Quick Takes


    How cavernous was Washington’s Griffith Stadium originally? Hard to imagine, but in 1945, the Washington Senators hit one home run all season in their own home park. It was hit by first baseman Joe Kuhel. And even at that, the ball didn’t reach the stands on a fly; it was an inside-the-park home run.


    Jim Brown is still the greatest running back I’ve ever seen. He was also a standout in lacrosse while at Syracuse University. He is considered by many to have been the greatest lacrosse player of all time. He was an All-American in lacrosse, and is in the Lacrosse Hall of Fame. As an actor following his football days, Brown’s love scene with Raquel Welch in the 1969 movie 100 Rifles was the first on-screen love scene between a white actress and an African-American actor. Whether it was lacrosse, football or women, Jim Brown scored.


    As long as we’re on the subject of scoring, let’s look at scoring by NHL goalies. Yes, it is possible. Three of them have successfully shot the puck into the opposition’s net. Philadelphia’s Ron Hextall did it in 1987, Detroit’s Chris Osgood did it in 1996, and New York Islanders’ Billy Smith did it in 1979. What is far more probable is a goalie getting an assist on a goal. During the 1983-84 season, Edmonton’s very alert Grant Fuhr set the NHL record for most points by a goaltender in one season at 14.


    Soccer is not considered a major sport in the U.S. when it comes to attendance, spectator dollars spent, etc. But that’s not the case elsewhere. The Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has held 200,000 spectators for a single match, as has London’s Wembley (seating capacity there now is 80,000). The Morumbi in Sao Paolo, Brazil has held 150,000, as has Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland. Several stadiums around the world regularly attract 100,000 fans for a game. To quote Rodney Dangerfield, no offense, but I’ll never understand why.


    Oscar Goodman, our mayor, is tremendous. He just doesn’t stop pushing for a big league sports franchise for Las Vegas. I’ve written more than once all the reasons why that won’t happen. Nothing’s changed, but I applaud Mayor Goodman for his relentless efforts.


Story of the Week


    Right-hander Robin Roberts was the ace of the Phillies staff for most of his 14 years there in a brilliant 19-season major league career that began in 1948. The durable workhorse with a superior fastball and pinpoint control won 286 career games and compiled six consecutive 20-victory seasons. In 1950, he paced the Phils “Whiz Kids” to their first flag in 35 years with a 20-11 record. Roberts started three games in the last five days of the season, an incredible feat.


    A tough competitor, he was a frequent league-leader in victories, innings pitched, complete games, shutouts and strikeouts, topping the National League in wins from 1952 to 1955. A fantastic control pitcher, Roberts never walked more than 77 batters in any one season. But pitchers who throw lots fast ball strikes give up lots of homers, and Roberts did just that, 505 to be exact.


    From 1952-1955, Roberts led the NL wins every season. He won 28 games in 1952, but his 1953 season was a shade better. Posting a 23-16 record, Roberts pitched in bad luck. His 2.75 ERA was second in the league as he led the NL in K's. In a career-high 346 2/3 innings in 1953, he walked just 66 batters.


    On May 13, 1954, Bobby Adams of the Reds hit a lead-off homer off Robin Roberts. Roberts then retired the next 27 batters in a row to win 8-1 on a one-hitter.


    Fast-working Robin Roberts was one pitcher who found a way to interrupt the batter's rhythm without altering his own. He did this by devising an elaborate choreography for his mound routine. Early on in his career, Roberts was enthusiastic and nervous, with a powerful fastball, but a rushed delivery that ruined his control and prevented him from establishing any rhythm. He'd fire a strike or two, and then lose his release point and toss four straight balls.


    A pitching coach recommended that he adopt a pre-pitch routine to help him control his energies, and if you look at his pitching record, you can see the advice take hold. He went 7-9 in his rookie year (1948), the next year he evened it to 15-15, and then he was off on a string of six straight twenty-win seasons that wasn't broken until 1956.

    Over the years, Roberts added layers to the routine so that, by his prime, it was a piece of choreography as intricate as a cobra's mating dance. Before throwing a pitch he'd take a breath and adjust his belt back and forth, like a man preparing to unburden himself of some really bad news. Then he'd bend at the waist, and fool with his left pant-leg, and look towards the plate. Then he'd finally adjust his cap, rock into a slow motion wind-up, and fire home. He'd repeat the whole thing, unabridged, before each and every pitch he threw.


    Roberts had an outstanding fastball, and all this slow, absent-minded motion preceding his pitches made them seem even faster than they were. Roberts gave up more home runs than any pitcher in history, which tells us that his stuff wasn't completely overpowering. But, he's a Hall of Famer, a fact that serves notice of his pitching wit and creativity. Roberts came up with something that worked.


    Robin Roberts holds the major league record for most consecutive opening day starts for the same team (12). He started every season opener for the Phillies from 1950 to 1961.


    Quote. Slugger Ralph Kiner:
"The best fastball I ever saw was Robin Roberts’. Robin didn't throw as hard as Rex Barney, but his ball would rise around six or eight inches, and with plenty on it. And he had great control, which made him very difficult to hit."


    Robin Roberts career:
Philadelphia Phillies (1948-1961), Baltimore Orioles (1962-1965), Houston Astros (1965-1966), Chicago Cubs (1966).
Post-Season: 1950 World Series.
Awards: All-Star (7): 1950-1956.

Roberts was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976.


Last Week’s Trivia


    At the tail end of his career, relief wizard Rollie Fingers was prepared to hook up with the Cincinnati Reds in 1986, but the two sides hit a snag during contract negotiations, and Fingers chose to retire instead. What problem kept Rollie out of a Reds uniform? The Reds insisted that their players shave. Rollie refused to get rid of his trademark mustache, and chose to retire instead.


Trivia Question of the Week


    A great fighter once said of his career earnings, "Half of it went to wine, women and song.........the other half I wasted.” Name him. See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.