Interview by Cecil V. Reynolds S.
English translation by Lydia M. Reid
Arturo Agard, Jr. was born on July 6, 1937, the eldest of three children of Maxine and Arturo Agard who were themselves born in Panama and whose parents were born on the islands of Martinique and Barbados, respectively, who had arrived in this country for the construction of the Panama Canal. He completed his primary education at the Amador Guerrero Centre and his secondary education at the National Institute, Artes y Oficios and Octavio Méndez Pereira School of Colon.
He entered Panama’s baseball minor leagues in 1954 playing for the first time on the Pollitos Team; from there he went on to play in the major leagues beginning with the Cigarillos Panama team where he played with Oliver Zachrisson (referee) and Davis Peralta (Senior) grandfather of Jair Peralta. Agard was a member of Panama’s basketball team (the national selection) for fifteen consecutive years and enjoyed, together with his fellow team members, winning the highest honors obtained by Panama in international competitions.
Agard could write an entire book about his remarkable feats and sports experiences. He stands 6’ 5” tall. At the Pan American Games at Winnipeg, Canada in 1967, his basketball team came in third, qualifying for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. Although Panama came in tenth in Olympic Basketball in Mexico at the time, he impressed all with his great skill.
In the Central American tournaments, the team won every game in which he participated. He was champion in the Bolivarian Games in Barranquilla, Colombia in 1961, where he distinguished himself with an award as The Iron Man. Agard recounts with great satisfaction how in 1963 he was honored with the privilege of joining the Harlem Globetrotters during a tour of South America. He says, “In 56 days we played 53 games and only lost 1.” During that same year he was chosen the most valuable player of the Panamanian selection.
On March 13, 1970 the Panamanian selection with Agard as a key player won the gold medal in basketball in the Central American and Caribbean Games beating the Cuban quintet. On March 13, 2000, 30 years after this great moment took place, a special mass was celebrated in the San Judas Tadeo Church and all the players, including Agard, were reunited in the Jardín Criollo. The 40 year anniversary of this special event was again celebrated but this time with a special luncheon in a local restaurant sponsored by PanDeportes.
During the 15 years that Arturo Agard played on the national team he visited 26 countries and participated in Central American, Bolivarian, and Pan American Games and in Olympic Competitions. Of his experiences in visiting these countries says Agard was like going to school, since he learned a great deal from the different cultures. Grillo Holness, his coach, remembers him as the player who remained the longest time on the court during a game without being replaced; he attributed this to his physical condition and discipline as sportsman.
Agard also played on the volleyball team of Club Santo Domingo 1955-1959.
Agard worked as a stevedore in the Terminals Division for two years, as partime time keeper at the Miraflores Locks and after the events of January 9, 1964 he was one of the first Panamanians to be selected to work on the Canal Zone police force. While working and playing for the national team, he also played basketball and baseball for the Canal Zone Police team.
Agard also found time to train, direct and advise women’s basketball, baseball and tennis teams for the Denis Pharmacies in Colon. In addition to sponsoring the tennis team along with the CZ police he also served as its director and trainer.
He also belonged to the Los Thrifters Social Club of Rainbow City at that time dedicated to doing charitable work and to raising funds to pay for the studies of poor students whose parents happened to be detained.
While he was developing his career in basketball he received many offers for scholarships and, due to safety concerns on the workplace, he opted to help his teammates so that they could overcome. After of the Olympic Games in Mexico, in fact, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Puerto Rico at Ponce offered him scholarships but he preferred to remain and help his peers.
Agard has played with famous players in the United States such as K.C. Jones, West Unseld, Jojo White, Spencer Haywood, Charlie Scott, Ernest Bryan, Bill Russell, and others and from 1973 to 1985, while still developing his abilities as a great player, he played with the league veterans.
Due to the political instability in Panama when he retired he emigrated to the United States where he worked as a security officer in the building occupied by The Miami Herald. In his first year he was chosen as officer of the year.
When he was not working he would surprise the young people at the Florida International University playing with them and they could never guess his age. He would also meet with groups of Panamanians on weekends to remember his days of glory playing basketball and proving that he could still keep up. He also dedicated himself to helping many Panamanians find work in the United States and to maintain his sporting spirit he attended basketball games with Miami Heat once winning an award for attendance to all season games.
Agard is now back in Panama enjoying a second retirement, and he recommends that young people stay away from drugs. He says that in the past you could “count the rotten apples on the fingers of your hand, but today things have changed and the rotten apples outnumber the good ones, and this makes it more difficult for the good apples to survive in this jungle, making it a bigger challenge for them to give more of themselves and to be able to just survive.
The motto that has brought him through life and allowed him to thrive and prosper with his family is:
“The fool either tires or succeeds.”
Now that he is retired his motto is:
“ENCANTADO DE LA VIDA” -I am in love with Life. “Today I am better than yesterday and tomorrow I will be better than today.”