I spent some time today speaking with Jack Ebling on “The Drive With Jack” a local sports talk radio show…Have a listen.
N.Y.U. was the place to be on Monday night; the Glucksman Ireland House to be exact. Our very own Pete Hamill was honored.
Thanks to Rich Nolan for the following summary:
It was pretty good!
Impressive guest list; Dan Barry, James McBride, Mike Lupica, Joanna Molloy, Jim Dwyer, Mike Barnicle,Sam Roberts, Peggy Noonan, Carl Hiaasen, Charles Sennott, and Denis Hamill.
Throwing quotes around and apologizing for reading from his prepared script (and being a Knicks fan) he thanked his wife Fukiko for teaching him about basketball. He said, he never played growing up in Holy Name (I can’t imagine that) and she played high school hoops in Japan(?) and they both, now, watch the Knicks!
Pete said “less time in Purgatory would be his reward.”
I have seen Pete several times and what I found most, well, amazing was his speaking. I would pay money just to hear him speak. Many writers, as you may know, can put together sentences on paper but get tongue tied, or worse, when speaking. Not Pete.
Pete still puts his heart and soul into the delivery.
There was also a clip of “Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists,” a forthcoming short film produced and directed by Jonathan Alter, John Block and Steve McCarthy.
Judy Collins rounded out the evening with a rendition and sing-a-long of Amazing Grace. It was, well… amazing!
Thanks Rich, for keeping us in the loop.
I was six years-old when I fell in love with basketball.
Matter of fact, it was right around the time my father left our family.
The year was 1970, Christmas morning. The boys schoolyard at Holy Name of Jesus elementary school was the spot.
When I look back at my childhood, I realize that basketball took the place of my father.
Little did I know at the time basketball would save my life. No, it didn’t make me millions of dollars. It helped shape the man I am today.
Basketball taught me valuable lessons along the way, lessons I should have learned from my absent father.
The game, the players, the coaches and fans. All taught me lessons on how to do things the right way.
My father would come around from time to time but it was never real; he never had my best interest at heart. I think he spent time with me just to keep my mother off his back. My father never told me he loved me. Come to think of it, even when I was with him, he wouldn’t say very much. My basketball showed me love. It always stayed with me, never left me. The round ball was always there for me. My basketball talked to me. It never left me for someone else.
Basketball loved me and I loved it back. Bottom line, when my father left us, he let me down, the rock was there to cushion my fall.
At times during my life I abused Mr. Basketball. I threw it away. I kicked it, kicked it when it was down. When it was begging for me to pick it up off the floor, I ignored it.
When my ball desperately needed air, I allowed it to suffer. Walking past it every day. Paying it no mind. You have to show a basketball much love. Every day.
When I played the game I passed the basketball to teammates, shot it from all over the court and dribbled it up the court. The feeling of holding a basketball was the best feeling in the world. Like a parent holding their newborn. Picking a basketball up off the floor is like no other feeling in the world. When I would hop on my bike to go play ball I would hold my basketball under my left arm and hold the handlebars with my right hand.
On that Christmas morning in the boys schoolyard I took my first shot. I recall that day like it was yesterday. My mother bought my first basketball. No one forgets their first basketball and their first shot. The ball was a Voit, I don’t even think Voit is around anymore?
Washing my basketball every night in our bathtub became a daily ritual. My mother and brother would get mad at me when I would use the hair dryer on it.
“That’s for my hair, stupid,” my mother once said to me.
I slept with my basketball. If my sister could sleep with dolls and stuffed animals, why couldn’t I snuggle up with my basketball?
Walking to the schoolyard on that cold Christmas morning I was dribbling the ball across 9th avenue, down Windsor Place and up Howard Place to the entrance of the yard. Families were walking together to church. I was headed to my church, the schoolyard. It was there that I worshiped the game of basketball. The schoolyard was my safe-haven.
The first time I was on a team, I was eight years-old; I was taught to always keep my head up when dribbling. See the floor. “Hit the open man” is what New York Knicks head coach Red Holzman used to say to the Knickerbockers.
From my apartment on the corner of Windsor and Ninth, it was 212 steps to the schoolyard. Don’t laugh, I once counted the steps while I worked on my cross-over dribble. If someone was walking towards me, I got low and crossed them up.
On December 25, the yard was empty. Why wouldn’t it be? It was Christmas morning. But on most days, the yard was packed with kids from the neighborhood. On Saturday mornings I always wanted to be the first one there. Last to leave too.
Just me and my Voit basketball. Lucky me, six baskets to choose from. The boys schoolyard at Holy Name became my paved paradise.
I worked on my dribbling, shooting and even used the concrete walls of the church and school to practice my passing. Throw the ball against the wall, naturally it comes back to you. There was a big white sign on the church wall which had the hours the schoolyard was open. While I dribbled towards it I recited the hours. Keep your head up!
One of my favorite things to do when I was alone in the schoolyard was to dribble to every basket and make a lay-up. After dribbling to my right side for six right-handed layups I would do it all over again but this time I would reverse my direction and go left, and of course shoot it with my left-hand. We were taught in the third grade to use your opposite hand. I should mention that from grades 3-8 at Holy Name we had outstanding coaches.
They taught us to play the game the right way. Share the ball. Be a good teammate.
Growing up in Brooklyn, New York I had hundreds of friends but basketball became my best friend. My older brother once said, “You’re going to marry a basketball.” He was close, after these years I have been having an affair with it.
At times in my life I ran away from basketball. Turned my back on it. Gave up on it. Thought there was nothing in it for me. I abused it. I was selfish. But today, I realized the ball is everything to me. It dawned on me this past summer while coaching groups of youngsters at a summer camp just how much I love basketball.
This summer I was able to rekindle the flame for hoops.
Over the years I played in many basketball games all over New York City. We played full-court and half-court. I have taken many shots on many different rims. My experience in basketball is probably no interest to anyone but it means the world to me.
I never played college or professional basketball. I was lucky enough to play a few games in high school. It was a time where I let basketball down. But I got to do the next best thing, coach it. I have been able to coach at the collegiate level and now currently at the high school level. I love being around the players. I love helping them improve. I will pass for them and rebound their shots.
Mr. Basketball, thanks for always being there for me. Thanks for waiting for me. Most important, thanks for putting up with me. I haven’t been the greatest partner, but here I am, at 54, learning to love you once again.
One lesson I learned is if you love and respect the game, it tends to reward you back.
Basketball, I will never let you down again.
I received a bit of sad news last night. One of my favorite people of all-time passed away on April 30.
Roger Chebba has left us. He was 88.
If you ever spent time in Timboo’s Bar down on 5th avenue and 11th street you knew Roger. (I still remember the phone number at Timboo’s; 788-9782 – I called the bar so many times looking for my father…)
The joint closed down for good about five years ago.
They don’t make them anymore like Roger. He’s one of the last cast of characters from the good old days.
(Above – Stevie B, Angelo Dundee and Roger)
Back in the day, when I was in my early teens, on Saturday mornings the Gooch (my father) would take me down to Timboo’s. I’ll never forget keeping my eyes on Roger all day long.
He always stood at the end of the bar. His favorite spot. I watched him like a hawk.
“So I could see who walks in,” was Roger’s response one Saturday afternoon when I asked him why he always stands in the same spot.
Roger was the best.
He was my guy.
There were times as a young boy I wished Roger was my father.
Great pool player too. I used to love to watch Roger break. He was by far the best. The balls went everywhere and of course he always managed to sink one or two.
My guy Phil told me this morning before Roger became an Ironworker (Local 40) he was an amateur boxer down in Florida. His trainer? Angelo Dundee…
Roger’s nickname was, get this; “Battling Billy Prince.”
Condolences to the entire Chebba family.
Roger’s daughters Lori and Lee Ann are aces…
Jimmy Vackner’s comment in the “comments” section reminded me of all the outstanding athletes produced in our neighborhood back in the day.
Something crossed my mind; Do we still have those same kind of athletes from Windsor Terrace?
Growing up on ninth avenue and attending Holy Name we played every sport. Even made up games from time to time. (I don’t ever recall hanging out with my friends and pouting, “I’m bored.”)
Are there any young hoop stars walking the streets of WT? Thirteen, fourteen years old – kids that can shoot the outside jump shot. Are there any ball handling wizards working on their dribbling ten at night? Are they shoveling the court so they can play?
Are there any potential college baseball players in the neighborhood who dream of one day playing for Iona College? Any kids smacking the ball over the fence in the lot? Do kids listen to Mets and Yankees games on radio at night hoping one day to put on the pinstripes?
Any future high school QB’s hoping one day to play for the University of Alabama? How football games of two-hand touch on tenth avenue?
Do you see any teenage athletes jogging around Prospect Park, staying in shape for the up-coming season?
Where’s the cross-country and track runners?
Any aspiring runners jogging through the streets?
Any swimmers hopping on the bus or even walking down to the ninth street YMCA?
Do kids play stick-ball anymore?
How’s the coaching in the neighborhood? Do they still have men volunteering their time teaching the young athletes how to play the right way?
Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, our neighborhood had outstanding coaches. They taught me valuable lessons which I use today.
I played sports at Holy Name just like 90% of the boys in the neighborhood.
The best thing about this experience was the coach. I had some of the best the neighborhood had to offer; I was taught lessons which I still use today.
Whether it was basketball in the winter, baseball, track or cross-country, there was always a coach who raised his voice to get their message across.
Did I like it?
I even quit the basketball team a couple of times because the coach yelled at me. That’s soft isn’t it?
Esquire Magazine published this article a few months back on coaches who yell. The author didn’t have a problem with the “old school coach.” Is it a good thing or a bad thing?
One important aspect of coaching; everyone has a different philosophy on how things should be. Bob Hurley at Saint Anthony’s and Tom Izzo at Michigan State scream a lot. They are two Hall of Fame coaches.
Today, we have a lot of advocates who are against the coach yelling at their son or daughter.
There’s also a connection to how a kid is treated at home. Did the parents play sports? Is the kid a good athlete or not? As a high school coach, I have had parents tell me it’s fine with them that I yell at their kids where on the other hand there have been parents upset at me for yelling.
Take time to read this piece and tell me what you think.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up on 17th Street between 9th and 10th avenues. Although my parents divorced when I was in my teens, my apartment at 510 17th St had my mother Mary Ann, father Mike, brother Mike, and my sister Pat.
17th St was an amazing block. I had my cousins Richie, John and Walter. There were great guys like the Camarano’s, Allie Russo, Tommy Plantamuro, the late Nicky Guido, Dennis Mullaley, and the Laux brother’s Billy and Tom. Can’t forget about Mike and Sue Hardman. We had good people like Brian, Mark and Jody Carrachia. Michael and Pee-Wee Pagan and Douglas Herman. The McKee’s, Kenny Driscoll, and who can forget Boooolaaaa!
Sports was played all year-round. Stickball, whiffle ball, off the point, football, sponge ball and softball. Believe it or not we didn’t play basketball. I broke the mold with that one. When it got too hot in the summer we opened the johnny pump. None of us knew that we didn’t come from much money. We were living the dream!
Describe your experience of Holy Name?
Going to Holy Name was the single greatest gift my mother and father ever gave to me. It is there that I received the education that has lasted me a lifetime. Ironically, those life lessons didn’t come from the textbooks, they came from the daily interactions from the friendships that were formed. The people in my life today are the same people from my youth. Martin Cottingham, Eric Swanson, The Sturges brothers, the Rafferty’s, the Mackay’s, the Harte’s, the Dougherty’s and Thomas Dolan.
The teachers were awesome. I remember Brother Lawrence taking us to a Big East basketball game at Madison Square Garden, St John’s vs Georgetown. It was my first college game; Chris Mullin vs Patrick Ewing. I will never forget that night, the Garden was rocking. I left there a big Ewing fan. I was amazed at his game.
Brother Lawrence met us at the 15th St train station and rode the train with us to the Garden. When the game was over he said, “O.K. see ya’ I have to go to the Bronx.”
Martin Cottingham, Tim Sturges and I rode the train back home by ourselves at 9:30 at night. We were too dumb to be scared!
The Parish went into turbo charge when Father Jim Devlin arrived. Instantly he put the hoops back in the schoolyard .Not those half-moon thing’s either, real square back boards. Then he started the flag football league in the park, I think every kid in the Parish was on a team. Basically you played with the kids you hung out with. He single-handedly revived a sleeping Parish. I believe he was the one who created the momentum which is still going today at Holy Name /St. Joseph the Worker.
The highlight of the day was when the school bell rang at dismissal. You met your friends in the boys school yard. Steve Finamore, Glen Thomas, Little Jimmy Maloney, Jimmy McDonough, McDermott, Matt DeNardo, Daniel Ferrity, Danny Toner, Jack Malone, The Cunninghams, Riggins’, The Shashaty brothers, The Heegan’s, Andy Purdy, Chris Robinson, Orlando Pabon, The Rutter brothers, The Stratton’s, the Palanca’s and the Lavassuer brothers. All good people. The boys school yard was the center of our universe. We couldn’t live without it!
Do you recall the first time you walked into Farrell’s for a drink?
My first beer in Farrell’s was on my birthday when I was 21. I didn’t even waste my time trying to be served before hand because I knew I would be denied. All my buddies were there waiting for me; John Rafferty, John Macky, Phil McKenna, Eric Swanson, Danny and Jimmy Sturges, it was great. I’m older than Martin Cottingham and Tim Sturges so they couldn’t get served. Gerard Trapp was working the stick behind the bar that night.
“You have I.D.?” Gerard asked.
With a smile I answered, Yes I do..
I’ll have a Gin and Tonic, I said.
“Oh no you’re not!” Gerard replied.
“You will thank me in the morning,” Gerard assured me.
Thinking back on that night, he was right!
The best thing about going into Farrell’s you always get your family history played back to you with the other generation of guy’s that are there.
Someone always knows your grandfather, father, brother, or cousins. I have the pleasure of going on the Farrell’s football trip with guys like Duffer (John Powers), Pete Connoly, Billy Kahaly, Sookie. John Davis, Bucky, Broadway, the McKenna’s and the Heegan Family. This season we ran into Danny Mahoney, A.K.A., “The Chief.” It was great to hang with him, he’s a good dude.
Choose one store up on the avenue; give me the one thing you recall about that store and a story from your experience. Can be your favorite store, least favorite, etc.
What I remember fondly is Tony Pinto from United Meat Market. He was so nice to everyone. I remember as a little kid he would engage me in conversation on all things. I couldn’t believe this man with his store packed would take the time and talk to me. He had a great way of making you feel good about yourself. It was no surprise that when the Sturges’ dad died he hired Timmy and Jimmy to work at the store. Later on in life when I started dating and marrying his older daughter Tracy it was the same, he was always a pleasure to be around and the best person to talk to. I owe much to him for letting me see how a true gentleman operates in life. When his entire family his wife and daughters lost their home in Breezy Point we moved back to the neighborhood. My girls and little Tony Pinto, Tricia’s son got a kick going back into their grandpa’s butcher shop. I am pleased to see Rocky and Joe doing an amazing job with United just like Tony.
Give us an update on what you are up to these days?
I am presently living back in the neighborhood while we await the permit process to rebuild our home from the fires that occurred during “Sandy”.
Last year a few month’s before the storm I made a promise to myself that I would get healthy again. I started running, biking and incorporated swimming into the mix. I started doing triathlons and competing in road races.
In a year’s time I ran eight, half-marathons and will be running the New York City Marathon in November.
I teamed up with Habitat for Humanity to raise funds so they can help families rebuild there lives post-sandy.
So far, family and friends have helped me raise $14,000.
I am a proud union electrical foreman in Local 3 and have a beautiful hardworking wife.
I have known my wife Tracy Pinto most of my life and am very proud of the way she has helped keep normalcy with my children, post-sandy. My kids love sports; soccer, swimming and hoop’s. All of our free time goes to them and we love it! Being back in the neighborhood I love that my daughter and I can shoot around in the school yard just like the old days. I feel blessed, I have the best family and friends a man could ever ask for. How fortunate I was to grow up in such an amazing parish of Holy Name.