October 6, 2014
Remembering Bruno Sniders
By Michael Lewis
If Bruno Sniders was a baseball pitcher, he would have thrown nothing but fastball.
Instead, he was a sports columnist who threw nothing but fastballs in a career that spanned six decades.
He passed away last Wednesday in Rochester, N.Y. at the age of 78.
Bruno -- yes, I am calling him by his first name, not his last as many of us would do in obituaries -- was a colleague of mine at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle -- a friend, mentor, teacher and in the beginning, a rival at the Rochester Times-Union, when there were afternoon newspapers (the older generation can explain to your children and grandchildren on what afternoon newspapers were; heck you might have to explain what newspapers are as well).
During my early days in the business, I learned much from Bruno. As a columnist he was versatile enough to cover every sport, though he wasn't afraid to tackle soccer at a time when it wasn't the cool thing to do as many writers shied away from it as though they would contract a contagious disease.
He wrote about the Rochester Lancers, who experienced incredible adventures during their 14-year existence. Bruno was never afraid to hold their feet to the fire, whether it was the owners, management, players or coaches. He was never afraid to take a controversial stand on a subject, even if meant he would wind up in the middle of it.
He was a character and had some character as well.
Bruno loved writing and sharing his opinions with the rest of the world.
“Readers loved his style of writing which didn’t hold anything back,” his stepson Tom Grassadonia was quoted in the D&C last Friday. “When it came to his work as a journalist, he was known as a perfectionist.”
On the very afternoon that he passed away, Bruno talked about the state of the NFL, according to the D&C.
“I’m a journalist, so I have to be a cynic,” Snider said, Grassadonia told the newspaper.
As a young writer just out of college who was getting his feet wet in the business and trying to learn about a sport that wasn't on TV and had few books written about it available in the USA, I was like a sponge, absorbing whatever I could find from fellow writers and even editors. Since I worked way back in the "stone age" -- this was before cable TV, cell phones, the internet and even video tapes -- I had to look under rocks for information.
So, I learned from the likes of Bruno, reading his column and talking to him.
He sometimes would get it wrong, claiming that Pele would never sign with the Cosmos.
(Kenn Tomasch found the famous line and relayed it to me via Faceboo: “Pele wasn’t going to the United States to play any more than Moshe Dayan would join the Egyptian Air Force.”)
After the Black Pearl did sign, Clive Toye, then the Cosmos president, would bring that up to me every now and then.
The longest conversation I ever had with Bruno was the ride home from a memorable playoff game from Toronto after the Lancers managed to pull off one of their greatest victories despite playing not one, but two down in enemy territory on Aug. 17, 1977. And I do mean enemy territory, the Lancers had several Serbian players from then-Yugoslavia on the team and the Toronto team they faced were named the Metros-Croatia. So, if you know anything about the Serbian-Croatia conflict, there was a war sometimes happening on the field, which also spilled off of it as well, especially with the Croatian fans.
The Lancers pulled off the miracle as Ibrahim Silva scored in the 79th minute to pull out a rather improbable 1-0 win.
The main sports headline over my story in the D&C that day read:
Hi-ho Silva, Lancers ride again
Bruno's column was entitled:
The Magnificent Nine
Here is the beginning of it:
TORONTO -- Call them the "Magnificent Nine" or the "Fabulous Unbeatables." Whatever they're called, they play like Supermen.
Nothing quite like these incredible Lancers has been seen in Rochester since the championship years of 1970 and 1971.
Last night's playoff game had it all -- drama, suspense, violence, an ineffective referee and Ibrahim Silva.
Silva put the finishing touch in a Cinderella story that is just beginning, leaving the Rochester Lancers virtually speechless last night.
Well stated, Bruno.
Needless to say, the Lancers were riding high. We could not believe it as well because their next opponent in the North American Soccer League playoff semifinals was the New York Cosmos and Pele. They were only two wins away from going to the championship game in what had turned into that Cinderella season.
Because we entered the U.S. at an earlier point than the Rainbow Bridge, we did not have the immediate options of taking the New York State Thruway home. Instead, a good portion of our trip was on Route 104. It was August -- right in the middle of peach season.
I can't remember the many conversations that we had -- many of them probably were about the previous night's game, the upcoming one and Elvis Presley dying (yes, the King passed away on game day) -- but I do remember stopping to buy some peaches at a road-side stand.
Bruno was a peach of a guy and writer.