Archive for June, 2013


Sunday, June 30th, 2013

I played a lot of ball when young, and for a bunch of good people.

First up, with Hollywood in the 9-10 minors, was Bernie Ginsburg. Early on I’d advised him of desire to play outfield. (These were the days of Rocky Colavito and I pictured it like on TV, with me garnering flies in right/center. Little did I know that at nine it didn’t go that way). Mr. Ginsburg did though. Ignoring me, bypassing an older Andy Press, he put me behind the plate, where I stayed for my life.

The Majors came next, then Pony League. Fred Wendel, Dave Bowman, my Dad, Mr. Minadeo: all nice men….warm, paternal, and they even knew baseball. None of them, however, NONE of them, could shine the cleats of the best skipper I ever played for: one Alan Vernon Wieder.

Much has been said about this Jewish Lombardi. It’s all been covered: from Wied’s iconic appeal in a blow-out game of the runner from third (even as they carried the guy—compound fracture and all— from the field on a stretcher), to his stubborn side, when if he wasn’t in the mood, every reasonable request could be met with his rhythmic “No,” (which meant don’t even bother asking later).

And yet, there was more. There was the “Inner Al”, comprised of things he did with the camera perhaps on others. This is what set him apart, made him more than just our friend with a fire in his belly, and placed him in the hierarchy of 20th century field generals.

Alan Wieder wanted to win more than he wanted to keep friends. In the process, he did both.

Growth can mean rough transition. The pickup games at Rowland: everyone played. Even the uncoordinated kids, (“easy outs” if you will), got to bat. Organized ball, however, was different. From adolescence on, players from other schools expanded the talent pool, the umps were paid for, and some teams even, had uniforms. Indeed, the price of poker had risen.

And through it all, Alan V threaded needles:

Meticulously, almost without sound, he pruned our roster of life-long mates, quietly exorcizing the weaker remnants from that first squad, Waxman Plumbing Supply. (It
was the late 60’s and while Soviet Russia had its KGB, we had Wido. One day a guy would be out there playing right next to you—someone you’d known since grade school perhaps. A week later he was gone… without a sound. Vanished! No fanfare, no warning—just gone… replaced by a lesser-known face with more evident ability. Ouch! Nice guys on the team, though, never got fingers dirty and other guys didn’t care. All we knew is that Alan’d handled things, Alan’d found talent, and we kept getting better.

So Myers left early and Marvin left later. Fromin went underground and Will went to the Tribe. The beat went on, we kept getting stronger, and heck, even Pollack threw lifelong friends to the curb to be a part of the juggernaut dubbed Sol’s Boys.

Hindsight is 20/20. It wasn’t that we were that good, (‘though we were). It was the other stuff—the fundamentals. Be it the gazelle Racila in left or a blue collar backstop like me, we each knew where to be and what to do…always. In an era known for anarchy, our ten played with discipline. Steadfast discipline.

We had to, by the way. If we didn’t there were consequences. What WERE the consequences? (you ask). They were Wieder.

Screw up and you got the glare.

Words can’t describe, film can’t depict the icy grimace that steeled from his face. God forbid you didn’t back up in the infield, heaven help you if you missed a cutoff from the outfield. From the back of the mound he’d just look out and stare. And stare.
(Not that when Al finally turned back to pitch it was over. Hell no! If further runs scored as result of your miscue, Wieder’d slam his mitt to the ground, and—once he had our attention, kick it. (Ed. Note: One time he kicked it toward me. It wasn’t my fault; I think Arthur’s throw was errant. I remember being scared though, and worried. Was I to run out and retrieve the glove and get it to him or just let it play out. He was snarling).

—-And with all this regimen, we won. Often. And we played with swagger. Always.
It wasn’t that we’d win each game so much as that we truly expected to. Always.

Thank you, Alan, for a squad that was better than most but played better than everyone.

Not that he didn’t have a soft side. Hardly.

We were closing out the season, 1969, at Gordon Park. Arriving for the meaningless doubleheader, (the pennant was clinched), Alan greeted me with news.

“You’re leading off today”, he told me quietly. Turned out he’d gotten stats from Ruby Wolfe, (these were pre-computer days), and going into the last week I was second in the league in hitting, just Robby Heiser. “You need more at bats,” Wieder noted. So he moved me up—from 10th in the lineup, to first.

And perhaps feeling pressure, I hit 1 for 8.
And on another diamond was Heiser; he went 0 for 9.

It would my first batting title and I’d always be grateful.

Oft over years have I mentioned this story. Al and I’ve discussed it on many occasions.
Looking back we just laugh. Perhaps not so surprisingly, I’ve never asked him whether he’d have moved me up if we hadn’t already clinched the pennant. (I don’t know if I’m afraid of his “No”, or just getting the glare).


Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

“Honesty without compassion is brutality.”

   Bruce H.

It happens to this day—a half century later. Not as often, perhaps, but it happens. Something or someone will upset me and my kneejerk reaction will be to mutter “Irving!”  My brother will hear, give a dirty look and beseech me: “Don’t say that.”  Then I apologize.

There aren’t many threads in the family fabric that Hal and I see differently. Grandpa Irv is one. Cele’s husband, he was an integral part of us, loyally caring for “Elaine and the boys” ‘til his death from pleurisy in the mid ‘60s.

Already middle-aged, this cigar-toting, semi-retired Jewish salesman from Reading, (at the instance of his good friend Sam Levenson), landed in Cleveland, ultimately hooking up (20th century definition, please), with young widow Celia Hoffman. Their wedding soon after would produce the only grandfather Hal and I would ever really know.

A complex man, he was at once both warm and gruff.  Wearing “wife beaters”  ’round the house, playing gin with our grandma, he was directly responsible for the first color TV our family would view.  (“Why are you watching ‘Bonanza’?” we’d ask.   “Because it’s in color.”)

And he loved us. Especially us. Cele had two kids, mind you: Elaine and Bob. Our grandma, though she’d never admit it, liked Bob more. First, he was a man, and she believed so strongly in the old world caste system.  Second, he was successful.  Third—and we need to stay real:  Cele Porter never got over the fact that our mom had hearing issues. In Cele’s generational mentality, love her though she did, Mom was damaged goods.

Irv was different.  It wasn’t that he favored us over Bonnie, Gary, Debbie and Marla, but he nurtured us more. He was the quintessential grandfather– loving us, teaching us unimportant important nonsense, and disciplining only with soft frustration.  (“I’m going to potsch you on the toeteo”, he’d exclaim, more to me than H).

—And yes, even as he’d bicker with our grandma—we knew well he adored us unconditionally….

It was against this backdrop of love and warmth that THE conversation occurred… just the two of us…in his car…’63.

I was hurting. Badly.  Parents recently separated I was complaining to my grandpa,  sharing upset, needing comfort or understanding— or perhaps just an ear.

“Your father’s no good,” he told this 8th-grader.

I could scarcely believe it. Railing on, he ranted that every problem in the Bogart household was our father’s fault, that our mother would be better without him, and that things were bad but Hal and I would never have to worry—  he’d take care of us and again that our dad was a “bastard”. (My memory fades, but I think the old an got blamed for the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Perhaps not).

I recall my hurt… and my tears… and how I fought back… and screamed back.  Replay it I don’t, but picture it I do.

I didn’t know if what he said was true or if it was just his view.  I didn’t care. Kids want their parents to love and they want peace. Right, wrong or indifferent, what they don’t want is T.M.I.

They want their heroes. My Dad was my hero. Heroes aren’t perfect.

My Dad went to his grave believing had Irv not meddled, the marriage would have lived. For the next twenty years, even after meeting Harriet, the love of his life, Dad, whenever sh#t happened, grumbled “Irving”.

My brother never felt the burden of this one conversation carved forever in my past. A man I loved slamming a man I loved?  I was too young,  too raw, and whether it was truth or the consequence of family politics, I didn’t need to be shattered.

My brother’s memory of our Grandpa reigns pristine. I’m happy for that.

I don’t feel the same…but I want to.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to say everything”.

                        Al Bogart


Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

August, 2012:

A warm Wednesday evening, and dining at Paladar, little did I know she considered it Date Three. (Date Two at best, as I saw it).

She faced east on the patio; I looked west. She eyed Rachel on the rail. My view: the setting sun. Best of all though, at our table for two, we saw only each other.

My brain churned feverishly as we left the restaurant.

“How can I see her three times in eight days, then leave town for a week without having kissed her?” …

“Sure, she’d pushed me back the other night, but at our age, women know how to say ‘No’ if they don’t want to see you. Maybe she was nervous?”

Slowly I drove. Carrie Leimsieder liked me at some level, I figured. I just didn’t want to slide to the FriendZone.

Still in the car:
“Gotta hit Giant Eagle tonight— food for the boys.”
“I’ll come.”
(A good sign, I figured).

We entered the grocery. I’d stopped to grab pre-cut watermelon and she had no problem telling me it was priced too high—that only lazy people buy pre-cut fruit.

Then I kissed her. Right there in the middle of the store…and she didn’t push back.

And in the morning I left town.

And on the very next night, from a hotel near the Delaware Water Gap I emailed the lady a YouTube link of a song that reminded me of her.

June, 2013:

A warm Wednesday evening and dining at Paladar—-for the first time since August—the only counting being done by either of us was on being together.

She faced west on the patio while I faced east.  Both of us, though, saw the sun rising.

We drove past Giant Eagle after dinner, not stopping. I was heading toward Dick’s, ‘round the corner. She wants to walk up there, the lass does, maybe Saturday.  The two of us…both ways… from her house.

“Let’s see how far it really is.” I suggested. “We don’t want to overdo it.” (She was giving me the look, I might add, like I was buying more cut up melon).

Then we drove home. Together.

And I kissed her, without a grocer in sight.

And in the morning I left for work.

And on the very next night I sang her a song

Not from a hotel, but from her side.


Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

I tell myself I’m happy the kids have carved paths. I’ve accepted, for the most part, their abrupt relocations. Intellectually I get it: the love and wings thing. Emotionally even, I believe it. Usually.

Woke up and stared in her ocean eyes.

“Happy Father’s Day”, she sang.
“I’ll get bagels,” said I.

I was rounding third on what for me was an emotional weekend. Internal stuff perhaps, but Saturday I’d found myself staring at laptop and singing with YouTube in song reminiscent of each my kids, my parents, and my brother. (Sometimes you just need to cleanse).

Stacy called as I drove from Bialy’s. Not yet ten (Cleveland time), risking a stop by the Beachwood Gestapo, I picked up.

“There’s a stack of cards,” she exclaimed. “Will mail them tomorrow.”
“Fax them,” I urged.

We talked, Bones said Hi, and (the subject escapes me) but at some point I used salty language.

“You’re on speakerphone!” shried Rooney. “Lucy can hear you!”
“Hi Luce—it’s your Happy Pappy!”

Then The Little One, sans segue, brought it home:

“You know why I love you, Dad?”
“No.” (Opting for silence, I passed on the obvious essay question).
Through hushed tones, then —she’s always dramatic— with words meant for me, she spoke to our pasts. In specifics.

Words that come from the heart go to the heart. They trump greeting cards. Always.

Discourse ending, I broke the plane of the driveway. I’d returned home to Carrie…and Leesa…and a spinach omelette…and the PD’s Art Section laid out at my plate. But for kids out-of-town, ‘twas as good as it gets.

Well—not quite.

I would potsckey around, nap a bit, and play on line. There’d be errands to run, email to read, and— nice surprise: niece Liz gave me a ShoutOut on Facebook.

A few hours passed. We were in the back lot at Cedar-Center, just past Whole Foods when “Thunder Road” burst through the radio. The acoustical version, only an act of God would get me to turn if off.

Then it came!

“Grandpa Bruce!” came the voice through the phone.

Thrice it would happen, within minutes. The bekor, for some reason, thinks it’s funny to just call and hang up. (Not that I wonder where it comes from. Michael recalls a time he and I had spoken on skype. I thought we’d hung up, but was wrong. Michael hadn’t, and still saw me. Over and over he kept calling, silently watching on video as I kept grabbing the phone in frustration).

When the games were done Sunday, we spoke—all of us. Max for a bit, Meredith, and Michael. “I love you, Dad,” said the latter, in words from the heart. As good as it gets…

My head hit the pillow Sunday with a sense of renewal. There’s no litmus test, of course, to a child’s love. Still, it always feels good when they reach out and touch.


Friday, June 14th, 2013

“I had a hero for a father. Anyone, and fortunately there were so many, who knew him briefly or over long periods, felt that a bright and quickening impulse had come into their life. He had uncommon courage, unfailing humor, a penetrating, ever-curious intelligence, and over all, a matchless grace. I remember him with love and wonder.” *

It wasn’t that my father was always right. I knew better. It was that my father would never hurt me. It wasn’t that I’d accept his words at face value; it was that I’d accept his actions. He was, quite simply, my hero.

I never feared with him. Not really. For whatever reason…maybe it was the twinkle in his eye, perhaps his gentle con…but I always felt safe.

—-Like after supper in the 50’s. Beside me he paced, probably panting, as, sans training wheels I wobbled past the WInograd pricker bushes. “You’ll be fine,” he would urge, and I pedaled on.

—-Or at Little League: one night in particular.

“Don’t worry. He won’t hit you!”

Had the man not been watching? On the mound for the Orioles was Chuck Piccuta, an imposing twelve year-old. Pitches had been bouncing all over the place—some (I swear) cracking the dark green Negrelli backstop and a few even hitting my teammates. Once he spoke I stepped in.

—-Or perhaps the most memorable:

It was the 80’s. Overcome by fear I was in panic mode thinking I’d totally screwed something up. I wasn’t even drinking then, but nightly, restlessly I was playing the “What if?” game until finally, finally, I decided to share. When the pain gets great enough, we tend to do those things.

“Can you get out of the house?” he wondered by phone.
“I suppose.”
“Then come to Columbus. It’ll be good for you.”

‘Can’t recall what I told my wife, but I did hit the road. Truth be known, whatever issues I had with New Jersey, one thing she always got, always facilitated, was my sync with my father. It blends together, though. We may have gone together; I may have road solo. We had kids then—and I just don’t know…

What I do remember though, is the talk…with my father…at Fogels. There, at East Broad and James, in that poor excuse for a deli we sat—the two of us— over coffee.

“What if?” I was asking. “What if?”
At a two-top we spoke. (He’d moved two together to give himself room). But we were sitting alone and I picture it—that moment that will live in infamy—like it just went down.

“I promise you,” he told me warmly, in words that I’ll hear forever “No matter what happens, EVER, they won’t cut your balls off.”

He wasn’t laughing and he wasn’t crying. He was promising.

And within years my father was gone, but his promise wasn’t.

In the thirty five years god gifted me, my Dad made me laugh, smile, shine, and believe. And above all, he made me better.

  “Death ends a life, not a relationship.”    — Mitch Albom

*  Adapted from comments by Charlie Bartlett, a friend of JFK.


Sunday, June 9th, 2013

“…But it’s goodbye again, I’m sorry to be leavin’ you
Goodbye again, as if you didn’t know…”

Just days after 9/11, in a courthouse corridor, speaking long-distance:
“Come home,” I urged in fear for my son.
“No running scared, Dad,” he said. “I’m a New Yorker now.”

Dear Michael,

You won’t fully grasp this for a bit, but the hardest part about visiting you or Stacy these days is that overwhelming sense, from the moment of arrival, that soon I’ll be leaving. Like the old Groucho Marx song, it’s always “Hello, I must be going.”

I miss you, Michael. Seeing the beautiful world you’ve lit upon dulls the pain, but—don’t kid yourself—-trips out east aren’t all about Max; they’re about you, patriarch to the eastern wing.

It was a wondrous weekend, from the rehearsal dinner (where the salmon bested Ben’s Deli) through this morning’s brunch (where I had my first blintz). Meredith looked elegant, The Prince just plain sparkled, and Lindsay—Lindsay, The Artist Formerly Known As “Meredith’s Kid Sister”—-she spelled “bride” with both beauty and jubilation.

Good stuff, all of it. Ah, but the Millers, as we learned in ’06, know well how to throw a wedding.

Aisle seats for the ceremony, by the way! Best available at post time! Entering the empty chapel, gut dictated we avoid Row One. The second row though, reminiscent of old Municipal Stadium, had a pole obstructing the chupah. Carrie and I, as such, grabbed the one and two holes, third row—stage right, where, within moments, from the courtside seat my eyes watered.

There marched my son: tall, smart, and handsome—
And my daughter-in-law: elegant, graceful—-
And Max: tell me the truth…was there a Yankee tee ‘neath his tux?

I watched you up there, Michael. My right eye studied Lindsay kiss her parents goodbye. And it saw Steven come back to retrieve her, and it counted seven as she circled her man. But my left eye—my left eye Michael, was always on you.

It saw you at 5… on a Beachwood soccer field… running to me—
And at 15… on a diamond in Madison… running toward home—
And at 35, last night, darting from a chuppah in Woodmere, Long Island…to retrieve your son.


The stomp on the glass brought me back to the present—to a weekend of not only family, but personal moments of immature fun.

Like Friday, noon, checking into The Inn. Giving the clerk my name he sought clarification.
“First name?”
“Bruce,” I told him, “And listen, there’s another Bogart checking in and I’ve got a restraining order against her in Ohio.”
“Would you like a different floor?” he asked.
“Could you put her at The Andrew?” I wondered.
“Grow up,” urged Carrie, as she headed toward the room.

Or last night. Some people have no sense of humor. I was going through the station that had the lamb chops, tuna, and corned beef…it wasn’t necessarily my first time through…and the line now thin.
“Who do I talk to about ordering something ‘To Go’” I asked.
The carver looked right through me. I mean RIGHT through me.

And then soon it was over. Like it always is. Over, and time to leave.

We sat there this morning, in the hotel lobby…. Max had gone upstairs to see Lala, and Carrie, reading me well, evaporated “to pack”. And I looked at you, again….

There’s a symmetry to perception on weekend jaunts. Greeting you Fridays I take the full view: how you look, how you act, how you roll. Then the mood swing comes. In emotional mist memories merge and I move through your past and the tide of time…until Sunday

Goodbyes lurking, there’s always that Sunday. Like today.

In the closing moments, I embrace you, Michael. Always. My heart tugs and we say goodbye, and I turn and leave.

And I’m smiling, Michael—even if it doesn’t show.

I’m smiling with pride—pride in a New Yorker.

I love you.


Monday, June 3rd, 2013

June ’67: closing day at Brush High. Like the mornings before, Art picked me up, shot hoops in the back, and then on we went. Half-mile away Bobby headed top down to school and from streets between us came Alan and Stuart. We were, the five of us (and others), playing together, thinking alike, and moving in one direction. It was a special blend.

Commencement changed little. Emotionally—heck PHYSICALLY—-we remain conjoined. Each of us, within years, got degrees in Columbus.

June ’13: closing day of Wieder’s sojourn in Cleveland. Stu scooped him up and drove on to Champps. From Bedford, Painesville and Lyndhurst came the rest of We Five. It was a sunny day, both inside and out.

“Table for six”, I requested to a hostess only one of us would have judged age-appropriate.
“There’s only five”, Stu asserted, but I righted his wrong.
“Bob said say ‘Six’ so we’d get a bigger table.
“Of COURSE he did!” mused Alan.

Within time we were seated: five Boys Of Summer at a table for six— laughing, teasing, and in the healthiest of ways, back to the future.

Snyder faced out –go figure— and without benefit of election, assumed his 1965 position as Aleph Gadol. (We were a long way from AZA, all of us, but he plays it so well). Then we shared: both the big news, and, well, the not so big:

Wido’s book’s coming out…Stuart’s grandson was imminent…Kraut’s daughter, attending school in Bloomington, ends his “OH” with her “IU”.’’

There was talk, of course, of our high school reunion but weeks away. Would Raisinbrain show? Who knew? Bob read his email, soft, bittersweet. What about Ermine? And Goddam Will. Could we get him to come?

(My mind flashed to the last time we’d all sat with Will. Over breakfast at Corky’s the guy had just explained how he was going to retire, grab pension then go back to work. Immediately Stuart labeled him a “double-dipper” and just as instantly Will got mad, erupting like the teenaged Will. “GODDAM WILL”, Stuart howled ‘cross the booth, raising his fist with pinky and forefinger raised. “Boing!” Fenton shouted. “Don’t lie Will. Admit you’re nothing but a double-dipper”. Ah, Stuart…always stirring that pot. I thought too, specifically of the last reunion…how Will was there and for some odd reason had his shoes off and someone (No names, please), chose to hide the shoes. Why would he come? I wondered.)

And we spoke too of women, but briefly. Strikes me each reunion —Bob’s engineered five at last count—we care less and less about what some of the 60’s stars look like. “They got old,” someone noted, apparently grateful we hadn’t.

(Ed. Note 2: We hadn’t grown old. Not really. Oh, Wied’s hair’s gone and Stu’s is leaving. And one of us replaced a knee and another a wife….
But old? We’re not old. Like George said to Elaine: “I’m not bald—I’m baldING.”)

Mostly, though, we caught up. Laughed and caught up. Headlines only perhaps, but it mattered not. With friends like these, I well know, it matters not what comes out of our mouths, but what stays in our hearts.

Yes, forty years had passed. Forty years.  In the span it took the Israelites to hit Promised Land, our quintet too had travelled. For some it was geographic, for some ‘twas professional, and for others but spiritual. Still we all grew and we all learned and we all —in the most beautiful of ways—-stayed in place.

Postscript: Al went back to Portland Friday, and I drove to the airport. We were still reveling in the afterglow of lunch as we bid our adieus.

“Are you OK?” I asked as he stepped from the car. (I’d rolled down the window to hear his “Of course.”) Then my friend, my cherished friend strode away: to his world—of Oregon and the love of his life and South Africa and the passion of his life…

My mood changed but slightly as I head back east. Mixed in, just then, with the mirth of the moment was something far greater:  the gratitude of a lifetime.