Baseball teams spend countless dollars on power-hitters. Fans love to pay money to watch them. But do you want home runs or wins? Since 1985, only one World Series championship team featured a 35-plus home run hitter; it was Arizona and Luis Gonzales in 2001. And the last league home run champ to earn a World Series ring was Mike Schmidt of the 1980 Phils. And in each of the past five seasons, the team that led the majors in homers not only didnít make the playoffs, but it didnít even have a winning record. Last season, the Texas Rangers were first in the majors in homers, and last in wins in the AL West. And last seasonís World Series champs, the Anaheim Angels, tied for a lowly 10th. in the AL in homers. If you don't have a well-rounded team, forget it!
Story of the Week
He was one of those only-in-America stories that no longer are in vogue. Jan (pronounced Yon) Stenerud was among the first wave of Europeans and first-generation Americans who pushed the parameters of place-kicking.
When he started his career, the sight of an NFL player kicking the football with his instep, as if it were a soccer ball, still was so strange, and there was no adequate coaching, but there was considerable resistance among full-time players. Ever-outspoken Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras had a simple solution to the sudden glut of field goals in his sport. Said Karras, "Tighten the immigration laws."
But Stenerud persevered, and by the time he retired in 1985, the straight-ahead place-kicker was virtually extinct. More than any of his peers, he had withstood the test of time. Fittingly, the tall Norwegian became the first pure place-kicker to gain entrance to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
When he retired, Stenerud had kicked more field goals (373) than any player in NFL history, and had accounted for more points (1,699) than any except George Blanda. With Green Bay in 1981, he set an NFL single-season efficiency record by converting 22 of 24 field-goal attempts.
He kicked for three different teams in three different decades, and was so proficient that he was selected to the Pro Bowl at the age of 42. That in 1984, when Stenerud was successful on 20 of 23 field-goal attempts for Minnesota. A back injury reduced his effectiveness in 1985, and led to his retirement.
Born in Fetsun, Norway, Stenerud received a ski-jumping scholarship to Montana State. Jim Sweeney, the football coach, recruited him for the team after watching him kick some soccer balls. After only two years with the sport, Stenerud was chosen by the Kansas City Chiefs in the third round of the AFLís 1966 draft.
Stenerud was an instant sensation with the Chiefs. As a rookie, he posted the first of his record seven seasons with 100 or more points. Kansas City advanced to Super Bowl IV at the end of his third season, and he set the tone for the Chiefsí stunning 23-7 upset of Minnesota by kicking three first-half field goals for a 9-0 lead. The first, from 48 yards, established a Super Bowl distance record that stood for 24 years.
19 seasons in the NFL, and a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Not bad for a guy who came here from Norway on a ski-jumping scholarship.
Last Weekís Trivia
Who is the only black player ever elected to the Hockey Hall-of-Fame? He won five Stanley Cup championships with Edmonton. He is goalie Grant Fuhr, elected to the Hall this year.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who is the only player ever to complete an unassisted triple play in World Series competition? See next weekís Sports Junkie for the answer.