Quick Takes


    Are you aware of who is leading the American League in pulled groin muscles? It's Madonna. (I can't take credit for it. Jay Leno did it on his show last night.)


    The 79th All-Star Game will be played next Tuesday, July 15, making Yankee Stadium the first facility to play host to the midsummer classic in its final year of existence. There will be a new Yankee Stadium next season. The existing Yankee Stadium opened in 1923. It is the most storied venue in sports history. As of the 2008 season, the New York Yankees have won the most World Series titles with 26. To illustrate the greatness of that fact, the St. Louis Cardinals are a rather distant second with 10.


    I’m old, so I relate to old ballparks, and I love ‘em. There’s a charm about old parks that makes the game a special event. As a young boy growing up in St. Louis, my home away from home was old Sportsman’s Park. It stood from 1882 until 1966. (No, I wasn’t there when it was built, but close.) I recall it to be the most wonderful place on earth. I’ve not been to a more magnificent sports venue since. For me, it’s nostalgia in the truest sense.

    The current Yankee Stadium is the third oldest active major league park. The oldest is Fenway Park in Boston; it was built in 1912. Next comes Wrigley Field in Chicago; it was built in 1914.
    When the Yankees open their new park next year, the third oldest major league park will be Dodger Stadium, built in 1962. I’ve only been in Fenway Park once and Wrigley Field once. I hope they live forever, just as I’m sure Red Sox and Cubs fans do.


    It’s difficult to imagine MLB without Julio Franco. The versatile player from the Dominican Republic spent 23 seasons in major league baseball, from 1982 until 2007. He compiled a lifetime batting average of .298, having hit .300+ in nine seasons. He was born on August 23, 1958; he was the oldest regular position player in MLB history at 49 last year. Franco presently plays for the Quintana Roo Tigers in Cancun, Mexico. Don’t be surprised if he makes it back to the “bigs” at some point later this season with a team that needs a stick down the stretch run. Julio Franco is an amazing athlete.

    New Jersey is the most populous state without teams from all four major leagues, counting only the Devils and the Nets as home teams (technically in name). Yet residents have access to far more teams, 13 in all, counting teams in New York and Philadelphia. The Jets and Giants play in New Jersey, across the parking lot from the Nets. North Jersey is part of the New York metro area, and South Jersey is part of the Philadelphia metro area, while parts of Central Jersey can almost be considered part of both.

    Virginia remains the most populous state without a single big-league team in any sport, although Northern Virginia residents have access to teams in Washington, D.C. and, at a stretch, Baltimore, and southern Virginia residents have access to the Carolina Hurricanes, Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Bobcats.

Story of the Week


    Don Shula owns a restaurant chain, a hotel and a golf course. He must have done something right.


    Shula’s record as head coach of the Baltimore Colts from 1963 to 1969 and the Miami Dolphins from 1970 to 1995 is unmatched in NFL history. In 1995, he concluded his 33rd season as the winningest NFL head coach ever with a career mark of 347-173-6 (.665).


    Of all NFL coaches, only Shula and the immortal George Halas attained 300 victories. The Colts under Shula enjoyed seven straight winning seasons and in 26 years at Miami, Shula’s Dolphins experienced only two seasons below .500. Shula’s team reached the playoffs 20 times in 33 years and his teams won at least 10 games 21 times.


    Shula holds the NFL record for having coached in six Super Bowls but his teams won only twice. In Super Bowl VII, the 1972 Dolphins completed their historic 17-0-0 campaign – the only perfect season in NFL history – with a 14-7 win over the Washington Redskins. In 1973, Miami defeated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl VIII to culminate a two-season span when the Dolphins won 32 of 34 games.


    Shula, who was born January 4, 1930, in Grand River, Ohio, played college football at John Carroll University in Cleveland and then became one of two rookies on Coach Paul Brown’s 1951 Cleveland Browns team. In 1953, Shula moved to the Baltimore Colts as part of a historic 15-player trade. He played cornerback for the Colts for four seasons and for the Washington Redskins in 1957 before turning to coaching as a college assistant.


    He returned to pro football in 1960 as the Detroit Lions defensive coordinator. In 1963, Shula was hired as head coach of the Baltimore Colts. At 33, he was the then-youngest head coach in NFL history.


    In seven years, he led the Colts to a 73-26-4 record and playoff appearances three years. In 1970, he made a major career move when he took over the Dolphins in only their fifth season. Almost immediately, he turned the Miami team into a perpetual winner.


    Shula was very proud of his induction into the Hall of Fame. When inducted, he had a classic line. “You know, it's only 50 miles from my home town of Grand River to Canton, but it took me 67 years to travel that distance.”


    Legacy of Don Shula:

Played seven seasons as defensive back/halfback with Browns, Colts, Redskins.Became head coach at age 33.
Coached Baltimore Colts 1963-1969.
Coached Miami Dolphins 1970-1995.
Winningest coach in NFL history.
Regular-season record: 328-156-6, .676.
Overall record: 347-173-6, .665.
Led Colts to seven straight winning records.
In 26 years in Miami, experienced only two seasons below .500.
Coached in six Super Bowls.
Won Super Bowls VII, VIII.
Completed only 17-0 perfect season in NFL history, 1972.
Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.

Last Week’s Trivia


    Bill Masterton, while a member of the Minnesota North Stars, is the only NHL player to die as a result of injuries sustained during a game. It took place on January 13, 1968. He was checked and fell backwards, hitting his head on the ice. His death at the age of 29 would result in more intense lobbying for hockey players to wear helmets. That finally became mandated for the 1979-80 NHL season.


Trivia Question of the Week


    Who was the first black to receive a network position broadcasting baseball? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.