Pro football in New York reaches historic low

namath1974

Considering all the lousy years of football in New York, this may be the worst season yet.

On Sunday, the Giants (2-7) meet the Jets (1-7) for  bragging rights…if that’s what you want to call it. Not much to brag about for either team.

Since the Giants and Jets first met in 1970, their worst combined record occurred in 1976, when each team finished 3-11. Joe Namath led the Jets, and Craig Morton quarterbacked the Giants that year.

In 1973, the Giants were 2-11-1 and the Jets 4-10. In 1980, each club finished 4-12, two years after the NFL went to the current 16-game schedule.

The past two seasons have been a calamity for both teams. The Giants wound up 3-13 and the Jets 5-11 in 2017; last year, Big Blue went 5-11 and the Jets 4-12. Phew!!

The worst single season head-to-head matchup occurred in 1974, when the Jets won 26-20 in overtime (both teams were 2-7 following the game). Namath, pictured above, scored on a fourth quarter rollout to tie the game in the Yale Bowl before Emerson Boozer ran it in from five yards out in overtime.

In 1996, the teams entered winless at 0-3 and the Giants won 13-6. The Jets and Giants were bad then, and they’re worse now. Time to bring out the paper bags.


Yanks need to open the checkbook for starters

Memo to Brian Cashman: Starting Pitching Matters

Memo to Hal Steinbrenner: Open the Checkbookgerrit cole

Want proof. Look no further than Games 6 and 7 of the World Series, where Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer pitched brilliantly in leading  the Washington Nationals to their first World Series championship.

Or take another look at Gerrit Cole’s, right, performance in Game 5, which brought the Houston Astros to the brink of their second title in three years.

Starting pitching throughout the playoffs ran counter to such noveau strategies as the opener, bullpen games  and the super bullpen.

For years now the Yankees have been building a powerhouse teams with a stacked lineup and the best bullpen in baseball, a team capable of winning 100 games each of the past two seasons, and reaching the ALCS two of the past three years.

While spending big bucks on Giancarlo Stanton and fortifying the lineup and bullpen, Cashman and the Yankee brain trust have taken the cut-rate route on starters. Lacking a true number one ace (save for Luis Severino in the first half of 2018), the Yankees have used duct tape and baling wire to piece together a rotation, both at the front and back end.

Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton have been serviceable pitchers, but not aces. Domingo German’s future is uncertain, based on his domestic abuse issues.

hal-steinbrennerOver the last few years they have had opportunities to acquire Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Patrick Corbin and Dallas Kuechel, among others….and have passed on all of them.

Instead, the Yanks banked on CC Sabathia, who had nearly as many injured list visits as victories the past two years, and JA Happ, the so-called Boston killer who has wilted against the Red Sox.

Sonny Gray, a 2017 trade acquisition, turned out to be another Ed Whitson. Lance Lynn didn’t last. Michael Pineda. Jaime Garcie. Need we go on.

It wasn’t enough. While the Astros and Nationals thrived on starting pitching in the playoffs, the Yankees couldn’t hit in the clutch. Eventually their vaunted bullpen wore down, saddled down by innings, opposing batters becoming more familiar and comfortable with each appearance.

brian-cashman-yankeesIt’s time to open up the purse strings and act like the bullying George Steinbrenner Yankees. The team has been on financial restraint the past few seasons, trying to remain below luxury tax levels.

Well Hal Steinbrenner, above left, austerity no longer flies with Yankee fans. We know you have the money. Heck, your father wrote an $80,000 check in 1973 when he fronted an investors’ group that bought the Yankees for $8.8 million from CBS.

The Yankees earn 20 percent more than the next wealthiest baseball team, and their $4 billion market value is second in sports, behind only the Dallas Cowboys.

Well Brian Cashman, above right, time to bring on some pitching. Cole would look good in pinstripes. Strasburg and Madison Bumgarner too.

There’s work to be done. 2020 is up next. Time to bully up Yankees.


A Yankee connection in beautiful Coronado

Island Beer Club

If this were a travel review, I’d wax poetic about the wonderful two weeks I spent in California. Every day was a highlight, starting with Grant & Andy’s wedding at Jack London’s ranch in the wine country. Spent some time farming in the sweet air at Glentucky Farms in Sonoma with Mike, Grant’s father and my friend since first grade.

During the trip I found my old home and school in Daly City, and visited such sports as Mission Carmel, Big Sur, Hearst Castle, magical Moonstone Beach in Cambria, Morro Rock and the Santa Monica Pier as I made my way down the Pacific Coast Highway to Southern California.

I even managed to cross off a bucket list item with a visit to Dodger Stadium, the third oldest ballpark in the majors. With the help of the SeatGeek app, watched Washington defeat Los Angeles in an NLDS playoff game. Afterwards, battled LA traffic and made my way to see another lifelong friend, Janie, and her husband Kevin, in Marina del Rey.

From there, went to Coronado to visit my college roomie Paul and his wife Karen. We saw the historic Midway aircraft carrier, the San Diego Zoo and the famed Hotel del Coronado.

On the final night of the trip, Paul suggested we make an appearance at the Island Beer Club, pictured above. What a concept, Drinking beer with your neighbors outdoors in the beautiful weather.of San Diego.bob_sheppard_bw

Since I was wearing a Yankee cap, a club member told me I should meet Chris. Well, Chris Sheppard turned out to be the son of legendary Yankee PA announcer Bob Sheppard, who was nicknamed “The Voice of God” by Reggie Jackson. Carl Yastrzemski once said: “You’re not in the big leagues until Bob Sheppard announces your name.”

Sheppard was the PA announcer for the Yankees for 56 years. During that time, the Yankees won 22 pennants and 13 World Series. Shepperd announced six no-hitters and three perfect games at Yankee Stadium.

He called his first game on April 17, 1951, six days before I was born. The first player he introduced was Dominic DiMaggio of the Red Sox. Mickey Mantle made his debut that day. Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto and Johnny Mize of the Yankees and Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr and Lou Boudreau of the Red Sox were also introduced by Sheppard during the game.

Sheppard earned $15 a game his first year with the Yankees, $17 for a doubleheader.

He was also the PA announcer for the New York Giants for more than 50 years, encompassing nine conference championships and three NFL titles, including two Super Bowls.

Sheppard was the starting first baseman for three years and the starting quarterback for four years for St. John’s University, graduating in 1932. During World War II was a gunnery office for the US Navy and served in the Pacific Theater. He taught speech at several schools, including his alma mater.

Bob Sheppard worked until he was 97, and passed away three months before his 100th birthday in 2010, two days before George Steinbrenner died.

Chris Sheppard played basketball and baseball at Marquette, and sometimes filled in for his father at Yankee Stadium. He joined the Marines and later became a commercial airline pilot. He lives in Coronado, where he is a member for the Island Beer Club.


Who in the world is Larry Corcoran?

Justin Verlander joined an elite group when he tossed the third no-hitter of his career yesterday.

Verlander became just the sixth pitcher to throw three or more no-hitters. He joins baseball legends Nolan Ryan (7), Sandy Koufax (4), Cy Young (3), and Bob Feller (3). And then there’s Larry Corcoran. Hardly a household name.CorcoranLarry.jpg

Pitching for the Chicago White Stockings, Corcoran threw no-hitters against the Boston Red Caps in 1880, Worcester Worcesters in 1882 and Providence Grays in 1884.

Corcoran was one of the smallest players in baseball history. Born in 1859 to Irish immigrant parents, the Brooklyn native stood just 5’3” and weighed 127 pounds. Nicknamed “Little Corcoran,” he was one of the early masters of the curveball.

Corcoran won 170 games for the White Stockings over that five-year span, including 43 wins in 1880 and 35 in 1884. Corcoran averaged 456 innings and 34 wins per year during that stretch, helping Chicago to three National League pennants.

But all those innings put a strain on his arm, and his career went downhill after 1884. Corcoran later pitched for the New York Giants, Washington Nationals, and Indianapolis Hoosiers, and wound up his career with a 177-89 mark, a 2.36 ERA and those three no-hitters.

Unable to adapt to life after baseball, Corcoran turned to alcohol. He died in 1881 of kidney failure. Larry Corcoran was just 32 years old.

 

 

 

 

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/c/corcola01.shtml

 

https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/9aedc353


Toronto’s long hoops journey nears the summit

FirstNBAGame

The first NBA game ever played took place on November 1, 1946, when the New York Knickerbockers defeated the Toronto Huskies, 68-66, before 7,000 fans at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens.

More than 70 years later, Toronto – and really the whole country of Canada —  is a win away from it’s first NBA championship. The Raptors have three chances to knock off Golden State, beginning Monday at home.

firstgame2The original Toronto team, the Huskies,  lasted only one year, finishing last, and  then folded. Of 11  teams that comprised the Basketball Association of America (BAA), only the Knicks and Boston Celtics survive as charter franchises. The Philadelphia Warriors, who won the first NBA championship,  moved to Golden State in 1962.

The other BAA originals included the Chicago Stags, Cleveland Rebels, Detroit Falcons, Pittsburgh Ironmen, Providence Steamrollers, St Louis Bombers, and and Washington Capitols.

Three years later, the NBA was formed as a result of the merger of the BAA and National Basketball League (NBL).

In the first NBA game, the Huskies offered free admission to only fan taller than Toronto’s 6-8 George Nostrand, as shown above right.

Ossie Schectman, who played at LIU of the Knicks scored the league’s first basket in that 1946 opener. Leo Gottlieb led the Knicks with 14 points and Schectman finished with 11.

Toronto player-coach Ed Sadowski led all scorers with 18 and Nostrand scored 16.

The Toronto Raptors were an expansion franchise, beginning play in 1995.  They are the only Canadian franchise in the NBA, and represent what is now the fourth largest city in North America.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the Raptors captured a title before the Toronto Maple Leafs, who last won the Stanley Cup in 1967?

Background:

 

Video

Box score

Game story

Raptors franchise index


Minus the error, Bill Buckner is Harold Baines

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The moment it happened, the first line of his obituary was forever defined:

“Bill Buckner, made fateful error in 1986 World Series…. “

You know the story. One play, a hopper that got past Buckner and helped the Mets overcome the Red Sox, overshadowed a very good baseball career.

A play that never should have happened. Throughout the season, Red Sox manager John McNamara frequently sent in Dave Stapleton to sub for Buckner late in ballgames for defensive purposes. Buckner was a good first baseman in his prime, but was hobbled by ankle injuries later in his career.

That night, Game 6, Buckner allowed Mookie Wilson’s grounder to slip through his legs and the Mets won 6-5 in 11 innings. Two nights later, the Mets won the World Series and extended the Red Sox drought to 68 years.

Bill Buckner died this week at the age of 69 of Lewy body dementia. Although I’m not here to advocate the Hall of Fame candidacy of Buckner, his career and numbers are eerily similar to those of Harold Baines, who was elected to he HOF by the Veteran’s Committee earlier this year. In my book, Baines is not a Hall of Famer.

Buckner and Baines each played 22 seasons and had lifetime batting averages of .289. Billy Bucks is one of the few players in MLB history to play in four different decades.

Baines had 2,866 hits, Buckner 2,715. Baines had a big edge in the power categories (384 HRs to 174) and better slugging and OPS numbers.

But Buckner stole 183 bases as opposed to 34 for Baines. Buckner won a batting title (.324) with the Cubs in 1980.

Oh and get this. Buckner struck out just 445 times in in 9,397 at bats, and Baines 1441 in 9,908 ABs. The year Baines won the NL batting title, he fanned 18 times in 578 ABs.

Neither player ever won World Series. Buckner was on pennant winners with the Dodgers in 1974 and the Red Sox in 1986; Baines with the A’s in 1990.

One other big differential; Buckner played first base and outfield throughout his career,  Baines was primarily a designated hitter.

Take away that one error, and is the Veteran’s Committee looking at Buckner?


It took 49 years, but Blues are back in finals

Orr

Bobby Orr made the Blues disappear from the 1970 Stanley Cup finals with this overtime goal. St. Louis hasn’t been back since.

For the first time in 49 years, the St. Louis Blues are back in the finals, where they will face off against the Boston Bruins.

The last time the Blues played in the finals, they were victimized by Bobby Orr’s overtime winner, the great defenseman soaring through the air to celebrate the most iconic goal in Bruins history.

For the Blues, it has been a long, agonizing ride back to the Stanley Cup finals. Amazingly, this year the team got off to a horrible start before roaring back to become the first team in more than 20 years to earn a playoff spot after sitting last in the NHL on New Year’s Day.

The Blues were one of six teams that joined the NHL in 1967, doubling the size of the league and marking the largest expansion in the history of pro sports in North America.

Along with St. Louis, the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota North Stars, Los Angeles Kings and Oakland Seals (later the California Golden Seals) represented the NHL West in the inaugural year. The Flyers, Penguins, Kings and North Stars (as the Dallas Stars) have all won Stanley Cups. The Blues and the Seals (who became defunct after the 1977-78 season as the Cleveland Barons) haven’t.

The Blues made the Stanley Cup finals in each of their first three years, and were swept all three times.

1967-68 – Beat Flyers and North Stars, both in 7 games. Lost to Montreal 3-2 (OT), 1-0, 4-3 (OT) and 3-2, a series in which two games went into overtime and all four were decided by a single goal.

1968-69 – Swept both Flyers and Kings, then were swept by Montreal, 3-1, 3-1, 4-0 and 2-1.

1969-70 – Beat both Stars and Penguins in six games only to bow to the Bruins in 4 straight. Boston won the first three games 6-1, 6-2 and 4-1. The fourth game went into overtime after the Bruins rallied in the third period to tie the game on a late goal by Johnny Bucyk.

The Bruins then won 4-3 at 40 seconds of overtime on Bobby Orr’s scintillating goal. Orr scored off a feed from Derek Sanderson, beating goalie Glenn Hall and giving the Bruins their first championship since 1941.

The following season the league began juggling conferences. The Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres, both expansion teams, were added to the Eastern Conference and the Chicago Black Hawks moved to the West.

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