Angry Ward Wednesday: Happy Birthday to a Punch Ball Cheat, Bruins Fanatic and True Friend

Angry and Cheesy circa 1 Million B.C.

Angry and Cheesy circa 1 Million B.C.

BRONX, NY – “Don’t call it a comeback. I’ve been here for years.” It’s sad but true, I really have been here for years. My two-week hiatus is over and a lot has transpired since I last posted. For starters, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog covered the World Cup for Conan, which was great. Then, for the first time in more than a decade, our own Short Matt failed to participate in New York’s annual Gay Pride Weekend. In bigger news, the same Short Matt shocked the world by getting engaged to lovely Pittsburgh native, Twinkletoes. I mean, I step away for a nanosecond and all hell breaks loose. What happens if I take another week off? Peace in the Middle East? The Mets get sold? I guess we’ll never know because today is my friend Cheesy Bruin’s (the Cheeseman, to most of us) birthday and I simply can’t let this day go by without saying a few things about the man.

The Punch Heard Round the Playground. I first met the Cheeseman when we were in 3rd grade at PS7 on Kingsbridge Avenue in the Bronx. One of my earliest memories of him was one recess when he, Grote2DMax, and I were involved in a tightly-contested punch ball game. As the whistle sounded for recess to end, the Cheeseman took the final pitch from Grote (I believe) and with an open hand scooped the ball upwards and onto the first floor roof for a game ending home run. It was a classic cheat. So obvious. To this day he denies it every time Grote and I bring it up. Nevertheless we managed to become good friends with this budding young scoundrel.

Strat-O-Matic and Lasagne. If you were lucky, the Cheeseman’s mom would invite you over every now and again for a lasagne dinner. It wasn’t just any lasagne though; this stuff was off the charts. It was so good that you didn’t mind the Cheeseman beating the holy hell out of you at Strat-O-Matic Football (he probably cheated at this too) as his Cowboys (more on them in a second) tore apart your Minnesota Vikings. And woe unto those who didn’t eat at least two or three helpings of lasagne. Mama Cheese would call you every name in the book and maybe give you a kick in the ass for good measure.

Body by Lasagne.

Body by Lasagne.

It is Better to Bet and Lose… The Cheeseman was the first person to distribute football betting sheets (*for entertainment purposes only) to his friends. I believe he started as early as 6th Grade, but certainly by Junior High. He also  introduced a bunch of us to the joys of harness racing at Yonkers Raceway and was a Joker Poker fiend in the basement of Fieldston Bowling and Billiards up on Broadway and 240th. In his late teens and early 20s he was also an amazing gambler when it came to picking college basketball, and we all reaped the financial benefits of his legendary streaks. His high school yearbook quote really summed up his gambling philosophy quite nicely: “It is better to bet and lose than to not have bet at all.

Root, Root, Root, for the Who? If one can find any fault with the Cheesman, it’s with his choice of favorite professional sports teams. For starters, he’s a Cowboys fan which I try to write off as some sort of early-onset dementia. Then there’s his stalker-like crush on the Boston Bruins. This guy used to try everything to will the Bruins to another Stanley Cup, even going to church. By sheer determination, the Cheeseman outlasted the hockey gods and cancer to see his beloved B’s hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2011. As for baseball, back in the 70s he was an Orioles fan, which I really think he should go back to. Last I remember he was pulling for the Pirates. I’m not sure how much he still follows the NBA, but he used to be a big fan of Doug Moe’s offensive juggernaut and defensive disappearing act, the Denver Nuggets.

Dion DiMucci?

Dion DiMucci?

The Only Man Among Us. Though his frame isn’t as stout as it once was, when we were kids the Cheeseman gained the gridiron nickname “The Salt Truck” for his ability to line up in the I-formation in any weather (but especially snow) and plow across the goal line carrying an entire team of neighborhood friends on his back. Even when his back got a bit wonky, I once asked him to help me move a gigantic pleather couch out of my soon-to-be-ex-bachelor pad only to have him ask me to step aside and watch him manhandle the thing down four flights of stairs like it was a piece of popcorn. Grote’s Dad had it right that day he surveyed a bunch of us short and skinny teenage twerps sitting on his porch and then spying the Cheeseman said in his thick Irish brogue: “Look at [him], he’s the only man among you.” He was right.

Mr. Universe 2000! Take a gander, ladies.

Mr. Universe 2000! Take a gander, ladies.

Friend to the End. In closing, I just want to wish a very Happy Birthday to my lifelong pal, the Cheeseman. I’m proud to count you among my oldest, closest, and best friends. You are an American original with a healthy dose of Italian seasoning; a ramblin’ gamblin’ man, and a sport in the truest sense of the word. Happy Birthday, buddy! Here’s to many, many more.

Come back tomorrow for Big Al Sternberg/Fake Sandy Alderson – soccer fan.

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Wednesday: Angry Ward, who has admirers at the NY Times, is the quintessential angry sports fan but one exception… he’s flat-out funny. And the angrier he gets, the more amusing his work becomes. Psychiatrists say, “Angry Ward’s ‘anger’ is a direct result of “Bronx/Mets syndrome: growing up in the Bronx as a Mets fan.” As if that weren’t enough, his Minnesota North Stars abandoned him for Dallas, forcing him to embrace The Wild the way conservatives embrace Mitt Romney. While the Vikings tease him incessantly with flirtations of success, the Golden State Warriors, “Don’t have a enough short, white angry guys but I don’t dislike them… that much.” A-Dubya is MTM’s longest-tenured indentured servant, its Larry David and quite simply, The Franchise.

  • butch gorings nostrils

    Happy Birthday, CB! You have a great friend to write this!

    • Butch, they did time together in the White Trash section of the Bronx. Thick as the thieves they are. Who cheats at Punch Ball?! And was it a Super Pinky or Spaulding?

      • Tall Matt

        Super Pinky?? Is that a jersey thing?

        • AngryWard

          Spaldeen, Spaldeen, Spaldeen!

          • The MTM Research Department did indeed search for Spaldeen and Spaldine… This is what they found!

          • FakeSandyAlderson

            Spaldeen is correct. Super Pinky? How bout Pensy Pinkie.? The Spaldeens had more mass to them, you could punch them further.

  • jgclancy

    Happy Birthday indeed to Cheesybruin! All’s Grote’s dad really said about me was :
    “Is that kid just stupid?” in garbled English with a brogue that made him sound like an alien. Never understood a word he spoke and Grote had to translate.

    • AngryWard

      But when you got the translation, the stuff was pure gold.

    • Tall Matt

      An bhfuil go kid ach dúr?

    • Grote2Dmax

      I had to soften up some of the translations too. The man was brutally honest.

      • AngryWard

        He was, God Bless him. The Marble Hill Christmas Party comes to mind.

  • Cheesybruin

    Jeez, I am speechless. Thanks, pal. You don’t get to the point in life where I am now without, as Joe Cocker sang, “a little help from my friends”. Thanks for ALWAYS being there.

    • AngryWard

      The least I can say. Also, any excuse to use all these pictures (many courtesy of our friend Paulie). I just hope people can see that in your muscle pose beach photo there’s a plunger coming out of your stomach. How come no one brings plungers to the beach anymore?

  • Time Warp Tony

    Somebody gave Conan a show?!

  • Happy Birthday, Cheesy Bruin! You don’t look a day over 49! There’s some
    kind of irony in you and Short Matt being Cancers… You beating it
    like the Yanks beat the Twins and SM being accused of being one… But
    our MTM Legal Department is all aflutter; they are worried their may be a
    “no tattoo” clause in all MTM Staff contracts… You may have to have
    them removed. Especially that Gary Hogeboom face you got on your butt
    after that season of Survivor.

  • Tall Matt

    Happy Birthday CMan. Great to see you the other night!

  • GrindingAxWalter

    Happy Birthday Cheesy . Did all you Jabroni’s grow up in the same neighborhood? Excluding the newly engaged Small Matt….

  • Happy Birthday Cheese Man!

    • The Prof and Tall Matt in the same day?! Cheesy, you are a special man…

  • Different Matt

    Cheesy Bruin once ate an entire giant birthday cake before we could tell him there was a stripper inside.

    Happy Birthday Cheesy!

  • WestCoastCraig

    Be happy, Cheese! I guess punchball never made it upstate…how do you play so I can spread it out here?

    • AngryWard

      Basically same rules as baseball, but using a rubber spalding (spaldeen) ball that is pitched in underhand on a bounce. Batter balls his/her hand into a fist and swings away. We mostly played with bases but you can also play without and with single, double, triple, homer boundaries.

      • buffalobilly84

        You could also self-hit with a bounce.

        • buffalobilly84

          Happy Birthday!

  • jgclancy

    I’m with JGClancy doing some work on Grote’s house and am enjoying the comments today. ALL of you people are family to me and I’m just tickled to have you wish me a Happy Birthday. This birthday is not complete until my punchball nemesis, Benjamin Oh, chimes in!

  • Junoir Blaber

    Happy Birthday Cheese. You are legend among men. Ward, if you stepping down meant the sale of the Mets away from the Wilpon’s I will allow it!!

  • Scheens

    Love it. I want an angry man to write about me for my birthday please. But no pictures of plungers…

  • Grote2Dmax

    Captain Italy rules. Nice work AW though I’m a day late to the party.

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