"I am not a hustler. I am a practitioner who enlightens the American populace and brings joy to the world." Joey Goldstein.

Joey Goldstein was a character ripped right out of the pages of Damon Runyon,"a master presser of flesh and bender of ear who was a fixture in the New York sports scene for four decades," according to Newsday. I met him briefly once at a memorial for W.C. Heinz. I introduced myself and shook his hand hand. He looked frail, vaguely like Al Pacino in Angels in America. He grumbled hello and moved on. I later understood that he was like this to most people until he got to know you.

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Anyhow, Joey Goldstein was one of the true characters in New York sports history. He died at the age of 81 four years ago. At the time, Mike Lupica wrote a nice tribute to him in the Daily News:

Nobody remembers exactly when they met Joey Goldstein, a character out of an older New York City and a better one, out of all the old ideas about press agents and newspapers, out of a sports world so much more fun than we get out of it now. If you were in the business of sports in New York over the past 50 years, attached to it in any way, you knew Joey. You just couldn't remember exactly when he came blowing into your life or your office, talking and laughing and wanting to sell you something.

"When did I meet him?" Jimmy Breslin was saying late Friday afternoon. "Maybe college doubleheaders at the Garden. What year was that?"

He was Breslin's friend and the late Dick Schaap's friend and he was mine. He was a friend to Roosevelt Raceway in the old days and the whole harness-racing business and later, much later, a friend to ESPN. And Joey Goldstein was so much more than that, from the time he hit the city running as a kid, when he first put a phone to his ear and never took it out:

He was a fast-talking history of sports in this city.

There really should be a book about Goldstein. There isn't, though he was friends with Red Smith and every other big time New York City sportswriter ever since. But here's a 1987 piece by Douglas Looney in SI:

What we are dealing with here may be the ultimate triumph of style over substance. Is Goldstein an intellectual? "I have been to Italy 41 times," he non-answers. Whether his day begins at his home in Old Westbury on Long Island, at his East Side apartment in New York or on the road, Goldstein is hopelessly overscheduled, hysterical, late and on the phone. Whence the frenzy builds. Old buddy Red Auerbach says, "He's always full of pep, know what I mean?" Yes, sir. Says Goldstein, as he darts through Manhattan's underground passageways that he knows like the back of a telephone, "I'm energized about everything I work on. I'm eager. I'm anticipating." He gets his shoes shined ("I do this every day, except if I'm wearing rubbers"); he gets a manicure ("New York is such a dirty place. Of course, I love it"); he's on the subway; he gets his blood pressure taken at a doctor's office—all the while he's checking his watch. He needs to use a VCR in somebody's office, but he won't listen to instructions how to use it—he never listens—and only wants to know one thing: "How do you get it on fast forward?" For Goldstein, a moment when he is not talking is a moment wasted.

And here is the ultimate. Joey ("It's such a sophomoric name. How can a guy post middle-age and Jewish be called Joey?") has found a newsstand where he can buy The New York Times and the New York Post by 11 p.m., which he hustles—of course—back to his apartment to read. Ergo, he has the next day's news read before the next day arrives. Fast forward, huh? And talk about getting the jump: Goldstein always works July 4, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year's Eve. Why? "Things are real slow. It's the best time to get things in the papers. And the guys appreciate it." Which raises the question, how many people at big p.r. agencies work on Christmas?

Too, he's a mighty sports resource, a walking, talking yellow pages. Any reporter needing an unlisted phone number can get it from Goldstein, whether the number has to do with Joey's clients or not. Need facts? Call Goldstein. Need directions? Call Goldstein. He's a kind of AAA without the membership fee. He arranges hotel reservations when all rooms are booked, makes last-minute dinner reservations for 8 p.m. on Saturday, gets tickets to hit shows at the last moment (he attends every Broadway play each season) and somehow finds a parking pass when there are no more left. "I do want to be loved," he says, "or at least regarded fondly."

The world sure is less lively without Mr. Goldstein.

[Photo Via: New York Daily News]