["The men despise me, they hate me, and I can readily understand why. They hate to see a man in that ring that is ten times better at anything that they do ... regardless of what is, the art of making love, anything."- Classy Freddie Blassie, 1918-2003.]
The above is fall two of Fred Blassie’s March 1962 title bout with Rikidozan, officiated by Johnny “Red Shoes” Duggan and called by KTLA’s inimitable Dick Lane. This is prime West Coast Blassie when the Classy one was the promotion’s star, most hated heel, and champion (including his then trademark biting, with teeth sharpened Ty Cobb-style on a steel file). You can check out the first fall here, and feel the hate and heat Blassie could draw from a hometown LA crowd against a Japanese champ. A Happy birthday goes out to the greatest all-around everything in wrestling: champion, heel, manager, and my favorite interview ever “he woulda been 92 today. You can check out his interview style here (going shoot on Hogan), interviewed as LA champ here, his managerial finesse on display in the Piper’s Pit with Kamala the Ugandan Giant here, managing and promoting Muhammed Ali onThe Tonight Show, discussing his $40,000 bathroom and smashing Iron Shiek action figures with Regis Philbin (as Philbin dares slug the Sheik), a guest shot on The Dick Van Dyke Show, or the above 1962 championship bout from one of his greatest feuds, with Rikidozan. Years later, when Rikidozan was dead (reportedly killed by yakuza gangsters), a Japanese film crew interviewed Blassie in his last years, still working for Vince McMahon. When asked how he recalled Rikidozan, Blassie swore he wasn’t through with the dead man yet and would wrestle him in Hell. The cartoonist Drew Friedman once printed up an insulting postcard of Mr. Blassie. He received a copy of said card in the mail addressed to “Pencil Neck Drew Friedman” with the note … “Keep looking over your shoulder. I’ll tear your heart out through your knee cap. As Ever, Fred Blassie.” Here’s to you, Freddie.
[Scott Steiner welcomes Mark McGwire back to St. Louis and adoring Cardinal fans. Why can't Jack Clark show as much class?]
Recovering Retired Cardinals mgr Whitey Herzog (1980-90) and former owner Augie Busch IV (his family sold the ‘Tards in ’96) are apparently not so welcoming of Big Mac’s post-’roid confession and return to St. Louis nor La Russa. What’s interesting here isn’t so much an old school hero like Whitey Herzog coming down on McGwire, but Augie Busch publicly calling La Russa a liar. As Augie puts it, “McGwire has chosen to come out of the closet at the perfect time — alongside a manager who also refuses to be honest, to the fans or to the game itself,” Busch said. “After all, why would Tony La Russa hire a hitting coach whose lifetime batting average was only .263?”
As a Cub fan, this reporter wholeheartedly supports a Redbird team average of .263, and wish Augie would give McGwire a chance to work that magic on the whole squad. I can’t tell if La Russa was more in-denial about his ‘roided out A’s and Redbirds or that Mark McGwire’s return to MLB would actually be any more popular outside STL than Barry Bonds was outside San Francisco. On Wednesday, Herzog went off at a Red Smith Sports Banquet in Appleton, WI, unloading thusly to the Appleton Post-Crescent:
“I’ve got nothing to do with him,” Herzog said, clearly annoyed. “I don’t want to comment on steroids because they’re all lying. And they’re still lying. They get on steroids because they say they want to get back on the field. The reason they’re on steroids is because they got injured because they were taking steroids. Because their muscles grow too fast, and every time they make a false move, they slip and pull something. It’s always a pulled muscle, rib cage, a minor something. That’s bull.”Let’s get to the bottom of this. It’s a health problem, but nothing’s going to happen. The people in St. Louis give Mark McGwire a standing ovation the other day, and (former major leaguer) Jack Clark said every steroid user should be banned for baseball, and they booed him. Now, what the hell is the matter with society when that happens?”
Actually Whitey, I think at this point the lovable Jack Clark would get booed handing out twenty-dollar bills on Opening Day.
["You are entering a world of pain." Jersey's bowlers will defend their city's tax ratables to the death.]
For extreme bowling aficionados nationwide, the most brutal bowling scenes ever filmed include Boris Karloff’s death scene in the original Scarface, Woody Harrelson’s ball-return hand mangling in Kingpin, and John Goodman’s Vietnam Vet going off in The Big Lebowski. Still, the Scorsese-like arson job on January 11th that wiped out Vineland, NJ’s Loyle Lanes stunned everyone when it turns out the alleged firebug is the owner of rival Pike’s Alley, Steven Henry Smink. Pike’s recently lost two leagues to Loyle over broken equipment, saw its liquor license revoked, and was under investigation by the state for $3000 on unauthorized 50/50 raffles. Smink apparently chose to go “Goodfellas” and hit Jersey where it hurts most “ its bowling. While no Springsteen benefit has been announced or even rumored, NJ.com’s Jason Laday reports here:
Both Smink and Manzano each have bail set at $300,000 and as of Wednesday were in the custody of detectives in Philadelphia pending extradition to New Jersey, according to Ulrich.
The juvenile was released to his mother pending further court action from the Cumberland County Prosecutor™s Office.
œIt appears that it was Steven Smink who set up the arson, added Ulrich. However, the lieutenant declined to describe the relationship between the three suspects.
œBut they are connected, he added.
Responding to the news, family spokesman and first-generation co-owner Charles Loyle said he couldn™t fathom why anyone would want to do this to his family.
œI can™t image someone having the idea to do this to us, said Loyle, flanked by his brother, John Loyle, and second-generation owners Michael and Chuck Loyle. They were standing before the ruined shell of the South Delsea Drive attraction.
œThis family has been part of the Rotary Club, I™ve served on the hospital board, we™re part of the community, he added. œTo take someone™s opportunity to make income, to take away a place of recreation for residents and to tax away a source of tax ratables for the city ” it™s beyond our comprehension.
Members of the Loyle family stated they had never met Smink or the other suspects in person. However, they stated customers who also bowled at Pike Lanes would tell them Smink would speak openly about œchallenging them or intending to œput them out of business.
I realize that others can, and will, speak more eloquently to the music of Vic Chesnutt than I. Still, news of his death yesterday felt like one more punch taken in a miserable year. Sorry, as usual when an artist dies, I think of myself first and what I just lost. I can only point to how much he got done, how deeply he affected those who knew him, and his example of what can and can’t be taken away from a person. He was 45. Considering how he reportedly died, on Christmas Day, I found this lyric quoted by Ben Sisario in his New York Times obit of Chesnutt particularly moving: œI™m not a victim/Oh, I am an atheist.
[Cosloy, this afternoon, working a CSTB "hot line" lead that Tiger Woods' marriage might not be doing so well.]
For those of us born into a non-Xtian religous affiliation, who appreciate a certain “indie” sensibility to our music and bought much of it in the 1990s (if not so much now), and who don’t have any family obligations of a time-consuming nature this evening, and haven’t seen any breaking Milton Bradley news today “ we turn our Xmas Eve thoughts to another important birthday, that of CSTB founder Gerard Cosloy. God Bless you GC! Please have someone buy you a beer “ no, TWO “ for me!
[Pictured: a high maintenance, overrated, unreasonable impediment to the 2009 Cubs. And on the right, Milton Bradley.]
Has the ship sailed on “cash for clunkers” as a punchline? Bradley goes to the Mariners and the Cubs receive $9 mil in cash over two years plus P Carlos Silva. Bradley is owed around $21 mil (although reports now say 23) and Silva is owed slightly more over two years including a minimum $2 mil buyout in 2012 (or $12 mil if he plays, as reported on ESPN). As for Silva, the Cubs managed to keep Rich Harden up and running against all odds (albeit, odds set by sports writers) and the North Siders managed to rehabilitate Kerry Wood into a closer before trading him. The Cubs turned Ryan Dempster into a starter. For everything lacking in Hendryville, handling pitchers hasn’t been a problem, esp following Dusty Baker. Ok, ok, they can’t get Zambrano to eat all his bananas and get his Lasik surgery, but no one’s perfect. Worst case scenario, the Cubs just ate $12 mil. Best, Silva can rehab into a starter or mid-game reliever. That said, I hope Silva likes Iowa in July.
As for the Bradley autopsy, his 2009 stats “ .257 BA, 12 HRs, and 40 RBIs “ speak for themselves. He’s a player with a laundry list of embarrassing public outbursts, no perceivable filter in choosing when to stand one’s ground or blow up over slights/imagined insults. MB’s confrontational career, willingness to publicly make accusations of racism about fans, players, and dismiss the sporting press as Uncle Toms or with total silence “ all of that is well documented. As for his saying Wrigley was a negative environment in which to play, well, given his past, you could argue he thrives on that. So what happened? Bradley got hurt early-on and his average for the season never recovered. It’s certainly fair to point out how overpaid Bradley was in his $30 mil deal given his considerable history of bench surfing.
However, for the Bradley mess, I blame Jim Hendry. The day he signed MB, Chicago sports hacks and beat reporters attacked Bradley personally as, among other things, a “nutbag.” Most disturbing to me was the argument that given Wrigley’s history of racist fans taunting their own players, Bradley would not hold up under the pressure. The total acceptance of racism as an unquestioned Given at Wrigley, and that it was only Bradley’s problem to deal with, is sick. You’d think Jim Hendry woulda fired back “ defended his $30 million deal, denounced racist fans, or deny and defend the Cub fan base (well, if he seriously could do the last, which he can’t). Hendry did none of it. It set the tone for the season, of hanging the combative Mr. Bradley out to dry. Injuries, the 2-game suspension (which MLB reduced), and other gaffes and errors were left to a hateful press corps and disgruntled fans. I covered the Chi media racism angle here, here, and here. Sports on My Mind‘s MODI pretty much summed my complaints here, and added some points of his own worth reading.
For Milton Bradley, 2009 was a relatively calm year: did he charge fans, announcers, or call a Cub player racist, as he did the Dodgers’ Jeff Kent? Instead, Hendry stood by as Cub fans got labeled racists by the press and other ballplayers (one of whom, OF Mike Cameron, he hoped to sign as Bradley’s replacement ). But Bradley finally went Too Far for Hendry by snapping back at fans who grew to hate him, saying, “And you understand why they haven’t won in 100 years here, because it’s negative.” That comment and pulling himself from the line-up in the Cubs’ (by then) futile division bid brought about a temper tantrum from Hendry in the form of a 15-game suspension. The resulting message to MLB: Bradley is impossible. It damaged him as a trade option so much that Hendry sucked up the Silva deal yesterday. Nicely handled, Mr. H, it only cost the Cubs $12 mil to shut Milton Bradley up and scapegoat him for a mediocre season all-around. The press greeted Bradley’s signing by saying Wrigley fans were trash. Bradley got a 15-game suspension for finally coming to agree with that.
Hendry was named Cubs GM in 2002. There’s always been drama on his watch. This is the same Hendry era that treated Sammy Sosa like a dog on his way out, no matter how much he did to turn the Cubs around in the public’s mind as a team that could win. Spin it this way “ he treated Sammy like a dog no matter how much f’n money Sosa minted for the Cubs. Yeah Sosa was a pill toward the end, but he was LEAVING. Hendry’s tenure in the front office has been one long class-free high-maintenance soap opera: Sosa, Baker, Jones, Pierre, and Hawkins all left the Friendly Confines on bad terms (ok, Hawkins was awful). Even Greg Maddux left on bad terms on his second run with the Cubs. Of course Milton Bradley didn’t work out with Hendry. Who does?
Wait, you know who had a great time on Hendry’s Cubs? Kerry Wood. Hendry dumped years and 10s of millions into that guy, and for what? Wood picked up bonus money and options and sucked up to fans. He started a charity bowling event and took out big newspaper ads thanking fans when he left town. Wood slipped in hot tubs and missed spring training, sat on the bench for years, all while resisting a lower-paying closer job (and contributing nothing while he did it), and reminding us all what an amazing rookie year he had. Kerry Wood’s inability to heal any injury makes me wonder if he isn’t lost Russian royalty. Kerry Wood is Wrigley personified, all Aw Shucks charm and no results.
The question in my mind isn’t who will replace Bradley in CF, but who will replace him as Hendry’s next problem player. I’m guessing another mediocre year from Zambrano will mean Big Z v Hendry in 2010. Z fits the pattern right now: expensive, once great, an ego problem, and possible trade bait. He’s also not white, which is another unfortunate pattern here.
[Holliday ready to bolt Cardinals? This Cub fan can only hope.]
The Cubs countered the Cardinals’ aggressive off-season bid for OF Matt Holliday today by announcing their boldest move of the off-season, signing WGN radio Cubs color commentary man Ron Santo for a reported 3-year extension. Given what the Cards have done this winter and what the Cubs have not, we can look forward to lots more of Santo’s patented “Ah, jeezs” and “Oh maaaanns” during Cubcasts. Like Harry Caray before him, Santo specializes in giving the fan’s point of view at Wrigley. Odd, since Santo actually played the game.
So, while Jim Hendry chases his Holy Grail deal of dumping Milton Bradley “ and only then will he think about improving the 2010 Cubs “ Joe Strauss reports the following on the hoped for collapse of the Holliday deal (by me anyway):
Increasingly impatient to reach a resolution, sources familiar with talks believe it possible Holliday could reach a verdict before Christmas.
The proposal exceeds the average value of the seven-year, $100 million extension the Cardinals and first baseman Albert Pujols negotiated in February 2003. However, the Cardinals™ bid does not meet the average annual of a deal that the Colorado Rockies offered “ and Holliday rejected “ in 2008. Aside from the 6½ years that have passed since Pujols™ signing, Holliday is available as a free agent. Pujols™ signed his deal after his third major-league season, allowing the club to avoid three years of arbitration while guaranteeing Pujols four additional seasons and including a club option for 2011.
Boras has attached Holliday™s market value to first baseman Mark Teixeira, who signed an eight-year, $180 million deal as a free agent last winter. Teixeira also is a Boras client.
The Cardinals steadfastly refuse to enter that neighborhood; hence, a seeming impasse. Though classifying a continuation of talks as encouraging, a source familiar with the process denied significant movement in the past several days.
The agent makes the case that Holliday has been a more productive player than Teixeira in the last three years. Holliday has compiled scored 36 more runs and also run up higher on-base and slugging percentages in the span. Teixeira has narrowly outpaced Holliday in RBI (336-334) in that time.
Indeed, Holliday and Pujols are the only players to amass a .300 batting average with a .500 slugging percentage in each of the past four seasons. Holliday, Pujols and New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez are the only players to achieve a .900 on-base-plus-slugging percentage each of the last four seasons.
[When a restaurant offers antacid with the meals, can the word franchise be far behind?]
I know the owner of this blog is some sort of musical elitist or something, but I throw down the following to GC: rock or ribs? I pit your love of trans fats and music against one another, and await the answer. News that Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain’s new place, Rock and Roll Ribs has opened in Coral Springs, Florida means I just may be making the trip East if the Cubs do indeed move their 2010 Spring Training camp to Naples, Florida. Especially encouraging is the guarantee that Nicko “brings his vast musical knowledge and powerful name to Rock n Roll Ribs.” The menu includes Road Crew Onion Loaf, Hot Chix Backstage Sandwich, Security Staff Stuffed Potato, and the $49.95 rack and a 1/2 of ribs plus known as the Appetite of the Beast (Feeds 4 Regular Rocks or 2 Metal Monsters) that includes antacid. Well?
[A hurt Jim Hendry takes his jersey back from Milton Bradley.]
If MTV endures all the heat from “Jersey Shore,” I’m hoping my pitch for “North Shore,” a show about real life dumb ass Cub execs running wild at the Winter Meetings is green lit. Yes, arrogant white-collar loudmouths nationwide will object, but I just call that good press.
Gordon Wittenmyer’s wrap-up of the Winter Meetings appears today in the Sun-Times. The upshot, of course, is that after a week of Jim Hendry psychodrama over Milton Bradley, no team in baseball is willing to take MB unless the Cubs eat the majority of his $21 million two-year deal. Dusty Baker, Greg Maddux, Sammy Sosa, Jacque Jones, Juan Pierre, and now Milton Bradley’s probable exit from the North Side, it’s becoming obvious that leaving the Cubs on bad terms is about the only way to go. Hendry, of course, is the one factor that hasn’t changed in all those exits. More and more, it looks to be about him.
Hendry let Bradley dangle when reporters baited him on race, when reporters called him a “nutbag,” and then when MB refused to talk to the media, the Cubs scolded Bradley over it. Hendry’s 15-day suspension of Bradley sent the word to baseball that MB was impossible. Then Hendry, genius that he is, decides to put Bradley on the market because he feels he has no choice. Yes, there’s a choice. Hendry needs to get over himself, and as one unnamed manager put it re Bradley, bite the bullet and play him.
So, Mike Bauman’s MLB column yesterday looks tube fed to him from Cub Central. The basic premise is that trading Milton Bradley is “mandatory,” eating his contract is acceptable, and any complaints from Bradley re racism are laughable. Writes Bauman:
A defense of Milton Bradley would require an abiding belief that he has been the victim of racial prejudice in Montreal, in Cleveland, in Los Angeles, in San Diego, in Chicago, etc. Eventually, you would wind up arguing that there has been a conscious conspiracy to ruin Bradley’s career. And you would have to argue that this conspiracy extends not only through most of baseball but through most of North America.
You don’t want to argue that position, because it would be refuted on a daily basis by each and every non-Caucasian baseball player who may have encountered prejudice along the way, but who has competed, succeeded, prospered. No, this is probably more about Milton Bradley than about the rest of the world. And it is also about the Cubs, believing that Bradley would be a model citizen simply because he told them that is what would happen.
No, actually, none of that is true. Bradley has gotten into lots of disputes about racism over his career, but he’s also managed to succeed while doing it. I wish people would keep in mind, it was the Chicago press that played the race card first, on day one of Bradley’s signing, by saying he was too combative to deal with Wrigley’s fan racism. Except for Bauman, no one denies that about Wrigley. Anyway, I posted on mlb’s message board about this and was pleasantly surprised to see other fans think Jim Hendry’s ego is the problem here too and that Bradley is not worth trading at any price. Hendry has a lot to answer for from Dusty Baker thru Bradley. You have to wonder if they’re all divas or he is? At any rate, Phil Rogers column today notes that Jim Hendry didn’t seem concerned at all about losing Curtis Granderson to NY, while other reports show him obsessed with dumping Bradley. Hendry apparently tried some three-way deals on Grandy, then gave up. As Paul Sullivan writes this morning, Hendry wants an early Xmas gift in getting rid of Bradley today, and he’s become the joke of the winter meetings trying to dump a player who he himself devalued so much with last year’s 15-day suspension:
Two days into baseball’s winter meetings, the Bradley situation has turned into a running joke, with team officials tripping over each other to deny any interest in the Cubs outfielder.
In the age of Tweeting, blogging and Facebooking, the Bradley rumors took on a life of their own Tuesday, promoting serial denials.
But the long-awaited dumping of Bradley could come as soon as Wednesday, according to one Cubs source who expected “one of the teams” that had been rumored from Day One as the landing spot.
While the Rays appear to be the “leader” in the Bradley sweepstakes, in a Pat Burrell deal that would include the Cubs eating most of Bradley’s contract, rumors of a mystery suitor surfaced Tuesday.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry was mum, as he has been during the drawn-out saga. Hendry used to complain about rumors at past winter meetings. But now he sits back and laughs off the Bradley rumors.
The more, the merrier?
“I’m always hopeful,” Hendry said. “Optimistically, hopefully we’ll do something.”
As Hendry spoke, a Foxsports.com report on the latest trade rumors glared from a laptop sitting on a hotel room table. Hendry confirmed he met Monday with Bradley’s agents, Seth and Sam Levinson, who have been his only conduit to the Cubs employee.
Bradley is going somewhere in what may be the ugliest divorce in Cubs history. Surprisingly, sources close to Bradley insist he’s not overly “anxious” for a resolution. No matter where he winds up or who pays him, Bradley is guaranteed the remaining $21 million on his contract, and the Ricketts family probably will be paying the bulk of it.