20 thoughts on “Sports Stories

  1. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head, but I will once again mention The Battered Bastards of Baseball, even though this is probably not what Mitchell had in mind. I guess I could tell some stories from the film, but I feel like that would deprive people of discovering it for themselves. So many details about the story are pretty interesting and even remarkable.

  2. Mitchell,

    How about the top three baseball stories and top three Raiders stories that come to mind?

    The Raiders stories that first come to mind I think I actually heard from you. For example, the story about how John Madden asked the players about their first impression of Marcus Allen and many of them marveled at his blocking. That’s pretty interesting and remarkable. (At the time, it might have been a bad sign.)

    Another story came from Madden’s book (I think). It’s one where a rookie or younger player was getting cocky with the aging Jim Otto. I recall Madden saying that for the next several plays Otto dominated the guy. (I think this was in practice.)

    There’s gotta be a lot more great anecdotes, not just from the Raiders, but sports in general. More of these stories should be coming to mind, but they’re not for some reason.

  3. When Pat Summerall was a kicker for the Giants, he told a story about how that Giants drove down the field at the end the game, needing a field goal to win. They got down to 4th down, and they were far enough away that the Giants coaching staff wavered between kicking or going for it. Vince Lombardi was the OC, and he wasn’t against kicking it, convinced that the distance was too far for Summerall. The HC decided to kick, and when Summerall made the kick, Lombardi came running over to him, saying, “You son-of-a-bitch, you know you can’t kick it that far!”

    1. His career is filled with amazing numbers, but none more than this: In 3,948 innings, he never allowed a grand slam. I asked him about the closest he came to giving up a grand slam and, 30 years later, he took me through that inning, pitch by pitch, in Cleveland in 1977.

      That stat is impressive. It would be interesting to compare this to other pitchers who pitched a comparable number of innings.

      I must say I was expecting to hear the story about how Palmer almost gave up a grand slam. Thinking about it more, I guess the story wasn’t that interesting.

      Also, I’m curious to know the score and situation for those intentional unintentional walks with a loaded base. How close were those games? What innings did the situation occur in? If Palmer did this in the later innings with a relatively close game, that’s gutty.

  4. John Smoltz was on the Move the Sticks podcast, hosted by Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks, and he had some good anecdotes.

    Smoltz prefaces a story about Deion Sanders by talking about mentioning how he, Smoltz, was the team’s pinch runner–i.e., he had decent wheels. So when Deion gave he, John Avery and another guy a 20 yard head start for a 60 yard race, Smoltz was like, “I’ll take that. No way, you’re beating me.” He beat them. Of course.

    Smoltz is convinced that if Sanders only focused on baseball, he would have been the greatest lead-off hitter of all time. (He specifically mentioned Ricky Henderson, too.)

    Jeremiah is a Padres fan, and asked Smoltz about Tony Gwynn. Smoltz said that people always ask him who’s the toughest batter he faced, and he said it’s Gwynn. Smoltz mentioned a crazy stat. According to him, between he. Glavine, and Maddux, they had 9,000 strikeouts, but they only struck out Gwynn 3 times–Glavine twice and Smoltz once. That’s kinda of crazy.

    He also told a story about how he had a no hitter, at the bottom of the 8th. Gwynn pops out to left and there was a first-basemen (Klesko?) who just started playing in the outfield. Smoltz said he ran about twenty feet, and the ball just popped out of his glove or something like that. To Smoltz, it was an error, but they were playing in San Diego. Smoltz wanted to stay in–he felt if he got out Gwynn for sure he would have gotten everyone else out. But Bobby Cox said no–if he stayed in, they would have scored it a hit. Smoltz said he’s not a violent guy, but he destroyed a couple of stools or something, when he went in the dugout.

    (Were the Padres in the NL East? I could have sworn that Smoltz said he played in the same division, so the Braves faced Gwynn a lot. ?)

    1. No the Padres have always been in the NL West. The Braves were one of the original NL West teams, when the leagues were first divided into divisions. That’s why in the peak years it was always the Dodgers and Braves in the pennant race against each other. When MLB added Central divisions to both leagues, the Braves went to the East, and the Reds (also in the NL West) went to the Central.

      I’ve heard Smoltz and Maddux both talk about how Gwynn was the hitter they hated pitching to the most.

      I watched that Ryan Klesko game as it was played. It was a tough play to call, but nobody would have argued if it had been scored an error, and almost any regular left fielder would have played it better. I’ve heard Smoltz say he broke a few things in the clubhouse (not the dugout), but what I saw was this: Smoltz came off the mound, into the dugout. He went straight to the clubhouse, and a few seconds later, he came back into the dugout and patted Klesko on the chest, saying something in Klesko’s ear. It looked like a reassurance. That’s the kind of teammate you need. I somehow have difficulty picturing Michael Jordan doing the same thing.

      It’s the main reason I was disappointed when Smoltz became a closer. Of Atlanta’s pitchers, he had the best chance of pitching a no-hitter.

      1. Dan Le Batard once interviewed Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz at the same time. It’s one of the best sports interviews I ever heard.

    2. The Braves were one of the original NL West teams,…

      Dang. I don’t think I even remember this.

      I somehow have difficulty picturing Michael Jordan doing the same thing.

      I don’t blame you for feeling this way. A part of me feels this way, too, but I would be surprised if Jordan never offered encouragement when a teammate made a mistake or was struggling. Just because I guy is a hardass and crosses the line at times, doesn’t mean they don’t do anything encouraging or positive, including when their teammates mess up.

      1. This may not help, but here are the final NL standings our senior year. If you watched the Braves play much (not particularly this season, but over time), this would ring a few bells. They definitely played the Reds, Giants, Dodgers and Padres all the time, and the Cards and Cubs far less often, it always seemed to me. Or maybe that’s just because I remember.

        It says Nationals, but of course that’s Expos.

        1. The days before the Nationals, Rockies, Marlins, Diamondbacks, and Rays existed. When the Astros were in the NL and the Brewers were in the AL.

          1. Wait, so why does the ’86 list have the Nationals? (Man, that messed me up. I thought I was losing my mind. I think my not having watched MLB (including not watching Sportscenter) has really discombobulated my mind, when it comes to the MLB.

          2. As I mentioned, it says Nationals but it’s Expos. The computer who generates the list probably doesn’t have a routine to display the Expos name and logo for the years before…whenever they became the Nats.

  5. Joe Posnanski is writing thirty letters from Spring Training for The Athletic, one per day until opening day. The letters are a virtual tour of all 30 teams, looking at such things as team name, team unis, history, and musings about the roster and coming season.

    Today is his letter for his 5th-best team in the majors this year: Tampa Bay.

    In his writeup for the stadium:

    I am ranking only the 29 stadiums I’ve been to — I have not yet seen a game in the new Texas ballpark — but putting “29th” as the ranking for Tropicana Field suggests that there is a stadium it ranks ahead of … and there isn’t. The stadium has been known to be the worst in baseball for two decades and, frankly, it’s still overrated.

    A few years ago, I took my family to catch a Tampa Bay series and we ended up in a kind of terrible hotel. I mean, actually, the hotel supposedly was quite nice — it was by the water, if I remember right — but they put us in this room that had absolutely no light. You walked into the room in the middle of the day and it was pitch black in there. I cannot fully describe my feelings in that room; I started calling it the “Dementors Room” because it sucked all the happiness out of me. I went to the front desk and said, “I’m sorry, I’m never like this, but we can’t stay in that room. It’s so dark and depressing, is there any other room available?”

    They said there wasn’t, so we changed hotels even though, if memory serves, they charged us for the night. I didn’t care. I would have paid both my children’s college tuitions to get out of that room, that’s how terrible that room made me feel.

    That room … that’s more or less how I feel about watching a baseball game at Tropicana Field. And it makes me so sad because the Tampa-St. Pete area is beautiful, it’s Florida, it’s sunshine. I know there are a lot of actual, provable reasons the Rays’ attendance is so low, but honestly, I’ve always felt like the big reason is that ballpark.

    I won’t bother linking since I’m the only person here who subscribes. But this is the kind of thing that makes me happy I subscribe.

    Good writing. It sucks that such a cool team has such terrible digs!

    1. That room … that’s more or less how I feel about watching a baseball game at Tropicana Field.

      Whoa. I chuckle because this is bad.

  6. Every so often I think of one of the funniest signs I’ve seen in a stadium. Mark Malone was the starting QB for Pittsburgh, and the Steelers were having a lousy season. One of the fans held up a sign reading, “Err Malone.”

    I looked up Malone on Wikipedia to get a sense of when that was. He was the most recruited QB in the country in 1975 and went to Arizona State. I wonder how long it’s been since the most recruited QB in the country went to a school in the west. And that was when ASU was in the WAC.

    He was also recruited by the US Olympic Committee as a possible decathlete. Wow.

    He was the QB on the Steelers team in ’84 who gave the Niners their only loss, and that Steelers team was in the AFC championship game, losing to the Dolphins to set up that Niners-Dolphins Montana-Marino Super Bowl.

    Yet mostly what I remember is that sign. Err Malone. Fans can be so clever and so cruel!

    Then this: until Mike Wallace broke it with a 95-yard reception in 2011 (from Ben Roethlisberger), Malone had the Steelers record for longest reception in team history: 90 yards from Bradshaw.

    1. I don’t get the “Err Malone” sign.

      Did he play a lot in ’84? All I remember about him is that a) he reminded me of Tom Selleck, and b) he was a terrible QB. Here’s a question: who was the best Steeler QB between Bradshaw and Roethlisberger? They were a lot of bad ones. Neil O’Donnell? Bubby Brister? Kordell Stewart? These names indicate how bad the Steeler QBs were during this time frame.

      1. It’s a parody of Air Jordan. It’s funny because it SOUNDS like “Air” but it’s “Err,” and because while “Air Jordan” is complimentary and even worshipful, “Err Malone” is derisive.

        He started 9 games and went 6-3 in those starts. 54% completion percentage, 2137 yards, 16 TD, 17 interceptions, 14.5 yards per completion. 73.4 QB rating, which was good for 18th in the NFL, ahead of Marc Wilson, Danny White, Joe Ferguson, and Gary Hogeboom, among others.

        David Woodley started the other 7 games and went 3-4.

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