“Ninety percent of this game is half mental.” Yogi Berra.
President Bush was present in Cincy for their season opener Monday against Chicago. He chatted with the players on both teams including the Cubs 2B Todd Walker. One problem, Mr. President, his name is not Tom. I don’t know if Walker corrected Mr. Bush. Why bother?! (Just think about what our country typically has to choose from when we elect our president. It’s virtually Isiah Thomas versus Matt Millen. Some choice!)
Despite the final results, my favorite teams, Memphis and UCLA, both had great seasons. The best team did win. Florida crushed all of their opposition on the way to the title. I’d say ‘crushed’ is accurate.
When I find something sports-related that I feel is outstanding, I share it with you. I own a hilarious golf book with great illustrations and everything. The name of the book is “How To Line Up Your Fourth Putt” by Bobby Rusher. You can access it and order it online. Go to www.4putt.com. When you buy the book for the golfers in your life, make sure you order one for yourself as well. (Chapter 16 is especially meaningful to me, namely “What To Do When You’ve Parred The Course By The 11th. Hole.”) Buy the book; you’ll thank me for it.
This is a sports-related story……………barely:
It seems a frequent customer of a well known supermarket was quite disturbed that he couldn’t buy a half-head of lettuce. The store manager was not in to field the customer’s complaint, but a young store assistant was. He told the customer how much the store appreciated his business, and told him that he would be given as a store gift a head of lettuce cut in halves. The customer was very happy. So was an onlooker who then proceeded to address the young assistant.
“Young man. My name is Mr. Safeway. I’m the founder and CEO of this company. I’m impressed with the way you handled that unhappy customer. I have a great opportunity for you. I want you to move to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada and run our new store up there.”
The assistant replied, “Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Ya gotta be kiddin'. All they have up there are hookers and hockey players.”
Replied Mr. Safeway, “Young man. I don’t appreciate that. My sister lives in Saskatoon.”
Responded the young assistant manager trying to quickly bail himself out, “Oh, really! What position does she play?”
Henry Aaron was a great player. Aaron might well be the greatest all-around player in baseball history; I could certainly make a strong case for it. He also happens to be the career home run king of MLB at 755. But as great as Aaron was, Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs ring an even louder bell. Why? Aaron had 12,364 official times at bat. Ruth’s first six years in MLB were with the Boston Red Sox where he was primarily a pitcher, one of the best ever. During those six years, he batted only 1,110 times. His official major league at-bats, Red Sox, Yankees and Braves combined, totaled 8,398. So Ruth had 3,966 fewer at-bats than did Aaron, and hit just 41 home runs less than did “Hammerin’ Hank.” It’s a little-known stat that gets lost.
Re: Hank Aaron, ESPN Radio reported that the great one plans to be present if and when Bobby Bonds breaks his career HR record. I hope Aaron doesn’t stoop to that sub-basement level. After all, why should Aaron show Bonds any respect when Bonds shows the game of baseball no respect!?
Story of the Week
The “Union Man” did more than change baseball. By molding the fledgling Major League Baseball Players Association into one of the most powerful trade unions in America, Marvin Miller created a model that was followed by professional athletes in football, basketball and hockey. He fundamentally altered the economics of professional sports.
Miller was chief negotiator and assistant to the president of the rough-and-tumble United Steelworkers Union when he was hired by the players’ association in 1966. Taking full advantage of commissioner Bowie Kuhn’s inexperience in labor negotiations, the innovative Miller won one battle after another, often through the courts, tilting the balance of power forever.
Marvin Miller earned the ire of fans by organizing the first two strikes in baseball history, a 13-day stoppage in 1972 and a 50-day walkout in 1981 when 712 games were canceled. Among his groundbreaking victories were the right for players to bargain collectively, the use of binding salary arbitration, and the right of veterans to veto trades. Miller turned the pension plan of our beloved game into one of the richest in the nation, originally financing it by bargaining for a percentage of television revenue.
Baseball’s average salary, which was a mere $19,000 when Miller was hired in 1966, soared to $240,000 by the time he stepped down in 1982. He returned briefly for one more contract negotiation before stepping aside for good in 1984. Today, baseball’s average salary stands well in excess of $2 million, and thanks to Marvin Miller, America is no longer under the delusion that its national pastime is only a game.
1/3/02 was the date I published a feature story on this website about Curt Flood. Marvin Miller was a non-player who changed baseball forever. But no player had as much to do with the tremendous incomes enjoyed by those who have played and do play the game as Curt Flood. I suggest you read that feature story for a complete understanding of the incredible changes that we have seen as it relates to baseball’s financial side, and how Curt Flood impacted those changes. All modern-day baseball players should carry pictures of both Miller and Flood .........in their very oversized wallets!
Last Week’s Trivia
Carl “Bobo” Olson was a terrific middleweight fighter. When “Sugar Ray” Robinson briefly retired in 1953, and his middleweight championship was declared vacant, a tournament was held to crown the new champion. Olson won the title and held it until Robinson came out of retirement and KO’d Olson to win the championship back two years later. In all, Olson fought “Sugar Ray” four times, losing all four fights.
Trivia Question of the Week
Only one man has earned five Super Bowl championship rings as a player. Who? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.