There were two deaths in the past week that hit close to home. One was a very famous sports figure that had local ties, the other was a local legend, both as an athlete and a coach.
Former heavyweight boxing champion “Smokin’” Joe Frazier died after a brief battle with liver cancer. Frazier held the heavyweight title from 1970 through 1973 and was best known for his trilogy of ring wars with Muhammad Ali.
Frazier was readily spotted locally, especially when his friend, the late Willie Wolfe, the most generous man that ever lived and known for ages for the children’s Christmas party in Jersey City he organized, would bring Frazier around.
In 1994, there was a young girl from Jersey City who was in dire need of a heart operation that was going to save her life. Tracey Tullock was a girls’ basketball player from St. Paul’s of Greenville who needed a radical surgery in St. Louis and the family needed help to pay for the cost of the surgery.
Whenever there was a cause, Willie Wolfe was the first to help out, in any fashion imaginable. He had contacts all over the sports world, with the 1969 Miracle Mets (Ed Kranepool in particular), with the New York Giants and with boxers, especially Joe Frazier.
All it took was one phone call to Willie and he was always willing to lend a hand, whatever the cause may be.
So the call went out and Wolfe was informed of the fundraiser being held to collect money for young Tracey’s operation. Wolfe showed up the next day with a garbage bag full of sports memorabilia to be auctioned off at the fundraiser. It was amazing.
Among the items were boxing gloves that were signed by both Frazier and Ali. Those gloves alone were going to be major items.
Wolfe then asked if he could do anything else to help, like perhaps bring someone to the fundraiser.
Sure enough, later that week, Wolfe showed up at the Moose Lodge on West Side Avenue with none other than Joe Frazier. He signed autographs for hours, mingled with everyone and even danced the Electric Slide with young Tracey and everyone else there.
Here was the former heavyweight champion of the world, a local sportswriter’s favorite heavyweight fighter of all time, doing the Electric Slide with people from Jersey City. It was a lasting memory.
We’re happy to report that Tracey Tullock is doing well and is raising children of her own, thanks to the generosity of the late Willie Wolfe and the guy known as “Smokin’ Joe.”
Also last weekend, Bill Gargiulo, the Hudson County Hall of Fame football player and coach, passed away. Gargiulo was first a great athlete during his days at Lincoln High School during World War II, then later was a long-time assistant coach to the legendary Bill Cochrane at St. Peter’s Prep.
“Willie G” would later go on to become the head coach at Hudson Catholic and St. Peter’s Prep and for many years, he was a supervisor for the Jersey City Department of Recreation, handling all the field permits for the city. If you wanted to get permission to use one of Jersey City’s many athletic fields, Gargiulo was the man to see.
Willie was a close, personal friend, someone who always greeted me with a hug and a kiss on the cheek instead of a handshake. He was beloved by everyone who ever had the chance to get to know him. He wasn’t a successful head coach, but he was a success in life, because of all the people who loved him and knew him.
Gargiulo died last Friday, Frazier died Monday. It’s astounding how many people in the local sports scene have passed away in the last nine months or so. Too many wakes, way too much sorrow…
The Hudson County Boys’ Soccer Tournament has come down to the championship round this Sunday, pitting second-seeded St. Peter’s Prep against upstart Union City.
The Marauders, enjoying their best soccer season in several years, defeated Harrison, 1-0, in the semifinals last Sunday, while the Soaring Eagles totally stunned top-seeded Kearny, also by a 1-0 score, in the other semifinal.
When the tourney began, everyone just assumed it would be Kearny-Harrison in the finals, but now, it’s a Prep-Union City finale. If the Soaring Eagles spring another upset, it could go down as one of the most unbelievable runs in county soccer history…
Congrats to New Jersey City University women’s soccer coach Rob Bielan for being named the New Jersey Athletic Conference coach of the Year. Bielan guided the Gothic Knights, led by former Hoboken High standout Jennifer Albuja, to a 13-7 record and a berth in the NJAC playoffs. Albuja was named All-NJAC and ended her career as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 87 career goals…
St. Anthony senior forward Jimmy Hall signed a national letter of intent to play basketball at Hofstra. He’s the second Friar on this year’s team to earn a scholarship, joining All-World performer Kyle Anderson, headed to UCLA…
Lost in the shuffle of the excitement of McNair Academic winning the NJSIAA state sectional cross country title was the performance of Snyder’s Kali Kendall in the North 2, Group II meet.
Kendall, who won the Hudson County Track Coaches Association championship last week, finished fourth at the state sectional in an impressive 19:21.36, proving that she’s more than just a sprinter when she sprinted onto the scene during the outdoor track season last spring…
It was sad to see former St. Peter’s Prep standout and two-time Hudson Reporter Football Player of the Year Savon Huggins go down with a knee injury last week for Rutgers against South Florida, an injury that more than likely will end Huggins’ freshman campaign with the Scarlet Knights. But fortunately for Huggins, the injury will not require surgery…
Local boxing hero Danny McDermott of North Bergen and Jersey City will make his return to local pro boxing Thursday night, when he climbs into the ring to headline a card at Schuetzen Park in North Bergen. It will be the seventh time in 12 pro fights that the light welterweight will have fought in his own backyard at Schuetzen Park. Tickets for the six-bout card can be purchased at Global Boxing Gym in North Bergen or by calling (201) 348-3149…
And now, since the NJSIAA football state playoffs begin this weekend, it’s time for the sensational Swami, the Pope of pigskin prognosticators, the wide one with the turban in hand, waving it over the crystal ball, yes, it’s the Great Hagueini, ready to make another triumphant appearance.
Remember, don’t use these selections for any type of wagering, unless it’s for a turkey salad sandwich on an egg bagel and a bottle of Diet Green Tea Snapple with your Uncle Looie.
Roxbury at Union City, North 1, Group IV: The Soaring Eagles earned the No. 2 seed and will play in their first home playoff game on the roof. That should be enough to inspire them to the sectional semifinals. Union City 28, Roxbury 14.
Passaic Tech at North Bergen, North 1, Group IV: Passaic Tech has revenge on its mind, after losing to North Bergen, 27-25, in last year’s playoffs. But the Bruins are playing to extend the coaching career of retiring legend Vince Ascolese for a few more weeks. North Bergen 21, Passaic Tech 14.
Memorial at Montclair, North 1, Group IV: The Tigers are making their first playoff appearance since 2001 and what do they get as a reward? The undefeated and top-ranked public school program in the state and the electrifying Khalif Herbin. It’s not pretty. Montclair 41, Memorial 7.
Hoboken at Weequahic, North 2, Group 1: The Red Wings own an 8-1 record and they still didn’t get a chance to host a home game in the very competitive and rugged section. Donte Carter has been running wild for the Red Wings. Hoboken 21, Weequahic 18.
Notre Dame (Lawrenceville) at St. Peter’s Prep, Non-Public Group 4: The Marauders had a week off to prepare for their invaders from Mercer County. Jared Crayton and the versatile Trejon Dinkins will send the Irish back home on the bus, as they prepare for a rematch with Bergen Catholic. St. Peter’s 28, Notre Dame 13.
There you have it, the first installment of the Hagueini’s picks. We’ll see how he fared next week. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.