Oregon Sports Hall of Fame: Backcourt bounty
In the annals of Oregon State athletics, a few tandems stand out above the rest.
We offer the "B & B Boys," Terry Baker and Vern Burke, the great passing connection of the early 1960s.
More recently, there were Adley Rutschman and Kevin Abel, the battery that keyed the Beavers' third national baseball championship.
And beyond question, there were Mark Radford and Ray Blume, the resplendent backcourt combination that thrilled OSU basketball fans in the late 1970s and early '80s.
Center Steve Johnson was the best player and the go-to guy for Ralph Miller's teams of those years. But Radford and Blume — both 6-4 and fluid athletes — were just as instrumental to the Beavers' success, with their stifling perimeter defense and versatility on offense.
During the four seasons for Radford and Blume, Oregon State compiled records of 86-27 overall and 53-15 in Pac-8 and Pac-10 play. In their final two campaigns, the Beavers were a remarkable 56-6 and 33-3, winning back-to-back conference championships.
Now the Portland natives — Radford a Grant High grad, Blume out of Parkrose — are being enshrined together in the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame Sept. 24 at the Multnomah Athletic Club.
"It's exciting Mark and I are going in at the same time," said Blume, who turns 61 on Sept. 23.
And fitting, since they are associated so closely.
"People were always mistaking me for Mark," Blume said with a laugh, "and they called him 'Ray.'"
"They still do," said Radford, 60. "Everyone gets us mixed up. Ralph called me 'Ray.' It happened all the time. I'd say, 'That's the other guy.'"
Radford and Blume weren't the most likely candidates to star at the college level. Neither was heavily recruited. Radford, who moved from Seattle to Portland before his sophomore year in high school, chose Oregon State over Washington and Santa Clara. Mark's older brother, Michael, had run track at Washington. Mark, whose family lived a mile from the UW campus during his formative years, grew up a diehard Husky fan, playing pickup ball with the likes of ex-Husky guards Clarence Ramsey, Louie Nelson and Chester Dorsey as a ninth-grader.
"They all took me under their wing," Radford said. "I lived and breathed U-Dub. I didn't know anything about Oregon State."
But Jimmy Anderson, Miller's chief assistant, recruited Radford hard.
"Jimmy was on me," Radford said. "He was really good. I finally decided I didn't want to go back to Seattle to play college ball. I thought hard about Santa Clara, but truly, I felt like I was too big a fish for the small pond. I wanted to prove it."
Give Blume an assist, too. He didn't know Radford at all. The two never played against each other in high school. But Blume committed to Oregon State before Radford.
"Jimmy asked me to give Mark a call," Blume said. "That's the first time I ever talked to him. I said, 'It'd be nice to have you join me at Oregon State.'"
Oregon State was the only scholarship offer received by Blume, who had played center for Terry Woods at Parkrose.
"My grades weren't as good as they should have been, which didn't help," Blume said. "But Jimmy pursued me pretty hard and talked Ralph into taking a post man who could become a guard. It wasn't that different. Terry taught me how to play all over the floor. I played outside a lot in high school."
Radford and Blume were part of perhaps the most talented group of high school seniors in state-of-Oregon basketball history in 1976-77. Lake Oswego's Jeff Stoutt and Lebanon's Andy McClouskey also signed with Oregon State. North Eugene's Danny Ainge went to Brigham Young. Sunset's Bob Fronk headed for Washington. Texan Bill McShane joined a stellar group of freshmen in Corvallis.
Johnson broke his foot in the Beavers' third game in 1977-78 and was lost for the season. With the 6-8 McShane taking Johnson's place at center and senior Rickey Lee and sophomore Dwayne Allen offering leadership, the Beavers finished second in the last season of the Pac-8. Radford made the starting lineup and was the team's No. 2 scorer as a freshman, averaging 10.6 points. Blume, slowed by an early-season leg injury, came off the bench behind junior Brian Hillard and averaged 6.2 points.
Over the next three seasons, Blume and Radford combined to form one of the top backcourts in college basketball.
They won a lot of games playing for Miller, who didn't believe in a gentle approach in dealing with his players.
"It was brutal," Radford said. "(Grant coach) Tom Jones had been pretty loose and relaxed. There wasn't a huge amount of structure. With Ralph, every detail was covered. He was old school. It was like a military approach. He'd break you down. I can't imagine how the guys who didn't play felt. He was an equal-opportunity ripper. Everybody got it. He demanded effort toward perfection. Every day, every drill — there was no letting up on us."
Said Blume: "I spent three years with Terry Woods. He was quite the yeller, so Ralph's style wasn't new to me. He didn't bother me as much as he did the other guys."
But Radford and Blume grew to respect Miller, now enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
"I'm completely brainwashed in what he taught," Radford said. "I believe 100 percent in the message, but not the delivery of the message. I still continue to believe you can win with defense, pressure, pushing the ball on both ends. I would have loved the shot clock when we played. It helps the more talented teams, and we were more talented than most."
"I learned a lot from the experience playing for Ralph," Blume said. "I learned how to play hard. I learned how to play what Ralph called 'ABC basketball.' Keep it simple, and be a team. We played together so well. We passed. We ran. We played a lot of good defense, too. The guards really got after it. He also taught me some things about growing up and becoming a man."
Radford and Blume roomed together for their first two years at Oregon State. They were tight on and off the basketball court.
"We did a lot of things together," Blume said. "We were two Oregon boys who played well together."
"We had a lot in common," Radford said. "We were big guards, and we were able to impose our will on opponents. We thought alike. We anticipated the other's moves on the court. I think we both had chips on our shoulders. We had a lot to prove. I was determined to do that from Day One.
"Once we got rolling in our last two years, we were a really good team. Part of it was confidence in our system. I just didn't see anybody beating us."
The Beavers hit their zenith during the 1980-81 season, when Radford, Blume, Johnson, McShane and Stoutt were seniors, joined by JC transfer Lester Conner and prize freshman Charlie Sitton. They started the season 26-0, occupying the No. 1 spot in the nation's polls for 10 weeks. The season ended ignominiously, though, with a 50-48 loss to Kansas State in OSU's first NCAA Tournament game. It was to be the final game of the college careers of Radford and Blume.
Radford wishes he'd taken more of a leadership role on that team. He believes Miller put too much emphasis on winning the conference title and not getting to the Final Four.
"Eventually, he realized winning the Pac wasn't the ultimate goal, but he was a little late getting to the party," Radford said. "In my mind, he left no legacy, because the NCAA Tournament is where that gets determined. I'm upset about that on his behalf, because what he taught was wonderful."
Both went on to professional careers. Radford played two seasons with the Seattle SuperSonics, then one season in Switzerland. Blume played one season with the Chicago Bulls and then went overseas, playing one year in Monte Carlo and five years in Japan.
Radford and his wife of 26 years, Shawn, have two children — Armin, 24, and Nina, 20. Mark has worked in real estate in the Portland area for 30 years.
Blume and his wife of 31 years, Bev, have two children — Seiji, 29, and Zach, 24. Ray in his his 30th year with the Multnomah County Roads Department.
Blume is at peace with his time at Oregon State.
"The best thing about it was building that team, starting with all those freshmen (in 1977-78)," he said. "The whole ride was awesome."
Radford, though, is still haunted by nightmares featuring Rolando Blackman, and thoughts about what could have been.
"Unfortunately, my memories are of too much disappointment," he said. "I don't know why it should be that way, but it is. We came up short. That's what I remember most. I'm appreciative of what we accomplished, but I still have a bad taste in my mouth with the way it ended."
Now, though, nearly 40 years later, both members of one of the greatest backcourts in Oregon State history are entering the state's sports hall of fame together. It just seems right. In Beaver lore, Radford and Blume are inextricably linked.
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