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Team USA....so-so thus far...
Add-on…posted Wednesday a.m.
With the Mets getting blown out early Tuesday, I flipped on the Olympics for the first time last night, knowing of all the drama to follow, and I stayed with the telecast to the end.
[Understand I receive a zillion news alerts, on all topics, so I’m not missing anything.]
Reigning Olympic gymnastics champion Simone Biles shockingly bowed out during the team finals after at first seeming to suffer an injury.
Biles landed a vault during the Americans’ first rotation, but then left with a trainer and returned later with her right leg wrapped as she watched her teammates capture the silver medal.
USA Gymnastics said the reason for Biles’ withdrawal was due to a medical reason, but the 24-year-old refuted that claim in a press conference after.
Biles said her withdrawal was due to her mental health.
“No, no injury, thankfully and that’s why I took a step because I didn’t want to do something silly out here and get injured,” Biles said. “So I thought it was best if these girls took over and did the rest of the job and they definitely did; they’re Olympic silver medalists.”
Biles said the whole Olympic process has been “stressful” and a lot of different variables contributed to her withdrawal.
“It’s been a long week, a long Olympic process, a long year,” she said. “Just a lot of different variables and I think we’re just a little bit too stressed but we should be out here having fun and sometimes that’s not the case.”
With the weight of being the Olympic star, Biles said she had never felt as tense leading up to an event as she did Tuesday.
“We had a workout this morning and it went OK and then just that five-and-a-half hour wait to something, I was just shaking, could barely nap, I just never felt like this going into a competition before and tried to go out there and have fun,” Biles said. “Once I came out here I was like, ‘No, mental is not there so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself.’”
Biles also spoke with NBC’s Hoda Kotb and when Kotb asked Biles if she would compete in Thursday’s all-around event, Biles said; “We’re going to take it day-by-day and we’re just going to see.”
In a social media post on Monday, Biles admitted she felt like the weight of the world was on her shoulders and that the Olympics “were no joke.”
Biles won five medals in Rio five years ago and had a chance to top that after advancing to all five finals, plus the team competition.
Tara Sullivan / Boston Globe
“This was going to be the Simone Biles Olympics. She was going to twist her way through the Tokyo air and into our hearts once again, vaulting, tumbling and spinning her way to gold, leading the most dominant American gymnastics team in recent memory.
“This will forever be my Simone Biles Olympics, but for reasons far different than those I originally thought.
“Biles’ storyline took a drastic turn early Tuesday morning, and with it, the landscape of these entire Tokyo Games was altered.”
We learned it wasn’t an injury but mental fatigue.
“But here’s the thing: an injury to the psyche is just as important to address as one to the body, and in showing a willingness to address her mental health on such a public stage, in facing what so many athletes would insist to themselves they must push through regardless of how they are feeling, Biles remains the GOAT, not just for what she’s done on the mat, but for what she’s doing off it.
“Bravo to her for taking care of herself when she needs it most, even when it is inconvenient for others, even when it leaves the world’s mouths agape in shock, even when it might ultimately alter results on the hallowed Olympic podium.
“Biles had given us a glimpse into her feelings before she and her gymnastics teammates took the floor for team finals Tuesday, posting some short but heartfelt thoughts to Instagram. This was after the preliminary rounds of the Olympics team competition and before the finals, when the first signs of trouble were apparent, some lower-than-expected scores and almost-impossible-to-imagine missteps during her usually dominant vault and floor routines.
“She was still the best in the competition, but as someone who has raised the metaphorical bar higher than anyone to come before her, as someone who essentially competes against herself, particularly on the vault, it was not the night she expected.
“ ‘It wasn’t an easy day or my best but I got through it. I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times,’ she wrote. ‘I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard hahaha!’
“ ‘The Olympics is no joke!’ she added.
“Nothing about this is funny. But it is enormously important. Anyone paying attention knows how much the sports world is moving toward a deeper understanding of athletes’ mental health. The tilt to kindness is evident everywhere, from fiction, in the optimism and support in a wildly popular television coach like Ted Lasso, to real life, in the form of tennis star Naomi Osaka, who returned to action in Tokyo after taking a mental health break in the last two tennis majors.
“Our gymnasts deserve much of the credit, their collective bravery in taking down serial sexual predator (disguised as a team doctor) Larry Nassar representing such an enormous step in the fight to listen to the athlete voice. We can never truly know what it cost Biles to speak up in the way she has these past years, to continually put herself at the forefront of the demand for justice while at the same time remaining at the top of her game in competition, to bare her most intimate secrets in the hope she might help others deal with their own trauma. But connecting the dots from then to now would seem to make sense.
“Simone Biles may be the GOAT, but she’s not a machine. She’s a human being, one who apparently hit a wall Tuesday, who quickly zipped up her sweatsuit and became her teammates’ biggest supporter, cheering them on while they continued where she could not.
“She remains the GOAT in my book.”
Well, I’m troubled by this whole situation. I have my 24-hour rule and I’m invoking it. But let’s just say I’m not ready to let Simone off the hook.
In the end, good for Russia. And good sportsmanship by Team USA when it was over.
Here’s what I’ll remember, at least for a week…Biles’ teammates – Grace McCallum, Jordan Chiles and Suni Lee. Simone let ‘em down. But they were terrific.
Biles then withdrew from Thursday’s individual all-around final, with next week’s individual events still in question.
--The team representing the Russian Olympic Committee edged out Japan and China in a close men’s team gymnastics finals, marking the first Olympic title for the Russians since the 1996 Atlanta Games.
--Katie Ledecky had won her first four individual Olympic finals at the 2012 London Games and then in Rio five years ago.
But she lost in the 400 freestyle, chased down by Australian Ariarne Titmus – nicknamed the “Terminator.”
Titmus trailed by nearly a full body-length at the halfway mark of the eight-lap race, winning in the second-fastest time in history, Ledecky taking the silver with the fourth-fastest time ever recorded. No choke there on the part of Ledecky.
Titmus then won gold in the 200-meter freestyle this morning (Tokyo time), Ledecky finishing fifth, which was kind of shocking…the first time she had failed to medal in an Olympic race.
But then I stayed up to watch Katie just an hour later win the 1,500-meters in the sign of a real champion. All Americans should be very proud of her…and teammate Erica Sullivan who captured the silver.
Ledecky has been in the pool non-stop, between all the heats and finals, but somehow she did it.
“I think people maybe feel bad for me that I’m not winning everything and whatever, but I want people to be more concerned about other things going on in the world, people that are truly suffering,” Ledecky said. “I’m just proud to bring home a gold medal to Team USA.”
--USA Softball was 5-0 heading into the gold medal game Tuesday and then they lost to Japan, 2-0.
--Great Britain’s Adam Peaty repeated as Olympic champion in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke.
Many said Peaty was the surest bet at the Olympic pool, having continually set world records in his signature event. And he posted the fifth-fastest time in history (57.37 seconds) to blow away the field.
The Brits then captured their first gold, ever, in the men’s 4X200 freestyle relay since 1908 (the race’s inception), while the Americans failed to win a medal in the relay for the first time other than the boycotted Moscow Games in 1980.
--Japan’s Yui Ohashi completed her sweep of the women’s individual medley with a victory in the 400, holding off Americans, and University of Virginia teammates, Alex Walsh and Kate Douglass, who captured the silver and bronze medals, respectively.
--Naomi Osaka suffered a surprise exit in the third round, losing 6-1, 6-4 to world number 42, Czech Marketa Vondrousova.
This was Olympic cauldron-lighter Osaka’s first tournament after withdrawing from the French Open in June.
--U.S. men’s basketball got back on track with a 120-66 win over Iran today, following the loss to France in the opener. So Team USA can still get into the eight-team knockout stage with a win Saturday against the Czech Republic.
Kevin Durant pledged Tuesday that the team would have an egalitarian approach on offense instead of leaning more heavily on its biggest stars and six Americans finished in double figures with Team USA registering 34 assists on 42 baskets while shooting 19-39 from three.
--Finally, there’s no doubt what the best moment of these weirdo Olympics is thus far…the celebration in Seward, Alaska, for hometown girl Lydia Jacoby, the 17-year-old surprise gold medal winner in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke.
--Monday, Shohei Ohtani pitched seven innings of one-run ball, the Angels beating the Rockies 6-2, Ohtani now 5-1, 3.04 on the mound. And the most exciting player in the game drove in his 76th run of the season.
Ohtani then hit home run No. 36 in a 12-3 loss to the Rockies Tuesday.
--All of baseball is talking about the trade Seattle pulled off with Houston Tuesday, the surging Mariners (55-47) sending reliever Kendall Graveman and pitcher Rafael Montero to the Astros (62-40) for Abraham Toro and reliever Joe Smith.
The thing is, Graveman is having an outstanding season, 4-0 with a microscopic 0.82 ERA and 10 saves in 30 appearances, while Joe Smith has sucked.
Graveman and his teammates were shocked and took it hard, losing to Houston 8-6 last night, after a stirring 11-8 come-from-behind win over the same team on Monday, as Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto was asked in a post-trade news conference: How does this trade make sense to the Mariners?
“It probably doesn’t as a standalone, but it’s part of a context that’s going to be an ongoing story over the next couple of days” as the trade deadline nears, Dipoto said.
“What comes next could be as early as tonight or tomorrow because we do plan on being active,” he added.
What, you’re going to turn around and trade Joe Smith for Vlad Guerrero Jr.?
I mean, c’mon. Seattle was building something very positive and this is not the kind of disruption the team needs.
Hours later, the Mariners then acquired lefty starter Tyler Anderson from the Pirates, Anderson 5-8, 4.35 ERA this season.
--The Yankees welcomed back Aaron Judge to the lineup on Tuesday and the Yanks beat the Rays 4-3 in Tampa. New York, despite all its issues, including a godawful job of managing by Aaron Boone Sunday as the Yanks were blowing a 4-0 lead to the Red Sox, are just 2 ½ games back of Oakland for the second wild card spot.
--The Giants beat the Dodgers 2-1 in the opener of a 3-game series in San Francisco last night, as L.A.’s Cody Bellinger committed a bad throwing error allowing the tie-breaking run to score in the bottom of the eighth.
The Giants’ lead in the A.L. West over the Dodgers is back to 3 games.
San Diego enters play Wednesday 5 ½ back of San Fran and L.A., the Padres having acquired Pirates All-Star second baseman Adam Frazier for three prospects.
Frazier was 2-for-5, batting leadoff, in his first game Tuesday, a 7-4 San Diego win over Oakland.
The trade deadline is 4 p.m. ET on Friday.
--My Mets’ lead in the N.L. East is down to 3 ½ after the Braves have taken 2 of 3 in a key 5-game series at Citi Field.
Phillies 50-50…3 ½
--Aaron Rodgers and the Packers negotiated a reworked contract that would keep Rodgers in Green Bay for this season.
But the deal, according to reports, voids the 2023 season from Rodgers’ current contract, and the franchise tag wouldn’t be used in future deals.
Rodgers reported to camp Tuesday.
So, 2021 will be another season with Rodgers’ relationship with the team, and its fans, under the microscope and the same issues could easily arise before 2022. The Packers also have to figure out a way to evaluate backup Jordan Love without pissing Rodgers’ off.
--Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera said he’s “beyond frustrated” with his players’ lower vaccination rate and worries about the potential impact it will have on their team.
Rivera said more than 50% of Washington players have been vaccinated against Covid-19 as they reported to training camp Tuesday, but, “We’re not where we want to be,” he said.
Consider that Rivera, who was diagnosed with a form of skin cancer last August and underwent treatments during the season, is immunodeficient.
“With the new variant, who knows?” Rivera said of the Delta variant. “When I’m in a group and the group’s not vaccinated or there’s a mixture, I put the mask on, and I do that for health reasons because nobody really knows. I have to do that. And I just wish and I hope that our guys can understand that.”
Washington players profess to love playing for Rivera, so prove it! Get the shot.
As of Tuesday morning, the NFL said 85% of its players are vaccinated (at least one shot) and 14 clubs are over 90% vaccinated.
Texas and Oklahoma informed the Big 12 that they intend to leave the league, setting off what is likely to be a jolting realignment of the sport.
The schools, which have called the Big 12 home since 1996, said in a joint statement Monday that they intend to remain in the conference until its current media rights deal expires in 2025.
This is a bit different from the talk over the weekend that the two would move to the SEC almost immediately. But it also seems unlikely they could remain in the Big 12 as lame ducks for years to come.
To be continued….
--The NBA Draft is Thursday. My excitement level is minimal.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.
[Posted early Sunday p.m.]
I will attempt to post an Add-On up top sometime Wed. a.m. Look for it.
Olympics Quiz: 1) American women have won the last four golds in the all-around in gymnastics. Name them. 2) Who am I? I won the men’s 10m platform diving gold in 1968, ‘72 and ‘76. From Italy. 3) Who are the last two American men to win gold in the 100m, track? Answers below.
--All eyes this first week are on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team and they better get their act together. In qualifying for the team competition, everyone from Simone Biles on down the lineup failed to bring their ‘A’ game and the Americans finished second to the Russians, the first time since the 2010 world championships that they’ve failed to finish first in either qualifying or team finals at worlds or the Olympics.
Scoring starts over in Tuesday’s team finals, but a repeat of Saturday’s performance would mark one of the most epic upsets in Olympic history. Looks like they bought into their own hype…and these girls are great at doing just that. Now they have to perform on the biggest stage.
[On an unrelated topic, former Team USA member McKayla Maroney’s GEICO commercial is brilliant.]
--The U.S. swimming team made history on the first full day of competition, taking six medals – one gold, two silvers and three bronze – in the span of about 90 minutes; the first time that has ever happened for Team USA on the first day of swimming at any Olympic Games, ever.
Consider that there was a time when nations could send three swimmers to the Olympics in each event, but now the limit is two.
2016 Olympic silver medalist Chase Kalisz stormed to victory in the men’s 400 individual medley, with fellow American Jay Litherland a surprise second.
[Japan’s gold medal hope Daiya Seto, the favorite in the 400 IM, failed to qualify for the final.]
American newcomer Emma Weyant and veteran Hali Flickinger went 2-3 in the women’s 400 IM, won by Japan’s Ohashi Yui.
The women’s 4X100 freestyle relay took bronze – Australia first, Canada second.
In the 400m freestyle, Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui had a shocking win, Tunisia’s fifth ever gold – and third in swimming. He was the slowest qualifier for the final and the 18-year-old swam from the outside lane, but finished with a stunning pace.
In the 2018 Youth Olympics, Hafnaoui finished eighth in the 400m and seventh in the 800m.
American Kieran Smith took bronze in the 400.
The 800m meter competition starts Tuesday.
--The above was all Saturday’s action. Today, USA Basketball suffered a stunning defeat at the hands of France, falling 83-76 in its first game in Group A play, as the Americans blew a 74-67 lead with 3:17 to play.
Kevin Durant had foul trouble all night and missed several go-ahead shots in the closing stretch. Team USA missed four three-pointers with less than a minute remaining, while Damian Lillard committed two bad turnovers down the stretch.
Evan Fournier (Boston Celtics) was the star for France with a game-high 28 points and hitting a crucial three-pointer in the final minute.
For the Americans, Jrue Holiday, fresh from the NBA Finals, a championship parade and a long flight from the U.S., was a bright spot with 18 points and seven assists off the bench in 27 minutes.
Team USA is now 9-2 all-time against France, but it was the second straight loss to them following a defeat in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
The defeat doesn’t mean the Americans are out of it in terms of the chase for the gold. They have games against Iran and Czech Republic this week and assuming they win both, they would advance with France into the quarterfinals.
--U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm became the second high-profile player on Sunday to be forced to withdraw after testing positive for Covid-19.
Rahm has been required to take three PCR tests after his visit to the United Kingdom to compete in the British Open and, while he produced negative samples for the first two, he had a positive result on the third.
This comes seven weeks after Rahm was forced to withdraw from the Memorial tournament with a six-shot lead after three rounds following a positive test there.
After winning the U.S. Open and tying for third at the British Open, Rahm was a clear favorite to take the gold for Spain.
Earlier, Bryson DeChambeau was ruled out after testing positive for Covid before travelling to Japan. He was last year’s U.S. Open champion.
Instead, DeChambeau is being replaced by Patrick Reed, who joins Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele on the U.S. team.
In a statement expressing his deep disappointment, DeChambeau didn’t say if he was experiencing any symptoms, but did say, “I will now focus on getting healthy.”
The golf competition begins Thursday.
--A rare first-place medal from the first modern Olympic Games sold for more than $180,000 at auction Friday. The winning bidder for the silver medal from the 1896 games in Athens, was a collector based on the East Coast. Boston-based RR Auction had estimated before the auction that the first-place medal could fetch about $75,000.
At the inaugural Olympiad, first-place winners were awarded silver medals and second-place finishers earned bronze. There was no award for placing third.
[Just a reminder, I write up all my initial baseball thoughts by noon on Sunday. Then (stuff) happens.]
--Like the Mets’ Edwin Diaz, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen had blown three straight save opportunities, including two big ones against the Giants Wednesday and Thursday, but Saturday, Jansen, and the Dodgers, could exhale as he sealed a 1-0 victory over Colorado, ending the Dodgers three-game losing streak (losers of 5 of 6).
L.A. had fallen three games behind San Francisco after the Giants took 3 of 4 in Los Angeles, but the Giants fell to the Pirates 10-2 yesterday so the lead was reduced to 2 games.
--Meanwhile, Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer appeared in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday to contest the restraining order that had been placed against him in a civil hearing.
The half-hour hearing ultimately led to a postponement, with the hearing pushed back to Aug. 2, after one of Bauer’s attorneys requested more time to prepare a defense against witnesses and exhibits that the victim claimed to have received only recently.
Actually, the hearing is expected to take place over 2 to 3 days, and Judge Dianna Gould-Saltman set aside Aug. 2, 3 and 19 for the proceedings.
Bauer’s administrative leave with Major League Baseball expires Tuesday, but MLB can extend it again with consent by the Players Association.
MLB and the City of Pasadena Police Department are conducting separate investigations into Bauer.
Needless to say, the Dodgers have canceled Bauer’s bobblehead night, which was slated for Aug. 19, and have removed all his merchandise from the team and online stores.
--There will be a flurry of activity this coming week on the trade front. I thought my Mets made a great early move in obtaining veteran starter Rich Hill from Tampa Bay for pitcher Tommy Hunter and a minor leaguer.
Hill was 6-4, 3.87 ERA, over 95 1/3 innings in 19 starts. Yes, he’s a 5-6 inning pitcher, but 5 innings, 2 runs, would be just fine the rest of the way.
I was surprised the Rays did this, given the makeup of their current starting staff, but what do I know? Tampa Bay’s organization has done a brilliant job staying more than competitive over the years despite a very low payroll.
The Rays were active this week, also acquiring designated hitter Nelson Cruz from the Twins for two of the organization’s better pitching prospects.
Cruz was batting .294 with 19 home runs and a .907 OPS this season. The ageless 41-year-old then homered in his first game with Tampa Bay.
So, then the Mets started Hill this afternoon, and he proceeded to yield three lead-off doubles, but had held the Blue Jays scoreless after five. Mission accomplished.
However, he had thrown only 49 pitches, so manager Luis Rojas let him hit the mound in the sixth and Rojas was slow to take Hill out, Toronto taking a 3-1 lead.
Such is Rich Hill. Literally, a 5-inning pitcher…and that’s OK…if you understand that going in.
But the Mets answered with four in the bottom of the sixth, 5-3 lead, and would hold on with some clutch pitching out of the bullpen, 5-4…Edwin Diaz with the save.
A ginormous win for the Metropolitans heading into a 5-game series with the Braves at Citi Field, starting with a doubleheader on Monday.
--Speaking of the Bravos, they critically lost to the Phillies 2-1 this afternoon…so the standings in the NL East.
--The Yankees and their fans were feeling better about themselves last week, after taking 2 of 3 from the Red Sox at the Stadium, and then beating the Phillies twice.
But then they went to Boston for a four-game set on Thursday and suffered one of the worst losses in memory, 5-4 in 10 innings, as Yankees reliever Brooks Kriske put himself in the record books by throwing four wild pitches in the bottom of the tenth, after the Yanks had scored their free runner in the top of the frame to take a 4-3 lead. Manager Aaron Boone was rightfully deflated after the game.
The Yanks then fell nine games back of Boston when the Red Sox beat Gerrit Cole (10-5, 2.74), knocking him out after five innings in Boston’s 6-2 win on Friday.
So all the positives of the days prior were out the window.
But New York rebounded Saturday with a terrific 4-3 win, the Yanks erasing a 3-0 deficit with four in the top of the eighth, Aroldis Chapman with a much-needed save as he continues to round back into form after his pre-All-Star Game three-game meltdown that cost the Yanks’ playoff hopes dearly.
And then…today…Domingo German had a no-hitter after seven innings, the Yanks up 4-0…New York is back.
Until the Yankees weren’t. In another implosion for the ages, they lost 5-4 as Boston scored 5 in the eighth. Unreal.
So instead of being down seven, the Yanks are again nine back of the BoSox…and four back in the wild card race.
--Speaking of the action prior to the All-Star Game, I noted the first half performance of the Orioles’ Matt Harvey, who was 3-10, 7.70 ERA, and wished him well in the second half.
And Harvey, at least in his first two starts after the break, has been super…two six-inning, no run efforts, two wins for the O’s. Good job, Matt.
--Shohei Ohtani hit his MLB-leading 35th home run today in the Angels’ 6-2 win over the Twins. Remarkable. And so good for the sport.
--The Cleveland Indians will become the Cleveland Guardians for the 2022 season (the end of the 2021 season, in actuality).
Cleveland’s new name was announced Friday in a video narrated by Tom Hanks, which was posted on the team’s official Twitter account. “It’s always been Cleveland that’s the best part of our name,” said Hanks, a longtime fan of the team. “And now it’s time to unite as one family, one community to build the next era for this team and this city,”
Owner Paul Dolan said at a news conference: “As a fifth-generation Clevelander, I understand the historic impact and importance of this decision. Like many of you, I grew up with the name Indians… Those memories do not diminish with a new name. Indians will always be a part of our history, just as Cleveland has always been the most important part of our identity.”
Yes, I was among the millions thinking “Guardians”?!
But the logo and name are inspired by the Hope Memorial Bridge, which leads to Progressive Field and is home to massive stone statues known as the Guardians of Traffic. The idea, according to the team, is to pay homage to the Guardians of Traffic that watch over the city. As Hanks noted in the video the team released, the goal is to preserve Cleveland’s baseball tradition and the team’s place in the city.
I’m far too old to care about certain things, like this name change. I care about the look of ballcaps more than anything these days. [Half-serious.]
And, in actuality, there has been some talk that the Indians franchise may not survive in Cleveland. That’s what matters more than anything else.
So what will the Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Blackhawks and Atlanta Braves do?
--Finally, I didn’t have a chance to write about this last week, but the other day, July 17, there was the unveiling of a cool statue in Wean Park in downtown Youngstown, Ohio, birthplace of former major leaguer George Shuba.
The statue commemorates a moment on April 18, 1946, in Jersey City, New Jersey…a simple handshake between Shuba and one Jackie Robinson.
Back in 1946, Robinson wasn’t a star, but on that day in 1946, he was one of dozens of International League players trying to prove they belonged. The Jersey City Giants were hosting Robinson’s Montreal Royals, Shuba a teammate.
His first time to the plate, Robinson grounded out to short. But in the third inning, as described by Marc Bona of Cleveland.com, he stepped in against left-hander Warren Sandel and slammed a three-run home run over the left-field wall.
George Shuba was on deck, waited for his teammate and extended his hand.
It became known as “A Handshake for the Century.” Robinson was a year away from breaking the Major Leagues’ color barrier.
“There were no leaping high-fives, arm bashing or dances. It was Robinson’s first home run, but the two took it in stride. As the saying goes, act like you’ve been there before.
“Often, when it comes to racial discourse, loud tones prevail. But Shuba simply reacted in a human way to his teammate. His humble gesture to a man who needed exactly that did not go unnoticed. A photographer captured it.
“That gesture is remembered as the first interracial handshake between players on a modern professional baseball field. Now it is immortalized in Shuba’s hometown.”
Robinson, in a harbinger of things to come, had four hits, four runs scored, and two stolen bases in the game, won by Montreal 14-1.
It was George Shuba’s son, Mike, who kept the photograph alive. Mike took his father around the country to meet fans, sign autographs, and set an example for youngsters. In the beginning, his father was reluctant.
“That’s not my moment, son, that’s Jack’s moment,” Mike recalled. “I just did the right thing. And anyhow, that’s 50 years ago, not many people even remember or care about that today.”
While Robinson came up to the Dodgers in 1947, Shuba was called up in 1948 and played seven seasons, appearing in 355 games, batting .259, with 24 home runs and 125 RBIs. He was a member of the 1955 “Boys of Summer” World Series Champions.
George Shuba died in 2014, a few months shy of his 90th birthday, and is buried in Youngstown.
Jackie Robinson died in 1972 at the all-too-early age of 53, his body ravaged by diabetes.
So good for Mike Shuba in keeping his father’s memory alive…an important memorial for generations to come.
--The number of NFL players in the Covid-19 vaccination process has reached 80%, with nine teams having 90% or more of their players in that category, the league announced Friday. The NFL also said nearly all Tier 1 and Tier 2 team employees – those who deal directly with players – have been vaccinated.
Five teams are at less than 70% of players who have either received one vaccination shot or both.
The NFL was able to reschedule all of the games it postponed in 2020, but it’s possible it might not go to the same extremes – such as playing a game on a Tuesday or Wednesday – as it did during its first pandemic season.
Commissioner Roger Goodell thus made it very clear in a memo to the clubs that ‘forfeits’ are a distinct possibility.
If a forfeit occurs, players from both teams will lose their game checks. The team that suffered the outbreak is credited with a loss for the purposes of playoff seeding, with the opposing team credited with a win.
For gamblers, if a game is forfeited, a wager for standard spread, money line and total wager on that game will be voided.
--We have us an Idiot of the Year candidate for consideration in December…Rick Dennison.
The Minnesota Vikings assistant coach refused to receive a vaccine for Covid, so he was let go (though his exact status is unclear).
Dennison had served as the Vikings’ offensive line coach/run game coordinator the past two seasons.
The vaccine is required for all Tier 1 staff, including coaches, front-office executives, equipment managers and scouts. Players are not required to receive the vaccine but will face strict protocols during training camp and throughout the season that vaccinated players will be able to forgo.
In a memo released by the league this summer, the NFL said any unvaccinated Tier 1 staff members must provide a valid religious or medical reason for not receiving the vaccine. The Vikings noted in their statement that Dennison does not have an exemption.
--Sadly, the New York Jets’ assistant coach Greg Knapp died of his injuries following a bike accident last weekend. A big blow to the team and rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, in particular, Knapp responsible for his development, and an awful tragedy for Knapp’s family. The driver who hit Knapp was not charged.
--Wow, this would suck, but then us traditionalists have had to swallow a lot the last decade or so when it comes to the conferences we grew up with.
The story hit that Texas and Oklahoma have been in serious talks with the SEC for “six months at a minimum” about bolting from the Big 12 to join the SEC, and they are closing in on a deal that could be finalized by next week, six Big 12 and SEC individuals told the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman on Friday.
The people spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation.
Texas is strongly considering sending a letter on Monday to the Big 12 offices saying it will leave the conference with plans to join the SEC. And the 14-school SEC will vote 13-1 to approve invitations to the Longhorns and Sooners. Texas A&M currently plans to oppose the invitation.
A Big 12 individual said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott might be the only person who could derail expansion talks, and that Texas A&M officials were kept in the dark about the secret talks with the SEC.
“The A&M leadership was left out,” the person said. “A&M was told they would just have to live with that.”
Both Oklahoma and Texas are tied to the Big 12 with grant of rights through the 2024-25 school years. That means if they left, they would forfeit their share of revenue from the league’s television package for every year remaining on that contract.
The schools would likely recoup much, if not all, of that money through bigger television rights to the SEC’s package, which includes the third-tier SEC Network. Texas would have to relinquish the Longhorn Network, which has been a divisive force in the Big 12 but highly profitable to the Longhorns with an income of $15 million a year through June 2031.
The issue could get caught up in the Texas legislature, which is already in an uproar over an election-reform bill put forward by Republicans. Gov. Abbott is a Texas graduate who often watches his alma mater’s games from the sidelines.
Some legislators said North Texas and Texas State could easily replace the Big 12 departures.
In the future, Texas has high-profile home games scheduled with Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Georgia and Florida along with smaller opponents like Rice, Louisiana-Monroe, Wyoming, Colorado State, Texas-San Antonio, San Jose State and Texas-El Paso. As far as season ticket sales go, those less-attractive matchups don’t move the needle.
The SEC distributed $45.5 million to each of its 14 members from the 2019-20 fiscal year, the league announced in February. The Big 12 distributed just $34.5 million to each of its 10 members for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
ESPN reported Thursday that both Texas and Oklahoma would likely owe the Big 12 upward of $76 million apiece to buy out the remainder of their grant of media rights agreement.
The Big 12 would be left scrambling, either trying to secure invitations from other Power Five conferences or exploring adding schools like Houston, SMU, Cincinnati, Central Florida, Brigham Young or Boise State to the league. [Kirk Bohls and Chuck Lindell / Hookem, USA TODAY]
One more…Alabama gains nothing by the addition of Oklahoma and Texas. They don’t need another premier opponent on their schedule to impress the College Football Playoff selection committee. Ditto Georgia, LSU, Florida or whichever team wins the conference championship. Texas and Oklahoma complicate things.
And Texas and Oklahoma had an easier route to the playoffs with the Big 12, rather than a 16-team SEC, especially if we move to a 12-team playoff bracket, as seems likely in the near future.
I miss Steve Worster and Jack Mildren.
--While it didn’t have an elite field, the 3M Open in Blaine, Minn., this week was a critical one for those attempting to make the top-125 cut line for the FedEx Cup Playoffs and an automatic tour card for the 2021-22 season.
There are only two tournaments left to qualify after this week, with the Olympics next week.
Then you just have the WGC event (FedEx St. Jude Invitational), Aug. 5-8, and the Wyndham Championship, Aug. 12-15, before the 3-tournament playoffs commence.
--So we entered the final round today with a most crowded leaderboard and some golfers struggling mightily to secure the top-125.
Cameron Tringale -12
Gary Woodland -11
Maverick McNealy -11
Pat Perez -10
Cameron Champ -10
Jimmy Walker -10
Charl Schwartzel -10
Chez Reavie -10
Jhonattan Vegas -10
Roger Sloan -10
Ryan Armour -10
And another four at -9, let alone six more at -8…including Louis Oosthuizen, who surprisingly was in the tournament after his brutally disappointing T-3 at the Open the week before. He deserves huge kudos for staying competitive a week after.
In the end, it was Champ, his third career win (one each of the last three years). He clearly was dealing with the heat, heat index 100, but he pulled himself together down the stretch and won by two, over, guess who, Louis Oosthuizen, Schwartzel and Vegas.
Champ moved from 142 in the FedEx Cup standings to 49. Huge for the lad.
--Since winning the Masters in 2020, Dustin Johnson doesn’t have a win in 2021, so his 13-year streak of winning at least one event is in jeopardy, after missing the cut this week. [Remember, calendar year, not 2020-21 season.]
--Wales’ Stephen Dodd won his first senior major, the British Senior Open at Sunningdale over Miguel Angel Jimenez and Darren Clarke.
The 55-year-old, a three-time winner on the Euro Tour, helped himself with a record 62 on Saturday for a 2-shot lead heading into the final round.
--I have to admit I didn’t follow the expansion draft or the regular entry draft that closely, but I love the name, Seattle Kraken, as they made their selections from the other teams in the league in preparation for beginning play this coming season, the NHL’s 32nd franchise.
Because the league’s salary cap remains flat at $81.5 million for 2021-22, many teams, including my New York Rangers, are in a financial crunch, or facing one in coming years with potential free agents, so some of the teams are faced to make some controversial decisions, as in the Rangers dealing Pavel Buchnevich to the Blues because they know they can’t afford the restricted free agent with arbitration rights, given other future obligations.
The league is bound and determined to get back to normal this year, announcing an 82-game regular season schedule that runs from Oct. 12 to April 29.
--Maria Taylor left ESPN, as expected, and signed with NBC, after being at the center of controversy at the network where she had been an analyst and reporter since 2014. Her departure came right after she finished handling ESPN’s coverage of the NBA Finals, and by week’s end she was in Tokyo for NBC.
Taylor has done well, that’s for sure, taking advantage of every opportunity, and she’s good.
--We note the passing of Jackie Mason, the rabbi-turned-comedian whose feisty brand of standup comedy led him to Catskills’ nightclubs, West Coast talk shows and Broadway stages. He was 93.
Mason was sure unique, known for his sharp wit and piercing social commentary, often about the differences between Jews and gentiles, men and women and his own inadequacies.
“Eighty percent of married men cheat in America. The rest cheat in Europe,” he once joked. Another Mason line was: “Politics doesn’t make strange bedfellows, marriage does.” About himself, he once said: “I was so self-conscious, every time football players went into a huddle; I thought they were talking about me.” [Love that line.]
Mason was born Jacob Maza, the son of a rabbi. His three brothers became rabbis. So did Mason, until he found comedy.
“A person has to feel emotionally barren or empty or frustrated in order to become a comedian,” he told the Associated Press in 1987. “I don’t think people who feel comfortable or happy are motivated to become comedians. You’re searching for something and you’re willing to pay a high price to get that attention.”
Mason started out in show business as a social director at a resort in the Catskills. He was the guy who got everybody up to play Simon Says, quiz games or shuffleboard. He told jokes, too. After one year, he was playing the Catskills comedy circuit for better money.
“Nobody else knew me, but in the mountains, I was a hit,” Mason recalled.
In 1961, Mason got a break with an appearance on Steve Allen’s weekly television variety show. That brought him to “The Ed Sullivan Show” and other programs.
But Sullivan banned him for two years when Mason allegedly gave the host the finger when Sullivan signaled to him to wrap up his act during an appearance on Oct. 18, 1964.
Mason would eventually find his way to Broadway, where he put on several one-man shows, including “Freshly Squeezed” in 2005, “Love Thy Neighbor” in 1996 and “The World According to Me” in 1988, for which he received a Tony Award.
“I feel like Ronald Reagan tonight,” Mason joked on Tony night. “He was an actor all his life, knew nothing about politics and became president of the United States. I’m an ex-rabbi who knew nothing about acting and I’m getting a Tony Award.”
Mason called himself an observer who watched people and learned. From those observations he said he got his jokes and then tried them out on friends. “I’d rather make a fool of myself in front of two people for nothing than a thousand people who paid for a ticket,” he told the AP.
--I’m really tired of “And…make…it…rain…” ….as a DraftKings player in a mammoth slump.
--Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga are teaming up for two final nights at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, Aug. 3 and 5.
“One Last Time: An Evening with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga” will be the 95-year-old Bennett’s (he turns 95 on Aug. 3) last New York performances of his career, the family revealing he was diagnosed with dementia in 2016.
Top 3 songs for the week 7/29/72: #1 “Alone Again (Naturally)” (Gilbert O’Sullivan…incredibly depressing…) #2 “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” (Looking Glass) #3 “Too Late To Turn Back Now” (Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose)…and…#4 “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right” (Luther Ingram) #5 “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast” (Wayne Newton…the one and only…) #6 “Where Is The Love” (Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway…will sound just as good 100 years from now…) #7 “School’s Out” (Alice Cooper) #8 “How Do You Do?” (Mouth & MacNeal) #9 “Lean On Me” (Bill Withers) #10 “Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)” (The Hollies…B+ week….)
Olympics Quiz Answers: 1) Last four American women to win gold in the all-around in gymnastics…2004 – Carly Patterson. 2008 – Nastia Liukin. 2012 – Gabby Douglas. 2016 – Simone Biles. 2) Klaus Dibiasi was men’s platform diving gold medalist in 1968, ‘72 and ’76. 3) Last two American men to claim “World’s fastest” in the 100 meters…2000 – Maurice Greene. 2004 – Justin Gatlin. [Usain Bolt had the unbelievable 100/200 double in 2008, ’12 and ’16.]
***I’ll have a brief Add-On up top sometime Wed. a.m.
Otherwise, next Bar Chat, Sunday.