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I Page16 BOSTON POST-GAZE'I'I'E, NOVEMBER 14, 2014 HOOPS and HOCKEY in the HUB by Richard Preiss The Real Rockys A History of the Golden Age of Italian Americans in Boxing 1900-1955 "The Real Rockys" by Rolando Vitale (RV Publishing, 430 pages) is not only an encyclopedic history of Italian American boxers during the golden age of the sport, it is als0 a fas- cinating social history focused on immigra- tion and the progress The Real Rockys of immigrants as they made their way navi- gating the promises and hopes that the United States held for them. While a huge wave of Italian immigrants made their way to these shores in the early part of the 20th Century, most people don't know that half of them returned home, a fact that Mr. Vitale points out early in his book. That fact does not mean these folks failed here, though while it is true many returned home because of disillusionment and lack of suc- cess, many also had made the trip with the intentions of going home after making enough money to enable them to enter a higher social status back home. Many mem- bers of this group were men who had made the voyage alone, leaving their families at home to await their triumphant return. Those who stayed faced many challenges. Life was not easy and there was much anti Italian sentiment they had to deal with. While life was hard, Mr. Vitale points out that the Italians who chose this country as their new home should not be looked back on as an underclass. They worked hard, many started businesses, and they provided, sometimes sparsely, but usually consis- tently for their families. A better term for them would be a struggling working class. During the early years of the last century and then again when the Great Depression hit, it was difficult to make a decent living. Well paying jobs were scarce, especially for newcomers. There was one way for a young man to go out and make some good money, and that was by climbing into the ring. Just by having a couple of pro fights a week a man could bring home more than a week's pay. Not bad, and as Mr. Vitale points out, a young fellow also would gain in his partici- pation in the Italian cultural philosophy of "fare la bella figura" (making a good impres- sion), a mindset of keeping one's image in- tact. Boxing, being the second most popular sport in the country, and the most individu- alistic, was the perfect way for a young man to gain respect among his peers. While this book covers much of the immigrant experience, it is also is a trea- sure trove for boxing fans. The author has done exhaustive research into many as- pects of boxing-history, and the second half of the book is like an encyclopedia filled with facts such as the occupations of the fathers of Italian boxers as well as the fight- ers' own occupations before and after being in the sport. The life span of the fighters, and what" I found very interesting, the uncovering of Italian names behind many Irish and Anglo named prizefighters. A coupIe that struck me was such great Ital- ian American boxers as Fireman Jim Flynn (And,ew Chiariglione) and Lou Ambers (Luigi Giuseppe D'Ambrosio). There are many more and I am sure readers will be surprised by a number of them. Mr. Vitale points out that while many of these men changed their names because of anti Italian sentiment, some did it for the simple reason that their names were being misspelled and mispronounced so often that it just made it easier to go with a name such as Flynn. LouAmbers Rocky Marciano vs. Roland LaStarza There are interviews with such boxing notables as historian Hank Kaplan, Angelo Dundee, and Tony DeMarco who all offer great insight into the game. Unfortunately, Messrs Kaplan and Dundee have now passed on, so it is special to have them speak to us from this book. Another interesting subject covered is the role the Catholic Church played in encour- aging boxing among young men growing up in the city. While at frst frowned upon, the clergy found boxing to be an excellent way to encourage good behavior and clean living habits among this rather rough and tumble crowd. Soon they developed programs for participation in other sports through organizations such as the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO). A side benefit was increased attendance at Sunday Mass, see- ing that if you said you were too ill to go to church you were also stuck with being too ill to play your sport that afternoon. In the second half of the book, Mr. Vitale treats us to a number of short biog- raphies of Italian American boxers from the Golden Age. Brief essays on such people as Lou Bogash (Luigi Buccassi), Johnny Wilson (Giovanni Francesco Panico), Young Zulu Kid (Giuseppe Di Melfi), and Sammy Angott (Samuele Angotti) are all very interesting. Oh yes, the author also spends some time discussing a heavyweight from Brockton, MA by the name of Rocky Mack. Well, that's what the boxing promoters wanted the young Rocky Marchegiano to change his name to because it would be much easier to pronounce. Rocky wanted nothing to do with distancing himself from his Italian heritage, so he compromised and settled on Marciano, "It's Italian all right." Rocky was the bookend on the final chap- ter of the Golden Age of Italian boxers. Upward social mobility, better educational opportunities, and, the success of pizza (Paulie Malignaggrs observation on this phenomenon is very insightful), led to the decline in the appeal of making a living while getting punched in the nose. The one problem I have with the book is its lack of an index. While it is an interest- ing read, there is an incredible amount of information in it (I have only touched on a bit), and it would be nice to be able to use an index as a quick reference source. I would recommend marking passages as you read through it as you will want to return to much of what you have read. Finally, the author makes an observation that echoes my Own belief. He states, "Tele: vision exposure ,influenced boxing styles, with performers pressurized into substitut- ing boxing science with a slam bang approach, and youngsters were thrust in at the deep end having not fully polished off their ring craft." That same influence is what has contributed to the downfall of today's" boxing. AGELESS ONE -- When you opened up the statistics page on the New Jersey Devils web site on Veterans Day his name was at the top of the list. Yes sir, even though hell be 43 come the middle of Febru- ary, he still commands atten- tion and respect throughout the NHL. And he has the stats to back it up. When one looked at the teams stats on the morning of November 11, it was none other than Jaromir Jagr -- the ageless one -- that was atop the list, leading the Devils in points with 10 by having scored 3 goals and as- Sisted on 7 others in 15 games played. That third goal had come against the Brnins the previ- ous evening at the Garden when the big right wing beat 2014 Vezina Trophy winning goalie Tuukka Rask to give New Jersey a short-lived 2-2 tie in the contest that the Bruins went on to win by a 4-2 count. It was the 708a goal of his long career that began in 1990 after he was drafted frith overall by the Pittsburgh Pen- guins at age 18. It didn't take Jagr, a resident of the Czech Republic, long to make his mark. The Pens won the Stanley Cup the very next spring (1991) and came back to repeat in 1992. In the second of those years (1992) the Pens would elimi- nate the Bruins by sweeping the Conference Finals. It would be the last time the Bruins would advance to the Conference Finals until 2011 -- the year they won the Stanley Cup. It also marked the conclu- sion of the only season that Head Coach Rick Bowness, who had previously coached the Maine Mariners of the AHL, would be behind the Bruins' bench. He was dis- missed a few days after the sweep by the Pens, but imme- diately was hired by the then- expansion team, the Ottawa Senators. He currently holds the position of associate coach with Tampa Bay. But what goes around, comes around. Thus, after a long and suc- cessful career with Pitts- burgh, Jagr moved around the NHL a bit, playing with the Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Dallas Stars before being traded by Dallas to the Bruins near the trade dead- line in the spring of 2013. And what did he do in his debut as a Bruin? Oh, just score the only goal in the B's I-0 victory over New Jersey. He would be a presence on the ice and in the locker room throughout the remainder of the regular season and dur- ing the playoff run, which ex- tended into June before the B's bowed to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final. Shortly after that, B's Gen- eral Manager Peter Chiarelli indicated that he would not offer Jagr a contract for the 2013-2014 season. So, it was time to move again -- and New Jersey was the location. The keys to Jagr's longev- ity is that he truly enjoys what he is doing (playing hockey) and is not very demanding of front office r executives when it comes to contract negotiations. Often, there are reports in the media about athletes seeking to lock up long-term deals. Jagr realizes that at his age no GM would give him one. Thus, he willingly signs one-year deals and everyone is happy. Jagr is pleased because he can play for another year while the front office is satisfied because a good chunk of the franchise's money did not go towards a long-term deal for an older player. And it's been a win-win situ- ation for both New Jersey and Jagr so far. He finished his first season in New Jersey as the team's leading scorer (24-43-67) and was awarded the Devils MVP Award at the .team's season ending cer- emony. Then came the cur- rent pact, another one-year deal that Jagr has taken full advantage of in the early go- ing this year. No one knows how much longer he can continue (of all the players drafted in 1990. he's the last one still playing), but like that cartoon rabbit that sells batteries, he just keeps on going and going and going ... NOTHING BUT NET -- Or ~;i make that nothing -- includ- ing the net -- because that also went away in one of those plays to remember that took place recently in the American Hockey League. Facing a 2-on-0 breakaway during a game against Springfield, Bridgeport Goalie David Leggio felt he could improve his odds ff he had the opportunity to face a 1-on-1 situation. The quick thinking net- I minder realized he could cre- ate that scenario if the net became dislodged from its moorings. Then play would be halted and Springfield would be awarded a penalty shot- a 1-on-1 situation. So Leggio shoved the net away, Springfield was awarded a penalty shot and Leggio came up big time by ..... ~, stopping Dana Tyrell's shot on net. It's rare when an AHL highlight upstages plays from the NHL, but it did on that occasion. North of the border, it was TSN Canada's play of the night. But Springfield came away with what counted most -- a 4-3 victory. The powers that be in the AHL were quick to modify the rules. Now. a goalie engaging in such an action will be given a game misconduct and the backup goalie that replaces him will have to face the penalty shot shooter right away -- without the benefit of a wanTl-up. Still, the situation would be reduced from a 2-on-0 to a single skater taking a pen- alty shot which makes one wonder if some goalie very late in a game just might sacrifice himself. We'll just have to wait and see.