Readers share their memories of Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali sparred with a young fan at a benefit event at Boston’s Hynes Auditorium in 1977.
Globe Staff/File
Muhammad Ali sparred with a young fan at a benefit event at Boston’s Hynes Auditorium in 1977.

Since Muhammad Ali died in Arizona late Friday night, we have been treated to hundreds of thorough and loving recollections of the Champ’s life and times.

Like just about everyone else in the world of journalism, I wrote a column about Ali. It appeared in Sunday’s editions of the Globe. After publication, my inbox was pleasantly peppered with memories from readers.

Muhammad Ali certainly was a man of the people. It seems that everyone — even the good folks here in New England — has a story involving a special memory or personal interaction with the Champ.


A few favorites:

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 David Manzo: “Ali, Citizen of the World, was a friend to students with special needs at Cotting School [then called the Industrial School for Crippled Children, located across the street from Boston Arena]. In 1964, while in Boston preparing for a rematch with Sonny Liston, Ali celebrated Halloween with our students. Ever the promoter of tolerance and understanding, Ali accepted an invitation to speak with the students.

“During his visit to the school, Ali wore horseshoes on the bottom of his shoes as part of his weight-training regime. Former Superintendent Bill Carmichael recalled the clopping sounds Ali made as he walked.’’

 William Shaw McDermott: “I want to draw your attention to one of the greatest Bud Collins columns ever, which is about the chaos and eventual happy outcome to Ali’s bout with an inguinal hernia in November 1964 [this emergency postponed the Ali-Liston rematch, which was eventually moved from Boston Garden to Lewiston, Maine]. My father, Dr. William V. McDermott Jr., was the operating surgeon that day and he got a nice review of his work from Bud.

“My father was pretty well-known in academic and practicing physician circles around the world by 1964 . . . but this didn’t prevent Ali from saying, when he first met my father, ‘Doc, I am going to make you famous.’


“At the end of his stay, he thanked my father, saying that he had not been treated on terms of such equality in his life. And I think Ali was being sincere in writing on the picture of himself in his championship belt, ‘Dr. McDermott is the World’s Greatest Doctor and I am a Witness.’ ’’

 Jim Duggan: “In 1965, I was 12 and lived with my family in Holyoke. My mom worked as a secretary for General Electric and they had a convention at the Shine Inn while Ali was there. My mom’s job that day was to type up name cards for people to wear as they arrived at the convention. My mother had no interest in any sporting event that didn’t involve one of her children.

“The night of the convention at dinner, she told my dad, my sister and brother and me about her day. She told us that a man came into the room with a number of people following him. She asked him his name in order to prepare the card and she told us he started speaking very loudly and telling her he was the greatest and the world champion and how could she not know his name.

“She told us he continued on for several minutes and kept refusing to give her his name. She said he and his group left the room and she went back to preparing cards. When I told my mother who the man was, she replied, ‘He should have told me his name,’ and went back to eating.’’

 Dick Quinn: “Statler Hilton in June of 1969. My best friend got a weekend in Boston to see his beloved Orioles play the Red Sox. We were excited to know that the Orioles were staying there and we hoped to get Brooks Robinson and Berkshire County favorite Mark Belanger’s autograph, but all that went out the window when we returned to the Statler Hilton after the Friday night game and Muhammad Ali was in the dining room. It was OMG before there was OMG.’’


 Paul Murphy: “My father [the late Jeremiah Murphy of the Globe] met him at Tufts University in the 1970s. He may have done a story on him. My dad told me when he shook hands with Ali that my father’s right hand disappeared into his large oversized hand.’’

 Ed Mestieri: “In January, 1977, I was a 24-year-old graduate assistant football coach attending my first coaching clinic in Boston. We checked into the Parker House Hotel and were informed that Ali was staying there that weekend. He was in town to fight an exhibition match at Hynes Auditorium against a handful of locals for an Elma Lewis charity.

“Like any young coach, I unpacked and headed to the bar. Ali soon came in with three of his bodyguards. He made the rounds and settled in a booth, drinking Miller Lite on the rocks. I went over and he politely honored my request and signed a Parker House napkin.

“After a night on the town, I returned to the hotel around 2 a.m. Standing in front of the hotel, two cabs pulled up. Ali was in the second one. There was a woman with one of his bodyguards and he was trying to convince her who he was. He then yelled to me, ‘Hey, I saw you earlier in the night. Tell this woman who I am.’

Ali signed a Parker House Hotel napkin for a young football coach in 1977.

“After confirming to her that it was indeed the heavyweight champ, he caught up to me and we walked into the lobby together. He asked me if I was going to see the fight tomorrow night. I told him I had spent most of my money earlier and I was a little short. He then ordered a bodyguard to ‘Give me the money.’

“The guard handed Ali a wad of cash. He then counted off 21 one-dollar bills. He told me I better use this for the exhibition because it was for charity. “I still have that napkin today, framed and hanging in my dining room.’’

 Bob Neumeier: “In 1978, I was a young, part-time reporter for WFSB in Hartford. They assigned me to cover Ali’s appearance at Newington Children’s Hospital. It was the easiest assignment ever. Imagine Muhammad Ali interacting with sick kids. He was great and the station loved the piece and it got me a full-time job. I owe him.’’

 Upton Bell: “He once gave my producer his phone number at his training camp. We used to call him every few weeks and he would answer the phone himself and for the next 30 minutes he would entertain the audience better than anybody I ever interviewed.’’

 Robert McWalter: “It was on the occasion of the dedication of the Ted Williams Museum in Citrus Hills, Fla., in 1994. I sat beside Ali and across from Ted. Ali was difficult to understand because of his Parkinson’s syndrome, but it didn’t matter because Ted did much of the talking. He knew more facts about Ali’s career than one could imagine. He showed us pictures of the farm where he lived and conducted his activities. He made me promise I would come to visit.’’

Muhammad Ali. Man of the People. RIP.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Shaughnessy.