Quick Takes


    The NCAA needs to look at a map. Memphis is the #1 seed in the Southern Region of March Madness. Yet they had to travel 601 miles to get to Houston, site of last weekend’s Regionals and their eventual game against #2 seed Texas. Conversely, only 162 miles separate Houston from Austin, home of Texas. So why was Texas bracketed in the Southern Region to begin with??? #1 seeds have earned and should have the logistical advantage in March Madness period. Fortunately, Memphis overcame this obvious “road game” by demolishing Texas on Sunday and advancing to the Final Four, no thanks to the NCAA brain surgeons. HERE’S TO THE MEMPHIS TIGERS TO WIN IT ALL.


    As noted, this weekend is the Final Four. Neither Florida nor Ohio State, the two teams who contested for the title a year ago, will be there. In fact, they didn’t make the NCAA March Madness tournament at all this year. (Both had to settle for the NIT.) It was the first time in 29 years that the two finalists one year didn’t make the big tournament the following year. Neither Michigan State nor Indiana State, the two 1979 finalists, made it to the 1980 tournament. Magic Johnson’s Michigan State beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State to win it 29 years ago. It was a competitive sign of things to come in the NBA between these two great performers.


    Thanks to Pat Ross for Bill Plaschke’s article in the L.A. Times. Monday was a site to behold at Dodger Stadium, opening day for the Dodgers. They’ve been in L.A. for 50 years. On hand to celebrate were Snider, Koufax, Valenzuela, Reuss, Newcombe, Sax, Wills, Finley, Russell, Karros, Erskine, Lasorda, and many others not mentioned in Bill Plaschke’s article. It had to be one helluva treat for Dodgers fans. There was one guy who wasn’t there, me, and it was my loss.


    There are 13 U.S. cities with teams from our four major sports, where "city" is defined as the “entire metropolitan area.” The four major sports are baseball, football, basketball and hockey. They are Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis-St.Paul, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco Bay Area, Washington D.C.

    Of these metropolitan areas, the only ones with a team in each sport that plays within the city limits of its principal city are Atlanta, Chicago, Denver and Philadelphia. In the Twin Cities area, three of the teams play in Minneapolis and one plays in St. Paul, although all four teams are named after the state of Minnesota, not the individual cities. In the San Francisco Bay Area, all teams play in one of the region's three major cities (S.F., Oakland and San Jose). All other areas have at least one sport represented solely by teams that play in a city's suburbs.


    I thought the NHL games I recently saw at Staples Center and Honda Center were bush during the tv time-outs. I thought I was watching a game in Vegas with all the garbage souvenirs being tossed into the stands to kill the idle commercial time. Try this one. The New York Mets have announced that they will take phone calls from fans while they are on the air this season. The Big Apple is gonna be a big pepperoni pizza to go, and hold the anchovies. More living proof that professional sports are not necessarily professional. As a sports purist, please give me the strength.


Story of the Week



    The Chicago Cubs weren’t looked upon as a contender in 1984, but Ryne Sandberg changed that in a nationally televised game against the Cardinals. In both the ninth and tenth innings, Sandberg homered against Bruce Sutter to tie the game, and went 5-for-6 with seven rbi’s in a game the Cubbies won, 12-11. Cards manager Whitey Herzog called Sandberg one of the top players he’d ever seen.


    Sandberg attracted a lot of attention for his defense in 1990, by which time he’d gone nearly a year without making an error. The streak started on June 21, 1989, and ended on May 17, 1990. By that time, Sandberg had played in 123 consecutive games and accepted 582 chances without making an error, both records for all infielders except first basemen. Even more incredible, Sandberg had put together streaks of 30 or more errorless games 15 times.


    He grew up in Spokane, where he was the QB on Parade Magazine’s high school All-America team. Drafted by the Phillies, he played in the minor league system. Ryne was dealt to Chicago as a throw-in in a swap of shortstops Larry Bowa and Ivan DeJesus. Sandberg made the Cubs as their third baseman, moving to second in 1983 when the Cubs signed Ron Cey.


    Sandberg became the first player to change positions and win the Gold Glove. In 1984, new Cubs manager Jim Frey convinced Sandberg that he could become a power hitter by turning on the ball and swing with power. It worked. The Cubs narrowly missed the 1984 pennant, while Sandberg was named MVP of the NL.


    Dazzling defensive flair and a tremendous knack for power enabled Ryne Sandberg to join the list of greats at second base. As the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1984, Sandberg led the Chicago Cubs to their first postseason appearance since 1945. In 1989 Sandberg hit 30 home runs for the first time in his career. The following year, he hit 40 -- the first time a second baseman had reached the 40-homer mark since Rogers Hornsby did it in 1922 -- and drove in a career-high 116. He became the first player to have both a 40-homer season and a 50-stolen base season over the course of his career and one of a select few to reach 25 homers and 50 stolen bases in the same year. In 1994, at the age of 35, Sandberg announced his retirement from baseball.


    His amazing range and strong, accurate throwing arm, led to nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards at the keystone position, and helped him pace NL second basemen in assists seven times, and in fielding average and total chances four times each. With the bat, Sandberg launched 282 career home runs.


    Played For: Philadelphia Phillies (1981), Chicago Cubs (1982-1994, 1996-1997).
16 Major League Seasons
Lifetime Batting Average .285

    Post-Season Awards:         

1984 NLCS, 1989 NLCS.
Consecutive All-Star (10): 1984-1993.
1984 National League Most Valuable Player.
Consecutive Gold Gloves (9): 1983-1991.
Inducted Into Hall Of Fame In 2005.


Last Week’s Trivia


    Patrick Roy (pronounced wa) was just 20 years old when he minded the net for the Montreal Canadiens during their 1986-87 Stanley Cup championship season. He was also awarded the Conn Smythe trophy as that season’s playoff MVP. Roy split his professional career between the Montreal Canadiens and the Colorado Avalanche, winning two Stanley Cups with each club. In 2004, Roy was selected as the greatest goaltender in NHL history by a panel of 41 writers, coupled with a simultaneous fan poll. (For the record, Roy is on my top three or four goalies list of all time, but no one asked me.) Roy was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006.


Trivia Question of the Week


    What is Wally Pipp’s ominous claim to fame? If you don't know this, you'd best fold up the tent. It's the easiest one I've asked in 6+ years. See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.