Merry Christmas Dad

Dad, you are a hero. You were always my hero.

As you may know, in 1998 Tom Brokaw wrote a book called “The Greatest Generation” It was about a generation that transformed America and made it better for all us.

It was a generation that gave new meaning to the words courage, sacrifice and honor.

It was your generation. The Greatest Generation.

You lived through the Picture 059Great Depression. You fought for our country in World War II, preserving our freedom. Later you  married Mom and raised a family, teaching us good Catholic values and setting an example for all of us.

If there was a category in the Guinness Book of World Records for most weddings attended or christenings or first communions or graduations, you would surely hold the record. You were always there for us, looking out for us, always supportive.

You made sure each one of us was pointed in the right direction. You made life better for my family, for your grandchildren and great grands too. You defined the values, set the pace and then let us fly.

It was you that interested me in sports at an early age, and I’ve carried that passion through my entire life. Hey, they don’t call me SportsLifer for nothing.

You saw some of the most historic sports events in history, including a no-hitter, one of the major moments in TV history, and Roger Maris’ 60th home run to tie Babe Ruth’s record.

Monte Pearson’s no-hitter

On a steamy August Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1938, New York right-hander Monte Pearson pitched the first no-hitter in Yankee Stadium history. The Yanks beat the Cleveland Indians, 13-0, that afternoon to complete a doubleheader sweep.

Pearson, who was 16-7 that year and won exactly 100 games lifetime,  faced the minimum 27 batters, striking out seven. Tommy Henrich and Joe Gordon each homered twice.

In the opener that day, Joe DiMaggio’s third straight triple of the game plated two runs in the bottom of the ninth to cap a three-run rally and give the Yankees an 8-7 victory. A crowd of 40.959 was on hand as the Yankees increased their American League lead  to 12 games en route to their third straight championship.

First college football game ever televised

One year later come September, Fordham University defeated Waynesburg College of Pennsylvania, 34-7, at Randalls Island in New York. But that wasn’t the story. NBC filTVCollegeFootballmed the first college football game ever televised, as Bill Stern brought the play by play to viewers.

Waynesburg’s Bobby Brooks made history with a 63-yard touchdown run, the first televised TD. Reportedly, there was no victory dance in the end zone.

The W2XBS broadcast signal had about a 50-mile radius, and there were about a thousand TV sets in the New York metropolitan area at the time. The signal didn’t even reach Waynesburg, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh. So who saw the game? Who knows?

Columbia shocks Army
In October of 1947, Army was a huge favorite as the Cadets brought a 32-game winning streak into New York to face Columbia’s Lions. Army had not lost since 1943; Columbia was coming off losses to Yale and Penn.

Army led, 20-7, at the half, but the Columbia combination of quarterback Gene Rossides and received Bill Swiacki brought the Lions back for a stunning 21-20 victory.

60 for Maris

And in September of 1961, Roger Maris of the Yankees hit a long home run into the upper deck at the old Yankee Stadium against Baltimore’s Jack Fisher. The round-tripper was Roger’s 60th of the season, equaling the mark Babe Ruth set in 1927.  Maris hit number 61 on the final day of the season, setting a record that many feel still stands.

These events, interesting in of themselves, have something else in common. You were right there for each and every one. You was just 13-years-old at the Pearson no-hitter, with other family members. The decision was made to leave once the Indians got their first hit. That never happened.

You went to the Waynesburg-Fordham game with your cousin Bobby Pugliese, who was at that time the manager of a powerful Fordham team.  By the time Maris tied the Babe in 1961, you were a father of four, two boys and two girls, including me, the oldest.

Our first Yankee game

You took me to my first Yankee game nearly 60 years ago, vs. the White Sox on a brilliant Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Six Hall of Famers were in the lineup that day, including Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, plus both managers, Casey Stengel and Al Lopez.

You also brought me to my first Giants game, also at Yankee Stadium, five days before JFK was assassinated in 1963. And to my first Knicks and Rangers games at the old Madison Square Garden on 8th Avenue and 49th Street. We once saw an NBA doubleheader.

We saw a Miami-Notre Dame game at the Orange Bowl in Miami, a Yankee game against the Rays in St. Pete, and some great Iona Prep football. Remember when you brought home some early VCR prototype in 1967 and taped the Thanksgiving Day game against New Rochelle with Marty Glickman doing the play by play on WPIX. That was mighty impressive..

You’ve always been there for me, whether it be coin, advice or a good meal. Over the years we must have spent 100,000 hours talking sports, and there’s still nothing I’d rather do. I treasure the times I spend with you always.

Merry Christmas, Dad. Love you always.

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