March Madness truly lived up to its name last weekend. Saturday was one to remember. Louisville came back big to beat West Virginia. Illinois came back big to beat Arizona. Both games were out of reach, seemingly that is, for the ultimate winners. When a major comeback occurs, does the winner deserve the credit, or does the loser deserve the blame? The answer is simple; they are both responsible for the game’s major reversal of fortune, and both games warrant a full-blown critique that I’ll not attempt to do here. It was an incredible doubleheader.
As if that was not enough, it took Michigan State a double-overtime to beat Kentucky on Sunday in as exciting a game as you will ever see. North Carolina is also headed to the big dance after beating Wisconsin in the very least dramatic of the four games.
Who do I want to win? Michigan State, for Magic Johnson. It's really my only interest in the tournament now. I had a favorite team in the tourney, but UCLA hardly needed to make the trip. Who do I think will win? Illinois. They’ve got the guns to do it all.
As a side note, I’d make Illinois a six point favorite to beat the semi-pro Lakers right now. OK, that’s a ridiculous statement and makes little sense. I am not happy about the Lakers these days, and my frustration is clearly showing. After all, all the Lakers were top college players or they wouldn’t be in the NBA. So I hereby retract the above. Illinois would not be a six point favorite over the Lakers; they would only be a five point favorite!
Story of the Week
It’s great! I love it! Everyone who knows me knows of my love for Jackie Robinson. My poker friend, Mike Burns, is no exception. He wanted to make a gift to me of the DVD of "The Jackie Robinson Story." I thanked him and told him I already own it, thanks to a dozen other people who barely beat him to it. That’s what led to this. He told me that he’s from Orange, New Jersey, and asked if I would do an article on a rather famous fighter from his hometown named Tony Galento. He said his hero was Tony Galento just as mine is Jackie Robinson. This is for you, Mike.
Tony Galento was a wild-swinging, rough fighter, who possessed little ring talent other than his hitting power. But he could hit! He was 5’-9", and was almost as wide as he was tall. He thus became known as Tony "Two Ton" Galento. Not exactly a master of the king’s English, to be sure, he would prove it when asked what he thought of William Shakespeare. Galento, who did not know who "Billy" was, responded with "I’ll moider da bum!"
Galento was given a shot to win Joe Louis’ heavyweight championship belt on June 28, 1939 in Yankee Stadium. The bout was a scheduled 15-round fight, and although it didn’t go the distance, there were 15 rounds worth of action. The great Joe Louis was actually sent to the canvas by Galento in the third round. Louis got up in time, and in the fourth round made Tony pay the price for what he had done by absolutely shellacking Galento until referee Arthur Donovan mercifully stopped the fight. Louis had won on a TKO, but he knew he had been in a brawl that night. And so did Galento; his manager, Joe Jacobs, worked feverishly on Galento in the corner so that the badly beaten challenger could leave the ring after the fight.
In July, 1940, Galento was again rewarded for his ring toughness with another fight against a future Hall-of-Famer, this one against the great former champ, Max Baer, Galento again showed his ability to fight against the best. Although Baer was no longer the champion, and had not been since 1935, he was still a fine fighter. This contest was nothing short of sensational until Baer finally knocked Galento out in the eighth round.
Not everybody can achieve championship status in his or her chosen field. Although Tony Galento did not become champion, he was respected by those he fought, especially Joe Louis for sending him to the canvas in their fight. Louis later noted in retrospect that he felt fortunate not to have been knocked out by Galento in that third round of their 1939 bout.
Upon completion of his boxing career, Tony Galento became a wrestler. He also appeared in movies, and not shabby ones at that. His credits include "The Best Things In Life Are Free", "Guys And Dolls", and "On The Waterfront". He owned a bar in his hometown of Orange, New Jersey before passing away in 1979.
Last Week’s Trivia
Pittsburgh Pirate Ralph Kiner led the NL in homers in seven straight seasons from 1946 to 1952. It was an incredible feat when given the fact that Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field was so gargantuan in scope; I’ve been in towns smaller than old Forbes Field. Check this out; the left field foul line ran 360’ from home plate, left-center field (his power alley) was an incredible 462’ from the plate, dead center field was 422’ from home plate. Kiner was a right-handed hitter, and those are the home dimensions he had to deal with as a pull hitter. And if by chance he hit one out to right, that foul line ran 376’. Also, let’s not overlook the 12’ high wall around the playing field.
The steel-fisted Pirates ownership did all they could to combat Kiner’s desire to make the money he felt was due him. In one such bout with ownership at contract time, the usual last-place dismal Pirates reminded Kiner that "we could have finished last without you." No matter how many prodigious clouts he was responsible for, their statement to him was accurate; they were a terrible team with or without Kiner. But his record is one that will never be broken.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who was the MLB pitcher of record for all 27 of the opposition’s outs, did not allow one batter to reach first base in any way, but was not credited with either a no-hitter or a perfect game? It’s quite a story. See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.