Guest Column: A North Adams LegendBy Dick Syriac
10:57AM / Saturday, December 28, 2013
The legendary sportscaster is memorialized by a plaque outside North Adams City Hall.
One of the definitions for the word legend is "A famous or important person who is known for doing something well."
If your mail is delivered on time, every day, rain or shine by the same carrier for 40 years, he could qualify as a legend.
If that is the case, maybe the word is overused.
Let's adjust the criteria for someone to qualify as a legend just a bit, because we can. We will include ... "and their accomplishments will never be duplicated."
Let's think of some important and famous folks of North Adams who are known for doing something well. Longtime multisport coach and athletic director for the public school system John DelNegro could be a candidate. Former 13-term M ayor John Barrett III might be a possibility and NASC/MCLA baseball coach Joe Zavattaro, who coached for 33 years, had an athletic complex named for him and is a member of many Halls of Fame might qualify.
The careers of those men are certainly impressive but there is a possibility that their accomplishments could be surpassed in the future. Allow me to submit a true legend, one who will always stand alone in the eyes of the citizens of the Tunnel City and surrounding communities: Mr. Bernard "Bucky" Bullett.
Visitors and even college students who spend some time in North Adams might find themselves wondering, "Who was this Bucky Bullett guy anyway?"
Every high school in the area awards scholarships in his name and the gym at Drury High School is named in his honor. There are basketball jamborees early in the season to help fund the scholarships established by his family, and, by the way, former Mayor Richard Lamb constructed a memorial in front of City Hall in his honor.
One more thing. In the 30 years that I have spent in Berkshire County I never heard a bad word spoken toward Mr. Bullett.
When you consider that he was a sports broadcaster on WMNB radio for over three decades, doing live high school and college basketball games from all over the county, and he did so without offending anyone, is remarkable. That alone should qualify him for Ripley's Believe it or Not recognition.
In todays' broadcasting world, being controversial and obnoxious gets you promoted to prime time. In Bucky Bullett's world, a youngster could do no wrong, for sure not on his radio airwaves.
If Bucky was broadcasting a game:
A youngster never dribbled a ball off his foot out of bounds, it was knocked out.
A 3-footer that did not draw iron was "around the rim and out."
He saw plenty of "airballs" during his time but only called one on the air, and that was shot by his son Tom, while at Drury.
He never criticized coaches, he was in everybody's corner.
Barrett recalled his good friend's "greatest strength was the way he made people feel special, especially young people. He gave equal coverage to youth leagues as he did the NBA and MLB. Kids would get so excited to hear their names on the radio during his 'Sports in Review' shows. Bucky had many offers to leave the area for larger markets but wanted to raise his family here and serve the area. He touched the lives of thousands of youngsters who grew up in Northern Berkshire County listening to his velvet voice."
Was he prepared and did he do his homework?
Bob Montagna who played four years of baseball for Joe Zavattaro at North Adams State College recalled his first meeting as a freshman with the broadcasting icon.
"I walked by the counter at Nassif's and a man said, 'You were quite a hitter at Springfield Tech, we are glad you came up here to play for Joe Zav.' It was Mr. Bullett and it was the second week of school and baseball season was six months away."
For a man who maybe had every right to be bitter and condescending, he did not look at the glass as half full, it was filled to the top.
Bucky Bullett was an exceptional multisport athlete at St. Joseph High School in North Adams. After his junior year, he had caught the interest of many D-1 programs including East Coast powers Manhattan, Fordham and St. Bonaventure. He was unable to continue his play into his senior season after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. The schools did not want to continue their recruiting efforts and their loss was Berkshire County's gain.
Bucky could have taken his talents to South Beach, South Boston or South America but he stayed and the area was so grateful that he graced the airwaves for as long as he did.
If you know anyone who ever played in front of the man with the loose-fitting overcoat and headset, crooked hat, stooped-over gait who looked over his glasses and worked with a No. 2 pencil, who made every youngster feel just a little bit special, ask them about Bucky Bullett and don't expect anything but great stories.
Late in his career, he had to miss a couple of games because of health issues and his son Rick took over the headset. "The only advice he gave me was not to be critical of any of the kids. He said they are young and are giving it their best effort, keep your comments positive," said Rick.
The man with the kindest heart, later in life, didn't have the strongest heart and left us on May 27, 1977. If people still remember and speak of someone 36 years after their passing, I believe that qualifies that person as a legend.
A very humble man, if Bucky was playing golf at Taconic with Bob Cousy of the Celtics or climbing through snow-covered steps at the Armory or Lasell gym or having coffee at Nassif's you always got the same guy.
You got a special man, and if you were real lucky, a special friend.