Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Happy Birthday Rick Bayko

Today is Rick Bayko's 61st birthday. Those who have read a few chapters of my upcoming book are aware that Rick's time in the service paralleled my two years in the hospital. He is also the person most responsible for my return to running after an 18-year absence.

Rick Bayko of Newburypot MA, AKA "the Polish Rifle"

I have been blessed thoughout my life with the best set of friends anyone can have. Surely, that's what got me through the toughest times. At the top of the list is Rick Bayko. We met at a race in Merrimac MA in July 1966 and have been part of each other's lives ever since.

Rick Bayko at my side at Hartford Hospital, January 1968, shortly before he was shipped to Viet Nam. We corresponded nearly every day of my two-year stay in the hospital.

When I first left the hospital I had three options: (1) wheelchair, (2) crawling around the house on my rear end and hands (especially on the stairs), and (3) my locked-kneed long-legged braces and crutches. I gradually went from exclusively option (1) to a combination of (2) and (3) by the summer of 1970. I couldn’t drive but I commuted with other Bentley students from Milford. In the fall of ’70 and spring of ’71 I lived in a dormitory on the Bentley College campus in Waltham. By the time I got married in August of 1971 I had short braces (to the knee) and a cane.

Meanwhile, in May of 1971, I was riding in a car driven by a Bentley fraternity brother when he got into a minor “fender bender” type accident. However the impact pushed my brace against my left tibia and caused another fracture. They put a cast on it at Waltham Hospital but the doctors there had difficulty determining from the x-rays what was new and was old. So they didn’t set the fracture properly and it healed crooked (very crooked). I didn’t have it straightened until 1979.

The combination of crooked left leg, osteoporosis, weak leg muscles, limited joint mobility, severed nerve in lower left leg, non-union of the left fibula (which still exists), leg braces and 4”-6” heels made it impossible to consider running as an option in any foreseeable time horizon. My leg muscles gradually regained strength between 1971 and 1980. I also gained weight (from 105 to 213) so the extra poundage offset gains in strength in terms of ability to give running a try.

I played wheelchair basketball one season (1971-72), which built up my upper body strength and dropped 17 quick pounds. But I moved away to Cornell where there was no wheelchair basketball outlet. A teammate of mine on the New England Clippers was Bob Hall who later pioneered wheelchair marathoning. I often thought of trying to be the first person to run and wheel the Boston Marathon in under three hours but never had the time or sufficient motivation. I still might some day. I once thought breaking three hours in a chair would be a piece of cake, but not so any more.

During all those years, Rick Bayko was a constant source of encouragement. He made sure I never gave up.Rick Bayko, Diana Murray and Frank Niro, circa 1989. Diana was also born on October 15th, so today is her 57th birthday. Shhhh. Don't tell anyone.

My first attempt at running again came in the summer of 1973, but physically I wasn’t ready yet. I was on Cape Cod with Rick Bayko for the APCL convention and chess tournament. Between rounds he went to run along the Cape Cod Canal as we had both done in the ‘60s. I went with him and while he was training I decided to see if I could get both feet off the ground at the same time. It seemed to me that this would be a fundamental prerequisite to being able to run again. At that point I had only one short-legged brace on my left leg. I couldn’t stand up without shoes (e.g. in the shower) because of foot drop. I was able to get about three strides, but it was quite painful. I worked at it for about an hour until Rick came back. As he watched I actually ran the distance from telephone pole to telephone pole (about 35 yards). On that date both Rick Bayko and I knew that someday I would run again.

Rick contacted Jeff Johnson of NIKE. Jeff had a pair of shoes specially made for me using Bill Bowerman’s new waffle design that had not yet been released to the public. They had lifts on the heels and extra padding inside to protect my feet. NIKE gave them to me for no charge. I used them about a dozen times at Cornell to “run” on the indoor track but, by that time, I weighed 185 pounds. The heels pronated so I couldn’t use my custom NIKEs. I would need stronger counters. There is no doubt that the use of the custom shoes set the groundwork for my return to running a decade later. But there were some physical issues to be surgically corrected first.

I stopped wearing the brace on my leg around 1976. But my left leg was still very crooked and my limp was quite noticeable. I tried to run a few times in the fall of 1978 but developed back pain for the first time in my life. My weight had climbed to 195 and probably had something to do with it. I visited my doctor in Connecticut and asked for his advice. He didn’t rule out running again but suggested three things: (1) lose 30 pounds, (2) get the leg straightened , and (3) don’t rush it. My body, he told me, would let me know when it was time to run again. I accomplished (2) in 1979. But it was a physical and psychological setback because it required surgery (operation #19) and I was back on crutches and in a cast for several more months. Meanwhile, I was worried about the back pain returning, so I put the idea of running again out of my mind for a few more years.

The weight has continued to be the real struggle. I was 213 lbs in June 1985. Diet and exercise have been continuing parts of my vocabulary and I have become the poster child for yo-yo dieting ever since. My comeback was made after 18 years, but I often wonder how much better it would have been if I had dropped the excess baggage along the way.

Nowadays, Rick Bayko is pushing 150 pounds. Happy birthday, old friend! And Happy birthday, Diana, wherever you are.

Some Rick Bayko links:
Knowing the biz made Bayko’s business by Jill Anderson
Still in great shape, Rick now competes at online stationary rowing. Click here

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Field Report

Quote of the Day: "The only thing that really matters about life is how you open your heart to it." -- web site

Tash and I have been posting and reading recently on It is a good place to practice writing while getting honest feedback, and to learn a few interesting tidbits on a variety of subjects. Apparently, as can be seen from this article posted at, it is catching on.

On the outside, FieldReport is a contest, big enough to get a lot of people involved. On the inside it's a community of writers and readers dedicated to great storytelling and to breaking down the walls of human isolation.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jennifer Shahade cashes in WSOP again

Two-time U.S. Women’s Chess Champion Jennifer Shahade cashed in the World Series of Poker Ladies Event #15 for the second year in a row. She won $4,765 for her 33rd place finish in the tournament held on June 8 & 9 at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas. In 2007 Jennifer finished 17th and was awarded $8,426.

The 2008 Ladies event brought celebrities and poker pros together to determine the best female poker player in the world. With a tough blind structure moving the action at a brisk pace, the field of 1,190 was narrowed to 62 by the end of the first day. Jennifer Shahade had 22,000 chips going into day two, well behind the chip leader Shavonne Mitchell (94,000). She played well and lasted far into the second day, but ran out of luck with just 4 tables remaining.

The chip leader going into the final table was Svetlana Gromenkova, who finished second to well known actress Jennifer Tilley in the Ladies event at the 2005 WSOP. Gromenkova defeated Anh Le with pocket kings against Le’s ace-six in the final pot of the tournament. Svetlana took home the gold bracelet, $224,702 in cash, and earned the title of Ladies World Champion of Poker.

Jennifer Shahade showed, once again, that the skills required to become a successful chess master are transferrable to tournament poker. USCF masters Howard Lederer, Dan Harrington, Tom Brownscombe, Boris Kreiman, Steve Stoyko, Ben Johnson, John Murphy, Walter Browne, Ylon Schwartz and Ken “Top Hat” Smith, among others, have succeeded in big money poker tournaments.

Jennifer's brother, International Chess Master Greg Shahade, has been an accomplished poker tournament player since 2003, when he finished 8th in the United States Poker Championship. In the 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event, Greg placed in the money in a field of 2,596 players ($9,350).

Her dad, Michael, has also had success at the poker table. His best result was in the 2008 World Poker Tour event at the Borgata in Atlantic City (held in January) when he placed 23rd in the $300 buy-in No Limit Hold'em event and won $2,226.

Jennifer Shahade recently published her memoir, Chess Bitch (Siles Press 2005), in which she shares fascinating stories of women in the ultimate intellectual sport.

Related links from 2008 WSOP coverage at

Here's a link to the PokerPages blog for the 2008 WSOP Ladies Event, Day One.

Day Two

Final Table

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jane Olivor on YouTube

There are several videos containing Jane Olivor songs currently on YouTube. Go here to see/hear I Believe. From there you can navigate to many other great songs by Jane, including her duet with Johnny Mathis.

I also listed some of the other links on my new "EMBRYOS" blog, which I will continue to update in the near future. This is a place where I will put the writing that is percolating and marinating in my mind. These pieces are in various stages of completion. Some require further research and fact checking. Some require just the time to sit and write. Once each is complete, I will move it to one of my main blogs. Your input is welcome.

L'Important C'est La Rose

Vincent (you may want to pause it at the beginning and give it time to load before playing)

Stay the Night

Annie's Song

The Last Time I felt Like This

Go here to see my works in progress...