Quick Takes


    If you’re not a hockey fan, you’re missing something. The modern-day players are a throwback to yesteryear; hockey is the only major American sport that can make that claim. The players are tough; they’d stay in the game and continue to play with bloodied and broken and bruised anything, and they do. And it’s all about the team with these guys; it’s only about the team. That in itself is a major difference between hockey and our other sports. The great Stanley Cup series between the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins, won by Detroit last night, is living testimony to the above. And when they’re finished beating the hell out of each other in the playoffs, there’s the traditional team handshakes signifying their mutual respect for each other. These guys certainly have my respect. Hockey is a sport unlike any other.


    Tonight is the start of the NBA finals. GO LAKERS.


    You can have fun with this bit of trivia. No one will know it except you and me. Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941, and he is recognized as being the last player to hit .400. All true baseball fans know that; the operative word is “true.” However, Williams was called to military duty in the Korean war. When he was home, he hit .400 in 1952 in just six games. In 1953, he hit .407 in 37 games. So, in fact and technically speaking, his highest batting average for one season was that .407 in 1953. Ted Williams is the greatest hitter I ever saw or ever will see.


    Where I come from, namely poker, “flop” is a word we all know. The NBA has its own meaning. When a player takes an intentional dive to draw a foul, it’s a flop, and flopping will draw fines next season. I can’t imagine a NBA game without those theatrics. I agree with ESPN; Bill Laimbeer is the all-time flop king. There had to be a good reason why it was actually named the “Bill Laimbeer Flop.” 
    The metropolitan area with the greatest population not to have at least one team in each of the four major sports is the “greater Los Angeles area.” This area, comprising Los Angeles and Anaheim,  has two MLB teams, two NBA teams, two NHL teams, but has not had a NFL franchise since 1995, when both of its franchises relocated; the Raiders returned to Oakland, and the Rams moved to St. Louis. Having lived in the Los Angeles area for many years, I speak from experience as I state that there is no great desire to have a NFL team there. There’s no first class stadium to put a team there anyway.


    In 1999, the NFL wanted to grant its 32nd franchise to Los Angeles, but a workable ownership and stadium plan did not materialize, while Houston, which had lost its NFL franchise in a controversial relocation as well, did present such a plan and was awarded the Houston Texans franchise.


    Houston is the second largest metro area not to have at least one team in each of the four major sports. Houston lacks a NHL team; it always will.


Story of the Week


    Dave Winfield grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. His athletic skills were obvious. In his senior year in high school, Winfield grew to a formidable 6’6” tower of power.


    He earned a full scholarship to the University of Minnesota in 1969, where he starred in basketball and baseball. His college basketball coach was a young Bill Musselman, who went on to serve as a head coach in the American Basketball Association and the National Basketball Association, and would later refer to Winfield as the best rebounder he ever had. Winfield's 1972 Minnesota team won the Big 10 basketball championship, the school's first in 53 years.


    Dave Winfield also played for the Alaska Goldpanners (of the Alaska Baseball League) in Fairbanks, “Home Of Midnight Sun Baseball” as they were advertised. He played for two seasons (1971-72) and was the MVP in 1972. It was a fun tour of duty.


    Baseball at midnight; only in Alaska. ‘’It was weird,'’ said Brad Arnsberg, a former Marlins pitching coach, of the Midnight Sun experience. “You had to have foil on your bedroom windows just to keep the light from jumping in when you were trying to sleep. I remember, unfortunately, walking out of a couple of bars at three or four in the morning and it was broad daylight. It was kind of an odd feeling.'’
Following college, Winfield was drafted by four teams in three different sports. The San Diego Padres selected him as an outfielder with the fourth overall pick in the MLB draft, and both the Atlanta Hawks (NBA) and the Utah Stars (ABA) drafted him. And even though he never played college football, the Minnesota Vikings selected Winfield in the 17th round of the NFL draft. Dave Winfield was a great all-around athlete, and could have made it in any sport he chose as his profession. He picked baseball.


    Dave Winfield was a consistent run producer. He had great power and speed, and was one of baseball’s most dominant and durable outfielders. His defensive play was superb as he won a gold glove in seven of his MLB seasons. He lasted in the majors for more than two decades, ultimately collecting his 3,000th hit in his hometown, Minneapolis.


    Winfield retired in 1995 and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001, in his first year of eligibility. His lifetime batting average was .283 with 465 home runs, 1,833 runs batted in, a slugging percentage of .475, an on-base percentage of .355, and 223 stolen bases. He played for six teams during his 22 MLB seasons. His time with his first two teams, the Padres and Yankees, were the most remembered.


    He became the first player to choose to go into Cooperstown as a Padre, a move that reportedly irked Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner. Nonetheless, when he was inducted, Winfield sounded a conciliatory note toward Steinbrenner.


    In 1999, Winfield was named to the Sporting News list of Baseball’s Greatest Players, and was a nominee for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.


    On July 4, 2006, Winfield was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in its inaugural class.


    I am most impressed with Winfield’s attitude regarding All-Star games. Every player wants to be selected to the team, but they don’t all care about playing in the games. To too many MLB players, All-Star selection means bonus money, and that’s it. But that certainly wasn’t the case with Dave Winfield.

    "My favorite All-Star memory (he appeared in 12 consecutive All-Star games) was when I was selected the second time, playing that game at home in San Diego. The applause at the old Murph, my home park at the time, was thunderous and long. In the All-Star Games, I got a lot of hits, won a lot of games, played with a lot of my idols and we became friends. Once you step on the field, you've earned it. I would have gone to the All-Star Game any time. I was going to go no matter what."


Last Week’s Trivia


    The Buffalo Braves joined the NBA as an expansion team in 1970, along with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trail Blazers. In 1978, the team moved to San Diego and became the Clippers. In 1984, the Clippers moved to Los Angeles. Too bad no one knows they’re there.


Trivia Question of the Week


    Who is the last MLB pitcher to start both ends of a doubleheader? (In case some of you are too young to remember, there were times when you could actually see two MLB games the same day for the price of one. It was a frequent happening in St. Louis with the Cardinals and Browns. I loved those Sundays.) See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.