Maury Z. Levy

Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

The Selling of Mike Schmidt

In Business Philadelphia on September 16, 2009 at 11:44 am

How the Phillies’ all-time home run hero ended up being king of the hoagies.

By Maury Z. Levy

THE CHEERING HAS BEEN OVER FOR OVER A YEAR now. And the booing, that callous cacophony that alternately drove him to his best and drove him to the brink, is but a bitter memory. Now, out here in the real world where fair trade weighs heavier than foul balls, it is time for Mike Schmidt to wake up and smell the onions. Mike Schmidt, one of the best baseball players who ever lived, one of the greatest natural athletes in the history of sport, has had old number 20 retired, thank you very much, and is now selling hoagies in Richboro.

There is something about that that makes Mike Schmidt proud and something that makes him angry. Bo Jackson, who sells Nikes out the
wazoo, will never hit as many home runs as Mike Schmidt, but he’s on television every three minutes. Geez, even Tim McCarver, a nice guy but an average baseball player, beat Mike Schmidt out for a job as a color analyst on network TV. Tim McCarver couldn’t hold Schmidt’s bat when they played together in that championship season, but Tim McCarver, who does shtick, who tells bad jokes, who makes corny puns, is at network now.

And Lenny Dykstra, who’s had a good year or two as a baseball player, but is a pig of a man, will make more than Mike Schmidt ever made. And he will show up on David Letterman. And he will, like former felon Pete Rose, have kids across America sliding head first and getting dirty and learning how to spit and curse and dribble down their shirts.

But what about Mike Schmidt? What about the man with all the Gold Gloves? What about the man who hit more home runs than almost anyone else on the planet? What about everybody’s All-American? Tomorrow, he will be in the Hall of Fame. Today, he is selling hoagies in Richboro. He just doesn’t understand it. Then again, maybe he does.

“I DON’T LIKE COMPARISONS,” SCHMIDT SAYS.
”But I would think that my career speaks for itself. My image speaks for itself. My track record speaks for itself. My honesty, integrity, family life, all the things I’ve ever stood for and accomplished in my career are marketable.

“Occasionally, I get a little jealous that I’m not as easily marketable as an Andre Agassi, because he’s not married, he wears that off-the-wall shit, and he can do whatever he wants. There are a lot of people who can get away with doing things that make me a little jealous, things that I never did or can’t do now to help market myself.

“I’m marketable to Dean Witter and to banks and things like that. I’m marketable for the honest family man in me. And I have the local milk commercials and the Chevy spots. But I’m not a rebel. I’m not a guy who came back from drug addiction. I’m not a guy that people are lined up to write a book about because I spent two years in prison. Read the rest of this entry »

Lynne Abraham is the Best Man We’ve Got!

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on September 16, 2009 at 1:39 am

Philly DA

SHE WAS VERY DEFINITELY DEAD. There was a bullet in her back. It had been there for two weeks. Today she died. Two cops brought her in from the hospital. They had been trying to keep her alive since they found her shot in a speakeasy with a Saturday Night Special. They carried her in on a stretcher and dumped her down on a tray. A man with a Polaroid camera hurried around to take pictures. They would go in the official morgue file, probably under a number because no one knew her name.

She was a dark black woman who looked like she was in her 40s. She was built big. When she was alive, she had very large breasts. Now that the life fluids were out of them, they were just large sacks drooping down both sides of her chest. The assistant medical examiner, trying to get a look at a scar on her side, pushed the right breast up and over back onto the chest, packing it firm with his hands so it would stay in place, the same way the guy behind the delicatessen counter makes a cold roast beef sandwich.

He rolled her over on her side and saw the hole in her back. “There’s our bullet,” he said, sticking his finger in the hole to try to get it out. “Son of a bitch won’t move.”

Lynne Abraham stepped closer. “Let me try it,” she said. She took off her lumber jacket and tossed it on the table. She tucked her Temple University T-shirt into her straight-legged jeans and went to work. Between the two of them, they got the bullet out. Lynne Abraham stepped back to get a paper towel. Some of the blood that now covered her index finger had dripped down on her white sneakers with the pointy toes.

It was a beautiful Sunday outside the morgue. The sun was strong and it was getting downright balmy. It was a nice day for a bike ride in the park. But the executive director of the Redevelopment Authority preferred spending her Sunday living with the dead. It was just force of habit. It wasn’t so long ago that she spent a good deal of time down here, as a top assistant district attorney in the homicide division. She would come down and watch autopsies. And since she had some background in forensic medicine, she might even help in some of them. Sometimes she found out more than the medical examiner. She always found out more than the cops.

She’d go from the morgue to the crime scene and dig up her own witnesses, collect her own evidence and prepare a closed case. It was her style, and she just can’t shake it.

A couple of hours ago, she was reading over proposals for the redevelopment of Washington Square West. Now she is walking in the refrigerator, a giant cold storage cabinet for unburied dead people on aluminum tables. She walks down the aisle and rolls them out like cheese trays, examining the wounds, figuring out the angle of entry of the bullet. She doesn’t want to get stale on this stuff. She is, after all, a political appointee. And she knows very well that one day she could be shipped right back to the DA’s office quicker than you could say Frank Rizzo.   Read the rest of this entry »

Mr. Levy Goes to Washington

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on September 15, 2009 at 11:39 pm

By Maury Z. Levy

For a minute there, I was a household word. I spoke to a friend of mine who was working out on the coast for a week. “Hey,” I told her, “you missed my big splash in Washington.”

“Like hell,” she said, “I saw you on two different networks here in L. A.
I loved the green suit.”

And the next day, in the New York Times story, I was the only member of the press mentioned, which, of 
course, finally made me an official 
person. And then I got home to find myself on the front page of the Bulletin. So much for stardom.

I had been called a few weeks earlier by somebody on Walter Mondale’s staff. Walter Mondale is the senator from Minnesota who is thinking of maybe running for President. Anyway, this person said that Mondale had just finished reading my story on black market adoptions [“The Baby Peddlers,” February]. The aide said that Mondale was very impressed and disturbed by the story and that, as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Youth, he was very interested in making a federal case out of it. And he wanted me to help him.

Having ducked the Vietnam war, I figured it was the least I could do for my country. I gave Mondale the names and phone numbers of many of the sources in my story, and even a few who weren’t in the story. And I was asked if I would be willing to come down to Washington myself to 
testify, if needed. I, of course, said 
yes. I thought it would be nice to see the cherry blossoms this time of year.

What I saw was the inside of a 
television studio. Well, it wasn’t a 
real television studio. It was actually this giant hearing room on the fourth floor of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, lighted like the testimony scene in Godfather II. What had 
promised to be a nice little hearing in front of some concerned senators had turned into the biggest public circus since Watergate. I just wish they had told me about it. I would have tried to bring Maureen Dean to sit in back of me.

There were a half-dozen television film cameras on tripods and a few more hand-held jobs. And there were all these flash cameras and dozens of people with pencils.

I should have known better. My formal request to testify carried a command with it: “Subcommittee rules require that you submit 100 copies of your prepared written 
statement.” I called them down in Mondale’s office and asked them why they would want 100 copies of anything. I was told they expected to get a lot of press mileage out of this 
thing.

When I walked into the hearing 
room, blinded by the light, I was ushered to the witness row. It was 
hardly impressive. There were a couple of people from my story there and a lawyer and a couple of other press people who’d done some reporting on the subject.

“This is it?” I asked one of the aides. “This is the best you could 
do?”

“Well,” she said, “we’d hoped to have more time to find more people and more evidence, but we found out 
another subcommittee was planning to investigate the adoption hustles and we just didn’t want to get scooped on this thing. You know how it is.”

Yeah, I knew how it was, all right. Unfortunately, I’d gone through the same number when 1 was getting my story together. It made me pretty sick then, too. This is supposed to be public service. We’re talking about 
the lives of infants, about the life savings of parents. And there are just 
times like that in this business when you have to throw all the competitive bullshit aside and try to help people. But it just doesn’t work that way.

Before our story came out, Channel 10 here ran a series on black market adoption practices. Fine. There was only so much they could do. And we wanted to take our story passed that, to get more depth and fresher information. We called the people at Channel 10 and asked for their cooperation. The news director there let us see the series again. That was appreciated and credited several times in our story. But the reporter who put the thing together, one Jim Walker, withheld information. He had a letter from a lawyer that had been sent to an adoptive 
parent. The parent told us we could use the letter in the story, but that she had given her only copy to Walker. But Walker wouldn’t give it to us. He told us he thought he’d worked 
longer on the story than we had, and 
that he got it first. So much for public service.

Anyway, back to Washington, which at this point was starting to look more like Hollywood. As each witness got up and told of the further atrocities of the baby-peddling racket, the cameras rolled and the pencils were pushed. Various senators on the committee—Mondale, Randolph, Taft 
and others each made their official 
statements for the record. Each was appalled, of course, and each wanted some federal legislation to halt the practice.

Now, this is not to say their intentions weren’t honorable. It’s just to say that I was a little annoyed to have found myself to be an unwitting 
member of the circus troupe. If the honorable senators wanted to get themselves some good PR by “exposing” 
this thing on every television station and newspaper front page in the 
country, that’s their business. I don’t 
approve of it, but I’m just one 
humble taxpayer. What I am not is a PR man. There are times when I 
still consider myself a journalist. And the two are not to be confused.

I had a very nice written statement 
prepared for the senators. And 100 people had copies of it. And I threw the thing away and decided to ad lib. I told them of some of the practices we found in Philadelphia, how lawyers and their agents hung out 
in front of pregnancy-testing clinics using a lot of money to entice girls 
into selling their babies. And I told 
them the going price for a baby here was $17,000 now. And that’s the stuff that made the networks, and that’s the stuff that made the front page because that’s the stuff that was the good copy.

The senators didn’t look too happy when I told them, in front of those cameras and pencils, that I thought the whole thing was pretty much of a waste, that there was next to nothing that could be done by the federal legislation they were proposing because, when you got to the bottom line, baby peddling had little to do with the feds. It was a dirty-dealing 
practice consummated in some dark hallways of local hospitals, okayed by local judges who weren’t much up to investigating or asking questions. And the only thing federal legislation would really do is tighten the market a little and drive the prices even higher.

But nobody wanted to hear that. It wasn’t what they were there for. It wasn’t the kind of comment that would make them look good to the folks back home. So they chose to 
ignore it. And it will remain buried forever somewhere in the back pages of the Congressional Record. But that’s show biz. I only wished they had told me about their little road show before. If I had known I was going to be such a big TV star, I would have at least had my nose fixed.

The Baby Peddlers

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on September 15, 2009 at 11:38 pm

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[Author’s note: This story led to major Congressional hearings in DC, led by Sen. Walter Mondale. The hearings resulted in new legislation. The story also won some awards.]

SHE ALWAYS THOUGHT it was a figure of speech. She’d hoped that one bearing her name wouldn’t have to lose its life. They were such lovable little things, so round and soft and white. But deep in the dawning of a cold Monday morning, the rabbit died. Crazy rabbit.

It created certain problems because Carrie and Jimmy weren’t married, even though they had told all of their relatives and most of their friends that they were, just to avoid the hassles. But when Jimmy found out about the baby, he didn’t exactly run out of the apartment to buy a box of cigars. He just ran out.

Carrie was 20 years old, a very thin girl with very small bones and very blue eyes and a head of blonde hair that was long and straight and fine. She didn’t tell the doctor at the clinic about her drug problem, even when he asked her about the scar across her right wrist. She didn’t want him to know that she’d been committed twice. She didn’t want them taking this baby away from her.

The thought of abortion had crossed her mind. It had certainly lodged in Jimmy’s. Carrie had always been pro-abortion too. In theory, for somebody else maybe. But this was her baby growing inside and she was going to have it and she was going to keep it and she was going to mother it. And then the lawyer called.

Rob and Sharon Josephson (not their real names) were in their late 20s. They’d been married six years. Rob had gone to Drexel and was working now for Westinghouse. Sharon had gone to Penn and then transferred out to Temple when the money got tight. She taught third grade now not far from where they lived in a small single home in Pine Valley.

They’d been trying to have a baby for over four years now. They’d spent a lot of time in their bedroom and a lot of time in doctors’ offices finding out why the stuff in the bedroom wasn’t working. And when it became clear that they couldn’t have a baby born to them, they decided to adopt one.

They started by calling some local adoption agencies. They were told that there were no healthy white infants available, and that even if one came up, they’d be down very far on a list of people who’d been waiting for months and years.

They tried half a dozen other agencies and got pretty much the same answer. They were getting very frustrated at the whole process. And then, late one night, this lawyer called.

THE LAWYER TOLD CARRIE that he’d gotten her name from “a friend of mine.” He thought maybe he could help her, since he understood she wasn’t going to abort the baby. “We’ve got some very fine parents who’d really love to have a baby like yours,” he told her. “They’d give it a very good home.”

Carrie told him she wanted to keep the baby. “Look,” he told her, “I know more about you than you think. I know you’re not   Read the rest of this entry »

Waiting for the Crash

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on September 15, 2009 at 6:53 pm

If the men who bring the planes in
at Philadelphia International
say it’s unsafe,
maybe we should listen.

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[Author’s note: The city of Philadelphia didn’t want me to do this story. I had to go undercover as an air traffic controller trainee to get access. The story cost the city many millions of dollars in new systems. And it won some awards. And, oh yes, it made the airport safe.]

LUCKY FOR US the sky is big. A few Saturdays ago, at that airport they call Philadelphia International, the radar went out. Not just the radar for one plane, the radar for the whole airport. Of course, those things happen at other airports. That’s why most major terminals —and Philadelphia is considered a very major terminal—have backup radar systems to kick on in an emergency like this. But a few Saturdays ago, at Philadelphia International, the emergency system didn’t kick on. It was dead.

Up in the sky, for a period of almost 15 minutes, there were 15 major aircraft, by official count, with maybe around a hundred people on each one, with maybe a couple of million people underneath them. The pilots of these planes have their instructions for situations like this. They are to keep their eyes open. And their fingers crossed.

There was that day, if you work it out with the complicated mathematics of vectors, the possibility of a number of different mid-air collisions. The people who keep track of these things, the people who watch the radar scopes at Philadelphia International, the people who are responsible for bringing these planes down and getting them back up again, are called air traffic controllers. And the air traffic controllers at Philadelphia International are not too happy a crew right now.

One of them, one of the guys who was in the radar room when the radar went out, had given up cigarettes over a year ago. He is now smoking two packs a day. We spoke to him and we managed to speak to a couple dozen of his co-workers—from fresh trainees to guys who’ve been there close to 20 years. They were all disgruntled, not just over the day the radar went out, but over conditions in general. The descriptions in this story of what goes on at Philadelphia International, of what the public never sees or knows about, are theirs. They agreed to let us put them on tape. And we agreed to keep most of their names out of this story. These guys are afraid for more than just the safety of the airport. They are afraid for their jobs.

“WHEN THE RADAR WENT OUT,” one of them says, “I’d just spotted two planes on converging courses at the same altitude. I couldn’t get in touch with those planes. I called the Wilmington airport and asked them to try to do it, but they were busy. And all the time I could picture that last vision of the scope, with 100 people on each airplane. And I could see the two planes coming together, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.”

Luckily, and it was pure luck, the two planes just missed each other because, as the air controllers say, the sky is big.

“All we had,” another controller says, “were two radios on battery power. Only one frequency was usable. There are 20 or Read the rest of this entry »

The Lucky Ones: Vietnam’s Saddest Casualties

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on September 15, 2009 at 5:28 pm

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THE BOY HUONG doesn’t have a mouth where his mouth is supposed to be. It is a hole, a very wide one where lips have been shaped from scar tissue to run all the way across his face. Twenty-one operations in two years have done that. Yet it’s only the beginning. The boy Huong is taking it all pretty well. He lives in Southamp­ton in Bucks County now, which is a long way from Vietnam where he lost his mouth.

He was just 16, American age. In Vietnam, where things work in different ways, it would have been the 17th anniversary of his birth. In Vietnam, though, where things work in different ways, it might also have been the second anniversary of his death.

In the 23rd year of our lightning campaign in Vietnam, the boy Huong lost both his parents. They weren’t soldiers and they weren’t Viet Cong, they were farmers and they were dead. There are no reports on how they died. The body count sheets just list numbers.

The orphanage was in Danang. The boy Huong took it well. Being without parents is not a novel thing in Vietnam. He made friends at the orphanage, but he was still a shy 14-year-old, known to go off by himself. One morning when the sun was shining he got up early and went for a walk alone. He kicked at the dust in the fields that used to be fertile. He picked up a small object and shook off the dust. It felt hard as he squeezed it in his bony fingers. It was a strange toy because it didn’t seem to do anything. He wanted to make it work, so he put it be­tween his teeth and bit down very hard.

The explosion blew away his teeth and his lips and destroyed half of his chin and part of his tongue. There is a lesson for all you parents in this. Don’t let your kids pick up blasting caps left behind by careless soldiers.

The boy Huong has new parents now, Lydia and Leon Carlin of Southampton. They give him love and a good home and food and clothing. But Bui Ngoc Huong, his full name. still likes some touches of home.

“One morning,” Lydia Carlin remembers, “Huong came for breakfast wearing a very used pair of dungarees, one of the half dozen things he had brought from Vietnam. ‘These,’ he explained in a language neither Vietnamese nor English, but wholly human, ‘are the pants I was wearing the day I was hurt.’ Then, with pantomime and a few words of English, he showed how he picked up the percussion cap and attempted to unscrew it with his teeth. Then the explosion, then his agonized contortions on the ground, and then the blood.”

FOUR YEARS AGO, Lydia Carlin was listening to a late night radio talk show. The man being interviewed was Dr. Herbert Needleman, a Philadelphia psychiatrist with the strange idea that a small group of American profes­sionals could help save the children of Vietnam. What Lydia Carlin couldn’t see on the radio were the pictures that Herb Needleman brought with him, pictures taken in Vietnam of the war’s children, their faces melted away by napalm and white phosphorous, their bodies busted by bombs.   Read the rest of this entry »

Raquel Welch: The Playboy Fashion Guide Interview

In Playboy magazine and the Playboy Guides (1979-1989) on September 15, 2009 at 5:22 pm

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There are those who say Raquel Welch is really fantastic-looking for someone who is 42. That’s not true. Raquel Welch is fantastic-looking, period. Though she brushes the compliment aside, she has been called the most beautiful woman in the world. Her vital statistics? She is 5’6″ and has an I.Q. over 140.

She was born in Chicago as Jo-Raquel Tejada, the daughter of a Bolivian-born immigrant who became an engineer. When she was two, the family moved to San Diego and later to La Jolla, where she went to high school. Early on, she was singing and dancing and acting in neigh­borhood theaters. She won a drama schol­arship to San Diego State, where she married her high school sweetheart, Jim Welch. It was a short marriage, which begat two children.

Raquel became a tireless single work­ing mother who fed her kids off bit movie parts. Her first film role of note was in One Million Years B.C., a 1966 epic that wasn’t nominated for much of anything. She went on to do some 30 other films, with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Jim Brown. She put together a nightclub act, did a few TV specials, yet many critics still didn’t take her seriously.

Then, late last year, her husband and business partner, French journalist Andri Weinfeld, helped land her a job on Broadway. She replaced Lauren Bacall for a short stint in the Tony Award-winning Woman of the Year. The critics raved and Bacall ranted. Raquel Welch was to be taken very seriously indeed.

We spoke with her in New York as she was nailing down the deal that would return her to Broadway. She wore leather and suede. We wore a dazed look. She was breathtaking and bright. After we finished a long talk about America’s role in El Salvador, we went on to other important topics. The conversation went like this:

PLAYBOY: What’s attractive in a man? What do you notice first?

WELCH: His face. It says so many things, even before the man himself says anything. Then I’ll watch the way a man moves, the way he carries himself. That’s more important than any individual part.

PLAYBOY: And the face is really the only individual part you notice?

WELCH: Well, maybe not just the face. My husband Andre has a great French ass.

PLAYBOY: What’s a French ass?

WELCH: Oh, generally high and round.

PLAYBOY: And what’s an American ass?

WELCH: Low and a bit droopy.

PLAYBOY: Okay, I won’t get up. What role, then, do clothes play? Do you notice what a man is wearing?

WELCH: Yes, I do, but their role depends on the man, Woody Allen, for instance, always looks like clothes are unimportant to him. He gives the impression that he’s making a token effort, but he’s not going to relinquish comfort. He puts incongruous things together—like tennis shoes with a tux—and there’s great humor in that, which says something very definite about personal style. In Woody’s case, it brings out maternal nurturing instincts in most women.

PLAYBOY: And it’s a look, right?   Read the rest of this entry »

Mike Wallace: The Playboy Electronics Guide Interview

In Playboy magazine and the Playboy Guides (1979-1989) on September 15, 2009 at 3:36 pm

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[Author’s note: I had the chickenpox the day I did this interview. I was running 103 degree fever and looked like a spotted owl. But, the show goes on.]

During the day, he lives in a glass house. It is a surprisingly small space in a row of cookie-cutter offices. Harry Reasoner is a couple of doors down, Andy Rooney just up the hall from him. He closes the curtain when a visitor comes in, so people walking by can’t see what he’s up to. It’s not that he’s so secretive. Just private.

The office is deep on the West Side of Manhattan. From his window, you can clearly see the swamps of Jersey. And Myron Wallace, who has been known these many years as Mike Wallace, seems comfortable in the small surroundings. He is a modest man. Five of his golden Emmys sit on the lowest row of shelves, almost tucked away in a corner. To make room for the two more he won earlier this year, he’ll have to move some of the many books that crowd the shelves. It is an eclectic collection. “The Joys of Yiddish” sits next to a volume called “My Sex Life.” On the desk, right next to the Royal manual typewriter, is a copy of “Arabs in the Jewish State.” For Mike Wallace, his tweed jacket looking so natural, his sweater vest looking so comfortable, that should be a fast read. The man is a quick study.

He’s done so many things in his profes­sional life, he’s had to be. Before television, he was the announcer of radio’s “Sky King.” In the early Fifties, he did a nightclub broadcast from Chicago’s Chez Paree. He’s even ap­peared in a Broadway play. And that’s not counting the cigarette commercials and the game shows.

His high school yearbook from Brookline, Massachusetts, cited him for debating, prize-speaking, being sports editor of the school paper and captain of the tennis team. He said back then he wanted to be an English teacher, maybe a lawyer.

The son of Russian immigrants, he worked in a grocery store to earn money for college. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1939 and quickly landed a $20-a-week job at a radio station in Grand Rapids, where he did some news, some entertainment, and swept up the studios when he was done.

It was in Grand Rapids that he decided he wanted to make his living in electronic journalism. A couple of stations later, he signed on with CBS to do some radio and, finally, some TV.

His nightly interview show, “Night Beat,” soon became all the rage in those pioneering days of television. Wallace quickly gained a reputation as a relentless interviewer, a man who wouldn’t let his subjects off the hook, no matter how important they were. His style, sometimes bordering on pushy penetration, was often criticized by colleagues. But Wallace always asked the right questions—and questioned the right answers.

So it made perfect sense that 13 years ago, when CBS started “60 Minutes,” Wallace became one of the principal reporters. Over the years, he would develop into perhaps the most feared and respected interviewer around. But he remained a very private man, one who would never sit still long enough to be an interviewee.

PLAYBOY GUIDES editor Maury Z. Levy talked Wallace into sitting on the other side of the microphone for once. Levy, a veteran of some probing PLAYBOY interviews with the likes of Pete Rose and Terry Bradshaw, found Wallace to be a somewhat nervous subject—careful of what he said and how he said it. Here’s how their conversation went:

PLAYBOY: Before we talk about your visible role on 60 Minutes, let’s talk about some­thing most people don’t know. In 1968, right around the time 60 Minutes was starting, you thought seriously about the possibility of leaving CBS, of leaving broadcasting. You were offered a job…

WALLACE: In Washington as the press secre­tary to Mr. Nixon. I thought very seriously about it, because I have never lived in Washington and I figured that it would be a fascinating way to learn the Washington scene. I talked to a good many friends and finally decided against it. As I look back on it now, I don’t suppose I would have changed the history of anything. But it could have changed my history some.

PLAYBOY: Did you believe in Nixon at the time? !Flier(‘ had to be something more than just living, in Washington. Read the rest of this entry »

Terry Bradshaw: The Playboy Interview

In Playboy magazine and the Playboy Guides (1979-1989) on September 14, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Satellite.pngThe boots are made of elephant skin. They are almost pure white and in the middle, where they shelter his shins, there is a big black number 12 made from the bellies of a lot of little lizards. Terry Bradshaw lifts the boots up on the coffee table and leans back on the crimson soft velvet couch. “Sometimes,” he says, tilting his suede Stetson back on his balding blond head, “I worry about comin’ off like a dime-store cowboy.”

And with that, Terry Bradshaw, who, at the age of 31, makes about a quarter of a million dollars a year for throwing a football very straight and very hard, starts plunking his $75 guitar. “Y’all join in if you know the words,” he tells his two city-slicker guests. He sings alone:

“‘The heart is a funny thing with a mind all its own. It withers like a garden left unattended and alone. And the thorns of loneliness invade and destroy what they can’t steal. So easy to hurt. But oh so hard to heal.'”
He looks out of place here, his back to a full-length picture window of this sooty steel town of Pittsburgh, a sullen city where the air is grayish brown, the rivers polluted by tiny tugs and the hills alive with the sound of belching smokestacks.

Here, in this unlikely city of champions, the most valuable player in the single most important game in sports sits still in his 17th-floor apartment overlooking the Monongahela River and rests from a long day of hard practice. The stadium where 50,000 fans cheer him is just over his right shoulder, not more than a fly pattern away.

He is sharing the apartment with a dog named Sugar. His wife, known to most people as JoJo Starbuck, the ice skater, is on a nationwide tour for a noodle-soup company. His folks are down home on his ranch in Louisiana, right near where, as a child, he hopped up the hills and slid down the slop.

Bradshaw grew like a Louisiana weed, to over 6’3″ and 200 pounds. When he finished at Louisiana Tech, a neighborhood college he went to because he didn’t think he was good enough to make it at the bigger schools, the people who scout and tout for pro football were calling him the next Joe Namath, a country kid with an arm like a howitzer. They thought so much of him that he was the number-one pick from the college crop that year. But that was a decade ago.

It didn’t come easy for Bradshaw. He came to a team that had played 14 games the year before and won one of them. Many people thought that, as a new quarterback playing in a new stadium, Bradshaw would immediately turn things around for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But that wasn’t the case.
“Bradshaw may have a lot in common with this stadium,” owner Art Rooney said that first year. “He’ll be beautiful—when he’s finished.”

Bradshaw played erratically those early years. He was an occasional hero and a frequent goat. Some of his frustrated teammates complained very loudly that he called dumb plays. Dumb was a label that would be picked up by the press and branded on Bradshaw. The country bumpkin. Li’l Abner in football shoes. Read the rest of this entry »

Mike Schmidt: The Phillies Find a Slugger

In Sport magazine on September 12, 2009 at 7:37 pm

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“What this game needs,” the black Philadelphia Phillie was telling the white Philadelphia Phillie, “is some white superstars. And it needs them fast. And that’s just what you could be, kid.”

The white Phillie grinned and stood up in front of his locker. He pushed back his long reddish hair, matted down his mustache and flexed his freckled muscles. “You hear that, America?” he shouted. “Mike Schmidt is the great white hope!”

Then Mike Schmidt, who is white, and Dave Cash, who is black, both laughed.

If anyone had suggested a year ago that Mike Schmidt could be the next white superstar, or the great white anything, the whole baseball world would have laughed. Mike Schmidt had just finished his first full season as a Phillie, and if he had accomplished anything, it was that he had perfectly concealed any superstar potential he might possess. He had batted .196 in 132 games, which is dreadful, and he had struck out 136 times in 367 at‑bats, which is worse.

But in 1974, at the age of 24, Mike Schmidt found a batting groove, and the Phillies found a slugger. Schmidt led the major leagues in home runs with 36, fin­ished second in the National League in runs batted in with 116, and batted .282.

“I was hoping to hit .250, drive in 80 runs, play decent third base and maybe help the club a little,” says Schmidt. “I never thought all this would happen so fast.”

So much happened so fast that as late as the beginning of September, when the Phillies’ “Yes We Can” motto melted into a lie, Schmidt was a legitimate contender for Most Valuable Player in the National League.

“I don’t want to black-cat the kid,” says Danny Ozark, the manager of the Phillies, “but if Schmitty continues to progress the way he has, he’ll be the highest-paid player in this game some day. The front office won’t be able to find enough money to pay him.”   Read the rest of this entry »

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