Category Archives: Hoops

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?


Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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

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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

Filed under basketball, Hoops

Did Something Happen To Jeff Greenfield Today?

I’m getting a bunch of folks dropping by to look at this post.

Leave a comment

Filed under basketball, Hoops

Rating The Top College Hoops Programs of the Modern Era

Just wanted to give a heads up to you about this series. They’re up to #16 right now. I’m curious where UConn will end up.

Leave a comment

Filed under basketball, Hoops

More From Drew Cannon

Drew is the one who talked about mixing and matching offensive and defensive assignments in hoops. Here’s his latest. It’s about intangibles and probbly applies to teens playing other sports besides basketball.

I guess I’m just as guilty as anyone else of writing read and react pieces when I’m pressed for time.

Leave a comment

Filed under basketball, Hoops

The Positional Revolution Will Be Blogivised

Free Darko talks about a positional revolution in hoops. I think that’s what Drew Cannon is talking about at Basketball Prospectus, as well. But he’s talking more about how to mix and match offensive and defensive roles. FD was more about bigs shooting from the perimeter and quick guys banging inside. At least that’s how I read it. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

Leave a comment

Filed under basketball, Hoops

Six Degrees of Spencer Haywood

Spencer Haywood was an interesting cat. Dig. He was husband, at one point, to the supermodal Iman. Wikipedia includes her in a list of mononymous people like Cher or Madonna or Prince. Mononymous! I wish I thought up that word. Anyways, Iman went onto marry David Bowie.

Bowie is an interesting connector. He’s collaborated with all sorts of folks like Mick Jagger, Bing Crosby, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Niles Rodgers. He worked with John Lennon on “Fame.” Lennon was once interviewed on Monday Night Football by Howard Cossell. This was before they started to have celebrities on every MNF game, so it was a special occasion. And Cossell was the first person to announce Lennon’s death on TV. Cossell is intertwined intimately with Muhammad Ali. But this is a cul-de-sac. We need to go back to Lennon.

It is true that Lennon was in a band before the Plastic Ono Band. They were the Beatles. On the White Album, there’s a song “Dear Prudence” that was written by Lennon and Paul McCartney. It was written about Prudence Farrow, who went to India with the group to meditate. Prudence has a more famous sister named Mia. Mia lived for over a decade with Woody Allen. Now,this is the weakest link, but Allen wrote an article for Sport about Earl Monroe that I’ve mentioned here. He never interviewed him for it or anything. They did meet during the filming of Annie Hall, but the Pearl’s scene was cut. Monroe and Haywood were teammates from ’75 to ’78.

Leave a comment

Filed under basketball, Degrees, Hoops