Hoop Star Hayes Earns Stamford Old Timers Tribute

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Former basketball star Bob "Spider" Hayes will be among the honorees at the Stamford Old Timers dinner Monday night.
Former basketball star Bob "Spider" Hayes will be among the honorees at the Stamford Old Timers dinner Monday night. Photo Credit: Tom Renner
Bob "Spider" Hayes
Bob "Spider" Hayes Photo Credit: Tom Renner

STAMFORD, Conn. – Some of the fondest basketball memories for Stamford’s Bob “Spider” Hayes stem from his matchups against Norwalk’s Calvin Murphy on courts throughout Fairfield County during the 1960s.

“I took just as much pride in my defense as I did on offense,’’ said Hayes, who will be among the honorees at the Stamford Old Timers annual dinner Monday night at the Italian Center. “I looked forward to playing against Calvin. I was one of the only guys that could talk trash to him. I held him to 16 points, one of his lowest point totals of his career, the first time I played against him. The next time he got 29 off me, but they had me running into screens all night long.”

Hayes was a basketball standout in his own right at Stamford High, where he earned all-conference honors in 1964 and ‘65, and led the Black Knights to the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship. He played for a year at Trinidad Junior College in Colorado and earned All-American honors but left for personal reasons. The next year, future NBA legend Spencer Haywood enrolled at Trinidad. Hayes believes if he had stayed, the team would have won the national junior college championship.

Hayes had one other shot at basketball glory when he tried out for the Seattle Supersonics in 1973.  He was among the last players cut by the Sonics. “I didn’t give myself enough time to get in shape,’’ Hayes said.

Among the players he competed were professional stars John Williamson, Al Skinner, World B. Free and Henry Bibby. He helped lead the first Connecticut team to win the prestigious Don Bosco Tournament in 1976 in Port Chester, N.Y., and earned first team honors.

Although Hayes is most recognized for his basketball career, he excelled in other sports. His first love was baseball, and he pitched for Stamford High in the state tournament while a sophomore. He was the city champion with his Farm Team, the Eagles, in 1959. As a sophomore in high school, he became the first African-American runner to win the conference county championship in cross country.

He also helped form the Stamford Gold Coast Stars, which played in the Eastern Basketball League, and was the first recreation director at the Yerwood Center. He later became a tennis standout and is now an avid golfer. He works part time as a ranger at E. Gaynor Brennan Golf Course.

Although his rivalry with Murphy is in the past, the two have remained friendly over the years. “We took it to the basketball court to the tennis court to the golf course,’’ Hayes said. “We’re friends for life. We always had a lot of respect for each other.”

Hayes got his nickname during a basketball game at Southfield Village. “I was 6-3, long and lanky, and my opponent said, ‘He looks like a spider out there,’’’ Hayes recalled. “I hated it. I didn’t like the nickname then. Over the years, I’ve learned to like it, and it just became a part of me.”

Hayes is grateful to be among the honorees Monday night. “I never looked for anything like that, but I’m grateful,’’ he said. “I guess people felt I was worthy. It’s great to be remembered by your hometown.”

The other honorees at Monday’s dinner will be Jerry Esposito, Joe Mancini, Sal Man Forte, Frank Onto, Lou Persiani and Jack Slavinsky.

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