July 2 – Happy Birthday Bobby Gutowski

gutowski222I’m not exactly sure when I first met Bobby Gutowski, probably 1964. He lived around the corner from me when we were kids. His house was on Steadwell and mine was on Guy Park. If you met him back then and didn’t know better, you’d have thought he was this quiet and kind of shy kid. But once we began to pal around with each other, two things became crystal clear. Physically, he was a freak, strong as a bear and he could run faster and jump higher than anyone in our age group. The second thing I realized about young Mr. Gutowski was that he was a wee bit crazy and if he happened to be in the mood to combine his physical strength with his tendency to go slightly off kilter, well let’s just say it got real interesting.

For example, Dove Creek was next to his house on Steadwell and there was a bridge over it with about a ten to fifteen foot drop to a shallow and very rocky creek bed. One day we were goofing around up there and Bobby’s little brother Danny started getting on his nerves. Before you know it, Bobby picked Danny up over his head and threw him over the railing of that bridge and Danny landed flat on his back, with a muddy, rocky thud.

Now before you get all crazy about what a psycho Bobby must have been you need to understand something. If that had been you or me he had tossed into that creek bed we’d have required hospitalization for sure but this was Danny Gutowski, who at the time was just slightly less physically gifted and fearless than his older sibling. Danny not only bounced right back up, he raced up the embankment with a huge boulder, which he intended to use to get even with Bobby, who by that time, had wisely run back into their house and locked the door.

That winter, me and Bobby were in the backyard of my house on Guy Park, which was one of those old, huge three story dwellings that sit one block east of St. Mary’s Hospital. Bobby got the bright idea to try and throw snowballs over the house and hit cars traveling on the street in front of it. It was at least forty feet to the peak of the dwelling’s roof and a good 200 feet to the center of the street and we were just eleven years old at the time. I of course had to use every ounce of strength to get the slushy spheres just over the peak but young “Mr. Catapult Arm” had no such problem.

The game ended when we heard a huge kaboom a few seconds after one of Bobby’s rocket launches and a few moments after that an Amsterdam police officer comes walking down my driveway. Gutowski had hit a police car and now we were trapped like rats because there was a six foot high chain link fence behind us. When I turned to see if Bobby was as scared as I was, I saw him scaling that fence faster than a speeding bullet and disappear on Division Street. Fortunately, the cop was so impressed with Bobby’s arm he let me off with a warning.

So fortunately for the folks in my neighborhood, the Amsterdam police and the interscholastic sports program at Amsterdam High School, Bobby Gutowski decided to channel his strength, agility and craziness into playing football. He spent three seasons terrorizing the backfields of Amsterdam opponents from his defensive end position. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that he was the Lawrence Taylor of the Rugged Rams. Case and point: during Bobby’s junior season he made or assisted on the tackles of seventy percent of the team’s defensive plays!…

(Gutowski shares his July 2 birthday with one of Amsterdam’s greatest success stories.)

My complete birthday post for Bob Gutowski will appear in the new second edition of A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam, NY Birthdays, which will be available before the 2016 Holiday season. I also distribute an Amsterdam, NY Birthday Blog Monthly Newsletter that includes the full birthday posts for three of the twenty-to-thirty  people whose birthdays I recognize each month. Each newsletter also includes an Amsterdam Birthday Quiz that will test your knowledge and memory of people and events in your hometown.

The monthly newsletter is free. If you’d like to receive it, just make sure your name and e-mail address are included on this list.

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