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A Final Farewell to Tom Terrific
***Next Bar Chat…late Sunday p.m. The sports crush is coming…both college football, about 3/5ths of it, and the NFL…plus the NHL and NBA playoffs are nearing a climax, while MLB plows on. The U.S. Open concludes. And the Premier League starts a new season, already…***
Baseball Quiz: Name the eight pitchers in baseball history, post-1900, to strike out 19 or more in a nine-inning game. Answer below. [You get one answer in some of the following text.]
--The Yankees continue to struggle mightily, 21-19, Saturday night emblematic of their recent play, a 6-1 loss with Gerrit Cole on the mound.
The Yanks started out 16-6 and then the injuries, like to Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, began to catch up to them.
But Saturday was unacceptable, as Cole fell to 4-3, 3.63, having yielded 13 home runs in 52 innings. Hardly what the Yankees expected from their $324-million ace.
Worse on Saturday, though, was that Keegan Akin, a 25-year-old making just his second career start for the Orioles, blanked them over 5 1/3.
And Gary Sanchez fanned all four times at bat, his average .130 amidst a 4-for-41 slide.
So then on Sunday, the Yanks lost again to the Orioles (19-21), this time 5-1. To add insult to injury, Dean Kremer (no relation to Dean Wormer), in his major league debut, held the Yanks to one hit over six innings. George Steinbrenner is exploding in his grave.
It is getting late early for the team that plays in the Little Bandbox that Ruth Didn’t Build.
--Meanwhile, my Metsies have struggled to stay relevant. Sunday they sent Jacob deGrom to the mound and they actually scored runs for him! 14 of ‘em! Mets win 14-1 over the Phillies.
So deGrom has gone to the mound eight times and has yet to yield more than two earned runs. The Mets are 6-2 in games he has pitched, but Jake is only 3-1, 1.69 ERA, 70 strikeouts in 48 innings, just three home runs allowed (compared to Gerrit Cole’s s---show in that category).
But today, the Mets chasing the Phils for a playoff spot, fell behind 6-0, only to tie it at 7-7 as we headed to extra innings and that runner on second rule (which I am warming to).
Alas, the Metropolitans lost 9-8, falling to 19-23 in the process, Philadelphia Cheesesteaks at 20-17.
Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of our Lives, err, favorite sports ballclubs…especially if Covid overwhelms any vaccines this winter during flu season, nations not having suppressed the virus enough heading into the fall…as in customers storming a liquor store, having been told said business is no longer ‘essential’ as of the next morning. [Such are my nightmares.]
--The Dodgers are playing great, as expected, 30-12, and Clayton Kershaw is leading a superb pitching staff*, Kershaw with a 5-1 record in six starts, just 6 walks, 41 Ks in 36 innings, a 1.50 ERA, having missed the opening week-and-a-half with a back injury.
*The Dodgers are pitching to a 2.88 ERA, second to the Indians’ 2.78. For Cleveland, 25-15, Shane Bieber is a rather sterling 7-0 in nine starts, 1.25 ERA! Gibsonesque, for crying out loud! 94 strikeouts in 57 2/3.
--Since my last chat, for the record the Dodgers set an NL record for most home runs in a calendar month, 57 in August. The AL record in 74 by the Yankees in 2019, also in August.
--Mike Trout clubbed his 14th home run of the season on Friday night, the 299th of his career, tying Tim Salmon for the franchise lead. Trout then went 3-for-3 on Saturday with four runs scored and No. 300, the Angels winning game one of a doubleheader 10-9. They then won the nightcap, 7-6, and completed the four-game sweep of the Astros, winning yesterday 9-5, though they are still just 17-25.
At least Anthony Rendon is heating up, homering in the nightcap Saturday and then Sunday, his batting average up to .292, eight home runs, 24 RBIs.
It was 106 degrees, air temp, yesterday at Angel Stadium. [121 in Woodland Hills.]
--San Diego has gone all in, acquiring pitcher Mike Clevinger from the Indians, after earlier picking up first baseman Mitch Moreland from Boston and closer Trevor Rosenthal from Kansas City, among others, at the Aug. 31 trade deadline.
The Padres will no doubt make their first playoff appearance since 2006.
--I also can’t help but mention the performance of the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday. In a 23-5 beatdown of the Rockies in Denver, Alex Dickerson (3 home runs), Brandon Crawford and Donovan Solano each had six RBIs; the first time in MLB history that three players each had six RBIs in a game.
Dickerson also had two doubles, tying the Giants’ franchise record of 16 total bases set by Willie Mays on April 30, 1961, at the Milwaukee Braves. Dickerson is only the 12th player in MLB history to have five extra-base hits in a game since 1901, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
One more…the Giants had 27 hits, the most in a game by an NL team in more than 20 seasons.
There have been three games in which an NL team has had at least 27 hits since the Rockies’ first season in 1993. All three have come at Coors Field.
--Former Phillies first baseman Dick Allen had his uniform number (15) retired on Thursday, a great move by the team, though long overdue.
Allen thanked the city of Philadelphia, saying, “Even though it was rough, I’ve made some friends along the way.”
One of the franchise’s greatest players, Allen fought against racism during a tumultuous period with the team in the 1960s.
Allen was one of the sport’s most dynamic offensive players from 1964-74, winning the Rookie of the Year award and then MVP in 1972 with the White Sox. He was a seven-time All Star.
Mike Schmidt, the Hall of Fame third baseman who helped lure Allen out of retirement to return to Philadelphia for a second stint with the team in 1975, called him “an amazing mentor” who was wrongly labeled a “bad teammate” and “troublemaker.”
“Dick was a sensitive Black man who refused to be treated as a second-class citizen,” Schmidt said in a speech.
“He played in front of home fans that were products of that racist era (with) racist teammates and different rules for whites and Blacks. Fans threw stuff at him and thus Dick wore a batting helmet throughout the whole game. They yelled degrading racial slurs. They dumped trash in his front yard at his home. In general, he was tormented and it came from all directions. And Dick rebelled,” Schmidt said, prior to unveiling the No. 15, hanging on a wall behind the left-field stands at Citizens Bank Park.
“My friends, these (negative) labels have kept Dick Allen out of the Hall of Fame,” Schmidt said. “Imagine what Dick could’ve accomplished as a player in another era, on another team, left alone to hone his skills, to be confident, to come to the ballpark every day and just play baseball.”
Dick Allen was truly an extraordinary talent. I’ve written in the past of going to many a Mets-Phils contest at Shea where Allen would hit some of the most mammoth home runs I’ve ever seen. Mets announcer Gary Cohen on Sunday, in discussing Allen, said he hit the longest home run Cohen (a lifelong fan of similar age) ever saw… “at least 500 feet.” I might have been there that day. [For long-time Mets fans, Cohen said it cleared the fence beyond the back fence of the left-field bullpen…into the main parking lot. I recall being there one day in a Mezzanine seat on the left-field side when ‘Richie’ hit one just like that, but the angle may have prohibited me from seeing it go into the main lot.]
--We note the passing of Hall of Famer Lou Brock, 81.
“Lou Brock was one of the most revered members of the St. Louis Cardinals organization and one of the very best to ever wear the Birds on the Bat,” Cardinals principal owner and chief executive officer William O. DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. “Lou was a Hall of Fame player, a great coach, an insightful broadcaster and a wonderful mentor to countless generations of Cardinals players, coaches and members of the front office.
“He was an ambassador of the game around the country and a fan favorite who connected with millions of baseball fans across multiple generations. He will be deeply missed and forever remembered.”
At the time of his retirement, Brock was baseball’s all-time stolen base leader at 938, including a then-single-season record with 118 in 1974 (at the age of 35). Both of those records were broken by Rickey Henderson, who stole 1,406 bases in his career with a single-season record high of 130 in 1982.
But Brock was far more than just steals, having led the league eight times in that category. The six-time All-Star and first-ballot Hall of Famer had 3,023 hits, a .293 career batting average, and seven times had 100 runs.
He was also an outstanding performer in the 1964, ’67 and ’68 World Series for the Cards, batting .391 in 21 games, 34-for-87, four home runs, 13 RBIs, 14 steals, with a 1.079 OPS, helping lead St. Louis to the title in ’64 and ’67.
But it was on June 15, 1964, that Lou Brock was involved in one of the most famous, lopsided trades in baseball history. Brock, then a young so-so outfielder for the Cubs who came up in 1961, was part of a deal with St. Louis, the headliner on the other side pitcher Ernie Broglio, who had gone 21-9 in 1960 and 18-8 in 1963 for the Cardinals.
Broglio would win just seven more games in his career. Brock would hit .348 for St. Louis that season (as they caught the collapsing Phillies), culminating in the World Series, and the rest is history.
Lou Brock was born on June 18, 1939, in El Dorado, Ark., and grew up in Collinston, La., in a family of sharecroppers who picked cotton. He attended a one-room schoolhouse, but at the age of 9 was inspired by possibilities beyond the poverty and segregation of the rural South.
As Richard Goldstein of the New York Times notes:
“He was listening one night to a feed from radio station KMOX in St. Louis. Harry Caray was broadcasting a game between the Cardinals and Jackie Robinson’s Brooklyn Dodgers, the summer after Robinson broke the major leagues’ color barrier, a time when, as Brock put it, ‘Jim Crow was king.’
“ ‘I was searching the dial of an old Philco radio,’ Brock recalled. When he heard about Robinson, ‘I felt pride in being alive. The baseball field was my fantasy of what life ordered.’
“As a boy, Brock never played organized baseball. Instead of a ball and bat, he swatted rocks with tree branches. But he received an academic scholarship to Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., and played baseball there, catching the attention of Buck O’Neil, the longtime Negro leagues player and manager who was scouting for the Cubs.”
The Cubs signed Brock in August 1960, and he made his major league debut a year later.
What a great American story.
--In the playoffs, Sunday, LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 62 points and 21 rebounds as the Lakers evened their Western Conference semis at 1-1 with Houston.
But in the shocking, thus far, Eastern Conference semi, Miami had taken a 3-0 series lead over Milwaukee (56-17 in the regular season), and appeared to be cruising to a 4-0 sweep yesterday when reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo went out after aggravating his right ankle injury in the first half.
Milwaukee, though, responded, namely Khris Middleton, who poured in 36 points, the Bucks staving off elimination 118-115 in overtime, with Middleton having nine of the 11 Milwaukee points in OT.
In the other two semis, the Raptors and Celtics are evened up at 2-2 and the Nuggets and the Clippers are tied at 1-1 as both series resume tonight.
I do have to add that for the Nuggets, while Nikola Jokic has been his usual All-Star self, averaging 25 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5 assists in the nine playoff games thus far, guard Jamal Murray has poured in 28.9 points per game, ten above his regular-season average, including 50 in Game 6 against Utah. Denver came from down 3-1 against the Jazz to win in 7. Utah’s Mike Conley saw his 3-pointer at the buzzer spin out, the Jazz falling short in the finale 80-78.
--I thought the Nets made a brilliant move in selecting Steve Nash to be their new head coach. It was a surprise pick…but makes so much sense. A Hall of Famer, MVP, and simply one of the 4 or 5 best point guards in NBA history.
Brooklyn GM Sean Marks said: “In Steve we see a leader, communicator and mentor who will garner the respect of our players.”
Former Nets interim coach Jacque Vaughn is also staying on as Nash’s lead assistant, which says something too…Vaughn having been passed over for the lead position.
Nash said in a statement: “Coaching is something I knew I wanted to pursue when the time was right, and I am humbled to be able to work with the outstanding group of players and staff we have here in Brooklyn. I am as excited about the prospects of the team on the court as I am about moving to Brooklyn with my family and becoming impactful members of this community.”
A key is that Nash developed a strong bond with Kevin Durant during Durant’s three seasons in Golden State while working as a part-time consultant for the Warriors in player development.
The Nets, not the Knicks, will soon own Gotham.
--I watched the entire Islanders-Flyers Game 7 on Saturday night, the Isles prevailing 4-0, after Philadelphia had staved off elimination the prior two games with wins in overtime.
New York thus advances to the Eastern Conference finals (against Tampa Bay*, the series commencing tonight) for the first time since 1992-93…27 years since they had gotten this far.
*Tampa Bay is 5-0 in overtime games in this year’s playoffs.
The conference and Stanley Cup Finals will all be held in Edmonton, the other bubble site…Toronto having performed its role most ably.
In the Western Conference finals, it’s the Las Vegas Golden Knights vs. the Dallas Stars; Vegas defeating Vancouver in Game 7 of their series 3-0, while Dallas had quite an effort in its Game 7 against Colorado. Joel Kivirata of Finland, who had 1 goal in 11 regular season games, and had not appeared in the Colorado series, proceeded to get a hat trick, including the decider in overtime. Amazing story.
Dallas defeated Vegas in Game 1 on Sunday, 1-0.
Tiz the Law went off as the prohibitive favorite at fanless Churchill Downs Saturday, but in an upset, Bob Baffert’s Authentic emerged victorious in a super stretch run against Tiz the Law, 1 ¾ lengths the margin of victory when it was felt that Authentic, recent winner of the Haskell Stakes, didn’t have enough stamina to go the mile-and-a-quarter.
For Baffert, who has had a year filled with drama, it was his sixth Derby triumph, tying him with Ben Jones for the most all time.
But, first, the other Baffert horse that was due to run in the Derby, Thousand Words, the fourth favorite, reared up in the paddock before the race and fell, hitting his head and shoulder, an automatic scratch. But in the incident, Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s longtime assistant, also fell and injured his arm and head.
So before the race, Baffert was very shaken up, thinking only of his friend.
Then after the Derby, Baffert went to the ground after Authentic got a bit rambunctious in the winner’s circle, but he was OK.
For 82-year-old trainer Barclay Tagg, Tiz the Law’s defeat was just another ‘what if’? 17 years earlier, Tagg and an ownership group called Sackatoga Stable, thought they had a Triple Crown winner in Funny Cide, only for the horse to fall short in the Belmont. Tiz the Law was the real deal, it just fell short yesterday.
In this upside down year, the Preakness remains, October 3 (also without fans) and then the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
In a truly bizarre moment, Novak Djokovic was disqualified from the Open for hitting an official with a ball in the neck.
The world No. 1 was upset with his play against Pablo Carreno Busta on Sunday when he hit a ball in frustration behind him. It struck a lineswoman in the throat, who fell to the ground in pain. Djokovic immediately rushed to help her but after a 10-minute discussion with tournament officials he defaulted the match and his chance to win his fourth U.S. Open title.
Later on Sunday, Djokovic issued a statement on Instagram:
“This whole situation has left me really sad and empty,” he wrote. “I checked on the lines person and the tournament told me that thank God she is feeling ok. I’m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong. I’m not disclosing her name to respect her privacy.”
Tournament referee Soeren Friemel said he had “no other option” but to disqualify the Serb, “based on the fact that the ball was hit angrily, recklessly, that it went straight at the line umpire’s throat,” even though he believed the 33-year-old did not intend harm.
“There are two factors, one is the action and the result,” he said. “And the action – while there was no intent – the result of hitting a line umpire and [HER] clearly being hurt is the essential factor in the decision-making process here.”
Djokovic has had issues with his temper in the past and in Sunday’s statement, the 33-year-old said he would assess his behavior going forward.
“As for the disqualification, I need to go back within and work on my disappointment and turn this all into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and human being,” he wrote. “I apologize to the @usopen tournament and everyone associated for my behavior. I’m very grateful to my team and family for being my rock of support, and my fans for always being there with me. Thank you and I’m sorry.”
Busta expressed sympathy for the opponent while endorsing the officials’ decision to default Djokovic. “The rules are the rules,” he said after the match.
So with Federer and Nadal never having made it to Flushing Meadows, the men’s side is going to have a first-time Grand Slam winner for the first time since 2014.
On the women’s side, we still have Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, among others; Serena needing three sets to defeat 15-seed Maria Sakkari today.
FedEx Cup Playoffs
--It was the final week in the regular tour season, culminating in the Tour Championship at East Lake (Atlanta), the event not just determining the winner of the event but also the FedEx Cup.
It was last year that the format for the Cup finale was changed to reward those who had the best full season, with the No. 1 ranked player, in this case Dustin Johnson, starting at 10-under par, the No. 2 (Jon Rahm) at 8-under, and six under and five under for Nos. 3-5 and down on to Nos. 26-30 starting at even par.
The only danger is that after one round, No. 1 could be running away with it, but in this case, after one, Jon Rahm and DJ were tied at -13, Rahm an opening 65, DJ a 67. It seemed like we would then have a 54-hole match play tourney between these two, only Rahm then stumbled badly in the final holes of round two and shot a 4-over 74, while Johnson had a 70.
And then in the third round, DJ went low, 64, and opened up a 5-shot lead heading into today’s finale.
Xander Schauffele -14
Justin Thomas -14
Jon Rahm -13
Would there be any drama? Kind of surprisingly, there was.
DJ then with a clutch par putt on 13, after he and Schauffele totally muffed chip shots. Schauffele misses…back to three strokes.
Thomas with a birdie on 16 to go to -18, but then bogeys 17.
DJ hits his approach on 16 out of a fairway bunker, lands it nicely on, spits like Clint (DJ’s nickname should really be “Clint,” more I think about it), gets his par, but Schauffele birdies to get it back to two.
Only Schauffele puts his drive on 17 in a bunker and can only get it back into the fairway. DJ with 130 to the par-4. Pin high. DJ gets his par. But Xander does too.
Two-stroke lead heading to par-5 18th. Schauffele finds the rough, DJ bombs it down the fairway.
DJ wraps it up, birdies the hole, wins by three, -21.
First, second, first in the three playoff events. I’d say that’s pretty f’n good.
So Dustin Johnson wins his 23rd career title, third of the year, first FedEx Cup, and earns a mammoth $15 million in the process.
JT and Schauffele finish second at -18, earning $4.5 million each; Jon Rahm fourth with $3 million.
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys….turn them into golfers.
I do have to add, in all seriousness, every golf fan wonders what the heck is going on with DJ and Paulina Gretzky. They have two kids…but still just engaged. There’s been little talk the last few months as to the relationship but I’m glad she was there to greet him. [No snarky money jokes allowed.] I hope they stay together.
--It was pretty amazing watching Saturday’s second round and seeing Rory McIlroy do something that every golfer on the planet has done more than once.
McIlroy found himself 209 yards from the green on East Lake’s 18th hole. He’d uncorked a 371-yard drive on the downhill par 5 that rolled through the fairway into the thick stuff. The lie wasn’t great, but he had a shot.
He did have to hit it over water and then, splat…splash! The shot traveled 85 feet, 8 inches, according to Shotlink, settling in the lake. That’s 85 feet, not yards. It was as awful a shot as I’ve seen from a professional in quite some time.
--I love the Callaway driver commercial with Phil Mickelson, where you get a chance to win the club if you pick the winner of the upcoming U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
Phil: “C’mon, you know who it’s going to be. When have I ever let you down at Winged Foot?!” he asks, impishly.
--So here we are…the season really starts this week with the Chiefs hosting the Texans on Thursday, with everyone else then in action Sunday and Monday.
Since we’ve seen nothing but intrasquad scrimmages, I have no clue as to what my Jets will do, though Sports Illustrated pegs them at 7-9, which seems about right given their brutal schedule. Sam Darnold needs to take a big step up in year three.
The Giants want the same from quarterback Daniel Jones in his second season, but most have them going 4-12, 5-11.
As in it could be another dreadful season for local fans.
Meanwhile, SI has the Ravens over the Saints in the Super Bowl. Can’t say I disagree with the choice of Baltimore.
--The Dolphins cut quarterback Josh Rosen, the former 10th overall pick. Just over a year ago, Miami sent second- and fifth-round picks to Arizona for Rosen, and it didn’t work out.
Rosen, 23, is 3-13 as a starter and will likely end up on his third franchise in three years. [Turns out Tampa Bay signed him to its practice squad.]
The move shows Miami is confident with Ryan Fitzpatrick mentoring Tua Tagovailoa as the successor, Tua showing everyone he is healthy…which I really find shocking, given the seriousness of his injury.
--TCU announced Friday afternoon that its game against SMU, scheduled for next Friday, Sept. 11, would be postponed due to multiple Covid-19 cases within the TCU football program. How often will he see similar announcements, especially in October and November?
--We did have some football Saturday, with Army destroying Middle Tennessee State 42-0, as the Black Knights ran the ball 62 times (340 yards), while attempting just four passes.
In the “biggest” game of just a handful played, Memphis, led by quarterback Brady White’s four touchdown passes, beat Arkansas State 37-24, in the debut of coach Ryan Silverfield, the former offensive line assistant who replaced new Florida State coach Mike Norvell.
Earlier, Memphis’ preseason All-American sophomore running back Kenneth Gainwell announced he was opting out of the 2020 season, his father telling a local newspaper that his son’s decision was influenced by the pandemic, with four members of the family having succumbed to the virus.
Gainwell put up 2,069 all-purpose yards last year as a redshirt freshman and is eligible for the 2021 NFL draft, should he choose that path.
--We do get a slew of games next weekend, with Wake Forest opening against Clemson in Winston-Salem. ESPN is doing College Game Day from Truist Stadium. Go Deacs!
But no Big Ten or Pac-12.
Sunday, President Trump tweeted: “Big Ten Football is looking really good, but may lose Michigan, Illinois and Maryland because of those Governors’ ridiculous lack of interest or political support. They will play without them?”
Prior to the above, Steve Politi of NJ.com:
“It is important, as this story becomes an issue that (gulp) could swing the most consequential presidential election in a century, to remember how we got here: The Big Ten postponed its fall sports season, at the risk of losing a half billion dollars in revenue, to protect its athletes during a worldwide pandemic.
“That’s it. The educators who run these massive research universities decided that making unpaid teenagers play football for the entertainment of alumni didn’t fit the definition of ‘essential’ as the country dealt with its worst health crisis in a century. The risk, these very smart people decided, outweighed the benefit.
“The fallout since then has been nothing short of remarkable. As the SEC, Big 12 and ACC plow ahead with the fall season despite massive outbreaks at some of their campuses – powerhouse Alabama had more than 500 cases alone – the scrutiny somehow has instead centered on the Big Ten’s decision to exercise an abundance of caution.
“Parents protested at the league’s headquarters. Some Nebraska players filed a lawsuit. So it was inevitable that we’d end up with a day like Tuesday, when the country’s president was turning this into a swing-state campaign issue with the help and encouragement of one of the nation’s most egregious coronavirus deniers.
“We should have seen this coming. Donald Trump inserted himself into the play/don’t play debate days after his opponent in the 2020 election, Joe Biden, ran TV ads in Big Ten territory blaming him for football going dark. He wasn’t about to let that slide.
“This, however, was harder to envision: The Sports Business Journal is reporting that Clay Travis, the radio shock jock from SEC country who has made a second career out of downplaying the severity of the pandemic, ‘took on the role of a matchmaker’ to facilitate the call between Trump and Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren.
“If you’re not familiar with Travis, well, count your blessings. He became relevant in New Jersey when he tried, unsuccessfully, to nuke the career of Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano when Schiano was a candidate for the Tennessee head coaching job. During the pandemic, he’s filled his airways with embarrassing predictions about how Covid-19 deaths wouldn’t crack 1,000 – spoiler alert! – and how we’re all idiots for taking the precautions that have defined our lives during this crisis.
“I can’t do his criminal level of stupidity justice, so please, read more about him here, and here, and here. The important takeaway is that a man who mused, in March, that it would be ‘unlikely in my opinion that more than a few hundred at most will die from the coronavirus in the United States’ is now helping guide the president’s decision-making.
“Oh, 2020. You’ve outdone yourself again!
“ ‘Had a very productive conversation with Kevin Warren, Commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, about immediately starting up Big Ten football,’ Trump tweeted on Tuesday. ‘Would be good (great!) for everyone – Players, Fans, Country. On the one yard line!’
“Multiple reports have made it clear that the ‘one-yard line’ claim is an exaggeration. The logistics of pulling the 14 teams together to play in the fall, after telling them to stand down until the spring, are complicated. Warren has been the face of this decision, but it wasn’t his call – 11 of the 14 Big Ten presidents, including Rutgers’ Jonathan Holloway, reportedly voted to push the season back. [Ed. Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa dissented.]
“Not that any of this matters to Trump. If he cared so much about college football, he might have placed a call to the other Power Five conference that decided to postpone its season. Why is the Pac-12 different from the Big Ten?
“One has a footprint in election swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, and the other does not.
“The Big Ten isn’t blameless here. If Warren had been more transparent with the reasons for postponing the season and had explained the decision better in the immediate aftermath, he might have lowered the temperature on the outrage.
“Then again, it’s quite possible that it didn’t matter what he did or said. A certain fragment of the country believes that college football is more important than college, period, and doesn’t care if the rest of the student body isn’t on many of these campuses….
“The league is showing no signs of backing down from its decision, and that’s a good thing. Pausing college football was the right decision in July, and months later with one state – Iowa – becoming the nation’s biggest hot spot, that hasn’t changed.
“Trump isn’t involved because he cares about the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. He cares about the Michigan-Ohio electoral votes, and making the Big Ten’s decision not to play a campaign issue might help him in November.
“But that decision was made for the right reasons. That’s been forgotten as this story has spiraled out of control. Being on the right side of history isn’t always easy, but it sure beats bowing to misguided political pressure.”
--Iowa State was going to play its Sept. 12 home opener against Louisiana with 25,000 fans in the stands, but then announced it was reversing course and will no longer allow fans. The 25,000 was going to be at 40%+ of capacity in Jack Trice Stadium. And with Iowa spiking in Covid cases for weeks now.
--Former Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman, who opted for a graduate transfer to Georgia rather than play another season at Wake, announced Wednesday he was pulling out of the season because of Covid concerns and instead would prepare for the NFL draft in the spring.
Newman was going to be the starter, but then the Bulldogs took Southern Cal transfer JT Daniels and Newman was far from a lock to get the bulk of the playing time.
--Defending champion LSU will be playing without All-America wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who announced he would leave the program to prepare for the draft. [Ditto highly-rated defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin.] Last month two other LSU starters decided not to play.
Chase could easily be one of the top ten picks overall next spring.
We had the first of ten playoff races in the Chase for the Cup Saturday night at Darlington, S.C., the Southern 500, and they managed to have 8,000 in the stands for this one.
And no surprise, Kevin Harvick, the 2014 series champion, won his eighth of the year, taking advantage of a tussle up front when leaders Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott bumped as Truex tried to make a pass, both brushing the wall, the two having led 310 of 367 laps.
With the win Harvick automatically moves into the second round.
Austin Dillon finished a surprising second, though he had qualified for the playoffs. He was charging at the end.
Four of the 16 drivers who qualified for the playoffs will be eliminated after the end of the first three-race round.
Next up Richmond Raceway on Saturday night.
I lost in DraftKings again…in a deep slump and asking Dr. Phil for help emotionally.
John Thompson, RIP
We’ve lost a few giants of their respective sports the past week, including Hall of Fame coach John Thompson Jr., who died at the age of 78.
Thompson, the Washington native, elevated Georgetown University basketball to national prominence, carving a place in history as the first African American coach to lead his team to the NCAA championship.
Physically imposing at 6-foot-10 and nearly 300 pounds and possessed of a booming voice that commanded authority, Thompson built his teams around similarly intimidating centers such as Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning and a physical, unrelenting approach to defense.
His most profound contribution to the game, however, was his ability to use the sport to lift disadvantaged youngsters to a better life; using college basketball as a platform from which to demand greater opportunities for Black athletes to gain the college education they might otherwise have been denied.
As Liz Clarke of the Washington Post wrote: “To Mr. Thompson, a basketball scholarship was a vehicle rather than a destination.
“For a youngster like him, reared in racially segregated Southeast Washington and labeled academically challenged because of undiagnosed vision problems, basketball was a door that led to opportunity.”
After a standout scholastic career at Archbishop Carroll High, Thompson went on to graduate from Providence College with a degree in economics. He had a two-year career in the NBA, serving as Bill Russell’s backup in Boston, earned a master’s degree in guidance and counselling at the University of District of Columbia, and after coaching high school ball locally, eventually took over a Georgetown hoops program in 1972 that was a lowly independent and 3-23 the year before; Thompson then guiding the Hoyas to just their second NCAA tournament appearance two years later.
Soon Georgetown was a regular entrant, culminating in the 1984 NCAA championship behind Patrick Ewing, after they had lost the NCAA final to Michael Jordan and North Carolina two years earlier, freshman Ewing’s coming out party in many respects, even in defeat.
Thompson didn’t like the label of being the first Black coach to win the NCAA title – not because he minimized the achievement, but because he felt that claiming the label slighted generations of African American coaches who could have accomplished the same had they only been given the chance.
During his 27-year tenure, 1972-1998, Georgetown went 596-239.
He also coached the United States to Olympic gold at the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, the last time the U.S. would field an Olympic team composed only of amateur players.
On a national level, Thompson was a key figure in launching the Big East Conference in 1979, and for many of us hoops junkies, especially in the New York metro area, the matchups Thompson’s teams had against Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Jim Calhoun (UConn), Rollie Massimino (Villanova) and Louie Carnesecca (St. John’s) were memorable.
We knew the end was near, having found out last year that Tom Seaver was retiring from public life due to dementia. But it was still sorrowful news to learn he had died last Monday at his home and vineyard in Calistoga, California, only the Hall of Fame didn’t announce it until Wednesday.
At the time of the first announcement last spring, I wrote the following.
Mets fans have known for years that Tom Seaver, “The Franchise,” was slowly fading away. Back in 2013, the New York Daily News’ Bill Madden visited Seaver at his California vineyard. Seaver, and his friends, thought something was very wrong. He wasn’t himself. He was acting out of character. Suddenly, Seaver couldn’t remember names. He thought he was coming down with dementia.
But then came the diagnosis...Lyme disease. Seaver had been first diagnosed with it in November of 1991, when he was living in Greenwich, Conn., and spending a lot of time tending his garden.
“Stage 3 Lyme disease, which can occur months or years after the initial infection, can result in memory loss, speech problems, sleep disorder and an overall feeling of chemical imbalance – all of which Seaver had been experiencing over the last year,” Bill Madden wrote in 2013.
Seaver was taking 24 pills a day.
Fast-forward to Thursday, and the news from the Baseball Hall of Fame and the family:
“Tom Seaver has recently been diagnosed with dementia. Tom will continue to work in his beloved vineyard at his California home, but has chosen to completely retire from public life.”
“Those of us who were close to Seaver knew this day was coming; knew the greatest of all Mets would eventually, completely surrender to the Lyme disease that had slowly ravaged his brain cells for almost a decade. The statement from the Seaver family was merely the final confirmation that we would never again see or talk with our friend. In fact, this has been the case for nearly five months, since Seaver’s cellphone shut off and his wife, Nancy – ‘the Queen’ as he affectionately called her – also ceased all communication with his friends, the Mets, who had been hoping to somehow find a way to include him in their 50th anniversary celebration of the ’69 Miracle team, and the Hall of Fame itself, where for years he reigned as the unofficial ‘chairman of the board’ as the Hall-of-Famer with the highest plurality (98.84) until Ken Griffey Jr. eclipsed it (99.32).
“Speaking by phone, Johnny Bench, Seaver’s closest friend, said Thursday: ‘I’ve known this was coming, we all did, but I’ve been content to still have those conversations in my mind with him, and look back with honor and pleasure. I know this has been terribly difficult for Nancy and the family but they had to do this because Tom was the greatest Met of all, who was loved by everyone who ever played with him and respected as a man’s man by everyone in the game and anyone who was ever around him.’
“Still, the word ‘dementia’ associated with Tom Seaver, the brightest, wittiest ballplayer I’ve ever known, is almost abhorrent. It may be dementia now, but it is really the result of the Lyme disease with which he was first diagnosed with many years ago.
“ ‘The last time I saw him at the Hall of Fame, you could see he wasn’t the same,’ said Bench. ‘But then we started up on each other like always and he brightened up. ‘You would’ve been nothing if I hadn’t caught all those pitches for you,’ I said, ‘and he laughed and laughed. And he was sharp enough to remind me I still wasn’t getting any discount on his damn wine.
“ ‘I just hope because of this we will all pay more attention to Lyme disease and something good will come out of this.’”
Michael Powell / New York Times
“(Growing up in New York), the 1969 Mets inhabited our consciousness, as happens when the hypnotic beauty of baseball sinks its hook in kids. Those Mets, those world champion guys, have been stepping into mortality’s shadow for years now, Tommie Agee and Donn Clendenon, Ed Charles and Tug McGraw, all gone, so we can not lay claim to shock that another star will now be moving off the stage.
“Except that Seaver was the immortal, the forever young, so composed and so fiercely competitive and so analytical about his efforts. Now his family says that at age 74 he suffers from dementia and we will see no more of him in public life. He will tend to his vineyards in Napa as long as he can.
“That is not how I will remember him and maybe that’s the point of his withdrawal. He was a powerful, stocky pitcher from California and he dominated his mound like a tenor astride his stage. He would pull off his cap and run his hand through that thick shock of hair and then ready himself and rear and toss and rear and toss. No need to put a 20-second clock on him; out there on his mound he was pure business and if a batter fiddled around too much he just might sneak a hard fastball under the batter’s chin by way of a reminder to buckle down....
“Magic could happen any night he pitched and so you tried to wheedle your parents into letting you stay up and watch with them on the black-and-white WOR Channel 9 broadcast, or you’d curl up in bed with a transistor radio and listen to Bob Murphy paint the picture for you, of Seaver tossing and tossing.
“Data can be a sportswriting crutch although it’s also true that baseball without statistics is like the Bible without words. So in 1969 Seaver went 25-7 with a 2.21 earned run average. He also threw five complete-game shutouts.
“I recently took a look at the prevailing, and too little questioned, orthodoxy that starting pitchers should not go more than six or seven innings into a game. By way of making a point, Seaver became my insane outlier. If hitters wanted to get to him, they were well-advised to swing early before Seaver tuned up his curve and that live snake of a fastball. His career ERA in the first inning of a game was 3.75. In the last three innings, his lifetime ERA was 2.75.
“And forgive me my statistical drunkenness but peak-performance Tom tilted into absurdity. In 1969, he pitched in the ninth inning 17 times and surrendered not a single run.
“Oh yes, in September of that year, he went 6-0 with an 0.83 ERA. All this courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com....
“(Seaver) had a Hall of Fame career, one of the best in the history of the game, and his cumulative career earnings in 20 years totaled a hair under $6 million, or roughly what an average relief pitcher makes in today’s game.
“Me, I remember trying to mimic that drop-and-thrust motion of his. And I recall riding the No. 7 train to Shea Stadium with my friend Peter. We bought $1.30 tickets and took our seats for a doubleheader: Jerry Koosman in the opener, Tom Terrific in the nightcap.
“If I could, I’d give him a standing O still.”
Mike Vaccaro / New York Post...recalling a night in 2010 at Citi Field when Seaver was visiting the Mets Hall of Fame, “staring at a video compilation of his career as a Met.”
“ ‘Look at that young man throw a baseball,’ he said, cackling, then commenting about the patch of dirt that, as always, appeared on his right knee whenever he was performing at his finest. ‘Get after it, kid. Get after it.’
“Around the room were scores of mementos of the greatest of all Mets careers: his Hickok Belt as the outstanding athlete of 1969; replicas of the three Cy Young Awards he won in 1969, ’73 and ’75; a few team photos of the ’69 Mets and the ’73 Mets. Every time he saw something he stopped, and he shook his head.
“When he saw a picture of Gil Hodges, tears formed and his voice choked. ‘There is the man who put this franchise on the face of this earth,’ said the man who himself used to be called ‘The Franchise,’ and who helped Hodges perform that wondrous work.
“And then George Thomas Seaver of Fresno, Calif., and Flushing, N.Y., said something that, right now, only breaks your heart.
“ ‘Think about me,’ he said. ‘I was blessed with some ability, and with a great right arm. And now, for the rest of my life, I’ll have some of the greatest collection of memories anyone who ever played this game has ever had.’
“Yes, that’s a hard one to hear right now, because his family issued a press release on Thursday that said Seaver ‘has recently been diagnosed with dementia....
“No other Met in history is responsible for more memories than Seaver, from his Imperfect Game against the Cubs in the fabled summer of ’69 through all the one-hitters and shutouts (to say nothing of the acre of games he lost 1-0 and 2-1). The day he was traded away in 1977, the franchise stopped breathing for six years.
“The day he came back – Opening Day 1983, throwing six dominant innings against the Phillies at Shea – he was welcomed as exiled royalty might have been, the eternal King of Queens, and on that day he said, ‘This will always be home.’....
“When Seaver was young, he was the brash face and voice of a team that had never known success. On May 21, 1969, he threw a three-hit shutout in Atlanta, and before the press was let in, Seaver – all of 24 years old – warned his teammates the writers would want to celebrate the fact that, at 18-18, the Mets had just visited .500 for the first time ever that late in a season.
“ ‘That isn’t what they should be writing,’ Seaver told them. ‘We’re a better team than that.’
“For decades his teammates have told that story, and that day at Citi Field in April 2010 Seaver told it himself.
“ ‘Nobody could ever accuse me of never having brass – um, of not having courage,’ he said. ‘Thankfully I had teammates that could back up my words.’
“And those teammates had a superstar pitcher who won his last 10 decisions of that miracle season, who became the first Hall of Famer in team history, who had their backs every time he smudged his right knee on the pitcher’s mound at Shea. He remains an icon for Mets fans, who for years have rightly bugged and begged ownership to build a statue outside Citi Field to pay Seaver back for all the things he brought them over the years.
“Mostly, for the memories.”
The following is from after the announcement of Seaver’s passing:
John Feinstein / Washington Post
“The first time I met Tom Seaver, I was more nervous than I ever had been introducing myself to an athlete. It was 1981. I had worked at the Washington Post for four years. I had covered the Final Four and written about corrupt cops.
“But this was Tom Seaver. Tom Terrific. The Franchise.
“My boyhood hero.
“I already had learned that meeting athletes you looked up to as a kid could be dangerous because they could disappoint you. When someone falls off a pedestal you have created for them, they tend to fall hard.
“I have no doubt my voice was shaking a little when I walked up to Seaver in the Cincinnati Reds’ clubhouse inside the Astrodome in Houston. When I managed to get out my name and who I worked for, he gave me that big Seaver smile, put out his hand and said, ‘Washington Post? Do you know Woodward and Bernstein?’
“I said that I had, in fact, worked for Bob Woodward when I was on the Metro staff and that Carl Bernstein, the other hero of ‘All the President’s Men,’ had left the Post and was now working in TV.
“ ‘Tell you what,’ Seaver said. ‘I’ll make you a deal. You tell me what Woodward’s like, and I’ll give you all the time you want.’
“Wow. A boyhood hero who could both charm and impress this boy-grownup in less than a minute. Seaver died after a lengthy battle with dementia Monday at the age of 75, and I’m sitting here right now, a little boy again, crying my eyes out.
“I started going to Mets games when I was 6 years old – yes, at the Polo Grounds. The Mets were awful, and there was no sign they were ever going to get better. They reached a high-water mark in 1966 – their fifth season – when they went 66-95. A year later, they were worse, going 61-101. But, for the first time there was hope: George Thomas Seaver….
“After I answered all of Seaver’s questions about Woodward and editor Ben Bradlee that day in Houston, he was engaging and anecdotal. At one point, I mentioned how he always said he knew his delivery was perfect when he had dirt on his knee because it meant he was getting low and driving all the way through his release.
“He laughed the high-pitched laugh I had heard since I was a kid. ‘I’ve always told people that, and there’s some truth to it,’ he said. ‘But I always rub dirt on the knee, regardless so the hitters will see it and think, ‘Oh, Tom’s in a groove today.’ Sometimes I was, sometimes I wasn’t, but I wanted them to think I was no matter what….
“Seaver was also responsible for the most unprofessional moment of my 43 years in journalism. In August 1985, pitching for the White Sox, he won his 300th game against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. I got to cover that game. Seaver was 40, but his ERA for the season at that point was 2.90. He held the Yankees to six singles and pitched a complete game in a 4-1 win.
“Afterward, he stood at his locker, glowing. The Yankees had threatened in the eighth inning, and Seaver had wondered whether he could finish the game. ‘I was on fumes,’ he said. ‘I didn’t think I could get to the finish line. But then Pudge [37-year-old Carlton Fisk] came out and kicked me in the butt. He said, ‘You are not coming out of this game. You are not winning your 300th game sitting in the dugout. Don’t even think about it.’ I looked at him and realized I didn’t have a choice.’
“I was on deadline for the first edition. But I waited until the crowd around Seaver cleared. Then, in a voice no doubt as shaky as the first time I met him, I said, ‘Tom, this is totally unprofessional, I know. But I’ve watched you pitch since I was 10. Would you mind signing my scorecard?’
“I was almost hoping he would say no because it was so out of line to even ask. Seaver grinned. ‘What would Woodward say about this?’ he asked. Then he grabbed the scorecard and wrote, ‘John – Glad you could be here for this …best, Tom Seaver, August 4, 1985 – win #300.’
“Until now, I had never told anybody about that – especially Woodward. But you better believe I still have the scorecard. After all, it was signed by a hero who never let me down.”
Phil W. passed on this anecdote from long-time Mets P.R. director Jay Horwitz.
“The first time I met Tom Seaver, I ruined a brand new suit. It was Spring Training, 1983, and the scene was the Mets training room at the old Huggins-Stengel Field House in St. Petersburg, Florida. Tom was sitting in a hot tub.
“We had just reacquired him from the Reds, and I was trying to introduce myself. I was nervous to say the least. ‘Mr. Seaver,’ I remember saying. ‘I’m Jay Horwitz, the Mets P.R. person and I look forward to working with you.’
“Tom asked me to move closer to the hot tub, because he couldn’t hear me. He then proceeded to put the hose from the whirlpool down my suit pants. I literally got drenched as we had a five-minute conversation. That was the start of a beautiful friendship.”
Joe Posnanski / The Athletic
“I go by and look at my plaque every year. And you’re not supposed to touch the plaque, but I put my hand on it. Then I also put my hand on Christy Mathewson…Walter Johnson…Sandy Koufax. Because those people, those pitchers, they inspire me. They were part of the inspiration of what I loved to do. And I loved to do it.”
--Tom Seaver, on what he did when he returned to the Hall of Fame
“The sweet tributes to Tom Seaver the last couple of days have been a wonderful reminder of how much Tom Terrific means to people. He was the first baseball hero to so many. He launched a million dreams. Seaver, as film director Jonathan Hock says, is one of the few people in sports or life who fills out that overused word ‘icon.’ He symbolized a time and a place and a feeling…when baseball was mostly on the radio and in the box scores…when television was still moving from black and white to color…when you went to your very first ballgame and the guy on the mound pitched with such gorgeous rhythm and flow that you could not take your eyes off him.
“And even as these tributes have come in, something surprising has emerged.
“Tom Seaver as legend, as idol, as icon, that’s easy to talk about, celebrate, sum up.
“Tom Seaver as perhaps the greatest pitcher who ever lived, however, people seem to have a hard time putting that concept into words.
“He has an argument, you know. I would say there are 10 or 12 pitchers in baseball history who have a viable argument as the greatest ever. I wouldn’t necessarily make the argument for all of them, but the point is that you could make the argument using only a few words:
Grover Cleveland Alexander: Named for one president, played by another in a movie.
Roger Clemens: Highest career FanGraphs WAR.
Lefty Grove: Dominated in a great hitters’ era.
Randy Johnson: Most intimidating pitcher ever?
Walter Johnson: Highest career Baseball-Reference WAR.
Sandy Koufax: Four legendary regular and postseason years.
Pedro Martinez: Such an incredible peak.
Greg Maddux: Unmatched genius on the mound.
Christy Mathewson: More or less invented the art of pitching.
Satchel Paige: Nobody achieved what he did.
Nolan Ryan: Most unhittable pitcher ever.
Cy Young: All those wins.
“Seaver has his own strong argument but, unlike the others on the list, it is not so easily condensed into a few words. Seaver didn’t have one pitch, one season, one achievement that encapsulated what made him so brilliant. In many ways, he is the pitching version of Stan Musial, who never hit .400, didn’t hit in 56 straight games, didn’t have the cap fly off his head as he chased fly balls and never led the league in home runs but was still one of the greatest to ever play the game.
[Ed. love this analogy.]
“So it is with Seaver. He pitched in an unusual time in baseball history, a time when runs scoring was down and a dozen or so pitchers entirely dominated the game in statistically mind-boggling ways. From 1960 to the late 1980s, six pitchers won 300 games (Seaver, Ryan, Steve Carlton, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry and Don Sutton).
“Nine pitchers struck out 3,000 batters (adding Bob Gibson, Ferguson Jenkins and Bert Blylevan).
“Then there was Jim Palmer, who didn’t win 300 or strike out 3,000 batters but was one of the greatest pitchers ever. Juan Marichal was fantastic, too. Add in Catfish Hunter, who won a Cy Young Award and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Denny McLain won 30 games one year. In 1968, Luis Tiant had a 1.60 ERA, the lowest in the American League over the last 100 years. Vida Blue won the MVP award.
“And you might have heard of a guy named Sandy Koufax.
“All of them were titanic heroes, and it is not easy to separate Seaver from the rest. Of the six pitchers who won 300 games, Seaver won the fewest. Blyleven struck out more batters than Seaver. Palmer won as many Cy Youngs. Ryan threw seven no-hitters, Seaver threw one (and famously, he didn’t even throw it for the Mets). Koufax’s postseason performances are more memorable. Carlton’s remarkable 1972 season (when he won 27 games for a terrible Phillies team) is more enduring.
“And so it’s easy to think that Seaver was merely one of the great pitchers of his time.
“But, in my view, he was the best with some space in between.
“And the reason he was the best is that he was a little bit of all the other great pitchers. He didn’t throw Ryan’s fastball or Carlton’s slider or Blyleven’s curve, no, but he threw a pretty good facsimile of each of them along with several of his own variation pitches. He was a strikeout pitcher with control. He was a wily pitcher with overpowering stuff. He was a student of baseball history, and he nightly brought with him to the mound the lessons of Christy Mathewson and Warren Spahn and Bob Feller.
“It’s easy to miss some of this if you look at Seaver’s entire career because his last six or seven seasons, he pitched on guile and a few tricks he had picked up along the way. He was still good in those final seasons – heck, he almost won the Cy Young Award at age 36 while pitching for the Reds.
“But the real Seaver, that was 12 seasons, 1967-78, when he went 219-127 with a 2.51 ERA…a 1.067 WHIP, etc. He famously carried the 1969 Mets to their miraculous World Series but he was even better when he carried a deeply flawed 1973 Mets team to the pennant – he absolutely should have won the MVP that season….
“Who was the greatest pitcher of all time? There will always be multiple answers. But when you consider time and place, sportsmanship and consistency, when you break it down to the simple question of who best prevented runs from crossing the plate, Tom Seaver is as good an answer as anybody.”
Seaver finished his career 311-205 with a 2.86 ERA, 3,640 strikeouts and 61 shutouts. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992, appearing on 425 of 430 ballots for a then-record 98.84. His mark was surpassed in 2016 by Ken Griffey Jr., again in 2019 when Mariano Rivera became the first unanimous selection by baseball writers, and in 2020 when Derek Jeter fell one vote short of a clean sweep.
And now from the Bar Chat archives...
June 15, 1977...the Mets trade Tom Seaver
In 1966, a strapping California golden boy, Tom Seaver, was signed by the Atlanta Braves out of Southern Cal. But the contract was voided by the commissioner’s office over a technicality and major league baseball asked if any other teams were interested in him. Only the Indians, Phillies and Mets said yes, a lottery was held, and the Mets won the rights to the future Hall of Famer. One year later, in 1967, Seaver went 16-13 for a Mets squad that overall finished 61-101 and he was named the N.L. Rookie of the Year. In addition, New York City anointed him “Tom Terrific,” and later, “The Franchise.”
Of course in 1969, Seaver went 25-7, won the Cy Young Award and led the “Miracle Mets” to their astounding World Series triumph over the Baltimore Orioles. Seaver was the toast of the town, and it didn’t hurt that his glamorous wife Nancy was part of the package.
But after helping to lead the Mets to another Series appearance in 1973, the Mets reverted to mediocrity and Seaver was increasingly incensed that in the new era of free agency, Mets
management wasn’t doing enough to back up the solid pitching staff with a big bat or two, and Tom also wanted more money. By 1976, Seaver and the Mets’ chairman of the board M. Donald Grant were on a collision course.
Seaver was a complex person. Back in 1969, as an 11-year-old diehard fan, I wasn’t always aware of the impact of his statements, but Tom Terrific was a vehement critic of the U.S. role in Vietnam. “If the Mets can win the World Series, the U.S. can get out of Vietnam,” he would say that year. In fact, before the Series started, the New York Times ran the headline, “Tom Seaver Says U.S. Should Leave Vietnam.” The article quoted Seaver as saying, “I think it’s perfectly ridiculous what we’re doing about the Vietnam situation. It’s absurd! When the Series is over, I’m going to have a talk with (Senator) Ted Kennedy, convey some of my ideas to him and then take an ad in the paper.”
While his outspoken manner didn’t lose Seaver any fans at the park, one or two writers began to build up a grudge over this brash young superstar. Alas, after accumulating his 3rd Cy Young Award in 1975, Seaver went to training camp in 1976 on a mission. He was going to get paid what he felt he was worth. Only one problem; that spring there was a baseball lockout that lasted until mid-March and Seaver was one of the more outspoken representatives for the players union.
With free agency taking hold, Seaver desperately wanted to stay in New York, but he wanted to be compensated. Grant was getting tired of Tom and that spring he was ready to pull the trigger on a straight up trade for the Dodgers’ Don Sutton. Agreement was finally reached, however, on a 3-year deal that paid Seaver $225,000 per season.
1976 was a disappointing one for the Mets as they finished 86-76, in 3rd and 15 games back of the first place Phillies. Seaver had an off year, ending up just 14-11 (but with a great ERA of 2.59). Once again, the complaint was that the Mets simply didn’t have the bats.
[In 1975 the Mets had acquired slugger Dave Kingman from the Giants. Kingman was the bopper the Mets had always sought, and he hit 36 home runs in ‘75 and was on his way to 50+ in ‘76, having hit 32 by July 19, when he tore his thumb ligament diving for a ball in the outfield. Upon his return, he hit only 5 more the rest of the season. As a team, however, the Mets hit only 102 home runs the entire year. There was no one else in the lineup. Kingman, a rather surly individual (I’m being kind), also felt he wasn’t being paid what his true value was and he joined Seaver in bashing the front office.]
During spring training in 1977, Seaver confronted M. Donald Grant on the lack of hitting. Seaver said that Grant was pinching pennies by not going after the talent the Mets needed to get back on top. [Specifically, that season Seaver was miffed the Mets didn’t sign Giants slugger Gary Matthews, who ended up in Atlanta.]
Seaver also wanted his contract renegotiated. [For his part, Kingman wanted Reggie Jackson type money (Jackson having signed a $2.7 million deal with the Yankees in ‘76).] Enter the New York tabloids, specifically the Daily News and its two lead reporters, Dick Young and Jack Lang.
Over the years, Young, perhaps the best known sportswriter of his era (he wrote a big Sporting News column as well as his New York beat), wasn’t afraid to stick it to Seaver, and, on occasion, wife Nancy. Young was seen as a toady for Grant. Lang, on the other hand, was a good friend of Seaver’s. As the ‘77 season opened up and Tom’s contract dispute continued, the Daily News would run dual columns on its back page...Young for ownership, Lang for Seaver.
Lang relates what happened in mid-June, as the Mets were in Atlanta to face the Braves. “I asked Seaver...instead of asking for an increase in salary, why don’t you get them to extend your contract? Then you’ll be guaranteed that you’ll stay here a few more years.” Seaver agreed that an extension was the way to go and he worked it out with one of the Mets’ principal owners who could win Grant’s approval.
But that day, Dick Young ran a column about how Nancy Seaver was jealous of Ruth Ryan (Nolan’s wife) because the Angels had just given Nolan a long-term contract and a big raise and now Nancy wanted the same deal for Tom. Lang was the one who broke the story to Tom as they were sitting around the pool. “WHAT?” said Seaver. “That’s it! That’s it!” Seaver ran to a phone and screamed at a Mets official. “That’s it! Get me outta here!” That night, “The Franchise” was traded to Cincinnati for Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, Dan Norman and Steve Henderson. [Kingman was also unloaded the same evening for Bobby Valentine and Paul Siebert.] While the city of New York knew of the problems between Seaver and Grant, it was a total shock nonetheless. The New York Post ran the headline, “Dick Young Drove Seaver Out Of Town.”
On the issue of M. Donald Grant, Seaver said later, “I just did not want to work for that individual anymore. The whole organization was chaotic. There was no direction. There was no strength, there was no Gil Hodges.”
New York Times legend Red Smith, another Seaver fan, would write: “Tom Seaver has been one of the finest pitchers in the game...He is his own man, thoughtful, perceptive and unafraid to speak his mind. Because of this, M. Donald Grant and his sycophants put Seaver away as a troublemaker. They mistake dignity for arrogance.”
As for Young, he became a real cause celebre. “When Dick Young dragged my wife and my family into this, it was all the abuse I could take,” said Seaver. “He’s a mouthpiece for Don Grant. Grant has admitted he seeks Young’s advice. He has been siding with Mets management ever since the club hired his son-in-law to work in their sales department.” Young defended the kid's position with the Mets, while not denying that his relationship with Grant had provided the contact his son-in-law used to secure his position.
“What it comes down to with Seaver,” Young retorted, “is that he wanted more money. Everything else is extraneous. If he says he told them it was all off because of my mentioning his wife and Ruth Ryan - all because of one sentence - well, I find that pretty hard to believe.”
Of course, the Mets franchise collapsed, as the won-loss record and attendance figures below make clear.
1976: 86-76 1.5 million attendance [1970 it was 2.7 million.]
1977: 64-98 1.1 million
1978: 66-96 1.0 million
1979: 63-99 0.8 million
1980: 67-95 1.2 million...oh, these were dark years.
Seaver went on to a successful run with the Reds, before coming back to the Mets in 1983, now age 38, for just one season, and then retiring after the ‘86 campaign.
Meanwhile, Dave Kingman hit home runs for 4 different teams in 1977 (Mets, San Diego, California and the Yankees), before signing a 5-year deal with the Cubs, his best season being ‘79 when he slammed 48 home runs. And except for a brief flash from both Zachry and Steve Henderson, the players the Mets got for Seaver never panned out.
[Primary Sources: “Talkin’ Baseball” Phil Pepe; “The New York Mets” Jack Lang and Peter Simon.]
This is the 225th mention in Bar Chat for Tom Seaver. Growing up in the area it’s no secret to readers he was my hero. It was a special time for us budding sports fans. We had Seaver, Joe Namath and the Jets’ big moment, and two championships from Clyde Frazier’s Knicks. Those were the three coolest dudes on the planet to this kid.
But Seaver was always No. 1. I told you of that memorable night at Shea Stadium, July 9, 1969, when Seaver retired the first 25 batters against the Chicago Cubs, having called my father to watch the final inning (he was reading downstairs), only to have pinch-hitter Jimmy Qualls loop a one-out single to left-center to spoil the perfect game, Seaver retiring the final two for the one-hitter.
I wrote Seaver the next day, blaming my father for jinxing him and Seaver wrote back, saying not to blame my dad. [The letter I’m praying is still in the attic somewhere at the home where I grew up.]
And there was the time I rushed home from school one spring afternoon in 1970 to watch Seaver strike out the final 10 San Diego Padres in a row, a record that still stands, as he fanned 19 overall.
Seaver, as you know from above, loved Gil Hodges.
“Gil is the one man who took me to a different level…I loved him so much,” Seaver said years ago during a show honoring the best Mets over their first 50 years, he of course being No. 1.
“Gil Hodges brought the franchise respectability,” Seaver said of his fellow Marine, Hodges taking over at the helm in 1968. “We were missing the definition of professionalism.”
Long-time Mets broadcaster Gary Cohen said some of the following on learning of Seaver’s passing.
“Tom represented our childhood…a light we could all look to…a good person, a tough person…the most prepared athlete…the one person who changed the entire notion of what it was to be a Mets fan…his team followed him.
“1969 doesn’t happen without Seaver.
“The 1977 midnight massacre, on the other hand, crushed the franchise and all us fans. The Mets messed it up terribly, he wanted to be a Met forever.
“Seaver, Namath, and Clyde were all bigger than life, and until Tom’s passing, all continued to be…
“Seaver was the greatest Met of all time, he will always be the most iconic figure of the franchise.
“There’s a reason he will always be ‘The Franchise.’”
The Mets pulled his name out of a hat and us fans will always cherish the memories that flowed after.
Tom Seaver once said: “To me, the greatest thing anyone can ever call you is a hero, for whatever their reason. And I don’t think it’s a hardship making sure you don’t disappoint them.”
As the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro wrote: “Tom Seaver never disappointed us.”
RIP, Tom Terrific. You’ll forever be Number One in our hearts.
--Lionel Messi ended speculation about his future at Barcelona by announcing on Friday that he would reluctantly stay for another season rather than tackle his career-long club in court.
A week after saying he wanted to leave the Liga side, and with a contract row still raging, the 33-year-old six-time player of the year gave the news Barca fans were hoping for. In doing so, however, the Argentine forward took a big swipe at the club’s hierarchy. “I wasn’t happy and I wanted to leave. I have not been allowed this in any way and I will STAY at the club so as not to get into a legal dispute,” he was quoted as saying by Goal.com. “The management of the club led by (president Josep Maria) Bartomeu is a disaster.”
By remaining at the Catalan club for the fourth and final year of his contract, Messi is in line for a $83.38 million loyalty bonus and will be able to leave without a transfer fee.
--Really kind of amazing the new Premier League season is starting next weekend and champion Liverpool is not the favorite to win it all once again.
Manchester City is currently the favorite to win in 2020-21, closely followed by Liverpool.
NBC Sports Bet has Man City at -125, Liverpool +175, Man U +800, Chelsea +1400, and Tottenham and Arsenal at +6600 (66-1).
West Brom, Aston Villa and Fulham are at 1,000-1…if you care to place a quid or two.
--Lillian Rizzo of the Wall Street Journal had a piece on how when the pandemic forced millions of Americans to shelter at home in March, “Jamie-Lynn Sigler chose to do something she had avoided for decades: watch herself in her most famous role on television.
“ ‘I was actually way better than I thought,’ Ms. Sigler said after viewing the 1999 pilot of ‘The Sopranos,’ the hit HBO series in which she plays Meadow Soprano, the teenage daughter of mobster Tony Soprano. She said she’s now watching an episode of the 86-part show every week or so.
“For many actors, the idea of seeing themselves perform is flat-out unbearable. They have an aversion that industry observers say is due to a mix of obsessive self-criticism and fear of losing the confidence required to pull it off in future roles.”
--Great news from the National Park Service in California. A whopping 13 kittens were born to five mountain lion mothers in the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills in California this summer.
“This is the first time this many mountain lions dens have been found within such a short period of time during the 18-year study, in which a total of 21 litters of kittens have been marked at the den site by researchers,” a statement read.
“This level of reproduction is a great thing to see, especially since half of our mountains burned almost two years ago during the Woolsey Fire,” Jeff Sikich, a wildlife biologist who has been studying the mountain lion population at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area said in the release.
But now they will eventually disperse, seeking out their own territories, and that’s worrisome.
Be careful crossing the highways, my good friends! We need you to stay alive and do your thing…you know, help me juice traffic during Web Sweeps Weeks.
--Staggering weather changes in Denver. The temperature hit a record 101 on Saturday, besting a record of 98 degrees for Sept. 5. It was 99 Sunday. More 90s today, and then the temperature plummets and as I go to post, 3-6 inches of snow, maybe much more, at least in the front range, is slated for tomorrow, Tuesday!!!
And then back to the 80s by Saturday.
--We note the passing of William “Bill” Pursell, a Grammy-nominated composer and studio musician who accompanied artists such as Patsy Cline and Bob Dylan. He died in Nashville at the age of 94 after what his daughter described as a “very fast, tough battle with Covid pneumonia.”
Pursell’s song, “Our Winter Love,” became a big seller in 1963 (#9 Billboard). He was twice nominated for a Grammy for other work.
Pursell studied composition at the Peabody Institute, a music conservatory in Baltimore and, during military service in World War II, he arranged for the U.S. Air Force Band. He later studied classical composition at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.
Pursell arrived in Nashville in 1960 at the invitation of legendary country artist Eddy Arnold. Two years later, Pursell was signed as a solo artist with Columbia Records. His hit, “Our Winter Love,” was released the following year. A career highlight, according to his family, was playing with noted guitarist Chet Atkins at a press corps dinner at the White House for President John F. Kennedy.
Through the ‘60s and ‘70s, Pursell worked as a session pianist for industry greats, including Johnny Cash, Boots Randolph, Marty Robbins, Jim Reeves, Johnny Paycheck, Joan Baez, Willie Nelson, Dan Fogelberg and Dylan, among others.
In 1980, Pursell switched gears and joined the faculty at the Belmont University School of Music in Nashville as a composition professor.
I just have to add from a personal standpoint that “Our Winter Love” is one of the more beautiful pieces of music ever written…but haunting and sad…at least for me.
And now I can’t get the freakin’ tune out of my head! Be careful, people…you may not want to look it up if you can’t remember it.
--Members of BTS said they were in “tears,” after becoming the first all-Korean pop act to top the Billboard 100 singles chart with their new English single “Dynamite.”
So I looked it up on YouTube and, good lord, 311 million views for the official video. It reached 33.9 million U.S. streams in its first week.
Not a bad tune…they are clearly sampling Bruno Mars.
Top 3 songs for the week 9/9/72: #1 “Alone Again (Naturally)” (Gilbert O’Sullivan…incredibly depressing…makes you want to pull out the sword…) #2 “Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)” (The Hollies) #3 “I’m Still In Love With You” (Al Green)…and…#4 “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” (Mac Davis…underrated performer/entertainer…) #5 “Brandy” (Looking Glass) #6 “Back Stabbers” (O’Jays) #7 “Rock And Roll Part 2” (Gary Glitter) #8 “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” (Jim Croce) #9 “Black & White” (Three Dog Night) #10 “Saturday In The Park” (Chicago… ‘B’ week…)
Baseball Quiz Answer: Eight post-1900 to strike out 19 or more in a nine-inning game.
Steve Carlton, Cardinals vs. the Mets, Sept. 15, 1969…Carlton losing the game 4-3 on Ron Swoboda’s two, 2-run homers…19
Tom Seaver, vs. Padres, April 22, 1970…19
Nolan Ryan, Angels vs. Red Sox, Aug. 12, 1974…19
David Cone, Mets vs. Phillies, Oct. 6, 1991…19
Randy Johnson, Mariners vs. A’s, June 24, 1999…Johnson lost 4-1…19
Randy Johnson, Mariners vs. White Sox, Aug. 8, 1997…19
Roger Clemens, Red Sox vs. Mariners, April 29, 1986…20
Roger Clemens, Red Sox vs. Tigers, Sept. 18, 1996…20
Kerry Wood, Cubs vs. Astros, May 6, 1998…20
Max Scherzer, Nationals vs. Tigers, May 11, 2016…20
Tom Cheney, Washington Senators, holds the all-time mark of 21 strikeouts, though he did this over 16 innings of work, Sept. 12, 1962.
Back when men were men.
Cheney was 19-29 in 115 career major-league games, though with a respectable 3.77 ERA. But he’s forever the answer to a trivia quiz…who is the only one with 21 strikeouts in a game.
[The beauty of baseball-reference…being able to look at the Cheney game’s box score. Johnny Mac, if you had heard of Bud Zipfel, the pride of Belleville High School, Belleville, Illinois, you’re a better man than me. Actually, J. Mac has long been a better man than me. Zipfel hit one of his ten career home runs, 1961-62, for the Senators in support of Cheney.]
Bob Feller was the first in the modern era to strikeout 18 in a nine-inning game, Oct. 2, 1938, and then Sandy Koufax did it twice. Fourth (third) to fan 18 was Don Wilson, 1968, Houston Astros. I’m guessing few would get this last one.
Next Bar Chat, late Sunday p.m. …then back to a more normal schedule.