Pass the Nuts: More Stories About The Most Unusual, Eccentric & Outlandish People I've Known in Four Decades as a Sports Journalist

Overview

“A trove of tales—some poignant, even tragic; many hilarious.” — Akron Beacon Journal

Dan Coughlin serves up a second rollicking collection of stories about colorful characters and memorable events from his four decades covering sports for Cleveland TV and newspapers.

Meet the gun-toting fanatics of Morgana Park—once home of “the most intense slow pitch softball league in the world.” Sit in on a star-studded night in the legendary Theatrical ...

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Overview

“A trove of tales—some poignant, even tragic; many hilarious.” — Akron Beacon Journal

Dan Coughlin serves up a second rollicking collection of stories about colorful characters and memorable events from his four decades covering sports for Cleveland TV and newspapers.

Meet the gun-toting fanatics of Morgana Park—once home of “the most intense slow pitch softball league in the world.” Sit in on a star-studded night in the legendary Theatrical Restaurant alongside Don King while Coughlin flips a coin for a $500 bar tab with Ted Turner. Ride along on a series of death-defying, top-priority helicopter trips to report on . . . high school football.

Reading Coughlin’s stories is like dipping into a bowl of bar nuts—easy to start and hard to stop!

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Editorial Reviews

Akron Beacon Journal - Barbara McIntyre
A trove of tales—some poignant, even tragic; many hilarious. All of them reveal Coughlin’s unique perspective from more than 40 years in sports journalism.
ClevelandSeniors.com - Dan Hanson
Coughlin not only lived these wild stories but has the ability to tell them so well that you can almost smell the stale beer and cigar smoke as you read them . . . you will feel sad when you turn the last page.
Ben Blog - Ben Cox
This book is fun. Full stop. Filled with stories of Cleveland sports history, local media nuggets and a dash of drinking shenanigans, “Pass the Nuts” was quite simply a bunch of fun to read . . . The chapters breeze by, whether they’re about LeBron James or about Dan fighting a whip-wielding bar tender.
WJW FOX 8 TV - John Telich
Final tally: 18 Laughs out loud, 28 guffaws, 16 snickers. What a fun read!
Sun News - Mike Holzheimer
Who better to share so much knowledge about the world of Cleveland amateur and professional sports than Dan Coughlin? His new book is a wonderful collection to take Cleveland fans back down memory lane.
Akron Beacon Journal
A trove of tales—some poignant, even tragic; many hilarious. All of them reveal Coughlin’s unique perspective from more than 40 years in sports journalism.
— Barbara McIntyre
Sun News
Who better to share so much knowledge about the world of Cleveland amateur and professional sports than Dan Coughlin? His new book is a wonderful collection to take Cleveland fans back down memory lane.
— Mike Holzheimer
ClevelandSeniors.com
Coughlin not only lived these wild stories but has the ability to tell them so well that you can almost smell the stale beer and cigar smoke as you read them . . . you will feel sad when you turn the last page.
— Dan Hanson
Ben Blog
This book is fun. Full stop. Filled with stories of Cleveland sports history, local media nuggets and a dash of drinking shenanigans, “Pass the Nuts” was quite simply a bunch of fun to read . . . The chapters breeze by, whether they’re about LeBron James or about Dan fighting a whip-wielding bar tender.
— Ben Cox
WJW FOX 8 TV
Final tally: 18 Laughs out loud, 28 guffaws, 16 snickers. What a fun read!
— John Telich
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781598510737
  • Publisher: Gray & Company, Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/24/2011
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 262
  • Sales rank: 1,375,699
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Harry Leitch: Life Was a Party

I always said that covering sports in Cleveland was like going to the circus and Harry Leitch was a big reason. He was the ringmaster.

“He was the least boring man I ever knew,” his wife Jane said with genuine admiration just before she divorced him.

Several versions of their divorce proceedings circulated in 1972, of which Dino Lucarelli’s is fairly close to the truth. So is Mike Cleary’s version.

“Mr. Leitch, please describe your typical day,” said the judge.

“Well, your honor, I get up about ten o’clock and meet a few clients for drinks at noon at the Blue Fox. Then I meet a few more clients for lunch at the Silver Quill. After that I go back to the Blue Fox and meet more clients for drinks. Then I go home and take a nap and at seven o’clock I meet some clients for dinner at the Blue Fox. I go home about midnight and go to bed. The next day I do the same thing.”

“And for this you make $150,000,” said the judge, seeking confirmation.

“Yes, your honor,” said Harry.

“Are you hiring?” the judge asked.

I have always enjoyed that version, but I went to Jane for a first-hand account of the event. After all, she was there.

“It wasn’t a judge, it was a magistrate,” said Jane. “Harry wasn’t there. I told the magistrate that Harry left the house every morning. We had a nine-bedroom house. He always got up in the morning, no matter how late he was out, even if he got in at 2 a.m. He would make his first call every day and somebody would hand him an order. He was a heck of a salesman. He would take a customer to lunch and then he would take a customer to dinner and on Sundays he was the spotter for the Browns’ radio announcers. And the magistrate said, ‘For this he makes $150,000?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ I could tell the magistrate wanted to be Harry. He didn’t want to be like Harry, he wanted to be Harry. ‘You’re married to a legend,’ he said. ‘You try being married to a legend,’ I said. ‘Divorce granted,’ he said.”

Jane and Harry had a hell of a 22 years. Let me tell you how it all began.

Jane Sutphin was fresh out of Flora Stone Mather, the women’s college of Western Reserve University, and was lucky enough to find work. What made her lucky is that she worked for her father, Al Sutphin, who was loaded. This was fortunate because Al was married to an Irish-Catholic woman and they had half a dozen children. Al was the sole owner of Braden-Sutphin Ink, the Cleveland Barons hockey team, the Cleveland Rebels basketball team and the Cleveland Arena. This was the late 1940s and Cleveland sports were ruled by three moguls—Bill Veeck, who owned the Indians; Mickey McBride, who owned the Browns; and Sutphin, who owned everything else.

Sutphin put his daughter Jane on the payroll to sell season tickets for the Rebels basketball team, which had done poorly at the gate. The Rebels were an original member of the Basketball Association of America in its inaugural season of 1946-1947. You know it now as the NBA. This is a reminder that Cleveland was in the NBA 24 years before the Cavaliers came along. Jane picks up the story.

“He told me to call on all the Catholic business owners to sell them season tickets for the basketball team. I was up to the U’s. I called on United Screw and Bolt. ‘Is Mr. Kramer in?’ I asked. ‘Which one?’ the receptionist asked. ‘The sales manager,’ I said. Out came Eugene Kramer, the handsomest man I have ever seen in my life, tall, beautiful suit, gracious manners. I told him that he could get two season tickets for the price of one. He was about to say, ‘I’ll take six tickets,’ when this little, short man comes out and interrupts. It was Harry. He was a salesman there. He said he wanted season tickets for hockey. I told him they were sold out. He said he wanted tickets to the fights. They were sold out. I said I was only selling basketball tickets. In the meantime, this gorgeous Mr. Kramer says, ‘I’ll think about it,’ and goes back in his office. This jerk cost me six tickets. Then he started calling me for lunch. I said no. He asked me out to dinner. I said no. He kept calling me. He pestered me so much I agreed to go to lunch. It was the only way to get rid of him.”

Jane had misgivings about their lunch date and tried to call Harry and cancel it. She searched the phone book for the name Leitch but there were several versions and she couldn’t locate him, so off to lunch they went. And so began the courtship of Jane Sutphin.

“He wouldn’t leave me alone. The only way I could get rid of him was to marry him,” said Jane.

The day after their wedding Harry went out to meet some friends and didn’t come home for four days. The magistrate made a note of that.

Years later Jane remarked to Mary Bixler, wife of the Browns assistant coach Paul Bixler, that it was not unusual for Harry to stay out all night.

“Paul has never not come home,” said Mary Bixler.

“He was never out with Harry, was he?” said Jane.

Harry once left in the morning to play golf. He came home four days later.

“What happened?” asked Jane.

“I made the cut,” said Harry.

In the meantime, nobody bought season tickets for the basketball team and Al Sutphin folded it after one season. The Arena was still a hopping place even without pro basketball. It had high school and college basketball, six-day bike races, roller derby, big time pro boxing, the Golden Gloves boxing tournament, pro rassling, two separate ice shows, the K of C Track Meet, high school hockey and, of course, Cleveland’s beloved Barons hockey team. Marrying Jane was like marrying the Arena. Harry knew what he was doing.

“Actually,” said Jane, “he wanted to be Al Sutphin’s son-in-law. He even started introducing himself as Al Sutphin’s son-in-law.”

Al Sutphin had six children. Harry and Jane had six children. Al was non-religious and married a Catholic. Harry was non-religious and married a Catholic. Al was a sports degenerate. So was Harry.

Harry wasn’t a bad baseball player in the 1930s when he graduated from St. Ignatius High School and played for the Plover Cafe in the Lakewood Class A League at Madison Park. In fact, he had a tryout with the Boston Braves in 1940. Harry was a skinny 140-pound middle infielder, barely 5-and-a-half feet tall.

“Come back when you’ve got some meat on those bones,” Braves manager Casey Stengel said when he sent him home.

Harry took Stengel’s advice. By the time I knew him, Harry was still 5-and-a-half feet tall and he was 5-and-a-half feet wide.

Harry left United Screw and Bolt after 11 years and started his own manufacturers’ rep company. He picked up some lines, selling nuts, bolts, springs and the like and sold like a fiend. Buyers couldn’t wait to see Harry walk through the door. He drove a big red Cadillac because his father-in-law drove a big red Cadillac. Through his father-in-law he met the biggest men in Cleveland sports. He became friendly with Browns coach Paul Brown and his wife, Katy, while on vacation at the Sutphin family farm in Fort Myers, Fla. The cream of Cleveland’s sports celebrities gathered there every winter. In the 1950s Harry became the spotter for Browns radio announcers Bill McColgan and Jim Graner. He continued when Gib Shanley replaced McColgan in 1961. Harry was the spotter for 26 years, often getting the names and numbers correct.

“He wasn’t much of a spotter, but he was good for morale,” Shanley said.

The Browns became his life. He once left Jane and other members of her family in the middle of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City because the Browns had lost two games in a row. He bought a sombrero and flew home to get them straightened out.

His son Billy marvels at another aspect of his father’s aura.

“He was a close friend of Paul Brown, but can you believe, Paul Brown was gone one minute and the next minute Art Modell was Harry’s best friend? Harry was right back on the team plane,” said Billy Leitch.

On Mondays he would regale his customers with exciting stories about the Browns’ road trips.

“You’d better double that order of nuts and bolts,” his customers would say.

For many years Harry hosted lavish parties at what is now known as the Renaissance Hotel on Public Square. Sadly, that hotel, an anchor of downtown Cleveland, has had so many different names hardly anybody can keep them straight. It was called the Sheraton at times. It has had a different name every 20 years. Maybe we should call it Harry’s Hotel.

“Finally, I said I can’t take another football season with Harry,” Jane said during our refresher interview for this book. “Here’s how desperate I was. I called the travel agent who arranged our trip to the Mexico Olympics and asked him to get me out of the country. He sent me to Africa for two weeks. I got 10 different shots. I called home from Nairobi and Tim said, ‘Didn’t you hear about the party at the Sheraton? All the players were there. There was a snowball fight. It went on until five or six in the morning.’ Harry made a video. He had everybody wave at Jane.”

Harry also went to World Series games in New York and he went to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame inductions of his baseball pals. The year Early Wynn went in the Hall of Fame (1972), Harry called Jane from Cooperstown and said, “Get the spare bedroom ready. I’m bringing somebody home.”

He brought Casey Stengel and his wife, Edna, home with him for a night. Incredibly, Casey remembered Harry from his tryout in 1940. Of the hundreds, maybe thousands, of brief acquaintances over the years, Casey Stengel remembered Harry.

“I see you put some meat on those bones,” said Casey.

Jane picks up the story.

“Casey and Edna sat on the couch in our living room telling stories. All the time Casey talked, he had his elbow on Edna’s thigh. After three hours Edna asked if she could see their bedroom. She was exhausted. She tried to stand up and she fell down. Her leg was paralyzed. We rushed her to the emergency room. We thought she had a stroke.”

Harry was a committed gin rummy player. Games sometimes lasted for days. Gib Shanley once complained that you played until Harry won. On a pre-season trip to the West Coast where the Browns played exhibition games against both the Rams and the 49ers, Harry conducted a gin game in his room that lasted for seven days, interrupted only by a football game.

“How much was your bar bill?” asked Browns public relations man Nate Wallack.

“I don’t know,” said Harry. “My ice bill was $300.”

I was lured into a gin game with him on a team flight to the West Coast. At half a cent a point I thought that was harmless. By the time we were flying over Chicago he had taken $35 from me.

Jane made the mistake of going with him to a nut and bolt convention in New York. Jane said she wanted to leave early for the airport. She did not want to be rushed, which was Harry’s usual way of traveling. He handed her a plane ticket. When she got to the gate at LaGuardia Airport, she learned that her flight left from JFK Airport. He never mentioned that. After another wild cab ride to JFK and an all-out sprint to the gate, she found the entire flight crew waiting for her.

“Mrs. Leitch,” the pilot said, “would you please control your husband?”

They welcomed her aboard, where she found Harry causing a loud commotion. He had a glorious New York snoot full and he wasn’t happy about anything.

“Sit down and shut up,” said Jane.

“I’m not sitting with you,” he declared loudly, and plopped down in the seat in front of them, next to a Hispanic couple, who began jabbering frantically in Spanish.

Because they missed their spot in line and were waiting behind several other planes, the pilot attempted to appease the angry passengers by inviting them to visit the cockpit. Harry was the first to jump up and head for the cockpit, whereupon it was discovered he had been sitting on the Hispanic couple’s two-year-old baby.

You may get the impression that Harry was self-indulgent. Late in life, before he went to the assisted living home, Harry moved to California. He bought a spread in Rancho Bernardo, near San Diego, and he brought along his daughter, Katie, to run the place. Before long another daughter, Margaret, went out to keep them both company. Harry then decided they should go camping. In the middle of their first night, Harry woke them both to drive him to the bathroom that was 100 feet from their tent. Obviously, Harry was losing it. The girls said, “The heck with this.” They came home and so did he. It was Jane’s job to find a nursing home that would take him. Harry was becoming difficult.

“He would say to the old ladies, ‘You’re old and you’re useless.’ They made him eat with people with no short-term memories. By the time dinner was over they didn’t remember his insults,” Jane said.

When Harry died in 1993, somebody said it was the loudest wake in history. Art Modell, Lou Groza, Bob Gain and other former Browns players, front office workers and widows all gathered to tell Harry Leitch stories and celebrate a life that had been spent celebrating.

Harry’s brother, Bob, made a cogent observation.

“If we had a bar on the other side of the room,” he said, “Harry would sit up.”

[Excerpted from Pass the Nuts, © Dan Coughlin. All rights reserved. Gray & Company, Publishers.]

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Table of Contents

Introduction 9

Fired by Steinbrenner Mike Cleary 11

Life Was a Party Harry Leitch 19

He Tormented Everyone Jack Lengyel 26

Elvis Took His Calls Gene Hickerson 35

Can't Turn Down a Challenge Dick Schafrath 42

20-20 IQ Morrie Kono 49

Notre Dame's Free Spirit Creighton Miller 53

Come to Miami, Bring a Gun 61

Cousin Tommy Coughlin: Hurricane Warnings 68

A Living Legend Brian Dowling 76

Break the Story First 85

Friday Night Fever 90

Rats' Nest Corners and Other Fantasies 104

Never Out of Work Denny Marcin 111

The Great Recruiter Kevin Mackey 120

Self-Confessed Con Man AI McGuire 130

Couldn't Hold a Job Ken Carpenter 134

Name's the Same: Who Are These Guys? 146

No Names, Please LeBron James 150

RunawayTrain Dave Plagman 155

Model of Consistency John Lowenstein 158

Pitched to a Midget Bob Cain 161

Hit for Reverse Cycle Richie Scheinblum 167

Nude Beaches and the Derby Bob Roberts 171

Catch and Release D'Arcy Egan 174

Voice of Truth and Reason Les Levine 180

Loyal to an Old Friend Ken Coleman 188

Overrun With Deer Bambi Gone Berserk 191

Punxsutawney Phil's Untimely Demise 195

Cats and Rats: Hold Your Breath 199

Willie Mays and 3.2 Beer 203

The Theatrical: Characters Welcome 208

The Blue Fox: Under Siege by the FBI 215

A Bullet Saved His Life Mike Carney 218

Lakewood Village: Home of the Calder Cup 221

Buddy Langdon Memories Forever 225

At the Beginning Chuck Webster 233

Sluggers: They Ruined the Game 242

Sunday Slow Pitch: A Bad Team 255

Bull Held Hostage Chester Meats 257

Gratitudes 261

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 19, 2012

    Dan Coughlin fans a must read!

    Very enjoyable; a quick read leaves you wanting more stories. Can't wait for the next Book!

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