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Baseball Tries Again
[Posted Tues. p.m.]
NCAA Men’s Golf Quiz: No college golf champions this year. But name the last three individual NCAA men’s national championship titleholders who went on to win a Major. Answer below.
The owners are presenting a proposal to the players’ union today that outlines a tentative midsummer start and features adaptable scheduling and rule changes designed to maximize a dwindling calendar window.
But this isn’t going to be easy as both sides have to navigate the economics, and the union was rejecting MLB’s proposal before even receiving it.
MLB’s preferred plan is to hold a streamlined “spring training 2.0” in June, then stage 78 to 82 regular season games beginning in July – without fans, at least initially – in as many home stadiums as possible. Some teams, if necessary, would relocate their operations to spring training facilities in Arizona or Florida.
Teams would be grouped regionally, as opposed to by league and division, to reduce travel considerations. There would be a universal designated hitter. The regular season would be followed by an expanded postseason, involving as many as 14 teams as opposed to the current 10.
But there are all kinds of issues, such as the stages in which the states and municipalities decide to reopen their economies, and the availability of Covid-19 testing where baseball is not seen as diverting scarce resources from the public. There also need to be contingency plans for when a player or essential personnel test positive.
How the players are paid, though, remains the thorniest issue and the union has signaled it is opposed to MLB’s idea of a roughly 50-50 split of revenue in 2020. MLB does not have a revenue-sharing system unlike sports with salary caps, so this would be an unprecedented step. The union considers it a non-starter.
MLB counters they will lose $billions this year regardless of what happens from here on and that it will lose money with every game played without fans unless it gets additional salary relief from the players.
But the players said they are the group being asked to take on the greatest health risk in any plan to bring back baseball before a vaccine arrives. If having fans is seen as too risky, what does that say about the safety for the players, as well as coaches and umpires who tend to fall in the highest risk categories.
Washington Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle received a lot of press for his tweet Monday: “It feels like we’ve zoomed past the most important aspect of any MLB restart plan: health protections for players, families, staff, stadium workers and the workforce it would require to resume a season. We need to consider what level of risk we’re willing to assume.”
Steve Serby / New York Post
“Let’s say both sides are operating with integrity here. The players feel that, unlike owners, they do not have long runways to make money and to ask them to lose more salary in a finite career in a season in which they will have to take health risks to them and perhaps family is wrong. The owners feel it is wrong to ignore that 40 percent of revenue comes from attendance and all that comes with it (concessions, parking, luxury suites, etc.) and that they are facing real financial hardships.
“Got it. They are still going to have to find a way back to each other or face wrecking reputations of those in charge forever and perhaps inflicting permanent damage to the sport – are fans hungry for distraction and optimism now going to forgive en masse if there are no games because the sides couldn’t figure out how to distribute money?....
“(Any) idea has to come and be negotiated with comprehension and compassion by both sides (not just for each other but the country). They must eliminate further squabbles over finances at this time and absolutely avoid the nuclear option of not playing because of money. Fans will understand if a vicious virus beyond the control of owners and players takes down the 2020 major league season. They will not tolerate self-inflicted stupidity.”
It’s back…a grand experiment. Folks talk about how reopening the NBA or MLB involves more than just the players. You have to protect all the support staff. And there is a ton of support staff in NASCAR as well.
The season is resuming on Sunday, 13 weeks after the season was suspended, at South Carolina’s Darlington Raceway.
Drivers will have their temperatures taken as they enter the facility and they will be wearing masks as they leave their isolated motorhomes and make their way to their cars. No fans are allowed. But no Covid-19 testing.
Many of the teams are a financial wreck at this point. And NASCAR has issued two rounds of layoffs during the pandemic – cuts last week decimated staffing at many tracks – and those still employed took pay cuts, furloughs or forced vacation.
“Just the unknowns about the procedures – you can read about them all you want and we also heard through the teleconference we had with NASCAR about the protocols,” said Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin. “Obviously there will be a huge microscope on how we’re doing things, making sure it’s done in a safe manner. For all of us, it’s just the unknown of making sure we’re doing it the right way.”
One interesting sidebar this Sunday is that the race will mark the return of Ryan Newman after his horrific crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500. He suffered a head injury, but the long pause in the season gave him enough time to heal and receive medical clearance to race again.
And Matt Kenseth has come out of retirement to drive for Chip Ganassi Racing, which fired Kyle Larson during the shutdown for using a racial slur during an online race.
Practice laps will be prohibited and there is no qualifying. I’m not happy with what I’m seeing from DraftKings yet, but it’s Tuesday.
“The Last Dance”…episodes Seven and Eight
I have to repeat, this series is so well done. Episode Seven was largely about the murder of Michael Jordan’s father, James, who was killed at 56 in July 1993 by two teens, after he had pulled over on a North Carolina highway to take a nap. The Bulls had just three-peated, James Jordan there every step of the way, MJ extremely close to his father. It was devastating for him.
But the episode brought up the conspiracy theories that evolved in light of the murder, that somehow it was related to Michael Jordan’s gambling.
“All the articles, the speculation that came out, it was not journalism’s finest hour,” said Brian McIntyre, former senior communications advisor to NBA commissioner David Stern.
“That was really bad, really unfair,” said Sam Smith, who wrote “The Jordan Rules.” “You imagine your father gets killed and now they’re blaming you? That was really cheap-shot stuff.”
Jordan issued a statement at the time saying he was “outraged,” and that he “simply cannot comprehend how others can pour salt in my open wound.”
“It wasn’t from the people I loved, the people that knew me and that cared,” Jordan said. “It was from the people who got tired of me being on top.”
All investigations at the time came up with the same conclusion: It was nothing more than “brutality and greed” that led to James Jordan’s death, as a news report from the time put it.
“There wasn’t a thimble’s worth of evidence to connect that horrible incident to Michael Jordan’s gambling or any other aspect of Michael Jordan’s behavior,” said Bob Costas.
So Jordan retired not long after his father’s death, which led to more speculation that the NBA had issued a secret suspension due to his gambling.
David Stern put that to rest: “There’s no basis in fact. It’s just not true.”
Another topic in episode seven was Jordan’s practice trash talk.
“He was an a-hole,” Bulls center Will Purdue said. “He was a jerk. He crossed the line numerous times.”
A frequent target of Jordan’s was forward Scott Burrell, who Jordan said he was just trying to motivate. Burrell took it all with a smile. Jordan said it was frustrating he wouldn’t fight back, but Burrell was “such a nice guy.”
Steve Kerr explained Jordan’s theory as “if you can’t handle pressure from me, you’re not going to be able to handle the pressure of the NBA playoffs.” Scottie Pippen called the methods – Jordan being the “bad guy” – something he and the teammates needed.
“As time goes on and you think back about what he was actually trying to accomplish, you’re like ‘Hey he was a hell of a teammate,” Purdue said.
Jordan said losing the “nice guy” label was the cost of winning championships.
“When people see this they’re going to say, ‘Well, he wasn’t really a nice guy, he may have been a tyrant,’” Jordan said. “Well, that’s you. Because you never won anything.”
But at the end of the episode Jordan got emotional, understanding that for all his winning, he caused a lot of pain…and that’s part of his legacy.
So back to retirement, you had the scene in Chicago, Oct. 5, 1993. Jordan was at a White Sox playoff game against Toronto when Jerry Reinsdorf (who still owns both the Bulls and White Sox) told Bulls GM Jerry Krause that MJ was retiring. The news leaked out.
Jordan said that during his last conversation with his father, the two debated whether he should quit basketball to play baseball. Jordan said his father told him: “Do it.”
His manager at double-A Birmingham, future Red Sox manager Terry Francona, believed that with 1,500 at-bats, Jordan could have become a good enough hitter to warrant a call-up to the majors, but the 1995 MLB strike led to Jordan’s return to basketball.
[While hitting only .202, Jordan did drive in 51 runs his lone season. He was far from a chump.]
Lastly, we had the issue of Pippen’s refusal to play during the final seconds of Game 3 of the Bulls’ 1994 playoff series against New York, everyone agreeing it was out of character, yet cast a shadow over his good-teammate reputation. Pippen says he was insulted that Jackson drew up the final play for Toni Kukoc, not him – the sidekick who had waited his turn in Jordan’s shadow until 1994 and had become Chicago’s star.
Episode Eight, Jordan talks about the 1995-96 season, after returning near the end of the ’94-’95 campaign, and the treatment of his new teammates like they were first-year cadets.
“I wanted them to understand what it felt like to be in the trenches,” he explained. “If you don’t understand, then you’re not going to respond when the war starts. Steve [Kerr] and Luc [Longley], all those guys, they come in riding high on the three championships and they had no f------ thing to do with it. We were s--- when I got [to the Bulls in 1984]. We elevated to be a championship-quality team. There were certain standards we had to live by. You don’t come pussyfooting around, joking and kidding around. You have to come in ready to play.”
Jordan conveyed that message with tenacious play throughout camp, but he lost control of his emotions during one practice session. Frustrated by Phil Jackson’s “ticky tack” calls, Jordan delivered a hard foul on the 6-foot-3, 175-pound Kerr to send a message. Kerr responded by hitting Jordan in the chest, prompting one of the most infamous episodes of Jordan’s career.
“I haul off and hit him right in the f------ eye,” Jordan admitted. “Phil throws me out of practice. I’m in the shower and I’m like, ‘I just beat up the littlest guy on the f------ court.’ I felt about this small.”
Jordan held his finger and his thumb about an inch apart.
“I called Steve,” he continued. “I apologized: ‘Look, man, it had nothing to do with you. I feel bad.’”
Kerr was 30 and a veteran who knew he couldn’t back down from Jordan’s challenge.
“The best thing I ever did [was] stand up for myself with him,” Kerr said. “He tested everyone he played with. From that point on, our relationship and trust dramatically improved. We got that out of the way. We’re going to war together. That season has to be the best team I’ve ever been a part of.”
[72-10, another title for MJ.]
Kerr received an apology, while other adversaries in the documentary, i.e., Isiah Thomas and Jerry Krause, didn’t.
--Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland are out at “Monday Night Football.” According to The Athletic and the New York Post, their replacements will be from within, with the Post saying Steve Levy will be on play-by-play, while analysts Dan Orlovsky, Louis Riddick and/or Brian Griese are the favorites for the other slot.
--Yikes… “A man in northwest Spain, 54, died after being stung by a ‘murder hornet,’ according to a report.
“The man from Villestro in Galicia was stung in the eyebrow by an Asian giant hornet while tending to a wasp nest close to a beehive he owned.”
But there is a panic developing in the United States after the deadly insects were found in Washington state, knowing how they can decimate bee colonies. As the U.S. Geological Survey noted, bees are responsible for pollinating approximately 75 percent of the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the United States.
Bob C., Marine, fighter-pilot, and now lounging commercial airline pilot (due to capacity constraints, you understand), assures me the F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter jet will take ‘murder hornets’ out effectively.
We just need testing. Test, identify, destroy.
Granted, could be some collateral damage, so we advise you not stand near suspected murder hornet hangouts until further notice.
--Brad K. first brought this highly-disturbing story from Gatlinburg, Tenn. Michelle Eberhart of Shelbyville, Ind., says she and a friend noticed a black bear trying to force its way through the back door of their rental cabin, while the husbands were out golfing.
And then the door opened. The two women ran to a bedroom, the bear inside. They then noticed three other bears lingering on the porch. So they called police.
The police helped remove the bears, who apparently ate a ton of candy and snacks on the kitchen counter.
Specifically, they got away with five pounds of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (good choice), a pound of M&M’s, two pounds of Sour Patch Kids, two bags of potato chips, a tub of peanut butter pretzels and two bags of Dove salted caramel candy, Eberhart said. They also took two beers (brand not identified), two Diet Cokes and some of her allergy medicine.
Well, as Brad notes, the bears are smart…gaining an edge on humans…and stocking up for a potential second wave.
I’d comment on the diet of the women and their husbands, but that probably isn’t appropriate.
Meanwhile, a few days later, “Eberhart said she saw 11 bears on Monday after their friends left,” according to CNN.com.
This bear buildup reminds me of General Santa Anna’s forces laying siege on the Alamo before the final attack. I fear for the Eberharts.
Of course if precedence holds, the bears would then meet their demise at the equivalent of the Tennessee version of the Battle of San Jacinto… “Dollywood” …forever changing the character of the theme park.
--There’s a story tonight that Mike Tyson, 53, is preparing for a comeback. Go for it!
--We note the passing of the great comic Jerry Stiller, aka Frank Costanza on “Seinfeld,” as well as spending decades of comedy work with his wife and comedic partner, Anne Meara. He died of natural causes at 92.
Stiller’s time on “Seinfeld” not only cemented his place in American pop culture, but as he once recalled, it represented “the best years of my life as an actor.”
His death was announced by son Ben Stiller, who tweeted on Monday: “I’m sad to say that my father, Jerry Stiller, passed away from natural causes. He was a great dad and grandfather, and the most dedicated husband to Anne for about 62 years. He will be greatly missed. Love you Dad.”
The elder Stiller’s role as the Festivus-celebrating, George Steinbrenner-hating, silver-dollar-hoarding father of George Costanza revived his career at the age of 66, earning a 1997 Emmy Award nomination and a 1998 American Comedy Award. After “Seinfeld” ended in 1998, he spent another eight years portraying the equally irascible Arthur Spooner on the CBS comedy “The King of Queens.”
Stiller was born June 8, 1927 in Brooklyn, N.Y., the eldest of four children raised in an impoverished Polish-Jewish household.
After a stint in the Army toward the end of World War II, Stiller used the G.I. bill to earn a bachelor’s degree in speech and drama from Syracuse University, gaining small roles on Broadway and in Shakespeare festivals, but it wasn’t until he teamed up with his wife, the actress Anne Meara, that both their careers took off.
Both were struggling nobodies when they married in 1953, but by the early 1960s, they were “Stiller & Meara” on the nightclub circuit and “The Ed Sullivan Show,” famous for poking fun of their oddball marriage; Stiller playing up his heritage as a short Jewish boy from Brooklyn; Meara as the tall Irish Catholic princess from Long Island.
“Ed Sullivan brought us up to the level that we never knew we could get to – him standing there on the right side of the wings laughing, tears coming out of his eyes and then calling us over and saying, ‘You know, we got a lot of mail on that last show that you did,’” Stiller told The Times in 2010. “I said, ‘From Catholic or Jewish people?’ He said, ‘The Lutherans.’”
By the early 1990s, though, Stiller’s career was waning. Yet when Larry David called him in 1993 to join the cast of “Seinfeld” as George Costanza’s father, he turned it down.
David called again a few months later. This time, Stiller accepted. But he quickly realized the role as written – a meek husband overpowered by his belligerent wife, played by Estelle Harris – just wasn’t funny. So Stiller started changing his lines.
“She’s screaming at me the whole time, nothing’s happening on stage,” he recalled in a 2008 interview. “So just before going on the air with a live audience, she started screaming, ‘You’re the one who ruined his life! You were never there for him! You were an absentee father!’
“Instead of saying my lines, I said, “You’re the one who slept in bed with him! You make him sandwiches every day and night. You coddled him!’ Everybody started screaming laughing,” he added. “And Larry David said, ‘Jerry, keep it that way.’”
In their remembrances, Jason Alexander (George Costanza), and Jerry Seinfeld chose to focus on Stiller’s work with Anne Meara rather than highlight his work on “Seinfeld.”
“As a kid, I delighted at every occasion I got to see Jerry Stiller and his wife-partner Anne Meara,” Alexander told the New York Post. “I watched Jerry on TV, on the stage and in clubs. He was always perfection as a comic and a truly gifted actor. Getting to work with him and know him has been one of the great honors and joys of my life.”
Alexander went on to say that Stiller wasn’t just his TV father.
“He was as much a second father to me as any friend could be, the most loving, gentle, kind, humble and generous man,” he said. “I cherish every moment in his company. Stiller and Meara are together again and heaven is funnier for it. My condolences to Ben and Amy and their families. And finally to my TV dad and dear, dear friend – serenity now.”
Seinfeld also honored the legacy Stiller made before he joined the show in its fifth season by sharing a simple, captionless photo of himself with the power couple’s 1967 comedy album, “Ed Sullivan Presents: The Last Two People in the World.”
During the 1960s and ‘70s, Stiller and Meara appeared on Sullivan’s show 36 times.
Anne Meara died in 2015.
Top 3 songs for the week 5/13/78: #1 “If I Can’t Have You” (Yvonne Elliman) #2 “The Closer I Get To You” (Roberta Flack with Donny Hathaway…brilliant…) #3 “With A Little Luck” (Wings…awful effort by Sir Paul…)…and…#4 “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” (Johnny Mathis/Deniece Williams) #5 “Night Fever” (Bee Gees) #6 “You’re The One That I Want” (John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John) #7 “Can’t Smile Without You” (Barry Manilow) #8 “Count On Me” (Jefferson Starship) #9 “Dust In The Wind” (Kansas) #10 “Imaginary Lover” (Atlanta Rhythm Section… ‘B’ week…)
NCAA Men’s Golf Quiz Answer: Last three NCAA individual men’s national championship titleholders who then went on to win a Major…Tiger Woods, 1996 (Stanford); Justin Leonard, 1994 (Texas); Phil Mickelson, 1989, ’90, ’92 (Arizona State).
Mickelson and Ben Crenshaw, 1971-73 (Texas), are the only three-time winners.
Bazooka Joe says: “In 1974, Curtis Strange won the individual title while playing for Wake Forest, followed by teammate Jay Haas in 1975. The Deacs won the team title those two years!”
Next Bar Chat, Monday. Actual sports results to report…we hope.
*I just watched Emeril’s AirFryer infomercial for a fifth time….this is my escape from a pandemic. [Pssst…I like Kimberley Locke.]