Today's thoughts

Category: OLD SPORT SHORTS (Page 1 of 55)

An old guy’s perspective on all sports

Old Sport Shorts: Stuck on 59 #2219

The game I was looking most forward to seeing was against North Carolina. From this fan’s perspective, the Tarheels were always a very satisfying victory, especially when Dean Smith was at the helm. I.U. was not involved in the first Final Four that I attended in New Orleans back in 1982. I remember how polite and proper the Tarheel fans seemed in their less than intimidating powder blue outfits, while the women wore white gloves, befitting a lady of the South. It did not seem to match the fierceness of the other three teams fighting for the NCAA crown. Yet, they did it over the Georgetown Hoyas, and I was blue with envy.

“The General” paid a visit to a practice leading up to this big home game. He was particularly successful in finding ways to beat North Carolina in critical games, even with less talented personnel. I’m sure his presence in the locker room was inspirational to these young players and Coach Woodson, despite Bob Knight’s failing health. This team is built around solid defense and undoubtedly this was part of the message.

I originated “The Magic of Sixty” theory watching Coach Knight’s teams through the years. I believe that Coach Woodson is a student of his protégé’s philosophy, even if this number is meaningless to him. I’ve tried to back it with as much history and research as possible to prove the point. The most critical part of any I.U. basketball game is the stretch between scoring fifty and sixty points. Whoever gets there first or prohibits their opponent from getting there first is usually the winner.

“The Magic” proved once again to be there in this Bloomington Battle, as I poured over the statistics. At the 8:02 mark, Trey Galloway made a jumper to make it 59-47, a step away from the threshold to victory. However, the quest stalled and it wasn’t until 5:59, over two minutes later, that Galloway’s twisting layup made it 71-52. Fortunately, the Tarheels only put 5-points on the board in that important stretch of surpassing 60.

The 77-65 final was the first time in 7-games that Hoosier scoring didn’t exceed 80, but it really only took 60 points to seal the win. All the hype leading up to this battle was over. Last year’s National Champion runner-up and this year’s pre-season favorite had just lost their third consecutive game. And the most encouraging part was that it wasn’t the result of a last-second shot, a random night of sizzling shooting, or even a standout performance from an unexpected hero. It was the total dissection of a perennial powerhouse. As a result, the Hoosiers will stay in the Top 10 for the first time since 2017. The only concern is the 7-25 three-point shooting in the first two real tests of the 2022-23 season.

Trayce Jackson Davis added what has become a consistent double-double performance, with Senior sidekick Xavier Johnson nearly matching his leadership, A freshman, Jalen Hood-Schifino, and junior, Galloway showed that I.U. has once again become a National power and will be for years to come. Next up is Rutgers and the start of the BIG 10 schedule.




Retirement is not without Hassles: Normalcy #2215

After the Alaska/Hawaii adventure, we’ve finally gotten back into the retirement routine, just in time to leave again. We had dinner guests last night and afterwards watched another episode of Yellowstone. I was monitoring the I.U. soccer revenge match against Marshall, the team that stole their NCAA Championship away last year. We already have achieved eight titles, but that is never enough, as the Hoosiers once again make it into the Elite Eight. They play UNC Greensboro this Saturday for a Final Four bid. It almost makes up for a miserable performance in the Old Oaken Bucket game, another loss to Purdue. The Boilers were fueled by a potential trip to the BIG Championship game in Indianapolis, as the Western Division winner, a first for the program. Their accomplishment here was partially attributed to the schedulers that left both Ohio State and Michigan off their list of opponents this year. 

Purdue had a huge weekend of success on the basketball court as well, crowned as the PK Tourney Champions out in Portland. Decisive victories over Gonzaga and Duke moved them to #5 in the polls, overshadowing a Hoosier move into the Top 10, a lofty position they haven’t held in years. It also means that the Boilers are now the BIG favorites for conference dominance. I.U. was the preseason choice, so both schools are getting plenty of attention in the press. The Hoosiers face struggling North Carolina two days from now after the Tarheels dropped dramatically from #1 to #19 with back-to-back losses. I.U. was hoping to take down another top-rated team in Bloomington, but instead they are now the betting favorite. 

With the recent Purdue success, I’m reminded of the Joe Berry Carroll teams under George King that went to the finals of the 1979 NIT and 1980 Final Four. The big guy this year is Zach Edey at a towering 7’4.” He was named the MVP at the PK Tourney and will be a force in the BIG 10. It’s great that both P.U. and I.U. are good this year and there will be no conflict until they meet head-to-head where I always pull for the Hoosiers, my alma mater. 

There was no time to write this morning after my 5k run due to a stops at Home Depot, Wawa, and the chiropractor. We were then able to officially make it “Matinee Monday” with the movie, The Fabelman’s. Our other typical weekly kickoff tradition, “Meatless Monday” was met with a ham salad sandwich violation since we had so much left over from Thanksgiving. We will not honor either of these routines over the next few weeks in Hawaii. It will also be difficult to keep up with writing this daily blog and getting in my daily run, with all the time changes, island family activities, and overnight stopovers in Seattle. By the time we get back to Florida, we’ll once again be fighting jet lag and the challenge of getting back to what we see as retirement “normalcy.” 

Old Sport Shorts: Hoosier Tip-Off Classic #2212

The 2022 Cream & Crimson were off to a undefeated (4-0) campaign start going into the game against Little Rock. The real early season tests, however, for the Hoosiers loomed ahead, between the holidays, with #1 North Carolina coming to Bloomington for the ACC-BIG Ten Challenge, #11 Arizona meeting them in Las Vegas, and #3 Kansas hosting at Allen Fieldhouse. Any sane fan would be satisfied with one victory in those three pre-conference match-ups. Then, it was on to the BIG, with the first game at Iowa after the New Year. WOW!

Little Rock exposed our shooting problems. The Hoosiers were 1-8 from beyond the arc in the first half. Trey Galloway, Anthony Leal, and Trayce Jackson-Davis did not dress, while Malik Reneau and Race Thompson spent time in the locker room for injury treatment. Race played the second half in a headband to cover the bandage near his temple. Miller Kopp hit three straight threes after the break, Race Thompson had two athletic dunks coupled with four free-throws, and Xavier Johnson hit another two freebies at 12:09 to reach the magic sixty goal with a 15-point bulge. Little Rock responded to cut the margin to seven, but Jordan Geronimo’s three stopped their momentum and Xavier Johnson soon added another. At that point, the Hoosiers were 6-17 from deep, showing improvement for a 17-point lead. The “X-Man” with ten assists and Geronimo’s fifth block pushed the lead to 21.

It was the 5th consecutive game over eighty, but I.U. had twelve sloppy turnovers in the 87-68 victory.
As an encore, I.U. finished off the Hoosier Tip-Off Classic with its sixth consecutive 80-point-plus outpouring to start the season, topping Jackson State 90-51 in Bloomington. It was another tune-up performance in preparation for #1 North Carolina to end the month of November. With a few nagging injuries hampering our big men, Sophomore guard Tamar Bates led all scorers with 22-points including four 3-pointers. The defense held the Tigers to well under the magic number of 60, while the offense got there with 12:40 remaining on a Trayce Jackson-Davis dunk. The Hoosiers shot 57.6% from the floor, 45.5% from three-point range, and 75% from the free throw line, with ten turnovers. Bring on the Tarheels!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Staycation #2209

I was feeling excessive stiffness and soreness on this morning’s run despite my visit to the chiropractor earlier this week. This challenge never gets easier, particularly after 5,078 consecutive days and a recent 71st birthday. I did get out the morning of Hurricane Nicole for a rainy mile or so, but fortunately we were in Alaska when damaging Ian arrived. There are no excuses, including recent eye lid surgery, in order to keep “The Streak” alive. I’m still somewhere in the low 200s on the USRSA active list, far behind those that continue their incredible routines after more than fifty-years. 

We did see the movie, The Menu, on Monday and picked up our Honey Baked Ham for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving meal. We’re now expecting seven, including my son’s estranged wife and their three kids. The grandkids were also treated to pizza last night. I was glad to hear that my son got some initial compensation for his Ian damage from his employer and insurance company. It will help him fix some roof damage that we were able to fortunately avoid. Additional checks should be forthcoming, along with an appeal decision from FEMA. I’m sure the whole family was also disappointed when I announced that our trip to Spring Training in Phoenix has been cancelled. They were hoping to visit the Grand Canyon and Albuquerque on the drive there. 

I’ll, of course, try to make it up to them, as we decided to meet our Arizona friends in Las Vegas instead. Originally, I had secured a three-bedroom condo in Phoenix for a week, preceded by a side trip to Mexico, and followed by some time at their home in Marana. All of those plans were derailed, so we settled for three-days together in Vegas. I reserved a two-bedroom, two-bath condo at the Marriott Vacation Club, a property that we toured on our last visit a few years ago. Sorry, kids, but you got left out this time. 

My son likes to take his kids to a Cubs game in a new stadium every year. Last year, it was PNC Park in Pittsburgh, where we joined them all. Spring Training in Arizona was his goal this year, but it seemed silly to go cross-country for the Arizona Cactus League when the Florida Grapefruit version is just a mile away in our neighborhood. It’s just that the Cubs don’t play here, but they’re expected to have another disappointing season with a bunch of players we’re not familiar with any more. No more Haywood, Schwarber, Rizzo, Bryant, Contreras, or Baez, who have all been traded. This on top of the fact that my son’s marriage is unofficially over, the kids are split between two homes depending on the week, his home needs repair, and he really can’t afford to take a vacation. His stubborn self would claim that he needs a break from all this chaos but I think his money is better spent elsewhere and the kids need to be in school. Their lives are disrupted enough, just like the Cubs! Staycation!

Old Sport Shorts: Big Bertha #2207

A friend was over last night and I showed him my prized Sherm Lollar #10 1955 game-worn jersey. It’s in a glass case along with his worn, signature Rawling’s glove that pales in comparison to the 45” mitt worn by Baltimore Oriole’s catcher Clint Courtney in 1960 to better handler the knuckler of future Hall-of-Famer Hoyt Wilhelm. Courtney was back-up to Lollar for half the 1955 season before going to the Orioles while Wilhelm came to the White Sox in 1963, the year Lollar retired. I could find no evidence that they ever formed the same battery because Lollar only played in 35 games that final year of his career due to injury.

I also came across some interesting stats that prove how much the catcher matters to a pitching staff. A good example is that of future Hall of Famer, Yadier Molina, who while on the disabled list, St. Louis Cardinals starting pitchers had a combined 3-10 with an ERA above 5. The same is true as to why World Series Champion catcher Martin Maldonado remains in the Astros starting lineup despite a batting average of .151. Catchers should not necessarily be judged on their hitting.

Defensive skills, the ability to call a game and work with pitchers are incredibly important to a team’s success. It supports my argument as to why more catchers like Sherm Lollar, should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. His outstanding .992 fielding percentage, using the cumbersome gear of the era, supports the argument. Could a bigger glove have enhanced his chances or at least earned him more attention?

Clinton Dawson Courtney, nicknamed Scrap Iron, was an American professional baseball catcher who played in Major League Baseball for the New York Yankees, St. Louis Browns, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, Washington Senators and Kansas City Athletics. He batted left-handed and threw right-handed. His oversized glove earned him notoriety. However, eventually MLB adopted a rule that restricted the size of a “Big Bertha” mitt like Courtney’s:

Rule 1.12: “The catcher may wear a leather mitt not more than thirty-eight inches in circumference, nor more than fifteen and one-half inches from top to bottom. Such limits shall include all lacing and any leather band or facing attached to the outer edge of the mitt. The space between the thumb section and the finger section of the mitt shall not exceed six inches at the top of the mitt and four inches at the base of the thumb crotch. The web shall measure not more than seven inches across the top or more than six inches from its top to the base of the thumb crotch. The web may be either a lacing or lacing through leather tunnels, or a center piece of leather which may be an extension of the palm, connected to the mitt with lacing and constructed so that it will not exceed any of the above mentioned measurements.”

The Sherm Lollar mitt in my collection measures less than 35” in circumference and is less than 11” from top to bottom. It’s well within the guidelines of this rule and ten inches smaller than Courtney’s. Meanwhile, “Old Sarge” Wilhelm, used primarily as a reliever, only had 52 career starts. Gus Triandos handled the catching duties in 32 of those games. Courtney got the assignment only 5-times, but “Big Bertha” also played a role in relief work during their two years together with the Orioles. Hail to the catchers!

Old Sport Shorts: 2022 Tip-Off #2205

The Hurryin’ Hoosiers made their national debut in the Gavett Games at Xavier and barely escaped with a 81-79 victory. I bring the nickname “Hurryin'” out of moth balls from the Branch McCracken coaching era because I got the sense that they were playing somewhat out of control. Although they had only 11 turnovers, four were by Senior Xavier Johnson to go with his 23-points. All-American candidate Trayce Jackson-Davis led all scorers with 30, while Freshman Malik Reneau added 12 and a key deflection on the last Musketeer lay-up attempt. This was after he missed two free throws that could have iced the game. It was a great physical test that will pay dividends during the upcoming rugged BIG conference battles. 

Indiana led 78-70 with 2:25 left but Xavier rallied to within a point in the final minute. I.U put magic on their side when they reached the 60-point mark first with 10:08 remaining. A Musketeer three then tied it up 27-seconds later, one of seven from long distance. I.U. only managed 4-triples but shot an outstanding 51.7% overall from the field. Free-throw shooting was the biggest concern at only 65.4% and kept Xavier in the game. Defense was suspect, giving up 79 points. Last year’s Woodson squad beat Minnesota 84-79, but lost all six games where they allowed 80 or more points. 

It was Indiana’s first non-conference road victory in eleven seasons, dating back to North Carolina State in November of 2011. A road victory like this is a monumental step forward for this veteran Hoosier team that has amassed a pitiful14-40 record away from home in the last 5-years. Coach Mike Woodson, who replaced Archie Miller two seasons ago got his first victory over Archie’s brother, Sean, who was rehired by Xavier, where he was A-10 Coach of the Year in 2008, then spent 12-years at Arizona where he earned Pac-12 Coach of the Year three times. Hopefully, this season will be the start of Woodson’s coaching honors. Defense and 3-point shot efficiency will be the measures of success. 

I.U. football plays at Michigan State this afternoon, after being pounded by Michigan last Saturday. Let’s hope for a less embarrassing effort today. Big Red soccer meets storied St. Louis tomorrow, after being named the 13-seed in this year’s NCAA tourney. It is a record 9th straight seed selection for the 8-time national champions. St. Louis University has ten to their credit but the last was in 1973. All of IU’s titles have been since 1982. Mike Woodson’s squad also is back in action tomorrow against Miami of Ohio. Go Hoosiers!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Go Big Red #2197

My wife is still asleep while I peck away at the keyboard. The dark rain clouds are conducive for snoozing, while Tally is in no hurry to go to the dog park, knowing that it would entail putting on her rain suit again. I already had her outside for a quick one earlier, so she’s content with a lazy Thursday morning. I fought the wind and rain to get my mile in this morning. It was great with the breeze at my back but a struggle running into it. One car braved the conditions that could have been a lot worse. Hurricane Nicole stuck the east coast last night and is making her way northwest. Fortunately, we are not in the path, so I’m sure our insurance agent, also named Nicole, is relieved. I already have a call into Nicole from Ian’s recent damage, but she is already apparently so busy that she’s yet to get back with me. 

We have a busy social week coming up, including a party tomorrow night, “Meet the Neighbors” pitch-in on Saturday, Sunday brunch with recent acquaintances, “Matinee Monday,” and a Tuesday cocktail party. I’ll also have a chiropractor appointment, tooth cleaning, blood donation to make, and a much anticipated service call from the refrigerator repairman. I also planned to pick up my grandson from school this afternoon, but classes were cancelled in lieu of Nicole. I’m feeling lucky that the storm is nothing more than lots of rain and wind. I don’t thing it’s enough to bring down more trees, power lines, and roof tiles in our neighborhood.

I started watching Power of the Rings yesterday and joined my wife last evening for the season finale of Handmaid’s Tale. We then got through another episode of The Bear before I sat through the final half  of the I.U. soccer victory over highly-touted Maryland. The Terps had stolen the regular season conference title from the Hoosiers on a last minute tying goal. “Revenge was a dish served just ten days later,” as I.U. now moves on to the BIG Championship game against Rutgers on Sunday. It’s a record-tying sixth straight year that they’ve advanced to the tourney title match. Hoosier basketball action against Bethune-Cookman is on my calendar for tonight, but tomorrow’s expected football massacre against Ohio State should probably best be ignored. Nonetheless, Go Big Red!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Time Change #2194

Another Wordle streak bit the dust this morning as there were just too many letters that worked instead of the “L” in STALE. STATE, STAVE, STAKE, and STAGE were all unsuccessful, so a new streak will have to wait until tomorrow. Bu the way, I’m not worried about revealing the answer or spoiling someone else’s fun with this daily word game because it will be several days before this gets posted. I’m still at my son’s house and writing this on my phone to be copied and pasted later.

I’m still recovering from my eye surgery, and spent a lazy day yesterday watching TV. It was also a bit lonely with no one home, no dog to take care of, and a cat on my lap. When my son got off work, I ordered Taco Bell for both of us on my new app, and he picked it up on his way home. The app was solely the result of a Kyle Schwarber stolen base in game 1 of the World Series. (See Post #2186). However, it came in handy to efficiently feed both of us last night.

After a sedate 12-hours of watching my favorites like I.U. and Purdue be soundly crushed, Alabama lose in O.T, Illinois fall to the Spartans, and unwanted victories by Notre Dame and Ohio State, I turned to the World Series for more disappointment. Dusty Baker finally won a ring as a manager after falling short leading the Giants, Cubs, Reds, and Nats. Schwarber, in a losing Phillies effort, belted another homer, walked, and gunned down a runner at second “after further review.” It was getting late, but I was not the slightest bit tired.

I tossed and turned in my grandson’s bed for hours before I finally figured out what was wrong. I had inadvertently ordered a large Mountain Dew Blast instead of a caffeine-free Sierra Mist on the Taco Bell app and was seriously buzzed! I stared at the ceiling, read my book, and worried about silly things that will probably never happen. Finally, I dozed off restlessly and felt out of sorts when daylight rudely forced me out of bed. As a result, I shortened my run and exercise routine to play a losing game of Wordle. I’ll now spend another day with frustrating football and go to bed early in anticipation of another disruptive time change.

Retirement is not without Hassles: Ouch! #2193

It may be a few days before this gets posted from my home office. Currently, I’m all alone at my son’s house while my wife entertains girlfriends at ours. I drove over here after dinner last night, went to bed shortly after, and ran a 5k this morning. My son is at work and the grandkids are at their mother’s. I’m watching the You Tube replay of the final I.U. basketball exhibition game against St. Francis before Saturday football starts. My stitched eyelids are itchy but the bruising and swelling is less noticeable.

The Hoosier soccer team won their first BIG tourney match against Penn State last night and will play #1 seed Maryland next week. The Terrapins won the National Championship over I.U. a few years ago in Santa Barbara with me in the stands. They are always a tough matchup especially come tournament time. The #16 Nittany Lions were equally formidable, falling 1-0 at Bill Armstrong Stadium. I.U. will now go on the road to Maryland, after failing to hold off a late tying score in the last match of the regular season. As a result, the #8 Terps got the top tourney seed and the unranked Hoosiers fell to 4th.

Without the responsibility of taking the dog out, I doubt if I see any more daylight today. My eyes are still a bit sensitive to the sun, so I’m content with a day in front of the TV, concluding with World Series game #6, perhaps the last of the season. I’ll also do some reading of Grisham’s The Boys from Biloxi, another reminder of hurricane devastation and the battle to collect insurance reimbursement. Massive piles of debris surround my son’s home. Ouch!

Retirement is not without Hassles: Cheap Sunglasses #2191

Through swollen eyelids, I watched baseball history last night with a Houston Astros combined no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies. It was the second no-hitter in a World Series game, the first by Don Larsen of the Yankees in 1956, who was “perfect” against the Brooklyn Dodgers. That record will never be topped. Cristian Javier, Christian Vazquez, Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero, and Ryan Pressly only gave up three base-on-balls, one was to Kyle Schwarber of the Phillies, extending his post-season on-base streak to 11 straight games. 

I can remember the buzz around the Don Larsen “Perfecta,” even though I was only 5-years old. I was already into collecting baseball cards at that age and had all the Yankee greats that year. The 1956 Mickey Mantle Topps card alone is now worth thousands of dollars but somehow it got lost or thrown out. Three years later I became a White Sox fan, so those Yankee cards apparently didn’t matter any more. Don Larsen is valued at about $80 and probably went up in value with the exposure from last night’s no-hit feat. 

I spent my second straight night in a chair sitting up with ice-packs pressed against my black-and-blue eyes. It made it even tougher to watch Manager Dusty Baker pull Cristian Javier after 6 innings and nine strike outs, taking away his chance of solo heroics. Instead, he shared the honor with four other bullpen mates for a 5-0 victory, tying the series at 2 games each. 

My eyelids are now thick lips with Frankenstein-like stitches. I joke that I got a special deal on surgery by waiting until the day after Halloween. I’m also not supposed to exercise, but I did get the minimum mile in both days to extend “The Streak” to 5,058 consecutive days. It was especially difficult the day after surgery as I waited until afternoon and the pain-killers to wear off before lacing up my running shoes. This morning was easier and tomorrow I could be back to normal, hiding behind my cheap sunglasses. 

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