Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 9/13/14

As baseball season winds down and writer's block makes another appearance, I thought I'd play a baseball surname-association game using each letter of the alphabet. The subjects are the first baseball players who immediately came to my mind; yes--no rhyme, no reason, folks............


A- Aaron, as in Hall of Famer "Hammerin' Hank"--who clubbed a "then-record" 755 home runs LEGITIMATELY during a remarkable career. Yes, still the all-time RBI leader in MLB history--an impressive record that STILL gets under-publicized and is under-appreciated....
B- Bonds, as in Barry (or the person that WFAN's Steve Somers refers to as "Bar-roid")--a steroid bum who tainted THE most sacred record in baseball history ( HR's--see above). Then again, could it REALLY have been just flaxseed oil, Barry?....
C- Cloninger, (Tony), who was the only MLB pitcher in history to hit two grand slams in one game; won 24 games one year (1965), as well....
D- Davis; though there are many athletes with this surname, I immediately thought of Willie--who spent 14 years with the Dodgers and was a two-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner. Kind of a "free spirit", too....
E- Etchebarren (Andy), the catcher who spent 12 years with the Orioles; his claim to fame was having one of the most unmistakable "mugs" on baseball cards back in the day (just Google a pic, folks, and you'll see what I mean)....
F- Fidrych (Mark), the pitcher nicknamed "The Bird" who set the baseball world on fire in 1976 with 19 wins; his grooming of the mound area and talking to the baseball will never be forgotten. He was supposed to appear on my TV show shortly before he died in 2009; that was MY loss, Mark....
G- Gehrig (Lou), aka "The Iron Horse"--probably the greatest Yankees player who spent his entire career in New York. His stats were simply OUTRAGEOUS--and the world lost him to ALS (now also called Lou Gehrig's Disease) at the tender age of 35....
H- Herndon (Larry), a steady outfielder who enjoyed a 14-year career with the Giants and Tigers in the 70's/80's; I always thought he was gonna be a better player than he actually was, but he still nets a nice pension....
I- Incaviglia (Pete), a former first-round pick who never duplicated the 30 HR's he hit during his rookie season for the Rangers in '86; "Inky" quickly became known as a "strikeout waiting to happen". In fact, my Dad had a former schoolmate nicknamed "Inky", too--Josephine Incandella of Ansonia (now THAT's Italian, folks)....
J- Javier (Julian), who played in the majors between 1960 and 1972; one of the first players I remember who wore eyeglasses and the father of former big leaguer Stan Javier....
K- Kaat (Jim), who pitched a mind-boggling 25 years in the "bigs" and won an amazing SIXTEEN consecutive Gold Glove awards. Oh, and he became one of the few ex-"jocks" who actually possessed INCREDIBLE broadcasting skills. Nicknamed "Kitty"....
L- Leyritz (Jim), the former Yankees catcher. To this day, I still wonder how this bum beat DUI manslaughter charges stemming from a 2007 crash down in Florida; sadly, a woman was killed....
M- Marichal (Juan), the Hall of Fame pitcher. He was probably the first pitcher my Dad mentioned to me as a kid--telling me how great he was on a continual basis. He was also one of the first pitchers I ever saw in person--pitching at Shea Stadium in the early 70's; what a leg-kick and what a PITCHER....
N- Nixon (Russ), the former catcher/manager; his name came to mind probably due to the fact that his family was somehow related to one of my Mom's closest friends....
O- O'Toole (Jim), who pitched (and WON) the first big league game I ever saw in person as a member of the White Sox (vs. the Yankees at Yankee Stadium); sadly, he was done with baseball at the age of 30....
P- Popovich (Paul), who played 11 seasons in the majors in the 60's and 70's; good fielder, but NOT a hitter--for sure....
Q- Queen (Mel), who I remember as a kid pitching for Cincinnati and California; won just 20 games in his career--with FOURTEEN of them coming in ONE season (1967). Oh, I immediately thought of Jimmy Qualls, too, right after remembering Mel; Mr. Queen still gets the nod...
R- Rivera ("Bombo", not Mariano), a former outfielder whose real name was Jesus. But REALLY--how can you EVER forget anyone nicknamed "Bombo"?....
S- Skowron ("Moose"), the former Yankees first baseman who was a member of numerous championship teams. Also, he happened to be one of the more entertaining/down-to-earth people I've ever had the honor of speaking to. We miss you, "Moose"....
T- Tidrow (Dick), the pitcher who won 100 games over a 13-year career. I mean, how can ANY baseball fan also forget ANYONE nicknamed "Dirt"?....
U- Unser (Del), a valuable utility player (especially while playing in Philly) who once hit three pinch-hit home runs in consecutive at-bats; simply a tough out....
V- Vizquel (Omar)--still the best-fielding shortstop I have EVER seen, PERIOD (sorry, Ozzie Smith)....
W- Wickersham (Dave); don't remember much about him other than the fact that I had his baseball card while growing up (a former pitcher for Detroit in the 60's)....
X- Xavier (Joe), who actually NEVER played in the "bigs" but made it to the Brewers' AAA farm team in 1990. Sheesh, couldn't the team have brought him up for ONE stinkin' game in September so he could have enjoyed the distinction of being the only MLB player EVER whose last name began with an "X"?....
Y- Young (Delmon), who's still playing baseball but may be best-remembered for yelling an anti-Semitic slur while intoxicated a couple of years ago on the streets of NYC. Geez--you'd think I would have thought of someone like "Yaz" instead, right?....
Z- Zdeb (Joe), who had a very brief career with the Royals in the late 70's (outfielder). Why did THIS guy come to my mind immediately? I think I was always impressed with the funky spelling of his last name--which is simply (or maybe NOT-so-simply) pronounced \ZEB\.

*Look for more A-to-Z columns to come, folks..........

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 8/30/14

At the end of July, Daniel Lucas "Doc" Adams was selected as SABR's "Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legend" for 2014. This honor is bestowed upon a 19th century player, manager, executive, or baseball personality not yet inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. "Doc Adams", one might say? Yes, he's a man whose early contributions to the American Pastime surely deserve high recognition. As a player, Adams is credited by most historians as creating the shortstop position--and he was a member of the famous New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club in the 1840's (he played productively into his forties and also was a medical doctor). He later became an executive and was highly responsible for some of the key aspects that make up today's game: nine inning games, nine players per team, ninety feet between bases, and fly ball outs. I recently was in contact with his great granddaughter, Marjorie Adams, who is currently on a crusade to see her deserving relative gain entrance into Cooperstown. Yes, it's time "Doc" gets his rightful place in baseball history. For more information on this fascinating man--and his under-publicized contributions--please visit SABR.org/overlooked-19th-century-baseball-legends..........TRIVIA QUESTION: The 2001 Texas Rangers--who finished 73-89 under managers Johnny Oates and Jerry Narron--were led in stolen bases by a player who would swipe just 77 during his entire career. Can you name this former outfielder who played 12 years in the big leagues? Answer to follow.........ITEM: The NFL announces that it will impose stricter sanctions for domestic violence actions--including a 6-game suspension for a first offense. Call me crazy/critical, but doesn't this decision make it appear that the league thinks that beating on a significant other is only "halfway" bad? If there was EVER a despicable act that should warrant an absolute ZERO TOLERANCE policy , it's domestic violence; it surely appears that the NFL and Roger Goodell don't agree with my 'tough' stance..........Lazzari's "Lopsided Score of the Week": In a college football game played last weekend, Texas State annihilated Arkansas-Pine Bluff 65-0; the winning squad held a 42-0 at halftime of this 'laugher' and piled up nearly 700 yards of total offense--a school record. If I'm the UAPB coach, I incorporate a little comforting humor when addressing my team after the game--and offer this: "Keep your chin up, guys, and look on the bright side: At least we kept Texas State's point total under the game time temperature--which was 94"..........From my good friend/baseball historian Dick Graham: "I recently had a dream that Yankees sideline reporter Meredith Marakovits ice-dunked me at second base while whispering in my ear at the same time, 'Dickie, I only have "ice" for you.'" Yes, there's only ONE Dick Graham, folks--aka the "Maven from West Haven."..........ITEM: Nike matches Under Armour's deal of approximately $280 million to keep NBA star Kevin Durant on board for the next ten years. Question: Do you think Durant's Mom--or his representatives at Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports--had to beg/plead with him to "JUST DO IT" when it came to signing THAT kind of immense endorsement deal?..........Here's some interesting information: In 1980, Willie Wilson of the K.C. Royals put up AMAZING numbers--leading the league in runs scored (133), hits (230), and triples (15). Oh--he also stole 79 bases, hit .326, and won a Gold Glove award while being the catalyst for the American League champs. The "interesting" part? Wilson placed FOURTH in the MVP balloting that year--finishing behind teammate George Brett and the Yankees' tandem of Reggie Jackson and Rich "Goose" Gossage..........Just HOW much does aging have to do with a player's golf game? A LOT. Take PGA player Mike Weir, for example. The man has won close to $28 million over a very respectable career. However, since turning 40 in 2010, Weir has just two Top 10 finishes and three Top 25's. "Father Time" spares no one, folks..........I just found out that the lovely Christie Brinkley recently broke her left foot--posting pictures of her mishap on Instagram. Sheesh--I guess that puts my wishes of a future tennis/dinner date with this beauty on hold just a little longer, huh?..........Answer to trivia question: GABE KAPLER, who led the team that year with 23 steals--almost 1/3 of his career total..........Finally, condolences go out to the family of former college basketball coach Jack Kraft--who passed away recently in New Jersey at the age of 93. Kraft was best known for leading the Villanova program for 12 seasons starting in 1961. While with the Wildcats, he amassed a record of 238-95--taking his teams to the NCAA tournament six times and the NIT on five occasions. Jack Kraft will be best remembered for leading 'Nova to the NCAA final in 1970-'71--eventually losing to UCLA. He later coached at Rhode Island between 1973 and 1981 where he won 103 games before retiring due to health concerns. Rest in peace, "Coach."