Strange But True: On the Road

One of the hardest parts of being a professional athlete is the constant travel. No matter how carefully arrangements are made, they sometimes break down. Then the athletes must wait and wait and wait in planes, in airports, on buses, often without sleep and sometimes without food.

In 1955 the New York Knicks played a game in St. Louis against the St. Louis Hawks. Their next scheduled game was in Syracuse, New York. Their plane, and old twin-engined propeller model, was scheduled to carry them to Chicago for a connecting flight to Syracuse.

One of the players, Harry Gallatin, had parents who lived in St. Louis. They came to the airport to see him off, and they gave him a chocolate cake to take to his children in New York.

The weather was bad at Chicago. Planes were stacked up waiting to land. By the time the Knicks’ plane touched down, after circling for two hours, the plane for Syracuse had departed. But the Knicks were told that another plane for Syracuse would be leaving in twenty minutes. So they stayed right at the airport close to the departure gate instead of hunting for a coffee shop.

But the plane did not take off in twenty minutes. Nor did it take off in an hour. By then it was snowing. Finally the Knicks got aboard. The plane was due to go to Syracuse all right, but first there would be stops at Cleveland, Buffalo and Rochester. Food would not be served until they took off from Buffalo.

The plane never stopped in Buffalo. The airport there was snowed in. Instead, it landed at Niagara Falls.

By then the Knicks were starving. They had not eaten lunch, and now there would be no dinner, either. The Niagara Falls airport had no real terminal then, just a few small offices and ticket counters. The players made a mad dash for the candy machines, but there wasn’t much candy left in them. How could they hold out until Syracuse? And who knew when the plane would reach Syracuse anyway?

As the plane sat on the ground, the players suddenly remembered Harry Gallatin’s chocolate cake. That was the only food on the plane.

“Hey, Gallatin,” one player called out, “aren’t you hungry?” Gallatin did not reply. The box of cake was under his seat, but it was meant for his children.

“Harry, we’ll all die of hunger,” another player yelled. Still Gallatin said nothing.

Finally a stewardess came to his seat holding a knife. “Your friends said you wanted to use this,” she smiled sweetly.

Gallatin had a decision to make: his teammates or his children? Could he take away “grandma’s cake” from them? He decided he had to do it. With a sigh, Harry Gallatin cut slices from the chocolate cake and passed them around.

It was late at night when the New York Knicks finally reached downtown Syracuse. The only place open was a small cafeteria, and all they had to serve was ham or bacon and eggs. But the players would have eaten the silverware by then.

From The Giant Book of Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

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When you can walk its length, and leave no trace, you will have learned.

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