"Welcome to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field," as Harry Caray used to say. No longer! For a team that hasn’t played in a World Series since 1945 (they lost), but has the greatest fans in baseball, the Cubs (they are owned by the Chicago Tribune) have come up with a most unique expression of thanks to their very dedicated subjects. It’s the ultimate fan loyalty test. It seems the Cubs own a ticket brokerage, a firm that literally "scalps" tickets if so desired. The Yankees will be playing the Cubs later this season in Chicago. So the Cubs sold blocks of $45 tickets to their brokerage, ostensibly to themselves, and the brokerage is selling the tickets to that series for $1,500 each. Wrigley Field is a small park, and the Cubs know they can sell it out. So why get $45 per ticket, the printed ticket price, when they can get $1,500?! There are fans in Chicago who are now suing the Cubs. What are the chances of Bud Selig doing anything about this ridiculous fan-shafting? Yeah, right! Un-bleeping-believable!! Now Chicagoans have three things to boycott; the Tribune, their once-beloved Cubbies, and anything made in France.
Story of the Week
Some athletes require a little aging before savoring the sweet smell of success. George Blanda’s vintage became legendary in a pro football career that extended longer than anyone’s did. Blanda eventually became a star in his 30s. Then he turned his back on time, competing until he was 48 in a sport dominated by youth, strength and speed.
Blanda is pro football’s all-time leading scorer with 2,002 points on 335 field goals, 943 extra points, and nine touchdowns. He played more seasons, 26, and more games, 340, than anyone, and became the game’s oldest player. He missed only 16 extra points in his entire pro career.
His pro career began when the Chicago Bears drafted him in the 12th. round in 1949 after he graduated from the University of Kentucky. The QB led the NFL in pass attempts and completions in 1953. He threw for 15 TD’s in eight games the next season before suffering a separated shoulder, and missed the last four games of the season. It was the only significant injury to Blanda in his first 21 seasons.
From 1955-1958, Blanda was primarily a kicker and back-up QB. In 1959, weary of his difficult dealings with George Halas, he retired, only to emerge a year later with Houston of the new AFL. Summarizing his 10 years with the Bears, Blanda stated that "he didn’t have much fun." And QB hasn’t exactly been the Bears’ strongest position since Blanda left.
He did have fun with the Oilers. He had three seasons of more than 3,000 yards passing, and he directed Houston to league championships in the AFL’s first two years. He was the AFL Player of the Year in 1961. Blanda was the Oilers’ leading passer and scorer in all seven of his Houston years.
In 1967, at age 39, he was traded to Oakland, where he kicked 201 consecutive extra points over five seasons. His most celebrated Raiders season was 1970. As a replacement for starting quarterback Daryle Lamonica, who was repeatedly hurt, the 43-year-old Blanda led Oakland to four wins and a tie in a remarkable five-game stretch in midseason.
Coach John Madden loved Blanda. What was there not to love about the guy! He was an extremely reliable QB and kicker, and a pressure player. He was rewarded in 1970 with another Player of the Year award in the AFC. He scored a franchise-high 863 points with the Raiders, and became the first player to score more than 500 points for three different teams.
Blanda played nine seasons with Oakland, retiring one month shy of his 49th. birthday in August, 1976. During his 26-year career, he threw for 26,920 yards, completing 236 touchdown passes. He was voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981, his first year of eligibility, and later was named to the AFL-NFL 25-year All-Star team.
Last Week’s Trivia
Who was Pete Gray? Pete Gray became a major league ballplayer despite losing his right arm in a childhood accident. He played but one season in the major leagues, that with the St. Louis Browns in 1945. He played the outfield. After he learned to throw left-handed, he learned to hold his glove loosely, catch the ball, flip the ball, drop the glove, catch the ball, and then release it. He held the bat a third of the way up the shaft, and became an accomplished bunter. He batted just .218, but he struck out just 11 times in his 77 games, and managed six doubles and two triples. There isn’t a story in sports history that moves me any more than does the legend of Pete Gray.
Trivia Question of the Week
What was Darryl Sittler’s claim to fame? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.