AOY begins, TODAY!

“These are the days by the sparkling river…”

Dateline: A Dining Room Table Story

To the 100 Elite anglers out on the Sabine today, know this,

every cast counts,

every tournament day is one day closer to,

Toyota Angler of the Year.

To win AOY you must first be.

AOD.

“…these are the days…”

Angler of the Day.

Angler of 32 days.

Angler of 160…fish.

“…the time is now…”

Take no day off, mail no day in, never,

compromise,

never let up,

and never forget, Snuffy Stirnweiss.

“…there is no past…”

I remember the cigar, the tip moving up and down as he told the tale,

no smoke, only tale.

Don’t know the day, don’t know the date. It was Buffalo; it was Spring.

ESPN had sent me to Buffalo for some sort of story, or maybe it was just a stopover on the way back to Bristol, or outward to Cleveland or Pittsburgh, don’t remember.

But it was Buffalo, it was Spring.

I remember walking up the porch steps, ringing the doorbell, and standing back to lean on the wrought iron railing, “Donnie, honey…what are you doing in town…hey Sib…Donnie is here…”

In my arms, I held an extra-large pizza and three dozen wings from the La Nova Pizza joint over there on Hertal Avenue.

As I walked into the vestibule, then down the corridor to the back room, the TV room, Sib’s room, Uncle Sibby met me half way…he glanced at the pizza box…opened the brown bag and smelled the chicken wings…then stood back…arms/hands open saying with his body, not his mouth, “So…hey…”

“In my right jacket pocket.”

And as quick as a jersey pickpocket, like lightning his hand went in and came out…came out with the cigar, the cigar that was always in my right pocket in Sib’s house.

It was Buffalo.

It was Spring.

“…there's only future…”

“How you doing at that ESPN there?”

Only half the cigar was lit, but it was all Sib needed for the tales to begin.

“Good Uncle Sib…good.”

The embers on the end of the cigar blew up.

“Good…what’s good…great…now that…great…you be great kid. Good….”

No smoke yet, I think he ate it.

Snuffy Stirnweiss, now he was great, beat my buddy and teammate Tony Cuccinello, not by being good, by being great…just a little bit greater than Tony… ‘

And then the tale began as Sib ate pizza…and smoke.

Seems Snuffy’s greatness happened in 1945, I think, wasn’t taking notes…the American League batting title came down to the last game, Snuffy and Tony (both Uncle Sibby and Tony played together on the Boston Bees/Braves) were darn near tied.

“Donnie, it came down to the last game, Snuffy’s final at bat in the last inning. He got a pitch he wanted, hit a single, that at bat won him the American League batting title.”

I loved Uncle Sibby…but I still looked it up (he would have been proud of that)

Tony Cuccinello finished the season batting, .308.

Snuffy finished .309.

Snuffy won by .00009.

“…there's only here…”

Uncle Sibby’s point to me was simply this,

every pitch counts.

Take a pitch off, and you may be good at what you do, swing at your pitch in the last inning of the last game,

and there lies greatness.

AOY, begins TODAY!

Take no day off.

Take no cast off.

Thank you, Snuffy, for taking that swing.

Thank you Sibby, for the tales, for the hugs, but most importantly for the simple message left on my desk at ESPN after Bob Ley and I won an award for a story we did together.

When I came back to my desk, on it was a pink “While You Were Out” message that someone who answered my phone wrote down. This was all it said,

“From good to great, nice job. Love, Snuffy.”

It was Buffalo.

It was Spring.

“…there's only now.”

“These Are The Days”

Van Morrison

db

Also By This Author