On May 20, 1927, a fight was held at Yankee Stadium. Jack Sharkey vs. Jack Dempsey. Joe Humphreys, the ring announcer, came to the center of the ring and asked for silence.
He had no megaphone, and no microphone, but he screamed at the audience to quiet down.
“May I have your attention? Silence please! Silence please!”
After a few more times, the audience finally quieted down.
“Ladies and gentlemen, young Charles Lindbergh is in the air. May God save him for a safe flight. Bow your head in prayer.”
After a moment of silence, the capacity crowd at Yankee Stadium said, in unison, “Amen.”
I first heard this rather unique story told by Bert Randolph Sugar, a renowned sports historian, writer, author, journalist, and analyst. Sunday evening ESPN reported Sugar, 75, passed away from cardiac arrest and heart complications.
The news of Sugar’s passing in a lot of ways shook me up. He was a colorful reporter, and a well-spoken individual. Sugar’s forte, or his passion if you will, was boxing. Typically seen with his trademark cigar, he was probably the best writer ever when it came to reporting on action inside the squared circle, as evidenced by his induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005.
But writing and reporting about boxing wasn’t all he could do from a sports journalism standpoint. Sugar had such range, being able to talk about and analyze sports other than boxing.
As a matter of fact, Sugar wrote a baseball book and even co-authored a book about pro wrestling. A wealth of sports knowledge and a well-respected historian, Sugar will be sorely missed.
There were just so many things that made him an elite, top-notch sports writer.
As a young journalist, cutting my teeth into the business, Sugar has left me a wonderful example of what a sports writer should be. The ability to story-tell, range, and knowledge are three essential skills that are basically must-haves for all sports writers, and there’s no question Sugar possessed each of them.
The media studies department at my alma mater, Mercy College, holds an award ceremony called the Quill Awards at the end of every academic year. Typically at the Quills, a Mercy alumnus is given an award, a journalist in the field receives a special recognition, and students in the department are rewarded for their hard work throughout the school year.
I served two years as sports editor of The Impact, Mercy’s student newspaper. Because of that service, I received the Quill for sports reporting in 2009 and the year I graduated, 2010.
The second time I was given the award (which also happened to be about a month before I graduated) for my work as far as sports reporting, it felt good to hear my journalism professor acknowledge my dedication. He announced to everyone in attendance at the ceremony that I would be “a sports writer you will be hearing about.”
And in a sense, I have gotten my name out there. At least a little bit.
ESPN has featured my insight on their “Baseball Tonight” show multiple times, the YES Network has put some of my thoughts on their “Extra Innings” postgame show, and even MLB has showcased Yankee Yapping on its main page.
I had the chance to interview former baseball coach Rick Wolff, who is the son of former Yankee announcer Bob Wolff – the famed announcer who called Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. In fact, it was Mr. Wolff that encouraged me to start my own blog, putting the idea of Yankee Yapping in my head.
Recently, I had the chance to cover a high school basketball game sitting next to Yankee legend Bernie Williams – and got to chit-chat with him watching his daughter play ball.
If I had to sum it all up in one word, to this point: blessed. I personally know sports writers who have graduated from college that are struggling greatly to kick-start their careers, so taking into consideration everything I have accomplished thus far, I truly believe “blessed” is the correct word to use.
Either “blessed” or maybe just “lucky.”
Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren once said, “The front page chronicles man’s defeats. The sports page chronicles man’s triumphs.”
Sugar made his whole life chronicling man’s triumphs – which is why I think I love the sports writing business so much. I take so much pride in attending games and writing about the swagger of individual players and teams.
I’ve had quite a few people use certain adjectives to describe my writing. An old friend once called it “amazing” and “incredible.”
As nice as that is to hear, I look at Sugar’s work and a lot of the other writers out there, and the same logic repeats in my mind:
“I may be good, but it’s going to be awhile before I get up to that level.”
And it is my hope that one day I am at the level of a Bert Sugar, because when it was all said and done for him, he was one of the most respected, renowned, and well-loved sports pundits in the world. For his intelligence and wide array of sports knowledge, he will never be forgotten – at least not in this writer’s mind.
Rest in Peace Bert Randolph Sugar (1937-2012)
“This kid has got guts! Guts and more heart than Hallmark on Valentine’s Day.”
This was all me and my friends could say after watching the boxing match between Super Welterweight Champion Yuri Foreman and challenger Miguel Cotto last night.
Cotto defeated Foreman in the ninth round to capture the title, but both fighters won over the 20, 272 fans who jam-packed the new Yankee Stadium to see the match. The last time boxing was contested at Yankee Stadium was in September of 1976, when Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton fought across the street in the old house.
In the ninth Cotto beat Foreman up with a combination of jabs and hooks. The Puerto Rican challenger finally landed a nasty body shot to Foreman’s ribs, ending the match. Cotto was declared the winner and new Super Welterweight Champion.
With the victory, Cotto has now won four World Boxing Association titles in his career.
Foreman, coming into the match with an undefeated record of 28-0, slipped twice in the seventh round. Wearing a brace on his right knee, it turns out the Israeli-born Champion was injured at the age of 15 in a bicycle accident. He could never go to the doctor to rectify the injury because he had no health insurance.
However, he managed to regain his vertical base, get back on his feet, and continue the match. Although he was clearly hurting, Foreman kept on fighting and made it through the remainder of the round without being knocked down or out.
Talk about a never-say-die attitude. That’s what I like to see.
Hobbling around the ring at the beginning of the eighth round, Cotto punished Foreman with his signature left hook. Foreman is known for great footwork in the ring and with his knee in its weakened condition, he was unable to dodge Cotto’s power punches.
With his man taking a good amount of abuse, Foreman’s trainer Joe Grier threw in the white towel which caused referee Arthur Mercante, Jr. to stop the fight with 1:12 left in the round. Even Foreman’s wife Leyla screamed for the ref to stop the fight because he could not move around the ring and properly defend himself.
Foreman threw up his hands, as if he wanted the fight to keep going. Mercante recognized Foreman’s effort and allowed the fight to continue after the towel was thrown in. He lasted the rest of the round and the fight moved on to the ninth round before it concluded.
The crowd seemed to be behind Cotto for the most part, as they lifted the Puerto Rican flag high over their heads as he made his way to the ring (which was positioned in right-center field). Foreman received a mixed reaction from the capacity crowd, although a strong fan base of Israeli supporters were on hand.
I have to admit, it was a great fight. I wanted to see Foreman successfully defend his title, but it doesn’t matter that he didn’t win. His stock and reputation raised probably tenfold after last night’s match. Both fighters wanted it and if Foreman was at full strength, the match could have gone a little differently.
After it was over, I gained even more respect for Foreman. Max Kellerman questioned him on why he kept fighting, even after he slipped and the towel was thrown in. Foreman said that, even though he was badly injured, he had to continue because he is the Champ; he said he had to keep fighting because the belt was on the line.
That is what you call discipline and respect–for the sport of boxing and for the title.
Over the last few weeks, I have come to appreciate boxing. Like Foreman, I have gained a lot respect for it. To thank for it I mostly have my friend and his dad, who have been boxing fans for years and years. They are what I like to call “old school boxing fans” since they know about everyone from Rocky Marciano to Mike Tyson; from Jack Dempsey to Manny Pacquiao.
But my appreciation for boxing did not just begin these last few weeks.
Last year I took a sports reporting class and we spent a week studying boxing. We watched the documentary When We Were Kings, which told the story of the famous Ali vs. George Foreman fight held in Zaire (which is now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo).
The match was dubbed “The Rumble in the Jungle.”
The documentary chronicles Ali’s wit, charisma, and amazing athletic ability. The people of Zaire were behind Ali so much that they chanted “Ali Bomaye!” which means “Kill him, Ali.” Understand that this particular chant did not mean, “Kill George Foreman in the match and win it, Ali.”
In reality it meant, “Kill him–end his life, Ali.”
The boxing fans took the sport so seriously. It just goes to show there are fans in other sports that are just as passionate as Yankee fans. Just as Derek Jeter is the face of the Yankees, Ali was the face of boxing; he was the fighter a lot of fans identified with and they backed him up all the way.
Boxing is a great sport. It saddens me that it is not a sport that is always on the back page of the newspapers; it doesn’t seem to get enough attention. I understand that football and baseball are the two sports in this country that are usually covered mostly in the mainstream athletic media.
I can only hope more people come to appreciate boxing and what it has to offer as I have. It’s nice to learn about the different backgrounds of each fighter and where they came from; what their lives have been like and how they became boxers. Usually every fighter has an interesting story.
From what I have gathered, many fans want to see Pacquiao take on Floyd Mayweather. Both boxers are revered as the best in the sport at the moment, but they have never faced each other. If they were to square off, a number of analysts and boxing writers feel the match would “bring boxing back” to the mainstream.
I’d love to see it happen. There’s nothing like watching the best face the best.