By the numbers, R.A. Dickey (above) is the sort of person known mostly to either dorks (so, you know guilty as charged) or fans of the teams he’s played for. Who in turn know him as a guy who delivers a marginally effective long-relief stint here and there. And while his Baseball Reference page suggests that he is indeed that dude, an article from yesterday’s New York Times explains that Dickey is 1) an unlikely medical oddity and 2) now a knuckleballer, tossing a strange, 77-MPH version of the pitch. Your knuckleball cultists of the world — the faculty at the Candiotti Institute, Rob Neyer — will be interested to hear about the second part, but I’m kind of struck by this, from early in Allan Schwarz’s piece:
In an age when more and more pitchers have ugly scars crawling up their elbows, where surgeons™ scalpels have replaced their ulnar collateral ligaments in what is known as Tommy John surgery, Dickey does not need to worry about strains or painful pops.
He does not have an ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. None. Dickey either was born without one, or the tissue simply disintegrated when he was a teenager.
A dozen years after discovery of his situation cost him a virtual million-dollar payday, when he was told to give up his dreams of becoming a major league pitcher, Dickey today is one of the most intriguing players in any spring training camp. He did not just prove skeptics wrong by building a career that has included brief stays in the big leagues. Now 33, Dickey has reinvented himself as a knuckleballer, one promising enough that he could prove quite valuable in 2008 and beyond.
œFor him to be able to throw at all is pretty phenomenal in itself, said Rick Griffin, the Mariners™ head athletic trainer. œBut he™s doing it in the major leagues. People in sports amaze you physically, but this is something you™d never suspect. It™s like a running back in the N.F.L. having no anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. It™s amazing.
…œIt™s a real blessing now, Dickey said. œI™m real resilient, simply because I don™t have to worry about that ligament being sore, or tearing it. There™s nothing to tear.
After 15 years in the big leagues, it’s nothing but Saturdays off from here on in. From the New York Post’s Mark Hale :
Right fielder Shawn Green, who played with the Mets for the last year and a half and spent parts of 15 seasons in the majors, told The Post yesterday that he has retired.
“I had planned on retiring at the end of this contract,” the 35-year-old Green said yesterday in a phone conversation. “If something where I could live at home popped up, then I would have had to take that under consideration. But I still don’t know what I would have done.”
That decision never really had to be made.
The affable Green, a former member of the 30-30 club who once smashed four homers in one game, wrapped up his tenure with the Mets last season. He said yesterday that a bunch of teams then showed interest in him, but he indicated that he simply wasn’t willing to be that far from his California home.
Indeed, not everyone is cut out for the Long Island Ducks.
I don’t know if Kenny G is really Miguel Batista’s “musical idol” (“I’m reminded of the time Dick Allen met his idol Paul Mauria”, writes Repoz), but who else would the Seattle hurler discuss “breathing techniques” with? Not that J.J. Putz doesn’t have an interesting method, mind you.
To quote Hal Hartley’s Simple Men, “The difference … is I just fucked with the law, he fucked with the government.” Which is the line Roger Clemens crossed when he went under oath on taking illegal steroids and then lied to Congress about it. By challenging the Mitchell Report, Clemens isn’t dealing with a patsy like Bud Selig anymore. As ESPN‘s Mark Fainaru-Wada reports:
(Clemens, above, will be signing this week at the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover Building)
An 18-page memorandum compiled by congressional staff members provides a damning analysis of statements given under oath by Roger Clemens — underscoring a perjury case that could be looming for the seven-time Cy Young winner.
The document, released Wednesday by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the majority leader of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, lists “seven sets of assertions” Clemens made during his Feb. 5 deposition and Feb. 13 testimony that are “implausible” or “appear to be contradicted by other evidence before the Committee.” (Read the complete memorandum here.)
The memo is described as an analysis created by majority staffers at the request of Waxman, whose committee has played a central role in investigating performance-enhancing drug use by professional and Olympic athletes. Earlier this month, the committee took depositions and heard testimony from, among others, Clemens and his former personal trainer Brian McNamee, who described the pitcher’s extensive use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Clemens has vehemently and repeatedly denied ever taking steroids or human growth hormone, but those denials — and others — are highly suspect, according to the congressional analysis.
The document, at various points, describes Clemens’ statements as “not truthful,” “implausible,” “contradicted” and called “into question.” In one section, the memo suggests there is “evidence that Mr. Clemens affirmatively sought to mislead the Committee.”
Kudos to the St. Louis Cardinals organization for proving that while they’re powerless to stop their manager from driving drunk, they’ll not tolerate similar behavior from one of their players (presuming he’s alive to punish). From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Tim O’Neil :
An arrest warrant has been issued by the Irvine Police Department for Cardinals utilityman Scott Spiezio (above, first from right) on six charges stemming from a crash in late December.
The warrant alleges driving under the influence, driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or more, hit and run, aggravated assault, assault and battery.
This afternoon, the Cardinals released a statement saying, “The ballclub is immediately releasing player Scott Spiezio in response to a six-count arrest warrant issued for Spiezio today.”
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa told an Associated Press reporter in Jupiter that he did not have specifics on the warrant and had not spoken to Spiezio.
“I had heard there was an incident in California,” La Russa said. “I didn’t think anything would come of it.”
A tune-up to the 2008 Grapefruit League slate saw the Mets play to a 4-4 tie with the University Of Michigan on Tuesday, with their closer taking particular umbrage at….having to come off the mound to field a bunt? From Newsday’s David Lennon :
Forget the Phillies. Billy Wagner (above) nearly started a beanball war with the University of Michigan after one overzealous Wolverine tried to bunt on him in the fourth inning. With a runner on second and one out, centerfielder Kevin Cislo pushed his bunt foul.
Wagner, clearly annoyed, shook his head a number of times, and Cislo wisely swung away, grounding out. Wagner said he couldn’t believe that Cislo, a junior, bunted.
“If he got that bunt down, I would have drilled the next guy,” Wagner said. “Play to win against Villanova.”
“He couldn’t bring himself to drill the kid,” Willie Randolph said. ” Nolan Ryan might have. Nolan or Roger [Clemens] may have done it, kid or not.”
The game ended in a 4-4 tie, but the big loser was Notre Dame alum Aaron Heilman, who has to sing the Michigan fight song in the clubhouse after allowing a run. “Hail to the Victors” was played over the stadium speaker in the first inning.
“I heard it and it made my stomach cringe,” Heilman said.
Mike Pelfrey tossed two innings of scoreless, one-hit ball in the Mets’ 4-2 loss to Detroit earlier today. Willie Collazo allowed all 4 Tigers runs in the 7th, including a two-run single to non-roster invitee Wilkin Ramirez. Magglio Ordonez left the game after being plunked by Pedro Feliciano in the 5th inning. Presumably, Mags wasn’t trying to bunt. But you never about these sneaky players representing the Great Lakes State.
Eschewing the flurry of player movement that went down yesterday in the big time, the Guardian‘s touristy Ian Windwood attended a Las Vegas Wranglers (ECHL) game and declares, “hockey not only exists but actually flourishes outside of the NHL .” And he managed to plug the only sports book written to date by a CSTB contributor, too. Until Ben Schwartz’ “My Dinner With Dusty” finally finds a publisher, anyhow.
Even as the Zamboni machine rolled its way up the ice prior to face-off, it was clear that things were not as I had imagined them to be. In a cab on my way to the 9,500-seat Orleans Arena, part of the new and hellishly impressive hotel and casino complex of the same name, I pictured a deserted barn and hockey that was nothing but fists and insults. Basically, I imagined Slap Shot. Imagine my surprise, then, to discover an arena busy with at least 8,000 hockey fans, the majority of whom were as passionate as they were knowledgeable about the game being played before them.
The Las Vegas Wranglers are a very minor league hockey team. They are the feeder club for the Quad City Flames, who in turn are the feeder club for the NHL’s Calgary Flames. Not wishing to hurt the players’ feelings, I lowered my voice to tell my companion that the participants she was watching were unlikely ever to make it to the National Hockey League. Meanwhile, Tony was grabbing his Blackhawks top and yelling at the Salmon Kings that this was the closest they were ever gonna get to an NHL jersey. Maybe so, but that didn’t alter the fact that tonight’s hockey match saw the game played to a superior standard.
Yes, the ice may have been bad, but the ice is bad at Madison Square Garden as well, and that ain’t in the desert. Despite this being the penultimate Saturday in February, the temperature had been 70 degrees all day. On the ice the Salmon Kings and the Wranglers controlled the puck with crisp, precise passes; they unloaded deadly slapshots, deft wristers; they back checked and fore checked. Much to my amazement, no one fought. In fact, to my foreign eye the two teams appeared to do everything that players in the NHL can do, just at a fraction of the cost.
In his book Zamboni Rodeo, Texas-based journalist Jason Cohen spends a season with the minor league Austin Ice Bats. Paid hundreds rather than tens of thousands of dollars per week, hockey life at this level is markedly different from its NHL equivalent. It’s a world of all-night bus rides, early-morning practice sessions at rinks in deserted shopping malls, fast food and an uncertain living. As I looked at the Salmon Kings players just inches in front of me I found myself wondering about each man’s story. As teenagers, did they imagine themselves playing for the Montreal Canadiens, and exactly when did they realise their talents would never reach that high? Did they have wives, children to support? Where were they staying tonight, and how the hell were they going to get home to a small island just off the west coast of Vancouver?
The Wranglers pay a return visit to the Salmon Kings tonight. I’ll take a wild guess that some combination of airplane, bus and boat did the trick.
From the Pittsburgh Gazette’s Gene Collier (thanks to Dave Martin for the link) :
Myron Cope, colorful sports broadcaster and reporter whose Terrible Towel remains the banner of the Steelers nation, has died.
In declining health since even before his 2005 retirement after a record 35 years of Steelers broadcasts, Mr. Cope died this morning of respiratory failure.
He was 79.
One of the last of the great sports characters, Mr. Cope’s life and career were nothing less than book-worthy, even if he had to write it himself. Twice.
“Double Yoi” it was called both times, the second an updated version of the original 2002 volume, the title immortalizing one of Mr. Cope’s signature exclamations, which, along with “Okle-dokle,” “Dumbkopf!”, and “How do?”, became so familiar to his radio and TV audiences.
He was best known as the squawking talisman of Steelers football and had the good fortune of arriving on the scene just as the ballclub was escaping some four decades of losing. Cope hit the glory road sprinting in 1970 and never lost momentum for the next 30 years. Locally, his celebrity dwarfed many of the players, even those of Super Bowl pedigree, and was surpassed by only a very few.
Regardless of the ever-more-corporate-imaged NFL he’d walked into, Mr. Cope remained a wag and raconteur of a sporting era from the other side of that transition. Though he was riding the new Pittsburgh wave of Dan and Art Rooney Jr.’s strictly business acumen and seasoned football calculations, he still had both feet in the smoke-filled rooms and occasional “toddy’s” of Art Rooney Sr.’s world, which thrived on seat-of-the-pants adventurism.
Once at halftime in Cleveland, Cope found his intermission routine interrupted by an occupied restroom on old Municipal Stadium’s roof, which is where the radio booths were situated. His long-standing para-military ritual of urinate, get a hot dog, and get back to the action now jeopardized, he improvised. Without being too graphic, let’s just say that anyone walking by Municipal Stadium near that portion of the roof in the ensuring minutes had to wonder from where that sudden shower had come.
Mr. Cope’s magazine writing took its inevitable place among the nation’s very best. In 1963, he won the E.P. Dutton Prize for “Best Magazine Sportswriting in the Nation” for his portrayal of Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay.
“Cope’s columns in the Post-Gazette were in contrast to what had ever been in the paper, they were dazzling,” said Mr. McHugh, himself a writer of immense skills. “In the ’60s, there was a certain type of magazine style that no one was ever better at than Myron. He could talk to someone and extract all the humor possible from that person.”
In 1987, on the occasion of the Hearst Corp.’s 100th anniversary, Mr. Cope was named as a noted literary achiever, among them Mark Twain, Jack London, Frederick Remington, Walter Winchell and Sidney Sheldon.
From Reuters :
An Australian professional soccer player who attended a club celebration dressed as Adolf Hitler will be disciplined after Jewish groups complained, officials said Tuesday.German-born Andre Gumprecht, 33, attended a post-Grand Final ceremony Monday for his Central Coast Mariners team dressed in a khaki military uniform and mustache to resemble the former German dictator.
“Hitler was such a monster and for a lot of people, it’s a very sensitive thing to be confronted with,” Ernie Friedlander, a spokesman for the Jewish community group B’nai B’rith, told Australian newspapers.
Football Federation Australia chief executive Ben Buckley said he would be seeking an explanation from midfielder Gumprecht, who also runs a sporting academy for children.
“Such behavior is not only stupid, but is also not tolerated by the FFA,” Buckley said in a statement.
Gumprecht was born in Jena, in the former East Germany, and played second division soccer there before joining Australian team Perth Glory in 2002.
A second player, Tony Vidmar, who dressed as God for the “Mad Monday” celebration in the beachside resort of Terrigal, north of Sydney, donning white robes and blackening his face, would also face a disciplinary hearing, Buckley said.
Reviewing the incident with his typical insight, Will Leitch suggested these gentlemen have “a little trouble in the racial department”. As opposed to, say, a lot of trouble in the racial department.
I don’t claim to know everything about the job market, but it would seem to this observer like there’s not a huge demand for a washed-up QB who specializes in a) verbally abusing John Clayton b) sending photographs of his penis to disinterested colleagues.
On the other hand, maybe the McCain campaign could use a new master of ceremonies?
From USA Today’s Michael McCarthy :
ESPN said late Tuesday it was parting ways with longtime football analyst Sean Salisbury. The surprise announcement came only hours after the network announced its hiring of Cris Carter from HBO’s Inside the NFL.
“Sean Salisbury has made many contributions to our efforts for the past 12 years. We thank him and wish him all the best,” said ESPN spokesman Bill Hofheimer.
Salisbury said in a statement that he had “grown as much as I can at ESPN” and that he decided to expand his horizons with new opportunities in TV, radio, Internet, publishing, movies and public speaking. “My rÃ©sumÃ© speaks for itself as a football analyst, and I believe I can talk all sports with the best of them.”
Networks frequently shuffle their lineups in the offseason. Salisbury’s contract with ESPN was up, according to his agent Steve Mandell. “Sean is looking forward to the next phase of his career.”