CINCINNATI -- When I heard the news that the city of Cincinnati was naming a street for Buddy LaRosa, my immediate reaction was: Wow, there’s not a street already named for Buddy LaRosa?
No one deserves it more. Pete Rose entertained countless Reds fans. Ezzard Charles went from Cincinnati kid to world champion. Joe Nuxhall was as beloved as any sports figure in Cincinnati.
But none of them did as much for Cincinnati sports as Buddy LaRosa.
LaRosa is most associated with boxing, but he also started the Buddy LaRosa High School Hall of Fame, which is now in its 42nd year. He honored prep athletes for years before the Hall opened with those drawings by Hank Zurieck, a local freelance sports cartoonist, that appeared in local papers. (Personal note: My wife was featured in one as a Seton volleyballer in 1976. She still has the original).
LaRosa’s Buddy Cards have probably raised more money for local teams than any one venture.
But boxing is where Buddy has his greatest impact. Despite advice against it, Buddy got involved with Aaron Pryor shortly after Pryor failed to make the 1976 Olympic Team.
Pryor went on to become a world champion and one of the most exciting boxers to watch of his era. But Pryor was trouble. He went through his money quickly. He got involved with drugs.
LaRosa knew Pryor would stray, but he loved the guy too much to abandon him. LaRosa told a story of what Pryor was like to deal with upon Pryor’s death in 2016.
“Whenever he had to catch a flight, I was in charge of getting him to the airport and making sure he had what he needed. One time he had to go to the airport and I wasn’t around,” LaRosa said. “So he went to the airport, as I heard the story from him, and he had to leave his car at the curb. He left it at the curb and told -- I don’t know who it was -- ‘That’s my car. And I’ll get it when I come back.’”
Pryor called LaRosa and asked him to track down the Cadillac. He did.
“He caused my hair to be gray a couple times making deadlines,” LaRosa said.
Despite the gray hairs, LaRosa continued to help boxers. His sponsorship of Gold Gloves has kept the pipeline of great Cincinnati boxers flowing.
I’ve dealt with Buddy a few times over the years. He could not have been nicer. I live a couple of blocks from the Boudinot LaRosa’s. I’ll have lunch there occasionally. Buddy will show from time to time and work the room, asking folks how the food is.
I can tell from personal experience that LaRosa does some kind things for people that no one knows about.
So it’s about time the city he gave so much to honors him.
The hard part had to be deciding where the street bearing Buddy’s name would be located (officials landed on West Elder Street in OTR). You could make a case for South Fairmount, where he grew up. You could make a case for Westwood, where he opened his first pizza joint and his company is headquartered. You could make a case for St. Bernard, where he went to high school at Roger Bacon and was 135-pound all-city guard in football. You could make a case for Over-The-Rhine, where so many of the boxers he mentored and supported grew up.
John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org