Archive | Way Back Wednesday

Way Back Wednesday: What Is Your Best Sports Year?

Have you ever thought about what was the best year in sports for your favorite teams? This goes beyond baseball but of course the basis of the decision is due to baseball. Easily my best sports year was 1995.

There are a lot of reasons why this was my best sports year, but the number 1 reason is the Fall Classic. I can still see Carlos Baerga’s fly ball landing in Marquis Grissom’s glove in center field to give Atlanta its first and only title.

MLB Baseball

In 1994 the world of baseball was rocked by the strike and the loss of the World Series. The Braves came back strong in 1995 winning the pennant. It was the first year of the Wild Card in baseball, and the Braves sent the young Colorado Rockies home early before sweeping Cincinnati in the NLCS.

The greatest game of the season and one of the best pitched World Series games of all-time came in Game 6. Tom Glavine pitched 8 innings of 1 hit ball, and David Justice hit a solo home run in the 6th inning off of Jim Poole for the lone run of the game. The Indians had a vaunted offense led by Albert Belle, Jim Thome, and Manny Ramirez but the Braves rotation of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Steve Avery was too much for the Tribe.

Another big thing to happen in 1995 was Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played. I can remember watching that game on ESPN, and I still can recall the “victory lap” he took after breaking the record.

NCAA Baseball

The College World Series was a lot of fun to watch with the Cal State Fullerton Titans slugged its way to the championship behind their MVP Mark Kotsay. Some notable names that we got to see in the series were J.D. Drew (Florida St.), Billy Koch (Clemson), Todd Helton (Tennessee), Alex Cora (Miami), and Geoff Jenkins (USC).

NFL

Even though they wouldn’t win the Super Bowl until 1996, the Dallas Cowboys were the best team in the NFL in 1995. They won the NFC East and went 12-4 on the year while they were on their way to winning their 3rd Super Bowl in 4 years. It was a great year for Troy Aikman and the gang.

Tennis

Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras dominated the year in Tennis. They had a great rivalry and they were always fun to watch. Agassi won the Australian Open and Sampras won the US Open and Wimbledon.

NBA

With Michael Jordan playing baseball for most of the regular season, the Houston Rockets won their 2nd straight title defeating Shaquille O’Neil and the Orlando Magic 4 games to 0.

So overall it wasn’t a complete sweep in every sport for my favorite teams, but in the 2 biggest that I follow it was. My favorite MLB team the Atlanta Braves won their 1st title, and my favorite NFL team the Dallas Cowboys were the best all year long and would eventually win the Super Bowl. Other sports could have been better like college football. I hate Nebraska and they would win another title. However, overall this was a great year for sports in my life.

So what was your best sports year?

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Way Back Wednesday – Favorite Uniforms

There have been a lot of great uniforms over the years. One of my favorites is the old 1970s/80s Houston Astros “rainbow” uniforms.

But with the recent introduction of the Pecos League, an independent baseball league located in New Mexico, I have a new favorite uniform. One of the new teams is called the Roswell Invaders, and their jersey’s are simply amazing.

My only hope is that for at least one game they decide to go with the green tops and pants.

There are a lot of great classic jerseys out there. What are some of your favorites?

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Way Back Wednesday: Bring Back The Baseball Bunch

What ever happened to the old 80’s kids shows like the Baseball Bunch? I didn’t grow up in the age of baseball on TV 24/7, but I had some good shows to look forward to as a kid. On Saturdays we could look forward to seeing shows like This Week In Baseball (TWIB) with the late great Mel Allen or The Baseball Bunch with Johnny Bench. Both of these shows were kid friendly and helped introduce a whole new generation to the great game.

But what do kids have now? Yes I know TWIB is still around on Fox, but to be honest it doesn’t have the same feel to it since Fox took it over. It’s still a great show, but it seems kids are too busy now to watch it. Are we just a victum of too much available TV? Or are we a victum of the 24 hour networks that show sports non-stop?

All too often I hear kids are intersted in other sports and baseball is falling by the wayside. As someone who has been passionate about the game for as long as I can remember, that is just hard to wrap my mind around. The game has such a history, but when we start to look at the history it seems to deal with a slower paced society. Fathers were playing catch with their sons and coaching little league. Sandlot games were played by the kids in the neighborhood after school and on weekends. Maybe I was just one of the more fortunate ones to experience things like this, or perhaps as Dylan once sang, “The times they are a changing”.

I know this isn’t the case everywhere, but it does seem like life is starting to go at a faster pace. Does this have anything to do with baseball’s loss as the biggest sport in the US? Baseball in itself is a slower paced game than most others. With society becoming an “instant fix” society perhaps the game of baseball just doesn’t fit.

Of course, I don’t believe that and I feel people who don’t give baseball a chance are missing out, but I am biased.

Baseball’s  popularity might not be fading. Overall the decade of 2000-2010 was the best the sport has ever seen attendance wise. However, it seems more and more young players are choosing other sports over baseball. The NFL has become the biggest sport in the US although that might change with a long protracted lockout this next season. In the grand scheme of things, baseball seems to be picking up steam worldwide even without it being a sport in the Olympics anymore.

I guess my main point to this long rant is I would like to see more kids baseball programming. It was such a great show with Hall of Fame baseball players each week giving tips to kids in little league. Add in the greatness of the San Diego Chicken and it was a great combination to not only entertain kids but to educate them as well on baseball and just being a good sport. But I wonder if a show similar to The Baseball Bunch would be a hit today with so much competition on the TV front?

Thoughts?

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Way Back Wednesday – Who would You Invite to Dinner?

Just prior to flying back to South Korea I watched a couple documentaries that included Bill “Spaceman” Lee going to Cuba on baseball trips in Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey and Gift of the Game. Bill Lee is quite a character, and I thought it would be interesting to sit down to dinner with him one night and talk baseball, politics, or whatever comes to mind for him.

In turn, this got me thinking even more about whom from the world of baseball would I like to sit down to dinner with. We have all heard the question about who you would ask to dinner if you could ask 3 people from any time, but what about baseball?

However, it’s really hard to narrow it down to 3. Can you imagine talking to Shoeless Joe Jackson, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Jackie Robinson, Honus Wagner, or Mickey Mantle?

So here is my attempt, and reasoning behind my decisions, to narrow my list to 3 people from the world of baseball.

1. Ty Cobb – Considered one of the greatest, the greatest by some, ballplayers of all-time, Cobb is a personality that really intrigues me. During his playing days he didn’t have a lot of friends. I just wonder what it would be like to break down the barriers that he seemed to have and get to know the real Ty Cobb. I’d love to get his take on the steroid era, and get his perspective on how players from his day got an edge. Plus I think he would have some amazing stories of fights and other times he was in a ruckus.

2. Babe Ruth – The Babe always seemed to be the cockiest, yet not arrogant like say a Bonds, player from the past. So many times people ask if he would be able to play in today’s game since it has changed so much, and I would love to hear his answer. I think he would have some amazing HSO’s (Hot Sports Opinions) on Barry Bonds, the steroid era, and how the game has change for better or worse.

3. Bill “Spaceman” Lee – His personality is second to none. With him at the table I don’t think I would even have to say a word. He would get the conversation going in every direction but it would never be dull.

So what would be your list? Who would you want to sit down to dinner with if you could?

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Louisville Slugger Museum

Just over a year ago, my brother and I took a trip from Nashville up to Indianapolis to see a Jimmy Buffett concert.  We left out early on a Tuesday morning with the intention of stopping for lunch and a tour of the Louisville Slugger Museum, and I am glad we did.

I have always wanted to see the museum.  Growing up Louisville Slugger was the wooden bat.  There were no substitutes. It seemed like everyone in MLB was using Louisville Slugger, including my favorite player Dale Murphy. So finally getting the chance to see how the bats were made was a thrill.

The museum, and factory, are located in downtown Louisville.  You can’t miss the museum.  Just look for the 120 ft bat leaning up against the 5-story building.

Louisville Slugger Museum and its 120 ft bat

Once inside there is a lot to do and see.  The first thing you will come upon is the gift shop, but save this for last.  Go grab a ticket for the tour, and then head into the museum to wait your turn.

The tour was what made the trip for me.  It was really interesting to see how each bat is made.  They walk you through the process from taking a simple slab of wood to the final product ready for the players.  We were fortunate to have a good guide with us that day who made the tour that much more enjoyable.  You get to walk through as they are making bats.  Many of them will go out to minor league players, but one section of the factory is set to make bats for a professional player.  That day we got to see bats being made for Carl Crawford of the Tampa Bay Rays.

It was a lot of fun seeing the process first hand on how they shave down the bats further and further.  Then, depending on the type of bat needed, they run it through a machine that cuts it down to size.  Next they will sand the bat down and put on the finishing touches like the logo which is either a sticker, maple bats, or burned into the bats.  Unfortunately you can’t take photos of the factory, but its really worth while to see.

When you exit the tour they give you a souvenir bat and spit you out into the museum to look around.  The museum is fascinating as well.  Here you get to see old bats from the early 1900s to modern day.  The sizes, and shapes, have varied over the years.  They have showcases of countless models from countless superstars from over the many years that Louisville Slugger has been making bats.

Louisville Slugger Museum - Bats from Clemente, Musial, Ott, and Yaz

One of the coolest things to do in the museum is to handle one of the old bats from the players. These are bats that the players actually used in games.  I choose to pick up an old Mickey Mantle bat.  They had a few to choose from, but with Mickey being my Dad’s favorite player, it was an easy choice.  You have to put on gloves since all the hands handling the bats will ruin them over time.  I was surprised at how big the bat was, but it wasn’t near the biggest bat in the room.  Still an experience I won’t forget.

Louisville Slugger Museum

Louisville Slugger Museum

Before leaving there are still a few places to check out.  In the back of the museum, past a really cool statue of a glove and ball, is the batting cage.  You can pick out a bat from a current player, I choose Evan Longoria, and you can take some swings in the batting cages.  That was a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it to anyone.  Swinging a big wooden bat is so different than the aluminum ones that you grow up playing with as kids.

Glove and Ball Statue at Louisville Slugger Museum

Me at the Museum

Louisville Slugger Museum Batting Cages

Me Hitting with an Evan Longoria Bat in the Cages

Louisville Slugger Museum Batting Cages

My Brother Hitting in the Cages with a ARoid Bat Model

After you are finished taking your swings, its time to head on over to the gift shop.  Now is your chance to pick up a personalized bat or other souvenir.  I choose to pick up a t-shirt while my brother opted for a personalized bat for his son.

Overall, it was a great trip to a place I had always wanted to visit.  Anytime you are in the area, be sure to head on over and check out the Louisville Slugger Museum.  It is definitely worth the journey.  You won’t be disappointed even if you aren’t the biggest baseball fan.

Louisville Slugger Museum

Dale Murphy's Bat Signature - 1974 is for when he signed his bat deal.

Louisville Slugger Museum

Me in front of the entrance.

By the way, it rained on us at the Jimmy Buffett concert, but we had a blast.  It was actually pretty fun singing in the rain with thousands of other parrotheads.

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The Little Things

Sometimes it’s the little things in life that bring so much pleasure.  As I sit here on Wednesday night, it is nearing midnight.  I am trying to catch up on some things that have been put off for over a week now.  During that week and a half I have had the worst sinus infection of my life.  It took me 3 visits to doctors to get antibiotics, but now I have them and they are starting to work.

So I sit here after work watching the US soccer team struggle to make it to the round of 16, my head, throat, and teeth hurt from my sinus infection but I can’t help but crack a smile.  For today I got a package from home, and in it David Sunflower Seeds.

Now I know many of you might be thinking, what?  These little seeds of joy covered in salt will bring me great pleasure.  There is nothing like being at a game with a bag of seeds, and David makes the best.  I have been unable to find them here in Korea.  Yes, I have been told I might be able to find them in Seoul.  But I don’t live in Seoul.  So having a few bags to hold me over till the end of the year brings a big smile to my aching face.

Sometimes it’s the little things that bring so much pleasure.

TBJM

Next Up: My votes for the All-Star teams

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Way Back Wednesday – Pensacola Pelicans

Another segment I hope to bring you on a weekly basis is Way Back Wednesday.  This will be a look at old games, players, stadiums visited, long HRs, or anything else I desire really.

Today I want to take a look back at my 32nd Birthday.  My niece and nephew were in town, so the three of us and my Dad went to the local minor league baseball game.

Nicholas and Katrina getting Pelican's Mascot Scoop's autograph

The Pensacola Pelicans play in the independent American Association.  The Pelicans play at Pelican Park, which is also home to the University of West Florida Argonauts.  It’s a nice park on the campus of UWF, and the baseball is definitely worth watching.

Pelican Park

The game the day before got suspended due to rain, so we got there in time to see the end of  game 1.  The Pelicans finished off the Shreveport Sports 8-1 in game 1, and went onto win game 2 4-1 for a three game sweep.

The baseball action was good and exciting, and being there with my niece and nephew was a blast.  Everything under the sun was eaten from hot dogs, to nachos, to cotton candy.  It was a junk food free for all. During the game we won one of the between inning giveaways.  We won because Katrina’s ticket number matched the winning number.  The prize was supposed to be a free car wash from a local business, but they didn’t have that when my Dad went to pick up the prize.  Instead they gave him a $25 gift certificate to a local restaurant which turned out to be even better.

Game Action

Part of the greatness of minor league baseball, especially independent ball, is the access to the players.  After the game the players line up to sign autographs for anyone who wants one and they do it with a smile on their face.  So after the game, we watched as Nicholas and Katrina both lined up to get a few autographs on the football the team gave away prior to the game.

Overall it was a great time.  I enjoyed being with everyone at the game, and let’s face it, I had fun because I was at a baseball game.  I love going to Pelican games.  The atmosphere is always great, and the action on the field is second to none.  So if you are even in town, drop by and check out a game.  You won’t be sorry.

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There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit. ~Al Gallagher, 1971

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