Saturday, July 18, 2015 Sports History

Today in
Sports History

1927 – Ty Cobb set a major league baseball record by getting his 4,000th career hit. He hit 4,191 before he retired in 1928.

Ty Cobb by farlane, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  farlane 


1964 – Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds hit the only grand slam home run of his career.

Pete Rose by tenaciousme, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  tenaciousme 

 

1996 – The Los Angeles Lakers sign free agent Shaquille O’Neal from Orlando Magic to a seven-year, $121 million contract — In 1996, this was considered the largest deal in NBA history.

10 Pictures of Shaquille O’Neal Being Aw by johndrogers, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  johndrogers 

Yakiri’s OMG Moment

My OMG Moment goes to Lebron James beating  the race horse American Pharoah for the ESPY’s  Best Championship Performance—whoever would have thought?? But wait he didn’t win this year’s 2015 NBA TITLE! (No Shade Thrown!)

MLB: Greatest Living Players

 

MLB unveils Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax and Johnny Bench named the “Greatest Living Players”

 

Divers find body of former NFL wide receiver 37 year old JaJuan Dawson

 

Sad News: Divers have recovered a body from a Dallas-area lake in the search for a former Houston Texans receiver JuJauan Dawson who fell off an inflatable tube being towed by a boat on Lavon Lake on Sunday night, prompting a search with divers.

 

Hometown Favorite Todd Frazier Wins Home Run Derby in Dramatic Fashion

Todd_Frazier_20130625


The 2015 Home Run Derby hosted at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, with its new rule changes, began the same way it ended: With a bang!

Contestants were seeded based on the amount of homeruns they hit before the All-Star break. Here is how the contestants were seeded and matched up:

(1) Albert Pujols (LAA) vs. (8) Kris Bryant (CHC)

(2) Todd Frazier (CIN) vs. (7) Prince Fielder (TEX)

(3) Josh Donaldson (TOR) vs. (6) Anthony Rizzo (CHC):

(4) Joc Pederson (LAD) vs. (5) Manny Machado (BAL)

 Rule Changes

  • Each contestant gets five minutes. Due to the potential for rain, rounds were reduced to four minutes.
  • Each contestant gets one 45-second timeout and a 60-second time extension for every homerun hit. However, due to the weather concern, players received 30 seconds of bonus time.
  • Homeruns are not cumulative from round to round
  • Contestants can only hit a pitch once the previous pitch has touched down.

Here is how the event went down:

Quarterfinals

  (3) Donaldson vs. (6) Rizzo: 9-8, Donaldson

Rookie contestant Rizzo probably felt a little nervous as he swung at everything early on. Later, he paced himself, took a timeout and hit a chunk of his homeruns after the timeout. Donaldson paced himself but hit just about everything for a homerun. He took a timeout and hit the last homerun afterwards.

(2) Frazier vs. (7) Fielder: 14-13, Frazier

2-time home run derby winner Prince Fielder crushed just about everything and ate some cotton candy while doing it. With a tall task in front of him, the hometown favorite Frazier hit 13 before the bonus time and beat Fielder’s score during the bonus time.

(4) Pederson vs. (5) Machado: 13-12, Pederson

Machado put up a good fight, but Pederson just obliterated his score in less than three minutes.

(1) Pujols vs. (8) Bryant: 10-9, Pujols

Even though Bryant put on a show and hit some majestic shots, 35-year-young Albert Pujols beat his score in the very last second of the round.

Semifinals

 (2) Frazier vs. (3) Donaldson: 10-9, Frazier

With another slow start, Frazier delivered in dramatic fashion yet again to beat Donaldson.

(1) Pujols vs. (4) Pederson: 12-11, Pederson

After the hot start in the quarterfinals, Pederson slowed down but was still able to hit double-digit homeruns. Pujols struggled early and late in the round, which costed him some crucial time. He got to 11 during the bonus time but time expired before he could get off another swing.

Finals

 (2) Frazier vs. (4) Pederson: 15-14, Frazier

Pederson, who was seeking to become the youngest home run derby winner at the age of 23, apparently had a second and third wind as he hit 14 more homeruns. With his work cut out for him yet again, Frazier felt the pressure as he had only seven homeruns with 1:40 to go (not including bonus time). But ‘The Toddfather’ would not be denied as he won the derby in bonus time.

Implications for the Future of the MLB

 The experiment with the rule changes turned out to be a success for the MLB and the derby itself. Instead of a glorified batting practice, this derby actually looked like and felt like a competition. The MLB probably used these experimental changes to the derby to just spice the event up initially, but the excitement of the event that came from it possibly could lead them to make changes to the other games that count.

For years, the biggest complaint with the MLB has always been the pacing of games. Pitchers could take an absurd amount of time between pitches and hitters could step out of the batter’s box whenever they felt like it. With the addition of the replay system, many people (players and fans alike) thought that it would slow down the game even more. Maybe the MLB could use this event as a template for creating even more rule changes to speed up the game.

Now I’m not sure how a clock would work in actual games since innings are only advanced by the outs of three batters. Maybe it would lead to more excitement but maybe it would also lead to games ending with ridiculous scores if hitters start getting hot. Also, it would probably make a perfect game or a no-hitter infinitely harder. Still, the MLB should consider this now that the once glorified batting practice may have just jumped ahead of the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest and the NFL’s Pro Bowl as the most exciting All-Star event in the nation.

Super Serena: Why Williams may be the BEST EVER

 

Serena Williams by mirsasha, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  mirsasha 


In 1999, a teenager with braids won her first Grand Slam tournament at the US Open. In 2015, that same woman won her 21st Grand Slam title at Wimbledon. She is currently the reigning champ of each and every Grand Slam tournament, an unbelievable feat that has become synonymous with her name. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am talking about Serena Williams.

Serena’s recent Wimbledon victory over Muguruza- in consecutive sets- was her 21st Grand Slam title, one shy of tying Steffi Graff for most in the modern era and three behind Margaret Court for most all-time. Judging by how she dominated at Wimbledon, as well as the French Open and Australian Open earlier this year, it is very likely that we will see Serena pass both Graff and Court over the next few years. It is almost universally accepted that Williams is the greatest female tennis player of all time. But maybe it is time we start talking about Serena Williams as one of the most dominant athletes of our generation, if not ever.

Let’s look at the stats.  

  • Turned pro in 1995.
  • Won her first major in 1999.
  • Gained #1 ranking for the first time in 2002.
  • Has won the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and US Open six times each, making her the only tennis player- male or female- to win at least six times in three of the four major tournaments.
  • The fourth major, the French Open, has named Serena its Champion three times.
  • Twice in her career she has simultaneously held the title for each major, a feat that is now called a “Serena Slam”.
  • She has won 21 majors in 16 years.
  • And an Olympic Gold medal.
  • Her total prize money- over 72.5 million- is most of any female tennis player, and fourth amongst all tennis players.

Maria Sharapova has arguably been the second best female tennis player during Serena’s career. She turned pro in 2001 and was ranked #1 in the world by 2005. Serena is 18-2 against Sharapova.

Serena has also dominated doubles; she and her sister Venus are a perfect 13-0 in Grand Slam finals and have won three Olympic Gold medals.

But what is most impressive is that Serena is playing some of her best and most impressive tennis right now. At 33. 20 years into her career. Instead of slowing down, Serena has aged like a fine wine, only getting better. Since January 1, Serena is 39-1. She has won each major in 2015, and may become only the second female tennis player ever to win all four majors in a single calendar year if she wins the US Open later this summer.

Since winning her first major in 1999, there have only been 5 years (2000, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2011) in which Serena did not win at least one major. She’s the paradigm of consistent athletic dominance at the highest level.

 

Where else have we seen this?

Not men’s tennis. Roger Federer has won 17 major titles since turning pro in 1998, but 17 is not 21. And he has never had a “Serena Slam”. Neither has Sampras nor Nadal nor Agassi.

Baseball? The only type of prolonged success seems to come from pitchers or Derek Jeter. Nolan Ryan led the MLB in strikeouts eleven times between ‘72 and ‘90. Roger Clemens won seven Cy Young awards, his first in 1986 and his last one in 2004- but that could have more to do with alleged PED usage than pure ability. And Jeter was an All-Star in fourteen of his final sixteen seasons. Consistently excellent, yes. But dominant over their competition like Serena has been? Not quite.

Football careers almost never last long enough to see players dominate a league for as long as Serena has dominated the court. Montana, Elway, Brady, and Manning have all enjoyed lengthy careers at the top. But none of these QBs have won more than four Lombardi trophies.

Since FIFA started naming a World Player of the Year in 1991, Brazil’s Ronaldo and France’s Zinedine Zidane (remember the headbutt?!) have each won the award three times, tied for most. I am almost certain Serena would have won tennis’s World Player of the Year (if there was such a thing) much more than three times already.

Michael Phelps was probably the world’s most greatest athlete from 2006 through 2012. In the swimming world, he was (and still very much is) a deity. But his superiority in the water was only unquestioned for six years tops. There is already a new crop of swimmers ruling the waters, poised to be ‘the next Phelps’. His sheer dominance certainly matches Serena’s, but it is the longevity that he lacks. Serena has been doing it for over a decade, Phelps lasted about half that time.

The closest comparisons are found on a different court. Not the tennis court, but the basketball court. If any ballers can compare to Serena, its MJ or Bill Russell. Russell won eleven rings in thirteen years. Not quite the breadth of Serena’s reign, but those numbers speak for themself. And MJ, the unquestioned GOAT who led the Bulls to two separate three-peats, deserves all the praise. But seventeen years after he was drafted, Jordan was losing to father time in a Wizards jersey. Serena hasn’t had a Wizards period.

And then there’s Tiger. Who took over golf and sat at the top, untouched by the competition, for over a decade. But his legacy will surely come with an asterisk, murmurs of infidelity, and golf clubs through car windows. It is hard to find a quicker and harder fall from the top than Tiger’s. Not many people mention Woods as one of today’s best golfers. And rightfully so.

In the world of sports, nobody wins as often as Serena does or for as long as Serena has. Nobody. The ‘greatest athlete of all time’ conversation has always been a boy’s club, and it is hard to argue that Serena’s exclusion from most of these talks has nothing to do with her gender. Or her race for that matter.  But next time you mention Jordan, Jeter, or Gretzky, don’t forget Serena. The record books sure won’t.

 

Real Recognize Real

What I learned from NBA offseason moves

Not that he’ll ever admit it, but Adam Silver is loving all the drama of the offseason.  The Finals capped an exciting playoffs and then we moved right into a draft with surprises and controversy.  And just when you thought the drama was over – BAM – free agency and a moratorium that makes no sense.  The analysts will talk the stats and back-up acquisitions to death, but here’s what we really learned….

  • DeAndre Jordan’s decision to run back to LA just days after verbally committing to the Mavs proved that he has no business being a number one or two player on any team. He has every right to change his mind, especially when the contract isn’t signed, but he handled it poorly.  Not calling Cuban was a punk move. He just wanted the Clippers to tell him he’s pretty and invite him to the prom.  And what’s with the slumber party with his teammates?
  • The Knicks are desperate. They have a superstar who will never win a championship, much less share the ball with any up-and-coming talent.  Their ownership has been suspect, at best and the Zenmaster seems a little off-center these days.  Face it, young stars don’t feel the connection to a New York basketball team that hasn’t been relevant in their lifetime.  Throw in a young International shooter who needs to grab all the NYC slices he can (not good for your shot) and this is a team looking at a 5 year rebuild.
  • Milwaukee is making it happen with a growing young team. Adding Greg Monroe, re-signing Middleton and picking up Vasquez shows this team is committed to getting better and staying young.  Health is always an issue but they could be a sleeper in the East next season.  I’m not sure how they got this kind of talent to commit to MILWAUKEE but it seems to be working.
  • Kevin Love was The Dude in Minnesota for years. He was a rebound machine, scored points and led a mediocre team by example.  After one year in Cleveland he was injured in the playoffs, rumored to be leaving and sat at the lunch table by himself while J.R., Shump, BronBron and Kyrie took selfies.  He re-signed hoping to get a ring, but he can’t defend like Thompson or bang like Mozgov.  The ring might happen, but his role will be recurring…..not co-star.
  • Speaking of the Cavs, if Irving can stay healthy they will be a force next year, again. Mo Williams will help with the PG load, but the Cavs will use some of the beef they acquired to rest LeBron and allow him to handle the ball while Kyrie rests.  If they can either find a coach or teach this one to get out of the King’s way, they have a real shot at repeating.
  • Too many teams just shuffled role players around. Memphis signed YMCA free agents who will be great in practice,  Boston is casting for the Semi-Pro sequel and Portland employed the ostrich method of wooing LMA back.  There aren’t 20 LeBron’s or Curry’s out there, but too many teams seem hell-bent on finding a hidden gem at a bargain-basement price.  This is probably the natural progression of analytics and the lack of collaboration between geeks and coaches.  I believe numbers are important but only when used with informed change.  McHale and  Daryl Morey have made it work in Houston.
  • The Lakers have officially gone off the rails in LA. Apologists will blame taxes, distractions and even the internet age for the lack of free agent appeal, but it’s obvious that Jim Buss lacks the expertise to successfully run the team and the humility to hire or allow someone else to fill that role.  This fool tried to woo LMA with marketing opportunities and lifestyle options.  Jeannie has said he has three years to turn the team around.  I say that’s too long of a leash.  They are going to be further from success than the Knicks if they don’t make a change.
  • The Hawks and Spurs made the most logical and immediately impactful moves. Atlanta used their draft picks to ultimately get Hardaway, Jr. from the Knicks, who could turn in to a slasher.  They also picked up Splitter from San Antonio, filling the need for a true center so Horford and Milsap can play a 3-4 rotation.  The Spurs, on the other hand, signed the top free agent of the off season in LaMarcus Aldrige.  He will be a difference-maker on a team that needs youth, not stardom.  And in keeping with the geriatric theme of San Antonio, they were able to bring in David West for a little leadership and depth.

Who knows how these moves will pan out this time next year?  One thing is for sure…….

…..Mark Cuban will make sure Dallas never lets DeAndre Jordan get a pass when he comes to town.