Sunday, May 31, 2020

Cleaning out the Inbox

The sports inbox cleaning concludes with a few notes from outside the baseball world.

The recent documentary on Michael Jordan was one that I had no problems skipping because I had seen that film before.
Mainly because it almost always ended with Jordan leading North Carolina over Maryland, the Bulls getting by the Cavaliers and I didn't need to see those endings again.

However, one episode covered Jordan's "Shot" that began his dominance over Cleveland and placed the Cavaliers firmly in a group of teams that could have been great but were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Ron Harper claimed that he told Cavaliers coach Lenny Wilkens that he would "take" Jordan defensively on the inbounds pass that led to Jordan's shot over Craig Ehlo for the Bulls win, but Wilkens refused Harper's request and placed Ehlo in the defensive position.

Sports Illustrated writes of what Really may have doomed those Cavaliers against those Bulls as SI discusses the story behind Cleveland's trade of Harper to the Clippers for Danny Ferry.
Most of this story has been written in a book that is over twenty-five years old now, but it is essential history to getting to know the Cavaliers of the 70s and 80s.
Cavs from Fitch to Fratello by Joe Menzer and Burt Graeff isn't available on Kindle, but for a Cavalier fan, it is a must for your library.
As for the poster, I had this at one time and I am not sure if it is still around somewhere or not.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix writes about the CFL simulation board game "Sports Action" and the cult following that the game continues to have with players even today.
The article talks to Terry Appleby, the creator of the game that sold the game out of his home from 1974-89 before selling his game to another company, who promptly shuttered the game thereafter to eliminate a competitor as well as a man named "Garth" who provides downloads of ratings for players from every season since to keep the game up to date.

The Athletic writes of the one-season record holder in passing yards in B.J. Symons of Texas Tech, who threw for 5,833 yards in 2003 for the Red Raiders.
Symons, who played in 13 games that season, held off Joe Burrow's run last season to keep the passing record, although Burrow did take Symons' total offense record in his 15 game season.
As a Tech fan, I saw many of those games and Symons was the first to prove that in the Mike Leach system that a quarterback with a quick release can thrive as Symons had sat behind Kliff Kingsbury for three seasons in Lubbock before getting his chance to play.
Symons injured his knee midway through the season, which cost him his mobility against the rush and a small drop in his play before finishing tenth in Heisman voting.
Symons would be drafted in the seventh round by Houston and played one year for the Texans before bouncing around various minor leagues.

I am going to add one goodbye to this post as it's the one person that really doesn't fit into the subjects of the two tribute posts in the words as Pepper Rodgers passed away at the age of 88.
The colorful and media-savvy Rodgers was a fun coach to watch and listen, but you wonder how good he was as a coach in college stops at Kansas, UCLA, and Georgia Tech, Rodgers compiled a record of 73-65-3 with only two bowl teams.
To be fair, two of his three UCLA teams would have been bowl teams had the archaic Pac 8 (at the time) rule of only the champion could make the postseason, but still not an outstanding record by any means.
Pepper was much better known to me as the coach of the two seasons of the Memphis Showboats in the USFL and the one year tenure of the Memphis Mad Dogs in the CFL.
Rodgers took the Showboats to an 11-7 record in their second year, won a playoff game over the Denver Gold before losing in Oakland in the league semi-finals.
Rodgers might have been a better personnel man than a coach as many of the Showboat players would move onto NFL careers after the two-year life of the Showboats, including players such as Reggie White and Tim Spencer among others.
Rodgers also was the coach/personnel man that discovered Joe Horn with the CFL Mad Dogs before Horn would become a star with the Chiefs and Saints.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Cleaning out the Inbox-Baseball

Before I start, please allow me to mention this to Blogger and Google- the new Blogger Interface SUCKS!

This will be the third rewrite of the same post as the new version wouldn't allow me to save, move pictures, or even label.
I've returned to the "legacy" version which has served me so well for 13 years, but Google/Blogger plans an elimination of this by late July and a forced move to the new version.
I'm sure that they are working on the flaws and hopefully fix them before then because if not, I'll be looking for a new home for TRS.
This is supposed to be fun and it's not fun to spend hours writing the same thing three times because what you expect to be reliable lets you down.
On to what's more fun to write and hopefully for you-read.

Bob Watson's recent passing (I'll have more on Watson in the next passings post) made me think of the contest to see who would score the one-millionth run in baseball history in 1976.
The contest sponsored by Tootsie Roll (what a way to have kids pay attention!) and Seiko would give prizes to the player that scored it and prizes to various fans had more interest than one would think and came down to Watson in San Francisco and Dave Concepcion in Cincinnati racing around the bases as fast as they could in an attempt to be number one million.
The 2015 article from the New York Daily News looked back at the contest and then estimated that MLB's two-millionth run was on track to be scored sometime in the 2020 season, but I've been unable to find any other notes on the status.

Will Clark's era in San Francisco was before my start of Giants fandom, but I've always been a fan of Clark, who had such a beautiful swing from the left side of the plate, is starting to gather some steam as a potential induction to the Hall of Fame and this article from The Athletic uses the oral history format to speak with "the Thrill's" teammates to talk about Clark's Giants tenure.
While I am a fan of Clark, I'm not sure I'm quite on board for a Cooperstown train.
His Giants numbers are certainly of that ilk, but after leaving San Francisco ( the surprising thing is the numbers declining after leaving Candlestick Park!), Clark hit more than 20 homers only twice and exceeded 100 RBI once along with some problems staying in the lineup with nagging injuries.
As a fan, I'd like to see Clark in, but honestly, I think his numbers fall a little short.

Slate takes a swing at one of the oldest myths from the life of Donald Trump- Was he a baseball player of the level that would have major league teams scouting him in the middle 1960s?
In what would surprise few, that doesn't appear to be the case in the slightest, although Trump did play on his high school team as what appears to be an extremely light-hitting first baseman.
The "best" part was reading the Trump claim that he appeared to be "the best player in New York State" and the even better- "Pro Ball was in the equation until a Giants tryout with a young player named Willie McCovey".
Yes, as in Hall of Famer Willie McCovey.
For the record, when Donald Trump was a high school senior for this supposed tryout, Willie McCovey was entering his sixth year in the big leagues, was coming off a season that saw him smack 44 homers to lead the National League, and had already hit 108 homers in his career.
Insert your snicker here.

Sports Illustrated writes of the "sports card boom" during the pandemic and what is "Fueling it", which is "Box Breaks" online.
Box Breaking is basically this- someone breaks a box of cards, oftentimes as much as a case of cards, and after you purchase a team either on a straight purchase or in an auction, you receive all of the cards from that particular team from the opened product.
The auction is streamed live online to keep everything above board and apparently it is very popular.
I've never participated in any of these, although I'm not against it, I don't see it happening anytime soon!

The Athletic writes about baseball cards as well with an article about Topps and mostly about the card that every modern card traces back to in the 1952 Topps set.
The 1952 Topps set was the first with stats, thicker card stock, and is far closer in size to the modern baseball card than those of the leader in the industry before 1952 in Bowman.
Bowman sued Topps over the set for using players that Bowman had exclusive contracts with, but by the time the suit hit the courts (which Topps would lose), Topps had shoved Bowman aside for dominance in the hobby and would buy the Bowman company in 1956.
Honestly, while the Topps sets of the 50s are the sets that started baseball cards toward the trail traveled today, I've never been a huge fan of those seasons.
I like the simplistic look of 1957, but the photographs often look like they were taken at dusk and for some reason, they seem to fade easier than other sets of the era and that's my favorite set of the decade.
If I'm placing 1957 against the sets of the sixties, it doesn't beat the top five (in order 1965, 1963, 1968, 1967, and 1962) and would be in a tough battle to lead the bottom five (my sixth choice would be 1966).

Thursday, May 28, 2020

NHL Plans Return-Devils Season Ends

The NHL announced their plans to return in July to conclude the 2019-20 season with a set of playoffs that will include an expanded playoff format with twelve teams making the postseason from each conference and with a play-in series that brings back memories of the NBA and NHL of the 1970s playoffs.

The league's return still is far from certain, but there is a plan in place with an unofficial agreement with the players, so now it's a matter of things falling into place for these playoffs to take place.

Under these terms and the additional eight teams making the "Postseason", the New Jersey Devils still did not qualify, which places them in the draft lottery for the third time in the last four seasons.
The Devils will hope for a lucky draw as in their previous two lotteries, New Jersey won the whole damn thing (Paraphrasing Jake Taylor in Major League) allowing them to select Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes with those picks.

New Jersey will have a 7.5 percent chance of pulling the top pick in the draft and could have as many as three first-rounders or only their own first-rounder as the Devils await the results of the Arizona vs Nashville and the Vancouver vs Minnesota series to determine if the Devils will receive picks from Arizona ( from the Taylor Hall trade) and Tampa Bay ( the Vancouver pick was acquired through Tampa Bay in the Blake Coleman trade) in this draft or wait until the 2021 draft.

New Jersey's own pick could range from first to eighth, depending on how the lottery balls would bounce.

New Jersey would receive the Arizona selection unless the Coyotes would lose in the first round of the playoffs to Nashville and then make their way into the top three picks.
Should that occur, the Devils would have to wait until 2021 for that pick to arrive.
Arizona is the eleventh seed and the underdog to the sixth-ranked Predators, who finished with four more points in one fewer game played.

As for the pick added from Vancouver (Through Tampa Bay), if the Canucks win their series against the Minnesota Wild, New Jersey would add the Canucks 2020 first-rounder.
Should Minnesota pull the mild upset ( Vancouver is seeded seventh to Minnesota's tenth, but Vancouver finished with only one point more than the Wild ), the Devils will be receiving the 2021 top pick of the Lightning.

The perfect scenario for the Devils would be the Coyotes losing in the first round and not reaching the top three in the lottery, which would see the Devils pick as high as eighth (this would take Montreal and Chicago winning in the first round), ninth (Montreal OR Chicago winning in the first round), or tenth (should Montreal and Chicago both lose).
The wrench in the works could be one of the first-round losers winding their way into the top three lottery picks and dropping that pick by one spot.

As for the Vancouver pick, I'm rooting for the Canucks to win that series because even though that means that pick would be between sixteenth and twenty-third, I still think that will be a more desirable pick than Tampa's 2021 choice, which I would think would be near the bottom of the first round.

The Devils finish the disappointing and abbreviated season with 68 points, which placed them firmly in the basement of the Metropolitan Division and eleven points behind the closest team in the New York Rangers.
However, the team was playing well when the season was interrupted and had they won their final game in Pittsburgh against the Penguins, the Devils would have slid into the playoffs ahead of Montreal for the twelfth spot which would have paired them against Pittsburgh.

I may do a season recap for the Devils later, but in case I do not- Kyle Palmieri led the team in goals and points with 25 and 45, Nikita Gusev led the Devils in assists with 31 and of players that played more than 45 games and remained with the team, Kyle Palmieri finished with the best plus/minus at negative four and led in power-play points with eighteen.

Damon Severson led the defensemen in goals and assists with eight and twenty-three as well as power-play points with twelve.
Mackenzie Blackwood led the goaltenders across the board in his first season as the number one netminder with twenty-two wins, a save percentage of .915 and a goals allowed average of 2.77.
The Devils would win only six games that Blackwood did not start with Cory Schneider and the departed Louis Domingue splitting the half-dozen victories.

So, I do have an interest in those two first-round series, should the league manage to make its way back to play due to their effects on the Devils draft.
It was a disappointing season for New Jersey, one that I had hoped would have seen possibilities for a playoff berth.
Instead, it was a season filled with losses and one that seemed to only to tease with promise.
The late-season rush did give me some hope, but there is a longer path to walk than I had hoped to see and the Devils will need to address gaps before I get excited again.

Not sure whether the next post will be another Friends and Family, inbox cleaning, or boxing ratings, but I'll be back tonight!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Big Don's Day

We move forward in the Friends and Family series as our fan that has been with us longer than almost anyone as Big Don joins us with his request for the series.

Big Don was the first person that I met through autographing/minor league baseball that became a fan of the blog and the support that he has given through the years has been very important in keeping things rolling along at TRS, even at times in the early to middle years that I wasn't sure that I was going to continue to write this little project.

Big Don asked two questions and with the increasing likelihood of a second batch of Friends and Family looming, I've decided to hold the second one for the potential next run.
Big Don asked this: As things stand today, the Hagerstown Suns likely have played their final game.
Do you have any particular memories of the franchise from games, autographing, people, etc?

Well, I have plenty of them and even though the team started here in 1981, the majority of my memories come from 2005 and after as the period of my second run in the autographing hobby.
But for this piece, I think I am going to stick to one day- I attended the first game in Hagerstown Suns history.

My dad came and took me out of school early for the day, which really wasn't like him at all.
That day is the only day that I remember him taking me out of school early or allowing me to stay home for a sporting event ( Note- The keyword here is ALLOWING as I used to find ways to stay home for the first round of the ACC basketball tournament and in the last two years of my school  terms, the NFL Draft when it was on cable and on a weekday)

The Muni didn't look a lot different than it does today other than the electronic scoreboard of the age and the higher hill in left field with the original left-field dimensions in play.
The Suns were a "co-op" team consisting of players loaned from the Indians, Pirates, Orioles, Twins, and I think players from two other teams and played in the Carolina League under an Oriole coaching staff that was led by future major league manager Grady Little.

I don't remember much about the game itself, which was a 6-2 win over the Peninsula Pilots, other than local pitcher Dane Anthony got the win and the first homer in Hagerstown Suns history was hit by shortstop Ron Wotus, who was dubbed "Boom Boom" by his next at-bat!
Wotus is the long-time coach for the San Francisco Giants and I think that homer was one of only two he hit for Hagerstown that season.

Those Suns were quite a power-hitting outfit as they hit 158 homers, which is a huge feat considering the Suns then used the original dimensions of Municipal Stadium in a park that would be a pitchers park in today's alignment.
Matt Tyner hit thirty-one homers, John Stefero smashed twenty-five, and Paul Croft added twenty to pace the Hagerstown attack that won the Carolina League's Northern Division and then topped Peninsula to win the Carolina League championship.
The Hagerstown Suns had won a championship in their first season and almost 40 years later as the team prepares for its likely end, it would be the only championship in team history.

The unlikely champions with players that weren't thought of as top prospects at the time (why else would they be sent to a co-op team, except for the Orioles ) did have a few players that would see some time in the majors.
Ron Wotus would have two brief stints with Pittsburgh (58 at-bats) and three of the Hagerstown catchers would eventually play in the bigs as Orioles backups as John Stefero (187 at-bats), Al Pardo (129 at-bats), and Carl Nichols (186 at-bats) would have short stays in the show.
Two pitchers on the 1981 Suns would make the majors with Ken Dixon having the most success with 26 wins for the Orioles in four seasons.
Ramon Romero threw sixty-four innings for the 1985 Indians, who lost 102 games as Romero would be traded to the Minnesota Twins in the off-season, but would never pitch in the majors again.

What I remember most about that day was the genuine excitement to have baseball in a baseball town.
I'm not sure if you are under 35 and have lived through the malaise of the last thirty years of Hagerstown baseball that you can truly understand what it was like at the Muni for those Carolina League and Eastern League seasons.
The stadium even then was well into the dark and damaged stage, but the crowds were very strong, and going to a game was fun.

The loss of Hagerstown baseball has felt inevitable for close to twenty years and I've always taken each season one at a time.
From ownership changes and threatened moves to pressure from MILB and the parent clubs ranging from the Blue Jays, Giants, Mets, and the current Nationals, one thing has always been consistent- the constantly dilapidated Hagerstown Municipal Stadium.
A new stadium has been mentioned for the Suns from the first day of the franchise and while you can blame the team for many things through the years, the lack of a stadium can only be blamed at the feet of the city of Hagerstown and Washington County.
The state of Maryland has its share as well as they contributed money to the following new facilities in the era following the 1981 Suns- Baltimore, Frederick, Bowie, Salisbury (Delmarva), Aberdeen, and Southern Maryland (Independent) all received funding for stadiums, while Hagerstown continued to patch and reupholster a stadium built in the Hoover Administration!

The stadium was the reason that the AA Suns left town, despite good attendance, and it's been downhill ever since as the cycle on this issue repeated itself over and over again.

Even today, there are still rumblings about a new stadium, even on the eve of Major League Baseball announcing that the Suns will be among the teams eliminated by their latest culling.
Any slim scrap of hope of that happening was likely ended by the Covid-19 crisis, but I must admit that I was hoping to see if the Suns could make through 2021 for a hoped-for reunion of the 1981 championship team.

Thirty-nine seasons is a long time between titles.
But as baseball prepares to pack up and leave Hagerstown ( and no matter the stadium situation, affiliated baseball will not return), if you are above a certain age there will always be one championship team from Hagerstown to remember- the 1981 Suns from a time that will be looked back on as the Golden Age of baseball in the Hub City.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary to my wonderful wife of now 33 years.

Cherie is kind, patient (boy, does she need that with me!) and loyal to a thought.
She's been tolerant of outside influences (some very good and others very bad) that could affect many marriages but drew us closer together without needing to suffocate the other.

While our life at home has been consistently good, she's managed to battle through dealings with people that had their selfish interests at heart, rather than be happy for our "team" happiness and be an excellent wife, mother, and daughter to the people that she cares about.

I'm not sure that I could have handled the stress of my mom's passing without her calm strength and fortitude.
Cherie's not the type of person that needs to have the lights of the center ring on her and she doesn't need to have her ego stroked, but if you are a member of our "family" which includes several of our friends, there is no better person to have your back when she is needed.

I don't like to play the "Greatest" ever this or "Best" that as so many do on social media and other platforms.
That's always so subjective and you always feel like "how can everyone be the greatest?", but I have no problems writing this- I couldn't have selected a better person for me to spend my life with and I do believe that my life would have taken a different and worse turn had I not been fortunate enough to have her say "yes".

A quick word of thanks to Ryan, Rachel, "Posey", family members, and all of our friends for being part of our lives.
I appreciate all that you do in the various forms as part of my "family" and what you have brought to my life.
I have a few special "shoutouts", but I'm holding onto those for my birthday post.

I'm still in the process of another Friends and Family post that I've started three times, so that will with luck will be finished soon...

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Battlin' Bob's Day

The Friends and Family series is back with more as there still isn't news from the sports world to be excited about.

Today's Battlin' Bob's time to take a swing at the plate with a few questions.
I caught Bob on short notice, so the Battler has only three questions, but they are good ones, so let's get started!

Battlin' Bob: Do you think that sports will come back strong after the Covid-19 crisis is over?

TRS: Yes and No.
Right away, television ratings will zoom through the roof because fans are hungry to watch live sports.
The UFC has performed very well in these times and boxing will be resuming a bit in June, so if the team sports can return with a tournament for the NBA or NHL for their playoffs and if football can resume on time, I think things will be strong.
However, live attendance is going to drop with or without permissions and that is going to be the way it is for quite a while.
The team sports need to find a way to stay in the eye of the fan (which is why I think the NBA will do whatever it takes to get some kind of resolution to finish their season) and cannot take a large amount of time off.
The key will be in the fall- will the NFL and college football start in the fall and can they stay on the field?
That answers a lot of questions.

Battlin' Bob: Do I think Barry Bonds deserves to be in the Hall of Fame?

TRS: Yes, I do.
My bottom line on these things arrives after asking this question- Would this player earn my Hall of Fame vote before any accusations?
In the case of Barry Bonds, his power numbers may not have been elite (How's that for irony?), but they were above average, and the rest of his game was part of the package that made him the best all-around player of his time.
Barry Bonds would get my vote with the asterisk that the Hall needs to notate about the suspicions of wrongdoing.

Battlin' Bob: What is your favorite piece of sports memorabilia?

TRS: This covers a LOT of ground!
My favorite single baseball card probably is the 1965 Topps Sandy Koufax or the 1962 Roberto Clemente.
My favorite completed set is the 1971 Topps set and while with all my autographed cards, I'm not sure I can pick one card because I'm sure I'd forget an obvious choice, my favorite set that I've worked on is the 2018 Bowman Top 100.
My favorite autographed item that I got myself (or was there for) would likely be my Bernie Kosar signed helmet, my Marco Antonio Barrera signed 16 x 20 or the 8 x 10 from the Barrera-Erik Morales fight that Fred Landucci was able to have both fighters sign for me.
My favorite program is likely my 1970 Ohio State-Michigan program or the 1984 USFL Western Conference final program between Los Angeles and Arizona.
My favorite media guides are the ABA media guide from their last season in the league, the 1979 Indians, and my three favorite teams from the USFL, but my favorite item that wouldn't fit in any of those departments would be my game-used World Football League football.
I'm sure there are plenty of things that I've forgotten about that would have been contenders to be

Thanks to Battlin' Bob for the questions and believe it or not- I still have others to work on for this series!.
I've enjoyed it thus far and the series has done exactly what I had hoped that it would do during the no-sports period!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Mike's Day

The Friends and Family series rolls on with five questions from Mike Oravec.
Mike is one of my two regular traveling partners from when there was actually baseball to watch and Mike was gracious enough to participate in the series.

Mike: What are your thoughts on Andy Kaufman's wrestling career?

TRS: Well, his spots on the Memphis television show are hilarious to watch even today as Kaufman plays the role of big Hollywood star talking down to the Southerners and driving them crazy by hitting them in their sore spot- the stereotypes that people from the South aren't very intelligent.
Very few things will make someone from the South madder than some bigshot from the West Coast (let alone that is originally from New York City) telling them how inferior they are and their quality of life is as well and Kaufman did that to the hilt.
Kaufman played the heel very well, but what isn't remembered as well is that Kaufman's run in Memphis didn't do as well at the box office as so many believe.
I wasn't positive though, so I asked an expert in John McAdam.
John is the host of the successful Stick to Wrestling podcast and I asked him about the legend of Lawler-Kaufman as an attendance hit.

"Jerry Lawler vs Kaufman with the neck brace angle on April 5, 1982, drew 8,091 (at the Memphis Mid-South Coliseum), Lawler vs the Colossus of Death with Andy Kaufman drew 9,194 on May 2, 1983, and Jimmy Hart and Andy Kaufman vs Lawler drew 8,774 on July 4, 1983.
All of these were slight upticks in attendance, but Kaufman vs Jimmy Hart on July 11, 1983, as an undercard match drew 7,466- No difference.
Lawler and Kaufman vs Jimmy Hart and Assassin #1 on July 18, 1983, drew 6,790- You can see where we're going here, the novelty was over.
On November 14, 1983, Andy Kaufman (wearing boxing gloves) and Jimmy Hart against Jerry Lawler drew 3,800.
Attendance was down anyway, but this didn't help and Kaufman vs Lawler in a "Wrestling vs Boxing" match on November 21, 1983, drew 3,800 in Kaufman's final appearance and you can see why"
In other words, as brilliant as the microphone work as Andy Kaufman was, it didn't pay off at the box office for the Memphis territory

Thanks to John McAdam for his thoughts on the drawing power of Andy Kaufman and if you like wrestling from the 70s and 80s, give Stick to Wrestling a listen as it is one of the top podcasts each week that I enjoy!

Mike: Ball Four is a great book- What is your favorite story from the book?

TRS: Wow. This one is tough.
So many lines from the book are constantly swapped between Ryan and me and so many great stories that it's hard to choose one.
I've always been partial to the Astros team bus complete with singing "It makes a fellow proud to be an Astro'" and the players riding manager Harry Walker at an Old-Timers game.
I cannot think of Sicks Stadium without thinking of Jim Bouton breaking into the stadium to grab Gerry McNertney's knuckleball glove after hours, only to see that guard dogs were around after he had left.
But there can be only one and it is the story of Fred Talbot's "Home Run for the Money" that won Donald DuBois of Gladstone Oregon $27,000 (which currently would be over $188,000!).
Talbot hit a homer during a "home run inning" and won Dubois this money, so the Pilots bullpen sent Talbot a letter from "DuBois" promising him five thousand dollars with the joke progressing from there!

Mike: Name one sporting event on your bucket list and why so?

TRS: I'm not as much of an event person as I am a venue person.
For example, I'd like to see Churchill Downs, but I don't have to be there for the Kentucky Derby.
But to answer your question, I think I'd like to go to a college basketball tournament and see the entire tournament from start to finish.
And I think I'd also prefer a mid-major or small conference tournament so that the seats could be good without breaking the bank.
Examples for a few would be the MAC tournament in Cleveland, the Ohio Valley in Evansville, Indiana, or the CAA tournament in Washington.

Mike: Name your all-time baseball announcers for radio and television

TRS: It's funny that the current announcers that I'm familiar with are the television people, but the past announcers, I am better versed in the radio game-callers.

Television, I've always thought Bob Costas is top-notch nationally and his NBC game of the week pairing with Tony Kubek was outstanding.
Team announcers for television? I wouldn't have become a Giants fan without being hooked by San Francisco's team of Mike Krukow, Duane Kuiper, and Amy Gutierrez.
I was a big fan of Baltimore's' 1980s and 90s team of Mel Proctor and John Lowenstein.
I know Hawk Harrelson was a polarizing figure, but I got the biggest kick out of him during his years with the White Sox.
I've liked Bob Carpenter well before his time with Washington and I also think Brian Anderson of the Brewers is excellent.
I also like the teams in Texas with Dave Raymond, Tom Grieve, and Emily McCoy and Tampa Bay with veteran Dwayne Staats, the "other" Brian Anderson (the former Indians pitcher), and Tricia Whitaker.

On the radio, you have to love Vin Scully with the Dodgers and Bob Prince with the Pirates in the same manner as Hawk Harrelson.
I've always thought Pittsburgh lost a gem in Lanny Frattare when they let him go in 2008 and I loved the Reds duo of Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall.

Mike: What is the one thing that you would change in professional sports today?

TRS: There are many things I would say, but the number one would eliminating the "one and done" rule for basketball players.
The NBA won't allow high schoolers to enter without one year in college and as a result, the college game has been weakened in quality with hired guns playing one year for most notably Duke and Kentucky among a few.
My answer would be this- Use the baseball rule.
You can enter the draft out of high school, but once you attend your first class you are not eligible for the draft for three years.
The college game will improve with better players for a longer time, the pro game can add those impact players right away, and for the player that isn't an impact player, has potential, but doesn't want to play the facade of college player?
That's where the NBA's minor league can come in with an agreement to farm out those players.
College basketball was so much fun before this rule and it needs to change to get back what it has lost.

Thanks to Mike for his questions and thanks again to John McAdam for his help!
I'll be back with more soon!

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Jeff's Day

We continue Friends and Family with my nephew Jeff's day to select a topic.

Jeff didn't get specific, but he wanted me to write about baseball.
I'm pretty disgusted with the game right now under the control of Rob Manfred and between Manfred's tweaking of game-changing rules. his determination to take down minor league baseball, and now his bungling of an already-struck deal for compensation with the players in a shortened season, so I'm going to add some notes in various styles of baseball-related topics that might get your brain thinking a bit to agree, disagree or even add an option of your own.

Five players that have been overlooked for the Hall of Fame (excluding the obvious)
1) Dick Allen
2) Curt Schilling
3) Dale Murphy
4) Minnie Minoso
5) Luis Tiant

The team that I wish would use 70s Uniforms Full-Time

Top Five Pitchers of Baseball's Greatest Era-1960s
1) Sandy Koufax
2) Bob Gibson
3) Juan Marichal
4) Ferguson Jenkins
5) Jim Bunning

If I was drafting a team from scratch and the player talent was equal, what position (other than pitcher) would I draft?
1) Shortstop
2) Catcher
3) Center Fielder

If Minor League Baseball cuts the 42 teams as planned, will Hagerstown and Frederick survive after both were named on the original list?

Will Hagerstown ever see affiliated or independent baseball again?
Affiliated- Never.
The one asterisk- IF Frederick would not survive (Frederick would own the Hagerstown territory)
and a new stadium would be built (Same chances of ice surviving hell), then maybe eventually.
Independent- Atlantic League-Only with a new stadium
College Summer League-Maybe, but it'll be a failure.

If I could pick ballparks from the past to return with modern amenities, but with original dimensions.
which would I pick?
Bonus points for replacing a current park that I dislike.
1) Comiskey Park- White Sox
2) Polo Grounds- Giants/Mets
3) Yankee Stadium-Yankees
4) Crosley Field-Reds
5) Tiger Stadium-Tigers
Asterisk- Forbes Field would have made this, but I love PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

And I'll wrap with the one topic that Jeff did ask me about- pitchers with personal catchers.
It's happened more than you think through the years.
Often, it has been catchers that are needed to catch the knuckleballer that fills this role.
It does vary depending on team and situation as sometimes it can be a case of the starting catcher struggling to catch the knuckler and in others, it can be that a team has a backup or an available catcher that does an excellent job in catching the knuckler such as Boston keeping Doug Mirabelli for Tim Wakefield as one example.
With Boston, Jason Varitek hated catching Wakefield, and Mirabelli did well catching him and it worked well.
It worked so well that Boston took Mirabelli's skills for granted and traded him to San Diego as the BoSox thought Josh Bard could move into the slot.
That was a disaster as Bard struggled defensively and Wakefield struggled as well, so Boston was forced to get Mirabelli back and it cost them Bard, a decent reliever in Cla Meredith and cash to land Mirabelli, who basically had one big-league skill that was keeping him in the league.
Another pitcher with a personal catcher was Mel Rojas, who closed games for the Expos in the 1990s.
Rojas would enter to save a game and the Expos would send in Tim Spehr, who was the only catcher with Montreal that could handle the vicious forkball of Rojas in an unusual case of a reliever having his own catcher.

There have been some all-time great hurlers that used them as well- the two most famous examples were Tim McCarver catching Steve Carlton for the Cardinals and the Phillies, Charlie O'Brien with Greg Maddux and in recent years, David Ross catching for Jon Lester with the Cubs and A.J. Ellis backstopping Clayton Kershaw with the Dodgers.

There can be baseball reasons and there can also be personal reasons.
Steve Carlton was known for his eccentricities and McCarver, who was the starter for a young Carlton with the Cardinals but was nearing the end of the line with the Phillies, was able to deal with those awkward issues and helped Carlton relax a bit as well.
Carlton's tremendous 1972 season with the Phillies (mentioned on Facebook recently as the 1973 Baseball Card of the Day) was with McCarver behind the plate until late in the season when McCarver was traded to Montreal.
Carlton lost twenty games in 1973 without McCarver and even though he improved some in 1974 and 75, it wasn't until the Phillies reacquired McCarver in 1976 that Carlton began his return to dominance for close to a decade, although McCarver would stay only through 1980 before retiring.
Clayton Kershaw has been known to be high-strung on the mound and A.J. Ellis provided a calming influence as the catcher that moved through the minors with him.
Kershaw has been an excellent pitcher in his three seasons since the loss of Ellis with numbers that would be considered outstanding for the average pitcher, but aren't quite as dominant as those with Ellis.

Jon Lester of the Cubs had tremendous numbers at his peak, but Lester struggled in keeping runners close to first base and would allow many stolen bases.
Pairing Lester with David Ross, a strong-armed backstop that was excellent defensively made sense and allowed Lester's liability in holding runners close to be a less important factor in the game as base stealers would be less likely to challenge Ross.
The Braves had a similar issue with Hall of Famer Greg Maddux with runners on base as Maddux would literally ignore a man on first base as he intently focused on the hitter.
Charlie O'Brien was a journeyman that had one elite skill- he was always at or near the top of catching base stealers by percentage and therefore it made sense to give the veteran Maddux a catcher that had a chance to nullify the runners' advantage.

I don't have an issue with personal catchers, but there can be situations that affect the roster, and a catcher that often catches one pitcher can become a burden under certain conditions.
One can make the argument that when you have a Hall of Fame level pitcher with what they can do and for the money that you pay them that you keep their performance as high as possible and that's a good path to take- as long as the performance is elite.
Should the pitcher's performance drop to the point that they are average for two years or so, the personal catcher might be a luxury that contending teams cannot afford.

Thanks to Jeff for the personal catcher and I hope he (and you reading) found the other parts interesting.
I still have more from the Friends and Family series to go and an inbox that is beginning to need cleaning, so which post will be next up will depend on what I feel like writing about next.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Cherie's Day

We move forward with Friends and Family week as Cherie has made her choice and she asked for me to write about our 1994 trip to Tennessee for Smoky Mountain Wrestling's Fan Week.

During its four years of existence, Smoky Mountain Wrestling was the "old school" wrestling option that was available for wrestling fans.
The WWF was still in their goofy character age, WCW was plenty silly in their own right and the newer ECW was presenting a new style of wrestling based around storylines and lots of violence that was innovative for its time but when I look back at ECW, a lot of their promotion doesn't seem to hold up well over time.
That left an opening for a niche' promotion like Smoky Mountain for owner Jim Cornette for those fans that were looking for wrestling that fit the SMW motto- "Wrestling the way it used to be and the way you like it!"

In 1994, the only access that you had to the "inside" world of Pro Wrestling came from Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer and Cornette saw an opportunity to make some money from the 'smart fans' that knew more about wrestling than the average fan.
Cornette put together SMW Fan Week with a short and long tour version that covered hotel, travel to the various events, tickets to those events, along with behind the scenes dealing with the wrestlers themselves in different environments away from the ring.
Cherie and I signed up for the short version, which would cover four evenings, Smoky Mountain's top two cards in Night of the Legends and Fire on the Mountain, a television taping, and a house show.

Traveling to Knoxville, Tennessee wasn't difficult as I've written in the past because it is almost a straight shot from Hagerstown to the home of the Volunteers.
Our hotel was across the street from the West Town (I think) Mall and that was neat to go over to that to kill some time in the days when malls still mattered.
It's funny because I visited the same mall when I visited Knoxville years later and wasn't all that impressed!
We had some time before the evening card at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum and rested a bit after the car ride before catching the bus for the arena.
The downside to tours like this can be a lot of downtime and we were in the arena for a few hours before the doors opened to the public.
However, when the doors did open for the near-sellout crowd for SMW's "Night of the Legends" that wait was worthwhile as one of the two best cards that I've attended live took place.

The Night of the Legends has been noted by Jim Cornette as the night that made his tenure with SMW worthwhile as he was able to pay tribute to the stars of his youth.
For me, it was a hell of a wrestling show complete with the debut of the controversial New Jack, a legends tag team match with two favorites of mine in Bob Orton and Dick Slater taking on Ronnie Garvin and the Mongolian Stomper. and the Rock N Roll Express against Chris Candido and Brian Lee as part of an excellent card.
The main event was a strong one with Bob Armstrong, Tracy Smothers, and Road Warrior Hawk facing the Funk Brothers (Dory.Jr and Terry) with their partner Bruiser Bedlam in a Coward waves the Flag match in which the chief second at ringside (Ron Wright and Jim Cornette ) would have to wave a flag to end the match.
However, the match that stood the test of time was the Heavenly Bodies (Tom Pritchard and Jimmy Del Rey) matched against the Thrillseekers (Lance Storm and Chris Jericho).
SMW was the first big break for Storm and Jericho and this is the famous match that saw Jericho break his arm earlier in the day and then bleed with one of the worst cuts that you'll see in a pro wrestling match.
It's that match that is a big deal being there for Rachel, who has been a Jericho fan since she was very small.
It was such a good time being there live and when the DVD became available, I quickly purchased it.

The following day saw a lunch at Hooters with Tracy Smothers and I think the Rock n Roll Express (I'm really not sure on the attendees other than Smothers).
Hooters has always been more sizzle than steak for the actual food that you eat, but the reason I'm not sure who was there beside Tracy Smothers is that Tracy Smothers spent a lot of time talking to me!
When I told him I was from Maryland, Smothers suddenly wanted to talk to me about football, especially the Baltimore Colts (this was before the Browns moved to Baltimore) and the Bert Jones led Colts with their top-notch defensive line.
I've noticed with celebrities from different fields that more often than not, they would rather not talk about themselves or what they do and would rather talk about things that they enjoy or are a fan of.

After some hotel time, we boarded the bus for Johnson City for the "Fire on the Mountain" card.
Knoxville to Johnson City is about an hour and forty minutes drive. I've made it a few times on baseball tours and it's not a hard trip.
That's when everything is going well and it was apparent that the bus was having problems.
Not as in moving, the bus still moved.
It just moved slowly as in maybe 25 MPH and a cooling system that was not working, which was not really terrific timing for a bus filled with riders!
For me, it would get worse.
I've written here that since I was very small, a book of some type would accompany me on every trip and continues today with E-Books.
On this trip, I was reading Truman by David McCullough, a gift given by Joe Plum and if you've ever read Truman you know that the book weighs about the same as a VW Beetle!
Anyway, this one guy decided to take this time to "entertain" us all by strolling through the aisle, which was annoying enough, but he kept stopping in front of me.
That meant since he was standing and I was sitting that I was on armpit level with a man on a bus without air conditioning!
It took all I could do to not tell him to sit down, but in a rare case of discipline for me at that age (26), I assessed the situation and figured out quickly that the other attendees knew this fellow, didn't know me and therefore I could tell the side that they would take in an incident!
The bus did make it to Johnson City's Freedom Hall in about twice the time that it normally would have taken, so things could have been worse as it could have stranded a bus full of people on the side of the road!

Freedom Hall is the basketball home of the East Tennessee State Buccaneers of the Southern Conference,
ETSU has been a hat stop on the Fred Landucci hat tour since then!
Fire on the Mountain was another excellent card with Dick Slater challenging the Dirty White Boy for his Smoky Mountain title, Doug Furnas, who was so underrated, battling Cowboy Bob Orton, the six-man main event from the Knoxville card lining up again, but this time under Texas Death Match rules and the Thrillseekers minus Chris Jericho after his injury on the previous injury against the Heavenly Bodies.
The most remembered match on this card was the loser loses their hair match between Chris Candido and Brian Lee against the Rock N Roll Express with the hair of Tammy Sytch (later to be known as Sunny and manager of Candido and Lee) and Ricky Morton at stake.
This match resulted in an upset as the heel team of Candido and Lee won the tag titles, but the Rock N Roll Express pulled a surprise as Ricky Morton dodged his trimming and instead cut the hair of Candido lightly as the hair trimmers didn't work well.

We had another day to go, but the television taping was in Chilhowie VA, which was quite a hike from Knoxville and the TV taping promised to be a long evening.
From the best that I can remember, they were going to use the same bus ( it's been a long time folks) and we were a little leery of that trip after the ride to Johnson City!
So we decided to stay in Knoxville, do some shopping, and enjoy a nice dinner.
I don't remember many particulars there either other than buying several books at a Knoxville bookstore including a Bill Musselman biography that I didn't know existed at the time and that still resides on my bookshelf today!
We drove home the following day and that proved to be the final wrestling card of note that I've ever attended.

SMW would go out of business the following fall and I slowly lost interest in wrestling.
I'd watch some with the kids during the "Monday Night Wars", but the passion was gone and once the WWE bought WCW, my interest was almost empty than reading the Observer for a special issue based on someone passing away or a historical feature.
It was only the advent of the internet that returned pro wrestling to me somewhat with the videos of territories and matches that I wasn't able to see from my childhood days along with listening to podcasts from stars of my youth telling old business stories that I've never heard before.
It's the memories of a time gone by more than anything else when I watch pro wrestling and looking back now, the Smoky Mountain trip sewed together my wrestling fandom- starting in sixth grade and ending fourteen years later in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Beginnings and endings.
Part of all tales and inevitable to avoid.

Back later with either the next installment of the Friends and Family series or cleaning out a rapidly accumulating inbox.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Joe's Day

Friends and Family week continues as Joe Plum takes his turn at TRS.
Joe is my second longest friend in tenure and is a friend of mine for around thirty years, having met him right after Cherie and I were married and Joe was a teenager working at a neighborhood drug store/baseball card shop.

Joe's decided to take Fred's five questions idea, but add his own twist with Five Questions to be answered with my Top Three for each question.
I'm going to answer these as my favorite three, which may or may not be the "best" three in any category!
Here we go!
Joe: Your top three all-time Wrestling Tag Teams

1: Midnight Express- Bobby Eaton & Dennis Condrey Version
2: Midnight Express- Bobby Eaton & Stan Lane Version
3: Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson
Honorable Mention: Hart Foundation- Bret Hart & Jim Neidhart

This one was an easy question, yet a hard question as I'll explain shortly.
The Midnight Express is easily my favorite tag team, but the Eaton/Condrey version and the Eaton/Lane versions are so close that I waver between each team as my favorite.
I didn't have actual video exposure to the NWA until after I was married (different cable systems) and that was two months after Dennis Condrey left the team, so my "first" Midnights was actually the second.
Usually, the first act that you see and enjoy winds up being the one you like best (which might be why I'm the only person I know that prefers Dick Sargent over Dick York as Darrin Stevens on Bewitched), so for years I would have picked Eaton and Lane.
However, in the YouTube era, I've been able to see Condrey and Eaton in action and the pure "heat" that Condrey/Eaton and, of course, Jim Cornette had with fans gives them a hairline edge over the terrific matches of Eaton/Lane.
Dennis Condrey was more of a pure heel than Stan Lane and that might be the difference.
Tully Blanchard ranks in my top five favorites of all time and his team with Arn Anderson might be my favorite pure wrestling team.
Tully and Arn didn't have the flashy double-team moves of Eaton and Lane and the pure hatred that fans had for Condrey and Eaton, but an argument can be made for them at the top as an all-around team.
Because of the circumstances with the Midnight Express, I added an honorable mention with the Hart Foundation as my favorite team before I was able to start watching non-WWF products.

Joe: Top Five Defunct Sports Teams

1: Arizona Wranglers USFL
2: Kentucky Colonels ABA
3: Cleveland Crusaders WHA

Two defunct NHL teams could have applied for this, but since they technically still exist with the Kansas City Scouts tracing to the New Jersey Devils and the Cleveland Barons having ties to the Dallas Stars, so I eliminated them.
This was a very hard choice, but I gave the 1984 Arizona Wranglers a close decision over the Kentucky Colonels at the top mainly because I watched all the Wranglers games and the Colonels were a radio team only for a seven and eight-year-old.
I've written about the 1984 Wranglers before and the bizarre reasons that saw me root for three different teams in the three years of the USFL.
The Colonels rate second with all-time favorite Dan Issel and I wrote about my Colonels fandom as well.
The Cleveland Crusaders earned the third spot as my favorite WHA team.

Joe: Top Three Comic Book Villains

1: Deadshot
2: Riddler
3: Captain Cold

Wow, another difficult question.
The Riddler was my favorite through childhood in the Batman comics and the brilliant Frank Gorshin portrayal in the Batman TV series, but my love of the 1980s comic- Suicide Squad introduced me to Deadshot, who I've written about here as well!
The layers of the Floyd Lawton "character" are many, Suicide Squad is a brilliant comic, and if more comics existed of Squad member Count Vertigo as a solo villain Count Vertigo might have made this list.
Riddler gets second and Captain Cold gets third as my favorite of a deep bunch of Flash villains over Count Vertigo.

Joe: Top Three 1980s Movies

1: National Lampoon's Vacation
2: Major League
3: The Survivors

There were movies that I love that didn't make this list, I could likely make a top ten to twenty of these and there was a few that I thought of as "80s movies" that were actually late 70s films.
I kept this list to comedies.
I love the first Vacation and if it's on television, I almost always stop to watch.
Same with Major League and there are so many great quotes from both that I use often with Ryan and the "IFL Guys" (Real Tomato Ketchup, Eddie?).
The third spot goes to the badly underrated The Survivors with Robin Williams and Walter Matthau.
It's sardonic and dry, but if you watch this, get the underlying humor, and laugh like crazy- I think we just might be friends!

Joe: Top Three Defunct Fast Food/Chain Restaurants

1: Burger Chef
2: Red Barn/The Farm
3: Arthur Treacher's

This one wasn't close, but I did have some problems closing this list out.
It seems that many chains that most people seem to think are dead still have a few stragglers around in locations that you may not expect.
Burger Chef was not only my first job, but they also had great burgers such as the Super Chef (Quarter Pounder), Big Chef (Big Mac), and the Philly Chef with peppers, onions, and mushrooms!
Burger Chef also was the first place with a "works bar" that you could fix your own sandwich with what you wished to place on it.
My personal favorite was the "Shawn Chef" which was fixed after hours with the Big Chef-style roll with Super Chef meats on each slab with the mushrooms, peppers, and onions from the Philly Chef!
Red Barn, which transitioned to The Farm before going out of business, had great burgers as well with the Barn Buster, Cheese Buster, and Big Barney and the local franchise here was the first place to offer an AYCE chicken and sides dinner.
Although the waitresses took orders for new plates rather than a conventional buffet ( and I look for some places to try this post-COVID), there wasn't a limit on food.
My favorite Chinese restaurant is in the location of the local Red Barn building and it literally is two blocks down the street. Sob.
Arthur Treacher's is still in existence with Wikipedia reporting that only seven locations still survive with one of the seven inside a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop.
Arthur Treacher's had a location in Breezewood, PA and that location was a regular stop of Cherie and mine's coming home (or going to) Ohio for many years.
It was much like a Long John Silvers, so if you like one, you would likely enjoy both.

Thanks to Joe for the questions and I hope you enjoyed the answers.
Back next time with another Friends and Family post unless there is breaking sports news.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Rachel's Day

Friends and Family week continues with Rachel's Day.
Rachel wanted me to write about my pets as a child/growing up and I will always try to oblige her requests as I'm sure that she doesn't read many of the posts here and I'm happy that she is participating!

The lovely picture to the right is yours truly around eleven (That's my guess, could be wrong) years old as my dad was beginning to have goats around the premises.

The goats weren't really pets but weren't contributing animals either.
Dad just wanted to have some around and as a result, we did.
I don't remember either taking this picture or much about this particular goat either, but there was one goat that I liked a lot and was tame enough to come up to you for attention and even when Dad's goat phase was gone, "Timmy" was still around.
He wasn't over the top tame, but not nasty either.
He'd lick your hand and come up to the people that he knew but was pretty laid back towards others.

I think Timmy arrived as a baby from our first goat a year or so before this picture was taken and he was around all through high school.
One day, I came home and Dad said he had given him away to someone he worked with (I knew the lady, so it wasn't one of those "ran away" stories).
My dad was like that with things, he would get into something really big for a few years and then lose interest.

I was bothered with not getting to say goodbye, but not enough to throw a fit as he was getting older and overweight and I thought it might be better to be at a place with more room to roam.
A few days later, Dad said Timmy had dropped over at the new place and died.
Dad talked about that in one of my last visits there and mentioned that he thought Timmy had died of a "broken heart" away from his family.

30 plus years later, I learned a lesson- don't separate older pets  (and people) from their family, no matter the reason.
Real Families (and not all families have this, so I'm not judging) stick together.

Cats were always around as a kid, but we didn't really have them inside.
There were always 'wild' cats around, but not really in the house as the neighbors fed the cats outside, so they were always around.

There were two that might have made the cut with luck.
The first was a small gold-colored cat that was around when I was in kindergarten.
I'm not sure if it had a name, but when I would come home from school for my post-school batting practice with Edna (really, I came home every day and hit Wiffle balls from her pitching) and this cat would chase the ball and try to stop it.
One day, the cat was gone and in a house across the street where it would live its life for years as I would see her in a window getting fat and hopefully happy.
I always wondered what she thought as she looked out the window.
Did she remember the little boy with the ball and bat that she used to chase and did she know me from anyone else that she gazed at through her window?

My parents' house was a tough place for animals as the Sharpsburg Pike may not have had a large number of people, but the cars that flew through at fifty plus MPH were deadly to any animal that dared to cross its path.
"The Pike" was the main reason that I understood why the cat without a name was adopted, it was not uncommon to see animals splayed across the asphalt.
It was never pleasant to see and you never got used to it, but fortunately, I never had to see a personal pet hit by a car.
The second cat avoided that fate, but he was coming around often and was quite tame for an outdoor cat, but after a while, he quit coming around until one day he was clearly ill before I went to school.
When I came home from school, Edna told me that he must have gotten into something poisonous as he was very sick and then passed away on the porch.

I had three dogs when I was a child, Mikki was an all-white Eskimo that we brought home when we lived in Ohio.
She lived with us inside when I lived there, but Dad moved her outside when we moved back here.
Mikki was an affectionate dog that didn't seem to mind being outside, she grew blind through the years but never got nasty.

After we had been in Maryland for a few years, Dad decided to get a second dog-this one was another white dog a German Shepard mix named Diabolo.
While I know the meaning of the name, I'm not really sure why Dad named him that.
Diabolo tried to be an inside dog, but he was always trying to get over the gate to separate rooms and he broke his leg once in an attempt.
Dad allowed him to stay inside until his leg healed and then he became an outdoor dog as well.
Both dogs had large outdoor enclosures and weren't chained up, but I always felt bad for outdoor dogs and if I couldn't keep one inside, I wouldn't have one.
When both were older, Dad decided to send both of them away.

I'm sure with Mikki's age and sight that she was euthanized, but I've always had some hope that Diabolo was adopted by someone.
He wasn't young, so that may not have happened, but he was five or six years younger than Mikki so it was possible.
I missed not saying goodbye which sadly happened to me once again with a beloved pet.

When I was a senior in high school and dating Cherie, someone dumped two puppies out at the Valley Mall and left them there.
When we walked into the mall, Mall employees were trying to find them a home, and when we left the mall only one remained.
I couldn't stand seeing him sent to the pound, so I took him home where my parents weren't exactly thrilled.

Named after Livingstone Bramble who was the lightweight champion of the time, Bramble was likely a hound dog of some kind and in our early apartments, we weren't allowed dogs.

I cleaned up a large old shed ( where the cows and goats lived in their day) and gave Bramble as good of an outdoor home as I could make for him.
Edna took care of Bramble most of his life after I married Cherie and moved out, but I loved that dog dearly and hated seeing him away from me.

My dad thought that Bramble didn't know me from anyone else and one day he took him out when I saw him visiting and when I called to him, Bramble ran to me with such joy that even Dad was surprised.
I would have been more than happy to take him in when dogs were finally approved, but after many years outdoors in a rural environment, I thought it would have been a difficult adjustment for him moving inside in a town.

What hurts me most to this day was how I lost Bramble, who must have been nine or ten when he somehow got out of his area and found his way to my grandmother, six houses down the road.
A relative found him, but amazingly no one was smart enough to say that looks like Shawn's dog and call up to ask if he had gotten out.

Instead, they called the ASPCA and by the time all of this reached my ears days later, Bramble was gone, either adopted or euthanized as my checking for him in those times was fruitless.
I've always hoped he was adopted, but I'll never know really what happened to him after he was sent there.

I have never really gotten past not being able to say goodbye to Bramble and I also admit that I have held it against those relatives through the years.
That's not the best way to handle it, but I've never been able to figure out why no one called to ask if he had gotten out or even mentioned it until well past the time that I could have done anything about it and I'm not sure it'll ever stop bothering me.

There's a look at my childhood pets.
I hope you know a little more about me and my childhood with pets.
I'll be back next time with another version of Friends and Family.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Happy Mother's Day.

Happy Mothers Day to all of you out there that take such wonderful care of the spouses, children, and grandchildren in their lives.

Before I begin, a special note of appreciation to Cherie, who has truly taken care of me through all these years, to Rachel, who helps nowadays, my mother in law, Beverly and my three grandmothers both in Maryland and Ohio.
You are all appreciated for what you do and have done for me and others in the past, current, and future.

Today is a bit of a sad day for me as it is the first Mother's Day without my mom.
I wrote about Mom a few months back and mentioned that the next year was going to be filled with "firsts" without her and this was mentioned on that list.
I found tonight at the road office to be a melancholy evening, mainly as I remembered various things about Mom.
I didn't see Mom very often on actual Mothers Day as their house is quite hectic on Sunday's with visitors that aren't exactly known for their willingness to share, so I settled for calling her on the holiday morning after I came home from work and I'd see her the next day on my Monday visit.

Last year's Mothers Day (after) was a memorable one as Cherie and I took her out to her favorite place to eat, a Chinese Buffet, and it was apparent that her decline was increasing.
Still, she enjoyed going out, although her dependence on others for almost everything was bothering her as she apologized consistently throughout the meal.
I didn't think that would be the final time that we would see Mom outside of her home, but for Cherie and I, it would be.

A friend of mine told me this weekend that the first is the hardest and thereafter you have sad times mixed with good memories.
I think they are correct, but it doesn't make today any better.
I hope the mothers out there enjoy the day as best they can amid Covid-19 and the people that they take care give them the appreciation that they deserve on their day.

Back next time with another installment of Friends and Family.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Denise's Day

Friends and Family week continues with Denise Nicarry's day.
Denise wrote me and said that she was in the mood for a bit of nostalgia amid the gloom of quarantine and the political climate, so her request was for me to write about some of my favorite toys from my childhood.
Denise mentioned some other childhood things, but we may be doing a second round of Friends and Family due to surprising interest and lack of quarantine topics!

I'm going to try to keep this to the first decade-plus of my childhood and try to stay within the 1970s.
I'm sure there may be a toy that slides into the early 80s, but if that's the case, cut me a break!

When I was really small and living in Ohio, I remember three toys that I played with the most.
The era that I spent my toddler time was really the last one with not a lot of licensed products available, that was on the verge of changing as a few years later would see that age group catered to with tons of items from television shows.
I remember watching a lot of television then and wanting an American Airlines toy airplane.
Their commercials must have influenced me because I distinctly remember wanting an American Airlines plane and I do remember getting one.
However, I cannot be one hundred percent sure that it was an actual AA plane or an airplane that I just used it as or my mom wrote American on the side.
I was reading even then, so if it wasn't an actual plane I can imagine that I "needed" to have it written on it!

I also had the Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots of the time.
The Robots have stayed consistently in production through the years, but "Red Rocker" and "Blue Bomber" were larger in the day than if you purchased a new set today.
I always loved the little buzzer noise that was made when a punch landed that raised the head of the opponent!
The Robots were one of the rare toys that actually played as fun as they looked on the commercials.
Now that I think about it, I am very surprised that I didn't buy Ryan a set of them!

The other toy I remember playing a lot with there was pretty simple and one that I wish I still had.
My dad was never a person that brought me stuff home but at that time he was working at National Latex, a company that made playballs, balloons, etc.
The Hedstrom company that makes those items today is based in Ashland and I believe that Hedstrom swallowed up National Latex in those mergers that never seem to stop happening in business.
One day, he brought me home a small basketball (keep in mind my age) with the Cleveland Cavaliers brand-new logo on a plain brown ball.
Dad then cut the bottom out of a clothes basket and tacked it up on the wall for a hoop for me.
I must have played with that ball to the point of losing the logo.
I'd love to have that ball not only for the classic logo but for the memories.

Living here in the seventies provided a little payback in the toy world as I may have just missed the age of merchandising for toddlers, but I was in the crosshairs for the beginning of the action figure market.
I was in the first generation targeted for action figures just as toy manufacturers realized there was a market for boys to have their various heroes in plastic form and Mego somehow managed to grab a contract with Marvel and DC comics to have both companies allow their heroes under the same umbrella.
Those figures, particularly Batman and Robin fighting various battles against the Joker, Penguin, and Riddler were well-traveled and Mego was smart enough to discover the popularity of Star Trek in syndication to grab the contract to make figures of the series, so I was able to involve the Enterprise crew with Superheroes.
Mego also cranked out a few series of the Planet of the Apes figures, which I wanted at the time to add for adventures, but when you have a budget (what's changed?!) to stay under, the other figures were of higher priority.
I also had the Batmobile, Batcave, and USS Enterprise, but only the Batmobile and the side transporter unit on the Enterprise survives today.
The Batcave and Enterprise were made of softer plastic and hence not as durable as they could have been.
If I had the space to display these currently, I'm sure that I would have replaced both of them for display purposes.
I also had Evel Knievel and his motorcycle, which was nowhere near as cool or as useful as in the commercials and the Six Million Dollar Man, who was cool with "see-through bionic eye", but he was much larger in scale than the Mego collection and it had that Andre the Giant vs the Black Demon vibe whenever you attempted to play with the other figures.

The figures were played with, but not abused and that's why they are still here in pretty decent condition, but they were played inside more than outside, other than weekend trips to my parent's cabin in the mountains.
I never really liked those trips, but between the figures and another game, I managed to kill the time.
I usually spent my time in my area inside, but if heavily prodded I'd take the figures out to a small hill and play a bit before returning inside.
I tended to bring the Star Trek figures more on these trips as they could "land on a new world"!

I've never been much of an outside person and back then, I might have been even less of one!
I was usually playing a game, reading a book, or doing something inside far more than outside.
I had a few friends, but I preferred being by myself more and if I wasn't playing sports, I didn't spend a lot of time outside.
I played a lot of board games with my late Aunt Edna and although we played a lot of stuff like Monopoly, Clue, and Life, she really liked the Pop-O-Matic games, Trouble, and Headache too.
Edna liked all of those games, but she liked the games that had a small physical aspect to them like Don't Spill the Beans, Don't Break the Ice, and Operation.
I can still remember her mixing a cry and a groan when she would knock the little fellow through the ice!

Then as now, collecting sports cards were a big part of my life, but in the 70s the cards had a dual purpose.
I hadn't discovered Strat-O-Matic, but I did have a very simple dice baseball game with certain combinations of two dice ending in a result.
The results weren't tailored to a player's actual results, so the results were lucky and Mario Mendoza had the same chance of smacking a homer as Jim Rice, but it was still fun as I would lay my baseball cards out in a lineup and play the dice game.
I did a similar lineup and played electronic baseball at the beginning of the "Red Blip" sports games.
I didn't have anyone to play football or basketball games with, so I really didn't start playing those games until the mid-80s when I would play Statis Pro football with Ernie and two different basketball games- Strat O Matic's NBA and a game called the Ultimate College Basketball Game, which was very fun and I've recently written about Title Bout.

I didn't complete a lot of card sets in the 70s either as I only finished a 1978 and 79 baseball set and never a set of the other sports as I was the only person in the neighborhood collecting those, but I enjoyed those simple games that I would update the teams with trades and be able to play the "real teams".

And I'll tell you one more thing that I've never told anyone about.
When I lived in our original Maryland house, I buried a few toy soldiers, a few cents, and a small Christmas hat that I wore in the school activity from first grade in the backyard of that house.
Considering that my dad sold that house and it was demolished to create a swimming pool, it was likely swept off to the landfill then, but one never knows if that jar still resides in my old backyard.

I'm sure I missed a toy or two that I can return to on another day and this was scheduled for yesterday, but I lost half of my work during an unasked for Google Chrome update.
I have five others of these to be worked on, so they will be on their way soon!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Fred's Day

We start something different for the next few days and with the Covid-19 pandemic, there certainly is plenty of time available to do something different.

I reached out to my family and friends and asked them to come up with something from each of them that they would like me to write about for Friends and Family week.
I haven't heard back from all of them, but I do have a few requests returned and I'm looking forward to working on these this week.

We'll start Friends and Family week with Fred Landucci.
Fred's been a great friend and fan of both the blog and the defunct podcast, so it was an easy choice for Fred to participate in this week.
Fred decided to ask five questions of me to answer and hopefully you'll find my answers as interesting in his questions!

Fred: What is your favorite sitcom since 1980?

TRS; This is difficult as I'm sure there will be a few shows that when Cherie reads this that she'll say "I can't believe you forgot X, you love that show'!
And we delete a bunch of shows that I love from the 60s that I grew up watching in reruns and some 70s shows that I grew up with but are outside Fred's timeline
But when I looked at the lists by decade, I was surprised to see that I didn't like a lot of these shows!
I'm also not a huge fan of what many consider classic sitcoms from the period.
I like Cheers, especially the Shelley Long years, but Seinfeld has always been a meh show and I cannot stand either of two Nielsen giants in Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond.
Before I go with my choice, which narrowly nipped their toughest opponent, here are a few that make me laugh.
ALF is just one of those silly 60s style sitcoms that just makes me howl, Coach is very funny with the Craig T.Nelson-Jerry Van Dyke pairing and they have longtime TRS favorite, Shelley Fabares, as well, I love King of the Hill via animation and two shows that didn't have a long run and are seldom remembered that I really like are Buffalo Bill and Unhappily Ever After.
Wings and Newsradio were terrific shows that should have been bigger hits than they were, but the winner is The Office in a photo finish over Parks and Recreation.
The Office put together seven great years, a lousy eighth, and finished well in the ninth and final year.
Parks is very close, but despite my love for the show, I'm not a huge Amy Poehler fan.
That makes the difference.

Fred: Who do you consider the best pound for pound fighter in boxing history?

TRS: This is a lot easier- it's the welterweight Sugar Ray Robinson.
If Robinson had never moved to middleweight, where he won the championship several times and was an all-time middleweight but not the greatest ever, and spent his entire career at welterweight, I think he would have rolled up a record that would be talked about to this day.
The welterweight Robinson had explosive power and dazzling speed that as a complete fighter cannot be matched.
As a boxer, Robinson couldn't be surpassed even by greats like Ray Leonard or Floyd Mayweather and while as a pure puncher he wouldn't be ranked at the top of punchers at 147 such as Thomas Hearns, Pipino Cuevas, or Felix Trinidad, he would fit comfortably in the group of well above average bangers such as Sugar Ray Leonard.
In many sports, you watch old films and ask questions like would Willie Mays be as great against the stars of today, would Jerry West be an all-time great guarding the athletes in today's NBA and would Jim Brown be the best running back ever?  (Answers: Leaning towards yes, would be very good, but maybe not all-time great, and definitely)
Some of the great boxers of all-time would suffer under the same glass- Rocky Marciano would have little chance against Tyson Fury or Anthony Joshua, but there are a few that clearly would have been great against anyone of any time.
Sugar Ray Robinson is that fighter.

Fred: Do you believe the "cheaters" belong in the baseball Hall of Fame?
This includes the game-fixers, gamblers, and the steroid players, both accused and confirmed.

TRS: This subject comes up a lot and I really don't have a firm opinion, but I suppose I'm OK with Joe Jackson and Pete Rose being voted in- as long as the HOF makes sure that the scandals involved with the two are mentioned on their plaque and as part of anything involving the two in the facility.
I give Jackson a break because if he took money in the Black Sox scandal, it didn't seem to affect his play and for Rose, his gambling as a manager shouldn't outweigh his play as a player.
The steroid players are a different matter as some of those players wouldn't have posted the statistics
needed to get to Cooperstown without them, so my stance on this is as follows- Take the line of when the use was suspected and/or confirmed.
Was the player in question a Hall of Fame level player before that timeline?
If so, I'm Ok with induction-if the steroid links are notated as with the foibles of Jackson and Rose above.
Under this rule- Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens would receive my vote while Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Rafael Palmeiro would not.

Fred: What is your favorite book?

TRS: Almost all of my reading is non-fiction and most of the reading is either sports, history, or political history, but the winner is clear- Jim Bouton's 1970 Ball Four.
From childhood to the present day. I've read that book well into three digits.
I have my original battered copy somewhere, I have the book in its final edition with updates on Bouton's life, have the ebook, the book on CD, and I have it on Audible with Jim Bouton reading it.
One of the most fun things that I do with Ryan is swap lines from the book and we each know just where it is in the book and who said various quotes.
I'm not sure you can be a true baseball fan and reader without reading Ball Four as a snapshot of the game just before the free agency period's arrival, but as players were beginning to challenge authority.
Honorable mention to Terry Pluto's "Loose Balls" a hilarious oral history of the ABA and outside the world of sports, I'm a big fan of the Robert Caro written series on the life of Lyndon Johnson.

Fred: Who is the best "heel" in the history of Pro Wrestling?

TRS: I'm not quite sure how to answer this one.
The best heel could be who consistently put on the best matches, who drew the most money to see them wrestle or it could be just who my favorite heel could be.
I'm going to answer it as my favorite heel and there are a few that I'm a huge fan of.
Very few could anger a crowd like Roddy Piper, but as time passed too many fans started liking Piper and the promotion felt that they were forced to turn him "babyface".
Piper wasn't nearly as effective or likable in that role but remained a huge star.
I always was a fan of Ken Patera as an arrogant heel that due to his world-class strength looked down on the inferior fans in a role that didn't seem to take very much acting!
Tully Blanchard was a tremendous heel that not only was excellent in the ring but his ability to express disdain as the 'Chicken' heel that kept the Four Horsemen as a hated group despite fans wanting to cheer Ric Flair and to a lesser extent, Arn Anderson.
However, there is one that ranks as my favorite above all, the Magnificent Muraco.
I've written before about Muraco as a major influence growing up and when Muraco was motivated as he was in his two WWF runs with the Inter-Continental title- he ranked with the top wrestlers in the world as an all-around performer both in the ring and verbally.
Muraco's promo work could be tremendous and his work in the first half of the 1980s made him the best wrestler in the WWF and arguably (especially in 82-84) the best in the country.

I hope these answers for Fred were interesting enough and I'll be back next time with the next installment of Friends and Family Week.