Quick Takes


    No matter how good a hitter is, he won’t connect every time. In 1930, Babe Ruth was the first MLB player to strike out 1,000 times in his career. In 1966, Mickey Mantle became the first to do it 1,500 times.  In 1983, Reggie Jackson became the first to fan 2,000 times. All their strikeouts included, what an outfield that trio would have made!


    Bud Grant and Marv Levy have a few things in common. Both coached in the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup championship game and the NFL Super Bowl, Grant with Winnipeg and Minnesota respectively, and Levy with Montreal and Buffalo respectively. Both had winning records in Grey Cups. Both were 0-4 in Super Bowls. Both were great coaches.


    That’s using your head. Saturday night, Bernard Hopkins (48-4-1, 32 KOs) landed his biggest blow when he opened a huge gash over Winky Wright's left eye with a head-butt in the third round. Hopkins spent the night picking at it while Wright (51-4-1) scrambled and counter-punched, his face showing frustration and fatigue as the fight slipped away. The head-butt was a major factor in the fight's result. I feel Wright can beat Hopkins now.


    Several Giants players, stud Michael Strahan included, have been singling Eli Manning out this off-season, calling for him to finally break out. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen. It has become apparent that it's now or never for Eli Manning in New York. My feeling; he doesn’t have near the talent of his father or his brother, and it will evidence itself again this season.


    Then there’s Rex Grossman of the Bears. He doesn’t have the talent his father or brother had either, and they never played football.


    In the strangest and saddest of accidents, Tulsa Drillers coach Mike Coolbaugh died after being struck in the head by a line drive as he stood in the first-base coach's box during a game Sunday. The Texas League game was suspended in the ninth inning after the former major leaguer was hit by a foul ball off the bat of Tino Sanchez. Coolbaugh was 35.


    I'm tired of hearing about Michael Vick and Tim Donaghy. Assuming they're both guilty, I hope they get what they deserve.


Story of the Week



    What prompted this feature article is a request I received some months ago (I save them all) from Juan and Marilyn Escobar of Miami regarding their favorite sport. (Juan and Marilyn also sent me a picture with that request. Marilyn, who is almost wearing clothes in the picture, is absolutely gorgeous and a flat-out 10! Juan, I can think of a better way for you to spend your free time than seeing jai-alai matches.)


    I’ve been to one jai-alai game in my life; it was in Miami 20 years ago. What I remember about it was the incredible speed of the game, the danger to its players, and the fantastic spectator involvement. I had to do some research, but here it is, and I hope Juan and Marilyn and all of you enjoy it.


    An international sport, actually the world's fastest sport, Jai-Alai offers excitement, action and thrills. This fast-paced game stands alone on the merits of its agile athletes who hurl a rock-hard ball, back and forth, at speeds up to 150 miles per hour. We then add the dimension of wagering. (Don’t look now, but the house rake is close to 25% before the odds are posted. Greed is good!)


    Jai-Alai games were originally played professionally only on Sundays and holidays in parts of Spain as an attraction for local crowds. The jai-alai courts, known as frontons, used to be in the open air with nothing else but the three walls and floor required, without a roof or screen for crowd protection nor lights for proper visibility when dark. It was as dangerous for the fans as the players.


    From being a regional sport, it spread out to different cities within Spain and France and to many countries all over the world, the United States included. Naturally, through the years, some frontons opened doors and others closed. But, undoubtedly, wherever jai-alai was played, it created an interest in the audiences and got many youngsters to play the sport. This interest contributed to the creation of a great number of excellent players throughout the frontons of the world.


    Today, the United States is the goal of every player. From the early 1970's on, some of the American companies opened their own schools in the Basque regions of Spain and France, helping the youngsters by providing them with facilities and equipment, as well as teachers, at no cost. World Jai-Alai, based in Miami, has promoted the most extensive amateur jai-alai program ever, with a number of schools in Spain, France and one in Miami, Florida.


    Jai-alai, also called pelota, is a handball-like game of Spanish Basque origin. It is played as either singles or doubles on a three-walled court (fronton) with a hard rubber ball (pelota) that is hurled with a wicker basket (cesta) attached to the player's arm.


    The object of Jai Alai is to hurl a pelota against the front wall of the court with so much speed and spin that the opposition cannot catch or return it on the fly or the first bounce. The pelota must be caught on the fly or first bounce and may touch the floor only once. All three walls are in play. Again, the action is fierce.


    That’s more information than you need now. Buy a rule book, and then see a game at Miami Jai-Alai, owned and operated by the Florida Gaming Corporation, which is the largest Jai-Alai operator in the world. Miami Jai-Alai is considered a worldwide brand name in jai-alai. It has a 75-year history of providing the most intense level of competition in the sport. Its current fronton capacity is 6,500. And if it’s action you want in a sports event, the game and the wagering, jai-alai is it.


Last Week’s Trivia


    Who is the only player in MLB history to win the MVP Award on a last place club? In 1987, Chicago Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson was MVP of the National League while his Cubs finished dead last in the league’s Eastern Division.
    But my question was incorrectly stated. Per Dennis Cler, Jackie Ganan and Phil Hersch, Alex Rodriguez was the AL’s 2003 MVP as a Texas Ranger. The Rangers finished last in the AL West in 2003. I totally forgot about Rodriguez winning the award with Texas. So there have been two players who have won MVP honors on last place teams. To error is human, but it sucks!


Trivia Question of the Week


    Who is the only pitcher in MLB history to win consecutive MVP Awards? (You guys won't get me on this one; I didn't rely on my memory.) See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.