Quick Takes


          “Pair up in threes.” Yogi Berra.


          Scott Rolen, Cards star third baseman, is riding a couple of rather interesting distinctions this season. He leads the NL in hitting with men in scoring position. He also leads the league in batting average on the road.


          Dating is great! Honeymoons are great! Most marriages are not! Jerry Jones and Terrell Owens will fall into the latter group. Their marriage first year may be a happy one, may being the operative word. Look for a divorce during or after the second year. No matter what happens, Owens gets $10 million up front, and no strings attached. With Owens’ track record, Jones was an idiot not to include a very definitive pre-nup in the deal.


          The Yankees have had their share of injuries to key players this year, and their pitching leaves much to be desired. Because everything has a price, because George doesn’t mind spending bucks, and because there’s no salary cap in MLB, I don’t understand why the Yankees simply don’t go out and buy what they need. After all, that ploy is certainly nothing new to Steinbrenner. If the Yankees fall short again, it’s no one’s fault but his. PS: I've already stated in a prior article that the Yankees will not make the playoffs this year!


          On February 15, 1978, Leon Spinks became one of only five fighters to ever defeat Muhammad Ali. In doing so, he became heavyweight champion of the world, going from rags while growing up in St. Louis to riches. But fame can be very fleeting, and it was for Spinks. The former champion now is a custodian at a local YMCA in Columbus, Nebraska.  


          You’re not going to believe this one. I read it. I almost refrained from printing it, but it’s so bizarre that I couldn’t resist. (It was given me by my bizarre friend, George Ostfeld.) In 1923, Red Sox pitcher Clarence Blethen thought he looked more distracting on the mound without his false teeth in his mouth. So he put them in his back uniform pocket. One day as a base runner, he slid into second base. The teeth clamped down on his backside so hard that it resulted in lacerations and many stitches. That had to be one ugly p o a, and I cleaned that up.


          There’s parity in both West divisions in MLB. At this writing, just two-and-a-half games separate the best from the worst in the AL, and just five games are the difference in the NL. In both cases, it’s also mediocrity.  


Eastern Illinois University graduate Dennis Cler writes:

Hey, do you remember a number of months ago when we talked about EIU having two alums as head coaches in the NFL?  Well guess what.  The Minnesota Vikings have a new head coach and he's Brad Childress from Eastern Illinois University. That makes three EIU alums as current head coaches in the NFL, including Mike Shanahan at Denver and Sean Payton at New Orleans.  It would take a ton of research, but I would think there has never been another time when any school could boast three head coaches in the NFL, or in any major league, at the same time, let alone three from a small school like EIU.

Without researching it, I would agree.


Story of the Week



My thanks to Jeff Turkin for being the catalyst to this feature story. Until Jeff made me aware of the following, I never knew the details.

On August 13, 1919, came a race they are still talking about, and one which undoubtedly earned Saratoga its nickname as "the house of upsets" and the "graveyard of favorites". This was the Sanford Memorial. Chief opposition was to come from Golden Broom, at level weights. Upset was not considered much of a threat as Man o'War had already beaten him in their last meeting, although Upset would again carry 15 lbs less.

These were the days before starting gates, and the group circled, approached the starting line as a team, and were released by signal of the starter's flag. On this day, Man O'War was still circling when the flag fell, and was in fact not yet facing the right direction. It was a horrible start for him as the group of horses was gone before he got himself righted, placing him at a distinct disadvantage in this 6 furlong race. He shot straight away after them, and very soon had passed Captain Alcock, The Swimmer and Armistice. Assuming the rail would be the shortest route, jockey Loftus steered Man O’ War to the rail and aimed for the leader, Golden Broom.            

         Upset was challenging for the lead, and Donnacona was starting to fade. Unfortunately, Donnacona was on the rail, also, and Man O'War was forced to go to the outside to continue his run. The 130 lbs was beginning to tell on Golden Broom, and he relinquished the lead to the courageous Upset. Man O'War continued to close resolutely, but ran out of track with a half length to go, and lost the race to Upset.
          It was an unfair start, and Man O'War was boxed into a hopeless position during the running. Despite the injustice, Man O'War was heaped with glory for a superhuman effort in defeat. Everyone at Saratoga that day knew the best horse had not won. Upset would face Man O'War a total of six times in their careers, and would lose all the other meetings, but his single victory, a feat no other horse could claim, was enough to immortalize him.

Even 87 years later, almost everyone has heard of Man O'War. He is the yardstick that greatness is still measured against in horse racing. His lifetime record was 21 starts with 20 wins and just that one second place, and he retired as the leading money winner in America at the time. He set 8 records, 3 world records, 2 American records, and 3 track records and broke most by several seconds. He carried as much as 138 pounds, conceding as much as 30 pounds to his rivals and still beat them by large margins. He was so superior to other horses of his time that the Jockey Club handicapper said he would put more weight on him than any horse had ever carried as a 4 year old. Rather than tempt fate and risk a breakdown under ridiculously heavy weights, his owner opted to retire him after his 3 year old campaign.

After it all, the great athlete and champion, Man O’ War, finished his glorious career a mere half length short of officially being undefeated. It absolutely was the quintessential Upset.


Last Week’s Trivia


          Bart Starr of Green Bay was the first NFL player to be named MVP of two Super Bowls. He did it in the first two Super Bowls ever played.


Trivia Question of the Week


          What player set the season record for reaching base more than any player in MLB history? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.