Thursday, June 30, 2011


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


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.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


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.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


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

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.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


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

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.