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St. Louis Sports Online
99.9% Original Content--Since 1995--The Online Source for St. Louis Sports

Founding Editor: MARK BAUSCH

"Patriotism means to stand by the country.
It does not mean to stand by the president."


Theodore Roosevelt
(Metropolitan Magazine, May 1918)

STL weather
=====



MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com

Lead

Columnist


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here

It is Still Opening Day...

posted July 24

Sooner or later the numbers are just not going to fit.

Over the weekend, the St. Louis Cardinals canceled another series because of COVID-19 positive tests. This latest cancelation brings the 2020 total to thirteen postponed games. For a schedule with very little wiggle room, the goal of a complete 2020 Major League Baseball season in the Gateway City is growing uncertain.

Logic suggests that a decision must soon be made. This really can’t go on much longer. The window of opportunity is closing.

After these latest canceled series this ominous statement was issued from the MLB Park Avenue headquarters, “In light of the most recent positive test results, MLB and the Club believe it is prudent to conduct additional testing while players and staff are quarantined before the team returns to play.  More information regarding the Cardinals’ resumption of play will be announced later in the week.”

The world is upside down in 2020. On the first Sunday August, the Red Birds have played less than a half-dozen regular season games while the St. Louis Blues are playing meaningful hockey games.

For the Cardinals, their shortened season started on July 24. Since then, the local nine has played just five games. At this writing, St. Louis needs to make up thirteen games: again, at this writing.

To compare and to contrast, when this abbreviated schedule started, the concern was with the Miami Marlins. It seems COVID-19 was active in South Beach during late July. Regardless of this early-season scare on the morning of the second Monday of August, the Marlins have played ten games.

Meanwhile the St. Louis Cardinals have only played five games. Trips ranging from London to Dyersville, Iowa have been canceled in the process this summer.

The three most populated cities in our land are New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Each city has two Major League Baseball Teams. On the morning of the first Monday of August, those six teams in those densely populated regions, five of those teams have now played sixteen games. The other team (the Chicago Cubs) have played thirteen: because the recent three-game series in St. Louis was canceled.

But back in St. Louis the Cardinals have only played five games.

During the summer of 2020 the self-proclaimed Best Fans in Baseball have been watching their heroes perform on a very limited basis. The Red Birds’ primary funding partner at Fox Sports Midwest has been forced to air canned rain-delay programming over and over and over in lieu of live games. All the fun and hype at Ball Park Village has been subdued and delayed because there has been no action across the street.

So, inquiring minds wonder: how much longer will this go on? It is a fair question.

What’s occurring with the home team is puzzling, frustrating and embarrassing. Reports from 700 Clark Street have been not been encouraging. In an interview on the team’s flagship radio station, Manager Mike Shildt indicated several players went to the Emergency Room for COVID symptoms. Shildt did not elaborate on just how many players are in a “several”.

Over the past dozen or so years, Team President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak has always been professorial, measured and at times condescending to the media or in sound bites. But during this past three weeks, Mozeliak’s remarks have been defensive and testy. “I don’t know what our future looks like at this point,’’ Mozeliak said to USA Today. “For all of the optimism we had a couple days ago, it’s frustrating for everyone involved. …I haven’t slept in days.’’

Yeah, puzzling, frustrating and embarrassing

Meanwhile there are loads of conspiracy theories floating from mis-spellers in cyberspace to national pundits on why this is mostly occurring in the 314 and not much anywhere else. This bureau has no insight as to what the underlying cause or causes involved or has any desire to point fingers or shame.

Instead, we prefer to go the bottom line.

The bottom line is that the Red Birds have only played five games of their sixty-game schedule.  The shortened regular season is scheduled to end of Sunday September 27. Saying it another way for St. Louis to finish its complete season on time, they would need to play fifty-five games in a forty-five day period: which includes travel and assuming no rainouts or no more positive tests.

As Mozeliak put it, “Mathematically, it would be challenging”.

The untrained experts at this bureau conclude only two solutions exist: neither are good. Either ramrod all this fifty-games games into this small time period or just cancel the Cardinals’ games for the remainder of the season. From a league perspective, if one franchise is experiencing COVID issues, then for the sake of the remaining schedule and post-season broadcast revenue, the most efficient solution might be to eliminate the infected issue: regardless of its origin.

Matt Snyder of CBS SportsLine offers these thoughts: “Not only are the Cardinals a marquee franchise and brand in baseball, but the league functioning in this shortened calendar with 29 teams doesn't work. If the Cardinals were totally shut down, the teams remaining on their schedule would play a good number fewer games than 60 this season. However, this would be a better option, financially speaking for baseball, than (canceling the entire MLB season).”

The Red Birds and Major League Baseball are on the clock and that clock is running out of time.

Assuming no new outbreaks St. Louis will resume play on Thursday August 13 with a doubleheader in Detroit. Then the Red Birds will travel to the south side of Chicago for a weekend series with the White Sox. Then on Monday they will stay in the Windy City for three games against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Assuming all those games are played, the Red Birds head home: hosting Cincinnati for four games, then Kansas City comes to town for three games before the Cleveland Indians arrive in the 314 to end August.

Again, that is assuming no new outbreaks.

Meanwhile, the clock continues to tick.

Sooner or later the numbers are just not going to fit.

=====

Editor's Note: After this was written, MLB and the Cardinals announced that the August 13 STL-DET doubleheader has been postponed.



The Unthinkable Happened One Year Ago...

posted June 14

It happened one year ago.

On the evening of June 12, 2019 at approximately 9:45PM, although the temperature in St. Louis, Missouri was in the mid-60s, hell was about to freeze over.

On the evening of June 12, 2019 at approximately 9:45PM thousands of Gateway City baby-boomers finally scratched an item off their bucket list.

On the evening of June 12, 2019 at approximately 9:45PM the self-proclaimed Best Fans in Baseball were not overreacting to their favorite baseball team being shut out by the lowly Miami Marlins 9-0.

On the evening of June 12, 2019 at approximately 9:45PM, at the end of Game #108 of the 2018-19 season the St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup.

Has it really been one year?

As we remain in a coronavirus world without any live sports to watch, debate or complain, sports fans across the fruited plain remain can only reminisce about the past glories and kick around stories. Reams of film of sporting events of past years have flooded airwaves over the past three months. Fans were searching for reminders of the games.

Here is the Gateway City, there have been many of those moments to remember. Eleven times the Cardinals were crowned as World Series Champions.

In January 2000, our town celebrated what likely will be its only Super Bowl Championship,

On April 12,1958, the St. Louis Hawks won the NBA Championship

On March 18, 1948, St. Louis University captured the NIT Tournament title (which back in those days was more prominent than the NCAA tournament).

But there was still one missing for the 314.

That is, until the evening of June 12, 2019 at approximately 9:45PM, St. Louis time.

For years the St. Louis Blues were considered the Chicago Cubs of the National Hockey League. They were the NHL’s Charlie Brown. Die-hard followers always felt that after success, a trap door would eventually open. Whether it be the financial distresses of ownership, the sudden death of an up and coming young defenseman, a possible relocation to Saskatoon, the sudden break-up of a popular Head Coach as he scampered to enemy territory in Detroit, to a first round playoff elimination after winning the President’s Cup, to a lockout and a lost season, long-suffering Blues fans saw the football being yanked from them as they prepared to kick it.

This was the life of a Blues fan.

But it was different in 2019: although the familiar storyline preceded the celebration. In April 2018 the Blues did not qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Then came an Opening Night loss to Winnipeg 5-1 in front of a sellout home crowd On the day before Thanksgiving, the team fired its Head Coach. During the season Blues players were fighting Blues players during a morning skate with local television cameras rolling. Hours after New Year’s Day 2019, the team found itself with the worst record in the NHL.

Days after the big ball dropped in Time Square in January 2019, the St. Louis Blues were a train wreck.

But 2019 would be remembered by St. Louis hockey fans much the same way as 1964 is remembered by St. Louis baseball fans. And just like fifty-five years prior, the turnaround started when a 25-year old whose last name begins with the letter B joined the team.

On January 5, the Blues added goaltender Jordan Binnington to their roster. St. Louis’ record then was 16-9-4 with 53 games remaining in the regular season. Two nights later, Binnington stopped 25 Philadelphia shots as the Blues shut out the Flyers. This would be the start of a run where #50 would win 24 of his next 30 starts (including six shutouts). In Kurt Warner-like fashion, Binnington led the charge to rejuvenate his hockey team. 

The Blues would qualify for the playoffs. Suddenly a perfect storm was forming. As the team advanced deeper in the playoffs, NHL powerhouses in Tampa Bay, Calgary, Pittsburgh and Washington were sent to the golf course.  Suddenly, a path was opening for the Blues.

You had the feeling that if it didn’t happen in 2019, it might never occur.

It started to fall into place. The Blues advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since the Nixon Administration. They would eliminate Winnipeg, Dallas and then San Jose. Only a team remained. But that opponent came from a city that has sent shivers to St. Louis sports fans for over twenty years: Boston.

Beantown seem to have curse over the Gateway City. The Bruins swept the Blues the last time St. Louis reached the NHL Finals in 1970. The Red Sox defeated the Cardinals in the World Series in 2004 and 2013. The Patriots knocked off the two-touchdown favorite St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. Now, another team from Boston stands in the way of St. Louis winning a professional sports championship.

The 2019 Stanley Cup Finals were a physical slugfest that went the distance. The deciding Game 7 would be played on a frozen pond in downtown Boston.

But in this showdown, the Blues would conquer the bully. In that Game 7 Binnington was spectacular: stopping shot after shot and making save after save. #50’s performance quieted and declawed the roaring crowd at the TD Garden. 

While Binnington led the way, he was strongly assisted by Captain Alex Pietrangelo, who finally displayed the advertised leadership and dominance. Veteran Ryan O’Reilly took over as the center iceman Blues fans were coveting for over a decade. Their example cascaded down throughout the team.

Then at approximately 10:45PM Eastern Time, the final horn sounded. The scoreboard told the story: St. Louis-4; Boston-1. The Blues players skated around while carrying the Stanley Cup in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  The magic number became zero. This was playoff win #16. The Blues were the only NHL team in 2019 that ended its playoff run with a victory

Back in the 314 the celebration began. The Blues playoff run united a region in desperate need of a shot of self-esteem. Watch parties became go-to events around town. From the Enterprise Center to Busch Stadium and spots in between, 60,000-80,000 flocked into downtown to experience Games Six and Seven of the Finals

When the final horn sounded and when the Cup was presented, Gateway City fans celebrated heartily but respectfully. No fires were set. No cars were turned over. No windows were broken.

This was a good time to be in the 314.

The quest for the Stanley Cup is the most grueling gauntlet in all professional sports. A team plays eighty-two games over a six-month period for the opportunity to play some more. Then the first team to win the next sixteen games gets to spend time with the Stanley Cup.

As the Cup was handed to each current Blues players on that Wednesday night in Boston, memories of Glenn Hall, Red Berenson, Barclay and Bob Plager, Garry Unger, Dan Kelly, Ronald Caron, Bob Gassoff, Doug Wickenhauser, Brett Hull, Bernie Federko, Brian Sutter and others that wore the blue note came to mind.

Then the moment hit its crescendo three days later during a parade down Market Street: a parade that many in the 314 are still talking about.

As we approach the fourth month of a professional sports lockdown, we are left to reminisce about past glories. For St. Louis, a big one took place on a mid-June night in Boston.

And yes, it happened one year ago

Comments?        Contact Mike at:    mike@stlsports.com



MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com

Lead

Columnist


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here

The Clock is (Still) Ticking

posted June 14

In a normal Major League Baseball season, Memorial Day would be one those benchmark dates to evaluate the state of our National Pastime. In a normal baseball season, roughly one-third of the regular season would be completed. Memorial Days provided teams an opportunity to gage their chances for the post-season or if a better path would be a fire sale of their better/more expensive players the better path.

During a normal Major League Baseball season, the World-Wide Leader of Cable Sports Programming would be flooding their airwaves with games that would start before lunch time and would run straight through until after midnight. Here in self-proclaimed Baseball Heaven, in a normal Major League Baseball season the apologists of Fox Sports Midwest would be spinning patriotic stories while reminding the audience there are plenty of good seats available for future games, upcoming bobble head-giveaways and all the fun that is occurring at Ball Park Village.

But 2020 is not a normal Major League Baseball season.

It’s Memorial Day 2020. It’s the last Monday of May and not one Major League Baseball game has been played. If things went as planned, this bureau would be preparing a Memorial Day barbeque after finishing covering a weekend series with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

But this is not a normal time. Instead we are approaching a deadline to decide if there will or will not be a 2020 Major League Baseball Season. The Lords of the Game as well as the MLB Players’ Association have been talking to carve out something to salvage 2020. Along the way there has been finger-pointing and sniping. But the bottom line is there is no agreement.

In this environment, everyone has something to lose. The players are collecting reduced paychecks while helplessly watching a prime season of their career fade away. Published reports that have crunched the numbers predict the cost of a lost season would be $170 million guaranteed and full service time for the players. For those making the minimum, it is spelled out in the Collective Bargaining Agreement: “at the 2019 rate per season plus a cost of living adjustment, rounded to the nearest $500, provided that the cost of living adjustment shall not reduce the minimum salary below $555,000”.

Owners are not collecting ticket revenue and reduced (if any) broadcasting money.  While both sides have been talking since what would have been Opening Day, no plan has been finalized.

Plus (and it’s a big plus), the plan would need a thumbs-up from local officials and the Feds.

The folks at ESPN.com sum it up this way: “Owners want players to take a pay cut on top of one mandated by the March agreement, which states players be given a prorated salary depending on the number of games played. Players continue to hold firm, confident that the language guaranteeing them a pro rata share is unassailable. Talks, accordingly, have grown tense. Neither side has made an official proposal. Even if they agree on a deal that covers money and health, MLB needs federal, state and local officials to rubber-stamp play in home cities, a charge complicated by the varying rates of infection and presence of the coronavirus.”

“Major League Baseball owners are really rich, and if they are cash poor and need to borrow money to pay employees and minor leaguers and major leaguers this season, they can and should. Wealth is often built on debt. This debt is an investment in the future of their asset.”


“The health-and-safety protocol will be there. The posturing is over. Deals take flexibility. Embrace it. The appetite for the game is ravenous. The time for a deal, for baseball to return, is finally here.”

So, as we prepare our Memorial Day barbeques, the Owners and Players keep talking in this expensive game of chicken with Baseball fans across the fruited plain watching their every move.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. The sands of the 2020 baseball hourglass are fading away.

In this little corner of cyberspace, the hope is something can be hammered out to have some form of 2020 baseball. In a perfect world, an agreement be reached so that June can be used as a quasi-spring training period with baseball resuming somewhere on or around the 4th of July. Again, that is in a perfect world and perfect worlds don’t always occur.

In the meantime, this bureau wonders if this Owners/Players virus standoff is a preview of upcoming attractions. It has been reported in many venues there is a growing animosity and dislike between both parties. Those of us in this little corner of cyberspace wonder if this COVID-19 resumption is laying the groundwork for a bigger battle. That battle can be found on Page 154 of the current Major League Baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement:

“This Agreement shall terminate on December 1, 2021 at 11:59 P.M. Eastern Time.”

The hope is two-fold: first, Baseball can be restored in some shape or form during 2020 and the final product doesn’t create any more mistrust or resentment between the Players and the Owners.

Most of the current Major League Baseball Players were either not yet born or were in elementary school in August 1994: the last time the game shut down. Many of today’s Baseball ownership groups were not involved in that battle. But there are some of us, including this bureau, that remembers vividly just how devasting the shutdown to the industry and how difficult it was to restore the fans’ respect.

When the game returned in April 1995, Owners and Players quickly found out this was not Field of Dreams. If you build it. they would come: Not. Instead, the game returned to stadiums were only 75% full and many of the fans who were attendance jeered and mocked the returning players.

It was ugly. The fans did not forget.

The hope here is returning to the field in 2020 is not a preview of upcoming attractions.

In a normal Major League Baseball season, Memorial Day would be one those benchmark dates to evaluate the state of our National Pastime.

But 2020 is not a normal Major League Baseball season.

Memo to the Major League Owners and Players’ Association: Gentlemen, the ball is in your court.

And the clock is ticking.



Aledmys Diaz, Kurt Warner & Talent Evaluation: Tunnel Vision, Not Knowing What You Don't Know & Missing Greatness



Mark Bausch

Bausch

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

 

In June of 1981 I met a young lady (Susan) who, in September of 1982, became my wife.


In 1983 we attended a David Bowie concert at what was then known as the Rosemont Horizon (in suburban Chicago). By that time, Bowie had become a mainstream pop star whose songs were heard all over the world.


It was my first Bowie show, and the entire experience catalyzed an acute awareness of David Bowie and his music. (Late to the party, eh?)


In 2004 Bowie performed at St. Louis' Fox Theatre, we were there, and those in attendance were mesmerized by what we observed: we were in the presence of a star.


By that time, I had gained knowledge of most of his career--in large part thanks to wife Susan, who was far 'ahead of the curve' on Mr. Bowie.


=====


Forty years ago (March 3, 1976, to be precise), Susan attended her first David Bowie concert, at Chicago's International Amphitheater.


She was eighteen years old and returned home from college to see the show--accompanied by her younger brother.

Bowie's perfomance confirmed what she first suspected years previously after seeing the man on a Saturday night Don Kirshner-style music video TV show: namely, David Bowie was an avant-garde performer with world-class talent, talent impossible to ignore if you knew what to look for.

Literally ten days prior to Bowie's International Amphitheater show, that same Bowie tour paused in Evansville IN on February 22, 1976, for a Sunday night performance at Roberts Stadium (the home of the Evansville Purple Aces basketball team).


I was seventeen at the time, still a senior at a small town high school located a half-hour or so from Roberts Stadium...but I believed I had better things to do than watch some Brit named David Bowie perform a couple dozen of his songs.


As I look back to February of 1976, I had plenty of awareness of the upcoming bicentennial celebration; plenty of awareness of high school advanced chemistry, physics, trigonometry and analytic geometry; plenty of enjoyment of high school golf; a fun job at an area supermarket (don't laugh: $2.10/hr and time-and-a-half on Sundays); as well as fun and frivolity with friends and a high school sweetheart.


This was my world, and it was all good.


But my good world, in February of 1976, would have been my better world if I had possessed a little more awareness of the earth around me and had opened my eyes to the talents of David Bowie, who, to me at the time, was the guy who sang the throwaway Top 40 pop song 'Golden Years'.


Therefore, in 1976, I had no interest in attending the Bowie show in Evansville, Indiana.


After all, it was a Sunday night (school the next day!) and I had never attended anything other than basketball games and the Shrine Circus in Roberts Stadium, a venue that I believed to be infested, during rock concerts, with pot-smokers and troublemakers that roamed freely in a world that I did not understand.


In other words, my perspective was foolishly limited and suffered from myriad distractions, and my tunnel vision of that world was incomplete.


The result of tunnel vision?  I didn't know what I didn't know.


=====

 

Tunnel vision in professional sports?


On a macro scale, the industry-wide ban on players of color, best exemplified by MLB's 'habit' of not allowing black players to play the sport of baseball at its highest level, is probably the best (worst?!) example of tunnel vision.

 

On a micro scale, Cardinals' rookie shortstop Aledmys Diaz comes to mind as a player whose skills were viewed by major league talent evaluators with tunnel vision: they didn't know what they didn't know.


Recall that on July 8, 2015, Diaz was placed on waivers by the Cardinals, and was therefore made available to the other 29 big league clubs for no charge other than the price of assuming the balance of his contract (which includes 2016 and 2017 salaries of $2.5 million per season).


Diaz went unclaimed, and it seemed as if his aspirations of ever wearing a major league uniform would remain unfulfilled.


=====


At the end of today's game (July 3) the Cardinals will have played 81 games (exactly half of the scheduled 162 regular season games), and Aledmys Diaz' current half-season statistics project to a 20+HR/80+RBI season to go along with his current .300+ batting average/.900+OPS stats--first-half numbers that, despite early-season defensive shortcomings, are likely to earn Aledmys Diaz a place in the upcoming All Star game.


Spring training injuries to starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta and spring acquisition Ruben Tejada (as well as sub-par shortstop play from Jedd Gyorko) opened the door for Diaz; he was literally the Redbirds' fourth and last resort--and the Cuban defector has not looked back.


=====


Another St. Louis example of professional talent evaluators not knowing what they didn't know was personified by the circuitous path taken to greatness by former Rams QB Kurt Warner.


Recall that Northern Iowa alum Warner sat on the bench for his first three college seasons and only cracked the Panthers' starting line-up for his senior year.


Warner was not drafted by any NFL team before spending a couple of weeks as Bret Favre's caddy in Green Bay. He then played three years in the Arena Football League before the Rams signed him in 1998.


In 1998 Warner starred for the Amsterdam team in NFL Europe before returning to St. Louis where he managed a few minutes of playing time in the final game of the 1998 Rams' season.

 

Prior to the 1999 season, the Rams signed free-agent QB Trent Green to a four-year multimillion dollar contract, and viewed Warner, at best, as a back-up--because he (Warner) was made available to the Cleveland Browns in the NFL's 1999 Expansion Draft!

 

The Browns did select a quarterback in their expansion draft: Tampa Bay QB Scott Milanovich, who was released before training camp commenced. Browns' management were convinced that #1-overall draft choice Tim Couch would be their QB for a decade.

 

Nearly two decades later, the Cleveland Browns are still looking for a quarterback while Super Bowl champion Kurt Warner hopes for his induction to the professional football Hall of Fame, and Aledmys Diaz is hoping for an invitation to Miami for the 2016 MLB All Star Game.


And the great David Bowie died in January of this year.


I do not want to miss any more greatness.

 


=====



=====

July 9 Big Ten Announcement

"We are facing uncertain and unprecedented times, and the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, game officials, and others associated with our sports programs and campuses remain our number one priority.

By limiting competition to other Big Ten institutions, the Conference will have the greatest flexibility to adjust its own operations throughout the season and make quick decisions in real-time based on the most current evolving medical advice and the fluid nature of the pandemic."


June 18 Newsflash

COVID-19 related discussions among Big 10 Athletic Directors and football coaches are underway that include proposals limiting its members to conference games only in the upcoming 2020 season--potentially impacting the SIU-Wisconsin September 12 kickoff at Madison's Camp Randall Stadium

=====


Bausch


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


Rosters They Are a Changin':
The New Norm for Intercollegiate Athletics?


June 19

Amid seemingly endless COVID-19 news, the press release ("Saluki Volleyball Announces 2020 Schedule") that arrived via email earlier this week was a welcome relief.

Games! A schedule! Sports!!!

If only for a moment, COVID-19 and its politics were shoved aside.

At least in my head they were.

Buried deep in the release are two sets of intel:

=====
(1) "SIU returns 10 letterwinners from a year ago, which includes six that played at least 100 sets a season ago. The returners are led by all-conference returnees
Hannah Becker and Rachel Maguire."

...and...

(2) "Southern will also welcome a talented group of 10 newcomers to the mix in 2020."
=====

So Saluki volleyball coach Ed Allen has joined SIU's MBB coach Bryan Mullins in reshaping his roster prior to his second season as head coach in Carbondale.

In his first year at SIU, Allen enjoyed some success as the 2019 volleyball team posted a win total nine greater than the 2018 squad, and ten of their 32 matches extended to five sets.

In an effort to get to know Allen, his team and his coaching staff, yours truly attended several practices as well as a handful of both home and away matches.

The result of those efforts? Yes it is obvious, even to a neophyte observer of volleyball, that Ms. Becker and Ms. Maguire were deserving of MVC recognition. They both can play, and as upperclasswomen, more is expected from both in the upcoming season.

Going out on a limb a bit...it is also apparent that Alex Washington is the team's high ceiling player in that in addition to obvious hitting skills--the ball seems to find her at important moments in a match.

Due to what was thought to be a foot injury, Washington appeared in only nine 2019 games as a freshman before being granted a red shirt year.

Also obvious is the respect that Allen seemed to have earned from his players--to my eyes it appeared to be genuine and oh-so-important in these days of college athletics.

With ten (!) new faces in 2020, the process of in-person team-building will have to begin again...whenever SIU volleyball starts up and the entire roster is on campus.

No amount of video-chatting via Zoom, Skype or Google hangouts equals real 'Facetime' as far as that thing that 21st-century coaches call 'culture' is concerned.

We'll look for announcements and post them here.


=====
Mark Bausch

Bausch


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


SIU and Ole Miss Quarterbacks:

Decisions Decisions


June 14


Coaches, seasons, games and press conferences all run together after awhile.

But if you listen carefully (and you the reader can see and hear virtually all of SIU head football coach Nick Hill's Q&As at siusalukis.com), some things stand out so much that even in the middle of a pandemic...the brain plays like Arnold Schwartzenegger and has 'Total Recall' (or nearly so).

In what I believe was the primary mid-week media event prior to the SIU-Ole Miss 2018 early-season game, Hill was asked about a player whose name was (and remains) distinctive: Jordan Ta’amu, the Mississippi starting quarterback.

Hill's response was rather direct (paraphrasing): "We've seen him on video. I think he's better than the guy that transferred."

On the one hand, Hill's comment on Ta'amu wasn't surprising--most college football coaches know the Lou Holtz pre-game routine ('...our next opponent could compete in the NFL--we don't have much chance'). So pumping up the QB skills of SIU's next opponent is fully expected--every single week.

But I filed the comment away, because from a distance yours truly has followed Michigan football rather closely for several decades...and 'the guy that transferred' (Shea Patterson) left Mississippi after the 2017 season to join Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor.

Heading into the 2017 season, Patterson (a sophomore) won the starting QB job at Mississippi for coach Matt Luke. Ta'amu (a junior) served as Patterson's backup. But in the Ole Miss-LSU game (the season's seventh), Patterson suffered a serious knee injury, and Ta'amu replaced Patterson as the starter.

Ta'amu played well in his five 2017 starts. That combined with impending penalties for recruiting violations at Mississippi (resulting in transfers from Ole Miss not having to sit out a year), and Harbaugh's QB needs at Michigan, led to Patterson's decision to enroll at the University of Michigan.

All of which means that in Nick Hill's preparation for the SIU-Ole Miss 2018 game, he and his staff reviewed game action for both Jordan Ta'amu and Shea Patterson.

And Hill's comparison was clear: in his mind, Ta'amu was the better player.

Hill was right, as Ta'amu was perhaps the best XFL QB in that league's truncated first (and only?) season.

And
Shea Patterson served as the starting QB for Michigan for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He was good but not great...at times not even good.

A data point, an NFL roster oddity, an SIU QB roster summary...and a question all follow:

*The data point: After trailing SIU at the half, 38-35, Mississippi outscored the Salukis 41-3 in the game's second half, winning 76-41. The Jordan Ta'amu stat line: 23/33, 448 yards, 5 TD.

**The roster oddity: NFL QB whisperer Andy Reid gets a shot at comparing Ta'amu and Patterson, as the Chiefs signed both as free agent quarterbacks. They will compete for the clipboard position at KC, as Chad Henne is returning (contract in hand, and aanother Michigan QB) as the team's backup.

***SIU QBs: A glance at SIU's roster reveals nice balance in the QB room, with senior Karé Lyles as the returning starter, backed up by junior Stone Labanowitz (who was the 2018 starter before injury), sophomore Nic Baker, red-shirt freshman Zach Zebrowski and 'true' freshman Jaylen DeVries. Sophomore jack-of-all-trades Javon Williams is likely to see significant action as a wildcat QB as well.

****And the question: Pandemic-related uncertainties aside, the elephant in the room as far as SIU football is concerned is centered on QB, and Nick Hill's decision about who will start at the most important position on the field:

With his squad's improved defense and running game in place, can Nick Hill FINALLY find the 'right' mix at quarterback at SIU in what may be a pivotal season for Hill as far as his coaching future at SIU is concerned?

A bit melodramatic, eh?! It's just the future of SIU football...that's all!

=====

Bausch


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


Rich Herrin, Aaron Cook
& SIU MBB:
An April 2020 Snapshot


April 10


It was a light-jacket kind of day in Carbondale, and early spring was in the air on what was probably a mid-February 2019 afternoon.

 

While the vultures in southern Illinois were circling around head coach Barry Hinson for much of the 2018-19 season, on this day local media were waiting for the start of one of Hinson’s on-campus mid-week media events, as a player or two had already finished with their press obligations.

 

I left the conference room, strolled around the athletic complex, and ran into a surprise visitor: Rich Herrin.

 

I (re)introduced myself to Herrin, as we had not spoken in (yikes!) two decades. I reminded him that, late in the 20th century, he had joined me on my radio show, in-studio, for a conversation about SIU basketball. A highlight of the interview was when (the now-deceased) Charlie Spoonhour joined us live (via telephone) on the air. It was not obvious that Herrin remembered the interview.

 

Mid-way through my February 2019 on-campus conversation with Herrin, Barry Hinson emerged from the stairway. He saw yours truly and Herrin chatting, and made what seemed to me at the time to be a rather curious decision: the normally voluble Hinson did not stop and say hello.

 

Not to me, and not to Rich Herrin, either…who, as Hinson walked away, more-or-less raised an eyebrow.

 

Of course, Hinson had a press conference to get ready for.

 

I still wonder what Herrin was doing in the building that day.

 

The most significant portions of my discussion with Rich Herrin concerned his views on (a) who, in his view, was the most talented Saluki to ever play for him, and (b) the pace of play in both college basketball in general and specifically, the Herrin-era and Hinson-era Salukis.

 

I was delighted when Herrin agreed with me after I suggested that Missouri native Marcus Timmons was my choice as ‘most talented Herrin-era Saluki’.

 

“I think Marcus Timmons may have just been the most talented player I ever coached here,” said Herrin.

 

Herrin’s choice of Timmons was no surprise, as Timmons, a Missouri native, was ticketed to attend Mizzou until that particular Norm Stewart team was hit with NCAA-mandated sanctions (recruiting violations).

 

Herrin and SIU swooped in with an offer and presto (!), Marcus Timmons was a Saluki, and four years of really good…and really entertaining basketball was on display at SIU’s Arena.

 

In 1994-1995 (Timmons’ senior year, 35 second shot-clock), the Salukis averaged about 78 points and 61 shots attempted per game.

 

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In SIU’s just-completed 2019-2020 season (Coach Bryan Mullins’ first year, 30 second shot-clock), the Salukis averaged about 65 points and 51 shots attempted per game.]

 

Timmons excelled at this type of basketball—not run-and-gun but certainly appropriately quick.

 

At SIU, Marcus Timmons was an all-around player with virtually no weaknesses. He was not a score-first talent…instead he often used both his superior passing skills and court vision to orchestrate his team’s play in the offensive zone.

 

In that way (especially his passing skills), the basketball skills and basketball IQ possessed by Peoria’s Shaun Livingston (whose NBA career spanned a decade-and-a-half, and concluded with a run of NBA championship teams at Golden State) always reminded me of Marcus Timmons.

 

I had wanted to speak with Rich Herrin for several years, actually…so I had a bit of a mission in mind when I suggested that Marcus Timmons, without playing out of control, enjoyed playing at a quick pace. Not fast, mind you…but quick.

 

I asked Herrin how Timmons, or a player with his skills, would look in today’s ‘value each possession’ era of college basketball.

 

I pointed out that Barry Hinson’s SIU teams seemed to enjoy milking the shot-clock on most possessions.

 

Without directly addressing Hinson, Herrin was pointed in his comments: “You’ve got to let’em play. It is what they want to do. They have to be able to have fun playing the game of basketball.”

 

=====

 

I thought of this conversation with Rich Herrin when Aaron Cook’s recent decision to spend his graduate transfer year (the 2020-2021 season) at Gonzaga became public.

 

I daresay that young Mr. Cook felt like he won the lottery when he agreed to play for Mark Few. Gonzaga is the best-of-the-best as far as non Power 5 conference men’s basketball is concerned, and way-too-early 2020-2021 polls have Gonzaga rated as a Top 5 team.

 

So Aaron Cook will most likely experience March Madness for the first time as a player—reason enough for a modestly-recruited kid from St. Louis to make the not insignificant move to Gonzaga and the state of Washington.

 

On top of that, Gonzaga’s pace-of-play statistics are, in my view, more in line with the style of play that Aaron Cook believes he plays his best basketball.

 

The exact date (but it was a Hinson-era season) escapes me, but there was a post-game media session after a win a couple or three seasons ago at SIU’s Arena in which Cook and Eric McGill were asked, point blank—‘Do you like playing fast?’.

 

Both players smiled broadly, and shook their heads in a way that was spoke volumes: they felt like their skills were best utilized in a system that allowed them more freedom of movement.

 

Fast forward to the present.

 

For the (abbreviated) 2019-2020 season, Gonzaga/SIU averaged 62/51 shots attempted and 74/66 possessions per game.

 

It will be fun to watch Aaron Cook, playing hard and playing fast, in a Gonzaga uniform. No doubt the winning tradition and post-season opportunities at Gonzaga were of primary import to a player who counted DePaul and Arkansas as other possible destinations for his last season of NCAA eligibility.

 

But don’t discount the relevance of pace of play, either. Aaron Cook had a courtside seat for much of the 2019-2020 Saluki season, a season in which SIU’s 66 possessions per game was greater than exactly three other NCAA Division I men’s basketball teams.

 

In other words, 349 out of 353 D1 men’s squads had a larger number of possessions per game than Bryan Mullins’ initial SIU team.

 

It will be interesting to watch Bryan Mullins fill out the roster for the 2020-2021 SIU season, as Aaron Cook was not the only Saluki with remaining eligibility to request a transfer.

 

It will be interesting to watch his second-year team play, not only in terms of wins-and-losses…but also HOW they play.

 

Stay tuned. And remain virus-free.


=====


Mark Bausch

Bausch


Editor
St. Louis Sports Online
editor@stlsports.com
====================
Batting Orders on the Eights:
1978, 1998 and 2008. 2018?


posted July 24

Let’s pick an arbitrary year in major league baseball—1978.

In 1978, Vern Rapp, Jack Krol and Ken Boyer served as manager of the Cardinals. The batting orders for all 162 Cardinals games that season ‘featured’ a pitcher in the ninth spot in the lineup.

Rapp, Krol and Boyer were following baseball’s 1978 lineup norms: a given team’s pitcher nearly always batted ninth in his team’s lineup.

One year later (1979), Tony La Russa began his baseball managerial career when he was hired to manage the Chicago White Sox.

Fast forward about twenty years to 1998.

During the 1998 season’s All Star break, then-Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, with nearly two decades of major league managerial experience already under his belt, dispensed with the pitcher-must-bat-ninth ‘wisdom’.

And for the balance of that ’98 season, La Russa broke with tradition and wrote lineup cards in which his starting pitcher was listed in the #8 spot in his lineup.

Recall two salient facts about La Russa’s 1998 Cardinals squad:

(1) the team was average (83-79 final W-L record; third place in the NL Central)

(2) in 1998, Mark McGwire (after hitting 58 homers while playing for Oakland and St. Louis in 1997) was engaged in a historic season-long chase to eclipse Roger Maris’ single-season record of 61 home runs


Perhaps La Russa felt an obligation to McGwire, who traditionalists viewed as a prototypical clean-up hitter…to get Big Mac as many at-bats as possible, to enhance his chances to break the record.

The move also served as an attention-grabber, and diverted fans (and media) from the rather obvious fact that the Cardinals 1998 team, as a whole, was not a strong contender for post-season play.

Whenever asked, La Russa pointed out that with a ‘hitterish’ position player batting ninth (instead of a weak-hitting hurler), McGwire, in every inning except the first, essentially could be thought of as a clean-up hitter—thus at least partially satisfying baseball’s old-school thinkers.

So the debate began in 1998—where should the pitcher bat in the lineup?

Ten years later...in 2008, La Russa revisited the issue, when future Hall-of-Famer Albert Pujols hit third in the Cardinals order. In this case, La Russa aimed to enhance the run production of his line-up by enabling ‘The Machine (Pujols)' to see more runners on base.

Fast forward ten more years--to 2018.

The debate concerning La Russa’s ‘innovation’ continues, with Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon among many of today’s MLB managers who have dabbled with ‘hitting the pitcher eighth’.

With every MLB team accessing supercomputers on a daily basis and hiring ‘quants’ to program those computers to their specifications , you can be certain that literally millions of line-up combinations have been simulated...and everybody from the geekiest team employee to the owner has an opinion based on those ‘data’ that aims to answer the question—should a pitcher always bat ninth in the lineup?

Well, if there was ever a line-up that might see benefits from a position player with some ‘pop in his bat’ hitting ninth...not three positions in front of #3 hitters such as Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols, but directly in front of baseball’s hottest hitter (Matt Carpenter), had the new Cardinals skipper given any thought to what, twenty years ago, was a St. Louis innovation?

In the Great America Ball Park visiting dugout, I asked Cardinals interim manager Mike Shildt that very question prior to today’s game (July 24) vs. the Reds, one day after his squad lost to the Reds...2-1 in walk-off fashion.



You can listen to Shildt’s response here (along with Talking Heads and Pretenders music in the background...1978?!) or go old school yourself and scroll down for the written word.

Either way, check those box scores, folks.

=====

Q: There's a twenty year history in St. Louis, going back to '98, of the pitcher hitting eighth in the batting order. Your best hitter is...leadoff. Does that cause you to think about batting order a little bit?

Mike Shildt: It is food for thought. It's not anything traditional I've done. I'm still trying to get my head around, quite honestly, what that looks like, and the reasoning behind it. I know there's different reasons for and against, clearly...to point out to make a commitment to what that looks like.

To your point about Carp leading off, as productive as he's been, to get somebody in front of him...it kind of backs up a couple of days ago what you're thinking about.

You know we hit for Miles [Mikolas] the other day, in the fifth inning, or the top of the sixth inning, rather, in Chicago, you know when he still had some pitches on the table.

And I didn't communicate as well as I'd like to after that game. It is also a decision based on, if we get Jed [Gyorko] on at that point, now we get Carp up, and that's a chance to break the game open. So there is some methodology to what that looks like.

=====

Thanks for reading.

 


WDBX Saturday/Sunday Sports Review
hosted by Mark Bausch


Saturday/Sunday Sports Review Show Intro #1
(featuring Ozzie Smith, Tony La Russa, Bruce Weber,
Jerry Kill, Rich Herrin and (the late) Charlie Spoonhour and Joe Buck)


Saturday/Sunday Sports Review Show Intro #2
(featuring Jan Quarless, Rick Ankiel, (the late) Ron Caron, Walt Jocketty, Brian Jordan and Joe Buck)


=====

Recent WDBX Sunday Sports Review Highlights

Geary Deniston, Mike Huss, Mike Rainey, Todd Hefferman & Mike Baker talk sports with host Mark Bausch every Sunday


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=====

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.

 

 

 

 


 

...from the stlsports.com archives:

FOX, with Joe Buck as host, is once again televising the Men's US Open Golf Championship. In 1995, St. Louis Sports Online sat down with Joe for a lengthy Q-and-A.

Check it out!
 =====


Mark Bausch

Bausch

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

Joe Buck Speaks

originally posted June 17, 1995



Joe Buck, along with his father (Jack Buck), Mike Shannon, Al Hrabosky, and Bob Carpenter, is one of the five broadcasters that bring Cardinal baseball into the family rooms, cars, and offices of Redbird fans all over the midwestern United States. Joe Buck’s work in the St. Louis market is not simply an accident of birth--the FOX network hired Buck to do play-by-play work for their inaugural season broadcasting NFL games. National reviews on young Buck were mostly positive. Indeed, by the end of the NFL season, he was regularly given assignments indicating that FOX considered him among their top two or three play-by-play guys.

In a nutshell, the guy has as much talent as any young broadcaster, since, say, a youthful Bob Costas. Most St. Louis Sports Online readers surely recall that Costas, fresh out of Syracuse University, took St. Louis, and then the country, by storm.

In thinking about Joe Buck and the kinds of questions I would ask, two things came to mind. First, I hoped to bring StLSO readers some new and timely information about the Cards young broadcaster. On this point I feel reasonably confident.
I had also hoped that Buck would play along and poke a bit of good-natured fun at his legendary broadcasting partner, the one and only Mike Shannon. For example, during a recent broadcast, Shannon was discussing ballpark architecture and Coors Field, and, while querying Joe Buck as to the age of the Roman Colosseum, Shannon suggested that it [the Colosseum] was “three- or four- hundred years old, right Joe?”.

In that regard I failed, as Joe Buck played all Shannon-related questions straight down the middle, earnestly saying that “Mike has been extremely helpful to me just starting out in this business.”

Prior to a recent Cards-Braves game, Buck and I sat down in the dining room behind the Fulton County Stadium press box. He is 26 years old...and looks young enough (and fit enough) to be part of a double play combo with Cards shortstop Tripp Cromer. Indeed, Buck said that the Cards had thoughts of drafting him right out of high school. I should have reminded him that the Cardinals drafted Paul Coleman right out of high school, too.

It should surprise no one that Joe Buck, who makes his living as a play-by-play sportscaster, is a verbal individual. But I was surprised to find Buck to be extremely intelligent, as well. Throughout the interview he listened very intently to the questions, and at times, gave quite specific and carefully worded answers that sort of demanded that the original question be rephrased. When a tough question was posed, he wouldn’t give an inch. In other words, the guy is good...and, at least in this interview, didn’t really let down his guard too much. In retrospect, perhaps I could have done a better job interviewing him.
I didn’t feel so bad, though. After all, he’s the professional interviewer!

And before we started, Buck was kind enough to remind me to turn on the recorder...
________

StLSO: Joe Buck, you’re a St. Louis native. Do you have brothers and sisters, and are they still living in St. Louis?
Buck: I have seven brothers and sisters. All except one (who resides in the Chicago area) still live in St. Louis. I’m the second-to-the-youngest...my younger sister works for a radio station back in St. Louis and I have an older sister who works for a TV station in St. Louis. So we’re everywhere.

StLSO: Where did you go to high school, and when did you graduate?
Buck: I went to St. Louis Country Day High School, and I was graduated in 1987.

StLSO: What were your favorite subjects?
Buck: Chemistry...uhhh...you know what? That sort of stuff always baffled me. I’m not a smart guy. I know that. That’s why I’m a broadcaster. I was more an English and Spanish...those kind of subjects, as opposed to math and chemistry.

StLSO: Did you attend a college or university?
Buck: Yes. I went to Indiana University in Bloomington Indiana. I played some college baseball there...Mickey Morandini was also on the IU baseball team.

StLSO: What was your major...and did you graduate?
Buck: I was an English major. I did not graduate. I was at IU for three and a half years, and in the middle of my fourth year I got the Cardinal job. While I was going to school I was broadcasting Louisville Redbird games.

StLSO: If you weren’t a sportscaster, what career might you have pursued?
Buck: Probably...law.

StLSO: Give us an oral resume, starting with your first broadcasting job....
Buck: In 1987, I did afternoon sports reports on KMOX, and mornings on KMOX’s sister station on the FM side, which at that time was called KHTR. I worked Louisville Redbirds games for two years, beginning in 1989. During that time, I also did some fill-in work for the Cardinals when my Dad was doing football or baseball...and that blossomed into a full-time position which is when I left college.

StLSO: Are you married? If so, does your wife enjoy sports?
Buck: Yes I am married, and I have been married for two and a half years. And yes, my wife does enjoy sports.

StLSO: Do you have children?
Buck: No.

StLSO: You are no doubt aware that ESPN spawned ESPN2. Does ESPN3 have a futures contract on your first-born?
Buck: [Laughs out loud in a resigned sort of way.] Sure...that’s the way things are going in baseball these days. The kids are taking over.

StLSO: Approximately how many nights per year do you sleep in an out-of-town hotel room?
Buck: Ummm. I would say...I would say about half the nights in a given year I’m on the road.

StLSO: Does your wife often accompany you on road trips?
Buck: Yes, she does.

StLSO: What are your favorite cities to visit?
Buck: Cities where I have friends like here in Atlanta...or in Los Angeles with a friend of mine who’s in a rock group out there. Both are towns that I enjoy visiting because I have good friends from high school who reside there, including Kevin Omell here in Atlanta.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Omell was also graduated from Country Day in 1987, and sat next to Buck for much of the interview.

StLSO: On a given three day trip to Pittsburgh, what do you do between games?
Buck: Golf is a big time-killer. You know, we get back so late...I can’t get to sleep before three o’clock in the morning...I get up about eleven and have lunch and maybe do a little exercising and then go to the ballpark.

StLSO: In your job as a Cards broadcaster, who is your boss....any one person? And on Fox?
Buck: A lot of people. For the Cards, I guess Steve Uline of Bud Sports is my boss. It just progresses after that. You’ve got Anheuser-Busch and their broadcasting division, and you’ve got the Cardinals and their division.
For FOX, David Hill is the Vice-President of Sports, and Ed Goren, I think, is the Executive Executive Producer, and George Krieger is Executive Producer. All three of those guys are more-or-less in charge.

StLSO: Politicians and their staffs often work from “talking points” when they try to get out a certain point of view to the public. Have any A-B or Cards brass ever suggested that you say, X, Y, or Z? Putting it differently, are you ever given “talking points” to work from?
Buck: No. That’s a good question and I would assume that other broadcasters are told what to say and what not to say. But I work out of common sense. I know where my bread is buttered...so...I’m always trying to promote the Cardinals. But I’ve never been told to say something or not to say something.

StLSO: How does your work with the Cards differ from your work with Fox?
Buck: Well, when I’m doing baseball with the Cardinals I feel like I’m more part of the team, and as the team goes so goes my mood.

StLSO: You’re not feeling too good then, eh?
Buck: Yeah, exactly. If the team’s not playing well, I’m usually not in a good mood. With FOX, with something more national, I couldn’t care less who wins...I have no attachment to the teams and I’m really worried about my performance and being accurate and here [with the Cards] it’s more being a part of the group and hope that they’re winning.

StLSO: Do you review your own on-air performance? If so, what do you listen for?
Buck: All the time. I listen for...verbal crutches and things that I fall into from time to time...repeating the way I’m describing something over and over...varying your call when you’re describing something. I’m not one for cliches.

StLSO: Do play-by-play broadcasters suffer slumps?
Buck: Oh yeah. There are days when I wonder whether can speak English! I mean, sometimes you’re not enunciating and just not getting the words out...and other days you’re almost telling yourself to shut up, because the stuff is just coming out so quick and easy.

StLSO: Do play-by-play men read reviews of their work (i.e. USA Today)? Do you?
Buck: Yeah...and anyone who says they don’t...is lying. This is a very...uhhh...this is a business where you like positive reinforcement, and negative criticism really gets at you.
It [negative criticism] hurts...I’m doing everything I can...I’m traveling and sweating in the booth and doing my homework and when you read something bad about yourself...it’s not fun.

StLSO: I recall hearing you broadcast some Missouri Valley Conference basketball games a couple of years ago.
Buck: Let’s see...that was two years ago so it was the winter of ‘93.

StLSO: I remember watching one of those games...quite honestly, it didn’t seem that you were prepared for one of those games.
Buck: Really [said in the form of a statement].

StLSO: Yeah, that night, the normal Joe Buck delivery seemed less smooth than normal as you didn’t seem to know the names of the players and their uniform numbers...I bring this up not to embarrass but rather to make the point that a good deal of preparation is involved in your job. This is true, isn’t it?

Buck: Yeah, you absolutely have to prepare. But you have to remember that what people might hear or see on television and what comes across is not always...
See, you can look at something and say he doesn’t know the name or number and say that he’s not prepared, but sometimes that’s not necessarily the case. Sometimes it might be what’s going on in my ear. Sometimes it might be what the producer’s telling me...sometimes it might be what the director’s saying, while I’m talking, that could throw you off that is incorrect. A lot of the times the people behind the scenes make mistakes when you’re the front man out there.

StLSO: I don’t think I’m wrong about this...my point was that you just didn’t seem as familiar with some of these guys as other times and I think that points out how much preparation is important...
Buck: It’s all familiarity. I could run down the names and numbers of all the guys in major league baseball....that’s one thing because I’m around it every day of my life. But when you’re swooping down to do a game on a given weekend...having to learn two different teams...or...in fact, I was doing two MVC games a week...that’s four different teams...including women’s games....you know, keeping that straight all the time is not the easiest thing in the world. And I might add that the MVC production side of those games could have been improved, in my opinion. The MVC deserves better.

StLSO: You received a lot of positive notoriety for your ESPN duh-duh-duh...duh-duh-duh after Mark Whiten’s fourth homer vs. the Reds. Was that spontaneous or did your practice that?
Buck: [Buck delayed answering for an instant while a look of disapproval came over his face.] You can’t practice anything. If I were to practice something....I mean, that’s the beauty of what I do...you can’t practice anything. It just comes out...you don’t know what’s going to happen.

StLSO: Describe your preparation for a typical Cardinal game that commences at 7:35...
Buck: I prepare for every game...very easily...just by being there. I know exactly what’s been going on, on a daily basis...I mean, I know more, about this team, than anybody listening knows about this team.

StLSO: So, for a 7:35 start, you arrive at Busch Stadium at what time?
Buck: 4:00...4:30, sometimes 5:00...depending on whether I have other obligations..doing other work during the day...commercials or reporting of some sort.

StLSO: Describe your preparation for a typical FOX broadcast...
Buck: It’s totally different [from the Cards preparation]. When I’m preparing for a Sunday game for FOX, I start out on Monday evening doing spotting boards that I make out for myself...then we [the FOX team] get to the city on Friday and meeting the teams on Saturday...meet as a group on Saturday night...and as a group on Sunday morning....do the game on Sunday and then come back on Sunday night.
So there’s really a lot more preparation to be done...because I’m having to learn two new teams each week and I’ve got to pick up a team in week #14 and act like I’ve been watching them for the first 13 weeks.

StLSO: I’ve noticed that some things about baseball seem easier to evaluate while watching TV, as opposed to coming to the stadium and seeing the game in person. In particular, certain aspects of pitching seem to be much easier to follow on TV, as opposed from the stands.  Do you rely on a video monitor while broadcasting?
Buck: You can’t rely on it...you have to split your...

StLSO: Rely is the wrong word...utilize is better...
Buck: Oh yeah, yeah, you have to...you have to be aware of what they’re showing. You have to work together. You have a director and a producer and you have to all be on the same page. I can’t start talking about the crowd while they’re shooting Ken Hill and I can’t start talking about Joe Torre when they’re shooting Todd Zeile.

StLSO: And on radio?
Buck: Well on radio I can do whatever I want. There’s no one that is working with me...it’s all what I want to cover.

StLSO: Earlier, you said you graduated from high school in 1987 or so. Do you keep in contact with many of your high school classmates?
Buck: Yes, I do. Some more so than others.

StLSO: What fraction of them are baseball fans?
Buck: I would say, probably, half.

StLSO: The ones that aren’t...why aren’t they, in your mind? What would you tell them if you were to try and persuade them to come to the ballpark?
Buck: Well, that’s a tough question. I just think it’s a personal preference. I would never try to persuade someone to enjoy baseball. Baseball is just something that either you grow up around and really enjoy, or you have a tough time picking it up and staying alert while you’re at a game. I think [that for] some people, the game of baseball bores them. To me, I enjoy the two and a half to three hours that it takes to play a baseball game. But I think, to some people, that’s too slow. It’s a reflection of our society...they want things fast and they want scoring.

StLSO: Assume for a moment that you’ve been named Commissioner of baseball.
Buck: I’d quit...

StLSO: What would you prescribe for what ails baseball 1995-style?
Buck: Well, everybody’s trying to speed up the game. If I were to do one thing I’d make the umpires call a legitimate strike zone. I think that’s the absolute only way you can speed up the game...not when the PA announcer says the guy’s name one minute and fifteen seconds into the break. That doesn’t have anything to do with it...it has to do with a small strike zone and pitchers falling behind. These guys [the batters] don’t go up there swinging the bat...then they’re waiting to get ahead in the count and then they’re hammering away. I would say call the strike zone as it is written in the rule book.

StLSO: Among your suggestions for major league baseball, I’m surprised you didn’t include grammar and diction lessons for your broadcasting partner Mike Shannon.
Buck: No...I would not say that.

StLSO: Your on-air work is the most visible part of your job. Tell us a bit about your off-air responsibilities as a member of the Cards broadcasting team.
Buck: I’m involved with a lot of charity work in St. Louis, which, I believe, is part of being a broadcaster. In the off season I do a number of the Cardinal Caravans. But mainly charity work.

StLSO: After an evening’s worth of broadcasting, you said you were up ‘til three a.m., what do you do to unwind?
Buck: It’s not that I’m wound up...it’s just that my schedule starts later than everybody else and I end up later than everyone else.

StLSO: Do you work out regularly?
Buck: Yeah, I do. I try to. On the road, definitely, and at home, every day.

StLSO: What is the most difficult part of your job?
Buck: Uhhhhh...the travel. It’s tough, with a wife, and you want to see each other as much as possible...but it’s not always economically feasible to have her with me all of the time.

StLSO: Is there one part of a baseball game that you would like to do a better job communicating to your listeners?
Buck: I wish I could interview people better.

StLSO: Do you enjoy doing rain delay fills?
Buck: Yes and no. I don’t really feel that qualified to do them yet. I think people more enjoy listening to people that have been around the game a little longer than I have...I don’t have the background that Mike Shannon or my Dad would.

StLSO: What is the best part of your job?
Buck: Every day...the thrill of doing it every day...there’s not one day that has gone by where I had not wanted to do a game. I would rather do a game than not do a game.

StLSO: Bob Costas tells a story of traveling with the team on a day off...when he first started broadcasting. He didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to do that.
Buck: Yeah...well, that’s fun though. I did say travel is the toughest part but it can be the most enjoyable part...to get to know these guys...it’s like a traveling fraternity.

StLSO: Joe, you’re only 26 but have already accomplished a great deal in an extremely competitive field. What do you do to keep from getting the big head?
Buck: From day one, from being around my father, I’ve realized that being a broadcaster is not the most important thing in the world. It’s a fun job and I’m lucky to be doing it and I’m lucky to have been doing it for the last five years. But it doesn’t matter what level of success that I achieve...in the grand scheme of things it’s not that important. Therefore I will not get the big head.

StLSO: As far as your career is concerned, what would you like to accomplish professionally in the next five years?
Buck: That’s tough to answer. Because if anybody had asked me back in 1989 that five years from then if I’d be doing NFL football on FOX, I’d have never imagined that. Five years from now I would be very happy doing what I’m doing right now, and if something else comes along, like a chance to do nationally broadcast baseball, I would jump at that chance and would hope to be doing it.

StLSO: Joe...the best broadcasting I ever heard you do was during one of your football games. It was something minor and not something that I’m sure I’m going to be able to put into words. Your timing on what we used to call a down-and-out...it’s sort of like counting to five.
The quarterback takes the snap, drops back three or four steps, throws the ball on a line to the receiver, the receiver makes the catch and runs a little bit, and the defender makes the hit, knocking him out of bounds. You talked around all of those things, rather than interrupting what I was watching.
Buck: Sure. That is the essence of how I broadcast, or how I try to broadcast. It drives me nuts when I hear broadcasters talking incessantly. And just talking over the entire action.

StLSO: Do you understand what I’m talking about? That’s a perfect kind of a play that sort of has a rhythm to it...your basic seven yard down and out.
Buck: Well, broadcasting is all rhythm.

StLSO: I want to try this again. Do you practice that [the rhythm]?
Buck: No. That’s the way I grew up. I don’t think my Dad talks incessantly on a broadcast. I told myself because I listen to myself so much...watching tapes of my games on TV whether it’s basketball, baseball, or football...my voice sometimes drives me nuts...I don’t want to hear it all the time. I would rather accent the action instead of knocking you over the head with it. Especially on TV, being a TV play-by-play guy is almost redundant with people watching it. So if you can accent it, and you can add to it, then that is, I think, my job, and not tell people what they’re already seeing.

StLSO: At this point in the season, you’ve seen the Cards play forty some-odd ballgames and play .400 baseball. What should Cardinal fans look for in the future?
Buck: Well, there are no untouchables on this squad. You can’t have untouchables if you haven’t won since 1987. In my opinion, two-thirds of the significant players could, emphasize could, be different in 1996. If you asked Walt Jocketty or Mark Lamping, I think they would admit that this is not a first-place ballclub.

StLSO: So finally, Joe, when was the Roman Colosseum built?
Buck: Seventy-five years ago. You never know what you’re going to get on a nightly basis. You can be talking about rain or a home run and something like that comes along.

StLSO: Thanks.
Buck: OK. Thank you. 


=====
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.

=====

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'.

=====

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.

=====

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)


 

...from the stlsports.com archives:

Rick Ankiel is now part of the extended Cardinals family again, as he has been hired by Fox Sports Midwest for pre- and post- game commentary. In 1999, St. Louis Sports Online sat down with Rick for a Q-and-A.

Read on...

=====


Mark Bausch

Bausch

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

Reluctance & Mystery,
Talent & Expectations:
A Conversation with Rick Ankiel

originally posted June 28, 1999

Rick Ankiel is the brightest lefthanded pitching prospect in all of baseball…and at 19 years of age, is gaining maturity on and off the field…

Reluctance

Earlier this month, Thomas Harding, the Memphis Redbirds’ beat writer for the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, asked yours truly a simple question.

It was a question I’ve heard before.

But admittedly, the sports context of his question...was new.

Certainly, though, Harding’s query brought a smile to my face.

His question was this: “How was it for you?”

The context?

Harding, a friendly bloke, wanted to hear about the Rick Ankiel interview I had conducted earlier that evening in the Redbirds’ dugout.

My answer was polite.

“He was...uhhh...reluctant.”

“Good answer!” said the beat writer, making like game-show host Richard Dawson.

Generally speaking, if you want to know something about a professional baseball player, talk to his beat writer.

Evidently, my description of Ankiel squared with Harding’s view of the youngster: reluctant.


Mystery

But the reluctance that Rick Ankiel displays, in his interviews, only adds to the mystery that surrounds him
.
Here’s an analogy.

Think back to when you were fifteen or sixteen...a freshman in high school.

Wasn’t there a pretty girl, a graduating senior girl, that you found mysterious?

Wasn’t she difficult to approach?

And wasn’t she hard to talk to?

But from a distance...wasn’t she fun to watch?

That’s one way to view the mysterious side of Rick Ankiel.

-----

The first thing you notice about Ankiel, up close, is his demeanor.

No, that’s not exactly right.

It’s the combination of his demeanor and his appearance that is so striking.

It’s like one of those “What’s wrong with this picture?” features, where one thing is out of place in a photograph.

That’s because, while Ankiel is only 19, and his face and body have the unfinished look of a 19 year old, his outward disposition appears to be that of a veteran (or maybe a teenager trying to act like a veteran).

In this reporter’s opinion, an opinion based on a limited set of observations, Ankiel’s disposition displays equal parts detached arrogance and active intimidation.

And as the recent pre-game beaning in a collegiate baseball game evidenced, there is a substantial intimidation component to pitching
.
(Don’t believe that? Step into a batting cage and dial it up to 80 MPH. You’ll get the picture...and don’t forget your helmet.)

So, for what it’s worth, Rick Ankiel appears intimidating...and mysterious.


Talent

From a distance, though, Rick Ankiel’s pitching talent is obvious to anyone with even a modest knowledge of baseball.

For starters, Ankiel’s delivery has a bit of (ex-Met lefty) Sid Fernandez flavor to it.

You remember El Sid--he hid the ball behind his front hip and leg for what seemed like an eternity, before projecting an above-average fastball toward the batter.

Ankiel’s trickery isn’t as pronounced, but it’s there, and he uses it to his advantage. As a result, Ankiel’s fastball seems to handcuff hitters in a way that adds a few MPH to its 91-92 MPH velocity.

Ankiel’s breaking pitch looks more like a curve ball than a slider. Its effects are best observed by observing the helpless, weak-kneed batter, who often looks like a Little Leaguer watching his first roundhouse.

That’s because Ankiel can throw his sharp-breaking curve for strikes...which, when combined with his heavy fastball, leads to stupendous strikeout totals.

But that’s not all. Ankiel’s change-up, though harder to spot from the stands, is apparently well developed, too.

So where do those strikeouts come from?

In the words of Cardinals minor league pitching coordinator Mark Riggins: “He has a very deceptive fastball...the ball jumps...it explodes at the plate.

“He can pitch up in the zone...and the ball just jumps by the hitters’ bat. He can use his change-up to strike guys out...he can use his curve-ball to strike guys out...he has weapons that produce strikeouts. He’s a gamer. He’s an intense guy. When he has two strikes on a guy he tries to strike him out and he has the weapons to do that.”

Riggins continues: “It’s amazing that [Ankiel] has the breaking ball and the change-up at 19 years of age.
“We have guys in our system at the AAA level that we’re still trying to teach the change-up to. Rick has all of those pitches already. It’s just a matter of consistency and getting those pitches in the locations he needs to...all the time.”

Which leads to...


Expectations

Ankiel is 19 years old. The last 19 year old pitcher to make a big splash in the big leagues was Dwight Gooden.

Is it unreasonable to compare Ankiel, the summer 1999 Ankiel, with Gooden?

“I think so,” said Riggins. “You don’t want to put that much of a burden on him. We as pitching coaches treat every kid the same...whether he was a number one [pick] or a free agent...whether he is 8-and-1 or 1-and-8...

“We treat all these guys the same...and try not to put the pressure on him...that’s created more by the media..
.
“The expectations are also created by the fans,” continued Riggins. “That’s great...I love that stuff. But we shouldn’t put that much of a burden on Rick right now. He’s still a young kid trying to develop his stuff.”

And a young kid that, at 6-1 and 190 lbs, still sometimes looks like the teen-ager that he is.

Yet one final word from the Cardinals minor league pitching coordinator, Mark Riggins.
“His body is still growing. Usually at 21 or 22 years old...they fully develop. He’s got a couple more years...and may grow an inch or two…and his body will harden up,” Riggins said.

“When we signed him he was just a soft kid...a little overweight for his age...

“Last year in Peoria...Rick was very low on a test administered by our minor league strength coordinator.

“Rick, he was very low in the group of pitchers. That really stuck in his mind...but the very next day he was out early, running...

“By the end of the year, last year, he had grown into a man and he’s still growing.”


The Last Words

And how might Rick Ankiel finalize his development?

Recently, it was suggested to Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan that a pitcher combining the veteran moxie of Kent Bottenfield with the talent and tools of a Rick Ankiel would be a superstar pitcher.
Duncan’s response?

“That would be a nice combination,” Duncan replied. “Hopefully that’s what Rick Ankiel will be when he gets to the big leagues. He’ll have his physical skills so that he can execute and the only thing that will be missing is what you gain with experience at this level.

“And that’s knowing the opposition and knowing what you have to do to be a successful major league pitcher. He is 19 years old. There’s no getting around that,” Duncan said.

“I think he’s a mature 19 when it comes to baseball...he has a very good idea what he’s doing. He pays attention...he’s been a very coachable athlete and he’s learned a lot in the short time he’s been playing professional baseball.”

And Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty‘s view on Ankiel?

“Rick Ankiel is a young man who just needs a little more seasoning. He’s going to get better with experience. He’s got great ability and great pitches...he has to learn how to get hitters out at the higher levels...how to set up guys....everything comes easy for him right now but it’s going to get tougher as he moves up. But I think he’s very capable of making the adjustments.”

Jocketty’s parting shot, issued in March of 1999?

Not a promise or a commitment; just a declarative sentence.

“I don’t think it will be very long before he gets to St. Louis.”


The Conversation
[recorded June 12, 1999]

StLSO: We’re here in Nashville, Tennessee, visiting with Memphis Redbirds lefthander Rick Ankiel. Good afternoon, Rick.
Ankiel: Hi…how you doin’?

StLSO: We’re doing all right. Rick Ankiel…you’re 19 years old…you finished high school…two years ago?
Ankiel: Yeah, I believe so.

StLSO: That’s not too long ago. Fans are interested in your pitching ability and they are interested in some other things about you. Your pitching ability has brought you along way…do your high school days seem like a long time ago…or just yesterday?
Ankiel: It seems like a long time ago…to be honest. Last year was a long year, this year has gone well and has been flying by and I hope it will continue to be the same.

StLSO: What kinds of experiences from your high school days directly apply to what it is you’re doing now?
Ankiel: What do you mean?

StLSO: What I mean is…did you feel like your pitching skills were pretty well formed as a senior in high school…or not?
Ankiel: I don’t think so. [In high school] I just went out there and threw. I’ve started to learn a lot about pitching rather than just throwing the ball by people. I’m learning a lot and it’s a lot of fun right now and it couldn’t be better.

StLSO: It couldn’t be better…I guess you had a satisfactory for yourself last night…you feel pretty good about your performance yesterday?
Ankiel: I think last night was probably my worst performance of the year.

StLSO: In what way was it not as good as you would like?
Ankiel: In every way…in five innings I threw 92 pitches. As a starter, you’re not going to be able to stay in the game and help your team. As a starter, you just can’t pitch like that.

StLSO: We cover 40 or 50 games with the Cardinals every year…and you can hardly do a post-game interview with Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan without either of them using words like ‘adversity’ and people being able to come back from adversity…was yesterday as adverse a set of conditions that you’ve faced as a minor leaguer?
Ankiel: I don’t know as a minor leaguer…but definitely this year. It just wasn’t a good outing…I couldn’t really find a zone and things just didn’t really go too well.

StLSO: Rick, what is it that you like best about minor league baseball at this point…your teammates, the traveling…or not?
Ankiel: Everything…I mean…you’re playing something that you love to do and you’re playing in a dream when you’re doing things like that.

StLSO: So things are in a real positive sense for you…you’re happy where you’re at, biding your time, and looking to make good pitches…
Ankiel: I guess so.

StLSO: I’m wondering if there’s something I can ask you outside of baseball…that you’d be interested in talking about…high school…favorite classes…something you were interested in or not?
Ankiel: No man…baseball…that’s it.

StLSO: When you were eight, when you were ten, when you were twelve…you wrote on a paper somewhere that you wanted to be a baseball player…how long has this been a dream of yours?
Ankiel: I think, like, most kids in America, just growing up…it’s always a dream…for me, I don’t know. I guess ever since I’ve been little…right now, I’m trying to fulfill that and just keep focused on baseball.

StLSO: Do you have any sense of the anticipation that the folks in the city by the Arch, St. Louis, have for you?
Ankiel: I don’t pay attention to that…I leave that up to you guys…I just try to stay focused on pitching…and not worry about media…and other outside influences.

StLSO: Frankly, we’re interested, in the media, as well as the fans, in seeing that, that can happen for you, Rick Ankiel…good luck the rest of the year.
Ankiel: Thank you.

=====

 

=====
Mark Bausch

Bausch

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

Nearly 18 years ago, the androstenedione controversy surrounding Mark McGwire was the talk of St. Louis...but perhaps not how you mighrt remember it!

Out on a Limb?

posted August 27. 1998

A look at the way the St. Louis media handled the publicity surrounding Mark McGwire’s use of androstenedione


MEMO TO:
The St. Louis sports community

SUBJECT:
Mark McGwire and Androstenedione (andro)

DATE: August 27, 1998

....on KMOX radio, Hall-of-Fame sportscaster Jack Buck said it was a “non-story”, and pledged not to talk about the Mark McGwire androstenedione controversy.

Ex-St. Louis Sports Online contributor Randy Karraker, ably working the KMOX mike alongside Buck, agreed.

KTRS’ Kevin Slaten pitched in with his own bombastic opinion, saying that the original AP account of the story, and the front page androstenedione follow-up by the Post-Dispatch, only confirmed his own view that print journalists, and sportswriters in particular, are the lowest form of life on this planet.

In essence, Slaten completely agreed with the stated Buck-Karraker on-air opinion, saying that the whole Mac-andro affair was a “non-story”.

On KFNS AM-590, host Frank Cusumano expressed his view that “it’s legal, and therefore I don’t have a problem with it”.

St. Louis media veteran Scott Simon, another former St. Louis Sports Online contributor who now plies his trade at Kansas City’s CBS AM outlet, KMBZ, informed yours truly that the story was overblown...that he himself suffers from asthma, and the medication that he takes to control his condition renders him ineligible for the Olympics.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m thinking of the Jamaican bobsled team...Mr. Simon.)

Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz, a recent guest of the Saturday Sports Review, chimed in with a rather balanced view of the McGwire andro connection, noting that (1) the Olympic ban of andro can’t be taken too seriously in light of the IOC’s banning of various over-the-counter medications (such as Sudafed); and (2) the NBA ban of andro is ridiculous, too, since pot is not on the league’s list of banned substances.

But Miklasz covered all bases by espousing the view that androstenedione is legal, considered to be a nutritional supplement, and not banned by baseball’s establishment.

In other words, it’s OK to take andro because it’s not against the rules to do so.

KFNS’ Brian Stull, yet another former St. Louis Sports Online contributor, noted that the current media attention to Mac’s andro usage is, in his view, overblown, since Stull claims that McGwire openly discussed his use of supplements on at least two occasions in the weeks prior to the AP “scoop”.

And in their initial comments on the McGwire story, which were apparently based on early media accounts of the controversy, St. Louis Sports Online columnist (and WGNU sportscaster) Mike Huss, and St. Louis Sports Online photographer Eric Niederhoffer both leaned toward the view that the story was overblown...and that a possible driving force for the story was the media’s incessant desire to tear down the heroes that they themselves elevate.

So, despite all those opinions, all which sound logical in one way or another...

…why does McGwire’s use of andro leave a funny feeling in the pit of the stomach of this observer?

I don’t know.

Well, maybe I do.

Maybe it’s because all of Mac’s defenders sound, to my ears, a lot like President Clinton’s defenders.

Literally straining to defend their man.

Parsing their words.

And sounding like lawyers.

The Clinton defenders...and the McGwire defenders...their statements sound OK...they just don’t sound right.

Complicating issues include the fact that yours truly voted for Clinton.

Twice.

And McGwire’s mammoth home runs have lit up summer for this particular sports consumer like no other recent time in sports.

But one thing seems certain.

In the 1998 baseball season, there is almost nothing connected with Mark McGwire that can be referred to as a non-story.

And the McGwire-androstenedione connection is, in fact, a huge story.

And, to this observer, it seems wrong to blame the media for publishing a story that, in more than one aspect, defines sports in the ‘90s.

We haven’t heard the last of Big Mac and androstenedione.

It does seem unfortunate, though, that in this one-in-a-lifetime baseball season, that Mark McGwire’s historic chase has been tarnished.

One more thing, though.

Recall that longtime St. Louis baseball observers--guys like Bob Broeg, Red Schoendienst, George Kissell, and the aforementioned Buck (that’s about two centuries worth of baseball there, folks)--all grin and utter more or less the same line, when asked about McGwire.

“I’ve never seen anything like him.”