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Found 18 results

  1. Here's my seven-part series on Brooks Robinson. --- Brooks Robinson means more to me than any other athlete who has ever lived. I suppose over the months and years, I'll be writing more about Brooks, but suffice it to say that in the 1980s, someone asked me who the three people I wanted to meet more than anyone in the world were. My response? Ronald Reagan, Vladimir Horowitz, and Brooks Robinson. Roy Firestone, American sports commentator, appears to feel the same way that I do about this gentle giant of a man - a giant not in athletic stature, but in an everyman's way that we can all relate to. While I certainly have many things to add, I can't think of a better place to begin than with Roy Firestone's tribute to Brooks Robinson, my childhood hero: Some highlights from the 1970 World Series: I was beaming with pride for my hero during the 1970 Series, not because he did anything particularly unusual, but because he did what he *always* did, and the nation got a good sampling of it - all except for fielding bunts. For example, his teammate, Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, said: "He was the best defensive player at any position. I used to stand in the outfield and watch him make play after play. I used to think WOW, I can't believe this." Hall of Famer Johnny Bench: "I will become a left-handed hitter to keep the ball away from that guy." Hall of Famer Pete Rose: "Brooks Robinson belongs in a higher league." Hall of Famer Third Baseman George Brett: "He charged everything. He reacted as the ball was coming off the bat. Sometimes when the ball was going to the bat." That refers, somewhat, to his skills at fielding the bunt which I've never seen since. He would force entire teams to change their strategies and give up bunting (this, in an era when bunting, sacrifices, and stolen bases meant a lot in baseball). I cannot find a single video of this, but, bunting aside, what I saw in 1970, I watched almost every single day in the summer. The 1970 series was great, yes, but he used to do that stuff day-in, day-out, and nobody knew. That's why I was so proud of my hero - he had finally gotten the national exposure he deserved (although that was a good series, even for him). I love this man.
  2. *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** Sometime in the late 1960s, we were visiting my Aunt Kitty and Uncle Ben in Detroit, and were out for a walk. We walked past a park, and Uncle Ben (who knew I was a baseball savant) asked me to guess who the park was named after - I immediately said "Ty Cobb,: and he (in his 70s at the time) said, "No, no, no! Ty Cobb wasn't loved here in Detroit - this park is named for Harry Heilmann!" (With his accent, I thought he had said "Harry Hahmann," and I never got the name right for the next twenty years). Uncle Ben had lived in Detroit for decades, and remembered both players very well - he said how much Heilmann was loved by the residents of Detroit - little did I know that Heilmann was also arguably the greatest right-handed hitter of all-time (apologies to Rogers Hornsby). He's the only player ever to be in the .400 / 40 club (with 40 Doubles) - I may be wrong about this: Someone please let me know if I am. If you're unfamiliar with Heilmann, look at his batting statistics in the 1920s! Maybe the greatest hitter you've never heard of? Nobody has ever hit .400 in four seasons, but people say that if Heilmann - whose nickname was "slug" - wasn't so slow afoot, he'd be the one who had done it: He was a total of 8 hits away - 8 infield hits away - from accomplishing the feat, had he hit them judiciously in 1921, 1925, and 1927.
  3. Oh my, Yogi Berra, an all-time great catcher in the big leagues, and an all-American icon for his many quotes and advertisements that featured him. Seeing comments here referencing that .... really depressed me. Yogi is an iconic American sports star, a beloved character, and what hit hardest on a personal level, was that Yogi has lived most of his life since he got to the Yankees in a Northern NJ town, near where I grew up. There was a fair bit of news about Yogi in my neck of the woods, and all of it was positive and beloved. Yogi's achievements in baseball are legendary and formidable. He ranks with the best of the best. The Yog played in 14 World Series and was on the winning side 10 times!!! That could be a personal record that might not be beat. Yogi was part of Yankee dynasties that helped him get there, but his presence on those teams helped the Yankees win so often. Here are some astonishing nuggets: He led the Yankees in RBI's 7 years in a row through 1955. Those were teams with Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle, He was league MVP 3 times, and received MVP votes 14 years in a row, tied for 2nd behind all time leader Hank Aaron. He was a great player and had tremendous longevity. Yogi caught the famous perfect game in the 1956 World Series. He was a great contact hitter, and a notorious bad ball hitter all the same, being able to connect at pitches above his head, and being capable of golfing a ball thrown at his feet. When you review the reams of detailed statistics about his career there is a column of detail about his annual baseball salary each year. Yogi maxed out at $65,000/year in his playing career. Today the highest paid catchers make around $12-17/million/year, which comes to more per game than he earned in his highest salaried year. Not withstanding the way sports salaries have escalated I doubt baseball's best catchers today could hold Yogi's jock. He was excellent at both offense and defense. He is amazingly beloved in the NY region and among Yankee fans. Growing up his sons were noted athletes, two of whom made it into professional baseball and the NFL. One of my closest friends played on a noted regional Legion baseball team against one of Yogi's sons. As a kid that is simply thrilling. For such a lifelong humble guy he has that "Brooks Robinson" combination of baseball stardom and entirely admirable personal qualities. I truly hope he sticks around for quite a few more years. Here's to you, Yogi. "It ain't over till its over!!"
  4. It about kills me to put this video up here, but the one person in the world I'll do it for is the great Roberto Clemente, killed in an airplane crash while making a humanitarian visit to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He was 38 years old, and was still arguably the best right fielder in baseball at the time - it's hard to believe he was a year *older* than Frank Robinson, a pretty darned good right fielder himself, and whom you can see scoring the winning run here, the game before, off a Brooks Robinson sacrifice "fly" (if you want to call that a fly). This video is Clemente's second World Series championship, and his interview begins just after 2:06:30 (I have it set to this). Shortly after one year later, he was gone - I cannot believe I'm about to say this, but I'm glad for both him, and his mom and dad, that he won this World Series. Other than perhaps Jackie Robinson, can you name a greater human being who ever put on a mitt?
  5. "Naismith Hall of Fame Finally Does Right by Lefty and Votes in Driesell" by John Feinstein on washingtonpost.com Brian Magid's Facebook Status regarding the announcement Pam Driesell's Facebook Status regarding the announcement Some insider trivia: The Driesells lived right across the street from Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, MD - I went to school with Pam since 5th grade (when they moved up here from Davidson, NC), as well as Chuck (who played for Maryland), but here's the really esoteric, insider trivia: Their house was literally right next door to the family of Harold Solomon. who is the only tennis player from Maryland ever to be ranked in the World Top 10 (excluding Fred McNair in doubles) - the Solomons (with son Harold, and daughter Shelley) were, as incredible as they may sound, the best-of-the-best in terms of Maryland Tennis - now, having been next-door neighbors (although I think the Solomons might have moved to Florida before the Driesells arrived in the early 1970s) these two families can perhaps boast the only next-door homes whose family members are in the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame (although my former tennis coach, rival, and friend, Gil Scheurholz, who was ranked #1 in the United States in the 35-and-over division for several years, has a father *and* a grandfather who are both in as well - if you ever go to Camden Yards, look on the wall - they're both in there, and I assure you that Gi III deserves to be also - he is the most devastating tennis player I have ever faced in person; not the best, but the most devastating).
  6. I was trying to think back to recent players that came into the league and developed quickly into stars. Off the top of my head I came up with Lebron, Durant, Rose, and Davis. Any others??? Possibly Westbrook and Love developed big numbers pretty quickly. Everyone else is a development prospect imho. . I think most, though, need a lot of development. Good luck to Okafor. Porter came out of nowhere in the very last few games of the season and then in the playoffs. He was terrific, playing starter minutes and doing a little of everything including getting stops on Dee. If he keeps that up next year and stays healthy he solves the 3 problem. That leaves the big men. Oi.
  7. To any hardcore baseball fan (which is short for "fanatic"), this photo will emblaze a permanent memory. If you're not sitting down, sit down before you read any further - to fully understand the level of royalty in this photo, scroll down to read the fact list about each player. Standing, L to R: Honus Wager, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Tris Speaker, Nap Lajoie, George Sisler, Walter Johnson Sitting, L to R: Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth, Connie Mack, Cy Young
  8. It's funny - back in 1970, I think that in many ways, I knew more about Major League Baseball than I know today. In my eyes, Dave McNally was the club's ace, followed by Jim Palmer and Mike Cuellar in no particular order. Put yourself in that time period: There was no internet, no "online stats," and only The Washington Post, Channel 13, my older brother, and a slew of baseball cards as resources to form an opinion - this was mine, when I was nine.
  9. People justifiably remember Joe Garagiola as an amiable announcer, but he was also a respected major-league player, spending his entire nine-year career in the National League - in game 4 of the 1946 World Series (*), Garagiola went 4-5 with 3 RBI's. Garagiola coincidentally grew up across the street from Yogi Berra. How can you possibly not love someone who once said, "Not only was I not the best catcher in the Major Leagues, I wasn't even the best catcher on my street!" Likewise, on playing for four different teams in an eight-team league: "I felt like I was modeling uniforms for the National League." After a decent, but somewhat underachieving, major-league career (Garagiola was initially thought to be better than Berra,, but never fully recovered from a separated shoulder), Garagiola made his mark in broadcasting, being a full- or part-time announcer for close to 50 years, 30 of them with NBC. He is a member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame. Garagiola was also often seen on both The Today Show as a panelist, and The Tonight Show as a guest host. I think it's fitting to include the article about Garagiola's passing from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which features a nice photo with Berra: "Catcher, Broadcaster, and Hill Icon Joe Garagiola Dies at 90" by Rick Hummel on stltoday.com More than anything else, my strongest memory of Joe Garagiola was that he just seemed like a nice guy. Thanks for your time here, Mr. Garagiola, and say hello to Mr. Berra from all of us. (*) In the 1946 World Series, the Cardinals defeated the Red Sox in game 7 by the score of 4-3 - this, after being down 3 games to 2. Garagiola went 4-5 in one game; Ted Williams went 5-25 in the entire Series. This intense World Series is perhaps best remembered for (and appropriately symbolized by) Enos Slaughter's "Mad Dash" to the plate from first base," which turned out to be the winning run (the 4th run) in game 7 (just as Abdul-Rauf was a pre-Curry, Slaughter was a pre-Rose, warts and all).
  10. "Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza Voted Into Hall of Fame" by Tyler Kepner on nytimes.com And just in case you've forgotten this rather incredible piece of trivia: "20 Years Ago: Griffeys Go Back-To-Back" by Jim Street on mlb.com
  11. David Thompson was at NC State right around the time when I became a sports fanatic. My uncle was a professor at the University of Maryland, and my aunt was Assistant Superintendent of schools in Howard County - bottom line: free season tickets to University of Maryland basketball games for several years, dating all the way back to the Jim O'Brien years and continuing through their "three-guard offense" years (remember that?). At my age, Thompson, by sheer reputation and from the couple of times I saw him play in college, was essentially a space alien. I didn't really follow pro basketball back then, so Thompson, to me, was the best player in the world. Only Wilt Chamberlain and Kobe Bryant have scored more points than David Thompson in one NBA game.
  12. Cal Yastrzemski, affectionately (and practically) known as "Yaz" by his fans, was an incredibly durable 18-time All-Star for the Boston Red Sox. Although he played some of his later career at 1st Base and Designated Hitter, he was primarily known as a Left Fielder. Yaz was the first player with both 3,000 hits and 400 home runs. His longevity made him not only a beloved fixture in Boston, but also earned him second place all-time in MLB Games Played, and third place all-time for MLB At-Bats. He is the all-time Red Sox leader in career RBIs, runs, hits, singles, doubles, total bases, and games played, and is third only to Ted Williams and David Ortiz in home runs. What a career this man had, especially in 1967 when he won both the AL Triple Crown and MVP Award. Here is an ESPN "SportsCentury" documentary (a wonderful biography series which ran from 1999-2007) about Carl Yastrzemski, who seems to be unjustifiably fading (along with other great outfielders such as Al Kaline, Tony Oliva, etc.) in the minds of young baseball fans:
  13. "Are Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz Best Pitching Class Ever at Hall of Fame?" by Jay Jaffe on si.com The 4th inductee is Craig Biggio, who will undoubtedly be overshadowed by the 9 combined Cy Young Awards the three hurlers share between them. The Sports Illustrated article is interesting, as it attempts to rank the HOF classes in terms of "Best Pitchers," and, as it turns out, this year's class only ranks #2 using their methodology.
  14. So one day my brother is changing flights in an airport. Stopping by the airport bar he sees Dan who really looks like he doesn't want to be bothered. My brother walks up to Dan and says "Jon W, Central Catholic class of 1982. Nice to meet you." Upon meeting a fellow Viking, Dan's demeanor changes. "Good to meet you. Sit down and have beer." They chat for a while when two women walk up and ask Dan if they can take a picture with him. He says, "Sure, but you have to have my good friend Jon in it, too." So somewhere out there. Some woman has a prized photo of herself and Dan Marino and my brother.
  15. Olajuwon had just absolutely great moves as a center. Great moves and they were so much quicker than anyone defending him. Here is video of when he crushed...just demolished David Robinson in a playoff match. Probably the best "moves" of any notable center, ever: ....and you have to listen to Robinson speaking of the match up.....
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