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Sports Then and Now

Waiting For The Weekend: Break Up The Nationals!

Posted on August 14, 2009 by Dean Hybl

Waiting for the weekendWhat an interesting week in professional sports. The New York Yankees took the bats away from the Boston Red Sox, the Washington Nationals suddenly looked like a real major league team and the Philadelphia Eagles surprised the league by signing Michael Vick. Here are just a few kernels to chew on:

Break Up The Nationals! Oh, Well Never Mind
After winning a grand total of 32 games during the first four months of the season, the Washington Nationals suddenly showed a pulse with an eight-game winning streak in early August.

While five of the eight wins came over teams (Pittsburgh and Arizona) with losing records, the Nationals also posted a three-game sweep over a Florida Marlins squad that is still contending for a playoff spot.

Offensively, the Nationals have been on fire this month. After entering the month with a .264 team average and averaging 4.4 runs per game, they have hit .313 in August and scored an average of six runs per game.

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has been nearly unstoppable. He is hitting .514 with four home runs and nine RBI.

Adam Dunn, who ranks among the league leaders with 30 home runs, has also been hot this month with a .333 average, four home runs and 11 RBI.

Of course, when you are the worst team in baseball, it doesn’t take long for reality to return.

Following the eight game streak, the Nationals have lost their last three games, including a 7-0 shutout to the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday.  After scoring so many runs during their winning streak, Washington has scored only three runs in the last three games.

For a while there was a question as to whether the Nationals could get to 40 victories for the season. Now that they have reached that mark, they can set their sites at eclipsing the 59 wins they had a year ago. With 47 games left, it may be close.

It Really Is Tigers’ World
After watching Tiger Woods’ implode during his struggles at the British Open, you had to sense that things didn’t bode well for the rest of the golf world. Tiger is such a competitor that you had to believe that he would not let his sub-standard performance across the pond turn into a full-blown season collapse.

Sure enough, Tiger warmed up for the final major of the season by claiming victories in the Buick Open and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He then shot a 67 in the opening round of the PGA Championship to take the lead after 18 holes.

Certainly anything can happen over the next three days, but Tiger sure looks like a man on a mission.

Dravecky Is Still An Inspiration
Hard to believe it was 20 years ago this week (August 15, 1989) when San Francisco Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky suffered a horrible injury to his pitching arm while making a pitch against the Montreal Expos. Anyone who saw the video will never forget the image as you could clearly see his arm snap and the instant pain.

Dave Dravecky is still an inspiration to sports fans.

Dave Dravecky is still an inspiration to sports fans.

Dravecky had been a standout pitcher and All-Star for the San Diego Padres and Giants when a cancerous tumor was discovered in his left arm (his pitching arm) in 1988. The surgery had removed 50% of his left deltoid muscle and doctors didn’t think eh would ever pitch again.

However, Dravecky refused to listen and 10 months later was back on the mound at Candlestick Park. That game, on August 10, 1989, against the Cincinnati Reds was a storybook affair as he allowed only four hits in eight innings to earn the victory.

In his next start five days later, Dravecky was nearly as good. He scattered four hits through five innings. However, with the Giants leading 3-1 in the sixth inning, his 69th pitch of the game would be the last of his career.

The arm was put in a cast, but two months later he re-injured it during the victory celebration as the Giants won the NL Pennant.

This time it was discovered that the cancer had returned and after radiation and two more operations failed to eliminate it, Dravecky’s left arm and shoulder were amputated on June 18, 1991.

In their annual Where Are They Now edition, Sports Illustrated ran a nice story about Dravecky and his triumphs and struggles over the last two decades.

He and his wife Jan have done amazing work through their foundation Outreach of Hope, which provides faith-based guidance and encouragement. They have assisted an estimated 50,000 people over the last 18 years.

Dravecky is a great example of someone who refused to give in to tough times and instead has become an inspiration to millions.

Each week we look at some current and former athletes who were born during the week.

Here are some notable sports figures born during this week:
August 14 – Earvin “Magic” Johnson (1959), Ed O’Bannon (1972), Wayne Chrebet (1973)
August 15 – Gene Upshaw (1945), Bubby Brister (1962), Eric Bieniemy (1969)
August 16 – Amos Alonzo Stagg (1862), Frank Gifford (1930), Ben Coates (1969)
August 17 – Boog Powell (1941), Guillermo Vilas (1952), Jim Courier (1970)
August 18 – Roberto Clemente (1934), Rafer Johnson (1935), Greg Pruitt (1951)
August 19 – Al Oerter (1936), Jane Blalock (1945), Mary Joe Fernandez (1971)
August 20 – Don King (1931), Mark Langston (1960), Andy Benes (1967)

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