Thursday, June 30, 2011

JULES ALEXANDER: A PHOTOGRAPHER UNLIKE ANY OTHER

On the journey through life there are people who you come across and meet that just have "it".
It could be their personality, magnetism, or some type of gift they are blessed with that separates
them from others. They are the ones that you love to be around because they can put a smile on
your face and make you laugh when you're not really in the mood to do so. Jules Alexander is
that type of person, the one who has "it". He's as unique as his first name and as great as his last one.

But unless you're a pro golfer or one of the many of thousands of  friends of his sons, Paul and Carl,
you probably don't have any idea who Jules Alexander is. Alexander is a professional photographer
who has been taking pictures for more than 70 years. He's put his lens on the likes of John F. Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, Benny Goodman, Christie Brinkley, and a young, before he-was-famous, Mike Tyson.


But it's golf photography that's been Alexander's passion and expertise. He captures the sport
of golf like Annie Leibowitz frames up celebrities. Alexander does it with a style that's all his own, his pictures not only tell a story, but they just about come to life.

The photos taken by Alexander jump out at you. They don't scream for your attention, but they
do demand it.  He is old school, prefering  black and white over color. It's one of the things that's made Alexander unique.


In mid-June, just days after his 85th birthday, Alexander was in Maryland  snapping photos of a young  Rory McIlroy in the U.S. Open. 52 years early, Alexander was at golf's national 
championship taking pictures of a man, which he didn't know until more than 20 years later, would change his life forever, turning him into one of the sport's most famous and recognizable photographers.
 


In 1959, Alexander, a Bronx native, made the short journey to the Winged Foot Country Club to photograph Ben Hogan. Alexander was fascinated with just about everything the legendary golfer did.
He studied his swing, how he stood, the way he dressed, and even the way he took a drag on his
cigarette. Alexander would build a collection of Hogan like the tradition of the Masters: Unlike any other.

Years later, Alexander and his lovely wife, Danna, moved to Harrison, New York. His house sat
at the end of the driving range of the Westchester Country Club, which hosted a PGA event for more
than 40 years. Players on tour got wind of Alexander's Hogan collection  and they'd show up on his doorstep to see them.

Players like Ben Crenshaw and Gary Player would stop by to gawk and study the photos because
quite frankly, there was nothing else like them. It wasn't until 1989, that Alexander, with a nudge from his son Paul, put the wheels in motion to show the rest of the world the Hogan photos. A
book was created  called the "Hogan Mystique" that put Alexander on the map.


The work and offers came in like a Tsunami for Alexander. Mastercard  hired him to take a
team picture  of legends like Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, and Watson. Hugo Boss hired him to photograph Phil Mickelson for their print adds. He travels the world every year to shoot a
calendar with the greatest and most picturesque holes in golf.

It only took 40 years, but Alexander became an overnight sensation. Ask anybody in golf  if they know the guy with the collection of Hogan, and  you'll most likley get a "Of course, I know Jules." Like most of the great ones, Alexander is known throughout the sport by just one name, Jules.

Well, that might be stretching in a bit. You see, Jules had this almost, maniacal obsession with
Ben Hogan. He studied and copied his swing, dressed like him, and even wore the signature style
of hat Hogan wore. His golfing buddies at Westchester  Country Club nicknamed him "Hawk",  which of course was the moniker of Hogan. As you can imagine,"Hawk" ate it up, he just loved it.


Alexander became a single-digit handicap golfer who shot 76 when he was  79 years of age. His sons,
Paul and Carl, are two highly-respected PGA club pros in Westchester. Carl qualified and played in the Westchester Classic, the tournament he had grown up watching, and is considered one of the best
golfers in the tri-state  area. Alexander's grandson, Jack, is also a very good player. It's a true golfing family.

Jules and the Alexander's are like family to us. We have known them  for almost 40 years and
nearly every picture that was hung in our house growing up, was taken by Jules. The same could
be said for many of Jules' friends. Nobody ever asked Jules to take the picture, he always was
quick with the camera and the offer. He took as much pride in taking a shot for a friend as he did when capturing magnificent shots of Hogan, Nicklaus, Player, and Crenshaw.

Jules always had the picture in his head, often well before we were  ever in position to take it. Like Wayne Gretzky was known for, Jules could see the play happen long before it developed. In 2001, Jules saw a picture in his head that stands as my all-time favorite.

My dad, Jules, and I were playing a round of golf at the Westchester Country  Club. As were
walking off the 12th tee, Jules said, "sit on that  bench, I've got this great shot that I want to take."
He already seen this shot a million  times in his head. My dad and I, who were best friends,
followed Jules' instruction on how to sit. With one click, Jules captured a picture that will stay
with me forever. My dad died a few years afterit was taken, so you can imagine how much the
picture below means to me.



crowd and bring people to the edge of their seats. You only need to meet Jules once to know
that he is special and unique. People that meet Jules Alexander, never forget him.

Alexander served in World War II as an aeriel reconnaissance photographer and  ended up as
a world renown golf photographer. He's had a truly  interesting life  and he's really enjoyed
living it. Jules is 85 years old but looks like a man 20 years younger and acts way younger
than that.

The lens doesn't focus on him too much, but when it does, it captures a man who has "it".

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

DEATH OF A COLLEGE BASKETBALL LEGEND

Lorenzo Charles was a symbol of "March Madness", his game-winning
dunk in the 1983 National Championship exemplified what this great
basketball tournament is all about and everything comes with it. Who
can forget what ensued after this hulk of a man, ripped the nets with
the points that gave North Carolina State it's second national championship
in school history.

Jimmy Valvano running around aimlessly, looking for someone to hug. The
players on Houston, an incredibly talented team, known as "Phi Slamma Jamma",
crying in their towels, pounding the court in disbelief. This was a never forget
moment and one that CBS still uses 28 years later to show the world, that
yes, you can believe in Cinderella.

Disbelief came over many in the college basketball world, when it was
learned that Lorenzo Charles, the man who put his signature on one of
the greatest moments in sports history, died while driving a bus in Raleigh,
North Carolina. This couldn't be. Charles, after all, was a legend. Someone
we remember as a rugged player with the physique of a Greek god.
He, even at the age of 47, appeared to be indestructible. Unfortunately,
like in most Greek plays, there is tragedy, and the death of Charles
represents it.

The defining moment of Charles' athletic career and life, for that matter,
ranks up there with Bobby Thompson's "shot heard round the world",
and Kirk  Gibson's earth-shattering home run in the 1988 World Series.
It was breathtaking, exhilarating, and anyone who saw it, can tell you
exactly where they were when it happened.

The moment was the exclamation point on a remarkable run by North Carolina
State, who had to beat North Carolina with Michael Jordan, and Virginia,
which had the immortal Ralph Sampson, in the ACC Tournament,  just to
get into the big dance. Once they got there, they turned into the "Cardiac
Pack", with a double-overtime win over Pepperdine in the opening round
and several other nail biters on the road to the title game.

They weren't given much of chance to beat Houston, which had a freshman
phenom named Hakeem Olajuwon and one of the game's best players in
Clyde "The Glide" Drexler. The Cougars were double-digit favorites to
beat the Cardiac Pack. But Charles and NC State persevered. They got
the last-shot, which was a 30-foot prayer be Derrick Whittenburg. It
was answered by Charles, who was seemingly stunned as the ball flushed
through the basket, igniting  mayhem that's never been matched by
any Cinderella on the dance floor.

The moment was so pure, so emotional, and so good for the game of
college basketball. It reconfirmed what the 1980 U.S Olympic hockety
team taught us. Miracles do indeed,  happen. It re-inforced to us that David
really can beat Goliath and that no matter how bad things get, you can never
stop believing in yourself and your dreams.

Lorenzo Charles may be gone, but his shot and his moment, will live on forever.
Rest in peace, 43.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

TAKE THIS $600,000 JOB AND.....

The unemployment rate is awful and the real estate market is worse than that.
Homes are foreclosing as often as Lindsay Lohan shows up in court, and
economists say a double-dip recession is looming just over the horizon.

With that said, if you've already been fired three times from a market place
that has only 30 jobs of its kind, would you walk away from one that paid you
$600,000? That's exactly what Nationals manager Jim Riggleman did last
Thursday night.

Earlier that day, Riggleman requested to meet with general manager Mike Rizzo
about having the option of his contract picked up for next year. The Nationals had
won eight straight games, and were at the .500 mark, so Riggleman must've
felt he had some leverage. Rizzo told Riggleman this wasn't the time to talk.

Just minutes after beating the Mariners for their ninth straight win to get over
the .500 mark for the first time since 2005, Riggleman said that's it, that's all,
I'm done. He said he felt disrespected and the pressure of not having security
affected his ability to manage the team, especially when making a measly $600,000.
Rizzo said fine, thanks for playing.

Riggleman was wrong on all accounts and didn't get any support or sympathy
from anyone in the game. Disrespected? If every person in the work place quit
because they felt disrespected, the employment rate would be 75%. Pressure?
Millions of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck while trying to feed a family
and put their kids through college. Pressure and security? Try being a nuclear
engineer in Japan knowing that you'll be exposed to such high-levels of radiation
that you're life expectancy will be reduced to just three more years.

I've heard people argue that Riggleman was one of the lowest-paid managers
in baseball. Well, that's what usually goes with being one of the lowest-rated
managers in the game. Riggleman has never won anything and has certainly
lost a lot. A winning percentage of .445 in 12 years of managing is not exactly
a good track record. And don't tell me the Nats payroll kept him from being
successful in D.C. When Fredi Gonzalez was managing with Marlins, he won
87 games with a team payroll that is comparable to the one at your local Subway
shop.

Taking on management in the world today is akin to playing Russian roulette
with a bullet in every chamber. It's stupid and suicidal. Give management an
excuse to say, "Next", and they'll do it. If they hold the hammer and you have
a pea shooter, you're done. There are plenty of managerial candidates waiting
outside the door, there's no way they're going to tolerate demands from
an employee, especially one with Riggleman's track record. Everyone in
every company in the country is replaceable. How's Dan Rather doing these
days?

Riggleman said his actions were a matter of principle. That might've been well
and good for manager in the 1980's making $80,000 dollar, but come on, suck
it up Jim, you were making $600,000 a year to put nine names in the line-up
on a daily basis. Players win games, not managers. I've never heard anyone
call Joe Girardi a great skipper, despite that fact he  has a World Series
championship on his resume. When you have A-Rod, Texiera, Cano, Granderson,
Jeter, etc, etc, etc, it's not all that tough.

There is only one "great" coach or manager in the game who truly makes a
difference, and that's Bill Belichick, who could take 11 homeless guys off
the streets of South Boston and win 10 games. The value of managers in
baseball is truly overrated.

Riggleman might be saying, "See, that'll show them." Followed by "now what
do I do." If  a potential employer finds out that someone quit on their co-workers,
team, and company, chances are they won't hire you. Riggleman has been fired
by three teams in baseball and quit on another. He won't get another chance unless
his Dad buys a team. As he said shortly after resigning, "I know I'm not Casey
Stengel, but I do know what I'm doing."  Riggelman was right on the first part,
but one really has to question if he really knows what he is doing or just did.

By all accounts, Riggleman is a really good guy. Unfortunately, he made a real
bad decision that he'll come to regret.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

TIKI BARBER: ALL THE WRONG MOVES

Tiki Barber is like the attractive 40-year old blonde on Facebook
who keeps posting flattering pictures of herself to get positive
reinforcement that she is still drop-dead gorgeous, despite the fact
that her best days are behind her.

After retiring from the game in 2006 in the prime of his career, the
former NY Giants running back's best days as an athlete and person,
are clearly behind him, but his attempts at reinforcement have backfired,
reinforcing to the sports world what a bad guy he is.

Now that he has napalmed a marriage, television career, and reputation
Barber wants our sympathy and reinforcement that he was actually
"a somebody".  Last week, during a segment on HBO, Barber admitted
that he is suffering from depression after losing his 2 million dollar a
year job with NBC to work as an NFL analyst and correspondent for
the Today show. He admitted to sitting on the couch for "10 hours and
doing absolutely nothing."

First of all, depression is a serious issue that millions of people suffer
from. I am not making light of it, but Tiki, come on. To use it to gain
sympathy now is a travesty and something that everyone can see right
through.

A series of bad decisions by Barber brought this "depression" on and
he has no one to blame but himself. After his playing career was over,
Barber bad-mouthed his former teammates like Eli Manning, mocking him
for his southern drawl and leadership skills. He said the Giants would
never win anything with Tom Coughlin as the head coach. A funny thing
happened. Without Tiki, the Giants won the Super Bowl the very next
year, throttling the Patriots in their quest for a perfect season.

Then Barber decided to ditch his pregnant wife for a 23-year old co-worker
at NBC. It's as bad a PR move a high-profile "celebrity" could make. This
guy who carefully choreographed his image as a squeaky-clean family guy,
turned out to be the fraud many people thought he was.

The negative publicity and New York Post, whom Barber accused of "stalking
him" forced him and his girlfriend to seek refuge in the attic of his agent,
Mark Lepselter. Barber then dug himself a deeper hole by coming himself
to Holocaust victim Anne Frank.

"Lep's jewish," said Barber. "It's like the reverse of Anne Frank."

I guess in this world where athletes blame God for dropping a pass, the
disaster in Japan, or losing the NBA Finals, we shouldn't be surprised by
Barber's stupid comment, but that was utterly stupid and ridiculous.

Now, at 36 years old, Barber is attempting an NFL comeback because
"he needs to prove that he can be a success at something." This is sad, oh
so really sad. Barber needs to go back to football to prove that he can
be success. But really, it's more about re-confirming to himself that he
was a somebody. Kind of like that 40-year old blonde who can't help
herself when posting all those great pictures of herself, with the trail
of comments saying, "OMG, you are so hot."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

ALLRED & ROSENHAUS: "SLEAZE R US"

I had a really funny dream last night. Just after the Bruins finished
parading their well-earned Stanley Cup around the ice and NBC
signed off, a commercial I had never seen before popped onto the
screen.

"Hi, I'm Gloria Allred. If you're a porn-star, prosititue, pin-up,
or a gold-digging socialite who has been involved with an athlete,
politician, or any other celebrity, please call me. I can give you
your 15 minutes of fame, a nice settlement, and perhaps your own
reality show. Just call 1-800-GOLD-DIGG.

I rolled over and had another dream just before I woke up.

"Hi, I"m Drew Rosenhaus. If you've been in prison for the last
two years and want to resume your NFL career, look me up.
If you just brought your school down and got your coach fired,
and need a character makeover, I'm your guy. I'm from the "U",
and I'm the agent for you.

Now for the nightmare. Gloria Allred and Drew Rosenhaus are
the type of sleaze that give lawyers and agents a bad name. They
show up to exploit a moment and others. Every time there is a scandal,
they are not only sniffing around, but they are usually front and center.

Rachel Uchitel wants to fleece Tiger Woods for millions? Oh, yeah,
there's Gloria with dollar signs in her eyes.Plaxico Burress gets out of prison?
There is Rosenhaus, in his 1980's polo shirt, jumping into his arms.
Porn-star and stripper Ginger Lee saw Anthony's Weiner, there is
Gloria putting mustard and relish on the controversy. Terrelle Pryor,
tarnishes his image and brings down Ohio State with his money grab,
there is good ole Drew to help restore his image and get an NFL contract.

It's sick, but it's become almost laughable. Allred and Rosenhaus should
team up and form their own company, "Sleaze R Us." Every scandal ridden
athlete, porn star, prostitute, and pin-up have a place to go. And as we've
seen over the years, there are enough of them to fill-up Yankee Stadium, twice.

Perhaps, Weiner should sign on with Rosehaus to represent him in his post-
political career. I mean, if Eliot Spitzer can get his own show on CNN, then
the world should be Weiner's oyster, right?

Ginger Lee, a southern belle from Atlanta, who followed Weiner on Twitter
because of his "views on planned parenthood". Yes, I couldn't make that
up, but Gloria probably did. She force-fed Ginger Lee all the lines, because
after all, Ginger Lee is not the brightest bulb in the strip club. Watching that
"press conference" was almost as funny as the one where one of Tiger's
former porn-star hook-ups started to cry when Eldrick didn't apologize
to her during his sappy press conference. And yes, Gloria Allred was
at the side of THAT porn-star, too.

Rosenhaus, who also represents Terrell Owens, who has worn out his
welcome, as quick as Ricky Gervais did at last year's Golden Globe awards.
T.O is  the utlimate diva, the kind of player that Rosenhaus adores. While
defending T.O, after another Diva-driven moment, good ole Drew
had to answer questions from the media about T.O, and became
more famous for saying "Next question", to every derogatory question
about his star diva.

Man, I've written so much about these two opportunists, I'm starting
to get slime on me. Might have to shower twice. Behind every sleaze
is usually a scandal. If either Allred or Rosenhaus get into toruble in
the future, perhaps they call call each other for representation. They
certainly deserve each other.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

DEREK JETER: AN APPRECIATION

The sports world is oversaturated with "look at me" athletes who
thump their chests, refer to themselves in the third person and tweet
the world  they didn't win a championship because God didn't
want them to.

In this ESPNation, athletes who go on profanity-laced tirades
or commit some egregious act are glorified, some even get
their own reality show. The more "outrageous" they are, the
more attention they seem to get.

There are liars like Jim Tressel, cheaters like Manny Ramirez, and
narcissistic players like Alex Rodriguez, who get photographed kissing
themselves in the mirror, or photograph themselves standing naked in
front of it like Greg Oden.

And then there is Derek Jeter. In this day and age of self-absorbed
self-centered athletes, the Yankees captain is everything right about
the game and this world. God, if I see another story on that Congressman
and his Weiner, I'm going to vomit. We seem to be a nation obsessed
with that kind of garbage.

Jeter has carried himself with  grace, dignity, and class, which seems
to get lost in a sports world filled with philanderers like Tiger Woods and
Rick Pitino. He's never failed a drug test, tweeted his weiner to to the world,
or had seven kids by five different woman. Jeter would never think of
putting himself before the team like Jorge Posada did when he asked out
of the game like a petulant child after learing he was going to bat ninth.

Jeter is the role model parents are thankful for, because really, who
can they tell their kids to be like? Randy Moss? LeBron James? Tiger
Woods? When you think about it, there just aren't that many athletes out
there who is as polished, respectful, and well-mannered as Jeter.

Oh, Jeter has his critics, but they attack his stats, not his style  His bat
is slow, he grounds into too many double-plays, doesn't have enough
 range at shortstop, no power, doesn't get on-base enough
for a lead-off man. It seems to go on and on. At a time when we
should be appreciating Jeter and his career, the so-called experts want
to whack him around like a Pinata.

At 37-years old, Jeter can't beat Father Time, nobody can. His pursuit
of 3,000 hits got put on pause because of a calf strain, which the critics
say is another sign of Jeter breaking down. Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red
Sox missed most of last season with an assortment of pulls and strains,
yet nobody talked about his age, which is what, 26?

Jeter will soon become the 28th player in major league history to amass
3,000 hits. With three and half years to go on his contract, the Yankees
shortstop will move into the top 10 in MLB history in hits. The top 10!
His detractors say that Jeter is a singles hitter. So what? So was Peter
Rose, Ty Cobb, and Tony Gwynn.

He has five more championship rings than Lebron James, Andre Dawson,
and Dan Marino have combined. We hear all these arguments that you
can't be considered a great player unless you win a championship, if that's
the case, what kind of player is Jeter?

When Jeter comes off the DL and gets the 6 hits needed to reach the
magical milestone, the critics will turn into chameleons and praise him
for being the ultimate Yankee and the perfect role model.

They'll go back to carving him up once he goes into a 1-for-26 slump.
That's just the way it is in this, what have you done for me lately, world.
People won't get a real appreciation for Jeter until he hangs up the cleats
up for good and the Yankees have to find a shortstop who is half as good
as the captain was.

LEBRON JAMES: A WEINER IN HIGH-TOPS

It really is hard to believe that in just over a year, LeBron James has
gone from one of the most popular athletes in the world, to one of
the most reviled. His fall from grace is only surpassed by Tiger Woods,
who napalmed his squeaky-clean image by sleeping with every living,
breathing porn-star, pin-up, and waitress from Denny's on the planet.

James' downfall wasn't blatant infidelity, but rather a series of really
bad decisions. This basketball prodigy who carefully choreographed
his path from high school to the NBA, proclaiming himself to be the
"King" and "the Chosen One", made several mistakes that's turned
him into a punching bag for the media, critics, and fans of Cleveland.

Perhaps, money, power, fame, ego, and greed, blurred his senses,
making every statement to come out of his mouth, a stupid one, and
every decision a bad one. LeBron is getting lampooned and criticized
as much as Anthony Weiner, and his popularity is on par with the
beleaguered Congressman. He can rack that up to the "Bad Decisions".

May 14, 2010. The decision to rip off his jersey after the Cavs were
knocked out of the Eastern Conference semifinals, was a bad one.
LeBron didn't just rip it off, he tore it off like it smelled as bad as
Cleveland itself. There was great symbolism in that gesture, one that
was not lost on the city by the lake. It was as if LeBron was saying,
"that's it, that's all, I want nothing to do with you anymore."

May 14, 2010. The decision to talk about his plans at the press
conference immediately following the loss to the Celtics. "I have
my team, we have a game plan, we're going to execute it, and see
what we get," LeBron said. "See what we get?" "My team?" "Game
plan?" Just a bad choice of everything. He just made it appear
like it was going to be one big money grab and didn't care if he
was about to rip the heart and soul out of the city of Cleveland.

JULY 8, 2010. "The Decision" of all bad decisions. Whoever came
up with the idea to announce LeBron's decision in an hour-long
infomercial on ESPN, is probably running a studio-camera in
Erie, Pa right about now. This was bad, bad, bad all the way around.
LeBron made the decision not to tell anyone with the Cavs
organization that he was leaving. This, after the organization paid him
millions of dollars, and tried hard to accommodate his requests to
improve the team. LeBron just left them hanging out to dry, ready
to be embarrassed even more, this time on national television. The
city of Cleveland has endured more heartbreak than any one deserves
and they had to go through this?

LeBron's next bad decision was using the carefully planned statement
that will follow his Highness forever. "I'm taking my talents to South
Beach." He probably hears that statement over and over in his sleep.
Just plain stupid to use that line. It wreaks of egotism, narcissism,
and ignorance.

JULY 10, 2010. LeBron decides to take part in that ridiculous charade
the Miami Heat put on. They introduce the new "big 3" with all the bells
and whistles. Strobe lights, smoke coming from the floor, the loud music.
This was just ridiculous. Even more ridiculous was LeBron's statement
that he wasn't thinking about winning one championship, but "6, 7, and
8 titles." Please. Start with one and then you could think about two.
Every NBA player, coach, and GM burned that phrase by LeBron in
their memory and used it as motivation.

JANUARY 11, 2011. LeBron's old team gets crushed by 55 points
to the Lakers. A brutal loss. LeBron decides to bask in the glow of
seeing owner Dan Gilbert's team just annihilated. He decides to tweet,
"Karma is a b----ch. It's not good to wish bad on anybody. God
sees everything."  First of all LBJ, God could care less about tweets
and basketball. Second of all, what "superstar" takes the time to
tweet something stupid like that?" An 8-year old child wouldn't even
do that. And then LBJ backed off, saying that tweet "wasn't even from
me. I got it from someone else and I sent it out." Wow, blame it on
someone else. Really?

JUNE 12, 2011. During his press conference after the Heat lost
the NBA finals, LeBron was asked if it bothered him that so many
people were happy to see him fail. The decision to respond the way
he did was absolutely asinine. He basically said that all those people
have to go back to there miserable lives and existence, while he
can live the life of a gazillionaire. LeBron's condescending attitude
shined right through, and re-confirmed exactly why people have
detested him for a long time.

JUNE 13, 2011. The decision to get back on his Twitter right after
losing in the NBA finals was a really bad one. Never tweet something when
emotions are running high, but LBJ did. "The greater man upstairs
knows when it my time and right now it's not my time." LOL. LBJ
brings God into it once again. Really? As I said before, God doesn't
care about basketball, nor your dumbass tweets. And for someone
who sees himself as God, why do you have to keep bringing the
real one into it.

In the off-season, besides working on a mid-range jump shot,
LBJ, should visit a neurologist. He needs to find a way to re-connect
his mouth and brain cells. They are seriously off. Everything that
comes out of his mouth is stupid and makes him more unlikeable.
Every thought that goes on Twitter is remarkably thoughtless.
Take your talents to a specialist LeBron, you need some help
in the art of public relations.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

BULL DURHAM: THE TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORY

Nearly 25 years ago, the cast and crew for a low-budget baseball movie
began filming at Durham Athletic Park, an old stadium located in the
heart of Tobacco Road. The DAP, as it was known, had some of the
charm of Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, with its short porch in right field,
a warehouse as a backdrop, and seats so close to the action they seemed
to be part of the game itself. It was the perfect setting for "Bull Durham",
which was made for just $7 million dollars.

Nobody really knew what this baseball movie was about when production
began. The local paper did a story in advance of its filming and had a quote
from a producer who read the script, but who was not affiliated with the
movie in any way. He predicted that it would not only be "the worst baseball
movie ever made, but quite possibly the worst movie ever created."




Many could see where that producer was coming from, after all, most
sports movies, with the exception of "Slapshot" and "Caddyshack"
had bombed at the box office.  Most directors found it difficult to make
the action believable with actors who had no athletic ability whatsoever.
In some cases, like "Bang the Drum Slowly," the baseball scenes
were downright laughable.

When I was asked to work on the movie, I honestly didn't care whether
it was going to win an Oscar for Best Picture or go straight to Blockbuster
video stores. As a Radio, TV, and Movie Production major at UNC, I was
interested in getting some experience in seeing how a movie was made.
Little did I know that it would end up as all-time classic and become part
of my life forever.

First of all, filming "Bull Durham" was like 30 days of "Animal House"
and "Comedy Central" mixed together. It was a laugh a minute, and in
between there was some work on the actual production of the movie.
The cast that included Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins,
and Robet Wuhl knew how to have a great time while making the movie,
and they helped make it an unforgettable experience. There were long days,
lots of drinking, plenty of sex, and too many laugh until you cant' breath
jokes to count.



Coming off two wildly successful movies, "No Way Out" and "The Untouchables",
Costner was on the verge of superstardom. He was the perfect actor to
play Crash Davis, mainly because he could act and play baseball. Costner
was a terrific person during the 30 days of filming in Durham. He picked
up every tab and treated everyone from the Grips to Sarandon,
the same way and that was with great respect.. Costner didn't have that big
Hollywood ego just yet. I heard a lot  of unflattering things about Costner
after "Bull Durham", but he was great to everybody during the filming of
it.

Costner pulled off the best prank of "Bull Durham" when he made an
secret arrangement with a Durham Police officer. Tom Gagliardi, who played
the Bulls second basemen, was bragging one day how he hooked up with
a woman who looked like she was 16-years old. The following day, Costner
convinced the police officer to come onto the field during filming and arrest
Gagliardi for statutory rape. The officer broke out his hand-cuffs and
told the actor he had the right to remain silent. Gagliardi freaked out and
started running around shouting, "I didn't do anything, this is a big mistake.
The girl said she was 21!". The officer led Gagliardi away in hand-cuffs until
everyone started cracking up. I must admit it was pretty hilarious.



There were scenes that were just as funny as that incident, but ended
up on the cutting room floor. Danny Gans, who played the third baseman
for the Bulls and was later a star in Vegas as an impressionist, did a national
anthem that included Michael Jackson and a moon walk, Kermit the Frog,
Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis, Jr., all performed to a T by
Gans. It was a showstopper and made everyone roar with laughter.
Unfortunately, it didn't make the final cut.

People always ask me how I got to be in "Bull Durham" and the home run
scene with Costner. I'd like to say I was walking down the street and the
director discovered me, kind of like the episode of the "Brady Bunch",
where a Hollywood-type wanted them to be the subject of a series. I was
in the right place and the right time. That's it, that's all. I had played at UNC
and was just finishing up my course work to get my degree. Someone
called UNC and gave them my name. I showed up and did what I always
did, I just played ball.

The first scene I was in, called for me to hit a double as a right-handed hitter.
Tim Robbins, who played "Nuke LaLoosh" actually had to throw it to me
because the camera was behind him  filming the scene. He was the
worst athlete any actor could possibly be. The guy was all over the place.
Crash Davis was right when he said Nuke couldn't hit water if he fell out of
a boat. Before the scene, Ron Shelton, who wrote and directed the movie,
told me to try to hit a line-drive betwee shortstop and third base. I said to
myself, "If I could do that, I'd probably be playing in the big leagues."

What made that even harder was the fact that Robbins couldn't throw the
ball over the plate, or within a mile of it. He was throwing it behind me, over
my head, five feet in front of the plate, and he hit me twice in the back. It
took 17 takes to get the scene right. When I finally hit one, I was so stunned
that I didn't even move. Costner got up and yelled at me, "Run!". In the
movie, the radio man back in Durham hits a piece of wood and says, "there's
a line drive to left-center field."



I was catching when Costner had his first at-bat for the Durham Bulls, but
we traded places later in the movie. Costner was behind the plate when
I got up in the 9th inning, while Nuke was working on a shut out. During this
scene, which was filmed with the cameras directly in front of Costner and a
minor-league pitcher replaced Robbins (Nuke) on the mound because
we didn't have to see him. Shelton (Director) was adamant that the pitcher
throw a curveball even though the most ardent baseball observer couldn't
tell the difference between the fastball and curveball when it appears on screem
for 1/100th of  second.

Shelton told me to hit the ball and then "give it your best Reggie Jackson
in watching the ball go out."  That meant I should act like the ball had
been hit so far "it should've had a damn stewardess on it."  I must admit,
I didn't have a lot of experience in that since I only hit four home runs in my
career at UNC.

After Nuke kept shaking Crash Davis (Costner) off, he stood up and
said, "Charlie, here comes the duece. When you speak of me, speak well."
I just gave some cheesy smile and got back into the box. I wished they
had let me say, "thanks" or something because if I had a line, I'd still be
getting paid today. Lord knows, I could use a little extra cash.

I cranked the ball out on the fourth take and did like Shelton asked me
to and gave it my best Reggie Jackson-pose. They said cut, that's a wrap,
and I was gone. I didn't hold my breath for any of the scenes that I was
in to make the final cut. I was superstitious, so I really didn't say anything to
anyone. I chalked the whole thing up to one great experience.

A month later, in December,  the Boston Red Sox organization called and offered
me a free-agent contract. Six months later, on June 13th, 1988, I just happened
to be back at the same park playing against the real-life Durham Bulls. And
it just happened to be "Bull Durham Night". I was like, what were the chances
of all this happening. We were scheduled to see the premiere of the movie the
next day.



In the eighth-inning of our game against the Bulls, I came up to bat with the
bases loaded. Two months into my minor-league career, I had yet to hit
a home run. And since I had only been hitting left-handed for two years, I had
never hit a home run from that side of the plate. I hit a ball which I thought
was going to be a routine fly ball to right field. Somehow, someway, the ball
carried and cleared the fence by about a half-an-inch. It must've been divine
intervention or something because I hit the ball in the same spot as I did in
the movie. It was all so surreal.

I hit two more home runs against the Bulls in that same park later that year.
I often said that I hit .420 in that park and .091 everywhere else. There was
something really magical for me when I played at Durham Athletic Park.



In the off-season that year, I received a big package from UPS. It was
from Kevin Costner. He had purchased a letterman-type jacket for
everyone who worked on "Bull Durham", which was over 200 people.
On the back of the jacket read, "Bull Durham-The Greatest Show on
Dirt". Production crew 1987. It was a great gesture by Costner.

I never really thought much of my home run scene in "Bull Durham" because
I hit a ball, which didn't take any great talent or ability. I thought of the movie
as a great experience and that was about it. But 24 years later, it continues
to follow me around. People call, email, or text me every time they see
my home run on the countless number of times "Bull Durham" is re-run on
various networks.

Friends introduce me to acquaintances as the "guy who hit a home run in
"Bull Durham'. Or they start with, "hey, do you remember the guy in Bull
Durham...?". I honestly get embarrassed about it. It was a long, long time
ago and I never, ever, considered it a  big deal.

But God, it was a helluva lot of fun.

Friday, June 10, 2011

DAVID ORTIZ: FLIP THIS.

Seriously. David Ortiz flips his bat after a home run and everybody
around the Evil Empire and ESPN nation is making a big deal of it?
You'd have thought the Red Sox slugger texted a picture of his "Little
Papi" to that Weiner of a politician in New York, with the way
everybody reacted. Dateline NBC wanted Chris Hanson to do a show
on Ortiz called "To catch a bat-flipper." I was waiting for ESPN to
break out feature from "Sports Science" detailing the distance, trajectory,
and speed of Ortiz' flip of the bat.

Ortiz gets moved off the plate by some Yankees pitcher you never
heard of, then Big Papi hits a frozen rope into the stands and then
flips his bat toward his own dugout saying, "That was like a BP
fastball and I crushed it." So what if he styled a little bit, Big Papi's
an entertainer.

After the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi, whined like Brad
Steinke does when he doesn't get his way at Fox Sports Arizona,
like a little girl. Girardi said he "didn't care for what Ortiz did" He
said he respected Ortiz for being a clutch player, but he was more
concerned about protecting his young pitcher. Protecting his younger
pitcher!?

Joe, make him grow some coconuts. Instead of whining,
you should have told the guy to drill Ortiz the next time up. Don't
give us that garbage. Since Roger Clemens left, there hasn't
been a pitcher in pinstripes with any type of moxie. Nobody in
the Bronx protects their own hitters and teammates after getting
drilled. AJ Burnett? He's scared of his own shadow.

CC Sabathia finally plunked Ortize with a 97-mile an hour fastball
series finale, but that was after 161 games that Ortiz had played
 against the Bombers and the media calling for the Yankees to
drill Ortiz. After the game, Ortiz blamed the media for their
obsessiveness with the bat flip for getting him drilled, "I hope
you (expletives) are happy now. I'm done." Ortiz said.

You had to love Big Papi's comments the night before after Girardi
peed in his diapers. He told the Yankee skipper to "take it
like a man".

And for the Yankees to make a big deal of Ortiz flipping a bat
and showing up a pitcher is absurd. That organization put a patent
out on styling and showboating. Remember how Ricky Henderson
used to act after knocking one out of the yard. Flipping the bat,
tapping his chest, making a big turn before he got to first base.
Ridiculous. Nobody threw down a bat and admired a home run
like Reggie Jackson. With "Mr. October", you'd have thought
every one of his jacks landed outside the stadium, the way he
stood and admired them.

Big Papi has been attacked by the media and crucified by the
fans a lot over the past few years. He lost his bat speed and
part of his reputation from his namebeing leaked about failing
a drug test in 2003. Ortiz was hurt by all the personal attacks,
and despite having a huge bounce back year, he was clearly
insulted by all the attention that the bat flip has gotten. And he
should be. This is just another example of paralysis by over analysis.

Every media outlet in the country knows that controversy sells,
but they just over do it knowadays. This was such a non-story,
that it was embarrassing. Yet, you have just about every media
hack, sports radio talking head, and the so-called experts like
Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian, who never made it out of Little
League, telling us the mind set of Ortiz and baseball etiquette.

The media glorifies the style of players. ESPN has always spotlighted
the guys who've stood and watched their home runs like Bonds, Griffey,
Ramirez and Ortiz. Then they turn around and put on the full-court
press when something they don't like occurs. It's insane.

As Big Papi said to Girardi, "take it like a man". Everybody else
should as well and move on.

Friday, June 3, 2011

BUSTER-GATE: WHY IS ONE COLLISION GETTING SO MUCH ATTENTION?

On May 25th,  Buster Posey of the San Franciso Giants got
steamrolled by Florida's Scott Cousins at home plate. The
collision left Posey, the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year, with
a broken ankle, and opened up a big can of controversy.

While watching SportsCenter the next day, I thought Posey
had died or something. They ran breaking news banners
declaring Posey out for the season. His agent called out
MLB to make sweeping changes concerning unecessary and
violent hits on catchers.

Man, I hadn't seen this much attention given to a collison at home
since former Angels pitcher Chuck Finley was attacked with a 5-inch
stilletto by his wife, Tawny Kitaen, the piping hot chick in that "White
Snake" video.

The Buster-Gate controversy hasn't simmered down, in fact, it's
percolating. On Wednesday, Giants GM Brian Sabean,  all but
guaranteed retribution for Cousins. He said that Cousins just
wanted to be a hero and get his "flash of fame".  Meanwhile,
Cousins has been getting death threats and his agent has contacted
MLB security.

In the history of baseball, there have been thousands of violent
collision at home plate. Catchers have been knocked out cold,
(Mike Scoscia was sent onto queer street by Jack Clark in
1985), suffered career-alterating broken bones (Ray Fosse was
never the same player after being plowed by Pete Rose in the
1970 All-Star game, and catchers have had their knees blown
out.

What makes the hit to Posey so controversial and different than
the others? Two nights later, Houston's Humberto Quintero was
barreled over at the plate by Arizona's Ryan Roberts. He had to
leave the game with an injury and had to get x-rays. Yet, nobody
said boo about it. SportsCenter didn't get all lathered up like they
did for Buster Posey and call-in Buster Olney to analyze it.

Did Buster's injury get more coverage because he's the white,
all-american boy who got a season-ending injury? Why didn't
all the so-called experts make a big deal about the hit on Quintero,
a latin player? How come nobody was calling for baseball to
make sweeping changes after Quintero got hurt? Just like a lot
of things in life, it all depends on who it is.

Every catcher who puts on the "tools of ignorance" realizes their
career could end in a collision at home plate, but they also know it's
part of the game. It's not pretty, but catcher's know the inherent
danger that comes with a 220lb man barreling toward home
with a running start, hell bent on separating you from the ball
and sending your butt into the third row of the stands. Nothing is
going to change that. No agent, analyst, or asshole with a law
degree is going to force MLB to institute a rule protecting the
catcher.

As for Cousins, it hardly seems fair that he has to take such
abuse. Succeeding at baseball is hard enough, trying to do it
with death threats is darn near impossible. Every manager
and coach preaches to their players to give it 100 percent and
play hard-nosed baseball. Cousins was doing that and trying
to win a game. Now he's getting crucified for it? Ryan Roberts
runs over Quintero, and he's applauded for going all out. That's
right, it all depends on who it is.

It's time for MLB to put a sock in Sabean's mouth so the Giants
GM won't throw more gasoline on the fire. No baseball executive
wants to lose a valuable player like Posey, but it happens ALL
the time. Dealing with adversity and challenges like trying to
find replacements for an all-star catcher is part of the game,
just like home plate collisions. The Giants need to deal with
it and move on. Buster's not coming back this year.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

SHAQ: GOOD-BYE, BIG ARISTOTLE

There was no press conference. No tears flowing to mark
the end of a remarkable career. Shaquille O'Neal once again did things
his way. He announced his retirement via Twitter to his 3.8 million
followers.

The Big Aristotle, Big Leprechaun, Big Cactus, and the biggest thing
the NBA has ever seen, is done after 19 great years in the league. It
will be a long time before we, or the NBA sees a guy like Shaq again.
He was 7'1" and 325 pounds of pure entertainment. He was thoughtful,
funny, and quick to produce a million memorable quotes.

When he was in Los Angeles working in the triangle offense created
by Tex Winter, he said, "Our offense is like the Pythagorean Theorem.
There is no answer." Classic. Or the time he was asked about his problems
with shooting foul shots, "Me shooting 40% from the line is God's way
of saying that nobody's perfect." Another good one from Superman, "I'm
tired of hearing about money, money, money. I just want to play basketball,
drink Pepsi, and wear Reebok."

Shaq may not have been the perfect player but he was one of the most
dominant athletes the game has ever seen. When he arrived in the NBA
as a 20-year old rookie out of LSU in 1992, Shaq was a physical freak.
There had never been anyone that big, that fast, and that strong. Not
even Wilt Chamberlain. The Big Diesel scored 28, 596 points in his
career, which ranks 7th all-time.

But Shaq won't be remembered for his stats. He'll be remembered for
his love and passion for life and the game. He never considered himself
to be bigger than the sport or the people who adored him. Who can forget
him showing up at Harvard Square to pose as a statue, taking pictures with
the fans around him? I'll never forget watching him conduct the Boston Pops
in a Tuxedo complete with tails. How bout the dance Shaq did during the
All-Star game introductions in Atlanta? Yes, Shaq loved the camera just as
much as the camera loved him. ABC gave him his own show, "Shaq versus",
where he challenged everyone from NASCAR drivers to race horses.
Pure comedy.

Shaq created his own reality show in the NBA and it could've been
called "Shaq versus Kobe". Once great teammates in Los Angeles,
their relationship fractured in the media spotlight. Tinseltown wasn't
big enough for both of them, so Shaq migrated to South Beach and
led the Heat to an NBA title. A short time later, he said that Kobe could
"kiss his ass". Fans loved it. But Kobe got his revenge, and served it
up cold to the Big Shamrock after winning his fifth NBA title. "That's
one more than Shaq and you can take that to the bank."

They may never be good friends again, but Kobe and Shaq do have
a great respect for each other. We haven't heard the last of the Big
Daddy. He's too much of an entertainer to go away for good. There
will be a Hall of Fame speech and perhaps, an appearance on "Dancing
with the Stars". The Diesel's NBA tank has run dry, but I have a feeling
his entertainment drum is still very much full.

Thanks, Shaq.