Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Top Athletes In My Lifetime

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When you're raised in a town that has all four major major sports teams, it's not hard to determine a list of the best athletes of all-time.

The Detroit area has produced its share of great players and breaking down the best isn't easy to do, but I'm going to produce a list that will be hard to debate.

1) Gordie Howe is the only player to have a hat trick named after him. "Mr. Hockey's" version is a goal, assist and a fight in the same game. When he retired in 1980 as the NHL's all-time leading scorer with 801 goals, 1049 assists, and 1,850 points, it looked like his records were sacred and would never be broken. But Wayne Gretzky took care of that. But I've always wondered whether Gretzky would have amassed 894 goals, 1963 assists and 2,857 points playing in the "Original Six" team era where teams knew every move he'd make. Gretzky had only 577 regular season penalty minutes while Howe had 1,685 penalty minutes. Howe won four Stanley Cups with the Red Wings, but with all of Gretzky's accomplishments, he has won only four championships in the 1980's and appeared in the finals six times. Howe is the oldest player to play in the NHL at 52 years and 11 days and is a 23-time NHL All-Star.

2) Al Kaline is another player who would be a rarity these days. He spent his entire 21-year playing career with the Detroit Tigers. On any other list, "Mr Tiger" would be number one. But compared to Howe, Kaline did one won championship in 1968, and is an 18-time All-Star. Nonetheless, a career .297 average with 3007 hits and 399 homers plus reaching the Hall of Fame on the first ballot with 88.3% of the vote is nothing to be ashamed of. Kaline once told me that the only regret that he had in his career was not reaching the 400 homer milestone. But let that be the least of his problems. He's truly one of the nicest and classiest people you could ever meet.

3) Steve Yzerman is no stranger to challenges as his recent decision to assume the general managers role with the Tampa Bay Lightning indicates that. But lets face the reality that Detroit wouldn't be called "Hockeytown" if Yzerman's stellar 22-year career didn't lead to three Stanley Cup Championships as a player plus another in the front office. He scored 692 goals, had 1,063 assists, 1,755 points. The captain even managed to serve 924 penalty minutes. Yzerman's team scoring totals rank him second behind Howe, who compiled 786 goals, 1,023 assists and 1,809 points wearing the Red & White Winged Wheel.

4) Barry Sanders, who played his entire 10-year career with the Lions, is the one player that I feel sorry for on this list. The only team accomplishment that he can feel good about is leading the Detroit Lions to one NFC Championship game appearance. The Hall of Fame running back still remains third in rushing with 15, 269 yards and who knows how many more yards he would have gained with a better offensive line. To this day, I know Sanders would have continued his career if he had a chance to win a championship with a contender therefore, the Lions losing atmosphere by not retaining key players, led to him burning out faster. He still holds 10 Lions team records. Had Sanders have kept playing, he'd be the All-Time leading rusher and not Emmitt Smith.

5) Isiah Thomas made the Detroit Pistons relevant by leading the Bad Boys to a pair of NBA titles in 1989, 1990 in a 13-year career that saw him 18,822 points, amass 9,061 assists and 1,861 steals. Thomas, a 12-time All-Star, also played his entire career for one pro team and his No.11 is retired at the Palace.

6) Alan Trammell & Lou Whitaker were paired up on the baseball diamond and they'll be paired up on this list playing their entire careers all with one team leading the Tigers to a World Championship in 1984. They are known as the longest running "double play" combination in major league baseball history. Trammell was a six time All-Star who finished with a lifetime batting average of .285 with 185 home runs, 1,003 RBI and 2,365 hits from 1977-1996. This year, he remains on the Hall of Fame ballot as he received 22.4 % of the vote. For a second baseman, Whitaker showed power as be belted 244 home runs and 1,089 RBI. The lifetime .276 hitter who had 2,369 hits and was a five-time All-Star played for the Tigers from 1977-95.

7) Jack Morris will eventually end up in the Hall of Fame and why he's not there is any one's guess. This year he received 52.3 % of the vote. He finished his career with a 254-186 record with a 3.90 ERA and 2,478 strikeouts winning four championships with the Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays playing his entire career in the American League. The five-time All-Star led Detroit to a 1984 World Series title and won 198 games for the franchise in 14 seasons. Morris will be best known for pitching 10 shutout innings and winning the 1991 World Series MVP as his Minnesota Twins defeated the Atlanta Braves 1-0 capturing the championship for his hometown team. Morris also threw a no-hitter for the Tigers on the NBC Game of the Week on April 7, 1984 against the Chicago White Sox at old Comiskey Park.

8) If Mickey Lolich ever reaches the Hall of Fame, it will be through the veterans committee. But that will never stop people from remembering the fact that he won three games leading the Detroit Tigers to a World Championship in 1968 over the St. Louis Cardinals. Lolich finished with a career record of 217-191 but he still holds Tiger records for strikeouts with 2,679, 39 shutouts, 459 games started and is third in wins with 207.

9) Dennis Rodman's number will probably never get retired at the Palace because of his off the wall and off the court antics. But say what you want about the guy however, all he did was play an important role in the Pistons winning their two championships with his stellar defense and rebounding. After Rodman left Detroit, the Pistons started losing. The best way to summarize Rodman's career is through the numbers. He won three more championships with the Chicago Bulls adding to Michael Jordan's legacy. Without Rodman, Jordan doesn't win three more championships. He is two time NBA All-Star, two time Defensive Player Of The Year, seven time NBA All Defensive First Team selection and seven time NBA Rebounding Champion. He scored 6,683 points, grabbed 11,954 rebounds and his energy produced 1,600 assists. I'd say five championships for two different dynasties deserves Hall of Fame consideration. Not bad for a 1986 second round draft choice, 27 overall from Southeastern Oklahoma State. Pistons President Joe Dumars needs another Rodman in this years draft badly.

10) Nicklas Lidstrom will be the only player that I refuse to use final statistics for on this list because he's an active player and the final chapter of his career is incomplete. But I will say this, he's the first European born captain to win a Stanley Cup, and he followed Yzerman. He's played on four Stanley Cup Championships and has played all 17 of his seasons for the same team. Add six Norris Trophy's and being an 11-time NHL All-Star, plus the first European Player to win a Playoff MVP, he will eventually have his No.5 jersey retired when his career is over.

In the modern day of free agency, it's amazing that most of these players stayed with their teams for their entire careers. The only sad part about this list is that Sanders was the only one of this group that is considered the "Black Sheep" because he has no championship in his career.

But that will never take away from Sanders place in Michigan Sports History let alone the legacy and excitement he gave sports fans all over the country. All of these players have their own legacies and the numbers don't lie. They may not all be Hall of Fame Players but their performances will always have a place in any Hall of Fame Museum.

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

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Things I'd Like To See Happen

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

It is very rare that I have the opportunity to mix and match different sports but when you get numerous ideas, it's nice to blend them together to hopefully create future discussion so they pick-up steam and eventually happen.

Here are my Top 10 things that I'd like to see happen.

1) If Wayne Gretzky's No. 99 jersey is retired by all NHL teams, the No.9 worn by Gordie Howe should be as well. If it weren't for "Mr. Hockey" there wouldn't be "The Great One." Although Gretzky has shattered many of Howe's scoring records, there are a few that even Wayne would admit are untouchable. Gretzky wasn't a 23-time NHL All-Star because he played in the league 20 years. Howe has played in the most NHL games with 1,767, is the oldest player to play in an NHL game at 52 and the only player to play in the NHL after age 50. Even Gretzky wouldn't have a problem with Howe's number being universally retired because it's his idol. Howe's No.9 jersey is retired by the Detroit Red Wings, Hartford Whalers, and the AHL's Houston Aeros, who have the same name of the once WHA's franchise. It is also kept out of circulation by the Carolina Hurricanes, who relocated from Hartford.

2) I'm still waiting to see when the Detroit Tigers are finally going to retire former players Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker's numbers. Trammell played 20 years with Detroit while Whitaker performed in 19 seasons. These two are known as the longest running "double play" combination in major league history. My advice to Tigers Owner Mike Illitch, you handle everything else with class, it's about time for the No. 3 and No. 1 become visual reminders that these two guys deserved to be recognized with Ty Cobb, Al Kaline and company. ASAP!

3) If the greater New York/New Jersey area can land the Super Bowl, then if the Nets want to make their own headlines, I wouldn't be surprised if new owner Mikhail Prokhorov makes a serious run at LA Lakers Coach Phil Jackson. If Jerry Buss wants to cut Jackson's $12 million salary per year, Prokhorov seems like the type of guy who would give Jackson $24 million. This Russian billionaire figures that 10 NBA titles is worth a lot of coin especially with a forthcoming move to Brooklyn. Since Prokhorov has a bank account estimated at an excess of $13 billion, this would be a great way to make a splash in the NBA and let owners realize this franchise is headed in the right direction plus it will get an excellent player with the No.3 overall pick in this years draft.

4) Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki continue his career in another city. The 7-0, 245 pounder deserves a chance to win a championship ring somewhere else. I'm sick and tired of his owner Mark Cuban for disrespecting other franchises for ugly defensive play that wins titles. Cuban has taken jabs at the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs, whom have combined to win seven titles. Cuban has no titles but has spent a lot of money in fines because he can't keep his mouth shut when it comes to officiating and now tampering with upcoming Cleveland Cavaliers free agent LeBron James.

5) Even though ABC/ESPN broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy could get some offers because of the numerous NBA vacancies, I'd still like to see him remain behind the microphone. Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Mike Breen do an outstanding job together. But it's inevitable that Jackson will one day become an NBA head coach because he his so knowledgeable. My lasting image of Van Gundy is when the his New York Knicks faced the Miami Heat, there was a fight and he was on the bottom of the pile in the middle of the melee.

6) Los Angeles Dodgers 82-year old broadcasting legend Vin Scully still calling games into his 90's and actually doing games nationally. There is no reason why Fox or TBS couldn't use him during the post-season. These great broadcasters are passing before our eyes especially with the recent death of Tigers legend, Uncle Ernie Harwell.

7) Please ESPN, get the NHL back. I'd be pleased to see the games on ESPN 2. You've have every other major sport, why not retain this property? I'd still like to know how many people see Versus. Having Gary Thorne, Steve Levy, Barry Melrose and Matthew Barnaby would be a great lineup of on air talent for the fans. Since TNT and ESPN share NBA rights, there is no reason why ESPN and Versus can't work together.

8) The Las Vegas and Kansas City markets get NHL teams so the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets can move to the Eastern Conference. These teams travel has to be brutal continuously changing time zones. Las Vegas would be a natural rival for Phoenix and Los Angeles, while Kansas City and St. Louis would be a great Missouri match up.

9) President Barack Obama to focus on the economy and not picking NCAA basketball tournament brackets or lobbying for James to sign with the Chicago Bulls. If he doesn't make strides with this economy by the end of his term in office, then his home state of Illinois may be the only place that votes for him during the next election.

10) The next NBA labor agreement should have a two-year and out rule. I'm tired of all of these college players going to school for one year then jumping into the pros. It should be either two years or just allow the players to join the league out of high school. This one and done rule is stupid. Eliminating this one and done rule could minimize recruiting problems like we saw at USC when OJ Mayo and Memphis' Derrick Rose left their schools under NCAA investigations due to illegal payoffs and scandals.

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

Monday, May 24, 2010

Best Detroit Team?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

I'll never forget the first time I saw my name get published.

In 1979, my close friend and adopted brother George Eichorn asked me to write a few paragraphs commenting on what was wrong with all of the Detroit teams because at that time they were all struggling.

Eichorn was asking me to do him a favor and I did it.

A week later, "He Kept His Word" by publishing those comments that appeared in the Detroit Monitor and I was extremely excited!

By keeping his word, that taught me the one core value that has served me well in my lifetime and has built an unbelievable relationship with undoubtedly the closest person in my life!

Now 31 years later, we've seen the Detroit Tigers, Pistons and Red Wings win titles. The Lions haven't made it to a Super Bowl, but thanks to them and Eichorn, I've been to four.

Back in 1979, the economy was in lousy shape and nowadays, the Detroit area has been slowed due to the recession.

With that said, it's time to look at what Detroit team is headed in the best direction as I did in 1979 when I was an intern working with Eichorn at WXYZ Radio.

Despite their ouster in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Red Wings have been to the post-season 25 of the past 27 years, plus won four championships in 11 seasons. The Red Wings have made the playoffs for 19 straight years.

As evidenced by the contract extensions to General Manager Ken Holland and his assistant Jim Nill, the Red Wings are in excellent hands with their front office.

In Ken Holland, we trust.

If the NHL hadn't incorporated a salary cap, who knows how many more titles the Red Wings would have won? We know that Owner Mike Illitch has deep pockets and has used his checkbook well to acquire the necessary players to make the team winners on the ice as well as marketable on NBC plus a popular draw at opposing arenas around the country.

The Red Wings did win a Stanley Cup after the salary cap was implemented and reached the Finals in a tremendous two year stretch facing the Pittsburgh Penguins and star Sidney Crosby.

But as long as Detroit has Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and rookie goaltender Jimmy Howard matures with experience to compliment the teams core players, the only problem the Red Wings will have is finding a first class facility to play their games. This is why former Pistons executive Tom Wilson was hired to coordinate this project and he'll continue to hire his former teams administrators to handle things in a first class manner.

After the departure of Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco, I thought the Detroit Tigers would have a tough season.

But with the acquisitions of Austin Jackson, who has replaced Granderson in centerfield, Johnny Damon, Phil Coke all former New York Yankees, to compliment Miguel Cabrera, Brandon Inge, and Justin Verlander, there should be competitive baseball at Comerica Park this summer.

When the Tigers (25-19) signed Jose Valverde to replace Fernando Rodney, I knew this was a major upgrade.

As long as Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland remain in charge, the Tigers should be fine.

They looked good winning five of seven games during a recent home stand against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. It helps that they play in the AL Central Division and not the AL East where they'd have to face the Yankees, Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays 18 times each.

When a team gets rid of its popular public relations director as it did with the recent dismissal of Matt Dobek, that's bad!

But the Detroit Pistons, coming off a 27-52 record and no playoff appearance, have some major work to do on and off the court.

This years draft figures to be interesting.

Former Coaches Flip Saunders and Doug Collins have the top two draft choices with the Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76'ers respectively. It's obvious that they'll draft a player the Pistons need.

Joe Dumars can't afford to make a mistake with the seventh overall pick. There can't be a repeat of not taking a Carmelo Anthony in favor of Darko Milicic.

If the Pistons regress further, it will be a sad sight to see the Palace of Auburn Hills 50% full. It's sad even thinking that there would even be discussions of them leaving this first class facility to move downtown. How do you leave a first class venue?

This team needs to be sold to an owner that cares ASAP!

If Dumars wants to keep his job, there better be some significant improvement immediately.

With the declining condition of the franchise, the new owner should be able to get a bargain basement price for the team and the Palace.

Late Pistons Owner William Davidson must be turning over in his grave at Clover Hill Park Cemetery.

Two victories in 32 games is embarrassing.

Despite the enthusiasm of the past two drafts, once these draft choices mature, plus Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz perform their "Complete Makeover" of the franchise, there will be reasons to be excited about the Detroit Lions.

If the Lions win at least five games, then the crowds will be 80-90% full.

Thankfully they're in Detroit because in any other sports market, their futility would lead to crowds of 50-60% attendance and a lot more local blackouts.

The Lions have to be fortunate that they at least are featured on Thanksgiving once a year and that this game hasn't been taken away because they started this tradition when no other team wanted it. But if they want to keep the game, they better improve and be competitive on this holiday.

More importantly, if they ever want to see more national telecasts on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights, things have to change to get consideration from NBC, ESPN and the NFL Network.

Being one of four teams to not reach a Super Bowl plus having just one conference championship appearance in franchise history will hang over their heads until fortunes change.

For Detroit fans, hopefully it changes quickly. The Michigan Wolverines and MSU Spartans have shown over the years that Southeastern Michigan Gridiron Fans flock through the turnstiles.

Once upon a time, Barry Sanders and company filled the Pontiac Silverdome's 80,000 plus. It's time to see Ford Field get jammed and nobody will care about traffic on the Lodge Freeway, I-94 and I-75.

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

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spare Me LeBron!

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When I read a Detroit News story that the "NBA holds its breath over LeBron James," I was ready to gag!

I don't give a damn where James plays! For all I care, he can play in Russia, Spain, Israel, Greece or join NBA castoff Stephon Marbury in China.

If it weren't for Magic Johnson, Larry Bird or Michael Jordan, there wouldn't be LeBron James. Once upon a time, the NBA Finals used to be shown on tape delayed after 11:30 PM following the late local news.

As talented as James is, there is no doubt that he's revitalized a franchise that was a mess when he joined it. The sellout crowds in downtown Cleveland have generated revenue for all types of businesses, especially restaurants and bars. I could only imagine how backed up traffic would have been if he made the old Richfield Coliseum was his home court since it was located in the suburbs.

I've always had the utmost respect for Cleveland fans. This Midwest Blue-Collar Town appreciates a great effort and they'll support their teams. James has made the Cavaliers relevant by winning two straight MVP's along with leading his squad to back-to-back 60 win seasons. The Cavaliers are fun to watch.

Will the Cavaliers ever win a title while he's a member of the organization? We'll know after July 1 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The Cavaliers have the ability to offer him $30 million more and a six-year contract therefore, he'd have to take a pay cut to play for a five-year deal anywhere else.

When you look at the history of the Cavaliers, this is an organization which fired former Detroit Pistons Coach Chuck Daly during the middle of the 1981-82 season when he posted a 9-32 record. All Daly did was win two NBA titles with the Detroit Pistons and used another former Cavalier named Bill Laimbeer to help him win those championships.

Daly also won an Olympic Gold Medal with the original "Dream Team" in 1992. He is the only Hall of Fame coach to win an NBA Championship and Olympic Gold Medal.

You can rest assure that if Daly were alive, Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert would hire Chuck and this would be enough to entice James to stay.

In the meantime, Gilbert has to think of a contingency plan to figure out who will replace his current coach Mike Brown. I think Brown has underachieved with this group of players and isn't the answer. Can Gilbert lure a championship caliber coach to Cleveland? We'll find out soon because you know that James won't accept the current situation now that he has the power to control his professional destiny.

When Pistons boss Joe Dumars made the decision to fire Rick Carlisle, he had his plan in place to lure Larry Brown to Detroit. The moved produced two trips to the NBA Finals and one championship. Don't expect Dumars to give Gilbert any advice how to handle his current situation.

When I heard this article mention that James was holding five teams hostage, that was ridiculous! To me, the word hostage can relate to a couple of areas.

First, it means a human beings life is being threatened because of a violent act. The first time the word hostage meant anything to me was during the Iranian Crisis when Jimmy Carter was the President and these people were in captivity but were released when Ronald Reagan took over the oval office. There are many other examples.

Second, in the sports world, I've seen owners hold cities hostage that if they didn't build a new stadium, they'd move their teams. Cleveland dealt with this first hand when former Browns Owner Art Modell moved his franchise to Baltimore and became the Ravens. Cleveland would spend millions of dollars to build another stadium to create the rebirth of the Browns.

This story said that five franchises are being held hostage. The Cavaliers, New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls.

Please, Spare Me LeBron!

If James doesn't like to lose, then he better stay away from the Knicks, Nets and Clippers. If the Knicks couldn't get Patrick Ewing a championship ring and he had more talent than James would inherit, what makes LeBron think he's going to win a title anytime soon? Just because the Knicks have cleared out a lot of salary cap space to land James and another prime free agent, the rest of the roster will be filled in with draft choices and role players.

The Nets and Clippers are known more for their yearly appearances in the NBA Draft Lottery.

Once upon a time, the Brooklyn NY., area was known for the Dodgers. Even though the new owner is a billionaire Russian named Mikhail Prokhorov and James idol Jay-Z is a minority owner, thus there are deep pockets to land players, sports fans associate this area as the former home of the Dodgers. James won't be able to see a Dodgers game at the old Ebbets Field because as my late Uncle, mentor and friend Ernie Harwell would say, these memories are "Long Gone."

Why would James want to play second fiddle to Kobe Bryant as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, undoubtedly the worst franchise in NBA history?

Since LeBron has all the money in the world, he should take a major pay decrease and play for the Lakers. He'll have plenty of opportunities to win a ring.

As for Chicago, that's Michael Jordan's town. Does he really want to play in Jordan's shadow? With the right coach, the future looks good for the Bulls especially with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in their core group. If Chicago is able to lure Dwyane Wade home, then is able to sign James, this would make Bulls games a tough ticket at the United Center.

Miami could be a good fit for James. This would be a great way for the Heat to entice Wade to stay in South Florida. The lure of South Beach, no state income taxes and warm weather might be too good to pass up. He could always buy Shaquille O'Neal's home or even talk the center into returning to the home of his fourth championship.

The Heat have a good young nucleus and you can rest assure that if Pat Riley senses an opportunity to win another championship, he'll return to the sidelines despite the fact that current Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra has done an excellent job rebuilding this franchise. Riley would cast Spoelstra aside like he did with Stan Van Gundy.

For some reason, I have a feeling that James, Toronto's Chris Bosh, Wade or Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire are devising a plan to find a team they can play for. Especially James, Wade and Bosh since they did win a gold medal together in the 2008 Olympics. They developed chemistry and won before, why not try it again?

If there is a consolation prize Cleveland, if James leaves, former Texas Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy wants to play in your city and brings a 45-7 record as a starter. The only problem is you'll have to wait a year or two because he'll be holding a clipboard while learning the NFL game. But it's just a matter of time before Mike Holmgren turns that franchise around and attempts to take a third team to the Super Bowl, referring to the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks.

No matter what happens, when James returns as a visitor, Cleveland is guaranteed at least 1-2 sellouts a year. Additional sellouts will come if he faces the Cavaliers in the playoffs.

In the meantime, just hope Gilbert has enough salesmanship in him to keep James and revamp that roster with his Olympic buddies. That will keep LeBron interested and challenged.

James should only be smart enough to realize that the New York Media is much more ruthless if you underachieve and don't win. They have tons of media that will make you realize that being a big fish in a big pond doesn't guarantee you happiness and success.

Just ask Olympic Coach Mike Krzyzewski. He had a chance to leave his cushy job with Duke to coach Bryant and the Lakers and turned it down. Bryant won another championship with Phil Jackson while Krzyzewski made a good move staying put, therefore winning another NCAA Championship over Butler in April. Krzyzewski is "King" in Durham, NC.

I remember when Grant Hill left the Detroit Pistons in 2000 and Dumars worked out a sign and trade with the Orlando Magic. Hill didn't feel he could win in Detroit thus the Pistons acquired Ben Wallace & Chucky Atkins. They proceeded to move Atkins and landed Rasheed Wallace which led the team to an NBA title.

Yes, LeBron, Spare Me! You can be replaced.

We all can be replaced because life goes on. If you move to a different situation, there are no guarantees you'll win a title.

Kevin Garnett was lucky it worked out for him in Boston because his Minnesota Timberwolves boss Kevin McHale worked out a trade with his former teammate Danny Ainge to make this transaction happen.

When Wayne Gretzky left the Edmonton Oilers, he never won another Stanley Cup title while that team did, led by Hall of Famer Mark Messier, who ironically also won a title for the New York Rangers.

You can't buy happiness LeBron and a championship ring is one thing your millions of dollars can't purchase. Just ask Karl Malone, Charles Barkley and Ewing along with the many other great players in sports that could never reach the top of that team plateau.

Your best move might be no move and take a trip with Gilbert to Hawaii to help establish how to maintain your throne in your hometown. Who knows, maybe Gilbert might offer you future ownership of the team?

Magic Johnson stayed with the Lakers and has a minority ownership interest with the team.

Mario Lemieux was once awarded a huge contact with the Pittsburgh Penguins and when he didn't get paid, he eventually became the owner of the team and saved the franchise.

Once again, your best move is no move. So Spare Me LeBron!

I don't need to hear anymore drama because the only one being held hostage here is yourself due to the fear of the unknown.

Even though Cleveland hasn't won a major championship in over 40 years, at some point they'll break through. This city would have sold out their former NHL team the Barons if there was a great product on the ice.

Now the question is, are you strong enough to withstand the challenge of pulling it off! If you are, that will be the real slam dunk and more powerful than the ones that you show on the floor every night. If you have enough guts to hang in there, then you'll have statues, freeways, etc. named after you.

So Spare Me LeBron, and don't talk about your uncertain future!

The focus should be on who will be the next NBA Champion. At 25, I still think you have an excellent shot at winning it all as long as you make the right decision on after July 1.

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

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Which Drought Will End?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

While this years Stanley Cup Finals may lack the star power of last years with the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins not returning for a third year in a row, there is another intriguing potential match up.

During the 1971 NHL Finals, CBS had a classic match up featuring the Chicago Black Hawks and Montreal Canadiens. The announcing team was Hall of Fame Broadcaster Dan Kelly and Jim Gordon.

How many fans remember who played on both of these teams? For the Black Hawks, there was Bobby Hull, Tony Esposito and Pat Stapleton. Montreal had legends Ken Dryden, Jean Beliveau, Jacques Lemaire, Henri Richard and John Ferguson.

Montreal won this series 4-3 as Beliveau and Ferguson retired as Stanley Cup Champions in a league that had only 14 teams.

How things have changed. The NHL has more than doubled in size.

This is a year that one of the leagues Final Four will break a long championship drought. Is it possible that we could have a rematch of the 1971 Stanley Cup Finals? Could we have two Original Six teams in the Finals?

The answer to both questions is absolutely!

The Chicago Black Hawks have the longest drought 0f the Final Four. They won their last championship in 1961.

The Philadelphia Flyers last championship occurred in 1975 when the Broad Street Bullies led by Bobby Clarke, Dave "The Hammer" Schultz, Rick MacLeish, Bernie Parent, Gary Dornhoefer, Bob Kelly and Bill Barber piled up penalty minutes and two championships.

It's hard to imagine that it's been since 1993 that the Montreal Canadiens won their last championship as they won their 24th Stanley Cup by defeating the Wayne Gretzky led Los Angeles Kings. The Coach of the Canadiens was former Red Wings bench boss Jacques Demers. Hall of Famer Patrick Roy was the goaltender for Montreal.

During this season, the San Jose Sharks set an NHL record for most losses in a season with 71. The Sharks had the fewest ties ever with two and had the most home losses with 32. San Jose had a 17-game losing streak and finished the year with an 11-71-2 record with 24 points.

Speaking of the Sharks, they are the top seed in this tournament and are looking for their first Stanley Cup Championship. If they make it to the finals, they have home ice advantage.

When was the last time you saw a playoff tournament the featured the top two teams meeting in one Conference Finals as we are with the Sharks and Black Hawks facing off in the West.

For that matter, when was the last time you saw the bottom two teams in a conference battling for their right to be amongst the Final Two in the East.

It will be interesting to see if the illustrious tradition of the Montreal Canadiens will be enough to give NBC big ratings. If the Flyers make it to the Finals, NBC should be fine with that major television market.

But I have to hand it to both of these teams for advancing as far as they did. The Montreal Canadiens won a pair of seven game series by ousting the Washington Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin along with the defending champions Pittsburgh Penguins led by Sidney Crosby.

The Flyers earned there way by eliminating the New Jersey Devils and future Hall of Fame Goaltender Martin Brodeur. Then Philadelphia did the unthinkable by overcoming a 3-0 series deficit and a 3-0 margin in the seventh game to rekindle the Boston Massacre of the Bruins faithful.

With the Flyers and Canadiens being the seventh and eighth seeds in their conferences, they're playing on house money. Nobody expects them to do anything. The underdog role could suit either organization just fine when one of these squads gets to the finals.

The Flyers fans have to be thrilled at what they accomplished and certainly validated Yogi Berra's saying that "It's not over until it's over." The Boston Bruins know it now and will not forget this blown opportunity to snap their drought which dates back to the 1971-72 season when they defeated the New York Rangers.

If Chicago wins the Stanley Cup, NBC announcer Ed Olczyk will receive a championship ring because he is the Black Hawks regular color commentator. I still have a feeling he'll show professionalism and be as neutral as possible working with his seasoned pro partner Mike Emrick.

But if the Black Hawks do win the Stanley Cup, I can just imagine how much more pressure will be on the Chicago Cubs to win a title in a drought that has lasted over 100 years.

Meanwhile, the NHL could receive a boost if the Sharks win the Stanley Cup by bringing a championship to the San Francisco Bay area. There could be no better publicity then to grow the game than in Northern California. If the Sharks beat Montreal, it would only enhance their championship by defeating this legendary Original Six Team.

With three major USA Media Markets, and the most storied franchise in NHL history, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

I'd personally like to see the Black Hawks and Canadiens face off again in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Windy City emerging as champions. But if Montreal does win the Stanley Cup, they will have earned it by beating the best competition out there. For an eighth seed to win a title, this would be quite an accomplishment.

More importantly, in this calender year, if Montreal wins it's 25 Stanley Cup, they will only trail the New York Yankees by two titles since the Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2009 to win their 27 championship. These sleeping giants will have awoken.

Lets drop the puck, let the intrigue begin as we find out how high or low the ratings are plus which drought will end?

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




Ernie Harwell Final Tribute

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

It was 36 years and 51 weeks ago on May 11, 1973., that my Grandfather Sidney Morganroth passed away due to a valiant battle with lung cancer at age 55.

Now another close person has fallen to this devastating disease.

On May 4, 2010, former legendary Detroit Tigers Play-By-Play Radio Announcer Ernie Harwell, 92, lost a courageous battle with incurable bile duct cancer.

When Ernie announced that he had this disease on September 3, 2009, I knew this day would eventually come. As many prayers as I would say, I knew the day of mourning would cause me a gut wrenching feeling internally.

This was a man that I had so many memories with.

Ernie was a "Father Figure" to me.

When the Detroit Tigers visited Bank One Ballpark for a weekend series with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, we spent Fathers Day together eating lunch while I drove him back to his Phoenix hotel the entire trip. We talked about life and baseball.

At 9:15 PM on May 4, my ex-girlfriend Michelle Milgrom Lebowitz Cinelli was the first to notify me of Ernie's death leaving a very touching voice mail message offering her condolences. Michelle, a native from Detroit, knew that Ernie was a mentor in my life and her class making this call, showed what respect and deep fondness that I still have for her!

The next call came from my closest friend and adopted older brother George Eichorn at 9:34 PM. For years, George, Ernie and I enjoyed many awesome times together with Ernie at Tigers games, at Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association (DSBA) meetings, plus we met at various places together for lunch.

That doesn't count the numerous times I spent with Ernie alone.

When I wrote my first tribute on Ernie Harwell on December 29, 2009, I had the opportunity to express my feelings hoping he would see the story and know how I felt about him. Eichorn made sure Ernie did see it by posting it on the DSBA website.

The best birthday present that I received was an e-mail that Ernie wrote me at 8:16 PM that night. It read, "dear scott--that for that beautiful tribute. you were much too good to me. love you--ernie harwell="

It took me two days to digest this e-mail. Ernie was always the most even keeled person that I've ever been associated with. He always taught me to do my best to stay as calm as possible despite the tons of adversity that we get hit with in life.

I've worked hard to get better with this and I'm still trying real hard to improve in this area.

Here is the e-mail that I wrote back to Ernie on December 31, 2009 at 7:44 AM.

"You're very welcome Ernie!

I wish I could have written more but I wanted to use the best memories I had, realizing that it wasn't quantity but quality!

You mean more to me than you'll ever know! And we did have a lot of fun together! You're in my thoughts and prayers every day! I don't think about you passing away, just that you continue to live life the way I've always believed it should and that's "I Live Everyday As If It Were My Last" but you've done a Much Better Job than the Majority of us out here. I LOVE YOU VERY MUCH & Happy New Year to You and Your Family. Your e-mail on this date was the best birthday present I could have received on No. 47.

Thanks again and I'll continue to stay in touch and hope to hear from you when you get a chance.

Love,

Scott Morganroth"

I did proceed to write Ernie a couple more times but I knew with the tremendous amount of letters he was getting that there was a strong possibility he wouldn't write back. That proved to be the case but I was fine by that. At least he knew that I cared.

When I wrote my tribute to him on December 29, 2009, there wouldn't have been enough space on my hard drive to explain the volumes of memories I had with Ernie. So I had to limit it to the best memories.

You can find that original story in the archives on my blog.

As I was sitting at Denny's Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale eating breakfast with my housekeeper Doris Burks, I received a phone call from my adopted younger brother & college buddy Stuart Bloom at 7:55 AM.

Stuart also offered his condolences to me but what made Bloom's call more emotional was on April 29, 2010, his older brother Howard Bloom passed away at the age of 58. For Stuart to call me at undoubtedly one of the most difficult times of his life, is one of the classiest gestures I've ever experienced in my life! Here is a guy who was unselfish and put his pain aside to make sure I was OK!

I told Stuart when he came to Delray Beach for his brothers memorial that weekend that I would be there to offer him support under the following condition. It was that we'd give each other the "Biggest Hugs" we could and aside from telling each other that we loved one another, not many words would be exchanged since our "Actions Would Speak Louder Than Words." He easily accepted this condition! To this day, I'm grateful for the honor that he bestowed upon me for allowing me to stand-up at his wedding to his lovely wife Marilyn!

As she was for my back surgery, Burks was here for me during this tough time. She held my hand across the table as I was talking to Stuart and when the conversation with Bloom was over, Doris asked me if I was OK? My answer was, "No I'm not OK! I don't care how old Ernie was, his death kills me inside. A part of me died when he passed away, but I know one day, we'll be reunited one day hanging out for lunch or attending Regular Season or Spring Training games again."

When I got back to my house before the carpet cleaning guy was set to arrive, I showed her the autographs in my Sports Showcase. Doris gave me the sweetest smile and gave me timely hugs and kisses to show her support. When I asked this 75-year old woman who her favorite announcer was, the Chicago native said Harry Caray. I told her that Harwell and Caray are iconic Hall of Fame Broadcasters whose legacies will be unmatched in the eyes of baseball fans.

Although I didn't shed a tear and had the perfect shoulders to do so, at least I had Burks shoulder to lean on when I needed her.

At 1:29 PM, my Aunt Judy Strohl called me and she was always as supportive as she's always been. Judy told me that the Detroit area is obviously taking this passing as expected, extremely hard!

Finally, at 5:20 PM, another college friend of mine Bob Schultz, a Chicago native, expressed his condolences. He was quick to point out that I shouldn't take this loss too hard because of Ernie's age.

Schultz, an auto mechanics teacher in the Dallas suburb of Hurst, Texas., told me that he was mourning the loss of his 17-year old student that died four days prior to Harwell's death in a drowning accident. He talked about how nice the kid was, but being a sports fan, Schultz always enjoyed listening to Harwell's broadcasts on CBS Radio during the post-season as well as on WJR when the signal was strong enough. What a difference between the ages of 17 and 92.

I've always known that Detroit has been one of the best sports towns in the country. To see over 10,000 fans go to Comerica Park and pay their final respects to Harwell is just another major reason to feel how a city connects with it's heroes. I know that Tigers Owner Mike Illitch and President and General Manager were classy enough to interact with the fans.

Comerica Park was a great venue to say a Final Good-Bye to Harwell and as I found out, that's where he wanted to be seen in public last. However, I still wish there would have been a way to have that pubic viewing at the "Old Tiger Stadium Site." It's a place where Harwell worked so diligently to preserve and called the Final Game at Tiger Stadium. I know the City of Detroit is financially strapped but I'm sure Illitch would have found a way to pull this off. What better way to celebrate Ernie's life than at the Corner of Michigan & Trumbull?

Since his death can be viewed as a celebration, I'm glad that he lived to see his 92 birthday on January 25 and the New York Yankees won their 27 championship. It's only fitting that one of the greatest people and announcers see the most storied franchise win his last title while he was alive.

I always thought that if there was a man that would 100, Ernie was it.

But God was kind to Ernie and ESPN's story on December 29, 2009 written by Elizabeth Merrill that was titled, "For Harwell, there is still much to do" remains in my favorites on my computer. I've read it tons of times for various reasons! Now I've saved his other stories from the day he died.

I know that somewhere in heaven, Ernie has to be proud of all the people that he's touched with all of the tributes that he's received from fans, media outlets, etc. At least that he knew that when he was going to die, he tied up all of his loose ends planning a gallant exit. But listening, reading and watching these tributes of my idol, mentor, best friend, uncle and extended part of my family, just made me that much more proud of our association together that began in 1982.

While I know I'll never forget Uncle Ernie for obvious reasons, seeing him die in May near my Grandfather Sidney Morganroth will enable me to think of these heroes even more.

Although I know that Uncle Ernie will never see this story physically, I'm grateful that he was alive to see the last one. I'm glad that he was able to enjoy his family even more since learning of his declining health.

Even though I have travel restrictions due to my back surgery and would have loved to have been at Comerica Park to pay my final respects, my heart and mind were there as it has been so many times over the years.

When I completed this story at Hooters in Boca Raton, on May 5, 2010, my waitress Samantha, who was born in 1989, wanted to read this after I occupied her booth for 2 1/2 hours on a quiet day. Although Samantha hates sports, it didn't take her long for her to become a fan of Harwell's after reading this latest tribute. She told me she is spiritual and believes Ernie will read it one day in heaven. Just knowing what Harwell meant to me was all it took for her to realize what a tremendous person he was.

If Harwell is reading this, Good Bye, I LOVE YOU UNCLE ERNIE! I HOPE YOU REST IN PEACE!

Please send my best to all the baseball greats you'll be reunited with like Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and many others. While Al Kaline may have accepted the Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award for You on May 5, 2010, your legacy was etched in stone long before this honor. This was just icing on the cake.

The reason why I waited 11 days to post this is I wanted to make sure that all of my thoughts were in order so that I could express myself properly.

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

Monday, May 10, 2010

FAU Owls NFL Prospects

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

There was a different feel about FAU's Football Spring Game on Saturday, April 24 in Boca Raton.

Some familiar faces were missing.

On this day, as current Owls quarterback Jeff Van Camp assumed the starting job, his predecessor was making school history.

In the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, the Tennessee Titans selected Rusty Smith as the 176 selection. Smith, who threw for over 10,000 yards in his FAU career, became the first Owl selected in the NFL Draft. Smith is also the final player to win the MVP of the 2008 Motor City Bowl which changed sponsors last season.

One can only imagine how much higher Smith would have been taken if he hadn't suffered a season ending shoulder injury. But the Titans took the gamble on the Jacksonville native, who now has an opportunity to fulfill his lifelong dream.

The 6-4, 231 pound, Smith will have good mentors as the third string quarterback. He'll have a chance to learn from backup Kerry Collins and starter Vince Young.

Young won't have any problems sharing his knowledge with Smith but look for these two to be rooting against each other on November 20 when the Owls face the Texas Longhorns in Austin, Texas.

What makes Smith's Titans career interesting is that Tennessee acquired the Seattle Seahawks pick which sent former USC running back LenDale White to the Pacific Northwest to rejoin his Trojans college coach Pete Carroll.

When the draft was over, the Titans signed Smith's backfield mate Willie Rose as a free agent. Who knows how many yards Rose will gain or blocks he'll throw. But the Nashville media will love this quote machine if he makes the team.

The Tampa Bay Bucs gave a tryout to former Owls OT/G Lavoris Williams (6-4, 290) while Jason Harmon landed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Even though Lockhart Stadium has much smaller crowds compared to where these student athletes are heading in the much bigger NFL Stadiums, if any of these players perform well at the next level and become hidden gems, the credibility of the Sun Belt Conference for developing prospects will continue to grow.

Whether these players land a spot on a 53-man roster, wind up on the developmental squad or get picked up by another team, two bowl wins in three years plus Howard Schnellenberger's reputation will only build this young FAU program to national levels as recruits realize that there is another option to play major college football other than the powerful Miami Hurricanes.

Smith's selection in the 2010 NFL Draft is a monumental accomplishment.

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

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