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    1966 Willie Worsley NCAA Championship Game Worn Texas Western Jersey. Only one year earlier, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s march on Selma, Alabama in support of voting rights for the African-American populace was repelled with tear gas, whips and clubs. And yet here, on college basketball's greatest stage, five young black ballplayers were taking the court to meet the all-white powerhouse University of Kentucky Wildcats. Those forty minutes of basketball would generate 40,000 pieces of hate mail for Texas Western coach Don Haskins, and more than a dozen threats upon his life. It would also immortalize the team from a cash-strapped school in El Paso, Texas, and continue the work of Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson in reshaping the way the world viewed the black athlete.

    Willie Worsley, the Texas Western five-foot six sophomore guard, hadn't expected to start that landmark Final game, but bravely heeded the call when Haskins passed on his six-foot eight inch forward, Nevil Shed. Haskins wanted to go small and quick against Kentucky, which had been nicknamed "Rupp's Runts" due to the diminutive size of coach Adolph Rupp's Kentucky squad, led by future NBA coaching legend Pat Riley. It was a plan that worked. Those with any passing knowledge of the college game, and moviegoers who bought a ticket for the 2006 Disney blockbuster film "Glory Road," know that March 19, 1966 saw an historic upset as five black starters from Texas Western topped the Wildcats by a score of seventy-two to sixty-five.

    Here we present the only known surviving jersey from that fundamentally important milestone in American athletics, worn by Worsley in perhaps the most historically relevant college basketball game ever played. It is consigned to Heritage by Danny Whitlock, a former player and graduate assistant at the University of Texas at El Paso, the name adopted by Texas Western the school year after their basketball team's glorious triumph, several years before Whitlock's enrollment. The jerseys of the entire Championship team were about to be unceremoniously trashed when Whitlock rescued them, and for years afterwards he and his friends would wear them for pick-up games and yard work, eventually discarding each when the wear became too great. Only Worsley's jersey went unworn-it was too small to be of any use.

    Lest you worry that this might be some other orange Texas Western gamer, from some other season, put those thoughts out of your head. We sat down with two members of the 1966 Texas Western basketball team, student trainer Fred Schwake and sports information director Eddie Mullens, at our world headquarters here in Dallas to speak about that important season, and the jersey in particular. Schwake was with the team from 1963 through 1967, and Mullens from 1962 through 1971, and each confirmed that this underfunded club had just one white and one orange jersey for that season. And furthermore, they assured us that these single jerseys were recycled for use each of the years that they were there. The team never got new jerseys. They didn't even believe that the jerseys had been new when they each arrived at Texas Western. An orange number "24" Texas Western jersey from this era could have only been the one worn by Worsley in the Championship game. There simply were no others. When we placed this jersey on the table in front of Schwake and Mullens, there was no mistaking the look of recognition on their faces. Both claimed with no hesitation that this was exactly how they remembered the jerseys, down to the smallest detail.

    If this overwhelming evidence still doesn't convince you, take a look at our photo matches. In the image that appears on the Wheaties box celebrating the Championship's fortieth anniversary, Worsley is seen in the traditional process of cutting down the net. Note how the striped piping that encircles the armhole has a slightly shorter white bar at the point where the side hem of the jersey meets it. It is identical in this regard to the jersey we present here. Likewise, note how the letter "X" in "Texas" on the front of the jersey relates to the striping of the collar piping. Again, it's a match.

    Top jersey expert Lou Lampson concurs with the evidence, and further ensures that this gamer is correct for the era, and the specifics of the school's design. The generic size 40 "Sand-Knit" label in the tail, he explains, is representative of the period 1960 to 1967. While it's evident to laymen from the photo matches, he also states that the "Texas 24 Western" on the chest and number "24" on the verso are properly fonted and positioned. The wear, he says, also does seem to indicate multiple seasons of activity. And the small size of the jersey would be appropriate for the sparkplug guard Worsley.

    Joining this tremendously important Championship gamer will be notarized letters of opinion from Whitlock, Schwake and Mullens, and prints of the photo matches of the jersey worn by Worsley in 1966, one of which appears on the included Wheaties box. Rarely an artifact from the sporting world crosses boundaries to take on a greater significance, to evoke a theme of American history at large. This piece certainly qualifies as such. Without question it ranks as one of the most important basketball jerseys ever made available to the collecting public. LOA from Lou Lampson.


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    Auction Dates
    May, 2006
    6th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 14
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