October 2012 Archives

Emanuel Steward, boxing legend, passes away

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          Approximately 40 years ago, I wrote an outline for a movie. 20th Century Fox optioned it.  It was the story of a friend of mine named Emanuel Steward. He died yesterday.  His beginning was humble. Yet, he rose to greatness in his chosen field.

"Manny" was a trainer, manager and promoter, but most of all he was a magician in the ring and a humanitarian outside. During his career he was in the corners of more than 40 world champions in every weight class. He also became one of HBO's top color analysts.

It's funny because when I first put him behind the microphone he would stammer and stutter. However, like anything he did, he made himself world-class.

But I am getting ahead of myself. When I learned of "Manny's passing, I called my friend Prentiss Byrd. For much of the Roller Coaster Ride, he had been in tandem with Emanuel. Together, they worked out of the Kronk Gymnasium located in the toughest part of Detroit's toughest Ghetto. We talked at length.

The Kronk was Detroit's oldest Recreation Center (1902). It had no Air Conditioning in the summer and was without heat in the winter. He convinced the city to let them use the building where he would teach street kids to Box.

Tough kids from broken and abusive homes, kids who had been living on the street, involved in the drug trade and worse, many with criminal records flocked to the Kronk as Emanuel's reputation built. He survived on handouts, donations of equipment, clothing and food.

Struggling to make ends meet in the early days, while building the Kronk. He worked as a pole climber for the Detroit Electric Company. On more than one occasion, he came close to dying when he fell during ice storms from his pole perch. All the while, taking care of his daughters and reaching into his own pocket to help put many young men on the road to Boxing success good citizenship.

At the Kronk they came to him in all sizes.  There he using the natural gifts that they had, he created a formidable Boxing team, first in the amateurs, then the pros.

At one point, a lost lanky 10 year old with 9 siblings, came to him. When the youngster arrived, Emanuel was already starting to enjoy success. The kid wanted to learn and followed Emanuel everywhere. He was a sponge.

Along the way "Manny" produced his first World Champion in 1980 when Hilmer Kinty won the lightweight title. However, that 10 year old became 7 time World Champion Thomas Hearns.

 Tommy's first fight with Sugar Ray Leonard catapulted the name Emanuel Steward into the eyes of the Sports Public.  Quietly out of the Kronk, he had produced over 2-dozen World Champions and 6 Olympic Champions. The Kronk also produced lawyers, doctors. Civic leaders and captains of industry. They all he been tutored by Emanuel.

My once large world of friends from within the Boxing Fraternity is rapidly diminishing. In this year alone, I saw the passing of Burt Sugar, Angelo Dundee and now, Emanuel.

To me, I recognize "Manny's" contribution to the sport was huge. How as a humanitarian, he was without peer in the sports community.

Barry Zito, a man for all seasons

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              In the 1970's, a Simon and Garfunkel musical hit asked the question, "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?" With exception of San Francisco Giants fans, the national audience was asking, "Where have you gone Barry Zito?"

That question was dramatically answered twice this year. First in the NLDS and then again in the NLCS. Barry had a pretty good season. He won 15 games! In fact, the Giants with Barry pitching won 14 straight regular season games. Self-effacing, he has never wanted the spotlight on himself.  Even in the bad years, he kept his cool working to revive his game.

His once over-powering 90 mph fastball was reduced to the low 80's. But the most difficult thing that happened to this 2002 Cy Young Award winner was when manager Bruce Bochy left him off the 2010 postseason roster.

It was his darkest moment in Baseball.  He had never been considered a loser. After all, in high school he had been all-league. At UC Santa Barbara, he earned Freshman All-America Honors. He transferred to Pierce College where he was named to the all-state and all-conference teams. At USC, he was a first-team All-American as well as Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year.

When Bochy left him off the 2010 roster, he did not sulk. He did not pout.  Instead, he immediately got down to the business of restructuring his game. He went to the Bullpen working hard during every game, in case Bochy called. He would be ready! The call never came. This demotion motivated him. It hurt deeply, although he never said it.

He realized that if he was going to return to form, he had to re-invent himself. So okay, if he no longer had a blazing fastball, he would try different pitches... and he did. The fastball was replaced by an array of sliders, curves and pin-point control.

In fact, this year, while 2-time Cy Young Winner Tim Lincecum was having a tough time, the older, craftier Zito was there to support and work with him. As a result, it seemed only natural that it was Tim that Bochy brought in to relieve Barry in the fifth inning. For only the second time in Postseason Baseball history, one Cy Young winner replaced another.

Talking about his achievements in Baseball is fine. However in life, Barry is an even a bigger hero.

I became truly acquainted with Barry when I was a principal of the 7 Star Production Company. In this capacity, we worked to create events for his "Strikeouts for Troops" organization. Now, most of you do not know what "Strikeouts for Troops" is all about. 

Before so many organizations of late began jumping on the politically correct bandwagon, Barry very quietly was raising money to help our returning troops in numerous ways.

In 2005. He started donating $400 to the cause from every Strikeout he pitched. To date, "Strikeout for Troops" has raised over 2 million dollars through over 60 professional ballplayers, fund raising events, fan donations and corporate donations. Barry remains involved with every facet.

The "Strikeout for Troops" fund has brought about a variety of solutions. Among them... keeping loved ones near during difficult times, providing individual grants for immediate needs, paid for flights and lodging, purchased adaptive equipment for easy transition at home and funded the Gold Star Family Support Center at Fort Hood.

It doesn't end there. "Strikeouts for Troops" strives to help injured troops and their families in any way possible.

Barry is not alone in Baseball.  All-Stars such as Alex Rodriquez, Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun, C C Sabathia, the aforementioned Lincecum have joined the "Strikeouts for Troops" organization.

Six years ago, it was only Barry contributing from his Strikeouts.  Today, Singles, Double, Triples, Homeruns and even Stolen Bases add to its total.

As you can see, no matter who wins the World Series, Barry Zito is a winner in life.

 

 

I lost a friend the world lost a treasure

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It has been a month since I last wrote. During that time I was traveling throughout Europe and heard about the passing of my friend and partner Andy Williams.  Many people will write about his great musical contribution and although I am capable of that, I want to tell you about the man, his philanthropy, his zest for life and involvement as well as love of sports.

In the 60's and the 70's with the exception of the Beatles and Elvis Presley, there was no bigger musical performer than Andy Williams. Frank Sinatra was being treated for throat problems and for quite a while did not perform.

We spent many years traveling the world together while he weaved his magic. We shared offices in Hollywood.  It was here that Andy's friend Bobby Kennedy wrote his acceptance speech on the afternoon of the ill-fated night when he was murdered.

The next day, I put Andy on Air Force One. Two days later. At Bobby's Funeral in New York's Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Andy sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic, forever becoming part of our historical fabric.

Andy was selling millions of records. We were doing one-nighters all across the world. The average attendance was 16,000. All profits from the sale of his programs went to the Children's Asthma Institute.  His NBC variety Show every Friday Night enjoyed top ratings. His Christmas Shows featuring the entire Williams family were "a must not to be missed" annual event.

Many have talked about how he became synonymous with the song "Moon River". The truth is it happened as a fluke. When Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer came to our offices in Hollywood to pitch "Dear Heart" to be his next single, Andy agreed. On the way out the door, as an after thought, Henry asked Andy if he would put "Moon River" as favor on the "flip", or other side of the 45 RPM. Despite everyone's objection, Andy did it for Henry. We, the so-called brain thrust, thought it was foolish..."My Huckleberry Friend".

"Dear Heart" very quickly became the number one single on the Billboard Charts. One day, in Boston, Andy's manager, the late Alan Bernard, convinced disk jockey Norm Prescott of WHDH to play the other side. The rest became musical history.

At this time, Andy and Claudine had two children, Noelle and Christian. Andy was deeply concerned about his children's health when he met, through Dennis Waitley, Dr. Jonas Salk, the inventor of the Salk Polio Vaccine.

Dr Salk had started the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. The institute needed funds to survive.  At the same time, The San Diego Open, a PGA event was about to be dropped from the schedule because of lack of attendance. Andy agreed to put his name as host.  A lot of celebrities were doing this, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope among them. The people of San Diego did not know Andy.  He stepped in and was active in every phase of the tournament... from deigning the logo to inviting the Pros and the Celebrities.

The tournament went overnight from a $65,000 purse to a $150,000 purse overnight. Andy not only guaranteed the purse, but we produced a star-laden show in the San Diego Civic Center with all proceeds going to the Salk Institute. He also committed part of the profits from his next album.

 This year was the 45th Anniversary, today known as the Buick Open with prize money in the millions. For the first five years, I was Co-Executive Director representing Andy along with Dennis Waitley who represented the Salk Institute. It became an immediate success with coverage by ABC TV.

That wasn't all! Andy used his sponsor exemptions for the only two African-American PGA members at the time. Charley Sifford in 1967 and Pete Brown in 1970.  That year Pete shocked the golfing world when he beat the likes of Lee Trevino, Arnie Palmer and Jack Nicklaus to win the Championship.

Andy loved sports and in 1967 when the NBA offered two new NBA expansion franchises, one in Milwaukee and one in Phoenix, our company, Barnaby Sports, became Phoenix' major investor.

Johnny Kerr who really just wanted to coach, was slated to be both General Manager and Coach. He told the partnership about a young marketing guy at the Chicago Bulls whom he felt would make a great General Manager.  His name was Jerry Colangelo who has since become one of American Basketball's foremost executives.  It was fun time!

My daughter Lisa, who was an art major at the university of Arizona at the time, designed the original Logo after we held a contest to name the team with over 5000 respondents. One sad thing, we lost the coin toss to Milwaukee and they got first pick. With it, they selected Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar). The rest is history.

However, our opening was spectacular! I produced a show at halftime featuring many of our partners... all musical giants at the time...Ed Ames. Bobby Gentry, Henry Mancini, the great Saxophonist Shorty Rogers and of course, Andy. They performed with the Phoenix Symphony at mid-court at half time. There have been many imitators since, but this was the first.

His voice is now silenced forever, but will live on through his many recordings.  Andy had always wanted to sing with the great Mormon Tabernacle Choir. We could never quite work out the details. But I know, a new Tenor has joined the Heavenly chorus... and the music sounds all the sweeter.

 

 

 

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.