By Bill Campbell
I was browsing though a magazine recently and discovered that during the 1920’s there were 4 living legends in sports that everyone knew: Babe Ruth in baseball, Red Grange in football, Jack Dempsey in boxing and Bobby Jones in golf. Things are quite different today. In 1926, Jones became the first person to win “the double” – both the U.S. and the British Open in the same year. In 1930 he won all 4 major titles: the British Amateur, the British Open, the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur. Jones played in 31 major tournaments and was in the top ten finishers 27 times. At age 28, he quit the tournament circuit and stayed in golf only to instruct movie stars and work for the G.C. Spaulding Company designing steel-shafted golf clubs. He also helped to design Augusta National and co-founded the Master’s tournament but he didn’t want the pressure of playing the pros week after week. How things have changed in sports and in the people who play them.
The All Star Game
Just to jog your memory a bit, here are some random notes from All Star baseball games of the past.
In 1936, the National League won its first All Star Game 4-3 at Braves Field in Boston. In 1937, Lou Gehrig drove in 4 runs with a home run and a double to pace the American League to an 8-3 victory over the National League in a game played at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. In 1964. The NL won 77-4 on a 2-out 3-run homer off of Dick Radatz in the bottom of the ninth by Johnny Callison (remember him?), giving the NL its only All Star game win, 8-3, in the bottom of the final inning. In 2011, a Ranger fan died after falling about 20 feet on to concrete after reaching for a baseball tossed his way by Texas outfielder, Josh Hamilton, during the game.
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder, Mike Trout, the 2009 South Jersey Player of the Year, leapt to a starter’s berth in the 2013 All Star game. It’s been a great year for the Millville, New Jersey, native and this will be his second All Star Game appearance. He received more than 6 million votes. Baltimore slugger, Adam Jones, was second among American League outfielders. Another Oriole, Chris Davis, got the most votes overall, over 8 million, in the American League. St. Louis catcher, Yodier Molina, got the most votes in the NL with over 6 million. But Molina hurt his knee last week and needs medical tests before he’s able to play so he may be replaced in the All Star Game by San Francisco Giants’ catcher, Buster Posey. Posey was involved in a very unusual play last Saturday, batting out of order. Posey hit a double but the hit was disallowed because he shouldn’t have been at bat.
The most controversial votes for an All Star berth are those tallied for the Dodgers’ phenom, Yasiel Puig — at least according to Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies’ closer called Puig’s possible selection “stupid” since he’s only been playing in the majors less than a month. But what a month it’s been for Puig, who has racked up 44 hits and 7 home runs for a batting average of 436. His 44 June hits are the most in a month that any player has struck since Joe DiMaggio hit 48 in May of 1936. Puig’s success has propelled the Dodgers into the middle of the pennant race. As Shane Victorino recently put it, “It might not be all about just one guy, but one guy can sometimes revive a team.” Like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper last season, Yasiel Puig has made a substantial contribution this season to the Dodgers’ story. I’d say he deserves some consideration.
It was a crazy Wimbledon, punctuated by upsets and injuries. Winning this year’s All England Grand Slam Title was the end of a long wait for France’s Marion Bartoli. She reached her first Grand Slam final in London 6 years ago on the same court but she didn’t win it all until last week against Sabine Lisicki. Playing in her 47th major, Bartoli hadn’t won a tournament since October 2010. Now 28 years old, Bartoli had been dreaming about lifting the cup at Wimbledon since she was 6 years old and learning the game from her father Walter, a doctor, who coached her until earlier this year, sometimes putting her on the court from 10 p.m. till midnight so as not to interfere with her schooling. But it all paid off.
“A tennis player starts to play competitively at about age 6,” Bartoli said, “and when you turn pro your dream is to win a Grand Slam. You dream about it every night, you think about it every day.” For Bartoli, it came to pass last Saturday when she defeated Lisicki 6-1, 6-4 in 81 minutes. She has a reputation of being a quirky player with unusual moves and an almost eccentric on-court presence that dates back to her tennis upbringing. “I am a special player, I really am,” she admitted after the match, “I think it’s kind of boring to be like everyone else. I have never been afraid of being special, never.” That uniqueness involves her being the first player, male or female, to win Wimbledon playing 2-handed on both sides. But it works for her. Dwarfed by many of the other pro women at a stocky 5’7”, ranked number 15, Bartoli is only the third player seeded outside the top 10 to win Wimbledon in the Open era. Her opponent, Lisicki, upset Serena Williams in the fourth round and won the hearts of tennis fans but Bartoli was laser-focused in the final, highly effective at the net and brought it all to her game last Saturday to take that long-awaited victory at Wimbledon.
The following day, Scotsman Andy Murray made even bigger news when he won the British Isles’ most hallowed tournament and became the first British citizen in 77 years to do it. To end those 8 decades of drought, Murray beat Novak Djokovic in a brutally hard-fought match lasting 3 hours and 9 minutes. On the way to the win, Murray squandered 3 match points but climbed back to take it all. The match, played before 15,000 at center court, was watched on TV screens around the world and will have tennis fans replaying for years to come. It set all of England celebrating. At its end, Murray was able to put his name alongside that of Fred Perry, the last British man to win Wimbledon. “Fred Perry is someone I’ve obviously never met,” said Murray, “but he’s quite relevant in my career.” Now they stand together.
Murray won his first Grand Slam title in the U.S. Open in 2012 and he took the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. Both significant achievements but for him winning Wimbledon, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4, was the most precious of all as it ended a 77-year drought for the Brits. Andy Murray and Noval Djokovic were born a week apart, the former in Glasgow, Scotland, the latter in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. They’ve played each other in the big ones before and have established a superb tennis rivalry. This was their third meeting in the last 4 Grand Slam finals and all have gone down to the wire. This time, it was Murray’s Day. In addition to the Wimbledon trophy, Murray earned 1.6 million pounds ($2.4 million) and a call from the Queen. A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said, “I can confirm that the Queen has sent a private message to Any Murray following his victory.” Not a bad day for the Scot.
The Phillies are playing somewhat better, having won 5 of their last 7 games. Pitcher John Lannan has been effective, “the best I’ve seen him pitch” according to Manager Charlie Manual. His last performance included 8 scoreless innings so the coach has reason to be pleased. Outings like Lannan’s of late represent the reason the Phils thought he was an off-season bargain after his unceremonious departure from the Nationals. His ERA is now 4.23 and he has pitched at least 6 innings each game, allowing fewer than 4 runs in 4 of his 8 starts.
However, if they are to mount a respectable challenge to the Braves and Nationals, the Phillies will have to do it without Ryan Howard. The first baseman underwent surgery for a torn meniscus yesterday. Howard will be out for 6 to 8 weeks, at a minimum. Roy Halladay won’t be around for most of that time either as he recovers from shoulder surgery. So making a run at the pennant will be a challenge for the Phils. General Manager, Ruben Amaro, wasn’t discouraged by the medical news on Howard. “In fact,” said Amaro, “I’m encouraged. It could have been much more significant damage. Obviously, we don’t want any of our players out of action too long but we know the source of the trouble and we, hopefully, can get him and others back in time to play this year.” Amaro compared Howard’s surgery to what was been done on catcher, Erik Kratz, saying the procedure “was identical” and noting that Kratz has made progress in regaining his strength and stamina. Amaro clearly hopes that Howard will make a swift recovery from a similar problem and regain the power in his swing in time for the home stretch.
The news on Darren Dalton, as we heard yesterday, is not the best. But Dutch is a fighter and we wish him the best in this battle against cancer. He’s in our prayers.
The Sixers aren’t rushing to conclude the coaching part of their mission, but they have made some noteworthy changes in the front office. Scott O’Neil became their new CEO, replacing Adam Aron who will remain as part of ownership and as a board member. The 43-year- old O’Neil will oversee the team’s business operations and serve as an alternate NBA governor. A Villanova grad with a degree from the Harvard Business School, O’Neil served in the 1990’s as Vice President of Sales for the Eagles and was formerly was the president of Madison Square Garden. Let’s hope he can have an positive impact on the Sixers’ fortunes.
Would you believe that the Cleveland Cavaliers have expressed some interest in Andrew Bynum? They think the free agent might be the guy to fill their Big Man hole. Don’t count on it. Bynum, who spent the year “trying” to come back from his bad knees, didn’t do a thing to help the Sixers last year. Yet there was a full complement of 76ers on hand recently to meet with Bynum and discuss his future: owner Josh Haines, GM Sam Hinkie, consultant Rod Thorn, player personnel guy Courtney Witte. Even the fired Tony DiLeo was there to put a positive spin on it. Everybody but the former coach, Doug Collins, who was supposed to serve as some sort of consultant. We haven’t heard much from him lately. Maybe he wouldn’t have had much to say to encourage Bynum to stick around. Neither would I.