Monday, September 29, 2014

Jimmy Dugan's Baseball Prayer

Not exactly a playoff prayer but epic in its own rite.

Polo Ground Trivia and "The Catch"

Sixty years ago, New York Giants Outfielder Willie Mays made "The Catch" during the first game of the 1954 World Series against the Cleveland Indians.  

In the top of the eighth inning, the score was tied 2-2 with men on first and second.  Giants left handed relief pitcher Don Liddle served up a pitch which Indians batter Vic Wertz drilled into deep center field.  In most ballparks, the Wertz 420 foot hit would have been a homer, which would give the Indians 5-2 lead.  

However, the 1954 World Series opener was played in the Polo Grounds. 

Willie Mays rushed in from short center field and made a spectacular on-the-run, over-the-back basket catch on the warning track.  "The Say-Hay" Kid then spun around and tossed the ball to second to check the runner, although the lead runner was able to tag up and take third. 

"The Catch" is the stuff of legend, which might make George Will wax poetically on the George Will Sports Machine, if such a show existed.

George Will Sports Machine on "The Catch"

Steve Austin on Tackles

Towards the end of the first half of the Ohio State Buckeyes and the  University of Cincinnati Bearcats football game, a rowdy fan dressed in in a rushed onto the field at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.

This unruly behavior was unwise to do around Ohio State Buckeye Football Assistant Coach Anthony Schlegel.  The Buckeye's conditioning (strength) coach was a linebacker for OSU as part of the class of 2006. In addition, Schlegel was a 3rd round draft choice by the New York Jets in 2006 as well as playing for the Cincinnati Bengals.

So when the disruptive fan evaded a security guard while storming onto the football field, Coach Schlegel sprang into action.  Schegel made a horse collar tackle and body slammed the disruptive fan onto the turf, but Schlegel was not penalized on the play.

 The record setting crowd of 108,262 Buckeye boosters roared its approval. Security officials then escorted 21 year old Anthony Wunder off the field, who apparently is a 6'2" Ohio State University Senior  who hails from Cincinnati.   Wunder will be arraigned on charges of criminal trespass for his stunt.  No word on how many ice packs Wunder needed after his close encounter with Schlegel.

While the Buckeyes beat the Bearcats 50-28, the big winner of the day seems to have been Coach Schlegel for his protective tackle.   Pro wrestler Steve Austin shared his kudos on Twitter, suggesting that Schlegel earned several performance perks usually reserved for players, Another enterprising Buckeye booster scored the scene into a music video titled "Here Comes the Boom".

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Brooding Over the Brooklyn Bandbox Abandonment

On September 24, 1957, the Brooklyn Dodgers played their last game at Ebbets Field against the Milwaukee Braves.  Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley had been angling for years to build a replacement facility for the National League team.  O'Malley proposed a domed stadium in Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards (ironically now where the Barclay's Center stands) but  New York Building Commissioner Robert Moses "would not play ball."  Moses wanted a stadium erected in Flushing Gardens, Queens (where Shea Stadium and Citi Field were built), but  O'Malley insisted: "We are the Brooklyn Dodgers, not the Queens Dodgers!".  To put pressure on New York City officials, O'Malley had "Da Bums" play a few homestands in Jersey City, New Jersey for two years, but to no avail.  O'Malley packed up the Dodgers and left for sunny Los Angeles in 1958.  And Brooklyn was never the same.

Yid With Lid's Jeff Dunetz argued that September 24, 1957 was "the day the Borough of Brooklyn died" as the Dodgers were the glue that kept Brooklyn together.  Being a Brooklyn Dodgers fan was likened to being a "state religion" in Brooklyn.  It was hypothesized that blue collar, ethnic first and second generation Americans identified with "Dem Bums" and were proud that Dodger players were just like them and lived among them.  In fact, Samuel Johnson, an old-time Brooklyn Dodgers fan who lives at the Ebbet Field Apartments, recalled how seeing Jackie Robinson around in the neighborhood with his  pigeon toed walk. 

Brooklyn Dodgers fans have an unusual nostalgic affection for Ebbets Field, which was the Dodgers home for 45 years.  Ebbets Field was built in "Pig Town" in 1912 between Bedford Avenue, Sullivan Place, McKeever Place, and Montgomery Streets from a collection of parcels which included a garbage dump.  When Ebbets Field opened in 1913, the intimate bandbox (a.k.a. cigar box) stadium sported neither a flag pole nor a press box (the latter was not added until 1929).   Ebbets Field had character because of its topography-- the parcel of sloping ground required that the right field corner be above street level.  Ebbets Field could only seat 35,000 fans and had no hopes of expansion.  Fans of "Dem Bums" thought that it had a homey feel.

After O'Malley moved the Dodgers to the Chavez Ravine in "Dodger-town" California, Brooklyn fans were thoroughly bummed about the abandonment of the Brooklyn Bandbox.  Ebbets Field was demolished with great ceremony in February 1960.

The site was turned into the Ebbets Field Apartments.  However that did not destroy the nostalgia for the Ebbets Field and Brooklyn Dodgers among their die-hards.  Frank Sinatra had a song "There Used to Be a Ballpark"  aimed at Ebbets Field.  The facade for Citi Field in Queens architecturally evokes the exterior of Ebbets Field.  And Ebbets Field even managed to be part of the plot in the film Field of Dreams (1989).  People still pay good money for associations with Ebbets Field.  In January 2014, for example, the Ebbets Field street sign which stood at the corner of Montgomery and McKeever sold for nearly $59,000.

Why do people still brood today of the abandonment off the Brooklyn Bandbox.  Native New Yorkers get nostalgic about the prominence of the Big Apple. The Dodgers and the Giants simultaneously skipping out to California was a cognitive blow which inspired incredible animus.  Hence, Judge Motley's quip about the "notorious abandonment" of Brooklyn 35 years later.  The observation about the Dodgers being the sticky stuff which held the borough of Brooklyn together has some merit.  The Dodgers ducking out of Brooklyn may have also marked the end of a certain age of innocence.  Pro sports used to be a pastime which a lucky few like Roy Campanella continued play boyhood games into adulthood during the summer, only to go back to day jobs in the off season.  The Dodgers move to Los Angeles may have underscored that pro sports could become big business. 

Even though the Brooklyn Dodgers may have abandoned the borough, they did manage to keep their trademark.  Brooklyn based restauranters opened "the Brooklyn Dodgers Sports Bar and Restaurant in 1988 arguing that the Dodgers abandoned Brooklyn in 1957, changing the organizations name and had abandoned the trademark.  This might have been a successful trademark challenge, except the L.A. Dodgers started marketing Brooklyn Dodgers merchandise again in 1981.  Major League Properties won the case in 1993 but the entrepreneurs had long since before gone out of business. 

Roy Campanella on Character

Monday, September 22, 2014

Mary Landrieu on Tailgating

Perhaps to overshadow this onslaught of bad news on the campaign trail, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) resorted to some colorful grassroots campaigning.    As Senator Landrieu toured her old stomping grounds at  Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge (class of '77), she encountered a football tailgate in which young collegiates for the 58 year old senior Senator of Louisiana  to partake in a keg stand as part of the Fighting Tiger's home-stand against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

While Landrieu declined to do a keg stand herself (even though it might earn her votes), she tried having it both ways by pouring a 20 something guy who she termed "a purple shirted bro". Alas, Landrieu's tailgate irrational enthusiasm did not help the Tigers beat the Bulldogs as LSU lost  by a score of 34-29.

Landrieu allegedly expressed concern about how doing a keg stand herself would be covered by the national press.  Landrieu had nothing to fear.  The national press is covering for the Democrats losing big at the midterm elections.  As CNN's Chris Cuomo's commentary shows,  Landrieu's keg stand was a depicted as a  comedic sidelight, rather than a political act of desperation or stooping to conquer.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

On the Battle of the Sexes

Bobby Riggs was a pro tennis star who was at the of his game in the late 1930s and the 1940s.  But Riggs is most remembered for his battle of the sexes.  In 1973, the 55 year old Riggs came out of retirement to play a couple of matches against much younger female tennis stars.

Originally, Riggs wanted to play Billie Jean King but King initially refused.  So Riggs arranged a match with Margaret Cox, who was at the time the top female player in the world.  Riggs achieved easy victory in what was dubbed "the Mother's Day Massacre" by using lots of drop shots and lobs which kept the 30 year old Cox off balance.   In the national limelight, Riggs played up his chauvinism and taunted female players over his victory over "the lesser sex".

The Mother's Day Massacre caused the 29 year old King to change her mind and agree to play Riggs.  The Battle of the Sexes was played on September 20th, 1973 at the Houston Astrodome before a record setting crowd of 30,472 spectators and a television audience estimated at 90 million.  King won the $100,000 winner take all prize on 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.  This Battle of the Sexes elevated Women's Tennis in America , fueled the politically correct womens' liberation movement and highlighted the Title IX law.

But there was more to the story than athletic prowess on the court.  The Battle of the Sexes was lots of show business.  Billie Jean King entered the Astrodome in a chair held by four bare-chested muscle men dressed like Egyptian slaves, ala Cleopatra.  Not to be outdown, Bobby Riggs entered the Astrodome on a rickshaw drawn by scantily dressed models.  Before the match, Riggs gave King a giant lollypop and King offered rigs a piglet.  This spectacle seems akin to the WWF rather than the noble sport of Wimbledon.

Behind the scenes, there were efforts to augment the women's liberation propaganda.  Billie Jean King insisted that ABC Sports drop tennis color commentator Jack Kramer because he was critical of  King and the 26 year age advantage.  Prior to the match, King proclaimed: "He [Kramer] doesn't believe in women's tennis. Why should he be part of this match? He doesn't believe in half of the match. I'm not playing. Either he goes – or I go."

There has been some speculation through a 2013 ESPN Outside the Lines feature which alleged  that Bobby Riggs might have thrown the match in exchange for the mob cancelling Rigg's debts.   Rigg's history as a hustler lends some credence to the gambling connection, as Riggs won a tremendous sum in 1939 by betting on himself to win at Wimbledon.  But Riggs supposedly took a polygraph to prove that he did not prove the match.  Ironically, Jack Kramer, the tennis voice that King silenced for the "Battle of the Sexes", insisted that Billie Jean King won the match fair and square.

The spectacle, the underlying themes and the promotion of "the Battle of the Sexes"  should be instructive to understand how sports are marketing themselves through controversy, guided messaging and chasing a profit as much as excellence on the field of play.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Talk Like a Pirate Day-- An Ersatz Holiday Borne From a Racquetball Injury

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.  This parodic holiday was dreamt up in 1995 during a racquetball game between John Baur (a.k.a. Ol' Chumbucket) and Mark Summers (a.k.a. Cap'n Slappy)

"One of us might have been reaching for a low shot that, by pure chance, might have come off the wall at an unusually high rate of speed, and strained something best left unstrained. 'Aaarrr'."

[L] Cap'n Slappy (a.k.a. Mark Summers) and [R] Ol' Chumbucket (John Baur)

In 2002, the pair sent a "message in a bottle"  letter to syndicated columnist Dave Barry who championed and promoted the idea.  Part of the reason that Talk Like a Pirate Day has grown virally is because the faux holiday has not been trademarked, even though Baur and Summers have a website to garner some booty.  John Baur's "pirate" family  also participated in an episode of "Wife Swap" in 2006.

Michigan State Sen. Roger Kahn (R-32 Saginaw Twshp.)
Funny how a farcical pain cry became a parodic holiday.  But believe it or not, the state of Michigan officially recognized Talk Like a Pirate Day as a holiday, with Michigan State Senator Roger Kahn (R- MI 32nd Saginaw Township) introducing the resolution wearing an eyepatch.  Better to pass resolutions for farcical holidays than plundering the taxpayers' pocketbooks or truly taking away their liberty.

If you want to scrawl your own electronic missive to the Talk Like a Pirate Day holiday sponsor, you can contact  In the spirit of the holiday, it is suggested to put it in pirate argot. To quickly translate, try using Post Like a Pirate.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Shut Up Legs!": Jens Voigt's Final Trek

Jens Voigt has been on the professional Cycling circuit for the past twenty years, racking up over thirty championships. As the 43 year old German Cycling star for Trek Performance Racing prepared to retire, he took on the Hour Record at the Velodrome Suisse in Gretchen, Switzerland. 

Using a specially designed bike, Voigt sought to break Ondrej Sosenka’s mark of 49.700 kilometeters in an hour from 2005.  On the even of his cycling swan song, Voigt voiced: "I'm planning on riding 50-something kilometers.

After a grueling 60 minute ride, Voigt achieved 51.115 kilometers or 31.761 mph. To make that mark, Voigt needed experience, training, determination and enduring quite a bit of pain.  This is why Voigt became renowned for the self chiding "Shut up legs!".

Voigt's drive, determination and character gives an excellent example outside of the velodrome or the peloton.

Andy Murray on Scottish Nationalism

As Scots go to the polls to vote "Aye" or "Nay" on Scottish independence, British tennis star Andy Murray has stopped being coy about his viewing on Scottish nationalism.

Murray won the 2013 Men's Singles championship at Wimbledon, the first time a UK player has won in 75 years.  If the Yes campaign succeeds, it would vitiate this mark.  As Mike Myers might exclaim on in his Scottish comedic skits: "If it's not Scottish it's crap!"

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Frank Drevin (a.k.a. Enrico Pallazo) on the Star Spangled Banner

As we celebrate the bicentenary of Francis Scott Keys penning "The Star Spangled Banner",  the Naked Gun movie comedic crooning ought to shame celebrities to learn the lyrics to the patriotic poem set to a period drinking song. 

There are too many examples of hyped singers who flub the lines to the National Anthem at sporting events, either through ignorance or intentionally, and show disrespect to honoring America.  That being said, it helps when the accompanist plays the right national anthem.

Singing "The Star Spangled Banner", which Congress designated as America's National Anthem in 1931, did not began a tradition at pro baseball games until 1942.  It is estimated that in the major leagues, the National Anthem has been heard before the first pitch at 121,000 games.   


For those of us to struggle to keep on Key, lyrically and aesthetically, it is worth being reminded of the meaning behind the text.  The lyrics were based on "The Defense of Fort McHenry" after a sustained bombardment of Baltimore during the war of 1812.  Francis Scott Key was an accomplished attorney who was negotiating for the release of Dr. William Beanes held prisoner by the British after the Battle of Bladensburg.  The British detained  Keys as a diplomat on a prison ship while the Royal Armada bombed Baltimore Harbor.  After a night's bombardment, Francis Scott Key looked to Fort McHenry and saw the Stars and Stripes flying, demonstrating that American freedom had survived.

There are four verses to the National Anthem, though sports fans are only familiar with the first verse. In case one needs a refresher, here are the real lyrics:

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Rihanna Reacts Ribaldly to SEE B.S. Sports Fecklessness

After CBS spent $275 million for the 2014 Season to win broadcast rights to broadcast NFL Thursday Night Football from September 11-October 23 (and December 20th), the Tiffany Network wanted to make a splash in prime time to draw advertiser.  Thanks to the ex Baltimore Raven RB Ray Rice incident, CBS Sports is drawing criticism.

CBS created pre-game promos which featured popular singers Jay-Z and Rihanna singing "Run This Town".   But as TMZ released the video of Ray Rice knocking his financee out in an elevator, CBS pulled back from this  marketing path.  

Rihanna had suffered felony domestic abuse at the hands of singer Chris Brown in 2009.  But CBS steadfastly denied that Rihanna's past  had anything to do with cancelling the song as well as a comedy sketch appearance with Don Cheadle.  CBS sanctimoniously stated:

We thought journalistically and from a tone standpoint, we needed to have the appropriate tone and coverage. A lot of the production elements we wanted in the show are being eliminated because of time or tone.
Instead, CBS Sports featured CBS Morning Show hostess Norah O'Donnell somber questions which centered on domestic violence to precede a professional football game.

One week later, when the Baltimore Ravens were not playing, CBS Sports signaled that it wanted to use the Rihanna material. The Hip Hop chanteuse saw BS and called out the network.

After Rihanna's Twitter postings, it is highly unlikely that the videos will ever be used.

h/t: Twitchy

False Flag on the NFL

After news broke that the NFL Commission's office had access to the Revel Casino elevator video of ex Baltimore Ravens  Running Back Ray Rice knocking out his fiance in February, Roger Goodell might not have lacked TMZ but migh have experienced low T.

Jon Papelbon's Bad Sign

Philadelphia Phillies Relief Pitcher Jonathan Papelbon was not having a good day.  Papelbon gave up four runs in the top of the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins, thereby blowing his fourth save of the year.  In the end, the Phillies lost the game 5-4.

As Papelbon was pulled and walking to the dugout, the inadequate reliever pulled at his crotch. Papelbon denied that he did anything as an umpire approached him to eject him.

The video seems to show a deliberative gesture as he approached the home dugout, which either was directed towards the booing hometown crowd or Papelbon's bench. Later, the reliever blurted out: "I mean this is baseball. I had to make an adjustment and I did it."

The MLB Commissioner suspended Papelbon for seven games and fined him an unknown amount for his bad sign.  This may relieve Papelbon from embarrassing himself for the rest of the season.

Next season, the 33 year old Papelbon will be in the last year of a four year $50 million contract with the Phillies. Papelbon has made no secret that he is unhappy being for a losing team. Could this rude gesture force the Phillies hand and mean that Papelbon's return to the Boston Red Sox is in the cards.

h/t: Phillymag 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014

Reconsidering the Release of Raven's RB Ray Rice

On February 15, 2014, Baltimore Ravens Running Back Ray Rice and his fiancĂ©e Janay Palmer  had gotten into a fight while in an elevator at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The altercation was initially described as a minor physical altercation. Both Rice and Palmer were arrested on simple assault charges.

On February 19th, police obtained the security camera video from the Revel Casino, which showed that the 26 year old Running Back cold cocked Palmer and then dragged her out of the elevator.

When evidence was presented to a grand jury, Rice's was indicted with third degree aggravated assault.  The very next day, Rice and Palmer got married.  Although Rice rejected a plea deal on the charges, Rice plead not guilty and enrolled in a diversion program for first time offenders to receive counseling which could could legally clear him within six months.

Alas that was not the end of the issue for Ray Rice.  The NFL initially suspended Rice for two games, noting that the League and the Union did not have a policy on domestic violence.  There was a public hue and cry against what was considered to be a lenient punishment from the NFL.  After all, players caught using illegal narcotics or performance enhancing drugs could have stiffer punishment.

 NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell claimed that he did not have all of the information about the event four months after the event.  This claim has come under scrutiny as the NFL had the police tape in Feburary.  Moreover, Rice insisted that he was upfront with the NFL over what occurred.

To placate the public NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted that the League "didn't get it right" with the Rice ruling. So the NFL beefed up its punishment for domestic violence, imposing a six game suspension without pay for a first offence and a virtual lifetime ban on the second instance.  Goodell said:

"I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values, I  didn't get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will."

The question is to how the infraction is determined and when it is imposed.  For instance, Rice was not CONVICTED by a jury of his peers or a court of domestic violence.  And his diversion program would wipe the legal slate clean. And what sort of appeal process is there for the league.  It also begs the question of whether an employer should impose sanctions on players for conduct outside of the workplace and on charges not substantiated by society.

On September 8th 2014, TMZ Sports released the full Ray Rice elevator assault video.

This prompted swift response.  The Baltimore Ravens unconditionally released their star running back.  Moreover, the NFL indefinitely suspended Ray Rice.

By chance, the first Thursday Night Football game on CBS featured the Baltimore Ravens versus the Pittsburg Steelers. CBS initially planned to use a promo which featured the song "Run This Town" with Jay-Z and Rihanna, the latter who suffered felony assault  at the hands of rapper Chris Brown in 2009. The network also pulled a comedy sketch between Don Cheadle and Rihanna.   Instead the CBS Sports pregame consisted of somber interview by CBS Morning Show host Nora O'Donnell which harped on domestic violence.

Much of the media seemed flummoxed when Ravens fans proudly wore their Ray Rice jerseys for the Thursday Night Football game. Such fans believed that it was a one time event, Rice apologized and had been punished once by the League.  Moreover, other players with domestic violence charges hanging over them, like Carolina Panthers Defensive End Greg Hardy was convicted of assault charges yet was able to play on Week 1 while the charge is on appeal.  But there probably was no videotape.  Rice was not legally convicted yet he has suffered the playing death penalty on what might be called double jeopardy in a legal context.

While domestic violence is reprehensible, there are already existing remedies to redress the offense.   The Ray Rice videotape seemed to skew the process and railroaded Rice while not equally applying punishment for similar offenses. The NFL has become notorious for political correctness. Based upon the controversy as to when Goodell saw the Rice videotape, the League may be hoisted on its own PC petard. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

John McEnroe on Yelling

John McEnroe was as famous for his fiery temperament and tantrums as for his on the seven Grand Slam singles victories.

Now that McEnroe is a commentator for network television tennis coverage, he no longer needs to yell to  be heard. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Frank Gifford on Pro Football

New York Giants' Halfback Frank Gifford epitomizes his quote about pro football.  Gifford took a hit by Chuck Bednarik of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1960 which knocked him out and caused a severe head injury which caused him to retire from football.

However, after 18 months, Gifford re-entered the gridiron playing flanker (a.k.a. wide receiver), where he earned a spot in the Pro Bowl before retiring for good in 1962.