Category Archives: basketball

Bobby Plump and the Early Days of the NBA

Last month, Marketwatch had a piece on Bobby Plump. Plump is the guy the Jimmy Chitwood character from Hoosiers is based on. Something on the second page of the article caught my eye:

(I)n 1958, he turned down the National Basketball Association to play in the National Industrial Basketball League, featuring teams sponsored by Caterpillar Inc., Safeway Inc. and other corporate giants. If he’d signed with an NBA team, he’d have made $4,000 a year. Instead, he signed with the Phillips 66ers for $6,200.

Maybe some hoops historians know the answer to this. How common was it for teams in the Industrial League to pay more than the NBA for players? Does this mean Wilt, Russell, the Big O and others from that era weren’t necessarily playing against the highest level of competition? Anyways, that something to chew on for April 18th, 2012.


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Temporary Linsanity

Ozzie Guillen’s recent musings on Castro reminded me of Marge Schott talking about Hitler twenty some odd years ago. There is no truth to the rumor that Peter Angelos called Jeffrey Loria looking to trade Buck Showalter to Miami for the Ozzard of Whizz (as Don Malcolm used to call Guillen.)

I was also reminded that I once wanted have a regular feature on this blog called “What Is Pastime Is Prologue”, but it organically evolved in another direction. While I took a hiatus to work on my memoirs, New York and the rest of the country went gaga over Jeremy Lin. Remember that? Or has he already been forgotten like Darva Conger, the McDLT, or Herman Cain?

Some people were comparing Lin to Tim Tebow. I suppose that hypewise that may be true. Linsanity was similar to Tebowmania. But a more apt analogy for Tim Tebow might be Ichiro Suzuki circa 2001.They both suceeded at a lower level and there were questions about how they would do at a higher level. Tebow is a QB who doesn’t pass well, but runs. Suzuki is a corner outfielder who doesn’t slug but can play what the oldsters called scientific baseball. They’re both throwbacks to an earlier era, in a way. Now, Tebow has a long way to go to be Ichiro, but he’s more like Ichiro than he is like Lin (except for the Christianity part.)

Lin is more like Karl Spooner. Both are meteors who streaked over the New York sky. And both got hurt. If the Knicks hang around longe enough in the playoffs, he might return this year, but that Remains To Be Seen.

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Filed under baseball, basketball, football

Media Play

I haven’t written much about baseball lately. Truth be told, I haven’t watched much since the Red Sox collapsed. Maybe I will write a post-mortem on their season, but what can I add that hasn’t already been said? I have been reading about the World Series and it does sound like a classic. Albert Pujols evoked memories of Reggie Jackson over the weekend with his three homer game that was likely the best one game hitting display ever in WS history. Then, on Monday nite, there was the biggest telephonic mixup since last week when Derek Lilliquist misheard TLR. (I have a tendency to think of Carson Daly and Total Request Live when I see Tony LaRussa’s initials.) I’m pulling for Texas to win. They’ve never done it before. They are the AL representative, and Saint Louis has one plenty of times; including five years ago. Bill Lee picked the L.A. Dodgers as the NL’s answer to the Yankees, but I picked Saint Louis when I was in high school and had a fling with the Mets. They were a team to respect, but not like. (I was glad to see Whitey Herzog get inducted into the Hall of Fame last year.)

There used to be a chain of stores called Media Play that sold books, DVDs and CDs. I liked it, but it went out of business around the time Saint Louis defeated Detroit. Today, I wanted to highlight three former baseball players that personify that store’s merchandise; an author, an actor, and a singer.

Before Jim Bouton, there was Jim Brosnan. Brosnan wrote two in-season diaries; The Long Season and Pennant Race. I have yet to read the latter, but I thought that the former was better than Ball Four once I finally read it. Plus, he didn’t have to have Leonard Schecter help him write it. Bouton’s book may have been more historic at the time he wrote it, but I didn’t read it until at least ten years after it came out. Brosnan was inducted into the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of Eternals four years ago. If you ask me, that is a higher honor than getting a plaque in Cooperstown.

Chuck Connors was an Eisenhower-era Man. He played baseball and hoops and was also Lucas McCain on “The Rifleman.” I’m still in search of the elusive Center of the Entertainment Universe, but he might be it. Dennis Hopper appeared on that Western. And Hopper is The Center of The Hollywood Universe. Connors connects you to the NBA, major league baseball and the Pacific Cast League; which was still big back then. There’s also a football connection. Sid Gillman appeared on the show. He was one of the most influential coaches in football history; practically invented film study. His coaching tree is like a sequoia.

Last but not least, I checked out Dave Marsh’s New Book of Rock Lists the other day and came across Lee Maye. I had heard of The Rifleman even if the show was before my time, but I wasn’t familiar with Maye at all. Phill Millstein argues that this doo wopping outfielder was the best combination baseball player-musical artist. Check the link out.

I was on Monday Night Sports a month ago and he suggested that the reason some players of that era moonlighted in other entertainment fields was because sports salaries weren’t as high as they are now and they needed the money. He may have a point. Ironically, I was talking about Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax and their joint holdout. Chuck Connors helped act as an intermediary between the two pitchers and the Dodgers.

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Filed under baseball, basketball, beisbol, books, football, Music, TV

The Baseball Gauge

The Baseball Gauge

From Seamheads:

Dan Hirsch, founder and sole contributor to The Baseball Gauge, has built a fantastic website that features Win Shares (WS), Win Shares Above Bench (WSAB) and Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for every season and player in Major League Baseball history, from 1871 to 2011 (that’s right, it’s updated throughout the season). Of course The Baseball Gauge includes traditional stats as well, but the real fun comes from the lists that can be created using Dan’s sort and query features.
Source: (

I’m not sure if anyone uses Win Shares anymore, but the Gauge has them. As for WAR, I’m no expert. But it looks like they calculate their own version instead of using fWAR or rWAR. (Look those up, if you don’t know what they are.) Should it be called GWAR?


Filed under baseball, basketball, Uncategorized

Bruin Station

It is now less than a week until Opening Day.  Some folks think that pitchers and catchers reporting should be a national holiday, but that day pales in comparison to Opening Day.  I’m excited and not just because the Red Sox are stacked.  Although, I’ve been blogging on and off since November of 2009, I haven’t written much about the games in and of themselves.  I thought about taking an approach similar to Free Darko where they comment on the stylishness of players.  I blathered on and on about Rabbit Maranville and his sons last year.  (Just look at the tab Maranvillains for numerous examples.)  But baseball, the most individualistic of team sports, doesn’t need a Mark Fidrych or a great Jim Edmonds catch to be exciting.


I came across a book at the Homer Babbidge Library at Uconn this winter.  It was called The Quality of Home Runs.  An anthropologist from an English university who is an ex-pat former college pitcher wrote it.  I skimmed it.  To get a library card from there as a non-student would cost $50.  But I did read a section where he talks about what makes a particular baseball game exciting.  There are three elements: tension, controversy and rivalry.  These, and the potential for them, can make a game exciting.


Max Marchi has a series at The Hardball Times about  exciting games.  He calls tension equilibrium.  Controversy could be a close umpires call or a questionable decision.  Usually that would be the manager who opens himself up for second guessing, but it can be a player.  Rivalry is self-explanatory.  It could be the Dodgers versus the Giants or the Red Sox versus the Yankees.  But it could be more subtle than that.  I plan to write more about this as the season goes on.


Bruin Station


Billy Beane and Ruben Amaro are two general managers who are former players.  Can you name another one?


Bill Walton was a sixth man for the Boston Celtics.  He also filled in for the Grateful Dead when they played in Egypt in 1978.   I don’t know the state of basketball in Egypt, but they’re pretty good at field hockey.  Professor Peter Piccione of the College of Charleston says that they also played an ancient precursor to baseball called sekar hemat.  And, of course, the immortal Sammy Khalifa played shortstop for the Pirates back during the 1980’s.


Dead bassist Phil Lesh went to El Cerrito High in suburban Oakland at the same time that Cornell Green was there.  Green played hoops at Utah State and was drafted by the Chicago Zephyrs, but he never played in the NBA.  He tried out as a defensive back for the Dallas Cowboys and had a lengthy NFL career.  Dallas had a thing for athletes of all stripes.  Witness the conversion of Bullet Bob Hayes from sprinter to wide receiver.


Was Dallas being innovative in their signing of non-football players because expansion and the AFL were draining the talent pool of football players?  Probably not.  There were plenty more college football players than there were pro jobs to go around.


Green was an early hoops to pigskin conversion.  He preceded Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, and Marcus Pollard; to name three.  There seems to be a fungibility of skills between tight ends, power forwards, and pitchers.


Green had an older brother named Elijah.  He was better known as Pumpsie and was the first black to play on the Red Sox.  Made his debut in 1959; a dozen years after Jackie Robinson was a rookie in Brooklyn.  Green played on some subpar Red Sox teams.  Those were dark days for the team.  Ted Williams would soon retire and 1967 was a ways off.  Gene Conley pitched for the team from 1961 to 1963.  One time, Pumpsie and Gene got drunk in New York and tried to catch a plane to Israel.


Conley was also a Boston Celtic as well as a Milwaukee Brave.  He is the only fellow to have a World Series ring and an NBA title to his name.  Red Auerbach was another guy who liked multi-sport athletes.  Bill Sharman was on the Brooklyn Dodgers; although he never played in a regular season game.  Hondo Havilcek tried out for the Cleveland Browns.


Another Red Sox pitcher of the era was Don Schwall.  He, too, was a basketball player in college.  But he never went pro.  He went on to pitch for the Atlanta Braves where he played with Rico “Beeg Boy” Carty.  Later in his career, Carty became a peripatetic designated hitter.  One of his stops was Toronto.


Danny Ainge was an infielder in Toronto before joining the Celtics and playing with Bird, McHale, Parish, Dennis Johnson, and, yes, Bill Walton.  He’s now the GM of the team.


This is awesome. Before he was a Celtic, Walton played for Helix High, UCLA, Portland, and the Clippers.  He won a ring in Portland.  One of his teammates was Herm Gilliam.  Gilliam played for the Cincinnati Royals before that.  Bob Cousy was the player-coach on that team.  Cousy and Conley were Celtics together.


What?  You thought that this was going to be about hockey?


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Filed under baseball, basketball, beisbol, Hoops, Music

Gashouse Hillbillies

I did a piece on Joe DiMaggio and Stephen Jay Gould for the Hardball Times annual (which should be out soon.) To give their readers a taste of my stuff I also sent them Gashouse Hillbillies for their website. It ran today.

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Filed under baseball, basketball, beisbol, Hoops, Movies, Pop Kultur, TV

Marketwatch: The hunt for TV’s lost baseball treasures

Never heard a word of this broadcast. From MarquetteWatch:

CHICAGO (MarketWatch) — Even in the earliest days of televised baseball, the late Ernie Harwell understood that less could be more.

On Oct. 3, 1951, Harwell was working Game 3 of the National League pennant playoff between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants for WPIX-TV in New York, a telecast that was seen nationwide on NBC. When Giants third baseman Bobby Thomson hit the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” to win the NL pennant, Harwell simply said “It’s gone” and sat silent for several moments while Giants fans at the Polo Grounds erupted.
Harwell’s call has largely been lost to history — obscured by Russ Hodges’ familiar radio call (”The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”) — because no recording of the WPIX-NBC telecast has ever been found.

Sure, there are filmed highlights of that game. But to purists, the loss of the original television broadcasts of such classics — there is no recording of the original telecast of Super Bowl I, to name another — creates an unsettling void in the pantheon of sports memorabilia

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Filed under basketball, beisbol

More Free Darko On Football


I got back into basketball pretty organically. It just sort of happened one summer. Once it took over my life, it wasn’t long before I wanted — or saw that it made sense to be — a generalist. Year-round sports, more material to mine, and the ability to hold my own in any basketball convo that, you know, veered off into another pastime. Comparisons are the devil, but if it weren’t for parallels, life would have no movement to it. If I’m being totally honest, and tired, I’ll have you know that the rush of fantasy sports had something to do with it, too. But I was lazy, uninspired, and it didn’t stick. I don’t think I got that every sport was special in its own way — perhaps too special.

I don’t always agree with Beth Shoals, but I like him as a writer more than any other sports guys. Someone should do a Free Darkoesque blog on baseball. I’ve tried, but failed. One could argue that baseball used to be more Free Darko in it’s glory days, but became less so as athletes with Willie Mays like qualities veered towards other sports. (Mays was a triple threat back in HS. He was a QB not unlike a Vick or Pat White and his best sport may’ve been hoops.) Why did this happen? This wouldn’t be the whole reason, but maybe the AFL and ABA bidding for the services of players showed high school stars that they could make more money playing those than baseball. Joe Namath was a more pivotal figure in sports labor history than I think folks give him credit for.

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Filed under baseball, basketball, beisbol, football, Hoops, pigskin

Bethlehem Speaks

A new, clearer, Free Darko Manifesto? This was an aside in an entry on Ray Lewis.

There’s a misconception floating around that FD likes underdogs. We don’t. We like star players, weird players, and players who aren’t afraid to be candid. We are also huge snobs who all cut our teeth in various realms of music snobbery. When players we jock, like Julian Wright, turn out to suck, it’s an embarrassment. We’re looking to catch the next big thing before you do, celebrate the unjustly ignored forces, or pick up on the glorious outliers who just might sneak in and transform the sport in small ways. We love potential. But potential, as it should be, is a burden — for players in real life, and in terms of the way this blog views them. We don’t root for lesser souls; we’re all about those who deserve to be, or become, something rare and cunning. A screw-up or drop-out isn’t FD, he’s the antithesis of it. This isn’t Slackerball, it’s about making sure we’re up on the best the league has to offer. J.R. Smith? He’s not a patron saint, he’s the prodigal son.

The bolded part was sort of where I was going with regards to Maranvillains. I guess I am not enough of a music snob to pull it off like these guys, though. Been reading more James Burke lately, though. He’s probably a better role model for me. Sports aestheticism is a tricky thing to write about.

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Filed under baseball, basketball, beisbol, Hoops, Maranvillains, writing

Z Graph

Neil Paine over at Sports Reference brought this Fanhouse thing to my attention. I dig the visual representation of skills prezented here.


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Filed under basketball, Hoops