Episode 12: Anthony Hembrick, Godfather of “Showboating Fighters KTFO”

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Anthony HembrickAnthony “Hollywood” Hembrick was a light-heavyweight contender, an exciting boxer who was 14-0 with eight knockouts. On June 12, 1990, he headlined a card at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he’d served with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. With a wildly partisan Army crowd in attendance and a national TV audience on USA Network, Hembrick met journeyman Booker T. Word for the vacant U.S. Boxing Association title, a steppingstone belt on the way to a world championship.

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An admirer of fellow Detroiter Sugar Ray Robinson, Hembrick “understood the showbiz angle of boxing,” his manager, Arnie “Tokyo” Rosenthal, says. Hembrick dressed his cornermen in bike shorts had them get “fade” haircuts — this was 1990 — and before the fight, performed a series of choreographed dance moves with them. The crowd loved it.

And then the fight started. Hembrick controlled the first round and buckled Word’s knees with a left hook. But then Word caught Hembrick with a wild right hand, knocking him down face first. Hembrick got up, but never really recovered. Two knockdowns later, the fight was over. A first-round KO.

“Showboating Fighters Get KTFO” is a popular genre on YouTube now. KTFO means knocked the f— out. But even 15 years before YouTube launched, Hembrick’s awful night was the dominant fact of his career.

“Nobody was ever going to forget this night against Word,” Rosenthal says. “It was on USA Tuesday Night Fights. And they would play it year after year after year, you know, in the best and the greatest knockouts and the funniest knockouts. You know, this just gets played over and over and over again.”

This wasn’t the first or last disappointment for Hembrick, who had been the captain of the 1988 U.S. Olympic boxing team and would eventually fight for the world title twice. He retired in 1996 after he was diagnosed with a leaky blood vessel in his brain. His health today is good, he says with a chuckle, “besides some dementia.” He says that manifests itself in forgetfulness, but he doesn’t present as a person struggling with dementia.

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Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

People in the story

Anthony Hembrick

Anthony Hembrick fought professionally from 1989 to 1996, retiring with a record of 31-8-2. He was the USBA light heavyweight champion in 1995. He lost a controversial split decision to Leonzer Barber for the WBO light heavyweight title in 1992, and lost a unanimous decision to Henry Maske for the IBF title in 1993. As an amateur, Hembrick had been a star of the Army team out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and was elected captain of the 1988 U.S. Olympic boxing team. A schedule mixup caused him to miss his first fight in Seoul, resulting in disqualification. After his boxing career ended, Hembrick reenlisted in the Army, retiring with a full pension. He lives in Dallas, where he coaches boxing. He’s seen here in a recent photo.

Tokyo RosenthalTokyo Rosenthal is an Americana singer-songwriter who, in one of many previous professional incarnations, was Hembrick’s manager. He’s also been a TV executive and commentator, a photographer and an author. His latest album is This Minstrel Life and his new book is Our Last Seder. For more information, visit his website at TokyoRosenthal.com.

Alfonso “Smitty” Smith was the coach of the Army boxing team at Fort Bragg, and also worked in Hembrick’s corner during his professional career. Smitty says he didn’t have any say in the choosing of Hembrick’s opponents, but didn’t like the idea of Booker T. Word from the start, because Word was a “short, muscular guy that stayed in his chest,” exactly the kind of fighter who always gave Hembrick problems, “even in the gym.” Smith was inducted into the Carolina Boxing Hall of Fame in 2009.

Smitty and Tokyo
Al Smith and Tokyo Rosenthal ringside at one of Hembrick’s fights. Photo: Tokyo Rosenthal.

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Episode 11: You’ve Got to Lose to Learn How to Win: Diego Luke’s Story

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Diego LukeHockey in Minnesota is like football in Texas. It’s the sport, which is why Minnesota is known as The State of Hockey. Diego Luke was a promising youth hockey player in St. Paul when he was diagnosed with Stage 3 kidney disease. He would need dialysis and, eventually, a transplant.

He fought through some dark days — literally fought on one occasion, with a nurse Luke’s mild-mannered mom describes as “a bitch.” The cops came. The situation was sorted out, and finally, so was Luke’s health. But not for long. Next came a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and more life-and-death struggle that would keep Luke away from the ice.

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In this episode, Diego Luke tells his own story. He’s a college freshman now, playing club hockey and wondering what might have been if he’d been healthy, but also appreciating the chance to play the game he loves. “Every game I’m playing,” he says, “I’m winning.”

Luke chronicled his teenage health story on the Tumblr blog Diego Gets a Kidney.

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If My Heart Was an Elbow, I’d Need Tommy John

The SmokejumpersWhen Yahoo’s Jeff Passan was going to be a guest on my SiriusXM Radio show “Content Is King” to promote his book The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports, I joked on Twitter that I was working on a country song called “If My Heart Was an Elbow, I’d Need Tommy John.”

I eventually decided to make up the song for real. Then I asked my old bandmates in The Smokejumpers if they’d record it, and they agreed. When I asked them what name they wanted to use for the recording, they said “The Smokejumpers,” which is how I found out I’d been kicked out of the band. They didn’t have time to take a new band photo so they just re-worked an old one.

That’s drummer Big Stick Mick (Michael Minnick) in front, and guitar player Tom “Double D” Thumb (Tom Proulx) jumping. Tom does the singing and, I think, plays all other instruments on the recording. Noah “Butta” Fingers, one of several Smokejumpers bass players, was cropped out of this photo taken in the Powell Street Bart Station in San Francisco around 1997.

Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

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Episode 10: Killer Weight Loss Secrets: Fighters Cutting Weight is the Battle Fans Don’t See

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A fighter weighs inWe thought we’d have fun with our clickbait headline, but cutting weight is no laughing matter. As Andrew Stelzer reports, athletes in combat sports sometimes go to extreme lengths to rapidly lose weight leading up to the weigh-in. Then, having made the contracted limit, they try to pile the weight back on in the 24 hours before the match.

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Read a transcript

As you might expect, this is unhealthy, leads to poor performance, and can even be deadly. The idea is to fight at the lowest possible weight class, preferably one significantly below what you actually weigh when the bout begins. But since it’s common for both contestants to be cutting weight, they’re usually risking their health without gaining a competitive advantage.

Imagine how much better the sports would be if the athletes were climbing into the ring or cage in peak physical condition, rather than drained by the weight-cutting routine. Stelzer interviews fighters in various disciplines, as well as health experts and sport officials about how combat sports can solve this problem.

Andrew StelzerAndrew Stelzer is a journalist in Oakland, California. You can hear more of his work at AndrewStelzer.com.

Weigh-in photo by Peter Gordon (CC by 2.0). Stelzer photo courtesy Andrew Stelzer.

Also in this episode: Billy Conn

Billy Conn was light heavyweight champion of the world in the late ’30s and early ’40s. He was in the inaugural class of the Boxing Hall of Fame, and the Associated Press ranked him as the ninth best pound-for-pound fighter of the 20th century. On top of all that, he had Irish charm and Hollywood looks.

He even starred in a movie about his own life, though his greatest movie moment was getting mentioned by Rod Steiger at the beginning of the famous “I coulda been a contender” scene with Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront.”

 

But all anyone outside of Pittsburg remembers about Billy Conn is a fight he lost. It was in 1941, and he had moved up in weight to challenge heavyweight champ Joe Louis. Conn was such a hero in Pittsburgh that the Pirates baseball game was suspended for 54 minutes so the crowd at Forbes Field could listen to the fight over the loudspeakers.

Billy ConnFor 12 rounds at the Polo Grounds in New York, the Pittsburgh Kid had the Brown Bomber beat. But then he decided it wasn’t enough to beat the great Joe Louis. He wanted to be the guy who knocked out the great Joe Louis.

“What’s the point of being Irish,” he shrugged a few minutes after Louis knocked him out in the 13th round, “if you can’t be stupid.”

Tim Conn helps tell the story of his father’s moment in the spotlight, and the 50 years he spent reliving it, including his long friendship with Louis. Biographer Andrew O’Toole, author of Sweet William: The Life of Billy Conn, discusses Conn’s legacy as well.

Learn more

There are two Billy Conn biographies. Sweet William: The Life of Billy Conn by Andrew O’Toole, who you can hear in this story, and Billy Conn – The Pittsburgh Kid by Paul Kennedy.

The Boxer and The Blonde by Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated, 1985
In the words of the subhead: This is the story of Billy Conn, who won the girl he loved but lost the best fight ever. Not many photos, but they’re great.

BillyConn.net — Plenty of photos, and lots more, at the family’s official site!

Billy Conn, 75, an Ex-Champion Famed for His Fights With Louis, New York Times, 1993
This AP obit of Conn is pretty straightforward, but it does include a great story from late in his life when he punched out a robber in a store.

Mary Louise Conn, widow of Billy Conn, dies at 94, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2017

The Myth of Louis-Conn, New York Times, 1981
The Red Smith column mentioned in the story.

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Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Billy Conn Song

The song that plays throughout the story about the Billy Conn-Joe Louis fight is “The Pittsburgh Kid” by The BibleCode Sundays. They are a band from London who gave us permission to use their song about the great light-heavyweight who almost beat the Brown Bomber. Thanks to Andy Nolan for that.

The BibleCode Sundays’ new album is called Walk Like Kings. It includes guest appearances by Russell Crowe and Declan MacManus, the older brother of band member Ronan MacManus. You might know Declan by his stage name, Elvis Costello. The BibleCode Sundays are on tour in the U.K. for the rest of 2017.

BibleCode Sundays on Facebook.

Other Songs Used

“Aint No Thing” by BOPD
“Government Funded Weed” by Black Ant
Both used under the Creative Commons CC by 3.0 license.

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Bonus Episode: I’ve Had Enough Character Building


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Houston Chronicle clipThis headline and photo were the centerpiece of the Houston Chronicle’s front page on October 24, 1993, the day after Jefferson Davis High beat Wheatley 19-18 to end an 80-game losing streak that had begun in 1985. Coach Chuck Arnold is getting the Gatorade treatment from his players.

Arnold had taken over as a rookie head coach in 1991. His best player that year was Michael Porter, a running back who also played whatever position his team needed. Porter went on to a college career at Prairie View A&M — which was also in the middle of an 80-game losing streak. When Porter’s playing career ended without his ever having played on a winning team, Arnold hired him as an assistant. When Arnold retired two decades later, Porter became the head coach at Davis, which has since been renamed Northside High.

Porter is the focus of this week’s episode of Can’t Win 4 Losing. This bonus episode features longer interviews with Porter, Arnold and Gerald Garcia, a longtime coach at Northside who coached Porter back in ’91 and now works for him as an assistant.

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Music

Opening and Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Other Song Used

“Take Me Higher” by Jahzzar (CC by 4.0)

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Episode 9: We Kicked It Like National Champions


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Michael Porter was a good football player at Jefferson Davis High School in Houston. The trouble is, he was the only one. They were in the middle of an eight-year, 80-game losing streak, the longest in high school history.

Then Porter played college ball at Prairie View A&M—which was in the middle of an 80-game losing streak, the longest in NCAA history.

Now Porter’s the coach at his alma mater, renamed Northside High.

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Read a transcript

This story is an update of Can’t Win 4 Losing‘s pilot episode, which aired in July. It’s also an expansion on host King Kaufman’s story that ran on NPR’s Only a Game on Nov. 18, 2017.

Streak breakers

Porter was on a bus returning to Houston from a Prairie View A&M loss when an assistant coach told him his high school had won. The coach had seen a newspaper. It was national news. The team photo above is on the wall of the Northside football team’s weight room.

People in the story

Michael Porter is the head football coach at Northside High School in Houston, which was called Jefferson Davis when he was a student there from 1988-92. He was a running back on the football team who was good enough to play as a freshman. One newspaper account described Davis’ entire offense at the time as “Michael Porter left, Michael Porter right.” After being part of the longest losing streaks in high school and NCAA football history, he was hired as an assistant coach at his alma mater. He took over as head coach in 2013.

Chuck Arnold in 2011Chuck Arnold was the head coach at Davis from 1991 through 2012. He led the team to an undefeated season and the state playoffs in 2008, but is probably best remembered for bringing the eight-year, 80-game losing streak to an end in 1993. Porter says he still checks in with Arnold for advice on football and coaching. This photo is from 2011.

Gerald Garcia is an assistant football coach and the former baseball coach at Northside High. When Arnold was a rookie coach and Porter was a senior, Garcia was “the young guy coach,” according to Porter. Now, he’s an elder statesman of the program. “I didn’t talk him about of retiring,” Porter says, “but I’ll just say I’m glad he’s still here.”

Ja’Michael Jordan was a sophomore defensive tackle on the Northside football team when he was interviewed for this episode. Patrick Brown was a senior running back. Jordan is now a junior and Brown has graduated and is attending college. You can watch Jordan’s highlights and Brown’s highlights at Hudl.com.

The absence of photographs is a result of King Kaufman’s inexperience as a podcaster when he was reporting this episode!

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Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Other Songs Used

“Take Me Higher” by Jahzzar (CC by 4.0)
“Dirt Rhodes” by Kevin McLeod (CC by 2.0)

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Episode 8: Futbol Americano


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Jonathan Tinajero

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Jonathan Tinajero was excited. He’d been scrolling through Facebook when he discovered a professional football league in Mexico. A native of East Los Angeles, Tinajero had dreamed of playing in the NFL, but his football career had fizzled in college. This looked like a fresh opportunity.

His father laughed at him. The LFA? La Liga de Futbol Americano Profesional? That’s a soccer league, son.

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Read a transcript

Dad was wrong. The LFA is hoping to capitalize on the NFL’s popularity in Mexico, and soon Tinajero, a defensive back and wide receiver, was in Mexico City, playing for the Mayas, chasing those dreams again, and learning that the LFA is not exactly the NFL. Juan Reyes reports.

Juan ReyesJuan Reyes is a sportswriter for the Santa Cruz (California) Sentinel. He reported this story from Mexico City. For a gallery of photos of Tinajero and his Mayas teammates, click here. All photos are by Juan Reyes and Montse Lopez Flores.

Paulie Soda

The episode opens with our first story of losing from a listener. Jim Morfino called in with a memory from his childhood in the Bronx. Morfino, 74, lived across the street from Fat Nick’s candy store, which was really a bookmaking operation. “I don’t think there was a legitimate candy store in all the Bronx,” Morfino says.

Paulie Soda drove the soda truck, and was one of many Damon Runyon-type characters hanging out around the candy store, where Jim and his friends hung out after school. “Paulie was a loser,” Morfino says. A big problem for Paulie was that he hated the Yankees, so he bet against them all the time. A bigger problem: It was 1953, and the Yankees were on their way to winning their fifth straight World Series.

One day, though, Paulie let Jackie Pads talk him into betting on the Yankees. Just this once.

If you’ve got a story about losing in your life, call us up at 510-646-1082 and tell it to us. We’ll give you $50 if we use it.

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Johnny Rawls

Johnny RawlsIf you’ve been listening to Can’t Win 4 Losing, you’ve heard our closing theme song, “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls.  Now you can hear the story behind the song, as well as the story of how it became our theme. The Mississippi bluesman sat down for an interview before a gig in Fremont, California, earlier this year.

Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Other Songs Used

“Sing Swing Bada Bing” by Doug Maxwell
“The Duel” courtesy of Bensound.com
“Hold My Hand (Ambient Mix)” by Ars Sonor
Music by Chris Banks
Used with permission or via Creative Commons licenses.

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Episode 7 — My Fault: The Trey Junkin Story


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Trey JunkinClick the Apple Podcasts bug to listen.

Trey Junkin was a long-snapper in the NFL longer than anyone else, ever. He can count on his fingers the number of bad snaps he made in 20 seasons in the NFL. But if you remember him, you remember him because of his very last snap. And it was a bad one. Also: You are a New York Giants fan.

Junkin played in the NFL for 19 seasons — “it kinda pisses me off” that it wasn’t 20, he says.

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Read a transcript

But he did play in a 20th season. He’d already submitted retirement papers when Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi called him and asked if he could snap for punts in a wild-card playoff game in San Francisco. Junkin, 41 and with a bad knee among other ailments, hesitated, but agreed.

Trey Junkin with the Arizona Cardinals
In an image tacked to his wall: Trey Junkin after a happier finish, with the Arizona Cardinals in 2001.

Junkin practiced with the Giants for only a couple of days, but head coach Jim Fassel asked him to add placekick snapping to his duties. Again, Junkin hesitated. He had barely practiced with the unit, and while it looks simple, the process of snapping on placekicks, and “that triangle: snapper, holder, kicker,” is complex.

“There’s a million things that can go wrong,” he says. “And there’s only one thing that can go right.”

Fassel insisted, and Junkin agreed.

Things went well in San Francisco until they didn’t. The Giants built a 38-14 lead late in the third quarter, with all punts and kicks going smoothly, but the 49ers launched a furious comeback to take a 39-38 with just over a minute to play. Along the way, a first disaster: A bad snap on a field goal attempt that would have extended the Giants’ lead to 41-33.

And then, with six seconds to go, the Giants lined up for what would have been the game-winning kick.

“My fault,” Junkin says about those two snaps. Not the whole game. Not the second-half collapse or the officiating mistake that ended the game rather than properly giving the Giants one more snap. But that last bad snap? “That’s mine.”

Giants fans still cringe at the mention of Trey Junkin’s name. His career was the 16th longest in NFL history, the sixth longest among non-kickers/punters. The names above him on that list: Jerry Rice, Brett Favre, Bruce Matthews, Darrell Green and Jim Marshall. Four Hall of Famers and one (Marshall) who should be.

For most of his 19-plus years in the league, he was anonymous, a perfectionist working in the game’s trenches. But all anyone remembers about him now is that one snap, his last.

He’s well aware of this. He’s thought about it a lot. He’s talked about it a lot. And he welcomed me to his home in Winnfield, Louisiana, to talk about it for Can’t Win 4 Losing.

Helmets
In the barn he used as a home gym when he was still physically able to do so, Trey Junkin has a collection of helmets from all the teams he played for. The only exception: The New York Giants.

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Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Other Songs Used

In order of appearance:

In the West” by Kevin McLeod (Creative Commons 4.0)
“Room With a View” by Jahzzar (Creative Commons 3.0)
“Horses to Water” by Topher Mohr and Alex Elena
“Call to Statesmanship” by U.S. Army Herald Trumpets
“Bravura” by U.S. Army Band
Except as noted: public domain or Creative Commons non-attribution license.

Did you catch the NFL Films music vibe we were going for?

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Episode 6: Zippy Chippy—Legendary Loser to Champion of Champions


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Zippy ChippyZippy Chippy ran 100 races and lost 100 times. But he was a star, featured in People magazine and on “Good Morning America,” among many others. So many fans bet on him that he routinely went off as the favorite. Most of those fans didn’t know that Zippy was hardly a lovable underdog who goshdarnit gave it his all but wasn’t good enough.

“Nobody got too close to him,” says William Thomas, author of the horse’s biography: The Legend of Zippy Chippy. “Even the grooms and the hotwalkers were very leery.”

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Read a transcript.

Zippy was, and at 26 still is, an ornery cuss. He’s been known to bite, and he once caught his owner and trainer, the late Felix Monserrate, by the back of his jacket and held him suspended in midair for 15 minutes. Track workers came running at the sound of Monserrate’s screams, but they weren’t able to help him. They were laughing too hard.

Zippy Chippy had a champion’s bloodlines. He’s a direct descendent of Man o’ War, three Triple Crown winners and the greatest broodmare of the 20th century, La Troienne. Bloodlines are everything in thoroughbred racing, but Zippy Chippy parlayed that advantage into a career of futility that began at Belmont Park in New York but ended at fairground tracks in Massachusetts. His career winnings were about $30,000.

Zippy Chippy lives now at Old Friends at Cabin Creek, a thoroughbred retirement farm in upstate New York whose owner, Jo Ann Pepper, refers to herself as Zippy’s mom. And here’s the twist: Zippy is so popular that, through donations and merchandise sales, his presence pays for the upkeep of a small herd of horses who won millions of dollars and stood in the winner’s circle at major races.

“This is the most beautiful irony of any story I’ve ever come across,” Thomas says.

As you’ll hear in the story, what happens to thoroughbreds when they come off the track is a serious issue in the racing industry. The Old Friends retirement farms are supported entirely by donations, volunteer work and merchandise sales. Please consider donating or, if you’re in the area, volunteering. Visit OldFriendsEquine.org to learn how you can help these magnificent animals.

This summer Can’t Win 4 Losing visited Zippy, his caretakers and his fellow retirees, including his bosom buddy, Red Down South. Click on Zippy’s smiling face for a gallery.

Zippy's face

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Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Other Songs Used

“William Tell Overture” by Rossini
“Ipanema Daydream” by Bird Creek
“The Creek” by Topher Mohr and Alex Elena
“Dreamland” by the 126ers
All are either public domain or used under a Creative Commons license.

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Bonus Episode: The St. Louis Browns


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Satchel Paige
Satchel Paige at the 1952 All-Star Game with, from left, Mickey Mantle and Allie Reynolds of the Yankees and Dom DiMaggio of the Red Sox.

We go deeper into the second of this week’s two stories, about the St. Louis Browns, baseball’s forgotten team.

The Browns check off two boxes for Can’t Win 4 Losing: They lost a lot in their hapless half-century of existence and then their city lost them. Maybe three boxes, as they’ve largely been lost to history. If you’re wondering what happened to them, they moved east and became the Baltimore Orioles in 1954.

This bonus episode includes three longer interviews with men whose voices you heard in Episode 5. We lined them up alphabetically by age.

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Ed Mickelson is one of 14 living ex-Browns. He had a cup of coffee with them at the end of their last season, 1953. He only got into seven games, but he managed to drive in the last run the team ever scored. It was in a 2-1 loss to the White Sox at Sportsman’s Park. “We went out in Brownie style,” he says. “We lost our 100th game.” Mickelson played 11 years in pro ball, including brief stints with the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs as well as his time with the Browns. He’s 91, retired from a career as a baseball and football coach and counselor at St. Louis-area high schools.

In the interview, which like the others is lightly edited for length, listen as Mick sends it into extra innings. I thanked him for his time, and he said he had more things he wanted to say. That’s when he told a couple of Satchel Paige stories.

Ed Mickelson Cartoon

Burton Boxerman is an author or co-author — with his wife, Benita Boxerman — of several books about baseball history, including Jews and BaseballVolume 1 and Volume 2; and Ebbets to Veeck to Busch: Eight Owners Who Shaped Baseball. We talked about his childhood in St. Louis, when for some reason he chose to root for the Browns, not the Cardinals. He was 20 when they moved to Baltimore, and it took him about 10 years before he settled on a new team to root for: The Cubs. He wanted a team that could find as many creative ways to lose as the Browns had.

Emmett McAuliffe is a board member of the St. Louis Browns Historical Society and a leader in keeping the team’s legacy alive, despite being born several years after they left town. He’s an intellectual property lawyer in St. Louis, and his office is filled with Browns memorabilia. (Gallery)

Music

Opening and Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Other Song Used

“The Messenger” by Silent Partner (Creative Commons)

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Episode 5: Breaking Up — San Diego’s Life After the Chargers


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Johnny Bolt Pride

One of the most painful types of losing in sports is when a city loses its team. San Diego Chargers fans were heartbroken and angry when their team moved up the freeway to Los Angeles this year. They burned jerseys and threw eggs at the team headquarters.

But not all of them. “Not having the NFL be in your city is a win,” said writer and sports commentator Dallas McLaughlin. “There’s no way it’s not.” With the Chargers struggling to convince an indifferent L.A. to pay attention to them, Maya Kroth reports from San Diego now that the Bolts have bolted.

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Read a transcript.

Plus: The St. Louis Browns check off two boxes for this show. Their city lost them when they left town and became the Baltimore Orioles after the 1953 season, and in their half-century in the Lou, they were consistent losers.

You’d have to be at least 70 or so to even remember the Browns existing. But there’s still a St. Louis Browns fan club, and the guy who runs it, Emmett McAuliffe, isn’t even 60. Host King Kaufman talks to him about the appeal of a team he never saw — at least not before the Orioles wore throwback Browns uniforms during a road series against the Cardinals in 2003.

Also, author Burton Boxerman talks about growing up as a Browns fan, and how, once they left, he had to find a new team to root for and he picked the Chicago Cubs, because their relentless losing reminded him of his beloved Brownies.

And Ed Mickelson, 91 years old and one of 14 living former Browns, talks about his brief but memorable time at Sportsman’s Park. He wasn’t a Brown for long, but he did drive in the last run in the team’s history. It was the only run they scored that day as they went down to their final defeat.

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People in the episode

Chargers

Maya Kroth is a freelance print and audio reporter based in Mexico City. She’s available now for reporting on the aftermath of the Mexico City earthquake. You can find her work at mayakroth.com. Editors seeking coverage should contact her via Facebook messenger.

Dallas McLaughlin is a writer and performer in San Diego. His debut standup album is called An Evening of This!

Matthew T. Hall (referred to as Matt Hall in the story) is the editorial and opinion director at the San Diego Union-Tribune.

John Abundez, pictured above, is a lifelong Chargers fan better known as Johnny Bolt Pride. He says he has never worn a jersey with an owner’s name on the back. He roots for his team, and remains a Chargers fan even though they’ve moved to Los Angeles.

C-Siccness is a San Diego hip-hop artist whose song “Save Our Bolts” was used in this episode with permission.

Maya Kroth
Kroth
Dallas McLaughlin
McLaughlin
Matthew T. Hall
Hall
C-Siccness
C-Siccness

 

 

 

 

Browns

Emmett McAuliffeEmmett McAuliffe is an intellectual property lawyer in St. Louis and a member of the board of the St. Louis Browns Historical Society. His law office is filled with Browns memorabilia. Click his photo for a gallery.

 

Burton BoxermanBurton Boxerman is the author, with his wife, Benita Boxerman, of many books about baseball history and other subjects, including Jews and Baseball, Volume 1 and Volume 2; and Ebbets to Veeck to Busch: Eight Owners Who Shaped BaseballThey are working on a biography of Bill DeWitt Sr., who was a Browns executive and owner, and the father of the current Cardinals owner, Bill DeWitt Jr.

Ed Mickelson is one of 14 living former St. Louis Browns. He was a first baseman who spent the last few weeks of the 1953 season with the Browns, driving in the last run in team history during a 2-1, 11-inning loss to the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 27, 1953. Mickelson, 91, had a solid, 11-year career in the minor leagues and played briefly in the big leagues for the Cardinals and the Cubs in addition to his stint with the Browns.

After retiring from baseball, Mickelson was a football and baseball coach and a counselor in St. Louis-area high schools, retiring in 1993. His 2007 memoir, Out of the Park: Memoir of a Minor League Baseball All-Star, is notable for its honesty about his post-career depression. This photo from a Browns Reunion Luncheon on Sept. 26, 2017, shows Mickelson, left, talking to his friend and the most famous living ex-Brown, Don Larsen.

Ed Mickelson and Don Larson
Photo courtesy of Julie Mickelson Drew.

Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Other Songs Used

“Movie Piano Theme” by EK Velika
“St. Louis Tickle” by Heftone Banjo Orchestra
“Hot Swing” and “Gaslamp Funworks” by Kevin McLeod
Used under the CC BY 3.0 Creative Commons license.

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