The PosCast Episode 6 — Superheroes

Michael and Joe create a new segment specially designed to shorten the PosCast, and then incoherently draft superheroes for way too long. Topics covered include the incompetence of Dan Snyder, the uselessness of Aquaman, the lack of restraint of the Superman creators and what kind of sports fan Dr. Manhattan would be.

Check out this episode!

No. 46: Sandy Koufax

I was working on a completely different essay about Koufax. But in light of events in Overland Park, where I used to live, I expanded on something I wrote about Sandy Koufax on October 13, 2005 in the Kansas City Star — forty years after the Yom Kippur game.

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A rabbi was speeding through Arkansas in the 1960s. Doesn’t that sound like the beginning of a joke? Micah Greenstein was the rabbi and he was trying to get back home for services; it was the day before Yom Kippur. Rabbi Greenstein was pulled over in West Memphis.

“What’s the hurry?” the police office said.

“i’m a rabbi on my way to …”

“What’s a rabbi?” the officer said, not gently. Rabbi Greenstein was beginning to worry that this was going to become very complicated.

“Well,” he said, “a rabbi is a little bit like a priest for Jewish people.”

“Yeah? Well, we don’t know much about that here.” The officer began to walk back to his car to call back to the office and start writing tickets and …

“Please,” Rabbi Greenstein pleaded. “I am trying to get to my congregation before Yom Kippur.”

And, with that the police officer just stopped. He walked back to the car.

“Yom Kippur?” he asked. “You mean the day Sandy Koufax wouldn’t pitch in the World Series?”

“Yes!” Rabbi Greenstein shouted. “That’s the day!”

“Well,” the officer said, “that’s an important day.” And he let the rabbi go.
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Homerless Streaks

OK, you know I love stuff like this — the Kansas City Royals (as of 1:41 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday) have not hit a home run all season. That’s seven games, that’s pretty rare stuff. The last team to start a season without a home run in its first seven games was the 1990 New York Yankees — that was the worst Yankees teams of the last 100 years. The Yankees streak was finally broken when Mel Hall — yeah, Mel Hall — homered off a 500-year-old Nolan Ryan in the second inning of Game 8.

Well, if the Royals can stretch their streak to eight games against Tampa Bay today, they will enter some very cherished company — only seven teams since 1950 have started the season with eight straight homerless games.

But what I found interesting and kind of shocking is that, on the whole, the seven teams weren’t too bad. In fact, a couple of them were REALLY good teams.
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It’s not THAT good to be the king

Henry Aaron is NOT The Home Run King. This sounds like I’m going to follow up with some rant about Barry Bonds breaking his record and how terrible that was … but I’m not. My thought here has nothing to do with that. Henry Aaron is not the Home Run King because that silly title would do nothing but diminish his greatness.

Pete Rose IS The Hit King. That title fits him, and it fits his career which was a relentless pursuit of hits. That’s really what it comes down to. Rose loved playing baseball, but hits were his business just as sausages were Abe Froman’s business and burgers are that king’s business and horror novels are Stephen King’s business. Rose needed to keep score, that was his great strength and tragic flaw, and his ambition was to be The Hit King. Other things did not play out as he had hoped. But he got his 4,256 hits and he had his coronation.

Henry Aaron was not a great home run hitter. To call him that diminishes him. Frank Howard was a great home run hitter. Harmon Killebrew was a great home run hitter. Reggie Jackson and Ralph Kiner were great home run hitters. Henry Aaron was a great HITTER — any qualifier put before that word cheapens his genius. Henry Aaron’s singular achievement is that he was great EVERY SINGLE YEAR from 1955 to 1973. That’s 19 consecutive seasons without anything resembling a down season. There really isn’t a record quite like it in baseball history.
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Value to the labor

There was an utterly fascinating quote in Dan Wetzel’s column Monday from Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. The quote revolves around the question of paying college athletes. It seems that Bowlsby was a college wrestler and so — and I respect this generally — he finds some of his strongest sympathies are with student-athletes of what we like to call minor-sports. His starts by saying that as a wrestler he worked as hard as any football player. In fact, he probably worked HARDER than any football player. I’m sure he did. Wrestlers do work very hard.

And then he said this:

“The fact is we have student-athletes in all sorts of sports that, if you apply any form of value to their labor, you cannot pay football players and not pay gymnasts just because the football player has the blessing of an adoring public.”

This really is an astonishing quote … and probably not for the reason Bowlsby intended. The challenges facing college sports in 2014 are extraordinarily complicated and very few people seem willing to look at those challenges with a clear eye and without some oversimplified solution or platitude. That said, this quote — and the bizarre naiveté behind it — show what might be the toughest problem of all: There are people who think the way college sports are run today is “fair.”
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Catfish, Kitty and the power of timing

Just a thought that came across while working on No. 46 on my all-time baseball list — you might be able to figure out who he is reading this one. Or not, I don’t know.

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So, I started thinking a little bit about baseball and history and how timing sways and guides what we see. The players judged to be the best in baseball history, for instance, are the ones who dominate their particular time and space. I guess that’s obvious. Ty Cobb played in a time when hitting for the best average was how you defined great hitting, and he hit for the best average. Ruth played in (and in many ways created) a time when power was the defining quality of greatness. Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax dominated an era of high mounds and low scoring. Mariano Rivera dominated an era when the one-inning reliever was treasured and exalted.

Thing is: Sometimes there are illusions of timing.
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The Annual ‘Royals Will Win’ Column

I have a friend who, when trying to relax or when stressed about things, will run over Los Angeles Rams scores in his mind. I tend to do the same thing with Kansas City Royals blunders. It comforts me. Whenever I think of Desi Relaford just falling off of first base, as if he had been tipped by drunk college kids, or Ken Harvey getting hit in the back by an outfield throw or the team batting out of order with the first batter of the game (yes, that happened) — I feel better about these Royals.

They have started the most pivotal baseball season in Kansas City in more than 20 years. I really do fear that they might not be up to it.

But, hey, you know, there was this one time the Royals started a non-prospect from Class AA in Yankee Stadium because, well, I still don’t know exactly why they did that.

And I am comforted — because at least they’re not going back to that.
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The Home Run Summer of ’54

Here’s an Opening Day baseball story from 60 years ago. You may have already heard it — people have written about it through the years — but it’s also possible you have not. In any case, I’ll write it like it’s brand new. Because … Opening Day.

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There was a little story I kept bumping into from in my journey back to the summer of 1954. It was about a man named Neil Haney. It seems that one day back in ’53, while playing on a municipal golf course in Marysville, Michigan, he hit his tee shot on the par-3 seventh hole within a half-inch of the cup. After groaning about his near miss, he watched his partner hit a shot on precisely the same line. “That looks really good!” Haney yelled or something of the sort. The partner’s ball landed on the green, rolled toward the cup, hit Neal Haney’s ball and knocked it into the cup, giving him a hole-in-one — the first hole-in-one ever scored on that hole.

This was obviously quite fun but not earth shattering. Stuff like that happens somewhere every day, right? Thing is, the next day Neil Haney was playing the golf course with a different friend. As he told the story, the friend said something to the effect of, “Yeah, whatever, let’s see you make a real hole-in-one.”
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Links! Links! Links!

I keep forgetting to put my NBC links here. Here are a few from last few days.

1. The logic (or “logic”) of the Miggy contract

2. A few thoughts about the New York Yankees

3, RIP Ralph Wilson

4. Stephen Curry and the joy of doubt

5. Man, the 76ers are bad. Really bad. Add their 120-98 loss to Houston Thursday to this one.

We’ll pick up the Top 100 shortly — though I’m working on yet another rabbit hole baseball story first. And the Bruce Springsteen Song Hall of Fame will be unveiled shortly too.

At WAR with Pedro

Somebody asked me this question on Twitter: If I could have any pitcher from any time pitch one game (say a seventh game of the World Series or the ubiquitous “pitching for your soul” scenario”) who would I choose?

I immediately typed: Pedro. 1999.

This is always my fallback position. Back in the Trivial Pursuit days, my mother would guess “Babe Ruth” on pretty much every sports question. She has actually become much more knowledgeable about sports, in part because of this mess of a blog, but back then it was always “Babe Ruth,” even on, you know, billiards or horse racing questions.

And that’s how I am with Pedro Martinez’s 1999 season. Any baseball pitching question can be answered, somehow, by: Pedro, 1999. I would actually like to answer ALL questions that way. When I go fill up gas, and the little pump screen asks: “Cash or Credit” I’d love to be able to type in: Pedro, 1999.
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