Jerry Roa on the Beermen

Jeruel “Jerry” Roa worked for San Miguel Corporation from 1983 to 2003. He led the Corporate Affairs Office. During that 20-year span, he was assigned in the SMC head office in Manila from 1986 to 1992.

A tall 6-footer who played basketball since he was a teenager, Jerry made sure to watch most of the Beermen’s PBA games.

His most memorable moments? They were back in 1989 at the ULTRA in Pasig when he not only witnessed the Grand Slam feat of San Miguel but also when he was part of the celebration, joining the team at Kamayan EDSA in the aftermath of the final conference’s championship game.

That was in 1989. Are the San Miguel Beermen ripe for Grand Slam II?

An excellent writer and avid follower of sports that include football, volleyball, tennis, athletics, boxing and rugby, I asked Jerry for his thoughts on this historic moment. In a two-part series, here are Jerry’s own words:

“The San Miguel Beermen are one conference away from achieving the rare Grand Slam in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). Only five other teams in the 42-year history of the league have achieved such distinction: the 1976 Crispa Redmanizers, the 1983 Crispa Redmanizers, the 1989 San Miguel Beermen, the 1996 Alaska Milkmen, and the 2014 San Mig Coffee Mixers.

“To duplicate their elders’ feat of 28 years ago, the current Beermen must win the Governors’ Cup which begins on Friday, July 15. Momentum seems to be on the side of the Beermen. Earlier this year, they won the Philippine Cup (formerly known as the All-Filipino) over the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 4 – 1. Last weekend, they clinched the Commissioner’s Cup, 4 – 2, over the Talk N Text Tropang Texters.

“What more could motivate this talented bunch to focus on the final leg of their hunt for the Grand Slam?

“Perhaps a look at history of their franchise’s first Grand Slam may convince them that the stars are aligned on their path to greatness. The Grand Slam of 1989 was achieved by a team with a core who had played together since their amateur years, led by a multi-awarded veteran slotman, an outstanding Fil-Am reinforcement, willing role players, and promising rookies.

“Its roster during that golden year read like a legends All-Star team. At that time Ramon Fernandez was already a multiple MVP winner. Hector Calma, Avelino ‘Samboy’ Lim, Jr., Yves Dignadice, Franz Pumaren and Elmer Reyes, had played together in the national team and Northern Cement under coach Ron Jacobs. Ricardo Brown, a deadly shooter and ball handler, brought in more firepower. Alvin Teng and Jeffrey Graves provided length and young legs to protect the rim. Ricky Cui and Alfie Almario provided instant offense when called from the bench. Future MVP Ato Agustin and Bobby Jose were the team rookies.

“In the Open and Reinforced conferences (precursors of the current Commissioner’s Cup and Governors’ Cup), San Miguel picked imports who complemented the locals. They were Michael Phelps (the cager, not the swimmer), Keith Smart, and Ennis Whatley. Calling the shots from the bench was Norman Black, a former perennial PBA Best Import. He was assisted by Derrick Pumaren. San Miguel’s closest rivals then were definitely no pushovers.

“Open Conference runner-up Formula Shell, whom San Miguel defeated 4-1 in the finals, paraded the season MVP cum Rookie of the Year Venancio ‘Benjie’ Paras. (Yes, the same Benjie Paras who makes you laugh and cry today in TV sitcoms and teleseryes, and is father to young ballers Kobe and Andre).

“The ‘Tower of Power’ was recipient of assists from Ronnie Magsanoc, his buddy in the U.P. Maroons, and the scoring support of veterans Arnie Tuadles, Jay Ramirez, Ed Cordero, Onchie de la Cruz, Tim Coloso, and young Romy de la Rosa. Sharing the backcourt with Magsanoc was veteran guard Leovino Austria, who is now the head coach of the Beermen. Bobby Parks earned his third Best Import plum with the Zoom Masters, who were coached then by Dante Silverio, formerly of the defunct Toyota franchise.

“If there was a young and powerhouse team that gave the Beermen the fits, it was the Purefoods Hotdogs. The All-Filipino runners-up was composed of young guns Alvin Patrimonio, Jojo Lastimosa, Jerry Codinera, Al Solis, Glenn Capacio, Nelson Asaytono, Naning Valenciano, Edgar ‘Jack’ Tanuan, Pido Jarencio, and Dindo Pumaren. This was the core of the national team that placed third in the Asian Games of 1986 behind China and South Korea without a naturalized player in its line-up. The Hotdogs were coached by the legendary Virgilio ‘Baby’ Dalupan. The Beermen defeated them, 4 – 2, in a competitive series.

“In the Reinforced Conference, the Beermen faced crowd-favorite Anejo Rum 65 led by playing coach Robert Jaworski. Before, as it is today, there was no love lost between the sibling ballclubs as they went at each other in a bruising series. The 65ers were bannered by Dondon Ampalayo, Leo Isaac (now Blackwater coach), Chito and Joey Loyzaga, Rudy Distrito, Rey Cuenco, Peter Aguilar (Japeth’s dad), Philip Cezar, and the season Most Improved Player Dante Gonzalgo. The Beermen vanquished them, 4 – 1, for the title and the Grand Slam.

“A dominant center. An array of shooters. Excellent ballhandlers. Role players. Complementary imports. A coach who used to play. That was how the San Miguel Beermen human resource looked like when they last won a Grand Slam in 1989. Or is this the way to describe their present line-up?

“June Mar Fajardo is the reigning Most Valuable Player. The backcourt tandem of Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross, guards who can defend as well as they can shoot, have mostly complemented each other instead of overlapping roles. Marcio Lassiter is licensed to puncture the hoops. So is team captain Arwind Santos, who accepted his new role off the bench during the import-laden conferences. Gabby Espinas, Jay-R Reyes and Yancy de Ocampo provide ceiling. Brian Heruela, Ronald Tubid and new recruit Matt Ganuelas can dish out decent contributions when called into action. Even seldom used David Semerad, Arnold Van Opstal, Keith Agovida, and Rashawn McCarthy.

(Photo from pinoyboxbreak.com)

“The way San Miguel Beer has been winning, it shows the players’ buy-in to the system espoused by coach Leo Austria and team management. To be helpful to the Beermen, import Wendell McKines should be able to fit into his role the way Charles Rhodes stepped up for San Miguel in the Commissioner’s Cup. He is familiar with the PBA, having previously played with Alaska and Rain or Shine.

“To contend, the Beermen should also stay healthy. Any injury could derail their chances, no matter how deep their bench. Most of all, they should have the desire to make history. They should stay focused and visualize that moment when they etch their individual names into the annals of history as a member of the sixth team in the PBA to have achieved a Grand Slam. For if they blink, the TNT Tropang Texters, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Rain or Shine, Star Hotshots or the Meralco Bolts are only too willing to take that winning moment away.”

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