US ends 108-year hex in 1500 – are Cubs next?

Matthew Centrowitz not only won the gold medal in the men’s 1500 meters, he ended 108 years of American frustration in this marquee Olympic event.

You need to go back to 1908 to find the last time the USA took gold in the 1500 meters, aka the metric mile. Melvin Whinfield “Peerless Mel” Sheppard was the last American to win the 1500.

The year 1908 just happens to be the last year the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. Could this be a harbinger of things to come?

Sheppard won the first running medal at the 1908 and tied the Olympic record at 4:03.6. Sheppard also took gold in the 800 meters and medley relay in the 1908 Games, held in London.

Since then, four Americans – Abel Kiviat in 1912, Glenn Cunningham in 1936, Bob McMillen in 1952 and Jim Ryan in 1968 – placed second and took home the silver. But none could win the race.

Teddy Roosevelt was President at the time of the 1908 Olympics. Henry Ford produced his first Model T automobile that year, Bette Davis, Jimmy Stewart and Milton Berle were born. In 1908, Bulgaria declared independence from the Ottoman Empire.

Some of the greatest runners in history have won gold in the 1500. Paavo Nurmi in 1924 Herb Elliott, in 1960, Kip Keino in 1968, and Sebastian Coe, in 1980 and 1984, the only two-time Olympic champ.


A-Rod is top Yankee third baseman of all time

Now that his Yankee career has ended (some would say mercifully), Alex Rodriguez can fill the third base slot on the all-time Yankee team.

A-Rod won two MVPs with the Yankees (2005, 2007), hit 351 of his 696 career home runs in pinstripes and had more than 1,000 RBIs. And he helped lead the Yankees to their last World Championship, in 2009, with an outstanding post-season effort when he hit .365 with 6 HRs and 18 RBIs. His 54 home runs in 2007 are the most ever for a right-handed Yankee hitter.

Of course, A-Rod’s reputation will be forever stained by his admitted steroid abuse, his playoff collapses, and his insecurity. But this isn’t the Hall of Fame, it’s the Yankee all-time team.

Third base is the only position on the team not manned by a Hall of Famer. (Yeah, Wade Boggs played for the Yankees for several years, but his greatest years were in Boston.)

After A-Rod, here are the next five greatest third basemen in Yankee history.

Graig Nettles, power hitter and Gold Glove fielder who led the AL in home runs in 1976 and was a member of the 1977 and 1978 World Series winners.

Red Rolfe, another outstanding fielder, helped the Yankees win five titles (1936-39 and 1941) and retired in 1942 to become baseball coach at Yale.

Joe Dugan, aka Jumping Joe, was the third baseman on one of the greatest teams ever, the 1927 Yankees. A .280 lifetime hitter, he played on 5 Yankee pennant winners.

Gil McDougald, played multiple infield positions on five World Champions under Casey Stengel. He was AL Rookie of the Year in 1951. McDougald later coached at Fordham.

Clete Boyer, tremendous glove man, played the hot corner for five straight pennant winners (1960-64), and hit 95 homers as a Yankee.

Boggs, who hit .300 or better in four of his five Yankee years, and Scott Brosius, who won three straight World Series in his four seasons, deserve honorable mention.

All-Time Yankees

The rest of the all-time Yankee team consists of Hall of Famers….or sure-fire Hall of Famers in the case of the shortstop and relief pitcher. Here’s the list:

C – Yogi Berra

1B – Lou Gehrig

2B – Tony Lazzeri

SS – Derek Jeter

3B – A-Rod                                                       

OF – Babe Ruth

OF – Joe DiMaggio

OF – Mickey Mantle

LHP – Whitey Ford

RHP – Red Ruffing

RP – Mariano Rivera


Hall of Famers I have seen

It began in 1958, my very first baseball game, Yankees vs. White Sox at the original Yankee Stadium. The Yanks had four Hall of Famers in their starting lineup that day, including Mickey Mantle in center, Yogi Berra in right, pitcher Whitey Ford and pinch-hitter Enos Slaughter..

Chicago’s keystone combination of second baseman Nellie Fox and shortstop Luis Aparicio was also Cooperstown bound. And managers Casey Stengel of the Yankees and Al Lopez of the White Sox made it eight Hall of Famers in the house that afternoon.

That day my father even arranged for me to get an autograph from Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean, who was doing the Game of the Week for NBC.

Grand total, I’ve seen 58 Hall of Famers play in my lifetime. The list ranges from Ted Williams to Stan Musial, Willie Mays to Hank Aaron, Juan Marichal to Catfish Hunter, Carl Yastrzemski to Reggie Jackson, and Greg Maddux, Tommy Glavine and John Smoltz. Saw both of the 2016 inductees, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Mike Piazza. Saw Piazza as a Dodger hit a home run against the Rookies in Coors Fields’ inaugural season, 1996.

In 2008, I was in Cooperstown for the induction of reliever Goose Gossage. I’ve seen 14 Hall of Famers hit home runs, and five times saw two future Hall of Famers homer in the same game – Ted Williams and Mantle at Yankee Stadium in 1960, Mays and Billy Williams at Candlestick Park in 1962, Yaz and Reggie in the 1975 ALCS and again in the 1978 AL playoff game at Fenway Park, and Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson in the refurbished Yankee Stadium in 1986.

Was there when Mays hit a grand slam in 1962, and Carlton Fisk hit a bases-loaded HR at Opening Day in Fenway Park, 1973.

Witnessed wins by Jim Palmer, Ferguson Jenkins, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro and Randy Johnson, Watched Robin Roberts hurl a complete game shutout for the Orioles against the Yankees in 1965 Saw saves by Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage. Saw Nolan Ryan strike out 15 in a 1977 game against the Red Sox.

Saw seven Hall of Famers in a game at Candlestick Park – Willie Mays, Orlando Cepada and Juan Marichal of the Giants and Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and a young Lou Brock for the Cubs. Willie McCovey of the Giants didn’t play that day; sadly never got to see him play.

I’ve also seen 9 Hall of Fame managers, including Leo Durocher, Earl Weaver, Sparky Anderson, and Dick Williams, along with Stengel and Lopez and three recent inductees – Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa.

Once got an autograph from Phil Rizzuto in a luxury suite at Yankee Stadium. Phil offered me a cannoli, and signed my program over to my three kids.

Here’s the my complete Hall of Fame list, in order of induction:

HALL OF FAMERS I HAVE SEEN

PLAYERS

Ted Williams

Stan Musial

Yogi Berra

Whitey Ford

Mickey Mantle

Robin Roberts

Ernie Banks

Eddie Matthews

Willie Mays

Al Kaline

Duke Snider

Hank Aaron

Frank Robinson

Juan Marichal

Brooks Robinson

Luis Aparicio

Harmon Killebrew

Lou Brock

Enos Slaughter

Hoyt Wilhelm

Catfish Hunter

Billy Williams

Carl Yastrzemski

Jim Palmer

Rod Carew

Ferguson Jenkins

Gaylord Perry

Rollie Fingers

Tom Seaver

Reggie Jackson

Nellie Fox

Phil Niekro

Don Sutton

George Brett

Orlando Cepeda

Nolan Ryan

Carlton Fisk

Tony Perez

Dave Winfield

Gary Carter

Eddie Murray

Dennis Eckersley

Paul Molitor

Wade Boggs

Tony Gwynn

Cal Ripken, Jr.

Goose Gossage

Jim Rice

Roberto Alomar

Ron Santo

Tom Glavine

Greg Maddux

Frank Thomas

Randy Johnson

Pedro Martinez

John Smoltz

Ken Griffey, Jr.

Mike Piazza

MANAGERS

Casey Stengel

Al Lopez

Leo Durocher

Earl Weaver

Sparky Anderson

Dick Williams

Bobby Cox

Tony La Russa

Joe Torre

58 players, 9 managers

AUTOGRAPHS

Dizzy Dean, Phil Rizzuto

HOME RUNS

Mickey Mantle (1960)

Ted Williams (1960)

Willie Mays (1962), grand slam

Billy Williams (1962)

Harmon Killebrew (1967)

Carl Yastrzemski (1970, 1978)

Reggie Jackson (1971, 1978 (2), 1979)

Carlton Fisk (1973, 2 HRs), 1 grand slam

Jim Rice (1975, 1978)

Dave Winfield (1983, 1986)

Eddie Murray (1978)

Wade Boggs (1994)

Rickey Henderson (1986)

Mike Piazza (1996)


Jimmy Walker, we’ve seen you before

Hail Jimmy Walker. PGA champion and winner of the Wannamaker Trophy. But you’re not the first famous Jimmy Walker. We’ve seen you before.

Jimmy Walker, aka Beau James, at right, was major of New York City between 1926 and 1932. The flamboyant Democrat Walker was part of the Tammany Hall machine, and was forced to resign during a corruption scandal.

Another Jimmy Walker was Jimmy Walker, a guard from Providence College who played nine years in the NBA, with the Pistons, Rockets and Kings. A two-time NBA All-Star, Walker is the father of former NBA player Jalen Rose. He died of lung cancer in 2007.

And then there was Jimmie Walker, an actor and comedian known best for his performances on the TV series Good Times. Walker’s character was known for the catchphrase “Dy-no-Mite!”

Can’t forget your cousin, Johnny Walker.


And the loser is….Minnesota

When the Cavaliers shocked the Warriors to win the NBA Championship last month, Cleveland ended a string of 52 years without a championship, dating back to the Browns winning the NFL title against the Baltimore Colts 27-0 in 1964.

So now Minnesota – make that the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul – has the longest championship drought in North America professional sports.

Minnesota’s dry spell extends nearly 25 years, all the way back to October 27, 1991. That night the Twins behind Jack Morris beat the Atlanta Braves 1-0 in 10 innings to win Game 7 of the World Series. Kirby Puckett and his teammates had plenty to celebrate.

But since then, not a single Minnesota team – Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves or Wild – has even made it to a championship series.

Washington, D.C. is next on the list. The last championship for teams that represent our nation’s capital came in early 1992, when the Redskins beat the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl.

Ironically, the original Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961. Washington hasn’t had a team in the World Series since 1933.

Toronto won its last championship in 1993 when the Blue Jays won the World Series on a dramatic, ninth inning home run by Joe Carter.

Houston last won a title in 1995 when the Rockets took the NBA crown. And Atlanta beat the Cleveland Indians later that year to win the World Series.

Like Cleveland, all the cities mentioned about have teams in at least three of the four major pro sports, baseball, football, basketball and hockey.

For cities that don’t have either basketball or hockey franchises, San Diego and Cincinnati have suffered the most. The Chargers last won a championship in 1963, when they humbled the Boston Patriots 51-10 for the AFL crown. The Cincinnati Reds last won the World Series in 1990, sweeping the Oakland A’s.

Nobody wants to be on this list, but Minnesota now tops the charts.


Riding the NBA stairway to 7

The Cleveland Cavaliers are swimming upstream against history. No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals to win a championship. And only three teams have ever won a seventh game on the road.

For just the third time in history, a team has forced a seventh game after trailing 3-1 in the NBA Finals. That would be the Cavaliers, who will go to the mat against the Warriors on the road in Oakland.

In 1951, the Knicks trailed the Rochester Royals 3-0 and rallied to force a Game 7 but lost 79-75 in the final game (shown above). Arnie Risen led all scorers with 24 points as Rochester won its only NBA Championship. The Royals later moved West, first to Cincinnati, then Kansas City-Omaha, and eventually Sacramento. Somewhere in transit they become the Kings.

In 1966 the Lakers trailed the Celtics 3-1, only to win twice and force a decisive game. Boston held on to win that game 95-93 at the Boston Garden and capture a record eighth straight NBA championship. Bill Russell scored 25 points and took down 32 rebounds to lead the way.

Seventh games are a rarity in the NBA Finals. Cleveland-Golden State is just the 19th Game 7 since the league’s first playoff in 1947. Since 1984, only six Finals, including this one, have gone the distance.

And the home team – that would be the Warriors – has the decided edge if history proves true to form. Only three teams have won a seventh game game on the road. The last team to win a Finals Game 7 on the road was the Washington Bullets, who beat the Supersonics in Seattle. The Bullets won 105-89 behind center Wes Unseld, who was named MVP.

The Celtics did it twice – in 1974 against the Bucks in Milwaukee and.in 1969 against the Lakers at the Los Angeles Forum. In 1974, the road team won five times, including the last four games. The Celtics won 102-87 in what turned out to be Oscar Robertson’s final game.

In 1969, Boston, which finished in fourth place in the Eastern Division, came back to take the last two games as Russell outplayed Wilt Chamberlain. Boston held onto what had been a 17-point lead in the finale to win its 11th title 108-106.

Jerry West became the only player on a losing team to win Finals MVP. LA owner Jack Kent Cooke had thousands of balloons in the rafters ready to be released when the Lakers won. The balloons never came down.


RIP Champ, you were always ‘The Greatest’

I never had the opportunity to meet you, Muhammad Ali. If I did, I would have told you how much you meant to me, to the American people, to all citizens of the earth. You changed the world.

You were a fighter, a social activist, a poet, a legend, and icon. You led the way champ, and taught us how to stand up against things that were wrong, whether it be the treatment of black people in America in the 60s or the Vietnam War.

WABC Radio in New York used to run a program called “Speaking of Sports” that was hosted by Howard Cosell. Your many appearances on that show and the dialog with Cosell made for great radio.

You were the greatest fighter of all time. I still remember listening on the radio to your first heavyweight title fight in 1964. Nobody thought Cassius Clay had a chance against the fearsome Sonny Liston, but you won when Liston failed to answer the bell for the seventh round.

In 1974, I watched a closed circuit telecast of your stunning upset against George Foreman in Zaire. Again nobody gave you a chance, yet your “rope-a-dope” tactics wore out Foreman.

Although I never met you, I once met Chuck Wepner, a guy you punished in a 15-round title match in 1975. I asked Wepner what it was like to be in the ring with you. “It was pure hell,” he told me. “I knew he was the better fighter, and so did Ali.” I’m sure George Frazier and so many others would echo similar sentiments.

And who will ever forget that steamy night in Atlanta in 1996, when you lit the torch to open the Summer Olympics. That was a moment for the ages.

You were known for your poetry and observations. Here are some of your best quotes. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” was one of your favorite sayings. My favorite was “Don’t count the days, make each day count.” You made your 74 years count.

I cried this morning when I heard the news that  you had passed on, a victim of Parkinson’s disease. You inspired us all and fought the good fight to the end.

The world was a better place with you in it Muhammad. RIP Champ. You were The Greatest.


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