In 1962, my Army Reserve duty was extended because of the Berlin crisis. The 828 Station Hospital Unit out of Fresno was my unit. We were sent to Madigan General Hospital in Washington with orders to set up a field hospital in Berlin. We sat on those orders, never leaving the U.S. because President Kennedy called up thousands of Reservists. We had to process them before they could be deployed. Lines of men seemed endless.

I was doing intake – head down, pounding the typewriter – said “Next.” A body sat down across my desk. “Surname?”

Response was “Baylor.”

“First name?”


I stopped typing and looked at the man across from me. The Elgin Baylor was sitting at my desk! We were both from Illinois and chatted a few minutes. Beds were in short supply and I was moving off base that day. I called Harvey Hardcastle – also of the 828 – on active duty in Supply. “Harvey, I’m sitting here with Elgin Baylor. Could you get my bed and make it a foot longer?” Elgin had a new home and the longest bed in any barracks.

When that was arranged, I invited Elgin to go to the Enlisted Men’s Club with me for a beer. The beginning of a friendship.

While on duty, Elgin put on clinics for colleges in the Seattle area. At one point he said he was supposed to do a clinic but had been assigned duty. My wife sewed his name badge onto my shirt and on several occasions I did duty as "Baylor." No one commented on the fact that "Baylor" was white and only 6 feet tall. Even got away with that one Saturday when he was obviously playing elsewhere.

The Lakers came to Seattle to practice with Elgin. He rounded up his friends from the 828 to practice with them. That practice resembled a Globetrotters game, and we were out of our league. But that is how I got to play basketball with the Great Elgin Baylor and the Lakers!

He shall be missed by many.

— Raymond Thurm, Wofford Heights