December 2011 Archives

A man for all ages

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  Over the past few weeks I have been traveling, mostly on vacation.  These travels took me, of all places, to Miami. It gave me the opportunity to meet with one of my favorite people. In my 80 years on earth, I have known and been involved with him for over 50% of that time.

I have learned from him.  I have shared with him his love of literature and art. I have watched as his fabulous talent produced one brilliant painting after another.  I have seen him write outstanding screenplays and wonderful books. However, as great as his talent and the numerous commissions he has been given, on the national scale, he has never been the recipient of a national reputation in these areas.

Instead he has been known worldwide as "The Fight Doctor". A sobriquet he earned as the Doctor in the corner on numerous world boxing champions including the great Muhammad Ali. However, he is much more than that. He is a font of generosity, and well earned intelligence, innate as well learned in working all over the globe.

Now, he has written a factual book called "Tales from the 5th St Gym. To say I enjoyed it is an understatement.  It is in the genre of Damon Runyon and Grantland Rice. The real life characters he writes about and the series of humorous and tragic characters as well as events, which he so aptly describes, are worthy of a hit Broadway Musical.

The late, great Budd Schulberg Pulitzer prizewinning novelist and academy award screen writer called Ferdie, a national treasure. Budd hit the nail on the head when he aptly said, in his lifetime he has met many talented people, but only one he would call a renaissance man... that is Ferdie.

Whenever you are with Ferdie, you feel his magnetic energy, his enthusiasm for life and even his wide range of interests.  He is extremely talkative because he a great deal to say.  You listen and learn and through his words, you suddenly find yourself drawn into the inner circle of boxing mystique.

Tales of the 5th St Gym does exactly that.  You are transported by word pictures to places you only imagined.  What you don't find out is who Ferdie is.

You probably know he's a learned medical man. That's part of the story. To say he is warm and generous that's still another part. In fact, a successful doctor during the halcyon days of the 5th St Gym, the '50's, '60's and '70's he put in his time working with the fighters while at the same time operating two Miami Medical Clinics. 

One was located in what was considered a desirable area of the city. Here, he had a paying clientele.  He also ran a similar medical group in a downtrodden neighborhood. In the latter, many couldn't pay.  Or if they could, they would manage to do so without money. He brought many a live chicken home.

 His dynamic oils demand a five-figure price tag and many hang in some of America's most prestigious collections, museums and private. In his beautiful home of fifty years which he enjoys with his wife Lucita, herself a renowned Flemenco Dancer, every available space of wall is covered by the dynamic colors of his artwork.

 Yet, without neglecting any of the aforementioned, he was able to indulge himself in his number one passion...being around and caring for the health of fighters. To everyone's surprise, he never earned a penny, or took one for his service.

He gave of himself both tirelessly and cheerfully, supplying the finest medical attention he could provide. As you read  "Tales from 5th St GYM, you will feel his passion. The book has 250 pages.  Once started, I could not put it down.

After all, as Ferdie wrote in his dedication to me, "For Shelly- The Promoter.  It's been a joy to share our crazy life with you. You'll like this book. It's about us.

I urge you to get it.  It's the finest insight into the seamy world of boxing you will ever read.....IT'S GREAT!



Blood line in sports

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 The other night as I sat in the office of my friend Dr. Michael Gurvey, I was seeking ideas at what column might I write that is somewhat different. Michael who is extremely bright and both a font of information, as well as ideas, suggested I look into parent and child combinations in professional sports.

Ironically that he would make such a suggestion.  Michael's father-in-law was the late Jule Fink who according a majority of followers of Horse racing, is considered to be the finest handicapper of all time.

In fact, all of us know the name of the great author and Sports Columnist Damon Runyan who wrote some of the greatest treatises about the "Sport of Kings".  Damon who wrote "Guys and Dolls, The Lemon Drop Kid, Salty O'Rourke and Sorrowful Jones" all of which became classic Plays and Movies, would never go to the track unless Jule was with him.

Jule's secret in handicapping was the speed of the horse.  Much of his research had to do with who was the sire and who was the male. Thus going on this same premise I researched the subject.  I found quite a few of those combinations. However, since I am allocated a limited amount of space, I have chosen a few whom I think exemplify this lineage.

To begin with I only had to look into my personal background.  On the eve of Ali/Jimmy Ellis fight (July 26, 1971); I was sitting in Ali's suite at the Astroworld Hotel. As Angelo, Ferdie and myself watched a brutal fight being telecast from the Playboy Club at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Ali turned to us and said, "What a terrible way to make a living.  My son will never fight.  He'll carry a brief case."

Ali was right!  His son never fought, but his daughter Laila did.  In fact, while the debate goes on as to whether Ali is the greatest male Boxer of all time, there is no doubt that Laila Ali with a record of 24-0, 21 of which were by KO, is considered the greatest female Boxer ever.

As a side note: Joe Frazier was her dad's nemesis throughout his career and so it came to pass, that Laila would list Joe's daughter Jackie as one of her victories in 2001.

There have been a great number of father/son combos in Baseball, but none more unique then that of Ken Griffey Sr and Jr. They both not only had stellar careers, but are the only parent and child to play on the same team in the Major Leagues. That statistic in itself is unusual, but even stranger than that they are the only tandem to ever his back-to-back homeruns in the same game.  This happened on Sept 14, 1990.

Not to be outdone, there is the Bonds tandem.  Both were outstanding during their playing days.  Although tainted by steroid allegations, Barry put up almost unbelievable record statistics.  Bobby, the father was a rare combination of power and speed. He was the first player to join the 30/30 club (30 homeruns/30 steals) and would do it five times in his career. Ironically, in addition to all the records he established, Barry, the son, is the only player to match his father's five season 30/30 record.

In 1975, I was involved with the startup of the World Football League Hawaiians.  The first NFL payer to sign with the team was Calvin Hill of the Dallas Cowboys.  The Press Conference was at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.  The conference was enlivened by the antics of his 3-year-old son Grant. As a bruising fullback, he was the first Dallas Cowboy to rush for 1000 yards and was a Pro Bowler four times.

As for three-year-old Grant, led Duke to two consecutive NCAA Basketball Championships.  He became the first rookie to be the largest vote getter for the All-Star game. In his first six seasons in the NBA, he racked up outstanding numbers joining only Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird to score over 9000 points, get over 3000 rebounds and 2500 assists in their first six years.

One of the greatest football stories is current... the Manning Quarterback Dynasty.  The father Archie blazed the way with the New Orleans Saints.  As an amazing QB at Mississippi, was twice nominated for the Heisman Trophy... 4th in 1969, 3rd in 1970.  Playing the first-ever primetime national collegiate broadcast, Archie threw for 400 yards and 3TD's while running for 100 yards.  He was the 2nd overall NFL pick in the 1971 draft.

His oldest son Peyton set all kinds of records at the University of Tennessee.  Many of which still stand. He was the first overall selection by the Indianapolis Colts in the 1998 draft. He started from the very beginning and has been selected to the Pro Bowl 10 times.  Currently, injured, his team, which with Peyton was constantly winning, is struggling.

His baby brother Eli followed their father to Ole Miss. Drafted first by the San Diego Chargers and immediately traded to the New York Giants. Here, baby brother is enjoying an outstanding career during which he has been name MVP in Super Bowl XLII.  In that game he led his team to victory over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots.

Most sports have had celebrated father-son teams. However, my space today is limited.  Nevertheless, let's look at some of the others. It is far from a complete list.

Other Baseball families include Baltimore's Cal Ripkens and Billy... three generations of Boones; grandpa Ray, dad Bob and son Brett. The three Alomar's... Sandy Sr., Sandy JR. and Roberto... all All-Stars. Hall-of-Famer George Sisler had two All-Star sons, Dick and Dave.

In Hockey, two families immediately come to the forefront. Gordie Howe who played on the same line with his son Mark. How about Bobby and Brett Hull...each one a superstar.

Racing! Who doesn't know the Unsers, the Pettys, the Earnhardts and the Andrettis?

Basketball has had no shortage of sons following dad's footsteps.  Jelly bean Bryant of the 76ers with his son Kobe...  Ernie Vandeweghe and Kiki... Bill and Luke Walton....Dolph and Danny Schayes... Rick Barry has had several sons who played Pro Ball including Jon and Brent.

There are so many more who have followed dad's lead.  However, I have no more space.  I apologize.







Tim Tebow

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To paraphrase a letter written in the 19th century to a girl named Virginia, I thought was appropriate. With all the scandals, the immorality and the lewd contact we unfortunately see in every day life, it's indeed a pleasure to write about something, or someone who enjoys playing his sport just for the mere pleasure of being allowed to have it as a lucrative occupation.

I'm talking about Tim Tebow, quarterback of the Denver Broncos. According to all the experts he can't run, he is not big and strong like other NFL quarterbacks and admittedly he does not possess an NFL rifle-like arm. So what is it?

He is a role model.  A man so dedicated to what he believes in, he makes others around him, feel the same way.  He possesses that innate quality known as heart.

Over the objections of the entire Denver brain trust, which includes Hall-of-fame quarterback John Elway six games ago, he was entrusted with the leadership of the team. All he has done is post a 5-1 record. Now, you and I both know that sooner, or later he is going to lose... or is he?

Back in the dark ages of my youth, I was a Boy Scout. In fact, 68 years later I still remember the Boy Scout Credo... a scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, brave, clean and reverent. Hello Tim Tebow.

Kids throughout the world worship athletes. Imagine how it felt to be a Michael Vick fan; only to find out he was abusing dogs.  Or for that matter, Lawrence Taylor who was caught in compromising sexual scandals more than once, disillusioning so many. How about all those guys and gals in all sports who cheated us by using performance enhancing drugs while breaking records, scoring lots of runs, beating everyone in track meets.  They don't deserve adulation only scorn.

Or the numerous athletes involved in undesirable and embarrassing situations, i.e. Brett Favre and his pixilated penis, Tiger Woods and his infidelities. Then there were the 17 Vikings who back during the 2005 season spent the afternoon partying on a rented boat with hookers flown in from Atlanta and Florida.

One can never forget Rosie Ruiz who cheated in the Boston Marathon becoming the world record holder by shattering the previous best set in New York by 25 minutes. Oh I could recount many more and with a great variety... the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, College Basketball's point shaving scandal of the late 40s and early 50s.  How about Skategate 1 starring Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. Last, but certainly not least the Little League Scandal when Danny Almonte's age was falsified and made younger so that his team might be a winner.

Meanwhile, scandal in sports is nothing knew.  I could enumerate so many more. But then again, how can we expect sports to be scandal-free when people running for the highest office in the land are not without guilt...  people we should be admiring.

Now, along comes Tim Tebow without blemish. Instead of casting the first stone, he throws a football. He is humble, which in itself, among celebrities and stars, is a rarity.  He thanks his teammates for his success... how unusual!  He bends a knee and gives thanks to a higher power. 

You and I may not have the same philosophy, but we must admire his belief and his follow-through.  He lives the way a true American Idol should.  For young fans, he is a beacon to be followed.

He is not like the Immortals of Comic Book fame.  He cannot run faster than a speeding bullet, nor can he leap over tall buildings.  He cannot spin a web to entrap onrushing linemen set on doing him bodily harm.

What he can do and does is live an exemplary life while playing hard and honestly to win. He doesn't take steroids, he doesn't cheat and he is not a frequenter of girlie bars, he does not imbibe.  Plan and simple, he is a great kid with a gift.

That gift is leadership. With an unknown quality called heart. This leadership builds trust and belief in him. Enough so, that the mediocre Denver Broncos are convinced they are winners.

In this day and age of rapid scientific discoveries, let's make it a project to clone Tom Tebow.




Sports Scrapbook
Shelly Saltman has been in the sports world as an executive, TV producer, broadcaster and event creator for more than 50 years. Among his credentials are his work with Muhammad Ali and Evel Knievel, the numerous network TV shows he produced and created, NBA/NHL management roles, co-creator of the Amgen Tour of California and as the first president of Fox Sports. He lives in Ventura County.