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Celtic Tommy Heinsohn Recalls Meeting with President Kennedy

Nov. 23, 1963 - “Take it easy, baby.” The Boston Celtics’ players laughed for a long time after those four words had been uttered the morning of Jan. 31 this year. The words came from the mouth of the quietest player on the game, Tom “Satch” Sanders. But the man to whom they were spoken carried so much more significance today. They were directed to the late President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy in the White House. Player Tommy Heinsohn today recalled the incident after the game between the Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers had been postponed. First, he said how glad the players were that the game wasn’t played. As professionals, Heinsohn said, they would have gone through with the game and played their best. “But everyone really let out a sigh of relief,” said Heinsohn, “once we knew we didn’t have to play. You know, we met that man on Jan. 31st this year. The whole team was in the White House, except Bill Russell and Dan Swartz, neither of whom could be reached to attend the affair. There were five of us, and we were in the place looking at things, and trainer Buddy LeRoux knew one of the men in the White House. There were five of us. And Buddy was told to get the whole gang over and that we could all have about 20 minutes with the President. So, we went to the phones, called everyone, and the meeting was arranged. It lasted the 20 minutes. We all introduced ourselves, told what school we went to, what position we played. He knew Bob Cousy. Bob had been active in Ted Kennedy’s campaign for senator, and the President thanked Bob for it. He said he watched basketball on television once in a while and had seen the West Virginia team the other day. Of course, he knew Red Auerbach. They chatted for a while. But we all had something to say to the man. Then it came time for us to go. The President shook hands with us. Wished us all good luck. Then he came to Tom Sanders. He said ‘good luck’ to Satch. Satch looked at him and said, ‘Take it easy, baby.’” The President roared. So did the players.

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