Maybe I’m naïve, but today’s San Francisco 49ers bear so little resemblance to the dynasty I grew up watching that it’s hard to imagine they wear the same red and gold. Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice, Steve Young…these aren’t just names in 49ers history – they’re symbols of a team that won with class, with integrity, and with character.
Surely there were legal issues and other misdeeds among the 49ers of yesteryear, and ultimately owner Eddie DeBartolo’s legal problems in an unrelated business venture cost him the franchise, but I don’t recall anything like what we’re seeing from today’s players. Continue reading →
Jim Hellwig, aka the Ultimate Warrior, in his prime as WWF World Heavyweight Champion
I was very sad to learn of the passing of Jim Hellwig, known to millions as pro wrestling’s “Ultimate Warrior” from the late 1980s through the mid-1990s. He was one of the true legends of pro wrestling, with an outsized personality to match his cartoon-like physique. But he was always something more, too. He was an articulate, intelligent guy who never quite fit the medium intellectually. He spoke with great conviction about big ideas, spiritual thoughts, and grand visions; things pro wrestlers don’t tend to trade in.
He left the big stage of the then-WWF in 1996 and largely disappeared from public view after that. I interacted with him at length via phone calls and emails around 2000-01, when I was running a network of websites and e-commerce operations for a number of Hellwig’s contemporaries from the pro wrestling world, and I was struck by how different he was. Continue reading →
An image from Paul America’s screen test, circa 1965.
I’ve done a lot of research on distant cousins up and down my family tree over the years, uncovering some fascinating stories and learning a lot about ancestors dating back centuries. I’ve written about a few of those stories here on this blog (see links at end of this post), and I’m sure there are many more to find. However, it was pretty striking to learn about a much more recent story, involving a much closer connection.
The story of my late cousin Paul Johnson, aka “Paul America,” is straight out of the movies, both figuratively and literally, and involves none other than ‘60s icon Andy Warhol and other characters from the wild decade in which I was born. I had only heard bits and pieces over the years, tales of a wayward teen with matinee-idol looks who spiraled downward in a haze of drug addiction and, ultimately, an untimely death at too young an age. Continue reading →
The arrival of the 2014 baseball season means 20 years have passed since the old Albuquerque Dukes won the last of their eight Pacific Coast League championships. The franchise joined the Triple A PCL in 1972 with a dominant team managed by Tommy Lasorda and featuring future big leaguers like Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Burt Hooton, Charlie Hough, Larry Hisle, and more. The Dodgers’ minor league system was well-stocked during the years the O’Malley family owned the Dodgers, and Albuqerque, often the final stop for players on their way to the majors, reaped the benefits time and time again. Continue reading →
If you had a vote to cast, which players would you choose? Do you vote for suspected steroid users, or just those who appear clean? Do you vote for clear-cut Hall of Famers whose careers may have been tainted, or do you vote for marginal Hall of Famers whose performances were (as far as we know) never in question? Continue reading →
Future Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, Yankees throughout their careers…quite a rarity these days.
Gehrig. Feller. Williams. Musial. Banks. Stargell. Yastrzemski. Bench. Yount. Ripken. The list goes on and on. Many of baseball’s all-time greats never changed uniforms in their lengthy big league careers. Of course that’s a rarity now, which makes present-day Yankees greats Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter all the more unusual.
I grew up in an era when baseball was changing dramatically. In the 1970s, as the DH rule and free agency hit baseball, longtime stars suddenly started moving from team to team. I remember thinking how strange it was to see Catfish Hunter become a Yankee, but superstars changing uniforms quickly became the norm. Continue reading →
The small dirt road on the left leads to what is still a working farm: Balnagarrow, just outside Kirriemuir, Scotland.
It’s a pretty intense feeling, walking in the very footsteps an ancestor once took. I had never experienced that feeling before, but now that I have I can’t wait for the next opportunity.
I remember very clearly when I first got interested in genealogy. It was one of those very rudimentary family tree assignments in elementary school, where we got a blank mimeographed family tree sheet to fill out and turn in as our assignment. We didn’t do big poster boards with photos and such back then. Things were simple. Purplish-blue, blurry mimeograph paper. Fill-in-the-blanks-type stuff. It was the 1970s. Continue reading →