Bert Sugar passed away over the weekend. He would have been 75 in June.
Bert was better known as a boxing guy, largely because he was editor and publisher of both Boxing Illustrated and The Ring magazines. He was frequently seen as a ringside commentator at big-time bouts or as a talking head on documentaries about the sport. He played himself in the film "Rocky Balboa." An ever-present cigar in his mouth and hat on his head were Sugar trademarks. I knew him pretty well for a long time and I don't think I ever saw the top of his head uncovered.
Despite the boxing label, Sugar was a baseball guy through and through, and a Nationals fan to boot. A D.C. native, Bert was a Maryland graduate who later got a law degree from Michigan. He worked in the advertising business for years, and gets a great deal of credit for igniting the sports collecting industry in the 1970s when he published The Sports Collectors Bible, the first comprehensive guide to the hobby.
I did many, many radio shows with Sugar over the years. I interviewed him on the field prior to the first Nats home game in 2005, and at the induction ceremonies in Cooperstown that summer, both on XM Radio. If Bert and I were at the same event and I had a microphone in my hand, he'd invariably find me. He really liked the experience.
Bert was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005, and began writing a regular column for Smoke, a cigar lifestyle magazine, around the same time.
Sugar was a true character, a perennially positive guy who left a positive imprint on everyone who knew him. There's no one out there to inherit his mantle. Or, as Bert would likely say, his Mays.
Oh, and to those Nats fans non-plused by the team's 6-13 Grapefruit League record, just remember this:
After the game at Nationals Park on April 3, you can press the reset button. Exhibition game results don't matter. No one holds a losing record in those games against you. Why do you think there are so many ties?
In other words, it's like an Etch-a-Sketch: After that last exhibition (or preseason game, if you prefer NFL terminology), just turn it upside-down and shake it. Those losses will all disappear.
Gee, that sounds vaguely familiar ...