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A Crowded Sports Plate
Baseball Quiz: In 1921, Babe Ruth set modern-era major league records in runs, total bases and extra-base hits that still exist to this day. Give me the exact total for each of the three. Answer below.
Tuesday in New York
For New York area sports fans, quite a Tuesday night as the Mets hosted the Cardinals, the Yankees played up in Boston, the Nets continued their playoff series in Toronto and the Rangers were in Philadelphia for Game 3 of their grudge match.
So what did your editor watch? I started with the Mets, went to the Nets, and then watched a long stretch of Hawks-Pacers, before going back to the Nets and Mets. Seeing that the Rangers had their game in hand, I didn’t catch any of it live.
The Rangers beat the Flyers 4-1 to go up 2-1 in their series. 38-year-old forward Martin St. Louis, picked up in the final weeks of the season from St. Louis, has been providing needed punch.
The Nets fell to the Raptors 100-95 as Paul Pierce declared his teammates were “soft.” “We gave them everything they wanted, (50) points in the paint, and (19) offensive rebounds. We were a soft team tonight.”
Overall the Nets were outrebounded 52-30. Ughh. And Pierce wasn’t exactly Mr. Clutch down the stretch like he had been in game one, Pierce going 2-for-11 from the field, 0-6 from downtown. [Earlier in the day, Pierce touted himself as uniquely clutch. “Everybody don’t have (my clutch gene), everybody’s not born with it,” he said at the morning shootaround. “You can’t buy it at Costco or Walgreens.”]
The Nets are now just 11-for-48 from three in the first two games of the series, yet it’s even, 1-1.
Meanwhile, I was watching Hawks-Pacers, Atlanta took a 52-48 halftime lead as Jeff Teague continued his fine play, and then suddenly it was over. Indiana surged in the second half to even up the series at 1-1, 101-85.
As for the baseball, the Mets’ Curtis Granderson went 0-for-3, is mired in a career-worst 0-for-22 slump, and his average is down to .116. Yes, .116. Mets lost to Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals, 3-0.
But up in Boston, once again Masahiro Tanaka proved he’s the real deal in just giving up two solo homers in 7 innings, walking none, striking out 7, in the Yanks’ 9-3 win. Tanaka, 3-0, has 35 strikeouts and just two walks in 29 1/3, 2.15 ERA.
It’s also important to note that Tanaka hasn’t lost a ballgame since Aug. 19, 2012, after which he finished that season with four wins, then went 24-0 with the Rakuten Golden Eagles last year, so with his three Yankees wins is 31-0 in the regular season. He did lose Game 6 of the Japan Series last year, but threw 160 pitches in the game and then came back the next night for the deciding save.
--Albert Pujols hit home run Nos. 499 and 500 on Tuesday night in the Angels’ 7-2 win over the Nationals in Washington. Give Pujols credit. He now has a major-league leading 8 home runs, along with 19 RBI in the team’s first 20 games. Not too shabby. Maybe he isn’t quite over the hill. [Though let’s see how he does in August.]
Both of Pujols’ homers came off Taylor Jordan – a three-run dinger in the first and a two-run drive in the fifth – in becoming the 26th in baseball history to hit this magical mark.
Pujols, three months past his 34th birthday, is the third-youngest to 500; Alex Rodriguez and Jimmie Foxx were 32.
To think that the Cardinals selected him in the 13th round...the 402nd overall pick in the 1999 draft.
--On Monday, former Met Ike Davis became the first to hit grand slams for two different teams in the month of April as he cranked one out for the Pirates against Cincinnati. His first slam this season was also against the Reds while with the Mets, thus making Davis just the third player in history to have slams off the same opponent in the same year.
--Miami’s Jose Fernandez struck out 14 in eight innings as the Marlins defeated the Braves, 1-0 on Tuesday. Fernandez, 3-1, has 47 Ks in 31 2/3.
--The Chicago White Sox have to be very concerned after placing ace Chris Sale on the 15-day disabled list with an arm issue, forearm discomfort, specifically, that often means damage to the ulnar ligament, which means....Tommy John is coming to your house!
But Sale’s MRI showed no ligament damage so TJ has been denied access thus far. Sale did just throw a career-high 127 pitches in his most recent outing. He was 3-0, 2.30, in his first four starts; after pitching to a 3.07 ERA in 30 starts last season.
--As expected the Knicks unloaded Mike Woodson and his staff on Monday after he went 109-79 in his 2 ½ years. The record looks solid but 37-45 this season was a huge come down from 54-28 and a first-round playoff series win, the first since 2000.
According to the Wall Street Journal and Stats, LLC, since 1980, 109 local New York area coaches have come and gone in the four major sports, with an average tenure of just 2.93 years, the lowest among U.S. markets; though Chicago, at 2.95 (not counting interim coaches) is hardly much better.
So new team president Phil Jackson has taken charge. We await the naming of Steve Kerr to be the next coach, the two having started discussions.
But wait....there’s more! Frank Isola of the Daily News reports that team owner James Dolan, who promised when he hired Jackson that he wouldn’t meddle in the basketball operations, did just that when Jackson wanted to remove certain staff members, which would only be natural for someone new coming in. Clearly Dolan wants to keep some spies on board.
--So you know that incredibly embarrassing power failure that turned off the shot clocks in Game 1 of the Raptors-Nets series? Turns out it was ESPN’s fault.
“ESPN caused the shot clocks to malfunction...when it tried to solve an internal issue by plugging into the same power source for the shot clocks, causing the power source to fry, a personal familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports....
“The shot clocks stopped working midway through the third quarter, and arena workers could not get the backup shot clocks to work because they used the same power source.”
“With the NBA playoffs underway, Couch Slouch hopes to erase the year-long pain of accepting the fact that the San Antonio Spurs – with the best team and the best coach – gifted the Miami Heat last season’s championship.
“I was stupid enough to predict LeBron James would never win a title in South Beach – my 897th errant prognostication since the fall of the Soviet Union – so watching the Heat win it all back-to-back was almost as demoralizing as watching my first two marriages go belly-up back-to-back....
“(But) Hey, how long can I stay mad at the Spurs? They’re the classiest act in sports. If I had children – I have stepkids, who treat me like a substitute teacher – I would want Gregg Popovich to be their godfather, Tony Parker to be their uncle, Tim Duncan to be their mentor and Manu Ginobili to be that goofy youngster down the street who schools them on life, teamwork and Argentine food.”
As an aside, Popovich was named NBA coach of the year for a third time, joining Don Nelson and Pat Riley as the only three-timers. Phoenix’ Jeff Hornacek was runner-up.
--The Oakland Raiders traded quarterback Terrelle Pryor to Seattle for a seventh-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft. During this offseason the Raiders had acquired Matt Schaub to be their starter so Pryor’s days were numbered. In Seattle he is currently No. 3 on the depth chart behind Russell Wilson and Tarvaris Jackson.
The Story of the Hurricane
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter died at his home in Toronto on Sunday. He was 76.
Carter, a solid middleweight boxer, spent 19 years behind bars for three murders at a tavern in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1966. He was convicted alongside John Artis, a friend, in 1967 and again in a new trial in 1976.
Carter was freed in 1985 after years of appeal and public advocacy. Bob Dylan forever popularized his case with his 1975 song “Hurricane,” which peaked at #33 on the Billboard charts, though seemed a lot more popular back in the day. I recall hearing it a ton, though part of this was the New York market and Carter’s case resonating in the area. In 1999, a film starring Denzel Washington also highlighted the story of Hurricane Carter.
Carter never became champ, though he stopped two-division champion Emile Griffith in the first round in 1963. His record was 27-12-1 with 19 knockouts.
But it was June 1966 that three white people were shot by two black men at the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson. The two were picked up shortly after the shootings, Carter’s car vaguely matching a description, but then they were released, only to be arrested months later. Carter and Artis were convicted by an all-white jury.
It does need to be pointed out that Carter had had a violent past, spending four years in state prisons, and his cause later wasn’t helped by the fact that in a 1964 Saturday Evening Post profile leading up to his lone title fight with Joey Giardello, which he lost, he stated that Harlem residents should fight back against police abuse, even to the death if necessary, as reported by the Star-Ledger’s Dave D’Alessandro. Carter added that he told a friend they should “get our own guns...and get us some of those cops. I know I can get four or five before they get me.”
Carter later said he meant this in jest, but as D’Alessandro writes, “the remark drew the attention of every law enforcement body in the country – and if it didn’t, the FBI always advised local agencies that a convicted felon was coming to town wherever Carter traveled.”
Hurricane never seemed bitter about his experience, even though he and Artis were convicted on the testimony of two thieves who later recanted.
The 1999 film with Washington, while critically acclaimed, glossed over Carter’s violent past and ignored other facts.
Dylan wrote the song “Hurricane” after reading his autobiography. The song concludes:
“That’s the story of the Hurricane / But it won’t be over till they clear his name / And give him back the time he’s done / Put him in a prison cell but one time he could-a been / The champion of the world.”
The Tennis World
The other day I mentioned how expensive it was to play the professional tennis circuit after the upcoming French Open announced it was hiking the payout for not just the winners but also those surviving into each round.
So Dr. W.W. wrote me. He and his wife had recently been out to Indian Wells, CA, for the BNP Paribas Open and they saw what some consider a rising star, Italy’s Camilia Giorgi. The good doctor (my Kiawah golf partner each December) then referred me to a piece a few months ago by Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim on the financial struggles of many, including Giorgi, and Wertheim discusses the USTA figure I noted earlier, that the annual “expenses of a fledgling pro, including coaching, equipment and travel, total roughly $143,000.”
Giorgi broke through with a third round upset of Caroline Wozniacki at last year’s U.S. Open and by reaching the fourth round was guaranteed $162,190, the biggest payday of her career. But as Wertheim writes, while she and her father celebrated, “a chortle of aggrieved investors, from the United States to Tel Aviv, had the same thought: Maybe now I’ll finally get my money back.”
Yes, the world of private investors in tennis is fairly common (it is in golf as well). In Camila Giorgi’s case, an unidentified wealthy Connecticut couple paid two years’ worth of Camila’s expenses in exchange for a percentage of her prize money.
Well there were issues almost immediately and the Giorgis, father and daughter, lost their sponsor. They then bounced from one sponsorship relationship to another. One guy paid more than $27,000 in expenses, but after Giorgi earned $116,527 at Wimbledon, wondered why he and his fellow sponsors weren’t being paid back. The father assured him “We’ll have it soon.”
But even though Camila has earned more than $500,000 since her agreement with this man and his Alabama group, they haven’t received a dime from her.
--38-year-old Meb Keflezighi became the first American since Greg Meyer in 1983 to win the Boston Marathon, 2 hours 8 minutes 37 seconds, as he ran with the names of the four victims of last year’s marathon tragedy, including Sean Collier, shot and killed after.
In 2013, Meb was hurt and watched the action from near the finish line, leaving just five minutes before the first bomb went off.
Keflezighi came to America from Eritrea when he was 12 years old and he has a silver medal from the 2004 Olympic marathon, plus a win in New York City in 2009. But this is right up there and now he’s talking about the 2016 Olympic marathon.
Rita Jeptoo of Kenya successfully defended on the women’s side, only this year she got to enjoy it. American Shalane Flanagan, who had a terrific piece on her the other week on “60 Minutes,” finished fifth after leading for more than half the race...so nothing to be embarrassed about, especially after a personal best, though she wanted this race more than anything, having grown up in the area.
--As expected, Kentucky forward Julius Randle finally announced he was leaving after one year for the NBA draft, where he is a lock top five pick. There are just four days left for underclassmen to declare. The Wildcats’ Harrison twins are among those who still haven’t decided.
--It was big news, though hardly unexpected, when Manchester United unceremoniously dumped manager David Moyes, with three games to go in his first Premier League season, an unmitigated disaster. The club’s owners, the Glazer family, issued a terse statement that read:
“Manchester United has announced that David Moyes has left the Club. The Club would like to place on record its thanks for the hard work, honesty and integrity he brought to the role.”
Moyes had signed a six-year contract worth about $6.7 million a year to replace the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson but they failed to qualify for next season’s Champions League in what turned out to be United’s worst campaign in about 25 years. While the handwriting was on the wall, the clincher was last Sunday’s loss at Everton.
Moyes’ contract was not guaranteed as he needed to hit performance targets, so he is likely to receive just one more year’s salary rather than five.
Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp is the early frontrunner to succeed him.
Meanwhile, in the Champions League semis, Chelsea and Atletico Madrid played to a 0-0 draw in Madrid, so it’s back to London next Wednesday to decide who moves on to the final, with Chelsea needing to win the game, while Atletico just needs a draw. Chelsea lost its goaltender, as well as captain John Terry, to injury and both won’t be available next week. The other semi pits Bayerrn Munich and Real Madrid today.
--As my golf mags come in, looking back at The Masters again, only four golfers who made the cut averaged 300 yards on their drives and one of them will shock you. Try to guess ‘em. Answer in a bit.
--Mark R. is always telling me about Dyngus Day, which was staged in Buffalo and other cities on Monday.
“(The celebration traces its) roots to ancient Polish fertility rites centered around the end of Lent and the advent of spring. As part of the festivities, young men traditionally splash water on women they fancy. Women carry pussy willow branches to hit the men they like.
“But this year, after an especially harsh winter, Dyngus Day organizers are worried that there won’t be enough pussy willows to go around. The pussy willow supply is particularly worrisome for (Buffalo) festival co-founder Eddy Dobosiewicz because the event, while not as big as some other Polish festivals around the country, has become unexpectedly popular.”
Granted, I’m half-Slovak and not Polish, but I’m suddenly very depressed I’ve never had a girl hit me with a pussy willow. I feel more like Charlie Brown every day. Plus my one pitching performance in what was the equivalent of our Little League (I normally played second), I seem to remember giving up eight earned in six innings, so a career ERA of 12.00. Ergo, the Little League Veterans Committee didn’t even bring up my name when they last gathered for Hall of Fame nominations.
--This is too much...from Barbara Ross and Dareh Gregorian / New York Daily News
“A heart doctor was spreading the love at a West Side strip club to the tune of $135,000, court papers say.
“Zyad Younan is stiffing Scores New York on the whopping tab, saying he never stepped foot inside the mammary mecca – but if he did, he must have been drugged, court papers say.
“ ‘He was coherent until he saw the bill,’ quipped Scores manager, Stephen Hyman.”
Supposedly Younan racked up the charges during four trips over a 10-day period last November, using his American Express card. The club maintains it has him on video on all four dates.
--So Tuesday was the 50th anniversary of the opening of the New York World’s Fair, which was held in Queens next to where the Mets play and the U.S. Open tennis venue.
I have distinct memories of attending it as a mere tyke, and remember winning a ‘shouting contest’ where I won a model of a Ford Torino. I kept it for years (wish I still had it). As you all know the Ford Mustang debuted at the fair. A local group is trying to save a few of the structures that have remained standing, though some are in severe disrepair.
--Masters Golf Quiz answer...averaging 300 yards on their drives.
Bubba Watson 305.6
Rory McIlroy 304.0
Louis Oosthuizen 303.1...I’m shocked
Hunter Mahan 301.3
Fred Couples, by the way, averaged 291.0! Sandy Lyle 287.8, Bernhard Langer 281.9, Miguel Angel Jimenez 284.1, among the 50+ crowd.
But Larry Mize was only at 258.6, yet still made the cut. As Ronald Reagan would have said, “Not bad, not bad at all.”
--Justin Bieber truly is one of the bigger idiots on the planet. For some reason he thought it was a good idea to visit the controversial Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo, where some of Japan’s war criminals are honored. So now he has Chinese and South Koreans all ticked off at him. I mean this is also the same week that about 150 Japanese lawmakers have visited the place, sparking further outrage in the region.
But Bieber, traveling with his mother, posted pictures of himself there.
Top 3 songs for the week 4/25/64: #1 “Can’t Buy Me Love” (The Beatles) #2 “Twist And Shout” (The Beatles) #3 “Do You Want To Know A Secret” (The Beatles)...and... #4 “Hello, Dolly!” (Louis Armstrong...would break Beatles’ streak of having a #1 14 straight weeks by topping the charts two weeks later...) #5 “Suspicion” (Terry Stafford... sounded like Elvis...) #6 “Glad All Over” (The Dave Clark Five) #7 “Bits And Pieces” (The Dave Clark Five) #8 “Don’t Let The Rain Come Down” (The Serendipity Singers) #9 “My Guy” (Mary Wells...would hit #1 three weeks later...) #10 “Dead Man’s Curve” (Jan & Dean)
Baseball Quiz Answer: 1921, Babe Ruth scored 177 runs, had 119 extra-base hits and 457 total bases, all records to this date. [204 hits, 44 doubles, 16 triples 59 home runs, 168 RBI, 145 walks, .512 OBP and hit .378.]