For Many St. Louisans—the Sound
of Baseball Remains the Voice of Harry Caray
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review
posted March 8
Saturday (March 1), Harry Caray would have been 100
kidding: It might be—it could be—it is: a century
those of us baby boomers that grew up in the Gateway City, state of Missouri,
the Ozark region or throughout the Midwest, Harry Caray
was the soundtrack of summer. For a quarter century, Caray
was the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals. His style was unique and no holds bar.
His voice boomed describing the exploits of Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson and others. For
twenty-five years, Harry Caray was the sound of St.
the world where one can be immediately identified by their first name (Elvis,
Ozzie, Madonna, etc), if back in the day you said
that “Harry” was on the radio, you knew exactly who was on the air. For many
of us growing up in the 1960s and earlier, Caray’s
familiar, bold and dramatic musings heard through a transistor radio muffled under
a pillow (as we were hiding it from our parents after being sent to bed) created
the perfect ending to a summer’s evening.
Harry Christopher Carabina from Italian and
Romanian parents, he grew up on La Salle Street on the near south side of St.
Louis on 3/1/1914. Caray’s father died when he was
an infant and his mother died when he was around eight years old. In essence
he grew up as an orphan.
his youth Caray played semipro baseball before
auditioning for a radio job at age nineteen. It was then when young Harry
found his calling. He would cut his teeth in the radio business in markets
such as Joliet, Illinois and Kalamazoo, Michigan before returning to his home
town. He joined the Cardinals radio broadcast team in 1945. It was here in
St. Louis and particularly behind a hot KMOX radio microphone where the
legend of Harry Caray evolved.
was Caray’s voice that narrated the stories of the
successful seasons of the mid/late 1940s, the challenging 1950s and the
memorable 1960s for the Cardinals. But it was during the down years of the
1950s when Caray’s career rose to prominence. In
February 1953, August A. Busch, Jr. convinced his Anheuser-Busch Board of
Directors to purchase the Cardinals from Fred Saigh.
The Big Eagle and Harry Caray were both cut from
the same cloth. Both wanted to be the center of attention. Both appreciated
pretty girls. Both were Type-A. Both were highly competitive.
most importantly, both could sell beer. That alliance would make Harry larger
than life. Over the KMOX airwaves he was an unabashed homer. But above all,
he could sell beer. Busch once referred to Caray as
his best beer salesman. The bond was then formed.
Busch’s influence, the powerful KMOX signal and Caray’s
bombastic style the Cardinal radio network became the largest in the Major
Leagues. Prior to 1957, St. Louis was the westernmost franchise. Cardinal
fans were emerging west of the Mississippi. Caray
was the evangelist. Casual and non-baseball fans listened to the games only
to hear what Harry had to say. During it all, he promoted and pushed
Budweiser. The match seemed made in heaven.
Cardinals went to the World Series three times during the 1960s: winning it
all twice. After advancing to the series in 1967 and 1968, St. Louis was
expected to make it a three-peat. It didn’t happen. In 1969 St. Louis finished
a disappointing third in the newly created NL East. But days after the final
out, a bombshell was dropped in the Gateway City. Harry Caray
and the Cardinals parted ways. The larger than life broadcaster was out as
have been many of urban legends as to what led to the split. We’ll never know
for sure. But we did observe in a pre-cable, pre-internet era, that the
divorce was far from amicable.
St. Louis, Caray took his talents to Oakland where
he spent one season working for the colorful Charles O Finley’s A’s. One year
later, Caray was signed as an announcer by legendary
owner and promoter Bill Veeck of the Chicago White
Sox. It would not take long for Harry to discover that Chicago was indeed his
kind of town.
Caray’s tenure on the south side, the White Sox
were not very good. In his first season the Sox went 56-106. The high water mark was 1977 when they won
90 games. During Caray’s time on the South Side,
the Sox had a losing record in eight seasons.
despite the ineptness on the field, fans listened to the White Sox games because
of Harry Caray. Partnered with the colorful and
unpredictable Jimmy Piersall, the broadcasts were
more entertaining than the games. Caray introduced Comiskey Park fans to the familiar chant from the musical
group Steam as pitchers were removed from the game or when the Sox were going
to win: “na-na-na-na---na-na-na-na-----hey,
hey, hey---Good Bye”.
Caray and Piersall would broadcast games from the bleachers. On
July 12, 1979 Harry spoke over the Comiskey Park PA
pleading for calm on “Disco Demolition Night” where the Sox had to forfeit
the second game of a doubleheader. Fans rushed the field causing extensive
the White Sox were not very good then—but it was sure fun to listen to the
1982, Caray moved to the north side of Chicago:
signing a contract to broadcast games for the Cubs. It was there through the
magic and power of the WGN-TV Superstation signal where Harry Caray would be introduced to a new generation of baseball
fans. The Cubs turned Harry loose over the airwaves and it proved to be
reality television at its finest. The Cubs were not
very good. But just like when with the White Sox, baseball fans tuned in to
hear Caray offer his insight and opinions: from trying
to pronounce player’s names backwards to welcoming who at the ball park that
day to saluting the smallest towns throughout the fruited plain.
his stay with the Cubs, Caray introduced his
trademark: the seventh inning stretch singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball
Game”. Regardless of the score or the loyalty, Wrigley Field fans sang along
with Harry: as Caray, then in his 70s, used his
microphone as a baton.
last conversation with Harry was in 1996. It was during a Saturday afternoon
game at Busch Stadium II between the Cardinals and Cubs. Prior to the game, I
was in the press lounge. Sitting very quietly in the corner was Harry Caray watching the Fox Network pre-game show. On the
screen was his grandson Chip. As I passed his table, Harry smiled and said to
me, “isn’t he great?” I politely smiled, agreed continued some small talk.
During it all Harry just kept smiling.
here is this larger than life personality I grew up listening to via a
transistor radio under my pillow savoring the moment as a proud grandfather.
I started smiling also.
1989, Harry would be inducted into the Broadcaster’s wing of the Baseball
Hall of Fame and a year later, into the National Radio Hall of Fame. He suffered
a stroke in 1987. But Caray would not leave the
broadcast booth. Then in February 1998, Caray fell
at a restaurant and suffered a head injury. He died February 18, 1998 of
cardiac arrest with resulting brain damage.
was the season of the great Home Chase that rescued baseball from the 1994
Work Stoppage. The Cardinals’ Mark Mc Guire and the
Cubs’ Sammy Sosa would blast long flies in pursuit of Roger Maris’s single
season home run record. It would have been fun and perhaps fitting had Harry
hung around one more year to describe those events as only he could.
television (particularly cable television) is the primary outlet for
baseball. The legendary baseball voices from past years have been replaced by
some combination of blow-dried polished announcers and former ball players: each
parroting team written talking points and are nothing more than an extension
of the team’s marketing department. You know: always remember that good seats
are available, always look for the positives and never criticize the Home
wonder if Harry Caray would have been hired as a
broadcaster in today’s environment. My thinking is probably not. And that’s
too bad. Games were sure more fun during Harry’s day.
Saturday (March 1), Harry Caray would have been 100
Dan Kelly: Simply the Best
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review
posted February 7
On the same
date the Beatles made their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show a half century
earlier, this Sunday will also mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the
death of long-time St. Louis Blues broadcaster Dan Kelly. He once was called
the "purest, most knowledgeable, most accurate" voice in hockey.
Kelly was 52 years old when he died at his Chesterfield home after a
five-month struggle with cancer.
Patrick Daniel Kelly was the best play-by-play announcer ever to broadcast a
hockey game. He was an announcer, a salesman, a preacher and a teacher. Born
on St. Patrick’s Day 1936, no one has ever come close to his talents in
describing the sport of hockey. To this day he remains the Gold Standard in
the industry. When Dan Kelly’s voice boomed behind a nationally televised
hockey game, you knew that game had to be important.
There will always be a debate on who is/was the best baseball announcer.
While Cardinal fans lobby for the talents of the legendary Jack Buck, one can
understand why those on the West Coast provide equal testimony for the great
Vin Scully. Yankee fans speak with pride about the calls of Mel Allen. Yet
those in Michigan fondly will counter about the homespun style of Ernie
Harwell. You will never get consensus on who is the best baseball announcer.
But there is no debate on who is hockey’s best announcer. As NBC’s Bob Costas
once said: “hockey is a sport that should never be broadcasted on radio. Yet
in broadcasting hockey, Kelly is like Secretariat in the Belmont. Whoever is
second is really closer to third or fourth”.
The Canadian-born, portly Irishman cut his broadcasting teeth in the CFL and
on his native land’s best-known hockey vehicle: Hockey Night in Canada. Back
in the day when only the original six teams skated in the National Hockey
League, a young Kelly would assist legendary broadcaster Danny Gallivan in calling the Saturday night Game of Week as it
beamed throughout all the Canadian provinces and in the northern US. It
was THE event on TV in Canada.
Then in 1966, the NHL expanded: doubling from six to a dozen franchises. The
new markets would be Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Oakland, Philadelphia,
Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Local insurance executive Sidney Solomon Jr. and
his son Sidney III owned the St. Louis franchise and nicknamed them the
Blues. The Solomons purchased the deteriorating
fire trap at 5700 Oakland Avenue and transformed it into a hockey arena. The
Blues games were aired over the 50,000 red-hot watts of KMOX Radio that first
season. Buck was named as the team’s first radio play-by-play man with former
NHL defenseman and Coach Gus Kyle providing the analysis. Jay Randolph
replaced Buck once spring training arrived. The Blues finished in third place
that first season. But behind the goaltending of veteran Glenn Hall, the Note
advanced in the playoffs to the NHL Finals: only to lose to the mighty
Montreal Canadiens in four straight games.
The following year, the Blues searched for a new play-by-play man to take
over for Buck. A young up-and-coming St. Louis hockey executive named Scotty
Bowman recommended Kelly to the Solomons. They’d
pay Kelly a king’s ransom to lure him and his family from Ottawa to St.
Louis. But it would be money well spent.
It took the 34-year-old Kelly and his partner Kyle only a short period of
time to earn the respect and admiration of the St. Louis listening public.
Kelly would educate his mid-America radio audience about the rules,
traditions, beauty and skills of hockey. With the help of the KMOX signal,
Kelly and Kyle would spread the word into over 44 states and throughout
Canada. Kelly’s familiar “He Shoots, He Scores” call quickly became and still
remains a St. Louis hockey staple. Kyle would be the loveable sidekick:
referring to close games as “barn burners” and occasionally butchering the
English language. A classic “Kyleism” occurred
after a jolting Bob Plager hip check. Old Gus said:
“Plager hit him so hard, his socks changed feet”.
It was just great stuff.
Back in those days, the Blues were the hottest ticket in town. There was
actually a season-ticket waiting list for Blues games. 1968-1969 was
memorable for the franchise and Kelly would serve as the narrator. He painted
the pictures with words over the KMOX airways as Hall of Fame goaltenders
Hall and Jacques Plante captured the Vezina Trophy. Kelly’s description of all six goals
scored by Red Berenson on a November 7, 1968 night in Philadelphia remains
legendary. Kelly and Kyle would announce with fervor the fisticuffs when the Plager Brothers and/or Noel Picard would not back down
from the League’s tough guys. That season the Blues won the Conference title
and returned to the NHL Finals: only to again be swept by Montreal. After the
season Kelly narrated a KMOX-produced album re-living those 1968-69 highlights.
It took less than one season, but Canadian born Dan Kelly became a St. Louis
He would become the Gateway City’s hockey evangelist. For the next nineteen
seasons, it would be Kelly’s voice describing Blues action on those cold
winter nights. He was behind the microphone in January 1972, when some Blues
players went into the stands in Philadelphia to confront the Flyer fans:
eventually sending Head Coach Al Arbour and those
players to jail. He calmly explained to fans why trading Berenson to Detroit
was a good thing as a young star named Garry Unger would be coming to town.
Kelly helped hockey fans grieve over the sudden death of young defenseman Bob
Gassoff. He told fans to keep the faith as the Solomons were contemplating bankruptcy due to rising
debts. He introduced Ralston Purina as new Blues owner and Emile Francis as
the team’s new President. A few years later, he watched helplessly as
Ralston left the Blues for dead: with the distinct possibility the team would
be relocated to Saskatoon. He introduced and interviewed Harry Ornest: a Beverly Hills businessman who bought the team
off the scrap heap while bringing hockey executives Ronald Caron and Jacques
Demers to town with him. Kelly described the classic 1981 first round Game 5
playoff game when Mike Crombeen’s double-overtime
goal advanced the Blues into the next round.
It was Kelly’s voice that narrated arguably the franchise’s most memorable
game: May 12, 1986 (a. k. a. the Monday Night Miracle). The Blues faced
elimination in Game 6 of the Conference Finals against Calgary. St. Louis
trailed 5-1 in the third period, only to tie the game and then win it in
overtime on a Doug Wickenheiser goal. Kelly’s voice
provided that soundtrack.
Dan Kelly was the link. From the Solomons to Ralston
to Ornest to Shanahan: from player trades to
coaching changes, from possible relocation to financial stability, it was
Kelly that was the constant for Blues fans. He not only taught the Gateway
City the game of hockey, but also served as the voice of reason and
While hockey was his trademark, Kelly was also versatile in other sports. He
was in the locker room in Montreal when the Cardinals captured the 1982
National League Eastern Division title. In 1983, he and Mike Shannon
described Bob Forsch’s second no-hitter. He was one
of the CBS regional NFL TV broadcasters. Kelly was behind the
University of Missouri radio network microphone when the Al Onofrio-coached Mizzou football
team marched into Columbus to upset Ohio State. Kelly teamed with Bob Starr
during the glory years of the St. Louis Football Cardinals: including the
legendary Mel Gray phantom catch game against Washington. Plus Kelly made
countless cameo appearances on Jack Carney’s highly-rated KMOX radio show.
Unlike today, especially as seen on local cable telecasts, Kelly was not
bashful to speak his mind: even if it ruffled the feathers within the Blues
front office. One night he was in New York to emcee an event honoring Arbour. Kelly introduced himself saying, “I come from St.
Louis where we had Scotty Bowman and Al Arbour and
we fired them both. How smart are we?”
Then in 1988, hockey’s greatest voice grew weak and ill. We eventually found
out that cancer was the culprit. Others would describe Blues games. But it
wasn’t the same. We then realized just how spoiled we all were. In January
1989, the Blues honored for their play-by-play man. That night it also was
announced that Kelly would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The
guest list included local celebrities such as Buck, Costas, Whitey Herzog and
Shanahan as well as his hockey colleagues Don Cherry and Jiggs
Mc Donald. They all took turns playfully roasting, yet honoring the Voice of
the Blues. But the Great Kelly was too ill to attend in person. Ironically,
he listened to all the festivities on KMOX Radio from his hospital room.
A month later, hockey’s greatest announcer died at the far too young age of
Now a generation has passed since we heard Dan Kelly announce a hockey game. Millenials do not know what they missed. Thank goodness
for audiotapes. On his tombstone at Resurrection Cemetery in southwest St.
Louis is engraved “Voice of the Blues”. That just says it all.
“Hockey is a sport that should never be broadcasted on radio. Yet in
broadcasting hockey, Kelly is like Secretariat in the Belmont. Whoever is
second is really closer to third or fourth”.
Said another way, Dan Kelly was simply the best.
Blues News...in November?!
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review
posted November 17
The St, Louis Blues have jumped off to an impressive start in 2013-14.
On the morning of the third Saturday of November, our local ice heroes hold
an overall record of 12-2-3: good for 27 points and fourth place in the
highly-competitive Western Conference. The Blues have been compiling some
impressive numbers in the first 20.7% (17 of 82 games) of this regular
season. To date, the team is first in the National Hockey League in power
play percentage (26.2%), third in the NHL in goals per game (3.6) and eighth
in the league in Goals Against per game (2.3).
Alexander Steen has been very, very good in the early going: scoring 16 goals
in 17 games and posting a +13. Veteran defenseman Jay Bowmeester
has been solid on the back line logging many minutes while posting a +10.
Free agent-to-be goaltender Jaroslav Halak has
bolstered his bargaining position to date by posting a 2.31 goals against
average in fourteen games.
Predictably anticipation and expectation are running high throughout that
faithful but blinded cult known as the St. Louis hockey fans. Also
predictably the local media has jumped on the bandwagon. Radio report use
words such as “elite team” when describing the Note. The headline of the
11/16/13 sport section edition of our town’s only newspaper listed the
headlines “Excellence on Ice Speaks Volumes”. In some circles I’m sure
fantasies of that Clydesdale-led Stanley Cup parade down Market Street in
June are popping up in the minds of some in Blues Nation and local media.
Yeah, enthusiasm is starting to swirl all around town about Our Blue.
So why do I not share this buzz and why do I not also feel the love?
I think there are a bunch of reasons.
First of all, apparently I’m not alone in this apathy. After eleven home
games, the Blues have averaged 16,421 fans per game. This includes a
non-sellout on a Saturday night against the highly-attractive Pittsburgh
Penguins and drawing 14,190 on a Thursday night against Colorado in a
match-up of two teams near the top of the Conference point total.
Now it should be noted, the team did run into some back luck early. On the
Blues’ opening night, the Cardinals were also hosting Pirates down the street
in Game One of the National League Division Series. Six nights later when
Stanley Cup Champion and rival Chicago came to town, at the same time the Red
Birds and Bucs were playing the deciding NLDS Game 5 at Busch III. It’s also
true much local discretionary money went to baseball post-season tickets
versus games in the first month of the NHL season.
But given that, someone please justify for me parting with more than a few
bucks to drive downtown before Thanksgiving on a Tuesday night in October to
watch the Winnipeg Jets or a Tuesday night in November to see the Phoenix
Coyotes: especially when this same regular season won’t conclude until Easter
2014. Why should I do that?
(On a related note, memo to those local media members criticizing the size of
the crowds at the Scottrade Center—I have one question. How many tickets did
you purchase for those games? It’s not your place to criticize anyone on
where or how a person should spend their money. Until you put your money
where your month is, just shut that mouth.)
Secondly, I’ve seen this movie before. Remember a couple of years ago when
the Blues beat Detroit in two games in Sweden and local hockey fans were
hyperventilating? Remember last year when after hockey finally returned how
the Blues jumped off to a 6-1-1 start to fire up the locals? Now, do you
remember how all those seasons ended?
Folks, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet. I understand and appreciate how
desperate Blues Nation is for a winner. They have endured as much pain,
hardship and ridicule only fans of the Chicago Cubs can understand. But I’m
not going to fall into the trap of many fans and media in this town that this
is FINALLY THE YEAR after only 20.7% of the season. Everyone, please take a
deep breath and go to a happy place.
Third, we are talking about the National Hockey League here. The NHL is at
best the fourth most prominent and certainly the most irrelevant professional
sports league in North America. Case in point: you are talking about a league
that shut down three times for work stoppages in the past twenty years and
hopes the paying fans forget that.
In this bureau’s opinion, there are 6-8 teams that should be eliminated in
the 30-team NHL. Said another way there are 125-150 players that have no
business being in the NHL. The presence of these 125-150 slugs water down the
NHL product. You see there are more slugs than actual elite hockey players in
the League. Do the math.
And because there are too many teams, there is this 6-month demolition derby
known as the regular season to simply thin the herd for the playoffs. During
the six month regular season, referees are lax on rule infractions in order
to assist the slugs that are watering down the product. At the end of this
six-month slugfest, sixteen teams (or 53.3%) of the league are allowed to
continue. It is then during the warmth of mid-April and early May that the
real hockey season begins and referees starting regulating the rules
But to keep the fans interested/awake during the regular-season, the NHL has
adopted some gimmicks to jazz up the experience. The most notable one as this
bureau sees it is the overtime/shootout rules to determine a winner. While I
understand and appreciate the League’s objective to avoid ties, why did adopt
the “everyone’s a winner/everyone gets a trophy” mentality? Why is a team
rewarded for losing a game in overtime? Your opponents beat you on the
scoreboard yet you receive a point in the standings?
Also, thanks to the gimmicks found in the NHL regular season, a team that
earns a hard-fought six-minute 2-1 victory is rewarded exactly the same as a
team with a shooter that scored on a tired goaltender who has played 65
minutes in a shootout?
But these gimmicks do put butts in the seats during the herd-thinning regular
Now with that said, tell me again: why I should buy tickets for this?
And again, looking at the numbers, it appears that I’m not alone.
To those local hockey fans out there in cyberspace wearing the Bob Bassen jersey while sitting at your computer in your
parents’ basement, I’m not dissing the accomplishments of your ice heroes.
Refer to the top of this piece: “The St, Louis Blues have jumped off to an
impressive start in 2013-14.” So please hold off on the email misspellings.
But forgive me, if I’m not ready to attend this pre-Thanksgiving party. Said
Wake me up after the Super Bowl.
A Valentine to Spring; A Valentine to Baseball
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review
posted February 16
During this cold and chilly Valentine’s Day weekend, there
are signs of love and warmth starting to spring up. Perhaps it can be best
summarized in these few words:
“Pitchers and catchers are working out in Jupiter, Florida.”
Yes, baseball is back and not a moment too soon. On this weekend of love,
God’s most perfect game is returning from its winter hiatus. One can almost
hear the serene and familiar sounding lyrics from the Mary Tyler Moore Show
of the 1970s:
“Love is all around, no need to waste it. You can have a town, why don't you
Yes indeed, baseball is back. The last time we left our local nine was on a
chilly late October Wednesday night at Fenway Park as the Boston Red Sox
completed the deal in winning the 2013 World Series. Meanwhile the Red Birds
returned to the Gateway City to start their winter vacation with an
impressive consolation prize: the National League pennant.
2013 was a very good year for the Cardinals. Many positive things occurred.
St. Louis compiled a 97-65 record: best in the Senior Circuit and tied for
best in the Majors. As thoughts of the Christmas holidays and Super Bowl
blowout start to fade, local and national pundits are now preparing for the
2014 baseball campaign. You know “that long and winding road”.
To that end, the Cardinals are getting loads of valentines and lots of love
from the national press. It would be a fair point for a franchise that was
one game away from the World Series in 2012, two games away from a World
Series championship in 2013, that the anticipated 2014 squad might even be
better than the previous two.
A lot of that love is directed to the young pitching staff. Let’s review.
Here is the rundown of the 2013 accomplishments of those St. Louis pitchers
who are as of today, 26 years old or younger:
Age W L Inngs Pitched
Shelby Miller 22
15 9 173.1
Trevor Rosenthal 23 2
24 5 2 62
23 3 1 39.2
25 10 5 124
21 4 1 64.2
Tyler Lyons 25
2 4 53
Carlos Martinez 21 2
24 2 0 12.1
Jamie Garcia 26
5 2 55.1
26 15 10 201.2
Drilling down on these numbers further, in 2013 Red Bird
pitchers 25 years of age or less as of today compiled a 45-27 record: 46.4%
of 2013 wins. Going one step further, 2013 St. Louis pitchers 26 years of age
or less as of today were 65-39: 67.0% of 2013 wins.
Pitching has always been and always will be the most coveted asset in
Baseball. In that department, it appears the Cardinals are solid. This
anticipated roster also explains why the Red Birds are being shown love
nationally and expectations are high throughout Cardinal Nation.
From the time that final out was made at Fenway in late October to their
arrival in Jupiter in mid-February, I suspect all of these young arms were
flooded with compliments, Atta-boys and verbal bouquets from their families,
friends and groupies. Plus with the national reports it could understood how
these young pitchers would really feel good about themselves arriving in FLA.
To that end, establishing the correct mindset/attitude will be the initial
challenge for third-year St. Louis Manager Mike Matheny. The Manager and his
staff need these ball players to buy into the reality that it isn’t 2013
anymore and that potential always takes a back seat to actual performance.
Matheny and GM John Mozeliak should be fully aware
that as defending National League Champions, they are not going to sneak up
on anyone in 2014. As defending National League Champs, opponents will circle
games with St. Louis on their calendars. Opposing teams will be ready, eager
and able to take their best shot against the heralded Red Birds young arms.
Welcome to challenge #1 of 2014: the mindset of a young roster that has
To that end, this week, Red Bird catcher Yadier
Molina discussed this subject when he told Derrick Gould, the baseball beat
writer of our town’s only newspaper, “For me, honestly, it’s the best team
that I’ve been a part of when you look at it on paper,” Molina said. “We’ve
got a great lineup. We’ve got a shortstop who can swing the bat. But it’s on paper.”
“We still have to concentrate. We can’t take it for granted.”
Can I get an Amen from the congregation, please?
Molina, Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday must take the lead in creating that
culture into the 2014 locker room, much like Chris Carpenter, Lance Berkman and Jake Westbrook did in prior seasons. Any
youngster straying away from this script should be visited by one of these
veterans. This is likely why St. Louis signed infielder Mark Ellis as a free
agent in the winter. Ellis is an articulate and confident veteran who can
assist in molding that attitude.
Yes, baseball is back and not a moment too soon. Welcome to spring training
2014 Cardinal Nation. This the first stop of this upcoming eight (hopefully
nine) month odyssey.
And although anticipation is high throughout Baseball Heaven, there will be
many peaks, valleys, challenges, accomplishments, smiles and frowns before it
could be said:
“They’re gonna make it after all.”
Happy Birthday, Hank Aaron
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review
posted February 7
On Wednesday February 5, Hank Aaron will turn 80 years old.
The 1950s, 60s and 70s was an era when many of baseball’s glorious names
performed their skills and built their legends. Behind this backdrop, with
his quiet dignity, Henry Louis Aaron was at the top of that list. Ascending
from humble beginnings to the ranks of the Negro League to Major League
Baseball, Aaron demonstrated a consistency and steadiness that is admired
even in today’s trash-talking world of social media and wall-to-wall tabloid
sports journalism. When #44 played you never saw flashiness and you never saw
boasting: only consistent performance with class. He never felt the need to
show up an opponent. His work did all of his talking.
Aaron’s body of work outlined in his resume is beyond impressive: it screams
volumes In his 23-year career he blasted 755 career home runs (#2 all
time)—3,771 career hits (#3 all time)—2,297 career runs batted in (#1 all
time)—a lifetime batting average of .305---624 career doubles ---1957
National League Most Valuable Player----24 All Star Game appearances--NL
batting champion in 1956 and 1959—three-time gold glove winner. Although
Aaron hit 755 career home runs, he never hit 50 or more long flies in a given
season. You can do the math.
As a right-handed hitting outfielder for the Milwaukee Braves, Aaron made his
debut at the age of twenty on April 13, 1954. An injury to a Braves’
outfielder created an opening for young Aaron to be added to the Big League
roster. And from that day, he never looked back. In his first Major League
game, Aaron went hitless. Two days later, he slapped the first of his 3,771
career hits in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Eight days later,
Aaron blasted his first Major League home run: also against the Red Birds and
against pitcher Vic Raschi.
It would be the first of many that would span throughout five Presidential
Ironically, Aaron could have actually had 756 career home runs. It was a
night in St. Louis in a game against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium I. The
Red Bird pitcher was Curt Simmons: a left-hander whose most effective pitch
was a slow ball. On that night, Aaron was so anxious to hit Simmons’ slow
ball that when he made contact, the ball eventually landed on Grand
Avenue, Yet, Aaron was called out by the home plate umpire for being out
of the batter’s box. When asked after the game, Simmons uttered a quote that
is still used on Cardinal broadcasts to this day: "Trying to throw a
fastball by Henry Aaron is like trying to sneak a sunrise past a
Aaron became one of the most feared hitters in the game. In 1955, he hit .27
home runs, drove in 106 RBIs and posted a batting average of .328. As the
1957 National League Most Valuable player, Aaron was an integral part of a
Milwaukee Braves team that won their only World Series Championship as they
defeated the heavily-favored New York Yankees in seven games. Then over the
next two decades, Hank Aaron would continue to pile up offensive numbers.
Hank Aaron was all business: serious business. He once said, “I never smile
when I have a bat in my hands. That's when you've got to be serious. When I
get out on the field, nothing's a joke to me. I don't feel like I should walk
around with a smile on my face.”
Unsung and at times unappreciated, he did not have the advantage of playing
in the bright lights of New York. Aaron didn’t have the charisma and
personality of Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. So when it became obvious during
the 1960s that Ruth’s career home run total would be strongly contested, many
of the press swarmed after Mays and Mantle. But up in Milwaukee and later
down in Atlanta, Hank Aaron quietly continued to hit home runs. It eventually
became obvious that if anyone was to eclipse the Babe, it would be the man
wearing #44 for the Braves.
Quietly and consistently Aaron climbed the ladder. He finished 1973 with 713
career home runs: one shy of Ruth’s all-time record. It would be a long
winter of anticipation for the slugger. Letters poured into the Braves
offices, as many as 3,000 a day for Aaron. Some wrote to congratulate him, but
many others were appalled that a black man should break baseball's most
sacred record. Among the negative correspondence were death threats.
On Opening Day 1974, Aaron homered in Cincinnati to tie Ruth. Then on Monday
night April 15 before 53,775 fans at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium during the
Braves home opener, Aaron blasted his 715th career home run. It occurred at
9:07 p.m. in the fourth inning against Al Downing and the Los Angeles Dodgers
before a nationally televised NBC Network audience. This was a big deal and
the eyes of the nation were focused on the events in Georgia.
Two years later, #44 returned to the town where he started it all two decades
prior: this time to the Brewers as a Designated Hitter. On October 3, 1976 at
the age of 42, Aaron played his final Major League game as a DH for the
Brewers. He was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame on the first ballot in
1982, receiving 406 of a possible 415 ballots. It’s still unclear and quite
mind boggling how the nine naysayers did not vote for #44 in Round One.
Years after Aaron retired, impressive yet skeptical home run totals surfaced.
Fifty home runs in a season by one player occurred more and more frequently.
Under this shadow, home runs never looked the same. As more and more long flies
flew, more and more whispers grew louder and louder: questioning the
authenticity of those home runs. The word steroids started to surface.
On an August 2007 night in San Francisco, Giants’ outfielder Barry Bonds hit
his 756th career home run passing Aaron. Bonds was viewed skeptically as
suspicion linked him to performance enhancing drugs. The magic of the home
run was diminished. When Aaron passed Ruth, the game was beamed nationally on
NBC as a must see event. When Bonds passed Aaron, the game was shown as a
regional broadcast on ESPN 2 with limited fanfare.
Despite the cloud, Aaron would have none of it. The former Home Run King
congratulated the new King on taking over the thrown via a classy video to
the sold out crowd at AT&T Park.
To this day, although Bonds has the numbers, many followers of baseball
regard Aaron the true Home Run King. Despite it all, #44 avoided the
In his later years, Mantle expressed his respect for Aaron saying, “As far as
I'm concerned, Aaron is the best ball player of my era. He is to baseball of
the last fifteen years what Joe DiMaggio was before him. He's never received
the credit he's due."
In 1999, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of breaking Ruth's record, Major
League Baseball announced the Hank Aaron Award, given annually to the best
overall hitter in each league. Three years later, Aaron was awarded the Medal
In his 1990 autobiography “If I had a Hammer” Aaron wrote: “I have always
felt that although someone may defeat me, and I strike out in a ball game,
the pitcher on the particular day was the best player. But I know when I see
him again I'm going to be ready for his curve ball. Failure is a part of
success. There is no such thing as a bed of roses all your life. But failure
will never stand in the way of success if you learn from it.”
As we once again deal with lawsuits and PED innuendos relating to prominent
athletes in prominent markets, it is sometimes good to reflect back to a
"Trying to throw a fastball by Henry Aaron is like trying to sneak a
sunrise past a rooster."
Happy 80th birthday, Hammering Hank
St. Louis Sports Online
posted November 23
David Freese: Gone But Not Forgotten
this week, the Cardinals announced that they had traded David Freese to the Los Angeles Angels, as part of a
two-for-two swap that resulted in CF Peter Bourjos
moving east to St. Louis.
The trade is a good one for St.
Louis--an analysis will follow on these pages...but Freese
had grown stale in STL and the Cards' primary 2013 center fielder, John Jay,
had as well. At the very least Bourjos will platoon
with Jay in 2014, while rising star Matt Carpenter, and rookie Kolten Wong,
will assume the third and second base positions, respectively.
It is hard to get a handle on just
how large of an impact St. Louis-area native David Freese
has had on STL baseball.
Here is one way of looking at Freese...
In his four+ year major league career (all with St. Louis, spanning
2009-2013), David Freese appeared in 466 regular
During that same period of time, Freese played in nine
post-season series (including the one-game 2012 wild-card game vs.
Washington), and during those series, appeared in 48 post-season games.
Do the math, dear reader!
While wearing a Cardinal uniform, hometown hero David Freese appeared in 10% as many post-season games as
regular season games.
When you think of modern-era post-season baseball, Derek Jeter comes to mind
as a perennial post-season participant.
In his nineteen years as a Yankee, Jeter has appeared in 2602 regular-season
games...and a mind-boggling 158 games (in sixteen different series). 158
games! That's a regular season of baseball that Jeter has played, in MLB's
The math, though says, that Jeter's post-season appearances amounted to about
6% of his regular season appearances.
What about Freese' new teammate in Los
During his eleven-year tenure as a Cardinal, Pujols
played in 1705 (Hall of Fame-quality) regular-season games but 'only' (?!) 74
Pujols' playoff-to-regular season percentage
therefore stands at 4%.
My point is this: if your recollections of David Freese
are primarily post-season-based...there's a reason for that. He played A LOT
of October baseball as a Cardinal.
October baseball is good.
October baseball is meaningful baseball.
David Freese was good at October baseball.
Gone but not forgotten.
Missouri High School Football Update
posted November 14
by Lonnel Cole
Then there were two: two Public High League football teams left
standing in Missouri's expanded, open playoff format, where every team is
assured of at least one postseason game like the popular basketball system.
In any event, as it were, the PHL has an undefeated Class 4 power, the Miller
Career Academy Phoenix (10-0) and an emerging Class 2 upstart, the Carnahan
Cougars (9-2) poised to advance to the sectional rounds on Saturday Nov.16,
should they get by their respective opponents the St. Mary's Dragons (6-5)
and the Lutheran North Crusaders (7-4) on Monday night Nov.11.
For the Phoenix, it will be revenge time as they
seek to avenge their only defeat last season: a 41-6 drubbing by the Dragons
on a cold, damp Monday night.
"We just came out flat that game," Phoenix coach
Sorrell Harvey has reiterated. "It wasn't the
weather. It wasn't the fact that we had a bye week before the
playoffs. We just played flat."
"We saved our worst game of the season for that
night," noted Phoenix assistant Jerome Petty.
Although both teams have had turnover in
players since, St. Mary's has had more significant change: Even the head
coach Jake Parent has moved on, while the two offensive catalysts, running
back Brandon Polito (who rushed for over 2,000
yards and scored 39 touchdowns) and quarterback Kevin Hennessey (over 1,000
yards rushing) have graduated, the Dragons have made it back with less
prolific numbers, as running back William Pratt just eclipsed the 1,000-yard
plateau under new coach Alex DeMatties.
The Phoenix meanwhile graduated quarterback Trevon King, who
threw for 2,620 yards and top running back Devon Roberts who rushed for 1,087
yards, only to have first-year starters quarterback Jaylen James (1,129 yards
passing) and running back Marquis Stewart (1,536 yards) step in and keep the
In fact, the Phoenix have
outscored their foes by an incredible margin of 474-92 thus far this season,
prompting some to wonder if Career Academy is the new the Sumner of old in
the PHL. The Bulldogs have won four Missouri state titles, made it to
nine state championship final games and won 14 straight PHL titles from 1983
to 1996 in their storied history under retired coach Lawrence Walls, for whom
Harvey himself was a star running back on a state championship squad.
"There's really no comparison in our team to those
Sumner teams, " warns Harvey. "If anything
I'm really disappointed in some of the coaching in the league this year, more
than I am in the opposing kids. We shouldn't be beating teams this
The list of Career Academy victims include PHL foes such
as ROTC 78-0, Roosevelt 58-0, Northwest 47-0, Soldan 44-0 and even Carnahan early in the season before
it got hot 37-0. But Harvey may not be given his team enough credit for its
dominance, considering that Northwest (6-5) and Soldan
(6-5) actually finished with winning records, Carnahan's still alive and the
Phoenix also trounced non-conference foes Cahokia 37-13 in the regular season
and Lutheran South 57-3 recently in the playoffs. Like the offense, the
Phoenix had to replace a topnotch player, in fact, probably the most
productive player in the PHL the last two seasons in middle linebacker
Gabriel "Ox" Loyd, who had over 120 solo
tackles last season.
This season the shut-down Phoenix defenders have included Karon Thomas (111 total stops, counting solos and
assists), Valentino Armendaiz (106 total), Darriell Collins (98 total), Ra-Sheen Bolden (87 total)
and Travis Riley (seven interceptions, 60 total stops and three touchdowns
off picks). Offensively they boast two big-play receivers in Javon Collard
(13 recptions for 457 yards,a whopping 35.2 yards per catch average, and eight
touchdowns) and Mark Frazier (16 for 393 and six touchdowns). Meanwhile the
efficient line features center Keoshawn Barnes(5-8, 222), Daryl Brown(5-11,170), Kevin
Knox(6-2,250) Vincent Kinzey(5-10, 340) and
Terrance Sennie (6-2,250).
"We have all new kids on the offensive line, so we are
encouraged by their commitment to playing together and putting in the needed
work. I like this team because it's tough and smart, plus I'm the only
(varsity) coach they've had in high
Career Academy's terrific trio of defensive end Ra-Sheen
Bolden (16), running back Marquis Stewart (2) and quarterback Jaylen James
(11) have sparked the Phoenix to a 10-0 record and the Public High League
title (Photo submission by Chris Cooper)
Meanwhile the surging Carnahan Cougars are drawing
rave reviews as they run roughshod over foes after enduring a two-year losing
streak in 2008 and 2009 when the South Side program just started varsity
"It's been a collective effort of the players, the
coaches, the administration and the families," said Cougars head coach
Lee Scott, following his club's 36-12 conquest of the Gateway Jaguars in the
regular season finale recently. "I wish I had an easy answer for the
No offense to Coach Hale's modesty, but the offensive
playmaking ability of senior quarterback Dontrelle
Busby has been a major starting point, though.Busby
has passed for 1,334 yards and 22 touchdowns
and rushed for 857 yards and 14 touchdowns, not bad for a first-year signal
caller converted from slot receiver.
"It ( the successful conversion) didn't
surprise me because he's a great athlete and that's why we chose him to run
the offense," said Cougars offensive coordinator Darren B. Hale.
"While I wouldn't necessarily label him a true quarterback, he's an
all-around athlete capable of operating a multi-option offense such as
But for good measure, Busby is also a load to deal
with as a defensive back, as evidenced by a 95-yard interception return for a
score he had in a recent 62-20 blowout of the Northwest Academy Hornets in
the playoffs. However, he is one of several weapons for the soaring Cougars.
Linebacker Chavez Hines (121 solo tackles, four sacks, two fumble recoveries
and two picks), Curtis Phillips (96 total tackles, five picks) and
Isaiah Wright (80 total stops, five sacks, three fumble recoveries) have been
right there with Busby (70 total stops, four picks).
"It feels nice to know that hard work really pays
off," said Hines. "That extra summer training, the extra wind
sprints after practice that has finally paid off. A lot of people doubted us
Live from St. Louis--It's Saturday Night
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review
Late-August Cardinals Talk...
posted August 23
highly unforeseen, the St. Louis Cardinals will qualify for the 2013 National
League Post-Season Playoffs. Given that, it should be another Red October in
the Gateway City (meaning more bucks for retailers selling that overpriced
2013 playoff stuff in our town).
As the school kids
return to classes for their 2013-2014 term there are only six teams in the
fifteen-team Senior Circuit having winning records. Thanks to Commissioner
Bud Selig’s expanded playoff scheme that debuted last October, there will
again be two Wild Card teams qualifying for post-season play in each League.
They’ll meet in a winner-take-all play-in game.
And being a
Division-winner tops a Wild Card team. Just ask those folks in Atlanta or
Thanks to a strong
first half, St. Louis is solidly positioned to qualify. On the morning of
August 23, the Cardinals find themselves in second place in the National League
Central Division: one game behind Division leading Pittsburgh and 1 ½ games
ahead of third place Cincinnati. At this writing the Red Birds are twenty-one
games over .500 with a record of 74-53.
Yet it’s not all
sunshine, lollipops and rainbows regarding our local heroes. To say the Home
Team has cooled off would be a bit of an understatement. Since the All Star
break, the Cardinals are 16-17. But it’s concerning when you drill down on
these numbers as during this span the Red Birds have played teams from the
National League’s high-rent district (Atlanta, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh &
Cincinnati): mostly losing. To make thing more intriguing, St. Louis has just
started a stretch of games where they will play the Braves, Reds and Pirates
over the next two weeks
But the real only
threat, the sixth NL team boasting a winning record, is Arizona. Right now,
the Diamondbacks are 7 ½ games behind the Reds for the final NL Wild Card
spot and 8 ½ games behind St. Louis with only thirty-five regular season
So yeah, barring
something highly unforeseen, the St. Louis Cardinals will qualify for the
2013 Major League Baseball Playoffs.
But what will this
team look like once October does arrive? While the MLB infomercials
constantly remind us that you cannot script October, you also can’t hide your
And in the St. Louis
the major question surrounds the starting pitching. Assuming the current pace
continues, how effective will their starters be? In the thirty-three games
since the All Star break, only twice has a Red Bird starter pitched at eight
innings. In six games during that stretch, Cardinal starters completed seven
innings. Since the All Star break, (excluding the 8/7/13 game where Shelby
Miller left the game with an injury after one batter), the average innings
pitched by St. Louis starting pitching is 6.0 innings. Here is the breakdown
for the number-geeks to enjoy:
Date SIP* SP**
08/02/13 5.0 Westbrook
Westbrook 08/01/13 5.0
Wainwright 07/30/13 6.0
Westbrook 07/28/13 5.0
Wainwright 07/25/13 7.0
07/23/13 7.0 Westbrook
Martinez 07/20/13 8.0
Wainwright 07/18/13 6.1
SIP*: innings pitched by starter
SP**: starting pitcher
And to summarize a bit
further (again, based on numbers after the All Star break):
# of Starts
Obviously the fewer
innings the starters compile, the more innings the bullpen needs to pitch.
With starter Jake Westbrook now on the Disabled list with back stiffness,
closer Edward Mujica indicating stiffness and
fatigue and staff ace Adam Wainwright throwing more pitches than any other NL
hurler, these are legitimate concerns. But are the Cardinals alone in this
At this writing, St.
Louis is tied with the Dodgers for most NL team complete games (6). To
compare and contrast, Cincinnati has four, Pittsburgh 3 and Atlanta 1 team
complete games, respectively. BTW: the NL team average is 3 complete games as
Also at this writing,
St. Louis is in the NL with 69 quality starts (when a starting pitcher goes
at least six innings while allowing three or fewer runs). To compare
and contrast, Cincinnati has 77, Pittsburgh 63, Los Angeles 72 and Atlanta 8
team quality starts, respectively. BTW: the NL team average is 68 quality
starts as of 8/23/13.
So the Cardinals are
not alone. Still, the question remains the same: what will the team look like
once October does arrive? And that leads to a follow-up observation: we’ll see
soon just how good that “young pitching-rich talent” the local media has been
boasting about really is.
From now until
September 8, the Red Birds will play NL playoff contenders. From September 9
until the end of the season, they will play opponents that currently have
losing records. Said another way, if St. Louis can weather these next two
weeks, the schedule should be in their favor for the stretch. In MLB’s brave
new world, winning the division trumps a play-in Wild Card game: especially
for a team that boasted the best record in the game for most of the season.
highly unforeseen, the St. Louis Cardinals will qualify for the 2013 National
League Post-Season Playoffs. Will they be Divisional Champs or a Wild Card
team? Stay tuned
It will likely come
down to the pitching: again. And the follow-up question remains the same:
Just what will the
team’s pitching look like once October arrives?
Contact Mike at:
St. Louis Sports Online
posted November 10
Role Models in Radio; Role Models in Coaching?
There's always good radio to be
found the day after the Philly Eagles lose. That's because 97.5 The Fanatic
employs long-time sports-talk radio pro Tony Bruno, who, with wit and wisdom
and alacrity, persuades most (but not all) of his ever-insufferable listeners
not to jump from the top of the nearest tall building. The wonder of the
internet brings Bruno and his Philly-based station to anyone looking for an
entertaining listening experience.
In a similar vein, the Cardinals'
flagship radio station, 'The Voice of St. Louis' (TVoSTL),
in the mid-afternoon of Wednesday, November 7, 2012, supplied a great deal of
Hosts and callers alike on this
station, during the mid-afternoon time slots, lean right-of-center (ya think?!)...and the day before (November 6) was
'The Voice of St. Louis' (TVoSTL) has always tilted a bit to the right.
For example, you can bet the
mortgage that long-time CBS VP Robert Hyland had no use, in 1972, for most of
the positions held by that year's Democratic presidential nominee (George
But somehow, back in those days,
the political views of the newsreaders and hosts at TVoSTL
were, if not difficult to ascertain...they were at least restrained. Hyland
himself voiced an occasional, usually right-of-center 'editorial' in the
early a.m. (before what is now called morning-drive), but his opinions were
not delivered with the 'in-your-face' and 'take-no-prisoners' mentality that
a certain Cape Girardeau-born nationally-syndicated personality (heard five
days a week on TVoSTL) has popularized.
And the 'take-no-prisoners'
approach to talk-radio has metastasized: in all likelihood, the locally-based
right-of-center show that commences on TVoSTL at 2
pm (and other regional shows like it around the country) would not exist were
it not for the popularity of the nationally-syndicated show that precedes it.
On Tuesday, November 6, voters in
Missouri re-elected Democratic senator Claire McCaskill...while
voters in the United States re-elected President Barack Obama.
These results virtually guaranteed
that compelling mid-afternoon radio would be found the next day on TVoSTL.
Indeed, during the 2 o'clock hour
on November 7, while discussing the election results and a 60 Minutes TV
segment that featured a chilly and forced conversation involving US senators
Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Harry Reid (D-NV), TVoSTL's
mid-afternoon local host chimed in with his own view, agreeing with the
notion that it would be hard for anyone (including the Republican leadership
in the US Senate) to work with Reid, saying "Yeah, I hate Harry Reid
First, I chuckled--I was right!
Then I groaned and quite literally thought of Robert Hyland, whose approach
to radio is missed by many.
But Hyland is gone, and a man with
the golden EIB microphone has acolytes all over the United States.
My chuckle and groan was followed
by a click, as I changed the station to a St. Louis-based sports-talk
station, whose update guy was discussing the St. Louis University men's
basketball program and its head-coaching situation.
Back to sports, and to SLU
basketball in particular.
To recap, in the wake of what is
apparently a life-threatening medical issue, SLU head coach Rick Majerus has relinquished his coaching duties and has been
replaced, on an interim basis, by veteran basketball man Jim Crews.
Crews, who played (1972-1976) and
served as an assistant coach (1977-1985) at Indiana for more than a decade
while the Hoosiers were coached by Bob Knight, was, beginning in 1985, a head
coach at Evansville and then Army, for 24 successive seasons (seventeen and
seven years, respectively), during which time his teams qualified for four
From a basketball perspective,
SLU's athletics department is fortunate that Majerus,
prior to the 2011-12 season, was able to persuade Crews to return to coaching
and join his staff at SLU.
My own thinking about Crews,
though, centers on a post-game press conference held at the Arena at
SIU-Carbondale, after an Evansville-SIUC game.
I don't recall the outcome of the
game. I don't remember anything about the game itself. I'm not even certain
as to the game's exact date, although I am certain it was in the late 1990s.
What I do recall, vividly, is
being embarrassed, as a 1980 graduate of Evansville, to be in the same room
with Jim Crews, as he, while serving as Evansville's head basketball coach,
berated and belittled...INTENTIONALLY...a young man who was apparently the
Aces' beat writer for the Evansville daily newspaper.
The reporter, who didn't look a
day over the age of thirty and did not at all resemble the late Mike Wallace
in demeanor, had the temerity to politely ask a mundane question about
something that had transpired during the game he had just witnessed...a game
that, as part of his job description, he was required to describe to his
Jim Crews would have none of the
reporter’s questions and the reporter did not persist in asking them. Crews
left the closet-sized room for the comfort of his team's locker room, leaving
most of the other half-dozen or so in the tiny room shaking their heads. I do
not recall, ever, in person, witnessing a more childish, silly and needless
display of (bad) attitude by a person in a position of leadership.
Well, that's not exactly true.
A couple of months later (late in
the decade of the 1990's), Bob Knight visited Jupiter FL as a spring-training
guest of his buddy, then-Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.
During one pre-game session near
the Roger Dean stadium first-base line, La Russa
and a horde of media left the area, and Knight and I remained in place, alone
for several minutes.
While the details are not
important, suffice it to say that as Jim Crews was to that Evansville-based
basketball reporter, Bob Knight was to yours truly.
Mr. Knight was not interested in
idle chat of any type that morning, and had a rather direct way of expressing
that perspective. Furthermore, his approach is not likely to be found in the
classic book 'How to Win Friends and Influence People'.
No one can deny the (broadcasting)
excellence of Rush Limbaugh, in terms of listenership and revenue generation.
Limbaugh is a wealthy man and a man of significant influence.
No one can deny the (coaching)
excellence of Bob Knight, in terms of four-year player graduation rates and
national championships. Bob Knight is in basketball's Hall of Fame, and, like
Limbaugh, a man of significant influence.
But the effect of Limbaugh, on
aspiring broadcasters...and the effect of Knight, on aspiring coaches--it
seems to me that the plusses and minuses of those effects can (and should) be
debated, in part because, in fact, only a fraction of their work is on public
What listeners hear, on the radio,
from Limbaugh...is unique to him...and impossible to duplicate. And what goes
into Limbaugh's daily 'performance' is something unseen to his listeners; it
is private. Indeed, Limbaugh's private life is just that: private.
But in radio studios all over
America, the talk-show posers try to imitate the master.
Including the clownsuit
at 2 pm on TVoSTL. Click.
And what fans of college
basketball saw of Knight, on the bench, was certainly unique to him...and
also impossible to duplicate. One can argue, I think, that Bob Knight
succeeded as a college basketball coach in spite of his public demeanor, not
because of it.
But even today, in high school and
college gymnasiums all over America, the coaching posers still try to imitate
the General, in all his glory.
Bob Knight was dismissed, at Indiana,
in September of 2000, after
physically accosting and verbally abusing an IU undergrad. It was,
according to the leadership at Indiana,
the last in a long line of missteps committed by Knight.
Jim Crews was dismissed, at Army, in September of 2009, under cloudy
circumstances that some said involved physically
accosting and verbally
abusing Army players (i.e. cadets). Crews’ offense was, according to the
athletic leadership at Army, the last in a string of missteps. His dismissal
came only a few weeks after signing a three-year contract extension (with a
two-year option), and just weeks before the start of the college season.
Three years after his dismissal at
Army, one hopes that Jim Crews emulates the results associated with Bob
Knight, and leaves out the General's 'colorful' side.
That dog won't hunt in the genteel
college basketball climate that is St. Louis University, whose most
successful modern-day coach (the late Charlie Spoonhour)
opened practices to the public at the old gym on Pine Street and, for awhile, was arguably the most beloved sports figure in
It really was a site to see—while Spoonhour watched his team do 3-on-3 drills, runners were
circling the track above the court. Runners as in students and faculty. Other
athletes were exercising courtside, too…but there was an excitement in the
air: everybody wanted to be a part of Spoonball—it
was fun and all of St. Louis knew it.
One hopes that interim coach Jim
Crews gets the memo.
posted November 1
Serves at the Pleasure...Tick-Tock. Tick-Tock.
'Serves at the pleasure' is an
interesting phrase and is often applied to the Attorney General of the United
States (who serves at the pleasure of the President). 'Serves at the
pleasure' also applies to a number of jobs in sports.
In essence, 'serves at the pleasure' means 'don't get too comfy, Big Boy'.
Among the many jobs in sports that 'serve as the pleasure' applies to...is hitting coach for any of the thirty major league
In fact, with few exceptions, most baseball coaches (hitting, pitching,
bullpen etc.) at the major league level generally sign one-year contracts and
are evaluated at the end of each and every season.
In other words, MLB coaches 'serve at the pleasure' of their managers and
general managers...in part because the supply of men qualified to be major
league coaches far outstrips the demand for their services.
In addition, many MLB coaches crave all that is professional baseball, and
genuinely enjoy plying their trade at the major league level, so much so that
some of them would work in the big leagues without asking for any financial
The position of hitting coach is among the most tenuous of all MLB coaching
jobs. Since the Joe Torre-as-manager era in St. Louis (just over two
decades), men serving as Cardinals' hitting coaches have included Don Baylor,
Chris Chambliss, George Hendrick, Dave Parker, Mike
Easler, Mitchell Page, Hal McRae, and, for the
2010, 2011, and 2012 seasons, Mark McGwire.
In other words, after three years or so, the average Cardinals' hitting coach
finds a new stadium and a new batting cage to call home.
In his three years as the Cards' hitting coach, Mark McGwire has generally
earned high praise from baseball insiders. McGwire and his family make their
primary residence in Orange County, California...a short drive from 'Angel
Stadium of Anaheim' (the home stadium of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
and former Cards' slugger Albert Pujols) and a
longer drive (about fifty miles) from Dodger Stadium.
Early in Pujols' first season with the Angels,
hitting coach Mickey Hatcher (thirteen years experience)
was fired. Long-time Angels' minor-league hitting coach Jim Eppard was hired to replace Hatcher, and early last month
(October 2) it was announced that Eppard would
return in 2013.
On October 15, it was announced that the Dodgers fired their hitting coach.
As this is written (November 1), they have not named a replacement.
McGwire, in his first two seasons as hitting coach in St. Louis (2010 and
2011) essentially served at the pleasure of Tony La Russa,
his favorite manager as a player.
It was La Russa who championed McGwire's return to
organized baseball after an absence that was likely due to a combination of
family responsibilities (three sons, two born in the early 2000's) and the
stigma associated with his involvement in baseball's steroids scandal.
Then, early in McGwire's first season as the STL hitting coach, his wife gave
birth to triplets.
And at the conclusion of his second season (2011) as hitting coach (by all
measures a successful one as his students, including star pupil David Freese, won the World Series), Tony La Russa, the man who, as manager, brought him to St. Louis
twice (first, as a player on July 1, 1997 and then as hitting coach prior to
the 2010 season) announced his retirement.
To the surprise of some Cardinals' insiders, McGwire was asked to return as
the team's primary hitting instructor for the 2012 season. To the surprise of
some of those same insiders, McGwire accepted the offer made by GM John Mozeliak, and signed on for a third season.
For the 2012 season, Mike Aldrete (the team's
assistant hitting coach in 2011) was promoted to the position of 'bench
coach' for new manager Mike Matheny, and three-time Cardinal John Mabry was
hired as Aldrete's replacement.
McGwire and Mabry worked well together, and although the team's hitters were,
in baseball terminology, 'streaky', as a team they ranked among the National
League leaders in most offensive categories.
Mabry is well-liked by his students and possesses a firm but easy-going
demeanor. If his hiring for the 2012 season was viewed by GM Mozeliak as insurance in case McGwire were to leave his
post, well...you'd have to think Mozeliak would be
Meanwhile, on October 25th, Mozeliak announced that
Dyar Miller would not return as the team's bullpen
coach in 2012.
No announcements were made about the rest of the Cardinals coaching staff.
WDBX Sunday Sports Review
SSR Show Intro mp3
(featuring Ozzie Smith, Tony La Russa, Bruce Weber, Jerry Kill, Rich Herrin and Charlie Spoonhour, and Joe Buck)
SSR Show Intro mp3
(featuring Jan Quarless,
Rick Ankiel, Ron Caron, Walt Jocketty,
Brian Jordan and Joe Buck)
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review
Blues Move into March
posted March 1
to March, Gateway City Sports Fans
the opinion of this bureau the first of March is always a good date. Aside
from the Super Bowl (which has been a pipe dream and distant memory for our
town’s local entry in that rich & arrogant cartel better known as the
National Football League), January/February is a time of countless college
basketball, NBA and NHL games that are generally all nondescript.
this untrained eye, January and February are the two longest months of the
sports season. These months also offer non-Chamber of Commerce weather. But
once the first of March arrives, warmer weather gets closer, baseball games
pop up in Arizona and Florida, the college basketball tournament is on the
horizon and the NHL playoffs are finally being sorted out.
in the Gateway City the St. Louis Blues and the local weather have one thing
in common. Both are coming into March like a lion.
in so doing, the Blues have declared to one and all that they are “all in”
the evening of February’s final day, the Note completed an anticipated yet
blockbuster trade to enhance their roster for a hopefully long Stanley Cup
playoff run. St. Louis acquired All Star goaltender Ryan Miller and veteran
forward Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres. In return the Blues sent goaltender Jarsolav Halak, winger Chris
Stewart, prospect William Carrier, their 2015 first round draft pick and the
2016 third round draft pick to upstate New York. At this writing Buffalo has
the worst record in the NHL and they are now in an extreme makeover mode.
is a bold and refreshing move for the Blues. St. Louis is sending a message
to the league and their fan base: that 2014 they are making a serious run to
play in late May and/or June. This is not the Garth Butcher/Greg Polis/Doug
Weight type trades we have seen the Blues make in previous Marches. Miller is
one of the best goaltender in the NHL. The 33 year old Miller is a two-time Vezina trophy winner was the MVP for the 2010 Team USA in
their capturing the silver medal at the Vancouver Olympics. Crunching the
numbers, Miller has played his entire 504-game NHL career with the Sabres: posting a 284-186-56 career record with a 2.60
goals against average. This guy is good. Miller is now the best St. Louis
goaltender since Mike Liut.
Ott is an
eleven-year veteran whose grit reminds you of one of the Sutter Brothers.
Much like Chris Carpenter and Lance Berkman with
the Cardinal in past seasons, Ott’s veteran
presence might provide needed focus and discipline to a group of young
veteran Blues players that have been praised and coddled by the local fans
and media but have little to show on their resumes.
General Manager Doug Armstrong took a page from former Cardinal General
Manager Walt Jocketty’s playbook. Much like Jocketty did when acquiring the likes of Mark Mc Gwire, Jim Edmonds, Larry Walker, Chuck Finley and Woody
Williams, Armstrong is putting up his chips for a big 2014 win. Both Miller
and Ott will be unrestricted free agents at the end
of the season. Armstrong was also not bashful a year ago when he traded for
soon-to-be unrestricted free agent defenseman Jay Bowmeester
from Calgary. Last summer Armstrong was successful in signing Bowmeester to a long-term deal in St. Louis.
Miller and/or Ott remain in our town after June is
a topic for a later date. That can wait. For the Blues, the future is now.
The team is preparing not to end their 2013-14 in the same manner as previous
recent St. Louis teams: in rounds one or two of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"We're not at the area where the window is
closing," Armstrong said. "You also have to look at the dynamics of
your team. A team like Boston or a team like Pittsburgh, they've been cap
players for at least a half-decade. We're a cap team this year, but we're a
team that has to manage our resources differently than the top-spending teams
on a year-to-year basis. It's my belief that we have to make sure we're
maintaining some view of the future, as well."
the morning of the first day in March, St. Louis holds an overall record of
39-14-6: one of the tops in the fierce Western Conference. So the team is
poised to make a deep playoff run.
after the trade with the Sabres became official,
all those long-suffering Blues fans as well as the bandwagon members of the
local media began overreacting. The trash-talking has already begun via the
misspellings in the Twitter world and on local bulletin boards. Dreams of
that Clydesdale-led parade down Market Street in June have again been reborn.
folks, don’t save me a spot. I have some reservations. I do like this trade
for the Blues and do believe they are a better team now than they were
earlier this week. I also appreciate the bold and proactive approach by team
management and the commitment by team ownership.
I’m still a realist in this Show Me State. Two areas concern me. First, there
is no question the Blues will make the 2014 NHL playoffs. Their first and/or
second round opponent will likely be some combination of the Los Angeles
Kings, Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks and/or Anaheim Ducks. At this
writing St. Louis is 0-2-1 versus Vancouver, 0-3-0 against Anaheim, 1-2-0
against Los Angeles and 0-3-0 against San Jose. Said another way in 2013-14
the Blues are 1-10-1 against their likely first and/or second round
opponents. Said even another way, ten of the Blues fourteen losses were
against these four Western Conference fraternity brothers.
see if the addition of Miller and Ott will change
the dynamics. But until then, in order for the Blues to avoid their normal
fate of a first or second round exit, the road to the Conference Finals will
go through the West Coast: at least once or twice. St. Louis has to beat
and not to sound snarky, remember these are still the St. Louis Blues. Year
in and year out when expectations are high, the Blues always found some way
not to get the job done. Local fans have had their hearts broken more times
than a teenage girl with a Facebook page. Armstrong and Head Coach Ken
Hitchcock are proven winners with Stanley Cups and Olympic Gold Medals on
their resumes. Owner Tom Stillman has dug deep into
the treasury to provide the resources. For the first time in decades the
Blues have the right front office team in place.
while these are all true, they are still the St. Louis Blues. Despite the
optimism, fans fear the Sword of Damocles over their heads or trap doors
under their feet. Despite all their best efforts the Blues have always broke
their fans hearts. We in this Show Me State are much like Pavlov’s pooch.
There remains a sense of anxiety to those even wearing those Bob Bassen retro-jerseys.
we welcome the Gateway City Sports Fans to the month of March. But this year
aside from spring training games and basketball bracket office pools, our
town will be watching hockey.
spring, the St. Louis Blues are all in. But with that said,
of us are now wondering, what comes next?
Mike Tackles PEDs
posted January 16
I’ve been to the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum
twice. The first time was a baseball-themed summer road trip with a bunch of
my buddies in 1986. The second was in the summer of 2000 as a graduation
present/trip with my stepson Dan. I’d love to return again and again.
Going to the Hall is truly a special visit. It’s like going to the Bat Cave
because there is only one highway into and out of town. Hidden in the quaint
and quiet terrain of upstate New York, the village of Cooperstown provides the
perfect setting to reflect and honor the game of Baseball.
While there are many floors and wings of displays, history and memorabilia
throughout the Hall, the primary focus is the Gallery on the first floor.
This is where the plaques of the Hall of Famers are hung. With its high
ceilings, marble floors and columns, you get the feel of a place of honor
when you enter the Gallery. Inside I was taken by the reverent silence. It
seems those in the room felt it would be highly disrespectful to raise one’s voice.
To those who appreciate the game of Baseball, the sleepy village of
Cooperstown, New York is hallowed ground.
Last week the Hall of Fame voted in three new members. Greg Maddux was
arguably the best pitcher of the early and mid-1990s. A four-time Cy Young
award and eighteen-time Gold Glove winner, Maddux won 355 games in his
career, posting a 3.16 career earned run average while appearing in thirteen
post-seasons. With 305 victories and over 2,600 strikeouts in his twenty-two
year career, two-time Cy Young Award winner Tom Glavine was one of the most
dominating left-handers of his era. For nineteen seasons, blasting 521 career
home runs, a career .301 batting average and a two-time AL Most Valuable
player, Frank Thomas was one of the most feared hitters in the American
League. There is no question all three in this class of 2014 are each well
deserving of the honor.
But today in 2014, because of the big elephant in the room, the excitement of
the Hall of Fame announcement is diminished. Because of the big elephant in
the room, rather than celebration, there is bitter debate and
finger-pointing. Because of the big elephant in the room, more emphasis these
days are focused on those not in the Hall rather than those just elected.
And the name of that big elephant is spelled PED.
Performance enhancing drugs, or steroids if you prefer, have entered into and
at times overshadowed the Hall of Fame debate. While the exploits of Maddux,
Glavine and Thomas are celebrated, the achievements of Barry Bonds, Roger
Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmiero
are argued. To add even more spice, the traveling reality show known as Alex
Rodriguez continues to spawn: most recently on the national stage of the
highly-respected news show 60 Minutes with the anchor of the CBS Evening News
as the lead questioner.
No one in the baseball history has hit more career home runs than Bonds. Only
two pitchers in the game’s history have struck out more than the 4,672
batters Clemens fanned in his career. McGwire and Sosa each have hit more
than 575 career home runs. Palmeiro hit 569 career
home runs while accumulating 3,020 career hits. At this writing, Rodriquez
has hit 654 career home runs and 2,939 career hits. Back in the day, these
accomplishments provided practically automatic and immediate entry into
Cooperstown. But today the big elephant is present.
But none of them are in. Right or wrong, confirmed or rumored, verified or
suspected, Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro
and Rodriguez have been linked to performance enhancing drugs. As such, the
self-proclaimed arbitrators of virtue, the voters in the Baseball Writers
Association of America, have to pick up the pieces and make sense of all of
this. To date, those voters have decided that despite all their lofty numbers
and despite all but A-Rod were never suspended & are considered in good
standing, those players do not deserve entry into the Hall.
Meanwhile, as seen with the blowback from Rodriguez’ 60 Minutes segment, the
Lords of Baseball are piling on to prove a point. They are shocked—they say,
Unfortunately, if the Lords are not responsible for this mess, at minimum,
they are enablers.
Let’s go back twenty years. In August 1994, a player’s strike regarding the
league’s collective bargaining agreement shut the game down. Ultimately, this
action did something Adolf Hitler could not do: cancel the World Series. In
the following months, both sides sniped at each other with no agreement in
sight. In the spring of 1995, then-New York Judge now Supreme Court Justice
Sonia Sotomayor issued a temporary injunction to in essence end the strike.
With the ruling the game was back. But the fans weren’t. It seems the
betrayed ticket-buying baseball public found other things to do and other
outlets to spend their money on as the strike lingered.
Baseball was in a bad place. Enter the great home run chase of 1998. McGwire
and Sosa went head-to-head in pursuit of the most revered record in sport:
Roger Maris’ single-season home run mark. The World Wide Leader of Cable
Sports Broadcasting beamed their long flies from sea to shining sea. McGwire
and Sosa’s faces were displayed on national sport & non-sport
publications. Fans came in droves to watch these guys hit a baseball.
Visiting stadiums would sell out when the McGwire or Sosa show came to town.
In 1998, the Cardinals finished in third place in the NL Central with a
record of 83-79: nineteen games out of first place. Still, over three million
fans paraded through the Busch Stadium II turnstiles that season, primarily
and specifically to watch Mark McGwire hit long flies while spending money
along the way.
In a May 26, 2009 piece, Richard Sandomir of the
New York Times wrote: “The players strike wiped out the playoffs and the
World Series in 1994. It wounded the sport so deeply that baseball needed the
record endurance of Cal Ripken, Jr. and the home runs of Mark McGwire &
Sammy Sosa, whose slugging is now retroactively tainted, to recover its
equilibrium and popularity”.
I remember two things vividly covering those 1998 games: 1) the incredibly
long lines of people at the gates waiting to get in to witness Mc Gwire take batting practice, and 2) the mass exodus late
in ballgames once the slugger took his final swings of the night: regardless
of the score.
To baseball purists, the home run chase was a side show. But that side show
lured fans and their wallets back to the ball parks. Fast forward to 2014,
since 1998, sixteen of the thirty MLB franchises have constructed new
stadiums. Teams are getting even richer with lucrative local cable television
deals. In 2012 and in 2013, twenty-three teams drew over 2 million fans at
home and nine of those twenty –three franchises drew over 3 million fans at
home during those two seasons. It’s safe to say that financially, Major
League Baseball has likely never been stronger.
And this upswing can be directly correlated to the McGwire/Sosa home run
chase: a benchmark that would be eclipsed by Bonds a few years later. Now,
all three are considered the poster boys of a dark era. Meanwhile, the owners
became enormously richer while criticizing the culprits.
Is there hypocrisy here? As that news channel might say, we report, you
In 2005, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig was grilled, slapped around and shamed by
a Congressional Committee led by Senator John McCain over performance
enhancing drugs and the game of baseball. Many of the game’s superstars
testified, stuttered, cried and even forgot how to speak English. The Lords
then changed their tunes. But the money kept rolling in.
It’s ironic: while McGwire, Sosa and Bonds’ exploits jump-started the game,
their chances for admission into the Hall are dwindling. Meanwhile, Selig who
oversaw and arguably turned a blind eye to the PED environment within
baseball during the late 1990s/early 2000s will likely be welcomed into the
Hall on the first ballot.
In the baseball-themed musical Damn Yankees, lead character Joe Hardy made a
deal with the devil for success and riches. You can decide if the stage
mirrors reality. When it comes to the Hall of Fame and the PED era, you would
think Baseball shouldn’t have it both ways.
Yet, the Lords, their ambassadors and the players likely feel they
can—because they can.
Yep, it would be fun to return to Cooperstown again: particularly this summer
when Maddux, Glavine, Thomas and former managers Tony La Russa,
Joe Torre and Bobby Cox are inducted. And while it would be worth the trip:
The place will likely just not look the same.
posted December 1
Random thoughts & observations as we pause to reflect
on what we are truly thankful for: and it won’t be found on a diamond, field,
court or rink
Johnny Football and
Brent Musburger will be coming to Columbia,
Missouri for a Saturday night prime-time extravaganza. Yeah, it indeed must be
a big game.
Speaking of Ol’ Mizzou,
they just have to be busting their buttons with pride over the recent press
stories about that fun bunch of future alumni known as the Antlers.
Suggestion to Shane Robinson: rent, don’t buy your St. Louis summer residence.
Isn’t this the same Gary Pinkel that last year was
supposed to be run out of town on a rail?
AND FINALLY FROM THE “THANKSGIVINGS PAST” BUREAU: In the mid-1970’s for some
reason, that rich & arrogant cartel better known as the National Football
League decided to play two Thanksgiving day games in St. Louis. In 1974, the
then-St. Louis Football Cardinals would host Miami and in 1975, Buffalo would
come to town. In the first game, many fans fled Busch Stadium II at halftime
as Bob Greise and the Dolphins blew out the Big
Red. The following year was more memorable as on the night before, a heavy
snowfall blanketed the Gateway City. For some reason the football Cardinals
and Stadium Management chose not to clear the snow from the aisles and
walkways. So as fans arrived they cleared snow from their seats while
plopping their feet in wet slush. Once again the Cardinals laid an egg and
were losing significantly. Midway through the second half, fans were getting
bored and were looking for some amusement. To that end, some
highly-intoxicated patron fired a snowball from the upper deck in the general
direction of the Cardinal bench to voice his displeasure of the action on the
field. Unfortunately, the hurled snowball did not make it to the field. It
hit an equally highly-intoxicated patron in the field box. Naturally, that
fan retaliated and before you can say “I’ll take another drumstick, please”,
the biggest snowball fight Gateway City history was unfolding to a national
audience while the football game continued on the field. After that event,
the League scheduled future Thanksgiving Day games in Dallas.
posted August 28
thoughts & observations as the Gateway City and the heat and humidity
reintroduce themselves days before Labor Day
Post-Dispatch Hockey Writer Jeremy Rutherford writes, “If St. Louis Blues
fans want to attend the club’s three 2013-14 meetings against Chicago or
Detroit, or even the season opener Oct. 3, they must purchase a larger ticket
package. For fans who aren’t already Blues’ season-ticket holders, to see the
Blackhawks on Oct. 9 or Dec. 28, or the Red Wings on Apr. 13, they will need
to buy one of the following: full-season tickets, half-season tickets, a
12-game plan or a hat-trick (three-game) plan. A perk for season-ticket
holders, which is part of the club’s plan, is allowing them to buy additional
tickets for those specific single games. The club, which
currently has about an 80 percent renewal rate on season tickets from last
season, is counting on the new policy increasing its sale of season tickets.
“We’re hoping that, for sure,” Team President Bruce Affleck said.” Really? So
that’s the spin, eh? It should be noted the Chicago Black Hawks have a
waiting list of 11,000 for season tickets. In Detroit, Red Wing tickets are
tough to find. So this bureau offers this silly yet simple suggestion.
Perhaps the Blues should set their sights of not being knocked out in the
first or second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The ripple effect of that
on the ice success should eventually “get the red out”.
Speaking of our ice heroes, in light of last year’s work stoppage, inquiring
minds wonder just how many members of the St. Louis Blues and/or members of
the National Hockey League Players Association will be participating in this
year’s Labor Day parade.
It’s time to play “fun with numbers”: as of morning of 8/26/13, the Cardinals
are 57-8 when outhit opponents, they are 21-28 in games when they commit at
least one error and the Red Birds are 64-12 when score more than three runs
Has it really been 36 years ago when Lou Brock stole his career 893rd base,
breaking Ty Cobb's MLB career record, on August 29, 1977 in the 7th inning
against the Padres in San Diego?
AND FINALLY FROM THE “YOU CAN’T BEAT FUN AT THE OL’ BALL PARK” BUREAU: The
Miami Marlins’ poor win/loss records means the front office has to come up
with creative ideas to put butts in the seats. To that end, we present
“Legends of Wrestling Night at Marlins Park”. Fox Sports Florida picks up the
story from here. “Saturday's game between the Marlins and Rockies started off
with a ceremonial first pitch. There’s nothing out of the ordinary about
that. But then, former wrestling superstar Goldberg, who was the one to
unleash that first throw, turned the evening on its head when he delivered
his signature move to a man wearing a Rockies hat and a purple shirt. The
wrestlers also sang during the 7th inning stretch. And there was the heel
turn during the Sea Creature Race that left Julio the Octopus worse for the
posted April 28
Random thoughts & questions as the Stanley Cup playoffs begin and
Cinco de Mayo will start five days later
Once again I am rolling my eyes listening to local hockey fans
and media bloviate on the Blues securing the 4th place in the Conference for
home ice advantage in Round One. Forgive my skepticism, but didn’t the Blues
have home ice advantage for Rounds 1 & 2 last season?
In this bureau’s opinion, Rick Horton teamed with John Rooney is absolutely
excellent radio and a first class broadcast. Also, in this bureau’s opinion,
Jim Edmonds has been a refreshing addition to the apologists of Fox Sports
Midwest. It is especially refreshing that to some of the FSM regulars seem
not very comfortable with Jimmy Baseball on the set.
Should the Detroit Red Wings make the NHL playoffs, all of the original six
of the NHL teams will qualify for the playoffs.
It’s amazing how much influence the World Wide Leader in Cable Sports
Programming has? Case in point: during Thursday’s broadcast of that rich
& arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League’s draft of
college players, teams “on the clock” held off their announcement until the
ESPN commercials have finished airing.
AND FINALLY FROM THE “OLD FRIENDS IN DIFFERENT PLACES” BUREAU: With the end
of April approaching, it might be fun to check in with a few of our former
heroes. On the morning of the final Saturday of April, Kyle Lohse is 1-1 with a 2.52 earned run average in 25 innings
pitched. Meanwhile, Lance Berkman is batting .333
in 80 plate appearances with 2 home runs and 15 runs batted in.
St. Louis Sports Online
posted June 12
Blackhawks, Kings and Blues
In this year's Stanley Cup tournament,
how, exactly, did the Blackhawks defeat the Kings? And why did the Kings
vanquish the Blues?
Late last week, in the fifth game
of their best-of-seven Western Conference championship playoff series, the
Blackhawks of Chicago defeated the Kings of Los Angeles. The winning goal was
scored in the game’s second overtime period and made the score 4-3 (advantage
Combined with Blackhawk wins in
the first, second and fourth games of the series, the victory resulted in the
end of the Kings’ reign as Stanley Cup champions, as they were defeated by
double-overtime goal was scored by Hawks’ winger Patrick Kane.
Kane, who was born in Buffalo NY,
beat all-world LA goalie Jonathan Quick with a medium-range one-timer
reminiscent of Hall of Fame snipers Jari Kurri and
It was Kane’s third goal of the
game…and added to his reputation as one of the NHL’s premier finishers.
Kane’s series-clinching goal was
the successful culmination of a two-on-one break, as he and superstar center
Jonathan Toews skated toward the Kings’ net with
only LA defenseman Rob Scuderi between them and
The puck-carrying Toews quickly but patiently approached Quick on the
left-wing side before cleanly passing the puck to Kane, who lagged behind Toews a fraction of a second on the right side of the
The perfect set-up from Toews was, in a blink-of-the-eye, buried by Kane--and an
Original Six Stanley Cup final between Chicago and Boston was set.
As Chicago prepares to do battle
with Boston, a look back at the Blues’ last two playoff losses (both to LA)
as well as the Blackhawks’ recent victory over LA is warranted.
Throughout Chicago’s series with
LA, commentators referenced the hard-hitting and physical nature of the
Kings-Blues opening round series. LA’s players noted that their six games
with the Blues were more physical than either subsequent battles with San
Jose or with Chicago.
Indeed, nhl.com stats suggest that
the Blues (with 40 hits per game) virtually matched the Kings (41 hits per
game) hit-for-hit, in their six game series, while the Blackhawks, in their
five game series with the Kings, were outhit (per game) 44-32.
Let those numbers sink in, puckheads. The Blues were as physical as the Kings (but
lost), while the Blackhawks were not as physical as the Kings (and won).
So why did Chicago have success
against Los Angeles?
Two words: speed and skill.
Think about that the next time a
so-called hockey know-it-all says that the only thing keeping the Blues from
playoff success…is their lack of toughness.
It just is not true. In the 21st
Century version of NHL hockey, speed and skill win games and win