Category Archives: football

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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Veteran’s Day 1933


If you go back almost eighty years, you might recognize a football game. But it has changed more than baseball; our other big American sport. As of 1933, coaches could not call plays. If a sub was sent into the game, he could not speak in the huddle. Substitution was allowed, but it was very limited. Once a player came out, he couldn’t return until the next quarter. Many men played all 60 minutes.

The forward pass was legal and had been a tactic for at least 20 years after Notre dame beat army in 1913. But the rules committees enacted rules that discouraged the aerial game. The passer had to be five yards behind the line of scrimmage. A team was only allowed one incompletion during a drive. And an incomplete pass thrown in the end zone resulted in a touchback for the other team. Single wing tactics reigned supreme. It was like the Wildcat that some teams use for a change of pace.

In 1933, at the depths of the Depression, Veteran’s Day fell on a Saturday. Michigan beat Iowa 10-6 that day. The Wolverines were on their way to the national championship. A few hundred miles to the south and west of Ann Arbor, a young announcer in Davenport was recreating the game for Hawkeye fans. He was reading the play by play off the teletype. His name was Ronald Reagan. Michigan did not allow broadcasters at the Big House, so he stayed home. Had he gone to the game, his path might have crossed that of a benchwarmer from Grand Rapids. The sub would later be a standout center, but the Wolverines had a senior named Chuck Bernard. The world knows that benchwarmer better as Gerald Ford. Ford and Reagan’s paths did cross on the campaign trail in 1976, but they might have crossed that day 43 years earlier.

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Filed under Dead Presidents, football

We’re Back!


If you aren’t from New England, you might not be following the wrath of Winter Storm Alfred. After a week, I am finally back online. I cannot guarantee anything, but I hope to have something up at Leatherheads of the Gridiron for Veteran’s Day.

If you get a chance to see a movie soon, I highly reccommend Anonymous. I saw it with my wife last nite. It was a little hard to follow at first, but the payoff is worth it. If, that is, you are ready to suspend your disbelief about some of the plot inaccuracies.

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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

New Piece at Leatherheads


This one ties together Good Times with Alex Karras, Jack Kemp, and Jimmy Hoffa. Enjoy.

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The Life of Daly


I’ve mainly written about basbeall over the past decade, but here’s a football piece. It’s my usual six degrees of separation type riff with some autobiographical tangents. Enjoy.

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Constraint Theory of Offense


I just wanted to point out this post over at Smart Football. I think Chris Brown originally wrote it three years ago, but it bears repeating.

Constraint plays thus work on defenders who cheat. For example, the safety might get tired of watching you break big runs up the middle, so he begins to cheat up. Now you call play-action and make him pay for his impatience. The outside linebackers cheat in for the same reason; to stop the run. Now you throw the bubble screen, run the bootleg passes to the flat, and make them pay for their impatience. Now the defensive ends begin rushing hard upfield; you trap, draw, and screen them to make them pay for getting out of position. If that defensive end played honest your tackle could block him; if he flies upfield he cannot. Constraint plays make them get back to basics. Once they get back to playing honest football, you go back to the whiteboard and beat them with your bread and butter.

I think this has applications beyond the gridiron, but I’m mainly linking it as a bookmark to myself.

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Icarus In Spikes


Mariano Rivera saved Enrique Wilson’s life. He blew Game Seven of the 2001 World Series but made his best save ever. Wilson was scheduled to fly home to the Dominican Republic on American Airlines Flight 587. But Arizona defeated the Yankees, so there was no victory parade. Instead, the utility infielder changed his travel plans and took an earlier flight home. Flight 587 crashed into the Belle Harbor neighborhood of Queens on November 12th, 2001. Rivera told Wilson “I am glad we lost the World Series because it means that I still have a friend.”

Chris Dial saved Alex Rodriguez’s life. Dial is a big baseball fan; has been a Mets fan since 1973. He developed a way of converting a fielder’s zone rating, or how often he fields balls in certain areas of the ball field, into runs saved for his team. Dial is also a chemist and inventor. He invented the Soft Ground Arrestor System. This is bubbly concrete placed at the end of a runway to slow down a plane that is going to fast. Think of it as a runaway truck ramp for airplanes. On Friday the 13th, October, 2006, Rodriguez and several others were on a private jet that made a hard landing at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California. The arrestor system stopped the plane.

Other sports stars haven’t had this luck with plane crashes; including some in pinstripes, as we shall soon see. Roberto Clemente might be the most famous one; flying a mission of mercy from Puerto Rico that never made it to Managua, Nicaragua. There was also Knute Rockne and Rocky Marciano. Team planes have crashed. There was Manchester United in 1958, the University of Evansville basketball team in 1977. There was a Uruguayan rugby team that crashed in the Andes and the survivors ate the dead. The movie Alive was about this incident.

But a more macabre story is that of Len Koenecke. Koenecke was a fairly decent outfielder in the Thirties. He didn’t really get a chance to play regularly until he was 27. He was a big drinker and that may have had something to do with his late start. His drinking problem was so bad that he got kicked off of the Dodgers and sent home. Keep in mind that this was when drinking in baseball was rampant. A few years earlier, Hack Wilson set the record for runs blottoed in while he was half in the bag. Koenecke had a few before his flight home and he stormed the cockpit. The pilot and copilot beat him off, but he kept coming. Finally, one of them grabbed a fire extinguisher and gave Koenecke on fierce blow and killed him.

In 1999, Payne Stewart’s crash was followed in real time. . Peter Finch must have been happy. Stewart was supposed to fly from Florida to Texas, but the plane he was a passenger in lost cabin pressure and it kept flying until it ran out of fuel and crashed into a Dakota field. Alan Kulwicki and Davey Allison survived the 200 MPH ballet of the speedway, but both perished in aviation accidents. Allison was piloting a helicopter. Billy Southworth Jr. may have made the majors if it weren’t for World War II. He was International League player of the year once. Southworth became a bomber pilot and flew the requisite number of missions before rotating stateside. Alas, he crashed taking off on a routine mission from LaGuardia.

Southworth and Allison were second generation sports figures. Allison’s father was a NASCAR legend and Southworth’s dad was a Hall of Fame manager. But there are also plenty of brother combos from Hank and Tommie Aaron to Peyton and Eli Manning. There are even a few twins. Tiki and Ronde Barber were both in the NFL. (And Tiki wants back in.) Bob and Mike Bryan rule doubles tennis. There’s Ozzie and Jose Canseco. The New Britain Rock Cats once had a manager/pitching coach duo of Stan and Stu Cliburn. (This makes sense. They are a Minnesota Twins affiliated farm team.) Jim Thorpe had a twin brother who died young. Ryan Howard has a twin brother Cory. At one point Cory Lidle was his teammate with the Phillies. Lidle had a twin brother named Kevin.

Lidle crashed a plane into a New York City high-rise two days before Alex Rodriguez’s near crash. His brother Kevin was a ballplayer too. He played in the twilight world of indy league ball. One year he was on the Somerset Patriots. A teammate of his was a Florida kid named Jeff Anderson. Anderson’s father Jerry was a pilot himself. Back in 1979, the Anderson family lived in Canton, Ohio and Jerry was a passenger in a Cessna Citation when it crashed and burned while practicing take offs and landings. The pilot was another baseball player. His name was Thurman Munson.

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Filed under baseball, beisbol, football, Other sports, pigskin

George Blanda R.I.P.


From the Hartford Courant’s AP feed.

The Oakland Raiders announced the death of legendary quarterback and kicker George Blanda on their website Monday.

Blanda, who was 81, played 26 seasons in professional football, including stints with the Chicago Bears, Baltimore Colts and Houston Oilers before playing his final nine seasons with the Raiders. He retired in 1976 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981.

He holds several league records, including most PATs attempted (959) and made (943), oldest person to play in an NFL game (48 years, 109 days) and most seasons played.

In tribute, here’s a link to my piece suggesting that he’s the center of the football universe.

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Filed under Degrees, football, pigskin

Is It Time To Retire The Football Helmet?


Slate pointed me towards this Wall Street Journal article from a year ago. It’s something that I have thought of before. I don’t think it was an original thought, I may have picked it up in one of the various cybersalons I hang out in. It’s ironic, that safety equipment such as a football helmet makes a sport more dangerous. I think gloves make boxing more dangerous, too. But the freak I am was enthralled by this little snippet:

Robert Cade, who is better known as an inventor of Gatorade, created a shock-absorbing helmet that was used by a number of NFL players in the 1970s.

I want to read up more about Cade. He sounds like a possible connector that I could write about.

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