On Wednesday, Nov. 9, Mama Earth Films producer, director, writer and creator William G. O’Connell and Long Island sports historian Andrew M. Slawson collaborated for eight weeks to present …
On Wednesday, Nov. 9, Mama Earth Films producer, director, writer and creator William G. O’Connell and Long Island sports historian Andrew M. Slawson collaborated for eight weeks to present “C R A D L E D The Jumper Leggio Story” to a very large and inspired crowd at the Bay Shore Middle School sponsored by Bay Shore Middle School principal Dr. Lisette Lors and Bay Shore superintendent Dr. Steven J. Maloney. On this day, Coach Leggio celebrated his 88th birthday!
In 1963, Leggio and the late Bill Knapp, father of sixteen children, pioneered the first kids wrestling program in the Eastern United States. The pair’s legacy was featured in an incredible 90-minute documentary with back stories from the stars of wrestling in the Bay Shore community narrated, written and produced by O’Connell, which made the audience laugh out loud, and cry at times, too. Slawson’s spectacular on-camera interviews with the Bay Shore maroon and white robes in the background echoed the colorful non-stop flow of brilliant storytelling by these stars of Long Island wrestling. Andrew M. Slawson said, “Jumper Leggio made ordinary men do extraordinary things.”
Before the film was presented, the National Anthem was beautifully sung by Bay Shore Middle School eighth-grader, Sydney Shaaf. O’Connell and Slawson made a presentation honoring United States veterans who were in the documentary, which was embraced with deep emotion, honoring 92-year-old Carmen Leggio, a Korean War veteran, retired teacher and former Riverhead wrestling iconic coach, Walter Stewart, a recipient of the Bronze Star, Bay Shore High School Coach Alex Porcelli, a West Point and Bay Shore graduate along with Naval Academy and Bay Shore graduate Sean Knapp, legendary East Islip Wrestling coach and NAVY veteran, Guy Leggio, and his brother Jumper Leggio, along with their father and National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee, the legendary Jumper Leggio.
Connetquot wrestling coach Bill Santoro said, “It was a job well done! Jumper’s tribute night was one of the classiest events I have ever been to. I hope people appreciate the hundreds of hours that go into making a video like that. Jumper certainly deserves it, but it is the people who step up that make it happen.”
Another attendee in the audience who was honored was retired Chancellor Emeritus of the National University System in California, Dr. Michael R. Cunningham, who was beyond thankful for being included. Cunningham generously gifted $100,000 to Bay Shore wrestling, was an all-county wrestler in his day, said, “Bravo! This was a wonderful event, an amazing movie and a great homecoming!”
“Cradled” was filmed this past summer and brilliantly pieced together by O’Connell, whose documentary filmmaking style seems to bring with it a level of raw emotion with an incredible and inspiring buildup in the film, which had the audience wowed. O’Connell said, “I think people might have thought this was some backyard video. What we did was a pure labor of love for Coach Leggio. He has made a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of people, and we thought he should be recognized for his leadership in the community.” 1982 Suffolk County Wrestling champion Frank Bifulco said, “This is a beautiful tribute to a man we love and respect. We wouldn’t be who we are today without Jumper.”
At the same time, O’Connell has been working on another documentary, “Batboy, Tragedy & Triumph, the Ray Negron Story,” about a former New York Yankees batboy who became the personal assistant to New York Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner III. According to an article in a Newsmax article Oct. 13, the “Batboy” film held a special premiere on Sept. 22 at The Quaker Cinema as part of the Tuscarawas Valley Film Festival. “Batboy” pulled a record-breaking attendance and was the single-most successful one-night event in The Quaker Cinema’s history. “Batboy” will be shown in June in New York City.
O’Connell, who authored “Voices in the Sand,” produced a worldwide film with the homeless in Los Angeles, which landed him nearly 10 million views on YouTube for his work.