Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Enough Is Enough. I Have Had It With A-Rod

Me, in this blog, February 9, 2009, after Alex Rodriguez was outed as a steroid user from 2001 to 2003, before becoming a Yankee:

How many chances is Alex Rodriguez supposed to get?

One thing is for damn sure: Anybody who now calls him "the best player in baseball" or "the man who should be playing shortstop for the Yankees" is a freaking fool.

Alex Rodriguez -- A-Roid -- should not be playing baseball for the New York Yankees. Or for any other team. He is a disgrace.

He has embarrassed everybody. His teammates. His manager and coaches. His team's management. His team's fans. The game itself. The fans of said game. His wife.

This, on top of his performance, which has often been glorious from April through September, but hopeless in October...


The Yankees have invested so much in him, money as well as public relations, and what has he done for them? Made a little money back.

The New York Yankees are about winning World Series first and making money second.

Alex Rodriguez is about Alex Rodriguez first, second, third, fourth, etc....
It is time to cut Rodriguez loose. And if the Players' Association (the ballplayers' union) objects, tough. I don't care what it costs the Yankees to get rid of A-Rod: If he stays with them, he will cost them far more than money.

Hank Steinbrenner, Hal Steinbrenner, Randy Levine, Lonn Trost, Brian Cashman... Gentlemen, you have to do it.

Cut Alex Rodriguez.

Do it.

Now.


*

Me, November 6, 2009, after A-Rod helped the Yankees win a World Series, for the first time, and, for the moment, the only time:

I said the Steinbrenners and Brian Cashman had to "Cut Alex Rodriguez. Do it. Now." They did not. They were right, and I was wrong...

Alex Rodriguez is a winner because he decided, having seen the alternative, that it would be better to be a good person, and a good teammate. To make himself a winner on the field and off of it...

A-Rod was excellent when it was superfluous, and incompetent when competence alone would have sufficed.  No more. Alex Rodriguez is a World Champion. He is a New York Yankee, by anybody's definition. He has earned his money. He has earned our respect...


I was wrong about Alex Rodriguez. And I'm glad of it. He became the kind of player that both of us, he and I, wanted him to be.

*

Well.  There's a new story that suggests that A-Rod was using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) as recently as 2009, during his comeback from injury that led to his only World Championship season to date.

The report is in the Miami New Times.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "What the hell is the Miami New Times?"

It's a weekly paper that I'd never heard of, either.  What is their credibility? Well, it's owned by the Village Voice, and is roughly a South Florida equivalent to that once-great New York weekly, which has seriously declined in quality in recent years.

The Miami New Times claims to have a pharmacist's notes showing that A-Rod was sold PEDs in 2009.  Does the paper, or the pharmo, have any credibility? I don't know.

A-Rod has already publicly denied it.  And he fully intends to return to the Yankees when his injury allows him to, presumably this coming July, after the All-Star Break.

After that, while his chances of reaching 763 home runs and becoming the all-time leader are getting slimmer and slimmer, and he also has little chance of surpassing Hank Aaron's record of 2,297 RBIs, he goes have a good shot at reaching 700 home runs, 3,000 hits, and 2,000 RBIs.

If, that is, he plays at all.

Last week, Yankee general manager Brian Cashman suggested that A-Rod might not be able to return this season at all.

But there's an even bigger question to ask:

Should Alex Rodriguez return? Should he ever play another game for the New York Yankees? Should he ever play another game for any Major League Baseball team?

Or, as I suggested he had in 2009, has he embarrassed the Yankee organization, and baseball as a whole, enough?

Look, we all know: "Presumed innocent, until proven guilty." This report doesn't prove a damn thing.  We haven't seen the notes.  Even if we ever do, how do we know the pharmo is telling the truth?

After all, we all "know" that Roger Clemens used PEDs, but, as far as has been publicly revealed, his main accuse, Brian McNamee, hasn't produced one single solitary shred of admissible evidence.

I used to do office work at a law firm.  The woman who ran it hated going to court.  She said, "A bad settlement is better than a good verdict."

On this occasion, she may well be right.

Most Yankee Fans would now like to celebrate the 4 Pennants and 2 World Championships won with Clemens on the roster, without giving Clemens himself much thought.

The 2009 World Championship was special.  It was, until this morning, without any semblance of taint.  Whatever PEDs A-Rod had taken before, no one could prove he took any as a Yankee, or was under the effect of any, during any Pennant-winning season for the Yankees.  (Had the Yankees won the Pennant in 2004, or '05, or maybe even '06, I wouldn't look so good saying that.)

But now, A-Rod may have tainted that wonderful victory.

And we're still counting on him to be a big bat in the 2nd half of the 2013 season? 

How badly do we want to see him collect his 3,000th hit, his 700th home run, his 2,000th RBI in a Yankee uniform?

This isn't even like a subset of the Wenger Out Brigade at London soccer team Arsenal, the people who want manager Arsene Wenger fired because he hasn't brought them a trophy in 8 years -- a similar situation to what many of us felt about Joe Torre in the last couple of years he was manager (2006-07).  Some of them curse him and and want him gone.  Others prefer to follow the words of a banner that's often hung at the Emirates Stadium:

ARSENE
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES
BUT IT'S TIME TO GO

(As far as I know, Wenger has never acknowledged the banner with his trademark phrase for an Arsenal player committing a foul, "No, I did not see it.")

The A-Rod fanboys and fangirls kept telling those of us who wanted him gone after 2007 and the Winter '09 revelations that the Yankees wouldn't have won in 2009 without him.

I think most Yankee Fans would accept that as correct.

So I'm not going to say, "Alex, thanks for 2009, but it's time to go."

No, I'm going to have to quote one of the most brutal tyrants of the last 400 years, Oliver Cromwell, overthrower of King Charles I, dictator of the British Isles from 1649 to 1658, in the words he used to dismiss Parliament:

You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately ... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!

Seriously.  Even if he's innocent, somehow, he put himself in a position to make himself appear guilty.  Whatever reputation he had as "clean since 2004" is gone.

Yankee management, led by Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, GM Cashman, and team president Randy Levine, have been obsessed with getting under the luxury tax threshold by 2014.

No.  They should be more concerned with the team's image.  No team has been more accused of PED usage.  Nearly all of the accusations have been either outright lies or very overblown.  So many Yankee opponents have had success directly attributable to steroids: The 1996-99 Texas Rangers, the 1996-97 Baltimore Orioles, the 2000-01 Oakland Athletics, the 2000 New York Mets, the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, the 2003-08 Boston Red Sox, the 2003 Florida Marlins, the 2006 Detroit Tigers.  Yet it's the Yankees who get blamed first.

Red Sox fans still chant, "Sterrrr-oiiiids!" whenever A-Rod comes to bat.  Well, without David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez taking steroids, they'd be looking at a 95-year World Series drought.  They are hypocrites.  On a Manchester United or Dallas Cowboys level.

It is time to clean the slate.

Get rid of Alex Rodriguez.  Alex, you have been with us too long, and have not done us any good lately.  Depart, I say, and let us have done with you.

In the name of God, in the name of the baseball gods, in the name of anything that is good and holy, go.

And if he won't, then, House of Steinbrenner, cut him.  Eat the contract.  Take the financial hit.

But don't let him play another game in Pinstripes.


To paraphrase -- and bowdlerize -- Samuel L. Jackson, Enough is enough.  I have had it with this guy on our team.

He just ain't worth it.  And he never was.

Flacco Catching Flack

Joseph Vincent Flacco was born on January 16, 1985, in Audubon, New Jersey.  That's in South Jersey, a 15-minute drive via the Walt Whitman Bridge from the Philadelphia sports complex.  Joe grew up there, so he knows what it's like to live, and play football, in a place where the winters are cold.

He attended the University of Delaware.  That's in Newark -- pronounced as if it was two words, "New Ark," not "New-erk" like the large New Jersey city of the same spelling.  Delaware Stadium, where he played his home games, is a 45-minute drive from the Philly sports complex, and, in the other direction, an hour's drive from M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, home of the NFL's Ravens.

He is about to complete his 5th season for the Ravens, in Baltimore, which can get cold in winter.  He has quarterbacked the Ravens to the Playoffs in each of those 5 seasons.  In 3 of them, including this one, he has led them to the AFC Championship Game.

The Ravens play in the AFC North Division.  Which means, every year, they have 2 meetings with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Yet the Ravens have finished 1st in the Division the last 2 seasons, and 2nd in the 3 before that.  He has now led them into a Super Bowl.  He has led them to Playoff wins over Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos in Denver, and Tom Brady's New England Patriots twice in 3 tries, including in the AFC Championship Game just played, in Foxboro no less.

Joe Flacco cannot be called a wimp.

Or... can he?

Perhaps because he is a native of New Jersey -- albeit the side of the State that tilts toward Philadelphia, rather than the one that tilts toward New York -- he was asked about next season's Super Bowl being held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, just outside New York City.  MetLife is an open-air stadium in a cold-winter city.

It will be the first time the Super Bowl has been played in such a venue.  Of the first 47 Super Bowls, counting the one that will be played at the Superdome in New Orleans this Sunday...

* 15 were held in Florida -- 10 in Miami, 4 in Tampa, 1 in Jacksonville.  Sun Belt.
* 11 were held in California -- 7 in the Los Angeles area, 3 in San Diego, 1 near San Francisco.  Sun Belt.
* 9, including this one, were held in New Orleans.  Sun Belt.  The last 6 of those indoors.
* 3 were held in Texas -- 2 in Houston, 1 outside Dallas.  Sun Belt.  The last 2 of those indoors.
* 2 were held in Atlanta.  Sun Belt and dome.
* 2 have been held in the Detroit area.  Cold winter city, but both games under domes.
* 2 have been held in the Phoenix area.  Sun Belt.  The last of these indoors.  So will the 2014-15 one.
* 1 has been held in Minneapolis.  Cold winter city, but under a dome.
* 1 has been held in Indianapolis.  Cold winter city, but under a dome.

Why in a Sun Belt city, or under a dome -- or both? Because the NFL bigwigs want the biggest game of the season to be held under ideal conditions.  They are detail freaks who would fit in just fine in the military.  They want to eliminate the possibility of any condition that would make the loser say, "Well, we would have won, if only (something that was out of our control hadn't happened)."

Super Bowl VI in 1972, at the old Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, had a game-time temperature of 39 degrees.  That was the worst weather they've ever had for a Super Bowl to this day.  Other than that, the coolest one was Super Bowl VIII in 1974, at Rice Stadium in Houston (it had a lot more seats than the climate-controlled Astrodome), 50 degrees at kickoff.

They never even had precipitation for a game until Super Bowl XLI, at the Dolphins' stadium (whatever it was corporately named at the time) in the Miami suburbs, in 2007.  In that game, there was a light rain througout.  (Though Chicago Bears fans shouldn't blame the weather for their team's defeat: The Indianapolis Colts were simply the better team, and it was Peyton Manning's time to finally get a ring.)

But some of the NFL's greatest games have been played in cold weather.  The 1950 NFL Championship Game, a thriller won by the Cleveland Browns over the Los Angeles Rams in Cleveland, was played on a frigid Christmas Eve.  The Giants played 6 NFL Championship Games in 8 years from 1956 to 1963, 3 at home at Yankee Stadium, 1 in Baltimore, 1 in Green Bay, and 1 in Chicago, and all were cold, including the legendary 1958 game that gets called "The Greatest Game Ever Played."

Then there's the NFL Championship Game at Green Bay's Lambeau Field on New Year's Eve 1967, known as the Ice Bowl.  It was -13 degrees at game time.  That's without the wind chill factor.  Still an official NFL record.  With it, it was about -39.  When the set was setting by the end of the game, and with the south end scoreboard casting a shadow over the end zone that Packer quarterback Bart Starr snuck in, to give the Pack the win over the Dallas Cowboys, officially, it was -48.  I've seen one source that says that, with the wind chill, it was -55.  When the Giants beat the Packers in the 2007-08 NFC Championship Game at Lambeau, and it was officially -4 (-24 with the wind chill) and snowing, but it was a great game.

So it is possible to play a great football game in cold weather.

But here's what Flacco said, when asked about a Super Bowl being played outdoors in New Jersey on a February 2:


I think it's retarded. I probably shouldn't say that. I think it's stupid,.  If you want a Super Bowl, put a retractable dome on your stadium. Then you can get one.

Other than that I don't really like the idea. I don't think people would react very well to it, or be glad to play anybody in that kind of weather.


The average high temperature for East Rutherford, New Jersey on a February 2 is 39 degrees.  The average low is 22.  The average amount of precipitation -- rain or snow -- is 1/8th of an inch.

Look, I wouldn't want to attend a football game in cold weather.  I have.  The first NFL game I ever saw live was a November 3, 1996 game between the Giants and the Arizona Cardinals at Giants Stadium.  I was way up on the southwest corner of the upper deck, and it was freezing up there.  The Giants won, 16-8.

I was at the December 30, 2001 regular season finale at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, when the Eagles jumped out to a huge lead, but the Giants fought back to within 24-21, before the Eagles stopped a furious last drive to hang on.  The Vet was an awful stadium: Whatever the temperature was on the outside, it was magnified on the inside.  I'd been to Phillies games where the Vet became an oven, but this time it was an ice tray.

I've been to a few frigid games at Rutgers Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey.  I was at Rutgers Stadium went East Brunswick High School, my Dear Old Alma Mater, won its first State Championship in the Playoff era in 2004, at Rutgers, defeating powerful Jackson Memorial.  It was cold.  It was worse when EB won the next one, in 2009, at The College of New Jersey in Ewing.  We played Brick Memorial and it snowed throughout, making it difficult to run and almost impossible to pass.  We managed to win, and our players spent much of the postgame making snow angels on the field.  I was pretty well bundled up, but my toes were very unhappy.

And I was at MetLife Stadium for the international soccer friendly between the U.S. and Argentina on March 26, 2011, a 1-1 draw against one of the best teams in the world.  (Yes, Lionel Messi played for the Argies in that game.  Yes, he dribbled brilliantly.  No, he did not score, missing or getting stopped on 5 attempts.) It was freezing, and a nasty wind blasted across the Meadowlands parking lot, as it has so many times before, and around the stadium.  $1.6 billion, and they couldn't fix the most glaring problem with the old stadium, the wind?

So would I attend Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands? If offered a free ticket, maybe.  If offered a discounted ticket, no.

But would I watch such a game on television? You bet.

Would Joe Flacco want to play in such a game? No.

Flacco is catching flack for his comments.  It's bad enough that a football player suggests that he's afraid of something -- in this case, the weather, over which he has no control.  But to use the word "retarded"? That is absolutely unacceptable.

I was rooting for the Ravens to win this game.  Not because of any ill will toward the 49ers: They're a great organization in a great sports metro area, and I have a lot of respect for what the Joe Montana and Steve Young era teams achieved.  But I really like Baltimore as a city, and they've got Rutgers star Ray Rice.  (That their icon, Ray Lewis, is retiring after the game has nothing to do with it.) So I had been inclined to lean toward the Ravens.

But after Flacco's comments, I don't know.  Maybe I should still root for the Ravens to win, but hope that Flacco gets clobbered.  Just once.  Just to send him a message.

After all, the 49ers know about playing in cold weather.  They still -- for at least one more season, as their new stadium is set to open in 2014 -- have to play in Candlestick Park.

Then again, San Francisco is the one city I know of that has baseball weather during football season, and football weather during baseball season.

I guess Flacco is lucky he grew up across the river from Philly, and not across the bay from San Fran.  Not that the Oakland Coliseum isn't without its bad weather days.

*

By the way, I looked up a list of the coldest games in NFL history, to see if the Ice Bowl is officially the coldest game ever -- and it is.

Number 2 was the 1981-82 AFC Championship, at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati.  You'd expect the other Ohio city, Cleveland, to be colder, since it's right on Lake Erie, and Number 4 was the 1980-81 AFC Divisional Playoff that the Browns lost to the Oakland Raiders, the infamous "Red Right 88" game.  But Cincinnati? Well, the stadium was right on the Ohio River, which is pretty wide, and a wide river can make for nasty winter wind -- I know, having been to Devils games in Newark on the Passaic, and to Montreal on the St. Lawrence in January.  The '82 game set a record for worst wind chill, -59, but the official game-time temperature was -9.  Bad enough if you're from Cincinnati.  The opponents were the San Diego Chargers, who'd just come off a Humidity Bowl in Miami, that 41-38 overtime classic that gets remembered as the Kellen Winslow Game.

Number 3 was a Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City on January 7, 1996, between the host Chiefs and the Colts.  It was -6 -- at least there wasn't much wind.  The Colts' quarterback that day? Jim Harbaugh, now the coach of the 49ers, and brother of current Ravens coach John Harbaugh.  The Colts won.

Joe Flacco, your head coach is from Toledo, Ohio, which is on Lake Erie.  He went to Miami University in nearby Oxford, Ohio.  He coached at Western Michigan in Kalamazoo.  And at the University of Pittsburgh.  And at the University of Cincinnati.  And at Indiana University.  All in Big Ten Country, if not in the Big Ten Conference itself.  All in the Snow Belt.  (And the Rust Belt.) He was an assistant coach for the Eagles in Philadelphia for 10 years, including that frigid 2001 season finale I attended at Veterans Stadium that decided the NFC East title, the Eagles holding off a furious Giants comeback.  And now he works in Baltimore, same as you.

As George Steinbrenner taught us, a good leader doesn't ask his men to work any harder than he does.  And say what you want about the Harbaugh family, but they are not afraid of cold weather, or the football played therein.

Joe Flacco, you're from New Jersey.  Sure, we complain about the weather, but we deal with it.  And we do NOT use the word "retarded" unless we're a qualified medical/psychological professional.  Be resilient.  Be Jersey Strong.

Joe Flacco, man up.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Legends of All 4 Sports

With the recent death of Stan Musial, St. Louis has to come up with a new answer to the question: Who is the greatest living athlete to play for one of our teams?

Is it a Cardinal -- Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Albert Pujols? It sure isn't Mark McGwire.  Is it the only quarterback ever to lead a St. Louis team to a Super Bowl win, Kurt Warner of the 1999 Rams? Is it the only player ever to lead a St. Louis team to an NBA title, Bob Pettit of the 1958 Hawks? (Sure, it's been 55 years, and the Hawks left for Atlanta in 1968, but he's still alive.)

There are a few cities that have had major league teams, or a team in something resembling a major league, in all 4 sports.  I'd like to rank them.

I could have ranked Carolina, including Raleigh, home of the Carolina Hurricanes, with Charlotte; and Tennessee, including Memphis, home of the Grizzlies, with Nashville; but neither has ever had a Major League Baseball team.  Milwaukee has never had a National Hockey League or World Hockey Association team, so even if I counted Green Bay, home of the Packers, with them, it wouldn't work.  Montreal could be counted if it had a National Basketball Association or American Basketball Association team.

HOF: Elected to his sport's Hall of Fame.  100/50: Named to The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Players in his sport in 1999, the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players in 1997, or The Hockey News' 50th Anniversary 100 Greatest Players in 1998.  AC: Named to the MLB All-Century Team in 1999 or the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team in 1994.

26. Indianapolis: Baseball, Benny Kauff, who won the Federal League batting title in 1914 with the Pennant-winning Indianapolis Hoosiers; he began his career with the Highlanders/Yankees in 1912, and while he won a World Series with the New York Giants in 1917 and served in World War I, Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned him from baseball for auto theft in 1921, even though he was acquitted in his trial.  Football, Peyton Manning, future HOF, easily top 100 and maybe top 20 if they made a new list.  Basketball, Reggie Miller, newly inducted into HOF, would be in top 50 if they made a new list.  Hockey, Wayne Gretzky, even though he played a grand total of 8 games for the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA in 1978, at age 17, before being sold to the Edmonton Oilers.

25. Miami: Baseball, Gary Sheffield, but probably won't make HOF.  Football, Bob Griese, HOF.  Basketball, Dwayne Wade, future HOF, would be in the top 50 if they did a new list.  Hockey, Pavel Bure, newly inducted into the HOF.

24. Tampa-Orlando, which I'm combining since the NBA's Orlando Magic are closer to Tampa than Green Bay is to Milwaukee, and that gives them all 4: Baseball, Evan Longoria, may be a future HOFer, certainly has contributed more to the Rays franchise than any other player.  Football, Warren Sapp, now eligible for the HOF and probably about to get in, so I'm going to count him as if he already is.  Basketball, Shaquille O'Neal, HOF, 50.  Hockey, Dave Andreychuk, not yet in HOF but should be.

23. Phoenix: Baseball, Randy Johnson, future HOF, would be in top 100 if they did a new list.  Football, Larry Fitzgerald, possible future HOF.  Basketball, Charles Barkley, HOF, 50.  Hockey, Teppo Numminen, future HOF.

22. Toronto: Baseball, Roberto Alomar, HOF.  Football, Michael "Pinball" Clemons, HOF, despite being just 5-foot-6 holds the Canadian Football League record for most combined yards, 25,438, and helped the Toronto Argonauts win 4 Grey Cups.  Basketball, Vince Carter, possible future HOF.  Hockey, Frank Mahovlich, HOF, 100.

21. Atlanta: Baseball, Hank Aaron, HOF, 100, AC.  Football, Deion Sanders, HOF, 100.  Basketball, Dominique Wilkins, HOF.  Hockey, Ilya Kovalchuk, All-Star and possible future HOF.  (It's easy to forget that Atlanta has had 2 NHL teams, both of which failed, the Flames moving to Calgary in 1980, the Thrashers moving to Winnipeg in 2011.)

20. Denver: Baseball, Larry Walker, probably should make it to the HOF but it doesn't look likely.  Football, John Elway, HOF, 100.  Basketball, Dan Issel, HOF.  Hockey, Joe Sakic, newly inducted into the HOF, 100.

19. Buffalo: Dan Brouthers, HOF, played for the Buffalo Bisons of the National League in the 1880s; aside from the 1914-15 Federal League, the NL's 1885 Bisons remain the last major league baseball team from Western New York.  Football, Bruce Smith, HOF, 100 -- but not AC, which would raise Buffalo on this list, but I don't think you want to include the only Bill on the NFL 75th Anniversary Team, O.J. Simpson, as the list was compiled right before the crime for which he was accused.  Basketball: Bob McAdoo, from the 1970s Buffalo Braves, HOF, and considering his later performances for the Lakers, he may have gotten gypped for the top 50.  Hockey, Gilbert Perreault, HOF, 100.

18. Kansas City: Baseball, George Brett, HOF, 100.  Football, Willie Lanier, HOF, 100.  Basketball, Nate "Tiny" Archibald, HOF, 50.  Hockey, Guy Charron, the best of the players on the Kansas City Scouts in their 2 seasons in the NHL, 1974-76, however, he holds the dubious record of playing in the most regular season NHL games without appearing in any Playoff games: 734.

17. Cleveland: Baseball, Tris Speaker, HOF, 100.  Football, Jim Brown, HOF, 100 (in fact, TSN ranked him Number 1), AC.  Basketball, LeBron James, future HOF, would be in the top 50 if they made a new list.  Hockey, Charlie Simmer, probably the best player on the 2-year NHL experiment of the Cleveland Barons, 1976-78, later an All-Star with the Los Angeles Kings.

16. Dallas: Baseball, Nolan Ryan, HOF, 100, AC -- but was only a Ranger for the last 5 years of his career.  Football, Bob Lilly, HOF, 100, AC.  Basketball, Dirk Nowitzki, All-Star & future HOF, and would be in the top 50 if they did a new list.  Hockey, Mike Modano, future HOF, and would in the top 100 if they did a new list.

15. Minneapolis: Baseball, Harmon Killebrew, HOF, 100.  Football, Fran Tarkenton, HOF, 100.  Basketball, George Mikan, HOF, 50.  Hockey: Neal Broten, not in the HOF but probably should be.

14. Seattle: Baseball, Ken Griffey Jr., future HOF, 100, AC.  Football, Steve Largent, HOF, 100.  Basketball, Lenny Wilkens, HOF, 50.  Hockey, Harry "Hap" Holmes, who played on all 4 Seattle Metropolitans teams to win the Pacific Coast Hockey Association title and thus reach the Stanley Cup Finals, including the 1917 Cup that made the Metros the first team outside Canada to win the Cup; he is in the HOF, and along with his 1914 Toronto Blueshirts teammate Jack Marshall, he is one of only 2 players to win the Cup with 4 different teams.

13. Houston: Baseball, Nolan Ryan, HOF, 100, AC.  Football, Earl Campbell, HOF, 100.  Basketball, Hakeem Olajuwon, HOF, 50.  Hockey, Gordie Howe (WHA's Houston Aeros for 4 years), HOF, 100.

12. Cincinnati: Baseball, Johnny Bench, HOF, 100, AC.  Football, Anthony Munoz, HOF, 100, AC, although it is odd for a team's greatest all-time player to be an offensive lineman.  Basketball, Oscar Robertson, HOF, 50.  Hockey, Mike Gartner, Cincinnati Stingers of the World Hockey Association before going on to the Washington Capitals; HOF, 100; Mark Messier also played for the Stingers but only half a season.

11. Baltimore: Baseball, Cal Ripken, HOF, 100, AC.  Football, Johnny Unitas, HOF, 100, AC.  Basketball, Earl Monroe, HOF, 50.  Hockey, Gary Veneruzzo, the best of the players on the Baltimore Blades, who were created from the failed Michigan Stags of the WHA in January 1975, but only played out that season; Veneruzzo played a grand total of 7 games in the NHL.  (No, you can't combine Baltimore and Washington.)

10. Pittsburgh: Baseball, Honus Wagner, HOF, 100, AC.  Football, Joe Greene, HOF, 100, AC.  Basketball, Connie Hawkins (ABA Pittsburgh Pipers), HOF.  Hockey, Mario Lemieux, HOF, 100.

9. San Francisco: Baseball, Willie Mays, HOF, 100, AC.  Football, Joe Montana, HOF, 100, AC.  Basketball, Rick Barry, HOF, 50.  Hockey, Patrick Marleau, probable future HOF.

8. Los Angeles: Baseball, Sandy Koufax, HOF, 100, AC.  Football, Deacon Jones, HOF, 100, AC.  Basketball: Magic Johnson, HOF, 50.  Hockey: Wayne Gretzky, HOF, 100 (THN ranked him 1, but he can't be counted as mainly an L.A. player since his best years were in Edmonton, so that hurts L.A.'s ranking here).

7. St. Louis: Baseball, Stan Musial, HOF, 100, AC.  Football, Marshall Faulk, HOF, and if they did a new top 100 list he'd be on it, whereas Kurt Warner might not be.  Basketball, Bob Pettit, HOF, 50.  Hockey, Brett Hull, HOF, 100.

6. Washington: Baseball, Walter Johnson, HOF, 100, AC.  Football, Sammy Baugh, HOF, 100, AC.  Basketball, Elvin Hayes, HOF, 50.  Hockey, Alexander Ovechkin, future HOF, and if they did a new top 100 he'd be on it.

5. Detroit: Baseball, Ty Cobb, HOF, 100, AC.  Football, Barry Sanders, HOF, 100.  Basketball, Isiah Thomas, HOF, 50.  Hockey, Gordie Howe, HOF, 100.

4. Chicago: Baseball, Ernie Banks, HOF, 100, AC.  Football, Walter Payton, HOF, 100.  Basketball, Michael Jordan, HOF, 50.  Hockey, Bobby Hull, HOF, 100.

3. Philadelphia: Baseball, Mike Schmidt, HOF, 100, AC.  Football, Chuck Bednarik, HOF, 100, AC.  Basketball, Wilt Chamberlain, HOF, 100.  Hockey, Bobby Clarke, HOF, 100.

2. Boston: Baseball, Ted Williams, HOF, 100, AC.  Football, Tom Brady, future HOF, if the voters don't hold Bill Belichick's cheating against him, and easily in a new all-time top 100, if not top 50.  Basketball, Bill Russell, HOF, 50 Greatest Players.  Hockey, Bobby Orr, HOF, 100.

1. New York: Baseball, Babe Ruth, HOF, 100 (TSN ranked him Number 1), AC.  Football, Lawrence Taylor, HOF, 100, AC.  Basketball, Walt Frazier, HOF, 50.  Hockey, Martin Brodeur, future HOF and would easily be in the top 100, maybe the top 20, if they did a new list.

New York ranks Number 1 because they have the best baseball player, the highest-ranking defensive player in football, and possibly the best hockey goalie ever, and when you consider that Walt Frazier, the smoothest player ever, is the "weak link" in this chain, no one can top New York.

If you still doubt that New York should be Number 1, look at who the backups would be.  Baseball? Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Christy Mathewson, Tom Seaver, and the first 5 full seasons of Willie Mays.  Football? Joe Namath.  Basketball? Willis Reed, Patrick Ewing, Jason Kidd, and the early Julius Erving.  Hockey? Frank Boucher, Rod Gilbert, Denis Potvin, Mike Bossy, Scott Stevens, and the older Mark Messier.

Who's got better backups? Boston can claim lots of great baseball, basketball and hockey players, but after Brady, who's their best football player, John Hannah? Chicago could replace Payton with Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski or Dick Butkus, but other than that they fall short.  Philly could replace Schmidt with Lefty Grove, and Chamberlain with the older Erving, but that's it.  Detroit could replace Cobb with Al Kaline and Howe with Steve Yzerman, but after Sanders there is, if not a dropoff in quantity of great football players, not really one who comes close to him; and after Isiah, who's next among Pistons, Joe Dumars?

No, New York is tops.  If you want to go by per-capita, Boston probably ends up on top.  But that's not what we're going by.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

San Francisco: One Win Away from 2 Titles At Once; Richard Garneau, 1930-2013


If the San Francisco 49ers defeat the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII, the Northern California metropolis will hold the World Championships of both baseball and football at the same time.

This is a stunning thing, considering that, until November 2010, the Giants had never won the World Series, and have now won 2 of the last 3.

In fact, from October 1972 to January 1981, teams from across the Bay in Oakland had won 6 titles: The '72, '73 and '74 Athletics, the '75 Warriors, and the '76 and '80 Raiders.  (The Raiders were in Los Angeles when they won Super Bowl XVIII, making them 1983 NFL Champions.) While San Francisco, home to the Giants from 1958 onward, the 49ers from 1946 onward, and the Warriors from 1962 to 1971 when they moved to Oakland, had never won.

But since then, there have been 7 titles for San Francisco against just 1 for Oakland: The 1989 A's, as opposed to the 1981, '84, '88, '89 and '94 49ers, and the 2010 and '12 Giants.

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Holding 2 titles at once is rare. Strictly speaking, it's been done 19 times; if you count an entire metropolitan area, 25 times.

In these listings, the first date given will be that of the second team to win it, and the second date will be that of either team giving up their title when it was won by another team.

1. Cleveland, sort of, December 1920 to October 1921: The Cleveland Indians won the 1920 World Series, and the Akron Pros won the 1st Championship of the American Professional Football Association, which became the NFL in 1922.

2. New York, December 1927 to December 1928: The New York Yankees won the 1927 and 1928 World Series, the New York Giants won the 1927 NFL Championship, and the New York Rangers won the 1928 Stanley Cup. Which means the Yankees and Rangers were champions at the same time from April 1928 to April 1929.

3. Boston, sort of, April to October 1929: The Rhode Island-based Providence Steam Roller (for some reason, it was never the plural "Rollers") won the 1928 NFL Championship, and the Boston Bruins won the 1929 Stanley Cup. As many times as the Bruins and Celtics have reached their sport's finals, they have never both won in the same year, although they have won in back-to-back years (Celtics in '69, Bruins in '70).

4. New York, April 1933 to April 1934: The Rangers won the 1933 Stanley Cup, and the baseball version of the New York Giants won the 1933 World Series.

5. Chicago, April to December 1934: The Chicago Bears won the 1933 NFL Championship, the first official NFL Championship Game (previous titles were awarded to teams with the best record at the end of the season), and the Chicago Blackhawks won the 1934 Stanley Cup.

6. Detroit, December 1935 to October 1936: The Detroit Tigers won the 1935 World Series, the Detroit Lions won the 1935 NFL Championship, and the Detroit Red Wings won the 1936 Stanley Cup. When Joe Louis, born in Alabama but trained as a boxer in Detroit, won the heavyweight championship in 1937, Detroit started calling itself "The City of Champions." That tag was not revived in the 1950s, although it could have been.

7. New York, December 1938 to December 1939: The Yankees won the 1938 and 1939 World Series, and the Giants won the 1938 NFL Championship.

8. New York, April to October 1940: The Yankees won the 1939 World Series, and the Rangers won the 1940 Stanley Cup. The Giants were unsuccessful in defending their NFL Championship, losing the Championship Game in 1939, or else this would have been another threesome.

9. Detroit, December 1952 to April 1953: The Red Wings won the 1952 Stanley Cup, and the
Lions won the 1952 and 1953 NFL Championship.

10. Detroit, April to December 1954: The Lions won the 1952 and 1953 NFL Championship, though lost the Championship Game in 1954; and the Red Wings won the 1954 and 1955 Stanley Cups.

11. New York, December 1956 to October 1957: The Yankees won the 1956 World Series, and the Giants won the 1956 NFL Championship. As this was the Giants' 1st season at the original Yankee Stadium, this made the big ballyard in The Bronx the 1st building to be home to 2 defending World Champions at once. (The Lions hadn't yet moved into the ballpark known as Tiger Stadium while both they and the Tigers were World Champs.)

12. New York, October 1969 to January 1970: The New York Jets won Super Bowl III in 1969, and the New York Mets won the 1969 World Series. This made Shea Stadium the 2nd building to have 2 titlists, although, by the time the Mets played the 1970 home opener, the Jets had already been dethroned.

13. New York, May to October 1970: The Mets won the 1969 World Series, and the New York Knicks won the 1970 NBA Title. However, by the time the Knicks won, the Jets had already been dethroned for 4 months, so while this was 3 titles in a short span for New York, it was not 3 titles at once.

14. Baltimore, January to October 1971: The Baltimore Orioles won the 1970 World Series, and the Baltimore Colts won Super Bowl V in 1971. This made Memorial Stadium the 3rd building to host 2 reigning World Champions.

15. San Francisco, more specifically Oakland, May to October 1975: The Oakland Athletics won the 1974 World Series (and 1972 and 1973), and the Golden State Warriors won the 1975 NBA Title. The Oakland Raiders couldn't quite make it 3 at once, but they did win Super Bowl XI in 1977. And while the A's and W's did not share a building, they did share a sports complex, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum complex.

16. Pittsburgh, October 1979 to October 1980: The Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XIII in 1979 and Super Bowl XIV in 1980, and the Pittsburgh Pirates won the 1979 World Series. At the time, Pittsburgh called itself "The City of Champions," as had Detroit in the 1930s. Three Rivers Stadium became the 4th building to host 2 reigning World Champions.

17. Los Angeles, June to October 1982: The Los Angeles Dodgers won the 1981 World Series, and the Los Angeles Lakers won the 1982 NBA Title.

18. New York, officially if not actually, January to October 1987: The Mets won the 1986 World Series, and the Meadowlands, New Jersey-based Giants won Super Bowl XXI in 1987.

19. Los Angeles, October 1988 to June 1989: The Lakers won the 1987 and 1988 NBA Titles, and the Dodgers won the 1988 World Series.

20. San Francisco, sort of, October 1989 to October 1990: The San Francisco 49ers won Super Bowl XXIII in 1989 and Super Bowl XXIV in 1990, and the Oakland Athletics won the 1989 World Series, against the San Francisco Giants.  Had the Giants beaten the A's in the "Bay Bridge Series" or "BART Series," Candlestick Park would have been home to 2 titleholders.

21. New York, sort of, June 2000 to June 2001: The Yankees won the 1999 and 2000 World Series, and the New Jersey Devils won the 2000 Stanley Cup.

22. Los Angeles, sort of, October 2002 to June 2003: The Lakers won the 2000, 2001 and 2002 NBA Titles, and the team then known as the Anaheim Angels won the 2002 World Series.

23. Boston, October 2004 to October 2005: The New England Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 and Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005, and the Boston Red Sox won the 2004 World Series. We now have reason to believe that all of these titles are tainted.

24. Boston, June to October 2008: The Red Sox won the 2007 World Series (tainted), and the Boston Celtics won the 2008 NBA Title (without cheating... as far as we know). In spite of the Celtics' 17 Titles, this is the only time they and another New England team won in the same 12-month period.

25. Pittsburgh, June 2009 to February 2010: The Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, and the Pittsburgh Penguins won the 2009 Stanley Cup.

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New York has done it 9 times -- amazingly, 4 times without the Yankees having been involved. Boston, Detroit and Los Angeles have done it 3 times; Pittsburgh and San Francisco twice; Baltimore, Chicago and Cleveland once.

New York (5 times), Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, and, sort of, Cleveland and San Francisco are the only metro areas to hold the MLB and NFL titles at the same time. If the 49ers win this Super Bowl, we can remove the "sort of" tag from the city. If you count the Grey Cup, the championship of the Canadian Football League, then Toronto, with the Argonauts winning in November 1991 and the Blue Jays winning in October 1992, held 2 titles for a matter of days in the fall of 1992.

Los Angeles (twice, and, sort of, a 3rd time), New York, Boston and San Francisco (through Oakland) are the only metro areas to hold the MLB and NBA titles at the same time.

New York is the only city to hold the MLB and NHL titles at the same time. In spite of the Celtics' 17 titles, the closest Boston has come is the Celtics and Bruins both making the 1974 Finals, but the Bruins lost.

No city has ever held the NFL and NBA titles at the same time. The closest call was in 2008, when the Celtics won their most recent title a few months after the Patriots blew their shot at 19-0.

Detroit (3 times), New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and, sort of, Boston are the only metro areas to hold the NFL and NHL titles at the same time. If you count the Canadian Football League's Grey Cup, then Toronto has done it 6 times, from December 1914 to March 1915, from March to December 1922, from December 1942 to April 1943, from December 1945 to April 1946, from April 1947 to November 1948, and from April to November 1951.  Montreal has done it 4 times, from December 1931 to April 1932, November 1944 to April 1945, May to November 1971, and November 1977 to November 1978.  Ottawa held both titles from April to December 1927. Edmonton held both titles from November 1987 to November 1988.

New York, from the Rangers' Cup in April 1928 to the Giants surrendering the NFL Championship in December; and Detroit, from the Wings' Cup in April 1936 to the Tigers' surrendering the American League Pennant in October; are the only cities to hold 3 titles at once. No city has held 3 titles since the debut of the NBA in 1946. The closest call has been 2007-08, when the Red Sox and Celtics won, but the Patriots, I cannot emphasize this enough, blew their chance at 19-0.

That no city has held 3 titles since the founding of the NBA means that no city has ever held all 4 titles at once. The closest call has been in Philadelphia, which pulled off what remains a unique feat, reaching the Finals of all 4 sports: In May 1980, the Flyers reached the Stanley Cup Finals; in June, the 76ers reached the NBA Finals; in October, the Phillies won the National League Pennant; and in January 1981, the Eagles reached Super Bowl XV. But of those 4, only the Phillies won.

Only 6 metro areas have won all 4 titles at all: New York (achieving it with the 1970 Knicks), Philadelphia (1974 Flyers), Detroit (1989 Pistons), Chicago (1991 Bulls), Boston (2001-02 Patriots) and Los Angeles (2007 Anaheim Ducks, or the 2012 Kings if you don't count Anaheim).

Pittsburgh has won an ABA Title (1968 Pipers), but hasn't had an NBA team since the league's 1st season, 1946-47. Toronto has won 13 Stanley Cups, 2 World Series, and 18 Grey Cups, but never an NBA Title. Miami, St. Louis and Washington have won all but the Stanley Cup -- and, by a weird turn of events, while all 3 of those cities have reached the Stanley Cup Finals, they all got swept, including St. Louis all 3 times.

In December 1936, with the Boston Redskins having poor attendance at Fenway Park, and the Eastern Division winner having the turn to host the NFL Championship Game, the game was moved to the Polo Grounds, which made that ballpark the 1st stadium to host a World Series and an NFL Championship Game in adjoining seasons. (It did so again, December '36 and October '37.)

Cleveland Municipal Stadium did so in October and December 1954, the old Yankee Stadium in October and December 1956 (and December '56 and October '57), Yankee Stadium again in October and December 1958, Yankee Stadium again in October and December 1962 (and December '62 and October '63), the Metrodome in Minneapolis in October 1991 and January 1992, and Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego in January and October 1998.

Wrigley Field in Chicago was scheduled to do so, having hosted the World Series in October 1932, but a snowstorm forced the NFL Championship Game indoors in December. The Metrodome added the NCAA Finals in April '92, and the nearby Met Center had hosted the Stanley Cup Finals in April '91.

Arenas hosting both the NBA and Stanley Cup Finals in the same season are: Boston Garden in 1957 (Celtics won, Bruins lost), '58 (both lost) and '74 (Celtics won, Bruins lost); the current Madison Square Garden in 1972 (Knicks and Rangers both lost) and '94 (Rangers won, Knicks lost); the Spectrum in Philadelphia in 1980 (76ers and Flyers both lost); Chicago Stadium in 1992 (Bulls won, Blackhawks lost); and New Jersey's Meadowlands Arena, then known as the Continental Airlines Arena, in 2003 (Devils won, Nets lost).

Note that I'm not counting the various AFLs, the AAFC, the WFL, the USFL, the ABA or the WHA. Their champions could hardly be called "World Champions," aside from the 1968-69 Jets and the 1969-70 Kansas City Chiefs, who beat the NFL Champion Colts and Minnesota Vikings, respectively, in Super Bowls.

If I did count those leagues, the only addition would be Cleveland, which would have been dual champions from December 1948 (when the Browns won the AAFC title) to October 1949 (when the Indians were succeeded as World Series winners).  But that would have depended on whether the '48 Browns (who did go undefeated) would have beaten the '48 NFL Champion Philadelphia Eagles. Famously (at least, at the time), in what was, de facto if not actual, a "unification bout," the Browns clobbered the Eagles at Municipal (later JFK) Stadium in the first game of the 1950 season, a Saturday night precursor to the later Monday Night Football, and then beat the Los Angeles Rams in the '50 NFL title game.  But that doesn't necessarily mean they would have beaten the '48 or '49 Eagles.

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Richard Garneau died last week, at the age of 82. The Quebec City native hosted the French version of Canada's favorite TV show (or, should I say, "favourite television programme"): Hockey Night In CanadaLa Soirée du Hockey. He was awarded the Foster Hewitt Award, the Hockey Hall of Fame's award for broadcasters.
He also announced 23 Olympic Games: Every Winter Olympiad since 1968, and every Summer Olympiad since 1972. This included the Games held in Canada: Montreal, Summer 1976; Calgary, Winter 1988; and Vancouver, Winter 2010.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Living Members of the Baseball Hall of Fame as of January 22, 2013

With the deaths this past Saturday of Stan Musial and Earl Weaver, there are now 62 living members of the Baseball Hall of Fame -- 78 counting broadcasters.

Tom Cheek, the longtime voice of the Toronto Blue Jays, was named the 2013 winner of the Ford Frick Award for broadcasting, but he's been dead for a few years now.

Teams are ranked in order of most living HOFers.  If there is a tie, it will be broken by which has more non-managers.  If it's still a tie, which has more non-broadcasters.  If it's still a tie, which has more players whose contributions were mostly with that club.  If it's still a tie, which team has played fewer seasons will be ranked ahead -- since, for example, 5 HOFers is more impressive for a team that's been around since 1977 than it would be for one that's been around since 1961.  Teams that no longer exist in that form will be listed in italics and in the position where they would be ranked if they still did.

Players are listed in chronological order of when they arrived at the club, then managers, then broadcasters.

1. St. Louis Cardinals, 8: Red Schoendienst (elected as player but also a World Series-winning manager), Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Orlando Cepeda, Steve Carlton, Bruce Sutter, Ozzie Smith, Whitey Herzog (manager).  Jim Edmonds is not yet eligible.  Tony LaRussa is not yet eligible to be elected as a manager.  Mark McGwire is eligible, but he's not getting in.

2. New York Yankees, 7: Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Dave Winfield, Wade Boggs, Jerry Coleman (played for the Yankees but elected as a broadcaster, first for the Yankees, then for the Padres).  Having been elected in 1972, Yogi is now the earliest-elected living member of the Hall of Fame.  I generally don't count Rickey Henderson as a Yankee; maybe I would if he'd helped to win a Pennant.  Joe Torre is not yet eligible to be elected as a manager; he is eligible as a player, but has never gotten in as one, and never played for the Yankees anyway.  If Lou Piniella is elected as a manager, I'll have a decision to make as to whether to count him as a Yankee HOFer, since he was good but not HOF quality for them as both player and manager.  Don Mattingly and Paul O'Neill are now eligible, but let's not kid ourselves.  And then there's Roger Clemens: Even if he does get in, would you want to count him as a Yankee?

3. Baltimore Orioles, 7: Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, Roberto Alomar, Jon Miller (broadcaster).  Although he won his only World Series with the Orioles, we don't usually associate Luis Aparicio with them, so I'm not counting him here.  Rafael Palmeiro is eligible, but he's not getting in.

4. Cincinnati Reds, 7: Frank Robinson, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, Tom Seaver, Barry Larkin, Marty Brennaman (broadcaster).  Pete Rose, of course, is ineligible.  If Lou Piniella is elected as a manager, I'll count him as a Reds HOFer.

5. San Francisco Giants, 7: Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Lon Simmons (broadcaster), Jon Miller (broadcaster).  Barry Bonds is eligible, but who's kidding who?

6. Chicago Cubs, 6: Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins, Bruce Sutter, Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson.  Greg Maddux can be counted with them when he is elected.  Sammy Sosa is eligible, but he's not getting in.  Lee Smith is eligible, but now that he's no longer the all-time saves leader, the biggest reason for electing him is gone.  If Lou Piniella is elected as a manager, I'll have a decision to make as to whether to count him as a Cub HOFer, since he was good but not HOF quality for them.

7. Oakland Athletics, 5: Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley, Lon Simmons (broadcaster).  Mark McGwire is eligible, but he's not getting in.  Tony LaRussa is not yet eligible to be elected as a manager.

8. Los Angeles Dodgers, 5: Sandy Koufax, Don Sutton, Tommy Lasorda (manager), Vin Scully (broadcaster), Jamie Jarrin (broadcaster).  Steve Garvey is not getting in.  Mike Piazza probably will, and if he does, he can be counted as a Dodger.

9. Boston Red Sox, 4: Bobby Doerr, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Wade Boggs.  Pedro Martinez is not yet eligible.  Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling are.  I don't know if any of those will get in, even though all are members of the 3,000 Strikeout Club, and Clemens of the 300 Win Club.  At age 94 and having debuted in the major leagues in 1937, Doerr is now the oldest and earliest living member of the Hall of Fame.

10. Philadelphia Phillies, 4: Jim Bunning, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Pat Gillick (executive).  If Curt Schilling gets in, he can be counted with them.  Pete Rose, of course, is ineligible.

11. Milwaukee Brewers, 4: Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Rollie Fingers, Bob Uecker (broadcaster).

12. San Diego Padres, 4: Dave Winfield, Rollie Fingers, Tony Gwynn, Jerry Coleman (broadcaster).  Considering how many they have in a comparatively short history, you shouldn't also count Willie McCovey, Gaylord Perry, Ozzie Smith or Roberto Alomar.

13. Houston Astros, 4: Joe Morgan, Nolan Ryan, Gene Elston (broadcaster), Milo Hamilton (broadcaster).  Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio are eligible, and should be in.  Roger Clemens is eligible, but even with a legal exoneration, he may never get in.

14. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 3: Nolan Ryan, Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson.  Jim Edmonds is not yet eligible.

15. Pittsburgh Pirates, 3: Ralph Kiner, Bill Mazeroski, Bert Blyleven.  Barry Bonds is eligible, but who's kidding who?

16. Atlanta Braves, 3: Hank Aaron, Phil Niekro, Milo Hamilton (broadcaster).  Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine will be counted with them when they are elected.  If they are elected, so will Bobby Cox, John Smoltz, Fred McGriff, Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones.  If Joe Torre is elected as a manager, I'll have a decision to make as to whether to include him: While he was a very good player for the Braves, he won't be elected as a player, and as Braves manager he won a single Division title.

17. Toronto Blue Jays, 3: Roberto Alomar, Pat Gillick (executive), Tony Kubek (broadcaster).  No, you can't count Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson or Paul Molitor.  Or Roger Clemens.


18. Kansas City Royals, 3: George Brett, Whitey Herzog (manager), Denny Matthews (broadcaster).

19. New York Mets, 3: Tom Seaver, Yogi Berra (manager), Tim McCarver (broadcaster).  Mike Piazza will probably get in.  If John Franco is ever elected, you can count him.  No, you can't count  Ralph Kiner, Willie Mays or Nolan Ryan -- and why would you want to count Eddie Murray, Rickey Henderson or Roberto Alomar as Mets? Or, if he gets in, Tom Glavine? Or Joe Torre?

20. Detroit Tigers, 2: Al Kaline, Jim Bunning.  Jack Morris, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker are all eligible, but it's doubtful that any of them will ever get in.  Ivan Rodriguez is not yet eligible, and while he's never been publicly revealed to be a steroid user, it's a big question mark as to whether he'll ever get in.


21. Chicago White Sox, 2: Luis Aparicio, Carlton Fisk.  Frank Thomas is not yet eligible.  Tony LaRussa is not yet eligible to be elected as a manager.

22. Texas Rangers, 2: Ferguson Jenkins, Nolan Ryan.  Ivan Rodriguez is not yet eligible.  Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez are, but who's kidding who?

23. Minnesota Twins: Rod Carew, Bert Blyleven.

Milwaukee Braves, 2: Hank Aaron, Red Schoendienst.

New York Giants, 2: Monte Irvin, Willie Mays.  Irvin is the only living HOFer who had been elected based in part upon his performance in the Negro Leagues, mainly with the Newark Eagles.

Montreal Expos, 2: Andre Dawson, Dave Van Horne (broadcaster).  If Tim Raines and Larry Walker get in, they can be counted with the Expos.

24. Miami Marlins, 2: Felo Ramirez and Dave Van Horne (both broadcasters).  If Gary Sheffield gets in, he can be counted as a Marlin, but I don't think he's getting in.  No, you can't count Andre Dawson, although he did close his career with the club and is now working in their front office.

25. Seattle Mariners, 1: Pat Gillick (executive).  Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy Johnson are not yet eligible.  Edgar Martinez is, but I don't think he'll ever get in.  If Lou Piniella is elected as a manager, I'll have a decision to make as to whether to count him as a Mariner HOFer, since he was good but not HOF quality for them.

Brooklyn Dodgers, 1: Vin Scully (broadcaster).

Washington Senators, 1: Bob Wolff (broadcaster).

26. Washington Nationals, none.  No, you can't count their first manager, Frank Robinson, who was already in the Hall long before MLB returned to D.C.  Nor can you count the HOFers from their previous incarnation, the Montreal Expos.

27. Arizona Diamondbacks, none: If Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling get in, both can be counted with them.

28. Tampa Bay Rays, none: If Fred McGriff gets in, he can be counted with them.  Wade Boggs cannot.  Nor, if he is elected as a manager, can Lou Piniella.

29. Colorado Rockies, none: If Larry Walker gets in, he can be counted with them.

30. Cleveland Indians, none: Despite 112 seasons of history, including 10 trips to the postseason, the Indians have no living Hall-of-Famers since the death of Bob Feller.  Ralph Kiner, Gaylord Perry, Frank Robinson, Dennis Eckersley, Bert Blyleven, Phil Niekro, Steve Carlton, Dave Winfield, Eddie Murray and Roberto Alomar are all alive, played for the Indians in at least 1 season, and are members of the Hall, but none can be counted as an Indian.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Earl Weaver, 1930-2013

They say there is a fine line between genius and madness.  When I was growing up as a baseball fan in the 1970s and '80s, there were a few managers who walked that line, and sometimes crossed it.  Billy Martin.  Tommy Lasorda.  Whitey Herzog.  Don Zimmer.  Dallas Green.  If you wanna go a little later, Pete Rose and Lou Piniella.  And, while they were much more reserved about it, Gene Mauch, Sparky Anderson and the young Tony LaRussa.

And then there was Earl Weaver.  He wasn't an introvert like Mauch.  He was an extrovert like Martin.  He didn't just walk that line, he stomped it.

Earl Sidney Weaver was born on August 14, 1930 in St. Louis.  It's a little ironic that he would one day manage one of the St. Louis baseball teams, the Browns -- but not until well after they had moved out of town, to become the Baltimore Orioles.

He attended St. Louis' Beaumont High School.  At the time, the late 1940s, Missouri was a segregated State.  (It did not secede from the Union at the start of the American Civil War, but it was very sympathetic to the Confederacy, and Missourians Jesse and Frank James were Confederate guerrillas before becoming what we remember them as, bank and train robbers in the Wild West.) Years later, he said of Beaumont, "It's still segregated, only now, it's all-black."

In 1948, while the Browns overlooked the local high school 2nd baseman, the more successful team in town, the Cardinals, signed him.  But at 5-foot-7, he was a bit small for a ballplayer by the standards of the time (even though there were a few shorter men who excelled, like Phil Rizzuto).  And, at a time when there were only 16 major league teams and thus only 400 roster spots available (as opposed to 30 and 750 today), he wasn't going to make it.

He batted .283 for the Denver Bears in 1954, but, at the time, that was only a Class A team -- it would be another year before they became a Triple-A team and help to vault their city to major league status.  The closest he ever got to the majors was with the 1958 Louisville Colonels, who finished dead last in the Triple-A American Association (behind Charleston, Wichita, Minneapolis, Denver, Omaha, Indianapolis and St. Paul -- they were 12 1/2 games behind the 7th place St. Paul Saints, as West Virginia's Charleston Senators won the Pennant).  Indeed, aside from Weaver himself, the most notable name among the '58 Colonels was that of pitcher Ross Grimsley -- a notable name mainly because of his son, also named Ross Grimsley, who would later pitch for Earl on the Orioles.

After the 1960 season, at age 30, Earl was done as a player, except for 1 game as a player-manager with the 1965 Elmira Pioneers (of Western New York) in the Double-A Eastern League.  He had been in the Orioles' minor league system since 1957, and climbed the managerial ladder until arriving at Memorial Stadium in 1967, and being awarded the manager's job on July 7, 1968.

He replaced Hank Bauer, who played right field for the Yankees in the 1950s.  Bauer had guided the Orioles to their first real close call for the American League Pennant in 1964, and their first Pennant and World Series win in 1966.  But their superstar Frank Robinson got hurt the next year, and the team went downhill, resulting in Bauer being fired.  I met Bauer once, and I said that if the O's had stuck with him, they would have won the Pennant with him in 1969, '70 and '71, instead of with Weaver, and maybe then Bauer would be in the Hall of Fame.  He had been polite up to that point, but the mention of Weaver's name got his Marine blood boiling.  I dropped the subject.

With the O's healthy again, Weaver managed them to a 109-win season in 1969, matching the 1961 Yankees for the most of any major league team between 1954 and 1998.  But they got shocked in the World Series by the Mets.  Gil Hodges, the former Brooklyn Dodger 1st baseman, outmanaged and outthought Earl, and his calm temperament was in stark contrast to Earl's freakouts.  Earl got thrown out of Game 4, the first manager in 34 years to get tossed out of a Series game.  Since then, 3 managers have been through out of Series games: Martin in 1976, Herzog in 1985, and Bobby Cox in 1992 and 1996.

In 1970, the O's won 108 games, sparked by great pitching from Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally.  They had a defense equal to the task: 3rd baseman Brooks Robinson (no relation to Frank, as Frank is black and Brooks is white), shortstop Mark Belanger (perhaps the ultimate in "good field, no hit") and 2nd baseman Dave Johnson (known as "Davey" when he became a manager) were known as the Leather Curtain -- before the Pittsburgh Steeler defense became known as the Steel Curtain.

But, with the previous year's loss in mind, the O's were underdogs in the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, who, that season, earned the nickname "The Big Red Machine" by rampaging through the NL and winning their first Pennant with manager Anderson, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez.  (Joe Morgan wasn't there yet.) This time, though, the O's raged against the Machine, taking the first 3 games before losing Game 4 and then clinching in Game 5.  The O's did just about everything right, especially Brooks Robinson (no relation to Frank -- Brooks is white, Frank is black), who not only showed the rest of the country what the State of Maryland had been watching him do at 3rd base for 15 years, but got key hits, too.  Earl had his ring.

He never won another.  In 1971, the O's won 101, and led the Pittsburgh Pirates 3 games to 1, with Games 6 and 7, if necessary, set for Baltimore.  But the Pirates came back from 3-1 down, something only 2 previous teams had done in Series play (the '25 Pirates and the '58 Yankees).

The Detroit Tigers won the AL Eastern Division in 1972, but Earl got the O's back to 1st place in '73 and '74.  The '74 race was an interesting one, as the Yankees and Red Sox battled for 1st against each other for the first time since 1951.  But the Sox went on a nosedive (foreshadowing some later Boston collapses), and the O's took advantage.  It was the first season in Pinstripes for left fielder Lou Piniella, whom Earl had previously managed, and he played mind games with Sweet Lou, saying he couldn't hack it at the major league level.  It worked, as the O's clinched the Division on the final weekend.  But, as in the season before, they lost to the Oakland Athletics in the League Championship Series.

After playing 2nd fiddle to the Red Sox in '75 and the Yankees in '76, the O's fought with both in a 3-way race in '77.  It was Brooks Robinson's last season, and most of the 1966-71 Oriole stars were long gone: Frank Robinson, Cuellar, McNally, Boog Powell.  But they still had ace pitcher Jim Palmer, had acquired Ken Singleton, and had developed that season's AL Rookie of the Year, Eddie Murray.

Earl also had a habit of developing role players.  He managed to get the most out of bench players like Kiko Garcia, Terry Crowley, Wayne Krenchicki, and Pat Kelly (no relation to the later Yankee 2nd baseman of the same name).  He was an expert bullpen operator, with Palmer, Dennis Martinez, Mike Flanagan, Steve Stone and Scott McGregor giving way to Tippy Martinez (no relation to Dennis), Sammy Stewart, Tim Stoddard, and Don Stanhouse.  Stanhouse was a stereotypical "flaky reliever," known, for both his name and his mind, as "Stan the Man Unusual." Earl's left field platoon of lefthanded John Lowenstein and righthanded Gary Roenicke would pay big dividends over the next few years.

Actually, Roenicke (father of pitcher Josh Roenicke, now with the Minnesota Twins) was a bit of an outlier in Earl's system: In 1979, he hit 25 home runs but only had 64 RBIs, earning him the nickname "Solo." These were the days when the phrase "The Oriole Way" became commonly used.  The hallmark of the O's, going back to the mid-1960s, had been superb pitching, a defense to match, and timely hitting.  As Earl put it himself, "The Oriole Way is pitching, defense, and three-run homers." In other words, not just home runs, but home runs with men on base.  (Are you getting this, current Yankees?) Or, to put it another way, the Orioles were playing more like a typical National League team, instead of what the 1920s Yankees had made the typical American League way: Wait for the big home run, and everything else will take care of itself.

This makes it sound like Earl favored "inside baseball" or "station-to-station baseball," the kind favored by Mauch, Herzog and Joe Torre.  Not at all.  He said, "If you play for one run, that's all you'll get." And, unlike Mauch, who was a big believer in bunting, Earl hated sacrifices: "On offense, your most precious possessions are your 27 outs." He did not believe in giving up an out to get a base.  Not wanting to make either his batter or his baserunner any more vulnerable than he had to be, Earl claimed that he never called for a hit-and-run play.  He didn't like stolen bases, either, since they often required a batter to purposely swing and miss at a pitch, to "protect the runner." Giving up one of your 3 strikes was as anathema to him as giving up one of your 27 outs -- indeed, they were practically the same thing to him.

Earl also presaged LaRussa, Torre and Joe Girardi with his micromanaging and analysis.  For example, I mentioned that Belanger was "good field, no hit." He won 8 Gold Gloves, and probably should have been awarded a couple more.  But his lifetime batting average was .228, on-base .300, slugging .280, OPS .580, OPS+ 68.  Only once, in 1976, did he have an OPS+ that was even 100, exactly average.  His peak RBI year was 1969, with 50.  Yet he had a .625 batting average against Texas Ranger pitcher Jim Kern, so, late in his career, when Garcia or Krenchicki might have been a better option against other other pitcher, Earl would start Belanger against Kern.  Likewise, hulking 1st baseman Powell hit just .178 against Detroit Tiger Mickey Lolich (it was a lefty-on-lefty matchup); while Chico Salmon, a lifetime .249 hitter, was a .300 hitter against Lolich.

The Orioles finished 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees in '77, as did the Red Sox.  The '78 season wasn't so hot, as the O's finished 4th.  But 1979 may have been Earl's masterstroke, as all his machinations got the O's to 102 wins -- aided by the fact that the Yankees were struck by injuries and tragedy, the Red Sox had injury issues of their own, and the Milwaukee Brewers (then an AL team) were on the rise but not yet ready for a Pennant.  The O's beat the California Angels 3 games to 1 to take the Pennant.

But the World Series turned out to be a repeat of 1971, in nearly every way that mattered.  Again, the O's played the Pirates, and took a 3 games to 1 lead, with Games 6 and 7, if necessary, set for Baltimore.  And, again, the Bucs came back from 3-1 down: The 4th time it had been done, and the 3rd time by the Pirates.  As in '71, when it was Roberto Clemente (along with Bill Mazeroski, the only holdover from their 1960 title), the Pirates were led by a veteran who'd been on their last title team, Willie Stargell, who took the Series by the scruff of the neck, including the go-ahead homer in Game 7.  Despite having more talent than the Mets in '69, the Reds in '70, and the Pirates in '71 and '79, Earl went only 1-for-4 in World Series play.

The thing most people remember Earl for is his battles with umpires.  On 91 occasions, an umpire threw him out of a game, a total topped before him only by John McGraw (who, ironically, played for the old, NL version of the Orioles) and since him only by Bobby Cox (who, unlike McGraw and Weaver, is not generally thought of us a nasty guy).  Ron Luciano, the most physically demonstrative umpire of all time, ran Earl 8 separate times.  In 1980, umpire Bill Haller was miked up for a documentary, and called a balk on Flanagan.  Earl stormed out of the dugout, and profanities and accusations of lies went back and forth.

The classic image of Earl is of him turning his cap around, getting nose-to-nose with an umpire, his face turning pink against his white hair, and adding a few kicks of the dirt on the ump's shoes.  When Memorial Stadium hosted its last game in 1991, Earl was the last uniformed man introduced, and Luciano came out, and offered Earl one last chance to kick dirt on his shoes.  The Earl of Baltimore obliged.

The game I'll always remember is that of August 13, 1978.  It had rained much of the day in Baltimore, and Earl had let the field at Memorial get waterlogged.  The Orioles beat the Yankees, 3-0.  Yankee manager Bob Lemon lodged a protest, but it was denied.

I hated Earl after that.  I hated him even more when he romped to the Division title in '79.  I hated him even more as the Yanks and O's battled to the end in 1980, with the Yanks winning 103 games and the O's 100.  No Wild Card in those days: The O's won 100 but missed the Playoffs, something only one team (the '93 Giants) has done since.  It was only after he retired that I came to realize how great a manager he was.

In 1982, Earl announced his retirement.  The Orioles trailed the Brewers by 4 games with 5 to play -- and, playing the Brewers in a 4-game set at Memorial to close the regular season, caught them in Game 161.  Knowing that Game 162 would be Earl's last regular-season game, 51,642 shoehorned their way into the old horseshoe on 33rd Street.  But the Brew Crew spoiled the party, winning 10-2.

Joe Altobelli was named Oriole manager -- and in 1983, their first full season without Earl since 1967, they won the World Series.  They haven't won a Pennant since.  Altobelli was fired in 1985, and Earl was brought back, but he quit after the 1986 season.  His final record was 1,480 wins and 1,060 losses, for a winning percentage of .583.  He won 6 Division titles, 4 Pennants and 1 World Series.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996.  The Orioles retired his Number 4.  Last week, he was a guest on an Orioles fantasy cruise to the Caribbean, with former players and fans going along on the cruise ship Celebrity Silhouette.  He died of a heart attack on board yesterday, at the age of 82.

Earl Weaver was a demented genius.  In that great dugout in the sky, he's probably laughing at all the people he pissed off over the years.  Including me.

Stan Musial, 1920-2013

As much as I would like to talk about the return of hockey, and the Devils opening the 2013 NHL season with a win against a team I have disliked for 35 years, my first sport remains baseball, and we lost two Hall-of-Famers yesterday.

I'll recap the life and career of Earl Weaver in a subsequent post.

Stanley Frank Musial was born on November 21, 1920, in Donora, Pennsylvania, a town on a bend of the Monongahela River, 25 miles south of Pittsburgh.  He was a son of a miner, a Polish immigrant.  Which means...

* He was the greatest baseball player to come from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

* He was the greatest baseball player of Polish descent -- better than Al Simmons and Carl Yastrzesmki.

* He was the greatest athlete ever to play for a St. Louis-based team.

In his first 4 full seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals – minus 1941, when he had a late-season callup and the Cards just missed, and 1945 when he was in the Navy for World War II – they won the World Series in 1942, the National League Pennant in 1943, the World Series in 1944, and the World Series in 1946.

They never won another Pennant with him -- coming close in '47, '48, '49, '57, and in his final season, '63 -- but that didn’t stop him. He was the NL Most Valuable Player in 1943, 1946 and 1948, and finished 2nd in the voting in ’49, ’50, ’51 and ’57 – winning Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year award that year.

He batted lefthanded, and had a weird stance, called a "corkscrew stance." Hall of Fame shortstop Luke Appling said, "He looks like a kid, peeking around the corner, to see if the cops are coming." But that stance led to 3,630 hits, 1,599 walks, and 53 times getting hit by a pitch -- meaning that Stan Musial reached base 5,282 times.

His lifetime batting average was .331, his OPS+ a whopping 159.  Of all players, ever (nearly 18,000), he ranks 15th.  Taking out players who've used steroids, 13th.  Counting players from 1900 onward, 10th.  Counting players from his era forward, 4th -- behind Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and (for the moment) Albert Pujols.  Counting lefthanded hitters (keeping in mind the Mick was a switch-hitter), only Ted is ahead of him.

He led the NL in batting 6 times (topping out at .376 in 1948), hits 6 times, runs 5 times, doubles 8 times, triples 5 times, and RBIs twice with 10 100-RBI seasons.

He hit 725 doubles, 2nd all-time to Tris Speaker; 177 triples, and 475 home runs, not counting what we would now call a walkoff homer in the 1955 All-Star Game in Milwaukee. Speaking of which, because of the 2 ASGs played per season from 1958 to 1962, he played in 24, a record that would be tied by Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, but not broken.

He was once the NL’s all-time hits leader with 3,630 – 1,815 at home, 1,815 on the road. You cannot make this stuff up. He was once the all-time leader in both extra-base hits and total bases, until surpassed by Aaron.

Someone once asked him why he was always so happy.  He said, "If you had a .331 lifetime batting average, you'd be happy, too!"

Curt Flood, who was his teammate toward the end of his career, asked him for advice on hitting.  Stan told him, "You wait for a strike, and then you knock the shit out of it." To which Flood later said, "Baseball was as simple as that for Stan Musial."

Legend has it that his nickname came from Brooklyn Dodger fans.  He hit so well at Ebbets Field that Dodger fans would look at the schedule, see that they would have to play the Cards, and say, "Uh-oh! Dat man is back in town! Here comes dat man again!" And from then onward, he was Stan the Man.

Al Kaline, Rocky Colavito and Johnny Callison all selected the Number 6 in Stan's honor.  Tony Oliva is another possibility, but since he grew up in Cuba, he is less likely to have chosen 6 for Stan.

Stan spanned the generations.  As Bob Costas explained in Ken Burns' Baseball (and as I'm elaborating here), comparing baseball and the world at the time of Stan's first game, on September 17, 1941, and at the time of his last game, on September 29, 1963:

* 1941: The Cardinals were baseball's southernmost and westernmost team.  1963: MLB had extended to the former Confederacy (Houston) and the West Coast (Los Angeles and San Francisco).

* 1941: MLB was all-white.  1963: There were now lots of black players, and several Hispanics.  Jackie Robinson had been elected to the Hall of Fame.

* 1941: 1920s stars Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Lyons were still active; legends such as Hugh Duffy, Cy Young, Connie Mack, Nap Lajoie, Roger Bresnahan, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Walter Johnson, Tris Speaker, Zack Wheat, Fred Merkle and Fred Snodgrass were still alive.  1963: Musial's last hit went under the glove of a Cincinnati Reds' rookie 2nd baseman named Pete Rose, who would surpass his all-time NL record for hits, and Cobb's all-time MLB record for hits; while 1980s-90s players now in the Hall of Fame such as Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken had been born.

* 1941: World War II was underway, the Allies were losing, and the U.S. was 3 months away from entering it after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  1963: The Cold War was well underway, people were beginning to learn about a place called Vietnam, President John F. Kennedy had just gone to Berlin to explain freedom's superiority to Communism and its Wall, and was 2 months away from being assassinated.

* 1941: The NFL was an afterthought, the NHL was a regional sport, and the NBA did not yet exist.  1963: The NFL was growing, the NHL was preparing to expand, and the NBA may never have been better, with stars like Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson.

* 1941: Radio was the dominant medium, television was still experimental, and computers were just an idea.  The idea of sending a man into space was the stuff of comic books and movies.  1963: Television had become pervasive, although hardly anyone had a color set, and hardly any programs were being broadcast in color; and computers were being shrunk from the size of an entire floor of a city office building to just a wall of one room.  And the Space Age and the race to the Moon had begun.

* 1941: The heavyweight champion of the world was Joe Louis.  1963: It was Sonny Liston, but a young man was coming for him.  His name, at the time, was Cassius Clay, but we would come to know him as Muhammad Ali.

* 1941: The widow of Theodore Roosevelt, who became President on September 14, 1901, 40 years earlier, was still alive.  1963: Barack Obama, who was sworn in for his 2nd term as President today and will, presumably, still be President on January 20, 2017, 54 years after Stan's last game, had been born.

* 1941: Big Band or "swing" music was the most popular form of music, led by Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller and the Dorsey Brothers, Tommy and Jimmy.  Bing Crosby was huge, Frank Sinatra was still unknown to most of us.  There was no rock and roll, or even rhythm and blues.  1963: Rock and roll was now dominant, Elvis Presley was still really popular, doo-wop was the path of most inner-city singers, Motown was making R&B make the transition to soul, Bob Dylan had exploded into the national consciousness, and the Beatles were the biggest thing in Europe, and were about to become the biggest thing in America -- but, as yet, not one American in a million knew who they were.

* 1941: There were still lots of living people who remembered the American Civil War and the Wild West.  1963: The people who were making the world what it is today were either children, or not born yet.

So Stan the Man's career spanned that much.

Three Presidents paid public tribute to him.  At the 1962 All-Star Game in Washington, when he was 41 and already a grandfather, the 45-year-old JFK told him, “They said I was too young to be President, and you were too old to play baseball. I guess we showed them.” Bill Clinton grew up in Arkansas as a Cardinal fan, and Stan was the first nonpolitician he invited to the Oval Office in 1993.  And in 2010, on the occasion of Stan's 90th birthday, Barack Obama -- who may live in Chicago but had to run for Statewide office in Illinois and that meant he had to understand the needs of Southern Illinoisians, most of whom are Cardinal fans -- awarded him the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, 1969.  He was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999.  His Number 6 was the first number retired by the Cardinals, or any St. Louis team for that matter.  A a statue dedicated outside Busch Stadium (now standing outside the new ballpark with that name), inscribed with words delivered by then-Commissioner Ford Frick at Stan's 1963 retirement ceremony: "Here stands baseball's perfect warrior. Here stands baseball's perfect knight."

Stan died yesterday, at his home in Ladue, Missouri, in the suburbs of St. Louis.  He was 92.  It had been less than a year since the death of his wife, Lillian.  They had been married for 72 years; if that's not a record for a ballplayer, it's got to be close.  They had 4 children: Son Richard, and daughters Gerry, Janet and Jeanie.

Once, at a Hall of Fame induction weekend, Stan, the greatest National League hitter of his generation, was talking with his American League counterpart, Ted Williams. Afterwards, Ted’s son, John Henry Williams, asked his father, known for wanting people to call him the greatest hitter who ever lived, “Dad, do you think Musial was as good a hitter as you were?” Ted said, “Yes, I do.”

If Ted, who understood hitting better than any person who has ever lived, was willing to accept this as his opinion, then, indeed, Stan was The Man.