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WDBX Sunday Sports Review hosted by Mark Bausch
=====
Sunday Sports Review Show Intro mp3 #1
(featuring Ozzie Smith, Tony La Russa, Bruce Weber,
Jerry Kill, Rich Herrin and (the late) Charlie Spoonhour...and Joe Buck)

 

MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com

Lead

Columnist


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here


Mike Huss' Take Five

posted April 30

Random Thoughts as the Calendar Changes from April to May

There might be one advantage of the Rams leaving town. Now, Gateway City sports fans won’t feel the need to flip the remote control to the World Wide Leader of Cable Sports Broadcasting and be forced to listen to the always-annoying Chris Berman bloviate: that is unless they want to.

It seems that on 4/28/16 a few members of our town’s only newspaper’s sports staff put on their prediction cap on the upcoming Blues/Dallas Playoff series. To the surprise of no one, each and every scribe predicted Our Blue would win the series. Golly, did anyone see that one coming?

Allyssa Lee of Fox Sports.com writes: “Oakland Raider owner Mark Davis as pledged to spend $500 million as part of a new stadium plan in an effort to move the presently Oakland-based team to Las Vegas. Davis appeared alongside David Beckham and Las Vegas Sands Corporation head Sheldon Adelson Thursday in his bid to move the team to Nevada, and said that Las Vegas "would not be getting a football team, they would be getting everyone who has worn the silver and black for the last 56 years."  This bureau is guessing that the Commissioner of that rich & arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League will soon be meeting with his superiors in Dallas & Inglewood on how to respond to this.

With the month of April coming to an end, it might be fun to see how a few of our former heroes are doing these days. With a few days remaining in April, Jason Heyward is batting .244 with no home runs and 12 runs batted in’  Pitcher John Lackey is 3-1 with a 4.97 earned run average and 27 strikeouts in 25.1 innings pitched. At this writing Jon Jay-has a .264 batting average with no home runs and 9 RBIs. Peter Bourjos with has no home runs, 3 runs batted in and is hitting .186.

AND FINALLY FROM THE “COMING ATTRACTIONS” BUREAU: So let’s see: in our town on Thursday May 5 there will an afternoon Cardinal Baseball game, an evening Blues playoff hockey game and it will be Cinco de Mayo. What could possibly go wrong?
 




Comments?        Contact Mike at:    mike@stlsports.com

=====

 

WDBX Sunday Sports Review Highlights
Geary Deniston, Mike Huss, Mike Rainey, Derrick Langston, Todd Hefferman & Mike Baker talk sports with host Mark Bausch every Sunday


Sunday Sports Review 151115 (November 15)
Hefferman, Deniston, Huss & Rainey
-----

=====
Sunday Sports Review Show Intro mp3 #1
(featuring Ozzie Smith, Tony La Russa, Bruce Weber,
Jerry Kill, Rich Herrin and Charlie Spoonhour...and Joe Buck)

Tony La Russa, IMB and the Sweetheart

Mark Bausch

Dear reader, if you were lucky, you had a high school sweetheart or two.

I had mine...and in my mind's eye, the young lady in question was the prettiest girl in school.

But the prettiest girl in school went away to college. There, she found another gentleman's charms a little (a lot?!) more to her liking than those of yours truly.

click here to read more...

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Blues v Hawks Pre-Game…


Mark Bausch

Bausch

Editor
St. Louis Sports Online
editor@stlsports.com
====================

posted March 19, 2014

 

There’s nothing quite like meaningful hockey in March!

With the Blues (101 points) in front of the Blackhawks (93 points) in the NHL’s Central Division by eight points, a win tonight in Chicago’s United Center would likely put the Blues in the driver’s seat for home-ice in a CHI-STL playoff series.

Tonight’s game will highlight the importance of the Blues’ acquisition of G Ryan Miller, who is 7-0-1 (0.933 save percentage) since his move to St. Louis from Buffalo. So watch Ryan Miller…and watch how his play inspires his teammates.

For Chicago—a hockey commentator somewhere on this planet noted that captain Jonathan Toews, who has led the ‘Hawks to two Stanley Cups before his 26th birthday (April 29), may very well be the greatest Blackhawk in the history of the franchise.

Think about that—Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Denis Savard (to say nothing of goaltenders Glenn Hall and Tony Esposito)…is Toews superior to these five?

If Stanley Cups matter…the answer is yes.

So watch Ryan Miller tonight…but also watch Jonathan Toews…and how the Blues attempt to contain Toews (and his skillful wingman Patrick Kane).

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David Freese—Gone But Not Forgotten
(November 23)

Mark Bausch

Earlier 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…

…scroll down to read the rest of the article


Role Models in Radio;
Role Models in Coaching?

(November 10)

Mark Bausch

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 potential.

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 election day.

...scroll down to read the rest of the article


WDBX Sunday Sports Review Highlights
Geary Deniston, Mike Huss, Mike Rainey, Derrick Langston, Todd Hefferman & Mike Baker talk sports with host Mark Bausch every Sunday


Sunday Sports Review 151206 (December 6)
  Huss, Deniston & Rainey
-----
Sunday Sports Review 151122 (November 22)
  Huss, Deniston & Rainey
-----
Sunday Sports Review 151115 (November 15)
Hefferman, Deniston, Huss & Rainey
-----


MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com

Lead

Columnist


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here


Blues: Four Down and Twelve to Go (Wins, That Is)

(posted April 27, 2016)

On Monday Night May 12, 1986 a hockey game was played in St. Louis. 

It was Game 6 of 1986 Stanley Cup Playoff Campbell Conference Finals against the Calgary Flames. Calgary led the series three games to two. 17,801 (including this bureau) watched as the Flames led 5-2 with twelve minutes remaining in the third period.

But the Blues roared back that Monday night. St. Louis scored one goal by Brian Sutter and two more back Greg Paslawski: including the equalizer with 1:17 remaining in regulation time. Then at the 7-minute, 30-second mark of the first overtime period Doug Wickenheiser buried the game winner behind Calgary goaltender Mike Vernon. It sent the series back to Canada for a deciding Game Seven. With their backs to the wall the Blues fought back to play another day. That game is remembered as the Monday Night Miracle.

We now fast-forward thirty years less three weeks. Again it’s a Monday night and again a hockey game was played in St. Louis. The location was the now 21-year old Scottrade Center. This game was summarized by the most exciting and dramatic two words in sports: Game Seven.

This time it was Game Seven of Round One of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Blues took on the defending Stanley Cup Champion and perpetual thorn-in-their-sides: the Chicago Black Hawks. 19,935 saw their Blue jump off to a 2-0 first period lead, only to have the game tied after two periods. In the final 20 minutes of regulation time, former Black Hawk and the player acquired in last summer’s trade for heartthrob T J Oshie, Troy Brouwer scored at the 8:31 mark. St. Louis weathered the remaining third period storm and Chicago surge to capture a 3-2 victory and 4-3 series win. Once again, with their backs to the wall the Blues fought back to play another day.

Time will tell how this game will be labeled in Blues lore.  The last time the Note won a Game Seven in front of their home fans, George H W Bush was in the White House & Bob Probert was hitting anything in sight in a blue jersey. That unfolded at the lovable old firetrap on Oakland.

Just like last October, a St. Louis team took on a Chicago team in Round One of the playoffs. Just like last October the team wearing blue defeated the team wearing red.

It was quite a night in downtown St. Louis: one the Gateway City really, really needed.

Our Town was in desperate need of a shot of self-esteem. For the past 2+ years the national perception of St. Louis has been one of civil unrest, street riots, a high crime rate and companies vacating the region. Earlier this year St. Louis was discarded simply as collateral damage by the elites in that rich & arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League: as they dutifully allowed and enabled Stan Kroenke to expand his (as well as the League’s) portfolio and equity position while bolting out of the Gateway City with absolutely no parting gifts. 

But on this Monday night the Lou found a reason to feel good about themselves.

This was quite a series. Much like two heavyweight fighters going toe-to-toe the Blues and Hawks went at it throughout seven grueling games. The series was mostly a draw. St. Louis was generally superior in the first and third periods. The Blues outscored the Hawks 7-3 in first period play and 8-5 in third periods. But Chicago was quite dominant in the second period: outscoring the Blues by a whopping 11-3 in the middle frame.

After leading the series 3-1, the Blues returned home for Game 5. St. Louis needed to win one of three: with two at the Scottrade Center. The Hawks needed to win three of three: with two at the Scottrade Center. The Hawks would be at an added disadvantage in the 5th game as one of their more prominent scorers was serving a one-game suspension for uttering some politically incorrect words. But once Chicago captured Game Five in overtime, the local towel-swinging blindly-loyal Blues fans feared a blown opportunity and horrible visions of reruns of seasons past. Chances of St. Louis winning a third straight game at the United Center seemed remote. The result was the winner-take-all Game Seven: where each team had to win one of one game. 

But this time the Blues did not fold/choke/collapse in this first round: winning the game they had to win. Predictably the local hockey media is overreacting to our Blue’s accomplishment knowing they will not need to shave for another week or so. Local radio gab-masters and TV talking heads’ reports & musings were so syrupy I think my teeth now have a couple of new cavities. Even our town’s only newspaper got into the act with headlines/stories touting “No telling how far this team can go” and “Demons being chased away” and “Blues rewrite history”.

Sorry but I have to bring the focus back to reality. The Blues have just completed an impressive and emotional series win over the defending Stanley Cup Champions and their chief rival.

Now all they have to do is just win TWELVE MORE GAMES to spend their summer with the Stanley Cup. That’s right: the Magic Number is now twelve. A dozen more wins are needed. Beating the Hawks only brings you to the quarter pole. Quick history lesson: St. Louis only reached the Conference Finals (aka: Third Round) only twice. The last time they reached the Stanley Cup Finals, Richard Nixon was in the White House. Winning the Stanley Cup is the most grueling journey in all of professional sports.

The Blues have only made it to the first marker. There is still a long, long way to go.

Head Coach Ken Hitchcock might have summed it up best in his post-Game 7 remarks. "I don't know if it's a milestone, but it's a hump," Hitchcock said. "We have knowledge now of what it takes and now we've got to use it. We have an opportunity in front of us. I'm sure everybody in that room knows it's going to get harder. But we have knowledge and it's the emotional knowledge of how deep you have to dig. We found that in this series. I want us to use it now."

Can they win? Yes they can. Hitchcock’s 2015-16 Blues are a resilient bunch that seems not to back down from adversity. But will they win? That is the real question.

Next up is Dallas. The franchise formerly known as the Minnesota North Stars finished the regular season with the most points and most wins in the Western Conference. The series opens up in Jerry Jones’ town on Thursday night. Round Two will be another best of seven series. Whoever is left standing will then only be halfway done.

For the towel-swinging, blindly-loyal unshaven Blues Nation and their accomplices in the local media, it’s OK to celebrate, to savor and even to trash-talk the Round One win over the hated Black Hawks. But don’t party too long because the puck drops in Big D in less than 72 hours.

Monday was quite a night in downtown St. Louis: One the Gateway City really, really needed.

Now it’s over and time to look ahead

There are still three rounds and twelve wins to go.



Yadi Yadi Yadi

(posted March 6, 2016)

In 2016, Yadier Molina remains the most irreplaceable St. Louis Cardinal Player.

Starting his 13th Big League season (all with the Red Birds) the soon-to-be 34 year-old Molina remains the heart and soul of the ball club. He has been behind the plate for nine St. Louis playoff teams, four St. Louis World Series Teams and two World Series Championship teams.

No disrespect to Ted Simmons, but Molina’s eight (and counting) Gold Gloves suggests that #4 is the greatest catcher in Cardinal history. His resume is strong for Hall of Fame consideration. 

Molina’s predecessor behind the plate and current field Manager Mike Matheny once said of him, “The things he does midgame, you'd have to watch him with a pretty educated eye as far as realizing when he does something that has meaning. The other side won't even know."

Over the past dozen completed seasons, Molina has logged many hours behind the plate from Busch Stadium II to Busch Stadium III. Going into 2016, #4 has recorded an average of over 1,000 innings per season and over total 12,000 innings as a catcher. Thanks to our friends at Baseball-Reference.com, here are the complete numbers:

Year

Pos

G

Inn

PO

A

E

PB

CS%

2004

C

51

344

256

16

2

4

47%

2005

C

114

959.1

684

66

7

8

64%

2006

C

127

1037.1

734

79

4

7

44%

2007

C

107

861.1

582

63

6

7

54%

2008

C

119

1002

653

70

10

5

35%

2009

C

138

1176.2

884

82

5

4

41%

2010

C

135

1138

895

79

5

7

49%

2011

C

137

1150

857

67

5

6

29%

2012

C

136

1161.1

962

88

3

6

48%

2013

C

131

1115.1

976

63

4

3

43%

2014

C

107

931.2

810

56

2

3

48%

2015

C

134

1149.2

1064

56

7

4

41%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 seasons

 

       1,436.0

      12,024.1

      9,357.0

      785.0

  60.0

  64.0

 

Avg/season

 

        119.67

      1,002.01

        779.75

      65.42

  5.00

  5.33

 


That is a lot of innings on one body. Plus, over the past two seasons, Molina has spent considerable time in sick bay. On 7/9/14 Molina led off in the top of the 2nd inning hitting a ground rule double. Allen Craig grounded out sending a hustling Molina into third base. But in so doing the Red Bird catcher injured his right thumb while sliding into third. Although he tried to continue, Molina eventually left the game. He suffered a torn ligament in his thumb.  #4 did return in late September and playoffs, but reinjured the thumb during an NLCS at-bat.

Fast forward one-year.  On Sunday afternoon September 20th at Wrigley Field, Cub first baseman Anthony Rizzo slid into Molina’s glove on a play at the plate. Molina held onto the ball. Rizzo was called out. But Molina was again injured. This time it was his left thumb. The diagnosis was a torn ligament.  Molina missed the final thirteen games of the regular season, but returned for the National League Divisional Series against Chicago. He started three of the Cardinals four playoff games, but had to be removed after six innings in game three, and did not continue. The Cardinals were eliminated in that NLDS by the Cubs in four games.

In December Molina would have his second thumb surgery in three months. This surgery would likely eliminate #4 from spring training-2016. In the off-season the Cardinals signed Brayan Pena to a two-year free agent contract for veteran depth behind the plate. 

Thumb injuries are never good thing if you are a Major League catcher. It’s especially not good for a twelve-year veteran that has logged more than 12,000 innings behind the plate.

Matheny occasionally has a blind spot when dealing with Molina. Matheny chose to add a less than 100% Molina to the 2014 and 2015 post-season roster.  His presence on the roster limited the Manager’s options during each of the playoffs. Molina is a warrior and a workhorse: no debate. He refuses to be out of the lineup. While this is admirable, the real question is: is it wise?

Logic tells you that if a person has two thumb surgeries within six months, it is likely not advisable catching Major League pitching for the start of a six-month stretch: especially with the last surgery just 3 ½ months prior to Opening Day. Then add into mix, the catcher in question is a twelve-year veteran who has logged over 1,400 career games behind the plate.

To that end, this bureau asks this question:  something that will likely be viewed as sacrilegious to Cardinal Nation. Should Molina be placed on the 15-day Disabled List at the beginning of the season? That would avoid the temptation of overuse in April games as his thumb continues to heal. This would also provide Molina added time to mend and regain his strength for a 135 versus a 162 game season. The Cardinals’ April 2016 schedule consists of 24 games in 26 days. The team opens with three in Pittsburgh-and April includes the Cubs coming to town for three and a four-game series in Arizona.

Now let’s fast forward to the last ten games of the 2016 season. Ten games in ten days: three in Chicago, four in St. Louis against the Reds and the final three games at Busch versus Pittsburgh. It is anticipated 2016 will be a dogfight for the playoffs: particularly in a division where the margin of error is razor thin. And Yadier Molina, recovering thumb and all, will be a key factor.

“The things he does midgame, you'd have to watch him with a pretty educated eye as far as realizing when he does something that has meaning. The other side won't even know."

Aside from being the heart and soul of the team, Yadier Molina is the most irreplaceable St. Louis Cardinal Player. But you got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.

And Matheny and suits must get this one right.





The Blues Are On My Mind...


(posted February 24, 2016)


Around our town there has been much talk recently about the possibility of St. Louis hosting a 2017 outdoor National Hockey League game. A few years ago the NHL has stumbled on a unique concept that has grown in popularity: playing a regular season hockey game outdoors in the dead of winter at some of legendary outdoor venue. It proves the old adage once again that even a blind squirrel can find a nut once in a while. 

Over the past few years outdoor hockey games have been played at Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, University of Michigan’s football Stadium, Dodger Stadium as well as other notable locations. The NHL ‘s New Year’s Day outdoor hockey game concept has been so popular to a national television audience that League expanded it from one to a series of games.

The NHL does not want to water down the concept by overexposure. As a result, the League carefully selects those teams and cities to schedule the outdoor games. If your team has top tier talent such as, Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin or Patrick Kane, outdoor hockey games are played in Pittsburgh, Washington or Chicago. If your team is one of the Original Six NHL franchises, games in New York, Detroit and Boston are played in the great outdoors. All the action is beamed from sea to shining sea and throughout all the provinces of Canada.

Yep, the NHL carefully picks and chooses where to play outdoor hockey games.

And that brings us to the St. Louis Blues.

While the Gateway City and the local media are actively campaigning to bring an outdoor hockey game to Busch Stadium, what really does our town bring to the table to justify this selection? It’s going to take more than boasting about being in self-proclaimed Baseball Heaven or having die-hard, glass-half-full, towel-swinging hockey fans. The bottom line is the bottom line. The St. Louis Blues are the only franchise from the original group of expansion teams to never win a Stanley Cup. Despite qualifying for the playoffs 39 times in 47 seasons, the Blues advanced to the Cup Finals in their first three years and have not been seen since. St. Louis has then advanced to the Conference Finals (that is, Round 3 of the four-round tournament) only twice. Plus although Vladimir Tarasenko is an up and coming star, he has not reached that marquis-must see level that would lure the eyeballs of a national TV audience.

Bluntly the Blues need to prove they are significant to be showcased on the national stage.

So let’s stop the madness shall we? Like it or not, Our Blue’s resume is not strong. More meat is needed.  The team needs more to enhance their chances.

What better way than a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs?

What better time to start than now?

At this writing, the Blues have an overall record of 35-18-6. They are two points behind Chicago for first place in the NHL’s Central Division and currently have the fourth seed in the playoff pecking order in the Western Conference.  The Note is 8-2 in the last ten games.

2015-16 has been a struggle for Ken Hitchcock’s club as they have dealt with lengthy injuries to key personnel. Goaltender Jake Allen was out of action for several weeks. Lead Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo remains out of the lineup. This past week St. Louis learned they will be without their second-leading scorer Alexander Steen for a month as well as goaltender Brian Elliott who will be unavailable for a like period of time.

Despite the injuries the Blues have posted a solid win/loss record to date and they appear very likely to return to the Playoffs once again. Hitchcock’s team has shown resiliency, determination and grit in light of all the injuries to key players.

Now the half-glass-full towel-swinging crowd may extrapolate that because those key players are being rested, they should be stronger for a deep playoff run. Rather than living in the woulda-shoulda-coulda world of predicting the future, this bureau prefers to focus on the immediate.

And the Blues immediate schedule is challenging.

Over the next month St. Louis will be playing thirteen games: ten of them in a building not named the Scottrade Center. Starting Friday night the Blues will play in Nashville. The next night they travel to Carolina before heading for Ottawa and then Minnesota. Two home games against Chicago and Anaheim are up next.  A five-game road trip follows, taking the team to Dallas, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and finally San Jose. St. Louis returns home for a game with Vancouver before traveling to DC the next night to take on the Capitals.

So let’s review: thirteen games in twenty-eight dates with three at home, ten on the road and loads of frequent flyer miles to earn.  The immediate goal is simple: hold serve. The Blues with all their injuries aches and pains need to be no worse off a month from now than they are at this point. Simply shorten the schedule. Saying it another way on Easter Sunday morning St. Louis needs to be no worse than are two points out of first place in the Central and no worse than the fourth seed in the Conference Playoff Bracket. 

Game On---it’s all in front of them (again).
 
Around our town there has been much talk recently about the possibility of St. Louis hosting a 2017 outdoor National Hockey League game.

The talk of dreaming of the Clydesdales parading around the Busch Stadium warning track on a chilly January 2017 afternoon can wait until later.

The St. Louis Blues need to prove they deserve to be showcased on the national stage.

That starts with the upcoming month and then continues with a deep playoff run.


MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com

Lead

Columnist


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here



Taking a Long Look at Center Field in St. Louis--and Taking a Look at Center Field in St. Louis in 2016


(posted February 24)


Throughout their colorful history, particularly those eleven World Series Championship seasons, there is common thread for the St. Louis Cardinals. Red Bird post-season success is directly proportional to the strength of their everyday centerfielder. Cardinal teams that advanced to post-season play were solid-to-strong in centerfield.

During the glory years of the 1940s when St. Louis captured World Series titles in 1942, 1944 and 1946, Terry Moore patrolled centerfield and was the team’s captain. Although his numbers are not of Hall of Fame consideration, Moore served as the leader off and on the field during those World War II seasons.

During the 1960s it was Curt Flood in centerfield as the Red Birds advanced to three World Series; winning two. A Gold Glove outfielder and .solid 300 hitter, Flood was the anchor to an outfield from Sportsman’s Park to Busch Stadium II while batting mostly behind Lou Brock.

During the 1980s, Willie McGee anchored centerfield for three St. Louis World Series teams. Primarily a #3-hitter and National League Most Valuable Player, Mc Gee was charge of the spacious Busch II Astroturf outfield and was a key component on the field and at the plate. .

During the 2000s Jim Edmonds controlled centerfield for six Cardinal post-season teams: which included two World Series appearances and one World Series Championship. From Busch II to Busch III, the Gold Gloved Edmonds was in charge in the outfield and at the plate: making highlight field home run-robbing catches and blasting memorable home runs. (Side Note: it is absurd the Baseball Hall of Fame voters will not allow Edmonds to be considered going forward for induction. In an apples-to-apples comparison, Edmonds’ career numbers are comparable and in some areas better than Boston’s Hall of Famer Jim Rice.)

The Cardinals advanced to post-season play every year from 2011-2015: appearing in two World Series and winning one during that stretch. Throughout those years Jon Jay patrolled centerfield in St. Louis. Never flashy and never considered an All Star, Jay provided stability in the outfield while contributing at the plate. In 2014, Jay was St. Louis’ only regular with a .300 batting average. While many critics wanted more sizzle in the outfield, the bottom line is the Cardinals went to the playoffs in four straight seasons with Jon Jay starting in centerfield.

Meanwhile throughout many years, can’t-miss prospects such as Ray Lankford and Colby Rasmus, while at times good, never reached that expected level of success. 

And that brings us to Randal Grichuk.

Grichuk is penciled as the 2016 Cardinals starting centerfielder. Acquired in the David Freese trade of November 2014, St. Louis is betting the 24-year old Grichuk will take command of an outfield that consists of Matt Holliday on one side and a cavalcade of others on the other side.

During this off-season Red Bird Management decided to trade the arbitration-eligible Jay to San Diego and promote Grichuk (with his three more salary-controlled seasons).

Grichuk came into the Majors with high expectations. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim selected him with their #1 pick (#24 overall) in the 2009 draft: one selection ahead of All Star outfielder Mike Trout. Grichuk’s first two St. Louis seasons were encouraging, confusing and injury-prone. In 116, 2014-plate appearances, Grichuk batted .245 with three home runs and eight runs batted in. In 350, 2015-plate appearances, Grichuk blasted 17 homers while driving in 47 runs with a .276 batting average.

It’s those 2015 power numbers that the Cardinal brass is counting on. For a team that was offensively-challenged in 2015, Grichuk is intriguing. No question: his bat can solve some major offensive issues. But if you choose Grichuk’s bat, you also get the entire package. In 2015, Grichuk played in 103 of the 162 regular season games (63.3%). So it is a far question to ask if the Red Birds newly-named centerfield can remain healthy all season.

And while with Grichuk you get the home runs and RBIs, you also get the strikeouts. In 323 at-bats during 2015, Grichuk struck out 110 times (34.1%). Saying it another way, that is a strikeout over one out of every three at-bats.

But in this bureau’s eyes the bigger question is: can Grichuk play a solid defense for a team where defense is considered a huge question mark? During his Major League career Grichuk has only played 311 centerfield innings in 42 games: starting in 37 of them. In those games, Grichuk completed 88 put outs in 90 chances, committing only one error while in centerfield.

There are some of my local media colleagues who have more confidence than skepticism than I with the new centerfield. A lead television sports talking-head referred to Grichuk as a “potential Gold Glover” during a nightly sportscast. Meanwhile a scribe from our town’s only newspaper was taken aback from the results of national centerfielder poll ranking Grichuk behind former St. Louis right-fielder, now Chicago Cub centerfielder Jason Heyward.

Call us pessimistic, but this bureau sees more complete seasons and more Gold Gloves on Heyward’s resume than Grichuk’s. As for a Gold Glove prediction, we suggest holding off until the new Red Bird centerfield first plays an entire season. In this bureau’s opinion, Grichuk has much more to prove as a Major League centerfielder than does Heyward.

Bottom line: the Cardinals are placing their bets on Randal Grichuk to be their everyday centerfielder. In an ultra-competitive National League Central Division where the margin of error is expected to be razor thin the suits at 700 Clark Street need to be right on this one. 

Throughout their colorful history, particularly those eleven World Series Championship seasons, there is common thread for the St. Louis Cardinals. Red Bird post-season success is directly proportional to the strength of their everyday centerfielder. Cardinal teams that advanced to post-season play were solid-to-strong in centerfield.

And that brings us to Randal Grichuk.

And that also brings us to 2016.

 


-----

=====

MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com
For Many St. Louisans—the Sound of Baseball Remains the Voice of Harry Caray


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here



posted March 8

Last Saturday (March 1), Harry Caray would have been 100 years old.

 

No kidding: It might be—it could be—it is: a century

 

For 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. Louis baseball.

 

In 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.

 

Born 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.

 

In 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.

 

It 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.

 

But 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.  

 

Behind 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.

 

The 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 Cardinal broadcaster.

 

There 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.

 

Leaving 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. 

 

During 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.

 

But 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 damage.

 

Yep, the White Sox were not very good then—but it was sure fun to listen to the games.

 

In 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.

 

During 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.

 

My 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.

 

 

So 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.

 

In 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. 

 

1998 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.

 

Today, 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 Team.

 

I 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.

 

Last Saturday (March 1), Harry Caray would have been 100 years old.

 

Holy Cow

 

=====

MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com
Dan Kelly: Simply the Best


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here



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 original.

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 experience.

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 52.

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.

 

 

 

 


 

 

=====

MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com
A Valentine to Spring; A Valentine to Baseball


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here



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 take it”

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     4    75.1
Seth Maness         24    5     2    62
Kevin Siegrist      23    3     1    39.2
Joe Kelly           25    10    5    124
Michael Wacha       21    4     1    64.2
Tyler Lyons         25    2     4    53
Carlos Martinez     21    2     1    28.1
John Gast           24    2     0    12.1
Jamie Garcia        26    5     2    55.1
Lance Lynn          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 experienced success.

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.”


=====

MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com
Happy Birthday, Hank Aaron


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here



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 administrations.

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 rooster."

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 controversy.

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 of Freedom.

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 simpler time.

"Trying to throw a fastball by Henry Aaron is like trying to sneak a sunrise past a rooster."

Happy 80th birthday, Hammering Hank



 =====


Mark Bausch

Bausch

Editor
St. Louis Sports Online
editor@stlsports.com
====================
posted November 23

David Freese: Gone But Not Forgotten

Earlier 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 season games.

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 post-season tournament.

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 Angeles...Albert Pujols?

During his eleven-year tenure as a Cardinal, Pujols played in 1705 (Hall of Fame-quality) regular-season games but 'only' (?!) 74 post-season games.

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.

=====

 

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=====
Mark Bausch

Bausch

Editor
St. Louis Sports Online
editor@stlsports.com
====================
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 potential.

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 election day.

'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 McGovern).

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.

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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 too."

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 NCAA tournaments.

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 paper's readers.

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'.

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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 display.

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.

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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 St. Louis.

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.

<> 

 

WDBX Sunday Sports Review
SSR Show Intro mp3 #1
(featuring Ozzie Smith, Tony La Russa, Bruce Weber, Jerry Kill, Rich Herrin and Charlie Spoonhour, and Joe Buck)
SSR Show Intro mp3 #2
(featuring Jan Quarless, Rick Ankiel, Ron Caron, Walt Jocketty, Brian Jordan and Joe Buck)


 

==========

MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com

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regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

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Blues Hockey in the Springtime: Game On!


posted March 24

It’s late March here in the Gateway City. That means three things are on the minds of local sports fans. First, late March means the Cardinals are making final preparations for breaking their Spring Training camp and heading north. Second, the NCAA basketball tournament is in full swing and bracket watching/cursing continues.

 

Third, it’s time to start paying attention to the National Hockey League and particularly our town’s entry: the St. Louis Blues.

 

We are entering the final month of the drudgery of the NHL regular season. The sole purpose of this six-month ordeal is to thin the herd from thirty teams to sixteen teams. Only in the National Hockey League do you play six months of slugfest hockey so that 53.33% go to the post-season.

 

This weekend the Blues punched their ticket. They will be one of those sixteen invitees in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It has been a very good season for our local ice heroes. At this writing, St. Louis leads the Central Division with 103 points: posting an overall record of 48-16-7. Local hockey fans now know there will be playoff tickets to save up for. Local media may start growing their silly playoff beards to help the cause.

 

But history tells us that although the Blues again will be playing in the NHL’s second season, the real question is: just how long will they be around? In their first three seasons of existence, thanks to the structure of the newly-expanded NHL, St. Louis reached the Stanley Cup Finals. Since then it has not been so good. During most of the following forty-two seasons since 1971 when they did make the playoffs, the Note was knocked out in either the first or second rounds.

 

Cautious optimism exists by puck heads in the Show Me State. But history does not lie. Do we know if the Blues will reach round three of the playoffs will reach the third round of the playoffs for third time in 43 seasons? Do we know if they will reach the Cup Finals for the first time since the Nixon administration? Heck, Red Schoendienst was the Cardinal Manager and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In was TV’s most popular show the last time the Note played in the Finals.

 

So instead getting all emotionally raveled, unshaven and joining the local media on their cheerleading bandwagon, let’s see what we know and what we do not know about our Blue. 

 

We know the Blues have a solid and successful Management team calling the shots. All have successful track records. Let’s start at the top. The team’s current Chairman Tom Stillman became the team’s NHL Governor on May 9, 2012. Stillman is also the Chairman and CEO of Summit Distributing: a St. Louis-based beer distributor. He entered the beer business in 1994 with the acquisition of a local wholesaler and has delivered steady growth and results. Stillman is also a bottom-line businessman. Unlike his predecessor he announces actual attendance totals for home games. While he is not afraid to spend money for players to improve the product, Stillman makes it crystal clear that in order for the Blues to be successful, all revenue streams, from season tickets to luxury boxes to concessions to broadcasting rights must justify the expenses.

 

Said another way, Tom Stillman is an upgrade from the smooth-talking Dave Checketts.

 

We also know that Ken Hitchcock is a successful NHL Head Coach.  Now in his seventeenth NHL season, Hitchcock’s career Head Coaching record is 653-398-88. His teams finished in first place seven times and at this writing, his 2013-14 are in the top spot in the Central Division. Hitchcock’s name is engraved on the Stanley Cup as the Head Coach for the 1998-99 Champion Dallas Stars. Hitchcock has an Olympic Gold Medal as the Assistant Coach for Canada’s championship hockey team this year in Sochi. Hitchcock has represented Canada at international competitions. He led his team to the Silver Medal at the 2008 World Championships

 

Said another way, Ken Hitchcock is an upgrade from the overmatched Davis Payne

 

We also know that Doug Armstrong is a proven and successful NHL Executive. Armstrong joined the Blues as the Executive Vice President and General Manager on July 1, 2010. He was named President of Hockey Operations and General Manager/Alternate Governor on September 4, 2013. Armstrong was a part of the Stars’ organization after moving to Dallas in 1993. He helped lead the franchise to two Presidents’ Trophies, two Western Conference titles and the 1999 Stanley Cup championship. Armstrong spent 17 years with Dallas:  his final six seasons as the club’s General Manager. The 49-year old Armstrong was also a member of the Management Group that oversaw Canada’s 2014 Olympic Gold Medal winning hockey team.

 

Said another way, Doug Armstrong is an upgrade from local media favorite John Davidson.

 

Therefore, ergo and hence, all three men have successful resumes. That is what we know.

 

That now brings us to the players. And that is what we don’t know.

 

It’s past time for these Blues players that we have been told possess all that potential to put up or shut up once and for all. Management has provided tools and support. They went out and acquired Jay Bowmeester and Ryan Miller. Management invested the money to lock down Bowmeester, Alex Petroangelo and Alexander Steen. Management has provided the time, talent and treasure. The Front Office has done its part.

 

It’s now time (past time?) for the players to step up and prove once and for all they are worthy. While I’m sure they are all good people, here’s the bottom line. To date, this core group of players has not done it in the playoffs. It’s time once and for all for David Backes to prove that he is as much as a Blues Captain as Brian Sutter or Barclay Plager were before him. It’s time once and for all for TJ Oshie, Steen, Patrick Berglund, Barret Jackman and the rest not to be as invisible in the playoffs as Keith Tkachuk was in prior first rounds. It’s time once and for all for Petroangelo to demonstrate in the playoffs that he is worthy of that big-money contract he held out for and if he can be mentioned in the same breath as Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger. 

 

Once and for all, it’s time. Can they do it? Yes--Will they do it? That is what we do not know.

 

Frequent visitors to this space might recall these musings provided by this bureau in early March.

“Two areas concern me. 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.”

 

“We’ll see if the addition of Ryan Miller and Steve Ott will change the dynamics. 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.”

 

“Secondly & 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 & media have had their hearts broken more times than a teenage girl with a Facebook page.”

 

Those sentiments remain unchanged. Here is what we know and what we don’t know.

 

It’s late March and the St. Louis Blues are in the playoffs again. That we know.

 

But will the Note last more than one or two rounds this time? That we don’t know.

 

Either way we need to answer those questions once and for all.

<> 

 

Mark Bausch

Bausch

Editor
St. Louis Sports Online
editor@stlsports.com
====================
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 Chicago).

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 Chicago four-games-to-one.

The series-clinching 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 Mike Bossy.

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 goalie Quick.

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 rink.

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 championships.