7 Milt Ticco

Milt Ticco
Hometown (Last School)
Jenkins, KY
1940-41, 1941-42, 1942-43
September 22, 1922


Milton Mitchell Ticco was born September 22, 1922, in Jenkins, Kentucky to Michael G. and Polexini Papanghi Ticco.  His parents were from Albania and owned a restaurant in Jenkins.  His father operated a number of restaurants in the coal mine towns of eastern Kentucky.  His grandfather was from Greece.  Ticco, a curly-haired left-hander, played for Adolph Rupp and was the offensive star of the 1940-43 Wildcats.  He was a member of the 1942 squad, dubbed “Rupp’s Rifles,” which is considered Kentucky’s first “Final Four” team.

Ticco scored a career-high 26 points, more than half his team’s total, against Xavier on January 9, 1941, in a 48-43 win over Xavier.

Discussing the 1941-42 season, Adolph Rupp said, “Kentucky’s set for a great season.  I’ll guarantee you this, it will be worth the price of admission any day to see fellows like Milt Ticco and Marv Akers drop them in from mid-floor.  We’ll give you a real run for your money.”

Ticco was selected to the All-SEC team in 1943.

He was captain of Kentucky’s baseball team in 1943.

Following a stint in the military during World War II, he played both professional basketball and baseball. In the NBL (a precursor to today’s National Basketball Association), Ticco played the 1946–47 NBL season with the Youngstown Bears and was named to the All-rookie second team. In his NBL second season, Ticco split time with the Flint Dow A.C.’s and Indianapolis Kautskys, finishing the season with the Sheboygan Red Skins. For his career, Ticco averaged 6 points per game in 60 contests.

Ticco played minor league baseball until he fractured his ankle sliding into home plate from 1946 to 1952 with the Cincinnati Reds and Brooklyn Dodgers organizations.

From The Way We Were published at themountaineagle.com May 25, 2016:

When it comes to top athletes who attended high school in Letcher County, few — if any — have topped the feats of Milton Mitchell “Mitt” Ticco.

A star basketball player for Jenkins High School, Ticco went on to play basketball for Coach Adolph Rupp’s Wildcats at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where he was named All American during his senior season in 1943.

Basketball wasn’t the only sport at which Ticco excelled.

Seventy years ago this month, Ticco made local and regional news when he made his debut in a Major League Baseball uniform with the Cincinnati Reds against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds (May 14).

Ticco’s baseball debut came less than three weeks after he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army after spending 2-1/2 years in Europe.

Born in 1922 in Jenkins, where he was known as “Milty,” Ticco was a son of Michael and Polexini Papanghi Ticco, who operated a popular restuarant in Jenkins for 20 years.

“(Michael) Ticco came to America from Albania when he was a very young man,” Jenkins correspondent Betty Jane Fugate explained in the May 30, 1946 edition of The Mountain Eagle. “After spending a few years in this country, he returned to Albania for a short period of years. While he was there, he married and soon felt the urge to come back to the United States and become a citizen of this country.”

Ticco’s decision was Letcher County’s gain, Mrs. Fugate said.

“Their older son, John, was born on the boat a few days before they landed at New York on their return to this country. Mr. Ticco became a citizen of this country and spent some 20 years in Jenkins. During that time they raised their four children. No nicer family was ever raised in Jenkins.”

While playing basketball for Jenkins High, Ticco was usually the best player on the court. As a 15-year-old in December 1937, Ticco poured in 13 of the Cavaliers’ 19 points in a 26-19 loss to Whitesburg.

Ticco, whose UK jersey carried the No. 3 popularized many years later by Rex Chapman, was a 6-3, 190-pound forward who scored 102 points in his sophomore season (freshmen were ineligible then), 128 points in his junior season, and 233 points in his senior season, when he won All-SEC and All- SEC Tournament honors in addition to being named All American.

Ticco also starred for the UK baseball team, which led to his joining the Cincinnati and later the Brooklyn Dodgers organizations as a left-handed hitting first baseman.

After a short stint with the Big League Reds, Ticco was sent down to the minors where he spent seven seasons before retiring from professional baseball in 1952, at age 29.

Ticco had a career batting average of .278 during his 776 professional games. He also hit 41 home runs and 130 doubles during his career. Ironically, Ticco’s best season was his last when he hit for an average of .309 with the Asheville Tourists, then a member of the Dodgers organization.

In addition to playing pro baseball, Ticco also played two seasons professionally with the National Basketball League, where his 11.3 points per game average with the Youngstown Bears in the 1946-47 season earned him a place on the All Rookie second team. Ticco played for three teams in the 1947-48 season — the Flint Dow A.C.’s, the Indianapolis Kautskys, and the Sheboygen Red Skins. (In 1949, the NBL merged with the Basketball Association of America to form today’s NBA.)

In 1948-49, Ticco moved to the American Basketball League’s Wilkes- Barre Barons for two seasons, before winding up his career with the Allentown Aces/Carbondale Aces in 1950-51 season.

After his retirement from professional sports, Ticco was married to Ramona Ford. The couple had two sons they raised while Ticco worked in sales.

Ticco died in Greenville, South Carolina on January 26, 2002.

Obituary – Milton M. Ticco, Greenville, Greenville (SC) Online (January 28, 2002)

Milton M. Ticco, 79, of 803 Edwards Road, died Saturday, Jan. 26, 2002, at Oakmont East.

Born in Jenkins, Ky., he was a son the late Michael G. and Polexini Papanghi Ticco. A graduate of University of Kentucky, class of 1943, he lettered in baseball and basketball and was named Basketball All American. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he played basketball for the American Basketball League and played baseball for both the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds. He later retired from a career in sales.

Surviving are his wife, Ramona Ford Ticco; two sons, Michael and his wife Kathleen Ticco and James Ticco all of Buffalo, N.Y.; two sisters, Martha Tzetzo of Buffalo, N.Y. and Andigoni Steffa of Philadelphia, Pa.; four grandchildren, Kelly Ticco, Andon Ticco, Maxwell Ticco and Claire Ticco; and several nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Thomas McAfee Funeral Home, Downtown Chapel, with visitation to follow.

Memorials may be made to the charity of one’s choice or the Heart Association, 301 University Ridge, 29601.