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By Bill Campbell

Wilt Chamberlain

We’ve heard a lot about Wilt Chamberlain recently, mainly because we just celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his 100-point game. But a word from the U.S. Postal Service last week triggered another memory.

There is a substantial group of fans who have organized a campaign to have a stamp issued bearing Chamberlain’s countenance. It’s a campaign that has gone on for several years. But it seems it hasn’t impressed the postal authorities who have just announced that they will release commemorative stamps featuring baseball greats Joe DiMaggio, Larry Doby, Willie Stargell and Ted Williams. Chamberlain seems to wind up an also-ran. Whether this indicates a Postal Service preference for baseball over basketball isn’t known. Certainly the Service won’t say. But if anyone on the committee saw some of the NBA championship series between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics, they might be inclined to introduce a Rajon Rondo stamp.

Rondo played every minute of an overtime game for Boston – 53 minutes in all. He scored 44 points, made 10 assists, grabbed 8 rebounds, scored all of his team’s 12 points in overtime — and the Celtics still lost the game! He gave Boston the lead 3 different times only to see the Heat answer each one. Finally, in a play where Rondo said he was hit in the face by Dwayne Wade, then and only then could the Heat say they had put the Celts away. The least they could do for such an effort is to give Rondo a stamp.

Wilt Chamberlain scored his 100 points just over fifty years ago and no-one has done it since. He’s earned a commemorative stamp. Not that Williams, DiMaggio, Doby or Stargell are less deserving. But 100 points in one game is a singular achievement. A lot of guys have hit a lot of home runs, some of them in ballparks where distances were shortened to accommodate them. But only Wilt scored 100. And the distance to the net has always been the same.

Bad Umpiring

We’ve just entered the month of June – nowhere near the halfway mark of the baseball season. We’ve already had three no-hitters: a perfect game by the Chicago White Sox’s Phil Humber on April 21st in Seattle; a no-hitter by the Los Angeles Angels’ Jared Weaver against Minnesota on May 2nd ; and now the Mets’ Johan Santana has thrown one against the St. Louis Cardinals in New York City Stadium. It just happened on the first of June. It was a meaningful moment for Santana, who was making his eleventh start since missing all of last season following intensive shoulder surgery. He threw a career high 134 pitches in his second consecutive shut-out while striking out 8 and walking 5.

That no-hitter got me thinking more about the umpiring in the game these days rather than the pitching. About a week ago, the baseball commissioner made a statement that the game does not need more video replay. Judging solely on the games I’ve been watching, I respectfully disagree. I believe that the umpiring has never been worse and that the game may need video replay more than ever. In fact, in Santana’s no-hitter last week third base umpire Adrian Johnson ruled foul a line drive over third base that hit the foul line and should have been called a fair ball. Johnson called it foul even though a video replay showed the mark where the ball had landed on the chalk line. That just shouldn’t happen. A video review would have prevented it.

Replay is used these days in baseball only on disputed home runs calls. But it’s needed on other occasions as well. Other professional sports have made significant use of replay and the games have not been prolonged nor have lengthy arguments ensued. The commissioner really needs to rethink this one. Baseball has added another team eligible for post-season play, introduced the designated hitter (at least in the American League) and considered other changes to improve the game. In my opinion, more frequent use of video replay can only bring more accuracy to the sport and should be seriously considered. Ballparks are different sizes and ground rules are always subject to change. So why not alter other facets of the game, particularly if they will assure accuracy when the umpiring isn’t up to par?

Tough Times for the Phillies

It should be clear to everyone at this point that the 2012 Phillies season is being dominated by the disabled list. If the Phils remain in serious contention for the rest of the season, it will be a significant achievement. Just the thought of trying to compete without the right side of the infield – Chase Utley and Ryan Howard – is daunting in itself. But to overcome the control of the DL is almost beyond impossible. Utley and Howard have yet to make an appearance and the club has been somewhat secretive about their efforts to rehab. While they’ve anticipated the prolonged absence of both key players, recent events with one player after another getting hurt defy belief.

General Manager Ruben Amaro had difficulty putting it into words the other day when he tried to express his disappointment and frustration over the team’s many injuries. The latest was seeing right-handed relief pitcher, Jose Contreras, go down for the season after suffering a season-ending complete tear of the ulnar collateral ligament – as well as a flexor pronator tear which could end his career. Contreras is 40 years old and was limited to seventeen games last year, which ended with elbow surgery in September. He threw five pitches in relief last Friday against Miami, the fifth to Omar Enfante after not yielding a run in the previous six innings. He left the mound on his own and Amaro said, “I feel badly for him because he worked so hard to get back to where he was starting to look like an effective pitcher. This is tough news to take.” Indeed, it is. The Phillies will get a second medical opinion but Contreras himself thinks it will be difficult to undergo a second surgery.

Meanwhile, the Phillies and the injured Roy Halladay are waiting for a second opinion from New York Mets physician David Altcheck, which is pending until Altcheck receives additional history on a 2009 MRI and more recent CT scan on Halladay. Clearly, Roy will be out for a while. As for the rest of the rotation, Cliff Lee has yet to win a game though he pitched well of late. And there is Vance Worley, who’s about to rejoin the bullpen. In light of all of these problems, Cole Hamels’ stock just keeps going up even when he has a rocky performance. It’s just been that kind of season for the Phillies with no relief in sight.

So far, it doesn’t get a commemorative stamp.

A Final Thought

This final note for the Baseball Record Books:

Giancarlo Stanton of the Florida Marlins hit a grand slam home run last week, earning a spot in the book for his fourth grand slam before this 23rd birthday. Only Ted Williams, Eddie Mathews and Ken Griffy, Jr. had 4 Grand Slams before turning 23. Stanton hit Grand Slam number 4 off an old friend of ours: Jamie Moyer.

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