Niagara Gazette

July 13, 2013

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Pigskin foes face off again

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Mat Fans — As the pigskin reached its peak, a career choice was made. Scatback Carl LaMancuso, whose father had told him “break an arm playing football and I’ll break your other one,” poised as the punt descended. Then he spied “the fire in the eye” of the oncoming defender. In a move that would assure the future beauty of Island maids and maidens, he let the ball hit behind him and roll out of bounds.

“It was at that moment,” Carl said Monday, “that I decided I really didn’t want to play football after all.”

The oncoming lineman was Richard Beyer, later to play for Syracuse in the Orange Bowl, then to be known as “Dick the Destroyer,” World Wrestling Association champion.

Giving new meaning to the phrase “fair catch,” LaMancuso became a hairdresser, raising a loving family.

Carl’s still clipping but as for Beyer, professional wrestling takes its toll and some years ago he wriggled free of its grip.

Monday afternoon, 66 years later, they met again. The weapons: golf sticks at 60 paces.

“I can’t believe it’s the same guy,” said LaMancuso as they exchanged handshakes, hugs and homeroom reveries. “What did you take?” LaMancuso asked; Seneca was largely vocational. “Electrical engineering,” grinned the grappler. He would later achieve a masters in education and remains in demand as a speaker.

Even if every professional wrestling bout was a “shooting match” (in which the opponents legitimately strive to defeat each other), there would be an element of showmanship — that is, that the man who steps into the ring would not be the same chap you might encounter in a clubhouse.

And for “The Destroyer,” when the match ended, so did the destruction. Some years after he retired, he encountered an old colleague down on his luck. “The Destoyer,” then “came back” to promote and stage a grudge match, involving each of their peculiar icons.

It put his old pal back on his feet. Beyer remembers the words: “I need a payday.”

On an estate in Akron, the only payday Beyer needs comes in the reunions and reveries with such folks as Carl LaMancuso. Beyer runs a golf course now, a modified take on the game called “Japanese Park Golf,” shorter distances, larger holes, a larger ball and a single club to be utilized as both driver and putter. It’s about 90 percent golf, 10 percent croquet and, with Beyer following in his cart, LaMancuso body-slammed Doug by 10 strokes.

Now another rematch is in the works — “The Destroyer” vs. “The Clipper.” This time, Carl LaMancuso plans to keep the ball in bounds.

Come visit. Bring a club. We’ll spin some yarns about Park Golf.

E-mail Polly and Doug at pollyndoug@hotmail.com

Polly and Doug E-mail pollyndoug@hotmail.com