Wall Street and Dim Sum 1-31-2010

Wall Street and Dim Sum with the Weinfelds

January 31, 2010

Richard J. Garfunkel



We met the Linda’s cousin Natalie Weinfeld and her husband Lewis at the Jewish Heritage Museum today at 2:45 pm. We found a parking space on Greenwich Street, not far from the Customs Building and we strolled over to the museum to await their arrival. Unfortunately they could not find a space for love or money ($35) and we all concurred that paying $35 was confiscatory and not a great investment. The Weinfelds have sold their home in South Orange and are heading to sunny southern California to be closer their daughters, so this was a critical good bye for now. We decided to head to Chinatown for Dim Sum and Lewis took all of us to the Bowery and the Sunshine Seafood restaurant, where Dim Sum is their specialty.


We tried almost everything, within reason, on their rolling carts, and received critical advice from the Asian women who were sharing our table. After various portions of sticky rice, egg rolls, shrimp balls, wrapped shrimp, fish balls, pork on the bone, and other unnamed delicacies, washed down by Chinese green tea, we were quite satiated. 


They are heading west at the end of March and they’ll be missed. But they are both sick of the cold weather, the crazy expenses of the metro area, and inter-continental communication with their daughters.


After our departure Linda and I headed over to Wall Street to see my old office building at 40 Wall, which is now called the Trump Building. The only reasonable thing which was named after the vain, self-aggrandizing hustler was Disney’s famous duck! I had worked at Bache & Company as a junior stock analyst back in 1969. When it was built in 1929-30, the 927 foot edifice was supposed to be the tallest building the world. When I worked there, FDR’s youngest son worked there, and I was always sorry that I didn’t visit with him. I did get to meet FDR’s other surviving sons, Elliot, Franklin Jr., and James, but not John, who died in 1981. Across the street from the Federal Building, where George Washington was sworn in as president, sits the JP Morgan Building at 23 Wall Street. On September 16, 1920, anarchists exploded a 100 pound bomb at 12:01 PM, killing 38 people and injuring 400 others. I went over and looked at the side of the building where there are still holes in the wall from that blast. They were never removed.



Hyde Park, FDR's 128th Birthday and the Rose Garden 1-30-10

Hyde Park, FDR’s 128th Birthday and the Rose Garden

January 30, 2010

Richard J. Garfunkel


Funny thing about Hyde Park on FDR’s birthday, it is always cold and invariably there is snow on the ground. Another year has passed and I continue to make my semi-annual (at least) pilgrimage to Springwood, the home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States. There have been many changes since my first trip to this old house and property, once known as Crum’s Elbow, over 50 years ago.


The greatest change has been the addition of the Wallace Visitor’s Center, a few years ago, which is named after Henry Agard Wallace, FDR’s 2nd Vice President, and one of the most popular personages to come out of the New Deal. Like a number of other members of his cabinet, through his long tenure, Wallace was not a Democrat, but was a progressive farm-belt Republican, whose father had been Secretary of Agriculture in the Harding and part of the Coolidge Administration. Henry’s father had a bitter feud with Herbert Hoover while they served in Coolidge’s cabinet, and as a result, according to his family, he died as a result of a heart attack brought on because of their friction. Consequently, Henry Jr. did not support Hoover in 1928 or 1932, when he was opposed and defeated by Franklin Roosevelt.


The Wallace family became the beneficiary of Henry Wallace’s expertise when it came to breeding corn, and his hybrid corn earned the family untold 100’s of millions of dollars. It was some of those dollars that were used to build the visitor center and modernize the Roosevelt Library, Museum and Mansion complex. From my perspective it was a terrific addition and it has served wonderfully as the Library’s auditorium, educational center with its meeting rooms, tour center, and gift shop.


The indoor highlight of the day’s agenda was a discussion between historian and Rutgers University professor Richard Heffner (host and creator of the television show, The Open Mind) and his grandson Alexander Heffner, a student at Harvard, who together have written and published the 8th Edition of Heffner’s A Documentary History of the United States. They were comparing and contrasting the legacy of FDR’s first inaugural, his 100 Days, and the Obama administration’s first year’s efforts. After their colloquy, they took some questions and autographed their 670 page book for many of the visitors to the center.


As the clock approached the hour of three, I joined many of the visitors on a brisk walk to the Rose Garden, where there was a wreath laying ceremony at FDR’s white marble gravesite. In the bitter cold, Ms. Lynn Bassanese, the deputy director of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, delivered a brief speech on the 75th anniversary of the creation of Social Security and the WPA. The West Point Cadets, who were the honor guard, braved the 12 degree cold, and enlisted men from the Point saluted FDR’s life with a 21 gun volley. Those poor Cadets, standing at attention in their dress grays, with swords drawn and black plumed 1814 style hats, seemed half frozen, but they did their duty. After the wreaths were placed at the gravesite, a few more remarks were quickly stated, taps was sounded, and every one headed quickly back to the Wallace Center for coffee, tea and birthday cake. My daughter Dana also shares a birthday on this day, along with some other invidious events: Hitler’s ascendency to power in 1933, Gandhi’s assassination in 1948, and the beginning of the Tet Offensive in 1968. But on a more positive note the FDR Birthday Balls were always held on January 30th and the funds to eradicate Infantile Paralysis were raised at those balls!


Time waits for no man, and it is now more years since FDR’s death than what he was allowed to live. But his legacy of progressive reform and decisive leadership in peace, and war, are enduring. Gauging the amount of books, articles, essays and discussions about his life and work that comes out daily, his name and impact will be around for countless generations.


…the family still remains the basis of society as we know it, and it must be preserved as an institution if our democracy is to be perpetuated. If we lose the home we are in grave risk of undermining all those other elements of stability and strength which contribute to the well being of our national life. FDR- 1939


The NY Historical Society 1-26-2010

The NY Historical Society

January 26, 2010


The NY Historical Society hosted, in their Bernard and Irene Schwartz Distinguished Speakers Series, a program devoted to Longshots and Underdogs, Great Moments in NY Sports, with NY Times Columnist Bob Herbert, narrating, author Bert Sugar, and writer Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker. Bert Sugar has written scores of books on sports, is an overall expert on all of sport and certainly the world’s leading expert on boxing. He was a good fiend of the late George Lyons, an old personal friend of mine and the son of the famed late Broadway columnist Leonard Lyons, of the NY Post’s “In the Lyon’s Den” and the brother of Jeffrey Lyons, the movie critic.


I was the guest of my long-time friend from Mount Vernon, Alan Rosenberg, who brought along another friend, Richie Teichman. Teichman originally hailed from New Rochelle, NY. I was there early and was able to meet and talk to both Bob Herbert and Bert Sugar, and induced them sign my first edition of Grantland Rice’s “Sports Lights of 1923.” Both are quite personable and I had a good feeling about the coming night's discussion.


The evening went as advertised, and the talk was spirited. It revolved around the great upset years, especially when the Jets, Knicks and Mets shook up the NY sporting world from 1968 to 1970. Bert, whose forte is boxing, talked about the first Max Schmeling – Joe Louis bout in 1936, when the legendary Brown Bomber was knocked out and the upset of James Braddock over the highly favored, Max Baer, who was more interested in wine, women and song than training. As to football, Bert also mentioned the two most heralded New York City college victories; Columbia upsetting undefeated, un-scored upon West Point at Baker Field, and those Ivy League Lions upset of Stamford in the 1934 Rose Bowl.


Certainly no NY sports evening would be complete without a discussion of the NY baseball Giants’ stretch run in 1951, that culminated with a playoff with the favored Dodgers. The Giants, with stars like Monte Irvin, Don Mueller and the fabulous rookie Willie Mays were 13.5 games behind in mid-August of the front-running Dodgers, led by Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Gil Hodges. At the end of the season, both NY teams wound up in a flat-footed tie for the National League pennant. In the final game of a best of three playoff series, Bobby Thomson hit the winning homerun, known as “The Shot Heard Round the World,” off former Mount Vernon and NYU ace Ralph Branca. That remarkable finish to the Giants’ season was a bit tarnished by their loss of the World Series to the Yankees in 6 games and the later revelation that the Giants’ manager Leo “The Lip” Durocher was stealing the catcher’s signs to the pitcher with the use of a player with binoculars in their centerfield clubhouse. Later, cynics and critics, who had heard rumors of this chicanery, now believed that the remarkable Giants’ home record was unfairly enhanced by this un-sportsman-like activity.


The evening ended, with some book signings, pictures and the usual sports banter. We met Ernestine Miller, a women’s sports historian, and learned that she was a good friend of the legendary sports author, Ray Robinson. We debated about Robinson’s age, both Alan and I thought he was over 90, but she insisted he was 87. In an interview I found on the internet, he said that he had attended his first baseball game in 1928, which was 82 years ago. He did say that he was too young to go in 1927, so he could be around 87 or 88! I even got meet Alan Weintraub and his brother, who both lived in White Plains when I was growing up in Mount Vernon. Alan, who still lives there, and was in a great Dodger hat and jacket, played basketball with a young Mal Graham and the great high school All-American, and future Yale star, Bruce Weinstein on their football team. Their 1961 basketball team also featured my first cousin Steve Kivo. That year would mark the beginning of the end of their long dominance of Westchester County basketball, as the new and unified Mount Vernon High School started to emerge as the great county power. Mount Vernon still continues to dominate Westchester and Section I basketball over the past half century, with 25 Section I titles.


Alan suggested we have a quick bite at “Fine and Shapiros,” which is located at West 72nd Street, and after a quick five block drive and a u-turn, I was able to park right in front. Richie and Alan had soup, and I enjoyed a hearty chicken soup with noodles and kreplachs along with a pastrami on rye. There’s nothing like New York!






Avatar, To See or Not to See? 1-16-10


To See, or Not to See?

That is the Question!

January 16, 2010

Richard J. Garfunkel



My wife Linda and I, along with our friends the Habers went to see Avatar in 3-D in White Plains. It cost $15 per ticket. The question is, was it worth it to see the film, apropos of the price, or not? One thing is for sure, that if you go to see it, see it in 3-D. If one needed a primary reason to see the film, it would be the special affects, and its sheer majesty. The incredible vistas, the flora and fauna and the animation are quite unique and incredibly enhanced by 3-D.


But, over the years there have been other films that used special affects and combined with an engaging and worthwhile story. Certainly, 2001, A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Superman, Batman, Spider Man and the new Transformer movies have broken incredible visual ground. Even the little regarded Starship Troopers achieved an incredible, but gory level of special affects depicting violence and a war against an advanced-level of aggressive giant insects.


In reflecting on Avatar, I came to some conclusions. One is the thought that the general premise of the film was not really explained. Here are some following questions that I had about the film:


a)      If Earth was dying, why was a corporate entity handling this effort to colonize and exploit the mineral reserves of Pandora?

b)      This effort had been going on for many years, why, if this effort was so critical, it was undermanned? Wouldn’t a world-wide effort been mobilized?

c)      What was the importance of this mineral, and if was indigenous to Pandora, why was it located in one place? (It seems illogical!)

d)      Had the other areas of this large planet been explored for this mineral?

e)      Why were there so few people on this planet? (One would feel that they had been around for countless generations and their population would have been a great deal more significant. In 1492 when Columbus reached the New World, it was estimated that there were three million Native Americans living above the Rio Grande, and multiple millions living in Mexico and to the south. It was also estimated that Native Americans had crossed the Bering Strait land-bridge between 12-15,000 years ago. As to all of North America’s indigenous population, in the 1890’s, an estimate of 1 million was published by one James Mooney. Later on in 1965 and in 1982 the estimates were risen to between 10-12 million, and then to 18 million.)

f)        Assuming that this effort had been an ongoing one for many years (it takes place in 2154 CE) why weren’t there many more colonists?

g)      The creation of the “Avatars” took years and a great deal of money, why did the corporation allow this incredible expense and give it such a short time to work?

h)      The Na’vi or – blue people, knew of the “Sky People,” did they have any clue of who or what the Avatars really were?

i)        Historically indigenous native peoples, all over the world: Native North Americans, Moros, Micronesians, Aborigines, sub-continent Indians, Aztecs, Incas, Maoris, sub-Saharan Africans, Indo- Chinese and others have been by easily dominated by technologically superior peoples with populations that were much, much smaller. In the Indian sub-continent, the British Raj dominated, the population was over 200 million and it remained in that range from 1800 to 1858 when the Raj affectively consolidated power. In 1861 there were 41,000 British civilians and 66,000 military personnel. Why was this historical scenario so different?

j)        How could the long bow be effective against modern 22nd Century armor? (Medieval long-bow weaponry had the range, 165-200 yards, and was used with a great deal of affect when used en masse against unprotected soldiers or cavalry. But this type of weaponry peaked in the Battles of Crecy (1356) and Agincourt (1415). Even in an atmosphere thinner and with a gravitational field much weaker than Earth, could bow and arrow penetrate a modern air ship-of-war? During World War I, in the first era of modern aerial warfare, the ability of high-powered Vickers 7.7 mm machine guns to hit one another was questionable. Most planes had to line up directly behind their target and even with a minimum range of 1500 yards the movements of both planes made accuracy questionable. This range was minimally 5 times greater than a long bow!)

k)      How could any animal (the last charge from the armored triceratops) survive the fire power of modern 22nd Century ordnance launched by high powered multi-chambered and barreled guns? (This ammunition could penetrate the skin of many WWI tanks and possibly lighter tanks of WWII.)


The film portrayed the corporation as obviously American, and the indigenous Native Peoples, the Na’vi as colored, aboriginal types that communed with nature, and lived off the forest. One never sees their societal infrastructure, their system of justice, how they ate, how they lived, and what they did as a people. The symbolism of the picture was not the survival of the dying planet Earth, but the greed of a corporate entity, to rape a planet and the destruction of its people. Was this depiction a reflection of European colonial policies all over the world in the 16th through 19th Centuries, or modern America’s struggle against regimes who shelter and sponsor terrorism as their way to strike back at soc-called economic exploitation?  In this modern age, one could easily blame the local regimes for exploiting their own countries mineral rights and wealth. I felt that both the disabled Jack Sully, the US Marine, who was recruited to help in this effort and the scientist, Dr. Grace Augustine were poorly supported by the script. Sully’s lines were sophomoric and his demeanor and build were uncharacteristic of a US Marine. He was disabled as a result of combat and left without rehabilitation. We learn that he cannot afford to have his legs rehabilitated because of the prohibitive cost in 2154 CE, but the stereotypical Colonel Miles Quaritch, who is the military commander of this multi-trillion dollar effort, promises him a “spinal treatment” if he performs to the level of the Colonel’s satisfaction. On the other hand, Dr. Augustine, who has spent years of her time and high intellect developing new Avatars, at the cost countless millions of corporate monies, is only given three months to succeed with her agreed to policy of social infiltration. If she cannot convince the Na’vi, with her cloned Avatars, to abandon their homes, their religion, and their way of life in 90 days, her effort is to be terminated, and their military arm will take immediate action, resulting of the destruction of the Na’vi! Who was this corporation responding to, public opinion back on Earth? It is hard to believe that a dying planet Earth would care one iota about how intergalactic politics were played out! At the end, after the victory of the Na’vi is achieved and former Jack Sully is transformed permanently into a Na’v1, the captured Americans- Sky People are marched into captivity to be sent back to Earth. How would they get there? Wouldn’t others follow with greater weaponry and a more aggressive attitude?

We Band of Brothers 1-14-10

William Shakespeare’s


Henry V


“From this day to the ending of the World,

…we in it shall be remembered

…we band of brothers.”



I was never a member of George’s Band of Brothers. But they have gathered together here and now, once and forever, to pay tribute to one of their lost brothers. Here we all are paying tribute to an individual whose drive, passion and decency made up a fabric of success, admiration, and memories we so fondly recall.


I serendipitously breezed into contact with George, his family and his Band of Brothers through a small window of opportunity opened to me by my coach and friend Bill Sywetz, almost 50 years ago, in this city, where we now mourn. I had never met George before that first day at Hutchinson Field, and other than those two short and transient springs which ended in 1963, I never was part of his life again. In those chilly spring afternoons and bright weekend mornings it was this ageless wonderment of baseball that encapsulated our lives. Though I knew it not then, all of us were at the tail end of an idyllic age, when the world was simpler, and the old values were understood and respected.


When I came back to Mount Vernon some four years later I gazed into that same window to see his brother Brian also compete on the often, not so friendly, fields of athletic strife. But it was not the same, times were a changing.


Daniel Defoe, stated, “that the best of men cannot suspend their fate: the good die early, and the bad die late. In a sense, no matter how old the good are, they are too young, Though, I tried, I never got to meet George again. I have no idea what I would have said. In a sense our world was frozen forever in that moment of time.


I thought of a quote from Hamlet, “What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god!


That is how I sum up my impressions of that glance back through that clouded window of time when we were all young and the world was in front of us to conquer. In retrospect, it seems he was the one who remained forever young.


Richard J. Garfunkel

January 13, 2010




The Harvard Club, Frances Perkins and Al Gore 1-14-10

The Harvard Club, Frances Perkins and Al Gore

January 14, 2010

Richard J. Garfunkel


The Harvard Club is located on the north side of 44th Street just off 5th Avenue. It’s a wonderful place with a lovely bar and great meeting rooms. Originally a few sons of the future Harvard Club met down on Astor Place and frequently at Delmonico’s Restaurant, but its membership started to grow dramatically and by 1886 it had reached 431. It needed more and more room and in early 1887 it signed a lease for a four story brownstone at 11 West 22nd Street. The membership converted it into a club house, a restaurant, offices and ten bedrooms.


The success of the new location increased its membership 25% in one year, and the Club started to look for a new location in the 40’s where other clubs had located. It wasn’t long before the trustees found its current location at 27-9 West 44th Street and hired the famous Charles McKim of McKim, Mead & White to design their new clubhouse which was opened in 1894. By the way, McKim’s partner was the equally famous and notorious Stanford White, who was shot to death by millionaire Harry K. Thaw in a dispute involving the lovely Evelyn Nesbit. Ms. Nesbit was the young wife of Thaw, and was reported to be deeply involved with White when she was 16 and he was close to thrice her age. But the shooting was years later in 1906 at a party thrown by White at the Madison Square Garden’s Roof Garden. The Harvard Club is a wonderful place, with the look of a late 19th Century hunting lodge. It has an impressive great hall, a comfortable bar and sitting area, and a spacious dining room. My first visit there in the early 1970’s was as a dinner guest of my sister Kaaren and her husband Charles Hale, who was a graduate of the Harvard Business School. The first floor has pictures of all of Harvard’s presidents, and a number of its illustrious graduates. Back then I looked vainly for a picture of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but for the life of me, I could not find it until I went downstairs to the restrooms. There it hung in a corner. Was I shocked but not really surprised? No! Thankfully times have changed, and it now is in a prominent place in the dining room with portraits of Jack Kennedy, his illustrious fifth cousin Teddy Roosevelt and others.  


Tonight the Frances Perkins Center, named after FDR’s famous Secretary of Labor and the nation’s first woman to serve in the Cabinet of the United States, co-sponsored, with Mount Holyoke College, Frances Perkin’s alma mater, (Class of 1902, MA from Columbia in 1910), The Harvard Club, The Roosevelt Institute, the Friends of Columbia Libraries, and the Women’s City Club, a celebration of her life and the creation of Social Security, seventy-five years ago. The first panel discussion was hosted by my friend Chris Breiseth, formerly the President of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, (FERI), featured author Kirstin Downey, Adam Cohen of the NY Times and Larry DeWitt of the Social Security Administration. The second panel was moderated by Susan Feiner with Nancy Altman, Maya Rockymoore, and Professor Eric Kingson. The life and times of Frances Perkins and her impact, regarding the creation of Social Security and how the entitlement program works, was discussed in depth. The thrust of the evening was to oppose a new commission, headed by United States Senators Conrad and Gregg, which upon further analysis seems to be a threat to Social Security as we know it. The life of Frances Perkins has been well chronicled by one of the guest panelists, Kirstin Downey, formerly of the Washington Post, who wrote, The Woman Behind the New Deal, the Life of France Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor and his Moral Conscience.  Ms. Perkins, who started a long career first in the settlement houses of New York, witnessed the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaste fire and tragedy that claimed over 160 young women’s lives. Early in her career she needed the help and got it from Tammany Hall’s Big Tom McManus who was in charge of NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen. Ironically Linda and I were working on a New Democratic Coalition (NDC) screening committee of candidates for District Leader at the New Yorker Hotel. We were in our early 20’s and one of the first candidates that we interviewed was James McManus, the incumbent District Leader, and heir to the McManus politic dynasty who actually wanted a “reform” endorsement. How the mighty had fallen since Charles Murphy and the last Tiger of Tammany, Carmine De Sapio, ruled the Democratic machine.


Perkins rose up the ladder in government with the ascension of Al Smith as governor and her appointment to New York State’s Industrial Commission. As one of the leading women in the Democratic Party, along with Eleanor Roosevelt and Molly Dewson, Frances Perkins, who had worked with Theodore Roosevelt, became the state’s Labor Commissioner when Franklin Roosevelt was elected Governor of New York in 1928. She would later follow FDR to Washington and enter the cabinet of as Secretary of Labor and the nation’s first woman member. She stated that she came to Washington with the purpose, “To work for G-d, FDR, and the millions of forgotten plain workingmen.” She became the moral conscience behind the New Deal, and is credited with being the driving force behind many of the New Deal’s labor reforms, and the creation of Social Security.

At Al Smith's funeral in 1944 two of his former Tammany Hall political cronies were overheard to speculate on why Smith had become a social crusader. One of them summed the matter up this way: “I'll tell you. Al Smith read a book. That book was a person, and her name was Frances Perkins. She told him all these things and he believed her.”

After FDR’s death on April 12, 1945, Ms. Perkins finally resigned after serving over twelve years in one of the most difficult and pressure-packed positions in American history. She was appointed to the US Civil Service Commission by the new president, Harry S Truman and served there until 1952 and the end of his 2nd term. In her later life, she began to teach and finally wound up in the late 1950’s at Cornell’s School of Labor Relations at the invitation of Professor Maurice Neufeld. Without a real home of her own, and with the encouragement and initiation of the young Chris Breiseth, who is our host tonight, she took up residence at Cornell University’s Telluride House. It was the beginning of a marvelous opportunity for both Perkins and a terrific contribution for Cornell. Some of her early friends at the Telluride House were, of course Chris, Allan Bloom and Paul Wolfowitz.


After the panel discussions ended, we broke for an hour of drinks and finger food. To the amazement and delight of all, Vice President Al Gore strode into the reception. He was mobbed by everyone, and I got a chance to say hello, have him sign a Frances Perkins stamped first day cover, get photographed, and invite him to be a guest my radio shoe, The Advocates. The Vice-president looked great. He was tan, much slimmer and quite charming. He was there because his daughter, Karenna Gore Shiff, the author of Lighting the Way: Nine Women Who Changed Modern America, is the co-producer with Catherine Gorman, who was also there, of a documentary on the life of Frances Perkins.


The evening ended with some more talk about the future risks that the Social Security system faces and the showing of the not quite finished Gore-Gorman documentary about the life of Frances Perkins. It was a fascinating five hours of information, great talk and wonderful memories of two titans of the 20th Century, Frances Perkins, and her unequaled mentor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


Memories of Time Gone By 1-10-10

Memories of Time Gone By

Richard J. Garfunkel



I met George Bochow in the early spring of 1962. It was on the baseball diamonds of Hutchinson Field, which is located going south just off  Sanford Boulevard in Mount Vernon, and almost to the Pelham line. Hutchison Field was right next to the more beautiful Parkway Field, which the Pelham High School Pelicans played. Even though we should have been natural rivals, we never played them in an official game, because their enrollment was too small. But we did play them in “unofficial” games, sort of like a scrimmage in football or basketball. The total amount of games was “set in stone” as we were limited by Westchester County and New York State regulations pertaining to high school athletics. The only members of the Pelham team, who I could remember were their handsome and very talented centerfielder who was rumored to have gotten an appointment to the Naval Academy and their very large and aggressive first baseman. I had a minor incident with him when he was on first base, and our pitcher was throwing over to keep him close to the bag and I tried to block him from getting to the base. That turned out to be a mistake.


I had gone to Horace Mann in ninth grade, and was a bit unfamiliar with the intra-school junior high school play that had existed on and through 9th grade. In those days, AB Davis High School, which was, and is still located on Gramatan Avenue, was a three-year school. While I was away in that year, I missed out on many things that were happening. At Horace Mann, I played freshman baseball, basketball and freshman and junior varsity soccer. I didn’t play any Little League of Pony League baseball in Mount Vernon because I went away to camp and belonged to beach clubs in New Rochelle on Davenport Neck. But I honed my skills on the sandlots and the school yards. Because my choice to leave Horace Mann came on a bit late, my assimilation into Davis High School was a bit unplanned. Since I was not a rising freshman in the system, I registered late for all my courses and was a bit of an outsider even though all my classmates had started their sophomore year at the same time I did in the fall of 1960. It was a difficult year of adjustment after Horace Mann, and though I played junior varsity basketball at Davis, I had no clue about when and where baseball tryouts were held. In my junior year, my gym teacher, Bill Sywetz, who was also the varsity baseball coach, asked me to try out. We actually were very close friends and I spent countless hours in his tiny athletic department office as his assistant and runner. I loved and admired both Bill Sywetz, and the legendary Henry “Hank” Littlefield. They were great and I have the fondest memories of both men. Bill left for Scarsdale High School the next year, he eventually took over for the retiring Dave Buchanan as Athletic Director and I would stop in to say hello for years afterward. I was in his office many times, and for years I watched him referee high school wrestling meets. In the winter of my junior year, after a disagreement on style, I was cut from the varsity basketball team by the late Vinnie Olson. That unforeseen event opened up a great opportunity for me. I was able to meet and become associated with Hank Littlefield, one of the premier scholastic wrestling coaches in the United States. From that time on Hank and I became fast friends and we remained close until his untimely death in 2000 at the age of 66.


Those years with Henry were wonderful and I cherish every memory. I became his assistant, and later came back from college and ran the NY State Section I Wrestling Tournament (Westchester-Putnam-Dutchess Counties) in Mount Vernon for three years, 1965-6-7. It was all a fascinating run and great fun besides. After Mount Vernon’s first year of varsity wrestling in 1961-2, Henry’s teams won five straight Section Titles from 1963 through 1967, and the State Titles in 1966 and 1967, Henry’s teams were also undefeated in that period in Section I competition. The next year, Henry went off to Northampton, Massachusetts to work on a Federal History Project and then he headed on to Amherst College.


But in the spring of 1962 I was playing baseball under Coach Bill Sywetz with my neighborhood buddies; Joel Grossman and Jack Bromley. We basically had almost an all-junior squad with the exception of George Bochow and maybe a few other guys. I didn’t know George, and had never heard of him. He went to school across town at Nichols Junior High School, and according to everyone he had a great reputation. He did have an older sister named Beryl, and I know that I had met her in one of my classes, but to this day I cannot pin down where that happened. George was a natural athlete, very strong and quite carved for that era. He was shy, quiet and from my perspective a nice all around guy. Maybe because he was a year younger, he kept quiet. The rest of the team had some great personalities who loved to talk, have fun, and enjoy life. Bob Manfredonia, Bob Spana, Tony Castaldo, Steve Blankstein, Jack Bromley, Joel Grossman, Ricky Miller, Lou Nardone, Andy Mahler and Jim Seiler, were the guys from my class that I remember.


My strongest memories of those years were of the cold weather we endured during those springs and our home and home victories against regional powerhouse James Madison High School of the Bronx, which had in the past featured the legendary Hank Greenberg (Class of 1929) and Ed Kranepool (Class of 1962). We faced Vic Vergara, Danny Monzon and other talented other ballplayers at both Hutchinson Field and their barbed wire surrounded field which was located at  Boynton Avenue and172nd Street in the Bronx. Monroe HS was closed down in 1994, and divided into four small schools. I only remember a few parts of that game in the Bronx, One was an incredible homerun hit by Vic Vergara, who challenged Eddie Kranepool’s school homerun record, the fact we won 2-1 and I made the running catch in right field to end the game, and preserve the victory for our tall left-hander Jack Bromley.


During one of our practices, Jon Murray, of the Daily Argus, one of the local paper’s sport’s reporters came out to Hutchinson Filed to pitch batting practice. He was a young guy in his late 20’s or early 30’s at the most, and he was a wild left-hander. We were sitting on the bench awaiting our turns at the plate. He was wild and dangerous and he plunked two or three of the first batters he faced. George Bochow turned to Jack Bromley and I and declared that if Murray hit him with a pitch he would throw the bat at him! Well, George’s turn came up, and Jack and I were encouraging George to dig in and try to hit Murray’s fast ball. Wouldn’t you know it, the first pitch hit George on the wrist, and he said nothing. We verbally reminded George of his earlier promise, but he just turned at us an sheepishly smiled. After a few more swings, he ran down to first base. I was next up, and before I stepped into the box, I warned Mr. Murray in the best way not to throw at me because I was less disciplined than George. It seemed to work, and Murray took something off his next few pitches and put them right down the middle.


After baseball season ended in the spring of my senior year, very little matter with regards to school. The next few weeks were the “mop up” days before high school came to a close. It was the end of childhood, and home as we knew it for most of us. Most of my friends went off to college, others went to work and some went into the service. A few months later JFK was killed, the fervor of the 1960’s was ramped up, and the Vietnam War started to get very hot. Those idyllic days of the spring and summer of 1963 were long gone. For me, and many, that year was the last year of peace and innocence that we enjoyed.






Sports in New York 1-3-10

Sports in New York

January 3, 2010

Richard J. Garfunkel


Yesterday was a surprising day for sports fans in New York. I had the pleasure of going to Madison Square Garden as the guest of my old buddy Alan Rosenberg. We met in the YMHA in Mount Vernon back in the late 1950’s. It was there that we played our own version of the Mount Vernon City Ping-Pong Championship. Alan, a successful CPA in New York, has one of the most remarkable sport’s memorabilia collections on this planet, and as friends for 50 years, we have never had a “discouraging” word between us!


It was a bitterly cold early evening, but we both had the pleasure and convenience of being driven right up to the Garden and we hustled in before the long sharp tongue of Jack Frost chilled our aging bones. Meanwhile the seats were great, and the usually toothless Knicks won 132-89, their greatest margin of victory in their history. I am old Boston Celtic fan, dating back to the pre-Bill Russell days, and other than a short period in the early 1950’s and 1970’s and the part of the Pat Ewing Era of the mid 1990’s the Celts dominated the Knicks. I was actually impressed by a few of the Knicks and sort of glad they won. Even though the Pacers were obviously tired and missing a few of their better players, the Knicks played quite well.


During halftime, Alan took me over to where Cal Ramsey, the record-setting and venerable star of the NYU Violets from the middle 1960’s usually sits. Cal had been on The Advocates this past March 11, and one can listen to the interview at http://advocates-wvox.com. It was a pleasure to say hello once again. Cal never misses a Knick home game, and has been a part of their family for decades.


Across the Hudson River, the snake-bit Jets had a remarkable victory over the Division-winning Cincinnati Bengals 37-0. It was a well-earned triumph for a team that has lost an uncountable amount of big games since Joe Namath predicted and authored their Super Bowl III victory 40 years ago. In a strange, up and down, season, the Jets actually earned their playoff spot after last week’s gift from the Indianapolis Colts, who mailed in their second half effort. That strange and unusual “beau geste” left the door open for the desperate Jets. As for the Giants, after an almost unprecedented 5-0 start, they collapsed by winning only 3 games in the last 11. It is hard to believe that the Giants, who were known historically for defense, were obliterated in the last two games. This season, they gave up the second most amount of points in their long history. Of course they are now playing more games per year now than they did in their first 50 years in business. I haven’t been a Giant fan since they fired Allie Sherman and the emergence of Joe Namath. I had been a Giant fan from my earliest days, and I had the unique pleasure of seeing them play at the Polo grounds against the pre-Johnny Unitas, Baltimore Colts. The Polo Grounds has long been demolished, the Baltimore Colts (whose franchise actually could be traced to the NFL’s Dayton Triangles in 1913) are now in Indianapolis after being spirited out of town in the middle of the night in 1984, and the legendary Johnny Unitas passed away at the age of 69 in 2002. It was therefore, an unusual and a unique start to the new decade. I am sure there will be more surprises to come!


RJ Garfunkel