A little more than 13 years ago, I ventured over to Tony Siragusa’s New Jersey home and asked him what he recalled about his father dying from a heart attack at age 48.
“In the middle of the night, my mother just started screaming, so me and my brother went over and started giving him CPR, tried to keep him alive a little bit,” he said.
Then I asked him if that was why he has said, “I live every day like it’s my last?”
And Tony Siragusa told me: “I think that people take it for granted. … ‘I’m gonna do this tomorrow.’ Tomorrow might not be here, brother.”
Sadly, the football world learned on Wednesday that tomorrow will not be here for Tony Siragusa.
The larger-than-life former Colt and Raven and irreverent Fox sideline reporter and analyst who answered to “Goose,” passed away suddenly at his home at age 55. The cause of death was not immediately known. He is survived by his wife Kathy and three children.
Colts owner Jim Irsay and Ravens owners Steve and Renee Bisciotti expressed heartbreak in respective statements.
Siragusa was an undrafted and unfiltered nose tackle out of the University of Pittsburgh, an immovable 6-foot-3, 350-pound mountain of wiseass defiance who allowed Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis to roam freely behind him.
In Baltimore, they revered their free-spirited Goose the way they revered the late Hall of Fame Colts defensive tackle Art Donovan. They were two peas in a pod. Siragusa did it his way. Every single day.
“My abilities were overlooked for a long time, but people are starting to see that I’m a piece of the puzzle,” Siragusa told Sports Illustrated once. “When I was in college, people told me, ‘Sure, you can stop the run, but anyone can do that. If you want to make money in the NFL, you’ve got to rush the passer.’ That’s bull—-. It’s like all the people who tell you you’ve got to be in computers to make money. Yeah? You know what — you still need a f—— plumber to fix your toilet, and the scarcer they are, the more money they’ll make. ‘Cause what are you gonna do, call a f—— computer guy to fix your f—— crapper?”
He grew up 20 miles from Giants Stadium and on Jan. 28, 2001, his historic Ravens defense led a 34-7 rout of the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.
“Goose was quite a character, but he was one of our leaders on the 2000 Super Bowl team,” former Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. “He was probably one of the best run-stoppers to play for our defense over the years. My heart breaks for Kathy, Samantha, Anthony Jr. and Ava. They are in my prayers.”
Brian Billick was the Ravens’ head coach in Super Bowl XXXV. “There was no one like Goose,” Billick said in a statement, “a warrior on the field and a team unifier with a giving, generous heart who helped teammates and the community more than most people know. We would not have won the Super Bowl without him. This is such stunning, sad news, and our hearts go out to Kathy and the Siragusa family.”
Siragusa was a natural in a handful of episodes of “The Sopranos,” playing Frankie Cortese, bodyguard and driver for Tony Soprano, and therefore he fit anything but the cookie-cutter mold of NFL sideline reporters and analysts.
NFL on CBS analyst and NFL Network’s Charles Davis worked one season with Siragusa. “In a lot of ways, he saved my life,” Davis told The Post. Davis said Siragusa detected a problem with Davis, out of breath one night walking up a hill in Seattle, and implored him to have a doctor run specific tests when he returned home.
“Don’t worry about it,” Siragusa said, “my cousin’s a cardiologist.” And sure enough, Davis needed emergency surgery for blood clots that had flooded his chest.
“He was such a big personality to go along with his stature,” Davis said, “that there’s never a time you would think that he wouldn’t be around.”
Kenny Albert worked with Goose and Moose Johnston for eight years on Fox.
“He was just the life of the party wherever we went,” Albert told The Post, “whether it was walking through an airport, restaurant, people always gravitated to him, and he loved it. He would never turn down a picture, an autograph. He probably fit 200 years of life into his 55 years.
“Probably the most amazing thing that I’ve ever witnessed was Tony getting into a NASCAR car: We did what was called the Richard Petty Experience down in Charlotte. He actually drove the racecar, 150 miles an hour, three or four laps, but there were no doors, you had to get in through the window. Tony getting in feet first into the driver’s seat — he had to take off the helmet, his head wouldn’t fit through the window with the helmet on.”
Production meetings were entertaining for everyone. “He brought things out of these guys that I had never seen before,” Albert said. “Brett Favre would sit there for an hour. … Brett wouldn’t want to leave, he and Goose were having such a good time.”
In a 2012 interview with Howard Stern, Siragusa mentioned that heart disease ran in his family.
“If I die tomorrow,” he said, “I told my wife, ‘Just put a smile on my face. Put a little [Frank] Sinatra on.’ ”
As you wished Goose:
And now the end is here
And so I face that final curtain
My friend I’ll make it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more
I did it, I did it my way.
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