The Giants threw him a bash.

He’s now the oldest living player in the Hall of Fame, and many say he’s the greatest player ever to take the field. I don’t know about “ever,” but I think he’s the right choice among those who have played since WW2, and I can’t name a position player from any era who could do as many things as well.

You may not know: Willie’s home and road stats look like carbon copies.

Per 162 games 2b 3b HR R RBI Avg
Home 28 6 36 110 100 .302
Road 28 8 35 112 105 .301

Still capture of Dana Brooke’s wardrobe issue here

Carmella’s wardrobe malfunction is here

The umpire called this a HBP, which allowed the winning run to score, but he clearly made the wrong call. His error was not a judgment call, but an incorrect application of the rules.

Rule 5.05.b.2

“If the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball.”

The pitch actually and undoubtedly was in the strike zone, as shown from multiple angles. That however, is unimportant, because umpires miss ball and strike calls all the time. Those are judgment calls, and are part of the breaks of the game. What is important in this incident is that the umpire had already called it a strike before he realized it had hit the batter, so it was not an error in judgment – he called it correctly. What he did NOT do correctly was to follow the rules! I know that the rules of baseball are arcane and anfractuous, but the umps just have to learn them.

The ump did ultimately realize his error, but not until after the game. “The guy was hit by the pitch in the strike zone,” he declared to a pool reporter. “I should have called him out.”

Gonzaga only lost one this year – the wrong one.

Helluva sad way to end such a glorious season. Baylor was ahead 9-0 at the outset, and 33-14 at one point. Gonzaga was not competitive in this game, largely because Baylor totally owned the glass, with a massive 38-22 edge in rebounding, including an overwhelming 16-5 edge on the offensive boards. That means Baylor was often taking two shots and holding Gonzaga to one. That happened so regularly that the Zags only managed 49 shots in the entire game, to Baylor’s 67.

They won 54-53, using an unusual defense in the last six seconds, basically the hoops version of a goal line stand. They put three or four defenders on Arizona’s star point guard as she brought the ball up, harassing her at ever turn, but basically leaving everyone else open.

What can you say? It worked. The point guard (Aari McDonald) did somehow get off a shot, but it was a long, awkward shot that missed the mark.

In fact, the Stanford strategy against Aari McDonald worked pretty well in the entire game, as they held her to a 5-for-21 night. It was almost a perfect repeat of the previous two meetings of the teams, in which McDonald, double-and triple-teamed, shot 11-for-43. (Or, as they call 11-for-43, the full Iverson.)

It was still a great night for Arizona, despite the loss. They were not expected to take Stanford to the final seconds. Arizona was not especially competitive in their previous encounters. The first time they played it was 81-54. Arizona got closer the second time, but there was still a 14-point gap, so this final game can be considered a good night for both teams.

Just better for Stanford.

It was expected to be Connecticut versus Stanford, but Arizona upset favored UConn. This is the fourth consecutive national championship tournament in which UConn has lost in the semifinals, but overall they are the greatest team in the history of women’s hoops, with 11 championships. Arizona had never before made it to the Elite Eight, let alone the championship game.

It was so snowy in Detroit that he didn’t know the ball had left the park!

By the way, Miggy should finish the season with 3,000 hits and 500 homers. Only six players in history have done that. Nobody had ever done it until 1970, when Mays and Aaron crossed the finish line together, but it has become more commonplace in today’s slugging game.

A-Rod 3115/696
Mays 3283/660
Aaron 3771/755
Pujols 3236/662
Palmiero 3020/569
Murray 3255/504

Aaron is the only one with 3500/600, and he easily cleared that bar.

Tale of the tape: Michigan had 14 turnovers and shot only 55% from the free throw line. One of their stars, normally a good shooter, was one for ten. Despite that, Michigan still had two chances to nail the winning three, but both failed to win the cigar.

The final four will be:

Baylor (2) vs Houston (1)

UCLA (11) vs Gonzaga (1)

Oh, yeah, you can play “one of these things is not like the others” with those seeds, but as I noted yesterday, I just can’t view UCLA, the 11-time champs, as a spunky underdog. In fact, I’m kinda hoping the Zags will pull off their undefeated season.

Since Mark Few took over as coach, Gonzaga’s conference record is 306-31, with six undefeated seasons. OK, I grant you that their conference sucks, but a .908 winning percentage is absolutely unreal. Mr. Few’s Gonzaga teams have gone to the NCAA tournament in every single year of his tenure. (There was no tourney in 2020, but their conference record would have assured them an automatic spot, and their 31-2 record probably would have merited a #1 seed).

Tuesday’s summary

Second-seeded Alabama lost to #11 UCLA. Kind of a crazy game. The first half – all UCLA. The second half – all ‘Bama. The OT – all UCLA.

Sunday’s summary.

Despite some upsets, the Elite Eight doesn’t really look anomalous. It includes three first seeds, a two and a three. Furthermore, one of the weaker seeds is UCLA, which is the greatest power in the history of college hoops. They did once win this thing 10 times in 12 years, so it’s hard to think of them as a spunky upstart, even though they’ve only won once in the past 40 years, and none at all in the past 25.

In other words, I’ll be pulling for the true underdog, Oregon State. At one time this year, they were 11-11, including an embarrassing home-court loss to lowly Portland. That debacle was Portland’s only road win of the year. To add to the embarrassment, Portland never won a single game, home or away, in their own conference, the WCC. Unless you are an absolute hoops fanatic, I’ll bet you don’t even know what Portland’s sports teams are called. (The Pilots, for the record. I had to look it up.) Well, Oregon State lost to those hapless dudes earlier this year – on their own court – and yet now they’re in the Elite Eight! Ya gotta love it.


Third-seeded Kansas was utterly demolished and embarrassed by USC, 85-51.

Second-seeded Iowa was handily defeated by Oregon (95-80)

The kids from Abilene Christian had no more gas in the tank after their emotional defeat of the Longhorns on Saturday. They were pummeled by UCLA, which now finds itself in the Sweet 16 despite a mediocre 11th-seed.

Oral Roberts is the only long shot left in the South/West bracket. All of the others are seeded 7 or better, and both number 1s are alive. On the other hand, the East/Midwest bracket is filled with surprises, including a #1 left on the roadside. Surviving are two 11s and a 12.

Monday’s summary


Sunday: more upsets

Illinois became the first #1 seed to fail, as Loyola Chicago (8 seed) bested them handily. It was another great intrastate match-up won by the David against the Goliath.

West Virginia (3) fell to Syracuse (11)

Florida (7) became the second team to be upset by lowly, 15th-seeded Oral Roberts

Oklahoma State (4) wasn’t even competitive against Oregon State (12)

Two other teams with top seeds, Houston (2) and Arkansas (3), came very close to losing as well. Houston was down by 4 to Rutgers (!!) inside the two-minute mark. Arkansas only won because Texas Tech missed two routine layups in the last 37 seconds.

Summary of Sunday’s games


Virginia has had the most dramatic shifts of fate in recent years. In 2018, they suffered humiliation when they became the first #1 seed to lose a first-round match to a #16. In 2019, they basked in elation when they won the whole shebang. There was no tournament in 2020, so they entered the 2021 tournament as the defending champions. Given the up-and-down pattern that I began this paragraph with, you can guess what happened Saturday. As a #4 seed, they were upset by 13th-seeded Ohio.

Perhaps that wasn’t as severe a comeuppance as suffered by the Texas Longhorns, a #3 seed ranked in the top ten in the national polls, that lost to unheralded Abilene Christian.

Tale of the tape for the Longhorns’ coach:

What a thrill for the 5,000-student school to defeat the big dog of their own state (50,000 students) after falling behind early. Don’t underestimate Abilene. They play in a weak conference, but they destroyed their opponent in the conference championship game (79-45) after easily rolling over every other team they faced in the tourney. These kids got some game, and they have really peaked at the right time.

Saturday summary


Ohio State, second-seeded and ranked #7 in the nation, dropped a close OT game to … wait for it … 15th-seeded Oral Roberts.

The other institutions in the fine family of Roberts colleges, Anal and Genital, did not advance.

Also advancing in upsets:

  • 11-seed Syracuse won easily
  • 12-seed Oregon won easily
  • 13-seed North Texas won in OT

Friday summary

The top seeds are Gonzaga, Illinois, Michigan and Baylor. Gonzaga has no losses, Baylor only two. They were supposed to play each other on December 5th, but the game was called because of COVID problems. Gonzaga’s 26-0 record is impressive, but their last 19 wins have come against unranked opponents.

Those four #1 seeds are the four highest-ranked teams in the polls as well as in Sagarin’s computer rankings.

I love to write about the obscure underbelly of baseball, about guys like:

Bob “Hurricane” Hazle, a mediocre minor leaguer who had a miraculous dream-come-true season in the majors.


Frank Saucier, an amazingly accomplished man, and a potentially great baseball talent with a .380 lifetime minor league average, who had an embarrassing major league career, the highlight of which was that a dwarf pinch-hit for him.

I have planned other similar stories that sit as yet incomplete. I set aside tons of research to write about others like Floyd Giebell, Moonlight Graham (I assume you know who he was, thanks to Field of Dreams), and a certain Chicago schoolboy legend named Randall Poffo.

As you can see from the article below, young master Poffo was a serious and handsome lad who was once considered the best high school baseball player in the entire Chicago area. Some say he might have become a great star, except that a serious injury forced the right-handed kid to learn to throw left-handed, and therefore forced him to switch from catcher to first base or the outfield. (No catchers throw left-handed.) After the switch, his White Sox coach told him he threw like a girl. In spite of those obstacles, he managed to last four seasons in the minors.

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What made him so friggin’ interesting? Well, it was the fact that he eventually became a household name, one of the greatest all-time superstars in a very different form of athletic endeavor. He is better known to the world as The Macho Man, Randy Savage.

I actually kinda knew him because he was the main man for Slim Jims and my company (7-Eleven) was their biggest customer. I took a picture with him at the Slim Jim hospitality suite of a convention, but he never came out of character then. Later that night, I ran into him in a strip club when he was in civvies and de-machoed, and we had a great talk about baseball!

I also spent a lot of time one evening talking to The Ultimate Warrior (and his beautiful girlfriend). Mr. Warrior appeared to be a very pleasant, intelligent and laid-back man, although some fans and some of his colleagues didn’t care for him. Maybe I got to him before ‘roid rage kicked in. It was kinda weird to talk to him because he was dressed in character with the face paint and the bare bulging muscles, but he walked up to me and introduced himself as “Jim.”

Ol’ Jim has shrugged off the mortal coil now, as has Randy. Neither lived to blow out the candles on his 60th birthday.

You have to love what the Mets really said if you read between the lines:

From the author:
“Tebow played 77 games at baseball’s highest minor league level in 2019, batting .163 with four home runs.”

From the Mets:
“By reaching the Triple-A level in 2019, he far exceeded expectations when he first entered the system in 2016”

That’s right – hitting .163 with no power in triple-A is FAR better than they expected!

(I would love to see the scouting reports. What exactly were those expectations? My guess is that they said something like this: “With a bat in his hand, Tebow couldn’t hit a beachball tossed underhand. On the other hand, lots of conservative Christians will pay to see him play, and will buy plenty of beer, hot dogs, and branded merchandise. The amount of profit he will generate is greater than the amount we will pay him, so what do we have to lose? Sign the sumbitch.”)

I guess it only seems like a thousand. The real number is seven, which is amazing enough.

Only one other regular player, (Gronk) has won as many as four rings in this century, and he has done that as Brady’s teammate. The only other player to win four in the current century is a place kicker, Adam Vinatieri, and three of those were behind Tom Brady.

Brady has won more super bowls than any NFL TEAM – not just in this century, but ever! (The Steelers and Pats have won the most, six each.)

It was a surprisingly easy victory, thanks to Tampa Bay’s fine defense. KC never scored a touchdown, and Mahomes tossed two interceptions.

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Dalko actually passed away from COVID-19 last April, but I never noticed.

His feats were truly the stuff of legends. There has never been anyone like him. He was the wildest, fastest, drunkest man ever to pitch in pro baseball. Although a man of average stature (5’11, 175 pounds), and unprepossessing appearance, he is considered by most people who witnessed his pitching as having had the fastest fastball ever. Earl Weaver said, “[Dalkowski] threw a lot faster than [Nolan] Ryan.” The great Ted Williams batted against him in a spring exhibition and said, “I never saw it. Fastest ever. I never want to face him again.”

Yeah, Dalko could chuck that weird little laced-up sphere. Unfortunately he had absolutely no idea where it was going. He set records for both strikeouts and walks everywhere he went. In one 1962 extra-inning game, he struck out 27 men, walked 16 and threw 283 pitches. In 1957, Dalkowski tossed a 24-strikeout no-hitter. Sounds incredibly good, right? He lost that game by allowing 8 runs on 18 walks. Those anecdotes only scratch the surface of his legendary games.

Ron Shelton used Dalko as the model for Nuke La Loosh in his script for Bull Durham. He later reflected on Dalkowski’s life: “It’s the gift from the gods — the arm, the power. That is what haunts us. He had it all and didn’t know it. That’s why Steve Dalkowski stays in our minds. He had the equivalent of Michelangelo’s gift but could never finish a painting.”

In the last three seasons he has played an average of three games per year. That’s not me fuckin’ witcha. That is the actual stat. The only thing he accomplished in those final three seasons was to lower his lifetime average from .300 to .299 by batting a sparkling .097 in 31 at bats.

In better days, he spent his entire career with the Red Sox. He was the AL rookie of the year in 2007, and won an MVP award in 2008, when he led the league in hits, doubles and runs scored. He never had another year that good, but he came close. For example, he had the highest WAR on the 2013 World Championship team.

He retired as the all-time home run king, despite being a slim, average-sized man (6′, 175 pounds). Barry Bonds eventually bested that particular record, but Hank and Ed Mathews still hold the record for the most homers as teammates, edging out two guys you may have heard of – Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

The home run totals in Aaron’s prime years were diminished substantially by his having played in County Stadium. Although Aaron never hit 50 homers in a season, thereby denying him a special place in the baseball pantheon, he did have three separate years in Milwaukee when he hit at least 25 on the road. A road total like that normally guarantees 50 for the year, but Aaron finished with 44-45-44 those years. In his twelve years with the Braves in Milwaukee he hit 185 homers in County Stadium and 213 on the road. (I discussed the issue of home park impact on lifetime home runs totals in a lengthy article.)

(NOTE: After the Braves left Wisconsin, Aaron hit 190 at home for them in the Launching Pad and only 145 on the road, so his lifetime totals just about balanced out).

Although Hank is remembered mainly for his pursuit of Ruth’s lifetime home run record, the real Hank Aaron story is that he may have been the most consistent hitter in baseball history. He’s remembered for having a hammer, but he could also wield a scalpel. Baseball batting averages vary quite a bit from year to year because even a few hits have a significant impact. For example, Ted Williams needed only five more hits to achieve his second .400 season in 1957. Just five hits. But if you look at careers in two-year increments, a lot of the random variations, like injuries and plain old luck, tend to smooth out to give us a sharper image of true performance.

Here a snapshot of Hank Aaron’s youthful career in two-year increments.

1955-1956 .321
1957-1958 .324
1959-1960 .324
1961-1962 .325
1963-1964 .323

And that’s Hank Aaron in a nutshell. He never batted .360. He never hit 50 homers or knocked in 150 runs. But if you wanted a guy in your line-up who was just about a sure thing to hit .320 with 40 homers for a decade or more, Henry was your man.

And who wouldn’t want that guy?

Plus Hank had a lifetime post-season average of .362, could steal bases when needed, and played his position with consummate skill. He could also fill in at the other outfield positions, first base, and even second base in a pinch! All of those skills led to his having received MVP votes in 19 consecutive seasons and having been chosen as an all-star in 21 consecutive seasons.

He was inducted into the HoF with 406 votes out of a possible 415 …

those other 9 voters were total assholes.

Another great Dodger laid to rest. Although he won 324 games, as many as Nolan Ryan, he was rarely the first starter for any club (he made the All-Star team only four times in 23 seasons in MLB). He did have a great run in the early 70s, but for most of his career I guess you can argue that he was the greatest “second starter” of all time. Even in the twilight of his career, he was still a dependable guy in the rotation:

Age 39: 14-12
Age 40: 15-10
Age 41: 13-8
Age 42: 15-11

For a Hall of Fame pitcher, he had an odd run of bad luck in World Series action. He made it into the Series four times, three with LA and one with the Brewers, but those teams lost all four.

The Brewers held a 3-2 series lead in 1982 (the “Harvey’s Wallbangers” year) when Sutton got the nod to start game six of the World Series against the Cardinals. He was hammered hard in a 13-1 shellacking which allowed the Cards to tie the series and knock all the wind out of the Brewers’ sails.

The 1978 Series was even more embarrassing. After Burt Hooton and Tommy John staked the Dodgers to a 2-0 lead, Sutton dropped game three, then came back to lose the final game as well, allowing the hated Yankees to win the whole magilla.

Mac Jones’s passing line pretty much sums it up: 36 for 45, 464 yards, 5 TDs. DeVonta Smith caught three touchdowns in the first half – among 12 receptions for 215 yards. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Smith had more TDs and total yards than Ohio State’s entire offense. Smith and Jones finished #1 and #3 in the Heisman voting.

It could have been worse. Alabama had scored 52 with 13 minutes left, but chose to eat up the clock. Final score 52-24.

‘Bama averaged more than 48 points per game, about the same as last year’s LSU powerhouse.

Lasorda’s greatest moment:

He kicks some furry green ass.

“Tommy Lasorda, the fiery Hall of Fame manager who guided the Los Angeles Dodgers to two World Series titles and later became an ambassador for the sport he loved during his 71 years with the franchise, has died. He was 93.”

With Yogi and Stengel gone, Tommy was just about the last man standing from baseball’s most recent era of funny, colorful characters. Some of his best antics are listed here.

My favorite of Lasorda’s many great baseball stories (and one of the few that can be repeated in delicate company):

In a team prep meeting, Lasorda asked the great Dominican slugger Pedro Guerrero a question about strategy: “So it’s the bottom of the ninth, two outs, bases loaded, we’re trying to protect a one run lead. Pedro, you’re playing third. What are you thinking?”

“Skip,” responded Guerrero, who did not like playing third, “I pray they don’t hit the ball to me.”

“That’s all? With the game on the line, and that’s the only thing on your mind?”

“No, Skip, not the only thing. I also pray they don’t hit the ball to Steve Sax.”

Did you know … Lasorda, as a pitcher, started a game for the great 1955 Dodgers, the year the team won their only World Series in Brooklyn? Look at the starting line-up that day (May 5):

1 Jim Gilliam 2B
2 Pee Wee Reese SS
3 Duke Snider CF
4 Roy Campanella C
5 Sandy Amoros LF
6 Gil Hodges 1B
7 Jackie Robinson 3B
8 Carl Furillo RF
9 Tom Lasorda P

Reese, Snider, Campy and Robinson are in the Hall of Fame. Hodges could be, and was an 8-time all-star. Furillo was a great player, a former batting champion, and a brilliant outfielder with a rifle arm. He played 15 years in the majors, all with the Dodgers. Gilliam played in the majors for 14 years and reached base nearly 3000 times, all for the Dodgers.

Furillo batted .314 that year, with 26 homers and 95 RBI. Campy’s line was even better: .318-32-107, en route to his third MVP award. The Duke of Flatbush topped them both with .309-42-136. And Hodges chipped in with an additional 100+ RBI. That line-up was a pitcher’s nightmare. How great is a team that can boast as its 6-7-8 hitters Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson and Carl Furillo? And what a thrill it would be to say you started a game for that club!

Lasorda threw a no-hitter that day, although it would have been more impressive if he had made it past the first inning. He gave up two walks and tossed three wild pitches.

Here’s a taste:

The first two batters for the Cardinals were Wally Moon and Bill Virdon

  • Lasorda walked Wally Moon, then wild-pitched him to second.
  • Lasorda walked Bill Virdon.
  • Lasorda wild-pitched Moon to third, Virdon to second
  • Lasorda wild-pitched Moon home, Virdon to third.
  • Lasorda was sold to Kansas City

The A’s were able to get Lasorda for about thirteen dollars cash and a full ream of mimeograph paper.

Lasorda’s career with KC went about as well as that game, although the A’s got the best part of Lasorda’s career, as his ERA for them was 6.15. It had been 7.62 for the Dodgers. His lifetime record finished at 0-4, with a 6.48 ERA.

A lot of failed major leaguers with long post-playing careers have had the good sense to employ self-deprecation, portraying themselves as worse players than they actually were. Joe Garagiola and Bob Uecker come to mind immediately. Tommy is not in that group, but not because he didn’t try. It’s just that no story could make him seem worse than he really was. He may not have been the worst pitcher in major league history, but he’s certainly in the conversation.

(Although many of us would be willing to lose a limb to be able to say we had once struck out Stan Musial with a runner in scoring position, as Tommy did.)

I’ve tinkered with the timeline above to make a joke. Lasorda really was sold to KC, but it happened in the following spring. What really happened in ’55 is that Lasorda made a few more weak appearances for the Dodgers before they demoted him to Montreal. That demotion was perhaps his greatest contribution to the Dodgers in his storied 70 years with that franchise. Lasorda sucked so hard that they were willing to demote him to Montreal on June 8th in order to give his roster spot to an untested, wild-throwing Brooklyn boy. Because Lasorda was so hopeless, the Dodgers were willing to gamble on a 19-year-old hometown kid who had never pitched a single inning of professional baseball at any level.

Kid’s name was Koufax.

The two major undefeated teams will meet. That actually makes sense, for a change.

Unfortunately, the two New Year’s Day playoff games were not close enough to stay tuned. THE Ohio State University scored 35 in the first half against Clemson, although according to ESPN’s analytics, Clemson came into the Ohio State game as a very slight favorite, 50.3-49.7. Clemson’s defense wasn’t up to the task as Ohio State gained 640 yards from scrimmage. Justin Fields threw six TDs with only 28 passes, and State dominated the rushing yardage 254-44.

The same ESPN analytics gave Alabama an 81% chance of winning the other game. While it is true that Notre Dame fell behind 14-0 against the Tide and could never recover, the team stats indicate that the game was closer than indicated by the score.

The highlight of the game was this incredible demonstration of how a super-athlete can avoid a tackle. (Talk about pure athletic ability!)