Channel surfing the other night (unsuccessfully), I hit CNN. Larry
King, but the show’s guest-driven and for sport it’s fun to guess what
obvious questions he’ll fail to ask.

And so it was that mid-way through the 9PM hour I was reminded yet again that if you set your sights low enough, you’ll not be disappointed. It was a moment so compelling, so bothersome and yet, so ridiculous that it must, even days later…be shared. There, bannered across the bottom of my TV screen—all caps—it read:

Legendary? Are you f’ing kidding me? Famous yes, award-winning—sure, but legendary? Judy Garland would roll over in her grave.

The whole thing amazed me. (Too much time on my hands). The next day I called H for his “take.” (Note that ’til recently Hal had been the most normal person I know. Time and exposure to me has ended that. Today’s
short list for his replacement is headed by Herzog, Walter and Meredith’s father).

“Is everything OK?” he substituted for hello. (This is usually my opening).
“Yeah—let me ask you….Do you think Liza Minnelli is legendary?”
“Absolutely not.”
“Well Larry King…blah blah blah (I filled him in).
“Larry King’s an idiot. Look I have work to do.”

I started thinking. Babe Ruth—that man is legendary! Twenty four hotdogs between games of a doubleheader! And how ‘bout the World Series when he called his shot against Charlie Root?

I thought of events…like the death of Wild Bill Hickok. LEGEND has it he was holding Aces and Eights when gunned down in Deadwood. (Queen of clubs kicker). We still don’t know for sure, but walk into any poker game anywhere—a century plus later—they still refer to the “Dead Man’s Hand.”

Liza Minnelli?

Haven’t we learned that scrolling something across a TV screen doesn’t make it so? Fool Middle America Mr. King, but some of us grew up on the Mean Streets of South Euclid. We’ve known real legends; we sense the truly legendary.

Like Will’s father wrestling alligators. Or Milt Fenton. As youngsters Hal and I bore witness to the scar on his stomach—the exact spot the elephant stood on him.

Or our lifelong friend, alumnus of all the Bar Mitzvahs—born with two peeholes. You want to talk legendary? Standing in Brush’s john, six feet away from the row of urinals, he’d hit the far left and far right porcelain in one shot. Rumor has it the year Cockroft went down our buddy got a tryout with the Browns. (Could have had a great career as a fire-fighter).

Stuart Fenton bears witness to a truly epic moment. It was study hall in Greenview’s cafeteria and he was sitting at a table with Joe Cerito and Ken Gambo.

“There I was,” he told me just yesterday, “In the eighth grade sitting with
two guys that were each about 25 years old.” Gambo fell asleep, says
Stuart. And then, his eyes tearing, Fenton continues: “So Cerito picks up
my World History book, the thickest, heaviest book there was, winds up and smacks
Gambo’s head into the desk to wake him up.


Legends are nurtured through effort or even circumstance. They are built over time or born of event. As such, when it comes to true, living legends, Liza Minnelli can’t shine our friend Alan’s shoes.

Other than Coach Hayes, there was no more known person on campus in late sixties than Wieder. He owned High Street. Fact is though, likable, popular kids recycle through college towns. As he graduated, another would appear. That baton passes. Alas, Alan…until that LEGENDARY moment, was no more than famous.

It was on the fields south of Morrill and Lincoln—intramurals. Softball.  We were winning big, late in the game when their runner tagged from third.  Sliding at home, he drew the mercy call: Safe.”

Our lead (perhaps) was cut to eight. The runner lay writhing at the plate, immobile. Sirens blew; a stretcher came….and for ten minutes or so play was stopped until, ultimately, the ump said Play Ball.  And it was then—right there and then—that the name “Alan Wieder” was written into history books in the most indelible of inks.

“The runner left early,” he declared, stepping back off the mound.
“OUT” called the ump, (clearly disgusted with our buddy). (Across the
field, of course, at least ten new anti-Semites were born).

We didn’t need the self-aggrandizing scroll of a TV screen. Baby Boomers have seen a lot. If you don’t think so, really listen to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire.”

We know “legendary” when we see it.

He’s going off the air soon, I hear. Larry King that is. Too bad. I thought of writing him, suggesting he interview Wido for the hour.  They do, after all, have much in common. Each, (among other things), achieved a degree of fame tossing softballs.


  1. alan says:

    Needless to say I love this

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