller than 30 years earlier in 1740. There was continual competition for scarce resources and tensions between British troops and citizens continued to increase. Finally, an argument over payment for a haircut escalated into an angry mob that challenged troops stationed at the Customs House.

The people taunted the soldiers with “Fire! Fire! Fire! We dare you to fire!” At some point, an order was given and they shot into the crowd. Four people were killed and several others wounded. The next day, British Captain Thomas Preston and a small group of soldiers were arrested and taken to Queen Street jail to await trial. Future President John Adams and Josiah Quincy Jr. agreed to be their lawyers. A little-known fact is that four citizens were accused of shooting into the crowd, but they were found not guilty along with all but two of the British soldiers.

Then came the famous Boston Tea Party (1773), when colonists dressed as Indians destroyed 342 chests of tea on three ships in Boston Harbor after the British Parliament levied taxes on tea and granted a monopoly to the British East India Company. All the elements were in place for a war and it lasted for seven years.

The 35 years from 1765 to 1800 are some of the most interesting times in American history and will continue to attract scholarly research and an unending parade of books. However, few have the insight of Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough, who has said, “We can never know enough about the American Revolution if we want to understand who we are, why we are the way we are, and why we’ve accomplished what we’ve been able to accomplish that no other country has.”

I agree.

Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is president and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

In the Early 1960s, Ohio was the Home of College Basketball Royalty

Oscar Robertson and the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA championship in 1971. Robertson’s game-worn Bucks jersey from that season realized $65,725 at a February 2013 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

The “Big O” Oscar Robertson had a remarkable record during the three years he played for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats. He set a bevy of NCAA scoring records, including most career points (2,973), most field goals (1,052), most free throws (869) and the highest average per game (33.8).

One thing that eluded him (and UC) was a national championship, although they did make the Final Four in 1959 and 1960.

Oscar Palmer Robertson from Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis (the losing team in the 1986 movie Hoosiers) went on to the NBA and set a record that still stands. In 1961-62, he averaged a triple double for the entire season, with 30.8 ppg, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists!

So it seemed unlikely that in 1961 the Cincinnati Bearcats (without their star) could accomplish something they had been unable to do when he played on the team. However, that year, with an undefeated team at Ohio State ranked No. 1, the Bearcats upset Utah in the semifinals and were suddenly up against Ohio State and their 34-game win streak for the national championship.

As the final buzzer sounded, the two teams were tied at 61-61. In overtime, Cincinnati took command and outscored the Buckeyes 9 to 4. A shell-shocked Ohio State team from Columbus had been upset by their unfriendly neighbors from Cincinnati!

Then in 1962, for the first time in history, the same two teams met again to decide the national championship. They both had something to prove as Ohio State was determined to prevent another upset, while the Cincinnati team wanted to show their championship was not a fluke.

Again, Ohio State was ranked No. 1 in the nation, while Cincinnati did not look as strong, despite the play of star center Paul Hogue. Also, this was UCLA’s first ever appearance in the Final Four and they provided a glimpse of what was coming very soon.

With three seconds to go in the semifinals and the game tied at 70, Cincinnati’s Tom Thacker drained a desperation jumper. Final score, UC 72-UCLA 70.

So once again it was the two great Ohio teams battling for the national championship and Cincinnati prevailed again for the second year in a row – 71 to 59.

Cincinnati would make it back to the championship again in 1963, but this time as the tournament favorite after an undefeated season. Most thought they were a shoo-in for an unprecedented third consecutive national championship. However, it was not to be as they lost to the Loyola Ramblers in overtime, 60-58, and the dominance of the Ohio teams ended as well.

UCLA was lurking on the sidelines and poised to win 10 of the next 12 championships, including the never-to-be-matched seven in a row.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

The California Golden Bears Came Out of Nowhere to Win It All in 1959

Oscar Robertson (No. 12) led the Cincinnati Bearcats to the Final Four at the 1959 NCAA Tournament. This signed photo went to auction in October 2008.

By Jim O’Neal

The big question in 1959 was which one of the year’s big stars would lead their team to the NCAA championship: Oscar Robertson of Cincinnati, Bob Boozer at Kansas State, or “Zeke from Cabin Creek” Jerry West of West Virginia.

The answer was none of them, although Jerry and Oscar would guide their teams into the Final Four. The winner in 1959 was Coach Pete Newell’s starless California Golden Bears. They had won the Pacific Conference, but weren’t even ranked in the top 10 teams when the tournament started. They had a bye into the second round, where they were expected to be eliminated by a strong Utah team. Instead, they held the high-scoring Utes to a mere 53 points, while 6-10 center Darrall Imhoff monopolized the rebounding.

However, most eyes were looking to the east where West scored 25 points in an easy 82-68 win over a tough Dartmouth team. Then, several nights later, the 6-3 superstar chalked up 36 points to edge St. Joseph’s 95-92.

Kansas State had been ranked No. 1 at the end of the season and started strong by blistering DePaul 102-70 for only the third time a team had scored 100 points. Then they ran into Cincinnati and lost despite Boozer’s 32 points.

Meanwhile, California put away small Saint Mary’s in a game barely noticed and snuck into the Final Four.

Most thought Cincinnati would easily dispense with California in the semifinals given the explosive nature of the team that averaged 81 points a game complemented by the extraordinarily talented Oscar Robertson’s 29-point average. However, Coach Newell’s smothering defense prevailed in a 64-58 surprise upset.

West Virginia made the finals behind a sterling 38-point burst by West and easily beat Louisville 94-79.

So the stage was set to see if California could hold off Oscar Robertson one night and then Jerry West the next. When the final buzzer sounded, it was California 71 and West Virginia 70 in the biggest surprise of the year.

However, the next three years would clearly belong to the state of Ohio as Cincinnati and Ohio State fielded some of the best talent in tournament history.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].