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Extraneous Sports Natterings

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Posted: Friday, June 28, 2019 3:38 pm

After seeing writer Wright Thompson on “The Dan Patrick Show” several weeks back, I ordered a copy of his book “The Cost of These Dreams.” The book is a series of 14 short stories, mostly about notable sports figures and their backgrounds, some of the written by Thompson for ESPN publications. Among the athletes featured are Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Dan Gable, and Tiger Woods. My favorite story was “Beyond the Breach,” the subject of which was New Orleans in the post-Hurricane Katrina time frame, which intertwined the lives of several residents of New Orleans into a brilliantly written 74-page essay. That section alone is worth the cost of the book… Speaking of sports writing, I did something I swore I would never do over the weekend, which was to purchase a subscription of the online sports website The Athletic. It’s surprisingly affordable at $4.99 a month, if you purchase an annual subscription. If you enjoy long-form sports journalism, The Athletic is well worth the price… As hard as this is to believe, the NFL regular season kicks off in 72 days from when this edition of ‘Nado Natterings’ hits your front lawn. This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the first game of the Chicago Bears. The NFL wisely has their opening game this year featuring the Bears and their long-time rival, the Green Bay Packers. To commemorate the Bears 100th season, the Chicago Tribune is running a series depicting the Bears 100 Best Players Ever. The series, which as of Monday was on No. 74, featured Placekicker Robbie Gould. The long-running feature is scheduled to conclude the day of the Bears vs. Packers game. Bet that No. 1 will be the late Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton with linebacker Dick Butkus and running back/kick returner Gayle Sayers either No. 2 or No. 3. Harold Edward ‘Red’ Grange (1903-1991), the original Bear star (1925, 1929-34) might sneak into the Top 5… Trivia Question, the Bears franchise is a charter member of the NFL. What was their original name? The answer follows at the end of the column… I read with interest the San Diego Union-Tribune’s 10 Most Impactful Players in Padres History over the weekend. The list in chronological order of the years they played for the Padres includes Nate Colbert, Dave Winfield, Randy Jones, Tony Gwynn, Steve Garvey, Trevor Hoffman, Ken Caminiti, Kevin Brown, Jake Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez. Several players listed are better known for their contributions to other clubs including Winfield with the Yankees, Garvey with the Dodgers, Caminiti with the Houston Astros, Brown the Dodgers, and Gonzalez, who played in San Diego for five years, actually played longer for the Dodgers, six seasons, than he did in his hometown of San Diego. Gonzalez also played for Texas, Boston and concluded his career with the New York Mets. An interesting trivia note is that Colbert is the franchise’s career home run leader with 163… Speaking of the Padres, rookie shortstop Fernando Tatis, Jr. continues to impress with his all-around play in 2019. He is currently hitting a robust .323, with 52 base hits and 32 runs scored in the 43 games he has played this season, after missing 35 games due to injury. He also has 23 RBIs, nine stolen bases and a sparkling OPS (on base percentage plus slugging) of .958, which is outstanding production for a shortstop. The downside is Tatis has followed the trend in the Major Leagues of an elevated number of strikeouts with 52, a total which matches his base hit total. When he scored from third base on a soft flyball which barely reached the outfield grass over the weekend against the Pirates, it was an incredible display of his athleticism and feel for the game. If Tatis stays healthy over the course of his career, he will leap over several of the names currently on the list of Top 10 Padres above… Look for Tatis and Javier Baez of the Cubs to be competing for the starting shortstop slots for the National League in future MLB All-Star Games… Speaking of Baez, his three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday gave the Cubs a 5-3 win and a series split with the New York Mets. The unintended consequence of which was after the game Met Manager Mickey Callaway tried to eject beat writer Tim Healey of Newsday from the dugout after Healey said as he was leaving the clubhouse, “See you tomorrow, Mickey.” For good measure, Met pitcher Jason Vargas verbally threatened Healey afterwards. The net result is both Callaway and Vargas were fined by the Mets and there is no excuse for that type of behavior. The following day, Callaway issued the world’s least sincere apology to Healy, followed in short order by another, better effort which was obviously mandated by ownership and Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon. It came out later in the day that new Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen was dictating and relaying on-field player personnel decisions to Callaway during the game. Add all of that together and it is easy to surmise that Callaway will be fired by the Mets sooner than later… Proving that balloting for the MLB All-Star game shouldn’t be in the hands of the fans, seven Cubs reached the final three vote-off at their respective positions. They are Baez, Willson Contreras, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora, Jr. Baez, Bryant, Contreras, and Rizzo deserve to make the final three, the others don’t. This year, Baez at short, Contreras at catcher and Rizzo at first, deserve to win, but as much as I like Bryant, Colorado Rockies third sacker Nolan Arenado, one of the best players in the game, got my vote at that position… On to NBA Basketball and I was glad to see former NBA greats Larry Bird and Magic Johnson honored at the NBA Awards ceremony Monday night with Lifetime Achievement Awards. When Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores faced Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans in the 1979 NCAA Championship, they played in the game that is still the highest rated college basketball broadcast in history. A lesser known fact is that Bird and Johnson combined to usher in the Modern Era NBA. Prior to their arrival, the league’s Championship Finals Series was carried by CBS on taped delay, after the local news. It was a dark time from a league-wide perspective… Other news emanating from the NBA Awards show on TNT Monday evening included the 2018-19 season’s award winners: Sixth Man of the Year Award-Lou Williams of the L.A. Clippers; Most Improved-Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors; Rookie of the Year-Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks; Jack Twyman-Maurice Stokes Teammate of the Year-Mike Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies, recently acquired by the Utah Jazz; NBA Sportsmanship Award-Conley; NBA Cares Community Assist Award-Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards; Defensive Player of the Year-Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz; NBA Executive of the Year-John Horst, Milwaukee Bucks; Coach of the Year-Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks; and NBA MVP-Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks. Since these awards are for the regular season, you wouldn’t know from those results that the Toronto Raptors defeated Milwaukee 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals and went on to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the Championship Finals, also 4-2… Trivia Answer-The Chicago Bears franchise began in 1919 as the Decatur Staleys, a company team for the A.E. Staley food starch company and based in Decatur, Illinois. The team name evolved to become the Chicago Staleys in 1921 and then the Chicago Bears in 1922. Owner-Head Coach George Halas purchased the team from Staley for $100. In 2018, “Forbes Magazine” estimated the value of the franchise at $2.9 billion.

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