Friday, July 31, 2020

Cleaning out the Inbox-Non-Sports Edition

A non-sports edition of the Inbox starts with this from on the Soviet probe Venera 14 from 2015.
Venera 14 was the last of the four Soviet landers, which are the only crafts to land on Venus and survive long enough to send images back to Earth.
Venera 14 survived for 57 minutes in 1982 before succumbing to the immense pressure from the Venusian climate, which was measured at ninety-four Earth atmospheres.
I've always wondered why more landers haven't been sent to Venus (other than the bang for the buck factor) because the planet is similar to the size of Earth and is a virtual petri dish for what Earth could eventually have to deal with as the planet warms.

The Athletic writes about football, but not football as this article looks at the small town of Ada, Ohio where all the NFL footballs are created for the league by Wilson.
The content is based on the company and the process of making the football itself rather than the game, but I found the process and the business interesting to learn about.
I planned on touring the facility on a visit this year, but with the pandemic who really knows when I'll be in the area to take that tour.

ProPublica with the New Yorker writes of "how Dollar Stores became magnets for crime and killing".
The lower cost department stores such as Dollar General, Family Dollar, and Dollar Tree are often placed in urban and rural areas that larger stores with more expensive inventories often avoid for various reasons.
The article focuses on communities in St.Louis and Dayton with the crime increases with those stories, why so many have proliferated in the poorer communities, and how these businesses engage with some very questionable practices with their personnel.

Hopefully, a future article by someone will focus on the effects that these stores have on the rural communities as well.
The home that I grew up in is located on the Sharpsburg Pike and these stores are finally beginning to creep into a deeply rural area and I'm not sure how I feel about the sprawl continuing.
I certainly understand (Because I've been there) these areas being serviced by a store that would enable needed items to be bought quickly rather than driving ten miles away to buy a container of garlic powder.
At the same time, you are adding to the expanse of larger towns, putting the small convenience store that has served the area for years (although many items that a Dollar General carries will not be stocked by the other stores), and could make these stores a target for robberies as the main focus of money in an area without very much of it.
It's an interesting topic and one that won't be going away anytime soon as the economy appears to be in a long-term decline.

We finish up with three notes from the Bulwark with each making me think of something personal, albeit not always a recollection with anything to do with the topic.

Jim Swift writes about the late Betsy Rothstein and laments that he didn't know her better.
I had never heard of Rothstein before this article, but I thought of two things after concluding his tribute.
The first is Rothstein's "Mirror Questionnaire", which seems interesting to me because I wonder if I created a similar work, how many friends would answer?
It would take a great deal to open up in such a manner and this comes from a person that doesn't mind answering questions normally but despises answering surveys from the employer.
The other makes me think of how many interesting people that I haven't gotten to know that I could have known.
I wonder what I've missed out on and what I could have learned, had I been a little more gregarious and reached out more.
At the same time, we all have our personal quirkiness, and even thinking about this I still doubt that I would do more of this, but that doesn't mean that I haven't missed out or will be missing out in the future.

Ron Radosh makes one ponder about the power of Presidential clemency.
People will understandably rank Presidents according to personal preference.
However, historians tend to shuffle the same few Presidents around at the bottom of the pile with one name always part of that discussion is that of Warren G. Harding.
Harding, he of several scandals that hit the public after his death,  has been rated as the worst of all time by the occasional historian and is often mocked by political talking heads as the mile marker of any discussion on the topic.

However, Harding deserves credit for how he treated Eugene V. Debs with the power of clemency.
Debs, a former Socialist Party Presidental candidate both in and out of prison, was imprisoned for his violation of the Espionage and Sedition act during the administration of Woodrow Wilson.
The act was enacted to smother speeches and discussions that were anti-World War I, America's participation, and it could be said that few laws have taken away as many liberties (to use a buzzword of late) as that law.
Debs was arrested and sentenced to ten years in federal prison in 1919, where he served his time and ran for President in 1920 (finishing with 3.4 % of the vote) as an opponent to Warren Harding.
The conservative Harding would seem to be unlikely to pardon Debs, a polar opposite politically, yet Harding did so because the law had been repealed (in 1920), Harding found Debs to be non-threatening, and he thought it would be the right thing to attempt to bring together a fractured nation.
Compare that to the current President giving free passes to his pals and protectors and the final paragraph by Radosh rings home as a comparison to the present day.
No matter the politics and Harding's other Presidential decisions, we could look at things as Harding did on this issue and be better for it.

Sidebar: Before the blog started, I took Cherie and Rachel to the Harding Home in Marion, Ohio for a private tour and I highly recommend it for a look at early 20th-century living and Harding.
The house will be re-opening in the fall with a new Harding Presidental Museum on the premises.

We wrap with Amanda Carpenter's article on yet another, ahem, gaslighting statement by the current holder of the Presidency, his tweet yesterday hinting about, eye roll, the safety of voting by mail, and a postponement of the November election.
While I have zero concern about this happening (he legally lacks any power to do so), it's another example of traps that are set to get people talking about the wrong things rather than the right ones.
It's easy to take that bait and I've done that myself!
Carpenter writes of the importance of ignoring the wild three-pointer, keeping your offense running as it should (I'm using basketball-speak, not Carpenter), and don't take your eye off the most important thing to watch.
Carpenter's 2018 book on the subject has been on my watch list to rea and I'd really like to read that one before the election.

There are still sports items to be cleaned from the inbox and I'll be back with the weekend in boxing as the biggest dog day month of them all starts tomorrow.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Cleaning out the Inbox: Passings

It's been a bit since I've cleaned the inbox and I'll be working on this over the next few days.
There hasn't been a lot of news in sports and I'm more aggravated with politics right now to the degree of trying to stay distant politically for a bit before the fall election season arrives.

Goodbye to Tony Taylor at the age of 84.
The long-time Phillies infielder played fifteen of his nineteen seasons (1958-76) in Philadelphia and worked for the team in various capacities after the end of his playing career.
Known for his fielding and speed, Taylor still finished his career with over 2,000 hits and an average of .261.
Taylor's fielding was a key in Jim Bunning's 1964 perfect game against the Mets as he 'ranged far to his left on a Jesse Gonder hit, knocked the ball down with his glove, grabbed the ball a few feet away and with a fancy pirouette fired the ball to first to beat Gonder by a step".
Taylor's fifth-inning play proved to be the saving grace for Bunning, who wasn't tested further as he finished his perfecto.

Goodbye to Carlton Haselrig at the age of 54.
Haselrig is the only collegiate wrestler to win six national championships in four years, a record that will never be equaled due to a rule change.
Haselrig won Division II titles at Pitt-Johnstown in 1987,88, and 89, but at the time the NCAA had a clause that allowed the winners of the Division II and III national tournaments to enter the Division I tournament with automatic entry.
Haselrig won all three of those tournaments for the six titles and shortly thereafter, the "Haselrig Rule" was enacted revoking the Division II and III champions invitation.
Haselrig won 122 matches in a row at one point in his college career and defeated future Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle- Yes, it's true.
Haselrig was selected in the 12th round of the 1990 NFL Draft despite not playing any college football by the Steelers.
Haselrig would make the Pro Bowl in 1992 and started for three of his four seasons in Pittsburgh before finishing his career with one season with the New York Jets.
Haselrig would try MMA with five fights in 2008-09 winning three of the five bouts.

Goodbye to Nazeem Richardson.
Richardson was a long-time fixture in the Philadelphia boxing scene, first as the assistant trainer to famed trainer Bouie Fisher and then on his own as head trainer.
Richardson is remembered as the trainer of three world champions, Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley, and Steve Cunningham.
Richardson had been in poor health in recent years after a stroke that significantly slowed him.
Richardson was the person that caught the illegal hand wraps of Antonio Margarito and his trainer, Javier Capetillo, before Margarito's fight against Shane Mosley.
Mosley would upset Margarito that night and Margarito would be suspended for a year following the defeat.

Goodbye to Travell Mazion at the age of 24.
Mazion was a promising prospect for Golden Boy Promotions as a junior middleweight, winning all seventeen of his fights with thirteen of those triumphs via early stoppage.
Mazion had won his first regional title in January after a first-round KO of Fernando Castaneda and would have likely moved into the top fifteen ratings of the various sanctioning bodies sometime this year.

Goodbye to Ben Jipcho at the age of 77.
Jipcho won a silver medal for Kenya in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in the 1972 Munich Olympics but is most remembered for two other reasons, neither of which brought him a medal.
Jipcho was the "rabbit" for countryman Kip Keino in the "race of the century" in the 1,500 meters at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics as Keino faced American Jim Ryun for the first time.
Ryun held the world record for the rough equivalent to the mile and the strategy by the Kenyan coaches was for Jipcho to get out front, set a torrid pace that would result in sapping Ryun a bit, and allow Keino his best chance to win.
Jipcho did just that as Keino would easily defeat Ryun, who finished second and set an Olympic record that would stand until 1984 with Jipcho fading to tenth in the field of twelve.
Jipcho would later apologize to Ryun for his role in the legal, but somewhat unethical, tactical plan, saying that he should have allowed Ryun to face Keino straight-up and allow the better man to win.
Ryun and Keino both signed with the International Track Association after the 1972 games and the newly created professional tour expected the pair to renew their rivalry at the top of the middle-distance runners.
Instead, it was Jipcho that dominated the ITA during its four years in business at those distances as Keino and Ryun rarely ran against each other and when they did, Jipcho often got the better of both, to the surprise of the ITA, who promoted Keino vs Ryun as a mainstay of their tour.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Baseball starts, I haven't

The initial series of the baseball season concludes today and I have to say I'm just not feeling it.

I didn't pay for the overpriced package to watch my favorite teams (90 Directv, 60 MLB.TV) and I didn't even summon up enough to do previews of this glorified exhibition that not even the men playing the game seem to completely want to participate in.

I'm in the most dangerous mode that one can be for fans of any particular genre'- Indifference.
Rob Manfred isn't responsible for Covid-19 and he can't really be held accountable for the lack of live fans in the stands, but otherwise, everything that has drained my ability to care that goes back to last fall before the pandemic arrived is all on the man that has made a huge move to pull alongside Roger Goodell and the usual pacesetter Gary Bettman as the worst commissioner in sports.

From Manfred's owning an idea brought forward by a disgraced executive that was chased from the game (deleting forty or more teams from the minors to save the number of dollars per team that is less than a long reliever or utility infielder)  to his pushing of gimmick ideas to gain new fans that are unlikely to do so and finally forcing a sixty game season that seems to lack full interest with a bloated postseason with a spoonful of castor oil to National League fans that shoved the designated hitter into their game, Manfred has done almost everything that one could do to take away my ability to care about the 2020 season.

I watched most of the Giants opener against the Dodgers on ESPN until the game got out of hand late in the game, but the game seemed so sterile and while the cardboard cutouts of fans were funny at first look, after a bit, they served as a reminder of what was missing and some of why I'm having trouble caring.
Some of this was missing the usual Giants broadcast team and the Giants are terrible with their questionable managerial selection, Gabe Kapler, making mistakes from day one, but I'm not filled with passion for the Indians either.
I'm going to put the inevitable name change aside with the best that I can summon is a prayer that the new name isn't something awful, but my apathy involves the sector of ownership that refuses to spend any type of money to give the team a chance with a contention window that closes every day with another inevitable loss- that of shortstop Francisco Lindor.

The refusal to add any players around Lindor while the star is still in Cleveland combined with a reluctance to trade Lindor and perhaps obtain a few young players in return makes me think the team is simply jogging in place with an attempt to thread the needle of contention, but one that is unlikely to do so without any additions to aid Lindor while he is still the team's building block.
The Indians (or whatever nickname they'll be using shortly) are even more frustrating than the Giants because you know that the Dolan's will blame the pandemic for not having the ability to upgrade and to add another log to the poverty pile of reasons that they did not/will not sign Lindor.

I'm not saying that I won't watch baseball or any statements as such, but other than maybe watching one of the Orioles or Nationals visits to Buffalo to see the Bison's stadium, I'm not enthused about watching very often until maybe the postseason.
For now, I think I'm mostly going to pass on Studio Baseball, although I'll be around with any trade coverage that needs to be written.

Sports have always been a passion of mine, but they aren't my only passion as people that "really" know me already know.
Perhaps as sports continue to do everything possible to drive me away, there will be something old or something new that is waiting to take its share of my time?

I'm going to try to be back later with something special, should I have the time to write.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Ortiz vanquishes Vargas.

Photo Credit: Golden Boy Promotions
Sometimes in boxing, being tough isn't enough.
If it were, Samuel Vargas would be among the best in the welterweight division, but alas that isn't the case and toughness alone at the elite level will only earn a fighter an evening filled with punishment.

Vargas took seven rounds of such punishment from the best young welterweight in the world as Vergil Ortiz beat Vargas to the head, the body, and about every legal spot you can imagine before referee Jack Reiss waved an honorable surrender for Vargas at the end of the seventh round without even giving him a chance to try to talk anyone into an opportunity to fight on.

Ortiz never seemed to miss with his jab and no matter the fist that he threw, that fist would find a home in the waiting Vargas.
Ortiz almost ended the fight in the fourth round when he hurt Vargas with a barrage of bombs that would have concluded the proceedings against a welterweight with less courage and chin, but Vargas battled on before taking a fearful pounding in the seventh.

Vargas seemed to be a small step down from the most serviceable veterans that Ortiz had defeated in his previous three fights (Mauricio Herrera, Antonio Orozco, and Brad Solomon) that each brought a style that Ortiz could learn something against.
Vargas brought only courage and an excellent chin that never gave way against Ortiz, who was unable to knock Vargas down despite adding his 16th win via early ending in as many wins.

Ortiz is headed for bigger things and while I cannot rank him in the top seven yet, he is solidly ahead of other prospects such as Jaron "Boots" Ennis, Jamal James, and Alexis Rocha.
I'd like to see Ortiz against one more solid veteran (one that is above Samuel Vargas's level) before the end of the year and then hopefully he'll get his shot at a big name in 2021.
I think there is a very good chance that in a few years, boxing fans could be hungering for a Vergil Ortiz-Boots Ennis fight as they currently are for an Errol Spence-Terence Crawford faceoff.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica and I each scored two points to move the total to 73-67.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Valdez stops Velez late

The ESPN/Top Rank series closed its doors on the "Bubble" for the summer and will be back to the normal Saturday schedule soon with what the company was hoping for as former WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez battled past Jayson Velez and onto an exciting fall pairing with WBC junior lightweight champion Miguel Berchelt.

The tenth round knockout wasn't without its perils early as Valdez appeared to be struggling with his style "merger" between his own straight forward style and the changes brought on by his trainer Eddy Reynoso since being hired by team Valdez after his victory over Scott Quigg.
Velez was effective early against Valdez, who seems to "think" about what to do in a boxing style rather than coming naturally to him, but Valdez stemmed the tide with a left hook that dropped Velez near the conclusion of the fifth round.
After the knockdown, Valdez was far more effective in fending off the attacks of Velez to win the next four rounds on my card, and when Velez was stung in the ninth round, it appeared that the only question in the fight was could Velez make it to the end.
Velez couldn't as Valdez knocked him down in the tenth with Velez barely beating the count and with Velez shaken, Valdez pummeled Velez into the ropes giving referee Tony Weeks no choice other than to end the fight.

I had Valdez up 87-83 entering the final round, but finishing the fight convincingly could be a confidence builder for the Berchelt title challenge for the undefeated Valdez.
Still, I'm not a huge believer in Valdez in this fight against Berchelt.
Styles make fights and neither the "old" nor "new" Valdez seems to be a good fit for the bigger and harder punching Berchelt.
In either of the two scenarios, Valdez comes charging at the bigger puncher and gets punished for his troubles or he tries to box from the outside with the hybrid boxer-puncher manner to be unable to cope with the larger man from long-range.
I'm looking forward to the fight and it will have plenty of action, but short of Valdez landing big against Berchelt, who suffered his only loss by first-round knockout, I don't see Valdez winning against Berchelt and it could be the type of fight that has the type of pounding that shortens the peak of careers.

In the other boxing challenge fight, former WBO junior featherweight champion Isaac Dogboe stopped former title challenger Chris Avalos in the eighth and final round of a featherweight pairing.
Dogboe won six of the seven rounds before stopping Avalos in the eighth.
The stoppage seemed to be a little early with Avalos wobbled, but not seriously hurt after a Dogboe right hand and with thirty-five seconds remaining, a case could be made that Avalos might have made it to the final bell.
However, it wasn't going to change the outcome and it saved Avalos from a few more punches taken.
Dogboe will still have to prove more in the 126-pound division, but it was a good start considering his over a year away from the ring after his two losses against Emanuel Navarette.
As for Avalos, who has won only one of his last six fights, it may be time to consider retirement as other than collecting paychecks, I don't see what more he has left to give in the ring.

In the boxing challenge, Ramon Malpica added four points to my two to cut my lead in the challenge to 71-65.
The stoppage by Isaac Dogboe was the difference with Ramon gaining an extra point for calling the round.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Boxing Challenge

Four fights in the boxing challenge this week as ESPN and Top Rank finish their summer series as baseball returns and Golden Boy makes its comeback with their partners at DAZN.

ESPN delivers an intriguing main event with undefeated former WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez facing durable veteran Jayson Velez in the final test for Valdez before an anticipated challenge of WBC junior lightweight kingpin Miguel Berchelt.
Valdez survived a knockdown to gain a questionable seventh-round stoppage over the smaller late replacement Adam Lopez in his last fight and could be damaged goods from the broken jaw and pounding in his 2018 win over Scott Quigg.
Velez has won his last three bouts by stoppage since losing a ten-round decision to Ryan Garcia at lightweight and could be sitting on an upset.
Valdez is the more skilled fighter, and I lean his way slightly but Velez is the naturally larger fighter, takes a good shot, and just may ruin the Berchelt-Valdez fall bout.

We usually don't have eight rounders in the challenge, but the return to the ring by former WBO junior featherweight champion Issac Dogboe is a special circumstance and when the opponent is a fighter that has twice challenged for world titles, an exception is made.
Chris Avalos was overmatched in both of those shots and in the latter against Leo Santa Cruz was undeserving, but should be a good gauge for what Dogboe has left after losing two fights and his championship to Emanuel Navarrete in 2018 and 2019.
Dogboe is rising to featherweight in his comeback and Avalos should be able to make an interesting battle in this eight-rounder.

DAZN finally returns on Friday after taking my money for the last (almost) four months with a Golden Boy card from Indio, California with a coming star in welterweight Vergil Ortiz.
Ortiz has dazzled as he rose up the cards and I'm a little disappointed in the selection of trialhorse Samuel Vargas as his opponent.
Ortiz has dominated solid veterans Mauricio Herrera. Antonio Orozco, and Brad Solomon in his last three fights and Vargas is a step below those three fighters.
Still, Vargas has been stopped only by Danny Garcia and Errol Spence, so a stoppage win by Ortiz would be an excellent resume' builder.

The co-main event will pit Hector Tanajara against Mercito Gesta in a lightweight fight.
The undefeated Tanajara won his biggest victory a year ago when he decisioned veteran Juan Carlos Burgos in San Antonio, but he has knocked out only five of his nineteen opponents.
Gesta should be a decent test for Tanajara as he has lost only three times, but he has lost each time that the opposition increased and was dominated in a decision loss to Jorge Linares.
This should give Tanajara an idea of where he currently stands in the division.

In the Boxing Challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 69-61.

Junior Lightweights. 10 Rds
Oscar Valdez vs Jayson Velez
Both: Valdez Unanimous Decision

Featherweights 8 Rds
Issac Dogboe vs Chris Avalos
R.L: Dogboe KO 8
TRS: Dogboe Unanimous Decision

Welterweights.10 Rds
Vergil Ortiz vs Samuel Vargas
R.L: Ortiz KO 6
TRS: Ortiz KO 3

Lightweights.10 Rds
Hector Tanajara vs Mercito Gesta
Both: Tanajara Unanimous Decision

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Har Tru, Bruti'?

I was using Facebook Messenger recently with Ryan, Battlin' Bob, and Joe Plum as I do almost every day (BTW, if there was a way to do a podcast with this bunch and Jeff, who wasn't there yesterday, but often is,-there would be a lot of people laughing their rear off and perhaps as many wondering what is wrong with these people.) and out of nowhere came a memory that I hadn't thought of in years, but at one time was something I dealt with almost every day during baseball season.

Har-Tru is a material that is often used as a replacement for clay on tennis courts.
Several countries use clay as the dominant surface for tennis, mostly in Europe with a few South American countries using clay as well, and there is even a clay court only tournament schedule with fifteen tournaments in Europe and four more in South America.
The most prestigious clay-court tournament is the French Open, which is considered one of the four major tournaments in the game with the grass court at Wimbledon and two conventional "hard courts'' with the Australian and United States open tournaments.

Why these words on clay surfaces from a sport that I seldom watch and don't remember watching since the 70s and 80s?
I'm getting to that, but first, we move to baseball and 1993.
Cherie encouraged me to do something in baseball and on a March Saturday, I drove around to various little leagues and looked to manage a "minor league" team.
As it turned out, times had changed in the nine years since I had left my summer job sitting in a public address booth announcing names, running the scoreboard, and keeping the official scorebook.
Suddenly, coaches were pitching half the game, stealing bases was limited to the second half of the season, and to my shock, there weren't official standings although everyone kept them off the record!
I found all of this out after we had started practice and the worst was yet to come- for the only time that I can ever remember in any league that I watched, played, coached, or umpired- you could clinch a game officially before its conclusion!

How could this occur?
Well, each team in a six-inning game could score only four runs per inning.
That was fine as when I played the limit was six runs per inning, but a limit was reasonable because with weaker teams against stronger teams if you had unlimited scoring every inning, you might play two-inning games at 50-2 as a common score.
However, in this league, even in the last inning, each team could only score four runs, so if you were leading by nine at the end of four innings, the verdict was decided.
Yet unlike "mercy" rule games, the game continued with both teams knowing no matter what they did, the game was decided.
It felt more like "Baseball Math" than actual baseball- keep your fingers crossed that Rob Manfred doesn't hear about this!

My problem was this- when I played and announced (remember only nine years had passed between the booth and coaching) in the sixth and final inning, each team could score as many as they could.
Teams rarely would come back to win from huge deficits, but theoretically, the chance to win was still there and it was easier for the kids to stay involved.
In my first year playing, I remember our last place team losing to the eventual champions by something like 15-1 entering the final inning and rallying with the winning run at the plate with one of our better players at-bat before losing, as one of the more memorable games that I played in.

I despised this rule as it didn't seem natural, but it also caused problems keeping children under control in the late innings.
If you had "won" the game, kids could often be out of control with all the things that excited eight to twelve-year-olds bring and should you be on the side that had lost the game, those final innings could be drudgery complete with some players having to be coaxed to continue and often times giving no effort when they took the field.
In our first season, we didn't have a top pitcher so I decided under this rule, the way to pull upsets was to hopefully get a big lead early with your better pitcher or two, and then pray you had enough to clinch the game early when a lesser pitcher didn't make a difference.
Think of it as a "reverse closer" and we likely won a game or two that we shouldn't have in the first season (I have the records written down from my coaching years, we finished 7-11-1 and fourth of six teams), but I hated "Baseball Math".

Battlin' Bob was my coach and the dugout could be quite hilarious.
One famous time was when this player that always showed up late, often after the game had started and wanted to eat and go to the bathroom.
One rule that I always had from year one to year ten of coaching was no food in the dugout (other than gum and seeds, those were problem enough), so the mother wasn't happy about that, but as I didn't want to spend hot summer hours smelling a player that had pissed himself, the bathroom was allowed (why the kid didn't go before he left his house always made me wonder, he was going to be late anyway?).
This kid used a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles glove that was the type that was barely above the plastic "gloves" that you would find at a Dollar Tree, but that seldom mattered as he wasn't interested in catching the ball anyway and if he did catch a hard thrown/batted ball, it likely would have hurt his hand with that glove!
The game has started, so here comes said player, dragging "Donatello" along and before he even hits the dugout- Asks Battlin' Bob if he can use the bathroom.
Bob's been listening to this all season as he was generally in charge of the dugout and Bob wheels on the kid before he can finish the sentence and says "yeah, yeah, go to the bathroom- PEE PEE".
Brought the house down- I wasn't sure I could continue for a minute!

And all of that brings me back to Har Tru- "The surface of the future".
The people from the higher league constantly lectured us on the wonders and easy maintenance of Har Tru, yet never seemed to want to install it on their field!
Bob did most of the work on the field for our team so I could work on lineups and game preparation, but I did our team's umpiring for other teams and after games (especially umpiring), I would come off the field, coughing this green dust and this stuff would get all over you.
It would get caught into your arm hair, leg hair, and about everything else you could imagine.

Ryan would play on the "Surface of the Future" and he claims that kids from that should consider contacting one of those TV attorneys that advertise their services for various ailments caused by things like asbestos!
The stuff was this green/gray mix in color and it came in bags (similar to ready-mix concrete) that you spread all over the place before wetting it down, which made the field look like a pool table in need of resurfacing.
And if it started to rain during the game, this substance would turn into this concoction that looked like pistachio pudding and would cake on your clothes like someone tossed wet concrete on you-assuming that said concrete was very light green.
I can only imagine the problems that parents had getting those stains out of white uniform pants!

So, that's the memory that came back to me twenty-seven years later when Bob mentioned Har Tru and I was at work thinking about all those times.
I have many stories that I didn't mention and the world of youth sports is such an odd one that's filled with corruption on many levels both on the field (coaches favoring certain players, especially their own) and even more off the field, but I have more good memories than bad from my baseball years with friends I met there to this day.

And for the record, if you ride by that baseball field today- the Har Tru surface is long removed...

P.S- I really wanted to stop by the field and snap a picture, but in the middle of a heat advisory over the next few days, I decided to post now and add a picture later...

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Verdejo demolishes Madera

A late recap for the boxing challenge saw a little bit of shine return to the once-promising star of lightweight Felix Verdejo from the Las Vegas "Bubble" on Thursday night as Verdejo demolished previously undefeated (although that includes three draws) Will Madera in one round.

Verdejo's win climbed to the main event after the "Negative, Positive, Negative" Covid-19 testing of WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring caused the cancellation of Herring's title defense against Jonathan Oquendo, but the spectacular performance by Verdejo in front of a national audience will make fans want to see more of the former Puerto Rican Olympian in the future.

The right, right, left combination that left Madera prone in a corner near the end of the first round showed why so many tabbed Verdejo as a future superstar when he turned pro in 2013.
Verdejo has been working with a new trainer this year with Ismael Salas and Salas has a track record of working well with reclamation projects in recent years, so even if this victory still leaves Verdejo with plenty to prove, training with Salas and the knockout gives hope for Verdejo.
Although it seemed a bit silly for Verdejo to call out Vasily Lomachenko after this win (Verdejo still has never beaten a top ten lightweight), it does make him an interesting fighter to watch in the division and should he defeat a tougher opponent in his next fight, I would not be surprised to see him in the mix for one of the three vacant lightweight titles that could be vacated by the Lomachenko-Teofimo Lopez winner (Lomachenko has talked of returning to junior lightweight and Lopez is likely to move up to junior welterweight).

Ramon Malpica and I each added one point for the Verdejo win to move the total to 69-61 in the boxing challenge.

Browns sign Myles Garrett to Extension

The Cleveland Browns may not know when training camp will start, but they took a large step towards contention when the Browns signed Myles Garrett to a five-year extension that made Garrett the league's highest-paid defensive player.

Garrett's deal with the Browns will be worth $125 million with fifty of that total guaranteed on signing day with the possibility of more with certain levels of production.
Garrett finished last season with ten sacks in ten games before missing the season's final six games after the helmet bashing incident against Pittsburgh backup quarterback Mason Rudolph.
Garrett's previous season in Cleveland also ended with double-digit sack numbers with thirteen sacks with his rookie year ending with seven sacks in eleven games.
Garrett is the first Browns first-round draft pick to be re-signed after the expiration of the rookie contract since Joe Haden, who was the first-rounder by the Browns in 2010.

There isn't very much to complain about with this agreement.
The Browns avoided an ugly negotiation in a year to keep the one impact player on the defense happy and bought in along with showing their fans that they are willing to keep draft picks around when their performance warrants it.
The signing also will show players in the future that the Browns are willing to open the checkbook for them with Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward possibly (with performance) in line to sign their second contract next season.

Garrett's extension also gives the Browns a foundation to build around on the defensive line as the team has three linemen (Larry Ogunjobi, Andrew Billings, and Olivier Vernon) that are eligible for free agency following the 2020 season with decisions to make on those players.
The defensive line was a strength at times in 2010 for the Browns, but the team rarely had their four main players playing together at the same time as a unit due to various reasons.
With questions at linebacker and talented, but young players in the secondary, the Browns are going to rely on their pass rush to buy time for those players to develop and try to finally turn their program around.

All told, you have to love keeping a talent like Myles Garrett in town as young and dominant pass rushers that draw double-teams aren't easy to find.
You also have to like Garrett not wanting to run out of Cleveland as soon as he could or re-signing reluctantly because the Browns have matching rights such as the case with Alex Mack in 2014.
Garrett wants to be a Brown and that goes a long way with the fans, but also inside the locker room as well.

The Browns will have several players that could be considered as part of their foundation with decisions on extension coming up in the next two off-seasons.
Signing Myles Garrett gets that process rolling with a positive first step,

This took a little longer than normal and is a little lighter than I had hoped.
I wish I had a little more time to write of late.
You would think that the pandemic would give me more chances, instead, it has been less...

Thursday, July 16, 2020

WBO titles vacated and Boxing Challenge

After what looked to be a decent two-card week for ESPN, the company was bitten with both of their main events going by the wayside as Jamel Herring's WBO junior lightweight defense against Jonathan Oquendo was canceled with some controversy on Tuesday and Thursday's main event was lost when Mark John Yap missed the weight for his fight with veteran featherweight contender Miguel Marriaga by almost NINE pounds.

The only fight that remains for the challenge is former Wunderkind Felix Verdejo attempting to continue his comeback against undefeated Will Madera in a lightweight tilt.
The former Olympian Verdejo was once thought of as a future star before injuries and an indifference to training moved him from a mandatory title shot against then-WBO lightweight champion Terry Flanagan to one fight in twenty-two months before his shocking loss to Antonio Lozada in March 2018.
Verdejo has won his three fights since but has yet to regain the sizzle that saw him ranked as arguably the top prospect in boxing at the time.
The 15-0-3 Madera does hold an upset win over then-undefeated Thomas Mattice in February 2019, which was the only time that I remember seeing Madera.

In other boxing news, two WBO champions have decided to vacate their titles to move up to a new division and with the WBO's rule that states that champions that vacate their title will become the top contender in their new division, could receive a title shot before the end of 2020 or certainly early 2021.

Featherweight champion Shakur Stevenson turned in his featherweight title after failing to come to an agreement with IBF champion Josh Warrington for a unification fight and with few other money fights in the division as the other two champions (WBA and WBC champions Leo Santa Cruz and Gary Russell) fight with the PBC.
Stevenson will likely receive a shot at WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring either in the fall or early 2021 in a fight that Stevenson will likely be a strong favorite.

With Stevenson's championship now available, WBO junior featherweight champion Emanuel Navarrete decided to leave his division and vacated his championship.
Navarrete will likely fight for the title previously owned by Stevenson against either number one contender Michael Conlan or Jessie Magdaleno, who is 4th in the WBO and 1st in the WBC.
Both fighters are promoted by Top Rank, so either fight should be signed fairly easily.
Magdaleno, a former champion at 122 pounds as Navarrete had been, has more experience than Conlan, who despite holding strong status as a prospect, has fought no one of note and is undeserving of his top-rating at this time.
Top Rank is trying to build Conlan (of Ireland) into a gate attraction and I'm not sure which is a better idea for him- rushing him into a title fight that he would likely be an underdog or passing on the challenge, raise his competition a bit and then challenge the winner sometime next year.
There are good reasons to travel either path for Conlan, so it'll be interesting to see which path is chosen.

In the boxing challenge, I lead Ramon Malpica 68-60.

Lightweights 10 Rds
Felix Verdejo vs Will Madera
Both: Verdejo Unanimous Decision

Wednesday, July 15, 2020


I've had a post waiting for me to add a picture, which means I would have to go and actually take the photo, but things have slipped up on me with the blog and the big 52nd birthday.

I think you'll find that one funny and I really want to have it available, but I really want the pictures to go with it, so it shall wait.

And we roll on and hit the latest mile marker on the road of life at number 52.

It's funny how things work out.
Some years the birthday seems like a big deal and other times, it will sneak up on you to give just enough time to think about things.

I've never been bothered by birthdays.
I know that they get to other people, but I've never minded them.
No one can fight the clock and it never lies, so why fight it?
Besides it's the one time of year that people think of you (social media makes this far easier, doesn't it?) just to say hello.

I must admit that this one is a bit different without my mother here.
I'd be lying if I said that I hadn't drifted off a few times in thought, but they have been good memories and I'd say it's been more of a positive than making me sad.
Of course, there is a void of sorts, but I do feel a little comfort that she isn't in pain and hating her life stuck in a chair.

Thanks to all of you for the best wishes and I appreciate them all.

And a special thanks to my family and good friends that help me along and check on me often.
I always seem to use these milestone dates to say thanks, so this time I'll say thank you all for all that you do and while you know who you are- also know you are appreciated...

Monday, July 13, 2020

Cleaning out the inbox: Passings

Our tributes to the recently deceased returns as the cycle of life never stop revolving.

Goodbye to Denny O'Neill at the age of 81.
O'Neill wrote for both DC and Marvel Comics from the 60s to the 90s and is remembered for top-notch work for both companies.
However, to me, O'Neill's DC stint was his calling card with his run with Batman in the seventies being the beginning of the turn away from the campiness of the Batman television show and towards the brooding, dark character that Batman is known for today.
O'Neill is the creator of Batman villain Ra's Al Ghul during that run and Ghul is a villain with a fan base to this day.
O'Neill's most celebrated work though was his two-year turn with Green Lantern and Green Arrow where O'Neill used the characters with Green Arrow as the liberal/countercultural person with Green Lantern as the more establishment oriented character and their travels around the country dealing with "real" issues of the time.
Racism, pollution, corruption, and cults were all written about by O'Neill in the series, which wasn't exactly standard material for comic books of the era.
The most famous was the two-part comic with Green Arrow's sidekick Speedy being found addicted to heroin and his road to recovery.
The comic won several awards for the writing, but didn't sell well on the overall and was the reason that the series met cancellation after only two years.
O'Neill would continue to write over the decades, but he also edited several series for both DC and Marvel as his main job from 1980 forward.
O'Neill did one other book that I read but never owned despite my groaning for it- 1978's Superman vs Muhammad Ali.
Both comic companies would occasionally release these monstrous, oversized comic book versions that were expensive for the time, but did give plenty of value for the dollar.
Superman vs Ali was in that format, but I never owned it.
Darn, the luck.

Goodbye to Jim Kiick at the age of 73.
Kiick was part of the three-pronged backfield for the 1972 and 1973 World Champion Dolphins and was part of the highly-publicized leap to the WFL with Larry Csonka and Paul Warfield, which could have cost the Dolphins another Super Bowl trip or victory.
Had the Dolphins made that trip (they lost in the final seconds at Oakland in the famous "Sea of Hands" game), it would have been four trips in a row and a win would have been three of four titles.
If that happens, it's the Dolphins that grab the "team of the seventies" title, not the Steelers.
Larry Csonka was the hard-driving workhorse fullback, Mercury Morris was the speed back that could break a long run at any time and Kiick was the pass-catching, change of pace back.
The varied skills of the trio are what made the Dolphins so tough to defeat at that time and I think Miami wouldn't have been nearly as good with only two of the backs.
Miami owner Joe Robbie was noted as a cheaper owner in the league and when the WFL's Memphis Southmen offered Kiick, Larry Csonka, and Paul Warfield far superior contracts, the three leaped to the WFL.
The WFL didn't even complete their second year (The only year there for the Miami Three) and everyone seemed to suffer.
The three played well for the Southmen, but they didn't dominate, none of the three players played as well as they did with the Dolphins when they returned to the NFL in 1976 and Miami didn't even make the playoffs in 1975 ( they finished 10-4, tied for first with the Colts, but lost the tiebreaker and the wild card was 11-3 Cincinnati) or in the following two seasons as well.
Kiick's return to the NFL didn't go well as he was a seldom-used back for Denver in 1976, played three games for the Broncos in 1977, along with one for Washington in the final season of his career.

Goodbye to Adrian Devine at the age of 68.
Devine was a journeyman pitcher for the Braves and Rangers in the late 1970s and was part of three trades between the teams that saw Devine move from Atlanta to Texas back to Atlanta and then back to Texas to end his career.
Devine was mostly a reliever in his career with his best season occurring in his first stint as a Ranger in 1977 with 15 saves.
Devine survived two battles with tongue cancer that left him unable to speak, another with brain cancer until finally succumbing to lung cancer- one tough man.
Devine may be the subject of an upcoming post on the joy of liking and collecting "common" players and their baseball cards coming soon.

Goodbye to Ernesto Marcel at the age of 72.
Panama's Marcel came within an eyelash of winning both the WBA and WBC featherweight titles in nine months in 1971-72.
The smooth-boxing Marcel drew with WBC champion Kuniaki Shibata in Japan in November 1971 and then took away the WBA title from Antonio Gomez via a majority decision in August 1972.
Marcel would defend the title three times and defeat two future champions in Sammy Serrano (non-title ten rounder) and all-time great Alexis Arguello in Marcel's final fight as Marcel retired following his unanimous decision win in February 1974.
Before winning his title, Marcel fought another future great in 1970 against fellow Panamanian Roberto Duran in the first major test of Duran's career.
Duran would stop Marcel in the final round of the ten-round fight and Marcel is one of only two fighters along with Vilomar Fernandez to have fought both Duran and Arguello.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Boxing Challenge:Takam slides past the "Slug"

Boxing doesn't always have a situation where the more established fighter is the late replacement against a mid-level fighter, but that is what happened in the main event for Top Rank/ESPN inside the Las Vegas "bubble" when Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller tested positive for PED's for what seems to be the tenth time (actually the third) and was removed from the match.

Former world title challenger Carlos Takam stepped in for Miller to face Jerry "Slug" Forrest, a journeyman that had lost to the best three fighters that he had faced and lacked a remotely decent victory, but almost upset undefeated Jermaine Franklin in 2019.
Takam didn't enter this fight on a roll either as he is 39 years of age, lacks a win over a top thirty heavyweight since his 2014 decision win over Tony Thompson, and between the short notice and demands of the "bubble", Takam didn't seem to have all the checkmarks on his side of the fight either.
Takam added afterwards, that his father had passed a week before the fight and considering all that was against him, it was a nice win for the veteran as he won a unanimous decision with the judges scoring 96-94 (my card as well), 97-93, and 98-92.

Takam started quickly and won the first four rounds on my card, but began to slow in the middle rounds after a accidental headbutt cut him along his right cheekbone.
The commentators (either Andre Ward or Tim Bradley, they both comment similarly so often that I can't remember which) speculated that Takam could have fractured the cheekbone and adding that straw to the pile of issues facing Takam, Takam began to slow his attack as Forrest began to rally and tighten the fight as he added rounds to his side of the card.
On my card entering the tenth round, Forrest could have pulled out a draw on my scorecard but Takam had enough left to win the final round to clinch the victory.
Carlos Takam keeps himself viable as a fringe contender and with Top Rank being invested in the heavyweights with Tyson Fury, it's not out of the question for Takam to receive a bigger fight with his status as a gatekeeper in the division.
If you beat Takam, as four former or current champions have, you are a solid top ten or higher heavyweight and the fighters that cannot get past Takam aren't even fringe contender types- there hasn't been any middle ground to date.
Takam is a rugged fighter, but somewhat limited in power and boxing skills, but his mauling style will be physical enough to get by a mid-level fighter like Forrest more often than not.
As for Forrest, he had many things in his favor with the problems nagging at Takam and he still didn't throw enough punches for the first half of the fight to win a fight that was sitting there for him to grab for the best win of his career.

In the boxing challenge, I earned two points for the Takam decision win to Ramon Malpica's one to boost my lead in the boxing challenge to eight points at 68-60.

I hope to be able to work on the promised post tonight or tomorrow that I promised, but was delayed due to the Devils hiring of Lindy Ruff.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Devils hire Lindy Ruff

The New Jersey Devils have apparently made a decision on the future of their front office as NHL Network's Kevin Weekes reported that the team will retain Tom Fitzgerald as the general manager, removed the interim status in his title and will name Lindy Ruff as the next head coach of the Devils.

Fitzgerald served as the team's interim general manager for part of the 2019-20 season after the firing of Ray Shero after a season of increased expectations turned out to be very disappointing and it was Fitzgerald that made the Devils trades near the deadline, although it was Shero that finalized the trade that sent Taylor Hall to the Arizona Coyotes.

Lindy Ruff has been the head coach for two teams, coaching Buffalo for fifteen seasons and then moving to Dallas to lead the Stars for four more before the Stars let him go following the 2016-17 season.
Ruff led Buffalo to the playoffs in eight of his fifteen seasons, would take Dallas twice in his four seasons there, the Sabres made four conference finals, and it was Ruff that was victimized by the most controversial call in Stanley Cup history in the famous "Skate in the crease" game when Brett Hull scored the game-winning goal in the third overtime of game six with his skate in the crease while possessing the puck, which was illegal by the rules of the time (1999) and should have been waved off.
Instead, the goal was allowed to stand with the goal, game, series, and Stanley Cup going to Dallas all on one play that shouldn't have counted.
Ruff has served as an assistant with the New York Rangers since leaving Dallas and the Rangers fans don't seem to be all that disappointed in losing him as Ruff's duties were with the defense and special teams, both of which have decreased in effectiveness under his tutelage.
I've also been calling him "Lester" for years as I've thought he looks like my uncle Lester.

Devils fans don't seem to be jumping for joy either with Ruff (or really for Fitzgerald either) as the hire and while I'm not thrilled, I'm not mad either.
The Devils talked to five coaches about the job with Ruff, interim coach Alain Nasreddine, former Las Vegas coach Gerard Gallant, well-traveled Peter LaViolette, and John Stevens, previously of the Kings and Flyers, each receiving interviews.
Of that group, I easily preferred Gallant and wanted no part of LaViolette with the other three all in the middle of the pack of less than exciting possibilities.
On paper, LaViolette looks like the class of the field with three trips to the Cup Finals and a win with Carolina in 2006, but I've never cared for his style and I'm not convinced that his coaching style is going work well with younger players as part of a rebuilding process.
I really wanted Gallant for a similar reason- he does well with younger players and he's going to play a quicker paced game and I think that suits the talent that Ray Shero brought to New Jersey best of all the candidates.

This is an unexciting hire and often the best hires aren't thrilling, but occasionally they can be the right one.
The Devils are gambling a little that Lindy Ruff's best days aren't in the past, but it's not an awful risk.
Tom Fitzgerald is a higher risk in personnel, but the team seemed to have their mind made up on him early as they didn't interview any other candidates (at least that I know of) as possible replacements.
The Devils are one bad hire from hitting that dreaded floor with a thud and without a bounce.
With luck, Tom Fitzgerald and Lindy Ruff will turn the Devils into a contender because should they fail the recovery period could be a long wait away.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Boxing Challenge:Zepeda skates by Castaneda

The main event from the Las Vegas "Bubble" felt you pining for what might have been as the show could have been capped off by two top ten contenders facing off in what should have been an excellent meshing of styles and loaded with exchanges of punches.

When former IBF junior welterweight champion Ivan Baranchyk fell out of his scheduled meeting with Jose Zepeda, I immediately thought the Top Rank summer series had lost its best match and without another top contender available, Kendo Castaneda was the stand-in and appeared to be overmatched against Zepeda.
The appearance turned out to be correct as Zepeda dominated Castaneda in winning a unanimous decision that didn't see a knockdown but also didn't see Zepeda turn the gas up with a performance that dazzled the audience either.
I thought Zepeda was certainly effective in wearing down Castaneda, but never hurt his opponent and he will need to bring his performance up when he faces better opposition as this level of Zepeda may not be up to the task versus elite competition.
I just have a sneaky feeling that Zepeda might be one of those fighters that may challenge for a world title on a few occasions and might come close before falling short each time.

As for Castaneda, who fell to 17-2 in the defeat, his level isn't as high and future isn't as bright as Zepeda's may be, but he fought well all things considered and even had a moment or two when he won the seventh and eighth rounds before losing 98-92 on my scorecard.

Ramon Malpica and I each scored one point in the boxing challenge.
I lead 66-59.

I have an idea for a post for tonight from the road office if I have time to write.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Boxing Challenge

Two Top Rank cards from the "Bubble" in Las Vegas, but both cards have seen fighters fall out from their main event to combine with less than thrilling undercards for a result of two weaker shows for ESPN.

The fight that I was excited about more than any other of boxing's return on ESPN was two top ten junior welterweight action fighters hooking up as Jose Zepeda was scheduled to face former IBF champion Ivan Baranchyk in what assuredly would have been the best fight since boxing's comeback.
Baranchyk suffered an injury in training and was forced from the fight, so Zepeda will be facing 17-1 Kendo Castaneda.
I don't know very much about Castaneda, but I do know that against Zepeda, who narrowly lost in a title try against WBC/WBO champion Jose Ramirez, Castaneda will need to show a lot to win in this fight.

The Thursday main event was going to televise the return of heavyweight Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller from his PED suspension that cost him a world title challenge of Anthony Joshua. but Miller failed yet another PED test in a stunning display of stupidity and was pulled from the card.
Miller's scheduled opponent, Jerry Forrest, has a 20-3 record but all three recognizable fighters on his resume' have defeated him, Michael Hunter and Gerald Washington early in his career and a split decision loss to Jermaine Franklin last July.
Miller's replacement is former world title challenger Carlos Takam, who also has failed against top opponents, although his losses to Anthony Joshua in a world title challenge, two former world champions in Alexander Povetkin and Joseph Parker and a perennial contender in Dereck Chisora put Takam at a level above Forrest.
On background, Takam is a solid favorite but at 39 and having to go back to 2014 to see a victory over a fighter that you have heard of (former title challenger Tony Thompson), Forrest could surprise some people in this one with some luck.

Jr.Welterweights. 10 Rds
Jose Zepeda vs Kendo Castaneda
R.L; Zepeda KO 7
TRS: Zepeda KO 5

Heavyweights. 10 Rds
Carlos Takam vs Jerry Forrest
R.L: Takam KO 6
TRS: Takam Unanimous Decision

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Changing Names?

The various protests around our country have now entered sports with the continuous effort to get the Washington Redskins and now the Cleveland Indians to change their team nicknames.

The Indians shuffled Chief Wahoo off in 2018, in what essentially was a trade to land the 2019 All-Star game, and although Wahoo merchandise is still available (MLB which hates the idea of Wahoo, yet likes the dollars that he still brings in), as the team claims if they don't sell at least some merchandise with his likeness the image will eventually move into the public domain, but they don't use the logo around the stadium, on broadcasts, etc.
Supposedly, the team was unofficially told that they didn't have to deal with the name of the team should the jettisoning of Wahoo occur.

Two years later, the team is "exploring a thorough review of the team's name", which basically means one of the following two choices.
1: The decision has been made to change the name and they need to move through the facade of compiling the facts.
2: The team doesn't want to change the name and they are hoping to see some of the current moods in the country slow down a bit and buy some time.
I suspect number one is the choice as the team announced this without being the focus of the protests.
The Washington Redskins are the main target currently, but the team has to know that should the Redskins be taken down successfully the Indians would be next in their sights.
Cleveland likely thinks that this is inevitable now and perhaps the PR would be better should they volunteer to change rather than being forced into changing.

I wrote two years ago that I would miss Wahoo, but I understood why the time had come.
I'm not as understanding this time, especially considering the Atlanta Braves haven't really been touched yet for a team that plays a war chant and sells Tomahawks to their fans, but honestly, I'm just tired of hearing it.

I know that giving in and giving protesters what they want is like giving the toddler throwing a tantrum their toy, but now inevitability has set in.
The name is going to be changed, it is now a matter of time and what name will be chosen as the new nickname.
I'm OK with Spiders, the original team name and some have offered Buckeyes for the Cleveland entry in the Negro Leagues, but I wonder if Ohio State might have something to say about that one.
Many people, usually from outside the area, keep saying Rockers, but that was the name of the failed WNBA team and I just don't think that it fits.
I haven't anything I really love yet, but I'm sure they'll be picking something awful!

I'm sure that I'll have more to say about this as the situation continues.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Pedraza defeats LesPierre-No replay needed

Photo Credit; Mikey Williams Top Rank
The Vegas Bubble continued with the boxing challenge with two bouts with a former champion trying to maintain viability and an Olympic champion attempting to avenge a defeat to move onward and upward in his career.

Former IBF junior lightweight and WBO lightweight champion Jose Pedraza dominated Mikkel LesPierre in their junior welterweight fight that was delayed by a few weeks and won an easy unanimous decision in the main event.
Pedraza used an ambidextrous style to befuddle LesPierre throughout the bout and it seemed like his right hand couldn't' miss LesPierre as it seemed to land whenever Pedraza pleased.
Pedraza knocked down LesPierre in the fifth and tenth rounds and almost finished LesPierre off for the stoppage in the final round.
I scored Pedraza a 99-89 winner on my card, but there was a small bit of controversy before the sixth round as a LesPierre knockdown was looked at via instant replay.
The replay look is fine, in my opinion, there is plenty of room for boxing to improve from referee errors, but referee Kenny Bayliss left the ring to look at the replay and it took several minutes to see that LesPierre tripped Pedraza for the knockdown and invalidating it.
It was close and there was contact between the two, but LesPierre did land a punch so I would have counted it, but it was nothing to be enraged over.
However, leaving the ring to look at the video and slowing the fight down seems very clunky to me and the system shouldn't take that long.
Now, I do think the fighters need to be notified ASAP on the points situation in these matters, but I'd like to offer a better way.
What if there was a fourth official in charge of only replay and the only changes that they can make are knockdowns (to reverse both called and not called in the ring) and on cuts in order to determine if they were from a punch or from illegal contact?
Then you add one more stipulation- you have no more than one round to make a determinatiom.
By adding that time limit, the fighters know their situation on the cards as soon as they can and we move on.

Pedraza bounced back from his September defeat to Jose Zepeda and I can see him as a solid back half of the top ten fighter in the 140 pound division, which is a very top-heavy division.
I can see Pedraza in the mix for a 2021 title fight against a possible four belt unification winner of a Jose Ramirez-Josh Taylor fight or maybe in the scramble for any of the titles that could be vacated by the winner, but he's 0-3 against top of the division fighters and his best win is over an aging Ray Beltran, so I'm not sure that I'm buying stock long term.
However, should the chips falling in the right place against the right style, Pedraza could walk away with a title belt.

In the other challenge fight, two-time Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez avenged his career opening decision loss to Adan Gonzales via unanimous decision in a six rounder.
Ramirez was far better prepared for the rematch and forced Gonzales to back up with a strong performance that only lacked a knockout to showcase the Cuban's skills in winning all six rounds.
Ramirez makes me think of the type of boxer that will need to be motivated to be successful and might be a fighter that will win some fights when he could be written off, but also could lose some fights that he'll be favored because he may not take everything seriously.
Zab Judah was often in that mode as was fellow Cuban Joel Casamayor and the enigmatic careers that each of them had might cost them potential spots in the boxing hall of fame.

Ramon Malpica added four points on the evening to my three and cut my lead to seven points at 65-58 with an extra point for Robiesy Ramirez and his decision win made the difference.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Boxing Challenge: Saucedo wins in ring return

Another rather brief recap due to time constraints on the Tuesday Top Rank card...

In the main event, junior welterweight Alex Saucedo won via a unanimous decision over Sonny Frederickson.
Saucedo had fought only one round (a blowout over Rod Salka) since his unsuccessful WBO title challenge to Maurice Hooker in November 2018.
The exciting Oklahoma slugger had his moments against Hooker (knocking Hooker down in round two), but had trouble getting inside of the longer reach of Hooker and vowed to change his style a bit.
I saw signs of some maturity and subtlety from Saucedo, who threw well over 800 punches in overwhelming a game, but limited Frederickson, but I'll reserve judgment on the final verdict when I see Saucedo against top ten competition before rendering it a success.
No knockdowns in this one, although Saucedo did hurt Frederickson in the first round with a right hand. I scored Saucedo a 99-91 winner which agreed with one judge.

The semi-main had more adventure outside the ring with the father and trainer of welterweight Josue Vargas leaving the bubble before the fight and not being allowed to re-enter for the bout.
His son won a unanimous decision over Sal Briceno (I scored 98-92) with Vargas losing two front teeth in the fourth round and a bad eye gash in the sixth.

Ramon Malpica and I each earned three points on the night in the boxing challenge on the evening.
I lead the challenge 62-54.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Goodbye MILB

The press release that we all knew was waiting finally was released yesterday as the 2020 minor league season was officially canceled.

While not unexpected, it still was a sad day to have things confirmed that there will be no baseball in most Mudville's for 2020.

And while today isn't the saddest day for me as that day is yet to come- when the Rob Manfred-led power play to eliminate 40 plus teams from the minors and depriving those teams fans even a chance to say goodbye is announced will be that day, it still has a degree of sadness to me.
You wait all winter during the worst months of the year (Jan, Feb, and March), battle through short days and cold nights, and wait out the darkness until the warmth begins to arrive with it the fun that comes with the baseball season.
And this year, I feel that fans all over the country have been cheated of that.

Not only the minors, but the majors too.
The players hearts aren't in this sham of a season and the excitement from the viewers won't be either.
I'm not paying for a MLB package for this "exhibition" (Ok, if its 20 bucks or so, maybe) and should I not do that, I may not watch much.
My teams aren't going to be televised often and I'm not watching the Orioles get beaten 10-1 every night by their rivals or listen to one of my least favorite announcers in sports (F.P. Santangelo) blither for the Nationals every night, so I may not be as involved.
MLB should do the right thing by allowing the blackout rules to be dropped and giveaway their Extra Innings and MLB.TV packages for the year.
It would be a small gesture of goodwill towards a fan base that is in desperate need of it.

There are many culprits to blame for killing what would have been the final season for Hagerstown baseball via Covid-19.
The WHO, China, countless people that are so reckless and stupid by not taking precautions around the country, and of course Donald John Trump, but most of all Rob Manfred, who has to be quite pleased with himself for being able to kill minor league baseball's leverage ( They were beginning to gain ground with Congress before Covid-19 arrived) and cannot wait to get his plan for the minors installed- a plan that was thought up by a man so disgraced that he was run out of the game, mind you.
I want to add a special tip of the cap not only to that gentleman but to his two former assistants who now run the Brewers and Orioles, who I hope will be as successful as a salesman selling snow blowers in the Caribbean in their current positions.

This is a sad day and the worst is yet to arrive.
But I'd like to add this on masking before I finish.
Please don't make this about political stances, toughness, the media, or even your belief.
It's about none of these.
It's about courtesy and teamwork.
Courtesy towards others that may not affect the person you contact, but it may affect the people that they contact.
I know you feel silly, I do too and I've joked that I feel like I'm the bad guy in an old Western film, but be safe.
I know it sucks breathing with it on after a while and I get all of that.
But we've lost so much in sports already-the Final Four and I'll believe that MLB, NBA, and NHL complete their seasons when they are on their fields of play raising their trophy, and even if they do it won't mean as much and will delay the start of the next season.
Football is next and professionals far higher on the medical chain than me have stated- You want football in the fall? Wear your mask and do what you need to do to kill the virus hygencially.

Don't want to do it for yourself or the people you care about and care about you or even your fellow man?
Do it for your team!
Want to see sports again with the excitement of fans?
Don't be selfish-wear the mask, at least around others.
It is the best chance to bring fun activities back, keep the spread down, and keep our essentials and workplaces open until the vaccine can be developed- hopefully affordably so!

Thanks for reading.