Sports Columns

March 2, 2013

Loran Smith: Even opponents revered Zippy

Sixty years ago in Knoxville, Tenn., something good happened for the University of Georgia’s men’s basketball team. The Bulldogs’ Zippy Morocco — who will be honored at halftime of Georgia’s game against Tennessee today in Athens — scored 38 points and led his team to a pulsating 87-86 victory.

There was more good news. With his offensive magic, Morocco broke the Southeastern Conference single-season scoring record with 590 points, breaking the mark set by Kentucky’s Cliff Hagan. Also a halfback for the football team, Morocco often electrified crowds.

A fine football player with punt-returning expertise without peer — a 90-yard return versus Furman between the hedges in 1950 and a dash of 65 yards against Texas A&M in the 1950 Presidential Cup are examples of his ability to make tacklers miss and go the distance — Morocco had opportunities to play pro basketball and football, but military duty cut short his professional aspirations.

Following his service obligation, he briefly tried high school coaching and later operated a restaurant and bar. Ultimately, he settled on a real estate career in his adopted hometown, where you still see him at the Varsity, his favorite restaurant since enrolling at Georgia in 1948.

In our society, Zippy Morocco stories were commonplace, dating back to the times when immigrants like his father and mother made their way to America for the better life. Still, there were many times when the good life was not so good.

Just recently Morocco recalled that he and his brother slept in a double bed in the same room with his parents, while his four sisters shared the other bedroom with two double beds. A couple of boarders slept in the living room, so you can imagine there was always a line for the bathroom, which was downstairs in an unfinished basement.

Youngstown, Ohio, offered job opportunities if you wanted to work in the steel mills. Morocco’s father signed on and didn’t complain. He went to work to support his family, but his son, Georgia’s first basketball All-American, wanted no part of the steel industry, which is why he was eager to sign the scholarship offer from Bulldogs football coach Wallace Butts.

Morocco knew he would have a roof over his head and three meals a day to play a game.

“Those are the kinds of things,” he said with a smile, “that people from the old country never took for granted. My parents never thought that I would get a college education, and they sure didn’t think I would get one for free.”

Youngstown sent to Athens three of its immigrant offspring who would become All-Americans. George Poschner and Frank Sinkwich in football were the others.

“They still revere Sinkwich back in Youngstown,” Morocco said.

As remarkable as his 38 points in Knoxville six decades ago were, there was a reaching out on Morocco’s behalf by the Volunteers, which is a reminder that rival teams should make an effort to expunge the hate factor we hear about so often.

Gus Manning, the University of Tennessee’s sports information director at the time, called — among others — Furman Bisher (who was then the sports editor of the Atlanta Constitution), to trumpet Morocco’s outstanding play.

“I just wanted to tell you that that performance he put on was the greatest that’s ever been seen on a Tennessee court,” Manning said.

When is the last time you heard of one team’s drumbeater promoting another team’s player?

Bisher was taken by the call and wrote a column, but it didn’t end there.

A day later, Volunteers coach Emmett Lowery sat down and wrote Morocco a letter that began, “Although we hated losing the ballgame last night, the team and myself, as well as the fans of Knoxville, all admired your outstanding performance. I don’t believe I have ever seen a finer individual performance that you put on here last night.”

Morocco was a two-handed set shot artist with an alacritous ebb and flow on the court, which is what led to his nickname as a youngster.

It is good to see Zippy honored in his sundown years, an accomplished basketball player who was the best of his time.

Loran Smith is a contributing columnist for The Daily Citizen. You can write to him at

Text Only
Sports Columns
  • Devin Golden: Area aims for multiple tennis titles in tourneys

    Afew local high school tennis teams have had successful regular seasons and they aim for bigger achievements this week in the region tournaments.
    Murray County’s girls are right there near the front of the Region 7-2A pack.

    April 13, 2014

  • Chris Whitfield: Miller finds the win he has wanted

    Former Dalton High School standout Chase Miller has had four strong years at the College of Coastal Georgia, transitioning with the school as it went from a junior college program his freshman year to a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics four-year school.
    The one thing missing from his résumé? A tournament title.

    April 12, 2014

  • Loran Smith: Big Three still a big deal for fans

    AUGUSTA — Sinatra is gone, but we still have his music. The same is true with Nat King Cole and Elvis. It would be nice to hear them in concert again, however. With Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, we are not sure what it will be like when they are no longer the honorary starters at the Masters.

    April 11, 2014

  • Tom Lindley: Managing dollars at the ballpark can be an exercise in good sense

    Attending an Opening Day game at a Major League Baseball stadium is one of life’s little pleasures. Everyone should get to experience it at least once.

    April 11, 2014

  • Loran Smith: Meeting old friends under the big oak a tradition, too

    The first time I was in a train station in Great Britain and saw a sign that read, “Meeting Place,” it brought me to a pause. How simple, how functional was this sign? In small towns it is not a problem to meet someone at Sheppard’s Filling Station or at the fireplug across the street from the Baptist church, but at a busy venue — like European train stations — there is nothing more sensible than meeting at the “Meeting Place.”

    April 10, 2014

  • Loran Smith: Golden Bear is still game’s top champion

    Jack Nicklaus is entitled to play the Augusta National Golf Club as a member now, which means when he takes friends out for a round of golf, he hits from the member tees. He hits it a long way still — certainly for a guy in his mid-70s — but not like in 1965, when he drove the ball on No. 15 so far over the crest of the hill that he only needed a 7-iron for his second shot.

    April 8, 2014

  • Chris Stephens: The boys of summer ready for rec baseball

    The emotions are far-reaching and played out all over baseball diamonds each summer. Fear. Anxiety. Fear. Anticipation. Fear. Excitement.
    But honestly, I have no idea how my son feels about his first baseball season. These are my emotions.

    April 5, 2014

  • Tom Lindley: Tough calls part of the job for refs

    Florida brings Scottie Wilbeken to the Final Four with championship hopes. Kentucky has Julius Randle, Wisconsin features Frank Kaminsky and Connecticut will be a tough out as long as Shabazz Napier has the ball.

    April 4, 2014

  • Heritage at NW base#1C009FA.jpg Devin Golden: Stage now set as NW, SE aim for series win

    The team isn’t the exact same, but Northwest Whitfield’s baseball squad is mirroring itself from a season ago.

    March 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jamie Jones: Booker T will write about time in the ring

    Here are the notes and news items from the week in pro wrestling: WWE has released the original Sin Cara (Luis Ignacio Urive Alvirde). The current Sin Cara is being portrayed by Hunico.

    March 27, 2014