By Anna Gustafson
As the official scorekeeper for the New Jersey Nets and the owner of Crown Trophy on Bell Boulevard for decades, longtime Bayside resident Herb Turetzky’s world has long been dominated by sports and not so much poetry.
But, in recent months, Turetzky’s hands have, in addition to recording game points,ï»¿ begun to jot down verse that reminisces about spending time with basketball greats like Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Jordan and laments the loss of mom-and-pop shops on Bell Boulevard, too.
These poems are featured in “Basketball and Life,” a book by Turetzky that was recently published by Xlibris.
“All of a sudden I started waking up at 3, 3:30 a.m. with rhyming words in my head,” said Turetzky, 65, who has lived in Bayside for the past 40 years. “I’d sit down at my computer and write one, two, three poems before the morning came. It took over my mind.”
Turetzky has spent much of his life in sports — he played basketball in school, is now in his 44th season of being the official scorekeeper for the New Jersey Nets and has been the owner of Crown Trophy at 47-32 Bell Blvd. in Bayside for 25 years. While he had penned a couple of poems in his life, usually for family members’ birthdays, he had never given much thought to poetry.
He noted he had never taken a poetry class and does not have a favorite poet — but three months ago after he met up with an old high school friend who told Turetzky he had begun to write poems, he began to think about the poetry that began to consume his life.ï»¿
“Over six weeks, I had written 30, 40 poems,” he said. “So I contacted a couple publishing companies and the book published by Xlibris came out far exceeding my expectations. It’s a beautiful book.”
Featuring Turetzky and basketball player Julius “Dr. J” Erving on the cover, the book is a glimpse into the Bayside man’s life and includes poems about his childhood in Brooklyn, a feted career in sports that led to his induction into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame, and the love and devotion he has for his family, including his wife of 40 years, Jane, a special education health coordinator at PS 107 in Flushing; daughter Jennifer; and son David.
In a 42-line poem titled “Bad Day,” he even delves into something he has rarely discussed in his life: a horrible car accident he was in decades ago on the Long Island Expressway.
“It’s about my life, but it’s something people from Fresh Meadows to California can relate to,” Turetzky said. “We’ve all had families, fathers, mothers, wives, children.”
As a resident of Bayside for more than four decades, Turetzky has seen the area experience sweeping change, which he writes about in the poem, “Grand Old Bell.”
“It’s about how Bell has gone from being mom-and-pop shops to corporate shops because people can’t afford the rents,” he said. “I write about VIP having the best Sicilian pizza in the world. It’s about things changing. You lost corner restaurants and little corner bars. It’s a whole different world.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.