Inducted on October 30, 1977
In Memory “BABE ORLANDO” – By Lud Shahbazian, Sports Editor
Those who will miss him most will be Boxing’s Old Timers. He was not only their dear, devoted friend and champion he was Mr. Boxing Old Timer himself.
In the closing years of his life, when his earning power had diminished considerably, he spent every penny he could scrimp and save to publish a tiny boxing magazine he called “The Reporter. ” It was a project that kept him continually broke-but he never gave up. His publication was based in jersey , came out of his home on Summer St. in Newark- but it encompassed old timers everywhere. And when they had a get-together, wherever it happened to be … whether it was in Utica or Matawan or Philadelphia or the Poconos – Orlando Procopio (for that was his right name) was there to cover the event fully and to report to his faithful.
He had been a stout figure in the structuring of the veteran boxing organizations through the country – and especially in New jersey. When Rings 14 and 25 of the VBA were organized, it was Babe Orlando who was in the thick of things, telephoning, pleading and sometimes shouting. When Wanamassa’s Adrian Bailey organized the Jersey Hall of Fame, again it was Orlando who got on the phone and lent massive help and kept things booming with his “The Reporter. ”
He decried the fact that with the erosion of boxing not only in New jersey but in nearby New York as well, that the newspapers, who were suffering from erosion themselves, had cut down on the space devoted to boxing. He couldn’t see professional hockey and basketball and tennis, which had come on to overwhelm the sports pages after the colorful 1920s and 1930s when the Dempseys and Tunneys and Schmelings and Baers and Braddocks and Louises gripped major attention of the sports pages. So, in what might have been called a one-man fight against overwhelming odds, he devoted his entire publication, small though it might have been, solidly to boxing. “The Reporter, “in the Old Professor’s opinion, was Babe Orlando’s monument. Maybe his syntax wasn’t always 100 per cent, but whose is? Besides, Babe always got the message across.
It was only last Friday that our last conversation took place. He was in Jewish Memorial Hospital, taken there at long-time friend Charley Gellman’s behest, to find out what was ailing him. His leg, swollen again, was troubling him more than ever before. “I’rn sorry I couldn’t get to the meeting Monday,” he said. He was referring to the jersey Boxing Writers confab of the Monday before, a meeting he was unable to attend for the first time in a decade. He had been a member of the organization for years on end and had been honored at the group’s 1970 dinner along with Bob Foster, Chuck Wepner, jimmy Colotto and Tippy Larkin.
He was as indefatigable in attendance at the writers meetings as he was in the ring and in his publishing project. And he was always among the more articulate among those present, venting his feelings when something irritated him so vehemently that he had to be forcibly restrained. It was for his bluntness that he often withdrew from organizations he had helped found – only to return after he had cooled off. He always said he had developed that hot temper in his birthplace, Catanzaro, Italy, in the shadow of the volcano known as Mt. Etna.
Over a span of perhaps 18 years in the ring, he fought 104 bouts, his brother in law Nick Meleto estimates. He started as a teenager when he lived in old Union Hill in the years before and just after consolidation with West Hoboken. He fought as a welterweight, as a middleweight and often tangled with light-heavyweights. He was more of a boxer than a hitter and a bear for work – he once told the Old Professor he fought four times in one weekend in the years when holidays such as Columbus Day or Thanksgiving Day or New Year’s Day were major afternoon boxing dates.
The Old Professor’s first recall of Orlando is of a handsome, rangy, black-haired and extremely affable boxer who fought in such places as the Spring A.C, the Amsterdam A.C., Fletcher’s Field and the old West New York Playgrounds. He was not of championship caliber but he was extremely tough and clever.Joe Jennette’s stamp was also on him. Earlier he carried the sobriquet of’ ‘The Iron Man of Union Hill”. Down the line he tangled with the likes of Wildman Gould, Dave Shade, Ray Mitchell, Vic McLaughlin, joe Braddock, Andy Lake, Petie Hayes, Tommy Burke and Buzzsaw Ehrhardt. After his ring career ended, he managed such fighters as Young Zaccone, Charlie and Paul Newman and Tony Cal, whose friendship he cherished to the very end as he did his affinity to Cliffside Park’s Joe Borrell.
Too young to enlist in the Navy, he managed to get into the Merchant Marine in 1918 or thereabouts – and the three year stint there may have affected his ring career considerably. Sometime later, if memory serves correctly, he went to sea again for a spell. The depression years finally ended his glove action but he always wanted to express himself, verbally or with a typewriter.
It was this turn to the typewriter that eventually led him to publishing the’ ‘The Reporter” and he certainly made life a lot more pleasant for many, many ex-fighters. He was living proof that punishment in the ring doesn’t necessarily diminish one’s mental faculties. He was as sharp as a trigger right to the very end. Friends will pay their final tributes to him tonight and tomorrow at Berardelli’s Funeral Home in Newark. And those who knew him closely will only begin to realize their loss some time after his body is lowered into its finally resting place in Madonna Cemetery in Fort Lee Saturday morning.
Good bye, Babe, old friend.
-Reprint from THE DISPATCH, Union City, N.J., March 25,1976