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05/25/2015

LeBron Does It Again

[Posted late Sun. pm]

Philadelphia Phillies Quiz: 1) Name the only two to have 250 hits in a single season. 2) Who holds the single-season RBI mark? 3) Name the pitcher who is the single-season leader in strikeouts. Answers below.

Indy 500

Yeah, you have to be a racing fan to appreciate just what a super finish we had at Indy, but it was spectacular racing as Juan Pablo Montoya of Colombia picked up his second 500 triumph (the first way back in 2000) in besting Will Power of Australia. 

After a restart following a 3-car crash on lap 175, it was neck and neck between Power and Montoya the rest of the way.

But understand Montoya was 30th after he was hit early and had to replace his rear wing (which was cool to see how easy it was to do this).

For team owner Roger Penske it was his 16th win at Indy.

It was also good that in the crashes that occurred during the race, none went airborne as was the case in practice.

NBA Playoffs

Houston-Golden State

Game 1...Warriors 110 Rockets 106...Steph Curry has 34 points and is 6 of 11 from three.
Game 2...Warriors 99 Rockets 98...Curry has 33, 5 of 11 from three; James Harden goes 38-10-9, but, at the end, he had a shot, passed it off, got it back, and then dribbled it away.
Game 3...Warriors 115 Rockets 80. Curry had 40, 7 of 9 from three. Harden was 3 of 16 from the field! No question who is the MVP, right Mr. Harden? Heh heh. 

I just have to say that while I love watching Curry play, the act with his mouthpiece is bush league.

Atlanta-Cleveland

Game 1...Cavs 97 Hawks 89...LeBron 31-8-6. Jeff Teague had 27 for the Hawks, but Atlanta was just 4 of 23 from three. The story of the game, though, was J.R. Smith, who backed up LeBron with 28, 8 of 12 from downtown.
Game 2...Cavs 94 Hawks 82...LeBron plays the point as Kyrie Irving is out with tendonitis, so LeBron carries the team, 30-9-11 assists. Atlanta was miserable, with no starter getting more than 12 points. So much for the home court advantage.
Game 3...Cavs 114 Hawks 111 OT...LeBron missed his first 10 field goal attempts, but finished with a triple-double, 37-18-13, including the key last two buckets in overtime, while the Hawks’ Al Horford was ejected on a flagrant 2 call in the first half; a huge and controversial decision that Atlanta was nonetheless able to come back from behind Jeff Teague’s 30.

--The Minnesota Timberwolves are making waves like they might be interested in trading their No. 1 overall draft pick. Which means, Knicks fans, that we could still conceivably make a deal to move up, although I don’t know what the heck we have to offer Minnesota in return aside from our No. 4. I get a kick out of those saying big men don’t matter anymore in today’s game, pointing to stars LeBron, Curry and Harden.

Don’t kid yourself. You can still build a franchise around either Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor. [See Anthony Davis.]

--Mike Lupica / New York Daily News...on Phil Jackson

“(He) has so rarely acted in public as if he truly wants to be here. But he IS here, and officially on the clock now, and we are going to have an idea soon enough if he really does have the energy and the vision to start to bring the Knicks back. All he has done so far is spend money, a ton of money, on Carmelo Anthony, and somehow manage to score a contract half as big as Anthony’s for himself. Oh, and he has done one other thing: Done as well with some of his weird tweets as he’s done running the Knicks.

“Of course it all changes if he drafts the right kid and brings in the right free agents and moves off his hey-you-kids-get-off-my-lawn stubbornness about his triangle offense, as if all he needs to do to start the Knicks toward the Canyon of Heroes is find enough players on the planet who fit his vision of offensive basketball. Truly, the first bold thing he needs to do is stand up and tell everybody – though not in a tweet – that he and his hand-picked coach, (Derek) Fisher, are going to fit their system to the players Jackson brings in, and not the other way around....

Jackson gave Tyson Chandler away and he gave away J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, who are going to end up in the NBA Finals, to the Cavaliers. Nobody is saying that any of them were part of the Knicks’ future. But they were assets, clearly, on the trading block. And when it came time to move them, Jackson looked as overmatched running the Knicks as Fisher had coaching it.

“Still: All of that is preamble to what starts happening right now. Not next summer, that’s just one more boondoggle, the Knicks deferring any accountability for the product they put on the floor. This summer, we will see if talented free agents want to come to New York and play for a legendary coach who doesn’t coach the team. We will find out if Jackson can select the right young player with the fourth pick in the draft, because that is all the Knicks ended up with after 65 losses. Or if he can make a smart trade with that pick – one good trade would immediately be a personal best for Jackson – and bring in a player who can help the Knicks next season, just because the Knicks right now need as much help as any Knicks team in the history of the franchise.”

--All-NBA first team...LeBron James, Stephen Curry (both unanimous, garnering 129 first-team votes apiece), James Harden, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol.

Second team...Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Paul, Pau Gasol and DeMarcus Cousins.

Third team...Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Tim Duncan, Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving.

--We note the passing of Harlem Globetrotters legend Marques Haynes, who died of natural causes at the age of 89.

Haynes was often called the greatest dribbler in basketball history and who can dispute this? He was the first member of the Globetrotters to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, in 1998.

Haynes was a scholastic All-American and helped Booker T. Washington High in Sand Springs, Okla., claim the unofficial national championship in 1941. He then led Langston (Okla.) University in scoring four years in a row, helping them compile a 112-3 record that included a 59-game winning streak.

In 1946, Haynes led Langston to a victory over the Globetrotters, catching the eye of owner Abe Saperstein. After graduation, Haynes then had two stints with the Globetrotters, 1947 to ’53, and from 1972 to ’79.

Growing up, ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” would showcase the Globetrotters at least once a year and that’s where the nation got to see them, if you didn’t catch them locally.

Stanley Cup Playoffs

Rangers-Lightning

Game 1...Rangers 2-1...13th consecutive one-goal game, 15 going back to last season
Game 2...Lightning 6-2
Game 3...Lighting 6-5 in overtime
Game 4...Rangers 5-1

Larry Brooks / New York Post

“For the first time in his 107-game playoff career, (Henrik) Lundqvist had allowed as many as five goals in consecutive matches, surrendering six in this 6-5 Game 3 defeat Wednesday just as he had on Monday at the Garden in the Blueshirts’ 6-2 drubbing.

“For the first time in 30 years, since a 6-5 loss in the final contest of an opening-round three-game sweep by the Flyers, the Rangers had lost a playoff match in which they had scored as many as five goals.”

The Rangers were only down 2-1 in the series, but even though this team has fought back time and time again in the playoffs the last few seasons, they seemed overmatched and with their star in a slump at the worst possible time.

Alas, Friday turned out to be what everyone in the New York area is now calling “A Night of Redemption,” as the Rangers defeated the Lightning in Tampa, 5-1, with King Henrik back at the top of his game, stopping 38 of 39 shots, while much-maligned Rick Nash lit the lamp for two goals and equally maligned Martin St. Louis broke an 0-for-18 game playoff scoring drought.

[Nash, who had a career-best 42 goals this season, with his two on Friday now has just nine in 57 playoff games as a Ranger. But the night before Game 4, he arranged a private showing of the new Entourage movie for his teammates, and the bonding obviously paid off.]

So it’s back to the Garden for Sunday’s contest....
And what a poor performance by the Rangers in Game 5 as they go down 2-0. Back to Tampa on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in the Anaheim-Chicago series.

Game 1...Anaheim 4-1
Game 2...Chicago 3-2 OT
Game 3....Anaheim 2-1
Game 4...Chicago 5-4 2OT

I watched all but a few minutes of Game 4 on Saturday, another great Stanley Cup contest. It was 1-1 heading into the third period and then the Blackhawks scored twice to make it 3-1, the second tally at the 7:38 mark. They were seemingly in control.

But just a minute later, Ryan Kessler scored for the Ducks at 8:42. Then Matt Beleskey at 9:05. Then Corey Perry at 9:19.

The Ducks had scored three goals in 37 seconds, the second-fastest in playoff history. The Chicago crowd, and Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, were shell-shocked.

But the Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane tied it at 4-4 at the 12:39 mark...five goals in 5:01. On to overtime after a six-goal third.

The first overtime flew by, and then in the second, Chicago’s Antoine Vermette won it at the 5:37 mark.

Scintillating stuff. Series tied 2-2.

MLB

--Josh Hamilton is set to play for the Rangers in Cleveland on Monday. During 12 games in his minor league rehab stint, he hit .364 with one homer and six RBIs. He also turned 34 on Thursday and has been recovering from right shoulder surgery.

--Prior to taking an 0-fer on Saturday, Bryce Harper had hit 11 home runs in 45 at-bats over 14 games.

In the Saturday contest, an 8-1 loss to the Phillies, the Nats’ Stephen Strasburg fell to 3-5, 6.50 ERA, as he’s yielded 15 earned runs in his last 12 innings.

--Saturday was a depressing day to be a Mets fan. New York learned David Wright’s lower-back pain resurfaced and he was diagnosed with stenosis – a narrowing of the spinal cavity in the middle of the lower back. He should be able to return but this is a degenerative issue and Wright, 32, is signed through 2020; earning $20 million a season through 2018, then $15 million in 2019 and $12 million in 2020.

In other words, it’s a killer. The guy who once averaged 159 games a season from 2005 through 2008, has now averaged 126 games from 2011 through 2014. This condition has ended the career of more than one ballplayer (and the football Giants’ David Wilson).

Then in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Matt Harvey went out and had the worst outing of his career, giving up 7 earned runs in just 4 innings in the Mets 8-2 loss to the Pirates. Harvey’s ERA jumped from 1.98 to 2.91. [Pittsburgh’s A.J. Burnett, Harvey’s mound opponent, is now 4-1, 1.37 as he tossed 7 innings of one-run ball, striking out 10.]

[Harvey’s start was in stark contrast to Jacob deGrom’s brilliance on Thursday. DeGrom retired the last 23 Cardinals he faced in a 5-0 win, going 8 innings and allowing just a first-inning single, while striking out 11 and walking none.]

Oh, and then the freakin’ Mets lost 9-1 on Sunday to fall to 24-21. So after a 13-3 start, they are 11-18 and playing just lousy, incredibly boring, baseball.

--The Yankees have also been dreadful, losing 9 of 10, while fielding atrociously. Friday night, Texas held on for a 10-9 win at Yankee Stadium as Prince Fielder hit two home runs, while Michael Pineda (5-2) saw his ERA balloon to 3.59. Then on Saturday, the Yanks lost 15-4 as Fielder clouted another. Prince’s power is coming back after last year’s neck surgery and he now has 8 HR and 30 RBI to go along with a .351 average heading into Sunday night’s game.

--Good for Kendrys Morales of the Royals. The slugger didn’t sign last year until June 8 with the Twins, then inked a two-year deal in the offseason with the Royals as they hoped he could rediscover the form that once produced a 34-108 season way back in 2009 with the Angels.

So this season he is off to a good start, batting .302 with six homers and a league-leading 37 RBIs.

--But Sunday, the Cardinals’ Michael Wacha moved to 7-0, 1.87 ERA, with a 6-1 win over the Royals. St. Louis is 9-0 in Wacha’s starts this season.

--Washington’s Max Scherzer continues to do what the Nationals hoped he would when they gave him that mammoth contract. Scherzer is 5-3, but with a 1.67 ERA and in 8 of his 9 starts has gone 7 innings.

--What a bizarre season Boston’s Hanley Ramirez is having. In April, he had 10 HR and 22 RBIs, while hitting .293. Thru Saturday, this month he has 0 HR and 0 RBI in 70 at-bats.

--San Diego’s James Shields moved to 6-0, 3.75, as the Padres defeated the Dodgers 11-3 on Sunday. [Without Shields, San Diego is 15-24.]

Shields is carving out quite a season. In 10 starts and 62 innings, he has 82 strikeouts, but he’s also given up 15 home runs. So he could become just the fourth pitcher in history to give up 40 home runs and strike out 200. The other three are Phil Niekro, 1979; Bert Blyleven, 1986; and Jack Morris, 1986.

--Seattle is a disappointing 20-23 and one big reason is the play of Robinson Cano, .247, with one home run and 11 RBI. That’s pathetic. For this he’s being paid $24 million, as he will each year through 2023. Really.

--Lots of talk among idiot Mets fans that they should make a run for Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki, who while just 30 is injury-prone a la David Wright, is owed a ton of money (starting with $20M per for 2016-19), and clearly his best years are already behind him.

This year for the Rockies, he’s been healthy, but is hitting .275 with 2 homers and 16 RBI. He also has just 4 walks in 142 ABs, for an on-base percentage of .291. That truly sucks. Take a pass, Metsies.

--So the Marlins replace manager Mike Redmond with general manager Dan Jennings and then proceed to lose the first five games under him to fall to 16-27.

But they’ve won their last two and I wouldn’t count them out for a wildcard spot. Giancarlo Stanton is emblematic of the team’s start, hitting only .228, but he still has 12 homers and 40 RBI.

--The Houston Astros are 29-16 and while their pitching has been solid (7th best ERA in baseball), check out their sluggers.

Chris Carter...7 HR 20 RBI, .170 BA
George Springer...6-16, .210
Luis Valbuena...10-16, .199
Evan Gattis...9-28, .201

So these four alone are on track for 115 home runs, but a combined .200 average. Remarkable. #DaveKingmanesque.

I mean Houston is hitting an MLB worst .228 and is still 13 games over .500.

--Thursday night, San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner once again matched up with L.A.’s Clayton Kershaw and the result was the same, advantage Bumgarner, as he pitched 6 and a third innings of shutout ball in the Giants’ 4-0 victory in San Francisco, while also crushing a 415-foot shot to left off Kershaw. It was the first time Kershaw gave up a home run to a pitcher

[I forgot Bumgarner hit four home runs last season, two of which were grand slams.]

Meanwhile, San Francisco not only swept the Dodgers, they shut them out all three games.

Tim Hudson and four relievers combined for a 2-0 shutout on Tuesday.
Tim Lincecum and three relievers combined for a 4-0 shutout.
Madison Bumgarnder and four relievers combined for a 4-0 shutout.

The Giants are 7-2 this season against their N.L. West rivals.

The Dodgers went 0-for-17 with runners in scoring position.

As for Bumgarner vs. Kershaw, the Giants have won all three in which the two have squared off this season.

Kershaw is just 2-3, 4.32 so far in 2015. Last year the Dodgers were 23-4 in games in which he started. They’ve already lost five games he started this season.

--The other day I noted the four-year performances of Clayton Kershaw and Sandy Koufax, so Ken P. said I should also note some other sterling four-year stretches.

Randy Johnson, 1999-2002

17-9, 2.48*, 364 strikeouts
19-7, 2.64, 347
21-6, 2.49*, 372
24-5, 2.32*, 334

*ERA title

[Johnson won the Cy Young all four seasons]

Pedro Martinez, 1997-2000

17-8, 1.90*, 305
19-7, 2.89, 251
23-4, 2.07*, 313
18-6, 1.74*, 284

[3 Cy Young awards and a second place]

Grover Alexander, 1914-17

27-15, 2.38
31-10, 1.22*
33-12, 1.55*
30-13, 1.83*

Lefty Grove, 1930-33

28-5, 2.54*
31-4, 2.06*
25-10, 2.84*
24-8, 3.20

--Milwaukee Brewers reliever Will Smith was suspended for eight games on Friday for having a foreign substance on his right arm during a game in Atlanta, specifically rosin and sunscreen. Smith, who plans to appeal, so the penalty is on hold, said after the game he put the substance on his forearm before warming up in the bullpen on a brisk night.

Saturday, Baltimore’s Brian Matusz was also ejected for having a sticky substance on his right arm.

--I’ve been writing for years now that baseball will be a prime beneficiary of the issues football has with concussions, and no doubt baseball will get some athletes that otherwise would have gravitated towards football.

But at the same time, I can’t ignore the depressing youth baseball statistics. Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal had the following in a recent piece.

Referring to the problems the city of Newburgh, N.Y., is having attracting Little Leaguers, the president of the local association said participation has been plummeting.

“Some parents told him their children were more interested in lacrosse. Others cited a preference for basketball or soccer....When the season began last month, the league had only 74 players spread across four age groups, down from 206 in 2009. ‘Over the last couple of years, it’s dropped like a rock,’ Jim Wilson said.”

While major league attendance has been strong the past few years, the sport is on the verge of losing millions of fans.

“ ‘The biggest predictor of fan avidity as an adult is whether you played the game,’ MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said. An MLB spokesman cited fan polling conducted by the league last year as proof. When asked to assess the factors that drove their interest in sports, fans between the ages of 12 and 17 cited participation as a major factor more often than watching or attending the sport....

“But MLB faces headwinds that have been years in the making and forces that are outside its direct control. In 2002, nine million people between the ages of 7 and 17 played baseball in the U.S., according to the National Sporting Goods Association, an industry trade group. By 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, that figure had dropped by more than 41%, to 5.3 million....

“Other popular sports, including soccer and basketball, have suffered as youth sports participation in general has declined and become more specialized. A pervasive emphasis on performance over mere fun and exercise has driven many children to focus exclusively on one sport from an early age, making it harder for all sports to attract casual participants. But the decline of baseball as a community sport has been especially precipitous.”

This sucks.

Golf Balls

--Chris Kirk won his 4th PGA Tour title at Colonial, 3rd in the past year, by one over three golfers, including Jordan Spieth.

--Colin Montgomerie won his second straight Senior PGA Championship, 3rd win in six senior majors, at French Lick by four strokes over Esteban Toledo.

--In a mini-shocker, Rory McIlroy missed the cut at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, a major European tour title he won last year. It was just his third cut in his last 45 tournaments.

But it was also his fourth straight tournament, following three PGA Tour events, a stretch that included two victories. He is now unofficial host for next week’s Irish Open at Royal County Down, which is a big deal for his foundation.

Premier League Final Standings

1. Chelsea 87 points
2. Man City 79
3. Arsenal 75
4. Man U 70
5. Tottenham 64
6. Liverpool 62

18. Hull City 35
19. Burnley 33
20. QPR 30

Little drama the final Sunday, with the only real question being could Hull avoid relegation. Alas, it couldn’t. Sad day for their fans after two years in the big leagues. [Burnley and QPR’s fate hasn’t been in question for a while.]

Tottenham snuck into fifth as it defeated Everton 1-0 (Harry Kane scored his 31st), while Liverpool was getting blitzed by Stoke City 6-1. Reminder, the top four advance to the Champions League.

Stuff

--North Carolina received a “Notice of Allegations” (NOA) from the NCAA over the organization’s second investigation into academic fraud in the school’s athletic department. The school now has 90 days to file a response if it intends to challenge any of the allegations (details won’t be released until a later date).

Then, once the institution and any involved individuals submit their responses to the NOA, the enforcement staff has 60 days to craft its own response to the Committee on Infractions (COI).

Once a hearing date and location are set, the enforcement staff and institution representatives present their cases to the COI. Hearings last a day or two and an infractions report is typically delivered 6-to-8 weeks following the hearing.

Ergo, it will take a while. The last time UNC received its NOA, in 2011, it was nine months before the infractions report was released.

As a result of the first investigation, the football team was banned from the postseason for one year and lost 15 scholarships. Football coach Butch Davis was fired and the athletic director resigned. This time it’s assumed the hoops program will get slammed.

--Michael Sam signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. Sam hopes that after six months of play in the CFL, he’ll get another shot at the NFL.

--Ray Rice had the domestic violence charges against him dropped upon completion of a pre-trial intervention program. So does the 28-year-old now get a second chance in the NFL? He was coming off his worst season in 2013 before the suspension, but there are lots of hangers-on in the sport.

Steve Politi / NJ.com

“(In) a league that routinely doles out second and third chances to players accused or convicted of serious crimes, is this really going to be the end of the 28-year-old former Rutgers star’s football career?

“That would truly be a sad ending, and a missed opportunity to let a contrite Rice continue to spread an anti-domestic violence message.”

--Darrelle Revis, who won a Super Bowl with the Patriots and then signed with the Jets, told Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, that with regards to Deflategate:

“Everybody’s blowing it up because it is Tom Brady. I understand that. But if (the NFL) feels he did the crime or he did something and they want to penalize them, then that’s that. (The Patriots) have a history of doing stuff. You can’t hide that... Tom was there when they did that stuff in the past.”

“That stuff” means Spygate, and, as Revis pointed out, Brady was, in fact, the quarterback while that happened.

--We now know that rock climbers Dean Potter and Graham Hunt, who died in a BASE-jumping accident at Yosemite National Park on May 16, were attempting to clear a “notch” (think mountaintop formation like a Stegosaurus) but slammed into the rock instead.

Potter and Hunt jumped around nightfall from Taft Point, an overlook about 3,000 feet above Yosemite Valley. They were wearing wingsuits, but neither of their parachutes deployed.

A spotter photographed the jump, but she couldn’t see them crash.

It seems that Hunt, who was a little behind Potter, suddenly veered off before they reached the narrow notch, perhaps thinking they both couldn’t fit through, but Hunt’s action may have disturbed Potter’s airflow.

25 wingsuit-fliers lost their lives last year alone, according to Potter, writing in his blog after his longtime friend and wingman, Sean Leary, died last year while BASE-jumping in Zion National Park.

--Sweden’s Mans Zemerlow won the final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna, beating a Russian singer who was booed by many in the audience, both because of Ukraine and Russia’s official government attitude towards gays. An uncomfortable moment, to say the least, for what is otherwise intended to be a celebration of all things Europe.

--The Brian Wilson biopic, “Love and Mercy,” that is coming out June 5, is getting some excellent reviews. Paul Dano and John Cusack both play Wilson during two key periods in his life.

--We note the passing of Anne Meara, 85, mother of actor/director Ben Stiller and long-time wife of Jerry Stiller. Us older folks fondly remember the first appearances of Stiller and Meara on the Ed Sullivan Show, way back. I mean who didn’t love them?

--Finally, for the archives I just need to note a few items from David Letterman’s final show, Wednesday, after 33 years. It really was terrific, and he hit all the right notes. Lots of old clips, but nothing maudlin. And a final Top 10 list, “Top 10 things I’ve always wanted to say to Dave,” read by Alec Baldwin, Barbara Walters, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, Chris Rock, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Peyton Manning, Tina Fey and Bill Murray (who was the lone guest on Tuesday).

I loved what Chris Rock said: “I’m just glad your show is being given to another white guy.”

And in Letterman’s self-deprecating fashion, it was funny when “Wheel of Fortune” spelled out “Good Riddance to David Letterman.”

Letterman said before he ran down a long list of gracious thanks to those who worked with him, “We’ve done more than 6,000 shows, and I can tell you a pretty high percentage absolutely sucked.”

David Hinckley / New York Daily News

“At one time Letterman defined late-night cool, and it’s not his doing or concern that the standard of cool is a moving target. He arrived as Dave, he left as Dave.”

Hank Stuever / Washington Post

Foo Fighters, one of Letterman’s favorite bands, played their hit ‘Everlong’ and the show went out on a wonderfully jam-packed montage of images from 33 years and more than 6,000 shows. [Ed. this was fantastic.]

“So many memories and images flew by in just a few minutes – it was mesmerizing and perhaps it was designed to distract the die-hard fans among us, who felt a personal investment in many of those scenes. The show ran about 18 minutes longer than its usual hour, but even then it seemed that maybe there might be more. The song led right to the credits (which very sweetly featured the names and photos of the entire crew and staff) and then viewers realized: Letterman’s ‘Late Show’ had ducked out the back door while we wallowed. Nicely done, Dave.”

Top 3 songs for the week 5/26/73: #1 “Frankenstein” (The Edgar Winter Group) #2 “My Love” (Paul McCartney & Wings) #3 “Daniel” (Elton John)...and...#4 “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree” (Dawn featuring Tony Orlando) #5 “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” (Stevie Wonder) #6 “Pillow Talk” (Sylvia...great tune...) #7 “Little Willy” (The Sweet) #8 “Drift Away” (Dobie Gray) #9 “Wildflower” (Skylark) #10 “Hocus Pocus” (Focus)

Philadelphia Phillies Quiz Answers: 1) Lefty O’Doul* had 254 hits in 1929 and Chuck Klein had 250 in 1930. O’Doul had an interesting career, including a .349 career average in 11 seasons, though 1929 was really his first full one at the age of 32. From 1929-32 (the last two with Brooklyn), he hit .398, .383, .336 and .368.  In ’29 he added 32 homers and 122 RBI, plus he scored 152 runs and finished second in the MVP balloting. Meanwhile, Chuck Klein’s 1930 season was a huge one. 59 doubles, 8 triples 40 HR, 170 RBI, to go along with a .386 average. Yet he was overshadowed by the likes of Hack Wilson and his 56 HR 191 RBI. 3) Curt Schilling, not Steve Carlton, is the single-season strikeout leader with 319 in 1997.

*So O’Doul was originally a pitcher and was OK in the minors so in 1919, the Yankees called him up but he hurt his arm and was used primarily as a pinch hitter and outfielder. He was then returned to San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League, recalled to the Yanks in 1922, appearing in just eight games, and then traded to Boston. In one game in 1923, July 7, he participated in what came to be known as “The Indian Massacre,” the Red Sox losing 27-3. O’Doul faced 16 batters and surrendered 13 runs in one inning. That was the account in Total Baseball’s “Biographical Encyclopedia.”

So I looked it up on Baseball Reference. In the massacre, O’Doul pitched the middle three innings, allowing 11 hits and 8 walks, but of the 16 runs he was charged with, only three were earned!

And get this, this was the first of two that day, but the time of the game was just 2:10! 27-3, walks galore, played in two hours and 10 minutes?! Seems impossible.

Anyway, O’Doul, “Mr. Pacific Coast League,” settled back in the PCL, one year hitting .392 for Salt Lake City and the next collecting 309 hits and 191 RBI, aided by the high altitude and the park’s small dimensions, and then he was back in San Francisco.

In 1928, he played for John McGraw and the New York Giants, hitting .319 (he’s now 31 years old), but the Giants gave up on him because as talented a hitter as he was, he couldn’t field or throw. A sportswriter for the San Francisco Chronicle once said: “He could run like a deer. Unfortunately, he threw like one too.”

But the next season he ended up in Philadelphia and banged out that .398 with 32 homers. 

From Total Baseball: “With two games left to play, he had 247 hits, three short of Rogers Hornsby’s National League record. The two contests were against the Giants, and John McGraw started two quality left-handers. However, O’Doul went 7-for-7 to set a new NL hit record with 254 (tied the next season by Bill Terry).”

After his major league playing career was over, O’Doul went back to the PCL where he was a successful manager, and he developed quite a reputation as a hitting instructor, helping develop Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams.

O’Doul is also a key figure in the development of Japanese baseball, having made 20 trips there. After its defeat in World War II, O’Doul returned to the country to help restore the game and the defeated nation’s morale.

He then founded a popular restaurant in San Francisco and it exists to this day, Lefty O’Doul’s Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge.

Next Bar Chat, Thursday...an abbreviated one. But Premier League junkies will want to tune in.

Memorial Day

Oliver Wendell Holmes, May 30, 1884, Keene, NH

So to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up we may answer, it celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting greatly. To fight out a war, you must believe something and want something with all your might. So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching. More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to a course, perhaps a long and hard one, without being able to foresee exactly where you will come out. All that is required of you is that you should go some whither as hard as ever you can. The rest belongs to fate. One may fall – at the beginning of the charge or at the top of the earthworks; but in no other way can he reach the rewards of victory.

When it was felt so deeply as it was on both sides that a man ought to take part in the war unless some conscientious scruple or strong practical reason made it impossible, was that feeling simply the requirement of a local majority that their neighbors should agree with them? I think not: I think the feeling was right – in the South as in the North. I think that, as life is action and passion, it is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of his time at peril of being judged not to have lived.



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-05/25/2015-      
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Bar Chat

05/25/2015

LeBron Does It Again

[Posted late Sun. pm]

Philadelphia Phillies Quiz: 1) Name the only two to have 250 hits in a single season. 2) Who holds the single-season RBI mark? 3) Name the pitcher who is the single-season leader in strikeouts. Answers below.

Indy 500

Yeah, you have to be a racing fan to appreciate just what a super finish we had at Indy, but it was spectacular racing as Juan Pablo Montoya of Colombia picked up his second 500 triumph (the first way back in 2000) in besting Will Power of Australia. 

After a restart following a 3-car crash on lap 175, it was neck and neck between Power and Montoya the rest of the way.

But understand Montoya was 30th after he was hit early and had to replace his rear wing (which was cool to see how easy it was to do this).

For team owner Roger Penske it was his 16th win at Indy.

It was also good that in the crashes that occurred during the race, none went airborne as was the case in practice.

NBA Playoffs

Houston-Golden State

Game 1...Warriors 110 Rockets 106...Steph Curry has 34 points and is 6 of 11 from three.
Game 2...Warriors 99 Rockets 98...Curry has 33, 5 of 11 from three; James Harden goes 38-10-9, but, at the end, he had a shot, passed it off, got it back, and then dribbled it away.
Game 3...Warriors 115 Rockets 80. Curry had 40, 7 of 9 from three. Harden was 3 of 16 from the field! No question who is the MVP, right Mr. Harden? Heh heh. 

I just have to say that while I love watching Curry play, the act with his mouthpiece is bush league.

Atlanta-Cleveland

Game 1...Cavs 97 Hawks 89...LeBron 31-8-6. Jeff Teague had 27 for the Hawks, but Atlanta was just 4 of 23 from three. The story of the game, though, was J.R. Smith, who backed up LeBron with 28, 8 of 12 from downtown.
Game 2...Cavs 94 Hawks 82...LeBron plays the point as Kyrie Irving is out with tendonitis, so LeBron carries the team, 30-9-11 assists. Atlanta was miserable, with no starter getting more than 12 points. So much for the home court advantage.
Game 3...Cavs 114 Hawks 111 OT...LeBron missed his first 10 field goal attempts, but finished with a triple-double, 37-18-13, including the key last two buckets in overtime, while the Hawks’ Al Horford was ejected on a flagrant 2 call in the first half; a huge and controversial decision that Atlanta was nonetheless able to come back from behind Jeff Teague’s 30.

--The Minnesota Timberwolves are making waves like they might be interested in trading their No. 1 overall draft pick. Which means, Knicks fans, that we could still conceivably make a deal to move up, although I don’t know what the heck we have to offer Minnesota in return aside from our No. 4. I get a kick out of those saying big men don’t matter anymore in today’s game, pointing to stars LeBron, Curry and Harden.

Don’t kid yourself. You can still build a franchise around either Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor. [See Anthony Davis.]

--Mike Lupica / New York Daily News...on Phil Jackson

“(He) has so rarely acted in public as if he truly wants to be here. But he IS here, and officially on the clock now, and we are going to have an idea soon enough if he really does have the energy and the vision to start to bring the Knicks back. All he has done so far is spend money, a ton of money, on Carmelo Anthony, and somehow manage to score a contract half as big as Anthony’s for himself. Oh, and he has done one other thing: Done as well with some of his weird tweets as he’s done running the Knicks.

“Of course it all changes if he drafts the right kid and brings in the right free agents and moves off his hey-you-kids-get-off-my-lawn stubbornness about his triangle offense, as if all he needs to do to start the Knicks toward the Canyon of Heroes is find enough players on the planet who fit his vision of offensive basketball. Truly, the first bold thing he needs to do is stand up and tell everybody – though not in a tweet – that he and his hand-picked coach, (Derek) Fisher, are going to fit their system to the players Jackson brings in, and not the other way around....

Jackson gave Tyson Chandler away and he gave away J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, who are going to end up in the NBA Finals, to the Cavaliers. Nobody is saying that any of them were part of the Knicks’ future. But they were assets, clearly, on the trading block. And when it came time to move them, Jackson looked as overmatched running the Knicks as Fisher had coaching it.

“Still: All of that is preamble to what starts happening right now. Not next summer, that’s just one more boondoggle, the Knicks deferring any accountability for the product they put on the floor. This summer, we will see if talented free agents want to come to New York and play for a legendary coach who doesn’t coach the team. We will find out if Jackson can select the right young player with the fourth pick in the draft, because that is all the Knicks ended up with after 65 losses. Or if he can make a smart trade with that pick – one good trade would immediately be a personal best for Jackson – and bring in a player who can help the Knicks next season, just because the Knicks right now need as much help as any Knicks team in the history of the franchise.”

--All-NBA first team...LeBron James, Stephen Curry (both unanimous, garnering 129 first-team votes apiece), James Harden, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol.

Second team...Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Paul, Pau Gasol and DeMarcus Cousins.

Third team...Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Tim Duncan, Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving.

--We note the passing of Harlem Globetrotters legend Marques Haynes, who died of natural causes at the age of 89.

Haynes was often called the greatest dribbler in basketball history and who can dispute this? He was the first member of the Globetrotters to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, in 1998.

Haynes was a scholastic All-American and helped Booker T. Washington High in Sand Springs, Okla., claim the unofficial national championship in 1941. He then led Langston (Okla.) University in scoring four years in a row, helping them compile a 112-3 record that included a 59-game winning streak.

In 1946, Haynes led Langston to a victory over the Globetrotters, catching the eye of owner Abe Saperstein. After graduation, Haynes then had two stints with the Globetrotters, 1947 to ’53, and from 1972 to ’79.

Growing up, ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” would showcase the Globetrotters at least once a year and that’s where the nation got to see them, if you didn’t catch them locally.

Stanley Cup Playoffs

Rangers-Lightning

Game 1...Rangers 2-1...13th consecutive one-goal game, 15 going back to last season
Game 2...Lightning 6-2
Game 3...Lighting 6-5 in overtime
Game 4...Rangers 5-1

Larry Brooks / New York Post

“For the first time in his 107-game playoff career, (Henrik) Lundqvist had allowed as many as five goals in consecutive matches, surrendering six in this 6-5 Game 3 defeat Wednesday just as he had on Monday at the Garden in the Blueshirts’ 6-2 drubbing.

“For the first time in 30 years, since a 6-5 loss in the final contest of an opening-round three-game sweep by the Flyers, the Rangers had lost a playoff match in which they had scored as many as five goals.”

The Rangers were only down 2-1 in the series, but even though this team has fought back time and time again in the playoffs the last few seasons, they seemed overmatched and with their star in a slump at the worst possible time.

Alas, Friday turned out to be what everyone in the New York area is now calling “A Night of Redemption,” as the Rangers defeated the Lightning in Tampa, 5-1, with King Henrik back at the top of his game, stopping 38 of 39 shots, while much-maligned Rick Nash lit the lamp for two goals and equally maligned Martin St. Louis broke an 0-for-18 game playoff scoring drought.

[Nash, who had a career-best 42 goals this season, with his two on Friday now has just nine in 57 playoff games as a Ranger. But the night before Game 4, he arranged a private showing of the new Entourage movie for his teammates, and the bonding obviously paid off.]

So it’s back to the Garden for Sunday’s contest....
And what a poor performance by the Rangers in Game 5 as they go down 2-0. Back to Tampa on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in the Anaheim-Chicago series.

Game 1...Anaheim 4-1
Game 2...Chicago 3-2 OT
Game 3....Anaheim 2-1
Game 4...Chicago 5-4 2OT

I watched all but a few minutes of Game 4 on Saturday, another great Stanley Cup contest. It was 1-1 heading into the third period and then the Blackhawks scored twice to make it 3-1, the second tally at the 7:38 mark. They were seemingly in control.

But just a minute later, Ryan Kessler scored for the Ducks at 8:42. Then Matt Beleskey at 9:05. Then Corey Perry at 9:19.

The Ducks had scored three goals in 37 seconds, the second-fastest in playoff history. The Chicago crowd, and Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, were shell-shocked.

But the Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane tied it at 4-4 at the 12:39 mark...five goals in 5:01. On to overtime after a six-goal third.

The first overtime flew by, and then in the second, Chicago’s Antoine Vermette won it at the 5:37 mark.

Scintillating stuff. Series tied 2-2.

MLB

--Josh Hamilton is set to play for the Rangers in Cleveland on Monday. During 12 games in his minor league rehab stint, he hit .364 with one homer and six RBIs. He also turned 34 on Thursday and has been recovering from right shoulder surgery.

--Prior to taking an 0-fer on Saturday, Bryce Harper had hit 11 home runs in 45 at-bats over 14 games.

In the Saturday contest, an 8-1 loss to the Phillies, the Nats’ Stephen Strasburg fell to 3-5, 6.50 ERA, as he’s yielded 15 earned runs in his last 12 innings.

--Saturday was a depressing day to be a Mets fan. New York learned David Wright’s lower-back pain resurfaced and he was diagnosed with stenosis – a narrowing of the spinal cavity in the middle of the lower back. He should be able to return but this is a degenerative issue and Wright, 32, is signed through 2020; earning $20 million a season through 2018, then $15 million in 2019 and $12 million in 2020.

In other words, it’s a killer. The guy who once averaged 159 games a season from 2005 through 2008, has now averaged 126 games from 2011 through 2014. This condition has ended the career of more than one ballplayer (and the football Giants’ David Wilson).

Then in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Matt Harvey went out and had the worst outing of his career, giving up 7 earned runs in just 4 innings in the Mets 8-2 loss to the Pirates. Harvey’s ERA jumped from 1.98 to 2.91. [Pittsburgh’s A.J. Burnett, Harvey’s mound opponent, is now 4-1, 1.37 as he tossed 7 innings of one-run ball, striking out 10.]

[Harvey’s start was in stark contrast to Jacob deGrom’s brilliance on Thursday. DeGrom retired the last 23 Cardinals he faced in a 5-0 win, going 8 innings and allowing just a first-inning single, while striking out 11 and walking none.]

Oh, and then the freakin’ Mets lost 9-1 on Sunday to fall to 24-21. So after a 13-3 start, they are 11-18 and playing just lousy, incredibly boring, baseball.

--The Yankees have also been dreadful, losing 9 of 10, while fielding atrociously. Friday night, Texas held on for a 10-9 win at Yankee Stadium as Prince Fielder hit two home runs, while Michael Pineda (5-2) saw his ERA balloon to 3.59. Then on Saturday, the Yanks lost 15-4 as Fielder clouted another. Prince’s power is coming back after last year’s neck surgery and he now has 8 HR and 30 RBI to go along with a .351 average heading into Sunday night’s game.

--Good for Kendrys Morales of the Royals. The slugger didn’t sign last year until June 8 with the Twins, then inked a two-year deal in the offseason with the Royals as they hoped he could rediscover the form that once produced a 34-108 season way back in 2009 with the Angels.

So this season he is off to a good start, batting .302 with six homers and a league-leading 37 RBIs.

--But Sunday, the Cardinals’ Michael Wacha moved to 7-0, 1.87 ERA, with a 6-1 win over the Royals. St. Louis is 9-0 in Wacha’s starts this season.

--Washington’s Max Scherzer continues to do what the Nationals hoped he would when they gave him that mammoth contract. Scherzer is 5-3, but with a 1.67 ERA and in 8 of his 9 starts has gone 7 innings.

--What a bizarre season Boston’s Hanley Ramirez is having. In April, he had 10 HR and 22 RBIs, while hitting .293. Thru Saturday, this month he has 0 HR and 0 RBI in 70 at-bats.

--San Diego’s James Shields moved to 6-0, 3.75, as the Padres defeated the Dodgers 11-3 on Sunday. [Without Shields, San Diego is 15-24.]

Shields is carving out quite a season. In 10 starts and 62 innings, he has 82 strikeouts, but he’s also given up 15 home runs. So he could become just the fourth pitcher in history to give up 40 home runs and strike out 200. The other three are Phil Niekro, 1979; Bert Blyleven, 1986; and Jack Morris, 1986.

--Seattle is a disappointing 20-23 and one big reason is the play of Robinson Cano, .247, with one home run and 11 RBI. That’s pathetic. For this he’s being paid $24 million, as he will each year through 2023. Really.

--Lots of talk among idiot Mets fans that they should make a run for Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki, who while just 30 is injury-prone a la David Wright, is owed a ton of money (starting with $20M per for 2016-19), and clearly his best years are already behind him.

This year for the Rockies, he’s been healthy, but is hitting .275 with 2 homers and 16 RBI. He also has just 4 walks in 142 ABs, for an on-base percentage of .291. That truly sucks. Take a pass, Metsies.

--So the Marlins replace manager Mike Redmond with general manager Dan Jennings and then proceed to lose the first five games under him to fall to 16-27.

But they’ve won their last two and I wouldn’t count them out for a wildcard spot. Giancarlo Stanton is emblematic of the team’s start, hitting only .228, but he still has 12 homers and 40 RBI.

--The Houston Astros are 29-16 and while their pitching has been solid (7th best ERA in baseball), check out their sluggers.

Chris Carter...7 HR 20 RBI, .170 BA
George Springer...6-16, .210
Luis Valbuena...10-16, .199
Evan Gattis...9-28, .201

So these four alone are on track for 115 home runs, but a combined .200 average. Remarkable. #DaveKingmanesque.

I mean Houston is hitting an MLB worst .228 and is still 13 games over .500.

--Thursday night, San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner once again matched up with L.A.’s Clayton Kershaw and the result was the same, advantage Bumgarner, as he pitched 6 and a third innings of shutout ball in the Giants’ 4-0 victory in San Francisco, while also crushing a 415-foot shot to left off Kershaw. It was the first time Kershaw gave up a home run to a pitcher

[I forgot Bumgarner hit four home runs last season, two of which were grand slams.]

Meanwhile, San Francisco not only swept the Dodgers, they shut them out all three games.

Tim Hudson and four relievers combined for a 2-0 shutout on Tuesday.
Tim Lincecum and three relievers combined for a 4-0 shutout.
Madison Bumgarnder and four relievers combined for a 4-0 shutout.

The Giants are 7-2 this season against their N.L. West rivals.

The Dodgers went 0-for-17 with runners in scoring position.

As for Bumgarner vs. Kershaw, the Giants have won all three in which the two have squared off this season.

Kershaw is just 2-3, 4.32 so far in 2015. Last year the Dodgers were 23-4 in games in which he started. They’ve already lost five games he started this season.

--The other day I noted the four-year performances of Clayton Kershaw and Sandy Koufax, so Ken P. said I should also note some other sterling four-year stretches.

Randy Johnson, 1999-2002

17-9, 2.48*, 364 strikeouts
19-7, 2.64, 347
21-6, 2.49*, 372
24-5, 2.32*, 334

*ERA title

[Johnson won the Cy Young all four seasons]

Pedro Martinez, 1997-2000

17-8, 1.90*, 305
19-7, 2.89, 251
23-4, 2.07*, 313
18-6, 1.74*, 284

[3 Cy Young awards and a second place]

Grover Alexander, 1914-17

27-15, 2.38
31-10, 1.22*
33-12, 1.55*
30-13, 1.83*

Lefty Grove, 1930-33

28-5, 2.54*
31-4, 2.06*
25-10, 2.84*
24-8, 3.20

--Milwaukee Brewers reliever Will Smith was suspended for eight games on Friday for having a foreign substance on his right arm during a game in Atlanta, specifically rosin and sunscreen. Smith, who plans to appeal, so the penalty is on hold, said after the game he put the substance on his forearm before warming up in the bullpen on a brisk night.

Saturday, Baltimore’s Brian Matusz was also ejected for having a sticky substance on his right arm.

--I’ve been writing for years now that baseball will be a prime beneficiary of the issues football has with concussions, and no doubt baseball will get some athletes that otherwise would have gravitated towards football.

But at the same time, I can’t ignore the depressing youth baseball statistics. Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal had the following in a recent piece.

Referring to the problems the city of Newburgh, N.Y., is having attracting Little Leaguers, the president of the local association said participation has been plummeting.

“Some parents told him their children were more interested in lacrosse. Others cited a preference for basketball or soccer....When the season began last month, the league had only 74 players spread across four age groups, down from 206 in 2009. ‘Over the last couple of years, it’s dropped like a rock,’ Jim Wilson said.”

While major league attendance has been strong the past few years, the sport is on the verge of losing millions of fans.

“ ‘The biggest predictor of fan avidity as an adult is whether you played the game,’ MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said. An MLB spokesman cited fan polling conducted by the league last year as proof. When asked to assess the factors that drove their interest in sports, fans between the ages of 12 and 17 cited participation as a major factor more often than watching or attending the sport....

“But MLB faces headwinds that have been years in the making and forces that are outside its direct control. In 2002, nine million people between the ages of 7 and 17 played baseball in the U.S., according to the National Sporting Goods Association, an industry trade group. By 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, that figure had dropped by more than 41%, to 5.3 million....

“Other popular sports, including soccer and basketball, have suffered as youth sports participation in general has declined and become more specialized. A pervasive emphasis on performance over mere fun and exercise has driven many children to focus exclusively on one sport from an early age, making it harder for all sports to attract casual participants. But the decline of baseball as a community sport has been especially precipitous.”

This sucks.

Golf Balls

--Chris Kirk won his 4th PGA Tour title at Colonial, 3rd in the past year, by one over three golfers, including Jordan Spieth.

--Colin Montgomerie won his second straight Senior PGA Championship, 3rd win in six senior majors, at French Lick by four strokes over Esteban Toledo.

--In a mini-shocker, Rory McIlroy missed the cut at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, a major European tour title he won last year. It was just his third cut in his last 45 tournaments.

But it was also his fourth straight tournament, following three PGA Tour events, a stretch that included two victories. He is now unofficial host for next week’s Irish Open at Royal County Down, which is a big deal for his foundation.

Premier League Final Standings

1. Chelsea 87 points
2. Man City 79
3. Arsenal 75
4. Man U 70
5. Tottenham 64
6. Liverpool 62

18. Hull City 35
19. Burnley 33
20. QPR 30

Little drama the final Sunday, with the only real question being could Hull avoid relegation. Alas, it couldn’t. Sad day for their fans after two years in the big leagues. [Burnley and QPR’s fate hasn’t been in question for a while.]

Tottenham snuck into fifth as it defeated Everton 1-0 (Harry Kane scored his 31st), while Liverpool was getting blitzed by Stoke City 6-1. Reminder, the top four advance to the Champions League.

Stuff

--North Carolina received a “Notice of Allegations” (NOA) from the NCAA over the organization’s second investigation into academic fraud in the school’s athletic department. The school now has 90 days to file a response if it intends to challenge any of the allegations (details won’t be released until a later date).

Then, once the institution and any involved individuals submit their responses to the NOA, the enforcement staff has 60 days to craft its own response to the Committee on Infractions (COI).

Once a hearing date and location are set, the enforcement staff and institution representatives present their cases to the COI. Hearings last a day or two and an infractions report is typically delivered 6-to-8 weeks following the hearing.

Ergo, it will take a while. The last time UNC received its NOA, in 2011, it was nine months before the infractions report was released.

As a result of the first investigation, the football team was banned from the postseason for one year and lost 15 scholarships. Football coach Butch Davis was fired and the athletic director resigned. This time it’s assumed the hoops program will get slammed.

--Michael Sam signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. Sam hopes that after six months of play in the CFL, he’ll get another shot at the NFL.

--Ray Rice had the domestic violence charges against him dropped upon completion of a pre-trial intervention program. So does the 28-year-old now get a second chance in the NFL? He was coming off his worst season in 2013 before the suspension, but there are lots of hangers-on in the sport.

Steve Politi / NJ.com

“(In) a league that routinely doles out second and third chances to players accused or convicted of serious crimes, is this really going to be the end of the 28-year-old former Rutgers star’s football career?

“That would truly be a sad ending, and a missed opportunity to let a contrite Rice continue to spread an anti-domestic violence message.”

--Darrelle Revis, who won a Super Bowl with the Patriots and then signed with the Jets, told Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, that with regards to Deflategate:

“Everybody’s blowing it up because it is Tom Brady. I understand that. But if (the NFL) feels he did the crime or he did something and they want to penalize them, then that’s that. (The Patriots) have a history of doing stuff. You can’t hide that... Tom was there when they did that stuff in the past.”

“That stuff” means Spygate, and, as Revis pointed out, Brady was, in fact, the quarterback while that happened.

--We now know that rock climbers Dean Potter and Graham Hunt, who died in a BASE-jumping accident at Yosemite National Park on May 16, were attempting to clear a “notch” (think mountaintop formation like a Stegosaurus) but slammed into the rock instead.

Potter and Hunt jumped around nightfall from Taft Point, an overlook about 3,000 feet above Yosemite Valley. They were wearing wingsuits, but neither of their parachutes deployed.

A spotter photographed the jump, but she couldn’t see them crash.

It seems that Hunt, who was a little behind Potter, suddenly veered off before they reached the narrow notch, perhaps thinking they both couldn’t fit through, but Hunt’s action may have disturbed Potter’s airflow.

25 wingsuit-fliers lost their lives last year alone, according to Potter, writing in his blog after his longtime friend and wingman, Sean Leary, died last year while BASE-jumping in Zion National Park.

--Sweden’s Mans Zemerlow won the final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna, beating a Russian singer who was booed by many in the audience, both because of Ukraine and Russia’s official government attitude towards gays. An uncomfortable moment, to say the least, for what is otherwise intended to be a celebration of all things Europe.

--The Brian Wilson biopic, “Love and Mercy,” that is coming out June 5, is getting some excellent reviews. Paul Dano and John Cusack both play Wilson during two key periods in his life.

--We note the passing of Anne Meara, 85, mother of actor/director Ben Stiller and long-time wife of Jerry Stiller. Us older folks fondly remember the first appearances of Stiller and Meara on the Ed Sullivan Show, way back. I mean who didn’t love them?

--Finally, for the archives I just need to note a few items from David Letterman’s final show, Wednesday, after 33 years. It really was terrific, and he hit all the right notes. Lots of old clips, but nothing maudlin. And a final Top 10 list, “Top 10 things I’ve always wanted to say to Dave,” read by Alec Baldwin, Barbara Walters, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, Chris Rock, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Peyton Manning, Tina Fey and Bill Murray (who was the lone guest on Tuesday).

I loved what Chris Rock said: “I’m just glad your show is being given to another white guy.”

And in Letterman’s self-deprecating fashion, it was funny when “Wheel of Fortune” spelled out “Good Riddance to David Letterman.”

Letterman said before he ran down a long list of gracious thanks to those who worked with him, “We’ve done more than 6,000 shows, and I can tell you a pretty high percentage absolutely sucked.”

David Hinckley / New York Daily News

“At one time Letterman defined late-night cool, and it’s not his doing or concern that the standard of cool is a moving target. He arrived as Dave, he left as Dave.”

Hank Stuever / Washington Post

Foo Fighters, one of Letterman’s favorite bands, played their hit ‘Everlong’ and the show went out on a wonderfully jam-packed montage of images from 33 years and more than 6,000 shows. [Ed. this was fantastic.]

“So many memories and images flew by in just a few minutes – it was mesmerizing and perhaps it was designed to distract the die-hard fans among us, who felt a personal investment in many of those scenes. The show ran about 18 minutes longer than its usual hour, but even then it seemed that maybe there might be more. The song led right to the credits (which very sweetly featured the names and photos of the entire crew and staff) and then viewers realized: Letterman’s ‘Late Show’ had ducked out the back door while we wallowed. Nicely done, Dave.”

Top 3 songs for the week 5/26/73: #1 “Frankenstein” (The Edgar Winter Group) #2 “My Love” (Paul McCartney & Wings) #3 “Daniel” (Elton John)...and...#4 “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree” (Dawn featuring Tony Orlando) #5 “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” (Stevie Wonder) #6 “Pillow Talk” (Sylvia...great tune...) #7 “Little Willy” (The Sweet) #8 “Drift Away” (Dobie Gray) #9 “Wildflower” (Skylark) #10 “Hocus Pocus” (Focus)

Philadelphia Phillies Quiz Answers: 1) Lefty O’Doul* had 254 hits in 1929 and Chuck Klein had 250 in 1930. O’Doul had an interesting career, including a .349 career average in 11 seasons, though 1929 was really his first full one at the age of 32. From 1929-32 (the last two with Brooklyn), he hit .398, .383, .336 and .368.  In ’29 he added 32 homers and 122 RBI, plus he scored 152 runs and finished second in the MVP balloting. Meanwhile, Chuck Klein’s 1930 season was a huge one. 59 doubles, 8 triples 40 HR, 170 RBI, to go along with a .386 average. Yet he was overshadowed by the likes of Hack Wilson and his 56 HR 191 RBI. 3) Curt Schilling, not Steve Carlton, is the single-season strikeout leader with 319 in 1997.

*So O’Doul was originally a pitcher and was OK in the minors so in 1919, the Yankees called him up but he hurt his arm and was used primarily as a pinch hitter and outfielder. He was then returned to San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League, recalled to the Yanks in 1922, appearing in just eight games, and then traded to Boston. In one game in 1923, July 7, he participated in what came to be known as “The Indian Massacre,” the Red Sox losing 27-3. O’Doul faced 16 batters and surrendered 13 runs in one inning. That was the account in Total Baseball’s “Biographical Encyclopedia.”

So I looked it up on Baseball Reference. In the massacre, O’Doul pitched the middle three innings, allowing 11 hits and 8 walks, but of the 16 runs he was charged with, only three were earned!

And get this, this was the first of two that day, but the time of the game was just 2:10! 27-3, walks galore, played in two hours and 10 minutes?! Seems impossible.

Anyway, O’Doul, “Mr. Pacific Coast League,” settled back in the PCL, one year hitting .392 for Salt Lake City and the next collecting 309 hits and 191 RBI, aided by the high altitude and the park’s small dimensions, and then he was back in San Francisco.

In 1928, he played for John McGraw and the New York Giants, hitting .319 (he’s now 31 years old), but the Giants gave up on him because as talented a hitter as he was, he couldn’t field or throw. A sportswriter for the San Francisco Chronicle once said: “He could run like a deer. Unfortunately, he threw like one too.”

But the next season he ended up in Philadelphia and banged out that .398 with 32 homers. 

From Total Baseball: “With two games left to play, he had 247 hits, three short of Rogers Hornsby’s National League record. The two contests were against the Giants, and John McGraw started two quality left-handers. However, O’Doul went 7-for-7 to set a new NL hit record with 254 (tied the next season by Bill Terry).”

After his major league playing career was over, O’Doul went back to the PCL where he was a successful manager, and he developed quite a reputation as a hitting instructor, helping develop Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams.

O’Doul is also a key figure in the development of Japanese baseball, having made 20 trips there. After its defeat in World War II, O’Doul returned to the country to help restore the game and the defeated nation’s morale.

He then founded a popular restaurant in San Francisco and it exists to this day, Lefty O’Doul’s Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge.

Next Bar Chat, Thursday...an abbreviated one. But Premier League junkies will want to tune in.

Memorial Day

Oliver Wendell Holmes, May 30, 1884, Keene, NH

So to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up we may answer, it celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting greatly. To fight out a war, you must believe something and want something with all your might. So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching. More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to a course, perhaps a long and hard one, without being able to foresee exactly where you will come out. All that is required of you is that you should go some whither as hard as ever you can. The rest belongs to fate. One may fall – at the beginning of the charge or at the top of the earthworks; but in no other way can he reach the rewards of victory.

When it was felt so deeply as it was on both sides that a man ought to take part in the war unless some conscientious scruple or strong practical reason made it impossible, was that feeling simply the requirement of a local majority that their neighbors should agree with them? I think not: I think the feeling was right – in the South as in the North. I think that, as life is action and passion, it is required of a man that he should share the passion and action of his time at peril of being judged not to have lived.