Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I Need Stronger Glasses

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When the Los Angeles Dodgers faced the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium last week, there was a strange face in the visitors dugout.

His name was Don Mattingly and he manages the Dodgers. During his playing days, Mattingly only wore one uniform. From 1982-1995, his attire consisted of the Yankees pinstripes, then he was a coach from 2004-2007.

Mattingly had a lifetime batting average of .307, 222 home runs, 1,099 RBI, he was a six-time All-Star, won nine Gold Gloves at first base, won a batting title and was the team captain from 1991-1995.

The 52-year-old native of Evansville, Indiana., had his No. 23 retired in 1997. Mattingly is honored at Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.


I have a hydro stone statue of Mattingly at home that I purchased when I visited the Baseball Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown, New York., several years ago.

Although Mattingly's numbers may never get him into Baseball's Hall Of Fame, it still seems weird watching him manage a team that once played in Brooklyn, New York. These two franchises have been involved in some Classic World Series Showdowns with their Subway Series and with the Dodgers in Southern California.

It seems like yesterday that late Yankees Manager Billy Martin faced legendary Dodgers Skipper Tom Lasorda.

If it weren't for the vision of Commissioner Bud Selig to have inter-league play, we wouldn't see this series in the regular season.

For that matter, we wouldn't see rivalries like the New York Yankees VS NY Mets, Dodgers, and the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs VS Chicago White Sox, Oakland A's VS SF Giants, Detroit Tigers VS St. Louis Cardinals, plus the Boston Red Sox VS Atlanta Braves to name a few.

The Dodgers and Yankees rivalry did bring out many great memories which were nice to see with Mattingly becoming the ironic story line.

I Need Stronger Glasses because I thought Mattingly was wearing the wrong uniform.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Shield VS Courtroom

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

My late Grandmother Sophie Morganroth used to tell me that there is a time and a place to say or do something---take action.

But she never would imagine the recent actions taken by former NFL Wide Receiver Chad Johnson.

Johnson found out that Broward County Circuit Judge Kathleen McHugh is much different than NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

When Johnson celebrated after scoring touchdowns, the only discipline he'd receive would be small fines which are a mere slap on the wrist.

But Johnson took the slap to a different level in downtown Fort Lauderdale as he slapped his attorney on the butt in court and was sentenced to 30 days in jail. What appeared to be a harmless act where his plea deal was accepted and he was happy with his lawyer's performance, turned out to be quite the opposite outcome.

The courtroom erupted in laughter, but McHugh wasn't laughing. She was extremely angry, rejected the plea deal, and thought Johnson's actions were disrespectful and dropped the hammer.

Wearing a tan jumpsuit with his hands shackled at the waist, Johnson apologized to the judge and served seven days. He had plenty of time to evaluate his flamboyant behavior, plus realize his domestic violence case is nothing to take lightly.

Whether Johnson gets another NFL job remains to be seen.

But McHugh did something Goodell hasn't been able to do and force Johnson to eat Humble Pie.

She took away his freedom which is much worse than any discipline he'd receive in the NFL. Johnson's white flag had more impact than the yellow flag officials use during the game.

Hopefully, this will make Johnson a better person.

He definitely knows the difference between the gridiron and a courtroom. McHugh's responsibility is to protect the integrity of the legal system "Courtroom" while Goodell's job is to protect "The Shield." (The NFL Logo).

If he needs some advice as to how bad things can get behind bars, Johnson should contact Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick, who turned his life around after being locked up for animal cruelty for dog fighting. Vick spent 548 days in jail.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

Old Guard VS New Guard

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

I never thought I'd see the day that Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra would defeat San Antonio Spurs Boss Gregg Popovich in the NBA Finals.

On Thursday Night, Miami closed out San Antonio 4-3 at the American Airlines Arena.

The 42-year old Spoelstra, a native of Evanston, Illinois., has won two straight titles as a head coach (2012-2013) plus another as an assistant under Pat Riley in 2006. Three titles in this time span is impressive.

He's never had a losing season in five years compiling a 260-134 mark with a .660 winning percentage in 394 regular season games.

In the playoffs, Spoelstra is 50-29 with a .633 winning percentage in 79 games.

The future has never looked brighter for him.

Meanwhile, Popovich, 64, is old enough to be Spoelstra's father. His Spurs were just seconds away from a fifth title in game six.

The East Chicago, Indiana., native has won four NBA Championships.

Popovich has only had one head coaching job that began with the Spurs in 1996.

In 1,328 games, Popovich has piloted the Spurs to a 905-423 mark with a .681 winning percentage.

During the post-season, he's 133-83 with a .616 winning percentage in 216 games.

Popovich's legacy is cemented and he's gone on record saying that when Tim Duncan retires, they'll leave the NBA together.

But what a great coaching match-up.

Now the Miami Heat has more titles than the Miami Dolphins overall, holding a 3-2 edge.

Spoelstra has more titles than the legendary South Florida icon and NFL Hall of Fame Coach Don Shula with three. They're tied at two as head coaches.

Shula is the NFL's all-time winning coach with a 347-173-6 record.

Shula won his first Super Bowl at the age of 43, on January 14, 1973 as his Dolphins won the first of back-to-back championships.

Ironically, Spoelstra and Shula have repeated as champions in their early 40's.

Shula's also from the Midwest. The 83-year-old was born in Grand River, Ohio.

It's amazing that Spoelstra has only been a head coach for only five years and has two titles at such a young age. He's two titles away from catching Popovich and has LeBron James and Dwyane  Wade leading the way.

To be mentioned in the same breath as Popovich and Shula is truly remarkable.

Riley must be amazed and proud that the way he's mentored and groomed Spoelstra.

His rival Phil Jackson must be taking notice because he's hoping that Brian Shaw becomes the next Spoelstra.

It looks like we're seeing a new trend with great coaches mentoring up and coming stars.

As for Spoelstra, he couldn't be in a better situation with an owner that will spend money to get the best talent in Florida, where there is no state income taxes.

Next up for Spoelstra, a contract extension.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Top Five Wonders

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

I couldn't be happier for Jason Kidd. I've only met the guy one time and he was a class act. I've seen him play at the University of California and again with the New Jersey Nets. He led the Nets to the NBA Finals twice and is the best player in that team's history.

If he was going to land a head coaching job, the Nets organization is a good fit. But 10 days after retiring from the New York Knicks seemed faster than the speeds in auto racing. But I do wish him will in Brooklyn and in the Metro New York Area.

This move made me think of some things that I wonder about. I've decided for starters to compile a short list to determine what would have been or what will be to activate those thinking caps.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame Defensive Tackle "Mean" Joe Greene was not only known for his tenacious play on the field, but he had good acting skills in a Coke Commercial. A big part of four Steelers Super Bowl titles, Greene would spend 16 years as an assistant coach for Pittsburgh, the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals. He learned from Chuck Noll, Don Shula and Dave McGinnis. I wonder how he would have done with his own gig. Too bad the "Rooney Rule" which established in 2003, requires teams to interview minority candidates, wasn't in place.

2. I respect Patrick Ewing Jr. for speaking on his Hall of Fame fathers behalf when Kidd landed the Nets gig. Ewing Sr. was hired by the Charlotte Bobcats as an assistant coach. He has been an assistant coach for 10 years and I'm surprised that he hasn't landed a head coaching job. He's worked with Jeff Van Gundy's  Houston Rockets and Stan Van Gundy's Orlando Magic. Ewing played for Pat Riley and John Thompson at Georgetown. He was a big part of the development of Lakers Center Dwight Howard. Ewing's paid his dues and is ready to run his own team. I wonder if his low-keyed demeanor is the reason he's been overlooked since the head coach has to deal with the media to sell his team to the fans.

3. Kobe Bryant has been watching the NBA Playoffs in street clothes and been sending occasional tweets via Twitter. During past injuries, I've seen Bryant sit on the bench and he jumped on his teammates during timeouts. It seemed like he was another coach. For some reason, I have a feeling that when his playing days are over, that due to his ultra competitiveness and knowledge of the game, Bryant will be roaming the sidelines as a head coach with the Lakers. I like his fire and he's learned from Phil Jackson. His Olympic experience with Coach Mike Krzyzewski can only benefit him down the road. Bryant seems like a guy that would want to win a title as a player and a coach therefore thrives on new challenges.

4. If Bill Laimbeer is going to ever have a chance to land a head coaching job, he better make a good impression coaching the New York Liberty of the WNBA. He won championships for the Detroit Shock and then proceeded to land an assistant coach position with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Kurt Rambis' staff. Laimbeer hasn't been able to get a sniff in the NBA with the rash of openings the past few years. It appears that he'll always be classified as a lady's coach and I wonder if he'll ever get a shot in the NBA. His hardnosed demeanor served him well during his playing days, but I wonder how many bridges he burned with coaches, general managers, owners and players that went on to new positions in the league. Laimbeer's personality with the press undoubtedly has cost him dearly from a political standpoint. Nonetheless, I'd like to see him get at least one chance in the NBA.

5. I wonder if  Fort Myers, Florida will acknowledge former Minnesota Twins Owner Calvin Griffith with at least a street name at Hammond Stadium. Griffith's statue is in front of Target Field in Minnesota. I was surprised there was no recognition of Griffith when I visited the place in January. I'll never forget the way I met Griffith in 1987 when the Tigers faced the Minnesota Twins in the American League Championship Series. I was outside Tiger Stadium trying to buy a ticket to the game. I attempted to buy one but the person took my $20 and never gave me the ticket. Luckily I bumped into My Highland House Employer Gene Ryeson , who I also referred to as an adopted uncle. He loaned me $30. I bought another ticket and as it turned out, I sat next to Griffith. We talked all game and I remembered everything Griffith said. I wrote a story for the Detroit Monitor and received a thank-you note from Griffith weeks later. When I told this to Ryeson, he gave me a big smile and hug. He told me to not pay back the money that it was a gift. The Twins went on to defeat the Tigers in the ALCS and won the World Series.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.
Photo By Candice Ebling

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Sonny Hirsch's Dream In Miami

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When I think of the Miami Marlins, it was a totally different era.

The team's General Manager was my late friend Sonny Hirsch. The Marlins played at the now demolished Miami Stadium.

In 1949, the cost to build Miami Stadium was $2,200 and it was located at 2301 Northwest 10th Ave, Miami, FL 33127.

This building was within a couple miles from the historic Orange Bowl  and also used to hold concerts. The stadium held 13,000 and was demolished in 2001. The Miami Stadium Apartments now occupy this address.

The Orange Bowl's address was 1501 NW 3rd Street, Miami, FL, 33125 and opened on December 10, 1937.

The Baltimore Orioles called Miami Stadium their Spring Training Home from 1959-1990. Their Class A Florida State League (FSL) team the Miami Orioles produced young talent like Hall of Famer Cal Ripken among others from 1971-81.

The history of the Miami Marlins dates back to 1956-1960 when they played in the AAA International League.

From 1962-1970 they played in the FSL and after the Orioles departed the Marlins returned from 1982-1988. They were affiliated with the San Diego Padres and produced Benito Santiago in 1983 during their lone season affiliated.

Hirsch, who was a South Florida Sports Radio & TV Personality, loved baseball and once told me that in order for this area to land major league baseball that there had to be a team in Miami.

The Florida Marlins inaugural season was in 1993 and Hirsch was the official scorekeeper up until his death due to a heart attack at his Miami Lakes home on March 25, 1999. He was found by his longtime companion Betty Sands, and had no survivors. Hirsch was 65.

When I was covering the Fort Lauderdale Yankees from 1982-84, Hirsch and I used to talk baseball all the time.

My best memory of Sonny was back in 1983 when there was a double-header on a Sunday night which started at 6:30 p.m., and ended around 3:30 a.m. at Fort Lauderdale Stadium.

There were numerous rain delays and the umpires never called the game. But everyone in the press box never cared. When the food at the concession stand wasn't available, we found a place to order out. Sonny and I just talked baseball all night.

Hirsch has a street sign named after him and he was the voice of Miami Hurricanes Sports for 28 years.

When I returned to see baseball on Tuesday, June 11, 2013 as the Marlins faced the Milwaukee Brewers, It was a totally different feeling. I have seen games in the past with the Florida Marlins at Joe Robbie Stadium.

The last time I saw a MIAMI MARLINS game was with Hirsch.

My last trip to the Orange Bowl was on November 24, 2007 as the Florida Atlantic Owls blasted the Florida International University Golden Panthers 55-23 to win the Don Shula Bowl.

Only 6,122 fans showed up in a stadium which had a capacity of 72,319. Needless to say, there were plenty of good seats available in a venue, that from 1977-1980, held 80,045 fans.

The Orange Bowl closed on January 26, 2008 and was demolished on May 14, 2008.

Marlins Park holds 37,442. There are 39 premium suites, and the stadium is 928,000 square feet on the former Orange Bowl site. The cost to build this facility is $634 million.

The roof opens and closes in 13 minutes. The glass wall opens and closes in 4-5 minutes and Marlins Park is the sixth retractable roof facility in Major League Baseball.

It's constructed on 17-acres of the 42-acre Orange Bowl site with parking garages very convenient.

As for less congestion with the final football capacity, there is a difference of 34,877 less fans on game day.

In the Marlins 5-4 win over the Brewers, a season low of 13,110 fans saw the contest.

But it was a different feeling for me on this night. I've covered the Miami Dolphins and Hurricanes many times. To see a baseball diamond take the place of a gridiron took some getting used to.

This is a beautiful stadium and now the question remains will the area be able to support Major League Baseball?

During their history, the Marlins have won a pair of World Championships in 1997 and again in 2003. In both cases, the team got rid of its star players.

If only the Chicago Cubs could have such luck since they've been without a championship for 104 years.

The Detroit Tigers reaped the benefit of the Marlins salary dumps by landing Ivan Rodriguez, Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante and Triple Crown Winner Miguel Cabrera. They also had to eat Dontrelle Willis' salary as part of a throw in to acquire Cabrera. Willis struggled with Detroit and was eventually shipped out of town.

President and General Manager Dave Dombrowski and Manager Jim Leyland are a big part of Marlins history.

The former Tigers that are a current part of Marlins history include pitching coach Chuck Hernandez (former Fort Lauderdale Yankee), infielder Placido Polanco, catcher Rob Brantly, pitchers Brian Flynn and Jacob Turner. Against the Brewers, Turner earned a no-decision.

Detroit will get a chance to see Marlins Park for the first time during a season ending series from September 27-29. I'll be curious to see how many Detroit fans show up for this series. We'll see if Cabrera is on the verge of repeating as a Triple Crown Champion and whether the Tigers will win another division title in hopes of returning to the World Series.

Will Cabrera alone be able to draw more than 13,000 being a former Marlin with star power? We shall see.

But once again, this is a very nice ballpark!

I do wonder down the road if this building should have been built more centrally located towards Broward and Palm Beach Counties. Considering the fact that the Marlins got a sweet deal on the land and concessions deal,  I get that.

Also, anytime a historical sports site gets replaced by a new one, it does enhance an areas tradition connecting generations and past memories.

However, down the road, I still have doubts as to whether this team can keep the fans interest.

As I've seen over the years, in South Florida, if teams win, the fans will come out. The Miami Heat does pack their stadium downtown as they continue to be in the hunt for an NBA title.

But the fans in Miami are furious because a year ago Owner Jeffrey Loria spent lots of money to land veterans. He spent $108 million and has slashed the payroll down to nearly $35 million which is one of the lowest in MLB getting rid of its star players.

Now his 20-47 team looks like a squad of minor leaguers playing in front of paltry crowds. To date, the Marlins have used 14 rookies.

Yet, in Miami, it's still baseball and Hirsch would be proud to see a major league team in a stadium where he had many memorable sports moments.

Baseball is alive in Miami, but is it well?

Now the question remains, will the Marlins be able to do what the Dolphins and Hurricanes did and that's win championships at this historic location.

The Hurricanes have five National Championships while the Dolphins own a pair including the only undefeated season in NFL history.

When will No. 8 come? Stay tuned, but rest in peace Sonny because you're the Real Reason Baseball is back in Miami.

Because of your hard work decades ago, Your Dream Came True.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.
Photos By Candice Ebling.



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