PBA fans from the 80s will surely remember Jumpin’ Joe Ward, the high-scoring, high-flying import who led Añejo Rum (now Barangay Ginebra) to third place in the 1988 PBA Reinforced Conference.
Ward came in as a replacement for Kevin Gamble and appeared in 17 games for the 65ers, averaging a torrid 53.5 points per game with a single game high of 78. He teamed up with Tommy Davis to form one of the most explosive import duos in league history.
Aside from his on-court exploits, Ward became known for his devotion to Christianity, which earned him another nickname, The Reverend. Before each game, Ward would kneel on one knee and say a prayer then go out and drop 50 on whichever team Añejo was playing.
In an interview on the online basketball show An Eternity of Basketball, Ward said he had fond memories of his Añejo teammates.
“The guys we played with, oh man. Joey and Chito Loyzaga, Dondon Ampalayo. Rudy Distrito. Rudy was a tough dude, man. He didn’t play. He was an enforcer. Rudy didn’t take no junk from nobody. So I used to hang out with Rudy all the time.”
Off the court, Ward spent time spreading the gospel and speaking at several churches. He was certainly a big influence to many Filipinos youths. Which is why what happened on Dec. 11, 1988 left many fans stunned.
It was Game 4 of the best-of-five third place series between Añejo and Presto Ice Cream. The 65ers were on their way to claiming third place when Philip Cezar drove down the lane and was met by a clothesline from Davis while in mid-air. Cezar fell hard to the floor but immediately got up and surged at Davis, who took a few steps back towards Ward.
Everything appeared to be under control for a few seconds before Ward and Cezar started jawing at each other. Soon after, the pushing and shoving escalated, and Ward suddenly charged towards the Presto bench. The commotion spilled into the stands and it took several minutes before order was restored.
Here’s a clip from YouTube of the fight. In it, Quinito Henson, the game analyst, appeared stunned by Ward’s actions. “I thought this guy was a minister!” he could be heard exclaiming.
Here’s Ward’s version of what happened:
“Tommy kind of clotheslined one of the guys. And then Tommy kind of jumped behind me. ‘Big brother, big brother. Protect me.’ And so a little situation that happened with me, when we had a little scuffle. We were hoping that would be the end of it, but something broke out. A little love action broke out. A lot of that stuff happened and we were being like boys. We tussled a little bit. A little fight broke out. This happened and that happened and the next thing you know we were brawling all over the place.
“And the funny thing is, a man was going, ‘Oh, my God! It’s the minister! It’s Joe Ward! I can’t believe it! He’s a preacher!’ Well, I said, ‘Lord forgive me, Philippines forgive me.’ It’s one of those things where it was very difficult to turn the other cheek.”
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Ward said he even remembers somebody’s ear getting sliced amid the commotion.
“One of the chairs cut an ear off. Somebody’s ear got cut off and I picked it up off the ground and tried to put it back in Jesus’ name.”
Presto import Tony White’s wife and baby were at courtside that day, and Ward remembers carrying them to safety.
“(Tony’s) ex-wife, to this day keeps telling my wife, ‘Your husband saved my child’s life. I’m forever grateful to your husband.’ Because when the fight broke out, she was panicking. And I got the baby and took it to safety and I got them out of harm’s way.”
Despite the brawl, Ward remained one of the most popular imports of the 1980s, which is why it was puzzling why he never came back. When asked, Ward said his phone never rang.
“Nobody asked me to come back. Robert Jaworski didn’t want me, Purefoods, Presto. Nobody wanted to sign me. I would have done anything to come back to the Philippines.
“Nobody ever called me back, and I never knew why. I would have loved to come back simply because I love Manila, I love the Philippines. I love the people.”
Watch the full episode of Ward’s guesting on AEOB here: