Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Yanks Lose In Boston; John Saunders, 1955-2016

Last night, the Yankees opened a 3-game series against the despised Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Luis Severino, so good in his late-season callup last season, got off to a terrible beginning this season, got sent down to Triple-A Scranton, did well there, got called back up, did well in the bullpen, and was returned to the rotation last night.

The Yankees gave him a 2-0 lead after the top of the 3rd inning. But he let the Sox tie it up in the bottom of the inning. It was still 2-2 going to the bottom of the 5th, but Yanks-Sox games usually don't end up low-scoring, especially at Fenway. They tagged Sevy for 3 runs, and he was removed.

Between them, Tommy Layne (who pitched for the Sox last season), Anthony Swarzak and Chasen Shreve gave the Yankees 3 2/3rds innings of scoreless relief, with only 3 baserunners. But the damage was done. The Yankees got a run in the 9th, but no closer.

Red Sox 5, Yankees 3. WP: Rick Porcello (15-3). SV: Matt Barnes (1). LP: Severino (1-7).

The series continues tonight. Nathan Eovaldi starts against Drew Pomeranz.

*

John Saunders has died. While ESPN gets a lot of criticism, it rarely revolved around him. He was one of the shining lights of the network.
John Peterson Saunders was born on February 2, 1955, in the Toronto suburb of Ajax, Ontario, and grew up in Montreal. Despite being black -- not African-American, but comparatively rare African-Canadians -- he and his brother Bernie Saunders played hockey, attending Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. Bernie would play 2 seasons for the NHL's Quebec Nordiques.

John's talent turned out to be for media. He became the news director for an Ontario radio station, and the sports anchor for first an Ontario TV station and then one in the Province of New Brunswick. He became the sports anchor for Toronto's CITY-Channel 44, and then at WMAR-Channel 2 in Baltimore.

ABC/ESPN hired him in 1986. He hosted their NFL Primetime from 1987 to 1989, and was the studio host for their broadcasts of the NHL from 1993 to 2004, college football, and the 1995 World Series. He did play-by-play for their NBA games in the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons, and then in 2004-05 and 2005-06, he was the studio host of their NBA Shootaround. From 1995 to 2001, he was the 1st TV play-by-play man for the NBA's expansion Toronto Raptors.

He is probably best known for succeeding the late Dick Schaap as host of The Sports Reporters in 2001, a show that is known for frequently calm, sometimes intense, but always intelligent debate about serious issues surrounding sports. Like Dick, John kept it that way. He was also a great fundraiser for the fights against diabetes and cancer, through the Jimmy V Foundation, which ESPN founded in memory of Jim Valvano, the former North Carolina State basketball coach and ESPN analyst who fought cancer until his death in 1993.

John died this morning, at the age of 61. A cause has not yet been publicly revealed, but he was not widely known to have been ill. He leaves a wife, Wanda, and 2 daughters, Aleah and Jenna.

UPDATE: Wanda told the media that John hadn't been feeling well the last few days, and the police have said that they've ruled out foul play.

When Stuart Scott died, it was after a long battle with cancer, and, while deeply saddened, his ESPN colleagues were not surprised. John Saunders' death has come as a terrible surprise.

Jeremy Schaap, son of the man Saunders succeeded as host of The Sports Reporters (and possibly a successor to the job himself), said, "I will miss my friend John Saunders. Talented. Generous. Kind. Too young."

And Stephen A. Smith, whose superb writing and sometimes over-the-top TV presence makes him something of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of sports journalists, said, "Devastating doesn't even begin to describe how I'm feeling right now. John Saunders was a wonderful man."

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