Saturday, October 29, 2011

Rangers Vs Cardinals Ironies

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

It was ironic seeing a No. 29 on the mound as the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the World Series in St. Louis.

Friday night, the man I'm referring to was Chris Carpenter.

Back in 1968, former Detroit Tigers left-handed pitcher Mickey Lolich wore No. 29 proudly as he pitched a complete game, and defeated St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Pitcher Bob Gibson in Game 7 of the World Series at Old Busch Stadium. The Tigers won the World Series 4-3. Lolich won three games in that series.

Gibson's catcher was Fox Color Analyst Tim McCarver, whose first of two playing stints with the Cardinals was from 1959-1969. The Tigers rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to win the Fall Classic.

The Cardinals broadcaster was Jack Buck.

Now in 2011, McCarver, was in the booth with Buck's son Joe, watching his former team overcome a 3-2 series deficit as the Cardinals won it's 11th World Series Championship, the most in the National League.

There is no doubt that the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers World Series will go down as one of the best ever.

But I'll never forget a Spring Training Game between these two franchises in Pompano Beach, Florida., in the early 1980's. The Rangers played their home games at Pompano Beach Municipal Stadium from 1972-1986.

Texas hosted the Cardinals and Jack Buck was calling the game with legendary St. Louis Blues and Cardinals Announcer Dan Kelly. From 1980-84, Kelly worked Cardinals games for KMOX Radio.

Buck decided to take a window section out of the press box so he could call the game easier. The press box at the stadium was real low and a foul ball flew in and hit Jack right in the arm. The bruise he received was quite evident.

But one thing that wasn't bruised was Buck's sense of humor. He walked out of the radio booth, laughed and shrugged it off and went back to work.

That press box no longer exists at the stadium. The game ended in a tie in front of a crowd of about 750 fans. Joe was born on April 25, 1969 and was in grade school at the time.

However, on Friday night, Joe Buck, who was about six months old when the Tigers defeated McCarver's Cardinals, was in a State Of The Art Press Box with 50,000 fans at New Busch Stadium educating millions of viewers on television.

There would be three guarantees on this night.

1) His press box was high enough to avoid getting drilled in the arm.

2) The attendance was much higher in October then in a meaningless March Spring Training Game, plus Friday nights game was televised.

3) Friday nights game wasn't going to end in a tie.

Somewhere in heaven, Jack Buck and Kelly had to be looking down at the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers match-up much differently as it hit the big stage.

Meanwhile, every time I drive by that stadium, it will go down as one of my most enjoyable Spring Training Memories, which included these two teams that were showcased Friday night.

It was reinforced by an unforgettable World Series and I wouldn't be surprised if they ever met again for a rematch.

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

A Tremendous Ride!

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

There is only one reason why I am covering FAU Football.

To have the opportunity to be reunited from our Miami Hurricanes days in 1982 and 1983 with Howard Schnellenberger was something I couldn't pass up when former Deerfield Beach Observer Editor Ric Green gave me this opportunity in August of 2007.

Green made the commitment for me to write once a week and at the beginning there were weekly coaches conference calls on Sunday Nights.

Due to the economy, unfortunately, my column appears once a month, but I'm still thankful that the newspaper never gave up on the vision of Green and Myself. I wish I could do more but this ride has lasted a GREAT four years.

I've met some incredible people and have enjoyed my association with Sports Information Director Katrina McCormack, her assistant Justin Johnson along with Athletic Director Craig Angelos and former President Frank T Brogan.

During the past two weeks, it's been tough to watch Schnellenberger's Owls lose consecutive home Sun Belt Conference Games and not be competitive in opening their new on-campus stadium. Western Kentucky blanked FAU 20-0 in the opener on Oct 15 and a week later Middle Tennessee hammered FAU 38-14.

Before the Western Kentucky contest, a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony and Statue Unveiling of Schnellenberger commemorated the culmination of events that led to shirts which read "The House That Howard Built."

We all know that without Schnellenberger, nobody would know about Florida Atlantic University nationally. He put the university on the map. The new on-campus stadium has led to an increase of admissions plus the national television exposure has been priceless.

I'm so proud of Schnellenberger that on My Facebook Page, My main photo is with the two of us together in his office. It will remain there for as long as I am a member of Facebook.

When Schnellenberger announced that his 52-year coaching career would end at the completion of the 2011, I was happy for a three reasons.

1) He was leaving on his own terms and while he knew he wouldn't win a National Championship with FAU, what better way to go out on top than coach in the stadium that your efforts, visions and dreams made a reality!

The statue of Schnellenberger was just the beginning of more honors that he'll receive in the future. I predict that a road will be named after him as well as the field at the new stadium.

2) He should be able to enjoy everything he's accomplished with his wife Beverlee and the rest of his family.

3) I'm happy for myself because I was able to stay on the beat until he retired. I've learned so much from coach the past four years and he's been a father figure to me as well. Despite my serious back injuries, he made sure I was comfortable while I was doing my job. He always gave me advice when I needed it. He's the most accessible coach I've ever worked with in 32-years in Sports Media.

As I watch Schnellenberger go through a tough season just trying to get a win, he still does a nice job trying to find solutions to his teams struggles.

These days, I can relate to the adversity he's facing.

During the past two months, I've had to take a hiatus from writing. I am facing some major decisions about My future in South Florida after 10 years in the area. I plan to seek a professional opinion within 60 days.

While I've enjoyed my time in the area and moved here from Chandler, AZ., to be closer to my parents, a fresh start is inevitable. My time here in town has been rough for many reasons as I realize that there is more to South Florida than it's Sunshine and Beautiful Beaches.

I hope to make a final decision at the end of 2011 or the beginning of 2012.

My goal now is to enjoy the Final three home games at FAU Stadium, cover another Shula Bowl in Miami against FIU in November as well as an All-Star Game at FAU Stadium in January with My Favorite Coach of All-Time.

So for Coach Schnellenberger and I, there are at least five games left in "Our Reunion."

His Final FAU Home Game will be on Dec 3rd against Louisiana Monroe at 4 PM.

I know by then, Angelos will have his successor in place. That successor will inherit a program that has a New Orleans and Motor City Bowl victory along with a beautiful stadium that's expandable to 65,000.

But what a ride it's going to be until December 3rd. The All-Star Game in January will see Schnellenberger against former Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden, who was forced out by the Seminoles, and replaced by Jimbo Fisher a year ahead of schedule. This game will be icing on the cake.

While I haven't written my final swan song covering FAU Football yet, at least I know that I have fulfilled a prophecy, and like Schnellenberger, I'm going to cherish every moment until the end.

To be a part of the Opening of a New Stadium after working at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale was real special.

There is no statistic or number that describes how much fun I've had the past four years. It's been A Tremendous Ride!

Should I see FAU Stadium on TV in the future, it will be an extremely proud feeling to know I was there when it opened after all the hard work it took to make it happen.

More importantly, Coach and I can look forward to fresh starts in 2012.

Hopefully, a season finale win on Dec 3rd will be a great way to end 2011.

Even if FAU were to finish 0-12, the record doesn't matter because the foundation is in place for great things to come in future years to come. The new coach will continue the next era of FAU Football That The Father of the Program Schnellenberger built from scratch.

I've always lived by the philosophy "To live everyday as if it were your last."

When my days are over, those special family members who have died will definitely be informed of my great memories with Coach Schnellenberger culminating in his Mini Palace of Boca Raton.

I will be very proud when I mention the great memories, in addition to opening up this new stadium, to go along with past sports highlights that include that include covering four Super Bowls and the closing of Detroit Tiger Stadium in 1999.

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

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Home Sweet Home?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH


How did we get to the New FAU Football Stadium?

On October 15, 2010, ground was broken and exactly one year later, the $70 Million Facility hosted the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers as the start of a new era began in FAU Sports History.

Construction workers worked seven days a week giving up their Sundays to make the Saturday October 15th opener a reality.

This is the only stadium in the United States where you can see the Atlantic Ocean. The campus is 2.1 miles away from the Atlantic Ocean.

Prior to the game, the Star Spangled Banner was sung with a Full-Sized American Flag covering the entire field.

But the road to this Beautiful Venue saw Coach Howard Schnellenberger, Athletic Director Craig Angelos, former President Frank Brogan and his successor Dr. Mary Jane Saunders witness some lopsided defeats to some of the most heralded football programs in the country.

FAU took the guaranteed large payouts to Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Texas, and USF.

There were four notable wins as FAU defeated Hawaii, Central Michigan, Memphis and Minnesota. FAU defeated Memphis in the 2007 New Orleans Bowl and followed that triumph in the 2008 Motor City Bowl defeating Central Michigan.

A year ago, the Michigan State Spartans were supposed to open up FAU Stadium but that never materialized. FAU's home game was moved to Ford Field as the Owls shared a home with the Detroit Lions. FAU lost this game 30-17.

So instead of seeing the Spartans, Owls fans saw their team lose 20-0 to the Hilltoppers in front of 29,103. The score could have been worse for FAU if Western Kentucky would have converted three field goals and an extra point.

But these numbers tell the story!

FAU had only six first downs, 25 rushing and 121 total yards. More importantly, Owls fans would have to wait until Saturday October 22nd against the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders to see the first points in the new stadium at 8:07 PM.

On Saturday October 15th, No. 23 Michigan State defeated state rival No. 11 Michigan 28-14 in East Lansing, a place that wasn't kind to the Owls earlier this year. The Spartans whitewashed FAU 44-0 on September 10 in East Lansing.

When the contest was over, there was a huge sense of happiness and relief that the new on campus stadium dream has become a reality.

By the same token, now that the opener is over, reality has set in that FAU dropped to 0-6 and 0-3  in the Sun Belt Conference. The Owls are in last place and know they have to start winning games.

Quarterback David Kooi said, “Our offense was shaky and we put no points on the board. We didn't execute and just hurt ourselves. This was a great atmosphere and we didn't get the job done. I just want to say I'm sorry to the fans.”

Running back Alfred Morris added, “ I'm very disappointed and wanted it so bad. We just couldn't get it together. This was a very exciting atmosphere, it was crazy. We'll try to get them next time.”

Senior defensive back Marcus Bartels was in a somber mood when he said, “I never expected this. We feel like we let everybody down. I want to apologize to the fans.”

Coach Schnellenberger said, I've never been in a situation like this before. We worked so hard and so long to make this stadium. We played badly on the offensive side of the ball. We expected to win this game but yet played so poorly in front of dedicated fans. That's what happened and I have to deal with that. I'm the coach and I have to do fix this situation.”

Former Owls QB Rusty Smith now of the Tennessee Titans came in town due to his teams bye week. On this day, the Owls could have used him in his old No.11 jersey.

But now, the stadium is open for business. The team has to focus on winning since there will be no more hype.

It's all business as the Owls hope to send Schnellenberger out on a respectable note to end his 52-year coaching career
 
Game 2 at the new stadium would produce another loss and it was ugly.
 
The attendance was listed as 16,344 but in actuality, it looked like the crowd was in the 10,000 range.
 
What they saw was a team that fell behind 21-0 as Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee scored 41 unanswered points. The Owls broke the scoring drought with 9:57 left in the second quarter. The Historical Touchdown was a Wilbert Graham to Darian Williams five-yard connection that was set-up by a 48-yard run by Morris.
 
In the first half, Middle Tenessee Sophomore QB Logan Kilgore set a school record with 19 straight completions for a school that's been playing football for 100 years. He used 10 different receivers to set the mark.
 
When the game was over, the Blue Raiders offense gained 479 yards to roll to a 38-14 win. FAU had eight fumbles, five were lost to go along with two interceptions and 55 yards in penalties. Morris did gain 153 yards.
 
At his post-game press conference, Schnellenberger looked like he was trying to figure out the Rubik's Cube.
 
"With all the experience I have, I can't figure out all the problems we have," he said. "It will be harder to teach and an involved process."
 
One thing is certain, FAU will have two weeks to digest the fact that its record has dropped to 0-7, 0-4 as it hosts Arkansas State on November 5th. In the meantime, there will be no bowl game in 2011 and the Owls can only hope for "A Win."
 
I do believe that when they field a competitive team, FAU Stadium will be a fun place to watch a game. It's a beautiful stadium.

But for now, the fallout of the first two weeks have given mixed reviews with plenty of more chapters to be written before we can say this indeed is a "Home Sweet Home."
 
Scott Morganroth's blog can be seen at http://www.scottsports33.com/ and he can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

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