Monday, April 29, 2019
Domingo German started for the Yankees in the finale of this weekend series, and was, once again, effective in the injured Luis Severino's place in the rotation. He allowed only 1 hit over the 1st 5 innings, and looked sharp. Certainly, it was good enough to give the Yankee bats the chance to win.
Which they did. For the 2nd day in a row, the Bronx Bombers jumped out to an 8-0 lead. A single, 2 walks and an error produced 2 runs in the 1st inning. Two singles, a walk and an error produced 2 runs in the 2nd inning.
Cliche Alert: Walks can kill you, especially the leadoff variety. A leadoff walk by Gary Sanchez and a Gleyber Torres home run produced 2 runs in the 3rd inning. And a Luke Voit single and, for the 2nd day in a row, a tremendous blast by Sanchez to left field scored 2 more runs in the top of the 6th.
But in the bottom of the 6th, German fell apart. He allowed 3 singles, a double, a walk and a wild pitch, resulting in 4 runs. Had the Yankee bats not given him a sufficient cushion, this would have been a very troubling inning. Fortunately, this case of onebadinningitis did not hurt much. Jonathan Holder pitched a perfect 7th, and Tommy Kahnle a scoreless 8th.
The Yankees put the game to rest in the 9th. Again, a leadoff walk hurt the Giants, drawn this time by Torres. This was followed by a wild pitch, and then by singles by Mike Tauchman, Cameron Maybin and Tyler Wade. Joe Harvey allowed a home run and a walk to start the 9th, but, unlike the day before, the Jints were not really in a position to make the game interesting. Harvey settled down, and got the next 3 batters out, to end it.
Yankees 11, Giants 5. WP: German (5-1). No save. LP: Dereck Rodriguez (3-3).
To paraphrase that great New Yorker Tony Bennett, the Yankees left their mark on San Francisco.
So here's how things stand, 4 weeks into the 26-week Major League Baseball regular season: The Yankees are 17-11, a game and a half (2 in the loss column) behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Eastern Division. The Toronto Blue jays are 4 1/2 back, the Boston Red Sox 7 1/2, and the Baltimore Orioles 9.
Today is a travel day for the Yankees. Then it's 2 games in Phoenix against the Arizona Diamondbacks, before coming home to face the Minnesota Twins.
Sunday, April 28, 2019
So let's talk about the Yankees. J.A. Happ started against the San Francisco Giants at newly-renamed Oracle Park yesterday, and he was terrific: 7 innings, no runs, 5 hits, no walks, 2 strikeouts. I'll take a start like that any day.
The start was so good (How good was it?), he probably should have been left in to pitch the 8th inning. He'd only thrown 95 pitches, but that seems to be Brian Cashman's magic number for a pitch limit.
Anyway, the Yankees did hit for him. And walk for him. Cliche Alert: Walks can kill you, especially the leadoff variety. New acquisition Cameron Maybin led off the top of the 3rd by drawing a walk off Giant starter Derek Holland. Happ, batting because it was an Interleague game in a National League team's ballpark, bunted him over. And DJ LeMahieu singled him home. One-nil to the Pinstripe Boys.
The 5th inning was the decisive one. Maybin led off with a single, Thairo Estrada followed with another, Happ sacrificed again, and LeMahieu walked to load the bases. Then Holland hit Luke Voit with a pitch. Not the best way to get an RBI.
Then Holland pitched like his name should have been Derek Italy, or maybe Derek Sweden, because he served an absolute meatball to Gary Sanchez. It was right in his kitchen, and he cooked it. I thought it was going to go into that giant glove behind the left-center field bleachers. Good way to break out of a slump. 6-0 Yankees.
It was still 6-0 when Aaron Boone sent Luis Cessa out to pitch the 8th. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning. Not wanting to exhaust the bullpen, Boone sent Cessa back out to pitch the 9th. It became clear that he should have let Happ keep going through the 8th, and then maybe let Cessa pitch only the 9th.
Cessa gave up singles to Brandon Belt and Buster Posey. He got Evan Longoria, a pain in the Yankees' necks when he played for the Tampa Bay Rays, to ground into a force play at 2nd, making it 1st and 3rd with 1 out. Then he gave up a home run to Yangervis Solarte. Remember him? He got off to a great start as a rookie with the 2014 Yankees, and then Cashman traded him for Chase Headley.
It was 6-3, and the game had suddenly become interesting. Brandon Crawford came up, and hit a long fly out to left. Then came Erik Kratz, and he hit an even longer fly to left. Home run. Now it's 6-4. This game had gotten a little too interesting. Or, as the great comedian Arte Johnson would have said on the late 1960s variety show Laugh-In, "Verrrry intereshting... but shtupid!"
Boone decided his best chance at the game not getting any more interesting was to bring in his closer, Aroldis Chapman. We've seen Chapman fool around in the 9th inning, before getting down to business and finishing it off. This time, he got right down to business, and fanned Pablo Sandoval to end it.
Yankees 6, Giants 4. WP: Happ (1-2). SV: Chapman (5). LP: Holland (1-4).
The series concludes this afternoon. Domingo German starts against Dereck Rodriguez.
The Mets, however, will got to Milwaukee this season, for a 4-game series, starting next Friday.
Before You Go. Milwaukee is on Lake Michigan, which makes it chilly in the winter. But this is late May, so the weather shouldn't be much of an issue.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website is predicting low 50s for the afternoons, and the mid-40s for the evenings. There is a small chance of rain for all 3 days, but even if it does rain, Miller Park has a retractable roof, so it won't rain on you during the games.
Milwaukee is in the Central Time Zone, an hour behind New York. Adjust your various timepieces accordingly.
Tickets. The Brewers averaged 35,195 fans per home game last season, up over 3,500 per game from the previous season. Nevertheless, as the Mets and Brewers have never had a rivalry, you should be able to buy any ticket you can afford.
On the Field Level (lower), Infield Boxes are $59 and Outfield Boxes are $42. On the Loge (middle), Infield Boxes are $44 and Outfield Boxes are $34. On the Terrace (upper), Boxes are $25 and Reserved are $18. Bleachers are $25.
Getting There. Downtown Milwaukee is 879 land miles from Times Square. And Miller Park is 893 miles from Citi Field, 887 miles from Yankee Stadium II. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.
At first, unlike some other Midwestern cities, this seems like a good idea if you can afford it. If you order today, United Airlines can fly you there for under $700 round-trip. Most other airlines will make at least one stop between any of the New York area airports and General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, most likely in Chicago, and you'll spend nearly as much time on the ground at O'Hare as you do in the air. The GRE bus will get you downtown in a little over half an hour.
(Billy Mitchell was a Milwaukee-area native, a General in the U.S. Army Air Service, and an early advocate for air power. Although he didn't live to see its establishment, he is called the Father of the U.S. Air Force.)
The Milwaukee Intermodal Station, which serves both Greyhound and Amtrak, is at 433 W. St. Paul Avenue, at 5th Street. There are 4 daily Greyhound runs that will get you from New York to Milwaukee. Only 1 requires as few as 1 changeover.
That bus leaves Port Authority at 10:15 PM, and includes rest stops at Milesburg, Pennsylvania; Cleveland and Toledo, before arriving in Chicago at 3:10 the next afternoon (Central Time). There's a half-hour's wait before leaving Chicago at 3:40 and arriving in Milwaukee at 6:20. That's a little under 21 hours, counting the time change. So if you leave Port Authority at 10:15 on Thursday night, you'll might not arrive in Milwaukee with enough time to check into a downtown hotel and get out to the ballpark in time for the Friday night game. Better to take the Thursday 5:15 PM bus out of New York, changing at Cleveland at 2:35 AM and Chicago at 10:30 AM, and arriving in Milwaukee at 1:55 PM.
You can return home at 8:50 Sunday night, although you'll have to make transfers at Chicago (10:35 PM), Detroit (6:05 AM), and Pittsburgh (2:40 PM) to get back to Port Authority by 11:55 PM. Round-trip fare is $458, although it can drop to as low as $314 with advanced purchase.
Milwaukee Intermodal Station
Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited (formerly known as the Twentieth Century Limited when the old New York Central Railroad ran it from Grand Central Terminal to Chicago's LaSalle Street Station) leaves New York's Penn Station at 3:40 every afternoon, and arrives at Union Station at 225 South Canal Street in Chicago at 9:50 (Central Time) every morning. From there, you have to wait until 1:05 PM to get on Hiawatha Service, which will bring you to Milwaukee at 2:34. That's 23 hours, 49 minutes.
If you start this trip on Wednesday afternoon in order to see the entire 4-game series, you can leave Milwaukee by Amtrak on 5:45 on Sunday afternoon, be in Chicago at 7:14, and leave Chicago on the Lake Shore Limited at 9:30 and arrive back at Penn Station at 6:23 PM on Monday. Round-trip fare is $270.
If you decide to drive, it's far enough that it will help to get someone to go with you and split the duties, and to trade off driving and sleeping. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. From this point onward, you won't need to think about I-80 until you head home; I-90 is the key, until it merges with Interstate 94, which will merge with Interstate 43, but you have to worry only about I-94.
I-94 will split off from I-43 at downtown Milwaukee, and then "turn left," becoming the East-West Freeway. Take Exit 308A for Mitchell Blvd., then turn right on Frederick Miller Way (named for the founder of Miller Beer; a left turn will get you onto Selig Drive, named for the Commissioner and former Brewer owner). The ballpark will be on your left.
If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 hours and 30 minutes in Indiana, an hour and a half in Illinois, and just under an hour in Wisconsin. That's about 15 hours and 45 minutes. Counting rest stops, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Chicago, it should be no more than 20 hours, which would save you time on both Greyhound and Amtrak, if not on flying.
Once In the City. As Alice Cooper taught us in the film version of Wayne's World, Milwaukee gets its name from a Native American word meaning "the good land." But this may not be correct: Another version says the name comes a word meaning "Gathering place by the water." Either way, it's true: The land of Wisconsin is good for farming, and Milwaukee is based on a confluence of 3 rivers that flow into Lake Michigan: The Milwaukee, the Menomonee, and the Kinnickinnic; so there's plenty of water. The Menomonee River separates the city's streets into North and South, and the other 2 rivers separate them into East and West.
Founded in 1846, the city has about 600,000 people, making it the 3rd-largest in the Great Lakes region behind Chicago and Detroit. But the metropolitan area has only about 2 million, making it dead last among the 30 MLB teams, about 400,000 less than Number 29, Kansas City. But the construction of modern Miller Park/American Family Field means that the Brewers, unlike the Braves to Atlanta in 1965, won't be moving out of Milwaukee in the foreseeable future.
Milwaukee was about 72 percent white as recently as 1980, but is now about 42 percent black, 37 percent white, 17 percent Hispanic, and 4 percent Asian. The German presence that established the city as a major brewing center is still in place, about 21 percent, or more than half of the white population. Poles make up about 9 percent, Irish 6 percent, Italian 3 percent, with some of mixed heritage. Most of the Hispanics, as is the case with most Midwestern cities, are Mexican.
On July 30, 1967, right after it happened in Newark and Detroit, Milwaukee was struck with a race riot. They were lucky in that only 4 people died. In 2002, Jet magazine called Milwaukee "the most segregated city in the United States." In 2011, a University of Michigan study backed this up. North of the Menomonee River, but west of the Milwaukee River, the city is mostly black. North of the Menomonee, but east of the Milwaukee, and in the suburbs, it's mostly white. South of the Menomonee River, it's mostly Hispanic.
In 2015, the news site 24/7 Wall Street labeled Milwaukee "the worst place for African-Americans to live," despite the Sheriff of Milwaukee County being black. But that Sheriff was David Clarke, an arch-conservative and a Trump ally, who said that the Black Lives Matter group had to be "eradicated."
Wisconsin Electric Power Company runs the city's electricity. Wisconsin's sales tax is 5 percent, but inside Milwaukee County, it's 5.6 percent. Which is still lower than those of the States of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut even before local taxes are added on. The Milwaukee County Transit System has buses only, no subway or light rail, and has a fare of $2.25.
ZIP Codes in Wisconsin start with the digits 53 and 54, and for the Milwaukee area, 530, 531 and 532. The Area Code is 414 for the city and 262 for the suburbs. Milwaukee does not have a "beltway."
Going In. Getting from downtown to Miller Park by public transportation is a little tricky. The Number 10 bus goes down Wisconsin Avenue, but its closest point is a little over a mile from the stadium. You'd need to get off at the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and 45th Street, make a left on Story Parkway and a left at the fork onto Yount Drive.
Helfaer Field, with Miller Park beyond right field
(UPDATE: It was renamed American Family Field in 2021.)
You'll walk under I-94, and on your right will be Helfaer Field, a baseball field on the site of Milwaukee County Stadium. Miller Park, named for the city's brewing giant, will be straight ahead.
Outside the ballpark, there is a sculpture titled "Teamwork," in memory of the 3 construction workers killed in the collapse of a crane in 1999: William DeGrave, Jerome Starr and Jeffrey Wischer. The collapse not only killed those men, but damaged the unfinished stadium so badly that its opening date had to be pushed back from April 2000 to April 2001.
The field is natural grass, and points southeast. The Brewers have never played a home game on artificial turf. Home plate is the same one used at County Stadium, transferred over in 2000, although I can't prove that it's the same one that's been used since County Stadium opened in 1953.
The ballpark has also hosted concerts, starting with country star George Strait in 2001. Other music legends to play there include Bruce Springsteen in 2003 and Paul McCartney in 2013. On October 2, 2010, Miller Park hosted the 25th Anniversary concert for Farm Aid, with Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp. "For the youngsters across the United States," as Ed Sullivan used to say, it hosted One Direction in 2015 and Ed Sheeran in 2018.
Food. In Big Ten Country, where tailgate parties are practically a sacrament, you would expect the Milwaukee ballpark to have lots of good options. With Wisconsin's German heritage in mind, there are Beer Carts and Brat Boys stands all over the place, and a Friday's Beer Garden at the Left Field Gate. A "bratwurst with red sauce" has been one of Major League Baseball's most-honored culinary delights since the Braves were in town. The Brewers also serve various other sausages, many of them of ethnic varieties, as reflected in the Sausage Race.
Like Greg Luzinski in Philadelphia, Boog Powell in Baltimore, and a few others, Milwaukee has a barbecue stand operated by a club legend, in this case "Stormin' Gorman" Thomas. Gorman's Corner is behind Section 103 in right field. There's a Fry Bar at Section 106, baked potato stands at 125 and 214, and "Hot Cheese" at 208. (Hot cheese? Yes, they serve grilled cheese sandwiches and cheese fries.) Big B's Diner has locations at 110 and 126, and Bernie's Clubhouse, named for Bernie Brewer, at 422. Friday's Front Row Sports Grille -- named after a line from a Miller Lite commercial that Bob Uecker did back in the day -- is in left field.
According to a recent Thrillist article on the best food at each big-league ballpark, the best thing to eat at Miller Park is "Bratchos on a stick." What-chos on a stick? It's a fried wad of cheese, seasoned ground beef (that would be the "brat" part), crushed Doritos (that would be the "chos" part) and sour cream on a 6-inch toothpick. I think if you can eat three without having a heart attack, you should get the next one free. It's available all over the stadium.
Fortunately, the ballpark has several ice cream stands. Unfortunately, the ice cream is Blue Bunny, which I suggest staying away from. Blue Bunny is so bad (How bad is it?), it makes Turkey Hill taste like Breyer's. But there are also Dippin' Dots stands.
Team History Displays. In addition to "Teamwork," Miller Park has statue honors for 4 significant figures from Milwaukee's baseball history: Hank Aaron of the Braves (who also played his last 2 years with the Brewers), Brewers founding owner Allan H. "Bud" Selig (now the Commissioner), shortstop Robin Yount, and Bob Uecker, who was the 1st Milwaukee (or even Wisconsin) native to play for the Braves, and now longtime broadcaster for the Brewers.
Fingers, Selig and Aaron at the dedication for Selig's statue
It was because Major League was filmed in Milwaukee, rather than Cleveland, that Ueck was hired to play the Indians' acerbic, hard-drinking broadcaster Harry Doyle -- a man much closer in personality to Harry Caray than to the real Ueck.
I don't think Ueck's statue looks much like him.
The Brewers' retired numbers are high above center field: 1, Bud Selig, owner 1970-98 (never worn by him, obviously); 4, Paul Molitor, 3rd baseman and designated hitter 1978-92; 19, Robin Yount, shortstop-center field 1973-93; 34, Rollie Fingers, pitcher 1981-85; 44, Hank Aaron, designated hitter 1975-76; and the universally-retired 42 of Jackie Robinson.
If you saw Mr. 3000, which filmed at Miller Park among others, sorry, but Stan Ross (1st base, 1978-95 & 2004 -- taking the place of Cecil Cooper for a few years) is fictional, and his Number 21 has not been retired: It is currently worn by 3rd baseman Travis Shaw.
The Brewers have a team Wall of Honor, with a whopping 61 members:
* Straddling the eras: Selig and Uecker.
* From the 1970s, but not making it into the team's 1st era of contention: Aaron; pitchers Ken Sanders and Jim Colborn; outfielders Dave May and Johnny Briggs; catcher Darrell Porter; and 1st baseman George Scott.
* From the 1978 team that was the 1st Brewer squad to make it into a Pennant race, but not making it to the 1982 Pennant: Pitchers Bill Castro and Bill Travers, outfielder Sixto Lezcano and 3rd baseman Sal Bando.
* From the 1982 Pennant winners: Yount, Molitor, Fingers, Gantner, Sutton, Thomas; manager Harvey Kuenn (a Milwaukee native who had once played for the Braves); pitchers Jim Slaton, Jerry Augustine, Moose Haas, Mike Caldwell, Bob McClure and Pete Vukovich; catcher Ted Simmons, 1st baseman Cecil Cooper, 3rd baseman Don Money, left fielder Ben Oglivie and right fielder Charlie Moore.
* From the close calls of 1987 and 1988, but joining after the 1982 Pennant: Pitchers Teddy Higuera, Bill Wegman, Chris Bosio, Dan Plesac and Chuck Crim; catcher Bill Schroeder (now a Brewers broadcaster), and outfielders Rob Deer, B.J. Surhoff and Darryl Hamilton.
* From the 1990s: Pitchers Jaime Navarro, Cal Eldred, Mike Fetters and Bob Wickman; catcher Dave Nilsson, 1st baseman John Jaha, 2nd basemen Fernando Viña and Mark Loretta, shortstops Pat Listach and José Valentín, 3rd basemen Kevin Seitzer and Jeff Cirillo; and outfielders Greg Vaughn and Jeromy Burnitz.
* From the 2000s, but not making it to 2008: 1st baseman Richie Sexson and outfielder Geoff Jenkins.
* From the 2008 Wild Card team: Pitcher Ben Sheets, 1st baseman Prince Fielder, infielder Bill Hall, shortstop Craig Counsell, and right fielder Corey Hart. Hart should not be confused with the Canadian singer of the same name, although if the roof at Miller Park is closed, with all the lights, he may just wear his sunglasses at night.
* From the 2011 NL Central Division Champions: Counsell, Fielder and Hart. Counsell is now the manager of the Brewers, having managed them to the 2018 NL Central Division Championship, thus making him the 1st (and, so far, only) figure honored from that team.
The Brewers also have a Milwaukee Baseball Walk of Fame, honoring 20 greats from both teams. From the Brewers, in addition to Selig, Kuenn, Uecker, Aaron, Yount, Molitor, Fingers, Money, Thomas, Cooper, Gantner, Higuera and Jenkins, it honors former general manager Harry Dalton. From the Braves, it honors Aaron, Kuenn, pitchers Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette, 3rd baseman Eddie Mathews, 1st baseman Joe Adcock, shortstop Johnny Logan and general manager John Quinn.
In addition to Aaron, Spahn, Mathews, Yount, Molitor, Thomas, Gantner, Kuenn, Cooper, Selig and Uecker, the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame has honored Braves broadcaster Earl Gillespie; minor-league Brewers stars Charlie Grimm and Joe Hauser, and Wisconsin-born baseball stars Kid Nichols, Ginger Beaumont, Davy Jones, Addie Joss, Billy Sullivan, George McBride, Fred Luderus, Pants Rowland, Ed Konetchy, Burleigh Grimes, Al Simmons, Ray Berres and Ken Keltner. Nichols, Joss, Grimes and Al Simmons are in the Baseball Hall of Fame. (UPDATE: Ted Simmons is now in the Baseball Hall of Fame as well.)
Aaron and Spahn were named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999. That same year, The Sporting News named Aaron, Spahn, Mathews, Fingers and Molitor to their 100 Greatest Baseball Players.
In the TV special that NBC did for the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, John Rawlings, then TSN's editor, admitted that, despite being a Hall-of-Famer, a member of the 3,000 Hit Club and an MVP at 2 different positions, Yount was one of the last players cut. Yount was, however, honored by Brewer fans as their team's entry in the 2006 DHL Hometown Heroes poll.
The Brewers hang their notations for their 1981 American League Division Series appearance, their 1982 AL Pennant, their 2008 National League Wild Card berth, and their 2011 NL Central Division title over the left-field fence, over the Front Row Sports Grille. There is also a Braves Monument at Miller Park. But there is no mention of the Braves' 1957 World Championship or 1958 NL Pennant, or the 8 American Association Pennants won by the Triple-A version of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1913, 1914, 1936, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1951 and 1952.
The Brewers have not one, not two, but three notable rivalries, all reflected in football. Packers-Bears first made one between the Brewers and the Chicago White Sox, but that one was scaled back after the 1998 League switch, resulting in one with the Chicago Cubs. The League switch also scaled back the rivalry with the Minnesota Twins, which reflected Packers-Vikings and Gophers-Badgers. The Brewers trail in all 3 of these rivalries: The Cubs 180-170, the White Sox, 205-177, and the Twins 241-228.
The Brewers have been around for over 40 years now, but because Milwaukee, as a city, gets lost in the shadows not only of Chicago, 90 miles to the south, but the smaller yet higher-profile city of Green Bay, 115 miles to the north, the Brewers tend to get forgotten. They trail not only the Packers, but also the football team at the University of Wisconsin in popularity among Badger State teams. (They may even trail that school's very successful hockey program, even though Milwaukee doesn't have an NHL team.)
Their recent success has moved them ahead of the NBA's Bucks, though: While the Bucks are usually good, they haven't reached the NBA Finals in almost 40 years, and their 1971 title seems so far back that it might as well have been won by a team that moved away and has since been replaced, as with Minneapolis and the Lakers. Or with the Braves and Brewers, if you prefer.
As a result of this, there aren't many good books about the Brew Crew. Todd Mishler wrote Baseball in Brewtown: America's Pastime in Milwaukee. It covers not just the Brewers, but their preceding Triple-A namesake, and the Braves, and the teams that called the city home in the 19th Century. But it was published in 2005, and doesn't cover the recent renaissance that saw the Brewers win the NL's Wild Card in 2008 and the NL Central in 2011.
Milwaukee's greatest baseball moment -- their only World Championship in the sport to date -- came when the Yankees, finding the much smaller city's over-the-top reaction to the Brewers to be comical, called Milwaukee "Bushville" (as in "bush league"), and came to regret it. This story is told in John Klima's book Bushville Wins! The Wild Saga of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves and the Screwballs, Sluggers, and Beer Swiggers Who Canned the New York Yankees and Changed Baseball. The title is longer than the Series was -- and both the '57 and the '58 Series went the full 7.
The 1957 World Series' official highlight film seems not to be in an official package sold at either Brewers or Braves games. The Brewers do have a DVD honoring their lone Pennant: Harvey's Wallbangers: The 1982 Milwaukee Brewers. Uecker narrates this story about Kuenn and his leadership of a club that had been terrible until 1977, then became a "close but no cigar" team under George Bamberger, before Bambi was fired and Kuenn was brought in, turning "Bambi's Bombers" into "Harvey's Wallbangers."
There is also a DVD titled The Essential Games of the Milwaukee Brewers. While there are a few bonus features, there are only 4 games on it, as opposed to the standard 6: 1982 AL Championship Series Game 5, in which the Brew Crew won what is still their only Pennant; 1982 World Series Game 4, a come-from-behind victory in a Series they went on to lose in 7; September 28, 2008, a date which lives in Met infamy but in Brewer legend as they clinched the Wild Card berth by beating their arch-rivals, the Cubs; and 2011 NL Division Series Game 5, in which they beat the Arizona Diamondbacks to win a postseason series for the 1st time in 29 years (and only the 2nd time in their 1st 43 years of play).
During the Game. A recent Thrillist article on "Baseball's Most Intolerable Fans" ranked Brewer fans 30th. Dead last. In other words, they were judged to be the most tolerable: "You'd be hard-pressed to find a more affable fanbase than Brewers fans. They just kind of roll with things."
Brewer fans, as you might expect in America's foremost brewing city, like to drink. If this were a Packer game and you were wearing Chicago Bears or Minnesota Vikings gear, you might be in trouble. If this were a UW game and you were wearing University of Minnesota gear, you might be in trouble. If this were a Bucks game and you were wearing Chicago Bulls gear, you'd probably be safe. If this were a Brewers-Cubs game, and you were wearing Cubs gear, you might be in trouble. But it's a Brewers-Mets game, so if you don't start anything, they won't continue anything. Wisconsans are good people.
Apparently, the Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry
doesn't extend to the mascots. Bernie Brewer poses
with the Twins' T.C. Bear at the Twins' Target Field.
All 3 games of these series feature promotions. Friday is Short Sleeve T-Shirt Night. Saturday is Star Wars Night: "May the Fourth be with you." Dumb new tradition, and the Yankees do it, too. Sunday is Jeremy Jeffress Bobblehead Day, Military Half-Price Discount Day, and,a s with every Sunday, Kids Run the Bases.
Since 1973, the Brewers have had a mascot, Bernie Brewer. At County Stadium, there was a giant keg and beer stein behind center field, with a chalet next to it. Upon each Brewer home run, Bernie, a man in a costume whose big foam head had a big blond mustache, would slide down a chute from the chalet into the mug, releasing balloons.
Bernie's Chalet at County Stadium
The setup was removed in 1984, but restored in 1993. A new version was installed in left field when Miller Park opened in 2001.
Bernie's slide at Miller Park
The Sausage Race began in in 1992, as a cartoon show on the scoreboard. Live races by men (sometimes women) in 7-foot-3 sausage suits began the next season: They would come out of the left field gate and run toward home plate.
The original sausages are #1, Brett Wurst (a bratwurst in lederhosen, representing the city's German heritage); #2, Stosh Jonjak (a guy in a rugby-style shirt, cap and sunglasses, representing a Polish sausage), and #3, Guido (no last name, wearing a chef's outfit and having a long, thin mustache, representing an Italian sausage).
#4, Frankie Furter (a guy in a baseball uniform and wearing eye-black, representing standard hot dogs) was added in 1995; and #5, Cinco (a sombrero-wearing Chorizo, a nod to Latino fans) was added in 2006.
In addition, the Pittsburgh Pirates have the Great Pierogi Race, the Washington Nationals have the Racing Presidents, and several other teams have mascot races involving their various sponsors.
The Brewers hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. In the 7th inning stretch, after playing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," the Brewers play "The Beer Barrel Polka": "Roll out the barrel, we'll have a barrel of fun... " Their postgame victory song is "Best Day of My Life" by the American Authors.
After the Game. As Miller Park is separated from the city by parking, safety should not be an issue. Although Milwaukeeans like to drink, this is not a Packers or Badgers game, so you should be fine. Unfortunately, this same distance from, well, anything means that there's no good places to get a postgame meal or drink within walking distance.
The difference between the Brewers' ballpark (past and present) and the Bucks' arena (past, present and future) could not be more stark. At 340 W. Kilbourn Avenue, across 4th Street from the MECCA and a block from the Bradley Center is "Milwaukee's Sports Headquarters," one of the most famous sports bars in the country, Major Goolsby. "The Major's" has been catering to Wisconsin sports fans since 1971. That was when the Bucks won the NBA title... and they haven't won it since. Hmmmm... Curse of Major Goolsby, anyone?
If you visit Milwaukee during the European soccer season (which is now over, and will start up again in mid-August), the best place to watch your favorite club is the Highbury Pub, at 2322 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue at Lincoln Avenue, about 3 miles south of downtown. Bus 15. Named for the former stadium of Arsenal Football Club, which was named for the North London neighborhood it was in, there is also a bar by that name in Brooklyn.
Sidelights. Milwaukee's sports history is long, but not especially successful, especially when you consider the 119-mile distance between the city and the State's most successful sports team, the Green Bay Packers. Milwaukee County Stadium was located behind the home plate entrance to Miller Park (which was built across center field from its predecessor).
County Stadium during the 1957 World Series
The Braves played there from 1953 to 1965, the Brewers from 1970 to 2000, and the Packers played several home games there from 1953 to 1994, first 2 out of their 6 (when the NFL had a 12-game schedule), then 2 of their 7 (14), and finally 3 of their 8 (16), plus a preseason game (an another preseason game at the University of Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium). The Packers played a Playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams at County Stadium in 1967, before winning the NFL Championship against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field on New Year's Eve, the famed Ice Bowl.
County Stadium in the Brewers' glory days of the 1980s
County Stadium hosted the only game, to date, played by the U.S. national soccer team in Wisconsin. It was on July 28, 1990, against East Germany, in one of that foul country's last games before being reunited with their Federal Republic (West German) brothers. We lost.
It was at "Borchert's Orchard" that he first tried his promotional stunts, and it made Milwaukee one of the most successful minor-league markets, not just on the field but at the box office.
The Brewers won 8 American Association Pennants there: 1913, 1914, 1936, 1943, 1944, 1945 (that's 3 straight under Veeck's ownership), 1951 and 1952 (in their last 2 seasons of existence before the Braves came in).
The best-known photo of Borchert Field, showing its
Polo Grounds-like dimensions. No, I don't know
why the area behind the foul lines looks dug-up.
The Milwaukee Bears of the Negro Leagues also played here, as did the Milwaukee Badgers of the NFL from 1922 to 1926, and the Packers played the occasional Milwaukee game here from 1933 to 1952.
Actually, the place was better for football than for baseball: Like the Polo Grounds, it had a distant center field but foul poles that were much too close, 267 feet. An overhanging roof that covered the infield stands didn't help matters. As Veeck himself put it, "Borchert Field, an architectural monstrosity, was so constructed that the fans on the first-base side of the grandstand couldn't see the right fielder, which seemed perfectly fair in that the fans on the third-base side couldn't see the left fielder. 'Listen,' I told them. 'This way you'll have to come back twice to see the whole team.'"
A rare color photo of Borchert Field.
I didn't even know that this photo existed
until I did the 2017 edition of this post.
Borchert stood between North 7th & 8th Streets, and Burleigh & Chambers Streets. The entire land area is now occupied by Interstate 43, the North-South Freeway, and entrance-and-exit ramps. It's in a bit of a rough neighborhood, so unless you're just that into baseball history, if you have to cross one item off your list, this is the one. Number 50 bus to Holton & Burleigh, then Number 60 bus, or walk 12 blocks west.
* Milwaukee Mile. This racetrack, on the grounds of the Wisconsin State Fair in suburban West Allis, is the oldest continuously-operating auto racetrack in the world. "But Mike," you say, "auto racing is not a sport. Why are you talking about it?" Because the track's infield was used as the Packers' main Milwaukee-area home from 1934 to 1951.
Seating 45,000, the stadium was nicknamed the Dairy Bowl for Packer games, including the 1939 NFL Championship Game, in which the Packers beat the Giants, 27-0. The Milwaukee Chiefs of the 1940-41 version of the American Football League also played here.
* Bucks arenas. The Milwaukee arenas, across State Street from each other at 4th Street, are loaded with history. The old one, built in 1951, now known as the U.S. Cellular Arena, was originally known as the Milwaukee Arena, then from 1974 to 1995 as the Milwaukee Exposition Convention Center and Arena (or MECCA). Two NBA teams called it home: The Milwaukee Hawks from 1951 to 1955, before moving to St. Louis (and later to Atlanta); and the Milwaukee Bucks from their debut in 1968 until 1988.
The Bucks played their 1971 NBA Championship season, their only title, there, although they clinched on the road in Baltimore. The Milwaukee Admirals, a minor-league hockey team, played here from 1973 to 1988, and won the 1976 United States Hockey League title.
Elvis Presley sang here on June 28, 1974 and April 27, 1977. The Beatles played here on September 4, 1964. The inductees to the previously mentioned Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame are honored here in a Wisconsin Athletic Walk of Fame, which also includes Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Bucks, Wisconsin Badgers, and State natives who made it big elsewhere.
The MECCA, with the Bradley Center behind it
The BMO Harris Bradley Center, was the Bucks' home from 1988 until this past season. While they've usually been good, they haven't reached the NBA Finals since 1974 (at the MECCA) or even the Conference Finals since 2001 (at the Bradley Center). The Admirals also call the Bradley Center home, and won the 2004 Calder Cup here. Marquette University, which reach the 1974 NCAA National Championship and won it in 1977, also played at the Bradley Center, after having played at the MECCA, and before that at the site I'm about to mention.
The University of Wisconsin, in Madison, is the only other Wisconsin school to reach the Final Four, and that was all the way back in 1941, although they've reached hockey's version, the Frozen Four, many times.
The Bradley Center, like a lot of NBA and NHL arenas that have recently been replaced or are about to be, opened right before Baltimore's ballpark, Camden Yards, rewrote the rules for stadium and arena construction. As a result, while the Bradley Center was in good shape and has good sight lines, it does not have lots of revenue-generation luxury boxes. And, with Milwaukee being a small market (only the Packers' special status keeps Wisconsin capable of supporting an NFL team, and the Brewers were in serious trouble in the 1990s before Miller Park opened), the Bucks need those luxury boxes.
For that reason, a new arena named the Fiserv Forum opened last October, just to the northwest of the Bradley Center, at 5th Street & Highland Avenue. The Bucks and Marquette basketball moved in. The Bradley Center has been demolished, while the MECCA will remain standing due to its historical significance.
The new arena, nearing completion,
with the Bradley Center and the MECCA to the right,
and the Milwaukee skyline in the background.
The nearest NHL team is the Chicago Blackhawks, 93 miles away. If Milwaukee had an NHL team, it would rank 25th in population among NHL markets. The nearest MLS team is the Chicago Fire, 104 miles away. Wisconsin's highest-ranking soccer team is Milwaukee Bavarian FC, which is only at the 5th level of the U.S. soccer pyramid, although they have been in business since 1929. They play at the 2,000-seat Heartland Value Fund Stadium. 700 W. Lexington Blvd. in Glendale, 6 miles north of downtown. Bus 15.
Horlick Field opened in 1907, and hosted the Racine Legion from 1919 to 1924 (including 1922 to '24 in the NFL), the NFL's Racine Tornadoes in 1926, and the Racine Belles of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1943 to 1950. The current 8,500-seat stadium on the site hosts high school sports. 1648 N. Memorial Drive in Racine, Wisconsin, 29 miles south of downtown Milwaukee, and 70 miles north of Chicago's Loop. Amtrak from either to Sturtevant, then Bus 8.
The Kenosha Maroons played in the NFL in 1924, at Nash Field. The 5,000-seat stadium also hosts high school sports. 5909 56th Street in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Even though it's closer to Milwaukee (34 miles as opposed to 60), it can only be reached by public transportation from Chicago, riding the train from the Ogilvie Transportation Center (the former Northwestern Station) to Kenosha, then Bus 2.
The Sheboygan Red Skins played pro basketball from 1933 to 1952, winning the National Basketball League title in 1943 (making them, technically, if not officially recognized by the NBA, World Champions in the sport), and were merged into the NBA for the 1949-50 season.
Due to Sheboygan's small size (about 50,000 people, smaller even than since-abandoned NBA cities Syracuse, Rochester and Fort Wayne), the rest of the league wanted them out, and got their wish. They lasted only 2 years in their new league, and folded. But they are still winners of a World Championship. They played at the 3,974-seat Sheboygan Municipal Auditorium and Armory, 58 miles north of Milwaukee (Bus 916) and 67 miles south of Green Bay.
Wisconsin, let alone Milwaukee, has never produced a President -- although, in 2012, Congressman Paul Ryan, now the Speaker of the House of Representatives, was the Republican nominee for Vice President, and he's now the Speaker of the House, and still fairly young by political standards, so he could run for President in the future.
The Milwaukee Auditorium, built in 1909 at 500 W. Kilbourn Avenue downtown (across from the MECCA), has been one of the city's most historic sites. It's where Theodore Roosevelt, running to return to the Presidency on the Progressive Party ticket in 1912, gave a speech on October 14. For an hour and a half. After having been shot.
The shooting happened a block away, at the Hotel Gilpatrick. The Hyatt was built on the site, at 333 W. Kilbourn. TR recovered, and finished 2nd to Democratic nominee Woodrow Wilson, but ahead of incumbent Republican William Howard Taft.
Other Presidents, and men who tried to be, spoke at the 4,000-seat building now named the Milwaukee Theatre: Taft in 1911, Wilson in 1916, Wendell Willkie in 1944, John F. Kennedy in 1960, Michael Dukakis in 1988, and the George Bushes, the father in 1991 and the son in 2000. Martin Luther King gave a noted speech there in 1964.
Elvis sang there on June 14, and 15, 1972, even though the MECCA was already an established arena. Other Wisconsin arenas to have been played by Elvis were the Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium in La Crosse on May 14, 1956; the Dane County Coliseum in Madison on October 19, 1976 and June 24, 1977; and the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena in Green Bay on April 28, 1977.
* Happy Days. Airing from 1974 to 1984 but taking place in Milwaukee from 1955 to 1965, this ABC sitcom did as much to make Milwaukee famous as beer and the Braves did. A statue of Henry Winkler as Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli -- a.k.a. The Bronze Fonz -- is at 117 E. Wells Street, on the Riverwalk, across from the 1895-built, 353-foot-high City Hall, which will be recognized by fans of Happy Days' spinoff series, Laverne & Shirley, although the sign saying, "WELCOME MILWAUKEE VISITORS" is long-gone.
Wisconsin was the location of 2 other famous nostalgia-based TV shows: The Happy Days spinoff
Laverne & Shirley, running from 1976 to 1983, and set in Milwaukee from 1957 to 1964, before moving to Los Angeles for 1965 to 1967; and That '70s Show, airing 1998 to 2006, but set from 1976 to 1979, in fictional Point Place, a name that may have been based on the real town of Stevens Point, but said to be a suburb of Green Bay.
The Dairy State/Badger State was also the location of the 1990s CBS drama Picket Fences, set in the small town of Rome, which is the name of a real town in Wisconsin; the 1990s ABC sitcom Step By Step, set in a fictionalized version of a real Wisconsin town, Port Washington, not to be confused with the town of the same name on Long Island; and the longtime CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless, set in Genoa City, which is the name of a small town on the Wisconsin-Illinois State Line, but, on the show, we are led to believe it is a much larger city.
Milwaukee doesn't have museums on the level of New York, Philadelphia or Chicago, but of note is the Milwaukee Public Museum, at 800 W. Wells Street, at 8th Street downtown. The Milwaukee Art Museum is on the lake, at 700 N. Art Museum Drive, off E. Mason Street. If you're a motorcycle enthusiast, the Harley-Davidson Museum -- Brewtown is also Harley's headquarters, and also that of lawnmower and farm equipment manufacturer Briggs & Stratton -- is at 400 W. Canal Street, right about where the city's 3 rivers meet. Number 80 bus gets the closest.
The tallest building in Wisconsin is the U.S. Bank Center, formerly the First Wisconsin Center, at 777 E. Wisconsin Avenue & N. Van Buren Street. Opening in 1973, it is 601 feet high. It's not much to look at, unlike the building it replaced as such, City Hall.
If you want to go on a brewery tour, be my guest -- or, rather, put your money down and be their
guest. But I have no interest in it, so you'll have to look up your own info.
Milwaukee may not be one of America's biggest cities, but it's one of the most fun. And sports, including baseball, is a big part of it. A Brewers game is a good time, whether the team is good or not.
Saturday, April 27, 2019
So they went up the Pacific Coast to start a 3-game weekend Interleague series with the San Francisco Giants, their 1st visit to Pacific Bell -- I mean, SBC -- excuse me, AT&T -- or, rather, Oracle Park -- since 2007.
James Paxton started for the Banged-Up Bombers, and was a little off: Aaron Boone took him out in the 6th inning, after 106 pitches, 70 for strikes, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks, although he did strike out 8. Nevertheless, I can't fault his decision, because, between them, Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino and Aroldis Chapman pitched 4 1/3rd hitless innings (albeit with 4 walks).
Madison Bumgarner, a member of the Giants' 3 World Series winners earlier in the decade, and the biggest pitching hero the franchise has had since Carl Hubbell (sorry, Juan Marichal, but you didn't win a World Series), started for them, and the Yankees got to "MadBum" early. They scored 3 runs in the 1st inning, on a Gleyber Torres double and a single by new acquisition Cameron Maybin.
They added runs on a Gio Urshela single in the 3rd, a Luke Voit double in the 5th, a Thairo Estrada single in the 6th, and a Voit home run in the 9th. Let's see, we're in San Francisco, so... Cliche Alert: The Yankees wanted an insurance run, so he hit one to the Transamerica Building.
Yankees 7, Giants 3. WP: Paxton (3-2). No save. LP: Bumgarner (1-4).
The series continues this afternoon, at 4:05 New York time, 1:05 local. J.A. Happ starts against Derek Holland.
Friday, April 26, 2019
That should summarize how good Havlicek was, to a generation that only knows Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as executives; and only knows Charles Barkley, Julius Erving, Bill Walton and Walt Frazier as broadcasters.
Havlicek deserves more than a summary.
John Joseph Havlicek was born on April 8, 1940 in Martins Ferry, Ohio, on the Ohio River, across from Wheeling, West Virginia, and grew up in adjoining Bridgeport. This section of the Ohio Valley was dominated by coal mines and steel mills, as was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania up the river.
His father was Czech, his mother was Croatian, and they ran a grocery store. A friend and neighbor was Phil Niekro, who would wind up in the Baseball Hall of Fame for his pitching with the Atlanta Braves. Phil had a brother, Joe Niekro, who also became a pretty good pitcher, mostly for the Houston Astros.
Also from Martins Ferry were Lou Groza, who would reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a tackle and placekicker for the Cleveland Browns; and his brother Alex Groza, a University of Kentucky star who would have made the Basketball Hall of Fame if not for a reason I won't discuss at this time, but it was probably unfair. Growing up in nearby Rush Run was Bill Mazeroski, who made the Baseball Hall of Fame as a 2nd baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
They also grew up within a few years of each other: Lou was born in 1924, Alex in 1926, Bill in 1936, Phil in 1939, John in 1940, and Joe in 1944. They all became friends in the intervening years. Sports Illustrated did a feature on them in 1988, calling them "The Valley Boys."
The article also mentioned some guys they would have been, if not necessarily friends with, at least aware of: Lou Holtz of East Liverpool (who became a star football coach, especially at Notre Dame), the much-older Clarke Hinkle of Toronto, Ohio (a Hall of Fame running back for the Green Bay Packers), Bob Gain of Wheeling (a College Football Hall-of-Famer and Browns teammate of Lou Groza, born in 1929), Calvin Jones of Steubenville (a College Football Hall-of-Famer, born in 1933), Gene Freese of Wheeling (a Pirate teammate of Mazeroski's, born in 1934), Bill Jobko of Bridgeport (a star for Ohio State and the Los Angeles Rams, born in 1935), Chuck Howley of Wheeling (a Super Bowl winner with the Dallas Cowboys, born in 1936), and Bob Jeter of Weirton, West Virginia (a Super Bowl winner with the Packers, born in 1937).
Like Columbus, Ohio native Frank Howard, 4 years older and also a basketball player at Ohio State (but who chose baseball instead, and hit 382 home runs), Havlicek was nicknamed "Hondo," due to the movie of that title, starring John Wayne.
Under coach Fred Taylor, Ohio State won the National Championship in 1960, beating the defending Champions, the University of California, in the Final. This team also featured fellow sophomore sensation Jerry Lucas; a future Boston teammate of Havlicek's, Larry Siegfried; and a senior reserve, what would become known as a "sixth man," from Orrville, Ohio, who became one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history. His name was Bobby Knight.
How good was the U.S. basketball team that won the Gold Medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome? It was so good, John Havlicek only qualified for it as an alternate. And remember, professional players weren't allowed then, so no Wilt Chamberlain, no Bob Pettit, no Tom Gola, and none of the Boston Celtics stars that Havlicek would join: No Bill Russell (who already led the 1956 team), no K.C. Jones (also on that team), no Bob Cousy, no Bill Sharman, no Sam Jones.
The team did include Lucas, Darrall Imhoff (from Cal's 1959 National Champions), Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Walt Bellamy and Burdette Haldorson. That's 6 guys who were eventually elected to the Hall of Fame by themselves. In 2010, on the 50th Anniversary, the entire team was elected, meaning those 6 guys are Hall-of-Famers twice over.
Lucas and Havlicek got Ohio State back into the NCAA Final in 1961 and 1962, but lost to the University of Cincinnati each time. Lucas became the subject of a bidding war between the NBA and the new American Basketball League, whose Cleveland Pipers were owned by a 32-year-old local shipping executive named George Steinbrenner. But the ABL fell apart, Lucas missed the 1962-63 season, and signed with the team that held his NBA rights, also an Ohio team, the Cincinnati Royals. He and Robertson played together for 7 years, but never won anything, because of the Celtic dynasty. He finally got a ring with the 1973 New York Knicks.
It was not a given that Havlicek would play in the NBA. He wasn't considered the best player on the team at Ohio State (Lucas was), so he kind of fell under the radar, and so the Boston Celtics were able to draft him, despite having won 5 of the last 6 NBA Championships.
But the Cleveland Browns were looking for receivers, and at 6-foot-5, he was only about average for basketball, but quite tall for football, and they drafted him. As it turned out, though, he was the last receiver they cut in training camp. So, basketball it would be.
The 1962-63 season was the only one in which the Celtics had both Bob Cousy and John Havlicek. But it's not quite like the 1951 Yankees, with both Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, because neither Cooz nor Hondo was the team's best, or most important, player. That was Bill Russell. They won the Championship, and did so again in 1964.
"I came into a great situation where I had all the veterans around me," Havlicek said. "And, through the process of osmosis, I guess, I became one of the people they could rely on."
With a lineup that solid, Celtic head coach and general manager Arnold "Red" Auerbach decided to have Havlicek play the role that Frank Ramsey, a Kentucky teammate of Alex Groza's, played for him: That of "sixth man," the guy who could, when the situation called for it, play any position. During the 1960s, this paid off tremendously. He has been called the NBA's original "swingman."
"I think people emphasize too much who's starting," he said. "Emphasis should be on minutes played." On another occasion, he said, "Whether I start or come off the bench makes no difference to me. My game has always been go as hard as I can for as long as I can."
April 15, 1965: Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, at the Boston Garden. The Celtics led the Philadelphia 76ers 110-109, but a rare mistake by Russell gave the Sixers the ball with just a few seconds left on the clock. If the Sixers could score, they would end (or, at least, interrupt) the Celtic dynasty, and head to the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. Hal Greer was getting ready to inbound the ball, and if the Sixers could get it to Wilt Chamberlain, that would probably be it.
John Havlicek had other ideas. Johnny Most had the call, on WHDH, 850 on the AM dial (now WEEI):
Greer is putting the ball in play. He gets it out deep, and Havlicek steals it! Over to Sam Jones! Havlicek stole the ball! It's all over! It's all over! Johnny Havlicek is being mobbed by the fans! It's all over! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball! Oh my, what a play by Havlicek at the end of this ball game!
"I knew he had 5 seconds to inbound," Havlicek said at the time. "So I started counting to myself: '1,001, 1,002, 1,003.' Usually, something has happened by then. So, by 1,003 and a half, I started to peek a little more."
The film always confused me. The player dribbling the ball up the court is Sam Jones, clearly a black man, while Havlicek was still playing when I was a little kid, so I knew he was white. If Havlicek was the one who stole the ball, why was he not the man dribbling up the court? The film shows him jumping and just tipping the ball with his hand, and Jones retrieving it. It's a "Blink and you'll miss it" play.
But it's become the most famous single play in NBA history -- due to Most doing for it what Russ Hodges did for Bobby Thomson's home run to win the New York Giants the 1951 National League Pennant, and, in each case, the moment did the same for the man -- and 2nd only to Willie Mays' catch in the 1954 World Series as the most famous defensive play in the history of sports.
The Celtics went on to beat the Lakers in the Finals, and did so again in 1966, 1968 and 1969, with Chamberlain and the 76ers finally breaking through in 1967, beating the San Francisco (now Golden State) Warriors.
Left to right: Bill Russell, Red Auerbach, John Havlicek.
Russell on Havlicek: "He is the best all-around player I ever saw."
Bill Russell retired after the 1969 title, but in 1970, Dave Cowens arrived, and he and Havlicek became the nucleus of a new great team. They won 68 games in 1973, but were beaten by the Knicks in the Playoffs, partly because Havlicek had a separated shoulder.
They rebounded in 1974, winning the title, and Havlicek was named the Finals MVP (an award now named for Russell). They won another title in 1976, giving him an 8-0 record in NBA Finals. Only Russell and Sam Jones have won more NBA Championships. That '76 Finals against the Phoenix Suns included the epic Game 5, which the Celtics won 126-124 in triple overtime. A regulation NBA game is 48 minutes, this one went 63, and Havlicek played 58.
He retired after the 1978 season, but could have gone longer. In his last game, at home against the Buffalo Braves -- the last game that team played before moving to become the San Diego (eventually Los Angeles) Clippers, he played 41 out of 48 minutes and scored 29 points.
That was in April 1978. Larry Bird arrived in October 1979. The Hick from French Lick (Indiana) told Hondo he would have dominated had they played against each other. Bird was not quite 23, Havlicek 39. Havlicek said, "Fine, let's go, right now." They took the court at Boston Garden. Havlicek recalled:
I made a swipe for the ball, but, in doing so, I hit him in a very tender spot. He went down, and stayed down for a good 2 minutes. I said, "That's it. You lose. You aren't tough enough to have played in my day."
Think about that the next time a LeBron fan tells you his guy is "The GOAT" because Jordan played against "plumbers" and Chamberlain and Russell played against "slow white guys."
Bird got the message. He got tougher. Still, if you're selecting an all-time Boston Celtics starting five, you take Bill Russell at center, your guards are Bob Cousy and Sam Jones, and at forward, you select John Havlicek before considering Larry Bird -- or Kevin McHale, or Paul Pierce for that matter.
In 16 seasons, he made 13 All-Star Games. His per-game averages over his career: 20.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists. He retired with 26,395 points, 3rd behind Chamberlain and Robertson at the time, and still the Celtic franchise record. His 1,270 games played were then an NBA record, which is now held by a later Celtic legend, Robert Parish, 1,611. The NBA didn't start naming All-Defensive Teams until 1969, his 7th season in the league, but he made it the 1st 8 times it was awarded.
He was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984, and the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players in 1996. In 2009, SLAM magazine ranked him 17th all-time. That same year, ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons -- admittedly, a Celtic fan -- ranked him 14th all-time in his The Book of Basketball.
Ohio State retired his Number 5. The Celtics retired his Number 17. Chris Mullin, who wore 20 at St. John's University, said he wore 17 as a pro in Hondo's honor.
Among his other honors: The gym at his alma mater, Bridgeport High School, is named the John J. Havlicek Gymnasium, and the court is named for his coach there, Frank Baxter. Pony International produced the John Havlicek sneaker line, and still does, over 40 years after his last game.
Think of the range Havlicek had. No, not his shooting range, as good as that was. When he entered the NBA in 1962, there were guys playing who had played before the institution of the 24-second shot clock. The defining names were Cousy, Russell and Chamberlain. It was still a black-and-white game -- and I'm talking about television, not race relations.
When he last played in 1978, the game had been taken over by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and Julius Erving, and Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were just a year and a half away. Michael Jordan was in high school.
The surviving footage is in color, and, while the shorts were a lot shorter, and there's a lot less decoration on the court in terms of team and corporate logos, it was easily recognizable as, pretty much, the game that we know today, with dunks and other flamboyant moves, vertical as well as horizontal.
Hondo had to face Wilt and Dr. J. He had to face Fifties legends and Eighties legends. He faced sons of players he'd faced. He faced flat-top crewcuts and spectacular Afros. The game changed more in his time than it did in Jordan's, and a lot more than it has in LeBron's. But he was an All-Star at age 26, and an All-Star at age 38.
Perhaps inspired by his business-savvy OSU teammate Lucas, Havlicek realized that he could avoid becoming another in a long line of athletes who didn't watch their money while playing, found it gone when they retired, and struggled to get more afterward. When Dave Thomas of Columbus, Ohio, founded Wendy's in 1969, Havlicek became one of its investors.
He never held another NBA job after his retirement: Not as coach, not as scout, not as executive. He didn't want to, and he didn't need to. He did take and enjoy a role as a motivational speaker, though. And, with Bob Ryan, the Hall of Fame sports columnist for The Boston Globe, he wrote a memoir: Hondo: Celtic Man In Motion.
Like another Boston sports legend, Ted Williams, he was an avid fisherman and a big charity fundraiser. He combined these with a celebrity fishing tournament on the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard, to benefit the Genesis Foundation for Children.
With the Celtics' most recent Larry O'Brien Trophy
for the NBA Championship, 2008
He remained married to his college sweetheart Beth, and they had 2 children. Son Chris played basketball at the University of Virginia. Daughter Jill married former baseball player Brian Buchanan.
John Havlicek dealt with Parkinson's disease the last few years, retiring to Jupiter, Florida, outside Palm Beach. He died there yesterday, April 25, 2019, at age 79. The tributes have been most effusive:
Bill Russell: "It is getting difficult each time I hear about another contemporary that passes! What is harder is when we lose guys like John Havlicek, he was not just a teammate & a great guy, but he was family. That is how our Celtics teams were."
Jerry West: "The guy is the ambassador of our sport. John always gave his best every night and had time for everybody -- teammates, fans, the press. He is simply the ideal everybody expects an athlete to be."
Bill Bradley: "For ten years, John Havlicek was my toughest opponent in the biggest rivalry in the league. Night after night he was the epitome of constant motion. He only needed half a step to beat me, which he usually did. He was the quintessential Celtic, unselfish and loyal, and through the players' union he helped make the game more just by ending the reserve clause. The only thing he loved more than the game was his family. He'll always be with them."
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: "I met John Havlicek at the same time & place that I met Red Auerbach & Bill Russell @ my high school gym in Autumn of 1961 - my freshman year. He was still playing when I entered the league & our friendship grew... #17 will always be class act! RIP"
Alex English: "Just saw that one of my childhood idols John Havlicek has passed. One of the greatest small forwards ever. I patterned my movement after him."
Magic Johnson: "I'm sad to hear about the passing of one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history, John Havlicek. 13x All Star, 8x Champion, Finals MVP, and Hall Famer, John was a champion on the court and in the community."
Bob Ryan: "This is an immense personal loss, as well as professional. If all professional athletes carried themselves as well as he did, sport would be a far better place."
Leigh Montville, also a Boston Globe veteran: "John Havlicek was just a terrific guy. It was an honor to walk him out the door after his final game. He turned out the lights in the locker room when he left. Yes. he did."
Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner: "John Havlicek was a wonderful friend who represented the best of the NBA."
He certainly did. Now, Johnny Havlicek is being mobbed by the angels.
UPDATE: His final resting place is not publicly known.
Masahiro Tanaka started, and cruised through the 1st 4 innings. He was backed by smart offense. Tyler Wade led off the 3rd with an infield single, stole 2nd, stole 3rd, and scored on a DJ LeMahieu single. Gio Urshela made it 2-0 with a solo home run in the 4th. A wild pitch and a Gleyber Torres single gave the Yankees 2 more runs in the top of the 5th.
But, just as the Angels blew a 5-0 lead the night before, the Yankees returned the favor by blowing a 4-0 lead. Tanaka fell victim to "onebadinningitis" in the bottom of the 5th. As is so often the case, when Tanaka fails, it was because of the gopher ball: He gave up 2-run homers to Tommy La Stella and Kole Calhoun.
For once, a Yankee manager let a starting pitcher stay in the game too long. Aaron Boone let Tanaka begin the 6th. But he allowed another run. Relievers Stephen Tarpley and Jonathan Holder didn't help. The Yankees loaded the bases in the top of the 8th, but only got a lone run-forcing walk out of it, and that was it.
Angels 11, Yankees 5. WP: Noe Ramirez (1-0). No save. LP: Tanaka (2-2).
So, after taking 3 out of 4 in Anaheim, a place that has historically given them trouble, the Yankees head up the Pacific Coast, for a rare Interleague series away to one of the former National League teams from New York City, the San Francisco Giants. Here are the prospective pitching matchup:
* Tonight, first pitch at 10:15 Eastern Time (7:15 local): James Paxton vs. Madison Bumgarner.
* Tomorrow afternoon, 4:05: J.A. Happ vs. Derek Holland.
* Sunday afternoon, 4:05: Domingo German vs. Dereck Rodriguez.
Thursday, April 25, 2019
Gary Sanchez was activated from the injured list. Clint Frazier went onto it. Didn't matter. The Yankees made it 3 straight over the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, 6 straight overall.
We certainly can't, as I did many times last season, call this team "gutless wonders." Last night, they came from 5-0 behind to win.
CC Sabathia started, but didn't do well. He allowed 2 home runs to Andrelton Simmons and 1 to Kole Calhoun, and that's why it was 5-0 Angels after the 4th inning. Jonathan Loaisiga came on to relieve, and pitched shutout ball through the 7th.
The banged-up Yankees made their move in the top of the 6th. Tyler Wade led off with an infield single. DJ LeMahieu hit a double into the left field corner, deep enough to score Wade. Luke Voit singled, but DJLM couldn't score. Brett Gardner popped up, and Sanchez struck out. With the slumping Gleyber Torres up, it began to look like that would be it for the Yankees. But Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy couldn't handle a Felix Pena pitch, and the passed ball allowed LeMahieu to score. It was 5-2 Angels.
Then came the 7th. Cliche Alert: Walks can kill you, especially the leadoff variety. Mike Ford worked Luis Garcia for a walk. Gio Urshela singled. Mike Tauchman drew a walk to load the bases with nobody out. Wade drew a walk to force home a run. Angel manager Brad Ausmus brought Ty Buttrey in to pitch, but it didn't work: LeMahieu hit a fly ball to left, deep enough to score Urshela. Voit grounded to short, and there was no play at the plate. Tie game. Gardner lined into a double play to end the threat, but the Angels had a five-nil lead and blew it.
How about a nice 2-out rally? The Yankees got one in the 9th, as Wade singled to right and stole 2nd, and LeMahieu singled him home. Aroldis Chapman shook off his most recent troublesome performance, and pitched a hitless 9th.
Yankees 6, Angels 5. WP: Loaisiga (1-0). SV: Chapman (4). LP: Buttrey (1-1).
The series concludes tonight. Masahiro Tanaka starts against Trevor Cahill.
So, don't look now... Actually, yes, look. Now. In spite of everything that's happened already this season, the Yankees are close to 1st place.
William McNeill (no middle name) was born on March 2, 1940, in Bellshill, about 10 miles east of Glasgow, Scotland. This little town of 20,000 people, has produced many soccer legends, including Hughie Gallacher, Matt Busby, Brian McClair and Ally McCoist; and also boxing champion Scott Harrison and singer Sheena Easton.
Billy McNeill was signed by Glasgow soccer team Celtic in 1957, from a nearby junior team, Blantyre Victoria. The team was not very good at the time, until the arrival of a new manager, a centre-half who had helped the team win "The Double," both the league title and the Scottish Cup, in 1954: John "Jock" Stein. (That's pronounced "steen," like it was Scandinavian, not "stine," like it was Jewish.)
The Scottish top flight has long been dominated by 2 teams from Glasgow: Celtic and Rangers. In the Scottish Football League Division One (1890-1946), Division A (1946-55), Division One again (1955-75), Premier Division (1975-98), Premier League (1998-2013) and Premiership (since 2013), here is the title count: Rangers 54, Celtic 49, Edinburgh team Heart of Midlothian (a.k.a. Hearts) 4, Edinburgh team Hibernian (a.k.a. Hibs) 4, Aberdeen 4, and everybody else... 7. Or, to put it another way: The 2 Glasgow giants, known as "The Old Firm," 103, and everybody else 19.
The origin of the term "The Old Firm" is in dispute, but it may go back to a sportswriter comparing them to "two old, firm friends" leading up to the 1904 Scottish Cup Final. If this was ever true, it is has long since become a lie. No pair of teams in British Isles soccer hates each other more.
Rangers Football Club was founded in 1872, and didn't start out as a symbol for anything other than men who enjoyed football (soccer). But in 1912, shipbuilders Harland and Wolff, which hired only Protestants, never Catholics, saw sectarian trouble at their hometown shipyard at Belfast, Northern Ireland, and set up a new one in the Govan section of Glasgow, taking some of their Ulster Protestant men with them.
Seeing this, many Glasgow Protestants began working there. Since Rangers were the closest team, the Northern Irish transplants followed the lead of their new Glasgow workmates, and became Rangers fans. With World War I coming on, and the Eastern Rising and the Irish Civil War that followed, Rangers became a team representative of British Unionism and the Scottish establishment. To this day, their Ibrox Stadium, on the city's West Side, has fans waving Union Jacks much more often than the Scottish Saltire, the Cross of St. Andrew.
The Celtic Football Club -- sometimes abbreviated to "CFC," but, when said in full, "The" is always used, much like "The... Ohio State University" -- was founded in 1887, specifically to deliver money and other resources to the poor Irish Catholics on Glasgow's East Side, where Celtic Park, a.k.a. "Parkhead," would be built.
Their crowds began to match those of Rangers, and, seeing Rangers as the team of the Protestants that were oppressing them, their fans began to wave the green-white-orange tricolor that is the flag of the Republic of Ireland. Saltires are as rare at Parkhead as they are at Ibrox.
In response to this, Rangers fans ended up hating Celtic and their fans as much as vice versa. From the 1920s until 1989, Rangers never signed a player they knew to be Catholic, until finally breaking the barrier with formerly Celtic star Maurice "Mo" Johnston, who ended up being verbally abused by, and receiving death threats from, not just his old fans, but those who were supposed to be cheering him with his new team. He failed there after just 2 years, and bounced around, ending his career in America with the Kansas City Wizards (now known as Sporting Kansas City).
No soccer team in Ireland -- either in the Republic or in Northern Ireland -- is as popular in its homeland as Celtic or Rangers are there. Some English teams, particularly those who've had success with Irish players such as Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, are popular in Ireland, but neither as much as Celtic and Rangers.
The competitive rivalry between the teams is incredibly close: Rangers have won 160 competitive matches, Celtic have won 157, and there have been 99 draws. But it gets incredibly nasty. Rangers fans have been known to chant profane things about the Pope -- whoever the Pope is at the time -- and Celtic fans have returned the favor by saying the same things about Queen Elizabeth II, even though she's half-Scottish herself.
But when Jock Stein arrived in 1965, Celtic had won just 1 league title since 1938 (and he was there for that one, in 1954). Over that same span, Rangers had won 11. Things turned around: With McNeill scoring the winning goal, Celtic defeated Dunfermline 3-2 in the 1965 Scottish Cup Final. The Scottish Footballer of the Year award was first awarded, and it was awarded to McNeill.
Stein named McNeill his Captain. Together, they led "The Hoops" (named for their green and white horizontal stripes) well: From 1966 to 1974, they won 9 straight league titles (a feat Rangers would match in 1997), They also won 7 Scottish Cups and 6 Scottish League Cups.
And then came 1967. The European Cup, the tournament now known as the UEFA Champions League, was first run in the 1955-56 season. No British team had yet won it, or even reached the Final. On aggregate, Celtic beat FC Zurich of Switzerland 5-1 (including a stunning 3-0 away win), Nantes of France 6-2 (including 3-1 away), Vojvodina of Yugoslavia (now in Serbia) 2-1, and Dukla Prague of Czechoslovakia (now in the Czech Republic) 3-1.
The Final was set for Estadio Nacional in Lisbon, Portugal, with Celtic playing Internazionale Milano, who had won the Cup in 1964 and 1965, becoming known as "La Grande Inter." Celtic took the pitch with this starting XI, all of them from within 30 miles of Glasgow: Goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson, right back Jim Craig, left back Tommy Gemmell, central midfielder Bobby Murdoch, centreback and Captain Billy McNeill, centreback John Clark, right wing Jimmy "Jinky" Johnstone (often called the greatest player in Celtic history), centre forward Willie Wallace, centre forward Stevie Chalmers, central midfielder Berti Auld, and left wing Bobby Lennox.
Simpson saved a shot from Sandro Mazzola, a 2nd-generation Italian calcio star (that's what Italians call soccer, and his father Valentino Mazzola had starred for Turin team Torino in the 1940s), before Craig fouled Renato Cappellini, resulting in Inter being awarded a penalty in only the 7th minute.
The score remained 1-0 to Inter past the hour mark, because of Inter's renowned defensive style, known as catenaccio -- "padlock." Auld hit the crossbar, and Johnstone headed a shot over it. Giuliano Sarti saved a free kick from Gemmell, and he hit the bar with the rebound. Entering the 63rd minute, the Hoops were dominating, but the Nerazzurri (Black & Blue) were winning.
Finally, Celtic broke the padlock. Craig passed from the right wing to Gemmell, who fired from 25 yards, and Sarti couldn't stop it. 1-1. Celtic kept up the attack, until the 84th minute. Murdoch had a shot, and Chalmers saw that he could deflect it in. The final score was 2-1 to Celtic. They were the 1st British team to win the European Cup.
They had won the League, the Cup, the League Cup, and now the European Cup -- not just a Double, not just a Treble, but a Quadruple. Counting the Glasgow Cu, a minor trophy, they became the 1st European team to win 5 trophies in a season. They remain the only team in Europe ever to pull either of these feats off, and would become known as "The Lisbon Lions." In reference to Protestant songs about King William III, who suppressed a Catholic revolt in Ireland in 1690, Celtic fans honored their Captain by singing, "There's only one King Billy, and it's McNeill!"
King Billy McNeill got Celtic back into the European Cup Final in 1970, losing to Feyenoord of Rotterdam, who thus became the 1st Dutch team to win it. He retired after the 1975 season, having played 822 games for the team, which remains a record.
He appeared for the Scotland national team 29 times, scoring 3 goals, but never at the World Cup. Scotland did not qualify in 1962, 1966 or 1970. Scotland had perhaps its best World Cup team ever in 1974, with 4 Celtic players making the squad: Johnstone, midfielder David Hay, defender Danny McGrain and young forward Kenny Dalglish. But McNeill was 34, and past his prime.
It shouldn't have surprised anyone that he went into management. He took Aberdeen to 2nd place and the Scottish Cup Final in 1978, and that showed Celtic that he was ready to take charge. As boss at Parkhead, he won the League in 1979, 1981 and 1982, the Scottish Cup in 1980, and the Scottish League Cup in 1983.
He was lured away by English team Manchester City, and he got them promoted back to Division One in 1985. He managed 3 years at Maine Road, then the 1986-87 season at Aston Villa, but he couldn't save them from relegation. He returned to Celtic for 4 more years, including a League and Cup Double in 1988 and another Cup in 1989. He went into football media, briefly taking one last management job, as caretaker manager at Hibernian in 1998.
Since 1963, he had been married to Liz Callaghan, a former professional dancer. They had 5 children. In 2002, he was voted Celtic's greatest Captain. He was elected to the Scottish Football Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2015, a statue of him holding up the European Cup was dedicated outside Celtic Park.
But he had already begun to fall victim to dementia, and was unable to participate in 50th Anniversary celebrations for the Lisbon Lions. Billy McNeill died this past Monday, April 22, 2019, in the Glasgow suburb of Newton Means. He was 79 years old.
He was preceded in death among the Lisbon Lions of 1967 by manager Jock Stein in 1985 (famously suffering a heart attack while managing Scotland against Wales in a "Home Nations Championship" match in Cardiff), Bobby Murdoch in 2001, Ronnie Simpson in 2004, Jinky Johnstone in 2006 and Tommy Gemmell in 2017. There are 6 surviving players: Stevie Chalmers is 83, Bertie Auld is 81, John Clark and Willie Wallace are 78, Jim Craig is about to turn 76, and Bobby Lennox is 75.
UPDATE: Billy McNeill's final resting place is not publicly known.