Material Guy a Bust in The Bronx

Material Guy (sung to the tune of Madonna’s Material Girl)

Some guys come through in the big spot
But that’s not my way
I get tight, I strike out
Or worse a double play

Fans can boo and they can plead
But they don’t see the light
Cause guys like me with cold hard cash
Are always mister right

….cause we are

Living in a material world
And I am a material guy
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material guy

Alex Rodriguez hears the boos on the road and at home.

Material Guy makes hundreds of millions of dollars, yet comes up bankrupt in the clutch. He hits tons of home runs, but is a lightweight under pressure. He plays games on and off the diamond, at home and on the road, with the Yankees and his wife and blonde strippers and even Madonna.

Material Guy is living in a material world. And he’s a loser. Alex Rodriguez has won three MVPs, but has never taken his team to the World Series.

Of course, he’s hardly the only reason the Yankees are fast-fading out of the playoff picture. Offensive incompetence, especially with runners in scoring position, anemic pitching and injuries have combined to put the Yanks on serious death watch.

But A-Rod is the lightning rod, the highest-salaried player in the game, and he’s paid to produce in the clutch. In that vein, he’s been a bust ever since coming to the Bronx. E-Rod, A-Wad, Double Play-Rod.

Just this week, in a crucial three-game series against the Red Sox, Material Guy was 2-for-13 with five strikeouts and grounded into a pair of rally-killing double plays as the Yankees lost two of three..

Lord of The Ringless
In fact, since Material Guy arrived in New York in 2004, the Yankees have failed to win the American League pennant. Before he came, they had been to the World Series six times in eight seasons, winning four championships.

When the Material Guy left the Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers, both times for more money, his former teams immediately improved….dramatically

In 2001, Seattle set the all-time American League record with 116 wins, 25 more than the previous year with A-Rod. Texas immediately improved from 71 wins to 89 without A-Rod.

Amazingly, Material Guy went 15 full playoff games and parts of two others without a single RBI before hitting a meaningless home run late in the Yankees fourth and final game loss to the Indians last year. During that stretch he was 7-for-57 for a .123 batting average. Guys swinging with their eyes closed can manage 7-for-57.

Playoff Failures
His playoff failures have defined his career in pinstripes. A weak tapper and run-in with Boston’s Bronson Arroyo in 2004. A double play grounder in the ninth inning of Game 5 against the Angels in 2005 in a 5-3 loss.

In fact, Material Guy became such a head case under pressure that Joe Torre dropped him to eighth in the batting order two years ago in the final game loss to the Tigers. A-Rod went 0-for-3 and made a costly error as Detroit sent the Yankees packing in 2006.

In the most critical moment in last year’s playoffs, A-Rod struck out in the ninth inning of a 1-1 tie with the go-ahead run in scoring position; Cleveland went on to win, 2-1, in 11 innings en route to a series victory in four games.

Put it this way Yankee fans, game on the line, who would you rather have up there, Material Guy or Scott Brosius?

Pretty much says it all.

Olympics: And the Winner Is….China

The final medal count for the 2008 Olympics shows the United States as the overall winner with 110 medals, to 100 for China.

However, as noted in an earlier SportsLifer blog, weighing the medals to give more points for gold than silver or bronze changes the equation.

For instance, awarding three points for a gold, two for silver and one for bronze makes China the winner. China had 51 gold medals to 36 for the USA, and using this matrix was the leader by a slim three points, 223 to 220, in the overall medal race.

My First Baseball Game

Fifty years ago, August 23, 1958, I saw my very first baseball game.

I still remember it like it was yesterday. A seven-year-old kid, walking into Yankee Stadium with my Dad and seeing the immense ballfield, the green facade, the monuments in center field. The pinstriped legends on the field.

That Saturday afternoon, the Chicago White Sox beat the Yankees, 7-1, as Billy Pierce bested Whitey Ford in a battle of southpaws.

Six future Hall of Famers played in that game — Ford, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Enos Slaughter for the Yankees and Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio for the ChiSox.

Ray Boone hit a solo home run and knocked in four runs for Chicago. Moose Skowron homered in the seventh for the only Yankee run.

I’ve been hooked ever since.

PS — Exactly 10 years later, August 23, 1968, I saw 28 innings of baseball at the Stadium. The Yankees won the first game of the twi-night doubleheader, 2-1; the two teams played to a 3-3, 19-inning tie in the nightcap.

Woodstock: Better Late Than Never

“The thing the sixties did was show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.”

— John Lennon

Well, I finally made it to Woodstock, 39 years too late.

Back in the summer of ’69, just out of high school, I was on the New York State Thruway, just over the Tappan Zee Bridge, when the transmission on the old Ford woodie wagon gave out. Never made it past Tuxedo Park.

I did see Jimi Hendrix at the Westchester County Center in White Plains in 1968, and I caught the Who in an amazing concert at Holy Cross College barely a month after Woodstock. Yeah, and in 1973, I made the trek to Watkins Glen in upstate New York along with 600.000 others to see the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead and the Band live and in concert.

But Woodstock was THE rock concert of all-time, the singular event that defined the Sixties for present and future generations.

So this week I drove up to Bethel, N.Y., near Monticello, to see The Museum at Bethel Woods, which celebrates the Woodstock festival and the spirit of the Sixties.

(To clarify, Bethel is about an hour and a half from Woodstock, which bore the name of Music and Arts Festival. Frame of reference, Max Yasgur’s farm was in Bethel.)

It’s a wonderful museum and brought back some memories and flashbacks of that time in America’s life. And the music — from Richie Havens to Hendrix, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Santana, Janis Joplin and the Jefferson Airplane — was amazing.

How did they ever pull off a show like Woodstock, in the middle of nowhere, with more than 400,000 people? And with no cell phones?

Woodstock Weekend in Sports

Meanwhile, there are some sports parallels for Woodstock weekend beginning Friday, August 15, in the summer of 1969. Going into baseball action that weekend, the Mets were in third place in the National League East, 10 games behind the Cubs and a game behind the Cardinals.

Over the weekend, the Mets swept Saturday and Sunday doubleheaders from the expansion Padres, and were sitting eight games back of the Cubs by the time Hendrix played the National Anthem at Woodstock on Monday morning. The Miracle Mets run was underway.

The Yankees were in fourth place in the newly-formed American League East, tied with the Washington Senators 22 1/2 games behind the Orioles. The Yankees did win two of three in Chicago on Woodstock weekend.

The Jets, fresh off their Super Bowl III triumph, crushed the Giants, 37-14, at the Yale Bowl before 70,874 fans to stamp themselves and the AFL as legitimate, at least in New York.

And In golf, Raymond Floyd edged out Gary Player by a stroke to win the PGA tournament in Dayton, Ohio.

The Best of Yankee Stadium, Baseball Excluded

Posted on August 19, 2008 by sportslifer | Edit

Soon we’ll be seeing all sorts of retrospective pieces on Yankee Stadium. Here we take an early look at the moments that shaped Yankee Stadium, New York and the world of sports.

Overall, there will be three categories — anything but baseball, baseball regular season, and baseball post-season.

This is the top 10 for anything but baseball….we’ll follow up soon with top 10s devoted to regular season and post-season play at the Stadium.

Remember you read it first in the SportsLifer.

Top 10 Yankee Stadium events (other than baseball), chronological order:

1. At halftime, Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne urges his squad to “Win one for the Gipper” as Irish, left. rally to defeat Army, 12-6, in honor of former All-America George Gipp, 1928

2. Undefeated Fordham and the Seven Blocks of Granite need one more win to reach the Rose Bowl, but NYU beats Vince Lombardi and company, 7-6,on a muddy field, 1936

3. Joe Louis not only knocks out Max Schmeling, below, in the first round for the heavyweight title, he gave the United States a shot of pride against Hitler’s Nazi Germany, 1938

4. In a game that featured four past or future Heisman Trophy winners, number one ranked Army and second-ranked Notre Dame play to a scoreless tie, 1946

5. Joey Maxim outlasts Sugar Ray Robinson, who lost 16 pounds in the heat, in 13 rounds in a light-heavyweight title bout, 1952

6. The New York Giants again don sneakers on an icy field and overwhelm the Chicago Bears, 47-7, to win their third NFL championship, 1956

7. Pope Paul VI hosts the first of three Papal Masses at Yankee Stadium, followed by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, 1965, 1979 and 2008

8. Pat Summerall kicks a long field goal in a swirling snowstorm to give the Giants a 13-10 win over the Cleveland Browns, forcing a playoff for the NFL East crown, 1958

9. In what is called “The Greatest Game Ever Played” the Baltimore Colts defeat the New York Giants, 23-17, in overtime in the game that raised the profile of the NFL. At left, Alan Amache scores the winning touchdown in the December dusk, 1958

10. Muhammad Ali defeats Ken Norton by unanimous decision in their rubber match and retains his heavyweight championship, 1976

Other Highlights

Tony Zale over Rocky Graziano for middleweight championship, 1946

More than 123,00 crowd first annual Jehovah’s Witness convention, 1950

Unbeaten heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano defeats Ezzard Charles.1954

Carmen Basilio outpoints Sugar Ray Robinson to capture middleweight crown, 1957

Sweden’s Ingemar Johansson knocks out the champ, Floyd Patterson, 1959

Giants Y.A.Tittle ties NFL record with seven touchdown passes against Washington Redskins, 1962

An inter-faith prayer service is held 13 days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 2001

Billy Joel, U2 and Pink Floyd are among the few rock groups to play the Stadium

Give China Props — Fix Olympic Medal Count

Never quite understood the Olympic medal count. Shouldn’t gold count for more than silver or bronze?

After all, the objective is to win the gold, not finish second. The silver medalist is like being the Super Bowl runner-up; nice try but quickly forgotten.

This ain’t no apples-to- apples comparison. Gold is the silver dollar; silver the 50-cent piece, and bronze the quarter.

So why not weigh the medal count?

For instance, going into Tuesday’s action in Beijing, the United States has 72 medals to China’s 67. So the red, white and blue is leading, right.

Hold on. Let’s give three points for a gold medal, two points for a silver and one for a bronze. Based on those numerics, China (39 gold, 14 silver, 14 bronze) has 159 points; the USA (22 gold, 24 silver, 26 bronze) is second with 140 points.

These calculations also change the dynamics for third place. Russia currently has 36 medals to Australia’s 33; however using the SportsLifer equation the two countries are tied with 65 points.

Something to think about. It could influence whether the United States or China claims bragging rights in these Olympics.

While I Was Away

SportsLifer is in the midst of summer vacation. Just spent a week on the beautiful, yet underrated, Jersey Shore. It’s a tough life, making decisions like whether or not to bring the suntan lotion, when to go in the ocean and where to buy the ice.

Gave me some good ideas about the wireless cabana of the future.

Anyway, a lot happened while I was away. Trying to sort it all out, but I now know:

  • Brett Favre is quarterback of the Jets.
  • Mike and the Mad Dog are no longer a couple.
  • Michael Phelps is a pretty good swimmer.
  • Sergio Garcia feels the power of The Jinx.
  • Hank Steinbrenner has more quit in him than George ever did.
  • There’s such a thing as a too hot tub.

1958: One Golden Year

Fifty years ago, two events changed the landscape of professional sports in America forever.

In 1958, the Dodgers and the Giants left New York behind, kicking off baseball’s presence on the West Coast and ushering in an era of expansion in baseball and eventually other sports. Shock waves were felt from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, and from New York to San Francisco.

Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, frustrated in his attempts to get a new ballpark to replace Ebbets Field, decided to pick up and head West, taking owner Horace Stoneham and the Giants with him.

Fifty years later, Brooklyn has not forgotten. When O’Malley was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in July, some boos were heard throughout the Cooperstown crowd. Walter O’Malley may just be the most reviled figure in New York sports history.

Brooklyn native and the radio voice of the Dodgers Charley Steiner once observed: “Walter O’Malley was the guy in the black hat who led the wagon train out of town.”

Later that year, the New York Giants and Baltimore Colts staged a dramatic overtime game in Yankee Stadium that symbolized the rise of the NFL and the establishment of professional football as America’s leading pastime.

The Colts prevailed behind Johnny Unitas, 23-17, in what remains to this day the only overtime championship game in NFL history. A nationally televised NBC audience was captivated by the drama, capped by Alan Ameche’s winning touchdown, shown at right.

Some refer to it as “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” It may not have been the greatest….but it may have been the most important game NFL history, for it signalled the rise and popularity of the sport in the national psyche.

Year of Dynasties

1958 was also a year of dynasties, past, present and future.

The Colts won the NFL championship that year, and would repeat in 1959, again knocking off the Giants.

But the real dynasty was rising in Green Bay, where Vince Lombardi, who left the Giants as an assistant coach following the 1958 playoff, led the Packers to a 7-5 record in 1959. A year later the Packers were in the NFL championship game; two years later they were NFL champions, starting a run of five NFL crowns in seven seasons, including the first two Super Bowls ever played.

In baseball, the New York Yankees, in the midst of winning 14 American League pennants and nine World Series in 16 years, rebounded from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Milwaukee Braves and win the World Series.

The Braves had beaten the Yankees in seven games in 1957, only to have the Yankees return the favor in 1958, to the delight of Casey Stengel, above, here with Braves manager Fred Haney following the seventh game.

Although the St. Louis Hawks won their only NBA title in 1958. defeating the Celtics in six games, Boston was on the verge of a major roll that started the following year. Beginning in 1959, the Celtics won eight straight NBA titles and 10 of 11 championships overall, a standard unapproached in professional sports history.

Finally, in 1958, the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup for the third straight year, en route to an NHL record five straight titles. Les Habitants have won 23 championships; only the Yankees with 26 have more.

Matty and the Jinx

My friend Matty and I have known one another since the ’60s. We’ve gone to some great sports events together, including the Super Bowl, World Series and the Olympics.

For the most part , we cheer for the same New York teams. We’ve seen a few wins, but more often than not, we’ve seen the ugly side of New York sports.

We came to call it simply The Jinx. When Matt and I go to games together, bad things happen to our teams.

Take for instance December 27, 1997. We went to the Garden for a matinee game, which the Knicks lost, 97-94, to the Toronto Raptors on a buzzer-beater by Doug Christie.

Meanwhile, at the same time, on the TV in the suite at MSG, the  Giants are frittering away a 19-3 halftime lead and losing to the Minnesota Vikings, 23-22, in a playoff game at Giants Stadium.

That day clearly demonstrated the power of The Jinx.

The Jinx Top 10

  1. Super Bowl XXV, Tampa, Ravens crush Giants, 34-7, 2001
  2. Red Sox shut out Yankees 1-0, 6-0 at Shea Stadium, 1975
  3. Red Sox beat Yankees 2-1, 1-0, Fourth of  July, 1973
  4. Knicks lose to Raptors on buzzer-beater at MSG while…
  5. Giants blow 19-3 lead, lose playoff game to Vikings, 1997
  6. Giants lose to Cowboys, 30-29, on missed extra point, 1985
  7. Mets lose playoff game to Houston, 3-1, Shea Stadium, 1986
  8. A’s blow out Yankees early, 13-5, Yankee Stadium, 1987
  9. Red Sox beat Yankees, 8-3, on 50th birthday party, 2001
  10. Iona Prep loses, 60-6, to St. Francis, 1966

Brett the Jet Faces Weight of History

Are the Jets a better team with Brett Favre at quarterback? Of course. But let’s not start printing Super Bowl tickets just yet.

In Green Bay, Favre had history on his side. Winning history. Not so with the Jets.

The Jets have gone this route before, with mixed results. They’ve had a history of picking up veteran QBs, admittedly none as good as Broadway Brett.

But Boomer Esiason, Vinny Testaverde, and Neil O’Donnell weren’t exactly slouches.

Esiason, who finished he career with 247 touchdown passes, arrived in New York in 1993, five years after he was NFL MVP in leading the Broncos to the Super Bowl. Boomer played three years with the Jets, and the team was 15-27 in games he started. They failed to make the playoffs in any of those three seasons.

Fresh off a Super Bowl loss to the Cowboys, O’Donnell left the Steelers to sign as a free agent with the Jets in 1996. He played two seasons in New York, and the Jets failed to make the playoffs either time

Testaverde, the number one overall pick by Tampa Bay in 1987, arrived in New York in 1998. The free agent pickup was an instant success.

Testaverde, who threw 275 touchdowns during the course of his 21-year career and ranks sixth all time in pass attempts, completions and yardage, led the Jets to the AFC championship game in 1998, where they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. Vinny and the Jets. That’s the furthest the Jets have advanced in the playoffs since the 1968 team, led by Joe Namath, won Super Bowl III.

Testaverde guided the Jets to another playoff berth in 2001 only to get knocked out in the first round by the Oakland Raiders.

Even the franchise’s quarterbacking standard-bearer, the Hall of Famer Namath, made the playoffs just twice in 12 seasons in New York (1965-76).

It’s been 40 years since the Jets first, last and only visit to the Super Bowl. That’s a long time.