Thursday, April 25, 2019

Don't Look Now...

Don't look now, but in spite of all their injuries, the Yankees are only 1 game out of 1st place in the all-important loss column, a game and a half overall.

Gary Sanchez was activated from the injured list. Clint Frazier went onto it. Didn't matter. The Yankees made it 3 straight over the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, 6 straight overall.

We certainly can't, as I did many times last season, call this team "gutless wonders." Last night, they came from 5-0 behind to win.

CC Sabathia started, but didn't do well. He allowed 2 home runs to Andrelton Simmons and 1 to Kole Calhoun, and that's why it was 5-0 Angels after the 4th inning. Jonathan Loaisiga came on to relieve, and pitched shutout ball through the 7th.

The banged-up Yankees made their move in the top of the 6th. Tyler Wade led off with an infield single. DJ LeMahieu hit a double into the left field corner, deep enough to score Wade. Luke Voit singled, but DJLM couldn't score. Brett Gardner popped up, and Sanchez struck out. With the slumping Gleyber Torres up, it began to look like that would be it for the Yankees. But Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy couldn't handle a Felix Pena pitch, and the passed ball allowed LeMahieu to score. It was 5-2 Angels.

Then came the 7th. Cliche Alert: Walks can kill you, especially the leadoff variety. Mike Ford worked Luis Garcia for a walk. Gio Urshela singled. Mike Tauchman drew a walk to load the bases with nobody out. Wade drew a walk to force home a run. Angel manager Brad Ausmus brought Ty Buttrey in to pitch, but it didn't work: LeMahieu hit a fly ball to left, deep enough to score Urshela. Voit grounded to short, and there was no play at the plate. Tie game. Gardner lined into a double play to end the threat, but the Angels had a five-nil lead and blew it.

How about a nice 2-out rally? The Yankees got one in the 9th, as Wade singled to right and stole 2nd, and LeMahieu singled him home. Aroldis Chapman shook off his most recent troublesome performance, and pitched a hitless 9th.

Yankees 6, Angels 5. WP: Loaisiga (1-0). SV: Chapman (4). LP: Buttrey (1-1).

The series concludes tonight. Masahiro Tanaka starts against Trevor Cahill.

So, don't look now... Actually, yes, look. Now. In spite of everything that's happened already this season, the Yankees are close to 1st place.

Billy McNeill, 1940-2019

One of the giants of British soccer has come to the end of a long battle, and a well-earned rest.

William McNeill (no middle name) was born on March 2, 1940, in Bellshill, about 10 miles east of Glasgow, Scotland. This little town of 20,000 people, has produced many soccer legends, including Hughie Gallacher, Matt Busby, Brian McClair and Ally McCoist; and also boxing champion Scott Harrison and singer Sheena Easton.

Billy McNeill was signed by Glasgow soccer team Celtic in 1957, from a nearby junior team, Blantyre Victoria. The team was not very good at the time, until the arrival of a new manager, a centre-half who had helped the team win "The Double," both the league title and the Scottish Cup, in 1954: John "Jock" Stein. (That's pronounced "steen," like it was Scandinavian, not "stine," like it was Jewish.)

The Scottish top flight has long been dominated by 2 teams from Glasgow: Celtic and Rangers. In the Scottish Football League Division One (1890-1946), Division A (1946-55), Division One again (1955-75), Premier Division (1975-98), Premier League (1998-2013) and Premiership (since 2013), here is the title count: Rangers 54, Celtic 49, Edinburgh team Heart of Midlothian (a.k.a. Hearts) 4, Edinburgh team Hibernian (a.k.a. Hibs) 4, Aberdeen 4, and everybody else... 7. Or, to put it another way: The 2 Glasgow giants, known as "The Old Firm," 103, and everybody else 19.

The origin of the term "The Old Firm" is in dispute, but it may go back to a sportswriter comparing them to "two old, firm friends" leading up to the 1904 Scottish Cup Final. If this was ever true, it is has long since become a lie. No pair of teams in British Isles soccer hates each other more.

Rangers Football Club was founded in 1872, and didn't start out as a symbol for anything other than men who enjoyed football (soccer). But in 1912, shipbuilders Harland and Wolff, which hired only Protestants, never Catholics, saw sectarian trouble at their hometown shipyard at Belfast, Northern Ireland, and set up a new one in the Govan section of Glasgow, taking some of their Ulster Protestant men with them.

Seeing this, many Glasgow Protestants began working there. Since Rangers were the closest team, the Northern Irish transplants followed the lead of their new Glasgow workmates, and became Rangers fans. With World War I coming on, and the Eastern Rising and the Irish Civil War that followed, Rangers became a team representative of British Unionism and the Scottish establishment. To this day, their Ibrox Stadium, on the city's West Side, has fans waving Union Jacks much more often than the Scottish Saltire, the Cross of St. Andrew.

The Celtic Football Club -- sometimes abbreviated to "CFC," but, when said in full, "The" is always used, much like "The... Ohio State University" -- was founded in 1887, specifically to deliver money and other resources to the poor Irish Catholics on Glasgow's East Side, where Celtic Park, a.k.a. "Parkhead," would be built.

Their crowds began to match those of Rangers, and, seeing Rangers as the team of the Protestants that were oppressing them, their fans began to wave the green-white-orange tricolor that is the flag of the Republic of Ireland. Saltires are as rare at Parkhead as they are at Ibrox.

In response to this, Rangers fans ended up hating Celtic and their fans as much as vice versa. From the 1920s until 1989, Rangers never signed a player they knew to be Catholic, until finally breaking the barrier with formerly Celtic star Maurice "Mo" Johnston, who ended up being verbally abused by, and receiving death threats from, not just his old fans, but those who were supposed to be cheering him with his new team. He failed there after just 2 years, and bounced around, ending his career in America with the Kansas City Wizards (now known as Sporting Kansas City).

No soccer team in Ireland -- either in the Republic or in Northern Ireland -- is as popular in its homeland as Celtic or Rangers are there. Some English teams, particularly those who've had success with Irish players such as Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, are popular in Ireland, but neither as much as Celtic and Rangers.

The competitive rivalry between the teams is incredibly close: Rangers have won 160 competitive matches, Celtic have won 157, and there have been 99 draws. But it gets incredibly nasty. Rangers fans have been known to chant profane things about the Pope -- whoever the Pope is at the time -- and Celtic fans have returned the favor by saying the same things about Queen Elizabeth II, even though she's half-Scottish herself.

But when Jock Stein arrived in 1965, Celtic had won just 1 league title since 1938 (and he was there for that one, in 1954). Over that same span, Rangers had won 11. Things turned around: With McNeill scoring the winning goal, Celtic defeated Dunfermline 3-2 in the 1965 Scottish Cup Final. The Scottish Footballer of the Year award was first awarded, and it was awarded to McNeill.

Stein named McNeill his Captain. Together, they led "The Hoops" (named for their green and white horizontal stripes) well: From 1966 to 1974, they won 9 straight league titles (a feat Rangers would match in 1997), They also won 7 Scottish Cups and 6 Scottish League Cups.

And then came 1967. The European Cup, the tournament now known as the UEFA Champions League, was first run in the 1955-56 season. No British team had yet won it, or even reached the Final. On aggregate, Celtic beat FC Zurich of Switzerland 5-1 (including a stunning 3-0 away win), Nantes of France 6-2 (including 3-1 away), Vojvodina of Yugoslavia (now in Serbia) 2-1, and Dukla Prague of Czechoslovakia (now in the Czech Republic) 3-1.

The Final was set for Estadio Nacional in Lisbon, Portugal, with Celtic playing Internazionale Milano, who had won the Cup in 1964 and 1965, becoming known as "La Grande Inter." Celtic took the pitch with this starting XI, all of them from within 30 miles of Glasgow: Goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson, right back Jim Craig, left back Tommy Gemmell, central midfielder Bobby Murdoch, centreback and Captain Billy McNeill, centreback John Clark, right wing Jimmy "Jinky" Johnstone (often called the greatest player in Celtic history), centre forward Willie Wallace, centre forward Stevie Chalmers, central midfielder Berti Auld, and left wing Bobby Lennox.

Simpson saved a shot from Sandro Mazzola, a 2nd-generation Italian calcio star (that's what Italians call soccer, and his father Valentino Mazzola had starred for Turin team Torino in the 1940s), before Craig fouled Renato Cappellini, resulting in Inter being awarded a penalty in only the 7th minute.

The score remained 1-0 to Inter past the hour mark, because of Inter's renowned defensive style, known as catenaccio -- "padlock." Auld hit the crossbar, and Johnstone headed a shot over it. Giuliano Sarti saved a free kick from Gemmell, and he hit the bar with the rebound. Entering the 63rd minute, the Hoops were dominating, but the Nerazzurri (Black & Blue) were winning.

Finally, Celtic broke the padlock. Craig passed from the right wing to Gemmell, who fired from 25 yards, and Sarti couldn't stop it. 1-1. Celtic kept up the attack, until the 84th minute. Murdoch had a shot, and Chalmers saw that he could deflect it in. The final score was 2-1 to Celtic. They were the 1st British team to win the European Cup.

They had won the League, the Cup, the League Cup, and now the European Cup -- not just a Double, not just a Treble, but a Quadruple. Counting the Glasgow Cu, a minor trophy, they became the 1st European team to win 5 trophies in a season. They remain the only team in Europe ever to pull either of these feats off, and would become known as "The Lisbon Lions." In reference to Protestant songs about King William III, who suppressed a Catholic revolt in Ireland in 1690, Celtic fans honored their Captain by singing, "There's only one King Billy, and it's McNeill!"

King Billy McNeill got Celtic back into the European Cup Final in 1970, losing to Feyenoord of Rotterdam, who thus became the 1st Dutch team to win it. He retired after the 1975 season, having played 822 games for the team, which remains a record.

He appeared for the Scotland national team 29 times, scoring 3 goals, but never at the World Cup. Scotland did not qualify in 1962, 1966 or 1970. Scotland had perhaps its best World Cup team ever in 1974, with 4 Celtic players making the squad: Johnstone, midfielder David Hay, defender Danny McGrain and young forward Kenny Dalglish. But McNeill was 34, and past his prime.

It shouldn't have surprised anyone that he went into management. He took Aberdeen to 2nd place and the Scottish Cup Final in 1978, and that showed Celtic that he was ready to take charge. As boss at Parkhead, he won the League in 1979, 1981 and 1982, the Scottish Cup in 1980, and the Scottish League Cup in 1983.

He was lured away by English team Manchester City, and he got them promoted back to Division One in 1985. He managed 3 years at Maine Road, then the 1986-87 season at Aston Villa, but he couldn't save them from relegation. He returned to Celtic for 4 more years, including a League and Cup Double in 1988 and another Cup in 1989. He went into football media, briefly taking one last management job, as caretaker manager at Hibernian in 1998.

Since 1963, he had been married to Liz Callaghan, a former professional dancer. They had 5 children. In 2002, he was voted Celtic's greatest Captain. He was elected to the Scottish Football Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2015, a statue of him holding up the European Cup was dedicated outside Celtic Park.
But he had already begun to fall victim to dementia, and was unable to participate in 50th Anniversary celebrations for the Lisbon Lions. Billy McNeill died this past Monday, April 22, 2019, in the Glasgow suburb of Newton Means. He was 79 years old.

He was preceded in death among the Lisbon Lions of 1967 by manager Jock Stein in 1985 (famously suffering a heart attack while managing Scotland against Wales in a "Home Nations Championship" match in Cardiff), Bobby Murdoch in 2001, Ronnie Simpson in 2004, Jinky Johnstone in 2006 and Tommy Gemmell in 2017. There are 6 surviving players: Stevie Chalmers is 83, Bertie Auld is 81, John Clark and Willie Wallace are 78, Jim Craig is about to turn 76, and Bobby Lennox is 75.

How Long It's Been: Arsenal Won the Premier League

April 25, 2004, 15 years ago: Never did a tie feel more like a win.

Or, to put it another way: If, as the saying from American football goes, "A tie is like kissing your sister," then this was like doing the deed with your sister's really hot best friend.

On a Sunday afternoon, Chelsea's defeat in the early game meant that Arsenal need only a draw to clinch the Premier League title at White Hart Lane, home of their North London arch-rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, with 4 League games to spare. They jump at the chance, with team captain Patrick Vieira (in only the 3rd minute of the game) and Robert Pires (in the 35th) each scoring a beauty.

But Jamie Redknapp -- whose father Harry would later cause Arsenal some trouble as a manager, including for Tottenham -- hits a screamer of his own. In stoppage time, there is a dive in the box, and referee Mark Halsey stupidly (or corruptly?) awards a penalty. Robbie Keane takes it, and it's 2-2.

Before the game, Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger had told his players that, if they get the point they need, they should not celebrate on the pitch, but rather wait until they were in the dressing room. But, as Thierry Henry later said, after the equalizer, the Spurs fans "celebrated like they won the World Cup Final." (As a part of the France team that did just that in 1998, he would know.)

Play resumes, and when Halsey almost immediately blows his whistle, the Gunners basically say, "Fuck it, we're the Champions," and party along with the Arsenal fans who'd made the 4 1/2-mile trip up the Seven Sisters Road to celebrate. The song, dating back to the 1971 title clincher in the old Football League Division One, goes up:

We won the League (We won the League)
at White Hart Lane! (at White Hart Lane!)
We won the League at White Hart Lane!
We won the League at the Shithole!
We won the League at White Hart Lane!

(Sometimes it's "Shite Hart Lane!")

Arsenal had already crashed out of the FA Cup in the Semifinal against Man United and the Champions League in the Quarterfinal against Chelsea. But they would finish the season unbeaten in League play, something that hadn't been done since the 1st League season, 1888-89 -- 115 years. And when Preston North End did that, it was a 22-game season. This was 38. Or, as Jon Champion, broadcasting the finale, said at the time, "They were, quite literally, unbeatable: Played 38, won 26, drawn 12, lost exactly none!"

So not only had Arsenal now won the League at White Hart Lane as many times as Tottenham had won it there -- as many times as Tottenham had won it anywhere (2, in 1951 and 1961, whereas Arsenal had done it in 1971 and 2004) -- but they'd come up with an unmatched achievement in English football. Tottenham have never done it. Nor have Liverpool, nor Man United, nor Chelsea, nor any other club, since the (much shorter) 1888-89 season and Preston North End. Just The Arsenal.

They would run their streak of unbeaten matches in the League to an all-time record 49, before a Wayne Rooney dive would give Man United a dubious penalty and a dubious win at Old Trafford the following October 24.

Arsenal have not won the Premier League since. They've won the FA Cup in 2005, 2014, 2015 and 2017. They've reached the Final of the League Cup in 2007 and 2018, and of the UEFA Champions League in 2006. They finished 2nd in the Premier League in 2016. But never since, 1st.

They've seriously challenged for the League title -- contrary to what a bunch of damn fools will tell you -- in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2016. But they haven't won it.

Those same damn fools will tell you that not winning the League is "failure." Did I mention they were damn fools?

Since then, the League title has been won by Chelsea 5 times (2005, '06, '10, '15 and '17), Manchester United 5 times (2007, '08, '09, '11 and '13), Manchester City 3 times (2012, '14 and '18), and Leicester City once (2016). The 2019 title will be won by either Man City or Liverpool, as they are neck-and-neck at this moment, and no other team is close.

Arsenal have had long droughts before. They first got into the top flight of English soccer, known until 1992 at the Football League Division One, in 1906, but didn't win it until 1931, 25 years; and had a pair of 18-year droughts, 1953 to 1971 and 1971 to 1989. So a 14-year drought isn't as bad as it sounds, especially since, during that 1st drought, there was also a 17-year trophy drought between the 1953 League title and the 1970 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup; and, during the 2nd drought, the only trophies were the 1979 FA Cup and the 1987 League Cup.

But it's been exactly 15 years since Arsenal won the League. How long has that been?

*

Wenger finally left Arsenal after last season. Did he retire or was he fired? That is still debated, as is the question of whether he left at the right time, or should have left sooner, or should have stayed longer. Clearly, looking at how Unai Emery is managing Arsenal this season (including yesterday's debacle away to West Midlands team Wolverhampton Wanderers), a case can be made that Wenger left too soon -- or, at least, that Arsenal hired the wrong man to replace him.

Only 5 players who played so much as 1 game for Arsenal that season are still playing, anywhere in the world: Ashley Cole (Derby County in England's 2nd division), Jose Antonio Reyes (Extramadura in Spain's 2nd division), Gaël Clichy (İstanbul Başakşehir in Turkey's top division), Michal Papadopulos (Piast Gliwice in Poland's top division), and Justin Hoyte (FC Cincinnati in America). Clichy was the last of the Invincibles to leave Arsenal, in 2011.

Several of them have gone into coaching, and some have even managed: Patrick Vieira runs OGC Nice in France, Sol Campbell manages Macclesfield Town in England’s 4th division, and Thierry Henry bombed as manager of AS Monaco.

Several members have gone into soccer media: The aforementioned Henry, Campbell and Kanu, and also Ray Parlour and Martin Keown.

Football (soccer) legends Bill Nicholson, Juan Carlos Muñoz, Bert Williams, Tom Finney, Bert Trautmann, Eddie Turnbull, Laurie Hughes, Nilton Santos, Nat Lofthouse, Alfredo Di Stéfano, Walter Bahr, Ferenc Puskás, Jimmy Hill, Lawrie Reilly, Djalma Santos, Josef Masopust, Raymond Kopa, Cesare Maldini, Bobby Smith, Bobby Robson, Ray Wilson, Johnny Haynes, Jimmy Armfield, Don Howe, Gordon Banks, Gerry Byrne, Brian Labone, Billy McNeill, Giacinto Facchetti, Eusébio, Jeff Astle, Carlos Alberto, Jinky Johnstone, Alan Ball, George Best, Giorgio Chinaglia, Peter Osgood, Johan Cruijff and Sócrates were all still alive at the time. Now, they're all dead. 

Olivier Giroud, Jamie Vardy and Luis Suarez were 17 years old; Dax McCarty and Lionel Messi were 16 (Dax is listed first because he's older); Sergio Agüero, Robert Lewandowski, Diego Costa, and Mesut Özil were 15; Alex Morgan, Gareth Bale and Toni Kroos were 14; Aaron Ramsey, Eden Hazard and Antoine Griezmann were 13; Jack Wilshere and Neymar were 12; Mario Götze and Paul Pogba were 11; Harry Kane was 10 Dele Alli was 8; Christian Pulisic and Gianluigi Donnaruma were 5; Reiss Nelson was 4; and Emile Smith Rowe was 3.

Unai Emery of Arsenal was playing for Lorca Deportiva in Spain, Domènec Torrent of New York City FC was managing Girona in Spain, and Chris Armas of the Red Bulls was playing for the Chicago Fire.

Barry Trotz of the Islanders was head coach of the Nashville Predators, Pat Shurmur of the Giants was an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, Adam Gase of the Jets was an assistant coach with the Detroit Lions, David Fizdale of the Knicks was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors, and David Quinn of the Rangers and John Hynes of the Devils were both coaching with the U.S. national hockey team.

Mickey Callaway of the Mets was playing for the Texas Rangers, Aaron Boone of the Yankees was under contract to the Yankees but missed the entire season due to injury, Katie Smith of the Liberty was playing for the Minnesota Lynx, and Kenny Atkinson of the Nets was playing in the French basketball league.

Arsenal dethroned Manchester United as Premier League Champions, but Man U would dethrone Arsenal as FA Cup winners. FC Porto won the UEFA Champions League, beginning the rise of Jose Mourinho. This was not a good thing.

The defending Champions of North American sports were the Florida Marlins, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Detroit Red Wings, and the Los Angeles Galaxy. The Heavyweight Champion of the World? It was John Ruiz according to the WBA, Chris Byrd according to the IBF, and, the day before, Vitali Klitschko had won the WBC version.

The Olympic Games have since been held in Greece, Italy, China, Canada, Britain, Russia, Brazil and Korea. The World Cup has since been held in Germany, South Africa, Brazil and Russia.

The idea that corporations were "people," and entitled to the rights thereof, was considered ridiculous. But then, so was the idea that two people of the same gender could marry each other. Massachusetts became the 1st State to legalize same-sex marriage later in that year.

The President of the United States was George W. Bush, running for re-election. Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and, for a few more weeks, Ronald Reagan were still alive. So were their wives, and the widow of Lyndon Johnson.

The Governor of the State of New York was George Pataki. The Mayor of the City of New York was Michael Bloomberg. The Governor of the State of New Jersey was Jim McGreevey.

There were still living veterans of World War I, the Mexican Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the Irish War of Independence. There were still survivors of the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, the General Slocum Fire of 1904, the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, and the Italian Hall Disaster of 1913.

The monarch of Great Britain was Queen Elizabeth II -- that hasn't changed -- and the Prime Minister was Tony Blair. The Mayor of London was Ken Livingstone. The Prime Minister of Canada was Paul Martin. The Pope was John Paul II. The current Pope, Francis, was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and an archbishop in his native Argentina. The holder of the Nobel Peace Prize was Iranian women's and children's advocate Shirin Ibadi. There have since been 3 Presidents of the United States, 4 Prime Ministers of Britain, and 3 Popes.

Major novels of 2004 included Layer Cake by J.J. Connolly, and Boy A by Jonathan Trigell, both of which have been made into major films; and Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, an alternate history showing how fascism could have come to America in the 1940 election. Stephen King published the last 2 books in his 7-book Dark Tower saga. J.K. Rowling published Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the 6th book in that story. George R.R. Martin published A Feast for Crows, the 4th book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series that inspired the TV show Game of Thrones.

Major films in the Spring of 2004 included Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Shrek 2, Jersey Girl, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 13 Going on 30, Man On Fire, Mean Girls, The Day After Tomorrow, the Trojan War film Troy; remakes of The Alamo, The Stepford Wives, Dawn of the Dead and Walking Tall; a film version of the comic books Hellboy, The Punisher and Van Helsing, a film version of the 1970s cop show Starsky & Hutch, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (the 4th film in the series), and the documentary Super Size Me.

Star Trek was wrapping up the 3rd season of Enterprise. George Lucas was putting the finishing touches on Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, and we all thought that "the saga" was complete. Steven Spielberg was about to release his remake of War of the Worlds. As the actor playing Tarantino in an episode of Epic Rap Battles of History put it, "Due to War of the Worlds, a failure is what I label you. It looked like some sellout bullshit Michael Bay would do."

Daniel Craig was about to be introduced as a new James Bond, one that was absolutely not the same man of the 1962 to 2002 films. Brandon Routh was about to be introduced as Superman, in a film that acted as though Christopher Reeve's Superman III and Superman IV had never happened. Christian Bale was about to be introduced as Batman. Christopher Eccleston was about to be introduced as The Doctor.

TV shows that had recently been introduced included The L Word, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Pimp My Ride, Deadwood, Drake & Josh; and, to the world's great detriment, The Apprentice. The American debut of Peppa Pig, already popular in Britain, was a few weeks away.

No one had yet heard of Lisbeth Salander, Bella Swan, Michael Scott, Don Draper, Katniss Everdeen, Walter White, Jax Teller, Richard Castle, Leslie Knope, Sarah Manning, Jane "Eleven" Hopper or Maggie Bell. And most people hadn't heard of the Kardashians, except for the late Robert Kardashian Sr., and maybe (if they counted him as one) the person then known as Bruce Jenner.

The Number 1 song in America was "Yeah!" by Usher, Lil Jon and Ludacris -- and it was ludicrous that such a piece of crap should be in its 9th of 12 weeks at Number 1. The Number 1 song in Britain, the country in question, was listed as "F**k It (I Don't Want You Back)," by Eamon Doyle -- despite his Irish name, not a native of the British isles, but of Staten Island, New York City. And he only used his first name, Eamon. As you might guess, the song was not a hit in America.

Phish announced their breakup. Fantasia Barrino won Season 3 of American Idol, beating, among others, Jennifer Hudson. Paul McCartney was finishing up his album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. Bob Dylan was working on his album Modern Times. Michael Jackson was too busy defending himself to work on an album.

Inflation was such that what $1.00 bought then, $1.35 would buy now. Given the country in which this occurred, I should add that what £1.00 bought then, £1.50 would buy now. A U.S. postage stamp cost 37 cents, and a New York Subway ride $2.00. The average price of a gallon of gas was $1.92, a cup of coffee $2.15, a McDonald's meal (Big Mac, fries, shake) $6.50, a movie ticket $6.19, a new car $22,068, and a new house $265,300. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the preceding Friday at 10,472.84.

In the Spring of 2004, there were terrorist bombings in Karbala, Iraq and the Spanish capital of Madrid. A ceasefire ended the Darfur War. Israel assassinated Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas. And Pat Tillman, who had quit professional football to enlist in the U.S. Army after the 9/11 attacks, was accidentally killed by "friendly fire" during a mission in Afghanistan.

Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia were admitted to NATO; while the aforementioned Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia, plus already-NATO members the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, and non-NATO members Cyprus and Malta were admitted to the European Union. But as to Cyprus, while the nation's Turks approved a proposal to reunite the island, its Greeks rejected it.

Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, and Tony Randall, and Estee Lauder died. So, within the preceding weeks, had British football legends John Charles and Bob Stokoe. Very few people born at that time have yet become famous, but it's worth noting that hardly anyone had yet heard of Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Drake, Rihanna, Adele, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Ariana Grande, Halsey, any of the Jonas Brothers, any of the members of One Direction, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Chrissy Teigen, Emma Stone, Jennifer Lawrence, or any of the younger actors from Modern Family, Game of Thrones, or the Star Wars and Harry Potter film series.

April 25, 2004. Arsenal Football Club clinched the Premier League title. They have not done it since.

When will it happen again? If you're expecting it to ever happen under Unai Emery, then you have more faith in his vaunted "system" than I do.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

How to Be a New York Baseball Fan In Arizona -- 2019 Edition

This coming Tuesday, the Yankees begin a 2-game Interleague series in Phoenix against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Mets make their only visit of the season on May 31, June 1 and 2. The fact the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in the 2001 World Series should not matter: To us, they're just another National League team.

Before You Go. Mid-June in Arizona can be hot. Actually, mid-January in Arizona can be hot. When it's 90 degrees and up, you don't want to hear any of that "But it's a dry heat" crap. According to a January 30, 2019 article in Thrillist

Occasionally, retired Kroger business executives from Ohio and their Pilates-instructor second wives will accidentally move to Flagstaff and get very sad and angry when they realize the average winter temperature is somewhere in the 20s. But most of Arizona offers up that dry desert day heat that is good for arthritis and any lingering guilt about leaving their first wives to deal with their delinquent teenage kids back in Indian Hill.    

AZcentral.com, the website for Phoenix's largest newspaper, the Arizona Republic, is predicting the high 90s for the afternoons. The nights will be in the high 60s. The roof will be closed, but you will have to spend some time outdoors. So stay hydrated. That means watch your alcohol consumption. It's the worst thing for you if you're dehydrated. I'm not kidding.

Arizona's infamous Daylight Savings Time issue has been settled: The State is on Mountain Time when New York is on Daylight Savings Time, and on Pacific Time when we're on Standard Time. This is the DST time of year. So you'll be on Pacific Time, 3 hours behind New Jersey and New York City. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

If you're thinking of making a side trip into Mexico, you should know that Phoenix to the border is a 4-hour drive at the least. No public transportation. You'll need a passport, and you'll also need Mexican driving insurance, which you might be able to get at the Mexican consulate in Phoenix. In other words, it's not really worth the trip.

Tickets. The Diamondbacks averaged 27,687 fans per home game this season, in a stadium whose listed capacity is 48,633. So you can probably show up on the day of the game and get any ticket you can afford. Still, as always, it's better to have them printed up from your computer before you leave the house.

In the lower level, Infield Boxes will cost $140, Baseline Boxes $115, Baseline Reserves $09, and Bleachers $65. In the upper level, MVP Boxes are $69, Infield Reserves $49, and Outfield Reserves $39.

Getting There. It's 2,458 miles from Times Square to Chase Field in downtown Phoenix. In other words, if you're going, you're flying.

You think I'm kidding? Even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days' worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don't get pulled over for speeding, you'll still need nearly 2 full days to get there. One way.

But, if you really, really want to... You'll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike. Take it to Exit 14, to Interstate 78. Follow I-78 west all the way through New Jersey, to Phillipsburg, and across the Delaware River into Easton, Pennsylvania. Continue west on I-78 until reaching Harrisburg. There, you will merge onto I-81. Take Exit 52 to U.S. Route 11, which will soon take you onto I-76. This is the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the nation's 1st superhighway, opening in 1940.

The Turnpike will eventually be a joint run between I-76 and Interstate 70. Once that happens, you'll stay on I-70, all the way past Pittsburgh, across the little northern panhandle of West Virginia, and then across Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, into Missouri.

At St. Louis, take Exit 40C onto Interstate 44 West, which will take you southwest across Missouri into Oklahoma. Upon reaching Oklahoma City, take Interstate 40 West, through the rest of the State, across the Texas Panhandle and New Mexico, into Arizona. At Flagstaff, take Interstate 17 South, which will take you into Phoenix. Take Interstate 10 East to Exit 145, which will lead you to North 7th Street. Chase Field is at 7th and East Jefferson Street.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and 15 minutes in New Jersey, 5 hours and 30 minutes in Pennsylvania, 15 minutes in West Virginia, 3 hours and 45 minutes in Ohio, 2 hours and 45 minutes in Indiana, another 2 hours and 45 minutes in Illinois, 5 hours in Missouri, 6 hours in Oklahoma, 3 hours in Texas, 6 hours and 15 minutes in New Mexico, and 5 hours and 15 minutes in Arizona. That's about 41 hours and 45 minutes. Counting rest stops, you're porbably talking about 55 hours.

That's still faster than Greyhound, averaging around 68 hours, including a 1:45 bus-change in Richmond, a 1:15 stopover in Charlotte, an hour's bus-change in Atlanta, an hour's stopover in Birmingham, a 45-minute stopover in Jackson, Mississippi, an hour's stopover in Shreveport, a 1:30 bus-change in Dallas (that's right, changing buses 3 times each way), and a 1:15 stopover in El Paso.

It's $687 round-trip, maybe as low as $455 if you order on advanced purchase. To get to Phoenix by Thursday afternoon, you'll have to leave on Monday night. The station is at 2115 East Buckeye Road, adjacent to Sky Harbor International Airport. Number 13 bus to downtown.

Forget Amtrak: It doesn't go to Phoenix. You'd have to take it to Maricopa Stadium, 35 miles to the south, and it's so convoluted that it's not worth posting.

Flights to Phoenix' Sky Harbor International Airport, usually changing in Chicago or Dallas, are actually among the cheapest to any big-league city, and, if ordered ahead of time, can be had for just under $700.

Once In the City. While the Diamondbacks have the State name as their geographic identifier -- apparently from a Native American word meaning "small spring" -- they play in Arizona's State capital, Phoenix. Jack Swilling, a Confederate veteran who founded the place in 1867, accepted the suggestion of a fellow settler, an Englishman named Lord Duppa: Since it was on the site of a previous Indian civilization, it should be named Phoenix, for the mythical bird that rose from its own ashes. The city was incorporated in 1881, making it the youngest city in American major league sports.
The State House in Phoenix,
apparently in 2012, the 100th Anniversary of Statehood

Home to just 100,000 people in 1950, Phoenix saw huge growth in the 2nd half of the 20th Century: 440,000 by 1960, 580,000 by 1970, 800,000 by 1980, and it surpassed the 1 million mark in the early 1990s. It's 1.6 million now, with about 4.6 million people in the metropolitan area.

All this made it an expansion target. The NBA's expansion Suns arrived in 1968. The NFL's St. Louis Cardinals in 1988, changing their name from the Phoenix Cardinals to the Arizona Cardinals in 1993. The USFL's Arizona Wranglers played there in 1984, and became the Arizona Outlaws the following year. This was around the time that the Philadelphia Eagles nearly moved there due to owner Leonard Tose's fractured finances.

The MLB team that became the Diamondbacks was awarded in 1995, to begin play in 1998. And the NHL's 1st Winnipeg Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes in 1997, changing their name to the Arizona Coyotes in 2013. This was after the World Hockey Association had the Phoenix Roadrunners in the 1970s -- and, yes, I'm well aware of the cartoon connection: Roadrunners replaced by Coyotes. The WNBA's Phoenix Mercury also began play in 1997. Today, the Suns are the only Phoenix-area team to keep the city's name as their identifier, rather than the State's name.

The sales tax in Arizona is 5.6 percent, but it's 8.3 percent within the City of Phoenix. ZIP Codes for Arizona start with the digits 85 and 86, and the Area Codes are 602 (for Phoenix), 480 and 623 (for the suburbs).

Arizona Public Service provides electricity and water. The Phoenix metropolitan area has a population that is about 58 percent white, 31 percent Hispanic, 5 percent black, 3 percent Asian, and 3 percent Native American.

Central Avenue is the source street for east-west house numbers; oddly, the north-south streets are numbered Streets to the east, and numbered Avenues to the west. Washington Street divides addresses into north and south. State Route 101 forms a partial "outer beltway," while Interstates 10 (north and east) and 17 (south and west) form an "inner beltway."
A single ride on Phoenix buses and Valley Metro Rail is $2.00, with an All-Day Pass a bargain at $4.00. With the ballpark being downtown and thus probably near your hotel, you probably won't need the light-rail system to get there. But in the heat, you may still want to take a cab. If you do take Metro Rail, it's Washington at 3rd Street station going westbound, and Jefferson at 3rd Street station going eastbound.
Light rail train stopped at the stadium

Going In. The official address of Chase Field is 401 East Jefferson Street, the street bounding center field. Home plate faces a railroad and East Buchanan Street, South 4th Street is the 3rd base side, and the 1st base side is South 7th Street. With the railroad on the south/home plate side, most of the gates are on Jefferson and 4th. Parking ranges from $10 to $16.
Roof open

As a retractable-roof stadium, Chase Field -- opening in 1998 as Bank One Ballpark, and having that name during what remains the Diamondbacks' only World Series thus far, 2001 -- somewhat resembles Miller Park in Milwaukee, which opened 3 years later. In other words, it looks like a big airplane hangar, without much atmosphere.
Roof closed

True, there is that pool in the right-center-field corner... but what's a pool doing at a ballpark? At any rate, you won't get much of a view of downtown Phoenix from inside the place, which points due north.
The field is natural grass, points due north, and is functionally, but not quite, symmetrical: 330 to left field, 334 to right, 374 to both power alleys, 407 to center, and 413 to corners on each side of center. The longest home run hit at Chase is 504 feet, by Adam Dunn in 2008. The field is natural grass, and has a dirt path from the pitcher's mound to home plate, known as a "keyhole" for its shape, a phenomenon once common in baseball, one of the few old-time features in this monstrosity meant for the 21st Century.
In addition to the Diamondbacks, Chase Field has also hosted concerts, rodeos, and the Cactus Bowl, formerly known as the Insight.com Bowl.

Major League Baseball is now concerned enough about developments at Chase Field that it might force the Diamondbacks to move.

Food. As a Southwestern city, you might expect Phoenix to have a Mexican/Spanish/Southwest food theme. Which is the case: Their "A-Zona Grill" includes burritos, churros, and all kinds of tacos ranging from steak to chicken to shrimp.  They also have popcorn named "Catcus Corn."

But they also have Philadelphia-style cheesesteaks, San Francisco's trademark garlic fries, and an outlet of Los Angeles' famed Fatburger. They have chain outlets Subway, Panda Express, Mrs. Fields, TCBY and Cold Stone Creamery. And, knowing they have lots of ex-New Yorkers in their Sun Belt city and its surrounding metro area, they have stands called "Streets of New York" at Sections 104, 113, 125, 138, 306, 326 and 328.

They have 3 bars overlooking the outfield: The Arizona Baseball Club is above right field, the Sedona Club in center field, and Friday's Front Row (part of the T.G.I. Friday's chain) overlooks left field.

According to a recent Thrillist article on the best food at each MLB ballpark, the best snack at Chase Field is the Churro dog, available at 114 and 123. What's a churro dog? It's a chocolate long john, churro, ice cream, whip cream and chocolate and carmel drizzle. In other words, it's what happens 9 months after the Taco Bell Chihuahua and a Dairy Queen get drunk together. In other words, it's disgusting, a disgrace to both ice cream and Mexican food. So, unlike the churro dog itself, maybe you should take that Thrillist article with a grain of salt.

Team History Displays. The Diamondbacks have now celebrated their 20th Anniversary. As 1 of the 2 newest teams (unless you count the Washington Nationals separately from the Montreal Expos, and I usually do), the Diamondbacks don't have a lot of history, but they have some. They've won one Pennant, in 2001, and beat the Yankees in the World Series. They've won the National League Western Division 5 times: 1999, 2001, 2002, 2007 and 2011. They put these notations outside the stadium. They have not done so for their 2017 NL Wild Card berth.
They've retired the Number 20 of Luis Gonzalez, outfielder, 1999-2006; and the Number 51 of Randy Johnson, 1999-2004 and 2007-08. The retired numbers, along with Jackie Robinson's universally-retired Number 42, are above the right field stands. The D-backs have handed out Curt Schilling's Number 38, currently worn by pitcher Robbie Ray. They are currently polling their fans for a 20th Anniversary Team.
The retired number display, before Johnson's 51 was added

There is no mention of the 1959 and 1977 Pacific Coast League Pennants won by the Phoenix Giants, or of the Division titles won by their replacements, the Phoenix Firebirds, including in 1996 and 1997, the last 2 seasons before the majors finally arrived in Phoenix.

Obviously, no Diamondbacks were chosen by The Sporting News for their 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999. If they were to do it again, Johnson would be selected. He was chosen by Diamondback fans for the DHL Hometown Heroes contest in 2006.

In 2018, Diamondback fans chose a 20th Anniversary Team. The honorees were: Infielders, 1st baseman Paul Goldschmidt, 2nd baseman Jay Bell, shortstop Tony Womack and 3rd baseman Matt Williams; outfielders Luis Gonzalez, Steve Finley and A.J. Pollock; catcher Miguel Montero; starting pitchers Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Brandon Webb, Patrick Corbin and Zack Greinke; relief pitchers Jose Valverde and Brad Ziegler; and manager Bob Brenly.

There is an Arizona Sports Hall of Fame, with Gonzalez, Schilling, Johnson, Mark Grace, and original owner Jerry Colangelo as members. Also members are Arizona native baseball players Art Nehf of the 1920s New York Giants, James "Shanty" Hogan of the 1920s and '30s Boston Braves, Thornton Lee of the 1940s Chicago White Sox, and Tim Salmon of the 1990s and 2000s Angels of Varying Geographical Identifiers.

The Diamondbacks don't really have a rivalry. The next-closest teams are their NL West opponents: The Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Diego Padres, the San Francisco Giants and the Colorado Rockies; and, while they're in the AL, the Los Angeles Angels and the Oakland Athletics. But none really stands out above the others. I suppose, due to the history they carry, D-backs fans would rather beat the Dodgers than anyone else.

Stuff. The Diamondbacks have Team Stores all over Chase Field, oddly having more in the upper level than in the lower level. I don't know if they tie into the city's Western heritage by selling cowboy hats with team logos on them.

The 2001 World Series highlight film and a DVD package of that Series are available, although there is, as yet, no Essential Games of the Arizona Diamondbacks DVD collection.

As one of the newest teams, the D-backs don't have many books written about them, but there are 2 you should know about: Len Sherman wrote Big League, Big Time: The Birth of the Arizona Diamondbacks; and Sara Gilbert (not the actress of that name) wrote The Story of the Arizona Diamondbacks, published last year. Buster Olney's The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty, as you would expect, mentions the Yanks' loss in the 2001 World Series, but is about them, not the Diamondbacks.

During the Game. A recent Thrillist article on "Baseball's Most Intolerable Fans" put Diamondback fans at 17th, right in the middle of the pack, although they did invoke the joke, "D-Backs, more like D-Bags, amirite?"

The average Arizona baseball fan is not especially douchey. On the other hand, this is still the home State of racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio. As the Thrillist article says, "You definitely have your segment of the fanbase that sees no cognitive dissonance whatsoever between saying horribly racist things about Latinos and cheering for Yasmany Tomas."

Neverthless, wearing Met (or Yankee) gear in Phoenix will not endanger your safety. As a franchise only in their 20th season, the Diamondbacks don't really have a rivalry yet; and if they did, it probably wouldn't be with the Mets, although the Mets did beat them in the 1999 NL Division Series.

For the most part, Arizona fans are okay, not making trouble for fans of teams playing the NFL Cardinals, NBA Suns or NHL Coyotes, either. In fact, their biggest rivalry is intrastate: The University of Arizona vs. Arizona State University. It's a heated rivalry... but it's a dry heat.

The Sunday game, being on Father's Day, will feature a promotion, a Father's Day Hawaiian shirt. The Diamondbacks hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. They don't have a lot to hold your attention during a game, unless you want to count that pool. There's no special "Get Loud" device, and no famous fans known for getting people going. No special song during the 7th Inning Stretch or after a win.

There is a song titled "Arizona," a 1970 hit for Mark Lindsay, who was the lead singer for the rock band Paul Revere & the Raiders, but it's clear that the title refers to the name of the narrator's girlfriend, and has nothing to do with the State or the ballclub, which, of course, would not exist even on paper for another quarter of a century.

The team has 2 mascots. The first was D. Baxter the Bobcat, named for the team's abbreviation, "D-backs," and for the facts that bobcats are common in Arizona and the stadium was originally known as Bank One Ballpark or "The Bob."
The newer one is "The D-Backs Luchador," a character based on Mexican "professional wrestling," introduced in 2015 to appeal to Hispanic fans. He wears a black cape, red pants, and a mask patterned after the team's logo. Clearly, making the mascot a snake, which is what a diamondback actually is, was out of the question.
Don't tell Sheriff Joe about this guy. For at least 2 reasons.

They have a variation on a mascot race, with kids chosen to wear hot dogs suits, with different condiments (ketchup, mustard, relish).

If the home team wins, they will play a song written for them, "D-backs Swing," by Rogers Clyne & the Peacemakers. Clyne is from Tucson and wrote the theme song for the Fox cartoon King of the Hill.

After the Game. Phoenix does have crime issues, but you should be safe as long as you stay downtown. It's incredibly unlikely that Diamondback fans will try to provoke you. As I said, the newness of the team, the lack of nearby rivalries, and the fact that the Mets (or the Yankees) wouldn't be such a rivalry anyway all help.

There are, as yet, no bars around Chase Field that have become famous as postgame hangouts. As for anything New York-friendly, the closest I can come at this time is a place called Tim Finnegan's, the local Jets fan hangout, but that's 11 miles north of downtown, at 9201 North 29th Avenue. It appears that the local football Giants fan club meets at Blue Moose, at 7373 E. Scottsdale Mall, but that's 12 miles northeast.

I've read that a Yankee Fan hangout is at LagerFields Sports Grill, at 12601 N. Paradise Village Pkwy. W., 14 miles northeast. Alas, I can find nothing Mets-specific in the area.

If you visit Phoenix during the European soccer season, which is now approaching its climax, the best "football pub" in Arizona is the George & Dragon Pub, which opens at 7:00 AM on matchdays. 4240 N. Central Avenue, about 3 miles north of downtown. Bus 13 to Buckeye Road & Central Avenue, then transfer to Bus ZERO to Farrington Lane. Unless you're a Liverpool fan, or you'd prefer to stay downtown, in which case you can go to the Rose and Crown, at 628 E. Adams Street, 2 blocks north of the ballpark.

Sidelights.
 On November 30, 2018, Thrillist published a list of "America's 25 Most Fun Cities," and Phoenix came in 21st. 

The Talking Stick Resort Arena, previously known as the AmericaWest Arena and the US Airways Center, is 2 blocks west of Chase Field, at 2nd & Jefferson. The Suns have played here since 1992, and the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury since 1997. The Coyotes played here from 1996 to 2003.

* Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Grand Canyon State's 1st home to big-league sports, opening in 1965, was home to the Suns from their 1968 arrival until 1992, and to the World Hockey Association's Phoenix Roadrunners from 1974 to 1977.

Elvis Presley sang at the Coliseum on September 9, 1970, and again on April 22, 1973. Early in his career, on June 9, 1956, he sang at a grandstand at the adjoining Arizona State Fairgrounds. The next day, he sang at the Rodeo Grounds in Tucson. He also sang at the Tucson Community Center on November 9, 1972 and June 1, 1976. (While individual ex-Beatles have performed in Arizona, the band as a whole did not do so on any of their 3 North American tours.)

The Coliseum still stands, and is part of the State Fairgrounds. 1826 W. McDowell Road. Northwest of downtown. Number 15 bus to 15th & McDowell, then 3 blocks west.

* Phoenix Municipal Stadium. This ballpark was home to the Phoenix Giants/Firebirds from its opening in 1964 until 1991, and is the current spring training home of the Oakland Athletics, the Diamondbacks' Rookie League team, and Arizona's State high school baseball championship. 5999 E. Van Buren Street. East of downtown, take the Light Rail to Priest Drive/Washington station, then a short walk up Priest.
* Scottsdale Stadium. This stadium was home to the Firebirds in their last years, 1992 to 1997. Its seating capacity of 12,000, 4,000 more than Phoenix Municipal, was meant to showcase the Phoenix area as a potential major league market. It's the San Francisco Giants' spring training site, and replaced a previous stadium on the site that dated to 1956, used as a spring training home for the Giants, A's, Red Sox, Orioles and Cubs -- sometimes all at the same time.
Because it was the Cubs' spring training home, thus leading to Phoenix becoming "Chicago's Miami," where retirees from the city tend to go (paging Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post & ESPN's Pardon the Interruption & NBA coverage), it was where former Cub catcher Randy Hundley hosted the very first baseball fantasy camp. As Met fans, you might remember Randy's furious reaction to Tommie Agee scoring on a controversial umpiring call at home plate at Shea in September 1969. You might also remember Randy's son, former Met catcher Todd Hundley.

7408 E. Osborn Road, at Drinkwater Boulevard. Northeast of downtown. Light Rail to Veterans Way/College station, then transfer to Number 72 bus to Osborn, then walk 2 blocks east.

* State Farm Stadium and Gila River Arena. The Glendale Sports & Entertainment District, in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, consists of State Farm Stadium (until this year known as The University of Phoenix Stadium), home to the Arizona Cardinals since 2006; and the Gila River Arena, home to the Coyotes since 2003.

The complex is about 17 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix. The official address of the stadium is 1 Cardinals Drive, and that of the arena is 9400 W. Maryland Avenue. Number 8 bus from downtown to 7th & Glendale Avenues, then transfer to Number 70 bus, to Glendale and 95th Avenue, then walk down 95th. If you drive in, parking starts at $10.

New York Tri-State Area sports fans know the stadium as the site of Super Bowl XLII, where the Giants derailed the New England Patriots' bid for the NFL's first 19-0 season. The Cardinals defeated the Philadelphia Eagles there in January 2009 to advance to Super Bowl XLIII. The Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers there in Super Bowl XLIX. It is set to host Super Bowl LVII on February 5, 2023.

The stadium is also home to the Fiesta Bowl, and thus what has amounted to 3 National Championship Games: 2006-07, Florida over Ohio State; 2010-11, Auburn over Oregon; and 2015-16, Alabama over Clemson.

In 2017, it became the 1st building in Arizona to host a Final Four, with North Carolina defeating Gonzaga in the Final. It will host the Final Four again in 2024. It's hosted 4 matches of the U.S. soccer team, most recently a 3-0 win over Panama in a friendly this past January 27.

The neighboring Gila River Arena has been home to the Coyotes since 2003. In 2012, for the first time since the Jets/Coyotes franchise entered the NHL in 1979, they reached the League's last 4 (now the Western Conference Finals). Nevertheless, the team is still having financial troubles, which could yet lead to it being moved. A deal to build a new arena for the Coyotes and Arizona State basketball on the ASU campus in Tempe fell apart in 2017.

The official address of the stadium is 1 Cardinals Drive, and that of the arena is 9400 W. Maryland Avenue. Number 8 bus from downtown to 7th & Glendale Avenues, then transfer to Number 70 bus, to Glendale and 95th Avenue, then walk down 95th.

* Arizona State University. The University of Arizona is 114 miles away in Tuscon, but ASU is just a 24-minute Light Rail ride from downtown. The station is at 5th Street & Veterans Way, and is 2 blocks away from Sun Devil Stadium and the Wells Fargo Arena, home to their football and basketball teams, respectively.

Sun Devil Stadium was built in 1958, and ASU still plays there rather than move to the larger, more modern (but well off-campus) University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals played there from 1988 to 2005, and the Fiesta Bowl was held there from 1971 to 2006. This meant what amounted to 5 National Championship Games: 1986-87, Penn State over Miami; 1988-89, Notre Dame over West Virginia; 1995-96, Nebraska over Florida; 1998-99, Tennessee over Florida State; and 2002-03, Ohio State over Miami.

The Dallas Cowboys treated it as a second home field when they played the Cardinals (mainly because there always seemed to be more Cowboy fans there), and won Super Bowl XXX there, when the world learned A) it was possible for the Pittsburgh Steelers to lose a Super Bowl, and B) Terry Bradshaw was a smart quarterback compared to Neil O'Donnell. It also hosted 2 U.S. soccer team matches in the 1990s.


The Wells Fargo Arena was previously known as the ASU Activity Center. Elvis sang there on March 23, 1977.

Packard Stadium, opened in 1974, is home to the ASU baseball program, one of the most successful college baseball teams, east of the stadium and arena, at Rural Road and Rio Salado Parkway. The Sun Devils have won 5 National Championships, most recently in 1981. Their legends include Reggie Jackson, Barry Bonds, and current stars Dustin Pedroia and Andre Ethier. Notable ASU and Met alumni include Gary Gentry, Duffy Dyer, Lenny Randle, Craig Swan, Hubie Brooks, Paul Lo Duca and Ike Davis.


ASU's Gammage Auditorium, at the other end of the campus, hosted one of the 2004 Presidential Debates between George W. Bush and John Kerry. 1200 S. Forest Avenue.

The US Airways Center, Wells Fargo Arena, University of Phoenix Stadium, and the University of Arizona's McKale Center have all hosted NCAA basketball tournament games, but, as yet, the State of Arizona has never hosted a Final Four -- although the University of Phoenix Stadium certainly could. UA has been in the Final Four in 1988, 1994, 1997 and 2001, winning it all in 1997; but ASU has never gotten any closer than the Sweet 16, in 1995.

The highest-ranking pro soccer team in Arizona is Phoenix Rising FC, in the United Soccer League, our 2nd division. They play at the rather unimaginatively-named Phoenix Rising FC Soccer Complex, which seats 6,200. 751 N. McClintock Drive, in Scottsdale, 10 miles east of downtown Phoenix. It takes 4 buses over 2 hours to get there, so if you don't have a car, forget it. 

Presuming Major League Soccer's current expansion wave passes Phoenix by, the closest MLS teams are the 2 in Los Angeles, 375 (LAFC) and 376 (LA Galaxy) miles to the west, respectively. The San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake are considerably further away.

There are no Baseball Hall-of-Famers buried in Arizona. Ted Williams is (sort of) preserved at Alcor Life Extension Foundation, a cryonics lab in Scottsdale. It's a private facility, and they do not offer tours. It would be creepy if they did. So if you want to pay tribute to the Splendid Splinter, better to do so at his statue at Fenway Park in Boston, or at the Ted Williams Hitters' Hall of Fame at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, home of the Tampa Bay Rays.

* Wrigley Mansion. The Chicago Cubs have trained in Arizona since 1952: First at Mesa, then Scottsdale in 1967, and Mesa again since 1979. This is because of Phil Wrigley's Winter residence in Phoenix. (One of them, anyway: From 1922 to 1951, they trained on Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles, which he owned.) Wrigley himself is the reason baseball developed a "Cactus League" to go with Florida's "Grapefruit League."

Wrigley also owned the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, and built the Italianate-style mansion across from it. (The Waldrof-Astoria company now owns and operates the Arizona Biltmore.) The Mansion is now considered a landmark and a "Phoenix Point of ride." 2501 E. Telewa Trail, about 8 miles northeast of downtown. From there, Bus 17 to 24th & McDowell, then Bus 70. It takes 2 hours, so it may not be worth it.

* Arizona Science Center. Phoenix is not a big museum center. And while there have been Native Americans living in Phoenix for thousands of years, and Spaniards/Mexicans for hundreds, its Anglo history is rather short. No Arizonan has ever become President, although Senators Barry Goldwater and John McCain got nominated, so there's no Presidential Library or Museum. And it doesn't help history buffs that the city only goes back to 1867, and Statehood was gained only in 1912. But the Science Center is at 4th & Washington, just a block from the ballpark. And Arizona State has a renowned Art Museum.

The tallest building in Phoenix, and in all of Arizona, is the Chase Tower, bounded by Central Avenue and Van Buren, 1st and Monroe Streets. That it's only 483 feet, and that no taller building has been built in the city since it opened in 1972, says something about this city, but I'm not sure what. But the city seems to be intent on growing outward, not upward.

Television shows set in Phoenix, or anywhere in Arizona, are few and far between. The High Chaparral, another Western created by Bonanza creator David Dortort, ran on NBC from 1967 to 1971, and is fondly remembered by some. Medium was set in the Maricopa County District Attorney's office in Phoenix.

But the best-remembered show is Alice, starring Linda Lavin as one of several waitresses at fictional Mel's Diner, running on CBS from 1976 to 1985. Although the show was taped in Hollywood (Burbank, actually), that once-famous "14-ounce coffee cup" sign is still used outside a real working diner in Phoenix.

It was Lester's, until the owner agreed to change the name to "Mel's Diner" for the publicity. Today, it's Pat's Family Diner, at 1747 NW Grand Avenue, 2 miles northwest of downtown. Number 15 bus to 15th Avenue & Pierce Street, and then walk one block east to Grand, Pierce, and 12th. There are also still-in-business diners in Ohio and Florida that use the same sign design. "Pickup!"

Movies set in modern-day Arizona usually show the Grand Canyon or the Hoover Dam. Notable on this list is Thelma & Louise, in which Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon drive a 1966 Ford Thunderbird into the Canyon rather than be captured by the FBI, enacting a distaff version Paul Newman and Robert Redford at of the ending of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance KidNational Lampoon's Vacation and Natural Born Killers also used Arizona as a backdrop. While not a Western, Revenge of the Nerds was filmed at the University of Arizona, in Tucson.

The vast majority of movies set in Arizona have been Westerns, including the 1957 and 2007 versions of 3:10 to Yuma, the 1950 film Broken Arrow (not the later John Travolta film of the same title), Fort Apache (not the later Newman film set in The Bronx), Newman's Hombre, Johnny Guitar, A Million Ways to Die In the West, No Name On the Bullet, and all the films based on the 1881 Earps vs. Clantons gunfight, including My Darling Clementine in 1946, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in 1957, Tombstone in 1993 and Wyatt Earp in 1994.

If you're a Western buff, and you want to see the site of the legendary gunfight, the official address is 326 East Allen Street, Tombstone, AZ 85638. Re-enactments are held daily. Be advised, though, that it's 184 miles southeast of downtown Phoenix, a 3-hour drive, and ain't no Greyhound or Amtrak service, stranger: You'll have to drive. It's also just 50 miles from the Mexican border.

And the other 2 things in Arizona that everybody talks about? The Grand Canyon Skywalk is 262 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix, and Hoover Dam 269 miles. They're 96 road miles apart, but about half that as the crow flies. 

*

If you go to Phoenix to see the Mets play the Diamondbacks, be careful of the heat: Inside the ballpark, you should be fine; outside it, it will be as close to hell on Earth as you are ever likely to get. But you should still be able to have a good time in Phoenix.

And, if you're a Met fan, and worse comes to worst, you can always reminisce about the 2001 World Series -- even if your own club had nothing to do with it, and also lost to the Yankees the year before.

Yankees Survive Hanging Chad

Last night, the Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels didn't quite play until 2:42 AM New York time, as they did the night before. But a little after one was bad enough. And it wouldn't have been nearly that long if it wasn't for Chad Green and his "hanging chad" curveball.

Domingo German, now apparently having taken the Luis Severino slot in the rotation, pitched into the 7th inning, allowing 1 run on 4 hits and 2 walks, before being replaced in the 7th by Green.

He was backed up by good hitting. Luke Voit hit 2 home runs -- Luke isn't using The Force, he is a force -- and Mike Ford hit his 1st major league home run. It was 7-1 Yankees going to the bottom of the 8th.

But then, for the 2nd night in a row, Green blew it. He allowed 2 singles, a walk, and a grand slam to Justin Bour. (No, I'd never heard of him, either.) Before getting any outs in the bottom of the 8th, it was 7-5, and the outcome of the game was in doubt.

Aaron Boone brought Luis Cessa in, and he issued a double and a walk. The potential winning run was at the plate. This was going to be a meltdown of epic proportions.

But Cessa bore down, and got a strikeout and a double play to end the threat. It's interesting that, after the previous night's screwup, Boone did not trust Aroldis Chapman to close the game out, instead going to Zack Britton. He got the job done.

Yankees 7, Angels 5. WP: German (4-1). SV: Britton (1). LP: Chris Stratton (0-2).

I don't know what's wrong with Green. He saved the Yankees' necks a few times in 2017 and 2018, but he has nothing now. He needs to go to the minor league complex in Tampa, and get straightened out.

Tony Cloninger and Billy Connors, two of the better pitching coaches of the previous generation, both of whom helped the Yankees win a lot, are dead now, and being around Larry Rothschild hasn't helped any yet pitcher. Green needs to get as far from him as possible, and straighten himself out. We can afford to lose him for the moment, but we can't afford to keep him until he gets straightened out.

The Yankees remain 2 1/2 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The series with the Angels continues tonight. CC Sabathia starts against Felix Pena.