boston.com Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe

My old Kentucky home

Catching up with Frank Ramsey

Nicknamed the "Kentucky Colonel," Frank Ramsey helped revolutionize basketball by becoming the Boston Celtics’ original "sixth man." Perfecting the off-the-bench role, Ramsey played nine seasons (1955-64) with the Celtics and was a key member of seven NBA championship teams.

“You have to realize back when that was happening the standard was the original Celtics back in the 40’s and now it seems the standard is the Celtics teams of the late 50’s and 60’s,” the 73-year-old Ramsey said. “It’s certainly pleasing to me to be a part of that.”

“I was playing behind two all-star guards -- Bill Sharman and Bob Cousy,” said Ramsey. “I just wanted to get some time to play and Red (Auerbach) saw fit to use my talents that way. It was great.”

These days, the Colonel has returned to Kentucky and is the president of the Dixon Bank -- a position he has held for more than 30 years. “I enjoy it. It’s a small bank in a little town of 300 and has one stop light,” said Ramsey. “It’s a different way of life than you have a big metropolitan area.”

Ramsey resides in Madisonville, Kentucky, which is where he has been living for more than 70 years. He and wife Jean have been married for 50 years. They have three children, Frank III, 49, Cliff, 47, Cynthia, 41 and six grandchildren.

“It’s a nice place to raise children and grandchildren,” said Ramsey. “We have a farm out here with horses. We have a lake to swim in and fish in for the grandchildren. We have four-wheelers that they ride all over. I enjoy this type of life.”

In 2003, Ramsey took on a difficult personal battle when he was diagnosed with an illness that was deteriorating his muscles. The illness was so severe Ramsey was confined to a wheelchair for two months. However, Ramsey overcome it: ”It was the dying of the muscles,” said Ramsey. “I was in a wheelchair. I could not take a shower and could not even put shampoo in my hand and put in my hair. I couldn’t even go in a room and turn on the light switch on the wall. I can do anything now.”

Outside of work, his family, particularly his grandchildren, are everything to him. “They come down to the farm,” said Ramsey. “The day after Thanksgiving four of them rode the horses three miles into town and when they got back they rode the four-wheelers all over the farm. I enjoy my family -- that’s all I do, work and raise my grandchildren.”

Ramsey is considered one of the University of Kentucky's all-time great basketball players and was a member of the 1951 national championship team and the undefeated team of 1954. Despite playing guard, Ramsey still ranks second all-time in career rebounding for the Wildcats with 1,038 rebounds, trailing only Dan Issel (1,078).

“I went there expecting to play some as a senior and I was fortunate enough to play as a sophomore,” said Ramsey. “At that time, freshmen could not play varsity ball because there was a separate freshmen team. “I met my wife there and I got two educations. I got one from Coach Rupp in basketball and it was like having a Nobel Prize winner teach me the game. Then I got an education in books. After I finished basketball the education in books allowed to make a living for my family for the rest of my life.”

A first-round draft pick of the Celtics in 1953, Ramsey enjoyed numerous accolades with Boston. Most notably, along with winning seven NBA titles, Ramsey is a member of the NBA Hall of Fame and his No. 23 was retired by the Celtics and hangs from the rafters at the FleetCenter.

“It’s unbelievable for a small kid who came out of a town of 5,000 -- all this stuff has happened to me,” said Ramsey. “It’s just fantastic. I have been very fortunate because it couldn’t have happened unless I had been associated with the coaches and players I was associated with.”

Despite living in Kentucky, Ramsey tries to keep an eye on the Celtics but admits one of the biggest differences between today and when he played is how easily players switch teams.

“It’s difficult to keep track of a team today because the players change teams,” said Ramsey. “When we were in Boston, you very seldom had a player leave the team and when you were there, you were there for life. When you get attached to a team of course you get attached to the players.” 

the Ramsey File
NAME: Frank Ramsey 

POSITION: Guard

HEIGHT: 6-foot-3

BIRTHDAY: July 13, 1931 

RESIDES: Madisonville, Ky. 

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?: Madisonville, Ky. 

ENJOYS: Spending time with his family 

AQUIRED: First-round draft pick of the Boston Celtics in 1953. 

CLAIM TO FAME: Played nine seasons (1955-64) with the Boston Celtics and was a key member of seven NBA championships. Helped revolutionize basketball by becoming the Celtics’ original "sixth man." 

HIGHLIGHT OF BASKETBALL CAREER: Being offered a scholarship to Kentucky, winning an NCAA Championship, and then going to Boston winning seven championships. 

MEMORABLE MOMENT: I will never forget the last game I played at the Boston Garden. I stood out in the middle of the floor and looked around because I knew I would never be back there again. 

DID YOU KNOW?: Ramsey’s wife was born on the same day as he was. 

ONE WORD TO DESCRIBE NEW ENGLAND SPORTS FANS: Wonderful, fanatical, backs their team. 

FAVORITE THING ABOUT NEW ENGLAND: The people. 

WOULD YOU EVER PARTICIPATE IN A REALITY TV SHOW?: No I wouldn’t. 

IF YOU COULD CLONE ANYONE, WHO WOULD IT BE?: John F. Kennedy. 

EVER WALK THE FREEDOM TRAIL?: Sure have. 

CLAM CHOWDAH OR LOBSTAH?: New England Clam Chowder. 

DO YOU KNOW WHAT A BUBBLER (WATER FOUNTAIN) IS?: No. Down here it’s something you put under the boat in the winter to keep the ice from freezing. 

CANDLEPIN BOWLING OR BIG BALL BOWLING?: Big ball bowling. 

DID YOU WATCH THE RED SOX WIN THE WORLD SERIES? IF YES, WHERE WERE YOU?: Sure did, and I was here (Kentucky). 

2005 PICK TO WIN THE NBA CHAMPIONSHIP?: Who knows? I would like to see the Celtics win it.
SEARCH GLOBE ARCHIVES
   
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months