Well to answer that question for a very long time in my life… I simply didn’t know who I was.

I wanted to contribute and be a part of the autobiographical articles on the POV so I had to ask myself, “Self, how did you become such a big PITT football fan and be so fanatical about it?” So I’ve started and erased around five different times wondering how I can explain all the past. I didn’t want to come off as a bleeding heart or too dramatic, yet at the same time my young life is what is most important in telling this story. There are no pretty girls and loves of my life involved; no romantic tales or mingling with the players from the team, this would be a long distance relationship.

I started off as a child born into a large family in a large house in Greensburg, PA which my maternal Grandmother owned. My family lived on one side of the house, grandma was on other and a couple was staying in the third floor two room apartment – they were Patsy and Ruth or “Do” as I called her.

Image result for james dean motorcycle imagesMy father was an alcoholic and people thought he was a James Dean type because he was the only person anyone knew of who owned a motorcycle back in those days. He worked for the railroad and in his spare time collected and worked on old cars that ended up littering our backyard like it was a junkyard.  This was complete with chained up mean-ass junkyard dogs that no one was allowed to go anywhere near. This was while we lived smack in the heart of Greensburg mind you… sounds like a white trash lifestyle to me!

My Mother’s last pregnancy was very difficult one and included a long hospital stay for both my new baby sister and my Mother. During my Mother’s illness I became very close with the couple upstairs as I could just walk through my Grandma’s side and go up a flight of stairs to see them. Our family was pretty much lost and confused without our mother available so I spent a lot time with them.

DoSoon the biggest change in my young life happened when my Mother passed away on our living room couch a few months later. I was around four years old when she died from the flu pandemic of 1959 because she was still weak from her hard birthing and there were no hospital rooms available for her so she had to stay at home. I guess it was obvious to my Mother that she wasn’t going to pull through because she asked the couple upstairs if they would take me in and raise me which they said they would, and did.IMG_0473_01

So Patsy and Ruth were my new parents. Patsy, who was the local mobbed-up Bookie, had been raised in Italy and Ruth was from the Deep South. Once they took me in we moved right into where my family had lived after they relocated outside of town to Hempfield, PA. We did not have a telephone, a TV or get this… a car and we never did get one. We did get a telephone later on but I wasn’t allowed to answer it – that was Patsy’s instrument of business!!Image result for bob prince pirates

Anyway, later I had been given the greatest gift a small boy could own; a transistor radio. I loved Patsy but he was a hard-line dago who had two rules. Rule One – “I’m the boss” and Rule Two, if you don’t like it, see Rule One again! His other two minor rules were; don’t chew grape bubblegum in the house and he never wanted to have to hear Bob Prince’s voice. He couldn’t stand the man.

Image result for roberto clementeAnd this just when I had become a big baseball and Roberto Clemente fan and listened to all their games I could. I just had to sneak-listen to the games in my bedroom with the radio underneath my pillow so Patsy couldn’t hear it. Why is all this important?

You’ll see…

So, I was the biggest Pittsburgh Pirate fan they had. I followed every game in 1960 when the Pirates had won the World Series in 1960 and I just couldn’t get enough of them. I read the Tribune Review’s sports section everyday and followed my team into the fall when there wasn’t any more baseball to be played.

Image result for old steeler pennants

I also quickly became a Steelers fan to quench my thirst for Pittsburgh sports. Being their fan was much more difficult as the Steelers were pretty much awful back then usually losing more games than they won.  “Ed Brown goes back to pass! Ed Brown goes down!“… But I still loved them even when they lost. I had become a PITTSBURGH fan and really loved the city.

Down the block from our place lived a grade school chum of mine whom I still talk with today. That little redheaded kid, named Dave, and I became fast friends with only one problem; his two older brothers had gone to Penn State and he was a fan of that school… ugh!  I knew nothing about Penn State or any other college actually. My life had centered on surviving through the day at hand as well as I could.

Dave would tell me how the whole family couldn’t stand the University of Pittsburgh and how badly they all wanted PSU to beat them. I can remember wondering almost out loud how he and they could possibly root against a team from Pittsburgh. That was a load of bull to me. Pittsburgh was my town.

End of story right? Pretty much but…

Patsy was a devout Catholic, a dago as it were, and an aside here; in case anyone is taken aback by the word dago, I use it because I consider myself part Italian. Hell, you don’t live with an Italian as long as I did without some rubbing off on you to become part dago. However Ruth was a Southern Methodist lady who went to church whenever she could. They both insisted I needed to get some religion so they sent me along with the redhead’s family to church on Sunday’s (still no car, remember?).

That church had organized a bus trip to PITT Stadium to see the Panthers play West Virginia. I had already become a big PITT football fan but only from reading about the games in the newspaper…. and now I’m going to see PITT but damn did it have to be with Penn state fans? PITT was getting their ass kicked by the Mountaineers in the 1st half and the redhead’s PSU fans just loved it.

Over a section from us was another group down from Greensburg who were also PITT fans like me. The Redheads were having their fun with the big lead and here I was stuck in the middle of it. That didn’t last for long though as that was the game that PITT roared back in the 2nd half to win.  I believe it was 36-35 and in that Greensburg group I found myself some new friends who shared a love of PITT football like I did.

Image result for pitt pennants

I’m still best friends with the biggest PITT supporter that day. That, my friends, was a joyous ride home on that rickety old school bus. Of course that’s not the end of my story but like the telephone we weren’t allowed to answer, the rest is left for a different day.

That’s it, no romance, no real drinking… just a young boy struggling to find his way in life and how he got on the road that lead him to PITT Panthers football and then to the Pitt POV.

 

46 thoughts on “Who in the Hell Does Ike Think He Is?

    1. I remember that game against West Virginia. It was a thriller. I think the score at half time was WVU 35, Pitt 7. Davy Havern was QB. That game was something.

      Like

  1. Ike,
    My good friend from LAYtrob! Powerful story Ike! Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt childhood experience on this weekend of Memorial Day. Love you buddy!
    Jim

    Like

  2. Iek… love you brother. Made me cry…touched my ❤️.

    BTW .. I had Dago buddies in Apollo as well amongst others. Missed my ethnic buddies and pierogies when I moved to NC 43 years ago but low and behold they followed… have a good Dago buddy Dan Balluzzo formerly from Buffalo and can get pierogies at the supermarket… the army of Nawthern aggression has conquered the South a 2nd time.

    Like

  3. Yep,
    My Dormont neighborhood was loaded with Italians. Atsa’ spicy meataball and a’sauce was normal vernacular! :>)

    Like

  4. ike — so sad about your Mom. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I thought you said you couldn’t write! Well done!

    BTW, I was a student at Pitt and in Pitt Stadium with my future wife that day when the fightin’ Panthers made that miraculous comeback against Bobby Bowden’s WVU team.

    Hail to Pitt.

    Like

  5. ike, I’m kind of speechless. That was some story. No one should have to live that kind of childhood. All the good words in the world can’t make up for a lost childhood. Take care, buddy. You are quite a writer…

    Like

  6. Your words are too kind, that life was a hundred years ago or so but thank you. Want to be clear and say that Patsy and Do were wonderful and did everything they could or knew how and I loved them both dearly. I have zero regrets in my life, yet that article did bring me back close to times I still do not understand completely. You know, like PITT football… It shouldn’t come as a surprise I’m always optimistic. That’s exactly what got me here today, hope, belief and naivety. My life has always been a wing and a prayer, thank the good lord some of my prayers have been answered.

    Just look at my new friends I got to know the past few years. It’s a beautiful thing indeed.

    Hey Dr, I screwed the pooch on that family business but it was dangled… That’s another story….. and on it goes… ike

    Like

  7. FWIW, my dad was a dago and loved Bob Prince. iek, it’s kind of amazing that you are so positive but I’m seemingly one of the few here that welcome it. There is enough negativity wwb

    Like

  8. Ike what a wonderful write up and a very poignant story to say the least. I’m hoping the Supreme Count decision allowing for legalized sports betting doesn’t hurt the business too much. 🙂 Just kidding my optimistic friend.

    Like

  9. Another short story to wet your whistles. A half dozen times I went to Pirate games with a complete stranger. Well at least the first couple times. After that I got to know the people that had been arranged to take me to the games (no car), nice guys. They would say, so Tommy, (like in a good fellow tone) how do you think the Pirates are playing? I didn’t even know who the hell the guy was? My young life wasn’t all bad. more to come…..?

    Like

  10. Nicely done Ike. Surprised to hear that PSU fans were concerned about us. Thought they were unrivaled. Bet Patsy worked under the auspices of the New Ken Mannerino family.

    Italians are very giving people, you were fortunate to have them take you in. I am guessing they helped you have such a great attitude.

    Like

  11. Ike…just wonderful…thank you. We have a lot in common. I skipped the painful story of my youth.
    Mom died when I was young. Dad was an alcoholic and addicted gambler. My printing buds at age 15 were well connected Italians from E.Liberty. We printed numbers slips and football pools on weekends. They took care of me until I was in my 20s. A shame Dorsett didn’t know them. They made about 112 Oakland parking tickets disappear.

    As I grew up I learned that all the households that appeared “Ozzie and Harriet”..were anything but.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Ike great read like we said many times in our life what doesn’t, kill you makes you stronger that really goes all things Pitt always ready to help if needed.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Big Dan, we have more in common than we ever knew. I have used that Ozzie and Harriot line for years and years.

    When we finally bought a landline telephone we weren’t allowed to answer it. One ring and a hangup meant Patsy was at a certain place, two rings he was at another, three rings and on and on. by the time we were allowed to answer the phone, the non Patsy people would think we weren’t at home and hang up… No schitt.

    Like

  14. I just made myself laugh thinking about this. Anyone remember when you would get that first half ring during a phone call? So we had to to make sure where the phone call was coming from so Do could call him back and save a dime. It was like, is that 3 rings or 4 rings? This is so he wouldn’t have to carry numbers in his pocket. He would get so pissed off when we couldn’t figure out where in the hell he was calling from.

    Like

    1. This is a chance for 1 Pitt sports program to make their mark in the ACC for the first time since entry…granted womens volleyball this past year shared the championship with Louisville but for some strange reason there is no ACC tourney in volleyball.

      The men’s baseball team has a chance to start a new era of SOP which actually means something positive. Heck they could have Pitted last night (and it was close), but they didnt. They didnt choke and hung on and won. In fact they came back multiple times during that game.

      If SOP can be turned around from choking to battling back and winning, Pitt sports will be on the road to redemption and a school to look out for in ACC play.

      Like

  15. ike, never apologize for being positive. I’ve been around negative people all my life, and it is no way to live. People who are positive will try harder, rarely get discouraged and will handle failure so much better. Negative people act like bad outcomes are normal and to be expected. They spend their lives bracing themselves for failure. That’s my 2 cents.

    BTW, you made me laugh with that half phone call story! I remember well the early party lines as a kid that people waited to be available to make a call (talkative neighbors would never get off). And the phone booths that could receive a call at no charge, so the signal was a ring and then get the dime back while the other party called you back. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Ike, like Voice of Reason I was speechless and astounded by the story of your early life . Another example of “you can’t make this stuff up”. I am proud to call you my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thanks Mark and you all. Hey, life ain’t easy but if you ever need help just call me, and put the weight on me. I’m ready and willing…………

    Like

    1. Ah jesus Ike – you had to put the Last Waltz one up. My all-time favorite song and I cry every single time i hear it… takes me back to when I was totally lost… and my friends pulled me back.

      Like

  18. Ike, thank you. I’m not even sure that you are a Pitt alum; but that is unimportant.

    I was a Pitt Freshman, when I left at halftime 35-8 at the Pitt- WVU game. And yes we did win 36-35 (my wife, Pitt 1975, Medical Technology, says I only remember numbers). So it was halftime and we were down 27. I was a mechanical engineering major so I thought I’d head down DeSoto to Tower A Room 506 and start studying for next week’s tests.

    So it ends 36-35. A lot of people say they were there, but we were THERE. You: full time. Me: half time.

    Ike, Pitt fans are perpetual optimists because rare feats of magic like this game are intertwined in our DNA and we just can’t let go.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Ike, what a great story of becoming a Pitt man. I was at that WVU game, what a comeback. I remember Dave “the mouse” Havern throwing some of the ugliest non- spiral passes for completions that I had ever seen. Later in Bowden’s career when asked why FSU would run up the score he would reference that Pitt game and say you could never have a big enough lead.

    Like

  20. BTW, was in the car today and put on the Pirate pre-game show just when the pre-game Guy “Jack” said “We have to talk about the Pitt Panthers!”

    And they did. Jack, who used to be a GM in the majors, talked about how tough it is for the northern schools to compete against the southern schools. He was impressed with Pitt’s wins in the ACC tourney…

    Go Pitt.

    Like

  21. Wonderful story Ike. Brought back many memories for me…best told at a later date. Brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing. Looking forward to seeing you again at the outing.

    Like

  22. Ike, excellent piece, my friend. Can’t say much more than that except well done and a tip of the hat to you. Congrats.

    One of my approaches in daily life over the last few years is to approach everyone you encounter as if they had a worse day than you, or a worse week, month, year, years, etc. It gets you to a better mindset from the start.

    Major – it’s just not in baseball. It is all sports for several reasons. The main reason is population/demographics. The northern states are losing population of high school students. Actually, there will be a severe drop off in graduating seniors in three years. As I first explained on here and the blather, the main reason that the Big10,11,12… expanded to include Maryland and Rutgers was NOT for the extra tv sets. It was for the population and getting the big10 exposure into the population growth on the eastern sea boards.

    It’s sexy for ESPN to talk about tv’s and viewership to their potential advertisers, not so much about population and where they will be getting their athletes from.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Ike – that was very touching and I appreciate that you chose to share your story. I will admit to getting a smidge of verklempt when I read it.

    Have always appreciated your positivity – even moreso now.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Great read Ike. You show positivity and the ability to overcome difficult times. Where did you live in Hempfield? My Italian grandfather lost his wife when he had 4 kids, 1 was an infant. He gave her to another family to raise, then married my grandmother and had my dad and a bunch more kids. I guess that is the ultimate show of love that someone would give away a child so that child could have a better life. You have an angel in Heaven keeping watch over you!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Actually Annie, I was born and raise only a few blocks from your house in SouthWest Gbg. I lived at the top of Green Street. I just talked to your cousin Tommy yesterday.

    Thanks for sharing your story. They wanted to split up our whole family and each of us had different homes to go to but my Grandma said no. She helped keep the family together. Well except for me. I had it much better than my brothers and sisters.

    Like

Leave a Comment Please and Keep It Civil...

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s