My story

My name is Paul Clegg. I started playing basketball when I was 8 paulphoto - Copyyears old at Braddock Park in Queens, New York. I’m 65 and still playing basketball. My game is going full circle. As a kid, older guys at the playground would tell me that I was good — for my age. Now, younger guys are saying the same thing.

I was obsessed with basketball in my teenage years. I  wanted to be a high school star in the city where basketball was king. I didn’t have great size or natural ability, but I did have a good eye. A deadly midrange jump shot helped me average 20 points a game as a senior. I made the Long Island Press’ All-Queens team two years in a row. The New York Post picked me third-team all city. That was the peak of my basketball fame. My jump shot attracted Harvard College, but when I got there, I found that jocks ranked far below scholars on the status list. I gave up the game, took up writing and smoking, and gained 40 pounds.

I was an itinerant journalist after college and found that playing adult-league basketball in such outposts as Red Bluff, California, Moscow, Idaho, and Bremerton, Washington, helped smooth a city kid’s transition to small-town life. I moved to California’s capital of Sacramento in late 1977, where I worked as an editor and writer at The Sacramento Bee for 32 years. I played pickup games on asphalt playgrounds until I was 55. When my hip started seriously complaining, I shifted to an athletic club with a hot tub. In late 2005, I had my left hip replaced. I didn’t play ball for two years before my surgery and for three years after. A year ago, I took a buyout from my troubled newspaper. I’m working on my jump shot a lot these days.

27 Responses to My story

  1. Tina SPRINGER Kurth says:

    Paul, we went to OLL together. I was very shy. I started there in third grade. Went to Dominican Commercial and then SJU. How do you remember the names of the nuns from OLL. You mentioned Sister Frances Clare and I also recall S. George Michael. I enjoy your blog. Stay well.

  2. Tom Quinn says:

    What I remember about Paul Clegg are the awesome homers I witnessed your blasting over the Laurelton Park and The Cage fences during the Prince Post years. Great team. I and my brothers, Jimmy and Johnny, were recently recalling that game against the formidable pitcher Recondress. Classic Prince Post memory:

    Formidable opponent Recondress on the mound, Jimmy at bat, Prince Post down to its last out. Jimmy hits hot grounder but on a single hop to Recondress, who goes into tease mode, starts giggling, trots over to first with ball rather than making easy toss. Jimmy keeps running, I forget how fast, let’s just say it’s all a blur (<<sarcasm). Recondress nears first, realizes it'll be a close call, flips ball to first baseman now only yard or so away. First baseman bobbles it. Runner's safe. Jimmy utter resourcefully asks team statistician to mark it as clean single. "Good hustle!" shouts A. Howard Quinn, the assumed halo above his head shaken but not stirred. A rally ensues, Prince Post wins. I figured Johnny got the winning hit but Jimmy's pretty sure it was your screaming line drive down the third base line. Feel free to clarify if you remember. I also used to watch you play b-ball with Roger Miyate, Richie Clinton and a guy named Clark.

  3. Roger Canal says:

    Paul, ran across your blog and it and the comments made for one big flashback. You said obsessed with b-ball? How about the times I remember shining a flashlight on the basket at Braddock park and those ankle wts. Twenty oz. boxing gloves in your garage.I remember my walk home from the park and seeing your father in his rose garden and feeling the pain in knees as I walked. Remember going to M.V B. and sitting with your brother John and him trying to explain binary system in computers. I wanted to just watch the game.
    I went to Manhattan College for P.E. and student taught at MVB. Marv Kessler greeted me and asked me if I knew Ken Norton’s clock offense? I said yes. Ok. you are the J.V. B.Ball coach.The P.E department at the time at MVB were older guys who did not talk to each other {some of them}. Charlie Shannon was old school and Marv was the new brash guy.I taught at Fort Hamilton H.S. for 35 yrs. Coached golf and Girls Varsity B Ball for many years. F.H. was the home of the King brothers in the 70s.I had the the boys for one year while coach Kern was on sabbatical in 1980. We were knocked out of the playoffs by Pearl Washington’s Boys High team. We had a great player named Mike Ratlif who played at Arkansas for Ed Sutton. Two years later both boys and girls were offered to me and I chose the girls. I did not want to recruit and the girls were mostly honor students.I have had three golfers become club pros and three basketball players become coaches.
    I have had both knees replaced and one hip. I play golf but no B ball.
    Thanks for the memories. Roger.

    • Paul Clegg says:

      Hi Roger. How nice to hear from you. You had quite a coaching career and some big-name players. Sounds like a good life, except for the knees and hip.

    • Tom Quinn says:

      Not sure if I’m confusing Roger canal with Roger Miyate, but if you’re the Roger who, while warming up on Braddock Park court, said to a young Timmy Hayes, “Hey, Timmy, make some noises,” that was one hilarious line. Cracked up everyone within earshot.

  4. Hi Paul…I know you from the over 40 crowd at CAC….I enjoy your blogs…Keep up the good work and I will see you at the gym…Richard

  5. Paul, I’m a former sportswriter, too. Grew up in Illinois in seventies and played pickup basketball like the kids play video games now. It was what we did.

    Enjoy your work. If you like you can check out mine by Google at Mike Pemberton Author. My short story “Who’s Got Next?” was published in Aethlon Journal of Sports Literature a few years ago. My novel “Transcendental Basketball Blues” received good reviews. Also have some news columns under nonfiction button.

    Saving your site as a favorite. Keep up the great work.

    Mike

  6. David Flug says:

    I went to Van Buren(66) I remember Mr Kessler. I’m 63 , still playing BB mostly with people a lot younger than me. It’s a different game now down at the park( I used to play at PS 205). Much less passing and picks. One thing I’ve learned- if you want to keep playing- keep your weight down and dont’ get injured.

  7. Don Barth says:

    Hi Paul, yeah, I remember the Harley shop, and I’m not sure, but there also was a front for muscle builders near it, and I think many of the same guys frequented both places. I saw my first naked girly calendar there, and of course, never got over it. My dad was a sergeant in the NYC police force, and since he grew up in Astoria, he was ok with me and my two brothers exploring on our own. I once took my younger sister on a walk from 238th st over to the Cross Island Parkway, and a cruiser picked us up and took us back to the 105 precinct. My dad had to pick us up there, and the cops were laughing their heads off. But there is a benefit to having your dad be a cop – I always took the junkers I drove to the Shell station on Braddock, run by the two rather large brothers who knew my dad, and I never failed to get a sticker.
    you and I could probably tell each other homeboy stories for hours, Don B

    • Paul Clegg says:

      Hi Don,
      The 105th Precinct helped sponsor my baseball team in the Police Athletic League, and our coaches were NYC cops and detectives. One was even head of the Emerald Society for years, which made his kids golden whenever trouble loomed.

      • Robert Sullivan says:

        Hi Paul,
        I remember the days I would see you mostly by yourself and many times with Albert Pellegrini practicing on the same second half court on which I remember your shoveling snow in order to play. Those were good days! I also remember when you put the blanket on Billy Lawrence after he scored 60 points on me in the first three quarters of a yt
        tournament game. Not my best performance.

        Robert Sullivan

  8. Don Barth says:

    Dear Paul, I also grew up 2 blocks from Braddock Park, on 238th st and 88th ave, attended the small brick church just next to the park, met my wife there and we just celebrated our 45th last fall, loved basketball and played in Braddock Park all the time, and graduated from Van Buren in 1962. I went on for a bachelors in EE at NYU, then a graduate EE degree from Columbia, and spent 27 years with Hewlett Packard. Of course, I remember you in the park, all alone, honing that deadly jumper year after year, I remember your run at the Golden Gloves, I remember the wild games at VB, where the roof was rocking off the building during your time on the team. Several times I was in pickup games with you in the park, but I was more of a scholar than athlete, although I could admire your skills on court. Great to know of your subsequent ventures, and I wish you the best in retirement. Remember Mishkin’s candy store on 237th st., the 20 grand bar across the street, and Carvell opposite the Bellerose movie theater? Don B

    • Paul Clegg says:

      Hi Don, Thanks for delightful note. I’m glad to hear that your time at Braddock Park didn’t derail you from college, grad school, marriage and a good career. A priest at Our Lady of Lourdes, four blocks from your church, told my mother the park was a “den of iniquity.” That’s when both of us were hanging out there. Indeed, I remember Mishkin’s candy store as well as Leo’s right across from the park. How about the Harley motorcycle shop on Braddock Avenue?

  9. fred napolitano says:

    hi paul, good to see your info, i have memories of some conversations and experiences with you , apart from school, “stuff from the hood”, maybe we’ll get to talk one day, take care, fred

  10. Andy Beck says:

    To my fellow Van Buren brethren (VB ’69 point guard) I am sorry to let you know that my coach – our coach Marv Kessler died last night in New York City. Full of knowledge, vim and vigor..it is a sad day…

    • Paul Clegg says:

      Hi Andy,
      Thanks for letting me know about the death of Marv Kessler. When I was senior at Van Buren, he was coaching the junior varsity, getting experience to take over for longtime coach Charles Shannon, who retired after the 1963 season. I remember Mr. Kessler as an enthusiastic young coach who taught me a terrific fake-off-the-dribble move that I wish I could still do. I see that he went on to coach at Adelphi. I’m sorry to hear of his death.

  11. Bill says:

    Paul,

    When is the focus going to switch back to North Natomas? Now that the Railyard arena deal is officially toast? You can get far more stadium bang for your buck in the already developed and ready to go parking lot, or with the adjacent land that the Maloofs own.

    Bill

  12. red slider says:

    Paul, I’m glad you see you speaking out about this deal. You’re about the only other person I know, besides me who thinks we can do much better, and obviously doesn’t have an axe to grind about sports. I only hope you can get some organized opposition going. Meantime, here was my bid in the matter: http://stopcalexpo.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/breton-insults/

    • FLG says:

      I don’t have an axe to grind with sports whatsoever. I have also played ball my whole life and followed the Kings since I got to Sac in 1989… and I have said all along we can do much better.. and there are many like me who have been saying the same thing..

  13. isaac says:

    paul,

    here is the parking report for the city of sacramento for the new arena. i think you’ll like reading it.
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/74463658/Sacramento-Parking-Study-12-01-2011

  14. Larry Zolot says:

    10/27/11

    Paul

    Form one VB b-baller to another, I just came across your site and find it interesting on a number of accounts which I will explain after telling you a little about myself:

    I went to Van Buren and played for Marv Kessler right behind you in ’64. I watched you until my senior year, after you graduated, when Marv put me on the team and made me the center for Stuie Klein, Richie LoGalbo, etc.

    I went to Queens College and played there, then in Israel afterwards for the Israeli National Team.

    Afteer two years I went to GW law school and eventually ended up in Florida where I live to this day.

    In 1997 I had both hips replaced at the same time, spending a month in the hospital, and have been on them since-a few times the left one has dislocated, once requiring emergency surgical repair.

    So, your pieces about VB, Shannon, and hoops in general are very interesting and probably as close as I’ll come to a memoir about my playing days.

    Secondly, your hip issues also make the blog relevant for me. I can’t play ball–two bad hips aren’t a good way to stay upright and while I never could “run like the wind” these days I can’t even run.

    I haven’t been through all your well written pieces, but I remember that you boxed too. Did you continue at Harvard ?-if it’s in the archives I guess I’ll get to it as I read through them.

    By the be, as I was in SP, I was younger than everyone else on the ’64 team and have had no contact with them at all except that I ran into Stuie Klein once here in Fort Lauderdale years ago, we played some ball together, and I learned at the time that he was at Northern Arizona State, maybe as an assistant coach.

    Well, I don’t usually write to people on blogs, but keep this up–I’m sure it reaches others like me and puts context to life-sports and otherwise.

    By the way my younger son played soccer, just graduated Amherst College, was an English major, studied at Oxford, and wants to establish himself as a writer. If you are interested, just Google “I-95” and you can read his award winning memoir of life in Florida, which is much more eloquent than anything I can put on paper.

    All the best

    Larry Zolot

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