Thanks to the United States Air Force, Illinois' loss was New Mexico's gain, and long-time Lobo fans have been forever grateful for the gift - Larry Tuttle.
The former Decatur, Ill., all-around athlete was drafted by the Air Force following high school graduation in 1947 and was assigned to Kirtland Air Force Base. Thereafter, Albuquerque became his home.
Tuttle was assigned to the Kirtland Field Air Base in mid-1947. He started playing basketball with the base team, the Kirtland Flyers. That he got the attention of the cross-town UNM coaching staff is an understatement. He scored 34 points against UNM's freshmen and came back with 24 points against Woody Clements' varsity.
He was offered a scholarship at UNM while still commissioned at Kirtland.
While at Kirtland, Tuttle also displayed his baseball talents, compiling a 4-1 pitching mark, hitting an impressive .400 and delivering a bonus to the Lobos - basketball in the winter, baseball in the spring.
The first baseman teamed with outfielder Sam Suplizio to give UNM the finest 1-2 batting duo in the Skyline Conference. Upon graduation, both signed bonus contracts - Suplizio with the Yankees, Tuttle with the Phillies. Ironically, both suffered injuries in the minors, ending major league dreams.
Tuttle's accomplishments as a starter in both Lobo basketball (a forward) and baseball (first base and pitcher) shine like a beacon in UNM sports annals: all-conference first team selection in both sports in the Border Conference and later the Skyline Conference.
Tuttle returned to Albuquerque in 1955 after his brief sojourn in pro baseball to begin a teaching career at APS, both as class instructor and basketball coach. After teaching and coaching at Garfield High, he was named Rio Grande High's first basketball mentor and brought the team from the lowest level to the 1968 state tournament with a 19-6 record.