Hey everybody! I've been reading Blazersedge for a while and and currently in college for journalism so I thought I'd give posting a try. Actually, I have a little story I would like to share for any Blazer fan willing to read. It involves Herm Gilliam, and the ring that hugged his finger.
As his Wikipedia page will tell you, Herm spent the later part of his life working a blue collar job at a UPS center in Corvallis, OR off of Highway 34. The neat thing about this is that my father also works at that UPS center, and had the privilege of working with and meeting Herm.
For those that don't know, Herm Gilliam was on the Blazers' Championship team in 1977, and retired at the end of the season. Here is a link to his Wikipedia page. Herm had quite the impressive showing during that season, and was invaluable to the team. I spent some time reading about Herm shortly after hearing of his hiring at the center where my dad worked. Like a child on Christmas I was very excited to learn there was a hero in Corvallis. The more stats and information I read about him, the more impressed I grew. (Let's not kid ourselves though, he was never a superstar.) I was wide-eyed at the thought of my newly discovered Blazers legend nearby.
When Herm started working with my old man, we took to Ebay and bought some of his old basketball cards to have signed and framed. Among these cards was his rookie card as a Cincinnati Royal. Featured on this card is a very young, very handsome Herm Gilliam. The interesting thing about this card, and a point only known I think to people who had the privilege of speaking to one of the players from that team, is that he is wearing his jersey backwards. It is a real rookie card- mine of which is signed- distributed officially by Topps with Herm wearing his jersey backwards. This was because the Royals had just been sold, and they were about to move. They didn't want their players featured with jerseys showcasing the old city moniker, and they did not yet know where they were moving or what they would be called, so they did not have new jerseys with the new team name. They still needed to take individual and team photos for trading cards and other financial avenues, so team management had all the players take their respective photos with their jerseys on backwards.
Here is a similar card I found online. Mine of course has his signature. Notice how tightly the jersey hugs the front of his neck. This was no accident.
This history was told to me by my father Robin, as he learned it from conversations with Herm. They worked closely at UPS during Herm's time there, and my dad was privileged to have engaged in many conversations with the giant. Herm was a very humble and grateful man, and he was proud to have been a part of that 1977 Championship team. His ring was a great conversational piece that broke the ice on many occasions. It was pure gold, and so heavy it may have broken a lesser man's finger. My dad was invited to hold the ring, but didn't have a finger Herculean enough to sport it properly. This ring had an innate ability to amaze. It made us cry; by reminding us as Blazers that we only had one, It made us feel camaraderie; just look at my use of the collective, and it made us laugh.
The laughter usually came in the form of another story from Herm. Like the time he was visiting the Corvallis-Albany area before starting work at UPS, while he was living in Portland. He pulled off I-5 at the Highway 34 exit and proceeded to a gas station fit for a Champion- Arcos. Herm used the restroom and proceeded to wash his hands as a responsible sanitarian would. Of course, you never wash a gold ring. A Championship ring. THE Championship ring. I mean, we only have one. So he slipped it off his finger and placed it on the sink. Herm finished his duty and left for home. It wasn't until he made it back to Portland that he realized he wasn't wearing his ring. Feeling the panic creep in, he turned around and headed back to that Arco faster than the Blazers organization can disassemble a championship team. When Herm told us this story our hearts were racing and we couldn't believe the irony. Just like in the movies, the ring was still on that sink when Herm returned.
Herm died in 2005, and the people he worked with were invited to the funeral. One item that was dispersed at his funeral was a pamphlet showcasing his accomplishments on and off the court. I happen to have one of these pamphlets that I keep with my autographed cards. I appreciate Herm for what he brought to the Blazers franchise and its fans, like me. It was truly a great pleasure to meet this man and partake in conversation with him. He lived an exciting life and he will always be a part of Trail Blazers history. He will always be remembered by me and the people who were lucky enough to have met him while working at UPS, and before. I will always appreciate the history of his basketball career I otherwise would not have known, and I know by sharing these stories with Blazersedge he will always be remembered by this online family as well. I guess, in the end, he was a big part of a lot of families.