Survey Says…..Yankees

Not surprisingly, the Yankees are New York’s favorite team according to a new Siena NY Sports Poll released by the Siena (College) Research Institute (SRI). Some 87% of all New Yorkers have one favorite team, and the Bronx Bombers were selected by 27% of fans polled, followed by the Mets at 12% and the Super Bowl champion Giants at 9%.

The Boston Red Sox were listed as the favorite team by 3% of respondents, ahead of the Jets, Knicks and Rangers but behind the Buffalo Bills (4%).

Among all New Yorkers, baseball, America’s pastime, remains the favorite sport at 30%. Football is the preferred sport of 23% of respondents followed by basketball (15%) and hockey (7%). Men choose football as their top pick over baseball, 29% to 25% while women like baseball over football by a much larger margin 34% to 18%.

Oh yes, by better than four-to-one (54-12%) New Yorkers believe Roger Clemens used performance- enhancing drugs, despite his repeated denials. No surprise there either

The Siena Research Institute NY Sports Poll was conducted from in February and March by random telephone calls to 802 New York State residents over the age of 18.

Even at #1, NFL Draft No Sure Thing

In many ways, the NFL draft is a crapshoot. Sure, you roll the dice with a sixth or seventh round pick, or take a chance on a third-round wide receiver from some small college. But even the #1 overall pick can be a risk.

Since the draft was initiated in 1936, that top pick has carried a lot of weight…a ton of expectations…and yet things haven’t always worked out as expected.

Take the 1936 draft for example. Jay Berwanger,  the first Heisman Trophy winner, was the first player drafted by the NFL. The Philadelphia Eagles had the selection, then traded Berwanger’s rights to the Chicago Bears after he claimed he had no interest in playing for the Eagles.

Berwanger had no interest in playing for the Bears either. After graduating from the University of Chicago, Berwanger became a sportswriter and later a manufacturer of plastic car parts.

Berwanger wasn’t the only #1 bust. For every Peyton Manning or John Elway there’s a Jeff George or Tim Coach. For every OJ Simpson….whoops, bad example, let’s use Earl Campbell… there’s a Kii-Jana Carter. You remember him, running back out of Penn State who the Bengals drafted first in the 1995 draft. He hurt his knee in the third carry of his first preseason game and was never the same.

There have been 11 NFL Hall of Famers drafted #1 overall — from Bill Dudley in 1942 to Troy Aikman in 1989. And then there are the likes of Gary Glick, Randy Duncan or Terry Baker, and more recently Steve Emtman, Russell Maryland, and Courtney Brown. Oh, and don’t forget Michael Vick.

Jake Long, here’s wishing you the best.

Flying High on a Softball Championship

Mount McKinley, looking west, off the right wing, August, 2006

I have a confession to make. I’m a softball junkie. I played softball in the streets and fields of White Plains when I was a kid, I played in work leagues in Massachusetts, Florida and New York, I swung a bat at many summer functions. And after a 10-year retirement from organized play, I resumed my softball career in 2003. Been playing ever since.

Two years ago come August, our team, which has been sponsored by a succession of Irish sports pubs, won the league championship. Last year, we lost in the final inning of the decisive third game. This year we’re off to a shaky start, but we’ll come around. We’ve been there before. We know how to win.

The 2006 championship was sweet. It easily topped the Yankees five-game sweep over the Red Sox at Fenway the following week, which I experienced from Alaska, my final frontier in a 50-state quest. Here’s the note I wrote to my teammates on a Frontier Airlines flight from Fairbanks to Anchorage, with Mount McKinley (aka Denali) rising above the clouds off the right wing.

Subject: Victory

What a great feeling — they can call us a lot of things, and now they can call us champions. It was a privilege to play with you men this year, and in years past. We had a real good mix of veterans and younger players, and we played as a team all year, with hustle and determination and respect for the game.

And it paid off in the end. There’s no denying we played our best ball in the final weeks, peaking at just the right time in the playoffs. It’s a testament to our team that we raised our level of play when it mattered most. I think those other teams are still wondering what hit them.

This is for all the guys who contributed to this team throughout the years. Here’s to the players who played hurt, to our timely hitting, to our pitchers who kept confusing the opposition, to the defense which tightened up considerably in the final weeks.

Most of all, here’s to us.


PS — We should get the team together to raise the trophy (if there is one) and toast to our success.

I Saw It on the Radio

There was a time, not that long ago, when the world functioned perfectly well, thank you, without instant replay, SportsCenter and the Internet….when home games were often blacked out….when we watched games on the radio.

The image above by D. Alan Harris conjures up memories of those days gone by. The photo is titled “Yesteryear” and the caption says, “Remember when — once upon a time little boys clamored to listen to the game in front of the radio.”

This kid grew up in New York listening to legendary announcers like Mel Allen, Red Barber, Jerry Coleman, Phil Rizzuto and Joe Garagiola call Yankee games. Sunday afternoons in the Fall were often spent on the living room couch with my father, listening to Marty Glickman broadcast another New York Giants road game. And my brother and I lived in the attic, where we listened to Marv Albert call Ranger and Knick games from Madison Square Garden, before cable TV.

World Series games were a challenge. The nuns would allow us to listen to an inning or two in class; however it always seemed as though we had to return to penmanship lessons just as Mickey Mantle was coming up in a key spot. I used to fall asleep at night listening to ballgames with my transistor radio, under the covers.

Those were the days….

Quick Hitters V — Observations of a Sportslifer

Phil Hughes 0-3, 8.82 ERA, Ian Kennedy 0-2 9.04 ERA. Do you think Hank Steinbrenner is keeping an eye on Johan Santana and reminding Brian Cashman about the trade that was never made….like every 10 minutes or so. That’s what George would have done.

Hughes’ blog sure gets more hits than sportslifer…..but he gives up more hits too.

We’ve seen just about enough of Jason Giambi in the middle the of the Yankee lineup. He can’t hit, he can’t field, he can’t throw and he can’t run. Other than that, he’s a great guy.

But now that A-Rod has a strained quad, we’ll no doubt be treated to even more of the Giam-balco. Unless the Bombers decide to bring back Joe Pepitone.

Considering the lack of starting pitching, clutch hitting, and a lot of road games, it’s amazing the Yankees are 10-10.

Over the years, Yankee fans have come to take the playoffs for granted. The last time they failed to make the playoffs was 1993 (remember 1994 was the strike year). There are college kids who can’t remember the last time the Yankees didn’t get into the post-season.

Suns vs. Spurs has to be one of the best first-round series in NBA history. Double OT in Game One. Remindful of some of those Knicks-Bullets encounters of the late 60s and early 70s.

Speaking of past Knicks, loved the headline the New York Post on Saturday — BYE-SIAH! Wish GO-LAN for James Dolan was next.

German Pope visits the White House and Yankee Stadium, baseball season opens in Japan. The world has changed since WWII. And that’s a good thing.

Rangers over Devils was not a surprise — Rangers dominated the regular season, and had more firepower. The surprise was the sieve-like effort turned in by Marty Brodeur, who has carried the Devils on his back all these years.

Brodeur missed a bunch of pucks throughout the series, and he missed Sean Avery’s handshake on the receiving line at the end of Game 5.

Couple of dozen blogs ago, sportslifer posed the question: Name the only college football team to have three players make the NFL Hall of Fame? The answer: the 1951 University of San Francisco Dons, with Gino Marchetti, Ollie Matson, and Bob St. Clair.

Fire Isiah!!! Poetry in Motion

Finally, the Knicks make Isiah pay
This doubting Thomas is out of play
Isiah is fired, at last it’s final
Even though he’s still in denial

He buried the Knicks, they were a disaster
At questionable moves, Zeke was the master
Jerome and Eddy, Stephon and Zack
He set the Knicks five years back

Now he’s nowhere, yes it’s true
Still has a job, but not a clue
He matched the franchise record for losses
And he’s no longer one of the bosses

Sexual harassment was part of his play
Now Isiah’s out of the picture to stay
At last, Knick fans can see the light
Without Isiah, the future is bright.

Baseball Cathedral Hosts Third Papal Mass

Pope Paul VI arrives for 1965 Mass at Yankee Stadium.

When Pope Benedict XVI celebrates Mass at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, it will be the third papal Mass in the venerable baseball cathedral, a record for any single venue in the United States.

On October 4, 1965, Pope Paul VI said Mass in front of more than 90,000 people at Yankee Stadium. Fourteen years later, on October 2, 1979, Pope John Paul II delivered Mass in the Bronx. Plaques honoring each occasion are located in the Stadium’s Monument Park.

Known mostly for baseball, Yankee Stadium has hosted many other famous sporting events, including Notre Dame-Army football, the New York football Giants, one Gotham Bowl, and boxing matches featuring Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali. The Isley Brothers, U2, Billy Joel and Pink Floyd are on the short list of performers who played Yankee Stadium.

A Jehovah’s Witness Convention attracted 123,707 people in 1950. The Stadium also hosted “A Prayer for America” in September of 2001 to honor the victims and heroes of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Yes, That’s Correct, No No-Nos for Mets

Nolan Ryan. Tom Seaver. Dwight Gooden. David Cone. Al Leiter. Warren Spahn. Hideo Nomo. What do all these men have in common?

All of them have thrown no-hitters. Some have thrown multiple no-hitters. Nolan Ryan holds the major-league record with seven.

None of them ever pitched a no-hitter for the New York Mets. In all, 14 pitchers who wore a Met uniform threw no-hitters — none of them while they were pitching for the Mets.

As amazing as it seems, since the franchise was founded in 1962, no Met has ever pitched a no-hitter. During that span, Mets’ pitchers have thrown 30 one-hitters, including five by Tom Seaver, three of which were no-hitters broken up in the ninth inning.

In the summer of ’69, Seaver had a perfect game going with one out in the ninth when Jimmy Qualls lined the only hit of the game for the Cubs.

Seaver, a 300-game winner, pitched his only career no-hitter for the Reds.

Two former Mets threw no-hitters for the Yankees, Doc Gooden in 1996 and David Cone, who pitched a perfect game in 1999.

The Mets have been no-hit, six times in their history, most notably by Sandy Koufax in 1962 and Jim Bunning, who pitched a perfect game at Shea Stadium in its inaugural season, 1964. Bob Moose in 1969, Bill Stoneman in 1972, Ed Halicki in 1975 and Darryl Kile in 1993 all pitched no-hitters against the Metropolitans.

Four teams in baseball history have never had a pitcher toss a no-hitter — Tampa Bay Rays (1998), Colorado Rockies (1993), San Diego Padres (1969) and the Mets (1962).

Update: Ubaldo Jiminez of the Rockies and Matt Garza of Tampa Bay both pitched no-hitters in 2010. That left the Mets and the Padres as the only teams without a no-hitter.

Trevor Tames Tiger

At gusty Augusta, Trevor Immelman tamed the Tiger, never let him get within stalking distance.

Tiger Woods was the overwhelming favorite to win the Masters; even money against the field going in according to one Vegas sheet. Immelman? Not exactly a household name or the trendy choice. He had about as much chance of winning the Masters as John Daly has of passing up the next beer.

Immelman, a native of South Africa, faced different kind of odds last December when he was forced to withdraw from the South African Airways Open due to discomfort around the ribcage area. He went into surgery, and doctors discovered a lesion approximately the size of a golf ball on his diaphragm. It was diagnosed as a calcified fibrosis tumor. After more tests they discovered that it was benign.

He missed the first eight weeks of the 2008 PGA Tour season.
As for Tiger, he remains tied with Arnold Palmer with four Masters titles, two behind Jack Nicklaus, who won six and finished second four times. Jimmy Demaret, Nick Faldo, Gary Player and Sam Snead each won three green jackets.

Ten others, including Homer Smith, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Phil Mickelson and Tom Watson, won three championships. Homer Smith, not exactly a household name either, won the first Masters in 1934.

Quick As a FOX, Heidi Is Back

In a flashback to the “Heidi Game” nearly 40 years ago, FOX 5 in New York pulled the plug on a one-run Yankee-Red Sox game with two outs in the ninth, switching over to NASCAR.

Hey Fox, here’s a news flash — there are more baseball fans than exhaust circuit fans in New York. The FOX swap makes sense in Darlington and Daytona and lots of other places south of here, but not in New York. Not in Boston either. Can’t quite see the Quincy 500 going over big in Massachusetts.

Sure, FOX put the game on FX, as if it’s on the sportslifer’s speed dial remote. By the time I stumbled upon FX, the game was over. Are you kidding me?

The Heidi game made fame in 1968, when NBC pulled the plug on a Raiders-Jets clash in 1968 for Heidi, the charming Swiss girl and title character of Johanna Spyri’s 1880s children’s tale.

Since the Raiders railled to beat the Jets with two touchdowns, the Heidi game came to be known as the “Greatest Game Never Seen.”

NBC president Julius Goodman released a statement 90 minutes after the game, calling the incident “a forgivable error committed by humans who were concerned about children expecting to see Heidi. … I missed the end of the game as much as anyone else.”

Oh yeah, in case you were wondering, the Red Sox won, 4-3. Missed the end of that game too. Thanks to FOX.