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Sam’s Sports Blog Archive

1960 WS Game 7 a treat!

Major League Baseball Network’s replay of game 7 of the 1960 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees was really special. The game, considered by many to be one of the greatest in baseball history, was recorded in its entirety on kinescope (5 reels) for Bing Crosby, a part owner of the Pirates at the time the game was played. Crosby watched the tapes one time before storing them in his wine cellar where they remained along with numerous other reels that included home movies until they were inadvertently stumbled upon by Robert Bader of Bing Crosby Enterprises while recently looking through old Crosby TV specials for a planned DVD.  The 16-millimeter film was transferred to DVD and the complete game was broadcast by MLB Network.

Watching this game was like opening a special time capsule. The announcers were two of the games finest ever, Bob Prince of the Pirates and Mel Allen of the Yankees. That alone was reason enough to capture the attention of a die hard fan, but it didn’t stop there. This was the game that included the famous “bad hop” grounder to Tony Kubek that altered the game after the Yankees had come back from a 4-0 deficit to lead 7-4.  It was also the first World Series that ended on a home run in the bottom of the 9th inning of game 7.

The antics of legendary Yankee Manager Casey Stengel with his quick hook, and watching Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Dick Groat, Bill Virdon, Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski while all were in their primes added to the specter of returning to a place long ago forgotten.

Even more enjoyable was watching the way the game was played fifty years ago. The spectators were right on top of the action at old Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Many men wore suits and ties while the women were all decked out in fancy dresses. The umpires called a different strike zone, one more in tune with the rules, unlike the tiny slot that is passed off today. A check swing was not a strike unless the hitter actually took a pretty good cut at the pitch. And there was no foul territory to mention at the old park with a hill in the outfield to inform the fielder that he was at the base of the ivy covered brick wall. Back then baseball was a way of life for most Americans. It was truly the National Pastime.

Adding to the broadcast was a studio audience that included many of the living members of the Pirates that played in that game as well as several of the Yankees. During breaks between innings, moderator Bob Costas asked the players questions and tapped into their thoughts and emotions. Thank you Bing for the wonderful trip down memory lane.

November 25, 2010

Yankees, Jeter at an Impasse?

Brian Cashman has told Derek Jeter to feel free to find a better deal if he can. The Yankees have offered Jeter a reported three-year contract at about $15 million per season. Jeter just finished a ten-year $189 million contract that paid him a reported $21 million in 2010. Jeter is coming off the worst offensive performance of his career and the Yankee captain’s defensive prowess has also diminished despite winning another gold glove this past season.

The real issue may stem from the fact that the Yankees signed Alex Rodriguez to a ten-year $275 million deal in 2007. A-Rod has shown no particular allegiance to the Yankees. On the other hand, Jeter has been a Yankee throughout his entire career, having been drafted and come up through their farm system, rising to team captain, an honor reserved for only the most exclusive pinstripers such as Don Mattingly, Thurman Munson, Lou Gehrig, and Babe Ruth.

The Yankees are looking at these negotiations strictly as a business deal and feel that the 36-year-old Jeter is not worth more than the $15 million per season for three seasons that they have offered him. Jeter is asking for a six-year deal that would be more in line with the contract signed by A-Rod. Hal Steinbrenner, currently in charge of the Yankees, feels that his brother Hank overpaid A-Rod three years ago and they have no intention of making the same mistake.

If Jeter decides to test the market, it is not likely that he’ll find any takers willing to surpass the $45 million three-year offer that the Yankees have made. It’s possible that the Yankees could tack on an additional year to insure that Jeter finishes his career in New York. If so, Jeter saves face and everyone wins. We’ll see how it plays out.

October 19, 2010

Favre Did Nothing Illegal

Even if the accusations being tossed Brett Favre’s way are true, no laws were broken. Did he use poor judgment? Probably. Did he do something unethical or immoral? It depends on his relationship with his wife and family. Sexting Jenn Sterger while both were employees of the New York Jets may have violated team rules regarding fraternization but both are adults and it doesn’t appear that any laws were broken. Sterger has refused to comment on the situation as has Favre. If both would like to put this matter behind them they should be allowed to do so. Worse things have happened in the workplace. If Favre wasn’t a star quarterback in the NFL would anybody be talking about it? Probably not. The NFL interviewed Favre over the allegations. Hopefully they will let it die so that Brett can concentrate on the remainder of the season. At 2-4, Favre and the Vikings need to focus on football.

October 3, 2010

Philly Fans Do The Right Thing

Donovan McNabb received a standing ovation from the fans in Philadelphia on his return as a member of the Washington Redskins. Known as the most difficult fans in all of sports, they showed their appreciation for a man that had given them eleven great years of his life, leading the Eagles to five division championships and a Superbowl appearance. McNabb never asked to be traded and the move came as a surprise to most, especially trading McNabb within the division.

September 19, 2010

What’s the Problem?

It seems that two of the biggest topics of conversation this past week on sports-talk radio were really non-topics. One was the alleged incident in the New York Jets locker room when a provocatively dressed reporter, Ines Sainz, a former beauty queen and current reporter for Mexico’s TV Azteca, alleged sexual harassment. According to Sainz, she didn’t make an issue of the incident at the time and stated on CBS’s Morning Show that she had received similar treatment in the past while covering other sports. She also said that she has no desire to pursue the matter legally.

The NFL was made aware of the incident by another female reporter present at the same time in the Jets locker room. Following an investigation, the NFL chastised the Jets for unprofessional conduct but found no evidence that the reporter was “bumped, touched, brushed against or otherwise subjected to any physical contact” by any player or coach.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said while the “conduct of the Jets clearly should have been better” team owner Woody Johnson and his staff acted promptly to correct the situation.

The other non-issue was the hit-by-pitch incident involving the Yankees Derek Jeter in a big series against Tampa Bay. Jeter appeared to be hit in the hand by an inside pitch that replay clearly showed hit his bat. Jeter howled as if in pain, grabbed his arm, and the trainer came out to look him over before he proceeded to first base. The umpires consulted when Tampa Manager Joe Madden argued that the pitch struck Jeter’s bat and not his hand. Madden was ultimately ejected when the umpires failed to overturn the call. Jeter then scored when the following hitter, Curtis Granderson, delivered a two-run homer to put the Yankees up 3-2 in a game that they eventually lost.

Jeter admitted after the game that the pitch did indeed hit his bat. He also said that it is his job to get on base and in similar situations in the past there have been times when he was actually hit and not awarded first base because the umpire thought the pitch hit his bat. Either way, what Jeter did is just part of the game. Even opposing manager Madden called it a good play after the game was over.

This is just another reason why major league baseball should allow more liberal use of TV replay. With every big league game now televised, the capability to get these calls right exists. Why not take advantage of it?

August 22, 2010

Should Clemens Go To Prison?

Roger Clemens broke into professional baseball the same year and with the same organization as I did. While I was working for the Boston Red Sox Class A Short Season Team in Elmira in the New York-Penn League in 1983, Roger was the Red Sox first round draft pick out of the University of Texas. Less than a year later, the Rocket was pitching in the Major Leagues.

Clemens has had one of the greatest pitching careers of all time. Most remarkable was his comeback with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1997 at the age of 34 after the Red Sox had given up on him following a mediocre 10-13 1996 season. Clemens had won three Cy Young Awards previously with the Red Sox, but at age 34, it turned out that the best was yet to come. He won Cy Young Awards with the Blue Jays in 1997 and 1998, then another with the Yankees in 2001, followed by yet another with Houston in 2004 at age 41.

Unfortunately, or, depending on how you look at it, fortunately, Roger’s resurgence coincided with the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs or steroids as evidence has since revealed. Revelations by Jose Canseco followed by admissions by key participants place Clemens somewhere in this mix. Roger’s insistence that he never used steroids or HGH during 2008 testimony before Congress is the major issue. Clemens has been indicted on six counts of perjury for 15 statements that he made under oath during his voluntary testimony that he offered to try to clear his name following release of the Mitchell Report. Clemens was singled out 82 times in the report, and much of that information was provided by Brian McNamee, a former strength and conditioning coach with the Yankees.

Clemens continues to insist that he never used these substances. McNamee has turned over syringes to federal investigators that he claims were used to inject Clemens and contain his DNA. If that is true it will be nearly impossible for Clemens to come out of this unscathed.

It is not inconceivable that Roger Clemens believes that he is telling the truth. It’s possible that Clemens could even pass a lie detector test because he is one of those people that has the ability to convince himself that what he says is true. Professional athletes are a unique breed and the greatest of them have this uncanny ability to be able to convince themselves that they can do nearly anything. It is one of the things that sets apart two physically matched athletes and enables one to reach hall-of-fame status while the other struggles.

Unfortunately, if Clemens continues to insist that he did nothing wrong and the evidence indicates otherwise, Clemens is looking at prison, not for using performance enhancing drugs, but for lying to Congress. Clemens has already turned down a plea offer insisting that he wants his day in court to prove his innocence. It appears that day is imminent.

August 11, 2010

Is Chivalry Dead?

click here

July 30, 2010

Would the Babe Have Used Steroids?

Throughout history athletes have utilized every advantage available to enhance their skills and provide themselves with an edge over their competition. Even Roman Gladiators, who were often captured enemy soldiers, criminals, or slaves, received stimulants and the finest training and diet of the time to enhance their skill levels for the show that they were being trained for.

In ancient Greece, athletes would drink special potions and eat special foods that they believed would boost their athletic prowess. Ancient Olympians were known to eat sheep testicles in an attempt to increase their own testosterone levels. It has been theorized that one of the factors that lead to the demise of the ancient Olympic Games was the rampant use of drugs.

European cyclists and swimmers were known to use caffeine, cocaine and a multitude of other drugs in the nineteenth century to enhance their ability to perform. German and then Russian doctors developed anabolic steroids for athletic use beginning shortly before World War II and continuing throughout the Cold War period.

Amphetamines then moved into the Olympics in the early sixties and also found their way into professional baseball and other sports. Some form of illicit substance has been linked to nearly every Olympiad since. Testing for these substances is now prevalent in all amateur and professional sports with athletes being suspended and even banned for violating banned substance policies.

Because Major League Baseball is the sport most associated with statistics, public outcry has been greatest when it comes to recognizing records such as the home run totals of Mark McGuire and Barry Bonds. Fallout has descended upon Alex Rodriguez where his quest for 600 career homers has generated little excitement outside of the Bronx.

Athletes have always looked for an edge. There are tremendous financial stakes to be gained along with the prestige. Would Babe Ruth have used steroids if they were available to him? Probably. The Bambino was never one to shy away from much of anything let alone something that could have made him even bigger (both figuratively and literally) than he already was.

There are no easy answers here. Players will continue to look for an edge. With five no-hitters including one perfect game and another that should have been perfect, the pitchers appear to have the upper hand now. That was also the case after the 1968 season when Bob Gibson posted a 1.12 ERA and Denny McLain won 31 games. Major League Baseball lowered the mound the following season. The strike zone also started shrinking. Fans love to see the long ball. The owners were not upset that home runs were on the increase. Had it not been for Jose Canseco and the Balco investigation, I’m not sure much would have changed.

August 1, 2010

Would the Babe Have Used Steroids? (Part Two)

Before Babe Ruth came along, home runs in baseball were rare. Ruth set the all time single season record while playing for the Boston Red Sox in 1919 with 29. He shattered that mark the following season, his first with the Yankees, by blasting 54. When Ruth hit 60 home runs in 1927, he hit 14% of all homers in the American League. To accomplish that feat today, a player would need to hit over 300 home runs. Needless to say, Ruth changed the game forever.

It’s conceivable to believe that had Ruth been in his prime during the steroid era, 100 homers per season would have been realistic along with over 1,000 career round-trippers. Of course, it is only speculation. But what could Henry Aaron, Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle have done with performance enhancing substances? All three played the game at a time “greenies,” a slang term for amphetamines, were available in many clubhouses so it’s possible that they did have access to the top performance enhancing substance of the day. Hall-of-Famer Mike Schmidt has since admitted to his use of amphetamines to keep going day after day during the 162 game regular season grind.

Mantle, with his injury-laden body, might have benefited the most had steroids been available to him. Recovering from his multitude of knee problems could have been aided by steroids as well as the much-improved medical technology of today. Mantle, however, wasn’t into taking care of himself. As he commented while he was fighting off the effects of cancer prior to his death, “If I knew that I was gonna live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”

I’m not condoning the use of performance enhancing substances in sports. I’m just pointing out the fact that athletes have always looked for an edge. We’ll never know “what might have been” or even the totality of who used and who didn’t. All we can be sure of is that as long as the stakes are as high as they are, athletes will continue to seek ways to beat the system and gain an advantage.