Mack Brown goes for two

Mack Brown/YT grab

North Carolina football coach Mack Brown showed guts going for the win against number one ranked Clemson on Saturday. Let me add a disclaimer here. I have always been a big Mack Brown fan, especially admiring the job he did at Texas. In fact, I thought he unfairly got the boot there, after accepting the school president’s offer to coach one more season, only to be given his walking papers, when a new regime came in.

Anyway, back to the game. Brown, 68, after taking a hiatus, is back on the coaching sidelines where he belongs, returning to NC, where he once coached. Not only has he made an immediate, positive impact on the Tar Heels’ program, he had them in position to knock off the defending national champions.

After scoring a TD with a minute and change left in the game, the Tar Heels trailed, 21-20. Go for the tie and hope for overtime or gamble and go for the two and the win? Brown went for the two and came up short, Clemson dodging its first loss of the year.

Brown and Swinney have ties

That this thrilling ending happened between schools coached by Brown and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney adds to the intrigue. When Swinney had the “interim” tag removed as coach of Clemson, he reached out to several coaches for advice. Only one returned his call: Mack Brown. Not only that, Brown invited Swinney and his staff to Texas and showed them how he does things. Now that’s class.

Thought he should have gone for tie

Now let the record show, as much as I’m singing Brown’s praises, I thought he should have gone for the tie and bet on overtime. My wife is a witness, for those who think I was an armchair quarterback- although I do like my armchair. But even then, I told her “Mack Brown is showing a lot of guts by going for broke. I like that.”

Finally, an exciting game

After a string of Saturday college football blowouts, finally there was an exciting game. And Mack Brown and his Tar Heels were the reason. No talk about analytics, percentages, odds in that type of situation; just go-for-broke, gut-instinct, decision making with a game on the line. It’s just another reason why I have unabashed respect for Mack Brown, who made watching a Saturday college football game, entertaining, rather than another lopsided, tedious affair.

Mets should keep Mickey Callaway

Should Mickey Callaway stay as manager of the New York Mets? I say yes.

Look at this way. If the Mets had fired Callaway, when they were 11 games under .500 and his replacement guided the club back into the wild card race and finished eight or nine games over .500, most fans would say “remove the interim tag from the manager’s title and sign him to a multi-year deal.” Well, that’s what Callaway did.

Let him finish contract

Callaway is working on a three-year contract. Let him complete the deal. Don’t worry about putting him in a lame duck status. Don Mattingly worked as a lame duck manager with the Miami Marlins this year and he didn’t make a big deal about it. This week he was rewarded with a new, two-year contract.

Callaway’s first job

This is Callaway’s first managerial job and it came in New York, no less. Sure he made missteps, but like his ball club, Callaway seemed to mature as a manager after the All-Star break. Furthermore, his club never quit on him. And they could, when they were buried in the standings. Instead, they played hard, got back in the race and played meaningful games, until the last week of the season. That may be the ultimate compliment on his job performance. His club did not quit.

Managing is no picnic, especially in New York. In two years, Callaway has developed and has learned what it takes to manage in the Big Apple. I say give him a chance to finish the job.

So what if Don Mattingly took a pay cut

So what if Don Mattingly took a pay cut!  Reading some of these stories about how Mattingly had to accept a reduced salary in order to remain as manager of the Miami Marlins makes me laugh.  You would think Mattingly had committed some sort of crime.  I look at it as the Marlins realizing they view Mattingly as the man to lead them forward and Mattingly understanding the realities of the franchise and the market correction.

Managers’ salary
You could make the case Mattingly was being paid for his past success as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  You can also call it a market correction, as much as some would rather claim it was a manager desperately trying to keep his job and was willing to settle for much less than what a middle inning reliever is compensated. The fact is, that’s how the market is.  The days of Joe Maddon, Joe Girardi, Buck Showalker, Bruce Bochy and Don Mattingly making three or four million dollars per season are over, at least for now.  No one more than Mattingly realizes this.

I don’t know Don Mattingly’s worth, but I would imagine he’s not living from paycheck to paycheck.  I also don’t know what his new deal is worth, despite media reports, claiming to know what he received.  But I do know that Marlins’ boss Derek Jeter, who was briefly Mattingly’s teammate on the Yankees and whom Mattingly later coached in the Bronx, believes Mattingly is the guy to move the franchise forward.

No one more than Jeter knows the chances he’s taking by tearing down a franchise and building it back up again, all the while rolling the dice that he could be alienating a fan base.  But I’m banking on the fact Jeter knows what he is doing and that “Donny Baseball” is their guy, just not at the inflated price doled out by previous franchise owner Jeff Loria.  Cut Mattingly some slack on staying in the job at a reduced salary and give Jeter the chance to execute his blueprint.  He’s got five World Series rings to indicate he must have an inkling on what has to be done to turn the Marlins around.

Yankees honored Yogi Berra 60 years ago

Sixty-years ago, Sept. 19, 1959, it was Yogi Berra Day at Yankee Stadium.  The Yankees honored their 34-year-old catcher on a Saturday afternoon, before a game against the Boston Red Sox.  Back then, ball clubs did not attract the crowds the way they do today.  To wit, even though both clubs were eliminated from pennant contention, on a sunny, weekend afternoon – the last Saturday of summer – only 24,000 attended the occasion.  Such an event would be a sellout today.

Yogi Berra speaks
According to the New York Times account of the event, Berra and his family were presented with 59 gifts in a pregame ceremony that lasted 35 minutes.  He was even given a color television set, leading master of ceremonies Mel Allen, the “Voice of the Yankees,” to proclaim that “Now, Yogi, you’ll be able to watch the World Series in color.”   Hopefully Yogi watched the series in color, because he would be a participant either as a player or manager in the five subsequent fall classics, as the Yankees started another one of their patented runs.

Several people spoke at the ceremony, including Yogi’s manager, Casey Stengel, and the event’s honorary chairman, Joe DiMaggio.  The Times even ran a photo of the “Yankee Clipper” applying make-up to Yogi in the clubhouse before the game, so he would look spiffy for the pregame honor.  And Stengel, in his generous remarks, called Berra the greatest player he had ever managed outside of DiMaggio.

In the top of the third inning, Red Sox catcher Sammy White came to the plate and handed Yogi a check from Red Sox management for the Berra Scholarship Fund.  And the first scholarship recipient was at the game, James Clevin of Ling Island.  He would attend Columbia University.

Berra admitted the most dreadful part of the event for him was speaking, but the account had the master of the malaprop pulling off the speech without a hitch.

As for the game, Yogi went 0-for-4, but the Yankees topped the Red Sox, 3-1, behind Whitey Ford’s complete game victory.  It took these two rivals 1:57 to play the game, or about as long as it takes these two combatants to play three innings today.  But all in all, it was a great day 60 years ago, as the Yankees honored one of their all time greats and my favorite baseball player.

Rams from the Coliseum, the way it should be

The Los Angeles Rams played the New Orleans Saints Sunday afternoon at the LA Coliseum.  It was the second game of the doubleheader on FOX.   And that’s the way it should be.  After this year, however, it won’t.  Another piece of our history is about to be tossed to the curb.

Growing up, I used to love watching the Rams play the second game of a Sunday NFL doubleheader from the Coliseum.  My brothers and I would watch the Giants play the first game with our dad, and then we would head to my grandparents house to watch the second game.  More often than not the game was on CBS and usually involved the Rams from the Coliseum.  That’s why this Sunday’s twin bill evoked many memories, as they have since the Rams moved back to Los Angeles.

The Rams themselves have been a story.  They started out in Cleveland, moved to LA, playing at the Coliseum, ditched that historic venue for Anaheim Stadium then hightailed it to St. Louis.  A couple of decades later they returned to LA and the Coliseum and next year they move into their brand spanking, new multi-billion dollar facility in Inglewood, sharing the joint with the Chargers, who moved back to LA from San Diego.  In fact, on Sunday it was announced naming rights for the new stadium have been awarded to an eight-year-old startup that refinances student loans.  For the next two decades it will be called SoFi Stadium.   Somehow it doesn’t have that ring to it as “The Coliseum.”  Maybe in time people in southern California will say “let’s go to the SoFi.”

I will miss those LA Rams games at the Coliseum, after this season.  Don’t worry, the arena isn’t going away.  It just underwent a $315 million dollar renovation and is home to the USC Trojans.  Like everything else, things change, but this season, when the Rams play the second game at home, I’m dropping everything to watch the game.  It will be my excuse to reconnect with my youth and days when I watched the second game at my grandparents.

Remember when Channel 3 carried the New York Giants?

Remember when Channel 3, now WFSB-TV, carried the New York Giants?  Well I do.  I even wrote about the days, when Giants home games were blacked out and New York fans would drive to motels in Connecticut to watch the game on Ch. 3, with motel roof top antennas pointed toward Hartford.

No Giants home opener on Channel 3
Today the Giants will stage their home opener against Buffalo, while the New England Patriots are at Miami.  Because CBS has both games, channel 3 has opted to carry the Patriots game.  Both games kick off at 1 p.m. as the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots will be in the spotlight.

I am not critical of WFSB carrying the Patriots game.  The point is, times change and this is another glaring example.  Sixty years ago the Patriots were an idea, hoping to play as the Boston Patriots in Fenway Park.  In Connecticut and most of New England, for that matter, the Giants were the team.  No more.  Now many years, games and television contracts later, the landscape has changed.

The Giants still have a huge following in these parts, but arguably the Pats are the team.  And why not?  As glorious as the Giants’ history is, the Patriots history is better and accomplished in a shorter amount of time.  Yes, Giants’ fans can boast the Pats can’t beat the Giants in the Super Bowl, but there is no arguing the Patriots’ following is one big reason they’re on channel 3 today and not the Giants.

What about the future?
One can imagine what the next 60 years will bring.  Maybe Amazon and Apple will be carrying the games in five years and traditional TV will be left in the dust or playing a secondary role.  Even the head of CBS suggested that the big tech companies will bid on the next NFL TV contract.

So don’t go blaming channel 3 for not carrying today’s Giants game.  Changes are a part of life, and that even includes NFL games on TV.

There will never be another Denny McLain

There will never be another Denny McLain.  I don’t mean a player with a swashbuckling approach to

Denny McLain

the game, who not only could play the organ but was renowned for his off field antics.  In that regard, there are many Denny McLains.  You could make a strong case McLain is tame by today’s standards. I mean there will never be another pitcher who wins 30 games in a season.

McLain wins 30th

On this date, Sept. 14, 1968, McLain won his 30th game of the season for the Detroit Tigers.  He became the first major league hurler to win 30 games in a season, since Dizzy Dean won 30 games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1934.  It is safe to say these will be the last two 30-game winners in MLB history.

The way the game is played today, no pitcher will ever have a 30-win season.  Heck, we’re lucky if a pitcher gets 30 starts in a season.  The year ‘Ol Diz won 30,  he started 33 games and relieved in 17.  He completed 24 games and threw 311.2 innings.  The next season, Dean won 28 games, started 36, relieved in 14 and tossed 325.1 innings.  He also registered a career-high 29 complete games.

In McLain’s historic season, he won 31 of his 41 starts and did not relieve.  He also completed 28 games and tossed a career-high 336 innings.

Complete games historic

These days it’s headlines (remember them?) if you pitch a complete game.  In 1975 Catfish Hunter, in his first season with the New York Yankees, completed 30 games.  You’re not reading things, that’s 30 complete games in 39 starts.  He went 23-14 and threw a career-high 328 innings.

If a pitcher starts 30 games in a season today, it’s a miracle.  A complete game?  That’s near a miracle.  Like it or not, baseball has changed, but if you’re a history buff like me, cherish the memories.  The days of 30-game winners are gone.  And those complete games?  They’re almost history too.

Final game between Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants under reported

The manager remained in the clubhouse, regaling reporters with stories from a bygone era. On the field players from both sides mingled, during batting practice, laughing, joking and recalling historic moments. Meanwhile, on the front page of the paper of record, there was a picture of a ballpark, but it wasn’t the one in the eye of the storm.

Today, Sept. 8, 2019, the Los Angeles Dodgers will host the San Francisco Giants. Sixty-two years ago to the day, Sunday, Sept. 8, 1957, the Giants were hosting the Dodgers, but the venue was the Polo Grounds. It would be the last meeting ever between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The Giants were moving. That was definite. The previous month club owner Horace Stoneham made it official. The franchise of John McGraw, Mel Ott, Bill Terry, Leo Durocher, Willie Mays and many more, was picking up stakes and moving to San Francisco. While children lamented there would be no more Giants, Stoneham said not enough of their parents were attending games in the aging ballpark. Promised a new park and greener pastures, Stoneham announced he was moving west, when the season ended.

For the Dodgers, it was a little more complicated, even though their owner Walter O’Malley wanted to move west first and had to convince Stoneham he needed to join him in order to sell the National League that two clubs on the west coast would make it easier to gain approval for the move. It seemed some in the LA community were balking at giving O’Malley the moon in order to land the Dodgers. And although it was nearly a forgone conclusion the Dodgers were abandoning Brooklyn, the definitive announcement, unlike the Giants, had not been made. Maybe that’s why the New York Times chose to ignore the story in its Sunday, Sept. 8 edition.

On its front page, there was a picture of a ballpark, but it was a packed Yankee Stadium the day before, and the occasion was Cardinal Francis Spellman celebrating the 25th anniversary of his consecration as Bishop. No mention of the Giants and the Dodgers meeting for the last time within the New York City boundaries. Remarkably, there was no mention in the sports section, previewing this final meeting, just a game story that the Dodgers beat the Giants, 5-4, the day before in front of 14,009 at the Polo Grounds on Ladies Day. The story even hinted the win might place the Dodgers back in contention seven games behind first place Milwaukee with 17 games to play.

To be sure, there was live coverage of the game. Channel 11 WPIX, the Giants TV outlet would telecast the game, starting at 1:55 p.m. The Giants – with Russ Hodges, Jim Woods and Bob Delaney in the booth – would broadcast the game over their radio outlet WMCA, while Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett would be at mic side for the Dodgers over station WMGM.

With temperatures in the 70s, Don Drysdale started the game for Brooklyn, while Curt Barclay drew the starting assignment for New York. Dodgers second baseman Junior Gilliam opened the contest with a ground out to short. Sandy Amoros, who made the great catch off Yogi Berra in the seventh game of the 1955 World Series to help cement Brooklyn’s only World Championship, ended it with a ground out to second, as the Dodgers blew a 2-0 lead and lost, 3-2. In between, Willie Mays collected two hits, including his 20th triple of the season.

In the ninth inning Bobby Thomson, who hit the most famous home run in Polo Grounds’ history – the ‘Shot Heard ‘Round the World’ – entered to play left field, perhaps a sentimental move by manager Bill Rigney. Of those players who played in that game, only two are still alive, both Giants: Mays and Ozzie Virgil, whose son Ozzie also played in the big leagues. Among the broadcasters, only Scully is alive and his broadcast of that game is also the only known recording to survive this historic but under reported event. In fact, in the final inning of the final game between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers, Scully is hyping the Dodgers television schedule on the club’s upcoming road trip.

In their broadcast, Scully and Doggett make scant reference to the game’s significance. Only at the end of the broadcast is the venerable Scully moved to comment, as Amoros steps to the plate:

“So if it is the last inning of the last game to ever be played between the Giants and the Dodgers here at the Polo Grounds, if time is gonna slam the door on this great rivalry over here, then Sandy Amoros has the privilege of being the fella with his foot in the door trying to keep it open.” 

Alas, Amoros grounded out and Scully concluded his broadcast:

“The New York Giants saying good-bye to the Dodgers and vice versa here at the Polo Grounds, and the Giants win it, 3-to-2. And we would be remiss to say that it’s kind of a sad day for everybody concerned, if this will be the final game played here. Both clubs walking off and the Giants have the pleasant feeling of at least beating the Dodgers the last time this year…

“Friends, so maybe the last time we’ll be walking out of the press box here at the Polo Grounds. And you just kind of say good-bye and let it go at that. I guess everybody has his own thoughts and that’ll do it. It’s been fun. Here’s Jerry.”

As it turned out, it would not be the last time Scully exited the Polo Grounds’ press box, as he returned to broadcast LA Dodgers games for two seasons, when the Mets called the Polo Grounds home.

It took 1:53 to play the final game between the Dodgers and Giants at the “PG,” with 22,376 attending in a park that had a capacity of 56,000.

The next day there was no ignoring the final game in the New York Times, although the game did not merit front page coverage, booted by among stories one about Vice President Richard Nixon, claiming one way to reduce teen crime in New York City would be to incorporate a physical fitness program for teenagers.

The game did make the lead story in the sports section with a game story, a column by Arthur Daley and a sidebar feature on Giants manager Rigney telling stories in the clubhouse, accompanied by a picture of Rigney and Brooklyn manager Walter Alston standing side-by-side on the field before the game. Both men seemed to be wistfully looking toward the upper deck perhaps thinking what many others thought that fateful day, baseball in New York would never again be the same.