By Ezra Lee Kohli, Secretary, Ohio-Penn Racing Pigeon Federation (email@example.com)
51 Years in the Sport
1st Interstate Section, 2010 Ohio-Penn Federation 400
The Interstate Combine in southwestern Pennsylvania is one of the largest racing organizations in the Ohio-Penn Racing Pigeon Federation and is no place for a tender man to win a pigeon race.† The combine came into being as the remnants of Pittsburgh pigeon racing continued to reorganize themselves some 17 years ago.† Today it is dominated by tough-flying men like Gary Marsh, Angelo Bianco, Jr., Phil Breeman, Mich Himich, Harry Humberger, Stan Piesetzkie and John Bianco. †Remember the great running back, Franco Harris, of the Pittsburgh Steelers?† If you do, then, you get the idea.
The Pittsburgh Center
Iíve written about Pittsburgh area pigeon racing before.† It had 3 strong combines that together could ship 7000 birds to a race (kind of a Gulf Coast Homing Club on steroids). ††It was a major pigeon racing hub during an exciting time in the life of the sport.† The nationally known Peter Barry was Secretary of a feisty Pittsburgh Center that had 650 members.† Winning in the Pittsburgh Concourse was tough and they say if you won the top spot once in 5 years, you were pretty darn good, or pretty darn lucky.† On Monday mornings, it is reported that the Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph ran nearly a full page of club race results from the previous dayís races.† Competition was tough, and men were serious enough about winning to search out the best pigeon blood in the business to get them to the top of the sheet.† Much of the same genetics flows in the veins of todayís champions in the leading lofts in the Interstate Combine, and it is coupled with the same intense determination to win.
Some of the younger men competing then, still race as elders of the sport today; Mule Shedís Harry Humberger, Mich Himch, and John Bianco to name a few, and for many of them the competitive flame still burns like it did 40 years ago. ďI live just to beat Harry Humberger and Mich Himich in our weekly pigeon racingĒ, said a smiling John Bianco of nearby Greensburg, Pa.
ďI care not where I place on the sheet, as long as it is above at least one of my two old friends. †Besides, they are usually so good it almost guarantees me that Iíll be near the top of the sheet.† I wonít buy any of their birds either, because you canít beat these two guys with their own stock.† They know how to motivate it too well.† You could never catch up to them.† You have to beat them with better birds from better flyers, if there is such a thing.† I keep searching, but it is tough.† Right now I am mixing Tony Zattaís Zeko/King David Houbens and the GHCís Laszlo Szentendrei birds (Ganus and Barry Yu) with my base family of Calia Janssens.† They fly pretty well from 100 to 600 miles.Ē ††
That passion has served the competitive, seasoned Bianco well.† In 2010, at 27th overall, he won the Interstate Section of the Ohio-Penn Fed 400 against 1017 birds from 83 lofts. †His old friend Mule Shed Humberger was 147th.† The great, hard-hitting Himich was 155th. In 2011, Bianco pressed the old boys again by placing 32nd against 1024 birds in the Fed 400, while the two old friendlyís were 34th and 42nd.†
However, in the 2011 Fed 500, the motivation of the rivalry showed its strength; Himich scored big with a 1st Overall Federation Win against 1129 birds/92 lofts.† Two years earlier, in 2009, the same thing happened.† Himich won 1st Overall of the Federation 400, Mule Shed Harry was 48th, and the hard pressing, long flying Bianco, flew to a disappointing 80th. So, you can see, this competitive soup has been bubbling and percolating for a long time, and from this we can draw the conclusion that friendly rivalries are good for the sport.
Little All American-Honorable Mention
Bianco is an old time pigeon die-hard who has successfully raced pigeons for 51 years in four different Pittsburgh clubs.† There isnít much that he hasnít seen, hasnít tried, or hasnít had done to him.† During that time he was also three times Little All American-Honorable Mention (as awarded by the Racing Pigeon Bulletin), accumulated thirty 1st Combine Section B trophies, 20 show trophies, and has won 12 Combine Section B Average Speed awards.† In 2010 he was 1st Combine Long Average Speed, and in 2011, 3rd Combine Long Average Speed.†
Today his focus is directed toward the long races of the Ohio-Penn Federation as he gives the younger members an opportunity to have some success in the Interstate short program.† ďIím concerned about the sport, and I want others to have some success and some fun along the way, like I did.† Success is the only thing that will keep them participating. For five years, I didnít even race young birds, but I started young bird racing again in 2007, after my wife died, as a means of better preparing my old birds for the Fedís long distance racing program.Ē
The Orthodox and Unorthodox
Bianco has a few tricks of his own; some unique and unusual; some probably debatable.† ďMate right-handed tail feathered pigeons to left-handed tail feathered pigeons.† Pair your birds on February 14th.† Donít train young birds in heat that exceeds 85 degrees.† Donít vaccinate unless you are forced to by disease outbreaks.† Never train after early morning when the distance exceeds 50 miles. †Donít top dress your feed with oils or supplements, especially brewers yeast, for fear of bacteria growth.† Fly double widowhood.† Give lots of open loft.† When it is really hot, with a syringe, squirt water down a birdís throat before shipping. Place 2 Omega 3 fish oil tablets down a birdís throat at shipping. Feed light to heavy on Monday and Tuesday using barley, then switch back to regular feeding on Wednesday.Ē† He also suggests, very thoughtfully, that discerning flyers find and read a Racing Pigeon Digest article written by Gene Yoes in November 1992, about Dr. John Kazmierczakís management and overview of the sport.† I read it, and consider it to be one of the best, most concise write-ups I have ever seen about someone that knows how to successfully bring science and art together into a healthy, motivated, little package of feathers.† That one article was well worth the $40 subscribers paid for all of their Digest magazines that year, and is a perfect example of why it is important to support the sportís only national magazine. ††††††††††††††††††††††††
What we know from our studying, reading and interviewing of so many different flyers is that there are literally hundreds and hundreds of ways to win a single pigeon race.† Winning consistently year after year, of course, requires a little more sophistication and regimentation, but what is necessary is a bona fide interest in the game, and the determination to find ways to compensate for your known shortcomings while persistently searching for your unknown shortcomings before they can upend you.† There are no recipes, and no one can write out for any underperforming flyer a fail-proof list of instructions that would magically turn him into a pigeon racing magnate. †It just canít be done.† There are too many variables.† In the meantime, there are guys like John Bianco (724-834-3396) out there that are full of ideas and theories about what makes a pigeon tick.† Or, you can check with their primary rivals, like Mich Himich, (724-539-7977) for substantive ideas.† These guys just know what is needed to win.† They are dedicated pigeon flyers that will always have pigeon racing at the top of their priority list, and that makes them unique and a valuable resource to us all.† They are to pigeon racing what Chuck Noll was to the Pittsburgh Steelers.† He coached the team from 1969 to 1991, and took the team to four Super Bowls.† Imagine what advice he could give to a small football team.† Call our friends.† Help yourself in the process. These men have the mindset of a professional football coach.
(About the author:† Ezra Lee Kohli is Secretary and Publicity Officer for the Ohio-Penn Racing Pigeon Federation.† He is a 3 time Overall Winner of the Ohio-Penn Federation 400 and has been 2nd Overall, a fourth time. †He is also a †9 time Section Winner in the Ohio-Penn Federation, has a BS Degree in Poultry Science from the Ohio State University, and owns and operates a 100 year old General Store, and 2 pizza shops in Ohioís Amish Country with his wife and step-son.† Kohli is a certified life-time fanatic of the sport.† His articles are dedicated to the memory of the great pigeon racer Steve Schnitkey, of Archbold, Ohio.)††† †