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The Playoffs Are in Full Swing
*I had a major issue this morning, Wednesday, with a gremlin in the column that wiped out reviews of last night’s games, more extensive than I patched in below...I apologize, need to move on. You’ll see what happened down below as in an attempt to erase the ‘line’, I kept erasing past work. Oh well.
Baseball Quiz: Name the six stadiums still in use that were built prior to 1980. Answer below.
--The Brewers took Game 3 Monday night in Los Angeles, beating the meek Dodgers 4-0, boos, in the end, filling Dodger Stadium, primarily aimed at catcher Yasmani Grandal.
Center fielder Cody Bellinger, who flailed at a fly ball at the wall in one of the stranger defensive plays on a ball I have ever seen, said after, “Right now, it sucks,” his teammates bathed in silence in the locker room after.
Not exactly a great attitude to have when you are down just 2-1 in the NLCS.
The thing is, L.A. was expected to play far better after gaining a split in Milwaukee, plus they were 8-2 in their last 10 postseason games at home.
The Dodgers’ Enrique Hernandez, 0-for-2, said, “We had no energy, the stadium had no energy, the fans had no energy. It was a real bad game for everybody that calls themselves Dodger.
But Grandal is the whipping boy, with one mishandled pitch after another, and numerous failed opportunities at the plate.
As for Milwaukee, starter Jhoulys Chacin once again came through, 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball, with four relievers then holding the fort, the Dodgers striking out 14 times overall. Chacin’s other postseason appearance was a win against Colorado in the NLDS, five scoreless innings in that one.
In Game 4, it was a whole new attitude at Dodger Stadium, the fans into it from the beginning, all 5 hours, 15 minutes of action, an epic 13-inning affair; the Dodgers evening things up at 2-2 with a 2-1 win on a Cody Bellinger two-out, walk-off single that plated Manny Machado, running from second.
But it was in the tenth that Machado earned the ire of the Brewers players, and now fans back in Milwaukee. In running out a ground ball, he seemed to purposefully step on Milwaukee first baseman Jesus Aguilar’s ankle. Both benches emptied but order was quickly restored.
Afterward, the Brewers’ Christian Yelich called out Machado. “F-k that motherf-ker...it was a dirty play by a dirty player.”
Milwaukee fans will get a Game 6 to express how they feel about Manny, after this afternoon’s Game 5, the Brewers’ Wade Miley vs. Clayton Kershaw.
--In the ALCS, after I posted Sunday, Boston evened its series with Houston at 1-1 with a 7-5 win. The significance here was that even though Red Sox starter David Price went just 4 2/3, allowing four runs, it was the first time in Price’s 11 postseason starts that his team won the game.
So a moral victory for Price, even though he couldn’t go long enough for the ‘W’, his postseason W-L mark still 0-9 as a starter.
Yesterday, Boston took a 2-1 series lead down in Houston, 8-2, behind Jackie Bradley Jr.’s grand slam, part of a five-run eighth inning off Houston’s Roberto Osuna.
Nate Eovaldi went six strong for the Red Sox, allowing the two runs, in picking up the win.
Rick Porcello is on the mound tonight for Boston, Charlie Morton for Houston.
--Craig Muder of the Baseball Hall of Fame noted that Oct. 17 was the anniversary of the Pirates wrapping up the 1971 World Series, where Roberto Clemente did everything, hitting safely in all seven games and earning Series MVP honors.
In Game Seven Clemente homered in the fourth off Baltimore’s Mike Cuellar, Pittsburgh going on to win 2-1 behind Steve Blass, who pitched a four-hitter.
After the game, Orioles owner Jerry Hoffberger entered the Pirates locker room and sought out Clemente.
“You are one of the greatest,” Hoffberger said. “I want you to know you beat a great ball club. We lost because of you. You are just great.”
The 37-year-old Clemente batted .341 during the regular season in 1971 and earned his 11th consecutive Gold Glove Award in right field.
Clemente also hit safely in all seven games of the 1960 World Series and in 14 Series games during his career, he hit .362.
The Pirates would win the 1972 NL East title before falling to Cincinnati in the NLCS. It would be Clemente’s final game before perishing on that tragic night, Dec. 31, 1972, when the plane he was in went down, ferrying earthquake relief supplies to Nicaragua.
Clemente was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973.
--There isn’t a single, titanic contest this coming weekend, but some big ones nonetheless with playoff ramifications.
6 Michigan at 24 Michigan State is huge for the Wolverines; 16 N.C. State at 3 Clemson is the Game of the Year in the woeful ACC...can the Wolfpack keep it close in Death Valley?
5 LSU hosts 22 Mississippi State, with the Tigers needing to roll to impress the Selection Committee; and 12 Oregon has an important contest at 25 Washington State.
If there is an obvious trap game, its 2 Ohio State at Purdue, the Boilermakers a better team than their 3-3 record.
--Division I-AA Coaches Poll....
1. North Dakota State (all 26 first-place votes)
2. Kennesaw State
3. South Dakota State
4. Jacksonville State
5. James Madison
T-18 Princeton...with NC A&T
--One more on Rutgers’ pathetic effort the other day against Maryland....
Steve Politi / Star-Ledger
“Eight passing yards? Eight passing yards. Eight. Acht. Otto. Ocho. Osiem. Octo. Oito. I’m running out of languages to express how dumbstruck I am by this, so hopefully, you’ve gotten the point by now. It is hard to fathom how an offense could be this completely inept in the passing game – and, to be clear, this is the third straight year that this has been the case under (Chris) Ash.”
[It turns out, in Ash’s first season, Rutgers had five passing yards in a game against Michigan, a 78-0 disaster in which the Scarlet Knights were outgained 605-39. Thirty...nine....]
Separately, Politi notes that Coach Ash is now 7-24 in his time with the Scarlet Knights. 15 times since he took over the team, Rutgers has been blown out by 20 or more points.
Politi is quick to note that in Greg Schiano’s first two seasons, in 23 games, Rutgers lost by 20 or more 15 times as well. [Politi incorrectly wrote 21...this is why we all need editors, Steve.]
But then in Schiano’s third season, 5-7, he only had two losses by such a margin, and they were to No. 4 Virginia Tech and No. 13 Miami.
Two seasons later, Rutgers was 7-5 and on its way to five consecutive bowl games under the coach.
But Rutgers is showing zero signs of improvement in Ash’s third year.
--The league has to be pleased. Television ratings have stabilized and are now ticking up over the prior year, and it’s in small part to the product on the field. You may not like how the game is played these days, and bogus roughing-the-passer penalties, for instance, but the games have largely been entertaining, especially the high-profile contests.
Sunday night, Tom Brady and the Patriots did it again. After Chiefs standout Patrick Mahomes hooked up with Tyreek Hill on a 75-yard TD pass with 3:03 to play to tie it up at 40-40, Brady marched his team back down the field for a game-winning Stephen Gostkowski 28-yard field goal as the clock ran out, 43-40 Patriots, New England improving to 4-2 with their third straight, Kansas City losing its first to fall to 5-1.
Brady was 24/35, 340, 1-0, 109.2; Mahomes went 23/36, 352, 4-2, 110.0.
For Kansas City, Kareem Hunt had a tidy game. 10 rushes for 80 yards, 5 receptions for 105 and a TD. For New England, they’ve found a running back, first-round pick Sony Michel out of Georgia, who has asserted himself as lead dog in the backfield the last three contests.
And then Monday night, another quarterback known for last-minute, game-winning drives, Aaron Rodgers, pulled it out for Green Bay against San Francisco, 33-30.
Green Bay was down 30-23 late, but Rodgers, who was 25/46, 425, 2-0 (second straight 400-yard effort) hooked up with Davante Adams on a 16-yard TD pass to tie it at 30-30, and then after Kevin King picked off 49ers QB C.J. Beathard, Rodgers drove the Packers 81 yards to set up a game-winning Mason Crosby 27-yarder as time expired; Green Bay improving to 3-2-1, the Jimmy Garoppolo-less Niners 1-5, though Beathard played well overall.
Three Green Bay receivers had 100 yards; Adams 10-132-2, Jimmy Graham 5-104, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling 3-103.
It was also fitting that Mason Crosby nailed the game-winner. He was 4-of-4 on his field goal attempts, a week after missing four in a loss at Detroit.
--I was reminded by the New York Post’s Mark Cannizzaro how this Sunday’s Jets-Vikings game is more interesting than the simple fact it’s an opportunity for New York to get above .500 and put themselves in the playoff conversation.
We also get to boo, or as Cannizzaro puts it, “dismantle” Kirk Cousins.
You see, it was Cousins who turned down an absurd free-agent contract offer from the Jets of $90 million guaranteed over three years. That was last March, after which he publicly bragged about using the Jets as leverage in negotiating his eventual deal with Minnesota.
Well it would seem the Jets did far better, especially longer-term, in going the draft route and then nabbing Sam Darnold.
--The Steelers are on their bye week and it was thought Le’Veon Bell would return, but with the team off from Thursday thru Sunday, it’s now thought he comes back next Monday, Bell having told ESPN he intends to report.
“I miss football,” Bell told Jeremy Fowler. “When I do get back, I plan to give it my all. I still do want to go out there and win a Super Bowl with the Steelers.”
But Bell apparently has not been in touch with the team. And many in Pittsburgh are beginning to wonder if Le’Veon is worth the trouble, now that James Conner has settled into the lead back slot rather nicely...plus he is a superior human being.
--The Buffalo Bills, 2-4, have gotten off to a horrible start on offense, scoring just 76 points (Kansas City has 215 points in six games by comparison), as quarterbacks Josh Allen and Nathan Peterman have combined for three touchdown passes and nine interceptions, almost Artur Sitkowski-like (the Rutgers QB).
But now first-round pick Allen is out, probably for weeks, with an elbow injury.
Prior to knowledge of the full extent of the injury, Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle wrote the following (via USA TODAY):
“Whether or not Josh Allen is ever going to become a functioning NFL quarterback is a question we won’t know the answer to for the foreseeable future because it’s way too early to come to any conclusions.
“But five starts into his NFL career, we know this much: The No. 7 overall draft pick is in way over his head, and he’s not ready to play at this level. Quite frankly, I’m not sure he’s ready to play in a Power Five college football conference, something he did not do when he was having accuracy problems in the Mountain West playing against the likes of Utah State, Hawaii, and New Mexico for Wyoming.
“Allen was awful Sunday, just as he’s been awful for most of the time he has played for the Bills in the first six games of 2018. And as if that wasn’t enough for Bills fans to suffer through during Buffalo’s disheartening 20-13 loss to Houston Sunday, when he went down with an elbow injury in the third quarter, we were subjected to the ongoing nightmare that is Nathan Peterman, who gift-wrapped the Texans victory with a pick-six with 1:23 left to play.
“Buffalo’s quarterback situation has reached the depths of the 1-12-1 team of 1968 when the Bills trotted out Dan Darragh, Ed Rutkowski and Kay Stephenson; or the 1-13 team of 1971 that had Dennis Shaw and James Harris; or the 2-14 teams of 1984 and 1985 that actually gave snaps to the likes of Joe Dufek, Matt Kofler, and Bruce Mathison.”
So Mr. Maiorana got me going thru footballreference.com to look up some of the above teams.
Eegads....the 1968 quarterback trio threw 7 touchdown passes and 28 interceptions, Dan Darragh, a Pittsburgh high school QB who then went on to William & Mary, going 3-14.
The 1985 duo of Vince Ferragamo and Bruce Mathison threw 9 TD passes and 31 INTs! Yes, the same Ferragamo that in 1979, subbing for the injured Pat Haden, led the Rams to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Steelers.
And speaking of the Steelers, and going back to the top and poor rookie quarterback play, such as in Josh Allen’s case, it’s still best to give these guys more than a single season.
Every year when such a story is written about a rookie, I think about Terry Bradshaw and the start to his eventual Hall of Fame career.
Bradshaw’s rookie season was 1970 for Pittsburgh, and he was 3-5-0 in his eight starts, with 6 TD passes and 24 interceptions.
1971 he was 5-8-0 in games he started, 13 TDs, 22 INTs.
His won-loss record ended up being 107-51-0. Take out the first two seasons, a stupendous 99-38-0.
After all, remember Jared Goff’s rookie campaign? He was the first overall pick in 2016 and was totally overwhelmed...going 0-7-0 in his seven starts, just 3 touchdown passes, 5 INTs.
The following season his splits were 28-7. Of course it helped Sean McVay came along, but the point is to Buffalo fans, don’t give up on Allen yet.
And that’s a memo....
--It’s official. NBC’s Johnny Miller is retiring. Miller, 71, called it quits Tuesday and boy he’ll be missed. 29 years on the air, Johnny having replaced Lee Trevino on NBC in 1990. He immediately made an impact by becoming the first analyst to really criticize players. You may not have always liked him, but no doubt, he did his job well, and his outspokenness was a refreshing change from the bland coverage many of us grew up with.
Miller said in an interview with Golf Digrest, “I’ve been on to 50 years (including when he was a regular on Tour) with no break. I had my 24th grandchild yesterday. All my friends were retiring and it got to the point where I was like, ‘Hey, how come I’m not retiring? It’s been a great run. I’ve done everything I can do announcing wise.”
Paul Azinger is reportedly getting the job, reuniting with Mike Tirico, the two having worked together back when ABC/ESPN had the British Open. As of today, Azinger will continue doing his work on Fox for the majors with Joe Buck.
Miller’s contract ends in February, so his final event is expected to be the 2019 Phoenix / Waste Management Open.
Unlike his senior brethren, Miller played the Champions Tour seldom and focused on his TV work.
Oh, no doubt his outspokenness got him in trouble, such as in 2008 when he was forced to apologize for saying Rocco Mediate “looks like the guy who cleans Tiger’s swimming pool.”
He later added, “Guys with the name ‘Rocco’ don’t get on the trophy, do they?”
What Miller did best, though, was create the template for players who step into the broadcast booth...to be note-worthy, you need to put the viewers first over protecting your fellow golfers.
Johnny (he earned the first name acknowledgement), questioned everyone. He was as harsh on Tiger as any analyst around, for example. He leaves behind a terrific legacy.
But at the same time, Azinger is a perfect selection to replace Miller. He has no problem unleashing criticism.
[More on Miller next time...as the opinion pieces roll in...]
--The issue of the post-Ryder Cup dustup between Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson, old friends and workout partners, isn’t going away, but...Golfweek’s “The Forecaddie” has come up with a possible explanation that does make some sense.
Koepka may have been acting as peacemaker, getting between DJ and a European player to prevent a far uglier incident, and it’s possible that those in attendance who then acted as the sources to the press after only saw when Koepka and Johnson exchanged words for a few seconds after Koepka intervened in an attempt to cool his friend off, which was sort of captain Jim Furyk’s later explanation. Koepka ushered Johnson off to a cab for a late-night fresh air spin around Versailles and away from the Ryder Cup team hotel bedlam.
Which means one thing, if this angle is accurate...which it now appears to be. Who was DJ mad at?
A story circulated it was Euro team member Tyrrell Hatton who was the culprit, “but The Forecaddie hears he was already too deep into a night of partying and never anywhere nearJohnson. Hatton later admitted to Sky Sports he woke up the next day on his bathroom floor after hitting the sauce a little too hard, so TMOF is confident in crossing him off the list of subjects.
Other names have surfaced, but The Forecaddie is protecting the presumed-innocent until further details emerge; i.e., clearer memories.
--Last Sunday, 61-year-old Bernhard Langer won the SAS Championship at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, N.C., by six shots over Scott Parel. It was Langer’s fourth Champions Tour win since turning 60, besting Hale Irwin’s three. Langer, with 38 senior wins overall, trails only Irwin’s 45.
This week the senior circuit’s three-event Schwab Cup playoffs commence in Richmond, Va.
The field of 72 this week is whittled down to 54, and then from 54 to 36 the following week, the final 36 then playing for the Schwab Cup Championship Nov. 8-11 in Phoenix.
Congrats to college classmate Gary Hallberg for making the field. He’s been hanging on all season. Phil W., you should be caddying for the lad.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos, part II
I didn’t have time to do this story justice the other day, the 50th anniversary of their historic podium display at the Mexico City Olympics.
But, frankly, my archives are pretty amazing.
I did the following on Aug. 7, 2008, which I had written up, in part, a first time earlier than that.
I was ten years old the summer of ’68 and remember being mesmerized by all that was transpiring across the country... The ’68 Summer Games of Mexico City were certainly emblematic of the chaos both here and abroad.
HBO Sports did a piece in 2000 that focused on the Tommie Smith / John Carlos black power salute from those Games, an incident that polarized the nation. It is impossible to write about this, however, without using the N-word, but I will abbreviate to denote usage as employed by the participants in the story themselves.
Back in 1968 many black track athletes had to deal with the feeling among the white track hierarchy (and the fans) that, “I don’t care how fast or how far you can jump, you’re just another N-.” America seemed to be on the eve of destruction. Vietnam, racial inequality, poverty; these were just some of the issues roiling our country.
Enter three athletes who were to emerge in the spotlight in Mexico City; Tommie Smith, Lee Evans and John Carlos. Smith and Evans were farm laborers in California with experience picking cotton. They were humble youths, who ran fast as hell. Carlos, on the other hand, was a boisterous, cocky Harlem youngster who, as described by his teammates, you didn’t want as your enemy. Athletics gave all three the chance to escape poverty and they ended up as teammates at San Jose State.
Smith was described as gazelle-like, Evans was a ferocious competitor but with a style that looked like he was “drunk on roller skates,” and Carlos was a wine-drinking, pot-smoking type whose attitude seemed to say, “C’mon, sucker, I wanna see what you got.” Smith and Carlos were to make their names in the 200 meters while Evans’ specialty was the 400.
At San Jose State, “Speed City,” Smith joined the ROTC, was studious, religious and not the least bit rebellious. And, in reality, San Jose State was a racist campus that somewhat tolerated the track athletes. Also at SJS was a black sociology professor by the name of Dr. Harry Edwards. Edwards taught, “Once you take off that uniform, you’re just another N-,” as he strove to turn the black athletes into advocates. The Olympics was the target and, specifically, a movement titled the “Olympic Project For Human Rights.” Soon, it was hoped that there would be a boycott of the Summer Games by the track stars. “Why run in Mexico City and crawl at home?” [The boycott eventually failed and the movement turned to how best to demonstrate at the Games.]
Edwards became the target of conservatives in America. White athletes like pole-vaulter Bob Seagren thought Edwards was a radical whose movement was doomed to failure. But it did gain some white support and all black athletes were urged to take a stand.
[One who took a stand and decided he would definitely play (and without protest) was Charlie Scott, a spectacular basketball player for the University of North Carolina and the only black at the school in those days. Scott was going to be on the Olympic team and he felt that if he was “revolutionary,” he would be closing the doors to everyone behind him.]
And then there was International Olympic Committee (IOC) Chairman Avery Brundage. Brundage was known as the “Bull Connor” of the Olympic Games and he couldn’t begin to understand the Olympic Project. Brundage was labeled “pro-fascist” and a racist who “represented the generation that tried to keep Negroes in their place.” It was Brundage who said, “If they (‘the boys’) demonstrate (at the Games), they’ll be promptly sent home.”
As the year went on, the death of Martin Luther King Jr. had a catalytic effect on the black athletes. Coupled with the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the black stars were more willing to sacrifice. Meanwhile, down in Mexico City, the local government was having their own problems with the kinds of student protests that were sweeping the world. Just prior to the Games, the police in Mexico City gunned down an estimated 300-500 students in a Tiananmen Square-type slaughter.
In attempting to “gussie up” the city for the world press that would be covering the Games, the Mexican Army decided to clear the streets of the daily protesters. [The government would later claim that “only” 37 were killed. Most experts now agree on the 300-500 number.] The Army burned the bodies or threw them in the Pacific to keep the world from learning the true story.
When the athletes of the world met a few days later, they walked into an armed camp. The stage was set for Smith, Carlos, and the others.
As the black U.S. track athletes headed to Mexico City, the big question was whether or not they would have an organized or uniform protest. Since they couldn’t agree on whether or not they would all wear black socks or armbands, it was decided that everyone could do their own thing.
1968 was a banner year for the U.S. team. Superstar performances were turned in by the likes of Bill Toomey, Bob Seagren and Dick Fosbury (whose revolutionary “Fosbury Flop” in the high jump was ridiculed until he won the gold). And perhaps the best single performance in the history of track and field was witnessed in Mexico City as well.
Bob Beamon long jumped 29 feet 2 inches in a stupendous effort that has to be seen on video to be believed. Beamon’s leap broke the old record by almost 2 feet! It still stands as the ‘Greatest Percentage Improvement,’ 6.6%, over a world record.
But it was Tommie Smith and John Carlos who garnered most of the attention. In the 200 meters, Smith blazed to the first sub 20-second time, 19.83. Carlos finished third. [Trivia: Peter Norman of Australia was second.] Smith and Carlos then decided to wear black gloves (Smith on his right hand, Carlos on his left) in a black power salute as they stood on the awards stand. While Smith later claimed that he was “giving glory to God” and “praying for freedom,” others didn’t see it that way. The move was met by boos, whistles, and just a few muffled cheers.
The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) was furious and, under intense pressure from IOC Chairman Brundage, was forced to act. Smith and Carlos were sent home and banned for life from further competition. Smith said he was rather “pissed,” to put it mildly.
Next up was Lee Evans and the 400 meters. Evans had received death threats and he was contemplating going home. Smith and Carlos convinced him to run. And run he did as he, too, captured gold for the U.S. In fact, the U.S. finished 1-2-3 with Larry James and Ronnie Freeman taking the silver and bronze. The three of them decided to wear black berets, popularized back in the States by the Black Panthers, when they took to the awards stand. However, during the playing of the U.S. national anthem, all three at least took them off.
Evans was shocked to learn that many of his fellow black athletes and the militants back home thought he hadn’t done enough. “Heck, I was the one who received the death threats. They should have tried out for the team and come here and run if they wanted more,” Evans said.
The Games were turning into one miserable, negative experience. The USOC brought hero Jesse Owens in to talk to the athletes and Jesse preached about the viruses of patriotism. Evans said Owens was “pitiful.” Other athletes called Owens an “old Negro.” Owens was crushed by the reaction and wasn’t the same afterwards.
Then along came George Foreman to save the day for America. In a titanic fight, heavyweight Foreman captured the gold medal in a bout against the hated Russian. [For those of you who are too young to remember the Olympics during the height of the Cold War, you missed something.] During his victory celebration, Foreman pulled out a little American flag and waved it as he paraded around the ring, bowing at each corner. Foreman was branded a traitor by the Black Movement and he was startled by the reaction.
“In ’64, I was a mugger and a thief. Now, I had an opportunity to turn my life around,” said Foreman.
[It was no wonder then that the “hated” Foreman was not a favorite of many blacks in his historic ’74 fight in Zaire against Muhammad Ali. Ali’s dusting of Foreman helped solidify the Ali legend in more ways than one.]
The ’68 Summer Games were truly symbolic of the turbulent times in which we lived, not just in America but the World. Tommie Smith felt he wanted simply to do his part when he “saw wrong and tried to right it.” Smith ended up being taken advantage of by his fellow blacks when he returned to the States. At one point he worked in a car wash with his job being to sign autographs for customers who wanted it. Later, he taught and coached at Santa Monica College, and found peace, before retiring.
John Carlos has been a counselor at Palm Springs High School for the past 20 years, having suffered through his wife’s suicide. Evans has coached for years in Madagascar (hey, someone has to do it). Foreman has his Lean Mean Machine, which makes an awesome burger and is highly recommended by the editor. One other sidelight...Professor Harry Edwards of San Jose State was criticized heavily by the militants for not showing up in Mexico City and basically being AWOL for the three months leading up to the Games. Edwards claimed he couldn’t attend because of death threats. He was later fired by SJS. [He would return.]