THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
A Gonzo Glimpse & Personalized Recollection of Memorable Moments in Michigan Athletics
19th December, 2013 0
The 2013 Sports World in and around the State of Michigan was exciting in Biblical proportions. It started for me in Tampa, Florida on January 1st when I witnessed one great football game at Raymond James Stadium between South Carolina & Michigan. The 8-4 Wolverines lost to the 10-2 Gamecocks 33-28. But what put this game on the map was “The HIT” put on Michigan’s Vincent Smith by Defensive End Jadeveon Clowney. He knocked him into tomorrow & blew his helmet into the air. This play was the ESPY Best Play of the Year. Jadeveon also leveled Denard Robinson with another bone crushing hit. Today Denard is a running back for the hapless/God-awful Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9, & they couldn’t use Tim Tebow). Clowney will go in the 1st Round of next year’s NFL Draft. The one thing that cracks me up is watching the South Carolina Cheerleaders hoisting up placards, saying, “Go Cocks”.
MSU Spartans won the famous “2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl” over TCU 17-16. This year they are playing great: 10-1 as of Thanksgiving of this year (Rated 11th in the Nation). The Detroit Lions - what can you say - they never fail to disappoint. It has been 56 years since the Lions killed the Cleveland Browns 59 to 14 for the 1957 Championship (The game can be seen on You-Tube). They also won in 1935, 1952, & 1953. Little known fact: the QB for the Lions in their last title game was Tobin Rote, filling for the injured Bobby Layne. Tobin died in a Saginaw Hospital on 6/27/2000 from a heart attack.
The Bobby Layne curse lives, as they have not won in Pittsburgh since Bobby was traded in 1958 to the Steelers. Lions coach Jim Schwartz took a10-6 team in 2011 and led them to a 4-12 season in 2012. In 2013 they’re plunking along at 7-5, but had a big 40-10 Thanksgiving Day victory over Green Bay Packers (without Aaron Rogers). There is still a reason to reach for the T.V. remote. Matthew Stafford throws for 300 plus yards a game, Calvin “Mega-Tron” Johnson at 6’5” catches most everything (1300 yards-12 TD’s by 11/28) thrown his way, & watching Ndamukong Suh at 6-4 & 307 muscled pounds terrorize QB,s (& officials) every time he steps on the field.
My theory as to why The Lions never win big isn’t the Bobby Layne curse, but the fact they are the only indoor football team without cheerleaders & have the worst fight song ever that is sung by a big guy in a construction helmet. There was also an NFL draft shocker in April 1st (I was @ the BUC’S draft party watching on the big screen at Raymond James) when CMU’s Eric Fischer was taken by the K.C. Chiefs - and for that they gave him $ 22.19 million for 4 years….party on Garth.
Basketball in the state couldn’t be much better. As of late November, MSU was the #1 team in the country. The U of M team had a season to remember. They went 31-8 & played in the NCAA Championship game (lost to Louisville 82-76). The Kansas game was the best basketball game of the year, with the Wolverines winning in OT 87-85, it was unreal. Burke, Hardaway, & Robinson were amazing. Trey Burke left early for the NBA Cash (2 ½ Million this year). Today he is playing for the Utah Jazz, averaging 8 ½ points a game.
In the NBA, the Pistons still suck, as in a 29-53 for the 2012-2013 season, you have to work on being that bad. Three former Saginaw Athletes were making big money in pro sports for 2013: Draymond Green (Saginaw High School/MSU/Golden State Warriors) is making $875,000 this year while scoring 5.1 PPG as a rookie. Jason Richardson (AHHS, MSU, & Philadelphia) is making $5,800,000.00 this season while scoring 10 ½ points a game. The topper is LaMarr Woodley (AHHS, Michigan, & Pittsburgh Steelers) comes in at $10 Million plus a season with a 6 year contract, it’s good to be the sports man from Saginaw. Also Kenyon Martin is now with the Knicks at $ 1,399,00.00.
Next up - the Detroit Red Wings: I have been a hockey fan since the days of listening to Red Wing recaps on late night radio in the early 1950’s. As a lifetime season ticket holder with my wife Paulette we have seen it all. We lived through the era where the team gave away trucks to put people in the seats. From 1973 to 1990 they were God Awful. The ’76-77 Wings logged in at 16-55-9 & the ’85-86 team: went 17-57-6. We would drive 200 miles round trip for every home game. People thought we were out of our minds.
The Gordie Howe era was awesome, winning Cups in 1950, 1952, 1954, & 1955. The next successful run started when Scotty Bowman showed Steve Yzerman how to play team hockey & the coming of the Russians brought Cups in 1997/1998/2002/& 2008. I will never forget Yzerman’s 1st Cup. As he carried it around the arena our eyes locked, we were both in tears. There is no harder trophy to win in sports then the Stanley Cup. Being a real fan brings real heartache. Paulette & I were in the seats for the 1964 Stanley Cup Finals for game 6 at Olympia. I saw the Stanley Cup in the hallway being readied for roll out if the Wings won. In OT rookies Paul Henderson/Pit Martin had a breakaway, but the shot hit the post. Bobby Baun then came off the bench after having broken his ankle, took a shot, hits Bill Gadsby in the butt, & it deflects the puck past Terry Sawchuck to win the game. Wings lose game 7 in Toronto 4-0.
Gordie Howe said it was his most painful loss. Update to game seven with the Chicago Black Hawks on May 30th, 2013. At one time in the series the Wings were up three games to one. Now they went into OT in Game seven and lost a heartbreaker 2 to 1 (A Seabrook shot that was deflected off Kronwall). Jimmy Howard was great through out to get the Wings that far. Chicago went on to win the Cup. Our friend Dan Bow, a former Florida Gator basketball player & short time Chicago Bull who lives near Chicago kept texting my wife throughout game seven. He was overjoyed at game’s end. I told Paulette to say “I hope a pterodactyl dumps on your Hawks.”
Months later we went to two Chicago Cub games at Wrigley, I bought a Black Hawk Championship hat because it fit great. I wore it the next day at the ball game. True to form it’s the day the Cubs celebrate the Cup Win with their smiling Coach Joel Quennville carrying it to the mound. In the 6th inning a seagull flies over & takes a dump all over only me, of course, but the hat was unscathed.
Two past hockey stories come to mind. In 1977 a 49-year-old Gordie Howe (still playing hockey in the WHA) came to Saginaw to raise money for the Bay Ice Arena (Bob Bordeaux got him to come). After dropping my family off at the front door, I drove into the parking lot at the same time Howe showed up. Rushing to the event Gordie slipped & fell on a sheet of ice. I went over, reached for his big hand and helped him up. He said to me, “If you tell anyone about this I’m going to have to punch you in the nose.”
Gordie now 85 suffers from Alzheimers. During the 1964 season, while taunting Chicago’s Reg Fleming (teams went from the ice to the locker room via the hallway), after a few choice comments he spit in my face. I waited a year for retribution. Now with the NY Rangers, the NHL bad boy took all I gave him, until he had enough. At games end he tried bonking me over the head with his stick & I hit him along his side his face with a rolled up program. Down went the wood partition. He chased him all the way out to Grand River Avenue with skates on where I took off into a snowstorm.
Reg passed in 2009 at age 73.
Now for my favorite team, the Detroit Tigers: What a season. They could have made a reality series about this bunch. Tigers went 93-69, one game better then Cleveland (who had the Manager of the Year in Francona). Miguel Cabrera hit .348, 44 HRS, 137 RBI’s, & his 2nd straight MVP Award (& the Hank Aaron Award). Max Scherzer went 21-3 with 240 K’s & the Cy Young Award. Now they say we can’t afford him, even though he wants to stay a Tiger. Anibal Sanchez was 14-8 with a 2.57 ERA. Verlander was a rock star in the Playoffs. Jose Iglesias was 2nd in Rookie of the Year vote with a .303 BA & made impossible plays most every game. His one catch will soon become an ESYP Play of the Year.
Peralta got 50 games for drug use, came back to led the Tigers in hitting for the post season, then leaves them for $52 Million with the Cardinals. PaPa Grande was not so Grande and was sent into early retirement. Joaquin Benoit became the closer and a good one at that. Change smoking Jim Leyland retired at season’s end left (along with his “You Knows”) & the Tigers went with a young Brad Ausmus, an 18-year M.L. catcher (3 years with the Tigers) and manager of the Israel National Team. He put in place a young coaching staff, other than tub butt Gene LaMont.
In the Post Season the Tigers again met the clean cut Oakland A’s- winning 3 games to 2. Then it was the Boston Red Sox’s who looked like the bearded men from the Hobbit or Duck Dynasty. Sad result, lost to Sox’s in 6 game hard played games. Prince Fielder again failed in his playoff performance as in Zero RBI’s. For this he is now with Texas and we get a 2nd baseman named Ian Kinsler (Age 31, 545 AB’s, 13 HRS, 72 RBI’s, .277 BA, & a 985 FA).
The story of the season was Prince Fielder and his sorry attitude. But on Prince’s behalf, losing your wife of 8 years for a while, because she is sleeping with rookie Avasail Garcia could cloud your mind. After Miguel Cabrera found out about it, he beat hell out of Garcia and hurt himself in the process. Result: Avasail is now in the White Sox outfield, Iglesias is the Tiger SS, Miguel played hurt for a month, and Prince Fielder cut his stupid corn-rolls and now has a crew cut in Texas.
One more story from my checked youth: While trying to get Jimmy Piersall (at the time he was w/Cleveland) to sign my baseball outside Tiger Stadium in 1961, I said would you sign this? His reply “I don’t sign anything for anyone in this f***ing town. I said “That’s Okay, you’re nuts anyway”. Wrong answer. He spun around, grabbed me by the throat, and almost killed me. Two people pulled him off. As he was dragged away I saw he was foaming at the mouth. I realized even then I made a serious mistake.
Years later I wrote a letter to him and apologized. Piersall suffered from Mental Illness most of his life but still became an outstanding ballplayer. Casey Stengel said Jim was possibly the best outfielder he ever saw. The book and movie “Fear Strikes Out” was about his life.
The Saginaw Old Gold’s Vintage Base Ball team (as in playing with a hard ball and no gloves) in their 6th full season were very successful: Won their 4th World Title (3rd in a row), 3rd Straight Gettysburg Championship, Petoskey Fudge Bucket Bowl, and ran off a 19 game win streak.
The Saginaw County Sports HOF moved into its new home, the Castle Museum. I was also really pleased to see my friend Warren Martin make it into the Hall this year. He pitched for all 3 Saginaw Ball Clubs (Bears, Aces, & Jack Rabbits) & was a decorated WWII Hero. Warren is also a great fan of the Saginaw Old Golds, making most home games. Joining Warren was Archie Yelle, Saginaw’s 1st ever Major League ballplayer born in Saginaw. Archie is now on the wall with his friend Red McKee who went in earlier. The two caught seven years as backup catchers for the Tigers (Red 1913 to 1916 & Yelle 1917 to 1919).
Saginaw’s North Little League team won the 10 & Under State Baseball Title. They pounded West Portage 13-1. Coach Dennis Konuszewski, former Pittsburgh Pirate & Saginaw Old Gold pitcher’s son Quin is one talented ballplayer just like his dad.
Nice finishing note: Jesse Jimenez is bowling again after having a stroke. He has had (98) 300 games in his career.
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)