“El Presidente” Ramon Fernandez had just joined San Miguel Beer in the season-ending Third Conference of 1988 and quickly helped his team to a championship, winning in 5 games of their best-of-7 championship series over Shell.
He capped that season by winning his fourth Most Valuable Player award, becoming the first 4-time MVP winner in league history.
But Fernandez didn’t stop from achieving both individual and team accolades the following season.
At the height of San Miguel Beer’s Grand Slam campaign in 1989, Fernandez cemented his legacy as one of the league’s all-time greatest scorers. On this day 32 years ago on, August 31, 1989, during Game 5 of their All-Filipino championship series versus his former team, Purefoods, Fernandez became the first player to score 15,000 points.
Although the Beermen lost to the Hotdogs, 142-136, in overtime, Fernandez and his teammates bounced back strong 3 days later, as San Miguel won its first ever All-Filipino championship capped by a 128-109 demolition of their younger rivals to wrap up the series in six games.
Making history by becoming the first player to reach 15,000 points was somewhat “icing on the cake” for Fernandez, but that championship feat, particularly against his previous squad where he had a bitter experience as player-coach, made it more special.
“It was some sort of an icing in the cake,” Fernandez told ABS-CBN News.
That 1989 victory over Purefoods was a fitting payback for Fernandez, who was traded for Abet Guidaben for the second time in their respective careers less than a year ago.
During the 1988 All-Filipino championship series between Purefoods and Robert Jaworski’s Añejo Rhum 65, Fernandez, then playing for the Hotdogs, had a sub-par performance in Game 1. He was ordered to be benched the rest of the series by then company president Rene Buhain for alleged game-fixing.
The rest was history.
Fernandez had a successful run playing for the Beermen where he ended up winning the Grand Slam in 1989. He became a part of a few more champion squads — the 1992 and 1994 All-Filipino titles, both coming at the expense of his former team Purefoods, and the 1993 Governors Cup. He retired at the end of the 1994 season.
Those championship wins over Purefoods was like a personal mission for Fernandez.
“I told several friends then, ‘For as long as I’m playing, pipilitin kong huwag manalo ng championship ang Purefoods,” said Fernandez. “It went all the way to 1994.”
According to Fernandez, he was informed that the late Mr. Buhain even asked how to break that curse.
“Those same friends even told me na nagpunta si Mr. Buhain sa libing ng nanay niya, nagpapatulong na tanggalin yung curse na ibinigay ko. Those stories, I don’t know if it’s true or not,” added Fernandez.
But in 1993, with Purefoods carrying the brand name Coney Island, appeared to have broken that curse as they won their first championship duel with the Fernandez-led San Miguel team as Alvin Patrimonio and co. defeated the Beermen in six games of the All-Filipino finals.
Rey Joble is a sports journalist who has been covering the PBA since 1998, and followed the league as a fan way before that.
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