Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hey folks, here's what I've been up to

Hello Everybody:

                Just wanted to thank you for the support you’ve shown my blog in recent years and update you on where I’ve been.

                To quote a late friend who paraphrased an old saying by Vince Lombardi: “I’ve been scribing to daylight.”

                And I’d be most appreciative if you checked out my writing at the following places, either online or in print.

                In September, I began writing a sports column for the Rochester Business Journal, and although RBJ deals primarily with local and national business topics, I’ve had free reign to write about a variety of subjects from the world of sports – everything from catching up with a young man who spent the summer as the Yankees bat boy to the angst of being a Bills fan. So, please give me a read there, if you will. New columns are posted every Thursday afternoon for free at Just go to that site, then scroll down to the icon at the bottom of the page featuring my smiling face.

                You also can read my weekly views on Buffalo Bills games at WROC TV-8’s website: I also do a two-minute, on-air recap on their 11 p.m. newscast. (Yes, I know, they let anybody on television these days, even an ink-stained wretch like me. ;-)

                Since July, I’ve been working as the AFC East correspondent for USA Today SportsWeekly. I provide news and notes and predictions on the division’s four teams, including the aforementioned Bills.

                I also continue to be a regular contributor to the Baseball Hall of Fame’s bimonthly magazine, “Memories and Dreams.” That’s a true labor of love for this baseball historian.

                I’m currently working on two more books scheduled for publication next fall. They will up the total number of books I’ve contributed to as a writer, editor or both to 25.

                Additionally, I continue to freelance for other publications, websites, etc. and volunteer for a number of organizations, including the Rochester Press-Radio Club Children’s Charities, Camp Good Days and Special Times, the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Rochester and the Rochester Baseball Historical Society.

                And my favorite pastime remains being a husband, father and brand-new grandfather.

                So, again, thanks for visiting my blog, and please check out my story-telling at the above venues or in your local bookstore or library.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

This man would solve all the Yankees woes

If I’m the Steinbrenner boys, I would hit the free agency market in the off-season and throw a Brink’s-armored-tuck-load of money at the most coveted person out there. And I would give him a long-term contract, then, back off and let him do his thing.

                To me, the most coveted person in baseball – and the guy who could really fix what ails the Bronx Geezers – is none other than Mr. Moneyball himself, Billy Beane.

                The Oakland A’s general manager continues to astound with his ability to get the most out of the least. Imagine the damage he could do if he had the New York Yankees endless supply of money to throw around.

                The Pinstripes’ current problems are the result of poor decisions by GM Brian Cashman and terrible performances by a scouting and player development staff that has whiffed more than Adam Dunn in recent years. The Yankes are in this pickle because of their inability to identify and develop talent the way they did in the 1990s when they harvested a bumper crop of players, including first-ballot Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, and perennial All-Stars Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Andy Pettitte.

                The recent reacquisition of Alfonso Soriano was another desperation move. Yes, Soriano (17 homers, 51 RBI) will add some punch to an anemic lineup and provide much-needed protection for the Yankees only true hitting star, Robinson Cano. But Soriano is 37 years old, and like virtually every player on the current roster, he is on the other side of the hill.

                And speaking of players over-the-hill, you have to wonder about Yankees ace CC Sabathia. The heretofore dependable lefty workhorse has yielded seven runs in three consecutive starts and leads the American League in hits and earned runs allowed. For the first time in his 13-year career, Sabathia is giving up more than a hit an inning (157 in 147). He’s only 33, but I’m beginning to wonder if he’s injured or the wear-and-tear of pitching has finally caught up to him.

                If he can’t snap out of this, the Yankees will have a tough time finishing .500 this season. And, don’t forget, they are on the hook with Sabathia’s huge contract through 2016.

                Which brings me back to Beane, who wisely eschews long-term contracts for pitchers. I don’t know if he would come, but it’s worth a shot. And if you can’t get him, there are Moneyball acolytes out there who recognize the true value of players and would love to say they were the architect who resurrected the most prestigious franchise in all of sports.
               The Bills open camp Sunday night at 6. Please check out my pre-camp column at WROC TV-8's site -

Monday, June 17, 2013

Opining on Mickleson, EJ Manuel, volunteerism, etc.

With four major victories and 41 wins on the PGA Tour, there’s no disputing that Phil Mickelson has had a great, great golf career. Yet, when all is said and done, Lefty’s legacy will be one of what might have been.

He’s come oh, so close to establishing himself as one of the best to ever swing a club.

                Sunday, Mickelson came up just short again, finishing second in the U.S. Open for the sixth time. Hard-luck Phil also has two other runner-up finishes at majors. A couple shots here and there and he would be mentioned in the same breath as the elite of the elite.

                Interestingly, Mickelson’s is nowhere near the top of the leaderboard when it comes to second-place finishes in majors. The man with the most silver medals in the big tournaments is none other than the Golden Bear himself, Jack Nicklaus, with 19.

                Big Jack finished second at the U.S. Open a record seven times, but he also won America’s national championship tournament four times, which is four more times than Phil has.

                Nicklaus, of course, also holds the record for most major victories, with 18. Just think about that for a minute. Had he dropped a few more putts, he’d be holding an even bigger major cushion over Tiger Woods, who’s been stuck at 14 since 2008.
                If EJ Manuel were to win the starting quarterback job in training camp, he would become the first Bills rookie to start at the position since Jim Kelly in 1986. And Kelly, we should point out, was 26 at the time, having spent two seasons in the old United States Football League. I think Kevin Kolb has a slight edge as of now, but with Tavares Jackson out of the picture, EJ will get ample opportunity to make his case at St. John Fisher College and during exhibition games.


                Two of my favorite volunteer events are the Challenger Baseball World Series and the Rochester Press-Radio Club Day of Champions Children’s Charities Dinner.

                 I participated in my 19th Challenger event Saturday morning at Frontier Field and walked away inspired once more. The highlight of the morning was watching a kid being led around the bases by a “buddy” and a seeing-eye dog. Close to 300 kids participated and there were almost as many volunteers assisting them. As I wrote on Facebook, “Every kid got a hit. Every kid scored a run. And every kid demonstrated the triumph of the human spirit.”

                The sixty-fourth Day of Champions dinner will be held tomorrow night at the Riverside Convention Center, and we’ve sold more than 1,000 tickets to black-tie gala. I helped edit the 72-page dinner program, will coordinate the pre-dinner press conference, then stage a question-and-answer session on stage with this year’s headliner, Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl quarterback. We’ve gone to the Q-and-A format the past two dinners with Eli Manning and Clay Matthews, and it’s been well-received. Looking forward to meeting Colin, who seems like a sincere young man who’s on the verge of super-stardom in the NFL.

                I’m proud to work with such a dedicated group of volunteers, headed by Pat Grover, Mike Kauffman and Keith Ryan. Our core group has been in place for about a decade, in which time we’ve raised more than a half-a-million dollars for local charities.


                The best story in minor league baseball – perhaps in all of baseball – this season has been unfolding in Rochester. Chris Colabello, the 29-year-old first baseman who toiled in the independent leagues for seven years before catching a break, continues to own International League pitchers. Through 56 games, Chris is hitting .369 with 21 doubles, 14 home runs and 50 RBI. I was so pleased to see him receive a call-up to the Minnesota Twins last month. He’s actually yo-yoed three times between Triple-A and the bigs so far, and probably will be up-and-down again several more times. I just wish the Twins would call him up and let him play 10 straight games to see if he can hit consistently on the big-league level.


                Here’s another sign the apocalypse is upon us: USC football coach Lane Kiffin recently offered a scholarship to an eighth-grader.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Opining on sport's rich and famous, Bills GM Buddy Nix's legacy, Donovan McNabb's jersey retirement and more

Spraying opinions to all fields:
·         Sports Illustrated’s “Fortunate 50” list of the highest-paid American athletes is out and the leader is boxer Floyd Mayweather at close to $90 mil. Very surprising, considering the Sweet Science’s dramatic decline in popularity. There apparently still are big bucks to be made in close-circuit TV contracts – which explains where the lion’s share of Mayweather’s money came from. He didn’t earn a single dollar in endorsements, which, again, speaks to boxing’s precipitous decline.

Rounding out the Top 10 were LeBron James, Drew Brees, Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickleson, Derrick Rose, Peyton Manning, Alex Rodriguez and Zack Greinke.

The Top 50 featured 25 baseball players – including four Yankees – 13 NBA players and only eight NFL players, despite the fact pro football is by far the most popular sport in the land.

Given Tiger’s rebound from his personal problems I wouldn’t be surprised to see him regain the No. 1 spot he’s had a strangle-hold on for several years.

The Bills have a representative on the list. Defensive end Mario Williams ranks No. 18 with his $50-million signing bonus. Who says the Bills are cheap?

Interestingly, to make this exclusive fraternity you had to earn – and I use that word “earn” loosely in dishonor of A-Rod – at least $18,2000,000 – which is what Cubs slugger Alfonso Soriano pocketed last year.

·         As evidenced by the hiring of coach Chan Gailey, the foolish contract extension of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, some big whiffs in the draft and free agency and a 16-32 won-lost record, Buddy Nix’s legacy as the Bills general manager is pretty underwhelming. But final grades can’t be issued for another couple of years. The old scout’s brief tenure as the man in charge of Buffalo’s football operations could receive a big boost if quarterback EJ Manuel and coach Doug Marrone pan out. Of course, those are big “if’s.”

·         I think it’s great that Syracuse University is going to retire the No. 5 football jersey worn by Donovan McNabb, the greatest quarterback in Orange history. His number will be hung from the rafters along with the 44 of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little, the 39 of fullback Larry Csonka and the 88 of tight end John Mackey. I hope someday No. 47 also will be retired. It was worn with distinction by Little Joe Morris, who remains the all-time leading rusher in the school’s storied history.

·         We were supposed to tape an interview with Rochester Red Wings first baseman Chris Colabello yesterday for the baseball radio show I co-host on WYSL, but some extra hitting practice prevented that from happening. Chris is a class act who called later to apologize. The additional BP obviously paid huge dividends as Chris clubbed his 9th and 10th home runs of the season. The Wings are struggling with just 15 wins in their first 40 games, but Colabello has been a bright spot, and one of the true feel-good stories of minor-league baseball. Here is a guy who is 29 years old and toiled in the independent leagues for seven seasons. He could have given up on the dream many times in recent years, but persevered and now is looking at a possible promotion to the Minnesota Twins. I love these kind of stories and will be rooting for him to make it to big leagues.

·         Just in case you want to start filling out your 2014 NCAA basketball brackets early, Joe Lunardi has the SU basketball team as the No. 2 seed in the Midwest.     

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Behind the book-writing process with rock legend Lou Gramm

As I mentioned on my Facebook post this morning, my right wrist is sore from signing so many books last night at the launch of Lou Gramm’s “Juke Box Hero” at the Monroe Community College Theatre. Like another rocker once sang, “It hurts so good.”

                I’ve been blessed to do many booksignings in my time, but none as successful as this one. It clearly speaks to the popularity of Rochester’s own “Juke Box Hero” and the lasting impact of his music. The love for Lou was palpable in that Theatre and it crossed generations as parents who rocked to Lou’s music three decades ago were accompanied by children who have just discovered his classic rock.

                I’ve also been blessed to collaborate with good people in some of my recent books. Although they rose to the top of different professions, Lou, major league baseball star Johnny Antonelli and Buffalo Bills legend Steve Tasker took somewhat similar paths. Despite their fame and fortune, they remained true to their humble, small-town roots. They may have left their old neighborhoods, but their old neighborhoods never left them. They never forgot the people nor places that helped them realize their dreams.

                I’ve always been fascinated about people’s journeys. I’m intrigued by the circumstances and people that shaped them – for better and worse – along the way. I equate being a ghost writer to being the Sherpa that leads the mountain climbers to the summit and safely back down to base camp.

                It’s been about two years since I took Lou to lunch and convinced him that he had a powerful story to tell and that the timing for telling it was right. We’d meet once a week for a few hours and I would ask him to recount specific events and people. Some of the sessions were emotional as I probed difficult subjects. Ultimately, I wanted the book to be an honest recounting of Lou’s life and fortunately Lou agreed.

                The goal was not to be one of these salacious, sensational tell-alls, like too many rock memoirs. We definitely delved into the trappings of wealth and fame that can overwhelm a person at a young age. And how life as a rock star isn’t always as glamorous as it might look from the outside. But to have told this in the manner of say a Keith Richards would have been inaccurate and disingenuous. It would not have been true to Lou.

                The best compliment I’ve received about the Gramm and Antonelli books is that they are conversational, that the reader feels as if the subject has pulled up a chair and is speaking to them one-on-one. “Here, let me tell you my story.”

                 People ask me about capturing voice and it is a difficult thing to explain. I think it’s something you develop from hours upon hours of interviewing a person and truly listening to not only what they are saying but how they say it. You learn their phraseology, their personal story-telling technique, and you attempt to tell it in their words, not yours.

                I’m proud of the finished product. I’m biased but I think it is a candid, compelling story that Lou tells. Hopefully, it takes readers behind the scenes and into the head of one of rock’s great singers and songwriters.

                Ultimately, I see it as a story of dreams and nightmares and redemption. 

                I’m thankful that it has risen to the third bestselling rock book on and that our publisher has just ordered a second printing.

                And I’m grateful that Lou trusted me to help him bare his soul and recount a life journey that wound up being inspiring on several levels.