Rutgers opened the week as 41 point underdogs against THE Ohio State University.

41 points? Ouch! (73% of the bettors have taken Rutgers and the points, which have now plummeted to a mere 39.5 from the opening 41.)

Rutgers, the Big Ten’s perennial punching bag, actually started this season 3-0 against non-conference teams, including a 66-7 drubbing of Wagner, whatever that is. Can a football team schedule games against dead German composers? In that case, I’m impressed that Wagner scored a TD. At least he must put on a good halftime show. I wonder if they bothered playing the second half after the fat lady sang.

The Knights stayed within 17 last week against Iowa in their first conference game, but I suppose the ol’ Rutgers dream bubble is about to burst against THE.

I think Pin Stripe Alley summed it up perfectly:

He has been worth 11 wins, on a team with a 9.5 game lead in the division. Despite being pitched around for a week, he hasn’t expanded, chased, or pressed at the plate. He walked 14 times between No. 60 and 61, including five straight times in the last two games. He never shook from his approach at the plate, and when Tim Mayza left a sinker out over the plate, well, you’ve seen it by now:

It’s not just the homers that make this guy incredibly good. He’s no Dave Kingman. He’s totally disciplined, and oh, that long, smooth, beautiful swing. His adjusted OPS+ is 213. Mickey Mantle’s was 210 in his triple crown season when he batted .353 with 52 homers. That’s how good Judge has been. Judge is leading in all three triple-crown categories, plus walks and runs scored. Oh, yeah – also on-base percentage and slugging average.

Nothing against Ohtani, who has been equally good, but the Angels are far below .500 and are probably going to finish in about the same place they would have finished without him. I know its not Ohtani’s fault that he and Trout seem to be about the only capable major leaguers on the team, but that’s today’s reality. Judge, on the other hand, is absolutely the reason the Yankees won the division, as Pin Stripe Alley noted. He’s surrounded by a bunch of guys hitting below .230. The two guys hitting behind him now are a rookie who was playing for Scranton in mid-August, and an aging veteran with an OPS+ of 97, so you know Judge is not going to get anything meant to go over the plate, but he never presses. The team has already clinched, so he could just swing for a homer every time up, but he continues to play optimal baseball, working for team victories rather than his personal records. He takes his walks, and lies in wait for the pitchers’ inevitable mistakes.

Judge is one level-headed dude. He earned that record.


On the other hand, the AL pitchers of 1961 couldn’t afford to pitch too carefully around Maris. He had four great hitters behind him – three MVPs (Berra, Mantle, Howard) and Moose Showron, who hit 28 homers of his own that year. The details:

  • Maris received a grand total of zero intentional walks that year. Judge has been awarded 18.
  • Maris came to the plate 157 times with runners in scoring position, and drew only 19 walks. Judge has had about the same number of opportunities (151), but was walked 40 times (18 intentional).
  • Weirdly enough, Maris came to the plate with runners on second and third 20 times and received no intentional walks in those situations, and only one unintentional walk. (Walk rate: 5%) Judge has had only 12 such plate appearances, and three of those resulted in intentional walks, with one more unintentional free pass. (Walk rate: 33%)
  • In seven of Maris’s “second and third” appearances, there was only one out – an obvious situation to walk a guy in the process of setting the all-time home run record, since it simultaneously avoids his bat and sets up the double play. No dice. They pitched to him all seven times rather than face Mickey with the bases juiced. In contrast, Judge had six chances in that situation, and was intentionally walked three of those times. Only three? Yeah, go figure. The other three pitchers or managers were obviously daft, since Judge took two of them deep, giving him a nifty 3.500 OPS in that situation.


RELATED: Judge now has 672 plate appearances, Maris had 698 in 1961, and didn’t hit #61 until the very last game of the year, which was #163 in a 162-game schedule! (One game was rained out while tied. The stats counted since it went enough innings to be “official.”)

Miami Dolphins fans set up a makeshift strip club in the parking lot before the game.

One wag tweeted: “Disgusting! Does anyone know when the next Miami home game is?”

Hey, it’s good to root in Miami. Outdoors at Lambeau we’re lucky to set up a makeshift igloo. I once saw some guys ice fishing in their truck bed.

And that was a pre-season game in August.

Of course this is a magnificent milestone reflecting two decades of achievement. Only three other men in history have reached the 700 Club: Ruth, Aaron, Bonds.

Many people were supposed to make it. Gehrig got sick. Williams went to war twice. Mantle, Mathews and Foxx hit the bottle. A-Rod ran out of time with just four to go. Mays came close, even after losing part of his youth.

But Señor Sluggo endured.

The most interesting thing about this year has been Albert’s complete rejuvenation. In his youthful years with the Cards, he was the best hitter in the game, with a slash line of .326/.417/.612, good for a 169 OPS+. His 1.029 OPS was the sixth-highest in history, behind only Ruth, Gehrig, Williams, Bonds and Foxx. Since four of those guys were American Leaguers, that made Pujols the second-best in National League history.

Even now, he possesses the second-highest OPS in National League history, behind Bonds, but ahead of #3 Hornsby and #4 Musial,

(SIDEBAR: If you do the calculations by AWAY games, Pujols drops quite a bit, and the list goes Bonds-Hornsby-Piazza-Musial-Mays. Most people do not realize how much Piazza’s career was hurt by playing in pitchers’ parks, and therefore do not realize that he was one of the greatest hitters in the history of the NL. Based on rate stats in away games, it’s very close between Piazza and Hornsby for the best right-handed hitter in NL history. Piazza has a higher slugging average, but Hornsby makes up the difference and more in OBP. By the way, Piazza’s lifetime batting average on the road was .321 – pretty impressive when you consider that Ted Williams and Stan Musial “only” batted .328 and .326 on the road. Any time you are in the same general category as those two guys, it shows that you could swing that stick.)

During his stint in LA, Pujols was at best an average-hitting first baseman, with a .758 OPS for the decade, and even worse numbers toward the end. In his last five years in California, his OPS+ was 87, and his on-base percentage was a paltry .290, which basically made him the equivalent of a weak-hitting shortstop taking up a slot at first base or DH that would normally be occupied by a big hitter.

But something miraculous happened this year.

It didn’t start out that way. In early July he was hitting .198 with 4 homers, and it appeared that he would never get the 17 additional dingers he would need to reach 700. But the miracle happened around July 10. Somehow, out of nowhere, he fully rediscovered his youthful stroke. “After his 2-for-4 night Friday, he is batting .319/.381/.696 with 15 home runs and 38 RBIs in 48 second-half games.”

Go figure.

“I am 41 years old. I have played more than 1500 matches over 24 years. Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt, and now I must recognize when it is time to end my competitive career.”

He retires with 20 victories in the majors, and is arguably the greatest grass-court player in history. In his prime he won Wimbledon five years in a row, and eight times altogether.

He was once ranked #1 for 237 consecutive weeks, a record.

Only one man in history ever struck out 27 men in a nine-inning professional game. No major leaguer ever topped 20. Even the legendary Steve Dalkowski maxxed out at 24 in the minors. (Dalkowski once threw a 24-strikeout no-hitter … and lost the game!)

The man with the 27 was Ron Necciai. He performed that feat in a D-league game on May 13, 1952, when he was a 19-year-old rookie. It took some luck to get 27 strikeouts. Two of his opponents put the ball in play to the shortstop and another hit a routine pop-up to the catcher, but lady luck must have wanted Necciai to get that 27. In the third inning one of his opponents grounded a ball to Necciai’s shortstop, but the fielder flubbed it, so Necciai was still able to get three K’s that inning. In the ninth inning his catcher dropped an easy foul pop-up, allowing Necciai to strike the batter out instead.

But there was another problem. In the second inning the shortstop fielded a ball cleanly and threw the batter out at first, so Necciai only got two K’s that inning. So how did he reach 27? He prepared to face the last batter with only 25 K’s in his pocket, and he fanned him to chalk up number 26. The game should have ended right there, but the catcher dropped the third strike, which meant that the batter was free to try for first, and he succeeded. Necciai therefore got one more opportunity, and he capitalized on it, fanning the final batter to finish with 4 K’s in the ninth inning and 27 for the game.

Catcher Harry Dunlop always denied that he intentionally flubbed those two balls in the ninth inning (the pop-up and the dropped third strike), but the team’s first baseman told another story. Either way, the 27 is writ in stone. What many people don’t know is that Necciai struck out 24 more in his next start. Only 24? Heck, that was just business as usual for Necciai in his brief stay with class-D Bristol. He was undefeated and averaged 22.8 strikeouts per 9 innings.

The Pirates even gave him a major league shot later that year. Again, lady luck watched over Necciai. A few great games in D-ball does not ordinarily vault a player to the majors, but the 1952 Pirates were one of the worst teams in history. Their 42 wins were only two more than the famously inept 1962 Mets. The Pirates were stronger on future TV stars (Joe Garagiola and John Berardino) than they were on ballplayers. Dick Groat was a raw rookie, while Clemente and Mazeroski were still a few years in the future. Moreover, the team drew fewer than 700,000 fans. That team was so bad and so desperate to fill the seats that they had nothing to lose by giving their wonder boy a few starts to pack the seats. Necciai pulled in 17,000 fans in his debut, the Pirates’ largest crowd of the year. Necciai didn’t win that day, but he did win one game later on in the season, and he had one terrific relief outing in which he pitched three hitless innings with five K’s. Unfortunately he also lost six games and finished with an ERA above 7.00.

Thereby achieving complete parity with the rest of the Buccos’ roster.

1952 was pretty much his whole career. A stint in the army, plus various maladies and injuries, curtailed his remaining career to a few minor league games here and there over the next three years, and he never played in the majors again.

But he was never forgotten.

Baseball fans are more than a little nuts, and the game keeps meticulous records to remind those fans of unusual achievements, so the 90-year-old Necciai still receives a ton of fan mail because of one low-level game he pitched in front of a mere 1,100 people more than 70 years ago. To be honest, I think he deserves those fans. He’s a modest man who’s grateful for his tiny bit of fame. Here is the story of a decent guy who lived an ordinary life except that he pulled off an amazing achievement while still in his teens.


If you can read NY Times articles, there is a nice one about Necciai this week, written by a fan who, as an eleven year old, wrote Necciai fan letters. (Spoiler: Ever the nice guy, Necciai wrote back thoughtful letters in longhand.)

Obviously, this is not the first time penis and peanuts have been confused.

I recall one very specific example. When I was a very young boy in Rochester, NY, the main baseball rivals of our hometown Red Wings were the nearby Buffalo Bisons, who fielded a banjo-hitting outfielder named “Peanuts” Lowrey. He had been in pro ball since the 1930s, was a major league starter for many years, and was still coaching in the National League in the 1980s, but when I knew of ol’ Peanuts, he was nearly 40, hanging on in the minors, as many former big leaguers did in those days. I never got out to the ballpark when I was that age, so everything I knew about baseball came from the radio, and for years, I continued to believe that our radio announcer had been calling him “Penis” Lowrey. When I finally saw his 1954 card, I was bewildered by his having signed it “P-Nuts,” which may or may not have been some slightly off-color joke that I did not understand, and probably never will.

image host

Bill Russell heads to the highest skybox with too many rings for two hands.

He was arguably the greatest defensive player in history, and those 11 rings make his case for the best overall. Here is an amazing statistic: “In 30 elimination games at the college, pro and Olympic levels, Russell was a staggering 28-2.”

Russell faced Wilt Chamberlain in 94 NBA games and won the match-up 57-37, although Chamberlain dominated the individual stats.

We need not limit the discussion of Russell’s greatness to basketball. He was arguably the most successful athlete of all time in any of America’s four major team sports. He won 11 titles in just 13 seasons, including eight in a row. In one of the other two seasons, the Celtics had the best record in basketball by a margin of 8 games, but lost the finals when Bob Pettit put up 50 points and 19 boards in the final game.

One of Russell’s teammates, Sam Jones, shared the record of eight consecutive world championships, but when we look outside of the great Russell teams, I don’t think any athlete in the major team sports ever won more than five in a row.

Hockey’s Henri Richard matched Russell’s total of championships, with a share of 11 Stanley Cups, including five in row, in 19 full seasons in Montreal. None of his teammates shared in all 11 championships, but some of them shared the record of five in a row, including his own brother.

Baseball’s Yogi Berra won 14 American League pennants and 10 World Series in his 18 full seasons with the Yankees. His longest streak of World Series wins was five. Many of Berra’s teammates shared in the five consecutive championships, but nobody ever matched his lifetime total of ten rings.

Football’s Otto Graham won seven championships, including five in a row. (Tom Brady also has seven championships, but over a much longer span of time, and never more than two in a row.) Otto Graham topped Bill Russell by one measure of success, having made the championship game in every one of his ten seasons. Russell had to settle for 12-for-13 because his long-time rival, Wilt Chamberlain, finally beat him in the division finals in 1967, after Russell’s Celtics had dominated the match-up for many years. (Chamberlain averaged an unearthly 32 rebounds per game in that series.)

With this new controversy about the humidors, the Red Sox have been looking for a better way to treat their balls.

I think they have found it:

image host

Sydney showed some pretty good form – in more ways than one.

Given the score, they may as well have left Sydney in to pitch the whole game (see below)

That’s the most runs the Sox have ever allowed in a game, and is only two shy of the all-time modern era record for most runs scored or allowed by one team in a game. One team has scored 30 runs, three teams have scored 29. It has been a sobering week for the Boston nine. The Red Sox have been outscored 55–8 in their last three games. That minus-47 run differential across three contests is the all-time worst in the modern era.

The Blue Jays had scored 27 runs in the first six innings last night and seemed a safe bet for the MLB record, but they scored only one more in the final three stanzas. Most disappointingly, they managed only one run in the ninth, in which the Sox moundsman was a back-up infielder. The Jays also fell two short of the record for the most hits in a 9-inning game (31, last matched by the 1992 Brewers).

One old-time team did get more than 31 hits in an extra-inning game, and that was quite a story. The 1932 Cleveland Indians got 33 hits in a game – and lost 18-17! Their pitchers could not contain the mighty Jimmy Foxx, who had six hits and a walk in that game, including a double, three homers and eight RBI. Foxx also singled and scored the winning run in the top of the 18th inning, so he had a pretty decent day.

Nobody could contain Foxx that year. He finished with 58 homers, 169 RBI and a .364 average. That year his number of total bases on hits and walks was an astounding 554, the third best total in MLB history and the highest ever achieved by a non-Yankee. (The best two totals were achieved by Babe Ruth in 1921 and Lou Gehrig in 1927. Foxx almost matched Gehrig’s 556, but the Babe left them both in the distance at 602.)

It was a three-way battle between Rory McIlroy and the two Camerons, Smith and Young.

Cameron Young tied for the lead briefly with a thrilling eagle two on the 356-yard final hole, but Smith birdied the hole to take the lead back, and a probable win, contingent only on McIlroy’s score on the 18th. If Rory could have pulled off an eagle of his own, he could have forced a playoff, but he settled for par and third place.

The field battered the Royal and Ancient. Cameron Smith fired two 64s on his way to a tournament result of 20 under par. Relative to par, that matched the best score in the history of the major golf championships, and it marked the first time that any player has shot two rounds of 64 or better in a major. It wasn’t just Smith who dominated the course. Young almost matched the twin-64 achievement with a 64 and a 65 over the long weekend, and the final scoreboard was littered with scores of 66 or better. There isn’t much the club can do to fight back. The course is already more than 7,300 yards long. That distance is daunting to weekend golfers, but length alone has a minimal impact on today’s pros, who are capable of overpowering par 5s and short par 4s. As a result, the top courses keep stretching out – Kiawah Island is now close to 8,000 yards from the tips, including four par fours measuring 480 yards or longer. Not that it matters to the pros. The median driving distance for tournament pros is 296 yards, and they hit an 8-iron an average of 180 yards. So the average tournament pro uses drive/8-iron to reach 480 yards. And that’s the average pro. Bryson DeChambeau averages 322 yards off the tee, and averages 170 yards with a pitching wedge, so he has to ease up on a drive/wedge to cover 480 yards. DeChambeau’s average drive plus his average four iron equals 578 yards (he doesn’t carry a three iron), so you need to stretch a hole to nearly 600 yards before he considers pulling out a fairway wood, and if he pulls out that wood, you need almost 650 yards to keep him from reaching it in two. And that’s just when he takes his contained, controlled swing. There’s no telling how far it’ll go if he winds up and gets all of it.

I have seen this sort of modern power game just playing with my youngest son, who is only a mediocre recreational player, but is powerful and swings for the fences. He and I were playing a par five recently. I hit what is a solid drive for a guy my age, about 220 yards, then hit a 7-iron about 150 yards to lay up perfectly behind a pond protecting the green. Those two shots, basically the best shots I can possibly hit on that hole, left me a few feet behind his 380-yard drive! Today’s strong young guys with today’s equipment can just blast the ball to distances we never dreamed of.

Round 2 of The Open is complete:

  • Tiger Woods missed the cut by 9 strokes with a 78-75 and said “This might have been my last Open at St. Andrews.”
  • Phil Mickelson wasn’t much better at 72-77.
  • Defending champion Collin Morikowa came within a stroke, but also missed the cut.

Australia’s Cameron Smith shot a spectacular 64 to take the lead. Renegade superstar Dustin Johnson, probably the brightest light of the LIV tour, stayed in contention, four strokes back at 68-67.

Tiger is 46, and may not have been competitive even without the damage from his accident. 46 is getting up there for a major champion.

The oldest winner of a major was 50, a record set last year when Phil Mickelson won the 2021 PGA. The PGA is the only major that has ever been won by a player older than 46.

Jack Nicklaus won his last major at 46, when he became the oldest man to win the Masters.

The oldest winner of the U.S. Open was Hale Irwin at 45.

The oldest golfer to win the British Open in modern times was 44 (Roberto de Vincenzo in 1967), although some old white-bearded codger won it at 46 in 1867, when they used to play in tailored suits and dress shoes.

image host

That 1867 win was quite an achievement, given that 46 was a ripe old age by the standard of that era, about equivalent to 117 today. Of course, that win could possibly be attributed to the fact that only two guys played golf in 1867, and the other one was blind, and had been declared legally dead (although, to be fair, he did appeal that ruling once somebody read it to him).

Kidding aside, there really were only fourteen entrants in that tournament. The winner shot 170 for 36 holes and won a whopping seven quid. Only four of the fourteen entrants won any money at all, and the fourth place guy only raked in a single pound for his efforts.

(One pound in 1867 is roughly equivalent to the purchasing power of £124 today.)

When we talked about the sexiest women in their 60s, she slipped under our radar. I have to say she wins hands down. Here’s her Twitter feed. I think she could pass for 35.

In comparison, every other woman over 60 seems like one of those other horses trying to compete with Secretariat at Belmont, when Big Red finished 250 feet ahead of the field

Kind of interesting sidebar: Secretariat ran at a faster average speed (37.5 mph) in the longest Triple Crown race (Belmont) than in the shortest (37.4 in the Preakness). That’s one reason why he won the Belmont so easily. He simply had almost no fatigue factor, and was still pulling away in the last quarter mile.

Who is the greatest post-season hitter of the integration era? I have defined that as measured by OPS, and I set a minimum of 100 or more post-season at bats to eliminate some dudes who went like 1-for-1.

Even if I included the entire span of MLB history, this guy would still be #3, and you’ve probably heard of the two ahead of him, even if you have no interest in baseball. They are a couple of guys named Ruth and Gehrig.

The surprising answer, and the entire Top 25, appear after the jump

Continue reading “Here’s a baseball trivia question that will probably surprise you.”

“The players are being notified that they are suspended or otherwise no longer eligible to participate in PGA Tour tournament play

They are banning players who have agreed to play on an alternate circuit. The PGA has held a virtual stranglehold on pro golfers for decades, and the new LIV tour is challenging that with larger purses and no cuts (every entrant wins some money, limit 48 players per tournament). The new tour is chaired by Greg Norman and backed with a massive amount of Saudi money.

An interesting sidebar: the new tour will feature 54-hole tournaments in lieu of the traditional 72. I wonder if Norman had any input on that decision. If PGA tournaments had been 54-hole events, Greg Norman would have won six majors instead of two, and would have won the grand slam in 1986. In the real world, he won only one of the four majors (the British Open twice).

Norman was one of the top golfers of his era. He led the money-winners in three different seasons and won five Vardon Cups for having the lowest scoring average for a calendar year. But despite all of his successes, he is remembered is the guy who blew the big one again and again.

Norman’s most dramatic fold was the 1996 masters, when he entered the final round with a six-stroke lead, only to shoot an embarrassing 78, finishing five behind! That is arguably the second-biggest choke in the history of modern pro sports, behind only Bill Tilden’s epic choke at the Wimbledon semis in 1927. Tilden was ahead 6-2, 6-4, 5-1 (30-0) – and lost! Of course, Tilden didn’t do it on live camera, and didn’t do it time and again. Norman did both, to insure his image as the king choker.

  • Norman achieved the Saturday Slam in 1986 by leading all four majors after three rounds, but won only the British Open. He blew the PGA with a final round 76, and the US Open with a 75.
  • In 1984 he had waited until the fifth round to choke. He tied for the lead in the US Open, then shot a 75 in the playoff to lose by eight strokes.
  • In the 1989 British Open, he was brilliant in the fourth round, shooting a 64 to come from way behind to get into a playoff. Based on what I’ve written so far, I’m sure you can guess what happened then. He was tied for the lead until the final hole, which he never even finished when he hit two sand traps, then knocked one OB.
  • In the 1993 PGA, he missed a two-foot putt to lose a sudden-death playoff. Since he had also lost a playoff in the 1987 Masters, that gave him the playoff slam – he lost one in all four majors!

If I had been good enough to play pro sports, I feel like I could have challenged Norman as the greatest choke artist. One year my upstart co-ed softball team made it to the final round of the Dallas city championships. That’s a big deal in the kind of low-tier sports that I play. Dallas is a big-ass city with a lot of teams. We held a one-run lead with two outs and nobody on in the bottom half of the final inning. Their best player was up, but he didn’t meet it squarely and launched a soft, routine line drive right at my chest at third base for what should have been the final out. Easiest play in the world, like playing catch with your dad. I dropped it. I recovered quickly, but my throw was late on a heartbreakingly close call. Their team stayed alive and came back to win. Of course they had to score two runs after that, and those runs had nothing to do with me, but let’s face it, I single-handedly blew the city championship for a team that had recruited me while watching me play for another team the previous year!

So, as a choker myself, I really feel the pain when I watch the Normans and Buckners of the world. When I watch them, I feel like it’s me screwing up.