Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: A final farewell for local legend Joe Zavattaro
Random thoughts while waiting for the coffee to brew, the bagel to toast and until we're done basking in the glow of being in the New England Basketball Hall of Fame. This time next week, everyone will have had their chance to say a final goodbye to Joe Zavattaro.
Zavvy, as we all knew him, died in July at age 86. There will be a funeral mass on Saturday at noon at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish, 70 Marshall St., in North Adams. There will be a celebration of life for Zavvy at 2 p.m. inside the Amsler Campus Center Gymnasium on the MCLA campus.
Most of what we wrote at the time dealt with his coaching exploits at MCLA. He did spend five seasons playing minor league baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, and had a chance to play with three guys who earned World Series rings.
Perhaps the most famous of them was the man called "Dr. Strangeglove," Dick Stuart. Stuart and Zavvy played together for the Lincoln (Neb.) Chiefs in 1956.
Stuart played 10 years in the big leagues, including two years with the Red Sox in 1963 and 1964. He recorded 232 runs batted in during his two years with the Sox. But Stuart hit 23 home runs for the 1960 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates.
He was known as Dr. Strangeglove because he could not field his position. In fact, Stuart had 53 errors as a first baseman in his two years with Boston.
Zavattaro played in Beaumont, Texas, in 1957, and was a teammate of future Major League pitcher Dave Wickersham.
In 1958, Zavattaro split time between Grand Forks (N.D.) and Lincoln. In Grand Forks, he was a teammate of Donn Clendenon, who was a member of that 1969 New York Mets team that won the World Series over Baltimore.
Then in Lincoln that year, Zavvy played with Julian Javier, who later won World Championships with St. Louis in 1964 and 1967. Zavvy also played with Al Jackson, who I got to know when he worked for the Mets organization and used to come visit Pittsfield to work with Mets pitchers.
Rashaan Holloway, who became something of a folk hero while playing basketball at the University of Massachusetts, has signed a professional contract.
Holloway, who was listed at 6-foot-11, 310 pounds in the UMass media notes, has reached a basic agreement with Kyoto Hannaryz, a team in the Japanese B League.
"Signed. Happy to be apart of this great team. First game Oct 5, Lets go Kyoto Hannaryz," Holloway wrote on Twitter.
For the record, Kyoto is part of the 18-team B League, which is the top league in Japan. Kyoto Hannaryz plays in the Western Conference, and will play 60 regular-season games. Teams can be relegated between the B League and the B2 league.
Holloway is the only American, in fact the only player, listed on his team's roster according to the Asia-Basket website.
Each team is allowed three foreign-born players on its roster. Last year, Kyoto Hannaryz had David Simon of Purdue-Fort Wayne, Shaquille Morris of Wichita State and Julian Mavunga of Miami (Ohio) on the roster.
Rashaan isn't the only Holloway brother playing professionally. Mike Jr., who played at Fairleigh Dickinson, and against Rashaan last year in Amherst, is a member of BC Odessa in the Ukraine Superleague.
A couple of weeks ago, I had an opportunity to guest on Evan Valenti's final sports talk show on Pittsfield station WBRK. Doing it brought back mostly good memories.
After all, I used to host a show called "Calling All Sports," every weeknight from 6:30-7 p.m. I replaced Bob Steiner in that seat and started hosting around 1981.
So from that time until now, there had been a local sports talk show on the station. But when Valenti signed off for the last time — he just had too many balls in the air — it marked the end of an era.
Now I can't say that every year since I started at the station there was a sports talk show on, but it had to be pretty close.
The names are a Who's Who of great local broadcasters: Steiner, Bob Shade, Dan Valenti, Lee Farbman, Evan Valenti and even me.
Of all the things I did at WBRK in my time there, nothing was more fun than hosting the sports talk show.
My favorite night came when I did "Calling All Sports." I had a call from Jim Mooney at the Boys and Girls Club. He said tickets were going a little slow for a WWF wrestling show, which used to come to places like the Club. Mooney asked me if I would have a guest on, and I said sure. I never imagined it would be the greatest wrestling manager and former wrestler, of all time.
There on the other end of my phone line was Classy Freddie Blassie, the Hollywood Fashion Plate. Blassie, Lou Albano and the Grand Wizard were the top managers in wrestling. Blassie managed legends like Mr. Fuji, Hulk Hogan, and Jesse "The Body" Ventura.
Blassie did, in fact, call me a "Pencil-necked Geek" on the air. Along with a fair number of Associated Press awards, it was one of my proudest moments in broadcasting.
Maybe some day, sooner than later, the station will put the band back together and get another sports show on the air.
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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