Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Trivia Time

Answer to Monday's question: Mickey Mantle.

Today's question: Since today is the last day of Black History Month: What do Major Leaguers Orlando Cepeda, Lyman Bostock, Luis Tiant, and 'Oil Can' Boyd all have in common?

More info (possibly) later today.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Eulogy for a Giant

(When I started this blog, I started thinking about this post. Mostly because I knew I wouldn't be there on this day, or at any time during this week. Military service will do that. And I'm afraid that, as I try to write it, it won't measure up to what I want. But here goes, anyway.)

My father died one year ago Tuesday. He was 65.

You learn things you really didn't want to know when a parent dies. Some are important; some are trivial. One of the trivial things I learned was that the Rite of Christian Burial doesn't include a provision for a eulogy. This surprised me, because every funeral I've ever seen on TV, or attended in person, there is a eulogy - and it's performed by a family member. I thought I'd have to say a few words about my Dad. Who can say a few things about their Dad? But the priest, a friend of my father's, gave a brief sermon and he touched on Dad's life. It was what my father would have wanted. The obit in the paper that week was a good synopsis of his life (my siblings and I crafted it). But I needed to say more.

My father was a tremendous athlete. He still holds a shot-put record for the state of Missouri. It helps that they quit using that particular weight at the high school level, but he's the guy who threw it the farthest. My father played 4 years of Varsity football in high school, and 4 years of Varsity football in college. (He's in the photo; I wear his number now on my softball jerseys). My dad was good enough he was invited to try out by the New York Giants (the Sam Huff/Frank Gifford Giants, not the pansy team they field now) and the Baltimore Colts (the Johnny U Colts). These were two of the best teams in the game in the early 60s.

The fact that he didn't want to spend his young adult years getting his head kicked in speaks volumes to his character. I don't know if he'd have walked away from the game had they been paying what they pay now, but I suspect so.

I got my love of the Cardinals from him. I remember the first and last games I attended with him. The first was at Old Dodger Stadium (the Dodger Stadium of my youth ceased to exist when Fox added luxury seating behind the plate, cut down the foul territory all over the field, and took out the scoreboards that were behind first and third base). We sat in left, where my favorite Cardinal (Lou Brock) patrolled. I came as close to catching a ball that day as I would for 20 years; some bozo listening to a transistor radio (he wasn't even paying attention!) caught it just before it hit him in the mouth. St. Louis was god-awful in those days, and the Dodgers would go to the World Series in 1977. Cards got smoked 11-0.

The last game was eerily familiar. Again we got down there early for BP. Again our seats were in left. Again the Cards got shut out. But this time it was Game 4 of the 2004 World Series, 3-0 to Boston. Yep. I was there when Boston clinched it's first title in 86 years. My singular regret from that day is I didn't get a picture with my Dad while at the game. I have it in my head, and I visit there occasionally; but I would have liked to share it with my son.

The next August he was diagnosed with liver cancer.

He was in a lot of pain, but you never knew it. He went from a 250 lb man to a 210 lb shell in just over 5 months as the cancer, and the kemo, and the other treatments took their toll on him. But he didn't complain. He taught his classes literally up to the day he died (he was forced to stop 2 weeks before the end). And he handled the ordeal with dignity and humility. Courage is facing the unknown calmly, even though you know it will not end the way you want it to. My Dad had more courage than anyone I've yet met.

When you lose someone close to you it leaves a huge hole. It takes a while to get your bearings straight; to figure out what's important and where you can go from that point. I'm still trying to figure all of it out. What keeps me going? The belief that there is more to existence than this 'crude matter'. The chance to be the father to my son that my Dad was to me. I will never get over the loss of my Dad. But my life didn't end that day. And he would expect me to keep living.

RIP, Dad. I miss you.

Trivia time

I'll probably post more later. For now, here's the trivia for today:

Answer to Friday's question: Augie Galan (Cubs, 1955), Dick McAuliffe (Tigers, 1968), and Craig Biggio (Astros, 1997).

Today's question: Who has hit the most career HR in Yankee Stadium?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Nothing like a quiet rule change to prove wrongdoing was done

Slow work day.

Perusing this week's SI in better detail (between midnight feedings for the Little Dirka), I noticed a small note that MLB has announced some rule changes for 2007. Now MLB changes the rules that govern the sport only slightly more frequently than Catholics pick a new Pope, so this is news. Let's delve a little further into the changes:

1. Tie game no longer forces a do-over. I guess this is a good rule; if the teams are tied 5-5 in the seventh, and AP has hit 3 HR's on the afternoon, the game will continue the next time weather allows, instead of starting over from scratch and wiping out all those statistics. A victory for stat hounds everywhere! Can this rule be retroactively applied to make stats from all those washed out games in last century count? No, guess not.

2. The Derek Jeter Rule. You can't go into the stands anymore for a foul ball? Is this move designed to protect the players or the fans? You also can't go into the dugout anymore? Don't we reward extra effort in this country? (I think the dugout caveat to the new rule is overkill; with protective fences in place around all dugouts (except Fenway, I think), players don't go in there very much anymore anyway.)

3. The Kenny Rogers Rule. No more warnings if the baseball you pitched is found to be damaged or scuffed. Think they found evidence of tampering on balls during Game 2 of the World Series? I think so. Too bad this rule didn't include 'automatic 10 game suspension if you don't wash your hands'.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

What a week.

Well now Mrs. Rant is sick. So this will be another short post.

I'm lucky my body treats infection the same way Jason Kidd treats his wife. Minus the frolicking with other bacteria/viruses, of course.

SI has a nice article on spring training this week. I had heard rumors that the Dodgers were contemplating moving from Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL, to Arizona, ostensibly as a 'cost-saving measure'. Never mind they had one of the best complexes in Florida, and all the history that echoes through there. Looks like they're moving to Glendale (home of the Pink Taco, er, University of Phoenix Stadium) starting in 2009. What a crock.

One of the best things about the Submarine Force (hey! Two posts this week comparing events in the sporting world to the military!) is we remember our history. Whether it's by being on a boat named after a boat that served during WWII (like SEAWOLF) or talking with submarine veterans at the annual Submarine Birthday Ball, it is a tangible link to those who went before, and I believe it strengthens the force. From the article, it sounded like the Dodgers organization understood that - at least until recently. Sure, Koufax, Wills, Snyder, Hodges, and the other great Dodgers may still pass through spring training, and may still give motivational speeches; but some of the mystique is gone with the passing of Dodgertown into history.

Greed eventually ruins everything. It sure is for the 4 major sports leagues in this country.

Anyway, off the soapbox. Here's your trivia fix for the weekend:

Trivia time: Answer to yesterday's question: Bill McKechnie (Pirates, Cardinals, Reds), and Dick Williams (BoSox, A's, Padres).

Today's question: Name the three men who have played an entire season (150 games or more) without grounding into a double play. Hint: All three played after World War II ended.

Enjoy your weekend. There may be a post here following the Nova/Rutgers game on Saturday.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Rick Ankiel

Viva El Birdos posted a rather fanciful 2007 season idea with Rick Ankiel at the center. Which got me thinking about the only time I saw Ankiel pitch in person.

I spent the second half of the 2000 season deployed to the Western Pacific on a submarine, so our sports news was spotty at best. I knew the Cardinals won the NL Central, and that they beat the Braves 3-0. I later figured out that they lost the NLCS to the Mets. My wife taped all 8 Cardinal games from that playoff year, and I watched the Braves series on my off-watch time, in the wardroom, with another officer who is a die-hard Cardinal fan.

Watching Ankiel self-destruct in Game 1 was disturbing. It was as if a switch in his head got shut off. All of a sudden he couldn't consistently throw strikes anymore. And it was between half-innings, too - he was fine in the first, then the wheels came off.

Only Rick knows if the shock La Russa's surprise announcement that he was pitching Game 1 of the NLDS in his rookie season is what eventually set him over the edge. I won't speculate on that. I know La Russa kicks himself for that decision; I believe he said as much in 'Three Nights in August'.

The other thing about Ankiel is I never felt about him the way I did about J.D. Drew. Drew had prodigious talent, but always seemed to be coasting; he could work harder, but why? Ankiel never came off as a spoiled rich kid. He knew he had talent, but he worked to use it. So as time went on and Ankiel struggled to regain his form, I rooted for him to make it all the way back.

And I was there when he did. September 7, 2004, at Petco Park against the hometown Padres. It started out shaky (leadoff single to center), but ended strong (sac bunt, popout, ground out). And I remember, even though I was sitting waaaaaayyy up in the rafters on the third base side, down the LF line, that the team met him at the top step to congratulate him as he left the field. The kid had made it back to the majors. There was, at least it seemed from 300 feet away, a genuine display of happy emotion for him and his success.

We know now that Sept 2004 was an Indian Summer; a last hurrah for Rick Ankiel the pitcher, a tantalizingly short glimpse into what might have been for the southpaw. And as he tries to play his way onto the ML roster as an outfielder, I sincerely hope he makes it. If only as a late inning defensive replacement and bat off the bench, I hope he makes it.

Trivia time. Answer to yesterday's question: Curt Flood (7), Willie McGee (3), Jim Edmonds (3). Obviously Jimmay has won more than 3 Gold Gloves, but I'm only counting the ones he won as a Cardinal.

Today's Question: Since I follow the Cardinals and live in Padre-ville, here's a question that touches both: Name the only two managers to take three teams to a pennant. Bonus if you can name the three teams each managed into the post season.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

We're On The Road To Nowhere

Short post - we have a sick baby.

Norv Turner. Nice. I am a fucking genius.

Interesting article in today's Post-Dispatch on Rick Ankiel. I give the kid a lot of credit - at least he's trying to make the most out of his talent, even after his major setback. I may elaborate my thoughts on Rick later this week (baby condition allowing).

Nova predictably lost to Marquette, 80-67. Hello NIT.

Trivia time. Yesterday's answer - Frankie Frisch. Told you it was easy.

Today's question: Name the only 3 Cardinal outfielders to win a Gold Glove. Bonus: List how many each man has won.

Monday, February 19, 2007

F%$$#@g Hoyas....

I'll get to the trivia answer (and today's question) in a moment.

G'Town 58, Nova 55.

Very frustrating. Especially since it was a game that the Cats could have easily won. I turned it on to see Nova sink 2 free throws and up their lead to 11 at 29-18. Hoyas then went on a 9-0 run to end the half, culminating in a 3/4 court buzzer-beater 3 pointer. 29-27 at the half.

Needless to say, I watched National Treasure instead of the second half.

But I did turn it on in time to see the team give up a 55-53 lead, and Clark miss a 3-ptr with 5 seconds left.

If their Tourney hopes aren't dead, they certainly are severely injured. Today's game at Marquette takes on the appearance of a must win. Marquette is the #12 team in the country going into this week. Yikes.

Figures. Georgetown rips our heart out again. If they'd managed to hold on and beat Florida in last year's tournament, who knows what would have happened?

Trivia Time. Well there was an overwhelming number of answers submitted (read: zero), which means either (a) I stumped everyone, or (b) my readership has dwindled to just me. I'll go with (a) - it's easier on my ego. Answer: Artie Wilson hit .402 in 1948 while playing for the Birmingham Black Barons.

I said I'd make the questions range from easy to start the week to hard on Friday, so here's today's hanging curveball: Which Cardinal great was known as 'The Fordham Flash'?

Answer tomorrow.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dean Spanos hates San Diego

Before we get to today's trivia question, some minor news:

Norv Turner is interviewing for the Chargers open head coaching position (as is Rex "I'm not Buddy" Ryan and Mike Singletary).

Norv Turner.

58-82-1 in two disappointing stints as a head coach (Redskins, Raiders).

This is the guy the Chargers will hire. It makes sense - Norv Turner possesses the requisite characteristics to keep the Spanos' tradition of winning teams in SD intact. Unfortunately, the Coronado Bay Bridge will be shut down due to the number of former fans high-diving into the sparkling waters below. That would keep many thousands of sailors from reaching their work stations/ships at Naval Air Station North Island. Our Armed Force readiness will be seriously affected, meaning the terrorists will have won.

The Secretary of Defense must step in and prevent Norv Turner's hire. Our War on Terror depends on it!


On to the trivia post: Since I post at night (after work and once Little Dirka is in bed), I will post a question on Sunday-Thursday nights. That way (a) West Coast readers get first crack at the question, and (b) East Coast afficionados can check it out with their morning coffee/bloody mary/bong hit. Other items of interest:
- Correct answer will be posted with the next trivia question.
- First commenter with the right answer will be credited alongside the question.
- I will try to make the questions harder as the week goes along.
- There will be no theme to the questions - that's too much work and I'm tired.
- Questions won't just be about the Cardinals (although most of them probably will).

So here we go:
Who was the last professional baseball player to hit .400? (Hint: It ain't Ted Williams).

Answer Monday.

And I STILL don't have my GIGANTOSAUR jersey!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I feel.....Like.....SINGING

Pitchers and catchers reported today!
Jimmy E is on the way!
Wells searching for his lost stuff!
Carp is more than tough enough!

AP hacking in the cage!
Duncan's play causes fits of rage!
Wilson just wants more contact!
Ecker has that skill he lacks!

Tony furrows his brow anew!
Dave's got lots of work to do!
Hang the banner very soon!
In hell I have a reserved room!

Trivia questions start tomorrow.

To the tune of 'Jesus Christ Has Risen Today'. Yes, there is something seriously wrong with me. I had the first stanza in my head all morning.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Martygate - the day after

Yep, unaccountably steaming about the Schottenheimer firing - and I'm still not a fan of the Chargers.

Ah, this reminds me of the salad days of Bobby Ross and Busby Berkeley - when the team went to the Super Bowl, then had some less than stellar seasons (which I will blame on the animosity between Ross and Berkeley Breathed for the purposes of this article) followed by Ross' firing in 1996. The Chargers next 3 seasons (at least until Bobby Beathard left)? 4-12, 5-11, 8-8. It didn't get appreciably better until Der Schott arrived (2000 - 1-15; 2001 - 5-11).

What really makes me shake my head and smirk is this rampant belief that the Chargers are a class organization. Back in the days of Fouts, Joiner, J. Jefferson, Chuck Muncie (OK, maybe not druggie Muncie, but he was a BAD-ASS on the field) and General Winslow (his son thinks he's a soldier; must have gotten it from somewhere), yeah, they were a great organization. But how about since Alex Spanos bought the team in 1984?

Winning seasons: 1987 (strike year, 8-7), 1992, 1994, 1995, 2004, 2005, 2006.

That's right: SEVEN winning seasons in 22 years. That's not exactly a stirring record of success. Not counting the strike season, half of those campaigns were managed by Der Schott.

So I have to scratch my head in wonderment that Der Schott was fired yesterday. Obviously he was doing the job on the field with the players he got from AJ Smith. If he was fired because (a) he backed his assistants pursuing other jobs that advanced their careers in professional football (a position I firmly believe is correct and exemplifies what a true leader does), and (b) because he wanted to hire his brother as the Defensive Coordinator (OK, that's a little strange), I think Dean Spanos made a very large mistake here.

And I still don't have my GIGANTOSAUR jersey.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I'm sure the catfight will surface on YouTube shortly

Marty Schottenheimer got canned today.

This is why I'm glad I'm not a Chargers fan. Only an organization completely inept could screw up this horrendously. At least with the Cardinals and the Lions you EXPECT them to suck because their ownership/leadership was inept. But the Chargers tempt fans (like the Sirens of Greek mythology) with promising players and good records, only to piss it away.

Must be something in the Mission Valley water that makes everybody hate each other (a la Bobby Ross and Beathard), not talk to each other (Smith/Schott) or just plain crazy (Alex Spanos).

You mean to tell me that, with all that money laying around courtesy of the NFL, and all that talent on the roster, AJ Smith and Schottenheimer couldn't find a way to get along? What a pair of babies (a term my focus group (Mrs. Rant) informed me was least likely to get me sued).

14-2 last year. Yes, they laid an egg in the playoffs, but 14-2! And 12-4 two years ago. Apparently that couldn't breed at least a tacit working relationship, if not respect.

Not to mention that their two major coordinators are now coaching the Dolphins and Cowboys. Which means a new offense for next season, replacing what was one of the most dangerous in the league.

So how do you find a coach to take over for a guy who put up the best record in the NFL? At this late juncture. With most of your assistant coaching jobs open. And with precious little time before the draft. What's his expectations going to be? 13-3? Lost in the AFC championship game? See ya.

And where the F**K is my GIGANTOSAUR jersey!?!?!?!

Effin bastards.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Masters of the Main Line

Villanova 56, St. Joe's 39.

For those readers not familiar with the geography of Philadelphia PA, Villanova University sits at one end of Lancaster Avenue, and St. Joseph's Wayward Rest Stop for Red-Headed StepChildren sits at the other. So once again the smart, well educated, coherent disciples of St. Augustine prevail in this mini-border war.

I keed, I keed. Actually I don't consider this rivalry as intense as some other ones for the Wildcats (Georgetown, Syracuse, and Connecticut immediately jump to mind; throw in Pittsburgh when I was matriculating as well). St. Joe's has a good team once in a blue moon; Nova has one once a decade. We typically beat up on them Hawks. Other than their mascot's annoying habit of constantly flapping his wings, they don't bother me. Martelli is actually funny.

But, winning the City Series is nothing to sneeze at, and with this victory Villanova has won it for the second straight year.

16-7 is pretty good on a team loaded with Freshmen and Sophmores. I figure they have a good shot at winning at least 3 of their remaining games (Cincinnati, Seton Hall, Rutgers), and an outside shot at 3 more (G'Town, Syracuse, UConn). Beating Marquette in Wisconsin? Probably not. 20 wins and an 8-8 record in the Big East should be good enough to get them into the NCAA tourney for a third straight year.

6 days until pitchers/catchers report. I'm going to start a new feature here once the team reports: A daily trivia question. Answers will be posted the following day. Credit will be given to the person submitting the first correct answer along with the actual answer. These questions will focus on Cardinal Trivia. I have enough items to carry me from the start of spring training through 30 September, so I hope you enjoy the feature.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Put your Super Bowl behind you for one more year...

Colts 29, Bears 17. Turnovers made the first quarter exciting, but other than that...well...Chargers/Patriots was a better game. And Colts/Patriots was a more tense game.

Some random thoughts from the event:

- Rex Grossman will take the heat for this loss. And he did throw some awful passes - which I found odd seeing as he played his college ball in Florida so he should have been used to playing in the rain. But the Bears offensive gameplan cost them this game. 11 first downs (and at least 5 of those came after they were down by 12)? Wow.

- Devin Hester is a mighty dangerous man - and I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought, 'Well, Ohio State scored on the opening kickoff and got their asses kicked.' after he did the same thing.

- If I never see the Chevy ad where guys are taking their shirts off to clean a car again, I'll die happy. Made me choke on my nachos.

- The Career Builder ads were the best.

- I made waaaaayyy too much chili. I'll be eating chili for about 2 weeks. Need any homemade chili? Let me know and I'll send you some.

- Prince was OK - not as awful as Paul McCartney or the Stones were, but nowhere near as good as U2 was.

- I couldn't hear Nantz or Simms for most of the telecast because my son was loud throughout - and I was much happier with his commentary on the game.

- Flat screen TV's are great! Now I need to see it with the HD settings.

Anyway, that's it - 10 days until pitchers and catchers report. Woo Hoo!

Update [2/5/07 1300] : I remembered a few more things I wanted to point out from the game:

a. Peyton Manning is a big fat pussy. To wit: (1) after the horrific handoff to Addai (or was it Rhodes?) that turned into a fumble recovery for the Bears, Manning made NO EFFORT to cover the ball. I swear he ran away from the contact. At least when the Sex Cannon fumbled he tried to dive on the ball, contact be dammed. (2) after pitching the ball to Rhodes (or was it Addal?) on his 'scramble' in the third quarter, he stopped. Normal people would have tried to throw a block for the guy with the ball. Or kept it and tried to make some yardage. But apparently Laser Rocket Arm is made of porcelain.

b. I'd like to send a personal shout out and thank you to Hunder Smith for muffing that extra point hold, and Adam Vinateri for missing the field goal at the end of the half. I had 6/4 as my numbers. And a cooooool $200, if you please...

Saturday, February 03, 2007


I blew off my normal Thursday column becuase I'be been sick. Two trips to the ER in the last 10 days. Steroids. Water weight gain. Unable to sleep with the pain. I don't recommend it.

But I have been able to monitor all the Super Bowl silliness, and, Rex Grossman/Kyle Orton posts aside, it's been pretty disappointing. Bill Simmons taunting us from Miami. Negro Bowl I. (The coverage of Dungy vs. Smith has been enough to make me vomit.) So I can't wait for the Super Bowl to be over - at least I won't have to listen to the hype any longer.

Once my teams get knocked out (or fail to qualify - thanks Rams for blowing those games against Seattle), my rooting interest passes to rooting AGAINST teams I hate. Does this make me a bad person? Probably. But I don't care. So watching the aforementioned Seahawks, Dallas, G-Men, Ravens, and Patriots head into the off-season has been mucho enjoyable-o. Leaving me with ambivelance concerning tomorrow's contest.

I haven't had anything emotionally invested in the Super Bowl since Pats/Eagles (and ended up with the short stick that day - although I did win a cool $125 in my football pool for picking the third quarter score. Nice). I (the master of opinion) don't have one when it comes to this game. My disgust for all things Chicago begins with the Cubs and ends with the Blackhawks. My dad thought Johnny U was the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, so there's a certain soft spot for the Baltimore Colts - but I don't like the Indy Colts. Ultimately I can root for an entertaining game. And I will.

And a couple of super bowl ads that make me laugh. AND that my numbers come up again in our pool.

So as I count down the days to spring training (11 days until pitchers and catchers report to the Cardinals Complex in Jupiter), today I'll be making copious amounts of Dad's special chili (Miss you Dad), watching Little Dirka try and keep his balance while sitting, and preparing for our modest party tomorrow.

All signs point to a satisfying weekend. Villanova just beat Louisville 57-53, augmenting their NCAA tourney resume. See you after the 'big game'.