Quick Takes

Iím going back to college this Fall.  No, not as a student; as an instructor, and Iím really looking forward to it. Iíll be teaching a five-week 10-session course at Community College of Southern Nevada beginning September 13. It will be titled ďHow To Play Professional Poker.Ē And Iíll be teaching a two-week course beginning October 5 at U. N. L. V. on the art of listening that Iíve titled ďIf You Donít Listen, You Wonít Sell.Ē For those of you in the Las Vegas area, detailed information regarding how to register for these classes will be depicted in both schoolsí respective Fall catalogues to be published late Summer. I expect them to be sellouts, and if they are, encores are already planned. Be assured that both courses will be very informative and lots of fun, so Iíll see you there. (A lesson to be learned from the above; youíre never too old for new challenges and new ventures.)

Tonight is Game Seven of the NBA Finals. Iím pulling for the Spurs because I want Mr. Clutch, Robert Horry, to add to his ring collection; I love the guy. But because I donít think the Spurs match up well with the Pistons when it comes to fast-break points, free throw % (Tim Duncan is a graduate of the Shaquille OíNeill School of Free Throw Shooting) and the ability to handle adversity and pressure, Iíll go out on a limb here and pick the Pistons to win it in an upset. And a major upset it would be; no NBA team has ever won the last two games of the Finals on the road. And before it is forgotten in the record book, regardless of what happens tonight, had Horry not bailed Duncan out of his misery in Game Five, this championship series would have ended in six games with Detroit the winner, 4-2. Thanks to Robert Horry, and little-to-no thanks to Tim Duncan, San Antonio will be playing Game Seven tonight.

Iím glad to see my readers proof my work. Stephen Murphy asked me why I didnít mention the infamous hit Chuck Bednarik put on Frank Gifford in my article on Bednarik dated May 19th. I completely forgot about it, thatís why! (Hell, at my age, the mind is the second thing that goes. Fortunately for me, the first thing hasnít gone yet.) Heís referring to the game between the Eagles and the Giants in 1960. Linebacker Bednarik hammered running back Gifford on a particular play, knocking him stone cold. That picture is imprinted in my mindís eye as #60 stood over the prone Giant. I donít think 30-year-old Gifford was dreaming of Kathie Lee while he was out cold; she was all of seven years old at the time.

          I saw Cinderella Man this week. When it came to the fight scenes, there was a great deal of misrepresentation. Those scenes were no more believable than the Rocky movies. Itís just not the way boxing matches are; there was far too much Hollywood in those boxing scenes. The movie also had us believe that Max Baer was much bigger than James Braddock. For the record, each was actually 6-2 1/2 in real life, and Baer outweighed Braddock by just six pounds; 205-199. The movie also did not note that Baer actually fought Braddock in that 1935 title defense with a very injured right hand. And, finally, that actual fight was nowhere near the vicious fight the movie made it out to be. To reiterate, the movie was Hollywood.   

Story of the Week

RALPH KINER

          Ralph Kiner set a home run record that the greatest of power hitters couldnít top by leading or tying for the league lead in homers the first seven years of his career. He is also the only player who hit home runs in three consecutive All-Star games (1949-1951). He averaged 35 home runs a year in his 10-year major league career, and tied Rogers Hornsby for the then-National League record in career grand slams with 12.

          Never noted for his finesse with either arm or glove, Ralph Kiner was a pure slugger. He had led the National League in homers in 1946, the first rookie to do so in 40 years. He benefited greatly by Hank Greenberg joining the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1947 to team up with him. Greenberg is given credit with making several changes to Kinerís batting stance as well as his total outlook on hitting, including Kiner curtailing his swinging at bad balls. Kiner hit 51 homers in 1947, an amazing 48 of them after June 1st.

          The good-looking Kiner also attracted lots of ladies to baseball, and became linked with movie stars ala Elizabeth Taylor. He enjoyed that spotlight immensely; so would I. He began doing personal appearances, and became one of the first ballplayers to host his own local TV show.

          Kiner reached his peak as a power hitter in 1949, hitting 54 homers, four of them grand slams. His mighty blasts attracted fans despite the Piratesí usual second division finishes. By 1951, he actually replaced the great Stan Musial as the National Leagueís highest salaried player at $90,000 a year, a whopping amount back then. All things come to an end, and two years later his romance with Pitts burgh was over. Kiner was traded to the Chicago Cubs, and closed his 10-year major league playing career with the Cleveland Indians, cutting that career short due to a back injury.

          It should be noted that Kiner, a right-handed pull hitter, played his first seven-plus seasons in cavernous Forbes Field in Pittsburgh during a relative dead-ball era. He drilled 301 homers during those seven years in Pittsburgh. His production would have increased substantially in many other ballparks and with bona-fide offensive major league threats following him in the batting order.     

          Adept at putting fans in the seats, Kiner learned the business side of baseball as general manager of the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League from 1955 to 1960. He went on to become a most talented radio and television commentator. Ralph Kiner was named to the Hall of Fame in 1975.

Last Weekís Trivia

          Who is the only boxer to fight both Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali? Archie Moore fought Marciano in 1955. He also fought Ali in 1962 when Ali was still Cassius Clay. Moore lost both fights.

Trivia Question of theWeek

          Name the eight original AFL teams. See next weekís Sports Junkie for the answer.