Wednesday, July 27

A New Sonic Treasure Found

It isn’t often that I come across a piece of Sonics memorabilia that takes me by surprise. I’ve seen – if not all – then very close to all of it, so when I tell you that I found something amazing, well, take my word for it, this is something really unique.

I found this particular item from a sale held by Goldin Auctions for the estate of the late Dennis Johnson (the auction is now closed, but you can find the link to the items here). There are the standard jerseys, some signed baseballs from Pete Rose and Ted Williams among others, contracts, a piece of parquet floor from the original Boston Garden, and so on.

But what caught my eye was this particular gem, a drawing of the 1978-79 Seattle SuperSonics (click to enlarge).

It’s wonderful on many levels. You’ve got the autographs of all the players, the one-liner from Sam Schulman, and, most importantly, the utterly fantastic drawings of all the players and coaches. Just knowing that this was something given to each of the players (I would assume, anyway) makes it even more special. I have to imagine there are a handful of these still in existence, and it’s possible the team reproduced them for select season-ticket holders, advertisers, etc. That said, in the bottom left corner is a marking indicating this piece was 28 of 28, which obviously means not a large number of them were made. Still, it’s something I’d never seen before, and thought was just really exciting to come across. (Also, I was glad to see that Dennis Awtrey was captured in full beard - unlike the team photo that shows him shaven).

You may be wondering – as I was – who the creator of the piece is. If you look closely in the bottom right-hand corner, you’ll see an inscription that shows up as (indecipherable) Caplan, which has to make the artist Irwin “Cap” Caplan.

Caplan isn’t perhaps familiar to most people, but he is a native Seattlite who went on to fame as a cartoonist with the Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, and Life, and many others. After a long and noted career that included art exhibits at the Seattle Art Gallery, the Metropolitan Art Gallery in New York, and the National Gallery in Washington, Caplan passed away in 2007 (you can read a nicely written piece on his life from the Seattle Times here).

It’s hard to say how Caplan came to draw this piece – it’s entirely possible that Caplan was a season-ticket holder, or perhaps just a friend of people that worked with the team. If nothing else, it just further cements just how beloved the Sonics were in Seattle in 1979.

Monday, July 18

Goodbye, Mr. Schultz

The sale of the Sonics to Clay Bennett came 10 years ago today. I tracked down the article I wrote about the event 10 years ago to see if it's prescient, irrelevant, or just plain dumb. Unfortunately, it is just as sad to read today as it was to write it then, and I don't think I'd change a word of it.

It's funny, a couple of days ago I was thinking of writing a piece about the greatest hair in Sonics history - X-Man, Sikma, Freddie Brown, and now Danny Fortson and Mickael Gelabale. I was hoping Chunky could put together some artwork to make it into a nice, funny piece about our favorite team. Now? I'm barely motivated to write two words.

Look, Howard Schultz doesn't owe anybody anything. He made a business deal to get himself out of a financially precarious position, and as the front man for a conglomerate of other businesspeople, he most likely has been feeling as much heat from them to sell as he has from all of us to not. Still, it seems a bit hypocritical to me that Schultz would on the one hand trump up the emotional relationship between the city and the team when it's convenient for his argument (i.e., Seattle must build me a new stadium because of all those future Sonic fans that love their basketball), and then turn around and completely abandon that same relationship when it's convenient for his pocketbook.

Mr. Schultz, I have never met you, and I most likely never will. Hence, I am in no position to judge your character. Further, if I have learned anything in life it's that passing judgement the motivations of others is a foolhardy and worthless endeavor.

Regardless, Howard, I think I speak for the majority of the people who read this site when I say that I am disappointed in you. You have passed yourself off as a man of the city, the man who saved the Sonics from leaving and preserved the legacy of Blackburn, McDaniel, Shawn, DJ, and Lenny, and a man who was engaged in a Quixotian struggle with the city and state to keep the Sonics in their home of 40 years.

And yet, you sold that same team to a man who even a 10-year-old can tell is obviously intent on moving it to Oklahoma, guaranteeing that the Sonics will become the Cleveland Browns or Montreal Expos of the NBA.

It’s funny. Howard Schultz, easily the worst owner in Sonics history in regard to wins and losses, will also go down as the most remembered owner in Sonics history. I wonder, Howard, was that part of your five-year plan?