The Orange County Register
June 19, 2001
James Seminoff, loving husband, father and grandfather, died during emergency heart surgery on the evening of June 12, 2001, at the age of 78.
He was born on Sept. 1, 1922 in Los Angeles. A graduate of Roosevelt High School, he earned a bachelor's of science degree in business administration from the University of Southern CA in 1943. He played guard on the Los Angeles All-City High School Basketball Team and lettered in varsity basketball for three years at USC.
In December 1943, Seminoff was named a Chicago Herald American All-Star and played in the All-Star Game. He served as first lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps during WWII. He served in Guam and Iwo Jima and was selected to the All-Marine Corps basketball team. After the war, he played for the Chicago Stags and Boston Celtics from 1946-1950.
In 1951, Seminoff and his family moved to Whittier. From 1951-1966, he refereed college basketball games for the Pacific Coast Conference (Pac-10), West Coast Conference and Southern CA Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC). From 1946-1973, he founded Semco Enterprises Inc., a zinc alloy business, serving as CEO.
For the past few years, the Seminoffs made their home in San Clemente. He was a member of the Independent Zinc Alloyers; Society of Die Casting Engineers; Zinc Institute, Inc.; and National Basketball Association Retired Players Association. He was a former member of Hacienda Golf Club in La Habra Heights and a life member of Cardinal and Gold at USC.
He will be greatly missed, but always remembered, by his wife of 59 years, Rosemary; daughter and son-in-law Virginia (Shorty) and Thomas Lorenat; son and daughter-in-law Richard and Ava Seminoff; son and daughter-in-law Thomas and Christi Seminoff; foster daughter and son-in-law Marianne and Gerald Corey, and many loving grandchildren.
A private family service will be held at Rose Hills in Whittier. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in James Seminoff's name to Mission Hospital, Acute Rehabilitation Center at (949) 364-4803 or the University of Southern CA's Troy Camp.
Friday, May 18, 2001
Long Forgotten, They Are Left in League of Their Own
By DIANE PUCIN
Harry Boykoff died of lung cancer in February. He was 78 and his wife, Beatrice, says she is sure there was no mourning in the offices of the NBA.
"David Stern and those people in New York, I think they're just waiting for all of them to die and go away."
It is not David Stern alone who deserves Beatrice Boykoff's disdain. It is the pension plan adopted 30 years ago which ignored the contributions of men who helped start the league that is the problem and it would take an agreement of NBA executives and the NBA Players Assn. to make things right.
The "all of them" that Beatrice Boykoff refers to are the 54 living alums from the Basketball Assn. of America and the National Basketball League, the precursors to the NBA, and from the NBA itself in its early days.
Some were busy fighting in World War II, others had family obligations and had to work and didn't get the necessary five years of playing credit for an NBA pension.
About 11 years ago, Bill Tosheff, a one-time NBA pioneer from Gary, Ind., who lives in San Diego, started his solitary campaign to include these men in the NBA's pension plan.
There were 85 alive then--85 men who had played in the days before the NBA started a pension plan in 1965, 85 men who worked two jobs, who drove cross-country to play basketball for six months. Without those 85, there might not be an NBA where an overweight, drug-haunted serial father such as Shawn Kemp can get a seven-year, $98-million contract.
Jim Seminoff, 78, recently became the seventh on Tosheff's original list to be given his pension. Players of the WWII era are credited with NBA years for their time in the service if it came immediately before or after their pro playing days. Tosheff has spent the last 11 years finding men like Seminoff, men who played and fought, gathering the documentation and making the case to the NBA.
Shouldn't the NBA be doing this? Shouldn't the NBA eagerly reward men like Seminoff, whose $147,000 retroactive pension--the most any of these former players ever has received--would be pocket change for someone like Kemp?
Seminoff has had three hip replacements, a knee replacement, cancer surgery and spinal surgery. He's alive. He sits in his chair in his San Clemente condominium and rises slowly. But he rises. He walks with the aid of a cane, which is a miracle. He does rehab.
Seminoff didn't think he would walk again last February when his legs turned to jelly and he collapsed in a doctor's office. His spine was a mess, as were his hips and knees. Seminoff's body, which still looks like an athlete's body, his long legs tanned and his waist without the extra belly of an old man, is paying the price of playing basketball. Joints and bones ache.
But Seminoff is a fighter. He's a former All-American from USC who drove from Los Angeles to Chicago in the fall of 1946--in 72 hours, with his pregnant wife, Rosemary, and two young children--so he could play professional basketball.
Seminoff played two years for the Chicago Stags and two years for the Boston Celtics, finishing in 1950. It was a glorious time. The NBA was just beginning, with the help of young men like Seminoff, many of whom had just come home from war and all of whom loved basketball.
"I wouldn't have done it any differently," Seminoff says. "I loved playing those games. But I do think I deserve the pension. I played for four years but it would have been more without the war."
Seminoff was a Marine. He fought on Guam and Iwo Jima. He came home in December of 1945, then the next October got a phone call from the owner of the Stags.
"He told me I had 72 hours to get to Chicago," Seminoff says.
"We tied all our stuff on the roof of the car in a pile so high it was bigger than the car. We had to stop in Albuquerque and rent a trailer or the car would have turned over."
How wonderful it would be for Seminoff to tell his story to the NBA millionaires. How smart it would be of the NBA to invite Seminoff to visit the playoff teams, to tell of how he and his family lived in a hotel room for six months, of how he traveled by train between games and was thrilled with his $6,000-a-season salary and absolutely ecstatic with a $2,000 playoff bonus one year--and of how he was offered the Celtics' coaching job.
Seminoff turned that down.
"It seemed like it would be too hard to get players to do what you want and they had your salary in their hands," he says.
So Red Auerbach got the job.
Tosheff estimates it would cost the NBA around $5 million to fund pensions for all the veterans who played three and four years. There is one early NBA player nearing his 80s, who still must drive a taxi to support himself.
Boykoff wasn't poor. He had been a businessman, then became an actor when he was 74. A St. John's grad who lived in Los Angeles with Beatrice, Boykoff can be seen in the Goldie Hawn-Warren Beatty movie "Town and Country." He played a 6-foot-8 butler with an expressive face.
Seminoff isn't destitute. After the NBA, he started a metals business. He isn't wealthy, either, but he did donate part of his lump-sum payment to USC to fund athletic scholarships.
"I want others to enjoy what I did," Seminoff says.
Mostly, this isn't about the money. It is about doing right.
It is about remembering the past and honoring it. It is about thanking men, some of whom came home from the war and took a big chance on basketball, a game they loved.
Sharing isn't easy for today's well-paid athletes and executives. Taking time to appreciate history isn't easy either. Both things are worthwhile though. http://www.latimes.com/sports/columnists/pucin/20010518/t000...