Vinci's start in the sport is reminiscent of Charles Atlas, the proverbial 98-pound weakling who grew into a muscleman through diligent training.Vinci remained an exercise and workout enthusiast well into his later years despite the normal wear and tear of aging, a heart surgery, and other health issues.
At 4-foot 11 1/2-inches, Vinci grew up fighting turf battles in Cleveland, where he vied with other shoeshine boys for street corners on which to operate.
"You had to battle your way to school and battle your way back home," said Vinci, a steelworker for 31 years.
At 14, Vinci began pushing weights at the Central YMCA in Cleveland before meeting John Schubert, 66, who offered Vinci a full-time training opportunity.
"He came and lived with me for about seven months," said Schubert, an ex-Marine who has been working out with weights for 52 years and opened the Olympic Health Club on the city's west side after World War II ended.
"He lived in a back room of my gym and sometimes I'd come and check on the gym late at night and he'd be working out," Schubert said. "I'd tell him he had to rest some time."