Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Real Tales of the Boardwalk Empire

Years ago my brother was a big collector of sports memorabilia and we went down to this big show in Atlantic City with a couple of his friends. They were teenagers at the time and too young to go to the casino. They had all the living 500 home run hitters at the time. Ted Williams, Joe D, Eddie Matthews, Willie Mays and Hammering Hank. It was in the Atlantic City convention center. Now my brother had a photo with all of them on it that he was bringing up to get signed. But he also had a boxing glove that he was collecting all of the signatures of the heavyweight champs. The line for the baseball guys was about a thousand people long. I mean you had Joe D and Teddy Ballgame. So he went to wait on that line. But he sent me to the line where they had the boxing guys.

Which had nobody on it.

It was a side table behind a curtain with Larry Holmes, Floyd Patterson, Ezzard Charles, Leon Spinks and of course Smokin' Joe Frazier. I got the glove signed and just hung around bullshitting with the champs. Larry Holmes was totally out of it. He was like Giggy the dog that Lisa Vanderpump carries around on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Larry didn't say shit. I don't know if he was punch drunk or just fucking with me. Periodically he would lean forward and we would all go "Yeah Champ?" and he would say "I like eggs." It was  a trip. Joe Frazier would go nuts. "Waz up with you dumb fuck. You senile or just dumb." Joe was enjoying busting balls with everyone. He goes and picks up a big black Hefty Garbage Bag and goes "Hey Leon look it's your Mama's underpants." Leon would just smile his gap tooth smile and shake his head. It was brilliant.

I fell into a conversation with Joe and he was one cool guy talking to an everyday kind of guy like me. They were bored out of their skull but since the promoter was paying them they hung out until closing.

I had to tell Joe of my favorite memory of him. He said "What the Trilla in Manila or the first Ali fight in the Garden?" I said to him "No the Mike Douglas show." And he burst out laughing. "Fuck you son."

You see I remember this one time Ryan O'Neal was pumping this boxing movie he was in, I think it was called "The Champ" or something like that there. He was going on and on about it and how hard he trained and kinds of crap like that. So they set up a ring in the street and got a young up and coming Philly fighter to spar with him. That fighter was Joe Frazier.

So they ring the bell and Ryan is dancing all around and acting like a putz and Joe is just standing there and blocking punches. Never threw a left. At the end of the round O'Neal starts jumping around like he won the Olympics or something. Joe just cashed his check.

He loved to bullshit about that. We all were laughing and busting balls. He was a great guy. Humble and unassuming.  A real sports hero.

1 comment:

William said...

Joe Frazier always seemed like a good guy. Those three fights with Ali will never be topped. That was the high point of boxing. The fact that he took all those punches and didn't end up punchy is itself a remarkable achievement.......I guess Foreman is the big winner from that era. He ended up with all his marbles, millions from the grill, and even the title again. No need to show up at autograph shows.......DiMaggio and Mantle made far more from autograph shows than from baseball. Pity Honus Wagner or Mel Ott. Too old for free agency and didn't live long enough for autograph shows.