Thursday, August 4, 2011

Save Some Runs For Boston!; Bubba Smith, 1945-2011

The Yankees staked A.J. Burnett to a 13-1 lead after 3 innings against the Chicago White Sox last night.

And he couldn't hold it -- or, at least, Joe Girardi took him out before he had the chance to fully blow the lead.

The Yankees eventually won the game, 18-7, getting 23 hits -- 5 by Derek Jeter (Did somebody say he was in decline?), 4 by Curtis Granderson, and 3 each by Brett Gardner, Robinson Cano and Eric Chavez. Granderson had 5 RBIs, Cano and Chavez 4, Mark Teixeira 3, Jeter 2.

Cory Wade finished the 5th and pitched the 6th, and was credited as the winning pitcher (2-0). Luis Ayala pitched a scoreless 7th and 8th, Rafael Soriano a scoreless 9th -- good that Girardi is trying him in non-pressure situations, to get his feet wet after coming off the Disabled List. Gavin Floyd was the losing pitcher for the ChiSox (9-10), the former Lakewood BlueClaw getting rocked for a 38.57 ERA for the game.

The Yankees have scored 27 runs in the first 3 games of this series. I hope they've got some runs left for this weekend against The Scum. Beating the White Sox is good, but beating the Red Sox is crucial.

The series closes tonight at 8:10 Eastern Time (7:10 Central and local), with Ivan Nova starting against former Met Philip Humber. Humber wears Number 41 with the White Sox, a number he couldn't wear for the Mets, and has been doing well this season. Let's put a stop to that, even if it's only for 3 hours.

Thanks to another walkoff homer (cough-still-cough-cheating-cough), the Sox remain 1 game ahead of the Yankees. According to the Boston Globe website, the weather for tomorrow and Saturday is expected to be good, but Sunday may have a thunderstorm.

Presuming the teams keep to the suggestions on MLB.com, the pitchers for the Boston series will be as follows:

Friday, 7:10, on YES: Bartolo Colon vs. Jon Lester.

Saturday, 4:10, on Fox: CC Sabathia vs. John Lackey. The Yankee starter being the Beast From Vallejo's Fathoms and the Sox starter not being the proverbial pitcher the Yankees have never seen before should offset the fact that it's a Fox game.

Sunday, 8:05, on ESPN: Freddy Garcia vs. Josh Beckett. The Sox starting Super Punk against us in a nationally-televised game? In the immortal words of soccer legend Kevin Keegan, "I would loove it if we beat them, loove it!"

*

Bubba Smith died yesterday. That doesn't seem possible. Guys like him don't die. Though it does seem like they kill people.

Charles Aaron Smith was born on February 28, 1945 in Orange, Texas, in the southeastern corner of the State, near the State Line with Louisiana. He grew up in nearby Beaumont, and played high school football as a defensive end. His head coach was his father, Willie Ray Smith. A brother, Tody Smith, played at USC and in the NFL.

He was so good that Darrell Royal, the already-great head coach at the University of Texas, wanted to offer him a scholarship. Alas, Texas' segregation law prohibited him from doing so. The Southwest Conference didn't order integration until 1967, and the University of Texas did not do so until 1971.

So Bubba went north, to Michigan State University. The Big Ten Conference had already been integrated for years. He flattened so many ballcarriers that the Spartan fans began to chant, "Kill, Bubba, Kill!" He was named an All-American in 1965 and 1966.

In 1965, Michigan State won the National Championship. They were going for another in 1966, and were ranked Number 1 going into their final regular-season game, against Number 2 Notre Dame. It was billed as "The Game of the Century." Sure enough, Bubba crunched Fighting Irish quarterback Terry Hanratty, and knocked him out of the game. But it ended in a 10-10 tie, and when the polls came out, it was Notre Dame that was awarded the National Championship. (The University of Alabama also got screwed: They were unbeaten and untied, and only ended up ranked Number 3 behind ND and MSU.)

The Baltimore Colts made him the 1st overall pick in the 1967 NFL Draft. In 1968, they won the NFL Championship, but they lost Super Bowl III to the Jets. They did win Super Bowl V 2 years later, beating the Dallas Cowboys on January 17, 1971, and at the same stadium, the Orange Bowl in Miami. So he got a ring. But he refused to wear it, in recognition of the disappointment of 2 years earlier. He was a 2-time Pro Bowler, and later played with the Oakland Raiders and the Houston Oilers, retiring after the 1976 season.

He turned to acting, making guest spots on Good Times, doing commercials for Miller Lite beer with fellow ex-defensive star Dick Butkus, and frequently played himself on sitcoms (sometimes with Butkus). Most people under the age of 50 probably know him only from these appearances, or from his role as Cadet, eventually Captain, Moses Hightower in the horrible Police Academy movies.

He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, and Michigan State retired his Number 95. But he has not been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the Colts, now in Indianapolis, have not retired his Number 78. Due to his acting, his fame has exceeded his on-field achievements.

He was found dead in his Los Angeles home yesterday. He was 66 years old.

UPDATE: An autopsy showed that he had an enlarged heart, heart disease, and a large amount of a weight-loss drug in his system.

ADDITIONAL UPDATE: It has since been revealed that Bubba is one of so many ex-football players to have had CTE: Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative illness. In other words, playing football gave him brain damage.

It would explain why, after having had 17 acting jobs in 12 years from 1983 to 1995 (not counting commercials), he had only 5 in the last 16 years of his life. Another tragedy.

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