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The NFL Pulls It Off
[Posted early Sunday p.m.]
NFL AP All-Pro Quiz: These days, being named to the Pro-Bowl is a virtually worthless designation. Real fans only look to the AP All-Pro teams as the gold standard of excellence (ditto Hall of Fame voters).
So name the only four players in history to be named to nine or more AP First-Team All-Pro squads. [Hint: Three are offensive lineman, two of whom largely played in the AFL.] Answer below.
The NFL Draft
We knew in today’s barren sports landscape that the first night of the NFL Draft on Thursday would draw big, but try a record average audience of 15.6 million viewers, according to Nielsen. The previous record was 12.4 million in 2014.
I thought it was a good idea when first announced to stick to the schedule for this event and give the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell credit for running a solid show, Goodell doing it from the basement of his Bronxville, N.Y. home. The NFL mailed video equipment to nearly 60 college athletes to broadcast live from their homes if they were selected and it worked.
Only one out of 32 players picked in the first round – Las Vegas Raiders pick Damon Arnette, a cornerback from Ohio State who was the surprise No. 19 selection – wasn’t sent equipment to record himself.
--As for the draft board, no shockers in the first ten, though there was mild surprise in some quarters the Giants selected offensive tackle Andrew Thomas with the fourth pick when some had him as the third or fourth best at his position, but the first four linemen were all strong.
1. Joe Burrow QB LSU…Bengals
2. Chase Young DE Ohio State…Redskins
3. Jeff Okudah CB Ohio State…Lions
4. Andrew Thomas OT Georgia…Giants
5. Tua Tagovailoa QB Alabama…Dolphins
6. Justin Herbert QB Oregon…Chargers
7. Derrick Brown DT Auburn…Panthers
8. Isaiah Simmons OLB Clemson…Cardinals
9. CJ Henderson CB Florida…Jaguars
10. Jedrick Wills OT Alabama…Browns
11. Mekhi Becton OT Louisville…Jets…thrilled with this one!
12. Henry Ruggs III WR Alabama…Raiders
13. Tristan Wirfs OT Iowa…Bucs
26. Jordan Love QB Utah State…Packers
It’s this last one that had more than a few scratching their heads. Love really regressed last year, with a 20-17 TD/INT split after 32-6 the year before, but he impressed at the Combine.
He has a lot of natural ability but what was perplexing is the spot he’s headed, Aaron Rodgers’ team. And then the Pack didn’t select what Rodgers most needed with their first three picks, a wide receiver in a draft loaded with top ones.
Mike Jones / USA TODAY
“Many projections foresaw the Packers using their first-round pick to give Aaron Rodgers more weapons – not draft his successor, who might not see the field for three or four years.
“But if this sounds familiar, that’s because this is exactly what the Packers did 15 years ago when they shocked a 35-year-old Brett Favre and the rest of the NFL by drafting Rodgers at No. 24 overall. Rodgers wound up sitting and learning behind Favre for three seasons before taking over as the starter in 2008.”
--Meanwhile, Mark R. is furious the Eagles selected Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma, at No. 53, when they have so many more needs and Carson Wentz, 27, having signed a big extension through 2024.
--But among the NFL-record 13 receivers who were picked in the first two rounds was Chase Claypool out of Mark R.’s Notre Dame, sure to be a big-play receiver for the Steelers, who selected him with the 17th pick in the second round (No. 49 overall).
--But back to Wentz, ESPN’s Adam Schefter offered a unique explanation for why Philly would take Hurts. While some have pointed to Wentz’s extensive injury history, Schefter said this:
“In this day and age, I’ve had teams tell me it’s more important than ever to have a backup quarterback in this pandemic. We’re going to be playing next year, coronavirus is out there, Covid-19 – what if your quarterback gets the virus? It’s an interesting situation here. I think there are more problems now than ever before, and so I think teams are looking to shore up the most important position in this sport, and that’s why the Eagles did it.”
--It was indeed rather surprising the Las Vegas Raiders went with three wide receivers with their first three picks, Ruggs (No. 12), Lynn Bowden Jr. (No. 80) and Bryan Edwards (No. 81). Yes, that fills a major need but they have a lot of other holes.
[On the other hand, I love Bowden’s potential.]
--The SEC again dominated the first round of the draft, but this time more than before. 15 were selected (six in the top ten), breaking its previous record of 12 first-rounders in both 2013 and 2017.
LSU led the way with five in the first round, while Alabama had four, all in the top 15.
No other conference had more than five first-rounders.
--The Dolphins selected Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry in the seventh round. The 5-9, 186-pounder focused on receiver at the NFL scouting combine and could play the slot.
Perry is able to pursue an NFL career right away thanks to a 2019 Department of Defense directive allowing service academy graduates to delay their active duty commitment while seeking a career in professional sports.
Great move by the Dolphins. Perry will stick.
--Among the top undrafted free agents who were left out, quarterbacks Anthony Gordon (Washington State) and Steven Montez (Colorado) signed quickly with the Seahawks and Redskins, respectively, while a guy who I personally think can have a real impact, Wake Forest receiver Kendall Hinton, signed with Denver.
Hinton came to campus as a quarterback, started a handful of game, had some injury and personal issues, and then shifted to wide receiver. He’s tough, a super athlete, and can go get the ball. I wanted the Jets to sign him.
[There were a slew of Wake players drafted or signed to free agent contracts, including four offensive linemen, but I like punter Dom Maggio’s prospects as a free agent pickup of the Ravens the best.]
--Meanwhile, prior to the draft, it was reported that Rob Gronkowski was willing to come out of retirement from football if it meant he could play for Tampa Bay and reunite with Tom Brady. And wouldn’t you know, about ten minutes later, a trade was announced, with the Pats sending Gronk and a 7th-round pick to the Bucs in exchange for a 4th-rounder in this week’s draft.
Is there any magic left in the tank between the two? No doubt if he can stay on the field, Gronk does have something left.
As for New England only receiving a 4th-rounder in return for an all-time great, they weren’t going to get anything if he stayed retired.
So many are wondering, just how badly did Gronk hate playing for Bill Belichick? His desire to play with Brady again seemed to reinforce the desire to get out from under Bill. Or maybe Gronk just needed to take a year off.
But the Buccaneers seem like the perfect spot for him, as his exuberance will mesh well with player-friendly head coach Bruce Arians.
--One last bit. The other day I talked about the great linebacker Mike Curtis, who had passed away. Shu reminded me that Curtis was a two-way player at Duke, playing fullback. Yes, back when ‘men were men.’ [And never the thought of a ‘participation trophy.’]
But Shu also asked me to look at the 1965 AFL and NFL drafts.
The No. 1 pick in the AFL draft that year was of course Joe Namath for the Jets, but AFL teams still harbored hopes of maybe snagging someone like Gale Sayers, drafted fifth, or Dick Butkus, ninth.
Curtis, though, was the 14th pick in the first for the NFL, while Butkus went third and Gale Sayers fourth to the Bears. Yeah, I’d say that was a pretty good draft for Chicago.
Ken Willard was second in the ’65 NFL draft, Willard having a solid career with the 49ers, and quarterback Craig Morton was selected fifth by Dallas and he went on to have his moments (good and bad) in a lengthy career.
But the New York Giants selected Tucker Frederickson with the first pick overall and what a mediocre, at best, career he went on to have, befitting a pretty putrid period for the Giants overall.
Big Blue could have had Butkus, or Sayers, or Mike Curtis…but noooo! I mean not to dump all over Mr. Frederickson, but he wasn’t even great at Auburn.
The best thing about those Giants teams was receiver Homer Jones. Now he was worth the price of admission.
--Zach Braziller / New York Post
“As the NCAA drags its feet on compensating student-athletes, holding onto its amateur model in which everyone but the players profit, the trend of elite basketball prospects passing on college is continuing, and perhaps a new route has become even more enticing.
“Consensus top-three prospect and McDonald’s All-American Jalen Green out of Prolific Prep (Calif.) announced his decision to sign with the G-League, the NBA’s developmental minor league, on Thursday, three days after Michigan recruit Isaiah Todd announced he was going pro as well.
“The Athletic reported Todd will be joining Green as part of a ‘select team’ located at a yet-to-be-determined city with a few more roster spots expected to go to top high school prospects and a number of veterans.
“The team, unaffiliated to any NBA or G-League franchises, will play just 20 games, focusing instead on development and training. Green, according to Yahoo Sports, received a ‘substantial’ six-figure contract that is believed to be in the neighborhood of $500,000. The deal also includes a full scholarship for him to earn a college degree.
“In October 2018, the NBA announced the G-League would be offering prospects $125,000 for one year, a sign the league was trying to steer top players away from college in the one-and-done era. The NCAA, meanwhile, had resisted allowing student-athletes to be financially compensated, even as states such as Florida and California passed laws that would enable student-athletes in those states to profit off their names. That eventually forced the NCAA into action, and in October the Board of Governors voted to allow Division I, II and III to separately make its own image and likeness policies with several limitations – the NCAA used the phrase ‘consistent with the college model’ – that would be implemented by January 2021.
“ ‘I’m not saying that they need to pay competitively in order to stop players from an alternative,’ ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas said in a phone interview. ‘Let’s take off the restrictions on athletes so they’re provided with incentives to do what you think they should do in the first place, and that is going to college. If we believe that the best place for a young person is in college, why wouldn’t we remove all the barriers we put up for them to first go, and second remain, in college?’….
“ ‘It’s a different world we’re living in now and it’s going to be a competitive outlet for top talent,’ Bilas said. ‘The NCAA has got to pivot and deal with it.
“ ‘It’s going to continue. It’s not going to go the other way until college allows players to make money.’”
--Major League Baseball finally ruled on the 2018 Boston Red Sox and the team got a total slap on the wrist, the team absolved of all wrong doing save for a technical assistant, who was sacrificed at the altar, and a second-round draft pick.
Thomas Boswell / Washington Post
“When Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that the only member of the Boston Red Sox who would be punished for cheating in 2018 was a replay technician, I couldn’t have been more surprised if the cure for the novel coronavirus turned out to be Alka-Seltzer.
“I hope it’s true, for baseball’s sake. And when we look back in a few months or a few years, it damn well better turn out to be true, for baseball’s sake.
“I’m willing to assume MLB got this right, not because the sport is so brilliant at investigations or honorable in telling the whole truth about itself but because every owner and official knows what a disaster they would have on their hands if they got this decision wrong. It wouldn’t be egg on their faces; it would be more like acid.
“There’s joy and relief in Boston like you wouldn’t believe. If the reputations of the 2018 Red Sox had been deemed to be as dark as the competitive souls of the 2017 and 2018 Houston Astros, the news would have hit all of New England as hard as if the Ted Williams Tunnel collapsed because Ted Williams himself engineered it wrong.
“The sound you heard buzzing through the sport is a gigantic sigh of relief, followed by ‘the video replay system operator did it – and that’s all?’
“In January, when MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced the sins and penalties for the cheating Astros, then said that Boston’s crimes and punishments were still under investigation, the whole sport shuddered. Must be big – right? – to be announced at the same time and as if the investigations were quite similar. Especially because one mastermind of the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme, which involved players banging trash cans to signal pitches, was coach Alex Cora, who became Boston’s manager after the 2017 season.
“If consecutive World Series winners were proved to be teams full of systematic cheaters, what in the entire history of American games would be comparably damaging to a sport? Would it be as if, after the 1919 Black Sox threw the World Series, it turned out the 1920 Fall Classic was fixed, too?
“Instead, Wednesday’s announcement was akin to saying that, after a months-long investigation, with players granted immunity to give evidence, the batboy and the ballgirl had pulled off the Boston Brink’s Robbery.”
But will Alex Cora return as manager in 2021?
Dan Shaughnessy / Boston Globe
“Deposed Sox manager Alex Cora was issued a one-year suspension for his role in the 2017 Astros scandal, but absolved of any wrongdoing with the 2018 Red Sox.
“Still wildly popular with Sox players and ownership, Cora is free to return to the Boston bench in 2021 if owner John Henry so desires. Do not rule this out. Current Sox players still love Cora, and with 2020 looking like a lost year in every way, the prospect of a return feels very real.
“Cora was the only Sox uniformed person named in Manfred’s 16-page report, which repeatedly stated that the former manager had nothing to do with 2018 Sox infractions. Thirty-four men who played for the 2018 Red Sox were interviewed, and the report states that conflicting stories were told, but players were granted immunity from punishment (same as with Houston’s investigation), so the only man that is punished is a little-known ex-minor league catcher identified in the Red Sox media guide as ‘advance scouting assistant.’….
“Back in January, when news of this probe first broke, Red Sox officials repeatedly asked that everyone ‘reserve judgment.’ After Wednesday’s findings were released, the club issued a statement in which Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy said, ‘Alex Cora, the coaching staff, and most of the players did not engage in, or were they aware of, any violations. Regardless, these rule violations are unacceptable. We apologize to our fans and Major League Baseball and accept the Commissioner’s ruling.’
“This marks the third instance in five years in which the Red Sox have been punished by Manfred for cheating. In July 2016, MLB found the Sox guilty of circumventing rules for signing teenage prospects from Latin America by inflating their signing bonuses. Five Sox prospects were declared free agents and the team prohibited from signing international amateur players for a year.
“In the summer of 2017, the Sox were fined after it was discovered they were using Fitbits to illegally relay signs during games.
“We are all glad it’s over. No one thought the 2018 Sox were doing anything that approached the level of the 2017 cheating Astros. The Sox had the misfortune to be grilled at a time when baseball was coming off the embarrassment of Houston’s tainted flag.
“MLB dug hard, didn’t come up with much, and opted to issue findings the day before the NFL Draft while baseball is in the middle of a long hiatus forced by a global pandemic.
“This sad chapter is now part of Sox history. A huge draft pick is gone, J.D. Martinez can keep claiming the Sox didn’t do anything, the Sox have stricken ‘interim’ from manager Ron Roenicke’s nameplate, and the Cora Watch of 2021 is under way.”
--As for the future of Minor League Baseball….
Dave Sheinin / Washington Post
“Five months after a Major League Baseball proposal to reduce the number of its minor league affiliates from 162 to 120 was met with outrage and defiance from minor league owners, fans and presidential candidates, the governing body for minor league baseball may now be ready to agree to similar terms when negotiations resume Wednesday.
“The about-face is the result of the economic damage wrought by the novel coronavirus pandemic, which, among other things, has led to a shutdown of sports…
“In a statement, Minor League Baseball said no agreements had been reached on contraction or any other issues. However, the organization did not dispute the notion that the coronavirus has altered its stance toward the potential elimination of an undefined number of affiliates.”
Back in December, Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Conner said: “This is an existential threat (the reduction in affiliates) to our future. It’s a sad day when what I think are ulterior, nefarious, greedy motives are going to rob [baseball] from so many people in this country.”
“However, the coronavirus pandemic – which ended spring training March 12 and delayed indefinitely Opening Day for the major and minor leagues alike – is expected to have a particularly devastating effect on the minors.”
Future of College Sports, cont’d….
--Saturday’s Star-Ledger newspaper here in New Jersey had the lead headline that Rutgers, a state school, was staring at a $200 million revenue gap, in no small part because the state is now broke and forced to cut its budget severely, meaning Rutgers isn’t going to receive its regular state aid.
So the school, like so many across the country, is forcing its senior executives and coaches to take big pay cuts of their own.
But it’s the future of college sports, especially the ‘minor’ ones that is under tremendous threat. Trader George passed on a story from “Inside Higher Ed” on how the pandemic is hitting sports programs.
“Ali Wahab learned on a Zoom call that he would no longer be a wrestler for Old Dominion University.
“None of the 32 students in the program would be, either, his coaches said during the hastily arranged virtual meeting earlier this month when they announced the bad news. The university is eliminating the wrestling program, and the decision was made in part because of the coronavirus pandemic.”
The university will save around $1 million in expenses, according to the athletic department. At least current and incoming wrestlers with athletic scholarships such as Wahab will have them for an additional year
So these are the conversations being held at every school, with nonrevenue programs such as volleyball, wrestling, swimming and diving at risk of “extinction,” as one national volleyball executive put it. Soccer is another that could find itself on thin ice. Lacrosse, you name it.
But then you have Title IX. So if you have a Division I football program, you can’t just cut a lot of women’s programs. [No college administrator is going to want to challenge Title IX and ask for exemptions.]
Most big-time athletic departments have had to build out new facilities to attract recruits. Everyone wants to look like Clemson. But everyone has also overspent and there are few rainy day funds. So the pandemic is a time of reckoning.
According to a survey of 100 ADs at schools with Division I football programs conducted by the LEAD1 Association, which represents the 130 athletic directors in the FBS, 41 percent of institutions in the Power Five conferences, which are made up of more than 50 large public universities, reported they have financial reserves, while just 26 percent of the Group of Five said they have funds saved.
Institutions in the Group of Five (conferences like the Mountain West and AAC) rely much more on student fees and financial support from their universities.
Steve Dalkowski, RIP
The legendary Dalkowski, a hard-throwing, wild left-hander whose minor league career inspired the creation of Nuke LaLoosh in the movie “Bull Durham,” died the other day. He was 80. His sister, Patricia, said on Friday he died at a hospital in New Britain, Conn. He had several pre-existing conditions that were complicated when he became infected with the coronavirus. Dalkowski had been in assisted living for 26 years because of dementia. Sadly, that part of his story was alcohol related.
So I wrote the following in this space on 7/23/2009:
“There were a number of articles last weekend on former minor league sensation Steve Dalkowski because he was being inducted into the Shrine of the Eternals, ‘part of the Baseball Reliquary, an alternate hall of fame based in Pasadena, Calif.’ [I had to remind myself exactly what ‘reliquary’ was…. ‘a container for religious relics.’] But as the New York Times’ George Vecsey wrote, ‘Dalkowski was a legend, for his fastball as well as his tumblers of vodka for breakfast.’ He’s now living in New Britain, Conn., and the alcohol aspect is not a good one.
“But it was about five years ago, when I was at the Baseball Hall of Fame, that I filed the following after perusing the Hall’s library.
“The Sporting News had super coverage of the minor leagues back then and I came across a piece on the infamous fireballer Steve Dalkowski. Dalkowski pitched in the 50s and 60s, but never made it to the major leagues. In his 1st 537 innings in the minors he struck out 907 and walked 1,022! In ‘The Biographical Encyclopedia of Baseball,’ one player, Dalton Jones, marveled, ‘Hearing him warm up on the sideline was like hearing a gun go off. I kept thinking, if this guy ever hits me, he’ll kill me.’ One manager estimated he could bring it 120 mph.
“When Dalkowski was 18, he struck out 129 batters in 62 innings in the Appalachian League.* According to the above referenced book, ‘One fastball actually ripped an earlobe off a batter (and) another shattered umpire Doug Harvey’s mask in three places and propelled him back 18 feet.’ In another game in 1957, Dalkowski whiffed 24 and walked 18 (as well as hitting four and throwing six wild pitches). He once even hit a batter kneeling in the on-deck circle. Another time he threw six consecutive wild pitches. Unfortunately, he was out of organized baseball at the age of 26 (1965) due to arm and drinking problems.”
*This tidbit was from 2004. Baseball Reference didn’t have detailed minor league stats then. Today the record reflects he walked 129 batters in 62 innings and struck out 121.
Well, the above got me looking back through my own baseball library and the following is from “Baseball Anecdotes” by Daniel Okrent and Steve Wulf.
“No pitcher – not McDowell, not Koufax, not Bob Feller – ever threw harder than a career minor leaguer named Steve Dalkowski. In 1956 Dalkowski was pitching batting practice for the Orioles before a game with the Red Sox when Ted Williams decided to get a first-hand look. Williams stepped into the cage and motioned for Dalkowski to throw the ball. Williams did not swing. He said he didn’t even see the pitch. He also said that it was the fastest pitch he had ever encountered and that he would be damned if he’d ever face Dalkowski again.
“But Dalkowski was as wild as he was fast. In 995 minor league innings, he struck out 1,396 batters and walked 1,354.* The Orioles tried everything. Thinking he was just too strong, they made him throw on the side before a game until he was exhausted. They bought him thick glasses. They made him pitch batting practice daily for two weeks to get him used to a live batter. They had him throw standing only 15 feet from the catcher, gradually moving him back to the standard 60 feet, 6 inches.
*Again, the facts today show Dalkowski throwing 956 career innings, striking out 1,324 and walking 1,236.
“Finally, Earl Weaver, in Elmira, decided simply to leave him alone. The year was 1962, and Dalkowski responded with six shutouts and a 3.04 ERA. The Orioles were actually counting on him as a reliever in 1963, but in spring training he hurt his elbow making an off-balance throw to first and he was never the same.”
I was reading an obituary by Matt Schudel in the Washington Post and just want to add a few more tidbits.
The batter whose earlobe Dalkowski partially tore off was Bob Beavers, then in the Dodgers organization.
“The first pitch was over the backstop. The second pitch was called a strike, I didn’t think it was,” Beavers told the Hartford Courant last year. “The third pitch hit me and knocked me out, so I don’t remember much after that….I never did play baseball again.”
In high school, Dalkowski pitched a no-hitter in which he walked 18 batters and struck out 18. Another time, in an extra-inning minor-league game, he walked 18 and struck out 27 “while throwing 283 pitches.”
In 1960, when he was with a minor league team in Stockton, Calif., Dalkowski struck out 262 batters in 170 innings, but he also walked 262.
“In Pensacola, Fla., in 1959, two of his teammates were Steve Barber and Bo Belinsky, both hard-throwing and hard-drinking left-handers. Mr. Dalkowski threw harder and drank harder than both of them.
“ ‘When I roomed with him, I roomed with a suitcase,’ his roommate Herm Starrette told the Baltimore Sun in 1999. ‘He was a nice guy, a young kid who hadn’t matured, and he just didn’t know what time of day it was as far as coming in at night. He came in when he got tired of being out, let’s put it that way.’”
Perhaps the best description of Dalkowski on the mound came from his high school catcher, Len Pare, who told the Baltimore Sun in 2003:
“The ball would almost hit the ground after he threw it, but it would rise and rise, and by the time it got to the plate, I’d be jumping up to catch it.”
There was never a pitcher like Steve Dalkowski. There is also never likely to be another one.
--Suddenly, Saturday morning, Wake Forest pulled the trigger and fired basketball coach Danny Manning. The timing may seem curious, as in what will happen to the players he had recruited, let alone those coming back. Demon Deacon fans initially assumed athletic director John Currie had a serious candidate teed up. Turns out he doesn’t.
Manning was 78-111 in his six seasons, five losing ones, a godawful 30-80 in the ACC, one ACC tournament victory in seven games played, one NCAA tournament appearance (a loss in the First Four).
The crowds have been dwindling by the year to the lowest in LJVM Coliseum history.
And there have been 23 players who have left the Wake program with eligibility remaining during Manning’s tenure.
Former Michigan coach John Beilein, despite his age, 67, would be a perfect fit for the job. If he could give us four, maybe five years, he’d turn things around in a big way. It’s still a real good job in the sport.
As for the other candidates mentioned, Phil W., I only like East Tennessee State’s Steve Forbes. Yeah, I guess UNCG’s Wes Miller might work as well.
--I posted last time on Tuesday night, and the next day, Wednesday, was the 50th anniversary of Tom Seaver’s 19-strikeout game, including the last ten in a row.
I’ve written a ton on that game over the years, having rushed home from elementary school that Wed., April 22, 1970, catching most of it. [Home day games starting at 2:05 back then.]
What was so remarkable was that he fanned the last ten Padres, including Al Ferrara twice, Ferrara having accounted for San Diego’s lone run with a home run in the second in what would end up being a 2-1 Mets win.
But the great Mets broadcaster Howie Rose, who was a New York City schoolkid in those days, was interviewed by the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro, Rose telling him that since it was the first Earth Day (which I forgot), a lot of kids were heading into Manhattan for a rally, effectively just cutting school, and Howie and his buddies did the same, only they went to see Tom Seaver.
“The thing about Seaver, it wasn’t the same as years later, when Dwight Gooden was at his peak,” Rose says. “In Gooden’s case, when he got a hitter to pop up there was an audible groan. It was different with Seaver. You just knew he was the best in the sport and you just had to be a part of that.”
But Vaccaro points out that the score, 2-1, was so typical of Seaver’s career. As a Met he won six 1-0 games – and lost nine of them. And he pitched in an incredible 38, 2-1 games, winning 23.
While Seaver’s 19 Ks at the time tied Steve Carlton’s record, set the year before (Carlton nonetheless losing on Ron Swoboda’s two, 2-run homers), still, no one has fanned 10 in a row since.
Meanwhile, Rose looks back and muses, “I’ll be honest. I’m glad I didn’t give a rat’s tail about Earth Day when I was 16.”
--Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are slated to have another showdown in May, with the second go-around coming with a twist: Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will be joining the duo for a 2v2 match.
The match, rumored to be either May 15 or May 24, will be aired live on TNT. All proceeds from the event will go to Covid-19 relief.
--As the coronavirus pandemic halted tourism to Africa, poachers have been having a field day encroaching on land and killing rhinos, among other animals, in travel hot spots now without visitors and safari guides.
In Botswana, at least six rhinos have been poached since the virus shut down tourism there. In the northwest of South Africa, at least nine rhinos have been killed.
“It’s a bloody calamity. It’s an absolute crisis,” said Map Ives, founder of Rhino Conservation Botswana, a nonprofit organization.
Ryan Tate is an American and Marine who is founder of VetPaw, a group of U.S. military veterans who fight poachers in a remote private reserve in the far north of South Africa. But due to travel restrictions, he can’t join his team in South Africa’s wilderness and can’t meet with private donors for his anti-poaching nonprofit, which is seeing donations dry up. He’s heartbroken.
The black rhino population has plummeted 97.6% since 1960 and the lion population is down 43% in the last 21 years, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Only about 1,000 mountain gorillas remain on the continent.
--So with the above in mind, there was this tragic story Saturday in the New York Times out of Nairobi, Kenya.
“Twelve rangers were among 17 people killed in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, officials said, in one of the worst massacres in the park’s recent history. The park blamed members of a Rwandan rebel group for the attack.
“The rangers were on their way back to the park, the oldest in Africa, when they spotted a civilian vehicle that had been attacked and came to its defense, park officials said in a statement. But they came under ‘a ferociously violent and sustained ambush’ about 11 a.m. on Friday near Rumangabo village, according to the statement.
“Aside from the rangers killed, a driver and four civilians were shot dead. Two other civilians and four rangers were injured, with one in critical condition.”
The gunmen apparently belonged to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, one of the largest armed groups in the country, whose ranks include members accused of having links to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Virunga spans 3,000 square miles and is home to unparalleled biodiversity, including savanna elephants, hundreds of bird species, and endangered mountain gorillas.
--On a somewhat happier note, zookeepers at the Oakland Zoo, a 100-acre wildlife park closed to visitors, say most of the animals appear bored without the stimulation of crowds. Only the bald eagles, and maybe the wolves, seem to relish the solitude.
“The eagles are using parts of the enclosure we’ve never seen them use before,” said the aptly named Joel Parrott, the zoo’s president and first avian chief executive. [OK, the name and title are correct, the other tidbit maybe not so.]
On Monday, a bald eagle that was resting in this newfound area, close to the pedestrian walkway, retreated back to hide in the cover of the trees when a visitor approached.
Other observers say that perhaps the animals are just relaxing more because there are no normal crowds.
Meanwhile, it costs roughly $800,000 a year to feed the animals and $24 million to run the zoo and no revenue is coming in. [The massive San Diego Zoo and a sister facility, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, spent about $231 million in 2018 on animal care and exhibition operations.]
Germany opened up the zoos this past week (if I read things correctly), at least in some parts of the country, and you’d think this would be one such business that could open up fairly easily in the U.S. as well…wearing masks, staying six-feet apart, etc. Drive-thru facilities/safari parks would appear to be a no-brainer for reopening.
Some of the zoos, such as in Oakland, qualified for the federal Paycheck Protection Program. And they deserve it!
Top 3 songs for the week 4/28/73: #1 “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree” (Dawn featuring Tony Orlando) #2 “The Cisco Kid” (War…great tune…their “Greatest Hits” album is as good as any…) #3 “Sing” (Carpenters)…and…#4 “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia” (Vicki Lawrence…kind of interesting tune…) #5 “Little Willy” (The Sweet…was a bit controversial for its time…) #6 “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” (Stevie Wonder…brilliant…) #7 “Masterpiece” (The Temptations) #8 “The Twelfth Of Never” (Donny Osmond) #9 “Stuck In The Middle With You” (Stealers Wheel) #10 “Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got…another superb effort...)… ‘B+’ week…
NFL AP All-Pro Quiz Answer: Four to be named to nine or more first-team All-Pro squads:
Jerry Rice, 10 (1985-2004)
Jim Otto, 10 (1960-1971)
Ron Mix, 9 (1960-1971)
Anthony Munoz, 9 (1980-1992)
Needless to say, all are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As are all those selected to eight first teams….
Bruce Smith, Reggie White, Lawrence Taylor, Joe Schmidt, Jim Parker, Don Hutson, Bill George, and Jim Brown.
Bazooka Joe says, “Bill George played his college ball at Wake Forest!”
Next Bar Chat, Thursday…or sooner…brush up on your college baseball.