Crying For Glory That Might Have Been

By Ed Gebhart (Nov 1997) (Delco Times)

Engle Street in the West End of Chester runs from I-95 in the north to the
Delaware River at its southern terminus. It's one of the better preserved
streets in the city and, by an odd circumstance, was the home to arguably the two
finest basketball players the city ever produced.

In a semi-detached home in the 200 block lived Charles and Inez Walker and
their sons. The youngest, Horace, made everyone in the city a basketball fan
when he played at Chester High.

To the north, in what is known as the Fairgrounds Project, lived the other
legendary figure. He had virtually no contact with his mother and father when he
was growing up. His saintly grandmother, Mrs. Pearl Green Moore, raised the
young man and later two aunts, Vernita Wilson and Thelma White, did all they
could to keep him on the straight and narrow.

His name was Emerson Baynard.

Before his passing, Horace Walker traveled all over the world and served as
an executive for several national corporations. Horace lived in a lavish home
near Los Angeles.

Emerson Baynard was buried on a crisp, clear Monday morning in Haven Memorial
Park. He was 55 and had followed a far different path that his fellow Engle
Street resident. On the few occasions when he left the city of his birth, it
was to do a little time at Broadmeadows.

Yet both lads started out remarkably alike.

Horace Walker captivated the entire city when, as a 15-year-old sophomore, he
led Chester High to its first state championship game in 1954. Overnight, the
kid was the toast of the town.

About six years later, just when everyone thought there would never be
another Horace, along came Emerson. He made the high school varsity as a freshman.
Before his career ended, those who knew the game best would engage in heated
arguments as to who was the better player, Walker or Baynard.

Even their playing styles were different.

Walker always was deadly serious, the ultimate team player, a rebounding
terror (though only 6-foot-2) who would rather pass off than score.

To Baynard, basketball was like life itself, something to enjoy to the
fullest. He was highly emotional on the court, given to fierce scowls when a foul
was called against him, and great grins when he made a great play. He was the
ultimate player.

A greater difference was in their home life.

Walker's father was a big man, about 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds. He worked at
the old Chester Blast Furnace and was a man that his sons knew they could not
mess with.

"Dad was very strict," said Benny, the third born. "When he told you to do
something, you did it. No questions asked. And when Horace had all that
adulation in high school, our father made sure it did not go to his head."

All four sons of Charles and Inez were model citizens.

Horace became an all-American basketball player at Michigan State, played one
year in the NBA, then began his remarkable career in corporate America.

Emerson, without strong parents to guide him, never had a chance. He enjoyed
too much success to soon. That was fine when he could make it playing
basketball, but even scoring machines like Baynard erode after time.

That's when he took to the streets.

After a time, he was engaged in some illegal activity involving what the Rev.
Commodore Harris called "phantom television sets."

Before becoming a minister, Rev. Harris was a Chester detective and before
that a rabid fan of Chester High sports. One day, it became his unpleasant duty
to arrest the young man he once cheered so loudly for.

"Even then, even when I had to lock him up, Emerson was never any trouble,
"Rev. Harris recalled. "When you say Emerson was a big kid who never grew up,
you hit the nail right on the head."

It should be pointed out that Emerson's crime was one of flim flam. Not that
that is excusable, but he never used a weapon, never strong-armed anyone. It
would be unthinkable to imagine Emerson hurting anyone physically.

Baynard's later years were spent doing odd jobs, helping elderly ladies - who
loved the guy- with their grocery bags at the market, doing whatever he could
to earn a buck here and a buck there.

To those who saw a young man who started out so brilliantly, it was painful
to observe.

About 40 people turned out for Emeron's graveside service, a far cry from the
hundreds of thousands who once roared his name in praise in the late 50's and
early 60's.

Evangelist Bernice Warren admitted she had known Emerson only by reputation.
She had heard it all, the good and not-so-good, and asked that if anyone dare
judge, they judge the whole life of Emerson.

"Let us not dwell on his later years," she implored, "but let us remember the
Emerson Baynard of his youth..the devoted grandson and magnificent athlete
who filled us with such pride. Pride that you were a friend to the young man who
brought pride to his school and his city of Chester."

And that's exactly what this old sports writer will do.

The Emerson Baynard I will remember will leap high into the air and
ferociously snatch a rebound with one hand and smack it into the palm of the other. He
will begin that deceptive lope down the court before throwing those
fakes...head fakes, shoulder fakes, hip fakes.

Suddenly, he'll lift that magnificent body far above his defender and let
fly, ever so delicately, a jump shot.

As the ball settles into the net, he'll head back upcourt, pumping his fist
and flashing that little smile we all knew so well.

And I will cry a little too, for the glory that was and for the glory that
might have been.