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All you klutzes, listen to Andy and call a professional

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

My Whirlpool dryer quit heating, so I tore it apart hoping to solve the problem. And Rooney of 60 Minutes would have said, “leave those jobs to the professionals.” Photo By BOB OTTO

YUCAIPA, Calif. – I remember the late Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes once chiding homeowners who foolishly thought they could patch a roof, fix a leaky faucet, or install a new garage door.

“Leave those jobs to the experts,” he advised. “Most of us don’t have the knowhow for that kind of work. It takes a pro.”

Andy’s wisdom was meant for klutzes like me.

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USA claims championships in FIMBA Pan Am Games in Costa Rica

Friday, May 13th, 2016
The United States age 55-plus team celebrates winning the championship at the 2016 FIMBA Pan American Games in Costa Rica, April 23-30. Contributed photo / Jim Sweeney

The United States age 55-plus team celebrates winning the championship at the 2016 FIMBA Pan American Games in Costa Rica, April 23-30. Contributed photo / Jim Sweeney

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA – The USA 50-plus and 55-plus teams won their respective age divisions at the Federation of International Masters Basketball Association (FIMBA) Pan Am Games in San Jose, Costa Rica, April 23-30.

The Pan Am Games had 157 teams from 19 countries comprised of several age divisions from 45-plus to 75-plus, competing in the event.

“The goal is to send 15 Untied States teams to FIMBA’s next world championship in Italy in summer 2017,” said Jim Sweeney, Head of USA for FIMBA, whose role is to recruit teams for FIMBA’s international tournaments.

Sweeney adds that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has called FIMBA the best senior (ages 35-plus) sports federation in the world.

The United States age 50-plus team won the championship at the 2016 FIMBA Pan American Games in Costa Rica, April 23-30. Contributed photo / Jim Sweeney

The United States 50-plus team won the championship at the 2016 FIMBA Pan American Games in Costa Rica, April 23-30. Contributed photo / Jim Sweeney

To learn more about becoming involved, visit the FIMBA website , or contact Jim Sweeney for more information at 727-460-8932.

Old guy passes risky basketball two-for test

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

120115-BobBasketball.45web Bob Otto has been disparaged by many of his former basketball coaches as a poor defender, bad passer, weak rebounder, and so-so shooter. Yet at 67 he ignores their critique and the painful cries of his aging body, and continues to play hoops. The sport he has loved since boyhood.

DRAYSON CENTER, LOMA LINDA, Calif. – Foolish, risky, and what the hell was I thinking? All three assertions applied to my senior basketball venture on Monday at the Drayson Center. I decided a “two-for” was in order. Meaning playing basketball twice in a day – once in the morning from 11:30 – 1:15 and at night, 6 – 7:40.

17 year olds laugh at two-fors. And it’s no challenge even for 27 year olds. But at 67? At 40 years past my prime? It’s like opening the door for injury and saying, “come right in and wreck havoc with my old body.”

All my appendages and muscles (most of which are rapidly deteriorating) from the bottom of my feet to the top of my salt-and-pepper head were put at risk from the physically demanding two-for.

Especially my fragile left ankle. I had just been freed from 10 weeks of a spat of painful tendonitis. But on Sunday the ankle felt great; it turned and torqued and rotated like a frisky colt romping around a corral.

So Monday I decided a test was due. Why test the fragile ankle’s limits of basketball endurance? Why risk a setback from a two-for? See foolish and what-was-I-thinking in my opening line.

When I awoke Tuesday morning, I swung my legs out of bed and gingerly arose to my full 5-feet-9 stature (yes, little guys still play in the land of the giants). I took one step, then two. No pain, no creaking or crackling of the left ankle, or any other joints. What a glorious occasion! For I had just passed the two-for test.

Will I do it again? Once more, please refer to the first line.

For ‘Red’ Simmons, respect, love of the games keeps him going

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

012805-RedSimmons115web Richard ‘Red’ Simmons is an outstanding softball player, but his love for athletics throughout his life led him to become an official, a profession that has become an important part of his life. Photo By BOB OTTO

YUCAIPA, CALIF – Richard ‘Red’ Simmons is the first to admit that he can’t cover the infield like he once did in his 25-, 35-, or even 45-year-old playing days. But the sure-fielding glove, whiplash swing of the bat and love for the sport remain as strong today as in his younger days.

Simmons loves softball, and he punches the playing clock without miss every Tuesday and Thursday in the Valley-Wide senior softball program. But the 75-year-old Simmons is also well traveled outside of the San Jacinto Valley as a member of the Top Gun Gold, a senior slowpitch All-Star team from San Diego.

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Mind and body reach compromise: play at old Bill’s pace

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

senior.Bball.web Bob Otto, front row, far left, and his senior basketball playing buddies find it hard to give up the game even with an assortment of nagging and sometimes serious injuries.

YUCAIPA, Calif – I have two parts to my being that sometimes argue over each other’s judgement – my mind and my body.

I play basketball in a senior pick-up league. We’re all a bunch of old guys with the youngest about 52. And way, way on the other side of the age spectrum is “old Bill” as we call him, at 81. I’m in the middle at 64.

But I seem to be the one getting hurt the most: pulled hamstring, strained calf muscles, two elbow shots to the mouth, a bloodied nose, and a sprained ankle along with a sore back.

But nothing too serious to keep me off the court. That is until July 1st.

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Senior basketballers celebrate the big guy’s birthday

Thursday, November 29th, 2012


If you’re age 50 and above, you’re eligible for basketball at the University of Loma Linda Drayson Center.

LOMA LINDA (Calif.) DRAYSON CENTER – The big man gets the ball in the paint four feet from the basket. His eyes widen, his body tenses, and then with a whirl to his left, he drives to the basket, finishing with a hook shot that he banks off the glass and falls cleanly through the net.

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Seniors love for basketball strong as ever

Thursday, November 29th, 2012


Bill Pittman plays much younger than his 76 years.

YUCAIPA, Calif. – The high, leaping jump shot? The fast break? Not so high, and not so fast anymore.

Their physical skills may have faded over the years, but what remains as strong as ever is their love for the game. And the men who play senior basketball at the Yucaipa Community Center, and the Loma Linda University Drayson Center still have plenty of that.

Their ages range from 50, such as Wallace Frisbey, the youngster of the group, to Bill Pittman, who plays much younger than his 76 years.

The seniors – numbering from 12 to 20 – get together from about noon to 1:30 three days a week to play the game they can’t seem to let go. They play hard and they play to win. But as far as in-your-face defense and win at all costs, that’s a no-no. Their game has become much more social than when they were youngsters tearing up the hardcourt.

“Our camaraderie is great,” said Pittman, who is a deadeye from about the 18-feet range. “I’ve been playing with these guys for about five years, and we’re all friends. But before joining the group, Pittman hadn’t played for about 40 years.

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Twin Cities fastpitch scene could use more Buzz Connors

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

…One girl told me, ‘if he plays slowpitch, I’m going to leave him.’” –George Connor

By BOB OTTO
botto3@verizon.net

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ST. PAUL, MINN – A dead arm was the best thing that ever happened to George “Buzz” Connor’s ball playing career.

Back in 1969, the then 36-year-old Connor’s baseball pitching arm went dead. He had nothing left overhand. The solution? Start whipping the ball underhand.

“My arm just went dead pitching baseball,” said Connor. “My catcher Hap Holmgren said, ‘you’re going to start throwing softball.’”

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The Show and Tell of a Farmer’s Life

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Cow BellsLR.2
When Dan Healy’s great grandfather came to America from Ireland in 1868, he brought this cowbell with him.
Story and Photo By BOB OTTO

CALIMESA, CA – There’s no doubt, Dan Healy loves stumping his buddies at Uncle Ray’s Donut Shop in Yucaipa when they gather for their daily coffee klatch.

“Do you know what this is?” or “Have you ever seen one of these?” he’ll ask while lifting up and brandishing some unusual looking object. It’s as if Healy’s playing a game of show and tell.

HAIR REMOVER
One morning the 79-year-old retired high school teacher walked in carrying what looked like some sort of antique paint scrapper. We guessed the scrapper part right. But what it was used for, we had no clue.

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Vintage cars the envy of the neighborhood

Monday, November 30th, 2009


Photos By Bob Otto / Freelance Writer & Photographer

CALIMESA, CA – When Dan Healy backs either one of his cars out of his garage, some of his neighbors turn a bit green with envy. For one of those cars is a 1961 Chevrolet Impala convertible, while the other is a 1924 Ford Model T. Two vintage automobiles that turn heads wherever Healy drives them.

But what’s even more impressive is the history behind Healy’s collection. They’ve been in the family for a combined 133 years. Since they first rolled off the car dealers’ showroom floors.

Healy’s late wife, Beverly, bought the Impala from her father, who owned a Chevrolet dealership in Toluca, Illinois. When Beverly saw the white Impala with black convertible top and wide, white-stripped tires, she wanted it.

“I was single at the time and with her when she bought it new in the fall of 1960,” Healy said. “It was parked in the showroom and she said, ‘I like the looks of that car.’”

And so it seems, do others. Healy says he will never sell the car, but one potential buyer made a strong pitch. “This guy said he would give me $100,000,” he said. “I told him no, but he said, ‘name your price.’”

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