Sunday, June 20, 2010

Yankees Beat the Heat and the Mets; Manute Bol, 1962-2010

It was 86 degrees at gametime today. Who likes that? Beer vendors and concessionaires.

Let's see if my hopes for the Yankees' weekend series with the Other Team came true:

Honorable Mention: No new injuries. Yes. This was actually the most important thing, more important than even reminding the Mets to know their place. Second place, at least in New York.

5. The Yankees sweep. I will settle for 2 out of 3. If the top 4 happen, Number 5 will probably happen as well. Okay, I got 2 out of 3. That's fine.

4. The Yankees pound The Great Johan Santana. This didn't happen, except on one swing of the bat, but I will take it. Speaking of that one swing of the bat...

3. Mark Teixeira break out, and launch a couple of homers off the Met staff. A homer yesterday, and a grand slam in the 3rd today, for the game's only runs. Yeahhhh...

2. The Yankee starters throw mainly first-pitch strikes. Javier Vazquez pitched well on Friday night, and was only losing 1-0 in a game the bastards went on to win 4-0. Phil Hughes was terrific in yesterday's 5-3 win. And CC Sabathia pitched 8 innings of 4-hit shutout ball before a brief rain delay forced Joe Girardi to bring Mariano Rivera in to finish it off, 4-0.

1. Koman Coulibaly, the referee in today's U.S.-Slovenia World Cup match, nowhere near Yankee Stadium! As far as I know, he's still in South Africa, getting called on the carpet for his idiotic call denying Maurice Edu's legitimate goal and the U.S. the win on Thursday. There were no umpiring blunders this weekend.

So... The Mets beat the Yankees 2 out of 3 at Citi Field, which is what you, if you're a good team, are supposed to do at home against a much-injured team. And the Yankees beat the Mets 2 out of 3 at Yankee Stadium II, which is what you, if you're the Yankees, are supposed to do at home against, well, everybody. Unless you can get the sweep.

And the Yankees get out of the heat and head for... Phoenix, for a 3-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. At that airplane hangar they've got has a retractable roof, so they can stay relatively cool. But, with all the new ballparks that have been built, Bank One Ballpark -- excuse me, Chase Field -- may just go down as the worst of the lot.

As for the Mets, they didn't play poorly, and if not for one bad pitch, might have won today's game. Once again, Johan Santana makes no difference, but Phil Hughes, who the Yankees refused to trade for Santana, did.

Hee hee hee hee...

67 hours to go until the games -- U.S. vs. Algeria and England vs. Slovenia -- that decide whether the U.S. advance to the knockout stage of the World Cup or not. Come on you Red, White & Bluuuuuuuues!


Manute Bol died yesterday. The 7-foot-6 3/4 center was the tallest player in NBA history until 7-foot-7 Georghe Muresan came along. The native of the African nation of Sudan first played basketball in North America at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. He briefly played with the Rhode Island Gulls of the United States Basketball League, where he towered over a 5-foot-3 teammate, Spud Webb.

Both Manute and Spud would go on to star in the NBA. Manute played for the Washington Bullets, the Golden State Warriors, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat, over a 10-year stretch from 1985 to 1995. With the Bullets (now the Washington Wizards), he was a teammate of the shortest player in NBA history, 5-foot-3 Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues.
Manute and Muggsy

Because of his thin frame, he didn't have much strength. But because of his long arms, he became a supreme shot-blocker. He was a one-dimensional player, but he played that dimension so well. In the 1985-86 season, he blocked 397 shots, which remains the 2nd-most in league history, behind the insane 456 that Mark Eaton got for the Utah Jazz the season before.

Twice, he was named to the NBA's All-Defensive Team. In the late 1980s, with the Warriors, he would allegedly acknowledge his mistakes by saying, "My bad." Some people think this is where that expression came from.

He continued to play in other countries until 1998, when rheumatism forced him to retire at age 35. Both during and after his playing career, he engaged in humanitarian missions in his civil war-ravaged homeland, and aided other African nations as well. He ran a basketball school in Cairo, Egypt, where he taught a fellow Sudanese, Luol Deng, who became and remains an NBA star.

In 2004, while living in Hartford, Connecticut, he was badly hurt in a car crash. Because he had given away so much money to his causes, he had nothing to pay his medical expenses. He never really recovered, and died of kidney failure. He was only 47.

Charles Barkley, a teammate on the 76ers, said, "If everyone in the world was a Manute Bol, it's a world I'd want to live in."

UPDATE: South Sudan separated from Sudan in 2011. This included both of the towns that have been suggested as Bol's birthplace, Turalei and Gorgrial.

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