Quick Takes


    O. J. Simpson was brought back to court yesterday for violating terms of his original bail. Asked the judge of Simpson, "Are you arrogant or stupid?" The judge overlooked the obvious...............both!


    The NFL playoffs continue to challenge the sports book bettors. Through eight playoff games this season, the favorites are just 2-6 against the line. The books love it; the majority of bettors invariably favor the favorites.


    Ben Roethlesberger is a class act. He had just watched his Pittsburgh Steelers fall to Jacksonville in the playoffs on a late field goal two weeks ago. Yet, while Jaguars QB David Garrard was being interviewed post-game, Ben, as disappointed as he had to be in defeat, waited in the background for the interview to conclude to congratulate his counterpart. That was as classy as it gets! (I, too, try to be classy in defeat; Iíve strangled only three poker dealers.)  

    Brady Quinn is now second on the Cleveland Brownsí QB
depth chart behind Derek Anderson, this after being drafted with the 22nd. overall pick in the 2007 draft, far lower than predicted. In 2007, he threw for a whole 45 yards while playing one game for Cleveland. Yet Quinn has a television commercial. I couldnít believe it when I saw it. If Brady Quinn has a tv commercial, then I deserve two of them!


    The Baseball Hall of Fame again passed by deserving players ala Jim Rice and Bert Blyleven. Yet Bill Mazeroski is in with his lifetime .260 batting average. If heís in the Hall, the veterans committee should add Gil Hodges; Hodges was a great defensive player with much better offensive stats than Mazeroski. Itís an annual and disgraceful thing that Iíve come to expect from the Baseball Hall of Shame.
    To be voted in, a minimum of 75% is required. Goose Gossage with 466 votes and 85.8% made it in 2008. The rest of the voting was: Jim Rice 392 72.2%, Andre Dawson 358 65.9%, Bert Blyleven 336 61.9%, Lee Smith 235 43.3%, Jack Morris 233 42.9%, Tommy John 158 29.1%, Tim Raines 132 24.3%, Mark McGwire 128 23.6%, Alan Trammell 99 18.2%, Dave Concepcion 88 16.2%, Don Mattingly 86 15.8%, Dave Parker 82 15.1%, Dale Murphy 75 13.8%, Harold Baines 28 5.2%.


    Ryan Grant almost became a negative Green Bay household name against Seattle. Two early fumbles didnít exactly enhance his image. But 201 rushing yards and three touchdowns later was one of the greatest personal comebacks Iíve ever seen in a game. He was the quintessential goat-to-hero.


Story of the Week



    Thanks to Jules Rothman for sending me this article. Itís a great article written by Allen Barra on one of baseballís most outstanding managers ever.


October 27, 2007

The Saturday Read. Los Angeles Times.

By Allen Barra




In one of the many great stories in "I Live for This! Baseball's Last True Believer" by Bill Plaschke with Tommy Lasorda, the young Tommy, on his way to a 13.50 ERA with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955, is summoned to the Dodgers executive office. "Tommy, if you were general manager of this team," asked Buzzie Bavasi, "who would you cut?" Lasorda replied: "I would cut that Sandy Koufax kid."

That's the only bad advice Lasorda has offered in more than half a century in big league baseball. Had the Dodgers taken it, it might have cost them four World Series, the two Sandy Koufax pitched them to -- 1963 and 1965 -- and the two Lasorda managed them to -- 1981 and 1988.


It would have also cost baseball its most colorful and quoted manager since Casey Stengel. Not all of Lasorda's statements have been quoted verbatim, such as his famous response to radio personality Paul Olden after 1970s slugger Dave Kingman hit three home runs to beat the Dodgers. "What is your opinion of Kingman's performance?" asked Olden. Lasorda expressed his opinion in a statement that set a record for the use of bleeping.

That Lasorda never curses around his family or in public appearances is merely one indication of a character more complex than the caricature often conveyed by the media. Another, which illustrates his remarkable ability to motivate his players, is his practice of screaming at them about points of the game beforehand and letting them down gently after they made mistakes. When Steve Sax was having nightmarish throwing problems, writers asked Lasorda why he wasn't tougher on his second baseman. "What good would it do to criticize Saxie after the bad throw?" Lasorda shrugged. Through persistence, manager and player worked the problem through.

When persistence wasn't enough, Lasorda found other solutions. Pushing the U.S. Olympic baseball team to the gold medal in 2000, he lied to his players about how good they were: "The only chance we had to be great was to believe we were great. At that point, the truth didn't matter." He used similar tactics on his bespectacled right-hander, Orel Hershiser, calling him Bulldog. Yet, "the more Hershiser heard it, the more he believed it." He believed it enough to win the Cy Young Award.

Plaschke, a sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times and three-time Associated Press Sports Columnist of the Year, earns a quality start for outlining Lasorda's life from a cramped three-story row house in Norristown, Pa., through his rise as an untalented but scrappy pitcher to become the symbol of the Dodgers.

There are enough quips, celebrities (Frank Sinatra stops by Carmella Lasorda's house to taste mama's cooking), and baseball stories to serve as an off-season transfusion for those who bleed Dodger blue.

"I Live for This!," though, is sometimes an uneasy mix of journalism and myth-mongering. Plaschke hints at a possible problem regarding control over content when he writes in the foreword that Lasorda "is an important figure for journalists because he always generates news. But he can also be an impossible figure for journalists because he insists that such news makes him look good." One can't argue that Lasorda is "a man of great personality," but one would also like to see some other witnesses to his claim that "he is also a man of great substance." Fernando Valenzuela, for one, whom many feel Lasorda sent to early retirement through overwork.

Loyalty is one of the primary components of Lasorda's nature -- "Where is the loyalty to the organization where you were raised?" he said after Adrian Beltre left the Dodgers for the Seattle Mariners. "Where is the commitment?" Beltre might reply: "Where was the commitment when my contract came up?"

There is a larger and more delicate issue this book skirts. Tommy Lasorda Jr., estranged from his father, died of AIDS in 1991; he is mentioned briefly in a note from Lasorda at the end: "I would like to acknowledge the memory of my son, 'Spunky.' A day does not pass without my thinking of him." Surely readers want to know exactly what Lasorda thinks about him.

Considering that Plaschke has gotten great material out of Lasorda for years, some hyperbole is expected. Lasorda may be "baseball's best ambassador" but is he really "the most popular baseball figure in the world"? Still, it's hard to argue with Lasorda's own assessment of his place in baseball lore. When asked by broadcaster Vin Scully if it was hard replacing legendary manager Walter Alston, he replied, "No. I'm worried about the guy who is going to replace me."

Allen Barra is a sports columnist for the Wall Street Journal.


Last Weekís Trivia


    What former Lakers center holds the NBA record for most blocked shots in a single game? Did you say George Mikan? Wrong! Did you say Wilt Chamberlain? Wrong! Did you say Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Wrong! Center Elmore Smith is best remembered for his shot-blocking skills. He holds the NBA record for most blocked shots in a game with 17. He achieved this mark while playing for the Lakers against the Portland Trail Blazers on October 28, 1973.
    In one of the worst deals in NBA history, Smith was one of the players the Lakers sent to Milwaukee to acquire the great Abdul-Jabbar. What a deal!


Trivia Question of the Week


    What QB holds the record for most passing yards in a single NFL game? In a single NCAA game? See next weekís Sports Junkie for the answer.