Aging Bull

Martin Scorsese finked out by not attending the screening of Raging Bull during NYU’s “Golden Age of Cinema” series last week. Which left Jockbeat and the 100 others in attendance—mostly college kids—terribly disappointed. Not to worry: Giacobe LaMotta filled in and gave a star performance. Called “Jake” by pugilists whose asses he busted in the ’40s, the 80-year-old Bronx Bull, wearing a white fedora and bright red jacket, appeared fit enough to take on Butter Bean.

After the film, LaMotta cracked, “I’m not like dat anymore. I’m much nicer. I used to hurt people. Now, I make dem laugh.” And how. Asked about Robert DeNiro‘s portrayal, Jake rambled for nearly 10 minutes. “Da guy won an Emmy for best actor dat year,” he said. “I asked him to take a swing at me when we first met. He couldn’t touch me.” Among the many little known details that emerged during the Q&A with LaMotta—like the fact that Jake and Bobby D. boxed a thousand rounds in pre-shoot preparation—were a few priceless punch lines: “I fought Sugar Ray Robinson so many times I got diabetes.”

The evening turned surreal as questions intended for the absent director were asked, annoying the emcee (who also served as interpreter, since Jake has some difficulty hearing). “Can you explain Scorsese’s use of black-and-white and color?” asked one bright-eyed student. “These questions are meant for Scorsese,” snapped the distressed host in a thick Russian accent. But LaMotta was prepared with the definitive answer: “I always saw my fights in black and white. Dat’s how.”

Striking Out

Jockbeat bids a fond farewell to the Bedford Bowl, the Crown Heights bowling emporium that closed its doors last weekend after nearly 40 years of meritorious service. Previously profiled in the Voice as the site of some hardcore bowling-tournament action, the Bedford was also a valuable community hangout, with a contingent of regulars who routinely showed up just to have a beer or play cards. And in this age of Day-Glo pins and digital scoring consoles, the Bedford was determinedly analog: It was one of the last bowling joints in the city with manual scoring, the decor was a time warp back to 1962, and the prices were more than fair (especially the Monday- and Tuesday-night specials—only a buck a game!). It would be one thing if the place had died a natural death, but in fact business was booming. The shutdown came because nearby Medgar Evers College, a CUNY branch, needed to expand and took over the property via eminent domain. We’re all for public education, but was it really necessary to destroy such a vital neighborhood jewel?

Jockbeat was privileged to be present at the Bedford’s farewell party, a raucous yet bittersweet affair that was unmistakably redolent of a death in the family. All the best to the staff, especially front counterman Mack, a class act all the way. Meanwhile, if anyone knows of a pin-bashing palace with similarly old-school virtues, please let us know pronto.

Avoiding the Draft

Baseball was born in the Northeast, but in the 155 years since the first game was played in Hoboken, New Jersey, the sport has migrated south and west. Florida’s Seminole High School has an enrollment of just under 2500 students, six of whom were selected in last week’s Major League Baseball draft. New York City high schools have a total enrollment of about 350,000 students, yet only Collin Mahoney and Tom Sgueglia, both from the Bronx’s Mt. St. Michael Academy, were drafted this year.

While Seminole’s baseball team can compete year round, New York’s climate limits the high school baseball season to a maximum of three months. “I think players in general in the Northeast have a smaller window of opportunity to be seen,” said Tom Barnes, a scout for the Anaheim Angels, the team that selected both Mahoney (a catcher who went in the 48th round) and Sgueglia (a 38th-round second baseman). “To get drafted, New York City kids have to play as much summer and fall baseball as possible.”

Barnes first noticed Mahoney at the Area-Code Games, a summer showcase of high school talent that Mahoney’s father (and high school coach) described as “a giant meat market.” To compensate for the lack of attention given to Northeastern baseball, Mahoney and Sgueglia attended tryouts and showcases across the nation, and they were teammates on the Bayside Yankees, a summer baseball squad.

Gil Bassetti, a scout of 40 years, has witnessed the difficulties of Northeastern high school baseball, but he has also seen Major League stars rise up from truncated high school seasons and poorly kept diamonds. “New York players are at a definite disadvantage. Most fields are terrible, the playing conditions are terrible, and the season is too short,” Bassetti explained. “But the Northeastern players give you a better effort than most kids around the nation, because they’ve had a tougher time coming up.”

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