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John Chaney, Patrick Reed
[Posted Sun. PM]
*I just saw, after posting, that there are potential issues with the start, and length, of the baesball season. More next time.
Temple Hoops Quiz: In honor of John Chaney, name two players off his 1987-88 Temple team that went 32-2 and was No. 1 heading into the NCAA tournament. Answer below.
Not a lot of earthshattering results the last few days, as the postponements add up due to Covid.
Friday, 19 Illinois (11-5, 7-3) had a big win at home over 7 Iowa (12-4, 6-3) 80-75, as the Hawkeyes went cold down the stretch. But there was a goaltending call against the Illini that was overturned by officials with 1:06 to go that changed the complexion of the ending. Iowa should have gotten the call which would have cut it to 76-74.
Saturday, No. 1 Gonzaga moved to 17-0 with a 97-75 win over Pepperdine, while No. 2 Baylor stayed undefeated (16-0) with an 84-72 win over Auburn in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
Seton Hall fell to 9-8, 6-5 in the Big East, falling to No. 3 Villanova (11-1, 6-0) 80-72. The Hall is much better than this and they desperately need a big win, and win all their other games down the stretch to sneak into the tournament.
20 Virginia Tech (13-3, 7-2) will move up after a nice 65-51 upset of 8 Virginia (11-3, 7-1) in Charlottesville.
And 9 Alabama (134-4) fell to 24 Oklahoma (11-4) 66-61 in another SEC/Big 12 matchup.
Finally, Wake Forest won its second ACC contest, now 2-7, 66-54 over Miami yesterday. But the difference between this year and last season under Danny Manning is night and day. Steve Forbes has his kids playing hard every game. And a guy who should be playing high school hoops today, Carter Whitt, who figured out how to enroll early in December, was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field (3-of-3 from three). So things are looking up. There is hope.
--The great John Chaney died Friday at the age of 89. Chaney led Temple for 24 years (1982-2006), missing the NCAAs in his first season, going 14-15, and then making the Big Dance 17 of the next 18, never again having a team finish below .500. He was 516-253 (.671) in the regular season.
Chaney was national coach of the year twice, winning six Atlantic 10 titles in the process. This was the heyday for college basketball, certainly in the East, with the likes of St. John’s and Georgetown constantly in the mix around that same time, and the ACC holding sway.
Tuesday, Chaney had had a Zoom call with the members of the 1987-88 team. As one player noted (he’s an answer to the quiz, so can’t state his name) Friday:
“Since the time I graduated (in 1989), there really hasn’t been one single day that has gone by that I don’t fall back on something that he said, a lesson that he gave us through his lectures, his teaching or his coaching. His impact was just that great.
“The ‘Chaneyisms’ that he would say all the time depending on the situation I still kind of say them to myself now. Kind of we all do. He was certainly a father figure in my life. It’s a tough day for me and for a lot of people.”
With John Chaney, there was also a lot of tough love, beginning with his infamous 5 a.m. practices.
“He coached with lessons and with humor and sometimes negative re-enforcement,” said the player who was on the Owls from 1985-89. “There was positive re-enforcement, too, but we knew who the boss was. At the end of the day when we stepped outside those lines, we knew he loved us. He made it clear.”
Chaney was a battler. He picked unpopular fights, lashing out at NCAA policies he said discriminated against Black athletes. And it could be profane when Chaney let his own sense of justice get the better of him with fiery confrontations that threatened to undermine his role as father figure to scores of his underprivileged players.
Chaney’s successor, Fran Dunphy, said, “He wrapped his arms around you and made you a part of his family.”
Many of his players came to Temple from broken homes, violent upbringings and bad schools. He often said his biggest goal was simply to give poor kids a chance to get an education. He said the SAT was culturally biased and he joined Georgetown’s John Thompson – another giant in the Black coaching community, who died in August – in denouncing NCAA academic requirements that seemed to single out “the youngster who is from a poor, disadvantaged background.”
Chaney’s loud, booming voice could be heard across an arena, and his near-perfect designer clothes were in shambles after most games. That’s what a lot of us will remember. He was a mess by halftime. And he was known for staring down referees.
His retirement news conference in March 2006 wasn’t about hoops but about education’s role in helping the poor and disadvantaged.
But John Chaney never made a Final Four, falling in the regional finals five times. After losing to Michigan State in his last trip to the Elite Eight, his eyes water-filled, his collar torn open, he mused:
“It is something we all dream about, but very often dreams come up short,” he said. “Very often you don’t realize everything. But you have to realize that the growth you see in youngsters like these is probably the highest accomplishment you can reach.”
Chaney was known for taking on anyone when it came to scheduling, traveling to hostile courts to play teams supposedly brimming with superior talent. And often he went out and beat them.
Fran Dunphy observed: “John Chaney was more than just a Hall of Fame Basketball coach. He was a Hall of Famer in life. He touched countless lives, including my own.”
--Matthew Stafford is a Los Angeles Ram, traded for Jared Goff, with the Lions also receiving first-round draft choices in 2022 and 2023 and a third-rounder this year.
I think it’s a great move for the Rams, even though Stafford is 0-3 in the playoffs (Detroit last winning a playoff game in 1991). But Stafford hasn’t had any real talent around him since Calvin Johnson. The Rams, on the other hand, have a great running game, best offensive line, best defense, and the best play caller, head coach Sean McVay, he’s ever had in the NFL.
As for Detroit, GM Brad Holmes has been in the job just two weeks. Stafford had requested a trade.
Trading Goff is going to cost L.A. about a $22 million cap blow – but cutting him would’ve meant an untenable $65 million hit in dead cap dollars. The Lions are scheduled to pick seventh in the first round of this year’s draft and it seemed like the perfect spot to get a quarterback, possibly North Dakota State’s Trey Lance (assuming Zach Wilson and Justin Fields had been already selected). [They still might, and now they have a draft haul in succeeding years. Plus they can jettison Goff after 2022, if I have it right.]
But back to Stafford, now he has to prove he can win big with better players around him.
Meanwhile, Indianapolis is one of the teams that would have been a perfect landing spot for Stafford, so they are back to square one with the retirement of Philip Rivers.
--The Houston Texans tapped David Culley to become their next head coach, a surprising hire that comes with the immediate challenge of having to convince quarterback Deshaun Watson to stay in Houston.
Culley is a 65-year-old football lifer, the last two seasons as an assistant head coach, passing coordinator and wide receivers coach for the Baltimore Ravens.
Culley, who is black, was not publicly viewed as a head-coaching candidate. But Watson seems determined to get himself traded, with the Jets supposedly at the top of his list.
--I have to admit I’m a sucker for mock drafts when my team has the No. 2 overall pick, and so I noted with interest Nate Davis’ draft lineup in USA TODAY, which had the Jets taking OT Penei Sewell (Oregon). This would mean they stick with Sam Darnold (if they don’t acquire Watson), but more than one or two Jets fans I know would like this move.
As Davis notes, GM Joe Douglas is a proponent of building his team from the inside out and everyone agrees Sewell is going to be great and he could pair with LT Mekhi Becton, who had a solid rookie season. There are a lot of wide receivers in this draft and the Jets, who also have the 23rd pick, could pick one up at that slot.
The thing is, if you keep Darnold one more year and try and finally give him some weapons, plus protection, do you take Sewell or DeVonta Smith?
But, again, we have lots of time, boys and girls, though this is going to be a huge, potentially make or break decision for the next 5+ years.
One guy who is going to make someone very happy is Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. Giants fans are salivating over the prospects of selecting him, but at No. 11, no way Pitts is still available. Nate Davis has Cincinnati taking him at No. 5.
--Two college football notes. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald agreed to a new 10-year contract that stretches through the 2030 season. He is the winningest coach in team history, with a 106-81 record in 15 seasons, including two 10-win campaigns since 2015.
Fitzgerald, a former star linebacker at Northwestern, has been wooed by bigger programs as well as the NFL and has consistently said he was content where he was. Smart move.
Secondly, Tennessee hired Josh Heupel as its next coach; Heupel having led UCF to a 28-8 record in three seasons. He replaces Jeremy Pruitt, who was fired for cause on Jan. 18 amid an internal investigation into alleged recruiting violations.
--The New York Mets’ new owner, Steve Cohen, was an instant hit with the fans, a breath of fresh air, and a giant pocketbook, promising to aggressively pursue a winner. He could do no wrong, he was our Uncle Stevie.
But he made his fortune as a hedge fund titan and he found himself enmeshed in the GameStop situation. When it became known he was part of a bailout of a key firm in the trading debacle, Cohen, who had ingratiated himself with the fans through his Twitter handle, wrote some things that didn’t sit well with his followers, including WFAN morning host Boomer Esiason. Suddenly, with good reason, Mets fans were wondering if they were about to go through another Bernie Madoff disaster, which severely hampered prior Mets management, the Wilpon family.
Esiason, like the rest of us, just wants to be sure our new owner didn’t just take a bath amid the market chaos and he was upset that Cohen was calling the Reddit WallStreetBets people “ ‘stock jockeys’ and taking shots at them like he knows what’s going on because he’s sitting in this hedge fund king chair making all these decisions.
“I hate that. That’s why, I told you this morning when I came in, I said, ‘You know what? I swear to God, I’m not going to go to another Met game until I find out exactly what’s going on here.’ This actually makes me sick to my stomach.”
Well Cohen then deleted his Twitter account, saying he was taking a “break” after receiving personal threats this week.
“I’ve really enjoyed the back and forth with Mets fans on Twitter which was unfortunately overtaken this week by misinformation unrelated to the Mets that led to our family getting personal threats,” Cohen said in a statement Saturday after deactivating his account Friday night. “So I’m going to take a break for now. We have other ways to listen to your suggestions and remain committed to doing that. I love our team, this community, and our fans, who are the best in baseball. Bottom line is that this week’s events in no way affect our resources and drive to put a championship team on the field.”
So we’ll see what happens this week in the market, as no doubt the press will be scouring Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management and others of its ilk for serious problems with the finances.
Today, the Wall Street Journal is reporting Point72 lost roughly 15% in January. If that’s where the damage stops, that’s OK, but in that other column I do, this coming week I’ll talk about the impact the market turmoil has had on the hedge fund industry in general, as in, what is its future? And therein may lie a bigger issue for the likes of Uncle Stevie.
--The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed on a trade with Colorado for All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado. There are some contract issues to iron out before the deal is official, like extending Arenado’s opt-out clause following the 2021 season, which would be moved to 2022 for waiving his no-trade clause.
The Rockies would also send at least $50 million to the Cards to cover part of the $199 million Arenado is owed over the next six years, while St. Louis would send Colorado multiple prospects.
With all the money changing hands, both MLB and the players’ union need to approve.
But assuming it gets done, the Cardinals are acquiring a guy who averaged 40 home runs and 124 RBI with a .300 average from 2015-19.
Arenado makes $35 million in 2021, after signing an eight-year, $260 million extension with Colorado before the 2019 season.
--The Cubs signed former Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson to a one-year, $7 million contract. The 28-year-old left-handed power hitter has four seasons of 25+ home runs, including a career-high 36 in 2019, but he also has just a .230 career batting average…feast or famine for the dude.
But the Cubs have now replaced a similar player, Kyle Schwarber, who they non-tendered, after which he signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Nationals.
Actually, it’s pretty amazing. Schwarber had 38 home runs in 2019 and also has a .230 career average. Pederson, though, is a far superior fielder.
--Yankees GM Brian Cashman, in a Zoom presser the other day, said spring training was starting on time and he would know.
And Cashman is now praying that his gambling on the health of pitchers Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon pays off because otherwise the starting rotation will be a shambles. Any possibility that free-agent Masahiro Tanaka might sign for another year went out the window when Tanaka announced he is returning to Japan to pitch for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Nippon Professional Baseball League.
Tanaka wrote on Twitter that he “wanted to make sure and touch base with (the fans), and thank you for all the love and support you have given me for the past 7 seasons.
“I feel extremely fortunate for having the opportunity to take the field as a member of the New York Yankees, and play in front of all you passionate fans. It has been an honor and a privilege! Thank you so much!!”
Tanaka gave the Yankees all he had….going a sterling 78-46, with a solid 3.74 ERA. He was also quality in the postseason, 5-4, 3.33.
--Fallout from the Baseball Hall of Fame vote continues. Curt Schilling, who received 71% and not the 75% required, said he wanted to be removed from the ballot in 2022 – his 10th and last year of consideration by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Schilling wrote on Facebook: “The media has created a Curt Schilling that does not and has never existed,” expressing disgust that his borderline Hall case is seemingly in the same category as likely steroid users Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who will also appear a final time on the ballot in 2022.
But the BBWAA said in a statement Wednesday that removing Schilling from the ballot now would violate the bylaws set by the BBWAA and Hall, since Schilling has easily received more than the 5% necessary to remain on the ballot.
Schilling was fired from his job as an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball analyst in 2016 after re-posting a transphobic meme online, has expressed support for the lynching of journalists and, most recently, loudly endorsing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Ken Davidoff / New York Post
“Tuesday could’ve been written off as a mulligan for baseball, an undesired result paired with a desirable outcome.
“And then Curt Schilling had to open up his big, fat, bigoted mouth once again.
“So now the Baseball Hall of Fame must cope with this unusual, if not altogether unprecedented, situation: The top vote-getter on its 2021 writers’ ballot – 71.1 percent, 16 yeses away from immortality – wants off of next year’s slate on the account of his contempt for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
“His request shouldn’t be granted. Because the Hall of Fame isn’t about one snowflake’s hurt feelings. It’s about the game itself and the fans who support it.
“Look, I’d like to see Schilling in the Hall. I’ve voted for him each of his nine years on the ballot because of his stellar pitching performance from 1988 through 2007…
“As he moved further away from his playing career, though, and after his plan to become a gaming tycoon imploded, Schilling, always outspoken, pumped up the volume on his commentary on just about everything. And while I disagree with my fellow BBWAA members who used this transformation as reason to keep Schilling out of Cooperstown, that hardly converts to sympathy for his case.
“For when you spread hate, you pay a price. Once more, with feeling: There’s nothing ‘conservative’ about mocking trans people, or challenging a black ballplayer’s account of getting taunted with racial slurs, or going after Muslims. Or supporting the Capitol insurrection, which actually occurred after this year’s ballots were completed. All that falls in line with the toxicity and dishonesty that brought this country to the precipice of disaster.
“In his lengthy, self-pitying Facebook post, Schilling wrote, ‘[T]he media has created a Curt Schilling that does not and has never existed. It’s one of the things that has allowed me to sleep at night.’ That accusation probably would hold more validity if, you know, Schilling could claim to be misquoted. Alas, you can’t be misquoted on your own tweets.”
Bob Klapisch / NJ.com
“There’s one question I’d like to ask Curt Schilling today: Why did he wait until his ninth year of eligibility in the Hall of Fame voting to decide the process was corrupt? Why not bolt in Year One? Is it because the results didn’t go his way on Tuesday? Schilling came within 16 votes of Cooperstown but suddenly decided the election was unworthy of him. It was a bad look, impulsive and childish.
“Please, sir, get over yourself. I voted for you. So did many writers who a) disagree with your politics; b) were appalled by your ‘joke’ about lynching reporters; and c) were willing to ignore all the polarizing things you’ve said over the years. They, like me, believe entry to the Hall should be determined strictly by achievements and conduct on the field.
“We share a common belief that boycotting Schilling is a slippery slope – dangerous in that once the ‘cleansing’ of the Hall begins, it’ll never stop. You can find racists (Ty Cobb) and accused wife beaters (Kirby Puckett), an alleged child molester and plenty of PED users. There’s even a former commissioner who helped the owners collude against the players in the ‘80s. (We’re looking at you, Bud Selig.)
“So, Schilling should do himself a favor and rein in the self-pity. The writers whom he called ‘cowards’ on Facebook on Tuesday night actually made him the top vote-getter on this year’s ballot. There was never a conspiracy against him. Schilling has – or had – a good chance to make it in 2022, if only he could stay off social media. But it’s probably too late for that.
“Schilling likely has lost the support of those who were on the fence about his post-retirement behavior – especially in supporting the Capitol rioters. And Schilling further damaged his legacy by asking the Hall of Fame executive committee to take his name off the ballot next time around.
“Even those who separate Schilling’s career from his right-wing views might have had enough. Chances are the Hall will keep him on the ballot anyway – it’s not his call – but I predict a chunk of his former supporters will turn against him.”
Dan Shaughnessy / Boston Globe
“Cooperstown certainly didn’t need a Schilling sideshow. The Hall has taken a beating over the last 10 months. Ten legends have died since April, a full 12.2 percent of all living Hall of Famers….
“The regal (Derek) Jeter figures to carry the weekend, and it’s a blessing that none of the 2020 honorees will be forced to endure the noise and distraction that likely would have accompanied Schilling. I mean, did we really need a news conference Tuesday night in which Schilling would have been asked if he still supported the insurrection at our nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6?
“The night of that riot…Schilling tweeted, ‘You cowards sat on your hands, did nothing while liberal trash looted rioted and burned for air Jordan’s and big screens. Sit back, STFU and watch folks start a confrontation for s—t that matters like rights, democracy and the end of govt corruption. #itshappening.’….
“This is not about ‘politics.’ Mariano Rivera is a big Trump guy and was elected unanimously in 2019. George Brett loves Trump, and we all love George Brett. Schilling’s public platforms are on another level. He’s the guy who posted a tweet equating Muslim extremists with Nazis, used social media to denigrate the LGBTQ community, and commented in a tweet that a T-shirt recommending lynching journalists was ‘awesome.’ He also called Adam Jones a liar when Jones said he was subjected to racial epithets at Fenway – a claim validated by the Red Sox organization and Red Sox players. Need we get into Schill’s Nazi memorabilia collection or the $75 million he took from Rhode Island for his failed gaming company?
“Falling short of making the Hall of Fame does not erase a player’s numbers. But Cooperstown is an honor. Do you want to honor this? Not me, thanks….
“Ten years ago in Cooperstown, Tom Seaver told longtime New York Daily News baseball scribe Bill Madden, ‘Keep sending us class acts.’
“Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons, and the family of the late Marvin Miller are on their way. Class acts, one and all.”
--Patrick Reed is in the spotlight again for all the wrong reasons. Reed insisted he made a “textbook” call and felt “great” after being involved in another rules controversy at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Reed benefitted from a controversial ruling on the par-4 10th at Torrey Pines when he hit a 190-yard shot out of a bunker, with a TV replay showing the ball bounced once before settling into the rough.
Believing the ball did not bounce, Reed picked it up to see if it was embedded before a rules official arrived and without asking his playing partners to look for a second opinion.
The Ryder Cup star, who was penalized two strokes for appearing to deliberately improve his lie in a bunker at the Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge in December 2019, was awarded a free drop and saved par.
“The ball just disappeared. None of us saw it bounce,” Reed told The Golf Channel, adding that a nearby volunteer also said that it did not bounce.
“I looked at my group and said, ‘Guys, she didn’t see it bounce, either, so I’m going to mark this ball and see if it’s embedded.’ Once I marked it, the first thing I wanted to do was make sure I got the ball out of my hand because you don’t want to clean it or anything because you don’t know if it’s embedded yet.
“When I put my finger down there and felt like it has broken ground, the first thing you do is call the rules official. The rules official said, Yes, there’s a lip there, it definitely broke the plane.’ It’s an embedded ball, you get a club length and take a drop, and at that point we did exactly what we were supposed to do.”
Reed said he was later approached by the rules official after completing his round and that the official said, “I just want to let you know what you’ve done here in the whole procedure was textbook, it was perfect.”
Reed said: “If someone had seen the video or saw the ball bounce obviously I wouldn’t have marked the ball or attempted to ask for embedded ball.”
Rules official John Mutch said Reed acted within the rules after being told that his ball did not bounce.
CBS’ Nick Faldo said he’s never seen a ball embed that bounced once.
So the above was all from Saturday. Today, the CBS crew opened with the controversy, and I’m sorry, Reed clearly cheated in messing with the ball and, more importantly, the ground, before he told his playing partners and waved for an official. Nick and Ian Baker-Finch certainly agreed.
But today, Reed fired a 68, won by five, his ninth PGA Tour title, and all I have to say is, thank God we have Patrick Reed! Hell, we all agree, he makes things more interesting. More on this aspect next Bar Chat. Johnny Mac, I’ll be contacting you on this.
Congrats to Wake Forest’s Will Zalatoris for his T7 finish. And Wake’s Bill Haas finally made a cut, after missing 5 of 6. My man is just 38, but he’s never been the same since the tragedy at Riviera. I’m pulling for him to find the formula again.
--The Wall Street Journal had a story on the state of the game of golf and how for 2020, while the final figures aren’t in, rounds played was up solidly, despite being down 8.5% in March and 42% in April thanks to the lockdown.
Back in 2016, the National Golf Foundation reported that in its survey, a quarter of public golf courses said they were in “poor” or “very poor” financial condition – slightly worse than in the aftermath of the 2008-09 financial crisis. By last year, only 8% of public courses reported similar conditions. The proportion reporting that they were in “good” or “great” shape had doubled.
The Journal notes that between 2003 and 2017 the number of U.S. on-course players fell to fewer than 24 million, from nearly 31 million. That led to the likes of Nike and Adidas either exiting the golf business or selling off some brands.
But equipment sales began to rebound soon after and in 2019, the number of first-time U.S. players hit a new record of 2.5 million, besting the 2.4 million set in 2000 when Tiger Woods was the story.
Last year, all the golf equipment and apparel makers, such as Acushnet Holdings (Titleist, Footjoy) or Dick’s Sporting Goods (Golf Galaxy) far exceeded the performance of the S&P.
So with these Covid variants around, and knowing mass gatherings, 100% indoor dining, aren’t returning soon, golf should continue to rock. [No way we’re going through a total national shutdown again, regardless of whether we’re all dropping dead in the streets.]
Well, so much for my Tottenham lads and a shot at the title. Thursday, they lost to Liverpool 3-1, and then today, an inexplicable 1-0 loss to Brighton. Bye-bye, Spurs.
In other weekend games, Manchester United had a bad 0-0 draw with Arsenal, while first-place Man City continued its torrid streak, 1-0 over Sheffield.
Newcastle beat Everton 2-0, Chelsea had a big 2-0 win over Burnley in Thomas Tuchel’s debut at the helm.
Leeds beat Leicester 3-1, and Liverpool won another, 3-1 over West Ham.
So the standings….Played…Points
1. Man City…20 – 44
2. Man U…21 – 41
3. Liverpool…21 – 40
4. Leicester…21 – 39
5. West Ham…21 – 35
6. Tottenham…20 – 33
7. Chelsea…21 – 33
8. Everton…19 – 33
10. Arsenal…21 – 31
I’ve written a number of articles on this great American hero in the past, and any time I visit Arlington National Cemetery I make sure to pay my respects at his gravesite.
So last Jan. 26 was the anniversary of the day that would earn Murphy his Medal of Honor. I thus reprise one of my old pieces on him.
In the July 6 / July 13 issue of The Weekly Standard, there is a review by Michael Dirda of a new book by David A. Smith titled “The Price of Valor: The Life of Audie Murphy, America’s Most Decorated Hero of World War II.”
As Michael Dirda writes, Murphy grew up in Hunt County, Texas, “one of many children of a feckless alcoholic father and a worn-out mother. Forced to quit school after the fifth grade, he learned to shoot partly to put food on the family table...Once the United States entered World War II, Murphy tried to enlist in the Marines, but they wouldn’t have him. He was just five-feet-five-inches tall and weighed all of 112 pounds. Lying about his age – he was only 17 – Murphy finally managed to join the Army.”
Murphy killed his first man in Sicily, actually, two. He later recalled in his bestselling autobiography To Hell and Back (1949), “I feel no qualms; no pride, no remorse. There is only a weary indifference that will follow me through the war.”
He was in combat 20 months and ultimately killed at least 240 enemy soldiers. That’s a real number, folks.
Murphy talked of being cool in battle, “things seem to slow down for me....Things become very clarified.”
But then his closest friend, Lattie Tipton, is shot by a sniper and Murphy goes on a rampage. As Smith writes:
“He counterattacked like a berserker, bursting from his foxhole firing his carbine. He killed the two Germans who had been shooting at him, grabbed their machine gun, and ‘holding it like a (Browning Automatic Rifle) for firing from the hip,’ Murphy found the gun crew that had killed Tipton and raked them with fire. ‘I remember the experience as I do a nightmare. A demon seems to have entered my body’ – a demon that led him to clean out the entire hill of Germans. When the stress finally passed and the rush of adrenaline left his body, his hands began to tremble and he sank to the ground exhausted.”
Michael Dirda: “He received the Distinguished Service Cross and would be wounded three times, earning a Purple Heart with two oak clusters. He once nearly died when gangrene set into his wounds, but he always survived to fight again....
“On January 26, 1945, near the small village of Holtzwihr, France, Second Lieutenant Murphy and his men were attacked by six German Tiger tanks supported by around 250 infantry in white winter gear. In short order, the Americans’ two tank destroyers were hit and disabled. Murphy then ordered his men to withdraw, while he stayed on to direct an artillery barrage. The Germans, however, kept on coming, ‘as though nothing would stop them.’ Smith then describes what was, to my young self, the most thrilling moment of the autobiographical movie [To Hell and Back]:
“Murphy scrambled back to the .50 caliber machine gun mounted atop the burning tank-destroyer to his rear. He did not know if the gun was still operable, but it was now the only chance he had to slow down the Germans. He dragged the phone over to it and climbed on top. The body of the lieutenant was half in and half out of the turret, his blood running down the side.”
The .50 caliber still worked.
“When he squeezed the trigger ‘the chatter of the gun is like sweet music. Three krauts stagger and crumple in the snow.’ He swept the gun across the field of fire, peering through the swirling smoke searching for more targets. He ‘killed them in the draws, in the meadows, in the woods – wherever he saw them,’ one eyewitness said later. Murphy knew that the German tanks would break off their advance if they had no infantry to accompany them, so he tried to take out as many soldiers as he could. The artillery phone continued to ring. ‘How close are they to your position?’ came the frantic voice. ‘Just hold the phone and I’ll let you talk to one of the bastards,’ Murphy shouted back, a retort that would soon become famous.”
As David Smith writes: “Those who were witnesses to Audie Murphy’s feat were incredulous at what had transpired. Some could barely believe what they had seen....It was, said a lieutenant who was one of the forward artillery observers, ‘the bravest thing I’ve ever seen a man do in combat.’”
Soon afterward, Audie Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor – one of 24 different medals, many of which he later gave to small children.
When he returned home, Murphy was celebrated as a great warrior, a great American. Life featured him on its cover, where he caught the eye of James Cagney, who had recently started his own film company.
Soon, Murphy was playing bit parts, like in John Huston’s The Red Badge of Courage (1951) and he ended up making about 50 movies in a career spanning 23 years. He wasn’t a great actor, but as Smith writes at the peak of his popularity he “received more fan mail than almost any other actor.”
But he had issues. Michael Dirda mentions some of them and I’m not going to parrot these, except to say that, tellingly, he always carried a gun, which he kept under his pillow at night. “He would frequently wake up screaming, reliving in his dreams the deaths of his buddies and the horrors of war,” writes Dirda.
David McClure, the coauthor of To Hell and Back, knew about his friend’s demons: “It is generally assumed that Audie easily readjusted to civilian life, making a fortune as a movie star, and living relatively happily ever after. Almost the reverse is true. Let us hope that God did forgive him. His battered nervous system never did.”
As Michael Dirda adds, “It’s clear now that he suffered deeply from post-traumatic stress disorder: ‘There was always,’ Smith says, ‘a profound melancholy just under his surface along with a fatalism that was completely at odds with his image.’”
In 1971, facing financial ruin, though hoping for a comeback, Murphy died in a small plane crash in Virginia, a month short of his 46th birthday.
So next time you go to Arlington and stop by Audie Murphy’s grave, remember not only his incredible bravery, but his suffering after. Maybe some of you will be inspired to help some of our current Vets. I imagine Audie Murphy would like that.
--The Australian Open begins Feb. 8 and I’m a little surprised organizers are allowing up to 30,000 spectators a day, about half of normal attendance. The spectators will only be allowed to travel within one of three zones at Melbourne Park for social distancing reasons. They actually could increase capacity the final week.
72 players have endured a hard 14-day lockdown after traveling to Australia for the event.
--Shu passed along some great news. The Arizona Game and Fish Department shared a Facebook post on Thursday of two wild cats that have been seen in various mountain regions for over four years. A Jaguar, with 45 documented events since Nov. 2016, and an ocelot that has been seen in the same area since 2012 with 94 reported events. Very cool.
--And New York’s Central Park was visited by a Snowy Owl this week, the first such sighting in the park since, get this, 1890!
The Arctic birds fly south in the winter, looking for better hunting conditions, and normally hug the coasts, where they are frequently spotted. They like flat lands and beaches, so one expert said that perhaps Central Park’s North Meadow, with sand-filled fields, appealed to our visitor. But how did the bird even know to look there? Who told him?
Alas, the owl was with us just a day before it headed further south.
--We received some bad news this week when it comes to the world’s shark population, which has declined by an “alarming” 71% since 1970, according to a study published Wednesday in the British journal Nature.
“The last 50 years have been pretty devastating for global shark populations,” said Nathan Pacoureau, a biologist at Simon Fraser University in Canada and a co-author of the study.
“We document an alarming, ongoing, worldwide decline in oceanic shark populations across the world’s largest ecosystem over the past half-century, resulting in an unprecedented increase in the risk of extinction of these species,” the authors wrote.
The study also looked at rays and of the 31 oceanic species of sharks and rays analyzed, 24 are threatened with extinction.
Three species of shark (the oceanic whitetip, the scalloped hammerhead and the great hammerhead) have declined so sharply that they are classified as critically endangered.
The number of fishing vessels trolling the open ocean has risen steeply since the 1950s as engine power expanded ships’ range. Increased fishing pressure is the greatest threat for every oceanic shark species.
While sharks are sometimes intentionally caught by fishing fleets, more often they are reeled in incidentally as “bycatch” in the course of fishing for other species such as tuna and swordfish.
--We note the passing of an original member of The Animals, guitarist Hilton Valentine, 77. No cause of death was revealed.
The group was founded in Newcastle, England in 1958, with Valentine, Eric Burdon, and Bryan “Chas” Chandler, along with two others who left in 1965 and ’66, Alan Price and John Steel.
The Animals rocketed to stardom as part of the British Invasion in 1964 with the #1 “The House of the Rising Sun,” which is actually not in my top three of this super group.
Nope, I think the trio – “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (#15 1965), “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” (#13 ’65), and “It’s My Life” (#23 ’65) – are as good as any threesome by a group of that era. Heck, “It’s My Life” has one of the 3 or 4 great openings of any rock song*, period (thank you, Mr. Valentine and Co.). Can’t believe it only got to #23 on the Billboard Pop Chart.
*#1, hands down, is Junior Walker & The All Stars’ “What Does It Take.”
Valentine was responsible for the mesmerizing riffs, including his most famous one, while Burdon was the booming baritone.
As Burdon wrote on Instagram Friday: “The opening opus of ‘Rising Sun’ will never sound the same!...You didn’t just play it, you lived it!...Heartbroken by the sudden news of Hilton’s passing. We had great times together…Rock in Peace.”
In a 2006 interview with Modern Guitars magazine, Valentine said, “What drew me to the guitar was seeing (Scottish folk artist) Lonnie Donegan doing ‘Rock Island Line’ on television, on a show called ‘The Six Five Special.’ I wanted to play guitar after seeing that, and of course, after hearing Chuck Berry and seeing him do the duck walk.”
[I’ve played “It’s My Life” on YouTube three times now…make that seven…]
Top 3 songs for the week 2/5/72: #1 “American Pie – Parts I & II” (Don McLean…you wouldn’t believe how popular this song is in Ireland’s pubs) #2 “Let’s Stay Together” (Al Green) #3 “Brand New Key” (Melanie)…and…#4 “Day After Day” (Badfinger) #5 “Without You” (Nilsson) #6 “Never Been To Spain” (Three Dog Night) #7 “Sunshine” (Jonathan Edwards) #8 “Precious And Few” (Climax) #9 “Hurting Each Other” (Carpenters) #10 “Joy” (Apollo 100 featuring Tom Parker)
Temple Hoops Quiz Answer: Starting five for the 1987-88 Temple Owls…Freshman All-American Mark Macon (20.6 ppg), Mike Vreeswyk (16.6), Tim Perry (14.5), Harold Evans (11.1), Ramon Rivas (6.8). The top reserve was Duane Causwell.
This classic Owls edition was also a typical Chaney team in terms of taking on all comers. They were 18-0 in the A-10, with the lone loss in the regular season coming at then-No. 8 UNLV, 59-58. Temple also beat No. 5 North Carolina, 83-66, both games on Sunday, as in major games of the week for television.
The Owls entered the NCAA tournament with the No. 1 seed, having been No. 1 in the country for nine weeks – the only time in school history they held the top spot – but Temple lost to Duke in the regional finals in the Meadowlands, 63-53.
Next Bar Chat, Tuesday PM…how much snow will we get? The latest forecast for my area is 18-24 inches. As we say in the ‘hood, “That blows.”