Sad News For Those Of Us Who Remember New York City In The 1960’s

The New York Daily News is reporting today that columnist Jimmy Breslin has died. During the 1960’s, Jimmy Breslin was a columnist for the New York Herald Tribune. His columns were insightful and often hilarious. They were the subject of many conversations in my house when I was growing up. He wrote many books, but my two favorites are Can’t Anyone Here Play This Game, a book about the 1962 New York Mets (who were an adventure in themselves) and The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight based on the life of Joey Gallo (later made into a movie).

Jimmy Breslin was definitely a product of New York. Born in Jamaica, New York, he attended Long Island University.

The Daily News article describes the article that got him noticed:

In 1963, Breslin was hired as a news columnist for the New York Herald Tribune and quickly made his mark.

He was sent to cover the funeral of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963, and found an angle that eluded other reporters. Breslin’s story about Clifton Pollard, the man who dug the President’s grave is still one of the most talked about stories in journalism history, even used in J-school courses as a prime example of enterprise reporting.

“One of the last to serve John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was the thirty-fifth President of this country, was a working man who earns $3.01 an hour and said it was an honor to dig the grave,” Breslin wrote.

Over the next quarter century Breslin was a scoop machine, scoring exclusives on government corruption and Mafia malfeasance.

His unique views on the events of the day and the humor he added to reporting those events will be missed.

Sad News From A Former NFL Star

I have always been a fan of Mark Gastineau. One of my favorite memories is sitting at home on a Monday night watching the Jets play Denver with my middle daughter and seeing Mark Gastineau and Joe Klecko sitting on the sidelines while the offense played. Their uniforms were grass-stained and disheveled, but they looked as if they were having the time of their lives. They were an amazing duo.

The New York Daily News is reporting today that Mark Gastineau has been diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.

The article reports:

Gastineau said he received the diagnoses roughly a year ago and traced his illnesses back to football.

“You know, my first reaction was that I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it,” Gastineau told the Daily News in a phone interview Thursday night. “My second reaction was how can I help other people coming in to the NFL? That’s what it’s all about.”

The former defensive lineman believes football can now be played safely and aims to educate young football players.

“I know that there’s techniques out there that if I would have had ‘em, if I would have had the techniques out there that I’m teaching now to these kids, I know I would not be probably…I know I wouldn’t have the results that I have now,” he said on the radio.

Mark Gastineau is an ambassador for USA Football. He is an advocate for the Heads Up Football program–a joint program of the NFL and USA Football to improve the safety of the game.

The article further reports:

The former defensive lineman was enshrined in the Jets’ Ring of Honor in 2012. He gave an eclectic speech during halftime of the Jets’ Monday night loss to the Texans in October of that year when he was inducted alongside former wideout Wesley Walker.

“I think that the Lord put me on this Earth to show that you can be a great player, have all the sacks in the world…and at the end of your life you get news like this and you can turn it into bad, or you can turn it into good,” Gastineau told the News. 

I love football, but am concerned about the toll the game takes on its players. Hopefully the Heads Up Football program can help in this area. Meanwhile, I wish Mr. Gastineau well.