Fear and Loathing in Reno

What a long, strange trip it’s been.

15 hours to Reno, Nevada. By air, from Newburgh, NY, to Philadelphia, to Phoenix, and fat last on to Reno. All three flights delayed.

Finally arrived at the Grand Sierra Resort in the wee hours of the morning, only to discover the hotel doesn’t have wireless.

No wireless. Imagine that, web boy.

Now I realize that Nevada hotels want guests in the casinos spending money, not browsing the Internet in their rooms. But they do offer pillows, showers and room service.

Come on, this is the 21st Century. Get with the Internet program GSR.

The rooms have Ethernet cables for high-speed Internet access… or which the hotel charges $12.99 a day.

That is, if you’re able to connect. After hours on line with various help desks and moving mountains (well at least large desks) to reboot modems, this guest was finally able to get online. For a while, anyway. Until the system crashed.

Even in the sports book, which at least is connected to the outside world via satellite TV, the news was all bad. Yankees swept at Fenway. Rangers lose game six to the Washington Caps. The Giants, with a chance to get Braylon Edwards or Anquan Boldin, settling for Hakeem Nicks and a tall guy from Cal Poly at wide receiver.

Hunter S. Thompson would never settle for this!

Yankee Stadium: Day Late, Hundreds Short

DSCN2464 The new Yankee Stadium opened with ceremony and a 10-2 loss to Cleveland.

Was hoping to get to the opening of the new Yankee Stadium this week. Tried to call in a few favors, but the tickets never came through.

Fuggedaboutit! I’m not the godfather.

And with a slim wallet and the cheap seats going for $200 and up hundreds, scalping was out of the question.

So instead I took the day off from work, and saw the game on TV. For free.

Saved hundreds in the process, considering the price of tix, parking, gas, hot dog and beer and a program.

Not to mention peanuts.

High-Def Splendor

Instead, I watched the Yankee Stadium opener in high-definition splendor on my 37-inch flat screen. On the coach. In my living room.

Got to see the pre-game festivities, John Fogerty and Bernie Williams playing guitar in center field.

The living Yankees, and the ghosts of many former Yankees too, gathering at the new Stadium.

And of course Yogi Berra. throwing out the first pitch.

Jorge Posada, following in the rather gargantuan foot steps of Babe Ruth, hit the first home run in the new Stadium.

Only One Chance

But you only get one chance a year to win the home opener, one chance in a lifetime to win the first game in a new ballpark.

And after the Cleveland Indians scored nine runs in the seventh inning, it was clear the Yankees weren’t going to win on this day.

Final: Cleveland 10, New York 2.

THUD!! was that sound heard from the Bronx on Thursday afternoon.

The Yankees did win the next day, edging Cleveland, 6-5, on a Derek Jeter home run in the eighth.

Nice win, but that doesn’t count as the opener.

Never will.

Related Links: The SportsLifer takes one last look at some of the great moments at the old Yankee Stadium.

The Best of Yankee Stadium: Regular Season Baseball

The Best of Yankee Stadium: Post-Season Baseball

The Best of Yankee Stadium: Everything But Baseball

Sorry T.S., April Is Best Month for Sports

T.S. Eliot knew how to write, but sports wasn’t his strong suit.

“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain. “

— T.S Eliot, The Waste Land, 1922

Thomas Stearns (T.S.) Eliot, the American-British poet, playwright and critic, may have been a member of the Literature Hall of Fame, but he didn’t know sports.

With apologies to old T.S., April is America’s best month for sports.

April, the rites of passage, the season of rebirth, where Opening Day signals the start of another baseball season.

April has the pageantry of the Masters, from Augusta National, the most beautiful golf course in the world.

Both the NBA and NHL playoffs begin in April, the second season for 32 basketball and hockey teams.

The NCAA Tournament may be heralded as March Madness, but the Final Four is an April event.

And finally there’s the NFL draft, one of the most popular dates on the NFL calendar outside of the Super Bowl.

What other months challenge April?

June has the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup, the U.S. Open, and the Belmont Stakes, last leg in horse racing’s Triple Crown.

October has the World Series, and peak activity in college and pro football to go with Fall foliage.

And February has the Super Bowl, the single biggest day in American sports, and the Daytona 500.

Give me April every time.

Lords of The Ringless: Wide Receiver Edition

That’s not a Super Bowl trophy Randy Moss is pointing to – he doesn’t own a ring.

Here’s the latest in the Lords of The Ringless series, a litany of losers featuring wide receivers who have never won a championship — Super Bowl, NFL or AFL.

The team nobody wants to join includes four Hall of Famers — Steve Largent, Charley Taylor, James Lofton and Charlie Joiner — and a host of receivers who rank in the top 20 in the major statistical categories — career receptions, touchdowns, yardage and yards per reception.

And perhaps most surprisingly, two of the top three players on this list — Randy Moss and Terrell Owens — are still active. Both have come close, Moss with the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and Owens with the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX.

But close doesn’t count with Lords of The Ringless.

Ringless Wide Receivers

1. Randy Moss: 1998-present, Vikings, Raiders, Patriots — 3rd all-time in touchdowns with 135, including record 23 in 2007; 15th all-time in receptions with 843, 9th in yardage with 13,201; led NFL in TDs, 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2007; Offensive Rookie of the Year, 1998.

 2. Steve Largent: 1976-89, Seahawks — Ranks 6th all-time in touchdown receptions with 100; Hall of Famer ranks 17th in career catches with 819; led NFL in receiving yards in 1979 and 1985; seven time Pro Bowler; 1998 Walter Peyton Award winner. (Shown left)

3. Terrell Owens: 1996-present, 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bills — 2nd all-time in touchdowns with 139, trails only former teammate Jerry Rice (197); 5th in yardage with 14,122 and 6th in receptions with 951; TO has been named first team All=Pro five times.

4. Cris Carter: 1987-2002, Eagles, Vikings, Dolphins — Stands 3rd all-time with 1,101 receptions; 4th with 130 touchdowns; 7th in yardage with 13,899; 8-time Pro Bowler; led NFL receivers in TDs 1995, 1997, 1999; Walter Payton Award winner in 1999.

5. Charley Taylor: 1964-77, Redskins — started career as halfback before moving to split end; ranks 19th all-time with 79 touchdowns; led league in receptions in 1976 and 1977; 8-time Pro Bowler; inducted into Hall of Fame in 1984

6. Andre Reed: 1985-2000, Bills, Redskins — Tied with TO for 6th in all-time receptions with 951; 11th with 87 touchdown grabs; and 10th in yardage with 13,198; played in four straight Super Bowls with Buffalo; 7-time Pro Bowler.

7. James Lofton: 1978-93, Packers, Raiders, Bills, Rams, Eagles — Stands 6th all time in yardage with 14,004; led league in yards per reception in 1983 and 1984; made Pro Bowl eight times; NFL Hall of Fame.

8. Tim Brown: 1988-2004, Raiders, final year with Tampa Bay — 4th in receptions with 1,094; tied for 6th in TDs with Steve Largent at 100; 3rd in yardage with 14,934; led league in receptions in 1987 with 104; Heisman Trophy winner at Notre Dame in 1987

 9. Charlie Joiner: 1969-86, Oilers, Bengals, Chargers — 65 regular season touchdowns ranks 40th all-time; 3-time Pro Bowler; retired as NFL’s all-time receiving leader; member of NFL Hall of Fame. (Shown right)

10. Irving Fryar: 1984-2000, Patriots, Dolphins, Eagles, Redskins — Ranks 13th all-time in receptions with 851; 5-time Pro Bowler was drafted #1 overall by New England in 1984; 14th overall in TDs with 84.

Honorable Mention

Bobby Mitchell: 1958-68, Browns, Redskins — Hall of Fame flanker; led NFL in receptions and reception yardage in 1962.

Henry Ellard: 1983-98, Rams, Redskins, Pats — 8th all-time in yardage with 13,777; 19th in receptions with 814.

Warren Wells: 1964-70, Lions, Raiders — All-time leader in yards per reception with 23.1; caught 42 TDs in brief 5-year career.

Others Lords of The Ringless

Quarterback Edition

Running Back Edition

Baseball Edition

Hoops Edition

Who in The World Is Clint Barmes?

This is Babe Ruth, Sultan of Swat, not Clint Barmes, shown fielding below.

Who is Clint Barmes?

I was wondering that myself when he wound up on my fantasy baseball team, the Sultans of Swat.

My partner in crime, the good doctor Larry G, and I picked Barmes in our Nightcap League fantasy baseball draft.

In the fourth round.

Among the scores of recognizable names picked after Barmes were Cole Hamels, Mariano Rivera, Vlad Guerrero, Russell Martin, BJ Upton and Josh Beckett…just to name a few.

This may have been the only fantasy draft in the country where Barmes went in the fourth round, 38th overall.

So who is this guy Barmes? He’s a 30-year-old utility infielder who’s played six seasons for the Colorado Rockies. He didn’t even start on Opening Day; Ian Stewart got the nod at second base.

Ordinary Numbers
Only twice has Barmes played more than 100 games in a season. He’s never hit more than 11 home runs or had more than 56 RBIs in a single season.

Barmes has a career batting average of ..263, with 30 homers and 159 RBIs, lifetime numbers that Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez could compile in a single season.

He was rated 23rd of 30 major league second baseman by CBS SportsLine and 25th by ESPN, which rated him 298. The Sporting News had him 34th among shortstops. Neither Sports Illustrated nor CBS had Barmes in its top 300 overall.

That’s the bad news. Now here’s the good news.

The Sultans nabbed Pujols, the best player in baseball, with the third overall pick in the draft. Their next two picks were Matt Holliday and Roy Halladay. They got depth throughout the middle rounds, and some real sleepers in the later rounds, including Giants phenom Pablo Sandoval (21st), Heath Bell (23rd) and Yunei Escobar (25th).

And best of all, the Sultans of Swat are in first place two days into the season.

Satchel Paige: Great Early and Great Late

Sometimes records don’t even begin to tell the whole story, and stats don’t scratch the surface.

Take the case of Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige, legendary Negro Leaguer, Hall of Fame pitcher and storyteller supreme.

In six seasons with the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns and Kansas City A’s, Paige compiled a 28-31 record with a lifetime 3.29 ERA, and 288 strikeouts.

Not quite Hall of Fame caliber numbers.

But there’s so much more.

For two decades, Paige was arguably the hardest thrower, most colorful character and greatest gate attraction in the Negro Leagues. In his barnstorming days, he also pitched in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

It’s estimated that Paige pitched 2,5000 games, threw 55 no-hitters and performed before crowds in excess of 10 million.

MLB Debut at Age 42
On July 9, 1948, at the ripe old age of 42, Satchel Paige became the oldest man ever to debut in the major leagues. Six days later, he got his first major league win as the Indians beat the Philadelphia A’s, 8-5.

The Indians were battling for the American League pennant that summer, and in the heat of the race in late August, Paige authored back-to-back three-hit shutouts against the White Sox.

He finished the 1948 season with a 6-1 record and 2.48 ERA and appeared in one World Series game as Cleveland defeated the Boston Braves in six games. The Tribe hasn’t won the World Series since.

After a 4-7 record in 1949, the Indians released Paige. He was later picked up by the Browns, and Yankee manager Casey Stengel named Paige to the 1952 and 1953 American League All-Star team.

Note done yet, Paige continued to pitch into his fifties — on the barnstorm circuit and in the minor leagues.

Amazingly, in 1965 A’s owner Charles O. Finley signed Paige, then 59, to pitch one game on September 25 against the Red Sox. The ageless wonder threw three scoreless innings against a lineup that included Carl Yastrzemski and Tony Conigliaro, allowing one hit and retiring the final seven batters he faced.

One can only imagine the type of records Satchel Paige — and some of the other great Negro League players — could have compiled if allowed to pitch in the majors in their primes.

Satchel Paige Master’s Maxims — A Guide to Longevity

1. Avoid fried meats, which angry up the blood.
2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
4. Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social rumble ain’t restful.
5. Avoid running at all times.
6. Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.

Top 10: Best NCAA Championship Games


North Carolina’s Michael Jordan shoots down Georgetown for 1982 NCAA title.

Since the NCAA basketball tournament began in 1939, there have been great dynasties like UCLA, which won 10 titles in 12 years beginning in 1964. There have been great players like Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West, Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton,  Larry Bird and Magic Johnson,  Michael Jordan and Christian Laettner.

There have been watershed games that changed the sociological face of America and enhanced the popularity of the college game, bringing words like March Madness and Final Four into the American lexicon.

There have been seven overtime games, including a triple overtime classic between North Carolina and Kansas in 1957.  Six games have been decided by a single point.

UCLA has won the most titles with 11, following by Kentucky with 7, Indiana with 5 and North Carolina with 4.

Here are the 10 most memorable games in NCAA basketball history:

1. 1979 — Michigan State 75, Indiana State 64 — Many call this the most important college basketball game ever played; with a 24.1 Nielsen rating it is the highest rated basketball game ever. It was the game that put college basketball, March Madness and the Final Four on the map. Oh yes, and Magic Johnson, shown right, outscored Larry Bird 24 to 19 in Michigan State’s win.

2. 1966 — Texas Western 72, Kentucky 65 — Another watershed game, as an all-black Texas Western starting five surprised Kentucky. Soon after, Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp. the Baron, began recruiting black players, breaking down barriers throughout the South. In 2006, the film “Glory Road” dramatized the game and Texas Western coach Don Haskins.

3. 1957 — North Carolina 54, Kansas 53 (3OT) — The unbeaten Tar Heels outlasted Wilt Chamberlain and the Jayhawks in the longest game in NCAA championship game history. Two free throws by Joe Quigg with six seconds left made the difference. UNC also played three overtimes in the semis, beating Michigan State.

4. 1983 — NC State 54, Houston 52 — The Wolfpack, sixth seeded with 10 losses during the season, won when it mattered most as Lorenzo Charles putback dunk, pictured below, at the final buzzer upset Houston’s heavily favored Phi Slama Jama. Few will ever forget  the site of NC State coach Jim Valvano racing around the court looking for somebody to hug after the final buzzer.

5. 1985 — Villanova 66, Georgetown 64 — In a shocker, the Wildcats shot a tournament record .786 percent. They attempted 10 field goals in the second half and made nine. Georgetown was defending champion and the top seed, but fell short against eighth-seeded Villanova after beating another Big East foe, St. John’s, in the semis.

6. 1982 — North Carolina 63, Georgetown 62 –– This was Michael Jordan’s coming out party,  and the freshman hit the game-winning shot, a 16-foot jumper with 15 seconds left, to give Tar Heel coach Dean Smith his first national championship. “I was all kinds of nervous,” Jordan said, “but I didn’t have time to think about doubts. I had a feeling it was going to go in.”

7. 1950 — CCNY 71, Bradley 68 — City College of New York (CCNY) legendary coach Nat Holman, a New York native and a star with the Original Celtics,  led the Beavers to wins against Bradley in both the NCAA and the NIT, both at Madison Square Garden. CCNY remains the only team to win both the NCAA and the NIT in the same season.

8. 1987 — Indiana 74, Syracuse 73 — Keith Smart’s 16-foot baseline jumper with five seconds remaining gave the Hoosiers a victory in a matchup of Hall of Fame coaches, Indiana’s Bob Knights versus Jim Boeheim of Syracuse. Seven three-point baskets by IU’s Steve Alford combined with the Orangemen’s futility from the foul line were just enough to give Indiana the win.

9. 1973 — UCLA 87, Memphis State 66 — UCLA won its seventh NCAA championship  behind center Bill Walton, shown right, who made 21 of 22 shots for 44 points as the Bruins waltzed to another victory. Overall, the UCLA dynasty would capture 10 crowns in 12 years under coach John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood.

10. 1944 — Utah 42, Dartmouth 40 (OT) — Utah originally turned down an invitation to the NCAA tournament, but was given a second chance after losing in the NIT, and after Arkansas pulled out of the tourney after two players were injured in an automobile accident.  The Utes were the youngest NCAA champion in history; the team’s average age was 18 years, six months.

Overtime…5 More Minutes, 5 More Classics

2008 — Kansas 75, Memphis 68 (OT) — Kansas was down with 2:12 left in regulation but missed Memphis free throws left the door open, and the Jayhawks finally tied  the score on Mario Chalmers three-pointer with 2.1 seconds remaining. Kansas then dominated the overtime to win its first championship in 20 years.

1997 – Arizona 84, Kentucky 79 (OT) – Guards Miles Simon and Mike Bibby combined for 49 points to give Arizona the championship. Coach Lute Olson’s fourth-seeded Wildcats became the first team to beat three No. 1 seeds en route to a title.

1989 — Michigan 80, Seton Hall 79 (OT) — Rumeal Robinson made a pair of free throws with three seconds left following a controversial foul call to give the Wolverines the win in the NCAAs first overtime game since 1963. Seton Hall rallied from a 12-point deficit to send the game into overtime on John Morton’s three-pointer with 24 seconds left in regulation.

1963 – Loyola of Chicago 60, Cincinnati 58 (OT) – Down 15 with 12 minutes to play, the Ramblers scrambled back to force overtime. Then Vic Rouse’s rebound basket with one second left gave Loyola the championship.

1961 — Cincinnati 70, Ohio State 65 (OT) — In an all-Ohio finale, Cincinnati, minus the great Oscar Robertson, who had graduated, beat defending champion Ohio State. The Buckeyes roster included Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek. The Bearcats would go on to repeat in 1962, once again beating OSU.