Jerry Remer preferred baseball, but his skills didn’t work for his childhood dream of becoming a shortstop for the New York Yankees. Basketball would be the name of his game.
Remer, who now lives in Jupiter, was never drafted by a professional team. Instead, in 1944 at the start of his college basketball career, he was drafted into the U.S. Army.
The news didn’t come as a surprise. He turned 18 during his first year at Brooklyn College, but he was granted a two-month deferment so he could finish his first semester.
The Brooklyn Eagle, a daily publication from 1841 to 1955, spread the devastating news to Brooklyn College basketball fans.
“The war has been responsible for many more deplorable things, to be sure, but few have hit Brooklyn College as hard as the news that they will lose the services of Jerry Remer at the height of this sizzling basketball season,” wrote Eagle reporter Dick Young.
Number 22 was a “hot-shot Kingsman,” the mascot of the college’s sports teams before they were known as the Bridges in 1994 and now the Bulldogs. Eighteen-year-old “spindly freshman” Remer scored 110 points in eight games (13.8 points per game).
Remer left for basic training at the end of January 1945, days after the Battle of the Bulge was over. He said he shipped out of San Diego that August and arrived in the Philippines a few weeks after the atomic bombs hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He later was stationed in Japan and stayed there until September 1946.
The NBA formed a few months earlier in June 1946.
“I never got to try out, and I never pursued it,” Remer said. “I probably couldn’t jump as high after two years of walking in the Army as I could at 18.”
He went back to Brooklyn College for a year and a half and transferred to New York University to study journalism. He went on to study law at Columbia University.
Remer was No. 23 this time on NYU’s basketball team. In Madison Square Garden on Dec. 17, 1949, NYU played against Holy Cross.
“I thought it was a very close game,” Remer said. Holy Cross won, 49-34.
A photographer captured Remer leaping to stop Holy Cross’ star player, Bob Cousy, from tipping the ball into the basket. That next year, Cousy would be selected in a dispersal draft to join the Boston Celtics and go on to an NBA Hall of Fame career. Cousy, who recently turned 90, has a home in West Palm Beach.
The moment frozen in time, with newspaper clippings and sports programs, sits in a corner of the assisted living apartment Remer shares with his partner 20 years, Raylia Kaplan.
A toy basketball hoop hangs by the front door. Remer’s custom license plate reads, “HOOP ACE.”
Remer doesn’t wonder what could have been. In a three-page memoir he wrote to share with family and friends, he talks about his Army days, skills in basketball and the pride he has in his family.
“I have no regrets in life,” Remer said.
Today, at 91, he talks about his basketball days with a grin. And he can still shoot, too.
“You never lose that, like you never lose how to ride a bike,” he said.