Friday, August 27, 2010


September. I don’t remember all that much about September, 1950, the year I started school.

I lived in Amityville.

I know Harry Truman was the president in 1950, but my guess is, I picked that up later, maybe even this month, from a book entitled, “Truman,” by David McCullough.

I’m kidding, of course. I knew about Truman before this book, and maybe I even knew it then, too, but I don’t remember thinking about it then.

By this time that year, I had fairly well familiarized myself with our new house and environs. We had moved from a studio apartment over my aunt and uncles Norman Avenue garage the previous summer, (where, incidentally, I’d lived my whole life, as far as I knew) to a brand new house on Hamilton Street, maybe four blocks North.

Kids magically appeared on Hamilton Street, but I thought slowly. The first, my predecessor, was Bonnie Jeanne Schaztel. I was the second kid on Hamilton Street. Bonnie’s sister, Elizabeth (Libby) when she was born, was third. After that, a whole flood of kids arrived.

During what passes for public speaking engagements, I’ve said that Bonnie Jeanne and I played, “Cow-[pause] persons and [pause] Native-Americans,” together. “We had different names for them, of course,” I say, to stretch the laugh. “I don’t remember them.”

If you do it right, as if you’ve just thought of it and were careful not to offend, you can get two good laughs out of it; even three, if you smile and let the audience know you planned it that way all the while.

I didn’t know I’d spent the better part of 30 years becoming increasingly comfortable standing in front of people telling stories of my life. One story sort of led naturally into the other, I thought, until a comedian friend complimented me on my, “Callbacks,” as if I intended something.

“What’s a callback?” I said.

He explained that you set the story up so that you’re going to come back to a phrase or a repeated memory long after the audience heard it the first time. That’s a callback.

I started out one story with the fact that I was a Brooklyn Dodger fan. Walter O’Malley, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, had a summer house in Amityville, and used to give the Amityville cops home game tickets to his box seats, when he wasn’t going to be in town.

“What’s a box?” I asked my Amityville cop father.

“Box Seats. We’re in Mr. O’Malley’s Box Seats. Watch the game. There’s your hero, look! Gil Hodges.”

“Box Seats. Oh.” There was no box.

I talked and talked, about teaching, advertising, and somehow got the story around to the Suffolk Sun, 1969. I was going to ask for a job there, despite the fact that had I no journalism background at all. None.

I pulled into the parking lot, and was about to go inside, when an unmistakable voice came on the radio: “Hello, this is Howard Cosell, Speaking of Sports,” which Howard pronounced unlike any other person. “Suppoorrtss.”

“Gil Hodges, manger of the New York Mets, has finally done something smart.” Cosell pronounced. “Back after this…”

I hadn’t followed the Mets. I had no interest in baseball since the Dodgers left Brooklyn. But, I told the audience, Cosell now had me trapped. I had to listen to a Gillette commercial and a, “Shaffer is the one beer to have when you’re having more than one,” commercial. And some other commercials, in order to hear Cosell come back and say something good about Hodges, who, yes, had been my hero, in spite of all the pressure to make Jackie Robinson my hero, because, bottom line, I had a first-baseman’s glove, and Gil played first.

Cosell said that Hodges had decided to start Buddy Harrelson at short. I slammed the car door and stormed into the offices of The Suffolk Sun, madder n’ hell at myself for letting Cosell upset me like that, about a ball team I didn’t care about or even know about. Buddy Harrelson. Who the hell was Buddy Harrelson?

The woman at the reception counter was really nice, considering my mood. She called the city editor, and he set up an interview, right there. For me.

I didn’t know that the Suffolk Sun was about to fold.

The City Editor interviewed me and arranged for, next, an interview with Cortland Anderson, editor of the paper. I didn’t think that was unusual, believe it or not. I just walked into his office, which I noticed was huge, and festooned with Mets memorabilia.

Anderson didn’t look up. “What makes you think you can write for this paper?”

“I read it,” I said.

It didn’t sound the way I’d planned.

He looked up, cursed, then stood, and called me a name, cursing.
I backtracked fast. So much so that he offered me a coffee, to calm my nerves. He asked what I thought of that (curse word) Mets Manager Gil Hodges.

“That [curse word]!” All I knew was what Howard Cosell had just said. “He ain’t no [curse word].” So, I said it. “He just put that guy Harrelson at Short. Buddy Harrelson.”

He thought about a moment, and he hired me.

1 comment:

  1. My Dad was a HUGE Dodgers fan- he went into mouring when Roy Campanella, the catcher, had that horrible car accident. :*( Baseball was never the same for him after that. And you can just imagine the hullaballoo he had with my Mom- a huge GIANTS fan when Bobby Thompson hit the "shot heard round the world".
    You have an uncanny way of triggering the coolest "rememberies".. ones I have not touched on in forever.. My Mom became an avid Mets fan when the Giants left NY- and actually did an Irish jig on the front lawn when they went on to win the '69 World Series.. what a spectacle THAT was.. We never lived that one down in our old conservative Wantagh neighborhood. :) Keep 'em coming, edlowe.. its what we live for :) Love, Finn*