Dan Daly of the DC Times said: “You once had to be clever or insightful or inciting.
Ideally, you could be all three at once and produce magic like this:
Kobe Bryant is a ball hog, period. No matter how much Bryant talks about winning titles, NBA insiders know the truth. When he has the Spalding in his hands, shot happens.
Ah, yes, there was a time when being a sportswriter felt special. We were members of a chosen group permitted to make a living describing games and coming up with different ways to play off the word snot.
Then someone invented blogging. Suddenly we were competing against 39-year-olds who survive on Cheetos and Kool-Aid and haven’t been to a baseball game in years but know every statistic relating to Chone Figgins, including his mother’s hat size.
That’s OK, though. We’re fine with this.
There’s plenty to go around. We stopped worrying when we figured out people are so desperate to avoid work they’ll use their computer instead to follow the latest tweets from that manly looking member of The Bangles.
But today, we’d like to provide some guidance. We’d like to offer tips to the modern-day sportswriter, keeping in mind the influences of the Internet and radio and the damage that can be done to a keyboard by Cheeto dust.
For starters, headlines have evolved. The word “headline” is Latin and combines “head,” meaning “This is what” and “line,” meaning “The story is about.” In a word — boring.
Now, Internet headlines must be teasing and provocative, leaving the reader no choice but to delve into the story. We’d suggest something similar to this:
“Holy Guacamole! What fruit was football player carrying in his pants? And why?”
Now that’s provocative. People are going to click on that story, right?
Headlines like this one are the very reason for carpal tunnel syndrome.
As a modern-day sportswriter, you must be aware of the latest technology and how that technology, frankly, keeps getting in your way.
It used to be a big deal when both Mom and Dad could be there to watch their son play a youth baseball game. Now, Little League matchups are being shown on national television, in HD even.
Twelve-year-olds in high definition? Many things look better in HD; these things, however, do not including pimples.
Still, you have to keep up or you’ll be as extinct as Scott Baio So try Twittering from T-ball games and posting Hungry Hungry Hippos results on Facebook.
Know your audience, in other words.
Whatever you do as a sportswriter today don’t limit yourself to writing sports. That’s certain death.
There’s a big world out there and you should boldly pursue the most important of truths, like what, exactly, does Oliver from “The Brady Bunch” look like now.
There is also no denying the impact sports-talk radio has had on our profession. In an attempt to appeal to that crowd, try writing in the following manner:
We’ve got a great column for you today, absolutely the best ever Let’s just say that if this column was a person, it would sweat champagne.
Speaking of sweat, the first segment of today’s foray into utter genius is brought to you by Right Guard, the one to roll on before you roll out. Right Guard, the posse protector!
Sports-talk radio also is brilliant at the teasing game. This is a sure-fire defense against the motorist reaching the necessary 14 inches to switch to KROQ.
Use this technique in your writing. Here are three examples:
What Southern California college football coach killed a man? We’ll tell you in the next paragraph.
Why is John Wooden the pure essence of all things evil? You’ll find out if you keep reading.
Can a man develop E.D. by failing to finish a column after he has started reading it? There’s only one way to find out.
The idea is to turn yourself into what’s called a “must-read,” an industry term meaning there’s a decent chance something in this column will be worth stealing for my next column.
Then there’s the opposite. A recent print version of latimes.com included this note: “Dan Jenkins. The legendary Golf Digest scribe is reason enough to join the Twitter movement. Among his Saturday tweets:
’Four Americans currently in the Top 20. And one’s a club pro.’”
Seriously? Reason enough to join the Twitter movement? This observation by Jenkins isn’t even reason enough to burn the calories required to click your mouse.
Dan Jenkins has rightly won numerous awards for his work. This particular tweet will correctly win him nothing.
We would expect insightful tweets to contain slightly more revealing information, like the fact Natalie Gulbis was born a man.
But there is nothing more important to the modern-day sportswriter then knowing how to properly end a column. This is because the ending is the one thing between you and that first beer.
There are many options to consider here but, to be honest, we’re tired and don’t feel like taking the time to explore them all. Just go on the Internet and Google it. That’s what we always do.
As for this column, let’s try the following:
We’ll announce the cure for cancer, reveal which Angel prefers high-heels and identify the real killers . . . tomorrow.”

 

 

 

Mike Reiss, of the Boston Globe, felt that: “Pepper Johnson had it all figured out. After playing 13 NFL seasons, he was planning a transition to his next career.
Johnson quickly discovered that his first post-playing job, as a corporate spokesman and part-time television analyst for Giants and Jets games in 1999, wasn’t for him. He wasn’t a business guy and didn’t enjoy asking questions to which he already knew the answers.
So his idea was to piece together what he learned on the football field, in meeting rooms, and in locker rooms. He started thinking of all the lessons he could pass along to a younger generation of football players.
He’d tell stories about slow-footed Everson Walls, the undrafted-turned-All-Pro defensive back who made up for his physical limitations through tireless
preparation. He’d talk about what opponents like Reggie White and Pat Swilling used to tell him about their pass-rushing expertise, how Mike Singletary’s infectious approach rubbed off on teammates, and how Giants teammates like George Martin and Harry Carson gained an edge.
“My thoughts were to get all this information and go back and coach high school,’’ Johnson recalled. “I thought that would be great, to go back and teach high school kids some of the techniques and skills we have at the NFL level, and maybe I could come up with a couple hundred wins before I retire.’’
The plan, like some of the running backs he thumped during his playing days, was blown up.
Johnson is now in his 10th season as an assistant coach with the Patriots, a position he never sought but which presented itself through one of the NFL’s more impressive initiatives: the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship.
Johnson’s former defensive coordinator with the Giants and Jets and head coach with the Browns, Bill Belichick, had just been named head coach of the
Patriots in 2000.
“I had asked Coach Belichick if I could watch things from an organizational standpoint,’’ said Johnson. “I wanted to see the coaching process – the meetings, who is responsible for what, all that stuff. He brought me aboard and I tell the story that he probably knew my passion for the game, and what would happen next – that I’d want to stay around.’’
Ten years later, the 45-year-old Johnson is one of just three position coaches who have been on Belichick’s staff each season, joining Dante Scarnecchia
(offensive line) and Ivan Fears (running backs). Instead of tutoring impressionable high schoolers, he is leading meetings with top-caliber defensive linemen Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork, and Ty Warren.
While Johnson is a student of football and teaches the often-overlooked techniques that contribute to successful line play, his coaching style is best described as passionate. Visit a Patriots practice, and his booming voice rises above all, whether he’s calling out for a new personnel package or rallying the scout kickoff-coverage team as part of the regular Friday practice routine.
“I’m going to make the most of it, have fun, and I’m going to be excited about it,’’ said Johnson, who took pride in never missing a practice because of injury through his first 11 seasons as a player. “When I look at it, it’s one speed only. I don’t have different tempos. I can’t pull it down, or shift into a different gear, or have 110 percent effort. That makes no sense to me. You’re either playing or you’re not.
“I can’t go out there and perform like I used to, even though I joke that I still have 20 plays [per game] left in me. So I live through Vince Wilfork. I live through Ty Warren. I live through Randy Moss and Tom Brady. I need for those guys to feel what I’m feeling every day I go out there.’’
When Johnson is asked about the differences between his playing and coaching careers, coaching is the area he highlights.
“I think it hit home to me in 2001 when we won the Super Bowl and then I saw my son Dionte win the city wrestling championship [in Columbus, Ohio],’’ he
said. “I was so proud of Dionte. That was his first year wrestling.
“Then I thought about seeing my players after winning the Super Bowl – Roman Phifer running down the field, Bobby Hamilton excited and crying. I hate to say it, because it ages me, but those guys were like my kids. When you see them accomplish something, it’s special.’’
With five Super Bowl rings – two as a player with the Giants, three as a coach with the Patriots – Johnson has a résumé that few assistants can match. His
long-term aspirations are to move up the coaching ladder, where the natural progression would be defensive coordinator.
That’s a bit different from where he was 10 years ago, carving out plans to be a high school coach, but sometimes unexpected things happen and they stick for the long-term. Sort of like when Johnson’s aunt observed him sprinkling pepper on his breakfast cereal as a youngster, and nicknamed him “Pepper.’’
The name fits. So, too, does the position of NFL coach.
“It’s great, I’m doing something I love to do,’’ he said. “I’ve always had a passion for football. It’s something that I know, that I strongly believe I was born and raised to do.’’

Tom Boswell writes for the DC Post but really likes the Cubbies. He lamented, “Maybe the Cubs aren’t quite dead, and Wrigley Field isn’t officially a crime scene yet. But when the Cubs look over their shoulders, they don’t see shadows, just their own outlines in chalk.
As Josh Willingham’s home run off Carlos Zambrano soared over the bleachers onto Waveland Avenue on Tuesday, followed soon by a grand slam by Elijah Dukes, then another three-run blast by Willingham, the idea began to form itself: Maybe the Cubs really can go another hundred years without a world title. Startthe countdown for Century II.
On Sunday, as the Cubs finished a lousy road trip in Los Angeles, Manager Lou Piniella said: “We have to get hot. We need to have a really, really good
homestand. It’s got to turn. It’s got to get better. Just relax and don’t give in to it.”
Relax? The Cubs? Don’t give in? The Cubs have been giving in since 1908. After losing to the Nats, 15-6, Tuesday night the Cubs fell to 62-61, nine games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central and 8 1/2 games behind the Rockies in the wild-card race.
“That was more like a Bears score,” said outfielder Milton Bradley who, in Cub tradition, made quips after going 4 for 4 in a game his team lost by nine.
Said Piniella: “We’ve had a rough August [8-14]. What can I say?”
What can anybody say about the Cubs? For the last few years, the Tribune Co. has been, as they say in the industry, “readying the team for sale.” That means create as much buzz as possible by making expensive trades and free agent signings, then hope you find a rich guy who wants a big league team to keep him busy.
Last Friday, a judge said the Ricketts family, which made its money in TD Ameritrade, could buy the Cubs for $845 million. So, in a sense, the Cubs’ strategy worked. They found a bigger fool.
What a collection of assets Tom Ricketts and his dad will have on their hands. Pretty ballpark — real old, needs a new grandstand. Then there are the players:
Start with Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome and Milton Bradley, three toxic outfielders with 40 homers and 131 RBI. Those would be great numbers for one player. Unfortunately, those are for the whole outfield combined. If this were a house inspection, the Cubs would have termites, mold and lead paint; you could cancel the contract.
Soriano is the prize. The Cubs spent $136 million for him after the Nats wouldn’t offer him even $75 million, though he hit 46 homers and stole 41 bases in 2006. What did the Nats know? That Soriano isn’t a leadoff hitter or a left fielder. Now, Soriano can’t steal bases anymore, hits .240 and might need knee surgery. Good thing he has just five more years at $17 million apiece.
In baseball, bad decisions often cascade. Because Soriano contaminated left field, the Cubs couldn’t afford another liability in the outfield. So they didn’t pursue Adam Dunn, who has hit 22 homers in Wrigley Field in his career, almost one every other game. Instead, they signed Bradley, another guy coming off a career year, who now has 32 RBI, a mere 57 less than Dunn.
While the Cubs added players who were glamorous or exotic, such as Fukudome, they traded away ones who were valuable but boring. They dealt versatile Mark DeRosa, who’s helping (curses) St. Louis. Who needs dependable Jason Marquis, who had just gone 11-9 and 12-9 for the Cubs? They traded him to Colorado, where he’s leading the staff (14-8) toward the playoffs.
Who needs every example? The Cubs, with the best regular season record in the NL in ’08, got desperate in the offseason after a first-round playoff choke. So they radically changed a team that probably only needed tweaking. Now, the Cubs have a $135 million payroll (behind only two New York teams with new parks) and a record so bad that they’ll be an afterthought by Labor Day.
Everywhere you look on the North Side, there’s turmoil. This is a team that paid $52 million to a pitcher (Ryan Dempster) who broke a toe jumping the dugout railing to celebrate a win; he missed a month as a result. Has zany Zambrano outlasted his welcome? He just came back from the DL after back spasms that he said came from being “lazy.” For $91 million, you can’t do your sit-ups?
Will Piniella be back in 2010 to finish the last season on his deal and end his career? Probably. Will GM Jim Hendry, who obeyed orders to gussy up the team, be the sacrificial billy goat? He was told to win a Series, bag a $1 billion price for the team then stick the next owner with the long-term contracts. It worked pretty well, except the Series part. If Hendry’s gone, who among the usual suspects (including the Nats’ Stan Kasten) might replace him?
Every century or so, perhaps the whole romantic idea of the Cubs needs a rethink. As a kid, I carried an Ernie Banks baseball card and fell for the black-cat 1969 team. I was there in ’84, when the grounder went past Leon Durham’s glove in the NLCS. The night the lights went on in Wrigley for the first time, I watched it rain — and grinned when they said, “Game canceled.”
Minutes after Steve Bartman botched the foul ball in ’03, I was on the phone from the Fenway Park press box making a plane flight to O’Hare at dawn to see the final act of the Cubs’ latest disaster. And, last October, when the Cubs were down two games to the Dodgers, I bit the apple again; what a perfect time, I wrote, for a Cub postseason comeback, akin to the Red Sox in ’04. The perfect springboard to grab a title.
Maybe we’ve been wrong, both the true Cubs fans and the rest of us casual sorts. Once, Mike Epstein, who hit 30 homers for the old Nats, said he had few memories of D.C., but remembered his two seasons with the A’s vividly, especially the ’72 championship season.
“Hunters say that the only interesting guns are accurate,” Epstein said. “Maybe the only interesting teams are champions.”
If true, then more people have wasted more time obsessing over the Cubs than any team in American sports. Generation after generation, the Cubs offer the same redundant cautionary tales. Don’t give huge contracts to fat pitchers who won’t do sit-ups or leadoff men who never walk. Don’t hire a manager, famousfor his fire, after he’s mellowed. Don’t do this; don’t do that. But the Cubs keep doing it, yet sell out every game anyway.
In Wrigley Field these days, the bile is so deep in the aisles that the cleanup crews need HAZMAT suits. At what point do Cubs fans, and the rest of us, say, “This just isn’t interesting anymore.”
We’re probably not there yet. But you can see it from here. Another century, and we’re done with ’em.”

Then Phil Rogers said in the ChiTrib, “Milton Bradley? There are three possible solutions for the Cubs: continued patience and hope, endless headaches while hoping some team is silly enough to deal for him or pay him his money and send him home.My recommendation: Release him.Sadly, Jim Hendry is a baseball executive. The Cubs general manager is not a magician.This is an unfortunate reality, as it means sleight of hand is out of the question. He is going to have a hard time turning Bradley into something that will make an audience ooh and ah, certainly not in the time it takes to look away from Bradley in the on-deck circle to the sight of a pretty magician’s assistant, carrying a cold Old Style.

The timing couldn’t be much worse.

While trying to demonstrate his usefulness to the Ricketts family, Hendry is going to have to clean up the mess he made when he ignored flashing caution lights to sign Bradley to a three-year $30 million contract last January.

As of Wednesday, when Bradley declared he roots for nine-inning games because he can’t wait to get home, Hendry no longer can cross his fingers and hope Bradley becomes the player he pictured he would be in right field at Wrigley Field. He has to do something to get him off the roster, the sooner the better.

For a variety of reasons, almost all of his own making, Bradley has not been a contributor for manager Lou Piniella and the Cubs, at least not in normal terms.
You could count him — and Hendry’s decision to get him — as the leading contributor to the epic 2009 disappointment.

And now, with his latest comments creating an integrity issue, he has to go. You will hear some talk about a trade, but Hendry should summon the spirit of Mike Scioscia, circa 2004, or Josh Byrnes, circa 2005. He needs to punt Bradley, as Scioscia and the Angels did Jose Guillen and Byrnes and the Diamondbacks did Russ Ortiz.

These were decisive management acts — and perhaps not by coincidence the perennially solid Angels won more games the next season and the Diamondbacks stunned the National League West (and the Cubs) in ’07 before going back into hibernation.

On the same June day Bradley told the Tribune’s Paul Sullivan he feels isolated in a clubhouse full of his fellow ballplayers, Piniella threw him off the Cubs’ bunch, telling him — among other things — “You’re not a ballplayer!”

If ever a case could be made for addition by subtraction, this is it.

Send Bradley home. Move Kosuke Fukudome from center field to right. Give Sam Fuld a chance to audition as a center-field regular for what’s left of a
miserable season.

The personnel side of this decision almost makes itself — and just might fit right in with the theme of the weekend. Rich Harden, the Cubs’ best pitcher since the All-Star break, and Aaron Heilman have been claimed on waivers, possibly for trades as Hendry looks to 2010.

In regards to Bradley, the tough part for Hendry is saving face, especially given the delicate nature of the transition from Tribune Co. to the Rickettses. But don’t overlook the contract extension Hendry received last October. He’s signed through 2012, giving him the financial security of a strong executive. He needs to act like one, admitting a mistake and getting on with the future.

Sure, it would be nice to avoid the ignominy of releasing Bradley when he still is owed more than $21 million.

It would join the Ortiz release among the most expensive in history, surpassing transactions that left Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield, B.J. Ryan and Bill Hall free agents, along with the trade that sent Julio Lugo from the Red Sox to the Cardinals, with the Red Sox picking up $13.5 million in salary. But trading Bradley is pie-in-the-sky.

The only way to trade Bradley, according to executives with other clubs, is to up your ante to take on someone else’s bad contract. You know the names — the Blue Jays’ Vernon Wells, owed $98.5 million over five years; the Giants’ Barry Zito, $83 million over four years; the Astros’ Carlos Lee, $55.5 million over three years, maybe the Giants’ Aaron Rowand, $36 million over three years.

The best of those scenarios involves the Rangers’ five-year, $80-million deal with Michael Young, who at 32 is a productive player. He’s owed $16 million a year for four more seasons.

In a cost-cutting mode because of ownership problems, Texas might consider a Bradley-for-Young trade. But it wouldn’t do it during its ongoing playoff race and it’s going to be increasingly awkward for them to try to wade through a hugely problematic trade.

Can a team already on the hook for the likes of Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano and Fukudome afford another long-term risk?

Putting together such a deal is a long shot. The best option is the hardest — wave good-bye to a guy you shouldn’t ever have signed.”

 

 

 

Jon Fogg wrote in the DC Times:                                                                
“Give Pete Rose’s supporters some credit — the Hit King was more persistent than a mosquito in your bedroom on a dark summer night, but his backers are trying to outdo him.
Rose, the only man to play in the All-Star Game at five different positions, squeezed every drop of talent out of his 5-foot-11 spark plug of a body. In that spirit, a group of notable names who believe Rose should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame are making the most of every chance to campaign on Rose’s behalf.
Their latest excuse came Monday, the 20th anniversary of when Rose signed an agreement that banned him from baseball (oh, and it’s not ironic that baseball’s all-time hits leader is banned from the sport; if the street on which the Hall of Fame is located were renamed Pete Rose Boulevard, that would be ironic).
Mike Schmidt, a Hall of Famer himself, wrote a column for the Associated Press in which he decries the treatment of Rose compared with rule-breakers currently playing, and he closes with a question: “Twenty years have passed, isn’t that enough?”
Of course, it hadn’t been long since there was another former star making a pitch on Rose’s behalf. At the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies last month in Cooperstown, N.Y., Hank Aaron said Rose “belongs” in the Hall. Joe Morgan and Frank Robinson gave their endorsement, too.
No opportunity to speak on Rose’s behalf is going by the wayside. Don’t be surprised if some ex-star makes an impassioned plea in the World Series. After all, Rose did play in a few of those.
The occasions change, but the argument remains the same: “It’s been ‘X’ years since Rose was banned from baseball. Gee, that’s a long time. Let’s right a wrong and let him in.”
As if the passage of time has washed away Rose’s sins. Nowhere on that sheet Rose signed lo those many years ago is there a “forgiveness” clause, one that
promises a chance at a place among the hallowed gods with contrition and the slow cascade of sand in the hourglass.
Rose’s transgressions are permanent, and the punishment must be as well. It’s easy to look at what’s gone on in baseball the past 10 years and conclude that what Rose did wasn’t nearly as bad. In truth, steroids and gambling can’t be compared — other than that they are both indelible stains on the game.
Among all the players who ever stepped on field, no one was more opportunistic than Rose. And more often than ever before, it seems, Charlie’s Hustlers keep reminding us that they learned from the best.”

The Cowboys’ new Dallas home had Dan Daly scratching his head at the DC Times. “Why all the hullabaloo about a punt kerplunking off a giant TV screen in Dallas – in a preseason game, no less? Somehow, you figure, the NFL will survive this minor miscalculation by Jerry Jones in his attempt to build the Stadium To End All Stadiums. Somehow, you figure, the Cowboys’ boss will raise the screen, lower the field, untie the punters’ shoelaces or deflate the ball so it won’t reach such altitudes – and the issue will disappear.
It’s become a story, I suspect, mostly because the league prides itself on doing things just right, on planning for any eventuality, on anticipating every conceivable problem. And then Jones, in his bigger-is-better Texas way, goes a little overboard on the size of screens hanging above the field, and the Titans’ punter gets one blocked… by Mitsubishi.
Seriously, though, if something this inconsequential can become such a hot topic, well, it just shows how far the NFL has progressed. I mean, in pro football’s youth, stadium glitches were as common as broken noses. Well, almost.
Take Wrigley Field, where the Bears played until the ’70s. Behind one end zone – directly behind it – was an ivy-covered brick wall; behind the other end zone was a baseball dugout. Neither was a very soft landing place
One day in 1938, Chicago’s Dick Plasman, a husky receiver, dived for an overthrown pass and ran smack into the wall. This wouldn’t have been so bad if he weren’t the last NFL player to play without a helmet. The collision knocked him cuckoo and left him with an ugly cut stretching across the top of his head. But that was Wrigley for you. If the Bears didn’t get you, the wall behind the south end zone would.
As for the dugout end of the field, Colts wideout Jimmy Orr once described it thusly: “You didn’t have a full end zone. It was only 8 1/2 yards [deep]. If you
went down in the dugout and looked at the chalk line, you’d see it had a zigzag in it at the corner of the dugout.”
The Bears weren’t the only club in the early days with a shorter-than-regulation field. In Cleveland, one of the end zones at League Park was a mere six yards deep. If a team had to punt from deep in its own end and needed more room to get the kick off, the ball would be moved farther away from the goal line.
Then there was the Cycledrome, a stadium built for bicycle races that served as the home of the 1928 NFL champs, the Providence Steam Roller. Talk about cozy. A banked, four-lane track ran around the field and chopped five yards off the corners of one end zone. (In other words, if Dwight Clark had tried to make The Catch in Providence, he might have come down out of bounds.)
According to Pearce Johnson, Providence’s assistant general manager, “There was only one locker room, and it was very small. After all, it was built for bicycle people, and they only had four on the track at one time. The players took their turns going inside and changing. There were only two showers and a limited amount of hot water, so the first ones in were the lucky ones.
“There was no opponent’s locker room. They’d dress at their hotel, and then we’d bus them to the field.”
NFL lore is full of such tales – of having to play uphill for one half at Yankee Stadium and downhill for the other because the outfield was sloped for drainage; of San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium featuring two sets of goal posts, one on the goal line for pro games and one at the back of the end zone for college games; of unusual happenings on baseball infields – especially when the pitcher’s mound hadn’t been removed.
Joe Perry, the Hall of Fame running back, once told me of the time he was met by an opponent at the top of one of those mounds and how “my helmet went one way, I went another and the ball went another. I got jacked up.”
The point I’m trying to make is that pro football’s history, architectural and otherwise, is the history of imperfection – and of succeeding, gloriously, despite of it.
So what’s the big deal, really, about having to “do-over” a punt in an exhibition game?
Let’s face it, Jerry Jones, king of the Cowboys, was going to have his hanging TV screens just as surely as Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was going to have his hanging gardens. Some things can’t be helped.

 

 

 

Thom Loverro told us that, “Billy Crystal may be America’s performer. He is the gold standard in this country for entertainment. He was so good for so long hosting the often-dreadful Academy Awards that they should have named it “The Billy Crystal Show,” co-starring the rest of Hollywood.
Crystal is back performing, this time his Tony Award-winning stage show, “700 Sundays,” about the time spent with his family growing up in Long Beach, N.Y.
The show is coming to the District’s National Theatre from Sept. 8 to Sept. 17.
But he is also, like so many of us, a baseball fan, and to those who say fans don’t care about the steroids controversy and the impact of performance-enhancing substances on the game, you should hear what Crystal said as a guest Wednesday on “The Sports Fix” on ESPN 980, co-hosted by Kevin Sheehan and me.
Crystal directed the HBO film “61” in 2001, the story of Roger Maris’ record-breaking 61-home run season in 1961 and the turmoil surrounding his breaking of the mark, then held by American icon Babe Ruth.
Ruth held the record of 60 home runs in a single season for 34 years until Maris broke it. Then, 37 years later, Mark McGwire broke Maris’ record by hitting 70 home runs. Three years later, Barry Bonds set the single-season mark with 73. And while Sammy Sosa never set a record, he did hit more than Maris’ 61 home runs three times from 1998 to 2001. McGwire, Sosa and Bonds were either proven or suspected steroid users.
And despite all the attention that McGwire brought to the Maris family during his record-setting season, Maris’ accomplishments were diminished with each passing year in the steroid era.
That’s the crime, Crystal said. That’s what is so wrong. The accomplishments of the men who played the game without the help of performance-enhancing
substances wind up being devalued. And in the case of Maris, who passed away in 1985 at age 51, there is no one to speak out for his accomplishments except family members and fans like Crystal.
“I was just in Fargo, North Dakota, Roger’s hometown,” Crystal said. “It was an amazing time. We showed the movie in the Fargo Theatre, where Roger and his wife, Pat, used to go on dates. All the Maris kids and grandkids were there It was powerful.
“This was right after Manny [Ramirez] came out and said he tried to get pregnant,” Crystal said about Ramirez, who tested positive earlier this year for human chorionic gonadotropin, a female fertility drug also used in conjunction with anabolic steroids. “I guess he felt the thing missing in his life was a child.
“Bob Costas and I did a town hall meeting in Fargo,” Crystal said. “I said to the audience, ‘These guys have ruined it. It’s a shame.’…”
Yes, it is a shame, but the ones who should be ashamed don’t seem to know the meaning of the word. Sosa should feel shame for passing Frank Robinson on the all-time home run list. Alex Rodriguez, an admitted steroid user, should feel shame for having recently passed Harmon Killebrew on the all-time home run list.
How will A-Rod, if he winds up in the Hall of Fame, look Killebrew and others in the eye on the stage in Cooperstown someday? And if those great players are gone by then, will there be others like Crystal who will give their accomplishments the perspective they deserve?
Four years ago, the North Dakota Senate urged Major League Baseball to re-establish Maris’ 61 home runs as the single-season record. That’s not likely to
happen, but Crystal believes there should be something in the record books to acknowledge the difference between the inflated numbers and Maris’ record.
“The asterisk for Roger [in 1961, commissioner Ford Frick declared that an asterisk be placed next to Maris’ record because he played in a 162-game season compared with Ruth’s 154-game season, though it was later removed] should be now for most home runs for someone not using performance-enhancing drugs,”
Crystal said. “It’s hard to take it away from Bonds or any of these guys. You can’t really do that, but I think there needs to be more recognition. You see now there is only one guy who has 40 home runs. – Everyone else is where they used to be.
“I think that is a testimony to what Roger did, especially with everything he went through,” Crystal said. “There should be a bigger spotlight on what Roger did, especially in light of what has been going on.”
Billy Crystal did his part with the making of “61.” There will be no films made celebrating the accomplishments of Barry Bonds – just the scandals, perhaps.”

Scott Ostler wrote this article in the SF Chronicle and it heralds a team of brothers who were not steroid abusers, felons, or cheats. “It’s a story made forHollywood, but Hollywood would have to embellish like crazy.
The 1951 USF Dons football team went undefeated. The team featured 10 future NFL players and three future Pro Football Hall of Famers. It was not invitedto a bowl game.
Word came down that the Dons would get a bowl bid if they agreed to leave behind their two black players – Ollie Matson and Burl Toler.
In a movie, you need drama and tension, so the team would meet and debate the secret proposal. We would see anguish and anger, torment and soul-searching among young men facing the opportunity of a lifetime.
In reality: No meeting. No discussion. No conflict. No drama. There was plenty of anger, but it was directed at the anonymous idiots behind the racist proposal.
The players didn’t feel like heroes. They felt like brothers. “We heard the coach wanted to find out if we wanted a meeting,” said Bob St. Clair, who later played with the 49ers and is a Hall of Famer, along with Matson and Gino Marchetti from that ’51 team. “We refused. It was ludicrous. It was a slap in our face.”
Burl Toler died Aug. 16 at 81. His funeral was Wednesday at St. Ignatius Church on the USF campus. There were about 1,500 mourners.
The story of the ’51 team is pure Burl Toler. He was at the center of significant social change. Without fanfare, a lasting blow was struck for integrity and equality.
Story of his life.
Toler, a great linebacker, blew out a knee and never played pro ball. He went into education, a gym teacher who became the first black principal of a San
Francisco middle school. He had a campus named after him.
In ’65, Toler became an NFL game official, the first African American official in a major American sport. Quietly.
At Wednesday’s service, it was suggested that Toler was the Jackie Robinson of on-field sports officials. Like Robinson, Toler was chosen as the groundbreaker 
(by then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, who had been sports-information director for the ’51 Dons) in part because of his temperament.
Toler could deflect pressure with poise. Robinson’s M.O. was controlled fury. Toler’s style was extreme competence with no angry edge.
“He threw flags on me,” Jamie Williams said as Toler’s coffin was placed into a hearse. Williams, a tight end for the 49ers in the early ’90s, said he would scream at Toler about a penalty and Toler would smile and say, “You were holding, Jamie.”
John Madden recently recalled how when he was coach of the Raiders, he would rain invective upon Toler for a call and Toler would respond by chuckling and saying, “John, you’re something else!”
Toler became a standout official who was respected for his understanding of the game and the men who played and coached it.
He was saluted Wednesday as a gentleman of uncommon charm and warmth, traits he exhibited even on a football field. Williams said he was shocked and
honored the first time Toler, after a play, patted Williams on the back and said, “You made a nice block, Jamie.”
Toler’s impact was often so quiet that even his mother didn’t fully comprehend. A few years after Toler became an NFL ref, his mother phoned him and said, “I’m so proud of you, son. I saw you (working TV games) Saturday, Sunday and Monday.”
Toler had to explain to his mom that times had changed. Now when she saw a black man in a stripped shirt, it wasn’t necessarily her son.
“Burl was very quiet, but he laughed a lot,” St. Clair said. “We’d always tell ethnic jokes, and Burl was always laughing.”
As USF teammate Vince Tringali said, “Burl was a kind, quiet, gentle guy, until the ball was snapped.”
Those two met in ’48 when Tringali’s College of Marin team played Toler’s City College of San Francisco squad.
“I was wide open,” Tringali said. “I caught a pass, I saw Burl and Ollie (Matson) coming down on me and I thought, ‘I better get out of bounds.’ They hit me and I landed on the bench, then flew over it and behind it. Six months later, I still hurt.”
Toler was drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Browns but ruined a knee in the College All-Star game.
“He would have been the fourth (Pro Football) Hall of Famer (from the ’51 Dons’ team),” said Ralph Thomas, a teammate.
St. Clair, Thomas, Tringali and fellow ’51 Dons Bill Henneberry, Dick Domino and Dick Colombini served as honorary pallbearers. They represented Toler’s 47  teammates, living and dead.
Teammates?
“We were brothers,” St. Clair said.

 

 

 

Scott Ostler reported in The SF Chronicle that, “Jim Harbaugh wanted a restroom/shower to adjoin his office, and generous Stanford donor John Arrillaga came through recently, building the Cardinal’s marquee coach a new loo for between $50,000 and $70,000.
The story broke in the San Jose Mercury News. I don’t know where the reporter got his info. I was going to suggest it was leaked to him, but I want to stay away from potty humor.
The new restroom is a real time-saver.
“It cuts down on drag,” Harbaugh said.
Football coaches are fanatical time-hoarders. Cal’s Jeff Tedford sleeps on an air mattress. I’ve seen it leaning against his office wall, and I’m not sure if Tedford even moves it to the floor when it’s time to nap.
In the old days, every time nature called, Harbaugh had to hike the distance of two first downs to the nearest restroom. He grew weary of an even longer trek downstairs to the shower, on days when he wasn’t showered in Gatorade.
I can relate, because I have been to summer camp. The time I could have saved with my own private restroom at camp would have allowed me to polish my cabin’s campfire skit, and I might be on Broadway now instead of writing about a football coach’s bathroom.
There will be critics who point out that Harbaugh’s new lavatory sends a message of insensitivity, even though it was built with private-donor money. The country is in financial crisis, and Stanford is not exempt. Cardinal athletic programs are being cut to the bone. Jobs in the athletic department are going bye-bye.
There are probably people at Stanford – students, professors, administrators, other coaches – who winced when they heard about Harbaugh’s haven.
No wincing here. As a sports guy, I understand the value of a winning football program, and the need of coaches to avoid wasting time. If Harbaugh leads the Cardinal to a bowl game, he’ll have the last laugh, which would really echo in his tile bathroom.
It’s simple. Football rules the realm, and every king deserves a throne room. (Note to copy desk: Don’t even think about inserting a line here about “royal flush.”)

I always enjoy reading Bill Conlin in the Philly Daily News, not only for his NY style biting humor but also for the truths his columns broadcast. “JERRY JONES built the NFL’s Taj Mahal and, oops, no bathrooms.
He put a billion bucks and change into a building worthy of Dubai and, oops, the Dallas Cowboys’ oil sheik forgot air conditioning, elevators and parking lots.
OK, those are figures of exaggerated speech to emphasize the Jonesing that Jerry has inflicted on the NFL and himself with a video board so big it looks like one of those massive alien space platforms dwarfing cities in “Armageddon.” Maybe the Pokes are holding back the roiling black clouds for the first time punter Mat McBriar slams a spiral off the league’s biggest 2009 embarrassment not named Michael Vick.
And how can a professional-level punter miss what is being billed as history’s largest HDTV? The thing overhangs the center of Cowboys Stadium at 90 feet above field level and runs from red zone to red zone, 60 yards. There are 48-foot wide “mini-screens” attached to either end so end-zone fans won’t feel cheated after shelling out $179 per single-game ticket plus $75 to park.
It’s not a football stadium, it’s an upholstered stimulus package . . .
But let Citizen Jones extol the nerve center of the Mother Ship’s techno innards. I quote from the official Cowboys Stadium press kit
“This is the first center-hung video board in football history,” said Jerry Jones, owner and general manager of Dallas Cowboys Football Club. “The innovative technology will give every fan a great seat and the view is better than watching a 60-inch HDTV in your living room. You will be able to see the players as if you were standing on the sidelines creating a living, interactive aspect to the building.”
HKS Sports & Entertainment, the same folks who gave us Citizens Bank Park, complete with slo-pitch softball power alleys, designed this latest monument to wretched excess. Architect Bryan Trubey’s modest assessment: “Swift form, powerful structure, agile movement and emulated colors serve as a strong link between the architectural form of the building and the primary use of the venue – the home of the Dallas Cowboys.”
You’d think with all that form, power, agility and linkage to the football team, the blueprint guys would have consulted the pigskin guys and figured out how high the 180-foot-long videoboard should be hung to keep punted footballs from bouncing off its underbelly.
Ray Guy, the only punter ever selected in the first round of the NFL draft, told the Dallas Morning News yesterday he figured he could have kicked footballs over the thing, let alone doink them off its bottom. Guy is the same guy who pounded a punt off a Louisiana Superdome video board during the 1976 Pro Bowl.
Ray estimates the board was 90 to 100 feet high and that he missed clearing it by a couple of yards.
Exactly what kind of testing was done that made these geniuses certain that hanging a mini-spaceship 90 feet over the turf would put Roger Goodell’s signature out of harm’s way?
In the stadium’s baptism of ire Friday night, Tennessee Titans punter A.J. Trapasso splattered a boomer off the hanging tower of babble-on. The officials had no recourse but to order a “do-over” to resolve the unexpected turn of events in what is supposed to be history’s most sophisticated and rule-intensive sport.
Do-over? In the National Finicky League? Where a taunt is taboo and taking your hat off after a score can cost you 15 yards? A do-frickin’-over? What’s next, quarterback counts to five before you can tackle him? “One Mississippi . . . ”
Jones retorts, hey, there were 12 punts in the game and one out of 12 ain’t bad. He says the massive, $20 million Mega-Mitsubishi will not be raised as much as an inch.
Meanwhile, the NFL competition committee will be the judge of that and is meeting this week.
How about this? You hit the TV, it’s a 15-yard penalty and first down for the receiving team at the new spot? No matter how your punter is trained to angle kicks away from returners, punting a football is not a precise art and the NFL’s 85-foot height guideline for objects that overhang the playing field is not only archaic, it was not designed with a monolith overspreading a 60-yard midsection of turf in mind.
Texas is the home office for collossal domed-stadium screwups. When Houston Astros owner Judge Roy Hofheinz presented us with the Ninth Wonder of the World, the Astrodome, he boasted no baseball would ever desecrate the lofty ceiling of the place. The Judge also set a hefty fine for any Astro attempting to fungo a baseball off it. He often monitored BP through the picture window of his lavish apartment overlooking rightfield, fine pad in hand.
The Phillies had the honor of playing the first regular-season game in the Dome. Chris Short pitched a 2-0 shutout. Dick Allen hit the first homer, a tape-measure bomb to dead center. And veteran reliever Ed Roebuck, one of baseball’s all-time great fungo batsmen, bounced a ball off the girders in fair territory during BP.
But it remained for Mike Schmidt to inflict the ultimate stroke of Dome.
On June 10, 1974, the third baseman hit what ranks as the most prodigious single in big-league history. When the titanic shot to dead center left his bat, I was thinking it would hit that hokey home-run display high on the Dome’s distant back wall.
But the baseball never got that far. It hit a large PA speaker hanging 117 feet over the AstroTurf at a spot 329 feet from home plate. There were runners on first and second and Mike was in his home-run trot. Under the ground rules – paying attention, Shane? – the ball was in-play and Schmidt settled for a single on what he considered the hardest-hit ball of his illustrious career.
A red-faced Judge Hofheinz ordered the speaker hauled up an additional 30 feet.
A defiant Jerry Jones apparently does not have that inexpensive option.”

 

 

 

Bruce Jenkins blogged on his “Three Dot Blog,” “Now that Billy Wagner has finally joined the Red Sox, after a selfish bit of soul-searching, the
Wagner-Jonathan Papelbon pairing could be quite the clash of egos. Papelbon, apparently oblivious to the fact that the Sox have had serious pitching problems, totally downplayed the idea of acquiring Wagner, saying, “What has he done? Has he pitched this year? I like the way our bullpen sorts out right now.”
Translated: Papelbon didn’t want anyone coming in as a threat to his closer job. That’s about the time Dan Shaughnessy wrote in the Boston Globe, “Something tells me Papelbon isn’t the guy John Calipari hired to take the SATs for Derrick Rose.” Meanwhile, Wagner actually balked at joining a team that could carry him into in his first World Series, because it might halt his pursuit of 400 career saves (he has 385). As for Papelbon, Wagner shot back, “I don’t have any thoughts on somebody like him. When he walks in my shoes, then I’ll say something. Let him be 38 and have Tommy John surgery and come back.” Papelbon scrambled
to say a bunch of nice things about Wagner, and they will surely make nice upon Wagner’s arrival. But the fact is, Wagner wants to close, and Papelbon wants no part of that. All aboard the Knucklehead Express . . .

 

Although he’s not yet on the 40-man roster, Vicente Padilla is expected to make his Dodger debut tomorrow night in the series finale at Coors Field. He hasn’t pitched since the first week of August, when the Texas Rangers found his act too intolerable to accept. Padilla is a notorious head-hunter, known to trigger feuds for stupid reasons and literally go for the head — a good way to gain an unsavory reputation.
Behind the scenes, Padilla was known to be late for meetings, or miss them altogether, and to be completely distant from teammates. Marlon Byrd termed his departure “an absolute positive for this team. He wasn’t a good influence on the young guys.” Pitcher Eddie Guardado added that his release was “a long time coming. They were just fed up with him not being a team guy.” Make no mistake, Padilla has nasty stuff. He could take the mound in Colorado and pitch seven hellacious innings. He could put together a few strong outings, to the tune of “See? He’s not such a bad guy.” But this move will eventually backfire on the Dodgers.
They just don’t know when .”
The Sports Curmudgeon wrote, “Johan Santana is the best pitcher the Mets have by a wide margin.  He still has years to go – – and guaranteed money left – – on his contract with the Mets.  If he has had a sore arm since “before the All-Star Game”, why didn’t he see a doctor before this?  Why did they risk losing a critical building block for that team?  Recall that Santana pitched on a partially torn meniscus in his knee last year that required surgery after the season; this is not the first time the Mets’ brain trust has rolled the dice with regard to the long-term health of their best pitcher.  If the owners of the Mets do not inject some “adult supervision” into the team now, then maybe they really are dumb enough to deserve having been screwed over by Bernie Madoff.”

SPORTS TV, BAD NEWS DAY

August 26, 2009

From Norman Chad, we have: “These are 23 (more) facts, tried and true, about the widening world of sports television:
1. I can’t afford to follow baseball anymore — every time I watch a game on TV, my wife schedules a four-hour spa session.
2. Do you have any idea how much electricity GE saves on NBC alone in any non-Olympic year?
3. I love “Outside the Lines: First Report,” but when exactly are their second and third reports?
4. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility, I guess, that one day there could be a Pole Vaulting Channel.
5. I have no doubt — no doubt — that a professional kickball league would attract more viewers than Major League Soccer.
6. Fox’s Jay Glazer knows MMA. Couch Slouch knows KFC.
7. What do a wedding groomsman and a boxing broadcaster have in common? They both wear tuxedos while watching a good man go down.
8. Why don’t sofas have cup holders?
(Column Intermission I: Every so often, I think about something I heard Fox’s Daryl Johnston say a couple of seasons back when Bubba Franks tried to get a first down during a Packers-Seahawks playoff game: “He’s initiating the extension of the football before the knee is on the ground.”)
9. The good news is I scoped clean during my recent colonoscopy. The bad news is my doctor was watching DirecTV’s Sports Mix during the procedure.
10. ESPN officially changes its call letters to EFPN (Entertainment & Favre Programming Network) on Sept. 1.
11. With “The Best Damn Sports Show Period” now history, I am terrified that Fox Sports Net is developing “The Second-Best Damn Sports Show Period.”
12. I wasn’t a big fan of the 20th century, but the 21st century hasn’t exactly rolled out the welcome mat for me.
13. I don’t know if people rate golf announcers, but if they do, they underrate ABC’s Paul Azinger.
14. I once was an organ grinder but gave it up because the monkey wanted a bigger cut of the take.
15. If Versus’s “Sports Soup” ever shows up on a dinner menu, I’d suggest you go with the salad.
16. How is it that Usain Bolt can run 200 meters in less time than it takes Tiger Woods to line up a putt?
(Column Intermission II: I spend a lot of time in Las Vegas, which reminds me of what George Bernard Shaw once said: “Gambling promises the poor what property performs for the rich — something for nothing.”)
17. If USA Today were around in Year One, it would’ve polled Adam and Eve on their favorite days of the week.
18. Bob Costas carries around a 1958 Mickey Mantle baseball card. Couch Slouch carries around a 1973 TV Guide crossword puzzle.
19. Sometimes I sit on my front porch, sip from a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and see America the way it used to be.
19a. P.S. I don’t have a front porch.
20. Phil Liggett’s so good announcing the Tour de France, I’m thinking of replacing my beanbag chair with a stationary bike.
21. ESPN’s World Series of Poker telecasts are now in high-definition; I apologize to all viewers who are subjected to my made-for-low-definition mug.
22. If that’s “Joe Buck Live,” maybe I only want him on tape.
23. With my luck, when I die and I’m buried with my remote, they’ll forget to change the batteries. 

 

 

 

John Feinstein wrote in the DC Post. “It is almost eerie sometimes how major news stories break on the same day. Years ago, Rickey Henderson became
Major League Baseball’s all-time stolen base leader — and modestly declared himself, “The greatest of all time.” That night, Nolan Ryan pitched the seventh
no-hitter of his career and most people around the country decided Henderson’s feat was the second greatest of that day.
On June 25, Farrah Fawcett died after a long, sad battle with cancer. A few hours later, Michael Jackson died after a long, sad battle with life. Fawcett gets mentioned now as part of jokes told about Michael Jackson.
And then there was last Thursday. On the same day that the NCAA melodramatically stripped the Memphis men’s basketball team of 38 victories during the 2007-08 season and its status as the runner-up in the NCAA tournament, former New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress took a plea bargain after bringing a loaded gun into a New York nightclub last November and shooting himself in the leg.
The NFL is a much bigger deal around the country than college basketball so the Burress case received a lot more attention. There was, however, a similarity to the two stories that seems to occur whenever those in athletics get themselves in trouble.
A lot of people thought it was all terribly unfair. Woe is Plaxico Burress. Woe is Memphis. Oh please.
Let’s start with Memphis. The school is being stripped of its Final Four banner and its record-setting 38 wins because a player on the team — believed by
everyone on planet Earth to be then-freshman Derrick Rose, the team’s star point guard — did not take the SAT himself and thus was ineligible to play all season.
There is, without question, an Inspector Clouseau quality to the NCAA. It cleared Rose to play after inspecting his academic records. Apparently, it kept sending notices that he was being investigated to his home in Chicago when he was playing basketball at Memphis. (Let’s not push the envelope and say while he was attending classes at Memphis.) There’s also a legitimate question about what Memphis knew and when it knew it. The case can be made — and is being made — that if then-Coach John Calipari was told the kid was eligible then he and the school did nothing wrong by playing him.
That said, there are a number of questions left unanswered by the Memphis apologists. If Rose is innocent, if in fact he did take the SAT, why has he not said one word about this since the story broke last spring. Why in the world isn’t he suing the NCAA — which almost always loses lawsuits because it screws something up — for defamation of character? Why hasn’t he brought forward witnesses to say they saw him walk into the classroom to take the test on the day in question?
Then there are the Memphis/Calipari questions: If Rose didn’t take the test, who did? Who arranged for a test-taker? Was an 18-year-old high school kid savvy enough to beat the system all by himself? Anyone want to volunteer how Rose did academically as a Memphis freshman? Not that his transcript is relevant to the case, but it would be interesting to know.
Calipari is one hell of a basketball coach. He took over one of the worst programs in the country at Massachusetts and had it in the Final Four in eight years and perennially nationally ranked. He brought Memphis back to prominence and then dominance in the blink of an eye. But there have always been whispers wherever he’s coached, and they don’t just come from coaches with an agenda to get a guy who is successful. Those who knew Calipari’s Memphis program said there were times a second charter could have been brought in for the players’ posses.
That doesn’t make you guilty of anything, but it makes you suspicious. And when a coach goes to two Final Fours and they are both vacated you can’t just call it bad luck and move on. Except that Calipari has called it bad luck and has moved on, which no doubt galls those pulling down the banners at Memphis.
But that’s the way of the NCAA world. Almost always by the time it gets through with an investigation, the coach is long gone and the players involved — like Rose in this case — are making millions. Marcus Camby, the player at the center of the U-Mass. case in 1996, is still in the NBA.
Under the rules, the NCAA could have held Calipari accountable for what happened or at the very least investigated further to find out who was involved in the SAT fraud, but with Calipari now coaching one of its most glamorous programs, that wasn’t likely to happen. It is always worth remembering Jerry Tarkanian’s famous description of NCAA justice. Upon learning that $1,000 had fallen out of an envelope headed to a Kentucky recruit’s father, Tark said: “The NCAA is so mad at Kentucky, it is going to put Cleveland State on probation.”
In this case, the NCAA is so mad at Kentucky for hiring the tainted Calipari it is making Memphis take down its banners and give back its NCAA money. It will not, however, be giving refunds to the 45,000 fans who were in the Alamodome when Memphis apparently did not play in the championship game against Kansas. All those folks paid a lot of money to see a game that never happened.
The Burress case is far more simple. There is no he said-he said or any doubt about what happened. Burress ventured out on the night of Nov. 28 last year to a New York club carrying a gun that had an expired Florida license and would not have been legal in New York even if it had not expired.
The gun, stuck in Burress’s sweat pants, went off and — fortunately for everyone, especially Burress — he was the only one injured. If convicted by a jury he would have had to go, by law, to jail for 3 1/2 years. His high-powered, big bucks lawyer bargained it down to two years (out in 20 months with good behavior) and then the whining began.
Some said it was not a crime of malice. It wasn’t. There are plenty of crimes of stupidity, including taking drugs and driving drunk. Stupidity, especially the blatant kind, gets you sent to jail. Others complained that Donte’ Stallworth, the wide receiver who killed a man while driving drunk, got off with 24 days in jail because he reportedly paid the family $5 million as part of a civil action. He was also suspended for a year by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Stallworth’s sentence may very well have been too light but that has nothing to do with the Burress case.
Others pointed out that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was grandstanding when he held a news conference and vowed that Burress would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Bloomberg was grandstanding. He’s a politician. Ever watch a congressional hearing? That’s what they do.
The bottom line question was whether Burress deserved serious punishment under the laws that are in place. The answer is yes. Athletes owning and carrying guns is an absolute epidemic. Maybe — just maybe — some athletes will give it a second thought the next time they pick up their piece to head out for a night on the town. Part of the reason for punishment in this country is as a deterrent — it is the argument death penalty proponents use all the time. If this is a deterrent for others who believe laws don’t apply to them, that’s a good thing.
In the end, things could have been worse for everyone. Burress could have been foolish enough to go to court and ended up with 3 1/2 years because most legal experts believe he would have been convicted in a trial that would have lasted no more than two days.
Memphis could have received penalties that hurt it going forward — loss of scholarships, TV appearances, even postseason opportunities — although the
NCAA has basically decided the last two penalties simply don’t apply anymore, especially to glamour teams.
And Calipari? Heck, he’s had a much better summer than the coach at Louisville, Kentucky’s arch rival. It’s as if the entire Memphis incident never happened.
Which, according to the NCAA, it didn’t.”

Dick Heller wrote in the DC Times about, “The star pitcher roared into the Philadelphia Athletics’ clubhouse at ancient Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis and began his own tour of destruction.
Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove shredded the wooden partitions separating lockers. Then he ripped off his uniform shirt and stomped on it. Finally he began hurling “everything I could get my hands on – bats, balls, shoes, gloves, benches, water buckets, whatever was handy,” he told author Donald Honig decades later.
The date was Aug. 23, 1931, and Grove had lost to the hapless Browns 1-0 in his bid to win an American League-record 17th consecutive game. Worse, he
lost because substitute left fielder Jimmy Moore misjudged a line drive hit by Oscar Melillo that allowed the only run to score in the third inning.
Moore, a journeyman known as “Handsome” because of his movie star looks, was in the second and final season of an otherwise unremarkable baseball career
He was playing only because star left fielder Al Simmons was in Milwaukee being treated for an infected ankle, and Grove’s postgame tirade targeted Simmons rather than his replacement.
“If Simmons had been here, he would have stuck that ball in his back pocket,” Lefty ranted. “What in the devil did he have to go to Milwaukee for?”
After his teammates took the field for the second game of a doubleheader, Grove proceeded to methodically rip out all the shower heads in the clubhouse.
Presumably, the chronically impoverished Browns sent the A’s a bill.
Grove’s temper was well-known around baseball. A dour Marylander whose nickname was “Old Man Mose,” he stood in dramatic contrast with Connie Mack, the team’s gentlemanly owner and manager. But Mack put up with “Robert,” as he always called him, because Grove was the best pitcher in baseball and this was his best season.
During the 16-game winning streak, which tied the AL mark established by Washington’s Walter Johnson and Boston’s Joe Wood in 1912, Grove pitched
complete games in 13 of 14 starts and won twice in relief. As the A’s won their third consecutive pennant that season, he finished with a 31-4 record and a
2.06 ERA. In the 78 years since, only two others have won 30 or more games: Dizzy Dean in 1934 and Denny McLain in 1968.
Over a 17-year career in the bigs, the fireballing Grove went 300-141 with the A’s and Boston Red Sox. He spent no fewer than six seasons with the minor
league Baltimore Orioles, not reaching the majors until he was 25. Starting in 1927, his third season, he won between 20 and 31 games for seven straight years until arm trouble turned him into a still-formidable once-a-week starter.
Nowadays it is almost inconceivable that a pitcher of Grove’s talents could have stayed in the bushes that long. But there were no farm systems in those days, and Orioles owner Jack Dunn turned down several offers for his star until Mack waved $100,500 in his face – at that time the biggest price ever paid for a minor leaguer.
As a rookie, Lefty was only 10-12 because of injuries. He first won 20 in 1927 and followed with 24 in 1928. Grove was only warming up. He was an
otherworldly 79-15 as the A’s collected three pennants in a row from 1929 to 1931.
And of the 141 games he lost in his Hall of Fame career, none was more painful than the one aided and abetted by Moore’s blunder. When that game ended, Mack – fully aware of Grove’s explosive nature, urged Moore to remain on the bench for a bit before going to the clubhouse.
“Now, James, you’re going to feel bad,” Mack told the culprit, “but I’ve seen [Ty] Cobb miss balls easier than that. … We’re going to be in the World Series, and I don’t want any fights or anybody getting hurt.”
Years later, Moore recalled the play in an interview with the Boston Globe.
“If I’d stood still, I’d have caught it,” he said. “If I’d been sitting on a chair, I’d have caught it. But I moved in two steps, the ball was hit harder than I thought and it just nipped off the end of my glove [for a double as a runner scored from second].”
That evening at the team hotel, Mack reminded Grove, “[Dick Coffman of the Browns] pitched a great game, and if we had played them all night we still
probably wouldn’t have scored.”
Grove, chomping on a cheap cigar, merely grunted. Which, for Lefty, amounted to good sportsmanship – or as close as he could come to it.
That winter, Grove even sent Jimmy Moore a Christmas card. But he never forgave Al Simmons.

 

 

 

The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy feels pretty badly and said, “Things we learned from the weekend of the Yankees’ final regular-season visit to Fenway:
■ Apparently Josh Beckett’s problems with command can’t be blamed on having Victor Martinez as a catcher. With Martinez playing first base, the aptly-named Bronx Bombers hit five homers off Beckett in last night’s 8-4 loss. It was the first time in Beckett’s career he’d given up five homers in a start. Beckett became only the second Sox pitcher to give up five homers in a Yankee game. Dennis Eckersley turned the trick in 1979. Gene “Plane Ticket to Jerusalem’’ Conley yielded four in 1961. Beckett never makes excuses and characterized this outing alternately as a “[butt]-whipping’’ and a “[butt]-whooping.’’ “Those are the only words I’ve got to sum it up,’’ he offered. “Today’s on me.’’                                                                                                                             
■ President Obama has summoned Jim Rice and Derek Jeter for a Beer Summit on the Vineyard today. Maybe Rice should go back to not talking to the media.                                                               
■ Something tells me Jonathan Papelbon isn’t the guy John Calipari hired to take the SATs for Derrick Rose (see his comments on Billy Wagner’s possible
unnecessary appearance in the Red Sox pen).                                                                                                                                         
■ Over a three-year span, CC Sabathia has won his last 11 August decisions.                                         
■ If you are a Red Sox fan, Hideki Matsui is the last batter you want to see with the game on the line. In three games over the weekend, Godzilla hit four homers and knocked in nine runs.                   
■Kevin Youkilis is the Red Sox MVP thus far this season. Youk doesn’t like questions about the division race or the wild card. He’s a day-to-day thinker
■ The second through seventh batters in last night’s Yankee lineup all have at least 19 homers and 62 RBIs. “Every time we made a mistake, they made us pay  for it,’’ said Sox manager Terry Francona.                                                                                                                                         
■ Michael Bowden’s stock is dropping. He was put in a tough position Friday night, but that wasn’t much of a showcase. It’s way too early to make any kind of call on young Bowden, but the Sox have demonstrated a tendency to overvalue some of their pitching prospects.                             
 ■ Francona is not afraid to tell you that he wants Jason Varitek catching Beckett and Jon Lester. He’s also not shy about benching David Ortiz against Sabathia even though Big Papi is on a tear and is 7 for 23 (.304 lifetime) against the big lefty. The manager looked like a genius with Rocco Baldelli and Varitek in the lineup last night. Baldelli and Varitek stroked back-to-back two-out RBI hits in the second inning.                                                                                                                  
■ Baldelli’s hitting music is Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower.’’ Gotta love that.                                
■ The irrational booing of Johnny Damon at Fenway will never stop.                                               
■ Good guy Tommy Harper jokes about going all Tonya Harding on us, but he’ll keep coming to the park and rooting for Jacoby Ellsbury until the kid breaks Harper’s club stolen base record (54). Ellsbury reached on an error in the first last night, but he was caught stealing when he misread Sabathia’s slide-step. Let’s  hope Ellsbury’s quest doesn’t drag out like the Yaz (3,000 hit) Watch.                                                                                                                                              
■ You can’t blame general manager Theo Epstein for lack of aggressiveness since the end of July. The Sox are still paying for not paying Mark Teixeira last winter, but that decision was made by owner John Henry. Theo’s been working overtime since the trading deadline.                                   
 ■ The Sox and Yanks are both tough to beat when they score 14 runs.                                            
■ We missed Bob Lobel last night. It would have been a good night for Lobie to air tape of John Smoltz smothering the Padres and ask, “Why can’t we get
players like that?’’                               
■ A.J. Burnett looks like a head case. Soft. Easily unraveled. And let’s not hear any more about a communication gap with catcher Jorge Posada. Mariano
Rivera seems to have done just fine with “Hip-Hip, Jorge.’’                                                                                                                               
■ Who’d have guessed Junichi Tazawa would outpitch Beckett in the series? Tazawa looks very hittable, but the kid is not afraid to throw any of his four
pitches on any count.                                       
■ “Sweet Caroline’’ jumped the shark about two years ago.                                                             
■The season series stands at Red Sox 9, Yankees 6, with three to play in Yankee Stadium next month. “Early on, we were the better team,’’ said Sox left fielder Jason Bay. “Sometimes, it’s just who is the better team at that moment.’’Right now, the better team is the Yankees. They’ve won six of the seven against the Sox since Aug. 6. It would be nice to see the Sox and Yankees face one another in the ALCS again. It hasn’t happened since 2004 (remember that one?), but if the season ended today, the Division Series would pit the Sox against the Angels and the Yankees against the Tigers. Detroit is clearly the weakest of the four prospective American League playoff teams and it’s hard to imagine the Yankees losing to the Tigers. The Angels are better than they’ve been in other years when they played the Sox in October, but Mike Scioscia’s guys always dissolve when they come to Boston for the playoffs.”

Thom Loverro, of the DC Times, said that, “Signing ex-cons is not new for the Philadelphia Eagles, who set the sports world on fire last week by giving a
contract to convicted dogfighter Michael Vick.
The franchise made the same move nearly 75 years ago with Alabama Pitts – a signing that got the attention of the entire country during the infancy of the
National Football League.
Edwin Pitts grew up a tough kid in Opelika, Ala., joining the Navy at 15 after the deaths of his father and stepfather. He got out when he was 19 and landed in New York with no money or prospects amid the Depression.
Pitts and an accomplice, armed with a gun, robbed a grocery store of a reported $76.25. They were caught, and Pitts was sentenced to Sing Sing Prison for a term “not less than eight years and no more than 15 years.”
Pitts found his calling in prison – athletics. The prison ran an active athletics program, and Pitts was a standout in football, basketball, baseball and track. His skills made him a legend on the prison circuit.
Johnny Evers – a member of the Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance Cubs infield and the general manager of the International League’s Albany Senators – signed Pitts to a $200-a-month contract in May 1935, when he was a month from parole.
Because times were tough for spectator events – pole sitting and other gimmicks were used to get attention – the signing of Pitts was considered a publicity stunt, particularly because the Senators were in last place and not drawing well.
Charles H. Knapp, president of the International League, said the signing was not in “the best interests of the game” and refused to approve the contract But Pitts by then was a national folk hero. The New York Times wrote that the decision to keep Pitts out of baseball was “unfortunate in every way.”
As with the Vick case, people all over the country debated the issue. A store merchant in Otisville, N.Y., suffered a heart attack in an argument about Pitts.
Filmmaker Hal Roach offered him a job. Pitts eventually even appeared on Kate Smith’s radio show.
Pitts had one last hope for his baseball career: an appeal to commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a hard case who seemed unlikely to rule in the convict’s favor. But Landis surprised many by ruling that Pitts could play, on one condition – he must be used only in games that mattered. Landis didn’t want Albany to use Pitt only as a publicity gimmick for exhibition games.
Nearly 8,000 fans watched Pitts make his debut June 23, 1935, against Jersey City. He was an immediate success, going 2-for-5, but he couldn’t stay healthy.
A shoulder bruise, a sprained finger and a spike injury that led to blood poisoning all slowed him down.
Pitts wound up batting just .233 in 43 games and was a terrible outfielder. None of that got in the way of his status as a folk hero and media darling.
In Philadelphia, Bert Bell needed a media darling. His Eagles were struggling at the gate, and Bell offered Pitts a short-term contract for a then-remarkable
amount of money – $1,500.
Pitts would be worth that in publicity at a time when pro football still was relegated to small newspaper articles and competing with many other sports for attention. That amount also was necessary to outbid the other teams seeking his services, Pittsburgh and Brooklyn.
The Eagles already had been in training camp for three weeks when Pitts arrived in Philadelphia on Sept. 10. Pitts didn’t disappoint reporters, telling them that his weak batting average and fielding problems were in part due to night games, which had just started that season.
“You see, where I was we didn’t get out much at night,” Pitts joked. “If any did, it wasn’t to play ball.”
Reporters loved him, and so did Eagles fans – more than 20,000 came for their Sept. 13 opener against Pittsburgh. They chanted, “We want Pitts, we want Pitts,” during the game but left disappointed – Pitts, a halfback and defensive back, did not play.
Pitts finally played in a Sept. 26 exhibition against the Orange Tornadoes. He didn’t distinguish himself as a running back but showed promise as a defensive back.
Pitts made his NFL debut Oct. 9 in Pittsburgh, intercepting two passes in a 17-6 loss. Eagles fans finally got to see him Oct. 13 against the Chicago Bears.
Another big crowd – more than 22,000 – came to cheer the prison legend, who caught a 20-yard pass late in a 39-0 loss.
But that was the end of Pitts and the Eagles. His contract was up, and this time Bell was not willing to spend so much money: He offered Pitts $50 a game.
“Pitts has a bright future,” Bell told reporters. “And we appreciate that he tries all the time and eventually should be a top-flight player. But he lacks experience and needs a lot of work.”
Pitts declined the offer, saying he would stick with baseball.
He never became more than a mediocre minor leaguer. He opened the 1936 season with Albany but by April 10 was demoted to the York club in the New
York-Pennsylvania League, where he hit just .224.
The team moved to Trenton in July, and Pitts was released by the end of the month. He played 27 games for Winston-Salem in the Piedmont League in 1937 before being let go.
Pitts settled down in Valdese, N.C., where he worked in a mill, married and raised a family.
He played semipro baseball until 1940, when a minor league franchise was started in Hickory to play in the Tar Heel League. Pitts put up respectable numbers, batting .302 with 39 RBI in 64 games. The franchise closed up shop for a season in 1941 when the league disbanded, and Pitts went back to play semipro ball in Valdese.
This is where the legend of Alabama Pitts meets a tragic, Hollywood-style ending.
After playing Valdese on June 6, Pitts went to a dance hall, where he cut in to dance with a woman. The man who had been with the woman stabbed Pitts, who bled to death at Valdese General Hospital.
Newspapers around the country wrote about the remarkable career and death of Alabama Pitts. Fans in Philadelphia who had adopted Pitts as their hero wondered what might have been for this jailhouse legend if fate had dealt him a different hand.

 

 

 

Bruce Jenkins said that, “At the height of the Dodgers-Giants rivalry – the mid-’60s, with emotions still simmering from the New York days – you could count on two things when Don Drysdale took the mound: He would throw at Willie Mays, and Willie McCovey would eat him alive.
There was a point in the 1963 season when McCovey was 22-for-47 lifetime against Drysdale (.468), and nine of those hits were homers. There wasn’t a pitch, an idea or a measure of intimidation Drysdale could use against McCovey. The big man simply owned him.
Mays was a different story. Somewhat ill-tempered to begin with, Drysdale threw a wicked sidearm fastball, a really nasty proposition for any right-handed hitter.
Most of them bailed out, slightly or even dramatically, as a natural survival instinct. Mays definitely fell into that category. But two things invariably happened: Mays did his share of damage against Drysdale, and when a brushback pitch arrived, he got out of the way.
This is a lost art in today’s game, the biggest reason why so many needless beanball wars occur. The game has always known hitters who crowded the plate, Frank Robinson being a prime example from Mays’ time, but it’s an epidemic in today’s game, guys who stand close, lean into pitches and react far too late to a perfectly legitimate inside fastball.
To make matters worse, batters and umpires and dugouts are overly sensitive to a budding feud. Guys take offense, even charge the mound, over pitches that carried no evil intent whatsoever. Umpires, panicking at the first sign of trouble, issue warnings at times when a pitcher (say, down 2-0 in the fourth) wouldn’t think of hitting someone intentionally. And once someone has been hit, too many teams feel obligated to retaliate (credit Bruce Bochy, Joe Torre and a few other managers for not getting caught up in this nonsense, striking back only when clearly provoked).
Add it all up – and don’t forget the body armor that allows hitters to laugh off a 98-mph fastball to the elbow – and you have more hit batters than any era in the game’s history (nearly twice as often this decade as during the 1950s). You’re not a big-league hitter unless you’ve been plunked several times this year, Philadelphia’s Chase Utley leading the way with a stunning 18.
Was there ever a more feared hitter than Mays? Doubtful. Did the league’s most tough-minded pitchers go after him? Absolutely. But check this out: Mays was hit a total of 44 times in 22 years, never more than four in a season. In 1965, when he belted a personal-best 52 homers and had 558 at-bats, he was hit zero
times.
Get. Out. Of the way.

The Sports Curmudgeon always balances my outlooks on current events. This time he said, “The law in NYC is that carrying an unregistered handgun – forget about discharging it, just carrying it will do – gets you a mandatory minimum of 42 months in jail upon conviction.  Read all the accounts of what happened last November and you will realize why Burress’ lawyer said the case was all but indefensible.  If convicted of carrying that gun on that night, he goes to the Crossbars Hilton for a minimum of 42 months.  Therefore, his plea bargain is a good deal for him.  Oh, do not ask about those reports that Burress was offered a plea deal back in the late Spring where he would have only served 6 months in jail but he turned the deal down.  If those reports are true, then his status as a certified meathead is assured for all time.

 

 

 

Ron Borges also lit a light in The Boston Herald, “Normally, NFL wide receivers have to be worried about being detached from their senses. Turns out, Plaxico Burress had to worry about being detached from reality.
Yesterday, the former Super Bowl hero of the New York Giants became a humble felon, copping a plea to one count of attempted possession of a weapon to reduce a potential 3-year prison sentence to two with a plea bargain. Like being blindsided by Rodney Harrison, “Plax” never saw it coming. His ego blocked his vision. Not even after his defense attorney, Benjamin Brafman, told him, as he finally told the world yesterday, “Unfortunately, there was no legal defense we could offer,” did Burress believe for a minute the law applied to him. Not even one as clearly written as the New York law that makes it a mandatory 3 years for carrying an unregistered gun. Forget about the concealed weapon part of it, or the fact the nitwit accidentally shot it off inside his sweatpants while trying to balance a wine glass as he sat down in a midtown Manhattan nightclub known as The Latin Quarter last November.
All along he thought he’d walk as Brafman delayed, stalled, argued and finally sent his man in front of a grand jury in the hope they’d remember those 11 catches in the NFC Championship Game and the winning one in Super Bowl XLII. They did, but the problem was they were also real people, not football people. They listened to his story, listened to the facts, thanked him for the pass receptions – and indicted him on three counts when he could have gotten away with only one had he just pled out.
That would have started his 20-month sentence sooner and had him back on the street in time for the 2010 season instead of ’11, which at his age is an eternity. But Burress is one of many guys playing sports for a living who think how they are treated in that world is somehow the way the real world works.Even Brafman fed into that when he said, “If Plaxico Burress were not a high-profile individual, there never would be a case. If he were just John Q. Public, he would have walked out of the club and he never would have been arrested.”                                                                                                                                   You fire a unregistered gun off in a public place in New York, shoot yourself and nearly hit a security guard, then you go to prison. There is no leeway in that law for John Q. or Plax B. – and Ben B. knows it.
But the larger issue Brafman missed is that if Plaxico Burress were John Q. Public, he would have been fired by the Giants long ago. He would not have gotten away with being fined more than 50 times in the last two seasons for being late, missing meetings and otherwise acting like he owned the place. So if you look at it that way, Brafman was right. He never would have been arrested because he wouldn’t have been in a nightclub – he’d have been at the unemployment office. “This was not an intentional criminal act,” Brafman insisted. “In my judgment, a two-year prison sentence is a very severe punishment.”
Good. It’s about time. Plaxico Burress has been a guy who didn’t get it for a long time and he’s not alone. Over here stands Michael Vick. Over there Donte’ Stallworth. In that corner of his cell, Rae Carruth. In this corner, Tank Johnson. Yet the message never seems to get through because colleges and pro teams keep giving the opposite message to these guys. They’re the victims, not their victims. They’re the poor souls living in fear that someone will prey upon them – the conniving women; the young men trying to get street cred at their expense; the wrong friends. Never them – always someone else.
As Burress’ former teammate Steve Smith, a Giants wide receiver, said, “I think they wanted to set an example, which (stinks). He did something to himself. He didn’t hurt anybody else. You never think somebody who was at that magnitude would get time like this. I heard the mayor, whatever he said.” What he said, Steve, was enforce the law. What he did, Steve, was discharge a loaded weapon in a nightclub that could have killed your brother or your sister or someone’s wife or mother. That it didn’t was pure luck.
As for Plaxico Burress’ “magnitude,” if he was talking about his ego he’s right. Otherwise, all he was a little man with a big gun who didn’t know how to be the former or use the latter.

 

 

 

Even Bob Molinaro weighed in on HamptonRoads.com by saying, “Did Plaxico Burress receive the star treatment in reverse? That’s the compassionate view being shopped around in some places. Me? I wouldn’t try to sell it on craigslist.
I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the 32-year-old former Virginia Beach high school football star who accepted a plea deal Thursday that calls for two years in prison. Not by a long shot is Burress the worst person to emerge from Warden Goodell’s NFL. Still, I lost patience with his act a long time ago. Before he broke the law, the numerous episodes in which he disrespected his Giants teammates by showing up late for practice left an indelible impression of an athlete who thinks the rules don’t apply to him.
A bad guy? Maybe not. But he’s made too many bad decisions in his public life to be the kind of guy you root for. Was it bad luck for Burress to clumsily discharge a round into his own thigh in a city that actually takes its weapons laws seriously?
Was it kosher the way New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the district attorney made an example of him, ostensibly for political gain?
This is not how celebrity justice is supposed to work.
After all those second and third chances that he came to see as his birthright in the NFL, all those times he wriggled off the hook for unprofessional conduct, imagine Burress’ shock and chagrin when the D.A.’s office cut him no slack. Without question, the punishment is severe. But when the gun went off in the crowded night club, somebody could have been killed. It’s a small, though important, detail worth remembering. But because Burress is being incarcerated for an incident that continues to be portrayed as more an accident than a crime, some are treating him as a victim.
Race card anyone?
Would Giants quarterback Eli Manning have encountered the same sort of aggressive prosecution had the smoking gun fallen out of his waist band (or would Eli even have a gun)?
The hypothetical presumes that somebody immature and foolish enough to flash a gun in a public place would be allowed to run an NFL offense. But in the court of public opinion, the bigger problem in building a race-based case for Burress is the defendant’s own reputation for selfish, juvenile, sometimes ludicrous behavior.                                                                                                                The character issue is what makes Burress an unsympathetic figure.
With good behavior, Burress won’t serve two full years. Once he’s out – Roger Goodell has said he wouldn’t impose an additional suspension – at least one NFL team will be willing to sign a tall receiver who can make the tough catches in the red zone. While he’s behind bars, Burress might even improve his image by trading on the complaint that he is a star-crossed victim of prosecutorial zeal. But the real lesson to come out of Burress’ legal woes is that chronic stupidity comes at a price. So does arrogance.
The enablers who encountered Burress at each stage of his development, the fans, teammates and coaches who looked the other way because of his football skills, share some of the blame (that includes me).
But most of it falls on Burress. It would be difficult to deny that his current dilemma came about as a result of years of poor decision making.
When Burress pled guilty to weapons charges, he saved himself 1-1/2 years in prison – he could’ve gotten 3-1/2 years had a trial ended in conviction. A trial would only have illustrated the challenge facing even the best defense attorney.
Imagine Burress’ mouthpiece standing up in court and asking the jury to find his client not guilty on the grounds that he’s always been a big screw-up.

SPORTS THIS-N-THAT

August 22, 2009

The Sports Curmudgeon had this to say about his DC-NATS, “By now, you must have heard the litany about how young pitchers taken first in the MLB draft have underperformed relative to expectations.  The Nationals’ signing of Stephen Strasburg to a record $15.1M deal – – far short of the $50M that Scott Boras threw out as a target number – – has brought all those details to light.  What I find interesting here is how Tom Boswell of the Washington Post reacted to Strasburg’s signing.
Let me be clear; Tom Boswell is one of the best baseball writers and columnists around.  He is also one of the “baseball poets” who kept telling the world about Washington’s lust for baseball during the three-decade hiatus of that sport in DC.  He knows the game and loves the game.  So, his column the day after the signing focused on his projected starting lineup for the Nationals on Opening Day of 2011.  That’s right; he wrote about 2011 and not 2010. 
In order for his lineup to work, a new shortstop currently in AAA Syracuse and a new first baseman currently at AA Harrisburg have to make the Nationals.
They have to keep – and hope that they develop – the other six position players currently on the roster.  His five-man rotation consists of Strasburg, of course, along with a pitcher currently at AAA Syracuse and another recovering from elbow surgery.  Oh, and the closer on that 2011 squad is currently at AA Harrisburg…
Given the myriad uncertainties with that projected squad, it is easy to forget that Boswell is essentially writing off the 2010 season for a team that currently has the worst record in MLB and who will win 65 games for the season only if they play .500 baseball from here on out in 2009.
thank you, Mr. Boswell.  I no longer need to think about the idea of buying a ticket package to Nats’ games for the 2010 season…

 

 

 

Gwen Knapp talked about the gender testing being done in Germany. “Albert Pujols knows that, on every home run, his swing connects with suspicion. So many people want to believe in him, to imagine each homer sweeping baseball’s doping scandals further into the past. Pujols can’t definitively prove that he is different, that he is clean. Usain Bolt crushes the 100-meter world record again. He is dazzling, a showman with rock-star panache who promises to revive track and field. But like Pujols, he is stalked by an ugly history. Three of the last eight men (Ben Johnson, Tim Montgomery and Justin Gatlin) to break the 100-meter record have been banned for doping. Montgomery kept the mark for almost three years before federal agents uncovered what the drug tests missed. So Bolt and Pujols are stuck answering for the sins of their predecessors.                                                                                     But in this era of profound skepticism, they should be grateful for one thing: Nobody will ever watch them excel and then accuse them of not being real men. South African teenager Caster Semenya, the winner of the women’s 800-meter race at the world championships, has been undergoing
gender-verification testing. She must be examined by, among others, a gynecologist, psychologist and endocrinologist. Semenya, 18, reportedly has a deep voice, and her pictures show a physique notably more muscular than the bodies of even her most accomplished rivals. She has dropped almost nine seconds from her best 800 time in the last year – the type of improvement that usually suggests performance-enhancing drugs. It’s not enough for her to undergo the very intrusive drug testing (the sample collector is supposed to watch every second, up close and personal, in the bathroom). Semenya has to endure a fairly medieval practice,
a remnant from the days when all female athletes were deemed abnormal.
The tests should be unthinkable – but so should disguising a man as a woman to win an Olympic medal. In 1936, Hitler sought a female high-jumper for the host country and Dora Ratjen emerged. Her real name was Hermann. He finished fourth at the Berlin Games, but broke the women’s world record two years later.
Shortly after that, a doctor’s examination led to a ban, and Ratjen disappeared. In middle age, Hermann Ratjen conceded that he had been urged to pass as a woman, to help advance the Nazi view of German and Aryan supremacy.
Gender testing, medieval as it sounds, began at the Olympic level in the 1960s. The Eastern bloc kept producing outstanding female athletes who did not pass muster visually. They did pass the gender tests. They also passed the drug tests, even though East Germany’s secret police files revealed extensive hormonal manipulation, performed without the athletes’ consent or knowledge. In the most renowned case, shot-putter Heidi Krieger eventually testified against leaders of the national sports program, saying that the countless pills she had taken transformed her sexually, led to wild mood swings and a suicide attempt. By 1997, seven years after she retired, Krieger underwent sexual-reassignment surgery and became Andreas Krieger.
Tammy Thomas, the cyclist convicted of perjury in front of the BALCO grand jury, had a 5 o’clock shadow when she competed and a jaw line much squarer
than it was years later, when she went to trial.
As cynical and ugly as the gender testing seems, they simply might be an attempt to forestall behavior that is even more cynical and grotesque. In repressive regimes and households – let’s not underestimate the extremism of certain parents – all manner of charades are possible in creating a champion. A boy could be surgically altered. Girls by the dozen could be lab rats for the latest designer steroid, dosed until they no longer recognize themselves. Universal sex verification at the Olympics ended in 2000, only to be replaced by something worse. Women with curious appearances were targeted for testing last summer in Beijing. This is how Semenya came under scrutiny.
It’s sad that Pujols and Bolt must endure suspicion because of the excesses in their sports. But until they have to put their feet in stirrups or undergo chromosomal analysis, they’re living on cynicism’s easy street.

 

 

 

This from Jerry Crowe in the LA Times:                                                                              
 “A T-shirt declaration of civic pride in Pittsburgh, home of the Stanley Cup champion Penguins and Super Bowl champion Steelers: “On ice or grass, we’ll kick your . . . ” . . .

Unless, of course, the grass is patrolled by the Pirates . . .

Cliff Lee, unbeaten in four starts since joining the Philadelphia Phillies, joined an exclusive, obscure club last year. . . .
Winner of the 2008 American League Cy Young Award, Lee became only the third player with a three-letter surname to win an MVP or Cy Young award, the others being Nellie Fox (MVP with the Chicago White Sox in 1959) and Vern Law (Cy Young Award winner with the Pirates in 1960).”