This past Wednesday marked the 10th anniversary of the death of New Orleans television/radio/newspaper legend Buddy Diliberto.
I partnered with Buddy D on radio shows for over a dozen years on WWL-870 before his death, and I have enough stories about the legendary Buddy Diliberto that it would read as thick as War and Peace, the Russian version.
The one story I get asked about the most is how Diliberto got kicked off the New Orleans Saints team plane. At that time it was the norm for the local press to fly with the team on away games, but for Buddy D it became a calling card for his titanium backbone to speak for folks that didn’t have a great voice on what was right and what was wrong for his hometown team.
For the thousands that have asked me they have heard the story, but for the many who haven’t heard I share with you the story.
In 1972 Buddy Diliberto was the only local sports reporter to be critical of then-Saints owner John Mecom, Jr. and he was on the thinnest of ice to begin with, but Mecom hired Dick Gordon to become the Saints new executive Vice President/general manager.
Gordon had no sports roots at all and he was known because he was a Gemini and Apollo astronaut. NASA was making major cuts to the space program and Gordon retired from NASA and also the United States Navy.
Gordon's hiring had more to do with him being a celebrity, Gordon being invited to the “chic parties”, getting pictures taken with stars and politicians and being a national hero, than knowledge of the game.
Within a month of getting the top spot with the Saints Gordon spoke at the Saints Touchdown Club in New Orleansand proclaimed that the New Orleans Saints were just three players away from going to the Super Bowl.
In 1971 the Saints were 4 wins, 8 losses and 2 ties.
Diliberto just couldn’t wait to get back to the studios of then-ABC Channel 8 to give his 6 p.m. sports broadcast commentary and uttered the lines that “New Orleans Saints new Vice-President and general manager Dick Gordon says that the Saints are just three players away from the Super Bowl. What he didn’t tell you was that the three players were God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.”
Within an hour of the broadcast Diliberto was paid a visit by Mecom’s top lieutenant Fred Williams and told he was banned from the Saints plane for life, plus ten years.
In typical Buddy D fashion he tried to explain how ridiculous the comments Gordon made were, but Williams told him the decision was final, no matter how ridiculous it sounded.
Diliberto asked what the life plus ten years meant and Williams told him, “Buddy, just in case you are the second Lazarus, Mr. Mecom has his bases covered.”
It was a typical Buddy D. story, and I do miss getting those two daily phone calls from him no matter where I was. He was indeed a one of a kind guy to be around.