Goose is loose
Siragusa making friends, family in Jersey proud
Updated: Wednesday January 24, 2001 12:52 AM
KENILWORTH, N.J. (AP) -- Indianapolis Colts fans still remember him as "The Goose," a fearsome 340-pound sledgehammer of a football player.
But here in New Jersey, where he grew up, he's still known as just plain Tony, the local hellion-made-good, the kid who romped through life like a beefy Tom Sawyer and put this town 25 minutes down the Turnpike from Giants Stadium.
Tony Siragusa played seven years with the Colts. Now, when he suits up for Baltimore on Sunday for Super Bowl XXXV, "Goose's Gang" -- a gaggle of relatives, friends and well-wishers -- will be rooting him on, recalling how he created mayhem in the neighborhood before doing it in the NFL.
"You know those 'terrible twos' that young children go through? He's done that his whole life," said his mother, Rosemarie. "He never stood still for a minute. He climbed out of his crib at 10 months, and he's been going ever since."
"Tony has not changed one bit from when he was a kid," said Mike Mancino, who grew up with Siragusa. "He's the kind of guy where every story you've heard about him is true -- every one."
Like the time Tony and Mike came home from college at Pitt, and soon ran afoul of Tony's dad, who shooed them outside with their bags of cheap hamburgers.
"We're sitting there eating White Castles, watching the fire, and Tony goes to the guy behind him's fence, rips it out of the ground and tosses it on the fire. Now it's an inferno, it looks like the neighbor's house is on fire, and Tony's dad calls the fire department. The firemen come, put out the fire, and eat our White Castles."
Then there's the time shortly after Siragusa became the player representative for his first NFL team, the Colts, and he took Mancino with him to the winter meetings in Maui.
"He gets a Jeep, and somehow we wind up on these restricted, religious lands where you're not supposed to drive," Mancino said. "Then these five Samoan-looking guys come up holding machetes. Tony takes out his wallet, and he's trying to bribe them, saying, 'Hey, do you know me? I play for the Colts.' They didn't take the money, but they made us get out of there."
It was 3 a.m. when the pair got back to their hotel, and Siragusa didn't feel like walking from the parking lot.
"So he drives the Jeep right into the lobby of the hotel and parks it there," Mancino said. "The hotel is freaking out. They call [NFL Players Association chief] Gene Upshaw, and he comes down to the lobby and starts yelling, 'Tony, if you don't get that Jeep outta here right now, I'll have you thrown out of this league!' And Tony yells right back at him, 'Hey, Gene, I pay your salary! If I wanna fill the fountain in the lobby with bubble bath, that's what I'll do!' We were laughing so hard I thought we were gonna die.
Mike Sheehan is a cousin who grew up in nearby Garwood.
"There was the time he ripped up his mother's lawn because he wanted to re-seed it," he said. "He was home by himself that day and gets the idea that the lawn doesn't look right, so he gets his uncle's backhoe and digs all the grass out of the front yard."
"He told me he wanted to put in new shrubs," his mother said. "I said, 'OK, but not right away.' When I got home at lunchtime, he had torn out the whole lawn, the sidewalk, the driveway -- and then he left."
Siragusa is generous -- sometimes to a fault. He blew his first pro football paycheck on dinner for family and friends. He donates thousands of dollars to charity each year. He brings an entourage on an annual vacation, and thinks nothing of flying to the Bahamas for dinner with a large group.
"He's always saying, 'Live for the moment,'" said another cousin, Dan Sheehan of Hillsborough. "He lives every day like it was his last, and he loves to have fun."
He said Siragusa's charity work gets less attention than the crazy antics.
"I've been fishing with him in Florida when there's been homeless guys on the docks, and he'll give them money," said Sheehan, who lived with Siragusa for a year in Indianapolis. "Once when we were in Pittsburgh, we went to this place that has these famous sub sandwiches, and he bought a huge sack of them and gave them to homeless guys outside the store."
Siragusa's dad, Pete Sr., was a huge New York Giants fan, as were all the Siragusas in the 1980s. The Giants, of course, provide the Super Bowl opposition for the Ravens.
"Every Sunday in the house, it was the Giants and macaroni -- and the macaroni only came at halftime," Pete Jr. said. "We were all huge Giants fans until Tony got drafted by the Colts."
Their father died a few years back. Siragusa will honor his memory in the Super Bowl the same way he does every week: by writing "DAD" on his cleats.