Dave Empey has developed five major league
players, including James Paxton, the ace of the
Seattle Mariners, and Ryan Dempster, who
pitched for 16 MLB seasons, was an all-star twice,
and won a World Series ring with the Red Sox.
And now Rowan Wick, who was called up by
the Padres in September.
Dave has coached 19 pro players, 11 members of the
Canadian national junior team, and more than
100 collegiate athletes.
As a sports writer with the Vancouver Sun
Dave interviewed home run king Roger Maris,
iconic heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano,
legendary sprinter Jesse Owens, Hall of Fame
pitcher Bob Lemon, classic daredevil Evel
Knievel, and NHL hard rock Tiger Williams.
Dave has covered almost ever sport you can
name, including baseball, football, basketball,
soccer, hockey, horse racing, lacrosse, boxing,
hang gliding, swimming, figure skating, rugby,
track and field, tennis, curling, and skiing.
In Kelowna he sat next to Billy Schumacher,
the greatest hydroplane driver of all time, as
they blistered through three laps at 150 mph.
"That ride with Billy was a lot of fun," he says.
Dave also managed and produced an album for
the rock band "Paul Anthony and The Invasion."
Ryan and Dave in Las Vegas
January to October visitors--47,009
NEW--The 800 Grand Party to End all Parties
NEW--Bring On the Sloth Triplets
NEW--The Insanity of Tommy John for 15-year-olds
NEW--Is Icing Good for a Pitcher's Arm?
NEW--What has Hockey got to do with this?
NEW--Koufax versus Kershaw
NEW--The Greatest Pitcher Who Ever Lived
"Just Play the Game"
The Spirit of Billy The Kid
One Bad Pitch
"The Players All Love Him"
The Mick's 600-foot Rocket Shots
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
The Lethal Weapon No One Uses
The Ineffable Ernest Hemingway
The Grand Daddy of all Sports Hoaxes
The Incompetence of MLB Coaches
Alabama and Ole Miss Never to be Found
The Bringer of Drizzle
Rowan Wick called up to the Padres
What is wrong with human beings?
The Dempster Slider
"I Gotta Go"
The Rock Star on the South Side
Flamethrower Michael Kopech
The Inane Babble of the Media
Rocky and the Nerds
Moneyball, the Farce
Killer Koepke and The Assassin
THE PITCHING PACKAGE (2)
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
SEE HOW EASILY YOU CAN THROW HARD
Protecting Your Arm
The Road to Velocity
LOAD--Lead with your Hip
Throw through the Catcher
"White Lightning" at 110 mph
Johnny Chung, the Celestial Comet
THE PITCHING PACKAGE (1)
The Catch 22 of Relief Pitchers
Shadow Boxing Your Delivery
Balance Like a Gymnast
A Controlled Knee Raise
The Gold of Coil and Go
Lefthander's Pickoff Move
Stealing Against a Lefthander
Sidd Finch and his 168 mph Fastball
What Utter (Bleeping) Nonsense
Selects Rev Up for Canada Cup
Hands as Deep as an Oil Well
Hitters: Forget the Useless Knee Raise
The Terror of The Dreaded Shift
"Knock Somebody Down"
The Cougars are prowling once again
Wind Sprints--Fast Twitch Endurance
Playing Shortstop on a Donkey
What Are Scouts Looking For?
A Cure for Betances
The Six Foot Basketball League
Thank You, Aaron Judge
Sweet, Sweet, Sweet Caroline
Baseball Players--Tough as Marshmallows
We Are All Unique
Sale Shovels Horse Manure
The INCREDIBLE shrinking Strike Zone
How Many Rings are on the Wrong Fingers?
The Cure for Sorearms?
The Saga of Showalter and Bonds
The Tragedy of Brien Taylor
Blue Jays: No Standards, No Discipline
James Paxton--The Blueprint for a No-Hitter
"Play it Loud"
The Sportsnet Cheerleaders
The Blaze Turn Up the Heat
Tyler O'Neill and his Magnum Guns
Back Foot Pivot
Giancarlo, Are You Listening?
The Virus Invading the MLB Cyberworld
Are the Sox an Australian Cricket Team?
Using Ted's Head for BP
It's a RELAY, Buck, Not a Cut
Pillar Didn't Steal Home
Eating for Explosive Energy
The Magic of Man City
March Madness and You
Much more in the January 2017 Archives
Keeping DTB Alive and Well
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The following story contains material that may be disturbing to Boston Red Sox fans. Reader discretion is advised.
$1,000 FOR A BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE
The 800 Grand Party to End all Parties
Not sure what to make of this.
On the one hand I have enormous respect for the Red Sox Culture. Alex Cora demands excellence. JD and Mookie are consummate professionals. And Dustin Pedroia, who only played a blink of innings this season, prowled the dugout, a vivid reminder that You Play the Game Right.
But, on the other hand, there’s This Thing, this 800 Large Thing, This Thing that stalks the Sox like a mushroom cloud hanging over the Green Monster.
I’m sure you’ve been bombarded by the stories of the Sox partying like it’s 1999 and Prince is on tap. They allegedly dropped a cool 500K in the Nightingale Plaza, an upscale lounge on La Cienega in LA. It’s only open from 11 to 2 three nights of the week, which kind of makes you wonder. And it’s owned by Jay Z, whose father was XY and Z and his mother ZZZ because she slept a lot. And that makes you wonder even more.
The Google reviews for Nightingale are mixed, which is par for the course. They range from “This is my favourite club” to “Horrible,” from “I love their menu” to “Be smart. Don’t let them rip you off,” from “Awesome” to “Don’t waste your time.”
I won’t bore you with the details but here’s a slow-mo Instant Replay of the booze the Red Sox slurped down at Nightingale.
60 bottles of Moet
48 bottles of Dom Perignon
43 bottles of Ace of Spades
17 bottles of Jack Daniels
12 bottles of Perrier-Jouet
11 bottles of Jameson
5 bottles of Veuve Clicquot
1 bottle of Cristal
Multiple bottles of Don Julio and Belvedere
Jay Z, who is worth $500 mill, with Sean Combs at Nightingale
Moet, Dom, Cristal, Veuve and Perrier are all quality champagnes. At Nightingale the prices ranges from $485 a bottle to 20 large. The average hovers around $1,000. I don’t know about you, Warren Buffet, but that’s a few bills over my budget for champagne.
Ace of Spades is a story unto itself. Jay Z, who is worth over $500 million, bought the company four years ago and it’s become a Rapper’s Delight, selling for 300 bucks a bottle, unless you’re in Nightingale, where they charge anywhere from a solo to 10 grand.
The Jack Daniels and Jameson whiskey, the Belvedere vodka, and Don Julio tequila all go for $495 per. Maybe the Red Sox should have found a liquor store and a hotel room.
The bill was 300 large but the Sox added a $195,000 tip, which we trust Jay Z spread around his 40-person roster of Nightingale servers.
Mookie and the Betts
When they got home, they weren’t hungover enough so the Sox blew another load. But they kept it subdued this time. Only 300 grand at Boston’s Icon club where the Don Julio was a steal at $400 and you could lock down the Ace of Spades for a mere $825 and the bottom line on Veuve was $250 and that cheapo Moet went for $165, if you wanted to live like a peasant.
Just to show their versatility the Sox settled on 15-litre bottles of Belaire at $5,500 each and 40 cases of sparkling wine.
Do I trust the stories on Social Media? Of course not. If you believe anything you see or read on SM I have some stock in Kik Cola and a telephone answering service I’ll sell you at a rock bottom price. Well, maybe sand bottom.
The Red Sox One Percenters
The Red Sox have denied these reports, of course. Well, almost.
Red Sox spokeswoman Zineb Curran said, "The team put together a gathering at the hotel for some of the players and their families after the Series but did not arrange any outing in the city." She said the team did not pick up the nightclub tab and one source said the bill wasn't nearly that much. The whole thing could even be a hoax. But, still, the players haven't denied it.
So there’s some confusion over who paid for all of this but, apparently, J.D. Martinez picked up a portion of the tab for his teammates, including Mookie Betts and Steve Pearce, and a "generous benefactor" sent some bottles over to their table. Generous, you say.
Make no mistake. Rich people, the one per centers, can spend their money anyway they want, whether they play baseball or the stock market or buy real estate or commodities or trucking companies or inherit it or sock it away off shore or they’re the CEO of General Motors or they create Facebook or Amazon. No problem. That is their right.
There are five million children starving to death in Yemen. And the Boston Red Sox spent 800 grand on booze for two parties.
And there are loving, wonderful rescue animals being euthanized because they have no home. And the Boston Red Sox spent 800 large on booze.
And there are single mothers living in ghetto poverty, trying desperately to raise three kids while they work two jobs so those kids can eat. And the Boston Red Sox spent $800,000 on vodka and whiskey and tequila.
And there are homeless veterans of Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan who think about ending it every day. And the Boston Red Sox spent 800,000 on Moet and Veuve and Dom.
I think I have a new name for the Boston Red Sox.
The Boston Assholes.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO HUSTLE?
Bring On the Sloth Triplets
“I’m not the type of player who’s going to be Johnny Hustle.”
You got that right.
I watched Machado loaf down the line with the Orioles as if he was strolling in the sand at Malibu. And Buck Showalter did nothing.
And I watched him trot to first base with the Dodgers when he drilled a shot off the left field wall. And turned an automatic double into an anemic single that was more embarrassing than a 16-year-old passing wind on his first date with the hottest girl in the whole damn school.
And Dave Roberts did nothing.
Is it any wonder Machado has less professional discipline than a crack addict who hasn’t slept since Labour Day? If the manager doesn’t seem to care why should Machado be a naïve idiot called Johnny Hustle? After all, Pete Rose only had 4,256 hits.
"Well, at least this is better than running to first."
Too bad the Blue Jays don’t have 300 mill to sign free agent Manny. He’d fit right in with the Sloth Twins, Morales and Solarte. That would make it the Sloth Triplets and Toronto fans could make bets on how many groundballs they’d turn into pre-game fungo practice.
Whoops, forgot, there’s a new sheriff in town, a dude named Charlie Montoyo. Maybe, just maybe, he’s professional enough to demand accountability from the slack ass spoiled millionaires.
At least some of the Dodgers were less forgiving than their manager. Well, almost. “You’re getting a superstar player as a rental for half a season to help us win a championship,” one of them said. “You can’t really tell him he needs to change the way he plays.”
Why not? Money makes you a professional but only in dollars. A professional plays like a professional. With pride. With respect. With integrity.
Montoyo won't have to hold up Morales or Solarte.
The Dodgers are a Cody Bellinger/Joc Pederson crew. Home Run Derby or strikeout. Maybe they learned how to play baseball from the Red Sox. But I doubt it.
Can you imagine the cement mixer churning in Dustin Pedroia’s gut as he watched a clown like Machado waltz down the line, kicking horsebleep all over the game Dustin loves? And knowing some dull minded GM will fork over hundreds of millions to lock up Manny for the next decade?
Whatever happened to this game we call baseball?
Get Into His Kitchen and Break Some Dishes
"Don’t let the hitter own both sides of the plate. If he’s leaning over the plate to claim it as his territory you have to jam him with hard stuff inside.
"You want to get into the hitter’s kitchen and break some dishes."
--Brilliant Hall of Fame righthander Tom Seaver
“Walker Buehler had Tommy John surgery and came back throwing harder than he ever could imagine. He was 91, 92 and now he’s 97, 98.”
--Fox broadcaster Joe Buck
IT’S AN “EPIDEMIC”
The Insanity of Tommy John for 15-year-olds
Way to go, Joe Buck. You have increased the lineup for Tommy John by a few thousand insane parents, who actually think the surgery will give their 15-year-old a burst of velocity. Which, of course, will light up the radar guns from here to Aklavik and the kid will be an MLB multi-millionaire by the time he’s 28.
No (bleeping) way.
Tommy John surgery does not increase a pitcher’s velocity. That’s virtually impossible. When the surgeon wields the scalpel he’s replacing a torn ligament with a tendon. Unless that strip of bacon has been sliced out of The Hulk’s hamstring and injected with Dianabol and HGH it will have the same strength as the original.
So tell me, Carnac, if you know so much, how does Walker Buehler jump the shark from 91 to 98? Did he buy a Bionic Arm from Walmart?
Pretty simple, really. Walker was undoubtedly doing the Jobe’s rehab exercises every pitcher hacks into when they’re recovering from the surgery. Jobe's strengthen the elbow, the shoulder, the forearm, the back and the rotator cuff. That’s a Pentagon of Power.
These are the same Jobe’s exercises I’ve been teaching pitchers for 25 years so they can strengthen their arm BEFORE they get hurt. Combine them with The Thrower’s Ten and you’ve got Secret Service protection for your arm.
What’s more, just before a pitcher goes under the knife his velocity is at low ebb because it hurts to throw with a torn elbow ligament that’s begging for mercy or a bucket of Tylenol. When he returns to the bump his velo usually reverts to where it was when he was healthy before his UCL started to fray.
Walker Buehler after TJ
But, when Joe Buck announces that Buehler’s mph has jumped like a jack rabbit after TJ he simply encourages a flotilla of deranged parents who are sure their kid should hit the operating table pronto. Not today. Yesterday.
"We need that extra seven notches on the gun, sunshine, so get your elbow prepped. Mommy and daddy are running low on cash and we’re holding out for one of those million dollar bonuses we see every June in Baseball America. Surgery is the answer to all our prayers, even though we don’t pray."
And even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with the kid’s arm.
"Some kids will come in with their parents in uniform because they’re playing that night. The parents want a consultation to be considered for a Tommy John operation. I ask them, when did he get hurt? And they tell me he isn't hurt but he's not developing as quickly as the other kids."
--Dr. Christopher Ahmad, the Yankees team physician.
Dr. Ahmed is convinced this moronic stupidity starts with media gurus like Joe Buck, who either doesn’t know why pitchers throw harder after TJ or doesn’t think it’s important enough to explain. “It’s the perception these kids get watching TV and online,” Ahmed says. “We’re trying to get parents to understand it’s a tough operation with a very difficult recovery and you should avoid it."
Dr. James Andrews has performed more Tommy John than Donny and Marie have bounced on stage in Vegas. He says it's a “myth” that the operation enables pitchers to throw harder. A very dangerous myth because he sees a flood of parents who want surgery for sons as young as 14. Who don’t have an elbow injury.
“The problem is parents who think the procedure will give the kid a bionic arm,” Andrews says. “If a pro throws harder it’s not because of the surgery. It’s because of the maturity and all the rehab and conditioning they do for a year or more.”
See, told you so.
Doctor Tommy John
“If you’re operated on in the eighth or ninth grade for Tommy John,” Andrews adds, “your chances of reaching the collegiate level go down about threefold.”
Andrews has seen a meteoric rise in TJ operations that have become a virtual "epidemic." He went from performing surgery on one or two high school players in 1997 to 80 or 90 a year. And where did all this madness start? Well, in the beginning it was all good, a career saver.
"He looked me in the eye and said, 'Let's do it.'"
Back in 1974 Los Angeles lefthander Tommy John came to Dr. Frank Jobe, the Dodgers surgeon, for advice. Tommy had blown his UCL, the ligament that connects the ulnar bone (the forearm) to the humerus (the upper arm). Obviously, this is kind of important.
At the time there was nada anyone could do to repair that damage. You were gonzo. But Dr. Jobe told John there was an experimental operation he could pull out of a hat and try some magic. Call it the Before Tommy John surgery. Maybe one chance in a 100 it would work. About the same odds as a Sumo wrestler riding the Kentucky Derby winner.
John had nothing to lose. “He looked me in the eye,” Dr. Jobe remembered, “and said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
The great Dr. Frank Jobe
So the good doctor took a tendon out of Tommy John’s right arm and sewed it into his left elbow. I won’t go into the gory details. Suffice it to say Jose Rios, who managed to top the charts with three TJ operations, actually watched Dr. Jobe slice into another pitcher and almost threw up.
Tommy John had his surgery when he was 31. And pitched for 13 more years, collecting 164 wins with a new UCL. One in a 100, you say? What the hell is that Sumo wrestler doing in the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs?
This story is also news to a lot of the kids. "They don’t even know I pitched," John says. “The kids say ‘Tommy John, the doctor.’ I hear that often. My name is in all the medical journals and I’m proud to be associated with Tommy John Surgery and the late Dr. Frank Jobe."
"They think they know more than Dr. Jobe"
About 60 percent of all TJ surgeries now invade the tender arms of kids 15 to 19, which deeply disturbs John. "The injury is from overuse," he says. "Most of the guys who get hurt pitch 12 months a year from age 8 to 17. You need three, four months of rest to let nature heal what's been injured from pitching. I think that's the root cause.”
He’s also convinced modern science facilitates TJ. “It has a lot to do with MRIs. We only had X-Rays back in '74 and a doctor might see an abnormality and tell a guy to keep pitching or take off for a while. Now, the doctors see it's partially torn and they do the surgery."
John adds, “Only 20 percent ever make it back to their previous level. Worse yet, between 25 and 30 percent of athletes who undergo Tommy John aren’t able to play baseball two years later.”
He doesn’t blame the kids. “The moms and dads are the ones who need talking to,” Tommy says. “They go on-line and read about the surgery and think they know more than Dr. Jobe and Dr. Andrews. The surgery doesn't make a kid throw harder or make him a major league pitcher."
And he endorses the concerns of a growing number of sports trainers like Eric Cressey, who’s as good as it gets. “There’s more stress in sports now than celebration,” John says. “It should be fun. These are kids, not pros.”
Can you imagine how the poor horse felt?
"There’s an irrational push by parents for children to play sports for such long hours and long durations with so much repetition we’re seeing an increase in injuries from 20 years ago,” says Dr. Randolph Cohen, who practices U18 Sports Medicine in Florida.
A Loyola University study nailed this. Athletes who specialize are 70 to 93 percent more likely to be injured than those who play multiple sports. All the pounding from doing the same actions over and over is too much stress on bones, joints and ligaments. By the way, 29 of the 32 first-round picks in the recent NFL draft were multisport athletes in high school.
When John Smoltz was inducted into the Hall of Fame he echoed Tommy John’s concern. “It’s not normal to have a surgery at 14 and 15 years old,” he said. “Baseball is not a year-round sport. Be athletic and play other sports.”
Amen to that.
Here I go with “When we were kids.” But it’s true. We played everything. Three-on-three basketball, touch football, road hockey, yards, American ping pong (it’s baseball), pick-up soccer. Every day, all day. We loved it. And it made us far better baseball players.
Trainers like Cressey stress this. Develop endurance, agility, flexibility, leg strength, core, coordination. Be an athlete.
And you won’t be on the operating table at 17 waiting for a surgeon to cut your elbow open.
ASK A PHYSIO GUY
Is Icing Good for a Pitcher's Arm?
By Graeme Lehman
Using ice on a pitcher’s arm is a polarizing question, pun intended. In my opinion the answer lies somewhere in the middle but I do lean more to the No Ice side if I had to choose.
Inflammation following a trauma is actually a good thing. And, yes, your body considers throwing a baseball as hard as you can over and over to be traumatic. Inflammation is part of the healing process. It brings a fresh supply of blood and nutrients to the area.
When we first apply ice our body actually INCREASES the blood supply to the affected area in order to regulate the temperature. But, if we leave the ice on too long, we constrict blood vessels. Nothing can come in and nothing can leave.
No, it's not broken. But it sure needs a massage.
We want the old blood and its waste products to leave the healing area. That’s the responsibility of our lymphatic system and it’s hindered by the constricted blood vessels.
Instead of icing I recommend a series of light exercises aimed at increasing blood flow. If possible, have a professional trainer massage the shoulder, back and elbow or use a tool to massage yourself.
And there are two more huge pieces of the puzzle to aid recovery.
Unless you optimize this Dynamic Duo there’s no point in arguing about the pro's and con's of icing.
But, if you must ice, you should use contrast therapy where you alternate hot and cold in order to dilate and then constrict the blood vessels. This creates a natural pumping action to increase crucial blood circulation.
From $30 mill to Peanut Butter and Jam
“Why do teams spend from $484,000 to $30 million per year on a single player, yet save money by feeding their minor leaguers pizza, fried chicken, and peanut butter and jam and salami sandwiches on white bread?”
--Trainer Eric Cressey, the best in the business
What has Hockey got to do with this?
I used to watch a lot of hockey. I was an etched in stone Montreal Canadiens fan. Of course, that was when I was very young and didn’t realize pro sports teams are simply commercial enterprises that con people into living vicariously.
I loved the 80’s when the Oilers squared off with the Flames in bare knuckle brawls that were as wide open as an H-bomb crater. Gretzky, Messier, Coffey, Kurri, Fuhr and the Frank Nitti Enforcers, Marty McSorley and Dave Semenko, who shadowed The Great One like a momma pit bull protecting her pup.
But lately I only imbibe occasionally. The game has just become as (bleeping) boring as an Oscar speech. Migawd, I know that’s blasphemy and Grapes and Ron will be irate. Sorry, can’t help it.
When you're Semenko, the Enforcer, who needs a helmet?
The ice is as crowded as an ant hill. NHL players get bigger and stronger by the minute. But bigger and stronger doesn’t always mean better. Try an experiment. Count how many times you see three completed passes in an NHL game, excluding a power play. You just might strike out for a whole period.
Obviously, and I truly mean obviously, which excludes it from the minds of the dudes who run the NHL, they should go to 4-on-4. (See “The Six foot Basketball League” somewhere down below in this flood of posts). That would open the ice and let brilliant athletes like Connor McDavid and Elias Pettersson (who's parents stuttered) and Rasmus Dahlin and superb blueliner Victor Hedman skate circles in the wind.
Hell, the National Hype League has already gone to 3-on-3 in overtime because they hate shoot outs and pretty soon it will undoubtedly be 1-on-1 with the goalies in handcuffs.
Of course, 4-on-4 will never happen because the GM’s would reduce their bench and the Players Association will blow up Madison Square before they’ll give up one salary, particularly when it belongs to North Van’s Colton Sissons.
Is Hockey Really Mindless?
As you watch the replay of a goal listen to the analyst. "Smith steals the puck at centre ice, stick handles past Jones, and carries across the blueline. Watch this great pass to the Swede Andreychukhuusengesundheit in the slot. And the Swede blasts a one-timer on the glove side into the back of the net."
He’s telling you exactly what you’re seeing. You could replace every NHL analyst with a Google robot and get just as much expertise. Don’t tell us WHAT happened. Tell us WHY. But how naïve am I? No one can tell you why because no one knows.
Not so long ago the pundits mocked Roger Neilson and called him Captain Video because he had the audacity to videotape his players and show them where they were out of position or out to lunch. Neilson, yeh, he’s that nut case who thinks you can teach hockey. LOL.
I keep hearing about new players who have to adapt to a team’s “system.” So I decided to do some research. I Googled the Canucks and their “system.” Over and over, rewording it every which way but loose to find the password to unlock the Secrets of the System.
And all I ever came up with was nothing. System? What the (bleep) is the matter with you, idiot, there is no “system” because the Canucks don’t have one. No one in the NHL has a “system.” They just skate around until the puck comes to them.
Consider, for instance, Joel Quenneville, who just got fired by the Black Hawks. In the past decade Joel was in charge as the Hawks lifted the Stanley Cup three times. He's won more games than Mars has bars. But he's expendable.
And guys who were Coach of the Year are Dummy of the Decade the next go round. Going from "The Penthouse to the Outhouse" is the next big hit for Garth Brooks when he performs at the December meeting of the Fired, Discarded and Stomped On NHL coaches. Which tells you something about their value.
Where in the hell is Captain Video when we need him?
And then you have Collinsworth, Aikman and Romo
Why do hockey play-by-play guys think they’re the reincarnation of Foster Hewitt and it’s still CBC radio in 1952? When Bob Cole can remember the names of the skaters he’ll point out exactly what they’re doing while you watch exactly what they’re doing.
By contrast you have football analysts like Cris Collinsworth and Troy Aikman and Tony Romo who lock in exactly why an off-tackle burst was so effective. And MLB dudes like Jim Palmer and Paul O’Neill, who ace it, who reveal inside stories and tactical insights and you actually learn something.
I was absorbing the Patriots and the Packers and the magnificent Rodney Harrison was on board. Rodney is a rare jewel analyst, a Churchill amongst drivel, a gold nugget amongst pebbles, a Ben Franklin amongst nickels and dimes. When Rodney speaks it’s The Hammer of Thor at the podium.
Rodney (37): "I never listened to it."
You’ve all seen those ludicrous pep talks some clown spews out before the kick-off. He knows the camera is grinding and he’s showing us all what a great leader he is. Ray Lewis was the King of Pre-game Horse Bleep.
When they asked Harrison how he responded to this nonsense he said, “I never listened to it” and he was my hero right there, right then. Rodney is well aware anyone playing in the NFL has absolutely no need to get pumped. In fact, some of them throw up before they leave the room. Better to relax and focus and maybe you’d see fewer fumbles or interceptions.
And then there was the Super Bowl when Harrison broke his arm with only a few minutes left, stayed in for one more play, went to the dressing room for an X-Ray, snuck out when the medics were setting up, and returned to watch the end and share in the Patriots victory.
And Josh Donaldson missed three months with a sore calf muscle.
Wouldn’t it be cool if Harrison and Aikman and Romo and Collinsworth were MLB analysts? They could dissect the off-tackle groundball through the hole and the slant pass pop up and the cut-off interception.
You wouldn’t learn very much about baseball but it sure would be a lot more fun.
PLEASE PASS THE BUCK
Koufax versus Kershaw
"Clayton Kershaw is arguably the best pitcher in Los Angeles franchise history.”
Yes, Buck Martinez actually said that. He did. I swear he did.
I’m well aware Buck makes more mistakes than a knife juggler swilling slugs from a fifth of Jim Beam while balancing on one leg on a block of ice.
He thinks James Paxton was drafted out of high school by the Blue Jays even though James wasn’t drafted out of high school by anybody or anything unless it was a typhoon of fresh air.
When a groundball clipped the shortstop’s glove and was scooped by the left fielder he called it an infield single. And he still doesn’t know the difference between a cut-off and a relay.
But let’s not nit-pick over minor things like facts. Buck spews out clichés like a machine gun gone ballistic (that’s a nice play on words) and, when it comes to opinion, Buck is even saltier.
That quote came during the World Series and I was lucky I wasn’t eating at the time. For openers, I have great respect for Clayton Kershaw. He’s a command pitcher with a U-turn cuvrveball and a razor sharp slider. He’ll be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Better than Koufax? Whatever you're smoking... (Tim Bradbury photo)
But his delivery is terrible. He stops and starts and hangs over the rubber and has less momentum than a sleeping snail, which slams on the emergency brake and reduces his velocity by about 5 mph. Still, he overcomes that by hitting spots like a sniper.
But Kershaw is the best in Dodgers history? Better than Sandy Koufax? That’s like saying a Big Mac is yummier than Thomas Keller’s Per Se tasting menu. (If you’ve done that please let me know.)
I won’t rehash Sandy’s Lights Out credentials. You can drift through those in “The Greatest Pitcher Who Ever Lived” just below. Suffice it to say, when Koufax was digging into the mound and the Dodgers scored a run early they figured the game was over. He was that dominant.
I hear this guy Keller knows how to cook a great mac and cheese.
What’s more, I can make a pretty good runner-up case for Big D, Don Drysdale, the 6-5 rigthhanded terrorist who threw blistering high 90’s sidearm heat and was prone to pitching inside. Very inside.
“You hit one of my guys and I’ll hit two of your’s,” he threatened opposing pitchers. “Hit two of mine and I’ll nail four of your’s.” Keep in mind this was before umpires issue bench warnings any time a pitcher comes six inches inside.
Big D, who would knock down his mother-in-law.
In 1968 Drysdale threw six shutouts in a row and 58 and 2/3 innings without giving up a run. No, I didn’t make that up. No, I don’t do drugs. No, you’re not hallucinating. Those are real numbers and the chances of them ever being matched are about the same as Earth buying lunch for Jupiter.
But, still, I like Buck. He’s sort of comic relief. Even when he’s not trying to be funny.
What's the difference between a CUTTER and a SLIDER?
Watching the World Series I love the shots of Sandy Koufax at Dodger Stadium. If you never saw Koufax pitch you missed something very special. Analysts talk about a pitcher being “unhittable.” Sandy owned that word.
The Greatest Pitcher Who Ever Lived
There are certain things I know for sure.
I know that love is loyalty. I know that animals are innocent and should be protected from vile trophy hunters. I know that eating fish and fruit and vegetables will keep you strong and energized.
And I know, without the slightest doubt, that Sandy Koufax is the greatest pitcher who ever lived.
Yes, Pedro and Verlander and Clemens and Hader and Mariano and Maddux and Gibson and Sale and Nolan Ryan and Kershaw and Feller and Aroldis are all awesome.
But Koufax was ineffable. INEFFABLE.
I was never a Dodger fan. I liked the Yankees. But you didn't have to be a fan to truly appreciate Sanford Koufax. He was the most overpowering pitcher ever--blistering fastball, a 12 to 6 curveball that broke nose to toes, and a cobra change-up. In his youth he had trouble throwing strikes--but when Sandy got command…fo-get about it…
September 9, 1965—Perfect Koufax
Let me take you back to the most memorable game of a career studded with great moments.
On Sept. 9, 1965 Koufax threw a perfect game at Dodger Stadium, handcuffing the Cubs 1-0. "I would think the last two or three innings of that game are as well as I've ever pitched," he said, later.
"I had to climb up closer to the hitters than usual because his breaking ball broke straight down and you almost had to reach up underneath to catch it."
"There was nobody who was going to hit Sandy Koufax that day," said Cubs third baseman Ron Santo. "He just kept throwing fastballs right by you. You were just overmatched."
The Dodger catcher that night was Jeff Torborg, who later managed the Florida Marlins. "Sandy didn't have his exceptional stuff early in that game," Torborg said. "But he got it together in the sixth or seventh and he really started to let it fly. He sniffed it. You could see it in his eyes."
"I'll be right back"
After striking out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning, Joey Amalfitano walked passed Harvey Kuenn, who was on-deck. "You'd better be ready," he warned Kuenn, "because he's getting it up there real good."
Kuenn replied, "Wait for me, Joey. I'll be right back."
Koufax struck out 14 Cubs that night--including the last six hitters he faced. Besides a fastball that was second to none, Sandy threw "the best curveball I've ever seen," says catcher Torborg. "I had to climb up closer to the hitters than usual because his breaking ball broke straight down and you almost had to reach up underneath to catch it."
Cubs receiver Chris Krug agreed. "Frankly, he had the best fastball in the league, the best curveball and the best change-up. And he could get them over most any time he wanted. He just overmatched you."
“Sandy Koufax was the most dominating pitcher I ever saw. I was on his level in certain games. But I wasn’t as consistent as Sandy Koufax.”
--NOLAN RYAN, who threw seven no-hitters plus 12 one-hitters and notched
5,714 strikeouts with a flamethrowing fastball over 100 mph. ___________________________________________________________________
In his last five seasons Koufax was 111-34 with a 1.95 ERA.
In 1965 he struck out 382.
He was 25-5 in 1963 with a 1.88 ERA.
Sandy threw no-hitters in four straight seasons.
"I stopped pressing after I learned that, if you fail, life will still go on." Koufax said, later. "I changed my mechanics and learned to pitch. I learned to control myself. Instead of trying to do something 100%, I left a little--giving maybe 95 to 99%."
Throwing 90 at 50
Koufax had an arthritic elbow that forced him to retire far too early--at the age of 30. Putting it all in perspective he said, "I've got a lot of years to live after baseball. I’d like to live them with the complete use of my body."
Nonetheless, there's a story I heard a few years ago about Koufax heating it up in Dodgertown when he was in his 50's. And throwing 90 mph.
I don't believe that story. It must be apocryphal. But, then again, this is Sandy Koufax we're talking about…
"I can understand how he won 25 games. But I don't understand how he lost five."
--Yankees legend Yogi Berra after facing Koufax in the World Series.
And, so, you ask, what is the point of this endless tale? Just wait, I'm getting there.
A few years ago I heard Bob Brenly doing analysis on a telecast and he was talking about Koufax. He mentioned that Sandy stressed leading with your hip. And that, friends, is the point.
When you start forward in your delivery LEAD WITH YOUR HIP. That will keep you loaded and stop you from rushing your upper body.
There are three things I'll point out about this picture. 1) Sandy leading with his hip. 2) The TILT he gets as he loads. And 3) Notice how his post foot is hooked on the rubber. That was a Koufax trademark to get extra leverage. Of course, you can only do it on a pro mound with the proper clay and maintenance.
Watch just about any great pitcher and you'll see it. They all lead with their hip. I stress this with our pitchers. Knee raise and then, as you drive toward the plate, your lower body always goes first. Your upper body is along for the ride until you reach the Power Triangle and Explode.
LEAD WITH YOUR HIP.
How do I know? Well, I may be stupid, but I'd have to be an utter moron to ignore anything Sandy Koufax says. When Koufax talks, I listen. He's the best ever.
And that I know for sure.
Koufax and the curveball
Sandy Koufax has exceptionally long fingers.
CLINT HOSFORD shook hands with him in Dodgertown and came
away amazed at the size of Sandy’s hands. That may explain why
Koufax had such a great nose to toes curveball. Long fingers give
you tremendous snap on a breaking ball. Of course, you have no
control over that and there are a whole lot of pitchers who throw
great hammers with smaller hands.
Koufax was an extraordinary athlete. Legend has it he was such a good basketball player he could have gone into the NBA right out of high school.
"Trying to hit Koufax is like trying to drink coffee with a fork.”
--Pittsburgh's WILLIE STARGELL, who crushed 475 home runs in 21 seasons.
THE ULTIMATE STUPIDITY OF THE CYCLE
“Just Play the Game”
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello are running ideas for their vaudeville act.
BUD: I’ve got one. Baseball. We’ll do a skit called “Lou’s on First.”
LOU: “Lou’s on First?”
LOU: I’ve never been on first.
BUD: True. So how about “Who’s on First?”
LOU: “Who’s on First?”
BUD: That’s right.
LOU: So who is the guy on first?
BUD: Yes, Who.
LOU: Who is on first?
BUD: He sure is.
LOU: Who is he?
LOU: What the hell.
BUD: What is on second.
BUD: Yes, What is playing second base.
LOU: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
BUD: I Don’t Know is on third.
LOU: But who’s on first?
LOU: I give up.
BUD: Okay. So try this one. A dude hits a single, a double, a triple and a home run. How about that?
LOU: Well, this is 1935 and “dude” isn’t cool yet. But he hits a single, double, triple and a jack?
BUD: Jack is in right field.
LOU: Okay, it’s four hits.
BUD: It’s one of each.
LOU: So what?
BUD: What is on second.
LOU: Here we go again.
BUD: One of each. That makes it very important.
LOU: Who cares?
BUD: Of course he does.
BUD: Why is in left field.
LOU: I should have known. But aren’t two doubles, a triple and a home run better than one of each?
BUD: Yes, of course they are.
LOU: And isn’t a double, two triples and a home run even better?
BUD: But they’re not one of each. Get it?
LOU: I don’t know.
BUD: I told you, I Don’t Know is on third.
LOU: What are you going to call this?
BUD: How about a Foursome?
LOU: That sounds very pornographic. This is 1935 not 2018 when anything goes. We’ll be banned from the 42nd Street stage.
BUD: Then we’ll take Porn out of the lineup.
LOU: What position does he play?
BUD: Wherever he wants.
LOU: So it’s not a Foursome.
BUD: How about a Cycle?
LOU: What’s a Cycle?
BUD: I Have No Idea.
LOU: I’ll bet he’s the catcher.
BUD: Sure, we’ll call it a Cycle.
LOU: But it’s not as good as two doubles and two jacks. Yes, I know, Jack is in centerfield.
BUD: Right. The Cycle means nothing. But baseball is crammed full of pointless statistics. The writers and Social Media thrive on it. They love meaningless things.
LOU: Social Media?
BUD: He’s the closer.
LOU: They love it because it’s meaningless?
BUD: Absolutely. One of each. That must mean something even if no one knows why.
LOU: Of course. It’s baseball.
BUD: And I have a prediction.
LOU: I knew you would.
BUD: A Boston second baseman named Buck Holtz will hit for the Cycle in the 2014 World Series.
LOU: No way. You’re six years off. He’ll do it in 2008 but his name is Barack Obama and the Red Sox will never win the World Series. Because they traded Babe Ruth.
BUD: Babe Who?
LOU: Who’s on First. Babe Ruth is the shortstop.
When Jeff Frye stopped at first
After Brock Holt hit for The Cycle against the Yankees he whooped it up like a kid who has just won at Fortnite, whatever that means, like a woman who has been invited to the Royal wedding, like a dude who cashed a $100 ticket on a 60-1 shot.
You’d think he’d actually done something important. Well, come to think of it, Ron Darling was sure he had.
"The Red Sox took the lead. But, more importantly, Brock Holt hit for the cycle." --Fox analyst Ron Darling __________________________________________________
It didn’t matter that Holt completed his Masterpiece by hitting a jack against Yankees catcher, Austin Romine, who was throwing chocolate ice cream BP.
I’ve never understood why The Cycle is so orgasmic it serves as an instant aphrodisiac for a lady who loves the diamond. Try it, dudes. Just remember this is from a Red Sox small sample.
The Cycle. As Bud and Lou point out, two doubles, a triple and a home run are better than One of Each. So Who cares about a Cycle? I'm sure he does.
The Farce of 2001
The ultimate Cycle farce came 17 years ago when Jeff Frye did the deed for the Blue Jays. I saw that game. And it was like a Monty Python Silly Walk routine gone awry.
Frye’s double and triple were gifts from Rangers right fielder Ricky Ledee, who underestimated the bounce in the Rogers Centre turf and let a pair of Rawlings spheres bounce over his head into no man’s land. Then Frye drilled an honest line drive jack into the left field corner.
Now all he needed was a measly single.
Jeff Frye and his Silly Walk slide
Before his last AB Frye went to hitting coach Cito Gaston for advice. “I asked Cito what I should do if I hit one to the wall and he said I should stop at first and tell everyone he told me to do it.”
Lo and behold, Frye got a fastball up and middle and drove it into the left field gap. To the fence. A gimme for a stand up double.
“I’m like, ‘Oh crap,’” Frye said later. “I’m taking a turn and I’m screaming at Garth Iorg, the first base coach, ‘What do I do? What do I do?’ He’s yelling at the top of his lungs, ‘Stay here! Stay here!’ So I went back to first.”
Yes, he went back to first. On a line shot in the gap. I couldn’t believe it.
The next day Frye talked to Rangers manager Jerry Narron and apologized. And Narron, who knew Frye played hard and never showed anyone up, stared at him coldly. “Just play the game,” Narron said. “Just play the game.”
Frye finished the season with the Jays and then dropped off the map, later to become a player’s agent.
I have a feeling if George Steinbrenner owned the Blue Jays or Whitey Herzog was the manager, all three, Gaston, Org and Frye, would have been on their way to Dunedin on the next Westjet.
Just like Spinal Tap, two doubles, a triple and jumping the yard are better than a Cycle. Louder by one. Just Play the Game.
So let’s invent our own Cycle. How about 0-for-5 on five groundballs to the second baseman? With the Dreaded Shift that’s certainly doable. Think about the excitement, the tension, the pressure when Kendrys Morales is in the box poised for Numero Five. He drives a groundball deep in the hole, trots down the line, and gets thrown out by 40 feet. The place would go bonkers. History, Kendrys, history.
I’m sure you can come up with something better. But right now let’s just call it The Groundhog. And it will be just as stupid as The Cycle.
(If you get a chance please Google "Abbott and Costello Who's on First?" This classic routine is just as funny now as it was decades ago.)
THROWING 102 MPH
The Spirit of Billy The Kid
The 7-year-old was in his element, basking in the fun of pick-up football with his buds. He was a righthanded QB, tossing Tom Brady bullets long before Brady married Belichick.
They laughed and they tumbled and they got up and laughed some more. Until the game drifted out of control and the righthanded 7-year-old was sacked and went down. No harm, no foul. But his best friend fell on top of him and he heard the crack and felt the searing pain blitz through his forearm like a bolt from a taser.
His right arm was fractured. Did I tell you he was righthanded? Yeh, I think I did.
The cast stayed on for six frustrating weeks as the 7-year-old, who was righthanded, longed to throw something, anything, a football, a baseball, a frisbee, a can of Coke.
And, then, finally, the doc scraped the plaster off and the kid was free again. Free to throw righthanded. Did I mention that before?
At which point he broke his arm again. His right arm. Not sure how that happened. But I am sure I told you he was righthanded.
So this righthanded 7-year-old was grounded again. Grounded from throwing a football or a baseball, which was even worse.
But there was something inside this 7-year-old, who threw with his right hand, something you can’t measure, something special, something you can’t coach or teach or develop or motivate or even pray for.
Because this 7-year-old, who was righthanded (did I mention that?), started throwing with his left hand. Yes, his left hand. His LEFT hand.
He turned his glove inside out and pounded balls against the wall of his grandparents house so hard the aluminum siding crumbled and fell off.
And somewhere down the line, in a magic place he only dreamed of, the 7-year-old would eventually crush the MLB radar guns.
At 102 miles per hour.
And I think I told you he was a natural righthander. Didn’t I?
His name was Billy Wagner, aka Billy The Kid, and he became one of the most dominant closers in the history of baseball. Throwing left handed. And I’m absolutely positive I told you he was conceived as a natural righthander.
Of the multitude of pitchers I’ve seen throwing a Rawlings, Billy Wagner is the most fascinating of them all. He was listed at 5-10 and 180 but the measuring tape must have been on steroids. Even stretched out on a medieval rack Wagner would barely be 5-9.
But I have video of Billy The Kid, back in the dinosaur days of VCR’s, topping 100 miles per hour at least 200 times. I collected those vids every time I saw him on the hill. This Midget on the Mound was as electric as a lightning rod, as dynamic as a rocket.
"Crackers with Peanut Butter and a Glass of Water"
Billy Wagner was created in 1971 in the state of Virginia and spent his early days moving. Around. With his sister and his mom and dad, who divorced and remarried and divorced again, or his grandparents. He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, in fact, he seldom had a spoon at all. His youth was highlighted by poverty and food stamps and "crackers with peanut butter and a glass of water." Luxury. The instability of his trek through the wilds of Virginia left him a year behind in school.
So why didn’t Billy The Kid turn to drugs or shoplifting or B and E or depression or a gang or a crescendo of self pity? I do not know.
Maybe a 7-year-old who breaks his right arm and teaches himself to throw lefthanded has something inside of him that just doesn’t understand defeat. Something that doesn’t know the damn odds were so stacked against him he was facing an avalanche of failure and might as well give up right now. Something inside Billy Wagner that just refused to quit.
The middle school admin, fearing his fastball might kill someone, wisely moved him up a grade at Tazewell High. He was only 5-foot-5 and 135 pounds but he was already throwing 86 mph with his left arm (did I tell you he was a natural righthander?) and patrolling centerfield as well.
In his senior season Wagner struck out 116 in only 46 innings with a 1.52 ERA but that was only half of the story. Just to show he was a gifted athlete he also hit .451 and stole 23 bags.
But he had as much attention from scouts as a walrus playing shortstop. Hell, the kid should be a jockey.
Hold on. Is that Billy The Kid on number 8?
But there was Something Inside Billy Wagner.
So he enrolled at Ferrum College, only a D3 school, with the intention of playing football, undoubtedly prepping to break his left arm this time so he could start throwing with his right leg. But when the baseball coach saw him tossing a football he switched back to the diamond.
Wagner had grown to 5-9 and added 40 pounds of muscle and his velo jumped to 93 mph. A grown up now he simply set two NCAA records. Digest this, if you can. Billy The Kid struck out 19.5 hopeless hitters and only allowed 1.88 hits for every nine innings on the hill. The positional players kept telling him, “C’mon, Billy, we wanna play too.”
And here was the clincher. The best college prospects in the country are invited to showcase in the summer Cape Cod League where Wagner struck out the side in their All-star game without allowing a sniff.
Yes, he was pitching in D3 and he was a relative Shrimpkin. But the Astros time travelled and saw him as the pre-reincarnation of Jose Altuve. Houston drafted him in the first round (12th pick) in 1993.
So Billy the Kid was on his way. But wait. One more giant roadblock just to challenge that Something Inside Him, whatever the hell it was. Wagner was married now and his father-in-law had gradually become his mentor, his foundation, the man he looked up to for guidance. But just a few days after Billy was added to Houston’s 40-man this Rock of Gibraltar he admired so much was brutally murdered.
Just testing that Something Inside of You, Billy. Don’t ever get comfortable, bud.
Power from the Ground Up
Billy The Kid is a classic example of how crucial lower body and core strength are to a pitcher. He drove off the hill with legs like oak trees and he popped his hips like a blow torch. Put that together with monster coordination and range of motion and you had an extraordinary athlete. Then add slicing movement on his fastball and a filthy slider he learned from Brad Lidge and you had a one-two combination that matched Joe Louis, the inimitable Brown Bomber.
In 2003 alone he was gunned at 100 mph plus at least 159 times.
Wagner reincarnated into Altuve by magic. (Chattanooga Times Free Press photo)
Billy The Mouth
Wagner’s career was blotched with controversy, an obvious corollary to his combative personality.
In 2002 he took a hack at Astros owner Drayton McLane for not bolstering their pitching staff. “We’re not going out there and getting any marquee starters,” he announced.
Three years later he attacked the intensity of his Phillies teammates when they got behind and said they had no chance of making the playoffs. He got the silent treatment for the rest of the season and outfielder Pat Burell called him a “rat.”
When he joined the Mets he exploded a tirade of profanity against the players and coaches after a 1-0 loss to the Nationals and criticized Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado, not for both being named Carlos, but for avoiding the post-game press interviews.
"I learned a lot about criticism and how not to be a leader when I was traded,” he admitted later. “I began to turn into someone I didn't want to be."
Hall of Fame? It Should Be a Slam Dunk
Should Billy Wagner be in the Hall of Fame? That enigma has been juggled back and forth for several years and apparently he’s only a longshot. Which seems ludicrous to me.
I won’t bore you with a lot of stats. Just these.
Billy Wagner was an all-star seven times.
His strikeout rate for pitchers who have thrown at least 800 innings is 11.9 per nine or 33.2 per cent of everyone he faced. That’s the best in MLB history by a furlong.
Hitters managed a .187 BA against Billy The Kid.
And he notched 422 saves, fifth all-time.
All of which is impressive but it’s just black letters on white paper. And it couldn’t possibly tell you what was inside a 7-year-old when he did the impossible.
I love science but you can shove all the WARs and WHIPs and Analytics in the world deeply (and I mean deeply) where the sun don’t shine when it comes to Billy Wagner. There was Something Inside Him, something so intangible and so strong it can’t be measured by any statistic. And it is the greatest quality known to man, woman or beast.
ROWAN WICK’S BRILLIANT SEPTEMBER
One Bad Pitch
There are times when a relief pitcher feels like Sisyphus, although he has no idea who that is. That’s Sisy with one S. I won’t meander into the mythology of Sisyphus. If you’re too uneducated to understand then it’s best you stick to Twitter. (Migawd, that’s so condescending. Try Google.)
Suffice it to say Sisyphus was condemned by The Gods to push a huge boulder up a mountain until it reached the apex. At which point it rudely tumbled all the way to the bottom again. So Sisy, baby, headed downstairs and got the rock rolling again, all the (bleeping) way to the top. Where it said “Goodbye, sucker” and blithely spun its way to the bottom of the hill once more.
And this has been going on now for Eternity. Push it to the top. Watch it roll to the bottom. Day in, day out. No coffee breaks. No Fortnite breaks. Eternity, I say, and that, folks, is one helluva long time. Even longer than Trump’s presidency or critiques on Meghan Markle’s choice of clothes or browsing through the Punch This Number options when you phone any company in the world.
Now it’s a bit of a stretch equating throwing in relief for an MLB team with an eternal struggle with a compulsive, obsessive rock. Well, actually a stretch as long as the Mars Shuttle. But I’m pulling the bubble gum apart to make my point.
When you pitch in relief things sort of roll along. Until. You run head on into One Bad Inning. And your ERA balloons as fast as that lump on your forearm when you get whacked by a 95-mph heater. As fast as divorce when she finds you in bed with a koala bear. “But, baby, the koala just needed company.”
One Bad Inning. And your ERA jumps from 1.95 to 6.78 in a blur. Of course, you’re only on the hill for three or four innings a week so you have to stare at that gross, infected, puffed up, helium balloon of an ERA for the next month and a half before it gradually subsides like a plugged toilet. Unless the Rock attacks Sisyphus again and it bumps up to 11.40. It just ain’t fair.
Wick's Summer of 2018
Rowan Wick had a great summer, climaxing in a strong finish when he was called up by the San Diego Padres for the last month of the MLB season. But on September 7 he must have felt like Sisyphus pushing that damn rock up the mountain.
All because of a pair of groundballs, a bunt and run, and a spinner in the middle of the zone. When the carnage had settled it added up to One Bad Inning.
Which was really created by One Bad Pitch, the only real clunker he threw over his whole 10 games on a big league mound. Otherwise he was nothing short of brilliant in his first rodeo.
Wick, the 25-year-old righthander from Lynn Valley, has only been a pitcher for three years after the Cardinals converted him from pounding jacks to throwing bullets. With the Padres he dominated in AA and AAA before they called him up on August 31.
Rowan’s first taste of major league clay was a total conquest. He threw eight pitches, sizzling fastballs and biting sliders, and retired the side as fast as Hurricane Michael.
Then came the Ides of September. The 7th to be exact.
The Padres were in Cincinnati and manager Andy Green brought Wick in for the 5th inning, which was as successful as Justify winning the Triple Crown. Rowan locked it down, including a called third strike on Joey Votto, one of the premier hitters in the game, when he was frozen by a perfect 95 mph heater on the outside corner at the knees. So far, so brilliant.
A perfect pitch to KO Joey Votto
Green sent him out again for the sixth and Rowan was rolling that rock up the hill faster than a tractor on speed. He opened with another I-95 called third strike. At which point the Baseball Gods huddled up and said, “Let’s give this young man a taste of DDD, Diamond Demolition Derby.”
An infield single, then another groundball, this time drilled through the hole into right field. Runners on first and third.
And then the Reds did something as obscure and out-dated as a telephone answering service.
The Bunt and Run Suicide Squeeze. (See The Lethal Weapon No One Uses)
The runner on first broke, as if he was stealing, and, of course, Padres second baseman Luis Urias hustled to cover second on the steal with a righthand hitter at the plate.
Which wasn’t a steal. Phillip Ervin pushed a bunt to the right side. First baseman Eric Hosmer pounced, scooped, and then ate the Rawlings like it was a ham sandwich. Because there ain't nobody covering first. On a bunt and run even if you had Usain Bolt at 2B with a jetpack strapped to his butt there’d be nada, zero, zilch chance of making a play at first. Unless Urias was schizoid and time travelling.
Meanwhile, the runner on third also broke and scooted home on the blue chip suicide squeeze, as well executed as an MIT engineering robot.
Where is Ty Cobb When You Need Him?
A Classic Bunt and Run Suicide Squeeze, which the Padres had no idea how to defend, since it hasn’t seen the light of day since Ty Cobb pulled on a jock strap and sharpened his spikes.
And the sneaky, insidious Reds were far from through. Another bunt single (yes, they bunted twice in a row, which violates the MLB Players Association’s most sacred shibboleths) and the bases were jammed.
But not for long. “We feel for you Sisyphus,” the Baseball Gods said. “But, whoops, there’s goes that damn rock again.” Rowan tossed a 90 mph spinner, belt and middle, which Scott Schebler thought was apple pie and ice cream, his favorite desert. It took a frequent flier trip and wound up in the right field bleachers for a Grand Slam.
One Bad Pitch. For the whole of September. And Rowan Wick’s ERA lurched and leaped from 0.00 to 10.78. Just like that.
To his credit Rowan persevered. And finished his first month in the bigs with a 6.48 over 10 games. What’s more he struck out seven in 8 and 1/3 and only allowed one walk, a tremendous improvement in his command.
All of which augers well for Wick’s MLB future. Sisyphus can keep rolling that rock but Rowan has his sights zeroed in on other mountains to climb. Just ask Joey Votto.
“I'm not their buddy. If they need a buddy,
let them buy a dog."
THE MOTHER OF ALL RED FLAGS
“The Players All Love Him”
I’m sure John Gibbons is a wonderful man. He has a bright sense of humour, enormous perspective, and tons of class. I’m sure he adores his wife Julie and three kids, loves his dog, and tips the postman at Christmas. Just a God Fearin’ Texas Good Old Boy.
Going for a beer with Gibbons would be as much fun as an evening with the Marx Brothers at the Playboy Mansion. I’m sure the dude has a truckload of juicy stories that would flow even faster than the Bud. You could write a book and clean up like a Goldman Sachs broker. Call it Gibby and the Duke.
“The players all love him.”
Whoa. Hold on, Knute, she’s heading for the rhubarb. According to Bob Dylan there’s a very large Red Flag blowing in the wind.
When I hear about a manager who is beloved I know there’s Trouble, my friend, Trouble, I say, with a capital T and that stands for Trouble, right here in River City.
Whitey Herzog, who has a World Series ring, is a legendary skipper who never got too close to his players. “I’m not their buddy,” Herzog said. “If they need a buddy, let them buy a dog.”
Whitey led the Cards into 3 World Series in 5 years without being their buddy.
Do Bill Belichick’s players “love” him? That’s Tom Brady gagging. Do you think Belichick cares? As a football coach he’s paid to do only one thing.
Win the Super Bowl. Which he’s done five times.
Do you think Joe Maddon’s players “love” him? Maybe. But it matters not. Maddon is paid to do only one thing.
Win the World Series. Which he did in 2016.
Lombardi, the Epitome of Excellence
In his book "Instant Replay" Hall of Fame Green Bay guard Jerry Kramer talked about The Pack’s crushing training camp regimen under Vince Lombardi, who often said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
Lombardi was not about to allow Demon Fatigue to infect his Packers in the fourth quarter. When The Pack were surviving a torrent of up-downs and hit the century mark, a new player gasped to Kramer, “I’ve never done this many before. Are we through now?”
“Hell, no,” Kramer responded, “we’re only half way.” The newbie turned pale and almost blew chunks.
Do you really think Vince Lombardi, the greatest coach in any sport, any time, any where, spent sleepless nights wondering if the players “loved” him? Lombardi’s mantra for success was summed up by one word.
He demanded it. Prescribed it. Cherished it. He “loved” it.
In the days before the player’s association and agents ruled the sports world, a running back sent his rep in to negotiate his contract with Lombardi. Vince said hold on, I’ll be right back, and left his office. When he returned he told the agent to take his negotiations to the Bears because the back wasn’t playing for the Packers any more.
It's all about excellence.
Lombardi was tough but fair, as straight forward as a ramrod, as honest as red wine, as loyal as a German Shepherd. When Vince died, defensive end Willie Davis said, “My dad passed and I think about him quite often. But I think of Vince every day.”
Is that love? Sure. But it’s much more. And there is only one word to describe it.
Love is almost easy. Just be a nice guy who cares. But respect is much harder. You earn respect.
What does a manager do to collect that respect? He’s honest, he tells them where they stand, he has their back, he takes responsibility, he never attacks them publically, he works hard, he leads by example.
And he demands excellence.
It’s blatantly unkind to rip on Gibbons. He’s surely one of the most likeable dudes in the game and undoubtedly qualifies on just about all those criteria. Except the most important one of all. His Achilles Heel.
The Skinny on Gibby
Astros manager A.J. Hinch: “He loves baseball and he loves people. He’s comfortable in his own skin and he’s really genuine.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone: “He’s one of the real good guys in the game with a good-natured, light-hearted way about him. But he also has intensity and toughness.”
Former Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos: “He never loses the clubhouse. No drama because he doesn’t do anything for show. When he didn’t have success it was probably on me because we didn’t give him a good enough team. Overall, he’s as good as anyone I’ve ever been around.”
Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash: “We all kid him about his laid back persona during a game, but he doesn’t miss a beat, he’s very well prepared.”
Russell Martin: “He’s like a second dad.”
Pat Tabler: “He’s loyal and fair and that’s why the players love him.”
But his strength is also his weakness. When a manager gets too close to his players his decisions are clouded by friendship. Obviously, a skipper should care about his guys but, as Whitey Herzog knows best, it's hard to bench a player when he's your buddy.
I’ve been through all of this before and now I feel like I’m piling on. But I just can’t understand how a manager can allow lard asses like Kendrys Morales and Yangervis Solarte trot to first on a groundball or saunter around the bag on a single that should be a double or just succumb and refuse to run when the catcher blocks a third strike in the dirt.
"Oh, hell, now I have to run."
Ty Cobb would have left multiple cleat marks on their fat butts. And I’ve mentioned before how Dustin Pedroia reamed out David Ortiz when Big Papi didn’t run out a groundball. Ortiz took it to heart and never shirked again.
But Gibbons did nothing. Or at least nothing that made a dent in their sloth because they were the same from game one to 162.
It’s been said the Jays love Gibby so much they’ll run through a wall for him. With the Lard Ass Twins it’s more likely they’d trot lethargically into the wall and then call for the SWAT team.
By contrast, Maddon immediately erased Javier Baez, a budding super star, from the lineup the instant he dogged it. And Baez thanked him later, knowing that his manager respected the game. And you Better Damn Well Respect It Too Or You Will Get Splinters In Your Glutes.
A Player's Manager
Apparently, Gibbons thinks Excellence is a term for royalty.
But his players love him.
You will not hear any negatives from the Blue Jays Sycophantic broadcast crew and their gullible fans. “Gibby the Best” the signs read. The best what? The best gatherer of sloth? The best at ignoring the lethargy of slugs pulling down $20 million who think hustle is an American Greed con game?
Gibbons is a player’s manager. Of course, they love him. Wouldn’t you if you were gulping down millions of dinero and the manager did nothing when you loafed like whole wheat bread? (Wasn’t that clever?)
“Canadians are a lot like Texans. They appreciate good hard work, they’re honest people, that’s who they are." ____________________________________________________
Now that’s a winner. A wonderful tribute to all those wonderful Canadians who wonderfully supported him and wonderfully beloved him. As we all know you’d never find a Canadian watching porn on his office computer or doing as little work as possible or cheating on both his income tax and his wife, resembling a lurid cross between Pinocchio and a politician. There is no mendacity in Canada.
And Texans? Well, you know.
But we’ll toss Gibby a pass on that one because it was a perfect way to say goodbye to Big TO.
And, to paraphrase the inimitable Leo “The Lip” Durocher, one of the most demanding managers ever, “Nice guys finish ahead of the Orioles.”
NOTE: With all that launch angle (bleep) and exit velo it's a Home Run Derby era. But there's no need to uppercut to jump the yard.
Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris never heard of launch angle. But they were Jack Hammers. I get tired of the nonsense spewed out by current stars and analytic nerds. So I decided to do a rewrite on my original Mantle story.
POWER? THERE’S MANTLE AND EVERYONE ELSE
The Mick’s 600-Foot Rocket Shots
So you think Aaron Judge and Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are blasting King Kong jacks?
Compared to Mickey Mantle they’re short about 200 feet.
Mantle is the greatest power hitter of all time. No one even comes close to the soaring, long range rocket shots he hammered from either side of the plate. Some of them still haven’t landed. He makes today’s Home Run Derby icons look like they’re bunting for a base hit.
How far did Mantle muscle his eruptions to jump the yard? Obviously, they didn't have the high tech of this age so sometimes we have to trust eye ball estimates. But there were wrecking crew atomic blasts that could be easily measured. By all accounts his top 10 were as impressive as Mr. Olympia. The shortest is 530 feet.
And the longest was astronomical, measured at 734 feet.
Impossible? Maybe. But...
Roger Maris and Mantle. Take a look at Mickey's forearms. Sheer power.
No one ever hit a ball out of the Old Yankee Stadium. But Mantle crushed the façade at the top of the roof three times.
In 1956 he blitzed a Pedro Ramos fastball. It left the field at the 370 mark and came within inches of exiting the stadium. Now get this. The façade was 117 feet high. That sonic explosion was 39 yards above terra firma when it collided with wood. You don't need to be an MIT grad to figure out it would have travelled well over 600 feet if it hadn't gotten into an argument with the facade.
For reference, take a look at the nearest high rise. And I mean HIGH rise. Count 12 storeys up. That's where Mantle's towering blitzkrieg caromed off the top of the stadium roof after already soaring 370 feet.
The 734 shot off Bill Fischer in 1963? It also rammed the sky high façade, again only a few inches from freedom. And, for what it’s worth, there were multiple fans who swore it was still going UP when its flight was interrupted. Some Neanderthal math wiz calculated it's trajectory would have carried it well over 700 feet into the wild blue yonder.
That sounds as apocryphal as Big Foot but the story somehow makes it seem plausible and Mantle called it, “The hardest ball I ever hit.”
And here are two of Mantle’s most memorable jacks that were measured for austerity.
In a 1951 spring training game at USC he ripped a massive drive that not only left the ball park it also cleared the adjacent football field. It finally landed on the far sideline, 656 feet from the batter’s box, before hopping the fence bordering the field. And Boy Wonder Mantle, the Yankees answer to Ruth and Dimaggio, was still only 19 years old.
Mike Trout goes fishing. (Boy, is that line lame)
That was one of six of The Mick's cannonades estimated at more than 600 feet, including a ballistic blast that rocketed out of Tiger Stadium and bombarded a lumberyard across the street, 643 feet from the plate.
There are also a horde of observers, including many players, who swore The Mick's missiles left Yankee Stadium at least three times during batting practice.
Yes, I know, they didn’t have the computer software we have today. But if you’re a physics major punch in the numbers.
Over the wall at the 370 mark and still rising faster than a NASA space ship.
Jumping the yard 117 feet in the air.
Exit speed at least 120 mph
500 feet? Easy.
600 feet? Odds on.
700 feet? We'll never know. But for Mantle it even seems possible.
Eat your heart out Mike Trout.
NOTE: I wrote this story before the charges were dropped against Roberto Asuna. At the time it seemed there was a strong case for domestic abuse.
Still, I'm a great believer in Due Process and I felt Osuna was being convicted before he had his day in court. The Blue Jays, MLB, and the clowns who booed Roberto should consider what it means to be Innocent Until Proven Guilty.
I've up-dated the post to include the current information.
CHARGES DROPPED AGAINST OSUNA
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
I’m going to get in a lot of trouble for this one. I know that. But, what the hell.
When Roberto Osuna returned to Rogers Centre he was roundly booed by a lynch mob of IQ deficient Blue Jays fans who undoubtedly impressed their wives or girlfriends. So be it.
“You heard a lot of people booing and reacting angrily,” said Jamie Campbell, the Jays resident Sycophant Supreme. “Which frankly seems justified because of the accusations…I guess. It’s not for me to say. Ross Atkins feels they have a debt to their fans and that’s why they traded him."
We'll leave Jamie spinning in 360's, trying to find an all points opinion that keeps his job intact. They seem justified...I guess...But it's not for me to say. At least we know unequivocally, positively, for sure, without doubt that GM Atkins cares more about Toronto's PR image than bull dung like Justice, Loyalty and Integrity.
Now the charges of domestic violence have been dropped like an anchor on condition that Osuna stay away from the mother of his 3-year-old son for one year.
I have always been a bit bemused by Osuna. The guy has lightning stuff, a sizzling heater in the mid-90’s and a slider that slices up the zone like a skilled swordsman. He could well be a brilliant closer for another decade.
But, when he leaves the bull pen or mounts the mound (I like that one) he genuflects, stares at the sky, and crosses himself.
Apparently, Roberto’s God is more aware of baseball than the tragedies of this world. Six-year-olds dying of leukemia, terrorists beheading journalists, famines, hurricanes, tsunami floods, genocide, serial killers, mass shootings in schools, rapes, assassinations, and magnificent innocent rhinos and elephants slaughtered by evil prick poachers for the ivory in their tusks. If I had the money I’d hire a lethal hit squad to erase those filthy swine once and for all.
But these are obviously minor problems. Osuna is convinced God Is On His Side. He, She, It is focused on Roberto when he steps on the hill. Or He, She, It is a true blue Blue Jays fan. Whoops, Astros fan. Maybe The Good Lord has a bet down with Jesus and he’s taking Houston.
Is Roberto's life of playing a little boy’s game more important than a kid in a Children’s Hospital or a massacre in Syria? Why would God be paying the slightest bit of attention to a guy throwing a baseball?
"I Wanna Hold Your Hand"
Then there’s the Feeding Frenzy of the MeToo Movement.
A young friend of mine who I coached several years ago is pitching for a college in the States now and he tells me the players are virtually terrified of having consensual sex with a girl on campus. Because tomorrow she may reconsider and claim it wasn’t consensual after all. And the dude’s life is ruined.
Hold her hand and its groping. Compliment her on how great her hair looks and it’s harassment. Kiss her? Are you (bleeping) kidding me? That’s open and shut sexual abuse on the edge of rape. The gendarmes will be knocking on your dorm door tomorrow morning.
Paranoid? Of course. But can you blame them? When your life can be torn apart in one night, when you thought you were in love or in consensual lust, you’re either paranoid or you’re crazy. You give up on sex and turn to Monday Night Football.
Or you traipse to Tibet, enroll in a monastery and become a celibate monk. Or try your hand at this Gay Thing. Hmm, maybe not, that could also create a consensual problem.
Please, please don’t claim I’m condoning rape. That’s asinine. But accusations should not be a loaded weapon ready to fire at will.
Remember when I played shortstop? That was before I held her hand.
But I digress. Back to Osuna.
Roberto was suspended 75 games by MLB on the strength of an accusation of domestic abuse. Accused. Not convicted. Accused. Not proven guilty. (Bleeping) accused. Which means he was deprived of a truckload of income for four months. Ironically, half of that lost $2.5 million would have gone to the estranged mother of his child. Thanks MLB. He (and she) should sue both baseball and the Blue Jays.
Consider this. A Gangland bunch of ruthless hoods are betting against the Red Sox in the playoffs so they can get sizeable odds. So they threaten the wife of a Sox star, forcing her to accuse him of domestic violence just before the season ends. Or they’ll kill her children.
Bizarre? Ridiculous? Of course. But. What if. No proof. Nothing but an accusation. What does the self righteous MLB do then?
And please, please don’t claim I’m condoning domestic assault. That is also asinine. I despise domestic abuse whether it’s against a woman or a man. Any 200-pounder who beats up his 120-pound wife is scum.
“I still don’t quite understand how a league can suspend him for 75 games and yet the matter has not been settled in a court of law,” Joe Siddall said, showing a sudden wild surge of intelligence. “But, when I heard the suspension was 75 games, that spoke volumes about the evidence they had.” Sorry, the surge sputtered out. Because MLB always covers its ass like a nudist sleeping in a tornado.
Yes, there seemed to be a pretty good case against Roberto. Apparently, the concierge at the front desk of Osuna's residence called the police, who saw "significant injuries" on the alleged victim. Not good.
Still, he insisted he was not guilty. "No one knows what happened but me," he said. "Everybody is quick to judge me and say all kinds of things. What the media says is not true. People are judging me for things they don't know. I don't like that."
If you get a chance check out a brilliant piece by Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno back in August when Osuna was traded to the Astros. She writes it a helluva lot better than I can.
What kind of filthy swine could shoot these magnificent animals?
So now the assault charge has been dropped. Partly because the alleged victim intends to stay in Mexico rather than testify. Of course, that leaves a large ? still hanging over Osuna's head but at least he can take to the hill, crossing himself left, right and center, and get on with his life.
Which brings me back to what I am condoning. It's the basic foundation of a society of law and not hysteria.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty.
Ever heard those words? I’m sure you have. Unless you inhabit Rogers Centre.
How about Due Process. Does that one ring a bell?
It means a trial by a jury of his peers, which would have been quite hard to find. Unless they throw 95.
Apparently a tribe of sanctimonious clowns in Big TO have never heard of Due Process or Innocent Until Proven Guilty. Unfortunately, they are not alone.
WELL, ALMOST NO ONE
The Lethal Weapon No One Uses
The Bunt and Run.
Used about as often as it snows in Phoenix. Creates absolute havoc. The second baseman sends out for a psychiatrist. Not to get cured. To get schizoid so he can go in two directions at once.
Runner on first. Righthand hitter at the plate.
When the pitcher starts his delivery the runner breaks. Looks like a straight steal. Unless the shortstop is a suspicious and devious young man (more on that later), the second baseman will cover the bag on the steal. He shuffles toward second.
And then the hitter screws him up royally with a HARD PUSH BUNT to the right side. He drives the bunt deep, past the pitcher, forcing the first baseman to come in to field the rolling Rawlings.
So we have the 2B heading toward second on what looks like a steal. And the pitcher and the 1B scrambling to get to the bunt.
Unless the right fielder is Usain Bolt with a rocket on his back there ain’t no one covering first.
Usain, Usain! You forgot your glove!
Both the hurler and the 1B are focused on the bunt. Until they realize first base is as lonely as a hermit. At which point full throttle panic invades their psyche and one of them has to get to the bag before the bunter. Even if one guy figures it out fast enough he’ll have to brake to a halt and then turn around awkwardly to receive the throw.
If the bunter has any speed at all the chances of throwing him out are slim and none and the remarkable Slim Pickens has been deceased for 35 years.
What’s more, with all the confusion, the baserunner has a shot at circling second and winding up at third.
Bunt and Run Plus Squeeze
Now it gets even more interesting.
Runners on first and third. Bunt and run as above. But now the runner on third scores on what has also become a squeeze bunt.
This can be a suicide squeeze or a safety squeeze. Which we’ll explain later when we decipher our current BASEBALL PUZZLE.
If you execute successfully you wind up with a number on the board and runners straddling first and second or even first and third. In which case, you can do it all over again.
The Bunt and Run Plus Squeeze. The most under-used weapon since Davy Crockett fired his .40-calibre flintlock. But, of course, the Alamo second sacker was well coached on the B and R. They run it a lot in Mexico.
The Ineffable Ernest Hemingway
“If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.
"But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”
--Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
The incomparable Hemingway
I offer this gift to you because Hemingway is the greatest writer who ever lived. He could say more in one page than other writers could say in a book, more in a paragraph than other writers could say in a chapter, more in a sentence than other writers could say in a page.
He was ineffable.
WHEN CAL TECH WON THE ROSE BOWL
The Grand Daddy of all Sports Hoaxes
We’ve covered All American running back Johnny Chung and Sidd Finch’s 168 mph heater. But they disappear into the mist compared to the Great Rose Bowl Hoax.
This one was part CIA, part Cat Burglar, part Tony Soprano, part Nerd Supreme, part Gonad Testosterone, part Buddy Flick Heist Caper, part Lock Picker 101, part Ferdinand “The Great Imposter” Demara, and part Bizarro Genius. Is that enough parts? Because my cerebral cortex is fully depleted of analogies.
At any rate these scattered parts coalesced into the Prince of Pranks, the all time king of sports hoaxes.
New Years. 1961. The Rose Bowl is salivating for the Huskies of Washington to grapple with the Golden Gophers of Minnesota. The dogs will snarl, the gophers will dig holes.
And Cal Tech will sulk. As usual, Tech was nowhere to be found, having only a smattering of 1,000 students and a football team that would struggle to score against a junior high eleven.
But a small group of Cal Tech rabble rousers, who later became known as the Fiendish Fourteen, were convinced their hallowed halls were being royally snubbed and dissed by the distinguished Rose Bowl honchos.
After all, the CT campus was barely a swing pass down stream from the Pasadena stadium and they often competed on that turf, although I’m not sure why. The cathedral seats 100 grand and even if the whole Tech alumni and their mommies and daddies and aunts and uncles and nephews and nieces and every dude and dudess they’ve ever talked to since birth burst through the turnstiles the joint would still be as empty as a Jewish stomach on Yom Kippur.
"Get that Sumo dude off my tail"
So once again NBC and the Rose Bowl was devoid of Cal Tech and the FF was as teed off as a rattlesnake who has just realized a sumo wrestler is stepping on his shaker.
A 19-year-old engineering iconoclast named Lyn Hardy was determined to toss a hand grenade of humour into the mix.
Which would eventually garner nary a chuckle from the U of Washington cheer squad, who had created a massive halftime flip card routine that would mesmerize NBC and the 30 million football fans watching. This was their moment of glory.
Lyn Hardy, still grinning 57 years later
Hardy went to work two days before game time. Posing as a reporter from a local high school, he visited three Husky cheerleaders where they were staying in the Long Beach State dorms. “They were very nice guys,” he says. “They talked me through the whole thing and showed me where they kept all the cards.”
Now the Cal Tech subterfuge was in high gear.
***When the cheerleaders left for dinner, Hardy and two Tech buds broke into their room by picking the lock. They quickly confiscated an instruction card and headed back to Pasadena.
***They hired a printer for $30 to duplicate 2,232 cards.
***Then, early on New Year’s Eve, while the cheerleaders were visiting Disneyland, the Cal Tech desperadoes broke into the dorm again and lifted the master instructions. That’s all they needed to roll. These were, after all, engineering students at a high tech college and it didn’t take long for them to break the code.
***Recruiting as many CT students as possible, they altered the 2,232 cards by hand so the seat numbers and instructions would synch perfectly.
***And now the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle. The Hardy Boys trekked to Long Beach for the third time, picked the lock again, replaced the master plan, scooped up the original instruction cards, and left the fakes in their place.
Bob Schloredt, the Huskies main man
Now the fun began.
At halftime in Pasadena the Huskies, led by QB Bob Schloredt, had a 17-0 edge and their cheerleaders and marching band were riding an adrenaline high. The colored cards and instruction sheets had been deposited on the seats in the section reserved for the Washington faithful. When the cheerleaders gave the signal the students held the cards over their head and the images appeared like magic.
There would be 15 in total and the first 11 received roars from the 100,000 in the bowl and instant focus from the 30 mill NBC viewers. So far so good.
But number 12.
This flash card image was supposed to look like a Husky, obviously the Washington mascot. But it had…buck teeth…and round ears. More of a beaver than a husky. More like the mascot of…well, Cal Tech.
Must be a glitch. Carry on, dudes.
Then number 13.
This one would get them back on track. It would spell out HUSKIES. And it did. But backwards. SEIKSUH. What the hell is going on?
Now the cheer squad and the marching band were getting bubbles in their gut. This was not good. No, sir, no way, just not good. But it had to be some strange mix up because the first 11 were aces. Which is a classic example of the Cal Tech genius.
Okay, fire away. The cheerleaders persevered, giving the signal for number 14. The cards went up, following the explicit instructions right their on their sheets.
And they spelled out CAL TECH. In big, bold black letters on a white background.
The silence was deafening. The band was stunned, the music froze in the air, the cheerleaders stared, unable to comprehend.
And then the laughter rolled through the stadium like a tsunami.
The perplexed band marched off the field and the cheerleaders Deep Sixed the final image, probably wondering if it was a word starting with F. Too bad because it was the American flag and Cal Tech, being good citizens, left it pristine.
“There was never any intent to make the world’s greatest prank,” says Lyndon Hardy, who is 76 now and a respected physicist. "There's a fine line but I think we stayed on the right side of it. It could have been obscenities or something in very poor taste, but we didn't do that. So I'm proud of that — we acted responsibly and nobody got hurt."
Then he reflects, “There was a lot of luck. What were the chances of pulling that off? I'd say zip. But you don't know that when you're young.”
Hardy, who has written three sci-fi books, adds, "As you mature you get more conservative. Life starts hitting you with brick walls. If I was approached tomorrow and someone asked if I’d do this I’d say it was crazy. But here we were, 19, and committing felonies.”
Then he laughs. "I hope the statute of limitations has run out."
And, oh, yeh, the Huskies took the Rose Bowl crown 17-7.
THROW THROUGH THE CATCHER
The Incompetence of MLB Coaches
September, 2002. Friday night. The Cincinnati Reds playing at home against the Cubs. Shortly after the game I dial Ryan Dempster’s cell phone to leave a message. He answers. I’m surprised. He lives in an apartment near the park but he should still be in the clubhouse.
“What’s happening?” I ask.
Ryan sounds unhappy. He says he doesn’t feel right about the way he’s been throwing. Then he asks what I see. “You’re throwing the ball to the catcher. Not through the catcher.”
Ryan contemplates this observation. Then he says, “You’re right.”
We talk for a few more minutes. Nothing profound, I must admit. He’s pitching the next day. “Just watch me tomorrow,” he says.
The next day Ryan is brilliant, his best start of the year. He finishes everything. His velocity is up two or three mph. His fastball is down, his slider is tight and nasty. He has late life. He wins big, striking out 10 and giving up only three hits as the Reds top the Cubs 3-1.
This is ULTIMATE FINISH.
Ryan makes two more starts in September—both as strong as this one. And he's throwing through the catcher.
We teach this. It's the same as a martial artist breaking wood. Those dudes aren't focused on the piece of lumber. They're aiming six inches below the target so they'll drive through the wood with all their power. When you apply that theory to finishing pitches it jumps your velocity like a bolt of lightning.
The Cincinnati pitching coach takes the credit, telling the media Dempster got the ball down like they wanted. Which is true...but it had nothing to do with the Reds coaching staff. I know, I know, I'm puffing my chest out and bragging. But that's not the point. I wasn't throwing the ball. Ryan Dempster was. He did it. Not me. I just helped him focus.
And here is the point. Please don't listen to the drivel spewed out by pseudo analysts like Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler who will smooch the collective Blue Jays butts to make sure they keep their job.
They'll insist Kendrys Morales is a mentor to the young Jays. And they will ignore the inexcusable sloth of Morales and Yangervis Solarte, who set a great example by refusing to run out groundballs, as if hustle is a six letter word called I'm Going to Be Out So Why Should I Run Hard and Use Up All That Energy When the Clubhouse Spread is Waiting? If Morales is your mentor, your leader, you are stepping out of a Cessna Skyhawk at 10,000 feet without a parachute.
So I haven't got to the point yet. But here it comes. Morales and Solarte only get away with this because John Gibbons won't deposit their lard asses on wood. Jog to first on a groundball? Nothing happens. You think the other players don't notice? What's the point of hustling when the slugs dog it and stay in the lineup?
And now the real point. A lot of major league coaches don't have a (bleeping) clue. When Dempster was with the Marlins the pitching coach would come out to dispense some wisdom and Ryan was thinking, Stay away from me, don't come out here, you don't know anything.
Scott overcame injuries and a jerk to become an ace in Japan.
Scott Mathieson pinned his Phillies pitching coach up against the wall and threatened to punch him out. The coach insisted he throw too much when Scott's arm was healing from an injury. Mathieson knew better as he's proven over and over again pitching in Japan.
Adam Loewen is the most talented Canadian to ever play baseball. As a 17-year-old the 6-6 lefthander threw 96 mph with an easy, explosive delivery. He was the best bet for the Hall of Fame since the ineffable Sandy Koufax. Adam was so good he could have been a first rounder as a pitcher or a hitter.
The greatest Canadian athlete to ever play baseball.
The Orioles paid over $4 million dollars for his signature and then somehow managed to flush his immense talent down the drain. He wound up throwing 18 inches against his body, a super recipe for destroying your arm, his velocity plummeted to 88, his best pitch was his slider, and he wound up with a steel plate in his elbow.
Dellin Betances throws 100 mph but he's off balance and off line and can't throw consistent strikes. Any good coach could straighten that out in a few bull pen sessions.
I give you this wonderful revelation because I hate the (bleeping) manure shoveled out by countless sycophants. Take it or leave it. You've been warned.
BUT THERE’S ALWAYS TOTAL DIVAS AND DISC GOLF
Alabama and Ole Miss Never to be Found
I have an incessant, obsessive need to watch Alabama Crimson Tide football. For my money Nick Saban is the best since Vince Lombardi, the Messiah of Block and Tackle. Nick is even better than Bellichick.
But on Saturday I can’t find Alabama beating the ole miss out of Ole Miss. The game ain’t nowhere to be found. I search the Sports channels. There are a couple of dozen teams in the spotlight, including Ohio State, Auburn, LSU, Texas, USC, Wisconsin and even Florida International, whoever they are.
But number one ranked Alabama and Mississippi are lost in the shuffle.
I can watch the Blue Jays and the Yankees twice plus the Blue Jays in 30 minutes, which is more of an overkill than seven hours of the B.C. Legislature.
There’s Fantasy Football and Asian Tour Golf and Out of My League, whatever the hell that is, and Glory 58 and the Best of Pride, which sounds like the Gay Triathlon but turns out to be martial arts, and Total Divas and Drag Racing (more gay sports?) and the Lucas Oil Speedway and World Poker (is that really a sport?) and Disc Golf and the 2018 Evian Championship (don’t ask) and Live With Lucia (?) and ARCA Racing and women’s curling, which is always fascinating, especially when they’re yelling “Hard! Hard!” and Bundesliga Soccer and the 2014 NBA Finals.
But no Alabama and Ole Miss.
And he has his shirt on.
Now this undoubtedly seems trivial to you and I understand. But it’s not.
When you consider the age of their young athletes college football and basketball are the best played and best coached sports on the planet.
I once used Saban’s Crimson Tide as an example when I was coaching the Vancouver Cannons. I told them Alabama epitomized commitment and perfection. And, as I watched their reaction, I soon realized none of them had ever watched Alabama play. And they were not alone. Teenagers seldom pay attention to anything that will advance their knowledge or their careers or their understanding of what it takes to succeed at the next level.
That’s too bad. Because a dose of the Alabama Crimson Tide is like a shot of Wisdom. As Doctor Empey I recommend it to all of you.
If you can find it.
Nick Saban with some unknown Alabama fan.
McConaughey and the Surfboard
Fun to see Mathew McConaughey on hand when Texas locked Longhorns with USC.
McConaughey is a Texas grad and proud of it. He is also a remarkable actor with almost unlimited range, everything from Dazed and Confused (“All right, all right”) to The Lincoln Lawyer to Two For The Money to Dallas Buyers, True Detectives and White Boy Rick.
McConaughey is also famous for wanting to take his shirt off in every movie to show of his muscles.
But I have a better story. I think.
Ryan Dempster was visiting one of his buddies, former Chicago Black Hawks star Chris Chelios, who retired at 48 years of age and was staying in an ocean front mansion in Malibu. Beautiful sunny day in SoCal.
Who in the hell plays hockey until they're 48. Unless it's Gordie Howe.
Doorbell. And, when Chelios answered, he saw Mathew McConaughhey and Robert “Ironman” Downey on his doorstep.
“Can we borrow a couple of surfboards?” they asked.
Chelios, of course, handed over the boards. Unfortunately, Dempster is not a surfer. But it did give Mathew another chance to take his shirt off.
Go Ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall
“If you can locate your fastball in all three quadrants of the strike zone you can pitch."
Three quadrants? Enough said.
“David Price’s wind-up is almost pitching from the stretch.”
Well…hmm…maybe that’s because he is throwing from the stretch.
“If you're 10 years old and your coach says get on top of the ball, tell him no. In the big leagues these things they call ground balls are outs. They don't pay you for ground balls, they pay you for doubles and home runs.”
$630,000 EVERY GAME
The Bringer of Drizzle
At the moment Josh Donaldson is being paid $630,000 for every game he’s played this season. There are billions of hard working Great Unwashed on this planet who won’t make that much in their lifetime.
I chuckle when I read the endless Donaldson tributes that spew non-stop out of the bowels of Toronto’s sports columnists and pseudo gurus. Somehow they equate The Bringer of Drizzle with Robin Hood, the Lone Ranger and Gordon Lightfoot.
Or is it Geddy Lee.
Can Geddy also play third base?
Donaldson didn't play for over three months because he had a “sore” calf muscle. A sore calf muscle. A sore…calf muscle. It was sore. And, what the hell, if they’re only paying you $23 million to play a little boy’s game why would you suit up when your calf is sore. Poor baby.
Apparently, he now claims the calf was ruptured. In which case why was he working out at all?
The quote? It’s classic. The guy is even more of a clown than I thought.
I can only imagine how many guys coaching kids from 8 to 18 went into a Spasm of Cringing over that one. Maybe a few even had heart attacks.
I have never taught hitters to get on top of the ball. That makes no sense at all. So I agree with Josh there. But I also don’t want them upper cutting. That just leads to long, looping swings and they’re dead meat when a pitcher brings even medium heat.
I just want solid barrel contact. Inside the ball, direct to the ball, through the ball. That simple. As Chipper Jones pointed out (when he took a swing at Donaldson’s asinine philosophy) he tried to hammer the ball off the outfield fence from pole to pole, which gave the Rawlings backspin and 747 lift off.
Backspin and Jacks speak the same language. It’s called DiamondDustese.
I’m not much of a fan of some dude named Chipper, unless he’s still in diapers. But in this case his advice is as good as Bitcoins. And Chipper is in the Hall of Fame.
The Bringer of Drizzle
Where are the most base hits? If you guessed groundballs up the middle you win a million dollars, courtesy of John Donaldson who has a few to spare. Even The Shift hasn’t Deep Sixed that trend.
Line drives and hard groundballs produce the most hits and the most runs. Isn’t that the point? And every youth coach knows fly balls are outs. Outs. Outs.
Fly balls are outs.
Very few young hitters have the power to leave the yard. Especially when you consider that amateur ball parks are quite often bigger than MLB fields, a fact that somehow seems out of whack.
Kids play on diamonds 330 down the line. A lot of MLB band boxes aren't that deep. Ken Griffey loved hitting in the Kingdome because it was 312 down the right field line, which gave him a leg up on the Hall. When they built Safeco he defected from Seattle to slug for the Reds.
312 down the line? Not much bigger than a Little League park.
So how many fly ball outs will a kid survive before he just quits in frustration and plays lacrosse? And does Josh Jackass give a damn that he's screwing up a lot of kids? Thanks, Josh.
Kids should just learn to hit. Solid contact. Don’t even think about home runs. The power will come as you mature. That makes a lot more sense than a 10-year-old upper cutting to loft hopeless fly ball outs as preached by the Bringer of Drizzle. Who didn't play for over three months because he had a sore calf muscle.
Yes, his calf was sore. For $23 million a lot of dudes would play with a broken leg.
Bloop and a Dribbler…but Wick Locks the Door
Padres manager Andy Green must have liked what he saw in Rowan’s debut because he hustled him back onto the mound faster than a speed reader.
And Wick was even better.
If you’re a slave to stats that sounds as irrational as skydiving without a parachute. In his second go round Rowan was on the hill for another frame and this time he threw a load of 25 pitches, giving up two hits and a walk.
Yes, the Rockies didn’t score. But how could that be better than his first rodeo?
"Green’s not wasting any time. He’s putting Wick to the test.”
--Mark Sweeney, Padres TV analyst
For openers, Rowan faced the meat of the Colorado order.
And the two hits were misfires.
Nolan Arenado, one of the premier belter's in the game, fell behind 0-2 and then reached across the plate to poke at a 96 mph heater…and bloop it down the line, where it settled softly three feet fair. “That was probably one of the worst swings he’s taken all year,” Sweeney said, “and he dumps it into right field for a double.”
Veteran Matt Holliday battled for nine pitches, fouling off everything he could handle, until he worked the walk. And Ian Desmond loaded the bags when he dribbled a groundball for a weak infield hit.
But in the middle of all this Rowan handcuffed Trevor Story with elevated fastballs and sliders away for the K and served a jar full of jam for a pair of infield pop ups.
Not one hitter got a good swing on Wick's heater or slider. Not one. In fact, they were universally late on virtually everything, chopping a flotilla of oppo foul balls.
But here’s the clincher. The bloop and the dribbler did absolutely nothing to shake Rowan’s resolve. He took it all in stride. And passed Andy Green’s test like a Harvard grad.
AND HE OPENS WITH A BANG
Rowan Wick Called up to the Padres
43 K 63
Rowan Wick joined the San Diego Padres last night. And he just didn't walk through the door. He kicked it open.
The 6-3, 230-pound righthander from North Van threw blanks in the ninth inning as the Padres shutout the Colorado Rockies 7-0.
In his first taste of the major leagues Rowan threw exactly eight pitches to retire the side before the very enthusiastic San Diego fans.
Wick blitzed a 95 mph heater to get David Dahl to groundout to second base on the first pitch he saw.
Then Ryan McMahon fouled off one fastball, took a slider that clipped the outside corner for strike two, and fanned on an elevated blazer at 96. Catcher Austin Hedges tossed the Rawlings into the Padres dugout and Rowan had a souvenir of his first big league K.
That set-up the final zap with Chris Iannetta in the box. Rowan started him with a 95 mph heater on the outside corner that had a wrinkle of cut and Iannetta took a hack and came up empty. Then he swung and missed on a laser up and away at 96 before fouling off another fastball.
At which point Wick threw a perfect pitch, a 90 mph slider that broke sharply off the outside corner and Iannetta slapped a groundball to short to end the game.
Rowan was called up after posting a brilliant 1.99 ERA with nine saves for the AAA El Paso Chihuahuas. He was in Fresno with El Paso when he got the word at 4 in the morning. Two flights later he was in San Diego, thriving on adrenaline.
Rowan arrived just before game time, riding a whirlwind. "It still hasn't settled in for me," he said after the game.
Wick was signed by St. Louis as a power hitting outfielder. Even though he hammered a barrage of home runs the Cardinals liked his arm even more than his swing and converted him into a pitcher. The Padres added him to their system earlier this year.
This is only Rowan's third full season on the hill, where his repertoire includes a high 90's fastball, tight slider and curveball.
What is wrong with human beings?
I’m watching Pawn Stars, something I do every once in awhile when I want to see fat dudes (I refuse to call them “fat pigs” because pigs are noble animals) negotiate with other obese diabetes candidates.
Yes, I know, reality shows are all rehearsed and staged. That’s the irony of Reality TV.
At any rate, a guy ambled in to the pawn shop and tried to convince Rick he had the legendary piece of wood that was in the hands of Babe Ruth when he ripped the famous “Call the Shot” home run. (Look it up.)
And he was asking for $2,000,000.
Yes, $2 million. Two million dinero. Yes, he was. And Rick was intrigued. Thinking about paying that much.
Until he found out it was a fake.
Are these incredible beings not more sacred than a baseball bat?
Now I ask you. Why would anyone pay $2 million for a (bleeping) baseball bat? No matter who’s sweaty palms it rubbed against (did the Babe wear batting gloves?) and no matter which Rawlings left the yard.
History? Icons? Tradition? For $2 million? Does insanity run in your family? Or do you buy Picasso paintings?