David Ostrowsky has always been fascinated by how famous athletes live after they retire, so a couple of years ago he decided to call them up and ask them, then put it all into a book. “There’s only so many broadcasting and coaching gigs available in sports, and you have hundreds of these guys retiring every year so at the end of the day, you’ve got a lot of guys who need jobs,” said Ostrowsky.
Some might think that these athletes make an absurd amount of money, and if they budgeted wisely, shouldn’t have to work a day for the rest of their lives. Ostrowsky, of Natick, addresses this issue in chapter one of his book, “Game Over or Game On?” He wrote: “Dragged into poor investments, stalked by freeloaders, and saddled with medical problems, many pro athletes get shocked by harsh economic jolts when robust paychecks are no longer flowing into their bank accounts.” It would appear the issue is more complicated than what meets the eye.
Ostrowsky works as a writer for WinterWyman, a recruiting company in Waltham, and is a part-time writing tutor. His experience with writing was useful in the 14-month process of creating his book; however that didn’t lessen his frustrations that naturally accompany the art. “It was one of the most exciting things that I’ve ever done, but also at times one of the most aggravating things I’ve ever done,” said Ostrowsky. The aggravation manifested itself in fact checking and statistics, trying to be as accurate as possible since he was writing a non-fiction book. But the excitement for him was being able to meet with and talk to professional athletes.
The first two Hall of Fame athletes Ostrowsky spoke with were coincidentally Jewish. “It was ironic because a lot of people, of course, don’t associate Jews with prominence in athletics,” Ostrowsky joked. One was Dolph Schayes, a Hall of Fame forward and one of the greatest National Basketball Association players of his time with Syracuse, now the Philadelphia 76ers. “He’s probably the greatest Jewish basketball player ever,” said Ostrowsky. A New York University star out of the Bronx, Schayes later became the team’s coach. He died in December 2015.
Schayes played professionally in the 1950s and 60s. “He’s someone who played at a time when they weren’t making a lot of money, so it was clear to him that afterwards he’d have to find a lucrative career,” said Ostrowsky. Schayes found that career, after coaching, in real estate. A few years ago, Ostrowsky interviewed Schayes when he was in his mid-80s and running a housing complex, East Ridge Apartments, in the Greater Syracuse area.
In Chapter 2, Ostrowsky describes Schayes’ love for the community, along with the financial stability, as his reasoning for beginning a career in real estate. Ostrowsky wrote: “They sign a lease in his presence and personally shake his hand afterwards. There is no personal assistant to Mr. Schayes. At 85-years-old, he still has to be accountable for clogged toilets.” Whether it’s signing a lease or addressing the daily issues of his tenants, Schayes was quite personally immersed in the community through this job.
The second Jewish Hall of Famer was Ron Mix, a former offensive lineman for the San Diego Chargers in the 1960s and 70s. In his book, Ostrowsky refers to Mix as an “ex-jock turned attorney.” After his career in the National Football League, Mix began working in the field of law. “His practice revolves around helping former NFL players,” said Ostrowsky. Ostrowsky quotes Mix in Chapter 7 where he describes the gratification of helping former athletes because he can often get them tax-free cash rewards, a helpful second chance at financial stability after losing their substantial paycheck. Mix has mostly been working with workman’s compensation for physical injuries after retirement since the early 2000s.
Ostrowsky found Mix to be particularly engaged in the interview. “He was very open and honest,” said Ostrowsky; which, as Ostrowsky explained, is often difficult for athletes when they are playing because they are cautious of getting fined or in trouble with management; but since Mix had been removed from sports for several decades, that barrier was no longer relevant.
“These Jewish athletes are not only prominent in their respective sports but also after having left sports they’ve really excelled in different areas of life,” said Ostrowsky. The more he wrote about retired athletes, the more it became apparent to him that this was a far more interesting story than professional athletes currently in play. “A lot of their stories haven’t been told yet and were not in the public eye for the last several decades, so this is a way to shed some light on their stories,” said Ostrowsky.
David Ostrowsky’s book “Game Over or Game On?” can be found on Amazon and in local bookstores.