Saturday, June 2, 2012

Johan Who?; Jack Twyman, 1934-2012

Something happened in baseball last night that none of us ever thought we'd live to see.

It happened at Comerica Park in Detroit, in the game between the Yankees and the Tigers.

Alex Rodriguez hit a home run, and Yankee broadcaster John Sterling did not act as though it were a 500-foot Mickey Mantle blast from the moment it left the bat.

No, "And there it goes! Deep to left! It is high! It is far!... " Which, all too often, instead of "It is... gone!" leads to "It is... caught at the wall!" or "It is... a foul ball!" This time, he was genuinely surprised when it wasn't caught.

A-Rod's homer came in the 8th, off former Met and (briefly) Yankee Octavio "Heartbreak" Dotel. But the big blast came in the 2nd, by Curtis Granderson, his 17th of the season, off Casey Crosby (0-1).

CC Sabathia (7-2) pitched 7 strong, and then Joe Girardi played musical mounds again, with Cody Eppley not getting an out, Boone Logan getting one, Cory Wade two, Clay Rapada one, and Rafael Soriano getting 2 (7th save).

Yankees 9, Tigers 4. The Yankees are now 1 game behind the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Eastern Division -- even with those teams in the loss column.

For some reason, nobody seems to be talking about that.

Since the Yankees have played fewer games than the other teams in the AL East, they now have the highest elimination number of any team in the Division. For the Yankees, any combination of losses for them and wins by the first-place team -- any first-place team in the East -- adding up to 110, and they're out, of the Division race if not the expanded Wild Card race. The O's and Rays are at 109, the Boston Red Sox at 107, and the Toronto Blue Jays at 106.

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The Yankees won last night. So did the Mets. You know what? They count the same.

That's right: You don't get credit for more than one win if your pitcher throws a no-hitter.

Especially when he allows a hit, as Johan Santana of the Mets did to former teammate Carlos Beltran, now with the St. Louis Cardinals, in the top of the 6th at Citi Field. But the 3rd base umpire, Adrian Johnson, screwed up. And he knows he screwed up: Having seen the play on video after the game, he said, "No comment."

Right now, baseball uses instant replay only for establishing whether a batted ball is a home run or not. They should use it on fair or foul balls, too: I know baseball games are too long now, but the replay wouldn't take any longer than the manager-umpire argument.

Met fans are making such a big deal about getting the franchise's 1st "no-hitter," in their 51st season, their 8,020th game.

Sam Jones in 1923. Monte Pearson in 1938. Allie Reynolds in 1951 (twice). Don Larsen in 1956. Dwight Gooden in 1996. David Wells in 1998. David Cone in 1999. On each of those occasions of a Yankee pitcher throwing a no-hitter, the Yankees went on to win the World Series. Hell, Larsen's was in the World Series.

Santana has never helped a team win a World Series. You know who has? Phil Hughes, the guy we refused to trade to get Santana.

And on none of those occasions -- well, from 1962 onward, anyway -- did Met fans go out of their way to congratulate the Yankee pitchers -- not even Gooden and Cone, who actually had been Mets. Nor did they congratulate Dave Righetti in 1983 or Jim Abbott in 1993, who pitched no-hitters for the Yankees without going on to reach the postseason in the season in question.

Somebody I correspond with online told me, "Ah, come on, Mike, give the Mets a break. Give Johan and the Mets credit, it took them 50 years to do this. Fair is fair!"

When did they ever give us a break? "Fair" is pointing out to the Flushing Heathen that WE won the 2000 World Series. At Shea.

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Happy 40th Birthday to Raul Ibanez. Born in Manhattan, grew up in Miami. .284 lifetime batting average, 1.828 career hits, 261 home runs, OPS+ of 113, reached the postseason with the Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies, and it looks like it's going to happen again with the Yankees.

Why the Phillies didn't re-sign him, I can't figure out.

Speaking of the Phillies, they now have former Yankee Jose Contreras -- except he's hurt, and they won't have him for the rest of the season. At age 40 (at least), his career could well be over. Career record 78-67, ERA 4.55, ERA+ 101, reached the postseason with the Yankees and Phillies and got a ring with the 2005 Chicago White Sox.

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Only Martin Brodeur tending goal like he did a decade ago is keeping this Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals from being 3-0 to L.A. Come on you Reds!

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Jack Twyman died this week. Born on May 21, 1934 in Pittsburgh, John Kennedy Twyman went to Central Catholic High School, which also produced Dan Marino, former Cleveland Indians strikeout artist "Sudden" Sam McDowell, Costco founder James Sinegal, playwright August Wilson, and Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock in the horrible films of the Star Trek reboot.

Twyman took his basketball skills down the Ohio River to the University of Cincinnati, where he was a teammate of Sandy Koufax, who, of course, stuck with baseball when the time came to choose a sport. Twyman was drafted by the Rochester Royals in 1955, and was with them when they moved to Cincinnati in 1957. In 1959-60, he and Wilt Chamberlain became the 1st players to average 30 points per game in an NBA season. In Jack's case, he topped out at 59 points, which an astonishing figure -- for almost anyone but Chamberlain.
On March 12, 1958, at the end of the 1st season in Cincinnati, Maurice Stokes, a fellow Pittsburgher, collided with a Minneapolis Lakers player, fell, and hit his head on the court. Three days later, he suffered a seizure, and was paralyzed. This was not an ordinary loss: Stokes remains, to this day, 1 of only 5 players to achieve 4 straight triple-doubles. (Only, at the time, nobody knew what a "triple-double" was, so it wasn't widely reported. Today, he'd be an ESPN legend for a few days.)

Twyman became Stokes' legal guardian, providing financial and medical assistance. That summer, Twyman worked with Milton Kutsher, who ran the famous resort that bore his family's name in New York's Catskill Mountains, and founded the annual Maurice Stokes Basketball Game. Chamberlain, who had worked as a bellhop at Kutsher's in the summer during high school and college, made it a personal showcase.
Wilt, Maurice and Jack

The NBA later stepped in, saying it didn't want a conflict of interest with sponsors, so Jack, Wilt and Milt made it the Maurice Stokes/Wilt Chamberlain Celebrity Pro-Am Golf Tournament. With Wilt's death in 1999, the tournament came to an end; with the closing of Kutsher's in 2013, "the Borscht Belt" came to an end.

Stokes' health deteriorated through the 1960s, and he died of a heart attack on April 6, 1970, only 36 years old. The Royals franchise would retire his Number 12, and Twyman's Number 27. Becoming the Kansas City Kings in 1972, and the Sacramento Kings in 1985, they have kept those numbers retired. Both men would be elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1973, the film Maurie would portray the friendship, with former San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams receiver Bernie Casey playing Stokes and Bo Svenson playing Twyman.
Twyman was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1983.
When Stokes was elected in 2004, he gave the induction speech.

Twyman last played in the NBA in 1966, having made 6 NBA All-Star Games. The closest the Royals came to a title while he was there was the Eastern Division Finals, losing them to the Boston Celtics in 1963 and 1964.

He became a broadcaster, calling NBA games on ABC with play-by-play man Chris Schenkel. On May 8, 1970, the Knicks were about to play the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7 of the NBA Finals at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks had never won the title, and the Lakers hadn't since moving from Minneapolis in 1960. Something had to give. And Knick captain Willis Reed had been injured in Game 5 and didn't play in Game 6. No one knew if he would play in Game 7.

But when he walked out of the tunnel onto the court, Jack Twyman had the iconic call: "I think we see Willis coming out!" Reed scored the Knicks' 1st 2 baskets, and didn't score any more, but the Knicks were inspired to a 113-99 victory and their 1st title after 24 years of trying. Twyman did the postgame interviews in the Knick locker room.

Twyman left broadcasting, and became an executive at a Cincinnati food-production company. He became sole owner, and made $3 million when he sold it in 1996.

He developed blood cancer, and died in Cincinnati on May 30, 2012. He was 78. Hopefully, he and Maurice are playing together again.

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