Quick Takes


          “Why be jealous over things you don’t have?” Yogi Berra.


It’s no wonder Michael Irvin thinks so highly of Terrell Owens; they’re cut from the same arrogant cloth. Irvin and Sean Salisbury were debating the forthcoming NFL draft on ESPN radio last week. The mistake Salisbury made was trying to reason with the former Cowboy. Irvin knows everything; just ask him! Talent and class are two entirely different categories.


          Houston, New Orleans, Tennessee, New York (Jets), etc. of the NFL are drafting at the top of this year’s draft because they suck. They have lots of needs, not just one. Therefore, they’re crazy to think that any one draftee will solve their problems. If I’m their GM, I trade the pick for a package of players and picks that will more logically plug all of my team’s holes, not just one, and turn my franchise around.


          Ricky Williams, a bazaar story! Mike Ditka did the unpardonable when he traded away all of the Saints’ draft picks in 1999 to move up to the #5 slot in the first round to choose Williams. Ditka’s blunder set the Saints back at least five years and maybe many more. Ricky didn’t last in New Orleans, and wound up in Miami. He abandoned his team in 2004. The Dolphins took him back in 2005; I would not have and I said so then. This week he was suspended for 2006 for violating the league’s drug policy for the fourth time. I hope this sick a-hole never carries another NFL ball.    


          Dan Patrick’s show featured a discussion last week that I found rather interesting. If you have one shot to take in a basketball game, who would you give the ball to? The choices were MJ and Kobe. While listening to it in my car, I said neither. I ranked Jerry West, Magic and Oscar in that order. Then I checked the career FG % stats of these five stars. They rank in order: Johnson .520, Jordan .497, Robertson .485, West .474 and Bryant .449. I was surprised that West isn’t at the very top of the list. I was more surprised that Jordan is as high as he is on that list.


          I’ve tried ‘em all. The most comprehensive and user-friendly sports website is www.cbs.sportsline.com. Up-to-the-minute everything. All sports.


          Greg Maddux is amazing. At 40, he’s 4-0 thus far this season with an ERA of just 0.99. He might be on the road to his fifth Cy Young. It’s a pleasure to watch him pitch, even though he did it to the Cards on Sunday. 


          With Willie Taveras on first base for the Astros in their game against the Dodgers on Tuesday night, L.A. manager Grady Little, concerned that Taveras would steal, had his pitcher throw three straight pitch-outs to Lance Berkman. The score was tied, and Little really didn’t want to pitch to Berkman. So what! I’ve never seen that before, and under no circumstances does such a managerial move make any sense period. And you never put the tying or lead run in scoring position, again period.


            Last night, the Lakers took home court away from the Suns. If it weren't for Phil Jackson, they'd be watching the first playoff round on television. What he's done with the Lakers this year is incredible. It doesn't matter how the playoffs turn out this year; Jackson keeps on proving that he's the best NBA coach in history.


Story of the Week



          Lou Boudreau was quite a young man. He was player-manager of the Cleveland Indians at the tender age of 24. He was respected on and off the field. He is in the Hall of Fame. He eventually inherited a son-in-law named Denny McLain. That had to be a culture shock. Well, maybe not at the beginning, but it eventually took its toll.

          Denny McLain had it all going for him. During his first seven seasons in the major leagues, with Detroit, he was a stud pitcher. In five consecutive seasons with the Tigers, 1965-1969, McLain reeled off 16-20-17-31-24 wins respectively. He was an absolute bust after the 1969 season, and spent just three more years in the majors with four different teams. What happened?

          Around the beginning of 1970, word circulated that a Detroit grand jury had begun investigating McLain. Against a backdrop of personal financial difficulties, McLain’s rumored involvement with gamblers prompted a meeting with Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. At that meeting, McLain admitted investing in a bookmaking operation at a bar he frequented in Flint, Michigan. The confession preceded by several days a Sports Illustrated article which depicted McLain’s involvement in that bookmaking operation.

The article went on the suggest that when McLain failed to pay out $46,600 on a losing bet in 1967, organized crime enforcer Tony Giacalone allegedly stomped on the pitcher’s foot, dislocating several toes and causing him to miss two starts in September during the Tigers’ heated pennant race with the Red Sox. The article further alleged that Detroit mobster Billy Giacalone, Tony’s brother, bet heavily on Boston to win the pennant, and also against Detroit in the final game of the regular season. McLain started that game……….and lost. In all, McLain lost his last three decisions of the 1967 season. The bookie connection and the allegations earned an indefinite suspension from Kuhn, although the commissioner later stated there was no proof of McLain himself having actually bet on baseball games.

Never clear of the clouds over his head, McLain won 55 games the next two seasons, two Cy Youngs and one MVP in those two years, and a World Series ring in 1968. During that year, McLain became the first 30-game-winner in 34 years in the “bigs”, and he’s the last one to turn that trick. But suspensions for bizarre behavior with parking lot attendants and sportswriters (Always love your sportswriters!) and his violation of federal law by carrying a gun on a commercial airliner was enough for the Tigers. They traded Denny to Washington. He failed there, and after attempted comebacks with Oakland and Atlanta, he was bounced out of major league baseball in 1972.

In subsequent years, McLain spent time in prison on charges of loan sharking, racketeering, extortion, and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. His was not simply a one-time trip to prison. He won an appeal, regained his freedom, and was right back in again. He is currently out of prison on a supervised release, and must report to his parole officer with regularity.   

That Denny McLain wasted tremendous talent is an understatement. Another is the fact that he certainly fell far short of being his father-in-law as a credit to the game of baseball.


Last Week’s Trivia


          Astronaut Alan B. Shepard played golf on the moon in 1971. No green fees!


Trivia Question of the Week


          My friend, George Ostfeld, gave me this one. In what year was the first NFL overtime game played? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.