At a time when our country is suffering from too much politics and not enough kindness, we long for better days. Most people find themselves returning to a less-complicated age, the sixties. Before the 1960s, only nine percent of the people in the United States owned televisions. Because of this invention known as the TV, we better remember the sixties when sports began to capture our imagination and the games and the players appeared pure.
In Shadows of Greatness, my seventh book in the “Greatness Series,” these sports heroes who have left us in the past two years, return to these pages through their words, actions and deeds, to remind us of their greatness in the world of sports. They performed at a time when all seemed right in the world. I’ve always wondered why we hang onto our ghosts. Nostalgia may be the reason. Nostalgia is the most powerful drug there is. Nostalgia is the art of remembering the things we want to remember. It’s kind of like a highlight reel of all the good stuff we experienced in our lives with the turnovers and penalties left out. My dad used to remind me that we can see our sports heroes in our dreams.
I’ll tell you what I miss the most from the 1960s. I miss my teammates. That’s what I miss more than anything. I miss the road trips and the card games. I miss the workouts. I miss the locker room and the fellowship. I miss showing up early for practice and staying late because we believed we really had a terrific team. I miss the crowds and the noise. I miss the ballgames. I miss the places where we hung out after the games. But, what I miss now the most are the guys.
The 1960s have been called the Golden Age of Sports. I, for one, believe that! It was the time of Johnny Unitas, Y. A. Tittle, Jim Brown and Vince Lombardi. Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Jerry West, and Oscar Robertson dominated the basketball courts. The names of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier became known worldwide; and Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus brought the game of golf to the common man. We marveled at guys like Mickey Mantle, Bob Gibson, Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax, who drew our attention to America’s pastime.
It was also a time where families moved to the suburbs, women held jobs, portable BBQ pits and electric lawn mowers were invented, and there seemed to be a new car in every garage. It was a time of Frisbees, the Three Stooges, movie theaters, the Lone Ranger, expansion teams in Major League Baseball and increased incomes. The Beatles, Jimi Hendricks, the Rolling Stones, Motown and Woodstock changed the music scene. It was also a time of turbulence as Vietnam, riots and drugs became front-page stories. The issues of Civil Rights, the race for space, the Super Bowl, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King took us to new highs and lows as people. Yet, we found solace in our favorite sports teams. Sports not only reflected the times, but it benefitted them greatly. Sports became the new national obsession.
It’s interesting how much of the sixties have stayed with us. It’s like getting gum stuck in your hair. No matter how much hot water and soap you use, you can’t get rid of it completely. Most of the people I have written about here made their mark in the 1960s.
In Shadows of Greatness, athletes like John Havlicek, Billy Cannon, Bart Starr, Hal Greer, Frank Robinson, Jim Taylor, David Pearson, Forrest Gregg, Willie McCovey, Roger Bannister, Chuck Knox, “Jo Jo” White, Don Newcombe, Hubert Green, and Nick Buoniconti take their place in death, as in life.
They leave us so quickly and after they are gone, how will they be rediscovered? So many just disappear! Memories are about the best of who we were. How will your kids find out about your heroes? Where were you when the memories occurred? Who was with you, when you saw them? How will your kids discover what their meaning was to you and what your feelings were about them? These athletes touched our lives. It has been said that every person dies twice, once when they take their last breath and the other when no one talks about them anymore. I want to be for them the voice they no longer have. With this book, I can’t save their lives, but I can help protect their memories. I keep them alive in my memories and in my words, for those who come after us and those who come after them. We may never see the “likes” of them again.
We stay connected to our heroes, the places, the times and the events, therefore they all became a part of us, and maybe a part of you, too. We still feel that they whisper in our ears. Join me on a trip down memory lane and help me keep our heroes alive.
In Greatness Above the Noise, you will find the truth behind these legends. You will learn about their extraordinary moments of greatness and how they were able to rise above the noise of the game and become the best of the best in their profession. I’ve always been interested in the story behind the story. Greatness doesn’t happen overnight. Athletes just don’t roll out of bed and hit .400. They don’t get up on Christmas morning and make ten 3-pointers or run two kickoffs back for touchdowns.
Joseph Epstein once wrote, “I cannot remember when I was not surrounded by sports, when talk of sports was not in the air, when I did not care passionately about sports.” I can relate to his thoughts. Less than one percent of us will play a professional sport. Regardless of the injuries, most professional athletes will tell you that they would do it all over again. The only thing they would change is that they wished they could play longer. I don’t think there are any other jobs quite like professional sports. It takes a special person with special gifts to play at that level. They experience things most of us never will.
For those of us who are still here, I believe it is our responsibility and obligation to fill the silence these athletes leave behind, with gratitude and action. To truly remember these athletes means telling their stories. We once needed them to supply excitement and exhilaration in our lives. Now that they have passed on, they need for us to tell their stories. That’s why I write about them. I want you to notice the goodness and beauty that made them who they were. This is my way of thanking them for all the glorious moments they have allowed me to witness. The truth is when we experience their performances; we too become a part of their story. What you can do is read and share their stories; why they played, who they touched, wonder about who he or she was, ask about their dreams. No one really ever dies if you look at it the right way.
David “Big Papi” Ortiz once said, “The public thinks they know athletes, but they don’t really know what some people go through to get to this level. The media need to tell these stories, because some of them are really special.”
Some of us have always needed to be around other people. Life is too long to be alone, and you can’t really reach out and physically touch the past. I want this book to be a line across time, a line that connects yesterdays to todays and tomorrows. These athletes I write about, they walk beside me every day, and I travel with them. They have faces, families, hopes and dreams, and stories. I take on the responsibility of telling their story. They may no longer be here in the present, but I take parts of them with me as I move forward in my life.
There’s always more to their story, a back story, if you will. Most of us never get to meet all of our sports heroes. The media only shows us what they want us to see regarding these athletes. Chicago Cubs’ Hall-of-Fame second baseman, Johnny Evers, once said, “A ballplayer has two reputations, one with the other ballplayers and one with the fans. The first is based on ability. The second, the newspapers give him.”
The best drug in the world is happiness, not pleasure, but true happiness. Happiness is the ride, not the destination; and most are never taught when they are young how to create happiness. The Greeks stated that happiness is the joy we feel growing toward our potential. Happiness is ongoing. Happiness is seeing life as a challenge and not a threat. You need to find your joy in as many different places in your life as you can. I find joy in so many things: my family, my church, my friends, my writing, my radio work, my accomplishments in the work force and yes, sports. My life has gotten better each year, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but right where I am right now. So, as former Buffalo Bills’ coach Marv Levy once said, “Where else would you rather be than right here, right now?”
Man, I love the stories. Near the end of our lives, what we finally begin to understand is that all we really ever had was each other. I have been blessed to meet so many of our sports heroes, and I do love the research. As long as we read about them and talk about them, they live. My hope is that I have hit a nerve, caused you to smile or frown, and perhaps to think. I hope I have turned hours into seconds with my writing. I hope you find joy and happiness in my words and that I have shared with you at least one story that makes you feel I have given you your money’s worth.
We have all experienced wonderful moments in time, in regards to sporting events, which only lasted mere seconds. It is not until we stop and look back, that we begin to realize that during those moments we may have been sitting on the edge of sports history.
Images are powerful. These 492 never before seen photos mark the time and these people are part of my past. This scrapbook reminds me of how incredibly blessed I have been to meet and visit with so many of my childhood sports heroes. As fans we get so few opportunities to meet or see someone up close and in person, who is considered to be a great athlete. To get a chance to interview them is a whole new ballgame and a privilege.
The autograph craze began in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Athletes began to understand that their fans would pay good money just to meet and take away a smile, a handshake or a memento from that meeting in the form of an autograph. I don’t remember how many trips I have made over the years to Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and many other cities, for sports memorabilia and collectible shows. Add those trips to all the different sporting events I have attended in person and you begin to see how I was able to snap all these photos. As I celebrate my 22nd year in the world of sports talk radio and endeavor to complete my fifth book of the “Greatness Series,” I thought I would take a moment to look back to a road well traveled and say “thanks.” I hope these photos allow you to return to perhaps a better time that makes you smile and remember.
This photo album represents the timeless memories of my last 35 years, while covering sports. You may notice how young some of these folks appear at a time when they were at their best. The miles have been many, the time has flown by, and the memories are immeasurable. These are brief moments I’ll never forget. Oh, and the people I have met! I am not a professional photographer by any means, but all the photos in this book were taken by me personally, with exception of the ones including me. We are what we remember!
All new things begin and end with a story. Quite frankly, our stories are gifts. In the traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony, it is believed that every human encounter is a singular occasion which can never occur again in exactly the same way. The great secret to storytelling is that memories are about now, not about then. We are all a collection of our memories. By listening to others share their memories; they make us feel now, in the present. That’s why history is so important because it’s about us and how we see ourselves. We can take history and learn from it. Things that matter often are attached to faith, children, science, and nature. I believe this to also be true about sports. Still, all of us need to be connected to one another. All of us have these complicated secret stories we need to tell.
I’ve been this close to some of the greatest athletes in the world. The greatest reality show is sports. Why, because it matters to us, the fans, and to them, the athletes. Babe Ruth once said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” Rivalry and conflict make us wonder how we will be tested, how far we are willing to go to win. The lessons we learn in these games repeat themselves over and over in our lives. Every player from any sport is insecure. The pressure to succeed is great.
Your own mind is always your toughest opponent. Since the time we were six or seven years old, we have been built to be a part of a team. We were taught that the team is important. We shared as a team in the glory of winning and in the pain of losing. Along the way, we rooted for our teammates, because we all wanted to win. We do the same with our heroes in world of sports. My goal is to show you with my words who these people were. We can keep our heroes alive even though their physical body is gone. You can keep them alive by keeping their spirit alive, by keeping their beliefs and thoughts alive. What would they say, how would they react, the things you believed in them; just keep those alive and they stay alive. As long as we remember them, these people live.
There is a big difference between routine and commitment. Lots of people do the same things everyday, but few commit to the process. These athletes greatness lie in those commitments and they give us, the fans, moments to remember. Those moments never fade and we wait until the right time to close our eyes so they can come out and play once more.
This is my 20 year in sports talk radio and the fourth book of my “Greatness Series.” They are all available without a prescription. Inside Secrets of Greatness you will find inspirational stories of some of the best of the best from the world of sports. Their names ring across time and most hang in the halls of fame of their chosen profession. Athletes like Ernie Banks, Frank Gifford, Calvin Peete, Yogi Berra, Buddy Baker, Kenny Stabler, “Hurricane” Carter, Meadowlark Lemon and Moses Malone remind us of better days from our past. Coaches like Chuck Noll, Dean Smith, Allie Sherman, Don Zimmer, Guy Lewis and Jack Ramsey left us way too early. We long to hear the familiar voices of announcers like Milo Hamilton, Jerry Coleman and Gene Elston. So pull up a chair, crack open this book and let me take you back to a time where “team” mattered most. I promise you will feel better after reading.
Greatness Continued is the third book of what is now referred to as the “Greatness Series.” People ask how I go about picking the folks to write about. First, they are all attached in some way to the world of sports. Second, it’s true that they have all passed away and, yes, these are my inspirational stories of meeting some of our heroes in person; but the truth is I don’t pick them as much as the fan does. In saying that, you still must remember that greatness is not self-contained just in sports. You may have been taught in school by a great teacher, worked for a great boss, or have been raised by great parents. You may be married to a great spouse. Greatness and great people are all around us. We are all capable of greatness. Most of us are competitive by nature and all the great ones seem to find something to focus on, something that reaches down inside of them and brings out that fire. Any time someone takes the time to change themselves for the better and in so doing touches others around them in a positive way, then greatness occurs. In life, we are all given two wonderful gifts: awesome potential and freedom of choice. What we do with those gifts will define us in the eyes of others, as great or just mediocre. Everybody probably knows someone who is famous, someone they consider to be great. Mark Twain once said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you too can become great.” The question for us then becomes, how do others achieve this so-called greatness?
In the world of sports, greatness comes with a daily bucket of sweat, an occasional blister, ice packs, pulled muscles, and uncertainty. It’s disguised in repetition, born of endless effort and attention to the smallest of details. Greatness is never given; it is earned, manufactured in the off-season, behind closed doors, in the darkest recesses of the gym, in the heat, while questions of am I good enough or am I ready, replay over and over in our minds. Greatness is sometimes served first with a spoonful of disappointment, failure, vulnerability, or embarrassment. Achieving greatness provides confidence, adrenaline, exhilaration, money, and a feeling of accomplishment. For most, the reward of becoming a great athlete outweighs the risk of failure. Most often, the process of becoming great is played out live in front of others, on a big stage, and in turn makes us feel alive, warts, and all. The side effects of greatness are like scars that can’t be seen, but nothing takes the place of a live sporting event. Greatness occurs when you hate losing more than you love winning, when you push your body and mind far past the point where most other folks are willing to go. Greatness most often changes the game.
Interestingly enough, in the end we all wind up as just men or women; because in real life, it’s not about how great an athlete, coach, a writer, or announcer you were, but about how good a person you have become. It just so happens that these folks became game changers along the way. So sit back and enjoy these stories. Be prepared to smile and wonder, to discover things about these heroes that you may not have known. I hope you will be able to see these people through my words. As a friend of mine, Dr. Tom Hollingsworth, once said, “At times we forget that inside those jerseys and under those helmets; they are all just human beings.” I dare you to become great!
This book is a sequel and contains sixty more inspirational short stories and includes pictures of players, coaches, announcers, and owners who I have had the pleasure of meeting and or interviewing. They all have passed away in the last two years. I believe they deserve more than a five inch column in the newspaper or 15 minutes on ESPN after they leave us. How quickly we forget. The deeds of the past often lie in the memories of the living.
This book contains sixty-eight stories of some of the greatest athletes, coaches, managers, owners, announcers and journalists who have now passed away. Also included are the author’s own personal encounters with most of these sports icons. The timeline spans back 15 years from 1995 to 2009. These are their stories. They are all here, from Mantle to McKay, Payton to Patterson, “Wilt” to Williams, and Unitas to Upshaw. Some of them were thought of as “more famous” than others, but each was considered one of the best in his own time. It’s quite a list.
People tell many kinds of stories, but all the really good stories begin and end in the heart. I have found that if you tell stories long enough, eventually you will become involved. This story is about the heart of a man. Some would say he was just a man like any other, but this man turned out to be different for me; he was my father. I didn't write to tell you how he died but to tell you how he lived. So when people ask me if he was a good man, I tell them I believe so; but then again, he was my father. We all go through life trying to figure out who we are and why we are here. Every life has a story and this one is his. It has now been twenty-five years since he left us, but I still visit with him quite often. I see a bit of him when I look in the mirror. I hear his voice when I speak with my brother, and I often think about what he would have said. I see his walk by watching his kinfolk and hear his laugh when I'm among his friends. His favorite saying was, "if you tell the truth, you don't have to remember what you said." He gave me his passion for hard work and the wisdom to succeed. He has never really left me. He made his mark in life and most would describe him as physically tough, a loving husband, demanding father, and a relentless businessman. There was a dark side, too. His temper could rage out of control; he was self educated, smoked too much, drank to excess on occasion, and at times would gamble on almost anything. Another of his favorite sayings was, "You should gamble in some small way every day, because one day may be your lucky day and you will never even know." My father was very much a man and he loved being alive. He was never phony; he was who he was, always. So I have always wondered why he tried so hard to fit in, when he was born to stand out. Email me at [email protected] or call 361 549 1619 for a copy. Thanks! This is the story of my dad, my family and growing up in Chestnut Hills located in Raleigh, NC.
Humphrey Bogart once said, “A hot dog at the ballpark is better than steak at the Ritz." Bogey knew that the game of baseball was special. It's a game in which the more you know about it, the more enjoyment you receive. It's played at all age levels and provides a distraction from the stress and the daily grind for all people, young or old, rich or poor, any race, creed or color. The pace of the game provides us with time to talk, think, reflect and plan. The game's special sounds and smells are unforgettable. The colors of the game and the vastness of its playing fields are overwhelming. Passion and anticipation ooze from the field during game time. The game also transcends time. The game my grandfather witnessed is the same game that my grandson and I enjoy today. It's a fair game with no clock that enables each team to receive the same number of chances to win. It's played by all sizes, short, tall, heavy or thin. The only requirements are the ability to think, quick reflexes, foot speed, a strong accurate arm and tremendous hand-to-eye coordination. It's a game with history that allows us to compare every new player to the 16,000 who came before him. It's also the game that looks the easiest to play from your seat but is in fact the hardest of them all. Many people believe that baseball returned as the National Pastime in 1998, thanks to an offensive explosion that rewrote the record books and again reached back and connected the past with the present. The names of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Roger Maris and Hack Wilson returned with ease to the sports pages, as if they had never left, only to be joined by Sammy Sosa, Cal Ripken, Jr., Mark McGwire and Juan Gonzalez. If the game did indeed return to the masses in 1998, then it's safe to say that baseball put down roots in 1999 and returned for good to the sports scene, front and center. The year after 70 home runs was equally impressive. More hitting and pitching records were posted and money was handed out at an all-time high, with Kevin Brown becoming the first one-hundred-million-dollar player. Managers changed, players moved, and the new team in Arizona introduced itself to play-off baseball. Cancer and major injuries to star players and managers altered many rosters during the year, but the game pushed on. Off the field Pete Rose and the umpires dominated the baseball news throughout the year, along with the passing of many great players. Four of baseball’s greatest playgrounds closed at the end of this year, and the fans participated in honoring some of the greatest players of the twentieth century. Latin players dominated play and the awards for excellence. Teams changed uniforms and colors, while the shift returned as a defensive option to stop the game's best hitters. 1999 also ushered in arguably the greatest Hall-of Fame class since its first induction class of 1936. Turnstiles clicked at a record pace, as our game continued to move towards a worldly contest. America's teams played in Mexico, while welcoming the Cuban National Team to Baltimore. With the exception of the American League Central, division races again became a hot topic in the sports page, and the good old fashioned baseball fight returned to the game. Players from the catching position made the highlight reels throughout the year, while their battery mates tried to reclaim the inside part of home plate. All and all, it was a terrific season. So why this book? That’s' easy! I love to write, and I'm passionate about the game of baseball. I have opinions, right or wrong, and enjoy the history of the game. This is my second book on baseball; it's filled with thirty-two weeks of records, highlights, statistics, illustrations and humor. Also included are two poems that I wrote, along with a commentary by Ernie Harwell and perhaps the greatest baseball poem ever written. You might say that this book serves as a weekly diary of the 1999 Major League Baseball Season. Don't misunderstand; baseball is not perfect but the game will never die. It is truly the game of the masses. It's appeal; is never-ending and I agree with Babe Ruth that it is perhaps the only real game. I have chosen the title Buy Me Some Peanuts... for all the reasons above. I hope you find the reading as enjoyable as I did the writing. Available for purchase locally at Beamer's or email me at [email protected] or call 361 549 1619. Thanks! Own a copy of the 1999 baseball season.
Until Next Wednesday... We'll See You At The Park
On the following pages, you will find statistics, thoughts, and observations with a touch of humor about the 1998 Major League Baseball season. My Intentions were to recap the busy week of our National Pastime in a five to eight minute format to be read on a local sports talk radio show known as "Shane and Andy's Insider Sports." I have also included a few poems that I have written this past year about the grand old game. The information is compiled into this format due to the overwhelming positive response I have received from listeners, callers and friends. Each week has been titled and dated. A better year could not have of been picked, in order to capture the baseball season. I heard a quotation one time that went something like this, “The trick to life is not getting what you want, but wanting it after you get it." Baseball needed 1998 Available for purchase locally at Beamer's or email me at [email protected] or call 361 549 1619. Thanks! Own a copy of the 1998 baseball season.
The heavy black skillet contains several large spoonfuls of bacon grease. To melt, the skillet is placed in the oven at 400 degrees. While waiting for the skillet and grease to heat up, she combines two parts corn meal with three parts flour in a mixing bowl. Time and repetition have become her measuring cup. A pinch of salt and a big splash of water would finish off this southern delicacy known as cornbread. Remove the skillet from the oven and spoon the cornbread mix into the hot grease one tablespoon at a time. This will separate the pieces naturally. Place the skillet in oven and bake for approximately twenty-five minutes or until the edge of the cornbread begins to brown. Remove skillet from oven and, with a spatula, turn entire cornbread upside down. Place back in oven for five minutes to harden the top of cornbread. Remove skillet from oven and place cornbread onto paper towel to absorb the leftover grease. Serve hot with butter, honey or plain. My mom baked thousands of pans of cornbread just as I have described. The instructions seemed easy enough but duplicating her recipe has stumped many a Betty Crocker wannabe. I guess the part no one could duplicate was the love and laughter that went into the cornbread. It would become her trademark. She had always said, " If you wait long enough to feed'em and late enough to sleep'em, they'll eat anything you give'em and sleep anywhere you put 'em." She was right. People would come from near and far to sample her cornbread, and there were many nights when pan after pan of cornbread became their entire dinner. Out of Print