Huddle Up with Gus
Huddle Up with Gus

Episode · 2 years ago

Mark Kram Jr.

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Mark Kram Jr., son of acclaimed sports writer, Mark Kram, joins the Huddle to discuss his new book "Smokin' Joe: The Life of Joe Frazier" as well as his journey through the world of sports journalism. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

On today's huddle up with Guss we have one of America's top sports writers and leading experts on the Golden Age of boxing and author of several books and a longtime senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, the son of legendary sports illustrated writer Mark Cram. Please welcome into the Huddle Mark Cram Junior. Dave. In the huddle today is Mark Ran Jr, just an author of a really great book out this year about Joe Frasier. Mark was for many years in Philadelphia. You told me the numbers there is my years or so. Yeah, yeah, so it's just an incredible sports writer. Has Many, many stories and I'm so excited to interview our second author now that we've had on our show, on our podcast. Oh, me too, and especially mark. Sweet spot is early s boxing, which is that's pretty of yod day, Dave. Dave and I big sports fan. So mark, welcome to the show. Thank you for getting in the huddle with us today. Sure, a great to bed you. Thanks for having me on. Yes, so, Dave, that I really wanted to start our show because we've listened to many sports talk shows and we just got really tired of the same old thing and we wanted it. We thought we could do it a little different. So, yeah, we start with all of our guests and we want to find out what when you were a kid, at what age or what time? Who was that influence? Where was that person? was in an idol or was that a team that really made that spark of sports being important in your life? Well, my father was a featured writer at sports illustrated during the Golden Age of sports writing in the S and s. He was a contemporary of all the names you've heard of, Dan Jenkins, frank the Ford and many others. He was the lead boxing writer in the S and early s and he his name was Mark Graham, and covered alley and Fraser, all the three, the big three fights. And so if anything sparked me it was that he you know, he would always come home and sort of give me the inside dope on what was going on in the camps and you know what he saw and heard and it sort of brought it a lot. And also he would come home and he would all have the New York papers in his bag and I just dove into was his travel bag and and got all the papers, the post and the Daily News and you know I you know, I didn't see that. We lived in Baltimore, so I didn't see it on a regular basis. So I just love that. And you know, he was very busy, traveled the world. So but when I did see him, he was he was my link to you know, the career I would have and you know the interest that I would hold in sports growing up in Baltimore. Will you the Orioles Fan, Coldspan and all that? Yeah, huge oreal fan, huge orial fan. I went to as many games as I could, spend all my spare money on tickets to go to the gate Oriole Games and you know, I reflect back on it, you know that those teams. And so what did I get out of watching them play? And they really showed you, win or lose, what greatness look like, what achievement look like. And you know, no one was more heartbroken when they lost than I. But even then I seem to hold it in some perspective. They really tried their best. They were great athletes and they were good guys. You know, I don't think I've met a man in this warm world who was a better guy than Brooks Robinson, you know I mean. And these were guys you'd see around. You'd see around town at that time. You know, you'd see him at the shopping mall or at the gas station or I had a friend who was picked up hitchhiking on York road by Johnny and Idis, of all things. I mean that was the kind of culture that we had back then, right. And Yeah, the Orioles, the colts, but particularly the orioles. They were my guys. So if you were out young Mark Cram he's on the corner, you got your play whoff of ball with all your buddies. Who Were you? We Brooks Robinson? Was that your favorite player? Well, I spent I mainly played basketball and the on the playgrounds. I didn't play much satelite baseball basketball. That was when Earl Monroe was coming. Came into bottle bar in the late S, in early, so everybody was early. And the guys that you know just shot the ball. They were Kevin Lockery, so, you know, just gunner's, you know. And Yeah, they were exciting team. We were going nose to nose with the New York teams every season. It seemed like if we're getting gary heads handed to us. The mets, the jets, the Knicks and it was just just an exciting time to be a young sports fan. So yeah, you know Earl Monroe...

...and you know, sort of model myself after some of the bench warmers. Actually like it. So you're growing up. You did you play a lot of organized sports, like a lot of us played a lot of backyard stuff back in the day, right, we all would just ride our bikes, get her friends. Use your imagination. There's the out of bounce, you know all that stuff, and it's more organized today. What are organized sports? Did you play grown up? Well, you know, I played baseball, little league and you know, Pony League and you know those sorts of things. I and I played high school baseball and high school basketball, but I was second team. But you know, I practice hard every day and I went to the you know, I mean I was I took I took sports as far as my abilities could take me and you know, like for everyone, who was frustrating when I couldn't take me any further. But you know, you learn a lot from sticking with sports. Sports teaches you how to stick with something and to fight through adversity. I really do think it's important for kids to learn those lessons and you. Well, you know, gus. I mean really, what you come away from from playing sports at a young age is you have dreams of being a probe. Not Everybody can be that. Few can be that, but you you take away with it lessons you'll apply to all sorts whatever you do in life. I really do believe that. So yeah, no, I agree with you, and so many of our guests have said that when they were young they learned so many lessons from sports of getting knocked down, getting back up and being resilient and doing the things that carry you on through life. For Myself, I broke my neck in ninth grade and went through a lot of stuff, being bullied in in school because of wearing a neck brace for nine weeks and all those things. And then I have something happened to me in the NFL that was probably one of the most embarrassing moment that any player could ever I have. And then let me all those experience I had as a young player. Let me overcome all that as an as an adult, and definitely, definitely, I think the what happens is it teaches you how to deal with defeat. Kids got to learn that. You know, losing, being on the short end, trying hard and not really getting your I mean, that's it. Those are important lessons. To deal with adversity that way without parents intervening to that's a big thing. Yeah, right, stop here stuff in and saying, you know, this is my dad, you know was you know, he had been a baseball player himself in the minor leagues, in the class in the outlaw leagues back in the earlys. He played army ball and he was a really good high school baseball player and you know, he knew as much about this stuff as any of the coaches I played for. But he never intervened, he never got involved in my sports career because he knew that he had a broader outlook. He knew that the that that that sports would be a teacher in a larger way than just what was happening that day. Yeah, our parents never came, like they would come to some of the Lit League Games that were organized, because you needed a ride to get there. But when we were playing in the back yard at home and or, you know, in the basketball courts, there no parents. You figured out fowls, you figured out if somebody would got in a fight, like Ay, okay, it's over. Let's keep playing things like that. That's true. I mean you worked out fouls. Who did what? I mean? It was great. You learn the art of negotiation, right, right. You learn all these things you weren't aware of at the time. You know so Um now, because your dad was a writer focusing a lot of boxing, wheel box and fan as a kid. Yeah, was sure. I watched the fights on Saturday afternoon on ABC. They were carrying a lot of fights in the late s. That was the first time I saw Joe Frasier fight, which was, you know, in one of those one of those events. And then, yeah, I was a huge. I was a huge Allie Fan, you know. I mean all the kids in my middle school that I went to, they were all Joe Frazier fans because there, it was a suburban school and in Bottimore, and their parent they were Frasier fans because their parents hated Ali so much so they hated Ali because of the draft and a lot of his outspoken comments. But but I was the only Ali fan I you know. So everybody was leading on me that at that time. How old were you when the first boxing event you went to? Oh, well, the first fight was I was seventeen. I was I was seventeen and my father brought me to New York as kind of an end...

...of the school holiday to see Joe Frasier against the Jerry Quarry. Is the second fight that they had in June of one thousand nine hundred and seventy four. So Dad brought me up and he got me a sick he got me a ticket and he was covering the fight for the magazine. So I watched the fight. It was an unbelievable fight. Joe Tore Quarry apart and you know, Joe Lewis was the referee and he wouldn't stop the fight for some of the reasons, and the writers and everybody's screaming from ringside. Stop at Joe, stop. It finally did and so dad, you know, went back to the magazine the next next day and wrote his piece. So I sat in the corner reading a paper while he was writing, and so I really got the sense of thing. But it was in the context of that whole week he had me up for, the kind of the whole week. We had these big dinners at gallaghers and I really got a sense of the what the sports writer's life was like. And it was really glamorous to me, this idea that, you know, people knew who he was. He sort of came and came and went as he pleased. And of course he's never had credit cards, so he's always had a big roll of bills in his pocket and it was always the end of the used to call it whip out, you know, where he would, you know, just beat duking waiters and, you know, bartenders and think. I mean it was like a whole running, sque kind of life that he exposed me to. I said, well, that's why we're my real education began right, right, yeah, my my dad was like mill guy in Pittsburgh here, and I got a different kind of education from him, like some certain words, you know, that I learned at a very young age, and I can't say on the PODCAST, but right, you know, you learned so much from your parents that you don't even realize. And now I find myself doing a lot of that same stuff. Well, that's right. They sort of layer into you all the lot of the things, but you pick and choose what you take and what you use. But as you get older, you realize that you were given a lot of tools to work with and the question is, do you recognize that and work with them? You know. So do you still do the whip out today? No, I'm not a bad tipper, but I'm not like that. I don't carry around, you know, two thousand dollars worth of bills in my bockets. So I tell you a funny story by my dad was a columnist at the bottimore sun back in fifty nine, two hundred and sixty three, and they were cheap outfit and really didn't pay anything. I think you get think he was making about seventy five a week and you know. And so he gets the shop at sports illustrated and the first assignment they want to send them to saskatoon to do a profile of Gory Hall, right. And so at that time sports illustrated how a pay window where papers had that to you wear you. Somebody, an editor would sign a doucher and send you up to get some money for your trips. Of Cash. They gave you an air travel card, but you also had to get advance money in cash. And so it goes up to the window and the and the lady beonness. Well, how much do you need? And Dad said, Oh, I don't know. I'm going to sit saskatoon. I guess I'll need about two hundred and the lady said you'll need at least two thousand and started peeling off these bills. I said he was ruined. At that moment. He got the whip I put on here, like you go that moment. But they were generous with expenses. They couldn't pay you a lot of money at that time, but they were real generous with expenses and they expected you to kind of build your life around the expense account a lot of ways. Mark, you remember the first sporting event you wrote about, maybe in high school or whenever the boy? Well, that was with the Bollmor News American. Well, I went to Maryland, University of Maryland. I guess I did some things there for the college paper, but professionally it was probably yeah, I can remember it was. I was with the bottlemore news American and I covered then patriots against the bills and I was totally out of my in a NFL locker room. I had no idea what to do, where to go to, what to ask. I mean I was just really just so I remember vividly. I go up to Joe de la Malore right the girls and and the just shakes his head and says, Jimmy Olsen, yeah, I just so great. I had already was a good guy boy, you just let me. He didn't. He didn't. He was a little rough with me. But you know what, I was not ready for prime time. I wasn't even ready for you know, I just wasn't ready. You know, what learn? You learn as you...

...go. Yeah, there's no script for that. But but going into college, like, would you write for your high school paper or did you know? I played some ball and I was kind of shy and and kind of backward and really didn't really I really didn't really have any writing ability at all. I mean I was very slow, I was a poor reader, you know I mean. So I stayed with it. You know, you trial and error. That's what it's about, you know, you teach yourself one, one word at a time. You know what did you major and in College American Studies, but I didn't finish it Maryland. I only went for two years. Okay, safe to get a job. I was involved with the old Washington Star. I did a lot of I did a lot of freelance work with them and I happened to do an article that with another guy that we got a lot of attention and I ended up getting a credential enough to get a job at the news American for like two hundred and twelve dollars a week, and so that sort of got me going. I don't get you. So did you really read about sports or did you take on the news and other things? At first I tried the news, but sports was much more interesting to me because you could touch on the same subjects that you do in news in sports, but you had much more of a latitude to be able to write with flair and and the people were interesting and the stakes were high and the drama, you know, the whole thing about sports really kind of drew me in. I you know, on the news side you're going to council meetings and you know some guy, you know, I don't know, it's got a bad case of crab grass growing and you got to go out into a feature on that. I don't know. Not that these aren't important stories, but you know, for a young guy, I like being around the the action. Right, right, no, I totally understand. So who was your first really like intense interview? Boy, intense, Oh man, besides, Joe Delan with Leer staring you down. That wasn't intense. That was more humiliating. If you happen to see him around, say tell him thanks for me. I will. I do see him at the Super Bowl every now. No, I don't know. She's it's hard to remember. Jeez, I don't know. I you when I got into the longer feature writing, I'll all the stories were kind of intense interviews, you know. I I especially when people found themselves in sort of difficult situations in their career. I'll give you an example. I went from bottlemor on to the Detroit Free Press and one of the stories back in eighty four, I guess it was, or eighty three, there was a relief pitcher who couldn't find the strike zone anymore. He was a popular guy named Rick shows. It shows say right if you remember that name. But he he just he was kind of driven out of baseball because he couldn't throw the ball over the plate. So I went down and spent some time with his him and his family, and we talked about what you know, that whole thing and that you know. That's the kind of intense, in depth probing kind of story that I would do. So I came back and her like four thousand words on what happens to a man when this sort of thing happens. So I'll try to look for stories that were in the margins of sports. You know, that sort of we're away from the huddle. If you will write just give a sense of really what's going on with these guys. So at what point did you you had a long career at the Philadelphia Daily News. Right is that? Was that after this then? Is that when you started that job? I started at the Daily News and eighty seven. I came down from Detroit and we made my we made our home outside of Philadelphia for that period of time. Was a tabloid, but it was a tabloid that not like the tabloids that you think of. It's it was they had a lot of was a great sports section. I don't know if you remember it, cus, but we had a really good writers columnist, long features. I mean we had deep page counts. We had a lot of expense money, so we really tried to cover it in a major way. So it was a good home. I learned a lot there. In fact, I learned all of the skills that I needed to later write several books, you know. So it was a good place to be. So when you were back to Detroit real quick. I have a good friend of mine who you might have covered when he played for the Lions, Erik hipple. Oh, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, Eric. Yeah, so I good's. I...

Did a feature a week in the life of Eric Hipple, and which it did. I would check in with him every day and talk. It was kind of a diary fashion. Yeah, and day after Wilber Marshall had just I don't know whether you remember this hit. I see it. Yeah, that Chicago Stadium and Marshall just flatten them, and so I caught up with them the next morning. So that was kind of like the we kick this off. But he was in pain, man, I'll tell you. Yeah, he's what I think, Guy, what a great guy. Yeah, it's guy. Yeah, are kipple was a great guy. What was the generally the relationship with the Philadelphia athletes and the reporters in Philadelphia? What was it dynamic there? Well, you know, it's it's not the well, let me put it to you this way. It's fraught. You know, a lot of times, a lot of probably not so different than Washington though, right, gus, I mean I don't mean there's tension right between this, between the writers and the and the players. I think that's very true in Philly. I think it used to be a lot more fraught than it is now. But one thing I will say about the Phillip Philly writers in the papers. When I was going back and doing the Joe Fraser Biography, I was absolutely astonished and pleased by, when I looked at the papers from the s and the S, how good the writing was, how deep and then depth of was. I mean every day people like Stan Hawkman and lowry merchant and Tom Cushman and and so many others. They really just sort of it was like an ongoing history that they were writing and I, you know, I read that and absorbed that and sort of found its way into my book. I wonder today if somebody, if twenty years from now somebody were to sit down and try to write a biography of Bryce Harper, what they would have to draw on. I mean there's just there's just none of that. I mean in in Philly and Joe Frasier you didn't have to make an appointment to see Joe Frasier. You just walk down broad street, north broad street, and knock on his door. There, he's there at the gym. It was there at the gym. Come on in. They were all like that then. I mean it began to change, of course, as the money got greater, but you know, accessibility that you had was great. Right, it's stilly and Philly. I mean I think that there's a there's a good deal of respect between the writers and and players in a lot of respect. I mean, you got we have a guy in town name Rad didn't jer has been around forever. I don't think. I don't think there's a writer in town who's more respected than he is by the players and by everybody you know, and he's been off. So you know. But what did your like relationship that you have when you were in Philly with the fans, because Philly fans, you know, they're not fanatics for no reason, right, right, you know they're they're a little intestic. You tell a few stories about playing and Philia. Well, I played there in the playoffs one year with the Vikings and Oh my family were going in with all their viking shirts and I said, guys, you might not want to do that. Like, I know this place a little bit. You might want to just go on wearing a normal like maybe a hat or whatever. And I remember Dante calpepper's mom. She had his Jersey on and purple this and purple that all over. She literally had like food and beer thrown on her and it stands and they had escort out and we lost the game, but it was it can get very intense. They don't have a jail. Therefore, it's terrible and it's a terrible and if you're a player that's sort of off his game for a season or whatever, it's brutal. I'm remember talking to Lance parish, the old catcher, when he came to Philly. He hated it. He hated the fans in Philly just and the ball and everything about it. And I know writers who came to town really didn't like it too much either. It doesn't warm. It's hard to outsiders right right. There's a them and thus attitude about it very territorial and I seen it myself people wearing giants Jersey's or any other you know team Jersey and you know you've seen events where people get beaten up in the streets and what have you. I know, but I have to say, and I'm not saying this in defense of Philadelphia, but we're seeing it around the country, aren't we? I mean in other cities and outside a dodger stadium and and various other places.

Fans have gotten really, really crazy. Now I sort of flew under the radar until I started appearing on television. Yeah, and then my you know, I would you know, was on Daily News Live for about ten years and people would people still recognize me and I haven't been on the air and ten years, but you know, I'd be standing at a urinal at the the ballpark and the guy would recognize being. He say you are a funny man. I said thanks for let me know. Yeah, but you know, I don't know. It's it's not everybody, it's some vans and it's always been some fans, in my view. Did you have a favorite Philadelphia athlete that you really enjoyed interview and you're speaking with? Oh, boy Geez, I'll probably forget. I'll probably forget as far as Philly. I mean, many of them were. Many of them were very much how I professional about the job. You know, of course, Eric Lindros once. I once interviewed him while he was reading the paper. So he you know, he he. I'm still asking the question. He's got the paper up, you know, will interview. I didn't like that too much. Yeah, that wouldn't be very it's a pretty disrespectful well I would say so, and kind of passive aggressive in a way. But I'd don't Magic Johnson. I went out when I was in Detroit, kind of went out in the cold and to to see him. I was set up, but I had no idea what what would happen when I get out there. He had me there for about three days, taking me around. They couldn't have been more of a gentleman, I mean, and more interested in making my experience with him to be the most that could be. And that is the attitude I think athletes should have about this stuff, is that it may not work out well, it may be there might be some errors in the stories, but you know, give it the attention it deserves if you're going to do it at all. Basically, and and Joe Frasier was like that. He was a very much what do you need? How can I help you? You know? So the athletes that were like that, we're always the ones that we got along famously that way. But you know, I think that athletes have a very much they're under pressure and they're wary. There's a lot of things going on that would kind of preclude people from from getting together and putting together a good interview kind of thing. Yeah, no, it is difficult because I think with social media nowadays, is really changed how you get to tell the story of that athlete, because that story is told every day immediately. Oh, yes, yes, absolutely, but but I predate social media, believe it or not. I mean I I'm not I'm starting to feel like Methuselah here, but I was. I was, you know, when I was doing it. I mean it was the paper every day, and the Internet, I guess, but you know, it's nothing like it is now. It's all going crazy now, and so you're getting a shallow or version of the story that's repeated over and over and over again. You're not getting any kind of explanation and depth. You know, it's like just when you're kind of getting interested in the cart and in the subject, the story gets cut off, it gets mangled by people who take it and printed elsewhere. You know, it's a tough situation that way. So it's not the same as it was, for sure. Well, I think I think back to when you said about the in depth writing and to hear that story of that player, that team. But now somebody writes something about that player, that team, and then all of a sudden there's an opposite you coming right away. It's so you're hearing all these different things. But back in the day you would just hear like growing up in Pittsburgh, you know, we heard so much about the life of a Broochamni and then go through the s of we are family and then the steelers, and it was just almost felt like such good stuff. Yeah, you know. And now it's like, okay, this guy did this and this guy did that. Yeah, and well, you know, it's all tough. It's all driven by clicks now, right, so you put out their ice cream causes cancer, clicks, clicks, clicks. Who's going to click on that? Or if you put in their ice cream taste good, nobody's going to click on it. You know, it's it's trying to be provocative, it's trying to be a needler.

It's not journalism by any stretch of the imagination. As I understand journalism to be. But it's all about you know, in newsrooms today you have boards that show which stories are getting the most clicks, you know what, the most attention. That is no way to put out responsible journalism, in my view. It really isn't, because it drives reporters to reach for that apple on the tree instead of another apple on the tree, you know. So I really think it's a bad the way it's way it's evolved is not healthy. So how do you feel like you wrote this this great book about Joe Fraser. So how do you feel that you can connect with the audience today by writing a book compared to, like you said, all the clicks, because this is going to be an indepth right you're standing of Joe Fraser and you got to get those people to want to read it. In like you said, today is about clicks and how many, you know. So how did you kind of go through that to get your audience to really want to read this? Well, it's an interesting question you ask. Is One that I grapple with all the time. I mean, I don't have, I really don't have an understanding other reading habits of folks in their s and S. I think the book is will be most attractive to readers, of the remaining readers of the old sports illustrated days. You know, people in there are S, s, F S, maybe S, who who have a memory of of the two fighters, and Joe touched a lot alive. So people that his life had that touched, I think, will buy the book. I Europe, I think the book will do quite well over there. Are they have more of an interest in boxing over there, and maybe Australian and so forth. But you're right, I mean it's it's definitely a generational divide that you have to deal with. And you know, publishers are no different than anyone else. They want they want to appeal to the widest audience they can. So it wasn't necessarily an easy sale to get this book published in the first place. So but I'm glad I pursued it. I'm glad I did it. I think it's worthwhile. I think it refers, it preserves in time a piece of history that will never see again and and two athletes that will never see again. What he what's your opinion on the reason for the declining popularity of boxing? Like, like you mentioned earlier, watching Sundays on ABC, I thought that was phenomenal. I mean I would. That was so such an enjoyable experience. Right. That's why the sport. Why? Why don't sports and it just it that's no longer around and like is it? Is it? You have see and MMA and all that, or what's that? That's part yeah, that's part of it. That's part of it. You know, you see a fragmentation to other and dispersal to other sports. You know, basketball. You know, look at the big bodies that are in basketball and of course football. I mean at one at another point in time they might have migrated to to boxing, you know. So I think there's a lot of factors involved. You know, and I you know, it's like back in the S and s on Sunday morning, you know, you'd see a bit a picture of the last race, you know, Pimlico or buoy, on the on the sports section, you know, a horse picture, and then you'd have all the horse racing coverage and then you'd have boxing coverage. Not, you don't say have any of that anymore. That's all gone. So time could really change that way. You know, boxing is is a sport. It's from another time. It's from a kind of a golden age and I don't think it will ever be what it was. You know, Joe Frasier came up in the golden age of sports, a boxing and and I think one of the reasons that we we connected with him was because, you know, he was on the smallest side and he was kind of an overachiever, but he just he never backed up an inch. I mean, think about the people we admire in sports. They're the ones that never back up an inch, even when the going gets as tough as it can be, and it certainly did with Ali and those fights. Well, I think also there's there's less personality, maybe also, especially like the heavyweight area. Like it reminds me, and this may be a stretch, but it reminds me kind of the decline in the popularity of tennis, maybe a men's tennis. There used to be a lot of...

...personalities that were fun to follow and that, it kind of reminds me that was very popular in the S, as was boxing, and that seems to those personalities declined to boxing first. Allies seemed to decline. I mean it's just it's less interesting and I don't like tennis is an interesting analogy because you had. You had athletes who are not just the great athletes, but they were vocal, they were flamboyant, you know, Connors, Mac and Roe, that whole bunch, and with that Lee. You know, he he dragged boxing out of the gray days of the s you know, the Marciano days. Well, where the DEM's in those days, and really a gap made in art articulated. I mean he was. He gave articulation to the sport. You know, he was a he was something that had never been seen before and now you've seen them again and again and again and again and again across all sports. He sort of got it all going as far as the the the loud, Brash kind of of athlete. I was going to ask you, guys, who do you think would be a better teammate in the locker room? Ali Or Fraser? You know, that's very interesting because I've actually played with kind of guys that have both those personalities right, guys that are allowed and you hear them all the time, but when you're around them in the locker room they're completely different. Like everybody wants to talk about Randy Moss. You know, to me he reminded me a little bit of ally as far as when he would go out and do things in public, everybody talk about him as badness, but in the locker room the guys love them right, because he wanted to be a part of the team, but he also was his big figure and I bet if we ever interview randy and go back and ask him some questions, he'll say if I go back and tell Randy one thing, it was just to like be more accepting of a lot of stuff that happened in his life instead of shunning everybody and all he was like he was this big figure and he had these qualities that really said he made himself way bigger than everybody else. But I bet if you sat with them he would take the time with you and I really want to talk to you and and have you understand who he was. And Joe Fraser, he's at quiet type that I've play with so many guys that you want to follow, that you want to go into battle with because, like you said, they weren't ever going to quit it. I was thinking, I was thinking that Ali perfect wide receiver, Joe would be a perfect fullback, right, right, kind of. Yeah. Well, at Lee, it's interesting that you say that about loss because at Lee, once you got him away from the cameras in the crowds, he was very kind of quiet, introverted. He didn't he was nothing like you saw in public. Right. It was a it was a one hundred and eighty from what you saw in public. He had this ability to get in front of a crowd and a sort of understand what got them going. And unfortunately, what he did. He soon realized that what got the crowd going was when he started this racial bating a Frasier, calling him an uncle Tom, calling him ugly and worse and and all this stuff. Fans that would sort of sit there on their hands sort of listening to his sort of charming chatter with us sort of explode and frenzy when when he got really mean and angry that way. And it tells us a little about the nature of crowds and what gets them gone, kind of the raw meat that you throw at them. And he threw the roll meet and I think it was maybe to his regret later in life. I think that probably was. But at the time Ali was all about putting fannies in the seats, all about getting the attention, you know, and Joe just didn't understand that because to joe, boxers outside the ring. Inside the ring they were tearing each other's heads off. Outside the ring there was a fraternity of bunk boxers right treated each other with respect. Guy Needs a hand, you give them a hand. Ali, he was outside the ring. He was pulling all this Malarkey, you know. So it was kind of an interesting relationship. Well, early on they were pretty good friends, weren't they? Well, they were, or more maybe more respectful of each other. Well, kind of in the fraternity right, if you would be, for the jokes. They both saw in each other the potential for a moneymaking proposition. As I said in the book, Ali looked at Frasier back in the s late s when he was on exile. He looked at Frasier and saw, he said, he saw ten million dollars. Well, that's what that's how Ali thought of those things. And they and Ali was determined to...

...get them together, you know. And that Joe was he could see that. But they weren't blood brothers that way, I don't think. I wouldn't you say that. I don't think joe trusted him. I think Joe was wary of them. I think Ali, factoring his exile, moved to Philly and I think in one thousand nine hundred and seventy, and it was always showing up wherever joe had an appearance in town, pestering him, needling him. It got to the point where one time in at the Academy of Music in Philly, Joe is doing a Gig with the knockouts one Sunday morning and he was getting it getting his instruments out of the trunk of his car and here comes allie around the corner with a leading a parade of fifty people in a spots Frasier, he says, Joe Frasier, Joe Frasis screaming at the top of his lungs. And the guy, the guys that were with Joe that day, they both confirmed this. Joe Reach for a tire iron and said I'm going to finish this I right now, and they had the drag him into inside the academy. Now I don't think Joe would have hit him, but that's Howf as one of his palst hole me, he said Joe was sweating bullets that day. He was sweat and bullets. You know, that was the kind of frenzy. So by the time they met in the ring on Jukeo, March eighth. Nobody was going to be frasier that night. Not Ali, not Jack Dempsey, not Jack Johnson, not Marcie at, nobody, Lois, forget it. He was going to just that was going to be it. And but at that was the top of the mountain right, even if he didn't know it at the time, it was at the top of the mountain. Then it was a long slide down. Yeah, well, it is hard because you know you're not going to stay at the top mountain for long, prob and and you try and you try. I mean I was lucky to play fifteen years. How many years to Joe into boxing? Total sixty five. He turned pro and he was done in seventy seven. Yeah, that's a long time for boxing. It's a lot of yeah, it's a lot of shots to the head and everything. Well, yeah, he he's really lucky survived the gym's and Philadelphia. A lot of guys don't even survive that kind of the fights inside the gym, the sparring sessions in Philly. My old colleague Stan Hackman said Philly, Jim War's shortened more careers to and cocaine, and it's true. I mean cocks would get the gather in these barring sessions and tear each other's heads off. People would line up around the ring, they take bets, they you know, all these things. It was like to be the King of the gym right was more important than actually winning on fight night in a lot of ways. But Joe was able to to manage that and he was handled beautifully by his managers and trainer, biank Durham and Eddie Fudge. If you look at Joe's record, they only exposed him after a certain point, two fights a year at most. They didn't, and Ali was in the ring five, six times a year taking a lot of punishment. And Ali took a lot of punishment in the gym to. Let's not forget that. Absolutely well, what's the feeling on Frasier's legacy in Philadelphia area, like around here? I think rbut of Clement, he's mentioned every day, I mean by somebody on the radio and pack and passing or whatever. Is it similar with Frasier yet? Oh, I think so. He's a he's beloved and it's interally thought. He's you know, he's had a company, had a complicated life. His warts were sort of out there in public, but it didn't seem to matter to people too much. He was a generous man, you know. One of the things that I found so interesting was hell. You know, he could be driving down the highway with somebody in spot a car stranded on the side of the road and all of a sudden he's pulling over to the side of the road and gets out of his car and he he's looking under the hood. He's he's got the Jack in his hand, he's changing the tire. Meanwhile the person who's ribs, the heavyweight champs, changing my tires. Like one man APAA right walk around. He would walk around, he would walk around or he'd be in Philly. There's another story where he he's driving the Atlantic cities, hadn't left philly yet he comes to a legless man crossing the street with a carrot, Hannah Garrett kerosene, on a cold December day, and he man, you know, and Joe Pulls the Blimasin over to the side of the road, gets out in his fur coat and his cowboy hat, helps the guy into the Limo, drives them home, takes him inside, reaches into his pocket, you know, got a roll of bills and his he called it the love. You said you look like you could...

...do you some love, and he pulls out and he gets right before Christmas, he gives them two hundred dollars. I mean, this is the kind of thing nobody ever heard of her saw and it's interesting out he was the same way. They were generous people and good guys and but JOE is that way. Joe would do you need something, you know he would. He would do it for it. He didn't like getting pushed around. He's a man with pride. But if you treated him good, he treated you better. What do you think of Joe Fras would go back and tell a young Joe Frazier to be ready for lookout for? Boy? That's an interesting question. That's hard to say. I think maybe he would have been, you know, kept his cool with Ali a bit more. I think I think it might have been if we kept this cool. He liked the party life. Maybe you're done a little less of that. You know, he might have been more less restless when it came to his own family. I mean he you know, he he tripped the light fantastic, you know, he was, as his daughter told me he was a rolling stone and that that catches up with you, you know, and so maybe some stuff in that area. Who knows? It's who knows. When people reach to the end of the life, what what they you know, how they might have done it differently. Right. So if you could, if our fans, we're going to try to show them this, and if you could tell him one thing why they should read this book and what they're going to get out of it, what would it be? Wow, that's a that's a that's an essay question. Okay, I it's my life's work, you know, and I think that it gives a full bodied portrait of the way it was, as I said earlier, in a time that will be no more. It's a golden age of sports. I think you can learn a lot from reading about Joe's Joe's journey in life, even outside of boxing. I mean he grew up in the poorest county of the country and Buford, South Carolina, mid disease and malnutrition, took the bust of New York and ended up in the gym's and you know, just this whole journey through Jim Crow and and what he made of himself I think it's inspiring and I think that you'll find yourself absorbed by his story in a way that you will find on expected, you know. And My last question before we get to our last segment is what would mark cram senior I'm sure very proud. I think he would be. I think he would be he had written a book before his death in two thousand and one. It came out called ghosts of Manila, which was the faithful blood view between Joe Frasier or Ali and Frasier and but that was more of an SAS, that approach to the two figures in their three fights. And you know, my book is more layered with reporting. He would have been he would have been proud. I'll tell you why. Because I learned an awful lot from him. I couldn't have had a better teacher. I mean, as I was writing the book I thought back to so many things, kind of batting tips, if you will, that he had sort of given me as sort of things to keep in mind. You know that if you weren't the son of a writer, you'd really never have access to right so I think he would look at that look upon this book as as a testament to our life together as father and son. It's wonderful. Who Was Your Dad's favorite boxer? Oh, well, he wasn't. He wasn't a fan, if you will. He wasn't one of the guys that would sort of he was more restrained in his affections when it came to athletes and performance. He looked at sports as like a kind of a stage play and he didn't he wasn't the sort you'd see typically in a locker room after a game, but he he admired a lie tremendously, although goes to mintala reflected.

You know, he caught a lot of criticism because he was too harsh about holly, but the truth of the matter is he had a great deal of affection for athlete Ali, the athlete would he didn't seem to grasp was the he didn't understand this notion that Ali was this this Martin Luther King figure and what have you. That seemed to be beyond Dad's you know, he just didn't get that. Now a lot of people argued that point with him vociferously, but he was. He liked alle, he's liked he liked Joe quite a bit and there were a lot of unknown fighters that he covered over the years, that he that he had some admiration for. He was always a guy that sort of sort of like the underdog, the guy that sort of had at things right against them, so he got to know them pretty well. That's how he was. He was. He was an absolute underdog. He was tense, from the bottom of his class in high school. Didn't go to college, you know, started out working in factories, at an a'll own road crews and but he taught himself to write just by reading and reading and reading and reading and reading, and by Hooker Crook, you got where he was going. That's awesome. Well, that's not your typical path to being a famous SI writer. Yeah, may Ya, that's all right. Would I guess that, Arell? Oh, yeah, that's right. I should have mentioned that. He was really self he was a late bloomer and he was self taught. Totally, so, totally self taught. Yeah, you don't. You would never guess that, for you know, somebody of his stature, that he was self taught. That's all right about Oh gosh, yes, yes, and you know, I don't. There's just so much you can learn in a classroom. But Dad knew the streets and he knew, he knew sports really well and new athletes really well. So he had a gift. The sad part about maybe his story today is it might not have ever happened. You know, I mean that because of the resume. Wouldn't have been what they're looking for, wouldn't? Yes, you know, yeah, it's really sad. You know, so many, so many people with potential or are being, you know, shut out. You know, I mean I did, like I said, I didn't Finish College. I mean, you know, I had and I was really kind of I struggled. I mean I'm sure that they would have for that very job I got Baltimore. There probably have three hundred resumes for it. And you know, with master's degrees. I mean I'd be doing something else in like which probably would might not have been a bad choice actually. I mean I yeah, I mean I like to work with my hands and things. I mean, I could have been a carpenter or something else, you know. I mean, you know, you don't have to be what you know, that a writer, but you know, writers find their way into the profession and whatever way they can. All talent always find its way and you know, and it's in sports. Do I mean that a looks thought it when during the tough times, and he had some really tough times in the s. He lived in Washington actually at that time, and you always had this dream that he said, I wish I should have stayed in baseball and become a third base coach. You know, you know something that kind of part of a team and you sort of know how you did at the end of each day that you look at the box score and you know it's all there, but you get a chance to start anew the next day, right now, and you love that about he loved how you could wipe away pet yesterday's performance with a new chance today. Yeah, no, I agree with that. When you have a bad game, you can't wait till the next game, right, because you got to hear about all week from your coaches, from the media and everybody. You can't wait to get back out there on Sunday and go and try to prove yourself again, right, right. Yeah, absolutely. I think that's one of the great things about sports. Do you still follow that oriels pretty intently? Well, I can't do it too intently because they're so awful. We're going through the same you're talking in the Pire fans here. So yeah, it's difficult, you know. I mean I think they they trade it too much last year when you know when they and they cleaned house. They're unwatchable. They're a double a team charging AAA prices. Or I mean Major League crisis. I mean I took my daughter to the dodgers in the phillies a couple weeks ago. It costs a fortune. I could do that once a year maybe. Yeah, I really don't know how fans go every game. Oh my God, I'm a really it's I just it's a whole different game though. Well, where does this end, do you think, Gus? Where do you think the tops out...

...at? I mean, I everything, every economic kind of vehicle has its top. Where's the top with all this? Well, I don't know, because we just interviewed lie Steinberg and we were talking about the same thing and he said I asked him how these players how he knew what their value was. He said, well, I had. The first thing I had to do was go and tell the owners what their value was, and we had increased contracts. We had to increase TV contracts and bring the owners more money to show them the owner how much they can make. Then it correlates to the players. So it is the owners are going to continue to make a lot of money. The players and the unions are going to continue to ask for more money. So I don't know. Until the fans stop going, because in Pittsburgh we're averaging Fifteenzero a game. That's like I don't know how you sustain that. It's almost becoming a studio support in a lot of ways, you know, like we'll play the games and just run the cameras and you'll watch it on television. And because I'd be somebody who would go to the phillies. You know, it's fifteen minutes from my house, the Ballpark twenty minutes, and I'd be there fifteen twenty times a year. But I can't afford that. It's ridiculous. But Yeah, you go to game, you have not just in a beer and you're like, I'm not a hundred fifty bucks, you crazy, exactly. So I don't know. Are they killing the Golden Goose? I think the players should get everything they can get. I really do that. I don't do where the structure where? Where this whole thing, not just the players but the whole whole think pops out at but I also think that for a few players to make a lot of money it means your team is not as good, because then you're not able to pay the rest of the team what their value is because you've put it all into a couple of people. Just like the whole quarterback situation. Now you pay the top quarterback a lot of money, but then if he gets hurt, the next guy comes in and he had he's not worth the same value, and so they don't pay him as much and they don't have equal talent. If your team isn't now, if you lose your quarterback or any backup on the field, your team is not going to win. There's news that ask you this from a player's respective you'd have an inches of this second in this do you get the same performance from a player after you've given him as big paid a I've always wondered that you know, because I think there's a difference in some guys. Definitely. I don't think it's the same with every player, because for me, when I was able to get some contracts, it was I have to go out and prove my word that I am worth what they paid me. Now other guys may not see it the same. I think that in football art contracts aren't guaranteed, except for the surry bonus. So you have to go out and prove. My favorite years when I played for the dolphins and I played under an incentive base contract, so I had all the instance sentis and to make my worth I had to acquire all these you know, they right hard to reach, but I reached them and I was able to make the money. I really like that because, you know, that keeps you involved in it. And if you're just going to pay a guy, no matter if he hits one hundred and fifty right, and he has, you know, forty five airs that year, he's still going to make thirty five million dollars, to me it's that's crazy. Like yeah, I was just thinking of this thirteen year Bryce harperd a contract. I got three hundred and thirty million. Then how are they gonna get this value? I mean, I just don't understand how he's going to I mean right now is eating about two hundred and fifty and you know he's got what twenty home runs or something like that. The truth is, I mean, wouldn't he be back wouldn't he reach his potential more and be a better player if he were, if he had that incentive every every you know, for playing for contracts. We playing money. Well, I don't think you know. The Whole Contract Year Myth is not a myth. I think if you looked at the science behind it, there's a lot of guys that really perform when they've got a year left and then you're going to see a dip. Oh Yeah, you know, I don't think that's just made up. To me because I'm a pirate fan and I know him because I coached his sons and football and St Louis was Andy Dance like, oh, that happened to him here in Pittsburgh. member. He had a great year and then it goes big contract and it was like and then he would left with St Louis, right, right, and just it just to me is one of the guys I already remember that happening to. Well, also Jason, Jason Kendall to I don't remember the Catcher Jason Kendall. Sure the pirates paid him at the time, which is still the biggest contract in pirates history. Sadly, is sixty million. But in the pirates world. That's four hundred million. He ever since he got that contract. He was not nearly the Jason Kennel from before the contract. Well, you know, I don't have much civility for the Pires. They took us out in seventy one said behind.

I just I wasn't going to bring that up, but he should have beaten. Should beating. We should have won both those years. Thanks are a weaver. I'm o. Our last segment we do is called nohaddle. We pepper some questions at you. You can answer that quick if you want, take your time whatever, but day' always start to so it's our two minute drill and we try to have a lot of fun with it. Go ahead. Okay, all right. Um, this is kind of a generic with boxing question, but who's the greatest pound for pound boxer ever? Sugary Robinson, nice and if we asked this one, this is when we ask forever we get. What is your biggest pet? Peeve, leaf flowers. I have love my leaf blower. Early Sunday morning, though, I'm never big. Yeah, like crazy, yeah, like Azight am on a Sunday morning it's like I'm out. Yeah, but it's not just one of them. Anymore. It's whole swap teams. Right. It's like a symphony of leaf blowers. It could it's gonna. If you could be one person in history or sports for one day, who would that be? Man Babe Ruth. It's hard argue, though. That's hard to argue that one wouldn't be great to look at the world room by Ruth's eye for a day. I mean must be amazing. I mean would be. I think. I think that would be pretty incredible to see it, just to be like, you know, you hear about the stories about him. Hold that that how big it was and like right, I mean I played base when I was young and quit after, you know, with the college, but you know, just that would have been incredible experience to be baby. He had such a he had such a sharp, sweet swing. Give the video of his swings. You'd swing, all right. We should show that to some of the pirates. Maybe they can. Yeah, whatever would help. I think I'd beat Joe Amoth about an hour after the super bowl. I would have been would have been probably a good time. What's the biggest difference in boxing today then fifty years ago? Well, fifty years ago they used to have what's called the championship rounds, which were rounds in championship fights between thirteen, fourteen and fifteen and as you know, with the Ali frasier fights, those were incredibly dramatic rounds. Now you fights are settled in twelve rounds. That's the role. I see why they've been trying to really tries to reduce the damage fighters and I'm all for that. But as far as pure drama inside the ring, there's fifteen, there's last three rounds were often decisive. All right, if you could change one thing in sports today, what would it be? Sports are just baseball. I just baseball. Well, I'll tell you what. I am so sick of watching managers pull pitchers after five innings. I can all move. My eyes are falling out of my head. The announcers start on any three. The third inning they said, well, he's up to forty two pitches. We have activity in the bullpen. Fifth inning. Is he going to are we going to pull them up? He's going to pull them and then we go through for relief pitchers and the game gets totally out of hand. You know, Jim Palmer used to complete twenty eight games and and my wife said, well, maybe he would have had a longer career if he didn't, if he pitch less. I said he won Twenty Games, eight times and one three side young awards. How much you want to see? Yeah, like Daved my one of my favorite stats is Nolan Ryan Pitch Two hundred and thirty pitches one game. Get Two forty, two forty games, one game. Right. And spawn and Marichelle hooked up in a zero. Zero's fifteen inning, sixteen inning game. Right. Why can't these guys today go more than five innings? What in the world is happening? You know, the old Oriole team's Jock, George Bamberger, was the pitching coach. He believed that the more you threw, the more the stronger your arms. And it's true, it's really true. I mean the injuries you see today. Yeah, of all these injuries. And and I don't get it too. I want to the story when I was with the Daily News on Dr Andrews Down and was it Alabama? And you know, does they all? The hells of yes, yeah, the the Tommy John Surgeries and he would take had patients coming in and out of his opera rating theater just like it's a train station. It was unbelievable. He wants to he...

...told me that once he had he did for twenty four of them in one day, one time for different theaters in the area. So I don't know are they be is it the amateur level or the getting over used at the amateur level? But the point is these guys today it's really diminished the game in my view, and I guess you have the variation of it and other sports to where there's this a whittling down of achievement, of performance, but I'll tell you it's a turnoff for me watching the game. I don't want to see your fourth best picture come in. I want to see there's the authorship of games. You know, picture starting pitchers had an authorship of the game. I look at the eight, yeah, the seventh, eighth, ninth inning. I mean, boy, when the going gets tough, let's see a little of that. Well, one more stabble on those lines. I saw the other day that, I think it was a the one thousand nine hundred and Eighty Oakland Day's had more complete games than all of Major League baseball combined last year. You know, just it's a good illustration right there. It's who came up with a hundred pitch count like. That's why a hundred? Yeah, if I were writing today, that's something I would write about. Trick. Try to get to the bottom of that. I mean, well, that's so arbitrary, right, and you and you're not going to see three another three hundred game winner. You're not going to see it now. You're not going to see you know, in two thousand and twenty one you're going to have the fiftieth anniversary of the for oral twenty game winners, that you're one thousand nine hundred and seventy one. You're not going to see teams with twenty game winner now. I mean the absolutely they've denied starting pitchers their chance at greatness. They really have. It's really a sad byproduct of this saber metrics era, which is total crap, right, that's might that be the saber metrics you love? The exit velocity, though, Oh my God, the launch angle, the launch angle. Yeah, wait, thanks for telling us that, like Um. All Right, now we ask you this question. If you were Joe Frasier, but as Mark Cram, if you could go back in time and tell you young mark cram something, well, would that be? I would it would be to learn some humility at a younger age, because I think that that would make me a better writer and a better person. Actually, that's something that gets overlooked, right. I agree. I think I could apply to a lot of people. Yeah, yeah, if if I could do one thing, change one thing, that would be that. I would I feel like that that would be the thing. Awesome, awesome, Weil Mark, thank you for getting in the huddle with us. And all right, it was. We learned so much today and we really appreciate it. As we go through this, we're creating a new website for whole podcast and we're going to do and giveaways and we'd love to see if we can give away a book sometime. Maybe have your autograph it. Sure, that would be that. Will stay in touch. Definitely in touch. Anything you need, I'll be happy to do it. Hey, I have one last question. Okay, okay, okay, in the December we're lucky enough to have manny packy out as a guest. Oh Yeah, can you give us a question for Mannie pack out? You're a resident boxing expert. I'll tell you. I'd have to think about it, I really would. Okay, I just we're going to connect back in a few weeks we're going to reconne out or so. Let me give it some thought. I you know, it's not my era, basically. I mean I you know, I was so immersed in the S and and S and S. it's just but I'd have to think about it. Okay, to do it, but let me give give me something, please. Will reconnect and get that from you. Okay, all right, all right, thanks mark. All right, guys, thank an't Youtube.

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