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06/27/2016

Go Navy!

[Posted Sunday p.m. prior to Kershaw and the Copa America finale, because it’s “Game of Thrones” time.]

Wimbledon Quiz: Things kick off at The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club on Monday.  To prove just how sad the state of Women’s tennis is these days (and the men aren’t much better with Nadal out), I’ll give you the initials of the Top 10 seeds for the girls and see how many you can get.  S.W., G.M., A.R., A.K., S.H., R.V., B.B., V.W., M.K., P.K.  Answer below.

Golf Balls

This sport takes the lead this week because of what happened at the PGA Tour event at Congressional, the Quicken Loans National hosted by Tiger Woods on behalf of his foundation.

Billy Hurley III picked up his first tour win at age 34, but it was far more than just that.  Hurley is a Naval Academy grad who served his country for five years before embarking on a professional golf career.  When all my golf sources roll in tonight and tomorrow, I’ll have far more for next chat, but as CBS’ Peter Kostas said, correctly, this is the golf story of the year.

I mean this is a guy who was ranked 600 in the world and had a best Tour finish of fourth before putting it all together today.

I was going to be writing what a lousy year it has been for golf, but then out of nowhere this event provided a fascinating leaderboard.  For example, Vijay Singh ended up finishing second, as he almost became the oldest PGA Tour winner at age 53!

Ernie Els, 46, finished fifth, not having won in four years.  21-year-old Jon Rahm was playing in his very first tour event since turning pro and finished tied for third (with Wake’s Bill Haas); spectacular.

So just some great moments in the world of sports outside Washington this weekend.

--Addressing the press before the tournament began, Tiger Woods said he’s making progress in his return to golf.

“I’m excited about what’s transpired so far.”  He said he’s been able to play back-to-back rounds, but doesn’t want to return until he can log four to five straight.

It’s about trying to recover for the next day.  I guess I still need to get in golf shape.”

Tiger said he was worried about losing distance but noted he’s actually gained some.  Bottom line, still no word if he’ll be returning this year, but I’ve said since day one I wouldn’t rule out his playing in the PGA Championship at Baltusrol end of July.  [After watching Tiger in the booth this afternoon, though, don’t quote me on this.]

--The PGA Tour canceled the Greenbrier Classic slated for July 7 because of extensive flood damage at not just the resort, but the entire surrounding area.  It’s just very sad what has happened to the region, with at least 24 dead at this point and thousands of lives in ruins.

This is the first PGA event canceled because of weather since 2009.

MLB

--Turbulent weekend for the Mets.  After a terrible loss Thursday night in Atlanta to the lowly Braves, 4-3, as the bullpen blew up, the Mets almost blew an 8-0 lead Friday before hanging on, 8-6, over the Bravos, and Saturday they eked out a 1-0, 11-inning affair on former Braves player Kelly Johnson’s pinch-hit home run in a day that saw the Mets sign their old friend and star, Jose Reyes, to a minor league deal, while sending down outfielder Michael Conforto, who was All-World in April, but had hit an astoundingly atrocious .148 since May 1 (21-for-142!)  As GM Sandy Alderson correctly put it, “Frankly, we felt we put it off (the demotion) probably a little too long.”

At least Conforto, who yours truly, and everyone else, thought was destined for superstardom, is handling it well and the guess here is he’s back shortly after the All-Star break.

But back to the 1-0 game Saturday, the Mets wasted eight scoreless by starter Jacob deGrom who is 3-4, 2.67, in 13 starts.  He hasn’t won since April 30, while over his last 41 innings, the Mets have scored a whopping two runs for him as he has pitched to a 2.45 ERA.

Sunday the Mets lost 5-2 and head to Washington for an important three-game series with the Nats, three back.

Nationals 44-32
Mets 40-34
Marlins 41-35

Washington snapped a seven-game losing streak Sunday, 3-2 over the Brewers, as Tanner Roark filled in for the injured Stephen Strasburg, Strasburg having been placed on the 15-day DL with an upper back strain.

--Joel Sherman of the New York Post had an interesting piece Sunday on how the next 14 games are critical for the Yankees in terms of the contracts of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.  As in if they don’t perform, it’s time to cut them loose.

Last year the two combined for 64 homers and 165 RBIs.  This season the two have a combined 12 home runs, 39 RBIs (thru Sunday) and a .268 on-base percentage (thru Sat.), which is beyond putrid, the Yankees falling back to .500 (37-37) after a 7-1 loss to the Twinkies.

But to release them means eating the remainder of their contracts (Teixeira being in his last year at $22.5m; A-Rod being owed $20m+ this year and next), but as Sherman points out, the Rockies just ate $39 million on Jose Reyes’ deal through next year, while the Dodgers did the same with Carl Crawford ($35m).

“Both teams acted for what was best now and in the future.  If those clubs were willing to eat that much, would the Yankees?”

I think the Yankees keep both all year.  In the case of A-Rod, there would be way too much heat from fans wanting to see his 700th.  [He’s at 695.]

--Last week the Mets and Yankees each had home series, the Mets against the Royals, the Yankees against the Rockies, so it was another opportunity to see who drew better and for the first time in the 7 ½-year history of Citi Field and the new Yankee Stadium, more people paid to see the Mets than the Yanks when the two played home games on the same day.

Until Tuesday, the teams had hosted games on the same day 46 times since 2009, and the Yankees drew a larger attendance in all of them, averaging 41,346 fans, to the Mets’ 28,334.

But Tuesday, 40,122 packed Citi Field to see the Mets’ rematch with K.C., while 34,760 showed up in the Bronx to watch the Yankees take on the Rockies.  [Jared Diamond / Wall Street Journal]

--In other games Sunday, Miami’s Jose Fernandez did it again, moving his record at Marlins Park to a totally unfathomable 24-1, 1.48 ERA for his career as the Marlins defeated the Cubs 6-1.  Fernandez threw 7 innings and struck out 13.

--The White Sox’ Chris Sale became the majors’ first 13-game winner (13-2, 2.79) as Chicago defeated the Blue Jays 5-2.  I mean Sale has a shot at 25+, which would be remarkable for his time.

--We note the passing of former Met and Cub, Jim Hickman, 79.  He’s remembered fondly by both franchises.

“Gentleman Jim” of Tennessee came up to the Mets in 1962 and proceeded to have four highly mediocre seasons, averaging 15 home runs and 50 RBI while batting .240, but on those early Mets teams that made him a star.  He was also the first Met to hit three home runs in a game.

Hickman was part of a trade at the end of the 1966 season to the Dodgers for Tommy Davis, and Jim played sparingly one season in L.A., before he was traded to the Cubs where he really resurrected his career in 1969, hitting 21 homers in the Cubbies failed pennant drive that year, before at the age of 33, Hickman had a career year in 1970, slamming 32 homers and driving in 115, while batting .315 with a 1.001 OPS.  He made his only All-Star team.

In that All-Star game, it was Hickman who drove in Pete Rose as Rose famously barreled over Indians catcher Ray Fosse in the National League’s 5-4 win.

Hickman finished his career in 1974 with St. Louis and ended up with 159 home runs and 560 RBI to go along with his .252 average. RIP, Gentleman Jim.

--In the College World Series we are down to two...rather startlingly, unranked Arizona and #16 Coastal Carolina.

The CWS is nowhere near as well-followed as March Madness, but picture a final two of 16 and unranked in the latter. 

Best of three play begins Monday in Omaha. 

And not for nuthin’, but do you think golfer Dustin Johnson, who played at Coastal Carolina, might be sending out some positive vibes to his fellow Chanticleers after his superb U.S. Open triumph?.

NBA Draft...and stuff...

Boy, talk about being disinterested in the draft, that was yours truly.  I just looked at the list of 60 selected and I follow the sport pretty closely, but a lot of these guys are a total mystery to me and as we all know, half of the first-rounders never pan out, let alone at least 2/3s of the second-rounders.

But for the record, the first five were....

1. Philadelphia, Ben Simmons, F, LSU
2. LA Lakers, Brandon Ingram, F, Duke
3. Boston, Jaylen Brown, F, California
4. Phoenix, Dragan Bender, F, Croatia
5. Minnesota, Kris Dunn, G, Providence

Among the players I gave a damn about, Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield went No. 6 to New Orleans; Brice Johnson, F, UNC, went No. 25 to the Clippers; Isaiah Whitehead, G, Seton Hall, ended up in Brooklyn with the No. 42 selection (acquired in a trade of picks with Utah) and that’s about it because, as expected, Wichita State’s backcourt tandem of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker weren’t drafted, with the Knicks, though, apparently having an interest in Baker.

One guy I commented on before, Maryland center Diamond Stone, should have stayed in school another year, but noooo...the freshman went out and was a whopping No. 40 by New Orleans (then acquired by the Clippers).  Yeah, I know...take the money when you can, but this guy would have easily been a top 15 selection next year, assuming his game improved over his first season.

Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics, who had eight picks in the two rounds, were expected to take advantage of their situation, using the picks to acquire something of note and instead it was....

3. Jaylen Brown, F, California
16. Guerschon Yabusele, F, France
23. Ante Zizic, C, Croatia

Brown is OK, I guess.  He wore a coat and tie and was well-spoken and all, but the other two?  Who the hell are they?  I’ve never seen such a consensus from the writers/commentators that these two are “way underwhelming,” neither deemed being close to ready for play at the NBA level.

Actually, some reports I read totally panned Brown as well and he got booed at the Celtics’ draft party.  Apparently he just doesn’t have a jump shot.

Separately, I like the Warriors’ pick of Vanderbilt’s Damian Jones at No. 30.  Big guy’s got game.

--The Knicks acquired former MVP Derrick Rose from the Bulls for center Robin Lopez and point guards Jerian Grant and Jose Calderon.  Basically, the Knicks gave up little (though I kind of liked the way Lopez played last year, and assuming Grant doesn’t develop into something good), but on the other hand, Rose hasn’t been healthy in five seasons.  Last year’s 66 games represented the most he had played in since his 2010-11 MVP season.  And he averaged only 16.4 points, 4.7 assists.

But, if Rose could stay on the court he’s better than what the Knicks had.  Plus he is entering the final year of his contract and aside from having a real incentive to perform, at which point the Knicks would surely extend him an offer, if he doesn’t pan out the Knicks don’t lose anything since none of what they gave up figured in any long-term plans team  president Phil Jackson has. 

Rose announced he was trying to recruit former teammate Joakim Noah, who the Knicks could use, especially since they gave up Lopez, but this seems doubtful at last word.

Also highly doubtful is any interest that free agent Kevin Durant might have in the Knicks.  His Roc Nation agency is arranging meetings starting July 1 with the Warriors, Celtics, Clippers, Heat and Spurs, plus OK City.  Late word has the Knicks also being given an invite, with all the meetings being held in New York, but I’m assuming this is an act of courtesy, nothing more, though Carmelo Anthony was reportedly spotted having dinner with Durant the other day.

--No one deserves a vacation more than LeBron James so he is skipping the Olympics to rest up.  When you reach the NBA Finals, you are putting in a full two months more than those players who don’t reach the playoffs, and this was the sixth consecutive trip to the Finals for James.

James also allayed any fears he might opt out of his contract and become a free agent.

“I love it here in Cleveland. I have no intentions of leaving,” he told ESPN during the championship parade.  James turns 32 at the end of December.

--Atlanta sent point guard Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers as part of a three-way deal that has George Hill going from the Pacers to the Jazz, and Utah sending the No. 12 pick in Thursday’s draft to Atlanta, which the Hawks used to select Baylor swingman Taurean Prince, while with their 21st pick, Atlanta took DeAndre Bembry, a shooting guard out of Saint Joe’s.

Former Demon Deacon Teague seemed to take a step back last year in averaging 15.7 points and 5.9 assists, and he posted on Instagram, later deleted, that he had played the entire season with a torn patellar tendon in his knee and “could barely jump or stop.”  But he did not require offseason surgery.

Euro 2016

When the Knockout Round of 16 was finally set up, it appeared we were ready for some terrific action, but Saturday’s play was largely dreadful.  Poland beat Switzerland on penalty kicks after 120 minutes of 1-1 action and what sucked here was that Switzerland was the better team, but once knockout games get into extra time (30 minutes’ worth), both sides suddenly seem to play too cautiously, willing to take their chances with their goalkeepers.

In the second game on Saturday, Wales beat Northern Ireland 1-0 on a late own goal by N. IRL’s Gareth McAuley, though there was little he could do on the play.  I saw a fair amount of this one and it was a terrible contest; yet Wales is now in the quarterfinals of their first major international tournament since the 1958 World Cup, which is a cool story.

In Saturday’s final game, Portugal defeated Croatia 1-0 on a late goal in extra time in what the BBC described as “a turgid affair for much of the 120 minutes.”

“The match in Lens was abysmal.”

I ended up watching a lot of it, mesmerized at just how bad a game it was!  Neither team had a shot on goal until late in extra time.  In fact, “There were no efforts on target until the goal in the 117th minute.”  That’s incredible.  Thankfully, I hadn’t paid good money to sit in the stands and I could do laundry and work on this column from the comfort of my own home.

Sunday, in a much better contest, France beat the Rep. of Ireland 2-1, with Ireland having a 1-0 lead at the half before France got their act together.

But Germany then rolled Slovakia, 3-0.

Belgium defeated Hungary 4-0, and with these last three results, my beloved Ireland is out, while any family connections (relatives in Budapest and Bratislava/Kosice) I had went by the wayside.

[Back when I was a kid I met an uncle in Prague, but with the breakup of Czechoslovakia, I consider myself more half Slovak than Czech, while my late uncle in Budapest I think was the only extended family member there...but I digress...except I have one of Uncle Geza’s paintings in my place.....Bernie Goldberg is here.  Bernie, what say you?]

--England’s Jamie Vardy signed a new four-year deal to stay with Leicester City, after rejecting a move to Arsenal, who was shocked Vardy did so.

--The U.S. lost to Colombia in the contest for third-place of the Copa America tournament, 1-0.

David Thatcher, RIP

One of the Doolittle Raiders, David Thatcher, died. He was 94 and the next-to-last survivor among the mission’s 80 airmen.

As reported by the New York Times’ Richard Goldstein:

His death leaves Richard Cole, age 100, as the last surviving veteran of a legendary chapter in Air Force history. Mr. Cole was a co-pilot alongside Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, the raid’s commander and pilot of its lead plane.

“Corporal Thatcher, a 20-year-old from Montana, manned a pair of .50-caliber guns in the raid (April 18, 1942), retaliating for Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

“He rode in the rear of the Mitchell B-25 medium bomber christened the Ruptured Duck, the seventh of 16 planes launched from the aircraft carrier Hornet about 650 miles from Japan.

“The Ruptured Duck, encountering sporadic antiaircraft fire that missed its mark, dropped four bombs over Tokyo, including an incendiary device that struck a steel mill.

“Returning from the raid, the bomber crashed into the sea just off an island on China’s eastern coast as its pilot, Lt. Ted Lawson, tried for an emergency landing on a beach in a nighttime rainstorm while low on fuel.

“But the crewmen survived, in no small part because of Corporal Thatcher’s aid.  The ordeal was recounted in the 1943 best seller ‘Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,’ written by Lt. Lawson, a captain when he wrote the book, and the 1944 Hollywood movie of the same name, with Robert Walker as Corporal Thatcher.”

To make a long story short, of the five crewmembers of the Ruptured Duck, all suffered multiple injuries except Thatcher.  They were in Japanese-occupied territory, found by Chinese fishermen, who then gave them shelter.

Thatcher bandaged up the wounds of the others as best he could, with Lawson suffering from a deep gash on his left leg.  Not having more than a first-aid kit, which he used for Lawson, Thatcher had to rely on dirty rags the fishermen supplied him.

Thatcher, the only crew member able to walk, “joined with Chinese peasants and armed guerrillas to take the four injured airmen on a grueling five-day trek, by land and boat, to a hospital on the mainland,” somehow managing to evade Japanese troops.

Lawson’s leg was amputated and the entire crew of the Ruptured Duck was eventually evacuated.

Colonel Doolittle returned home soon after the raid and was awarded the Medal of Honor from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who sent letters to the families of all the raiders.

As cited in James M. Scott’s book “Target Tokyo” (2015), Colonel Doolittle told Corporal Thatcher’s parents that “all the plane’s crew were saved from either capture or death as a result of his initiative and courage in assuming responsibility and in tending the wounded himself day and night.”

Corporal Thatcher was awarded the Silver Star for valor.

Doolittle died in 1993.  A few years ago I wrote of the last reunion of the surviving airmen, a poignant affair where silver goblets have been turned over in tribute to the raiders who had died the previous year.  Now there is one.

Thatcher flew on bombing missions over Europe before being discharged from the armed forces in July 1945. He worked as a letter carrier in Missoula, Montana, after, and that is where he died on Wednesday. 

I couldn’t help but look up funeral arrangements in the local Missoulan.  They are Monday and there is to be a full military flyover as part of the ceremonies.  Yes, “Dick” Cole is expected to be in attendance, accompanied by his daughter.  I’d love to be there too.

One of Thatcher’s five children, Gary, died in South Vietnam, 1970.  He was an Army Ambulance pilot and was killed in a helicopter crash.

Stuff

--Congratulations to Tony “Smoke” Stewart for his win at this week’s NASCAR event at Sonoma, Stewart’s first in 84 races and 49th of his career.  It virtually guarantees him a spot in the season-ending Chase in this his ‘announced’ final season.

--There has never been a worse prelude to an Olympics than what we are seeing with the Rio Games.  The latest, the World Anti-Doping Agency, only weeks before the competition is set to begin, suspended the lab that was preparing to handle the drug testing.

WADA – the global regulator of doping in sports, cited a “nonconformity” with international standards.

The Rio de Janeiro lab had a prior disciplinary record, having been suspended a year before Brazil hosted the World Cup, though it was reinstated by WADA last year.

As Rebecca Ruiz of the New York Times reported:

“To win back its certification, the lab spent roughly 200 million Brazilian real, or about $60 million, to retrofit three floors of facilities at a federal university in Rio and train more than 90 technicians.  That included a substantial commitment of government money in the face of a pronounced recession.”

The lab can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland but it is highly unlikely the issue would be resolved in time for the start of the Games.

WADA said it would transfer samples to a different facility outside Brazil for testing.

I mean what a freakin’ mess.

--On a related topic, reigning Commonwealth 100m champion Kemar Bailey-Cole of Jamaica said this week he had been diagnosed with Zika, learning of the condition only because his girlfriend found a bump on his neck.

“I didn’t know I had the virus and I have been training with it for three days now,” he told a Jamaica newspaper.

Bailey-Cole won gold in the Olympic 4X100 relay alongside Usain Bolt at London 2012.

“I was experiencing back pains and muscle soreness, but I thought it was just soreness from the exercises I was doing,” the sprinter said.

He said “Recovering is not easy,” but he still planned to compete in this coming week’s Jamaica Olympic trials, where he will face Bolt, Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake for a spot on the national team.

--Time once again to ask, “What was Jim Grobe thinking in taking the ‘interim’ head coaching job at Baylor?”  Us Wake Forest fans want this good man to succeed, but, geezuz, what an incredibly tough spot he put himself in. 

The latest was five players who had signed binding National Letters of Intent and then requested their release when the sexual assault situation broke wide open have now been set free by Baylor; after Grobe, as was his and the school’s right, first insisted on talking to the kids and their parents.

--As I wrote last time, the NHL Board of Governors did approve expansion in Las Vegas, but the expansion draft is not to be held until after the upcoming 2016-17 season, so I promise this is the last time I mention it for about a year.

--Three decades ago, an antique dealer, now retired, purchased a painting titled “Les Fleurs d’Ete Dans un Gobelet” for a “nominal amount.”

But after years of sleuthing by a Connecticut auction house, and a thumb’s up from the Parisian institute that published the definitive catalog of works by Paul Gauguin, little Litchfield County (Conn.) Auctions is putting it up as a true work of the French master, whose stuff I really can’t stand but that’s beside the point.

Whoever the anonymous dealer is, he is going to make a killing.  It’s a smaller work, 13 X 9 inches, but should go for $300,000+ based on past sales of Gauguin that size.  Some of his bigger works have sold for as much as $300 million.

--There have been multiple reports in my state of New Jersey of rabid foxes.  One fellow, Jon Campbell, recently was attacked by one, as reported by NJ.com.

“Campbell was in the yard of his (northern N.J.) home cutting grass when the lone fox calmly walked right up to him. He recalled, at first glance, thinking it was a neighbor’s cat or dog.

“ ‘I was 100% calm,’ he said.  ‘Then I realized it was a fox.’

“Without having a chance to react, Campbell said the fox jumped up and bit him in the hip completely piercing through his clothing.

“ ‘He was attached at the hip,’ he said.  ‘It was parallel sticking out from my hip as I was smashing it with my hands.’

“Campbell said the fox looked to be about 15 to 20 pounds.

“ ‘It was bigger than a cat but smaller than a dog,’ he added.

“He fought to get the fox off of him, and eventually succeeded, but the fox kept coming back.

“ ‘It didn’t charge at me, it just kept treading back up to me,’ he said.  ‘It wasn’t hissing or foaming at the mouth or anything.’

“Campbell said the fox approached 15 to 20 more times and each time he kicked it in the head to fight it off. The final kick was to the chest, which punted the fox into the fence catching its leg long enough for Campbell to run inside.

“After cleaning out his wound, he headed out the door to drive to the emergency room. As he walked down his driveway he noticed the fox approaching him again.

“ ‘I thought ‘let me see if this guy is stupid enough to follow me,’’ he said.

“Campbell then headed to his garage in hopes the fox would follow, and it did.  Once inside the garage, he jumped over the fox and swiftly made it to the door, closing it behind him to trap the animal.  Inside, he could hear the animal jumping around and later found it had bit the handle of a metal gas can.

“ ‘It was like a terminator or a zombie,’ he said.

“The authorities arrived shortly after.

“Campbell was given a tetanus shot and was treated for his wound at the hospital, which he said was about two inches long and an eighth of an inch deep. He started a series of rabies shots the next morning.

“The fox was euthanized and a brain sample test for rabies came back positive,” according to police.

By the way, an expert told NJ.com that “you have one month to receive a rabies shot after coming in contact with an animal, but suggests receiving it immediately after being exposed.

“ ‘It all depends on where the bite is on the body,’ he said.  ‘The farther from the head, the longer you have.’”

How horrifying.  There have been at least four other positive tests for rabid foxes in New Jersey over the past year.

I told a friend who likes to hike in these parts that his number one fear should be foxes, not coyotes or bears.  I might spend more time running at the track rather than in the woods I normally frequent.  [I just had a flashback of running in the park about ten years ago when two foxes, chasing each other, shot right in front of me.  I should have died of a heart attack.  But at least it was pretty clear, I thought then, they weren’t rabid.]

--On a lighter animal note, voting is closed for the Hero Dog Awards, with the winners to be announced on July 6 at herodogawards.org.  There is a two-hour special on the Hallmark Channel in the fall.

I only know of this because I was reading of one candidate, Edo, from the Los Angeles Police Department.

From KABC (Los Angeles):

“One of two men wanted for robbery and murder was running away from LAPD officers when he stole a car and crashed it into a house.  When he ran into the home, a father and his three sons were inside. The man stabbed the father in the face and attempted to shoot the children when his gun jammed.

“When Officer Huynh and K-9 Edo arrived at the house, the man started shooting at them as they tried to enter the house.  As Edo engaged the man, the man shot himself in the head. Edo then pulled the man away from the gun.

Edo’s courageous actions saved the lives of the K-9 team and the father and sons.

--We note the passing of the great Bluegrass musician Ralph Stanley, 89.

Born and raised in Big Spraddle, Va., a land of coal mines and forests, Ralph and brother Carter formed the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys way back in 1946.  They were influenced by Bill Monroe and the Carter Family, but the Stanleys created their own distinctive sound with bandmate Pee Wee Lambert.

Carter Stanley died in 1966 of liver cancer and Ralph didn’t think he wanted to continue but the country music world told him not to quit and Ralph continued on for decades.

--Finally, on Thursday, a jury cleared Led Zeppelin of accusations that it stole the opening riff of one of rock music’s most celebrated songs, “Stairway to Heaven.”

The unanimous decision by the panel of eight men and women came after a week-long trial in which guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant took the stand to rebuff the claim of thievery and tell how they wrote their most famous song nearly 50 years ago.

At issue was whether Zeppelin took the opening passage from “Taurus,” an instrumental song by singer Randy Wolfe, who wrote and performed with the L.A. rock band Spirit.  Wolfe, who as a teenager played with Jimi Hendrix, is widely acknowledged as a master guitarist, while Spirit had its moments of popularity in the late 1960s and 1970s.

The trial hinged on two legal questions: Did members of Zeppelin have sufficient opportunities to hear “Taurus” played and, if so, was the opening of “Stairway” substantially similar to Wolfe’s song.

The two bands did play at the same music festivals on occasion and the lawyer representing Wolfe’s estate* dredged up an old news report where Page acknowledged a fondness for Spirit’s music, but no one could authentically recall a concert where Spirit played “Taurus” and members of Zeppelin were definitely watching.

*Wolfe drowned in the Pacific Ocean in 1997 after saving his young son from a rip tide.

So I YouTubed “Randy Wolfe/Taurus” and if you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s worth doing so.  I think Zeppelin took “part” of the opening riff, but obviously not all of it (Wolfe’s version blows), and the boys improved on it. And for that, Plant and Page are definitely innocent.

Top 3 songs for the week 6/29/74: #1 “Sundown” (Gordon Lightfoot)  #2 “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” (Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods)  #3 “You Make Me Feel Brand New” (The Stylistics)...and...#4 “Be Thankful For What You Got” (William DeVaughn...one-hit wonder, good tune for its time...)  #5 “If You Love Me (Let Me Know)” (Olivia Newton-John)  #6 “Rock The Boat” (The Hues Corporation)  #7 “Hollywood Swinging” (Kool & The Gang) #8 “Band On The Run” (Paul McCartney & Wings)  #9 “Rock Your Baby” (George McCrae)  #10 “Annie’s Song” (John Denver)

Wimbledon Quiz Answer: Women’s top ten seeds....

1. Serena Williams
2. Garbine Muguruza, Spain
3. Agnieszka Radwanska, Poland
4. Angelique Kerber, Germany
5. Simona Halep, Romania
6. Roberta Vinci, Italy
7. Belinda Bencic, Switzerland
8. Venus Williams
9. Madison Keys, U.S.
10. Petra Kvitova, Czech Republic

Top five men’s seeds....

1. Novak Djokovic
2. Andy Murray
3. Roger Federer
4. Stan Wawrinka
5. Kei Nishikori

Next Bar Chat, Thursday.

 



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Bar Chat

06/27/2016

Go Navy!

[Posted Sunday p.m. prior to Kershaw and the Copa America finale, because it’s “Game of Thrones” time.]

Wimbledon Quiz: Things kick off at The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club on Monday.  To prove just how sad the state of Women’s tennis is these days (and the men aren’t much better with Nadal out), I’ll give you the initials of the Top 10 seeds for the girls and see how many you can get.  S.W., G.M., A.R., A.K., S.H., R.V., B.B., V.W., M.K., P.K.  Answer below.

Golf Balls

This sport takes the lead this week because of what happened at the PGA Tour event at Congressional, the Quicken Loans National hosted by Tiger Woods on behalf of his foundation.

Billy Hurley III picked up his first tour win at age 34, but it was far more than just that.  Hurley is a Naval Academy grad who served his country for five years before embarking on a professional golf career.  When all my golf sources roll in tonight and tomorrow, I’ll have far more for next chat, but as CBS’ Peter Kostas said, correctly, this is the golf story of the year.

I mean this is a guy who was ranked 600 in the world and had a best Tour finish of fourth before putting it all together today.

I was going to be writing what a lousy year it has been for golf, but then out of nowhere this event provided a fascinating leaderboard.  For example, Vijay Singh ended up finishing second, as he almost became the oldest PGA Tour winner at age 53!

Ernie Els, 46, finished fifth, not having won in four years.  21-year-old Jon Rahm was playing in his very first tour event since turning pro and finished tied for third (with Wake’s Bill Haas); spectacular.

So just some great moments in the world of sports outside Washington this weekend.

--Addressing the press before the tournament began, Tiger Woods said he’s making progress in his return to golf.

“I’m excited about what’s transpired so far.”  He said he’s been able to play back-to-back rounds, but doesn’t want to return until he can log four to five straight.

It’s about trying to recover for the next day.  I guess I still need to get in golf shape.”

Tiger said he was worried about losing distance but noted he’s actually gained some.  Bottom line, still no word if he’ll be returning this year, but I’ve said since day one I wouldn’t rule out his playing in the PGA Championship at Baltusrol end of July.  [After watching Tiger in the booth this afternoon, though, don’t quote me on this.]

--The PGA Tour canceled the Greenbrier Classic slated for July 7 because of extensive flood damage at not just the resort, but the entire surrounding area.  It’s just very sad what has happened to the region, with at least 24 dead at this point and thousands of lives in ruins.

This is the first PGA event canceled because of weather since 2009.

MLB

--Turbulent weekend for the Mets.  After a terrible loss Thursday night in Atlanta to the lowly Braves, 4-3, as the bullpen blew up, the Mets almost blew an 8-0 lead Friday before hanging on, 8-6, over the Bravos, and Saturday they eked out a 1-0, 11-inning affair on former Braves player Kelly Johnson’s pinch-hit home run in a day that saw the Mets sign their old friend and star, Jose Reyes, to a minor league deal, while sending down outfielder Michael Conforto, who was All-World in April, but had hit an astoundingly atrocious .148 since May 1 (21-for-142!)  As GM Sandy Alderson correctly put it, “Frankly, we felt we put it off (the demotion) probably a little too long.”

At least Conforto, who yours truly, and everyone else, thought was destined for superstardom, is handling it well and the guess here is he’s back shortly after the All-Star break.

But back to the 1-0 game Saturday, the Mets wasted eight scoreless by starter Jacob deGrom who is 3-4, 2.67, in 13 starts.  He hasn’t won since April 30, while over his last 41 innings, the Mets have scored a whopping two runs for him as he has pitched to a 2.45 ERA.

Sunday the Mets lost 5-2 and head to Washington for an important three-game series with the Nats, three back.

Nationals 44-32
Mets 40-34
Marlins 41-35

Washington snapped a seven-game losing streak Sunday, 3-2 over the Brewers, as Tanner Roark filled in for the injured Stephen Strasburg, Strasburg having been placed on the 15-day DL with an upper back strain.

--Joel Sherman of the New York Post had an interesting piece Sunday on how the next 14 games are critical for the Yankees in terms of the contracts of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.  As in if they don’t perform, it’s time to cut them loose.

Last year the two combined for 64 homers and 165 RBIs.  This season the two have a combined 12 home runs, 39 RBIs (thru Sunday) and a .268 on-base percentage (thru Sat.), which is beyond putrid, the Yankees falling back to .500 (37-37) after a 7-1 loss to the Twinkies.

But to release them means eating the remainder of their contracts (Teixeira being in his last year at $22.5m; A-Rod being owed $20m+ this year and next), but as Sherman points out, the Rockies just ate $39 million on Jose Reyes’ deal through next year, while the Dodgers did the same with Carl Crawford ($35m).

“Both teams acted for what was best now and in the future.  If those clubs were willing to eat that much, would the Yankees?”

I think the Yankees keep both all year.  In the case of A-Rod, there would be way too much heat from fans wanting to see his 700th.  [He’s at 695.]

--Last week the Mets and Yankees each had home series, the Mets against the Royals, the Yankees against the Rockies, so it was another opportunity to see who drew better and for the first time in the 7 ½-year history of Citi Field and the new Yankee Stadium, more people paid to see the Mets than the Yanks when the two played home games on the same day.

Until Tuesday, the teams had hosted games on the same day 46 times since 2009, and the Yankees drew a larger attendance in all of them, averaging 41,346 fans, to the Mets’ 28,334.

But Tuesday, 40,122 packed Citi Field to see the Mets’ rematch with K.C., while 34,760 showed up in the Bronx to watch the Yankees take on the Rockies.  [Jared Diamond / Wall Street Journal]

--In other games Sunday, Miami’s Jose Fernandez did it again, moving his record at Marlins Park to a totally unfathomable 24-1, 1.48 ERA for his career as the Marlins defeated the Cubs 6-1.  Fernandez threw 7 innings and struck out 13.

--The White Sox’ Chris Sale became the majors’ first 13-game winner (13-2, 2.79) as Chicago defeated the Blue Jays 5-2.  I mean Sale has a shot at 25+, which would be remarkable for his time.

--We note the passing of former Met and Cub, Jim Hickman, 79.  He’s remembered fondly by both franchises.

“Gentleman Jim” of Tennessee came up to the Mets in 1962 and proceeded to have four highly mediocre seasons, averaging 15 home runs and 50 RBI while batting .240, but on those early Mets teams that made him a star.  He was also the first Met to hit three home runs in a game.

Hickman was part of a trade at the end of the 1966 season to the Dodgers for Tommy Davis, and Jim played sparingly one season in L.A., before he was traded to the Cubs where he really resurrected his career in 1969, hitting 21 homers in the Cubbies failed pennant drive that year, before at the age of 33, Hickman had a career year in 1970, slamming 32 homers and driving in 115, while batting .315 with a 1.001 OPS.  He made his only All-Star team.

In that All-Star game, it was Hickman who drove in Pete Rose as Rose famously barreled over Indians catcher Ray Fosse in the National League’s 5-4 win.

Hickman finished his career in 1974 with St. Louis and ended up with 159 home runs and 560 RBI to go along with his .252 average. RIP, Gentleman Jim.

--In the College World Series we are down to two...rather startlingly, unranked Arizona and #16 Coastal Carolina.

The CWS is nowhere near as well-followed as March Madness, but picture a final two of 16 and unranked in the latter. 

Best of three play begins Monday in Omaha. 

And not for nuthin’, but do you think golfer Dustin Johnson, who played at Coastal Carolina, might be sending out some positive vibes to his fellow Chanticleers after his superb U.S. Open triumph?.

NBA Draft...and stuff...

Boy, talk about being disinterested in the draft, that was yours truly.  I just looked at the list of 60 selected and I follow the sport pretty closely, but a lot of these guys are a total mystery to me and as we all know, half of the first-rounders never pan out, let alone at least 2/3s of the second-rounders.

But for the record, the first five were....

1. Philadelphia, Ben Simmons, F, LSU
2. LA Lakers, Brandon Ingram, F, Duke
3. Boston, Jaylen Brown, F, California
4. Phoenix, Dragan Bender, F, Croatia
5. Minnesota, Kris Dunn, G, Providence

Among the players I gave a damn about, Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield went No. 6 to New Orleans; Brice Johnson, F, UNC, went No. 25 to the Clippers; Isaiah Whitehead, G, Seton Hall, ended up in Brooklyn with the No. 42 selection (acquired in a trade of picks with Utah) and that’s about it because, as expected, Wichita State’s backcourt tandem of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker weren’t drafted, with the Knicks, though, apparently having an interest in Baker.

One guy I commented on before, Maryland center Diamond Stone, should have stayed in school another year, but noooo...the freshman went out and was a whopping No. 40 by New Orleans (then acquired by the Clippers).  Yeah, I know...take the money when you can, but this guy would have easily been a top 15 selection next year, assuming his game improved over his first season.

Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics, who had eight picks in the two rounds, were expected to take advantage of their situation, using the picks to acquire something of note and instead it was....

3. Jaylen Brown, F, California
16. Guerschon Yabusele, F, France
23. Ante Zizic, C, Croatia

Brown is OK, I guess.  He wore a coat and tie and was well-spoken and all, but the other two?  Who the hell are they?  I’ve never seen such a consensus from the writers/commentators that these two are “way underwhelming,” neither deemed being close to ready for play at the NBA level.

Actually, some reports I read totally panned Brown as well and he got booed at the Celtics’ draft party.  Apparently he just doesn’t have a jump shot.

Separately, I like the Warriors’ pick of Vanderbilt’s Damian Jones at No. 30.  Big guy’s got game.

--The Knicks acquired former MVP Derrick Rose from the Bulls for center Robin Lopez and point guards Jerian Grant and Jose Calderon.  Basically, the Knicks gave up little (though I kind of liked the way Lopez played last year, and assuming Grant doesn’t develop into something good), but on the other hand, Rose hasn’t been healthy in five seasons.  Last year’s 66 games represented the most he had played in since his 2010-11 MVP season.  And he averaged only 16.4 points, 4.7 assists.

But, if Rose could stay on the court he’s better than what the Knicks had.  Plus he is entering the final year of his contract and aside from having a real incentive to perform, at which point the Knicks would surely extend him an offer, if he doesn’t pan out the Knicks don’t lose anything since none of what they gave up figured in any long-term plans team  president Phil Jackson has. 

Rose announced he was trying to recruit former teammate Joakim Noah, who the Knicks could use, especially since they gave up Lopez, but this seems doubtful at last word.

Also highly doubtful is any interest that free agent Kevin Durant might have in the Knicks.  His Roc Nation agency is arranging meetings starting July 1 with the Warriors, Celtics, Clippers, Heat and Spurs, plus OK City.  Late word has the Knicks also being given an invite, with all the meetings being held in New York, but I’m assuming this is an act of courtesy, nothing more, though Carmelo Anthony was reportedly spotted having dinner with Durant the other day.

--No one deserves a vacation more than LeBron James so he is skipping the Olympics to rest up.  When you reach the NBA Finals, you are putting in a full two months more than those players who don’t reach the playoffs, and this was the sixth consecutive trip to the Finals for James.

James also allayed any fears he might opt out of his contract and become a free agent.

“I love it here in Cleveland. I have no intentions of leaving,” he told ESPN during the championship parade.  James turns 32 at the end of December.

--Atlanta sent point guard Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers as part of a three-way deal that has George Hill going from the Pacers to the Jazz, and Utah sending the No. 12 pick in Thursday’s draft to Atlanta, which the Hawks used to select Baylor swingman Taurean Prince, while with their 21st pick, Atlanta took DeAndre Bembry, a shooting guard out of Saint Joe’s.

Former Demon Deacon Teague seemed to take a step back last year in averaging 15.7 points and 5.9 assists, and he posted on Instagram, later deleted, that he had played the entire season with a torn patellar tendon in his knee and “could barely jump or stop.”  But he did not require offseason surgery.

Euro 2016

When the Knockout Round of 16 was finally set up, it appeared we were ready for some terrific action, but Saturday’s play was largely dreadful.  Poland beat Switzerland on penalty kicks after 120 minutes of 1-1 action and what sucked here was that Switzerland was the better team, but once knockout games get into extra time (30 minutes’ worth), both sides suddenly seem to play too cautiously, willing to take their chances with their goalkeepers.

In the second game on Saturday, Wales beat Northern Ireland 1-0 on a late own goal by N. IRL’s Gareth McAuley, though there was little he could do on the play.  I saw a fair amount of this one and it was a terrible contest; yet Wales is now in the quarterfinals of their first major international tournament since the 1958 World Cup, which is a cool story.

In Saturday’s final game, Portugal defeated Croatia 1-0 on a late goal in extra time in what the BBC described as “a turgid affair for much of the 120 minutes.”

“The match in Lens was abysmal.”

I ended up watching a lot of it, mesmerized at just how bad a game it was!  Neither team had a shot on goal until late in extra time.  In fact, “There were no efforts on target until the goal in the 117th minute.”  That’s incredible.  Thankfully, I hadn’t paid good money to sit in the stands and I could do laundry and work on this column from the comfort of my own home.

Sunday, in a much better contest, France beat the Rep. of Ireland 2-1, with Ireland having a 1-0 lead at the half before France got their act together.

But Germany then rolled Slovakia, 3-0.

Belgium defeated Hungary 4-0, and with these last three results, my beloved Ireland is out, while any family connections (relatives in Budapest and Bratislava/Kosice) I had went by the wayside.

[Back when I was a kid I met an uncle in Prague, but with the breakup of Czechoslovakia, I consider myself more half Slovak than Czech, while my late uncle in Budapest I think was the only extended family member there...but I digress...except I have one of Uncle Geza’s paintings in my place.....Bernie Goldberg is here.  Bernie, what say you?]

--England’s Jamie Vardy signed a new four-year deal to stay with Leicester City, after rejecting a move to Arsenal, who was shocked Vardy did so.

--The U.S. lost to Colombia in the contest for third-place of the Copa America tournament, 1-0.

David Thatcher, RIP

One of the Doolittle Raiders, David Thatcher, died. He was 94 and the next-to-last survivor among the mission’s 80 airmen.

As reported by the New York Times’ Richard Goldstein:

His death leaves Richard Cole, age 100, as the last surviving veteran of a legendary chapter in Air Force history. Mr. Cole was a co-pilot alongside Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle, the raid’s commander and pilot of its lead plane.

“Corporal Thatcher, a 20-year-old from Montana, manned a pair of .50-caliber guns in the raid (April 18, 1942), retaliating for Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

“He rode in the rear of the Mitchell B-25 medium bomber christened the Ruptured Duck, the seventh of 16 planes launched from the aircraft carrier Hornet about 650 miles from Japan.

“The Ruptured Duck, encountering sporadic antiaircraft fire that missed its mark, dropped four bombs over Tokyo, including an incendiary device that struck a steel mill.

“Returning from the raid, the bomber crashed into the sea just off an island on China’s eastern coast as its pilot, Lt. Ted Lawson, tried for an emergency landing on a beach in a nighttime rainstorm while low on fuel.

“But the crewmen survived, in no small part because of Corporal Thatcher’s aid.  The ordeal was recounted in the 1943 best seller ‘Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,’ written by Lt. Lawson, a captain when he wrote the book, and the 1944 Hollywood movie of the same name, with Robert Walker as Corporal Thatcher.”

To make a long story short, of the five crewmembers of the Ruptured Duck, all suffered multiple injuries except Thatcher.  They were in Japanese-occupied territory, found by Chinese fishermen, who then gave them shelter.

Thatcher bandaged up the wounds of the others as best he could, with Lawson suffering from a deep gash on his left leg.  Not having more than a first-aid kit, which he used for Lawson, Thatcher had to rely on dirty rags the fishermen supplied him.

Thatcher, the only crew member able to walk, “joined with Chinese peasants and armed guerrillas to take the four injured airmen on a grueling five-day trek, by land and boat, to a hospital on the mainland,” somehow managing to evade Japanese troops.

Lawson’s leg was amputated and the entire crew of the Ruptured Duck was eventually evacuated.

Colonel Doolittle returned home soon after the raid and was awarded the Medal of Honor from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who sent letters to the families of all the raiders.

As cited in James M. Scott’s book “Target Tokyo” (2015), Colonel Doolittle told Corporal Thatcher’s parents that “all the plane’s crew were saved from either capture or death as a result of his initiative and courage in assuming responsibility and in tending the wounded himself day and night.”

Corporal Thatcher was awarded the Silver Star for valor.

Doolittle died in 1993.  A few years ago I wrote of the last reunion of the surviving airmen, a poignant affair where silver goblets have been turned over in tribute to the raiders who had died the previous year.  Now there is one.

Thatcher flew on bombing missions over Europe before being discharged from the armed forces in July 1945. He worked as a letter carrier in Missoula, Montana, after, and that is where he died on Wednesday. 

I couldn’t help but look up funeral arrangements in the local Missoulan.  They are Monday and there is to be a full military flyover as part of the ceremonies.  Yes, “Dick” Cole is expected to be in attendance, accompanied by his daughter.  I’d love to be there too.

One of Thatcher’s five children, Gary, died in South Vietnam, 1970.  He was an Army Ambulance pilot and was killed in a helicopter crash.

Stuff

--Congratulations to Tony “Smoke” Stewart for his win at this week’s NASCAR event at Sonoma, Stewart’s first in 84 races and 49th of his career.  It virtually guarantees him a spot in the season-ending Chase in this his ‘announced’ final season.

--There has never been a worse prelude to an Olympics than what we are seeing with the Rio Games.  The latest, the World Anti-Doping Agency, only weeks before the competition is set to begin, suspended the lab that was preparing to handle the drug testing.

WADA – the global regulator of doping in sports, cited a “nonconformity” with international standards.

The Rio de Janeiro lab had a prior disciplinary record, having been suspended a year before Brazil hosted the World Cup, though it was reinstated by WADA last year.

As Rebecca Ruiz of the New York Times reported:

“To win back its certification, the lab spent roughly 200 million Brazilian real, or about $60 million, to retrofit three floors of facilities at a federal university in Rio and train more than 90 technicians.  That included a substantial commitment of government money in the face of a pronounced recession.”

The lab can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland but it is highly unlikely the issue would be resolved in time for the start of the Games.

WADA said it would transfer samples to a different facility outside Brazil for testing.

I mean what a freakin’ mess.

--On a related topic, reigning Commonwealth 100m champion Kemar Bailey-Cole of Jamaica said this week he had been diagnosed with Zika, learning of the condition only because his girlfriend found a bump on his neck.

“I didn’t know I had the virus and I have been training with it for three days now,” he told a Jamaica newspaper.

Bailey-Cole won gold in the Olympic 4X100 relay alongside Usain Bolt at London 2012.

“I was experiencing back pains and muscle soreness, but I thought it was just soreness from the exercises I was doing,” the sprinter said.

He said “Recovering is not easy,” but he still planned to compete in this coming week’s Jamaica Olympic trials, where he will face Bolt, Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake for a spot on the national team.

--Time once again to ask, “What was Jim Grobe thinking in taking the ‘interim’ head coaching job at Baylor?”  Us Wake Forest fans want this good man to succeed, but, geezuz, what an incredibly tough spot he put himself in. 

The latest was five players who had signed binding National Letters of Intent and then requested their release when the sexual assault situation broke wide open have now been set free by Baylor; after Grobe, as was his and the school’s right, first insisted on talking to the kids and their parents.

--As I wrote last time, the NHL Board of Governors did approve expansion in Las Vegas, but the expansion draft is not to be held until after the upcoming 2016-17 season, so I promise this is the last time I mention it for about a year.

--Three decades ago, an antique dealer, now retired, purchased a painting titled “Les Fleurs d’Ete Dans un Gobelet” for a “nominal amount.”

But after years of sleuthing by a Connecticut auction house, and a thumb’s up from the Parisian institute that published the definitive catalog of works by Paul Gauguin, little Litchfield County (Conn.) Auctions is putting it up as a true work of the French master, whose stuff I really can’t stand but that’s beside the point.

Whoever the anonymous dealer is, he is going to make a killing.  It’s a smaller work, 13 X 9 inches, but should go for $300,000+ based on past sales of Gauguin that size.  Some of his bigger works have sold for as much as $300 million.

--There have been multiple reports in my state of New Jersey of rabid foxes.  One fellow, Jon Campbell, recently was attacked by one, as reported by NJ.com.

“Campbell was in the yard of his (northern N.J.) home cutting grass when the lone fox calmly walked right up to him. He recalled, at first glance, thinking it was a neighbor’s cat or dog.

“ ‘I was 100% calm,’ he said.  ‘Then I realized it was a fox.’

“Without having a chance to react, Campbell said the fox jumped up and bit him in the hip completely piercing through his clothing.

“ ‘He was attached at the hip,’ he said.  ‘It was parallel sticking out from my hip as I was smashing it with my hands.’

“Campbell said the fox looked to be about 15 to 20 pounds.

“ ‘It was bigger than a cat but smaller than a dog,’ he added.

“He fought to get the fox off of him, and eventually succeeded, but the fox kept coming back.

“ ‘It didn’t charge at me, it just kept treading back up to me,’ he said.  ‘It wasn’t hissing or foaming at the mouth or anything.’

“Campbell said the fox approached 15 to 20 more times and each time he kicked it in the head to fight it off. The final kick was to the chest, which punted the fox into the fence catching its leg long enough for Campbell to run inside.

“After cleaning out his wound, he headed out the door to drive to the emergency room. As he walked down his driveway he noticed the fox approaching him again.

“ ‘I thought ‘let me see if this guy is stupid enough to follow me,’’ he said.

“Campbell then headed to his garage in hopes the fox would follow, and it did.  Once inside the garage, he jumped over the fox and swiftly made it to the door, closing it behind him to trap the animal.  Inside, he could hear the animal jumping around and later found it had bit the handle of a metal gas can.

“ ‘It was like a terminator or a zombie,’ he said.

“The authorities arrived shortly after.

“Campbell was given a tetanus shot and was treated for his wound at the hospital, which he said was about two inches long and an eighth of an inch deep. He started a series of rabies shots the next morning.

“The fox was euthanized and a brain sample test for rabies came back positive,” according to police.

By the way, an expert told NJ.com that “you have one month to receive a rabies shot after coming in contact with an animal, but suggests receiving it immediately after being exposed.

“ ‘It all depends on where the bite is on the body,’ he said.  ‘The farther from the head, the longer you have.’”

How horrifying.  There have been at least four other positive tests for rabid foxes in New Jersey over the past year.

I told a friend who likes to hike in these parts that his number one fear should be foxes, not coyotes or bears.  I might spend more time running at the track rather than in the woods I normally frequent.  [I just had a flashback of running in the park about ten years ago when two foxes, chasing each other, shot right in front of me.  I should have died of a heart attack.  But at least it was pretty clear, I thought then, they weren’t rabid.]

--On a lighter animal note, voting is closed for the Hero Dog Awards, with the winners to be announced on July 6 at herodogawards.org.  There is a two-hour special on the Hallmark Channel in the fall.

I only know of this because I was reading of one candidate, Edo, from the Los Angeles Police Department.

From KABC (Los Angeles):

“One of two men wanted for robbery and murder was running away from LAPD officers when he stole a car and crashed it into a house.  When he ran into the home, a father and his three sons were inside. The man stabbed the father in the face and attempted to shoot the children when his gun jammed.

“When Officer Huynh and K-9 Edo arrived at the house, the man started shooting at them as they tried to enter the house.  As Edo engaged the man, the man shot himself in the head. Edo then pulled the man away from the gun.

Edo’s courageous actions saved the lives of the K-9 team and the father and sons.

--We note the passing of the great Bluegrass musician Ralph Stanley, 89.

Born and raised in Big Spraddle, Va., a land of coal mines and forests, Ralph and brother Carter formed the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys way back in 1946.  They were influenced by Bill Monroe and the Carter Family, but the Stanleys created their own distinctive sound with bandmate Pee Wee Lambert.

Carter Stanley died in 1966 of liver cancer and Ralph didn’t think he wanted to continue but the country music world told him not to quit and Ralph continued on for decades.

--Finally, on Thursday, a jury cleared Led Zeppelin of accusations that it stole the opening riff of one of rock music’s most celebrated songs, “Stairway to Heaven.”

The unanimous decision by the panel of eight men and women came after a week-long trial in which guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant took the stand to rebuff the claim of thievery and tell how they wrote their most famous song nearly 50 years ago.

At issue was whether Zeppelin took the opening passage from “Taurus,” an instrumental song by singer Randy Wolfe, who wrote and performed with the L.A. rock band Spirit.  Wolfe, who as a teenager played with Jimi Hendrix, is widely acknowledged as a master guitarist, while Spirit had its moments of popularity in the late 1960s and 1970s.

The trial hinged on two legal questions: Did members of Zeppelin have sufficient opportunities to hear “Taurus” played and, if so, was the opening of “Stairway” substantially similar to Wolfe’s song.

The two bands did play at the same music festivals on occasion and the lawyer representing Wolfe’s estate* dredged up an old news report where Page acknowledged a fondness for Spirit’s music, but no one could authentically recall a concert where Spirit played “Taurus” and members of Zeppelin were definitely watching.

*Wolfe drowned in the Pacific Ocean in 1997 after saving his young son from a rip tide.

So I YouTubed “Randy Wolfe/Taurus” and if you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s worth doing so.  I think Zeppelin took “part” of the opening riff, but obviously not all of it (Wolfe’s version blows), and the boys improved on it. And for that, Plant and Page are definitely innocent.

Top 3 songs for the week 6/29/74: #1 “Sundown” (Gordon Lightfoot)  #2 “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” (Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods)  #3 “You Make Me Feel Brand New” (The Stylistics)...and...#4 “Be Thankful For What You Got” (William DeVaughn...one-hit wonder, good tune for its time...)  #5 “If You Love Me (Let Me Know)” (Olivia Newton-John)  #6 “Rock The Boat” (The Hues Corporation)  #7 “Hollywood Swinging” (Kool & The Gang) #8 “Band On The Run” (Paul McCartney & Wings)  #9 “Rock Your Baby” (George McCrae)  #10 “Annie’s Song” (John Denver)

Wimbledon Quiz Answer: Women’s top ten seeds....

1. Serena Williams
2. Garbine Muguruza, Spain
3. Agnieszka Radwanska, Poland
4. Angelique Kerber, Germany
5. Simona Halep, Romania
6. Roberta Vinci, Italy
7. Belinda Bencic, Switzerland
8. Venus Williams
9. Madison Keys, U.S.
10. Petra Kvitova, Czech Republic

Top five men’s seeds....

1. Novak Djokovic
2. Andy Murray
3. Roger Federer
4. Stan Wawrinka
5. Kei Nishikori

Next Bar Chat, Thursday.