Sporting news: Earl Weaver, Stan Musial, Lance Armstrong

I was a big New York Yankees fan when I was a child. But when the Bronx Bombers went into a tailspin after the 1964 World Series, and were frankly terrible for close to a decade, I had to find a secondary American League team to support. That franchise was the Baltimore Orioles with the Robinson “brothers,” Brooks and Frank, fine pitchers such as Jim Palmer, and their feisty Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver, who died this week at the age of 82. He was thrown out of more Major League Baseball games than any other manager; he could be quite entertaining.

Not that I ALWAYS rooted for the Orioles in the World Series. In 1969, I HAD to root for the New York Mets over the Orioles, and of course, the Amazin’s won. But I was cheering on the Orioles in 1970, when they beat the Cincinnati Reds, the team that had given up on Frank Robinson. I chose support the Pittsburgh Pirates, though, in 1971 – I loved Roberto Clemente – and 1979, both of which the Bucs won.

In fact, when Baltimore was up 3 games to 1 in the 1979 Series, I did something very unusual: I wagered money on a baseball game, not very much, but still. I picked Pittsburgh to win Game 5, and it did. Then I bet Pittsburgh would win Game 6, and it did. But I was not brave enough to bet that the Pirates would win Game 7, which it did, taking the Series.
***
I was watching some TV obit about Hall of Fame baseball player Stan Musial; it referred to him as a shortstop, which didn’t sound right. He played mostly in the outfield, and at first base, though he did pitch one game. I saw him play only at the end of his illustrious career, as he retired after the 1963 season. I remember when Albert Pujols, the Cardinals’ recent All-Star first baseman moved to the Angels, it was proof that he’d never be “another Stan Musial,” loyal to one team; I thought it was unfair, as these are different times, and few ballplayers stay with one team their entire careers.
***
I’m still disappointed that the Baseball Hall of Fame did not allow ANY recent players into Cooperstown this year. Punish the folks you thought, or knew, were using performance-enhancing drugs (PED), but there were plenty of “clean” players to pick from as well. Lee Smith, who was the career saves leader (it’s a pitching stat) when he retired, and still can’t get 50% of the writers’ vote, let alone the 75% needed for induction.
***
Speaking of PED, I am reminded that when Lance Armstrong was stripped last year of his seven Tour de France tournament wins, there was great criticism by many people of the anti-doping agency that concluded that Armstrong had doped. “Not our Lance!” Frankly, I’m less distressed by his cheating, and the inevitable lying that he did, but really bothered by the bullying threats to those who would dare besmirch his name, even suing accusers. It was only when he heard his son protecting his name that he had to say to the lad, “Stop defending me,” and at least some of the truth came out.
***
I really enjoy Dustbury’s accounts of Oklahoma City Thunder NBA basketball games, enough that I’ve become a fan of the team.
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As for the National Football League, the San Francisco 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons this week, which I was happy about. The Falcons collapsed the previous week against Seattle (who I was rooting for), and won only with a last-second field goal; the Falcons tanked against the 49ers, after taking a 17-0 lead. I’ve always liked San Francisco teams. My second favorite baseball team growing up was the SF Giants, which had my favorite ballplayer of all time, Willie Mays. Somehow, this affection geographically spread to the NFL 49ers.

The Baltimore Ravens beat the New England Patriots. I’m not much of a Ravens fan, but I have an even more irrational dislike of Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback, Tom Brady. After they won the Super Bowl a couple times, I found them to be insufferable.

In the Super Bowl: Go 49ers!

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6 thoughts on “Sporting news: Earl Weaver, Stan Musial, Lance Armstrong

  1. Saves are a silly stat; perhaps the rise of sabermetrics has kept Smith out, although I’m not sure if anyone has bothered to apply advanced statistics to HIS career to see what a good pitcher he was outside of the “save” category. Some writers have decided to embrace certain aspect of sabermetrics – wins, losses, saves are bad stats by which to judge a pitcher, runs are a bad way to judge an everyday player – without embracing the other stats that are more helpful. Maybe that’s keeping Smith out of the Hall? Beats me – I don’t know if Smith was a great pitcher or if he just happened to play a long time for decent teams, thereby racking up statistics.

    • Smith wasn’t a 3-out pitcher; he often pitched two, even three innings. I think the current save pitchers are lazy prima donnas and overpaid, to boot.

  2. Mariano Rivera is probably the greatest reliever, he has pitched at the highest level for so many years, even if he never pitches in another game, he deserves to be in the hall of fame.

  3. Roger: Yeah, I figured that. I was too young to really be into what “kind” of saves Smith had, but I would have guessed. It’s perfectly easy to figure out what kind of pitcher (HoF-caliber or not) Smith was, just like it’s easy to figure it out for any player, and there’s almost no reason to use saves. But if writers want to do that, it’s easy to look at the “quality” of his saves, too.

  4. I like the relief pitchers, always have. I mean, you warm up or don’t all game, you’re not called in until desperation has set in or the game in on the line… FOnd memories of Roger McDowell of the Mets, saving game after game, when I lived in NYC.

    As for the Ravens, I’m with you, Roger, I cannot STAND Bill B. Of course we were disappointed when Green Bay was defeated, but people should not get so bent out of shape. It’s a GAME, for God’s sake. As for baseball, I think they should change the rules about eligibility. Perhaps have a limited roster of players for whom one may vote that year? I don’t know. Like the Oscars.

    Finally, I am a lifelong Cubs fan, in memory of my guardian angel, Grandma Blanche Laughlin, who was once asked how she could root for a team that always loses. She said, “Being a Cubs fan, well, it builds character.” I love her attitude forever!!! Thanks, Roger. Amy

  5. I enjoy baseball, though I wouldn’t go so far as to label myself a “fan”. But if I had to choose a team as “my team”, it would be the Orioles. I was a Palmer fan, and Ripken, and I was sad to hear of Weaver’s passing the other day.

    Musial was far before my time, but I did mean to mention his passing to my husband, who is something of a Cardinals fan, as he had a cousin who pitched for them way back in the day.

    And, the whole Armstrong thing just makes me sad.

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