Of all the improbable circumstances that collided on the night 50 years ago when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points, perhaps none was more devastating than the realization that hit play-by-play man Bill Campbell after the game.
As Campbell was driving home from Hershey, Pa., to his home in Broomall, Pa., after using his velvety voice to document the feat for humanity, he realized what a terrible mistake he’d made.
“It suddenly hit me halfway home, maybe one in the morning,” Campbell said on the phone this week. “One hundred points and I didn’t even tape the game.”
Fortunately for Campbell, he later got a phone message from a man whose name he didn’t recognize, and it saved him a lifetime of embarrassment – and provided the public with a lasting memory of Chamberlain’s unprecedented feat.
“I called this guy back, and he told me, ‘I’m sure as a representative of a fine professional organization, you obviously have a very skillfully produced recording of this event,’” Campbell said. “I didn’t say we didn’t. He said he had recorded the fourth quarter, had done it at home on his little ham-and-egg set. And he said, ‘Would you mind if I sent it to you as a memento of the occasion.’ And I thought, ‘Would I mind? This may get me off the hook!’”
The recording of the fourth quarter of Chamberlain’s 100-point performance for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962 was made by a college student named Jim Trelease, who bootlegged the recording in his University of Massachusetts dorm room. If not for that – Campbell calmly calling, “He made it! He made it! A dipper dunk! He made it!” after the basket that got Wilt to 100 -- the accomplishment would be even more mythical than it already is. There were no TV cameras in Hershey that night, and thus no video of the historic event
Campbell, who is planning to attend the Philadelphia 76ers’ game against the Golden State Warriors Friday night in Philly to commemorate the 50th anniversary, said he later heard from Chamberlain himself about that recording.
“When Wilt was named to the Hall of Fame, he called in from Los Angeles and he said, ‘Do you have any of the 100-point game?’” Campbell said. “He said, ‘Send it to the Hall of Fame.’ And we sent it to the Hall of Fame, and they were delighted to have it.”
And so are we.