Tommy DeeEvery Spring since 1993 a group of my father’s longtime friends and their sons have gathered together in what we’ve always called “The 6th Borough,” Yonkers, NY to celebrate the birth of the baseball season. We call it “Bagels and Baseball” because we start early with a carb-filled foundation of bagels although by noon the sound of beers cracking are frequent as the mentions of Mickey Mantle, Tom Seaver and the profanities slung towards Walter O’Malley.
I’ve been involved for more than several years now and it’s the highlight of the early season for me for sure. The term “hope springs eternal” seems fitting in this case more so than any. Once you’re in the doors and you have the chance to listen to stories from the old Polo Grounds, an analytic breakdown of the career of Kenny Lofton or have an open debate whether Bernie Williams is a Hall of Famer or not, you can’t help but appreciate the celebration of baseball in its simplest and purest form.
Over the past few years we’ve been honored by the presence of Bob Wolff, a friend of the gathering’s organizer Mr. John Brennan. On this day, Mr. Wolff was fresh off of spending his night at the World’s Most Famous Arena hanging with other Knicks legends celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Knicks 1973 championship team. The rest of the day was about baseball, as that’s obviously why we were there. Mr. Wolff recalled his days as a broadcaster and answered questions from the near 50 people in the room. He was asked what Ted Williams was like as he was the old Washington Senators announcer when Williams was manager. Williams was cranky in his post playing days, Mr.Wolff described, and the way he treated the media and players made Mike Rice sound like an alter boy.
I sneaked over to grab a word with Mr. Wolff to get his thoughts on the evening and how he found the 73 team. Mr. Wolff will be 93 in November. The topic quickly switched to Carmelo Anthony a player often criticized for being a selfish player, ironic considering the reputation of the 1973 Knicks, a team world famous for their unselfishness. If the 1970 Knicks are one of the greatest “teams” in NBA history, the 73 edition isn’t far behind. But, as most fans know, they were a team that no “expert” felt could be successful because of their backcourt: Clyde Frazier and Earl Monroe. Both players had incredible talent but, the experts felt, needed the ball in their hands to be a championship caliber team. Both players proved the experts wrong.
Fast forward 40 years and the same has been said about Anthony, an incredibly gifted player who hasn’t had the success in the NBA from a playoff point of view as his peers Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant has. It’s been his biggest flaw according to experts and it’s something that he needs to overcome in order to gain the respect many feel he deserves in a town where respect doesn’t come easy, but when it does it quickly turns into legacy. Imagine the live Pearl and Clyde have led. Imagine a night like Friday, when a man with more NBA titles than fingers, Phil Jackson, humbly folds himself back into the team mix and is actually overshadowed by they aura of his surroundings.
This is what Carmelo craves. This is why he wanted to be here.
I asked Mr. Wolff what the 73 team thought of Melo and he said very simply yet directly, ”They think he’s becoming a better player and teammate.”
They’d know, wouldn’t they?