Murray Olderman
Illustrated Excerpts from "Mingling with Lions"
 
Bear Bryant Bryant had a lined face with a perpetual scowl and wore a trademark houndstooth hat. He had a drawl only Andy Griffith could imitate. He had a reputation for being ruthless and autocratic. We got along fine. One day I got a call in the office from Darrell Royal, his coaching  colleague at the University of Texas. Darrell and Bear were in the city for a coaches’meeting and wanted to see New York. So. with a stewardess from Alabama that Bear brought along, we headed to Harlem for a voyeuristic night on the town. On 125th Street, we entered the famed Apollo Theater, where Duke Ellington, the Nicholas Brothers, Cab Callaway, and Ella Fitzgerald, among others, had performed. They seated us right down front. On the bill that night was comedian Nipsey Russell. He looked down from the stage and saw this speck of white faces in an all-black audience. He wanted to make us feel comfortable. "Where you from, honey?" he said to Bear's companion. In a patented Southern drawl, she responded, "Buhmin'ham, Alab-ama." Nipsey smiled broadly, hearing the intonation, and rejoined, "Why, you one of us." But as the show went on, Bear started squirming. After a few minutes, he got up and marched back up the aisle and out of the theater. In those segregated days. he couldn't handle it....
   
Rocky Marciano ..."People want to know," said Rocky Marciano, "do I have any feelings about the guy I'm going to fight. Only twice. Once was with Pat Connolly. a big Irish heavyweight out of Brockton. We used to spar in the gym. He made me look so bad I hated to fight him. He was a real nice fella." Marciano knocked Connolly out in the first round. "Then there was a guy down in Washington," he continued. "Can't remember his name. We were staying at the same hotel. I saw him around all the time. What a hard luck story he gave me. I felt so sorry for him I was gonna lend him the few bucks I had. I knocked him out with the first punch I threw, in thirty-six seconds."
   
Jack Nicholson ......Jack Nicklaus made his professional debut on January 5, 1962, at the Los Angeles Open. At 7:30 a.m., exactly forty-two people saw him blast his first drive 275 yards down the first fairway of Rancho Municipal Golf Course bordering Pico Boulevard. I counted them all for I was there on assignment to chronicle his first pro tournament for SPORT magazine. (Contrast that with the brouhaha and crowds when Tiger Woods, at the same age of twenty-one, joined the PGA Tour in 1996 at the Greater Milwaukee Open.)

I followed Nicklaus all four days. He played like the rookie he was, mis-clubbing shots, hooking drives, flubbing putts, and when he shot 40 on the outgoing nine the final day. Art Wall, one of his playing partners. spotted me still slogging along at Nicklaus’ elbow and said perceptively, "The only reason you're here is that you must be doing [writing] something on him." Nicklaus tied with two others to divvy up S100 in last~place money and, ergo, got that first pro payday of 533.33...

Copyright 2013, Murray Olderman, All rights reserved