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The Toy Cannon and Curly Neal
[Posted early Sunday p.m.]
Olympic Figure Skating Quiz: 1) Name the last three American men to capture gold. 2) Since Peggy Fleming won in 1968, name the four American women who took home the gold. Answers below.
How much of a blow was the cancellation of the NCAA basketball tournament, as well as other spring sports championships? We learned the damage on Thursday, as the NCAA board of governors voted to distribute $225 million to Division I schools in June, less than half the anticipated $600 million.
The NCAA said $50 million would come from its reserves and that it also has a $270 million event cancellation insurance policy, which will be used to pay off a line of credit to cover the remaining distribution within 12 months.
Michael Drake, NCAA board of governors chairman and Ohio State president, said in a statement: “We are living in unprecedented times not only for higher education but for the entire nation and around the globe as we face the COVID-19 public health crisis. As an Association, we must acknowledge the uncertainties of our financial situation and continue to make thoughtful and prudent decisions on how we can assist conferences and campuses in supporting student-athletes now and into the future.”
NCAA president Mark Emmert told ESPN earlier, “We’ve got some cash reserves and a variety of things, but is it going to be painful? Absolutely. It’s going to be very hard.”
Division II members are receiving a projected $13.9 million, $30 million less than last year. Division III will receive about $10.7 million, or $22 million less.
So this means conferences have less money to share with their member schools.
And you think about a simple fact. Even if we are able to restart athletics in the fall, what will be the crowd situation? What then the ticket revenue?
MLBPA chief Tony Clark made it clear Friday that no matter what the conditions, providing it’s safe for everyone, the players are prepared to play right up to Thanksgiving.
MLB and the players agreed that as soon as local, state and federal officials deem it safe, they will try to play as many games as humanely possible to resemble a full season.
You would certainly see a lot of day-night doubleheaders, and long stretches without a day off.
The two parties agreed last week that even if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continued to recommend no gathering of more than 50 people, MLB and the players would be willing to play in front of empty stadiums and at neutral sites.
But they obviously have to be able to travel.
Just thinking out loud. If the players were given the all-clear to restart spring training mid-June, with everyone agreeing you need four weeks, and then you start mid-July, you run a 90-game schedule, or more, through October. Then the teams making the playoffs all assemble in one or two locations, like Las Vegas, Arizona, California and Florida, and ram through the playoffs in November.
You and I would immediately sign up for that.
The virus is going to return in the fall, virtually everyone knows that, but at worst we’ll have therapeutics by then. In God’s name we pray.
--By the way, the deal reached with the owners and the players has the owners paying $170 million – or less than $6 million per club – to players beginning April 3 for 60 days. The most money a player can receive is about $5,000 a day for 60 days ($300,000), which will go to players with guaranteed contracts. Players with split contracts – major-league and minor league – will earn from $275 a day to $1,000 a day.
If there’s no season, the players will keep the money, and if there’s a season, the money will be deducted from their paychecks.
There’s also an immediate freeze on transactions until the re-opening of spring training, prohibiting clubs from even talking to their players about a contract extension.
It’s encouraging the players and owners were able to reach such an agreement, and seemingly with little rancor.
One more…players who are serving drug or domestic-violence suspensions must complete their penalty without any time being pro-rated, so Yankees starter Domingo German must still miss 63 games no matter when the season starts. But if there is no season, it seems he’s eligible to play in 2021. [Bob Nightengale / USA TODAY]
--We note the passing of “The Toy Cannon,” Jim Wynn, 78. The 5-10, 160-pound Wynn first reached the majors with the Houston Colt 45s in 1963, playing his first 11 seasons in Houston, making the All-Star team for the first time in 1967 when he posted a career-high of 37 homers and drove in 107, despite playing half his games in the cavernous Astrodome.
Wynn later had a career resurgence in 1974 with the Dodgers, helping lead the Dodgers to the World Series where they lost to the Oakland A’s. Wynn finished fifth in the MVP vote, slamming 32 home runs and driving in a career-high 108 runs. He made the All-Star team for a second time that year, and then in 1975.
For his career, Wynn had 291 home runs, drove in 964, stole 225 bases, scored 100 runs four times, and in 1968 had 20 assists from the outfield with his powerful throwing arm. He also led the league in walks twice and finished with an excellent .366 on-base percentage, especially for his time.
So I had the opportunity to meet Jim Wynn (growing up he was better known as “Jimmy”) on two occasions in 2008. One at a memorabilia show in Kansas City, as part of my efforts with Willie Wilson, and then May of that year, StocksandNews was the sponsor of one of the teams in a charity baseball game also in K.C.
Jim Wynn was my manager, as I played second base, and some of you will recall I was fanned in my two plate appearances by Dennis Leonard and Dave Stewart, though at least I fouled off three pitches. Willie Wilson had told Wynn to play me all seven innings, but there were much younger guys itching to get in and during the warmups, I noticed a guy I was throwing it around with was clearly a far better athlete than your editor, then 50 years old. So I told Wynn he could put this guy in for me and he proceeded to immediately botch two plays and as I wrote then, “Jimmy Wynn turned to me and said, ‘See, if you stayed in you would have made them.’ That made my day, though probably wasn’t realistic.”
I wrote of what a class act Wynn was. “Just a super guy.”
That will always be my memory of The Toy Cannon. Had he played anywhere else except all those years in the Astrodome, he probably hits close to 400 homers. But Wynn dies a beloved figure in the game. RIP.
--The other day Baseball-Reference.com posted a bit on top Opening Day performances. Johnny Mac took note of Walter Johnson, 1926, throwing a 15-inning shutout. 15 innings! Mel Harder of Cleveland in 1935 threw a 14-inning game. This is Opening Day.
Johnson was at the end of his career, actually, 38 years old in ’26.
Harder was underrated, going 223-186, 3.80, in his career with Cleveland. 1935 he finished 22-11.
So among the hitting performances, you have Dmitri Young, who in 2005 for Detroit hit 3 home runs and drove in 5. You also have Tuffy Rhodes’ 3 home runs for the Cubs in 1994.
Young, a very solid performer throughout his career, ended up 2005 with 21 home runs and 72 RBIs.
But for Tuffy Rhodes, his Opening Day performance was easily the high point of his career. He finished that season with just 8 homers in 269 at-bats, just 13 in 590 ABs for his career.
Then there is Brant Alyea. The part-time outfielder played six seasons in the majors, hitting 38 home runs in 866 at-bats.
But on Opening Day in 1970, Alyea, playing for the Twins and batting behind Tony Oliva and Harmon Killebrew in the lineup, went 4-4 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI! Minnesota defeated Tommy John and the White Sox 12-0, as the Twins’ Jim Perry threw a complete game shutout.
Now if I was doing Bar Chat back then, there would have been folks projecting Alyea to hit .455, 94 home runs and, conservatively, 542 RBIs for the season.
This wouldn’t have been realistic. I would have pegged him for 82 homers, 257 RBI, .399 BA.
Alas, he finished up with 16 home runs and 61 RBIs for the first-place Twins, who went 98-64 under manager Bill Rigney, but then were swept 3-0 by Baltimore in the ALCS.
But Alyea’s production was in just 258 at-bats and the dude had an .897 OPS in 1970. As Ronald Reagan no doubt mused then regarding the kid from Passaic, N.J., who played at Hofstra, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
Bill Rigney managed 18 seasons in the big leagues for various teams, but this was his only first-place finish, going 1239-1321 for his career.
And now you know, the rest of the story.
Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the show will go on, the NFL Draft, April 23-25, only it will be conducted in a television studio and not Las Vegas as planned. I agree on this one. The nation needs it…and it helps with continuity among the teams as we pray we have football in the fall.
Ratings should be huge.
But not all are in agreement the draft should be held. Al Michaels, NBC’s play-by-play announcer for “Sunday Night Football,” who would have been a key cog for the network at the Olympics as well, commented:
“It’s a distraction to some people, and that’s fine,” he said. “If you’re distracted by free agency and you’re distracted by players signing eight- and nine-figure multigazillion-dollar contracts, that’s fine. I’m not going to judge what somebody else’s distraction is…
“[But] we have a world crisis, and it’s unparalleled. I don’t think we’ve ever had – not in my lifetime – anything like this. And we don’t know what the end game is. …The psychic toll that this is taking right now is huge, it is wide-ranging….
“I look at this whole situation and I think to myself, we’re talking about flattening the curve, which is great, and hopefully we can do that sooner than later and cut down on the number of cases and flatten that curve. But the distance between flattening the curve and sounding the all-clear signal is I don’t know how long.”
The Tokyo Olympics
Now that it’s official, Japan’s Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita said, “Let’s take this positively, reset your mindset. With a fresh mind, not giving up, I want to go through this challenge heading into next year.”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe phoned President Trump to explain the postponement as they sought to further cushion the economy from the twin blows of the coronavirus and the delayed Games.
The clock in front of Tokyo Station, which had been displaying the number of days until the Games, ceased its countdown and reverted to Wednesday’s date and time.
The 14 major corporations that were involved in the IOC’s global partnership program indicated they would remain.
The Games will likely take place next year around the original July 24-Aug. 9 date. But the United States was due to hold the athletics world championships in Eugene, Oregon, and the swimming equivalent was to be in the Japanese city of Fukuoka. It’s likely both will be moved to 2022. Having been to Eugene (University of Oregon) many times for the Track and Field Olympic Trials, I know the locals would be crushed if they can’t hold it.
The Olympic flame, having arrived in Tokyo, will remain there, after an initial month in Fukushima. It is going to be displayed in a manner that does not attract crowds due to the coronavirus.
From the Associated Press: “It was the biggest soccer game in Atalanta’s history and a third of Bergamo’s population made the short trip to Milan’s famed San Siro Stadium.
“Nearly 2,500 fans of visiting Spanish club Valencia also traveled to that Champions League match.
“More than a month later, experts are pointing to the Feb. 19 game as one of the biggest reasons why Bergamo has become one of the epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic – a ‘biological bomb’ was the way one respiratory specialist put it – and why 35% of Valencia’s team became infected.
“The match, which local media have dubbed ‘Game Zero,’ was held two days before the first case of locally transmitted Covid-19 was confirmed in Italy.
“ ‘We were mid-February so we didn’t have the circumstances of what was happening,’ Bergamo Mayor Giorgio Gori said this week during a live Facebook chat with the Foreign Press Association in Rome. ‘If it’s true what they’re saying that the virus was already circulating in Europe in January, then it’s very probable that 40,000 Bergamaschi in the stands of San Siro, all together, exchanged the virus between them. As is possible that so many Bergamaschi that night got together in houses, bars to watch the match and did the same.
“ ‘Unfortunately, we couldn’t have known. No one knew the virus was already here,’ the mayor added. ‘It was inevitable.’”
Luca Lorini, the head of the intensive care unit at the Pope John XXIII hospital in Bergamo, said: “I’m sure that 40,000 people hugging and kissing each other while standing a centimeter apart – four times, because Atalanta scored four goals (the final result was 4-1) – was definitely a huge accelerator for contagion,” Lorini told the AP.
--According to Brent Schrotenboer of USA TODAY Sports, “More than $1 billion in consumer capital is tied up in tickets to games that are stuck in limbo because of the pandemic, according to conservative estimates. It affects ticket holders of all stripes and trickles downstream to the secondary markets, such as StubHub, which faces its own financial reckoning if games are canceled.”
StubHub’s standard response these days is that the tickets remain valid for a later date when the games are rescheduled.
The teams and ticket marketplaces have their own financial obligations and staffing issues and aren’t always eager to give back cash until it’s necessary. “StubHub, for example, makes money from transaction fees and could lose that revenue if games are officially canceled and they have to give it back to customers.”
Good luck getting your money back from anyone.
--The U.S. Open at Winged Foot, no surprise, will be postponed but the USGA hasn’t made it official. The hope is to reschedule for later in the summer. One thing is with the Olympics being postponed, you have an open slot there…we just pray the crisis has passed at that point.
The Masters has been postponed until possibly October. The PGA, which was set for Harding Park in San Francisco, is hoping for a late summer date.
If you told a golf fan we’d have the US Open, PGA and The Masters in September and October, they’d sign up for that.
--Poor Davis Love III. His house on St. Simons Island, Ga., was destroyed by fire early Friday morning in a blaze that could not be controlled, even with firefighters arriving within minutes. The fire hit at 5:18 a.m., apparently starting in the garage.
Love and his wife were home and able to escape without injury.
“While everyone in our family is saddened at the loss of our home that was filled with so much laughter and incredible memories, we’re very blessed that everyone is safe and unharmed,” Love said in a statement. “We’re very thankful to the first responders who made a valiant effort to save our home, and we’re keeping things in perspective as people across our community and around the world are struggling with the current unprecedented health crisis.”
He’s always been such a class act…a “sportsman” in the truest sense of the word.
--Horse racing had survived the sports shutdown in many parts of the country, without crowds, so folks had something to gamble on. But on Friday, Santa Anita stopped live racing after instructions from the Los Angeles County Health Department. California has a stay-at-home order. There were no known cases of Covid-19 at the track.
The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita, had urged it be allowed to stay open, as it has at other Stronach Group tracks in Florida, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
--ESPN sportscaster Doris Burke had a scary bout with coronavirus. She contracted it more than two weeks ago.
“I did test positive for Covid-19 and basically my first symptoms looking back on it was March 11, which was the day I was broadcasting Denver at Dallas, which was obviously the moment when Rudy Gobert tested positive, which set off the ensuing series of events,” Burke said of the Utah Jazz center, who since has been cleared of the virus, the team announced Friday. “I’m doing quite well now, to be perfectly honest with you. But I’ve had an interesting couple of weeks.”
Burke said she was having lunch with broadcast partner Ryan Ruocco and their crew on March 11, when she remarked how tired she was and that her head was “pounding.”
“Looking back, those were my symptoms….my symptom was extraordinary fatigue.”
She called the game that night. “By the time Saturday the 14th hit, I was so tired, that I tried to get out of bed from Saturday the 14th through Tuesday the17th, St. Patrick’s Day.
“I kid you not, I could not be out of bed for five minutes without needing to go back to bed and lay down.”
It was then she decided to get tested, but it took several days before she received the results.
--James Dolan, the owner of the Knicks and Rangers, tested positive for the coronavirus, though the Knicks announced he is experiencing “little to no symptoms” and is self-isolating.
--Next winter, the Rutgers hoops team will be unveiling one of the top recruits in the nation, 6-foot-10 center from Nigeria, Cliff Omoruyi, who attends Roselle Catholic High School. He’s the first top-50 recruit to commit to Rutgers since Mike Rosario in 2008. Omoruyi is ranked as the ninth-best center in the nation by ESPN.
--Sol Kerzner, one of the more interesting people of the last 60 years, died at his home in Cape Town, South Africa. He was 84.
Alan Cowell / New York Times
“Mr. Kerzner’s story was often depicted as a poor-boy-makes-good one, from beginnings in a blue-collar neighborhood of Johannesburg to membership in an international cabal of tycoons and celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli. His empire stretched from the United States to China by way of the Bahamas, Morocco, Mauritius, Dubai and elsewhere. In the 1990s he was labeled a South African version of Donald J. Trump.
“For all his international profile, though, his name was most closely associated with Sun City, a gaudy hotel, casino and golf complex with a 6,000-seat arena, situated about 90 miles from Johannesburg. Starting in 1975, Mr. Kerzner oversaw its creation, hewn from raw bushlands and rising in a jumble of architectural whimsy in what was then the nominally independent homeland of Bophuthatswana.
“The so-called homelands – known derisively as bantustans – formed a pillar of apartheid, created to strip black South Africans of citizenship and assign to them a nationality based on the ethnicity of their notional new states. Bophuthatswana was intended for people of Tswana descent.
“The homelands won no international recognition and were re-absorbed into South Africa after the 1994 all-race elections that brought Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress to power.
“In the late 1970s and ‘80s, however, even as South Africa nudged into ever-sharpening conflict between its white minority leaders and its black majority, Sun City seemed a creation of staggering chutzpah. Bophythatswana had no restrictions on gambling and did not share apartheid’s puritanism in matters of sex and race.
“White South Africans could thus drive a couple of hours from Johannesburg to play the tables, feed the slots or watch topless revues at Sun City. And there, black and white people could do what was forbidden in the rest of South Africa: mingle and frolic freely.
“ ‘It was a place all South Africans could enjoy irrespective of their race,’ Mr. Kerzner told The Financial Times in 2010. Brash and flashy, the complex became known as Sin City, and the flamboyant Mr. Kerzner, often in the headlines because of his succession of romances, became known as the Sun King. Some people called the complex South Africa’s Las Vegas.”
Golf fans remember hearing of Sun City from way back because there were big tournaments played there, starting with the likes of fellow South Africans Gary Player, and then Ernie Els. Kerzner paid big appearance fees to the likes of Jack Nicklaus. Elton John and Freddie Mercury were among those receiving huge $bucks to give concerts there.
Those of my generation heard of this, but we felt uncomfortable. There was something missing. You knew it wasn’t really right.
Asked by The Financial Times in 2010 how he dealt with criticism, Kerzner replied: “I don’t. I have a saying: The dogs bark and the caravan moves on.”
In 1994, he acquired the bankrupt Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas and converted it into a 2,200-room resort called Atlantis, and in 2008, he opened the $1.5 billion, 1,500-room Atlantis, the Palm, in Dubai. For the Palm, Kerzner held what is believed to have been the world’s biggest fireworks display, which a lot of us remember.
--We note the passing of Fred “Curly” Neal, the dribbling wizard of the Harlem Globetrotters. He was 77.
Nicknamed “Curly” upon joining the Globetrotters in a humorous nod to his shaved head, Neal played in more than 6,000 exhibition games for the team from 1963 to 1985, mostly against their hapless foils, the Washington Generals.
Marc Stein / New York Times
“In one of the most highly anticipated elements of the Globetrotters’ routine, Neal would dribble all over the court, frequently sliding on his knees, never losing control of the ball no matter how close to the hardwood he had lowered himself. Then he would bounce the ball through a flailing defender’s legs near the free-throw line and dribble in for an uncontested layup to finish off the move.”
Nancy Lieberman, who played for the Generals against the Globetrotters one year, said in an interview, “Everything you see Kyrie Irving doing and Steph Curry doing now, all of it started with the Trotters. The Trotters made dribbling a show.”
“His basketball skill was unrivaled by most, and his warm heart and huge smile brought joy to families worldwide,” Jeff Munn, the Globetrotters’ general manager, said in a statement on Thursday. “He always made time for his many fans and inspired millions.”
Frederick Neal was born on May 19, 1942, in Greensboro, N.C., and played collegiately at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, where he averaged 23 points per game as a senior to earn All-Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association honors. Future NBA stars such as Lou Hudson and Al Attles were high school and college contemporaries, but Neal was not drafted by an NBA team and struggled to land a job in the pros.
But an offer with the Globetrotters materialized and, over time, he succeed the legendary Marques Haynes as the Globetrotters’ ball-handling sensation.
Neal and Haynes “taught me how to dribble,” Isiah Thomas said.
Neal’s No. 22 was retired by the Trotters in 2008 in a ceremony at Madison Square Garden, an honor bestowed on only four other players in the team’s history: Wilt Chamberlain, Reece “Goose” Tatum, Haynes and Meadowlark Lemon.
Top 3 songs for the week 3/27/65: #1 “Stop! In The Name Of Love” (The Supremes) #2 “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” (Herman’s Hermits) #3 “The Birds And The Bees” (Jewel Akens)…and…#4 “Eight Days A Week” (The Beatles) #5 “King Of The Road” (Roger Miller…immensely underrated artist, writer, composer – Broadway’s “Big River” – who died tragically of lung cancer at the age of 56 in 1992…) #6 Ferry Cross The Mersey” (Gerry & The Pacemakers) #7 “Shotgun” (Jr. Walker & The All Stars) #8 “Goldfinger” (Shirley Bassey…brilliant…) #9 “My Girl” (The Temptations…equally so…) #10 “This Diamond Ring”’ (Gary Lewis and The Playboys…another superb week… ‘A’…)
Olympic Figure Skating Quiz Answers: 1) Last three American men to win gold: Scott Hamilton (1984), Brian Boitano (1988), Evan Lysacek (2010). 2) Four American women to win gold since Peggy Fleming in 1968: Dorothy Hamill (1976), Kristi Yamaguchi (1992), Tara Lipinski (1998), Sarah Hughes (2002).
Next Bar Chat, Thursday….or sooner.