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Ben Brettner's corner - articles; by one of Handball's most creative writers.


By Ben Brettner

What do the numbers 47, 48 and 58 represent? They’re not lotto numbers, a phone number or even a zip code. They are the ages of Albert Apuzzi, Joe Durso and Al Torres respectively. While athletes of those ages usually talk about past triumphs, embellishing the stories with each recantation, this remarkable threesome is putting off the rocking chair and creating new memories rather than reliving old ones. What’s even more amazing is that these guys are still competitive on an Open level.

These three are defying age as well as all the boundaries placed on, and myths about, older athletes. What is their secret? No secret really. Dedication, hard work, and perseverance all of which become harder as you get older and life becomes more complicated. Diet, training and certainly a bit of luck all help.

Albert, with a demanding job as a Pharmacist, plays as often as his work schedule permits. But he doesn’t let his sedentary job keep him from remaining in top condition. He avoids the elevators at Coney Island Hospital as if they’ve achieved their maximum allowable weight limit, often walking up dozens of flights of stairs each day. Living in a fourth floor walk-up apartment   insures that he’ll also climb some steps on his days off.

Joe, a school teacher, has a schedule that allows for plenty of playing time. A regimen that often includes left to two and singles-doubles games which keep him in excellent condition.

Al is simply ageless. When people hear his age they do a double take. His job as an elevator repair man allows him to do plenty of walking, with a heavy tool box, around Manhattan. In addition, Torres religiously starts of each morning with a routine of calisthethics.

Their diets vary. Both Albert and Joe try to eat healthy but a busy lifestyle doesn’t always make that possible. Al adheres to a stricter diet, provided by his wife Cheryl. They are all willing to pay the price to not only compete but excel with today’s top players.

What are the results of all this dedication to their craft? Each of them, have credentials worthy of getting them elected into the USHA Handball Hall of Fame and, are still major forces in the highly competitive game of one-wall handball.

I recently called up Albert for the results of the YMCA Pro-Doubles. Upon hearing that he, along with the rising star Willie Polanco, had won the event I remarked “Wow! What a surprise. Are you kidding?”. Albert retorted “No, and why are you so surprised?” as if it was no big deal. All he had done was knock off four national champions (Cesar Sala and Robert Sostre in the semis and the current champs Pee Wee Castro and Tony Roberts in the finals) with numerous titles to their credit. Few players get to do that during their entire career. In that same tournament, “Ageless” Al, and Francisco Carbuccia, defeated this year’s Bailey Park champions “Rookie” Wright and Ervin Irizzary. During the match Rookie, generally regarded as the today’s top big blue player, was heard to say to Francisco “Why are you boasting? You’re partner’s twice your age and he’s carrying you”. Quite a victory for Torres until his next big win.

Usually older players drop out of singles competition and concentrate on doubles, which is easier on the body as well as the ego. But not Joe or Albert. In any singles event, opponents can be seen studying the drawsheet to see where Joe is. He is still a threat to knock off any player as is evident by his upset win over Robert Sostre in the 2002 Nationals. Although Albert, who in an attempt not to stress his arm too often, plays in less singles tournaments he too is still a well respected opponent and gave Kaplan (the eventual champ) quite a run for his money in the recent HES Pro-Singles.

Everyone needs role models in all fields of endeavor. There is always someone to set the standards; to say look at what I’ve done, and try to match it. Well Apuzzi, Durso and Torres have said that age is just a number.



Queen B arbara

by Ben Brettner

Think of some the famous teams in show business - Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis. Although they got top billing, Bud Abbott and Dean Martin were considered supporting players to their funnier counterparts. Each partner was instrumental to the success of the team. And so it goes with the doubles team of Dori Ten and Barbara Canton. Although Dori may be more well known, from playing in Brighton's famed W5th St courts and being married to Albert Apuzzi, "B" is an equal partner in the Dori-Barbara corporation. Fives times National Doubles Champion and 2000 World Doubles Champion (with Dori) and two time National Singles Champion (over Dori) is an impressive handball resume.

A powerfully built woman, her strength is driving the ball which sets Dori up for numerous opportunities to "kill" the ball. Add a good left hand, her size, a coolness under pressure and the left side of the court is in great hands. She plays in 3 and 4-wall events to keep fit year round and enjoy the comraderie of her fellow players. "B" and "Tenny" are like sisters off the court as well. I certainly feel that chemistry they have translates to their on court success.

Barbara is equally successful off the court. She always has her child with her, dividing her attention from the game to Mark's needs. Demands on her time placed there by family considerations and career goals forced her to drop out of competitive singles play and concentrate solely on doubles. Plus she has carved out a successful career in the brokerage industry.

Where Martin and Lewis broke up after ten years Barbara and Dori are still going strong after over a decade and have many more years ahead of them.