Sports

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 loransmith@sports.uga.edu.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • DHS at Heritage 1 mlh.jpg Generally disappointed

    Dalton High School’s baseball team started the fifth inning of Friday’s crucial Sub-region 7B-4A game against Heritage-Catoosa with four consecutive hits.
    The only problem for the Catamounts was that was where their good hitting started and stopped.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Prep roundup: Upset puts N. Murray in baseball playoffs

    Over the past few seasons, a late-season game with Sonoraville has been the deciding factor in whether the North Murray High School baseball team advanced to the state playoffs.

    April 18, 2014

  • Miller, Mariners off to NAIA title tournament

    Former Dalton High School golf standout Chase Miller is finishing his senior year at College of Coastal Georgia on a high note.

    April 18, 2014

  • NW at SE soccer   5  mlh.jpg On to the title match

    With around 15 minutes left in Thursday’s Region 7-4A semifinals match, Northwest Whitfield High School’s boys soccer team increased pressure on Southeast Whitfield with hopes of a tying goal.
    But the host Raiders were the ones getting the late goal.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • DHS tennis day 2 2 mlh.jpg Prep tennis: Perfect Colts claim title in Region 5-3A

    Coahulla Creek High School’s boys tennis team only needed three years to win its first region championship.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • Heritage at DHS baseball 3 mlh.jpg Prep baseball: Cats must win today to clinch No. 2 seed

    Dalton High School’s baseball team led 6-5 against visiting Heritage-Catoosa as late as the fifth inning with a chance to clinch second place in Sub-region 7B-4A.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Region track and field: Richardson paces Murray Co. girls

    Katlyn Richardson has had an impressive junior season for Murray County High School’s girls track and field team.

    April 17, 2014

  • Colts boys have shot at 3A golf state sectional

    Coahulla Creek High School’s boys golf team finished second in the Region 5-3A tournament at Calhoun’s Fields Ferry Golf Course on Thursday, but now the Colts will have to wait to see if they will advance to the Class 2A state sectional tournament.

    April 17, 2014

  • CHS Lowe_Bartley 3 mlh.jpg Let’s keep playing

    Academic offerings played a big part in which college football program nabbed Christian Heritage School’s Nich Bartley, one of the area’s top players in 2013.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Prep roundup: Coahulla Creek hurts N. Murray’s playoff hopes

    One play in the fifth inning, during which the sun got in pitcher Braiden Jacobs’ eyes, seemed to encapsulate the entire season for Coahulla Creek High School’s baseball team.
    But it could be one rule misinterpretation that defines the season for North Murray.

    April 17, 2014