WEBSTER COUNTY, Ky. (1/9/13) - In a state that makes legends out of basketball players, it’s sad that so few people in Webster County seem to realize that they have greatness right here in their own backyard. If you’ve ever done business with Dixon Bank, you’ve probably seen him. He’s been President of the bank for forty years.
UK fans knew him as “The Kentucky Colonel.”
Frank Ramsey, president of Dixon Bank and a native of Madisonville, has accomplished more on the basketball court than most people will ever dream of.
He started his college career at the University of Kentucky in the 1950-51 season, playing for college basketball coaching legend Adolph Rupp.
A year later he helped the Kentucky Wildcats win the NCAA Championship with a 68-58 victory over Kansas State.
At the time players only had three years of varsity eligibility, but the season that should have been Ramsey’s final year in blue never happened.
Kentucky played no schedule for the 1952-53 season as part of the fall-out from a scandal which rocked the nation in 1951. Revelations of point shaving and dumping games came to light when a star of the Manhattan Jaspers basketball squad, was approached by a former player and offered $1000 to lose an upcoming game. The player reported the incident to authorities and the New York District Attorney’s office was called in. The investigation implicated thirty-three players in eighty-six games, with the knowledge.
Among those implicated were former Wildcat stars Ralph Beard, Alex Groza and Dale Barnstable, who were accused of shaving points in 1948.
The NCAA forced the Wildcats, considered to be the best team in the nation, to forfeit what was to be Ramsey’s senior year as punishment.
He went on to graduate from UK that spring and enter graduate school at UK, but his college basketball career wasn’t quite done. After not playing their senior season, Ramsey, as well as fellow graduates Cliff Hagan and Lou Tsioropoulos returned for one more season.
Ramsey led the Wildcats to a perfect 25-0 season, scoring 19.6 points per game. Polls had Kentucky ranked number one in the country, but NCAA regulations forbid graduate students from playing in the post season.
UK, the number one team in the country, passed on a tournament bid, saving their perfect record.
Ramsey’s stellar college career was over. During his career he scored 1344 points, which at the time ranked him fourth in the school’s history, grabbed 1038 rebounds, a school record later surpassed by Dan Issel and was a three-time All-Southeastern Conference selection.
“At the time everyone who went to a land grant college like UK had to serve two years in the military,” Ramsey said. While many of his teammates chose the Air force, he entered the Army Military Police Corp. “I worked in an army prison and at Fort Knox.”
The Boston Celtics selected Frank Ramsey 5th overall in the first round of the 1953 draft, while he was still finishing his run at Kentucky. Fellow Wildcats Cliff Hagan and Lou Tsioropoulos were also selected by Boston in later rounds.
On the day that the Boston Celtics won their first Championship in 1957, Frank Ramsey was still technically a member of the United States Army. He was on leave during the Championship game, and received his discharge the next day.
“We didn’t know anything about pro ball then,” Ramsey said. “We went to college to get an education.”
The NBA in fact didn’t come into being until 1949, and by the 1953-54 season there were only eight NBA teams.
“The NBA was in its infancy then and Boston was a hockey town,” he said. “Tickets were $2.50 a piece. The arena seated 13,909. Hockey sold it out. We averaged about 5,000 people in the same building.”
Ramsey witnessed not only the growth of the Celtics organization, but the growth of the game of basketball first hand. His UK teammate Cliff Hagen was traded without ever playing a game. In return Boston got a young star named Bill Russell.
As a rivalry developed between Russell and Wilt Chamberlain the fans took notice.
In nine seasons with Boston, Ramsey was a member of seven championship teams. To Celtics’ fans he would forever be known as “the sixth man”, always ready to come off the bench and get to work.
“That’s just how Coach chose to use me,” Ramsey said.
He retired at the age of 34. In his 623 games in the NBA, Ramsey scored 8,378 points for an average of 13.4 points per game over his career.
He returned home to Madisonville, but briefly came out of retirement to coach the American Basketball Association’s Kentucky Colonels during the 1970-71 season. They lost four games to three in the ABA Championship, and Ramsey retired from basketball for good.
He has worked at the Dixon Bank ever since.
In 1982 Frank Ramsey was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
J-E News Editor
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