Saturday, August 31, 2019

PPM

The PPM returns with a new year, a new host and a small change for the 2019 season.

First, as always, we introduce the unofficial host (always unofficial so no one thinks the pictured host has endorsed anything, of course, that would mean I'd make money and then pay the endorser like making money actually happens!)
WUSA's Ellen Bryan is a former Miss Ohio that until recently was the traffic reporter on Get Up DC on weekday mornings with last years host Annie Yu.
Bryan is currently one of the hosts of Great Day Washington, has recently published her first book and is a motivational speaker as well.

The changes to the PPM are minor ones that basically will add one 'favorite' team from each college conference and perhaps two games of the week when the lineup is strong enough.

The college teams are as follows
Power Five
Big Ten: Ohio State
Big 12: Texas Tech
ACC: N.C. State
SEC: LSU
PAC 12: Washington

Group of Five
American: Houston
Mountain West: Boise State
MAC: Bowling Green
CUSA: Middle Tennessee State
Sun Belt: Georgia Southern

Now onto this week's picks
Ohio State over Florida Atlantic 45-23
Texas Tech over Montana State 42-17
N.C. State over East Carolina 24-17
LSU over Georgia Southern 45-28
Washington over Eastern Washington 35-25
Boise State over Florida State 30-28
Oklahoma over Houston 43-25
Michigan over Middle Tennessee State 37-13
Bowling Green over Morgan State 28-20

Game of the Week
Auburn over Oregon 30-26


Boxing Challenge

The boxing challenge is back with a six-fight weekend with ESPN + having the rights to the biggest fight with another inter-promotional battle between Top Rank and Matchroom.

Three-quarters of the lightweight titles are up for grabs in London as WBA and WBO champion Vasyl Lomachenko (Top Rank) places his two titles on the line against Luke Campbell (Matchroom) for the WBC title that Mikey Garcia vacated in his fool's gold mission to take Errol Spence's IBF welterweight title.
Lomachenko, who is regarded by many as the best fighter in the world, is favored against Campbell, who won an Olympic gold medal, but came up short in his attempt for the WBA title in 2017 when he lost a close split decision to then-champion Jorge Linares, who was then dethroned by Lomachenko.
Campbell is a pretty slick boxer and I do think he'll have some early success against Lomachenko, but I don't think he hits hard enough to stop Lomachenko's progress as the fight goes on and Lomachenko will wear him down over the course of the fight.
Two other challenge fights from the same London card are interesting matchups as former WBA heavyweight champion Alexander Povetkin against Hughie Fury and Charlie Edwards defends his WBC flyweight title against Julio Cesar Martinez.
Povetkin returns in his first fight since he was knocked out by Anthony Joshua last year, while Fury, the cousin of Tyson Fury, has just two losses, but both defeats (Joseph Parker and Kubrat Pulev) were in his two attempts to make the leap to the next level.
Edwards will be making the second defense of his title against Julio Cesar Martinez, who knocked out undefeated number one contender Andrew Selby in the fifth round in his last fight to earn the title shot and deprive the British of an All-British title fight.

Fox Sports One is back in Minneapolis, which has become a home base for PBC of late with a minor title fight with Erislandy Lara against Ramon Alvarez.
Lara has lost a split decision to Jarrett Hurd and drew with Brian Castano in his last two fights, but those two fights rank with the most exciting of his career and with his legs slowing late in his career, Lara suddenly is forced to engage and make good fights.
Lara is a prohibitive favorite against Alvarez, who was knocked out by the ring worn Brandon Rios two fights ago, has lost eight times and has his affiliation with his brother (Canelo Alvarez) as his main qualification for even this minor title fight.

A junior middleweight battle between prospects on this card makes the challenge as well with 6'5 Sebastian Fundora facing Jamontay Clark.
Fundora is worth watching just to see a 6'5 man weigh 154 pounds box, while Clark is a fighter that was getting a good push on the PBC undercards when the company was beginning but was surprisingly decisioned last year by Jeison Guzman in his first loss.

The final bout comes from Australia as former WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn matches up with Michael Zerafa in a middleweight fight.
Horn, who is best remembered for his controversial win over Manny Pacquiao, knocked out Anthony Mundine in the first round in his most recent fight and might be in line for a middleweight title fight soon, even if his qualifications don't warrant it.
Zerafa, who lost a decision to Kell Brook in 2018 and lost in five to Peter Quillin via one of the most spectacular knockouts that you'll see in 2015 in his only fights of note, will attempt to pull the upset on the road.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 214-184

WBA/WBO/Vacant WBC Lightweight Titles. 12 Rds
Vasyl Lomachenko vs Luke Campbell
R.L: Lomachenko KO 9
TRS: Lomachenko KO 10

Heavyweights 12 Rds
Alexander Povetkin vs Hughie Fury
Both: Povetkin Unanimous Decision

WBC Flyweight Title 12 Rds
Charlie Edwards vs Julio Cesar Martinez
R.L: Edwards Unanimous Decision
TRS: Martinez KO 7

Junior Middleweights. 12 Rds
Erislandy Lara vs Ramon Alvarez
R.L: Lara Unanimous Decision
TRS: Lara KO 8

Junior Middleweights.10 Rds
Sebastian Fundora vs Jamontay Clark
R.L:  Fundora KO 8
TRS: Fundora Unanimous Decision

Middleweights 12 Rds
Jeff Horn vs Michael Zerafa
Both: Horn Unanimous Decision

Ohio State Football Preview

The 2019 football season is an interesting one in Columbus for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
One without the controversy and problems entering the 2018 season, but also one without Urban Meyer as the head coach for the first time since the end of the 2011 season.

Ryan Day did receive a small taste of being the head coach in his three-game interim stint while Meyer served a suspension, but now the team is all his and the results are all his as well.
While this Buckeye team is very talented and could very easily run the table, I'm not sure that I would say that is likely to happen.
Ohio State could lose as many as three games and if that happens, the Ryan Day debut season would be a disappointment.
I don't think that will happen either though, that seems to be the worst-case scenario and would involve losing for the third year in a row to a team that they normally would not (Examples are road games at Nebraska or Northwestern or home games vs Wisconsin or Michigan State, both of whom have won at Ohio Stadium in the past and ruined Buckeyes title hopes), the late-season back to back headaches with Penn State (home) or Michigan (Road) and don't rule out the week two game against Cincinnati with a head coach that knows the Buckeyes, won't be intimidated by the surroundings, and are picked by some pundits as the possible Group of Five representative in the New Years Day bowls.

The Buckeyes will have the highest-rated player ever (by recruiting gurus anyway) in the program with new starting quarterback and Georgia transfer Justin Fields.
Fields has been compared to seemingly a dozen quarterbacks, has a huge arm and moves well, although he has been described as more fast than quick, which means once he gets moving, Fields can be hard to tackle, although he doesn't make rushers miss in the pocket.
If Fields is as good as his reputation, the Buckeyes could make a national playoff run, if he's anything less, there could be some growing pains.
Kentucky transfer Gunnar Hoak would likely be the replacement in the event Fields would be out of the lineup and returnee Chris Chugunov might see some early season blowout action.

J.K. Dobbins will be the workhorse at running back after a mildly disappointing sophomore season.
Dobbins rushed for over 1,000 yards, but for 400 yards less than his freshman year and his yards per carry dipped from 7.2 to 4.6.
Dobbins is likely to bounce back, but just in case junior DeMario McCall and redshirt freshman Master Teague are ready to take up some slack.
True freshmen Marcus Crowley and Steele Chambers are in the picture for potential work as well.

The receiving corps has talent, but with plenty to prove.
K.J. Hill brings Fields a solid receiver in the slot and the wideouts look potentially strong with starting seniors Binijmen Victor and Austin Mack, but while both have had their moments in their career, neither have been consistent either.
C.J. Saunders will miss the opener but will see plenty of action as Hill's backup.
The backups could be the main receivers by season's end with sophomore Chris Olave, who ripped up Michigan last season and highly ranked freshman Garrett Wilson pushing the seniors.
Junior Jaylen Harris and sophomore Elijah Gardner complete the receiving group.
Luke Farrell will start the season at tight end, but he'll have to hold off sophomore Jeremy Ruckert. who would seem to have the edge if the offense involves the tight ends more often.

The offensive line will have some questions but have plenty of talent to overcome them.
Thayer Munford and Brandon Bowen will start the season as the tackles and talented redshirt freshman Nicholas Petit-Frere will work his way into playing time as well.
Wyatt Davis will start at one guard and Jonah Jackson at the other with Josh Myers in between them as the center.
Davis is expected to progress quickly and challenge for various postseason honors.

The defensive line is loaded with elite talent but has been bitten by the injury bug coming out of camp as Jonathan Cooper and Tariq Vincent are out with injuries for the opener and others are questionable.
Cooper will start when healthy opposite Chase Young, who is expected to challenge for the Outland and Lombardi trophies.
Freshman Zach Harrison will see plenty of snaps as will sophomore Tyreek Smith and redshirt freshman Javonte Jean-Baptiste,
At defensive tackle, Jeshon Cornell will start after Jonathan Cooper returns from injury as Cornell shifts outside until then.
Senior Robert Landers and Devon Hamilton are being pushed by sophomore Tommy Togiai and junior Haskell Garrett for playing time as well.

The linebackers are pretty set with the three starters being Pete Werner and Malik Harrison outside of Tuf Borland.
Borland will split time with Baron Browning and three sophomores Teredja Mitchell, Dallas Gant, and K'Vaughan Pope will be in the mix to see the field.

The Buckeyes has three cornerbacks that may match with the best in the country in Jeffrey Okudah, Damon Arnette and Shaun Wade.
They have much to prove, but the potential is there to be one of the better secondaries in the country.
Sevyn Banks, Cameron Brown and Tyreke Johnson will be the backups at corner.
Returnees Jordan Fuller and Brendan White will start at safety with Isaiah Pryor, Jahsen Wint and Josh Proctor backing up and all will see plenty of playing time.

Blake Haubeil will be the placekicker with Drue Chrisman holding down the punting duties.

How do I think things will go?
I think the Buckeyes will take some time to jell and could get off to a slow start early, perhaps even a loss in the first half that might be unexpected.
Still, I think by the final month of the season, the Buckeyes will be one of the better teams in the country and should they avoid two slip-ups early in the season, could be in the Big Ten title game.
I'm torn between 11-1 and 10-2.







Friday, August 30, 2019

Road Trip; Lake County

Before we begin, this trip was taken before the Carolina run.
For some reason, this post never was posted through either Blogger's mistake or my own error.

The traveling roadshow rolled through Ohio as Fred Landucci visited Lake County on a Friday and Saturday that saw the Captains host two teams and as usual Cleveland Sports History night.

Friday was the first day for Fred Landucci and I as we went straight to Eastlake for the Captains night game against the Cedar Rapids Kernels, the low A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.
Straight to Eastlake didn't mean straight to Classic Park though, as Fred and I enjoyed Pickle Bill's before the game for Walleye and Perch.
I've been there a few times before as I've written, but Fred seemed to really love the place.
I love seafood and don't eat it as much as I'd prefer, so this is always a great stop for me.

Keep in mind that this was the weekend that set all sorts of heat index records all over the country and even though we were near Lake Erie and farther north than in Maryland, it was oppressively hot!
Fred looked like someone threw a bucket of water on him after about 20 minutes and even though I had the Cedar Rapids team set and the two Kernels from the Midwest League prospect set, none of them were going to make or break the day.
I got as many Kernels and Captains ( Captain Kernel?) as I could, collected my Skipper (mascot) Moon Landing bobblehead, took a visibly drained Fred Landucci and trucked on down the road to Ashland, where we were staying for the two days.

Ashland, besides being the only other place I've lived other than Maryland, has another advantage for trips for baseball- Centrally located.
It didn't play into this trip, but Mike Oravec and I have talked about a three-day trip that could include any of these within 90 minutes of Ashland: Mahoning Valley (short season), Lake County (low A). Akron (AA) and Columbus (AAA) and if you want to stretch a bit, you could add Dayton or Toledo as well.
It's the same plan that sees us stay in Asheville, yet only see one game there- it's not especially far to any one place and keeps many places in play to see.

After checking into the hotel and Fred wanted one of my bragged about Donna D's pizzas before the end of the day, we still had the next afternoon to kill before Lake County's game with the Peoria Chiefs (Cardinals).
That was easy enough as I took Fred around town a bit and then met my Aunt Becky and Uncle Terry for lunch along with my cousin Missy at my honorary Aunt Gayle's place of business, the Ashland Elks.
I always love seeing all of them and Fred enjoyed meeting my family as well, especially when I got out of the back seat and introducing Fred as "My Driver"!
Terry picked up the tab as he did last year when Derreck came out with me.
One of these days, I'll beat him to this!
A great time with a big sweep of all of my favorites (aunt, uncle, cousin and unofficial aunt) all in one place!
After lunch, I took Fred to the Ashland University bookstore, where Fred bought a hat and shirt and I bought Cherie and Rachel AU shirts and took a few pictures of the Big Eagle ( he has a name, but I can't remember it now) before moving to Lake County.

The heat was even more brutal on Saturday than it had been on Friday and the heat index had to be close to 110 degrees for the Peoria Chiefs.
I had cards for them, but again, I wasn't going to go nuts, if I didn't get anyone in particular- especially in this heat!
I decided to make sure Fred stayed healthy and gave Fred my stuff for the Cleveland Sports Night guests.
The guests were under the shaded concourse and I thought that the shade would help Fred stay in good shape.
That decision worked out well as Fred stayed as about as cool as you could be in the situation and Fred nabbed all of my stuff, most notable former Brown Josh Cribbs on an 8 x 10, former Iowa and Kansas City Chief quarterback Ricky Stanzi on a card and the biggest get- Ted Ginn Jr on a 16 x 20 picture and an Ohio State helmet.
Ginn was a late replacement for former Ohio State (and Cardinals) running back Beanie Wells. who had a tragedy in his family a few days before the game as his brother was murdered.
Very gracious of Ginn to replace Wells on short notice under the circumstances and good work by the Captains to add a top-notch
substitute at the very last minute.

The one thing that I made a mistake on was this- I knew the gates opened at 4:45 and assumed the game started at six.
I was wrong because the game started at seven and the weather was draining me fast.
I did manage to nab some Chiefs, but I was tiring and sweat was pouring off my face in a torrent.
Finally, with the players trying to stay in the cool clubhouse for as long as possible (and who could blame them for that?) and considering everything, I decided to throw in the towel (Had I possessed a real towel, I wouldn't have tossed it, I would have put it on my head) and decided to make the prudent choice- leave and graph another day.
I hated to do it, yet I had more than enough.

The final day, Fred wanted to see Columbus and we went home using a different route.
Fred wanted to see the Ohio State reformatory in Mansfield, known for its distinctive look and as the site of filming for the film The Shawshank Redemption.
Derreck and I had taken the tour last year and I know with Fred's mobility issues that the tour was not going to be easy for him, so we just walked around the outside for pictures and Fred bought some Shawshank items at the gift shop before we left.
In Columbus, we hit some Buckeye stores, where we each bought gifts for family and ourselves, I snapped some pictures of Ohio Stadium (they weren't great because of the angle) and the old Buckeye basketball home St.John Arena (these were really good and I even used one for my basketball game as St.John Arena) before heading home.

This was another great weekend and even though the weather could have been cooler for sure, it was still fun showing Fred some of the places that I've told him so much about.

Editor's Note: As noted, this was written almost a month ago, so my apologies for taking so long.
I still have posts to go up and if I have time a Buckeye preview before Saturday, so the remainder of the southern trip with stops in Tennessee, Hickory and then the ride home will be posted in the future.



Thursday, August 29, 2019

Browns trade for Wyatt Teller

The Cleveland Browns may be finishing up with the preseason in the game that usually is the battle for the final few spots on the team tonight against the Detroit Lions, but John Dorsey clearly is not happy with the situation at right guard.

Dorsey attempted to either add a potential eventual starter or at least add depth to the offensive line as he traded the Browns fifth and sixth-round selections in the 2020 draft to the Buffalo Bills for guard Wyatt Teller and Buffalo's 2021 seventh-round pick.

Teller started seven games for the Bills as a rookie last season after being drafted in the fifth round out of Virginia Tech.
Teller was listed as the second-stringer by the Bills at guard but had reportedly played well in the Bills exhibition games, although Buffalo added several players for their line in the offseason.
Teller is reported to be better in the run game than in the passing game and is more of a mauling pressuring type guard than an athletic guard.

While I applaud John Dorsey for not waiting until this became a major problem, it does go back to what seems to be his two biggest mistakes in his tenure in Cleveland- Day two of the 2018 draft.
I'll talk about Chad Thomas over Sam Hubbard in the third round on another day, perhaps, but Dorsey's selection of Austin Corbett with the first round of the second round is looking very suspect.
Dorsey felt that Corbett could handle a starting guard position and felt that so strongly that Corbett could do so, that he traded Kevin Zeitler to the Giants as part of the biggest swap of the winter and virtually handed the position to Corbett.
Corbett was taken over several other linemen in that spot, including Teller, who was a fifth-rounder as mentioned above.
As of now, the investment is a two, five and six in the guard position that they hoped has been filled for a while

Corbett couldn't hold that position and likely only his draft status and ability to be the backup center will save him on cutdown day and even that isn't a guarantee.
Veteran Eric Kush, who was signed as a free agent and the Browns hoped he would be a depth player, but instead won the starting job over the ineffective Corbett, rookie Drew Forbes, who was injured tonight against Detroit, and Kyle Kalis, who also spent time with the first team before his injury earlier in camp.

The Browns had some extra day three picks that Dorsey could play with a bit (holding Houston's either three or four for Duke Johnson, Arizona's six for Jamar Taylor and Buffalo's seven for Corey Coleman), so the loss of the fifth and sixth aren't going to hurt very much.
Still, what seems to be a second-round miss on Corbett hurts (although the pick of Nick Chubb later in the round soothes the pain more than a little) and the loss of Kevin Zeitler (although Oliver Vernon is going to be a huge addition opposite Myles Garrett on the pass rush) is already proving to be a far larger loss than expected.
In addition, with Wyatt Teller only in his second season, if Teller turns out to be a starter for a few seasons, which is hopefully the case, the cost of obtaining a young starter is very reasonable.

What I am encouraged about is that John Dorsey isn't going to sit back and watch things spiral out of control before trying to do something to fix the problem.
We will have to see if Wyatt Teller can fix that problem, but it's nice to have someone in charge that will be proactive in Cleveland.


Road Trip: Kannapolis/Asheville

Since my original plans for today (A trip to Mahoning Valley) have gone awry (Fred Landucci's having vehicle issues, best wishes there, my friend), I have some extra time to write and decided to work on another road trip installment.

Tuesday would be the only two-game day of the trip and it started by me meeting Skylar at the desk.
Skylar had been so helpful on the phone in getting us an extra day at the hotel without having to switch rooms and I wanted to thank her for her helpfulness.
After a few minutes chatting with her, which I would wind up repeating each day after this during our stay, Our day would begin and it would start with an early morning goodbye to the hottest ballpark that I've ever visited.

A trip to the "Gates of Hell" in Kannapolis for the last time to Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium and an 11;00 start time gave me a chance to work on the Intimidators team set.
Kannapolis is in the process of building a new stadium for the 2020 season, so this is the last time I can have the privilege of setting my rear on fire and having my sandals melt.
Usually, I'm sad to see a stadium go and I'm also usually not a huge fan of downtown stadiums, but I'll make an exception in this particular case!

Kannapolis had not released a 2018 team set in a befuddling decision, so I was pleased to see the team decide to have one for this season.
Kannapolis had already visited Hagerstown before the set came out, so everyone on the team was a need.
I decided to do Kannapolis rather than visiting Lexington (at Kannapolis, you have to pick one side or the other) mainly due to the Carolina League schedule for 2020 (Both teams affiliates have their High A teams there) which could repeat the 2019 one, which saw the White Sox team in Winston-Salem open in Frederick and never return, while the Royals team in Wilmington come to Frederick throughout the season.

And it was one of those typical draining hot days that seem to be 10 degrees hotter on concrete without shade.
Because of the heat and its effect on Fred, Lefty and I made sure Fred was in the area of some shade, which shrinks rapidly as the morning moves on and descended to the field to start working on Kannapolis, who made the strange decision to wear their black jerseys on a day like this.
I did pretty well, only missing the starting catcher and a coach or two.
However, the two highlights had nothing to do with autographs.
The first was when we walked along a grassy berm that you need to traverse to reach the Kannapolis bullpen and walking down we saw a drainage pipe that leaked water and made a small area quite muddy.
I managed to see this on my way over, but klutz that I am, slap both feet into it as I chase a player to sign.
I had mud all over my legs and sandals, so a restroom stop to get as much as I could off of me was a must and a shower before the second game in the evening was as well.
As for my sandals? Well, I always try to buy the type that is worn by fishermen and beachgoers that are made to deal with water, mainly because in this hobby, you can be caught in thunderstorms and downpours very quickly, so that was as easy as rinsing them out in the shower to be as good as new.

The other was encountering a local nicknamed "Radar Rock".
This guy had something to say about everything.
"where are you from"?
"Maryland"
"Why are you wearing a Mets hat?"
"It's not a Mets hat, it's a New York Giants hat"
"It's not the Giants, they are blue and white"
"New York BASEBALL Giants"
"Why not the Brooklyn Dodgers"
"I don't like the Dodgers, I like the Giants"
"Why do you root for them, they aren't from where you are".
FAR FAR too much time listening to this guy, while I am trying to work on players to sign.
The guy never shut up and I just couldn't get away from him fast enough!
Maybe it was trying to get away from him that caused me to hit the mud! Ha Ha!

It was getting hot and Fred was beginning to wear out, but before we left, Fred ran into Blair Jewell, a former employee of the Harrisburg Senators and now with the Intimidators.
While Fred talked to Blair, Lefty and I went down to field level and added the two pitchers that were charting.
Fred reports that the Intimidators upcoming name change will be a "more normal name than the goofier names" that have been more prevalent in minor league baseball over the last few years.
The day after our visit, the team announced that their new stadium will have netting that will run the entire length of the grandstand.
The addition of more and more netting to stadiums will not only affect my hobby, but it could also affect how others fan decide to spend their dollars.
It will be very interesting to follow over the next few seasons how the new netting at the parks that implement netting affects attendance either positively or negatively.

We returned to Asheville from Kannapolis for lunch and some downtime at the hotel before a trip to McCormick Field for the evening.
The food was a return to Rocky's Hot Chicken after a successful debut during Fred and I's trip in 2018.
I ordered a chicken sandwich this time and even though I still don't think Rocky's has the heat that they advertise, it's still top-notch chicken.

After some hotel time, we went to McCormick Field for the Tourists and the visiting Lakewood Blue Claws.
Since Lakewood comes to Hagerstown fifty times a season, Lefty and I concentrated on the Tourists.
I was surprised to see a very big crowd on a Tuesday without a strong promotion.
The crowd was so strong that every time (Three in fact) that Lefty and I got into a bit of a roll getting players to sign, we would have to move because someone needed their seats.
I didn't mind moving because the seats were paid for and the crowd was large.
The only time that moving bugs me is in this situation that occasionally happens in Hagerstown- no one in the entire three-row area and here comes dude with seats 1,2,3,4 and wants to show wife/girlfriend/kids how he made these guys move because he paid for these seats.
Of course, you move for them, but there are only 75 other seats with no one in them (if there were said people, you wouldn't be able to walk up and buy front row, seats 1-4 would you?) would it kill you to sit in row two for 15 minutes until the game starts?
It really wasn't a problem though under these conditions and the usher was very nice each time, so other than not getting a lot of cards signed, it wasn't so bad.
I did get the often-injured and not expected to be in town Riley Pint to sign his SAL top prospect card, so a disappointing total, but not a complete defeat.

The post-game didn't bring a lot of success either as there was an absence of local graphers and being that Asheville made one visit to Hagerstown and the one game that I managed to see was rained out, I just didn't know many of the players facially.
I'm not sure that I added more than two or three players top.
All and all, the Asheville trip was the most disappointing trip from a graphing perspective although it was fun being in a crowd that was excited about baseball rather than Paw Patrol, bobbleheads or fireworks!







Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Road Trip: Johnson City

The biggest road trip of the year began in the morning as Fred Landucci and Lefty Koch picked me up from my house to start a five day, four-night and numerous ballpark trip.

Our first stop was in Johnson City, Tennessee for an Appalachian League encounter between the Burlington Royals and the hometown Cardinals.
However, you have to eat and on the way, we stopped at a favorite from earlier this season- Mac and Bob's in Salem, Virginia.

We loved our stop in Salem for lunch at Mac and Bob's in April so much that when our lunchtime arrived and with Salem the nearest town available, it was the easiest selection of the entire trip.
I decided on a Buffalo chicken hoagie and as par for the course, it was tremendous!
Mac and Bob's might rank at the top of my favorite places all season and if I'm ever around Salem for various reasons, it's going to take a lot of doing to talk me out of a different food establishment than Mac and Bob's.

After Mac and Bob's, we stopped by Pulaski, Virginia and the Yankees as Lefty and I each needed to grab a Pulaski team set.
The Yankees were on the road, so we figured this should have been an easy stop, especially with the gates to the stadium being wide open.
It wasn't as no member of the front office was available, although I did speak to the grounds crew about Calfee Park, which is barely distinguishable from the place that Ryan, Battlin' Bob and I visited all those years ago.
The parent Yankees have spent a lot of money on Calfee Park and visually it has been a huge upgrade, but it looks to be a far more difficult place to autograph with more netting, new seating and lesser access.
Pulaski has consistently been my favorite place to go in the Appy League with great management through the years, a charming older park and Calfee always had the small town "baseball like it used to be" feel to the stadium.
For all the upgrades and they are upgrades, I'll miss the old Calfee Park.
I'll have some pictures later in the road trip series for our return to Pulaski.

And onto the new kingpin of the TRS Appy League standings, Johnson City, where they have taken a stadium that was horrible for autographing twelve years ago and made it an excellent place today, but
it's more than that makes TVA Credit Union Park the new champ as they retained their covered grandstand, added more space to move around the stadium, renovated their clubhouse area and added more concessions, plus they sell Dr. Enuf!
Enuf said and pun intended!

Our trip twelve years ago to the then-named Howard Johnson Field didn't see us watch a game there, but we did walk inside and look around and I'm glad we did or I wouldn't remember the infamous right field hill, which made the Hagerstown Municipal left field area look like a small speed bump.
The picture from that day shows the hill in its glory and although I'm a big fan of quirky features in stadiums, I can understand why the parent club insisted that the hill be removed as the stadium was improved.
If you didn't know it had been there previously, I'd bet you could look to the outfield and be unable to tell what once was a key part of the alignment.

As far as graphing goes, the access is far easier than in the past as now the first base side has an area for fans to buy beer, mill around and not be closed in and since that area was created, lots of space opened up.
I worked on the Burlington Royals team set (Sadly Johnson City still doesn't make one), while Fred took the few cards that I had from players that had Peoria and State College, including Malcom Nunez, an 18-year-old Cuban third baseman, who was in the Midwest League's top prospect set and was a player drafted in our fantasy league by someone.
Fred was able to quickly knock those out with the help of a child that Fred reports all the players know and regard as a superfan/team mascot.
I managed to add most of the Royals except for some of the relievers that didn't need to come all the way to where we were with the bullpen close to the clubhouse.
Lefty is a beer connoisseur and would order beer from the various parks that we visited, but this one was interesting as the beer server was from Hagerstown and worked for the Suns for a few years before moving to Johnson City!
She was involved with the Suns food operations, which is likely why I don't remember her, she was very nice and we enjoyed talking to her at various points in the game.
 

The game was nothing special with the Royals crushing the Cardinals 13-0, but we slogged through because we needed Daniel Lynch, a top Royals prospect that spent most of the year at High A Wilmington and made the Carolina League all-star team before a minor injury.
Lynch was making a rehab start for Burlington in the series and I thought he'd be more likely to sign in the more laid-back locale of Johnson City.
Lynch was very nice as he signed all three of my cards-Wilmington, Carolina League prospect, and all-star and chatted about the graphing experience in Frederick.

We then drove back to our hotel in Asheville to check-in and where we would be stationed at for the next four nights.
It was a good first day in Johnson City and elsewhere to start the trip and we still had three days of baseball to go.
I'll be working on the second day soon, but likely next week after the football previews for the opening of the college season this weekend.








Monday, August 26, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Kovalev Knocks Out Yarde

The boxing challenge weekend's most important bout came from Russia as Sergey Kovalev battled through a rough patch or two in the middle rounds and managed to retain his WBO light heavyweight title in knocking out a brave Anthony Yarde in the eleventh round.

Kovalev was ahead on my card at the end of ten 97-93 and a seemingly exhausted Yarde was caught for the one-punch KO with a straight right to prove Kovalev's power is still intact, but Yarde, a very good puncher, had Kovalev badly hurt in the eighth round and the questions about Kovalev's chin at this stage of his career certainly remain, although the questions about his willingness to fight through adversity were certainly answered.
Still, Kovalev certainly seems to be a fighter that may have seen his best days by being buzzed by the strong punching, but very inexperienced on the world-class level Yarde and while I would not say that Kovalev struggled in this title defense, he clearly had his problems and there might be a race to see who can get to the potentially vulnerable champion-a race that seems to likely to be won by one Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.

In Mexico on DAZN, Juan Francisco Estrada retained his WBC junior bantamweight title in a homecoming squash match against DeWayne Beamon with a ninth-round knockout.
Estrada, who had won his title against Sriskaket Sor Rungvisai in a rematch in his last fight, was due for a fight that was not a grueling one and he got it against Beamon, who had never beaten anyone close to being a contender.
Estrada won every round and knocked Beamon down twice in the second round, but spent more time playing to the crowd at times or he may have been able to get Beamon out of their early.
Beamon tried throughout and even landed a shot or two, but was clearly overmatched against the best 115 pounder in the world.
Estrada could be matched against WBA champion Kal Yafai, who is also affiliated with Matchroom/DAZN or a rubber match against Rungvisai next time out.

Friday night from Broken Arrow Oklahoma brought a rare challenge fight from the ShoBox with Vladimir Shishkin dominating DeMarcus Ware over eight rounds before Ware's trainer stopped the fight with Ware taking a beating in the eighth.
The decorated Russian amateur methodically broke down Ware, who was entering the fight after his biggest career win over Ronald Ellis, and in winning every round on my card, showed that Shishkin is ready for world-class opposition.

In Nagoya Japan, Kosei Tanaka stopped Jonathan Gonzalez in the seventh round to retain his WBO flyweight title.
Tanaka's bodywork slowed the fast-moving challenger, who looked pretty slick for the first two rounds against the heavily favored champion.
However, when the body shots began to land, the foot speed slowed and Tanaka would score a knockdown in the third to turn the fight.
Gonzalez was given credit for a knockdown in the same round, although his knockdown seemed to a result of some grappling rather than any landed punches.
Tanaka's bodywork ended the fight in the seventh with three knockdowns, all off punches to the body and even though Gonzalez continued to try to survive after each, he was clearly deflated and the stoppage was a very good one.

Fox Sports One completed the challenge fights from Edinburg, Texas as Brandon Figueroa crushed Javier Chacon in four rounds to retain his minor title.
Figueroa might have similar talent to his brother Omar, who between out of the ring issues, inactivity, and poor management has wasted it and should he keep his nose to the grindstone, he could be a star.
Figueroa might be on the "wrong side of the street" for now though with his affiliation with PBC being a hindrance to fights against the best champions in the 122 pound division with WBA/IBF champion Danny Roman (Matchroom), WBC champion Rey Vargas (Golden Boy) and WBO titleholder Emanuel Navarrete (Top Rank) all with opposite promoters that are unlikely to work to make an appealing fight happen.

In the boxing challenge, I outscored Ramon Malpica 7-5 to increase my lead to 214-184.





Road Trip: Akron

Before we begin, because of this trip and yesterday's IFL Draft, I have yet to watch the weekend's DAZN or FS1 boxing cards. I have watched the Sergey Kovalev fight from Russia and I'll be doing a post on the weekend boxing when I have a chance.

A day/night trip to Akron with Mike Oravec was different than planned, but different isn't always bad and this day was a great time!

The Akron Rubber Ducks had originally scheduled Brian Baumgartner "Kevin Malone" from "The Office" fame for a bobblehead/meet and greet event back in the off-season.
As a huge "Office" fan, I immediately wanted to do it and Mike, who never watched the show, was happy getting to graph, travel and look around for items in his collection and we scheduled this and the event ASAP.
The problem arrived a few days before the event when Baumgartner was forced to cancel due to an acting role.
This is not uncommon in these situations and in contracts for appearances, there almost always is a clause that allows the actor to back out of the obligation if they are offered an acting role.
Akron kept hustling and landed what would have been a more than acceptable replacement in Leslie David Baker "Stanley Hudson" from the Office.
However, Baker had just appeared in Frederick two weeks before and Baker had already signed the picture that we (Cherie and Rachel's) are working on (sometime I'll write about that) and I didn't need him.
I try to think ahead though and asked the Ducks, if we could work on the visiting Richmond Flying Squirrels and the Giants top two prospects in Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos.
The team was very gracious in allowing us to do that and Mike and I had over an hour of being alone in the ballpark to get whatever we could get signed.

Mike and I were able to knock a sizable amount of the Squirrels team out (I think I now have gotten every team set card signed that I actually saw the player at) before the crowd even stepped into the place.
However, the crowd did enter eventually and neither Bart or Ramos had hit the field as it was mostly pitchers that were out earlier.
That changed our plans on the fly as we had originally planned to end our graphing day when people arrived and instead decided to stick it out.
I didn't get Heliot Ramos, who was the last player out to the field and the last to the dugout and said after the game ( with a five-hour drive ahead, that wasn't happening ).
That's too bad because I have three really cool cards of Ramos to have signed, but I'll have other chances I hope.
I was able to add Joey Bart on his Top 100, so that was a great grab for my set with the highlight being Bart telling a kid "why do you have three of these? Are you selling them?"
Bart said it with a smile and in a teasing manner, so it wasn't being nasty at all, but it shows you how the players of today have people selling their autographs on their mind.
It doesn't happen nearly as much as they think it does, but I can't blame them for thinking that way.
The general rule of thumb, if a person has five cards and four of the five are different, it's a collector.

Mike and I then ate at the paid-for buffet before we left, which was quite good and then a stop at the team store as we wound our way through the tight concourse, which is always tight at Canal Park.
Akron is a single deck downtown stadium and those stadiums have usually one concourse for the entire crowd, which makes it very tight and with no room for expansion or renovation, it will just have to be something that you deal with when you go to Akron.
I know many folks like the urban ballparks, but give me the wide-open suburban stadiums anytime.

The game and autographs were nice, but the highlight was the stop on the trip to Akron.
There is a massive antique market that would take hours to get through to do it right, but Mike and I try to stop whenever we are in the area to look around and see what we find.

On this day, we would both get lucky and find some things for our respective collections.
Mike ran through one end of the football field-sized store, while I did the other.
As I moved through, I was taking pictures of anything that I thought Mike would be interested in, mainly because doing this in the past I could not remember all of the locations that items were located in and we would waste time finding them.
I found it to be very helpful and I'll be doing it again in future visits.

I took a picture of one booth in particular with old collectibles and figured Mike would be interested in at least taking a look.
Mike was thrilled to find something that he had never seen before and bought a program from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which of course was made famous from the film "A League Of Their Own".
It wasn't cheap, but Mike did take advantage of it being reduced from its starting point and you could see how happy it made him as he found this rare program.

I did pretty well with a bobblehead and two programs as well.
I'm not sure if I had ever written about the 1970's era Cavaliers bobbleheads (Austin Carr, Bingo Smith, and Campy Russell) that were only given to season ticket holders for the Cavaliers, but I always wanted to add the next generation of the series as well.
I didn't find all of them, but I did find the Larry Nance third for twenty bucks, which was rare enough, but an equal find was two wrestling programs from Canton from 1960 at twelve dollars apiece.
I'm not a huge wrestling collector, but at this stage and similar to Mike, when you see something that you've never seen before and have the money to buy it- you should!
As for Nance, he was a player that I watched in college (Clemson), spent his entire career playing for the two teams that I rooted for (Cavaliers and Suns) during his era and if I had to pick one of the three pieces of the set (also Mark Price and Brad Daugherty) to find, I'd select Larry Nance.

All and all, a very successful trip and a fun one as well.
I always enjoy graphing trips and I love hitting places in Ohio, where I have a better chance of finding things that I really want for my collection.
Mike and I have a great time together and the time truly does fly by when we go on these ventures.
The season is nearing its end, but the fun of hanging out with your friends never goes away.

I haven't forgotten about the longest trip yet, but that might wait until September with the frenetic pace of the final week of the season!





Friday, August 23, 2019

Road Trip:Hudson Valley

I know I have the bigger trip still to write about, but since it is fresher in my memory, I'll start with our day trip to Wappingers Falls NY.
Wappingers Falls might sound too small for a baseball team, but the suburb of Poughkeepsie is the home of the New York-Penn League's Hudson Valley Renegades.


The original plan for this day would have seen us in Morgantown WV for the West Virginia Black Bears and their meet the team day.
Last season, our trip there to a ballpark that you can do next to no autographing went very well and the plan was to try their event again, but the team's dawdling with their team set (it wasn't released until later in the week) gave us the idea to travel to Wappingers Falls instead.

The Renegades are an affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays and since the Rays do not have a team in any of the teams on our circuit, this was a chance to add a new stadium to my "passport"  and work on a team that I usually could not.
I worked the previous night, so Fred Landucci and I were able to go after work.
The GPS kept trying to kick us over to another route that would have taken us around (but not into thank goodness) New York City rather than a route that I had found that was a few miles longer in length, but far shorter in time and much less in traffic that sent us up to Scranton PA (What?) and then east.

After a "breakfast" stop at Sonic on the way up, we arrived at Wappingers Falls on another one of these extra high heat index days that this summer has specialized in as it seems to consistently be in the '90s with heat indexes of ten degrees higher.
Yes, New York is farther north than rockin' MD, but it still was hot and Duchess Stadium didn't offer a lot of places to duck away from the sun.

Duchess Stadium opened in 1994 and has the 90s feel to it.
Other than a small spot away from the field and there is not any covering from the sun and the team shop is small as most stadiums from the time seem to have very small team shop spaces.
The field is somewhat sunken and the stadium rises above it as you enter the stadium above field level.
Duchess reminded me most of Haley Toyota Field in Salem, Virginia with the reserved seats high in the air, but it also reminded me a little of Bowie's stadium with little skyline other than some trees and brush.

The autographing access is fairly good, both teams walk from the right-field clubhouses with the Renegades on the first base side and the visitors (Staten Island Yankees) in this case walking across the field to their third-base dugout.
I bought a Renegades team set and other than the two players in the NY-Penn Prospect set and a few players with Princeton cards left over from my 2018 trip to Pulaski, I didn't bring many cards.
I haven't been purchasing mainstream cards in the amount that I used to and for Tampa affiliates, I just don't have the amount to get signed as I once did.

I was able to get both of the players from the NY/Penn prospect set as John Dokasis signed two (he came out early to talk to some fans) but didn't sign the cards I had brought for others.
I soon discovered he was the starting pitcher, so in hindsight, I'm happy that I was able to land the two!
Fred was able to land the one player that he wanted in first-round shortstop Greg Jones, who signed all of my cards (I had two and I had the same two for others) and was very nice.
Jones is hitting .318 with 14 steals and the UNC-Wilmington product would likely move to low A already, if the season had more time remaining to make such a move worthwhile.

After sitting through two, Yes TWO, national anthems (It was a Jewish Night promotion, so the team also had someone sing the national anthem for Israel and it kinda sounded like Bill Murray from his SNL days singing it) and some game action, we moved to our recommended eating establishment, Leo's Pizzeria across the street from Duchess.
We would wind up meeting two guys from SportsGraphing and talking the hobby and even making some trade agreements!
We had been tipped off about Leo's with two pieces of advice- Try the Stromboli and make sure you order the small!
We ordered one of those and a small calzone and they were monstrous!
Between the three of us, everyone had a piece of both and Fred took home as leftovers about half of each!
Not only were they huge, but they were also delicious and even though the restaurant is a little snug, if you visit Hudson Valley, you have to stop at Leo's!

The ride home had its moments, mainly driving through two severe thunderstorms, but all was well unless someone tired of all of my "The Office" related comments as we drove through the Scranton area!
I always enjoy these trips, not just because of seeing different places or even the graphing or baseball, but it's also hanging out, the stories and chats.
You get to know people best on car trips and you wind up telling people about yourself too as you kill so much time.

I still have the big trip to write about and this crazy final week of the minors season coming up.
I'll be writing about those soon when time permits around the upcoming football season, so be sure to keep an eye out for those, if you like the trip stories!





Boxing Challenge

The boxing weekend has plenty of choices over various media options, but there is not one particular card that is especially deep, so we selected the main event from each card for the bouts for this weekend.

We start on Friday with a very rare challenge fight from Showtime's ShoBox series.
I love the series for their competitive events for young fighters, but they usually don't find their way to this stage very often.
The exception is their main event tonight with super middleweights Vladimir Shishkin and DeAndre Ware in a ten rounder.
The 8-0 Shishkin looked very strong in stopping former world title challenger Nadjib Mohammedi in his most recent win, but the former Russian amateur star has not fought in the ten months since, while Ware is coming off his biggest win, a majority decision win over then-undefeated and highly touted Ronald Ellis, so this looms as an interesting bout with the winner likely placing themselves into position for an elimination fight for one of the organizations.

ESPN Plus has the biggest fight of the weekend from Russia as WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev returns home for the first title defense of his third reign with that title against mandatory contender Anthony Yarde of Great Britain.
Kovalev looked vastly improved in his rematch victory over Eleider Alvarez in his debut with new trainer Buddy McGirt and has proven himself as a top ten pound for pound level fighter.
Yarde has stopped 17 of 18 opponents, but none of them are in the same universe as Kovalev.
Still, Yarde has the big eraser and the proverbial punchers chance against Kovalev, who has been vulnerable in recent fights in taking punches.

DAZN's portion of the challenge sends us to Mexico with Juan Francisco Estrada defending his WBC junior bantamweight title against DeWayne Beamon.
Estrada, who fought brilliantly in winning the title in his rematch with Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, is using this fight as a gift to his home fans and is a prohibitive favorite against Beamon, who is severely underqualified for a title fight.

Fox Sports One will showcase talented Brandon Figueroa in a defense of his minor junior featherweight title against Javier Chacon of Argentina.
Figueroa has looked very strong in his last three fights in stopping veterans Oscar Escandon, Moises Flores and Yonfrez Parejo and Chacon has failed each time that his opposition was upgraded in losses to Issac Dogboe, Jamie McDonnell and Anselmo Moreno, so this could be a lopsided fight

RingTV.com will have what might be the best fight of the weekend as Kosei Tanaka defends his WBO flyweight title against Jonathan Gonzalez.
Tanaka's title win over Sho Kimura was my fight of the year last year and his first defense against Ryo Taguchi was a clear but exciting victory.
With the fight taking place in Japan, Gonzalez will have to fight the fight of his life to win the title against the flashy Tanaka, because he has a lot of cards against him.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 207-179.

Super Middleweights.10 Rds
Vladimir Shishkin vs DeAndre Ware
R.L: Ware Unanimous Decision
TRS: Shishkin Unanimous Decision

WBO Light Heavyweight Title.12 Rds
Sergey Kovalev vs Anthony Yarde
R.L: Yarde KO 5
TRS: Kovalev Unanimous Decision

WBC Junior Featherweight Title 12 Rds
Juan Francisco Estrada vs DeWayne Beamon
R.L: Estrada KO 6
TRS: Estrada KO 4

Junior Featherweights. 12 Rds
Brandon Figueroa vs Javier Chacon
R.L: Figueroa KO 6
TRS: Figueroa KO 3

WBO Flyweight Title 12 Rds
Kosei Tanaka vs Jonathan Gonzalez
Both: Tanaka Unanimous Decision



Thursday, August 22, 2019

Shiloh

Last night was another rough night in the household as we lost our only cat Shiloh after a brief
illness.
Many of you didn't know Shiloh because I didn't write a lot about her here, but she wasn't an ordinary cat (some pun intended) and I can say that honestly because I've never been a cat person.
An ordinary cat likely wouldn't have found a home with us and Shiloh found her way into our home and was part of the team at various times with all four of our dogs- Teddy, Chancellor, Big Ed and now Posey.

The story behind Shiloh coming with us dates back to either our first or second year after we bought our house.
She was just a small outdoor cat that showed up in the yard for a while that played with Cherie and Rachel outside for a bit and then she disappeared for a bit.
Cherie and I went around the neighborhood for a walk one day and this cat was lying on a front porch and it was like she looked at us, thought "Hey, I remember those people!" and followed us all the way home!
Shiloh ( I never liked the name that they gave her, reminded me of Neil Diamond- Bleech) was an indoor/outdoor cat (Ryan had to go out onto the outer porch a few times to break up her catfights at night) for a period before disappearing for a few days.
We figured that she must have wandered off to greener pastures or another home as happens with outdoor cats sometimes and Cherie and I were upstairs preparing for me to leave for work and we heard this light scratching at the upstairs door.

Upon checking it out, there was an injured Shiloh with her pelvis injured and one of her clavicles were dislocated.
A neighbor a few houses down was doing some remodeling and apparently, she had injured herself among the materials and drug herself that distance to our home where she must have on some level knew she had a safe haven.
I cannot imagine the pain that she must have felt or the courage that it took to make it here through that pain, but I brought her inside safely and took her to the vet the next day to repair her injuries.
Shiloh would fully recover and I told the family that now she was a permanent member of the family on the condition that she would now be an indoor-only cat for good.

Shiloh would have different relationships with each dog.
Teddy basically ignored this intruder, only acknowledging her when he would stumble into her path to be swatted at and then go about his business, while his buddy Chancellor gave Shiloh a very wide berth and stayed away from her.
Shiloh pretty much had the run of the house until Big Ed arrived and decided she would make a good rabbit and chased her through the house in a memorable run that I only wish would have been recorded!
After that race, Shiloh pretty much stayed upstairs by her choice and even Posey who was far closer to her size and wanted to play, Shiloh didn't want to interact very often.
I suppose that's why some of my friends from the graphing world didn't even know we had a cat because she so rarely came around downstairs around others.
She would come down on occasion, usually in the morning or later evening when things were calm and Posey was in another room.
I'll remember the last time that she came downstairs to hang out with me, as it was just Sunday and she acted just as always, trotting down the stairs and snuggling up to me on the couch as she licked my hand (I've always thought it was weird how rough cats tongues felt) and tried to bite the corner of my laptop as usual as well.
Shiloh didn't act any differently up until yesterday, although she had become visibly thinner over the last six months or so, as when I came back from the Muni to be told she was ill.
I went upstairs to "her" area and she saw me and meowed a lot and snuggled up to me on the floor.
Shiloh's eyes didn't seem to have that defeated look that my other pets had at the end, but it seemed pretty clear to me that something was clearly wrong.
Her eyes seemed bright and alert, but she had no interest in food or water and I was unsure of what to do.

I had the feeling that as underweight as she was, her return home wasn't going to be likely, but I did have hope.
However, I was told that the likely news wouldn't be good by the veterinarian and it was back to that awful decision that every pet owner contends with.
This one was easier and harder in different ways than with Teddy and Ed.
It was easier because after hearing what was likely to be done, Shiloh would have basically lived her entire life with only one bad day and wouldn't we all be that fortunate?
One of my college instructors once said that her life motto was "Live Long and Die Fast", which basically meant live a long life and end quickly without pain and suffering and that always stuck with me.
That helped me with Shiloh, but it was harder in another way as Teddy and Ed each had that look of resignation that they "knew".
Shiloh may have had that in body, but those eyes made me think again and made the decision harder.

When Ed passed, he had a medicine that gave us hope and for a week, he was back to himself.
However, the crash was heartbreaking for him and for us to watch and the one thing that Cherie asked before I left with Shiloh was to make sure that what happened to Ed, didn't happen here with false hope.

I'll miss the little gal and that's coming from a person that never considered himself too much of a cat person.
She had a sweet personality that saw her not mind being touched but on her terms.
She wasn't the type of pet that enjoyed being picked up and carried around, yet she would come to you and nuzzle you when she wanted to.
She'll be missed.

And now for the three of us here, the final link to the days that Ryan lived here is gone and for the first time in roughly 17 years, there is only one pet in the house.
It won't make a difference in noise, Shiloh was a very quiet pet, but it feels a little different this morning.
It's hard to put into words, but it's a different house than the one I woke up to yesterday and we'll adjust, but it's never a breeze in these situations.
But if we just allow time to pass, it'll be ok.

I started to write a  road trip post on last weekend's trip to the Hudson Valley Renegades, but this took precedence.
I'll try to work on it later tonight.



Sunday, August 18, 2019

Boxing Challenge: Navarette cruises by DeVaca

The boxing challenge was all Top Rank with two fights on their flagship ESPN network.

The main event was uncompetitive as Emanuel Navarrete dominated Francisco De Vaca and ended their WBO junior featherweight title in three rounds from Los Angeles.

Navarrete dominated the fight in scoring a third-round knockdown, was barely threatened by return fire and took such little punishment in the victory that he'll be returning in a month on the Tyson Fury-Otto Wallin card against an unnamed opponent.
Navarrete will be a tough out for anyone in the 122-pound division with his size and range and could be in the 126-pound division as well.

In the co-feature, Jessie Magdaleno won a unanimous decision after nine rounds over Rafael Rivera when the fight was stopped in the ninth for cuts suffered by Magdaleno from an elbow thrown by Rivera.
Magdaleno knocked Rivera down earlier in the round and seemed to be on this way to possibly stopping Rivera before the elbow that seemed to be thrown in desperation.
I had Magdaleno winning 88-82 in the nine rounds that were scored.

I earned four points to Ramon Malpica's three on the evening, moving my lead to 207-179.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Jose Napoles

Boxing lost one of its greatest welterweights ever as Jose Napoles passed away at the age of 79 in Mexico.

Napoles held the welterweight title from 1967 to 1975 twice and only a loss on cuts to Billy Backus in 1970 broke up what would have been an eight-year reign and would have ranked among the longest ever in the division.

Jose Napoles lost only one fight as an amateur in Cuba and likely would have won or defended his eventual championship there had the Fidel Castro regime not taken power with Napoles as a young prospect.
Castro's banning of professional boxing and Napoles turning professional before that ban left Napoles without a choice- he needed to leave Cuba to continue and he found a home in Mexico where he established himself as a title contender in the lightweight and junior welterweight divisions.

Unable to receive a title shot in either of those divisions, Napoles rose to welterweight to have one against champion Curtis Cokes, who he would stop in back to back fights to win and then retain the championship.
Napoles defended the championship next against former welterweight and middleweight champion Emile Griffith via decision, which gave Napoles arguably the biggest win on his career resume' and a stoppage victory over Ernie "Indian Red" Lopez, the older brother of future featherweight champion Danny "Little Red' Lopez before entering what seemed to be an easy defense against Billy Backus.


"Mantequilla" (Spanish for butter) did have a weakness as he cut and swelled up very easily and when Backus was able to slice Napoles open in the first round and when both fighters heads smashed into each other in the third, Napoles had his cut worsen and watched the title move to the undistinguished Backus.


Napoles would overwhelm Backus in eight rounds in the rematch to regain the title and would rip off six successful defenses with wins over solid contenders Hedgemon Lewis and Clyde Gray as well as another victory over Ernie Lopez as highlights.


At nearly 34, Napoles decided to cash in for a big payday as he rose to middleweight to challenge Carlos Monzon for the middleweight crown.
This was the fight that continued to come to my memory both before and after the 2016 fight between Gennady Golovkin and Kell Brook.
As great as Napoles was, Monzon was (in my opinion) the best middleweight ever, considering that and giving away thirteen pounds of natural weight, four inches of height, and four inches of official reach (it seemed like much more), Napoles was overmatched and despite all of that, Mantequilla had his moments in the first few rounds.
However, Monzon established himself in the fifth and it was all downhill after that as Monzon battered Napoles badly in the fifth and sixth with Napoles barely surviving the sixth.
Trainer Angelo Dundee made the smart call and ended the fight in the corner and saved Napoles from an unneeded pounding and a likely KO loss by refusing to allow Napoles out for the seventh.


Napoles returned to the welterweight division and stopped Hedgemon Lewis in a rematch along with a knockout of Horatio Saldano entering a championship defense against former U.S. Olympian Mando Muniz, who had upset Lewis to earn a title shot, in Mexico
In a rough and violent fight that saw about every dirty tactic that one could think of used by both fighters, Muniz seemed to have the upper hand with a bloody and fading Napoles in round 12.before one of the most controversial incidents in boxing history that saw the officials meet at ringside for minutes in what seemed to be an attempt to find a way to allow Napoles to retain the title.
After all of that, the ruling was that Napoles' cuts had been caused by butts from Muniz in the third round (yet, there had no notice from the referee in that round that the cuts had been caused in that manner) and therefore the fight would move to the scorecards instead of Muniz being declared the winner via TKO.
The fight became even more farcical than as Napoles was judged the winner via decision in a fight that he should have been far behind on.


The mandated rematch after both fighters had healed in four months later. a motivated Napoles controlled the bout over a disheartened Muniz and won a unanimous decision.in what proved to be not only his final brilliant performance but also his final title defense and his final victory as Napoles would lose the title in six rounds to Britain's John H. Stracey, who survived a first-round knockdown to batter Napoles, cut him above one eye and swell shut the other on his way to the referee stopping the fight in the sixth round.
The stoppage was a good one by the referee and the decision by the soon to be 36 years old Napoles to retire was just as smart as he finished his career with an 81-7 mark with 54 knockouts.
What was even smarter was Napoles never attempting a comeback as so many in boxing try to do and usually unsuccessfully so.
Napoles had to know that his skills were ebbing as a prime Napoles would have likely outclassed Stracey, who was a fighter at the right place on the right night.


Where do I rank Jose Napoles in the all-time welterweight conversation?
I'd say he's clearly a top ten welterweight of all-time and maybe even a top-five as there are quite a few qualified candidates for the fourth spot behind my solid top three of (considering only their record at 147 pounds) Ray Robinson, Ray Leonard, and Henry Armstrong.
Napoles, Floyd Mayweather, Kid Gavilan, and others, all could make a claim to a top-five position on their welterweight resume' and Napoles fits into that company very well.
Napoles was what could be called the Swiss Army Knife of great welterweights as he did everything on an above-average level, yet he wasn't a dominant fleet-footed boxer or possess dazzling speed or crunching power- he just did everything very well and except for that tissue paper-like skin, Napoles had no obvious weaknesses.

Jose Napoles would have been a deserving entry into our Forgotten Superstars series, but he deserved a salute rather than just an obituary.
An excellent champion and a proud competitor, Jose Napoles should certainly be recalled as an all-time great.




Friday, August 16, 2019

Boxing Challenge

If you thought last weeks Boxing Challenge was light, this weeks version is even lighter as we build for the next two weekends loaded versions.

The only fights this week are from ESPN/ Top Rank on their main network with one of them a world title fight as Emanuel Navarrete defends his WBO junior featherweight championship against undefeated Francisco DeVaca.
Navarrete won his title against and defended it for the first time against Issac Dogboe, looking very impressive in both victories, while DeVaca will be fighting in a twelve rounder for the first time,

The co-feature is a featherweight tussle with Jessie Magdaleno battling Rafael Rivera in a ten rounder.
Magdaleno, who lost the belt that Navarette currently holds to the aforementioned Dogboe, will be making his second foray into the 126-pound division against Rivera, who is 2-3 in his last five fights, but all against world-class competition in WBA champion Leo Santa Cruz, Joet Gonzalez, who will be facing Shakur Stevenson for the WBO title vacated by Oscar Valdez and former title challenger Joseph Diaz.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 203-176.

WBO Junior Featherweight Title 12 Rds
Emanuel Navarrete vs Francisco DeVaca
R.L: Navarrete Unanimous Decision
TRS: Navarrete KO 9

Featherweights. 10 Rds
Jessie Magdaleno vs Rafael Rivera
Both: Magdaleno Unanimous Decision

Cleaning out the inbox: Passings

The passings list is cleaned up for the time being with the remainder of the list of notables being posted today.

Goodbye to Harley Race at the age of 76.
Race, who was the first wrestler to win the NWA world title seven times in the era when it was that championship and not that of Vince McMahon's WWF that was the most prestigious title in pro wrestling.
Race was noted for his legitimate toughness outside the ring and the legendary stories about Race's knocking people cold away from the arena are plentiful.
Race, who had a steel plate along his forearm and wasn't afraid to smash someone in the skull with it, also survived several car crashes that damaged him severely through the years and in these crashes broke many bones among other injuries.
Race won the NWA title for the first time in 1973 with a victory over Dory Funk Jr and lost it for the final time in 1983 to Ric Flair in the first Starrcade in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Due to my lack of cable television during Race's reigns as NWA champion, my exposure (as far as actually seeing Race wrestle) to Race came after Race's defection to the WWF as the "King" Harley Race managed by Bobby Heenan.
Race defeated the Junkyard Dog at Wrestlemania III and would receive a run against Hulk Hogan, but during the run, Race would injure himself by falling through an unprepared table in a Hogan match and would receive a hernia when the metal from the table drove into his abdomen and gave Race a hernia.
Race would never be the same in the ring and other than a brief return against the new King Haku and some cameo appearances in the AWA and WCW, Race would be finished as a wrestler, although he would manage Lex Luger and Big Van Vader to championships in WCW.


Goodbye to Chris Kraft at the age of 95.
Kraft, who was the head of NASA Flight Operations and the first-ever Flight Director for the agency. retired before the start of the Apollo program as the Flight Director in favor of being the director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
In other words, as the head of flight operations for an agency that was brand new and for spacecraft that had never flown, Kraft was the person in charge of making the rules for every part of the mission from scratch.
Kraft's duties as head of the space center included training and being in charge of the other flight directors as well as being part of the decision making process on who flew on what missions.


Goodbye to Denise Nickerson at the age of 62.
Nickerson might be best known as "Violet Beauregard" in the original "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory", the chewing gum obsessed teenager that would blow up with berry juice and would be rolled to the "squeezing room".
Nickerson also was known for her role in the vampire soap opera "Dark Shadows" and after the Wonka film, she would appear in "The Brady Bunch" as a date of Peter Brady's and was a member of the "Short Circus" troupe on the "Electric Company" in the mid 70s before retiring from acting.


Goodbye to Ernie Broglio at the age of 83.
Best known as being the key part of the trade that sent Lou Brock to the Cardinals that resulted in Brock going to the Hall of Fame and Broglio winning only seven games in three years before retiring at thirty years old, what is often forgotten is what a quality pitcher Broglio was with the Cardinals before the trade.
Broglio won 21 games for the Cardinals in 1960 and 18 in 1963 in the season before the mid-season trade that sent him to the Cubs.


Goodbye to Prudencio Cardona at the age of 67.
A 1972 Olympian at the Munich games, Cardona held the WBC flyweight title in 1982 after slashing through Antonio Avelar in one round to win the title and became one of what seemed to be 74 guys to hold the WBC title while Santos Laciar (remember our Hall of Fame boosting of Laciar?) held the WBA title.
Keeping in the form of the time, Cardona dropped the championship to Freddie Castillo via unanimous decision in his first title defense and would challenge Laciar for his title in 1984, losing by 10th round knockout.


Goodbye to Eddie Marlin at the age of 89.
Marlin, a long-time wrestler in the 50s through the 70s, was better known as the authority figure in the Memphis territory as the general manager (in character) of the territory.
Marlin was one of those people that that always looked like he was 70, even when he was 40, so it worked to have him as the enforcer of company policy.
Marlin happened to be the father in law of company owner Jerry Jarrett, which helped in getting and holding his position and the grandfather of Jeff Jarrett.


We now are finished catching up on the inbox (finally) and I hope to begin writing about the road trip shortly!






Thursday, August 15, 2019

Cleaning out the inbox-Non-Sports Edition

Photo Credit: NASA
As promised, we now move to the inbox cleaning from the non-sports perspective with a handful of nuggets of interest.

NASA has added a wrinkle in their never-ending attempts to keep the now 42-year-old Voyager's information sending transmissions running for as long as possible and the latest is firing thrusters that haven't been used in decades to keep their antennas pointed at Earth.
The main thrusters have degraded over the years and the thrusters being used currently can keep those antennas pointed in the right spot and keep all of this information from "where no man has gone before" to continue to be gathered for reference.

The Guardian speaks with Petula Clark, who still tours and records at soon to be 87 years of age about her career.
Clark speaks of her child acting career during World War II, her various hits, her marriage, Harry Belafonte and their famous interaction during her NBC special, Elvis Presley, Karen Carpenter and even more.
As a long time fan of Ms.Clark's music, I found it very interesting and learned a bit more about Clark, who will be starring in London as Mary Poppins in the theatre soon, which at 87 is downright stunning when you consider the energy that will take!

Parade talks to Poppy Montgomery about her new show "Reef Break" on ABC among other topics.
I always liked "Without a Trace", which Montgomery was a supporting star of the show, but her character wasn't one of my favorites.
However, Reef Break has been reviewed as a lighter fun show with more of a 60s/70s detective show feel than the grittier shows of today and it looked interesting.
I haven't watched Reef Break yet, but I'm saving them for a binge-watch after baseball season, when I don't have as much to do.

Atlas Obscura wraps this edition with three different links.
The first discusses the "fallen astronaut" sculpture that was left on the moon by the Apollo 15 crew.
The figure salutes the astronauts from both the United States and the Soviet Union that died in the race to the moon and lies alongside a plaque that lists all the names of the fallen.

The second looks at the scientific world that wants to study Okjokull, a glacier near Iceland that is almost nearly devoid of ice after warming.
Recently, a plaque was left on a stone on Okjokull that lists that this was once the site of a glacier, and in case someone finds it in the future that may not know what glaciers are, what they were composed of, how many existed and how they may have been eliminated.

The final note mentions the Buzludzha Memorial House, which was built by the then communist government of Bulgaria in 1981, only to be abandoned nine years later with the fall of communism in Bulgaria.
Located at the top of a peak in the Balkan mountains, Buzludzha was a meeting place for the Bulgarian leaders but has not been maintained since 1990.
The building has been looked at for damage and preservation experts state that work needs to be done in preferably the next five years or no more than the next ten or the building will not remain salvageable.

The inbox is close to being spic and span for a while with only another passings post to finish the job.
I still have a road trip to work on, so count things to keep flowing along for a while!








Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Cleaning out the inbox

The cleaning of the inbox continues as I offer notes from the sports world in this segment and soon will sift through the non-sports notes later in the week.

Former "dirtiest player in the game" Conrad Dobler shares his battles with health issues from the game with 7220Sports.com, which is a site that covers Wyoming sports.
Wyoming was the alma mater of Dobler and the long article discusses Dobler's college and pro career, the tragic accident suffered by his recently deceased wife in 2001 and his current cognitive issues along with how it affects his family.
It's a really interesting read about how football can leave you impaired, yet still, be willing to go back and do it all over again.

Retrosimba.com writes something that I had never heard before as they write that the then St.Louis Cardinals were twice offered Jim Brown for their running back of the time John David Crow.
Crow, who won the Heisman at Texas A&M in 1957, had rushed for over 1,000 yards in 1960, but still finished 200 yards behind Brown for the rushing title.
The supposed discussions were noted by various newspapers at the time as mentioned in the article and one of them was the good old Hagerstown Herald-Mail, who talked to Bears quarterback Billy Wade ( I have no idea how or why Wade would be chatting with the Herald-Mail) for his thoughts on the proposed trade.
Wade was quoted as saying the Cardinals made the right choice in turning the trade down and keeping Crow, which might have been why Billy Wade never ran an NFL front office.

The San Francisco Chronicle writes of the story of Giants announcer Mike Krukow and his service dog Patriot.
I've written before of the Giants TV team of Krukow, Duane Kuiper, and Amy Gutierrez playing a key role in my Giants fandom starting because they are so good at what they do and I've written of Krukow's condition, inclusion-body myositis and his susceptibility to falling in the past, but I've never mentioned Patriot as Krukow's service dog.
The story is mainly about Krukow and why he needs the help that Patriot provides, but there is plenty about the service program, how Patriot was trained and his integration into the Krukow family.
As for Gutierrez, she recently did an interview with "Sportsastoldbyagirl" and discusses her entrance into television, the ups and downs of being a female in a male-dominated business and her top memories covering the Giants.

The New York Times writes of the pain and problems that catchers receive (no pun intended) from foul tips that are diverted and smack off the facemask.
When you consider how hard pitchers throw in today's game and then mix in the speed from a swinging bat, the Times equates the impact of those foul tips to taking a punch from a strong boxer.
An interesting point was comparing catchers to other sports players, who can return to the game if removed for an injury, while catchers cannot.
That's very true and the article mentioned that baseball had considered a rule that would allow a catcher to leave the game under those conditions and return later if the player would be judged to be fine after an evaluation.

ESPN writes of the continuing decline in fighting in the NHL.
Between the changes in the style of the game and players that were once kept on the roster to be an enforcer are no longer able to be kept on a roster because the luxury of a one-dimensional player doesn't exist in making a roster in today's game, fighting penalties have and will likely continue to fall over the next few years.
Fighting at the junior hockey level has decreased even more due to rules that lead to suspensions for players that fight more than a certain amount and perhaps that reason alone will continue to see fighting lessen as players learn to play hockey without having to fight.
I miss fighting, always enjoyed it, but it's not a mandatory part of the game and I can live without it, as it dries up as time goes by.

We wrap up with The Athletic's article on the 1994 Indians and how they lost a shot at a playoff run due to the strike that canceled the postseason and ended what would have been the Indians first playoff berth since 1959.
The Indians were almost sure to be the wild-card team and with only a one game deficit between the Indians and first place Chicago in the Central Division, the Indians could have easily won the division.
Still, the young players that led the 1994 Indians into contention, would be the same players that took Cleveland to the 1995 World Series and their development was the biggest part of that and the ensuing playoff contenders in the late 90s.

Lots of notes finished but plenty still to go and the next cleaning will be from the non-sports side!