Meet Bobby Cassidy
Bobby Cassidy began his career writing about sports in 1987. He was a reporter for The Ring magazine, the world's foremost boxing publication. He then moved to Newsday and covered a wide range of sports. He’s also written for the New York Post, the Los Angeles Times, and ESPN. Bobby wrote the Off-Broadway play Kid Shamrock, based on his father’s life and boxing career. It was produced Off Broadway four times from 2007 to 2012.
Cassidy authored the book, Muhammad Ali: The Greatest of All Time, (Penguin) and co-authored Boxing Legends (Publications International).
For the past 12 years, he’s been part of Newsday’s multimedia department. Bobby earned Peabody and Edward R. Murrow awards in 2019 for a two-year investigation into discrimination in Long Island’s real estate industry. He’s also covered the proliferation of MS-13 on Long Island and three presidential debates. He was the director of a five-part documentary series on the life and times of Colombo Family underboss Sonny Franzese, which won a New York Emmy Award.
You’re an award-winning journalist with many credits to your name. Did your journalism background help you to author your books? If so, how?
Yes, it directly helped with the two boxing books. At the time I was writing for Ring magazine and a publishing company had called the magazine because they had read some of the articles I had written. Without that, I don't know if I would have ever gotten the opportunity. After the first book, they asked me to do another.
Your father, Irish Bobby Cassidy was a famous boxer. What was it like growing up with a boxer and how did that influence your decision to write about sports and specifically boxing?
Growing up the son of a professional boxer was an amazing experience. It was very exciting, but also had many highs and lows, depending on whether he won or lost or got a fight he was hoping for. He exposed me to boxing at a very young age. But he also exposed me to newspapers. We also had the Post, Daily News and Newsday in our house. When he was done with the papers, I would glance at them as a kid, mostly looking at the pictures and the box scores in the sports section. Eventually I started reading all three papers. That was probably the biggest influence on my career path, reading those newspapers.
What inspired you to write about Muhammad Ali? What was the most interesting thing you learned about his life?
Ali was such an icon and such a rich subject to write about, in and out of the ring. To me, the most compelling fight to write about has always been the third fight with Joe Frazier, "The Thrilla in Manila." After the fight, Ali said it was the closest he had come to death.
My Dad fought on a few of his cards and they even trained at the same gym in Miami for a brief time. My father had a few fights in Miami and when he was down there he always trained at the 5th Street Gym, which was where Ali trained. One of my father's biggest fights took place in Miami, he lost a split decision to Luis Rodriguez, who was later elected to the Hall of Fame. It was a very controversial decision. One of the newspapers down there called for an investigation. After the fight, Ali came into my father's dressing room and said, "Hang in there kid, you won that fight. You will be a champ one day." He gave my father an autographed photo that said, "Your Daddy is the Greatest!"
You also co-authored a book, Boxing Legends. Can you tell us about the co-authoring process? Did you contact the other author or vice-versa? Did you work together or contribute content separately?
Working with a co-author was great. It's always great to collaborate. We were in different states but we spoke once a week on the phone. We also traded a lot of emails. It was definitely a good experience.
Tell us about your play Kid Shamrock and how your father triumphed over adversity.
Kid Shamrock is the Off Broadway play based on the life of former world rated boxer, "Irish" Bobby Cassidy. The story tells of Cassidy's struggle and subsequent triumph over alcohol. Cassidy lost a fight to Jorge Ahumada on the undercard of the second Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight at Madison Square Garden. The light heavyweight spent more time drinking than training for that fight, the biggest of his career. Cassidy turned the biggest loss of his career into a victory by quitting the bottle. He has not had a drink since April 1974. That night at the Garden is the basis for the play. The calling card of the play is its authenticity. Numerous professional boxers have been cast throughout the production. Seamus McDonagh, who fought Evander Holyfield in 1990, has held the title role since the play's debut in 2007. Other professional boxers who have appeared in the play include, John Duddy, Mark McPherson, Tommy Rainone, Olympic gold medalist and WBA welterweight champion Mark Breland, WBO junior welterweight champion Christopher Algieri, and five-time world champion Junior Jones. Cassidy Sr. serves as the play's narrator.
Describe how life with your father prompted you to write the play.
I was driving with my Dad one day, I don't even remember where we were going. And he was very down. This was after his boxing career had ended, he was taking jobs as a bouncer. He was embarrassed by that. And I remember him saying, I am just a bouncer. I thought, no, he is so much more than a bouncer. That line became the opening scene of the play. The play opens when a fan walks into a bar and recognizes him. But the character who plays my Dad says, "You got it wrong. I'm just a bouncer." But that conversation between the boxer and the fan became the vehicle to tell my father's life story. We split the stage into two sets - the bar and the boxing ring - and when the action was in the ring, the bar would go dark and vice versa.
Explain the writing process for a play and how you went from writing the script to getting it produced.
Writing the play was a lot of fun. I generally work in non-fiction, but in the play, I could take some creative license. which I did. My father's life and the world of boxing supplied me with plenty of material. As for getting it produced, a lot of it was luck, the right people wanted to take a chance on it. I am very grateful to everyone who ever worked on that play - producers, actors, directors, and the guys who helped me tweak the script. It was a total collaboration.
Your large body of work includes articles, books, investigative series, and an Off-Broadway play. Are there similarities or big differences in writing in these different formats? Which is or was the most challenging to write? Do you have a preference?
I think writing the books were the hardest, you have to layer the story and allow each chapter to flow into the next. Even if it's simply chronological, like the Ali book, you still have to make the format and the flow of the story work for the reader.
I transitioned to the multimedia side of journalism about a dozen years ago. So, I don't do a lot of writing any more. We've produced a number of compelling documentaries for Newsday and now we are launching NewsdayTV, which is very exciting. But to me, storytelling is still storytelling - find interesting subjects and report, report, report.
Do you have any more books on the horizon?
Not at the moment.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers and authors?
To read as much as possible and write as much as possible. Even if you are writing for yourself, keep writing.
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