Lockdown Dailies #2: Greatest game you played in

Editor’s Note: A version of this story originally appeared on the author’s personal blog in 2009.

One night, during law school, I went to the gym looking for some pickup with the undergrads. I played about four games, and was ready to head home.

As I was walking off the court I saw a guy from my Law School League basketball team (Yeah, it was a law school-only intramural league. Law school is small, and the basketball talent is slim, but we managed to stockpile all the good players on one team. In three years, we lost zero games). He told me some of the guys from my law school team had an intramural game in an undergrad league starting in a few minutes, and they could use me. I was pretty tired and a bit worried about a knee injury I was just easing back from, but I gave it a shot. 

We had a very good team (I was maybe the 8th best of 9 guys), but so were the undergrads. We were down 50-44 with about 45 seconds left and we started fouling. They missed their free throws and we managed to tie it up at 54. We had a decent final shot for the win, but it was no good. In overtime, we were up 3. We got hosed on a horse shit call, and then they hit a 3 to tie. 

We went to double overtime, and we were down 1 with 2.8 seconds left. We called timeout, but we still had to inbound the ball full court. And then, essentially, this happened.

I’m not kidding. We (well, I was on the bench) threw it the length of the floor and somehow my teammate Chris caught it on the right wing. He took a couple dribbles toward the baseline, shot it from behind the backboard over 2 guys, and buried it, as the buzzer sounded.

The shot itself was kind of like this.

It was god damn incredible. And don’t think for one second that I didn’t run around like Thomas Hill after that Laettner shot when it happened. Well, less crying and disbelief; more whooping and mobbing. I would pay $100 to see the whole thing on video. 

Post Script: Just because these commercials were awesome…

 

When I first wrote this story, back in 2009, my friend Senthil pointed out that as amazing as this game was it does not surpass the time I tackled a guy and ended the game with a bench clearing brawl. But that is a story for another day… -TOB

PAL: Your memory is bonkers, TOB. Are you the LeBron of your field? Can you recount trials in perfect sequence? 

First the defendant told us about his usual morning. Eggs with chorizo and spinach. Cheese: Jack. Coffee – medium roast with half-and-half. Morning news – 4 tabs on the laptop: SF Chronicle, ESPN, 1-2-3 Sports!, CNN. Only after his coffee did he threaten his tenants with eviction via SMS text for the fourth time February, 2018.  

A few games stand out, but I don’t remember the exact sequences. Some highlights:

  • Little League: My brother and brother-in-law coached a rival to my team, and they beat us in a close one. I made the final out as my brother, leaning on years of experience pitching to me in the garage, openly instructed his star pitcher where and where not to pitch me for everyone to hear.
  • A few years later, same brother and brother-in-law were now coaching my team. Jay, my in-law, kicked off his bachelor party with our game. All of his and my sister’s friends, joined by the team parents – tailgated before and during the game (apparently Roseville had very loose restriction on beer around youth sports). The fans basically partied and this youth game between Roseville and Mahtomedi served the backdrop, like a game on the tube at the bar. Game came down to the last at-bat, and I hit a walk-off single. The 50 fans (a big turnout for a 13 year-old regular season game) went bonkers. I now wonder what the Mahtomedi parents thought. Also, $5 says one of the Mahtomedi dads mosied on over to the tailgate for a cold one. 

The ultimate is actually a double-header in college. We needed to sweep University of Omaha in a 4-game weekend series to make the North Central Conference tournament. Can’t remember how, but we won both games on Friday. And then Kevin Wiessner – the tall lefty with the red moon boots mentioned yesterday – hit not one, but two walk-off home runs on Saturday. First game was a walk-off grand slam. The second was a walk-off solo shot in the bottom of the 12th inning. We had an awesome kegger that night at The Moontower. Here’s the writeup about Wiessner’s heroics from UNO.

TOB: I can’t stop laughing about your brother shouting your scouting report for all to hear. But I’ve got bigger questions here. I read the link about Kevin’s two walk off dingers and I have thoughts.

One: THIS is a baseball coach.

Two, from the article:

In the first game, Nebraska-Omaha held a 4-3 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh inning until Augustana loaded the bases with a walk, a hit batsman and a base hit. Wiessner then connected for a grand slam to give the Vikings a 7-4 victory.

Excuse me, the seventh inning? Did you guys play 7 innings? Is this beer league softball? What’s the story here?

PAL: Double-headers were 7-inning affairs in NCC play. Single games were 9 innings. Damn you, TOB.


Lockdown Dailies Overview

A distraction – I sure as hell need one. I can’t go down the pandemic wormhole every day. There are no sporting events to argue over or to celebrate. We need to do it ourselves. We’ll tentatively call in Lockdown Dailies. Don’t care how goofy the topic, and I’m asking our readers to join the conversation. We’re going to do our best to post a fun topic every day or so. We’ll see how all of this goes. 

Possible topics to include (readers, please email us at 123sportslist@gmail.com or hit us up on the socials to add your suggestions or request from the current list)

  • Your process for selecting the perfect baseball glove
  • What is the earliest level of baseball can coaches wear full uniform w/o ridicule?
  • Sport you wished you hadn’t quit (or had quit earlier)
  • Sport you never played but think you could’ve been pretty good at
  • Greatest game you ever played in
  • Greatest spectating memories
  • Ever been ejected? Do tell. 
  • Worst mistake you ever made in competition
  • Analyzing TOB’s LL stats from Tahoe (altitude)
  • Best youth field you ever played on
  • Best youth althlete you ever competed against/with (not how they turned out,but at the time)
  • Cal – how do we make them not suck?
  • Why Augustana should not go D1…but if they do can I claim D1 status (asking for a friend)?

Readers – Share your topics…and this story with your friends.

Email: 123sportslist@gmail.com

Lockdown Dailies #1 – Baseball Cleats

A distraction – I sure as hell need one today. I can’t go down the pandemic wormhole every day. There are no sporting events to argue over or to celebrate. We need to do it ourselves. We’ll tentatively call in Dailies. Don’t care how goofy the topic, and I’m asking our readers to join the conversation. We’re going to do our best to post a fun topic every day or so. We’ll see how all of this goes. 

Possible topics to include (readers, please email us at 123sportslist@gmail.com or hit us up on the socials to add your suggestions or request from the current list)

  • Your process for selecting the perfect baseball glove
  • Sport you wished you hadn’t quit (or had quit earlier)
  • Sport you never played but think you could’ve been pretty good at
  • Greatest game you ever played in
  • Greatest spectating memories
  • Ever been ejected? Do tell. 
  • Worst mistake you ever made in competition
  • Analyzing TOB’s LL stats from Tahoe (altitude)
  • Best youth field you ever played on
  • Best youth althlete you ever competed against/with (not how they turned out,but at the time)
  • Cal – how do we make them not suck?
  • Why Augustana should not go D1…but if they do can I claim D1 status (asking for a friend)?

Topic 1: Baseball Cleats

It’s spring, and TOB recently took his son, JOB, to get his first pair of real cleats. I loved buying cleats (correction: I loved choosing the cleats my mom and dad would purchase). Each year, I was making a statement of what kind of baseball personality I was projecting. While I’d leave myself open to the possibility of some flourishes, I was an all-black guy. I’d watched by brother, Matt, straight up spray paint his high-top Tanel 360s in the work room. It was all about that shine, baby. 

Closest thing I could find to the real ones. Tanel is OOB.

I messed with the high-tops in Little League – sure – but grew out of the fad. And I may have had a puma phase in college (everyone experiments in college). I never grew tired of that shiny black low top cleat, which is funny because, as a catcher, my cleats were dirty by warmups. 

My all-time favorites: The Pony Golds

Shit…put a little polish on those and I’d run out there with those right now. So comy. The leather was supple, so much so that these bad boys would’ve torn apart within a month if I hadn’t loaded up the toes with shoe goo and/or a double-helping of pitcher’s toe. 

I always thought these classic Nike looked good with most any uni. 

What did these tell me about the player? Not as much as they told me that his/her dad just mandated the cleat selection. Conservative, no frills, which – if I’m being honest – is usually the right call on cleats. I’m guessing these were an Al Pflepson staple up at Waite Park. 

Also, I’m positive my oldest brother, Tony, rocked off-white cleats in high school. Not his fault, I guess. Not only was he the oldest, but also he was a private school boy from kindergarten through college. 

What did you sport, TOB?  Marin Rowe – I know you have some thoughts on this subject. Kevin Wiesnner – damn right I’m calling you out for those disgusting red moon boots you and that Excelsior team wore (let’s leave the jersey shorts for another day, shall we?). You can make a take look pretty, but not in those cleats, my super tall lefty. – PAL

TOB: As I recalI was strictly a Nike guy. Like Phil, I rocked black cleats, but the ones I had in majors had some grey accents, as you can see in this photo of me about to slap the tag on a guy who thought he could take an extra base on the Giants. Psh. 

Or this one of me after I hammered a pitch with my little league doubles power.

But I lived in a small town (South Lake Tahoe), and there were not a lot of stores to choose from, so there weren’t a lot of cleat options. By the time I found the Eastbay catalog, I had already (stupidly, idiotically) given up baseball. But whether it was soccer, baseball, or football, I usually got them at the Foot Locker near the casinos, or a local sporting goods store called The Outdoorsman. Maybe we stopped at Champs in Reno or Sacramento.

Phil and San Rafael Forreal Rowe: now that I’m coaching baseball, what’s your stance on cleats for coaches. Never? Only when coaching a certain age?

PAL: Oh wow…and we have tomorrow’s topic tee’d up.  

Readers – Share your topics…and this story with your friends.

Email: 123sportslist@gmail.com

Week of March 13, 2020


The Day Sports Stopped

I listened to two podcasts as I ran around Lake Merritt in the early morning fog on Thursday. The Daily detailed the ways in which the U.S. stumbled out of the gate when it came to testing for Coronavirus (and the impacts those missteps will have). Then Dan Patrick ran down a list of all the sporting events that were cancelled between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. Sports in America disappeared overnight, and I wondered if I was no longer training for the Vancouver Marathon (May 3) and instead just out for a run.

Andrew Keh summed up the incredible toppling with the following:  

It was almost unreal to see the sports leagues buckle under the pressure of an unseen, outside force. These institutions are more often seen throwing around their considerable financial might and cultural capital, and are frequently viewed as secure in their near-religious place in American society. And for a time, it even seemed they might resist the coronavirus, too: various half-measures — like locker rooms closed to the news media, arenas closed to fans, games transferred to neutral sites in areas less affected by the virus — were pursued in recent days as solutions to keep athletes safe and sports afloat through the pandemic.

But little by little, over the course of the week, the decision to play on seemed to be clawed from their hands. The pressure came from all over.

Keh detailed various strange scenes taking place around the world – college basketball games canceled at halftime, a bus carrying the Baltimore Orioles to a spring training game turned around (Spring Training was cancelled), and then this downright eerie scene of Olympic athletes leaving in the middle of the night: 

In Joensuu, Finland, members of the United States biathlon team preparing for a tournament there this weekend were awakened in their hotel rooms by staff members at 3 a.m. — just after Mr. Trump announced a travel ban from Europe — and told to gather their belongings. Less than three hours later, they were on a series of flights arranged by the team’s leadership — to Helsinki, then Munich, then to the United States — to bring them home.

I feel terrible for what Olympic hopefuls must be wondering right now: are the olympics the next? To train for that long, to be peeking for this specific competition – a lifetime of work brushed aside. I bet those american athletes from the 1980 olympic boycott are sending a little love to today’s athletes. 

Bill Simmons has this concept for when an athlete acts erratically – when you could be told that the athlete did anything – fought a bear, ate vaseline, became buddies with a North Korean dictator – and you’d believe it as true (2 of those are real). He calls it the Tyson Zone, named after Mike Tyson. 

The world just entered the Tyson Zone. Or maybe we’ve been there for some time and I just realized it. – PAL

Source: Twenty-Four Hours When Sports Hit the Halt Button”, Andrew Keh, The New York Times (03/12/20)

TOB: Crazy, man. What a crazy week. On Thursday we were out to dinner with friends, and I commented that for our kids, especially our oldest who is almost 6 years old and just barely aware, this pandemic will be like 9/11 was for kids his age back in 2001. My wife scoffed, but I think it’s true. When we got home, I watched some TV and heard three different commentators make comparisons to 9/11. Both are/were a huge, confusing, unseen force changing how people across the world live. It’s scary and confusing for all of us, but I have to imagine especially so for kids.

As for athletes, I feel most bad for those whose careers will end this way. Vince Carter is likely retiring, and now his career is suddenly over, a month before he expected. Hundreds if not thousands of graduating college athletes were told that the last game they played will be the last they ever play. Every athlete has a last game, of course, but usually you know it’s coming and can emotionally prepare. For the record, those biathlon athletes Phil referenced are likely not in danger of missing their Olympics. The biathlon is a Winter Olympic event, and the next Winter Olympics is not until 2022. Of course, it’s hard to imagine that the Summer Olympics takes place this year.

However:

Our healthcare system is so effed.


My Favorite Anecdotes from Posnanski’s Top 100 This Week

#25 Pop Lloyd:

Lloyd lived long enough to see Robinson break the color line, long enough to see every team in baseball sign at least one black baseball player, and he was asked: Do you ever feel like you were born too soon?

And this is what he said: “I do not consider that I was born at the wrong time. I feel it was the right time. I had a chance to prove the ability of our race in this sport, and because many of us did our best for the game, we’ve given the Negro a greater opportunity now to be accepted into the major leagues with other Americans.”

That’s an incredible amount of humility. Many people in Lloyd’s situation would have been rightfully bitter about the unfair and racist rules that kept him and many others out of major league baseball. It’s nice sometimes to be reminded, though, that while we can’t control everything in our lives, we can control how we choose to deal with the negatives thrown our way. 

#17: Rogers Hornsby:

In 1918, Hornsby repeatedly ticked off manager Jack Hendricks with his attitude; he played exactly the way he wanted to play, no more, no less. Once when he was tagged out standing up at home plate, he told his teammates, “I’m too good a ballplayer to be sliding for a tail-end team.” Hendricks fined him $50, which Hornsby paid with a bagful of silver dollars he’d picked up the night before, special for the occasion.

#15: Josh Gibson

We can look at the incomplete box scores and try to piece him together. That year, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette actually ran some of the Homestead Grays box scores. It was sporadic, but from May 29 to June 29, one month, I was able to find partial box scores for 23 games. These games were against all competitors, including local town teams. But Gibson was 19 years old, and he was playing catcher every day, and he was just beginning to make a name for himself.

In one game, he hit three home runs. In another, he hit two. In yet another, he hit a double and two triples (one of the underrated elements of Gibson, as Hubbell referenced above, was his speed). Totaling it up, Gibson hit about .435 and slugged well over 1.000 for that stretch. He hit 13 home runs in the 23 games, so many that the Post-Gazette’s chronicler clearly got bored and just kept re-writing “Josh Gibson hit another home run.”

-TOB

Source: The Baseball 100: No. 25, Pop Lloyd,” “No. 17, Rogers Hornsby,” “No. 15, Josh Gibson,” Joe Posnanski, The Athletic (03/02/2020)


In Case You Missed It: STATE-BOUND

Earlier this week, we posted a 1-2-3 Sports! original. A few weeks ago, I traveled back to Minnesota to watch my niece become the first person in my family to play in the State High School Hockey Tournament. Read to find out why this high school tournament such a huge deal?  Below is an excerpt. Read the full story here

Only in the unexpected moments like this one at the bar do I realize how fast time is moving. Like rolling down the window on the highway. I’m going exactly as fast as I was a moment before, but the wind hits me, snatching the breath from my throat.

We shared the onion rings, and (my sister-in-law) told me how well everything had been going for my niece in her first year at Breck. The juniors and seniors on the team had been nothing short of my niece’s keepers, and the gap between 14 and 18 is so wide that it’s hard to even see across to the other side. She was emphatic in appreciation towards older players on the team. My niece was doing well while being challenged in school. She got into some advanced math program. She was playing a lot, pretty much from the beginning of the year. All indications were that the decision to go to school across town was had paid off in every way.

I had known most of this, but the details weren’t the important element; it was my sister-in-law’s excitement and pride and love for he daughter. It was all mixed up and boiling over. I couldn’t remember the last time just the two of us had thirty minutes to talk. Maybe at the cabin down by the beach when everyone’s either walking down to or up from the lake. We sat at a great bar, eating great onion rings, drinking great beer, waiting to watch her daughter and my niece play in the State Tourney.

I remember this is how life felt growing up. Best-case. I know that’s not true, but that’s how I remember it. Pristine. All of us ‘kids’ were around. All carefree and assured. Hearts unbroken. And then we grew up, and like most, we were humbled over and over with blunt reminders that best-case is the exception. A break that goes your way.

So to sit at that bar with my sister-in-law on a day like that, and to appreciate this moment as a best-case – I savored that conversation.

Turns out, we enjoyed the moment thirty seconds too long. We realized the time, paid the check, and dashed across Rice Park to the back entrance of Xcel, with The Ordway on our right and Herbie’s (named after St. Paul hockey deity Herb Brooks) on our left. – PAL

Read the full story here


Video(s) of the Week:

It’s baaaaaaack!


Tweet of the Week:


Song of the Week: Calexico – “Alone Again Or”


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Can I just say, that of all the idiots in all the idiot villages in all the idiot worlds, you stand alone, my friend. 

-Michael Scott

Week of March 6, 2020

Happy Birthday, Ron Wotus. The Giants coaches did a nice job with this little piece of photoshop.


Larry David’s Fandom Makes Perfect Sense

Talk about a 1-2-3 Sports! sweet-spot story. The Ringer’s Katie Baker breaks down the history of sports fandom in Larry David work, from Seinfield to Curb Your Enthusiasm. It’s an extremely fun read. Here’s the synopsis of David’s sports fandom bio: 

Raised in Brooklyn, David is a longtime enthusiast of both sad teams, as well as the Yankees and the Rangers, and he is semiregularly spotted yawning at Knicks games and yawning at Yankees games. But don’t let the sleepiness fool you: David might be one of the most active fans in the celebrity realm. He has low-key dedicated several decades of his life to slipping his sports takes into his work, from voicing the babbling George Steinbrenner on Seinfeld to defending the clutch Derek Jeter on Curb.”

I’m sure you’re reading this and thinking about one of your favorite sports references from David. Of course, there’s the Magic Loogie from Seinfeld. Or David’s golf obsession (which, as Baker points out, is the perfect sport for David’s worldview: he “likes to spend hours laser-focused on a sport that mostly yields frustration and disappointment, again and again.”). There’s the Jeter defense of Jeter’s defense, too. It’s all funny. It remains funny. While I’m not up-to-speed on the latest season of Curb, David’s genius is unassailable. He and Seinfield created a new comedy sitcom that became a huge network success, and then he did it again with Curb. We’re in the 32nd  year of David’s brand of comedy, and it’s still funny. 

Sports has always had a place in his tv shows, but it’s not just for comic relief. There’s something about fandom that lines up perfectly with David’s brand of comedy:  “…David’s love/hate of sports makes perfect sense: Sports provide a socially acceptable forum for his nonstop complaints, regrets, shoulda-woulda-couldas, and laundry lists of enemies and perceived slights.”

The article is littered with clips and links, both from his shows and from radio interviews. My personal favorite is David’s take on Jets coach Adam Gase and his hat-wearing habit: “Either he’s hiding baldness or there’s something about his personality—he’s uncomfortable. You can’t trust a man who wears a hat. He’s got to take the hat off. He’s got to face the public.”

This article was a treat. – PAL 

Source: “I Can’t Take Any More Disappointment”: Larry David’s Curbed Sports Enthusiasm’, Katie Baker, The Ringer (03/04/20)

TOB: For the record, LARRY:

Jeter was, is, and always will be overrated. IN ALL RESPECTS.


Still Today, He is the Greatest of All-Time

Yes, another entry from Joe Posanski’s top 100 baseball players of all-time countdown: the immortal and ageless Rickey Henderson.

Like Johnny Bench last week, I just want to share this fantastic Rickey story, as told by Posnanski:

All right, the rest of this will be a series of Rickey stories. That’s what you want. That’s what I want. We can only assume that’s what Rickey wants. Rickey loves a good Rickey story. We’ll get the most famous one out of the way first because it isn’t even true. The story goes that when Rickey joined the Seattle Mariners in 2000, he saw John Olerud taking some groundballs while wearing his batting helmet.

“Huh,” he said, “I played with a guy in New York who did that.”

“Yeah,” Olerud said. “That was me. Last year.”

As mentioned, the story isn’t true. Olerud and Henderson have debunked it. Apparently, it was a gag the Mariners’ assistant trainer came up with and it soon spread around the clubhouse, as good gags will.

But even an untrue Rickey story leads to a great tale. When Rickey was debunking the story, he made the point that while it was funny, it was also silly because he’d known Olerud years before they played on the same team. Of course he did. Olerud played first.

And, as Rickey said, “I was always on base.”

Ok, one more:

Henderson stepped into the box and then he started talking to himself. Everyone knew about that routine in the American League; Henderson would constantly talk to himself, pump himself up, “Rickey gonna hit this guy! This guy’s got nothing! Rickey’s good, Rickey’s getting a hit, Rickey’s going to steal second and then steal third … ” and so on.

So he was going through that whole routine and behind the plate, Cubs catcher Scott Servais and home plate umpire Jim Quick were trying hard not to laugh. Nobody put on a show quite like Rickey … but with the count 2-2, Henderson swung and missed. And then he turned around toward Servais and Quick and he said this:

“That’s OK. Rickey still the man.”

Sorry, I can’t stop:

So, no, pitchers didn’t often slip that third pitch past him while he watched.

But every now and again they did, and when he would get back to the dugout, [Alex] Rodriguez would ask, “Hey Rickey, was that a strike?”

And Henderson would say: “Maybe. But not to Rickey.”

LOL:

Yes, Rickey negotiated hard. Once, during one of those disputes, he said, “If they want to pay me like (Mike) Gallego, I’ll play like Gallego.”*

Maybe he should have been a stand-up comedian:

Someone asked him what he thought of a Sports Illustrated article in which Ken Caminiti said 50 percent of the players in baseball were using steroids (he actually said “at least half,” but that’s close enough). Rickey’s response? “The article said 50 percent. Well, I’m not one of them. So that’s 49 percent right there.”

This story of Rickey ignoring the “wipe off” sign and stealing second anyways made me cackle:

So, again, La Russa wanted Rickey staying put. He had his third-base coach go through all the signs and then wipe the arms to take off any play. And once again, Henderson stole second on the next pitch.

Now, La Russa was hot. “Hey Rickey,” he said, “all that stuff about being a team player, what gives?”

Henderson looked at La Russa as if he had no idea what he was talking about.

“We gave you a sign,” La Russa continued. “Did you not see it?”

Henderson said, “Yeah, I saw it. You said if you wipe the arm, that means take off. And so Rickey took off.”

One of a kind. -TOB

Source: No. 24: Rickey Henderson,” Joe Posnanski, The Athletic (03/03/2020)

PAL: What else is there to say? Sit back and enjoy.


Sports-Adjacent: What It’s Like to Play Hoops With Someone on the Brink of Stardom

Sometimes I think about a very famous person and wonder: What was that person like just before they got famous? Dozens of people in the world can say, “I went to kindergarten with Brad Pitt.” Dozens more can say, “I played Little League with Jeff Bezos.” There are people walkin’ around the planet, knowing they struck Bezos out when they were 12, and they think of that every time they see a new story about him. I’ve got one such story: my best friend in first grade, Hunter Mahan, became a relatively famous golfer. He never won a major, but he was ranked as high as #4 in the world, and made over $30M in his career, good for 31st all time. Still. I moved away after first grade and never saw him again. It’s not that interesting of a story. When you read it you probably thought, “Ok.” Unless you’re a huge golf fan, in which case maybe you thought, “Neat.”

What’s much more interesting to me is when someone knows someone as they become famous. A few people took acting lessons with Brad Pitt the week Thelma & Louis was released. Someone was a barista at the coffee shop Bezos stopped into every morning the week Amazon IPO’d. Those people saw the transition to fame happen, almost in real time, and can speak to how it changed the now-famous person, how it didn’t change them, and how excited they were when it first started to happen. That’s a much more interesting story, and I happen to have one of those, too.

About 7 or 8 years ago, I was a member at the Chinatown YMCA. I’d walk over during lunch to get some shots up, or stop by after work looking for pickup. One day after work, I stopped in and a game was going on. I asked if I could join, and was told it was a private game – that they rent the court. I was pretty annoyed – I was a paying gym member, after all. But then someone got hurt and they needed. I guarded a guy named Dave. He could hoop, so it was a good matchup. I held my own, and they asked me to come back in the future, so I started going every week. As I found out, all of those guys worked together at an ad agency up the street, and their company paid the gym rental fee. I continued to guard Dave on most nights, unless we played together – a pairing I was always hoping for. This went on a couple of years. 

Then, in December 2013, I got to the gym and everyone was buzzing. I heard talk about a Kickstarter. I asked what everyone was discussing – it turns out Dave was also a rapper, and after having released some popular self-produced videos, he had started a Kickstarter to raise $70,000.00 to help him record an album and go on tour. In like one day, he had blown past the goal and was approaching $100,000.00. This was wild news! When I got home I googled him. His rapper name was Lil Dicky, and he had a song/video called Ex Boyfriend that was pretty damn good (but NSFW).

I asked my boy Rowe if he had heard of Lil Dicky, and he said yes. That’s when I knew this was kind of a big deal. Over the next few months, Dave/Lil Dicky would come to play basketball and tell us about the crazy things happening in his life. Then, around spring 2014, Dave e-mailed to say that it was his last night at that pickup game. He was moving to L.A. To be a rapper. This seemed crazy to me. Absolutely crazy. But it was also cool to see someone shoot their shot. 

More than a year went by. I was no longer going to the pickup game because we had moved across town. Every once in a while Dave would pop into my head. He was not a famous rapper, and I wondered how everything had gone. And then one day in summer 2015, a video on my Twitter headline caught my eye. It was a Lil Dicky video, going viral. And there was Dave, rapping with SNOOP in an animated video. His album was released that day, too.

God damn. The sumbitch did it. He really did it. He’s now super famous. Last year some kids tagged the walls at the basketball courts in my neighborhood with “Lil Dicky,” and I couldn’t help but laugh. I mentioned to co-worker Kevin that I used to play basketball with him, and Kevin went bananas. Lil Dicky/Dave even has a TV show, co-created by him and starring himself, which premiered on FXX this week (prompting me to tell this story). The show is autobiographical, about the time after his videos went viral but before he made it as a professional rapper. 

So, it’s about when I knew him, sorta. It would not be accurate to say we are friends, or even were friends. But, still. Like the people in Brad Pitt’s acting class, I saw a guy go, week by week, go from an advertising professional to a rapper who was about to hit it big, and knowing it. That’s pretty cool. 

Anyways, check out this interview with him from this week, where he touches quite a bit on what it’s like to get famous. I especially like the story about playing hoops with Kanye. -TOB

Source: When a Dick Joke Isn’t a Joke,” Danny Heifetz, The Ringer (03/04/2020)


Video of the Week:


Tweet of the Week: 


Song of the Week: Randy Newman – “Memo To My Son”


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“All you need is love. False. The four basic human necessities are air, water, food, and shelter.”

-Dwight K. Schrute

 

Week of February 28, 2020


Sneak Peek: State-Bound

Where the dream begins…

and where the dream is realized. Josie Lang, fourth from the left.

Last week I traveled back to Minnesota to watch my niece become the first person in my family to play in the State High School Hockey Tournament. We’ll be posting the long-form within a couple days, but here’s an excerpt. 


Still, this was the State Tourney and, regardless of how many empty seats there were and how lopsided the victory was, traditions are to be observed. A post-game burger and beer at McGovern’s is one tradition, thanks to Grandpa Malaske. So Mom, Dad, Tony, Matt, Lisa, and I pulled our hoods tight and leaned into the night wind towards W. 7th and Chestnut.

It was a quiet Wednesday night at the bar. We sat framed in the front window talking favorite State Tourney memories. Tony knew his right away: he and Grandpa went to the Apple Valley – Duluth East 5OT semifinal classic in 1996. Dad remembered how he and Grandpa, his father-in-law, would always go to an evening session. Grandpa’s trick was drive over to whatever high school was nearest and that happened to make the tournament to buy tickets. I remembered Ryan Kraft and Matt Cullen on those Moorhead teams. Or Dave Spehar of that same Duluth East Greyhounds team netting hat-tricks in the quarterfinal, semifinal, and championship games. The kid was the talk of the state one weekend in March. Lisa and Matt made it habit to take off work, pull the kids from school for a session and mix in the sliders from The Grill at the hotel.

“You don’t need your whole seat, just the edge of it.”- Perhaps Wally Shaver’s greatest line. 

Sitting there framed in the window and sharing memories with fries, it struck me how cyclical hockey is in Minnesota. That’s what keeps the game ingrained in damn near every neighborhood and backyard rink. A local pee-wee coach near where Matt lives was on those mid-90s Duluth East teams. My sister’s oldest daughter is coached by what must be the only Mr. and Ms. Hockey husband-wife coaching duo in the history of the sport. Johnny Pohl (Mr. Hockey 1998) carried a Red Wing team to the tourney. His wife, Krissy Wendell (Ms. Hockey 2000) did the same for Park Center. She later captained the National Team, winning an Olympic silver medal in 2002 and a bronze in 2006. It wasn’t until days after that I remembered that Steve Sertich, a member of the 1976 Olympic team, coached me! He’s the father of a former teammate of mine and 2005 Mr. Hockey winner, Marty Sertich. Round and round we go.

And because we’re a family obsessed with nostalgia, telling each other the same stories over and over again, I know each of us at McGovern’s at least considered this night – watching Josie earlier and post-gaming at McGovern’s – a new favorite memory as it was still in progress.

The waiter asked if we wanted another round. The only answer was yes. – PAL

The full version of State-Bound will be published shortly!


Johnny Bench Stories Are Very Good Stories

(the throw at the :40 mark is jaw-dropping)

TOB turned me onto Joe Posnanski’s ambitious Top 100 essay series counting down the best 100 players in MLB history. It’s a great way to get excited for Opening Day, and this Johnny Bench essay had me hooked. Stories about catchers are the best. Catchers are to baseball players what Westerns are to movies. Nothing but grit and charm, baby, and nevermind what positioned I played in baseball. 

Also, Johnny Bench was my dad’s favorite player. Also, some of the anecdotes in this essay are absolute gut-busters. 

Let’s start with Bench’s dad, Ted. Ted was quite the player back in the day, and when he’d watch games, he’d like to inform his youngest son, Johnny, that his old man could hit so-and-so pitcher.

Ted watched Bob Gibson throwing on television and he said the same thing: “Hell, I could hit him.” In 1968, Johnny Bench faced Gibson for the first time. The first time up, he struck out looking. The next two times up, he struck out swinging. “Dad,” he said to Ted the next time they spoke, “you couldn’t hit him.” 

And then there are the Bench legends. I mean, I knew he’s considered the best catcher*, but I didn’t know how cocky he was coming up. Hell, they retired his number on a minor league team for which he played a total of 98 games. They didn’t retire the number after he became an MVP – they retired it before he left town. 

You should read the whole essay, but the following is too good to keep from you:

Something happened that rookie year, something so absurd that it’s almost beyond belief. It’s my second-favorite Johnny Bench story. Bench was catching a veteran pitcher named Gerry Arrigo, and on this day, Arrigo didn’t have anything on his fastball. Anyway, that’s how Bench saw it. He kept calling for breaking balls and offspeed stuff instead.

Arrigo didn’t see things at all the same way and he kept shaking off Bench.

They continued this dance for a while until finally Bench went to the mound to make his case. He explained that Arrigo’s fastball was just not popping. Arrigo, in turn, explained that Bench was a rookie and that, considering the circumstances, he should just shut the hell up. This disagreement went on for a few seconds until finally, the two men understood that they were at an impasse and Bench shrugged and went back behind the plate.

And he called for another curveball.

And Arrigo shook him off again. Bench called for the fastball, which Arrigo threw with all the fury he had inside him.

Bench reached out with his right hand and caught it barehanded.

What a goddamn cowboy. I can understand why he’s one of my dad’s favorites. 

*I’ve said it before: I saw Pudge Rodriguez play, and it’s damn near impossible for me to imagine someone being better than Pudge.) – PAL

Source: The Baseball 100: No. 30, Johnny Bench”, Joe Posnanski, The Athletic (02/26/20)

TOB: I have not read all 70+ of these stories so far. But I’ve read a decent number. Early on in the list, it was just the players I wanted to read about. Guys from my childhood that I know a lot about. Guys like Ichiro. Tony Gwynn. Ken Griffey, Jr. Then I read about guys I knew a decent amount about, but who were before my time. Guys like Jackie Robinson. Roberto Clemente. Joe DiMaggio (choice Posnanski line: “Every day, you wake up, and you hope that something good will happen. And during a hitting streak, it does.” – Ugh, I wish I had written that).

As Posnanski got into the Top 40, I started seeing legendary names; names I’ve read about since I was a kid but know nothing or next-to-nothing about. Names like Mel Ott. Jimmy Foxx. (choice Posnanski line: “And, most of all, Dell was happy to play ball with his son, Jimmie. He began throwing balls to Jimmie from their earliest days together. There was, Jimmie always insisted, no pressure attached, no expectations, no deferred dreams to live up to. It was just joy. Father and son would play catch every day after farming, and there was nothing in the world that made both of them happier.”). Christy Mathewson. Cy Young. Eddie Collins (choice Posnanski line: “He was in Vermont on his honeymoon. While we can only guess at the splendor of a honeymoon that ends up at a semi-pro baseball game in Montpelier, Coakley saw the 19-year-old [Eddie Collins] play and was blown away by the experience.”).

Those much older guys have been fascinating to read about. Some of the stories seem apocryphal. For example, Posnanski tells a story about Clement and his time in the minors that was debunked in another story we featured just a couple months ago. But it doesn’t matter because Posnanski is an excellent storyteller. I hope he puts these together and sells them as a book. I would buy and read the hell out of it.

For the record, Johnny Bench’s story is my favorite so far. Phil nailed the highlights. On a very rare occasion, one of us opens the Google Doc we share to prepare this blog each week ready to copy/paste a specific passage from a story only to find that the other has already put the exact same passage on there. It cracks me up every time. That happened this week with that story about Johnny Bench, his dad, and Bob Gibson. Perfect.


Modern Baseball’s Defensive Shift Began at Tiny, Hippie, Oberlin College in the 1990s. Wait, What?

The title is an exaggeration. Baseball’s shift has been around as early as the 1920s. Famously, in the 1946 World Series, the Cardinals used a very modern looking shift to symie Ted Williams.

So how did an awful, D-III baseball team in the mid-90s presage baseball’s current defensive shift rage? It starts with the school’s basketball coach. His name is Gene DeLorenzo. Oberlin required coaches to help out in a second sport, so DeLorenzo helped out with baseball. He wondered how he could turn his awful baseball team into something a little more respectable. He looked at his own sport, basketball, and realized his baseball team needed to utilize motion, just like his basketball team did:

At a very basic level, basketball teams alternate between man-to-man and zone systems, and, within the zone, between 1-3-1 and 2-1-2 alignments. Football teams might use the 4-3 front or the 3-4 front. They might go nickel or dime or prevent, depending on the game situation and opponent strength.

In both sports, ultimately, defenses adjust to their opponents, provide multiple looks and cover ground out of practicality, not predestination.

The hard truth faced by the Yeomen was that opponents were pummeling their pitchers, smacking frozen ropes into the outfield gaps and enjoying a Gas House Gorillas-style conga line around the bases. Oberlin’s losses weren’t just routine; they were routinely lopsided.

So, DeLorenzo and Connolly thought, what if Oberlin made the type of adjustment that would be made in basketball or football?

“We wanted,” Connolly says, “to put people where we thought [they’d have] a chance to catch the ball or keep it in front of ‘em.”

So, they went extreme. Although they’d sometimes change things up, their base alignment had five outfielders. They put one infielder on each side of second base. Of course, they had a pitcher and catcher. They called it the flytrap. The idea was to close off the outfield to increase their team’s chance of catching a fly ball, and to limit hitters to a single when they hit a line drive.They even renamed the positions.

But Oberlin didn’t stop there. No, sir:

Of course, The Flytrap requires fly balls. To generate those, Connolly and DeLorenzo decided that the Oberlin pitchers could lob the ball, Rip Sewell-style, high over the plate to encourage the opposing hitter to swing up.

“We had to talk to the umpires to see if the strike zone included vertical versus just horizontal,” Connolly says. “So if the ball came down from on top of the plate, 10 feet high, is that considered part of the strike zone?”

They got the OK. They were ready to set the trap.

Of course, once they decided to implement it, they needed a little showmanship:

On Wednesday, April 20, 1994, the Oberlin baseball team took the field for the first inning of a doubleheader against conference foe Case Western Reserve University. The players trotted out to their traditional positions. All was calm and placid at Dill Field as left-hander Noah Pressler picked up the ball and put it in his glove.

But then Pressler, who was nicknamed “Moose,” stepped off the mound, turned his back to the batter, took a deep breath, and screamed, “Mooooooose!”

Suddenly, all of the Oberlin fielders sprinted to new spots. There were five outfielders. There were two infielders (Lytle at sweeper, Marbury at stud). The Yeomen had repositioned themselves so swiftly, so unexpectedly and so originally that all the batter could do was stand there, astonished and spellbound.

That is until he — and his entire dugout — started laughing.

Some of the Oberlin players were doing the same.

“I was laughing so hard, I had tears in my eyes,” Marbury says. “It was so ludicrous.”

You’re probably wondering how well the Flytrap worked. Not well, my dude! The other team still found holes because the Oberlin players were just that bad, and worse it was nearly impossible to defend against bunts or stolen bases. Oberlin played their last 4 games that season using the Flytrap. The cumulative score was 56-6, in favor of Oberlin’s opponents. 

Ah, well, nevertheless. 

Oberlin’s Flytrap may not have actually sparked the MLB shift rage. But it was certainly ahead of its time.

“Even in the last five years, we’re seeing so many changes in the game,” Sheehan says. “We’re seeing infielders in the outfield, we’ve seen teams take the pitcher and put him in left field, we’re seeing guys fill multiple roles, we’re seeing real two-way players. There’s definitely more athleticism and flexibility in the game. It’s a cool pendulum swing.”

The pendulum will quite likely never swing far enough for The Flytrap to mount a comeback. But last season, 185 plate appearances in MLB ended with the defense in a four-outfielder arrangement, including 86 instances in which a fifth fielder was positioned in the outfield grass, at least 160 feet from home plate.

To quote the Sandlot: Legends never die. -TOB

Source: This Terrible College Team Invented the Shift … Sort of,” Anthony Castrovince, MLB.com (02/27/2020)


Time for David Ayres to update the ol’ Linkedin profile

I love a good emergency goalie story, and h/t to Alex Denny of Brooklyn, NY for sending this our way. 

The emergency goalie story is a one of one in professional sports (at least that I can think of). A regular dude, plucked out of anonymity to play in a game at the absolute highest level. Where else does that happen? Emergency QBs are old NFL QBs. Baseball has several teams of minor leaguers to call up in a pinch. Basketball has a minor league, too. 

Most fascinating nugget from this story: I didn’t know that the emergency goalie in an NHL game is available to both teams playing. In 2016, the NHL instituted a rule requiring home teams to provide a list of emergency goalies, just in case. Just in case has happened several times in the last 5 years. 

Ayres was actually in the seats watching the game when he got the call. Other instances of emergency goalies have stories of them parking in public lot by Madison Square Garden (sheesh, get the dude a parking pass!) or having their phone blow up while getting a trim at “Mastercuts”. But Ayres was already at the game when Carolina’s starter and the backup were injured. 

Speaking to the tone the regular players set, Ayers said,“These guys were awesome. They said to me, ‘Have fun with it, don’t worry about how many goals go in, this is your moment, have fun with it.’”

After a rough start (he let in the first two shots) he settled in to get the W, not to mention setting a record in the process. At 42, David Ayres became the oldest goalie to win his N.H.L. debut. 

Ayres day job: Zamboni driver. – PAL

Source: A 42-Year-Old Zamboni Driver Wins in His N.H.L. Debut, A.P., 02/23/2020)

TOB: Loved this story. Love this video of the team in the locker room after the game (it’s the video of the week below).


Philly Phanatic Gets Work Done

The ass is bigger. Dye job on the hair. And The Philly Phanatic is all-in on the thick eyebrows trend. Yes, the iconic mascot has received a makeover, and it’s because of a lawsuit. 

I’ve never been a mascot guy. They’re dumb. I put up with it at the collegiate level, but we can all agree it’s embarrassing in the pros. And take that “it’s fun for the kids” next door. All I can do is think about the poor sap, Cousin Greg style, in the costume sweating and getting poked. 

Some 40 years ago, the Phillies teamed up with a former Muppets designer in hopes of attracting the kiddos. 

In court papers filed in August, the Phillies said that Harrison/Erickson, the New York-based design and marketing firm that worked on the mascot’s design in 1978, improperly wanted to terminate an agreement over the Phanatic’s copyright.

The team said the firm was threatening to “obtain an injunction against the Phillies’ use of the Phanatic and to ‘make the Phanatic a free agent’” if the team did not pay the firm millions of dollars, according to court papers.

The firm replied in its own court documents that the Phillies did not have a claim to the Phanatic’s copyright and that the team had “no input into the design and creation of the Phanatic.” The firm said it “wanted to negotiate a re-granting of the Phanatic copyright to The Phillies for a fair price, to be negotiated.”

I’ll chip in $20 to have the Phanatic just go away forever. This one made me chuckle. – PAL 

Source: The Phillies Unveil a New Phanatic as  Lawyers Fight Over Mascot Copyright”, Mihir Zaveri, The New York Times (02/26/2020)


Video of the Week


Tweet of the Week


Song of the Week


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“I thought your vagina was removed during your hysterectomy.”

-Dwight Schrute

 

Week of February 21, 2020

Amen.


Hallelujah! Aubrey Not Invited to Giants 2010 Reunion

For the record, I always sensed Aubrey Huff was a tool. His “rally thong” bit during the Giants’ run to the 2010 World Series, and the Zoolander-stolen “joke” at the championship parade that year, was just not funny. Huff did not take long to prove me right. 

His post-playing career descent started slowly. I caught him on his radio show a few times and confirmed what I figured: he’s an unfunny meathead. Which is fine. Plenty of people are that, athletes included. But it confirmed for me that I had no affinity for the guy, despite his contribution to a World Series championship.

It was over the last few years, though, that he really showed his true colors. It’s not the fact he supports Trump. I don’t like that, but I also know many of my very favorite athletes also likely support him. Instead, it’s Huff’s pure nastiness; his utter lack of humanity; his “durrrr, why are you so mad, I’m actually laughing” schtick every time someone calls him out for all of the above.

But Huff hit his nadir recently. He apparently went through a divorce in 2017 and claims that has taken the shackles off of him to be “less inhibited online.” I would never wish marrying Aubrey Huff on any woman, but is there any way we can find some way to put that genie back in the bottle? Because over the last two months Huff has gone completely off the rails. 

In November, he posted a tweet at a shooting range with the caption, “Getting my boys trained up on how to use a gun in the unlikely event @BernieSanders beats @realDonaldTrump in 2020. In which case knowing how to effectively use a gun under socialism will be a must.”

I mean, good lord.

In January, he really hit rock bottom, though. In response to a dreadful tweet that said Americans should invade Iran and “take their bitches,” Huff tweeted, “Let’s get a flight over and kidnap about 10 each. We can bring them back here as they fan us and feed us grapes, amongst other things….” 

For the record, yes, Aubrey Huff joked about kidnapping and raping women.

Then, after the Giants hired Alyssa Nakken, the first female coach in MLB history, Huff tweeted that he thought the hiring has “#metoo and #BelieveAllWoman written all over it.” He then tweeted he “couldn’t imagine taking baseball instruction from an ex female softball player,” while tagging Giants players Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Buster Posey, telling them to “have fun with that.”

I walked you through this recent history of disgusting behavior to set a foundation here: Aubrey Huff is a god awful human being. That’s important, because news leaked this week that the Giants informed Huff he was not invited to their on-field 10-year reunion of the 2010 World Series Championship. Huff responded as you might expect – he incorrectly claimed the Giants don’t support free speech, when this has nothing to do with the First Amendment, and he blamed the move on his support for President Trump (even tagging Trump in the post).

Huff, of course, is dead wrong. He’s been a vocal supporter of Trump for years, and the Giants did invite Huff to Bruce Bochy’s retirement ceremony this past September. Huff was there, and I remember because I am pretty certain I booed him (FREE SPEECH!). So what changed, for the Giants, between last September and now? That’s why I set that foundation above – what changed is that Huff crossed so many lines of decency.

Huff’s attempt to blame this on his support for Trump is pathetic. As pointed out by Grant Brisbee, the majority owner of the Giants is also a Trump supporter:

So we’ll first need to dispel the myth that Huff was disinvited because he vocally supports President Trump. This is an exceptionally ridiculous argument and it can be made only through ignorance or bad faith. The principal owner of the Giants is a confirmed Trump donor. Another member of the ownership group, and the widow of a previous principal owner, is holding fundraisers for him. You can be within the Giants’ orbit while still supporting the president.

No Aubrey, this has nothing to do with your political beliefs. You’re a pig, and you suck, and I am so so so glad you’ve had this honor taken away from you. Now, go away. -TOB

Source: The Giants’ Disinvitation of Aubrey Huff is Remarkably Uncomplicated,Grant Brisbee, The Athletic (02/19/2020)

PAL: He misses the attention he got from baseball, and he’s trying to fill the void in his life by saying stupid crap. This should be the last story written about him.


Cake Eaters Center of Hockey Universe

 

I join you while on assignment from the Minnesota State High School Girls Hockey Tournament (more on that next week), but this article – found on the ESPN homepage no less – was of particular interest while back in the motherland. 

The premise of the story, inspired by the 40th anniversary of the Miracle On Ice, is pretty clear: what are the USA hockey hotbeds today? Back in 1980, the USA Olympic team was made up of 12 Minnesota players (and most of the coaching staff), 4 players from Mass, and a couple from Michigan and Wisconsin. That’s it. No other states were represented. 

So, where are the hotbeds today? Anaheim, Vegas, St. Luis, and Nashville are new-comers. Makes sense. NHL markets with recent success experience bumps in youth signups. Infrastructure is needed, too. In other words, ice. 

We all know the center of the U.S. hockey universe is right here in Minnesota. No surprise. I don’t want a word from the Massachusetts contingent of my family. Not a word.

But then the article got real interesting. 

While there are other contenders for the throne, it’s hard to argue against the Twin Cities as the center of the hockey universe.

“Minnesota is the heartbeat,” Kelleher said.

But can we get even more specific?

Is there a center of the center of the hockey universe?

Consider this: USA Hockey says that the Twin Cities market pulled 10,922 of its total participants in 2018-19 from a region that includes Bloomington (estimated population 85,934), Eden Prairie (64,952) and a little, rather wealthy place ($99,295 median household income, per the U.S. Census Bureau) called Edina (54,791).

No one has captured more Minnesota Tier 1 boys’ state hockey championships than Edina, with 13. They also lost three times in the title game, and finished third three times. Edina also has won the Class AA girls’ hockey title for three straight seasons. 

Among the notable Edina High School alumni: Anders Lee and Kieffer Bellows of the New York Islanders; former Montreal Canadiens player Bill Nyrop; former NHL player Paul Ranheim; and former NHL executive Brian Burke.

“In the Twin Cities, it might be Edina,” said Tom Chorske, a Minneapolis-born former NHL player who’s now an analyst for Fox Sports North. “They win a lot at youth level and produce a lot of college players. A lot of Wild players live in Edina and their little kids are playing there.”

So there you have it: Edina, Minnesota. The center of the center of the hockey universe in the United States.

 

Edina. You’ve got to be shitting me. The inspiration behind “The Cake Eater Anthem”. On ESPN for the world to see. Maybe we’ve known it to be true in our hearts, but no one would want to admit it. 

It’s true. And I can’t stand it. Michael summed it up perfectly.  – PAL 

Source: “USA hockey hotbed heat check: What’s the center of the American hockey universe?”, Greg Wyshynski, ESPN (02/18/20)


Times Like These, I’m Proud to be a Giants Fan

While I realize the Huff thing is at least in part a business decision, I still like it. It makes me proud to be a fan of a team that will ban a clown like that. This story also makes me proud.

Earlier this year, MLB announced some much-needed though still modest raises for minor leaguers, to take effect in 2021. It’s not enough to give them a living wage, but it’s a start. The Giants, though, didn’t waste time. Instead of waiting until 2021, they announced they’d begin paying minor leaguers that raise now, in 2020. In fact, they gave some levels slightly larger raises. 

That’s all nice, and I am sure the players appreciate it. But more importantly, and as you may have noticed in the graphic, the Giants also announced that minor leaguers in AAA Sacramento and AA Richmond would all receive a $500 per month housing stipend, while players in low-A Augusta would receive free housing (if you’re wondering, high-A San Jose players will not receive the stipend because they are already placed with host families and live rent-free).

This is great! No other team offers a housing stipend, so it’s a big deal. Pretty cool move by the Giants. -TOB

Source: Giants Go Past MLB to Raise Minor-League Pay in 2020, Help With Housing,” Henry Schulman, San Francisco Chronicle (02/18/2020)


BASEBALL AND BEER. THAT’S WHAT ENO DOES.

We’ve featured stories from Eno Sarris many times before. Eno is awesome – he’s smart, loves baseball, and writes about advanced statistical analysis in a way that is easy to digest. But if you follow Eno on Twitter, you know that Eno also loves beer. This week, Eno published what I imagine was a labor of love – a detailed and thoughtful ranking of the beer options at all 30 MLB ballparks. Eno rated each stadium on three factors – top-end offering, average offering, accessibility, and then a compound rating of all three. Highly entertaining! Best in Show? Seattle, followed closely by San Diego, with San Francisco a smidge behind in third.

If you’re headed to a stadium this season, you might want to check Eno’s article first. -TOB

Source: “A Beer Nerd’s Guide to Baseball: Ranking Every Stadium by Craft Beer Offerings,” Eno Sarris, The Athletic (02/19/2020)

PAL: That’s just great reporting. My favorite nugget, from San Diego:

“There’s a beer made for the park. In fact, there are (kind of) two. AleSmith’s .394 Pale Ale — named for Tony Gwynn’s batting average that fated 1994 season — is the original gangster, but you can get that all over San Diego and not just at the park.”

Now that’s a great name for a beer.


Video of the Week


Tweets of the Week


Song of the Week

Harry Styles – “Sunflower, Vol. 6”


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“You know, I really would have appreciated a heads up that you’re into dating mothers. I would have introduced you to mine.”

– Dwight Schrute

Week of February 14, 2020

May each and every one of you find your kissing bandit this weekend.


Astros Sorry If Their Cheating Offended Anyone

The Astros had to face the press on Thursday. For the first time, they were to be asked questions about stealing signs (the garbage bin, the Codebreaker app), and man did the players and the owner Jim Crane come off poorly. 

Here’s a sampling:

 

Bregman and Altuve’s statements were less than 90 seconds, combined. All three of them had a commonality: we’re sorry (for cheating), but it didn’t impact the outcome of the World Series. Oh, and “we’re looking forward to 2020.”

Ah, no. 

Aside from the institutional cheating going on for years in the Astros organization, the most incredible takeaway from the team facing the press today is how completely and utterly unprepared they are to answer questions that any PR intern could’ve predicted would be asked today. This news didn’t break yesterday. That’s how in the wrong the Astros were. They knew the questions in advance and this is the best they could muster. They knew what they wanted – to admit wrongdoing, to admit what they were doing created an unfair advantage but to somehow have that admission stop short of impacting the World Series. 

Leave it to a 1-2-3 fav Michael Baumann to sum it up just right: 

Minutes before Crane went on stage, I joked that it would have been more fun if the Astros refused to apologize, and told the assembled reporters to count the rings and go to hell. Having seen what passes for sincere contrition on Crane’s part, they would’ve been better off taking that approach. At least then I would’ve respected their honesty.

Watching all these video clips of players stuttering through their responses to really simple questions reminded me of cops busting up a college house party and asking the guys who live at the house questions about how they got the beer, why the music was so loud, etc. Everyone’s eager to admit a little bit of wrongdoing, but no one is actually responsible for taking $5 and giving a teenager a Solo cup at door. 

At this point, the only detail keeping me from believing the 2017 Astros title should be vacated is that I’m all but certain the Astros and Red Sox weren’t the only teams doing this. No way. – PAL 

Source: The Astros’ Apology Tour Is Off to a Comically Disastrous Start”, Michael Baumann, The Ringer (02/13/20)

TOB: Man. Great analogy. As for Crane, I loved this tweet, recalling a classic Chappelle’s Show moment:

As for Bregman, Altuve, Correa, Springer: these dudes better have incredible seasons. They need incredible seasons to save their reputations. If they come out this season and hit 30 points below their career averages, then their 2017-2019 seasons will go from suspect to absolute jokes.


Neymar’s Highlights Are Great, But He’s Never Been

I’ve never read Rory Smith’s NY Times soccer column until this week – and even for a guy that follows soccer from the highlights – I enjoyed his musings on Neymar’s squandering of talent as the next generation of players take his place in line in ascension to the throne Messi or Ronaldo at some point will give up. Neymar, playing on the same team as Messi in Barcelona, moved to Paris St.-Germain in an effort to get out of Messi’s shadow (and become the highest paid player on the planet). 

The move didn’t work. At 28, Neymar has faded from contention for the Ballon d’Or (the annual award handed out to the best player in the world). In his place are younger stars like P.S.G. teammate Kylian Mbappé. 

Talent has never, ever been the issue with Neymar. Smith argues it’s how Neymar values the game, and he uses one small moment in a recent game to serve as Neymar’s signature: 

There is something essential about Neymar contained within this vignette: his imagination, his panache, his confidence and his ability, yes, but also his belief that soccer’s highest form is the expression of individual skill. It is that which makes him so in tune with the sport’s modern era, of course — all gifs and memes and six-second snapshots of brilliance going viral — but it is also his flaw.

The thing about those clips, the ones of brilliant goals and outrageous pieces of skill that go viral, accompanied by nothing more than a screed of emojis, is that they are devoid of context, and greatness in soccer, and in all sports, is determined almost exclusively by context.

Neymar’s trickery is an adornment to a game, not a determining factor in it…

Again, I’m not the most ardent soccer fan, but I really enjoyed Smith’s writing. Always great to come across a talented sportswriter. – PAL 

Source: The Fading of a Star”, Rory Smith, The New York Times (02/08/20)


LeBron: “Cheap as Hell”

I am a LeBron James fan and I always have been. That said, I’m not really sure why The Athletic did an oral history, of sorts, on LeBron this week. Like, I don’t know what the occasion is. But it did provide this incredible tidbit:

Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers, former Cavs teammate: D-Wade has said it before and I hate that I have to quote him. But when we go international, which is obviously always Toronto, he won’t turn on his phone. It’s only WiFi. He’s the cheapest fucking guy. He’s like, “That’s bullshit. I won’t turn on my phone.” He won’t turn on data roaming. He’ll only go when we’re either at the arena or at the Shangri-La, “Hey, what’s the WiFi?” Internationally and in Toronto, he’ll never pay for it.

That is god damn funny as hell. This is a guy who has made over $1 BILLION dollars over the last 15 years, but refuses to pay roaming charges.

There’s more good stuff here, including former teammate Tristan Thompson reporting that LeBron “eats like shit.”

The best story, though, is probably this one:

Romeo Travis, professional basketball player overseas, lifelong friend: I was walking through the mall (around the holidays last year). A guy kept calling my name. I’m with my kids, I don’t want to stop. A guy just kept calling my name. I stopped and he’s like, “You’re Romeo, you’re LeBron’s friend?”’ And I was like, “Yeah.” He’s like, “Can you do me a favor?” I’m like, “What’s up, man?” He said, “LeBron put me through rehab. I just want you to tell him thank you. He really saved my life.” Those are the type of the stories that he doesn’t publicize. He don’t even, I didn’t even know. This is something I found out just walking through the mall, that he does things like that. People never find out about it. He does favors and stuff for people that he don’t talk about. They know the big stuff. They know the iPromise school and the philanthropy and things of that nature, but they don’t know the small stuff. Those small things are impactful as well. I was just like, wow. I sent a message to LeBron and was like, “I ran into a guy and he said you put him through rehab.” He said, “Yeah I do that from time to time just to help addicts.”

What a good dude. -TOB

Source: “A Card Shark Who ‘Eats Like S—t’ and Helps Save Lives: A Collection of Untold LeBron James Stories,” Joe Vardon and Jason Lloyd, The Athletic (02/13/2020)

PAL: LeBron is also on record saying he loves the free version of Pandora. No joke.


Video of the Week: 


Tweet of the Week:


Song of the Week: Richard Swift – “Would You”

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