“We made too many wrong mistakes.” Yogi Berra.
Two very huge athletes performed on Saturday. One attained his size naturally; from all accounts, one didn’t. One broke his leg in the Preakness; the other hit his 714th home run. I’ve never kept my feelings about steroid users in sports a secret, so why start now?! Too bad Barbaro didn’t win the Preakness and Bonds didn’t break his leg in three places before tying the Babe. Now that would have been baseball justice!
Tyler Snyder is the young man who caught Bonds’ 714th in the stands in Oakland. The 19-year-old stated after his catch off the bat of the alleged cheater, “I hate the guy!” The only thing Tyler did wrong was not keeping his feelings to himself until after Bionic Bonds signed the ball. That assumes an awful lot; it assumes he would have signed it. NOT!
I can name the 20,000 women bedded down by Wilt Chamberlain before I can name all the teams Larry Brown has coached. If he remains with the bumbling Knicks, he’ll continue to work for the bumbling Isiah Thomas. At least Brown has a successful track record. Since Isiah took over as president of the Knicks on December 22, 2003, that franchise has gone deeper into the NBA tank. If Brown leaves, Thomas should offer the job to Anucha Sanders. Who’s Anucha Sanders? She’s the gal who brought sexual harassment charges against Isiah. Just think………if she then accepts the job offer, she would work directly under Thomas. Wouldn’t that be a perfect example of management sticking it to the coach?! (I really should be writing for Leno instead of doing this stuff.)
The Dallas Mavericks are appropriately named. Mark Cuban is a true maverick, and the NBA owner I’d most like to play for. He is so passionate about his team, and calls it like it is. I hope the Mavs win it all. Their loss to Phoenix last night is not the end of this story.
Thanks to my adopted son in spirit, Pat Ross, for this classic. Max Schmeling, German heavyweight champion, had been invited by Adolph Hitler to have dinner with him four times. He turned him down each time. When the fifth invite came, Max thought he’d best accept. When it was rumored that he was a Nazi because he dined with Hitler, Max Schmeling categorically denied it. “I’m a German, not a Nazi. I’ve had dinner with President Roosevelt as well, but that doesn’t make me a Democrat."
Story of the Week
He was the perfect quarterback for this near-perfect franchise. What Otto Graham lacked in arm and physical strength, he made up for with great throwing accuracy, poise and leadership. He was a winning machine, the generator that powered the newborn Cleveland Browns through their first decade as a professional football team.
“Automatic Otto” was just that from 1946 through 1949 as he led the Browns to four straight championships in the AAFC (All-America Football Conference), and from 1950 through 1955 when his Browns captured three NFL titles and lost three other times in the title game. Ten straight championship game appearances and a 105-17-4 record over 10 years are obviously incredible legacies, as is his 7-3 record in those title games.
Graham, a former basketball and football star at Northwestern and a one-year pro in the old NBL (National Basketball League), was hand-picked by franchise architect Paul Brown as the centerpiece for his T-formation. The athletic 6-1, 195-pound Graham became a master tactician who always seemed to make the proper decision. Game after game, he would scramble for the necessary yards or put the ball into the hands of his receivers.
Everything about Graham’s quarterbacking was precision, and never was his poise more evident than when the Browns, undisputed champions of the outlaw AAFC, made the difficult 1950 move to the stronger NFL. Otto threw three touchdown passes to lead the Browns to a humbling 35-10 victory over defending NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles in the 1950 season opener, and four more TD passes in a 30-28 come-from-behind victory over the Los Angeles Rams in the season-ending championship game. What a first NFL year!
During an astounding career in which the Browns compiled a 105-17-4 record, Graham's 86.6 career pass rating served as one of the best of all time, tossing 88 touchdowns in his six seasons of NFL play. In his final year of play, 1955, Graham won the Hickok Belt as top Professional Athlete of the Year, and ten years later he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was named to the NFL’s 75th. Anniversary All-Time Team, and the 1950’s All-Decade Team as well.
Following his retirement, Graham served as head coach of the College All-Stars in their 1958 clash against the Detroit Lions, leading the squad to a convincing 35-19 victory over the defending NFL champs. The following year, he accepted a full-time position as head football coach at the Coast Guard Academy, where he served for seven seasons, leading the team to an undefeated campaign in 1963.
Between 1966 and 1968, Graham coached the Washington Redskins, but whatever magic he had as a NFL player disappeared on the sidelines as the team recorded a mark of 17-22-3 during that time period. After resigning the Redskins' post in favor of the legendary Vince Lombardi, Graham returned as athletic director of the Coast Guard Academy before retiring at the end of 1984.
Otto Graham died of a heart aneurysm in Sarasota, Florida on December 17, 2003.
Out of chronological sequence, but my thanks to Jonathan Krost. He sent me an e-mail re: Otto Graham way back on July 22, 2004. (I’m glad I save certain e-mails from my readers to refer to when I finally get around to writing about your requested subjects.) Jonathan wrote:
In the 1946 AAFC championship game, Graham was 16 of 27 for 213 yards and a TD. But what made his performance so unique was his interception (he was also a defensive back at that time) at the end of the game to preserve the Browns’ 14-9 win over the NY Yankees. (Yes, the latter was a football team.)
In that 1950 championship game noted earlier, in addition to Otto’s four TD strikes, he also rushed for 99 yards.
Graham’s next great playoff game was the 1954 NFL title game against the Detroit Lions. He was 9 of 12 for 163 yards and three TD’s passing, plus three more TD’s rushing in that 56-10 rout.
Last Week’s Trivia
Willis Reed of the Knicks in 1969-70 (they were a team back then) and Michael Jordan of the Bulls in 1995-96 and 1997-98 were MVP of the All- Star game, the regular season and the post-season, all in the same NBA season.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who was the first official DH in the major leagues? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.