Three Quick Hits Across the Sports Spectrum

Football:  Okay, I’ll just say it.  How will the Jets foul up tonight’s draft? My worries center around the two teams drafting in front of them, the Browns and Giants.  If there is one franchise that can outdo the Jets in terms of shooting themselves in the foot, it’s the Browns.  So I anticipate them starting things off with the unexpected.  Like maybe they take Barkley (kicking off office pools all across Cleveland as to which preseason game will he suffer the major knee injury during), causing the Giants to trade down out of the 2-hole.  Pick-a-name takes the Giants spot at #2 (Bills maybe?) and takes Mayfield.  So do the Jets go for Broadway Sam at that point?  Or do they pull a Johnny Lam Jones 2.0 and draft the guard out of Notre Dame, figuring the Teddy Bridgewater regime is ready to roll.  Look for the unexpected in the draft’s first half hour and here’s hoping the Jets just stay steady and by accident they end up with Mayfield or Darnold (last what if — Browns take Darnold #1 and the Giants trade down, leaving some other team to come and take Mayfield #2.  Now what?  Logical thinking says Rosen becomes a Jet, and I like Rosen, but…we are the Jets and didn’t the kid have two concussions last year at UCLA?  It’s not easy being green…)

Basketball:  What a gut check for the Thunder last night at home agains the Jazz!  I have to admit I turned it off when the lead got to 25 in Utah’s favor in the 3rd.  So Billy Donovan opted for the go-simple approach from there — let his two stars win it, and they did.  Notice I said two.  Russ and Paul George are true beasts. Melo will be more and more of a ghost to the extent that the playoffs continue for OKC. And that’s the only way they pull this thing out. Of real interest to me though, is how the Jazz bounce back in Game 6 at home.  To me, this is by far the most interesting first-round series going, and I can’t help but wonder if the young Jazz had too much, too soon, what with their blazing finish to the regular season and then going up 3-1 (and by 25 points in the 3rd quarter of Game 5).  We will learn a lot about this highly entertaining squad in Game 6, as I give them ZERO chance to go back to Oklahoma for a Game 7 and pull it out. Here’s hoping I don’t have to hunt for NBA TV to watch Game 6 tomorrow night!

Baseball:  What’s up with Kershaw?  Six walks against the Marlins last night?  Man…something smells wrong in DodgerTown right about now.  Maybe it’s Matt Kemp.  It kind of seems like anything he touches goes the wrong way, even when he plays well.  And all the feel good stories from a year ago seem a little askew right about now.  Bellinger with a gaping hole in his swing; Wood no longer unbeatable; Turner still out; Kanley looking like all those innings have caught up to him — logic tells me there’s too much talent on the roster for them not at least get a Wild Card, but the NL West is the league’s toughest division this year, and if Clayton isn’t right I don’t see another ace emerging to lead them out of the wilderness.  Stay tuned.


I had one heckuva blog post all ready to go at about 12:12 eastern time last night/this morning (midnight, in other words), when a combination of bad luck and my sorely lacking  technical skills conspired to delete the post as well as my futile attempt to save it in this thing called “the cloud.”. Given the hour and my inability to retain thoughts all that much longer than it takes to type them into my trusty laptop, that one is history. Gone, goodbye.

However, I do remember the gist of how I had ended things right around 12:13 a.m.  I had concluded the post with my list of the Five Unbreakable Records of Major League Baseball.  As with everything associated with The Sports Attic, these are my own biased opinions, and I’m interested in any and all other records you may consider the equals of these five.  Here they are:

  1. Cy Young’s 511 wins.  This one isn’t even worth debating and should lead off everyone’s list.  The bigger question today may be is there currently an active pitcher who will get to 300 wins?  Or, will we see another 300-gamewinner in our lifetime? My answers to those two questions are “no” and “yes” (hoping for a long life, which I will surely need if I expect to be here for the next Knicks championship parade).
  2. Cal Ripken’s 2632 consecutive games played streak.  No one approaches half of this record total ever again.  And yes, “ever ” is a long time for sure, but no one will get halfway.  Ever.
  3. Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak.  I remember Pete Rose getting to 44 and it seemed like if anyone could handle the pressure and grind it was him.  Nope.  Today’s bullpen specialization makes this one impossible to break.
  4. Hack Wilson’s 191 RBI’s in 1930.  This is like a video game number.  And by the way, this record was always 190, but somehow in the late-1990’s MLB added another ribbie to the Hacker, taking his current total to 191.  Nice to see that even Hack Wilson benefitted from inflated power numbers during the steroid era!
  5. Johnny Vänder Meer’s two consecutive no-hitters.  This is somewhat of a trick stat (and also one of my favorites to dish out at cocktail parties if I can manage to steer the conversation to arcane baseball stats), as someone could come along one day and throw two no-no’s in a row, but that would only tie the record, not break it.  I strongly believe it will never be equalled (“never” is a long time, too, by the way), but without a doubt no one comes along and breaks”Double No-Hit Johnny’s” mark with three no-hitters in a row.

I had stumbled upon the idea discussing MLB’s most unbreakable records after going through a favorite airplane exercise of mine, which is annualizing out early season stats to see what trends (or preposterous run rates) form at certain mileposts of the season. The 20-game mark is a good one, as there is enough critical mass to see a little of both, plus the math is pretty easy (the only kind of math I choose to engage in these days), as you just take the stats today and multiply by 8 to get roughly to that 160 game season total needed for comparison-sake.

So for example, Johnny Cueto (who won his second decision the other day) is currently on track for 16 wins for the Giants, possibly signaling a bounce back year for him.  At the same time, Patrick Corbin is on track for 32 wins.  Not only is that one preposterous, but coupled with his absurd comments in yesterday’s New York Post about wanting to be a Yankee one day so he can be part of a playoff team (huh?), immediately moved him to the front of my line of people to root against for the remainder of this baseball season.

Someone needs to tell Mr. Corbin that his Diamondbacks have the best record in the Senior Circuit (a few games better than his beloved Yanks, by the way) and were a playoff team last year.  I can envision the Post being passed around the Arizona locker room as I type this with a whole lot of head shaking going on.  He best keep up his Dizzy Dean impersonation circa 1934, as those kind of quotes don’t fly for a .500 pitcher (which, by the way, is what Corbin’s history tells us he is).

The stat that got me going down the road of unbreakable records using my “times 8” theory though, was seeing Didi Gregorious currently on track for 192 RBI’s.  Preposterous and absurd? Absolutely and also the result of a scorching start by the guy who replaced Derek Jeter (and seems poised to extend the torture session Jeter annually inflicted upon Mets fans another 10 years or so).  Which makes Hack Wilson’s 191 RBI record all the more impressive, as taking the hottest start in MLB this year, annualizing it out (with a slight boost, as the Bombers have actually played 21 games thus far in 2018) still only barely bests Wilson’s all-time mark.

But enough of that, because thinking about baseball’s unbreakable records took tonight’s  new and improved blog in a new direction. If we turn our attention to the other major sports, what are their unbreakable marks, and do they matter to us fans as much as the MLB records do? My quick answer is sort of in certain instances, but generally much less so.

I love the history of baseball and how the statistics allow us to compare players of different eras with at least the semblance of a level playing field baseline to begin the debate.  My disdain for those who were the main villains of the Steroid Era comes primarily from the statistical distortion it threw into this sacred historical perspective (that and the fact that somehow the worst offenders also seemed to be the biggest assholes in the game at the time — Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, A-Rod, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens. They messed up history, so hell yeah keep them out of the HOF as far as I’m concerned, even if I would let Rose and Shoeless Joe in tomorrow if given a vote).  Topic for another post.

Anyway, let’s take a look at the two other major sports (remember, I’m sorry but just not capable of speaking intelligently on the NHL, but guessing Gretzky probably has some stats that would have made their way into this post if I were), and see what records achieve  “unbreakable” status.  We’ll begin with the NFL, because it’s easier.

  1. Sorry NFL fans — in this age of readjusting rules annually to drive whatever may impact television ratings most positively, you simply can’t put any record in the out of reach category.  That is the short answer, but we did say five, soooo…
  2. As a kid when O.J. Simpson rushed for 2003 yards in only 14 games during the 1973 season I thought that would ever be equalled. Not only was it, but it was bested by great, but not iconic, backs like Adrian Peterson and Eric Dickerson (and even a “who’s that guy” named Jamal Lewis).  Barry Sanders beat it, too, but he was iconic.
  3. Dan Marino’s 1984 season was the best I ever witnessed by a QB.  He threw 48 touchdown passes before the rules were overwhelmingly stacked in the QB’s and receiver’s favor.  And even if the guys that came along years later and topped him were true Mount Rushmore types (as an aside, my Mount Rushmore of all-time NFL QB’s are Brady, Manning, Unitas, Namath…uh, I mean, Montana), I’m not convinced someone like Marcus Mariota, a good not great QB, won’t have a season where the moon, stars, offensive rules changes and right offensive coordinator all align into a 55 TD season.  Could happen.
  4. Emmit Smith’s career rushing record?  C’mon.  Barry Sanders would have blown by that if he hadn’t walked away when he did.  Look for Saquon Barkley at the top of this list one day.
  5. Okay, I will throw this out there, but it is with high levels of trepidation.  Jerry Rice caught 1549 balls for over 22,000 yards.  Today those totals rank number one by a solid margin.  Unbreakable?  Maybe, but dangerous terrain trying to call any NFL stat that is forward-pass-related unbreakable in today’s NFL.

Okay, so “unbreakable” doesn’t really apply to the NFL.  What about the NBA? This is really a Wilt Chamberlain discussion, as The Dipper posted such extreme numbers early in his career that most of his records will never be challenged, but still worth a look:

  1. We all have to immediately go to Wilt’s 100 point game (against the Knicks, of course, but no he wasn’t defended by Carmelo Anthony, or he would have gotten to at least 110). Is it unbreakable?  Welllll…a brittle and old Kobe Bryant scored 60 in the final game of his career, didn’t he? Of all of Wilt’s records, this is the one I can’t say with 100 percent conviction won’t get broken.  In today’s NBA, where stars are universally supported and promoted by the league, protected by the refs and idolized by the role players, is it too far fetched to imagine that LeBron might one day wake up and decide he wants to break Wilt’s single-game points record?  So Bron posts his intentions on Twitter, informs the Cavs front office and coaches this is going to happen, and with enthusiastic support from both his teammates and opponents (none of whom would want to do anything to alienate The King and risk the chance to one day wave the towel for him at the end of the Cavs bench), goes out and scores exactly 101.  Sorry, but could happen.  SMH.
  2. In Wilt’s third year in Philly he averaged 50.4 points per game.  Even Russ Westbrook can’t touch that one.  Yes, unbreakable
  3. In Wilt’s second year in the league he averaged 27.2 rebounds per game.  That one’s safe, too.  And I don’t care how bad the league’s collective shooting percentage was in the early-’60’s,  this one is mind boggling.
  4. And to finish this off, Wilt had 55 rebounds in a game in that same second season. Talk about bucking the whole Sophomore Jinx storyline. That record has zero risk of being broken.
  5. Despite those first four phenomenal records (three of which are unequivocally unbreakable), my personal favorite Wilt stat has nothing to do with points or rebounds.  In 1961-62 he averaged 48.5 minutes per game. He played every minute in 79 of the 82 games that year.  Add in overtime games and he actually averaged more than a full game played a night.  Unreal.

If you are ever bored go to and hit up the list of records Wilt holds. It just goes on, and on, and on…

Michael Jordan remains the greatest NBA player I’ve ever seen (footnote that I only caught the tail end of Chamberlain’s career), but Wilt’s stats are absolutely staggering.

So while I may not have been able to recapture last night’s blog now currently drifting aimlessly in cyberspace, this one gives you the core concepts — Five Unbreakable MLB Records, “Times 8” philosophy for looking at standings and box scores at the 20-game mark of the baseball season, root agains Patrick Corbin, Hack Wilson was an absolute beast — I think that about covers it.

Topps Time Machine — Destination 1972


Who remembers Walt Williams?  If you do, you probably can’t help but insert his nickname here — “No Neck.”  I’ve been killing some time recently going back to the days of my youth by leafing through old baseball card albums and shoe boxes that used to be prominently stored in my boyhood closet (in fact, when I remember those days of the early ’70’s, there was a curious dichotomy between the complete chaos of all things strewn about my bedroom, and the meticulous system of order I had put in place to properly classify my baseball cards).

As I look through these cards today I find it fascinating to compare and contrast the reactions I have now versus those I recall having had as a kid. The ballplayers captured back in the 1972 Series were all 20 to 30 years older than I was, and today those same stars, benchwarmers and solid major leaguers are all 20 to 30 years younger than I am.  Circle of life, or something?

So when I look today, I fondly recall the uber-cool nickname of Walt “No Neck” Williams, but I can’t help but find it puzzling why no one took a look at Ed Brinkman’s 1972 Topps card and began calling him Ed “Long Neck” Brinkman.  Or Ed “Two Necks” Brinkman.  In fact, if I was either the Tigers or White Sox GM back in the day (by the way, to this day I consider being the General Manager of a major league baseball team to be the absolute most desirable profession going — something current-me has in common with 7-year-old-me), I most certainly would have orchestrated a trade to add one to the other, or maybe for each other, just for the “neck comparison.”


I mean, come on, take a look at Brinkman!  Missed opportunity all around back in ’72. And while on the subject, Brinkman actually had a well above-average career, spent mostly with the Senators and Tigers, with a plus glove and occasional pop as well (14 HR’s in ’74).  What happened to those days when the shortstop was an automatic out?  I kind of miss those slick fielding, choke-up-the-bat and hope-for-the-best shortstops of the early-’70’s.  In my preferred division, the NL East, at that time the starting short stops included our beloved Buddy Harrelson, Don Kessinger in Chicago, Dal Maxvill for the Cards and Larry Bowa for the Phils.  Over in the NL West you had Roger Metzger in Houston and Sonny Jackson in Atlanta.  Punch and Judy’s all around.

Slot that skinny guy into the 8-hole in the order and pencil in a .225 average with 2 homers and 37 RBI’s over the course of 500+ AB’s and call it a day.  No Cal Ripkens or A-Rods back then, and there was something that felt right about that if you ask me.

But I digress.  Flipping through those ’72’s, there seems today to be so many untold backstories dying for a caption practically jumping out of the staged batting stances and defensive ready positions that the Topps photography teams used for their shoots in the early ’70’s.  For instance, let’s start with poor Lee May for a second.

In 1970 he was an anchor in the middle of the order for the initial version of the Big Red Machine. He absolutely mashed NL pitching and helped lead the Reds to the World Series (in Sparky Anderson’s first year as Reds manager), where they lost to a scary good Orioles team. In 1971 he followed that up by finishing third in the NL in round trippers during what was a down year for nearly all of his Reds teammates.  They finished under .500 and May was basically the only guy who didn’t take a notable step back in his stats.


So how do the Reds reward him?  Yup, they traded him.  And didn’t just trade him, but sent him to what at that time was a hopeless outpost of desperation — Houston. Now full disclosure here — the Reds got Joe Morgan in return for May and Tommy Helms (another above-average middle infielder back in the day), but he wasn’t Joe Morgan the Hall of Famer at that point in his career, so you really can’t blame Lee if he was a bit bewildered when the Topps team arrived on the scene that spring.


If that expression on poor Lee May’s face doesn’t say “you traded me where???” then I don’t know what does.  And in classic Topps style, I’m pretty sure that the Astros logo on Lee’s helmet was painted in by the team back at the lab.  Yup, Lee May.  To his credit he kept on hitting, even in the Astrodome in front of crowds of 11,000 or so, but it was never the same for ole Lee.

A couple of others I found funny.  Take a look at the expression on Bobby Valentine’s face here.  In the spring of ’72 he was being touted as the next great Dodger, and everyone had high expectations (including I’m sure Bobby V) for what he would accomplish in Dodger Blue.


As sure as Lee May looked to me like he was about to burst into tears in his 1972 Topps card, the inimitable Bobby V is clearly announcing himself to the world in his card (by the way, I was always a fan of the “backhand reach” pose that Topps frequently used with middle infielders) with his best “Hey, look at me!” smile.  With the benefit of 45 years of history now at our disposable, what we can say with certainty is that the baseball world was getting an early glimpse at someone who would go on to distinguish himself as one of MLB’s biggest horse’s asses, first as a player and later as a manager (and yes, he got us to the 2000 series, but he also put on a fake nose and mustache in the dugout once, too — defense rests).

Not to be outdone, Billy Martin’s 1972 Topps offering speaks volumes.


Take a close look at Billy’s left hand resting on the bat.  Yup, he’s flipping Topps (and I suppose both 7-year-old me and 50-something-year-old me) the bird!  And again, armed with the benefit of the historical rearview mirror, we just know that’s no accident. While Bobby Valentine’s shit-eater of a smile only foreshadowed years of all-about-me, smartest-guy-in-the-dugout narcissism, Martin’s middle finger salute simply confirmed what all who had witnessed both his playing and managerial career to date in 1972 already knew — he was one of the all-time great jackasses of the game.

Only a couple more.  This seemingly harmless Dave Duncan card contains a jewel for those interested in obscure statistical anomalies.  Duncan was an above-average catcher with some pop for several great A’s teams, including their first World Series winner in 1972. However, he is perhaps best known for becoming one of the game’s most esteemed pitching coaches following the conclusion of his playing career, primarily working his magic on championship staffs managed by Tony LaRussa in Chicago, Oakland and St. Louis.  But for baseball wonks like yours truly, here’s what caught my eye:


In 1969 Dave Duncan recorded 127 AB’s for the A’s and hit .126.  Really?? He hit .126 and stuck around for over 120 AB’s??  Today he doesn’t last more than 10 games with that stat line, but back then the catchers were in the lineup for their gloves/arms and for the pitchers.  So you could appear in more than a third of your team’s games (58 in 1969 for Duncan) and not hit a lick.  Wow, not sure why this strikes me as amazing, but it does.

While on the subject of those great A’s teams of the early ’70’s, was there a cooler pitcher (heck, was there a cooler Major Leaguer) than Vida Blue?  From his name itself (kudos to his parents for coming up with “Vida”), to his off-the-hook 1971 stats as essentially a rookie (only 312 IP, 24-8 record with a 1.82 ERA and 8 shutouts, not to mention 301 K’s) that earned him both MVP and Cy Young awards, the guy was just bad ass.  Plus he could hit reasonably well for a pitcher and chose to run off the mound at the end of the inning during a time when starters always walked back to the dugout (shout out to Mel Stottlemeyer who also ran as I recall — I’m sure there are others, but I just remember Vida Blue and Mel).


And yes, this is the 1971 Topps (my personal favorite by the way, for those awesome black borders), and even though a year prior to my 1972 Time Machine destination, it just had to make it into this post for the peace sign (or at least what I like to think today was a peace sign).  Vida is still kicking around the Bay Area these days, primarily as a community ambassador for the Giants, with whom he resurrected his career in the late-’70’s, and he is roundly revered by all as simply a great guy, but to me he will always be an A’s starter with that peace sign in the air. Yup, so cool.

Last note from the Time Machine.  It’s interesting what memories get jogged loose when stepping back in time to another era.  Who remembers Cleo James?


Guessing this may be a darn small fan club.  Most of us baseball fans have that one game they remember that got them hooked.  Mine was on June 23, 1970 (thanks once again to for taking a random memory and finding the exact game when it took place), when the Mets were in the process of winning an exceptionally exciting afternoon tilt in extra innings against the Cubs, 12-10.  My memorable moment took place in the 5th, when the Cubs erased an 8-5 Mets lead with a rally that included a speedy Cleo James racing around from first on a Randy Hundley double to tie things at 8.

It was a bang-bang- play at the plate and as the ump signaled safe I raced off screaming to my parents about the injustices of my Mets losing a BIG lead (more foreshadowing here Mets fans about what my future as a diehard would so frequently feel like) and that the WORST PART was that the Cubs player who tied the game was CLEON JAMES.

Not the at-the-time clean shaven Cleon Jones of the Mets, but a faster, cooler Cleon who was part of the hated Cubs (did every team have a “Cleon” I wondered?), and who had just ruined my afternoon! I’m not sure which was more frustrating to me at the time, the loss of the lead or the patronizing way my parents tried to tell me I must be mistaken about the identity of the Cub who had scored.

There surely could not be another Cleon in the league, let alone one with the last name “James,” so similar to our Cleon’s, they explained to me. Try as I might, all I got was that “isn’t he cute” reaction that made me want to start kicking grownup shins with reckless abandon.  The fact that the following morning’s Star Ledger sports column and recap vindicated me (sort of, since his name was Cleo, not Cleon) did little to ease the pain.  At least the Mets had come back and won in extras. And I was hooked as a Mets fan and remember that sequence to this day.

Fast forward to May 1, 1972, somewhere near Madison, NJ.  My friend Roddy’s birthday party (he was a year younger than me and also a fledgling card collector and baseball fan, although through some bad decision-making ended up a fan of the Yankees) included a “colored peanut scavenger hunt” with peanuts painted colors spread around Roddy’s yard to be collected by the dozens of party attendees, with corresponding points allotted for the various colors, and totals to be tallied at the end (of course anyone reading knows the real reason for the hunt was so the kids would be tired and sleep on the car ride home).  Being a year older than most of Roddy’s other friends counted for a lot at that age, and somehow my peanut colors added up to the most points.

To this day I remember my Aunt Alida smiling at me as she came outside with the prize (she had a great smile, my Aunt Alida), saying “I had a feeling you might win something today” before tossing me one of those super, three-pack, clear plastic covered Topps packages. This was the Magnus Opus for us card collectors, and what made those “three-packs” particularly awesome was the whole see-through thing, meaning you could get an idea of which ballplayers were waiting for you inside those plastic vaults.  And on top of that first sleeve, there in all his glory, was Cleo James.  Still have the card above, and will always have that memory.

If you are sitting on any old cards and have some time to kill (or maybe a mood that needs to be turned around), I recommend getting into that Time Machine and seeing where it takes you.  Nothing but good destinations await.


Three Unrelated Things

1.Farewell Bruno Sammartino.


Sometimes an obscure news item can transport one in time.  I hadn’t thought about good ole Bruno and his WWWF championship reign that kicked off my early-teen years of the late-’70’s in what seems like forever. Wrestling was way, way, way off the grid back then. Those were the days of of sleepovers with buddies and trying to catch a few squared-circle matchups airing after midnight on WOR Channel 9 in the New York area.

Vince McMahon (my gosh, how old is he??) was host and announcer, and often the butt of crude jokes from the mouths of bad guy managers like “Classy” Freddy Blassie (“you pencil neck geek!”) and Captain Lou Albano. They were the larger than life characters that made hating the bad guys in all their “beer-belly hanging over their tights” glory (often with foreign objects tucked just out of sight of the easy to fool refs)  so easy for us young and impressionable fans.


These days WWE has become a mainstream, multi-billion dollar industry with huge television and merchandising deals, and it is all too easy for me to turn up my nose at those fanatics who tune in to all these staged extravaganzas.  Which is why it was healthy for me to get sent back to that time in my youth.  I was all in back then. I bought the magazines, my friends and I mimicked the moves (my buddy Palmer had a great Chief Jay Strongbow face — “the chief is confused!”) and we rooted hard for our favorites as if we were talking Mets and Yanks (does anyone else remember scouring the Star Ledger sports section for that small, buried paragraph on a Monday morning with the results from Saturday night’s card at Madison Square Garden that had finished too late to make it into the Sunday editions?).


It was good, clean fun, before girls, beer, etc. starting trumping WOR’s late-night programming on Saturday nights.  And Bruno was the king.  I remember fans crying legitimate tears when he finally lost the title (and me vehemently disputing the fact that it was all choreographed and “fake” with the nay-saying older kids in the neighborhood).

My guess is if you are reading this you can relate, whether you were a fan of that vacant look on George “The Animal” Steele’s face as his enormous tongue hung from a corner of his crooked mouth, or one who crowed “Polish Power” at the top of your lungs when Ivan Putski hurdled the top rope and made his entrance into the ring, or if you thought it was cool that Superstar Billy Graham’s manager (The Grand Wizard of Wrestling!) slathered baby oil on his overinflated biceps pre-bout (kinda just creepy today, but then again, the Grand Wizard was big-time creepy).  It was an hour of pure entertainment.  Thanks for the memories Bruno.


2. Not sold on the salt and pepper thing.  Tonight’s Mets comeback win against the Nationals was inspiring.  Maybe we have something here with this 2018 squad.  They don’t quit, the high character guys brought in over the winter are certainly panning out thus far, and (knock wood, knock wood, knock wood) the starting pitching could actually meet the lofty expectations of a year ago.

My one gripe (admittedly more of a gripe when we were down 4-2 after 7 tonight, than after we put up the 9-spot in the 8th) is this whole salt and pepper rallying symbol.  Sorry but it seems contrived to me. And while I really like what Todd Frazier has brought to the club (is there a Mets fan out there not psyched to have a real third-baseman in the lineup, and that the “David Wright could be back soon” charade is a thing of the past?), I feel like he came up with the salt and pepper idea sitting in a conference room sipping a latte with his agent back in January.


As much as I despise the Yankees, the whole “thumbs down” thing for them in 2017 was arrived at organically.  It was funny, just happened one day (at the expense of a stereotypically bitter Mets fan no less) and ended up being a legit “thing.”  The fact that Frazier got the ball rolling on that one makes me even more skeptical this season.  Is he now the “symbol guy.”  Handing out t-shirts?  We haven’t played game 20 out of 162 yet.  Sure, maybe we’ll play .700 ball throughout the season with no prolonged slumps, but I just have the feeling that at some point this could become an awkward albatross hanging over the clubhouse.

I mean, what if a couple of pitchers go down, Cespedes and Rosado topple over in a golf cart on an off day and Familia reverts to his 2017 form, not the 2015 reincarnation we are currently witnessing?  Say we are 55-70 in August (God forbid, but not completely unrealistic), and 10 games out of the wild card?  Do we still grind the pepper when we get a two-out base hit? Hopefully I’m dead wrong and simply stuck in that purgatory familiar to any Mets fan fearful of getting expectations too high after a good start.  I know, I know, I’ll probably be doing the darn thing by next week if the winning continues, but just sayin’.

3. If you are Billy Donovan, what do you do about Carmelo as this first-round series with the Jazz turns into a dogfight back in Salt Lake City? The Jazz are young, strong and fast. They play great team defense and move the ball well on offense, with this rookie Mitchell kid announcing to the NBA that his regular season wasn’t a fluke (even though he still finishes second in the Rookie of the Year poll — Ben Simmons is a beast). Down the stretch tonight, with the Thunder AT HOME, it looked like four on five when the Jazz had the ball.  Oklahoma City is that disadvantaged on the defensive end, and that’s with George, a plus-plus defender, on the court. And what’s (almost) sad is that this isn’t about Carmelo’s lack of effort on D anymore, it’s his absolute lack of ability.


I’ve always felt the Melo just didn’t care about defense (see photo above, beautifully illustrating what we Knicks fans witnessed on the defensive end during his tenure in NYC), but tonight it became apparent that he just can’t keep up.  And on offense he literally heaved two god-awful three-point attempts as the game clock was winding down and the Thunder were still hanging on to a final shred of hope.  He just can’t be the guy taking those shots anymore, especially not with Russ and Paul out there in full stud mode.

Donovan is cursed with a thin bench (that’s how you acquire the Paul Georges and Melos these days, by giving up your depth), and removing Anthony entirely would be met with lots of criticism from the jersey-buying, towel-waving Thunder fans who think they still have Melo from five years ago.  I stand by my call that if (and after tonight it appears a HUGE if) the Thunder escape the first round and ultimately face the Warriors that they will beat the Dubs.  The matchups work for them, but Melo needs to become part of the second unit — a late-in-his-career Bob McAdoo 2.0 — who can fill it up in spurts when their Big Two are getting a blow.  And that’s it.

Will be interesting, but having Carmelo on the floor when the game is hanging in the balance will cost Donovan and the Thunder this series.

Who Are These Guys?


You know what they say about good intentions.  As I set out planning my last post on MLB Brothers, my intention was to sprinkle in a few photos of one or two of the more obscure players I’d be bringing up over the course of that day’s discussion.  For example, the handsome devil above is none other than Henry Mathewson (aka Christy’s brother).  Projected as the batting practice pitcher on my All-Time MLB Brothers squad, a photo insert of young Henry circa  1906 would have added a little something extra to my post.  Not that my obscure references to hazy childhood memories aren’t already scintillating enough, that is.

Cleon Jones Pic

Unfortunately, I am a tech dinosaur. I blame it solely on lack of training. In fact, my high school graduating class was the final one able to escape graduation, diploma in hand, without having to take a mandatory computer science class.  And it shows.  Case in point, I recently allowed my euphoria over the launch of the Sports Attic blog to motivate me to drive to the local Apple store and purchase a new laptop. All the better to allow for posting arcane tidbits while channel surfing through multiple, simultaneously-scheduled sporting events.  That was about two weeks ago, and with the exception of the flukey insert of the Cleon Jones “mustache” card (above) from the 1975 Topps series in my inaugural blog entry, I’ve been flummoxed in my attempts to add pictures and photos ever since.


But look at me now (although I shaved at least year off my life expectancy with today’s second visit to the Apple store for instruction from an impatient 22-year-old technician)!  Above you see Gary Gentry, the actual starter of the first Mets game I ever attended (in 1971, not 1972 as I had erroneously believed for only 40 years or so), alongside Jim McAndrew (the guy I thought had been the starting pitcher that day). As previously noted, I never liked McAndrew for no particular reason, and the idea that he was the first starter I ever witnessed for the Mets at Shea was just…so…wrong.

I have to say that while neither had storied careers, the move to Gentry and away from McAndrew in my memory bank is actually a significant  uptick to my “first game story,” and I’m feeling overall pretty good about this late-in-life realization (thank you Not only did Gentry figure in the backstory of the infamous Nolan Ryan trade, but also was part of the key trade that led to the Mets facing off against the A’s in the 1973 World Series, when he and Danny Frisella were traded to Atlanta for Felix Millan and George Stone before the 1973 season. It remains to this day one of the few trades the Mets executed on during my childhood that was lopsided in our favor.


Which, perhaps more importantly to yours truly, allowed the smooth-fielding second-baseman Millan to turn double-plays with my second favorite Met player of that era, Teddy Martinez (above). Martinez actually had 263 AB’s in that World Series year of 1973, and another 334 in ’74 before moving on to the Cardinals. So he was a relevant contributor to those Mets rosters, but never as relevant as on that July day in 1971 when he absolutely owned the Houston Astros and their young starting pitcher, Ken Forsch.

And of course none of these discoveries would matter at all if I didn’t somehow remember over all these years that it was the lesser Forsch brother, Ken, on the hill against us in that first game of mine back in ’71.  And I remembered him simply because he was a “brother,” thus earning him and younger brother Bob consideration for my All-Time MLB Brother team. That they didn’t make the cut over Christy and Henry Mathewson, among other HOF brother pairings, is really besides the point.


So there it is.  Look for more photos going forward, and if I get really ambitious I’ll figure out how to have each player’s name become a hyperlink (I think that’s the term?) that will take the reader upon clicking it to the player’s lifetime stats.  And then we’ll move onto video clips, music, movies — the possibilities are absolutely endless!  Maybe Morristown High School was onto something when they started making their students take computer classes back in the ’80’s.


Baseball’s Best Bros

Funny how the mind plays tricks on us when we get to a certain age.  For years I’ve had etched in my memory that the first major league baseball game I attended was a matchup between the Mets and Astros at Shea Stadium back in 1972. What I remembered most clearly from that day was an extremely long trip to the ballpark (that included a car, train, subway and path ride), that I got to pick one friend to join us (Ricky Ruffino from the down the street), that my father almost careened over a railing in pursuit of a foul ball, and that Teddy Martinez had a big day at the plate.  Oh, and that the starting pitchers were Jim McAndrew for the Mets and Ken Forsch for the Astros.  In my mind, those facts were incontrovertible.

Here’s where it gets tricky.  I decided to look up the boxscore on Baseball (my new all-time favorite website), and refresh my memory on the more minute details of my first ever game that presently escape me.  Well it seems that while Forsch did start one game against the Mets in 1972, it was against Jon Matlack for the Mets.  I know Matlack didn’t start “my” game, because I also vividly recall having to mask my disappointment that it was one of the Mets “other” starters (McAndrew) on the hill for us that day (any fellow Mets fans from those days understand what I mean by “other”). To cement my certainty that the ’72 game wasn’t the one I was looking for, I only had to see that Buddy Harrelson started at short for New York and that Teddy Martinez didn’t even get into the game.

So I moved it back a year and checked our tilts against the ‘Stros in 1971.  Sure enough, there was Forsch starting a Sunday afternoon game in late July.  It made perfect sense, as my family would have likely only made the trip from New Jersey to Flushing on a weekend, plus there was Teddy Martinez starting at short and going 3-4 that day.  The ah hah moment for me, though, was that the game’s starting pitcher for my Mets was Gary Gentry, not McAndrew.

Yeah, I recall not liking Gentry much as a kid, and yeah he was one of the “other” starters of the staff (meaning he wasn’t Tom Terrific or Jerry Koosman).  There isn’t the time right now to go into how if I had known then as I watched Gentry start my maiden MLB voyage that that same Gary Gentry would be the guy the Mets would choose to hold onto the following spring, when ultimately deciding to part ways with Nolan Ryan, I would have hated him even more, and this whole sketchy memory issue would be moot.  But Nolan was still on the roster in 1971, and Gentry was just one of the “other” starting pitchers (although he had clinched the Mets first division title back in September of 1969 with a shutout of the Cardinals).

This McAndrew/Gentry realization shook me for a variety of reasons.  One, I tend to conclude that anything I remember is a stone-cold-lock of a fact.  Two, in my baseball fandom rearview mirror, I had for years been somewhat critical of my parents that it took them all the way to the 1972 season to get me out to Shea (1971 was actually about right as I think about it now, as I had arrived on my Mets lifetime bandwagon in 1970).  And three, what if I didn’t have the Ken Forsch part of the equation right?  I mean, I had McAndrew wrong, so why was I right on Forsch, an unremarkable innings-eater for forgettable Astros ball clubs throughout the ’70’s?

The answer is because he had a brother.  Bob Forsch of the Cardinals.  A slightly better (yet still unremarkable, other than for throwing a no-hitter — on opening day I think?) version of Ken who came on the MLB scene a couple of years later.  As a kid I was always fascinated by brothers in the big leagues.  I didn’t have a brother, and the idea just seemed so cool.  So Ken Forsch being a part of that fraternity of MLB brothers is what allowed me to correct and galvanize the proper details and memories of that first game of mine all those years ago.  And for the record, the game in question was played July 25th, 1971 (the day after my mom’s birthday, which I’m sure made the day even more fun and festive for us).  Attendance was 28,776 (still riding the championship attendance spike from ’69 for sure), and the Mets won, 7-6.  Cleon Jones (pre-mustache) hit his 10th homer for the Mets and Joe Morgan hit one out for the Astros (how do I NOT remember that??).

Anyway, the whole experience got me thinking about who were the best brother combinations, BY POSITION, in MLB history.  And like most posts on this blog, my conclusions are simply based on my memory, biases and personal preferences.  In doing some cursory research on this topic, I learned that there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of brothers that have played professional baseball at the highest level.

Narrowing it by position whittles it down considerably, but also poses some unique challenges, such as the fact that I couldn’t come up with a first baseman brother tandem, or one for shortstop.  I tried to shoehorn Carlos May (alongside brother Lee) onto first, but he really was an outfielder throughout his career.  Similarly, it just doesn’t seem right to put Billy Ripken at short just for the sake of getting Cal in the lineup.  Billy was a second baseman (and probably a career minor leaguer if Cal wasn’t his big brother).

The lineup is pitching heavy with lots of outfield options, but the infield is limited, with a couple of obscure selections (even if they are personal favorites) rounding out the squad.  So here goes my All Baseball Bro squad by position:

Catcher:  The Molinas.  No surprise here.  Even if I’ll never forgive Yadier for taking Aaron (effing) Heilman deep to win the 2006 NLCS for the Cards over my Mets, he is a stud and his big brothers would both start for the Mets today if they were in their prime.  No real competition, although I briefly wondered if Frank Torre ever caught?  Doesn’t matter — three Molinas lap the field and then some.

First Base:  Open, but did you know Dick Allen had a brother who played major league ball?  I sooo hoped he had also played some first base, but alas he was an outfielder.  And in an ultimate twist of nepotism fate, he finished his career with the White Sox alongside brother Dick (or was he Richie then?), where he hit .143 in 1972 and .103 (not a typo) in 1973. Yup, Hank Allen.  You can look it up.

Second Base:  This was a tight one between two capable yet mostly forgotten brother pairs — the Andrews brothers and the Doyles.  I opted for the Andrews brothers simply to bring up the ’73 World Series.  Mike Andrews joined the A’s at the tail end of the ’73 season (18 AB’s) to provide depth in the infield.  He was at the end of his career, but in his prime had some highly productive years, mostly for the Red Sox.  So he gets in Game 2 and boots a couple of balls for errors in the 12th inning, directly leading to the A’s 10-7 loss, evening the series one game apiece.  The teams then had an off day to travel cross country back to New York for Game 3, but A’s owner and nefarious villain, Charlie Finley, tries to “fire” Andrews for his transgressions at second before he can board the plane back east.  The A’s players pushed back, the press had an awesome story to fill in the off day void, and Andrews became the only A’s player to receive applause during introductions at Shea once he was reinstated for the beginning of the 3rd game.  He retired at the conclusion of the series, but he got his ring.  His brother Rob came up a couple of years later and played second for the Astros and Giants.  Apologies to Denny and Brian Doyle, but the Andrews/Finley saga is just too much fun.

Shortstop: Open, but maybe the Seagers make this one happen one day?

Third Base:  The Boyer Brothers by a landslide.  Ken did it all for some tremendous Cardinals teams of the 1960’s, while his brother Clete had one of the all-time great gloves at the hot corner for some solid Braves teams (plus you just gotta include a dude named “Clete” whenever possible).  Honorable mention to Graig Nettles and Jim Nettles.  Needed a little more from Jim, though, to get in this conversation more seriously.

Outfield: This one is fun.  You have to start with the gold standard — Joe, Vince and Dom DiMaggio.  Joltin’ Joe has had plenty written about him, but take a look at Dom’s stats when you have a minute. From 1941 to 1951 the youngest Dimaggio brother absolutely mashed AL pitching for the Sawx.  And Vince (the oldest) had some big power years for the Pirates before anyone was paying attention.  Hard not to follow up the Dimaggio Boys with the Waners.  Big Poison (Paul) and Little Poison (Lloyd) are both enshrined in Cooperstown, the only pair of brothers to be so honored (nuff said). From here I’d go to  the Alou’s (see the Molina’s above).  The fact that the three of them actually started together for the Giants in the outfield in the early-’60’s is just plain amazing, but they put up numbers, too.  Matty was among the league leaders in hits and batting multiple years in the late-’60’s and early-’70’s, and Jesus (as a kid I couldn’t get over the fact that there was a ballplayer actually named “Jesus”) was a solid fourth outfielder for multiple teams over a long and successful career.  Felipe, the eldest, who also appropriately had the most power in his bat, finished up with over 2100 hits and 200+ dingers.  Not to mention he went on to be an outstanding manager when his playing days were over.  The Alou’s are a no-brainer to round things out.

Here’s the thing, this position is deep with bro’s. We’ve got the Uptons with some big-time numbers.  The Conigliaros have quite a story to tell.  And who would ever want to leave out the Canseco boys?  Jose and Ozzie…SMH. And speaking of discrepancy of talent among brothers, no list of outfield brothers is complete without Hank and Tommie Aaron.  Just for good measure we’ll add on the Gwynns — Hall of Famer and all-time great Tony, and his brother Chris, who must have been holding the door for his big bro when they were giving out the batting gloves up in the sky.

Pitchers:  Talk about depth.  Let’s start with the Hall of Famers with strong brothers right beside them:  Gaylord and Jim Perry; Greg and Mike Maddux; Phil and Joe Niekro; Dizzy and Paul Dean (don’t think he really called himself Daffy); and of course Christy and Henry Mathewson.  The Mathewsons warrant a closer look through that nepotism lens once again, as poor Henry only lasted two seasons — in 1906 he went 0-1 while appearing in only two games (he did complete one of them), and in 1907 he only got into one game, logging merely an inning.  His addition to the big club roster in ’06 by the New York Baseball Giants coincidentally (or maybe not) followed the third of three successive 30-win seasons by big brother Christy. That’s called leverage.

Then there’s the soon to be HOFer Pedro Martinez and his big brother Ramon (no slouch himself); Rick and Paul Reuschel; Andy and Alan Benes; Jeff and Jared Weaver; and the aforementioned Forsch brothers. In the pen there isn’t much to add, but I will add in those knuckle headed Mahler brothers, who always seemed to be throwing at Mike Piazza back in the  ’90’s, just because.

If I was forced to select a five-man rotation out of this embarrassment of pitching brother riches, I’d have to go with the Mathewsons, Maddux’s, Perrys, Deans and Martinez’s.  Henry Mathewson can throw the BP.

And since by definition we have at least two brothers manning each position, I suppose we could always throw both Boyers on the left side and go without a shortstop, and maybe an extra Dimaggio, Molina or Alou could cover first for us.


Who’s Next

I wish I felt as good about the pending answer to the question of “Who’s Next” that faces the New York Knickerbockers top brass on this Thursday morning as I do about the sunny weather I’m enjoying as I sit in Pasadena waiting for my next meeting to begin.  Or as I did when I used to listen to The Who’s hit album of the same name back in my teenage years.

But it is the Knicks, and there are so many variables that give me a stomach ache when I think about the team’s upcoming process for finding yet another head coach of this cursed organization. So rather than go too far down that specific rabbit hole (plenty of time to speculate on the “who” in the days ahead), here’s a few random thoughts (two NBA, one MLB) to think about on this sunny morning:

1. What did Jeff Hornacek do to deserve all this?  And I don’t mean the firing.  Mills and Perry were completely within their rights, and probably making the correct long-term call in taking Horny out last night/this morning. They need their own guy. And he was just a really poor fit for New York (and I truly don’t believe I’m exercising revisionist hindsight when I say that we all could see there was no chance of this ending well for him when he took the job a couple of years ago, on the heels of Steve Kerr clueing us all in to his excellent judgement by running from the job when everyone thought he was the guy).  Horny never had a chance of making this a success.

All Hornacek did during his tenure at the helm was display high integrity, honesty with players and the press and toughness befitting his outstanding NBA player career (take a hike Joaquin Noah), all the while dealing with Big Chief What’s-his-name; the umpteenth chapter of Carmelo’s primer on how to kill a head coach; a staff he only partially selected; and most recently devastating injuries to his two best players that cratered the glimmer of hope that had emerged early in the 2017-18 campaign. Guys like Horny belong on the sidelines somewhere in the NBA and I agree with Perry when he said at this morning’s presser that the fired coach will land on his feet.  Look for him in a smaller market having a big impact taking some unexpected team deep into the postseason in the not too distant future.  Atlanta?  Dallas? Orlando?

Sure, like most of us when we wake up following an unsuccessful venture, there are many things he could have handled better. But I’m left with the impression that this is the type of guy who is honest with himself on self-appraisal and I’m guessing he comes out of this stronger for the experience.  And as much as I hate “I told you so’s” — to my friend out there who happens to be a close bud of Horny’s — I told you to counsel him to run, not walk, from James Dolan back when news of his hiring first leaked out, lest a pox befall him and all those close to him.  A rare time SportsBro is sorry he was right. Good luck, Jeff!

2.  How the hell are the Cleveland Indians 7-5 this morning?  Is it too early to award Francona the Manager of the year Award (sorry Mickey Callaway, but we can credit Tito for your success, too, kinda, can’t we?)? Yes, this morning the Indians are sitting TWO GAMES OVER .500 after posting a lineup with the following batting averages last night against the Tigers:

*Lindor .184; Kipnis .109; Ramirez .146; Brantley .235; Encarnacion .146; Alonso .184; Gomes .179; Naquin .235; and Zimmer .188.  YIKES!

And this was AFTER they scored five runs in a win over the Tigers last night.  My gosh.  Yes, they have terrific pitching, and sure the AL Central is putrid, but still.  Buy calls on the Indians hitters RIGHT NOW.  They might win 110 this year (but here’s a guess that Indians fans are already sweating who their first round opponent might be in the playoffs — can anyone say Ohani and Trout??).  Yeah the weight of that piano-sized baton handed to them by the Cubs year before last may be feeling mighty heavy right about now in Cleveland.  Add to that the karma Gods must have been paying attention when the NBA rigged LeBron’s title in Cleveland two years ago with that WWE-inspired Draymond Green suspension.  The city of Cleveland may have won big on that one, but the micro-curse transferred to the Indians and it may take some time to get it lifted.  So here’s hoping the Indians and their fans enjoy the summer (maybe another consecutive games winning streak to celebrate that no one will remember by their annual October ouster?), and hopefully Tito and the staff stay intact into the postseason and bring home a title (especially if their playoff run includes a total annihilation of the Bronx Bombers along the way).

3. A reason to cheer for Carmelo?  Yup, I think so.  One of the members of my personal “Least Favorite All Time Starting Five” (stay tuned for that upcoming post), I didn’t like him in his one year at Syracuse (to this day he gets too much credit for carrying the Cuse to the title during his one and done Freshman year, when it was the seniors on that squad that were the differentiators), felt he was an irrelevant gunner during his time with the Nuggets, never making good teams better and ultimately killing his coach in the process, and of course watched him underperform on the big NY stage from Day 1, while deftly deflecting any blame and taking a couple more coaches out along the way.

But man, I can not agree more whole heartedly or respect and appreciate more deeply his view on Russ Westbrook’s shameless stat padding and rebound “stealing” that got him his second annual “season triple-double.”

To me, this accomplishment is about as irrelevant and and somehow less meaningful than Kobe scoring 60 in his last game as a Laker.  When BOTH teams on the court are overtly rooting on a particular stat-based outcome, the meaning is zero.  Less than zero.  Just bad for basketball, but in this mob-culture-like NBA present day, the average player genuflects to the LeBrons and Westbrooks out of fear of somehow alienating them and ruining their chance to latch on to some residual fame or benefit attached to riding their coat tails.  Give me a few more hard picks and pointed elbows during the game, and a little less of the group selfies among combatants only seconds after the contest concludes.

And while we are at it, give me Oscar Robertson’s seasonal triple-double as the gold standard forever.  Doing it before it is a “thing” is the real deal, and yes, I recognize rebounds were easier to come by in many ways back then. Still, the Big O did it exactly as Russ professes he is doing it today — in the context of being the best player on the court doing everything he can to help the team win.

Watching OKC’s supporting players pull up on every loose carom so Russ can grab it himself, thus enabling his quest for personal stats and the accompanying slot in the record books is shameless and hurts the game and those of us who cherish the stats that act as mileposts in the history of our fandom.  So way to go Melo, laughing out loud on court at his teammate’s selfish actions and correctly calling him out for what it is with the press — “stealing” another rebound while teammates and opponents all stand around hoping they somehow get captured in the ESPN video of the “historic” moment. Arrgghh.

Unfortunately, all that being said, Mr. Westbrook is both a freak and a force.  Maybe the best player in the league today (different than MVP, by the way). Bringing in Paul George was a brilliant move by OKC and he makes a much more complimentary and effective wingman to Westbrook than KD ever did.  The Thunder will be a tough out in the playoffs, and if they somehow face off with my hometown Dubs, I see them winning — easily.

That’s it for today.  Would love to hear your thoughts.

NY Sports Fan Grades

I’m terribly biased, but I do happen to believe that New York City boasts the best sports fans in the world.  Yes, a broad, bold statement, based on sentiment and lots of hometown exposure, and certainly not scientific, agreed upon or provable.  But hey, it’s my opinion based on my person sample size, so we will go with it. As an example, I read and see a lot on the news about the rabid nature of international soccer fans with the accompanying hooliganism, death threats, kidnapping, etc., so I suppose there is a whole extra gear beyond what we see here in the United States in the four major sports with respect to fanaticism, but factoring in that I’m not all that interested in soccer and have no firsthand experience in fans beyond our borders, we’ll stick only with the states. One-plus states adding in North Jersey, really.  Oh, and Long Island, which is more of a sovereign nation

When I think about what attributes constitute a great sports fan, I start with a deep knowledge and understanding of the game. Then add in passion (rabid passion even better), objectivity, a solid grasp of franchise history and key defining moments both good and bad. All that along with any unique characteristics that allow the collective group to stand out above and beyond the ordinary, run of the mill fan base, and we arrive at my definition of awesome.

Like most grading systems, this one will be both subjective and biased, with an emphasis on reinforcing all the stereotypes I’ve built in my own mind over nearly 50 years of rooting for (and against — yes, brace yourself Yankees fans) New York sports teams. So for instance, the elegant simplicity of “Let’s Go Mets” is without question a plus, while the whole Judge’s Chamber charade gets scored down significantly.  Likewise, I applaud the Islanders fans long-ago chant of “19-40” for both it’s effectiveness in cutting to the bone of their arch-rival Rangers fanatics, while also showing a tip of the hat to their knowledge of NHL history (bummer Messier had to come along and blow up what was the absolute best chant in the NHL back in ’94).

In deference to those Yankees fans who may elect to read this post in its entirety before deleting my blog for good, I’ll approach the list in alphabetical order, starting with:

Brooklyn Nets: About the only positive I can see in their move to Brooklyn a few years back is that it moves them to first in the alphabetical listing of New York sports franchises.  Gotta finish first in something, I suppose. They’ve been everywhere — Long Island, East Rutherford, Piscataway, the Meadowlands — and other than the Dr. J run of the ABA ’70’s, which precluded one of the most disastrous and shameless sell-offs of talent in professional sports history  (essentially casting a lifelong pox on the franchise that even the Jason Kidd-fueled run of the early-2000’s couldn’t erase), the Nets have been all about cellar dwelling. And they do the cellar big,  with not just poor but often league-worst type records.  The gypsy routine has made it hard for the fans to gel and pull together an identity.  No signs of that changing any time soon.  Grade:  D

New Jersey Devils: In the early-’90’s this franchise and it’s fans faced the potential of a dank future much like that of the Nets.  However, Lou Lamoriello, Scott Stevens and Martin Brodeur forged a complete 180 for the franchise, delivering multiple Cups to Exit 16W and as one would expect, the fans responded favorably.  However, three Stanley Cups, a model organization and annual title contention should engender a more rabid following, even in the current lean years, and the apathy of late doesn’t reflect well on the fans.  Not sure how I feel about the move to Newark and the Prudential Center, but it doesn’t seem like it’s helped in any way.  The team has also totally blown it by not playing up one of the all-time great urban legends — the Jersey Devil.  The fact that this exceedingly creepy and mysterious creature’s tale is basically unknown to most of their fans (and EVERYONE not from New Jersey) is a huge swing and a miss by their marketing department. Grade:  B-minus

New York Giants: Self-proclaimed gold standard of all New York sports fandom.  They are great fans, no doubt — passionate, knowledgeable, steeped in the history of a terrific franchise, tickets handed down from generation to generation.  But isn’t there just a touch of a smug feel to all of this?  I mean sure, it’s easy to feel superior when you play in a division that boasts barely-literate fans of the Eagles, Redskins and Cowboys, but the Maras didn’t invent the darn game for God’s sake. Not to mention that there’s this whole lack of clarity as to whether they belong to New York or New Jersey (and oh yes, it matters).  Add in the whole taking themselves too seriously vibe that permeates so many aspects of the organization (I’m sorry but I just didn’t care that much that Eli Manning’s streak was broken, or that Odell Beckam Jr. may need a talking to from the owner…).  Okay, maybe these are just nits, because the legacy of Kyle Rote Sr., Jim Lee Howell (great trivia answer, by the way, to the question “who was the head coach that had Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi as his defensive and offensive coordinators”), through Tittle, Gifford, Huff, Tarkenton, Spider Lockhart (had to include since he had one of the cooler names in NFL history), LT, et. al. make it hard to begrudge the collective pride of these terrific fans.  Grade: A-minus

New York Islanders: I lived on “the Island” for two years in 2004 and 2005.  Went to one game at Nassau Coliseum.  Against the Rangers. The Islanders were terrible at the time. Standing room only.  They won and the fans went absolutely batshit.  In a word, it was “awesome.”  Bring them back home to The Island from Brooklyn — now.  Grade:  B+ (only because I’m no longer a hockey fan — see Rangers section below)

New York Jets: Okay, full disclosure I’m a Jets fan.  My history as a football fan defies some of my own fundamental principals around franchise allegiances (and the hypocrisy of changing lanes past the age of 12), but what can I say?  J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS.  Living off the fuel of selling an organization’s soul to steal Super Bowl III from Unitas and the Colts, this group of fans gets after it every Sunday.  They’re crass, rude, uber aggressive and sometimes cross the decency boundaries, but they are also knowledgeable, realistic in the failings of the organization (and the fact that the curse probably will outlive all of us rooting today), and live and die by even the most seemingly inconsequential front office maneuverings (cue to those scenes of Jets fans absolutely losing their collective minds year after year back when the NFL held it’s draft in NYC — can anyone say “and with the 14th pick, the New York Jets select Jeff Lageman, Defensive End out of the University of Virginia”) of their beloved Gang Green.  Slight point deduction for the deification of Fireman Ed, but nobody’s perfect.  Grade: A-minus

New York Knicks:  DEE-FENSE! Why is it that the most severe of the nether rings of Dante’s Sports Fan Inferno are reserved for those that least deserve to be tortured?  The NBA fixes the damn 1985 draft lottery just to restore relevance to their dying New York basketball franchise and drops Patrick Ewing in our collective lap (yes “our” — I’m a Knicks fan if you haven’t guessed), only to see Michael Jordan come along and rip our heart out every year of Patrick’s prime (and then pass the baton to Hakeem Olajuwan for a year while MJ was off on his gambling-motivated baseball holiday). As a diehard fan, this one hurts me the most, mainly because my earliest memories of basketball are the spectacular three-finals-in-four-years, two-championship-winning Knicks of the early-’70’s.  The organ, the deafening chants, Willis, Clyde, Red (hell we even loved Dean Meminger and Harthorne Wingo!), nightly sellouts for the fans to enjoy a clinic on team-first basketball, only to give way to Starbury, Eddy Curry, Big Chief Triangle failing as an antiquated, overpaid team President and most fatally He Who Shall Not Be Named — yeah, James Dolan. It is hard coming to terms with the fact that 8-year-old me may be the last me to witness the Knicks win a title. Certainly can’t blame the fans.  Grade: A

New York Mets: C’mon we’ve got a jingle for gosh sakes! “Meet the Mets, meet the Mets…” (Yes, “we” — for those of you scoring at home, the Knicks, Mets and Jets share favored nation status among franchises in Sportsattic posts.) “East side, west side, everybody’s coming down…” The Mets were created to fill the void of the departed Giants and Dodgers but became so much more than that.  From Casey’s lovable losers to Gil’s Miracle Mets to the Tugger’s Ya Gotta Believe to Darryl, Doc, Kid, Mex and Davey’s swagger and 116 (counting playoffs and World Series) wins in ’86, the fans ooze uniqueness and character.  Another curse resides here though, as we all traded our collective souls to the baseball Gods as Mookie’s ball rolled down that first base line toward Billy Bucks that October night in ’86 (and oh by the way — I’d do it again tomorrow, even if does mean we’ll never get another parade). And now here we remain, through the mismanagement, bad trades (Nolan, Amos Otis and Singleton — even if it did get us Rusty in return), and last place finishes, we keep coming back for more, optimism always brimming.  We’re 4-1 this year, so clearly this is our year!  Grade: A

New York Rangers: Disclaimer here — hockey is the achilles heel of the Sportsattic arsenal of sports knowledge, history and opinions.  I’ve only been to two Rangers games, rooted against them from across the Hudson as a Devils fan during the ’90’s, and stopped following hockey (other than an occasional check of the standings — are the Devils actually in the playoffs this year?) after the league flushed an entire campaign during the strike season of 2004-2005.  All that being said, I have always admired the intensity and depth of Rangers fans from afar and if I reenter the hockey fan stratosphere one day, this could be my adopted team.  Grade: B+ (only because I’m not a hockey fan–see grade for Islanders above)

New York Yankees: The Evil Empire.  They are like rooting for the S&P 500. Or Mark Zuckerberg.  Too easy for their fans.  Has been for years — Ruth/Gehrig, Dimaggio/Dickey, Mantle/Berra/Maris, Reggie/Thurman, the Core Four…puh-lease?  Are you kidding me?  Try being a diehard when Willie Montanez and Steve Henderson are the big bats in the middle of your lineup, then we can talk! (Sorry, rantings of a scarred and bitter Mets fan.)  The sense of entitlement among the Pinstripe Faithful makes hating them easy for the rest of us.  Yes, I see all the banners, but Michael Kay and John Sterling alone take you out of the “A-grade” category.  Add in the obscene ticket prices in the lower bowl and the fact that you TORE DOWN the House That Ruth Built?  I’ll stop there, as there is a lot of fodder for future posts here and I need to keep some powder dry.  As my math teacher once said to me as I attempted to argue a grade during my senior year of high school — “it’s a C and you’re lucky to get that.”  Grade: C

Remember, subjective and biased, but also collectively the best fans in the world (or my world, anyway).





The San Fran Fan

Yesterday was the San Francisco Giants 2018 home opener.  It was the eighth Giants home opener since I became a resident of the Bay Area back toward the end of 2010, and the contrast versus the first one I was in town for was dramatic.  To be fair, the 2011 home opener was following the first World Series win in San Francisco Giants history, as well as the franchise’s first World Series win since Leo Durocher, Willie Mays and Dusty Rhodes led the 1954 NEW YORK Giants past the 111-win Cleveland Indians.  So you might say there was a bit of pent up energy among the San Francisco fan base.  Fair enough.

But man was 2011 something to behold.  I’ve been going to New York Mets home openers since the early ’90’s and there is always a special feel to the day.  Hope springs eternal, optimism is in the air, and for one day anyway, everyone is in first place.  The city of San Francisco on Opening Day 2011 was over the top and beyond all of that–times ten.  It was the circus coming to town, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in midtown Manhattan and Lollapalooza rolled into one.  Everyone, and I mean everyone (even the local cops methinks?) had the orange colors out and their cool SF insignia was adorned on everything from ties and cuff links to hats, scarfs, socks elevator banks and pants.  It seemed every third person was wearing one of those furry Panda hats (in honor of that repulsive, social deviant Pablo Sandoval) that in the years to come I would grow to despise (despite actually forking over $45 bucks one cold July night to buy one for my mother-in-law before a frigid, evening tilt against the hated Dodgers).  Bands were playing, and the sense of warmth as the entire Bay Area community came together in celebration of the Baseball Giants was actually pretty cool to experience for this transplanted New Yorker so used to blase, albeit hardcore and knowledgeable Mets and Yankees fans. (Can one be both blase and hardcore?  Yeah, that was us.)

Anyway, I can’t remember if the Giants won that day, but I know 2011 was one of their “off years” during that incredible run of even-year World Series titles of 2010, 2012 and 2014.  So now fast forward to yesterday, as 2018’s San Francisco home baseball season launched, and the differences were notable.  As far as contrasts go, I have to start with the fact that the Giants finished last in 2017.  “Dead-ass last” I believe is the technical term.  Everything that can go wrong for good franchises did.  All their core players seemed to grow old at the same time.  The bullpen sprung leaks everywhere and the ace, Madison Bumgarner, as beloved a face of the franchise, left-handed pitcher as you’ll find anywhere these days (with superhuman postseason stats to more than justify the reverence), missed almost all of the season after taking a header on a dirt bike on an off day early in the 2017 campaign.  However, like most opening day fans, the San Fran faithful were optimistic (if not a bit subdued) following an offseason of significant roster retooling (this skeptical New Yorker would point out that most of the new additions to the SF squad are has-beens currently being overpaid today for successful years in the past padding stats for other franchises — hello, Andrew McCutcheon —  but I digress), and rightly so.  Every baseball fan owns an inalienable right to optimism around the Home Opener.

The Giants lost to the Mariners (interleague matchup for a home opener, by the way, is pure trash — get rid of interleague play all together as far as I’m concerned and take the DH with it while you are at it), and it was a quiet, kinda sad fan base that boarded the Bart train home along with yours truly, heading back to the East Bay at the end of the day. If one wasn’t a baseball fan and aware that it had been the home opener, there was nothing noteworthy going on in the city to give away the occasion.  Dead-ass last will do that, and it seemed the locals had already begun to sink back into their 2017 funk. However, this stark contrast between 2011 and 2018 got me to thinking about how fans of different cities truly have their own collective personalities and styles.  Sometimes these fan bases mirror the attitudes of the cities or geographic regions themselves, but not always.

Since the Bart Train that represents my stream of consciousness is already heading down this track, let’s start with San Francisco fans.  To appropriately set the stage for my upcoming comments, let me reiterate that I’ve lived in the Bay Area for going on eight years now, and both consider myself and am totally considered by those around me to be  a “newcomer.”  I’m not certain when one converts to a local, but it must happen at some point in time, since basically everyone in San Francisco came from somewhere else. So with this caveat that I’m not “one of them,” but that I’m also not one of those bitter transplants we’ve all met that hates the local fans, here are some of my observations:

They aren’t shameless homers or front-runners, but boy do they like waving their pennants.  By and large the fans out here are solid in their knowledge.  The teams (Giants, A’s, Niners, Raiders, Warriors — leaving out Sharks here as there is an ongoing debate as to whether San Jose is officially part of the Bay Area — a topic that really doesn’t interest me that much, but will cause the Sharks to be excluded from this post) have rich histories with multiple championship banners (think Walsh 49ers, current Warriors, even-year Giants, Charlie Finley A’s in the ’70’s, Bash Brother A’s, Al Davis and the Silver Black, etc.), several near-misses (anyone else take pleasure in the fact that the polarizing, monstrous hat-sized Barry Bonds never won a World Series?) and the colorful characters that make up most of our fandom patchwork quilts of sporting memories.  During my time out here, the Bay Area has experienced an enormously successful run from all of their sports franchises.  The A’s had some surprisingly strong, low-budget teams make playoff runs, further cementing the genius of Billy Beane, the Giants had the aforementioned even-year dynasty, the Niners rode the Harbaugh wave (talk about polarizing) to a Super Bowl near-miss behind Colin Kaepernick (did someone say polarizing?), the Raiders almost got good a couple of years ago and now are shooting for one final good-bye run with Jon Gruden before departing for Vegas, and of course the Warriors.  The Dubs.  One dubious Draymond Green suspension (sure, the NBA was totally not playing favorites and didn’t want the TV ratings from extra finals games, not to mention the feel-good Cleveland Breaks the Title Drought headlines, yeah, right) from a sure three-peat in the NBA finals (and maybe a fourth this year, although it seems injuries and questionable bench signings of coach killers with nicknames like Swaggy P of all things, may cause them to fall just short this year), the Warriors have become Goliath in the NBA and the Bay Area fan bandwagon is so crowded right now that we should be able to hear the axle break at Oracle Arena all the way from out here in Walnut Creek.

So here’s my issue.  These fans just don’t win well.  At some point in time don’t you need to act like you’ve been there before?  I’ll give you an example.  For Christmas this year my Sportsattic family gave me four tickets to the Knicks annual sojourn west to play the Dubs in Oakland in January.  Forgetting for a minute that these may be the most obscenely overpriced sporting event tickets in the entire world right now (so bad that I sometimes border on rooting for a tech-wreck market decline a la 2000-2002 simply to bring ticket price levels back to the more acceptable overpriced level consistent with the rest of the league), I was excited to see the game.  Porzingis hadn’t blown up his knee yet (although the punk still sat out the game with a hangnail or something — poor 22-year-old needed a night off), so I thought it could be marginally competitive for a few quarters anyway.  Even without KP my Knicks led most of the first half before one of the Warriors’s patented third-quarter runs turned things into the romp the home crowd has come to expect as their nightly birthright.

As the Dubs lead expanded past 20 and a parade of Knicks I’d never heard of checked in and out of the game, the home crowd remained in a fever pitch on the edge of their collective seats.  At one point with a minute or so left in the third, Steph Curry (an eminently likable star, by the way) hit what felt like his 20th three-pointer of the game pushing the lead to what may as well have been 70 points agains the badly undermanned, not-very-talented, waving-the-white towel Knicks.  The crowd erupted like it had never before seen a three-pointer! And the celebration was genuine, with high fives all around, uncontrollable giggles of good fortune slobbered among bro-hugging young men — you would have thought someone had just announced to the crowd that world peace had been reached and that all concessions would be free for the remainder of the season based on their collective reaction.


When good fortune hits the Bay Area home teams.  During the Giants runs to supremacy in 2010, 2012 and 2014 I was always shocked, not by the sellouts (lots of good teams pack them in when things are good), but by the fact that the stands remained packed for nine full innings at every home game.  No one leaves. And true to San Francisco lore, a lot of these were night games where it got damn cold (cue the fluffy Panda Hat purchases).  And if in the home half of some 8th inning a Giant jacked a two-run dinger, upping their lead from 6-1 to 8-1 off some no-name, number-76-on-the-uni, reliever just trying to get enough outs to get to the end of the game, the crowd would rise in unison and celebrate as though Bobby Thompson had just homered off Ralph Branca again, while simultaneously an announcement had been made that Joe Montana would be donning a fluffy Panda Hat and hanging out at the pub across the street buying beers and signing autographs for all interested (alas, many of the San Fran pennant wavers wouldn’t get that reference — the Thompson/Branca part, we ALL know and love Joe).  And God forbid the bedlam if the homer had been hit by Hunter Pence…smh…

So all in all, a good fan base.  Wouldn’t mind a little tempered enthusiasm when the rout is on, but that’s probably wishful thinking based on what I’ve seen these last eight years.  And despite my feelings on the matter, it definitely beats a disinterested fan base (hello Padres fans) or no fan base at all (didn’t we contract the Tampa Bay Rays twenty years ago?). Real fans make it fun, and let’s face it, winning makes everything taste a lot better.  For their sake, I hope the winning continues, because they ARE good fans (plus selfishly, happy locals make the Bay Area a better place to live and work for me), but just once, please skip the end zone celebration and just hand the ball to the ref.



Remembering Cleon

I’m a lifelong Mets fan.  Some may be exiting the blog based on that alone.  A diehard, long-suffering, pick an adjective fan of the other New York baseball club.  Two World Series titles since our inception into the league in 1962, as a poor man’s replacement for the beloved and recently departed Dodgers and Giants.

I was born in 1965 and my earliest memories are of games in 1970, so I missed the Miracle Mets season of ’69 and was still a couple years away from the Ya Gotta Believe year of ’73.  When I look back now, I realize I probably became a Mets fan because of that recent championship combined with the fact that the Yankees were in a prolonged period of irrelevance, that I would have enjoyed immensely if I had realized what was to follow in the ’90’s when my personal torture at the hands of the Evil Empire reached it’s pinnacle.

My favorite player was Tommie Agee.  Again, not sure why.  Tom Seaver was the star, and we all liked Seaver, but he was never my favorite.  Buddy Harrelson had his supporters, and young Nolan Ryan (yes, his trade will almost certainly be fodder for a future post) fascinated with the huge fastball and the occasional boxscore that included double-digit walks.  But Agee was my favorite.

And his running mate was Cleon Jones.  Agee in center, Cleon in left, and a rotation of Swoboda, Shamsky, Singleton and others rotating through right.  Much was spoken and written about how Agee and Jones were both from Mobile, Alabama.  Five- and six-year-old me envisioned them having walked to school together and in all likelihood sharing a bunkbed in their New York City apartment that must have been located right next door to Shea Stadium, as I understood the world back in the early-’70’s.  Agee hit home runs, had the famous World Series catches from ’69 that everyone talked about, stole bases and drank beer after the games in his undershirt as a guest on Kiners Korner.  He was easy to like and to this day his number 20 is my favorite in my Mets fan memory.

But what about Cleon? Other than the fact that I found it interesting that he threw left-handed and batted righty, I found him completely unremarkable.  I had read how he caught the final out of the ’69 series (a lazy fly to left hit by future all-time great manager Davey Johnson of the Orioles), and later in life learned that part of the remarkable Miracle Mets run of 1969 included Gil Hodges (Hodges is somehow beyond Davey in the pantheon of Mets managers — immortal?  Too much?  Nah, immortal is right.) pulling him mid-inning off the field after loafing after a fly ball, but beyond that only one thing now stands out about him as I look back on those days — and I blame the mustache.

First, though, to give credit where credit is due, the guy could hit.  He nearly led the league in ’69, hitting .340, which stood for a couple of decades as the best a Mets player had ever posted over a full season.  In ’71 he hit .319.  His home run and RBI totals were subpar for a middle of the order power guy, but always respectable given these were the Mets, who have spent my lifetime losing 3-2 games.  In the World Series of 1973 he led the Mets with 5 runs scored and hit .286 playing all seven games (and yes, Yogi gave the A’s that series by messing up his starting rotation, but we’ll save that for the future, too).  That .286 was second on the team only to Rusty Staub’s scorching .423 playing with basically one arm (another future post). Cleon came back in 1974 to hit .282 with 13 HR’s and 60 RBI’s as the primary starter in left field once again at the age of 32.

But back to the mustache.  The early-1970’s A’s were paid off by their eccentric owner, Charlie Finley, to grow mustaches to add a little old-time baseball panache to the once-moribund team.  When that team then went on their three-peat World Series run from 1972-1974 (beating us in 7 in 1973 — hello, Yogi), the whole mustache thing took on added significance.  It was the ’70’s, with bell bottoms, groovy swingers, Yankee pitchers swapping wives and apparently our Mets felt it, too.  If you take a look at the Topps 1975 baseball card series, previously clean shaven Mets like Gerry Grote, Bud Harrelson and Cleon all popped up with newly minted mustaches.  Cleon and his new mustache unfortunately took this whole embracing the Freedom ’70’s thing one step too far, and as 9-year-old me was pulling a stick of chewing gum off his new baseball card in May of that year, Cleon was getting arrested in St. Petersburg, FL for indecent exposure.  Turns out he had “fallen asleep” in a station wagon down there with a 21-year-old female acquaintance (with marijuana in her possession) when the police came upon him.  He was barefoot (the story he told cops was they met at a party and ran out of gas while driving her home — shocker that one didn’t fly), which triggered the indecent exposure charge, and boy did it make headlines.

The New York media was besides itself over it’s unexpected good fortune, and an unforgiving Mets ownership group (obviously warming up for their upcoming war with Tom Seaver that led to his banishment to Cincinnati — yes, another future post) fined Cleon $2000 (a lot of money, even for ballplayers, in 1975), humiliated him into a public apology and then tortured him by letting him rot on the bench until ultimately releasing him later that season after an altercation over playing time with Mets manager (and future Yoohoo pitchman) Yogi Berra.  He had a cup of coffee with the White Sox the following year, but he was done.

What happened?  Sure there’d been the red flag of the altercation with Hodges in ’69, but beyond that he was a model of consistency, with both his numbers and his just-below-interesting presence.  Had to be the mustache.  He was feeling it.  The sexual revolution of the ’70’s.  The near miss at a second World Series title in ’73.  The A’s were getting all the magazine covers and baseball Annie’s with their colorful unis and their mustaches and he had to get in the act.  And he did it so, so, so…poorly.  I mean, a station wagon?

So it really is a shame.  The guy was our first offensive “star.” One of a handful of guys that started on both of our first two World Series squads.  And when I think back all I remember is “indecent exposure.”  In a station wagon.  What a shame.

Cleon Jones Pic