Monthly Archives: August 2019

August anniversaries

Gulfport, Mississippi and Bethel, New York are 1,283 miles (2,065 kilometers) apart.

It would seem as these two locales would have absolutely nothing in common.

Yet they are forever linked by 17 August 1969.

Those who were in Bethel that day remember it fondly and wish they could go back.

Those in Gulfport that day would probably like to forget.

Thirty days after Ted Kennedy drove Mary Jo Koepechne to her death off Martha’s Vineyard, 28 days after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon, nine days after Sharon Tate and four others were brutally butchered by Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenewinkel, Leslie Van Houten and Tex Watson on orders of Charles Manson, there came an August Sunday which made not one, but two, indelible impressions on the United States of America.

Woodstock, held on Max Yasgur’s Dairy Farm, a little more than 100 miles (160 km) from New York’s LaGuardia Airport, was filled with three and a half days of “peace, love and music”. The names of those who performed that weekend are legendary: Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who. The list of those who didn’t perform may have been just as impressive: Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles were among those who said no.

There were hopes for a 50th anniversary Woodstock. Many of the performers at the original festival who are still alive were invited. However, it never got off the ground and was cancelled in June. It would have been held at the Watkins Glen automobile race course, about 155 miles (250 km) west-northwest of Bethel.

Two years after Woodstock, organizers attempted a similar festival in Louisiana. They found some land on a levee along the Atchafayla River in Pointe Coupee Parish, 60 miles (97 km) northwest of Baton Rouge and 80 miles (128 km) southeast of Alexandria.

The Festival of Life was nothing short of a disaster. Needless to say, nothing like that has been attempted again in Louisiana.

While 400,000 were having the time of their lives in New York, residents of the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Panama City were dealing with something which was certainly not peaceful.

Hurricane Camille crossed the western tip of Cuba hours before Richie Havens opened Woodstock. Once it emerged into the hot waters (30 degrees Celsius/86 F) of the Gulf of Mexico, it exploded, surpassing the intensity of Betsy, which had winds of 145 miles per hour (223 km/h) when it crossed the Louisiana coast at Grand Isle the evening of 9 Sepember 1965 and caused over $1 billion of damage and 76 deaths in what would become my native state.

Camille’s winds reached 170 miles per hour (265 km/h) as it made it way steadily towards the Florida panhandle the afternoon of 16 August. From Pensacola to Panama City, thousands of residents headed north into Georgia and Alabama.

The next morning, Camille was still on her inexorable march towards land.

The target, however, had shifted dramatically westward.

The storm had shifted to a north-northwest track, a path which would lead it straight towards New Orleans. It appeared the storm would follow a path eerily similar to Betsy’s, making landfall approximately 25 miles (40 km) east of Grand Isle.

If that occurred, New Orleans would have been utterly destroyed. My parents would have perished.

Eventually, the storm took a due north heading, crossing the mouth of the Mississippi River. It wiped much of southern Plaquemines Parish (county) off the map. Fortunately, evacuation orders were followed and nobody died in Louisiana.

Mississippi was not as fortunate.

The storm crossed the coast on the border between Hancock and Harrison counties. Pass Christian was ground zero. The small town between Bay St. Louis and Gulfport was blown away. Nothing remained standing.

Had the storm come in a few miles/kilometers further east, Gulfport would have been ground zero, and Biloxi would have been devastated more than it already was.

The wind speed at landfall will never be known. The wind measuring instruments in Gulfport and Biloxi were demolished. J

The storm killed 160 in Mississippi, but Camille wasn’t done.

Her remnants dumped buckets of rain on northern Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky before once again exploding in the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia.

This time, nobody had any notion of what was coming. Over 100 people perished in the Old Dominion, and floodwaters came dangerously close to leaving Richmond completely swamped. Richmond and Roanoke, two of the commonwealth’s largest cities, were spared the worst, but it was of little consolation.

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Twenty-five years ago this morning, I almost died because of my own stupidity.

It was that Sunday I moved into my dormitory at LSU in advance of my first semester of college.

I almost didn’t make. I probably shouldn’t have.

The night before, I slept maybe three hours. I left my house in New Orleans at 0600. My father followed me to help me move my belongings into my sardine of a room at Power Hall, which thankfully has been demolished and replaced with modern apartments.

This was the first time I drove from New Orleans to Baton Rouge alone. I knew the route, but every time, my dad was with me.

The first 50 miles (80 km) was fine.

Suddenly, I found myself drifting off the road to my right.

I fell asleep shortly after the St. James/Ascension parish line. I panicked and cut the wheel of my 1989 Chevrolet Cavalier sharply to the left. That took me across both lanes of traffic and into the median. By time I was done, I was facing westbound in the eastbound lanes of traffic.

If it were any other time except Sunday morning, I would have been dead or paralyzed.

I was beyond lucky that no traffic was coming either way. I crossed the median and continued my journey.

When I got to the McDonald’s on Louisiana Highway 30 in Gonzales to meet my dad for breakfast, I told him. He agreed I was very, very lucky.

Power Hall featured seven two-story units, rather than one high-rise. I am grateful I lived on the first floor. Climbing the stairs carrying things would have been hellish.

There was a communal bathroom and shower just down the hall. I made sure I took my shower early in the morning so I didn’t have others in there. I don’t recall anyone else ever using a shower at the same time I did.

I had a private room at Power Hall, so it was a little better. I would not want anyone to have to deal with me as a roommate, nor do I care to have someone else in my room. I like my privacy.

When I returned to LSU in January 1997, the department of campus housing did not give me a private dorm room at Kirby-Smith Hall, a high rise on the northwest edge of campus. After sleeping in the room for two nights, I hastily moved off-campus. Lucky for me, the person who was assigned to the room had not checked in, so I was alone. That worked out better, because it allowed me to stay in Baton Rogue year-round. I should have thought it out better when I first went to LSU.

The efficiency I lived in for the last two and a half years at LSU was a rat trap. I was desperate and I didn’t want to make my parents pay an outrageous sum, so I took what I could find. I lived to tell the tale.

There are so many things I wish I had done differently in college. Leaving LSU after my first year was a huge mistake. Not paying attention in class was another. I cry about it. A lot.

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High school football is cranking up. I want to be back in Louisiana covering games on Friday night. Kansas high school football is severely lacking.

The missing legend—and great guard play

When I last posted Tuesday evening, I mentioned about my first meeting with three LSU athletics legends, none of whom took the field for the Bayou Bengals. All three–Kent Lowe, Bill Franques and Dan Borne–are still alive and well in Baton Rouge, still proudly representing the purple and gold.

The man I knew prior to the 1994 football media day, Herb Vincent, has gone on to bigger and better things as an associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. I was sadly disappointed he didn’t become LSU’s athletic director when Skip Bertman retired in 2008, but Herb, Jamey and Kennedy are very happy in Birmingham.

There was someone else I should have met at the 1994 football media day.

Instead, Michael Bonnette was at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, recuperating after knee surgery.

Michael suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a recreational softball game earlier in August. He had just been hired full-time by Herb after five years as a student assistant and graduate assistant in the sports information (now sports communications) office. Michael had the unenviable task of promoting the LSU women’s basketball team during its darkest period, one which saw the Lady Tigers suffer three consecutive losing season, bottoming out at 7-20 in 1994-95 and nearly causing coach Sue Gunter to lose her job. Fortunately, LSU turned it around beginning in 1995-96 and Gunter eventually was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Sadly, she died in August 2005 of cancer as LSU was in the midst of five consecutive trips to the Final Four.

Michael’s bloodlines destined him for a job in the sports media business. His father, Louis, became McNeese State’s sports information director in 1966, and it was assumed Michael would replace him. Michael made his way 125 miles east and stayed there, but the Cowboys’ post is still in the family, since younger brother Matthew assumed it upon Louis’ retirement in 2011. Louis’ legacy at McNeese is secure, as the playing surface at Cowboy Stadium is named for him.

I met Michael the week before classes started. There were plenty of times I wanted to be far away from him, but the times he bailed me out of trouble and supported me far, far, far outnumbered the bad ones.

In 2000, Michael succeeded Herb as leader of the LSU sports information office and enters his 20th football season at the helm. Michael has lived through the full tenures of three football coaches, worked under four athletic directors, and has witnessed the women’s basketball coaching position pass from Gunter to Pokey Chatman to (temporarily) Bob Starkey to Van Chancellor and now to Nikki Caldwell-Fargas.

Just like the late, great Paul Manasseh groomed Herb for the job, just as Herb groomed Michael for the job, Michael has groomed his students for other jobs, most notably Bill Martin, who’s now in charge at Mississippi State. Michael and Bill are both from Lake Charles, although they went to rival high schools (Michael to LaGrange, Bill to Barbe).

Herb, Kent, Bill, Dan and Michael all deserve sainthood for putting up with me all those year. Unlike the others, Michael isn’t Catholic, so I’d have to see if the Vatican will give him an exemption.

Herb’s adroit handling of Curley Hallman’s four years of misery also deserves him sainthood. I would have gone nuts trying to deal with both sides.

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With this being the National Football League’s 100th season, I’m trying to compile a list of the greatest player at each uniform number.

I can already tell you two of the winners on my list. I never saw either play live, but thanks to NFL Films, I could tell they were legends by time I was 11.

Number 64 is Jerry Kramer, the author and Packers guard who was the brawn behind Vince Lombardi’s famed “power sweep”. Teaming with Fuzzy Thurston and later Gale Gillingham, Jimmy Taylor, Paul Hornung, Elijah Pitts and Donny Anderson all found plenty of green grass in front of them after defenders had been wiped out by the green and gold marauders.

It was a damn shame Kramer had to wait 44 years to get into the Hall of Fame. He should have been a first ballot inductee in 1974, or at worst, inducted by 1988, his last year of eligibility on the writer’s ballot. Thank God this was rectified in 2018, and even better, Kramer was able to give his induction speech on stage in Canton despite being 82 years old. Several men his age were unable to give a live induction speech (Hank Stram, Mick Tinglehoff, Johnny Robinson), or worse, passed away before their enshrinement. With the passing of Forrest Gregg and Bart Starr earlier this year, and Jimmy Taylor’s passing last October, Kramer, Willie Davis, Dave Robinson, Herb Adderley and Willie Wood are the last of the living greats who played for Lombardi.

Old Jerry was also a fine placekicker. In the 1962 NFL championship game, Kramer sliced three field goals and a extra point through vicious winds at Yankee Stadium, providing the margin of victory in Green Bay’s 16-7 triumph over the Giants.

Kramer, drafted in 1958 in the third round out of Idaho, missed the entire 1964 season when he needed to have slivers of wood removed from his abdomen, an operation which nearly killed him. He recovered to play four more seasons, helping the Packers win three consecutive NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls. He retired following the 1968 season.

Runners-up: Dave Wilcox (49ers LB, 1964-74); Randall McDaniel (Vikings G, 1989-2001)

Number 73 was slightly more challenging. Very slightly.

Like Kramer, this man also was a great offensive guard.

John Hannah toiled for 13 seasons for the Patriots and is, in my opinion, still the greatest to play for the franchise. Sorry (not sorry), Tom Brady.

Hannah was a two-time consensus All-American for Bear Bryant at Alabama, where he led the Crimson Tide to unprecedented offensive success in the Wishbone, which Bryant adopted in 1971 after seasons of 6-5 and 6-5-1 in 1969 and ’70. He is still regarded by many as the greatest offensive lineman to ever play college football.

Chuck Fairbanks, who took the Patriots job in January 1973 after six seasons at Oklahoma, wasted no time in selecting Hannah in the first round. By 1976, the Patriots reached the playoffs for the first time since 1963, and Hannah was a big reason, opening huge holes for Sam “Bam” Cunningham while giving Steve Grogan more than enough time to spot Russ Francis, and later, Stanley Morgan.

Hannah reached the Super Bowl with the Patriots in 1985, his final season. The Bears’ 46 defense, led by Dan Hampton, Mike Singletary and Richard Dent, proved to be too much for New England, which lost 46-10.

The Patriots won the AFC East in 1986, but starting in 1987, they went into a steep decline, bottoming out in 1990 when they went 1-15 and were outscored 446-181.

That wasn’t the worst thing which happened to New England in 1990.

Four players were charged with sexually harassing Boston Globe sportswriter Lisa Olson, and owner Victor Kiam doubled down by calling Olson a “classic b***h”. Two years later, the Patriots very nearly moved to St. Louis, but the hiring of Bill Parcells in 1993 and Robert Kraft’s purchase of the franchise in 1994 kept the team in Massachusetts.

Sadly, the good feelings about Kraft would evaporate a few years later.

Runners-up: Ron Yary (Vikings OT, 1968-82); Joe Klecko (Jets DL, 1977-87); Leo Nomellini (49ers DT/OT, 1950-63)

Severely tarnished silver anniversary

I was hoping to be headed east on Interstate 70 back to Russell by now.

Instead, I’m marooned at the Golden Q. Cassidy and Jocelyn are lovely to look at and there are a couple of pretty ladies at a table to my right, so it’s not bad.

Three inches of rain drenched Hays between 1830 and 2030. Ash Street, which runs in front of the Golden Q, is under ankle-deep water. The water is above the bottom of my Buick’s tires. I could use a pirogue. I would say New Orleans’ pumps would come in handy right now, but given the problems my native city has had with its pumping stations, I doubt it would help.

I was hoping to leave early tomorrow for Wichita. I have to pick up an Amazon order at the locker in front of QuikTrip at Central and Oliver, buy some more bleu cheese from Dillon’s on Central at Rock, and get my car cleaned of the bugs on the windshield. Since this isn’t time sensitive, I can sleep in and leave later. I’ll probably stay overnight now, either in Wichita or Hutchinson.

I have not watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High today. It was released 13 August 1982 and launched the careers of three of Hollywood’s most recognizable names: Sean Penn (Jeff Spicoli), Judge Reinhold (Brad Hamilton) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Stacy Hamilton). Phoebe Cates, who played the promiscuous Linda Barrett, has largely withdrawn from the public eye since marrying Kevin Kline in 1989 to raise her children.

Bravo Phoebe. As much as I’d love to see you on the screen, you’re doing much better without the limelight.

As for Ms. Lehigh (born Jennifer Leigh Morrow), she’ll be returning for season 3 of Atypcial on Netflix next month, the comedy-drama about the struggles of raising a son on the autistic spectrum. Leigh (Elsa Gardner), Keir Gilchrist (Sam Gardner, the “Atypical” young man), Michael Rapaport (Doug Gardner), Brigette Lundy-Payne (Casey Gardner), Amy Okuda (Dr. Jennifer Sasaki) and Jenna Boyd (Paige Haradway, Sam’s first girlfriend) are all first-rate. The one character I cannot stand is Sam’s best friend, the lecherous Zahid, portrayed by Nik Dodani. Along with Last Chance U, it’s my favorite show on Netflix.

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Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of one of sports’ blackest days, as well as the day my life was altered for better or worse.

The black day was the beginning of the Major League Baseball players’ strike. The players walked out due to constant threats by owners to implement a salary cap. The NBA adopted a salary cap for the 1983-84 season, the NFL adopted one starting in 1994, and the NHL would follow suit a decade later after it cancelled the entire 2004-05 season with a lockout.

Thirty-three days after the strike began, Brewers owner Bud Selig, the chairman of the owner’s council and acting commissioner (Fay Vincent was fired by the owners in September 1992 for appearing to be too friendly towards the players), announced the entire 1994 postseason would be cancelled. It was the first time since 1904 there would be no Fall Classic.

The strike finally ended on 2 April 1995 when U.S. District Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor–the same Sonia Sotomayor who now sits on the Supreme Court of the United States–ordered the players back to work under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement which expired 31 December 1993.

Baseball after the strike was disastrous.

Hundreds of players became addicted to steroids. Home run totals went through the roof, with Mark McGwire hitting 70 in 1998, four more than Sammy Sosa. Both later admitted to taking steroids. Barry Bonds, who hit 73 home runs in 2001, also cheated, but he lied about it and would not be man enough to admit it. To me, Roger Maris’ 61 in 1961 is still the legitimate record.

It took the new CBA in August 2002 to finally bring the juicers under control. Sadly, it looks like steroids are back, given another round of ridiculous home run numbers.

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A few hours after the last out of the 1994 MLB season was recorded in Oakland, my life changed, thanks to the introduction of three new people into my sphere.

12 August 1994 was LSU football media day. The media covering the Bayou Bengals at the time were looking forward to it as much as they would an IRS audit or a trip to the dentist to fill a cavity.

Hudson “Curley” Hallman was entering his fourth season as the leader of the woebegone LSU football program. In his three previous seasons, Hallman compiled a dreadful 12-21 record, including a 2-9 mark in 1992, the worst ever by an LSU team.

It appeared to get worse in 1993, when LSU started 2-5, including a 58-3 embarrassment by Florida in Tiger Stadium, a game also witnessed by millions on ESPN in an era when having a game televised at 1830 was an honor, not a routine occurrence.

Had a sane man been in charge of the LSU athletic department, Hallman would have been fired within 48 hours of the Bayou Bengals’ 35-17 loss at Kentucky one week after the Florida debacle.

Sadly, Robert Joseph (Joe) Dean was LSU’s athletic director.

Joe Dean was a great basketball player for LSU, where he teamed with Bob Pettit to help the Bayou Bengals reach the Final Four in 1953, LSU’s last trip to the NCAA tournament until 1979. In case you don’t know, Pete Maravich had only one winning season in three years on the LSU varsity, and since the NCAA took only one school per conference to the big dance prior to 1975, the Bayou Bengals had to content themselves with a trip to the 1970 NIT.

Dean was also a tremendous color analyst on basketball broadcasts for over two decades. His trademark phrase “strrrrinnnng music” was repeated by tens of thousands of teenaged boys who one day dreamed of playing for Kentucky, LSU or any other SEC school.

In 1987, Dean was hired to clean up the mess in LSU’s athletic department. LSU hemorrhaged red ink in the early 1980s under the mismanagement of Paul Dietzel, the man who coached LSU to the football national championship in 1958 and groomed his successor, Charles McClendon (Cholly Mac), who led the Bayou Bengals to a 137-59-7 record from 1962-79.

Dietzel was fired by the LSU Board of Supervisors in February 1982 and succeeded by Bob Brodhead, the one-time general manager of the Houston Oilers, and later the business manager of the Miami Dolphins. Brodhead got LSU back on sound financial footing and made several tremendous coaching hires, including Skip Bertman, Sue Gunter and Bill Arnsparger.

Brodhead, however, ran afoul of the NCAA and men’s basketball coach Dale Brown, who led LSU to the Final Four in 1981 and ’86. Brodhead was convicted in April 1986 of wiretapping and sent to federal prison.

Dean inherited new football coach Mike Archer, who went 10-1-1 in 1987 and 8-4 in ’88 , largely with players he inherited from Arnsparger, who was 26-8-2 from 1984-86. When Archer had to play with his own recruits, LSU went down the toilet, going 4-7 in 1989 and 5-6 in ’90.

Dean fired Archer with two games remaining in the 1990 season. His coaching search began and ended in Hattiesburg, where Hallman led Southern Mississippi to a 23-11 record over three seasons and several huge upsets (Florida State, Alabama, Auburn), all away from Hattiesburg.

Actually, Hallman would never haver sniffed 23-11 had not been left a present by his predecessor, Jim Carmody.

That present was an unknown kid from Kiln, 70 miles south of Hattiesburg.

His name: Brett Favre. If you don’t know Favre’s story, stop living like a hermit crab.

Hallman was clearly out of his league in the SEC in 1991, ’92 and ’93. Not only did he come up woefully short against Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M, his LSU teams lost twice each to mediocre teams from Kentucky and Arkansas, was shut out 32-0 by middling Ole Miss, and was humiliated 17-14 at home by a Colorado State team which went 3-9, leading to the firing of Earle Bruce and the hiring of Sonny Lubick.

Nobody should have felt sorry for Hallman, because many of his problems were self-inflicted.

First, he completely closed practice to all media. However, people who provided players with summer jobs were provided unfettered access to practice. Watching football practice bores me to tears sometimes, but the good men who were covering LSU regularly in 1994–Scott Rabalais, Dave Moormann and Sam King (The Advocate), John Reid (Times-Picayune) and Scooter Hobbs (Lake Charles American-Press), not to mention television and radio stations–deserved to have more access than a locked gate. If he had opened practice, maybe those covering the team would have been in his corner and been able to report credibly the team was improving despite the record. With no practice access, the reporters could only go off of what they saw on Saturdays.

Second, his brutally physical practices left the team drained. He basically took the model he was subject to when he played for Bear Bryant disciple Gene Stallings at Texas A&M in the late 1960s and copied it to the letter. Hallman held two-a-days from the start of camp until the start of classes. Actually, he didn’t; sometimes Hallman used THREE-A-DAYS. Yikes. And many of those two-a-days were in full pads. It took LSU firing Hallman and Gerry DiNardo to find a coach who knew having all of those practices in full gear was silly. I wonder how that Nick Saban fellow is doing.

Third, Hallman hired the worst assistants. Period. Of all of his assistants, I would rate only Phil Bennett, George Haffner and Larry Zierlein worthy of being part of a Power Five staff. Maybe Lynn Amedee had been at one time or another, but his two years under Hallman were a complete waste.

Bennett was the only reason Hallman wasn’t totally screwed. The Texas A&M alum was articulate. He could relate to players. He wasn’t afraid to try new things. He always said the right thing to the media. Today, most head coaches don’t allow assistants to talk to the media. Hallman would have been better off shutting up and letting Bennett do all the talking.

Bennett was the defensive coordinator in 1994 when LSU led the SEC in total defense. It’s too bad his only head coaching gig at SMU didn’t turn out well. He certainly deserved much better.

Haffner was Georgia’s offensive coordinator when Herschel Walker ran roughshod over the SEC, but he had zero talent at LSU. Hallman made Haffner the scapegoat for the 1992 season by firing him and hiring Amedee.

Zierlein was a solid offensive line coach and had professional experience in the World League of American Football. His arrival in 1993 helped Kevin Mawae immeasurably before he embarked on a Hall of Fame NFL Career.

As for Hallman’s other assistants.:

  • Thielen Smith was a standout for McClendon in the mid-1970s. Too bad Hallman scapegoated him, too, after 1992.
  • Mike Bugar was not cut out to be a defensive coordinator in the SEC. He may have done a fine job in Hattiesburg, but matching wits with Steve Spurrier and Phillip Fulmer was a recipe for disaster in Baton Rouge. Bugar mercifully left for Baylor after the 1993 season.
  • Pete Fredenburg, who was basically traded for Bugar for 1994 and coached the defensive tackles, was the victim of timing. He came one year too early, because Anthony “Booger” McFarland came along in 1995.
  • Lee Fobbs, who coached the defensive ends in 1994, was hired by Hallman to help with recruiting New Orleans, specifically the Catholic League, where his son, Jamaal, was a standout running back for St. Augustine. One year wasn’t enough to evaluate.
  • Buddy King, who was Zierlein’s predecessor, had Mawae and little else on the offensive line. He jumped at the chance to join Danny Ford in Arkansas in early 1993.
  • Then we have the three stooges. In what universe did Larry Edmonson, Rick Villareal and Steve Buckley qualify to coach in the SEC, other than being with Hallman in Hattiesburg? Buckley never even played college football. He was a cheerleader at USM! At least Edmonson played at Texas A&M.
  • The strength and conditioning program was a flat-out joke under Chris Seroka. I wish Seroka could come back to LSU so Tommy Moffitt could kick him in the nuts and show him what real strength and conditioning is.
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  • Back to 12 August 1994.
  • I was asked by Herb Vincent, LSU’s associate athletic director for media relations, to come to Baton Rouge that day to help with football media day. I had yet to attend classes, and I could not move into the dorm until 21 August (more on that next Wednesday).
  • I met Herb in July 1993 on a visit to campus. I hoped he would have a position available as a student worker in his office, and in June 1994, he gave me the good news.
  • My dad and I drove to Baton Rouge on a Friday morning. I drove up in casual clothes, but I brought dress clothes just in case. I needed them.

    Shortly after arriving in the office, I met the other student assistants: Corey Walsh, Adam Young and Shelby Holmes. Walsh, a Texan, and Young, an Alexandria native, had worked in the sports information office as students for three years, while Holms, who went to McKinley High, less than two miles north of the campus, was entering his second year working with Herb.

    Next up, I met Kent Lowe, whom I knew as LSU’s men’s basketball publicity director, having seen his name in Bruce Hunter’s book about the 1988-89 team, Don’t Count Me Out. I also recognized his face, since he was the statistician for LSU football radio broadcasts in 1992 and ’93; his picture was in the game programs with Jim Hawthorne, Doug Moreau, spotter Patrick Wright (also the voice of LSU women’s basketball) and Tom Stevens, the network engineer who tragically passed away in the Tiger Stadium press box prior to LSU’s 2000 game vs. Kentucky.

    About 20 minutes after meeting Kent, Bill Franques came into the office. I heard Bill’s voice plenty from LSU baseball broadcasts, both as the public address announcer for home games and Hawthorne’s color analyst for road games.

    Little did I know William Paul Franques would hold such a position of importance in my life. There are days I wish I could go back to that morning and call Herb to tell him I would be turning down his offer to work in the athletic department. Lord knows what I’ve done to Bill over the years. I wake up some nights in a very cold sweat thinking about it.

    After Hallman, Amedee and Bennett met the media in LSU’s athletic administration building, the media moved to the Carl Maddox Fieldhouse for player interviews.

    It was there I met another man who became entangled in my weird world.

    It took three-tenths of a second after shaking hands with Dan Borne to realize I had heard his voice plenty as the public address announcer for LSU football and men’s basketball games.

    Standing next to Dan was one of my new colleagues in Herb’s office.

    Rebecca Borne was three months removed from graduating as the valedictorian of the St. Joseph’s Academy Class of 1994. She scored 34 out of a possible 36 on the ACT test. The only reason she was at LSU and not Yale or Harvard was because of her dad.

    I don’t know why the hell Dan still wants to call me a friend. Lord knows I hurt Rebecca, his wife Lisette, his other daughter Elizabeth, and (to a lesser extent), sons Jason and David, more than one human should be allowed to hurt another human.

    Rebecca hasn’t talked to me since 2002. She hates me. And I hate myself even more for the hurt I caused her. She made it to New Haven, graduating from Yale Law School in 2006 and starting a family in Connecticut.

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    LSU was 2-7 when Dean fired Hallman on 15 November 1994. Hallman had the class to finish the season, and the Bayou Bengals defeated Tulane and Arkansas.

    I’m sorry, but I’m about to cry. This is painful.

    1971: baseball nirvana

    I wish I could put myself in a time machine and go back to the summer of 1971.

    Sure, I would not be blogging if it were August 1971. Sure, I would not be playing Buzztime trivia if it were August 1971. The American economy wasn’t in great shape in August 1971, and Nixon made a foolish mistake by taking the United States off the gold standard.

    There were good things about 1971, though. The Brady Bunch was on the air. Gas was 30 cents per gallon; even with inflation, that’s $1.90, 45 cents less than what I paid last night when I filled up in Salina.

    Major League Baseball was certainly better in 1971.

    Hank Aaron hit a career high 47 home runs as he drew closer and closer to Babe Ruth’s record of 714, once thought to be unbreakable. In his final season with the Giants, Willie Mays led San Francisco to the National League West championship in yet another epic battle with the Dodgers. San Francisco lost the National League Championship Series to the Pirates in four games in their last postseason appearance until 1987. The Orioles won their third consecutive American League pennant by sweeping the Athletics in the American League Championship Series. It was the Athletics’ first trip to the postseason since 1931, when they were in Philadelphia and led by legendary Connie Mack.

    The 1971 All-Star Game in Detroit was one of the most memorable. Aaron and Johnny Bench staked the National League to an early 3-0 lead with home runs, but Reggie Jackson began the American League comeback by launching a monstrous home run off of a transformer on roof above right center. The pitcher who served it up was Dock Ellis, the same Dock Ellis who threw a no-hitter while allegedly under the influence of LSD (his claim) the previous season.

    Ellis, the volatile right-hander from Pittsburgh, was the Naitonal League’s starter. The American League countered with Oakland lefty Vida Blue, who went on to win the AL Cy Young and Most Valuable Player. More importantly, it was the first time there were two black starting pitchers in an All-Star Game.

    One of the umpires in the 1971 All-Star Game was Jake O’Donnell, who from 1968-71 officiated both in the American League and NBA. O’Donnell resigned from the AL at the end of 1971 to concentrate on basketball. It was a wise move, for Jake worked the NBA Finals every year from 1972 through 1994. O’Donnell is the only man to officiate All-Star games in two major sports.

    Also on the umpiring crew that evening in Detroit were future Hall of Famer Doug Harvey, and Don Denkinger, whose moment of infamy in Kansas City was still a long way off.

    Nearly every team still wore flannel uniforms in 1971. Sure, they were hot, but they were beautiful for the most part.

    The Athletics had a lovely sleeveless vest which came in white, gray and gold, and those could be worn with gold or green undershirts. The Dodgers debuted a new road top with thin blue and white piping along the shoulders. The Padres had a tan road uniform. The White Sox and Phillies both debuted new uniforms, and both would keep them when they switched to polyester the next season. I thought both sets were downgrades; the White Sox’ royal blue and white set of 1969-70 was downright gorgeous, and the Phillies ditched the classic set they debuted in 1950, when the “Whiz Kids” won the franchise’s only pennant between 1915 and 1980.

    Three teams wore polyester that season. The Pirates debuted them in July 1970 when they moved from Forbes Field to Three Rivers Stadium; the Cardinals began 1971 wearing them; and the Orioles gradually switched from flannel to polyester throughout that season, finally ditching flannel for good in the ALCS. Ironically, the 1971 World Series was all polyester, as the Pirates took down the heavily favored Orioles in seven games.

    In 1971, the Senators were still in Washington. The Brewers were in the American League West, building healthy rivalries with the Twins and White Sox.

    That changed in 1972.

    Cheapskate Senators owner Bob Short lied to the American League, claiming he was going broke in the nation’s capital, giving owners a supposed reason to allow the second incarnation of the Senators (the first became the Twins in 1961) to move to Dallas/Fort Worth and become the Texas Rangers. RFK Stadium was not a great facility by any means, but Short traded it for Arlington Stadium, a minor league facility which had no business hosting Major League Baseball. Yet it was the home of the Rangers through 1993.

    Dallas/Fort Worth is too big an area for any major sports league to ignore. However, Short was, well, (extremely) short-sighted for deserting the nation’s capital for a dump like Arlington Stadium. Had DFW waited until the American League expanded for 1977, it would have had a stadium which might still be standing, or would have served a team much better than Arlington.

    I visited Arlington Stadium a handful of times in my teenage years. I hated the park. Hated it. Those metal bleachers in the outfield were hot enough to fry eggs. Of course, the idiots who expanded the park built bleachers instead of building more decks from foul line to foul line, which would have been better for fans watching the game and the team, since those tickets would have commanded a higher price than bleachers.

    The Senators’ shift to DFW prompted AL owners to move the Brewers to the American League East, pissing off the White Sox and Twins, each of whom who lost six games per year against Milwaukee. The Great Lakes trio would not be reunited until 1994 when the American League Central, but that lasted only four seasons, because the Brewers gleefully moved to the National League for 1998.

    Speaking of the leagues, another great thing about baseball in 1971: NO DESIGNATED HITTER.

    The designated hitter is a pox on baseball. Charlie Finley, you can rot in hell. It is the single worst rule in all of sports. There are many other terrible ones, like the shootout in the NHL and high school football overtime, but the I despise the designated hitter more than any other rule in sports.

    Basketball players are not allowed to play only one end of the floor–at least if they want to stay on the court. Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored loads of points during their playing days, but if they didn’t rebound and block shots, they would never have sniffed the Hall of Fame.

    Other than the goaltender, hockey players must be good offensively and defensively if they hope to stick in the NHL. Gordie Howe, the NHL’s greatest goal scorer until Wayne Gretzky came along, prided himself as much for his defense as his offense. No opposing winger dared cross Mr. Hockey, or else he would find himself in a world of hurt.

    Association football? Same as hockey. Defenders don’t score many goals and forwards don’t play beyond the center line, but a player who is a defensive liability will be on the bench unless he scores goals as frequently as Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.

    Players went both ways in the early days of the NFL, and in college until 1964. Many players at small high schools go both ways, and even at some large ones, because coaches would rather have an excellent athlete who may be fatigued rather than a mediocre one who is fresh.

    When Mr. Doubleday invented baseball in the 19th century, he intended for the nine players on the field to specialize in a defensive skill AND be able to swing the bat. Some swing the bat better than others. That’s professional sports.

    Major League Baseball is the best of the best of the best. The 750 men who populate the 30 MLB rosters are supposed to be the best in the world. Not all of them have to hit .350 with 50 home runs. Heck, Bill Mazeroski and Ozzie Smith, among many others, were mediocre hitters, but so great with their glove they have plaques in Cooperstown.

    I can tolerate–not accept–the DH in Little League and high school. However, at those levels, pitchers are often the best hitters, too, so it’s not necessary in those cases. Little League has a much larger problem than the DH. You’ve probably read my rants about this in earlier posts.

    In college baseball, the DH should be abolished, especially in Division I. If a young man is good enough to be pitching at the highest level of college baseball, he should be able to stand in the batter’s box up to four times every week if he’s a starting pitcher.

    The National League is going to adopt the designated hitter soon. I am deathly afraid of it. When it happens, I will be back on this blog using language not safe for work. You’ve been warned.

    When you went to the ballpark in 1971, there were no silly promotional handouts, no dizzy bat races, no scantily clad 20-something women shooting t-shirts out of air-propelled mini-cannons, and no mascots. Umpires still wore their blazers many days. American League umpires wore the balloon chest protector, leading to the Junior Circuit becoming known as a high-strike lead, contrasting to the National League, where the low strike ruled. Games usually lasted two hours, give or take a few minutes. There a few real doubleheaders, where one ticket got you two games, although there were fewer by 1971 than there had been in 1961, and fewer in 1961 than in 1951.

    In my opinion, the best thing about baseball in 1971–and the 34 years prior to that–NO FACIAL HAIR!!!!

    In 1971, only the Reds had a rule banning facial hair, but the other franchises unofficially followed suit. Many players had mutton chops and other forms of long sideburns which were in vogue in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but not one player in professional baseball sported a mustache and/or beard.

    Unfortunately, this came to an end in 1972. The culprit? Charles O. Finley. I hope you are seriously rotting in hell, Mr. Finley. You were a bastard in so many ways.

    Cheapskate Charlie, who refused to pay his A’s (from 1972-86, the Oakland franchise was officially known as the A’s) a living wage, somehow came up with an idea to give each player a $300 bonus if he grew a mustache by Father’s Day. Sure enough, every goddamn A’s player grew one.

    The A’s, wearing their new polyester uniforms of “kelly green”, “Fort Knox gold” and “wedding gown white”, ended up in the World Series against the clean-shaven Reds in a series termed by the medias as the “hairs” vs. the “squares”. Oakland won in seven games.

    I’m glad I wasn’t alive in 1972. I would not have known who to root for. I despise the Reds for Pete Rose, a gambling pedophile who played dirty. I disliked the A’s for the facial hair, not to mention the strong hate I have for Finley, who pulled the Athletics out of Kansas City after the 1967 season because of his avarice.

    The plague known as the DH came into being in 1973. That’s one of two reasons why 1973 was a horrid year for the grand old game. The second was the introduction of one George Michael Steinbrenner, who bought the Yankees from CBS for a paltry $10 million. That season was also the last for the original Yankee Stadium and the first for the facility now known as Kauffman Stadium.

    In 2019, finding a clean-shaven MLB player is as hard as finding a four-leaf clover. I don’t get it.

    Beards in hockey are ubiquitous in the playoffs. I don’t like them. Wayne Gretzky never grew a playoff beard. He was okay, wasn’t he? At least most hockey players shave them. Baseball players aren’t shaving them, and it’s gross.

    I’m surprised there isn’t a huge Detroit Lions fan club in western Kansas because of coach Matt Patricia’s disgusting facial hair. People out here could root for the Lions without feeling guilty, since Detroit plays the Broncos and Chiefs only once every four years. The Lions happen to play both this season, and for some reason, Kansas City has to go back to Ford Field. Under the current schedule rotation, Detroit will go 20 years without visiting Arrowhead. Good work, NFL.

    1971 also happened to be a wonderful year in other sports.

    • The Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA championship in their third season, sweeping the Baltimore Bullets in four games. Of course, having Lew Alcindor, who had already changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar but not yet adopted it on the court, and Oscar Robertson didn’t hurt.
    • The NFL in 1971 was fabulous. Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page was the league’s Most Valuable Player. Dallas legend Bob Lilly and the Doomsday Defense powered the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl championship. The Dolphins, who lost Super Bowl VI, won the NFL’s longest game, defeating the Chiefs after seven minutes, 40 seconds of a second overtime period in what was the final NFL game in Kansas City Municipal Stadium.
    • College football came down to Big Eight superpowers Nebraska and Oklahoma on Thanksgiving Day in Norman. The Cornhuskers survived 35-31, then steamrolled undefeated Alabama 38-6 in the Orange Bowl to finish the first 13-0 season. That Crimson Tide team switched to the Wishbone offense and also fielded its first black players, John Mitchell and Wilbur Jackson.
    • After the previous three Stanley Cup finals series ended in four-game sweeps (sorry Blues), the Canadiens and Black Hawks played a series for the ages. The home team won each of the first six games, with the series returning to Chicago for game seven. In what turned out to be the final game for Montreal legend Jean Beliveau, Montreal silenced Chicago Stadium by winning 3-2 for the first of its six Stanley Cups in the 1970s.
    • UCLA won its fifth consecutive college basketball championship, overcoming determined Villanova 68-62 in the final at the Astrodome. Kansas reached the Final Four for the first time since 1957.
    • There were 48 NASCAR Grand National races in 1971, many on short tracks. The next year, the schedule was shortened to 31 races, and Winston cigarettes (🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤢🤢🤢🤢🤢🤢🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮) became the sponsor of the top series.

    Also in 1971, cigarette advertising on TV and radio was banned following the completion of the Orange Bowl (Nebraska 17, LSU 12) on New Year’s Night.

    Too bad H.G. Wells’ vision will never come to light. I’m stuck in this era of beards, tattoos and other things I can’t stand.

    I’m not going to apologize for this novella of a post. I needed to say these things.

    Maybe Buzztime knew I was blogging about 1971 in baseball. The first question of sports trivia tonight: What award did Ferguson Jenkins win that year? Of course any baseball fan worth his salt knows it was the National League Cy Young.

    Lots of trivia and no Wally. Win-win.

    I began August playing trivia. Literally.

    Apparently, once you log in to a trivia site on the Buzztime app, you stay logged in and can keep playing as long as you don’t exit the app.

    I logged in to Minsky’s while I picked up my order from Outback Steakhouse across Barry Road Wednesday. I kept the app open driving south on Interstate 29, figuring I would lose the signal somewhere at the 64th Street exit, three miles (5 km) of Barry Road.

    Nope, the app kept feeding me questions. Don’t worry, I wasn’t answering them as I drove. I wouldn’t be that desperate to play.

    When I finally got to the hotel at Briarcliff, seven and a half miles (12.5 km) from Minksy’s, I thought for sure I would be done.

    Nope.

    I kept on playing and playing and playing, all the way until 0125 this morning.

    Since I slept only nine and a half hours the previous two nights, I had to go to bed. Besides, I was drifting in and out by 0045.

    Thursday, following an futile trip to Olathe, I came back to Prairie Village to get the cheese I desired. I was about two kilometers north of Johnny’s Tavern at 83rd and Mission, the only location in Prairie Village with Buzztime. Driving north into Roeland Park, I still had the signal much to my surprise. I kept it up into Missouri on I-35 before finally exiting to get in touch with my dad back in Russell.

    Wash, rinse, repeat Friday.

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    Thursday night was interesting at the hotel.

    I attempted to wash two of LL Bean canvas bags which had been badly stained. One was by dishwashing liquid where the cap wasn’t screwed on tight and I didn’t notice it in the grocery store, and the other was of an unknown origin.

    I used the front-loading machine in the hotel’s laundry room. When I came back a half-hour later, the door was locked and there were suds all over the machine. I had to unplug the machine, and of course, suds came spilling out.

    Apparently, the machine was out of order, and some idiot pulled the sign off the machine. The front desk refunded my money.

    Do some people enjoying inconveniencing others? Lucky it was only a washing machine. If it happened with something else, it could have had much more serious consequences.

    I put one bag in each of the two top-loading machines. Everything turned out great.

    All the while I was still playing trivia on my phone. I once again got Outback, logged in to Minsky’s, and the signal was still going strong at Briarcliff.

    Thursday morning, I finally gave up at 0125. Friday morning, Buzztime stopped me cold at 0210 by not feeding any more questions. Of course, nobody at Minsky’s knew, because it closed at midnight. Speaking of Minsky’s, I probably should make an appearance tomorrow.

    I was hoping to make it to 0300, because Buzztime has introduced a new game which runs from 0300 to 1100 for those locations which are open that late or that early as the case may be.

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    One place I have not been on this trip, nor have I been the last 365 days, is Walmart.

    That’s right. I have not set foot in a Walmart since I exited the one in Hays 31 July 2018.

    The day after my last Walmart visit, I left for Kansas City for the trip where I met up with old middle school chum Jason Malasovich and family. Before I knew he was even in the area, I decided I would not longer patronize Walmart.

    I don’t have a political reason for doing so. I could not care less if Walmart or any other retailer sells t-shirts encouraging impeachment of Trump, Obama or any other political figure for that matter. I’m glad I don’t work at Walmart, because from what I have seen and heard, it is backbreaking, the pay is low, and the benefits are skimpy.

    When I shopped at Walmart, I never bought its store brands. I hold a strong antipathy for them. I trust store brands from grocery stores and Target, but Walmart for some reason rubs me the wrong way.

    I haven’t missed Walmart one bit. I compensate by loading up in Kansas City, Wichita and Salina. Salina has a Target without groceries, but Wichita does. Kansas City’s grocery stores–Hy-Vee and Price Chopper–usually have good selection for what I’m looking for. Schnuck’s in Columbia and Dierberg’s in the St. Louis metro have much more variety, and a lot of things they sell are not available in Kansas City, just like White Castle is nowhere to be found in western Missouri.

    I have to be careful with transporting perishable goods in the summer. In the winter I don’t need ice when it’s cold. When it’s frigid (below minus-5 Celsius), I can leave perishables in the car until I get back to Russell. I put ice over them just to be safe, but it works like a charm. No sense in bringing them into the room when you don’t have to.

    That’s why I now try to stay in hotels with full-sized refrigerators, especially in the summer. I can freeze the food, and even though it might thaw, it will be much better than if I took it straight from the store to Russell.

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    Now it’s 1440 Saturday. Back to Russell tomorrow, although with a stop in Salina. The humdrum life of western Kansas returns Monday with another session with Crista and trivia from somewhere in Hays. Back to Salina Tuesday. At least the August heat has abated for the time being. Any break we can get.