Friday, June 18, 2010

Cheers to El Padre


Even though El Padre grew up in the Kensington section of Philadelphia (“The sport of boxball was invented at the corner of Gaul and Sergeant,” he maintained.), he was an inveterate frontrunner when it came to choosing a rooting interest in sports. His favorite teams were the Yankees, Packers, Celtics and Canadiens. For those of you scoring at home, that’s dynasty, dynasty, dynasty and dynasty. When it came to his partisan allegiances, El Padre wasn’t taking any chances.

Born in 1920, he had the opportunity to witness – sometimes in person, like that famous 0-0 tie between Army and Notre Dame in 1946 or the 1948 Eagles-Cardinals NFL Championship “Snow Ball” – some of the great sporting moments of the early-to-mid-20th Century. He saw Babe Ruth play. And Ty Cobb. He was present for several battles between Wilt and Russ. Even though El Padre was an intellectual at heart and adored the law profession he chose, he would argue (boy, would he argue) sports for hours.

He was also a fount of information. Ask him how some of the current-day ballplayers stacked up against various heroes from the past, and he could break it down, although his verdict almost always came down on the side of the old-timer. And he appreciated the value of seeing events in person. Rare was the time when a request by El Hombre or a Hermano to attend a contest was dismissed. If El Padre could make it, we were there. We usually left the game early, but we were still there. And that’s where this Father’s Day tale begins.

In 1969, baseball celebrated its 100th birthday, at least according to what generally passed as common knowledge. It was a big year for the MLB, since it added two teams to each league and split into divisions. Playoffs would be held for the first time, and little did anybody who followed the sport know, but the Miracle Mets would stun the sports world that fall by winning the World Series.

For a seven-year old beginning what would become a life-long emersion in sports, it was a heady time. The NFL was about to merge. The NHL was two years post-expansion. The NBA was at the end of the remarkable Celtic championship run. (“Ten fingers, eleven rings,” Russell used to say.) John Wooden and UCLA ruled the college basketball world. And college football, like its MLB counterpart, was commemorating its centennial. Of course, seven-year olds don’t pay much attention to that stuff, especially when they’re mesmerized by the wonder of it all.

On Aug. 9, that dream world became a reality, when El Padre took EH and his younger Hermano to their first baseball game. As one might expect from a person who appreciated the history of the game – not to mention one who was a big Yankees fan, even if the ’69 version of the team would finish 22 ½ games out of first place in the newly-minted AL Eastern Division – the setting for this inaugural encounter would be Yankee Stadium. Give El Padre points for understanding the significance of the event. You don’t see your first game at Connie Mack Stadium, where the wretched Phillies butchered the sport in front of tiny, disinterested aggregations. You got to The House That Ruth Built. On Old Timers Day.

So, we boarded the train in Philadelphia (El Padre didn’t drive) and headed north on a sunny Saturday. After pulling into Penn Station, we cabbed it to the ticket agency to collect our box seats for the game. Two things here. First, El Padre never bought a ticket at the box office. In Philadelphia, he used Sherry’s Ticket Agency for everything, and that’s who no doubt helped him procure the ducats for this contest. Second, naïve waif that El Hombre was, he thought our “box” seats actually consigned us to cardboard enclosures. Nonetheless, our arrival in the Bronx was cause for celebration, and EH’s first glimpse of the Stadium’s emerald grass and chocolate infield engendered in him an awe he has rarely encountered since. Our seats were not in boxes, rather between home plate and first base, about 20 rows off the field. In other words, perfect.

The parade of Old Timers was a thrill. Even though El Hombre was a novice in terms of baseball knowledge, names like DiMaggio, Mantle and Musial resonated, thanks to El Padre’s lessons. For someone more seasoned, the roster of stars on hand was indeed impressive. In addition to the aforementioned trio, Whitey Ford, King Kong Keller, Lefty Gomez, Tony Kubek and Moose Skowron were there, wearing pinstripes, while Lou Boudreau, Bob Feller, Robin Roberts and Bobby “The Giants Win The Pennant!” Thomson comprised the heart of the opposition. To top it off, the widows of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig made appearances and received a thunderous ovation.

The two-inning game featured few highlights and ended in a 0-0 deadlock. The one enduring image was of DiMaggio’s gliding back in center to snare a line drive off the bat of Bobby Doerr. That was a great, one-handed, over-the-head catch, or at least it was until a few years later when El Padre explained that the Yankee Clipper had mistakenly broken in on the ball and had to adjust quickly to preserve his reputation. Still: DiMaggio. Yankee Stadium. Magic.

The Main Event turned out to be a taut one that featured complete games by New York’s Mel Stottlemyre and the A’s Chuck Dobson. The Yankees earned a 2-1 win behind a four-hitter by Stottlemyre, although we were gone by the time the home side pushed across the deciding run in the eighth. But the game’s outcome mattered less than the overall experience. The A’s looked great in their yellow sleeveless jerseys and pants, long-sleeved green undershirts, green stirrup socks and white shoes. The Yankees, of course, were sublime in the pinstripes. The big crowd of 50,945 – the third-largest that season – buzzed throughout the game and gave a young boy plenty to watch. It was a perfect afternoon, right down to the steak dinner in the train’s dining car on the way home. El Hombre has seen countless hundreds of games since then, but nothing compares. Not World Series games, NBA championship series contests, NFL playoff games, Stanley Cup playoff games. Not nothing.

The gold standard was established that Saturday nearly 41 years ago, and El Padre did it. It’s been 10 years since he died, and El Hombre wonders often whether he thanked him enough. For that game and everything else.

Thanks, Papa. Happy Father’s Day. You were the best.

* * *

EL HOMBRE SEZ: The refs jobbed the U.S. against Slovenia, but when you fall into a 2-0 hole, courtesy of typical first-half somnolence, you put yourself at the mercy of the arbiters. How about waking up early for next Wednesday’s game against Algeria? The future of soccer in the U.S. might just depend on the game’s outcome…News out of San Diego is that a 12-year old wants to set the record for fastest ascent up Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. Just kidding. Then again, when parents are letting 16-year olds try to sail around the world, why not let a pre-teen scale the world’s tallest peak? Idiots…The conference carousel stopped early, with only four teams’ changing addresses. But here’s a word of advice to the folks at Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, South Florida and other undesirable expansion targets: get a plan together now. More mayhem is on the way…The Yankees are the first Majoke League Baseball team to ban vuvuzelas from the ballpark. The things can be annoying, but they’re certainly no worse than a drunken fan from Staten Island shouting for Jee-tah to get a hit. Talk about a nerve ending.

* * *

AND ANOTHER THING: Be sure to check out El Hombre’s alter ego on Philadelphia Magazine’s “Philly Post” ( Monday for an in-depth look at the Sixers’ NBA Draft possibilities next Thursday. It will be interesting to see – and several league execs feel the same way – whether the Sixers draft Evan Turner at number two, and if they do whether the team will keep both him and Andre Iguodala. More than one NBA personnel boss thinks the two players have the same skill set and that Iguodala would be superfluous if Turner were around. Could the Sixers take Turner and dish Iguodala to the Clippers for the eighth pick and a future choice? That would provide tremendous salary cap relief for a team that has $63 million committed for next season. Or, do they keep Iguodala and draft Derrick Favors (El Hombre’s choice), making Thaddeus Young expendable? Thursday’s trade that sent Samuel Dalembert to Sacramento for Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni was just the beginning of what should be an interesting week for the Sixers.

* * *

AND ANOTHER THING: The Lakers’ win over Boston Thursday night brought the franchise’s 16th World Championship and the fifth of Kobe Bryant’s career. Some believe the triumph cements his status as the best player ever to wear the Forum Blue and Gold. It says here that is nonsense. While Bryant is a great player, it’s instructive to remember that his first three titles came as “Little Brother” to Shaquille O’Neal, who earned MVP honors in the Finals from 2000-02. It is also important to remember Bryant’s incredibly selfish play in the years after O’Neal’s departure from the team. It’s also worth noting that there is no way the Lakers blow a 24-point lead at home – as they did in 2008 against Boston – with Magic Johnson on the team or lose a deciding Game Six by a humiliating 39 points, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the floor. Bryant was lauded for “trusting his teammates” during this Finals series, but he didn’t look so confident in them during the first three quarters of Thursday’s game, when he shot a miserable 5-for-20 and tried to bowl through two and three defenders on his way to the hoop. Bryant’s legacy isn’t complete, but to put him ahead of Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar, two of the five best players ever, is absurd. Johnson was the consummate winner and leader who did everything necessary on the court, while Abdul-Jabbar is NBA’s all-time leading scorer and a six-time champ. It took 12 seasons for Bryant to focus on winning; let’s see how he closes out his career before pushing him ahead of Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar (and perhaps Jerry West) in the L.A. Valhalla.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Screw Nostalgia


“At the end of the day, we’re going to make the decision that best serves Nebraska.”
-- Chuck Hassebrook, Nebraska University Regent

Wednesday night, El Hombre happened upon a programming gem on the Big Ten Network, and it distracted his attention from the icy proceedings in Philadelphia and just about every other modern-day sporting pursuit. It was the 1952 football highlight reel, and it included footage of the conference’s nine teams – plus Michigan State, which would join up officially the following season. There, in beautiful black-and-white, with piped-in crowd effects and a classic ‘50s voiceover, were the gridiron exploits of Hopalong Cassady, Alan “The Horse” Ameche and Tom O’Connell. No matter how futile a team’s season was, the announcer assured fans that if the “injury bug” could be avoided, prosperity was nigh. Or that coach So-and-So’s “rebuilding project” was well under way.

It was great to see the offensive sets and the fakes executed by shifty backs. There was even an old-fashioned “Navy” kick that backfired and resulted in a long return. It was a wonderfully wistful half-hour capped by the following poetic sign-off:

“We close another season of great upsets and hard play that make football the favorite fall sport of America’s youth.”

It’s entirely possible that within the next five or 10 years, we may have the opportunity to look back at the 2009 college football season through the same misty eyes. The high-definition video may even seem wonderfully archaic, should the onslaught of 3-D television occur at a pace expected by many in the business. Names like Ingram, Tebow, Suh and Gerhart may be more easily recalled, but the spirit of the game and its essence will be changed.

The tectonic plates of college football – and college athletics on the whole – have already begun shifting. Nebraska will be a Big Ten member. Colorado has already defected to the Pac-10. Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and whatever other schools they deem worthy of inclusion in their big-money club could join the Buffaloes. Or, they may go to the SEC. Or to the English Premier League. The Big 12 is toast. The Big East could be blown to bits as well, replaced by an aggregation of Catholic basketball schools that might be required to begin each game with a “Hail Mary.”

The resulting structure will resemble less the quaint regional aggregations that were built on rivalries and tradition and more like the corporate models that dominate the business landscape. Historic relationships will be replaced by market share. Long-time partners will be torn apart, replaced by marriages of convenience that dilute the soul of the sport.

This is, of course, inevitable. Money is the engine that drives the big-time sporting train, and relationships that produce the most cash are the most valuable. Welcome to the 21st century, folks. Check your nostalgia at the door, and make sure to tune in for that “instant classic” between Texas Tech and Oregon State. In college football heaven, Grantland Rice is crying on Sleepy Jim Crowley’s shoulder.

This isn’t the first time we have had a cataclysm like this. One upheaval began in 1984, when Georgia and Oklahoma successfully sued for possession of the rights to televise their football games, and the College Football Association was born. The resulting loosening of the TV reins brought fans an expanded menu of action that continues to swell today. It was good news for fans who wanted more choices and more opportunities to watch the great sport play out every week. But it had an unintended consequence. No longer were towns like College Station, Ames and Starkville mysterious destinations, tinged with a sense of the romantic, despite their relatively backwater locations. Before ’84, we would receive occasional dispatch from those gridiron outposts but rare was the full glimpse. From that point on, we knew them all too well. That was good news for the denizens of those hamlets and the schools that inhabit them, but for the fans who idealized them, it was something of a disappointment. Illusions were shattered. You mean Iowa State games aren’t all played under gunmetal gray skies with tornado threats posted at halftime? That the cowbell chorus at Mississippi State ends after the game? And that members of Texas A&M’s silent drill team actually speak when they’re not performing?

Throughout the next 25 years, the conference landscape shifted, as schools grabbed for a bigger slice of that TV pie. The SEC stole Arkansas and killed the Southwest Conference, leading some Texans to liken the Razorbacks to Iranian terrorists. (Really.) The Big 12 formed from a marriage between the SWC’s remnants and the mighty Big Eight. The Big East started playing football. The ACC discovered the sport. And Penn State became a Midwestern school. You know the story.

And you knew it was inevitable that it wouldn’t stop there. The mega-conferences are coming, and those who resist change stubbornly as a nod to a rosy past will be left behind like schools in small-time TV markets. Progress continues, and you can either surrender to it or be overrun. When El Hombre was teaching his Young Geniuses this past term in “The Future of Sports Journalism,” he was sure to remind them every class that the business is moving forward, and those who still look at it in terms of an eight-column broadsheet are doomed. So, saddle up and get ready for the Pac-16, or whatever it will be called.

Just don’t expect it all to be as much fun. College football exists now for the money, from the players to the coaches, to the ADs to the hypocritical presidents who spew on about “student-athletes” and how to protect them best. You want to serve your students, Mr. President? Then don’t make your softball team travel from Stillwater to Pullman. For decades, college football was about the wonderful, unique rituals that surrounded the games. Ohio State fans have always thirsted to beat Michigan, but only after the band ran through the script Ohio. Pretty soon the final two words of “The Notre Dame Victory March” will be “registered trademark.”

One of the reasons why the Missouri-Kansas football rivalry was so great was that it was born out of a pre-Civil War dispute between the states over slavery. (Kansas was pro-slavery; Missouri wanted it abolished.) From the minute the schools started playing each other, in 1891, there was a contentious tone. In a few weeks, it’s possible that the game may never be played again. Or, if it is, it won’t come in late November. That’s a shame. And no matter how hard the new leagues and their TV partners try to sell the new matchup, an Oklahoma State-Arizona clash born out of greed won’t have the same impact as a game that emerged from seething border hostilities during one our country’s most dire periods.

College football is changing, and fans and media had better get on board. Just don’t expect things to be nearly as good or as much fun.

Meanwhile, keep an eye out for those old-fashioned TV programs. They help ease the pain.

* * *

EL HOMBRE SEZ: The good news for Nationals prodigy Stephen Strasburg is that he gets one more Class AAA start – Sunday against the Cleveland Indians – before he has to face big-league hitters…Pig Pen Roethlisberger wants fans to know that he apologizes to them for being “immature,” “young” and “dumb.” How about being a felon (allegedly), forcing himself on women (allegedly) and being a scumbag (definitely)? The Steelers’ QB apologized to the fans and his family, but not to either of the women (if there were only two) who accused him of forcing himself on them. Unfortunately, since Pig Pen is following the Mea Culpa Playbook to perfection, all will be forgiven soon. Of course his (alleged) victims will never forget…The LeBron James soap opera continues to spin wildly, even though no one is allowed to speak with the underachieving Cavaliers’ forward officially until July 1. Teams continue to jockey for position in the competition for his services, and the Cavs are trying to find a coach that will make him happy. What he really needs is someone who will help him grow up (that means no more pre-game skits and choreographed dance routines during timeouts) and force him to learn how to shoot a jump shot. That will be worth more to him than even the biggest contract…Let’s give it up for Pete Carroll, who was able to skip town before the NC2A gumshoes laid down the smack on his USC program for not preventing Reggie Bush from accepting cash and prizes from an agent. The Trojans will lose up to 30 scholarships, miss out on bowl games for two seasons and forfeit games from the ’04 and (probably) ’05 seasons. The only justice is that former Carroll lieutenant Lane Kiffin, who was present during the shenanigans, is forced to pick up the pieces. ‘SC cheated, because school officials knew what Bush was doing and will now pay a severe price. Good.

* * *

YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT? The best thing to come out of the Flyers’ thrilling Stanley Cup near-miss was the attitude of Philadelphia fans, who actually appreciated the team’s success, despite the disappointing outcome. For once, the zero-sum game that has been sold to the area’s denizens was abandoned in favor of the joy of rooting for a team and not focusing merely on the outcome. Yes, the run to the final round was not expected, and that made fans less prone to demanding a championship or else. The resulting good feelings and desire to celebrate the Flyers’ accomplishments was truly refreshing. Unfortunately, the happy mood won’t last. The Phillies and Eagles are different than their underdog counterparts and won’t receive free passes. They shouldn’t. Unlike the Flyers, whose post-season run came out of nowhere, the Phils and Eagles have sold us championship dreams and must therefore be judged their relative success. As for the Sixers, a three-game winning streak would almost warrant a parade.

* * *

AND ANOTHER THING: It has almost become a cliché for Americans to regard soccer as a 90-minute sleep aid. Anybody who favors the sport is weak, bland and – worse – French. But the World Cup is different. You may not have an interest in an MLS matchup between FC Topeka and Real Bayonne (although the Philadelphia Union is worth checking out), but a slugfest between a pair of historical rivals is a different story. When Croatia beat Germany, 3-0, in the ’98 World Cup, it wasn’t just an athletic triumph, it was also an historic verdict for a country that had spent time under Nazi oppression and destruction during WWII. Every victory doesn’t have the same significance, but the combination of the sport’s best players and a heavy dose of nationalism makes the World Cup compelling theater, even if the game ends 1-0. Enjoy the artistry. Experience the passion. And don’t worry; we won’t tell the NFL you were watching. As for the tournament itself, figure the final four to be Brazil, England, Argentina and Spain, with the Samba stars facing off against the Spaniards for all the marbles. Advantage: Brazil. Looking for a dark horse? Try the Italians (14:1), who always do better when less is expected of them.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Grow a Spine, Bud


Back in 1948, when the world was a simpler place – unless you were a Soviet citizen under the iron rule of Joe Stalin – the patron saint of columnists, bloggers and Tweeters, Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith, wrote a piece that remains one of the finest examples of the craft. Smith, who at one point wrote seven columns a week so that he had the immediate opportunity to overcome a lousy effort, was in London for the Summer Olympics. During that fortnight, some controversy emerged in the 400-meter relay, which resulted in considerable upheaval and ire from the American side.

It seems the U.S. quartet had been disqualified after winning by about seven yards because of an allegedly illicit baton pass. Or, as Smith so eloquently dubbed it, Barney Ewell had “bootlegged the baton to [Lorenzo] Wright in a sinister black-market deal consummated outside the legal zone.” The officials, or in Smith’s parlance, the “vigilante committee of judges,” had DQed the Americans and awarded the gold medal to homestanding England, which had finished second. The decision, according to Smith, meant that “the Union Jack flapped from the victor’s flagpole; the British Lion looked up from his lunch of cold mutton and cheese and roared his triumph to the skies.”

Ah, they don’t write ‘em like that anymore.

Anyway, the next day, the International Jury of Appeal looked at photographs from something called a “stereopticon machine” and decided “the baton-snatch had been engineered in strict obedience to the laws of God and man.” So, the Americans were re-awarded the gold medal, and all was right in the sprinting world. That led Smith to write one of the best lead paragraphs in history:

“And now, the Royal Air Force band must return to the desolate, forsaken field of Wembley Stadium and unplay “God Save the King.” Blighty’s only track victory in the Olympics, which was presented to Britain last Saturday under the Marshall Plan, fell under the terms of reverse lend-lease today and was restored to the United States, the original copyright holders. It was the most sensational reversal since Serutan.”

That early use of “instant” replay helped right a wrong that would have cost four champion sprinters a gold medal in the most important race of their lives. Thanks to the stereopticon machine, Ewell, Wright, Harrison Dillard and Mel Patton had their prize and their immortality. And Smith had one helluva column.

Wednesday in Detroit, Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was denied a perfect game by Jim Joyce, a one-man “vigilante committee,” who spectacularly botched a relatively routine call at first base with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of Galarraga’s masterpiece. It was the baseball equivalent of flying to Paris, heading over to the Louvre and adding a tramp stamp to the Venus de Milo. Galarraga had been flawless, and Joyce’s call had robbed him of immortality. He will join baseball’s long list of almosts and will be enshrined in future “Strange But True” tomes for decades, next to Eddie Gaedel and Cleon Jones’ well-shined shoes.

This tragic turn of events most certainly could have been avoided, had Majoke League Baseball commissioner Bud Sellout shown some leadership a few years ago and instituted an instant-replay program that was committed to getting it right. That’s the goal here, not to show up umpires or add minutes to the game. It’s to get the call right.

In football, basketball and hockey, replay exists to make sure the game’s outcome is as legitimate and correct as possible.
If an NFL receiver catches the ball with one foot in bounds, and it is clear to anybody watching on TV, chances are a protest flag will be thrown, and the replay official will be sure to ascertain whether the catch was legitimate. If a goal/no goal call looks shaky in the NHL – as it did twice in Wednesday’s Stanley Cup game, the replays are examined, and the right call is made. Fans and players rarely complain about the replays’ outcomes, because their goal is to have justice served. Having that safety net allows for greater peace of mind, since everybody in the stadium and watching at home understands that the right call is the goal – and usually the outcome.

Now, it’s up to Sellout to do the right thing. Had he been courageous enough a few years ago to understand that the game’s credibility is at stake when umpires blow easy calls and there is no mechanism in place to reverse that, he might have acted. The Galarraga debacle brings the entire situation to a nasty, pus-filled head, and it’s up to Sellout to make sure it doesn’t pop all over the game’s good name – or what’s left of it. So, Buddy Boy, here’s what you do:

1. Replay for all close plays at bases and the plate. A quick replay review confirms or reverses the call.

2. Replay for foul-fair calls down the lines.

3. Leave balls and strikes alone. That would get ridiculous.

4. NO reversal of Joyce’s botched call. Sellout actually got this one right. Changing the decision, no matter how crushing and embarrassing it was, would open the door to a whole slew of future appeals.

Sellout must show some grit and push this through now. Otherwise, more debacles will occur, and baseball will continue to look silly and helmless in comparison to its sporting brethren.

And with no Red Smith around to clarify things, the mess will only get worse.

“Dog evas eht gnik…?”

* * *

EL HOMBRE SEZ: It’s too early to give the Lakers the NBA title, but if Pau Gasoft and Andrew Crynum are going to play like they did in game one, the Celtics don’t have much of a chance. Boston’s edge in ’08 was toughness, and it looks like L.A. has decided to match the Celtics’ bravado this time. Imagine that. If the brass knuckles stay out Sunday night, this baby’s over…The International Ski Federation has fined Russia and warned the country that further doping activity could result in Russian skiers’’ being banned from the ’14 Olympics in Sochi. The Russians countered that the allegations are false and offered the country’s putrid performance during last February’s Vancouver Games as evidence of their innocence. It’s a pretty strong argument…Ice Box checks in as the early favorite in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes at 3:1, followed by Fly Down, at 9:2. Among the long shots are Glue Factory (75:1) and Dog Food (100:1). Remember to bet with your head, not over it…Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger spoke to the media after a practice Thursday and pledged to improve his behavior. He said he would change the way he regarded women, so when carrying a tray full of liquor, he will now say, “All you fine, upstanding ladies, take my shots.” He will also allow other patrons to use the ladies room while he is mauling a Young Lovely, rather than blocking their entry with an off-duty policeman. And when he is being questioned by a police officer after a night of carousing, he will no longer pose for pictures. Sounds great, Ben. You keep up the soul-searching.

* * *

YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT? Let’s be very clear about one thing: The Phillies’ ridiculously inept play of late (save Roy Halladay’s historic gem) is the fault of many people, from the top down. Start with the owners, whose insistence on a self-imposed salary cap resulted in a lame, cut-rate bench. Move on to GM Ruben Amaro, who assembled said bench and was the bagman in the Cliff Lee trade that weakened the pitching staff. Don’t forget manager Charlie Manuel, whose laissez-faire approach to managing has helped foster the complacency that has overcome the team. And, finally, blame the players themselves, especially the veterans, who have provided zero leadership during the crisis. No one has called a players-only meeting. No one criticized pitcher Cole Hamels for laughing it up at the Flyers game Wednesday night, just one day after he lasted a whopping two-thirds of an inning against the Braves and was clearly unprepared to pitch following a rain delay. This team felt the NL crown was its birthright before the season and has played like it with few exceptions. The good news is that this is a long season, and there is plenty of time for a turnaround. But it’s imperative the organization develops a sense of urgency and starts to hold people accountable while realizing that it may be necessary to shake things up with a trade or two.

* * *

AND ANOTHER THING: The onus during the aftermath of the Galarraga/Joyce debacle falls on Sellout, but the behavior by the two main protagonists during the incident should live on even longer than any action by the spineless MLB commissioner. Both pitcher and umpire displayed the kind of class, grace, sportsmanship and character that is often missing from professional athletics. Galarraga’s willingness to forgive, despite being deprived of a spot in baseball history, was exemplary and gave parents, teachers and coaches an opportunity to show children how to do things the right way. Joyce’s immediate contrition, apology and acceptance of blame – without condition or excuse – is another teaching point. Both men showed tremendous respect for the sport, fans and themselves with their actions, and they are to be applauded. It would be a sin if this incident did not lead to true reform, especially since Galarraga and Joyce acquitted themselves so admirably during a time of great stress.

* * *

ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD: Last year on June 6, El Hombre made it a point to call his father-in-law, the late, great Bill Grant, to thank him for being part of the Allied forces who landed at Normandy on D-Day. Bill’s courage and that of tens of thousands like him helped free countless millions from Nazi oppression and served as a shining moment for The Greatest Generation. This Sunday, be sure to think of Bill and the rest of the D-Day crew, and if you know someone who participated in the landing or even World War II, be sure to offer thanks. We owe them a lot.