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Extraneous Sports Natterings

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Posted: Thursday, August 1, 2019 3:35 pm

It was mentioned a couple of weeks ago in this column that the Chicago Tribune sports department is writing a series on the 100 Greatest Chicago Bear Players, to coincide with the beginning of the NFL Season, and the Bears 100th season. The NFL’s regular season opening game will feature the Bears and the Green Bay Packers. The series on the former Bear greats is quite well done and will likely be published in a hardback book by the Chicago Tribune, which has already produced coffee-table sized books for the Cubs and White Sox. The individual features run about 1,200 words each and are all accompanied by at least one photo, usually an action shot, of the player. Since the Bears can trace their history back 100 years, some of the Bear greats listed go back to the 1920’s. I suspect great Harold Edward ‘Red’ Grange, whose nicknames included the ‘Wheaton Iceman’ and ‘The Galloping Ghost,’ will be among the Top Five players on the list. As an aside, my Grandparents Joseph and Florence Axelson met and graduated from Wheaton University, and Grange delivered blocks of ice to their neighborhood for use in old-time iceboxes. That would qualify as a little-known fact about a lesser-known subject. If you’re a Bear fan, it’s fun to read the countdown as it progresses… Speaking of the NFL, the drumbeat from Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL’s 32 owners continues as they seek to increase the regular season from 16 to 18 games, while reducing the number of exhibition games from four to two. Since most of the stars in the current NFL only play a total of about one half (30 minutes) of the four pre-season games at this point, this is going to be a tough sell to the league’s rank-and-file membership. At some point the NFL is going to over-saturate the television market, although they haven’t reached that level yet. As we also noted recently, the Top 10 most-watched television shows in the first half of 2019 include the Super Bowl at No. 1 and the next nine are all NFL Playoff Games. Player safety should be the over-arching concern for the NFL Players Association, as it should be for the NFL Owners as well. But the drive for more profits seems to the priority for owners, a fact not lost on the players. Money will ultimately decide how many games are played each season, as the issue is a collective bargaining chip the players currently hold. NFL players want guaranteed contracts like their brethren in Baseball and Basketball have, and that may be the quid-pro-quo in a nutshell when the current collective bargaining agreement is up for renewal after the conclusion of the 2020 NFL season… One thing to keep in mind if you still follow the Chargers, is that the holdout currently being staged by Melvin Gordon is being met with a big collective yawn by the national media. Gordon is a very good player, but other major NFL holdouts on the offensive side of the ball, including running back Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas, and wide receiver Michael Thomas in New Orleans, are both more important to their teams and higher profile names than Gordon. Remember, player agents only earn a commission on new money created, in other words the increase in the salaries these players will earn over their old deal. Hopefully Gordon doesn’t try to over-play his weak negotiating hand… Another sign the NFL is changing is found in a story from Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune who is covering the Bears at their training camp. He wrote the Bears, who once prided themselves in their running game are likely to not have a fullback on the roster in 2019 when they break camp, and they may carry as many as seven wide receivers… The San Diego Padres did a nice job recognizing their former Manager Bruce Bochy, who is retiring after this season as the manager of the San Francisco Giants. Bochy was in town for the final time as a manger over the weekend and received a variety of gifts to commemorate his time in San Diego. Bochy had a nine-year Major League playing career, including five with the Padres. His career numbers as a back-up catcher who played first base on occasion were just average, hitting .239 for his career with a total of 26 career homers and an OPS of .685. Bochy started to make his mark on baseball, when he managed the Padres from 1995-2006 and compiled a record of 951-975 (.494) over that span. Bochy was named National League Manager of the Year in 1996; under his direction the Padres went to the World Series in 1998 with a regular season mark of 98-65; and the Padres won the National League West in 2005 and 2006. Bochy spent 24 years with the Padres as a player, coach and manager and deserved a better fate at the end of his San Diego run, when fans became convinced he was over-matched as a manager. In truth, the Padres had minimal on-field player talent and ownership didn’t have the financial wherewithal to assemble a competitive roster, but Bochy made the most out of what he had to work with. Bochy was fired and stayed unemployed for about a week, before being hired to manage the San Francisco Giants starting with the 2007 season. Through the beginning of this week, his record in the Bay Area is 1028-1021 (.502), but his Hall of Fame credentials are assured with World Series titles won in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Overall Bochy is 1980-1996 (.498) as a manager and he is within shouting distance of 4,000 games managed (3,976) in the Majors, which will put in seventh place all-time. So best wishes to Bruce Bochy, who has been a class act throughout his career.

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