Kaiser still major part of county’s basketball

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 17, 2000

CHESAPEAKE – Buddy Kaiser was running down the court when, suddenly, a pass came whipping behind the back of Wyman Roberts.

Saturday, June 17, 2000

CHESAPEAKE – Buddy Kaiser was running down the court when, suddenly, a pass came whipping behind the back of Wyman Roberts.

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Unfamiliar with the style of play, the ball hit Kaiser’s hands and bounced off. He fumbled the ball momentarily before regaining control.

"(Coach Magellan) Hairston pulled me aside and said, ‘You’ve got to be ready at any time.’ "

Kaiser didn’t fumble too many basketballs during his playing days, but playing with the Waterloo Wonders was a whole different story.

The Wonders were the most popular and famous high school team in Ohio during the 1935 and 1936 seasons when they won back-to-back Class B state championships with their ballhandling and passing wizardry.

The quartet of cousins Orlyn and Wyman Roberts, Curt McMahon, Beryl Drummond, and Stewart Wiseman formed the famous high school team, but after high school the Waterloo Wonders professional team had a different look during its two-year reign.

McMahon and the Roberts cousins filled in the starting lineup with Kaiser and George Clark. Drummond was still in high school and Wiseman was attending college to become a teacher and coach.

Kaiser was an All-Ohio star for the old Rome High School. He played with such players as Lucian Beckett, Homer Patton, and Leon Miller to reach the Class B state finals before losing in the title game.

"Hairston remembered me playing in high school when we beat (his Windsor team) and he asked me to play with the Wonders," said Kaiser. "I remember they had us down 18-8 with little time to go. We had a tall center and he tipped the ball to me and I shot it and we finally beat them 21-18."

After working on his father’s farm following high school, Kaiser started at Marshall University during the 1934-35 season along with Clark.

"I don’t remember what I averaged (scoring). I was as good a shot as any of them, but we had other people who could score," Kaiser said of his Marshall playing days.

"But times were hard. If you could get a good job, you took it. My father was a farmer and he got in a produce business in Huntington (W.Va.), so I went to work for him."

But Kaiser has plenty of memories of his playing days with the Wonders, especially Hairston who had coached the boys high school team to their two state championships.

Hairston was a strong influence on the Wonders when they were in high school. He regularly had the players at his parents’ farm where he fed them and kept them out of trouble.

"Hairston is really the one who made them ballplayers. They had to do as he told them or they’d come out of the game. He could hold them together better than anyone else," said Kaiser.

There are a lot of colorful stories surrounding the Wonders. Kaiser said some of the stories are true, but much of their reputations were fabricated by the fans, the media, and even the players who enjoyed a good prank or joke.

"One place we were playing the coach (from the other team) came in our locker room and said he didn’t want any whiskey. They never had any whiskey. They did what Hairston wanted. Magellan told the coach that they weren’t the drinkers like people all thought they were," said Kaiser.

Kaiser toured with the team for two years playing against other professional teams. He said the players were paid according to the presale and gates.

"I think $15 was the highest we got paid, but that was a lot. You could buy a used car for $50 to $75," said Kaiser.

It was in a used car bought by Wyman and Orlyn Roberts that brought back a memory for Kaiser. Upon returning from Columbus, Wyman saw a paper boy and bought the youngster’s entire stock. He then proceeded to stand on the corner and sell all the papers himself.

"They just had a good time," said Kaiser.

One good time came on a trip to Zanesville. Both Wyman and Orlyn stopped to buy roosters and snuck them into their hotel room. But later that night the roosters began crowing and the hotel management called their rooms.

"The roosters were waking everyone up and everyone was calling to complain," said Kaiser.

While the Wonders enjoyed their fun off the court, they had even more fun on the floor. Despite the fact the basketball of that era was one-third the size bigger than today, the Wonders were passing wizards.

"Wyman was left-handed and Orlyn was right-handed. They would run down the floor passing the ball back-and-forth behind their backs faster than the defense could run," said Kaiser.

"We were in Cleveland one afternoon and they came out on the floor and put on a passing exhibition for the fans. They threw the ball the length of the floor behind their backs and there were no wild throws. I never threw one behind my back. They could throw one behind their back and knock a man down."

Kaiser soon quit touring to concentrate on his job, but he didn’t stop playing on recreation teams. And, he began to work in the community as well.

Kaiser spent 20 years as a Lawrence County commissioner, served four terms on the Proctorville-Rome school board, and teamed with men such as Les Burd and Conley Burcham to start the Fairland Little League.

Today, Kaiser spends his retirement relaxing although he still likes to dabble in his garden along with his wife, Minnie. He attends Marshall football and basketball games and collects sports memorabilia. One of his prize possessions is a baseball that includes autographs of Dizzy Dean and Rogers Hornsby.

"It was 1933 and I told (the St. Louis players) I traveled 175 miles to see them play. Dean paid for the ball, but he said it was going to cost me. He said, ‘Go get us a hot dog apiece and we’ll give you a ball. They were 10 cents each which was a good amount of money then, but it was worth it," said Kaiser.

And in today’s inflated world, Buddy Kaiser’s contributions are worth it, too. in fact, they’re priceless.