Now it can be told:

"We Used to Call Him 'Bad'"

The Don Birmingham Story

Where is he now?

Starting guard,
Marine on St Croix
Full Contact Basketball 1997-98

We Used to Call Him Bad

"Don Birmingham! Don Birmingham! You know Don Birmingham? The guy's a St. John's legend."

I stood there dumbly. It was not the kind of reception I'd expected. I had thought they'd say things like "Burming...I..." (grimacing) "I don't know.... 1969....almost 30 years ago?...pretty long time....Say the name again....How are you spelling it."

I thought it would be something like that. But instead:

"Man, that guy, we used to call him 'Bad.' For years in the hallway there was a great big blown-up photo of him taking a jumpshot, with a caption: '30 points in back-to-back games.' Sometimes we called him 'Old 30-30.'"

"You've got to talk to ..... and to ...."

Well, that was more than I bargained for. I was interested, but it was, to tell the truth, a minor interest. I had been just passing through Central Minnesota, driving through that poor flat farm country with sandy soil and dilapidated farm buildings, glanced at my watch, and made a stop when I came upon the always surprising oasis where St John's University is hidden amongst rolling pine-covered hills. I had important commitments later in the day. But I had thought it might be funny to briefly check out the past, after Don had told me about playing at St. John's Prep. I'd maybe pick up just a story or two to add to the warp and woof for the boys at the Brookside. I had planned on walking in, spending a minute to inquire, discovering little, and scurrying back to my car to make it to my next appointment.

But now this:

"Geez. Where is that photo, where is that photo? We've got to find that photo. Who'd know? I know who'd know," picking up the phone, "Maswarischwitz!"

(Maswarischwitz? Where was I? Notre Dame?).

"Maswarischwitz? Teddy? Listen, I've got a guy here who's asking about Bad Don Birmingham? Yeah, I told him about the photo..."

(Why couldn't it have just turned out like: "Well, I really don't know.... We don't really have time for this kind of inquiry.... We'd really need the request in writing....")

(But instead I have to meet Maswarischwitz):

"Don Birmingham! Of course, I remember him. We used to call him 'Bad.' 'Old 30-30.' There used to be a picture of him, did you know that."

(Well, I did know that.)

"Just a sec. Just a sec. There's Corkin outside the door. Corkin! Come here. C'mon in here a minute. I want you to meet somebody: a friend of good old 'Bad' Birmingham!"

"Don Birmingham! There was a big photo of him in the hall."

(Yes, I know. I think someone mentioned it. This was getting tiresome.)

"He scored 30 points in back-to-back games. After that we called him '30-30'"

(Golly, fancy that.)

"You know, Corkin, we've got to find that photo. We've got to check the archives."

(The archives?)

"First, we'll check the school's archives, and if it's not there then the main archives, the ones at the monastery."

(They have two sets of archives? And one of them's at the monastery? Has he been sainted?)

We're on our way down the hall, priest approaching:
"Father, Father Flynn, we're hot on the trail of that big photo of 'Bad Don' Birmingham. This guy's a friend of his. Says Don now lives just across the border in Wisconsin."

"Good morning, Teddy. God bless.... Amazing! Don Birmingham! Mr. Downtown! Sometimes we called him that. And sometimes we called him 'Old 30-30.'"

(We call him 'Old Cheesehead.')

"You know, Teddy, be sure to remember those plaques. Those awards for when he was named Prep School All-American! Not to mention Academic All-American and National Altar Boy Athlete of the Year."

(Spare me.)

"And Teddy...."


"You wouldn't want to forget, of course...." (Chuckling) "...The Gagliardi Trophy."

Where is he now?
Starting guard,
Marine on St Croix
Full Contact Basketball 1997-98


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