Tag Archive | "obit"

Nes and Liz

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Driving Miss Liz “home” one last time

Posted on 17 August 2017 by Nestor Aparicio

When I arrived at the hospital on Tuesday morning, I knew we were nearing the end. The nurses said she’d been waiting for me.

Through a thick oxygen mask and without her teeth, she said quite forcefully: “Bring…everyone…here…now!” And she paused, as she always did, and reiterated: “EVERYONE!”

Within five minutes I was on the phone to everyone in her tiny world, letting ‘em know that Liz was summoning all of her loved ones to see her one last time. We never wanted her to know she was dying but sometime over the weekend, she figured it out. On Monday morning, she asked me: “Am I finished?” Knowing her 98-year history and her legendary toughness, I told her, “Not yet because we’re still here talking!” I told her that I still wasn’t betting against her. She laughed, just like she always did even amidst the discomfort of struggling for every breath.

On Tuesday afternoon, her beloved sister and nieces and nephews arrived from Delaware at 4:30. They stayed with her until 7:30. I left her with our beloved neighbor and my stepbrother and planned to return around midnight to take over the nightshift. My radio at WNST was mostly done for the week and I was ready to stay up late watching the Orioles and camp with her until the end – whenever the end was. The doctors informed me earlier in the week that this was not going to have a happy ending because she had lost her ability to swallow food.

Amazingly, she was completely coherent and communicative until the very end. When I left her on Tuesday night with eight members of our family at 7 p.m., it felt as though she would continue to suffer and struggle more – maybe even for days. Instead, her body failed at 8:25 and she was gone by 9 p.m. She gathered her family and said goodbye to us in her own memorable way. She stayed alive solely to see her 93-year old sister, who was always the most cherished member of her family.

I thought I would be there for her last breath. That was the plan. Instead, I was with a dear old rock and roll and high school chum at a Thai restaurant ordering a beer. As the waitress told me, “We don’t have that beer,” my phone rang simultaneously.

The doctor told me that my Mom had lost vitals.

Less than 30 minutes later, Eliza Allen McGurgan was gone.

She died, literally, while I was ordering a beer.

It’s incredible – almost inconceivable.

I have no regrets. Zero. She didn’t want me to see her die. She chose to die with

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Nasty Purple Reign cover shot with Lewis, Modell, Billick and Lombardi, March 2001

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David Modell’s role in Super Bowl XXXV Ravens win chronicled

Posted on 13 January 2017 by Nestor Aparicio

(This was originally published as Chapter 4 of my 2001 book, Purple Reign – Diary of a Raven Maniac. It is the story of David Modell’s role in winning Super Bowl XXXV and how the Ravens wound up in Baltimore and the hiring of Brian Billick.)

 

A SILVER TROPHY BUT NOT A SILVER SPOON

 

“I can’t go back and explain it to everybody. But I did not move to Baltimore after 35 years (in Cleveland) for the crab cakes.”

Arthur B. Modell, Jan. 14, 2001, as told to the Cleveland Plain Dealer

 

 

 

OK, let’s go back to the beginning. The simple fact that the NFL ever returned to Baltimore is a miracle.

And, certainly, a miracle worth revisiting.

Forget about the snowy night in March 1984 when Robert Irsay pulled the Colts out of Baltimore in Mayflower trucks. Perish the thought that Bill Bidwill or Al Davis or Mike Brown or Georgia Frontiere or Bud Adams were ever honestly considering moving their NFL franchises to Baltimore. And expansion, as anyone who had any dealing with it at all will tell, was fixed from the beginning. The teams were going to go to the city that NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue liked the best.

Let’s make this very clear. From Tagliabue to Jack Kent Cooke to virtually every owner in the NFL, Baltimore was not a welcomed hamlet in the league’s lexicon. Because of its small TV market, because of its proximity to Washington and Philadelphia, because it was viewed as a “failed” football community with tiny crowds when it lost the Colts, it was a player simply because it possessed an internal will to keep fighting. There was money on the table in Baltimore, and owners could threaten to move from their existing base to Charm City because it was there and willing to be treated like a $20 hooker. The original Maryland Stadium Authority chairman Herb Belgrad was a wonderfully kind gentleman, following the mandate of Governor William Donald Schaefer (who was the crushed mayor of Baltimore at the time of Irsay’s departure) to pursue an NFL team without breaking hearts. Belgrad was only to chase teams that were already set on moving, so as to not set up another broken-hearted situation like the one Baltimore endured in 1983.

Just like Mom told you, nice guys finish last.

Baltimore’s final hope for a run at an NFL franchise was put in the capable hands of John Moag, appointed by new Maryland governor Parris Glendening in February 1995. Moag wasted no time in utilizing his small window of opportunity to find a team before the money that Schaefer had left in the state coffers was redirected toward other projects in the budget. By the summer of 1995, Moag had identified several teams that were interested in moving their NFL teams to Baltimore, knowing full well that if the move wasn’t set by the end of the year, Baltimore might never be a player again. The money allocated for stadium funding in Baltimore could very well be used by the Washington Redskins to erect a stadium in Maryland’s D.C. suburbs. Houston was already committed and marching down the aisle with Tennessee. Arizona had already moved once but it was an obvious mistake. Cincinnati had indicated some interest. Tampa Bay and new owner Malcolm Glazer were getting antsy, wondering whether a lethargic NFL community would build them a palace. And, finally, the longest of all long shots, the venerable Cleveland Browns and Art Modell were having some cash problems on the shores of Lake Erie.

Many insiders would tell you the true catalysts in the move of the Browns to Baltimore were Jim Bailey, Modell’s Executive Vice President of Administration and Legal matters, and Al Lerner, a banker, entrepreneur and Modell’s best friend and part-owner of the Browns. Bailey had the most intimate knowledge of the debt that Modell had created in Cleveland. Lerner and Bailey knew of the inherent cash flow problems surrounding the Browns, Cleveland Stadium and its parent holder, the Cleveland Stadium Corporation, which Modell had taken on in the early 1970s, ironically, to try to save baseball and the Indians in Cleveland.

By 1995, the Cleveland Indians had departed Cleveland Stadium for swank new digs 10 blocks away at Jacobs Field. The NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers were playing next door to Jacobs at Gund Arena, another state of the art facility that was leading a renaissance in Northern Ohio. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened its doors in early October 1995, just four weeks prior to Modell signing the deal to move the Browns to Baltimore.

Modell had a huge financial stake in an aging, decrepit Cleveland Stadium that had just lost its largest tenant – 81 home baseball games per year – to a publicly financed, luxury-box laden Taj Mahal. To make matters worse, the Indians were riding the wave of newfound enthusiasm in the community in a march to the World Series, their first in more than 40 years.

Modell had tried privately for years to get relief in the way of a new stadium. Despite the Browns enormous popularity and success during the 1980s (three AFC Championship Game appearances in four years), he was last in line to be satiated because Cleveland Mayor Michael White and Governor George Voinovich never believed he’d move.

Modell had always been a hustler who played games with money, leveraging one company against the other. Despite playing with the big boys in the back rooms of the NFL in the early days, he was truly not a rich man. He bought the Browns in March 1961 for $4 million dollars and only put a fraction of that into the down payment. Many of his business interests over the next 35 years were followed with his heart and not his accountant.

He was the king of leverage and had been for nearly all of his adulthood. “Of course I can pay you back,” was the thinking. “I own the Cleveland Browns of the NFL.”

During 1994-95, more than five million people had seen Jacobs Field and its opulence. Modell was having a hard time selling tickets to his dump, let alone skyboxes that barely had running water. And as for perks, the valet service and champagne lifestyle that big business was getting down the street 81 times per year for baseball and 40 more times for the NBA on the club level was unmatchable. He needed a new stadium and needed it fast or he couldn’t compete.

Things got so bad for him financially that during the free agency period, in the spring of 1995, he had to borrow and personally guarantee a loan for $5 million so he could pay free agent wide receiver Andre Rison his signing bonus. The Browns had come 60 minutes away from playing in yet another AFC Championship Game three months prior and Modell felt as though he was one player away from going to the Super Bowl. His coach at the time, Bill Belichick, lobbied profusely to acquire Rison. Modell realized he could never get to a Super Bowl like this.

Enter Jim Bailey.

Bailey, a former football player at Florida State and longtime confidant of Modell from the 1970s, began planting two seeds: sell or move. The Browns could no longer compete in the NFL playing at Cleveland Stadium. Modell had always held out hope that he would be “taken care of” by Cleveland and Ohio politicians, but tension was beginning to rise as debt piled up.

The last straw came in mid-1995 when, instead of passing bonds to build a new stadium for Modell, the city and state enacted a referendum to be voted on by the public to renovate the “Mistake on the Lake.” Renovating a century old stadium was hardly feasible, and not intrinsically fair for a man who helped keep the baseball team in the city in the first place. Modell wanted at least equal treatment after two years of watching baseball become royalty in Cleveland under an unforeseeable stream of revenue.

Enter John Moag.

Moag’s mandate as an appointee of Glendening was to get a team and get one quickly or the money that was allocated for stadium funding would be pulled off the books. Glendening, for all of his posturing and embarrassing fake “homer-ism” in regard to the Ravens, was constantly trying to prove himself to Baltimore, where his popularity was extremely low for a Maryland governor. Glendening was and still is perceived as a Washingtonian with interests that lie more toward the Washington beltway than the Baltimore beltway. That said, he could always rest his hat in Baltimore if he were a key player in bringing the NFL back

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Ozzie Newsome reflects on impact of Art Modell in his life

Posted on 06 September 2012 by WNSTV

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Emotional Ray Lewis calls Art Modell “a father to me”

Posted on 06 September 2012 by WNSTV

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My snapshots & memories of the great life of Arthur B. Modell…

Posted on 06 September 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been a crazy morning to awaken with such enthusiasm for the Orioles and mourn the loss of Art Modell, who died at 4 a.m. this morning at Johns Hopkins Hospital with David and John by his side.

On a personal level, it’s devastating. I loved Art Modell. And he always brightened my day with some kind words, jokes and he brought the Baltimore Ravens to this city and it changed my life. I’ll be eternally grateful.

I have so many memories with Art that it’s hard to even formulate them this morning. So, I’m putting together some of my memories here on this blog as my own therapy to remember our many great times together.

The last time I saw him was about two months ago in Owings Mills. He was always on a golf cart, always calling me over to tell me a joke or make me smile.

Here’s a WNSTV video I shot in 2008 of his big night at Sports Legends Museum:

 

I also famously lobbied Pro Football Hall of Fame voters many times on behalf of Art Modell, who deserves to be in Canton on the merit of his contributions and accomplishments for the NFL. It’s a crime that he died this morning never having been inducted.

So, in 2009, I went to Canton and inducted him myself:

 

Click on Page 2 to see more of my personal memories

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Turning Canton Square into Scunny Square: remembering a legend

Posted on 28 August 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

You never know when or where you’ll find yourself when news breaks. That’s what we all tell ourselves as journalists and over the years I’ve found the toughest “breaking news” happens when it involves my friends and tragedy.

The date August 24th has been a rough day for me two consecutive years running. Last year I was on my couch watching the Orioles play when I learned in the early evening of the death of Mike Flanagan. This past Friday night and into Saturday morning I was awakened on a summer vacation in Moncton, Canada to learn that another friend had died unexpectedly while I was asleep.

In the era of social media and via the power to propel information into the palms of our hands from anywhere in the world, I learned of the death of my friend Scunny on my mobile phone in the middle of New Brunswick while having morning coffee.

In the hours following, my Facebook and Twitter feeds exploded with condolences, memories and immense cyber sadness regarding the passing of a giant in our community, a guy who we all kind of took for granted and thought would be immortal.

I also learned about the power of  love in the world — a life well lived — and the legend of a man whose death dominated every corner of my friendship, business and civic circle in Baltimore. “Smalltimore” works that way and it’s especially illuminated in our time by the internet.

I’m convinced “Scunny” was the Kevin Bacon of our city, once removed from virtually every person in town.

For those of you who didn’t know him – and I’m not really sure that’s really possible that you could be from the Charm City and not know him because he seemingly knew everyone  – Patrick “Scunny” McKusker owned Nacho Mama’s (and later created Mama’s On The Half Shell) and was truly a one-of-a-kind Baltimore character, restaurant owner, entrepreneur, civic champion, charitable soul and part-time beer drinker and philosopher.

Scunny died on Friday night just a few blocks from his Ocean City beach home while riding his bicycle that collided with a bus. He leaves behind a wonderful wife and two children.

There are varying reports about what happened and there’s an investigation going on as his tangled myriad of friends, peers, loved ones, family members and many patrons are left investigating this unthinkable tragedy that we all learned about at some point in the middle of our blessed lives on a Saturday morning.

I’m not really sure where to begin but writing is my therapy at times like these.

I met Scunny at Nacho Mama’s (like almost everyone else) when I began my radio career in the early 1990’s and was recruiting sponsors.

Scunny and I had a whole lot in common. We both loved beer. We both loved the Orioles. We both missed the Colts. We both welcomed and immediately loved the Ravens. We both loved Baltimore.

Scunny was missing a finger.

I was missing a finger.

Every time we ever saw each other he insisted that we “touch nubs” before we parted. It was our bond, right along with his amazing salsa and the soft chicken tacos that I’ve tackled at least a hundred times.

The stories about his generosity have been well chronicled and it was impossible to know him and not know about his work with Believe In Tomorrow. He also hired developmentally challenged people and gave them jobs and a purpose. He was a sweet man who would’ve won any “Character Bowl” competition John Steadman would’ve

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