Saturday, August 12, 2017

Gene Tunney—Prizefighter with a Pen

Chicago’s Soldier Field may be best known as the home of the Chicago Bears, but the stadium has played host to numerous events that had nothing to do with passing the pigskin.

One of the most famous among a lengthy list of concerts, soccer games, speeches and prize fights is the “Long Count” rematch between world heavyweight boxing champ Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey in September 22, 1927.
Much has been written about this fight over the decades, and now Jay Tunney, Gene Tunney’s son tosses his hat into the ring with The Prizefighter and the Playwright, an intimate look at the legendary—but rarely documented—relationship between his father and acclaimed playwright George Bernard Shaw.

Osacky recently sat down with Jay Tunney, to talk about the book that took 10 years to write and to share snippets of his father’s story and a few life lessons he learned along the way.

Gene Tunney retired from boxing 1928 as the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world. He likely could have fought another four or five years, but he fell in love and realized that boxing and marriage didn’t mix.

Stepping out of the ring can be a challenge for many prizefighters, but retirement was just the beginning of Gene Tunney’s career.
Tunney, who was quite the businessman, quadrupled his income after his retirement. He did all the investing himself—not via mutual funds or outside sources. At his peak, he sat on the boards of directors for 12 companies. His father’s secret, Jay says, was his ability to read balance sheets.

“Mr. Gimbel of Gimbel’s department stores taught my dad how to read a balance sheet,” Jay says, noting his father used his status as a star boxer to make connections with a large network of bankers and executives.

The prizefighter was also a writer who chronicled all of his boxing victories in Man Must Fight, released in 1928.
In a fortunate twist of fate that the young Tunney discusses in his new book, George Bernard Shaw read Man Must Fight and did not like it. Shaw told Tunney the book was a dry account of how each fighter was defeated. For example, you hit a guy with a right hook, and knock him out. Another guy goes down with a left hook. Shaw wanted Tunney to humanize his life and show some emotion.
Tunney listened to the playwright and his second book, Arms for Living, turned out much better. Shaw liked that Tunney had taken his advice and the pair became fast friends.

Shaw, a prolific letter-writer, kept in touch through letters and they even went on vacations together. Tunney received constructive criticism from the respected playwright and critic, and Shaw was able to pass on his expertise to someone who was eager for feedback and guidance.

Although the world has changed dramatically in 70 years, many of  the lessons Jay learned from his father are just as relevant today as they were then. We asked Jay to share a few lessons from his dad with Parade’s readers. Here are his top four.
  1. When you get knocked down, you must get back up again. In 1922, Tunney was the undefeated light heavyweight champion of the world. He fought the determined Harry Greb and lost. Tunney immediately requested a rematch to fight Greb again. The two fought a year later, but this ultimately saved Tunney’s career.
  2. Marry somebody. Don’t be irresponsible. Tunney was convinced that having a spouse made you a better person, though not a better boxer.
  3. Persistence and perseverance. All else can be bought be the yard.
  4. Loyalty and friendships are crucial.
Thanks to Jay Tunney for sharing his memories of his father, Gene Tunney.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Story Behind Tony Gwynn's .394 Pale Ale

Baseball is America’s pastime. There’s nothing like sitting in the stands and watching your favorite baseball team —often with a cold beer in your hand. The game takes your mind off everyday stress and puts a smile on your face that lasts the entire day.
The connection between cold beer and baseball goes beyond the need to quench your thirst on a sun-drenched summer afternoon. In the late 1800s many baseball team owners also owned breweries. Selling beer at baseball games was good for business!
Tony Gwynn Baseball Hall of Fame
(AleSmith Brewing Company)

In 2014, just before losing his battle with cancer, Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn decided to reignite the tradition: He called Peter Zien of award-winning, AleSmith Brewery in San Diego and asked him to create a great-tasting beer—not a gimmick beer.
Peter and his wife, Vicky, met with Tony and his wife, Alicia, to taste and create a beer: Something light, but wasn’t too bitter.
In addition to enjoying a world class beer, drinking .394 Ale helps a worthy cause too. A portion of the proceeds go to the Tony and Alicia Gwynn Foundation, which helps homeless and young people with roadblocks in their life. Gwynn always believed in taking care of your own first. Therefore, it was an easy decision to spend his free time helping the San Diego community.
If you’re in San Diego, the AleSmith Brewery is a great destination to sip award-winning beers and see the Tony Gwynn Hall of Fame Collection. Tony was an eight-time National League batting champion, 15-time All-Star, and seven-time Silver Slugger Award winner. The memorabilia on exhibit rotates on a regular basis. I asked Peter to name his favorite items currently on display.
“I like the jersey signed by every member of the 3,000-hit club. They each wrote a personal note to Tony.”  Tony’s wife Alicia prefers the invaluable. “I like the little things that fans made and sent to Tony over the course of his career. For example, a fan made a little caricature of Tony hanging off the wall. It meant a lot to him that a fan would spend his/her time and money to create something to Tony.”

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Kelvin Beachum Helps Fight Childhood Hunger

Kelvin Beachum is one of the most feared offensive tackles in the NFL. He dominated the offensive line with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2012-15 and signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars during the off-season.

However, I recently found that the Beachum is more teddy bear than grizzly bear when he’s off the field.

Ending childhood hunger is one of his top priorities. Earlier this year, he traveled to Honduras to witness World Vision’s efforts to combat hunger globally. He was surprised to find that finding a clean source of water is just as difficult as finding food in the Central American country.

“We take a clean glass of water for granted,” Beachum says. “In Honduras, kids are walking miles and miles for clean water.”

I spoke with Beachum about the 13 to 17 million U.S. children who are food insecure, cultural differences around the country and the world, his career and more.

What are some of the cultural differences between Jacksonville and Pittsburgh?
Coming back to the South (Jacksonville) is big for me. I grew up in Texas and it was very country. Jacksonville is very slow, which is what I like.
Why did you visit Honduras in February and what was your biggest takeaway?
I wanted to see some of the work that World Vision is doing. Childhood hunger is a real problem, both internationally and domestically, and being able to see how another country deals with the issue was impactful. The big takeaway was seeing the different kinds of hunger and poverty in Honduras versus needs in the U.S.

Why is world hunger important to you?
I wouldn’t be the player I am without food. I have a voice to bring awareness to world hunger and I enjoy doing it.
How did you choose Southern Methodist University in Texas over other schools?
My mama told me to go there. I had numerous offers but SMU was the first school we visited. My mom loved it and so did my dad. My mom said, “This is where you should be.” [Football] wasn’t pleasant when I started at SMU. We went 2 and 22 my first two years and I wanted to transfer. But I stuck with it and went to three straight bowl games.
How has traveling the world and serving underprivileged people changed you?
It made me appreciate my daughter more—and appreciate the smaller things in life. To be able to serve others is very special.
Did you collect football cards growing up as a kid?
No, I wasn’t a big collector. I do collect jerseys and different things from places I have been—little mementos that remind me of what I have done, where I have been and what I have accomplished.
What do you like to see/do when traveling?
I love to visit local restaurants to get a feel for each city. I’m also interested in the history associated with each city.
In 2012, you were drafted in the 7th round and final round. Today, you are arguably the best offensive tackle in NFL. What advice would you give to kids in high school/college or somebody picked last in their intramural team?
Take pride in everything you do. Find out what you’re passionate about. What is your why: Find out why you are doing what you are doing and understand the sacrifices. Everything else will take care of itself.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Vintage Baseball Card Exhibit Brings Back Memories at the Met

Seeing decades’ old high-grade vintage baseball cards “out in the wild,” is the highlight of any baseball card collector. If that’s not possible, head to “The Old Ball Game: New York Baseball 1887-1977” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Met Museum New York City
(Met Museum New York City)
The exhibit includes nearly 400 cards from the Jefferson Burdick baseball card collection. These cards exclusively feature New York baseball clubs dating back to 1887 and many are on display for the very first time.
Burdick, known as the “founding father” of baseball cards, saw the pieces of cardboard as historic artifacts and not for investment purposes.
In 1947, he advised the Museum of Metropolitan Art of his intentions to donate every card and piece of memorabilia in his collection of more than 30,000 cards to the museum. Over the course of 15 years, Burdick frequently visited the museum and painstakingly glued each card into albums and also inventoried his entire collection, which will be digitized by 2020. Burdick pasted the final card from his collection into an album at the Met on Jan. 10, 1963. The next day he checked himself into a hospital and died March of 1963.
I walked the exhibit with the fine curator of this specific exhibit, Allison Rudnick. “The joy in seeing people look at the exhibit organized around a specific theme, New York baseball, is very special,” Rudnick confided in me.

Many card collectors think the idea of bubble gum being inserted into packs of baseball cards originated from Topps in the early 1950s. But it was Goudey Gum Company in Boston was that first paired gum with baseball cards in 1933. There are numerous Goudey gum cards on display. The set is littered with hall of famers, including Babe Ruth. Ruth has four different cards in the set. Card #53 has a yellow background and is the most difficult card to find from the set. Rudnick did a great job of doing research and choosing exactly which cards to display for the maximum impact. It was no accident that Ruth #53 was chosen to be on display.

A few passersby in the exhibit were very familiar with the early 1950s Topps and Bowman card issues. These gentlemen remember going to the five and dime stores in the 1950s and buying the cards on display. One of the men told me, “This collection reminds me of my childhood. It was so great and much more simple back then.”

This high-quality exhibit is just one of the many exhibits at the Met. If you are in the New York area, stop by and see the cards yourself. Seeing the cards in person will leave you with a smile on your face and memories of yesteryear.
The Burdick exhibit, “The Old Ball Game: New York Baseball 1887-1977,” is on display in New York through Nov. 13 2016.
Met Museum- New York City
(Met Museum- New York City)
Met Museum New York City
(Met Museum New York City)
Burdick 202, 43(a-6)
(Burdick 202, 43(a-6))
Met Museum- New York City
(Met Museum- New York City)