Thursday, February 16, 2017

Common Denominator: 1984 NBA Draft

"Drafted 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the 1984 NBA Draft, to be exact. Met up with Boston at some point in the 1985/86 season, with some drama."

That would be Hakeem Olajuwon, Sam Bowie, and of course, Micheal Jordan. The Dream went first, to Houston, where he joined Ralph Sampson to form, The Twin Towers. Sam Bowie went second to Portland, and MJ to Chicago.

MJ took his team to the playoffs in 1984/85, but the Milwaukee Bucks beat 'em 3-1 in the first round, and that was the end of his first season in the league. His second season was sort of like Bowie's: Injured!

Bowie went down after 38 games. But Sam, who'd taken his team to the second round of the postseason in 1984/85, was showing potential. The Boston Celtics lost just one game at home that regular season, and Sam had something to do with it.

It was game number 20 on the season for Boston. They came in 17-2. Bowie's Portland Trail Blazers were just 12-10. Another win for Boston? Not in this contest on December 6th.

Not quite. Okay, Larry Bird had 20 points, 11 boards and 7 assists. But, his field goal percentage was bad: 9-26!

The ex-Trail Blazer, Bill Walton, who took 'em all the way back in 1976/77, played 18 minutes, and scored just 2 points, turning the ball over 5 times. Robert Parish, the man Walton backed up at centre, scored just 12 points himself. Parish shot 5-11 and Walton 1-3. The man guarding them was Sam Bowie.

All Sam did was score 18 points (8-15 from the field). Jim Paxon, who's younger brother John played with MJ in Chicago, poured in 16 and fellow back court man Clyde Drexler scored 19 himself. Steve Colter and Jerome Kersey (The other player Portland took in the 1984 draft) were the surprising game-high scoring leaders in this contest. By scoring 22 each for the visitors, they helped their team to a rather stunning 121-103 blowout!

MJ sat around that year, hurt. So it was up to The Ice Man to cometh! Well, the Minnesota Iceman. George Gervin played guard that year for Chicago. In Jordan's absence, he scored 16.2 points per game. The only game, out of 6, that Chicago actually beat Boston in that season was later in December, the 17th. Chicago won at home as Gervin scored 19.

Okay, so back came Jordan on March 15th. He'd played 3 games at this point. His minutes were to be limited, so his performance wasn't like what you'd expect of him. Remember, this was years before guys named Pippen, Grant, Armstrong and Cartwright (Centre for New York in 1985/86) would arrive. On the 21st of the month, he got 20 points in 16 minutes in a loss against the Celtics. Michael was back over 20 minutes a game by his seventh game back. He got 22 points vs. New Jersey on the 28th of March. He started 4 of the next 8 games, averaging 29.8 minutes and 28.0 points per game. A nice way to close out the season.

Try as he might, he couldn't propel his team past Larry Bird and company in the playoffs. Jordan scored 49 points in Boston in the first contest of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. His big game, though, was then next one!

The Bulls had lost 123-104. They also lost game two, on April 20th in Boston. But was MJ ever on fire! 22-41 from the field and 19-21 from the line! All this for an amazing 63 points! MJ enjoyed ribbing Bill Walton over the fact that The Redhead had fouled out in this contest, even years later. Jordan also dished out 6 assists and 5 rebounds. However, here we go again, Boston 135, Chicago 131. The Celtics had a more balanced scoring. But it was MJ's second of many great scoring games in the postseason! He'd arrived!

After sweeping Chicago, it was not long after that Boston was in the NBA grand stage again: The Finals!

Waiting for them were the Houston Rockets. You see, Hakeem and company eliminated the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, needing just 5 games. Hakeem got 30 points in the clincher, making the trip to the last stage in only his second season!

Olajuwon was outstanding in his first NBA Finals. Points? 24.7. Rebounds? 11.8. Blocks? 3.2. Sampson, however, wasn't up to the task, 14.8, 9.5 and 0.8. And though it went six games, Boston ended up having an easy time in all their wins except game four (106-103), en route to their third NBA Championship of the decade.

But Hakeem had sure shown he was a force to be reckoned with. Although Jordan won three in a row from 1990/91 to 1992/93 (Beating Portland in the 1992 NBA Finals, who'd drafted Bowie because they already had a pretty good guard named Clyde Drexler), here came the big man from Lagos, Nigeria! His pal Sampson's career ended due to injuries, but the big man soldiered on. In 1993/94 it was the Knicks and Patrick Ewing that were the victims of the Houston Rockets' seven-game win in the finals. The next year, a kid named O'Neal of the Orlando Magic (Who'd beaten MJ's Chicago Bulls in the playoffs) felt the full force of Olajuwon's fury in the finals: 32.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, and even 5.5 assists per game!

Four games, and it was all over. Shaq had 28.0/12.5/6.3 in a losing effort. His time would come, but not then. His team was swept by MJ's the next year, and the Bulls were back for another 3-peat.

Bowie wasn't quite so lucky. Beset by knee injuries even before being drafted, he hung around until 1994/95, and ending up facing Olajuwon a lot, no matter what jersey he was wearing. Although limited to just 512 games, Sam wasn't exactly the bust that so many made him out to be. On Boxing Day in 1991, now with New Jersey, Sam lit up Hakeem, outscoring him 2:1 (34-17). Sam averaged 15 points per game that year. He ended up in Los Angeles (Lakers) but didn't end up winning a ring like Jordan or Olajuwon.


References


Sports Reference LLC. Basketball-Reference.com - Basketball Statistics and History. http://www.basketball-reference.com/. Web. 16 Feb. 2017.

Bondy, Filip. Tip-off: How The 1984 NBA Draft Changed Basketball Forever. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2007. Print.

Halberstam, David. Playing For Keeps: Michael Jordan And The World He Made. New York: Broadway Books, 2000. Print.

Sachare, Alex. The Chicago Bulls Encyclopedia. Lincolnwood (Chicago): Contemporary , 1999. Print.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sure Could Have Fooled Me! 2001 French Open

All four losing men in the last eight of Roland Garros won at least two Grand Slams.


In 2001, you had Gustavo Kuerten on his way to victory over Alex Corretja of Spain. The man from Brazil ended up with his third (And final) French Open with a 6-7, 7-5, 6-2, 6-0 win.

But getting was where the fun was.

The last eight also consisted of an American, a Russian, a Frenchman, an Australian, and another Spaniard. And some young Swiss.

Kuerten beat Yevgeny Kafelnikov for the third time at this stage of the French Open. The Russian went down 6-1, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4. Kafelnikov had the title at Roland Garros under his belt in 1996, and went on to add the 1999 Australian Open to his name. You also had the Spaniard, Juan Carlos Ferrero (Who'd be a finalist here the next two years, winning in 2003.) in the last eight, and there beating the young Lleyton Hewitt. This was as far as Lleyton would ever get, although he matched this in 2004. Hewitt had  no Grand Slams to his name at this point, but would go on to capture the US Open that year and Wimbledon in 2002 for good measure. Those two Grand Slams were a good start to his career. But one of the other quarterfinalist would prevent him from more in the coming years.

Ferrero then lost to Kuerten in the semifinals for the second straight year. Much to the delight of the crowd, it was Frances' Sebastian Grosjean subduing the 1999 winner, Andre Agassi, 1-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3. Agassi had some pretty good results here as far back as 1989. Ran into Grosjean, who prevented the 31-year old from going any further. But Corretja then denied Grosjean a spot in the finals with a straight set win.

Finally, and as it turns out, most dramatically, Corretja was able to advance to the semis for that meeting with the home player. But the man he beat was a still a teenager and playing in his very first Grand Slam quarterfinals. A few weeks later, this young man would upend Pete Sampras in the round of 16 to advance to another Grand Slam quareterfinals.

He was just getting started. That lad, Roger Federer. Lost in the quarters of Wimbledon, too. He had to wait another 2 years before he got going. But once he did, everyone in the tennis world took notice.


References


Collins, Bud. The Bud Collins History Of Tennis: An Authoritative Encyclopedia And Record Book. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: New Chapter, 2010. Print.

Infosys, FedEx, Peugeot, and LeSports. "Official Site of Men's Professional Tennis | ATP World Tour | Tennis." ATP World Tour. Emirates. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.  <http://www.atpworldtour.com/>

Monday, February 6, 2017

Common Denominator: Natasha Zvereva

"Double bageled by Graf in the 1988 French Open Finals. First player to win a set off her four years later."

That would be Natasha Zvereva. This poor lady was just a child in 1988 (Of 17 years old), as the great German Steffi Graf had all four Grand Slams and the Olympic Gold under her belt by the end of 1988. She wasn't in a giving mood that year.

Zvereva had an interesting French Open in 1988. She actually pulled off a pair of upsets. She beat Martina Navratilova in the round of 16, then took out Helena Sukova in the quarters. Nicole Bradtke was then eliminated in the semifinals. But when she won the twelve game of the third set of that match, she probably had no way of knowing that was the last game she'd win. Graf just pummeled her next. 6-0, 6-0.

Zvereva went on to the Eastbourne tournament next. The French Open was on clay, this was on grass. She had the same result, as in the finals. Navratilova beat here in straight sets, however, 6-2, 6-2. Despite two more appearances in finals that year, Natasha then forged onto a successful doubles career. Oh, she still played singles. But was unable to achieve the same kind of results she had in 1988.

By 1994, she was pretty much labelled a "Doubles Specialist." Still, she found herself in the hot Florida sun having a pretty good tournament in march of that year. Except for the last two sets.

Graf was playing some amazing tennis still by then. Her Australian Open triumph in January was too easy to talk about. At Tokyo, she beat the aging Navratilova 6-2, 6-4 in the finals. Indian Wells saw her beat Gigi Fernandez in the round of 32, Tracy Austin 6-0, 6-0, next. Then, some more domination. Steffi dropped 13 games in the next three matches, overwhelming Amanda Coetzer 6-0, 6-4 in the finals.

Delray Beach saw Sabine Hack upended for the lost of just three games in the quarters, Helena Sukova 7-5, 6-4 in the semis and finally Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 6-3, 7-5. Okay, the sets were getting closer, but four tournaments and 22 matches in, Graf had won 43 sets (Kimberly Po-Messerli retired down 2-0 in the second set of their first round match Down Under). The opposition? None.

More the same at the Lipton (Now Ericsson) down in Miami, Florida. Graf was just sizzling in the sun! She lost 9 games in he first four matches. Lindsay Davenport lost the first set 6-0, then came close in the second. Steffi won it, however 7-3 in the tiebreaker.

So in the finals it was Zvereva. This time, no 6-0, 6-0 score. No straight sets. Natasha came out and took the initiative, winning the first set 6-4. Wow! This 28th match of the year for Graf was actually interesting! The 54th set was lost!

Graf, of course, just turned it up a notch. The next two sets went to her, 6-1, 6-2. Still. At least she'd lost a set. Surprisingly enough, Graf lost some matches that year, most notably to Mary Pierce at the French Open, Lori McNeil in the first round at Wimbledon, and finally Sanchez-Vicario at the US Open.

Still, this was another impressive display of dominance from Graf. She ended the year with 7 titles, and while not quite as dominating the next year, in terms of straight setting 'em, she added three more Grand Slams.

But for those first four tournaments of 1994, you had to ask yourself:

Was this even fair? What sport was Graf playing? Super tennis?


References


Collins, Bud. The Bud Collins History Of Tennis: An Authoritative Encyclopedia And Record Book. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: New Chapter, 2010. Print.

SAP, Dubai Duty Free, IQYI, and USANA. "WTA." WTA Tennis. Women's Tennis Association, n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2017. <http://www.wtatennis.com/>.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

World Series: Did You Know?

Although one of the most prominent members of the fixing of the 1919 Fall Classic, Chick Gandil had the last RBI for his team in three games. I guess Chick knew someone was watching his every move, so he'd better come through on at least some occasions. Even if it helped his team.

Gandil's RBI in game one did little, however. Chicago was on the road, in Cincinnati and absorbed a 9-1 thrashing. Gandil drove in the run that actually tied the game, momentarily, in the top of the second. That run, however, was not only Chicago's lone tally, but unearned for good measure. Joe Jackson, of all people, had reached on an error. Gandil's hit scored him.

But in game two, which the Chicago White Sox also lost (4-2), Gandil didn't drive in any runs. Joe Jackson was on third in the top of the second, with just one out, but Gandil didn't deliver. Two innings later, Jackson was on second, and Buck Weaver was 90 feet away from the dish, at third. Gandil hit into a fielder's choice. Trailing 4-2 going into the top of the 9th, Gandil got a single to lead it off. A double play put the Reds one out away. Ray Schalk singled, but that lead to nothing, as well. Fred McMullin grounded out to end that.

The change of scenery meant Chicago needed to win at home. They did, but needed some fine pitching from Dick Kerr to win, 3-0. Gandil singled home Jackson and Happy Felsch. Gandil led off the fourth by making an out. Swede Risberg tripled and scored on a bunt single for the contest's last tally. Another two hits for Gandil.

But he was needed in the next two games as Chicago's bats went to sleep. Cincinnati won them by scores of 2-0 and 5-0. Chick had just one hit. The White Sox had three, total in each of the two losses. The 1919 World Series was best of nine, so Gandil's team was still alive.

Still, it was a tall order to come back. Game six was back in Cincinnati, and the Reds were determined to settle it. They raced out to a 4-0 lead in the sixth contest. The White scored rallied, and had a chance to take the lead in the eight inning. Jackson and Gandil drew walks, but were both stranded. Dick Kerr, as he had in game two, kept the Reds at bay (Although he allowed four runs). In the top of the tenth, Buck Weaver got it all going with a double. Jackson bunted him to third. Gandil's stroke of the ball didn't leave the infield, but Weaver crossed the plate. Down went the home team in the bottom of the frame. The 5-4 Chicago win narrowed the World Series score to 4-2.

The White Sox won game seven, as well. This time, a little bit more decisively. The final score was 4-1, but the game was never that close. Chicago raced out to a quick 4-0 lead and didn't bother looking back. But Gandil was 0-4, and could have widen the lead with some hits.

And the next game was also decided quickly, but against Chicago. It was 4-0 for the visiting Cincinnati Reds before the home team could even send one man up. And the Sox didn't make it on to the scoreboard until the bottom of the third. The 4-1 lead was soon widened to 10-1 by the bottom of the eighth. Chicago soon plated two runners, but when Happy Felsch was retired, it was two down. Gandil then was at the plate, and he rewarded with a triple, as the Reds' right fielder Greasy Neale couldn't make out where the ball was. The sun blinded him. Joe Jackson, on second, scored to make it 10-4. Gandil then scored when Edd Roush, in centre, made an error on Swede Risberg's fly. Gandil scored. 10-5.

Chicago put another two men on in the bottom of the ninth, but did not get any closer. The Reds, with this win by a margin of five runs, took the 1919 World Series 5-3. Gandil held out the following season, but joined seven other White Sox players banned for life by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis not long after the latter's anointment. He would die in California in 1970. And probably, despite collecting five RBIs all told, never lived down the "Black Sox" label.


References


Frommer, Harvey. Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball. Dallas, TX: Taylor Pub., 1992. Print, pp. 183.

Gropman, Donald. Say It Ain't So, Joe!: The True Story Of Shoeless Joe Jackson. Revised ed. Secaucus, NJ: Carol Pub. Group, 1992. Print.

Neft, David S., Richard M. Cohen, and Michael L. Neft. The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball, 1992. 12th ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992. Print, pp 49-124.

Neft, David S., and Richard M. Cohen. The World Series: Complete Play-by-play of Every Game, 1903-1989. 4th ed. New York: St. Martin's, 1990. Print, pp. 76-81.

Nemec, David et all. 20th Century Baseball Chronicle: A Year-by-year History of Major League Baseball. Collector's Edition. Lincolnwood, Ill: Publications International, 1993. Print, pp. 84-91.

Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 04 Feb, 2017.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Commond Denominator: Bouchard And Raonic

"Semifinals of the Australian Open. Finals at Wimbledon. Next year, quarterfinals Down Under. Canadian"

That would be Eugenie Bouchard in 2014-15 and Milos Raonic in 2016-17. The two Canadians have really made believers out of Canadian tennis fans. Someday, Canada might get a singles grand slam under their belt. But maybe, "Not so fast," alas.

Bouchard, took the women's tour by storm in 2014. Well, at least until after Wimbledon. Storming past all opposition in the first five rounds Down Under, she beat a formiable top 10 player, Ana Ivanovic in the quarters and then finally lost to Na Li in the semifinals. Not a bad start to the season.

She didn't exactly take the pedal of the metal from there. For a while.

Some early round exits followed, but by May, she had her very first WTA title, in Nurnberg, beating Karolina Pliskova in the finals in three sets. And she had another grand slam semifinals up her sleeve!

May ended with Bouchard into the second week at the French Open. And she gave Maria Sharapova all she could handle in the semifinals, the Russian prevailing 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. Two grand slams played in 2014, and two semis! Could it get any better?

It did at Wimbledon.

Racing through her first six matches, Genie found herself, at 22, one match away from a grand slam title. Carling Bassett had reached the semifinals way back in 1984 at the US Open, but Canada finally had their first singles grand slam finalist! Alas, Bouchard was simply ushered out of the finals in swift and efficient manner by Petra Kvitova, who lost just three games. All of them, in the first set.

It seemed that here is where the wheels came of the chariot for Bouchard, however. She came back to here home, Canada, and lost in the first round in Montreal. Same in Cincinnati. She lost in the second round at New Haven. How about the year's final grand slam?

It was better than a round or two. In fact, Bouchard managed to win three matches. But instead of getting to her fourth quarterfinals (And maybe, fourth semifinals) of the year, she was simply dismissed by Ekaterina Makarova. It was straight sets again, but closer: 7-6, 6-2.

A finals appearance in Wuhan followed, and Bouchard was back on track. But only temporary. She won only one more match. Simona Halep, Ana Ivanovic, and Serena Williams just thrashed her at the WTA finals in Singapore. It wasn't pretty: 6-2, 6-3, followed by 6-1, 6-3 (Ivanovic got some revenge for the Australian Open with that straight-setter!) and 6-1, 6-1.

Oh, well. The year was over. 2015 started out pretty good for Eugenie. She only did one match worse in the Australian Open, making it 4 out of 5 quarterfinals reached at the slams. Maria Sharapova opposed her again in her fifth match there, and again Bouchard put enough enough resistance to take the second set before dropping the third.

But what has happened since to Bouchard? Struggles have followed. There's been injuries, including quite a bizarre one you've all probably heard about at the US Open. Her results really slipped at the grand slams and all over the place in 2015. 2016 was not better as her results were actually worse at the Grand Slams.

Eugenie started 2017 off on the right foot. In 2016, she'd reached the finals at Hobart. While she lost her first event this year at Brisbane (First round), Bouchard made her move at Sydney. She won three matches before eventually falling to Johanna Konta of Great Britain in the semifinals. Down Under for the year's first Grand Slam, she won two more matches before Coco Vanderwegh 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. However, Bouchard wasn't the story of Canadian tennis anymore at this point. No, someone was making some serious waves on the men's side.

Milos Raonic had fallen to Roger Federer in the 2014 Wimbledon semifinals. But when the two met at an event just before the first grand slam tow years later, the Canadian came out on top! At the 2016 Australian Open, he had Andy Murray where he wanted him: 2-1 up in sets! The Scottsman rallied from there, alas. And they'd meet again under dramatic circumstances later that year.

You see, Raonic beat that guy, Federer in the semifinals in five sets at Wimbledon, three years after falling to him. Murray awaited him in the finals. It wasn't too bad, although straight sets. The last two, went to tiebreakers that Andy managed to pull off! Murray continued his strong play that year, especially against Raonic, sadly. He beat him two more times: In Cincinnati and the Year-End Championship. But this time, Milos pushed Andy in the best-of-three match, narrowly losing a third-set tiebreaker.

So as 2017 dawned, things were looking up for not only the new #1 player in the world, Murray, but also the Canadian, Raonic. He was now ranked third in the world.

But as Brisbane, he lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the third round after beating Rafael Nadal in the second. The Spaniard was looking at a rematch at the Australian Open. This time, it was Nadal the winner of the quarterfinal encounter. And in straight sets. Nadal went all the way to the finals, losing to his great rival, Roger Federer. Both Federer and Nadal seemed to have regained their old form.

So can Bouchard get into contention in 2017? Can Raonic win a slam this year (Preferably Wimbledon, I would think!) and get the #1 ranking? Time, will provide an answer for both.


References


"Eugenie Bouchard's Tournament In Doubt." CNN.com. Cable News Network, 05 Sept. 2015. Web. 01 Feb. 2017. <http://edition.cnn.com/2015/09/05/tennis/bouchard-injury-us-open-2015/> International Edition.

Infosys, FedEx, Peugeot, and LeSports. "Official Site of Men's Professional Tennis | ATP World Tour | Tennis." ATP World Tour. Emirates. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.  <http://www.atpworldtour.com/>

SAP, Dubai Duty Free, IQYI, and USANA. "WTA." WTA Tennis. Women's Tennis Association, n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2017. <http://www.wtatennis.com/>

Monday, January 30, 2017

Sure Could Have Fooled Me!

Ille Nastase was the only player to get a set off John McEnroe in the 1979 US Open. It was the first Grand Slam the 20-year old won. The match against Nastase is coming up on 40 years elapsed. But no one will ever forget it.

Ille was past his prime. He was 33 years old (And not a Ken Rosewall or Roger Federer at that age). Nastase had last finished a year in the top 10 in 1977. Clearly he wasn't going to beat the home kid in this match with 64 players left in the draw. Johnny Mac had beaten Pavel Slozil in the first round, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. But fireworks lay ahead in round two.

McEnroe didn't cause them.

McEnroe won the first set 6-4. Nastase took the second by the same score. Okay, what's the problem?

Nastase, that is.

Ille was trying to hold off the inevitable!

By stalling.

That was enough for chair umpire Frank Hammond. He defaulted Ille. But soon, Frank found himself overruled (And removed!) by tournament referee Bill Talbert. Mike Blanchard, no stranger to Ille's behaviour tactics, took over. The match resumed. So did McEnore's brilliant tennis. The last two sets were John's 6-3, 6-2.

Not only had it all calmed down, but McEnore's brilliant tennis had nothing in his way from there on in. John Lloyd was walked over in the next round. Tom Gorman fell 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 in the round of 16. The quarters saw Eddie Dibbs default after just three games of play.

Jimmy Connors, the defending champion (And winner in 1974 and 1976) was next. No problem. 6-3, 6-3, 7-5. The set scores were then in the reverse order in the finals against Vitas Gerulatis, who stopped Roscoe Tanner from his second-straight grand slam finals appearance in the semis (Beating Bjorn Borg on the the way). McEnroe won this all-American finals, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.

Buoyed by his first Grand Slam, McEnroe took off from there. He had some heartbreak against Borg in the 1980 Wimbledon Finals, but took out the Swede in five sets in the US Open finals later that year. And he beat him in both the 1981 Wimbledon and US finals. Johnny Mac had arrived!

Yet oddly enough, despite impressive wins over Chris Lewis and Jimmy Connors at the Wimbledon Finals of both 1983 and 1984, John McEnroe's 1979 US Open victory was more remarkable in my opinion. Never before had he been in a US Open final. Never before had been in any grand slam final. By comparison, Ille had finished second at Rolland Garros to Jan Kodes in 1971.

And in a way, he was having some of his own tactics used against him (Not in the form of any tennis strokes, mind you) by Ille. Obviously, McEnore was the better player at that time, as I've mentioned earlier. But winning your first slam is open the toughest. John, no doubt, wanted this as well as a Wimbledon. And while the latter was two years away, John made sure to win his home event an impressive four times. Ille won it himself way back in 1972.

Nastase continued on (And we can only imagine what his behaviour was like) playing after the 1979 charade. He'd been disqualified many times in his career, but at this point, perhaps he had some leverage. He did not appear to ever accomplish anything else the rest of his playing days, which ended in the mid-1980s. He was nearly out of the top 50 by the end of '79, and never got higher than 79 in the decade to come. McEnroe pounded him into oblivion in their next three matches, not matter what Nastase did (Or didn't) do, 6-1, 6-4 in Milan in 1980, 6-0, 6-3 at the WCT Challenge Cup in Canada later that year. Finally, John beat him four years later, in 1984 in the Davis Cup Tie between United States And Romania. Not even close: 6-2, 6-4, 6-2! Their final head-to-head tally, if it matters, was 6-3 for Johhny Mac!

And McEnroe had perhaps been in a giving mood in 1979. Never again.

"Don't try and be like me, Ille!"


References


Collins, Bud, and Zander Hollander. Bud Collins' Tennis Encyclopedia. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1997. Print.

Haylett, John, and Richard Evans. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of World Tennis. New York: Exeter, 1989. Print.

Infosys, FedEx, Peugeot, and LeSports. "Official Site of Men's Professional Tennis | ATP World Tour | Tennis." ATP World Tour. Emirates. Web. 30 Jan 2017.  <http://www.atpworldtour.com/>

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

World Series: Did You Know?

Mickey Mantle and Tony Kubek were the only Yankees to get hits off both Don Drysdale in 1963. The Los Angeles Dodger had the arms. And the Yankees, were in their back pockets.

Kubek had fanned to start game one, and Mantle could do no better than walk by the end of it. Koufax was out there pitching at Yankee Stadium, and clearly getting the better of Whitey Ford. The Yankee batters, too.

Mantle fanned in the second for the fourth K in a row by Koufax. In the bottom of the eighth, it was Los Angeles 5, New York, 0. Phil Linz batted for Stan Williams, who'd pitched three relief innings, and struck out. Kubek got an infield single. Bobby Richardson fanned. Tom Tresh hit a two-run home run. That made it 5-2. Mantle walked. But that was Koufax's third and last one he'd issue. Joe Pepitone got the home team's sixth and final hit in the ninth, the Dodgers winners 5-2.

Johnny Podres won the second contest 4-1, and this thing headed out west. The home team sent Don Drysdale to the hill, and he was on a mission of great pitching skill. Tony Kubek started the game by grounding out. The Dodgers held the Yankees scoreless in that inning, while scoring one against Jim Bouton in the bottom of the frame. That was all Don needed.

Mantle bunted for a hit to start the top of the second. Joe Pepitone was hit. The Yankees later loaded the bases when Clete Boyer, who'd gotten a hit off Koufax in game one, was walked intentionally. Bouton couldn't get the job done. Drysdale fanned him.

Kubek reached on an error the next time up, but was now 0-2. Worse still, Drysdale picked him off. Working on a one-hitter in the top of the sixth, the first batter was Kubek. This time, he singled. Bobby Richardson bunted him to second. Tom Tresh grounded out. As the score was still 1-0, Los Angeles, the tying run was 90 feet away. And Mickey Mantle was the batter. Drysdale fanned him.

Clete Boyer and Yogi Berra were retired to start the eighth inning, but Kubek kept it going with his second hit of the game, a single. He was forced at second by Richardson.

Tresh fanned. Mantle grounded out to first, and Pepitone gave it a ride to right in the top of the ninth. The Dodgers had won, 1-0.

Koufax fanned Kubek to start the fourth game, and the Yankees were in trouble again. Tresh ended the 1-2-3 inning with a K. Mantle, Howard and Hector Lopez got it to the outfield in the second frame, but none of 'em dropped in.

Pepitone and Boyer fanned in the third. Richardson hit a double in the fourth for the visitor's first hit, but he was stranded. Frank Howard hit a solo home run off Whitey Ford for a 1-0 Dodger lead in the fifth. Kubek was having no luck. He grounded back to Koudax in the fourth and sixth.

Mantle tied it in the top of the seventh with a home run, only to watch the Dodger regain the lead in the bottom of the frame. Phil Linz, batting for Ford, singled with one out in the top of the eighth. Kubek was next, and looking to help tie the game. He hit into an inning-ending double play.

Los Angeles was retired 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning, but still carried a 2-1 lead into the top of the ninth. Richardson singled. Tresh and Mantle sadly looked at strike three, pushing Koufax's total to eight for the game and 23 for the 1963 Fall Classic.

Elston Howard reached on an error. Two on, two out. The Yankees were battlin' to the end. But on Koufax's first pitch to Hector Lopez, a grounder to Maury Wills ended it. The Los Angeles Dodgers had the sweep.

It wasn't easy to get hits off Koufax or Drysdale in 1963. New York managed just six off Sandy in game one, and six more in game four (Although Ford allowed just two hits in the finale. Bouton himself gave up just four hits himself in his game three loss to Drysdale). Drysdale finished the third contest with a three-hitter, and a shutout. The Dodgers were simply a team you needed to avoid in the World Series with Koufax and Drysdale around!


References

Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.

Friday, January 20, 2017

World Series: Did You Know?

Devon White scored the first run, made the last putout in the field, and at the dish is game six of the 1993 Fall Classic. It was the clinching game. But Devo sort of missed out on being part of three men that helped Toronto win it in dramatic fashion that year. The Jays' 8-6 over the Phillies was keyed by Ricky Henderson, Paul Molitor, and of course Joe Carter in the last of the ninth.

With one out in the bottom of the first, White drew a walk off Philadelphia starter Terry Mulholland. Paul Molitor, who'd have plenty of big hits all game long, drove him home with a triple to right. A sac fly scored Molitor. John Olerud doubled and Roberto Alomar singled. 3-0, Toronto after one.

The Phillies tried to make a game of it, but they went down 1-2-3 in the second, managed just a walk in the third, and finally pried a run loose with two out in the top of the fourth. Dave Stewart was clearly on his game. A sac fly by Ed Sprague restored the three run lead.

Without getting a hit, Philadelphia loaded the bases in the fifth on two errors and a walk. They did not score. Devon White started the bottom of the frame by lining out. Paul Molitor hit a home run to left to make it 5-1 for the home team. Philly went down 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth.

The Phillies though, weren't about to throw in the towel. The scored three times of Stewart the next inning via a walk, single and a Lenny Dykstra (White's counterpart in centre) home run. Danny Cox came in to protect the 5-4 lead. The Phillies scored twice more off him and suddenly had the lead.

The Jays went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning. White fanned against relieve Roger Mason. When he batted again in the bottom of the ninth and his team was still down 6-5, Devo was again retired. But before that, Devon White took Dave Hollins fly in the top of the ninth for the first out. After Duane Ward got Darren Daulton to ground out, Jim Eisenreich sent one White's way, and Philly was gone in order. And that led to the Toronto comeback.

Ricky Henderson got it all going with a four-pitch walk off Mitch Williams. Devon White flew out on a 3-2 pitch. But Paul Molitor not only stayed out of the double play, he singled Ricky Henderson to second. Joe Carter batted next. We all know he played "Hero" next. On a 2-2 pitch, Joe hit a dramatic 3-run home run to win the game and World Series for the Jays.

But you always noticed Devon White. His speed was unreal. He could get to anything in centre. He had a good arm. And for a leadoff hitter, he sure had power: He hit 15 home runs that year and 17 in 1991 and 1992!

White may not have played any part in the very last act of the historic 1993 Toronto Blue Jays season, but he'd come through so much that season (He hit a home run in the clincher of the ALCS, plus one off Curt Schilling in game one of the World Series) and was such a joy to watch. Dashin' Devo helped that Toronto team be truly unforgettable. And for all you stat lovers, here's Devon's Fall Classic stats: 8 runs scored, 1 home run, 7 RBIs, .292 batting average!


References


Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 20 Jan. 2017.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Classic Hockey On Youtube! Toronto @ Chicago 3/10/68

The year of 1967/68 was one that saw the NHL expand from six to twelve teams. The "Original Six" teams played in the same division, and two of them in the hunt for the last playoff spot met in March of 1968.

Each team had made a huge trade earlier. In the '67 offseason, Chicago traded Phil Esposito, Fred Stanfield and Ken Hodge to Boston for Pit Martin, Jack Norris and Gilles Marotte. Toronto, meanwhile needed a shakeup, traded Frank Mahovlich, Pete Stemkowski, and Garry Unger to Detroit for Norm Ullman, Paul Henderson and Floyd Smith. All three of these players play in the game.

Each team had lost a goalie recently, as well. In the expansion draft of 1967, Glenn Hall was lost by Chicago to St. Louis. Toronto lost Terry Sawchuk to Los Angles. So the Chicago Blackhawks were forced to make due with Dennis Dejordy, Dave Dryden and Jack Norris in 1967/68. The Toronto Maple Leafs had a pretty good backup in Bruce Gamble for the previous two season, and would split the chores with 43-year old Johnny Bower. Al Smith, another pretty good goalie, didn't get into any games that year for the Leafs, sans the All-Star-Game (During the time when it was the defending Stanley Cup Champions vs. the All-Stars from the rest of the league. This meant Toronto, who won the game 4-3 behind Gamble and Smith, beat the best of eleven other teams). Gary Smith was also gone from Toronto.

Gamble and Bower did the job in the Toronto. Bower was his usual self and Gamble bounced back from a off-season in 1966/67. Dejordy did most of the work in Chicago, getting only a little help from Dave Dryden and Norris. However, in this game, it was the Blackhawks that got the goaltending to stifle the new-look Leafs. Norris, at one point a defenceman, stopped 'em all!



Things to look for:

1) The game is presented in colour, which is rare for most hockey games in the late 60s. All the other games I've seen (So far) from that era are black-and-white.

2) Speaking of white, notice as it is today, the home team wears dark and the visiting team wears white.

3) The first period is not shown.

4) Chicago is leading 1-0 as the footage starts.

5) Norris is playing goal for Chicago. One of only 10 games he played for the Hawks.

6) Bower is in net for Toronto, and his age is still a mystery. For the record, he was born November 8, 1924, making him 43 years old at the time of this contest.

7) Jimmy Pappin isn't with Toronto. He and coach Punch Imlach had a falling out that season, and he was traded in the off-season to Chciago, for Pierre Pilote. Pilote plays in this game, however. Pappin was playing for Rochester, the Leafs top farm team, when this March game was played.

8) Mike Walton (#16) gets a penalty shot for the second straight game for Toronto. He'd scored the previous game on one. Speaking of which...

9) This game was played on a Sunday. On the Saturday night before this, Toronto rallied from 4-0 down to beat Detroit 7-5 in Frank Mahovlich's first game back to TO.

10) Pit Martin scores into the empty net. Shortly thereafter, the broadcast ends. There is, however, another goal by Doug Jarrett. So not only do you not see Kenny Wharram's first period tally, but you only see half the game's total goals.

11) Helmets are worn by: Henderson, Mikita, Pilote, Conacher and Martin. Neither goalie wears one.

12) Ken Dryden is mistakenly named as Chicago's other goalie for this game, as Dennis Dejordy is injured and attending a funeral.

13) Brett Hull, a toddler at the time, is mentioned by Bobby Hull's mother @ 30:13! Turns out The Golden Brett is a big fan of Stan Mikita!

14) Bobby Hull's wife Joanne, is quite the artist! Amazing paintings!

15) The third period starts @ 40:13.

16) And speaking of which, Stan Mikita starts out the third period for a faceoff at centre against Dave Keon. Quite the curve on Mikita's stick, eh? Norris, by the way, was a bit of a pioneer for goalies in that he, too used a curve blade.

17) A rare time for Chicago where neither Phil or Tony Esposito is playing for the team. Tony started his NHL career in Montreal the next season, and picked up a Stanley Cup there before landing in the Windy City in 1969/70. Chicago would miss the playoffs in 1968/69, meanwhile.

18) Norris finishes with a shutout. It was his first of the season, and second (And last) of his NHL career.

19) Toronto will rue this loss as they miss the playoffs this season by just four points.

20) Kenny Wharram, who recently passed away, scores twice, although his first period marker is of course, not shown.

21) This is an afternoon game


“The information used herein was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by The Hockey Summary Project. For more information about the Hockey Summary Project please visit:

http://hsp.flyershistory.com

or

http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/hockey_summary_project/”


References



CBS Sports Presents NHL On CBS. "1968 COLOR LEAFS VS HAWKS chicago TV broadcast Johnny Bower." Youtube, uploaded by Newton Minnow, 15 Jan. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yORbvADnNsg. (Game is originally broadcast on CBS 10 Mar. 1968)

Diamond, Dan. Total NHL. Toronto: Dan Diamond And Associates, 2003. Print.

Oliver, Greg, and Richard Kamchen. The Goaltenders' Union: Hockey's Greatest Puckstoppers, Acrobats, And Flakes. Toronto: ECW Press, 2014. Print, pp. 104-108.

"Hockey Summary Project." Hockey Summary Project. N.p., 10 Jan. 2001. Web. 18 Jan. 2017. <http://flyershistory.com/>


"Official Site of the National Hockey League | NHL.com” | NHL.com. National Hockey League. Web. 18 Jan. 2017.  <https://www.nhl.com>

Sports Reference LLC. Hockey-Reference.com - Hockey Statistics and History. http://www.hockey-reference.com/. Web. 18 Jan. 2017.

Podnieks, Andrew, and Rob Del Mundo. The Best, Worst, And Biggest NHL trades Of All Time! Toronto: Moydart Press, 2013. Print, pp. 67-74, www.andrewpodnieks.com

Podnieks, Andrew. The Essential Blue & White Book: A Toronto Maple Leafs Factbook. Vancouver: Greystone, 2001. Print.

Men's Tennis 2017: My Predictions

So a new year of tennis and the men are making a racket. Djokovic wants his #1 ranking back, and already has a title and a win over Murray under his belt.

Djokovic

Novak looked unstoppable until Wimbledon of last year, but then got trampled by a human tornado in Andy Murray last year. But since they're in Australian as I write this, Djokovic has the edge over Murray. That win earlier this year at Doha not only got him his first title of the year, but as mentioned, he beat Murray. That's the kind of confidence he needs going into the Australian Open. He looked sharp in his first round win over Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco got a set off him in the semis of Doha, but not at the event that Djokovic has won six times. Look for Djokovic to have deep runs in not on the Australian Open and French, but also he'll no doubt have a better showing at Wimbledon. If he stays healthy, I wouldn't bet against him winning at least one grand slam and regaining the #1 ranking.

Murray 

Andy no doubt wishes it was still 2016. What a finish. The new #1 ranked player in the world is still looking for:

A) For his first Australian Open title (0-5 in finals)

B) His first French Open (Lost to Djokovic last year)

Murray won Wimbledon, but hasn't gotten to a US Open finals since he won it back in 2012. As he's shown the last two years, he's a man to fear once the clay court season starts. And if he can get some better results at both Indian Wells and Miami, he might just hold on to that top ranking for a while. Whether or not he ends the year #1 is another matter. I think Andy will finishes ranked second at worst.

Wawrinka

Mr. 3-0 in Grand Slam finals has won exactly one of them in the last three years. But as you can see, he hasn't advanced to any other major finals. I believe his string of that will run out this year. I actually don't think he will win a grand slam this year. However, look for him to make deep runs in at least three of them, and pick up five or six titles. A top 5 finish is a good bet.

Nadal

A few years ago, it looked like Rafa was going to easily pass his old pal Roger Federer in career grand slams and make it at least 10 French Opens titles won. Neither has happened yet, and now Nadal has Novak Djokovic 26-23 against him lifetime (After once being up 14-4), and is stuck at 14 slams. Djokovic has 12 and could actually pass him in that category this year. He had some moments last year, but nearly three years has elapses since Rafa beat Novak or won a slam. Can he make it back? I'm not sure. And if it does happens, it won't be until the clay court season.

Federer

The mighty one had 2016 derailed by injuries despite making another two grand slam semis. He's up to 39 semi-finals reached in The Big Four tournaments. But missed the rest of the year following Wimbledon. And at 35, can he continue to compete? That, is a tough question. He still has that aura, but he's also seeded 17th in the Australian Open. There is, of course, an irony there: That's the number of grand slams he's won!

But none since 2012.

There might be a great result here or there, but I can't see Roger getting back to the top five. He's had a great career. But he (And probably Nadal, too) has seen his time pass. The new generation is here. Murray has obtained his peak. Djokoic is Djokovic. There just isn't any more room for Roger Federer to win any more grand slams.

Raonic

Milos just wants to get his first grand slam in 2017. Finalist at Wimbledon in 2016, where Andy Murray prevailed over him in three tight sets, he's back to the scene of taking him to five in last year's semifinals. Can he go further? My guess for Milos is he can win a slam this year, but most likely it will be Wimbledon or the US. The heat could be a big factor. Plus, Murray and Djokovic are on a collision course, and Raonic will be hard-pressed to beat them, at the level they are at right now.

Cilic

Nearly out in the first round of the years' first Grand Slam. What's up with the 2014 US Open winner? He won in Cincinnati last year, and was looking for his third straight semifinal appearance in the years' final major. It didn't work out. He's sort of in Raonic's boat. I can see him winning a slam this year, but my guess would be Wimbledon, given his big serve.

del Potro

Nowhere to be found in Australia, as he's skipping the Australian Open due to fitness concerns. Too bad, really. Juan had one great finish to the year, and a silver medal in Rio to boot. A big comeback year capped off by a two-set down comeback vs. Cilic at the Davis Cup. A Grand Slam might be a lot to ask for this year from Juan. But how about a return to the top ten? That's doable. Just as Cilic is in Raonic's boat, I'd say the same thing about Del Potro: He's in Wawrinka's boat! But look for Del Potro to make some noise at the remaining three slams, assuming he stays healthy.


Ferrer

Did you know this guy has 41 match wins Down Under? Hasn't won the Australian Open, but won his first round match in 2017. David Ferrer will be 35 in April of this year and has 26 titles to his name. None, however, have been Grand Slams. Yet he finds ways to hang around longer than he should at the big stage. Obviously, he isn't going to win a major this year, but come clay court season, I wouldn't be surprised (If David is healthy) if his game picks up.

Berdych

Tomas Berdych lost to Roger Federer at the Australian Open last year, and could face him in the third round this year. Tomas has 13 titles and two wins over Roger in Grand Slams in his career. Actually, he's beaten Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal on the big stage (Nadal, right here in 2015). However, he's only once been past the semifinals of a Grand Slam, and that was back in 2010. I don't think that trend will change this year, but I think Tomas could definitely beat Roger this year at Australia. From there, his path could take him to Kei Nishikori. That's probably as far as he goes. As for the rest of the year, who knows? I think Tomas is at the point where he can beat both Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, but it's a whole new ballgame when he faces Andy Murray (His potential semifinal opponent) or Novak Djokovic). He doesn't have the game to beat either of them. Not likely he can beat Stan The Man, either.

Nishikori

Beat Murray at the US Open last year, and was a finalist there in 2014. He likes hard court, so he should have a good result in Australia. But of the "New" guys around (Cilic, Raonic and Nishikori) he's sort of the low man on the scale. He game just enough to compete with Cilic, Raonic, Murray or Djokovic. Wawrinka, too. 

Tsonga

Always a battler, he gave Murray all he could handle last year at Wimbledon. Was the only man to take two sets off him. Finalist in Australia way back in 2008. He's beaten Federer at Wimbledon and Canada (Right there in the finals). Joe is amazingly fast around the court, and the type of player to watch out for at the Grand Slams. His best years though, like Ferrer's, are probably behind him.


References


Infosys, FedEx, Peugeot, and LeSports. "Official Site of Men's Professional Tennis | ATP World Tour | Tennis." ATP World Tour. Emirates. Web. .  <http://www.atpworldtour.com/>.


Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 17 Jan. 2017. <https://en.wikipedia.org/>

Saturday, January 14, 2017

World Series: Did You Know?

The Babe was also finding other ways than the long ball to help his Yankees beat the Pirates in 1927. He did have that flair for the dramatic in many ways, to tell you the truth.

In 1921, he stole second and third in one game against the New York Giants. 1928 saw him make a fine catch to end the Fall Classic vs. the Cardinals. What then, did he have in store for the Pittsburgh Pirates in that four-game sweep of 1927? Plenty!

The Babe got it all going by singling and scoring in the top of the first in the first contest, held at Forbes Field. He wasted no time and got another single, first pitch swinging in the third. And again, Ruth scored.

Pittsburgh, though played well at times in the first game. Ruth was robbed of another hit in the top of the 5th on a nice stop by George Grantham. The Yankees ended up scoring a run anyways on a sac fly by Lou Gehrig. Ruth added a single later in the game, only to be picked off. Good thing his team won 5-4. Three singles, two runs scored by The Bambino.

Ruth caught a ball that ended up being a sac fly in the bottom of the first in game two (Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead on that play), but later hit one of his own. That put New York up 3-1.

It was still 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh, when he made a nice fielding play. George Grantham doubled to right in the top of the seventh. This was a leadoff double. But The Bambino made sure he got no further. The Yankees, inspired by that play, added three runs in the top of eight while the Bucs could get only one of their own in the bottom of the frame. The 6-2 win sent it back to Yankee Stadium for game three.

Ruth hit a 3-run home run in the bottom of the seventh, That scored runs four, five and six of the inning, which had started with the home team up only 2-0. They ended up winning 8-1.

The Pirates didn't want to be swept, so they scored a run before Ruth and company got their first turn to the dish. The Babe singled home the tying run. Then he made a dash for second, and had himself a stolen base!

The Yankees didn't score another run that inning, but their pitching held the Pirates in check for a while. Ruth, meanwhile hit a two-run home run to break the 1-1 deadlock in the bottom of the fifth. Undaunted, the Pittsburgh Pirates scored two runs of their own in the seventh. Not via the long ball. Two errors, a single and a sac fly and we're tied 3-3.

The game went into the ninth still tied at that score. Wilcy Moore got 'em 1-2-3. The Babe came up in the bottom of the inning after the first two men reached. A wild pitched forced Pirate pitcher Johnny Miljus to walk him intentionally. Lou Gehrig and Bob Meusel both swung and missed at strike three, however.

Two down, bases full of Yankees. Tony Lazzeri was up. On the second pitch, Miljus uncorked another wild pitch, and Earle Combs came home with the series-winning run!

The Babe had two home runs to his name in 1927. He'd made a fine fielding play. He'd stolen a base. He'd even hit some singles, deviating from his big wallops. The Yankees were simply head and shoulders above the rest of the world of baseball that season. The Babe spearheaded the deadly offensive attack of the Yankees.


References


Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 14 Jan. 2017.

Neft, David S., Richard M. Cohen, and Michael L. Neft. The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball, 1992. 12th ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992. Print.

Neft, David S., and Richard M. Cohen. The World Series: Complete Play-by-play of Every Game, 1903-1989. 4th ed. New York: St. Martin's, 1990. Print.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

World Series: Did You Know?

The Iron Horse sure had a strong glove in 1927. No doubt Lou Gehrig had a big bat, but his fielding was excellent. The New York Yankees didn't exactly have easy opposition in the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Fall Classic that year.

The World Series opened at Forbes Field that year, and Gehrig got them off on the right foot. Following a single by Babe Ruth in the top of the first, Lou Gehrig hit a triple to score him. Did that deflate Pittsburgh? No. They tied it in the bottom of the frame. The Pirates kept coming back. They could not, however, take the lead.

The Pirates might have in the next inning. The score was still knotted at one, and Pittsburgh had a man on first and only one out. Joe Harris hit a grounder to Tony Lazzeri who got the force by tagging out George Grantham, the runner. His throw to Gehrig at first was low. Right in the dirt. No matter, a nice scoop by The Iron Horse and the inning was over.

The Yankees won the game 5-4. Gehrig finished with 2 RBIs. But he made another good play on a bad toss to first in the bottom of the fourth. The home team was looking to tie it again, down only 3-2.

The Yankees really woke up the next two games. Held to just six hits in game one, they pounded out 11 in game 2 (A decisive 6-2 win) and 9 (Compared to the Pirates' 3) in the third contest. The Yankees, following their 8-1 win at Yankee Stadium in game three, needed just one more win.

Pittsburgh played much better in game four. They even scored in the top of the first, as they had in game two. Sadly for the Bucs, it was 3-1 in not too long a time. The Babe knocked home one in the bottom of the first, then added a two-run home run in the fifth. Gehrig fanned in the bottom of the first, grounded out in the third, and again grounded out in the fifth. But how about his glove the next inning?

Well, Pittsburgh needed some runs. With two down George Grantham sent one Gehrig's way. A fine play by Lou made sure it didn't leave the infield. Grantham beat it out, however. The Pirates did not score as Joe Harris sent one to Earle Combs in centre for the third out.

But Pittsburgh did tie it in the top of the second. Earl Smith hit a grounder to first that Gehrig got to and threw to pitcher Wilcy Moore covering first. Moore couldn't hold on to the ball. Tony Lazzeri then made an error of his own. Two on via errors. Gehrig fielded a bunt for the first out, but both runners scored later that inning on a sacrifice fly and a single. 2 runs, 1 hit, 2 errors. Ouch.

Gehrig was the last out as New York batted in the bottom of the frame. Johnny Miljus got him to fly to left, after Ruth hit into a double play. The Yankees put two on the next inning, but Miljus got out of that jam, too. Moore retired the Bucs in order in the ninth.

In the bottom of the frame, the home team won it. A walk. A bunt beaten, A wild pitch. An intentional walk (By Ruth). Gehrig fanned. So did Bob Meusel. What an inning!

Miljus' 0-1 pitch to Tony Lazzeri ended up being his second wild pitch of the frame. Earle Combs, who walked to start this inning, trotted on home! 4-3, New York. Sweep. How sweep it must have been to be a Yankee fan back then.

Gehrig ended up .308. Babe Ruth blasted two home runs. Mark Koenig led the way with a .500 batting average. The Iron Horse, though, did it all. He fielded well. He ran well, hitting a series-leading two doubles and two triples. He walked a series-leading three times. He got four RBIs in four games. And he ended up with 41 putouts, also tops on both teams (His counterpart on the Pirates, Joe Harris, made 35). 

Eastern Conference Teams That Can Dethrone The Pens In 2017!

The Pittsburgh Penguins are out for a second-straight Stanley Cup later this year, and their third overall in the Sidney Crosby-era. For good measure, the franchise is looking to make it five Stanley Cups overall, which would tie them (With Edmonton) for most Stanley Cups won by a team that joined the NHL from 1967 on.

But not so fast.

Are there teams out there that can beat Pittsburgh that play in their very conference? How about division? "Yes sir!" says I!

Now, a disclaimer: I think the Penguins are a great team! I watched last year's playoffs. They had depth, they had coaching, they had spectacular goaltending. And it continues on this season. But last year was 2015/16. This season is 2016/17, the 100th anniversary of the National Hockey League's inaugural campaign. A year makes a huge difference.

Okay, where to start?

How about Washington? The Pens have a history with them. Of beating them. All the time in the playoffs with the exception of 1994 (Yes, #68 was on that Pittsburgh team). The Caps, though, sure gave the Penguins all they could handle last year. They've got Braden Holtby, brilliant even in defeat in the 2016 playoffs. They've got a great coach in Barry Trotz. Oh, they've also got the latest member of the 1,000 point club, Alex Ovechkin. And he's hungry for a Stanley Cup. He'd love to leave Sidney Crosby behind on his way to one, for sure.

I think this can definitly happen. Of all the scenarios I present, this has to be the most likely. Sure, they may not meet, but if they do, don't you think Washington is due? A win by the Capitals over the Penguins in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs would take the Ovie/Sid rivalry to new heights. Imagine, Crosby, losing to Ovechkin, and then Ovie winning the Stanley Cup later? The Stanley Cup counter would officially start with Alex having one to his name and Sid two himself. "Who will end up with more?" everyone will ask. This needs to be an annual playoff matchup. So much great history here, predating Sidney and Alexander.

How about Columbus?

The surprise team coached by John Tortorella? Well, he won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay (More on them, later) back in 2004, and is doing wonders this year with the Blue Jackets. That 16-game winning streak earlier? Just plain awesome! Did you know Columbus is third in the NHL in goals for with 135 (In 40 games)? They have some serious firepower. And they've got a good goalie named Sergei Bobrovsky. This team took Pittsburgh to six games back in 2014, and have matured much since. Experience is a bit against them as they've missed the playoffs the last two seasons, but they could very well surprise the Pens. This could all be smoke in mirrors as the saying goes. Columbus might be overachieving for all we know. The playoffs will tell.

The Rangers have twice beaten the Pens in the playoffs, and are 2-2 against them in the playoffs from 2007/08 on. They've got Henrik Lundqvist in goal, and it doesn't matter what his numbers are (Well, he's 18-9-1, 2.55, .912 in 29 games) he always on his game in the spring. He can get into the shooters' heads. Even Crosby. Look out for the Rangers, Pens!

Philadelphia is a bit of a long shot, but these teams had a memorable matchup back in 2012. Philly came out on top in six games in the first round, but the team doesn't appear to be dangerous to Pittsburgh, yet. The Flyers might peak when they see the Penguins in the playoffs.

So that's it for the Metropolitan division. How about the Atlantic? Montreal has injuries, but Carey Price isn't one of them. Doesn't he get in the shooters' heads? You bet. The Habs are 26-10-6 after 42 games this year, tops in the Atlantic division. They've been scoring a-plenty lately, but Price, he's sort of fallen off his previous seasons' performance, eh? That could be a concern if these two teams meet in the postseason. I'm not sure the Habs can match the Penguins in a high-scoring series. Price is 7-3-3 in his last 13 games, but his save percentage has been just .901 during that span, well below his .931 S% from 2013/14 through last season. Carey will be the deciding factor, and he needs to regain his form from earlier in the season and World Cup.

Ottawa has been a surprise this season, but not on the Columbus-scale. Their dealing with the loss of Craig Anderson, at least for now. He's a big-game goalie, and his save percentage in the playoffs is just a shade under Braden Holby's .938. Anderson is .933, and he can steal you a series in the postseason. Erik Karlsson is great, nothing more needs to be said. Clark McArthur is dealing with concussion issues. Ottawa is sort of doing things the hard way. Not much offence. They'll need some if they are going to beat Pittsburgh. But the Sens they've played just 39 games, and Mike Condon has done a good job filling in for Craig Anderson. He won't be the guy they turn to come playoff time. If this team can string together some wins, they could challenge Montreal for first in the Atlantic. They currently trail by 12 points, but have 3 games in hand. Boston is actually second but has played 44 games.

The Bruins hopes rest with goalie Tukka Rask. Patrice Bergeron (Who's having an off-year) and Patrice Bergeron are the two big gunners for Boston. They swept Pittsburgh four seasons ago in the playoffs, but that is ancient history in hockey time. They need to find others to pick up the scoring slack, although David Pastrnak has done an admirable job (31 points in 37 games). They aren't even distancing themselves from some of the bottom teams in the Eastern Conference. The team has eight players 30 years or over. Their time may be running out.

I'm not sold on Toronto making the playoffs just yet, so there is no point in speculating how they might fair vs. Pittsburgh in April. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. The two Florida teams are interesting matchups for Pittsburgh. Tampa Bay gave 'em all they could handle last year, bowing out only 2-1 in game seven in the Conference Finals. This year, the injury bug (Most notably, Steven Stamkos) has hit them. But the Lighting are just six points back of the last wild card spot. If they get in and are healthy, they can beat Pittsburgh, and any team for that matter. This team went all the way to game six of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015, don't forget. Their goalie, Ben Bishop has been excellent the last two playoff years (21-13, 2.09, .927). Florida is three games over .500, but also currently out of the playoff picture. They can get in, but I'd like the Lightning's chances better than the Panthers' chances.

Carolina has been hot lately, beating Columbus, but it's too early to tell for them. Their backup goalie, Eddie Lack is out with a concussion, so the team is short a quality backup. The team sits with 45 points, 3 back of Philadelphia for the last wild card spot (The Hurricanes have two games in hand). But they are 12 points back of the New York Rangers for the first wild card spot (And fourth place in the Metropolitan). This team has some work to do.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

World Series: Did You Know?

Roger Peckinpaugh made an error in the eighth game of 1921. And he made some more costly ones in game seven four years later.

Peckinpaugh, looking to help the New York Yankees win their first ever World Series in '21 against the New York Giants, had Babe Ruth and another slugger, Home Run Baker. But after game five in this best-of-nine affair, the Babe wasn't in the starting lineup. He had some knee problems, and an infected arm on top of that. The Yankees led 3-2, but dropped game six 8-5, and game seven 2-1.

Not that the Yankees were any pushovers. They were the designated home team in this Fall Classic, which took place exclusively at the Polo Grounds. Waite Hoyt, 2-0, was on the hill for the American League team. Ruth would make an appearance, later.

So could they send it to a ninth and deciding contest?

The Giants got two on with two outs in the top of the first, and then disaster struck as High Pockets Kelly sent one to short, Peckinpaugh's spot. The ball got through him for an error, and Dave Bancroft scored.

How about Peckinpaugh at the dish? He walked in the bottom of the frame, and the home team soon had runners on second and third with just one out, Roger 90 feet away from crossing the dish. That didn't happen as Bob Meusel popped out and Wally Pipp.

Peckinpaugh gunned out a runner at home in the second, keeping it 1-0. The Yankees played well the rest of the way, and Roger's error was the only one they'd commit. Hoyt pitched well, but so did Giant Art Neft.

The Yankees loaded the bases against him in the last of the fourth on two singles and a walk. All this happened with two outs. But again, no one scored. Peckinpaugh drew a two-out walk the next inning, but was also stranded.

Hoyt retired the last nine man to face him in the game, but the Yankees came to bat in the bottom of the ninth down 1-0. Babe Ruth made a dramatic appearance, batting for Pipp, but grounded out to first. The next batter, Aaron Ward, coaxed a walk from Art Neft. Home Run Baker could win the game with a home run. He hit it well to second basemen Johnny Rawlings. Rawlings made an excellent play, throwing out Baker at first. Ward kept running, and ended up out at third. The Giants won, 1-0, and were the World Series winners in 1921.

Peckinpaugh's team looked like they were going to win four years later. His Washington Senators had won in 1924, and were up three games to one. Back-to-back for Washington? No. The Pittsburgh Pirates, the National League pennant winners that year, won game five at Griffith Stadium, 6-3. Then, at home in Forbes Field, they eked out a 3-2 win. It all came down to game seven.

Washington, with Walter Johnson on the hill, started out fast. They crossed home four times in the top of the first, Roger Peckinpaugh himself with an RBI when he hit into a force. That out, however, was taken away as catcher Earl Smith interfered Roger as he was on his way to first.

Peckinpaugh then got a hit taken away via a great catch by Kiki Cuyler in the top of the third. The Pirates made their move in the bottom of the frame, scoring three times to cut it to 4-3. But only temporarily was it a one-run game. Joe Harris knocked home two runs in the top of the fourth for the Senators with a double, and it was 6-3. And with The Big Train on the hill, it was looking all over!

The Pirates got a run back in the bottom of the fifth on two doubles. Peckinpaugh made a critical error in the seventh, and the Pirates scored two more to tie it. Pie Traynor was nailed at the dish to keep it that way.

Roger hit a home run in the top of the eighth to give Washington the lead again, and Walter Johnson needed just six more outs. Soon, Pittsburgh was down to four outs. Johnson got the first two batters out in the bottom of the frame, and then the wheels came off the chariot.

Earl Smith doubled, Carson Bigbee then was sent up to hit for Earl Smith. Smith doubled and the game was tied, 7-7. A walk brought Max Carey to the plate. Carey sent a ball to short, where Peckinpaugh tried for the inning-ending force. The throw was bad, and all hands were safe. Cuyler hit a ground-rule double to right, and Pittsburgh got two more runs. Washington went down 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth.

The two errors by Roger Peckinpaugh were too many. He'd made six in the previous six games, and the Pirates were World Series champions. At bat, he'd hit just .250 after hitting .417 in the 1924 World Series (Roger hit poorly in 1921, just .179). He'd have to shoulder at least some of the blame for his teams losing in 1921 and 1925.


References


Neft, David S., Richard M. Cohen, and Michael L. Neft. The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball, 1992. 12th ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992. Print.

Neft, David S., and Richard M. Cohen. The World Series: Complete Play-by-play of Every Game, 1903-1989. 4th ed. New York: St. Martin's, 1990. Print.

Nemec, David et all. 20th Century Baseball Chronicle: A Year-by-year History of Major League Baseball. Collector's Edition. Lincolnwood, Ill: Publications International, 1993. Print.

Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 10 Jan. 2017.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

World Series: Did You Know?

The top three RBI men on the Chicago White Sox in 1919 were suspected or proven fixers: Joe Jackson, Chick Gandil and Happy Felsch!

The rest of the team wasn't getting it done in the clutch, it appears. The Cincinnati Reds were the opposition and were able to hold a number of the Chicago batters in check when the chips were down, even the honest guys.

In Cincinnati for game one, the home team wasted no time in scoring a run off Eddie Cicotte in the bottom of the first, after Chicago knocked themselves out of the top of the frame. Shano Collins had singled, but was forced at second. Eddie Collins, who'd hit into the force, was then nailed at second on an attempted steal. Buck Weaver was then retired to end that.

The Reds took advantage of this, scoring in the bottom of the frame. In the top of the second however, it was Joe Jackson reaching on an error. No RBI, since he was leading off, but Joe made it all the way to second on the miscue. A bunt by Happy Felsch got him to third, and a sac fly by Chick Gandil scored him, Alas, that proved to be the only run the Sox scored the entire game, won easily by the home team, 9-1.

In game two, again in Cincinnati, the visitors pounded out ten hits: Three by Jackson and two each by Weaver and Ray Schalk, but to no avail!

The Reds won 4-2, as two errors got the White Sox two runs. Cincinnati had just four hits.

The series then shifted to Chicago for game three, and for the third straight contest, the home team won. Obviously, this time it was the White Sox. They shut 'em out, 3-0. Jackson and Felsch, however, didn't get any RBIs. Gandil drove both those men home in the bottom of the second. That was all pitcher Dick Kerr needed. And although Felsch scored a run, he was caught stealing (As was Jackson) and grounded into a double play.

Game four saw the visiting team win for the first time, eking out a 2-0 win. Both the Reds' runs were unearned as Eddie Cicotte made two errors. Jackson, Felsch and Gandil got a hit each. The rest of the team was no-hit. Cincinnati was up, three games to one.

After winning game five in Chicago, Cincinnati was now up 4-1. This was a best-of-nine affair, so the Reds still needed another win. Game six was in Cincinnati.

The Reds wanted it bad, and sailed ahead 4-0 after 4 innings in the sixth contest. Eddie Collins got the White Sox on the board with a sac fly in the top of the fifth, but time was running out.

The sixth inning saved Chicago's bacon. Kerr wasn't nearly as effective in this contest as he had been in game three. When the game finally ended, Dick had allowed 11 hits, which was more than his own team got.

Jackson singled home Buck Weaver in the top of the sixth, following a leadoff double. Felsch doubled himself to the left-centre gap, and Shoeless was across the plate. That made it 4-3. Gandil, though, popped out. Swede Risberg grounded to short. That got Happy Felsch to third, but now there were two outs.

Ray Schalk kept the rally going with a single. For good measure, the catcher stole second. Dickey Kerr grounded out to end the inning, alas. The score was tied at four, but now the visitors had to hold Cincinnati in check from here on in. Oh, and Chicago needed at least one more run.

That didn't occur until extra innings. The Reds got a man on in the bottom of the frame, and two more in the seventh. Kerr held the fort. The White Sox were held to without a hit in the seventh and eighth by Jimmy Ring. Ring was pitching in relief and just the right guy to end this Fall Classic. He'd tossed a fine shutout in game four. Both Shoeless Joe Jackson and Chick Gandil drew walks off him in the top of the eighth (Happy Felsch had been retired on a fly), only to see Swede Risberg hit into an inning-ending double play.

Kerr struggled in the bottom of that inning. First, he got two men on. Then, he came unraveled a bit. Two straight singles. Luckily for Kerr, his mound adversary hit into a force to end that. Ring himself got the first two men to face him in the top of the ninth out, then gave up his third walk of his relief stint. Nemo Leibold, who was the batter who looked at ball four, joined Ray Schalk as White Sox with base swipes in this contest not long after. The stolen base put Nemo in scoring position. But Eddie Collins flied to centre.

The Reds, looking to put the final nail in the White Sox coffin, got a single by Jake Daubert in the last of the ninth. World Series-winning run on. Heinie Groth, the third basemen, forced Daubert at second. Then Heinie tried for a stolen base of his own (Daubert and Morrie Rath had done it earlier, joining Schalk and Leibold as thieves in the day) Ray Schalk nailed him. To extras!

The tenth inning started with a double by Weaver, just like he'd done in the sixth. But Joe Jackson didn't get him home. He beat out a bunt that moved Weaver to third. Felsch, with a grand chance to make it a 5-4 game, fanned. Gandil showed Felsch how it's done with a single to score Weaver. Buck had scored the game-winning run, as it turns out. There were still two more runners on, but Swede Risberg lined into an inning-ending double play, with Shoeless Joe nailed off second on that.

No matter, Kerr (Who'd allowed 11 hits in only 9 innings pitched so far) got 'em 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 10th. The White Sox won 5-4, and were still alive. But now for the bad news: The Reds still led the World Series four games to two! Worse, still, Chicago now had to win again, in Cincinnati!

Eddie Cicotte started game seven for the Chicago White Sox. He was 0-2. His team had scored one run for him in his two outings. He'd pitched bad in game one. Things sure looked dim. Though he pitched better he in this must-win game, Eddie wasn't great.

The Chicago bats showed signs of being that. Jackson got the White Sox off on the right foot with an RBI single in the top of the first off Slim Sallee. Felsch followed that with a single of his own, but the Sox were held to that one run.

Both the Collins, Shano and Eddie singled to start the third. Buck Weaver hit into a double play, but Jackson then drove home his second run of the contest with another single.

Then in the fifth inning, Eddie Collins singled. Weaver and Jackson reached via errors. Felsch singled like he had in the first, getting himself two RBIs and putting Chicago up 4-0. Sallee was removed following this. Chick Gandil grounded out, putting Felsch in scoring position at second. and Jackson 90 feet from home. Swede Risberg fanned. The White Sox would not score again in game seven.

Dolph Luque, who replaced Ray Fisher after getting Gandil and Risberg out, shut down the Sox on one hit in the last four innings. Cicotte won the game 4-1, giving up seven hits.

Game eighth was in Chicago, but Cincinnati wasn't about to be denied. They scored four runs in the top of the first. Chicago had two men on to start the bottom of the inning, but Weaver, Jackson and Felsch failed to deliver. It was 5-0, Reds when Shoeless Joe hit a solo home run in the bottom of the third. The score was 9-1 in the bottom of the sixth as Jackson sent Edd Roush back in centre on a fly.
The Reds didn't let up, alas.

They made it double digits by the time the White Sox batted in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, and the score 10-0 for Cincinnati, Eddie Collins singled. Buck Weaver doubled him to third. Joe Jackson scored both men with a double of his own. 10-3. Happy Felsch though, didn't help the cause by popping out. Chick Gandil sent one that made it all the way to the fence. Closest to the ball was right fielder Greasy Neale, but he seemed to have problems keeping up with the flight path of the ball. Gandil was on third when it was all over. The triple scored Jackson. The Sox weren't done. Swede Risberg sent one out to Edd Roush's territory in centre. But Edd made an error. Gandil scored. 10-5. Ray Schalk, the eighth batter in the bottom of the eighth, grounded out to end that.

Cincinnati put a man on in the ninth inning via a single, but Roush was retired to end that. Chicago mounted another rally in the ninth. Eddie Murphy, batting for relief pitcher Roy Wilkinson, reached base the hard way. Hod Eller had plunked him. Leibold batted, and got a hold of one, sending it to centre. Here's where Edd Roush atoned for his previous muff as he made a fine catch.

It was crucial, since Eddie Collins followed that with a single. Buck Weaver made good contact and hit it to deep right. This time, Greasy Neale didn't lose sight of it, and made the catch. Murphy took third, but there were now two outs.

With Joe Jackson now at the plate, Collins caught 'em all napping and stole second. But when Jackson grounded out to second basemen Morrie Rath, the Cincinnati Reds had the game 10-5, and the 1919 World Series, 5-3.


References


Neft, David S., Richard M. Cohen, and Michael L. Neft. The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball, 1992. 12th ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992, pp. 91. Print.

Neft, David S., and Richard M. Cohen. The World Series: Complete Play-by-play of Every Game, 1903-1989. 4th ed. New York: St. Martin's, 1990, pp. 76-81. Print.

Sports Reference LLC. Baseball-Reference.com - Major League Statistics and Information. http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Web. 8 Jan. 2017.