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Last Blog Dec. 2020

There’s a very good chance that this will be my last blog. So, if you stop getting notifications about new blogs, that’s why—thought you might want to know.

Quick Quiz: Name either of these two men who share the fact that their last names are also names of common fruits. a) He began his career as an infielder then became a Hall of Fame pitcher. He was a huge part of the success of the Cleveland Indians pennant winning 1948 and 1954 seasons, winning 20 then 23 games respectively in those years. Years later another man with the same last name made it to the majors–his first name was Chet. b) This man’s last name is also the same at that of a bruise players often get after sliding. Boston fans chanted his name to get under his skin.

If you’re looking for a good sports-related gift for someone special, someone who loves sports, my books are available online in places such as Amazon, but I’ve also put some of my titles on eBay because if you buy from me, through eBay, I will personalize a message for you. Some people have asked me to sign the book and add messages such as To Dad, from _____ with love on Christmas 2020.

For all my friends/readers from Pennsylvania, I strongly recommend my book which celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Pirates stunning World Series win over the Yankees. The book is entitled 1960: When the Pittsburgh Pirates Had Them All the Way. https://www.ebay.com/itm/1960-When-the-Pittsburgh-Pirates-Had-Them-All-the-Way/264968574099?hash=item3db15b9493:g:OIwAAOSwqY5fhhXc

I’ve been a guest on several podcasts such as Rum Bunters to promote the book, and I think it is special mainly because I was able to interview virtually every living Pirate from that team–and because of this: What a season that was! It’s a good way to re-live that magical year.

For those who enjoy the rich humor of baseball, there’s the 2020 release Wits, Flakes, and Clowns: The Colorful Characters of Baseball https://www.ebay.com/itm/Wits-Flakes-and-Clowns/264968574096?hash=item3db15b9490:g:mk8AAOSwnIlec6nK

Quiz Answers: Bob Lemon and Darryl Strawberry

Final note: If this is the final blog, thanks to those who followed my quizzes, stories, and opinions over the last few years!

College B.Ball Dec. 2020 Blog

Items from ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia with all info, stats, and records through the date of that book’s publication, 2009.

Quiz:

  1. I’m the only player to start in four straight NCAA Final Fours (my team won it all twice) and I was the 1992 Player of the Year.
  2. I was the POY three times and averaged a double-double in each of my four seasons as an ACC center.
  3. Within 2 points, what was Michael Jordan’s career points per game average?
  4. This former Bullet and Knick averaged an amazing 41.5 ppg. as a senior and, though a guard, had a FG% that season on 60.7. True, he didn’t exactly play at a college hoop factory, but he’s an all-time great.
  5. This star grew from 6′ 4″ to 7′ 1″ during his career. He was a POY in the 80s and holds the NCAA record for block shots in a season.
  6. This POY in the 70s set NCAA tournament records for career scoring average at 41.3 and for a single season when he erupted for 52.7 ppg. one year–the same year he set the mark with 61 points in a single game.
  7. This star actually was a very talented baton twirler, but is best known for his scoring. Despite standing only 5′ 9″, he scored 33.1 ppg. for his career with a high once of 38.2 in the 60s.
  8. It’s written that this man is one of just five men to average a 20-20 for his college career. However, he never played in the NCAA tournament and, due to the rules in effect during his tenure in a New England college, he never dunked in a game–he’d make up for that later.
  9. This left-handed guard was the first Maryland player to start four years in a row. He was the ACC Athlete of the Year in the mid-70s as he was an All-American in b.ball AND tennis.
  10. Within two points, how many points per game did Lew Alcindor average at UCLA for his career. ANSWERS: 1. Christian Laettner 2. Ralph Sampson 3. 17.7 ppg. An old trivia question asked, “Who is the only man to hold Jordan to under 20 ppg.?” The silly, tricky answer was his UNC coach Dean Smith. 4. Earl The Pearl Monroe 5. David Robinson 6. Austin Carr 7. Calvin Murphy 8. Julius Erving 9. John Lucas 10. Alcindor’s average: 26.4 ppg.

College Football: This and That early Dec. 2020

Old Items You May Have Heard About: The reason Miami of Ohio, hardly a football factory now, is called the Cradle of Coaches is because of their rich history which includes big names such as Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Are Parseghian, Weeb Ewbank, and Jim Tressel!

According to an ESPN publication, Notre Dame volunteers use gold paint which contains some amount of actual gold dust, applying it to players’ helmets prior to every game.

Biggest point disparity ever in college football: way back on Oct. 7, 1916, Georgia Tech, under coach John Heisman, crushed Cumberland College, a small Tenn. school by a score of 222-0! Tech rambled for an unbelievable 978 yards on the ground and scored an amazing 32 TDs against a squad made up of just 13 players. Some background: the previous spring Cumberland’s semi-pro baseball team had embarrassed Tech, 22-0. The ESPN College Football Encyclopedia stated, “Moral: take Tech–give the points.”

That same publication stated that Washington State fans rattle their keys just before the opening kickoff of each home game. The story added, “Outside of Keith Jackson, the tradition is Pullman’s greatest contribution to the game.” Has there ever been anyone as good as Jackson when it came to college football broadcasts? I don’t think so. Guess that makes him the Ernie Harwell or Vin Scully of the NCAA gridiron.

One other entry from the ESPN book: In 1927, a student of Georgia Tech started a tradition when, for a joke, he created a mythical Tech student named George P. Burdell and it seems he had Burdell paged over the P.A. system. Somehow that caught on and for decades now the tradition is kept alive at home games and on the road as Tech students continue to have the imaginary Burdell paged. I love traditions in sports and college traditions may be the best of all.

Quiz, Pittsburgh Pirate Items, and More

Want to read about a time a modern player kind of helped “throw” a game? It wasn’t a “fix” like the 1919 World Series Black Sox scandal, but this player supposedly made an error on purpose. See below for more on this.

QUIZ: Name the two brothers who combined for more HR than any other brother duo. Then name the two teammates who combined for more HR while teammates, than any other twosome.

Which major league players earned the most admiration from their peers? Among others, Stan Musial stood out in that regard. Vernon Law stated, “Everybody really respected Stan. He wasn’t a griper, he didn’t give umpires a bad time, he was even tempered. If you did hit hit, he’d just drop the bat and go down to first base. He was kind of a man’s man, and just an outstanding personality.”

Remember the Old Time Pirates? Some of the Pirates from the 1959 team were unlucky in that they were not also on the 1960 squad. One such player was pitcher Ron Kline. He was traded from the Pirates to the St. Louis Cardinals on December 21, 1959, for the fun loving Gino Cimoli and Tom Cheney. Kline would return to the Pirates for one full season in 1968 (and a portion of the following season). In 1968, he enjoyed a great season going 12-5 for a sky high winning percentage of .706 to go along with his ERA of 1.68, but despite playing from 1952-1970, he never made it to a World Series. In fact, during his early years with the Pirates he also experienced the anguish of twice leading the National League in losses with 18 in 1956 and 16 in 1958.

Remembering the ’71 Pirates: Merv Rettenmund was with the pennant winning Orioles in 1971. He said of the Pirates, “They had a good team. A dangerous team, you know. We just didn’t play well. I liked a lot of their players because they did a fantastic job of drafting excellent athletes. They had some great athletes and they also had some people that could really handle them. I think Danny Murtaugh did a fantastic job.” Murtaugh, of course, was a Pirate staple with several stints as their manager. Plus, he pulled off that miraculous World Series win in ’60.

Sometimes Spring Training Is Vital ONLY to non-established players: Ken Barbao, a native of Stan Musial’s hometown (Donora, Pa.), spoke about a time when the difference between the attitude of a veteran and a player with much less pro experience became, he thought, evident. “We went to play the Phillies in, I think, Clearwater. The score was tied, 2-2, in the ninth inning and our manager told me to warm up. I said, ‘Well, we don’t have a catcher who can catch the knuckleball.’ So he said I should just throw my other stuff. 

“Without the knuckleball, I pitched the tenth, the eleventh, and the twelfth innings. In the twelfth inning a veteran who knew we play 154 games that count, and this one didn’t count for anything, and we’re playing extra innings. There were two outs and a guy hit a ground ball to him and he threw it over Dale Long’s head at first and the guy went to second.

We had taken Clemente out of right field and put Roman Mejias out there and the next guy up hit a routine fly ball to right field and Mejias misjudged it, so they won, 3-2. The next day I got a plane ticket to New Orleans. I never thought about it until a couple years ago when I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s what the veteran did. He did that [made an error] on purpose.’”

Quiz Answers: the brothers were Hank and Tommie Aaron. The teammates were Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews who shattered the record once held by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

World Series Observation on How Baseball’s Changed

Kevin Cash defended his decision to yank his Game 6 starting pitcher Blake Snell, but to me it just displayed what a contrast there is between the way the game was once played and the game’s strategy nowadays. For example, in the final game of the 1964 World Series , Bob Gibson faced a critical spot. Many managers would’ve pulled him for reliever, but his manager, Johnny Keane, stuck with him and a visibly fatigued Gibson did indeed get out of the ninth inning jam to win the game. After the game the manager was asked why he had stuck with Gibson and he replied, “I had a commitment to his heart.” In other words he trusted his starter and his reputation.

That way of thinking has disappeared—and I understand that to some extent, but Snell had a great pitching line going for him on the night. In addition, he was about to face the top of the lineup if Cash had stuck with him, and Snell had held those guys to 0-for-6 with six strikeouts.

I would have trusted my ace, a Cy Young winner who was in a groove, on top of his game that night. To me, you go with the hot hand because relievers, as good as many of them are, may falter as opposed to, again, a pitcher who’s still mowing them down. Plus, he had only thrown 73 pitches (48 for strikes) and given up just one run on two hits (both singles) with 9 K’s against no walks. So he works 5 1/3 and has a 1-0 lead, but a one-out single and he’s pulled.

I recall great pitcher such as Gaylord Perry (especially when he pitched on poor clubs like the Cleveland Indians) saying he virtually refused to come out of games after working, say, eight innings, only to hand the game and his fate over to someone else. The greats wanted to be responsible for their own outcomes and they hated to come out of games. So, yes, things have changed a lot. Now you even hear big name pitchers work, for instance, six innings and proclaim, “I did my job.” The bar has clearly been lowered; it’s a brand new ball game to purists/old timers.