Cumberland Times-News

Columns

June 1, 2013

Mort the Sport

To think I did all that

And may I say, not in a shy way

Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way

—  As performed

by Frank Sinatra

Heartfelt thanks for the love and support shown to our family following the death of Mort Peskin. At the same time, please accept our condolences to all of you who loved and admired Mort as we always will.

I am proud to remind you again and again that Mort was not only a giant in our community, but my beloved uncle, which he once explained by saying, “I’m not saying I still wouldn’t have done it, but if I had known my nephew was going to turn out like this, yes, I would have at least thought twice about marrying into the family.”

Being Mort Peskin’s nephew is an honor and a privilege, and it’s been an absolute joy. Being Mort Peskin’s nephew means that I am a special person because my Uncle Mort made certain of it. He made all of us feel special every moment of our lives. He did everything to love us and to make us happy. He made sure we had the world at our feet.

Mort had a magic to him. He made you feel as though you were the only person who mattered.

And when you didn’t live up to his standards and expectations you paid the piper, and the piper’s name was Peskin, which was not pleasant but was necessary. It was always done, though, because of his love and support.

He is still known as Sonny to childhood friends and family. In my day he was “Mort the Sport”. To his two best pals in the world, his grandsons Ryan and Josh Marchini, he is simply “Sport”. And, oh, what a sport he was, in and out of the arena.

Mort was a champion diver, golfer and bridge player. He played tennis, and he loved fast cars. At least he loved making any car he was driving move as fast as it possibly could.

Riding with Mort was always an adventure, and not always the kind of adventure you were interested in pursuing. But he was never worried or concerned when he was behind the wheel. He knew what he was doing; it wasn’t his fault if the people around him didn’t.

One such incident occurred on the Pennsylvania Turnpike years ago, according to his niece Judy, when Mort was burning along at around, oh, 100 miles per hour.

Once the Pennsylvania state trooper was able to reach Mort and pull him over, he approached the car and said with a biting tone of sarcasm, “All right, let’s see the pilot’s license.” To which Mort produced ... a pilot’s license.

Mort, you see, was also an accomplished pilot, who, on occasion I have learned, was prone to fly under a bridge or two when the mood suited him.

The state trooper smiled a “You got me” grin and said, “No ticket. Just keep it close to the speed limit, at least?”

Mort had that way. In one moment you could strangle him; in the next moment you always ended up hugging him.

For instance, Mort was the most avid Baltimore Colts fan I ever knew and was present for the two most important games in NFL history, the 1958 championship game, still known as The Greatest Game Ever Played, and Super Bowl III.

Super Bowl III we won’t get into because it ended badly on all fronts and for all involved, particularly the parking garage attendant at the airport upon the Peskin party’s arrival home. Ask Judge Sharer if you don’t believe me. He was there.

As for the 1958 game in Yankee Stadium, Mort watched history unfold that day from the Colts sideline. Why on earth was he on the Colts sideline? Why he didn’t have a ticket to the game, of course. So he used some kind of county or state government law enforcement badge he was in possession of to not only get into the stadium, but onto the Colts sideline as well. He simply acted as though he belonged there, which is exactly why he did belong there.

These were just some of the adventures from the life and times of Mort Peskin that were being shared over the past week by hundreds of his friends and family members. As his daughter Laurie said, Mort didn’t have a bucket list; he didn’t need a bucket list. He wanted to do something, he did it. And if you were lucky enough to be with him, you were in for the time of your life.

The world became such a strange and different place last Monday morning — certainly it became a quieter place, and certainly it became an emptier place.

If you could bottle my Uncle Mort’s pride, his determination, his enthusiasm and his love, it could light up the world. Yet Mort did light up the world — our world and the world of so many others.

He was such a wonderful, positive and powerful force ... He was larger than life. One of a kind. I admired him so.

We feel sadness and we feel emptiness. And, yes, we’re surrounded by quiet now that he is gone. But we feel the richness of life in our family and in this community that my uncle Mort Peskin instilled in us and insisted we experience.

I love Mort Peskin. We all love Mort Peskin.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank him for loving all of us.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com

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