MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – Step inside Patrick McBride’s Madison home and he can show you photos of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, autographs from Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath and old basketball shoes worn during the 1971 NBA Finals.
Next to Abdul-Jabbar in that photo? A 16-year-old McBride. The autographs? Made out to McBride himself. The shoes? McBride held onto them after the Bucks swept the Baltimore Bullets to win their only NBA championship.
The now retired physician wasn’t just in the right spot at the right time but seized the right opportunity.
When Milwaukee won a cointoss in 1969 for the #1 overall pick in the NBA draft and they selected Abdul-Jabbar, who went by Lew Alcindor at the time, a 15-year-old McBride picked up the phone and asked if they needed a ball boy. After a few interviews, the job was his.
Two years later he was on the bench watching the greats of Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar lead the Bucks to the NBA’s highest honor.
“It’s indescribable to be apart of a championship team. You know it’s really the players. But to be any part of that experience from the management on down. People really make you feel included.”
What made McBride lucky wasn’t just the success of the Bucks but how he took his fortunes to Milwaukee County Stadium as a batboy in the visiting clubhouse. After winning a newspaper essay contest, McBride was hired for the job. The first major league player he ever met was Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs who asked to have a catch with the Wauwatosa teen.
He did such a good job as a batboy that McBride was offered the opportunity to be the visiting locker room attendant for NFL games at County Stadium.
Every night after he laid out the visiting team’s uniforms, McBride would put on a player’s jersey and pretend to be them. He smiled ear-to-ear recounting wearing Gale Sayers number 40 for the Chicago Bears.
“It is a pinch-me moment. I knew every single minute that I was in a locker room a clubhouse, I was the luckiest kid in the world.”
The recognition of luck led McBride to title an upcoming book he wrote during the pandemic that recounts all his experiences over those seven years around Wisconsin’s major professional sports teams, “The Luckiest Boy in the World.”
The book will be published in August with the purpose of more than just telling stories but also honoring all the people that McBride met along the way. Raised by his parents that were local sportswriters but also battled alcoholism, McBride leaned on his relationships at the arenas and stadiums for guidance.
“When my parents put the newspaper to bed, which means meeting their deadline, they’d finish off with a couple of cocktails. But those cocktails kept going. So like a lot of kids I grew up in a dysfunctional family it was really hard at home. A lot of fighting and it was tough.”
“So the people that I worked with in sports took me under their wing and taught me to mature and grow up and be a good person. I’ll never be able to thank them enough.”
From a kid growing up right outside of Milwaukee and living out every Wisconsin sports fan’s dream to being pushed to go to medical school by those on the Bucks staff, you can’t blame McBride for recognizing his luck.
“I tell the story of a kid that grew up in a tough family but through the world of sports, had great mentors and was fortunate to be guided into a great career in medicine. I’ve been truly, truly blessed.”
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