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04/22/2024

Nelly Korda Wins Fifth in a Row!!!

[Posted Sunday p.m. prior to late playoff action]

Brief Add-on up top by noon, Tuesday.

Hockey Quiz: Toronto’s Auston Matthews failed to reach the 70-goal milestone this week, finishing the season with 69.  Name the eight players to score 70 in a single season. Answer below.

NBA Playoffs

--We wrapped up the play-in round action on Friday night and Miami, playing without Mr. Playoff, Jimmy Butler (out for weeks with a knee injury), had no problem with Chicago, 112-91, as Tyler Herro recorded 24 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. The Heat, who had lost to Philadelphia in the 7-8 play-in game, now face top-seeded Boston.

New Orleans, sans Zion Williamson, who hurt his left hamstring late in their first play-in against the Lakers, defeated Sacramento, 105-98, behind Brandon Ingram’s 24 points.

The Pelicans thus face top-seed Oklahoma City.

New Orleans went 6-0 against the Kings this season, counting the play-in victory.

Earlier, the Kings had eliminated Golden State, the Warriors missing the playoffs for the third time in five seasons.

--So, the stage was set for first-round action Saturday and Sunday.

Orlando opened things up at Cleveland Saturday afternoon and the Cavs prevailed, 97-83, behind Donovan Mitchell’s 30 and Jarrett Allen’s 16 points and 18 rebounds.  I always liked Allen. Brooklyn never should have jettisoned him.

In the second game, Phoenix at Minnesota, the Wolves blew out the Suns, 120-95, as Anthony Edwards had 33 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists, while Kevin Durant’s 31 for Phoenix meant nothing.

Then we had Philadelphia facing off against my Knicks at the Garden.  New York got off to a rough start, trailing 34-25 after the first period, and then went on a 33-12 run in the second for a 58-46 halftime lead.

But the Sixers, surviving a Joel Embiid injury scare, Embiid returning and scoring 29 in the game, turned it on in the third, outscoring the Knicks 36-21 for an 82-79 lead going into the fourth quarter and from there it was a true tension convention, the Knicks getting two huge threes from Josh Hart, and one from OG Anunoby, to lift New York to a thrilling 111-104 victory.

Hart was phenomenal, scoring 13 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, while hauling down 13 rebounds.  It was badly needed as Jalen Brunson was suffering through an 8 for 26 shooting night.  Tyrese Maxey, 33 points, was terrific for the Sixers.

Game 2 Monday night, back at the Garden.

And in Saturday’s finale, a Western Conference finals rematch from a year ago, the Lakers were at Denver.

Anthony Davis (32 pts., 14 rebounds) and LeBron James (27) did their part, but the supporting cast failed the future Hall of Famers, L.A. falling 114-103.  Nikola Jokic had his usual 32 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, and Jamal Murray (22 points) was clutch at key moments.

The Lakers will get swept if D’Angelo Russell (6 of 20 from the field) doesn’t play better.

So, Saturday, the home team won all four games.

--Today, the Celtics opened their game with the Heat 14-0, 17-2, but Miami cut it to 26-21 at the end of the first quarter. But that was all she wrote...Boston winning 114-94, 22 of 49 from three.

Yes, a 34-point lead was cut to 13, briefly, but never a real scare.

And the Clippers beat the Mavericks, 109-97, in L.A., as home teams continue to prevail.

--In other news, the NBA banned Raptors forward Jontay Porter for life after a bombshell investigation found he manipulated his participation in a game to influence the outcome of a bet and also bet on NBA games.

The league found that Porter, 24, was “disclosing confidential information to sports bettors” and “limiting his own participation in one or more games for betting purposes.”

Porter placed at least 13 bets on NBA games from January through March of this year; none of those bets included games in which he played, but he did bet a parlay that included a wager on the Raptors losing.

Before the Raptors’ March 20 home game against the Kings, which Toronto lost 123-89, Porter informed someone he knew to be an NBA bettor about his health status, and another person associated with Porter put $80,000 on a parlay prop on “unders” for Porter in that game to win $1.1 million.

Porter “limited his own game participation to influence the outcome of one or more bets on his performance in at least one Raptors game,” according to the NBA.

The big man, whose older brother is Nuggets star Michael Porter Jr., played just three minutes in that March 20 game, claiming he felt ill.

He finished the game with zero points and two rebounds, missing his lone field-goal attempt.

The $80,000 bet was frozen and not paid out due to the suspicious activity, the league said.

Porter was found to have bet on NBA games through an associate’s online betting account, ranging from $15 to $22,000.

He bet a total of $54,094 across 13 bets, getting paid out $76,059 for a net profit of $21,965.

“There is nothing more important than protecting the integrity of NBA competition for our fans, our teams and everyone associated with our sport, which is why Jontay Porter’s blatant violations of our gaming rules are being met with the most severe punishment,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.  Silver added, “this matter also raises important issues about the sufficiency of the regulatory framework currently in place, including the types of bets offered on our games and players.”

As The Athletic put it, the NBA dodged a bullet in that Porter was little-used and little-known.  But had this involved a bigger star, it would have been a massive scar for the NBA.  But Silver, instead, got to show how tough he’ll be on gambling issues, so a big win for him.

Yes, prop bets are stupid.

By the way, I used to tell you how the only sports betting I did was PGA Tour and NASCAR lineups, but I stopped that cold turkey last September.  Zero interest.  I did place a bet on Wake Forest to win it all early in the hoops season when I saw Efton Reid emerge. That didn’t work out.

--The Brooklyn Nets are hiring Kings assistant Jordi Fernandez to be their next head coach.

--In College Basketball, Duke has seen seven players enter the transfer portal since the end of the season, plus Kyle Filipowski and Jared McCain entered the NBA draft. Granted, don’t cry for coach Jon Scheyer as he has a spectacular class coming in next fall, led by No. 1 Cooper Flagg and top-10 recruit Isaiah Evans.

--Caitlin Clark was selected first by the Indiana Fever in the WNBA Draft Monday night.

And today, the Wall Street Journal reported that she is in line for an eight-year deal with Nike that could end up being worth $28 million along with a signature shoe.

So, this will help supplement her first year WNBA rookie salary of $76,535 ($338,000 over the four years of her deal with the Fever).

If you are a casual fan and wondering about the WNBA’s low pay, there are multiple reasons.  The league has little revenue and it’s just a 40-game season.  Which is why so many of the players go overseas to supplement their income.

All of this can change pretty quickly, however, if Caitlin and her college brethren help hike ratings and attendance and merchandise, which they will. And then when the negotiations for the next television contract come up, pay could rise bigly.

Stanley Cup Playoff

--In Saturday’s two playoff openers, Carolina beat the visiting Islanders 3-1, while Boston whipped the Maple Leafs, 5-1, in Beantown.

--The Rangers wrapped up the Presidents’ Trophy as the best team in the NHL during the week and then prepared to take on Washington in the first-round Sunday at the Garden.

It’s been a franchise-best 82-game campaign, but the pressure on them to win it all is unreal. How would they respond?

Pretty, pretty well...4-1.

Like in the NBA, the home team won the first four Stanley Cup games as I go to post, the Florida Panthers also defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-2, earlier today.

--As the regular season wrapped up, Nikita Kucherov and Connor McDavid became the 4th and 5th players in NHL history to record 100 assists in a single season.  [Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky the others.]

Kucherov (Tampa Bay) was the regular season points leader with 144.

--Arizona Coyotes fans bid a sad farewell to their team. The Coyotes are moving to Salt Lake City, as it’s been known they would get a new owner, Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, which was just approved.

The Coyotes have been playing in a totally substandard facility seating 5,000 (a venue shared with Arizona State University), as ownership was never able to put together a deal for a new arena.

But the league has promised Arizona will get an expansion team if a new venue is built within five years.

MLB

--The Mets are the talk of New York in the baseball world these days, not the Yankees.  The Metropolitans, after their hideous 0-5 start, have suddenly gone 12-3 to get to 12-8 overall behind rookie manager Carlos Mendoza and a shockingly terrific bullpen.

The Mets are out in L.A. this weekend and took the first two in the series, Friday and Saturday, 9-4 and 6-4, with Saturday’s unsung hero out of the pen, Reid Garrett, striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth.

A huge key for the Mets is Starling Marte, who is playing like the 2022 version, having recovered from his many injuries that plagued him last season.  Marte hit a three-run bomb in the sixth yesterday to give the Mets a 5-2 lead and they held on from there.

The Dodgers are just 12-11 and are 2-6 on this current homestand.

Shohei Ohtani, despite hitting .359, with a 1.049 OPS, is 2-for-21 with runners in scoring position!

But the Mets suffered a huge blow Friday night when their 22-year-old stud catcher, Francisco Alvarez, tore a ligament in his left thumb running the bases (he dug it into the ground while attempting to reverse course) and he’s likely out until late June at the best following surgery.  We’re going to find out just how resilient the team can be.

And then before today’s game, we learned the Mets put key lefty reliever Brooks Raley on the 15-day IL with left elbow inflammation.  Ugh. The guy had been perfect in eight appearances this season.

Well, the Metsies proceeded to lose, 10-0, as Tyler Glasnow dominated the Gotham hitters.

As they say in the ‘burbs, can’t win ‘em all.

On to San Francisco and their dirty streets.

--Playing in the Bronx, the Yankees are 14-7, after losing 2-0 to the Rays (12-10) on Saturday, as Juan Soto has been terrific, .354, 5 home runs, 20 RBIs.  But Aaron Judge is off to the worst start of his career, batting .179, 3 home runs, 11 RBIs, a sickly .682 OPS, and 27 strikeouts in 78 at bats, including an 0-4, 4 strikeouts performance Saturday at The Stadium, eliciting more than a few boos from the Yankee faithful.

I just have to add that back in February, I noted the Rays’ signing of free agent Amed Rosario for one year, $1.5 million, was it an amazing steal.  The guy is a solid utility player and, sure enough, he’s hitting .343, playing all over the place, both infield and outfield, with an .866 OPS.

Yes, what a steal!  Anyone could have had him, including my Mets, for whom he was a popular player. And he’s still just 28.

The Yanks won today, 5-4, to move to 15-7.  My man Rosario was 2-for-4, 2 RBIs, for Tampa Bay, OPS .887.

--The Chicago White Sox are off to an historically bad start, 3-17, having been shutout seven times.  When they were 2-14 with six shutouts, they were the first team with six shutouts in their first 16 games since the 1907 Brooklyn Superbas.

But the White Sox aren’t alone. Through Saturday’s play, Miami was 5-17 and Colorado 4-16.

Well, the ChiSox lost again today in Philadelphia, 8-2, Mark R.’s Phils 14-8.  The White Sox 3-18. Eegads...that blows.

--One of the great early stories in baseball isn’t in the major leagues.  It’s Pirates future star, pitcher Paul Skenes, who I got to see up close at the College World Series last year while he was with LSU (along with girlfriend Livvy Dunne*, but I digress).

The Pirates aren’t in any hurry to bring Skenes up, treating him carefully like they are rookie Jared Jones.  These two could be a phenomenal combo in Pittsburgh for years.

Thursday night, Skenes threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings for Triple-A Indianapolis in an outing where he reached at least 100 mph on 34 of the 43 four-seam fastballs he threw and struck out eight batters, according to MLB.com.

The No.1 overall pick in the 2023 draft now has thrown 12 2/3 innings, no runs, with 27 strikeouts!

All eyes on when the Pirates bring him up...though I’m sure he’ll be limited to about 120 innings, total, no more, his first season.

*Speaking of Livvy (Olivia) Dunne, the Queen of social media and NIL star, she helped lead her LSU Tigers to the school’s first-ever gymnastics national title, barely edging out California.

--Another high-profile young gun, the Texas Rangers’ starter Jack Leiter, son of Al Leiter, former terrific major league hurler for the Mets, among others, and a resident of my home town of Summit, N.J., made his MLB debut on Thursday.

It wasn’t good...3 2/3, 7 earned, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts.

Leiter was the No. 2 overall draft selection in 2021 out of Vanderbilt, via Delbarton HS in nearby Morristown, N.J., same high school where Anthony Volpe went.

Yes, Leiter didn’t pitch at Summit High School, nor did Volpe for neighboring Watchung HS.  It drives me up the wall, but such is the sport when you start in your youth with travel baseball and the train to the private schools.

Willie Wilson didn’t go that route!!!!  Nor Larry Doby (Eastside HS in Patterson, NJ)...just musing.

[Leiter was sent back to AAA, but the team said it was simply to bring up a fresh arm.]

--Nice game for Braves (and former Mets) catcher Travis d’Arnaud Friday night. In an 8-3 win over the Rangers, d’Arnaud hit his first three home runs of the season, including a grand slam, six RBIs (after just four prior).  Chris Sale improved to 2-1, going seven strong.

--I can’t help but note a game last Wednesday when the Red Sox’ Tanner Houck pitched a 3-hit shutout in Boston’s 2-0 win over Cleveland.

Houck struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter.  He threw 94 pitches, 69 for strikes.

But here’s the thing. Game time was one hour, 49 minutes!

--We had a number of passings in the sport the past few days.

The winningest pitcher of Jewish heritage in MLB history, Ken Holtzman, died.  He was 78 and had been battling heart issues, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Holtzman, a talented lefty, went 17-13 and 17-11 for the Chicago Cubs in 1969 and 1970.  But following a 9-15 campaign in 1971, the then-25-year-old was shipped to Oakland for outfielder Rick Monday, also 25.

Monday went on to have some solid seasons for the Cubs and then Dodgers, but Holtzman became a cog in the A’s rotation that won three straight World Series titles, 1972-74.

1972...19-11...2.51
1973...21-13...2.97
1974...19-17...3.07

Holtzman was 4-1, 2.55, in the three World Series.

He also went 18-14, 3.14, in 1975 and would end up 174-150, 3.49, with 127 complete games and 31 shutouts for his career, 1965-79.

Sandy Koufax won 165 games, in case you forgot, re Jewish heritage.

--Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog died, age 92.  He won three AL West Titles piloting the Royals in the 1970s but lost all three AL Championship Series to the Yankees, 1976-78.

He then moved on to St. Louis and managed them to the 1982 World Series Championship, winning NL pennants in 1985 and 1987 as well.

For his career he was 1281-1125, .532.

But Herzog was more than wins and losses and titles.  He revolutionized the game with “Whitey Ball,” teams built on speed, defense and a deep bullpen with Whitey not caring a whit about home runs.

The left-handed Herzog starred in baseball and basketball in high school and was signed by the Yankees after graduating in 1949.  He picked up the nickname “Whitey” from a broadcaster while playing in the minors.

But he spent two years in the Army in the Army Corps of Engineers before having a stellar 1955 with AAA Denver.

During spring training he was taken under the wing of Casey Stengel.

“When I met Stengel, it was like an enlightening thing because I would go to bed at night, instead of thinking about girls, I would be thinking about what the hell he talked about all day,” Herzog said during his 2010 Hall of Fame induction speech.

“Casey and I used to sit in the press room during spring training and every night we would have a few pops and talk baseball, among other things. And Casey told me so many things that I’ve been using the rest of my life.  For some reason he knew I was going to be a big league manager.”

Herzog played in the majors for various teams from 1956-63, batting .257, and in 1964 he scouted for the Kansas City Athletics. After that he served as the New York Mets’ first-base coach in 1965 before becoming director of player development for the next six years (farm director).

But Whitey was passed over in favor of Togi Berra to replace deceased Mets manager Gil Hodges before the 1972, after previously being passed over for general manager upon the death of Johnny Murphy, and there are many who say these were the two biggest mistakes the Mets made next to trading Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan.

But then Herzog got his break with the Royals, a team that played on artificial turf like the Cardinals in the 1980s, and Herzog recognized that players with speed and slick gloves (like Willie Wilson on the Royals, Willie McGee in St. Louis) adapted best on a surface that saw ground balls zip through the infield.

“The key to having a good team on turf is that you have to have a real good-throwing shortstop, because he needs to play deep and make a lot of throws from the hole,” Herzog said.

Freddie Patek was Whitey’s shortstop in K.C., and then Ozzie Smith in St. Louis, though in the case of the former, he had a guy, George Brett, to his right playing third.

Kansas City catcher Darrell Porter once said: “Whenever I would get discouraged and start feeling like I just didn’t belong in the major leagues, Whitey was always there to lift my spirits. He would tell me, ‘You’re my catcher.  You’ll come back and you’ll be all right tomorrow,’ and just the way he said it made me believe in myself.”

Whitey’s 1982 Cardinals hit just 67 home runs while stealing 200 bases to the soundtrack of “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang.  St. Louis won the World Series in seven over Milwaukee.

The Cardinals might have won another World Series in 1985 were it not for a famous blown call.

They were leading their intrastate rival Royals three games to two and by one run in Game 6 of the Series when Jorge Orta led off the ninth with a ground ball to Cardinals first baseman Jack Clark.  Pitcher Todd Worrell covered first, Clark tossed him the ball in time to record the out...except that umpire Don Denkinger called Orta safe.

The shaken Cardinals imploded, losing that game and Game 7 the next day.  “We had the damned World Series won,” Herzog said.

After Herzog resigned halfway through the 1990 season, lamenting that he could no longer motivate his players, the Angels hired him a year later as senior vice president of player personnel, but the Angels regressed in his 2 ½ years on the job.  He was frustrated by payroll constraints imposed by Gene and Jackie Autry and the burgeoning role of agents in negotiating contracts.

And we lost Carl Erskine, the last of the “Boys of Summer,” the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950s that won the World Series in 1955.

Erskine pitched for Brooklyn, and then Los Angeles, from 1948-1959, going 122-78, 4.00 ERA, including a 20-6 record in 1953.  He was 97.

The Dodgers overcame a reputation as lovable losers to reach the World Series six times in 10 years – always against their crosstown rivals, the New York Yankees.

It was writer Roger Kahn, who covered the Dodgers for the New York Herald Tribune in the early 1950s, who sought to show how the spirit of Brooklyn was intertwined with the fortunes of the Dodgers in his widely acclaimed 1972 book, “The Boys of Summer.”

Erskine featured prominently in the book, playing alongside such Hall of Fame stars as Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella and, of course, Jackie Robinson.  When Erskine joined the Dodgers in 1948, Robinson was the first player to shake his hand.

Erskine was a mainstay of a pitching staff that included Don Newcombe, Preacher Roe, Ralph Branca and Clem Labine.

Erskine appeared in five World Series and had a dramatic 11-inning complete-game victory over the Yankees in 1952, but the Dodgers fell short of winning the title.

In 1953, the year he went 20-6, he pitched in Game 3 of the World Series against the Yanks and struck out 14, setting a new WS record, which was later broken by Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson. But the Yankees won that Series as well.

Erskine threw two no-hitters – against the Cubs in 1952 and against the Giants in 1956.

Over the years, Carl Erskine grew accustomed to attending funerals and giving eulogies for his fellow Boys of Summer.  One by one, they fell away until he was the last one standing – the final Dodger to have seen action in the 1955 World Series, Brooklyn’s great moment of glory.

--The Yankees honored radio announcer John Sterling Saturday at The Stadium.  Last week, the 85-year-old suddenly announced, “I’ve called my last game,” after 36 years in the booth, 64 overall as an announcer.

Sterling had his critics, me being one of them, but most Yankees fans loved his passion, and I told you of how years ago I met the man in an elevator at Yankee Stadium, immediately following a game, and just shaking his hand and the smile he gave me, I just knew he was a good guy.  [I was also amazed how quickly he had wrapped up his work and hit the road!]

It was the road that got him to finally quit.  As he put it this week, he just got tired, especially at that age, of having to drive home to New Jersey after a game, often late at night, and I can tell you, at 20 years younger, I wouldn’t like having to do that at my age.  Hell, I went to Delaware this week and I am deathly afraid to drive over the Delaware Memorial Bridge these days.

The Yankees awarded Sterling with a home jersey with the number 5631 – the total number of Yankees games he called on the radio...5,420 regular-season games and 211 playoff games.  He was in the booth for 5,060 straight games from September 1989 to July 2019 when he missed a series with an illness.  In recent seasons he had taken on a reduced role and traveled less often because of health concerns.

--In College Baseball...No. 14 Wake Forest (Baseball America) had a huge 3-game series at home against No. 5 Florida State and the Deacs took 2 out of 3.  5-4, 6-9, 10-9, in front of record crowds.  Massive for Wake.  And they didn’t need Nick Kurtz, who had homered 14 times in his previous 10 games going into the series but was held to two doubles over the three games.  Others stepped up.

NFL

--The NFL Draft is Thursday-Saturday.

The Chicago Bears will select quarterback Caleb Williams first, who appears to have embraced the role of savior of the franchise.

But Washington, with the second pick, isn’t tipping their hand and whether QB Jayden Daniels is their selection.

Some mock drafts have my Jets selecting Georgia tight end Brock Bowers at No. 10 and I would love that.

--We note the passing of quarterback Roman Gabriel, 83. 

Gabriel was out of central casting, a great-looking, commanding presence at 6’5”, 220.  He was the second overall pick in the 1962 NFL Draft by Los Angeles and played with the Rams and Eagles for 16 seasons, 1962-79. 

In 1969, he was league MVP, leading the Rams to an 11-3 record under coach George Allen, throwing 24 touchdown passes and just 7 interceptions, which was outstanding in those days.

For his career he passed for 201 touchdowns, 149 interceptions, 29,444 yards.

Gabriel had a solid 86-64-7 career mark, 74-39-6 with the Rams.  But, alas, he was 0-2 in his only two playoff appearances, 1967 and ’69.  Gabriel said, the lack of playoff success kept him out of the NFL Hall of Fame, and he’s probably right.

Gabriel is in the College Football Hall of Fame after a prolific career at North Carolina State.

He was the first NFL quarterback of Filipino-American descent.

Off the field he had an acting career, appearing in some films and on television.

--Michigan has been placed on probation for the next three years and will face other penalties from the NCAA due to violations during the Covid-19 dead period and for having non-coaching staff members participate in impermissible roles under former football coach Jim Harbaugh.

The penalties, which also include a fine for Michigan and recruiting penalties, were part of a deal between the NCAA enforcement staff, the University of Michigan, and “five individuals who currently or previously worked for its football program.”

Golf Balls

--This week’s RBC Heritage, long following the Masters and easy to skip in the old days for many top players, is no longer easy to avoid as it’s a Signature event with an elevated purse.

All the top players are there, at least PGA Tour players, and after two rounds at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, SC, we had....

Tom Hoge -11
Sepp Straka -11
Collin Morikawa -11
JT Poston -11
Ludvig Aberg -10

Scottie Scheffler -8
Rory McIlroy -7

I thought for sure Scheffler wouldn’t be playing in this because of the pending birth of his first child, but here is....

And in the third round, midway through, it was Scheffler at -13 thru 9 and Aberg -13 thru 7 on top!  Sound familiar?

Scheffler has won three of his last four, the other being a T2.  In his nine tournaments this season prior to this one, his worst finish was T17.  He hasn’t had a single round over par since August 2023.

Well, Scheffler went on to shoot 63 on Saturday and heading into the final round it was....

Scheffler -16
Straka -15
Morikawa -14
Sahith Theegala -13
Patrick Rodgers -13
Aberg -13

Rory -10

Well, the PGA Tour made a dumb move.  They knew the weather forecast but they thought any weather delays would be brief.  Alas they weren’t.

As I go to post...Scheffler is four clear through eleven in the midst of a long delay, play to be completed Monday.  He should be able to close it...but ya never know.

--Before the tournament started, Rory McIlroy was confronted with a report that he was leaving the tour for LIV, and that the Saudis had offered him $850 million and an ownership stake to join the league.

“I honestly don’t know how these things get started.  I’ve never been offered a number from LIV and I’ve never contemplated going to LIV,” McIlroy told Golf Channel.

“I think I’ve made it clear over the past two years that I don’t think it’s something for me.  Doesn’t mean that I judge people that have went and played over there – I think one of the things that I’ve realized over the past two years is people can make their own decisions for whatever they think is best for themselves and who are we to judge them for that? But personally, for me, my future is here on the PGA Tour and it’s never been any different.”

McIlroy doubled down on his commitment to the PGA Tour, saying he will spend the rest of his career with it.

“(Dealing with the LIV conversation is) one of those things.  It’s unfortunate that we have to deal with it and this is the state that our game’s in.  But I’m obviously here today and I’m playing this PGA Tour event next week and I will play the PGA Tour for the rest of my career.”

Rory’s agent said there was “zero truth” to the rumors and labeled them “fake news.”

--On the LPGA Tour, this week was the Chevron Championship, one of the LPGA’s five majors and Nelly Korda was right there.  She has won four straight tournaments, one shy of the tour record, trying to match Nancy Lopez’s five-win stretch way back in 1978 in terms of an American player.  Annika Sorenstam went 5-for-5 twice.

Entering the final round, Korda was tied with Brooke Henderson for second at -10, one back of leader Hae Ran Ryu.

But Ryu fell back...and Nelly Korda won it!  Five in a row!  Awesome!

Not for nothing, but the women, worse than men, are painfully slow!  It’s easy to lose interest.

Premier League / Champions League

--It was an awful week for the Premier League in Champions League action.  Real Madrid eliminated defending champion Manchester City in a quarterfinal to advance to the semis, eliminating City on penalties, 4-3.

And Bayern Munich beat Arsenal.

Earlier, Paris Saint Germain eliminated Barcelona, and Borussia Dortmund defeated Atletico Madrid to complete the semifinal lineups.

--In Premier League play this weekend, Arsenal defeated the Wolves 2-0, and Liverpool beat Fulham 3-1.  Aston Villa also got a big win, 3-1 over Bournemouth.

As for City, they had an FA Cup semifinal yesterday against Chelsea and won it 1-0.

In the other FA Cup semifinal, today, Manchester United built a 3-0 lead over the Championship League’s Coventry City, only to blow it...Coventry roaring all the way back to tie it, 3-3.  Extra time produced zippo, and United ended up dodging what would have been a massive upset for the ages on penalty kicks, 4-2.

City vs. United for the Cup, May 25.

The Premier League table...32/34 of 38 played...points

1. Arsenal...33 – 74
2. Liverpool...33 – 74
3. Man City...32 – 73 ...BUT, game in hand
4. Aston Villa...34 – 66
5. Tottenham...32 – 60

In the relegation battle....

17. Nottingham...34 – 26
18. Luton Town...34 – 25
19. Burnley...34- 23
20. Sheffield...33 – 16

Stuff

--Bob Baffert was denied the ability to run a horse in this year’s Kentucky Derby in a ruling Thursday, possibly ending a last-ditch effort by owner Amr Zedan to get Arkansas Derby winner Muth into Churchill Downs.

The court did deny the effort by Churchill Downs to have the suit dismissed, but it is a race against the clock to get any Baffert horses into the May 4 Derby.

Baffert is not a party in the suit.

Zedan Racing planned to file a last appeal and I haven’t seen where that stands.

--National Geographic has a special, “Secrets of the Octopus,” 8:00 p.m. tonight; Monday, Disney+ and Hulu.

--Guitar legend Dickey Betts died.  He was 80.  Betts co-founded the Allman Brothers Band and wrote their biggest hit, “Ramblin’ Man.”

The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer died at his home in Osprey, Florida, after battling cancer for more than a year and chronic heart disease.

Betts shared lead guitar duties with Duane Allman in the original Allman Brothers Band to help give the group its distinctive sound and create a new genre – Southern rock.  Acts ranging from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Kid Rock were influenced by the Allmans’ music, which combined the blues, country, R&B and jazz with ‘60s rock.

Founded in 1969, the Allmans were a pioneering jam band, trampling the notion of three-minute pop songs by performing lengthy compositions in concert and on record. The band was also notable as a biracial group from the Deep South.

Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in 1971, and founding member Barry Oakley was killed in a motorcycle crash a year latter. That left Betts and Allman’s younger brother Gregg as the band’s leaders, but they frequently clashed, and substance abuse didn’t help.

Upon formation, the band moved to Macon, Georgia.  The 1971 double album “At Fillmore East” is considered among the greatest live albums of all the classic rock era and helped cement their performing reputation.

Duane Allman died four days after “Fillmore” was certified god, but the band carried on and crowds continued to grow.  The 1973 album “Brothers and Sisters” rose to No. 1 on the charts and featured “Ramblin’ Man,” with Betts singing the lead and bringing twang to the Top 40.  The song reached No. 2 on the singles chart and was kept out of the No. 1 spot by “Half Breed” by Cher, who later married Gregg Allman.

While “Ramblin’ Man” was the Allmans’ only Top Ten hit, Betts’ catchy 7 ½-minute instrumental “Jessica,” recorded in 1972, became an FM radio staple.

Betts also wrote or co-wrote some terrific songs, including “Blue Sky” and “Southbound.”

Top 3 songs for the week 4/25/81: #1 “Kiss On My List” (Daryl Hall & Oates) #2 “Morning Train (Nine to Five)” (Sheena Easton)  #3 “Being With You” (Smokey Robinson)...and...#4 “Just The Two Of Us” (Grover Washington Jr. with Bill Withers)  #5 “Angel Of The Morning” (Juice Newton)  #6 “Rapture” (Blondie)  #7 “While You See A Chance” (Stevie Winwood)  #8 “Woman” (John Lennon)  #9 “The Best Of Times” (Styx)  #10 “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” (The Police...C+ week...)

Hockey Quiz Answer: Eight players to score 70 goals in a single season....

Wayne Gretzky (Edmonton)...92, 87, 73, 71
Brett Hull (St. Louis)...86, 72, 70
Mario Lemieux (Pittsburgh)...85, 70
Phil Esposito (Boston)...76
Alexander Mogilny (Buffalo)...76
Teemu Selanne (Winnipeg)...76
Jari Kurri (Edmonton)...71
Bernie Nichols (LA Kings)...70

Mike Bossy, along with Matthews, fell one short of the elite club.  Mario Lemieux had 69 twice.

Brief Add-on up top by noon, Tuesday.



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Bar Chat

04/22/2024

Nelly Korda Wins Fifth in a Row!!!

[Posted Sunday p.m. prior to late playoff action]

Brief Add-on up top by noon, Tuesday.

Hockey Quiz: Toronto’s Auston Matthews failed to reach the 70-goal milestone this week, finishing the season with 69.  Name the eight players to score 70 in a single season. Answer below.

NBA Playoffs

--We wrapped up the play-in round action on Friday night and Miami, playing without Mr. Playoff, Jimmy Butler (out for weeks with a knee injury), had no problem with Chicago, 112-91, as Tyler Herro recorded 24 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. The Heat, who had lost to Philadelphia in the 7-8 play-in game, now face top-seeded Boston.

New Orleans, sans Zion Williamson, who hurt his left hamstring late in their first play-in against the Lakers, defeated Sacramento, 105-98, behind Brandon Ingram’s 24 points.

The Pelicans thus face top-seed Oklahoma City.

New Orleans went 6-0 against the Kings this season, counting the play-in victory.

Earlier, the Kings had eliminated Golden State, the Warriors missing the playoffs for the third time in five seasons.

--So, the stage was set for first-round action Saturday and Sunday.

Orlando opened things up at Cleveland Saturday afternoon and the Cavs prevailed, 97-83, behind Donovan Mitchell’s 30 and Jarrett Allen’s 16 points and 18 rebounds.  I always liked Allen. Brooklyn never should have jettisoned him.

In the second game, Phoenix at Minnesota, the Wolves blew out the Suns, 120-95, as Anthony Edwards had 33 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists, while Kevin Durant’s 31 for Phoenix meant nothing.

Then we had Philadelphia facing off against my Knicks at the Garden.  New York got off to a rough start, trailing 34-25 after the first period, and then went on a 33-12 run in the second for a 58-46 halftime lead.

But the Sixers, surviving a Joel Embiid injury scare, Embiid returning and scoring 29 in the game, turned it on in the third, outscoring the Knicks 36-21 for an 82-79 lead going into the fourth quarter and from there it was a true tension convention, the Knicks getting two huge threes from Josh Hart, and one from OG Anunoby, to lift New York to a thrilling 111-104 victory.

Hart was phenomenal, scoring 13 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, while hauling down 13 rebounds.  It was badly needed as Jalen Brunson was suffering through an 8 for 26 shooting night.  Tyrese Maxey, 33 points, was terrific for the Sixers.

Game 2 Monday night, back at the Garden.

And in Saturday’s finale, a Western Conference finals rematch from a year ago, the Lakers were at Denver.

Anthony Davis (32 pts., 14 rebounds) and LeBron James (27) did their part, but the supporting cast failed the future Hall of Famers, L.A. falling 114-103.  Nikola Jokic had his usual 32 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, and Jamal Murray (22 points) was clutch at key moments.

The Lakers will get swept if D’Angelo Russell (6 of 20 from the field) doesn’t play better.

So, Saturday, the home team won all four games.

--Today, the Celtics opened their game with the Heat 14-0, 17-2, but Miami cut it to 26-21 at the end of the first quarter. But that was all she wrote...Boston winning 114-94, 22 of 49 from three.

Yes, a 34-point lead was cut to 13, briefly, but never a real scare.

And the Clippers beat the Mavericks, 109-97, in L.A., as home teams continue to prevail.

--In other news, the NBA banned Raptors forward Jontay Porter for life after a bombshell investigation found he manipulated his participation in a game to influence the outcome of a bet and also bet on NBA games.

The league found that Porter, 24, was “disclosing confidential information to sports bettors” and “limiting his own participation in one or more games for betting purposes.”

Porter placed at least 13 bets on NBA games from January through March of this year; none of those bets included games in which he played, but he did bet a parlay that included a wager on the Raptors losing.

Before the Raptors’ March 20 home game against the Kings, which Toronto lost 123-89, Porter informed someone he knew to be an NBA bettor about his health status, and another person associated with Porter put $80,000 on a parlay prop on “unders” for Porter in that game to win $1.1 million.

Porter “limited his own game participation to influence the outcome of one or more bets on his performance in at least one Raptors game,” according to the NBA.

The big man, whose older brother is Nuggets star Michael Porter Jr., played just three minutes in that March 20 game, claiming he felt ill.

He finished the game with zero points and two rebounds, missing his lone field-goal attempt.

The $80,000 bet was frozen and not paid out due to the suspicious activity, the league said.

Porter was found to have bet on NBA games through an associate’s online betting account, ranging from $15 to $22,000.

He bet a total of $54,094 across 13 bets, getting paid out $76,059 for a net profit of $21,965.

“There is nothing more important than protecting the integrity of NBA competition for our fans, our teams and everyone associated with our sport, which is why Jontay Porter’s blatant violations of our gaming rules are being met with the most severe punishment,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.  Silver added, “this matter also raises important issues about the sufficiency of the regulatory framework currently in place, including the types of bets offered on our games and players.”

As The Athletic put it, the NBA dodged a bullet in that Porter was little-used and little-known.  But had this involved a bigger star, it would have been a massive scar for the NBA.  But Silver, instead, got to show how tough he’ll be on gambling issues, so a big win for him.

Yes, prop bets are stupid.

By the way, I used to tell you how the only sports betting I did was PGA Tour and NASCAR lineups, but I stopped that cold turkey last September.  Zero interest.  I did place a bet on Wake Forest to win it all early in the hoops season when I saw Efton Reid emerge. That didn’t work out.

--The Brooklyn Nets are hiring Kings assistant Jordi Fernandez to be their next head coach.

--In College Basketball, Duke has seen seven players enter the transfer portal since the end of the season, plus Kyle Filipowski and Jared McCain entered the NBA draft. Granted, don’t cry for coach Jon Scheyer as he has a spectacular class coming in next fall, led by No. 1 Cooper Flagg and top-10 recruit Isaiah Evans.

--Caitlin Clark was selected first by the Indiana Fever in the WNBA Draft Monday night.

And today, the Wall Street Journal reported that she is in line for an eight-year deal with Nike that could end up being worth $28 million along with a signature shoe.

So, this will help supplement her first year WNBA rookie salary of $76,535 ($338,000 over the four years of her deal with the Fever).

If you are a casual fan and wondering about the WNBA’s low pay, there are multiple reasons.  The league has little revenue and it’s just a 40-game season.  Which is why so many of the players go overseas to supplement their income.

All of this can change pretty quickly, however, if Caitlin and her college brethren help hike ratings and attendance and merchandise, which they will. And then when the negotiations for the next television contract come up, pay could rise bigly.

Stanley Cup Playoff

--In Saturday’s two playoff openers, Carolina beat the visiting Islanders 3-1, while Boston whipped the Maple Leafs, 5-1, in Beantown.

--The Rangers wrapped up the Presidents’ Trophy as the best team in the NHL during the week and then prepared to take on Washington in the first-round Sunday at the Garden.

It’s been a franchise-best 82-game campaign, but the pressure on them to win it all is unreal. How would they respond?

Pretty, pretty well...4-1.

Like in the NBA, the home team won the first four Stanley Cup games as I go to post, the Florida Panthers also defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-2, earlier today.

--As the regular season wrapped up, Nikita Kucherov and Connor McDavid became the 4th and 5th players in NHL history to record 100 assists in a single season.  [Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky the others.]

Kucherov (Tampa Bay) was the regular season points leader with 144.

--Arizona Coyotes fans bid a sad farewell to their team. The Coyotes are moving to Salt Lake City, as it’s been known they would get a new owner, Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, which was just approved.

The Coyotes have been playing in a totally substandard facility seating 5,000 (a venue shared with Arizona State University), as ownership was never able to put together a deal for a new arena.

But the league has promised Arizona will get an expansion team if a new venue is built within five years.

MLB

--The Mets are the talk of New York in the baseball world these days, not the Yankees.  The Metropolitans, after their hideous 0-5 start, have suddenly gone 12-3 to get to 12-8 overall behind rookie manager Carlos Mendoza and a shockingly terrific bullpen.

The Mets are out in L.A. this weekend and took the first two in the series, Friday and Saturday, 9-4 and 6-4, with Saturday’s unsung hero out of the pen, Reid Garrett, striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth.

A huge key for the Mets is Starling Marte, who is playing like the 2022 version, having recovered from his many injuries that plagued him last season.  Marte hit a three-run bomb in the sixth yesterday to give the Mets a 5-2 lead and they held on from there.

The Dodgers are just 12-11 and are 2-6 on this current homestand.

Shohei Ohtani, despite hitting .359, with a 1.049 OPS, is 2-for-21 with runners in scoring position!

But the Mets suffered a huge blow Friday night when their 22-year-old stud catcher, Francisco Alvarez, tore a ligament in his left thumb running the bases (he dug it into the ground while attempting to reverse course) and he’s likely out until late June at the best following surgery.  We’re going to find out just how resilient the team can be.

And then before today’s game, we learned the Mets put key lefty reliever Brooks Raley on the 15-day IL with left elbow inflammation.  Ugh. The guy had been perfect in eight appearances this season.

Well, the Metsies proceeded to lose, 10-0, as Tyler Glasnow dominated the Gotham hitters.

As they say in the ‘burbs, can’t win ‘em all.

On to San Francisco and their dirty streets.

--Playing in the Bronx, the Yankees are 14-7, after losing 2-0 to the Rays (12-10) on Saturday, as Juan Soto has been terrific, .354, 5 home runs, 20 RBIs.  But Aaron Judge is off to the worst start of his career, batting .179, 3 home runs, 11 RBIs, a sickly .682 OPS, and 27 strikeouts in 78 at bats, including an 0-4, 4 strikeouts performance Saturday at The Stadium, eliciting more than a few boos from the Yankee faithful.

I just have to add that back in February, I noted the Rays’ signing of free agent Amed Rosario for one year, $1.5 million, was it an amazing steal.  The guy is a solid utility player and, sure enough, he’s hitting .343, playing all over the place, both infield and outfield, with an .866 OPS.

Yes, what a steal!  Anyone could have had him, including my Mets, for whom he was a popular player. And he’s still just 28.

The Yanks won today, 5-4, to move to 15-7.  My man Rosario was 2-for-4, 2 RBIs, for Tampa Bay, OPS .887.

--The Chicago White Sox are off to an historically bad start, 3-17, having been shutout seven times.  When they were 2-14 with six shutouts, they were the first team with six shutouts in their first 16 games since the 1907 Brooklyn Superbas.

But the White Sox aren’t alone. Through Saturday’s play, Miami was 5-17 and Colorado 4-16.

Well, the ChiSox lost again today in Philadelphia, 8-2, Mark R.’s Phils 14-8.  The White Sox 3-18. Eegads...that blows.

--One of the great early stories in baseball isn’t in the major leagues.  It’s Pirates future star, pitcher Paul Skenes, who I got to see up close at the College World Series last year while he was with LSU (along with girlfriend Livvy Dunne*, but I digress).

The Pirates aren’t in any hurry to bring Skenes up, treating him carefully like they are rookie Jared Jones.  These two could be a phenomenal combo in Pittsburgh for years.

Thursday night, Skenes threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings for Triple-A Indianapolis in an outing where he reached at least 100 mph on 34 of the 43 four-seam fastballs he threw and struck out eight batters, according to MLB.com.

The No.1 overall pick in the 2023 draft now has thrown 12 2/3 innings, no runs, with 27 strikeouts!

All eyes on when the Pirates bring him up...though I’m sure he’ll be limited to about 120 innings, total, no more, his first season.

*Speaking of Livvy (Olivia) Dunne, the Queen of social media and NIL star, she helped lead her LSU Tigers to the school’s first-ever gymnastics national title, barely edging out California.

--Another high-profile young gun, the Texas Rangers’ starter Jack Leiter, son of Al Leiter, former terrific major league hurler for the Mets, among others, and a resident of my home town of Summit, N.J., made his MLB debut on Thursday.

It wasn’t good...3 2/3, 7 earned, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts.

Leiter was the No. 2 overall draft selection in 2021 out of Vanderbilt, via Delbarton HS in nearby Morristown, N.J., same high school where Anthony Volpe went.

Yes, Leiter didn’t pitch at Summit High School, nor did Volpe for neighboring Watchung HS.  It drives me up the wall, but such is the sport when you start in your youth with travel baseball and the train to the private schools.

Willie Wilson didn’t go that route!!!!  Nor Larry Doby (Eastside HS in Patterson, NJ)...just musing.

[Leiter was sent back to AAA, but the team said it was simply to bring up a fresh arm.]

--Nice game for Braves (and former Mets) catcher Travis d’Arnaud Friday night. In an 8-3 win over the Rangers, d’Arnaud hit his first three home runs of the season, including a grand slam, six RBIs (after just four prior).  Chris Sale improved to 2-1, going seven strong.

--I can’t help but note a game last Wednesday when the Red Sox’ Tanner Houck pitched a 3-hit shutout in Boston’s 2-0 win over Cleveland.

Houck struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter.  He threw 94 pitches, 69 for strikes.

But here’s the thing. Game time was one hour, 49 minutes!

--We had a number of passings in the sport the past few days.

The winningest pitcher of Jewish heritage in MLB history, Ken Holtzman, died.  He was 78 and had been battling heart issues, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Holtzman, a talented lefty, went 17-13 and 17-11 for the Chicago Cubs in 1969 and 1970.  But following a 9-15 campaign in 1971, the then-25-year-old was shipped to Oakland for outfielder Rick Monday, also 25.

Monday went on to have some solid seasons for the Cubs and then Dodgers, but Holtzman became a cog in the A’s rotation that won three straight World Series titles, 1972-74.

1972...19-11...2.51
1973...21-13...2.97
1974...19-17...3.07

Holtzman was 4-1, 2.55, in the three World Series.

He also went 18-14, 3.14, in 1975 and would end up 174-150, 3.49, with 127 complete games and 31 shutouts for his career, 1965-79.

Sandy Koufax won 165 games, in case you forgot, re Jewish heritage.

--Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog died, age 92.  He won three AL West Titles piloting the Royals in the 1970s but lost all three AL Championship Series to the Yankees, 1976-78.

He then moved on to St. Louis and managed them to the 1982 World Series Championship, winning NL pennants in 1985 and 1987 as well.

For his career he was 1281-1125, .532.

But Herzog was more than wins and losses and titles.  He revolutionized the game with “Whitey Ball,” teams built on speed, defense and a deep bullpen with Whitey not caring a whit about home runs.

The left-handed Herzog starred in baseball and basketball in high school and was signed by the Yankees after graduating in 1949.  He picked up the nickname “Whitey” from a broadcaster while playing in the minors.

But he spent two years in the Army in the Army Corps of Engineers before having a stellar 1955 with AAA Denver.

During spring training he was taken under the wing of Casey Stengel.

“When I met Stengel, it was like an enlightening thing because I would go to bed at night, instead of thinking about girls, I would be thinking about what the hell he talked about all day,” Herzog said during his 2010 Hall of Fame induction speech.

“Casey and I used to sit in the press room during spring training and every night we would have a few pops and talk baseball, among other things. And Casey told me so many things that I’ve been using the rest of my life.  For some reason he knew I was going to be a big league manager.”

Herzog played in the majors for various teams from 1956-63, batting .257, and in 1964 he scouted for the Kansas City Athletics. After that he served as the New York Mets’ first-base coach in 1965 before becoming director of player development for the next six years (farm director).

But Whitey was passed over in favor of Togi Berra to replace deceased Mets manager Gil Hodges before the 1972, after previously being passed over for general manager upon the death of Johnny Murphy, and there are many who say these were the two biggest mistakes the Mets made next to trading Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan.

But then Herzog got his break with the Royals, a team that played on artificial turf like the Cardinals in the 1980s, and Herzog recognized that players with speed and slick gloves (like Willie Wilson on the Royals, Willie McGee in St. Louis) adapted best on a surface that saw ground balls zip through the infield.

“The key to having a good team on turf is that you have to have a real good-throwing shortstop, because he needs to play deep and make a lot of throws from the hole,” Herzog said.

Freddie Patek was Whitey’s shortstop in K.C., and then Ozzie Smith in St. Louis, though in the case of the former, he had a guy, George Brett, to his right playing third.

Kansas City catcher Darrell Porter once said: “Whenever I would get discouraged and start feeling like I just didn’t belong in the major leagues, Whitey was always there to lift my spirits. He would tell me, ‘You’re my catcher.  You’ll come back and you’ll be all right tomorrow,’ and just the way he said it made me believe in myself.”

Whitey’s 1982 Cardinals hit just 67 home runs while stealing 200 bases to the soundtrack of “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang.  St. Louis won the World Series in seven over Milwaukee.

The Cardinals might have won another World Series in 1985 were it not for a famous blown call.

They were leading their intrastate rival Royals three games to two and by one run in Game 6 of the Series when Jorge Orta led off the ninth with a ground ball to Cardinals first baseman Jack Clark.  Pitcher Todd Worrell covered first, Clark tossed him the ball in time to record the out...except that umpire Don Denkinger called Orta safe.

The shaken Cardinals imploded, losing that game and Game 7 the next day.  “We had the damned World Series won,” Herzog said.

After Herzog resigned halfway through the 1990 season, lamenting that he could no longer motivate his players, the Angels hired him a year later as senior vice president of player personnel, but the Angels regressed in his 2 ½ years on the job.  He was frustrated by payroll constraints imposed by Gene and Jackie Autry and the burgeoning role of agents in negotiating contracts.

And we lost Carl Erskine, the last of the “Boys of Summer,” the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950s that won the World Series in 1955.

Erskine pitched for Brooklyn, and then Los Angeles, from 1948-1959, going 122-78, 4.00 ERA, including a 20-6 record in 1953.  He was 97.

The Dodgers overcame a reputation as lovable losers to reach the World Series six times in 10 years – always against their crosstown rivals, the New York Yankees.

It was writer Roger Kahn, who covered the Dodgers for the New York Herald Tribune in the early 1950s, who sought to show how the spirit of Brooklyn was intertwined with the fortunes of the Dodgers in his widely acclaimed 1972 book, “The Boys of Summer.”

Erskine featured prominently in the book, playing alongside such Hall of Fame stars as Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella and, of course, Jackie Robinson.  When Erskine joined the Dodgers in 1948, Robinson was the first player to shake his hand.

Erskine was a mainstay of a pitching staff that included Don Newcombe, Preacher Roe, Ralph Branca and Clem Labine.

Erskine appeared in five World Series and had a dramatic 11-inning complete-game victory over the Yankees in 1952, but the Dodgers fell short of winning the title.

In 1953, the year he went 20-6, he pitched in Game 3 of the World Series against the Yanks and struck out 14, setting a new WS record, which was later broken by Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson. But the Yankees won that Series as well.

Erskine threw two no-hitters – against the Cubs in 1952 and against the Giants in 1956.

Over the years, Carl Erskine grew accustomed to attending funerals and giving eulogies for his fellow Boys of Summer.  One by one, they fell away until he was the last one standing – the final Dodger to have seen action in the 1955 World Series, Brooklyn’s great moment of glory.

--The Yankees honored radio announcer John Sterling Saturday at The Stadium.  Last week, the 85-year-old suddenly announced, “I’ve called my last game,” after 36 years in the booth, 64 overall as an announcer.

Sterling had his critics, me being one of them, but most Yankees fans loved his passion, and I told you of how years ago I met the man in an elevator at Yankee Stadium, immediately following a game, and just shaking his hand and the smile he gave me, I just knew he was a good guy.  [I was also amazed how quickly he had wrapped up his work and hit the road!]

It was the road that got him to finally quit.  As he put it this week, he just got tired, especially at that age, of having to drive home to New Jersey after a game, often late at night, and I can tell you, at 20 years younger, I wouldn’t like having to do that at my age.  Hell, I went to Delaware this week and I am deathly afraid to drive over the Delaware Memorial Bridge these days.

The Yankees awarded Sterling with a home jersey with the number 5631 – the total number of Yankees games he called on the radio...5,420 regular-season games and 211 playoff games.  He was in the booth for 5,060 straight games from September 1989 to July 2019 when he missed a series with an illness.  In recent seasons he had taken on a reduced role and traveled less often because of health concerns.

--In College Baseball...No. 14 Wake Forest (Baseball America) had a huge 3-game series at home against No. 5 Florida State and the Deacs took 2 out of 3.  5-4, 6-9, 10-9, in front of record crowds.  Massive for Wake.  And they didn’t need Nick Kurtz, who had homered 14 times in his previous 10 games going into the series but was held to two doubles over the three games.  Others stepped up.

NFL

--The NFL Draft is Thursday-Saturday.

The Chicago Bears will select quarterback Caleb Williams first, who appears to have embraced the role of savior of the franchise.

But Washington, with the second pick, isn’t tipping their hand and whether QB Jayden Daniels is their selection.

Some mock drafts have my Jets selecting Georgia tight end Brock Bowers at No. 10 and I would love that.

--We note the passing of quarterback Roman Gabriel, 83. 

Gabriel was out of central casting, a great-looking, commanding presence at 6’5”, 220.  He was the second overall pick in the 1962 NFL Draft by Los Angeles and played with the Rams and Eagles for 16 seasons, 1962-79. 

In 1969, he was league MVP, leading the Rams to an 11-3 record under coach George Allen, throwing 24 touchdown passes and just 7 interceptions, which was outstanding in those days.

For his career he passed for 201 touchdowns, 149 interceptions, 29,444 yards.

Gabriel had a solid 86-64-7 career mark, 74-39-6 with the Rams.  But, alas, he was 0-2 in his only two playoff appearances, 1967 and ’69.  Gabriel said, the lack of playoff success kept him out of the NFL Hall of Fame, and he’s probably right.

Gabriel is in the College Football Hall of Fame after a prolific career at North Carolina State.

He was the first NFL quarterback of Filipino-American descent.

Off the field he had an acting career, appearing in some films and on television.

--Michigan has been placed on probation for the next three years and will face other penalties from the NCAA due to violations during the Covid-19 dead period and for having non-coaching staff members participate in impermissible roles under former football coach Jim Harbaugh.

The penalties, which also include a fine for Michigan and recruiting penalties, were part of a deal between the NCAA enforcement staff, the University of Michigan, and “five individuals who currently or previously worked for its football program.”

Golf Balls

--This week’s RBC Heritage, long following the Masters and easy to skip in the old days for many top players, is no longer easy to avoid as it’s a Signature event with an elevated purse.

All the top players are there, at least PGA Tour players, and after two rounds at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, SC, we had....

Tom Hoge -11
Sepp Straka -11
Collin Morikawa -11
JT Poston -11
Ludvig Aberg -10

Scottie Scheffler -8
Rory McIlroy -7

I thought for sure Scheffler wouldn’t be playing in this because of the pending birth of his first child, but here is....

And in the third round, midway through, it was Scheffler at -13 thru 9 and Aberg -13 thru 7 on top!  Sound familiar?

Scheffler has won three of his last four, the other being a T2.  In his nine tournaments this season prior to this one, his worst finish was T17.  He hasn’t had a single round over par since August 2023.

Well, Scheffler went on to shoot 63 on Saturday and heading into the final round it was....

Scheffler -16
Straka -15
Morikawa -14
Sahith Theegala -13
Patrick Rodgers -13
Aberg -13

Rory -10

Well, the PGA Tour made a dumb move.  They knew the weather forecast but they thought any weather delays would be brief.  Alas they weren’t.

As I go to post...Scheffler is four clear through eleven in the midst of a long delay, play to be completed Monday.  He should be able to close it...but ya never know.

--Before the tournament started, Rory McIlroy was confronted with a report that he was leaving the tour for LIV, and that the Saudis had offered him $850 million and an ownership stake to join the league.

“I honestly don’t know how these things get started.  I’ve never been offered a number from LIV and I’ve never contemplated going to LIV,” McIlroy told Golf Channel.

“I think I’ve made it clear over the past two years that I don’t think it’s something for me.  Doesn’t mean that I judge people that have went and played over there – I think one of the things that I’ve realized over the past two years is people can make their own decisions for whatever they think is best for themselves and who are we to judge them for that? But personally, for me, my future is here on the PGA Tour and it’s never been any different.”

McIlroy doubled down on his commitment to the PGA Tour, saying he will spend the rest of his career with it.

“(Dealing with the LIV conversation is) one of those things.  It’s unfortunate that we have to deal with it and this is the state that our game’s in.  But I’m obviously here today and I’m playing this PGA Tour event next week and I will play the PGA Tour for the rest of my career.”

Rory’s agent said there was “zero truth” to the rumors and labeled them “fake news.”

--On the LPGA Tour, this week was the Chevron Championship, one of the LPGA’s five majors and Nelly Korda was right there.  She has won four straight tournaments, one shy of the tour record, trying to match Nancy Lopez’s five-win stretch way back in 1978 in terms of an American player.  Annika Sorenstam went 5-for-5 twice.

Entering the final round, Korda was tied with Brooke Henderson for second at -10, one back of leader Hae Ran Ryu.

But Ryu fell back...and Nelly Korda won it!  Five in a row!  Awesome!

Not for nothing, but the women, worse than men, are painfully slow!  It’s easy to lose interest.

Premier League / Champions League

--It was an awful week for the Premier League in Champions League action.  Real Madrid eliminated defending champion Manchester City in a quarterfinal to advance to the semis, eliminating City on penalties, 4-3.

And Bayern Munich beat Arsenal.

Earlier, Paris Saint Germain eliminated Barcelona, and Borussia Dortmund defeated Atletico Madrid to complete the semifinal lineups.

--In Premier League play this weekend, Arsenal defeated the Wolves 2-0, and Liverpool beat Fulham 3-1.  Aston Villa also got a big win, 3-1 over Bournemouth.

As for City, they had an FA Cup semifinal yesterday against Chelsea and won it 1-0.

In the other FA Cup semifinal, today, Manchester United built a 3-0 lead over the Championship League’s Coventry City, only to blow it...Coventry roaring all the way back to tie it, 3-3.  Extra time produced zippo, and United ended up dodging what would have been a massive upset for the ages on penalty kicks, 4-2.

City vs. United for the Cup, May 25.

The Premier League table...32/34 of 38 played...points

1. Arsenal...33 – 74
2. Liverpool...33 – 74
3. Man City...32 – 73 ...BUT, game in hand
4. Aston Villa...34 – 66
5. Tottenham...32 – 60

In the relegation battle....

17. Nottingham...34 – 26
18. Luton Town...34 – 25
19. Burnley...34- 23
20. Sheffield...33 – 16

Stuff

--Bob Baffert was denied the ability to run a horse in this year’s Kentucky Derby in a ruling Thursday, possibly ending a last-ditch effort by owner Amr Zedan to get Arkansas Derby winner Muth into Churchill Downs.

The court did deny the effort by Churchill Downs to have the suit dismissed, but it is a race against the clock to get any Baffert horses into the May 4 Derby.

Baffert is not a party in the suit.

Zedan Racing planned to file a last appeal and I haven’t seen where that stands.

--National Geographic has a special, “Secrets of the Octopus,” 8:00 p.m. tonight; Monday, Disney+ and Hulu.

--Guitar legend Dickey Betts died.  He was 80.  Betts co-founded the Allman Brothers Band and wrote their biggest hit, “Ramblin’ Man.”

The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer died at his home in Osprey, Florida, after battling cancer for more than a year and chronic heart disease.

Betts shared lead guitar duties with Duane Allman in the original Allman Brothers Band to help give the group its distinctive sound and create a new genre – Southern rock.  Acts ranging from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Kid Rock were influenced by the Allmans’ music, which combined the blues, country, R&B and jazz with ‘60s rock.

Founded in 1969, the Allmans were a pioneering jam band, trampling the notion of three-minute pop songs by performing lengthy compositions in concert and on record. The band was also notable as a biracial group from the Deep South.

Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in 1971, and founding member Barry Oakley was killed in a motorcycle crash a year latter. That left Betts and Allman’s younger brother Gregg as the band’s leaders, but they frequently clashed, and substance abuse didn’t help.

Upon formation, the band moved to Macon, Georgia.  The 1971 double album “At Fillmore East” is considered among the greatest live albums of all the classic rock era and helped cement their performing reputation.

Duane Allman died four days after “Fillmore” was certified god, but the band carried on and crowds continued to grow.  The 1973 album “Brothers and Sisters” rose to No. 1 on the charts and featured “Ramblin’ Man,” with Betts singing the lead and bringing twang to the Top 40.  The song reached No. 2 on the singles chart and was kept out of the No. 1 spot by “Half Breed” by Cher, who later married Gregg Allman.

While “Ramblin’ Man” was the Allmans’ only Top Ten hit, Betts’ catchy 7 ½-minute instrumental “Jessica,” recorded in 1972, became an FM radio staple.

Betts also wrote or co-wrote some terrific songs, including “Blue Sky” and “Southbound.”

Top 3 songs for the week 4/25/81: #1 “Kiss On My List” (Daryl Hall & Oates) #2 “Morning Train (Nine to Five)” (Sheena Easton)  #3 “Being With You” (Smokey Robinson)...and...#4 “Just The Two Of Us” (Grover Washington Jr. with Bill Withers)  #5 “Angel Of The Morning” (Juice Newton)  #6 “Rapture” (Blondie)  #7 “While You See A Chance” (Stevie Winwood)  #8 “Woman” (John Lennon)  #9 “The Best Of Times” (Styx)  #10 “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” (The Police...C+ week...)

Hockey Quiz Answer: Eight players to score 70 goals in a single season....

Wayne Gretzky (Edmonton)...92, 87, 73, 71
Brett Hull (St. Louis)...86, 72, 70
Mario Lemieux (Pittsburgh)...85, 70
Phil Esposito (Boston)...76
Alexander Mogilny (Buffalo)...76
Teemu Selanne (Winnipeg)...76
Jari Kurri (Edmonton)...71
Bernie Nichols (LA Kings)...70

Mike Bossy, along with Matthews, fell one short of the elite club.  Mario Lemieux had 69 twice.

Brief Add-on up top by noon, Tuesday.