John Delach

On The Outside Looking In

Month: January, 2014

No. 932: Sent from the gods?

On September 15, 1958, a Central of New Jersey commuter train bound for the railroad’s terminal in Jersey City inexplicably ran three stop lights, broke through an automatic derailer and plunged over an open lift bridge into Newark Bay killing 48 passengers and crew. The two diesel engines pulling the train and the first two cars sank into the bay. The third coach, Car No. 932, first came to rest at an 80 degree angle balanced precariously between the lip of the span and an underwater abutment. The coach clung to this perch for two hours before slipping into the bay becoming the iconic image of the wreck, the photograph of record that documented the crash on the front pages of the next day’s Metropolitan newspapers. All of the morning newspapers from the NY Times and the Herald Tribune down to local New Jersey papers like the Newark Star Ledger, Bergen Record and Asbury Park Press carried the image of this car, half-submerged, hanging off of the bridge support. But the two morning City tabloids, the Daily News and the Daily Mirror splashed it across their front pages making the number, 932 stand out like a message from the gods.

Daily state lotteries didn’t exist in 1958 and most ordinary Joes and Janes played “the numbers.” A dollar was considered a big bet but you could bet as little as a quarter with a local runner, a part-time collector who worked for a bookie. The payoff for the three-number combination was 600 to 1.

Harry Barnhardt worked as a hostler for the Erie Railroad in their Hoboken Yard. A hostler was a railroad man who operated engines within a terminal. Harry shuttled  diesels from shops, round houses and lay-up tracks, hooked ‘em up to coaches and pushed them into the station so they could haul the evening rush hour trains.

Harry was my friend, Mike Scott’s grandfather. Aside from his Erie job, Harry was also a runner for a bookmaker in Jersey City. He collected daily bets from fellow Erie workers and each morning made his rounds tothe bars along Hudson Boulevard and Summit Avenue in north Jersey City. Harry’s railroad workday began at 3 pm making his mornings clear to troll these local bar and grills, pick up the day’s bets and pay off yesterday’s winners. Mike was eight in 1958 and recalled, “On days off from school and during the summer, my brothers, Jimmy, Kevin and my sister, Kathy and I took turns visiting Harry and our grandmother, Rose. Harry would take us out with him on his morning rounds. We’d get a free Coke and Harry would sip a beer while conducting business. Then, it was on to the next gin mill.”

On Wednesday afternoon, two days after the wreck, Harry dropped Grandma Rose off at the Scott’s house for her traditional night with their family. But this time it was different! Instead of distributing her normal allowance of twenty-five cents to Mike and his older brother, Jimmy, grandma handed them each a five dollar bill. “That was simply unheard of!” Mike explained to me. “Not only that, she took all of us out to the Chinese joint, a rare thing indeed.

“Then, even crazier, the next weekend, on Harry’s day off, he took everybody to Mario’s, a bar in Clifton that served up those 1950s’ vintage pizzas with enormous air pockets. Were they any good? Who knew, they were the only and best pizza we ever had. But, what made this special: Harry blew for dinner, something he never did.”

Mike explained, “Years later, when I went into the insurance business, Harry clued me into what happened that day. He explained, ‘People play the same number all the time, birthdays, anniversaries, and so on. But they are also superstitious and when a crash happens and they find the number, it’s played like wild fire. That morning, 932 was played everywhere I went. It was crazy. When I took my sheets in, I said to the guys, ‘This is nuts!’

‘Did you play it Harry?’ they asked me? ‘Hell, yes, I replied. But how can the bookies cover if it hits?”

The answer, according to Mike was an insurance term: reinsurance. When insurance companies find they have accumulated too much of a particular exposure, they lay it off to other insurance companies. “The same thing with a bookmaker,” Mike explained. “When they find a number or a horse being heavily played they find other bookmakers who don’t have this action. The 1958 CNJ wreck was an East Coast event so the bookies went west. Their search began in Pittsburgh, then it continues on to Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, etc, etc. until they managed to layoff enough to survive. In return, they took the western books hot numbers then or later.

“Harry not only hit the number, he was a hero in all those gin mills. Grandma took his $600 payout, but Harry kept all of the tips from his bettors and the action she didn’t know about.

“When Harry told me this story, he stopped, thought about it and said, ‘I went down to Jersey City early the next morning scared that there wouldn’t be a payout. Already, the word was bookies had reneged. As it turned out, those were mostly locals, kids or jerks, without a clue trying to get a piece of the action. The people I worked for were solid and paid off in full.’

‘You know, Mike,’ he told me, ‘Something hit me when I walked out to make my rounds that day.”

“Was it the enormity of it all, the crash?” I asked.

‘No Mike, it wasn’t that the payout came because of a wrecked train. No, I thought to myself, Oh my God, this is the most amount of money I will ever have on me in my entire life.”

Reporting from SB XLVIII: Part Two – Legacy

Last December, while standing in a Stop and Shop check-out line, I spied the front cover of the latest issue of Sports Illustrated that proclaimed Peyton Manning to be the “Sportsman of the Year.” His face filled the front cover of the magazine with the top of his head cut off giving the illusion that he was bald. This image of Manning shocked me. I realized a fact I had never considered: Peyton Manning was no longer forever young.

Moreover, as I gazed at the face of this 37-year-old warrior, I thought, “Good grief, he looks just like Y. A. Tittle, the Bald Eagle, back in 1962 when I first became a Giants’ season ticket holder. “Good God Almighty, I said out loud, I definitely do not need this shocking reminder of my own mortality!”

Y.A. was a great quarterback beloved when he played for the Giants, but his record was incomplete; he never won the big game.

Manning, too is incomplete. His career and Tom Brady’s are locked in time together as being the two most dominant quarterbacks in the NFL during their era. But going into Sunday’s contest, Manning had only been to two Super Bowls winning one while Brady had been to five, winning three.

Last Sunday, in this the greatest season of his storied career, Peyton Manning showed that he may be the “All American Eagle.” One game to go, Super Bowl XLVIII and he will be deemed, argumentally, the greatest quarterback to ever to play this game. But, winning his second Super Bowl is still paramount to anyone, including me, before bestowing such an honor upon him.

If the Broncos had lost the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, we would be reading that as great a quarterback as Peyton has been for all of the years, despite all of the amazing records he has set and all of the honors bestowed upon him; he could not measure up to the combination of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in the post-season. Simply put, “He could not win the big game.”

If, Belichick, the coach, and, Brady, the quarterback, had been victorious in Denver on Sunday and were now leading the Patriots to New Jersey for an unprecedented sixth Super Bowl appearance, the football world would have been prepared to proclaim, Tom Brady: “King,” the best of his era. Likewise, the scribes, pundits and all the radio and television personalities would have been floating the idea that Coach Belichick was as good as or better than Vince Lombardi.

As for Peyton Manning, he would have been cast into a personal state of limbo as the other guy: great, but not when it mattered.

And yet, when it mattered as it did on Sunday, Manning threw for 400 yards and led his team to scores on all of their drives except the first which ended in a punt and the last which ended with the Broncos running out the clock. A brilliant performance.

The local Long Island newspaper, Newsday, boldly proclaimed their  sports headline on Sunday: “Manning vs. Brady: One for the Ages.”

Overstated, perhaps, but this was a contest between the two best and most dominate quarterbacks of this era. Personally, my head was with the Pats, but my heart was with the Broncos. Both of their head coaches, Belichick and John Fox were defensive coordinators in the Giants’ organization, we have family who are huge Patriot fans and that Denver chap’s brother, Eli, is our starting quarterback. But, Brady already has won enough pelts to guarantee his legacy; Manning needed this one badly.

If you cut me, I bleed Giants’ blue, which ordinarily makes me a NFC guy. But not this Super Bowl. Sorry, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, the young stud quarterbacks in the NFC. No offense to these two exciting players who could very well own the next era of the NFL quarterbacks. My reasoning has nothing to do with them.

Their teams played a hell of a contest on Sunday. Kaepernick led his 49ers into Seattle’s Thunderdome without intimidation and fought the good fight to the end. Wilson took a licking, kept on ticking and prevailed thanks to an interception following a tip bya big mouth named Sherman.

Although their clash on Sunday’s NFC Championship Game was the second game played in prime time, I think we can all agree that it was the under-card to the main event despite the League’s decision to schedule it as the late semi-prime time game. Real prime time belonged to the afternoon AFC Championship match up.

And now, can Peyton Manning fulfill his destiny, or will the upstart kid, their obnoxious coach, a talented team and a tough defense say no to that? Or will Mother Nature rule the day declaring that all bets are off?

Stay tuned.

(Two weeks remain to see how this plays out. Next week I will report to you on my experience touring Super Bowl Boulevard (a.k.a. Broadway) and I promise to be there regardless of the weather. My last Super Bowl posting will review the damages after the tents have come down and the circus has left town.)

The Robert Redford of Golden Retrievers

Two puppies arrived at our house on a Wednesday that also happened to be Mary Ann’s and my forty-third wedding anniversary, Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2010. Mary Ann had engineered the purchase through a breeders’ network based in Florida. The two Golden Retriever pups had been bred in Missouri and had been delivered by truck with the unlikely name, PetEx Express. The driver and his helper found us through a series of events, but here they were being handed over to Mary Ann and our daughter-in-law, Jodie.

Both gals lifted the pups into the air to determine their sex. We were taking delivery of the male; the female was Jodie’s birthday gift. Right sex determined, the grand kids moved in as part of this exciting morning. Both families had already named them, Max and Ruby after the story-book and cartoon rabbit brother and sister. Ruby went off to Fairfield, CT with three kids, ages 11, 9 and 5 and a sister Golden, Barely, seven-years old. Max stayed in Port Washington with two sexagenarians.

Separating the puppies reminded me of an old Budweiser commercial where two Dalmatian pups arrive and the pick goes to the fire house. That lucky pup stuck out its tongue at it’s sibling as they departed not knowing that its mate was heading for the Bud’s Clydesdales’ wagon. At the end of the commercial, they pass on a road. The shunned pup is sitting on the wagon seat with the teamster driving the Clydesdales. The chosen pup sits in the open cab of the fire engine. The shunned pup sticks out its tongue at its sibling; touché! 

Max is our sixth Golden Retriever. The first was Harry. Then came Fred, Bubba, Jumbo and Maggie. Harry was our first and a grand dog. Knowing what I now know about Max, his disposition, attitude, temperament, etc. Harry would have been a great name for this Missouri dog. Failing that, I would have pushed for Truman because he is a “Show me dog.”

Max was our first pup in a long time. We acquired Maggie in 1999 when she was ten-months old and already a certified Looney Tune. Anyone who knows us and knew Maggie will certify that she was f—ing nuts.

Folks we know looked at Mary Ann and me in a way that clearly showed their thoughts: “The two of you are either dumb or crazy.” I too had real doubts about what we had done. A puppy with all that brings. The biting, destruction, housebreaking, sleepless nights and other unpleasant happenings and events. WHAT HAVE WE DONE?

Admittedly, we had some bad moments, but this new pup was special. He gave us a pass on one of the fundamental problems, crying through the night. Not Max. He took to his crate (cage) for naps during the day and to sleep without fuss and remained quiet until we woke him up. And those are magical words: “Until we woke him.” He’s remained contented until he heard action. Then he’d whine, but when we opened the door, he usually reacted by first looking at us, stretched, got up, stretched again and so began his day.

Also importantly, almost from the beginning, the floor of the crate would be dry even after eight hours. Max was clean even for Goldens who by nature house break themselves quickly. His only early accidents usually happened when he was excited and these stopped after a few months. Max also proved to be very trainable. He’d cooperate for love but he’ll do almost anything for food.

The biting lasted more than a year, never vicious, he just had the need to use those teeth. Unfortunately, this meant that play sessions deteriorated into bloody sessions especially for Mary Ann whose thin-skinned arms and hands soon made her look like a serial knife fighter. Mary Ann’s ultimate defense was to cut the toes off of athletic socks and fashion them into shields to minimize the damage to her skin.

Max grew rapidly almost before our eyes and quickly became known in the neighborhood as the dog who carried sticks around in his mouth the size of small trees. A fine-looking dog, one gal remarked to me one day: “Wow, is that dog good-looking. Why he’s the Robert Redford of Golden Retrievers.”

Now a young adult of three he would be a pleasure if not for his need to steal. And steal he does, clothes, shoes, towels, throw rugs, mats, pillows and even blankets and bed spreads. The only good news about his stealing regimen is he considers it to be retrieving and he brings the items to us with his plume tail high in the air proud of his prowess.

On the whole, this adventure has gone well, but, if sometime in the future, hopefully way down the road, we even consider a puppy again; please shoot us.

Reporting from Super Bowl XLVIII: Nor’easter

Any rationale sports fan who is capable of being objective must realize that scheduling a Super Bowl game outdoors in the New Jersey Meadowlands at night in February brings with it the high probability that the game will be played in awful conditions. And with tickets having a face value of $1,000 each or more and re-sale prices in amounts two and three times face,  many of those who attend the game will think of themselves not as hearty pioneers, winter soldiers or trend setters; no, I expect the terms of dupe, dope, sucker or fool will be closer to the truth.

But undeterred, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Super Bowl XLVIII Host Committee kicked off their 2014 campaign as far back as 2011 with a full-page ad in local newspapers featuring their logo showing the George Washington Bridge with a large NY and a NJ separated by a snowflake. The ad copy read as follows:




In February 2014, New York and New Jersey will host the very first outdoor cold-weather

Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium. It’s football like it was meant to be played-

In the open, exposed to whatever winter throws our way.

Chutzpah unlimited. Reminds me of Razzle Dazzle from Chicago:

Give ‘em the old hocus pocus

Bead and feather ‘em

How can they see with sequins in their eyes?


What if your hinges all are rusting?

What if, in fact, you’re just disgusting?




The elephant in the room that the NFL is doing its best to ignore is the Nor’easter, that peculiar atmospheric condition that happens each winter. I’m no meteorologist but I can read a weather map.

It begins when the Jet Stream aligns itself so that it leaves the Pacific Ocean to the north around the U.S. – Canadian border. It plows east into Idaho, but makes a right, diving down into Wyoming though Colorado heading south barreling into New Mexico before entering West Texas where it takes a left turning in an easterly direction. This spells trouble for the Northeast as the warm side of the Jet Stream stirs up all that moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

The Stream goes into overdrive, a non-stop express, pushing all of the accumulated moisture East-Northeast following the coast along the Carolinas heading our way. Unless there is enough blow from the Mid-west to take it out to sea that Nor’easter will dump a lot of what was once warm, salt water on East Rutherford, New Jersey. And it need not be snow to ruin the football game.

The 2014 NFL regular season ended on Sunday, December 29th providing a preview of what may be expected on Groundhog Day, February 2, 2014, coincidentally, Super Bowl XLVIII Sunday. If you, by some remote chance, happened to watch any part of the contest between the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants played at Met Life Stadium that day you saw a game played in a Nor’easter.

I had my season ticket for this game and decided to attend this affair with my Port Washington buddies, weather permitting. In fact, I even agreed to drive. And the early forecast was great; sunny with temperatures in the mid-40s. As the week went on, it only became better and by Thursday morning the predicted high for Sunday had soared to 50 degrees. But on Thursday night I heard the first ominous prediction that a Nor’easter was forming off of Texas that would strike the Metropolitan area on Sunday morning. By Friday, the prediction was solid and I texted my buddies declaring a Force Majeure that would prevent me from attending after all. (Having a season ticket in excess of 50 years gives me the right to declare a Force Majeure when I deem it appropriate.)

Good call, the rains arrived promptly at 10 am and didn’t end until 6 pm. The Giants won the game 20 to 6 in what was a war of attrition. Granted these are not Super Bowl caliber teams, but a storm like this would raise havoc with the quality of play for any team, its players and would provide the ticket holders with an experience of utter misery similar to what soldiers experienced at Stalingrad, the Bulge or North Korea. The only exceptions were the fortunate few with luxury box tickets, club seat lounges or the resourceful who say, “The hell with it,” and watch the event on HDTV’s from the bars inside Met Life Stadium.

I’m not even talking snow. THE NFL says they can move the game to Saturday night or Monday night in the face of a blizzard. I say good luck with that!

But that’s just me, still beating that old dead horse that the NFL just cares about television and the fans be damned. Yeah, I’m sure it will all be fine. No polar vortex or “snowmaggedon.”

Then again, for those of you who are curious or don’t recall 1969, may I suggest that you Google: “Lindsay snowstorm.”