Week of July 14, 2014

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Summiting Everest: Money is a deadly thing.  

An examination of the world of Everest sherpas on. Everest had its most tragic day this year (16 sherpas died in a avalanche of massive proportion, even for Everest), which threatened to shut down the industry for the season. The entire culture up there at high base camp, with expeditions costing as much as $100K, and the sherpas earning relatively little, has created a precarious situation for such a high risk adventure. – PAL

Source: “Climbers Leave Everest Amid Regrets and Tensions Among Sherpas”, Bhadra Sharma & Ellen Barry, The New York Times (4/24/14)

Supplemental – A trailer for an excellent documentary I saw earlier this year about the growing tension: http://vimeo.com/78597417


Back to Back to Back to…Gone?

If you’re a sports fan, you’re familiar with Tom Emanski and his instructional baseball videos. “Back to back to back AAU National Champions!” The throw from center into the trashcan at home plate. And, of course, Fred McGriff, in a goofy hat, lending his endorsement. I must have seen those commercials a thousand times. The images, and the name, are burned in my memory. But I knew nothing about Tom Emanski, the man. Where’d he come from? How did he get into the business? How DID he get a big league slugger like Fred McGriff to make a fool of himself in a commercial (I was a bit surprised on that one)? And more importantly – where is he now? Fox Sports kicked off its Grantland competitor, “Just a Bit Outside”, this week with a bang – including this fascinating read. -TOB

Source: “Pitchman: How Tom Emanski Changed the Sport of Baseball – and Then Disappeared”, Erik Malinowski, Just a Bit Outside (07/17/14)

Note: There are some of you who might not know about Tom Emanski, but there is a large chunk of us (20-32 years-old), that have these instructional video commercials burned into our being. Yet another example of how nerds rule the world. Bonus: I never noticed that the iconic throw from the outfield into the garbage can bounces THREE times, and once on the mound..couldn’t they have used a kid with a better arm for this? – PAL


Home.

As we all know, LeBron announced his return to Cleveland last Friday in a well-written piece for Sports Illustrated. Since then, far too many words have been written about his decision. I read a lot of them, so you didn’t have to. This was my favorite. -TOB

Source: “The Long Game”, Seerat Sohi, Sports on Earth (07/14/14)

Note: 1) This notion that an athlete owes anything to a place is absurd. LeBron didn’t owe Cleveland/Ohio anything when he left, and he didn’t owe them anything when he considered the eventual return. Let’s say this mega-hyped high schooler is a bust – would the Cleveland Cavaliers owe him a second contract because LeBron is from Ohio? 2) I’ll buy a beer for any 1-2-3 Sports! follower who can make a legit argument that any athlete in the past 25 years had more power than LeBron James has now with the Cavaliers (yes, including Jordan). David Griffin, the GM of the Cavs (hired on May 14) may as well have “Assistant to the Traveling Secretary” on his business cards. – PAL


Deion Sanders’ charter “schools” were a mess from the beginning.

You ever heard of Emmanuel Mudiay? Probably not, but he’s listed as one of  the best (if not the best) high school basketball prospects from the 2014 class. He’s not going to Kentucky. He’s not going to Duke. He’s not going to UNC. He’s going to Europe, and he’s going because his high school was a joke (through little fault of his own). Deion Sanders’ Prime Prep schools were a disorganized mess intended on bringing in the best athletes from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. The only problem – aside from some shady financial records – is that the school failed to comply with Texas Education Codes. In other words, the athletes the school recruited are unlikely to be eligible for college athletics. And that’s why Emmanuel Mudiay is going to Europe to play ball. Great work with the kids, Deion. – PAL

Source: “Deion Sanders’s Disaster Of A School Is Being Shut Down”, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (7/16/14)


Chuck Taylor: International Man of Mystery

Like the aforementioned Tom Emanski story, this is another story about a guy with a familiar name, but not a very familiar story. This story (available in text and audio) is about Chuck Taylor, whose signature shoe, the Converse All-Star, has remained fashionable over many generations. -TOB

Source: “Meet Chuck Taylor: The Man Behind the All-Star”, Doug Tribou, Only a Game (07/12/14, originally aired/posted 11/02/13)

Note: Favorite factoid from this story: Nike acquired Converse in 2003 and sold 2 million pairs of the Chuck Taylor All-Stars. The 2011 figure: 70 million. Nike knows how to market shoes. – PAL


123 Q&A

Q: “It looks like there’s some sort of movement for the San Francisco Giants to retire Will Clark’s number. Believe me, I love Will Clark more than any player ever, but for some reason it’s not a no-brainer for me. He was really good with some strokes of greatness, but should teams retire players’ numbers just because we really liked them?” – Thrilled by Will, aka R. Rowe, San Francisco

A (TOB): Excellent question, Thrilled. Will Clark was an instant fan favorite in San Francisco. On the first at-bat of his career, he a hit a home run off in-his-prime Nolan Ryan. Before I dig deeper into his career, let me say this – my impression of Will is that he’s not a Hall-of-Famer, and Baseball Reference’s Hall of Fame Predictor backs that up – but he was actually better than I thought. I thought that Will Clark’s career started out with a bang, and petered out a bit after he left San Francisco. A look at the numbers, though, shows something a little different.

Clark was a career .303 hitter over 15 seasons. The bulk of those were with the Giants and Rangers. In eight seasons with the Giants, he hit .299/.373/.499. In five seasons with the Ranger, he hit .308/.395/.485. Not a significant difference (and his slugging took a little dip) – but it does show some bias on my part. Once he left the Giants, he was more or less out of my consciousness, but actually got a smidge better, and he was actually an incredibly consistent hitter throughout his career. Unfortunately for Will, the middle of his career coincided with the earnest beginning of the Steroid Era – and while Will’s numbers were still very good, they didn’t look as good in an era of bloated offense. To illustrate that – Will made five All-Star teams and finished in the top five of MVP voting four times (including a second place finish) in his eight seasons in San Francisco. After leaving San Francisco, though, he made one All-Star team and never again finished in the MVP top ten, despite having basically the same numbers he had in San Francisco.

Does his remarkable consistency, over a long period of time, give him some boost? Probably. But while that might make him closer to a Hall-of-Famer than I thought, we can’t really look at his time after leaving San Francisco to determine whether the Giants should retire his number.

As noted above, his resume with the Giants is even better than I thought – the four top five MVP finishes is pretty fantastic. The relatively short tenure is troublesome. However, there is some precedent. The Giants retired Monte Irvin’s number (he played just seven of his eight major league seasons with the Giants, all in New York), Orlando Cepeda’s number (he played just nine of his sixteen career seasons with the Giants), and Gaylord Perry’s number (he played just ten of his career twenty-two career seasons with the Giants). Of course, all three of those guys are Hall-of-Famers (despite just eight major league seasons, Irvin played many outstanding years in the Negro Leagues before breaking into the majors).

When I first read your question, my gut reaction was that Will’s number should not be retired. After checking out his numbers, though, and comparing his short tenure with the Giants to other Giants players who have had their numbers retired, I am leaning toward yes.

But there’s one last aspect to this – from all accounts, Will Clark was a dick. And I think that counts, especially in a close case. A few weeks ago, we linked to a first hand account, from a former batboy for the San Diego Padres, about how great Tony Gwynn was. Buried in that story was an anecdote about Will Clark – one day, one of the batboys was wearing an earring, and Will Clark walked by during batting practice and sneered, “Nice earring, f-ggot.” Yikes. If this were a one-off story, it’d be easy to ignore. But it’s not the first time I’ve heard that Will Clark was a less than stellar guy. I interned right after college at KNBR – and an old-timer there told me that Will Clark was racist, and that his racism caused major issues between Will and Barry Bonds in their lone season together on the Giants, which is one of the reasons why the Giants let Will walk.

How does his reportedly less than stellar character play into whether or not the Giants should retire his number? I think it should quite a bit – and in an otherwise very close call, his character issues tip the scales against retiring his number, in my opinion. But if I had to guess, I’d say the Giants will eventually do it. After all, they’ve already welcomed Will back as a team “Ambassador” – essentially he gets paid to hang around the ballpark and greet fans. I’m guessing the retired number is next.

PAL: First of all, what is this – Dear Abby? “Excellent question, Thrilled?” And this dude referred to himself as “Thrilled by Will”…What has happened to this post? Retiring a number doesn’t have to be about numbers and a HOF career. This is why I love this question. Tommy is much better and analyzing the numbers of players than I am, and he’s almost won more than a few debates based off of the numbers. But a retired number is about the relationship between a player and place. It’s gut instinct informed by a casserole of factors. You have an immediate reaction when I ask whether or not Clark’s number should be retired, and in that reaction lies your answer. This is one of those instance where your first instinct is right.

As a Minnesota guy, I know Kent Hrbek is not a Hall of Fame player (less than 300 HRs, career average in the .280’s), but there’s no doubt in my mind #14 is rightfully retired. Untangling all the factors as to why or why not leads you further and further away from the answer: because he was one of our guys. Baseball can be so objective these days…isn’t it nice for something just to remain a feeling?


Video of the Week


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“Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger…and one large fry.”

– Tim Fisher (inspired by SNL)

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