Happy Birthday to my good friend, George Ostfeld, on October 29. As I write this article, he's no doubt taking advantage of some unsuspecting players at a poker table.
Last year it was the Red Sox. This year it's the White Sox. It certainly seems logical that the normal progression for next season is the Blue Sox. The Cubs should consider a name change immediately.
The Wheaties TV commercial is terrific………….except for one flaw. Kirk Gibson’s home run off Dennis Eckersley in Game One of the 1988 World Series was actually hit to dead right field in Dodger Stadium. The Wheaties commercial shows the Gibson clone hitting the softball over the right center field wall. More attention to detail should have been paid that commercial.
Although we knew it long before, but based on the 2005 post-season alone, there should be no question about the validity of this take. Umpires are not terribly familiar with MLB Rule 2.00. It defines the strike zone. It states, and I quote: It is the area over home plate. The upper limit is the horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants. The lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap. So that means it rightfully is the letters down to slightly below the knees. So what! I firmly believe each home plate umpire calls a different strike zone. Some give great latitude to pitchers, while others don’t. The last time I saw an umpire call a strike on a letter high pitch over the plate was shortly after the War of 1812. We’re clearly in the low-pitch-strike era. And the blatant disregard of Rule 2.00 by MLB umpires obviously has nothing to do with their other all-too-many judgmental errors.
Story of the Week
How often has a team purchased an entire league to obtain the rights to one player? Well, it’s happened, in 1950, when the Montreal Canadiens were stirring things up around the city by threatening to snatch Jean (it's actually pronounced somewhere between John and Joan) Beliveau away from the Quebec Senior League, where the 17-year-old was earning $20,000 a year. So heated did things become that the Quebec legislature threatened to repeal the Montreal Forum’s liquor license if the Canadiens went ahead with their pilfering plan regarding Beliveau. In the end, Montreal purchased the entire league in order to get him.
What a deal! Beliveau played 19 seasons for the Canadiens. He led the NHL in scoring twice, and won two Hart Trophies as the league’s MVP. By the time he retired in 1971, he had scored 507 regular season goals, the most ever by a center at the time. More importantly, Les Canadiens had won 10 Stanley Cups, including that historic stretch of five in a row from 1956 through 1960.
A brilliant skater who would just as soon set up a teammate as score himself, Beliveau was a great team leader, doing it by example. He was a very unselfish player. He had great moves for a big man, and great range, and anyone playing on his line was certain to end up with lots of goals. His passing accuracy alone would see to that.
At 6’-3” and 205, he was indeed big. But Beliveau by nature was not a violent player, and it took years for the Canadiens to persuade him that it was in his best interest, and in the best interest of his team, for him to rough it up on the ice occasionally, and take advantage of his imposing size.
The Canadiens boasted three great scorers, and in 1955, Beliveau, Maurice Richard and Bernie Geoffrion were the league’s top three scorers, a most unique feat. And when the word dynasty is used in sports, that unprecedented run from 1956 through 1960 certainly qualifies. Never pushed to the maximum seven games during their five-year reign of Stanley Cups, the Canadiens made quickest work in 1960 by sweeping both Chicago and Toronto in four games each.
Jean’s 19 seasons in Montreal featured 1,125 games played, and 712 assists to go along with his 507 goals. Beliveau was a hero to most of Canada (there was only one other veteran Canadian team in the NHL, the Toronto Maple Leafs), but especially to the French Canadians. Sports Illustrated’s Gary Ronberg wrote, “Jean Beliveau is a gentleman on the ice and off the ice. His loyalty to his team’s owners and players is unquestioned. He clearly has old-fashioned virtues.”
As a St. Louis Blues season ticket holder in the late-1960’s and early-1970’s, I recall all too well the great Canadien captain leading his feared team onto the Arena ice. Jean Beliveau was unmistakably the leader of those Montreal Canadiens. This great player is enshrined in the NHL Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Last Week’s Trivia
Since 1950, the Dodgers have played their home games in Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, and in the Coliseum and Dodger Stadium in L.A. Often forgotten is the fact that, while in Brooklyn, they also played home games in Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, N.J.
Trivia Question of the Week
My thanks to Tony Green, an excellent poker dealer at the Rio in Las Vegas, for this super piece of trivia. Name the six ways a batter can reach first base without hitting the ball. (I got five of them. That’s the most you’ll get, too; I guarantee it.) See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.