Coach Weitz and Coach DiRico

Coach Marvin Weitz and Coach Val DiRico

Today is Tuesday April 30, 2013. In a small private graveside one of the most influential and powerful people God put on this earth will be placed 6 feet underground his name was Marv Weitz.

I would imagine on today’s date there are potentially tens, of thousands of people, who meet the same fate. This person was quite a bit different as he was one of the strongest most dedicated, ingenious educators on the planet. He was able to motivate thousands of average students to believe in themselves and believe that they could succeed in life. He was a great English teacher who happened to be an extremely talented football coach. He became head coach in my junior year at high school the previous year we had an abominable season. I believe it was two wins and six losses. but don’t quote me on that. He took his warm smile, calm demeanor and laid back attitude from the English class and would walk the three hundred yards to the football field and turn into a exceptional motivator. He had the ability of taking a below average or average football player and turn them into a powerhouse. He instilled the combination of  – you can do it,  you won’t fail, you will win. At the end of the day, you believed it. In believing it, it made you a more complete person that went far from any football field. Yes, it was a simpler time then.  At the end of his classes and football practice he would drive several of the players home in the opposite direction of his home, occasionally stopping for a cup of coffee and some positive words to your mother or father on how well their son was doing. Someone once asked me whether I had any heroes. I believe I answered my father, Coach Marvin Weitz and John Fitzgerald Kennedy. We remained close friends and  in many ways he was my Consilieri. He was there for my wedding, my children being born, the passing of my parents, my brother and my son Joe. Even though we were three hundred and fifty miles apart (round trip) I would go to visit him at least two to three times a year and spoke to him at least once or twice a month. I needed his confidence, motivation and beliefs. In his later years, and even today, he’s affected tens of thousands of young people. I call it the coach multiplication theory.  For every young man he coached, it wasn’t just one person, but they had maybe 2-3 children and then they in turn had children and they all inherited his spirit, drive and motivation. When I told him that he would smile with a little bit of disbelief but I know in my heart, he genuinely knew what I was saying. I know I will continue to go to him for motivation. Losing and failing has never been an option.  Honorable success is the only thing. It’s not just winning but how you play the game and how you treat your fellow combatants.  It’s a little known fact Coach was a great baseball player and football player. One day I found out he was a great boxer and I found out he sparred with the likes of the “Raging Bull” Jake LaMotta.

I will leave you with this –  one day every football game was cancelled in New York due to a hurricane. Coach called the head coach of the number one team – East Hampton and as the story goes, the East Hampton Coach demeaned him and our team, by saying it wouldn’t make any difference if we came in any weather condition, that they’d still kick the crap out of us.  The Coach simply said we’ll be there at 2PM.  It was the only game played on Long Island that day in the middle of a hurricane! The score was tied with two minutes left, we had East Hampton backed up to their five yard line. Our quarter back Artie Pollaci fumbled the snap from center and the ball popped out, I recovered the fumble, and Artie Milleisen scored.  It was the first winning season in the history of our school.  The head coach of East Hampton went home to a Victory Party and from what I heard proceeded to knock the food & drink to the floor. Winning isn’t everything but losing is unacceptable. There’s yet another story to be told about Coach DiRico, who also was a great motivator and leader who played shoulder to shoulder with the great Vince Lombardi. That story to be told another time.  Today is Coach Marvin Weitz’s Day.  Thanks Coach & thank you teammates.

On a photographic note I am ashamed to say that I’ve been unable to locate the negatives that I made photographing my Coach in the day.  The morale of the story is keep better records and files because you may be sorry some day.

Talk About a Small World

Hi to all the Ships at sea,

On a recent trip overseas, I and a young gentleman, who attended one of my lectures, discovered that we both know about 15/20 mutual friends. Furthermore, we were probably in the same press room for an awful lot of fights and baseball games, so please let me introduce you to Sheldon Saltman. He’s got some great talking points. The following football photo has nothing to do with Sheldon’s blog, I just decided to post a football photograph.

©Joe DiMaggio

©Joe DiMaggio

Sheldon Saltman:
I do not know about you dear reader, but as I write today’s column, my eyes are still blurry and maybe a little cross-eyed from watching so many different sports over the past week. It started with NBA Basketball and not to be left behind, there were some terrific College Games. You would think that would be enough, but then the NCAA Football Bowl season began. When I was a kid, it was easy. We only had the Orange, Sugar, Cotton and Rose Bowls. Today, it is quite different! I think I counted over 35 actual Football Games with the title “Bowl” as part of their name. You couldn’t name them all, even using both your hands and taking your shoes and socks off. I believe, every sponsor in this down economy that had extra cash lent his/her name to a Bowl Game. My Dad, the old footballer who was in the meat business, always thought there should be a “Sausage” Bowl. I didn’t see that one. But Dad if you are looking down don’t hold your breath. I think there probably will be a “Kitchen Sink” Bowl”, before one entitled “Sausage”. Nevertheless, there were some great games and some exciting record chases. One of those was that of Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings chasing the record of Eric Dickerson. In 1984 while playing for the Los Angeles Rams. He ran for 2105 yards. Peterson was closing in and Eric was interviewed on many shows about how he felt about Peterson possibly breaking his record. Eric’s answer was simple and honest. Eric said, “I hope he continues to have a great season, remains unhurt and his team does well. I hope he does not break my record.” This past weekend, Eric’s prayers were answered. In a game against Minnesota’s arch-rivals, the Green Bay Packers, Adrian ended the season just 8 short of Eric’s record, accumulating 2097 yards. For the moment, I am sure Adrian is heartsick. However, when he understands that in the long history of the NFL only 5 others have run for 2000 yds., or more, in a season, he will realize his achievement. O. J. Simpson was the first to do it in 1973 with 2003 yds. Realizing that I had been with the Los Angeles Lakers Organization during the 1971-72 season, I was bombarded by questions about the Los Angeles Clippers 17 game win streak. I thought about what Eric had said when he wished Peterson all the best, but not the record. The Clippers are good and they have captured the imagination of the Basketball World. The reason I was asked so many questions was during the ’71-’72 season when the Lakers won 33 straight games. After losing to the Golden State Warriors on October 31, 1971, they did not lose again until January 11, 1972. It was the Milwaukee Bucks with Kareem Abdul Jabaar who did them in. The same Kareem who would lead the Lakers to many more titles. However, the Lakers’ first title was in the ’71 season under Coach Bill Sharman. Bill, himself a Hall-of-Famer as both a Player and Coach worked with such intensity that he completely lost his voice. Today, at 86, he still whispers to communicate. That Laker Team was loaded with Hall-of-famers: Wilt Chamberlain, the only man to ever score 100 points in an NBA game. Jerry West whose shooting style today remains the NBA logo and Elgin Baylor with his famous “floating-in-air” shot. Carrying on that 1971 wining legacy is Pat Riley …at that time, probably the best 6th man in the NBA. He didn’t look like the suave executive of today. Instead, he had long flowing hair with mustache to match. But before every game he would take anyone he could find in a game of H-O-R-S-E. I never beat him. Today’s Clippers may also have one, or two potential Hall-of-Famers.

But for now, I breathe a sigh of relief. For the Laker Record, that I enjoyed as part of the organization, still stands.

All the best,
Joe D

Visual Impressions with Joe DiMaggio, Sponsored by Adorama
Adorama Learning Center

TIME Magazine Assignment

I had a half hour off the other day. Decided to just look through some of my old TIME magazine and Sports Illustrated assignments and I stumbled across this photo that I did for them to celebrate the opening of Giant Stadium. I was totally blown away when I heard they were going to build a new stadium. It seems like yesterday they just built a new stadium. Of course, a businessman friend of mine explained that it’s all about the super boxes and the Fortune 500. Well, considering my only interest is between the goal line and the goal line, a super box just doesn’t do it for me. If TIME asks me to go and shoot the new one, it’s gonna take me a little longer to get to the birds’ eye perch.  See you at the game!

Joe D.