By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Francisco Alvarado
By Tim Elfrink
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Tim Elfrink
The arena is Bagels & Lox restaurant, a strip-mall deli in Lauderhill. The league is the weekly breakfast meeting of the Basketball Fraternity, a long-standing local fellowship of retirees, most of whom played college or pro ball during the game's infancy. The contest is trivia. And Jack Shaber, Mr. Basketball, is the league commissioner, referee, and unimpeachable expert.
He throws up a jump ball: "Okay, boys, I've got one for you. Who was the first seven-footer to play major college ball?"
There's a grumbling among the 30 men. "George Mikan!" Abe Gerchick shouts over the clatter of breakfast platters being served. "It had to be Mikan," seconds Hy "The Mighty Mite" Gotkin. They're referring to the DePaul superstar who revolutionized the game in the Forties -- and they're wrong. "C'mon, fellas! This is easy!" Shaber trash-talks as they tuck into their egg-white omelets and knishes.
"Jack, I know this. It has to be Mikan," protests a newcomer, naive to Shaber's command of basketball arcana.
"No, it wasn't," the master shoots back, gleefully scooting over to a briefcase bulging with laminated box scores and newspaper clippings, and furiously shovels for his proof. "Here it is!" he trumpets, pulling out a yellowed photo of a human giraffe. "Mikan was only 6'10". The first seven-footer was Elmore Morgenthaler, who played for Boston College: He was 7'1". I've got the picture here to prove it."
A coffee-stained groan rises from the court. Shaber always has the picture, or the box score, or the newspaper article. Ever since he discovered basketball in 1930 at age nine, he has collected the daily basketball box scores from up to thirteen different newspapers. High school, college, early professional leagues, the NBA -- he clipped them all.
And he never threw them away.
"My apartment, you'd think a twister hit it!" he'll tell you. "I got an exterminator coming around later this month and I don't know what I am going to do. It's a zoo!"
He owns Spalding and Reach basketball guides dating back to 1900, pro programs, college media guides, boxfuls of ticket stubs, even rolls of newswire ticker tapes from select championship games. He's constantly scouring his dozens of reference books for inaccuracies. "The St. John's 'Wonder Five' [the first college basketball dream team] played together for only two years!" he says disgustedly, spotting an error in one tome. "Everybody always says it was four, even the NCAA guidebook! But it was only two years, 1929-30, 1930-31. I've got to give them a call."
And he will give them a call. So sharp is his memory, so comprehensive are his archives, that he himself has become a reference. Zelda Spoelstra, manager of special projects for the National Basketball Association, called him in a panic last year when she couldn't find a box score for the league's first game (November 1, 1946, between the New York Knickerbockers and the Toronto Huskies). Shaber had the box score, of course, and sent it to her. He also threw in the addresses of several of the men who played in that historic contest, including one Husky whom league officials had thought dead.
"An exceptional resource -- he was very, very helpful," recalls Spoelstra, who sent Shaber a thank-you trove of NBA goodies, including a gray NBA sweatshirt that he hasn't removed since. "I really enjoyed talking to the man. I feel he is very special, that he really cares."
Shaber's archiving continues to this day. He follows the modern pro game so passionately that he had the words "Heat fan" printed on his Basketball Fraternity calling cards. He has held season tickets since the Miami team's inception and charts its progress rabidly. Heat radio announcer David Halberstam has thanked Shaber on the air for his corrections.
But it is these weekly meetings with the Fraternity that Shaber lives for. Like him, most of these men hail from the Jewish ghettos of Brooklyn. As they were growing up in the Thirties and Forties, the game of basketball was exploding in popularity. Kids he battled on the P.S. 183 playground later starred at City College, Manhattan, Long Island University, and the six other city schools. The ultimate basketball showcase of the time, the National Invitational Tournament (The NCAA "March Madness" that concludes Monday superseded the NIT only in the past few decades), was held each spring at Madison Square Garden; local squads like St. John's seemed to win the title every season. "1936 to 1939 -- those are my three great years," Shaber crows. "You tell me a player's name and I'll tell you what school he played on. That's just the way my mind works."
The basketball heroes of that era remain Shaber's heroes today. Hy Gotkin, the St. John's All-American and the only man ever to play on back-to-back NIT championship squads. Butch Schwartz, who starred for Seward Park High and LIU. Ossie Schectman, an LIU standout, the first captain of the New York Knicks, and the man who scored the first basket in NBA history.
Thanks to the Basketball Fraternity, Shaber's heroes are eating breakfast right in front of him. There's Gotkin over there -- the Mighty Mite himself -- telling anyone who'll listen how he once appeared in a basketball sketch on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows. Norm Drucker, retired referee. Jack Kleinman, who played at St. John's with the Wonder Five, listening to Howard Rothstein, father of the Heat's first coach. And Schectman, recalling his glory days under Hall of Fame coach Clair Bee.
In a remarkable triumph of the fan, Shaber's grasp of the past has endeared him to the very men he idolizes. He is accepted by the Fraternity not as a wannabe but as an equal. He says he loves these guys. The players insist the feeling is mutual.
"He's a legend. No doubt about it!" roars Gotkin, whose small stature and fearsome play earned him his nickname. "Jack, to me, is the most fabulous guy I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. One day he flew up to New York to the board of education and asked for old box scores. He brought back 65 box scores from junior high! I've never seen such dedication."
Ossie Schectman concurs. "Jack is unique. Growing up, he was always sort of a hero worshipper, but he's shown that you don't have to excel at sports to become a legend. You can become a legend by being interested in other legends. There aren't others like him."
The Basketball Fraternity assembled informally about twenty years ago, when retired players began migrating from New York to Florida. There are no rules and no dues. The main event is an annual dinner held in a hotel ballroom the day after Christmas. Almost 300 people turned out for last year's banquet, whose featured speaker was former NYU All-American Dolph Schayes. About 30 diehards show up for the Tuesday-morning breakfasts, the only other official activity.
"I think for most of us when we reach this age bracket, it's very difficult to find people who have shared the same experiences, with whom we can discuss things that happened 60 years ago," posits Schectman, who, hampered by injuries, quit the Knicks after one season to enter the textile business. "Instead of spending time thinking about our problems, we're here discussing our glories."
With any group this size, especially one whose members challenge actuarial tables for life expectancy, people tend to fall out of touch. Some die. Some move away. Some simply disappear. It's not uncommon for a senile former player to forget his friends and his past.
That's when Jack Shaber really steps up to the line. Not only does the trivia master wear the crown of Mr. Basketball, but he has also dubbed himself the Fraternity's Goodwill Ambassador: He makes it his business to find the lost or forgotten members and bring them back into the fold, to let them share the comfortable joy of reminiscing.
"It's nice to be remembered -- it's as simple as that," says Gotkin.
That's something Jack Shaber knows better than anyone.
Trivia Question: Who was the first commissioner of the NBA? Answer: Maurice Podoloff.
"I've found another one!" Shaber blurts as he inches his middle-aged Chevy Corsica up I-95 on the way to visit Harry "Jammy" Moskowitz. "I found another guy, in a nursing home. His name is Moe Dubilier. You know how they have that show America's Most Wanted? Well, I should have Jack Shaber's Most Wanted. This year I've found four guys already!"
Shaber shouts when he talks. Every sentence out of his mouth is a declaration of excitement. His paragraphs are peppered with canyoubelievethats and beauty-fuls. The theme of all this talk is a man excited about life -- at least when it comes to basketball. "He lives for this," says his friend Seymour Paley, a restaurateur based in Pembroke Pines. "Basketball is his whole life, it's all he has. He has nothing else. Basketball is what keeps him going."
Shaber is not a small man, but his hunched-over posture, head pulling torso, makes him appear shorter than he is. A photo of his wedding day that he still carries in his wallet shows a groom full in the face and thick in the chest. Now he weighs 60 pounds less -- a veritable pencil-neck -- thanks to a regimented diet to which he's been faithful since 1968. No sodium, no cholesterol. No nothing. Paley once offered Shaber $500 to eat a hot dog. Shaber wouldn't bite.
He wears thick bifocals and a nitroglycerin patch on his chest, a souvenir from a 1992 heart attack. In his day he was an athlete, he says, average in ability but good enough to make his mediocre high school hoops team. His 1938-39 Tilden High squad finished 3-7 and lost both games it played against city powerhouse Madison High. Madison's coach is the man Shaber is going to visit today.
Jammy Moskowitz is a hero of the City Game, as basketball was known in its New York heyday. Now 92, he made his name as a star for the professional New York Hakoahs in the Twenties. He made his legend when he took over the coaching duties at James Madison. Five hundred and forty-one victories and two public school championships later, he is a member of the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame, alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (formerly Lew Alcindor) and Red Auerbach.
He was embraced by the Fraternity when he retired to Florida. "He used to come to our dinners all the time," Shaber recalls. "Oh that Jammy, at the dinners you couldn't shut him up, he was always talking! Nowadays he's not doing so good. He doesn't have it all together up there, you know."
Moskowitz's ill health has confined him to a nursing home, and it keeps him from the dinners and the breakfasts. Few, if any, Fraternity brothers ever stop in to see him. Shaber still visits, though. Shaber always visits. "If I found out that someone was living in Africa, I would make contact with him," he asserts. "I would! I don't care about the cost. I like to reminisce with them. As long as they played basketball and I got the box scores, I'll try to find them. That's the simple criteria for this."
He parks at the Hyatt North Park Senior Living Center, a campus of gray condos off a busy West Hollywood intersection, and strides through the automatic glass doors into a modest lobby. Ragtime music fills the halls. "Jammy was a great coach!" Shaber shouts over the piano and snare drum. "He used to coach Lou Lipman, a great player for LIU. Lipman sat at the same table as Dolph Schayes at the Fraternity dinner last year; I've got a picture."
A nurse at the reception desk stops Shaber midreminiscence. "You're here to see Mr. Moskowitz?" she queries. "I'm afraid he's going to have to be going to the hospital. He fell about an hour ago. The paramedics are on their way."
"Well, how do you like these old people?" Shaber cracks. "Can I still see him?"
"You can if you hurry."
Haze seeps through closed blinds onto the bare white walls of Moskowitz's studio apartment. On a card table in a corner rest the coach's laurels, including an NYC Basketball Hall of Fame trophy and a plaque of appreciation for 35 years of teaching. On his bedstand are a basketball history book and From Ellis Island to Ebbets Field, a study of Jews in sports (in which Moskowitz and the Fraternity are mentioned). Moskowitz lies atop the bed, dressed in khakis, brown leather sneakers, and a red Basketball Fraternity windbreaker.
"How are you, Jammy?" Shaber calls. Moskowitz cocks his head slightly but doesn't reply. "Hey," Shaber repeats. "How are you doing?"
"I ... I fell down. I have to go to the hospital," Moskowitz warbles, and reaches slowly toward his back to show where it hurts.
"I know. I know," Shaber says, gently changing the subject. "Listen, Jammy, I brought over some trivia questions I want to ask you. Do you remember Moe Dubilier?"
"Come on Jammy, think! I know you can do it. Moe Dubilier!"
The old coach's eyes flicker. "Oh, yes," he mumbles, suddenly animated. "Of course I remember Moe! He was a great player. A great player and a nice guy."
"Well, I found him the other day -- can you believe that? He's living in a nursing home in Miami Shores. Can you believe that?"
Moskowitz laughs. His memory jogged, he offers up his own Moe Dubilier history: "He went to John Marshall [college]. Matty Begovich was his coach. Matty came from Hoboken, and in high school Dave Tobey, a great referee, coached against him."
"How about that, Jammy!" Shaber cheers. "That had to be in the mid-Twenties! That's New Jersey. How would I know that, Jammy? I'm from Brownsville, Brooklyn. And besides, you're 92 and I'm 75. You got more years coaching than I got alive!"
The paramedics arrive. When Shaber takes out a disposable camera and begins taking pictures of Moskowitz, one of the medics asks if he works for an insurance company.
"Do you know who this man is?" Shaber responds, incredulous. "He is a giant of basketball!"
Who did he play for? asks the paramedic.
"He didn't play, he coached. For James Madison High School! He's in the NYC Basketball Hall of Fame!"
"I don't follow sports," the paramedic deadpans, carefully lifting Moskowitz onto a stretcher.
Shaber snaps more pictures as they cart the legend away. "I want to share you with the other old-timers!" he bellows. "Smile, Jammy!" Moskowitz, rolling out the door, smiles.
"His mind is sharp," Shaber beams, packing up his camera and a birthday card for Moe Dubilier that he'd wanted Moskowitz to sign. "He remembers all the way back to the Twenties. If you ask him the place he is living in, he won't know. Yet if you bring up basketball teams from the Twenties, he remembers them like it was last week! Oh, that Jammy! I'll have to come back."
Trivia Question: Who invented the shot clock? Answer: Danny Biasone, owner of the Syracuse Nationals.
Jack Shaber's personal basketball history begins with his parole from his mother's careful watch, at age nine. "As a really young kid I was sick a lot, very sick," he remembers. "My mother kept me under wraps. I couldn't go out more or less on my own. Then when I was nine my brother was born and I was let loose." His mother, who had separated from his father, couldn't keep her two eyes on all three Shaber boys. (Shaber had an older brother; both brothers died in their fifties.) "So I was out on the street playing ball. Punchball, stickball, whatever. My favorite game was basketball."
His love for basketball made him a neighborhood legend early on. Every morning, as the Brownsville players gathered to discuss the previous night's games, Shaber would saunter over with the scores to every game in the country. "We couldn't figure out where he got all this information," recalls Ossie Schectman, who grew up just outside of Brownsville and knew Shaber informally. "Then we learned that he was running over to a newsstand in Times Square every morning to purchase a dozen out-of-town papers."
After a World War II European tour with the army, Shaber returned to Brownsville, and to jobs moving furniture for his father and driving a horse and buggy in Central Park. On the side he clerked for a bookie, using his remarkable memory to store in his head the spreads of 40 different ballgames. A self-described "degenerate gambler," he wagered his own money on basketball, baseball, and Rangers hockey games.
At a Saturday-night neighborhood dance in April 1950, he discovered another passion: a young Tilden High grad named Shirley Davies. Unemployed at the time, he began working on Shirley, calling her for dates and sitting next to her on the subway ride home from her downtown job. They wed that December. Eleven months later Shirley gave birth to Gerald, the first of their two sons. "She was the best thing that ever happened to me," Shaber asserts. "If it wasn't for marrying her, I don't know where I'd be. My logic is, I would have gambled and ended up nowhere."
Shirley straightened out her new husband, keeping him focused on work and family responsibilities. He began clerking for an outfit that sold meat to cruise ships. In four and a half years of tracking invoices on Danish hams, despite strikes and snowstorms, Shaber never missed a day. And he drove the buggy at night. "He was basically a hard-working guy," recollects Gerald, now 45 and a dairy manager living in Woodbury, New York. "He worked two jobs, and because of it he'd often get lost for days at a time. He'd leave for work Friday morning and wouldn't come home until Sunday, then he'd sleep all day. When he'd come home at night during the week, he liked to be in his room with his hobbies." (In addition to collecting basketball memorabilia, Shaber has distinguished himself as an amateur stamp collector.)
The Shabers relocated to North Miami Beach in 1970 to be closer to Shirley's extended family. Jack worked in a bank, then an oil company, then finally as clerk for the City of Surfside. For fifteen years he handled permits for construction, remodeling, and garbage collection. "He kept everything in his mind," recalls Rina Alfonso, the town comptroller. "He knew every person in the town, and he was the type that if somebody didn't pay their bill, he would be on their doorstep in the morning to see why they weren't paying."
Despite his hard work, or perhaps because of it, Shirley sought a divorce in 1984, after 34 years of marriage. "We'd argue all the time about, oh, money and stuff. I don't want to get into it," Shaber says. "She threatened to divorce me, but I never thought she'd have the guts to go through with it. I thought she was bluffing."
She wasn't. "I wanted to do what I want to do," Shirley says. "I'm a very independent person. And with the kids grown, I didn't see a reason not to. It was my choice." Her new husband, she says, is a former New York City police officer. They live not far from Shaber, in Bay Harbor Islands. Shaber sometimes drives by their place, checking to see if her husband's car is in the driveway. If it isn't, he might give Shirley a ring.
"I told him, 'Jack, please, don't call me. It is not right. Leave me alone,'" she explains. "For a long time I wasn't even answering the telephone. It's not fair. I said, 'Jack, if you were married, would your wife like it? I just don't think it's right.'
"'Well, you're my friend,' he said, 'how're the children?'" Shirley recalls with some bitterness. "I told him to call them."
Of the two sons, only the eldest, Gerald, stays in touch with his father, sharing trivia questions he unearths from the four tons of memorabilia Shaber sent up to him after the divorce. ("My wife doesn't see the value in all this stuff," Gerald admits. "She's always threatening to burn my den down.")
Gerald says that although his father has always been a basketball fan, his interest in the Fraternity has risen dramatically since the heart attack. (After a year in a nursing home, he never returned to his job in Surfside.) "He's only really become fanatical about this stuff in the past two years, and he's started visiting the nursing homes only recently," Gerald relays. "He likes living in the past, I'll be quite honest. In a way it keeps him going. What else does he have? I'm up here. He only has one other son, Steven, and he doesn't speak to him too much -- for some reason Steven has always had very ill feelings toward my dad."
Shaber's ex-wife reports that she regularly talks to Steven, a chemist in Pennsylvania who speaks Chinese and Japanese and often flies to Asia on business. When Steven travels to Miami, he stays at her house, she says, and he never calls his father.
Trivia question: Which NBA player played in the most games in a single season, excluding playoffs? Answer: Walter Jones Bellamy, who played the first 35 games of the 1968-69 season for the New York Knicks and, after being traded midseason, played in the Detroit Pistons' 53 remaining games, for a total of 88 games in an 82-game season.
When discussing her ex-husband and basketball, Shirley uses the word "obsessed." Shaber doesn't shy from the label, admitting his devotion to his interests can sometimes be fanatical. He once earned a newspaper writeup for tracking down Mike, a Scottish collie featured in the movie Down and Out in Beverly Hills; Shaber was so taken with the dog that he ended up flying to California in 1988 to meet him. He spent an hour and a half playing with the dog.
Today's obsession, Moe Dubilier, takes Shaber only to Miami Shores, a twelve-minute drive from his North Miami Beach apartment. In the early days of the pro game, "Dubie" stood apart from other players with his athletic ability and his good looks. He starred on such pioneering clubs as the Washington Brewers and the Philadelphia Spahs -- often for more than one team at a time, owing to how little money players earned in those days. He started at guard and forward for the Troy (New York) Celtics, a forerunner of the NBA team now in Boston.
After his playing career ended, Dubilier kicked around the country. One sighting placed him in Las Vegas, partying with the showgirls. "He was a real knock-around guy," Shaber recalls. "He never settled down, never married." After moving to Miami, Dubilier became a regular at the Basketball Fraternity banquets. In the past few years, though, he vanished. Dinner invitations mailed to his Collins Avenue address came back in the mail. No one in the Fraternity knew whether he was alive, and if he was, where he lived.
It was the Miami Herald that provided the answer. Last month in its Neighbors section, the paper ran a short profile of Dubilier, noting that the former star lived at the Mount Sinai/St. Francis Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. "I saw that story and I went, 'Can you believe that -- it's Moe Dubilier!'" Shaber recalls with glee. "We found Moe Dubilier -- can you believe that?"
Chuckling at the memory, Shaber glides his Corsica onto the Mount Sinai grounds, where he will meet up with Fraternity brother Ruby Nabatoff for a celebration of Dubilier's 82nd birthday. In his trunk is a homemade birthday poster plastered with reproductions of Dubilier's team photos and box scores. "Look at this birthday card," Shaber said as he was loading the poster into the car. "It's beauty-ful! A professional couldn't do as nice a job as that." He also packed an inflatable beach basketball, and his Heat jacket and baseball cap, for picture taking.
Shaber asked several of the guys to meet him for the party, but Nabatoff was the only one who could make it. "These guys, they don't like to drive down from Broward," Shaber sniffs. "None of them were real close to Dubie anyway." Nabatoff, a bench warmer at City College whose wife died only ten days earlier, greets Shaber spiritedly and thanks him for the invitation. "I'm all alone now. I need someone to talk to," he says, pumping Shaber's hand before carrying the easel into the nursing home.
Mount Sinai's activities director Diane Bader guides the party to an outdoor courtyard. "Moe, here's your buddies," she announces to a man parked in a wheelchair under a lime-green canopy and sporting a pink blazer over a 1996 Summer Olympics T-shirt. Dubilier's plaid shorts reveal a left leg covered in bandages from a painful coffee spill. Seven other residents, all women, silently share the tent with him. Shaber sticks a red "Very Special Birthday" ribbon on the blazer, then sets the giant birthday card on the easel.
"Hey, you're one of the boys now, Moe!" Shaber cheers. Nabatoff pulls over a white plastic lawn chair and hands Dubilier his own card. "You were one of the best ballplayers in your time, and one of the nicest guys," it reads. "Oh, that's beautiful," Dubilier says in a voice as faint as the breeze. "That's just beautiful."
Shaber hands him the inflatable ball, which he has personalized with a black marker. Then, turning the wheelchair toward the easel, he leads the onetime American Basketball League scoring champion on a tour of his birthday card. Photos from the Brewers and the Spahs are framed by autographs from Butch Schwartz, Irving "Pickles" Banks, and other frat brothers. In one corner, in shaky red ink: "To Moe Dubilier, a great player and a swell guy, Jammy Moskowitz."
As the women in the tent watch vacantly, the men pose for a series of snapshots.
"I can't even begin to say what a wonderful feeling it is to have a guy like Shaber stop by like this," a smiling Dubilier gushes in his permanent whisper. "He remembers me. When I was growing up, I didn't know the guy, and now he shows up with all these stories about me, and these posters. It's wonderful."
"When I see a guy in a wheelchair like Moe, I think that there are guys in homes all over the county that I may not know of," Shaber says later. "They got sick and nobody is there to take care of them. I have to keep going to find them, because if I was to sit down and brood on my aches and pains, I wouldn't be able to do anything. What would I do?"
Trivia question: Who won the first NIT championship in 1937-38? Answer: Temple.
The shot clock of Jack Shaber's life resets at 5:00 a.m. every Tuesday. That's when he taps the alarm that wakes him from a fitful night. Rolling out of bed in the only room in his apartment not crammed to bursting with memorabilia, he flicks on a Miami Heat light switch and wearily marches to the kitchen. "I can never sleep on Monday nights," he complains. "I get so hopped up for the Tuesday meetings that I can't turn my mind off."
He eats before the meeting so he won't be distracted at the restaurant. Breakfast is always the same: A bowl of Publix Quick Oats followed by a mixture of bran flakes, Shredded Wheat, granulated oat bran, banana, and a few ounces of lactose-reduced milk, which he pulls from a yellow refrigerator pasted with magnetic Miami Heat schedules. He puts the meal on a red plastic tray and carts it into the living room, where he dines in a battered wooden chair, the tray resting on his knees.
It is the only place to sit in the whole apartment. Folders crammed with blown-up photos of Fraternity gatherings clog the dining-room table. Against a far wall, beneath an oil painting depicting his son Gerald's bar mitzvah, are a TV set and a mound of Heat media guides. Another chair is the repository for Heat box scores and articles clipped from the Herald, Sun-Sentinel, and New York Times. Eyeing the pile, Shaber shakes his head. "I'm way behind on my clippings," he worries. "I'm way behind."
He eats in silence, chewing carefully, thinking of what questions he'll ask at today's meeting. He recently unearthed from his archive a newsletter from the Philadelphia Spahs, Moe Dubilier's old team, and he photocopied the four-page pamphlet to distribute at the breakfast. He also crafted a quiz question he's rather proud of: Which coach won more than 100 games for three different colleges? (Answer: Frank McGuire, with St. John's, South Carolina, and North Carolina.) His follow-up questions involve the NIT: What two teams played in the 1939-40 championship game, what was the score, and who was the most valuable player? (Colorado beat Duquesne 51-40. Bob Doll was MVP.)
Clad in his NBA sweatshirt, Shaber loads two easels into the car, along with his briefcase and two file boxes full of reference books. For display on the easels he packs two homemade posters plastered with snapshots of Fraternity members. He departs, as always, at 6:10, so as to arrive at Bagels & Lox at 6:45. With nearly an hour before anyone else shows up, he sets up his easels while a waitress drags several tables for two into one table long enough to seat 24.
At 7:30 the first players arrive. "Jack, howya doing?" calls out Howard Rothstein. "Hey, Jack!" belts LIU alumnus Saul Berkoff, shaking hands. Fifteen minutes later a full squad of heroes is munching toast and reminiscing about old times.
Shaber circles the table, placing homemade name tags in front of every diner. He rummages through his file boxes for the folders containing the Spahs programs, pausing when he finds them to survey the crowd: "It's a beauty-ful turnout," he says, cracking a rich laugh that rings above the slurping of tomato juice and coffee. He shuffles off in his white loafers, folders in hand.
"Okay, boys!"he cries. "How about a quiz question?