Feb 15 2019

Huntington Honors Hall of Fame Inductees

During early February, I was honored to participate in the dedication of the third satellite exhibit created by the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame. The first two offsite exhibits are located at Long Island MacArthur Airport and at Bethpage Ballpark. This new exhibit is in the west wing at Huntington Town Hall.

The exhibit pays tribute to the inductees of the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame who have a connection to the Town of Huntington as players, coaches, or residents. The photo of each inductee appears in the exhibit.

The celebrated professional athletes who are town representatives in the Hall of Fame are football’s Emerson Boozer and Wesley Walker, boxing’s Gerry Cooney, hockey’s Clark Gillies, basketball’s Tom Gugliotta and soccer’s Sara Whalen.

Other Town of Huntington honorees in the Hall of Fame are Stephen Bowen, Charles Boccia, Don Buckley, Jill Byers, Fred Cambria, Rich Castellano, Tony Cerullo, Bob Chipman, Tom Combs, Bill Edwards, Ray Enners, Melvin Fowler, Fred Fusaro, Lou Giani, Frank Gugliotta, Tom Gugliotta, Kim Gwydir, Bob Herzog, Bill Ketcham, John Nitti, Ed Norton, Carol Rose, Cathy Vayianos and Ann Marie Wyckoff-Bagshaw.

As a 2014 inductee, I am very appreciative and excited to be included in this wonderful new exhibit and I extend my thanks to the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame and its director Chris Vaccaro and to Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci and the Town of Huntington. I am appreciative for the recognition of my high school and college athletic career along with my business and philanthropic contributions to Long Island.

It is a wonderful honor to be featured in an exhibit that places the spotlight on so many talented local people, including American hero and fellow Half Hollow Hills alumnus Lt. Raymond J. Enners, who are connected to amateur and professional athletics.

Sep 17 2017

No Names (Of Course) Until Now

Baseball purists have battled with the changing times and the changing rules for decades. Early on, the game classified a walk with nine balls, then six balls, to five balls and then to the present four balls. During more recent times, the purists have fumed over artificial turf, domed stadiums and the designated hitter rule in the American League. This season, many have said that baseball should not have changed the intentional walk rule.

Another contemporary, albeit temporary, change occurred on the weekend of August 25-27. It was a change that certainly did upset some of the purists who happen to be Yankee fans. For 115 years, the backs of the home pinstripe and road gray jerseys worn by the New York Yankees either were blank or showcased only a number. The last names of players never were added across the shoulders—until now!

On this specific summer weekend, Major League Baseball promoted its “Players Weekend.” The players were invited to replace their last names on jerseys with their nicknames so “personalities shine through.” All the team uniforms also featured unique colors and designs.

For this event, the Yankees ventured into uncharted territory. The franchise for the first time placed player names, the nicknames, on the backs of its jerseys. After the weekend, all the jerseys from each MLB team were donated with 100 percent of the proceeds supporting baseball’s Youth Development Foundation. The organization focuses on improving the caliber, effectiveness and availability of amateur baseball and softball programs across the United States and Canada.

Here are some of the nicknames that Yankee players placed on their jerseys:

· Aaron Judge: All Rise

· Aroldis Chapman: The Missile

· Dellin Betances: D-Dawg

· David Robertson: D-Rob

· Chad Green: Greeny

· Sonny Gray: Pickles

Having a little fun and raising money for a worthy cause in any line of work is all good. In the baseball world, even many Yankee purists enjoyed the promotion. But, they also were glad when the traditional team uniforms returned for the game against Cleveland on August 28.

Aug 16 2016

My Longtime Baseball Friend Is Signing Off

For many years, I have been watching baseball with a friend. He’s become a close friend. He does most of the talking and I only see him occasionally. He doesn’t know me but I enjoy listening to him talk about baseball and life.

When this baseball season ends, Vin Scully will turn off his microphone. He has called the game for 65-plus years, first in Brooklyn and then with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I will miss him.

While never missing a play, Vin effortlessly worked into the conversations all those statistics for which baseball is known. He also shared with me the stories about the game of long ago and vignettes about the players of today that I did not hear anywhere else. He even shared with me his assumptions about the random thoughts running through the minds of managers. All this baseball was just for me – because I felt he was talking just to me — plus a little bit of history, philosophy, theology and commentary about life to put it all in perspective.

Vin is a New Yorker, though he has been in California since the Dodgers moved there for the 1958 season. He was born in The Bronx and raised in the Washington Heights section of northern Manhattan. Vin is a religious man. Brought up in an Irish Catholic family, he attended Fordham Prep and Fordham University with its Jesuit influences.

While at college, he was a student broadcaster on WFUV-FM, the school’s radio station that up until about 30 years ago predominantly was student-run. The roll call from its studios include names of entertainers, broadcasters and journalists you easily will recognize. The names span the pre-Vin years to his contemporaries to those who have followed. Hundreds of others have walked the same halls at Fordham and sat behind its radio microphone but those names will not be known to you. Be assured that they, too, have gone onto highly successful careers.

Vin learned valuable lessons at that station and when he worked with Red Barber on Brooklyn Dodgers broadcasts. Be yourself, Barber told him, because there is no one else like you. He also learned to allow the roar of the crowd to help him tell a story.

As he comes to his ninth inning and eventual postgame, I wonder how Vin plans to close out the game. Will he be philosophical? Possibly poetic? Maybe historical? Or will it be a simple “See you around the ballpark!”

Whatever he decides, he has had a fantastic life in and out of baseball. He has touched—and called—them all!

Jul 16 2016

A Little Business Talk With That Ballpark Frank

Now that we are in the middle of summer, the prominent sports talk around here is about baseball. (Okay, golf, too). While listening to all the baseball talk, I came to realize that so many common baseball expressions have been adapted by those of us in business. This probably goes all the way back in time to when the first pitch was thrown during an organized ballgame.

Here are just a few of the popular terms we use every day that I quickly jotted on my notepad

  • That came out of left field.
  • Cover your bases.
  • Give me a ballpark figure.
  • Hit it out of the park!
  • You’re batting 1,000.
  • Step up to the plate.

I then wondered if the language of baseball — that lingo used by players and managers between the foul lines – had borrowed any words or terms from commerce. After a little digging, I quickly discovered that several expressions from America’s pastime can be traced to business.

  • A “can of corn” refers to an easy catch of a fly ball by an outfielder.

During the 19th century, clerks at general stores were looking for an easy way to reach canned goods such as corn that had been stacked high on shelves. They used long sticks with hooks, pulling the cans from the shelves. They easily caught the cans in their aprons, similar to a fly ball nestling into a glove.

  • When a player is in a difficult situation, such as a rundown between bases, he is caught in a “pickle.”

Shakespeare is thought to be the first to use the idiom “in a pickle” in The Tempest. But, in England, the meaning of the expression is different than our interpretation. “Pickle” refers to a food item similar to relish, and one who is “in a pickle” is “sauced” or “drunk.” On our side of the pond, to relate to our game of baseball, “in a pickle” did come from the food industry. It means “in a tough spot,” similar to a cucumber stuck sitting in vinegary brine for days.

  • The term “butcher boy” refers to the strategy of a batter who draws in the infielders when he squares to bunt but then pulls back the bat to deliver a downward swing.

This term, if not the actual play, is attributed to legendary player and manager Casey Stengel. He was inspired by the motion a boy used in a butcher shop to cleave meat. Stengel ordered it whenever he wanted a player to hit a ground ball, especially when a runner was on third base during a close game and the team needed the run.

So, now that we have come to the end of this little “game,” I guess it is “safe” to say that baseball and business have “covered all the bases” for more than 150 years!

May 02 2015

Together At Hofstra’s HOF

On a wonderful Sunday last month, family, friends and business colleagues shared with me one of the most gratifying recognitions as an athlete, an executive and as a sports benefactor. I was honored to be inducted into the Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame.

My inclusion was for my on-field contributions to the Hofstra lacrosse team during 1979 and 1980. The honor also recognized my reconnection with the sport and with the school that I love as an ardent supporter of Hofstra’s education and athletics programs.

But enough about me, as you know who I am and what I have accomplished as an athlete and in business. I want to share with you a few details about several men and women who entered the Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame with me. This is not so much about their sports accomplishments but about their life accomplishments.

Linda Brymer was a four-year and three-sport—basketball, volleyball, softball—athlete (1974-1978). Linda then joined the Nassau County Police Department and became a physical training and defensive tactic instructor at the academy for more than 3,000 officers. During all this time, athletics continued to be a huge part of her life’s challenges and successes. Now she is pursuing her latest passion of surfing.

Ian “Rocky” Butler played football (1997-2001). He enjoyed a professional career in the Canadian Football League. After leaving pro sports, he returned to Hofstra to earn his master’s degree in physical education. Today, he is a physical education teacher and multi-sport coach at Long Beach.

Robin Kammerer Conversano played field hockey and lacrosse (1989-1993). She attended Weill Cornell Medical College to pursue a physician’s assistant degree. For the last 15 years, Robin has been practicing at an orthopedic surgery office that specializes in sports medicine.

Eric Schmiesing wrestled for Hofstra (1996-2001). Since then, he has been dedicated to fostering, promoting and encouraging the sport. His other passion is the finance industry. After graduation, he became a local crude oil trader on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Now, he works in private equity.

These four colleagues of mine in the Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame, along with the other new inductees and those who played on the two teams (1968 men’s soccer and 1995 women’s volleyball) now enshrined in the hall, invested hard work, commitment and passion into their sports. After graduation, each of them continued to harness these same attributes as they journeyed on various paths to find additional success in their careers and in life.

Linda, Rocky, Robin, Eric and the others all excelled at Hofstra in the classroom and in their chosen sports. They learned from their teachers, coaches and teammates, and they have become fabulous contributors to our society. We have sports and Hofstra in common, and I am proud to enter the Hofstra Athletics Hall of Fame with them.


Nov 17 2014

Take A Sports “Step Back” With Rick Wolff

With each year that passes, competitive athletics become more ingrained in our daily lives. Every television network seems to broadcast at least one of the traditional sports, the secondary sports, high school games, or even some of the events created specifically for television. Six different networks or channels handled the just completed baseball playoffs and World Series. In New York, we have two radio stations that just talk sports for 24 hours each day.

The increased coverage of sports hypes the excitement and engages the public in dialogue, but it also has opened the door to an ugly side of the games. We have learned about football players dealing with brain injuries later in life, athletes and coaches who administer mental and physical abuse, players caught with performance enhancement drugs, legal battles and lockouts, inappropriate behavior by fans and players, and too many athletes who create needless controversy on Twitter.

All of these issues have a trickle-down effect on our young athletes. Parents and coaches from grade school through college often wonder how they should explain these complex issues to their kids, and they also need advice to help them address the many problems that arise in their own world of youth athletics.

For years, WFAN has aired a great sports program—Rick Wolff’s The Sports Edge (Sunday, 8-9 a.m., WFAN)—that too frequently passes under the sports talk radar. Focused solely on youth athletics, the conversations debate the opportunities and obstacles facing student athletes, parents and coaches.

Recent topics have been plucked from the sports headlines: putting an end to hazing, concussion concerns that affect high school football programs, cutting players for controversial tweets, dealing with the lack of playing time and the proper reaction when a coach wants a player to change positions on the field in the best interests of the team.

That’s not all. Other topics have focused on the safety of aluminum baseball bats, high school codes of conduct, holding parents accountable for their obnoxious behavior at games, privacy issues regarding athletes and online networks, and if cheerleading should be sanctioned as an official high school sport.

Wow! Amateur athletics certainly have changed over our lifetimes. Remember when you would just run outside to get some fresh air and enjoyed a pick-up game of baseball or touch football with friends in the street or park? Today, however, on almost every level, the games have become too organized and highly competitive.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for the competition, for the rewards of success and for the learning curve that comes with failure. Sometimes, though, with all that is going on in the sports world, I think we need a reality check. We need to take a step back to allow us to recapture the fun of sports that we enjoyed when we were kids. We need to do this for today’s young athletes.

That’s where The Sports Edge comes in, and each conversation is a walk-off home run.


Nov 15 2013

Oh No! Japan Record Broken By Another Foreigner

Baseball is all about records. Sacred records. That is why so many hardcore American fans are angry that steroid users have shattered milestones held by baseball’s icons.

Our baseball records aren’t the only statistics that are tumbling. It has occurred in Japan, too. Performance enhancing drugs, though, are not involved, and some fans there just don’t mind that a sacred record or two is broken.

For decades, the Japanese have called Sadaharu Oh the world’s home run king. With 868 of them and many other records, he is worshiped in Japan as much as Babe Ruth is revered in America. Over the years, a few foreign players in Japan’s elite league threatened Oh’s hallowed single season home run mark of 55. Each time, opposing pitchers deliberately refused to throw balls near the strike zone, allowing Japan to protect Oh’s milestone.

But the culture of deference to Oh has ended. As this past season progressed, many Japanese fans rooted for the single season record to fall as its latest challenger, Wladimir Balentien, continued to hit balls out of the park. Balentien is not Japanese, but from Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles, and he once played for the Seattle Mariners and the Cincinnati Reds.

During Balentien’s chase, Japan experienced a gradual change in its version of the game of baseball. Commentary about Oh’s record included discussion about the realization that the country cannot continue to remain isolated, in its baseball and other ways of life, from the rest of the world. Japan needed to embrace outsiders.

In one survey, 69 percent of 1,300 respondents said they were enthusiastic about Balentien’s bid to pass Oh. Many fans showered boos on pitchers who did not throw strikes to him during the record chase. Eventually, on September 15, Balentien shattered the record.

The times, even for Japanese baseball, sure are changing, as they do every day in our personal lives and in the business world. The successful person, and possibly even the happier one, is the individual who learns to adapt to these changes.

Postscript: The tumbling of the single season home run record created additional buzz as other components of the overall story were publically acknowledged.

While born in Japan, Oh is a Taiwanese national. Even though he is a foreigner, Oh’s career was protected for years by Japanese players and fans. Maybe today’s fan, who has cheered the success of Japanese players in American baseball, has accepted the possibility that anyone, even a player from Curaçao, can hold a baseball record in the Japanese elite league.

More important is the scandal revealed earlier this season that involved the ball used in Japan’s games. The Nippon Professional Baseball league admitted that it had quietly juiced the ball to create a greater bounce off the bat, and players used that ball for about 60 games. Home runs increased by more than 40 percent from the previous year. While the players weren’t juiced, the balls certainly were marked with performance enhancement issues. Is Balentien’s new record tainted? The debate will continue.

I guess nothing comes easy, nor is anything really what it seems. That goes for life, business and the great game of baseball.