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[Posted Sunday p.m., prior to the Grammy Awards]
Music Quiz: In celebration of the only awards show I actually look forward to, even if I don’t know today’s hits at all, I thought we’d have a different kind of quiz. Totally respecting musicians as I do, name the lead singers for the following groups, something every good fan of the 60s and 70s should know. [Some easier than others.]
Buckinghams, Loverboy (I know, 1980s), Paul Revere and the Raiders, Raspberries, Steppenwolf, Yes, and the Zombies. Answer below.
Lindsey Vonn’s Final Run
In spectacular, storybook fashion, in the final race of her career, the downhill at the World Championships in Are, Sweden, Lindsey Vonn captured the bronze (Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec winning the gold, Switzerland’s Corinne Suter the silver).
And in watching live this morning (Eastern time), it was so cool that greeting Vonn at the finish was none other than the great Ingemar Stenmark, who admitted he is “incredibly shy” and doesn’t appear in public much at all. So you had the two greatest skiers of all time (Stenmark with his 86 World Cup wins, Vonn with a women’s record 82) side by side. The “money shot,” as NBC’s Dan Hicks put it.
Just remarkable. It was Vonn’s eighth medal in a World Championship. A perfect way to go out, and in one piece.
As the Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga added:
“She didn’t have to ski this weekend. She wanted to. Courageous and crazy all at once. Define Lindsey Vonn as a ski racer all you want, even the best of all-time. What she is, at her core, is a competitor. A fearless, bad-ass competitor who should be remembered not only for the races she won, but for her unrelenting insistence on getting back up and attacking again. At that, she has no peer.”
So now this week attention turns back to USA teammate, and today’s superstar, Mikaela Shiffrin, who races in the giant slalom on Thursday and slalom on Saturday in her attempt to win three golds at the Worlds, having won the super-G earlier.
On the men’s side, we had another legendary skier calling it quits in the downhill, Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal (36 WC wins, two Olympic golds), who took silver Saturday, teammate Kjetil Jansrud winning it.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, which reveals the tournament bracket on Sunday, March 17, threw out its preliminary seedings prior to Saturday’s action and the first eight were:
7. North Carolina
8. Michigan State
So the big difference with the current AP rankings is the flip-flop of Duke and Tennessee, and No. 6 Nevada not being in the first eight.
But this is all kind of irrelevant, with a ton of action to go in the regular season, and conference tournaments, but should some teams hold form, like Gonzaga, you see where they are headed.
Well, Saturday, No. 2 Duke (AP) and 3 Virginia squared off for a second time, this one in Charlottesville, and with LeBron James in attendance, Duke, which had been shooting 31% from three all season, one of the worst percentages in the nation, including 2 of 14 in its 72-70 win over Virginia earlier in the year back at Cameron, suddenly lit it up yesterday, going 13 of 21, RJ Barrett 6 of 10 (26 points in all) as the Blue Devils won rather handily, 81-71, the Cavaliers’ vaunted defense out of sorts. Duke is now 21-2, 9-1; UVA 20-2 (the two losses to Duke), 8-2.
Duke is atop the ACC with 8 North Carolina, also 9-1 and 19-4 overall, after an 88-85 win in overtime at Chapel Hill over Miami (10-13, 2-9). The Tar Heels, who have been playing great of late, needed a Luke Maye three to send it into OT, freshman Coby White with a spectacular 33-pt. effort.
Virginia heads to Chapel Hill for a tussle with UNC Monday. This now sets up as a very interesting contest. I’ll sure be watching. [7:00 PM ET, ESPN]
Meanwhile, No. 1 Tennessee (22-1, 10-0) defeated Florida (12-11, 4-6) 73-61.
4 Gonzaga destroyed Saint Mary’s (15-10, 6-4) 94-46, the Zags now 23-2, 10-0.
5 Kentucky (20-3, 9-1) had a tough road win at Mississippi State (16-7, 4-6) 71-67.
6 Nevada continued to roll, 91-62 over New Mexico (10-13, 4-7), the Wolfpack 23-1, 10-1.
7 Michigan (22-2, 10-2) looked solid in its 61-52 win over 19 Wisconsin (17-7, 9-4).
9 Michigan State (19-5, 10-3) manhandled Minnesota (16-8, 6-7) 79-55 in East Lansing.
And No. 10 Marquette (20-4, 9-2) bounced back from its second loss to St. John’s earlier in the week with a 66-65 win over 14 Villanova (19-5, 10-1), handing the Wildcats their first loss in Big East play. It was the Markus Howard show, as the All-American went off for 38 points.
Howard is averaging 25.2 points per game, but had just 17 and 8 in the two losses to St. John’s, and under 20 in the team’s other two defeats this season at the hands of Indiana and Kansas.
Ergo, come March, Marquette goes as far as Howard can take them.
One other in the top 25...11 Virginia Tech fell to 18-5, 7-4, after a 59-51 loss at Clemson (15-8, 5-5), the Tigers keeping their slim NCAA hopes alive. The Hokies are struggling mightily without point guard Justin Robinson, out “indefinitely.”
Finally, in the New York area, thanks to local NBC sportscaster Bruce Beck, we get a lot of Hofstra hoops mentions and they are having a terrific season, 21-4, 11-1 CAA, after a 93-87 win over William & Mary (9-16, 5-8...and the answer to an annual trivia question, but that’s for later).
But Johnny Mac wanted to make sure I mentioned guard Justin Wright-Foreman’s 48 point effort yesterday, because, get this, in 32 minutes he had no rebounds, no assists, no steals, and no blocks. But the senior, who is averaging 26.0 points per game (after a junior season at 24.4) is shooting .425 from three, including 7 of 12 Saturday. He is a sleeper first-round draft pick.
As Ronald Reagan would have told Nancy of the kid’s game, while reading the Sunday sports pages, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
Note to J Mac...I’m using your other favorite player topic in a future quiz.
--We had two fascinating games on Saturday night. The Clippers, who with the trade of Tobias Harris to Philadelphia, were seemingly opting to tank the rest of the way to put themselves in a better position for the draft, as well as the free-agent market in the summer (L.A. thinking it has a great shot at Kawhi Leonard and, now, Anthony Davis), instead overcame a 68-40 deficit in the second quarter at Boston (35-21) to win 123-112, the Celtics’ biggest blown lead in 15 years, which came after the Lakers overcame an 18-point deficit in Boston on Thursday to win 129-128.
So the Clippers stay more than relevant at 31-26.
Then we had Oklahoma City (36-19) at Houston (32-23) and the Thunder trailed 70-48 at the half, James Harden with 25 for the Rockets.
But Paul George, and Russell Westbrook, took over in the second, outscoring Houston by 69-42, the Thunder winning 117-112..
George finished with 45 points and 11 rebounds, while Westbrook tied Wilt Chamberlain’s record of nine straight triple-doubles, 21-12-11...pretty, pretty good.
Meanwhile, Harden finished with 42 points, his 29th straight with 30 or more, just two shy of the second-longest such streak in NBA history, Wilt’s 31 (Chamberlain also having the record at 65).
One other interesting game for various reasons. The Bucks, leading the East, fell to 41-14 in losing to Orlando (24-32) at home, 103-83, as Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out with “right knee soreness” after scoring 29 points and hauling down 17 rebounds the night before in a win over Dallas. Hmmm. Yup, the Bucks are a different team without him.
But they also acquired New Orleans power forward Nikola Mirotic in a trade deadline move that makes the Bucks all the better, Mirotic (currently out with a calf strain) averaging 16.7 pts., 8.3 rebounds.
Suddenly, with Philly and Milwaukee improving themselves with big moves, the NBA Finals could be exciting...Golden State versus either one of these two.*
*Sorry, Toronto fans.
Finally, if you were New Orleans, would you play Anthony Davis the rest of the way, the team having failed to deal him at the trade deadline? I wouldn’t. Davis, while under contract through next season, has demanded a trade and I wouldn’t risk him getting an injury until the Pelicans can work something out in the offseason.
New Orleans did ask for the moon for Davis, but now the only prudent thing to do is sit the guy. Then again, I’m not a Pelicans season ticket-holder.
Standings...including this afternoon’s Philly 143-120 win over the Lakers.
1. Milwaukee 41-14
2. Toronto 41-16
3. Indiana 37-19
4. Philadelphia 36-20
5. Boston 35-21
1. Golden State 39-15
2. Denver 37-18
3. Oklahoma City 36-19
4. Portland 33-21
5. Houston 32-23
8. L.A. Clippers 31-26
10. L.A. LeBrons 28-28
Friday, Commissioner Rob Manfred said management is focused on pace-of-game changes for 2019, and bolder ideas proposed by the players’ association are too complex to be put in place for this season.
But speaking after an owners’ meeting, Manfred said he was encouraged the union responded to management’s proposal for a pitch clock and a three-batter minimum for a relief pitcher unless an inning ends.
“Some of these items need to be part of broader discussions that certainly will continue after Opening Day, and I hope we can focus on some of the issues that need to get resolved quickly in the interim,” Manfred said.
Baseball is in the third year of a five-year labor deal, one that has seen free agency slow to a crawl the past two off-seasons, and management knows it is going to have to make some big changes to avoid a major work stoppage when the collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021.
After the 2017 and 2018 seasons, players rebuffed management’s proposal for a pitch clock designed to speed up the pace of play. Management has the right to implement such a change, but Manfred knows this is not the time to make a move like this without the players’ approval.
So Jan. 14, management proposed a requirement that pitchers face at least three batters or finish an inning.
The players then responded on Feb. 1 with a broader plan, renewing their push for a universal DH in all games, an earlier trade deadline (June 15) aimed at discouraging teams with losing records from trading stars, increasing service time for top young players called up early in the season and rewarding and penalizing teams in the draft based on their records.
The proposal that pitchers face a minimum of three batters in an inning unless it ends was designed both for pace and to slow or reverse the increased use of relievers.
The union wants its use at the big league level delayed until 2020.
One other...expand the rosters to 26 men, with a 12-pitcher maximum. Perhaps a 28-man limit in September. I like both of these.
Manfred offered: “Repeated pitching changes obviously take a lot of time. The idea of relievers having to go longer is appealing in terms of promoting the role of the starting pitcher, encouraging pitchers to pitch a little longer at the beginning of the game. ...I think historically some of our biggest stars (are) starting pitchers and we want to make sure those big stars are out there long enough that they are marketed.” [Ronald Blum / AP]
Meanwhile, baseball is focused on attendance this year, after three straight years of declines have left attendance at its lowest level since 2003.
Ken Davidoff / New York Post
“Now that the players have stood down on some of Major League Baseball’s pace-of-play initiatives, it’s time for the owners to reward their partners with a goodwill gesture of their own.
Because ultimately, both sides would benefit from a universal designated hitter.
“A pitch clock in 2019 followed by the DH in both leagues and the ‘reliever must pitch to at least three batters in one inning’ rule in 2020? As they say in those McDonald’s commercials, The Post is lovin’ it.
“After years of acrimony that would make President Trump and Speaker Pelosi collectively plead, ‘Hey, take it easy on each other!’ the players and owners have registered a thaw of sorts. In response to MLB’s proposal concerning ways to speed up the game, most notably the institution of a pitch clock and a three-batter minimum for relievers entering a game, the Players Association countered with a far more sweeping resolution that featured, most notably, the integration of the DH into the National League, as well as several economic measures covering the amateur draft and service time....
“Agreeing to fully implement the DH over the next few weeks, even if it’s for 2020, feels like a Herculean task, given the two-league disparity has been in place since 1973. Nevertheless, it should feel doable, too, for the game’s greater good. The players have taken an absolute beating on so many fronts the past few years. They need a good win.
“And would this switch really constitute a loss for the owners? Of course NL owners would be looking at increased payrolls, as a DH costs more than an extra relief pitcher or bench player. They’ll handle it. They’ll reduce the risk on their investments in starting pitchers – some of the game’s biggest stars, as Manfred acknowledged Friday – if those guys don’t have to bat and run the bases anymore, and any fan would choose a DH’s at-bat over a pitcher’s.”
Thomas Boswell / Washington Post
“Fantasy is fun. So let’s dream of a day when baseball is a significantly more enjoyable and properly modernized sport.
“Both leagues use the designated hitter. Every relief pitcher must face at least three hitters, unless he retires the side first. Rosters have 26 men, not 25. There’s a 20-second clock between pitches that applies to both pitchers and hitters so that no one dawdles. Each team is allowed just five mound visits, not six. In extra innings, each team always starts its turn at bat with a man at second base.
“Because of these changes, the average MLB game takes less than two hours, 45 minutes, rather than more than three. Offense has increased by a half-run per game. All World Series games are played by the same rules. ‘Relief specialists’ who can cope with only one type of hitter – lefty or righty – have dwindled while better all-around pitchers replace them. A 13-inning game is rare, exciting and never boring.
“Also, relations between players and owners, now at their most acrimonious in a quarter century, have improved because of these changes. The union is happy that the 26th man has added 25 new MLB jobs while the universal DH has raised the salaries of 15 others. Reducing marathon extra-inning games is appreciated.
“Owners are happy that players, who hate to change their habits, have agreed to speed up the game and thus improve the product for fans.
“Fans are happy that the sport takes just a little more time than an NHL game, and almost 40 minutes less than current out-of-control NFL marathons. And no one, thank heavens, may ever again see five relief pitchers in half of an inning.
“On Tuesday, I would have said that such transformation was a pipe dream. Then, on Wednesday, we discovered, initially in a report by the Athletic, that MLB’s owners and players already have been discussing all these changes, some of which may be implemented by opening day.
“I don’t like a couple of these proposals, but I’d vote ‘Yes!’ to the whole package in a heartbeat for the sake of overall improvement to the sport and to smooth labor-management relations, too....
“Why is baseball suddenly getting serious, we hope, about so many problems when, for example, it has dragged its feet on unifying the DH rule since it was created in 1973. Apparently, acrimony can have ancillary benefits.
“Players are furious. The past two off-seasons have been financial disasters for free agents as contract offers plummet in both average dollars and years.
“Owners realize how mad – and suspicious – their players now are.
“Spring training starts next week, yet it appears Manny Machado has only one offer for $175 million for seven years from the 100-loss White Sox, while Bryce Harper has heard lots of Philly sweet talk but apparently has no dotted line on which to sign – with anyone. Such salary crashes can lead to battle.
“The bosses likely never dreamed of a salary correction of the current magnitude. They don’t want a strike when the current CBA ends after the 2021 season. What can they do to foster even a little goodwill?
“That 26th roster spot, plus those 15 new DH jobs in the N.L., have been union talking points for years. Now, owners seem to realize, ‘We better give it to ‘em.’...
“Two potential rules changes will create more fuss than the others combined.
“The first time I see a ‘free runner’ sent to second base to start the 10th inning, I might decide that soccer has become my favorite sport. Isn’t this utterly against the spirit of a game that’s so proud that you just keep playing, same rules, no gimmicks, until someone wins and that you can’t be beaten when a clock runs out? That guy on second sure looks like a gimmick that ‘ticks’ to me.
“Maybe if such a rule came into play to start the 12th inning, or even the 11th, and did not apply in the postseason, I wouldn’t break out in hives.
“Almost no fan is going to like all the new rules in a package as sweeping as the one being considered. The only way you’re going to get a half-dozen improvements to the sport that you love is to tolerate one or two that annoy you. Yes, even if you’re an N.L. fan who hates the DH....
“Baseball has a chance, right now, to improve the sport on many fronts. Unify the DH at last. Make the World Series fair. Force the N.L. to improve. Weed out relievers who are one-batter trick-pitch freak acts. Erase some of those two-and-a-half-minute naps when a reliever arrives in mid-inning. Cut down mound visits. Expand rosters so players can get more rest, fewer injuries. Speed up the game – a lot. Put in that 20-second pitch clock. By May, no one will even notice it.
“Except, perhaps, when we consistently leave the park before 10 p.m. and say, ‘That was fun. I’d almost forgotten how a baseball game was supposed to feel.’”
And the opposing view...Mike Vaccaro / New York Post
“Call me what you will: stodgy, old-school, immovable, intractable. Guilty on all counts. I admit I will likely adjust to any of the things that Manfred the Fixer and his Greek Chorus come up with, because I just like the game so much (well...unless they ever do start an extra inning with a man on second. Then, we go to the mattresses).
“Anyway, I turned to Twitter, as all great statesmen must, and I typed out the following: ‘I realize this is an increasingly shrinking opinion. But I like baseball exactly the way it is.’
“At 17 words and 95 characters, that’s among the shortest tweets I’ve sent out in a long time. No hashtags. The click-bait police would have a hard time building a case against that tweet as anything other than the kind of declarative sentences our grammar-school teachers taught us to craft.
“And, well, it’s funny what happened next.
“It got retweeted. And liked. And replied to. And included in dozens of group discussions. I am always fascinated by what reaches people on social media and what doesn’t, but for two full days I would check in periodically and see what people were saying. And here’s what they were saying:
“ ‘Thank you!’
“ ‘Not shrinking at all!’
“ ‘We are the silent majority!’
“And on and on. And look, I realize this is no scientific poll. I realize that there are just as many reasonable people who love the game every bit as much as I do who don’t believe our social mores will collapse if the National League ever adopts the DH, or if that three-hitter minimum rule is applied (though I do fear some social unrest if the shift is ever legislated out, but I am a worrier by nature).
“But here was the general sense I got from the 2,000-plus people who reacted to that on social media, and the 50 or so who decided to actually e-mail me their thoughts on the subject:
“1. We like the game as it is, too.
“2. We don’t think 3 ½-hour games invite a Caligula-like dissolution of morals and public standards.
“3. Why doesn’t anyone ever think about us?
“It’s the last one that gets to me, honestly. It seems like Manfred the Fixer obsesses over the various and sundry groups who don’t watch baseball, and seem to care very little about the ones who do. Part of that is because he can: We are quick to declare our undying loyalty for the sport, can’t image life without it, so we shrug our shoulders and accept stuff.
“But what if that doesn’t happen? What if by the time Manfred the Fixer is done fixing a sport that generated $10.3 billion in 2018 – a sport that isn’t exactly in dire need of fixing, in other words – he doesn’t attract the masses of indifference, but also manages to alienate the core fans who keep his sport alive?
“That probably won’t happen – again, we like the sport too much, we’re addicts, we’re supplicants.
“But what if it did?”
And Tom Verducci / MLB, SI.com
“Universal DH: Terrible
“If you like the DH you like checkers. If you like NL style baseball you like chess. Baseball without the DH is a better, more strategic game. Why tick off half your fan base and tell them you can’t have chess any more and you must like checkers?....
“The upside isn’t as significant as you may think. Last year the AL hit .249. The NL hit .247. That’s a difference of one hit every 414 at-bats.
“Understand this: last year NL pitchers averaged 2.1 plate appearances per game. They hit less than ever because starters throw fewer innings than ever. You are throwing away a better, more strategic game and all of its history for two stinkin’ plate appearances a game.”
Verducci also hates the three-batter minimum, and on the tiebreaker rule....
“Put two runners on base to start the 11th inning. Don’t worry. Nobody – owners, players or fans – wants to see this in the regular season or postseason. And it has zero chance of being used then. But it’s a great idea for spring training, the All-Star Game and the World Baseball Classic, where the volume of innings becomes problematic.”
Verducci loves the pitch clock.
Me? I give up on the DH. I also can’t ignore Thomas Boswell’s musings on this. He said he’s been covering the Orioles for years and never once thought, “I miss seeing the pitcher come to the plate.” Us NL fans will learn to get over it.
I’m against the three-batter minimum for pitchers.
Of course I favor the pitch clock.
And I love the 26/28 roster idea.
And hate the putting runners on base in extra innings, but totally like Verducci’s ideas for outside regular and postseason play.
Frank Robinson, RIP
586 home runs (still 10th all time)
1812 RBI (21st)
1829 runs (16th)
Six 100-RBI seasons
11 Xs 30 home runs
I liked what the Washington Nationals tweeted:
Rookie of the Year
Gold Glove Winner
Triple Crown Winner
2 x MVP
2 x World Series Champ
World Series MVP
14 x All-Star
All-Star Game MVP
Manager of the Year
Hall of Famer
1st manager in #Nats history
Trailblazer. Icon. Legend.
Rest in peace, Frank Robinson.
Thomas Boswell / Washington Post
“For several days, the death of Frank Robinson had been expected. Editors called reporters to prepare appreciations. But Frank, no respecter of deadlines or demise, didn’t depart on schedule. Some of us who covered him for years enjoyed the thought of Death trying to cope with Frank.
“Robinson was the proudest, orneriest, most competitive man in baseball from his arrival in 1956 – as a rookie who hit 38 homers at age 20 – until 2006, when, in his 16th year as a manager, his old fierce eyes still made his Nats players seem tame.
“ ‘You know you can’t beat me,’ the Grim Reaper says. Frank, silent, just glares and digs in. Robinson didn’t just crowd the plate; he crowded life.
“On Thursday, Robinson died at 83. Many will recall his Triple Crown season leading the Baltimore Orioles to a World Series title in 1966. Others will find the most lasting value in his dignified barrier-breaking work as the first African American manager in 1975 with Cleveland and then as manager of the year back with the Orioles in 1989.
“Washington fans will remember Robinson’s fiery leadership of the 2005 Nationals, D.C.’s first team after a 33-year wait. They were supposed to be awful. Robinson refused to allow it. They were in first place at the all-star break and in contention in September and weren’t losers – they finished 81-81. Once, Robinson, almost 70, pushed through a melee trying to punch tough-guy Angels manager Mike Scioscia. With big fists and an upper body that recalled a 541-foot homer he hit out of Memorial Stadium, Robinson truly wanted a piece of Scioscia....
“Sometimes, when he managed the Nats, we had rambling talks. He despised the PED cheaters who broke the records of him and his friends, especially Hank Aaron, who had faced death threats while chasing Babe Ruth’s homer mark.
“Because he could be so cantankerous and didn’t care what you thought, Robinson was exciting to cover. He grasped the concept of an ‘adversarial relationship’ with the press. That didn’t mean he liked it. Once, after I criticized his managing, he made a sweeping gesture of stabbing himself in the back as he passed me. And he wasn’t smiling.
“Put all those qualities together, and it may be easier to understand why teammates loved him, foes feared him, umpires and writers respected him but his colleagues in the sometimes-devious world of front-office politics did not....
“Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics became the first African American coach in any major U.S. pro sport. Eight years later, Robinson, who was Russell’s basketball teammate at McClymonds High in Oakland, broke the managerial color barrier in Major League Baseball. That two close friends could face challenges so similar with such dignity and honesty was impressive. But that they did it so uncompromisingly, never turning away from the firsthand hard truths they had learned about race in America, made them two of my heroes.
“For me, Russell and Frank Robinson were the next step after Jackie Robinson. Because he had laid the groundwork, they didn’t have to turn the other cheek. They could be their entire selves – or close to it. Remembering what social progress looked like then is a reminder of why it’s worth battling to keep and extend now.
“Frank Robinson always had the severe comportment, the hard eye for enemies, the basic sense of right and wrong of a pioneer. He walked into a room, and others stood up straighter, heads higher. Now, we bow our heads in respect.”
Kevin B. Blackistone (sic) / Washington Post
“A few seasons after Jackie Robinson retired, Frank Robinson did something Jackie only dreamed of, something he swore he would never do, something that ate at him for as long as he was on the diamond.
“Frank Robinson fought back. Against a white player. A star white player, too – the Braves’ Eddie Mathews.
“Robinson lost the fight but won the war.
“ ‘I had a homer and a double, drove in one run, scored another and made a catch that robbed Mathews of an extra-base hit,’ Robinson explained after his eye was blackened. ‘We won the second game, 4-0.’
“Jackie Robinson was revered for the abuse he took. Frank Robinson, if you read the memories that poured out Thursday upon the news of his death at 83, was respected for what he didn’t take.
“The Mathews incident reverberated not unlike when Larry Doby became the first black player to retaliate against a white player by punching out Yankees pitcher Art Ditmar in 1957. William Jackson in the black-owned Cleveland Call and Post wrote: ‘They say that Abe Lincoln freed the slaves about 93 years ago and delivered the Emancipation Proclamation. But it wasn’t until Doby threw that left hook to the chin of Ditmar that the Negro baseball player was completely emancipated.’
“Frank Robinson was an emancipated black athlete. He played not just fiercely, as was recounted Thursday, but, most importantly, fearlessly. It was so evident to those who played with and against him that they dreaded him.
“In Jackie Robinson’s rookie season, 1947, he was spiked purposely by Enos Slaughter, the southerner who rumor held considered striking that year rather than play against the majors’ first black player since the 1880s.
“Ten years later, in his second season, Frank Robinson did the spiking. He sidelined Milwaukee shortstop Johnny Logan, a white player, for six weeks.
“Frank Robinson was remembered immediately for the Hall of Fame baseball player he became over 21 seasons, most notably the first 10 years he spent in Cincinnati and the next six in Baltimore. He was Rookie of the Year, the first to be named MVP in both leagues, a Triple Crown winner, the first black manager, ‘A Grade-A Negro’ player, the Sporting News characterized him upon being traded to Baltimore.
“But the descriptors of Frank Robinson as a man made him important rather than merely historic. He was in the vanguard of the liberated black American athlete of the second half of the 20th century. He was the tip of the spear in their remasculation.
“Frank Robinson became reflective of a burgeoning confrontational black America – like Robert F. Williams’ armed Monroe, N.C., NAACP that engaged the KKK in a shootout in 1957 – that was leaving what was a more conciliatory freedom movement behind. To be sure, Frank Robinson walked around strapped. He was arrested for brandishing his pistol in 1961 after a confrontation with white customers and a white short-order cook in a late-night Cincinnati eatery.
“Frank Robinson, who debuted April 17, 1956, in left field at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, wasn’t like the black athletes this country championed for most of the first half of the last century. He didn’t subjugate himself to perform and act in the nonconfrontational manner that was expected of and acceded to by many black Americans in post-Reconstruction, pre-Civil Rights era America. He wasn’t like the three most-celebrated black athletes in America from World War I through the Korean War – boxer Joe Louis, track and field athlete Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson – who were depicted synecdochally by a white America in pursuit of racial peace and unity as long as it was separate.
“Frank Robinson didn’t fit the collective narrative in white America’s desire to excoriate its apartheid social arrangement by promoting black athletes it allowed to perform within it as courageous. A 1963 Sports Illustrated profile was titled ‘The Moody Tiger of the Reds: Unloved by opponents, shy among friends, Frank Robinson has combined his vast talents and fierce will to become a superstar and one of baseball’s most feared men.’
“Frank Robinson was like his high school basketball teammate Bill Russell. He was part of the birth in the 1960s of black athletes such as Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Lew Alcindor, all of whom began to confront their condition as athletic labor and join the civil rights movement, traditional and radical.
“He hadn’t planned to be that guy. When Robinson was traded to Baltimore in 1966, the Baltimore NAACP asked him to join. It was reported that he declined unless the organization promised he wouldn’t have to make public appearances while he was a player. But house hunting for him and his family, which included a son and daughter, changed his mind.
“As recounted in a Society for American Baseball Research article, Robinson and his wife, Barbara, thought they had found a home until the university professor who was subletting it met Barbara. ‘He must have thought I was Mrs. Brooks Robinson,’ Frank Robinson’s wife quipped. They wound up in a rental home ‘grimy and infested with bugs, its floors covered with dog [mess].’
“The experience inspired Frank Robinson to change his mind about being active with the city’s NAACP.
“So it made sense Thursday that Frank Robinson’s family requested that contributions in his memory be made to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, or the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington....
“While with the Orioles in 1968, he wrote his autobiography, ‘My Life in Baseball,’ and noted of major league owners and executives when wondering whether black players could ever become managers: ‘It’s the same old story. The owners are just afraid. They are a step behind the public.’
“Seven years later, or 28 years after baseball allowed Jackie Robinson to integrate its base paths, Cleveland made Frank Robinson the first black manager in the game. It gave him a one-year contract.
“One of Robinson’s pitchers was Gaylord Perry, a white Southerner and 21-game winner for the Indians the previous season. Perry, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991, didn’t like Robinson’s attention to conditioning and complained to the media, ‘I’m nobody’s slave.’ Then a white catcher, John Ellis, publicly feuded with the first black skipper, author John Rosengren noted in his History Channel Magazine story on Robinson’s first season as manager. Cleveland fans responded by threatening Robinson’s life.
“Robinson was unbowed. Rosengren noted that when Robinson suspected his skin color resulted in umpires treating his team less fairly, he didn’t bite his lip.
“ ‘Certain umpires are getting back at me through my club,’ Robinson complained aloud. ‘Every close call goes against us, and I think they are taking out on the club the way they feel about me.’
“In 2008, the Hall of Fame did something it said it never does: It edited Jackie Robinson’s plaque to reflect the history he made reintegrating the major leagues. It should do the same for Frank Robinson.
“His most indelible contribution can’t be summed up in statistics, unless they are numbers that somehow take the measure of a man.”
Another tidbit on F. Robby:
In 1988, he took over the Orioles when they were 0-6. That team went on to lose 15 more, going 0-21 on its way to 107 losses. At 0-18, Robinson received a telephone call from President Reagan. Hoping to console the skipper, Reagan said, “Frank, I know what you’re going through.”
“Mr. President,” Robinson told him, “with all due respect, you have no idea.”
The next season, the Orioles improved by 32 games to go 87-75 and had dreams of a worst-to-first season until being eliminated in the 161st game. Robinson was voted AL Manager of the Year.
One of Robinson’s last public appearances was at Dodger Stadium on April 15, 2017, when a sculpture of Jackie Robinson was unveiled. Even as he was slowing down, Frank Robinson “still carried himself with the grace and confidence of a great athlete.
“ ‘I’m here to honor Jackie and his family,’ he said. ‘Everything I have, everything Willie [Mays] and Hank [Aaron] have, started with Jackie Robinson doing what he did. He could have lost his life for it. That’s a debt you can’t repay except to say, ‘Thank you’ as often as you can.’” [Richard Justice / MLB.com]
--One more baseball note: The Phillies and Marlins reached agreement on a deal that sends All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto to Philadelphia for catcher Jorge Alfaro, pitching prospects Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart, and an international bonus slot, as the teams announced Thursday.
Huge move for the Phillies, as they remain in the game for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.
Realmuto, the best catcher in the game, still has two years before he hits free agency.
For Miami, the key in the deal is Sanchez, a 20-year-old with terrific stuff who missed most of 2018 due to injury. Alfaro is a power-hitting catcher with some promise, and Stewart had a terrific season in Class A last year, going 8-1 with a 2.06 ERA. This is more like the kind of deal Derek Jeter needs to rebuild Miami.
This could also be one of the key trades of the next five years, assuming Philly re-signs Realmuto, just 27, in two years (or gives him an extension earlier), and Sanchez and Stewart develop for the Marlins.
--Well, due to severe weather at Pebble today, the tournament will have a Monday finish, which isn’t all bad for those of us who work at home.
Paul Casey, seeking his third PGA Tour title, is in the lead as I go to post, Mickelson one behind after nine.
Oops, tied thru 10!
--Bernhard Langer, 61, won his 39th Champions Tour title today by five over Marco Dawson in the Oasis Championship at Boca Raton. College classmate Gary Hallberg finished T-49. Just glad to see he’s still playing because, err, we’re the same age, you know, and my best golf is at the local par-3 these days.
--Rocco Mediate admitted in an interview with the Golf Channel that he gave up drinking on Oct. 23, 2017, but he couldn’t remember a day before that didn’t include him having a drink. Even on the course.
“Absolutely I have (played while drinking). Because it was just normal for me. It was just a daily ritual, let’s say. You can put it in a lot of places. A lot of places. Was it every time? No. But most of the time when the pain came in, it wasn’t not going to happen.”
Mediate said the only aftereffects from giving up alcohol were a four-hour headache the day he quit.
We got back to form the past few days.
Wednesday, after my last post, Manchester City defeated Everton on the road 2-0.
Then Saturday, Manchester United easily handled Fulham 3-0, Arsenal beat last-place Huddersfield 2-1, and Liverpool went back on top (Man City having briefly taking over) with a 3-0 win over Bournemouth.
In a dramatic game for the relegation battle, Cardiff City beat Southampton on the road, 2-1, the team learning the day before that teammate Emiliano Sala’s body had been recovered (miraculously) from the plane he crashed in off the coast of France. Just amazing they found the aircraft, Sala inside.
Today, my Tottenham Spurs hosted Leicester City and won their fourth straight, sans Harry Kane and Dele Alli, 3-1, as Son Heung-min continues to play exceptionally well.
And then we had a biggie, Man City and Chelsea at Etihad Stadium. Try City 6, Chelsea 0...the worst loss for the Blues since 1991. Sergio Aguero had his second hat-trick in three games.
So the standings after 26 of 38 (Man City 27...games, points)
1. Man City...27 – 65...ahead on goal differential, for now
2. Liverpool...26 – 65
3. Tottenham...26 – 60
4. Man U!!! ...26 – 51...startling comeback under their new manager
5. Arsensal...26 – 50
6. Chelsea...26 – 50...have lost three of last four...Dr. W. very upset
In the relegation battle:
16. Cardiff...26 – 25
17. Newcastle...25 – 24*
18. Southampton...26 – 24
19. Fulham...26 – 17
20. Huddersfield...26 – 11...they’ve scored just 14 goals! Eegads!
*Newcastle plays its 26th Monday against Wolverhampton.
This week we also have the resumption of Champions League play, which can be good, or bad for those in PL contention...this year all of the above top four.
--I stumbled on the Millrose Games’ Wanamaker Mile on Saturday at The Armory in Manhattan, one of the all-time cool sporting events, frankly. I attended once, long ago, but if you’re a track fan, the Millrose Games are as good as it gets.
So the only reason I bring this up is because a 21-year-old Ethiopian, Yomif Kejelcha, who specializes in the 5- and 10,000 meters, came to the event for the express purpose of trying to beat the indoor mile record of 3:48.45, set way back in 1997 in Ghent, Belgium by the great Hicham El Geurrouj.
And there was Kejelcha, with a shot (I didn’t think a good one as I observed) on the final, banked track lap to best the mark and he fell 0.008 seconds short! Officially, 3:48.46.
Kejelcha said after, through an interpreter: “I’m very happy. I was very inspired when I was running and I think it allowed me to feel that way.”
A classy response, when I might have been crying, and cussing, while heading to the nearest watering hole.
--We note the passing of actor Albert Finney, 82, one of the more respected and versatile actors of his generation.
Finney did it all, from being one of the higher-profile leading actors to a later career as a brilliant character actor. He burst to international fame in 1963 with his portrayal of a lusty, humorous rogue in 1963’s “Tom Jones.”
“The pattern of my life is that there is no pattern,” Finney once said. “In work, I like doing things that are different, contrasting. I’m lurching rather than pointing in any given direction.”
As noted in his New York Times’ obit, “An episode in 1960 seemed to confirm that self-assessment. Mr. Finney had a long screen test for the lead role in David Lean’s epic movie ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ but...(Finney) rejected a lucrative five-year contract with the film’s producer, Sam Spiegel, saying, ‘I didn’t know where I want to be in five years’ time – or tomorrow for that matter.’
“The role, of the adventurer T.E. Lawrence, went to Peter O’Toole and turned him into an international star.”
Finny was nominated five times for an Oscar, four for best actor: as the title character in “Tom Jones,” as Poirot in “Murder on the Orient Express,” as an aging actor in “The Dresser,” and as an alcoholic British consul in John Huston’s “Under the Volcano.” His performance in “Erin Brockovich” earned him a supporting actor nomination.
But he never won an Oscar and made a point of never attending the ceremonies.
“It’s a very long evening and not exactly my idea of a good night out,” Finney once said, “(Sitting) there for five hours in a nonsmoking, nondrinking environment.”
--Major news on the tiger front, No. 3 on the All-Species List.
From the BBC: “An endangered Sumatran tiger has been killed by another tiger at London Zoo.
“Male tiger Asim was brought to the zoo from a Danish safari park 10 days ago in the hope he would be the ‘perfect mate’ for long-term resident Melati.
“After spending time apart in the tiger enclosure to get used to the new arrangement, the two were then introduced to each other.
“But tensions ‘quickly escalated,’ things became ‘more aggressive’ and Melati died in a fight, the zoo said.”
When Asim arrived at London Zoo, he was described as “a handsome, confident cat who is known for being very affectionate with the ladies in his life,” adding “we’re hoping he’ll be the perfect mate for our beautiful Melati.”
Well, relationships can be complicated, right boys and girls?
The Sumatran tiger, which naturally lives in the forest and jungles of Sumatra, Indonesia, is now classified as critically endangered. In the 1970s, there were estimated to be 1,000 in the wild, while today’s figures say there are just 300.
The BBC had some tiger facts, two of which I found rather remarkable.
“The roar of a tiger can be so loud that it can be heard from two miles away.”
“From sitting down, a tiger is able to leap forward 33 feet”!
Good gawd! No wonder ‘Tiger’ is consistently No. 3 on the ASL.
--Doh! “A Russian farmer who may have suffered an epileptic seizure and collapsed into her pig pen was eaten by her pigs, according to reports citing Russian media.
“The woman, 56, was feeding the animals in a village in the central Russian region of Udmurtia when she fainted and fell into the pigpen, the BBC reported....
“The husband went to bed early the day before her death, because he was not feeling well, but he awoke to find his wife missing, the report said.
“He then discovered her body in the pen.”
That’s a lousy way to start the day. Hope the rest of it went better for the lad.
And remind me not to go to a petting zoo in Udmurtia, which admittedly was never on my bucket list.
--Meanwhile, from the Irish Independent:
“Chimpanzees escaped from their enclosure at Belfast Zoo on Saturday afternoon after making an improvised ladder from tree branches.
“The BBC has reported that a chimpanzee was seen walking on a path with members of the public, while others attempted to escape.
“Belfast Zoo spokesperson Alain Cairns said that the chimpanzees had been able to build the ladder after the trees in their enclosure had been weakened by storms.
“He said they only remained outside their enclosure for a short time before returning as they were ‘quite cowardly.’
“ ‘They’re intelligent primates and know they’re not supposed to be out of their enclosure, so got back in themselves,’ Mr. Cairns told the BBC.”
A red panda escaped the same zoo last month, after two electricity fences failed. She was eventually found safe and well in Collinbridge, a residential area within a mile of the zoo’s grounds.
Top 3 songs for the week 2/14/76: #1 “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” (Paul Simon) #2 “Love To Love You Baby” (Donna Summer) #3 “You Sexy Thing” (Hot Chocolate)...and...#4 “Theme From S.W.A.T.” (Rhythm Heritage) #5 “Sing A Song” (Earth, Wind & Fire) #6 “I Write The Songs” (Barry Manilow) #7 “Love Rollercoaster” (Ohio Players) #8 “Love Machine” (The Miracles) #9 “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” (Neil Sedaka) #10 “Evil Woman” (Electric Light Orchestra...perhaps one of the last decent weeks of the 70s, if you take out #3 and #4...a solid ‘B’...)
Music Quiz Answer: Primary lead singers....
Buckinghams – Dennis Tufano
Loverboy – Mike Reno*
Paul Revere and the Raiders – Mark Lindsay
Raspberries – Eric Carmen
Steppenwolf – John Kay
Yes – Jon Anderson... “Roundabout” having now entered my all-time top 20
Zombies – Colin Blunstone
*I was just shocked to read that Loverboy’s “Turn Me Loose” from 1981 only peaked at #35 on the Billboard charts. It was #7 in Canada. I would have bet large that this was a top ten here, because it certainly got a ton of air play and is one of the few tunes of that era I still like today.
One more music note. So in doing errands today (pssst...beer run, but don’t tell anyone), I had Sirius’ 60s channel on and they played “Ruby Tuesday” and then the ‘flipside’ “Let’s Spend The Night Together.”
For those of us who are old, and bought ‘45s, what an awesome ’45!
And of course with Saturday, Feb. 9, being the 55-year anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan (and my brother’s birthday!), I can’t help but note that Ed had the Stones change the lyrics to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together” when they performed the song on his show.
But because of the sexually-charged lyrics back in those days, this one peaked at #55 on the Billboard charts! Unbelievable. It gets more play today than the #1 “Ruby Tuesday”!
Back to sports next time.
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.
Big Bro, this is your year of Ed White, the great lineman for the Vikings and Chargers...in case you didn’t know. Goodbye year of Nitschke. Sorry. But you have your teeth.