Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Is a Huge Sports Day for Me

In 2009, Halloween fell on a Saturday. So it was a full day, including a full day of sports.

8:45 AM: Go to Nevada Smith's in New York and watch the North London Derby, Arsenal vs. Tottenham, at Arsenal's ground, Ashburton Grove (a.k.a. Emirates Stadium) in North Lonrdon. Two teams that really don't like each other, and 2 sets of fans who really hate each other's guts.

Arsenal 3, Tottenham 0. Two goals from Robin van Persie, one from Cesc Fabregas within a minute of RVP's first, and a clean sheet from the back four and the returning Manuel Almunia who made some sensational saves. Spurs were completely shut down and embarrassed, as well they deserve to be.

Three-nil! We beat The Scum, three-nil! We beat The Scum, three-nil! We beat The Scum, three-nil!

12:00 PM: Rutgers vs. Connecticut, at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, get back to East Brunswick to watch on TV. Didn't see most of it. Only saw the 4th quarter, with RU blowing the last 4 points of an 11-point 4th quarter lead. UConn was going to win the game. There were only 22 seconds left on the clock.

And Tom Savage threw a fantastic pass to Tim Brown, who sped off across lots of green real estate and took it to the house. Rutgers 28, Connecticut 24.

A spectacular victory for the Scarlet Knights, and finally their 1st Big East win of the season. A devastating loss for UConn, which has now lost 2 straight (the first to West Virginia) since the murder of teammate Jasper Howard -- who just so happened to be a high school teammate of the aforementioned RU hero Tim Brown. Howard's Number 6 was everywhere, including on stickers on both teams' helmets.

3:00 PM: New Jersey Devils vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, in Tampa at whatever corporate name they're calling their arena. Travis Zajac scored in regulation for the Devils. Martin Brodeur stopped 18 shots, but had his bid to tie Terry Sawchuk's NHL shutout record of 103 end just under 5 minutes into the 3rd period.

The only goal scored by either team in the shooutout was by David Clarkson. Devils 2, Lightning 1. While they're just 1-4 at home, the Devils are 7-0 on the road, tying for 2nd-best in NHL history and trailing only the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres, who won their first 10 road games.

7:00 PM: New Jersey Nets vs. Washington Wizards, at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Formerly known, respectively, as the New Jersey Americans and the New York Nets; vs. the Chicago Packers, the Chicago Zephyrs, the Baltimore Bullets, the Capital Bullets and the Washington Bullets; and the MCI Center; at Georgetown, Maryland.

And the Nets will likely be moved to Brooklyn and either be called the Brooklyn Nets or go back to the old New York Nets name. They were better with that name anyway, as the Wiz made them disappear. Wizards 123, Nets 104. I know the Wiz are a much better team with a healthy Gilbert Arenas, but for the last 3 seasons and change, since winning the Atlantic Division in 2006, the Nets haven’t even been trying.

7:57 PM: First pitch of Game 3 of the World Series, Yankees vs. Phillies, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. (Well, scheduled for that time. It's currently in a rain delay.) After the 1st half of Arsenal-Spurs, my voice was shot and my ears were ringing. (The sound really carries at Nevada's.) I was sure I wouldn't have any voice left. My voice has recovered.

I sure hope Andy Pettitte bucks his postseason trend of one good start, one bad start, one good start, one bad start. He's due for the one bad start. With his opposite number, Cole Hamels, having been a bit supbar this season as opposed to last (when he was Series MVP after a great regular season), we need Number 46 to come through.

Nevada's is on 3rd Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets. That puts it in the East Village. There, as in all of Greenwich Village, in New York in general but especially in the Village, where the famed Halloween Parade is currently underway, Halloween is often redundant.

I was in New York last Halloween, following watching East Brunswick beat New Brunswick. (EBHS was not scheduled to play this week, which is why I haven't mentioned them until now.) Since The Dark Knight was still recent, I saw 3 Batmen, 4 Jokers, and a Catwoman.

I also saw a Superman riding a bicycle. What does Superman need with a bike? He can fly!

About that Catwoman: I saw her on the Subway. This costume was all rubber and unbelievably tight. And to make matters worse, she... was a he. I firmly believe in condemning bigotry wherever it may be, but this was the gayest sight I have ever seen.

*

Last full day of "This Day In History," as October is over. Wait, how can October be over, if the World Series is still being played? Curse you, Seligula!

October 31, 1887: Edouard Charles Lalonde is born. "Newsy" (from working in a newspaper plant) was one of early hockey's greatest stars, winning 7 scoring titles and Captaining the Montreal Canadiens to their 1st Stanley Cup in 1916.

On December 29, 1917, in the 1st-ever NHL game, he scored a goal on route to the Canadiens' 7-4 victory over the Ottawa Senators. In 1922, the Canadiens angered him and a lot of their fans by trading him to the Pacific Coast Hockey Association's Saskatoon Sheiks, but the Habs got future Hall-of-Famer Aurel Joliat in the deal.

From his retirement in 1927 until Maurice Richard surpassed him in 1954, his 455 goals in all leagues in which he played combined stood as a pro record. He was also the best lacrosse player of his era, and in 1950, he was named athlete of the half century in lacrosse. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1950, the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1965, and the Sports Hall of Fame of Canada. He had lit the torch when the Sports Hall of Fame opened in Toronto in August, 1955.

In 1998 he was ranked number 32 on The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players, making him the highest-ranking player on the list who had played in a professional league before the founding of the NHL. He was the 1st Canadiens player to wear Number 4, and Joliat got it after the trade, but it was retired for later star Jean Beliveau.

October 31, 1933: Phil Goyette is born. The center won Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens in 1957, '58, '59 and '60. He was the first coach of the New York Islanders in 1972-73, but was fired due to a poor record midway through the season.

October 31, 1942: Dave McNally is born. He pitched a complete game to clinch the 1966 World Series for the Baltimore Orioles, and won another game and hit a grand slam in it to help them win it in 1970. His career won-lost record was a sterling 184-119.

But he's best known as one of the two pitchers, along with Andy Messersmith, who played the 1975 season without a contract to test the legality of the reserve clause. McNally, by then with the Montreal Expos, had been injured, had a successful ranch in his native Montana, and was ready to retire anyway, so he was an ideal player to make the test, since he didn't need the money. The clause was overturned.

Also on this day, David Ogden Stiers is born. Best known as Major Charles Emerson Winchester III, the pompous but sometimes surprisingly human surgeon on M*A*S*H, he has spent much of the last few years doing voiceovers for PBS documentaries – in his real voice, not in Charles' Boston Brahmin accent.

October 31, 1943: Brian Piccolo is born. The All-American running back from Wake Forest overcame his natural prejudice to help Chicago Bears teammate Gale Sayers come back from a devastating knee injury, then developed lung cancer at died at age 26.

Shortly before Piccolo's death, Sayers was given the NFL's most courageous man award for winning the 1969 rushing title on a knee with no cartilage in it. At the award ceremony, he said he didn't deserve the award, because Piccolo was showing more courage. "I love Brian Piccolo," he said, "and tonight, when you get down on your knees to pray, I want you to ask God to love him, too."

The Bears retired Piccolo's Number 41. In the 1971 film Brian's Song, Piccolo was played by James Caan, and Sayers by Billy Dee Williams, career-making roles for both men.

October 31, 1946: Stephen Rea is born. He starred in The Crying Game and was nominated for an Oscar for it. He's best known in the U.S. as Inspector Eric Finch, a good guy who figures out that he's really working for the bad guys, in V for Vendetta. It was because of that film that he was the only actor besides Colin Firth that I recognized from the original, British soccer, version of Fever Pitch.

October 31, 1947: Frank Shorter is born. He won the Olympic marathon in 1972, and finished second in 1976. Thanks to his '72 win, the Boston Marathon was reborn as an event the whole country wanted to watch, and the New York City Marathon, which started the year before, took off.

It will be run again tomorrow, and nearly 50,000 runners will participate. Along with Jim Fixx and his Book of Running, Shorter is probably more responsible than anyone for the rise of recreational running in America. I leave it to you to decide whether that's a good thing.

*

October 31, 1950: John Candy is born. In the closing minutes of Super Bowl XXIII, when the Cincinnati Bengals had just scored to take the lead, the San Francisco 49ers were nervous, when quarterback Joe Montana, pointed out of the huddle to the stands and said, "Isn't that John Candy?" The question relaxed the players, and Montana drove them for the winning touchdown.

Candy played the Cubs' broadcaster in Rookie of the Year, and I give him a lot of credit for playing someone similar to, but not a total caricature of, Harry Caray. On the other side of Chicago, he also shot a scene at the old Comiskey Park in its closing days for Only the Lonely.

Considering his weight, I'm not surprised that he died young (43), but I'm still sorry about it. He gave us a lot, but he had a lot more to give.

Also on this day, Jane Pauley is born. The longtime co-host of The Today Show on NBC, she is married to Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau.

October 31, 1951: Nick Saban is born. The son of legendary coach Lou Saban, he hasn’t yet moved around to as many coaching jobs, but he has moved around with considerably less ethics than his father. He did, however, lead Louisiana State to the 2003 National Championship. He is now trying to do the same with Alabama, currently undefeated.

Also on this day, Dave Trembley is born. He is, for the moment, the manager of the struggling Baltimore Orioles.

October 31, 1953: John Lucas is born. He played both basketball and tennis professionally, and was a member of the Houston Rockets' 1986 NBA Western Conference Champions. His overcoming of drug addiction led him to become an NBA head coach and an addiction counselor. He is currently an assistant coach under Mike Dunleavy of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Like Dunleavy, he has a son who played in the NBA, John Lucas III, who, unlike his father whose 1974 Maryland team was prevented under the rules of the time from playing in the NCAA Tournament due to its loss in the ACC Final, went to the 2004 Final Four with Oklahoma State. John III played in the NBA with the Rockets, was recently waived by the Miami Heat and is currently a free agent. Another son, Jai Lucas, now plays at the University of Texas.

October 31, 1959, 50 years ago today: Mats Naslund is born. The left wing was known as Le Petit Viking (the Little Viking) when he played for the Montreal Canadiens, a tenure that included the 1986 Stanley Cup, in which he became the most recent Canadien to score 100 or more points in a season. He helped Sweden win the 1994 Olympic Gold Medal, and as general manager of the team he built their 2006 Gold Medal team.

*

October 31, 1960: Mike Gallego is born. He was the starting 2nd baseman on the Oakland Athletics' 3 straight Pennants of 1988-90. In 1993, he was voted the 2nd baseman on their 25th Anniversary team (25 years since they'd moved to Oakland). He briefly played for the Yankees in the early 1990s, and is now back with the A's as a coach.

Also on this day, Reza Pahlavi is born. He was 18 years old and the Crown Prince of Iran when his father, the Emperor, Mohammed Reza Shah, was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Luckily for him, he was already in the U.S., training as a fighter pilot (much as was his cousin and fellow heir to a throne, now King Abdullah II of Jordan).

He now lives in Potomac, Maryland, outside Washington. Unlike his father, who ran a brutally repressive, unofficially fascist regime, he has been an outspoken supporter of human rights, saying that in order to bring freedom to his homeland, "Idealism and realism, behavior change and regime change do not require different policies but the same: Empowering the Iranian people."

His supporters have referred to him as "His Imperial Majesty Reza Shah II" since his father's death on July 27, 1980, but he officially calls himself "the former Crown Prince," and admits he has no realistic hope of the monarchy being restored, even when the Ayatollahs are finally and rightfully toppled.

October 31, 1961: A federal judge rules that Birmingham‚ Alabama laws against integrated playing fields are illegal‚ eliminating the last barrier against integration in the Class AA Southern Association.

So the SA team owners vote to fold the league, rather than comply with the law. Bigoted bastards. Many of their teams are started by new owners in other leagues.

October 31, 1963: Fred McGriff is born in Tampa. In 1982, the Yankees traded 1st baseman McGriff, young pitcher Mike Morgan and outfielder Dave Collins to the Toronto Blue Jays for pitcher Dale Murray and third baseman Tom Dodd. Dodd did play 1 year in the majors, but for Baltimore, and is not the man for whom the ballpark belonging to the Norwich Navigators, a former Yankee farm team, is named. (That was Senator Thomas Dodd of Connecticut, father of current Senator Chris Dodd.) Murray got hurt and never contributed to the Yankees, either. Collins was pretty much finished.

In 2001, 19 years later, Morgan pitched against the Yankees in the World Series for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and McGriff was also still active. By trading him, the Yankees essentially traded 493 home runs for nothing.

Or did they? McGriff was 20 at the time, and did not reach the majors for another 4 years. Had he done so with the Yankees, he would have smacked right into Don Mattingly at his peak. The Yankees may not have had anyplace for him.

Still, the trade looks bad. McGriff was involved in some other big trades: The Jays traded him to the San Diego Padres in 1990, a trade which brought them Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar, key figures in their 1992 and '93 World Champions; and the Padres sent him to the Atlanta Braves as part of their 1993 "fire sale," a pure "salary dump."

McGriff hit the 1st home run at the SkyDome in 1989. With the Jays that season and the Padres in 1982, McGriff became the 1st player in the post-1920 Lively Ball Era to lead both leagues in home runs. He helped the Braves win the World Series in 1995, and later played for his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

He now works in the Rays' front office, and as co-host for a show on Bright House Sports Network, a Tampa Bay-based outfit. He will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in its next election, this coming January. Despite falling 7 homers short of the magic 500 Club, he will probably make it, if not in his 1st year of eligibility, then within the 1st couple of years thereafter. He was always popular – ESPN's Chris Berman took the public-service-announcement character of "McGruff the Crime Dog" and nicknamed McGriff "Crime Dog" – and despite his home-run heroics, he has never been seriously suspected of steroid use. His son Erick McGriff plays football at the University of Kansas.

Also on this day, Carlos Caetano Bledorn Verri is born in Ijui, Brazil. The soccer player was nicknamed "Dunga" by an uncle, Portuguese for "Dopey," since he was short, and was expected to stay that way. But the midfielder starred for several Brazilian teams, with his longest tenure at Internacional (like the Milan club known as "Inter" for short) of Porto Alegre; for Fiorentina in Italy and Stuttgart in Germany. Dunga was a member of Brazil's 1994 World Cup winners, and is now the coach of the national team as the 2010 World Cup approaches.

October 31, 1964: Marco van Basten is born in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The striker starred for Ajax Amsterdam in his native Netherlands, winning League Championships in 1982, '83 and '85 and the Dutch Cup in '83, '86 and '87 – meaning they won "The Double" in 1983. He moved on to AC Milan in Italy, winning Serie A in 1988, '92 and '93, and back-to-back European Cups (now the Champions League) in 1989 and '90. He led the Netherlands to the European Championship in 1988, the country's only major trophy.

Three times he was named European Player of the Year, and the magazine France Football placed him 8th in a poll of the Football Players of the Century. He has managed both Ajax and the Netherlands national team.

October 31, 1966: Mike O'Malley is born in Boston. The comedian and actor, formerly star of Yes, Dear, is a tremendous Boston Red Sox fan. But he's funny, so I forgive him.

October 31, 1968: Antonio Davis is born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. After going undrafted out of the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), he played pro basketball in Athens and Milan before signing with the Indiana Pacers. He was an All-Star for the perennial Playoff contenders and Knick nemeses, although they didn’t reach the NBA Finals until after he left.

October 31, 1970: Steve Trachsel is born in Oxnard, California. In 1996, the Chicago Cubs pitcher was named to the All-Star Team. In 1998,gave up Mark McGwire's steroid-aided 62nd home run, but he also won the Playoff for the NL Wild. Since the Cubs only made the Playoffs 4 times in the 62 seasons between 1945 and 2007, this makes him a Wrigleyville hero for all time.

He also pitched for the Mets, winning the NL East with them in 2006. He last pitched for the Baltimore Orioles in 2008, but has not officially retired.

October 31, 1972: The Philadelphia Phillies trade 3rd baseman Don Money and 2 others to the Milwaukee Brewers for 4 pitchers‚ including Jim Lonborg and Ken Brett.

This was a rare good trade for both teams: Lonborg was a key cog in the Phillies developing a pitching staff that would reach the Playoffs 6 times in 8 years from 1976 to 1983 (though Lonborg retired after ’78), Money helped stabilize the Brewers and make them a contender by 1978 and a Pennant winner in 1982, and trading him allowed the Phillies to make room for the best player in the history of Philadelphia baseball, Mike Schmidt.

October 31, 1973: David Dellucci is born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The outfielder was a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks team that beat the Yankees in the 2001 World Series, and of the Yankee team that won the 2003 American League Pennant. He was released by the Toronto Blue Jays earlier this year and is a free agent.

October 31, 1976: José María Gutiérrez Hernández is born. Guti Hernandez (or just "Guti") is a midfielder who has starred for Real Madrid as they won Spain’s La Liga in 1997, 2001, '03, '07 and '08; and the Champions League in 1998, 2000 and '02.

October 31, 1983: George Halas dies at age 88. He was the founder of the Chicago Bears, for all intents and purposes the founder of the NFL, formerly the winningest coach in NFL history (324), and no coach in the history of professional football has won as many league championships, 8: 1921, 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1963.

One of his last acts as owner was to hire former Bears star Mike Ditka as head coach, and Ditka would lead them to a 9th World Championship in 1985. When asked by Bob Costas in the locker room afterwards if he thought of "Papa Bear," he said, "I always think of Coach Halas."

This, despite a reputation for being cheap, which led Ditka to say, "George Halas throws nickels around like manhole covers." It was also Halas' cheapness that kept the Bears in Wrigley Field, with a football capacity of just 47,000, in spite of Soldier Field having over 65,000 seats and lights, because he didn't want to pay the rent the City of Chicago was demanding. The Bears didn't move there until 1971, when the money available to teams on Monday Night Football, which couldn't be played at then-lightless Wrigley, more than offset the cost of the rent. In spite of this, when the aforementioned Brian Piccolo got sick, Halas paid all his medical expenses and for his funeral.

An NFL Films documentary from 1977, Their Deeds and Dogged Faith, showed Halas walking through the Bears' practice facility at Lake Forest, Illinois (the main building is now named Halas Hall), and announcer John Facenda said it was "like visiting Mount Vernon and seeing George Washington still surveying the grounds."

He had planned to hand the team over to his son George Jr., but "Mugs" predeceased him. His daughter Virginia handed control to her husband, Ed McCaskey. Unfortunately, Big Ed handed a lot of control over to his and Virginia's son, George's grandson, Mike McCaskey, who ran the franchise into the ground before Big Ed took it back and handed it over to someone else prior to his own death. Virginia is still alive and the nominal owner of Da Bears.

October 31, 1987: Nick Foligno is born in Buffalo. The center plays for the Ottawa Senators. His brother Marcus Foligno is in the minor-league system of the Buffalo Sabres, for whom their father, Mike Foligno, was an All-Star.

October 31, 1998: Elmer Vasko dies at age 62. "Moose" was an All-Star defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks, winning the Stanley Cup with them in 1961.

October 31, 2001: Game 4 of the World Series. The Yankees trail the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1 in the bottom of the 9th, and are about to fall behind in the World Series by the same margin of games. This is due in large part to the fine pitching of Curt Schilling, who was asked about the "mystique" of Yankee Stadium. He said, "Mystique, aura, those are dancers in a nightclub." (Three years later, pitching for Boston, he would prove he was still not intimidated by Yankee Stadium, saying, "There's nothing like making 55,000 Yankee fans shut up.")

Byung-Hyun Kim, a "submarine" style pitcher from Korea, tries to close the Yankees out in the bottom of the 9th. But he lets a man on, and Tino Martinez comes to the plate. Tino electrifies the crowd but slamming a drive toward the Bleachers. On the video, a fan in the front row of the upper deck tries to catch the ball, but it bounces off his hand. Now, imagine you're that fan: Are you excited that the Yankees have come back in this World Series game, or are you mad that you were unable to catch this historic homer (and probably hurt your hand in the process)?

As the clock strikes midnight, for the 1st time ever – due to the week's delay after the 9/11 attacks – a Major League Baseball game is played in the month of November. It is the bottom of the 10th, and Derek Jeter steps to the plate against Kim. A fan holds up a sign saying, "Mr. November." (It’s often been asked, "How did he know to hold up that sign for Jeter?" The answer is easy: He didn't hold it up specifically for Jeter. Jeter was just the batter when the clock struck 12, making him the 1st batter for whom it could be held up.)

At 12:03 came a typical Jeter hit: An inside-out swing to right-center, and it just… barely… got over the fence for a game-winning home run. Yankees 4, Diamondbacks 3. The Series was tied. The old ballyard was shaking. The "Yankee Mystique" had struck again. It is hits like this that have gotten Jeter the nickname "Captain Clutch."

The next night, the 1st game to officially be played in the month of November, a fan made up a sign that said, "BASEBALL HISTORY MADE HERE" on what looked like an ancient scroll. Another fan made up a sign that said, "MYSTIQUE AND AURA APPEARING NIGHTLY." (Two years later, in the Aaron Boone Game, that same fan made up one that said, "MYSTIQUE DON'T FAIL ME NOW." It didn't.)

October 31, 2002: The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association votes 9-6 to prohibit the use of metal bats in the state high school tournament in 2003. In the State, 25 of their 40 high school sports leagues will switch to wood for the regular season.

Massachusetts is the 1st to outlaw metal bats. In this particular case, they are ahead of the curve in baseball.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Why Pedro Martinez Is a Loser

Pedro Martinez has a career regular-season won-lost record of 219-100. This gives him a .687 winning percentages, 2nd-best all-time behind Whitey Ford among pitchers with at least 200 wins. And he has reached postseason play with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, and would have done so with the Montreal Expos had it not been for the Strike of '94. And, in his 1 career World Series appearance before last night, he was the winning pitcher.

No matter: Pedro Martinez is a loser.

Because he's not a team player. It's all about him.

His pregame press conference before this World Series started has been called a tour de force by the media. Tour de farce is more like it.

"I don't know if you realize this, but because of you guys," he said, meaning the New York media, "I might be, at times, the most influential player that ever stepped in Yankee Stadium. I can honestly say that."

Yeah, surrrre. Except for a guy named Babe Ruth.

And Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle. And Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Whitey Ford, Roger Maris, Thurman Munson, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams, David Cone, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera.

Of course, he could be talking about Yankee opponents. Fine, then, you worthless prick, you rank behind John McGraw, Rogers Hornsby, Mickey Cochrane, Stan Musial, Duke Snider, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Frank Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Johnny Bench, Fernando Valenzuela, Greg Maddux, Ivan Rodriguez, and the three biggest "Yankee Killers" of them all, Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.

Most influential opposing player that ever stepped in Yankee Stadium? Have I forgotten anybody? Oh yes: Jackie Robinson.

Maybe he meant just the new Stadium? Still behind his ex-teammates Schill, Manny Being Cheating and Big Cheating Papi.

No, Pedro, you cannot "honestly say that." Can you honestly say a damn thing?

He certainly can't say anything honest about his vicious assault on Don Zimmer. And he brought up this disgusting criminal act, not the press:

"Zim charged me, and I think he's going to say something, but his reaction was totally the opposite. He was trying to punch my mouth and told me a couple of bad words about my mom."

Ah, the Zinedine Zidane defense. In the 2006 World Cup Final, playing for France, he head-butted Marco Materazzi of Italy, claiming later that Materazzi had called his sister a whore. How'd that work for him?

At least Zizou was properly thrown out of the game, which led directly to his team's defeat, since he was unable to score a tie-breaking, World Cup-winning goal, and was subsequently unavailable for the penalty kicks that led to Italy's win and France's defeat. (Sorry, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira. You two deserved better. Maybe even you, William Gallas, though you were Chelsea at the time.)

By contrast, Pedro was not thrown out of the game, only fined $50,000, and was allowed to make his Game 7 start. And even then, he stayed too long -- but for competitive reasons, not disciplinary ones. (More about that in a moment.)

Look, in Game 5 of the 1998 ALCS in Cleveland, David Wells claimed that the Indian fans were saying nasty things about his mother. Did he go into the stands and charge the fans? No, he got on the mound and sent the Cleveland batters down and won the game. That's what former Jets coach Herman Edwards taught us: Regardless of the sport, "You play to win the game!"

Seriously, who believes that Zim was going to punch Pedro in the mouth? If it was me coming at him, he'd have had a case. He deserved it well before that for his thuggishness. He is the only living pitcher, as far as I know, who has ever purposely hit a Yankee with a pitch that ended up sending him to the hospital. And it was two, and it was on back-to-back at-bats in 2003: Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter. This guy belongs in Upstate New York, all right, but in Sing Sing or Attica, not Cooperstown.

Zim cursing out Pedro's mother? Who believes Zim would do that? Clearly, Pedro's mother didn't teach him not to be a goddamned liar! (I was going to say "a motherfucking liar," but that would go a ways toward proving his point, wouldn't it?)

"I just had to react and defend myself. But the tweak that it took made me look like a monster."

You just had to react and defend yourself? Then you put your hands up and stop him. Or you grab him by the shoulders and hold him. You don't grab an old man by the head and throw him to the ground! That's a hell of a lot more than a "tweak." It made you look like a monster, Pedro Jaime Martinez, because you are a monster.

About getting knocked out by those 4 straight hits in Game 7 of that series, after being left in too long: "I remember getting back to my dugout and seeing middle fingers."

Hey, if you can't stand the heat, get the hell out of the kitchen. Welcome to New York, sucker! As if the animals who rooted for you in that little green loony bin in the Back Bay don't treat our guys worse! Remember the way they treated Roger Clemens? And they didn't know he was going to become the Clemens of 2007-08, either. As far as we knew at the time, it was wholly undeserved. (It was still largely undeserved.)

"My mom, poor mom. I'm glad she's blessed by God because all those curses were, I mean, unbelievable."

Look, attacking a performer's family is a long-established practice. We can say it's wrong. We can say it's over the line. We can say it needs to stop. But can he really be shocked about it? As I said, Wells dealt with it in Cleveland in 1998.

And, as I referenced a moment ago, in soccer, I'm an Arsenal fan. They play arch-rivals Tottenham tomorrow. And a frequent Arsenal fan song always references the name of the current Tottenham manager, changing it as they change managers, which happens often:

Who's that team we call The Arsenal?
Who's that team we all adore?
We're the boys in red and white
and we're fucking dynamite
and Harry Redknapp's mother is a whore!
She's a whore!
She's a whore!

Is it righteous? No. Is it funny? Yes. Is it fun? Yes. And they can shut us up by beating us.

Pedro has done that a times, not at others.

And therein lies the problem. If he beats us, then nothing we say will matter, because he can say, "I won." In such a situation, he "can honestly say that."

If we beat him, then only one thing we say will matter. And it won't be that he's a monster, or a thug, or a headhunter, or guilty of felonious assault on and attempted murder of multiple Yankees, including a senior citizen coach. Or that his mother is a (fill in your insult of choice).

Last night, the Yankees beat Pedro Martinez again. No team has had the kind of success against him that we have had. Saying, "Who's your Daddy?" does not matter.

What matters is that we beat him. But that, alone, is not enough to make him a "loser."

He whines. And he lies. And he makes excuses. The great ones don't make excuses. Winners don't make excuses.

When the Yankees lost the 1960 World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates, despite outscoring them 55-27 over 7 games, Yogi Berra said, "We made too many wrong mistakes." It was a simple truth, however verbally convoluted.

When a winner faces defeat, he mans up. "We didn't get the job done." "The other team was better." "They wanted it more." "We'll have to do better." That's not whining, and it's not making excuses. It's admitting defeat. That's what you do when you lose, but don't want to be perceived as a loser.

"The way people perceive me in New York... it's totally different than the way I am."

No, Pedro, it isn't.

You are a loser. A loser who still has exceptional talent, and was once one of the very best pitchers we will ever see, and does have a World Series ring.

But you are a loser. And you will always be a loser.

And if the Yankees are your "Daddy," then it's about time they disowned you.

*

A few more thoughts about Game 2:

Did Charlie Manuel not review the life and career of Grady Little? He left the Punk in at least 2 batters too long. ISIBAISIA (I've said it before, and I'll say it again): Through his 100th pitch, he throws like Sandy Koufax; after his 100th pitch, he throws like Sandy Duncan. And Sandy Duncan is a much better dancer.

Not that it cost the Phils the game, but it did take the score from 2-1 to 3-1, still within "a bloop and a blast" as John Sterling would say, but there's a huge difference in the mind of a player or a manager between a 1-run and a 2-run lead.

0-for-8, 6 Ks... Uh-oh, is the real October Alex Rodriguez now standing up? So far, it's only hurt us a little. And if he goes hitless and we still somehow win this Series, I won't care what he didn't do. But this is a big worry. We had a huge hole in the lineup in Game 1, and Mark Teixeira, Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano closed three-quarters of that hole in Game 2. One quarter remains: A-Rod's.

This time, I do NOT want to have to tell the A-Rod defenders, "I told you so." I'd much rather tell them they were right, and win this thing.

Game 3 in 32 hours. Look out, Philadelphia, here come the Yankees.

*

October 30, 1871: The final championship match of the season takes place on the Union Grounds in Brooklyn between the Athletics and the Chicago White Stockings. The Championship Committee decrees that today's game will decide the winner of the pennant. Chicago‚ having played all of its games on the road since the October 8 fire‚ appears in an assorted array of uniforms. Theirs were all lost during the fire. The 4-1 victory by the Athletics gives them the championship for 1871.

Also on this day, Buck Freeman is born in Catasauqua, Pennsylvania. The right fielder was the 1st man to lead both Leagues in home runs: The National in 1899 with 25 for the Washington Senators (which was about to be contracted out of the NL and are not to be confused with the AL team that started in 1901), and the American in 1903 with 13 for the Boston Pilgrims, forerunners of the Red Sox. That season, he and the Pilgrims won the 1st World Series.

October 30, 1875: The Boston Red Stockings beat the visiting Blue Stockings of Hartford‚ 7-4‚ to finish the season without a home defeat. Boston finishes the year at 48-7. Only 7 teams finish the season with a total of 185 games played between them.

The success of the Red Stockings has led to several forfeits, and this domination and erratic scheduling is one of the reasons the National Association is abandoned and the National League established for 1876. The Red Stockings will join, eventually becoming the Beaneaters, the Rustlers, the Doves and finally the Braves, before moving to Milwaukee and later Atlanta.

October 30, 1896: Ruth Gordon is born in Quincy, Massachusetts. She starred on Broadway and in silent films before becoming a major star in the "talkies" of the 1930s. She also collaborated on screenplays with her husband, Garson Kanin.

But she's best known for her role in the 1968 film Rosemary's Baby. At age 72, she got an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and said, "I can't tell you how encouraging a thing like this is. She was still acting up to the end of her life in 1985.

In 1993, on an episode of Mad About You, Paul Reiser's character, a documentary filmmaker named Paul Buchman, told his wife Jamie, played by Helen Hunt, that he was making a movie about Yankee Stadium, using the common nickname "The House That Ruth Built." Jamie: "Ruth who?" Paul, sarcastically: "Gordon, honey. Ruth Gordon built Yankee Stadium." Unlikely, since she was, for all intents and purposes, a Bostonian.

October 30, 1898: Bill Terry is born in Atlanta, but grows up in Memphis. The New York Giants 1st baseman helped them win Pennants in 1923 and '24, and after succeeding John McGraw as manager, led them to win the 1933 World Series and the '36 and '37 Pennants. In 1930, he batted .401, making him the last National League to date to bat .400 or higher for a season.

He is a member of the Hall of Fame, and the Giants retired his Number 3. albeit well after they had moved to San Francisco.

*

October 30, 1916: Leon Day is born outside Washington, D.C., in Alexandria, Virginia. He pitched for the Newark Eagles and the Baltimore Elite Giants in the Negro Leagues, and was also an excellent hitter. He landed on Utah Beach on D-Day. Although just 30 years old when Jackie Robinson debuted, he only played 2 seasons, 1952 and 1953, in the formerly all-white minor leagues, and was never approached by a major league team to sign. He retired in 1955.

In 1995, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame based on his Negro League service. Just 6 days later, he died, making him the only person ever to be a living Hall-of-Famer-elect, but not a living Hall-of-Famer.

October 30, 1917: Bobby Bragan is born in Birmingham, Alabama. He was a backup catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but when team president Branch Rickey announced he would promote Jackie Robinson to the majors, Bragan was one of the Southern players who signed a petition opposing it, and even asked Rickey to trade him rather than make him play on a desegregated team. Rickey refused, and Bragan did not take to realize he was wrong.

In 1948, Rickey wanted to promote Roy Campanella to the Dodgers, putting Bragan out of a job. To make up for this, he offered Bragan, then just 30, the post of manager of a Dodger farm team, the Fort Worth Cats of the Texas League. In 1955, Rickey, now president of the Pittsburgh Pirates, gave Bragan his first big-league managing job, which also made him Roberto Clemente's 1rst big-league manager.

When Rickey died in 1965, Bragan attended his funeral. He said, "I had to go, because Branch Rickey made me a better man."

In 1958, he was fired as manager of the Cleveland Indians, and legend has it that he walked out to the field at Cleveland Municipal Stadium and declared that the Indians would never win another Pennant. He has denied this many times, but the Indians didn't win a Pennant from 1954 to 1995. He was manager of the Braves when they moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966, but was fired in that first season in Atlanta, and despite being only 49 he was finished as a big-league manager.

But it was in the minors that Bragan truly made his mark, gaining a reputation for winning and for fairness to nonwhite players he could not have imagined prior to 1947. He led the Fort Worth Cats to Texas League Pennants in 1948 and 1949, and the Hollywood Stars to the Pacific Coast League Pennant in 1953. As manager of the PCL's Spokane Indians, he taught Maury Wills to switch-hit, enabling him to become a big-leaguer and to revolutionize baserunning even more than Robinson had.

He was named President of the Texas League in 1969 and of the National Association, the governing body for minor league baseball, in 1975. He is a member of the Sports Halls of Fame in both Alabama and Texas.

In August 16, 2005, Bragan came out of retirement to manage the current version of the Fort Worth Cats, of the independent Central League, for one game. (The original Cats, along with their arch-rivals, the Dallas Eagles, had been replaced in 1965 by the Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs, whose new Turnpike Stadium was expanded into Arlington Stadium for the arrival of the Texas Rangers in 1972.) At age 87 years, 9 months, and 16 days, Bragan broke by one week the record of Connie Mack to become the oldest manager in professional baseball annals. Always known as an innovator with a sense of humor, and an umpire-baiter, Bragan was ejected in the third inning of his "comeback", thus also becoming the oldest person in any capacity to be ejected from a professional baseball game. Bragan enjoyed the rest of the Cats' 11-10 victory from a more comfortable vantage point.

At age 92, he remains involved in baseball with a youth charity.

October 30, 1927: Joe Adcock is born in Coushatta, Louisiana. The 1st baseman was an All-Star slugger for the Milwaukee Braves, hitting 4 home runs in a 1954 game, and was a member of their 1957 World Champions and 1958 Pennant winners. He also briefly managed the California Angels.

October 30, 1935: Jim Perry is born in Williamston, North Carolina. He was an All-Star pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, helping them win the 1965 Pennant. He won 215 games in the major leagues, and took the 1970 AL Cy Young Award. Older but lesser-known than his Hall of Fame brother Gaylord Perry, they still combined for more wins and more strikeouts than any brother combination before them, and have since been surpassed in each category only by Phil and Joe Niekro.

Also on this day, Robert Caro is born in Manhattan. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography for The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, in which he details both the benefits and the harm the legendary bureaucrat, builder and destroyer brought the City from the 1920s to the '60s, including standing in the way of Walter O’Malley getting a new stadium for the Brooklyn Dodgers, leading to O’Malley moving the team to Los Angeles, and building the Flushing Meadow facility that became Shea Stadium. Caro has also written a multi-volume biography of President Lyndon Johnson.

October 30, 1945: Henry Winkler is born in Manhattan. He's had many fine roles since Happy Days went off the air, but he will always be that show's Arthur Fonzarelli. And that is so cool. Cooler than any typecasting could ever be. You don't think so? As the Fonz would say, "Sit on it!"

October 30, 1956: Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley sells Ebbets Field to a real estate group. He agrees to stay until 1959‚ with an option to stay until 1961. Then again, as one of the most unscrupulous lawyers in New York, what the hell is a legally binding agreement to Lord Waltermort?

October 30, 1958: Joe Delaney is born in Henderson, Texas. He was a sensational running back for the Kansas City Chiefs, but his career was cut short when he attempted to save two drowning boys in a lake near his Louisiana home, and ended up drowning as well. He was just 24. The Chiefs have removed his Number 37 from circulation, although they have not officially retired it.

*

October 30, 1960: Diego Maradona is born in Lanus, Argentina. He led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup, thanks to a two-goal game against England. The second goal has been regarded as one of the greatest goals ever scored. But the first goal was an obvious handball, or, as Maradona called it, "The Hand of God."

This came just 4 years after Britain had clobbered Argentina in the Falkland Islands War, so it was a huge boost for Argentina, but it made the English really mad, and it infuriated everybody else who hates Argentina (including most of South America).

He won league titles in Argentina with his hometown club, Boca Juniors, of Buenos Aires in 1981; and in Italy with Napoli of Naples in 1987 and 1990, the only 2 Serie A titles they have ever won. However, the club narrowly missed winning in 1989, and for 20 years rumors have been floated that Maradona, already addicted to cocaine, was, shall we say, enticed to throw some matches.

After years of dealing with drug addiction, his weight and debt from unpaid taxes during the Italian phase of his playing career, Maradona is now the manager of the Argentina team, but he is somewhat less capable there than he was as a player, just barely qualifying them for the 2010 World Cup.

October 30, 1961: Scott Garrelts is born in Urbana, Illinois. The All-Star pitcher helped lead the San Francisco Giants to the National League Pennant in 1989. The following year, he took a no-hitter into the 9th inning against the Cincinnati Reds, but it was broken up with one out to go by future Yankee legend Paul O’Neill.

October 30, 1974: "The Rumble in the Jungle" in Kinshasa, in the former colony of Belgain Congo, at this point called Zaire, and now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo. George Foreman was the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world, and heavily favored to defeat former champion Muhammad Ali. Ali was talking his usual trash, but there were people who feared that Ali would not only lose, but get himself killed.

Ali fooled them all. People who say Ali just leaned against the ropes in his "rope-a-dope" strategy and let Foreman tire himself out with punches are fools. I've seen the tape of the fight: Ali got in a lot of punches, enough to win every round except for the 2nd and the 6th. Foreman would later say that, at the end of the 6th, Ali yelled at him, "Is that all you got, George?" And Foreman said he had to admit, "Yup, that's about it."

Through a months-long psychological campaign, including practically the entire black population of the continent of Africa in his favor and against the equally black Foreman – he had done something similar to Joe Frazier, who was puzzled by it: "I'm darker than he is!" – Ali had gotten into Foreman's head, just as he had done to Sonny Liston, Floyd Patterson, and just about everybody else he'd ever fought.

In the 8th round, backed up against the ropes, Ali managed to turn an exhausted Foreman around, toss a few jobs, and knock him on his can. Foreman tried to get up, but he ran out of time, and Ali was the winner by a knockout.

When David Frost went to interview him for the BBC after the fight, he pointed at the camera and said, "Is this thing on? I told you all that I was the greatest of all time when I beat Sonny Liston! I am still the greatest of all time! Never again doubt me! Never again make me an underdog until I'm about 50 years old!"

He was off a bit, as he probably should have quit at 36. But by far more than his boxing prowess, by the force of his personality, and by the example he set as a man of minority race and minority religion, making him, somewhat contradictorily, the champion of the underdog, he proved that he really was the greatest of all time. At age 67, he still is.

October 30, 1975: The New York Daily News, responding to President Gerald Ford's statement that he wouldn’t allow the federal government to bail out New York City's desperate finances, prints the most famous newspaper headline ever: "FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD."

Ford didn't actually say that, but that was the message he sent, intentionally or otherwise. Both sides compromised, as the City did a few more things to try to get its financial house in order, and this satisfied Ford to the point where he changed his mind and signed a bailout bill.

But Ford was damned when he did, and damned when he didn't. The bailout he actually did sign infuriated many conservatives, who already had a few problems with the mildly conservative Ford, and they voted for former Governor Ronald Reagan of California in the Republican primaries, and Reagan very nearly won the GOP nomination, and when Ford won the nomination anyway, many of them stayed home on Election Day, November 2, 1976.

This may have made the difference in throwing some States to the Democratic nominee, former Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia. But a lot of people in New York City remembered the headline and forgot that Ford changed his mind about the bailout, and held it against him, and a lot of people in the City who might not have been comfortable with Carter either voted for Carter or stayed home, enough to throw the State of New York to Carter. Had Ford simply won the State, he would have won a full term.

True, the Nixon pardon, lingering feelings over Watergate, the shaky economy, his debate gaffe about Eastern Europe, and conservatives issues with him over things like foreign policy and federal spending also hurt him. But the day after the '76 election, Mayor Abe Beame posed in front of City Hall with the headline, as if to say, "City to Ford: Don't tell someone to drop dead unless you can make him drop dead. We just made your campaign drop dead."

A year later, with the City's finances still not fully straightened out, and crime seemingly out of control, the City's voters told Beame to "drop dead," and elected Congressman Ed Koch as its Mayor.

October 30, 1979, 30 years ago today: Jason Bartlett is born outside San Francisco in Mountain View, California. He is the shortstop for the Tampa Bay Rays, and played with them in the 2008 World Series.

October 30, 1982: Andy Greene is born outside Detroit in Trenton, Michigan. He is a defenseman for the New Jersey Devils.

October 30, 1983: Trent Edwards is born outside San Francisco in Los Gatos, California. He is the quarterback of the Buffalo Bills.

October 30, 1995: The Quebec sovereignty referendum fails by a razor-thin margin, with 50.58 percent voting "Non" and 49.42 percent voting "Oui." The number of "spoiled ballots," unusable for whatever reason, is said to be greater than the margin of victory.

Despite the anger of the separatists, angry over their perception of victimization at the hands of the federal government in Ottawa and the English-speaking establishment – an absolutely ridiculous notion, since the Provincial government has been dominated the ethnic and linguistic French for most of the 20th Century – the Province will remain a part of Canada, but there is still bitterness on both sides.

It's just as well: Would you be the one who has to tell the Montreal Canadiens, the greatest cultural institution in Quebec, that they had to change their name?

*

October 30, 2001: Game 3 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. The flag found at the World Trade Center on September 11, with some of the stripes having come apart, is flown at the flagpole in Monument Park. This is an honor.

George W. Bush throws out the ceremonial first pitch. This is not an honor, it is a desecration: By ignoring the August 6 national-security briefing that told of Osama bin Laden's plan to hijack American airliners, Bush allowed New York City to be attacked. Stand on the mound to throw out the first pitch? He shouldn't have even been allowed inside the hallowed House That Ruth Built, no matter how much he was willing to pay for a ticket. (Not that the son of a bitch would have been willing to pay. Has he ever done anything in his life, without somebody doing it for him?)

The somewhat more honest and somewhat less egotistical born-elsewhere-but-calls-himself-Texan, Roger Clemens, does some of his best postseason work, and the Yankees ride a Jorge Posada homer and a Scott Brosius single to take a 2-1 win, and close to within 2 games to 1.

October 30, 2005: Al Lopez, not only the oldest living member of the Baseball Hall of Fame but the oldest Hall-of-Famer ever, dies at age 97. He had been an All-Star catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he caught more games in the major leagues than anyone until Bob Boone surpassed him 1987, and more than anyone in the NL until Gary Carter surpassed him in 1990. (Boone’s achievement was spread over both leagues; Boone's record was surpassed in 1993 by Carlton Fisk, and Fisk’s this past season by Ivan Rodriguez, if you cant count anything that steroid user does as legitimate.)

From 1949 to 1964 he was the only manager to take a team other than the Yankees to an American League Pennant, in 1954 with the Cleveland Indians and in 1959 with the Chicago White Sox. He dies just 4 days after the White Sox win their 1st Pennant since '59.

Like another catcher who became famous in another sphere of baseball, Tim McCarver, he had outlived a minor-league ballpark that had been built in his home town. Al Lopez Field opened in Tampa in 1954 and was demolished in 1989. It stood in what is now the south end zone at the Buccaneers' Raymond James Stadium. Just north of the stadium, Horizon Park was renamed Al Lopez Park, and a statue of him stands there.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Whew! A.J., Teix, Hideki and Mo Tie It Up!

Whew! Excellent pitching performance by A.J. Burnett. Long home run by Mark Teixeira. Short-porch homer by Hideki Matsui. Both homers off Pedro the Punk! And Mariano Rivera with a 39-pitch, 2-out save -- not to worry, there's no game tomorrow.

Yankees 3, Phillies 1. Series tied, Game 3 in Philly on Saturday night.

As Ashley would say, "Yankees go boom!"

As Rachel would say, "That's a home run!"

Already, the nieces know more about baseball at age 2 than I did at age 6. Then again, I didn't have a Yankee Fan in the generation immediately before me to teach me. They do. I taught baseball to a girl -- 2, in fact -- and I liked it.

But the umpires, again... When I saw the umpiring lineup, I saw no names I recognized as being bad. No Tim Tschida like in the Division Series. No Laz Diaz like in the LCS. Dana DeMuth and Joe West, both crew chiefs in the regular season, are umpires I've seen before and consider to be good. This Series' crew chief Gerry Davis, Brian Gorman and Mike Everitt were names I did not previously know. Jeff Nelson is, but that's only because there was a Yankee reliever of the same name in the 1996-2001 dynasty.

Still, in the top of the 8th, the umps blew it. There was a line shot at 1st that the replay showed hit the ground as Ryan Howard stopped it. Not a catch. Howard had the presence of mind to throw to 2nd, where Jorge Posada, who had been the runner on 1st, was standing. Chase Utley tagged him. But since the ball was trapped, Posada was entitled to the base. So the Phils got credit for 2 outs when they deserved none. If the Yankees hadn't been up already, 2-1, I would have freaked out.

Then, after the umps giveth to the Phils in the top of the 8th, in the bottom of the 8th the umps taketh away. Men on 1st & 2nd, 1 out, Mariano in trouble, and a grounder to Cano, who whirls and starts what looks like it could be a brilliant 4-6-3 double play. Over to Jeter, that's one, beyond any question. Over to Teix at 1st... double play! Inning and threat over! Except... the replay suggested the runner might have been safe. Still, the Yankees got credit for 2 outs when they deserved no more than one.

So, as amazing as it may seem, the umps screwed up at least once, possibly twice, but it's the baseball equivalent of "offsetting penalties."

*

The Devils beat the Bruins up in Boston, 2-1. Martin Brodeur got a rare night off, Jan Danis did just fine in his place, and Dainius Zubrus scored with 1:26 left in regulation. The Mulberry Street Marauders are still undefeated on the road, but just 1-4 at home. The former is fantastic, the latter is absolutely unacceptable.

Yeah, I know, an NHL game in October seems insignificant when there's a World Series going on, and one of the baseball teams is a neighbor of one of the hockey teams, and said baseball team's arch-rivals are the team in the other hockey team's city.

Ah, but there's the rub: New York Tri-State Area beats New England. Always good.

Except when it's the Rangers who win. Then, I'd root for the Bruins. Have I ever mentioned that the Rangers suck?

Yeah, I know, Islander fans started it first. Well, they ain't wrong!

Yankees, Follow the Jigga/Alicia Lead!

I love Alicia Keys. And she was great in the Game 2 pregame show tonight. I am not a Jay-Z fan -- his role in trying to move my formerly beloved Nets to his native Brooklyn is part of it -- but he was on fire as well. Even Ozzie Guillen loved it, and he's a first-class grouch!

Where was his wife, Beyonce? As far as I know, she and Alicia aren't in a feud. But hip-hop isn't rock or country: Partners in love tend not to also be partners in music, and vice versa.

If the Yankee bats rock as hard as Jay-Z did, and if A.J. Burnett has as much control on the mound as Alicia did at the piano, we'll win this game easily.

We need it.

*

Days until the next North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham: 2 -- this Saturday afternoon at 1:45 their time. 8:45 AM my time. Oy.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 2, Saturday afternoon, against the University of Connecticut, at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.

Days until East Brunswick plays football again: 8, a week from tomorrow night, at home against Brick Memorial, the school nearest to my late Grandma's house.

Days until the Devils play another local rival: 8, also next Friday night, against the Islanders at the Prudential Center. Devils fans and Islander fans don't agree on much, but we agree on this: RANGERS SUCK!

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 27. Four weeks.

Days until the 2010 Winter Olympics begin: 106.

Days until Opening Day of the 2010 baseball season: 158.

Days until the Yankees' 2010 home opener: 166.

Days until the 2010 World Cup begins: 226.

Days until the World Cup Final: 257.

Days until the new Meadowlands Stadium (as yet unnamed) opens: 281.

Days until Derek Jeter collects his 3,000th career hit: 562 (projected).

Days until the Rutgers-Army football game at Yankee Stadium: 744.

*

October 29, 1860: In the match for the 1860 "whip-pennant‚" emblematic of the championship of the U.S.‚ the Atlantics top the Eckfords‚ 20-11. Both clubs are from Brooklyn, until 1898 a separate city from New York.

With the game tied at 5 each after 5‚ the Atlantics score 6 in the 6th‚ 5 in the 7th‚ and 4 in the 8th to win. Asa Brainard of the Excelsior club umps the game. As agreed upon‚ all umpires are players from another club. Brainard will later became the pitcher – yes, single pitcher – for the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the 1st openly professional team, and his name, Asa, will become the pitching term "Ace."

October 29, 1866: The final championship match of the season is between the Irvington club of New Jersey and the host Atlantics‚ with the 2 clubs playing a rubber match to determine the champion of 1866. The Atlantics break a 5-5 tie by scoring 7 in the 10th inning and winning‚ 12-6 to keep the Championship. This is the closest a team playing its home games in New Jersey will come to being a sport's "world champion" until the New York Giants win Super Bowl XXI, 120 years later.

October 29, 1889: The Giants win their 2nd consecutive World Championship by taking this year's best-of-11 matchup in 9 games. After spotting the Bridegrooms 2 runs in the 1st‚ the Giants rally to win 3-2 behind Hank O'Day's pitching -- the same Hank O'Day who would be the umpire who ruled against them in the Fred Merkle Game 19 years later.

Slattery scores the winning run in the 7th inning‚ coming in from 2nd as catcher Doc Bushing misses a 2-out 3rd strike.

*

October 29, 1920: The Yankees sign Red Sox manager Ed Barrow as business manager – the job that will, in a few years, begin to be called "general manager" – completing the front office team that will build the game's most successful record. Hugh Duffy, the Boston Braves star who batted a record .438 in 1894, replaces Barrow at Fenway Park.

Barrow had managed the Red Sox to the 1918 World Series, and, regarding the hitting and pitching talents of Babe Ruth, said, "I'd be a fool to turn the best lefthanded pitcher in the game into an outfielder." The choice had already been made for him, but he would help the Yankees win 14 Pennants and 10 World Series in his 26 seasons as Yankee GM.

Shortly before his death in 1953, he was elected to the Hall of Fame. At the Yankees' next home opener, a plaque was dedicated in his memory and hung on the outfield wall near the Monuments, and would later be moved to Monument Park.

He is buried in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, Westchester County, New York, along with several other baseball-connected personalities: The Yankee owner who hired him, Jacob Ruppert; a Yankee slugger he signed, Lou Gehrig; the Boston owner and Broadway promoter who previously hired him, Harry Frazee; the Governor of New York who sometimes threw out the first ball at big Yankee games, Herbert Lehman; the opera singer who often sang the National Anthem at Yankee games, Robert Merill; and the Brooklyn-born comedian who was a member of the first ownership group of the Seattle Mariners, Danny Kaye.

October 29, 1921: The Harvard University football team loses to Centre College of Danville, Kentucky, ending a 25-game winning streak. This is considered one of the biggest upsets in college football, as the "Praying Colonels" (no, I’m not making that mascot name up) were the first team from outside the East to beat one of the old "Big Three" of Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

Today, Harvard, like all the Ivy League teams, is Division I-AA (or whatever the NCAA calls the second level of play now), while Centre is in Division III.

*

October 29, 1950: King Gustav V of Sweden dies at age 92. As the host of the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, he presented decathlon and pentathlon champion Jim Thorpe with a laurel wreath and, according to legend, said, "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world," coining a phrase that has become an unofficial title for the Olympic decathlon champ. Thorpe’s response is said to have been, "Thanks, King." Gustav V was the great-grandfather of the current monarch, King Carl XVI Gustaf.

October 29, 1953: Denis Potvin is born in Ottawa. One of the greatest defensemen in hockey history, he was the Captain of the New York Islanders' 4 straight Stanley Cups of 1980 to 1983. Arguably the team's greatest player ever, certainly its most important, his Number 5 has been retired, and he was the 1st Isles player elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. His brother Jean Potvin also played for the Isles for a time, and his cousin Marc Potvin also played in the NHL.

However, his name is best remembered for an incident in the Ranger-Islander rivalry. On February 25, 1979, the teams played at Madison Square Garden, and Potvin checked Ranger All-Star Ulf Nilsson into the boards, breaking Nilsson’s ankle. In spite of the fact that no penalty was called, and the fact that Nilsson has always maintained that it was a clean hit, and that fact that then-Ranger coach Fred Shero also said it was a clean hit, the moron Ranger fans have spent 30 years chanting, "Potvin sucks!" – against all opponents, not just the Islanders.

This led to some confusion, years later, when Felix Potvin (no relation) would tend goal for various teams, including the Islanders for a time. In retaliation, Islander fans have done a "Rangers suck!" chant for every home game, regardless of opponent, and New Jersey Devils fans do the same. Ranger fans also had a chant of "Beat your wife, Potvin, beat your wife!" Denis Potvin usually beat the Rangers instead.

Part of Ranger mythology is that Potvin's hit knocked Nilsson out for the season, and that's why they lost the Stanley Cup Finals to the Montreal Canadiens. In fact, Nilsson returned in time for those Finals, in which the Rangers won Game 1 at the Montreal Forum, but then dropped the next 4, including all 3 at the Garden.

October 29, 1959, 50 years ago today: Mike Gartner is born in Ottawa. The right wing starred for several hockey teams, including the Washington Capitals, who retired his Number 11. But he never appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals, being traded by the Rangers at the trading deadline in 1994, in a trade that helped them win the Cup, to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who made it to the Western Conference Finals before losing.

Among players who have never won a Cup, he is second to Phil Housley in games played and second to Marcel Dionne in goals, with 708.

October 29, 1961: Joel Otto is born in Elk River, Minnesota. The center won a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989.

October 29, 1968: Johan Olav Koss is born in Drammen, Norway. The speed skater won a Gold Medal at the Winter Olympics in 1992 and 3 more at the 1994. He and American speed skater Bonnie Blair were named Sportspeople of the Year by Sports Illustrated in 1994.

October 29, 1969, 40 years ago today: The 1st-ever computer-to-computer link is established on ARPANET, thus making this a possible birthdate for the Internet.

October 29, 1970: Edwin van der Sar is born in Voorhout, the Netherlands. The goalkeeper starred in his native land for Ajax Amsterdam (winning 4 league titles, 3 Dutch Cups, the domestic "Double" in 1998 and the Champions League in 1995), in Italy for Juventus (where he was the first non-Italian to be their starting goalie) and in England for Fulham, before going to Manchester United (where he's backstopped them to the last 3 Premiership titles and the 2008 Champions League).

October 29, 1971: Winona Ryder is born. She recently played Amanda Grayson, Spock's mother, in J.J. Abrams' abominable re-imagining of Star Trek – very good movie, but it is no more Star Trek than an Escalade is a Cadillac – but nothing will ever top Veronica Sawyer in Heathers. You don't like that? "Lick it up, baby, lick it up!"

October 29, 1972: Gabrielle Union is born. She played Alice Kramden to Cedric the Entertainer's Ralph in the 2005 film version of The Honeymooners. She was formerly married to Michigan and Jacksonville Jaguars running back Chris Howard. Recently, she was romantically linked to basketball star Dwyane Wade.

Also on this day, Tracee Ellis Ross is born. The daughter of singer Diana Ross (and sister of actress Rhonda Ross Kendrick), she starred as Joan Clayton on Girlfriends. That show has often been compared to a sitcom of the previous decade, Living Single, with Joan compared to Queen Latifah's character Khadijah James, not least because both characters' fathers were played by basketball player turned actor Michael Warren (a basketball player on the UCLA National Champions of the late 1960s, and later Officer Bobby Hill on Hill Street Blues).

October 29, 1973: Robert Pires is born. Now playing for Villareal in Spain, he was a member of France's World Cup winners in 1998 and the Arsenal champions of 1998 (League and FA Cup "Double"), 2002 (another Double) and 2004 (undefeated League season).

October 29, 1981: Bill Giles‚ the Phillies vice president for the past 11 years‚ heads a group of investors which purchases the club for just over $30 million‚ the highest price paid to date for a ML club.

Giles is the son of longtime NL president Warren Giles, and is now NL president himself, although this is a powerless, purely ceremonial role, pretty much limited to awarding the trophy named for his father to the NL's Pennant winner.

Also on this day, Amanda Beard is born. The swimmer won Gold Medals at the 1996 and 2004 Olympics. She and her husband, photographer Sacha Brown, recently had their 1st child, a son named Blaise Brown.

October 29, 1983: Maurice Clarett is born. As a freshman, the football player helped Ohio State win the 2002 National Championship. Then he tried to make himself eligible early for the NFL Draft, and racked up over $1 million in legal fees.

When he was finally drafted, in 2005 by the Denver Broncos, he was released before ever stepping onto the field, even in an exhibition game, and remained in debt. In 2006, he was arrested for armed robbery, and plea-bargained. He will be eligible for early release in the spring of next year.

October 29, 1984, 25 years ago today: Eric Staal is born. The All-Star centre is an Alternate Captain for the Carolina Hurricanes, with whom he won the 2006 Stanley Cup. This past May, he scored the winning goal with 31 seconds left in regulation in Game 7 to give the Canes a first-round Playoff series win against the New Jersey Devils. For this, I hate his fucking guts. Okay, it would be better to say that I strenuously dislike his fucking guts.

He has 3 brothers who play pro hockey: Marc Staal of the New York Rangers (and therefore someone who sucks!), Jordan Staal of the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins, and Jared Staal, who is in the Phoenix Coyotes' system.

October 29, 2008: After a 2-day delay for rain, Game 5 of the World Series is resumed at Citizens Bank Park. It begins in the bottom of the 6th, with the game tied 2-2. Geoff Jenkins doubles, is bunted to 3rd by Jimmy Rollins, and driven in by a Jayson Werth single. Rocco Baldelli ties the game with a home run in the 7th.

Later in the inning, Utley fakes a throw to 1st, then throws Jason Bartlett out at home for the 3rd out in a play later described as having saved the Series for the Phillies.

In the bottom of the 7th, Pat Burrell leads off with a double. Eric Bruntlett, pinch-running for Burrell, scores on a single by Pedro Feliz to put the Phillies up by a run again, 4–3.

In the top of the 9th, Brad Lidge gives up a single and a stolen base, but faces Eric Hinske with the chance to give the city its 1st World Championship in any sport since the 1983 76ers. Harry Kalas, the Hall of Fame voice of the Phils who would die the following season, had the call:

One strike away, nothing-and-two to Hinske. Fans on their feet, Brad Lidge stretches, the 0–2 pitch! Swing and a miss! Struck him out! The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 World Champions of baseball!

Brad Lidge does it again, and stays perfect for the 2008 season, 48-for-48 in save opportunities! And let the city celebrate! Don't let the 48-hour wait diminish the euphoria of this moment and celebration! Twenty-five years in this city that a team has enjoyed a world championship and the fans are ready to celebrate.

What a night! Phils winning, 4–3, Brad Lidge gets the job done once again!

Today, 1 year later, Harry is dead, but the Phillies are 3 wins away from getting the job done again, from winning twice as many World Series in the past 2 seasons as they did in their 1st 125 (going 0-for-97 until 1980).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Cliff Lee Show: How Worried Should We Be?

Game 1 of the World Series: Phillies 6, Yankees 1. CC Sabathia pitched well for 7 innings, making only 2 mistakes. Both of them were home runs by Chase Utley. It was only 2-0 Phils after 7. The Yankee bullpen did not do well, and the Philly defense messed up the shutout.

This was The Cliff Lee Show. It was as dominating a performance as the Yankees have faced in World Series play in my lifetime. I know Josh Beckett pitched a complete-game shutout to close 2003, but he wasn't this dominant. The last time the Yankees faced something this frustrating on the mound, you have to go back to 1963 and Sandy Koufax.

In his 1st World Series game, Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-4, the horse collar, with 3 strikeouts. So... Will the real A-Rod please stand up? Or... has he just done so?

No, there's no one to blame. Credit Lee for one of the most masterful pitching performances in World Series history.

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So how worried should Yankee Fans be? After all, we just got dominated in our own yard, and "the best player in baseball," A-Rod, got embarrassed.

Well, check out this info, keeping in mind that there have been 3 tie games in World Series play, all called due to darkness, and all well before most parks put up lights; and that 4 Series -- 1903, 1919, 1920 and 1921 -- were best-5-out-of-9, not best-4-out-of-7, so now you know how it is possible for a team to lose Game 7 and still win the Series, though it hasn't happened since 1919.

The team that wins Game 1 has won the Series 63 times, lost it 39, and there's been 1 tie. Cancelling out the ties, the winning percentage of the team that wins Game 1 is .618.

The team that wins Game 2 is 66-36, with 2 ties, for .647.

The team that wins Game 3 is 70-34, for .673.

The team that wins Game 4 is 77-27, for .740.

The team that wins Game 5 is 61-27, for .693.

The team that wins Game 6 is 42-15, for .737.

The team that wins Game 7 is 35-2 -- 32-0 since the last 5-of-9 Series.

Based on this, Game 1 is actually the least critical game in the Series.

A team losing Game 1 but winning Game 2 is 28-24, or .538. That doesn't sound bad at all.

So maybe it doesn't make that much of a difference.

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But it sure puts a lot of pressure on 2 guys tomorrow night: A.J. Burnett and Alex Rodriguez. If A.J. doesn't pitch well, this Series might just be over in 5 as Jimmy Rollins predicted. And if A-Rod doesn't get his first of several Series hits and his first of several Series RBIs, the rest of the lineup won't fall into place and the runs won't score.

So there it is: Game 2, A.J. Burnett against... Pedro Martinez.

I'd say, "Let's get ready to rumble," but Pedro the Punk might take that literally.

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After that game, those of us who are Yankee Fans could use a good laugh. The other day, the Daily News published "mashup movie posters," combining 2 very different ideas for one never-to-be-actually made movie. Check out these titles:

When Harry Potter Met Sally.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Truth, starring Clint Eastwood, Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl.

District 9½ Weeks. As if Kim Basinger wasn't bugged enough by Alec Baldwin.

Cloverfield of Dreams. The fake poster they have for it says, "All his life, Ray Kinsella was searching for his dreams. Then one day, his dreams came and ate him."

Charlie's Angels & Demons. "Based on the best-selling novel by the author of The Da Vinci Co-Ed.”

Cast Away We Go. Away We Go was a better movie than Cast Away, or either of the Charlie's Angels movies, but I think Tom Hanks gets better luck with Drew and Lucy. (I've long since stopped being a Cameron Diaz fan.)

Beat the Devil Wears Prada.

The Funny People Under the Stairs. Why stop there? Bring in Jeff Foxworthy and his "You Might Be a Redneck" jokes, and make it "The Funny People Under the Porch."

Cheaper By the Dirty Dozen. Jim Brown should chop-block Steve Martin. Remember when Martin made the movie The Man With Two Brains? My mother said, "It makes up for all the movies where he had none."

Freaky Friday the 13th. Especially funny since Jamie Lee Curtis starred (with Lindsay Lohan) in the 3rd and most recent version of Freaky Friday, but also starred in the original Halloween. And I'll see anything she's in, no matter what she's wearing. Or not wearing. Jamie Lee, that is, not Lindsay. And I don't care that Jamie Lee is 50.

I Know Who Killed Marley & Me. Another Lindsay Lohan film. A prequel to Cujo, perhaps?

Forgetting U.S. Marshals. That's what Tommy Lee Jones and Wesley Snipes have been trying to do since 1998. Especially Snipes, after his tax troubles.

Fast and Furious Times at Ridgemont High. Politics aside, where he and I mostly agree, I can't stand Sean Penn. And I can't stand Vin Diesel. I smell a Celebrity Deathmatch in the making!

A Dark Knight at the Opera. Groucho Marx: "This morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I'll never know." Heath Ledger: "And I thought my jokes were bad."

Jennifer's Body of Lies. This time, I don't think Elvis would say, "I'd rather go on hearing your lies than go on living without you."

The Beverly Hillbillies Have Eyes.

Kate Winslet and Mel Gibson in Revolutionary Road Warrior. This movie will be more like the Titanic. The ship, not the film.

Nightmare On 34th Street. Freddy Krueger vs. Maureen O'Hara? Even though she's 89 years old, my money's on Maureen.

The Twilight Saga: New Moonstruck. Cher vs. vampires? Even though she's 63 years old, my money' on Cher. Come to think of it, I've seen her looking pale and dressed in black like a vampire. And she has been known to sink her teeth into very young men. She should have done a movie like that years ago. She and Sonny Bono would have made a good Morticia and Gomez Addams. "Dark Lady laughed and danced and lit the candles one by one... "

Sex and the Lost City of Gold. Allan Quatermain meets Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and... I can never remember the name of Kristin Davis' character! (I looked it up: Her name was Charlotte York.) But then, being neither a chick nor a gay guy, I never watched Sex and the City. Of course, we now know Richard Chamberlain, who starred in the 1980s Quatermain films, is gay, so Kim Cattrall doesn't have a chance.

And the piece de resistance, A Star Trek Is Born, with a shirtless Zachary Quinto (the new Trek film's Spock) taking Kris Kristofferson's place with Barbra Streisand. Like Vulcan butter. Highly illogical... but fascinating.

Sorry, Philly: Yankees in 6

Jimmy Rollins said in 2007 that the Phillies, not the defending Division Champion Mets, were "the team to beat" in the National League Eastern Division. He turned out to be right. He said it again in 2008, and he turned out to be right again, as they won the World Series. And they won it again this year, as they are in the World Series again as well.

Now J-Roll says the Phillies are the team to beat in the 2009 World Series, and that the Phillies will clinch at home, meaning they will beat the Yankees in 4 or 5 games.

I like Jimmy Rollins a lot. He's an exciting player, he comes through when his team needs him, and, my favorite part, he pisses off the Mets and their fans to no end.

And he's not totally wrong here. The Phillies are the team to beat. After all, they are the defending World Champions. There's an old saying that, in order to be the best, you've got to beat the best.

The Phillies are the team to beat – but the Yankees are the team to beat them.

I love Philadelphia as a city, and I'm glad the Phillies won it all last year. But that was last year.

The Yankees have faced a lot of would-be juggernauts over the years, including the 2003-09 Red Sox, the 2002-09 Angels and the 1996-99 Braves.

But the Phillies? They’ve beaten out the current Mets, the Torre Dodgers who've triumphed in a weak division, the cursed Cubs, and the Brewers who have won just 1 postseason series in 40 seasons; and lost a Playoff series to the Rockies, who proved this year that 2007 was no fluke, but they are certainly not a new Murderer's Row.

Contrast that with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who proved this year that last year was no "fraud," as I kept saying it was, but it was a fluke. They didn't even belong on the same field as the Phillies, and this year they didn't belong on the same field with the revamped Yankees and bounced-back Red Sox.

The Yankees beat the Phillies in 1950. They certainly had more talent than the Phillies that fell apart at the end of 1964. We'll never know if the Schmidt-Carlton Phillies would have been a match for the Reggie-Guidry Yankees – both teams made the Playoffs in 1976, '77, '78, '80 and '81 – or if the Mattingly-Jimmy Key Yankees of 1993 would have matched up well with the Pennant-winnning Philly Macho Row of that season.

But I would have liked to have seen those 2 matchups.

The matchups? Here they are, revised from my previous listing:

Game 1, tonight in New York: CC Sabathia vs. Cliff Lee. Two tough lefties who helped beat the Yankees for the Cleveland Indians in the 2007 ALDS. (Them and Fausto Carmona. Whatever happened to him?)

I was expecting CC vs. Cole Hamels, but Charlie Manuel is going with Lee. Lee was a little shaky in this postseason, while CC has shown no signs of wearing down like he did in the '07 ALCS, Indians vs. Red Sox, and the '08 NLDS, Brewers vs. Phillies. The Phils thus have a history of handling CC, but not CC and the Yankee bats at the same time, and CC is more energized now than last October. Yankees win.

Game 2, tomorrow night in New York: A.J. Burnett vs. Pedro Martinez. This is probably the key game of the Series. Expect neither man to still be in the game late, as A.J. has not been A-OK, but Pedro has often faced trouble in New York – both with the Red Sox and the Mets – and the appearance of the "Who's Your Daddy?" chant is a sure thing.

This will come down to the bullpens, and who would you rather have on the mound in the 9th: Brad Lidge or Mariano Rivera? I smell A-Rod's 1rst World Series homer. Yankees win, and take a commanding lead in the Series.

Game 3, Saturday night in Philadelphia: Andy Pettitte vs. Cole Hamels. You know the pattern: Andy follows a bad postseason performance with a good one, and a good one with a bad one. He was fantastic in Game 6 of the ALCS, so even with 5 days of rest, he may have a little trouble with those booming Phils bats, especially in Citizens Bank Park, which is cozy enough to be an ATM vestibule rather than a full-service bank. And Hamels, one of the big heroes of last season, has a 6.75 postseason ERA this season, but his regular-season ERA was 0.23 lower at home than on the road.

So if the Yanks can hit Hamels enough to stay close, maybe survive Andy's difficulties to be within, say, 6-4 or 7-5 going into the 8th, the Phils' pen may be ripe for the picking. But Hamels is due to step it up, and with the home crowd behind him, he may do it this time. Phillies win, and get back in the Series.

Game 4, Sunday night in Philadelphia: CC on 3 days rest against... Lee again, on 3 days rest? Or J.A. Happ? Or Joe Blanton? Either way, I like CC's chances. Yankees win, and retake the commanding lead.

Game 5, Monday night in Philadelphia, if necessary: A.J. against... Well, this is why I think Happ will start Game 4, because there's no way in hell Manuel brings back the post-2001 Pedro on 3 days rest for Game 5, so Lee starts here. As with 1993, the Phils stave off elimination in Game 5. Then again, unlike the '93 Phils, the current team doesn't have the greatest of all Yankee-killing pitchers, Curt Schilling.

Game 6, a week from tonight in New York, if necessary: Andy against Pedro. Remember that September 1999 game where Pedro set a Yankee opponents' record by striking out 17? (But not a Yankee Stadium record: Ron Guidry got 18 in a 1978 game.) And allowed just 1 hit? That game is the cornerstone of the Pedro legend (unless you consider said cornerstone to be his felonious assault on Don Zimmer). But that 1 hit was a home run, by Chili Davis. Andy allowed just 2 hits, one a 2-run homer, by former Yankee Mike Stanley. If Andy had gotten him out, then Pedro would have pitched one of the greatest games ever, striking out 17 and allowing just 1 hit... and lost.

And you'll notice that this would have Pedro pitching twice in Yankee Stadium II and not at all in his adopted home park in South Philly. He can't be happy about having to face 50,000 Pinstriped maniacs.

Oops, I forgot, smaller park: 5,000 Phils fans and 45,000 Pinstriped maniacs, some of whom will actually be paying through the nose and filling those really expensive seats behind home plate – This is the World Series, after all, and Fox has actors whose shows they need to promote. Tonight on Fox: Hugh Laurie is House, in the House across from the House That Ruth Built. (Why not? The series is set in Plainsboro, New Jersey, about halfway between New York and Philadelphia.)

Andy almost retired after last season. Wouldn't it be great if, somehow, he could go the distance, at the new Yankee Stadium, and finish it off, and get carried off the mound, and make his next appearance in Pinstripes on Old-Timers' Day, with Number 46 retired and a Plaque for Monument Park?

Well, I'm getting ahead of myself, but I don't care, as long as Andy throws strikes to get ahead of the Phils. No need for a Game 7 a week from tomorrow in New York: Ballgame over, World Series over, Yankees win, theeeeeeee Yankees win.

That's my story, and, at least until first pitch, I'm sticking to it. Of course, if A.J., who struggled against the Angels, bounces back and wins either Game 2 or Game 5, this Series may not even get back to The Bronx.

Sorry, Phillies: Thank you for what you've done to the Mets, I loved it, but the party is over, and strip steaks beat cheesesteaks, the Museum of Natural History beats the Franklin Institute, the South Street Seaport beats The Gallery at Market East, the D Train beats the Broad Street Line, the Times is better than the Inquirer, our Daily News beats your Daily News, Mike Francesa is better than Angelo Cataldi, and Billy Crystal is funnier -- barely -- than Big Daddy Graham.

(But Atlantic City, Ocean City, Wildwood, Cape May and Rehoboth Beach beat Coney Island, the Rockaways, Jones Beach, Fire Island and the Hamptons.)

(UPDATE: I turned out to be wrong about the results of Games 1 and 3. I was right about the result of Game 2, but a game too soon regarding A-Rod's 1st WS HR. I was right about the results of Game 4 and 5, but wrong about the Phils' starting pitchers in them.)

*


I'll be glad when Halloween comes, so I don't have to do this October events thing anymore.

October 28, 1882: The Philadelphia Athletics reveal that, in the first season of the American Association, they reaped a $22‚000 profit‚ more than any National League team earned. This helps convince the NL that the AA is a viable league.

However, within 10 years, both the league and this version of the Philadelphia Athletics will be gone anyway. But within 12 years of that, the AA name and the A’s name will be revived (but not in the same league).

October 28, 1904: After a 4th-place finish‚ the Cleveland Blues release Bill Armour and name Napoleon "Nap" Lajoie manager. Armour takes over the Tigers‚ where Ed Barrow and Bobby Lowe split the season‚ as Detroit falls to 7th.

But with their star 2nd baseman, one of the game's best hitters, as manager, the Cleveland team – now nicknamed the Naps for him – becomes a contender. After he leaves in 1914, they will jump on a bandwagon, seeing the team called the Braves as World Champions, and rename themselves the Cleveland Indians.

October 13, 1913: In the only time the 2 greatest pitchers of their time face each other‚ Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson square off at South Main Park in Tulsa‚ Oklahoma. Johnson‚ backed by the Chicago White Sox‚ wins the battle‚ 6-0‚ pitching the distance‚ while Matty exits after 4 innings. Johnson strikes out 8.

Tris Speaker and Buck Weaver do the hitting for the Sox‚ while Oklahoma native, Sac and Fox Indian and fan favorite Jim Thorpe has 2 hits off Johnson. The game is delayed for nearly 2 hours when the stands collapse‚ injuring 52 people and killing a soldier. Governor R.L. Williams of Oklahoma narrowly escapes injury in the tragedy.

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October 28, 1922: Butch van Breda Kolff is born. The Montclair, New Jersey native was an original member of the New York Knicks, playing from 1946 to 1950. He coached Princeton University to the 1st Final Four appearance of any New Jersey school, in 1965 with future Knick star and Senator Bill Bradley.

But he's best remembered as the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1969, who saw Wilt Chamberlain come out for an injury with 5 minutes left in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, then ask to go back in with 2 minutes left. VBK refused to let him back in, and the Lakers lost Game 7 and the World Championship to the Boston Celtics by 2 points.

His son Jan van Breda Kolff was Southeastern Conference Player of the Year with Vanderbilt in 1974, played for the Nets in both New York and New Jersey, and was also a college coach, including his alma mater.

October 28, 1926: Bowie Kuhn is born. He was Commissioner of Baseball from 1969 to 1984 – though he often seemed like a puppet to Dodger owners Walter and later Peter O'Malley. He frequently acted, in his own words, "to preserve the integrity of the game," but all too often he seemed more like the lawyer he was than the fan he should have been. He was prudish, moralistic, unimaginative, and a tool of the owners.

That he, and not the leader of the players' union, Marvin Miller, is now in the Hall of Fame is deeply disturbing – but not all that surprising.

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October 28, 1937: Lenny Wilkens is born in Brooklyn. One of New York's greatest basketball legends, he starred for Brooklyn's Boys High, where he was a basketball teammate of future baseball star Tommy Davis, before moving up to New England (Seriously, Lenny?) to play for Providence College. He played for the St. Louis Hawks in the now-Atlanta franchise’s last NBA Finals appearance in 1961, and starred for the early Seattle SuperSonics before coaching the franchise to its only NBA Title in 1979. He was a 9-time All-Star, and at his retirement had more assists than any player except Oscar Robertson.

He's also coached the Hawks, his hometown Knicks, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors, first coaching while still a player with the Sonics in 1969 and last (for now?) with the Knicks in 2005. He was the first NBA coach to win 1,000 games – and the first to lose 1,000. His totals of 1,332 wins and 1,155 losses are both records. He coached the U.S. team to the 1996 Olympic Gold Medal.

One of the oddities of his career is that the Hawks traded him immediately before moving to Atlanta, and he resigned his executive's position with the Sonics as they moved to become the Oklahoma City Thunder. Providence retired his Number 14, and the Sonics retired his Number 19, in each case the first on the team to be so honored.

Along with John Wooden and Bill Sharman, he is 1 of just 3 people elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame as player and elected again a coach. But he tops them both, and everyone else, in a manner of speaking by having been named, as part of the NBA's 50th Anniversary celebrations, as one of its 50 Greatest Players and one of its 10 Greatest Coaches, the only man to receive both honors.

October 28, 1944: Dennis Franz is born outside Chicago in Maywood, Illinois. Best known as Detective Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue, he previously starred in the original Chicago production of Bleacher Bums, a play about Cub fans, of which he is one. You wanna make somethin’ of it?

October 28, 1946: Wim Jansen is born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The midfielder played most of his soccer career with his hometown club, Feyenoord. In 1970, he helped them to become the first Dutch team to win the European Cup, immediately preceding the 3 straight wins by their arch-rivals, Ajax Amsterdam.

October 28, 1949, 60 years ago today: Bruce Jenner is born in Mount Kisco, Westchester County, New York. He won the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, becoming an international hero and the man on the Wheaties cereal box.

But these days, he's best known as the weird, desperately trying to hang onto his youth husband of Kris Jenner and the stepfather of Kim, Kourteney and Khloe Kardashian.

UPDATE: This was before he, Bruce, began the transition to she, Caitlyn.

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October 28, 1953: Fed up with the meddling of Brooklyn Dodger owner Walter O'Malley, Red Barber leaves the Dodgers' broadcast booth, and signs with the crosstown Yankees.

During his time in Brooklyn, O'Malley chased off Branch Rickey in 1950, Red Barber in 1953, and Jackie Robinson in 1956. And he shortchanged his players in contract negotiations. In other words, he was already a dirty bastard, and would have remained one even if he had kept the Dodgers in Brooklyn as God intended it.

Also on this day, Pierre Boivin is born in Montreal. He has been president of the Montreal Canadiens since 1999.

October 28, 1954: Despite a last-minute plea by 92-year-old Connie Mack‚ now owner of the Philadelphia Athletics in name only, the MLB owners vote down the sale of the Athletics to a Philadelphia syndicate.

The A's‚ plagued by debt - even their 1954 team uniforms have not been paid for - have little choice as the Philadelphia group‚ in Mrs. Mack's words, "dilly-dallied." A week later‚ trucking executive Arnold Johnson buys a controlling interest in the Athletics from the Mack family for $3.5 million, and moves the team to Kansas City.

October 28, 1957: Singer Bing Crosby sells his shares of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Even he couldn't stand all the losing anymore. In the 1951 film Road to Bali, Dorothy Lamour asked him, "Do they still have pirates in America?" He said, "Yes, but they're in the basement."

Strangely, the Pirates start to get a lot better after Der Bingle sells them. But the Cleveland Indians didn't get any better after his pal Bob Hope sold his shares in them.

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October 28, 1961: Ground is broken for Flushing Meadow Park, the stadium that will later bear the name of the attorney, activist and baseball fan who made it possible, William A. Shea.

October 28, 1963: James Miller is born in Havre de Grace, Maryland. He was a parachutist and paraglider pilot from Henderson, Nevada, known for his outrageous appearances at various sporting events.

His most famous appearance was the November 6, 1993 heavyweight title fight between Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe, at Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip near Las Vegas, Nevada. He used his powered paraglider to fly into the arena, eventually crashing into the ring. The fan on the device got him nicknamed Fan Man. "It was a heavyweight fight," Miller would joke later, "and I was the only guy who got knocked out."

Heart disease and mounting medical bills led him to commit suicide in 2002, and the age of 29.

October 28, 1966: Steve Atwater is born in Chicago. The safety bridged the eras of Denver Bronco glory, playing for them in Super Bowl XXIV before appearing on the winning side in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII, retiring after the latter. His 1990 tackle of Christian Okoye, the Kansas City Chiefs' huge fullback known as the Nigerian Nightmare, is regarded as one of the greatest hits in NFL history.

He is a member of the Broncos' Ring of Honor, but he has not yet received his rightful induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Also on this day, Andy Richter is born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was the sidekick for Conan O'Brien when he took over as host of NBC's Late Night, and is back with Conan as the announcer for The Tonight Show. In between, he starred in the sitcoms Andy Richter Controls the Universe (in which he, well, didn't) and Quintuplets (in which he was the father of the eponymous teenagers).

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October 28, 1972: Terrell Davis is born in San Diego. One in a long line of star running backs at the University of Georgia, in Super Bowl XXXII he fought a blinding headache to become the only player (through SB XLIII) to score 3 touchdowns in a Super Bowl, leading the Denver Broncos to victory. He also starred in the Broncos' victory the next year in Super Bowl XXXIII.

A knee injury cut his career short, and, like Atwater, he is in the Broncos' Ring of Honor but not yet the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

One of my favorite sports oddities is that, in calendar year 1998, the football season ended with the Broncos winning the Super Bowl, and the baseball season ended with the Yankees winning the World Series, and since the Super Bowl is always held at a neutral site, and the Yankees beat the Padres, both contests ended at Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, and each had a San Diego native who was key to the victory: The Broncos had Davis, and the Yankees had David Wells (although Wells' lone appearance in the Series was in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium; the Yanks swept, and had it gone to a Game 5 Wells was scheduled to start in San Diego).

"The Murph" is the only stadium ever to host a Super Bowl and the clinching game of a World Series in the same calendar year. The Los Angeles Coliseum, the Metrodome and the Dolphins' current stadium have hosted both, but not in the same calendar year.

Also on this day, Brad Paisley is born in Glen Dale, West Virginia. The country singer, married to actress Kimberly Williams, had one of those songs that you figure has to got to be a parody, but it was all real: "Alcohol."

October 28, 1974: Braden Looper is born in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Now with the Milwaukee Brewers, the reliever won World Series with the Florida Marlins in 2003 and the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006. In between those titles, he pitched for the Mets. He was considerably less successful.

Also on this day, Joaquin Phoenix is born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. A member of the Phoenix acting family, he is best known for having played Emperor Commodus in Gladiator and Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. Or he was, before growing a beard and becoming a rapper, leading to him becoming an object of ridicule.

Also on this day, Dayanara Torres is born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She was Miss Universe in 1993, but is best known for her marriage to singer Marc Anthony, who cheated on her interminably, and left her pregnant for Jennifer Lopez.

Look, I love J-Lo, too, but I wouldn't leave a woman who looks like Dayanara for anyone. Not even if Catherine Zeta-Jones came up to me wearing an Obama campaign button on a Yankee cap, and nothing else.

October 28, 1975: I underwent surgery at the Hospital for Joint Diseases, then located at 123rd Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan's Spanish Harlem, to correct a problem in my legs that made walking difficult. The surgery was successful, to an extent, although I still have pain in my legs that sometimes makes walking a chore.

My 2 weeks in that hospital are a blur, as I was almost 6, but what I do remember is something I wouldn't wish on anyone. Those 2 weeks included the "FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD" headline and the Rangers' trade of Eddie Giacomin and his well-received return to The Garden, but I don't remember those things happening at the time.

Also on this day, Georges Carpentier dies. A hero who helped to save France from the invading Imperial Germans in World War I, he was Light Heavyweight Champion of the World, and challenged Jack Dempsey for the heavyweight title, at a huge, 90,000-seat temporary stadium in Jersey City called "Boyle's Thirty Acres." Dempsey knocked him out quickly.

October 28, 1979, 30 years ago today: George Steinbrenner officially fires Billy Martin for the 2nd time, following his barroom brawl with a man described as a "marshmallow salesman."

It always sounded ridiculous. Was this a guy walking around yelling, like a ballpark vendor? "Marshmallows! Get yer marshmallows heah!" He was probably a businessman who simply negotiated contracts to sell something in bulk, and it just happened to be marshmallows.)

Also on this day, Martin Skoula is born in Litomeric, in what's now the Czech Republic. The defenseman won a Stanley Cup with the 2001 Colorado Avalanche, spent the last four seasons with the Minnesota Wild, and recently signed with the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

October 28, 1980: Alan Smith is born in Rothwell, England. The midfielder is the Captain of Newcastle United, and is not to be confused with Alan "Smudger" Smith, the former striker for Arsenal and now TV soccer pundit, who was an Arsenal teammate of David O'Leary, who was this Alan Smith's 1st manager, at Leeds United.

In between Leeds and Newcastle, each of which was relegated while he played for them, this Alan Smith played for Manchester United in their Premier League Championship season of 2007. But he earned the eternal enmity of Leeds fans, as they consider Man U to be their nastiest rivals.

October 28, 1981: A dark day in my life, as the L.A. Bums finally beat the Yankees in the World Series, after 2 failed attempts in 1977 and '78. Pedro Guerrero drives in 5 runs, and Burt Hooton and the Dodgers beat the Yankees 9-2 to win the World Series in 6 games. In a remarkable postseason‚ the Dodgers came from behind to win 3 series (down 2-0 to Houston and 2-1 to Montreal in the best-of-5 series).

Guerrero‚ Ron Cey‚ and Steve Yeager (2 home runs) are named co-MVPs‚ while Dave Winfield and relief pitcher George Frazier are the goats for New York. Winfield was just 1-for-21‚ while Frazier tied a Series record by losing 3 games. The record was set by the White Sox Lefty Williams in 1919‚ but Williams‚ one of the 8 "Black Sox‚" was losing on purpose.

The long-term effects on the Yankees were as follows:

* This was the last game that Reggie Jackson ever played for the Yankees, and George Steinbrenner refused to exercise the option for a 6th year on his contract, and Reggie happily accepted an offer from Gene Autry to return to the West Coast and play for the Angels.

* Winfield's performance contrasted so much with Reggie's Mr. October persona that George eventually nicknamed him Mr. May, never gave him the respect he deserved, and ended up chasing Dave out of town – coincidentally, also to the Angels, although Reggie was retired by that point – and getting himself in trouble with how he did it.

* George went through various experiments in managers and styles of play (booming bats one year, speed the next, and son on) to get the Yankees back on top, but they wouldn't reach the World Series again for 15 years, giving the new ownership of the Mets the chance to become from 1984 to 1992 what they have not been since '92, New York's first team.

Also on this day, Nate McLouth is born in Muskegon, Michigan. In 2008, the center fielder for the Atlanta Braves was named to the All-Star Team and won a Gold Glove.

October 28, 1982: Jeremy Bonderman is born in Kennewick, Washington. His 1st season in the majors, at age 20, was with the 2003 Detroit Tigers, a horrible team, and he was 6-19 before being benched for the final week of the season, in order to avoid becoming the 1st pitcher since Brian Kingman of the '80 A's – but this same courtesy was not extended to his Tiger teammate, Mike Maroth, who went 9-21. But while Maroth dealt with injury issues that kept him off the 2006 postseason roster, Bonderman bounced back, helping the Tigers win the American League Pennant.

But he was injured for nearly all of the 2008 and 2009 seasons, and it is unclear whether he will be an effective, pain-free pitcher again.

October 28, 1983: Jarrett Jack is born. The guard helped get Georgia Tech into the 2004 National Championship game, and now plays for the Toronto Raptors.

October 28, 1984, 25 years ago today: Obafemi Martins is born. The striker played for Internazionale Milan in their 2006 "Double" season, and starred for Newcastle United, before being sold to defending German champions Wolfsburg earlier this year.

October 28, 1989, 20 years ago today: The Oakland Athletics take an 8-0, and beat the San Francisco Giants 9-6 at Candlestick Park, to complete a 4-game sweep of the Bay Bridge World Series‚ the 1st Series sweep since 1976.

Oakland native Dave Stewart‚ who won Games 1 and 3‚ is named MVP. However, with the Loma Prieta Earthquake only 11 days prior, it may be the most subdued World Series celebration ever.

October 28, 1995: In a pitcher's duel‚ the Braves win Game 6 of the Series‚ 1-0‚ on a combined 1-hitter by Tom Glavine and Mark Wohlers. David Justice's 6th-inning homer accounts for the game's only run.

In winning‚ the Braves become the 1st team to win World Championships representing three different cities: Boston in 1914‚ Milwaukee in 1957‚ and Atlanta in 1995. Catcher Tony Pena's leadoff single in the 6th is Cleveland's only hit. The Indians, who led the majors in homers and runs scored‚ bats just .179‚ the lowest average for a six-games series since 1911.

October 28, 2000: Andujar Cedeno dies in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic. He was 31, and the shortstop had been playing in the Dominican league. Previously, he had played in the majors, including for the Houston Astros, who previously had pitcher Joaquin Andujar and center fielder Cesar Cedeno – both with nasty tempers, unlike Andujar Cedeno, but also considerably more talented.

October 28, 2001: The Arizona Diamondbacks jump out to a 2-0 Series lead on the Yankees, as Randy Johnson hurls a 3-hit shutout. Matt Williams hits a 3-run homer for the Diamondbacks. Andy Pettitte takes the loss for New York.

Also on this day, Commissioner Bud Selig says it is possible that two major league teams could be eliminated by the start of next season. The Montreal Expos‚ Florida Marlins‚ Minnesota Twins‚ and Tampa Bay Devil Rays are the teams mentioned as most likely to be eliminated.

The ensuing furor results in a 2002 collective bargaining agreement that leaves all 30 current teams in place, although the Expos will be moved to Washington after the 2004 season.

October 28, 2002: The Mets name former Houston Astros second baseman, and former Oakland Athletics manager, Art Howe as their new skipper. Howe had just led the A's to their 3rd straight Playoff berth. His tenure in Flushing will be significantly less successful.

October 28, 2005: Bob Broeg dies at age 87. The longtime baseball writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was elected to the sportswriters' wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and later sat on its board of directors and on its Veterans' Committee.

Hearing Brooklyn Dodger fans, with their 1940s rivalry with the Cardinals, say of Stan Musial, noted for hitting the Dodgers hard, "Uh-oh, dat man is back in town," he started calling him "Stan the Man" in his columns, and the name stuck. I’d like to know who gave 1970s Baltimore Oriole pitcher Don Stanhouse the oh-so-appropriate nickname "Stan the Man Unusual."

October 28, 2006: Arnold Jacob Auerbach dies at age 89, and finds out that, in heaven, you can eat all the Chinese food you want, and not have to worry about calories, cholesterol, or monosodium glutamate. As the leading figure in the history of professional basketball, he rarely had to worry about the other MSG, Madison Square Garden.

A native of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, "Red" Auerbach starred in basketball at Eastern District High School, before moving on to George Washington University, later coaching in D.C. at the high school, college and professional levels, taking the Washington Capitols to the NBA Finals in 1949. When they didn’t reach the Finals the next season, owner Mike Uline fired him. Within another year, the Caps folded, and the NBA would not return to the D.C. area until 1973.

Auerbach, of course, would go on to become the head coach, general manager, and eventually president of the Boston Celtics, leading them to 9 NBA Championships as coach and 16 while he was involved with them. While still running the team, in 1985, a statue of him, on a bench, with a basketball by his side and a trademark "victory cigar" in his hand, was dedicated at Boston's Quincy Market. It says he won 15 Championships. The 16th came a year later.

Rubbing the statue's bald head is said to be good luck. I have a picture of the statue wearing one of my Yankee caps. I'm a wiseass, but then, so was Red.

When Celtics founder Walter Brown died, leaving Red in charge of the franchise, Red ordered the Number 1 retired for him. At the time of the statue’s dedication, the Celtics held an old-timers’ game, with Red coaching a team in green Celtic road jerseys and his star pupil and successor as head coach Bill Russell coaching a team in white Celtic home jerseys – Red’s team won of course – and the Number 2 was retired for Red, even though, like Brown, he never played for the team.

Also on this day, Trevor Berbick is killed. The Jamaican boxer, the last man to fight Muhammad Ali, knocked out Pinklon Thomas to win the WBC version of the heavyweight title in 1986, but lost it later that year when Mike Tyson knocked him out. Brain damage from boxing left him impaired, and though he became a minister, he was murdered in his church in Kingston, Jamaica, by his own nephew and an accomplice. He was just 51.

October 28, 2007: The Boston Red Sox hold off a late comeback by the Colorado Rockies, and win Game 4, 4-3, to sweep the World Series. After 86 years of never winning a Series, the Sox now have 2 in the last 4 years, 7 total.

When Boston Globe columnist, now WEEI radio show host, Michael Holley writes a book about this group of Red Sox, and titles it Red Sox Rule, many people fume over the the wording, but, for now, few can put up much of a complaint about its essential truth.

Also on this day, sports agent Scott Boras announces that his client, Alex Rodriguez, has exercised the opt-out clause in his contract with the Yankees, and will become a free agent. Both A-Rod and Bore-Ass are criticized as classless for making the announcement during a World Series game -- the deadline was not for another few days -- and for looking like a couple of greedy bastards who didn't give a damn about the player's team.

My, how perceptions can change in a couple of years: Now we know that A-Rod, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez all cheated with steroids, but it didn't do A-Rod any good; and now that they've all stopped (or so they say), A-Rod is a hero again, while the Red Sox have jettisoned Manny, and Big Papi is but a shadow of his former fat but winning self.

Also on this day, Porter Wagoner dies. The country singer known as "Mr. Grand Ole Opry," who discovered and did many fine duets with Dolly Parton, was 80. He had the 1st hit version of "The Green, Green Grass of Home." Clearly, the inventor of artificial turf wasn't listening.