“The future ain’t what it used to be.” Yogi Berra.
Bernard Hopkins won a unanimous decision Saturday over Antonio Tarver to take the light-heavyweight title in a huge 3-1 upset. The former 11-year reigning middleweight champ Hopkins is now 41. This was to be his retirement bout. I don’t believe it; he’ll be back! Hopkins is too good to retire, even at this age, and his rematch take against Tarver will be an offer he can’t refuse.
Klank! Klink! Klunk! Those are the sounds of Shaq’s free throws hitting the iron. He is a career .52 shooter from the line. Reputed to be one of the five greatest centers of all time (Kareem, Hakeem, Wilt and Russell are the others), he is on a par with Wilt’s .51 as the worst of the group. Russell was slightly better, but also a bust at .56. Kareem and Hakeem were the most dependable of the group by far from the stripe; Abdul-Jabbar at .72 and Olajuwon at .71. You better have a center who can sink freebies, especially at crunch time.
I’m so sick of this subject, and it keeps resurfacing. The subject is Performance Enhancing Drugs. The Jason Grimsley story broke last week, and I wrote then that I wanted time to digest it. It’s the same indigestion, but it’s going to get worse. And thus far, only sluggers have been in the spotlight…………it’s my contention that pitchers will also be exposed.
My Solution: All players who take any performance enhancing drugs ala human growth hormones, steroids, amphetamines, etc. should be suspended from MLB. First offense=one calendar year. Second offense=life. There should be mandatory blood and urine testing; that is not being done now. MLB needs the resignations of both Bud Selig, commissioner, and Donald Fehr, head of the players association. I don’t want to hear that they haven’t known about it all from its inception. Credibility in the sport needs to be reestablished. Their replacements should be in immediate control of this thing per my guidelines above. And there’s always Congress if these guys can’t run their own business properly. Finally and yet again, any records by known offenders during their years of drug use should be completely expunged from the books.
Farewell to this subject. I'm tired of writing about it, and you're tired of reading what I write about it.
Speaking of drugs, Ricky Williams will be running in the Toronto Argos backfield Saturday, opening day of their 18-game regular season in the CFL. He’ll need some non-drug-enhanced performances north of the border if he ever plans to get to the Main Game again. What a waste of great athletic talent!
Also a great waste of talent, but for an entirely different reason. The great Dodgers relief pitcher Eric Gagne is back on the DL. His future is questionable. Those three years, 2002-04, with 152 saves, were incredible. I hope Gagne makes it back all the way.
Story of the Week
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL. WORLD WAR II.
As you read and digest the numerical facts I pitch at you in this article, keep in mind that the time period in reference was 60+ years ago. What seems like insignificant numbers today certainly were anything but insignificant back in those days.
From 1942 until the Allied victory in 1945, the nation’s total war effort sapped baseball’s manpower and threatened to curtail the 1945 playing season. Among the 12 million Americans summoned to military service during those war years were some 500 major league players and 3,500 minor leaguers. This talent drain shrank the minor leagues to just nine circuits at one point, while President Roosevelt enabled the major leagues to continue play throughout the war years.
That the major leagues continued playing the game during the war years spoke to the continuing support of baseball fans. There were 16 major league teams; eight in the AL and eight in the NL. Although annual attendance fell from 10 million in 1941 to 8.8 million in 1942 to a low point of 7.7 million in 1943, the numbers soared to a record 11.1 million in 1945. No doubt the game was serving the war effort by boosting morale both on the home front and among the troops abroad.
However, there were problems. Teams were coping with a variety of shortages amidst a total war effort. Among them were shortages that had a direct bearing on the game itself. A rubber shortage forced MLB to go with a hard plastic at the core of the ball, thus causing a virtual “dead ball era.” And all during the war, a shortage of wood adversely affected the quality of bats.
But the worst shortage of all was manpower, an obvious drain on the quality of play. Club officials literally put into uniform draft rejects and other ineligibles. Over-aged and under-aged players were now major-leaguers.
In 1943, MLB lost $240,000. The most prominent franchises were the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers. Hardest hit was the Philadelphia Phillies, the owners of which declared bankruptcy, forcing the sale of the team for the alleged total sum of $50,000.
The 1945 season returned overall profits of $1.2 million to MLB owners. It was apparent that major league baseball was once again on the upswing. Such was not the case for the players; they took a financial beating during the war years. A government edict in 1943 froze players’ salaries, all part of a general effort to halt inflation by stabilizing wages. Players’ salaries averaged $6,400 in 1942. The freeze on those salaries continued through the 1946 season, although the war ended in 1945.
Guess what…………there’s no freeze on players’ salaries now. To put it all in the proper perspective, the Yankees were sold in 1945 for the sum of $2.8 million. That’s how much Alex Rodriguez earns now……………in 18 games.
Last Week’s Trivia
The only NBA player to ever lead the league in both scoring and assists in the same season was Nate “Tiny” Archibald. As the point guard of the Kansas City/Omaha Kings during the 1972-3 season, the diminutive 6’-1” Archibald averaged 34.0 PPG and 11.4 APG, an absolutely incredible feat. Think about it. Archibald was a point guard; he was not a center who posts-up in the paint, gets double-teamed and dishes out assists. Yet while he was ringing up 34 points a night, he still managed 11 assists, and those on a last place team with little talent around him. The lightning-quick Nate Archibald is in the Hall of Fame. (Nate will be my Story of the Week on Sept. 21st.)
Trivia Question of the Week
Who is the youngest boxer ever to win a world title in any weight class? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.