Although he never played the game, Arthur Richman, who died last Wednesday at the age of 83, was one of baseball’s all-time greats. He spent nearly 60 years around the game, starting as a sports reporter for the old New York Mirror. When that paper folded, Arthur went to the Mets, where he stayed for 25 years, working in promotions, travel and public relations. He then performed most of those functions for the Yankees for the next 15 years.
It would have been nice if the folks in Cooperstown had recognized his contributions to our national pastime while he was alive. I hope he will be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously.
Mets owner Fred Wilpon, as well as former players Bud Harrelson, Art Shamsky and Lee Mazzilli, attended his funeral along with numerous Yankees officials. Former Yankees spokesman Rick Cerrone and current travel secretary Ben Tuliebitz eulogized Richman by sharing some humorous stories about him. Come to think of it, Arthur would much rather have preferred the occasion to resemble a Friars Club roast than a heavy-hearted affair.
What I’ll always remember about Arthur is that he never made caste distinctions amongst the media. No matter how big or small your outlet was, Arthur helped you. If you needed to speak with a team star, he made sure you got the chance. Trust me, that doesn’t happen often with major league sports PR officials.
The Knicks invited some of the greatest players in their history to be honored at halftime last week in their game against the Orlando Magic. After all these years, center Willis Reed remains the most beloved Knick. As expected, the press corps beseeched him to reminisce about Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, in which Reed, hampered by a knee injury, shocked Wilt Chamberlain and the Los Angeles Lakers with superb play and led the Knicks to the first of their two championships.
I asked the team’s legendary captain about living in Rego Park when he was a player.
“I loved living in Park City,” he said. “The Knicks used to practice at Lost Battalion Hall, which was just a few minutes away from where I lived. I also got to know a guard who played at Christ the King High School and lived in Lefrak City named Kenny Smith who waited outside when we practiced. I tried to recruit him for my alma mater, Creighton University, but he wisely went elsewhere.” Smith had a fine NBA career and is now an NBA broadcaster with TNT.
Patrick Ewing was the antithesis of Willis Reed. Although one of the greatest players to ever hit the hardwood, Ewing never got the accolades he deserved because (a) he couldn’t get the Knicks past Michael Jordan and the Bulls to a championship, and (b) he was incessantly surly and unpleasant to deal with.
The passage of time may have mellowed Ewing. When I asked him if he read “The Bald Truth” by his former agent, David Falk, he shook his head no. I told him Falk said he should have ended his career with the Knicks instead of in Seattle and Orlando, and that he blamed the team and Ewing both for that.
“He is right,” Ewing admitted with a sheepish smile.