What’s in a Cartoon?

Dan Capozzi, the cartoonist who drew Junius Kellogg’s likeness, was the former editorial cartoonist for North County News in Yorktown, New York. He died on April 7, 2017 at 86. He had a career in advertising before working at the North County News. His cartoons were honored by the New York Press Association. We tend to forget how impactful cartoons were to readers, especially of sports news, and how special it was for a man like Junius Kellogg to get mentioned. It was 1952, and even in New York, black athletes were not universally embraced, especially off the court.
Capozzi was born in 1931, and he went to Junius’ Alma Mater, Manhattan College. He saw Junius play so my guess is that he drew this cartoon for the college newspaper, The Quadrangle.
The Importance of All Research
In researching any topic, I tend to be like a vacuum cleaner. I will grab onto anything I can find related to a topic. Junius passed away in September 1998; many of his friends are gone, many of his family members have passed (or have been uncooperative), his former work associates have mostly moved on, and even those who are willing to help have incomplete memories. It is human nature. What do most of us remember, or want to remember from 20 or 30 years ago? Therefore, any tidbit I can find adds to Junius’ dimensions as a person.
There are tons written about the events surrounding the 1951 basketball scandal that Junius helped to uncover, but rather little about Junius’ life, and especially his life after the scandal.
The cartoon, as “innocent” as it may appear, gives me interesting information. For example, Junius’ height. Bob Otten, Junie’s friend of 48 years, made it clear that when he first met Junie in 1951, he was in awe of Junius’ height (he looked up to him). Well, Bob was 6’6.” The cartoon talked of Junius as being 80 inches = 6’6″ In 1953, after Junius made it onto the Harlem Globetrotters they listed his height at 6’10,” which I believe to be more accurate. I am wondering if Junius had a growth spurt while in college as there are other references to him being 6’4″ earlier in his career. I believe his wingspan was about 84″ while he was at Manhattan College.
Capozzi also talked about dunking, and that Junius was certainly capable of dunking the basketball. However, the rules did not allow dunking at that point. It was also a matter of “backboards.” They had not yet been made strong enough to allow for 250 + pound men to hang from them!
The cartoon also mentioned the critical role he played for the team as their center (“Much of the team’s movement depends on him.”) There remains debate as to Junius’ talent, I must admit, and I have a hard time deciphering the comments. Junius was a player in development. No one, including Ken Norton, his coach, would have denied that. The coach said that Junius’ defense and vertical needed more work. By today’s standards, his point average of about 13 ppg, would clearly not make him an NBA prospect. However, the game was not played the same way back then. Nevertheless, Junius was capable of breaking out when Norton’s system allowed it and he was capable of scoring 22 or more points per game. As to his vertical, I have attempted to construct a crude measurement of his leaping ability, as Norton put it. He could easily go over the top of the basket and he was able to get off the floor in attempts to chase balls about to go out of bounds.
I am a white man and Junius was black, so I must always be extremely cautious about my lens. That said, I believe some of the critiques of Junius’ playing ability border on racism. He took his team to the NIT on three occasions, when the NIT meant something. When his team needed him to score, he did so. Unlike those who critiqued him, his high school was segregated and he had abysmal training facilities even for the era of the early to mid-1940s. I respect the assessment of men such as John McClendon and Dutch Dehnert who evaluated and scouted him. Until otherwise convinced, I would say Junius had the tools to at least make it to the middle of the pack of professional players.

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