Maury Z. Levy

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Pete Rose. Part 1: “Who’s the Best? I’m the Best”: The Maury Z. Levy Interview

In The Maury Z. Levy Interview on August 22, 2012 at 10:09 am

There are two things in this world Pete Rose loves most. Baseball and Pete Rose. Not necessarily in that order.

I spent a lot of time with Rose. I first interviewed him in 1979, for Philadelphia Magazine, right after he signed with the Phillies. I would go on that year to do The Playboy Interview, the one that created national headlines, with Rose talking of the easy use of amphetamines in the Phillies’ locker room.

In this first never-before-heard interview, with his pal Larry Bowa in the room, I asked Rose who he thought was the best player in baseball.

To read my full Playboy Interview, click here: http://wp.me/pCUdu-S

Copyright 2012 by Maury Z. Levy. This interview may not be used, in whole or in part, without permission.

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Muhammad Ali, Part 3: “I Am the Greatest” No More: The Maury Z. Levy Interview

In The Maury Z. Levy Interview on August 14, 2012 at 10:14 am

Muhammad Ali with Maury Z. Levy

When I visited Muhammad Ali at his training camp, in the ‘70s, after he lost to Frazier, he seemed to be a quieter man, a less boastful man. So, in this never-before-heard interview, I asked him about that…

To read my full Ali story, click here: Poor Butterfly: The Muhammad Ali Story

Copyright 2012 by Maury Z. Levy. This interview may not be used, in whole or in part, without permission.

Muhammad Ali, Part 2: The Maury Z. Levy Interview: “Are You Cassius Clay?”

In The Maury Z. Levy Interview on August 1, 2012 at 9:12 am

When I spent a couple of days with Muhammad Ali, back in the ‘70s, after he lost to Joe Frazier, Ali showed me his Rolls-Royce. And then he told me this story about how he got stopped for speeding one day by a Georgia State trooper. Ali, always with a flair for the dramatic, played both roles. Click below to listen.

Maury Z. Levy Interview – Ali 2

To read my full Ali story, click here: Poor Butterfly: The Muhammad Ali Story

Copyright 2012 by Maury Z. Levy. This interview may not be used, in whole or in part, without permission.

Muhammad Ali, Part 1: “Whores, Faggots and Sissies”: The Maury Z. Levy Interview

In The Maury Z. Levy Interview on July 25, 2012 at 8:53 am

Muhammad Ali, Maury Z. Levy

This is the first in a series of never-before-heard interviews with some fascinating people.

In 1975, right after he lost to Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali called me and asked me to come to his training camp in Dear Lake, PA. I stayed for a couple of days. I was the only writer there. I ran with him, I sparred with him, then we watched a tape of the Frazier fight. Ali kept rooting for himself to win this time. When it was over, late at night, we sat and talked. Click below to listen.

Maury Z. Levy Interview- Ali 1

To read my full Ali story, click here: Poor Butterfly: The Muhammad Ali Story

Copyright 2012 by Maury Z. Levy. This interview may not be used, in whole or in part, without permission.

Pete Rose: The Playboy Interview

In Playboy magazine and the Playboy Guides (1979-1989) on June 16, 2012 at 8:31 pm

pete-rose-jockey

Twenty-some years ago, Peter Edward Rose was just another tough kid growing up in the river wards of Cincinnati. He was a tough kid who liked girls and fast and fancy cars and baseball. Today, at the age of 38, not much has changed about Pete Rose. The girls have turned to women and fast cars are getting more expensive. But Rose, who makes his living–and a very good one, at that–playing baseball, is still tough. And he is still very much a kid.

Rose may play with different toys now–a $4000 fur coat, an $8000 gold-and-diamond watch and a $44,000 car that goes 130 miles an hour–but he hasn’t really changed. Baseball has. The game has become big business and he has grabbed more than his share of the big bucks that go along with it. At an age when the major decision facing most players is whether to become a car salesman or to open a taproom, Rose was faced with the enviable task of choosing from among a slew of major-league teams offering him millions of dollars for starters. And Rose, who had never played a home baseball game outside Cincinnati, picked the Philadelphia Phillies, who would pay him at least $3,200,000 over four years.

But how, many asked, could Rose be worth the money? Well, he packs ball parks. And while, as a technician, he really can’t be ranked up there with the Dave Parkers, the Rod Carews and the Jim Rices, Rose has one very important thing going for him. He has become perhaps the most famous white sports star in the world.

Just last year, a world far beyond baseball watched as Rose look on the seemingly unbreakable record of Yankee great Joe DiMaggio–who hit safely in 56 straight games. In a streak that started in mid-June, Rose scratched, clawed, hustled and bunted his way to one plateau after another. On July 31, 1978, he set a National League mark of 44 straight games. The streak would stop there, but Pete Rose would go on to a White House visit with Jimmy Carter, a highly heralded tour of Japan and commercial deals that would make him millions. And while Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium was only a line drive away from his boyhood home, Rose had come a long way.

Rose is the son of a bank employee. His father’s passion for sports rubbed off easily on him. Too small to make it as a football player, he concentrated on baseball. He played hard and tough, but he never had a great deal of natural talent. Luckily, he knew somebody in the business. His uncle was a minor-league scout for his hometown team, the Reds. He talked them into giving the kid a tryout. Rose was impressive enough to be signed to a minor-league contract. He spent three years riding the battered buses of thefarm teams. The Reds finally called him up in 1963.

That’s when baseball people really started to take notice of this hard-nosed kid who ran to first on a base on balls, the hustling hot-shot who, instead of sliding, dove headfirst into bases. They noticed him enough to vote him Rookie of the Year. Read the rest of this entry »

Poor Butterfly: The Muhammad Ali Story

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on June 15, 2012 at 9:42 am

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[Maury Z. Levy: author’s note: In 1975, Muhammad Ali had been the king of the world for a long time. He was always surrounded by press people fighting for interviews. He talked a lot, but never let anyone get really close to him. Then a strange thing happened. He lost a fight to Joe Frazier. Reporters did a 180 and started following Frazier. Ali was alone. He wasn’t used to that. So, I got a call one morning from Ali’s press guy. He said Ali liked a Philadelphia magazine cover story I’d done on hockey flash Derek Sanderson. He said Ali wanted me to come up to his Deer Lake, PA training camp and spend a couple hours with him. The couple hours turned into a couple days. I got to train with him, I got unlimited access to him. Here’s the story…]

THE FORMER CASSIUS CLAY remembers when he was “just another nigger.” “It started back in Louisville. That’s where I was born. I was riding a bus one day. Didn’t have no Cadillacs yet. I was riding this bus and I was reading in this newspaper about Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson. This was just when I had decided to turn professional, right after I won the Olympic gold medal in Rome. I was sure I could beat either one of them if I had the chance. But I was just as sure that I wouldn’t get the chance because nobody had ever heard of me. So I sat there thinking. How was I ever going to get a shot at the title? Well, it was right on that bus I decided. If I ever wanted to get noticed, I’d have to start talking it up. I’d have to do better than that. I’d have to start screaming and yelling and acting like some kind of a nut.

“You see, I figured if I did that, pretty soon people would get tired of hearing from me and they’d be insisting that I put my fists where my mouth was and fight who­ever the champ was. They’d watch me fight. And I would float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. That saying has stuck with me to this day—float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

“I started off pretty slow because I had to sort of feel my way around, find out what the folks, the reporters especially, wanted to hear. I told this one reporter I was going to knock this boy down in the sixth round, and he printed it and then I did it. That’s the first time I said I am the greatest. I figured if I didn’t say it, nobody else was going to say it for me.

“First the people were saying, ‘What’s that bigmouth talking about?’ But I kept fighting and talking and pretty soon people were saying I was the greatest. And I just said, ‘I told you so, didn’t I?’

“Now where do you think I’d be right now if I didn’t use all that shouting and hollering to get the public to notice me? Do you think I’d be sitting here in some $250,000 house in Cherry Hill? Hell, no. I’d be back down there in Louisville washing cars or running some elevator and saying ‘yes suh’ and ‘no suh’ and knowing my place. Instead of that, I’m the highest-paid athlete in the world and I’m the greatest fighter in the world. And that’s just the way I planned it.”

Like all things with Muhammad Ali, the former Cassius Clay, the explanation is a little oversimplified. But it’s very basically true. People around Philadelphia tend to take Ali for granted. Maybe it’s because he’s lived around here for the past five or six years, because he’s trained and done most of his talking around here. People just tend to see him as part of the local color. You lose perspective.   Read the rest of this entry »

The Magic Bus: All Aboard The Oxford Circle Shuttle

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980), Uncategorized on June 14, 2012 at 11:44 am

By Maury Z. Levy

IT WAS RAINING NOW. It was Monday morning and the thick gray air was chilly and damp and it was raining now. The skies had been holding it in for a week and now they had 
burst open to soak the streets and break the promise of 
an early summer. People walked along quickly under black umbrellas with their collars up and their faces down and 
automobiles with snow tires still on made a whirring sound as they moved up Susquehanna Avenue, heading 
for the Mansion and the Park, never stopping.

For a week, it had been summer again. For a week, the 
kids with bandanas around their heads roamed the streets in shirtsleeves, while men stood together on corners and 
drank the contents of brown paper bags and women in 
housedresses pushed strollers up and down 17th Street looking for bargains.

For a week, the desperation of North Philadelphia was no longer quiet. For one great week of Indian spring North Philadelphia was alive and ticking with anticipation of the warmth ahead and some memories of some heat behind.

But the Monday morning rain put things back to normal. It was trash day and the beginning of another week.

The flat-red pushcart of the 15th Street Junk Shop 
made its way up French Street toward 17th. The man behind it was old and black and he was wearing a dark 
plastic raincoat with the hood up over his head and the drawstring knotted around his chin so that all that could 
be seen were the slits of eyes that stalked the curbside cans for salvage.

He pushed his way between the cars parked on one  side of the narrow street of ancient brownstones. It was the side of the street with the signs that read “NO PARKING 
MONDAY 7 AM TO 7 PM-PARK OTHER SIDE.” It was 7:20 
a.m. and French Street was asleep.

Bucking traffic, he turned right on 17th and pushed past 
the cozy old James L. Claghorn Elementary School. The rain made the gray 84-year-old building wetgray.

Claghorn takes up less than a third of the block. It is 
surrounded by a big black iron fence that comes to within a few feet of the tiny building. Pressing against one side 
of the fence—in what is supposed to be a schoolyard—is a black iron pole that holds a slightly bent basketball 
backboard. There isn’t even enough room in the yard for a half-court game and even less room to hang the blame, because back in 1884 outdoor sports were not exactly national pastimes.

Claghorn sticks out—an ancient school in a procession of old stores. The building was supposed to be torn down 
back in 1944, when it had reached its 60th birthday, but 
that was a war year and people had more important 
things to do than break up little old schools. Somehow it 
never got back on the demolition list and so for the past 
24 years Claghorn has been living on borrowed time.

Across the street from Claghorn is a luncheonette, the 
hub of what little activity there is at 7:30 on a Monday 
morning. There is a bus stop on the corner there and a 
handful of people were huddled in the doorway of the 
luncheonette to avoid the downpour and wait for their 
bus.

It was 7:40 now and the bus hadn’t come yet and the 
doorway was filled to capacity. As they craned their necks 
to watch for the bus, none of the people in the doorway 
seemed to take notice of the scattering of kids who 
made their way down 17th Street toward Claghorn, 
soggy brown lunch bags firmly in hand. Read the rest of this entry »

Dead End at Toms River: A Bizarre Murder Mystery

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980), Uncategorized on February 2, 2011 at 9:41 am

A BLOODY INQUEST INTO THE MUTILATION CAPITAL OF THE COUNTRY
By Maury Z. Levy

ON SUNDAY THE TURKEY BUZZARDS flew low to the pines. You could hear their wings flapping a few hundred 
yards away as they swooped down into the garbage that 
hid in the trees. They are big, lazy birds, the turkey 
buzzards.

They were not an unusual sight to the people who lived 
in the dirty white cottages on Oakwood Drive or to the 
people in the wooden piney shacks on Crescent Avenue. 
Oakwood is a straight arrow off Route 571, a dead-end 
turn from the Phillips 66 station. Crescent is a big loop 
from 571. You pass the shacks first, the ones with the 
Russian names out front in this strange settlement called 
Rova Farms, where the people are peasants who live off 
the land, eating from little vegetable gardens fertilized by 
the dust of the road that passes a few feet from their 
doors.

It’s a very insular community that revolves around the 
big church around the corner on the Cassville-Freehold 
Road, a stately structure topped with big golden onion 
domes. Behind the church is a nice clean cemetery where 
the Russian peasants have buried their dead for almost 
100 years.

You can see the tips of the golden onions from the 
point where Oakwood and Crescent run into each other 
and end. There are traces of a crude dirt road leading off 
that intersection into a hole in the woods. It’s a street 
with no name, a road that’s the width of one car, if you’re 
crazy enough to try to drive it. It’s murder on your wheels.

You curve past old beer cans and rubbish and you wind 
around the giant worn-out truck tires to the blond wood 
Emerson television set with the busted picture tube that 
sits two blocks back in the middle of the road that goes 
nowhere. Dead end.

These woods have been the dumping ground for a lot of things. The trees are very tall and very thick. So most 
people didn’t give a second thought to the turkey buzzards. 
Maybe an early season hunter had left his prey to rot or 
maybe there was something edible in the roadside trash.

But by Wednesday in what had been a very hot and 
humid week, things began to get a little strange. The 
humidity put a heavy lock on the air and a terrible smell 
started coming from the woods. The radio dispatch room 
in the Jackson Township police station got a couple calls 
about it. They sent a man out in a car. He drove up 
Crescent and down Oakwood. He smelled it too.

ON SATURDAY Steve Soltys brought the family down 
from Jersey City. Soltys finished work at 5:00 and came 
home and changed to get the blood off his clothes. He and 
Helene put the two kids and the dog in the car and drove 
to their summer cottage on Oakwood Drive, about eight 
miles west of Lakewood and a short holler from Toms 
River, the Ocean County seat.

While the family unpacked, Soltys let the collie out. 
But Yukee started charging through the woods after rabbits. Steve Soltys, 34, had to run out and get him. He got 
close enough to see the dog had something in his mouth. 
It wasn’t a rabbit. He came up closer and it looked like 
an arm, it had fingers and everything. First he thought it 
was part of a doll. And then he saw the fingernails. They 
were long and well-manicured and were covered with very 
bright red polish. It was a human arm. Read the rest of this entry »

The Coming of Age of Mark Moskowitz: The Bar Mitzvah Story Your Rabbi Doesn’t Want You to Read

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on February 1, 2011 at 9:52 am

By Maury Z. Levy

“BAR MITZVAH,” the rabbi shouted, “is not a verb.” Eddie Golden, who is the leader of Eddie Golden and his Band of Gold, is blowing his horn so loud into the microphone that the rabbi can hardly hear himself, which is an important thing for rabbis since they are usually the only ones who listen.

The people behind him are dancing a freylach, which is something like a hora, which is something like insanity. To do this you need at least 20 people holding hands in a circle going at top speed in different directions around a 70-year-old grandmother doing a Russian Cossack dance on the floor.

Bubby Katz, in her strapless, floor-length, scarlet gown by Eva Melnick, head of Eva Melnick Creations, is shaking a leg or two. “Let’s hear it for Bubby Katz!” Eddie Golden yells. The cousins cheer.

“Bar Mitzvah,” the rabbi shouts, “is a noun. You do not get Bar Mitzvahed. You become a Bar Mitzvah, or you
celebrate a Bar Mitzvah. You do not get Bar Mitzvahed.”

“Hey, get a load of the rabbi here,” Uncle Meyer says. “Hey, Lil, look at this. He got all fapitzed. Look at this 
suit, Lil, it’s just like our Eric’s. Where’s Eric? Eric, the rabbi’s wearing your suit. Where’d you get it, 
Rabbi? You got it at Diamond’s, right? That’s where we 
got Eric’s. Where the hell is that kid? Lil, where’s Eric? I want the rabbi to see his suit.”

“I think he’s in the bathroom,” Aunt Lil says.”I think he’s throwing up.”

“Damn kid. It’s not even his Bar Mitzvah. I’d better go 
find him. Here, Rabbi, have a Seven and Seven. Lil, talk to the rabbi until I get back.”

“I don’t think we’ve met formally, Rabbi. I’m Lil 
Moskowitz, Mark’s aunt. And that was my husband Meyer 
Moskowitz, Mark’s uncle. We both enjoyed your speech 
today at the Temple, especially when you talked about teaching Jewish heritage to these young kids today, Rabbi. 
You don’t know how important that is.

“When we were their age our parents taught us what 
it was to be a Jew. They taught us all the important things about the religion—like how it was a sin to go out 
with Gentiles. But these kids today, you think they 
listen? My own Eric even. Rabbi, last month my Eric 
brought home a girl to us. Rabbi, I’m ashamed to tell you 
this, her name was Carmella. Carmella! Can you believe 
it, Rabbi? You try to teach a kid about Judaism. What would you do, Rabbi?”

Meyer is back. “Lil, I’m gonna kill that kid. I swear I’m gonna kill him. Eric, I tell him, stay away from the bar. You know your stomach. Don’t look for trouble. Drink ginger ale. But no, three whiskey sours he has and now it’s all over his goddamn suit and we’re goin’ home. Lil, I’ll kill him, I swear I will. Oh, excuse us, Rabbi. Something’s come up. We’ve got to go. Nice meeting you,
I’m sure.”

“THE AGE OF THE Bar Mitzvah has varied a little through the centuries,” the rabbi tells a Read the rest of this entry »

The Last Steve Carlton Story

In Philadelphia Magazine (1970-1980) on January 23, 2011 at 11:44 am

By Maury Z. Levy

THERE WAS NO REAL SENSE in splitting hairs over it. The decision to get rid of the moustache was made by a very distinguished committee. Danny Ozark, the new 
manager of the Phillies, told him he’d rather see him without it. He told him this to his face. He said he just didn’t 
care for moustaches on ballplayers but that, of course, he wouldn’t demand that he shave. It’s hard to demand anything from the best pitcher in baseball, from the man who was voted the professional athlete of the year, from a guy who makes $165,000 to start. You can only suggest.

This is what Paul Owens, the second member of the 
three-man committee for the resolution of the moustache, did in his office at Veterans Stadium while he was packing 
up to go to spring training. Owens is the general manager of the team. Last year he was field manager for a while too, after they finally got rid of the Italian guy. Owens is looking over a pile of publicity pictures to help decide what will be used in this year’s yearbook. There are some with the moustache and some without. He separates them 
into two piles.

“I think we’ll be safest going with these,” he said, holding up the clean-shaven shots. “Now don’t quote me on that. I mean, he doesn’t know about this yet. He’s still 
got the moustache, you know.”

The third and deciding vote came from a 46-year-old 
schoolteacher from Buena Park, California. Larue Harcourt is president of the Athletes Financial Services Inc., a company of some 35 highly trained professionals who help make such momentous decisions. Larue Harcourt would 
like to see him take off the moustache because at this very 
moment he is working on getting him lined up with a big 
sponsor to do a shaving commercial. The marketing men 
have decided that people prefer to buy shave cream and 
razors from people who shave their whole face. There 
are just a couple inches more credibility in it.

The selling of Steve Carlton will call for a flawless product. There’ll be no trouble selling him locally. But the national picture is too fuzzy. Joe Namath could have a 
moustache because he’s a bachelor who plays for a winning team. On those counts, Carlton has two strikes 
against him.

The only one who had no real say in the moustache matter was Steve Carlton himself, in spite of the fact 
that it was his lip. But Carlton really didn’t care that much. “I don’t like to think about those things,” he said. “I just 
want to go out there and pitch and win. The moustache is only a distraction. I hate distractions. I can always grow a moustache. I can’t always win 30 games.”

Last year, Steve Carlton won 27 games for the Phillies, which came out to almost half of what the whole team won. It is indeed something to win 27 games for a team 
that ends up in dead last place with the worst record in baseball. Steve Carlton came out of last season like a perfectly cut 27-carat diamond in a setting of zircon 
baguettes.

He won the Cy Young Award, which meant he was the 
best pitcher in the league. And he won the Hickok Belt, which meant he was the best athlete in the country. He became quite an item. This shy guy who’d spent the first 
six years of his major league career in St. Louis, piling up 
a not-so-overwhelming 77-62 record, needed only a few weeks after his trade to Philadelphia to show that he was 
going to be the biggest thing to hit this town since Robin 
Roberts. Read the rest of this entry »

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