Saturday, April 25, 2009

Significance of Number 33

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
As a youngster growing up in Detroit, former Red Wing and Hall of Famer Gordie Howe was my favorite player therefore my lucky number was nine. If that number was taken, Plan B was number 11 because former Detroit Tigers Catchers Bill Freehan and Bruce Kimm wore it proudly and I played baseball, basketball and hockey growing up as a kid.
But now I have another number that has taken over. When I saw 33 straight Detroit Lions games home and away during Hall of Fame Running Back Barry Sanders illustrious career, plus covered my first Super Bowl which was Super Bowl 33 in Miami where another Hall of Famer John Elway retired with a win over the Atlanta Falcons, this number stuck. Ironically, Sanders and Elway were inducted into the Hall of Fame together in 2004. In Fort Lauderdale, my favorite restaurants are off Exit 33 which is Cypress Creek Road.
In sports, No 33 has a great significance to it. Here are some of the most interesting No. 33's and I encourage you readers to come up with other suggestions.
* Magic Johnson wore this number when he led the Michigan State Spartans to the 1979 National Championship over Larry Bird's Indiana State Sycamores in Salt Lake City.
* Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Johnson's NBA teammate wore it with the Los Angeles Lakers.
* The Lakers won an NBA record 33 straight games.
* Larry Bird wore No. 33 for Indiana State in 1979 and also in his NBA career with the Boston Celtics.
* Michael Jordan holds the NBA post-season record with a career mark of 33.5 points-per-game.
* Lou Saban was a head coach for 33 years with 25 teams.
* Former Miami Heat Center Alonzo Mourning is the only player in franchise history to have his number retired.
* Tiger Woods will be 33 by the end of 2009.
* Grant Hill won a national championship with Duke and has worn the number for the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns.
* Kris Draper has worn No. 33 with the Detroit Red Wings since 1993 and has four Stanley Cup Championships playing in Hockeytown.
* Patrick Roy, Draper's rival with the Colorado Avalanche, is the sixth player in NHL history to have his number retired by two different organizations. Roy has won four Stanley Cup Titles, two a piece with Colorado and the Montreal Canadiens, and was selected to the NHL Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2006.
* Can you believe that it's been 33 years since the late Detroit Tigers Pitcher Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, who became famous for talking to the baseball and his antics on the mound became an American Folk Hero, posted a 19-9 record during the Bicentennial year of 1976 and appeared in the All-Star Game in Philadelphia?
* Nick Swisher wears No. 33 for the storied New York Yankees, one of the few numbers that isn't retired.
* Marcus Thames wears No. 33 for my hometown Detroit Tigers another tradition rich franchise.
* The Michigan Wolverines bowl streak ended at 33 games.
* The 2008 NFL Draft marked the 33rd year of Mr Irrelevant which is the last player selected in the draft. That dubious honor went to St. Louis Rams Linebacker David Vobora. He was the 252 player chosen, has a jersey with the No. 252, received many other gifts, uses the Mr Irrelevant honor to gain endorsement deals and has a permanent spot in the Rams media guide.
* The Detroit Lions used their 2009 second round selection, 33rd overall, to select Western Michigan University Broncos Safety Louis Delmas.
* There are 33 drivers for the Indianapolis 500.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com.

Montreal Morons

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
When I heard that the Montreal Canadiens fans booed "The Star Spangled Banner" before Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on April 20, I was sick to my stomach.
It made me want to edit the Canadian National Anthem from "Oh Canada" to "No Canada" because they disrespected a neighbor, who would protect them during an international conflict.
Montreal was a city that had another franchise back in the 1930's named the Maroons. On April 20, the fans in the Bell Centre were named the Montreal Morons.
After the incident, Canadiens Coach & General Manager Bob Gainey showed class by telling his fans their behavior was uncalled for. For years, I've always had a ton of respect for the Canadiens and their fans as being an excellent hockey town. This original six city has the same passion as Green Bay Packers fans do where everything revolves around the team on and off the field of play. Being the only game in town with a large city is what these towns live for.
But I lost all of my respect for Montreal due to this classless incident due to the lack of common sense. I'm not buying the Us Vs Them excuse with the USA facing Canada because there are many match-ups in North America which feature these two countries. The Boston Bruins and Canadiens have indeed had many contested battles since they're both original six teams however, to boo the other countries national anthem is crossing the line between politics and sports.
There is no question that the Canadiens success in their 100 year tradition is unmatched. They've won 24 Stanley Cups more than any other team and as a franchise this amounts to 26 percent.
On Dec 29, 2008, Montreal defeated the Florida Panthers 5-2 to become the first team in NHL history to reach 3,000 victories.
But in recent years, the Canadiens have fallen onto hard times. Montreal's last Stanley Cup occurred in 1992-93 when former Detroit Red Wings Coach Jacques Demers guided them to a title led by Hall of Fame Goaltender Patrick Roy.
Don't expect anymore championships in the immediate future as a modern day player would rather play for a USA based team where the dollar has a much higher value.
Does anybody in the USA care or know anything about Hockey Night In Canada?
With the exception of the NHL Finals and a marquee match-up in the playoffs, you won't see a Canadian based team on NBC. The Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche have been the primary teams featured on the game of the week.
While Canada's hockey tradition speaks for itself, the Winnipeg Jets and Quebec Nordiques moved south of the border to Phoenix, AZ and Denver because they couldn't survive north of the border. Over the years, the Ottawa Senators and Edmonton Oilers have struggled financially. There are only six Canadian based teams with the Senators, Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference while the Oilers, Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks compete in the Western Conference.
When sports fans around the continent look at Montreal, they view this market as a third world country because of the many failures of its teams. Major League Baseball's Expos are now the Washington Nationals while Montreal has struggled to support two Canadian Football League teams. The Montreal Alouettes and Concordes have folded and revived over the years.
My advice to Canadiens fans is don't embarrass yourself anymore because North American fans don't view your city as a legitimate sports town.
Very few people in Dallas, Phoenix, Denver, Tampa Bay, Southern Florida, North Carolina, Columbus, Ohio, Nashville, Tennessee, and Atlanta know anything about Guy LaFleur, Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Maurice Richard, Larry Robinson, Yvan Cournoyer, Steve Shutt, Bernie Geoffrion, Ken Dryden and Jacques Plante.
But they do know that you booed "The Star Spangled Banner." It's hard to believe that your championship drought has now reached 16 years.
I predict that the Detroit Lions will reach the Super Bowl before your team will hoist another Stanley Cup Trophy because teams in the NFL have been know to change their fortunes quickly if they make the right moves in the drafts, via trades and on the waiver market. The Miami Dolphins went from 1-15 to 11-5 in one calendar year.
The perception of Montreal by todays players is that your area is viewed as Hockey's version of Siberia and they know the national television exposure and mega endorsement deals in Montreal are lacking.
Today's players will take the same approach as the Montreal Expos did by using your organizations as stepping stones toward free agency and seeking greener pastures. Your 100 year tradition will carry less weight in contract negations.
Then again, USA fans won't care about you and they'll continue to say "No Canada."
Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com.

Monday, April 20, 2009

FAU VS Miami Baseball's Friendly Rivalry

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Despite three losses to the University of Miami this season, the FAU Owls athletic department is extremely pleased it can keep the rivalry going on the baseball field and undoubtedly hopes this will eventually carry over to the gridiron.

In 2008, a crowd of 2,368 packed FAU Stadium as Miami won a 12-11 slug fest.

On March 25, another large crowd in Boca Raton attended as 1,682 watched the Hurricanes pound FAU 13-6.

The series resumed in Miami on April 7 as 1,862 watched the Hurricanes escape with an 8-7 triumph. Finally, on April 14, Miami held off FAU 3-1 at Mark Light Stadium as the Hurricanes swept the three game series with the Owls.

As competitive as the rivalry is on the field, the attendance figures show it's a win-win situation for both universities at the gate. It gives fans an opportunity to watch future professional players at programs with excellent traditions.

Hurricanes Coach Jim Morris said he's pleased with the rivalry and sees no reason to eliminate it especially since these meetings occur during the middle of the week therefore, it doesn't disrupt strong non-conference or conference opponents.

“It's a good series because a lot of these local players from both teams played each other growing up together and of course their Athletic Director Craig Angelos came from Miami along with coach (Howard) Schnellenberger,” Morris said. “There is a lot of people and connections back and forth so it is a good rivalry.”

Morris is pleased that the Hurricanes have a good following in North Broward and Palm Beach Counties. Back in the 1980's, the Hurricanes used to conduct a spring football practice event at Lockhart Stadium and used to draw large crowds.

“Last year, when we played them up here, it was the biggest crowd that they've ever had,” Morris added. “Tonight was a fun crowd that was enjoyable to watch.”

Morris said he has tremendous respect for the FAU baseball program because the Owls have an excellent tradition of its own.

“With Coach (Kevin) Cooney and now John McCormack, they've done an excellent job there,” Morris said. “It's been played on and off for a long time and I think it's one that needs to be played every year. You have local players, good baseball and there are a lot of good players in this area from both teams. For baseball this is a good rivalry and it's good playing each other and I think playing in all of the sports is good. I can't speak for football because it's up to them of course along with basketball and the other sports.”
Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com.

Hall of Famer Marv Levy Discusses Lions Woes

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
There is one thing the Detroit Lions are not lacking as they approach Saturday's NFL Draft.

They're not lacking suggestions on what to do with the top pick if you look at the various mock drafts. When you're 0-16, everybody will either tell you to select a franchise quarterback to finally erase the curse of Bobby Layne.

The Miami Dolphins are the best example that a team's fortunes can turn around quickly with some shrewd planning. It doesn't hurt to have Bill Parcell's in the front office. After finishing 1-15 in 2007, in the 2008 draft, the Dolphins selected Michigan Offensive Lineman Jake Long with the top pick in the draft and used a second rounder to snap up his teammate Chad Henne.

They finished the 2008 season 11-5 and reached the NFL Playoffs. They signed former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington as a free agent to a two-year contract and are grooming Henne for the starting role.

Parcell's used the philosophy to build from inside to out therefore protecting the most valuable position.

Since the Lions also have the No. 20 selection obtained in the Roy Williams trade, they'll have another trump card to reduce margin for error.

Amidst all of these suggestions, there is one person who is widely respected in the NFL and is currently in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Former Buffalo Bills Coach Marv Levy has been to a place where the Lions haven't appeared.

It's a Super Bowl.

For that matter, he's been to four consecutive title games and despite losing them all, Levy's watched his quarterback Jim Kelly enter the shrine located in Canton, Ohio., and this year, Bills Owner Ralph Wilson along with defensive standout Bruce Smith will be standing on the podium giving their thanks to those that helped them reach this milestone and walking away with their yellow sport jackets.

Before the Hall of Fame announced the Class of 2009, Levy was nice enough to take time out to offer his suggestions to the Lions as to what it will take to turn their 2008 disaster around.

Q: What are your thoughts about the Lions infamous historical season?

A: It has to be agony of course and there were a few of those games they could have won. I think they have to put it behind them and go to work which is apparently what they've done. The difference between the best and the worst in the NFL is not as great as maybe the perception might be. You go to work and you'll see great steps forward. I can't predict when they'll win a Super Bowl at least that's where I see it now.

Q: If you were inheriting an 0-16 team coach, how would you fix that situation?

A: There isn't a one sentence answer to something of course to something which is that complex. You rely on the best abilities of everybody in your own organization. There is no my way or the highway to do it here because you won't succeed. You try to assess and address what you have to do. I've always been a little reluctant to get the top quarterback in the draft. You can point to Peyton Manning and say I'm not right about everything I say. It takes quite awhile for a quarterback to develop. There are quarterbacks that are six rounders like Tom Brady and all the way back to my young days such as Johnny Unitas, who weren't even drafted, who can be great quarterbacks. To me that's the way to go.

Q: Since you're not high on drafting a quarterback early, what direction would you go in?

A: I'd build on defense first. Then you're offense isn't always playing catch up and struggling, doing predictable things such as multiplying their turnovers and interceptions.

Q: What was your most interesting draft with the Buffalo Bills?

A: We took a different approach when we traded away two-first round picks and a second for Cornelius Bennett and it paid off. I was blinking at the time and Bill Polian, our general manager at the time, is the best ever, convinced me and we went forward with that. The next year, we didn't have a first round draft choice and needed a great running back so we had to wait until the second round and picked some guy named Thurman Thomas.

Q: Finally, what are your thoughts about new Lions Coach Jim Schwartz? He does appear to be assembling a good staff.

A: I don't know a great deal about Jim but you just said something which is very major. There is no such thing as a good coach. There is a good coaching staff. It appears as though he's putting together a good staff and it looks favorably from what I've seen.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com.

Friday, April 17, 2009

NHL Hockey on National Television

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
The NHL may have a great history on the ice but it's national television exposure has been as complicated over the years as the Rubik's Cube.
From 1956-60, CBS was the first network to televise the NHL during the regular season by airing games on Saturday afternoons. Bud Palmer did the play-by-play while Fred Cusick did the color commentary. Cusick would later move over to play-by-play and Brian McFarlane did color and the intermissions.
When I first saw the NHL on network television, the first game I remember was the 1971 Stanley Cup Finals when CBS aired Game 7 between the Chicago Black Hawks and Montreal Canadiens.
The announcers for this game were the best legends that nobody knew about. They were Dan Kelly (St. Louis Blues) and Jim Gordon ( New York Rangers).
As I read through the history of the NHL on network television, I never realized that NBC has the best track record for televising the sport. In 1966, NBC was the first US Network to televise the NHL playoffs.
On April 10 and 17, NBC aired two semi-final playoff games between the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks. This was a series that featured the battle of a pair of No. 9's with Gordie Howe taking on Bobby Hull.
On April 24 and May 1, NBC televised Games 1 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens.
Forty Three years later, NBC turned back the page and put the Red Wings versus Blackhawks in the public eye by broadcasting the Winter Classic from historic Wrigley Field on January 1 then wrapping up the season on April 12 at the United Center.
While baseball, football and basketball have had legendary announcers over a sustained period of time that fans can relate to, what's interesting about the NHL are the names that have had token appearances broadcasting hockey to the USA fan base.
Here are some of the names which stand out over the years.
In 1966, Win Elliott worked play-by-play and Bill Mazer did the color commentary for NBC.
In the 1968-69 season, CBS broadcast 13 regular season and five playoff games with Kelly doing the play-by play and Mazer serving as the color analyst and intermission host.
In 1971 and 1972, CBS also employed Phil Esposito and Harry Howell for Stanley Cup Finals coverage during these years.
I've always thought that Dick Stockton has been the best all-around broadcaster over the years but this piece of trivia validates that fact. In January 23, 1972, Stockton filled in for Jim Gordon to work with Kelly at the Boston Garden in a contest featuring the Bruins and Buffalo Sabres.
From 1972-75, the NHL was on NBC again and the announcers included Tim Ryan, play-by-play and Detroit Red Wings Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay. McFarlane hosted the intermission while animated character Peter Puck created his own following.
These were the voices that today's baby boomers would have no knowledge about. Some of my favorite announcers over the years include:
Play-By-Play:
1. Dan Kelly (CBS, USA Cable Network)
2. Mike "Doc" Emerick (Fox, NBC)
3. Foster Hewitt (Hockey Night in Canada)
4. Danny Gallivan (Hockey Night in Canada, Montreal Canadiens)
5. Dick Irvin (Hockey Night in Canada, Montreal Canadiens)
6. Bruce Martyn (Detroit Red Wings)
7. Gary Thorne (ESPN, ABC)
8. Marv Albert (NBC)
Color Commentators:
1. John Davidson (Fox, NBC)
2. Ed Olczyck (NBC, Versus)
3. Stu Nahan (CBS)
4. Don Cherry (Hockey Night in Canada, ESPN)
5. Mickey Redmond (Hockey Night in Canada, Detroit Red Wings)
6. Bill Clement (ESPN, NBC)
7. Lou Nanne (NBC)
8. Gary Green (USA Cable Network)
Others include:
1. Dave Hodge (Hockey Night in Canada)
2. Tom Mees (ESPN)
3. Ron MacLean (Hockey Night in Canada, NBC)
4. Al Trautwig (USA Cable Network, Versus)
5. Barry Melrose (ESPN)
6. Brian Englom (ESPN, Versus)
7. Bill Patrick (NBC, Versus)
8. Brett Hull (NBC)
9. Ray Ferraro (NBC)
10. Pierre McGuirre (NBC)
11. Mike Milbury (NBC)
12. Steve Levy (ESPN)
13. Dave Strader (ESPN, NBC)
14. Darren Pang (ESPN)
15. Sam Rosen (FOX, MSG)
When I think of this list, I'm amazed to think that Cherry is Hockey's version of College Basketball's Dick Vitale. Stockton's career can be defined as a man who has televised all four major league sports on national television. Kelly and Emerick are the true voices of USA Hockey.
To this day, NBC is doing a much better job televising the NHL but ESPN should be the primary cable network with Versus having a supplementary role. If ESPN isn't available, TBS would be a viable alternative. There is no reason that the top stars in the league shouldn't have better visibility.
One thing is certain, the Detroit Red Wings were a huge part of NHL's national coverage back in the 1960's, and NBC knows, they'd be in trouble these days without Hockeytown and their four championships in 11 years.
Yet, when it's all said and done, what USA fans won't care about are goal cams, Peter Puck, the glowing puck so fans can track it better, sideline game interviews with coaches and players with microphones so fans will hear the sounds of the game.
The only thing that will matter to the American Sports fan is what occurred in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, NY when the real voices of USA Hockey Al Michaels and Ken Dryden called the "Miracle on Ice" by winning the gold medal.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com.

NBA Broadcasting Greats

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
Over the next eight weeks, NBA fans are going to get bombarded with endless of hours triple headers and doubleheaders on ABC, ESPN and TNT. Back in the 1970's, the NBA Finals were broadcast on tape delay before the presence of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird changed that in the 1980's.
But I have a question for all of you long time NBA fans? During CBS first year of broadcasting pro hoops in 1974, do you remember the announcers?
The answer to this question is Pat Summerall, Rick Barry and current Utah Jazz Announcer Hot Rod Hundley. The Boston Celtics defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 4-3 as this series featured Hall of Famers John Havlicek, Dave Cowens, Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
While there have been many great match-ups over the years in the finals, it might be hard to find a foursome of players better than this. In 1996, Barry was named to the NBA 50Th Anniversary All-Time Team.
How many fans remember Barry as a player? For that matter, how many remember him as an announcer? In 2004, Hundley was inducted into the Utah Broadcast Hall of Fame and the performances of John Stockton and Karl Malone made his job easier with the Jazz success on the basketball court. The wild card here is Summerall, whom all fans know as the voice behind the microphone covering the NFL, Tennis and Golf.
Here is a list of whom I consider the best announcers in the NBA through the years.
The best Play-By-Play include:
1. Dick Stockton (CBS)
2. Brent Musberger (CBS)
3. Johnny Most (Boston Celtics)
4. Marv Albert (NBC & TNT Sports)
5. Gary Bender (CBS)
6. Jim Durham (ESPN, TNT & TBS)
7. Mike Breen (NBC, ABC & ESPN)
8. Chick Hearn (LA Lakers)
9. Bob Costas (NBC)
10. Al Michaels (ABC)
The best Color Commentators through the years include:
1. Hubie Brown (CBS, ABC and ESPN)
2. Doug Collins (NBC, TNT)
3. Mike Fratello (NBC, TNT)
4. Hot Rod Hundley (CBS)
5. Rick Barry (CBS)
6. Keith Erickson (CBS)
7. Billy Cunningham (CBS)
8. Dr. Jack Ramsey (ESPN)
9. Johnny "Red" Kerr (Chicago Bulls)
10. Matt Guokas Jr. (NBC)
As the NBA continues to grow over the years, it will be interesting to see how many people I'll add to this list in the future.
My early reviews on Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy are good. Jackson's knowledge of the game tends to make me think that he'll be a good coaching prospect in the future. Meanwhile, Van Gundy, who has been known to take criticism from NBA Commissioner David Stern about his comments from time to time about the officiating, should stay in the media. He is colorful and is really entertaining.
Watching tape of his on the court incidents with players being in the middle of fights are worth laughing at. He's a little man with little hair and a lot of spunk. The best body guard from Stern is Breen, who is a seasoned pro and when I met him in Miami covering the Detroit Pistons versus Heat in the playoffs, he's a class individual.
One other old school worth color analyst worth mentioning was Kevin Loughery, who made CBS telecasts educational.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Baseball's Golden Voices

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
Baseball has lost another legendary broadcasting icon with the passing of Harry Kalas on Monday at the age of 73. The longtime Philadelphia Phillies announcer was found passed out in the booth before a road game at 12:30 pm just before the Washington Nationals contest.
As the grand old game goes through changes and new ballparks along with the steroid era dominate the headlines, these announcers are unfortunately becoming extinct.
I have compiled a list of my all-time favorite announcers and I'm very thankful to have met some of these legends.
1) Ernie Harwell (Detroit Tigers) has been a very good friend of mine since we met during Spring Training in 1984 in Dunedin, Fla. Harwell had a spring home in Pinellas County and we met before a Tigers/Toronto Blue Jays contest. I've had many great times with Harwell but the biggest was when I did an inning of play-by-play with him at the old Al Lopez Field in Tampa during a Tigers versus Cincinnati Reds game. I recently spent my 46th birthday with Ernie at his home in Novi. I could write a separate story on all the great times I've spent with Ernie.
2) Vin Scully (Los Angeles Dodgers) I've never met him and I still hope I can get the chance. Everytime I went to Dodgertown in Vero Beach, we never crossed paths. But his creativity and smooth delivery handling all moments are a style I've always marveled.
3) Mel Allen (New York Yankees) was a pleasure to be with when the team trained at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. We met in 1983 and sat in the Yankees dugout just talking baseball and he would always talk about how he enjoyed doing the syndicated television show "This Week In Baseball."
4) Jack Buck (St. Louis Cardinals) The only time we met was in Spring Training in 1983 at Pompano Beach Municipal Stadium during a game versus the Texas Rangers. Buck took the window out of the press box so he could see the game better. He got drilled by a foul ball in the arm and after it happened just took the situation in stride by coming out of his booth and joking about it with the rest of us showing the bruise. I can just imagine how he described it to his audience but he was real nice to me when we talked before the game and for a few minutes afterwards. At the Rangers games, I used to work the scoreboard and was making extra money to pay for college.
5) Curt Gowdy (Boston Red Sox) was a guy that I never met but he was legendary on NBC's Saturday Game of the Week and his calls for the World Series and All Star Games were awesome. The 1971 All-Star Game at Tiger Stadium when Reggie Jackson hit the ball over the roof will always standout with me.
6) Harry Carey (Chicago Cubs) is the reason I made my lone appearance to Wrigley Field during the 1990's. It was a thrill to have written on Carey and listen to him sing Take Me Out To The Ballgame during the seventh inning stretch, a tradition that the Cubs now carry on with visitors who sometimes sing it well or sometimes provide laughs with their lack of singing ability. If it weren't for cable and Super Station WGN, I wouldn't have ever met Carey.
7) Jerry Coleman (San Diego Padres) was a man that I had the good fortune of interviewing in 2002 in Tempe, Arizona., before an Anaheim Angels game. He was another great story teller. Coleman is alive and well at 84.
8) Bob Uecker (Milwaukee Brewers) was one of the original announcers on ABC's Monday Night Baseball and his comical approach towards his career .200 batting average in six seasons provided enough entertainment that he would utilize this to get involved in acting along with doing his famous Lite Beer Commercials. Uecker is still going strong at 74 and in 2003 earned his way into the Baseball Hall of Fame winning the Ford C. Frick Award. Like Garagiola, these two sub par players microphones were more potent then their bats.
9) George Grande (Cincinnati Reds) was an ESPN Sports Center original but his passion for the game of baseball led him to one of the best jobs in the business.
10) Joe Garagiola (St. Louis Cardinals) is alive and well at age 83 and like Uecker had a sub par career hitting .257 in nine seasons, playing 676 games. Garagiola earned his way into the Hall of Fame in 1991 with his work teaming with Gowdy and Scully during his 30-year association with NBC. We met when the Detroit Tigers played the Arizona Diamondbacks in June of 2001.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Heaven, Please Wait!

Heaven, please wait!
The year 2009 has been tough for Detroit Sports Fans.
It all began with the Tampa Bay, Florida., boating tragedy of Detroit Lions Defensive End Corey Smith, 29, in February.
Detroit Pistons Owner Bill Davidson, 86, is currently resting in peace at Clover Hill Park Cemetery near many of my relatives in Royal Oak, MI. Davidson passed away on March 13.
After Davidson passed away, Colleen Howe, the wife of legendary Detroit Red Wings Hall of Famer Gordie Howe also known as "Mr. Hockey" died at the age of 76 from Pick's Disease, a rare and incurable form of progressive dementia similar to Alzheimer's disease. It alters a person's personality and character and its progression cannot be slowed. Davidson and Mrs Hockey both died on Friday March 13.
On Sept 27, 1999, I had the good pleasure of talking to Tigers Hall of Famer George Kell before the Final Game at Tiger Stadium against the Kansas City Royals. Kell died on March 24 in his sleep from his home in Swifton, Arkansas. He was 86.
The No. 13 is proving to be unlucky as former Detroit Tigers All-Star Pitcher Mark "The Bird" Fidrych died on Monday April 13 was found dead in an apparent accident at his farm Northborough, Mass. He was 54.
The colorful right-hander was the American League Rookie Of The Year in 1976 when he went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA. He spent all five of his major league seasons with the Detroit Tigers, compiling a 29-19 record and a 3.10 ERA.
He started the 1976 All-Star Game after opening the season with seven wins in eight decisions. He finished that season with 24 complete games. I'll never forget that All-Star Game in Philadelphia when he joined Rusty Staub and Ron LeFlore as starters on this team.
It wouldn't be surprising that current Owners and General Managers use Fidrych as an example that young pitchers should have their innings monitored and pitch counts are now enforced. In 1976, Fidrych led the American League with 24 complete games. It seems that in this day and age, I'd be curious as to how many pitchers would have that many complete games in their career.
It's only fitting that Fidrych wore the No. 20. In Detroit, this number has produced many great moments. Former Red Wings Right Winger and current Broadcaster Mickey Redmond was the first 50-goal scorer in the franchises storied history. Former Lions Lem Barney, Billy Sims and Barry Sanders also provided long lasting memories. Barney and Sanders are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Pistons are currently facing the probability of another death as Hall of Fame Coach Chuck Daly is fighting Cancer. In March 2009, it was announced Daly had been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer and is receiving treatment. He is 78. My dealings with Daly were extremely pleasant with him and my fondest memory was when we ate lunch together before a nationally televised Sunday Pistons road game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Richfield Coliseum. Daly is currently living in Florida.
Get well soon Chuck! Sports Center, the Obituaries, and the Death Notices can wait!
Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Michigan VS Ohio State hosted by FAU

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
It doesn't take the football field to raise the adrenaline of the Michigan Wolverines & Ohio State Buckeyes athletic programs.
During the weekend of March 27-29, the FAU Owls hosted the Inaugural Golf Spring Break Championship at Gleneagles Country Club in Delray Beach.
Including FAU, there were 14 schools which participated in the event. They included Wisconsin, Iowa, Marquette, Eastern Michigan, Memphis, Missouri, Notre Dame, St. Johns, Northern Illinois, Illinois, Northwestern, Michigan and Ohio State.
Of these 14 schools, seven played in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament & two were in the NIT. The Wolverines and Buckeyes were in this year's NCAA field but it's no secret that their epic battles have been on the football field.
While Notre Dame's football program wouldn't take a back-seat to anyone, even the Irish's rivalry games don't match the intensity of a Wolverines verus Buckeyes clash.
Ohio State's prize Golf alumnus is the legendary Jack Nicklaus. Ohio State's Coach Jim Brown is retiring after 36 seasons and said when FAU Golf Coach Angelo Sands invited him to participate in this tournament, he was pleased and jumped at the opportunity to take his team to South Florida.
He added having Michigan in the field made the trip even more meaningful but said this tournament is a great opportunity for the Owls to network with Ohio State to play against each other in other sports especially football.
“When Michigan and Ohio State are in the field, it kind of gets your blood flowing and yes we very much so want to beat them on the golf course,” Brown said. “I think we're getting $600,000-700,000 per game but we're scheduled so far out. It's a big pay day when you come to Ohio State and play football if they can work it out. I think it's a good possibility. I know from my experience here, I'll tell them everything I can about it.”
Michigan Coach Andrew Sapp said the Wolverines were proud to be invited to this tournament and noticed one major difference facing Ohio State.
“On the golf course, we're not hitting anybody,” Sapp said. “It's not quite as intense plus we may not be paired with Ohio State. But I've known Coach Brown for a long time and I've got great respect for him. He's done a lot for college golf in the Big 10 by winning National Championships and producing a lot of tour players. There isn't as much hatred as there is with the football programs. But the kids do like to play Ohio State because they've had one of the finest programs in the Big 10 for the longest time so it's obvious that we like to raise our games to. When we play them on the golf course there will always be a little bit of ribbing going on. There is definitely passion between us.”
Michigan finished second in this tournament while Ohio State was fifth. FAU's ninth place showing was ahead of Notre Dame, Marquette, Missouri, Northern Illinois and St. Johns.
But Sands was gleaming at the possibility that this tournament will only enhance the growth of the athletic department.
“The Football helps the Golf, the Golf helps Baseball and Baseball helps this and that's what this is all about,” Sands said. “Everybody working together and going in the same direction and that's to make FAU better tomorrow than it is today. It's all about creating networking, making contacts and building relationships. Now we have a relationship with 13 major universities and I'm sure that our athletic department will foster these relationships not only as Golf as concerned but all of our sports.”
Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com.

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