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Let them (LSU and Mizzou) play! MORE!

LSU and Missouri have been together in the Southeastern Conference since 2012.

Yesterday was the first time the Bayou Bengals visited Columbia, and only the second time the purple Tigers and black Tigers faced off as conference opponents.

Blame one man. He resides in Tuscaloosa.

Nicholas Lou Saban, the head football coach at the University of Alabama, believes the world would stop spinning on its axis if the Crimson Tide did not play Tennessee every year.

Alabama and Tennessee have a rivalry which dates to 1901, less than two months after President William McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo. The Tide and Volunteers have played every year since 1930 except 1943, when neither school fielded a team during the height of World War II.

General Robert Neyland wanted Tennessee to play Alabama every year, knowing if the Volunteers defeated the Tide, Tennessee would be the undisputed king of southern football.

Bear Bryant, who played on a broken leg when Alabama won 25-0 in 1935 at Birmingham, considered Tennessee a bigger rival than Auburn. It was his trainer, Jim Goostree, who began the tradition of handing out victory cigars to players and coaches following victory in the series. Tennessee soon copied the tradition.

It is a vile and disgusting tradition. The Birmingham News’ website, AL.com, posts hundreds of photos of players and fans smoking cigars after a Crimson Tide victory over the Volunteers. They are glorifying a product which has killed tens of millions of Americans (although cigars have killed fewer than cigarettes). Memo to the women who smoke cigars: it doesn’t make you prettier. It makes you repulsive.

Nick Saban loves the cigars, given he once chain-smoked cigarettes. Unlike Bryant, he had the guts to give them up, but he still chews Red Man.

Alabama fans shouldn’t be lighting up cigars anyway. Tennessee is as impotent against Alabama these days as I am with the disgusting little thing between my legs. No reason to bother.

No wonder Saban wants to keep Tennessee on Alabama’s schedule permanently. He beats them all the time.

On the other hand, the world will not end if the Crimson Tide and Volunteers don’t play every year.

Conference realignment has cost us Maryland-Virginia, Maryland-North Carolina, Penn State-Pittsburgh, Nebraska-Oklahoma, Nebraska-Colorado, Nebraska-Missouri, Missouri-Kansas, Missouri-Oklahoma, Colorado-Oklahoma, Texas A&M-Baylor, Texas A&M-TCU, Texas A&M-Texas Tech, Arkansas-Texas, and the biggest of all, Texas-Texas A&M.

LSU and Tulane haven’t played since 2009. That sucks. Tulane bears some of the blame for demanding every other game be played in New Orleans, but LSU has a point by not wanting to give up a home game and play in a stadium which seats 30,000. Tulane blundered massively by leaving the SEC in 1966, but it could make up somewhat for it by playing every year in Baton Rouge and accepting a generous check from LSU. It really angers me LSU will play McNeese, Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, and now Southern and Grambling, but not Tulane.

Even within conferences, some rivalries aren’t played every year.

When the SEC split into divisions in 1992, it ended the yearly battle between Auburn and Tennessee. In 2002, Auburn’s yearly rivalry with Florida ended. LSU and Kentucky played every year from 1949 through 2001, but now don’t see each other but once every five or six years. Alabama and Georgia once played every year, but haven’t since Vince Dooley’s early days in Athens. LSU and Alabama was NOT a yearly rivalry until 1964. LSU and Auburn rarely played until they were thrown into the SEC West together. Same with Tennessee vs. Florida and Georgia in the East; Tennessee played Ole Miss every year before divisions.

The ACC stupidly divided the four North Carolina schools. This means North Carolina and Wake Forest don’t play every year, nor do Duke and North Carolina State. Last year, the Tar Heels and Demon Deacons played a game which didn’t count in the ACC standings just to play. Clemson also doesn’t play Duke, North Carolina and Virginia every year, while NC State and Wake Forest don’t see Virginia every year.

Before Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12, it stranded Oklahoma and Oklahoma State with the Texas schools, and refused to have even one cross-division rivalry which was played every year.

In the Big Ten, the Little Brown Jug isn’t contested between Minnesota and Michigan every year. Same with Illibuck, the turtle contested by Ohio State and Illinois. Fortunately, Iowa and Minnesota still battle every year for Floyd of Rosedale, the bronze pig which is bar none the best trophy in college sports.

Anyone who can read a map knows Missouri is farther west than 11 of the other 13 SEC schools. Only Arkansas and Texas A&M are west of Columbia.

Yet the SEC refused to consider moving one team out of the West to let the Big 12 expatriates join the same division.

Then-Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs repeatedly said he would gladly move to the East to allow Mizzou into the West, yet then-SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and league presidents refused.

The biggest reason was Saban’s bellyaching about the cherished Alabama-Tennessee rivalry. Such bellyaching was not as loud from Knoxville, although I’m certain some Volunteer fans want their team to play the Crimson Tide, even with the yearly slaughter.

If Auburn was moved to the East, the Tigers of the Plains would become the Crimson Tide’s permanent cross-division football opponent, meaning they couldn’t play the Volunteers every year. Tennessee probably would have picked up Mizzou or A&M as its permanent West rival.

There is no rule stating Alabama and Tennessee cannot play a game which wouldn’t count in the SEC standings. Bear Bryant did this vs. Ole Miss near the end of his tenure. Has nobody thought of this? I’m not just talking about the Crimson Tide and Volunteers. Everyone in the SEC could do this. It would be an easy way to schedule the required non-conference game vs. a Power Five team.

The above ideas are good, but definitely not the best.

I realize Tuscaloosa is farther west than Nashville, home to Vanderbilt. However, the SEC could fudge its geography just a little bit and make it all right.

Swap Mizzou and Vandy for Alabama and Auburn. There, problem solved. Alabama would have Auburn and Tennessee as division opponents, and playing Georgia and Florida would more than make up for not playing LSU every year.

Tennessee-Vanderbilt would become the lone cross-division game to be played every year, the same way Indiana-Purdue is the only one in the Big Ten. This would get teams into each stadium more frequently.

Your blogger would be pumped to see LSU and Mizzou play every year in football, baseball and softball, meaning the Bayou Bengals would be in Columbia every other year for those sports instead of once in a blue moon.

It just makes too much damned sense, so it will never happen.

Then again, Missouri sports teams have a history of being geographically misaligned.

The Cardinals played in the National League EAST from 1969-93, even though it was farther west than Atlanta and Cincinnati, which were in the West.

The Cardinals and Cubs raised holy hell when the National League wanted to align geographically when the two-divisiion format was approved for 1969. Both were afraid of (a) 27 games per year in California, which meant late start times for television, and (b) not playing in New York. NL president Bill Giles gave the Cardinals and Cubs what they wanted, giving the big “F YOU” to the Braves and Reds, which faced longer trips to California and later start times for their fans, since Atlanta and Cincinnati are on Eastern time.

Giles didn’t have the balls AL president Joe Cronin did. He told the White Sox flat out they were going into the West, and if they didn’t like it, tough shit. The Sox’ owners at the time wanted to be in the East, citing tradition, as five of the other six old-line AL teams were in that division (the exception was the second Senators franchise, the one which became the Rangers in 1972). The White Sox tried again to move to the East when the Senators’ relocation was approved, but the Brewers, who were originally the Seattle Pilots, were moved from West to East, trading places with the Senators/Rangers.

The AL should not have moved the Brewers. It short-circuited rivalries with the White Sox and Twins, and since the Cowboys were in the NFC East, and the Cardinals and Cubs were in the NL East, it wouldn’t have been too bad to keep the Rangers in the AL East.

Speaking of teams from Dallas and St. Louis, it was totally asinine the Cowboys and football Cardinals were in the NFC East. Those cities aren’t east of anything, except San Francisco and Los Angeles in the NFC.

Pete Rozelle wimped out when the AFL and NFL merged. Rather than unilaterally imposing an alignment on NFC owners, he allowed secretary Thelma Ekjer to blindly pick an alignment out of a vase. And wouldn’t you know, the only one with the Cowboys and Cardinals in the NFC East was picked.

Let’s see..the Cowboys in the East and the Falcons in the West. Brilliant.

Rozelle should have put the Cowboys in the West, then added either the Cardinals or Saints (probably the latter, since it would have preserved a Dallas-New Orleans rivalry, one Cowboys’ president Tex Schramm loved). The other should have gone into the Central with the Vikings, Bears and Packers, and the Lions would go into the East with the Falcons, Redskins, Eagles and Giants.

When the Rams moved to St. Louis, there was no problem for me with them staying in the West, although it would have been an ideal time to realign the NFC, with the 49ers, Rams, Cardinals, Cowboys and Saints in the West; the Falcons, Panthers, Redskins, Giants and Eagles in the East; and the Central staying the way it was. At the time, the AFC was too convoluted to try to redo the East and Central (the West was great the way it was).

I’m not giving up my hope LSU and Mizzou are more than occasional rivals. Sometimes the world actually works the way it should.

Until then, I’ll start saving up for tickets when the Bayou Bengals return to Columbia in 2023. And for LSU’s trip to Lexington next year.

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.