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I was in my first year of law school at UC when I officially met Ron Grinker, Esq. I made an appointment to see him at his office at the corner of Losantiville and Elbrook. I was looking for a law clerk position with Ron. He hired me. Little did I know at the time that I was about to be exposed to one of the best professional sports agents in the country.

Ron negotiated contracts with some of the best and his book of names and telephone numbers of the rich and famous in professional sports was unending. He smoked cigars with Red Auerbach of the Boston Celtics and was on a first name basis with owners, general managers, and coaches around the National Basketball Association (NBA). I would say he had private cell numbers for all those folks, but cell phones did not exist. He knew their direct office number instead. As we say in the business “he was able to get past the secretaries.”

His calendar was in a separate book and for tax purposes he would staple cash, business receipts, in his calendar. Morning newspaper receipts while traveling were stapled. My accounting career was off and running.

I did most of the same things as a law clerk then as law students do these days working for law firms: filing, researching legal issues, writing, setting up appointments, filing documents at the Hamilton County courthouse and more.

 I flew to Philadelphia to have a player endorse a document that Ron needed. The player was Donnie Smith, the left-handed shooter deluxe from the University of Dayton. He played for the NBA Philadelphia 76ers.

Fly to Philly to have a document signed? Yep, no fax machines, no desktops, no scans, just over land and sea. Giving away my age, no problem. Technology changes everything in a heartbeat.

When it came to needing my assistance in the sports practice, Ron really got my attention. I am not sure he really needed me because he was special on his own. Maybe it was just a second set of eyes, hands, and feet. He never said and I didn’t ask. I was happy to be there.

It was truly special when I traveled with him on business trips. Imagine my surprise when he said, “why don’t you come with me to Hawaii for the post season college basketball all-star game?” We were representing a basketball player from Bowling Green who was playing in the game. 

 I cannot forget a trip to San Francisco to see the NBA’s SF Warriors (Steph Curry was not born yet). Ron’s client was of Cincinnati Bearcat fame, Derrick Dickey. Few people knew but Derrick collected snakes as pets, “big snakes”. I declined an invitation to his home after the game.

Several years prior to working for Ron, he had been the “Bearcat” at University of Cincinnati sports events, but since it was way before my time, I could not honestly give him rave performance reviews. I had heard, though, that he was a master at the Bearcat job.

Ron was a standout third baseman in the JCC men’s softball league, also before my time.

Aside from representing professional athletes and smoking cigars with Red Auerbach, Ron played a major role, along with another Ron, Ron Rose, in raising money to assist the Cincinnati JCC Flame Club of the late 1960’s. The Flame club was a basketball team of high school age players representing the Cincinnati JCC. They played in a city-wide recreational league, went undefeated and were invited to play in the Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) regional and national tournaments.

The Jewish Welfare Board was the predecessor of the Jewish Community Centers Association (JCCA). The JCCA was the sponsor of the Cincinnati Maccabiah games in the 1990’s.

 The Flames, as they were known, won the regional championship and proceeded to win the national JWB title in Bridgeport, Connecticut. 

Flame Club reunion 2016: from left to right: Morris Weiner, Jim Dworkin, Richard Katz, David Cooper, Rod McKinely, Howard Schwartz, Alan Berg, Mike Youkilis,  and Rick Skurow

Flame Club reunion 2016: from left to right: Morris Weiner, Jim Dworkin, Richard Katz, David Cooper, Rod McKinely, Howard Schwartz, Alan Berg, Mike Youkilis,  and Rick Skurow

The JWB then asked the Cincinnati JCC Flame Club to represent Jewish Center teams from the United States and compete in the Pan American Maccabiah games as the US basketball junior champions.

Sao Paulo, Brazil was the destination for the Games. The trip, via New York city, was a costly one. The Flames reached out to the community for help, Grinker and Rose lent their support.

 This effort, led by the Ron’s, was a “Go-Fund-Me” page well before its time. Credit goes to Ron and Ron who pioneered and created for future generations, the Go-Fund Me account theory. 

Ron and Ron and the community were a tremendous help in raising funds for the team to travel from the Cincinnati JCC to Brazil. The Flames brought home the gold.

That Flame Club team, under the direction of head coach Rod McKinely, had a reunion not too long ago. Rod, a native of Birmingham, Alabama was the athletic director at the JCC on Summit Rd., as well as the coach. The reunion was remarkable, almost as remarkable as the Flames bringing home the gold but not quite as remarkable as a bunch of Jewish teenagers from the Cincinnati JCC winning a national championship and an international Pan American Maccabiah gold medal and certainly not as remarkable as the help from Grinker, Rose et al. 

I was a proud member of that group. The Flames were a close-knit group with relationships lasting a lifetime. The team was well represented in the Jewish community.

The Skurow family was represented by “Ski”, (Rick), who brought along a photo album to the reunion with pictures that had not yet turned yellow. The Bergs were represented by “Attles” (Alan), the Dworkins by “Barnes” (Jim), the Cooper family by “Stallworth” (David) and the Schwartz family by “Russell” (Howard). The Ganulin family was represented by “Gnu” (Neil), the Loftsprings by Eddie and the Nuerman’s by another Ron. “Dampier” was there too…who?  Did I mention “Ace” (Morry) of the Weiner family and the Kaplans “Big” Joel” and “Youk”, of the Youkilis family.

It was not long after the Flames had won the gold that I went to work for Ron. Maybe I thought he could arrange an NBA tryout. I had no idea, though, that I would eventually engage in the same profession as Ron, representing professional athletes and coaches. 

It was good to win the gold, it has been good to be in the Sports industry, it was great having the Flame’s reunion but it was especially good that I had Ron Grinker as my teach! Ron passed away prematurely. I think about him all the time.

Send your questions, comments, and story tips to me at sports@americanisraelite.com.

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