Quick Take

    The Yankees spent $180 million on players salaries in 2003. Their payroll increases every year, and it will no doubt increase again in 2004. Salary cap or no salary cap, George, you have one minor problem------the games still have to be won on the field. And the day I become the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, George, you will have to contend with a bona-fide salary cap period; no more buying players at any price who you think will win you flags.

Story of the Week

    Rocky Marciano was a fighter in the proper sense of the word. The blocky, short-armed, aptly nicknamed Brockton Blockbuster was a boxer in name only.

    Actually, his greatness was based on his aggressiveness, his willingness to trade punches and to brawl at close range, and his ability to withstand punishment in long exchanges. He certainly could hit; 43 of his 49 victories ended by knockout.

    He retired undefeated and, of necessity, was counted among the best of heavyweight fighters. Some ring buffs place Marciano with the likes of Dempsey, Tunney, Louis and Ali. Marciano, in fact, fought one of them; he defeated Joe Louis; he knocked Louis out in eight rounds in 1951. However, at the time, there was a difference of nine years in age in Marciano’s favor, not exactly a fair yardstick for the great Joe Louis.

    Nonetheless, that fight, Rocky’s 38th. as a pro, stamped him as having championship potential. He would soon test that possibility; he would fight Jersey Joe Walcott, the heavyweight champion of the world, in 1952.

    Craftily out-punching his foe at the long exchanges, and giving Marciano little chance to get in close where he could deal out punishment, Walcott enjoyed a comfortable edge on the score sheets going into the 13th. round of the scheduled 15-round contest. Contributing in great measure to Walcott’s lead was the fact that Marciano had been cut on the nose in the fifth round.

    But in round 13, Marciano caught the champion with a ripping right to the chin, and down went Walcott for the count. Rocky Marciano was now champion. In the rematch a year later, Marciano had little trouble with Walcott, knocking him out in the first round.

    His next true major foe was Archie Moore in 1955. This one proved to be Rocky Marciano’s last fight. Marciano did win the fight on a ninth round knockout. But in the months that followed the Moore fight, Rocky realized that the long training grinds and the personal appearances that went with being heavyweight champion kept him away from home too much, and he had accumulated enough money to quit. So he did, in 1956.

    It is debatable as to where the undefeated Marciano truly ranks when compared to the greatest heavyweights of all time. At his peak, the heavyweight division was not terribly strong. Yes, he fought and defeated big names, but they were at the end of their respective careers. In his defense, however, Rocky Marciano fought 49 pro fights, and he won them all.

    The retired champion was killed in a plane crash in 1969. He would have been 46 years old the following day.

Last Week’s Trivia

    He owns the distinction of having hit at least one home run for the most major league teams in baseball history. Todd Zeile has done it for 11 different teams.

Trivia Question of the Week

    Three players in major league baseball history have popped 500 career homers and amassed 3,000 career base hits. Who are they? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.