The Great One

I always loved this time of the year when I was a kid. My dad would sign me up for baseball at the Berkeley Hills Fire Hall and I would wait for the notice to see what team I was on and when we started practice. The field was right across the street from where I grew up. As it turned out, I played catcher in minor league, little league, and pony league, and loved every minute. I even loved it when Mike Malone crashed into me on a crucial play in pony league. I tagged him, and I went ass over tin cups into the backstop and held on the the ball for the out. That happened to me a lot. Guys would love to come steaming into home plate and try to take out the catcher. The trick was to tag them and hang on to the ball. I couldn’t get enough baseball. A funny sideline was a number of years ago,I was helping coach my son’s baseball team and as I was telling my mom about my experience, she said,” What do you know about baseball? You never played baseball?” Just goes to show you she liked swimming meets better than baseball games. I made the all star teams and she never saw me play once with the ” tools of ignorance” behind the plate. We all got a good laugh out of that one. But playing catcher was wonderful and I tried to emulate Smokey Burgess behind the Pirates plate. He was stocky like me and could throw out a runner stealing second with little effort.
But the real hero in Pittsburgh was Roberto Clemente who played right field for the Bucs. My dad would take me to the games at Forbes Field and a special time was the Father and Son Baseball Nights at the University Club. I had to wear a sport coat and tie but got to meet all the players at the dinner before the game. They were all there signing autographs and I was in awe when I met the great Roberto. He was genuinely a nice guy and seemed to like meeting all the young kids and asking us about our baseball. My dad was not really a fan because Roberto had this habit of making basket catches below his belt instead of the standard method of catching a fly ball over your head and cupping the ball with your other hand. My dad called Roberto a hot dog but I knew better. He was……the Great One!!!

Roberto was more than a great player. He was a generous and extremely philanthropic person, and as I learned in later years, he made numerous trips to aid his fellow citizens of Puerto Rico who were victims of disasters or just plain poverty, and tragically died in a plane crash while getting supplies and food to Nicaragua after an earth quake in 1972. All of Pittsburgh was devastated and something died in me that day too as a senior in high school. As a young kid, Roberto was a hero to me and his life ended way too soon. I always held him close in my heart. Hockey may call Gretzky the Great One, but in Pittsburgh, Roberto will always be…….The Great One. I can still see him running down a sharply hit ball in right field, spinning around and throwing out a runner sliding into home plate. Smokey would field the rocket ball from right field and tag the runner and the crowd went wild. I can see it in my mind to this day.
So as the spring flowers start to bloom, the grass gets green, the temps moderate and the sun shines in Pittsburgh( yes it does happen), I think about baseball. Our PNC Park is one of the nicest fields in the country with our Pittsburgh skyline as the backdrop. There is nothing like sitting at the park on a nice summer evening and watching the Bucs play. Our Andrew McCutchen was not happy this year when he was moved to right field. My immediate reaction was that he should be proud to play the same position as Roberto Clemente did for the Pirates. When I see him now in right field, my mind drifts back to #21 playing that same position. Just recently Cutch was moved again due to an unfortunate incident with Starling Marte, but that is another story. But whoever fills that right field position, will be standing in some pretty big shoes. Some advice to the young players out there, only Roberto could get away with the basket catch. Get that glove up over you head, watch the ball, catch it and cup it in the glove with your other hand. Play Ball!!! Thanks for reading.

The Power of Positive Thinking

No matter which button you pushed this week, you probably could use an inspiring story to uplift your day. I would like to tell you about one of the most positive people I know. I would like to tell you about Daniel Chew. ridinguphill

I first met Danny way back when my group was first involved in the Allegheny Cycling Association Criterium Races at Highland Park Zoo. Danny was part of an elite group of riders that included Mac Martin, Danny’s brother Tom, and Matt Eaton. All of whom had national pedigree as road bicycling racers. These guys not only rode and raced together all over the country but they took the time to work with the weekend warriors like my group. Fun guys, but very talented and Danny was one of them. The interesting thing about Danny Chew is that he was always smiling, always engaging and when you first meet him, he asks you all about yourself. He does not dwell on his accomplishments at all but is more interested in what you do, where do you live, where do you ride, and ……do you know any athletic women who would be interested in dating a bike racer like him. He has an infectious laugh and his smiling presence was one of the rich memories I have of racing at the Zoo. 4721_rosensteel_151003

Daniel was a four time contestant in the Core States US Pro Cycling Race in Philadelphia and finished 12th in 1985 and 16th in 1987 as a freelance pro with no team support. He raced against the best in the world. In 1996 he was first place in the Race Across America finishing in 8 days, 7 hours and 14 minutes. Think about that for a minute. He won again in 1999 and competed a total of 8 RAAMs in his career. In 1983, he founded an iconic race here in Pittsburgh called the Dirty Dozen where racers take on 12 of the toughest hills in Pittsburgh and 12 of the toughest hills anywhere for that matter. He was one of the oldest winners  and competed as well as ran the race up until the present time.

3273_rosensteel_151003 Danny is a math whiz so his statistics on his web site about his races are legendary and he cheerfully challenged people to beat his record of climbing the stairs at the University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning. Danny loves the bicycle. His mission of riding a million miles in his lifetime is still a dream and a reachable goal in spite of a recent setback in Ohio that changed his life.

While riding his bike he lost consciousness and crashed. The result was vertibae damage and spinal cord damage that has left him paralyzed from the chest down. He is currently in the rehabilitation program at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago on the campus of Northwestern University. His brother Tom researched the best rehabilitation facilities and found that RIC is viewed by many to be the finest in the country. Appropriate for one of the finest athletes in the country. I went to visit Danny last week and although he stated that this was a tough pill to swallow, his confidence in his recovery and his zeal for the road forward was truly inspiring. img_1140

Despite the life changing injury and the unknowns about his recovery, Danny has not lost that inquisitiveness about what you are doing and what is going on back home in Pittsburgh. Although he shared details of his rehab program, he was more interested in what was happening in the cycling community and how my wife and son were doing. The nurses were all doting over him because he is such an engaging individual. He is cheerful in spite of what has happened and is looking forward to his life back home when he returns sometime in December. He claims that he will continue his quest for the million miles on a hand cycle if that is his fate, but he has sought out  some military veterans and other enthusiastic hand cyclists to learn all about what lies ahead for him. He is excited to continue his life in spite of this debilitating injury.

Daniel was not only inspiring in his racing days, but in my mind, he is even more inspiring now with his positive attitude. I personally believe his life will be even larger as he continues to inspire others with his goals and his personality. I can see him on the speakers circuit someday to inspire others that no matter what happens to you in life, you can continue on if you have positive thinking and a positive attitude. Chuck Swindoll, the famous pastor always says,” I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.” I pray for Danny and his recovery. I am sure that God has a good plan for him.

If you would like to contribute to his recovery, you can go on the web and sign on to http://www.youcaring.com There is a section where you can contribute. Also, if you are local to Pittsburgh, there is a fundraiser at the Southside Works 425 Cinema Drive which will show films of RAAM and give a chance for all of the cycling community to get together and rally around this cause for our friend. The date is Sunday the 20th of November at 4:30. Pray for Danny and his family and get involved in his recovery. He is inspirational for sure. Thanks for reading.

Mr. Palmer

arnold-palmer-07

I have never been a good golfer. In fact, I have not played in four years. However, my dad introduced me to the game as a young man and the one thing I do have is a respect for the traditions of the game of golf. As a high school guy, I had the opportunity to attend the PGA National Team Championship at Laurel Valley here in Western Pa. Dr. Anthony Nicolette and his two sons Richard and John were all friends of mine from the neighborhood and Dr. Nicolette was Arnold Palmer’s eye doctor. When the team event was at Laurel Valley, Dr. Nicolette piled us all into his car and off we went to see the best golfers in the world compete. It was there that I had the chance to meet the great Arnold Palmer. Mr. Palmer to us.

Golf: Thunderbird Classic Invitational: Arnold Palmer smoking cigarette during Friday play at Westchester CC.  Rye, NY 6/14/1963 CREDIT: Neil Leifer (Photo by Neil Leifer /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: X9294 TK1 C12 F19 )

Golf: Thunderbird Classic Invitational: Arnold Palmer smoking cigarette during Friday play at Westchester CC.
Rye, NY 6/14/1963
CREDIT: Neil Leifer (Photo by Neil Leifer /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
(Set Number: X9294 TK1 C12 F19 )

As young bucks, Richard and John and I were star struck as Mr.Palmer conversed with their dad. Doc N then always introduced us and with an intent, interested, look, Mr. Palmer shook our hand and asked how we were enjoying the day. His handshake was strong and his demeanor sincere as if we were all he had to think about at that moment. We were part of his army and he wanted to make sure we were having a good time.

A few years later, I had the opportunity to marshall at the US. Open at Oakmont. I have posted on the experience before but I remember Johnny Miller floating up the fairway in total concentration looking at no one in the gallery. Jack Nicklaus stared down most people in the gallery with a competitive steely eyed look that almost made you feel uncomfortable. Arnold Palmer, on the other hand, stopped to talk to all of the marshalls on our hole while waiting to take his shot. I remember him asking me where I was from and again, was I enjoying the tournament? Arnold Palmer, asking me, if I was having a good time while he was in the thick of the hunt for the US Open! That is the kind of guy he was and we lost a good man this week in Western Pennsylvania when he passed away on Sunday.

25 MAR 2013:   Tiger Woods shares a laugh with Arnold Palmer as Woods holds the Arnold Palmer Invitational trophy after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida.

25 MAR 2013: Tiger Woods shares a laugh with Arnold Palmer as Woods holds the Arnold Palmer Invitational trophy after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida.

There has been a lot written about the man this week by some very eloquent journalists and folks who knew Arnold Palmer very well. I do know he was a kind man, a benevolent person with the March of Dimes and building a children’s hospital in Orlando. I know he was a mentor to young players for many years including Tiger Woods. But as the writers say, he made golf accessible to the common man. This included young guys like Richard and John and me who were amazed at the time that he afforded to us and his friendly relationship with his eye doctor with whom no request was too much. He made sure Doc Nicolette was given primary parking, marshalling duties with Laurel Valley attire, dining privileges and on and on, personally attended to by Arnold Palmer himself. He took care of Doc Nicolette and didn’t leave it up to his assistant. That is the kind of person we saw when we had interaction with this legend from Latrobe, Pa. arnold-palmer-2016-masters

He is gone now. But his legacy will live on and his benevolence for charitable causes will also continue because of his personal attention to detail. No wonder the “army” followed him faithfully years into his career. You always knew where Palmer was on the course. Richard and John and I have him etched in our memory forever because of his kindness to us and his eye doctor. RIP Mr. Arnold Palmer. Thanks for reading.

Yoi!!!

Well, the leaves are starting to change and the nights are becoming cool.Football season has returned to Western Pennsylvania and the beloved Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-0 so far and things are looking good. This brings back some memories for me which include an icon of American broadcasting. Please review the following link before you move on here. https://youtu.be/IdjYFleXNro Myron Cope was a real character whose background as a sports journalist was extensive. He became the voice of the Steelers on radio broadcasts with Bill Hillgrove for many years and entertained us with his antics and his quirky voice which you hear in the video. I always liked Myron and his commentary and in fact had an interesting interlude with him back in the day. download-1
As many of you know, the Terrible Towel, waved frantically by Steeler fans, was created by Myron and all the proceeds have been donated to his foundation for many years. The Towel has been copied by other sports teams but the original Terrible Towel is first and foremost a Pittsburgh thing and we are most proud to wave it to encourage the performance of our Steelers in crucial game situations. original_towel

A while back, I was booked on a CMH Heli-Ski trip to the Bobbie Burns Range in British Columbia with some friends from our local ski area. As it turned out, our Steelers were in the Super Bowl at this time and we wanted to somehow honor them and show our pride to the other groups who would be staying with us up in BC. I brought a Terrible Towel with me and we had our guide take a picture of all of us with the Towel on the summit of one of the peaks where we would be skiing. img_1059

I had some copies made when we returned and I sent one of them to Myron Cope with a note saying that we did our part to cheer on the Steelers in a remote location of North America. I felt good about doing that and had some internal chuckles along the way thinking about what Myron would think of the picture. One day, while sitting at my desk, I got a phone call and picked up the receiver and much to my surprise the voice on the other end said,” Is this Pat McClozzzzzzzzzgey?” I said yes it is and the voice continued with ” This is Myron Cope.” ” I found your number and wanted to give you a call to tell you that your picture is hanging on my office wall between the guys with the Towel at the South Pole and the guys with the Towel at the Great Wall of China” I was thrilled and said that I was so happy to send it to him and really thanked him for the phone call. He said it was his pleasure and that he really appreciated the gesture and went on to relate to me all the places where the Towel had been and how many pictures he had with the Towel in locations all over the world. He gave me a few ” Ummm Haaaaas.” and some gutteral “Ls” in his language. Like ” LLLLLLLLLLLambert is the best LLLLLLLLLLLinebacker in the LLLLLLLLLeague.” But his sincerity in calling me was most appreciated. I have heard a lot of good things about Myron over the years and how benevolent he was with local charities. We miss him in Pittsburgh and his cheery enthusiasm will long be remembered by Steeler fans for many years. We are proud of the Black and Gold here and Myron generated a lot of that enthusiasm. Wave that Towel, Steeler Nation, – wherever you are in the country. Thanks for reading.

A Real American Hero

I always respect anyone who is serving in the military. I have always respected and admired veterans who served in the armed forces and the sacrifices that they made to ensure our way of life here in the United States. As a history buff, I also value the place in our past that is reserved for veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice or those whose actions merited historical significance. There are many of these stories in our history and I wanted my son Jack to be aware that there was one of these stories right within his own family.
wwii_pow_2

One day, a few years back, there was an event at the Allegheny County Airport here in Pittsburgh where one could actually view and tour a B-24 bomber from World War II. My son and I stopped to pick up my Uncle Jack and when my son introduced himself and said, ” Hello, I am Jack McCloskey,” my Uncle responded ” No you are not, I’m Jack McCloskey.” My son giggled as we asked Uncle Jack or “Handsome Jack” as he liked to call himself how he was doing? He replied in his usual comical way,” First class, first class, at least that’s what the girls all say.” My son Jack giggled and off we went to the airport. slocum-b24-diamond-lil-up-close-2013-copy

When we arrived, my Uncle, who was in his 80’s, jumped up into the cockpit of the aircraft like he owned the plane. I asked Jack to keep an eye on him and don’t let him fall, but young Jack had a hard time keeping up the the old fella as he made his way through the plane explaining to everyone who would want to listen about the features of a B-24 bomber used in the Great War. You see, my uncle was the pilot of one of those planes and this is his story.

After flight school in the Army Air Corps, Handsome Jack became a pilot of a B-24 that provided support to the ground invasion of Italy during the Anzio Beach campaign. I can remember my uncle relating the tale of his 52 missions over the area returning to base every night with extensive flak damage to the fuselage caused by anti-aircraft gunners of the German Army. Imagine a young guy, I believe around 21 years old, being shot at every day and limping back to base awaiting repair of the aircraft only to fly out again the next day on another bombing mission. When I was 21, I was looking for my next cheeseburger. Times were different then and boys became men in a real hurry. Shortly after his 52nd mission, Handsome Jack was sent to his first mission in Rangoon, Burma and took Japanese anti aircraft fire and the plane was in peril. He assembled the crew and told them to prepare for bailout and as they all parachuted out of the burning craft, the B-24 hit the trees and exploded. My Uncle and his crew landed in the tall trees of the Burmese forest and made their way down to the base of the trees with my uncle breaking his back and his ankle. The Japanese were there waiting for them and immediately took them prisoner.

images

The long and the short of it was that my uncle spent a year as a prisoner of war, keeping the crew’s spirit in tact by singing Irish songs and Christmas songs with his beautiful Irish tenor voice only to personally and eventually bury all of his crew. The British eventually bombed the camp and as my uncle fled for his life, waiving at the RAF frantically, they realized he was one of the prisoners and rescued him after a year in excruciating conditions of captivity. He made his way back to Bellevue, Pa., his home, much to the delight of my grandparents, my dad, and my aunts, who had given him up for dead. What a homecoming he had consuming a dozen eggs as his first meal back home with his family. Handsome Jack received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart for his heroism under the most grueling conditions. His positive attitude kept him alive not only during his Anzio campaign, but in the bowels of a Japanese POW camp in a remote part of the jungle.
As young Jack led Handsome Jack around the restored aircraft that day, I couldn’t help to think to myself that my son was witnessing history in the making. My uncle was in my mind, a real American hero. I was so glad that my son had the opportunity to meet my hero as his kind are leaving us rapidly these days with each passing year. My Uncle is no longer with us, but his memory is kept alive with every Irish song I hear and every tale I read about the bravery of our veterans in World War II. If you see anyone who has served in the military, take the time to thank them for their service.They will appreciate it. Thanks for reading.

Single File……………..who is that talking?

We recently returned from the Jersey Shore where we annually visit the nuns who are in residence at their retreat house at Nun’s Beach. The retreat house is run by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Immaculata, Pa. This location is also the site of the east coast’s most famous surf contest run by the nuns. We always pick up the latest T-Shirt and hats to support the cause and it always takes me back to my days in the Catholic education system. IMG_0952

First of all I want to preface this by saying that the best teacher I ever had was Sister Judith of the Vincentian Sisters of Charity who taught me phonics in the first grade. Her work with me made me appreciate the English language by enhancing my reading skills. However, the descriptor of the Sisters of Charity was a bit lost on me at times when I had to stand in the wastebasket and face the corner because I was talking in class. The standard line in St. Sebastian Grade School was, ” Who is that talking?” And when we moved anywhere it was always single file. My dad provided brass rulers to the nuns that were a gift from my grandfather who was in the novelty business. They were used on my knuckles many times and if I “juked” it meant another rap on the knuckles. The Sisters of Charity was a bit of a misnomer. b6126223d8712ae0b20f38d6477c4b0a

Moving forward to the second grade, I made my first confession. I was a bit intimidated by the whole process and when the sliding door came open as I was greeted in the confessional by our new pastor, Father Getty, I peed my pants. It was a bit uncomfortable most of the day but it was not an unusual thing in Catholic grade school. We had a girl who sat right in front of me who peed at the same time every day about 3:00 P.M. and the floor was slanted. I yelled out, ” Here comes Bernadette again” We all raised out feet and I was back in the wastebasket. IMG_0951

The crowning achievement of my confession days was in the 8th grade when Father Fay jokingly asked if ” this was Patrick McCloskey” in the confessional. I was telling him that I committed a sacrilege and he asked if it was me. Of course I lied and said “no” and we both laughed and he gave me my penance and told me to get lost.

As my memory drifted forward at the beach, I thought about my days at North Catholic High School on Troy Hill in Pittsburgh. We were taught in an all boys environment by the Brothers of the Society of Mary. WYD13_D8_'DSC_1539

Now coming from a suburban atmosphere to meeting kids from the inner city, my first day was a bit traumatic when a freshman with a 5 o’clock shadow told me he wanted to hang my flag bell bottoms up on the pole in front of the school. Fortunately I had some upper classmen friends who came to my aid and told the man/child to back off. Disputes were an interesting thing at North when the rumors spread like wildfire that there was going to be a fight after school. We all missed our bus and congregated at Cowley or Gardner Field to watch the melee which often resulted in some serious carnage. One guy took a chunk out of another guys ear and out came the brothers to the field. They had no issues rapping us on the head and telling us to get back to the building. One of our knuckleheads says to one of the brothers that he would sue him. The brother said, ” Go ahead.I took a vow of poverty” and rapped the kid in the head again.

Our vice principal was an ex- Golden Gloves boxer who routinely offered to put the gloves on to any senior willing to take him on in a dispute. Not many takers in those days in light of the reputation of Brother Ray. This guy must have had a clone because every time we got in trouble in the class, we saw Brother Ray outside the window beckoning us to come out with his finger. He would twist our sideburns and admonish us and wipe his hands on our shirt, rap us in the head, and tell us to behave in class. IMG_0950

Sitting on the beach, I had my final vision of graduation, spring-1972. We all were on the stage to receive our diplomas and my dad remarked to me later that it was amazing to see the amount of cigarette smoke drifting up towards the rafters on that stage. Guys smoking during the mass and the ceremony was the final insult to the Marian community but not without penalty.

Discipline was first and foremost the hallmark of Catholic education in those days and a lot of the tactics used by the nuns and the brothers could not be employed today. Parents are very protective of their little Beaufords and Sallys and would never tolerate the capital punishment of the Sisters of Charity or the Marianist Brothers. However, our parents were from a different era and what we got in school often time was doubled at home. But if you took a survey today of those of us who were educated in the Catholic system, you would find that we are no worse for the wear and that the discipline served us well. Sister Judith’s phonics still is in use today and my last typing class at North (taught by the infamous Brother Ray) still is a most valuable tool- some 44 years later.

Laughing in my chair after visiting Nun’s Beach, my afternoon was amusing. My wife asked me what I was laughing about and I remarked ” a future blog post.” “Single File Mr. McCloskey” Thanks for reading.

Paddy the Cop

IMG_0925

I am proud of my Irish heritage. I rode my bicycle through Ireland years ago and marveled at the people and the countryside. Our lineage and link to the old country was through my great grandfather on my mother’s side. His name was Patrick Carroll and this is a little story about him.

Patrick emigrated to America around the turn of the 20th century and settled in the North Side of Pittsburgh. Paddy - Copy He built the first house on Stayton Street and it still stands today although a little disheveled from the original appearance. IMG_0922

Patrick became a police officer for the City of Pittsburgh and basically was a beat cop whose jurisdiction was the Marshall/Shadeland area and Woods Run. He was a good cop and raised his family with the same values as he adhered to as a police officer. When you walk the beat, you get to know the people. As I heard it told from my mother and grandmother, Paddy would rattle the fences of houses with his night stick to alert the kids that it was time to go inside. He would see the local guys moving moonshine out of their automobile trunks during prohibition and rap the fenders and tell the guys to keep that business off the street. He left the bigger bootleggers to the Feds, but the local guys trying to make a buck, he looked the other way as long as they did not abuse the privilege. He greeted the ladies with respect and looked after the local businesses on his daily rounds. In short, he was a good cop and looked after the neighborhood. My grandmother told stories about people coming to the house and delivering food and other treats for Paddy Carroll for some favor that he had done for them or for just being attentive to their business or family. This is the way it was back in the day. 86503e7dd09776ce6c0018c1e1c18336

He ended up with a house full too. His wife died at an early age and my grandmother basically ran the house for him and his two sons. My grandfather Jack Reynolds eventually married my grandmother and moved in to the house on Stayton Street. So the house was full of guys with my grandmother cooking and cleaning for the lot. Unknown to Paddy Carroll my grandfather was making gin in the bathtub upstairs in the attic and after prohibition, he switched to beer. Paddy kept an eye on things and when Grandpap Reynolds found out that Paddy was counting the beers in the cases in the basement, he would save the caps,and fill the bottles with water. Paddy would remark that Johnnie was cutting back. My grandfather would chuckle and continue the charade until he stopped drinking around the time when I was a little kid.

At that time, the neighborhood was filled with hard working, blue collar folks trying to raise their families and getting by. Patrick Carroll was a friend to the neighborhood and in reality, he was the patron of the Woods Run and Marshall/Shadeland area. Things have changed a bit in the neighborhood and these days, there are shootings, drugs, violence and other happenings that make the old neighborhood a menacing place to live sometimes. Paddy the Cop would be saddened at the condition of his home, but as life progresses, things change sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

It is said about history that you don’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been. Perhaps we all could take a lesson from Paddy the Cop’s page when we look back and see how he managed the neighborhood and his job. It is a lot more complicated today with the complexity of crime and poverty. However,without deference to any race, heritage, or social status, Paddy took care of the neighborhood and the neighborhood took care of Paddy. Just sayin. Thanks for reading. IMG_0923