"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles, CEO Sports Network
What happens when a bunch of guys that grew up in The Bronx in the Fifties and
Sixties get together over dinner and some wine (beer was for the younger days)
to recount and relive their wayward youth in the 'hood and real, as well as
imagined, exploits on the diamond, hardwoods and gridiron? The trip down
memory lane has a way of turning into a Pixar or Disney choreographed fantasy
with each one determining and separating truth from fiction. You undoubtedly
know the routine and those of you have not undergone the journey down the
fantasy footpath, the follies of yesteryear, had best take some notes.
Garry Marshall, who was in my class at DeWitt Clinton, home to 7,000 plus boys
at the time, could certainly explore and discover the foundation for a movie,
a sequel to "The Amboy Dukes." (look it up -- author Irving Shulman) No, you
were not born at the time and I was still in the single digit age bracket.
There we were, four of us from the starting five...yours truly, Jim DeBerry,
one of our starting guards, "Fuzzy" Lieberman, one of our forwards and Bebe
Martin, the first substitute for Al Simmons, the original starting guard for
whom Martin was the heir apparent when we all graduated. The other forward,
Dave Raspler, was happily settled out on the west coast and unable to make it.
Right, at 6' 5" I was the center at the time and considered tall, a guard by
today's standards. Deberry was a magician with the ball, Simmons and Martin
could get it to anyone at any time and I made sure that "anyone" was me as
often as possible. Lieberman went to the boards with the near same ferocity
as myself and Raspler, who wound up at Michigan State, was as pure a shooter
as you would ever see.
The year was 1956, the championship of The
Bronx was on the line and sent to claim it were (front row L-R) Jim DeBerry
Al Simmons and (back row L-R) Dave Raspler, coach Nat April, Fuzzy Lieberman
and Mickey Charles.
Those are the facts. Hy Geller joined our group to verify whatever tales were
told, tall or short, abbreviated or embellished, that is what happens when
guys get together to recall and relive. The fantasies flow like the waters of
Niagara or Victoria. You have been there, at the high school reunions or the
monthly get-togethers, the ones where Pinocchio would develop into an oak tree
and not an extended branch if he had been in our class and opted to join the
This is not Michael Jordan recalling encounters with Larry Bird or Magic
Johnson, there are no tales of successive three point shots (which did not
exist back then) or being able to dunk when it was a monumental achievement to
be able to touch the rim or just be above it to let that layup roll off your
fingertips and into the hoop.
Nothing said, understated or embellished, will stop the aging process that is
nature's way of telling us that the glory days have long since come and gone.
But did Samson really use the jawbone of an ass to slay 1,000 Philistines?
Far be it for me to contest the Holy Bible but what started out as a minor
physical engagement turned out, thanks to some rabbinical editing and
elaborating upon into something of Don King proportions. And a wondrous
moment in time worthy of a movie with Victor Mature as Samson. Quick, name
Delilah without looking it up (Okay, Hedy Lamarr -- 1949 -- the Stone Age to
many of you). And, according to King, he probably will state that he
orchestrated the entire thing to a sold out audience.
Memories, even those with which liberties have been taken to please the author
of same, work admirably well and contesting them in any fashion, by those that
were there, disputes and negates their respective contributions. What a
quandary! To solve it, the stories told simply enlarge themselves like an air
balloon getting ready to go aloft and those of us who are passengers delight
and revel in the ride with more hot air to take us higher and higher. You
gotta love it!
I will hear from my high school cronies but the simple fact of the matter, as
you will find one day soon, if not now, is that there are the stories of fact,
the modest among us and the achievements that no one can seem to recall other
than the one rhetorician who has made certain that none among us was there at
the time to dispute the "facts." How convenient. But we go with the flow and
smile inwardly for the most part, knowingly and approvingly with grace on the
Back in the day brought together (L to R),
Hy Geller, Bebe Martin, Mickey Charles, Fuzzy Lieberman, Jerry Vogel and Jim
DeBerry, sharing stories of the past and present while the future awaits.
It is a world of "he said, she said and the truth."
It is akin to someone rewriting their resume so many times that, sooner or
later...probably sooner, they believe that they worked at all those companies
mentioned (although they did not), almost became CEO or chairman save for some
political machinations and now will accept a position as copy machine clerk to
work their way back up to the top. You gotta love it!
I know how good Fuzzy, Jim, Bebe, Al and Dave were. They played on my team,
the one that went to the game for the scholastic championship of The Bronx.
Jerry told us how good he was when following in our footsteps and playing to a
level equivalent to hang gliding off the moon to get back to planet Earth.
But, he was, in truth, the one that organized the gathering, as every group
needs a Jerry, and he played when all others had already gone on to college.
Not shown in the photo was "Buster" Wolosky, the Rocky Marciano of DeWitt
Clinton in the backfield and then at college...Division Three -- Kalamazoo
College. Modest, unassuming and with a lunch pail in hand at every practice
and game. There has to be a "Buster" among your friends of today or
yesteryear. Without him, there is no balance.
Back in the day comes to all of us at one time or the other. Overstatement is
acceptable, like the fish that was sooooooo large but managed to get away, the
date that was a combination of Halle Berry and Katherine Zeta Jones but you
were not turned on by her so you left early, the fortune you might have made
under the coulda/woulda/mighta/shoulda heading...and so on. The "if only"
brigade coupled with the hyperbole and a bit overstated.
It is acceptable with broad smiles and the inclination to join in, modestly at
first, and then almost egregious, is compelling and irresistible. There are
no disputes, no questioning, just knowing smiles and a wink in the other
The good news is that all were there, some armed with scrapbooks and proof
positive of their exploits, while others simply brought facts with them of
their current lives...realizations and family. The next one is sometime this
summer and it will only be the second for me. Time to gather the history out
of the archives and insist that all bring wives, which was not the case this
last time around, although mine did accompany me. You have to grow and pass
the level of the "all boys from the old days" reunion.
Back in the day for that one evening was a joy. Happily, this gang got older,
they did not grow old. Can any of them still do a cross over, dribble between
their legs, and pass behind the back or rest a hand on the rim?
You gotta be kidding!