Crazy, With The Papers To Prove It

Indians Ink
Posted Oct 21, 2010


Dan Coughlin is one great storyteller. That's not exactly news to folks in the Cleveland area who have enjoyed his work in newspapers and on radio and television since 1964. Heck, it isn't even news to the few who DIDN'T like it. "Crazy, With The Papers To Prove It," is Coughlin's first book and is filled with 40 chapters of zaniness. He recounts encounters with sports legends and just plain folk.

Indians fans will enjoy re-reading some of Coughlin's stories about Bill Veeck, Rocky Colavito and Frank Lane, Jimmy Dudley and Bob Neal, Joe Charboneau and how Coughlin got punched out by an unruly fan during the Beer Night riot at old Cleveland Stadium.

Three weeks into Charboneau's Rookie of the Year season with the Tribe, Coughlin uncovered the story of the lunatic behind the slugger. Tipped off by second baseman Duane Kuiper, the veteran newspaperman sought out Charboneau and discovered:

A guy who pulled his own tooth with a vise grip, straightened his nose with pliers, stitched up a stab wound in his arm with a fishing line and cut out a tattoo with a razor blade.

"I can'r remember some of the really good stories until I get blitzed," Charboneau told Coughlin in the story that was published in The Plain Dealer on April 25, 1980.

Many of the articles are reprints of Coughlin's work at Cleveland's morning newspaper. He also tells of how he jumped to the afternoon Cleveland Press, which went out of business shortly after his arrival.

Coughlin has one chapter devoted to how difficult it was to try and like Albert Belle. Even the pugnacious slugger didn't get into a fistfight in the aisles of a team flight -- as Coughlin retells of Indians ballplayers from three decades ago.

Sometimes, the plain folks' stories are more legendary. That's the case with Junior O'Malley, the late horse bettor and subject of hundreds of Coughlin columns. Perhaps for the only time, and years after his death, O'Malley beats them all to the finish line as the first chapter.

That's some feat since chapter two is about an Olympic sprint champion. "Stella Was A Fella," tells the tale of how Stella Walsh, 30 years older than Coughlin, continually challenged -- and beat -- the newspaperman in footraces.

By the way, after being shot to death in a holdup, an autopsy showed that Walsh, the fastest woman in the world in the 1930s, had mixed up genes.

Imagine how mixed up Coughlin felt as he recalled the times Walsh playfully hit on him.

There's the story of Dennis Lustig, the world's shortest sportswriter. Other newspaper cohorts such as Hal Lebovitz and Pete Gaughan are chronicled as well as "The Greatest", Muhammed Ali, Ohio state coaching legend Woody Hayes and the most memorable high school football transfer in Cleveland history: Hubert Hopeful.

There's a little something for everybody, particularly Browns football fans. Art Modell, Blanton Collier and of course Coughlin's practical-joke pal Doug Dieken, are particularly interesting stories.

Coughlin covered championship fights, NFL title games, the World Series, the Indy 500, Kentucky Derby and other great events -- but has always loved scholastic sports. Even in "retirement", he's a weekly fixture on TV for Friday night high school football reports these days.

Perhaps the funniest episode of all is how he and The Plain Dealer sports staff held a contest for the most popular area football coach and rewarded him with a grand prize -- that had an unexpected and embarrassing (for the author) twist.

Here's a list of Coughlin's upcoming book signing schedule. He'll probably be telling a few more stories as he signs. Ask him about meeting Triple Crown winner Secretariat, pistol-packing soccer referee Lucky Kramer, or the time he sent his story from the All-Star Game in Seattle to a newspaper in Newark, N.J., instead of Cleveland.

Borders, 9665 Mentor Ave., Mentor, Saturday, Oct. 23 from 1-2 p.m.

Nighttown Restaurant, 12382 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Hts., Sunday, Oct. 24 from 5-7:30 p.m. A gala fundraiser involving many authors

Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Legacy Village, Lyndhurst, Thursday, Nov. 4, 7-8 p.m.

Buckeye Book Fair, 205 W. Liberty St., Wooster, Saturday, Nov. 6, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Barnes & Noble, Crocker Park, Saturday Nov. 13 from 1-2 p.m.

Wahoo Club Christmas Party, Solon Community Center, Sunday, Dec. 5, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club, Canton, Monday, Jan. 17, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Akron-Summit County Public Library, 3101 Smith Rd., Fairlawn, Monday, Jan. 24, 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Cuyahoga County Library, Bay Village Branch, 502 Cahoon Rd., Tuesday, Feb. 1, 7-8 p.m.

Middleburg Hts. Public Library, 15600 E. Bagley Rd., Wednesday, March 16, 7-8 p.m.

Lakewood Public Library, 15425 Detroit Ave., Wednesday, March 23, 7-8 p.m.

Brooklyn Public Library, Ridge Road, Wednesday, March 30, 7-8 p.m.



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