A Purple Hearts Kid

by Jerry Vilhotti

Biaggi so much wanted to get up and feel the vigour he felt as a sixteen year old borrowing Tami Mauriello's robe - the very same man who had staggered the great Joe Louis in the first round in their championship fight only to be knocked out in that very same round since he could not back up on a heel that had been run over by a truck taking a short cut to avoid congested Fordham Road so able to make better time and more money when he was a little boy - that night Biaggi fought and won his first amateur bout and he was proud that he still held the record at the East Harlem Club for knocking out his opponent in eleven seconds of the first round.

When he came home to show his mother the trophy for the achievement was when he told his father and the Sanques, who lived in the apartment above visiting, that he was going to be a fighter. When he was bending over to kiss his mother was when his father cold-cocked him - saying he would not tolerate a bum in his family. Did he forget his beatings on him and his brother Tonto that helped them not to become bums on the streets of The South Bronx?

Biaggi, as a man, would walk from North Africa up through Italy, all of France and then into Germany. He would receive two purple hearts, flat feet and a Presidential citation from FDR attesting to his bravery and sacrifice.

He would never forget why he joined the infantry and for all his efforts and the deaths of young people who gave up a life for a death, the country would get cold-cocked as he once did when people began to fear fear itself.