Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December 29 Great Memories

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

As I celebrate my 47 birthday, what makes December 29 so unique?

I've never failed a test or exam in any school because there were no classes to attend.

It's the last of 107 or 108 days in the 20's of every month depending on if it's a leap year.

There are 72 hours left in the year and there were 8,688 hours that have past to get to this date. In a leap year that number would increase to 8,712 hours.

As the temperature this year in Deerfield Beach, FL., hit 66 degrees and my Aunt Judy Strohl told me today that I was missing snow and 22 degree weather back in Michigan, I'll never forget my 16 birthday when I had to take a drivers test during a blizzard in 1978. Thanks to an assist from my late Grandmother Sophie Morganroth Jacobs, who drove my father's old Yellow Cadillac, I managed to pass the drivers test by using her vehicle despite the bad weather as I had an understanding nice looking dark blonde woman instructor who was very patient despite the slippery roads.

To date, I've driven 2.75 million miles in 31 years and taken several cross country trips despite the fact that I've never been a paid truck driver. There are too many restrictions in flying and I could make my own schedule and see more places.

What I've always enjoyed about this birthday is I haven't worked on it in 47 years and the streak remains intact. I have found that employers are just as relieved that the year is over and they seem to be enjoying the holiday season. The only way that I would put an end to this 47-year streak is if I became a Professional Public Speaker or had a Broadcasting/ Full Time Newspaper career. I have no problem going to work when it doesn't feel like I'm working but I'm having a lot fun writing my two Blogs today. The first was my Tribute to Ernie Harwell earlier this morning.

In this Blog, I'm going to list the top 10 Moments of "December 29" over the years.

1. While taking a 10,000 mile plus trip that lasted 35 days in a rental car across country, I stopped in Salt Lake City, Utah and not only did I have a chance to understand the Mormon Culture, visited Temple Square, and covered a couple Utah Jazz NBA Basketball Games, one of the local radio stations invited me to come back and left a ticket at will call at the Salt Palace to watch a minor league hockey game the day of my birthday to have me on as a guest during periods. They wanted me to talk about the route of my trip, how many games I was going to see in the different sports plus other tourist attractions, in how many days and how many states I was going to be in. Ironically, that hockey team would be sold to late Detroit Pistons Owner William Davidson which played at the Palace of Auburn Hills and became the Detroit Vipers.
2. On another Western Trip, I had a grilled cheese sandwich and hash browns with a trucker whose CB handle was "The Sting" at 4 am at a truck stop in New Mexico. We were talking for hours about the icy roads, where the cops were hanging out to give tickets, etc. Sand was the only way the tires on my Burgundy Buick Regal could grip the roads so I would have traction to avoid an accident. I relied heavily on my CB to communicate with truckers and my handle was "Scoop." But "The Sting" and I hung out for a couple hours to talk and as I grabbed his bill, he insisted on paying our checks insisting that it was my birthday present and thanked me for having a nice experience. I never had a cell phone on that trip, just a pre-paid phone card to use in pay phones & hotels to stay in order to stay in contact with family members and friends.

3. I had a chance to watch a Harlem Globetrotters Game at the Old Olympia Stadium in Detroit with my family featuring Meadowlark Lemon and Curley Neal.

4. I had lunch with one of my best friends Chip Namais when he worked with the Tampa Bay Bucs. I've known Chip since 1982 when he was the Director of Public Relations for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the defunct North American Soccer League. That night, another close friend Gus Pantelides, whom I've known for 31 years took me out for ribs at a restaurant at New York Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner's Hotel the Bay Harbor Inn in Tampa and bought me a Tampa Bay Lightning hooded sweat shirt.

5. When I was in Cancun, Mexico one year, I attended the bull fights during the day then I went to Pat O' Brien's at night where the manager bought me two of his famous Hurricane Drinks after I showed him the proper identification. I was real relaxed and enjoyed socializing with the crowd.

6. On my 30 birthday in 1992, I took the most beautiful drive of my life on California's Pacific Coast Highway 1 after watching the Detroit Lions lose to the San Francisco 49'ers the night before at Candlestick Park. I remember talking with former Lions QB Andre Ware on December 28, and not only did we have a good football discussion but I did mention the drive I was about to take for my birthday. He smiled, gave me birthday greetings and gave me a big hug and told me to be careful. The 16 hour drive from San Francisco to San Diego with all the mountains and water plus listening to great music was awesome. I can just imagine how much better the music would be today with satellite radio.

7. Birthday No. 40 saw me watch the Lions lose to the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field and after the game, I drove out to Eastern Tennessee., where I would hang out with a friend and we took six laps around the famed High Banked Bristol Motor Speedway. The $10 I spent for those laps was cheap and went to charity plus I had a huge adrenaline rush afterwards.

8. My ex wife Susan and I spent a great non sports day visiting the famous Casa Grande Ruins in Arizona in 2000.

9. While I can't count how many birthdays that I actually spent with my Grandmother Sophie, she was alive for 37 of them. To this day, she remains the most important person that has ever been in my life and will always be No.1. She is pictured with me at www.scottsports33.com.

10. Last but not least, No. 46 was spent with my best friend George Eichorn & Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame Broadcaster Ernie Harwell on Decemeber 29, 2008 at Ernie's residence in Novi, MI. We spent a couple hours together and it was truly special. Now that time becomes more magnified because Harwell was diagnosed with incurable Cancer of the Bile Duct. I also had the opportunity to visit many close friends in Detroit, received an abundance of phone calls and text messages. To cap things off, I enjoyed dinner at Apple Bees with My Aunt Judy Strohl and Uncle Bob Strohl.

The only thing I can say about this birthday is I'm glad that I made it to No. 47 since this was a brutal year which started out on a positive note as the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-23 in Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa. This was one of the greatest Super Bowls ever.

But major back surgery with a grueling recovery process in a tough economy made me feel like I was glad to make it to the finish line of a major marathon.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com

Ernie Harwell Tribute

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

A year ago today, I experienced the Greatest Birthday of My Lifetime!

My cell phone was ringing constantly as I received greetings from family and friends. I also received quite a few text messages.

The days leading up to No. 46 included watching the FAU Owls win their second consecutive bowl game with a 24-21 triumph over Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl on Friday December 26. This would turn out to be the last Motor City Bowl as the name would be changed to the Little Caesars Bowl in 2009.

Hours later, the morning of Dec 27, I had to deal with extremely intense fog but managed to make the nine hour drive down I-75 South in plenty of time to see the Owls basketball team lose a hard fought battle to the Kentucky Wildcats 76-69 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY. If you're a sports fan then watching a basketball game in basketball country is a must see experience.

After using Sunday Dec 28 to relax, the fun would start with a "Lunch of a Lifetime."

My best friend & adopted older brother George Eichorn and I were going to Novi to visit with our colleague and dear friend Ernie Harwell. We spent a couple of hours together talking about life, baseball and anything else that came to mind. At the end, George, Ernie & myself took this photo on www.scottsports33.com.

By now, it's no secret that Ernie Harwell has Cancer. He'll turn 92 years old on Jan 25, 2010. I spoke with Ernie in September and a few times before that to offer my support. I do e-mail him periodically.

Nowadays, Ernie has disconnected his phone number and I'm sure that it's impossible for him to respond to all of his e-mails.

But I'm very grateful that I've known him since Spring Training of 1982 when we met in Clearwater, Florida (Philadelphia Phillies) and then I saw a second game in Dunedin (Toronto Blue Jays), where he had a second residence in Pinellas County.

We've shared so many great times at DSBA Meetings as well as regular season games, spring training, etc.

I wouldn't have enough space to list all the great times we've spent together!

But some that do standout have occurred in stadiums on the road.

I'll never forget in 1986 when the Tigers played the Cincinnati Reds at Tampa's Al Lopez Field during Spring Training. I did an inning of play-by-play on tape with Ernie. Tony Perez, Pete Rose and Dave Concepcion, Dave Parker, Nick Esasky, and Bo Diaz were just a few of the players on the roster.

During that inning, there was a Cincinnati player that had no number on the back of his jersey so I had to think of a name very quickly. That fictitious name was Wayne Jones and Ernie mentioned that in spring training there are extra players used that are not identifiable. We had a blast with this situation.

The entire experience of doing play-by-play was great since it was a lifelong dream of mine and even though I never had a chance to do it for a living, just having the privilege of sitting alongside of a Ford C. Frick Award Winner in the Baseball Hall of Fame, was extremely special.

When Harwell was fired by the Detroit Tigers after the 1991 season, our paths crossed again in Atlanta as we spent time together during Labor Day Weekend of 1992 while he was broadcasting a game for CBS Radio from Fulton County Stadium. Atlanta was a special place for Harwell as he began his broadcasting career as a member of the minor league Atlanta Crackers.

On the road, I'd take Harwell back to his hotel and we'd talk about everything. We had drives like this in Atlanta, Arizona and South Florida.

In 2001, the Tigers played the Arizona Diamondbacks at Bank One Ballpark during a June Fathers Day Weekend and we always ate lunch together before the game. Eating lunch with him on Fathers Day was awesome!

I'll never forget the time on this Fathers Day when Ernie gave me a "brown bag of chips" but I
declined to accept the gift. I told him they had no value to me. I told Ernie the only way I'd accept the chips is if he signed the bag. Ernie found a sharpie, signed them and the bag remains in my "Sports Showcase" at home.

What a weekend!

On September 11, 2001, the tragic events of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center dramatically changed the world we live in & the sports world.

At the time, I was a co-host of an Auto Racing Show called Weekly Wheels. My colleagues were Mark Allen, Gary Miller and Mary Beth. They counted on me to utilize my 22 years of experience at the time in Sports/Media to come up with timely material for our show since the Motor Sports Events of that weekend were cancelled.

I contacted Ernie a couple of days prior to tell him I was in a tough situation and needed advice on what to do. He told me that if there was any way he could help, he'd gladly do so. I asked him if he minded coming on the show as a guest to do a couple of segments and he quickly said he'd be happy to do so.

That Saturday Night, Allen, Miller and Mary Beth were in awe of Ernie. I surprised them by talking to Ernie and telling him to describe his greatest baseball play-by-play moment. Miller, who was was from New York, didn't know that Ernie called Bobby Thomson's "shot heard 'round the world" in the 1951 National League pennant playoff game on NBC Television in the New York Giants 3-1 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers. Thomson's winning homer came off Ralph Branca.

During the Weekly Wheels Broadcast, considering the tragic historical events of the week, Harwell enlightened us on how important it was to move forward. He mentioned examples of sports working its way though World War II, the Korean War as well as Vietnam. He understood the grieving period for us as a nation but also mentioned that during these conflicts that sports gave us all an escape from the conflicts we were experiencing as a nation.

The look on Allen's, Miller's and Mary Beth's faces were a pleasure to see as they experienced an opportunity of a lifetime to be on the air with My Hall of Fame Friend. For the fans of Arizona, it was their opportunity to enjoy this legend on their airwaves.

They didn't know that Harwell was the only announcer in baseball history to be traded for a player when the Brooklyn Dodgers' General Manager Branch Rickey, traded catcher Cliff Dapper to the Atlanta Crackers in exchange for breaking Harwell's broadcasting contract in 1948. Harwell would later substitute for Dodgers legendary Announcer Red Barber.

Out of respect, I'd always ask Harwell if he ever minded if I could call him "Uncle Ernie." He smiled and said that's fine. He seemed very happy to be a part of my extended family.

As much as I enjoyed our play-by-play experience together, having Ernie on that radio show during this crisis was the highlight of my radio career.

The next road trip for Ernie and I occurred in 2002 when the Tigers visited Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami to face the Florida Marlins. Approximately 30,000 fans showed up for the entire weekend series. As we went back to the car, there were Tigers transplanted fans who got Ernie's autograph and talked a little baseball.

The highlights of this weekend were taking Ernie back to the hotel every night plus having our pre-game meals where we would talk. I do admit that I was always nervous deep down inside taking this legend back to his hotel because I feared that I'd be responsible if he was seriously or fatally injured. My blood pressure was higher in South Florida because these drivers are horrible. But I kept quiet and composed and Ernie never knew it because I kept things buried inside.

But the thing that stands out about that weekend of 2002 was when I told Ernie that I wanted to write a story about his stormy departure from the Tigers in 1991. I told him that I would ask him some tough questions and asked him to kindly speak his mind. Throughout our friendship, when the Tigers terminated Harwell, I made a personal decision to never write or attend another game unless the team rectified this public relations fiasco so he had the opportunity to leave on his own terms.

He thanked me for my loyalty towards him. I said that he was welcome but some things in life are a no brainer and this was one of those situations.

Thankfully, Tigers Owner Mike Illitch squared up that mess in 1993. Harwell would work with the Tigers on television and radio until he officially retired in 2002.

But Ernie was totally cooperative and told me that the reason he opened up to me was that I had never done anything to betray his trust. That's the way a special relationship of any kind should be.

As I remember December 29, 2008, it now looks like that will be the last time that I'll ever have seen "This Tremendous Human Being." He's an icon to those who do and don't know him.

I hope the man upstairs gives Ernie the strength to live as long as he can. We know that he'll eventually pass away due to his incurable Cancer of the Bile Duct. But I can only hope and pray that he's enjoying all the precious moments he has with his family.

As I mentioned before, he'll always be a member of my extended part of my family and I'm very grateful that I've had the opportunity to tell him that in the past. But I've also told Ernie in the past that while I'm grateful of the interviews we've done on tape, the stories I've written on him and the photos & books along with the letter of recommendations he's signed, I'm glad that I've been able to tell him on occasion that "I Love Him."

It will be a sad day in the world when he does pass away. I can only imagine how much worse it will be in Detroit when that day does arrive. This event will be worse than some of the bad weather the area gets.

As I looked at the deaths of some of the notable broadcasters that were lost in 2009 such as Walter Cronkite (CBS News), Harry Kalas (Philadelphia Phillies), Paul Harvey (Syndicated Radio), Irving R. Levine (NBC News), Dave Diles (WXYZ Channel 7) and former Tigers legendary broadcaster and Hall of Fame player George Kell, it will be hard to potentially look at Ernie's name on a future list.

If there was ever a person that I thought would live to be 100, it was Ernie Harwell.

But to be with Uncle Ernie Harwell on December, 29, 2008, George Eichorn, and conclude the evening with my Uncle Bob Strohl & Aunt Judy made this a day worth sharing to all!

I know one day I'll be reunited with Ernie and we'll joke around about Wayne Jones. But there are not enough words in the dictionary to tell you what he's meant to me! Perhaps by now after reading this Blog, you probably figured it out.

But all I can say in closing is if Ernie sees this Blog, I just want to Thank-You for everything and being a BIG part of my life! If I'm unable to talk to you again, I hope you read this Tribute and realize that once again "I LOVE YOU UNCLE ERNIE" & God Bless & Peace to you Forever!

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Best Kept Secret

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

There is only one thing wrong with the Bank Atlantic Center (BAC) in Sunrise, Florida.

It's major tenants are in the Wrong League. I've been to many stadiums around the country and this is one of the nicest venues I've ever seen!

If the Florida Panthers played in the NBA a lot more people would see this arena on ABC, ESPN, ESPN 2 and TNT. But the Panthers play in the NHL where they rarely get televised on Versus which doesn't have much of an audience anyways. If the Panthers were a consistent playoff team perhaps they'd get more coverage on Versus and NBC.

But the NHL knew how beautiful this centrally located facility was, which is outside of Fort Lauderdale, when it held it's 53rd NHL All-Star Game on Feb 2, 2003. I've worked in places like the Palace of Auburn Hills, MI, Staples Center in Los Angeles, Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio and America West Arena in Phoenix, and the BAC ranks up there with these buildings. The out of town media gave the BAC rave reviews because of the spacious press facilities and state of the art locker rooms.

I've seen the Detroit Red Wings play a few games here and I was amazed at how many Detroit fans were in attendance. These transplants sold out the building much to the pleasure of the Panthers ownership. I'm sure the Panthers wish the Red Wings were frequent visitors here if Detroit played in the Eastern Conference where it belongs.

I've also seen the Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers perform here and there were good crowds. There is a good transplant base of French Canadians who live in nearby Hollywood, Florida. With South Florida being considered New York South, the Rangers, Islanders and New Jersey Devils draw well while the Boston Bruins pack the building.

Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland has told me in the past that he'd like to see a new stadium duplicate the Panthers press facilities.

During the NHL All-Star Weekend, this was a game filled with many ironies. The East Coach Jacques Martin of Ottawa would eventually become the Panthers boss. Former Colorado Avalanche Coach Marc Crawford was in charge of the Vancouver Canucks, now the team of former Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo, who is the best goaltender nobody knows about. His assistant for the All-Star Game was Dave Lewis of the Detroit Red Wings. Yes, the Avalanche and Red Wings can co-exist.

Current Detroit Red Wing Todd Bertuzzi represented the Vancouver Canucks. He eventually played for the Panthers then was dealt in his first tenure to Detroit in a late season stretch run pick-up for the Red Wings.

Crawford's former Avalanche Goaltender Patrick Roy was teammates for this weekend with Red Wings representatives Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Federov. Roy is now in the Hockey Hall of Fame and he'll be joined there in the future by New Jersey Devils Goaltender Martin Brodeur, who once defeated the Red Wings in the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals.

I wrote a story on Jarome Iginla, who talked about minority participation in hockey and the MVP of this 6-5 West victory was little known Dany Heatley of the Atlanta Thrashers.

On Saturday, December 19, I saw the BAC from a different vantage point.

The ice was covered with a strong cardboard surface and the Metro PCS Orange Bowl Basketball Classic enabled me to sit on the floor.

This year's classic featured three Florida teams.

The Miami Hurricanes defeated the FAU Owls 87-69. FAU was making its first appearance in the classic and judging by the Owls performance it could be a while before they are invited back. The Owls looked like they were in awe of their Atlantic Coast Conference in state rival and their play made it look like they didn't belong on the same floor.

In the second game of the doubleheader, the Richmond Spiders defeated the heavily favored No. 13 Florida Gators 56-53 and sent the Gators fans out of the building stunned. The Spiders have been known in the past for their first and second round NCAA Tournament upsets. On this night, the Gators fell to 8-2 thanks to Kevin Anderson's four clutch free throws down the stretch for Richmond.

On paper, the Richmond VS Florida match up was a blowout waiting to happen. Richmond has an enrollment of 2,950 compared to Florida's 52,112 but you couldn't tell that on the floor because the Spiders played hard the entire game and unlike the Owls, weren't in awe of their opponent. Furthermore, while you'd never see this match up on the football field, in basketball all you need is 15 players compared to 50 plus.

As I looked at the crowd, it was clearly dominated by Gators and Hurricanes colors. It appeared that 90% were from these two schools with Owls and Spiders fans scattered throughout the BAC.

Now that I've seen basketball and hockey at the BAC, I can only imagine how awesome this place would be during a concert. The Miami Heat should play a couple games here to attract fans from Broward County like the Boston Celtics did years ago when they'd play a pair of games in Hartford, Conn to expand their New England fan base at the Civic Center which is an arena located in downtown Hartford inside of a shopping mall.

Even though the Florida Marlins are now moving to the old Orange Bowl site, they did make a mistake by not building a new stadium near the BAC so they could be centrally located to Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

But watching the ultimate upset with Richmond defeating Florida, this was just the latest fantastic memory in a building which is the "Best Kept Secret" in the country.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog is at www.scottsports33.com.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Thirty Years Ago

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

As we approach 2010, it will be the first time that we enter a new decade with a vacant lot with plenty of questions but no answers, as to what the future holds where Tiger Stadium was a landmark at the Corner of Michigan & Trumbull.
But another anniversary passed that most baby boomers don't know about and many of us old school traditionalists find hard to believe that time does indeed fly.
On December 15, 1979, the Detroit Red Wings played their final game at Olympia Stadium.
It's been 30-years since legendary Red Wings Play-By-Play Announcer Bruce Martyn called this venue his home while his voice could be heard on radios in Southeastern Michigan.
The "Old Red Barn" which was located at 5920 Grand River Avenue, Detroit, MI, 48208, and is now the home of the Michigan National Guard Armory. The photo is on www.scottsports33.com.
Martyn was the voice behind the Red Wings 4-4 tie to the Quebec Nordiques on December 15, 1979 as a crowd of 15,609 watched for the last time.
I'd be curious to find out how many baby boomers actually know much about Martyn. I do know that the baby boomers are spoiled by the success that the modern Red Wings have had winning four Stanley Cups in the past 15 years.
But unless these kids study Red Wings history and look up at the rafters to see the numbers retired, then they should run a Google search so they'll be able to appreciate the building that "Mr Hockey" Gordie Howe made famous.
The link to Olympia Stadium to Joe Louis Arena does have an interesting historical significance. As I just mentioned, they closed the building playing Quebec which is the same franchise that relocated to Denver, Colorado and became the Avalanche.
The greatest goaltender in Red Wings history is a player who wore No.1 very proudly and had his number retired. In fantasy land, it would have been great to see Terry Sawchuk face the Avalanche's greatest goaltender No.33 Patrick Roy. Both are in the Hall of Fame.
Have to wonder if Sawchuk and Roy would have exchanged punches at center ice as the Wings tandem of Mike Vernon and Chris Osgood did when the Wings and Avalanche rivalry was at its peak.
The only thing that Red Wings Hall of Famer, "The Captain" Steve Yzerman didn't accomplish in his storied NHL career was wear his No.19 jersey in a regular season game at Olympia.
But when I think of Olympia Stadium 30 years later, it's hard to believe that using an old Ernie Harwell phrase, the building is "Long Gone."
Yet, the 15,000 seat building was the home to Stanley Cup Championships, NHL All-Star Games along with many other events.
During the lean years of the 1970's, the Red Wings were known as the "Dead Wings." All Detroit fans had to cheer about was when Bryan "Bugsy" Watson and Dennis Polonich would antagonize opponents.
The playoffs were a rarity. How many youngsters remember when the Detroit Red Wings swept the Atlanta Flames 2-0 in the 1978 playoffs and Bill Lochead was the star of that series?
I'll never forget when former Red Wings Center Marcel Dionne left an Original Six team to play in the sunshine for the Los Angeles Kings. When Dionne returned to the Olympia, a protected cover was created to protect him as well as the opponents.
But indeed the ironies in sports. The Nordiques/Avalanche were the ones that officially closed down Olympia and became their most hated rival in the Red Wings road to the recent championships in the modern NHL. I find that to be truly unbelievable to this day.
So the next time you watch the NHL on NBC, Versus, ESPN, etc. and they feature the Red Wings & Colorado Avalanche, it's amazing that the history of these franchises are connected by two stadiums with a championship connection.
The Red Wings won championships in the "Old Red Barn" & Joe Louis Arena. Louis was a proud heavyweight champion and this champion (Louis) has an arena named after him.
And it all ended in one venue 30 years ago and began in a new one on Dec 27, 1979, the same birthday as the first 50-goal scorer in Red Wings history & current broadcaster Mickey Redmond.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and my full blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Super Neutral Sites

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When I moved to Florida to attend school at Broward Community College (BCC), was Sports Editor of that paper called The New Horizons, and also worked at the Hallandale Digest, I found Pizza Hut in Hallandale to be my home away from home. The environment was so relaxing that I'd do my homework and work on sports stories.

In 1981, I'd eat my personal pan pizza, salad bar and best of all there were refills on ice tea. At that time, I was a transplant from Detroit and I did so much sweating that I needed to get fluids back into my system.

I enjoyed Pizza Hut so much that I took my close friend Mark Paterson, whom I attended the 1982 NCAA Final 4 in New Orleans there, and we'd hang out to talk about sports, school, women, etc. We were both so competitive that we had our own Ice Tea Drinking Contest. My favorite waitress Lisa watched in amazement as we both consumed 2.5 pitchers a piece. The challenge ended in a tie but both of our kidneys paid the price the rest of the night as we had fun with our friendly competition.

Patterson is pictured outside of a store in Hollywood, Florida on www.scottsports33.com. We went to our respective homes and just called each other on the phone for hours to joke around how much fun that was. Back then, I weighed a mere 105 pounds. I wish I could say that today.

When I moved to North Carolina in 1987, the Pizza Hut in Kings Mountain was my hangout.

Being a Yankee/outsider, these people in small mom and pop small town restaurants frowned upon Yankees taking too much time and generally wanted me out in 45-60 minutes. Being accepted was difficult in this environment.

But at this Pizza Hut, a young waitress named Ann Baucum always treated me great and her hospitality was truly appreciated. She had many great qualities. She was a pretty dark blonde haired young lady, attractive on the outside but most of all had a tremendous heart. She had so many great qualities that I wanted to date her because of her sweet personality. There was one problem. She was engaged to be married.

As a consolation prize, I was invited to her wedding but couldn't attend due to my heavy work schedule with the Gastonia (Texas) Rangers. Perhaps the biggest regret was I should have tried to rearrange my schedule and then she could have introduced me to another kind southern lady.

Nevertheless, she kept serving me endless amounts of Sweet Tea and if you haven't had Sweet Tea in the South, this stuff is so potent that it would send a Diabetic into Cardiac Arrest! But did I ever get charged up when I loaded up on it and yes, I managed to get a lot of work done.

When I returned to South Florida in 2002, my primary hangout used to be Gatsby's in Boca Raton. This place was filled with televisions, wonderful waitresses, managers, valet attendants, and big booths to write my stories.

But as my work schedule changed and with Gatsby's opening time of 4 PM no longer sufficient, I needed a place to go during the daytime and write my stories for the Detroit Monitor and Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

In honor of legendary game show host Bob Barker, since I knew I'd be a regular customer, "The Price Is Right" led me to hangout at CiCi's in Deerfield Beach. For under $7, no tip necessary, there is a nice pizza, salad and dessert buffet, plus all the Diet Coke I needed to keep my Wheels Turning enabling me to write my stories and do my studying.

There were times when there were no kids therefore, ESPN programming was on, which gave me more ideas to write about enabling me to keep "My Wheels Turning." The more caffeine I consumed, the more creative I came on and off paper.

Having my best friend Dennis Roetzel to talk to and hang out with made the experience that much more worthwhile. We've had great time and should the day I come where I leave South Florida, I can only hope there are more people like Dennis in other areas. What a truly one of a kind person!

While I appreciate the new computer my parents bought me when my other desktop crashed, and this new one is the brains behind My Blog, what you see here is a result of what I've done on many occasions at my many "Super Neutral Sites" therefore these places enhance my concentration and helps keep me away from the distractions at home.

Even though Libraries are great, I enjoy certain types of restaurants with quiet areas, good food, drinks and great people to associate with. I have to admit that when I do go into a restaurant, I am territorial and stake out my favorite spots. There are times that I'll wait a period of time to get that booth or table, take a interim spot and when the people leave, motor over to my "Office Away From Home."

The reason championship games, particularly the Super Bowl are played in "Neutral Sites" is because it's easier to maintain focus. The same can indeed hold true as a student or professional. A legal pad and pen at the dollar store will go a long ways when you want to concentrate on your next idea, goal, etc.

Whether I'm in the USA or any foreign country, the legacy of the "Neutral Site" will always go with me.

I've even done work at Hooters, Chili's, Burger King, McDonald's and Wendy's and many of these places allow you to bring your laptop and have wireless access. They do give refills on drinks.

But just give me a cooperative manager, Diet Coke, Ice Tea, and you can compare that to putting gas into an automobile which will keep my vehicle running firing on all cylinders. It's easy to bang out stories written on legal paper, edit them on the computer wrapping it up with spell check.

Even my mother, who has admitted that spelling isn't her strong point, enjoys spell check as well as editors and professors.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and My Blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Long Overdue

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

As I watch Mike Greenberg & Mike Golic, the hosts of Mike & Mike In The Morning on ESPN 2, debate whether NY Yankees Pitcher Andy Pettitte would be a future Hall of Famer, their discussion infuriated me as to which players should be immortalized in Cooperstown, NY.

Pettitte's current career record is 229-135 with a 3.90 ERA, 2,142 strikeouts, 2,926.1 innings pitched and 25 complete games.

He is a two-time All-Star, has six post-season clinching wins and has won five World Series titles.

I know that six more wins over .500 would put Pettitte at a point where he will have won 100 games more than he lost. At the moment every hurler that is 100 games over the .500 mark is in the Hall of Fame.

Pettitte's 18 post-season wins are the most ever and two more would put him at 20. Granted the post-season format has been extended to enhance these numbers, but to his credit, it takes thick skin to win in the clutch. Pettitte also led the Houston Astros to their lone World Series appearance in 2005.

Last season, he finished 14-8 with a 4.16 ERA during the Yankees World Championship season.

To his credit, Pettitte did own up to using performance enhancing drugs and in this forgiving society, the public perception he has might not take as big of a hit especially with his contributions in this years post-season.

As 300 game winners decline due to relief specialization, pitch counts and fewer complete games, the question remains, what will the new number be in order to be considered for enshrinement into Baseball's Hall of Fame?

I'd say the number should be between 250-275 wins, plus the post-season should be factored into the equation. I'm sure the baseball writers look at Cy Young Awards and All-Star Games.

Down the road, I'd say that Pettitte's body of work should get him major consideration to land in Cooperstown. There is plenty of time to wonder whether Pettitte should get in and a player is allowed to stay on the ballot 15 years to get in.

Last year, former Boston Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice made it in his final year of eligibility.

But instead of talking about Pettitte, there are two players that Greenberg an Golic should be talking about that are "Long Overdue" and that's Bert Blyleven and Andre Dawson.

Blyleven fell 67 votes short last year while Dawson missed out by 44, shy of the 75 percent needed for election.

I'd like to see a pitcher in todays game come close to Blyleven with these numbers. He was 287-250 with a 3.31 ERA. Blyleven had 242 complete games and 3,701 strikeouts. How many pitchers would even reach 50-75 complete games in this era? I could probably use my fingers and toes to get that answer.

Blyleven is the only player in the 3000 strikeout club not in the Hall of Fame and is fifth all-time in that category. He won a World Series in 1979 for the Pittsburgh Pirates and another in 1987 with the Minnesota Twins.

If he's not elected by 2,012, then the Veterans Committee will have to select Blyleven.

Meanwhile, Dawson played on a lot of bad Montreal Expos and Chicago Cubs teams.

When he signed with the Cubs the first time, he wanted to play baseball at Wrigley Field because he felt the grass would be better for his knees than the artificial surface that he left behind at Montreal's Olympic Stadium. Dawson issued a blank check and told Cubs management to fill in that year's salary. He played for that amount but would see increases in pay as time progressed.

Dawson won an MVP for the last place Cubs in 1987. His resume includes a .279 batting average, 2,774 hits, 438 HR, 1,591 RBI, 314 stolen bases, was an eight time All-Star, plus has eight Gold Gloves.

He is one of only three members in the 400 HR and 300 Stolen Base Club with Barry Bonds and Willie Mays being the other two. These guys weren't too bad. Had Dawson played for the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox, he'd already be in Cooperstown.

As we approach the holiday season, I can only hope that by next Christmas Blyleven and Dawson will have made their induction speeches in beautiful Upstate New York where their careers should reach their final conclusion.

As for Greenberg and Golic, both of you should spend future shows talking about the "present" and not the "far future."

I know you'll be taking time off to be with your families during the holiday season but when you come back to work, those Hall of Fame announcements will be made the week you return to work on Jan 6th. I would hope your shows leading up to this day include Blyleven and Dawson, in addition to some of the other worthy candidates that should be considered.

A few worth mentioning but will be discussed in detail at a later date include Barry Larkin, Alan Trammell, Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, Dave Parker, Dale Murphy, Fred McGriff, Roberto Alomar and Andres Gallaraga.

Instead of spending quality time debating on Pettitte, it's time to mention the players careers that have been "Completed" rather than those that are currently "Incomplete" because it's all common knowledge that when a player retires, we'll have five years on your program to continue the debate.

For now, the candidates on this blog and on the ballot should be the primary focus.

I enjoy watching and listening to your radio show and some of your research is outstanding plus I've learned a lot!

But you guys are fortunate enough to be paid to do a radio show, where it takes advertising and sponsorship for the average individual to get on the air.

I can only hope that you use your airtime on meaningful timely subjects. If you do, I can just imagine how many more e-mails you'll get from all sports fans from all generations which as we know enhances your ratings and allows you to further your job security unlike everyone else in this day and age with the lackluster economy.

Scott Morganroth's blog appears on www.scottsports33.com and can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.




Saturday, December 12, 2009

Joe Robbie Stadium

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When a fan on Facebook suggested that the Miami Dolphins current home of Land Shark Stadium return to its old name "Joe Robbie Stadium," I quickly posted my comments and definitely agreed. I accepted two friend requests for taking such a stance.

The former late owner of the Dolphins privately financed the stadium on what was called the Lake LuCerne site by using a lot of his own money to get his team out of the aging Orange Bowl.

When I was working for the now defunct Hallandale Digest, Robbie and I talked about the subject regularly when he owned the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. He was so shrewd that at the time, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle prohibited cross sports ownership therefore he put the North American Soccer League's team in his wife Elizabeth's name, but Mr. Robbie was calling the shots. Now cross ownership is common in all sports.

Robbie told me that he didn't care if he went in debt because in life we're always going to be in debt. In this current economy, he's totally correct.

But more importantly, Robbie told me that he despised the Orange Bowl and called it a "Museum" and even had offers to move the team to Orlando where it would play in the Tangerine Bowl. He turned them down because he was determined to keep the team in South Florida.

He chose not to take the Art Modell route and move the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, or Tennessee Titans Owner Bud Adams, who relocated the Houston Oilers to Nashville. Holding a city hostage like other owners have to build a new stadium and threatening to move the team was not Robbie's style.

The stadium Robbie built has had different names.

It's been called Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro-Player Stadium, Dolphin Stadium and now Land Shark Stadium. I didn't mind the Pro-Player Stadium because it had an athletic identity. Dolphin Stadium was a natural fit.

In this day where commercialism does pay revenue for sponsorships and enhance a team's revenue, it's still gratifying to see some teams pass on that additional revenue and maintain the integrity of attending the venue.

I'd find it hard to watch a baseball game in Los Angeles with Dodger Stadium being called something else. Dodger Stadium was one of the first stadiums to ever be privately financed.

I'm glad that when I attend a Detroit Red Wings game that this facility remains Joe Louis Arena.

Louis was a proud sports hero in Detroit and the former heavyweight champion made this city proud with his success by giving Americans a reason to watch Boxing during his era.

The Red Wings four recent Stanley Cup championships have only added to the luster of a proud "Original Six Franchise" playing under the roof of Louis, giving this a major championship feeling.

A few years ago, I had a chance to pay tribute to Louis when I visited Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Approximately 45 minutes north depending on traffic and weather on I-75, late Detroit Pistons Owner Bill Davidson probably had many offers to rename "The Palace of Auburn Hills." But his privately financed venue's name remains the same.

Ironically, Davidson once told me at a Pistons game that he used Joe Robbie's model with luxury suites and amenities as a guideline to build his own arena. Now all new sports stadiums around the country have followed the lead of these two shrewd pioneers who were way ahead of their time.

Could you imagine Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Lambeau Field, Arrowhead Stadium, The Rose Bowl, Rupp Arena, Michigan Stadium, Madison Square Garden, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo and the New Orleans Superdome being named anything else?

The Detroit Lions find themselves in an unusual situation because Ford Motor Company is commercial, yet the name of the corporation is still a family name with the venue being called Ford Field.

So as a tribute to my friends at Facebook and to a pair of owners that I enjoyed working with, referring to Robbie and Davidson, I won't use a commercial reference to promote these corporations and refer to these traditional private stadiums with their original given names in all my media outlets from this moment on.

Scott Morganroth's blog can be seen on www.scottsports33.com and can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com


Monday, December 7, 2009

FAU Wins at "Work In Progress Stadium"

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

FAU may have won its Finale.

But this was also a contest for myself and my other FAU media colleagues who visited FIU Stadium for the first time; which was quite an experience.

I used to think that Lockhart Stadium's press facilities were below NCAA Football standards.

But that was before I went to Miami and saw "Work In Progress Stadium."

In my 30-year journalism career, I've never seen a press facility have a clear plastic canvas lowered to prevent rain from coming inside. The winds were blowing down the tables and the floor had to be mopped periodically. There was a story by one of the FIU Public Relations people that the side wall fell in the fourth quarter during the FIU vs Troy game, and it would later be bolted to the top of the sheet metal roof.

So while last years FAU vs FIU "Shula Bowl" at Dolphin Stadium was the best college game I've ever seen with the Owls winning 57-50 in overtime; this year's FAU 28-21 triumph could be viewed as the best contests I've barely seen.

Sitting in the second row, the FIU spotter was right in front of me and I couldn't see the game. I kept getting up and walking around the press facility and occasionally outside on a windy, rainy night to watch the action.

The smartest people were FAU Sports Information Director Katrina McCormack and her assistant Dawn Elston, who spent the game on the Owls sidelines therefore avoiding the chaos.

A few of the beat writers were saying when we arrived, "You've got to be kidding me." One of the writers used his Twitter account and sent tweets to his followers telling them how bad the press area was.

I wanted to go to the sidelines at the start of the third quarter but the FIU PR Staff wouldn't take me down there until the six minute mark of the fourth quarter.

I didn't care about the weather conditions because being from the Midwest, the Metro Detroit area is hardly known for its good weather, therefore holding a clipboard and taking notes wouldn't have been a problem. But at least I would have seen the entire football game.

But with all due respect, my comments are by no means a criticism of the FIU Public Relations Staff.

Their hospitality was great!

Their stories of their candid experiences were better. They just work here and I will admit that after visiting the FIU campus for the first time, it's a nice place.

But FIU should use the $100,000 plus salary that Mens Basketball Coach Isiah Thomas decided not to take and enclose what they have temporarily until the new Press Box is completed. We all know that major college football is the biggest revenue producing sport. What they have is disgusting! On the other side, the radio guys have the same set-up.

The Sun Belt Conference should step in and get FIU to do something.

When "Work In Progress Stadium" is completed, it will be something to be proud of. They have new Field Turf and I see where the room is for the potential expansion. The last thing FIU needs is the Media blasting them and giving them negative publicity by not giving us respectable working conditions to promote their events for free.

But I will say, this is a day that I'll never forget and it will make a great story for a future book let alone the fact it will make a great conversation piece whenever this experience ever comes up.

You can see a photo of this press area on www.scottsports33.com

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Lions Moral Victory

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
The Detroit Lions may have only two wins this season, but the team can add a Moral Victory after the New Orleans Saints clobbered the New England Patriots 38-17 Monday Night at the Superdome.
When Saints QB Drew Brees threw for 358 yards and six touchdowns in New Orleans 45-27 trouncing of Detroit during the opening week, it was easy to chastise the Lions defense and woeful winless 0-16 record in 2008.
All the Saints have done is march to an 11-0 record. Brees has a QB rating of 112.6, 3,117 yards, 27 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. They've beaten playoff caliber teams like the Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons and NY Giants.
Brees five touchdown passes and 158.3 passer rating against a Bill Belichick defense seemed unimaginable before the hyped national television contest.
But when Brees spreads the ball out to seven different receivers despite the fact that all-purpose running back Reggie Bush missed the game, and amasses 371 yards, the New England Patriots defense looked like it went to Pat O' Briens and were hung over by the famous Hurricane drinks.
I have to wonder if Washington Redskins Owner Dan Snyder was watching this game as former Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams was hammering the Patriots offense and roughing up three-time winning Super Bowl QB Tom Brady.
If Snyder didn't see enough of Williams defense on television, his 3-8 Redskins will see it in Washington Sunday as the two teams face each other.
You can bet that Snyder is paying attention to the Saints undefeated record and whether he'll fire current head coach Jim Zorn at the end of the season & replace him with Williams, who wanted the Redskins head job in the first place, remains to be seen.
Or will Williams do what many big name coaches have done as they're also doing to Notre Dame and say, "Thanks But No Thanks?"
If I were Williams, I'd take my time, stay with the Saints, and find the right situation instead of working with a hands on meddling owner. Snyder's patience for coaches is well documented by the numerous changes he's made over the years.
It's inevitable that he'll get a head coaching opportunity if his Saints continue to have consistent success. These days defensive coordinators get snapped up for head coaching jobs very quickly like his opening week opponent Jim Schwartz of the Lions.
But in the meantime, even if Williams downplays his return to the nations capital, you can rest assure his defensive players will let their actions lead to his revenge.
It could be a long day for the Redskins, who this writer predicted lost to the Detroit Lions, which snapped their 19-game losing streak on September 27th at Ford Field.
Fail to the Redskins, who are about to enable the Saints to go 12-0.
As for the Lions, they were just the beginning of many to fall to the Saints, and to a quarterback that was selected in the second round of the 2001 draft by the San Diego Chargers.
Not all of the great signal callers are selected in the first round.
Monday Nights game featured a second round pick in Brees facing a 2000 sixth round selection in a match up featuring former Big 10 signal callers hailing from Purdue and Michigan.
While I'm not ready to hand the Vince Lombardi Trophy to the Saints at the moment because the road through the NFC leads to the Minnesota Vikings (10-1) and Brett Favre, the Saints are a super story.
They're easing the pain that lots of people are still experiencing from Hurricane Katrina on August 28, 2005.
They'll certainly be a sentimental favorite to advance to their first Super Bowl to be in a position to win their first championship. I can only imagine what the ratings would be on CBS for this event.
If the Saints beat everybody, the Saints will be dealing out more Moral Victories and the Lions will have plenty of company about what happened that Sunday against the Saints, as teams looked at film and finding out where they failed.
I can just imagine the party on Bourbon Street.
Yet it all began with the Saints defeating the first team in NFL history to finish 0-16.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com. My blog and photos can be seen at www.scottsports33.com

Thursday, November 26, 2009

No Wrecking Ball For Pontiac Silverdome

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When ESPN Los Angeles based Sports Center Anchor Stan Verrett said a judge finalized the sale of the Pontiac Silverdome which sold for a mere $583,000, and to purchase a one bedroom apartment in California was more expensive, that blew my mind!
It took $55.7 million in 1975 to build the Pontiac Silverdome, which at the time was the biggest stadium in the NFL. The stadium sits on a 127 acre pilot. I can't imagine how many square feet a one bedroom apartment would consist of. But I'll guarantee it's not 80,000 seats.
For Football fans, the Pontiac Silverdome was the home of Super Bowl XVI when the San Francisco 49'ers began their dynasty under Joe Montana by defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in 1982. The Detroit Lions last playoff victory occurred under the dome as they pounded the Dallas Cowboys 38-6 on Jan 5, 1992.
Former Heisman Trophy winners Billy Sims and Barry Sanders amassed a lot of yards on that artificial surface which covered cement.
If there is one game that I would soon forget, it was against the Los Angeles Rams on November 17, 1991 when offensive lineman Mike Utley sustained an injury to his sixth and seventh vertebrae. This paralyzed the third year pro from the chest down, but when he flashed his "Thumbs Up" this became a symbol to all of us who became more aware of spinal chord injuries.
I have enjoyed many great Thanksgiving Games in the Silverdome. The pre-game meals were fantastic and the games were entertaining.
But the one game that stands out the most occurred on Nov 26, 1998 was when the Lions defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 19-16 in overtime.
This contest was known as the "Infamous Coin Toss" game as Steelers running back and Detroit native Jerome Bettis watched in disbelief along with millions of national television viewers.
The following season a new rule was created where two officials would handle the coin toss. I can just imagine how former Steelers Coach Bill Cowher feels every time he watches a Thanksgiving Classic in Detroit.
Meanwhile, Bettis would later return to the Pontiac Silverdome which housed the Pittsburgh Steelers during Super Bowl XL, but he had to have flashbacks about how cold his turkey and the rest of his meal tasted after this bitter defeat.
In addition to Thanksgiving Classics, I had many other great memories at the Pontiac Silverdome.
Watching Sanders in his prime and seeing him climb up the NFL's all-time rushing list was tremendous.
I'll never forget the time that I wrote a story on Lesley Visser, who was voted the No.1 Female Sportscaster of all-time. She was the first female NFL analyst on TV and her accomplishments could lead a trail that would go from her home in South Florida to Alaska.
Talking to Utley when he attended Lions games brought chills down my spine and was awesome!
But the moment I'll never forget was taking a photo with Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe during a pre-game press meal. The only downfall of that photo was my left arm was in a sling as a result of a rotator cuff injury sustained in an auto accident as a AAA tow truck ran a red light in West Bloomfield, MI., which sent me spinning into a fire hydrant.
Thankfully, 10 minutes before the crash, I had just dropped off my 79-year old grandmother Sophie Jacobs Morganroth or this incident could have been tragic. I was fortunate that the shoulder injury was the major extent of my injuries.
Nonetheless, a photo with one good wing with Mr. Hockey's elbow in my face is better than nothing, knowing his opponents took the brunt of his elbows on a regular basis. This photo is on my website which is www.scottsports33.com.
Even as I watched Lions rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford lead his young team to a 38-37 win over the Cleveland Browns Sunday at Ford Field as he injured his left shoulder, like myself, at least the outcome turned out positive.
I'm very pleased to hear that a Toronto based family-owned company plans to refurbish the Pontiac Silverdome into a stadium for men's and women's professional soccer teams. Since this venue has hosted Super Bowls, plus World up Games in 1994, at least the worlds version of football will save this facility from getting demolished as historical Tiger Stadium did this year.
Sanders and Visser are proof that all legendary genders can appreciate the past memories here and this $583,000 could be the best money ever spent to create future great moments.
I'm sure that besides my myself, there are many people who have had memories that are priceless!
Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Small Potatoes, Large Memories

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

As I watched ESPN's Presentation "Small Potatoes" which featured the demise of the USFL, this program brought back some great memories.

It's hard to believe that the league played only three seasons from 1983-85 and lost $163 million, yet it was a formidable competitor to the NFL during this time period. Today's players definitely know that without the USFL, their salaries wouldn't be as high as they are now.

When I spoke to my close friend Gus Pantelides the day after "Small Potatoes" aired, we reminisced about the 1984 USFL Championship Game we covered at Tampa Stadium for the now defunct Hallandale Digest. That weekend, I stayed with Gus at his beach house on Clearwater Beach.

His brother Mike Pantel, another close friend, also attended this contest featuring the Philadelphia Stars against the Arizona Wranglers. The Stars defeated the Wranglers 23-3.

Gus was my photographer for the game and we strategized how we were going to cover the contest. One thing we didn't prepare for was that Gus would be bombarded with autograph requests from fans as a result of him winning a Tom Selleck lookalike contest at the Clearwater Mall. My photographer was forced to do double duty and he managed quite well.

I'll never forget the events leading up to the game as I worked at the downtown Tampa Sheraton Hotel seeking story-lines.

I had the opportunity to talk to late Tampa Bay Bandits Owner John Bassett and his right-hand man Miami based attorney the late Steve Arky. I also met with Donald Trump and we talked about the second year league's progress.

What made the USFL special was the players, coaches and executives, who went on to great careers in the NFL.

Former Kansas City Chiefs President/General Manager Carl Peterson was the mastermind behind two championships for the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars.

Hall of Fame Coaches Marv Levy and George Allen roamed the sidelines while the league was a stepping stone for Jim Mora Sr. who would eventually pilot the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts.

Other coaches who roamed the sidelines included Red Miller, Darrell "Mouse" Davis, the Run N Shoot guru, Jack Pardee, Steve Spurrier, Frank Kush, Lee Corso and John Ralston.

Current Florida Atlantic University Coach Howard Schnellenberger was lured from the Miami Hurricanes in 1984, to coach the Washington Federals, who would be relocated to Miami, but that situation never materialized.

There would be 179 former USFL players who also played in the NFL.

Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young and Jim Kelly highlight a list which includes, Greg Landry, Chuck Fusina, Brian Sipe, Vince Evans, Bobby Hebert, Doug Flutie and Doug Williams.

The USFL snapped up some good running backs. Heisman Trophy Winners Herschel Walker and Mike Rozier head a list which includes Kelvin Bryant, Joe Cribbs, Craig James, Gary Anderson, Tim Spencer and Marcus Dupree.

Former Detroit Lions running back Billy Sims nearly played in the USFL. He signed two contracts, one with the Lions and Gamblers which were owned by his former agent Jerry Argovitz but would end up staying in Detroit after a major legal mess to determine which deal was valid.

There were some good wide receivers. Anthony Carter, who starred for the Michigan Wolverines, won a title with the Michigan Panthers in 1983. Jim Smith, Eric Truvillion, Trumaine Johnson, and Raymond Chester were excellent performers.

On defense, John Corker, Sam Mills, Reggie White and John Banaszak. The USFL produced two future World Champion professional wrestlers: Lex Luger and Ron Simmons.

As of 2008, the USFL alumni in the Pro Football Hall of Fame includes: Levy, Allen, Kelly, Young, White and Gary Zimmerman. The three MVP Awards belong to Bryant (1983), Kelly (1984) and Walker during the USFL's final season in 1985.

What made the USFL so unique was the use of the territorial draft where teams could select stars from their own region. The Michigan Panthers selected Carter from Michigan using this rule to win the 1983 title.

If only the Detroit Lions could ever take advantage of the Wolverines as their one time Pontiac Silverdome neighbors did.

Truvillion did play for the Detroit Lions as a replacement player in 1987 as their starting receiver and retired from pro football when the NFL strike ended.

There was the use of instant replay and the two point conversion which the NFL has now decided to utilize.

Why did this league crumble? In my opinion, Trump was the major reason the USFL failed.

Competing with the NFL in the fall was a tragic strategy which caused stadium conflicts and teams were forced to move to different markets without NFL teams.

Over expansion was also part of the demise and getting into a bidding war with the NFL for star players caused USFL owners to go broke by promising large contracts to players with personal services clauses attached.

Trump over spent to get players with large contracts but never did win a championship.

What Trump was too ignorant to realize is the USFL had earned it's place as a spring league as the public was getting used to the idea of spring football. Even though the TV ratings were declining, the league needed more time to determine which markets would work.

I'm not going into detail about the USFL's lawsuit with the NFL that earned the USFL a check for $3.76 because even though there was indeed a monopoly by the NFL. But to think the USFL would succeed during the fall was absurd! Just ask the defunct World Football League.

As I look at my leather work bag from the 1984 USFL Championship Game in Tampa in my office, plus the fact that I won an award with Broward Community College For the Best Sports Reporter in the State of Florida for writing on the USFL, the USFL meant a lot to me early in my Journalism career.

It seems like a pipe dream now with our troubled economy that there is no spring football league at the moment. As more and more college football programs appear at all levels, there are enough players to stock two football leagues. Should there be another major football league, a salary cap is vital. Patience and controlled growth should factor into the equation.

If another league does get created, just say "No To Donald Trump." Since Trump wrecked the USFL, it appears as though his name has been black balled by the other major sports leagues.

What made the "Small Potatoes" documentary great was watching Trump look like an idiot when he was asked about his role in the failure of the USFL. He was short and defensive towards the reporter. He costs a lot of players, coaches, executives plus other front office people opportunities and fans quality entertainment.

But the legacy that the league has in American Sports History lives on. It also had legendary broadcasters like Keith Jackson and Jim Simpson doing the national broadcasts for television partners ABC and ESPN.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com

Monday, October 19, 2009

FAU Coach Howard Schnellenberger

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When I spoke to FAU Football Coach Howard Schnellenberger, before the 2009 season, the 75-yard old boss of the Owls had better mobility than this 46-year old reporter. I could see the concern in his face as I struggled to get up and down from his chair in his office just seven weeks removed from my major back surgery on June 24th.

Nevertheless, as we always do, there was plenty of time to talk about our days when we first worked together while he was coach of the Miami Hurricanes in 1983.

That was the driving force behind my desire when former Deerfield Beach Observer Editor Ric Green and I had a vision to help promote Schnellenberger's latest venture.

Now in my third year of covering the Owls, this program has come along way. It has won two straight bowl games.

FAU defeated Memphis 44-27 to win the 2007 New Orleans Bowl then followed it up with a 24-21 triumph over Central Michigan in the 2008 Motor City Bowl.

While Schnellenberger is one of the most colorful people I've ever spoken to and worked with, I did put him on the spot about his challenges comparing the two programs.

In this interview, we addressed a lot of different areas.

Q: Do you ever have any of your former players come down and give pep talks to your teams?

A: The only quarterback that I've ever had come to a game and help the team was Joe Namath. In the Orange Bowl Game against Penn State, I asked him to come down and be my honorary coach in charge of upsets. He got his big upset in the Orange Bowl in Super Bowl III against the Baltimore Colts. He came down and talked to my team in his own way the night before. Then on game day, he had a pre-game meal with us, came on the bus, and stood on the sidelines by which time I introduced him to the team as my hoary coach of upsets. And low and behold, we got an upset.

Q: Am I sensing a superstitious Howard Schnellenberger?

A: Oh sure I'm superstitious. All old coaches are.

Q: How would you compare the magnitude of the challenges with Miami and FAU?

A: They're so different because I went into a program that was on the verge of extinction but they had a long life's experience. I believe they started back in 1927 and played football consecutively until I got there in 1979. They had some success but had fallen on hard times and I came in as a gunslinger coach that had some cleaning up to do. I gathered a group of players around me and we had great success. Here at Florida Atlantic, there was nothing here. We had no history and I came in as the Father Of The Program. I brought players in just like a father has a son. We brought in our own players and we trained our own players. We had a lot of money to raise and the other things. If we would ever become anywhere close to being as successful here as we did at the success at Miami, it would be a sweeter victory.

Q: Which has been more fulfilling, FAU or Miami?

A: There is nothing more fulfilling than winning a national championship within five years. This one will be more fulfilling in a different way. This is Natural Child Birth and the Miami thing was Adopted Children if you will. These children are my Natural Children and when you watch your sons grow and get better, it's a lot more prideful than when you watch your stepchildren do the same thing.

Q: So you're telling me that you won't tilt one way or the other?

A: Yes, that's pretty close to it. If I would lead this one to a national championship then it would be twice as satisfying. But I can't live that long.

Q: When you were at Louisville, what was your recruiting strategy?

A: We made a commitment to come back to Florida to get the majority of our players just like we did at Miami and here at Florida Atlantic. I've also got to be considered the Guru of recruiting in the State of Florida.

Q: If I placed a tag on you as the “George Washington” of Florida Atlantic University since you're the Father of this Football Program, would that be accurate?

A: Nobody has ever called me that before but I'll accept that.

Q: Was the undertaking at FAU more difficult than you anticipated?

A: I didn't know what to anticipate because I've never done it before and didn't know anybody that had done it. But it was so different it took me awhile to find out how to get it done. When I came up with the concept of gathering 100 founders to give birth to this program with me, I was able to raise $13 million and that was certainly a very important thing for us to get off to a fast start, build this building (Tom Oxley Center) that we're sitting in right now, buy the uniforms, get the state to get us a license to have a football team and then to bring in the assistant coaches to help bring in the players, scheduled the games and do those things you do when you build a football program from scratch. I didn't know what I was getting into but we were able to get it done through trial and error. We brought in a lot of good coaches and players to get it started.

Q: What's the most gratifying moment of your tenure at FAU?

A: There are really two of them. To take a brand new team and in three years have them in the playoff of I-AA. There is 130 teams in this division and to be one of 16 selected to go to the playoffs, plus we were not in a conference so there was no automatic bid, we were an at large team, we won two games in the playoffs and reached the semifinals enabling us to get ranked fourth in the nation, that obviously was a very big thing. It may have even been bigger then us winning the (Sun Belt Conference Championship versus Troy) in our third year and winning the New Orleans Bowl allowing us to come out with that ring. These two were the most satisfying.

Q: Lets talk about the Motor City Bowl. Wouldn't you say that was more gratifying than the New Orleans Bowl since Central Michigan was a better team than Memphis and it technically was a home game for them?

A: You would think this one is better because you're from there. You're probably right but both teams have been playing football for over 100 years. Both had high powered offenses. I would rank the Motor City Bowl three but with both of these bowl games, we were the only game on that night so the exposure was priceless.

Q: You must be elated knowing that your on campus stadium will be a reality in September of 2011?

A: Thank goodness the date has arrived. We're glad that the Board of Trustees has allowed us to go to the bond house and get the money. This is going to be the platform that our football program is going to rise to great heights. A 40,000 seat stadium is the right size and it's going to allow us to recruit much better players, plus allow us to attract much better football teams to come down and play. I think it's going to put us in a position to get into a BCS Conference.

Q: You've been at Miami, Louisville and FAU. It seems like you've had good luck getting stadiums built?

A: This is the rubber match. We were unable to get a stadium in Miami, did in Louisville so it's one and one right now. When we get one done here, I'm on the plus side. This is a record because no other team has ever been able to build a stadium of that magnitude in 10 years. We're designing our stadium for 40,000 but starting with 30,000 so we can make sure we can sell it out. The following year we're hoping to add the 10,000 in 2012 or within a year or so.

Q: How much has Howard Schnellenberger changed since we met in 1983?

A: The hair has gotten grayer, I've gotten smarter and my wife (Beverlee) has gotten prettier.

Q: Could you ever see yourself coaching into your 80's like Penn State's Joe Paterno or Florida State's Bobby Bowden?

A: They're both my heroes and I think when Bobby leaves the scene I would have five more years to go and when Joe leaves the scene, I'll have eight years ago. Joe's 81 and Bobby is 79 that would give me four more years. Joe's either 81 or 82, that would give me six more years.

Q: Even though you won't come close to their win totals, do you feel that building three programs is a bigger accomplishment for you legacy wise?

A: It's all in the mind of the beholder. Some people think being a caretaker of a program and winning all of those games is the definition of greatness. Some people think how much you've elevated programs and how much you've elevated football in an area makes a difference. I just try to do what my high school coach did and the four coaches I worked for, they were all builders. I had no caretakers in this group.

Q: John Wooden had his Pyramid of Success, what is Howard Schnellenberger's?

A: Pass the torch. Take what everybody taught you, what was important to you, and pass that information to your coaches and players. I accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.

These are all lessons that everyone in life can learn from. Hearing it from an individual who has had such mentors as Paul “Bear” Bryant, George Allen, Don Shula as well as others just validates why Schnellenberger has been successful in many of his challenges.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com

No Tylenol Needed

By SCOTT MORGANROTH

As tough as it was to watch the Detroit Tigers become the first team in baseball history to blow a three game division lead with four games remaining, seeing the Minnesota Twins get swept by the New York Yankees 3-0 in the American League Divisional Series eased the pain.
Considering the fact that I live in South Florida, otherwise known as "Manhattan East" meant that if the Yankees would have defeated the Tigers, I would have had the New Yorkers bragging in my ear that they defeated my hometown team.
When the Tigers dropped the opener of the 2006 ALDS, all I heard was "your team was over matched."
But when the Tigers ousted the Yankees 3-1, it was great to see these folks in distraught.
There is no doubt that the Twins were over matched in their series with the Yankees. It's one thing that they were tired after defeating the Tigers 6-5 in 12 innings in the AL Central Playoff Showdown, only to find themselves on an airplane heading to the "Big Apple" where they would lose 7-2 in the opener 18 hours later.
These franchises are like night and day. The Yankees payroll exceeds $200 million while Minnesota's is under $70 million. Minnesota played without one of its best players in Justin Morneau.
Best of all, I didn't have to listen to the New Yorkers in 2009, who in actuality, would have watched their team steamroll past the Tigers.
Yet, I find myself rooting for the Yankees to win the World Series.
Skipper Joe Girardi, who was the National League Manager of the Year in 2006, when he guided the Florida Marlins to a 78-84 record and kept them in Wild Card contention, only to be fired by Owner Jeffrey Loria, has done a nice job since joining the Yankees in 2008.
In 2008, during the final year of Yankee Stadium, Girardi posted an 89-73 third place finish which his squad fell short to a hot Tampa Bay Rays squad.
The opening of New Yankee Stadium was celebrated with a first place finish and 103-59 record.
The Bronx Bombers saw Captain Derek Jeter become the franchises all-time hits leader with 2,747 but more importantly, they currently lead the LA Angels 2-0 in the American League Championship Series. The Yankees have won five straight contests.
The 2009 Yankees appear to be a team of destiny. They spent their free agent money wisely by bolstering their pitching staff adding C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett to accompany clutch post-season performer Andy Pettitte.
Young studs Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain have stabilized the middle of their bullpen while future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera continues to close games masterfully.
During spring training, Alex Rodriguez was making headlines for all the wrong reasons with his use of steroids. Now he's finally performing well in the playoffs with a .368 average, three homers and eight RBI in five games.
The Yankees paid big money for free agent Mark Teixeira and he delivered during the regular season with a .292 average, 39 homers and 122 RBI to give Rodriguez protection in the middle of the lineup.
When a team has character players to complement its stars, that's usually the ticket to championships. Guys like Hideki Matsui, Nick Swisher, Johnny Damon, Jerry Hairston Jr. to name a few have made their contributions to provide character in the clubhouse.
During New York's glory years in the late 1990's, the Yankees had Scott Brosius, Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez, Chuck Knoblauch, Chad Curtis, Mike Stanton, Jeff Nelson, to complement Jorge Posada, Jeter, Roger Clemens, Bernie Williams, Pettitte, David Cone and Orlando Hernandez. Girardi was a catcher on this squad managed by Joe Torre.
These players proved to be the capable role performers that blended well with the highly paid stars.
This year, Rodriguez, Teixeira, Sabathia, Burnett, Matsui and others have an excellent chance to win their first championship rings. They'll be able to do it with the opening of a new stadium.
Should the Yankees win the World Series, they will have won 40 American League Pennants and 27 World Series titles.
Including the playoffs, the Yankees won 10 straight games against the Twins. A World Series victory would be 47 playoff series wins for this storied franchise.
I think they'll defeat the Philadelphia Phillies 4-3 and home runs will fly out faster than fireworks on July 4th, at Citizens Bank Ballpark and Yankee Stadium, both being hitter friendly venues.
Best of all, I saved money by not going to the drug stores to invest into Tylenol having these New Yorkers saying, "What happened to your Detroit Tigers?" Thanks Twins for saving me the aggravation.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Phillies Missing Voice

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Should the Philadelphia Phillies repeat as World Series Champions, there will be one legendary voice missing.

On April 13, 2009, legendary broadcaster Harry Kalas (73) died of heart disease in the press box before the Phillies were set to face the Washington Nationals in the nations capital. He collapsed at approximately 12:30 and was pronounced dead at 1:20 EDT at George Washington University Hospital.

That night, the Phillies defeated the Washington Nationals 9-8 without their golden voice, who was entering his 39th season with the team. The 2009 season was dedicated to the Hall of Fame announcer. The Phillies wore a patch on their jerseys and his presence was felt all over Citizens Bank Ballpark. The Phillies TV Broadcast Booth was renamed "The Harry Kalas Broadcast Booth."

Replicas of his autograph ("Harry Kalas HOF 2002) were painted on the field at Citizens Bank Ballpark in foul territory along the baselines near the coaches' boxes just beyond the first and third base for their first home series after Kalas's death. The wording of "HOF 2002" refers to his winning the Ford C Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002.

There is also a billboard featuring a microphone and the words "HK 1936–2009" is displayed on the outfield wall.

It is sad to see these broadcast icons slowly passing away especially with the recent announcement that Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame Announcer Ernie Harwell, 91, now has Cancer and is likely to be the next tribute to be written.

But in this year's playoffs, there is a strong possibility that the 2009 World Series could showcase the emotional seasons of the LA Angels and Philadelphia Phillies. The Angels lost 22-year old Pitcher Nick Adenhart to a tragic fatal drunk driving auto accident.

Who does one root for? I can't answer that because it's very subjective.

But when an icon dies at 73 and a young player passes on at 22, the 51-year age differential does reinforce that life is too short and we better enjoy it while we can because we're just here for a visit.

One thing is for certain, if this series transpires, one tribute will be completely fulfilled and Adenhart and Kalas in their own ways will be never forgotten by their teammates and fans.

They'll be part of the great storied history of baseball.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com

About Me

My photo
My Super Passion: In 40-years in the Sports Media Business, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience some Great Moments with Championship People. I look forward to any feedback you readers have. I encourage you to look at the MOTOR CITY MAD MOUTH HALL OF FAME ON August 8, 2012 because these people have made the Journey in Sports Media as fun as it's been.

Blog Archive