Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Trade Deadline Update

Today is the trade deadline. So far, the Yankees have:

* Traded pitchers Cody Carroll, Dillon Tate and Josh Rogers to the Baltimore Orioles for pitcher Zach Britton.
* Traded 3rd baseman Brandon Drury and left fielder Billy McKinney to the Toronto Blue Jays for pitcher J.A. Happ.
* Traded pitchers Chasen Shreve (thank God) and Giovanny Gallegos (not much better) to the St. Louis Cardinals forn1st baseman Luke Voit and international prospect money.
* Traded pitcher Caleb Fare to the Chicago White Sox for international prospect money.
* Traded pitcher Adam Warren (thank God) to the Seattle Mariners for international prospect money. (Brian Cashman must have his eye on a good Japanese pitcher.)
* And traded 1st baseman Tyler Austin and pitcher Luis Rijo to the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Lance Lynn.

I'm fine with all of these moves.

So far, my big fear, that Cashman would trade Masahiro Tanaka and Gary Sanchez for 147 "prospects" hasn't happened.

Still no word on whether the Washington Nationals are trading Bryce Harper. The Yankees don't need him. But the Boston Red Sox... Would David Ortiz give permission to wear Number 34?

Wait, here's a trade coming in over the wire...

America has traded Donald Trump to Russia for cash and a teenaged figure skater to be named later.

If only it were that easy...


Days until The Arsenal play again: 1, tomorrow, an International Champions Cup game against Chelsea, at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 2, on Friday night, at Fenway Park.

Days until the New York Red Bulls play again: 4, this Sunday night, home to expansion team Los Angeles FC.

Days until Arsenal play a competitive game with a manager other than Arsène Wenger: 11, in the 2018-19 Premier League season opener, on Saturday, August 11, home to defending Premier League Champions Manchester City. A little under 4 weeks.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": 22, onWednesday, August 22, against New York City FC, at Yankee Stadium II. 

Days until Rutgers University plays football again: 32, on Saturday, September 1, home to Texas State University. A little over a month.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 38, on Friday, September 7, away to Piscataway.

Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 38on Friday, September 7, a "friendly" against Brazil, at MetLife Stadium at the Meadowlands.

Days until the New Jersey Devils play another competitive game: 67, on Saturday, October 6, against the Edmonton Oilers, at... Scandinavium, an arena in Göteborg (Gothenburg), Sweden. Yes, that will be a regular-season game, part of the NHL Global Series. The Mulberry Street Marauders will warm up for it on October 1, with an exhibition game in Switzerland against SC Bern; while the Oilers will visit Kölner Haie in Cologne, Germany on October 3.

Days until the New Jersey Devils next play a local rival: 81, on Saturday afternoon, October 20, against the Philadelphia Flyers, a.k.a. The Philth, at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The 1st game against the New York Islanders, a.k.a. the Fish Sticks, will be on Saturday night, November 3, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The 1st game against the New York Rangers, a.k.a. The Scum, will be on Thursday night, January 31, 2019, at the Prudential Center.

Days until the next Congressional election, when we can elect a Democratic Congress that can impeach and remove Donald Trump from the Presidency: 98on November 6. Exactly 14 weeks.

Days until the next Rutgers-Penn State game: 109, on Saturday, November 17, at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving high school football game: 114, on Thursday, November 22. A little under 4 months.

Days until the next North London Derby: 124, on Sunday, December 2, at the Emirates Stadium. It had been set for December 1, but was moved due to Arsenal once again being stuck playing Europa League games on Thursday nights. No more "Thursday is Spursday" jokes for us Gooners.

Days until a Democratic Congress can convene, and the impeachment process can begin: 156
on Thursday, January 3, 2019. A little over 5 months.

Days until the Baseball Hall of Fame vote is announced, electing Mariano Rivera: 176
, on January 23, 2019. A little under 6 months.

Days until the next Women's World Cup kicks off: 311, on June 7, 2019, in France. A little over 10 months. The U.S. team, as 3-time and defending Champions, has, as usual, a better chance than the men's team would have had in 2018 anyway.

Days until the Yankees and Red Sox play each other in London: 333, on June 29, 2019. A little under 11 months.

Days until my 50th Birthday, at which point I can join AARP and get discounts for travel and game tickets: 
505, on December 18, 2019. A little under a year and a half, or a little under 17 months.

Days until the Baseball Hall of Fame vote is announced, electing Derek Jeter: 540
on January 22, 2020. A little under a year and a half, or a little under 18 months.

Days until the next Summer Olympics begins in Tokyo, Japan: 724on July 24, 2020. A shade under 2 years, or just under 24 months.

Days until the next Presidential election, when we can dump the Trump-Pence regime and elect a real Administration: 
826on November 3, 2020. Under 2 1/2 years, or a little over 27 months.

Days until Liberation Day: 904at noon on January 20, 2021. Under 3 years, or a little under 30 monnths. Note that this is liberation from the Republican Party, not just from Donald Trump. Having Mike Pence as President wouldn't be better, just differently bad, mixing theocracy with plutocracy, rather than mixing kleptocracy with plutocracy.

Days until the next Winter Olympics begins in Beijing, China: 1,284on February 4, 2022. A little over 3 1/2 years, or a little over 42 months.

Days until the next World Cup for which the American team will be eligible is scheduled to kick off: 1,574, on November 21, 2022, in Qatar. Under 4 1/2 years, or a little under 52 months. The charges of corruption against Qatar may yet mean that they will lose the tournament, in which case it will be moved to a nation where it would not be too hot to play it in June and July.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Trades for Pitching Help Yanks Take 3 of 4 From Royals

The Yankees came home to play a 4-game weekend series with the Kansas City Royals, who have fallen on hard times since their 2015 World Championship. The series would feature the Pinstriped debut of Zach Britton, the lefthanded reliever formerly of the Baltimore Orioles. On Tuesday, the Yankees sent pitching prospects Dillon Tate, Cody Carroll and Josh Rogers to Baltimore for him. This could be a steal.

The series would also feature the Pinstriped debut of J.A. Happ, a lefthander who'd helped the Philadelphia Phillies win the 2008 World Series, pitched for them against the Yankees in the 2009 World Series, and had pitched well for the Toronto Blue Jays since then, including being named a 1st-time All-Star this year, at the age of 35. The Yankees sent 3rd baseman Brandon Drury and left fielder Billy McKinney to the Jays for pitcher Happ.

The idea is that Britton can provide the lefthanded setup relief that Chasen Shreve so rarely has, and that Happ can fill a hole in the rotation.


The Thursday night game was started by Sonny Gray, and he shook off his recent criticism by pitching 5 shutout innings, allowing only 3 hits and 2 walks striking out 5.

Manager Aaron Boone then took him out. Understandable, even though he'd thrown only 75 pitches. Less understandable was choosing Adam Warren to replace him. Warren allowed 2 runs in the top of the 6th. But David Robertson pitched a scoreless 7th, Britton a perfect 8th, and Shreve a scoreless (if 3-hit) 9th.

The Yankees scored 2 runs in the 1st, thanks to some Oriole sloppiness, a hit-by-pitch and an error bunched in with a double and a walk. In the 4th, a double by Austin Romine and a home run by Didi Gregorius made it 6-0. A Greg Bird sacrifice fly added a run in the 5th.

Yankees 7, Royals 2. WP: Gray (8-7). No save. LP: Jakob Junis (5-11).


The Friday night game was rained out, forcing a day-night, separate-admissions doubleheader for yesterday. The opener has led to the question: What has happened to Luis Severino? He was damn near unbeatable in the 1st half of the season, but has gotten hit hard in July. He allowed 6 runs, and didn't get out of the 5th inning.

A home run by Giancarlo Stanton didn't make much difference, as the Royals won 10-5. WP: Brad Keller (4-4). No save. LP: Severino (14-4, after starting out 14-1).

The Yankees also scored 5 runs in the nightcap. This time, it was different. But not because the starting pitcher got the job done. That would be CC Sabathia, and he was a bit shaky. He allowed 2 runs in the 1st 5 innings, and Boone panicked, and brought in Jonathan Holder, who wasn't effective, either. Nor was Chad Green, who blew a save. Nor was Britton, who heard his 1st Bronx boo-birds.

Shane Robinson had hit a home run for the Yankees in the 4th, but CC walked former Met star Lucas Duda in the 5th, and that was when Boone started Girardi-ing up with the bullpen. The Royals led 4-3 going into the bottom of the 8th.

You know Johnny Carson's line, "May the bird of paradise fly up your nose"? Well, last night, Greg Bird was the Bird of Paradise. He took Royal reliever Brian Flynn deep to right field for a game-tying home run. Then Neil Walker doubled, and Royal manager Ned Yost had seen enough of Flynn, bringing in Glenn Sparkman.

This didn't work, as Romine singled, Gleyber Torres walked to loaded the bases with nobody out, and Aaron Hicks hit a liner to left that became a sacrifice fly, scoring Walker. In that situation, the Yankees should have gotten more than 1 run.

Especially since Aroldis Chapman once again made the 9th inning interesting, allowing a leadoff single and a walk before getting the last out. Yankees 5, Royals 4. WP: Dellin Betances (2-3). SV: Chapman (27). LP: Flynn (2-2).


Today's game was Happ's Yankee debut, and, except for a couple of wild pitches, it went very well: 6 innings, 1 run, 3 hits, just 1 walk, 2 strikeouts. The Girardi (or Cashman) pitch count appears to still be on, because after throwing 96 pitches, Boone took him out. Again, it could have been a mistake, because Green allowed a run in the 7th, and Robertson allowed one in the 8th.

But the Yankees got the runs they needed. In the 1st, Gregorius walked. Cliche alert: Walks can kill you. Hicks hit a home run to make it 2-0. Hicks led off the 4th with a double, and was singled home by Miguel Andujar. The Yankees got 2 more runs in the 5th, and 1 more in the 6th.

This time, Chapman didn't fool around: He faced 3 batters in the 9th, and blew them all away, needing just 16 pitches to strike out the side. Yankees 6, Royals 1. WP: Happ (11-6). SV: Chapman (28). LP: Burch Smith (1-2).

Taking 3 out of 4 at home from such a poor team should be the minimum we expect from a good team. The Yankees did it. However, they remain 5 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League Eastern Division, although only 4 in the loss column. They lead in the race for home-field advantage in the Wild Card Game, but they've never won a Pennant after getting into the Playoffs as the Wild Card, so they need to win the Division. There are 58 games left to play.

Kansas City's 10 Greatest Athletes

I looked for a photograph of Len Dawson
and George Brett together. I couldn't find one.

This weekend, the Yankees are hosting the Kansas City Royals.

Kansas City's Top 10 Athletes

Very Honorable Mention to Kansas City Monarchs in the Baseball Hall of Fame: Leroy "Satchel" Paige, Willard Brown, Hilton Smith and Charles "Bullet Joe" Rogan. Also having played for the Monarchs, but elected to the Hall on the basis of what they did in the major leagues, are Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks. Not in the Hall, but he should be, is John "Buck" O'Neil.

Honorable Mention to Alex Gordon, the most honored player thus far on the Royals' 2014-15 Pennant winners. The outfielder is a 3-time All-Star and a 5-time Gold Glove.

Honorable Mention to Kansas City Chiefs players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, who are not in this Top 10: Emmitt Thomas, Jan Stenerud, Curley Culp, Will Shields and Willie Roaf.

10. Sam Lacey, center, Kansas City Kings, 1972-81, plus 1970-72 with the same franchise as the Cincinnati Royals. He was an NBA All-Star in 1975, and the team, after becoming the Sacramento Kings, retired his Number 44.

9. Marcus Allen, running back, Kansas City Chiefs, 1993-97. He'd rank a lot higher on this list if he'd spent his whole career in Kansas City. While he had his greatest team success with the Raiders in their Los Angeles period, team owner Al Davis went out of his way to belittle Allen, and he got his wish to be traded. The fact that the Chiefs and the Raiders have been division rivals since the AFL's founding in 1960 didn't help, and the personal rivalry between them heated up.

Allen made 6 Pro Bowls, but only 1, 1993, with the Chiefs, a year in which he led the NFL in rushing touchdowns. That season remains the only time the Chiefs have reached the AFC Championship Game after the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

Of his 12,243 career rushing yards, 587 receptions, 5,411 receiving yards, and 144 total touchdowns, his totals for the Chiefs were, respectively, 3,698, 141, 1,153, and 47. The 1981 Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Southern California eventually said of Al Davis, "He's trying to stop me from going to the Hall of Fame."

It didn't work: Allen is in both the College and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact, he and Tony Dorsett are the only 2 players ever to win the Heisman, the National Championship and the Super Bowl, and to be elected to both the College and the Pro Football Halls of Fame. When The Sporting News named its 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999, he was ranked 72nd. When the NFL Network named its 100 Greatest Players in 2010, he was ranked 85th.

8. Derrick Thomas, linebacker, Kansas City Chiefs, 1989-99. A 9-time Pro Bowler, he is the Chiefs' all-time leader with 126 1/2 sacks. He was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1990, and NFL Man of the Year in 1993. On November 11, 1990, he sacked Seattle Seahawks quarterback Dave Krieg 7 times, officially an NFL record, and nobody would even get 6 in a game again until Thomas himself in 1998.

(It should be noted that sacks were not an official statistic until 1982, and Norm Willey of the Philadelphia Eagles was cited in a newspaper recap as having tackled Charlie Conerly of the Giants "as he was attempting to pass" 17 times in a 1952 game. It should also be noted that, in spite of the 7 sacks, Krieg avoided an 8th to throw a winning touchdown pass as the clock ran out.)

Thomas died while still an active player. He drove 100 miles per hour in a snowstorm, and crashed. He was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the car, and was paralyzed from the chest down. A passenger wasn't wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the car, and was killed instantly. Another passenger was wearing a seat belt, and wasn't hurt at all. On February 8, 2000, 16 days after the crash, the effects of Thomas' injuries led to a pulmonary embolism that killed him at age 33.

He should have had at least another 5 seasons, which could have put him in the conversation for the title of greatest linebacker of all time. Even so, he was elected to the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, and the NFL's 1990s All-Decade Team. The Chiefs retired his Number 58.

7. Nate Archibald, guard, Kansas City Kings, 1972-76, plus 1970-72 with the same franchise as the Cincinnati Royals. Known as "Tiny" because he was 6-foot-1 (short for a basketball player), might be better known as a Boston Celtic, with whom he won the 1981 NBA Championship. But he was a 6-time All-Star, 3 times with the Kings. In 1973, he led the NBA in both points and assists, and he remains the only player to lead the league in both in the same season..

The University of Texas at El Paso retired Number 14 for him, and the Kings retired Number 1. As yet, the Celtics have not retired the Number 7 he wore with them. He was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame and the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players.

6. Junious "Buck" Buchanan, defensive tackle, Kansas city Chiefs, 1963-75. What's 6-foot-7, 270 pounds, wears blood red, and eats ballcarriers? Okay, he didn't quite eat ballcarriers, but Buck was one of the scariest players of the LBJ and Nixon eras. Making it a very good thing that he was a nice guy off the field.

He was an 8-time All-Star, 6 times in the AFL and twice in the NFL. He was a member of the Chiefs' 1966 and 1969 AFL Champions and their Super Bowl IV winners. He was named to the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame and the AFL All-Time Team, and the Chiefs retired his Number 86. When The Sporting News named its 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999, he was ranked 67th. Oddly, when the NFL Network named its 100 Greatest Players in 2010, he was left off the list.

5. Tony Gonzalez, tight end, Kansas City Chiefs, 1997-2008. A 14-time Pro Bowler, including all 10 seasons he played for the Chiefs, he then played 5 seasons for the Atlanta Falcons, so he missed the Pro Bowl only once in 15 years.

For most of his tenure, the Chiefs weren't very good, and they made the Playoffs only 3 times, but 2 of those were the 13-3 seasons of 1997 and 2003. He caught 1,325 passes in his career, for 15,127 yards, and, in 15 yards, only lost 1 fumble.

He has been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, and becomes eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame next year. He was named to the NFL's 2000s All-Decade Team. When the NFL Network named its 100 Greatest Players in 2010, he was ranked 45th.

4. Len Dawson, quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs, 1963-75, plus 1962 in the franchise's last season as the Dallas Texans. As were Johnny Unitas and Jack Kemp before him, Dawson was a quarterback cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Think about that: In a span of 3 seasons, 1955 to 1957, the Steelers had Unitas, Kemp and Dawson in training camp, and still didn't make the Playoffs until 1972. Art Rooney was a wonderful guy and loved football, but he sure didn't know it as much as he thought he did.

Lamar Hunt, founder of the AFL and the Chiefs, knew football. So did his head coach, Hank Stram. And they put Dawson to work for the AFL's signature franchise. Counting the last season in Dallas, he played 14 seasons for them, and led them to 5 Playoff berths, 3 AFL Championships, and victory in Super Bowl IV, in which Dawson was named the Most Valuable Player.

Winning Super Bowl IV is more than the difference between the Chiefs having won a World Championship and not. Coming after the Jets' win in Super Bowl III, it showed that it wasn't just a fluke, and that the AFL teams could and would compete on the same scale as the pre-merger NFL teams. Which was a good thing, because the merger was now complete, and that was the last game any AFL team ever played.

He was named AFL MVP in 1962, and was an All-Star 6 times in the AFL and once in the NFL. He was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the AFL All-Time Team. The Chiefs retired his Number 16 and elected him to their team Hall of Fame. He became a broadcaster, and he, Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf are the only men to be elected to their sports' Hall of Fame as both a player and a broadcaster. The Missouri Department of Transportation recently renamed an overpass on Interstate 435 near Arrowhead Stadium the Len Dawson Bridge.

3. Bobby Bell, linebacker, Kansas City Chiefs, 1963-74. He was an All-Star 9 times in a row, 6 in the AFL and 3 in the NFL. He was a member of the Chiefs' 1966 and 1969 AFL Champions and their Super Bowl IV winners, and when a combined Defensive Player of the Year was named for both the AFL and the NFL in 1969, Bell received the honor.

Both the University of Minnesota and the Chiefs retired his Number 78. He was named to the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame (the 1st Chief honored in Canton, outside of team founder Lamar Hunt), the AFL's All-Time Team, and the NFL's 1970s All-Decade Team. When The Sporting News named its 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999, he was ranked 66th. When the NFL Network named its 100 Greatest Players in 2010, he was ranked 69th.

2. George Brett, 3rd base, Kansas City Royals, 1973-93. Harmon Killebrew, Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry also played for the Royals and reached the Baseball Hall of Fame. but Brett is the only Royal Hall-of-Famer.

His lifetime batting average was .305, and he is the only man to win batting titles, in either League, in 3 different decades: 1976, 1980 and 1990 (at age 37). In 1980, after batting over .400 briefly in September, he finished at .390, which is still the highest batting average in a full 154- or 162-game season since Ted Williams batted .406 in 1941.

He collected 3,154 hits, including 317 home runs. It only seemed like most of them were against the Yankees, including one in Game 5 of the 1976 American League Championship Series (which the Yankees won anyway), 3 in Game 3 of the 1978 ALCS (which the Yankees won anyway), a towering drive that clinched Game 3 and a sweep of the 1980 ALCS, and the "Pine Tar" homer of 1983.

In Game 5 of the 1977 ALCS (which the Yankees won anyway), he made the mistake of starting a fight at 3rd base with Graig Nettles. The Yankees and their fans (I can attest to this) hated him enough to wonder if he might have once secretly played for the Boston Red Sox.

He was a 13-time All-Star, and in 1980, his .390 season, was awarded the AL's Most Valuable Player award as he led the Royals to their 1st Pennant. As Terry Cashman sang in "Talkin' Baseball," his tribute to the players he watched in the 1950s, "Well, now, it's the Eighties, and Brett is the greatest." Of course, he might not even have been the greatest 3rd baseman in the 1980 World Series, as Mike Schmidt led the Phillies past the Royals.

Brett finally led the Royals to a World Championship in 1985, and he was named MVP of the ALCS along the way. He also won his only Gold Glove that season. Indeed, from 1976 to 1985, 10 seasons, they were in the Playoffs 7 times. The franchise never reached the postseason without him on the roster until 2014.

The Royals retired his Number 5, and dedicated a statue of him outside Kauffman Stadium. When The Sporting News named its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, Brett was ranked 55th.

1. Willie Lanier, linebacker, Kansas City Chiefs, 1967-77. One of several players from HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) to play for the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs (Morgan State University in Baltimore -- Buck Buchanan of Grambling State in Louisiana was another), Willie was the greatest linebacker in AFL history, and one of the top NFL linebackers in his era.

A 2-time All-AFL player and a 6-time NFL Pro Bowler (that's 8 All-Star Teams), he arrived too late to play for the Chiefs team that won the 1966 AFL Championship and lost Super Bowl I, but he led the defense that won the 1969 AFL Championship and won Super Bowl IV.

He was named to the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame,and the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. The Chiefs retired his Number 63. When The Sporting News named its 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999, he was ranked 42nd. When the NFL Network named its 100 Greatest Players in 2010, he was ranked 53rd, making him the highest-ranked athlete on this list except for Tony Gonzalez, but higher than George Brett. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Kansas City's 10 Greatest Teams

This weekend, the Yankees are hosting the Kansas City Royals

Kansas City's 10 Greatest Teams

Very Honorable Mention to the Kansas City Monarchs, Negro League Pennant winners in 1923, 1924, 1925, 1929, 1937, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1946, 1953 and 1957.

The Kansas City Athletics never had a winning season in their 13-year run in the city, 1955 to 1967. Nor did the Kansas City Scouts make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in their 2 seasons, 1974-75 and 1975-76.

10. 1926 Kansas City Cowboys. The KC's 1st NFL team won only 2 games in 1924, and only another 2 in 1925. But in 1926, they went 8-3. Had there been Playoffs at the time, they would have made it.

But pro football was saturating the market at the time. The NFL had 22 teams, while the 1st league to use the name "American Football League" had 9. That total of 31 teams would not be matched until 1999. That 1st AFL folded after just 1 season, and the NFL cut back to 12 teams for 1927, and the Cowboys were not among them. The only 1926 NFL teams that will also be 2018 NFL teams -- or were even 1933 NFL teams -- were the New York Giants, the Chicago Bears, the Chicago Cardinals (now in Arizona), and the Green Bay Packers.

9. 2013-17 Kansas City Chiefs. Rebounding from a 2-14 season, the Chiefs hired Andy Reid as head coach, and have finished 1st or 2nd in the AFC Western Division ever since, taking the Division in 2016 and 2017. But only in 2015 have they won a Playoff game, albeit that one on the road, against the Houston Texans, and they gave the New England Patriots all they could handle in Foxboro before losing. Their other 3 Playoff losses in this stretch have been by a grand total of 4 points.

8. 1978-81 Kansas City Kings. They made the NBA Playoffs 3 straight seasons, getting to the Western Conference Semifinals in 1979 and the Conference Finals in 1981. They missed the Playoffs in 1982 and 1983, made it in 1984, but fell apart in 1985, and were moved to Sacramento.

7. 1990-97 Kansas City Chiefs. Marty Schottenheimer's team made the Playoffs 8 straight seasons, winning the AFC Western Division in 1993, 1995 and 1997. But only in the 1993 season did they get to the AFC Championship Game, losing away to the 3-time defending Champion Buffalo Bills.

6. 1975-82 Kansas City Royals. In 8 seasons, they won an American League Pennant, 4 other AL Western Division titles (1 in the split-season format in strike-torn 1981), and had 2 other seasons where they won at least 90 games. By the time they won the 1985 World Series, most of this team was gone or getting old.

5. 2000-04 Kansas City Wizards. The team now known as Sporting Kansas City finished 1st overall in the 2000 MLS season, and went through the Playoffs, winning the MLS Cup. They reached the Eastern Conference Finals in 2003, and in 2004 reached both Cup Finals, losing the MLS Cup but winning the U.S. Open Cup.

4. 2012-present Sporting Kansas City. They opened the 2012 season with 7 straight wins, including an MLS record 335 minutes without allowing so much as a shot on goal. They finished 1st in the Eastern Conference, but lost in the 1st Round of the Playoffs. They did win the U.S. Open Cup.

In 2013, they went all the way, defeating Real Salt Lake on penalties to win the MLS Cup Final. They have made the Playoffs every year since, being switched to the Western Conference in 2015, and winning the 2017 U.S. Open Cup. They remain one of MLS' top teams.

3. 1984-90 Kansas City Royals. Finally won the World Series in 1985, had another Division title in 1984, finished only 2 games out of one in 1987, and won 92 games in 1989.

2. 2014-15 Kansas City Royals. Fell a run short in Game 7 in 2014 of having back-to-back World Series wins. That might not make them better than the 1976-80 or 1985 teams, but it makes them more accomplished.

1. 1966-71 Kansas City Chiefs. Their earlier achievement of the 1962 American Football League Championship cannot be included here, since they were the Dallas Texans at the time. But they won additional AFL titles in 1966 and 1969, losing Super Bowl I but winning Super Bowl IV, KC's 1st World Championship in any sport. They also made the Playoffs in 1968 and 1971, and missed in 1967 despite going 9-5.

Pittsburgh's 10 Greatest Athletes

1979 World Champions. An extended Family.

This week, the Mets are visiting the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pittsburgh's 10 Greatest Athletes

Honorable Mention to Pittsburgh Pirates in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but not otherwise in this Top 10: James "Pud" Galvin, Fred Clarke, Jake Beckley, Jack Chesbro, Vic Willis, Max Carey, Hazen "Kiki" Cuyler, Pie Traynor, Paul Waner, Lloyd Waner, Al Lopez, Arky Vaughan, Ralph Kiner, Bill Mazeroski and Bert Blyleven.

If Barry Bonds ever makes the Hall of Fame, he can be included on this list. At this point, your guess is as good as mine. But, as far as anybody knows, he wasn't using steroids while with the Pirates.

When The Sporting News named its 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999, Bonds, then in the middle of his career but not known to be a steroid user, was ranked 34th. Waner was ranked 62nd, Kiner 90th.

Honorable Mention to players from the Negro Leagues' Homestead Grays in the Baseball Hall of Fame, whose statistics are woefully incomplete, and thus I can't put them in the Top 10. In chronological order: Smokey Joe Williams, Martin Dihigo, Jud Wilson, Oscar Charleston, Judy Johnson, Josh Gibson, Bill Foster, Willie Wells, James "Cool Papa" Bell, Walter "Buck" Leonard and Ray Brown.

Honorable Mention to players from the Negro Leagues' Pittsburgh Crawfords in the Baseball Hall of Fame: Charleston, Johnson, Gibson, Bell, and Leroy "Satchel" Paige. Not in the Hall of Fame, but should be, is Ted Radcliffe, known as Double Duty because he was a catcher and a pitcher.

Honorable Mention to Pittsburgh Steelers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but not otherwise in the Top 10. Actually, you could do a Top 10 of only Steelers, and still leave some important guys out. Here's the guys I'm leaving out: Bullet Bill Dudley, Ernie Stautner, Jack Butler, Bobby Layne, John Henry Johnson, Mel Blount, Jack Ham, Franco Harris, Mike Webster, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Rod Woddson, Dermontti Dawson and Jerome Bettis.

Think about this: When The Sporting News named its 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999, Blount was ranked 36th, Ham 47th, Webster 75th, Harrisn 83rd and Woodson 87th. When the NFL Network named its 100 Greatest Players in 2010, Harris was left off the list, but Woodson ranked 41st, Blount 44th, Ham 60th and Webster 68th.

Not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame, but almost certain to get in: Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu. Also with a chance: L.C. Greenwood, Alan Faneca, James Harrison, and the still-active Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.

Honorable Mention to Connie Hawkins, the Basketball Hall-of-Famer who led the Pittsburgh Pipers to the 1967-68 ABA Championship, the league's 1st title.

Honorable Mention to Pittsburgh Penguins in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but not otherwise in this Top 10: Paul Coffey, Joe Mullen, Mark Recchi, Ron Francis. With a good chance: The still-active Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury.

In 1998, when The Hockey News named its 100 Greatest Players, Coffey was ranked 28th. When the NHL named its 100th Anniversary 100 Greatest Players in 2017, Coffey and Francis were both named to it, although there were no rankings.

Now, the Top 10:

10. Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers, 2004-present. A 6-time Pro Bowl, he was the 2004 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, and has won Super Bowls at ages 23 (making him the youngest Super Bowl-winning starting quarterback ever) and 26, and nearly another at 28. He is also the youngest quarterback to reach 50,000 career passing yards.

He has also gained a dark cloud over himself, almost certainly of his own doing. We may never know the full story, but if Kobe Bryant can get away with what he did, and still be considered a hero, maybe Big Ben can have people choose to forget as well.

I'm not saying that's a good thing.

9. Jaromír Jágr, right wing, Pittsburgh Penguins, 1990-2001. He'd rank a lot higher on this list if he'd stayed in Pittsburgh for his entire career, which, at age 46, he shows no signs of wanting to stop. With the Penguins, he scored 439 of his 766 career NHL goals, made 9 of his 13 All-Star Games, won the 1999 Hart Memorial Trophy as NHL Most Valuable Player, won all 5 of his Art Ross Trophies as leading scorer, and won both of his Stanley Cups, in 1991 and 1992. (He also reached the Finals with the 2013 Boston Bruins.)

When The Hockey News named its 100 Greatest Players in 1998, Jágr, only 26 years old, was ranked 37th. When the NHL named its 100th Anniversary 100 Greatest Players in 2017, he was named to it. The Penguins have not officially retired his Number 68, but have not given it back out since he left. Of course, if he doesn't retire, he'll never make the Hockey Hall of Fame.

8. Willie Stargell, 1st base, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1962-82. He helped the Buccos win 6 National League Eastern Division titles, and win the 1971 and 1979 World Series, in the latter becoming the "Pops" of "The Family." He shared Sports Illustrated's 1979 Sportsman of the Year award with another Pittsburgh icon who won a World Championship that year, Terry Bradshaw.

He hit 475 career home runs, including the longest home runs ever measured at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, both Jarry Park and the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, and the 1st 2 homers hit out of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles -- but, strangely, did not hit the longest at either Forbes Field (Babe Ruth) or Three Rivers Stadium (Greg Luzinski, which is only fair since "Pops" hit the longest ever at the Vet).

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Pirates retired his Number 8, and made him one of the figures they honored with a statue outside PNC Park.

7. Sidney Crosby, center, Pittsburgh Penguins, 2005-present. Has it really already been 13 seasons? Yes. And he's not quite 31 years old, so we could be dealing with the twit for a long time to come.

He was the youngest player to have 100 points in a season, doing it before turning 19. He was the 1st rookie to have 100 points and 100 penalty minutes in a season, testifying to both his talent and his penchant for dirty play. He has made 7 All-Star Games, including becoming the youngest player ever voted to the starting lineup, 19.

He was the youngest winner of the Art Ross Trophy as leading scorer, again at 19 in 2007, and won it again in 2014. He's also a 2-time winner of the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as leading goalscorer, in 2010 and 2017. He's not quite the youngest winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy as NHL MVP, but he's won it in 2007 and 2014.

He's made 4 Stanley Cup Finals, losing in 2008, winning and becoming the youngest Cup-winning Captain in 2009, and winning both the Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP in 2016 and 2017. When the NHL named its 100th Anniversary 100 Greatest Players in 2017, he was named to it.

We'll never know what he would have achieved if he hadn't been Gary Bettman's golden boy, and the referees had been allowed to properly apply the rules. But he still might have been a future Hall-of-Famer. And it's highly unlikely that any Penguin will ever again wear Number 87, which isn't all that common a number in the NHL anyway.

6. Jack Lambert, linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers, 1974-84. They called Joe Greene "Mean Joe," but Joe once said Jack was even meaner: "He's so mean, he don't even like himself." Anyone who saw the Sports Illustrated cover of him, with his artificial front teeth removed, would believe it.
No, kids, this is not Hulk Hogan. 
This is a real athlete.

But this isn't about how mean he was, it's about what he achieved for a Pittsburgh sports team. He was part of the Steelers' 1974 draft, often considered the greatest NFL Draft ever, as they selected 4 eventual members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Lambert, center Mike Webster, and receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth.

Lambert was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1974, made the 1st of his 9 straight Pro Bowls in 1975, and helped the Steelers win the Super Bowl both seasons. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1976 and 1983, and helped the Steelers win 2 more Super Bowls.

The Steelers named him to their 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, and have removed his Number 58 from circulation, although they have not officially retired it. In addition to the Hall, he was named to the NFL's 1970s and 1980s All-Decade Teams and the 75th Anniversary Team.

When The Sporting News named its 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999, he was ranked 30th. When the NFL Network named its 100 Greatest Players in 2010, he was ranked 29th, actually gaining a place with 11 additional years of players boosting their own credentials. As the man himself would say, "That'll cool your ass off!"

He appears not to be related to the Jack Lambert who starred at forward for London soccer team Arsenal in the 1930s, winning 2 Football League titles.

5. Roberto Clemente, right field, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1955-72. This is how rich Pittsburgh's sports history is: A man known as "The Great One" -- a nickname he had after actor Jackie Gleason, but before hockey player Wayne Gretzky -- is only 5th on this list.

He was a 15-time All-Star, a 12-time Gold Glove, a 4-time NL batting champion, and the 1966 NL MVP. He played in 14 World Series games, and got a hit in every one of them, helping the Pirates win the 1960 World Series, and being named the MVP of the Pirates' win in the 1971 World Series, an event which raised him from Caribbean icon to American icon.

Although he played most of his home games at Forbes Field, whose dimensions were similar to the pre-renovation original Yankee Stadium, limiting him to 240 career home runs, his lifetime batting average was .317, his OPS+ 130, and he collected an even 3,000 hits.

We know how the story ends, on New Year's Eve 1972. It's worth noting that, in that season, at age 38, he batted .312, and had 10 home runs and 60 RBIs, despite missing most of July with an injury, and helped the Pirates reach their 3rd straight NLCS. He got hits in 21 of his last 31 games that season. He batted .341 the season before.

This was, at most, a first step toward age-related decline. He was selected for the All-Star Team in 1972, and it wasn't a gift to an aging player from a public unwilling to disappoint a proud man: He earned it. Hank Aaron and Willie Mays were both still legitimate All-Stars at age 40, and playing at 42. There's no reason to suspect that Clemente, barring the tragedy, wouldn't have matched them.

The Pirates retired his Number 21, erected a statue of him outside Three Rivers Stadium, moved it to PNC Park, and made the right field wall at that park 21 feet high in his honor. The 6th Street Bridge, connecting downtown Pittsburgh with the ballpark and the Steelers' Heinz Field, is named for him.

He was the 1st Caribbean-born player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and was the highest-ranking Hispanic player, Number 20, on The Sporting News' 1999 list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players. In 2003, George W. Bush posthumously awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

4. John "Honus" Wagner, shortstop, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1900-17. Pennsylvania has long been known for its large German -- or, as they would say, "Deutsch" -- community, which includes the Amish, a.k.a. the Pennsylvania Dutch. John Peter Wagner was a son of German immigrants, and was often called the German equivalent of John, "Hans." Somehow, this became "Honus." But despite being bowlegged, and looking less like a great athlete than perhaps any baseball player until Yogi Berra came along, he could run, and was known as "The Flying Dutchman."

It's now been over 100 years after his last game, and he is still regarded as the greatest shortstop who ever lived -- yes, Yankee Fans, ahead of Derek Jeter. With Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays, he's usually in the discussion for the title of "Greatest Baseball Player Who Ever Lived."

He helped his hometown Pirates win Pennants in 1901, 1902, 1903 and 1909, losing the 1st World Series to Cy Young's Boston Americans (Red Sox) in 1903, but winning the Series over Cobb's Detroit Tigers in 1909. He won more NL batting titles than anyone, 8 (a record since tied by Tony Gwynn); and led the NL in RBIs and stolen bases 5 times each.

His lifetime batting average was .329, his OPS+ 151, his career RBIs 1,732 (a record at the time), and he collected 3,430 hits. Remember the fuss made when Pete Rose broke Cobb's career record for hits? Well, somebody had to have the record before Cobb, and it was Wagner.

He was a great defensive player, too, appearing in 1,887 games at shortstop, 374 in the outfield, 248 at 1st base, 210 at 3rd base, 57 at 2nd base, and even twice on the mound, pitching 8 1/3rd innings, all scoreless. When poet and baseball fan Ogden Nash made out his "Lineup for Yesterday" in 1949, he wrote, "W is for Wagner, the bowlegged beauty. Short was closed to all traffic with Honus on duty."

He later coached with the Pirates, wearing Number 33 in this role, and it was retired for him. They also dedicated a statue of him outside Forbes Field, moving it to Three Rivers Stadium and now to PNC Park.

With Cobb, Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, he was 1 of the 1st 5 players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936. In 1999, 82 years after his last game and 44 years after his death, The Sporting News placed him 13th on its 100 Greatest Baseball Players list, and fans voted him onto the MLB All-Century Team.

3. Terry Bradshaw, quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers, 1970-83. If you only know him as the jocular, intellectually-challenged redneck on Fox NFL Sunday, you should know what he did as a player: The "dummy" put up a very smart legacy. He was named to 3 Pro Bowls, and was NFL MVP in 1978. He shared Sports Illustrated's 1979 Sportsman of the Year award with another Pittsburgh icon who won a World Championship that year, Willie Stargell.

He got the Pittsburgh Steelers into 4 Super Bowls, won them all, and was named MVP in 2 of them. The Steelers have never given his Number 12 back out. He was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Football Players (44th), and the NFL Network's 100 Greatest Players (50th).

2. Mario Lemieux, center, Pittsburgh Penguins, 1984-2006. He's not the only player whose fans have said he "saved the franchise," but he has done it twice -- and the 2nd time, it was close to being literally true. Except for George Halas of the Chicago Bears, no one in the history of North American major league sports has had as much impact on a team as both a player and an owner.

This isn't about the 3 Stanley Cups in 4 trips to the Finals as an owner, however: It's only about his playing. 690 goals. The 1985 Calder Memorial Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year. 10 All-Star Games, including 3 MVP awards. 3 Hart Trophies as NHL MVP. 6 Art Ross Trophies as leading scorer. The 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cups, both times winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP.

The 1993 Bill Masterton Trophy for perseverance, for his comeback from what could have been a fatal illness. The 2000 Lester Patrick Trophy, for contributions to hockey in America. Election to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

When The Hockey News named its 100 Greatest Players in 1998, he was ranked 4th -- and he hadn't yet come out of retirement. When the NHL named its 100th Anniversary 100 Greatest Players in 2017, he was named to it. The Penguins not only retired his Number 66, but had the address of the Civic Arena (since demolished) changed to 66 Mario Lemieux Place.

But when you think of Pittsburgh sports, you think of football. When you think of Pittsburgh football, you think of the Steelers. When you think of the Steelers, even Terry Bradshaw admits you think of defense. And when you think of Pittsburgh Steeler defensive players, one name stands out:

1. Joe Greene, defensive tackle, Pittsburgh Steelers, 1969-81. His name is actually Charles Edward Greene. I can't find a reference as to why he was called Joe. But his college team, North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) had a team that was called the Mean Green (actual name, the Eagles), and the nickname drifted over to him: "Mean Joe Greene."

He was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1969, and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1972 and 1974. It's been said that the 1st sign the Steeler players had that something special was beginning was in a 1971 game with the Chicago Bears, when Joe got into a kick-return tussle with the man then considered the meanest player in the game, Bears linebacker Dick Butkus. "This is gonna be the greatest fight in the history of the National Football League!" yelled Steeler center Ray Mansfield. But Butkus just walked away, not interested in getting a piece of the big Texan. (He was dealing with a nasty knee injury, so that was probably it.)

He made 10 Pro Bowls, and was the leader of the Steel Curtain defensive line also including L.C. Greenwood, Dwight "Mad Dog" White and Ernie "Fats" Holmes that paved the way for the Steelers to win Super Bowls IX, X, XIII and XIV. (He is now the last survivor of that front four.) He later coached on the staffs of the Steelers, the Miami Dolphins and the Arizona Cardinals, and worked in the Steeler front office. Outside of the Rooney family, he is 1 of 4 people to get rings for all 6 Steeler Super Bowl wins.

He was named to the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, and to the NFL's 1970s All-Decade and 75th Anniversary Teams. North Texas has retired his Number 75. So have the Steelers, which is a big deal, as they've only officially retired 1 other number, the 70 of another defensive tackle, 1950s star Ernie Stautner. When The Sporting News named its 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999, he came in 14th. When the NFL Network named its 100 Greatest Players in 2010, he actually went up a notch, to 13th.
Like Los Angeles Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo in this photo from Super Bowl XIV, I'm not in a position to argue with him about it. Nor am I going to tell him I prefer Pepsi to Coke. You want a Coke, Joe? Really, you can have it.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Pittsburgh's 10 Greatest Teams

This week, the Mets are visiting the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pittsburgh's 10 Greatest Teams

Honorable Mention to the 1990-92 Pittsburgh Pirates. They won 3 straight NL Eastern Division titles, but these were the only times between 1979 and 2013 that they got within 4 games of 1st place.

Honorable Mention to the 2013-15 Pittsburgh Pirates. They made 3 straight National League Wild Cards, but couldn't win a Division Series.

Honorable Mention to the 1992-97 Pittsburgh Steelers. 6 seasons, 5 AFC Central Division titles, 3 trips to the AFC Championship Game -- but won only 1 of them, and then committed the unpardonable sin of losing the Super Bowl to the Dallas Cowboys.

Say what you want about Terry Bradshaw, but, in Super Bowl XXX, Neil O'Donnell put on the dumbest performance any Steeler quarterback ever has.

Honorable Mention to the 2014-17 Pittsburgh Steelers. They've made the Playoffs the last 4 seasons, and reached the AFC Championship Game for the 2016 season. They may not be done.

Honorable Mention to the 1967-68 Pittsburgh Pipers. It was the 1st season of the American Basketball Association, and they won the Championship. They played only 4 more seasons, and didn't finish above .500 in any of them.

No, you can't count the Pittsburgh Pisces, because they were fictional, in the movie The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. Although, like the real-life Pirates and Steelers, they did win a league championship in 1979! But they didn't wear Black & Gold.

Honorable Mention to the 1969-71 Pittsburgh Penguins. They reached the round then known as the NHL Semifinals in 1969-70, only their 3rd season of play, and the Quarterfinals the next year, but would not get so close to the Stanley Cup again until the 1990s.

Very Honorable Mention to Pittsburgh's Negro League Champions: The 1931, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945 and 1948 Homestead Grays; and the 1935 and 1936 Pittsburgh Crawfords.

Now, the Top 10:

10. 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates. World Champions. But between 1938 and 1965, this was the only time they got within 7 games of a Pennant. They finished 3 games back in 1966, as the players of the 1971 title team began to come in. The only 2 players on both the 1960 and the 1971 teams? The 2 Hall-of-Famers, Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski.

9. 2007-09 Pittsburgh Penguins. Back-to-back trips to the Stanley Cup Finals, losing in 2008 and winning in 2009.

8. 1976-79 Pittsburgh Pirates. In 4 seasons, they won 92, 96, 88 and 98 games, but only in 1979 could they get past the Philadelphia Phillies, and "The Family" went all the way. The Pirates haven't won a Pennant since.

7. 1924-27 Pittsburgh Pirates. 4 seasons, 2 near-misses, 2 Pennants, and won the 1925 World Series. And 3 times in the 1930s, they would come within 5 games, but no Pennant.

6. 1901-09 Pittsburgh Pirates. 9 seasons, 4 Pennants, and won the 1909 World Series. They lost in 1903, and, of course, they didn't get a chance to take on the American League Champions in 1901 and 1902.

5. 1970-75 Pittsburgh Pirates. 6 seasons, 5 NL East titles, but only 1 Pennant, the 1971 World Series win. By the time they won again in 1979, it was almost an entirely different team, with only 2 holdovers, and 1 of those, Manny Sanguillen, had left and returned. The other was Bruce Kison.

4. 2015-17 Pittsburgh Penguins. Back-to-back Stanley Cups, matching the feat of 1991-92. They lost in the Conference Semifinals in 2018, but don't expect this run to be over just yet.

3. 1990-98 Pittsburgh Penguins. 8 seasons, 5 Division titles, 3 trips to the Conference Finals, and won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991-92.

2. 2004-11 Pittsburgh Steelers. 8 seasons, 3 12-4 seasons and a franchise-best 15-1, 6 Playoff berths, 4 AFC North Division titles, 4 trips to the AFC Championship Game, 3 AFC Championships, and winners of Super Bowls XL and XLIII.

1. 1972-79 Pittsburgh Steelers. Somebody crunched the numbers, and saw that, in 8 seasons, the Steel Curtain played 41 games against teams that finished with a record of .500 or worse, and won 40 of them. That's getting the job done: 40-1 against teams you should beat. If this is true, then their overall record of 88-27-1 means that, in games against teams that finished the season over .500, they went 48-26-1, which is damn good. In other words, they didn't beat themselves. And it was hard for anyone else to beat them, too.

Here's the results: 8 seasons, 8 trips to the Playoffs, 7 AFC Central Division titles, 4 AFC Championships, and 4-0 in Super Bowls: IX, X, XIII and XIV -- 2 sets of back-to-back titles. The 1970s Steelers are a serious candidate for the title of the greatest team in NFL history.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Yankees Frustrated In Tampa Bay

The Devil Rays, south of Georgia, they were looking for some games to steal. The Yankees came to put 'em to shame, but could they close the deal?

Not on Monday night. Luis Severino did not get the job done, allowing 7 runs (6 earned) on 11 hits over 5 innings. He struck out 8, and didn't walk anybody, so his control wasn't the problem. He just got hit.

Chad Green, Adam Warren and A.J. Cole each pitched a scoreless inning, but it didn't matter. Giancarlo Stanton went 4-for-4 with a 2-RBI double, and Miguel Andujar went 2-for-4 with an RBI, but it didn't matter.

Rays 7, Yankees 6. WP: Matt Andriese (3-4). SV: Jose Alvarado (4). LP Severino (14-3 -- he had been 14-1).


But last night, Masahiro Tanaka was brilliant. He went the distance, Aaron Boone showing him more confidence than Joe Girardi would have, and he rewarded that confidence with a 3-hit, 1-walk, 9-strikeout shutout. Of his 105 pitches, 74 were strikes.

The Yankees staked him (as an Arsenal fan, I hope the correct grammar isn't "stoke him") to a 1-0 lead before he ever took the mound, starting the game with singles by Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge, a wild pitch by the Rays' Yonny Chirinos that moved the runners over, a strikeout by Stanton, and a groundout by Didi Gregorius that got Gardner home.

The same script was followed in the 5th inning, sort of. Brandon Drury was hit by a pitch, Tyler Wade was sent in to pinch-run for him, Neil Walker singled Wade to 3rd, and Austin Romine hit a groundout that got him home.

A Romine sacrifice fly in the 7th and a Walker single in the 9th provided the final score: Yankees 4, Rays 0. WP: Tanaka (8-2). No save. LP: Chirinos (0-2).


This afternoon's game was frustrating. Injuries to the pitching staff meant that Luis Cessa was sent out to start. A Walker sac fly gave him a 1-0 lead in the 2nd, and he was doing all right, until the 6th inning, when he gave up a single to Adam Moore and home runs to Kevin Kiermaier, 2 runs, and C.J. Chron, solo. (Sounds like the name of a newspaper, short for Central Jersey Chronicle.)

The Yankees left a man on 1st in the 7th, got a run on a Stanton sac fly but stranded another man on 1st in the 8th, and had men on 1st and 2nd with just 1 out in the 9th, but stranded them.

Rays 3, Yankees 2. WP: Diego Castillo (2-1). SV: Sergio Romo (12). LP: Cessa (1-2, and he deserved a better fate).

Attendance for the 3 games: 14,670, 19,579 and 27,372, for a total of 61,621. The Wednesday afternoon game had almost twice as many people as the Monday night game.

I guess all those old people in Tampa Bay weren't willing to stay at a ballgame until 10:00 at night, but they were willing to see a matinee. It's not like they had to go to work the next day.

Or do they? I haven't yet checked the morning papers to see if Trump ended Social Security and Medicare.

July 25, 1993: Fandom Reborn

July 25, 1993, 25 years ago: An era ended, in a way, and a new one began. And most baseball fans don't know, and probably wouldn't care. But it was a big day for me.

I had been a Yankee Fan since 1977, at age 7. I wasn't old enough to remember Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle. I was a little too young to remember the pre-renovation original Yankee Stadium, and slightly too young to remember Chris Chambliss hitting a home run to win the 1976 American League Pennant.

But I do remember the Yankees winning the World Series in 1977 and 1978, and the Pennant in 1981. I remember Reggie Jackson's 3 home runs (well, 2 of them, as my parents made me go to bed, as it was a school night), the 14-game comeback against the Boston Red Sox, Bucky Dent's home run, Thurman Munson's blast against the Kansas City Royals in the Playoffs and his death in a plane crash the next year, Ron Guidry's strikeouts, Graig Nettles' miraculous plays at 3rd base, Goose Gossage dominating in relief, Dave Righetti's 4th of July no-hitter in 1983, Dave Winfield's tomahawks into left field, and Don Mattingly's big hits.

But I also remember the near-misses of the 1980s, team owner George Steinbrenner's managerial musical chairs, the triumphs and tragedies of Billy Martin, the collapse at the end of the 1980s, and George's "temporary lifetime" banishment in 1990.

The rebuilding of the Yankees under general manager Gene Michael was underway. By 1993, the Mets were a mess both competitively and behaviorally, and the Yankees were ready to contend again. The Mets have not been definitively the best baseball team in New York ever since, not even during the 2015 season, when they won the National League Pennant and the Yankees lost in the AL Wild Card Game.

Buck Showalter was the manager. Mattingly was already the last holdover from the Eighties. Now, there were dependable veterans like Wade Boggs, Jimmy Key and Paul O'Neill, and rising players like Bernie Williams. More trades would be made, and more prospects would develop.

But you could sense that something good was happening. We didn't yet know if, say, 1996 would be a new 1976, or a false dawn that would collapse by 1999 as it did in 1989. But things were looking good, and the Yankees spent the Summer of '93 battling the defending World Champion Toronto Blue Jays for the lead in the AL Eastern Division.

On July 17, I was with the youth group at the Aldersgate United Methodist Church in my hometown of East Brunswick, New Jersey. Given our location, some of us were Yankee Fans, a few of us were Met fans, and a couple of us rooted for the Philadelphia Phillies, who were in the other direction, but not much further away than New York was. (The church was 49 miles from Yankee Stadium, 50 miles from Shea Stadium, and 63 miles from Veterans Stadium. The ballparks have changed, the distances have not.)

We spent the night of July 17-18 at a church in Fredericksburg, Virginia. We had lunch on the 18th in Dunn, North Carolina, just off Interstate 95. At Triangle Waffle, I had the best hamburger I'd ever had to that point. It was so good, I ordered a second for the road.

We arrived at Kingstree, South Carolina, with the Carolinas caught in the middle of a terrible heat wave and drought, while the Midwest, especially Iowa and Illinois, had some of the worst flooding in American history. It was a stark contrast. The State, South Carolina's largest paper, based in the State capital of Columbia, had a cartoon showing the State flag, with the traditional Palmetto tree replaced by a cactus.

At night, inside my sleeping bag (we were about 7 to a room), I would fiddle with the radio dial on my Walkman, and picked up the New York radio stations and their baseball broadcasts. I got broadcasts from as far west as St. Louis and New Orleans. (Then as now, New Orleans had a Triple-A team, but I didn't get their game, only a news station.) I still have that Walkman, although it no longer works. And it's my fault: I left it unused so long, the batteries leaked, and ruined the interior.

In the morning, with the Internet still just a rumor to me (we were still using the phrase "the information superhighway"), I would get newspapers. I saw the color photo of the press box fire at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium on the front page of the Charleston, South Carolina-based Post and Courier. Color pictures in newspapers was still a big deal, and the Atlanta Braves were the closest Major League Baseball team to us.

The fire was put out, no one was hurt, the regularly-scheduled game was played, and, with newly-acquired Fred McGriff hitting a home run, they beat the St. Louis Cardinals.

We spent 5 days fixing up a house, and at the end, were treated to a Carolina chicken dinner. Too spicy for me. On Saturday, the 24th, we headed for the shore and the boardwalk -- not the Jersey Shore, but Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Not only was I not impressed, but it was about as rednecky a place as you could get and still have a beach.

We spent the night at a church in Raleigh, North Carolina. According to the pictures on the wall in the foyer, one of the church leaders was named Michael Jordan. Sure, it's a fairly common name, but we were in North Carolina -- and the news of the Michael Jordan's father having disappeared was in the news. We didn't yet know that he'd been murdered.

And so, that Sunday, July 25, 1993, we went up first Interstate 85, then I-95, heading north, back home. And we went back and forth, listening to whatever radio broadcast of baseball we could pick up. The Yankees were then on WABC, AM 770, but we couldn't yet reach them in Virginia.

Nor could we pick up the Mets on WFAN, 660; and it didn't matter, anyway, because they were playing the Dodgers in Los Angeles, and were a 4:05 PM Eastern Time start. Same with the Phillies, at AM 1210, then with the call letters WOGL, as they were playing the Giants in San Francisco. But the Baltimore Orioles, at WBAL, 1090 (a.k.a. "Radio 11"), were loud and clear. There was, of course, no Washington Nationals yet.

Jon Miller, now with the Giants, was then the voice of the Orioles, and he has the perfect voice for baseball on the radio. And he told us that the Yankees were already losing 8-0 to the California Angels in the 2nd inning. Melido Perez had already been knocked out of the box. Forget it, it was over.

How over was it? According to Baseball-Reference.com, at that point, the Angels had a 97 percent chance of winning the game.

Among the scoring was a home run by Charles "Chili" Davis. This guy always hit the Yankees well. I was so glad the Yankees acquired him in 1998, not for anything he could do for them, but for the fact that he would no longer be doing anything to them. He did, however, help the Yankees win the World Series in 1998 and 1999 -- but in 1993, we had no idea of what was ahead for the Bronx Bombers.

Mike Stanley, then the Yankee catcher, led off the bottom of the 2nd with a home run, but it was still only 8-1. Nobody expected any comeback.

Anyway, we went back to the Orioles at 1090. They were in Minneapolis, and ended up losing to the Minnesota Twins 5-2.

Other American League scores that day: Boston Red Sox 8, Oakland Athletics 1 at Fenway; Cleveland Indians 11, Seattle Mariners 9 at Municipal Stadium; Detroit Tigers 3, Kansas City Royals 0 at Tiger Stadium; Milwaukee Brewers 7, Chicago White Sox 3 on the South Side; Toronto Blue Jays 9, Texas Rangers 7 in Arlington.

In the National League: Florida Marlins 7, Cincinnati Reds 3 at Joe Robbie Stadium; Braves 13, Pittsburgh Pirates 1 at Three Rivers; Chicago Cubs 3, Houston Astros 1 in 11 innings at the Astrodome; Cardinals 5, Colorado Rockes 4 in 11 innings in Denver; and Montreal Expos 5, San Diego Padres 4 in 10 innings at Jack Murphy Stadium.

We got stuck in traffic on the Virginia side of the Potomac, found our way around the Capital Beltway, and headed back up I-95 toward Baltimore. But by the time we reached Camden Yards, vacant as the O's were on the road, Miller was giving the out-of-town scoreboard, and informed us that the Yankees had come back, and it was 8-7 Angels in the 7th inning.

Now, WABC was coming in. And the Yankees got the 1st 2 men on in the bottom of the 8th. But they couldn't get those men home, and still trailed 8-7 after 8.

By now, the Mets' game in L.A. had begun. But there was only 1 Met fan in that van, 1 Phillie fan, and about 10 Yankee Fans. We were sticking with the Pinstripes.

Bottom of the 9th. Steve Frey pitching for the Halos. Danny Tartabull led off, and draws a walk. Cliche alert: Walks can kill you, especially the leadoff variety. Stanley came up, and hit what we later learned (on the TV news) was a perfect double-play grounder to short, by Gary DiSarcina let it go between his legs, Bill Buckner-style. For the 2nd straight inning, the Yankees had 1st and 2nd on, and nobody out.

Cliche alert: "He runs well for a catcher." Well, nobody ever used that cliche on Stanley, so Showalter sent in a pinch-runner: Hensley Meulens, once a tremendous prospect known as "Bam-Bam" for his power, but now a massive disappointment.

Bernie Williams was at the plate. Angel catcher Ron Tingley couldn't handle a Frey pitch, and it was a passed ball. Now, the tying and winning runs were in scoring position. In spite of the fact that nobody was out, Angel manager Robert "Buck" Rodgers ordered Bernie intentionally walked, to load the bases and set up a force play at home.

The batter was Paul O'Neill. He hit a fly ball to left, deep enough to score Tartabull with the tying run.

Up came the shortstop. Number 2. No, not Derek Jeter. We had barely heard any whispers about him, as he was in only his 2nd, 1st full, season of pro ball. This was Mike Gallego, a part of the Oakland Athletics' quasi-dynasty of 1988-92, and a decent player, but hardly what Jeter would become. He flew out to center. Meulens, who hadn't advanced to 3rd on O'Neill's fly, did so now. The winning run was on 3rd, but there were 2 outs.

Somewhere between the Baltimore Beltway and the Delaware State Line, we were going nuts in that van.

The batter was Pat Kelly. A good 2nd baseman, and an okay hitter. Nothing special. Except for this moment. He faced 1 pitch, and hit a sharp line drive to left field. Meulens scored. Yankees 9, Angels 8. John Habyan was the winning pitcher, in relief. Attendance: 50,429.

I thought I could hear Phil Rizzuto yell, "Holy cow!" from 150 miles away. The game was on WPIX-Channel 11, and, as I learned while watching the 11:00 edition of WABC-Channel 7's Eyewitness News, he did yell it.

There is an urban legend that says that this was the 1st time that John Sterling, on the radio, used the words, "Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeee Yankees win!" But I never heard him drag the "the" out until Bernie's walkoff home run in Game 1 of the 1996 AL Championship Series against Baltimore. He did use "Yankees win! The Yankees win!" as early as the Jim Leyritz Game, Game 2 of the 1995 AL Division Series against Seattle.

But in that van on that warm Sunday afternoon on the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway in northeastern Maryland, we were bouncing around that van like a pinball machine. Until the 1 Met fan asked us if we could now switch to the Mets broadcast.

So we did. By the time we got back to the church in East Brunswick, the Mets were on their way to wrapping up a 4-0 win over the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine. So, for the day, New York 2, Los Angeles 0. Fine with me. Like the O's, the Phils lost 5-2, to the Giants.

I was a little older than most of the kids on the trip: 23, as opposed to these 14-to-18-year-old high schoolers and recent graduates. It was the 1st time that I felt like an adult baseball fan.

That week, between the newspapers and the radio, it felt like my fandom, for both the sport and for my individual team, had been reborn.

And the next few years would both test and reward my fandom.

I can't say I loved every minute of it. But I loved a lot of those minutes!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

How to Be a New York Soccer Fan In Seattle -- 2018 Edition

The New York Red Bulls do not visit the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Sounders this season, but New York City FC do, this Sunday afternoon, at 2:00 Pacific Time, 5:00 Eastern Time.

Yes, the city in that picture really is Seattle. Yes, that really is a nice blue sky overhead. When the clouds part, and you can see Lake Washington and the Cascadia Mountains, including Mount Rainier, it's actually a beautiful city. It's just that it rains so much, such a sight isn't all that common.

Before You Go. Seattle is notorious for rain. Check the websites of the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for the weather forecast. Right now, though, they're saying that Sunday afternoon's problem will not be rain -- none is forecast for over a week -- but heat, in the high 80s. It will drop into the 60s at night.

Seattle is in the Pacific Time Zone, 3 hours behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

There is high-speed passenger ferry service from Seattle to the Canadian city of Victoria, the capital of the Province of British Columbia. It costs a bundle, though: $155 round-trip. (The scenery in Washington State and British Columbia is spectacular, and this is clearly part of what you're paying for.) From there, you can easily get to Vancouver.

If you want to make this trip, you will have to give confirmation within 48 hours of booking. And it's a passenger-only ferry service: No cars allowed. If you'd like to make a side trip to Vancouver, you're better off driving or taking the train. But any way you go over the border, you should have your passport with you. And, of course, you'll have to change your money: At the moment, US$1.00 = C$1.30, and C$1.00 = US 77 cents.

Tickets. Until expansion Atlanta United came in, the Sounders usually led MLS in attendance, so much so that they have no intention of getting out of the football stadium they originally inhabited, as have the Red Bulls, Chicago, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, D.C., Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Orlando and San Jose have done; and as NYCFC would like to do. They averaged 43,666 fans last season -- a sellout, although the top deck is closed off. Getting tickets will be very difficult.

Away supporters are put in Sections 300 and 301, in the northeastern corner of the stadium. Tickets are $21.

Getting There. It's 2,860 miles from Times Square in Manhattan to Pioneer Square in Seattle, and 2,63? miles from Yankee Stadium to CenturyLink Field, where the Sounders play their home games. In other words, if you're going, you're going to want to fly.

After all, even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days' worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don't get pulled over for speeding, you'll still need over 2 full days to get there. One way.

But if you really, really want to drive... Get onto Interstate 80 West in New Jersey, and stay on that until it merges with Interstate 90 west of Cleveland, then stay on 90 through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, into Wisconsin, where it merges with Interstate 94. Although you could take I-90 almost all the way, I-94 is actually going to be faster. Stay on I-94 through Minnesota and North Dakota before re-merging with I-90 in Montana, taking it through Idaho and into Washington, getting off I-94 at Exit 2B.

Not counting rest stops, you should be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2 hours, Wisconsin for 3:15, Minnesota for 4:30, North Dakota for 6 hours, Montana for a whopping 13 hours (or 3 times the time it takes to get from New York to Boston), Idaho for 1:15 and 6:45 in Washington. That's 50 hours, and with rest stops, you're talking 3 full days.

That's still faster than Greyhound (70 hours, changing in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Minneapolis and Missoula, $550 round-trip, $435 with advanced purchase) and Amtrak (67 hours, changing in Chicago, $579).

On Amtrak, you would leave Penn Station on the Lake Shore Limited at 3:40 PM Eastern Time on Thursday, arrive at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time on Friday, and board the Empire Builder at 2:15 PM, and would reach King Street Station at 10:25 AM Pacific Time on Sunday, easily in time for the 2:00 PM kickoff. The trip back would leave Seattle at 4:40 PM on Monday, arrive at Chicago at 3:55 PM on Wednesday, leave at 9:30 PM on Wednesday, and arrive in New York at 6:23 PM Thursday.

King Street Station is just to the north of the stadium complex, at S. King Street & 3rd Avenue. S., and horns from the trains can sometimes be heard as the trains go down the east stands of CenturyLink Field and the right-field stands of Safeco Field. The Greyhound station is at 811 Stewart Street at 8th Avenue, in the Central Business District, about halfway between the stadiums and the Seattle Center complex.
King Street Station. There is a Union Station,
next door, but it's an office building now.

A round-trip nonstop flight from Newark to Seattle, if ordered now, could be had for $555. Link Light Rail can get you out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac), and the same system has Stadium Station to get to Safeco and CenturyLink Fields. The fare is $2.75.

Once In the City. Founded in 1853, and named for a Chief of the Duwamish Indians, Seattle is easily the biggest city in America's Northwest, with 700,000 people within the city limits and 4.5 million in its metropolitan area. Just as Charlotte is called the Queen City of the Southeast, and Cincinnati the Queen City of the Midwest, Seattle is known as the Queen City of the Northwest.

All its greenery has also gotten it the tag the Emerald City. With Lake Washington, Puget Sound, and the Cascade mountain range nearby, including Mount Rainier, it may be, on those rare clear days, America's most beautiful metro area.

East-west street addresses increase from Puget Sound and the Alaskan Way on eastward. North-south addresses are separated by Yesler Way. The Seattle Times is the city's only remaining daily print newspaper. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is still in business, but in online form only. This is mainly due to the high cost of both paper and ink, and has doomed many newspapers completely, so Seattle is lucky to still, sort of, have 2 daily papers.

ZIP Codes in the State of Washington start with the digits 980 to 994. In Seattle proper, it's 980 and 981; and for the suburbs, 982, 983 and 984. The Area Code for Seattle is 206. Interstate 405 serves as Seattle's "beltway." The city's population is about 70 percent white, 14 percent Asian, 8 percent black, and 7 percent Hispanic. Seattle City Light is their electric company.

Sales tax in the State of Washington is 6.5 percent, but in the City of Seattle, it's 9.5 percent. Off-peak bus fare in Seattle is $2.25. In peak hours, a one-zone ride (either totally within the City of Seattle or in King County outside the city) is $2.50 and a two-zone ride (from the City to the County, or vice versa) is $3.00. The monorail is $2.25. The light rail fares, depending on distance, are between $2.00 and $2.75. Fares are paid with a farecard, or, as they call it, an ORCA card: One Regional Card for All.
Although Seattle is the largest city in the State of Washington, the State Capitol is Olympia, 60 miles to the southwest. It can be reached by public transportation, taking Bus 594 to Lakewood, and then transferring to Bus 620. It takes about 2 1/2 hours.
The Washington State House in Olympia

As a port city, Seattle has always been a home to job-seekers, both native-born and immigrant. As a result, there has frequently been trouble. There was a riot in 1886. In 1919, the leftist Industrial Workers of the World (a.k.a. the IWW or "Wobblies") led a 6-day general strike. There were anti-Filipino riots in Washington State in the Yakima Valley in 1927 and the Wenatchee Valley in 1928. In 1999, a meeting of the World Trade Organization was disrupted by leftist protestors.

(UPDATE: In 2020, despite restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Seattle was the site of a demonstration calling for the city to become a "Cop-Free Zone," following multiple accusation of police brutality, there and all over America.) 

Going In. The official address of CenturyLink Field, which opened in 2002 as Seahawks Stadium on the site of the Kingdome and is shared by the NFL's Seahawks and MLS' Sounders -- officially, "Seattle Sounders FC," even though we say "soccer team," not "football club" -- is 800 Occidental Avenue South. This makes the Sounders 1 of 6 MLS teams "groundsharing" with a professional football team.

The stadium is in a neighborhood called SoDo, for "South of Downtown." CenturyLink is an Internet provider. It bought out telecommunications carrier Qwest, which had naming rights from 2004 to 2011.

Occidental Avenue is the west sideline, the north side is King Street, the south side is Royal Brougham Way (Royal Brougham was not a car or a brand of booze, but the name of a Seattle sportswriter who championed the city as a site for major league sports), and the east sideline is the railroad. Parking is $8.00.

With CenturyLink being at the southern edge of downtown, you're likely to enter on the  north or west side. Tailgating is permitted in the north parking lot only.
CenturyLink Field, with Safeco Field behind it

"C-Link" is often cited as the loudest stadium in the NFL. Certainly, due to the league-leading crowds, it's the loudest in MLS. The way the stadium is built certainly gives the fans' noise less distance to travel: The upper levels were cantilevered over the lower sections, to fit within the limited space available for construction.

Along with the angle of seats and the placement of the lower sections closer to the field, this provided a better view of the field than typically seen throughout the country and allowed for a 67,000 seat capacity. Space is available to increase the total capacity to 72,000 for special events. The city's impressive skyline can be seen through the north end, beyond the triangular end zone "Hawks Nest" stand.

The playing surface has always been FieldTurf, and is laid out north-to-south. College football games have been played there. The University of Washington has played games there, including their entire 2012 season, when their home across town, Husky Stadium, was being renovated. New Jersey's Rutgers University opened their 2016 season away to UW, who pounded RU. UW's arch-rivals, Washington State, opened their 2014 season there against Rutgers, who won a thriller.

(Wazzu's campus is nearly 300 miles to the southeast, so this wasn't exactly a home game for them. It may have been in the same State, but, distance-wise, it would have been like Rutgers playing them at Syracuse or Virginia Tech.)

It also hosts high school games, including a 2004 game in which Bellevue High, of the Seattle suburbs, beat De La Salle of the San Francisco Bay Area, ending the latter's national record 151-game winning streak, which had lasted 12 years. An art piece called The State of Football is on the grounds, as a tribute to high school football in the State of Washington.

It may be the best soccer facility in the country. The Sounders' "Cascadia Derby" games against the Portland Timbers and the Vancouver Whitecaps are spectacular events. The U.S. soccer team has played at CenturyLink 5 times, and won them all, most recently a Copa America match with Ecuador on June 16, 2016.

The stadium hosted the 2009 MLS Cup Final, in which Real Salt Lake beat the Los Angeles Galaxy on penalties. Along with the New England Revolution and (once Mercedes-Benz Stadium opens in the Summer) Atlanta United, the Sounders are 1 of 3 MLS teams that share a stadium with an NFL team. (The Whitecaps and Toronto FC share with CFL teams.)

In CONCACAF Gold Cup play, it's hosted 4 games in 2005, 2 in 2009, and 2 in 2013. It has been selected by the U.S. Soccer Federation as a finalist to be one of the host venues for the 2026 World Cup.
The facility includes the 7,000-seat Washington Music Theater, or WAMU Theater, for smaller events.

UPDATES: In 2020, CenturyLink was rebranded as Lumen Technologies, and the stadium as Lumen Field. It has been selected by the U.S. Soccer Federation as a finalist to be one of the host venues for the 2026 World Cup. And the naming rights to Safeco Field ran out in 2018, and it was renamed T-Mobile Park.

Food. As a waterfront city, and as the Northwest's biggest transportation and freight hub, it is no surprise that Seattle is a good food city, with the legendary Pike Place Market serving as their "South Street Seaport."

Fortunately, CenturyLink lives up to this. Unfortunately, they serve Coca-Cola as opposed to Pepsi, Budweiser as opposed to good beer, and, thumbing their noses in Seattle's history as a great labor-union city (not to mention the Seahawks' demolition of company spokesman Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl), Papa John's Pizza. They do have Seattle institution Starbucks, and I suppose there must be some Wisconsin people involved with Seahawk concessions, because they also serve Johnsonville Brats.

Don't want to make "Papa" John Schnatter any richer? Good for you! "Pizza of Seattle" stands are at Sections 107 and 122. Pioneer Square International District, specializing in Asian food, is at 105 and 139. Loud & Proud Fan Raves and Craves is at 109 and 116. Kidd Valley, specializing in burgers and fries, is at 111 and 147. The Cantina, specializing in Mexican food, is at 113 and 131. "Grounders World Famous Garlic Fries" is at 118. Kinder's BBQ is at 120. Seattle Dogs (hot dogs) is at 124, 135 and 149. Brougham Beer Hall is at 128. Ivar's, specializing in chicken and chowder (including bread bowls), is at 133. Pioneer Square Butcher is at 204 and 240. 360 Sizzle, specializing in Asian food, is at 208 and 236. Ciao Down! Italian food is at 210 and 234. Seafood stand Catch! is at 214 and 230.

Team History Displays. Seattle is an underachieving city in sports. Until the Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands in 2014, the city had won only 2 World Championships, ever: The 1917 Stanley Cup (I'll get to that in "Sidelights") and the 1979 NBA Championship. And since the SuperSonics' back-to-back Finals appearances in 1978-79, the city's only trips to the Finals had been the 1996 Sonics and the 2005-06 Seahawks, until the recent Seahawk Super Bowls (the one they won, and then the one they lost -- to the Patriots, thanks for nothing, Pete Carroll).

The Sounders were a part of this legacy of underachievement. They won the Supporters' Shield in 2014, and the U.S. Open Cup in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2014 -- 4 of these cups being a total matches among MLS teams only by the Chicago Fire. (They also lost in the Final in 2012.) But in 2016, they won the MLS Cup, beating Toronto FC in Toronto in the Final. They went to Toronto for the Final again in 2017, but lost it. (UPDATE: The Sounders beat Toronto for the Cup again in 2019.)

The original Sounders, who played in the old North American Soccer League from 1974 to 1983, won division titles in 1980 and 1982, and got to the title game, the Soccer Bowl, in 1977 and 1982 -- both times, losing to the old New York Cosmos.

They featured stars from the English league such as Bobby Moore, Alan Hudson, Alan Hinton, Mike England and Jimmy Robertson. (Hinton would stay in Seattle, and later coached the Sounders, and now broadcasts for them.) The Sounders were also where one of the real characters of English soccer, Harry Redknapp, began his coaching career.

The Sounders name was revived in 1994, over such suggestions as Seattle FC, Seattle Alliance and Seattle Republic. They won the United Soccer League title in 1995, 1996, 2005 and 2007. As the current team is a continuation of that organization, they recognize those titles, but not the division titles won by the NASL Sounders. They hang banners for their USL and MLS/U.S. Open Cup achievements from the east side roof.
UPDATE: They have since won the 2019 MLS Cup, too.

The Sounders, the Portland Timbers, and the Vancouver Whitecaps -- all named for teams that played in the NASL -- have competed for the Cascadia Cup since 2004. The Sounders won it in 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2015 (despite Portland winning the MLS Cup), but not in 2016 (despite themselves winning the MLS Cup).
The Cascadia Cup, in the custody of
Sounders supporters' group Brougham Patrol

Overall, Vancouver has won it 6 times, and Seattle and Portland 4 each; but in the MLS era, it's Vancouver 3, Seattle and Portland 2 each. (UPDATE: As of the end of the 2019 season, it's Seattle 6, Vancouver 6, Portland 4.)

The Sounders and the San Jose Earthquakes, each team's secondary rival (the Quakes' primary rival is the Los Angeles Galaxy), play for a trophy whose name reflects their imagined lineage from the old NASL: The Heritage Cup. It's been awarded 9 times since the Sounders came into MLS for the 2009 season, and the Sounders lead, 5-4, having won it the last 2 years.
The Heritage Cup

The Sounders have no retired numbers -- not even 6 for Bobby Moore, unlike his English club, West Ham United -- but it's likely that Number 2 will be put away for Clint Dempsey after he retires. They also don't have a team hall of fame.

Stuff. The Sounders FC Pro Shop, as well as the Seattle Seahawks Pro Shop, is located at Suite 300 at CenturyLink Field. Others are located at 410 Pike Street downtown, Renton Landing, Bellevue Square, and at the Lynnwood and Tacoma malls. 

Unlike most MLS teams, there is a good book written about this team. Two, in fact. (Well, in my opinion, anyway.) Both were published in 2013. Seattle radio sports-talk host Mike Gastineau (no relation to former Jets defender Mark) and U.S. soccer writer Grant Wahl collaborated on Sounders FC: Authentic Masterpiece: The Inside Story of the Best Franchise Launch In American Sports History. (The people behind the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights may now dispute that.)

Cascadia Clash: Sounders versus Timbers, by Geoffrey C. Arnold of The Oregonian and former Sounders goalie Kasey Keller, tells of the best rivalry in MLS.

Adrian Webster wrote of the original Sounders in Eternal Blue, Forever Green: The Sounders in the '70sGarth Lagerwey and Sounder head coach Brian Schmetzer collaborated on the book Seattle Sounders: Our Moment - The Official MLS Cup Championship Commemorative. But, as yet, there do not appear to be any Sounders-themed DVDs, even of their MLS Cup win.

During the Game. Although Mariner fans hate the Yankees more than any other team, Sounder fans have no reason to dislike either of the New York soccer teams beyond merely being that game's opponent who must be defeated. As long as you don't antagonize anyone, you should be okay.

The Sounders hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. They no longer have a mascot, as Sammy Sounder, an orca whale, has been dropped.
Comedian and The Price Is Right host Drew Carey is a part-owner of the Sounders. At his request, the team set up The Sounders FC Alliance. Based on the fan association at FC Barcelona, members have the ability to vote on the removal of the general manager and on other team decisions. Season-ticketholders are automatic members. As of yet, only once has such a vote been held, and the voters decided to retain the GM.

Also at the request of Carey, who was a trumpeter in his Cleveland high school's marching band, the Sounders have MLS' 1st marching band: The Sound Wave, which sits in the north end. Before every game, they lead The March to the Match from Occidental Park to the stadium.
The Sound Wave's March to the Match

Emerald City Supporters (ECS) preceded the club's entry into MLS, and sits in the south end, in Sections 121, 122 and 123. Gorilla FC (Gorilla Football Collective -- GFC also stands for their motto: Glory, Fellowship, Community) does a pregame march from the Seattle outlet of the Fadó pub chain to the stadium, led by Civ, a man in a gorilla suit. They sit in the south end, in Sections 119 and 120, next to ECS. Eastside Supporters sit in 150, which they call "The Pod." And the North End Faithful sit in Sections 100 and 144 to 152, beneath the Hawks Nest.
Some songs for the team are familiar adaptations. "We love you Sounders, we do!" "I'm Sounders 'Til I Die!" They took Arsenal fans' "Ooh to Be a Gooner" and made it "Ooh to Be a Sounder!" Like the Red Bull fans, they use the Cock Sparrer song: "Take 'em all, take 'em all, line 'em up against a wall and shoot 'em!" Perry Como's last hit song said, "The bluest skies you've ever seen are in Seattle," and Sounder fans sing that song in full.

After the Game. SoDo is not an especially high-crime area, and, as I said, Sounder fans generally do not get violent. You might get a little bit of verbal if you're wearing New York gear, but it won't get any worse than that.

Two bars are usually identified with Mariners and Seahawks games. Sluggers, formerly known as Sneakers (or "Sneaks" for short), is at 538 1st Avenue South, at the northwest corner of CenturyLink Field. A little further up, at 419 Occidental Avenue South, is F.X. McRory's. Keep in mind, though, that these will be Seattle-friendly bars.

Buckley's in Queen Anne, 2 blocks west of Queen Anne Avenue N., at 232 1st Avenue W. at Thomas Street, just to the west of Seattle Center, near the waterfront, is the local Giants fan hangout. The Magnolia Village Pub, at 3221 W. McGraw Street at 33rd Ave. W., is also considered a Giants bar, but it's 5 miles northwest of downtown. The Ram at Kent Station, at 512 Ramsay Way in Kent, is the local Jets center, but it's 20 miles south of downtown.

If you visit Seattle during the European soccer season (which is about to get underway), you may be able to watch your favorite team at one of these places:

* Arsenal: The Atlantic Crossing Pub, 6508 Roosevelt Way NE, 8 miles north of downtown. Bus 62.

* Liverpool: St. Andrews Bar & Grill, 7406 Aurora Avenue N, 7 miles north of downtown. Bus 7. Also, Doyle's Public House, 208 St. Helens Avenue in Tacoma, about 35 miles south of downtown. Bus 590.

* Manchester United: Fado, 801 1st Avenue, about a 15-minute walk north of CenturyLink Field. Light Rail to Pioneer Square. 

* Chelsea, Manchester City, West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur and Barcelona: The George and Dragon Pub, 206 N. 36th Street, 5 miles north of downtown. Bus 40.

* Everton: Beveridge Place Pub, 6413 California Avenue SW, 5 miles southwest of downtown. C Line Bus.

* Bayern Munich: Shultzy's, 4114 University Way NE, 5 miles north of downtown, off the University of Washington campus. Bus 70.

If you don't see your club listed, the soccer bar in Seattle is Fadó, of the familiar Irish pub chain, at 801 1st Avenue and Columbia Street. You can probably find a few supporters of your team, and a bartender willing to put your team on the screen, there.

Sidelights. Aside from the KeyArena and the Safeco/CenturyLink complex, Seattle doesn't have a lot of sports sites worth mentioning. But there are places that should be mentioned.

UPDATE: On November 30, 2018, Thrillist published a list of "America's 25 Most Fun Cities," and Seattle came in 11th.

* Sick's Stadium. The Pacific Coast League team that preceded the Mariners, known at various times as the Indians, the Rainiers and the Angels (when they were a farm team of the Anaheim club), played 2½ miles southeast of the future sites of Safeco & CenturyLink, first at Dugdale Field (1913-1932) and then, after a fire required rebuilding, at Sick's Stadium (1938-68 and 1972-76, built by Rainiers' owner Emil Sick).

The Seattle Pilots also played at Sick's, but lasted only one year, 1969, before being moved to Milwaukee to become the Brewers, and are now chiefly remembered for ex-Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton's diary of that season, Ball Four.

The book gives awful details of the place's inadequacy: As an 11,000-seat ballpark, it was fine for Triple-A ball in the 1940s, '50s and '60s; expanded to 25,420 seats for the Pilots, it was a lousy place to watch, and a worse one to play, baseball in anything like the modern era.

Elvis Presley sang at Sick's on September 1, 1957 (since it had more seats than any indoor facility in town). Supposedly, a 15-year-old Seattle native named James Hendrix (later known as Jimi) was there. A few days prior, Floyd Patterson defended the heavyweight title there by knocking out fellow 1956 Olympic Gold Medalist Pete Rademacher.

Demolished in 1979 after the construction of the Kingdome (whose inadequacies were very different but no less glaring), the site of Sick's Stadium is now occupied by a Lowe's store. 2700 Rainier Avenue South, bounded also by McClellan & Bayview Streets & Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Mount Baker station on the Link light rail system.

Husky Stadium. The home of the University of Washington football team, the largest stadium in the Pacific Northwest (including Canada) is right on Lake Washington, and is one of the nicest-looking stadiums in college football. A rare feature in major college football is that fans can dock right outside and tailgate by boat. (The only others at which this is possible: Neyland Stadium at the University of Tennessee, and Heinz Field for University of Pittsburgh games.)

It opened in 1920, making it the oldest stadium in the Pacific-12 Conference. The Seahawks played a few home games here in 1994, after some tiles fell from the Kingdome roof, and played their games here in 2000 and 2001 between the demolition of the Kingdome and the opening of what's now CenturyLink Field. In 1923, it was the site of the last public speech given by President Warren G. Harding before his death in a San Francisco hotel. Sadly, The Wave was invented here in 1981, by university yell leader (think male cheerleader) Robb Weller, later one of Mary Hart's co-hosts on Entertainment Tonight. (This is disputed.)

A major renovation was recently completed, necessary due to age and the moisture from being on the water and in Seattle's rainy climate. Pretty much everything but the north stand of the east-pointing horseshoe was demolished and replaced. The Huskies played the 2012 season at CenturyLink, and moved into the revamped, 70,138-seat Husky Stadium for the 2013 season. 3800 Montlake Blvd. NE, at Pacific Street. Light Rail to University of Washington Station.

UW is 4 miles northeast of downtown Seattle. Washington State University, their big "Apple Cup" rivals, have a downtown campus, but their main campus is in Pullman, all the way across the State, 286 miles away. "Wazzu" is actually close to the State Line, and not far from Moscow, Idaho, where the University of Idaho is located.

In their 1982 College Football Preview issue, Sports Illustrated listed Austin, home of the University of Texas, as the best college town. The worst? It named 2: "1. Pullman, Washington, home of Washington State. To party, students must drive 10 miles to Moscow, Idaho. 2. Moscow, Idaho." (That's where the University of Idaho is. It's actually 7 miles between the WSU and UI campuses.)

* Edmunson Pavilion. Adjacent to Husky Stadium, at 3870 Montlake, is Alaska Airlines Arena at Clarence S. "Hec" Edmundson Pavilion, the home of "U-Dub" basketball since 1927. Hec was the school's longtime basketball and track coach, and "Hec Ed" hosted the NCAA Final Four in 1949 (Kentucky over Oklahoma State) and 1952 (Kansas over New York's St. John's). It has also hosted the State of Washington's high school basketball finals.

UW has been to the Final Four only once, in 1953, although they've won the regular-season title in the league now called the Pac-12 11 times, including 2012; and the Conference Tournament 3 times, most recently in 2011. Washington State, across the State in Pullman, reached the Championship Game in 1941, but hasn't been back to the Final Four since.

The Kingdome hosted the Final Four in 1984, Georgetown over Houston; 1989, Michigan over Seton Hall; and 1995, UCLA over Arkansas. It also hosted 3 U.S. soccer team matches: A win, a loss, and a draw; and Soccer Bowl '76, a 3-0 win by the Toronto Metros over the Minnesota Kicks.

* Tacoma Dome. The Sonics used this building during the 1994-95 season, as the Seattle Center Coliseum was demolished and the KeyArena put up in its place. Opening in 1983, it seats 17,100, and its most common use has been for minor-league hockey and concerts. 2727 East D Street, about 32 miles south of downtown Seattle. It can be reached from downtown Seattle by Bus 590, 592, 594 or 595, and it would take about 45 minutes.

The night Elvis sang at Sick's Stadium, September 1, 1957, he gave an afternoon concert in Tacoma, at the Lincoln Bowl, the football stadium of Lincoln High School. 707 S. 37th Street. The day before, he sang across the State, at Memorial Stadium in Spokane. He returned to Spokane to sing at their Coliseum on April 28, 1973 and April 27, 1976.

The Spokane Coliseum, at Boone Street and Howard Avenue, seated 5,400, lasted from 1954 to 1995, and was replaced by the 12,200-seat Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, across the street. It's home to minor-league hockey's Spokane Chiefs, who, despite not being in Canada, won their junior hockey championship, the Memorial Cup, in 1991 and 2008. 720 W. Mallon Avenue. Spokane is 280 miles east of Seattle.

* Seattle Ice Arena. The Seattle Metropolitans played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1915 until the league's folding in 1926, and won 5 league championships: 1917, 1919, 1920, 1922 and 1924. In 1917, they defeated the National Hockey Association champion Montreal Canadiens, and became the 1st American team to win the Stanley Cup. This would be Seattle's only world title in any sport for 62 years.

They played at the Seattle Ice Arena, which seated only 4,000 people, and was demolished in 1963. The IBM Building, a typically tacky piece of 1960s architecture, now stands on the site. 1200 Fifth Avenue at University Avenue, downtown.

There was also a hockey team named the Seattle Seahawks, competing in the North West Hockey League from 1933 to 1936, winning its championship in 1936; and then in the Pacific Coast Hockey League until 1941. Frank Foyston, who starred for the Metropolitans, was their 1st coach and their 1st general manager.

Seattle has been trying to get an NHL team. For now, the closest one is the Vancouver Canucks, 143 miles away. The probably could support one, and maybe an NBA team, too: The metro area's population would rank it 16th in the NBA and 15th in the NHL. According to an article in the January 8, 2016 edition of Business Insider, the Canucks are the most popular NHL team in the State of Washington.

* Seattle Center. Erected for the 1962 World's Fair (as seen in the Elvis film It Happened At the World's Fair), Seattle Center, north of the sports complex at 400 Broad Street at John Street, includes the city's trademark, the Space Needle. Admission is $11, half the cost of the Empire State Building, and it's open 'til 11:00 PM, with great views of the region's natural splendor.

Seattle Center also has the Pacific Science Center (think of it the Northwest's version of the American Museum of Natural History and its Hayden Planetarium), and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (not sure why Seattle was chosen as the Hall's location, although the city is a major aerospace center).

Also in this complex is Memorial Stadium, a high school football stadium built in 1946. It used to host the old North American Soccer League version of the Sounders, and now hosts the women's soccer team, the Seattle Reign. On June 24, 1975, it hosted a game between the national teams of the U.S. and Poland, ending in a draw.

Also in this complex is the KeyArena, home of the WNBA's Seattle Storm and formerly the SuperSonics. The Storm won the 2004 and 2010 WNBA titles there, and their Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson were named to the NBA's 15th Anniversary 15 Greatest Players in 2012. A high school football stadium is also on the site. Number 33 bus, although the nearest Link station is several blocks' walk away.

The KeyArena was built on the site of the Sonics' previous home, the Seattle Center Coliseum, which stood from 1962 to 1994. Elvis sang there on November 12, 1970; April 29, 1973 (2 shows); and April 26, 1976. 

On May 12, 2014, The New York Times printed a story that shows NBA fandom by ZIP Code, according to Facebook likes. (As yet, there is no hockey version.) With the loss of the Sonics, Seattle fans not only refused to accept their former heroes as Oklahoma City Thunder (Thunders? Thundermen?), but also refused to accept the next-closest team, their former arch-rivals, the Portland Trail Blazers, 172 miles away, as their new team. They seem to divide their fandom 4 ways, none of which should surprise you: The Chicago Bulls, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. But if Seattle should ever get another team, these fans would certainly get behind the new Sonics.

Aside from Seattle Center and its Space Needle, and the stadiums, Seattle's best-known structure is the Pike Place Market. Think of it as their version of the South Street Seaport and Fulton Fish Market. (Or Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market, Baltimore's Harborplace, or Boston's Quincy Market/Faneuil Hall.) It includes the first-ever Starbucks store, which is still open. Downtown, 85 Pike Street at Western Avenue.

Aside from the Pacific Science Center and the Science Fiction Museum, Seattle isn't a big museum city, although the Seattle Art Museum, at 1300 1st Avenue at University Street, might be worth a visit.

The State of Washington has never produced a President, so there's no Presidential Library. Senator Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson ran for the Democratic nomination in 1972 and 1976, but didn't get particularly close. The State's never produced a Vice President, either. Thomas S. Foley served a District centered on Spokane in Congress from 1965 to 1995, and was Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1989 to 1995.

At 967 feet high, Columbia Center, a.k.a. The Black Tower, is the tallest building in the Northwest, and, for the moment, the tallest building in North America west of the Rocky Mountains except for the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles. (A building going up in San Francisco, and another in Los Angeles, are both expected to top the Black Tower by 2017.) If you're wondering about Seattle's most famous icon, the Space Needle, it was once the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River, but at 605 feet it is well short of the Black Tower.

The TV show Northern Exposure was filmed in the State of Washington, and Twin Peaks was both filmed and set there: The former in Roslyn (hence, Roslyn's Cafe), about 85 miles southeast of downtown Seattle; the latter in North Bend, about 30 miles east. The science-fiction series Dark Angel, which vaulted Jessica Alba and NCIS' Michael Weatherly to stardom, was set in a dystopian future Seattle, but was filmed in Vancouver. So was The X-Files. So was Millennium. So was Kyle XY. So was Smallville, but that wasn't meant to be Seattle.

Arrow, about another superhero, is filmed in Vancouver, and, perhaps due to Green Arrow wearing a green costume, I've often thought of his hometown of Star City (renamed Starling City on the show) as being DC Comics' analogue for Seattle. While Frasier was set in Seattle, and Grey's Anatomy still is, there were hardly any location shots. The same is true for Here Come the BridesThe 4400 and

The most obvious film made and set in Seattle is Sleepless in Seattle, and the city was home to Matthew Broderick's and Ally Sheedy's characters in WarGames (in which Broderick's computer hacking has much greater consequences than it would 3 years later in the Chicago-based Ferris Bueller's Day Off).

Singles came along in 1992, at the height of grunge and the rise of Starbucks, which helped make Seattle the hippest city in the country in the years of George Bush the father and Bill Clinton's 1st term -- or, as Jason Alexander put it shortly thereafter on Seinfeld, "It's the pesto of cities." It also reminded us of how good an actor Matt Dillon is, how gorgeous Kyra Sedgwick is, and that Bridget Fonda (daughter of Peter, niece of Jane and granddaughter of Henry) and Campbell Scott (son of George C. and Colleen Dewhurst) were worthy of their genes.

There's also been It Happened at the World's Fair (Elvis playing a visitor to the 1962 Fair), McQ (John Wayne as a present-day cop in one of his last films, in 1974), The Parallax View, Stakeout, Black Widow, The Fabulous Baker Boys, My Own Private Idaho, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, The Crush, Harry and the Hendersons, 10 Things I Hate About You, Agent Cody Banks, and the Fifty Shades series. An Officer and a Gentleman was filmed at the naval base in nearby Bremerton.

In spite of all the rain it gets, Seattle has a beach! Alki Beach is on a peninsula that forms West Seattle, and the ferries to Bremerton and Bainbridge pass in front of it. 1702 Alki Avenue SW, about 6 road miles from Pioneer Square. Bus 56.


So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow New York footie fans in visiting the Seahawks' nest for a Sounders game. Be advised, though, that it will be a lot harder than being Yankee Fans taking over the Mariners' ballpark. Aside from a Cascadia Derby against Portland (in either city), it may well be the defining MLS experience.