One of these five stories is not true. You figure out which one is false.
It helps -- a little -- if you're familiar with the Baltimore Municipal Golf courses that we reference. But you need not know them or the layouts to appreciate four legendary stories and one great -- but false -- story.
We're changing the names in these stories to protect the guilty/innocent parties.
Most of the names, anyway.
Lost Ball -- A soon-to-be PGA Tour player and a friend were playing a two-man 18-hole money match at Clifton Park in the mid 1970's. "Jim" and "Bob" were playing against two local amateur hotshots, "Dave" and "Dan".
The match was for $1,000. Jim bankrolled his team and Dan's dad, who was a popular figure in the area, was providing the money for his son's twosome.
They finished the 18-hole match all square. Jim had an appointment that evening -- presumably involving a female -- and wanted to leave after 18.
"We came here to play for $1,000 and that's what we're going to do," Dan's father demanded. "Let's go play 1 again. If we don't have a winner then, we'll go to 18 one more time. If it's still tied at that point, we'll call it a draw."
At the first hole, Jim and Dan both made birdie. To the 18th they went. The 18th at Clifton Park is a downhill par 5 that borders the first hole. A large, 80-yard patch of trees separate the two holes on the right side of 18. It's a mess over there -- even today -- with roots and uneven lies. You don't want your ball going anywhere near that tree line.
By now, word had spread about the big match and 50 people were hovering around 18 tee as the foursome teed off.
Everyone hit a decent drive except Jim. His ball headed right, towards the trees. Dusk was setting in and it was hard to see where it landed.
Dan's dad had wandered ahead to forecaddie and immediately headed towards the trees when he saw people on 18 tee pointing right after Jim's drive.
The throng of onlookers joined the four players in looking for Jim's tee shot. It wasn't turning up.
"You guys go play your ball," Jim told the other three. "I'll keep looking. I have another minute or so."
Jim moved up a little further into the tree line. Suddenly, he blurted out, "I found it! It's right here."
Several spectators were puzzled. They had just been in that area and didn't see a golf ball.
Suddenly, in a small group of three other people, Dan's dad said..."Now on earth did he find it...when I have it right here?" And from his pocket, Dan's dad pulled out Jim's golf ball.
The best part of the story, of course, is that Dan's dad couldn't call Jim out for dropping a ball and cheating...since he cheated as well by picking up Jim's ball and putting it in his pocket.
And as fate would have it, Jim and Dave both birdied the hole and the match ended all square.
Who do I play next? -- The Baltimore Match Play Championship, circa 2000, had an interesting format. The 18 hole qualifier was played at Clifton Park. The first two rounds were played the following day at Forest Park, the semi-finals and finals were at either Pine Ridge or Mount Pleasant (alternated).
One year, "Jeff" drew "Matt" in a first round match at Forest Park. The event is seeded and bracketed like the NCAA basketball tournament, except there are 32 players in the field instead of 64.
Jeff was the 8 seed and Matt was the 25 seed. Off they went.
In those days, four players went out in each group, so there were two matches going on at the same time.
Jeff made a sloppy bogey at #1 with a 3-putt from 20 feet. Matt drove his ball close to the green on the short 3rd hole and made birdie to go 2-up. Jeff won the 4th hole, but promptly lost the 5th when he hit a wayward tee shot.
Matt made an improbable birdie at #7 to go 3-up.
The match stayed that way until the 10th hole, when Jeff missed a fairly short putt. At the short par 4 11th, Matt again nearly drove the green and chipped on for a conceded birdie.
Matt was now 5-up with 7 holes to play.
A representative of the Baltimore Municipal staff was at the snack bar that borders the 11th and 12th holes at Forest Park (those might now be the 2nd and 3rd holes, as the rotation of the course has changed, I think).
Jeff headed into the bathroom.
Matt walked up to the BMGC official and said, "Who do I play next?", wondering which player from the bracket he'd face in the afternoon round.
Jeff was walking out of the bathroom and rounding the corner just as Matt asked the question. It was one of those moments where you think you heard what was said but you're not quite sure.
At the par 3 12th, Matt hit a bad tee-ball and made bogey to lose the hole.
At the even longer par 3 13th hole, Matt's tee shot smacked the cart path and went out of bounds, across the street. He was now 3 up with 5 to play.
Jeff hit a short iron into 14 and Matt found the left greenside bunker. He couldn't get it up and down for par. His lead was now 2 up.
At 15, Jeff blasted a perfect tee ball and Matt topped his. He nearly found the putting surface with his next shot, but it came up short. He chunked a relatively easy pitch and lost the hole. His lead was 1 up with 3 to play.
At 16, both players hit their tee shots right into a line of trees. Jeff was able to punch his ball to the green, and through, while Matt's ball bounced off a tree and went back into the fairway, some 130 yards from the hole. Jeff chipped up to 6 feet. Matt missed the green. His chip went 8 feet by. He missed the bogey putt and Jeff was conceded the hole.
From 5-up and "Who do I play next?" to all square with 2 to play.
The par 4 17th is 290 yards or so. In the old days, the longer players could reach the putting surface off the tee. On this occasion, neither did, but Jeff's perfect flop shot left him with 10 feet for birdie. Matt hit an indifferent shot from 20 yards off the green to 20 feet. He missed his birdie putt. Jeff made his.
Jeff had won 6 straight holes.
Predictably, Matt couldn't come close to making a par at 18, hitting a poor drive and an even worse 2nd shot that left him in the rocks some 80 yards short of the green.
Jeff cozied his birdie putt to within tap in range and crestfallen Matt took off his hat. "Good luck this afternoon," he said, a beaten man.
Matt had done the impossible. He lost seven straight holes...all from the moment he assumed the match he was playing was over and his focus shifted to -- "Who do I play next?".
The Towel Guy -- "Scotty" was a very good local amateur player. He had won several prominent state and local events throughout his career, including the Maryland Amateur Stroke Play at Mount Pleasant on multiple occasions.
Sometime in the late 1990's, Scotty was on the day one leaderboard of the annual event at Mount Pleasant with his typical 2-under round of 69. Back then, the first day threesome pairings played together again on the second day, then the leaders went off based on score for the third and final round.
On day two, Scotty got off to another hot start, making birdies at 1, 3 and 5 to move to 5-under par for the tournament. While the "roaming leaderboard" wasn't used until the last round, it was assumed Scotty was in the lead or tied at that point, as 3 under was the best score after day one.
Scotty was a machine off the tee, routinely hitting the tee ball 275 yards or more (which, in 1995-2000, was a long way for an amateur to hit it.) His iron game was almost professional-like, the ball compressed poetically off the club with that beautiful clicking sound that only the best strikers of the day could manage to make.
On the 12th hole at the Mount, Scotty hit his approach to 30 feet.
As the other two players joined him on the green and everyone surveyed their putts, one of the two said, "Who's away, you Scotty?"
"I'm not away. I'm right here," he said, pointing to his ball marker on the green, some 15 feet from the pin.
No one said anything in the moment, but one of the players in the group was perplexed. He saw Scotty's ball come up a good 30 feet or so from the pin, which was back left on that day.
When the round ended and the scores were turned in, Scotty signed for a 68, with a bogey at 18 spoiling an otherwise excellent round. His 5-under score put him in a tie for second, one shot behind the leader at 6-under.
An official from the tournament summoned the other two players in the group and took them into a private area in the clubhouse.
"Did you guys notice anything odd about Scotty today?" he asked.
Both players shook their heads "no".
"We saw him drop something out of his towel on the 12th green. We had binoculars on him throughout the day. We think he did it on 3, 6 and 8 also. But he definitely did it on 12."
"And we're almost certain he did it again at 17," the tournament official said.
It turns out Scotty was indeed "crafty". In those days, most players rode in carts, although a few walked. Scotty would always ride by himself, explaining that "my wife might come out on the back nine and would like to ride with me." That advantage got him to the green first on almost every hole. From there, he had a coin or ball marker in his hand, underneath a large golf towel draped over his arm. He would walk up to his ball, feign as if he marked it, walk up another 10 or so feet, casually drop the coin closer to the hole -- with the draping towel concealing it all the way down -- and then inspect his putting line with the putt now 15 or 20 feet instead of 25 or 30 feet.
It was so good and so flawlessly performed that even two veteran players in his group never caught him doing it.
"Scotty" was confronted after the round and given the choice of being DQ'd or WD'ing. Citing an issue at work that required "immediate travel", Scotty withdrew from the event.
His wife, by the way, never did show up for that "back nine" ride around Mount Pleasant.
Scotty? He never played in the Maryland Amateur Stroke Play again.
Baseball is full of signs -- Throughout the 1980's when the Orioles played at Memorial Stadium (a stone's throw from Clifton Park and Mount Pleasant), most of the visiting baseball teams stayed in Cross Keys on Falls Road.
Both Clifton and the Mount had plenty of Major Leaguers tour their 18 hole layout. The Red Sox were particularly fond of Clifton and the Yankees would routinely bring four players over on the days they were in Baltimore to take on the O's.
The old golf professionals at both places were happy to look the other way on greens fees and cart payments in exchange for a few tickets to one of the games. One of those "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" kind of deals.
The Red Sox had a group of gamblers among them and one day, one of them boasted to the golf staff at Clifton he could give the head professional one shot per-hole and "beat him like a drum".
The two had a long standing friendship, it turned out, but "Billy", the Red Sox player, was known for making bets he couldn't always pay out.
On this occasion, he made a deal with the pro. He'd get one shot per-hole at $20 a hole, but any hole the baseball player won would be paid out at $30 per-hole. If the baseball player won at least five holes, it became $40 a hole to him thereafter.
The head professional was a decent player. "Billy" claimed to be a 4 handicap.
They agreed on the wager and off they went.
The head professional shot 41 on the front nine. Billy countered with a 38. In match play, getting a stroke per-hole, the head pro won 5 holes on the front and Billy managed to win 2. He was out $40...so far.
Heading to the back nine, the ballplayer wanted to increase the wager. "Let's play the 10th hole for $20 and up it by $10 on each hole after that," he declared. "That will make things really interesting coming down the stretch."
The pro didn't bother doing the math. He was already up $40.
By the time they reached the 15th hole, the pro -- getting a shot per-hole -- won the 10th ($20), 12th ($40), 13th ($50) and 14th ($60). At the 15th, he suggested they call the wagering off.
"No way," Billy said. "This is when it gets fun."
At the 15th hole, the pro rolled in an improbable 20 footer for par to win the hole and another $70.
Billy managed a par on 16 to win $80 of it back.
The last two holes were worth $90 and $100 respectively.
The pro made a bogey at 17 to tie the hole and a par at 18 to win the hole. Combined with the $40 he won on the front, the head professional was owed $300.
Billy fished around for money in the parking lot as the head pro helped load his clubs into a taxi.
"I only have $40 on me," he said, without much embarrassment in his voice. "We'll be back here in September, I'll catch you then."
With that, he quickly hopped in the taxi and, with a wave, off he went.
That night at the ballpark, a scant crowd of 10,000 or so was on hand to watch the O's and Red Sox on a hot late July night.
As the announcer introduced "Billy" as he walked to the plate in the second inning, a man in the first row of seats near the on-deck circle stood up and displayed a large hand-written sign.
"Billy XXXXXXX lost $300 to me in golf today and didn't pay me!" it read in big black lettering.
He turned around and showed the crowd. He turned back to the field and held it up. The home plate umpire and catcher looked over at the sign, giggled, and pointed to Billy strolling up to the plate. Red Sox players leaned out of the dugout and laughed. Billy saw the sign and wasn't happy.
In the next inning, a young man in khaki pants and a white Red Sox polo shirt showed up at the seats with an envelope. Inside was a check for $300 from Billy.
"I need to take the sign with me," the team representative said. "Billy said the only way he'll give you the check is if you give me the sign."
"I'll take the new guy" -- When they first starting forming an organized group of tournament golfers on Tuesday's at Mount Pleasant in the late 1990's, it was rare that someone snuck in who couldn't handle his end of the bargain. Financially and playing wise.
So when "George" showed up on the list of sign ups for "The Knuckleheads", the 3 pm group of 12-24 players on any given Tuesday during the summer, "Drew" had no idea who he was. Typically Drew looked at the names on the sheet and not only knew them, but could tell you within a shot or two what score they'd likely post. Everyone knew everyone. Except the group didn't know George.
Drew got out the practice green at 2:40 and a nattily attired -- especially for the Mount -- older guy quickly moved over in his direction.
The visitor smiled and stuck out his hand, "You're Drew, right?" he asked.
"I'm George," he said. "Pleased to meet you."
The two small talked for a second while Drew's mind raced. "How far does he hit it?" he thought. "What's his handicap?"
"So who am I with?" George asked.
"I'm not sure yet," Drew replied. He was still scanning the names and coming up with pairings and foursomes.
"What's your handicap?" Drew asked him.
"I don't have one," George said. "But I had 88 at Clifton last week."
That stopped Drew in his tracks. George wasn't a fit for this group from a playing standpoint. But there he was, putting 10 footers and waiting for Drew to pair him up with someone.
Drew brought up money, thinking perhaps that would coax George out of playing.
"Everyone puts in $10 for skins and $10 for the low 2-man team and low individual," I said. "And you can make a side bet or two if you and your partner are interested in some other gambling. Most weeks you can either win $50 or lose $50, but it's at least $20 to get in the gamne."
George didn't blink. He fished a $20 out of his wallet. "Do I give this to you?" he asked.
So, now, George was in.
Players starting showing up. Drew was getting demands about pairings and what not.
He looked over at George, putting.
The new face rolled in another short putt in the 6-foot range.
George pulled the ball out of the hole and promptly rolled in a 15-footer in the other direction.
Drew scribbled the pairings on the cards and started handing them out.
"And here's the deal," Drew announced. "I'll take the new guy. His name is George. He doesn't have a handicap. He said he shot 88 at Clifton Park last week. Let's give him one shot a hole," Drew reasoned. In the knucklehead game, everyone played at scratch, even though some handicaps ranged from +1 to 4. Teams were typically made up to balance out the handicaps.
"What's that mean?" George said. "I get to take an extra shot?"
"No, you take a shot off of your score at the end of each hole," Drew replied.
"I don't want any shots off," George stated. "I don't want a shot per hole."
"No, no..." Drew said as a couple of the guys laughed. "You want a shot per hole. Trust me, you can really help us if you make 18 bogeys."
"I'll just play regular golf like you guys," George said. "Does anyone else get any shots off?"
"No, not in this group," Drew said.
"I'm not either," George said with a gentle ease. It was almost like he knew he really should do it, but it would have somehow derailed him from getting better.
So, off they went. George and Drew hit it off immediately. George asked questions on virtually every hole, but they were questions about golf and they were questions Drew was excited to answer. He wanted to know how to hit a cut driver off the 2nd hole, even with Hillen Road lurking 240 yards to the left.
"Show me how to hit that kind of shot," George asked after Drew hit a lofted flop shop over the front bunker at #5 to within tap in range.
"Why didn't you hit your driver off the tee here?" he asked after Drew hit a 3-wood up the right side on the par 4 12th hole.
"I thought that putt was going left," George said after Drew rolled in a putt at the 14th that broke a cup to the right. George walked behind what was Drew's putting line and studied it. "I don't see that going right but it sure did. Did you just know that or do you see something that I don't?"
The two shook hands after the 18th hole and before George could even ask, Drew offered him a return invitation. "Come on back next week if you want. Every Tuesday at 3 pm. Call in around noon and put your name on the list," Drew said. "We'll get you in a different group and you can meet some other guys."
No one remembers what George shot that day. No one remembers what Drew shot, either. It's highly probable that their $40 team entry was a donation on that occasion, but from Drew's standpoint, it was one of the best $20 bills he ever handed over.
Some two decades later, the two men are still friends. And although time and distance now mean they no longer share golf together, they often reflect on those great days together at Mount Pleasant and Clifton Park.
Another busy week in La Liga saw Real Madrid grab the upper hand in the title race. Madrid won 2-0 on Wednesday over Mallorca with a goal from Vinicius and a beautiful free kick goal from Sergio Ramos. They maintained their form at the weekend in a tight 1-0 win over relegation threatened Espanyol. Casemiro scored the lone goal off a tricky back heel from Karim Benzema.
Barcelona eeked out a hard fought 1-0 win on Tuesday over Athletic Bilbao with Leo Messi assisting Ivan Rakitic for the goal. Messi was again brilliant in Barcelona’s Saturday match with Celta Vigo, providing two assists for Luis Suarez goals. However, Barcelona conceded a late goal on a pinpoint free kick from Spanish international Iago Aspas and settled for a 2-2 draw. The draw leaves Real Madrid three points ahead in the standings along with the tiebreaker in hand.
In the English Premier League, Liverpool won 4-0 over Crystal Palace on Wednesday and then clinched their first league title in 30 years on Thursday when Man City lost 2-1 to Chelsea. The victory was also a huge win for Chelsea, moving them 5 points clear in fourth place and a Champions League spot.
Chelsea were again led by a goal from Christian Pulisic. In the race for the last potential Champions League spot, Manchester United beat Sheffield United 3-0 on Wednesday, while Wolverhampton got two 1-0 wins during the week. The wins temporarily put Wolves in the last spot, three points ahead of Man U, but with Man U havin an extra game left on the schedule.
The German Bundesliga season concluded on Saturday. The final Champions League spot was seized by Borussia Moenchengladbach with a 2-1 victory over Hertha Berlin. Gladbach will join Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig in next season’s Champions League. At the bottom of the table, Josh Sargent’s Werder Bremen avoided certain relegation with a 6-1 route over Mainz. Bremen will play a two leg playoff with the 3rd place team from the second division to determine who gets to play in the top division next season.
Christian Pulisic was the highlight of the week among American players. Pulisic scored a wonderful goal in Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Man City midweek. Picking up an errant pass in his own half, Pulisic raced the length of the field, juked Benjamin Mendy, and placed a bending shot in the bottom corner around the keeper. Pulisic also started in Chelsea’s weekend 1-0 FA Cup win against Leicester City. He was again very dangerous, nearly scoring in the first half when he was denied by a tough save by the keeper. Pulisic has been very sharp since the league’s return, proving his talent against some of the best competition in the world.
Gio Reyna started at attacking midfield in Borussia Dortmund’s final game of the season. The entire Dortmund team sleep walked through a game which had little meaning for them. Reyna didn’t find much success in this game and was subbed off in the 65th minute. Despite the disappointing finish, this was an extremely promising season from Reyna. He was one of only three players under the age of 18 to play in more than ten games in any of the top European leagues. Reyna has a good chance to see an expanded role for Dortmund next season with several of their top attackers potentially moving on in the offseason.
Weston McKennie completed his season with Schalke playing the full 90 minutes at center midfield in a loss to Freiburg. Schalke struggled mightily since the resumption of the league, but McKennie has been their best player. He should be a centerpiece of their team moving forward, unless he is sold to a bigger team.
Josh Sargent started at center forward and scored a goal in Werder Bremen’s huge 6-1 win over Mainz. Sargent will play two more games this season as Bremen face a two leg playoff to avoid relegation and stay in the German top division. Sargent had an up and down season, but is finishing on a high note, proving he can be a useful piece for Bremen going forward.
Tyler Adams started at center midfield and played the full game in RB Leipzig’s 2-1 win over Augsburg. He continues to demonstrate his efficient passing in center midfield providing a pass in the build up to the winning goal. Leipzig and Adams will get some rest before returning in August for the quarterfinals of this season’s Champions League.
John Brooks started and played 80 minutes at center back in Wolfsburg’s 4-0 loss to Bayern Munich.
About the contributor: Randy Morgan was born and raised in the Baltimore area graduating from Dulaney HS and then University of Maryland. His day job is software development. He's an avid sports watcher and recreational participant. A devoted Ravens, Orioles and U.S. soccer supporter. he also follows many soccer leagues around the world as well as the NBA and college basketball. Randy played soccer, basketball, and baseball growing up and still plays soccer and basketball recreationally as well as the occasional round of golf. His commentary on mostly sports, but sometimes music and other miscellany can be found on twitter @jrmorgan16.
Thank the heavens for Cam Newton and the Patriots.
Or the ladies in the NWSL who took a knee this past Saturday before the re-start of their outdoor soccer season.
And Dustin Johnson, who won his 21st career PGA Tour event yesterday in Cromwell, CT.
If not for those three things, we'd be scratching for stuff to opine on today here at #DMD.
We'd throw another list up, but Herman would have a fit. And we can't really talk all that much about "what if" in the Covid-19 (sports) world because it's still such an unknown.
We think there's going to be baseball in July and football in August, but we don't really know for sure.
As we're seeing now on the PGA Tour, you can gather people and give them what you believe are the strictest of protocols, and people are still going to come down with the virus. Dylan Fritelli was the latest to test positive on Sunday, but that was after three negative tests during the week and a virtual lock down of himself and his caddie in the PGA Tour "camp" they've set up.
In other words, keep following protocol, because that is important, but don't think for a second you're 100% safe. Because you're not.
Baseball is going to start up again late next month and as sure as Chris Davis is going to strike out three times in a game in the first week of the "new" season, Major Leaguers are going to get Covid-19. Just like PGA Tour players are forced to miss two weeks of action, so, too, will baseball players.
The same thing will happen to football players in August, September and so on. Can you imagine the outcry if Lamar gets a positive test the week of the Ravens-Chiefs game in week #3? Then again, if you treat it like a hamstring strain, it's not as bothersome to handle as a fan of the team.
I'm not even counting the NBA and NHL. I just don't see their respective re-starts getting off the ground next month. But they might move forward, like everyone else, and see if they can make a go of it without the whole league coming down with the virus.
The NFL announced an interesting policy late last week. They have instructed all teams to close the first eight rows of the lower deck and reposition those people elsewhere in the stadium for 2020.
How is that going to happen?
Granted, not every team in the league is completely sold out, but a significant number of franchises don't have any room left in the building as it is. How are you going to take the first eight rows of the lower deck and move all of those people to other seats?
My guess is if teams are allowed to have spectators at home games in 2020, it will be a limited number, say 20% of capacity, which was first discussed way back in April.
Under the 20% capacity scenario, you could reposition those impacted by the "first 8 rows" decision, although those folks wouldn't be going to every game anyway.
My official guess is still the same today as it was two months ago. There will be no spectators at NFL games in September and October, at least.
College sports are in far more of a flux than the pro leagues. Each school has upwards of 25 teams, with 500 or so athletes if the school has a football program.
In some cases, fans in the stands matter, greatly, to the school's revenue stream. The University of Alabama would lose roughly $90 million in revenue if spectators aren't allowed in the stadium to watch football. That's not all profit, of course, but a large chunk of it certainly does go in their pocket.
The University of Maryland wouldn't be crushed if spectators can't watch football games...they're struggling to draw 30,000 at College Park. But if people can't watch basketball games starting in December, that would be a direct hit.
TV money is going to save a lot of sports and a lot of teams and athletic programs. Somewhere down the line, I assume the various networks and regional sports channels are going to ask the clubs for a "make good".
"Remember back in 2020 and 2021 when we bailed you out while fans weren't allowed in the stadium? We'd like you to remember that next week when we're at the bargaining table for the new TV deal."
The moving pieces in all of this are very interesting. As it stands now, these leagues have to play games in the summer, fall and winter to be able to collect that aforementioned TV haul. No games means no TV money means greatly reduced salaries for Mike Trout and Tom Brady.
Can you imagine how tough it would be for Trout to go from $33 million a year to, say, $1.4 million annually? Yikes...
Sorry we didn't get to Cam Newton today. The Patriots aren't going down without a fight is about all I'd have to say, anyway.
And we'll get to that Top 10 list of best left-handed hitting Orioles tomorrow or Wednesday.
We have lots and lots of time.
"The Keen Eye" of
|DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.|
The Orioles are going to play 60 games, supposedly. How many will they win?
Well, in each of the last two atrocious seasons, the ballclub has won 19 of its first 60 games. If we are to assume that the team will be similarly outclassed this season, then that seems like a legitimate number.
Now, the schedule won’t be as variable as it would normally be in the first 60 games of the season. No trips to the West Coast, as the team was supposed to have made in mid-April to Anaheim. Interestingly, the Orioles would have played all seven of their 2020 scheduled games against the almost-as-bad Kansas City Royals in the month of April. Too bad.
As lousy as the Orioles were certain to be this season, 60 games is just that…60 games. In any 60-game stretch, even a bad team might get close to .500. That won’t be enough to make the “playoffs,” but it won’t be disappointing either.
Remember the 2005 Orioles? They finished 74-88, 21 games out of first place in the AL East. I saw them play in mid-May on the South Side of Chicago against the White Sox, who would go on to win the World Series. That night, Lee Mazzilli’s team came back from an early deficit for a 9-6 win, improving to 23-13 on the season. By the time they hit Game 60, a win in Cincinnati June 10, the Birds were 36-24 and led the division by four games.
By Game 102, against the same White Sox at Camden Yards, the Orioles fell to .500 for the first time since the first week of the season. Five games after that, after eight losses in a row, Mazzilli was canned and Sam Perlozzo took his place.
I don’t believe the Orioles can win 36 games in a 60-game season. But it’s not like a lousy Orioles team hasn’t done it before.
Interesting facts from the first 60 games of recent MLB seasons?
Ten years ago, erstwhile Oriole great Ubaldo Jimenez fashioned one of the great starting pitching starts to a season, especially since he was pitching for the Rockies at 5,280-foot Coors Field at the time.
In his first 12 starts of 2010, his earned-run average was less than one—0.93 to be exact. He didn’t allow more than two runs in any of those starts, one of which was a no-hitter at Atlanta. Ubaldo Jimenez—yes, Ubaldo Jimenez—allowed opponents to hit just .176 in that stretch, numbers that sound more like Pedro Martinez.
None of that means we wanted him in the Wild Card game in Toronto in October 2016, but let’s give him credit where it’s due anyway.
The year before that, the Phillies’ Raul Ibañez hit 22 home runs in his team’s first 60 games. He was 37 years old at the time, and entered the season having hit more than 24 home runs in a season just once.
At the age of 40, playing for the Yankees, Ibañez would break Orioles’ fans hearts by hitting two home runs in Game 3 of the 2012 American League Division Series. The first came against Jim Johnson in the ninth inning, tying the game at 2-2. The second came against Brian Matusz in the 12th inning, giving his team the victory. When he hit another game-tying homer in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Tigers, he became the first player to ever to hit three homers in the 9th inning or later in a single postseason.
And in 2001, on the way to 116 wins, the Seattle Mariners won 47 of their first 60 games. The most amazing thing about that, I’ve always thought, is that the Mariners had lost both Ken Griffey, Jr. (trade) and Alex Rodriguez (free agency) before the season. Addition by subtraction? Maybe, but there was also some pretty good addition, as in Ichiro Suzuki.
So, will you care about this 60-game season? Because it’s happening, beginning on July 23. As alluded to above, each team will play a schedule that limits travel. For the Orioles, that means 10 games apiece against the Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Rays, and 20 games against the five National League East teams.
On some level, I’m more interested in a this 60-game sprint than a 162-game season. The Orioles were not a threat to be a playoff team in a 162-game season, and they might not be in a 60-game one, but there are certain to be a few teams that are in the hunt that wouldn’t be in a six-month season.
By the way, the 162-game season in the Major Leagues dates to the early 1960s, when both leagues expanded. There’s no law that the season can’t be shorter than that. I wish it was shorter, though it’s unlikely the Players’ Association feels the same way.
As for this season, it will be hard to take the final results seriously, at least in comparison to pretty much every other season. The length of a baseball season is part of what makes the accomplishment of winning so fantastic, as the typical pennant-clinching clubhouse celebration shows.
Also, Mike Trout was scheduled to make about $33 million this season. At the prorated 37% mark, that will only be about $12.1 million for this year. I’d take it. How about you?
I asked a few friends about the upcoming season, and I got more than a few answers. Some didn’t seem too interested, possibly because the Orioles aren’t going to be a factor. Others seemed incredulous that baseball is starting up again; in fact, one friend said that pro golf is the only sport that should be playing.
I did get one really good answer, I thought. He was looking forward to it, bigly, “because it’s about time there’s something else on television.”
Should Major League Baseball be playing any games—whether it’s 60 or some other number?
There’s something wrong about baseball without any “celebratory contact,” defined as high-fives, fist bumps, hugs, etc. There is, of course, a lot wrong about Major League games without fans, more than there is on the PGA Tour, for instance.
There will be, I suppose, a World Series, such as it is. Will it be a World Series without any fans at all? That seems unlikely, but October is also heading toward the time when there could be another potential “surge” in COVID-19 cases.
Even with travel somewhat limited for these 60 games, MLB can’t really put any of its teams in a “bubble.” There will be airplane travel, though of course it will be charter airplane travel, as it always is. Perhaps that can be a saving grace.
Still, I can’t imagine that, with the season set to start in less than month, the likelihood of that actually happening being more than a 50-50 shot right now.
There is a much larger problem for baseball than one that’s caused by COVID-19, though baseball and everything else will always pale in comparison to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives. The players believe that the owners bargained in bad faith, and they aren’t going to forget that. That “bad faith” decision might go before an arbitrator, and who knows what that might do to future negotiations.
In the fight between labor and management in baseball, each side is constantly trying to win a public relations war. There are timely “leaks” from each side, and parsed statements that try to make each side look like the good guys. The average fan, of course, doesn’t care about that stuff. They just want the game to come back, especially next year for the full season.
Baseball is going to be played this year, maybe. It will be played with an incredible amount of labor unrest, which is a problem for many years going forward.
Sports Year In Review, 2041 --
It was a remarkable year in the world of sports, as one baseball team won for the first time since 1983, the NFL winner captured the title for the third time in 7 years, a professional golfer won his 3rd straight April Event, and both the NBA and NHL went to Game 7 in their respective last series'.
2041 was the first year that all four professional sports were mandated to remove the word "championship" from the description of the game or series that determined the league's best team.
"We felt all along that calling a team a "champion" was potentially demeaning to those that didn't win it," baseball commissioner Ryan Ripken said last December before he pushed the idea to commissioners of the NHL, NBA and NFL. "We felt it better to simply call it "The Final Series". Baseball, hockey and basketball adopted that phrase, football went with "The Big Game"."
"In baseball, we're going a step further now and awarding rings to all teams who complete the 202 game schedule each year. It's a nice gesture, I think," Ripken added.
The Baltimore's won baseball's Final Series in 2041, outlasting the Colorado's in a 6-game series. Amanda Guthrie, whose father once pitched for the team formerly known as the Baltimore Orioles, was the winning pitcher in Games 1, 3 and 6 to win the "Best Accomplishment" award, which was referred to as the Most Valuable Player award until that was changed in 2032. Guthrie took full advantage of the new rule in baseball that mandates a female must be on the field at all times. She was also used in right field when not on the mound.
The Final Series also continued the now 10-year tradition of playing a song before the start of each game. Until 2031, the National Anthem was played. Since then, players put their song requests in a box and one is chosen at random thirty minutes before the game and played prior to first pitch.
Prior to Game 6, the players and crowd were entertained by the playing of "Ironic", by Alanis Morrissette. The first song chosen at random was "Loser" by Beck, but Commissioner Ripken decided against playing it because of objectionable lyrics.
In golf, Charlie Woods, son of of 17-time major champion Tiger Woods, won his third straight "April Event" with a 15-under par score at Augusta National. Once known as "The Masters", the event's name was changed in 2033 and the longtime tradition of awarding the winner with a green jacket was also abolished. Instead of a jacket, Woods was given a lifetime supply of Chick fil-A #1 meals, large.
"While the green jacket always symbolized greatness, we came to understand that it also singled someone out as being better than the rest of the people who played in the tournament," said Augusta National chairperson Mia Khalifa. "We'd rather gently acknowledge the winner rather than make a spectacle of it."
This year's April Event was also the first time spectators on the course were not allowed to applaud for any player's actions. "I have to tell you, it really made me feel better coming down the stretch, even though I was losing by eight shots, to not hear people screaming 'Charlie-Charlie-Charlie' like they did last year when he beat me by five shots," said Evan Mickleson, whose dad, Phil, won three April Events himself. "It's just better when no players get applause. You wind up feeling way better about yourself at the end of the tournament."
In his press conference after the win, Woods only had question: "Does the Chick fil-A #1 meal come with free sauce or do I have to pay for those?"
In hockey, the New York Ones captured their third Final Series in the last eight years, defeating the Minnesota's in 7-games. Formerly known as the New York "Rangers", they were forced to change their name in 2030, along with baseball's Texas Rangers, because historical studies revealed "Rangers" would routinely mistreat the prisoners they arrested along the Mexican border. For the first time in 24 years, the two New York teams met in the semi-finals, as the Ones beat the Twos -- formerly known as the Islanders -- in 5 games.
"We're so much better without those silly nicknames," said NHL Commissioner Olaf Kolzig. "I didn't realize how impactful those names were until people in New Jersey and Minnesota kept jamming my email inbox."
Kolzig read two letters during the trophy presentation to support his point.
"Dear Mr. Kolzig, I write to you on behalf of the thousands of good people in New Jersey who wish to have the name "Devils" removed from our beloved hockey team. We are not Devils here, sir. We are good people, hard working, supporting our families the best we can. When we go to the shore for vacation, we can't even get a table at a restaurant when we wear our team hats or shirts. They won't serve us food because they think we're......devils. Please take this request seriously."
Kolzig paused to wipe away tears before reading the next letter from a fan in Minnesota.
"The name "Wild" simply has to be changed. My daughter tried to get into Princeton and she was rejected, the board said, because she hails from Minnesota and might be "too wild" for their school. My daughter enjoys an adult beverage like the rest of us, but she is not wild. She's a good, wholesome young lady. I hope you can see more clearly now why this name -- Wild -- is becoming problematic here in Minnesota."
In the consolation series, the New York Twos beat the Anaheim's. The Las Vegas's beat the Washington's. The Pittsburgh's came back from 3-0 down to beat the Dallas's. The St. Louis's beat the Philadelphia's. The Tampa Bay's edged the Minnesota's in 7-games, all of which went to overtime. The Los Angeles's beat the Columbus's. The Detroit's beat the Arizona's. The San Jose's beat the Nashville's. The Boston's also came back from 3-0 down to beat the Chicago's.
"The consolation series is a great concept," said Kolzig. "No one feels like they really lost. And next year, we'll introduce the "Self Esteem Series", where we'll take all the teams who didn't win the Consolation and have them play one another until every team wins at least five games."
In basketball, the Golden State's won Game 7, 205-199, to beat the Miami's for the second straight year. Under league rules, the Golden State's can not play in The Final Series next year.
"It's a shame, but I understand why that rule is in place," said Steph Curry afterwards. Curry, the 55 year old player-coach for Golden State, has now been part of 10 championship teams in his 33 year career. "It's getting to be a bit much," he acknowledged. "I mean, we just can't keep winning like this. It's tough for the guys to understand, but we have to give someone else a chance."
This year's NBA Final Series was also the first one using the new rule, where when a team gets ahead by 12 points, the score is automatically adjusted to put the trailing team behind by just two points. On four occasions in Game 7, Golden State went ahead by 12, only to have their lead trimmed to two points.
"It's a good rule," Curry said. "You can never get comfortable, which is the idea behind it."
And in football, the Kansas City Reds won their third consecutive Big Game over the Dallas Silvers, 36-23. They also won won the press game, 10-0.
The actual score of the game was 36-6, but the Silvers' handicap was 17 points, so they started the game up 17-0. Much like in golf, teams can "press" if they fall behind. When the Silvers fell behind 26-23 late in the third quarter, they "pressed", but were unable to score again while the Kansas City's tacked on 10 more points.
"More money for me!" Reds' quarterback Jason Mahomes said afterwards. Under new NFL rules, players are allowed to bet on the games during the action and Mahomes won money on not only The Big Game, but also on the press.
"I gave a couple of my friends on the Silvers $40,000 of my winnings from the bets," Mahomes said afterwards. "They looked so disappointed after the game. I felt terrible for them. I hope the money made their night a little better."
The game was delayed for 18 minutes in the second quarter while snowflakes fell.
(Editor's Note: This is all very much a possibility. Watch and see.)
Q --"What's the hardest golf course in the state of Maryland?"
DF -- "I'll have to qualify this by saying, first, "when it's in the best shape it can be"...meaning, fairways are firm, rough is up and greens are fast. I don't think there's a tougher course in Maryland than Woodholme CC in Pikesville. Baltimore Country Club East is tough and so is Woodmont (North), but shot for shot, Woodholme is the toughest.
Q -- "Some national media folks are saying the Ravens have a real shot at 16-0 this season. What do you think the odds are they do that?"
DF -- "It's so hard to project that because they could lose Lamar to an injury in week 4 and the season would be over. And they'd lose a bunch of games. But if Lamar stays healthy for all 16, I'd say the odds of the Ravens going 16-0 are 20-1.
Q -- "What would the winning score for a PGA Tour event be at your golf course, Eagle's Nest?"
DF -- "Oh no, not another one of these questions. George got so mad at me a few years ago when I said 25 or 26 under would win a 4-day TOUR event at Mount Pleasant. I actually think the winning score at Eagle's Nest would be more like 32 under for 72 holes. In reality, they would make holes 7 and 12 par 4's for those guys, so in that case, the winning score might be more like 28 or 30 under. I'd say without a doubt someone would shoot 59 in the tournament."
Q -- "If you could only watch the tape of one sporting event from your lifetime on a one-week summer vacation, what event would you watch on a continuous loop for 7 days and not go completely crazy?"
DF -- "Easy answer. Complete no-brainer. The U.S. vs. Soviet Union semifinal game from the 1980 Winter Olympics. 'Do you believe in miracles?' Put that game on and leave it on!"
Q -- "What happens first? Maryland goes to a football bowl game or the Orioles make the playoffs?"
DF -- "Maryland football can win 5 or 6 games by accident. You would think. Right? The Orioles could go another 5 years or more without making the post-season. Maryland will go to a bowl game within the next three seasons. Maybe even two seasons."
Q -- "Who's the one major league baseball player you wish the Orioles would have had for a couple of years during his prime?"
DF -- -- "Adrian Beltre."
Q -- "In all of your years in the soccer business, was there one visiting arena that you really enjoyed being in and working in?"
DF -- "Without question, it was The Forum in Inglewood (L.A.) No one was ever there for the indoor soccer games, sadly, but there was something really special about being in that building, even with only 1,500 people in the place. The old Chicago Stadium was also really cool. That would be a close second to The Forum."
Q -- "If you could pick one thing for a local college sports team to accomplish, what would it be?
DF -- "I'd pick Towson men's basketball to go to the NCAA tournament. Pat Skerry is a terrific man and he's been close a few times over the years and I'd love to see him take a team to March Madness. All the other schools in the area have been to the tournament in the last 10 years or so except for Towson. They haven't been since 1991. Pat Skerry deserves a trip to the big dance."
Q -- "You love underrated or overrated. Who is the most underrated player on the PGA Tour and who is the most overrated?"
DF -- "Patrick Reed is the most underrated, for sure. Once he wins a couple of more majors he won't be, though. Most overrated...tough one here...at this point, I guess I'd say Tony Finau. Lots of high finishes and plenty of money but no winning to go along with any of it. He did win a 2nd tier event (Puerto Rico Open) a few years ago on TOUR, but he's never won a full field, "real" tournament out there."
Q -- "We know you love the Patriots uniforms and the old school helmet. But what is your favorite baseball uniform?"
DF -- "Has to be the home Detroit Tigers uniforms with those white pants and shirts and the dark blue script "D". Those are just awesome."
Q -- "What's one sports tradition you never really took to or enjoyed all that much?"
DF -- -- "I'd have to say tailgating before a football game. I never understood the logic behind standing outside for two or three hours...freezing, drinking too much, eating too much and all the rest that goes with it. I'm not opposed to a pre-game beverage, but the whole four hour tailgate session seems weird to me. Now, tailgating in Tampa Bay or Houston or Arizona? That makes a little more sense. This is all code word for: I don't like standing outside and freezing."
Q -- "Are you more of a Van Halen fan or Van Hagar fan? David Lee or Sammy?"
DF -- "Hmmmm...Roth was clearly the better front man. He wasn't a great singer. Sammy was a much better song writer and had a better voice, obviously. The "band" itself seemed more raw and wild with David Lee at the helm. They were a lot more polished when he left and Hagar joined them. They were, really, two very different bands with those two guys as lead singer. I probably would lean more to Van Halen than Van Hagar, but my all-time favorite song by the band -- Dreams -- is with Hagar singing. Both versions of "Van Halen" were excellent. On a side note, I saw Van Halen (with Roth) twice and they were awful both times I saw them. Playing live just wasn't their thing."
Q -- "How many games will the Orioles win in the upcoming 60 game season?"
DF -- "Who knows? It's so weird. I mean, what if they get hot and win 10 of their first 15? At the quarter pole, they'd be on a 40-win pace. I'm guessing they'll go 22-38. I realize they're playing only AL East and NL East teams. But 22-38 seems reasonable."
Q -- "Solve the NFL's National Anthem debate once and for all, please."
DF -- "Easy to do. The National Anthem gets played after the official warm-up period has ended (for 1:05 games, that's right around 12:45). Players who wish to remain on the field during the Anthem can stay there. Players who do not wish to be on the field can leave. Players who stay on the field, though, must stand. If you want to kneel, you're welcome to do that. But you do that in the tunnel or in the locker room, please. Easy peasy."
Q -- "Have you ever attended a concert where you surprised at how good the band was?"
DF -- "Yes! I got forced by a cute girl to attend a Duran Duran concert once in the early 1980's. I had no interest in going, but had a lot of interest in her. I was blown away by how good Duran Duran was in concert. They were flawless, pretty much. It didn't help in the long run. I didn't get the girl. But I did pick up a new appreciation for Duran Duran."
In the Comments section below, Garry brought up an interesting and relevant point about the impact of Covid-19 within professional sports.
In general, using data we've seen in the media, the virus impacts older people and those with underlying conditions FAR MORE than healthy, mid 20's and mid 30's men and women. (Note: I realize it's dangerous to use data we've seen in the media since none of those folks are sharing real numbers, but more like the numbers that best support their agenda. But anyway...)
So, as Garry notes, what's the problem with forging ahead, using every precaution we can, allowing those who don't want to play the right to opt-out, and seeing where that takes us?
I might have an answer to that. I asked that question to a Ravens official a few days ago. Not Garry's exact question, mind you, but something very similar. "What's the harm in doing daily testing and keeping contact logs/surveys -- like they're doing on the PGA Tour -- with each player and staffer and just trying to get somewhat back to normal for training camp and the regular season?"
Their answer won't surprise you.
"No one wants to get sued if something goes wrong."
Alas, that's the problem lots of high schools and colleges are faced with as they determine if they can play sports in the fall.
Fear of litigation is a very real thing, as we all know too well in this country. It's become the go-to move for anything that goes wrong. Lawsuits...
Don't get me wrong. There's value in litigation. If you've been wronged and the courts decide you should be compensated, somehow, that's all well and good. I'm not suggesting that a Covid-19 tragedy that ends up in court would be "wrong" or "slimy". Not at all, in fact.
But that seems to be a very real fear, at least to someone from one professional team I spoke with. No one wants to get sued. And if a player or staffer contracted Covid-19 after being "offered the chance to come back to work" and they got seriously ill or passed away, the litigation amount in that case could be astronomical.
And as much as you can say to a professional football player or baseball player, "Look, it's your option to come back. If you feel unsafe, don't report to training camp", the reality is the burden of employee safety always falls on the employer. In the case of students, it falls on the school. If you open the doors and people come back, their safety is on your watch...at least while they're at work or on school property.
I agree with Garry and others who have pointed out the numbers and offered reasonable re-entry solutions to see if we can make this work in lieu of a vaccine -- for the time being. But I also know that none of the published numbers can really be trusted. We think we know the numbers and the statistics, but I'm just not sure.
One thing for sure, though: The fear of litigation is a very real thing.
The noose story on the NASCAR circuit received some heightened airtime on Thursday when a picture was released to the public.
I'm not an expert on ropes or knot tying. Not in the least. I don't know much, but I know this: That was a noose.
That it happened to be found in the garage of an African-American NASCAR driver -- Bubba Wallace -- changes the entire context of the story, obviously, but it doesn't change the fact that it was a noose whether the driver in that garage was Caucasian, Latino or African-American.
Lots of people have checked in with two thoughts. The noose had apparently been hanging in the garage for the better part of a year. And the rope and noose "loop" were used as a pull for the garage door.
Well, maybe both of those things are true.
But that doesn't change the fact that hanging in that garage was, clearly, a rope with a noose around the end of it.
And in this country, right now, if you believe we have to fully obligate ourselves to improving the structural relationship between white people and black people, you can't look the other way at this noose story and pass it off as "unimportant".
A black friend of mine said earlier this week: "If you looked at 100 garage doors, how many would have a rope like that -- with a noose -- as the "pull" device?" The question can't be answered, of course, but I think we all know what the answer would be if you could somehow do the proper research.
If you believe it's important to advance the relationship between white people and black people in this country, the Bubba Wallace "noose story" will be important to you. If you're someone who doesn't believe it's important to advance the relationship, it's probably not all that important.
And while I'm the first guy to proclaim that we've become a nation of overreactors and that people get offended these days over the dumbest things, this particular story doesn't fit that narrative. A noose in the African American community has a very distinct and obvious history. We simply can't close our eyes to that if we want to move forward and start building better communities.
It doesn't help, by the way, that this story originated in Alabama. Let's not be naive as we try and move forward. If the noose would have been found at Watkins Glen or the track in New Hampshire, perhaps the "tenor" of it is different at the outset. But it was found in Alabama and there is, like it or not, a different vibe to the story because of that.
I had a great day on Thursday playing in a golf outing hosted by the Hayden Hurst Foundation at my old stomping grounds: Mountain Branch.
Big thanks to Leonard Raskin and Raskin Global for the invitation to join their group. I got to hang out with my buddy Jesse Roberts as well, which is always a treat.
I had some junior golf obligations in the afternoon so I couldn't partake in all of the drink offerings on the course -- I led the event in bottles of water consumed (13), I think -- but I can honestly say I've never seen a charity golf event that well organized and that dedicated to making sure that everyone had a great day. Food and drinks were plentiful from start to finish.
Something else impressive: That Hayden Hurst is still here -- despite being traded to Atlanta in the off-season -- and still involved with helping Baltimore charities raise money is a testatment to his character. Hurst arrived in Baltimore long after I was off the radio, so I never really got to know him, but yesterday's event speaks volumes about him.
D.J. Fluker showed up to shake some hands and pose for pictures. The newest Raven is listed at 6'5", 340, but they better get a new tape measure. He looks more like 6'8" to me! Fluker is one huge man, that's for sure.
On a personal note, it was cool to get back to Mountain Branch. I was a "regular" there from 2002 through 2015 and made some amazing friends over those 13 years. I always loved the golf course.
Speaking of golf and junior golf, I'll be hosting a 3-day camp later this summer for 9-12 year old juniors (boys and girls).
Several of my former Calvert Hall players will be helping with the instruction.
If you're interested in having your child participate, just shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pardon me for a second while I say something that will probably seem outrageous.
I (kind of) feel sorry for these sports leagues who are trying to navigate the Covid-19 situation.
Look, that takes a lot for me to say. 90% of the athletes and 100% of the owners are wealthy beyond imagination. And yet, they're still fighting about the details of how to play, when to play, who gets paid what, and so on.
On the surface, I'm amazed at how laughly inept baseball is, from the players, to the owners and to the league office itself. And yet, I do feel sorry for them.
Even further, I'm feeling bad -- really bad, in fact -- for the NFL, because they're in a different position than the other leagues.
The 32 NFL teams have been putting together their 2020 blueprint for the better part of five months now. And they're on, let's say, the 15th hole of their ramp-up to the season -- and unless something wacky happens, I don't think they'll be playing football in September.
The NBA and NHL season completed 85% of their season(s). Even though they're still trying to reboot in late July, at the very least they had five months of a regular season before the virus shut things down in mid-March.
Baseball got off the ground for a couple of weeks of spring training games before they closed shop.
NFL football started their 2020 prep work in early February. They went through free agency and the draft, plus they learned a whole new way of presenting the playbook to their players. ZOOM meetings have become all the rage in the NFL since March.
And yet, unless something really, really strange happens -- like the virus just goes away (no political "jab" attempted) -- the NFL is going to do all of this work and then, in late July, the league will announce that teams can't have a traditional on-field training camp. Editor's note: That's just my guess, of course. No one has told me that, specifically. I'm just assuming that's what we'll see.
This is all leading up to, of course, the NFL delaying the start of its season in September. Another editor's note: Again, just a hunch on my part.
Therein lies another quietly kept secret about professional sports and Covid-19. Most of the people involved in the on-field product -- team sports wise -- are simply not used to having to wait for things. The owners, almost all of them billionaires or close, are certainly an impatient bunch. How do you think they got to be billionaires in the first place, by sitting around at the pool all day? Most of them have a lifetime of hard work behind them. "Being patient" isn't in their DNA.
Players are similar in nature. For the most part, professional athletes get what they want, particularly from an ameneties standpoint. They travel differently than the rest of the great unwashed, they're paid (mostly) more than any of us could ever dream of making in our lifetime and they're waited on 24/7 during their respective seasons. The truth of the matter is they miss that type of lifestyle. They've had to be almost-human over the last five months and it's probably been somewhat of a culture shock to them.
So, forgive the owners and players if they haven't yet come to grips with this "new normal" they're facing, where they might not just get their way every time like they usually do. It takes a while to settle in, I'm guessing.
But this virus...it's also not fully cooperating, as we know.
The PGA Tour is the first "league" of any kind during Covid-19 trying to play a regular schedule, albeit without fans in attendance.
They're on week three of their "re-start" and controversy is swirling at this week's stop in Hartford, Connecticut. Five players have withdrawn from the event due to two caddies testing positive for Covid-19. Now, at first blush, five WD's doesn't seem like a big deal. But if it's five this week, it's ten next week. And then twenty after that.
Why am I so sure? Well, the TOUR has gone to great lengths to protect the players and caddies over the last two-plus weeks and despite that, two players have tested positive and two caddies have now also tested positive, causing their players and others to withdraw. Webb Simpson, who won last week at Hilton Head, also withdrew because a family member of his tested positive.
See what I mean?
Despite the TOUR doing a great job of isolating their 100 or so players and caddies, people are still contracting the virus or being exposed to it by others in their "circle". It's inevitable that week in and week out, there are going to be withdrawals and positive Covid tests.
I guess the dumb question is: Why do these leagues all continue to push forward and try and beat the medical nemesis the rest of the country is still enduring?
We all know the answer: Money.
Baseball owners say they're losing between $800,000 and $1,000,000 with each missed home game. While some say there's a 20% inflation baked into those numbers, it's still fair to say that it's somewhere in the $750,000 range per-game that most owners are missing out on.
If there's no NFL this fall, the league won't be able to cash any of those big TV checks.
The PGA Tour survives largely on its massive TV deals with CBS and NBC/Golf Channel. (The FOX deal is with the USGA, which is a completely separate organization than the PGA Tour). And the TOUR has roughly a dozen marquee events each year that feature Tiger Woods, which they in turn sell to advertising partners for more money than any old run of the mill tournament that doesn't have Tiger in the field.
For the TOUR, those events typically come in June, July and August. Tiger would normally play four times, at least, before the FedEx Cup playoffs start in September, another one of the big TV money grabs they sanction.
So, as far as the PGA Tour goes, they have a two-pronged interest in starting again and keeping the players safely moving around the country to play golf tournaments. They have "normal TV" and "Tiger TV", both of which are extremely important to them.
These leagues all want to play their respective seasons because of MONEY.
Major League Baseball doesn't really care if they have a World Series winner in 2020. Heck, they're going to start extra innings with a runner on 2nd base, for crying out loud. You know the whole thing's a joke if they're implementing that softball kind of rule.
What baseball wants to do is simple: play games, fulfill some of that TV contract, have playoff games and World Series games where the TV money goes up, and try and restore a bit of financial sanity to this (almost) lost 2020 season.
The same goes for football. I mean, the league is already going to suffer without fans in the seats. Less merchandise purchased, no tickets sold, and so on. But if they can at least play games (in a perfect world, a full 17-week schedule, but even if it's 12 weeks, that's OK) the TV checks will cash. Without that TV dough rolling in, the NFL is in big trouble.
I still say the virus is going to win out.
The NHL and NBA aren't re-starting in July. No matter if they use that goofy isolate-all-the-teams-in-one-city idea or something else, they're not playing again this summer. Covid-19 is still wrecking a lot of southern states, including Florida, where the NBA "re-start" is supposed to take place.
I don't think Major League Baseball will play games starting the weekend of July 24-26. I hope I'm wrong. I'd like to see some games this summer. But at some point over the next month, they're going to realize this is a foolish attempt at making a season work that just doesn't have the legs or the health behind it.
The only reason the PGA Tour even sorta-kinda works is because it's by and large an individual sport and other than players and caddies and a few rules officials lingering around on the course, it's a fairly controllable environment. And even then, they're still having issues.
I applaud these sports and leagues for trying to make this work. I realize they're between a rock and a hard place. But it just doesn't seem like this is going to work out for the best in 2020.
I hope I'm wrong...
"The Keen Eye" of
|DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.|
Sometime soon…temporarily during the abbreviated 2020 season and permanently next year, or certainly within two years, one of the great wrongs of modern professional sports shall finally be righted. Mercifully—for us, and for the players—the National League will begin using the designated hitter.
There is no other professional sport in which a player so unequipped to perform a task—the pitcher—is required to do such task—be a hitter. When fans of the Cubs head to Wrigley Field 81 times per season, they are forced every game to watch a player in the batter’s box who never once took an at-bat in the minors.
The main batting contribution from pitchers—sacrifice bunting—is a bit out of style these days, wouldn’t you say? National League teams playing in American League parks during interleague play get to substitute a legitimate hitter for an automatic out. AL teams playing in NL parks have to substitute an even-more-automatic out for, usually, one of their best hitters.
And remember back 20 years ago, when the game’s umpires formed a new union and were finally placed on one roster and began to work games in both leagues? The umps are everywhere now, but work with different rules in Baltimore on Sunday than they do in Philadelphia on Monday.
But what about tradition, you say? What is baseball without it? When the National League finally gives in, it’ll represent the final move away from what baseball used to be in the olden days. You know…no helmets, train travel, spitballs, the whole deal.
Well, the designated hitter was adopted by the American League in 1973. I was born in 1973, about a week before Opening Day. Both of us have long since reached middle age. The DH is not some new thing that we’re still trying to evaluate. It is…I dare say…part of baseball tradition.
In 2019, the great Edgar Martinez, who played maybe three or four games in the field every year for the Seattle Mariners, was inducted into the Hall of Fame. If David Ortiz doesn’t get into the Hall of Fame very early in his time as a candidate, it will be because of steroid suspicion, not the fact that he was a designated hitter.
Some of the game’s most feared hitters these days are, in fact, primarily designated hitters: Boston’s J.D. Martinez, New York’s Giancarlo Stanton, and Oakland’s Khris Davis, just to name a few. I don’t think anybody in their respective organizations, on the field or in the front office, holds that distinction against them. In fact, they probably have plenty of admiration for them, considering their ability to be great hitters while not taking part in one aspect of the game.
Now, I understand that you might think I’m biased. I grew up in Baltimore, as an Orioles’ fan, in a time when there was no interleague play. Every Orioles’ game always had the DH. If I had grown up in St. Louis, as a Cardinals fan, in a time when there was no interleague play, perhaps I’d have the opposite opinion.
I’ll say this, though, because I’ve actually asked—nobody I know that was an Orioles fan well before the designated hitter wishes it would go away. After a few years of adjusting, it made the game better. And yes, it did give a few more opportunities that didn’t exist before, particularly for aging players. What’s wrong with that? Would the Red Sox have preferred a “five-tool” prospect over Ortiz in 2013?
There are many reasons why every American pro league besides the National League uses the DH. What they all add up to is this; it’s just better than the alternative—better for the players, better for the coaches, and better for the fans.
Not better for “the game,” you say? Sorry, but I have to disagree.
Certainly, being a good fielder is awfully important. There is no player who makes the majors that is completely incompetent as a defensive player on a high level; otherwise, he never would have made it that far. And I hope there aren’t a lot of 10-year-olds who are telling their coaches and parents that they don’t care about defense. They should be taken to task for it, in the same way they would be if they were talking about basketball or soccer or any other game where offense and defense intersect.
But here’s the truth. The DH allows a professional baseball team to be a better defensive team, right? While the DH is by rule the “pinch-hitter” for the pitcher, he isn’t just the replacement for the pitcher. Instead, he’s the one being replaced, by someone every fan would rather have out there at third base or left field. In that way, the DH is also a nod to the importance of defense as much as the other way around.
Also, these days, “the game,” many games, are specialized. In football, excellent players on both sides of the ball play situationally, because that’s what’s best for the team. In lacrosse, there is a generally a player on every team that takes faceoffs and never plays at any other point. There are potential rule changes coming about the faceoff, to make it a less specialized job, and nobody really likes those changes.
Baseball became a specialized game long ago, particularly in relief pitching but also many years before that, when platoons between right-handed and left-handed hitters came into favor. Compared to those situations, the DH is hardly a specialized role. When you get 600 at-bats per year, you’re a full-time player, no matter what a curmudgeon might say.
And then you have the cult of the manager, who bemoans the role of the skipper in the AL while deifying his role in the NL. There’s the “double switch,” which National League fans speak about as if it were Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. There’s the extra time that must be spent figuring out the lineup, or even the occasional placement of the light-hitting pitcher somewhere in the lineup other than last.
There’s no doubt that the NL manager has more to do from an administrative standpoint. But I’m pretty sure he has plenty of it arranged before the game starts, depending on situations that may happen in the game. And no matter which league, the manager has a sometimes difficult job with his pitching staff—keeping his pitchers fresh, knowing when to make changes, and dealing with their egos. That won’t change, even if certain specifics do.
The designated hitter may make life harder for pitchers when it comes to the team they are facing, but it makes life easier for them when it comes to their own team. They can fully concentrate on their craft at all times. And if they pitch well, there is a smaller chance they’ll be taken out of the game as it moves into the middle and late innings—and no pitcher worth his salt wants to be taken out in those situations.
For sure, in 1973, the designated hitter was controversial. In 2020, it’s a no-brainer. I don’t even know why it’s a subject of great consternation anymore. Let’s have everyone play the same way, in the way that makes the game better. Case closed.
Cal Ripken Jr. did it.
And now, so has #DMD.
We both caught Lou Gehrig.
If you notice the Issue Number in the header above, today is #DMD issue #2130. And if you're a regular here, you know we've published 2130 consecutive days, starting back on August 25, 2014.
Where's ESPN's coverage of this great feat?
OK, I get it. It's small potatoes compared to Gehrig and Cal. And I'm saying here, now, that in no way is the goal of this website to eventually publish 2633 consecutive days to surpass the Hall of Famer.
But it would be pretty cool to reach 2633 sometime in October of 2021.
I have tons of people to thank for reaching today's lofty 2130 number.
The two "back room" guys who have been instrumental in the physical structure of the website deserve the most credit. George McDowell and Tony Young have been largely responsible for this plane getting off the ground and into the air. Lately, another friend has lent his expertise and assistance as well, and we thank Mike Herb for his contributions over the last few months.
I don't need to bore you with all of the "close calls" and midnight emails to George, but there have been occasions when I wondered if the streak was in jeopardy. Prayer has worked on occasion, in fact!
But through the work of George and Tony, I've been able to publish this website from all over the world, practically, including London, Pebble Beach, Augusta GA, Atlanta, West Palm Beach, New York, Boston, and a dozen other places, at least.
It never ceases to amaze me that I can pack a small portable computer that serves as a mobile server and publish #DMD from a remote location...all because of this crazy thing called "the internet".
I've been blessed to have a group of writing contributors who have consistently added quality to the website.
From the "old days", guys like Bo Smolka and Matthew Carroll were there to help get us started. Later, David Rosenfeld and Brien Jackson joined #DMD and provided their unique commentary on the Ravens, Orioles and sports in general. David is now in year four with us.
My longtime friend Dale Williams is, in my opinion, the best Maryland basketball analyst out there and he provides Terps coverage throughout the Big Ten season, previewing and reviewing every Terps game. Randy Morgan is our soccer writer, currently covering the European Leagues. He will be a massive asset later this year when qualifying for World Cup 2022 begins for the United States National Team.
I'm always interested in new writers, particularly someone with a specific area of interest. If you're gung-ho about the Orioles, for example, I'd love to feature your work a couple of times a week. Even though I don't play fantasy football, personally, I realize its importance and would enjoy having a #DMD "fantasy football analyst". I'd also gladly welcome someone to contribute regular work on the NHL or NBA.
The marketing partners who have been here since day one have made it possible to publish 2130 consecutive days. I can't possibly thank them all individually here because I know I'd leave someone out and I hate doing that. But I appreciate all of them, past and present. We'll be announcing several new partners in the next few weeks as we head into (hopefully) football season. I hope you'll support them the same way you've supported the rest of my marketing partners over the years.
2130 consecutive days of "anything" is pretty special.
Granted, my 2130 wasn't as taxing as Lou Gehrig's record of actually *playing* baseball, but it's still kind of cool to reach a milestone of any kind, even one that's largely made up of nothing other than getting up early every day.
I'm not trying to break Cal's record of 2632, but if it happens, maybe then we'll make a bigger deal about it.
Who knows, maybe we'll even get on ESPN!
Thanks to all of you who have been readers here, whether you're a newcomer, have been around since day one, or somewhere in between.
It's been a trying 100 days here, of course, but we've been moved along like we always do and we hope we add a little something to your day when you visit and read the website.
The Bleacher Report published a story yesterday that suggested two teams are "mulling over" the signing of mercurial wide receiver Antonio Brown. One of those teams....the Ravens.
I'm sorry. I'm not buying it.
I'm not trying to throw cold water on The Bleacher Report's work. I just don't see any way at all that the Ravens are considering signing Antonio Brown.
Sure, his cousin -- Marquise Brown -- plays in Baltimore. And there's no doubt Lamar Jackson has spent time in recent months hanging around A.B. and his cousin. We have video proof of that, at least. And I'll even go as far as to assume that Jackson and Hollywood probably put a bug in John Harbaugh's ear at some point.
All you have to say to a coach -- in any sport -- is this: "Coach, this guy can help us win, I'm telling you."
When you say that to a coach, he's interested. Maybe only for a minute, but he's interested nonetheless.
But in no way do I think the Ravens are seriously "mulling over" adding Antonio Brown. Steve Bisciotti would have some massive public relations work to do if his organization signs Brown. And, with no disrespect to the public relations folks who are still in the building, the main architect of a P.R. "campaign" to help soften the blow of a Brown signing -- Kevin Byrne -- is no longer with the club in a full-time capacity.
I just can't see the Ravens bringing in a guy like Brown who has a longtime history of "wild behavior" -- including some involving altercations/incidents with females.
Their team is good enough now. Why spoil it with a potential rotten apple?
We had a decent run at the RBC Heritage last week. Our "A lineup" went 5-for-6 in terms of making the cut and we won a little bit of money over the weekend, but not nearly enough to offset our total team costs. Generally, 5 of 6 guys making the cut will get you *something* (usually in the $5 or $10 range), but you can't get rich if you have a guy on your team miss the cut.
The TOUR moves to Hartford for this week's event at TPC River Highlands. Nine of the top ten players in the world are playing and the field is once again very strong. There's a lot of history at this course and certain players tend to show up on the leaderboard here, year after year. We're banking on some of that "local knowledge" with our "A Team", which we'll provide below.
Please also make note of the "notable others" section. We'll give you 12 other players that we like and if you play multiple teams, be sure and sprinkle those guys in as well.
Here's this week's "A Team" for Draft Kings or Fan Duel fantasy golf. In case you're a total newbie, you have to fit six players within a $50,000 salary cap, with their accompanying salaries that are set by the game host (Draft Kings or Fan Duel).
It feels like Brooks Koepka is ready to win. He's talkin-the-talk in press conferences and such and seems very close to walking-the-walk. It doesn't hurt that he's in a bit of a tiff with CBS golf analyst Nick Faldo, either. Koepka's at his best when he's angry about someone slighting him, perceived or otherwise. He's our most expensive player this week at $10,000. We love his chances of winning the tournament outright.
You'd be foolish to not have Paul Casey on your roster this week, particularly at $8,900. Every time Casey plays TPC River Highlands, he's in the hunt. He finished 2nd in 2015 and 2018 and posted top 5 finishes in 2017 and 2019. This is his first start back since Covid-19.
You'd also be foolish to not have Bubba Watson as part of your 6-man team this week. At $8,800, the 3-time champion at TPC River Highlands is a "must play". The PGA Tour is a "horses for courses" league. Certain players play well at certain courses. Watson loves this week's golf course.
We're huge Patrick Reed fans around here and the impressive quality of the field at this week's event suggests Reed will ramp up his game. He's a good buy at $8,700, although by adding him we'll be forced to add our two final players from the $6,500 range.
If you're reaching down the list of available players, always look for a guy who won at the course or had a high finish once or twice. With that in mind, we'll go with Chez Reavie at $7,300. Reavie won at TPC River Highlands last year, so he comes into this week with some good vibes, if nothing else.
And to round out our team, we're looking for a guy in the $6,000 range who makes a lot of cuts, so we're zeroing in on Cameron Tringale, at $6,300. He's 11 for 12 in cuts made this year.
Our 6-man "A-Team" came in at exactly $50,000.
Other Notables --
Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Corey Conners, Patrick Cantlay, Joel Dahmen, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Ryan Moore, Scottie Scheffler, Doc Redman, Jason Kokrak, C.T. Pan, Talor Gooch, Harry Higgs and Dylan Frittelli.
Over 40 million Americans are out of work due to the Covid-19 virus.
Forgive me if I don't feel bad for professional baseball players, you know, the ones who keep telling everyone they want to work but when pressed to do so, figure out a way to avoid punching the clock.
A 60-game season is just about perfect, I say. It will remind everyone that the 2020 campaign doesn't count. No matter who wins the World Series this season -- if there even is a season -- they will never be looked at like a legit champion. They will always have an asterisk next to their notation as 2020 World Series champions.
I've said it before but it bears repeating. Major League baseball players are the most entitled group of people in any occupation, anywhere, period.
Someone asked me yesterday to name the next five Ravens to go into the team's Ring of Honor.
I'll take a stab at it.
Next up is Marshal Yanda. My guess is he'll go in sometime in the 2021 campaign, but maybe not until 2022.
Terrell Suggs will follow Yanda, probably in 2023 or 2024, depending on whether "Sizzle" plays one or two more seasons.
Joe Flacco will go in the year after Suggs. This assumes, of course, that Joe plays one more season and then calls it quits. If Joe miraculously plays three more years, he'd go in two years after his final NFL season. But the guess here is Joe (and Suggs) play 2020 and that's it.
Sam Koch will go in around 2025 or 2026. He will be inducted after Suggs and Flacco.
I'll add a little twist at #5.
Sometime around 2027 or 2028, a year or two after he's sold the team, Steve Bisciotti will be inducted into the Ravens Ring of Honor.
John Harbaugh is obviously a definite, as well. But there's no end in sight for his Baltimore tenure.
If you could have one pitcher from 1990-2020 make a start for you and they had to pitch at least 7 innings and give up 3 earned runs or less in order for you to win a million dollars, who would you take?
I realize there's more to this than meets the eye. Where are they pitching? What lineup are they facing? I get it. But just play along, please.
You can take any pitcher from 1990-2020. If he gives up 3 earned runs or less and goes at least 7 innings, you get $1 million. Go ahead. Make your pick.
Mine will appear at the bottom...
I'm putting together "Baltimore's Toughest 18 Hole Course" here at #DMD, starting later this week. I'm taking one hole from 18 area courses (each course can only be represented once) and creating a par 72 layout (10 par 4's, 4 par 3's and 4 par 5's).
The corresponding hole numbers must match. In other words, if #1 at BCC East is used, it becomes #1 on our course.
My goal is to create a course so difficult that no one could shoot even par or better.
Here are the 18 courses I'll use. Baltimore CC (East), Hayfields CC, CC of Maryland, Eagle's Nest, Hillendale, Woodholme, Maryland Golf and CC, Bulle Rock, Mount Pleasant, Pine Ridge, Green Spring Valley, Piney Branch, Rolling Road, Elkridge, Caves Valley, Sparrows Point, and Hunt Valley.
Do you have any holes you'd like to recommend? Put them in the Comments section for consideration.
Speaking of debates, I got into this one with a friend over the weekend. He wondered which sport would do best in Baltimore if we had the adequate facilities to house a franchise: NHL, NBA or MLS?
He believes Baltimore could sell out a 24,000 seat MLS stadium for their entire home schedule. I told him he's nuts.
I'd say the NHL would have the best chance of thriving in Baltimore.
The game is more blue-collar in nature than professional basketball. It's hard hitting, gritty and edgy enough that I think Baltimore would take to it more warmly than they would the NBA.
For the record, I think MLS would fail in Baltimore. It might work at a soccer specific stadium in Columbia or Laurel, where both Baltimore and DC soccer fans would have equal access.
DC already has a MLS team, though. The area couldn't support two teams, that's for certain.
If they gave Baltimore its own team -- with a stadium in White Marsh, for example -- and expected "just Baltimore" to sell the games out and support the franchise, they'd be disappointed.
Just because a lot of kids play youth soccer....it doesn't mean they're all going to buy tickets and go watch it played professionally.
Ask the Blast if you don't believe that's true.
I think we're going to delve into this next topic more in the coming weeks, but a group of "sports scientists" recently released their list of the most "demanding sports" and the ensuing results have caused quite a social media stir.
Boxing was #1.
Ice Hockey was #2.
Football was #3.
And 30 other sports followed those.
Here's how those conclusions were reached.
The panel was made up of a group of sports scientists from the United States Olympic Committee, of academicians who study the science of muscles and movement of a star two-sport athlete, and of journalists who spend their professional lives watching athletes succeed and fail.
They're the ones who told us that boxing is the most demanding sport -- and that fishing is the least demanding sport.
They identified 10 categories, or skills, that go into athleticism, and then asked the eight panelists to assign a number from 1 to 10 to the demands each sport makes of each of those 10 skills. By totalling and averaging their responses, they arrived at a degree-of-difficulty number for each sport on a 1 to 100 scale. That number places the difficulty of performing each sport in context with the other sports they rated.
Here are the 10 categories: Endurance, Strength, Power, Speed, Agility, Flexibility, Nerve, Durability, Hand-Eye coordination and Analytic Aptitude.
We'll tackle this one again soon. Boxing #1, eh? We'll see about that.
You thought I forgot to give you my pitcher, right?
If I had to pick one pitcher to pitch for me and win me $1 million by giving up 3 earned runs or less in at least 7 innings of work, I'm going with Pedro Martinez, the '97 to '00 version, winner of three Cy Young Awards in 4 years. His ERA in those 4 years was 1.90, 2.89, 2.07 and 1.74.
La Liga --
The closest title race in Europe got even closer after an action packed week.
Both Barcelona and Real Madrid won their midweek games. Barcelona won 2-0 over Leganes, led by another stellar performance from Leo Messi. Real Madrid registered a dominant win over Valencia capped off by one of the goals of the season by Karim Benzema. If you have not seen this magnificent goal by Benzema, seek it out on the internet.
The race tightened at the weekend as Barcelona was unable to unlock Sevilla and finished with a 0-0 draw. Real Madrid were able to hold on to a 2-1 victory against a tough Real Sociedad team, with Benzema again notching the game winning goal. The two clubs are now tied at the top of the league on points, with Real Madrid holding the head to head tiebreaker. With the packed schedule, Madrid’s depth gives them an advantage over Barcelona, who remain severely reliant on Messi’s brilliance.
Premier League --
This week brought the return of England’s Premier League. Similar to the Bundesliga, the remaining drama in the Premier League lies in the battle for Champions League spots.
Liverpool hold an insurmountable lead for the league title, but there are four or five teams competing for the last two Champions League spots. Chelsea earned an important come from behind 2-1 win over Aston Villa, sparked by a goal from Christian Pulisic, to maintain their hold on a Champions League spot. Manchester United and Wolverhampton sit tied for the final spot after Man U drew 1-1 with Tottenham and Wolves bested West Ham 2-0.
In the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich officially clinched their 8th consecutive title with a 1-0 win over Werder Bremen on Tuesday.
In the race for the final Champions League spot, Borussia Monchengladbach won both their games while Bayer Leverkusen won one and lost one. The big week puts Gladbach two points ahead of Leverkusen heading into the final round next weekend. Josh Sargent’s Werder Bremen lost both games on the week and will need a win and a Dusseldorf loss to avoid relegation next weekend.
It was a busy week for Americans in Europe with several standout performances.
The highlight of the week was 17 year old Gio Reyna receiving his first Bundesliga start on Saturday for Borussia Dortmund. Reyna looked at home in an attacking midfield role for Dortmund, providing the assist to their first goal with a wonderful deft layoff to Erling Haaland. Reyna already displays better control in tight spaces than any of the other midfield options for the US National Team.
Another young American achieved a significant milestone on Saturday, as 20 year old Chris Richards earned his first Bundesliga appearance for champions Bayern Munich. Richards subbed on at center back for the last ten minutes of Bayern’s 3-1 win over Freiburg.
Christian Pulisic returned to action for Chelsea for the first time since January, having recovered from his injuries during the shutdown. Pulisic subbed on around the 60th minute with Chelsea down 1-0. He quickly provided a goal to tie the game, getting on the end of a cross from Cesar Azpilicueta.
Weston McKennie started both of Schalke’s games at center midfield. McKennie scored a nice headed goal off a set piece in the midweek game and created several chances in the weekend game with box to box runs through midfield. Schalke has been extremely disappointing since the return from shutdown, but McKennie has been a lone bright spot for them.
Tyler Adams started at center midfield for RB Leipzig in their midweek draw with Dusseldorf and subbed on for the second half of their 2-0 loss to Dortmund on Saturday. Adam’s continues to show a range of passing skills when played in center mid, but could improve by taking some more risks and not always playing the safe pass.
Josh Sargent subbed on for the last 30 minutes of Bremen’s loss to Bayern on Tuesday and then received the start on Saturday vs Mainz. Sargent nearly had a goal in the opening minutes against Mainz, forcing a tough save by the keeper.
John Brooks started both of Wolfsburg’s games during the week. Brooks was at fault for a goal in the loss to Gladbach but fared better in the dominant win over Schalke.
About the contributor: Randy Morgan was born and raised in the Baltimore area graduating from Dulaney HS and then University of Maryland. His day job is software development. He's an avid sports watcher and recreational participant. A devoted Ravens, Orioles and U.S. soccer supporter. he also follows many soccer leagues around the world as well as the NBA and college basketball. Randy played soccer, basketball, and baseball growing up and still plays soccer and basketball recreationally as well as the occasional round of golf. His commentary on mostly sports, but sometimes music and other miscellany can be found on twitter @jrmorgan16.
There's no telling how long this "new normal" is going to be with us when it comes to the world of professional and college sports.
It could be well into 2021 before the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB are playing regular schedules again, either with or without spectactors watching the action in person.
But if two weeks of early returns are a true indicator, professional golf might be the one sport that can not only survive, but thrive, potentially, without people on site watching the action.
NASCAR and horse racing seemingly have done OK as well in their limited events during the Covid-19 crisis. I can't speak at all for UFC because I don't watch it, but they might also fit in with the "no spectators is OK" theme.
I know this, though: The PGA Tour is humming along nicely with only the TV cameras on property to show us the action.
The golf itself has been extremely high quality over the last two weeks. Last Sunday, Daniel Berger made birdie at the final hole to get into a playoff, then beat Collin Morikawa on the first hole of sudden death to win at Colonial CC. Yesterday, at one point, six players were tied for the final round lead at 17-under-par and four players eventually got to 20-under, which was the 72-hole tournament scoring record before Webb Simpson won the event at Harbour Town at 22 under par.
There have been a few negatives, too, including one player (so far) testing positive for the virus, and we'll get to those. But the biggest fear of all -- that the lack of crowds and on property "buzz" might impact the players and their games -- hasn't even come close to presenting itself thus far.
As I've mentioned here several times before, professional golf is the one sport where its competitors aren't unfamiliar with the idea of playing in front of no one. 90% of the American players on TOUR (particularly any under age 30) got to the highest level of golf by coming up through the college ranks, where there are often tournaments played with no one there at all watching.
Golf is the sport, no matter the level, where you're mostly playing to prove something to yourself. If you have a 10-footer to break 80 for the first time and you miss it, you can go ahead and tell your buddies at the bar later that night that you made it and finally shot 79, but you know the truth. You don't need anyone there to validate it. You know.
Here's something else to chew on: The quality of golf might actually be better without 25,000 people there and bathroom doors clanging in a player's backswing and some over-served goof yelling "Baaab-ba BOOEY!!" as you hit the tee shot on the 14th hole. Wouldn't that be something? Not only is the golf not any worse without people there, it might actually be a smidgen better.
So far, through two tournaments, it sure looks like the overall quality is better.
Now, there are a couple of drawbacks. But they're "workable" drawbacks. The TV coverage is good, but not great. With 33% of their normal staff and equipment on site, CBS has produced a watchable product the last two weeks, but nothing close to the high-level stuff we saw before Covid-19.
Without a crowd on hand, there's no real "excitement" attached to a player's back nine charge, like the one we saw from Simpson yesterday, who birdied 15, 16 and 17 to go from tied to two ahead in the final 45 minutes of the action. There's also a train of thought that says without those people on hand, we're not seeing players' nerves tested to their fullest. A friend of mine who really follows horse racing made that point about the Belmont on Saturday. "You'll never know what the (winning) horse's reaction would have been when he turned for home and heard the roar of a hundred thousand people," he said. "Some horses stop in their tracks. Others go along without a problem."
One other notable element of the last two events is the ability for "boom mics" to pick up conversations and, ummm, "other stuff" from the players.
Harold Varner III dropped an f-bomb on Friday and was roasted for it on Twitter afterwards.
Gary Woodland hit a poor shot yesterday and let out a "Gosh dang it!" before adding, for color, "I f***ing hate that shot".
Some golf viewers love seeing the players in their natural element. Webb Simpson and his caddie were overheard discussing clubhead speed yesterday, carry distances, the grain of the green from 144 yards away and even the high tide that came in around the 18th hole at Hilton Head's most famous course.
Editor's note: From 144 yards away, most of us are hoping to get the ball on the putting surface and higher level players might be trying to leave themselves an uphill putt at it, particularly if the pin is in a dangerous position. Simpson was so dialed in, he wanted to hit the ball just right of the flag because "the grain goes right to the hole from that direction and the read will be easier." He hit it just right of the hole and made the 15 footer for birdie.
In a few weeks, the TOUR will play back-to-back weeks at Muirfield Village in Columbus, OH.
The first tournament, which would have been the John Deere Classic, will feature a more benign layout, with wider fairways. That event will be played without spectactors on site. The following week is The Memorial, an invitational event where most of the best players in the world will be on hand. They'll tighten the fairways, let the rough grow throughout the week and, perhaps, even make the greens a tick or two quicker. 8,000 fans will be allowed to attend that event.
It will be interesting to see how the quality of golf differs between the two tournaments, one with people and a "buzz" on the property and the other without it. It might also help that Tiger Woods is expected to tee it up at The Memorial. That will escalate the "buzz" factor, obviously.
But for now, we've discovered this: While other sports are having a tough time navigating the Covid-19 situation, professional golf, after a 3-month layoff, has moved ahead nicely into this new phase. One player, so far, has tested positive for Covid-19 and it's still a mystery how he contracted it, since none of the other 10 people he was around from Tuesday through Friday tested positive for it.
Other sports might suffer from not having fans on hand, but golf is apparently going to be just fine.
"The Keen Eye" of
|DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.|
I’ve said in this space that the Ravens are going to be the next NFL dynasty. I’ve said that I wouldn’t be surprised if they won the AFC North 10 years in a row. I’ll say now that, if they can find their way past Houston and Kansas City early this season, they can get close to the NFL record of 23 consecutive regular-season wins, which the Colts did in 2008 and 2009.
I have not said what national radio host Colin Cowherd said last week, which was “Baltimore is the first team maybe I’ve ever thought…I’m starting to think they’re going 16-0. And it’s not ridiculous.”
Now…I don’t think that will happen. The only teams to have won as many as 14 games in consecutive seasons are the 1989-1990 49ers and the 2003-2004 Patriots, led by Joe Montana and Tom Brady respectively. But I can see where Cowherd is coming from, beyond the usual hot takes that make him a popular sports talker.
Lamar Jackson and friends play a lot of bad teams in 2020, besides the Bengals. They play the Redskins and the Giants and the Colts and the Jaguars. They’ll be playing in New England, but not against Tom Brady anymore. Games against great and/or good teams—the Chiefs, Cowboys and Titans—take place at M&T Bank Stadium.
Also, I think the idea that the AFC North is going to be “stronger” this year than it was last year is no certainty. Most of those thoughts come from the return of Ben Roethlisberger, who is certainly better than Devlin “Duck” Hodges. Big Ben, however, is 38 years old and coming off a bad injury to his elbow. And he doesn’t have as much around him as he did when he was 33 or 34.
The Ravens aren’t going to finish 16-0. But the seeds might be there for a repeat of those consecutive seasons from San Francisco and New England many years ago.
I was thinking about underappreciated local athletes and for some reason one person kept popping up in my brain: Joe Orsulak, who played for the Orioles from 1988-1992.
Now, I know what you’re saying. Orsulak had 57 career home runs and a career OPS of .698. Honestly, he really was a part-time player who was forced to be a quasi-full-time player because of some of the terrible teams on which he played. He wasn’t so much underappreciated…he was just underwhelming, right?
But you had to watch him closely, especially before the game.
In pregame fielding practice, one of the coaches would stand in the infield with the “fungo” bat and hit liners or one-hoppers into the outfield. The outfielders would first throw to second base, then third base, then toward the cutoff man and home plate, as they would during a game depending upon the situation when a base hit came in their direction.
Orsulak was the most accurate thrower I’ve ever seen. His tosses toward second and third never once took the infielder off the base, whether they came in on one hop or all the way. His throws toward home plate were no more than a foot over the head of the cutoff man and always one-hopped perfectly to the catcher standing on or by the plate.
In 1991, while starting only 118 games, Orsulak led the American League with 22 outfield assists. Ken Griffey climbed walls and other guys made diving plays, but Orsulak never made a mistake. Not once. I’m not sure why I was attuned to Orsulak so much. I was still playing baseball, for recreation teams and in high school, and I looked up to guys like him, the ones who found ways to play 14 seasons with no fanfare whatsoever. I couldn’t be Murray or Ripken, but I could be him. I hope a few other Orioles’ fans from that era had the same appreciation for Orsulak as I did.
The unusual Belmont Stakes the other day, for whatever reason, got me thinking about the most thrilling sporting event I can remember watching from my childhood.
May 20, 1989. The 114th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. Sunday Silence vs. Easy Goer, the former edging the latter by half-a-nose after running side-by-side for the entire length of the backstretch, leaving everyone else in the field in the dust.
Jim McKay, who witnessed a few horse races in his day, said years later that it “was the best race I’ve ever witnessed.” They made a poster of the photo finish, and I had it my bedroom at home before taking it to college with me, more than two years after the race.
I’ve probably watched the race on YouTube 100 times. The great Dave Johnson, the best announcer for these races, if you ask me, was on the call for ABC. It was an unmatched thrill watching it the first time, and it still makes you sit up and cheer when you watch it 31 years later.
I have no idea how many of the 99,000 people in attendance at Pimlico that day actually saw the race. In 1989, in the infield, life was pretty interesting, I’d say. But if they didn’t see it, they missed out.
Three weeks later, Easy Goer got some revenge, winning the Belmont in its usual time and at its usual distance to keep Sunday Silence from winning the Triple Crown.
Sunday Silence, interestingly, was exported to Japan after getting very little interest from breeders in the United States. He was the leading “sire” there for 13 consecutive years, from 1995-2007. Had he bred in Kentucky, or somewhere else in the United States, his post-racing career would likely have been a failure. Sunday Silence lived until 2002.
Easy Goer lived only until the age of eight, unfortunately. He died of an allergic reaction in Kentucky, collapsing while jogging lightly.
Father’s Day often brought a dilemma for my father, who didn’t like dilemmas, frankly.
My dad wanted to watch the Orioles, of course. But the Orioles weren’t such a big deal at the yearly family outing at his cousin’s house in Montgomery County, and that became even more true after the Nationals came into being.
And then there was the other problem, which was the final round of the U.S. Open, which always (er, usually) occurs on Father’s Day. If the Orioles did happen to be on the television, he didn’t enjoy the switching back-and-forth to catch some of the golf.
In 2011, we were about as close to the U.S. Open as we could be without being there. The house in Potomac is just a few miles from Congressional Country Club, where the young Rory McIlroy blasted the field by eight shots (bonus points if you remember who finished in second place). My father, however, wasn’t interested.
Father’s Day 2020 was, like every other day in 2020 since about mid-March, quite different. There was no family gathering in Potomac, just an email from the hosts wishing all the Dads a Happy Father’s Day and looking forward to 2021. This time, I took the opportunity to visit my father. Like many people who visit their parents’ graves these days, I assume, the first thing I said was “you wouldn’t believe what’s going on right now if you were here.”
There was some good news. Father’s Day is typically one of your slower days on the golf course. This year, however, there weren’t nearly as many grandfather/father/son groups as usual. Our group — three fathers and me — managed to play 18 holes in three hours and 15 minutes, and it should have been quicker than that.
That was great, but here’s hoping for the usual slow-play Father’s Day next year. There are some things that make it ok for a round to take five hours, I guess.
First of all, Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there!
I hope you have a great one, celebrating the occasion in whatever way best suits/fits you.
Now, to sports...
This is all starting to look unsettling.
By "this", I mean the world of sports.
Baseball players are testing positive for Covid-19. So, too, are football players.
College athletes are testing positive as well.
Just this week, a PGA Tour player tested negative on Tuesday, said he was around 11 people over the next three days, then tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday. Meanwhile, the 11 people he encountered were all administered tests and none of them were positive for the virus.
But Nick Watney obviously got the coronavirus somewhere in Hilton Head, SC. But how?
These are the kinds of issues that are bound to turn up in football and baseball over the next, say, six months.
Major League Baseball has already shut down their "Spring Training 2" sites in Florida and Arizona. Forget that they can't even come up with an agreement to play the season. They don't have the players to play the season, even if an agreement is reached.
There's no way they can play football, right? I mean, if ever there was a sport that violates every basic premise of Covid-19 prevention and safety, it's football. Without a vaccine, it seems unlikely the NFL can have a 2020 campaign.
Those NBA and NHL seasons that are set to restart next month? No one's saying anything, yet, but you can forget about those. Give it a week or two and there will be a formal announcement. Good on them for trying to bring a conclusion to their respective seasons, but it's just not going to work.
Horse racing apparently pulled off a Covid-free running of The Belmont Stakes yesterday, but it sure must have been weird up there in New York to have this massively important race go off with no one there to watch it.
Tiz The Law jogged his way to a win, in case you missed it. Dr. Post was second and Max Player was third.
There might be some asterisks applied to Tiz The Law's record if, in fact, he goes on to win the Triple Crown. First, the typical order of the races -- Derby, two weeks off, Preakness, three weeks off, Belmont -- is supposed to separate the quality of the horses. Anyone can win the Derby, but come back two weeks later and run again and win. And then, three weeks after that, do it all again and win. That's one tough task.
So asterisk number one would be that the weird order -- Belmont in June, Derby in September, Preakness in October -- didn't actually require the stamina and training of the normal Triple Crown cycle.
Asterisk number two would be the shortened version of the Belmont (1 and 1/8 miles yesterday instead of the normal 1 1/2 miles). It didn't appear to be a big deal yesterday. That horse would have won by 10 lengths if they would have run the normal length. But it's fair to note the distance was shorter than usual.
No fans in the stands will require an asterisk, too. Some horses don't like the crowds and the roars as they turn for home. There's no telling how yesterday's race would have been different with 90,000 people in the grandstands. The guess is that Tiz The Law was winning no matter what, but, still, the asterisk to notate (*race was run with no spectators at the facility) is fair.
Golf isn't issuing asterisks -- not yet, anyway -- but not having spectators on site hasn't diminished anyone's play over the last two weeks. The golf has been very good both in Ft. Worth and Hilton Head. That said, golf is the one sport where players are somewhat familiar with playing by themselves, as most college tournaments in this country have, at best, 100 people milling around and watching and nearly all of those folks are family members.
They're already planning on playing the PGA Championship at Harding Park (August 6-9) without any spectators on site. The U.S. Open will likely follow suit in mid-September. The big question will be: How does Augusta National handle it in November when they play the 2020 Masters?
The Masters -- marching to the beat of their own drum and all -- might very well "invite" 5,000 spectators per-day or something like that. They have a lot of golf merchandise to sell, of course, although it's important to note that only about 10% of their hats, shirts, coffee mugs, etc. are dated. Everything else is generic in nature and can be sold in 2021 just as easily as it can be sold in 2020.
So, while horse racing and golf (and auto racing) can apparently forge ahead without constantly being surrounded by Covid-19 fears, the same can't be said for the other sports. Baseball is very close to shutting down for the year, it would appear. Not only will hockey and basketball likely not return to finish up their 2019-2020 season, there's now chatter that perhaps both the NBA and NHL can't start on time in October, either.
That leaves the NFL and college football. It seems highly unlikely we'll see them play in September.
Oh, and what about high school sports and rec sports?
If they can't play NFL or college football, how are they going to play high school football in September?
A month ago, things started to glisten with just a smidgen of promise. We were thinking that perhaps we were on the other side of this messy virus.
This week, though, has set us back yet again.
I wouldn't suggest we're back to square one or anything of that nature, but there's no real remedy in sight and people are still getting sick and, well, Covid-19 doesn't care about the Ravens vs. Steelers or Alabama vs. Auburn.
Stay safe and keep wearing your mask...
Concordia Prep athletic director and head football coach Josh Ward, a 2004 graduate of Calvert Hall, has been named The Hall’s new head football coach, he confirmed to Varsity Sports Network yesterday morning. Ward succeeds Donald Davis, also a Calvert Hall alum, who stepped down from the post -- after 13 seasons and 97 wins -- earlier this year and is now the head coach at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.
“It’s truly an honor to be named the head coach at my alma mater,” said Ward. “It was a very tough decision to leave Concordia Prep because Mr. Brent Johnson gave me my first opportunity to be a head coach, but it is time for the next chapter in my life and I can’t wait for this opportunity and the road ahead. Go Hall.”
After graduating from Calvert Hall, Ward went on to play two seasons as a defensive lineman at Lycoming College. An injury, however, cut short his playing career and he finished his undergraduate studies at Salisbury State University. He began his coaching career on the college level, working on the staffs at the College of Charleston (SC), Western Connecticut State and West Virginia Wesleyan.
In 2016 Ward returned to Baltimore and joined the coaching staff at St. Frances Academy, just as the East Baltimore school was beginning its ascent into national prominence as a high school football power.
One year later he was hired as the athletic director and head football coach at Concordia where he oversaw a program that reached the MIAA C Conference championship game in 2018 and moved up to the MIAA B Conference in 2019.
After a 4-6 campaign in 2017, the Saints drastically increased the number of athletes in their football program and improved to 9-3 in 2018. The high-water mark came after Concordia defeated then No. 14 Dundalk, 14-0, in Week 3 of the 2019 season, to remain undefeated and enter the VSN Football Top 20 for the first time in school history, while earning Ward recognition as the Baltimore Touchdown Club Coach of the Week.
According to sources close to the search process, Ward emerged from a group of finalists that included two college coaches and an assistant with a prominent private school program in D.C.
This story was originally published on June 20, 2020 by Varsity Sports Network, Maryland's leader in high school athletics coverage. To learn more about Varsity Sports Network, visit their website >> www.varsitysportsnetwork.com
If you've been to Camden Yards or Ravens Stadium, there are lots of people with their fingerprints on those two fine sports facilities.
But the person you should thank first...is the #1 Most Underappreciated Sports Figure in Baltimore, 1970-2020, Herb Belgrad.
Without Belgrad, there's no Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Without Belgrad, the Ravens likely wouldn't be in Baltimore. They might be the San Antonio Mustangs, nee Cleveland Browns, and they wouldn't have moved to Charm City for the '96 season.
Herb Belgrad ran the Maryland Stadium Authority from 1986 through 1995. In that time, Baltimore built a brand new baseball stadium, secured a football team, and lured the Browns on the promise of a new state-of-the-art NFL facility, which was unveiled in 1998.
Belgrad was the driving force behind all of that.
It wasn't always a smooth ride, mind you. Belgrad was involved in the initial efforts to lure the St. Louis Cardinals to Baltimore. He was also part of the expansion committee that tried to convince the NFL that Baltimore was a good fit for a new team. Neither of those efforts yielded a favorable result, but Belgrad was relentless. In 1995, he helped construct the deal with Art Modell that brought the Browns to Baltimore.
Herb Belgrad was also instrumental in a supremely important decision in the late 1980's as he toured the country and examined new baseball and football stadiums. He was under some local pressure to investigate the construction of one facility to serve both the Orioles and a yet-to-be-earned NFL team.
Belgrad's research and private discussions with folks in New York, Oakland and Philadelphia showed a common thread; no one really liked sharing their home stadium and the cost -- because of needing locker rooms for four teams and offices for two -- was actually $40 million more just to add one more tenant.
Belgrad was able to convince the city and state that two stadiums next to one another was the more logical solution. He was also able to work with then-Orioles-owner Edward Bennett Williams, who wouldn't sign a long-term lease at Memorial Stadium and was privately worrying folks in Baltimore who thought he might shuttle the Birds 45 miles to the south to Washington D.C.
By the late 1980's when the stadium project won approval via state and local legislature, Herb Belgrad was nearing "legend status". He had done the improbable...keeping EBW happy and ensuring the long term viability of the Orioles by building a new downtown baseball stadium.
And in 1995, Belgrad pulled off his coup de grace, finally bringing NFL football back to Baltimore after a 12 year absence.
No one in Baltimore worked harder for the city's sports scene for those nine years than Herb Belgrad.
And the very landscape of Baltimore changed forever because of his outstanding work.
They'll run the 152nd Belmont Stakes late this afternoon.
I know...you completely forgot about the 3rd leg of the Triple Crown series, which in 2020 is actually going to be the first event of horse racing's three big races.
Don't feel bad. Hardly anyone else knows the race is today, either.
I like #3 Max Player to win today. He hasn't run much, but he does have a win at the mile-and-eighth distance (Withers, Feb. 2) and has a Belmont Winner (A.P. Indy) in his family. And you can't go wrong with Joel Rosario on board, either.
I'll go with #1 Tap It To Win to place. Don't be surprised if John Velazquez has this horse in the "go position" with a quarter mile remaining. Can he close the deal? That's the question.
The favorite #8 Tiz The Law is hard to ignore, so we'll throw him as the show horse in this one. That said, no one would be surprised if this horse winds up the 5 length winner today. He's won 4 of 5 races and was an easy winner at the Holy Bull on February 2.
So we're playing the 3-1-8 exacta and we'll box that up so we win no matter the combination. Same goes with the triple. None of those will wind up flushing out a bunch of money because of Tiz The Law (unless it's 3-1 or 1-3 in the exacta) but a win is a win.
Looking for one horse to play across the board who might wind up yielding a nice payday? You can do worse than Irad Ortiz Jr. (jockey) and Todd Pletcher (trainer), so throw $20.00 (win, place and show) on Dr. Post in the #9 position. He'll likely go off at 5 to 1 or maybe even 7 to 1.
The news that 23 Clemson football players have tested positive for Covid-19 should be the beginning of the end for college football, 2020. At least in September, anyway.
That's just one school. How many others, if they gathered their rosters today, would have the same results?
It's looking more and more like either no college football in 2020 or an altered schedule, perhaps, with games being played in January, February and March of 2021.
And the same goes for Major League Baseball, where all major league camps have been closed down for a "deep cleaning" after a handful of Philadelphia Phillies players and staffers tested positive for Covid-19 in Florida.
Baseball already has an issue. They can't come up with an agreement for the truncated 2020 campaign. Yesterday, the league/owners came back and said, "We're not going away from the 60-game plan we offered earlier this week", so that issue is still unresolved.
And now, you have four teams who were concerned enough -- either because of positive tests or symptoms -- who shut their doors yesterday. Later in the day, MLB closed all facilities until further notice.
Bye-bye baseball, 2020.
You can expect a similar occurrence in the NFL, too. There's just no way teams can bring in 90 players (and staffers) next month or in early August and not have Covid-19 related situations pop up.
I always thought it was a longshot that football starts on time in September. Now, I'd categorize it as "unlikely" that the NFL starts on time. I hate to be going Dr. Fauci on everyone, but this virus isn't just going away overnight, the way many assumed it might once the summer heat came around.
Speaking of Covid-19, the PGA Tour had their first positive test on Friday, as Nick Watney pulled out of the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head after testing positive.
Watney said his contact with the outside world had been extremely limited over the last two weeks. He said last night he had come in contact with "roughly 8 or 10 people" over the last ten days. And yet, he tested positive on Friday.
On the course, the weekend shapes up to be yet another barnburner, with Bryson DeChambeau (-11) again in the hunt, trailing Webb Simpson by one shot at Harbour Town.
Despite the course's tight, narrow fairways and driving holes, DeChambeau continues to impress with his new-found-driving-distance. He nearly won last week in Ft. Worth. Is this going to be career win #6 for the former U.S. Amateur champion?
Canadian Corey Conners is also at 11 under par. Brooks Koepka is just three shots back at 9-under par.
If you're one of those weirdos who thinks kickers and punters aren't "real" football players, you probably should come back tomorrow.
This is a love fest for a punter.
On our list of Baltimore's Top 10 Most Underappreciated Sports Figures, 1970-2020, 14-year Ravens veteran Sam Koch is #2.
And, yes, if you've been following along, Koch is the only "active" sports figure of the nine we've listed thus far. (Andy MacPhail is technically still active, yes, but not with a Baltimore organization).
Fun fact: Sam Koch has participated in every single Ravens regular season game since he joined the franchise in 2006. He's never missed a game.
Another fun fact: Since 2006, when he entered the league, Koch’s 405 punts inside the 20 rank second in the NFL.
OK, so he's a great punter. Or, at least now, a good punter. What else?
He also serves as the holder on all field goal attempts. Originally with Matt Stover, then with Billy Cundiff, and most recently with Justin Tucker, Koch has been nearly flawless with his holding obligations. You watch it all unfold on TV and think nothing of it. Someone snaps the ball to a guy who is kneeling on the ground. He catches it and puts it in the turf so the kicker can connect with it. Easy peasy, right?
Try getting a professional long snapper to fire a ball at you from 7 or 8 yards away and see how you handle it. Oh, and when you catch it, spin it around so the laces face the uprights and tilt it at just the right angle -- and do all of that within roughly one second.
Koch has done that for 14 years and throws a perfect season -- not a perfect game, but perfect season -- with regularity.
In a league where punters come and go, Koch has been a rock. And he's done virtually all of it with no fanfare. The only time you remember the punter is when he shanks one. The only time you remember the holder is when he muffs a snap a time or two. Koch shanks one a year and might mishandle one snap every season. He's that good.
You just haven't paid all that much attention because the man does his job day in and day out, 16 games a year plus playoffs.
Underappreciated doesn't begin to describe Sam Koch. His performance over 14 years has been nothing short of sensational. If he's not a Ravens Ring of Honor winner someday, they should stop putting people in.
Baseball is on.
Baseball is off.
No, it's off.
They had a deal on Wednesday. Now it's Friday and there's no deal. The players apparently got crabby again and resubmitted yet another proposal to the owners. That's after the owners submitted their final proposal on Tuesday.
Anyway, here are some of the main sticking points the players are now demanding be graced in their favor. The ones we know about anyway. #DMD's commentary can be found in parantheses.
> 70-game season from July 19 through Sept. 30; (60 or 70, it doesn't matter. Anything under 100 games isn't a "real" season anyway.)
Editor's note: The owners have already rejected the 70-game schedule.
> Full prorated pay; (This seems fair. A player should be paid for 70 games the same pro rated amount he'd receive for all 162. The owners might lose money in 2020, but lots of people around the country have taken it on the chin during Covid-19. They can, too.)
> Spring training to begin June 26-28; (Who cares...)
> Expanded playoffs to 16 teams in 2020 and 2021 seasons; (This seems kind of dumb, if we're being honest. More than half the teams in the league make the post-season? What purpose does that serve? And if your answer is "we get to see more baseball that way", just put all 30 teams in the playoffs in that case.)
> Minimum pool for playoff shares in 2020 based on rounds played, $50 million if full playoff is staged; (I guess this is fine, too. The players always wind up getting more rich the longer they complain.)
> 50/50 split of incremental TV revenue for any additional postseason games in 2021; (The players are pretty smart. They're demanding more playoff teams and more playoff games so they can ask for more playoff TV money. It's good work if you can get it. Kind of scandalous, if you ask me, but still good work.)
> Salary-advance forgiveness for all players in Tiers I to III of March agreement; (This seems like one of those things you ask for knowing you aren't going to get it...but it's a concession point you'll hold until the end to pretend you're giving something back.)
> Opt-outs -- full service and salary for players who are high-risk and those who live with high-risk individuals; (I'm just a dummy from Glen Burnie but this looks like you can get paid your full salary and get your full season's service time even if you say, "I have an underlying condition and I don't want to play this season." Again, good work if you can get it.)
> $10 million for social justice initiatives (funded from welfare plan); (Sure thing. All good.)
> $50 million to be transferred from joint funds (ITF) to the commissioner's discretionary fund; (I have no idea what this is but it looks like the players are starting to really stick it to the owners now.)
> Clubs granted permission to sell advertisements/patches on uniforms in 2020 and 2021; (I had to LOL at this one. "Clubs granted permission..." How the heck do these baseball players think the owners are going to pay for all this free money they're handing out with half the season already wrecked? The clubs should always be allowed to sell any sponsorship they want, including advertising on uniforms.)
> Enhanced housing allowances in spring training and regular season; (OK, fine. Can't have you guys staying four to a house any longer in Arizona or Florida. Too cramped.)
> Universal designated hitter in 2020 and 2021; (I'm not a huge DH fan, but the main thing is to have both leagues use the same rules. If adding the DH to the N.L. is the answer, so be it.)
> Parties to collaborate on broadcast enhancements; (I don't know exactly what this means, either, but I bet $100 it has something to do with the players eventually getting more money.)
> Mutual waiver of potential grievances under the March agreement. (Does this mean both parties agree not to sue the other? That takes all the fun out of this, doesn't it?)
At some point, they're either going to play or not play this season. But in the meantime, all of this back-and-forth and who-struck-john between already rich people trying to get more rich is very off putting to a nation of folks who have had their own financial situations put on hold since March.
Baseball being what it is and all, they'll figure out a way to not only strike a deal, but somehow make the fans pay for it all in the end.
How many of you reading this right now have listened to talk radio or sports talk radio in your life?
Show your hands. It looks like that's all of you. Every person reading this website has likely listened to sports radio at some point.
Here in Baltimore, one of the main reasons why you've listened is because of a man named Harry Shriver, who comes in at #3 on our list of Baltimore's Most Underappreciated Sports Figures, 1970-2020.
Sure, calling Shriver a "sports figure" might be stretching it a bit, but there's no denying that Shriver and the station he ran, WFBR, were the pioneers for both vibrant Baltimore talk radio and play-by-play coverage of the local teams.
Those of us 50 and beyond remember Shriver. The younger lot probably don't.
He was the man behind the idea that "high powered personalities" could make a connection with listeners. Shriver believed you should pile up as many diverse personalities as you could get and let them have a go of it. In the 1970's, WFBR boasted such talents as Johnny Walker, Charley Eckman, Peter Berry ("The Flying Dutchman"), Charlie Donovan and Tom Marr. Each of those men captured a slice of the audience, whether they were just doing run of the mill "shock jock" stuf, like Walker did, or the early days of sports talk radio, where Eckman would hold court on a nightly basis.
Shriver's biggest contribution, though, came in the form of sports play-by-play, where he urged announcers to show their pride for the teams they were covering. Shriver and WFBR created "Orioles Magic", in case you don't recall. Who among us -- especially those in our 50's and 60's -- doesn't remember "the song"? Something magic happens...everytime you go.
When WFBR acquired the broadcast rights to the Orioles in 1979, the way we "listened" to baseball changed. Gone were the boring, mellow sounds..replaced by announcers who were excited when the O's did something special. Eckman was a natural fit for his role as a color analyst on those early 'FBR broadcasts. He would rant and rave and holler and scream, "Get out of here!!" when a ball was hit to the deep part of the ballpark. There was excitement in an Orioles broadcast when Harry Shriver ran the show.
Shriver and WFBR would later become the flagship station of the Baltimore Blast and were incredibly instrumental in the early sellout success of the indoor soccer team. Eckman was paired with veteran broadcaster Art Sinclair and the two became an iconic radio duo in the world of indoor soccer.
It was in 1985 when Shriver and WFBR launched the first-ever "Orioles Radio Network", sending the signal of the broadcasts to 60 different stations throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Orioles baseball was heard in Newport News, VA, Scranton, PA, Ocean City, MD and Morgantown, WV, just to name four locations.
In Shriver's obituary in 2007, local sportscaster Stan "The Fan" Charles summed up his former boss's impact. "Today, we call it thinking out of the box," Charles told The Baltimore Sun, "but in those days, Harry was simply forward-thinking. He knew the power that a radio personality could have on a community and the power of radio marketing. You could see with (Johnny) Walker and the Orioles, for instance, that he was way out in front."
In the mid 1990's, Shriver became part-owner of WWLG, which would later go on to broadcast an all-sports format for the better part of four years. While other stations had previously dabbled in sports radio -- devoting a show or two a day/night to the format -- WWLG was the first station to try all sports, 24/7.
So, at some point over the last 30 years, while you've listened to sports radio in Baltimore, you've been listening to something that originated on Harry Shriver's desk. He was the man in Baltimore who understood the importance of high-energy personalities mixed with topical content and an unwavering amount of support for the local teams.
Long before the internet and podcasts and "everyone has a voice", Harry Shriver was a lone wolf of sorts. And his ideas for radio have stood the test of time, both in Baltimore and across the country.
"The Keen Eye" of
We were lucky. Temperatures never got out of the 70s at Northern Virginia’s Potomac Shores Golf Club on a recent mid-June day, and a decent breeze made it feel cooler than that. Tournament veterans told me stories of 100-degree heat, tornado warnings and everything in between.
We were unlucky. Sure, the usual stuff—power lip-outs, decent shots that hit hard spots and bounced astray. There were other things, though. For me, anyway, a temporary 25-minute loss of any ability to make contact with a golf ball.
We were amateurs, as that last thing would suggest. Short games came and went throughout the day. In Spieth-like fashion, pushes were followed by hooks were followed by pulls and followed after that by flushed shots that went too far and shots hit off the toe that barely cleared the junk. We played four- or five-hole stretches calmly and exactly, only to find ourselves (and a few balls) lost just moments later.
We played in something called Solstice Survival, an annual series of events sponsored by GolfStyles Media Group that’s been around for most of the 21st century. 54 holes, continuous, beginning at first light and ending, at least on this day, around 7:20 p.m. With a bigger field, as it would have been in a pre-COVID world, it can be tough to finish before sundown.
No gimmes, which was actually hard to remember for someone like me — to go ahead and tap in that two-incher instead of picking it up. There were some concessions for this year only. With the range closed, you were permitted to take a mulligan on your first tee shot, although I wouldn’t have. Any putt that hit the pin was considered to be good, though not a skulled chip or bunker shot that did the same.
How did I do? Two rounds that looked kinda like me, though with some missed opportunities. One round that didn’t, not a good thing on a course with “you’re dead” areas on almost every hole, where shots that may not have been great but would certainly be playable at many courses were, to quote the designer of the great Oakmont Country Club, “irrevocably lost.”
The slope rating from the “gold” men’s tees of 6,355 yards at Potomac Shores is 137, quite a bit higher than my usual games at courses of similar length. I would have expected a higher score than usual, especially with the course being unfamiliar. But not that high.
Highlights? I birdied the 16th hole twice. The first time around, somewhere around 9 a.m., it was a perfect wedge to 10 feet away and a putt. The third time around, around 6:30 p.m., my nine-iron came up short in heavy-ish grass between a bunker and the green, from where I used a sand wedge to chip in.
What is now the 16th hole at Potomac Shores used to be the 18th hole, and the clubhouse sits directly to its left. I got a shout-out from a dude sitting on the patio, and gave him a tip of the cap in PGA Tour style. He couldn’t have known that I had taken a triple-bogey 7 on the previous hole.
I steadied myself at the beginning of the final round, starting one-under for our first six holes (each round began on No. 3 for us). As noted above, that feeling and those scores didn’t last. Things that can only happen in a tournament like this? On the par-5 eighth hole, our sixth, a little after 7 a.m., I struck two great shots to 55 yards short of the pin, hit a good chip Scottish-style and made the putt for birdie four.
Somewhere around 11:30, I stood in nearly the same spot after my tee shot. With the same club in my hand, I chunked two shots and managed an eight.
That’s it, I swear. I won’t bore you with my game anymore. It’s bad enough to spend too much time talking to people about your 18-hole round, let alone three of them.
Time for some more general thoughts.
One…like I said, we were lucky. The weather was more like mid-May than mid-June, with a breeze that gave hints of mid-October. Because of that, and some decent fluid intake, I didn’t feel tired by the end.
The next day? Well, that was different. The sun is strong in June, even if it’s in and out of the clouds on a mild day. Looking in the mirror, I was surprised by how red I was. My hands and forearms hurt a bit, and my feet hurt a lot, even though I changed socks twice and shoes once. It felt a little like a hangover, though without cotton mouth thankfully.
Two…I was placed with three others who, like me, were doing this on their own. We were different, obviously. One of us lives in the Potomac Shores development and is a member of the club; he took lines off the tee that I never could have envisioned. Another drove down from Cherry Hill, N.J., staying in a local hotel the night before. The last was in his 60s, and didn’t drive the ball quite as far as he’d like but chipped the ball like a pro. He was the best player among us.
We were more alike than different, though. All of us thought this was a great idea, even somewhere around hole 32 when we wondered if it would ever end. All of us hit shots that had the others clapping—in fact, all of us chipped in for birdie over the 54 holes, not just me. We were the same, as often happens on a golf course, even though all of us went back to vastly different lives.
Three…54 holes in one day, on the same course, playing every hole three times, is just fascinating. The holes on which you hit good tee shots in one round may be some of the same on which you hit iffy shots in the next round. At the same time, you can end up in the same trouble you were on the same hole in the previous round, even though you promised yourself that you were going to hit the ball literally anywhere else besides that spot. The same foursome can play in one order by distance from the hole at 8 a.m. and in the exact opposite order on the same hole at 6 p.m.
Finally, and somewhat ironically, playing in the Solstice Survival is actually a nod to the fact that you probably don’t take golf that seriously. It means that you like golf, for its variety of challenges, more than you care about your score. It’s an admission that there’s no place you’d rather be than a golf course, even if you have stretches in which you don’t look like you belong there.
I can imagine how this goes now for the yearly Solstice participants, especially as they get a little older. The day after, they wonder whether they’ll do it again. They go back to enjoying their weekly games, the ones they can do in under four hours this year. They can’t believe they put themselves through three rounds in one day.
And then the Solstice dates are announced, usually in January, and the snow is on the ground, and three quick clicks on a website means they’re signed up again.
When I first started putting together the list of Baltimore's Top 10 Most Underappreciated Sports Figures, Andy MacPhail -- at #4 -- was the very first person who came to mind for inclusion on the list.
The order of these ten is somewhat arbitrary, although I did try and really put some thought into the Top 5 in terms of who did what and for how long and what their impact was both while they were here and afterwards.
MacPhail, as I'm sure you'll agree, is a no-brainer for this list.
When the dust settles and all 10 names are there for your review, you might even have him higher than #4 and I wouldn't argue with you.
The product you saw on the field in 2012 that made the playoffs? A lot of Andy's fingerprints were on that club. The same goes for 2014 when the Birds won the A.L. East and advanced to the ALCS against the Royals. That team played into October because of Andy MacPhail.
MacPhail was, if we're being honest, the first "great hire" of the Peter Angelos-era since he fired Davey Johnson after the '97 season. It took 10 years for Angelos to bring someone in who knew what he was doing and, more importantly, Angelos allowed him to do it. And while the tear-down hurt at times and the product suffered for a while, at least, finally, the organization apparently had a plan.
Andy MacPhail's master stroke of genius was somehow convincing Buck Showalter to join the Orioles late in the 2010 campaign. Like Andy, Buck had no real reason for wanting to work for the Orioles other than A) he was out of a job, B) he loved baseball, and, C) there was nowhere to go but up with the Orioles.
Of course, MacPhail's first big move as Orioles GM took place in early 2008 when he structured the trade that would serve as the foundation for the much-needed rebuilding project, sending mercurial left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard to the Seattle Mariners for six players, including some lanky centerfielder named Adam Jones and a right handed power arm named Chris Tillman. There were a few others in the deal who wound up contributing at the big league level -- George Sherrill the most memorable of the other four -- but it was Jones and Tillman who blossomed into bigtime contributors in Charm City.
MacPhail also made the deal for J.J. Hardy in 2010 and engineered trade deadline acquisitions of Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter in 2011. Those three would have major roles with the O's over the next five years, with Hunter the least accomplished of the three. Hardy and Davis would become household names in Baltimore.
Oh, and in 2010, the Orioles drafted a kid named Manny Machado on MacPhail's watch. Three of the O's four first round picks in the MacPhail era were reasonably successful (or better) major leaguers. Brian Matusz (2008), Matt Hobgood (2009), Machado (2010), Dylan Bundy (2011).
And, without piling on, let's also note that MacPhail was working for, shall we say, an "interesting" owner in Peter Angelos. While others tried and failed to accommodate Angelos, MacPhail was somehow able to work well with the acerbic Baltimore attorney. Andy's number one accomplishment was convincing Peter that a complete rebuild was necessary if the organization had any hopes of returning to the glory days of the past.
The trade for Adam Jones was the start of it.
Drafting Manny Machado was huge.
The hiring of Buck Showalter was the next big piece.
And the acquisitions of Hardy and Davis were crucial to the teams of 2012 through 2016. The team made the playoffs in '12, '14 and '16, but MacPhail, who left after the 2011 season, wasn't there to enjoy the fruits of his labor.
Andy MacPhail is, without question, one of the great "hindsight moves" in Baltimore sports history. It took a while for his plan to come to fruition, but when it did, it was obvious to everyone that Peter Angelos hired the right man for the job. He wasn't perfect, naturally, but Andy MacPhail helped turn the Orioles into a winner again.
The PGA Tour heads to Hilton Head, SC this week for the RBC Heritage at the famed Harbour Town Golf Links.
With last week's event in the books, we thought we'd take a stab at helping you complete a million dollar winner this week. If you play Draft Kings or Fan Duel, the lineup below will hopefully get you in the black to start your summer off the right way.
As always, we remind you that if you should win $1 million using our lineup, a small gratuity is expected!
We had a good run last week. One of our rosters included Morikawa, Rose, DeChambeau and Woodland, who finished 2nd, T3, T3 and 9th respectively. We needed better weekend performances from Adam Hadwin and Denny McCarthy and we might have been looking at a Top 25 team (out of 46,000 entries).
So let's get you our "A" team for this weekend's event at Harbour Town.
It's impossible to not play Collin Morikawa this week. He costs $10,000, he's made every cut this season (12/12) and he's coming off a playoff loss last week in Ft. Worth. He's among the best ball-strikers on the TOUR -- in just his 2nd season -- and Harbour Town is a shotmaker's course. At some point he's going to miss a cut, obviously, but the thought here is you go with him as long as he keeps making them. He seems like a great choice for $10,000.
You know how we feel about Patrick Reed around here. We play him every chance we get. Reed -- at $8,800 -- has made 9 of 11 cuts this season, already has a win, and shot four rounds in the 60's last week at Colonial. If he keeps his driver under control this week at Harbour Town, he could be in the hunt come late Sunday afternoon. There's no tournament Patrick Reed can't win.
Matt Kuchar is a no-brainer at $8,300. Kuchar won at Harbour Town in 2014, for starters. But his last 15 trips to Hilton Head have been incredibly consistent. Since 2004, he's 15-for-15 with eight top-15 finishes. Like Morikawa, you have to ride someone's hot streak until they break it. We're going with Kuchar this weekend.
Branden Grace -- at $7,800 -- will be on a lot of teams this weekend. He should be on yours, too. The 2016 champion at Harbour Town also tied for seventh in 2015 and 11th in 2017. He played well in Ft. Worth last week, with three straight rounds of 66 before Sunday’s 73 dropped him to T-19. Expect him to be on the leaderboard by Sunday.
J.T. Poston is a steal at $7,500. He's poised to break through soon. The 27 year old -- 11 of 14 cuts made this season -- finished T10 at Colonial last week and should thrive on the short, tight layout at Harbour Town. When compiling a 6-man roster (under $50,000), you need a player or two in the $7,000 range, particularly if you go heavy with guys in the $8,000 to $10,000 range (we have three of those this week). Poston is as good as anyone in that $7,000 range.
Harris English has made 10 of 12 cuts this season, but one of those MC's was last week at the Colonial (72-67). We're not worried, though. At $7,300 he's a good bet, and the thought here is a guy who has made 10 of 12 cuts isn't missing two in a row. Plus, this is sorta-kinda a home game for the Georgia native.
We'll be playing several different teams this week, in addition to our "A" team above. Here are some other players we'll have on our rosters.
Justin Thomas ($10,900), Sungjae Im ($9,700), Tony Finau ($8,200), Kevin Kisner ($7,700), Ben An ($7,500), Graeme McDowell ($7,200), Russell Henley ($7,100), Max Homa ($7,000), Brian Stuard ($6,600), Doc Redman ($6,400), Carlos Ortiz ($6,300) and Denny McCarthy ($6,200).
So, it looks like the baseball season is in jeopardy...again.
I'm bored with it all at this point.
Play or don't play, I almost don't care. We've gone three months without it, what's another three months? If there isn't a season or World Series champion in 2020, what's the big deal?
I'm doing my best not to sound totally cavalier about it. And I do realize there are front office people and folks who work at the various ballparks around the country who would be negatively impacted by a lost 2020 campaign.
But this is all on two parties. The owners. And the players. And if they can't make an agreement, that's on them.
People will, naturally, take one side in this argument. There will be folks who outright defend the owners and there will be others who support the players through and through. The reality is they were forced into this situation by Covid-19. Without that interference, baseball would be rolling along nicely and the Orioles and Red Sox would be battling it out for 4th place in the A.L. East.
But when you put two people together in the room who have no interest in seeing the other side get the upper hand, this current dilemma is what you get. The owners already feel like they let the players win by giving them gazillion dollar multi-year guaranteed contracts. "How much nicer do they want us to be?" you can hear the owners saying now.
And the players and their uppity leadership believe they're entitled to every nickel, plus a few others the owners don't have. "We are baseball," you can hear the players crowing over a ZOOM call.
What we're all discovering, though, is we are figuring out that we can live our summer just fine without it.
We might actually wind up proving that to be true if something doesn't change real soon.
Bryson DeChambeau didn't win last week's PGA Tour event, but he was the story.
DeChambeau finished one shot out of a playoff (-14) but it was his incredible driving display that had everyone talking in Fort Worth. DeChambeau hit eight drives over 350 yards and finished the event averaging 325 yards per tee-ball.
The former U.S. Amateur champ and 5-time PGA Tour winner is on to something. Some have speculated he might be "on" something instead, but the driving distance he's producing with a 5.5 degree driver is the talk of the TOUR.
"I caught one really good and had 154 to the hole and in his press conference on Thursday he said he had 77 into that green. I just laughed," said Roberto Castro. "If he doesn't get significantly worse at another part of the game, or get hurt, look out."
DeChambeau has always been a bit of an odd bird, what with his devotion to Homer Kelley's book The Golfing Machine and his methodical, over-analzying efforts on the putting surfaces. But one thing you can't debate are his abilities. The guy can flat out play. No one in recent TOUR history has put a 5.5 degree driver into play -- not with any success, anyway -- and no one has intentionally gained that much weight, either. Golfers in the last 15 years all took Tiger's cue and worked hard to get to 5% body fat. DeChambeau worked hard to eat an extra cheeseburger during the layoff due to the pandemic.
But he believes there's a math equation to it. Something about mass vs. speed vs. rotational force. I have no idea what it all means, but if I could hit 350 yard drives on command, I'd study up for sure.
Roger Goodell is now "encouraging" teams to sign Colin Kaepernick.
Yes, he said that. Publicly.
The NFL has done a complete 180 in two weeks.
"Well, listen, if he wants to resume his career in the NFL, then obviously it's gonna take a team to make that decision," Goodell said on ESPN. "But I welcome that, support a club making that decision and encourage them to do that."
What would be interesting to find out is whether Goodell's comments were approved and/or known by the owners before he made them. After all, Goodell can say whatever he wants, but an owner and a team have to make the move.
It would appear Kaepernick has won this fight with the NFL.
Whether it was through the admission of guilt from Goodell ten days ago ("we did not handle the kneeling the right way") or the latest comments about Kaepernick's return to the league, there's no doubt the National Football League is ready to step into new territory in 2020 and beyond.
The bet here is that the national anthem will no longer be played before NFL games (at least not while the players are on the field). That will take care of the controversy about kneeling once and for all. But if the anthem is played with the players on their respective sidelines in 2020, there will be mass kneeling taking place and it wouldn't surprise this writer if entire teams -- including coaches -- go to a knee for some portion of the Star Spangled Banner.
Talk about a 180, right?
At that point, the ball will be served to the fans.
If players and coaches do kneel during the anthem, what happens next?
Do 20,000 people get up and leave? 5,000? 250?
Oh, and this doesn't even take into account the aspect of no fans in the stadium(s) during the first part of 2020.
What happens if no fans are there, the anthem gets played, and players and coaches kneel in full view of the TV cameras?
Do you keep watching? Or do you turn off the TV and head out for golf or yardwork?
These are interesting times, indeed.
Everything about the situation pointed to the Orioles moving to Washington D.C.
The nation's capital was without a team. And the man who owned the Orioles was a powerhouse D.C. attorney who refused to sign a long term lease in Baltimore.
The writing was on the wall.
Except it never happened. And because of that, the Orioles are not only still in Baltimore, but they've been playing in one of baseball's best facilities for almost 30 years now.
Edward Bennett Williams is #5 on our list of Baltimore's Most Underappreciated Sports Figures, 1970-2020.
Yes, he was a Washingtonian. But Williams' ownership of the Orioles from 1979-88 paved the way for the franchise we still have here today, two owners removed from the D.C. attorney's nine year run.
Williams was initially scorned in Charm City. His comments about Memorial Stadium were stinging, particularly in the wake of the Colts moving to Indianapolis and a fancy new midwest stadium.
"Long term, Memorial Stadium is simply not going to cut it," Williams said in 1980. "The future of the franchise depends on a new stadium in a better, more convenient location where we can service people from every direction. We can't stay at Memorial Stadium and grow the organization."
Williams was right, of course. The move to Camden Yards paved the way for an influx of DC area baseball fans to make the trek 40 miles north to Baltimore. It also created a hand-in-glove opportunity for the franchise to maximize the gift of Cal Ripken's consecutive games streak.
While those around Baltimore were growing more afraid by the day, Williams was telling Mayor William Donald Schaefer he'd never sign a long-term lease at the 33rd Street location. That alone was enough of a warning sign for the-then Mayor of Baltimore. He worked tirelessly to help get the Camden Yards project off the ground and EBW left his baseball franchise in Baltimore.
Williams passed away in 1988 and never saw what his ownership efforts provided Charm City, but any sports fan in Balitmore should be appreciative of his integrity and willingness to stick to his word during a time when lots of other potential MLB cities came calling.
This week’s recap has expanded to cover the return of Spain’s La Liga, which boasts the most interesting title race remaining in Europe. Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid have been neck and neck all season at the top of the table.
As the league returned this weekend, Barcelona held a two point lead over Real Madrid with eleven games remaining. Both clubs burst out of the gates this weekend, each scoring within three minutes of the opening whistle in their respective matches. Lionel Messi quickly shook off any rust, providing a goal and two assists in Barcelona’s 4-0 win over Mallorca. Left back Jordi Alba contributed a goal and assist as well. Real Madrid returned with a 3-1 win over Eibar with goals from Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo. The La Liga season will conclude at a torrid pace over the next month with two games per week. If you can find BeIN Sports on your TV provider it is definitely worth tuning into.
In the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich continued their run, beating 4th place Borussia Monchengladbach with an 86th minute goal from Leon Goretzka. The loss was a tough break for Monchengladbach, who played Bayern even for nearly the entire game before the late letdown. The loss drops Gladbach a point behind Bayer Leverkusen in the race for the last Champions League spot. Leverkusen were mostly outplayed by a slumping Schalke and settled for a 1-1 draw. Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig both won, further securing their 2nd and 3rd place positions.
There were several promising performances by Americans this weekend. The headline performance came from Josh Sargent who played an instrumental role in a huge 5-1 win for Werder Bremen. The win pulled Bremen even with Dusseldorf for the chance to avoid relegation in a playoff. Sargent was involved in three of the five goals for Bremen, drawing a penalty that set up the first goal and providing two shots that required diving saves and produced goals on the rebounds.
Weston McKennie was one of the best players on the field for Schalke on Sunday in their 1-1 draw with Bayer Leverkusen. McKennie had several nice bursts through the midfield that created good chances for his teammates. He was tenacious winning balls in midfield all game and had a powerful long range strike that forced a tough save from the keeper and nearly led to a goal on the rebound.
John Brooks started at CB in Wolfsburg’s 2-2 draw with Freiburg. Brooks provided effective passing distribution from the backline throughout the game. However, he was beaten by a cross that assisted Freiburg’s tying goal.
Tyler Adams subbed in at CM for the final 25 minutes of RB Leipzig’s 2-0 win on Friday. Adams brought good energy and accurate passing to the midfield as Leipzig held on to their two goal lead.
Gio Reyna subbed on for the last 20 minutes and helped Borussia Dortmund to pull out a 1-0 win over Dusseldorf just seconds before the final whistle. Reyna showed his skill on the ball with a few elegant runs through midfield, one of which drew a yellow card. He is still looking for his first Bundesliga start and goal as the season winds down.
About the contributor: Randy Morgan was born and raised in the Baltimore area graduating from Dulaney HS and then University of Maryland. His day job is software development. He's an avid sports watcher and recreational participant. A devoted Ravens, Orioles and U.S. soccer supporter. he also follows many soccer leagues around the world as well as the NBA and college basketball. Randy played soccer, basketball, and baseball growing up and still plays soccer and basketball recreationally as well as the occasional round of golf. His commentary on mostly sports, but sometimes music and other miscellany can be found on twitter @jrmorgan16.
Baltimore has been privileged to have a number of homegrown athletes go on to careers in professional sports.
Baseball, basketball, football...Charm City has been well represented over the last five decades.
But perhaps none of those who reached the professional ranks did as much for Baltimore in a short amount of time as did Keion Carpenter, who comes in at #6 on our list of Baltimore's Most Underappreciated Sports Figures, 1970-2020.
Carpenter passed away in 2016 at age 39 after a freak accident while running with his children on vacation in Florida.
Carpenter was a star 2-sport athlete at Woodlawn High School in the mid 90's, then went on to play for coach Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech. He was an outstanding basketball player, but football was his natural gift. It took him to the NFL, where he played seven seasons for the Bills and Falcons.
Keion wasn't a Pro Bowl player or a dominant defensive back. Rather, he was a worker bee and the quintessential "just happy to be in the league" type of employee. He enjoyed every minute of his pro career but knew that wasn't where he was going to make his mark in life.
When his NFL career was winding down, Keion started thinking about how he could use his professional athlete status to better his hometown. He created The Carpenter House in 2005 with a mission "to strengthen and empower families from disadvantaged backgrounds by providing them access to resources, activities and structured environments."
Carpenter decided he'd go back to Baltimore and try and make life better for the same kind of people and families that he encountered while growing up on the west side of town.
One of the Carpenter House key components was the Shutdown Academy, which provided structured football and cheerleading programs along with academic instruction. The academy also sponsored football camps in Baltimore, run by Carpenter and program co-founders Aaron Maybin and Bryant Johnson — both Baltimore natives and former NFL players.
In an interview with The Baltimore Sun in 2008, Carpenter talked about the importance of returning to Baltimore and helping the youth get prepared for college and their professional career.
"I want my presence, being here, to be an inspiration to them," he said. "Hopefully, they can look at me and say, 'Wow, this guy, he went to school here — he made it. He went on to college, went on to the pros, and now he's giving back.'"
On a personal note, I had the opportunity to work with Carpenter and former Raven Tommy Polley on a few holiday-related projects circa 2010. Carpenter would routinely visit the radio station during my morning show to promote his various programs and would constantly talk about his love of Baltimore.
I remember once I asked him why he didn't just take his money and head to South Beach or some other warm destination and raise his family there. His answer still sticks with me today: "That's what a lot of them do," Carpenter said. "And that's how the streets around here get out of balance. I wanted to get back home and balance things out so these kids could see something good can come from the streets if you work hard and stay out of trouble."
His passing almost four years ago left a significant hole in Baltimore City. The work he did in building The Carpenter House went largely unappreciated unless you were one of the 3,000 families that were impacted by the facility's assistance.
Carpenter had shaped The Carpenter House into one of Baltimore city's most successful civic undertakings prior to his untimely death in 2016. Lots of people talk about what they're going to do and then some of it gets done along the way. Keion saw the vision, made it happen, and built his dream into a meaningful part of Baltimore.
On the field, Keion Carpenter was a winner.
Off the field, he was a champion and a graceful community activist.
Baltimore misses him...big time.
"The Keen Eye" of
Can’t say I watch a lot of week-to-week PGA Tour golf. I like the majors and the occasional tournament in between. But I tuned in a bit this weekend for the tournament at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth. Golf was finally back, at a great course, with a great field. The only problem? No fans allowed, though a few of them stood outside the property fence on a few holes.
After a couple hours of this, it occurred to me that the lack of a crowd made absolutely no difference to me as a television viewer. None. Zero. Zilch. If Jim Nantz and the skeleton CBS crew wouldn’t have mentioned it so much, I probably would have thought even less about it.
Nantz was on-site in Fort Worth. Nick Faldo and Frank Nobilo were back in Orlando at the Golf Channel studios. There were a couple on-course reporters, who were staying back away from the play more than they typically would. The broadcast may have been a lot different for the broadcasters, but I failed to see much of a difference.
The superfluous stuff — like Amanda Balionis, who does interviews and other human-interest stuff — is just that…superfluous. She was back in San Diego at her home, and her off-site contributions made me realize that her on-site contributions are just filler, because anybody watching would always want to see live golf whenever possible anyway.
I’m sure the players want the fans back, seeing as how they are professional entertainers. It’s fine that some of them are having a little fun with all this, though I think the whole putting your hand up to thank the “crowd” after that birdie putt gets old after you do it a few times. But golf is not a spectator sport, and that’s a good thing for this time in history, not a bad one.
When I was tuned in to the golf on Saturday, I was taken aback by the appearances of two players, Bryson DeChambeau and Gary Woodland. The easiest way to put it? DeChambeau now looks like Woodland, and Woodland looks more like DeChambeau.
Bryson used to weigh about 195 lbs. and wore a medium shirt, which didn’t exactly look tight on him. Now he wears an extra-large, which makes sense considering he’s at least 40 pounds heavier. Because he’s producing so much spin now, the loft of his driver has been adjusted to 5 ½ degrees.
Gary is a big dude and a big hitter. He thought he was getting a little too big, I guess, and wanted to drop some weight for the hot summer ahead. He’s about 25 pounds below his usual playing weight, which makes him look like the college basketball player he used to be.
Adding muscle and weight to help you keep up with the big bombers, and even surpass them. Doing all that cardio to slim down to deal with four straight days with temperatures in the 90s and five-hour rounds. Two ways to go about it, but I wonder if either of them helps you get the ball in the hole.
DeChambeau, as you know, is a scientist playing professional golf. And based on some of his prodigious drives these days, you can believe in the science. That being said, he’s also a bit of a mad scientist.
Many young players — think Rory McIlroy — have changed their bodies after turning pro. As McIlroy goes through his thirties, his body will change even more, in ways he can’t really stop. Bryson seems to be trying to accelerate the typical “filling out” of a six-foot-tall man, from its usual 20 years to about two or three years. I would assume that he will eventually find a spot somewhere in between his old and new self, though you should never assume anything with him.
I think Jordan Spieth is one of the more fascinating athletes of this era. I know what you’re saying…how can a 26-year-old white guy who tends to wear solid Under Armour shirts while playing golf be that exciting? And you’d be right about that, to a point. He’s not exactly John Daly, or even Rickie Fowler, though he certainly is much more accomplished than either of them.
It’s just that he’s an athlete who is constantly fighting himself, both mentally and physically. He can’t help himself. If he wasn’t that way, he wouldn’t be a three-time major winner and a former World No. 1. At the same time, because he’s that way, it’s not surprising that he’s ended up in a three-year slump that couldn’t have been predicted.
His relationship with his caddie, Michael Greller, is perhaps the best example of a player depending on his looper. It makes for interesting television, as far as golf goes. Spieth thinks he can do something great on every shot, and sometimes his caddie has to talk him out of it. Then again, when he does go for the hero shot, he almost always does it well. That has to be hard for Greller, I would think. He knows that Spieth is a smart guy who listens to advice, but he also knows that Spieth can find gaps and hit shots that nobody else would attempt, besides Phil Mickelson I suppose.
Meanwhile, Spieth is prone to wildness on his tee shots. You can see it on television…extra waggles, a definite tension that you don’t often see among pros. He knows that his swing is imperfect, and that seems to creep into his mind a bit more than the “take dead aim” approach of many of his peers.
I’ve said it before, however, and I’ll say it again. Spieth’s putting isn’t fascinating at all. It’s just perfect, which can make up for a lot of ills.
It probably doesn’t surprise you that I tend to read the golf magazines for the features and the writing, as opposed to the golf tips, the equipment reviews and the annual course rankings.
The biggest problems with the tips is that it’s quite common for there to be conflicting information within the same publication. Struggling with your bunker shots? Well don’t look for help in Golf Digest. By the time you finish, you won’t know whether to open your stance or keep it relatively square, open that clubface to the sky or just a little bit, choke down on that wedge or have it gripped all the way to the end.
Want to chip like a pro? Well you better listen to Mickelson, who says hinge it quick and keep the ball either forward or back. Or maybe you should go with Stricker, or somebody else who does what feels good and keeps doing it because it seems to work.
With the equipment reviews, I’ve always wondered why it matters how a driver “looks” when you put it down behind the ball. Never once have I been inspired to be more or less confident over a shot based on the color, appearance or any other aspect of a club. Also, the sound of the driver seems to be a big thing, but my driver could sound like nails on a chalkboard for all I care as long as it goes straight.
As far as course ratings go, I think the most important lists are the state-by-state ones. Pebble Beach and Pine Valley and Bandon Dunes and Augusta National don’t need to be on anyone’s list, but there are some nice places that can get a real bump after being listed the seventh-best public course in their state.
Of course, I sometimes still feel a little weird reading the magazines at all, considering that I’m definitely not the target audience for all those brokerage ads.
If there was ever a Baltimore baseball player who deserved "hazard pay" for a decade long tenure, it was Melvin Mora.
We don't have any money to hand over to him, but we'll do our part here at #DMD by ranking Mora at #7 on our list of Baltimore's Most Underappreciated Sports Figures, 1970-2020.
He deserves some post-career appreciation for what he went through during his ten seasons in Charm City.
Mora played in Baltimore from 2000 through 2009. Those were the "dark days" of Orioles baseball, a stretch where the team was among the worst in all of baseball, with a rapid fire list of draft mistakes and free agent signings gone bad. The Orioles even tried giving Miguel Tejada $72 million to help right the ship and that move backfired.
But the lousy on-field product and dwindling fan base didn't stop Mora from playing and giving his all day after day. In that decade of despair, Melvin Mora was somehow able to showcase his talents.
He finished his 10-year Orioles career with a .280 batting average and 158 home runs.
Mora had a terrific 2004 campaign; .340/.419/.562, with 27 HR's and 104 RBI. Those numbers would have made a Yankee or Red Sox player an immediate MVP candidate. With Mora, it earned him enough votes to finish 18th in the American League. You didn't get much consideration back then if you played in Baltimore.
And he not only put together a decade of excellence in Baltimore, but Mora worked hard in the community as well. He became one of the team's most recognizable faces -- mostly because he lasted longer than everyone else -- and despite the club's poor on-field performance, Melvin never let that knock him down.
If there was ever someone who went underappreciated here in Charm City, it was Mora. He was a good player, nothing more, but he turned in a couple of great campaigns that displayed what he might have been able to do on better, more competitive teams.
He never asked for a trade or moped about the team's awful run on draft picks and free agents. Mora simply showed up every day, gave his all and performed admirably. Without much appreciation...
The leaderboard is indeed compelling at this week's PGA Tour stop at Colonial CC in Fort Worth, Texas.
But one name stands out.
Jordan Spieth, T2, -12
With 18 holes remaining, Jordan Spieth has a real chance to win a golf tournament. In case you missed it, the last time he managed to do that was in July of 2017 when he won the British Open.
Almost three whole years have passed since Spieth's last win, which is amazing when you consider he was formerly the world's #1 player. He's been competitive since then, but not much more than that, sprinkling in the occasional top 10 finish along the way just to show he could still play.
Could Spieth snag career win #15 today?
If he does, he'll have to turn back a promising leaderboard and play better than he did yesterday. After opening at 65-65, Spieth fell victim to what enthusiasts call "Army golf", meaning his tee shots left him walking left, then right, then left, then right. The 3-time major champion hit only 3 fairways and 5 greens on the front nine yesterday, yet still cobbled together a 32 on the outward nine. His 68 left him at -12, one shot behind 54-hole leader Xander Schauffele.
Today's final round will be interesting because of the names -- Woodland, Thomas, DeChambeau, McIlroy, Rose and Reed all have a chance -- and because they'll be playing the last 18 holes in front of no fans. It's one thing to not have people on site on Thursday or Friday. But coming down the stretch on Sunday, the lack of crowds and noise will be a different setting for all involved.
“It's a little bit more competitive honestly than I thought it would be. I thought it was going to be very odd,” Justin Thomas said. “I was hoping that I'd be in this position to where I'd have a good chance to win the tournament and see how I feel, but it is going to be different. It'll be interesting to see how that adrenaline plays a role.”
Spieth needs a win, fans or no fans. It's been a long time coming.
Sometime around 2005, he walked to baggage claim at BWI.
"Hey Coach!" a bystander said with an outstretched hand. "How's the team going to be this year?"
The coach smiled, returned the handshake with a smile and sheepishy said, "We're going to be pretty good, thanks for asking!"
The coach was Kenny Cooper.
He hadn't been the coach of the indoor soccer team in town since 1994.
A decade later, though, people in Baltimore still called him "coach" and still asked him how this year's Blast team would fare. Kenny Cooper is #8 on our list of Baltimore's most underappreciated sports figures, 1970-2020.
To people in Baltimore who knew Kenny Cooper from 1980-1994, he would always be "coach" and, for the most part, no one really ever remembers him leaving for Tampa Bay after his Blast tenure ended.
Kenny Cooper was always "Baltimore".
In the spring of 1980, Bernie Rodin, the owner of the Houston Summit indoor soccer in the MISL, commissioned his coach, Kenny Cooper, to look for a city to move to after arena lease talks stalled in Houston.
Cooper made appointments to visit with civic officials in Baltimore and Boston. He came into Baltimore on a Tuesday and was supposed to fly to Boston the following afternoon.
Kenny never made it to Boston.
Cooper fell in love with Baltimore from day one, thinking that the city reminded him of a lot of his hometown, Blackpool, England, a vibrant seaside town in the northwestern part of the country.
And for 13 seasons, Cooper guided the indoor soccer team in Charm City and not only coached the franchise, but became its most marketable entity. During his time in Baltimore, the head coach of the Blast was as popular as any sports figure, Orioles, Colts included.
On the field, Cooper led the Blast to a first-year playoff berth and a win over Cleveland in the quarterfinals before bowing out to eventual champion New York in the semifinals.
The following year, the sellouts started to trickle in and the team improved, as Cooper brought in a lanky, quiet goal scoring machine named Joey Fink.
In '82-83, the Blast advanced to the championship series against San Diego, losing a dramatic 5th and decisive game in San Diego, 3-1.
The following year, the Blast won the MISL title, 4-1.
Cooper was so popular, he was even on an exempt list when it came to downtown crime.
This author was dining with "Coops" at Regi's in Federal Hill after a game sometime around 1992. Back in those days, the coach drove a bright red Trans Am with a license plate that read "Fans 1". As we were heading out to his vehicle -- parked on the street behind and the right of the front door -- around 1:30 am, two men appeared from behind a van and started walking in our direction. They were roughly 50 feet from us.
"Drewski, walk quickly and get in the car," Cooper said in a hushed tone.
The two men were wearing dark shirts and dark ski hats.
We were about to get jumped. The two men split. One walked outside of the vehicle and approached me while the other was now 15 feet from Cooper as the coach approached his door.
"Hey, wait!" said the man next to Cooper. "It's the coach!"
The man approaching me stopped. "What?" he said.
"It's the coach, the soccer coach!" the other man replied.
"Gentlemen, top of the evening to you both," Cooper said with his familiar British accent.
"Have a good night, Coach!" the guy next to me said.
We got in the car and just sat there for a second, taking it in. Kenny Cooper, the man who seconds before was about to be jumped and robbed, was safely in his vehicle because the would-be-criminals recognized him. And he was so popular back then, even they knew not to harm him.
It's safe to say that no one person in Baltimore ever built a franchise with the same amount of passion and enthusiasm as Cooper had for the Blast. There were popular players who came along, of course, and those individuals were also well known in their Blast tenures, but none of them were ever the household name that Cooper became in the 1980's.
He put an entire franchise on his back and paraded around town with it from 1980 until 1994.
And the bet here is that if Kenny Cooper walked through BWI Airport tomorrow, he'd still have someone ask him about this year's team.
Basketball has long been one of Baltimore's favorite sports.
The legendary years of Dunbar High School significantly boosted the sport from a spectator standpoint. In the 1970's and 1980's, people paid real money to go watch the likes of Bogues, Wingate and Williams, just to name three former Poets who went on to play in the NBA.
But for as good as high school basketball has been in Baltimore, the college game has not seen much success in Charm City over the last 50 years. Here and there a school will sneak into the NCAA tournament, but other than UMBC's historic win over Virginia two years ago, the city of Baltimore hasn't hit the college hoops spotlight all that much since 1970.
That all changed in 2006...and for the better part of 13 years, Morgan State basketball was a "thing" again and the credit starts with #9 on our most underappreciated list, Bears head coach Todd Bozeman.
Bozeman inherited a team that went 4-26 in 2004-2005. By 2008, just two years into his tenure, the Bears had won the MEAC regular season and eventually made an appearance in the NIT Tournament.
It would get better.
Morgan State made two consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament -- 2009 and 2010. More than winning, basketball at Hill Field House started to matter once again. Led by a Baltimorean that no other school wanted, Reggie Holmes, basketball games at Morgan State became big ticket items. None of that -- the winning, the popularity, the program appeal -- was going on before Todd Bozeman arrived.
Bozeman's impact was so vital that he was named the 2009 Hugh Durham Award winner, given each year to the best coach among college basketball's mid-major schools.
At Morgan State, Bozeman was revered.
Elsewhere around town, he largely went ignored.
But in a city starved for quality college basketball, Bozeman delivered them an appetizing product for most of his 13 seasons on Cold Spring Lane.
And he basically did it overnight. And he did it with a program that would typically play their first dozen games of the season on the road against a variety of Top 25 programs in order to make enough money to fund themselves for the entire season.
Over 13 years, nothing really worked in Bozeman's favor and he still managed to get blood out of a stone. He was a terrific hire in 2006 and almost singlehandedly turned Morgan State basketball into a winner.
In no way do I think this is "final straw" material -- in terms of our country losing its collective mind -- but the recent decision by the United States Soccer Federation to no longer make it mandatory for players to stand during the national anthem is one of those embarrassing, regretful moments that just makes you shake your head in bewilderment.
This isn't an Under-12 boys or girls travel-league team.
It's not a well crafted publicity stunt from a minor league pro team looking for attention and ticket sales.
This is the leading soccer organization in the country, now permitting players who represent the country to kneel, sit or otherwise not stand at attention during the playing of the national anthem or any other patriotic song.
You play for the United States national team. And they're telling you it's OK not to stand during the national anthem.
This is idiotic.
It's beyond baffling.
The country's top soccer organization is telling American players it's OK to not stand for the anthem.
It's embarrassing, really.
It feels like Twilight Zone stuff. I had to read the story three times to make sure I was actually getting it all down accurately.
It's a reprehensible decision, if you'll permit me to be harsh.
Compiling this list was........fun.
Today begins our "Top 10 of Baltimore's Most Underappreciated Sports Figures, 1970-2020."
I started with a list of 22 potential candidates and quickly narrowed it down to 15. But the final 10 were a chore. And putting them in order - particularly the top five -- was very challenging.
Here's hoping you won't find this 10-day project "worthless". If so, you're not really a fan of Baltimore sports. For these ten people were vastly underappreciated during their time in Baltimore.
Where longevity mattered greatly in our Baltimore Sportscasters list, how long you were in Baltimore isn't as important in this list. Quality matters more in this list. What you did...important. How long you did it for...not as important.
The only thing that eliminates someone from consideration is if they made the Hall of Fame in one of the four major sports. We might wind up with lacrosse players who made their Hall of Fame. Or soccer players. Or bowlers. But if a player made one of the Hall of Fames in baseball, football, basketball or hockey, we eliminated them from consideration right from the start.
And with that...off we go.
At #10, it's Sweet Swingin' Ken Singleton, who helped the Orioles to the 1983 World Series title and enjoyed a very successful 10-year run in Baltimore.
"Singy" -- who came to town in 1975 -- played 145 or more games in 8 of 10 seasons with the Orioles, finishing his decade of excellence with a .284 batting average and 182 home runs.
He finished 3rd in American League MVP voting in 1977, with a .328 batting average to go with 24 home runs and 99 RBI. He also chipped in 24 doubles in '77 as well.
While he never won a Gold Glove as an outfielder, Singleton wasn't a liability out there. He was mainly a DH in his last three seasons, but before that he was primarily the Orioles regular right fielder.
On a team with Eddie and Cal and (late career) Palmer, Singleton was often the forgotten piece. But more than people realized back then, he was an important cog in the O's lineup for a good number of seasons. And he played the game with class and professionalism and was a "Baltimore kind of guy" from the moment he arrived. Singleton enjoyed Charm City so much he still lives here today, even though his primary job for the last 13 years has been a TV analyst for the New York Yankees.
Singleton's love for Baltimore is reflected every summer in the big charity golf tournament that bears his name, with proceeds going to the Cool Kids Campaign, a Towson based charity that helps young cancer patients and their families.
Ken Singleton...very much underappreciated in Baltimore.
The PGA Tour resumes their 2019-2020 season today at Colonial CC in Fort Worth, Texas, but it won't look much like a regular professional golf tournament.
The players will be professionals. In fact, the field is one of the best for a non-major or a WGC event in the last three years. Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau are teeing it up.
But the rest of the tournament won't resemble a PGA Tour event.
No fans will be allowed on the property. The media has been streamlined to roughly 30% of a normal credentialed group. Even the TV announcer's crew is altered in wake of the Covid-19 crisis. Nick Faldo and Jim Nantz won't sit next to one another in the booth behind the 18th green, for example.
The caddies and players have been asked to stay six feet apart as much as possible. No high fives, no handshakes and no "contact" between players and caddies is permitted. Even the player's golf clubs have to leave the property after every round. Typically most players leave their clubs at the course overnight, but not this year.
Some players are apparently going to be wearing a live microphone during play. Rickie Fowler is the only confirmed mic-wearer thus far, and it's not known if he'll wear one just so TV viewers can overhear the discussions between Fowler and his caddie or if TV announcers might be able to have "live" chats with him as he walks down the fairway.
Players only...limited interactions with their caddie...no fans in attendance to create the "event" atmosphere that is an important part of the tournament. It all adds up to an interesting next four days, not only for the TOUR, but for sports in general.
Will more people watch this weekend's golf because it's "the only thing on TV"?
How about the golf itself? This being the first official event since mid-March will players be rusty? And what impact will the atmosphere have on their golf, if any?
It all falls under -- "we'll have to see how it goes". But the PGA Tour is back, the field is strong, and the hole is still the same size. It's real golf, finally.
"The Keen Eye" of
I was thinking…because someone here asked, and because every day for the last 13 weeks has seemed the same…
I knew without looking that it was a Sunday when the Orioles won the World Series in ’83. The date was October 16. They started the game at 5:00 in Philadelphia, no doubt a nod to 1:00 football games on other networks. The game finished in a tidy 2:21; the longest game in the five-game series was Game 4, checking in at 2:50. Those were the days.
That Game 5 began in the sunlight and ended in the dark. Game 4, almost 37 years ago now, was the last World Series game to played entirely in outdoor daylight.
Of course the football game in Baltimore that Sunday started at 2:00, because it was Sunday in Baltimore. If you’re under the age of 40, look it up. If you’re under 40, you’ll also find it hard to believe that the crowd of 38,565 at Memorial Stadium (demolished) that day was actually one of the best of the year.
The Bills beat the Colts 30-7 that Sunday, a forgettable performance. Meanwhile, the Eagles had a similarly pathetic effort in losing to the Cowboys 37-7 at Texas Stadium, the place with the hole in the roof. Maybe you remember (you probably don’t) that two Sundays after Game 5 of the World Series, the Colts and Eagles met at the same Veterans Stadium (demolished).
Raúl Allegre, a rookie, kicked five field goals in the Colts’ 22-21 win that day. They gave him the game ball. According to reports, he was such a hit in the city that the Blast invited him to kick the “first ball” at their home opener, which would have been the same season that the Blast won that MISL title on that Friday night. Need confirmation on all that, of course.
Speaking of Texas Stadium (demolished), I knew without looking that it was a Saturday when the Ravens officially closed that place down with an impressive 33-24 win over Tony Romo and the Cowboys. They put the game on in primetime, and there were no other NFL games that day in 2008. If Jerry Jones and the NFL and Cowboys’ fans were looking for a Homecoming opponent, they didn’t get one.
You likely remember what happened in the fourth quarter. Ahead 19-17 with less than four minutes left, the Ravens had the ball on their 23-yard line—fortunately—after the immortal Yamon Figurs had fumbled a kickoff return. No matter, of course. Joe Flacco took the snap, turned around, handed the ball to Willis McGahee, and watched as he ran through the line essentially untouched on the way to a 77-yard touchdown.
The game wasn’t done then, though. 1:36 left, and again the Ravens had to salt the game away after a quick Cowboys touchdown. No matter, of course. The play was different—the left guard pulled, I think. And it was Le’Ron McClain, who had to break three tackles. The result was the same, though, an 82-yard touchdown run.
I believe that Mr. Jones is still annoyed with this. Honestly—and it’s not like the Cowboys have been much of a juggernaut lately—it had to have been the most embarrassing late-game performance in the team’s history. And it came at the stadium with the hole in the roof, with God watching over America’s team, on a Saturday.
Maryland basketball’s greatest moment came on a Monday, of course. Didn’t have to look that one up. Monday, April 1, 2002, when the Terps beat Indiana at the Georgia Dome (demolished) in Atlanta to win the NCAA championship. No April Fools! That was Maryland’s last season playing in Cole Field House (demolished, or at least mostly). College basketball isn’t much associated with any particular day of the week. Back in the Ivy League, we even played on Fridays. Betting opportunities almost every day from November through early March, if you’re into that.
Basketball and hockey make it hard to remember any particular day, with seasons being so long and the vagaries and varied lengths of playoff series. The Capitals won the 2018 Stanley Cup on a Thursday, June 7. I suppose some people remember that because it was the impetus for a somewhat-unplanned three-day celebration weekend.
Baseball (up until now, anyway) plays almost every day for six months, though it’s those precious Mondays and Thursdays that the players get to rest, or the pitchers play 36 holes instead of 18. As fans, you do get that delineation between weekday series and weekend series, of course…it’s the latter where you can expect the biggest crowds, and where you’d like to have the most popular opponents, I suppose. Those every-once-in-a-while four-game series that start on Friday and finish on Monday still seem out of place no matter how many times you’ve seen them.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays are surely the dregs of the typical sports calendar. That’s why the Mid-American Conference started playing football games on those days all those years ago. It was a brilliant move, really. ESPN said they weren’t sure they were interested in Central Michigan vs. Toledo. The MAC asked if they’d be interested if the teams agreed to take up dead space at 8:00 on a Tuesday in October. A marriage was consummated.
What about names? The first one I thought about was Rick Monday, who played 19 years in the Major Leagues. Some people think about him every time sports and sports figures become part of the national social conversation, as they are again right now. On April 25, 1976, while playing for the Dodgers, he famously grabbed an American flag from two protestors who busted onto the field at Dodger Stadium (not demolished) and tried to set fire to Old Glory.
“If you’re going to burn the flag, don’t do it around me,” Monday said then. “I’ve been to too many veterans’ hospitals and seen too many broken bodies of guys who tried to protect it.” Alas, the conversation about what symbols represent, who might be offended, and what symbols and protest mean to members of our military is as alive in 2020 as it was in 1976.
Instead, I’ll just offer two random facts. One…they gave Monday that flag about a week later, and he still has it, even though he’s received offers for it surpassing $1 million. Two, for whatever reason, Monday had tremendous success against Tom Seaver, arguably the best pitcher of his generation. He had 11 home runs against Seaver, more than any other player, and batted .349 (30 for 86) against the Hall of Famer.
What about Jeff Saturday? He might have played center for the Ravens, by the way. They signed him as a free agent out of North Carolina after the draft in 1998, only to waive him two months later. Saturday instead played 13 seasons in Indianapolis, protecting Peyton Manning the whole time. We knew that Manning was pretty funny, but it turns out he’s not a bad putter either.
For nine seasons, Saturday protected Manning at the Hoosier Dome/RCA Dome (demolished), where Allegre also played two more years with the Colts. I’ll always remember that it was a Thursday night there in 1996 when Princeton beat UCLA, the defending NCAA champion, on a backdoor layup by Gabe Lewullis with two seconds left in the game.
Anyway, today’s my usual day, Thursday, and I apologize for not being around on Monday. As usual, someone will be here every day until they tell us to stop.
I knew Scott Garceau was going to be #1 on the list of Baltimore's Best Sportscasters, 1970-2020, on the day I thought of the project about four weeks ago.
What I didn't know was how right I was...
That is, until no fewer than four current Baltimore sportscasters -- including some who themselves made our list -- reached out to me and said, "Garceau better be number one!"
When people who made the list tell you Garceau should be #1, you know you made the right choice.
Baltimore has had a significant number of sportscasters on radio and television over the last 50 years. We profiled ten of them, but had to leave out talented professionals like Jim West (WBAL), John Buren (WJZ), Gayle Gardner (WJZ), Chris Thomas (WBAL) and Bob Haynie (105.7 The Fan). But none of those who made the list or an honorable mention were able to craft a career that equaled that of Scott Garceau.
Garceau did it all in Baltimore.
For the better part of four decades, he was the city's most well-rounded talent, starting with his on-air work at WMAR-TV and ending with his role as the 2-6 pm host of 105.7 The Fan's top show.
In between, Garceau was the outstanding radio play-by-play voice of the Ravens.
He was in your living room or in your car from 1980, when he joined WMAR-TV, until early this year when he ended his role with 105.7 The Fan. Almost every single day for the better part of 40 years, Scott Garceau was part of Baltimore sports. And once the Orioles start playing again, you'll be able to catch him as part of MASN's play-by-play coverage. He's still going to be around.
Garceau had the knowledge of Pat Summerall, the coolness of Stuart Scott, and the ability to handle multiple sports like Mike Tirico. Give Garceau a sport and he'd deliver a quality broadcast...every time.
His career was defined by his final full-time gig, serving as a sports talk host (for the first ever...in his 60's) for 105.7. It was there where Scott's abilities were on full display, both as an interviewer and the person in charge of moving from call to call and keeping the flow of the show intact.
Whether it was on TV or radio, Scott Garceau's work was always impeccable. In fairness, he was probably better than Baltimore deserved.
But we were extremely fortunate to have him.
One final story about Garceau should tell you all you need to know about him as a man. Without going into great detail here (although I do believe this story was actually told before elsewhere, so it's not like I'm breaking news), Garceau actually knew about the move of the Browns to Baltimore days before Mark Viviano actually broke the story. Through a local public relations person, Garceau shared a conversation with Art Modell about the impending move but was asked not to release the story because it could have ruined the chance for the deal and move to happen.
Garceau agreed not to share the story until the move was official...and stayed true to his word. Viviano, of course, broke the story because of a tip from a local cabbie. And while there's nothing wrong with that, it should always be known that Scott Garceau sat on the biggest sports story in the history of Baltimore because he wanted the city to have football once again.
Yesterday's #2 finalist -- Charley Eckman -- was extraordinarily well received.
55% of those who participated in the poll said Charley was "the best in town."
32% said Eckman was "one of my favorites".
8% said Charley "did a good job".
5% said Eckman was "tolerable".
What's your opinion of Scott Garceau's work and style? You can share your comments and/or vote in the poll below.
June, as we mentioned late a few weeks back, is "list month" here at Drew's Morning Dish.
And right away, we're calling an audible on the two lists we previously announced we'd publish.
The Top 10 Golfers In the World is out...
The Top 10 Most Under Appreciated Baltimore Sports Figures, 1970-2020,...is in.
Starting tomorrow, we'll give you the list of the 10 Most Under Appreciated Baltimore Sports Figures of the last 50 years. They can be professional players, coaches, front office executives or anyone directly involved with a local high school or college in Baltimore.
Get your thinking caps on and use the Comments section below to throw out some of your own candidates for consideration. Who over the last 50 years has been under appreciated for their accomplishments in Baltimore?
This one is going to be tricky because under appreciated is a slippery slope. As an example, could Ray Rice have been under appreciated in Baltimore? Prior to his personal issues that ended an otherwise excellent career, Rice was on pace to be a Ravens Ring of Honor candidate. Looking back now, though, was Rice under appreciated in Charm City?
There has to be a criteria of sorts in lists like these, so we'll throw one obvious condition out there: If you made the Hall of Fame, you're ineligible for being considered "under appreciated". So, no Ripken, Ray, Ogden, Brooks, etc.
Check back starting tomorrow to see the first person on our list.
And start piecing together an argument either for or against my favorite Raven of all time...the great Dan Wilcox. You just know he's going to make an appearance on the list somewhere.
We're now down to the final two in our Top 10 list of Baltimore's Best Sportscasters, 1970-2020.
Some of you might not have had the privilege of ever hearing the great Charley Eckman, who is #2 on our list, but trust me on this: If you would have heard him, you'd remember him.
He was, in one word, "Baltimore".
For better or worse, Charley was Baltimore personified. His style was his own. And while it didn't always connect with everyone, there was no doubt Charles Markwood Eckman was unque.
I won't bash this point into the ground, but I had the pleasure of knowing Eckman both personally and professionally. Eckman's nephew and I played together on the same Little League team and I grew up about a mile from Charley in Glen Burnie. Later, while working with the Blast, I got to learn from Charley firsthand for roughly seven years while we traveled together.
I saw the "power of Charley" during the 1984-85 indoor soccer season. Starting with our first road trip of the year in November, Eckman knew someone in every airport or hotel throughout the season. Radio play-by-play man Art Sinclair was so impressed with "the streak" that he kept a journal of it in each airport or city. Late that season, we were heading out west for a road trip and the team's flight to Los Angeles connected through Phoenix.
As we boarded the plane in Baltimore, Eckman's streak was brought up by Sinclair. It had now reached 16 straight trips/cities where Eckman was recognized or knew someone. "This is the trip where it might end," Art said. "The farther away we get from Baltimore, the less likely it is that he bumps into someone he knows."
Art said it within earshot of Eckman, who pretended as if he didn't hear the comment while he read through the horse racing results from the newspaper.
Throughout the season, Charley would routinely run into old bell hops in hotels or an ex-player he coached during his days in the NBA. Charley even ran into a former referee once in Cleveland who said he "heard" Charley from the next gate over and had to come over and say hi.
Needless to say, Eckman loved "the streak". He saw it as a way to get one-up on Sinclair and it, in his mind, cemented his legacy as a true national sports figure from his days as a NBA coach and referee. But on that west coast trip, the streak was in jeopardy.
As we walked off the plane in Phoenix, we heard a commotion up ahead. We could voices and laughter. By the time we caught up to it, there he was.
"Hey, Art, look at this!" Eckman yelled. There next to Charley was an airline pilot. It turns out the pilot was taking over the flight on the plane we were just on...and he was a former ballboy for Eckman in Fort Wayne. His father was the team's public relations man back in the day when Charley coached.
The pilot recognized Eckman as they passed one another on the walkway.
You can take that streak and stick it right up your a--!" Charley said with his trademark laugh. "Call a cab, Sinclair! In fact, call two cabs!"
Charley Eckman the broadcaster? He was remarkable. His "tell it like it is" style was well received in the infancy of talk radio, which was back when broadcasters said things without having to worry whether it offended someone or not. Eckman's knowledge of sports was second-to-none. He was a coach, first, but a student of the games, second. He quickly picked up on the nuances of indoor soccer in the early 1980's when he befriended Kenny Cooper and became a major ally of the Blast during our heyday.
Charley also loved the horses. And gambling. Once, when he was asked to speak to the indoor soccer owners during an owner's conference in Baltimore, Eckman walked into the room filled with millionaires and said, "You guys might have made a lot of money in your real business but you're losing your a-- in the soccer business for one reason. You haven't figured out that the only reason people watch sports is to bet on them."
"I don't have anything else to add. You're smart people. If you want to be popular, get with the people in Vegas and get a line on your games."
Eckman turned a 20-minute speaking opportunity into a 2-minute rant about gambling and how indoor soccer could only grow if people wagered on it. People in the room might have thought he was nuts, but he was also ----- right.
Charley's broadcasting career began in Baltimore in 1961. His days in the NBA were over and he wanted to settle down with hiw wife, Wilma, and their children. He was a sports director at both WCBM and WFBR and was an evening talk host on WFBR in the 1970's. He was one of the city's most sought after commercial spokesmen, helping to peddle restaurants, cars and office products. Charley did color analysis for the Orioles, Colts, Bullets and Blast. Adding him to any broadcast team was a real coup. Eckman made the game into an event on the air.
If you wanted your sports sugar coated, Eckman wasn't your guy. But if you wanted someone to tell you the truth about a game or a player, you loved Charley Eckman. He was fair, but tough. Once, after a Blast loss in St. Louis, Eckman said to Cooper at dinner afterwards. "What about you? You keep talking about the team coming out flat tonight and the only guy you haven't mentioned is you. You're the coach. If a horse doesn't run, the first thing you do is change jockeys. Get your s--t together Coops or they'll find another jockey."
Monday's featured broadcaster at #3 was Vince Bagli and, not surprisingly, he was overwhelmingly popular in our reader's poll.
A staggering 54% of you said Vince was "the best in town".
31% said Bagli was "one of my favorites".
15% said Vince "did a good job".
Bagli did not receive one dissenting vote ("tolerable" or "not a fan at all").
What's your opinion of Charley Eckman's work and style? You can share your comments and/or vote in the poll below.
The Bundesliga continued this past weekend with its fifth round of games since returning from the shutdown. Bayern Munich maintained its dominant form and inched one step closer to clinching its eight consecutive title with a 4-2 win over fifth place Bayer Leverkusen. Bayern’s midfield trio of Kimmich, Goretzka and Mueller controlled the game. Leon Goretzka led the way, contributing a goal and an assist. With the title all but secured, Bayern will use the remaining games to tune up for a run in the Champions League that resumes in August.
In the race for third and fourth place, RB Leipzig blew a 1-0 lead late in their game with last place Paderborn and were forced to settle with a disappointing draw. The draw, however, moves them one point further ahead of Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach who both lost on the weekend and remain tied for fourth place, three points behind Leipzig.
At the bottom of the table, the relegation battle saw some separation. Mainz got a win over Eintracht Frankfurt to put themselves three points ahead of Fortuna Dusseldorf, who drew with Hoffenheim. Josh Sargent’s Werder Bremen put themselves in serious trouble by losing to Wolfsburg 1-0. Bremen will need a huge turnaround down the stretch to avoid relegation as they now sit six points from safety with four games remaining.
The Americans in action were headlined by the head to head clash between Josh Sargent and John Brooks in the Werder Bremen-Wolsfburg game. The veteran Brooks got the better of the duel as the Wolfsburg back line shut down the Bremen attack to earn a clean sheet and 1-0 win. Sargent worked hard pressing from his striker position and providing effective hold up play, but couldn’t help Bremen create any dangerous chances before being subbed off around the 70th minute.
Tyler Adams started again for RB Leipzig and played the full 90 minutes. Adams got the start in central midfield but was forced to move to right back in the 43rd minute, when Dayot Upamecano picked up a second yellow and Leipzig went down to ten men. Adams was effective distributing the ball from deep in midfield, initiating the sequence that led to the Leipzig goal. After moving to right back, he struggled a bit containing Paderborn’s speedy winger, Christopher Antwi-Adjei.
Gio Reyna received another 20 minute substitute appearance for Borussia Dortmund in their 1-0 win over Hertha Berlin. The 17 year old had a few dangerous moments balanced with a few bad giveaways in his short stint in attacking midfield. With Dortmund’s spot in second place all but assured, Reyna may be in line for his first Bundesliga start over the next few weeks.
Weston McKennie did not feature in Schalke’s 1-1 draw with Union Berlin on Sunday. McKennie was suspended for the game due to yellow card accumulation. He should return to the lineup next weekend.
How many significant events happen in your life where you remember the actual day of the week it occurred?
I mean, you remember that the two Ravens Super Bowl wins took place on a Sunday because...well...Super Bowl and all.
But what day of the week did the Orioles win the '83 World Series?
For those fortunate enough to have children, you remember their date of birth, for sure. But do you remember what day of the week it was?
The September 11, 2001 tragedy in this country was on...........that's right, a Tuesday.
I remember June 8, 1984 like it was yesterday.
And it was............
It was a Friday like no other in my sporting life.
At the ripe age of 21, I was the Media Relations Assistant for the Baltimore Blast. I was drinking from the fire hose every day in that job, even though I did my best to appear as if I knew what I was doing.
The Blast were a mega-hot item back then. We were selling out the arena with regularity and downtown Baltimore's revitalization under Mayor William Donald Schaefer had become a national story. Championshp series tickets were as scarce as any sports ticket this town had seen...ever.
We buzzed through the regular season with a 34-14 record en route to the Eastern Division championship. It wasn't as easy as the record might indicate, though. At one point, we were 13-11 and facing a difficult Sunday afternoon game in Pittsburgh in late January. Down 5-4 late in the game, Heinz Wirtz made a miraculous save as the team's sixth attacker/goalkeeper, then pushed the ball upfield where Paul Kitson scored a last second goal to tie the game and send it to overtime. Kitson then took a feed from Stan Stamenkovic and scored the game winner in sudden death to give us a 6-5 win.
From 13-11, the Blast caught fire and finished the campaign going 21-3. We disposed of New York in four games (best of 5) and Cleveland in three games (best of 5) to advance to the Championship Series against St. Louis, the winners in the west.
After dropping Game 1 at home in the Finals, 7-3, we evened the series with a win in Game 2, then headed to St. Louis for the next two contests. On a Saturday afternoon in front of a CBS TV audience, Scott Manning made 25 saves and Joey Fink scored two goals to help push the Blast to a 5-2 win and a 2-1 series lead.
Game 4 was remarkable. St. Louis knew they had to win or they were done. The Blast knew if they could somehow steal one more game in St. Louis, the crazy home crowd would be awating them for Game 5 in the best of 7 series.
The contest went back-and-forth with both goalkeepers playing out of their minds. Manning would eventually finish the night with 30 saves. In overtime, Stan Stamenkovic gathered a rebound near the top of the penalty area and fired it past Slobo Ilijevski to give us the win.
June 8, 1984 was Game 5.
It was a Friday.
We somehow stuffed 12,007 people into the building. 11,550 was the actual "capacity" back then, but we sold "standing room only" tickets for $15 each upstairs across from the press box. I don't think the fire marshal would have approved, but for all we knew, he probably snuck four people into the Civic Center himself that night.
I'll save the long-winded version of what happened, since you can watch however much of it you want below.
We stomped St. Louis in Game 5, 10-3, although it's fair to note the score was relatively close until late in the 3rd quarter. Joey Fink scored five goals that night, including three of them in 40-some seconds in the fourth quarter.
The party started immediately after the game at PJ Cricketts, moved to Little Italy early in the morning, then shifted back to the Inner Harbor for breakfast. It was a wild night.
That would be the only championship the Blast ever won in the original configuration of the MISL. We lost four times to San Diego ('83, '85, '89 and '90) in our other title series appearances.
But that night will live forever: June 8, 1984. I remember standing on the field afterwards helping with the post-game presentation and Paul Kitson, who scored a huge shorthanded goal in the third quarter of Game 5, said to me, "There's only one rule about that championship ring you're going to get. You can't wear it when I'm kicking your butt on the tennis court!" Later that year, I was presented with a championship ring, which I still have today, but sadly Kitson is no longer around. He passed away a few years ago.
The quality of the footage of Game 5 is about what you'd expect given that it was 36 years ago today, but you can watch all or parts of the game below. At the very end, as Scott Manning is being presented with the MVP trophy, you can even see an in-over-his-head P.R. assistant in the background, standing there wondering what on earth he ever did to deserve such great fortune.
We are down to the final 3 on our list of Baltimore's Best Sportscasters, 1970-2020. As a reminder, here's who has made the list thus far: #10, Bruce Cunningham; #9, Stan Charles; #8, Ted Patterson; #7, Mark Viviano; #6, Gerry Sandusky; #5, Tom Davis; #4, Keith Mills.
Not surprisingly, Mills received an incredibly favorable response from Sunday's reader's poll.
44% of those who responded to our reader's poll said Keith was "one of my favorites".
25% said Mills was "the best in town".
18% said Keith "does a good job".
9% said they are "not a fan at all" of Keith's work.
4% said Mills was "tolerable".
So, now, we move on to our final three.
At #3 -- They call this man "The Dean" and with good reason. Throughout his legendary career in Baltimore, which started way back in 1949, Vince Bagli was always the teacher and everyone else was the student. Bagli worked in every media format known to man, including stints in radio, television and play-by-play.
Bagli started at WBAL in 1964 and immediately morphed into one of Baltimore's favorite media talents. He would go on to call games for both the Colts and Bullets and was well known throughout town for his friendly, folksy style. He was a homer and didn't mind you letting you know it.
He also had a brief stint with the News American in the late 1960's in addition to his TV work.
In 1994, Vince moved to a part-time position at WBAL, but that didn't stop the likes of Gerry Sandusky and Pete Gilbert, among others, from constantly reaching out to "The Dean" for career advice and assistance.
Bagli recently turned 93 years old and still makes his home in Westminster.
What's your opinion of Vince's work and style? You can share your comments and/or vote in the poll below.
We reached the top 5 of our 50-year look at Baltimore's ten best sportscasters on Saturday and Tom Davis, like the others who made our list, received lots of positive reaction.
32% of those who responded to our reader's poll said Davis "does a good job".
24% said Tom is "the best in town".
20% said Davis is "one of my favorites".
16% said they are "not a fan at all" of Tom's work.
8% said Davis is "tolerable".
Today we look at #4 on our list...and it's a man who made his mark in virtually every area of sportscasting throughout his four decade career -- Keith Mills.
Mills, who retired (sort of) last June, spent the first half of his career in TV and most of the latter half in radio. He initially cut his teeth at WJZ-TV, then moved over to WMAR and served as the weekend anchor and the station's primary sports reporter. It was at Channel 2 where he developed a strong passion for high school sports. Mills himself was an outstanding athlete at Brooklyn Park High School in the late 1970's.
Following a lengthy stint at WMAR, Mills moved over to WBAL Radio, where he served as the station's primary on-air sports talent, complete with morning news/sports obligations, talk show duties and a central figure of Ravens pre and post-game coverage at WBAL.
Most broadcasters who dabble in both radio and television wind up gravitating to one of the two, but Mills was equally adept behind the microphone or in front of the camera.
Mills' career was sidetracked in 2006 by an arrest for stealing painkillers from a neighbor, but he bounced back to win the Maryland Sportscaster of the Year award in 2010.
No other sportscaster in town knew the high school scene like Mills. And throughout his near 40-year career, Mills was one of the city's most recognizable media figures, sports or otherwise.
What's your opinion of Keith's work and style? You can share your comments and/or vote in the poll below.
If you thought the 2020 NFL season was going to be interesting before yesterday, you're really in for a treat now.
Roger Goodell just upped the ante, big time.
A day after a number of African American players spoke out against Drew Brees and the league's continued "lip service" on social justice and racial equality, Goodell -- on behalf of the NFL -- issued a strongly worded message of support that all but formally apologized to Colin Kaepernick.
On Thursday, NFL players demanded a statement from the NFL and specifically asked for three sentences to be included. The first and third sentences from Goodell's message on Friday matched the player's request, word-for-word. An additional sentence contained some minor editing but still fashioned the same sentiment.
"We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people," Goodell said. "We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all players to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe that black lives matter."
What wasn't mentioned, specifically, was the name "Colin Kaepernick". And the word "apology" or "apologize" wasn't used, either. But it's clear that this was a massive victory for NFL players past, present and future. They made a demand of Goodell and, presumably, the owners, and they got almost exactly what they wanted. The only change Goodell made to the original statement suggested by the players was some wording in the second sentence regarding the league "not listening" to NFL players earlier.
But Goodell and the owners have come almost full circle from where they were four years ago and the players, for now, at least, have to be thrilled.
What will be interesting in the future, though, is finding out whether the nation's NFL fans are equally as thrilled. And the only way we'll be able to gauge the level of change among NFL fans is if players continue to kneel during the anthem in 2020 and beyond. Will they? That remains to be seen.
The league's statement on Friday opens the door for the other obvious question that everyone is asking. "Will players now be allowed to kneel during the national anthem without any fear of retribution?"
The simple thought here is that the league will go out of its way to avoid that issue in 2020 by not playing the anthem prior to the game. That will take care of any potential fallout from fans, big or small.
But if the anthem is played again, either in 2020 or beyond, the "kneeling" issue will still linger. And only time will tell if the American NFL fans have come around on the topic in the same way the league and owners have in the wake of George Floyd's death and the ensuing discussions that led to Goodell's statement on Friday.
This could be a turning point. Time heals all wounds, they say. And the average NFL fan might be more understanding now than they were four years ago when Kaepernick first started drawing attention to the issue by kneeling during the national anthem.
Here in Baltimore, there was massive pushback in September of 2017 when a dozen team members took a knee during the national anthem before a game in London. The team was so shook by the aftermath and fan reaction they took to personally calling sponsors and fans to try and win back their support.
That was then. This is now.
The NFL is now saying, "We were wrong in not supporting those silent protests."
That's quite a turn around.
The only thing left to see is whether the fans agree with the NFL's statement.
Have the last four years changed people's opinions?
The league's stance is certainly different in 2020.
It will be most interesting to see if the stance of the ticket buyers and TV viewers follow suit.
Gerry Sandusky, who came in at #6 on Friday, was well received in our continuing series on the Top 10 Baltimore Sportscasters, 1970-2020.
38% of those who responded to our reader's poll said Sandusky is "one of my favorites".
27% said Sandusky is "the best in town".
21% said Gerry "does a good job".
9% said they are "not a fan at all" of Sandusky's work.
5% said Gerry is "tolerable".
Today we move on to #5 on our list and it's a man who has been a central figure in Baltimore sportscasting for almost 50 years now -- Tom Davis.
Davis is Baltimore's longest serving active sportscaster, having started at WBAL TV as the weekend sports anchor back in 1971. A 1966 Calvert Hall graduate, Davis has been involved in sports media in virtually every on-air capacity possible. He's done TV and radio anchoring and reporting, sports talk call-in work, play-by-play, and pre and post game duties.
Davis spent nearly two decades as part of the morning radio scene with the popular "Steve Rouse Show" on WQSR. He also worked for WJZ TV for a short time during that span and would later join MASN as that station's leading baseball analyst, hosting shows and eventually settling in as the lead voice on Orioles pre and post game broadcasts. Davis has also hosted a weekly football show on TV for much of the last 20 years.
One additional element of Davis' career that sets him apart from others in town...he's one of the very few on-air personalities who have successfully been able to sell and maintain his own stable of corporate sponsors and advertisers. Not many in Baltimore have been able to do that, but Davis has been very successful using that formula.
No one in town has done it longer than Tom Davis. And no one has involved themselves in more shows, styles and formats than Davis, either. Whether it's been on radio or TV, he's produced outstanding work over the last 50 years.
What's your opinion of Tom's work and style? You can share your comments and/or vote in the poll below.
The NFL was already going to be hard enough to predict in 2020. Who knows, really, what sort of impact Covid-19 is going to have on the 32 teams?
No OTA's or mini-camps. Shortened training camps at best, with rules and guidelines to come that will surely make August look different than ever before. And the games themselves might not be played in front of live fans, zapping the home team of that all important advantage that means so much.
Had everything been normal, the New Orleans Saints were going to be a favorite in the NFC. But now, nothing's normal. And for the Saints, things just got a lot more weird over the last two days thanks to public comments from quarterback Drew Brees, who drew the ire of his entire team by making a stand against those who kneel during the national anthem.
It's not like this is new territory for Brees. He didn't suddenly just change his tune and decide that kneeling in silent protest during the anthem is a bad thing. It's just that he said it this week of all weeks, when the country is reeling in the wake of George Floyd's death and #BlackLivesMatter has become a social media hashtag that you either endorse or risk the label of racism being attached to you.
Brees couldn't have picked a worse time to remind everyone that he doesn't support kneeling during the national anthem. His representation of "kneeling" is that it's a sign of disrespect to the flag and to the country, which, by the way, a lot of other Americans contend as well. But Brees is part of a brotherhood in the NFL that typically has one motto in every locker room: We stick together.
And, so, when the future Hall of Famer came out with those comments on Wednesday, it created one of the more viscious days of player-to-player backlash in recent history. It got nasty. I mean, really nasty. Even players in his own locker room, like wide receiver Michael Thomas, put Brees on blast.
Brees did what everyone assumed he would do on Thursday. He apologized. Twice, in fact. Once via social media in written form and then again later on in the day via video...so, as he said, "everyone could see the pain in my eyes."
This isn't going away, though. Thomas was one of the first to jump up and say "I forgive Drew, now let's get back to the cause!" but the reality is that it's just not that easy to do in this day and age. People talk the forgiveness game well, but not many people really know how to do it. And Brees will find that out during the season.
His time in that Saints locker room will likely never be the same, no matter how many apologies he issues.
Accepting an apology also isn't a thing we do very well in this country, for whatever reason. When someone apologizes, it has to meet our standards. "Yeah, he apologized, but he didn't mention (this) or (that). He didn't even sound like he was sorry."
Those comments made the rounds on Thursday night after Brees' video apology surfaced and people had time to digest it. "He ain't so smug and uppity now," one Twitter account wrote. "I ain't buyin' it, especially not the day after when he knows he better dam (sic) well apologize."
There's apparently a timetable for apologizing. Who knew?
We all know that had Brees waited three days to apologize, that same person (above) would have written, "Yeah, three days later you apologize, after your PR people got to you and wrote it up for you!"
The root of all of this, of course, is one's belief that the national anthem and flag are sacred and beyond any kind of intrusion or disrespect, intended or otherwise. Baltimore famously screams out "O!!" during the national anthem, but, as just one example here, this author has never done that once in my life. And I've been to a lot of Baltimore sports events, obviously. It's just not something I've ever done. But I don't hold it against my friends who do. And I certainly don't make them apologize for it.
I have said here since day one of Colin Kaepernick's protest that I don't agree with kneeling during the national anthem. I never have. And I never will. But that doesn't mean I don't understand the basic premise of protesting, silent protesting and peaceful protesting. I do understand it.
But for me, personally, I don't agree with kneeling during the national anthem.
I was raised to stand during the anthem and place your right hand over your heart. My father did that, I was raised to do that and my two children have been raised to do that. Now, 20 years down the road, when my children are adults and can make decisions for themselves, they might very well change those standards. If they do, I'm certainly not going to love them any less than I do today.
Brees is in a different situation, though. He's in a locker room with a large percentage of men who believe protesting during the national anthem is the way they've received much of the attention they've garnered over the last five years. In their mind, that form of protest has "worked" to some degree, even though the originator of it -- Kaepernick -- remains unemployed. So when Brees criticizes the protesting, he's essentially telling those in the locker room that he's not on board with their cause. Whether he believes that or not, it's perceived to be that way.
And the bet here is that the Saints locker room will not be the same in 2020.
Drew Brees is a great quarterback and the idea that New Orleans could be a Super Bowl contender this coming season is certainly reasonable. But if his teammates can't get past those comments and the apology, you should probably wager on some other team besides the Saints.
Mark Viviano was a resounding hit at #7 yesterday in our continuing series on the Top 10 Baltimore Sportscasters, 1970-2020.
A whopping 53% of those who responded said Viviano is "one of my favorites".
16% said Viv was "does a good job".
14% said Mark is "the best in town".
10% said he's "tolerable".
And 7% said they're "not a fan at all" of Viviano's work.
So today we move on to #6 on our list and it's a man who has delivered quality sportscasting in virtually every area of the business for the last 30 years -- Gerry Sandusky.
Sandusky has, in fact, "done it all" in Baltimore. He has been on the TV side since 1988, working first as an apprentice under the legendary Vince Bagli. Sandusky also contributed on radio throughout the 1990's and into the 2000's, hosting the station's popular "Sports Line" talk show, where he handled callers with the casual, friendly perspective he's become well known for throughout his time in Baltimore.
In addition to his sports reporting work, Sandusky is a top flight play-by-play caller of both football and basketball. His famous "The Hay is the barn!" call of Ravens wins that have been sealed up by a late touchdown or defensive stop is part of Baltimore's sports lexicon at this point.
There aren't many people in Baltimore over the last 50 years who have embedded themselves in the sports community like Gerry has, whether through his on-air work, reporting on news and stories at the high school and college level, or sharing the sights and sounds of Ravens football through your radio.
He's one of the best we've had here since 1970.
What's your opinion of Gerry Sandusky's work and style? You can share your comments and/or vote in the poll below.
Ted Patterson was #8 on our top-10 list of Baltimore's Best Sportscasters, 1970-2020, yesterday, and nearly all of you agreed that Patterson is one of our city's best over the last 50 years.
48% of those who responded said Patterson was "one of my favorites".
42% said Patterson was "one of the best in town".
10% said Ted was "tolerable".
So today we move on to #7 on our list and it's a man who broke perhaps the biggest story in the history of Baltimore sports -- Mark Viviano.
Other than a brief 3-year stint with CNN circa 2000, Mark Viviano has been a Baltimore media mainstay for nearly 30 years since first arriving here in 1991. His initial Baltimore TV gig was at WBAL, where he served as a weekend anchor and reporter. After eight years there, he headed south for a national job with CNN, only to return to Charm City once again and land at WJZ-TV, where he has served as that station's sports director ever since.
In November of 1995, Viviano -- unwittingly tipped off by a local cab driver -- broke the story that the Cleveland Browns were moving to Baltimore for the 1996 NFL season.
In addition to his TV duties at WBAL and WJZ, Viviano was a sports reporter and call-in host for WBAL Radio in the '90's, then had his own mid-day show on 105.7 The Fan for five years (2008-2012).
His cool, balanced style made "Viv" one of Baltimore's top sports talk radio hosts, but a newborn son and increasing responsibilities at WJZ-TV and MASN led him to leave the radio world. Viviano is a regular guest on baseball related shows at MASN.
As a TV sports anchor, Viviano's no nonsense, "here are the facts, stories and scores" style has long gone over well with Baltimore viewers.
He also was selected to carry the Olympic torch through Baltimore en route to its final destination at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
What's your opinion of Mark Viviano's work and style? You can share your comments and/or vote in the poll below.
"The Keen Eye" of
The basketball courts at the local parks lay empty. Some have boards nailed to the width of the hoop, with the net curled up above. It’s either the ultimate irony, or a nod to the history of the game. A good shot that can’t be good, and probably gets stuck 10 feet in the air, like James Naismith’s peach baskets at the Springfield YMCA.
The baseball fields there lay empty too. Sure, some of them already went out of use years ago, overgrown with grass, the lone relic of home plate nailed into the ground a few feet in front of a rotting backstop and those old concrete benches. Even where the fields lay manicured, however, there is no little league.
The odd family, pair, threesome, or small group of friends shows up, having escaped their homes after a long day. They bring a soccer ball and knock it around a bit. They bring a football and work on their throwing motion and catching the ball with their hands, not their bodies. Some of them do it because they have important games for which to prepare, or so they think. But they don’t know if that’s true.
The driving range is busy but not talkative. Nobody enters the small pro shop unless they must. The pro gives lessons wearing a mask, far away from anyone else. They say that you shouldn’t spend too much time watching another person’s swing…for fear of jealousy, bad habits or even ridicule. It’s not a problem right now.
We walk, a lot. Sometimes we stay relatively close, for fear of the unknown. Safer at home, right hon? Other times we venture far away, maybe trying to remember that the world extends far beyond our home and the places we must go. There’s something nice about those walks—it sure is easier to cross the street, and there are fewer exhaust fumes. There’s something not so great about those walks—the life those exhaust fumes represent has slipped away, but for how long?
The stadium, now 28 years old, sits bare at the edge of downtown. It’s a place that has deserved better over its life—better teams, for sure, and for the neighborhoods around it to get better over time, not worse. But it has never deserved what it’s getting right now. People go to the ballpark. They yell and scream. They sit tight with strangers, passing beer and dollar bills. Or at least they did.
Sports television shows replays. Some broadcasts are recent, reminding us of great days that just happened. Others are historic, reminding us that sports existed before viral video and Twitter hashtags. We have a treasure trove, which is nice. None of it offers any strategy for the future.
This is the spring of our discontent. We see all of these things and try to explain them, and for many there are great explanations. We understand, but we shudder inside. There is no joy, and joy is the most important of emotions. “Nothing great,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson, “was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
The missives have come, and they’ve come from all of us, the ones who paint faces and wear jerseys and the ones who simply observe the world around them.
“This isn’t so bad after all.”
“I’ve been surprised how little I’ve missed it all.”
“Just cancel the seasons. We’ve gone this far. We’ll be fine.”
We understand all of this, of course. None other than Howard Cosell, who made his name covering sports for 40 years, said that sports was nothing but the toy department of the newspaper.
Five days before it would start, they cancelled the NCAA tournament. We gasped. The managers of sports bars screamed, if not out loud then at least to themselves. They had no idea how much worse it was than that. We feel bad now for thinking the cancellation was such a big deal.
But this is bad.
We have missed it, more than we’re letting on.
Cancelling the seasons will happen. It’s already happened. We’re not fine.
We can play long toss with our kids if we find the room and have them take swings off a tee into a net in the backyard. We tell them that the practice and preparation is important for a reason. Without a reason? They’ll do something else. We’re going to lose people.
Watching Len Bias and Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods circa 2000 was fine for a while. It doesn’t feel fine anymore. Sports needs to move forward, and very few people have any great idea how that’s going to happen.
My niece and her fellow recruits for the UNC Charlotte soccer team won’t be going to England before the season. Will there be a season? How many of them won’t go to Charlotte at all now? Almost any college “Olympic” sports team could be disbanded now, without warning. It’s not fine.
When the local basketball courts are closed because the neighbors don’t like all the noise, that’s one thing. When they’re closed because the whole idea of playing 5-on-5 basketball seems temporarily dangerous, that’s much worse.
In 1918, there was a deadly “Spanish flu” pandemic in addition to World War I. They played a reduced Major League schedule, with each team playing somewhere around 125 games. That number might be zero this year. 102 years later, with all the progress made since that time, and a worse result. Though I suppose they probably shouldn’t have played the 1918 season either.
The good news?
Life as we know it has been interrupted before on a grand scale, perhaps grander than this. The lives of individuals get interrupted every day—death, illness, job loss, accidents—and the rest of the world barely notices.
Whoever it was that wrote Ecclesiastes, that book of wisdom, was right. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Maybe they’ll play the 2021 Masters on the dates on which it was originally scheduled. Certainly the 2021 baseball season will have a normal Opening Day, right? There is certain to be some kind of vaccine by then, and the large majority will feel comfortable returning to certain places.
The bad news?
This is new, for sports. And it’s bad. It’s worse than we thought. We’re left to question so much.
Will it ever be the same? Is it even possible for it to be the same?
Will we experience the same delight? Will we create the same memories we’ve been watching on television?
Whatever the future brings, will it pale in comparison to the (former) present? Will people really care if it does?
Common sense says it could be the same—nothing new under the sun, right? A game-winning home run will still be a game-winning home run, no matter how many people are motivated to jump on the pile. At some point in the future, maybe we’ll wonder if we should have been doing something that way all along.
But nobody knows right now. No owners, players, fans, broadcasters, or anyone else who usually would.
This is the spring of our discontent. Let’s see what summer brings.
This is one of the most common phrases we hear and see when an athlete dips his or her toe in the real world to opine on a news or public interest story: Stick to sports.
What's rooted in that phrase has several threads; "You don't know anything except how to pitch a baseball, hit a golf ball, dunk a basketball or throw a football." Or, perhaps, "I pay to watch you play for (insert team here). I don't pay money to hear you discuss politics or news."
Interestingly, I myself have authored a "stick to sports" theme on occasion, but never with sports per se, but more with music. Once when I saw Bruce Springsteen -- by far my favorite musical artist of all time -- he took a break mid-concert to make a plea for people to donate to the Philadelphia Food Bank. "They're doing God's work on the front lines," the Boss told the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center, "and they're here tonight out in the hallways of the arena collecting money so they can buy food for the homeless." I was on board with that and fished around in my pocket for some loose change or a few dollar bills.
But Bruce wasn't finished. He then went into a politically charged minute of commentary that mostly everyone in the audience approved, but that wasn't really the point. At least not to me. "Come on man! Play Rosalita and let's gooooo!" I yelled. By the looks I received, that wasn't a popular opinion in that very moment.
I did the same thing 20 years ago when I saw Pearl Jam for the first time. Eddie Vedder stopped several times during the show to interject some sort of political tongue lashing. Once was OK. Twice was tolerable. By the third stoppage, I wasn't happy. "Just play Better Man you dummy!" I yelled out.
I didn't scream "Stick to music!" but for sure it was appropriate in the moment. At least to me.
But there's a difference between someone doing that sort of stuff when you've forked over $50 or $150 to see them perform and having an athlete post something on Twitter about a social topic, such as we've seen over the last few days during the George Floyd unrest.
Imagine how strange it would be if the Ravens stopped a game in the middle of the 2nd quarter so Lamar Jackson could run over to a sideline microphone and make a passionate statement about a non-football-story. That's what Springsteen, Vedder and other musicians are effectively doing when they take a break from the music you paid to see them play to tell you about something they believe in.
But this week, all we've seen or heard are athletes being asked for their opinions on the Floyd situation, the protesting, rioting and the biggest question of them all, "How do we fix this?"
I think athletes and anyone else, celebrity or otherwise, have the option of being heard, no matter the topic.
There is a quandry, though, and I'm guilty of it as well.
Throughout this entire situation over the last eight days, I don't think I've read or heard anyone say anything "new". That's not to say I haven't heard a lot of great ideas. I've heard a lot of people say a lot of smart, common-sense things.
"Black Lives Matter" is an important component of what we've been hearing over the last eight days. African Americans in our country have been treated differently for my entire 57 years. I know that. I've had this conversation with African American friends of mine. Some of the things I've heard them say have been painful to hear. Other things, frankly, I can't even relate with because, as Buck Showalter famously once said, "I've never been black."
But here's what bothers me. I've yet to hear anyone say anything "new" that can get our country back to ground zero and starting over with a clean slate. I'm certainly not saying athletes haven't said "the right thing" since last Tuesday. They most certainly have. But, like the rest of us, they're all saying the same thing, basically. We're hearing the same message. And I don't know that it's sticking.
I believe we all agree that unlawful use of aggression and aggressive tactics by police officers needs to stop, immediately. I believe we all know, based on statistics, that there are more of these kinds of incidents than we're led to believe. And I realize, as most people do, that peaceful protesting -- whether I decide to join in or not -- is permissable and part of the foundation of our country. But I also believe there's a growing dislike for law enforcement officials that is borne out of these well publicized incidents of aggression. There are plenty of good police officers in our nation, but that's also getting lost along the way. In my opinion...
And then within the very same hour I hear athletes say "Black Lives Matter", I see video clips of people (black and white) destroying businesses and buildings that have no connection whatsoever to the George Floyd murder or social injustice in our country. Does "Property Matters" as well? Those businesses in New York and Minneapolis and Philadelphia that have been destroyed by looters and criminals seemingly get pushed to the background, but they matter, too. How do we stop all of this from happening? Every time there's a police-related event in our country are we subjected to that sort of response? I don't know the answer. Just asking the question.
I was asked to join a community call on Tuesday at 9:00 am where everyone was asked to "bring something to the table" as it relates to the social injustice we're seeing in our country these days. There were 21 people on the call, including a moderator. Everyone got a turn to say something. A few people dominated the conversation. I had a day's notice to prepare something, and throughout Monday I thought long and hard about what I was going to contribute. I couldn't come up with anything new. And I did not want to just sit there and say the same old stuff we've heard for the last eight days.
So I simply asked everyone to listen to The Lord's Prayer. "This could be the foundation of everything new that we need, as a country," I said. "I realize this brings faith and religion into the discussion, but when you ask me to bring something to the table today, this is what I came up with."
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
So, I recited The Lord's Prayer. And I waited. I looked up and I saw people smiling (we were using the ZOOM platform). One African American man gave me a thumbs-up gesture. That moment, alone, told me it was worth it.
Perhaps the two most important sentences of that prayer are these: And forgive us our trespasses. As we forgive those who trespass against us.
There's very little forgiveness in our country these days. And I'm talking about real, honest to goodness, from the heart, forgiveness. We've lost our ability to forgive.
I'm not naive. I realize just reciting that prayer isn't going to restore the entire country to a safe, friendly place, where everyone loves one another and strife no longer exists. But what I really wanted to do when given the chance to speak was to say something new. All I've heard from people over the last eight days is the same old stuff. And a lot of it is important, as I stressed earlier.
But we've been saying that same stuff now for decades and none of it has worked. The popular target these days is, of course, the President of the United States, but anyone who has paid attention at all knows these issues were around for President #44, President #43, President #42 and so on. They're just much more magnified now because of social media.
So, I don't mind when an athlete steps up and says something or writes something. I don't think they should just "stick to sports". Not at all. What I would like, though, is to hear or see someone come up with a new thought or a new concept. We know "what" needs to be done. What we haven't figured out yet is precisely "how" to get it done.
I'd love to help out. I'm struggling to come up with my place in all of this. I've had some fairly in-depth discussions with my two young children to try and make them understand what's going on and why people are angry. I feel like that's a small step. If we can make our own children understand and cement it in them, perhaps these sort of things won't be happening in 2050.
In the meantime, we should all do this: "Stick to treating each other exactly the way we want to be treated."
We showcased #9 on our list yesterday of Baltimore's Best Sportscasters, 1970-2020: Stan "The Fan" Charles.
Based on our reader's poll, Charles is a popular figure in town.
47% of those who responded said Charles "does a good job".
29% said Stan is "one of my favorites".
14% said they are "not a fan of Stan".
10% said Charles is "tolerable".
So today we move on to #8 on our list and it's a man who was one of Baltimore's most versatile sportscasters during his 35 years on the scene -- Ted Patterson.
Patterson first came to town in 1973 to serve as a TV and radio sports reporter at WBAL, then moved over to WMAR-TV two years later to become that station's sports director. Patterson was well known in town for his incredible memory of sports history and statistics.
He was part of the very first on-air broadcast team of Orioles games on something called "Super TV" in the late 1970's, which would eventually morph its way into becoming "Home Team Sports".
Throughout the '80's and '90's, Patterson was part of the morning radio team at WPOC, where he delivered sports for the city's (at the time) #1 ranked music station. He also handled play-by-play duties for Navy football and basketball and even had a two-year stint as the radio play-by-play voice for the Baltimore Spirit. This very author, in fact, hired Patterson in 1993 for that radio gig.
Patterson also dabbled in several radio sports talk shows along the way, always handling his callers with professionalism. When you called into Ted's show, you felt like you were talking with a friendly neighbor. He was always a gentleman.
Baltimore has been blessed with a number of extremely versatile broadcasters over the last 50 years. Very few had the range of Ted Patterson. He could do a morning sports report on TV, host a mid-day sports talk show, and call a basketball or football game later that night on either TV or radio.
And he was outstanding in every one of those areas.
What's your opinion of Ted Patterson's work and style? You can share your comments and/or vote in the poll below.
We got off to a good start yesterday with the kick-off of one of our three June projects -- Baltimore's Best Sportscasters, 1970-2020.
Bruce Cunningham of Fox 45 Sports came in at #10 and based on our poll results, most of you are "Bruce fans".
42% of those who responded said Cunningham "does a good job".
21% said Bruce is "one of my favorites".
21% said they are "not a fan of Bruce".
12% said Bruce is "tolerable".
4% said Cunningham is "the best in town".
So today we move on to #9 on our list and it's a name every Baltimore sports fan knows -- Stan "The Fan" Charles.
Charles has been involved in Baltimore sports since the early 1980's when he worked on-air for WFBR Radio. His initial foray into radio included stints with WFBR's play-by-play coverage of the Baltimore Blast, where he hosted the post-game show, and as a sports talk host in the early days of that medium. Charles eventually moved over to WCBM as a sports-talker when that station was making its first move into the talk radio forum.
While he is best known for his baseball expertise, Charles is also well versed in football and has always been a regular at Ravens press events. But make no mistake about it: Charles is one of Baltimore's most knowledgeable media members when it comes to the sport of baseball. He attends nearly every Orioles home game and is often heard on the post-game show asking a question or two of the team's manager.
On a personal note, one of the things I always admired about Charles is that he was (is) a constant presence at Orioles and Ravens press conferences to show his face, something a lot of media members in town didn't do and still don't do. Charles was never afraid to say what was on his mind and then show up the next day to face the very person he criticized. Lots of radio people in town wouldn't do that. Stan always did.
For 15 years, Charles hosted a weekly 30-minute show on WMAR-TV that focused almost exclusively on local sports, including a strong emphasis on high school and college athletics.
Over the last five years, Charles' company, PressBox has been a regional leader in on-line talk programming, with daily shows on sports as part of www.pressboxonline.com. Charles himself hosts a Saturday show ("The Bat Around") on that digital site.
Charles has appeared on virtually every sports radio station in town, with stints -- at some time -- on WFBR, WCBM, Fox 1370 and "105.7 The Fan".
For nearly 40 years now, Stan "The Fan" has been the voice of Baltimore's "regular Joe", but with a microphone and inside access that he has used to give Baltimore sports fans more insight into their favorite players and teams.
What's your opinion of Stan Charles' work and style? You can share your comments and/or vote in the poll below.
Give the players in Major League Baseball credit. They're working hard to make everyone in the country think they want to play baseball in 2020. But the evidence doesn't really support that notion.
Last week, the owners stepped forward with a proposal that would include 82 games in 2020. Because players would be paid on a prorated (and reduced) basis, 82 games would likely give the owners the opportunity to "make a go of it" from a financial standpoint.
Over the weekend, the players responded with a counter proposal: 114 games in 2020, with the season running through the end of October and the playoffs and World Series extending into November. I'm no weather professional, but how would a Rockies/Indians World Series do, weather wise, when Game 5 is played on November 28?
The players' new proposal also asked for another free handout. They already received $170 million of free money back in March when the season was delayed due to Covid-19. Now they want another $100 million.
It looks like the players are going out of their way to get the owners to say "no season" rather than "play ball!"
Title Race --
It was a busy week in the Bundesliga with games midweek and on the weekend.
The centerpiece was last Tuesday’s Der Klassiker between Bayern and Dortmund. Bayern effectively wrapped up their 8th consecutive Bundesliga title with a 1-0 win in Dortmund.
The two sides provided a high quality, drama filled match that was evenly contested throughout. Joshua Kimmich delivered the decisive moment, scoring with a brilliant chip shot from the edge of the penalty area just before halftime. Bayern was able to make the one goal lead stand to seal the victory. Dortmund will feel aggrieved due to a missed Bayern handball in the second half that would have given Dortmund a penalty kick to tie the game.
Alphonso Davies was a key player again for Bayern, coming out of nowhere several times to snuff out dangerous Dortmund goal scoring opportunities. Bayern keeper, Manuel Neuer, was crucial as well, coming out of his box several times to disrupt Dortmund attacks.
On Saturday Bayern continued their dominant streak with a 5-0 win over struggling Dusseldorf, led by two goals from Robert Lewandowski and another goal from Alphonso Davies. Dortmund bounced back from the midweek loss with a 6-1 blowout of last place Paderborn to cement their second place standing. Emre Can dominated the midfield for Dortmund and English starlet Jadon Sancho bagged a hat-trick in his return to the starting XI.
With the title decided, the drama down the stretch will shift to the competition for the final two Champions League spots (3rd and 4th place) and the battle to avoid relegation.
The Champions League is a three team race for two spots between RB Leipzig, Borussia Monchengladbach, and Bayer Leverkusen. All three got wins on the weekend keeping Gladbach and Leverkusen tied for fourth place, two points behind Leipzig.
There are three teams fighting to avoid the last two relegation spots, Josh Sargent’s Werder Bremen, Zack Steffen’s Fortuna Dusseldorf and Mainz. Bremen and Dusseldorf currently sit in the relegation spots (16th and 17th place), three points and one point behind Mainz respectively.
John Brooks stood out among the American players this week. He was outstanding in Wolfsburg’s midweek win over Bayer Leverkusen as he shut down Kai Havertz for 82 minutes before subbing off. He started and was solid in Wolfsburg’s loss over the weekend.
Gio Reyna made sub appearances against Bayern and Paderborn for Dortmund. The youngster drew a dangerous free kick against Bayern and demonstrated his deft touch in tight spaces against Paderborn. Reyna provided key passes in the build up to two of Dortmund’s late goals in the rout of Paderborn and nearly notched his first Bundesliga goal when he forced a diving fingertip save by the keeper.
Josh Sargent got the start in both of Werder Bremen’s games, going about 70 minutes in each. Sargent had one of his better recent performances on Saturday in a 1-0 win against Weston McKennie’s Schalke. Sargent served as an effective target forward helping Bremen maintain control and build scoring chances.
On the Schalke side it was more of a mixed bag for Weston McKennie. He was effective making tackles in midfield and when he was able to push the ball on the counter and break into the box. He got a goal in the midweek game with a header from a set piece.
However, McKennie generally struggled to find effective passes or movements in Schalke’s offensive build up as the club continues to lack offensive creativity. Against Bremen, McKennie’s aggression got the better of him as he picked up a yellow card for a tough tackle and was then subbed off in the 55th minute after nearly earning a second yellow and ejection. His best moment was when he picked Josh Sargent’s pocket in midfield and drove toward goal but ultimately shot wide.
Tyler Adams started right back and played the full 90 minutes in Leipzig’s midweek 2-2 draw with Hertha Berlin. Adams provided sound defensive coverage at the right back spot and passed the ball efficiently but wasn’t able to generate any dangerous scoring chances with his speed or crossing from the flank. On Monday he put in a solid 30 minute substitute appearance in his more natural central midfield position in a 4-2 Leipzig win.
Timmy Chandler had a solid week for Eintracht Frankfurt, scoring as a sub in the midweek game and generating several dangerous chances as the starting right wing back in the weekend 2-1 win over Wolfsburg.
As we embark on this 10-day project, I'll give you a few guidelines and provide one piece of "news" right from the start.
First, the news: All ten people who made our list are men. There have been some outstanding female sports professionals in our market over the last 50 years, most notably the likes of Gayle Gardner (WJZ TV to ESPN), Pam Ward (WBAL Radio to ESPN) and Amber Theoharis (WBFF TV to The NFL Network). Morgan Adsit (WBFF TV) has also been an excellent professional during her time here.
But none of them were able to crack their way into our Top 10, mostly because they simply weren't here long enough. The rankings lean largely on three things. And one is longevity. I always use this informal, mythical scenario when I'm gauging someone's popularity. If you walked through Dulaney Valley Mall and asked 100 people about so-and-so, how many would know who they are and what they do?
Longevity matters, particularly in broadcasting, where it takes years of hard work and excellence to get the viewing or listening public to trust you as one of their sources for information, sports, news, weather or otherwise.
The next bullet point in our ranking effort would be versatility. How many different avenues of sports broadcasting does (did) he immerse himself throughout the year? We would favor someone who does three or four different things over someone who "just" does a sports talk show, for example.
And last but not least, "quality" is an important element of our ranking. How long you do your job is one thing, but if you're around for 25 years and you're just not all that great at it, what's the point? This area is clearly subjective, though, and while we're going to do our best to not allow our personal feelings to leak into the rankings, it's inevitable they will, somehow. But quality definitely matters.
Now, a reminder of who you will not see here over the next 10 days. You will not see people like Chuck Thompson or Bill O'Donnell. They were sports play-by-play voices and figures, which is different than the list we're configuring. You won't see Jon Miller's name here, either. He called baseball games on the radio. He's a "broadcaster", of course, but this list isn't about the likes of Thompson, O'Donnell or Miller.
You also won't see newspaper writers here. Mike Preston of The Sun is a writer. Sure, he makes occasional appearances on talk radio in town and is well versed in the Ravens, but he makes his living as a newspaper writer, not a sportscaster. We'll do the sportswriter top 10 some other time and Preston will certainly get due consideration, I'm sure.
Now that the ground rules are covered, let's get the top 10 started.
#10 - Bruce Cunningham, WBFF TV -- It's hard to believe, but Cunningham has been in Baltimore nearly 30 years now, having first arrived in 1991 when FOX 45 went on the air. Yes, he's an original member of that station's talent line-up. That's something in and of itself.
Cunningham has been the station's sports director ever since, doing daily sportscasts and leading FOX 45's local coverage, which has been as strong as anyone's in town. Whether his folksy, almost-too-nice style is for you is a personal thing, but there's no doubt Cunningham and WBFF have embedded themselves in the local sports community with their high school and college coverage.
He also spent several years as a sports talk host on 105.7 and still does a weekend show there to this day. He's certainly not the most controversial guy in the field and won't say much to get him in hot water with any of the professional teams in town, but he knows how to go through a two hour show. Callers feel "welcomed" by him and are generally given their moment in the sun to make their opinion known. His style fits a lot of people and misses the mark with others, but Cunningham is most certainly a professional when it comes to dealing with the sports-loving public.
Bruce has also done the occasional play-by-play gig in town, most notably with the city's old CFL team in the 1990's. And he was -- not that we counted this in our ranking, because we didn't -- the longtime stadium PA announcer for the Ravens until he stepped down prior to the 2019 season.
What's your opinion of Cunningham's work and style? You can share your comments and/or vote in the poll below.
"The Keen Eye" of
I have a love-hate relationship with sports talk radio. That conundrum started in childhood—but not so much about me, since I was way too shy to call, even if I had a darn-good opinion for an 11-year-old. It had more to do with my Dad.
As noted here before, my father was a lovely man who cared about his family, his friends and his faith. He paid lots of attention to local sports, sometimes too much, but that hardly made him unusual. When it came to sports, however, he had a real weakness. He liked to call into local sports radio shows.
I call it a weakness because my Dad, who could often sound goofy at home when watching games, actually was smart when he called in. He wasn’t one of these guys who wanted to fire the coach after every loss or blame the result on a bad strike zone or propose some ridiculous trade that had no basis in reality. Usually, after my father spoke, the host would respond with something to the effect of “yeah, I see what you mean, Mark.”
Talk radio, to me, was the province of the guys who called literally every day and had nicknames and schticks, as if they were trying to become part of the entertainment instead of discussing sports. Sports talk was the domain of the angry, the uninformed, and the guys who really, really, really (that’s three) had nothing else to do besides dissect the games.
I guess what I’m trying to say is…he was actually pretty smart about the games he was watching, and he just wanted his teams to win. He didn’t need any affirmation from someone who was supposedly smarter, or at the very least more connected. I wasn’t sure what that 45 seconds talking to a guy sitting in a studio was doing for his knowledge or his psyche.
Most of the names escape me, though some don’t. My father was a big baseball guy and thus was a fan of Phil Wood, who you can still see talking about baseball on MASN, mostly the Washington Nationals. For some reason, I think he took a liking to Jeff Rimer, the WBAL Radio sports director back in the 1980s who now does television play-by-play for the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. I honestly don’t believe any of them told my father anything he didn’t already know.
Sports talk radio is ubiquitous now, of course, though the somewhat specific nature of its main demographic doesn’t lead to those stations being the highest-rated in town, even if they have good reach at all times of day. And yet…its time as a great marketplace for sports content has kind of run its course, hasn’t it?
When the format started to hit its stride, beginning around 1990 or so, the information revolution was in its infancy. If you watched the Orioles’ game on Tuesday, and maybe the postgame show for a few minutes, there was only so much content available until Wednesday night’s game. There was a need for discussion to fill the void.
Eventually, the best call-in radio was probably the immediate reaction variety. We watched the Ravens’ game and had plenty on our minds, not that what we said was going to change the result. There is certain rawness to that setting that still survives in most markets today, the idea of just getting some feelings of our proverbial chests for a few minutes.
Note: I saw and heard this first-hand a few years ago when I did a one-time gig as a spotter for the Buffalo Bills radio team during a preseason game against the Washington Redskins. After the game (ahem), the phone lines were lighting up back in the studio, mostly asking for comments from the announcers on site. Trust me…about midway through the third quarter, when the guys who had no chance to make the team hit the field, they had stopped paying attention.
In general, though, the person who calls into sports talk radio in 2020 has as much or more information as the person whom he or she is calling. Sure, maybe the host is an expert, but the caller’s had the chance to read and hear plenty of other experts, most of the time on their powerful personal computer that fits in the pocket of their pants.
I also think that the league-operated television networks—while not replacing local opinions—have gone in-depth on behind-the-scenes work in a way that couldn’t have been imagined even 20 years ago. The best place for good stuff about the Ravens is probably NFL Network, whether from the reporters typically assigned to the team or the talking heads in the studio. Their neutrality and their expertise win out, for me, over the local fandom and enthusiasm.
The “gold medal” of sports talk radio history in the United States is usually given to “Mike and the Mad Dog,” Mike Francesa and Chris Russo, who jabbered for 19 years in the afternoons on WFAN in New York City. The duo became famous enough to have their own ESPN “30-for-30” documentary, no doubt pushed through by Bill Simmons.
For the last five-or-so of those years, I worked in Princeton, N.J., and had the chance to listen to them often. I say “had the chance” because I usually turned them off quickly. I thought they were awful.
Francesa was (is) the worst kind of sports talk show host. His voice is authentic, I suppose, but it’s difficult to handle. He treats callers with disdain, though as the years go by he’s gotten less knowledgeable about sports and his callers have done the opposite. His self-importance is almost comical.
Russo, whose had his own show on satellite radio for years now, is in many ways the first person who made “embrace debate” a thing to do, well before ESPN tied its wagon to the concept. He screamed, he ranted, he yelled for argument’s sake alone. From an entertainment standpoint, he was a great foil for Francesa, who he didn’t really like. But you can only take so much of that before it starts to hurt.
There was nothing “smart” about what Francesa and Russo were doing. They had cachet, which led to big-time guests, and they had powerful wattage, which led to big-time reach. They became famous, sometime even more so than the folks whom they were interviewing. But each of them left their intelligence at the door when they entered the studio.
Francesa made his name as a great researcher for CBS Sports, and Russo knows a lot about baseball and other sports that don’t get as much attention, like tennis. They were smarter before they got together.
I haven’t listened to local sports talk radio at all since returning to Baltimore in 2008. That probably makes no sense to some of this audience, who comes here almost every day precisely because they once listened to the person who runs this website and still enjoy talking about the radio station for which he once worked.
And that’s ok, because everyone likes their sports a certain way. For me, that way has never been with a few hours of sports talk.
Royal Farms has arranged to deliver a tractor-trailer truck full of much needed food supplies to the York County Food Bank today at 11 am. This continues Royal Farms' dedication to helping those in need throughout the Mid-Atlantic.
Royal Farms has been a significant contributor to #DMD's "Frank Fund" initiative over the last two months, providing subs, sandwiches and other food items for distribution to local doctors, nurses and medical professionals at 26 area hospitals.
The truck making its way to York, PA today will be filled with various food necessities including cases of whole milk, 1% and chocolate milk, as well as orange juice, loaves of bread, sliced ham, turkey, American cheese and containers of yogurt. Also included will be boxes of granola bars, nuts, chips, breakfast cakes, and cases of bottled water.
“This coronavirus pandemic has resulted in an increased need for food within the communities that we serve. People are worried right now, and where they are going to get their next meal should not be added to their list of worries. Royal Farms will be making a similar donation to a Food Bank in every state in which we operate in order to do our part in combating this worry.” said John Kemp, president of Royal Farms.
Jennifer Brillhart, president and CEO of the York County Food Bank said “We are extremely grateful for Royal Farms’ generous donation. We would not be able to meet the increased demand for our services because of this pandemic without food industry partners like Royal Farms.”