Blog Archives

Late, late, late night games

I am running on less than fumes right now. I have only myself to blame.

I got up at 0350 Friday morning. I just could not sleep Thursday night and in the wee hours of Friday. I had two morning appointments in Overland Park, which of course can be a pain if you have to drive from near KCI like I did. Found out that I need to go back to Morse-McCarthy Monday afternoon to get the brakes replaced. That’s what happens to a nine-year old car with 391,000 kilometers (243,000 miles). But it has not stranded me in the middle of nowhere, so as long as it gets me from Point X to Point Y, I’m good.

I got to play trivia for an hour with Larry at Buffalo Wild Wings, my first visit there in two months. I didn’t linger any longer than I had to so I could get out to Columbia and watch LSU play Missouri in volleyball.

The beginning and end of the time in the middle of Missouri were fine for the most part. The time inside Mizzou Arena left me wondering if I can ever go back to LSU.

I e-mailed the volleyball team’s media relations contact, Chelsey Chamberlain, that I was coming. I sent it out Monday. Not one word back. No contact elsewhere either.

Inside the arena, Ms. Chamberlain did her best to avoid eye contact.

Am I that repulsive? Maybe I am. 

LSU stayed competitive with Mizzou through the first two sets. In the second sert, LSU led 24-23 and could have tied the match, but blew set point. Mizzou won the next two points to win the set, then dominated the third. Final: 25-22, 26-24, 25-12.

The beginning and end was pretty good because I found some things I can’t in Kansas City, and certainly nowhere in Kansas.

Before the match, I hit the jackpot at Schnucks, the leading grocery chain in St. Louis which has expanded west, but only as far west as Columbia.

Schnucks had the peppers I love so much on hot dogs, peppers which are not carried by Hy-Vee or Hen House in Kansas City, not by Whole Foods, and certainly not by Target and Shit Mart, er, Walmart. I bought six jars, and they happened to be on sale for $2.50 each. I’m set.

After the match, I picked up White Castle. Again, Columbia is as close as I can get to White Castle. The company has introduced a slider made with plant-based materials, and I must say it is delicious.

Now I want to drive back to Columbia for Schnucks and White Castle. Believe me I’ll be hoarding if I’m there for LSU’s baseball series vs. Mizzou in mid-April.

I had to drive back to Kansas City because hotels in Columbia were almost all booked, and those that weren’t had exorbitant rates, because Mizzou hosts Kentucky in football. In fact, the game kicks off in less than an hour.

Exorbitant doesn’t begin to describe the price of going to see LSU-Alabama a week from tonight. I don’t want any part of it. I think next Saturday I’ll be in bed before 1900, even though we go back to standard time (FINALLY) and have an extra hour. I might be up at 0200 the next morning.

When I returned to the hotel at 0015, Game 3 of the World Series was still going strong. I turned it on in the 13th when Boston took a 2-1 lead. Sure enough, Los Angeles tied it in the bottom of the 13th.

I stayed awake long enough for the 14th, then zoned out. When I woke up at 0730, I discovered the Dodgers won in EIGHTEEN innings on a solo home run by Max Muncy.

The game took SEVEN HOURS and 20 minutes. It ended at 0030 Pacific, which was 0330 in Boston. By far the longest postseason game in history in terms of game time, and easily the longest in World Series history. There was an 18-inning National League Division Series game in 2005 between the Astros and Braves.

As far as marathon postseason games go, the National Hockey League is the only league which comes close. No NBA playoff game has lasted more than four overtimes, and the longest NFL postseason game, Miami at Kansas City on Christmas 1971 in the last game at Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium, went one and a half overtime periods. Association football matches have never lasted more than 120 minutes of playing time before (a) going to a shootout or (b) being replayed entirely.

I am feeling run down. That happens when you’re up for 21 straight hours then  sleep only six.

Red Sox, it’s yours to lose; Saban vs. Snyder is a pipe dream; I can’t advocate freeing Devin White

Boston won again last night. The Red Sox are now halfway home to their fourth World Series title this millennium following a 4-2 victory.

The Red Sox are, as Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic said often during the NFL season, a Stone Cold Lead Pipe Lock.

The last five teams to take a 2-0 lead in the World Series have won in either four or five games. The roll call: 2004 and ’07 Red Sox, 2010 and ’12 Giants, 2015 Royals. Only the 2010 Rangers and 2015 Mets managed to win a game in their home park.

The 2001 Yankees are the most recent team to fall behind 2-0 (to the Diamondbacks in Phoenix) and at least get the series back to where it started. That year, the home team won EVERY game, the same way it occurred in ’87 (Twins over Cardinals) and ’91 (Twins over Braves).

In 1998, ’99 and 2000, the Yankees won the first two games of the series and it never returned to where it started. In ’98 and 2000, the series began in the Bronx; in ’99, the Yankees won the first two in Atlanta, then the next two at Yankee Stadium II.

Only three times has a team lost the first two games at home and come back to win: 1985 Royals, ’86 Mets, ’96 Yankees.

The Dodgers are down 2-0 for the fourth time since making their first World Series appearance representing Los Angeles. In 1965 (vs. Minnesota) and ’81 (vs. Yankees), the Dodgers won all three games at Chavez Ravine, then won the series on the road (Game 7 in ’65, Game 6 in ’81). In 1966, the Dodgers lost twice at home to Baltimore and were cooked; the Orioles won a pair of 1-0 games in Maryland. Shortly thereafter, Sandy Koufax, who beat the Twins in Game 7 of ’65 on two days rest, retired.

In 1955, the Brooklyn Dodgers were behind 2-0 after losing twice in the Bronx. The Bums won all three at Ebbets Field, only to lose Game 6 back in the Bronx. Fortunately for the Brooklynites, Johnny Podres pitched the game of his life to give the Dodgers their first world title.

The next year, the Dodgers took a 2-0 lead at Ebbets Field. To nobody’s surprise, the Yankees won all three in the Bronx, with the last of those three being Don Larsen’s perfect game. Brooklyn won Game 6 back at home, but the Yankees pummeled the Dodgers 9-0 in Game 7 in the last World Series game in Flatbush.

The Red Sox swept the Cardinals in 2004 and the Rockies in ’07, but they were up 2-0 on the Mets in ’86 going back to Fenway. The denizens of Queens won Games 3 and 4 before Boston won Game 5. Then you know what happened next…Bill Buckner.

The Dodgers won’t be going back to Fenway. Not this season at least. It’s over. Boston will have a long flight to celebrate its latest World Series championship, much the same way the Bruins had a transcontinental journey from Vancouver when they won the Stanley Cup in 2011, or the Celtics after vanquishing the Lakers in 1962, ’68 and ’69.

The Patriots have never played in a Super Bowl in California. Three in New Orleans, two each in Houston and Phoenix (technically Glendale), one each in Minneapolis, Jacksonville and Indianapolis. I would have loved to be on the flight back from Tempe after the Patriots lost to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. I’m sure it was tons of fun. If that were the case, I’ve got a beachfront house under construction in Russell.

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Speaking of Bill Belichick, I’m sure I would pee in my pants if I were anywhere near him or Nick Saban. Actually, I got pretty close physically to Saban during media day at the Sugar Bowl 15 years ago when LSU played Oklahoma for the national championship. People say Belichick and Saban are different people away from football. I don’t know either man personally, so I can’t tell.

If I did meet Saban, I would love to ask him about how he game planned at Michigan State for facing Iowa. When Saban was the defensive coordinator in East Lansing (1983-87), the Hawkeyes’ offensive coordinator was none other than Bill Snyder. Saban went to the NFL in 1988, Snyder’s last year in Iowa City, and ’89, when Snyder took over at K-State. Their paths last crossed in 1987, when Michigan State went to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1965. Iowa went to Pasadena in 1985.

Of course, you cannot convince anyone in Kansas (minus Jayhawk fanatics) that there is a college football coach greater than Bill Snyder. I’m not denying Snyder has done great things at Kansas State. However, I am not buying into the narrative of him being the best coach ever.

I will say one thing: Saban and Snyder are 180 degrees apart when it comes to scheduling.

Saban wants to play all Power Five teams and nine conference games instead of eight. He would rather not play the ‘buy games’ to give the fans much more bang for their buck, but it isn’t feasible if nobody else wants to do it. Until every other SEC school agrees to play only Power Five teams, Saban simply is stuck.

The SEC and ACC should have to play nine conference games. If the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 are doing it, the other two should have to as well. I honestly think the College Football Playoff committee should seriously penalize SEC and ACC schools until (a) they play nine conference games or (b) cut the crappy teams and play at least two Power Fives in non-conference.

I’m not the biggest Saban fan, but I applaud the man for willing to put his considerable money where his mouth is, not backing down from the best.

Snyder would rather load up his schedule with cupcakes and lesser lights, the fans be damned. He doesn’t mind feeding Wildcat faithful filler until Big 12 season goes along. I’m sure he was royally pissed when the Big 12 required a full round-robin schedule following the loss of Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M, and the addition of TCU and West Virginia. Snyder wanted two five-team divisions so he could schedule at least one, maybe two, more softies. At least the Big 12 had the foresight to ignore him.

Because of that, Saban and Snyder will never face off unless they are matched in a bowl game. No chance Snyder wants to take the Wildcats to Tuscaloosa. None. And no way K-State gets into Alabama’s ionosphere for a bowl game, so the Saban vs. Snyder dream match will have to remain a relic of the old Big Ten, when the conference actually had 10 teams.

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As for Saban’s current team, Alabama visits Baton Rouge a week from Saturday for another apocalyptic game, at least for LSU fans. Crimson Tide rooters really could care less, because as Bear Bryant famously said, he would rather beat the Cow College (Auburn) once than Notre Dame (or LSU or just about anyone else) ten times.

LSU fans have been in a tizzy since about 2100 Saturday, when All-SEC linebacker Devin White was ejected for targeting on a hit against Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. With just under five minutes remaining and LSU leading 19-3, White was called by referee John McDaid for leading with his helmet and hitting Fitzgerald below the face mask, which is the definition of targeting.

It appeared White attempted to hold up, and he led with a two-hand shove, not a launch with the helmet. It was a very, very questionable targeting. Yes, White should have been penalized, but ejecting him was probably over the top.

The worst thing about a targeting call in the second half is that player is suspended for the first half of the next game. This means White will be a spectator or held in the locker room during the first minutes of the tussle between the Bayou Bengals and Crimson Tide.

Had this been against the Alabama offense of two years ago, it might not have been so bad. LSU and Alabama were scoreless through three quarters before the Tide offense got going and won 10-0.

Now, it is a major loss.

Alabama has a more explosive offense than Joe Namath, Bart Starr or Kenny Stabler ever could have dreamed of. Tua Tagiviola, who came off the bench in the second half of last year’s national championship game vs. Georgia and rallied the Tide from a 13-0 deficit to win in overtime, is favored to win the Heisman. In fact, you cannot get even money odds on Tua at any Las Vegas sports book. Alabama has routed every opponent so far, and Tua has yet to see the fourth quarter of any game.

The Twitter hashtag #freedevinwhite trended immediately after the game and most of Sunday. LSU athletic director Joe Alleva was incensed and begged SEC commissioner Greg Sankey to overturn the suspension.

It got so heated political guru James Carville, a Louisiana native and LSU graduate, wrote a letter to The Advocate in Baton Rouge claiming the officials of the SEC were in cahoots with Alabama. Carville claimed the directive to uphold the targeting call against White came from SEC Director of Officials Steve Shaw, an Alabama graduate and native of Birmingham.

Carville wasn’t the only politically connected Bayou State resident who chimed in.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, who also graduated from LSU, demanded to know from Shaw and Sankey why White was ejected and just how it was targeting.

Edwards is the first governor to be this invested in LSU football since John McKeithen helped Charles McClendon recruit during his two terms (1964-72). John Bel, no relation to Edwin Edwards, has traveled with the Tigers and is very close to Ed Orgeron and his wife Kelly.

It’s nice to see JBE loving LSU football. Edwin Edwards graduated from LSU, but really didn’t care about sports, although he was on the LSU plane to Philadelphia for the 1981 Final Four. Dave Treen graduated from Tulane, so he saw LSU as the enemy, at least in athletics. Mike Foster graduated from LSU, but only cared about hunting and fishing. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco hated LSU, having graduated from UL Lafayette. As for Buddy Roemer and Bobby Jindal, they didn’t give a you know what–both graduated from Harvard.

As it turns out, neither Shaw nor Sankey has the power to vacate the suspension. That belongs to the NCAA and Director of Football Officiating Rogers Redding, who, like Shaw, was a longtime referee in the SEC. Redding said it’s not happening.

Orgeron, to his credit, has moved on and is focusing on getting the Bayou Bengals ready for the Tide. Alleva is taking up the fight, which is what a good athletic director should do. Governor Edwards has bigger fish to fry, though. It’s nice to see him care about the state’s flagship school, but funding the academic side should be priority one, not the football team.

I’m of the mind that if the officials–McDaid, Shaw, the replay official in the booth at Tiger Stadium and any other officials in Birmingham with Shaw at command central–did not see enough clear and convincing evidence to overturn the targeting call, it should stand. McDaid said the call was “confirmed” after replay, which meant there was clear and convincing evidence in their minds.

Steve Shaw was the sine qua non of college football officials when he wore the white hat. Every time there was a huge game involving an SEC school during the regular season, Steve Shaw was the man announcing the penalties. If there was a major bowl game, there was a good chance Shaw was the man in charge. He only got to work two national championship games (Florida State vs. Virginia Tech in ’99, USC vs. Oklahoma in 2004) because the SEC almost always had a team in the title game, so by rule, Shaw and all SEC officials were barred from working. But three Rose Bowls isn’t a bad consolation, especially considering SEC officials never worked the Rose Bowl until the 1991 season.

Shaw is one of the two greatest college football officials who ever lived. The other is Jimmy Harper, who was a referee in the SEC from the early 1970s through 1995. Harper had a Georgia drawl which made me laugh nearly every time. And Harper explained penalties so well you could understand even if you had never watched a football game before.

My father loved Harper. My dad called Harper the ‘white-haired gentleman’. The good news is Harper was probably watching the LSU-Mississippi State game from his home in Atlanta. He’s still alive and kicking at 84.

Shaw and Harper both could have been NFL referees. I’m sure they would have been as legendary as Jerry Markbreit, Ed Hochuli, Jim Tunney and Ben Dreith. But they chose to stay in college, which obviously was a great decision.

I don’t believe for one nanosecond Steve Shaw has a biased cell in his body. He is a man of the utmost integrity. He doesn’t care the teams playing. He only cares that the game is played fairly, and that when someone violates the rules of the game, he is penalized accordingly. I will never buy LSU fans claiming Shaw is biased. No way.

It’s a tough break for LSU, but it’s football. White will learn and be better for it.

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I’m rambling yet again. Sorry. That’s all for now.

No baseball until 2019 for me

I refuse to watch the World Series. I can’t stand the Red Sox, and right now, I may hate their opponent even more.

I was disgusted by the Dodgers acting like they were so high and mighty during the National League Championship Series.

Had Los Angeles defeated Milwaukee without the taunting and showboating, I could have accepted it, even though I wouldn’t like it. But the way Manny Machado, Yasiel Puig and several other Dodgers taunted the Brewers and crowd at Miller Park during Game 7 disgusted me.

I thought the Dodgers had more class than this. It shows me they are just another team I cannot stand.

Sadly, the Brewers came up short yet again. That’s been the M.O. for the artists originally known (briefly) as the Seattle Pilots. Ironically, the loss in Game 7 of the NLCS this year came 36 years to the day since Milwaukee lost Game 7 of the 1982 World Series in St. Louis.

I’m resigned to the fact the Brewers will never win a World Series in my lifetime. Sadly, the other four teams in the National League Central have, and four of the five in Milwaukee’s old division, the American League Central, have as well (all but the Indians).

It’s Greek Freak time in Milwaukee. The Bucks are off to a 3-0 start and drawing sellouts in their sparkling new $800 million arena, an arena Milwaukee had to have or the team would have moved. Adam Silver blackmailed the city and the taxpayers of Wisconsin into building the arena, or else he would move the team, probably to Seattle.

Another reason to hate the NBA: Adam Silver. I could not stand David Stern, but he never held a gun to a city’s head and told them build an arena or lose your team. In fact, Stern saved the Pelicans from leaving New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I’m convinced if Katrina never happens, both the Pelicans and Saints may have left my hometown.

Silver and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman are two peas in a pod. Both seriously suck.

The Seroquel (the generic version at least) is starting to kick in. Time to hit the sack. Yes, I’m going to bed THAT early so I can get to Kansas City early tomorrow.

Students, STAY OFF THE FIELD!

I almost had the score right on the Georgia-LSU football game last Saturday.

I said 37-17 Georgia. The final? 36-16.

However, I had the wrong team winning.

LSU played its best game in a long, long time, and certainly its best since Ed Orgeron took over from Les Miles two years ago. I didn’t think LSU had it in the bag until it was 29-9 in the fourth quarter. I was just waiting for the Bulldogs to make a big comeback. I thought it would happen in the second half, when they made the adjustments after falling down 16-0 at halftime.

It never came. The Bayou Bengals won, and several thousand idiots stormed the field and cost LSU $100,000 because it violated Southeastern Conference policy, which demands schools keep people who have absolutely no business being on the field (or court) from going onto the playing surface and endangering the safety of the players, coaches, officials, working media and security personnel.

Those idiots who stormed the field should be forced to pay the fine. Every student who was at the game should be forced to contribute part of the fine. LSU scans student identification cards at every game, so there would be a way to find out the students who went to the game and punish them.

Sadly, U.S. Representative Garret Graves, who represents Baton Rouge in the House, started a Go Fund Me page to pay for the fine. IDIOT. Graves is encouraging this lawless behavior by raising money for the fine. Rep. Graves, there’s a lot more pressing issues in Congress than covering the ass of students who don’t know how to behave like civilized humans. You should be ashamed of yourself. You are an embarrassment to your constituents and Congress by doing this.

Alabama comes to Baton Rouge November 3. Oh boy. If the Bayou Bengals pull off the shocker there, fans are certain to storm the field and cost LSU a $250,000 from the SEC. Worse, I fear the safety of Nick Saban would be in peril. LSU fans have shown their ass time and again when Saban’s Crimson Tide have been in Death Valley by shouting “F**K SABAN” so loudly it can be picked up by CBS and beamed from coast to coast.

Bill Self was not hurt when Kansas State students stormed the court in Manhattan the last time the Wildcats beat Kansas, but he had to dodge several angry students who came after him. I would not put it past LSU fans to do the same to Saban, especially since LSU fans feel he betrayed LSU by going to Alabama.

Come on. I don’t like Saban being at Alabama, but LSU fans cannot complain. Saban went to the NFL for two years with the Dolphins before going to Alabama. He did not go straight from Baton Rouge to Tuscaloosa. After all, Saban took LSU into the ionosphere of college football and it stayed there under Miles until the night of January 9, 2012. Even though LSU has yet to make the College Football Playoff, the Bayou Bengals are still winning 8, 9 or 10 games in most seasons and going to a bowl. Do they really want a return to Curley Hallman and Gerry DiNardo (and the last two years of Mike Archer)? I saw bad, bad, BAD LSU football aplenty in the early 1990s, and up close in 1994. This is as far from bad as possible.

If the student shenanigans happen again November 3, LSU students should be banned from the home finale vs. Rice two weeks later. Actually, they not only should be banned from the Rice game, but the first Southeastern Conference game of 2019 vs. Auburn. Maybe that would send a message to the morons to act civilized.

Maybe LSU needs to confine students to the upper decks. Reserve two sections in each upper deck at the far ends for students. Unless someone has a bungee cord, no way they’re getting down there.

I miss the people at LSU and around Baton Rouge, but I am now very glad I wasn’t there. I cannot stand crowds, and it would have driven me absolutely insane to see idiots breaking the law and costing their school $100,000.

I ended up spending part of my birthday in Ottawa with the Cox family watching Caitlyn play volleyball. She’s on the junior varsity right now, but will be on the varsity in 2019. Ottawa has a strong program and she is very fortunate to be playing there, just as older sister Courtney did many years ago. I drove straight home from Ottawa to Russell because of the forecast of snow. Made it home at 2240.

I was dead tired Sunday and Monday. Dead tired. I slept through most of Sunday, staying awake long enough to eat steaks with my parents at lunch, then late to get some work done. Monday was little better; I stayed up through the night Tuesday, with a nap here  and there, to make sure I got my work done on time.

No wonder I slept 11 1/2 hours last night and this morning. I woke up 80 minutes later than I had planned. Lucky for me, I could get the work done in plenty of time. So that worked out.

The Brewers are now down 3-2 in the National League Championship Series to the Dodgers. The only good news is (a) the series now goes back to Milwaukee and (b) Clayton Kershaw is done for the series. However, I’ve seen enough Brewer failure through the years that I know the end is near.

Brewers survive; I must drive

Well,, the Brewers tried to give it away last night. Fortunately, they didn’t, and held on to beat the Dodgers 6-5 in game one of the National League Championship Series.

I listened to the second inning driving from Minsky’s to the hotel. Manny Machado hit a leadoff home run off Gio Gonzalez. I screamed to myself I knew it would happen. Therefore, I chose not to put myself through the ringer and watch the game. The Brewers ended up taking a 5-1 lead in the fourth, and I finally watched a few batters in the seventh.

I went to bed right after that. Luckily I wasn’t awake to see the Dodgers rally.

Game two is at 1500 today. I’ll be out and about so I won’t have to torture myself. Houston and Boston play at 1900 to open the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park.

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My day has taken an unexpected turn. Actually, it took the turn last night just before I left Minsky’s.

I looked up the weather and saw the chance of snow in western and central Kansas for Sunday has increased greatly. The timing could not have been worse for a potential late morning return: by 0800 in Hays, 0900 in Russell, and 1100 in Salina. And worse, there is going to be accumulations from 2 to 4 inches in Hays and Russell.

Yikes. And tomorrow is only October 14.

Last October 14, I was running around in shorts with no sweatshirt. I wore a floral print shirt on my birthday, the same one I wore to eat with my dad, Brenda and Dorinda in Baton Rouge exactly six months later.

This October 14, I was going to be wearing a turtleneck and sweatshirt to drive home. I was afraid it wasn’t going to be enough. I was hitting myself (mentally only) for not packing my parka.

Now, I’ll be waking up in my own bed Sunday.

I’m driving home right after Ottawa plays volleyball. It’s not a bad drive–US 59 to Lawrence, then Interstate 70 home. US 59 is four lanes and controlled access between Ottawa and Lawrence, and I won’t have to go through the city of Lawrence (especially the KU campus) since K-10 goes around the west side to I-70. It will be about the same time (four hours) as going from Kansas City to Russell.

I drove home from Kansas City in the late, late hours on my 37th birthday (2013) to beat bad weather. I drove from Emporia to Abilene to Russell on my 30th birthday (2006), not getting home until after 11. Therefore, it’s nothing new.

It isn’t the worst thing to be going home early. Probably a good thing. Lots of work to do.

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LSU plays Georgia in a supposedly huge Southeastern Conference game today. I hate to say it, but Georgia is going to run roughshod over the Bayou Bengals in my opinion. I can’t see LSU staying close for long. I like the Bulldogs 37-17. I won’t be watching that, either.

The final hour of my 42nd year is underway. In 45 minutes, year #43 officially starts.

Brewers in (extremely) rarefied air

Tonight, the Dodgers and Brewers begin the National League championship series in Milwaukee. The roof will certainly be closed.

Good thing Bud Selig demanded it when Miller Park was built. At least the Brewers don’t have to worry about freeze outs in April like the Red Sox, Cubs, White Sox, Twins, Indians and Pirates often have to put up with, and the Royals, Cardinals, Rockies, Phillies, Reds, Yankees, Mets, Orioles and Nationals sometimes do, and the Blue Jays did before Skydome (now Rogers Centre) was built. Even the Rangers and Braves have had a game iced out every so often. The Rangers won’t have to worry about that anymore starting in 2020 when their retractable roof stadium opens next to Jerry World.

The Dodgers, of course, are one of baseball’s iconic franchises. Dem Bums, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider and Don Newcombe, then Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Tommy Lasorda in Los Angeles. Clayton Kershaw has done just about everything in his Hall of Fame career except win a World Series. He could cement his plaque in Cooperstown if the Dodgers win it this year, especially when the American League champion, the Red Sox or Astros, will be heavily favored in the World Series.

The Brewers? Put it this way: the Dodgers have won 48 games in the World Series and six championships, and since 1969, have won two World Series and lost in four others. Tonight will be the Brewers 36th postseason game in franchise history. The sweep of the Rockies in the division series brought the franchise’s all-time postseason record to 17-18.

The franchise didn’t even begin in Milwaukee. It started life in 1969 as the Seattle Pilots. The original owner of the Pilots, Dewey Soriano, was grossly undercapitalized, and there was no suitable stadium anywhere near Seattle for Major League Baseball. The bond issue to build the stadium which became the Kingdome was approved in 1968, but even if construction began immediately, it would not be ready before 1971.

The idea in Seattle was to begin in 1971, along with a new team in Kansas City, which lost the Athletics to Oakland after the 1967 season. However, Stuart Symington, a U.S. Senator from Missouri, demanded Major League Baseball grant Kansas City a new franchise in 1969, or he would introduce a bill to revoke MLB’s antitrust exemption.

It was a reverse move of how the New Orleans Saints were born, when, in 1966, Senator Russell Long and U.S. Representative Hale Boggs agreed to introduce legislation to provide the National Football League an antitrust exemption to merge with the American Football League if New Orleans were granted a franchise.

Baseball commissioner Spike Eckert–who would be fired by owners at the end of the 1968 World Series–and American League president Joe Cronin bowed to Symington’s threat, and American League owners did not want an imbalanced schedule where every team would be force to sit for at least two periods per season, so they awarded Soriano and William R. Daley, who almost moved the Cleveland Indians to Seattle (before the Indians almost moved to New Orleans), the Pilots.

If baseball wanted to do it right AND appease Symington, the best idea would have been to give Kansas City and either Montreal or San Diego a franchise in 1969, and have Seattle and the other city wait until 1972 so the Kingdome would be ready for sure.

The Pilots had to pay the Pacific Coast League $1 million since the minor league club which played in Sick’s Stadium had to relocate to accommodate the Pilots (the minor league team didn’t move far–to Tacoma). Sick’s Stadium wasn’t up to MLB standards, and it was hastily expanded, but still short of the 30,000 minimum capacity. Worse, the plumbing often got clogged by overflow crowds, and visiting teams had no hot water for showers on many a day and night.

Soriano was meeting in secret with Bud Selig, then a Milwaukee automobile magnate, to sell the Pilots. Selig would then move the team to Milwaukee to become the Brewers. Milwaukee had been without MLB since the Braves left for Atlanta after the 1965 season, hosted the White Sox for 10 games in 1968 and 11 more in ’69, and the attendance for those games was triple that what the team averaged in Chicago during those seasons.

The deal between Soriano and Selig was consummated in Baltimore on the opening day of the 1969 World Series, but Washington state called in its political heavyweights, the same way Louisiana and Missouri did.

The Evergreen State had two very powerful Democratic U.S. Senators at the time, Warren Magnuson and Henry “Scoop” Jackson. They, along with Washington attorney general (and future successor to both) Slade Gorton, went to federal court to block the sale and give MLB to find an owner which would keep the team in Seattle.

Two potential deals failed. Soriano and Daley fell into bankruptcy, and came very close to a deadline which, if the players and staff had not been paid, would have made the players free agents and left MLB with 23 teams, not 24, for 1970.

Meanwhile, the Pilots were training in Arizona, not knowing where they would be playing 81 games in 1970. The moving trucks which left Arizona with equipment stopped in Salt Lake City, not knowing whether to drive north or east.

Finally, six days before Opening Day, bankruptcy judge Sidney Volinn awarded the franchise to Allan H. Selig. The Pilots were now the Milwaukee Brewers.

Selig originally envisioned the Brewers wearing the Braves’ colors of scarlet and navy, but it was too late to order new uniforms, so the new Milwaukee team took the field in the Pilots’ colors, royal blue and gold. The colors stuck through 1993, after which the Brewers went to navy blue and old gold, and even added green for three seasons (1994-96).

Milwaukee’s early teams were terrible. The Brewers played in the American League West in 1970 and ’71, building impressive rivalries with the Twins and White Sox. Then, inexplicably, they were moved to the AL East in 1972 when the Washington Senators became the Rangers. MLB would have been just fine keeping the Rangers in the East; after all, the Dallas Cowboys competed in the NFC East. Instead, the AL stunted the Brewers-Twins and Brewers-White Sox rivalries until 1994, when all three were (briefly) in the AL Central together.

The Brewers didn’t enjoy a winning season until 1978. To be fair, though, the Expos were horrid until 1979, and the Padres didn’t succeed until 1984, but since the Royals went the full five games with the Yankees in the 1976 and ’77 ALCS, Milwaukee fans were getting restless.

In 1978, the logo which has been called “the most clever in all American professional sports” was created. The famous ball-in-glove logo shaped in a lower case “m” and “b”. The asshole who changed that logo after 1993 needs to be found and beaten brutally. Why the team won’t wear the logo full-time is beyond me.

In 1981, the Brewers made the playoffs due to Bowie Kuhn’s asinine decision to split the season because of the players’ strike which cancelled games from June 12-August 8. Milwaukee had the best record in the AL East in the second half, earning it the right to play the Yankees in the best-of-five series to determine which team went to the ALCS. The Brewers lost the first two games in Milwaukee, but somehow won the next two in the Bronx before losing game five.

The next year, manager Buck Rodgers was fired with the Brewers below .500. In came Harvey Kuenn, and Milwaukee rocketed to the top of the division, thanks to “Harvey’s Wallbangers”, consisting of sluggers Gorman Thomas, Ben Oglivie and Cecil Cooper, and steady hitters Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. The pitching staff was led by Cy Young winner Pete Vukovich and closer Rollie Fingers, the anchor of the “Swinging A’s” bullpen on Oakland’s championship teams of 1972-74.

However, the Brewers nearly blew it. They went into Baltimore on the final weekend of the regular season with a three-game lead over the Orioles. Earl Weaver, who was retiring at the end of the ’82 season, led his club to three straight victories,  leaving a winner-take-all game 162. The winner of that game would be on a plane to Anaheim for the ALCS vs. the Angels, who barely held off the Royals in the West. The loser would go home.  (There was a potential playoff in the NL West, where the Braves held a tenuous one-game lead over the Dodgers.)

The Brewers somehow pulled it together on October 3, 1982 and won 10-2. However, Milwaukee foundered on the west coast, losing twice to the Angels and standing on the brink of elimination.

The cold and hometown fans warmed up the Brewers, who won three straight and earned the right to face the Cardinals in the World Series.

Mike Caldwell pitched the game of his life in the World Series opener, shutting out the Cards 10-0. St. Louis won the next two games, but Milwaukee rallied to win Games 4 and 5 at County Stadium. As the Brewers loaded the plane at General Mitchell International Airport the evening of October 17, 1982, Milwaukee was one win away from its first World Series championship since 1957, and its first sports title since 1971, when Oscar Robertson and Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) led the Bucks to a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Bullets for the NBA title.

Wisconsin needed the Brewers to win. The Packers hadn’t done a blessed thing since Vince Lombardi left the sideline following Super Bowl II; the Bucks always seemed to come up empty, losing in the 1974 finals to the Celtics and then falling short time and again in the playoffs after that; and Wisconsin football and basketball were second-worst in the Big Ten consistently (Northwestern kept the Badgers from the bottom).

It didn’t happen. The Cardinals bombed the Brewers 13-1 in game six, then claimed game seven 6-3 to celebrate on the Busch Stadium turf.

Milwaukee was done for a long, long time. The Brewers came close to winning a division title only in 1992, falling just short as the Blue Jays were on their way to the first of back-to-back World Series titles. In November 1997, Milwaukee baseball fans got some great news: the Brewers were moving to the National League.

The Royals were the first team asked to move from the AL to the NL, since the leagues did not want to have an odd number of teams and be forced to stage interleague play every day (that would come in 2013 when the Astros moved to the AL). The other idea, to place the expansion teams in one league, was vetoed by the AL., because it did not want to cede Florida to the NL (the Marlins started in 1993). Therefore, one team was asked to switch from the DH league to the No-DH league.

Kansas City made perfect sense. The Royals would have been in the NL Central with the Cubs and Cardinals, meaning St. Louis and Kansas City would play for something much more meaningful than three picayune interleague games in late August.

Instead, David Glass, chairman of the board which ran the Royals following founder Ewing M. Kauffman’s death in July 1993, said no. claiming Kansas City was an “American League” city.

Next up? The Brewers. Bud Selig, chairman of the owners council and acting commissioner (he became full-time commissioner in July 1998) said yes in about one-eighth of a nanosecond.

The new league did nothing for the Brewers. In 2002, Milwaukee went 56-106, eight games worse than the Pilots did. The Brewers reached .500 in 2005, barely missed out on the wild card in 2007, then finally reached the playoffs in 2008, finishing second behind the Cardinals in the NL Central. Milwaukee traded for the Indians’ CC Sabathia at mid-season, knowing he was a rental (he signed with the Yankees in the offseason and promptly helped the Bronx Bombers to their 27th, and most recent, World Series title), then fired Ned Yost (yes, Kansas City, THAT Ned Yost) in September with the Brewers trailing the Mets for the wild card.

Milwaukee ended up losing its division series in four games to the eventual World Series champion Phillies. The Brewers hovered around .500 in 2009 and ’10, then won the NL Central in 2011, thanks to Zack Greinke, who won a Cy Young in 2009 with the Royals.

To get Greinke, the Brewers had to significantly mortgage their future. Traded to Kansas City were a couple of prospects, shortstop Alcides Escobar and outfielder Lorenzo Cain. Escobar and Cain, along with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, gave the Royals what many termed the deepest farm system in baseball. With hotshot catcher Salvador Perez already in the bigs, the Royals were looking towards 2014 as the year they hit the big time.

How right they were.

The Brewers defeated the Diamondbacks in the 2011 division series, but lost to St. Louis in six in the NLCS. The Cardinals went on to defeat the Rangers in seven in the World Series.

Milwaukee regressed in 2012 and ’13, but in 2014, started 20-7 and led the NL Central by as many as 6 1/2 games. Yet a disastrous final six weeks left the Brewers barely above .500, 82-80. The Brewers plummeted to 68-94 in 2015, earning manager Ron Roenicke, who led the team to the 2011 NL Central title, a pink slip. In came former MLB utility man extraordinaire Craig Counsell.

Many suggested the Brewers tear it down and rebuild from scratch, much the way the Astros did in the early 2010s when they lost over 100 games for three straight years, bottoming out at 51-111 in 2013. Milwaukee looked like it was doing that in 2016, when it went 73-89.

Then  came 2017. Most expected the Brewers to occupy the basement of the NL Central, and possibly one of the worst teams in baseball.

Instead, Milwaukee’s youngsters played out of their minds. The Brewers led the NL Central (over the defending World Series champion Cubs) in July, and even though they could not hold that lead, stayed in the wild card race to the bitter end, falling only one game short of the Rockies. An 86-76 record whetted fans’ appetite for 2018.

And here we are. The Brewers fashioned the best record in the NL, trailing only the Red Sox, Yankees and Astros overall. Milwaukee has its best chance to win a World Series championship since the days of Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews and Lew Burdette. The Packers have won plenty since Brett Favre’s arrival, but Green Bay is almost two hours north on Interstate 43, and the team stopped playing games in Milwaukee in 1994, so some Milwaukee fans feel quite detached from the Packers.

I’ve followed the Brewers since 1984, the first year I was old enough to follow MLB. That year, the Brewers made history by playing a 25-inning game against the White Sox. That, and 1987, when the Brewers started 13-0 and Molitor fashioned a 39-game hitting streak, was about it for me until 2008. Then 2011 was it until now.

I had given up on the Brewers when they were swept in a five-game series at Pittsburgh near the All-Star break. Yet they’ve won 11 straight as they head into the NLCS.

I hope the Brewers can pull it off. But I’m always a doubter. I don’t know if the starting pitching can hold up against Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger. I don’t know if Christian Yelich can continue to hit out of this galaxy against Kershaw. I don’t know if Moustakas and Cain can regain the magic of 2014 and ’15 when they helped the Royals win two AL pennants and a World Series. I don’t know if Knabel, Hader and Jeffress can get the key outs.

Prove me wrong, Milwaukee. Prove me wrong. Change my doubt into faith.  Hopefully that  the Brewers are playing in Boston or Houston the night of October 23.

 

 

Vin Scully SUPERIOR. Jack Buck INFERIOR.

Last night was the 26th anniversary of one of the most memorable home runs in Major League Baseball history. One which I remember quite well because I watched it two days after my 12th birthday.

Game one of the 1988 World Series. The Oakland Athletics, in the Series for the first time since the Swinging A’s dynasty of 1972-73-74 which featured Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers, was heavily favored to defeat the Dodgers.

The Athletics won 104 games in the regular season under Tony LaRussa, led by the first person to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season, Jose Canseco. Of course, it turned out Canseco was juiced to the max on steroids, as was Mark McGwire, his “Bash Brother”. Oakland had a strong pitching staff led by starters Dave Stewart and Bob Welch, and a lights out closer, Dennis Eckersley, who was a top flight starter in Cleveland and Boston before injuries took their toll. After a failed stint with the Cubs, “The Eck” hooked up with LaRussa in Oakland, and the rest was history, as he became one of the best closers in the game.

The Dodgers didn’t do much of anything well, but they had the best starting pitcher in the game in 1988. Orel Hershiser broke what was thought to be an untouchable streak, pitching 59 consecutive scoreless innings to break the record of 58 2/3 set 20 years earlier by Dodger Hall of Famer Don Drysdale, who later became a broadcaster for the franchise.

Los Angeles had the National League’s Most Valuable Player, Kirk Gibson, but he was hampered by severe injuries during the postseason, and although he was on the World Series roster, it was not expected he would play.

Nobody thought the Dodgers would get past the Mets, who won 100 games, in the NLCS, but Tommy Lasorda’s club did just that, getting a game seven shutout from Hershiser.

Three nights later, the Dodgers took a 2-0 in the first inning of the Series opener on a Mickey Hatcher home run, but the Athletics got those runs right back and more in the second on a Canseco grand slam off Tim Belcher.

That would be it for Oakland’s scoring. The bullpen trio of Tim Leary, Brian Holton and Alejandro Pen held the Athletics to a mere four hits over the final seven innings, allowing the Dodgers to stay in the game, although the only run they scored in the middle seven innings came on Mike Scioscia’s RBI single in the sixth.

Holding a 4-3 lead, Eckersley came on for the bottom of the ninth. He retired Scioscia on a popup and struck out Dave Hamilton, leaving the Athletics one out away from their first Series victory since, ironically, they finished off the Dodgers in game five of the 1974 Series to wrap up their third consecutive title.

Pinch hitter MIke Davis worked a walk, keeping Los Angeles alive. With the pitcher’s spot in the order up, Lasorda called upon his injured star.

Gibson looked worse than lame when he hobbled to the plate. Let’s put it this way: if Gibson were a horse, he would have been put down. I thought to myself he had better hit a home run, because if he has to run, it would be disastrous.

Gibson fell behind 0-2, but he fouled off a couple of pitches and worked the count to 2-2 when Davis stole second. Now, if Gibson could drive the ball down the line or put one in the gap, Davis could score from second and the game would be tied. Lasorda could pinch run for Gibson and Steve Sax would come to the plate with the chance to win it.

Eckersley threw ball three to Gibson, who then remembered a piece of advice by Dodger scout Mel Didier, a Louisiana native and LSU graduate. Didier’s scouting report on Eckersley stated that against a left-handed batter with a full count, The Eck would go almost exclusively to a backdoor slider.

Sure enough, Eckersley threw a slider. Gibson connected and the ball took off towards the right field pavilion. Canseco gave it a look but knew his team was doomed.

The ball landed 12 rows in the seats. Gibson limped around the bases as his incredulous teammates and those in the original crowd of 56,000 who did not leave early to beat the traffic went crazy.

Two calls of that home run have been immortalized. The one I will always remember, the far better call in my opinion, was Vin Scully’s call on NBC. It took all of nine words.

“HIGH FLY BALL INTO RIGHT FIELD….SHE IS GONNNNE!”

Jack Buck’s call on CBS Radio was far too wordy. His last line of “I don’t believe what I just saw” was nearly as long as Scully’s entire call of the play. I was not a Jack Buck fan, and that call was simply over the top. Too much. Shut up, Jack.

The Athletics were finished. Hershiser pitched another shutout in game two, and although Oakland won game three at home on a McGwire home run in the bottom of the ninth, it was simply a stay of execution. The Dodgers won games four and five, with Hershiser getting the win in the finale to earn World Series MVP honors.

I was glad to see the Athletics lose. I thought they were an arrogant group of punks who thought the championship was their god given right. As it turned out, they were nothing more than just a bunch steroid bullies.

While Oakland won the 1989 Series over the Giants in a sweep, the Athletics were swept by the Reds in 1990. I didn’t like that Cinicnnati team, either, because of the Nasty Boys, namely Rob Dibble and Norm Charlton.

The years 1988 through 1994 nearly turned me off of Major League Baseball. Then again, I’m way too much of a sports fan to abandon MLB totally.

Act II of August upon us

I was in Santa Clause mode once I got to Buffalo Wild Wings–at least in everything except trivia.

There was a group of seven teens from Smithville, a small town north of Kansas City in northeastern Clay County, who sat at the booth to my left while I was playing trivia. I decided to give each of them one of my many $5 discount tickets. They were very excited. I think I made some new friends.

Smithville is home to a beautiful lake and a visitor center named after Jerry Litton, a U.S. Representative who died in a tragic 1976 plane crash in Chillicothe after winning the Democratic nomination for one of Missouri’s United States Senate seats. Litton was thought to be Missouri’s brightest political star at the time, and some thought of him as a potential presidential candidate.

Just now, I went and picked up Lisa a pretzel from Quik Trip, much the way I did for Liz last Monday. I also got Liz and Brittany Davidson pretzels from Pretzelmaker in Zona Rosa Tuesday. Of course, Lisa loved it. I was happy to do it for her, because she has been a very good friend to me.

I wasn’t having any of the generosity in trivia, however. I had a great comeback in Countdown at 9 p.m., rallying from as many as 2,050 points down to down two guys from St. Joseph who were playing together. There’s few better feelings than overcoming a deficit, especially when people are teaming up.

And how about this? The Brewers lead the Dodgers 3-1 going into the 7th–and that’s with Clayton Kershaw on the mound.

I nearly forgot today is the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. He died on August 16, 1977 at his Graceland estate in Memphis. The official cause of death was a massive heart attack, but he had many other healthy problems brought on by drugs and obesity. According to many of his closest associates, his favorite meal was fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches.

Today was the halfway point of August. Now the fun begins.