One of the most controversial moments in the history of Philippine basketball happened on Dec. 19, 1971 when Robert Jaworski and Meralco teammate Big Boy Reynoso hit two referees during their MICAA game against Crispa.

The incident came during the second half of their MICAA All-Filipino match when Jaworski and Reynoso attacked referees Eriberto Cruz and Jose Obias, much to the astonishment of the crowd inside the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.

Two days later, The Basketball Association of the Philippines slapped a lifetime ban on both Jaworski and Reynoso but the punishment was lifted in 1973.

The following is a story of the incident which landed on the front page of the Manila Bulletin on Dec. 20, 1971.

Jaworski, Reynoso attack refs; Obias hurt

National players Robert Jaworski and Alberto Reynoso attacked both referees last night, prompting officials to call off the crucial All-Filipino MICAA match between Crispa-Floro and Meralco with more than 12 minutes remaining and the Redmanizers leading, 65-50.

The MICAA technical committee will hold an emergency meeting at 12 noon today and the consensus is that the two players will draw heavy penalties.

It all started when referee Eriberto Cruz slapped a charging foul on Reynoso, his fifth and last, 12:25 remaining.

The 31-year-old center, the most experienced member of the national team, angrily protested the call. As the crowd of 10,000 watched startled, he slammed the ball at Cruz and then threw a punch which Cruz later said did not hit him.

Reynoso then went after the other referee, Jose Obias, who was felled at midcourt by Jaworski with a straight right to the left eye. Reynoso kicked the official before the proverbial cooler heads intervened.

The 36-year-old Obias was later treated at the Manila Sanitarium with a one-and-a-half inch cut over the left eye and a puffed cheek. The cut required five stitches to close.

It was Obias who, six minutes earlier, had thrown out Jaworski for elbowing him after he had called a foul on the Meralco star.

Asked if he would file charges against Jaworski and Reynoso, Obias, who has been officiating since 1962, said he was awaiting the decision of the Referees Federation of the Philippines, which is also meeting today.

Last night’s incident was not unprecedented. About six years ago, Manuel Jocson of the then Ysmael Steel was suspended for one year for hitting referee Tito del Rosario also in a MICAA game.

Meralco coach Lauro Mumar, interviewed about the incident, virtually put the blame on the two referees, charging that they “failed to control the game.”

Emmanuel Ledesma, manager of the Meralco team, issued a statement late last night, saying his team “regrets that the game could not be finished, which is to the prejudice of the paying public.”

As to the incident itself, he said the team would abide by the decision of the MICAA technical committee. He added, however, that the officiating had “much to do with it.”

Partial observers, although admitting that the officiating left much to be desired, said however that Jaworski and Reynoso, were not justified in attacking the two referees.

Jaworski and Reynoso are both members of the RP team that placed second in the last ABC tournament and together have appeared in a movie. Jaworski is a veteran movie actor, having appeared in a number of movies.

The decision to call off the game was announced by Honesto Mayoralgo, top-ranking MICAA official. He also said the MICAA technical committee would meet today to act on the incident.

Crispa and Meralco were battling for a playoff berth opposite San Miguel Corporation, which had earlier clinched a playoff for the first round pennant by routing winless U-Tex, 107-85.

The playoff had been scheduled for tomorrow, but it might be postponed because of last night’s incident.

The game was tight only in the first eight minutes when both teams battled to eight deadlocks, the last at 16-all. The defending champions then dropped a 13-2 bomb to pull away at 29-18, a lead which they jacked up to 15 at halftime, 49-34.

Midway in the first half, fans from the box sections started littering the court with paper cups in protest against a charging call by Cruz on Meralco guard Roberto Salonga.

In the other games, Yco blasted Mariwasa-Akai, 103-65, and Yutivo fought off a rally by Concepcion Industries, 80-77, after leading by 22 points in the first half, 50-28.

The MICAA board on the following day slapped a two-year suspension on both Jaworski and Reynoso, a story that once again made the front page of the Bulletin on Dec. 21, 1971.

Violent cagers sacked 2 years

Veteran national players Robert Jaworski and Alberto Reynoso were suspended indefinitely for not less than two years yesterday by the MICAA board for assaulting the referees of the Crispa-Meralco game last Sunday at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.

Speaking for the MICAA board, Leonardo “Skip” Guinto of San Miguel Corporation also announced that:

  1. Meralco had conceded the game to Crispa.
  2. The first round playoff between Crispa and SMC will be held at 6:30 p.m. today.
  3. That no appeal for the lifting of the suspension of the two players would be entertained by the board.

Guinto said that before the MICAA board could act on the case during an emergency meeting yesterday, Emmanuel Ledesma, manager of the Meralco team, informed the board that it had slapped an indefinite suspension on the two erring players.

The SMC official, president of the Republic of the Philippines Golf association, said the board accepted the indefinite suspension but added that the two players would be suspended for not less than two years.

“Indefinite suspension could mean only one day,” said Guinto. “That’s why we qualified it.”

 MICAA probe

Guinto said the board arrived at the decision after a thorough investigation of the events that led to the incident which forced MICAA officials to call off the game with still 12 minutes and 25 seconds remaining and the Redmanizers ahead by 15 points, 65-50.

He said they reviewed the tapes of the game furnished by Emerson Coseteng, manager and coach of the Mariwasa-Akai team.

Jaworski and Reynoso, both members of the RP team that placed second in the last ABC championships, and the two referees — Eriberto Cruz and Jose Obias — were not present during the meeting, which was presided over by Domingo Itchon, MICAA president.

On the part of the two referees, Guinto said the board would wait for the report of a technical commission composed of Honesto Mayoralgo, Jose Castro, Sr. and Romy Katganilla.

Guinto said the board would look into charges that the cause of the incident was “poor officiating.”

The game was disrupted several times by unruly fans who littered the court with debris in protest against the officiating,

Cruz, who threw out Jaworski early in the second half when the Meralco ace elbowed him, suffered a one-and-a-half cut over the left eye. He was treated at the Manila Sanitarium.

Guinto said both the MICAA and Meralco are apologizing for what happened last Sunday and “we hope that’s the last of its kind in the MICAA.”

It was the second suspension by Jaworski who was sacked by the BAP in 1965 along with Danilo Florencio and other players of University of the East and University of Santo Tomas who figured in a free-for-all during a UAAP game.

Guinto said that at the end of two years, the MICAA board would meet again and decide whether or not to continue the indefinite suspension.

Unanimous vote

“If the board votes for the lifting of the suspension, it will have to be unanimous,” Guinto said. “If there is one dissenting vote, the lifting will not take effect.”

Informed of the action by the MICAA board, Councilor Lito Puyat, president of the Basketball Association of the Philippines, said the BAP was still awaiting the report of the MICAA technical commission. One of the members of the commission, Mayoralgo, is his technical assistant as BAP president.

“But the basketball public can be sure that whatever action the BAP will take will be for the best interest of basketball,” Puyat said.

He added that the BAP decision could overrule or supersede the decision of the MICAA board.

“What happened last Sunday was not only deplorable but also condemnable in the sense that the two players went against authority,” said Puyat.

Fr. Edgar Martin, BAP secretary, said the BAP board would try to meet either this noon or before the Crispa-SMC playoff.

Munich team

The suspension of Jaworski and Reynoso automatically leaves open two positions in the national team to the Munich Olympic Games next year.

The leading candidates for these vacated posts are Rogelio Melencio of Yutivo and Ramon Lucindo also of Meralco.

It was also announced yesterday that the second round of the All-Filipino MICAA tournament will start on Jan. 2 with a tripleheader. The winner of the second round will meet the winner of the first round for this year’s title.

The Redmanizers are favored in today’s playoff because of their victory over the Braves, 87-82, last Dec. 12.

The MICAA decision was later overruled by the Basketball Association of the Philippines which voted to ban Jaworski and Reynoso for life, based on the accounts published by the Bulletin on Dec. 22, 1971.

Jaworski, Reynoso banned for life by BAP

The Basketball Association of the Philippines, in a precedent-setting move, banned national players Robert Jaworski and Alberto Reynoso for life yesterday for their assault on referees Eriberto Cruz and Jose Obias in a MICAA game last Sunday.

It was the first suspension for life in the history of Philippine basketball.

Councilor Lito Puyat, BAP president, and five other members of the BAP executive board present at an emergency meeting yesterday afternoon at Casa Marcos all voted for life suspension of the two Meralco players.

The other board members were Congressman Eddie Gullas, second vice-president; Fr. Edgar Martin, secretary; Mamerto Miranda, treasurer; Bayani Espino, PRO; and Oscar Tanedo, regional vice-president for North Manila.

The six voted after hearing the report of Honesto Mayoralgo, a member of the MICAA technical commission and technical assistant to Puyat as BAP president.

Gullas said further investigation would be made by the BAP to determine who were the other players and officials involved in the incident that forced MICAA officials to call off the game with still 12 minutes and 25 seconds left and the Redmanizers ahead by 15 points, 65-50.

The decision to ban Jaworski and Reynoso for life came after several warnings by the BAP that players engaging in free-for-alls will be dealt with severely by the association.

The ban means the two players cannot play in any BAP-sponsored or BAP-sanctioned tournaments. It also means they are automatically out of the RP team to the Munich Olympic Games.

The BAP action came just one day after the MICAA board had slapped an indefinite suspension on the two players calling for a ban of not less than two years.

The BAP verdict overrules the MICAA decision.

The two players went to see Puyat at a private party Monday night. The BAP head said the two came to him not to present their side or to appeal but to apologize to him and to the public “for the embarrassment that they have caused the game.”

The two, both members of the RP team that placed second in the ABC Championship in Tokyo, told Puyat that they would accept whatever penalty the BAP would give them.

Jaworski, 25, has been a member of the RP national team since 1965. A product of the University of the East, he played for Yco before transferring to Meralco two years ago.

Reynoso, 31, came from San Beda and was a member of the Ysmael Steel team until its disbandment in 1967. He first made the RP team in 1962 and has been a national player ever since.

Source: Manila Bulletin (