Quick Takes


    Boston is a super team, but why do they have the best record in the NBA? Because they play in the East. At this writing, the East has five teams at .500+ for the season. The West has exactly twice that number. The West is the NBA’s obvious best.


    When the Shaq-to-Phoenix deal was made, I wrote in my article of 2/14 that the Suns had made a bad trade. I was correct, and that will continue to show this season, plus two more at a staggering cost to the Suns. John Hollinger, author of ESPN Insider, went into very great detail as to why Phoenix acquiring Shaq has not worked and will not work. It was written on 3/7.


    The sale of Babe Ruth by the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees (1920) is generally considered the most lop-sided deal in sports history. Ruth spent 15 record seasons in NY after leaving Boston. His last season was a very forgettable partial one with the Boston Braves. During those 15 years Ruth played for the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox did not have a single winning season, spending many of those years in the AL cellar. What one deal can do to a franchise!


    Brett Favre spent 16 record seasons, all with Green Bay, after Atlanta cut him loose after his rookie year, 1991, a season that Favre played in just two games and threw only four passes. During those 16 Green Bay seasons, while Favre rolled up Hall-of-Fame stats, the Atlanta Falcons had just four winning years. To reiterate, what one deal can do to a franchise!   


Story of the Week



    Jose Canseco was an awful fielder. This was seen at its finest when the Indians’ Carlos Martinez hit a long fly ball. Canseco drifted back, got under it, then lost sight of it. The ball bounced off his skull, and a routine fly ball turned into a home run as it landed in the stands.


    Steve Lyons, White Sox utility man, dropped a bunt, ran to first base, and slid head first into the bag. He then called time, unbuckled his belt, dropped his pants, wiped the dirt off his shorts, and then yanked his pants back up. This was in front of 40,000 fans and a television audience.


    A player on the opposing team dropped a bunt down the third base line in a game against Seattle. The ball crawled slowly down the line as third baseman Lenny Randle had enough of the suspense as to whether the ball would remain fair or go foul. As the ball was slowly rolling, he got down on his hands and knees and blew the ball into foul territory. There was no rule against it, and the ball was ruled foul.


    The great Hall-of-Famer, Willie Stargell, authored some of the longest home runs in history. But Willie was not much of a base runner, especially in his later days. Late in his career, he tried to steal second, realized he was going to be out by 30 feet, and tried something rather original. He slid 20 feet short of the base, jumped up and called “time out.” Everyone found it amusing, but it didn’t work.


    Chuck Knoblauch was a fine second baseman whose career suddenly cut short when a mental block caused him to be unable to throw the ball accurately. To emphasize the point, Keith Olbermann’s mother was sitting several rows into the first base stands at the time. He managed to hit Keith’s mom in the face with a misguided throw to first. Soon after, he was moved to left field.


    Tommy John was not only a great pitcher for an incredible 26 years, but he’s also well known for the tendon transplant surgery that bears his name. He’d like to forget one play on which he actually made three errors. He bobbled a ground ball, then threw it past first base and into the outfield, and finally caught the ball when tossed back into the infield only to throw it wildly past the catcher.


    Larry Walker, the great right fielder, was known for his cannon arm as well as a great bat. He once caught a fly ball with a runner on first base and one out. He then went off to Nassau mentally, and handed the ball to a fan, allowing the base runner to advance two bases. Walker obviously thought there had been two outs before the ball was hit.


    David Cone threw a perfect game in his career. He also is one of the only pitchers to ever strike out three batters on the minimum nine pitches in an inning. But he will be best remembered for getting into an argument with an ump. In this classic brain-freeze, Cone caught a ball, ran to and tagged first, the ump called the runner safe, and without calling time out, Cone began screaming at the umpire. The two base runners kept going all the while, and scored while Cone held the ball, all this despite great effort by his teammates to wake him up and get rid of the baseball.


    “The Great Potato Pickoff.” Dave Bresnahan was a minor league catcher for Williamsport. He ended his career in spectacular fashion. On his final play, a pre-designed one, Bresnahan had peeled a potato to the size and shape of a baseball. Under the guise of replacing a broken glove, he went to the dugout and got the potato, then hid it in the pocket of his glove. When a runner stole third, he hurled the potato into the outfield. The runner mistook it for the baseball, and ran for home. Bresnahan promptly tagged him out. For this, the runner was awarded the base, and Bresnahan was ejected and then released by Williamsport the next day.


    I’m saving the best for last. Although I’ve written about the great promoter and baseball mind, Bill Veeck, and his incredible ingenuity before, it’s worth repeating. When I was a kid growing up in St. Louis, the Cardinals were the team; the Browns sucked. So Bill Veeck employed on the Browns roster:

Eddie Gaedel. A midget whose only major league appearance drew a walk. 

Max Patkin. A triple-jointed clown and comedian who did everything but play baseball. You can see Max Patkin in “Bull Durham.” 

Satchell Paige. Possibly the greatest pitcher of all time. Paige, whose birth date was never quite known, was on the roster as a relief pitcher, and while in the Browns bullpen, sat on his very own rocking chair.

    Bill Veeck was a wonderful man who sat with my dad and me in the bleachers of wonderful old Sportsman’s Park on weekends when the Browns were in town. He kept me in hot dogs and cokes throughout the games. His picture, sent me by his son Mike, proudly hangs on my office wall.

    To be sure, Bill Veeck was the king of wacky baseball incidents.


Last Week’s Trivia


    How can a batter strike out against a pitcher he never batted against? Remember that a pitcher brought into a game must pitch to at least one batter, and a hitter cannot be pinch-hit for once he has two strikes.

    Hypothetical: A batter is ejected from the game for arguing a strike call. He has two strikes on him. When the replacement batter is brought into the game, the opposing manager changes pitchers. The second pitcher strikes out the second batter.

    Because the second pitcher is on the mound when the out is made, he gets credit for the strikeout. Because the first batter had accumulated two strikes, the out is charged to him. So, officially, the second batter strikes out against a pitcher he never batted against.


Trivia Question of the Week


    Did you like the last trivia question? Well, you’re gonna like this one, too. How did the term “taxi squad” originate? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.