Thursday, October 25, 2007
I was confined to watching the game in the basement at home on this Sunday evening. Twins ace Frank Viola was making his third start in the series against the St Louis Cardinals. He was the winning pitcher in Game 1 but got shelled in Game 4.
In Game 7, Viola was touched for two runs and four hits in the second inning. However, he hunkered down and gave up only two more hits (and 0 runs) over his last six innings.
Unlike their previous three games at home, the Twins offense was scuffling in this one. While they were able to answer with one run in their half of the second inning they were hosed out of another. Replays showed that Don Baylor scored from second base on a Tim Laudner base hit. However, Baylor was called out, denying the Twins a run. I’m sure the neighbors heard me express my dismay.
Later in the game, the Twins received that run back courtesy of a blown call in their half of the fifth inning. With one out, Greg Gagne hit a chopper to first base. With Cards pitcher Joe Magrane covering, the umpire called Gagne safe saying Magrane never touched the base. However, replays showed that Magrane did indeed swipe his foot across the base ahead of Gagne. The next batter, Kirby Puckett, greeted new pitcher Danny Cox with a double to center, scoring Gagne and tying the game. From there, wackiness ensued. After Gary Gaetti walked, Cox threw a pitch in the dirt with Baylor at the plate. Both Puckett and Gaetti attempted to move up a base but Puck was thrown out at third. With Gaetti now at second and two outs, Baylor looped a single to left. Gaetti charged towards home plate in an attempt to give the Twins the lead. But the throw beat him there. Gaetti then rammed full bore into catcher Steve Lake in an effort to jar the ball loose. While Lake got the worst of that hellacious collision, he somehow hung on to the ball. Three outs, game still tied, and I’m practically bouncing off the walls due to the intensity of the game.
The Twins finally took their first lead of the evening in the sixth inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, Gagne hit a ground ball behind third base off cards pitcher Todd Worrell. Third baseman Tom Lawless made a diving stop, threw a one hopper to first but not in time to get the speedy Gagne. Tom Brunansky scored giving the Twins the 3-2 lead!! They would tack on another run in the eighth and closer extraordinaire Jeff Reardon faced the Cards in the ninth, leading 4-2.
With two outs and nobody on, my brother had a bottle of champagne ready to open upon the third out. We made a promise to our Mom that we would merely have a nice, celebratory drink when the Twins won it all. Nothing too raucous, we assured her. But once Willie McGee bounced out to Gaetti at third and Kent Hrbek squeezed the throw for the final out, bedlam ensued!! My brother immediately popped the cork on the champagne but it wound up on my head instead of in my glass. I hardly noticed as I was jumping up and down in pure delirium at what my Twins just accomplished. Of course, my mother was perturbed that we trashed her basement in celebration. But the laborious clean up we endured afterwards was well worth it. For the first time in over thirty years, a professional sports team in Minnesota won a championship!!
How sweet it was!!
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
In fact, it was twenty years ago today on a Saturday afternoon that the Twins were hosting the St Louis Cardinals in Game 6 at the Metrodome.
After winning the first two games at home, the Twins found themselves down 3 games to 2 after getting swept in the middle three games in St. Louis. This was typical of a club who went a stellar 56-25 at home during the regular year but a pathetic 29-52 on the road.
Things didn’t look good early in Game 6. The Cards knocked around Twins starting pitcher Les Straker and led 5-2 in the fifth inning. For a split second, I tried rationalizing with myself that it was an honor just to get to the Series. Of course, I was kidding myself. After witnessing some wretched baseball over the previous few years I desperately wanted my club to be #1.
Before I knew it, the Twins were mounting a comeback.
Kirby Puckett reached base in the fifth inning. Gary Gaetti doubled to left, scoring Puck to make it 5-3. Then late-season acquisition Don Baylor came to the plate as the tying run. BOOM!!! A two-run homer off Cards starter John Tudor and the Twins had tied it up. I was at my buddy Todd’s place in Vadnais Heights. There were four of us in the basement that day hanging on every pitch. We were going crazy when the Twins tied it. They would eventually take the lead later in the fifth when Steve Lombardozzi knocked in Tom Brunansky with a run-scoring single. It was 6-5 Twins after five innings.
But it was the next inning which many fans remember most. The Twins had loaded the bases with one out. Twins slugger Brunansky had a chance to put the game out of reach facing reliever Bob Forsch. Bruno popped out to shortstop. Now there was two outs, bases still loaded and Kent Hrbek coming up. Cards manager Whitey Herzog came out to summon lefty Ken Dayley to face the left-handed hitting Hrbek. Since there was a commercial break during the pitching change, we decided to watch some excerpts of comedian Louie Anderson on VHS. We figured we’d kill a couple of minutes until the game came back on. All of a sudden we heard the words “GRAND SLAM” come from Todd’s brother upstairs. We quickly flicked off the video and saw Kent Hrbek rounding the bases with his arms raised in elation. The hometown kid made good with a grand slam homer, giving the Twins a 10-5 lead. The four of us were literally huddled together jumping up and down in unison, all the while yelling in elation!!
The Twins would go on to tie the Series with an 11-5 win. I remember that evening driving around my neighborhood. On many a street corner, there were vendors selling Twins merchandise. Whether it was caps, pennant flags, homer hankies, etc., every corner was packed with people getting in on the fun. My brother and I drove home with both of us waving our homer hankies out the window. Not one single car had passed us by without honking in acknowledgement.
Ah, but there was work to be done. Game 7 would take place the next evening. My stomach was all tied up in knots anticipating the winner-take-all contest. Yes, I had definitely come down with a state-wide epidemic.
It was called “Twins fever”.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
In no particular order:
1. Boston’s Game 1 & 2 starting pitchers, Josh Beckett & Curt Schilling, are a combined 3-1 with a 1.24 ERA in six World Series starts since 2001.
2. The Red Sox have home-field advantage. During the regular season they were 51-30 at Fenway Park.
3. The Rockies were a mediocre 39-42 on the road.
4. Only one Rockies player (Willy Tavares) has World Series experience. The Red Sox have seven.
5. Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield has been left off the World Series roster.
6. The Red Sox explosive offense is averaging 7 runs per game this postseason.
7. Despite falling behind in the ALCS 3 games to 1, the Red Sox methodically dismantled the Cleveland Indians in three straight games. They have some serious momentum right now.
8. 96 regular season wins, the best in baseball.
9. Allowed a major league low 657 runs in the regular season.
10. The Rockies have not played a game in eight days.
Now let’s look at the Colorado Rockies side of the ledger.
1. An inexplicable 21 wins in their last 22 games.
Rockies in six.
But I digress.
I was wondering something. Has anyone seen Sesame Street’s Big Bird lately?
I have a sneaking suspicion that he’s missing half his feathers and DWTS contestant Jennie Garth used them to make the dress she wore last evening.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Max McGee, the free-spirited Green Bay Packers receiver who became part of Super Bowl lore after a night on the town, died when he fell while clearing leaves from the roof of his home. He was 75.
Police were called to his home in suburban Deephaven on Saturday afternoon, Sgt. Chris Whiteside said. Efforts to resuscitate failed.
McGee caught the first touchdown pass in Super Bowl history in 1967, a game he expected to watch from the sideline. When it was over, he had caught seven passes for 138 yards and two TDs and Green Bay — coached by the great Vince Lombardi — had beaten the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.
McGee often drew the ire of the legendary Lombardi with his antics off the field. In fact, there was one notable incident which resulted in McGee being reprimanded in front of teammates.
McGee was notorious among the Packers for sneaking out after curfew, in search of bright lights and pretty companions.
One time, Lombardi caught and fined McGee twice within a few days. Then came a third infraction. "MAX!" Lombardi roared at a team meeting, "that will cost you five hundred dollars." That was real money in a time when $25,000 a year would make an All-Pro tackle very happy.
Lombardi was shaking with anger. He seemed to be fighting a losing battle, and he didn't like to lose at anything. "Max, if I catch you again" -- the coach had turned from red to purple -- "the fine will be ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS." The room grew silent and Lombardi stopped shaking. "Max," he said, softly. "If you find anything worth a thousand for sneaking out, call me and I'll go with you."
McGee is survived by wife Denise, four children and several grandchildren.
We'd still have our problems but we'd all be friends
Treatin' your neighbor like he's your next of kin
Wouldn't be gone with the wind
If the world had a front porch like we did back then
One of the many things I enjoy while visiting my in-laws in rural Wisconsin is driving through the small town where they live. On many a street in that town you see houses built in the 50s and 60s. Many of these modest-sized homes included one thing you rarely see in new dwellings built today: a front porch.
You remember those, don’t you? Someone could step out their front door onto a wooden floor spanning the length of the front of the house. There may be lawn chairs out there or even a large swing to sit in. Residents of such a home could look to their left or right and likely see neighbors enjoying their own front porches on a warm Summer day or evening. Every so often a friend or acquaintance may drive down the street and honk their horns “hello.” It was all a part of being neighborly. I even remember a time when folks would welcome someone who moved into the neighborhood. Residents would go knock on the door of their new neighbors and welcome them, sometimes with a plate of warm brownies or other freshly baked goods.
Today, the neighborly facets of houses and people seem to be a thing of the past. Do you notice how the vast majority of homes are built with a deck off the back of the house? And those who may not have decks are equipped with a patio, also located in the back yard. Attached garages allow people a significant amount of anonymity. One can pull into his/her garage and shut the automatic garage door before even getting out of the car. Oh, and that thing about welcoming new neighbors? About four years ago my wife and I brought a plate of cupcakes over to a mid-20s couple who moved in next door. When the wife answered the door you would have thought we were presenting a severed head, given her reaction. We literally saw her and the husband one other time over the next few years until they moved out.
Given all of the modern conveniences and technological gadgets which make our lives simpler, I don’t often long for the days of my youth. But I can’t help but wonder how many people miss out on their lives being enhanced by not developing friendships/relationships with those in their neighborhoods.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
No, not Boston Celtic great Larry Bird. I’m talking about Larry Byrd, a gentleman in his 60s whose son happens to play for the Cleveland Indians.
Paul Byrd pitched five effective innings to baffle the Red Sox, and the Indians moved within one win of making it back to the World Series.
With his throwback windup and crafty off-speed pitches, Byrd allowed only two runs, struck out four and didn't walk a batter.
I recall Paul Byrd telling the story of traveling to Boston in 1999 when he was a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. The major league baseball All-Star game took place at Fenway Park that year and Byrd took his father Larry out to dinner the prior evening. When it was time to be seated at the restaurant, the announcement went something like “Larry Byrd, party of two.” I can imagine the whole restaurant coming to a standstill.
If indeed the Indians finish off the Red Sox this series, you can bet the Byrd family will have a tough time getting a dinner reservation in any Boston restaurant from now on.
Monday, October 15, 2007
So it was downright laughable when Reid sent a letter to Clear Channel CEO Mark Mays condemning the comments of radio titan Rush Limbaugh, one the military’s strongest supporters. Reid referred to Rush’s use of the phrase “phony soldiers”, implying that Rush used those words to describe the military personnel who disagreed with the Iraq war. We’ll forgive Mr. Reid’s ignorance since I’m sure he’s far too busy attempting to pass vapid resolutions instead of actually researching the proper context of what Limbaugh was saying. Rush was clearly referring to the individuals who falsely claimed to have served in military during this war on terror. Nevertheless, Reid was still able to secure signatures of 40 other Democrat senators (including Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton) in a resolution to censure Rush Limbaugh, a private citizen.
Ah, but the “Maha Rushie” always has the last laugh. He announced last week that he is taking the actual letter written by Reid to the Clear Channel CEO and putting it on E-bay (see video). The proceeds from the letter will go to the Marine Corps – Law Enforcement Foundation. This is a charity which raises money to support children of Marines or Federal law enforcement personnel who were killed on duty or died under extraordinary circumstances while serving our country at home or abroad. These funds enable the MC - LEF to provide these children with scholarships for their higher education.
I guess you can say that Rush Limbaugh is the modern day King Midas. He can take the demoralizing ignorance of someone like a Harry Reid and turn it into gold!!
Sunday, October 14, 2007
The small, brief ceremony (attended by immediate family members only) took place on the south shore of Lake Metonga. The couple was blessed with a beautiful, sunny afternoon.
The reception took place right at the lake shore tavern with hundreds of people stopping in throughout the evening to congratulate the happy couple.
We all concurred this was a day that was a long time in coming. Shortly after Gene’s bitter (and expensive) divorce from his first wife, he met Sue and they began dating. As the relationship grew more serious, Gene was hesitant to talk marriage given his first go-round. Despite everyone in our family feeling that Sue was a perfect match for Gene, he still dug in his heels.
So when the big day finally arrived, Sue found the perfect cake top:
Hey, there may not be many more opportunities to make such a statement this season so I’ll start with that.
Rookie RB Adrian Peterson was the star of the game with 224 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the 34-31 win over the Chicago Bears. But the best part of Peterson’s long TD runs was the fact he left the trashing-talking putz Charles Tillman in his dust. Phenomenal!!!!
Elsewhere in the NFL today, the big matchup of 5-0 clubs lived up to the hype….for three quarters anyways. As predicted the much superior New England Patriots thumped the Dallas Cowboys 48-27. While Dallas QB Tony Romo is a nice player, he’s got a ways to go to be considered in the same discussion as the likes of Brett Favre, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. In fact, I commented a couple of weeks ago on the blog of Packer
I received a rather hilarious response from another commenter:
Correction: He's just keeping them warm for Tony Romo.
Looking at it now, maybe the comment isn’t all that hilarious. After all, Favre just set the all-time interceptions record today with number 279 in his career. With six picks in the past two games, Romo may have a legitimate shot at that record. I know I’m pulling for him to inch closer to it next week!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
So it's time to start anew. For the record, I am making the following picks for the League Championship Series:
NL: Colorado Rockies over Arizona Diamondbacks, 4 games to 2.
AL: Cleveland Indians over Boston Red Sox, 4-3.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
I had the privilege of fellowshipping with Andrew William Reagan Bittner when he was a little more than 24 hours old.
I became a little concerned at the time of our visit because it appeared that Andy was a little hungry. Given the way his little mouth was moving, he must have figured I could feed him.
Sheesh, I know I’m a little out of shape but let’s not get carried away.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Fast forward to this past Sunday. My wife and I were checking out a home for sale in Woodbury. As we entered this home, we were greeted by an employee of the home developer. We chatted with this gal for a few minutes when she asked a few questions about us. She was surprised that we came all the way from Coon Rapids to check out this home. I told her I grew up in the area, near the 3M complex in Saint Paul to be exact. She then asked where I went to high school. Harding High, I said. “Oh!! Me too!” she replied. Now I have a gift for recognizing people whom I never met but would have seen on a regular basis (i.e. co-workers, fellow high school alumni, etc.). So when she introduced herself as just “Wendy”, I knew!! “Mitch’s sister?” I asked. Indeed she was. And she was absolutely blown away that I knew who she was given
a) We never met before
b) She graduated high school two years before me.
Anyhow, I went on to tell her that my brother and I were big fans of Mitch. I also expressed my sincere condolences for the loss of her brother. Given her expression, I could tell it was still a very painful memory. Nonetheless, she seemed appreciative of the fact that someone still has fond memories of her brother.
I can honestly say that I cherish my innate ability to remember names and faces. Given how small this world seems at times, it’s a gift I will never take for granted!
The name of the town where he resides? Crandon, WI.
Naturally, I was shocked to hear of the horrific events which unfolded there over the weekend.
The residents of a remote northern Wisconsin community struggled to understand Monday how a sheriff's deputy who killed six young people and critically wounded another could have become a law enforcement officer.
Tyler Peterson, 20, was shot to death after opening fire early Sunday on a group of students and recent graduates who had gathered for pizza and movies during their high school's homecoming weekend. Peterson was off-duty from his full-time job as a Forest County deputy sheriff; he also was a part-time Crandon police officer.
The lone survivor of the shooting, a male, remained in critical condition Monday at St. Joseph's Hospital, according to nursing supervisor Penny Funk.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims’ family members.
Friday, October 05, 2007
A couple of days ago, I picked the Phillies, Cubs, Angels and Yankees to advance to the next round.
Through last evening’s play, those four teams are a combined 0-6 this postseason!
If I were a gambling man (which, thankfully, I am not) I may have been making several trips to the plasma center next week.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Speaking of Dad, I will be seeing him in a couple of weeks at my Uncle Gene’s wedding in Northeast Wisconsin. As always, we will talk about the sports issues of the day. And as always, Dad will dismiss the Patriots’ success. Since the Pats won their first Super Bowl in January 2002, Dad has been railing on New England head coach Bill Belichick and how he has been “overhyped” in the media. In fact, any coach or professional athlete who has had an exceptional career (i.e. Belichick, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, etc.) seems to draw Dad’s ire. His rationale is usually along the lines of “I get so sick of hearing how (insert name) is supposedly the greatest of all time. BULL----!!” Naturally, this reeks of disingenuousness. Dad never once complained when his Bay Area athletes/coaches were lauded for their superlative performances. I never heard him take issue with the adulation heaped upon the likes of Montana, Jerry Rice, Bill Walsh, Barry Bonds (pre-steroids), etc.
Since Dad can’t stand the fact that anyone would approach the records of the 49ers’ QB Joe Montana and coach Bill Walsh, he will diminish the solid play of the Patriots this season. And my prediction is he’ll do so by pointing out the past controversy of Belichick’s use of sideline cameras to spy on the opponent’s defensive signals. In fact, he’ll probably say word for word “How do we know this hasn’t been going on since New England starting winning Super Bowls?”
But what if the shoe were on the other foot? For example, what if one of Dad’s beloved athletes is on the verge of breaking a coveted record?
When Barry Bonds was in pursuit of Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record, many felt an asterisk should be placed next to Bonds’ home run total due to strong evidence linking him to performance enhancing drugs. Bonds’ alleged steroid use is traced back to the late 90s. Dad’s reaction? To slander previous record holders, of course. He’s said things like “How do we know Babe Ruth wasn’t on amphetamines? Those were available in the 1920s and 30s.” Dad also shamelessly threw out as fact that Aaron did “speed” when he was breaking Ruth’s all-time homer mark.
I know I’ve documented how Dad and I have had troubles in our relationship. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be a source of amusement.
As three of the four divisional series kick off today, I would like to go on record with my predictions.
Philadelphia Phillies over the Colorado Rockies, 3 games to 1.
Chicago Cubs over the Arizona Diamondbacks, 3-2.
New York Yankees (Sorry, Ben) over the Cleveland Indians, 3-2.
UPSET SPECIAL: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim over the Boston Red Sox, 3-2.
Chances are I won’t be exactly right with all these picks. However, I will be making predictions for the League Championship Series once the matchups are set.
Let the games begin!!!
Monday, October 01, 2007
They happened to find me by entering the following phrase into the search engine www.goodsearch.com:
brad is dead let's kill brad
Hmmm. Don’t know what they were looking for, but I’m indeed not dead. And if I were, wouldn’t killing me be a little redundant?
That’s how I see the left and Congressional Democrats with their incessant clucking about what they think Rush Limbaugh said.
Democrats on Monday called on the chief executive of Clear Channel Communications to denounce remarks by radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, whom they say made a “hateful” and “unpatriotic” attack on U.S. troops opposed to the war in Iraq.
One big problem. Rush was not attacking “U.S. Troops”. When he used the phrase “phony soldiers”, he was referring to those who, as described by the US Department of Justice, “lie about their military service for financial gain or other reasons.”
A Dept of Justice investigation entitled Operation Stolen Valor has been in effect this past year in an effort to crack down on these fabricated stories of military service.
The most abhorrent example of fabricated military service was that of 23-year old Jesse Macbeth, whom Rush was alluding to on his show last week.
Macbeth's story of killing men and women as they left a Baghdad mosque included claims that he was a U.S. Army Ranger and had received the Purple Heart for injuries suffered in combat in Iraq.
His interview was translated into Arabic and distributed in the Middle East.
If anyone would bother to read the transcript or unedited audio on Limbaugh’s web site, they would clearly ascertain that Rush was labeling “phony soldiers” those individuals indicted under Operation Stolen Valor. But then again, anyone edifying and supporting the military (as Rush does on a daily basis) doesn’t fit within the template of many Congressional Democrats.