Those are the words Ken Hamwey, at age 24 in 1967 and working the Celtics beat as a sports writer for the Framingham News, will never forget, coming from legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach.
In a tumultuous time for the country, on April 5, 1968, the Celtics, featuring Bill Russell, and the Philadelphia 76ers, with great Wilt Chamberlain, had decided to go ahead with the seventh game of their series. The Celtics had trailed the 76ers three games to one in their Eastern Conference playoff series, but had made history in coming back to win the following three games. The day before that seventh game, on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
“Never before in the history of pro basketball had a basketball team trailed 3-1 and rallied to win games five and six, and seven” says Hamwey. Chamberlain, he says, had not wanted to play, but Russell had wanted to play the game in King’s honor. The game would be played, but not without tension. In the end, the Celtics won the nail-biter, but Ken, one of several Celtics writers who’d taken a charter flight to Philly, ran into a snafu.
“You’ve got a telephone and a notebook in front of you in the press row, and there’s a row of typewriters. I had to call the story in to the Framingham sports editor, but I couldn’t get a line through.” After 45 minutes, Hamwey finally got through, but worried that he’d missed the town car scheduled to take him and the other writers back to the airport. Convinced he would be stranded for the night, he walked out of the Spectrum to find Red Auerbach pacing outside the town car.
“Here I am, 24 years old, and the greatest coach and executive of all time is waiting,” says Hamwey. “I turned to an old-time Globe writer and said, ‘it’s unbelievable that he waited.’ Jack Barry said to me, ‘Red is very loyal. He said we’re not going anywhere until the kid from Framingham shows up.’”
Now 74, Hamwey has been a journalist for over half a century, if you count his semi-retirement writing for seven Local Town Pages papers, and acting as sports editor for both The Bellingham Bulletin and Blackstone Enlightener. He’s tackled last minute stories with impossible deadlines such as the night the Boston Red Sox’s Carlton Fisk hit a home run in the 1975 World Series and in 1976, when the Boston Celtics played the Phoenix Suns in a championship game that went into triple overtime. He even landed the only exclusive interview with Marvin Fishman, the new owner of a new franchise, the Milwaukee Bucks.
“Writing isn’t just a hobby,” says Hamwey. “It’s a way of life. I never felt like I was working at all – it’s just fun to be surrounded by sports stories.”
Born and raised in Natick, Hamwey had set out to follow in the footsteps of his father, a successful businessman. He graduated in 1964 from Babson College in just three years with a degree in Finance and Investments and a minor in Marketing, but soon realized he was not cut out for that field.
A fan of sports, although he had never tried out for varsity teams, Hamwey decided he needed to have a job that would bring him close to his passion. His father landed him an informational interview with John Taylor, then publisher of The Boston Globe, who advised him to either attend one of the big journalism schools, or to “knock on the doors of the suburban dailies” to gain experience. Hamwey chose the latter.
His first gig was as a news correspondent at the Framingham News for $5 a story. He interviewed the Millis Coach Ernie Richards, of Hopedale, for his first story. A couple months and 10 stories in, he was hired full time. “I’d write feature or preview stories of Millis, Medway or Medfield,” says Hamwey, who learned on the job working different sections of the Framingham paper for six years. After flirting with a couple of interviews and job offers with the Worcester Telegram, at 29, Ken decided to join the then-Pulitzer-prize-winning Providence Journal. He’d be there for the next 35 years, working in sports and finishing up as night sports editor.
“Being able to write for 51 years, being able to do edit and do page design, all three, I feel blessed in that area,” says Ken, who was honored at his retirement in 2008, both for his journalism and design.
The most rewarding part of Hamwey’s career, he says, is not meeting famous people or winning awards, but it’s helping people through his work. With each story, the journalist says he has striven to be accurate, ethical and fair.
Hamwey is proud, for example, of shedding light for the Milford community on Rudy Fino, for whom Fino Field is named. As a part-time correspondent for The Milford Daily News, he was asked to write a Memorial Day story. Ken found information on Fino, the first Milford son to give his life in World War II, to be lacking. His research and subsequent story led to a town-wide celebration of Rudy Fino and recognition of Ken’s contribution.
Ken’s stories on student athletes have also helped many of them secure scholarships to colleges and universities.
“Boys and girls – if they’re great leaders worthy of a story, why not publicize them?” asks Hamwey. The writer, recalls with a chuckle, that one young man, Jay Monaghan, the oldestt in a family of five great male athletes Ken would cover, added that the writer also landed his brothers a few dates. Ken’s coverage of student athletes earned him the MIAA Distinguished Friend award in 2010. “Robert Kraft got it the following year,” says Hamwey.
Ken, who says timing is everything, balanced his career with raising his son as a single parent after being widowed at 39. He later married his son’s second-grade teacher, Pauline, with whom he’ll celebrate 29 years of marriage this month. Ken says he lives by a quote attributed to Calvin Coolidge, that begins, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence …”
And still, Ken Hamwey persists.