The rivalry

Lito A. Tacujan - The Philippine Star
The rivalry
The be-all and end-all of what the core of the PBA was all about in its first eight years.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — It’s all fire and brimstone.

The be-all and end-all of what the core of the PBA was all about in its first eight years.

The Crispa-Toyota rivalry was probably forged in hell for all the scintillating games they dished out, the thrillers that sometimes ended in violent brawls and inflicted injuries to the players.

Or at one time being hauled to a military camp.

“There’s no rivalry so intense, contentious, personal,’’ said an old PBA watcher.

It’s the very reason why the first pro league in Asia has lasted this long, as it fed on the passion of the nation in the first eight years and remained on the front seat of the national pastime for 48 years now.

Time, indeed, is a great healer, providing the balm that cured the wounds of the past, as some of the central figures, led by Toyota’s main man Dante Silverio, decided to hold a reunion next week.

They will be there with Silverio like Ramon Fernandez of the Tamaraws, and Atoy Co and Philip Cezar of the Redmanizers, recalling the gut-wrenching encounters in the gathering where they could feel the presence of the men at the helm like the late coach Baby Dalupan and owner Danny Floro of Crispa and Toyota manager Don Pablo Carlos.

And generations of fans would surely relish the tales of the bitter rivals on and off the court particularly when both teams were hauled to Camp Crame for public scandal on April 18, 1977 the day after a postgame rumble ensued following Crispa’s 122-121 win over Toyota at the Big Dome.

It was the season’s opener at a time when the country was deep in Martial Rule.

And who would ever forget the Redmanizers’ amazing streak of 19 straight games in the 1980 All-Filipino, moving into the threshold of immortality, a win shy of an amazing sweep.

Lo and behold, the Robert Jaworski-led Tamaraws unmasked their foes as sheer mortal, too, with a 97-93 decision in Game 3 of the title playoff.

That storied win run would remain a conference best while the Redmanizers proceeded to win the title in Game 4, 105-91, after losing their coach a match earlier.

The Redmanizers would move on to win 13 titles, including two grand slams under Dalupan in 1976 and coach Tommy Manotoc in 1983. Toyota would finish with nine titles before it disbanded at the end of season.

The rivalry would end after nine years, drawing out its best against each other in hell-for-leather showdowns.

They were memorable and unforgetable skirmishes but the feud would end in a bitter and senseless manner – playing two exihibition matches in Guam, away from their ever loyal and loud fans.

Co and Cezar would spearhead bids of other teams while Fernandez would win four MVP titles and help San Miguel Beer nail its own grand slam, and Jaworski would find platforms to showcase his leadership and rugged style that led to the battlecry that has resonated to this day: “NEVER SAY DIE.”

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