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Blood Relations
Gary Smith
April 17, 2006
Sportswriter Sam Kellerman might have gone even further than his older brother, HBO analyst Max Kellerman, if his generosity to an old boxing friend hadn't led to murder.
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April 17, 2006

Blood Relations

Sportswriter Sam Kellerman might have gone even further than his older brother, HBO analyst Max Kellerman, if his generosity to an old boxing friend hadn't led to murder.

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Max was Malcolm X. Sam was Martin Luther King Jr. That's what brother Jack said. ΒΆ Max was Moses. Sam was Jesus. That's what their mother, artist Linda Kellerman, said.

Max taught us to be men. Sam taught us to be human. So said brother Harry.

That's where a writer might start. But a detective?

In the hard drive of the computer at which Sam was sitting when the first blow struck. She'd better not start reading any of the plays, screenplays or stories stored there, because she might not be able to stop. Sam was no dot-com sports hack. He was a self-taught Shakespeare scholar who had directed three of the Bard's plays Off-Off Broadway and written and directed a play titled The Man Who Hated Shakespeare. Nor should the detective lose herself in wonder over the recommendation from one of Sam's teachers at Manhattan's elite Stuyvesant High School:

Ten thousand students and thirty-four years have passed since my first day as a teacher, and I cannot recall one student of this quality, intelligence and talent.... Sam is someone who our world should be proud to know as an example of what humans are all about, and of the heights we can attain. Here he is, Sam Kellerman. The best of ten thousand.

Open this file: Zeida's Eulogy. The speech Sam gave when Zeida--that's Yiddish for grandfather--died in 1997. Go to the part where Sam remembers how the four Kellerman brothers used to drop to their knees to massage Zeida's nearly century-old feet as they all watched Yankees games, thinking they were just providing him a moment's relief from his arthritis ... until one day Sam looked at those gnarled feet in his hands and saw the poetry.

These are the feet, he told his brothers, that whisked Zeida to a Gentile neighbor's cellar to hide whenever roving bands of Jew-killers swept through his Ukrainian village. The feet that propelled him across the Dniester River into Romania in 1921 to seek a saner life, that kept him upright when the police there jailed and beat him, that snuck him back home to beg his loved ones to leave, that trudged away once more in sorrow when he couldn't talk them into taking hold of their fate.

The feet, Sam told his brothers, that boarded a ship that took Zeida to Canada, the feet that crept through a forest and across the U.S. border, that carried him to New York City, where he ironed shirts for a nickel apiece until he could open a luncheonette in the Bronx and raise his only child, Henry, who would become a renowned psychoanalyst and buy two apartments on Fifth Avenue so he and Zeida could live as relatives did in the old land, a few steps apart.

The feet that took Zeida to his bedroom to sob the day the letter came informing him that his mother, sister, brother-in-law, nephew and niece had been rounded up by the Nazis along with thousands of other Jews and herded to the edge of a ravine, the Yevpatoriya Ditch, where they were machine-gunned and covered with earth, which writhed until the sun rose the next day.

But what had that to do with the crime scene confronting the detective?

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