John Isaacs, who played for the old New York Rens, an all-black barnstorming basketball team during the 30’s, told the New York Times that the very first person he ever saw dunk a basketball with both hands was a kid who played for UCLA’s basketball team. At 5’-11", he was the 1940 NCAA broad jump champion, in addition to being a football and baseball star at UCLA. His name was Jackie Robinson.
Ricky Williams, it’s OK to retire, but you could have quit the Dolphins right after last season, or anytime before the NFL draft, or anytime since the latter. Instead, you dumped the Dolphins one yard from the start of pre-season camp. You dumped on team management and coaches, your teammates and your fans. Ricky, you’re one huge class act!
Lance Armstrong was told he had six months to live due to cancer. He has since won a record six Tour de France titles, the most recent on July 25. That string could arguably be the most dominant feat in all sports history.
George’s $185 million payroll does not feature one .300 hitter in the line-up as of this writing, July 25. Not one! Sheffield at .297 is the closest, and he’s also George’s MVP this season. Not A-Rod; as a matter of fact, he’s not having as good a year as the departed Soriano. No doubt the Yankees will take a concerted run at Randy Johnson. If George doesn’t win the Series this year, he should buy MLB and make ‘em all Yankees. Might as well; he can afford it, and MLB's stupid rules, or lack of them, permit it!
Story of the Week
At 26 years of age, Derek Sanderson was the highest paid athlete in the world. He combined hockey talent with good looks and incredible charisma and image. He had it all, and then he lost everything.
Sanderson grew up in Niagara Falls, Ontario where he played for the hometown Flyers of the OHA. The highlight of his young career was winning the Memorial Cup championship in 1965. He went on to sign with the Boston Bruins where he played alongside Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, and other greats. Sanderson was awarded the Calder Trophy for best rookie, the year after Orr won it, in his first full season with the team in 1968. He became known as a tough guy who wouldn't back down from any fisticuffs, and was one of the best two-way players in the game.
Winning two Cups with the Bruins in 1969-70 and 1971-72 helped Sanderson rise to celebrity status, becoming one of hockey’s first rebels. He grew his hair long and sported a moustache before it was rather fashionable, and he even hosted his own talk show. He lived the life of a playboy, along with his buddy, Joe Willie Namath, and carried it to extremes.
When the WHA was formed, the Philadelphia Blazers came calling with a contract and a very large sum of money for "The Turk." After the Bruins told Derek they couldn’t match the offer of over $2.65 million, he bolted. Sanderson became the highest paid athlete in the world. Incredibly, this lasted for all of eight games in the WHA. His style both on and off the ice didn't sit well in Philly, and the team bought out his contract. He then found himself back in a Bruins uniform for the rest of the season, all the wealthier for the experience. He then was traded to the Rangers in 1974.
Already with a severe drinking problem, Sanderson bounced around from team to team----St. Louis, Vancouver, Pittsburgh----until retiring from the game in 1978. After numerous bad investments and his drinking habit to support, he literally ended up in the streets.
It is noteworthy that Sanderson had been an exceptional hockey player; it wasn’t just show and glitz. He was a supreme face-off center. He was also one of the best penalty killers the game has ever known, and was adept at scoring short-handed goals. The guy had tremendous talent.
After help from friends, Sanderson went into rehab. His body was broken down from years of abuse, and he needed several surgeries to repair his hips so he could simply walk. He now stands on his own two feet, and guides other athletes away from the horrors that he put himself through. He became an investment specialist with Boston’s State Street Research Company; the latter helps athletes manage their money properly so they won’t have to go through the life of Derek Sanderson.
Last Week’s Trivia
The only two MLB players to ever hit home runs in their first at-bats were Bob Nieman of the St. Louis Browns in 1951, and Keith McDonald of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2000.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who are the only MLB players to win the Triple Crown more than once? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.