Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Getting Ready for the Summer!

A very slow news day,but I decided to take the time to catch up on the always looming baseball season and the plans for the 2017 season.

I'll start with the tentative trip schedule that will likely add some day trips as well.
When you work the hours that I do in the winter-April cannot come fast enough....

April:Charleston WV ,West Virginia Power
Two days.-Derreck Chupak,Doug Hopkins,Fred Landucci and Michael Landucci.

May: Unknown-30th Anniversary trip with the Lovely Cherie.To be Determined

June: Buies Creek NC, Buies Creek Astros
         ,Durham NC,Durham Bulls,
          Zebulon NC,Carolina Mudcats
          Kinston NC,Down East Wood Ducks-Derreck Chupak,Doug Hopkins.

July;Cleveland Ohio,Cleveland Indians,Derreck Chupak,Brandon Diehl
         Augusta GA,Augusta Greenjackets-This is a big one as 2017 is the last year in their current park
         Kannapolis NC-Kannapolis Intimidators
         Winston-Salem NC-Winston-Salem Dash
         Danville VA-Danville Braves-Doug Hopkins

August:To be Named
          Burlington NC-Burlington Royals
          Charlotte NC-Charlotte Knights
          Bristol VA-Bristol Pirates-Fred Landucci

         Rochester NY-Rochester Red Wings
         Buffalo NY-Buffalo Bison
         Auburn NY- Auburn Doubledays-Derreck Chupak,Doug Hopkins

That comprises the definite stops,there (as noted) may be a day trip or two added,if the schedule falls right.
This would be 14 new ballparks on my list and would move two parks off the "been to the park,but not for a game list" in Danville and Bristol Virginia.
The TRS radius which is the closest park to the north,south and west that I have not been to-assuming we hit all of these and nothing crazy comes up would be as follows.
South-Norfolk VA-Norfolk Tides
North-Full Season- Hartford CT-Hartford Yard Goats
           Short Season-Wappinger Falls NY-Hudson Valley Renegades
West- Full Season-Dayton Ohio-Dayton Dragons
           Short Season-Kingsport Tennessee-Kingsport Mets

Besides those to "stretch the radius" and the 14 parks that get added to the list,I have a few others targeted for either a day trip or more likely 2018/2019
Indianapolis (AAA) would move a nice park off the "been to" list,that is pretty easy to get to.
Lexington (Low A) Would complete the state of Kentucky
Pawtucket (AAA) McCoy Stadium is rumored to be on the endangered list
Greeneville TN (Rookie),This years trip and Kingsport would leave only Greenville to complete the Appy League.
Norwich CT (Short Season),if you go to Hartford,why not hit the other pro team in the state on the same trip?

Just an update for those of you that can't wait for the season like me!!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Cleaning out the inbox

Time to clean out the inbox with a few notes from the world..

Most of you should know that Jim Bouton's Ball Four ranks with my favorite books of all time.
I've mentioned it (and Bouton) here many times and my fondness for the book goes back to childhood through current day.
I have the book,the audiobook and the first book that I bought for my Kindle on Christmas Day was Ball Four,so I'm a big fan.

The soon to be 77 year old Bouton has suffered a stroke in recent years and isn't as strong as he used to be,so interviews with him of late are somewhat rare,but the family has decided to auction off the original notes and cassettes that Bouton used to compile Ball Four.
The best part of this collection is that there is so much that didn't make it into the book!
Think of it as the Director's Cut!!
Now,these will fetch a large amount,but I'm hoping someone will buy and donate to an organization that will make them available to the baseball public or even somewhere that allows baseball researchers access to them.
The New York Times talks about the sale and items here,while the Los Angeles Daily News takes a swing at things here.

Former Devil David Clarkson was always one of my favorite Devils and I never held it against him that he left the Devils via free agency after his career year (and a half) that saw Clarkson score 45 goals in that span.
A player has the right to cash in,especially when the numbers appear to be an aberration and the team that signs him is the player's hometown team,so I had no problems with Clarkson leaving.
Clarkson never even approached those Devils numbers after leaving and has been inactive with back problems that likely have ended his career.
A sad ending for a hard nosed player that loved the game as the Columbus Dispatch writes....

Here is my favorite Clarky commercial from his Devils days!

Politico writes about South Carolina congressman Mark Sanford and his political future,which surprisingly is still around.
Sanford is most remembered by non-residents of the Palmetto State for being their Governor and disappearing for a bit while he cheated on his wife outside the country.
Sanford was elected after that to congress and looks to be one of the main members of the GOP to be willing to take on Donald Trump,which considering the baggage of Sanford might not be the easiest water-carrier inside the party..

Why do Americans refrigerate their eggs?
The New York Times writes about why the Europeans prohibit washing eggs,while here in the U.S.washing eggs are mandatory.
Turns out the reason is that eggs have a natural cuticle that protect the inside of the egg from bacteria that gets washed away when they are washed.
The Europeans think the cuticle is more important and the Americans think the washing away is better.
In any event,once the egg is washed,it then needs to be refrigerated...

Five Thirty Eight discusses the Marshall basketball program under coach Dan D'Antoni,the older brother of the more famous Mike and a former NBA assistant.
D'Antoni is bringing the fire up the three offense to the mid-major circuit and this article takes a look at the analytical side of the game with values for where each shot is taken and how many should be taken.
I'm not sure how much that I agree with some of this,but it's a very interesting read on basketball...

Monday, February 20, 2017

Transactions Trail

Before I start,I wanted to thank those of you that sent nice words on the George Steele and Ivan Koloff posts.I enjoy looking back at the old days of wrestling fandom and the stories that go with them.
Glad you liked them and now onto to a few minor transactions over the last few days..

The New Jersey Devils traded Sergei Kalinin to Toronto after Kalinin cleared waivers as the Devils made their first trade with former GM Lou Lamiorello.
Kalinin scored two goals with two assists this season for the Devils on the third and fourth lines before the team waived Kalinin,
Kalinin would have been a restricted free agent at the end of the season and I doubt that the Devils would have been likely to re-sign him,so getting anything was something,so the depth acquisition of defenseman Viktor Loov was at least something.
Loov appeared in four games for the Leafs in 2015-16 with two assists,but spent this season with the Toronto Marlies,the Leafs AHL affiliate.
The 24 year old Swede was assigned to the Devils AHL affiliate in Albany.

Moving to baseball with the San Francisco Giants,who continued to add to their camp collection of veteran middle infield candidates with the signing of Aaron Hill.
The soon to be 35 year old Hill hit ten homers in splitting last year between the Brewers and Red Sox and offers the ability to play three positions in the infield.
Hill was also joined by Gordon Beckham,who decided to re-sign with the Giants after being an emergency addition from the White Sox in late season play when the Giants were hammered with injuries in the infield.
The pair will battle with about for twenty eight other candidates from around the world in the new reality game-Veteran Utility Infiielder!
Many can play-only one (Or maybe two) can win!

The Giants also added two interesting names to the spring training list with outfielder Slade Heathcott and pitcher David Hernandez.
Heathcott,who was at one time a top prospect in the Yankee organization before battling injury problems and drug suspensions,is an interesting name.
Heathcott has only 30 big league at bats (2015 Yankees) and spent last season trying a comeback in the White Sox system last year.
At just 26,Heathcott is worth a flyer for a low risk contract,even if usually these don't work out.
I'd bet on Heathcott being assigned to AAA Sacramento,if that is allowed in his contract..
David Hernandez,a former Frederick Key,brings a chance to make the team in the bullpen.
Hernandez throws hard and has a high strikeout rate which are both helpful in pitchers!
The issues with Hernandez are that he has one of the higher walk rates for relievers and has problems in keeping the baseball in the ballpark,which tends to be a pair of major items to worry about!
The hope with Hernandez is that perhaps his problems with allowing homers might be countered by playing half his games in the hardest park to hit the ball out of in baseball.

The Cleveland Indians are bringing two long shot lefties to Tucson for spring training in Chris Narveson and Luis Perez.
Narveson was a back of the rotation innings eater at one time for the Brewers,but that was six years ago and he has pitched 50 innings in the following five seasons combined.
Narveson had an ERA of over eight in eight innings with the Marlins last season.
Perez hasn't pitched in the bigs since Toronto in 2013 and spent last season in Japan as a Yakult Swallow and looks to be a LOOGY in AAA Columbus as insurance against a injury to any of the lefty relievers.
Cleveland also sold reliever Austin Adams to the Angels after posting an ERA of 9.83 last season in 19 appearances....

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Broner squeaks by Granados-Boxing Challenge

The Boxing Challenge continued on a free Showtime weekend with three interesting bouts.
I scored five points to Ramon Malpica's four on the night to take a small lead of 11-10 in the challenge...

In the main event,Adrien Broner squeaked out a narrow split decision over hard luck Adrian Granados in a ten round welterweight bout.
I scored Granados a 96-94 winner,but the fight was close enough that I would not argue with a card of the same score for Broner.
Here is the biggest problem that Adrien Broner faces-at 147,he just isn't strong enough to beat the best fighters in the division,which Granados is far from that level,but at 140 pounds where he would likely be the favorite against anyone except Terence Crawford,Broner simply cannot be relied on make the weight and I'd be very uneasy attempting to promote any fight with Broner at that weight.
Ramon and I earned one point for the Broner win.

In the co-feature,Lamont Peterson defeated David Avenesyan by a unanimous decision in another decent scrap.
Peterson won a minor belt with the win,but more importantly for him earned him the mandatory spot for the winner of the WBA-WBC welterweight unification fight in two weeks between Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia.
I scored Peterson a 116-112 winner and looked solid,but not spectacular in earning the win over Avenesyan,who only had the aging Shane Mosley as an opponent of any note entering the fight.
Ramon and I would add two points for the Peterson victory.

Former Olympian Marcus Browne notched his best win as a pro as the light heavyweight knocked out Thomas Williams in the sixth round.
Williams,who was knocked out by Adonis Stevenson in a championship try in his previous fight,was dropped in the second and fourth before the knockout in round six.
After the fight,Williams was taken to the hospital with a broken jaw,while Browne announced his intentions to challenge WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson,which should be-
A) Easy to make since both are with Al Haymon,B) A fun fight to watch since both are big punchers with suspect chins and C) Stevenson only fights guys smaller than him,fighters with questionable chins and often times both.
A Stevenson-Browne winner wouldn't be any better than the third best (at most) fighter in the division,but like Stevenson's fight with Thomas Williams,it would be fun to watch....
I earned two points for the Browne win and knockout,with Ramon adding one for the win..

More on these fights and other boxing topics tomorrow on Fightheads.
Join us,won't you?

The Russian Bear-Ivan Koloff

Seems like the wrestling world is losing stars from its past every day recently with Jimmy Snuka,Chavo Guerrero,George Steele and now "the Russian Bear" Ivan Koloff,who passed at 74 from liver related issues.

Ivan Koloff was always a huge star in wrestling and made his name for good in this (WWWF) territory by being the man to end the seemingly indestructible Bruno Sammartino's first championship reign in 1971.
That victory (he would lose the title the next month to start the Pedro Morales title run) stamped Koloff as one of the top drawing bad guys of the 1970's simply by being noted as a former world champion in an era where world champions didn't come along every week.

Ivan Koloff had a huge run with the Mid-Atlantic territory from 1983-86 with the USSR's gimmick of invading the USA with first the converted American Don Kernodle and then the biggest of all,training the Nikita Koloff as the baddest Soviet of them all for matches against the Road Warriors (teaming together),United States title matches vs Magnum TA and world title challenges against Ric Flair.
Ivan Koloff was the veteran teacher for Nikita in both promos,where Ivan could talk enough to keep Nikita looking menacing without giving away his inexperience and in the ring where the older wrestler could be the workhorse and again-not give away that Nikita was limited in the ring as he learned the game.

Ivan Koloff moved down the card mainly due to something that was not due to anything that he did-the auto accident of Magnum TA.
The accident forced the promotion to make a decision to move Nikita into Magnum's role as the number two babyface and after that turn and a series of matches with Nikita,Ivan moved down the card first with Vladimir Petrov,a failed attempt to recreate the Nikita gimmick and then as a coach/advisor with the Paul Jones army with the Powers of Pain,which was aborted when the P.O.P.
went to the WWF before a short babyface turn against Jones and his Russian Assassins.
The Russian Assassin had a really cool entrance and then not so much...

Koloff had such an unusual look because for a top pro wrestling heel,he was a bit undersized at a billed 6'1,but looked more 5'10.
Looking at Koloff's pictures in the 1970's,he featured more of a squatty,weightlifters type build with transitioned into more of a refined look in the 1980's,which didn't help him standing beside muscular titans such as Nikita,the Warlord and the Barbarian as he looked almost tiny!
Known for the heavy stomping boots,the Russian Chain that he brought to the ring and often wrestling blowoff matches in his "speciality" the Russian Chain Match that he was dubbed usually as being "undefeated" in,yet never seemed to win any of those,Koloff played the part of the Soviet nationalist so well,Koloff was able to disguise that he was actually from Quebec!

Ivan Koloff didn't have a long stay in the WWF during my days as a fan,being managed by Fred Blassie for a run that really wasn't all that memorable (other than one slap upside the head of Pat Patterson),but he did have one interaction with Shane and I.
I think in the Jimmy Snuka post,I mentioned that Snuka was scheduled for a Hagerstown bout against Ray Stevens that was cancelled due to the blizzard of 1983.
When that card was rescheduled,it was Koloff that would battle Snuka in the main event.
Koloff passed Shane and I entering the building and we were puzzled what he was doing there as he was not advertised.
I remember Shane being very excited to see the unadvertised Russian Bear not only there,but in street clothes!
The other story from the night was in the ring for the match as Snuka signed autographs before the match,Snuka was signing autographs and just got to Shane,put the pen on the picture just as the dastardly Koloff swung his chain to hit Snuka with a sneak attack!
Shane showed me the picture which had a small dot/line where Snuka had started to sign and was foiled by the villain!

As for the cover shown,I never owned that magazine,but I was intrigued by it in 1981.
Two of the most hated wrestlers in the world Koloff from Russia against Hussien Arab (better known as Iron Sheik) of Iran at a time where our country had issues with both countries.
It was so rare to have two "rulebreakers" battling each other with nothing to show that one was "good" underneath,just guys beating the hell out of each other for no particular reason.
I saw how rare it was then and even more so now!

I enjoy doing these posts looking back at wrestlers,I only wish I was doing them under better circumstances.....

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Boxing Challenge

After I forgot to do the boxing challenge last week,I wanted to make sure I covered this weekend fights on Showtime.
The Boxing Challenge with Ramon Malpica is tied at six points apiece.

Showtime features the three bout card for free with a preview weekend and if you are a cord-cutter,Twitter is showing the card live from Cincinnati as well.
So,if you are interested in watching-there is no excuse for missing this one!!

The card features Adrien Broner in the main event against Adrian Granados.
Broner,who has lost titles on the scale before was supposed to fight at 142 pounds,but often happens in an Adrien Broner bout,Broner wasn't going to make weight so the fight was changed to a 147 pound limit.
Granados upset Amir Imam,so he's not a gimme,but Broner has a history of not making weight,paying some dollars and using his weight advantage to bully his smaller opponent,so look for that possibility to play out.

The undercard sees a minor title on the line with David Avanesyan defend against former junior welterweight champ Lamont Peterson in a bout that could see the winner take on the winner of the March unification bout winner between Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia.
Avanesyan looked pretty ordinary in winning a decision over ancient Shane Mosley,but Peterson has been idle for 16 months and I thought he lost his last fight (he won a majority decision) to Felix Diaz.
The winner needs to look impressive,if they want to move to a bigger fight as mentioned.

The opener pits former Olympian Marcus Browne against former title challenger Thomas Williams in what might be the action bout of the night.
Browne won a split decision and was dropped in his last fight against Radivoje Kaladzic in an eight rounder that I thought he lost.
Normally,a 10 rounder after such a fight seems like a huge step up and against a guy that punches pretty well in Thomas Williams,but Williams has a very suspect chin and might be the perfect opponent to put some shine back on Browne....

Welterweights.12 rds
Adrien Broner vs Adrian Granados
Both:Broner Unanimous Winner

Welterweights. 12 rds
David Avanesyan vs Lamont Peterson
Both:Peterson Unanimous Decision

Light Heavyweights.10 rds
Marcus Browne vs Thomas Williams
R.L:Browne Unanimous Decision
TRS;Browne KO 5

George Steele and 1981

George "the Animal" Steele passed away this week with Jason Christensen sending me the word.
Steele was 79 and had suffered from kidney issues in recent years.

Steele was a high school teacher/football coach in "real life" in Michigan,which is why in the territorial days,Steele would often show up in the WWWF/WWF during the summer for a run against Bruno Sammartino or Bob Backlund as his students in Michigan wouldn't see the WWF television and Steele wouldn't miss time in the classroom with school being in hiatus.
Steele is most remembered by fans for his mid-1980's "babyface" run as the lovable imbecile with a crush on Miss Elizabeth, the manager of the company's top (or second,depending on your perspective) "heel" Randy "Macho Man" Savage.
Savage would wrestle Steele several times over the course of a year,never defeating him of course,but being able to prolong a one note feud far longer than one would suspect that a program like this should have lasted without much overkill....

I must admit,I wasn't a huge fan of the Animal.
I thought the character was a dollar store version of the Sheik and Abdullah the Butcher and for the "Crazy" antics of Steele,the "violence" factor paled in comparison to the mentioned pair,although much of that was where he wrestled,which usually didn't feature as much blood and guts as most other territories.
The green tongue and turnbuckle destroying came across as more hokey to me than fearsome and even considering the age didn't make Steele a favorite of mine.
Even his finishing move in the pre-expansion days wasn't a strength as the Flying Hammerlock (Steele would put the opponent's arm behind his back,lift and hold him in the air for a submission) wasn't a finisher that was a visual thriller.

I do have two memories of Steele though.
The first was a few years ago when the Animal came to Harry Grove Stadium for a Frederick Keys game.
I didn't know he would be there and Bill Cover and I watched a dismayed Animal sit at his table for much of the evening with very few fans coming over.
I'm not sure why that was,but Bill and I both commented on how few fans were getting things signed.
I kinda felt bad for him,but thinking about his compensation for the evening made me think that Steele was OK with it!

The other is one is a memory that makes me smile.
You see,my brother and I have been on and off through the years and I rarely see him,although if we do,we are at a stage right now,where we do speak and things are at least cordial.
However,there was a time of my life from childhood to around my mid-20's where Shane was my best friend.
We shared tons of interests from baseball and football to comics to his love of loves-professional wrestling.
Some (not all) of my disenchantment (the current product is truly silly to me now) with pro wrestling since the change of millennium is the fact that I have no one that experienced my wrestling history to discuss it with me since Shane and I parted for the majority of that time.

How does this relate to George "the Animal" Steele?
Well,lets go back to the summer of 1981 with our rabid wrestling fandom in full froth and our dad still being a firm wrestling hater (I still need to tell some of those stories sometime!),Shane and I had the chance to attend our first live match as a fellow that played on my dad's softball team offered to take us with his kids to the Capital Centre for the monthly WWF card.
Shane and I were literally the kids in the candy store and I remember spending the night before at this fellow's house and not being able to be quiet to the point that he had to come in and ask us to be quiet so he could get some sleep!

The Capital Centre cards were big deals to me as when I first started to like wrestling,a person that rode my school bus had the first issue of "Pro Wrestler",which was a four page bulletin on wrestling,the last card at the arena and more important (to them) promoted the upcoming card at the Capital Centre.
I dutifully copied the address down off the back of the newsletter and sped my address off to Landover to get on the mailing list.
I received the second issue before the next show in Landover (destroyed by my mom in a rage one day,story someday perhaps).
I would then have every issue of Pro Wrestler sent to me until the program was discontinued and in my attic archives,those still remain as a great memory of those years.
Pro Wrestler made the Capital Centre cards more important than the Baltimore Civic Center cards to us and the Capital Centre was the newer and more modern arena of the two.
Ironically,it is the Capital Centre that is long gone and the Baltimore Arena is still standing as the main building of its type in Baltimore!

I don't remember a ton about the ring action that day over 35 years ago,but I remember a few things.
The massive size of Andre the Giant as he and Killer Khan brawled to a double disqualification,but the Giant would loom even larger a few years later when Shane and I would see him closer at South Hagerstown high school and Pedro Morales lifting his shoulder barely at two to defeat King Kong Mosca after a back suplex went awry for the former CFL star.
The true main event for me was the Magnificent Muraco (remember my past posts on my childhood hero?) defending his Inter-Continental title against Tony Atlas.
Tony Atlas almost never lost and when he did,he never was a clean loser (Pin or Submission defeat),so even with expecting that pro wrestling was pre-determined (it was a little easier after a while to see the pattern from the McMahon product),as a fan of Muraco,there was a little concern.
I was loudest during that match and when Muraco hit the referee to save his title from Atlas,I was more than a little relieved.

Muraco-Atlas was the main event to me,but the actual main event was Bob Backlund defending his WWF title against George "the Animal" Steele.
Keep in mind that as noted the date was August and Steele's was doing his "summer vocation vacation",which because of the lack of available time for Steele's return to teaching (no,we didn't know that at the time),usually saw Steele go straight to Bob Backlund and dodge working his way through the cards as most main eventers did.
Steele would win this match to set up a "Texas Death Match" for Backlund to get his conclusive win on the next card,but I remembered being surprised by two things.
The first was glaring:the managers (either Lou Albano,the Grand Wizard or Fred Blassie) didn't appear at ringside with their proteges.
I would discover later that was a WWF thing as in other territories,the managers did travel and spend their time outside the ring.
The other surprise was that the Backlund-Steele match was announced as the main event,but was the match held before intermission.
It seemed dumb to me then that the main event was held early and not last,but I remember people around us saying that the main event was always before intermission.
I would find out years later why this policy was installed-in Boston (1971,I think) a rabid Pedro Morales fan stabbed Blackjack Mulligan and ever since,the main events were held early,so the crowd would relax a bit and the heel would be able to leave the arena without fans waiting for him.
The policy would continue through the second Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund reigns,but I'm not sure exactly when that was changed.

It would be years before Shane and I returned to the Capital Centre for wrestling,although we would be in attendance for a few times that the WWF would come to Hagerstown as they hit all three places in Hagerstown that was marginally suitable at the then Hagerstown Junior College along with North and South Hagerstown high schools.
I still have such a fondness for 1980's pro wrestling,even today with the advent of YouTube,I still enjoy watching things that I remember for the memories and clips from other areas that I'm still finding items that I have never seen before!
But,half of the fun is still from the eyes of child/teenager/young adult and looking back on what life was like at the time that I saw those matches.

I have such great friends now and I have a great time hanging out with Derreck,Doug and Fred among others,not to mention talking with them on the phone.
I also have the IFL bunch too,even if I don't see some of them as much as I would like to,but there still is something to be said for the person that at one time knew you best.
Things change in all of our lives,but far more often than not,when I think of pro wrestling in the 1980's,I think of one person usually being a part of the memory right along with me.
It wasn't the wrestling that I most remember about that night in 1981,it's who I shared that first wrestling night with as one of many great pro wrestling memories.
And there aren't any bad memories in that bunch...

Back later with this weeks boxing challenge on a free Showtime preview weekend,so you can catch tonight's card even if you usually do not have Showtime..