Big pond, little pond. Two champs

(Originally published 2/2/12)

Angelo Dundee died yesterday. The legendary trainer for Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard was 90.

When Angelo Mirena got his start in boxing during the 1940’s, he changed his name to Dundee – just as two of his brothers had done – to hide their work in boxing from their parents. Today, all these years later, tributes are pouring in from all over the country. A part of boxing died with Dundee, they all say.

Dundee’s death brings to mind another longtime boxing trainer that I once knew, long since gone. He didn’t swim in the same world-class waters as Dundee, but he left his own long-lasting impression nonetheless.

Tony Orlando Sr. operated the gym in the basement of Kirk Center in Elizabeth, N.J. He trained fighters for five decades and worked well into his 80s. Anyone would be hard-pressed to meet a nicer man and gentler soul in such a violent world than Orlando. Continue reading

Pat Summitt and the right to say ‘when’

(Originally published 3/25/12)

I’m the type of guy who loves an underdog. It’s not often that I root for a No. 2 seed to beat a No. 11 at the NCAA Basketball Tournament, but that’s the situation I found myself in yesterday as Tennessee rallied from a 14-point deficit to knock off Kansas, 84-73, and reach the quarterfinals of the women’s tournament.

I’d like Pat Summitt to get one more trip to the Final Four in what is most likely her last go-around as head coach. Perhaps even win one more championship before walking off into the sunset, retiring on her own terms and with the sounds of celebration echoing throughout the arena rather than the quiet calls for her to just go away. For the good of the program.

Getting old sucks. Getting old and sick is much worse.

The odds are stacked against Tennessee reaching the Final Four this year. The consensus No. 1 team in the country, undefeated Baylor, stands in its way. Most likely, a 38-year career comes to an end Monday night in Des Moines, Iowa, but what do I know? Only that I recognize true excellence when I see it. Continue reading

Introducing Lt. Gino Tenpenny

Book cover for Devil's Hollow

Lt. Gino Tenpenny, an old-school cop, goes paranormal to track down a killer.

“Devil’s Hollow” is a detective mystery that introduces Lt. Gino Tenpenny, a well-seasoned, no-nonsense lawman attached to a fictitious city in northern New Jersey.

Once a Marine, always a Marine, Tenpenny says of himself.

Tenpenny is like two of his football heroes: Vince Lombardi and Jim Brown, two legends from another time. He’s someone who believes in tradition and commands respect like Lombardi. But he’s also someone who is old-school tough like Brown.

And very much like Jim Brown, be aware that there’s a danger to Tenpenny lurking just underneath the surface. Continue reading

A dog’s tale

A story about family and the magic of Christmas in the old neighborhood.

“One Christmas Knight” is overflowing with colorful characters that sparkle on the digital page. They’re composites of family members, friends and acquaintances, all of whom I grew up with in the old neighborhood. Their names have been changed to protect the innocent – or not so innocent. All, that is, but one.

Jake, also known as “The Christmas Puppy” or simply “Crazy Dog,” is the real deal. And, for some reason, he has become the overwhelming favorite of many readers. So much so that Jake has let it go to his head. He’s let it be known that he expects a larger role in any and all sequels.

This isn’t your ordinary family dog. Continue reading

Of staffs and walking sticks

It must be way cooler to use a staff rather than a walking stick, but outside of Middle Earth staffs are harder to find than hobbits.

Gandalf the Gray had a staff that was simply magic in his hands. It didn’t appear to be much different than a walking stick, and that was the charm of it. As Wormtongue found out in “The Two Towers,” you were playing with fire if the old wizard entered your hall without first leaving his staff at the door.

Thunder erupted from one end of Gandalf’s staff while lightning shot out from the other. In the entire “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Gandalf was something like 64-1 when fighting with his staff. His only defeat came at the hands of his then-boss Saruman the White, who was pretty nifty with a staff himself at the time. Of course, Gandalf scored a first-round knockout in the rematch once he had been promoted to Gandalf the White.

Sort of like earning a black belt in martial arts. Continue reading

Fantasy Baseball: Outfielders

Matt Kemp of the Dodgers is talking 50-50. That’s 50 home runs; 50 steals. In the same season. That’s the kind of talk I like to hear from the leading hitter of my fantasy baseball team.

No one’s ever done it before, but Kemp says it’s possible and he’s going to show everyone how to do it. Even if he comes up a bit short, that’s still one hell of a fantasy baseball season.

Kemp and current two-time home run king Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays should be the first two outfielders taken in most drafts, but they’ll have plenty of company right behind them. Continue reading

Fantasy Baseball: Shortstops

Troy Tulowitzki is the gold standard for shortstops in fantasy baseball. The question is, who are the silver and bronze standards?

Jose Reyes or Hanley Ramirez? Hanley Ramirez or Jose Reyes?

The Marlins thought so highly of Reyes that they brought the National League batting champion in to supplant Ramirez, their own All-Star shortstop. And by shifting Ramirez to third base, they accomplished a couple of things: they put a middle-of-the-order hitter at third base and they provided him with plenty of incentive, something that the talented Ramirez has shown little of in the past. Continue reading

Parcells, Vizquel not acting their age

What’s tougher? To play shortstop in the major leagues at 45 or be the head coach of a NFL franchise at 71?

Omar Vizquel has been told that he’s going north with the Toronto Blue Jays after having a terrific spring. The 11-time Gold Glove winner came into camp with a minor-league contract but leaves with a big-league deal for what will be his 24th season as a major-leaguer.  

Bill Parcells says he owes it to his friend, New Orleans coach Sean Payton, to at least consider taking over the Saints for a year if he’s offered the job. Continue reading

Fantasy Baseball: Third Basemen

The sheriff is back in town, and he’ll be eligible at third base in about a week’s time. His name is Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, and although he may not look  pretty while manning the hot corner, he’s in a league by himself and Albert Pujols  as a slugger.

Another high-profile player who will be new to third base this season, meaning he’s not eligible at third in your draft but will become eligible after the first five games he plays there, is Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins. Continue reading

Pat Summitt and the right to say ‘when’

I’m the type of guy who loves an underdog. It’s not often that I root for a No. 2 seed to beat a No. 11 at the NCAA Basketball Tournament, but that’s the situation I found myself in yesterday as Tennessee rallied from a 14-point deficit to knock off Kansas, 84-73, and reach the quarterfinals of the women’s tournament.

I’d like Pat Summitt to get one more trip to the Final Four in what is most likely her last go-around as head coach. Perhaps even win one more championship before walking off into the sunset, retiring on her own terms and with the sounds of celebration echoing throughout the arena rather than the quiet calls for her to just go away. For the good of the program.

Getting old sucks. Getting old and sick is much worse. Continue reading