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[Posted Sunday p.m., prior to Philadelphia-Toronto...OK, it’s 44-40 Raptors at the half]
MLB Quiz: With Oakland pitcher Mike Fiers rather startling second career no-hitter last Tuesday night, No. 300 in MLB history, name the other seven pitchers to have two no-hitters since 2000. [This doesn’t include Randy Johnson and Hideo Nomo, who each had a no-no in the early 2000s, but threw their other in the ‘90s.] Answer below.
--A pretty remarkable performance from Steph Curry Friday night in Golden State’s 118-113 Western Conference semifinal clincher at Houston, shocking the Rockets who thought for sure they would force a Game 7, the Warriors without injured star Kevin Durant.
Curry, after going scoreless in the first half, erupted for 33 points in the second, while fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson had 27, including 7-of-13 from 3-point land.
So Golden State waited to see who they would face in the conference finals, and today, the Trail Blazers and Nuggets squared off in their Game 7 in Denver...
For the Warriors, it is not expected that Durant, who has been averaging 34 points in the playoffs, will be available for the start of the conference finals on Tuesday after suffering a calf strain in Game 5 Wednesday.
For Houston, it was the fourth time in five seasons they have lost to Golden State in the playoffs.
--So Golden State awaited its opponent. Portland had forced a Game 7 this afternoon, with a 119-108 win at home on Thursday over Denver, Lillard and McCollum combining for 62, and Rodney Hood with another huge game off the bench, 25 points.
And after three quarters today, the Nuggets led 72-71, but this was as the Trail Blazers were 1-of-19 from downtown, while Denver was 2-of-13! Lillard was 1-of-12 from the field (0-for-6 from three), but Portland only had 3 turnovers, and C.J. McCollum had 29 points. Bizarre.
So who would show up in the fourth? Well, I was watching, and C.J. hit a huge two to make it 96-93 Portland with 1:25 left. Denver’s Jamal Murray cut it to one, 96-95. McCollum answered again, 98-95, 11 seconds left.
And it ended up 100-96, the Trail Blazers now moving into the finals against the Warriors, as McCollum scored 37, picking up his partner Lillard, who was only 3-of-17 from the field.
Portland will battle Golden State to the end.
--Facing elimination Thursday night, Philadelphia forced a Game 7 today in Toronto with a 112-101 win over the Raptors in Philly. Joel Embiid, trying to shake off his upper respiratory infection in the first half of Game 6, responded with 10 points, six rebounds and two blocks in the third quarter, both blocks coming on Kawhi Leonard, and the Sixers led by 20 heading into the fourth.
Embiid finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds in 36 minutes (the most he played in a game this postseason). He answered the call after facing withering criticism for his lackluster effort in Game 5.
Ben Simmons also played like the All-Star he was at age 22; 21 points on 9-of-13 from the field, 8 rebounds and 6 assists, five of them coming in the first quarter as the Sixers raced to a 29-21 lead. Jimmy Butler added 25.
But now we await tonight’s contest.
--Wednesday night, Milwaukee eliminated Boston, 4-1, with a 116-91 win in Milwaukee. Kyrie Irving had another dreadful shooting night, 6-for-21 from the field, and was 25-for-83 (30.1 percent) from the floor in the four losses to the Bucks, after the Celtics had taken Game 1 of the series.
So after this lousy performance, there are a lot of Knicks fans who are tempering their excitement at the thought of Kyrie becoming a Knickerbocker in free agency, while at the same time, most folks in Boston are like, good riddance.
--The following is in sequence, as it occurred....
Early Saturday morning....
The dysfunctional Los Angeles LeBrons, err, Lakers, are still looking for a head coach, after their top two targets, Monty Williams and Tyronn Lue, rejected the franchise’s offers.
So they are granting a second interview to former Orlando and Indiana coach Frank Vogel, who led the Pacers to two Eastern Conference finals (both losses against LeBron’s Miami).
L.A. has also interviewed former Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff. The next coach the team hires will be their fifth in eight years, having missed the playoffs the last six seasons.
Well....late Saturday we learned Vogel and the Lakers had agreed to a three-year contract to become head coach, “and, as if that wasn’t enough of a head-scratcher, the troubling Jason Kidd was immediately added to the coaching staff as an assistant,” as Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times put it.
“The Lakers have found a head coach for LeBron James whose teams were eliminated by James in the playoffs three consecutive seasons.
“In its latest bewildering move, a franchise that once enjoyed a Who’s Who of coaching talent has hired a Who’s That?....
“This is really going to be, um, interesting.
“At the end of a week in which the Lakers front office absorbed well-deserved criticism for botching negotiations with first-choice candidate Tyronn Lue, controlling owner Jeanie Buss’ crew has once again amazed and confused.
“Vogel, 45, first gained fame as a 10-year-old boy when he appeared on ‘Late Night with David Letterman’ in the ‘Stupid Human Tricks’ segment, wowing the nation by brushing his teeth while spinning a basketball on the end of the brush.
“He has not been as successful with other basketball tricks, winning barely half of his games in parts of eight NBA seasons as a coach, going 304-291 with Indiana and Orlando....
“There are legitimate questions about whether James will respect and follow a coach who has no rings, no Finals appearances and could never figure him out. During his two seasons in Orlando, Vogel’s teams went 54-110 before he was fired in 2018. If that looks a lot like (Luke) Walton’s Lakers record over the same span of time, well, it is actually eight losses worse....
“Vogel was seemingly hired because he is known as a nice guy who can present a calm face to the Lakers’ furious fan base. But with his personality, he has suffered from teams taking advantage of him, and this is not a good sign on a team with the most controlling player in basketball history in James, plus a locker room full of upstart and entitled kids.
“Enter Kidd. He is a former 10-time NBA All-Star point guard with a championship ring, two Olympic gold medals, a mutual-respect relationship with James, and the sort of locker-room credibility that Vogel lacks. He also had the bluster to campaign for Walton’s job earlier this season even though Walton had not yet been fired.
“While Kidd was officially hired to be an assistant, it looks like he is here to become the next head coach when Vogel stumbles. This could make for awkward chemistry on the bench and uncertainty in the locker room....
“Would Buss really give the keys to her franchise to a guy who has pleaded guilty to a domestic abuse charge? That occurred in 2001, when Kidd was charged with assaulting his then-wife Joumana. Then, in 2012, Kidd was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated.
“It isn’t like Buss could be blinded by his coaching record, either. As a head coach, Kidd has been pretty much a flop, winning just 49% of his games with Brooklyn and Milwaukee while never leading a team past the second round of the playoffs.
“In all, the two hires seemed to epitomize the problems of the rudderless Lakers front office.”
--Thursday, the San Jose Sharks won their Game 7 with Colorado, 3-2, to earn the right to face St. Louis in the Western Conference finals.
San Jose then hosted the Blues in Game 1, Saturday, and cruised 6-3, as Logan Couture added two more goals to give him 11 for the playoffs! That’s two more than teammate Tomas Hertl, Couture also with a leading 17 points overall.
--In the Eastern Conference finals, Boston whipped Carolina 5-2 at home on Thursday in their Game 1, the Hurricanes playing after a six-day layoff following their sweep of the Islanders.
And then this afternoon, the Bruins followed it up with a 6-2 win.
I watched the first two periods and was reminded for about the 95th time just how good Doc Emrick is. At one point he describes the action thusly.
“...almost gets it through, almost the operative word...”
I mean that is brilliant stuff on the fly...being a play-by-play man on hockey easily the most difficult job in sports.
--Can we talk about the Red Sox? Yes, it’s painful for some of us...all part of the Boston thing, you understand. As in us New York area Mets, Jets, Knicks, Rangers fans are really sick of all things Beantown.
But the defending champion BoSox were 11-17 not so long ago, 7 ½ games back of Tampa Bay.
After today’s 11-2 pasting of the Mariners at Fenway Park, however, Boston is now 22-19, 3 back of the Rays.
What’s more, over the last 13, in which the Red Sox are 11-2, Boston has scored 100 runs! Good lord.....
And one player has a lot to do with the success...Michael Chavis, who was called up April 19. All he’s done after today’s 5-RBI game is hit .282 with six HR and 19 RBI.
I also can’t help but note that Chris Sale has righted the ship. After one quality start in his first five, he has three straight, including Thursday against the Orioles...8 innings, 1 earned, 0 walks, 14 Ks.
One more...this one involving Seattle. ‘Sup wit dem? They started out 13-2 and are now 20-23! Boy, that blows.
--The aforementioned Rays lost to the Yankees 7-1 today, with an embarrassing power failure at Tropicana Substation, the world’s worst stadium of any kind.
--I always liked utilityman Gerardo Parra, and from time to time wish the Mets had signed him for a few years. But this season he was playing poorly for, first, Colorado, and then San Francisco, the Giants DFA’d him, and the injury-riddled Nationals picked him up.
So in his second game with Washington Saturday night, Parra, playing first, hit a grand slam as the Nats defeated the Dodgers 5-2. Good for him.
But today, L.A.’s Hyun-Jin Ryu took a no-hitter into the eighth, gave up a double to Parra, but completed the frame, Kenley Jansen completing the one-hitter, Ryu now 5-1, 1.72.
--The Mets were rained out today. I’m giving you a break, except after going a solid seven innings Saturday night in a 4-1 Mets win over the Marlins, it’s now safe to say Jacob deGrom is back...three straight quality starts after his little stumble.
--Nice game for Houston’s George Springer today...5-for-5, two home runs, 4 RBIs, 5 runs scored, in the Astros’ 15-5 win over Texas; Alex Bregman with two homers and 5 ribbies himself. Springer now has 15 HR and 37 RBI out of the leadoff spot.
--Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr., baseball’s next superstar, so we’re told, is off to a 9-for-47 start, .191, with a single RBI, following a 5-1 loss to the White Sox today. Ah, that’s not good, sports fans.
--Edwin Jackson was just acquired by Toronto from the Oakland A’s for cash considerations, and when he takes the mound for the Blue Jays, it will be his 14th major league organization – the most by any player.
Jackson tied the record, held by former pitcher Octavio Dotel, when he was traded to the A’s last June. He experienced a renaissance in Oakland, going 6-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 17 starts, though he has not pitched in the majors in 2019.
Since his debut in 2003, Jackson has appeared with the Dodgers, Rays, Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Cardinals, Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Marlins, Padres, Orioles and A’s. He’s never spent more than three seasons with one club.
He was actually a member of the Blue Jays for one day. He was traded by the White Sox to Toronto on June 27, 2011, but traded on the same day by the Blue Jays to the Cardinals.
--As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal notes, next Thursday, against the Pirates, the San Diego Padres will likely set a new record; 8,020 regular-season games without a no-hitter, an unprecedented drought to begin a team’s existence. The Mets went 8,019 games from 1962 to June 1, 2012, when Johan Santana snapped the streak.
But many of us of a certain age remember vividly how on July 21, 1970, the Padres’ Clay Kirby was removed in a game after eight innings against the Mets without surrendering a hit.
The game was in San Diego and the Mets held a 1-0 lead, after a pair of walks, a couple steals, and an Art Shamsky groundout plated the lone run.
So Padres manager Preston Gomez removed Kirby for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the eighth in the hopes of tying the score. That didn’t work and in the top of the ninth, reliever Jack Baldschun gave up a ground ball single to Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson, the Mets would score two, and Jim McAndrew threw a 3-hit shutout as New York won 3-0.
Two years later, July 18, 1972, San Diego’s Steve Arlin took a no-hitter into the ninth against the Phillies, got the first two hitters out, but then light-hitting Denny Doyle bounced a ball over the head of a drawn-in third baseman Dave Roberts, ending that no-hit bid.
Premier League / Champions League...and more....
The Champions League and Europa League are the two biggest soccer tournaments in Europe; the cream of the continent duking it out over ten months.
But for the first time in the history of these two tournaments, all four spots in the finals are occupied by clubs from a single country; England and the Premier League.
As Joshua Robinson of the Wall Street Journal writes:
“The Premier League has spent the past quarter-century building itself into the richest, deepest soccer league on the planet. Its last place team every season, for instance, earns more prize money than the champions of France. It was only a matter of time.”
Last Bar Chat, I wrote of how Liverpool had pulled off a stunner in the Champions League semis, coming from a first-leg 3 goals down to beat Barcelona 4-0 in the return leg.
But then on Wednesday, after I had posted, my Tottenham Spurs pulled off another stunner. Having lost the first leg to Ajax of Amsterdam 1-0, the Spurs went on the road for the return match, quickly fell behind 2-0 (3-0 aggregate), and it was over.
Until it wasn’t. Tottenham scored three to tie it at 3-3 aggregate, and win on away goals, all three Spurs goals scored by Lucas Moura, the last in the 96th-minute, mere seconds to go. I shed a tear of joy. Unfreakin’believable.
So on June 1 it’s Liverpool and Tottenham for the ultimate championship. For the Spurs, there is a chance that striker Harry Kane will be available as he recovers from his latest ankle injury. “Rehab is going well,” Kane said on Wednesday. I’m guessing he suits up.
Meanwhile, Thursday night in the Europa League semifinals, Arsenal and Chelsea prevailed in their contests against Valencia and Eintracht Frankfurt, respectively. So they now square off May 29.
What’s critical about the Europa League final is that if Arsenal beats Chelsea (which has already qualified for the 2019-2020 Champions League, by virtue of its top four Premier League finish this season), Arsenal would become the fifth PL team to qualify for the CL, which would be extra sweet as the Gunners collapsed down the stretch of the Premier League season.
Jason Gay / Wall Street Journal
“Will there be a sports moment in 2019 that proves to be zanier than the 24 hours of madness we just witnessed in Champions League soccer?
“Seems hard to imagine. And here’s what’s fascinating: Fans in the United States were rollicking right along with it, like diehards, in the middle of the day, clandestinely at work, or loud and proud wherever they were.
“This isn’t just the guilty pleasure of sports television in the afternoon, though that’s nice. It isn’t just that soccer is compact two-hour entertainment in an era in which too many U.S. sports trudge on like Russian novels (though that is definitely a selling point). This feels bigger. J.J. Watt – as big of an NFL star as there is – howling along on social media to late afternoon actions (‘NOOO WAYYYY!!!!!’) across the ocean? Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr flipping out for Liverpool while his team is amid a tight NBA playoff round with Houston?
“Yes: The U.S. semi-regularly declares soccer its Next Big Thing, to the point the declaration has gotten comedic. The wickedly funny soccer podcast duo Men in Blazers coined a brilliant aphorism that sums the ritual: ‘Soccer: America’s Sport of the Future, Since 1972.’
“But evidence of the real deal is everywhere. It’s tangible in thriving Major League Soccer boomtowns like Atlanta and Seattle, and it’s certainly going to be clear in a month when the Women’s World Cup begins in France, with the United States Women’s National Team favored to repeat as champions. A generation has come of age with familiarity and the access to the beautiful game; every serious sports media company is invested in showing games; internet streaming has been transformative in delivering the global sport into U.S. homes.
“A dominant youth game, soccer still has a ways to go before it catches a brand like the NFL or NBA, but it is no longer relegated to the hinterlands of the national sports consciousness. It matters, a great deal, to a growing number of people.
“All you had to witness was the stateside mania for that bonkers set of back-to-back Champions League matches won by Liverpool and Tottenham on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Did you watch? In the space of 24 hours, a pair of English clubs considered dead on the mat somehow lifted themselves to improbable victories. If you did, you won’t forget them. If you merely know someone who watched them, a warning: They are never going to stop talking about them....
“I don’t know what to compare it to. Maybe it’s like the Red Sox coming back from 0-3 to beat the Yankees in the American League Championship Series followed immediately by the Frank Reich Buffalo Bills 35-3 playoff comeback over the Houston Oilers. It was a double-decker sundae of lunacy, absurd on top of absurd, and by late afternoon on Wednesday, as Tottenham sealed it, U.S. social media was reduced to a long, guttural moan:
“As in, what just happened. The Liverpool fans were flabbergasted and Spurs fans even more so; one Tottenham supporter, Bleacher Report football on TNT analyst (and former two-time NBA MVP) Steve Nash, was caught tearing up on TV. Nash’s colleague, Stu Holden, told me his friend was still emotional hours after during their ride home from the studio. ‘He’s trying to explain it to his wife, who’s like ‘You didn’t cry when our son was born...you cry when Spurs win,’ Holden said, laughing.
“Nash’s roots are deep. But you don’t need to be born into it to get it. Soccer is giving U.S. sports fans what they can’t get from the usual stuff. ESPN’s Katie Nolan is a hard-core Boston sports fans, and says rooting for Liverpool (principally owned by Red Sox owner John Henry) takes her back to her hometown’s almost-forgotten underdog days, the feeling of ‘steadfast belief that it’s going to happen, despite seemingly insurmountable odds and years of evidence to the contrary.’....
“Is it a moment? It feels like a moment. Audiences are still fractions of what a legacy sport gets – the TNT audience for Liverpool-Barcelona was 665,000 – a number that would make Roger Goodell jump out a window – but it seems foolish to judge the momentum by retrograde measures like ratings points. Want to judge soccer’s momentum here? Ask a kid about soccer. Chances are they’ll talk your ear off. The world is getting smaller; the fluency is wild.
“ ‘There are kids who have never been to Barcelona, or Liverpool, and yet will find themselves rooting for these teams,’ said Bleacher Report’s Holden, a former pro himself.
“Roger Bennett is one half of the British-born Men in Blazers. Lyrical enthusiasts with not a whit of condescension to their U.S. audience, Bennett and co-host Michael Davies are doing for soccer here what Bud Collins once did for tennis. Bennett knows these 24 brilliant hours Champions League won’t change it all overnight. But every little bit of madness helps. (We haven’t even mentioned Manchester City’s enthralling win on Monday to put itself atop Liverpool in the Premier League, which is an entirely separate thread of insanity.)
“ ‘I have lived here long enough to be fully aware that the growth of the sport is propelled by thousands of mini-breakthroughs, rather than one enormous Eureka moment,’ Bennett wrote to me in an email. ‘Americans always doubted soccer because they expected its growth to be overnight, like the pogo stick or the yo-yo. However, its popularity has built slow and steadily...And it is all the stronger and more durable now because of that. Its roots are real.’”
Well, I have done my part to drag you kicking and screaming into the action. And today we had the culmination of the greatest title race in the history of the Premier League.
One of the league’s great ideas is to start every final game for all 20 teams at the same time, an idea other professional leagues have since adopted (like baseball), so I was watching Man City at Brighton, City needing a win to clinch the title, or a draw, if Liverpool (hosting Wolverhampton) managed only a draw, or lost.
And Brighton came out playing City tough, and then, suddenly, scored at the 27-minute mark to take a stunning 1-0 lead, Liverpool having gone out front in its contest 1-0. I immediately called my brother, a big Liverpool fan, to state the obvious, ‘There is hope, Bro!’ But clearly I ruined the mojo, because while I was on with him, City tied the score and they were off to the races and won it 4-1, while Liverpool did its job, beating the Wolves 2-0.
So Manchester City defends its title, by one point. 32 lead changes over the course of the season. City also won its last 14 league games, a record. They kept answering the call. I mean this is a Liverpool team that lost just one of 38 matches all season! But they will forever rue a 0-0 draw with Everton, March 3rd, after which, like City, they ran the table.
Final Standings...W – D – L
1. Man City 32 – 2 – 4 ...98
2. Liverpool 30 -7- 1 ...97
3. Chelsea 21 – 9 – 8 ...72
4. Tottenham 23 – 2 – 13 ...71
5. Arsenal 21 – 7 – 10 ...70
6. Man U 19 – 9 – 10 ...66...dreadful finish
7. Wolves 16 – 9 – 13 ...57
Man City has now won four of the last eight PL titles. [Chelsea has two, Man U one, and that Cinderella story of all time, Leicester City, 2015-16, which will look better and better as the years, and decades, roll on.]
Before the season began, I listed the BBC’s Phil McNulty and his predictions.
1. Man City
3. Man U
As Ronald Reagan would have told Margaret Thatcher over tea, especially over the Wolves’ pull, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
The Wolves will be one to watch, bigly, next season...as in they’ll be in it for the top four at least thru Match 34.
Korea’s Sung Kang won his first PGA Tour event today at the AT&T Byron Nelson in Dallas, besting Matt Every and Scott Piercy by two.
Piercy, who I thankfully had in my winning DraftKings lineup, had the first bogey-free tournament on Tour since Charles Howell in 2010.
Lots of stuff on the PGA Championship at Bethpage next time.
With the second leg of the Triple Crown next week, and Maximum Security and Country House already out, along with Code of Honor, who crossed the line third but moved into second after the disqualification of Maximum Security, for the first time since 1951, the race will feature none of the top three Derby finishers. [Fourth-place finisher Tacitus, who moved up to three, is also out of the Preakness.]
So declared fourth-place finisher Improbable, a Bob Baffert horse, will probably go off as the favorite.
I’m still hoping we can see a matchup of Maximum Security and Country House in the Belmont, which would be delicious.
--From the Associated Press: Brad Keselowski had planned to head to St. Louis after the NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway to visit Mike Mittler, a longtime Truck Series owner who helped him early in his career and who had been battling cancer the past couple years.
But after Mittler died Friday night at the age of 67, Keselowski headed to victory lane instead, capturing the checkered flag Saturday night and dedicating the win to his friend and mentor.
“ ‘He helped a lot of guys in their career. Just a huge loss for the NASCAR community,’ said Keselowski, who held off Alex Bowman and a charging field in overtime for his third win of the season.
“ ‘One of those unsung heroes,’ Keselowski added. ‘Gave his whole life to this sport.’”
Chase Elliott, despite starting at the back of the field for failing inspection, twice, had his third consecutive top five finish.
--Well, financially, it does indeed look like No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, quarterback Kyler Murray, made the right move in selecting football over baseball, Murray’s rookie contract with the Arizona Cardinals for approximately $35 million all guaranteed, per reports, far more than he would have received initially with the Oakland A’s.
The A’s gave him a signing bonus worth $4.66 million after selecting him with the ninth overall pick in last June’s MLB draft, before Murray took over for Baker Mayfield as the Oklahoma Sooners’ starting quarterback and set the college football world on fire, earning the Heisman Trophy in the process. As Murray then contemplated a career in football, the A’s reportedly offered him an additional $14 million to keep him in their sport.
So it was in actuality $18.66 million vs. the $23.6 million signing bonus handed him by the Cardinals, a day before the start of their rookie minicamp.
--Houston high-school senior Matthew Boling was the star of the University Interscholastic League Track and Field Championships on Saturday in Austin, Texas.
The Georgia-bound senior, who rocked the world of track and field with a wind-aided 9.98-second run in the 100-meter dash at a meet two weeks ago, topped a stacked field with a national-record time of 10.13 seconds, a state meet record tying the overall Texas 100-meter record set by Derrick Florence of Glaveston in 1986.
Boling’s time was wind legal and followed his gold in the Class 6A long jump, where he jumped 25-4 ½.
--I didn’t have a chance to address the following last chat, but I was really pissed off to see that LIU Brooklyn was eliminating their mascot name of “Blackbirds,” as part of a merger with LIU’s Post campus. PC crap run amuck.
[Post is Division II and Brooklyn Division I...the three new nicknames being considered are the Sharks, Eagles and Falcons. Hey, Red Men is available, after St. John’s dumped it....cough cough...]
Or as Phil Mushnick of the New York Post so aptly put it:
“This week, for real, LIU Brooklyn eliminated “Blackbirds” as its 80-year mascot and nickname, because the school determined it’s racist. Its magnificent, dignified logo – a blackbird clutching a dangling, interlocking ‘LIU’ – eradicated for a logo and mascot to be named later.
“Left for consideration, if not action, is the removal from radio stations of Paul McCartney’s gentle ode to a broken-winged creature, ‘Blackbird.’
“At LIU, unless it’s incorporated and sung by a vulgar, N-wording, Glock-worshipping, women-degrading rapper, ‘Blackbird’ is a racist song that should be ‘disappeared.’
“Blackbirds should suffer fad-driven historical revisionism along with, among others, Christopher Columbus, Kate Smith and Cal State-Long Beach’s Prospector Pete, the school’s recently executed 70-year mascot, a fictitious gold miner nevertheless condemned to death for shoveling dirt on indigenous populations.
“There’s not enough real racism to eliminate, thus we must concoct more. As long as demand remains high, supply must be met.
“Fascinating, that during an era when colleges and pro teams shamelessly add ‘menacing’ black uniforms to their traditional sports ensembles, ‘Blackbirds,’ is now unacceptable as LIU’s mascot and nickname.
“That ‘coincidence’ continues as the new entry in the Arena Football League, the not-so curiously named New York Streets, will wear black uniforms.”
--This is sad. Since the first day of Bar Chat, the mangy, yet highly-tasty ‘yak’ has been a favorite, but I saw a story this weekend that 300 yaks starved to death near India’s border with China after getting trapped by heavy snowfall.
The yaks had been trapped since December. Authorities had tried to drop food to the animals by helicopter but were pushed back by poor weather.
Yaks have been in the region for thousands of years, used for their milk and meat but also to transport goods.
The death toll was the highest on record for the season.
--So speaking of wildlife, one of the giants passed away. Jim Fowler, the towering wildlife enthusiast who brought pumas, anacondas, and birds of prey to prime-time television in the long-running “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” Fowler died at his home in Rowayton, Connecticut. He was 89.
Fowler did all the dirty work (and fun stuff) while his partner, Marlin Perkins, trudged alongside, across savannas and through tide pools in a quest to take viewers to places they’d probably never see with their own eyes.
To baby-boomer America, the program opened the gates to the animal kingdom and ushered in an era of animal-friendly programming, including “The Crocodile Hunter” and Animal Planet shows.
Fowler became known to millions for his appearances on “The Merv Griffin Show” and the “The Tonight Show,” first with Johnny Carson and then Jay Leno.
Fowler was born in Albany, Ga., amid the cotton plantations and wide-open fields along the Flint River, and he was born early to wildlife, encountering it in abundance on his family’s 680-acre farm. In time, he transformed the farm into a wildlife sanctuary, where he trained birds, and became fascinated with snakes.
Fowler studied zoology at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. He also starred on the baseball team and at 6 feet 6, he said he turned down offers from the Yankees and the then-Philadelphia Athletics.
After graduating, Fowler befriended Perkins at a raptor sanctuary. Though Perkins was 25 years older, the two became fast friends.
On television, Perkins was the knowledgeable host, Fowler the energetic wow-would-you-look-at-that sidekick. The two traveled the world together, using guides, wardens and naturalists to take them to the nesting grounds or dens where they could encounter wildlife face to face.
Based on the success of a pilot, “Wild Kingdom” originally ran from 1963 to 1971. The show arrived at a time of growing concern about the thinning population of wildlife, creatures on the edge of extinction and animals cooped up in cages that cut off their instinctive need to roam.
The show was often criticized for being intrusive, such as confronting a herd of elephants with a full film crew, rather than observing from a distance, but Fowler maintained that the benefits of the show – stoking interest in wildlife – far outweighed the gimmicks and the fun-with-animals gags.
“The real challenge today is to affect the public’s attitude and make them care,” he told the Boston Globe in a 1997 interview.
Marlin Perkins died in 1986.
--New Jersey has a growing problem with coyotes. They scare the hell out of me. Recently, there have been sightings in downtown Morristown, which is a sizable city 15 minutes from here. Coyotes are becoming more comfortable, and that sucks.
It’s suggested if you see one, make a lot of noise, like blasting an air siren, “or spray it with a garden hose.”
Well, I don’t walk or jog with a garden hose, for crying out loud!
--We note the passing of actress Peggy Lipton, known for her roles in “The Mod Squad” and “Twin Peaks,” and the mother of Rashida Jones. Lipton died at the age of 72 of cancer. She had been diagnosed with colon cancer in 2004.
Lipton won a Golden Globe and was Emmy-nominated four times for her role as flower child Julie Barnes in “The Mod Squad,” in which she starred from 1968 to 1973.
Born in New York on Aug. 30, 1946, Lipton began modeling at age 15 and quickly found herself in demand. At age 19, she was making her television debut on the sitcom “The John Forsythe Show,” going on to make appearances on such series as “Bewitched,” “The Alfred Hitchcok Hour” and “The Virginian.”
Then, when she turned 21, the blond Lipton rocketed to stardom in 1968 as Julie Barnes, appearing alongside Michael Cole and Clarence Williams III. “The Mod Squad” was edgy, for its time, dealing with issues such as domestic violence, abortion, police brutality, the Vietnam War and drugs. It wasn’t “Leave It To Beaver.”
The show was one of the first to feature a multiracial cast, “One black, one white, one blonde,” as the marketing campaign described, and one of the first to depict the growing counter-culture movement. For her part, Lipton became a fashion icon for her hippie outfits.
Understand that for boys like me of a certain age, there were only two girls that mattered. Susan Dey and Peggy Lipton.
Lipton married music producer Quincy Jones in 1974; they divorced in 1989.
After a long break to raise their two daughters, Lipton returned to acting on David Lynch’s original “Twin Peaks” series, playing Norma Jennings, the owner of the Double R Diner.
Lipton also had a singing career, charting a few tunes, but no top 40s.
Top 3 songs for the week 5/13/67: #1 “The Happening” (The Supremes) #2 “Sweet Soul Music” (Arthur Conley) #3 “Somethin’ Stupid” (Nancy Sinatra & Frank Sinatra)...and...#4 “Groovin’” (The Young Rascals) #5 “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” (The Monkees) #6 “Don’t You Care” (The Buckinghams...loved this one...) #7 “You Got What It Takes” (The Dave Clark Five) #8 “Close Your Eyes” (Peaches and Herb) #9 “I Got Rhythm” (The Happenings) #10 “I Think We’re Alone Now” (Tommy James and The Shondells...another excuse to ask, “Why the hell aren’t these guys in the Hall of Fame?!”...)
MLB Quiz Answer: Seven other pitchers to have multiple no-hitters since 2000, aside from Oakland’s Mike Fiers.
Jake Arrieta (2015, ’16)
Max Scherzer (two in 2015)
Tim Lincecum (2013, ’14)
Homer Bailey (2012, ’13)
Justin Verlander (2007, 2011)
Roy Halladay (two in 2010, the second in the postseason)
Max Buehrle (2007, ’09)
Looking back at Fiers’ effort last Tuesday, in a 2-0 win over the Reds, what made it all the more remarkable was that the game was delayed by an hour and 38 minutes, starting at 8:45 p.m. in Oakland, due to an electrical problem in the stadium...the left-field bank of lights were mostly out. The game almost didn’t start at all, MLB giving Oakland until 9 p.m. to rectify the situation.
And then the A’s spectacular center fielder Ramon Laureano made a play for the ages in the sixth inning, robbing Joey Votto of a home run.
So here is Mike Fiers, a 33-year-old journeyman with a 57-58 record, 4.11 career ERA, but with two no-hitters. Heck, he entered Tuesday’s game with a 6.81 ERA for his first eight starts this season.
Then again, looking at the above list, Homer Bailey is 71-80, 4.57 for his career, but his two no-nos were in 2012 and 2013, his two very solid years with the Reds that then earned him an outrageously large contract that he hasn’t come close to fulfilling since.
1969 Mets, cont’d....
The 12-15 Mets hosted the Astros for three at Shea.
May 10: After a rainout Friday night, the Mets and Tom Seaver beat Houston 3-1, Seaver with a complete game to go to 4-2, 2.08 on the season, though he uncharacteristically gave up six walks, which he was fuming about after.
May 11: New York and Houston played two, the Astros winning the first 4-1 behind Larry Dierker’s complete game, while the Mets’ hard luck pitcher, Don Cardwell, yielded just two earned runs in six innings, but fell to 1-5, despite a fine 2.51 ERA.
In the nightcap, the Mets recovered for an 11-7 win behind Tommie Agee’s two home runs.
So the Mets are 14-16, six games back of the Cubs. Atlanta is in next for three.
Pssst...something tells me the Mets are going to struggle against Houston the rest of the way. Just a feeling I have.
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.