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Sports Then and Now


Waiting for the Weekend: Old Fuddy Duddy Watching the NBA Draft

Posted on June 23, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Markelle Fultz was selected with the first pick in the 2017 NBA Draft after playing only 25 games at the college level.

Markelle Fultz was selected with the first pick in the 2017 NBA Draft after playing only 25 games at the college level.

I have decided in this column to serve as the old “fuddy duddy”, which is defined as being old fashioned and fussy.

Last night was the NBA Draft and I must admit, my 11-year-old son had a much better grasp of the players being selected than I did. Not only because he is significantly closer in age to them, but also because in today’s electronic world, he is much more familiar with their exploits than I am. Though most of the top players played roughly 30 games at the college level, if you are interested and tech savvy, you can find all their highlights on YouTube.

Sorry to sound dated and bitter, but I fondly remember a day when players being drafted into the NBA were familiar to fans not because of a YouTube video, but because we had watched them play through usually three or four years of college. Even in a time when cable television was not yet prominent and not every game was available to watch, we still had ample chances to enjoy the top players for quite a while before they moved to the NBA.

When Michael Jordan entered the NBA in 1984 he had played 101 games as a college player, not to mention being on the 1984 Olympic team. While I don’t recall there necessarily being discussion then that he was going to be the greatest player of all-time (such labels weren’t really all that important in a time before sports talk shows), there was no question that he was a great player and would be a successful pro.

You can say similar things about all the other top draft picks from the 1970s and 1980s. In most cases, they were familiar to fans across the country because they had been showcased in college for multiple years.

Now not every great college player in the past panned out in the NBA. As is the case today, there were many players in past generations who were great college players, but just didn’t translate to the NBA. But even in those cases, you had four years to watch them play at college and the number of top picks who didn’t have at least some semblance of an NBA career was pretty minimal. Read the rest of this entry →

Goaltender Tips From Pro Stock Hockey

Posted on June 21, 2017 by Adam Rosenbaum

shutterstock_376358287 (1)Being a goaltender is a difficult task. You are who people will be pointing to when the game gets out of hand, but also when the game is saved. Pro Stock Hockey outlined some important tips featured in their goalie e-book. Here’s just some of what you’ll find in this e-book:

Wraparounds

Timing

The most difficult part of facing a wrap around is timing. Timing of when to drop down to the ice, timing the arrival to the post when tracking the puck below the goal line, timing of when to cut off passes or be more aggressive with the stick, etc. Timing is not only relative to what is going on with the puck below the goal line, but it is also directly linked to what is occurring above the goal line. Therefore, there’s a lot to consider for goaltenders. But how does timing affect our overall ability to stop and control the flow of the game?

Control

Ensuring that goalies are capable of controlling the flow of the game is essential so that they are keeping up with the speed of the puck even when it’s below the goal line. Neutralizing passing zones which cause goaltenders to move cross-crease help in this area so that they are limiting the amount of movement and lower the risk of falling behind in their positioning. Read the rest of this entry →

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Flash and Burn – Rookie of the Year Doesn’t Guarantee Long-term Greatness

Posted on June 18, 2017 by Dean Hybl

 

Mark "The Bird" Fidrych was a baseball phenomenon in 1976.

Mark “The Bird” Fidrych was a baseball phenomenon in 1976.

The recent Major League Baseball Draft has brought a new crop of prospects vying to one day secure major league stardom. It is likely that a significant number of players selected in the draft will reach the majors, but even if they achieve short-term success, forging a long and successful career is much harder.

Many players who burst onto the scene as rookies have struggled to maintain that success over the long-term. Below is a look at some former Rookie of the Year winners whose careers soon flamed out.

Earl Williams – 1971 NL Rookie of the Year: At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Earl Williams was a powerfully built versatile player who was primarily a third baseman when he came up with the Atlanta Braves late in the 1970 season. After hitting .368 in 10 games in 1970, Williams earned a starting position for 1971. He began the season at third base, but despite having never played catcher in the minors was soon planted behind the plate and caught 71 games out of the 145 he played as a rookie, On a team with all-time slugger Hank Aaron, Williams proved to be another valuable weapon as he finished second on the squad with 33 home runs and 87 RBI while hitting .260. Playing primarily behind the plate the next season, Williams again had strong offensive numbers with 28 home runs and 87 RBI. However, after striking out only 80 times as a rookie, he whiffed 118 times in 1972. The Braves traded him to Baltimore in the offseason for second baseman Davey Johnson and several other players. He gave Baltimore much needed offensive pop in 1973 with 22 home runs and 83 RBI. His power numbers started to decline in 1974 as he hit only 14 home runs with 52 RBI. He was traded back to Atlanta after the season and spent a year and a half with the Braves before finishing the 1976 season in Montreal. After being released by the Expos, he hit 13 home runs with 38 RBI for the Oakland A’s in 1977. That proved to be the end of the line for Williams, who finished his career with 138 home runs, 457 RBI and a career batting average of .247. He passed away from Leukemia in 2013.

Mark “The Bird” Fidrych – 1976 AL Rookie of the Year: Few players have enjoyed the meteoric rise or quick fall of Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. Earning a spot on the Detroit Tigers roster as a rookie in 1976, Fidrych made only two relief appearances during the first month of the season. However, in his first major league start on May 15th, he allowed the Indians only two hits and one run in a 2-1 complete game victory and the legend of “The Bird” had begun. With his curly hair and lanky body, Fidrych quickly was dubbed “The Bird” in reference to Sesame Street character Big Bird. He also entertained the crowd with his many mannerisms, including grooming the mound and talking to the baseball. Though he lost a 2-0 decision to Boston in his next start, Fidrych rebounded to win his next eight starts, with seven complete games, including back-to-back 11 inning performances. He took his act national on June 28th when more than 32 million people watched on ABC’s Monday Night Baseball as he defeated the New York Yankees 5-1. After losing a 1-0 decision to Kansas City on July 9th, Fidrych entered the All-Star game with a 9-2 record and 1.78 ERA and was named the American League starter for the All-Star Game. For the season, Fidrych completed 24 of 29 starts (five of which went extra innings) and had a 19-9 record and 2.34 ERA in 250 innings. He won the Rookie of the Year Award and finished second in the Cy Young voting. Fidrych suffered a knee injury while fooling around in the outfield in spring training before the 1977 season. However, he appeared fine after his return as he posted a 6-4 record with a 2.89 ERA, but suffered a shoulder injury (later diagnosed as a torn rotator cuff) that proved to be the beginning of the end of his career. He would make only 19 starts for the Tigers over the next three seasons with a 4-6 record. The Massachusetts native tried to make a comeback with the Boston Red Sox, but eventually retired after pitching for the Pawtucket Red Sox. Fidrych died on April 13, 2009 after an accident on his farm.   Read the rest of this entry →

Critical Climbing: Safety Equipment You Shouldn’t Skip

Posted on June 18, 2017 by Eileen O'Shanassy

Critical Climbing Safety Equipment You Shouldn't SkipRock climbing is one of those activities that’s all at once athletic, complex, and exhilarating. It’s not the type of sport that should be approached lightly. There is always danger associated with each adventure, but you can alleviate those concerns with the proper equipment. Explore some of the safety equipment you shouldn’t skip the next time you’re ready to climb a mile.

Harnesses

One of the most recognized and important pieces of climbing equipment is the harness. These specialized loops wrap around your legs and waist so your center of gravity is supported. Ropes connect through the harness, which gives you support on any climbing surface. Ideally, you want to pick a harness that feels comfortable around your hips. Every brand has a slightly different shape to their product. Find that perfect one for your body and wear it during each adventure.

Chalk

Accidents happen in an instant. Without the proper gear, falls from great heights, serious injuries on rock surfaces, and broken bones can be the result. A simple yet effective way to stay adhered to any rock surface is by adding chalk to your hands. Chalk soaks up sweat while allowing you to grab perfectly onto any crevices. Keep extra chalk in a small bag tied around your waist. Use ample amounts as you go. This inexpensive item can save a life. Read the rest of this entry →

Waiting for the Weekend: Inconsistency of Justice

Posted on June 16, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Thee NCAA punishment for Rick Pitino and Louisville is the latest inconsistency in justice from the NCAA.

Thee NCAA punishment for Rick Pitino and Louisville is the latest inconsistency in justice from the NCAA.

The Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS) was created in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt primarily to oversee and make safer intercollegiate football as well as to oversee eligibility in intercollegiate sports. The name of the organization was changed in 1910 to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Over the last 111 years, this organization has grown to become one of the most hypocritical behemoths within the United States. Though considered a non-profit, the NCAA generates billions of dollars in revenue annually while their primary labor force receives no direct compensation from the association. To make it even worse, those “student-athletes” are penalized by the organization if they dare to attempt to receive anything other than a college scholarship and minimal gifts and awards for participating in tournaments or championship competition.

I could spend thousands of words illustrating examples of the hypocrisy and exploitative nature of the organization, especially when it comes to student-athletes. But, I do not intend to make that the subject of this column.

Instead, I want to briefly explore the announcement this week of penalties against the Louisville Cardinals men’s basketball program and head coach Rick Pitino.

The NCAA is investigating what ineligible players may have appeared in games for the Cardinals from 2010-2014 as part of an alleged sex-for-pay scandal involving a Louisville assistant coach and basketball recruits. If any players were deemed to have performed while they should have been ineligible, then Louisville could be forced to vacate victories, including their 2013 NCAA Championship.

Though he has not been directly implicated, head coach Rick Pitino was suspended by the NCAA for five ACC games next season.

Now, don’t get me wrong, if a Louisville coach was involved in paying women to have sexual relations with basketball recruits, that is morally abysmal and just another example of how some in college athletics have crossed the line. However, much like the Penn State scandal of a few years ago where the university and football administration were without question guilty of failing to meet simple ethical standards, they weren’t necessarily guilty of anything that specifically provided the team with an on-the-field advantage by providing a special benefit or keeping a player eligible.

That lies in very deep contrast to the University of North Carolina, whose men’s basketball team won the NCAA Championship just two months ago. The University and many athletic teams, including the men’s basketball program, have been under the cloud of an academic scandal in which the credibility of an entire department at the college was fabricated for many years, in part to help ensure that student-athletes could remain eligible.

Yet, not only was UNC allowed to participate in the last two national championship games, their head coach, Roy Williams, is regularly lauded by the NCAA and coaches association for his “ethical” behavior.

There is an old saying that the NCAA is so upset with the actions at UNC that they put UNC-Wilmington on probation for ten years. In this case, it almost seems that the NCAA is working with the University to try and make the entire issue go away. It is a stark contrast to how the NCAA handles much less significant scandals at other institutions. Read the rest of this entry →

U.S. Open – Catching Lightning in a Bottle (Twice)

Posted on June 15, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Andy North won only three PGA Tour events, but two of them were U.S. Open Championships.

Andy North won only three PGA Tour events, but two of them were U.S. Open Championships.

If you need any other illustration of how crazy the world of sports can be, all you need to look at is the history of the U.S. Open golf tournament. It is a tournament where two of the greatest champions of all-time, Phil Mickelson and Sam Snead, have a combined total of 10 runner-up finishes without never hoisting the tournament trophy, while there are 5 players over the last 50 years who have won the U.S. Open multiple times without winning any of the other three major titles.

Here is a look at the careers of those five champions who “got lucky” multiple times:

Hale Irwin – 1974, 1979, 1990 – Of the players whose only grand slam championships are at the U.S. Open, Irwin was the most successful in the other tournaments. He had at least one top five finish in each of the other three major championships, including a tie for second place at the British Open in 1983, and a total of 10 top 5 finishes and 20 top 10 finishes in majors. After winning his first U.S. Open in 1974, Irwin finished in the top 10 in each of the four majors in 1975. However, it would not be until 1979 when he claimed his second U.S. Open at the Iverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. Between 1980 and 1984, Irwin had four top 8 finishes at majors. However, he finished no higher than 14th in a major for the remainder of the decade. So, it was quite a surprise when at the age of 45, he defeated Mike Donald in a playoff to become the oldest U.S. Open Champion. His final run at a major title was in 1993 when he finished tied for 6th at the PGA Championship at the age of 48.

Andy North – 1978, 1985 – Anyone who watches golf analysis on ESPN is familiar with Andy North. He has been part of their golf coverage for more than two decades. North played college golf at the University of Florida before turning pro in 1972. In 1975 he registered his first top 5 finish at a major with a fourth place showing at the PGA Championship. In 1977 he won his first PGA Tour title capturing the American Express Westchester Classic. The following year he claimed the U.S. Open title by a single stroke over J.C. Snead and Dave Stockton. Though he finished in the top 10 at the U.S. Open in 1980 and 1983, he had very little success in other major tournaments prior to the 1985 U.S. Open. He overcame a four-shot deficit during the final round to win the tournament by a single stroke and claim his second U.S. Open title. He made only a handful of cuts at major championships over the remainder of his career. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Paul Blair: Defensive Whiz
      May 30, 2017 | 9:21 pm

      Blair-OriolesMore than 40 years before current stalwart Adam Jones first patrolled centerfield for the Baltimore Orioles, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month roamed the field with grace while also providing the Orioles with timely hitting for more than a decade.

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