When Sam Muchnick's kids got around to honoring the old
man the other night on his 90th birthday, they got a
confirmation from a young man whose RSVP was most
impressive. Hideaki Myaki came from Japan -- at his
Ichiban Myaki, a polite young entrepreneur, reflects the
personal gate ttraction of Sam the Man.
The latter is a jelly-bellied legend who ranks as one of my
heroes. He's still romantic enough -- or stupid enough -- to
wish that he'd never had to give up a humdrum financial
existence as a sportswriter for riches as an outstanding
Muchnick's old newspaper, the Times, went out of business
back in 1932 when it was bought by the rival Star. When
the paper folded on a Thursday, Sam and his associates
didn't get paid for the week's last two days.
Sam loved his six-season stint as a baseball writer most, but
he also wrote a boxing-wrestling column called "In the
At the no-gifts party the other night, which was crafted by
daughter Kathy for nearly 300 at the Ritz-Carlton, attorney
friend Godfrey Padberg and Judge Joe Simione surprised
Muchnick privately by giving him a photocopy of his first
story in 1926 and his last in '32.
When Muchnick graduated from good-natured wrestling
public-relations lackey to promoter after World War II, aided
by dear late wife Helen, he became a paragon of what
hustling national colleagues didn't have. That is, trust in
For the next quarter-century, the National Wrestling Alliance
burgeoned only because of the internationally respected
man of integrity. That's an amusing juxtaposition, in view of
the fact that wrestling even then had showmanship that
often made it merely an exhibition rather than a legitimate
Three times the shogun of American wrestling traveled to
Japan for the good of the NWA. The third time, he wanted
to meet a Japanese kid who had become his pen pal. All he
could tell his television hosts in Tokyo was the boy lived in
Japanese TV did the rest. When Muchnick got to Osaka,
young Myaki met him. No, he hadn't heard the message, but
a cousin at Okinawa had.
So dear Hidaeki was at ringside for a grinning greeting. And,
as mentioned, he flew here 21 years later to honor a man
who has more friends than just about any I've ever met.
Old friends and former champions Lou Thesz and Gene
Kiniski came to honor him this time, but I'm sure many
others would have. The man is, if you'll pardon the
expression, all wool and a yard wide.
Over the years, I've spent as much time teasing Sam the
Man as praising him. I ribbed him about looking like a Soviet
spy when he wore a homburg, and even sent him a tyrolean
hat from Austria.
As I said the other night, proud to be given the chance many
would have liked, I came not to praise Muchnick or to bury
him, either, but to tease him.
Yet I couldn't resist expressing my love for the old patron
saint of the press box, a prince of a person, a man of all
seasons with friends ranging from priests to rabbis,
hoodlums to heroes, jockeys to judges.
When the Missouri state legislature recently honored him by
resolution, one of the several "whereas" ranged his
"associates" from Al Capone to Mae West, from Frank Lane
-- whom he'd once beat in a handball match -- to the
president he knew personally, Harry S Truman.
Of all the good things about the grand gaffer of grunt-and-
groan -- he hates that label even as much as he does
modern mat histrionics -- the greatest is his legacy from
He has two sons he didn't want to become promoters --
Dick, the doctor, and Danny, the certified public accountant
-- and that dashing daughter -- Kathy Muchnick Schneider,
who can write as well as the old man.
After young Kate put together that shiny shindig, for which
the doctor and the CPA honored her, Sam the Man
Muchnick acknowledged a mistake. "Kathy wanted to be a
promoter," Sam the Man said. "I should have let her."
See, as I always insist, Sam, you're only a chauvinistic pig.