A postgame rumble between Crispa and Toyota marred the opener of the 1977 PBA season, an incident that is considered as one of the most memorable moments in the history of the professional league. Overshadowed by the melee that also involved the fans was the Redmanizers' one-point win that came after a last-second technical foul by Tamaraws coach Dante Silverio.
Crispa-Toyota match marred by free-for-all
Published Monday April 18, 1977
The circus of basketball hullabaloos that is the Philippine Basketball Association started last night with a real, crushing, big bang at the Araneta Coliseum.
Crispa snatched a last-minute 122-121 victory over Toyota, courtesy of Tamaraw coach Dante Silverio, whose being slapped a technical foul with three seconds left allowed Fortunato Co to sink the pressure-packed marginal shot in his dramatic march to the charity lane.
But the real meat of last night's story was the bloody riot that ensued after the game, undoubtedly a man-size blackeye for the ever-glorified PBA shebang.
Hardly had the game finished and players from both camps were heading for the dugout when hell broke loose right behind the southern basket of the Big Dome.
Everybody was rushing toward the riot: policemen, security guards in blue, spectators and PBA officials themselves.
Photographers couldn't barge through the cordon of kibitzers that ringed the scene of the rumble and had to jump time and again, with their cameras blindly trained at the rumbling players in a desperate attempt at getting a shot of the riot.
The riot lasted for 15 minutes. One spectator from the bleacher apparently unable to get a piece of the action, lost his cool and hurled a soft drink bottle, hitting the right waist of a lady, who instantly crumpled to the floor writhing in pain. She escaped injuries, however.
When it was all over, Toyota's Ramon Fernandez emerged with a nasty cut below his right eye. He walked out of the coliseum clutching chunks of ice trained at his cut eye, which was a bit close and puffy.
Crispa's Rodolfo Soriano took a pebble-sized lump over his right eye and another lump beside his mouth besides having absorbed bruises in the neck and arms.
Rey Franco, Soriano's teammare, showed a reddened right ear and majority of the players from both camps showed marks of punches and clwaing.
“Si Soriano, apat ang gumugulpi sa kanya (four people were mauling Soriano),” said Crispa coach Baby Dalupan. “Wala siyang kalaban-laban (he was helpless).”
“It's all right. I don't want to name names yet,” said Soriano but added “the four were all Toyota players.”
Franco tagged Robert Jaworski, who punched his ear. “Inabangan niya ako sa may paglabas at bigla na lamang niya akong inupakan (He waited for me at the exit and without provocation he hit me).
Jaworski sternly denied the accusations of Franco, who was down on his pants when his ear was hit.
“Basta nakita ko na lang, nagkakagulo (All of a sudden, I saw a commotion),” said Jaworski, adding :I was even trying hard to pacify them.”
Jaworski admitted there were people in civilian clothes who were involved in the melee.
When interviewed, PBA Commissioner Leo Prieto said he will call a meeting today. He said he will summon all the players of Toyota and Crispa, including the reports from the security people.
“There are many versions being floated around. I don't want to issue statements until I get all the reports from what happened,” added Prieto.
There were more than 200 security officers in the coliseum, including Quezon City police authorities.
Oscar Rocha, notorious for fist fights especially during a game, said he kept himself away from the rumble.
“Break nga ako ng break, e (I was busy pacifying them),” said Rocha, adding. “Tinatamaan nga ako ng suntok, pero hindi naman ako nakaganti (I was even hit but I did not retaliate.”)
All the drama and tense-filled actions of the game were all lost in the wake of the riot. And so was Presto Ice Cream's brilliant 122-111 victory over Royal Tru-Orange in the first game.
The game was still in order until Fortunato Acuna got a charging foul off Alfredo Hubalde from Estefanio Bernos, the score standing at 121-all with only three ticks left.
Bernos then told Silverio his team had only four men on the court. What followed was a technical foul being slapped on Dante by Bernos himself.
Crispin Aldiosa of the technical committee later said Bernos gave Silverio a technical because “the Toyota coach uttered unprintables at Bernos.”
Silverio claimed he only uttered “Buti nakita mo (It's good you saw it)” when Bernos told him he had only four men on the court.
Crispa – 122
Toyota – 121
Sta. Maria 13
Quarterscores: 25-26, 56-56, 90-88, 122-121
Referees: R. Bartolome, J. Obias, E. Bernos