'Being There' -- Sport's Greatest Moments

Author chronicles the biggest moments in the history of sports.

ByABC News
May 4, 2007, 4:35 PM

May 5, 2007 — -- Eric Mirlis, a 15-year sports veteran, is a writer and senior editor for CSTV.com and a statistician for FOX, ESPN, MSG, and YES. Among the events Mirlis has covered are six NBA All-Star Games, a Stanley Cup Final and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

Mirlis' new book, "Being There: 100 Sports Pros Talk About the Best Sporting Events They Ever Witnessed Firsthand," documents and brings to life some of the most memorable events in recent sports history with some of the most respected names in sports media.

Here, some excerpts from "Being There."

New York Football Writers Dinner, Americana Hotel, New York, New York, May 25, 1970

The night he received the George Halas Award for Courage at the New York Football Writers Dinner at the Americana Hotel, Gale Sayers gave the speech that was recreated in the movie Brian's Song.

There was an added impact for me that night, because I went to college at Wake Forest with Brian Piccolo. In that era, no one ever printed in the paper that someone had cancer. Brian and I were very close friends in school; we lived just a couple doors apart in the dorm and used to hitchhike to Mass together. I had read in the paper that he had had surgery, but that was all I knew and all that was said, and I never thought any more about it.

The Football Writers Dinner in New York was always a big event, and all the coaches were required to come and meet with the writers during the day -- I actually met Vince Lombardi for the very first time that day.

Sayers had rushed for over 1,000 yards in 1969 after hurting his knee the year before, in an era where knee injuries usually meant the end of your career. When he got the award that night, he held it up and gave the famous speech where he said, "He has the heart of a giant and that rare form of courage that allows him to kid himself and his opponent -- cancer. He has the mental attitude that makes me proud to have a friend who spells out the word 'courage' twenty-four hours a day, every day of his lifeI love Brian Piccolo, and I'd like all of you to love him, too. Tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him."

Well, I was shattered. I was twenty-seven, Brian Piccolo was twenty-six; you don't even think about mortality at that age. When Sayers told the audience Brian was at Sloan-Kettering Hospital, it sent chills down my spine because I knew what that meant.

Afterwards, I went to tell Sayers that I went to college with Brian, and Vince Lombardi was in front of me. Lombardi said, "Gale, you are a great American," then choked up and started to cry. I couldn't say anything after that and just turned and walked away. I never said anything to Gale Sayers; how could I after Vince Lombardi? I eventually got up the courage to go visit Brian in the hospital, but that was how I found out about my friend's illness.

The 2005 Masters, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia, April 7-10, 2005