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FROM FRAIL KID TO BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME'R
When former Los Angeles Laker Great Jerry West was in grade school, no one would have ever imagined that as small and frail as he was that he would become one of the NBA's
greatest players. Jerry Alan West was banned from playing children's sports because doctors feared that he would suffer serious injury. His was so painfully thin that he was given vitamin injections by his family physician. West became interested in basketball after a neighbor nailed a basketball net to a shed on Jerry's property. He developed an obsession with shooting baskets and he practiced during every daylight hour, taking jump shots from every possible angle. He continued shooting baskets even through the snowy winter months. He shot so many baskets that his fingers began to bleed and he would frequently miss meals earning his mom's wrath because she was deeply concerned since he was so skinny already.
During the summer of 1953, West grew to six feet and he improved his strength and worked hard on his defensive skills. He earned a starting spot on the basketball team as a small forward. From 1953 to 1956, West became one of the greatest high school players in the Mountaineer State. He was named to the first team All-State three straight years and he was named an All-American as a senior, averaging 32.2 points per game. He also was the first high school player in West Virginia history to score over 900 points in a single season. West led East Bank to a state championship in 1956. In honor of its most famous alumni and as a celebration of the 1956 state title, East Bank High renamed its school West Bank High every year on March 24th, the date the team won the state crown. The school closed in 1999.
Although he received scholarship interest from more than 60 schools, West chose to play his
college ball at West Virginia. He was a member of the Mountaineers freshmen team which finished 17-0. In his career at WVU, West scored 2,309 points (24.8 average per game) and 1,240 rebounds (13.3 average a game) in 93 games. He was selected to play for the 1960 U.S. Team in the Pan American Games in which he and his teammates won a Gold medal.
He was also a member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team, along with fellow Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson. The team captured the Gold medal in the Summer Games in Rome. He was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. He was 6'2", 180 when he completed his college career. West had a splendid 14-year NBA career (1960-1974) with the Los Angeles Lakers. When he was selected second overall by the Lakers in the 1960 NBA Draft, the team was in Minneapolis and it moved to Los Angeles for the 1960-61 season. West earned an All-Star berth in each of the 14 seasons he played. He was the third player in NBA history to score 25,000 points behind Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson. He was a 10-time All NBA First Team selection and a four time member of the league's all defensive team. He was the NBA scoring champion in 1970 and its assists leader in 1972. He won an NBA title in 1972 and he was voted to both the NBA's 35th and 50th Anniversary Teams. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980. His number "44" was retired by the Lakers. West scored 25,192 points (27 points a game) pulled down 5,366 rebounds and recorded 6,230 assists in 932 career games. He finished with a 47% field goal percentage. West's rise to one of pro basketball's deadliest shooters was a remarkable feat. He grew up in poverty in Chelyan, West Virginia and the fact that he overcame being small and thin, incredibly shy and being very much a loner is a testament to his super work ethic and his determination. West also had to overcome the death of one of his brothers, 22-year-old David in the Korean War. It was a devastating experience for West who was 12 at the time and it drove him into a deeper level of withdrawal. Even after he joined the Lakers, West was haunted by his high pitched voice which grew higher and squeakier every time he became excited. Although he had a killer mid-range jumper and was a terrific defender, he struggled with the adjustment and his teammates gave him the nickname: "Tweedy Bird". Further complicating his adjustment to the pro ranks was his very thick Appalachian accent which made him a prime target for teasing by his teammates. West was as intensely competitive as any player in pro basketball. He was incredibly tough and he took a beating during his career working for shots against taller, bigger centers. He broke his nose nine times and he was, without doubt, one of the best pressure scorers in league history. He was nicknamed: "Mr. Clutch", the guy his teammates wanted to have the ball in his hands with a game on the line.
A perfect example of how dependable West was came during Game Three of the 1970 NBA Finals against the New York Knicks when he hit a 60-foot swish shot to tie the contest. After his playing days ended, West became the Head Coach of the Lakers prior to the 1976-77 season. He led the team to 145 wins and three consecutive playoff appearances. He was named General Manager of the team in 1982 and during his time in that position, the Lakers won seven NBA Championships and West was voted as NBA Executive of the Year in 1995. West later became the GM of the Memphis Grizzlies and helped the team make the playoffs several years in a row. He won his second Executive of the Year Award in 2004. Proof of how outstanding Jerry West was during his pro career, was evidenced by the fact that in 1996, he was named as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA History.
Aside from all of his many honors and accomplishments, Jerry West was an absolute gentleman, a person who received the ultimate respect of teammates, opponents, the media and fans. He is truly one of National Basketball Association's gems. He was great at every level of basketball he played and most importantly, he became such a great example of how successful an athlete could become if he expended an inordinate amount of energy and effort in his training and quest for improvement. The best description of the now 78-year old Jerry West can be found in two of his quotes which include: "I'm just ultra-competitive and I will be till I'm put in my grave" and: "You can't get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good".
PAUL R. WOODWARD
SEAN LEE MAY BE THE MOST UNDERRATED TACKLER IN THE NFL
When linebacker Sean Lee took the field with his Dallas Cowboy teammates at AT&T Stadium for the Divisional Playoff game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, January 15th, it was the first ever postseason appearance for the former Penn State standout in his seven years with the team. While Dallas' season ended with a 34-31 loss on a last second field goal, Lee was credited with eight tackles, six of them solo.
He completed the 2016 regular season tied for fourth in the NFL with 145 tackles, 93 of those solo.
Lee's numbers in 75 career games with the Cowboys are far more impressive considering all
the injuries he has suffered since being drafted in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft as
the 55th overall pick. In 2010, Lee missed two games with a dislocated wrist and in 2012, he was sidelined for 10 games after he dislocated his right toe and also tore ligaments in it. In 2013, he sustained a hamstring injury which kept him out of two games. During preseason workouts prior to the 2014 season, Lee tore the ACL in his left knee and suffered a minor tear in his meniscus and was lost for the year. With Dallas, he has recorded 567 career tackles, 371 of those solo, 2.5 sacks, 24 pass breakups and 12 interceptions, two of them for touchdowns. Injuries also plagued Lee during his college career.
After appearing in eight games in his freshman season at Penn State in 2005, Lee became a starter in 2006 and 2007. But, he was red shirted for 2008 after he tore the ACL in his right knee. When he returned for the his senior year in 2009, he suffered a slight tear in his left ACL but only missed three games. Overall, in 36 starts for the Nittany Lions, Lee collected 313 tackles, 29.5 of them for losses, 11 sacks and three interceptions.
Lee was a star at Pennsylvania's Upper St. Clair High School where he was a three year starter. In his senior season in 2005, he was named to the Class 4 A First Team All State after rushing for 1,240 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also added 95 tackles and four interceptions on defense. Lee was also an outstanding basketball player, averaging 21.2 points and 9.1 rebounds in the 87 games in which he played. He and his fellow hoop mates won 75 of those 87 games.
Lee was one of just a handful of football players to be included in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review's Terrific Football 22 Team and the newspaper's Basketball Top 5. He was also chosen to play in the prestigious Big 33 Classic which at that time featured the best 33 football players from Pennsylvania against the Best 33 players from Ohio. Several years ago, the game opponent was changed and the Pa. stars now play the State of Maryland.
What makes Lee such a solid tackler is his ability to move rapidly from side to side and his ability to get to the ball. The 6'2", 240 pound Lee is not a flashy player but he is very astute at reading offensive formations quickly and being able to react swiftly.
Lee, who finished 11th in the league in solo tackles, does not draw a great deal of publicity. But, he is recognized as a sure tackler and a valued leader on the Cowboy defense. The fact that he has missed 33 pro games because of injuries and has become such a consistent defensive performer is a credit to his work ethic and his intensely competitive spirit. In an ironic twist, Lee was not selected for the pro bowl despite his excellent season. His teammate, quarterback Tony Romo, who missed all of 2016 with a back injury, noted that leaving Lee off the Pro Bowl roster was a "huge mistake." Romo added that Lee "is the best linebacker in the league. I see him every day and I should know his weaknesses. I still can't find any". Lee is one of more than 350 former Penn State athletes to play in the NFL.
PAUL R. WOODWARD
JOHN GLENN WAS A TRULY GREAT AMERICAN HERO
When Lt. Col. John Herschel Glenn, Jr. passed away on Thursday, December 8th at the age of 95, it ended one of the most incredible careers in American history. Glenn was a decorated fighter pilot in two wars, a member of the first ever group of American astronauts, the first man to orbit the earth, a U.S. Senator for more than two decades, a test pilot and an engineer.
He is one of a rare few who were given a ticker tape parade down Broadway in New York City. He was a real gentleman who was highly competitive and enormously successful in every facet of his life. Despite his status as a hero, he was an extremely humble man with a terrific sense of humor. He once stated in an interview before a speech at Ohio State University in 2000: "I don't get up in the morning thinking that I'm a hero. I get up in the morning and do what I think is the right thing." He was an extraordinary person who became the first American to orbit the earth as part of the original group of astronauts known as the "Mercury 7". His famous space flight occurred on February 20, 1962 and although his three orbits in his "Friendship 7" space capsule lasted just under five hours, it rocketed him into instant fame and made him a lasting part of American Space History. He was given a ticker tape parade down Broadway in New York City in celebration of his historic flight. Even though his mission was heralded as a monumental event, Glenn's trip into space was far from problem free. After his first orbit, the automatic control system malfunctioned and Glenn was forced to steer his capsule manually for the remainder of his flight, as he had been intensely trained to do. A telemetry reading later showed that the heat shield might be loose which created the fear that Glenn and his craft could disintegrate during re-entry. Fortunately for American Space Flight, that scenario did not occur. The heat shield issue prompted NASA officials to shorten the mission. It should be noted that Glenn was actually the third Mercury astronaut to go into space as Rear Admiral Alan Bartlett "Al" Shepherd had been the first and Lt. Col. Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom the second. Their flights did not include earth orbit. Grissom would die at age 40, along with fellow astronauts Ed White and Roger Chafee in an ignition fire which broke out inside the capsule in which the three were conducting a pre launch test on January 27, 1967 on Launch Pad 34 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Born in Cambridge, Ohio, Glenn's military career began when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps following the attack on Pearl Harbor. When he wasn't called for duty, he entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program and after undergoing a series of advanced training programs, he transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps. His military action included 59 combat missions in World War Two and 63 in the Korean Conflict. In his last nine days in Korea, Glenn shot down three MIG fighters. While serving in Korea, Major John Glenn was paired with a famous wingman, Boston Red Sox star and Hall of Famer Ted Williams, a Captain in the Marine Corps Reserve who had been randomly assigned to Glenn's fighter squadron. Williams considered Glenn as awesome. As he remarked in an interview with the Chicago Tribune: 'John Glenn....Oh'.....he could fly an airplane. Absolutely fearless. The best I ever saw. It was an honor to serve with him". After being named as one of Project Mercury's 7 Astronauts in April of 1959, he and fellow pilots underwent long, grueling tests and training sessions over a nearly two year period to ready them for the first Mercury Mission on May 5, 1961 by Alan Shepherd.
I have a very special appreciation for John Glenn in that early on, as part of his intense preparation for space flight, he and his fellow astronauts were sent to the then Johnsville Naval Air Development Center in Warminster, Pennsylvania for training on the facility's centrifuge which would simulate the G-forces the seven would encounter during their takeoffs and re-entry. As the group was headed to the building housing the centrifuge, Glenn apparently became enthralled with large color photos of various Navy fighter jets which covered the walls of a long hallway and he got separated from the others. He walked over to a nearby desk at the end of the hall where my late mom was sitting and asked for directions. My mother, who was secretary for the Commander of the center, assisted him and as a 'thank you", he gave her an 8 by 10 photo of him strapped in the cockpit of the centrifuge. It was personally signed to me and it is one of my most cherished possessions.
Glenn served 24 years in the United States Senate (from 1974 to 1999) and amazingly, he spent nine days on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1998 at the age of 77 making him the oldest human to travel into space. While on the shuttle, he conducted tests on the aging process. During his time as the Project Officer for the F-8U Crusader, he established a transcontinental speed record from Los Angeles to New York. In all, Glenn logged 9,00 flight hours, a third of that in jets. He received over 40 different awards, medals and other honors including the Air Medal with stars and clusters noting 17 additional awards, the Navy Occupation Medal, six Distinguished Flying Crosses, Presidential Unit Citation (Korea), Asian Pacific Campaign with two stars, the National Defense Service Medal with one star, United Nations Korean Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, NASA Space Flight Medal, Congressional Medal of Honor, the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom and the John Heinz Award for Greatest Public Service by an elected or public official. Glenn was a three-sport athlete at New Concord High School where he played football, basketball and tennis. At Muskingum College, he played football for two seasons and basketball for one before leaving to join the
military. Amazingly, he was married for 73 years to his childhood sweetheart Annie (Castor).
Glenn was a staunch protector of his wife who battled stuttering which was so severe, she was considered 85% disabled. He helped her enormously in her struggle which became so severe, that while grocery shopping, she would go down every aisle several times looking for the items she wanted because she was too embarrassed to ask a store employee for help. Her speech impediment was drastic enough that when she rode in a taxi, she had to give a handwritten note to the driver telling him where she needed to go. Annie Glenn attended an extensive speech therapy program which allowed her overcome her problem to the extent where she could give public talks in support of programs and projects geared to helping those with speech disabilities. Amidst all of his national and international fame, Glenn never allowed his stardom to impact his goals and aspirations. He never really embraced the hero label and his "down to earth personality", his kindness and generosity proved that.
In the 1983 film, 'The Right Stuff", which was based on the Mercury Seven, veteran actor Ed Harris played the role of John Glenn. Glenn was not overly impressed by the movie. One of his most humorous comments came when he was asked how he felt just before launch. Said Glenn: "How do you think I felt sitting on top of two million parts made by the government's lowest bidder."
Glenn was the last living member of the original group of seven and his body was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. He is the only the second member of the Mercury Astronauts to be buried there as are the remains of Gus Grissom. Glenn is survived by his wife, Annie Margaret , who is 99 years old and two children, a son and a daughter. As the NASA Flight Manager said to Glenn as the countdown to his historic launch reached the final seconds 54 years ago......................"GODSPEED JOHN GLENN".
by PAUL R. WOODWARD
THE VOICE OF MANY SUMMERS
On October 2nd, the greatest baseball broadcaster of all time retired after more than six decades behind the microphone.Everyone loved the silky smooth voice of Vincent Edward "Vin" Scully who was the play by play man for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers for 66 seasons. Scully, who is 88 years old, made listening to a game a truly enjoyable experience. Hisincredibly terrific voice and his superbly descriptive style was a delight for his many thousands of listeners. He had his classic intro to Dodger games that was special for any fan of themen in blue.He would begin: "It's time for Dodger baseball. Hi, everybody and a pleasant good afternoon (or evening) to you wherever you may be." Once those words were uttered, listeners would be in for another splendid broadcast.Scully was technically flawless as was his diction was perfect. He was always consistent in his delivery and while he would give his audience stats, he would never overwhelm them with numbers. He knew the game so thoroughly and had been in the business so long, he could provide great stories and brief baseball tidbits that were both timely and appropriate for any specific point in a game.
Scully, who was born in Brooklyn, New York, became a student broadcaster at FordhamUniversity where he served as the Editor of the school newspaper and even playedcenterfield for the baseball team and was the announcer on Fordham baseball, football andbasketball broadcasts. In 1945, he was recruited by the late, great baseball Hall of Fame Broadcaster Red Barber tojoin the CBS Radio Network for its coverage of college football games.In 1950, Sculy joined the Dodger organization and he became a legend or rather his goldenvoice did.One of the qualities I truly appreciated in Vince Scully was the fact that he would not hog themicrophone during critical times in a game. When Kirk Gibson, who had suffered a leginjury prior to the start of the 1988 World Series against the headily favored Oakland Athletics, limped to the plate as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the ninth with LA trailing by a run and he smashed a two run homer to right field to win Game One, Scully did something most announcers would never do. He kept silent and let the exuberant fans describe the moment to his radio audience.
Vince Scully's list of honors and awards include his induction into the National Associationof Baseball Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2009 and his being presented with the Ambassadorof Excellence Award by the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission.He was voted the most memorable personality in Dodger history by a fan vote in 1976 andhe was named the nation's outstanding broadcaster four times by the National Sportscastersand Sportswriter's Association. He received a Lifetime Achievement Sports Emmy from theAcademy of Television and Sciences in 1996.He was unanimously voted Major League Baseball's top sportscaster of the 20th century bymore than 500 national members of the American Sportscasters Association.The press box at Dodger Stadium is named in his honor.In 1995 he received the Ford Frick Award and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall ofFame.In late September, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer along with Rep. XavierBecarra introduced a resolution declaring Scully a 'national treasure".
Former Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig presented Scully with the Commissioner's HighestAchievement Award.Scully has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in 2014, he served as the Grand Marshalof the Tournament of Roses Parade.He also was named California Broadcaster of The Year a ridiculously impressive 32 times. It is shocking that when Scully began working with the Dodgers, the average family incomewas $3,300, the average home was $7300, a loaf of bread cost 12 cents, gas was 20 centsa gallon and coffee, 37 cents a pound.
When he officially retired following the Dodgers last regular season game against the SanFrancisco Giants, the legendary broadcaster gave his farewell to his radio Dodger faithful."You and I have been friends for a long time, but I know in my heart that I've needed youmore than you've ever needed me and I'll miss our time together more than I can say. But,you know what? There will be a new day and eventually a new year. And when the upcomingwinter gives way to spring, rest assured that once again, it will be time for Dodger baseball.
So this is Vin Scully wishing you a pleasant afternoon wherever you may be"I cannot imagine a Dodger baseball game without the Voice of Vin.
HE WAS THE "KING" ADOPTED BY AN ARMY
He was probably the most gracious athlete and person ever to be part of the American sportsworld. He was called "The King" and almost solely responsible for introducing golf as a worldsport as the first sports star of the television age of the 1950'sArnold Daniel Palmer was highly respected and appreciated by fellow golfers and the mediaand was adored by an extremely loyal group of millions of fans known as "Arnie's Army".
Arnie died on Sunday, September 25 in a Pittsburgh hospital due to complications from heartproblems. He was 87.
The sport of golf, the American sports scene and all of society lost a remarkable individual onewho was responsible for carrying his sport to a truly international level during the mid to late 50's when his looks, his charismatic personality, his willingness to take risks on the tour and his strong, steady stroke helped him develop an incredible love affair with fans across America and the world. Palmer, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974, won 95 tournaments in his official 52-year pro career which began in 1954 and ended with his retirement in 2006.
Palmer recorded 62 PGA Tour event wins (fifth all-time), two European Tour event victories, a pair of PGA Tours of Australia wins and 10 Champions Tours event triumphs.He won four masters, a U.S. Open and two British Opens back to back in 1961 and 1962.He was the PGA Tour leading money winner four times, the PGA Tour Player of the Year Twice,a four-time Vardon Trophy Winner, the 1960 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, the 1971Bob Jones Award Winner and the 1983 Old Tom Morris Award Winner.He was presented the PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in1998 and was given the Payne Stewart Award in 2000.He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 and the Congressional Gold Medal in2009.
Arnie's most successful years were from 1960-63 in which he won 29 events. He was on of the most popular stars of all time and he made himself the most accessible sports figures ever.John Feinstein, columnist for the Washington Post and the author of several books on golf, during a early morning sports talk show on Monday, September 26, the day after Palmer'spassing, commented that the value of Arnie's autograph was not that high considering the factthat he signed for everybody and he did so enthusiastically.
"And when you got his autograph, it was never a hurried scrawl, but rather a clear signature." said Feinstein.I am proud to admit that I am one of the many who have an autographed card of The King.
Mingling with the fans was never a chore for Palmer but rather an accepted responsibility as part of his sports star status. He valued contact with fans as much as his pro victories.In a terrific column, also written on the 26th, Feinstein pointed out that in almost all the comments about Palmer after his passing, were related to his greatness as a person rather than his golf prowess. Feinstein also noted that many of the PGA Tour players changed their schedules this past March to attend Arnold Palmer's tournament at Bay Hill. They all knew that he was ill and they weren't sure if they would see him again.Feinstein pointed out that Palmer, as with Tiger, "always connected with the younger players.""He never coddled them and he told them exactly what he thought about their games, the way they behaved, even the way they looked."Feinstein recounted a story involving golfer Paul Goydos who won at Bay Hill in 1996 therebyqualifying him for the Masters. He asked Palmer during the award ceremony if he could play apractice round with him at Augusta.Palmer replied: "Only if you lose that beard, it looks ridiculous." Gaydos shaved the beard andeven asked that it be airbrushed out of the champions portrait which hung in the Bay Hillclubhouse. Said Goydos, "I didn't want Mr. Palmer to walk by it and think I looked ridiculous."
The 5'10, 185-pound Palmer was born in Latrobe, Pa. He made 50 consecutive appearances atthe Masters, 734 career starts on the PGA Tour and 319 career starts on the Seniors Champions Tour.
There are 13 streets within the United States named after him and when he died, his networth was $675 million.In 2000, Arnold Palmer was ranked as the sixth all time golfer.Palmer was part of one of the greatest sports trio in history along with fellow World of Golf Hall of Famers Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.Nicklaus, on hearng of Arnie' s passing, stated: "Arnold transcended the game of golf. He wasmore than a golfer or even a great golfer. He was a legend. Arnold was someone who was a pioneer in his sport. He took the game from one level to a higher level virtually by himself. Along the way, he had millions of adoring fans-Barbara and I among them. We were greatcompetitors who loved competing against each other but were always great friends along the way. Arnold always had my back and I had his. We were always there for each other. Thatnever changed. He was the King of our sport and always will be".Gary Player spoke glowingly of his longtime friend and competitor. "Arnold was many thingsto many people and undoubtedly made golf more popular but to me he was simply a dearfriend for over 60 years. Of course, like anybody, we had our differences but they never stoodin the way of our relationship and I will miss him terribly. He could be demanding but alsoblessed with charisma, charm and patience. Muff, I will lift my glass and toast your life tonight,my friend. Hope to be reunited for another round together in time. Rest in peace. I love you."
President Barack O' Bama commented: "Here's to the King who was as extraordinary on the links as he was generous to others. Thank for the memories Arnold."Former President George H.W. Bush was devastated by news of Palmer's passing. He remarked:"Barbara and I mourn the King...Arnie, the people's champion. He brought golf to millions by hisdaring and caring. We miss him already."Phil Mickelson praised The King by saying : "I've respected a number of players who came before me, but Arnold Palmer was my model on and off the course. As an amateur, I playedmy very first practice round at the Masters at his invitation. I saw how much time and attentionhe gave to his fans, the media and worthy charitable causes. I'm like every other fan of hisenormous influence on the game and his great generosity off the course. I'm saddened by hisdeath but I'm a better player and perhaps a better person thanks to his example."
There are many star athlete deaths which have had a huge impact on both their sports and the entire American sports scene. For golf worldwide, Arnie's passing is monumental and it will takea very long time from which to recover.
He is truly a rare sports figure whose presence impacted everyone in the sport of golf because he knew everybody in golf and they all knew how special he was.
It is not just a million plus person army which has been left in tears.
PAUL R. WOODWARD
WE NEED TO REMEMBER THE OTHER BARRIER BREAKER
Every baseball season, all 30 teams celebrate Jackie Robinson day during whichthey honor the date that the late great Hall of Famer broke the color barrier when he first played for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.
Major League Baseball honors Robinson's terrific athletic skills, his high level ofcompetitiveness and his unwavering courage in withstanding the many layers ofintense prejudice he endured during his career.On that special day, every major league player, manager and coach wear Robinson'snumber 42 on their unforms.
All the accolades Jackie Robinson received were well deserved and the precedent heestablished for all players of color changed American's game forever.While such massive attention has been paid to Robinson's accomplishments, no baseballfan should ever forget the other barrier breaking Hall of Famer whose MLB career hasbeen overshadowed.
Lawrence Eugene Doby was the first black player in the American League when he began playing for the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947.Doby spent 10 of his 13 pro seasons with Cleveland from 1947 to 1958. He also played for the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers. He played in 1,553 games and posted a .283career batting average.He hit 253 homers, drove in 972 runs and collected 1,515 hits. He was a seven-time All-Star.a two time American League home run leader, the AL's RBI leader in 1954, a World Series Champion in 1948 and he became the first player to go from the Negro Leagues directly to the Majors.He was a three sport all state athlete at Eastside High School in Patterson, South Carolina.He played basketball, football and baseball. After he and his football teammates captured a state championship, the squad was invited to play in Florida but the promoters would not allow Doby, a wide receiver, to play because of his color. The team chose not to make the trip.
Following his high school graduation, he accepted a basketball scholarship to Long Island University and in the summer of 1942, he signed a contract with the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues. He would play until September then begin classes at LIU.He did receive $300 but under an alias and the media was informed that he was really from the West Coast. Doby's time with the Eagles was shortened by a two year stint in the United States Navy where he served in 1943 an 1944. In 1946, Doby returned to the Eagles and helped them win a Negro League championship.
Doby was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.I was fortunate to attend a card show many years after Doby retired and I was able to get his signature on an 8 X 10 color photo.His autograph is still very special to me because he was an outstanding player who accomplished a great deal in professional baseball. He was highly regarded by his teammates,other players and anyone who watched him play. He was a gifted athlete whose superb skill set could not keep him from the big leagues.
While Jackie Robinson will forever be a vital part of MLB history, we should always remember that Larry Doby also showed splendid talent, the same intense competitiveness, courage and class in breaking the color barrier in the AL.He should never be considered any less of a star than number 42. The Indians retired Doby's number 14 in 1994. Larry Doby passed away in 2003 at the age of 79.
PAUL R. WOODWARD
SUMMITT REACHED MANY SUMMITS DURING HER BRILLIANT CAREER
When you write about sports legends when they pass away, you have one great advantage. You have their career statistics, their list of accomplishments and all the awards and honors they received to review and get a better appreciation of how truly great they were. In a month where we mourned the deaths of two legendary sports figures, boxing great, Mohammed Ali and the man known as: "Mr. Hockey", Gordie Howe, a giant in all of college sports, also left us. Patricia Sue Summitt, the long-time women's basketball coach at the University of Tennessee, died on Tuesday, June 28 at 64 following a several year battle with Alzheimer's Disease and the on set of dementia which forced her to resign after the 2011-12 season.
To say that she was the greatest college coach of all time would be the understatement of all time. To say that she was also a legend would be the most appropriate comment. Summit coached for 38 years and amassed 1,098 wins, the most in all of Division One history. She was a very tough coach who was extremely demanding, ferociously competitive and a splendid tactician. She had, what those who knew he considered the most intimidating cold as ice stare of any coach in sports when calls by officials went against her team or when her players failed to execute the fundamental she had taught them. She was passionate about her sport and her players, as intense as any coach at any level and as gracious a lady as anyone could ever meet according to her friends and players. I could provide line after line of complimentary remarks about Pat Summitt, but I believe the best way for me to honor her memory is to use statistics to show how fabulous she was as a motivator, mentor, competitor and game day coach by listing her numbers which were clearly off any charts. She was an All-American player at the University of Tennessee at Martin. Summitt was named the Head Coach of the Lady Vols in 1974 at the age of 22. She was a graduate assistant and was given the job after the previous coach resigned suddenly. She was paid $250 a month. After two 16-win years, her teams recorded 36 consecutive 20-victory seasons. She won eight national championships, 16 Southeastern conference regular season titles and 16 SEC tournament championships. She was named NCAA Coach of the Year seven times and SEC Coach of the Year eight times. Her teams compiled a 225-53 record in the post season and an awesome 440 wins against ranked opponents. In fact, 46% of the 1,306 games she coached were against ranked teams. Her squads registered 176 victories versus Top 10 teams and she led the Lady Vols to 31 straight NCAA tournament appearances where they won 112 of 135 games. Her Lady Vols recorded 458 victories in the 527 Southeast Conference games in which they played. Summitt won 873 regular season games. Summitt's teams averaged 28.5 wins and 5.5 losses during the four decades in which she coached. Her squads won 30 or more games 19 times. She had 17 seasons where her teams lost four or fewer games and in 24 of her years in Knoxville, her teams finished 23 or more games above 500. She never had a losing season and is ranked third all-time in NCAA history in national championships behind current University of Connecticut Women's Coach Geno Auriemma who has 11 titles and the late great Hall of Famer John Wooden whose UCLA men's teams captured 10. She was inducted into the Women' Basketball Hall of Fame's the year it was established in 1999, the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2000 along with the Tennessee Women's and Tennessee Sports Hall of Fames. In 2009, the Sporting News placed her #11 on its list of the Top 50 greatest coaches of all time. She was the only woman to make the list. In addition to being named Sportswoman of the Year for 2011 by Sports Illustrated, she was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Arthur Asche Courage Award in 2012. Her impact on women's basketball was monumental and her demand for academic excellence resulted in a 100% graduation rate among the several hundred student athletes who played for her. Summitt coached 21 All-Americans, 39 players who earned All-Southeast conference honors and sent 34 players to the WNBA. A total of 78 of her former athletes are currently basketball coaches or administrators, according to her official UT bio. And if that was not enough, she co-captained the USA Women's Basketball Team to a silver medal in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal where the sport was played for the first time in the history of the games. In 1984, she was the team's head coach and she guided her squad to a gold medal in the Olympics in Los Angeles. She was also inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame. FIBA is the federation which governs international basketball. There is one Pat Summit quote which perfectly sums up her intense dedication to her school and her players. She said: 'I remember every player who wore the Tennessee orange, a shade that our rivals hate, a bold, aggravating color that you can usually find out on a road crew or at a correctional facility as my friend Wendy Larry jokes. But to us, the color is a flag of pride because it identifies us as Lady Vols and therefore women of an unmistakeable type, fighters. I remember how many of then fought for a better life for themselves. I just met them halfway." Upon hearing of Coach Summitts' death, former University of Tennessee quarterback and future Pro Football Hall of Famer, Peyton Manning, commented.: "She could have coached any team male or female in any sport. She could flat out coach." As the world of collegiate sports knows well, the disease which stole Pat Summitt's coaching skills could not rob her of the greatest quality she possessed......GREATNESS.
PAUL R. WOODWARD
A REMINDER OF THE ROUND REBOUNDER
You see him in his current role as an analyst for the NBA Today and you get to hear him
comment on games and other NBA-related issues and you appreciate his terrific sense of
humor and his knowledge of the sport. He says precisely what he thinks and he can hurl
criticism and praise in the same thought. He can be extremely funny and remarkably
serious which ever the moment demands. When he is in front of the TV camera, he makes many solid points, mostly because he truly appreciates how difficult it is for pro hoop players to perform at a very high level in every game and during the playoffs.
He has always been outspoken and has never backed away from sports or social
controversies. What makes Charles Barkley, or as he is known by most people: "Sir Charles", so interesting is that, as a player, he was one of the league's best rebounders during his
career and at 6'6", he had to outhustle, outposition and outfight much taller players, mostly centers, for every ball off the rim.
Charles Wade Barkley was given the nickname "Round Mound of Rebound" while he was at Auburn University mainly because he weighed 252 pounds. When he entered the NBA, he played small forward and he showed opponents, coaches and fans that he was the toughest rebounder for his size in the entire league. In fact, he was the shortest player ever to win an NBA rebounding title, a feat he accomplished during the 1986-87 season when he grabbed 994 boards. That season he outrebounded more than a dozen centers, half of them seven footers. He weighed more than 10 of them. Barkley was drafted by the Philadelphia 76'ers in the first round (fifth pick overall) of the 1984 NBA Draft. He played in 1073 games over 16 seasons. In addition to the eight years he played for Philadelphia, he spent four each with both the Phoenix Suns and the Houston Rockets. He scored 23,757 points and collected 12,546 rebounds (8,286 defensive). He was an 11-time NBA All-Star, a five-time NBA All first teamer, a five-time second teamer and the 1993 League MVP. He was named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary Team and he was voted into the Naismith Hall of Fame and the College Basketball Hall of Fame. In addition to his points and rebounds, he recorded 1,648 steals, 888 blocked shots and 4.215 assists. He played 39,330 minutes. His number 34 was retired by both the Sixers and the Suns. As a three-year starter at Auburn University, he averaged 14.1 points a game and 9.6 rebounds in 84 games. When he retired, Barkley was the fourth player in league history to tally over 20,000 points, collect 10,000 rebounds and deal 4,000 assists. Barkley, who was born in Leeds, Alabama, also won a pair of Gold Medals in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics as part of the USA Basketball Team. He was part of the 1992 Original Dream Team, which was considered the greatest hoop squad ever assembled. The roster included Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Christian Laettner, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen and John Stockton. All but Laettner, who was the Dream Teams' only collegiate player, became Hall of Famers. Barkley led the team averaging 18 points in the eight games played in Barcelona, Spain. The U.S. averaged 117.2 points a game and won by an average of 43.8 points. One of the greatest assets of "Sir Charles" has been his sense of humor. He was asked during his playing days if there was anybody he hated. He responded: "I don't hate anyone at least more than 48 minutes barring overtime." When he was questioned about the goal of the 1992 Dream Team prior to a game against Panama in the Tournament of the Americas, he jokingly answered: "To get the canal back". He once commented: "I know that I'm never as good or bad as any single performance. I have never believed my critics or my worshippers. I'm able to leave the game in the arena". In addressing the notion that he was an example to young people, he quickly offered this retort: "I am not a role model. Just because I can dunk a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids."
Barkley, who is now 53, has a net worth valued at $40 million.
IN A VOTE OF EXCEPTIONAL ATHLETES-ABBOTT SHOULD WIN-HAND DOWN
Making a major league 25-man roster is a significant accomplishment for any player.
Becoming a MLB starting pitcher is a bit more difficult since the number of pitchers who can get starting roles is limited to the five hurlers per club who take the mound every five days and those who are called up to replace those who are injured or get sent down to the minors or get traded during the regular season. That represents less than 250 hurlers which creates an extremely exclusive club. When Jim Abbott joined the Major Leagues in 1989, his route to the "Bigs" was truly remarkable simply because he was born without a right hand. He became a college pitching star before entering the majors where he played for 10 seasons.
James Anthony Abbott, now 48, was born in Flint, Michigan and became an outstanding
two-sport athlete in baseball and football at Central High. In addition to his splendid pitching skills, he was an excellent quarterback and led Central's football team to the Michigan Class A State Semifinals in 1984. Abbott received a baseball scholarship to the University of Michigan where he played three seasons. During his career with the Wolverines, he went 26-8 as a starter. He recorded five shutouts, 15 complete games and struck out 186 in 233.3 innings. In 1987, he won the John E. Sullivan Award a the nations' best amateur athlete becoming the first baseball player ever to earn the honor. In 1986 and 1987, he helped Michigan capture a pair of Big 10 Championships. He had a terrific 1987, going 11-3 with three shutouts and 60 strikeouts in 86 innings. He earned All-American honors and was voted the Big 10's Athlete of the year in 1988. He is the only conference baseball player to receive that award.
The 6'3", 200 pound Abbott was drafted in the first round (as the eighth overall pick) in 1989 by the California Angels and he later spent time with the New York Yankees, the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers. He became part of the Angels starting rotation despite never playing minor league ball. He tossed a no hitter on September 4, 1993 while pitching for the Yanks against the Cleveland Indians. He finished his time in the pros with an 87-108 record as well as 888 strikeouts in 1,674 innings, 31 complete games and six shutouts. He posted a career 4.25 ERA in 254 major league starts.
Abbott was the flag bearer for the U.S. Team in the 1987 Pan American Games held in
Indianapolis and in 1988, he helped the American Olympic Baseball Squad capture a gold
medal which was at the time unofficial since baseball was a demonstration sport at the
games which were held in Seoul, South Korea. In 1992, Abbot was presented with the Tony Conigliaro Award given by the Boston Red Sox. It was named after their former outstanding outfielder who suffered severe facial and eye injuries after being hit by a pitch on his left jaw on August 18, 1967 during a game against the California Angels at Fenway Park. Conigliaro, who was taken off the field on a stretcher, sustained a linear fracture of the left cheekbone, a dislocated jaw and major damage to the retina in his left eye. He made an amazing return in 1968 and after hitting 20 homers and driving in 82 runs, he won the Comeback Player of the Year Award. Conigliaro retired in 1971, due to worsening vision stemming from being hit. He died in February of 1990 at the age of 45. The award is presented to the player who exhibits the spirit, determination and courage shown by Conigliaro.
One of the truly impressive aspects of Jim Abbott's career was the fact that he was able to
perfect a routine to go from pitcher to fielder between pitches. Abbott would rest his glove on the end of his right arm. After each throw, he would slip his mitt over his left hand and be ready to field a ground ball. He had nine errors in 381 fielding chances for a solid .956 percentage. As far as considering his missing hand being a major drawback, he stated in an interview that "Growing up, I never thought I had much of a handicap and neither did the people I played against."
Despite the enormous notoriety that Abbott received for his athletic accomplishments, he
was never the boastful type. He displayed a love of the sport and maintained great respect
for those who coached and played the game. He was inducted into the Michigan Sports and College Baseball Hall of Fames and his number 31 jersey at Michigan was retired by the school. During his acceptance speech when he was named to the Flint Area Hall of Fame, he offered his sincere gratitude to all those people in the Flint area from his family and friends to his teammates and coaches for the tremendous help and support they gave him in his early years. adding that they made him " a better athlete and more importantly, a better person."
Abbott, who lives in California with his wife and two daughters, has served as a pitching consultant for the Angels and has been a motivational speaker giving talks to organizations
throughout the country.
PAUL R. WOODWARD
ELGIN WAS SUPURB IN HIS TIME
Today, the talk in the NBA is the final game played for the Lakers' Kobe Bryant after 20 years in the league, 18 of them as an all-star and the Golden State Warriors setting a new record for most wins in a season with 73 eclipsing the previous mark held by Michael Jordan and the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls who finished at 72-10.
But, I would like to reference a time when the NBA had just eight teams and while it had a
number of Hall of Fame players, its impact on the American Sports scene was far from
what the 32 franchise league's world-wide influence is now.
In the late 1950's, 1960's and 1970's, there were the awesome stars like Hall of Famers Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, Sam and K.C. Jones of the vaunted Boston Celtics, Hal Greer and Dolph Schayes of the Syracuse Nationals, Bob Petit and Cliff Hagan of the St, Louis Hawks, Wayne Embry and Jack Twyman of the Cincinnati Royals, Tom Gola and Paul Arizin of the Philadelphia Warriors and Earl Lloyd, Dick McGuire and George Yardley of the Detroit Pistons.
One of the league's smoothest players who scored and rebounded his way to stardom in that era was a slick, tough 6'5", 225-pound forward Elgin Baylor, who began his career in 1958-59 with the Minneapolis Lakes who later moved to Los Angeles for the 1960-61 season.
Baylor, now 81, was unique. A terrific scorer, a consistently solid rebounder and a splendid assist maker, he earned Rookie of the Year honors averaging an impressive 24.9 points and 15 rebounds in his initial season.
He was an extremely effective scorer and his moves around the basket were as awesome as any athlete to play in the pro ranks. What made him so great was the fact that for his size, he was as good a rebounder and as unselfish a passer as anyone. His amazing variety of shots separated him from all the other greats. He was amazingly fluid and could beat a defender inside to score and was able to pull down offensive boards at a double digit a game clip. He played 13 years and his numbers prove how much of an all-around talent he was in a league that in his first season had just 96 total players, 26 of whom (including him) would later be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. He battled knee problems during the 1963-64 season and in 1965, he sustained a more severe knee injury and that essentially shortened his career.
How Baylor ended up in the NBA was both fascinating and unusual. He was born in Washington, D.C. but following graduation from high school, he was scholastically ineligible to play college ball. A friend managed to arrange a scholarship for him at the University of Idaho where he played for one season before the basketball coach was fired and the school severely restricted scholarships. Somehow, a Seattle car dealer heard about Baylor and invited him too play for his AAU Team, Westside Ford. Baylor sat out a year before enrolling at the University of Seattle where he took the then Chieftains to the 1958 National Championship game where they fell to the Kentucky Wildcats. Baylor scored 25 points and collected 19 rebounds earn the Final Four MVP Award. He then left for the NBA following his junior season. In 846 games, Baylor scored 23,757 points (27.4 average), grabbed 12,546 rebounds(13,5 average) and dished out 1,073 assists (4.6 average). Baylor was also a decent free throw shooter, connecting on 5,767 of 7,391 attempts for a respectable 78%.He was an 11-time NBA All-Star and a 10-time All NBA First Team and was named to both the League's35th and 50th Anniversary Teams. He was also fourth All-Time in NBA with 87 regular season 40-point outings. He also scored 71 points in a game. The true value of any great player can be measured by how he performed in pressure situations and even the toughest defenders found number 22, known as Mr. Inside, brutal to stop near the hoop, especially in the closing stages of a close game. One disadvantage Baylor had in his career was that he did not have the luxury of the three-point shot. He made 8,693 two-point field goals and played 33,863 minutes.
Baylor can be classified in that elite group of NBA players who were "pound for pound" among the best to play the game much like former Sixer and Sun forward Charles Barkley who at 6'5" outrebounded much taller and bigger forwards and centers throughout his career and 76'er guard Allen Iverson who was recently voted into the NBA Hall of Fame.
I was only able to see half of Elgin Baylor's remarkable career but I always enjoyed his style, and mostly his seemingly effortless scoring ability. You can talk all you want about LeBron James, Steph Curry and the many other stars of today's NBA, but there may not have been more of a total package than number "22" who after his playing days moved in to the Los
Angeles Clippers front office where he spent, ironically "22" years and was named the 2006 NBA Executive of the Year. To point out how far the economics of the NBA have come, it is mindboggling to think that in 1958, when Elgin Baylor was the leagues'number one pick, he signed for $20,000. When LeBron was chosen by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the NBA's first overall pick directly out of high school in 2003, he was signed to a maximum rookie contract of $12.96 million over three years. That averaged out to $4.22 million a season.
Elgin's former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, Jerry West stated that Baylor was "one of the most spectacular shooters the game has ever known."
Boston Celtic standout, NBA Coach and another Hall of Famer who played against Baylor put it in no uncertain terms: "I say without reservation that Elgin Baylor was the greatest corner man ever to play the game.
PAUL R. WOODWARD
GARAGIOLA WAS UNIQUE COMBO OF TALENT AND HUMOR
What made Joseph Henry Garagiola, Sr. so immensely popular and highly respected was his splendid combination of a terrific sense of humor, his deep knowledge of baseball, his excellent broadcasting voice, his ability to blend in perfectly with Hall of Fame caliber game callers and his impressive, solid relationships with many hundreds of baseball figures across the nation.
The real Gentleman Joe, as I refer to him, a veteran of over five decades of total baseball broadcasting, passed away at age 90 on Wednesday, Match 23 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
He spent 30 years with NBC Sports as part of the Network's Game of the Week Telecast. He became a part-time color analyst for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998 until his retirement from Broadcasting in 2013. His son, Joe, Jr. who was the then General Manager of the Phoenix based franchise. What separated Garagiola from every other sports broadcaster was his incredibly unique way of bringing the game, its history and its idiosyncrasies to all fans, giving them smooth, colorful and concise play by play and analysis, along with superb tidbits of info he had picked up from his nine years in the majors from 1946-1954 and his decades of being involved with America's pastime. It is very ironic that Garagiola was born on the same St. Louis, Missouri street as late Hall of Fame Yankee Catcher Yogi Berra, who died in September of 2015, also at 90. The two lived across from each other on Elizabeth Street in an Italian-American neighborhood referred to as the "Hill". They both attended St. Mary's High School in South St. Louis. To put it simply, Gentleman Joe could handle any broadcasting challenge with absolute ease.
In addition to his baseball broadcasting prowess, Garagiola also was host of many notable events including the Orange Bowl Parade, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at New York's Madison Square Garden as well as substituting many times for Tonight Show Host Johnny Carson. He also served as the Today Show Host from 1967 to 1973 and he also hosted several television game shows including "He Said, She Said", "Memory Game", "Sale of the Century", 'To Tell The Truth", "Strike It Rich" and was a frequent celebrity guest on the "Match Game". For several years, he hosted a Saturday afternoon program called: "Monitor" on NBC Radio for which he also provided weekly commentaries.
When Garagiola and Berra were first evaluated by scouts, it was mistakenly thought that Joe was the better Major League prospect but as history proved, Joe, although a solid receiver, had a very mediocre career while Berra became a fabulous Hall of Famer winning 13 World Series Championship rings, 10 as a player and three others as an assistant coach and a manager. Garagiola batted .257 in just 676 games while hitting 42 homers and driving in 255 runs while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Chicago Cubs and the then New York Giants. He was 6', 190 pounds during his playing days. In 2,407 fielding chances at catcher, Joe made 38 total errors.In his career, he played with and against more than 30 Hall of Famers including Joe DiMaggio, Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, Duke Snider, Bob Feller, Roy Campanella, Ralph Kiner, Phil Ruzutto, Jackie Robinson, Bobby Doerr, Ted Williams, Whitey Ford, Pee Wee Reese, Luke Appling, Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendiest, Stan Musial, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn, George Kell and his life-long friend, Yogi Berra.
Garagiola won numerous awards. He was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 1970 and named the 1991 Ford Frick Award recipient upon his placement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame Broadcasting Wing. He was voted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 2004. He received a Peabody Award in 1973 for his great work at NBC and in 2014 was named the recipient of the Buck O' Neill Lifetime Achievement Award. He was the author of three books: "Baseball is a Funny Game", "It's Anyone's Ballgame" and Just Play Ball".
When you listened to Joe's analysis of a game, you got the total package, clear, accurate play description, perfectly timed criticism or praise, a particularly pertinent baseball fact and an appropriate humorous quip. He made calling a game a comfortable, enjoyable experience for all listeners. He didn't bury you with stats nor did he try to convince you that he knew everything the players were thinking or everything the coaches and managers were telling the pitchers. He worked with the greatest announcers of all time from the Dodgers Vin Scully, NBC All-Time Great Curt Gowdy, St. Louis Cardinals legendary broadcaster Joe Buck, Cards and Cubs Announcer Harry Carey and Phillies All-time Great By Saam. All are in the Hall of Fame. He was an ardent opponent of chewing tobacco and he visited many MLB spring training camps every year to warn younger players of the severe dangers it caused.
Garagiola helped to establish the Baseball Assistance Team founded to provide assistance for former MLB players who were struggling with financial or health problems.
Probably his most passionate and admirable work of charity and dedication was his tireless efforts to bring awareness and funds to the St. Peter's Indian Mission School on the Giles River Reservation in Bapchute, Arizona. Garagiola donated a huge amount of financial help to the middle school whose student body numbers near 225. He asked that any autograph request be accompanied by a contribution to the school. I must note that I did indeed send a check to St. Peter's to get my signed Garagiola card back in 2013. Gentleman Joe's fund-raising efforts allowed him to donate a 5,000 square foot library named the Joe
Garagiola Learning Center, a computer lab, vans and school buses, a feast home as well as a soccer field to the school. Every morning before class begins, the nuns, who operate the school, open with Joe's Prayer, a daily invocation. During the many times, Joe visited the school, he opened the day with that special prayer. The students loved him dearly and they cherished every visit he made. They were devastated by his death as they lost their most passionate supporter and friend. Health issues were a constant challenge for Joe in his final years. He underwent five surgical procedures, two the result of falls. He had back surgery, the insertion of a pace maker, two eye procedures and skull surgery.
Humor was one of Joe's most awesome strengths. He rarely missed a chance to make himself the center of a joke as he did when he quipped, "Not only was I not the best catcher in the Major Leagues, I wasn't even the best catcher on my street". He said he felt someone was trying to send him a message when he was traded four times in an eight- team league. He said he thought he was modeling National League uniforms. He remarked that he spent his MLB career as a player to be named later. He once stated that he knew a baseball star whose wife's credit cards were stolen but he did not report it because the thief spent less than she did.
Another Hall of Fame Broadcaster with whom Joe worked at NBC was former Washington Senators play by play man Bob Wolff, now 95. He had a tremendous appreciation of Joe's remarkable game calling talents. He stated that "Joe's love of the game was always on display and his knowledge and insights were something I truly admired. He had a way of relating to the audience that served both long time fans and people new to the game".
This is a monumental loss on many levels including major league baseball player, Hall of Fame broadcaster, host, commentator, gentleman and most importantly an admirable character who genuinely cared about other people.......in other words, he was a real Joe.
Society and the sports world owes him a huge thank you for all he gave to both.
PAUL R. WOODWARD
ABOUT THE BIG RUDE
I have been an avid baseball fan for nearly 60 years and I've seen many Hall of Famers and other great stars. One of the many players I enjoyed watching was John Garrett Olerud.
"The Big Rude", as he was called, played nearly 17 major league seasons with the Blue Jays,
Mariners, Red Sox, Mets, and Yankees. He was a terrific left-handed hitter, posting a career batting average of .295 and collecting 2,239 hits, 255 homers, 1,230 RBI's and 500 doubles. He scored 1,039 runs and walked 1,275 times. He was a two-time All-Star, a two-time World Series Champion (with Toronto), a three-time Gold Glover and the 1993 American League Batting Champ (.363 average). He was runner up for the 1998 league batting title.
Olerud was given 157 intentional walks, registered 96 sacrifice flies and reached base safely 3,602 times. The 6''5", 205 pound Seattle native, who is now 47 and lives in Seattle with his wife and two children, was also one of the slickest defensive first basemen in Major League Baseball history with a career fielding percentage of .9954. Despite the fact that he has been retired for 10 tears, he is still tied for 13th on the All-time list. Remarkably, Olerud made 82 errors in 17,665 fielding chances. It is interesting to note that the top fielding first baseman all-time is former major leaguer Casey Katchman whose career fielding percentage was .9975. Katchman set a Major League record back in June of 2010 when he went 239 consecutive games without making an error. In his 10 years, Katchman committed just 18 errors in 7,331 chances. What made Olerud a special player was that he once feared that a professional baseball career might never happen following a frightening occurrence in January, 1989 while playing at Washington State University. After a workout, he collapsed. Doctors conducted extensive tests and determined that he had sustained a "subarachnoid hemorrhage" which had caused some bleeding into his spinal cord. No brain damage was found and although he lost nearly 20 pounds during a two-week hospital stay, he felt fine and was cleared by his doctors to resume workouts. However, Olerud's dad Dr. John E. Olerud, a dermatologist at the University of Washington, decided to have John's tests sent to the school's Chief Neurologist for further study. It was then that the physicians discovered a brain aneurysm and Olerud underwent surgery. He recovered and returned to playing baseball that year hitting .359 with five home runs and 30 RBI's in 78 plate appearances. He went 3-2 on the mound. As a precaution, doctors advised Olerud to wear a batting helmet while in the field for added protection. The season before his seizure, Olerud had enjoyed a splendid 1988 for the Beavers. He hit .464 with 23 homers, 81 RBI's, 108 hits and a .876 slugging percentage. He also was a pitcher, going 15-0 with 113 strikeouts and a .249 ERA. He was named Player of the Year by Baseball America. Prior to his surgery, Olerud had been projected as a first round pick. The Blue Jays selected him in the third round (the 79th player overall) of the 1989 Amateur Draft. John Olerud is one of the best stories in baseball. He was a very quiet athlete but always great with the fans and the media. He was an extremely patient hitter, striking out 1,016 times in 9,063 plate appearances (once every 89 at bats).
Two years ago, I sent John a letter in which I told him how I appreciated and admired all he had endured, how superb a career he had and that he was one of my favorite players. Along with the letter, I included a card for him to sign. Several weeks later, I received the autographed card and a note saying that my letter was one of the nicest he had ever gotten.
Baseball is truly America's game and its greatness is enhanced by players like John Olerud who earned high respect from teammates, opposing players and coaches and who conducted himself in a totally professional manner inside the chalk lines and off the diamond.
HOW SPECIAL THE HEISMAN TROPHY REALLY IS
When Cam Newton was announced as the winner of the NFL's MVP Award the night before
his Carolina Panthers lost Super Bowl 50 to the Denver Broncos 24-10, he became the ninth
Heisman Trophy Winner to accomplish that feat. The Heisman has been presented since 1935 and since that time, a total of 79 players have earned the honor. It should be noted that USC running back Reggie Bush, the 2005 winner, was disqualified after an investigation found that, while in college, he had accepted gifts and perks from a wood be agent, all in violation of NCAA rules. The award was simply vacated. Athletes who have earned the Heisman are an elite group considering the fact that they had the most outstanding years in all of college football during their trophy winning seasons.
My greatest complaint regarding the Heisman is that the media and college fans tend to evaluate the winners on what they did beyond their collegiate playing days. Those who had great careers in the NFL are held in high esteem, those who played briefly or never became significant contributors are forgotten while those who were unable to make the pros or who were hyped as future stars and became "busts" are forever pegged as failures. The fact is the award is presented to the player whose performance best exemplifies the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners of the award should, according to the guidelines, epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance and hard work. Whether a Heisman winner played at the pro level or was unable to make an NFL roster should not be the basis for overlooking the fact that for one season, he was the best college player in the nation. It should be pointed out that only one athlete in history, Ohio State running back, Archie Griffin, managed to win back-to-back trophies in 1974 as a junior and in 1975 in his senior year. In all, 32 quarterbacks have won the trophy while 40 halfbacks/running backs have earned the honor while three wide receivers two fullbacks, a defensive back and an end have been voted the award. Overall, 55 seniors have won the Heisman along with 19 juniors and two sohomores, The only two award winners to win the trophy as freshmen were Florida State Quaterback Jameis Winston in 2013 and Johnny Manziel, the former Texas A&M signal caller, in 2012. Manziel, who may be released by the Cleveland Browns, has struggled with major personal problems since he entered the pro ranks in 2014. While Manziel is facing many challenges, it should not be forgotten what a phenomenal season he had in 2012 in his first year as an Aggie. In 13 games, he completed 295 of 434 passes (68%) for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns. In addition, he rushed 201 times for 1,410 yards and another 21 scores. His quarterback rating that Heisman year was 155.3. Manziel garnered 44 first place votes and collected 2,029 votes overall. Alabama junior running back, Derrick Henry won the 2015 Heisman and he became the second Crimson Tide player to do so. Alabama becomes the 18th school to boast at least two Heisman winners. The top teams with three or more Heisman Trophies include Notre Dame (7) Ohio State (7), Southern Cal (6), Oklahoma (5), Nebraska, Army, Michigan, Florida, Auburn and Florida State (3 each).
The most decorated Heisman Trophy winner is former USC running back Marcus Allen, the 1981 Heisman winner who posted some incredible career accomplishments. He won a National Championship with the Trojans in 1978, a Super Bowl with the then Los Angeles Raiders in 1984, won a NFL MVP Award and is a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. There are some fascinating facts about the Heisman. When the trophy was first presented in 1935, it was known as the Downtown Athletic Club (of New York) Award because the organization had created it. In 1936, the award was renamed after long-time coach and the athletic director of the Downtown Athletic Club, John Heisman.
O.J. Simpson earned the most first place votes (855) and most overall votes ever (2,853) when he won the 1968 award. He finished 1,750 votes ahead of second place Leroy Keyes of Purdue. Only two other schools have sported consecutive Heisman winners in addition to Ohio State with Archie Griffin. Yale featured End Larry Kelley in 1936 and Halfback Clint Frank in 1937 while Army had Fullback "Doc" Blanchard in 1944 and running back Glenn Davis in 1945. The man who was responsible for the famous Heisman pose was Ed Smith, who modeled for it. He was a member of the then New York University Football team in 1934. The initial trophy winner was Jay Berwanger who was a halfback at the then University of Chicago. The trophy is 13.5 inches high, weighs 45 pounds and it is cast in bronze. It is an extremely difficult award to win as evidenced by Peyton Manning who now has his second super bowl ring and whose future enshrinement in Canton, Ohio is a mere formality as soon as he becomes eligible. In 1997, during his senior year at the University of Tennessee, Manning connected on 287 of 477 passes (60.2%) for 3619 yards and 36 touchdowns. His quarterback efficiency rating was 147.7. He received 1543 votes for the Heisman but lost to the eventual winner, Michigan's defensive back, wide receiver and special teams star, Charles Woodson, who amassed more than 1800 votes. Interestingly, including the recently announced 2016 class of inductees, the Pro Football Hall of Fame now has 303 members. Of that number, just nine are former Heisman winners. They are Roger Staubach (Navy), Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State), Marcus Allen and O.J. Simpson (both USC), Doak Walker (SMU), Tony Dorsett (Pittsburgh), Earl Campbell (Texas) and Paul Hornung and Tim Brown (both Notre Dame). For those Heisman winners who did well as professionals, they deserved every accolade they received. But for those who never found success or stardom in the NFL ranks, their status as Heisman Trophy owners should never be underappreciated or disregarded. When you realize that of the many hundreds of thousands of athletes who have battled on college football fields across America since 1935, the reality is only 79 of them have secured a Heisman and that places them in a very exclusive category of athletes.
BY PAUL WOODWARD
LOU BROCK OVERCOMES MEDICAL SETBACK
The National Baseball Hall of Fame is a very special place because it houses an elite group
of athletes who made enormous contributions to the game. Lou Brock is one of those elite players who, in addition to being the second greatest base stealer of all-time, is one of the most fan friendly professional players ever. Back in September, Brock suffered a major infection in his left leg which was related to his diabetes and it necessitated an amputation just below the knee. The 76-year old former St. Louis Cardinal legend underwent extensive physical therapy before being fitted for a prosthesis. While his on field career was remarkable, his genuine appreciation of baseball fans has remained as intense as his style of play. Brock was one of my favorite players and during the latter stages of his major league career, I got the great opportunity to see him at a card show. That was during a era when you could actually buy an autograph without taking out a bank loan. When it was my time to get his signature, I gave him two 8 by 10 color photos and handed the two autograph tickets I had purchased to the show representative. I explained that my oldest son was also one of his biggest fans but he was ill and could not attend and I was hoping he could personally autograph one of the pictures to him. Brock very graciously did so. He thanked me for coming and said t he hoped my son felt better. Brock seemed to truly understand that his success and status in baseball was due, in great measure, to the fans. He spoke to every autograph seeker, as if he knew them as neighbors. In fact, a person seated next to him, whispered in his ear and you could tell he was reminding Brock that he needed to speed things up because the line was long. It was as though he was implying that personalizing items was too time consuming. All I know is that Brock seemed irritated as if he were defending his conersations with fans because they were the foundation of the sport he loved.
Brock's career stats over 19 years, 16 of those with St. Louis, were impressive. He was a six time All-Star, stole 938 bases, collected 3,023 hits, scored 1,610 runs, stroked 149 homers, drove in 900 runs, hit 486 doubles, 141 triples, led the National League in stolen bases eight times and posted a career batting average of .293 in 2,610 games. He trails only fellow Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson in career stolen bases. Henderson swiped 1,406 bags in 3,081 games over 25 seasons. Brock, who played three years with the Cubs before signing with St. Louis, scored over 100 runs in a season seven times, stole 50 or more bases 12 times and he drew 761 walks. Brock was an excellent left fielder and ended his playing days with a .959 career fielding percentage (196 errors in 4,732 chances). Brock played from 1961 through 1979. He retired at age 40. Brock won a World Series title with the Cards and was a recipient of the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award. He owned a successful floral business for over 20 years and both he and his wife are ordained ministers in the St. Louis area. It is ironic that doctors discovered the infection in Brock's leg during a flight home from, you guessed it, a card show, in Washington, D.C.
I wish Lou Brock the very best. He is after all, part of another select group, a famous athlete
who never got hurt tripping over his own ego, a ball player who genuinely respected the
people who walked through the turn stiles to watch him perform. For the Cardinals and the city of St. Louis, Louis Clark Brock was and most certainly still is, a real STEAL.
By Paul Woodward
MOURN ERNIE AND YOGI BUT DON'T FORGET AL
During this past year, Major League Baseball lost two of its all time greats. The Cubs lost their beloved Ernie Banks on January 23 at age 83 and the Yankees said goodbye their legendary 10-time World Series Champion catcher, Yogi Berra, who passed away on September 22 at 90.
While these two giants of baseball will be greatly missed, we cannot forget another outstanding major league player who died this year and with far less spectacular notoriety.
That supurb athlete was former Cleveland Indians slugger Al Rosen who died on March 13. He was 91.
Rosen, nicknamed "Flip" and the "Hebrew Hammer", played 10 years with the Indians from 1947 to 1956. Rosen served four years in the Navy during World War Two before he joined Cleveland. He was a third-baseman who also played first and he was a four-time All-Star. He led the American League in homers twice and in RBI's twice. He was the AL MVP in 1953 after he stroked 43 homers, drove in 145 runs and batted .336. That season is considered by
some as the best ever by a third baseman. He had also helped the Indians to a World Series Championship in 1948. Rosen, who played at 5"11", 180, clubbed 192 homers, collected 1,063 hits and drove in 717 runs in 1,044 career games. He scored 603 runs, doubled 165 times and had a career batting average of .285. He was an excellent fielder finishing with 127 errors in 2,855 chances for a career percentage of .954.
Rosen was one of just a handful of Jewish major leaguers during that time. After retiring from baseball, Rosen spent 20 years as a stockbroker but decided to return to the game in the late 1970's as an executive. He was the President and CEO of both the Yankees
and the Astros and later the GM of the Giants whom he directed from last place in the National League West in 1985 to the division title in 1987 and a World Series Championship in 1989. He was respectly known as the GM who thought like a player. For the great job he did in rebuilding the Giants, he received the 1989 NL Executive of the Year Award.
That made him the first Major League MVP to earn such an honor. Rosen was a high-caliber player and executive no one should forget. Those who coached him, those who played with and against him and the baseball fans in Cleveland who got to see him over a decade certainly will never forget. A long-time Indians fan expressed his thoughts after hearing of Rosen's passing.
"As a young boy in Cleveland, Al Rosen was my baseball hero. He as a class guy, someone to look up to. After getting into the business world, I learned and heard of his business prowess. He was dedicated and determined on and off the field."
Al Rosen proved that he didn't need the initials HOF behind his name to show that he had a
significant impact on the game of baseball both as an athlete, an MLB executive and a
YOGI WILL TRULY BE MISSED
For one of he greatest catchers in baseball history and one of the most down-to-earth
athletes who ever played professional sports, the game was finally over. Lawrence Peter Yogi Berra, who won more World Series rings (10 as a player and three as a coach and manager) than any other Major Leaguer, died of natural causes at age 90 on September 22. The man, who kept reporters, announcers and sportswriters constantly chuckling over his Yogi-isms, was much more to baseball than a great catcher and hitter. He was an amazing athlete who maintained a great appreciation of and rapport with fans. He was incredibly consistent over his 19-years with the New York Yankees.
Yogi Berra was 5'7", 185 but a very durable athlete. He played in 2,120 games, 538 of them as an outfielder. He was an 18 time All-star and was one of only five players to win three American League MVP Awards. He also managed both the Yankees and the Mets. He posted a career batting average of .285, stroked 358 homers, drove in 1,430 runs, collected 2,150 hits including 321 doubles, 49 triples, scored 1,175 runs and walked 704 times. Because of his outstanding knowledge of the strike zone, Berra remarkably struck out just 414 times in 7,555 at bats. He fanned more than 30 times in three of his 19 years, 32 in 1953, 35 in 1958 and 38 in 1959. Defensively, Berra was superb, committing only 125 errors in 10,185 chances. His career fielding percentage was 98.8%.
Berra served in the Navy and was a crew member on the U.S.S. Bayfield, an attack transport involved in the D-Day invasion. The Bayfield directed machine gun fire and launched rockets
against German defenses along Utah Beach. The vessel was fired upon but no one was hit.
Berra and his mates received commendations for their actions.
Yogi was a phenomenally good "bad pitch" hitter and his ability to extend his arms and hit
to all fields was uncanny. Proof of his splendid bat skills can be shown in the stat that in five
of his 19 seasons, he had more homers than strikeouts. He caught Don Larsen's perfect game in the 19956 World Series, the only one ever thrown. Berra was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1972. He finished just five votes behind Los Angeles Dodger great Sandy Koufax.
He was highly respected by his teammates, umpires as well as opposing players and mangers.
It is astonishing that Berra, who was born in 1925 in St Louis, never attended high school.
His sense of humor was on such a keen level that he could throw out funny quips as smoothly and naturally as a big-time comedian. Some of his classic one-liners included: "you better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six." and "always go to other people's funerals, otherwise, they won't come to yours." He also said that: "Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical" and "I always take a two hour nap between one and four." The man whose actual birth name was Lorenzo Pietro Berra came from an Italian neighborhood in the city nicknamed the "Gateway to the West" and he become one of baseball's elite and a genuinely nice guy who could be a super tough and hardnosed competitor on the field but a super easy to like person off the diamond. His personality was indeed a rarity in professional sports.
For number "8", the game is sadly over. But his athletic achievements and the great moments of laughter he gave us all, will always be remembered. One of the hundreds of heartfelt reactions came from former Mets pitcher and Hall of Famer Tom Seaver who stated: "They threw away the mold with respects to Yogi. He was one of a kind. He loved the game. As a manager, he never tried to complicate things. He let his players play. He respected what you did on the field. He was an utter delight to be around."
BY: PAUL R. WOODWARD
LeBRON JAMES, AN EXTRAORDINARILY GIFTED ATHLETE!
We know how great an NBA player LeBron James has been since he entered the league directlyout of high school in 2003. He spent the early part of his career with Cleveland who had draftedhim in 2004. He later signed with the Miami Heat amidst waves of criticism from angry andbitter fans. Prior to the 2014-15 season, James decided to return to the Cavs.
He is a two time NBA Champion, a four-time league MVP, an 11-time All-star, the 2004 NBARookie of the Year and the 2008 league scoring champion. In his NBA career, he has been named Eastern Conference Player of the Month 29 times andPlayer of the Week 48 times. Adding to his impressive list of accomplishments, he is the only NBA player to score over 2,000 points, grab 500 rebounds, dish out 500 assists and record 100 steals in a single year for at least seven seasons.
While he is an extraordinarily gifted athlete, his four years at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio was one of the greatest careers in basketball history.His stats were beyond awesome. From 1999-2002, James led his team to a 100-7 record, three state championships anda National title. Remarkably, he scored in double figures 106 times in the 107 games in which he played. At 6'6", 250, he was a powerful scorer and rebounder who won 53 of his first 54 starts. He made a stunning 1,058 field goals, tallied 2,657 points, grabbed 842 rebounds andhanded out 523 assists. He recorded 79, 20-point games, 24, 30-point outings, five 40-point contests and three 50-point games in his career. He also connected on 166, three-point field goals and in 56 games he finished with double figures in points and rebounds. James averaged 18 points a game his freshman year when the team went 27-0. As a sophomore he averaged 25.3 a game, 28 points his junior season and 30.1 as a senior. He posted double figures in the last 90 games of his career.LeBron was named Ohio Mr. Basketball in three of his four years, earned Gatorade Player of the Year honors twice, was the State of Ohio tournament MVP thee times and was voted USAPlayer of the Year, McDonald's Player of he Year, Naismith Prep Player of the Year and namedPlayer of the Year twice by the Cleveland Plain Dealer and a McDonald's All-American.He was selected First Team All-State three times and at age 18, he was the youngest player ever to be picked #1 in the NBA Draft.
What many people do not know is that James was also an outstanding football player in highschool, making First Team All-State as a wide receiver in his sophomore and junior years.In the 2000-2001 season, James caught 42 passes for 752 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was forced to quit football after suffering a broken wrist.James encountered an eligibility issue as a senior when he accepted a Hummer H2 given to himfor his 18th birthday by his mom who had taken out a loan.to purchase the vehicle.She figured that her son would become wealthy once he entered the pros and that theHummer would be paid off quickly. The NCAA launched an investigation since amateur athletescannot accept gifts over $100. Later in that year, James accepted $845 worth of throwback jerseys from a clothing store in exchange for posing for photos.The MCAA decided to suspend James for two games and also took a victory away from theschool ruling that LeBron had been ineligible.
Another truly amazing stat is that James is the fastest player in NBA history to score 5,000playoff points.His defensive skills are terrific as evidenced by his being placed on the NBA's All-Defensive Team six times.In the 2015 NBA finals, James single-handedly kept the injury-riddled Cleveland Cavaliers in the series but he could not overcome the hot-shooting Golden State Warriors.
The 30-year old James is worth $270 million.
BY PAUL WOODWARD
A VERY SPECIAL PLAYER IN BASEBALL HISTORY
When you talk about Baseball Hall of Famers, there are dozens of superstars whose names come to mind in an instant.....Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Nolan Ryan, Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax....there are dozens of other all-time greats who would also be considered as the best to ever play the game. There is one Hall of Fame player whose name should be mentioned in any discussion about very special baseball players and genuinely terrific human beings. Right fielder Roberto Clemente Walker of the Pittsburgh Pirates was, in my view, one of the most gifted athletes in Major League history and his remarkable numbers prove it. In 11 of the 18 seasons he played from 1955 through 1972, Clemente hit over 300. He was a 15-time All-Star, a two-time World Series Champion, a 12-time Golden Glove Winner, a four-time National League Batting Champion and an NL and World Series MVP. He hit .317 for his career, collected 3,000 hits, stroked 248 homers, drove in 1,305 runs, scored 1,416 runs, recorded 440 doubles, 166 triples and became the first player to hit a walk off, inside the park grad slam. He and Willie Mays have the most Gold Glove awards in all of baseball. His fielding percentage in 2,433 career games was .972. He made 142 errors in 4,944 chances. He threw out 266 runners and even though he perished in a plane crash in 1972, he is still tied for 17th in MLB history in outfield assists. He was the first Latin American player to reach 3,000 hits, to win a World Series, earn league MVP, make an All-star team and be elected to the Hall of Fame. Clemente's superb athletic skills were only part of what made him such a very unique individual. He was involved in constant off-season charity work where he donated his time and money to helping his fellow countrymen in Puerto Rico as well as other Latin American nations. His dedication to giving to others cost him his life at age 38. He had visited Managua, the Capital of Nicaragua in early December of 1972. The city was then devastated by an earthquake later in the month and Clemente quickly organized a relief flight to bring needed food and medical supplies to the stricken area. The flight was destined for disaster. The aircraft, a Douglas DC-7, had previously experienced mechanical issues and adding to the danger, the aircraft was 4200 pounds overweight. Clemente had arranged several previous relief flights and he had been told that the food and other supplies had been diverted by government officials. He decided to go on the trip and assure that the aid reached those it was intended to help. On December 23, the plane crashed immediately after takeoff in the waters off the Puerto Rican coast. The body of the pilot and the aircrafts' fuselage were later found. Clemente's remains were never recovered. I was fortunate to follow Clemente's career and I was always amazed at how well he could hit pitches out of the strike zone. He was, in my mind, the best low ball hitter that ever lived. I remember him swinging at a pitch nearly in the dirt and smacking it off the center field wall at Pittsburgh's Forbes Field. In another at-bat, I was stunned when he lunged across home plate to smash a high and way outside pitch for a two run single. With his splendid ability to put powerful swings on super low pitches, he seemed equally suited for pro golf. Clemente's outstanding career had its share of very challenging issues which involved the fact that while he was Latin American, having been born in the Barrio San Antoin of Carolina, Puerto Rico, one of the poorest areas of the country, he was also of African descent and that added to the prejudice and harassment he endured early on. Clemente entered the Majors just eight years removed from Jackie Robinson's breaking the color barrier. One great example of the bias Clemente faced was the fact that through his first seven years of spring training with Pittsburgh, he was forced to stay with a black family instead of in a hotel near the facility. Clemente faced significant prejudice and jokes about the fact that he was black and from the Carribean and some writers referred to him as the "Dusky Flyer" and the"Chocolate Covered Islander". Many sportscasters and announcers called him "Bob" and "Bobby" despite the fact that it angered and irritated him immensely. When he began speaking broken English, reporters unleashed big time ridicule at him. They made fun of him and laughed when he struggled mightily to string complete sentences together. One documented occurrence involved his being asked about how cold weather affected him. He responded: "I no run fast cold weather." Clemente was signed in 1954 by then Brooklyn Dodgers Scout Al Campanis who called him, "the greatest natural athlete I have ever seen as an amateur free agent'. When the Dodgers attempted to hide Clemente by keeping him off their roster, he became a Rule 5 player and the Pirates made him the top draft pick of 1955. As Clemente's began to flourish as a hitter and an outfielder, the harassment stopped and fans in the Steel City and around baseball began to realize what an exceptional athlete he was. In order for Clemente to be enshrined in Cooperstown, the Hall of Fame had to wave its mandatory five-year waiting period. Lou Gehrig was the only other player to have been exempted from the five year rule. When Clemente entered the Hall on August 6, 1973, the name on his plaque read Roberto Walker Clemente. It was an error because the engraving mistakenly placed his mother's maiden name in the middle of his, rather than after his name as is part of Hispanic custom. In 2000, his bronze plaque was recast and his correct name, Roberto Clemente Walker was added. The most remarkable aspect of Clemente's career was that he was a free swinger deluxe and despite his constant chasing of bad pitches, he still managed to hit for high average. He struck out 1,230 times in 10,211 at bats. He also had 621 walks. A fitting tribute to him as a great baseball player and greater humanitarian occurred when Clemente was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the President's Citizen's Medal by the late Richard Nixon on May 14, 1973. On July 23, 2003, then President George W. Bush awarded Clemente the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Three years later, Major League Baseball honored his memory with its Historic Achievement Award. Number 21 had a double honor of being recognized as much for his great work off the field as his greatness on it.
Then sports journalist and author Robert Angell summarized Clemente's career by noting that: "He played a kind of baseball many of us had ever seen before.......as if it were a form of punishment for everyone else on the field." Former Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn spoke glowingly of Clemente when he remarked: "He gave the term 'complete' a new meaning. He made the word 'superstar' seem inadequate. He had about him a touch of royalty." An incredibly perfect comment about #21 was given by then New York American Journal Columnist Jimmy Cannon who simply stated "Baseball survives because guys like Clemente still play it."
I must acknowledge the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Wikipedia and Bleacher Report for
some of the information I used.
By PAUL WOODWARD