Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bowl games that should be eliminated

-- by @Josh_Suchon

There’s too many bowl games. We know that. We’ve known that for a long time.

Thirty years ago, in 1982, the NCAA sanctioned 16 bowl games.

In 2012, the NCAA sanctioned 35 bowl games.

There’s 124 total Division I football teams. That means 56 percent of college football teams made a bowl game.

In order to be eligible, you must win six games. It doesn’t matter who those six wins come against. It used to be, you needed six wins against Division I opponents (ie. not against Division I-AA or Division II). These days, all that matters is you schedule a university that puts a bunch of dudes in uniforms, and it counts toward becoming bowl eligible.

So which bowls should go?

Let’s start with the obvious bowls that should stay: the BCS Championship, the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Outback Bowl (in Tampa), the Capital One Bowl (in Orlando), the Gator Bowl, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl (in Atlanta), the Alamo Bowl, and the Holiday Bowl.

That’s 12 bowls that I think everybody would agree should remain. All those bowls have at least one Top 25 ranked team, and most have two.

That gives us 23 remaining bowls. Let’s start knocking down some bowls:

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Does winning a bowl game create momentum?

-- by @Josh_Suchon

Does a win in a college football bowl game build momentum toward the next year?

That’s something EPSN analyst Jesse Palmer said during the Pinstripe Bowl between Syracuse and West Virginia. My first thought was that’s a bunch of nonsense. I thought it was one of those statements that analysts make because it sounds good. Or it’s something that coaches say to motivate their players, and the analyst just regurgitates it.

This isn’t a knock on Palmer. I actually like him a lot and can understand why he’d make that comment. It was midway through the fourth quarter. The game was played in a blizzard at Yankee Stadium. Syracuse was leading West Virginia 38-14. The game is over. You’re just killing time. It’s one of those things that you say because there’s nothing else to say to keep interest in a blowout.

But is it true?

With nothing else better to do, I looked it up.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Why I'm glad I'm not voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame

-- by @Josh_Suchon

When I left the newspaper business in 2007 to pursue my play-by-play dreams, my biggest regret was losing a Hall of Fame vote. At the time, I’d spent seven years as a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. In three more years, I’d be eligible to vote for the Hall of Fame forever.

If I was one year away, I’d have probably delayed my career switch. Two years would be a tougher decision. Three years wasn’t that tough. No way was I spending three more years in the print journalism world.

Five years later, in what would be my second year as a Hall of Famer voter, I’ve never been happier to not vote. In fact, I think TJ Quinn has the right idea about giving up his vote.

The first reason is the performance-enhancing drug conundrum.

The second reason is the decision has such a massive financial impact on the player.

The third reason is joining a group of people who shouldn’t be making the decision.

I’ll go into more detail on each reason shortly. But first, let it be known that I once viewed voting for the Hall of Fame as the greatest honor for a baseball writer.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Aztecs and Gauchos – Not Rivals, but Kindred Spirits


- by Matt Hurst

I’d like to think that my co-author on this site and I were destined to become friends, regardless of how we met. Major League Baseball may have brought us together, but without even knowing it, we were already brothers in a way.

At least that’s how I feel about anyone from my sister school.

Josh Suchon went to San Diego State. I went to UC Santa Barbara.

Despite our teams sometimes matching up – and even more next year once SDSU joins the Big West in everything but football – the Aztecs and Gauchos are not rivals. We really are both kindred spirits.

Both cities are tourist flocking spots and are each buoyed by the beauty of the beach. San Diego and Santa Barbara each have a mix of the extremely rich, people trying to make it so they can live in the city and college students.

And, let’s be honest, both schools have the reputation as being a party school. And there is nothing that Josh or I did in our four years at each that made those reputations deteriorate. What you called a wild party, we called Wednesday.

Both schools have good fan bases – SDSU in men’s hoops and UCSB in men’s soccer – that give a huge home advantage and each has a large alumni network proud that they were all able to earn a degree despite perfecting keg stands rather than perfecting statistical problems during their experience. 

Aztecs and Gauchos each brag about how much liquor they can consume and debate whether the blondes at SDSU or the blondes at UCSB are hotter. But, really, how do you compare 9’s and 9’s all the time? 

But, rivals? No.

Rivals have something that happened in the past that created a boiling point or there is jealousy or some sort of bragging rights on the line. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Marcus Allen vs. Al Davis -- explained, and never explained

--by @Josh_Suchon

Marcus Allen was the subject of NFL Networks’ most recent “A Football Life” this week, which brought the bizarre feud between Allen and Al Davis back to the limelight. I’ve always been fascinated, amazed, appalled, and incredibly curious how Allen got so deep in Davis’ doghouse.

“I never quite understood what made things go bad,” Allen says, in the documentary.

Whatever the story, Al Davis took it to his grave.

After watching the film, pouring through old archives, and consulting the raw data, here’s my impression of what happened: Davis hated that Allen was a training camp holdout four of five years, Davis signed other players because he thought Allen had become injury-prone and not as productive, and Davis thought Allen was hiding from competition.

However, there must be more to the story than that. If that was the full story, why would Davis not just say it? Even for the notoriously private Davis, who rarely talked to the press, what’s the harm in that explanation?

There’s always been wild speculation about something off the field. Davis fueled that speculation with a cryptic comment in the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, “Straight Outta LA,” on how the Raiders were embraced by gangsta rappers in the 1980s.

Filmmaker Ice Cube conducted what’s believed to be the final interview before Davis’ death. Their exchange over Marcus Allen went like this: 

Ice Cube: “Did you think he was a true Raider?”

Al Davis: “At one time, he was. Yeah, he was.”

Ice Cube: “What happened with him?”

Al Davis: “I’m not going to tell you. It’s a deeper story than you even dream, that I was well aware of. I just have a certain approach to life.”

Even the fearless Ice Cube didn’t press Davis further. Who knows the real answer? Only a handful of people. Former head coach Tom Flores is one of them.

Now the Raiders radio analyst, Flores joined his play-by-play partner Greg Papa this week for an interview on 95.7 FM The Game in San Francisco

When asked about the sour relationship, Flores said, “The only issue that happened with Marcus, when I was there, is (Allen) held out one year. Al didn’t like people who held out. He did not like that. Having said that, I also remember once, when I was already gone. We were talking about the team and (Davis) said, ‘this is a good team. You would like this team. But we need to get Marcus in here.’ That’s what he said.”

Flores paused, then continued. “I know what the rift was over. It had nothing to do with his football playing. That’s as far as I’m going to go.” Flores laughed nervously, and the hosts didn’t press him further.

Even from his grave, Davis wields remarkable power to keep his most loyal employees silent.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Who are the best analysts on TV in each sport?

During the Notre Dame-USC game on Nov. 24, USC quarterback Max Wittek threw what appeared to be a gift-wrapped interception directly into the arms of Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te’o. At least, that’s how it looked live on television.

Within seconds, analyst Kirk Herbstreit quickly diagrammed on replay exactly what Te’o did, what a truly remarkable play it was, and how it wasn’t a case of a quarterback showing his freshman inexperience. Sure, Herbstreit couldn’t have done it without All Stars in the production truck – the director, producer and person working replay all have to working together in sync – but it was the latest example of what makes Herbstreit so good at his craft.

This got us thinking. Who are the best analysts working on television these days in their respective sports?  It’s common for fans to mock/heckle/rip/laugh at many of the ex-athletes and ex-coaches who “analyze” the games we watch. But who are the best?

Josh Suchon and Matt Hurst decided to make their own separate lists, without consulting each other, and they are comparing their lists below.

The ground rules: this is a TV analyst working a live game. No play-by-play announcers. No studio analysts. Nobody on radio. We’re also not including any local analysts because regional biases always cloud your judgment (pro or con). These analysts, in theory, should be the best of the best, network TV analysts doing national games on TV.

Monday, November 26, 2012

"40 Before 40" checklist -- No. 19 -- Watch a game with The Show

-- by @Josh_Suchon

I'm in the red-black rugby shirt, about 5th row up, next to the railing.
My hands are still sore, especially my right thumb. My voice is a little hoarse.

It was totally worth it.

When I originally compiled my “40 things to do before turning 40 years old” list, watching a San Diego State basketball game with the famously outrageous student rooting section -- known as “The Show” – was intended to be accomplished at a home game at Viejas Arena.

While I’m still hopeful that opportunity presents itself in the next four months, the next-best option manifested Sunday night (for this Los Angeles resident) when the Aztecs played at USC’s Galen Center.

Greg Block, my friend and fellow Daily Aztec alum, drove up from San Diego to join me at the game. We met another Daily Aztec alum, Vinnie Batra, his brother, and what turned into hundreds of other SDSU fans inside The Gastropub Lab before the game.

The tickets I purchased for the game were at the top row of the Galen Center. Upon entry, it was clear this game would not be sold out and we could sit wherever we wanted.

But this was not a time to sit closest to the floor. This was a time to find where The Show was standing (they don’t sit) and join them. Oh yes, you knew the 124 miles between SDSU and USC were not going to stop The Show from exerting its collective will on a non-conference game.

This is pretty stupid, but I’ll admit that I actually had butterflies as we walked over to The Show’s section. What if they looked at us funny? What if we weren’t welcome? Would we have to ask permission to join them? Was there an initiation routine? Is it creepy that two guys who were students 15-20 years ago would join the student rooting section?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The small things that I'm grateful for ...

--by @Josh_Suchon

I’m thankful that …

... Ken Levine gave me this idea to steal.

... half of LA residents leave the city during the holidays, so it’s super easy to get around town.

... I can walk to the grocery store, to get coffee, to my yoga studio, dentist, multiple bars, restaurants and other businesses. Who says nobody walks in LA?

... I went to college at San Diego State.

... I didn’t go to BYU.

... We have the freedom to criticize this country because that’s how you get better.

... My TV is huge and awesome.
... I don’t snore.

... Dexter and Homeland exist.

... The Hollywood sign always helps me get my locational bearings.

... I live where others vacation.

... Twitter gives me instant news and prevents me from being bored.

... When a plant dies, I can buy another and not feel like a total failure.

... Somebody invented cocktail sauce for shrimp.

... Somebody else realized if you smash avocados up and mix with other ingredients, it tastes even better.

... All of my CDs are now on a hand-held device and sound much better.

... Simply clicking the “like” button can make somebody’s day.

... Josh Rawitch convinced me to go to Iguazu Falls when I went to Brazil, and I now have hundreds of photos likes this to show off.

... I told Orel Hershiser he was lucky.

... Oakland A’s announcers Ken Korach and Vince Cotroneo never go longer than two minutes without giving the score.

... Most people still do the right thing most of the time.

... The stupidest things make me teary-eyed … and Jim Valvano taught me that if you think, laugh and cry, that’s a heckuva day. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Top sports power couples

On the latest Out of Ink podcast, Matt Hurst and Josh Suchon discuss the Top Sports Power Couples. Where do Justin Verlander and Kate Upton rank? Where do we place Jenna Jameson and Tito Ortiz? Or tennis stars Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi? Or what about Mia Hamm and Nomar Garciaparra?

-- by Matt Hurst

It's too early in their relationship to deem Justin Verlander and Kate Upton as a top-5 athlete power couple. It could happen some day, but let's allow them to be together at least a year before they crack this list. Until then, here are my top-5 all-time sports-related power couples.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

What we've learned in baseball's playoffs so far

On the latest Out of Ink Podcast, Dan Hayes of joins Josh Suchon and Matt Hurst to discuss what we've learned so far in the baseball playoffs. Topics include Justin Verlander, laser beams coming out of foul poles, tequilla shots to start a rally, how Seven Nation Army is played endlessly, that Tim Lincecum is alive, how the St. Louis Cardinals never die, and a bunch of slobbering over how cool the baseball playoffs have been.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

UPDATED Why Bay Area fans like all their teams ... unless they hate them

--by Josh Suchon

People will never understand it outside the Bay Area.

Bay Bridge SeriesFans in other two-team markets shake their heads in disbelief, call it blasphemous, wonder what they’re smoking up north, mock the Bay Area, and use it as proof there’s something wrong with the people who live there.

The truth is, especially for people who spent their whole lives in the Bay Area, it’s more common to like both baseball and football teams than hate one team.

Alright, it might be a stretch to say the football fans “like” each other. It can feel like a war zone in the stadiums when the 49ers and Raiders play each other. There are plenty of fights and bullets to prove it. But don’t let the couple hundred knuckleheads obscure the larger truth.

Bay Area fans of one team don’t hate the other team. In some cases, they like both baseball teams equally. If nothing else, they go to both ballparks, and enjoy being able to see American League and National League baseball. If their favored team wasn’t very good that year, regional pride dictated you cheered for the other team.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sometimes a photo is worth a thousand words

Griffith Park Observatory

This is Space Shuttle Endeavour, flying over the Griffith Park Observatory with Downtown Los Angeles in the background. Happy retirement, Endeavour.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Putting the cork in baseball champagne baths

Dodgers champagne celebration--by Josh Suchon

While reading a story this morning about Dodgers pitcher Jamey Wright, who expressed how much he wants the opportunity to get champagne sprayed in his eyes and feel that burn for the first time in his career, it got me thinking about the champagne protocol in light of baseball’s new postseason.

Under the new rules this year, a second wild card team was added. The two wild cards will meet in a one-game, winner-take-all showdown to advance to the best-of-5 division series.

Will the teams that “win” a wild card berth spray each other with champagne to celebrate reaching a one-game playoff? Will the teams that win the one-game playoff pop the bubbly to celebrate winning a single game?

I’m in favor of neither. If I had to pick one, I originally thought that clinching the wild card berth would be better, since it’s a reward for a 162-game season. My friend and colleague Jeff Fletcher point out on Twitter that the one-game playoff is essentially game 163 in the season, and the celebration should take place after winning that game. I still want neither, but I agree with Fletch.

Overall, this year is the perfect time for baseball to overhaul its champagne celebration tradition.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

“40 Before 40” checklist -- No.4 -- Watch a movie in the Hollywood Cemetery

On my 39th birthday, I made a list of "40 things to do before turning 40." Each time I check an item off the list, I'll write about it here. This is item No. 4, watching a movie at the Hollywood Cemetery.

--by Josh Suchon

Watching a movie in the Hollywood Cemetery is similar to attending a football game. It’s more than a game (or movie). The movie is almost an after-thought. This is an (almost) all-night event, similar to tailgating. Except you’re not in a car and there’s definitely no BBQing. This is picnicking around the dead.

I felt right at home.

Thanks to my friends Emilie and Tyler, I was invited to join them last Saturday to see the Woody Allen movie “Manhattan” projected against a big white wall, surrounded by a bunch of really expensive tombstones and caskets.

Emilie and Tyler made sure we got there early. Very early. The movie started at 8 pm. The gates opened at 6:30 pm. Emilie and Tyler were there about 4:30 pm, making sure we were near the front of the line. I got there around 5:30 pm.

What do you do for an hour? Duhh. You drink. And eat. And play games. We had no shortage of any of these items. I did learn that certain games are better than others. The hosts made it clear they prefer games that involve “yelling out the answers.”

Monday, September 10, 2012

Top 10 most famous Foothill High alums

-- by @Josh_Suchon

A recent brief Twitter exchange between myself and former classmate Gabrielle Union got me thinking about the most famous alums at my high school. A quick check of Wikipedia showed that either my school is either really pathetic in developing famous people, or Wikipedia needs some help. Either way, I decided it was time to research my school further, and compile a list.

My school is Foothill High in Pleasanton, Calif., a middle-class suburb in the East Bay. It’s a fairly new school. It was founded in 1973 with a freshman-only class. Each year, a new freshman class was added, and the first graduating class was 1977.

The list will probably be a work-in-progress, as more names are brought to my attention. 

But for now, here goes:

1. Actress Gabrielle Union (Class of 1991)
Union was in my graduating class. It was easy to remember Nicky, as she was called back then, primarily because she was one of two black females in our graduating class. She was an all-league point guard on the girls basketball team, was involved in student government and leadership, and ran on the track team.

In college, Union started at Nebraska and played soccer briefly, then went to Cuesta College, then to UCLA, where she planned on attending law school and becoming a lawyer. Union did an internship at a modeling agency that changed her life. The agency realized she should be getting photographed, not making coffee and copies, and her modeling career was launched. That led to some acting roles.

High SchoolHer break-through role was in 2000’s “Bring it On” as the cheerleader from the rival black school, opposite Kirsten Dunst. Union was in the blockbuster hit “Bad Boys II” and also “Deliver Us from Eva.” She appeared on a memorable 2001 episode of “Friends” when Joey and Ross were both into her. It was memorable because she was the first black character ever on the New York-based show. Her IMDB page lists all her credits.

Union is currently dating Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade, she was ranked 52nd in Maxim’s “100 Sexiest Women” in 2002, and she has a couple new projects that should be in theaters in 2013.

Most impressive to her former classmates, she attended the 10- and 20-year reunions, and graciously posed for photos – even with people who didn’t know her then, but wanted to show off to their friends and kids by getting a photo with her. 

Same old Nicky. Just goes by Gabrielle now.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sharpie Scribbles Chapter XII: The Pre-Fame Scribble

-- by Matt Hurst

As I've said before, I'm not a big autograph chaser. But if someone offers and I genuinely get excited at the prospect of getting someone's signature, then hell yes, count me in.

This happened in my final weeks working at UC Santa Barbara.

We had two bona fide student-athletes who were stars. Not on the Matt Barkley or Anthony Davis level, but pretty big time athletes in their respective fields.

One is basketball player Orlando Johnson, now a member of the Indiana Pacers. UCSB is a good mid-major basketball school ... not great, but pretty good. To have a player come from our school and get into the NBA, well that doesn't happen often.

I was very fortunate to work with Orlando in a variety of ways during his three years at UCSB and you might hear this a lot, but trust me on this - you won't find a better human being. Especially considering what he has gone through in his life (read about it here). Our last creative video shoot together was one of my absolute favorites.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

UPDATED: How to win your Survivor Football Pool

--by Josh Suchon

My favorite football pool goes by many names. Some call it an Eliminator Pool. Others say “Last man standing” Pool. I’ve always known it as a Survivor Pool.

The basic rules: you pick one NFL game each week, point spreads don’t matter. If you win, you advance to the next week. If you lose, you’re done. In most of these pools, once you pick a team once, you can’t pick them again. I’m in a pool where you can pick the same team three times. I don’t like that rule, but I’m not the Commissioner. But in most pools, you can only pick a team once.

I’ve won two Survivor Pools in the last decade. I went 17-for-17 two years ago and split the pot with four others. I made it to Week 11 last year before losing, and week 9 three years ago. In 2003, I was one of two finalists and we split the first- and second-place money (a nice Christmas bonus for each of us).

These are my rules for how to win your Survivor Pool.

Monday, August 27, 2012

My "40 things to do before turning 40" list

-- by @Josh_Suchon

Yes, this is another list of 40 things to do before turning 40 years old. I have exactly 365 days to accomplish these 40 items. I plan on writing a separate blog entry each time I cross an item off this list. If you have any advice on one of these items, or want to join me when I check it off the list, let me know.

1. Rent a fancy sports car and drive along the coast for the day/weekend. If I haven’t bought a fancy sports car by age 40, it’s probably not going to happen. Might as well just rent one for the weekend.

2. Swim with dolphins. This will probably require a trip outside our borders, which is the whole point.

2-5-13 Update -- I've booked a week in Honolulu when I turn 40. This will be done that final week. 

3. Go visit a psychic. Really curious what the hell they might say. A friend of mine did this with his wife recently, and it was a trip what she said about our deceased friend Jeff Coulthart.

4. Watch a movie in the Hollywood cemetery. DONE. My recap can be found here.

5. Sleep under the stars. This was intentionally written very generically, so I can do it anywhere in the world.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Olympic sports and athletes aren't going away

-- by Josh Suchon

The end of the Olympics, traditionally, was the end of seeing those Olympic athletes in our lives. Some would re-appear four years later at the next games. Some would appear on a Wheaties box. Most were never heard from again.

That could be changing for a couple reasons:

* The staggering increase in sports networks requires programmers to find more content, and not just from the traditional Big Three of team sports (football, baseball, basketball).

* The explosion of social media allows athletes to connect directly with their fans, and allows them to direct those fans to their games in person or on television.

Despite annoying fans everywhere with tape-delayed coverage, NBC Universal set records with massive ratings in the 2012 London Games. It didn’t seem to matter that the audience knew the results. They watched, watched in groups, sat through commercials, and sat through sports they previously neglected.

It proved a strong market exists for these so-called niche sports. What the next three years and 49 weeks will prove is whether that market exists year-around, or just once every four years.

There should be plenty of opportunities for fans of Olympic sports to keep watching their new favorite athletes, or learn more about these less popular sports.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chapter XII – The worst multi-scribble cards

-- by Josh Suchon
The previous chapter of the Sharpie Scribbles, which compared the Alomars to the Ripkens, got me thinking about the multi-autograph baseball card. Some of the best in my childhood collection are the cards, photos and SI covers from the Alomars and Ripkens.

Now it’s time to list the worst multi-autograph baseball cards from my collection. In honor of the Olympics, we’ll use the Bronze, Silver and Gold to rank the worst.

The Bronze

Game Closers -- John Franco and Steve Bedrosian

These two person cards were almost always photos taken during the all-star game. They were a fun break in the middle of sets. Fleer did a good job of pairing together natural fits. The 1988 Fleer “Super Star Specials” were extra cool to me because they were taken during the 1987 all-star game in Oakland, which I attended.

The problem with this dual signature card is the different colored Sharpies that were used. I remember getting Steve Bedrosian’s autograph first. Blue is always the preferred color. The Bedrosion autograph is solid. He doesn’t take up too much space, stays on his body, and doesn’t write on his face.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Share your memory from Game 1 of the 1988 World Series

Did you attend Game 1 of the 1988 World Series? If so, I’d like for you to share your story.

Leave a comment at the bottom of this blog post to share your story publicly, or email me the details privately at

-- Josh Suchon 

Friday, July 27, 2012

After the Credits -- Bull Durham

Note to readers: “After the Credits” is a feature in which we take the best sports movies ever made, and giving our opinion on what happened to our favorite fictional characters after the movie ended. Previously, Josh speculated on The Natural, and Matt gave his opinion on Jerry Maguire. In this edition, both will give their opinions on the legendary minor league baseball movie, Bull Durham.

-- by Josh Suchon and Matt Hurst

When the movie ends, Nuke LaLooosh was called up to the major leagues. Crash Davis was released by the Durham Bulls, went to the Asheville Tourists to get his final dinger to set the all-time minor league home run record, then shacked up with Annie, with the possibility that he would manage in Visalia the next year.

Each of us wrote our opinions separately, not knowing what the other person thought. A few are similar. Most are totally different. This is what we think happened “After the Credits” to the characters from Bull Durham. 

Coming in March – “Miracle Men: Gibson, Hershiser and the Improbable 1988 Dodgers”

“But the Bulldog in him came out when, after the Athletics were disposed of, he walked down the hallway to the interview room in the Oakland Coliseum and an A's fan yelled, ‘You were lucky, Hershiser.’ A couple of dozen steps later, Hershiser blurted out, ‘Oh yeah – grab a bat.’ He wasn't smiling.”

That was the final paragraph of Peter Gammons' story on Orel Hershiser in the October 31, 1988 edition of Sports Illustrated. The A's fan was a 15-year-old named Josh Suchon, whose eyes were red with tears, and who would cry himself to sleep later that night. Three decades later, Suchon is now 38 years old, the former co-host of “Post Game Dodger Talk” on 790 KABC in Los Angeles, and author of the upcoming book “Miracle Men: Hershiser, Gibson and the Improbable 1988 Dodgers.”

Triumph Books will publish the book in the spring of 2013, in connection with the 25th anniversary.

That Dodgers team crushed the author's heart as a teen-ager, but now he reflects fondly on an championship that's crazy even by Hollywood standards. Most champions contain a Who's Who of stars. That Dodgers team fielded a World Series lineup that had the audience asking, “Who and Who?”

The year is most remembered for Kirk Gibson's dramatic home run in Game One of the World Series, Orel Hershiser's pitching dominance, and manager Tommy Lasorda's masterful motivation. But there was much more that made the season memorable, bittersweet, and controversial.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sharpie Scribbles -- Chapter XI, Alomars vs. Ripkens

-- by Josh Suchon

Note to readers: The feedback on the “You Were Lucky, Hershiser” story was so positive, and triggered so many memories from a childhood where my playground was the Oakland Coliseum, I’ve decided to share more of these stories. I’m blatantly stealing this idea from “Cardboard Gods” author Josh Wilker, who used his baseball card collection to tell the story of his childhood in the 1970s. Wilker gave me his blessing, so I’m going to use my autograph collection to tell the story of my childhood in the 1980s.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, two families competed for the title of best family in baseball -- the Alomars and the Ripkens.

The similarities are impressive: both were led by strong fathers who didn’t have much of a playing career, but were consummate baseball men who stayed in the game as coaches, and taught their sons the right way to play; both of the older sons went on to a Hall of Fame career; both of the younger sons had solid careers; both named one of their son Junior; and most important, both families were huge targets to an autograph-obsessed kid like me.

What follows is a comparison of how the two families grade out, strictly on a Sharpie Scribble scale:

Sheer volume of autographs

The final tally is 16 for the Alomars and n11 for the Ripkens in my collection. It breaks down with eight by Roberto, seven for Sandy Junior, one for Sandy Senior, six for Cal Junior, three for Billy, and two for Cal Senior.

Considering the overwhelming number of my autographs came at the Oakland Coliseum, this is an impressive total for a National League family like the Alomars. It shows how much I took advantage of spring training and how accommodating they were.

Off memory, I want to say that Billy was back in the minor leagues during my peak 1987-89 years of collecting. But that wasn’t the case.

Upon checking, Billy was in the majors. For some odd reason, Billy was just a much tougher autograph to obtain than his more in-demand older brother. You'd think it was the other way. 

Edge to the Alomars.

Monday, July 16, 2012

After the Credits: Jerry Maguire

Note to readers: In honor of Sports Illustrated’s recent “where are they now” issue, we’ve decided to introduce a new feature to the Out of Ink blog. We’re taking the best sports movies ever made, and giving our opinion on what happened to our favorite fictional characters after the movie ended.

-- by Matt Hurst

The movie ends with the belief that all is good. Jerry and Dorothy live happily ever after, Rod Tidwell got his contract and little Ray has a great arm … for a five-year old. But this is sports. Mom and Pop operations never work in sports. Small receivers aren’t stars. Nerdy kids don’t succeed on a field unless they have an instrument in their hands at halftime.

Jerry Maguire: He went through his highs and lows both professionally and personally in the film and seemed to finally figure everything out and how to make it work in perfect harmony by the time the credits rolled. His struggles made him a better man, a better husband and a good father to Ray. But his career suicide still allowed other agents at bigger corporations to undercut him. He didn’t mind because he had Rod Tidwell’s contract and friendship. Word got out and a few athletes began to come Jerry’s way. With the possibility of forming his own big-time agency, Jerry decided to re-read his manifesto and keeps his production small. Just him and Dorothy and a few NFL players. Nothing more than that. He is happy with his life, even if it isn’t as glamorous as it once was.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

After the credits, part I -- The Natural

Note to readers: In honor of Sports Illustrated’s recent “where are they now” issue, we’ve decided to introduce a new feature to the Out of Ink blog. We’re taking the best sports movies ever made, and giving our opinion on what happened to our favorite fictional characters after the movie ended.

--by Josh Suchon

We start with the movie The Natural. The final scene of the movie shows us Roy Hobbs, back at some farm, playing catch with his son, while his wife looks on with a big smile on her face. We’re led to believe that Hobbs retired after his dramatic home run put the Knights in the playoffs.

What happened in the playoffs? Earlier in the movie, manager Pop Fisher says he just wants to reach the World Series. He doesn’t care if he even wins. This is typical of why Pops wasn’t a very good manager. Who on earth is just happy to be there and doesn’t want to win it all? Hobbs’ home run was so eerily similar to Kirk Gibson’s in 1988, it’s not a stretch to think that Hobbs wasn’t healthy enough to perform in the playoffs, just like Gibson didn’t play again the rest of the 1988 World Series. Hobbs was bleeding, after all. This doesn’t mean the Knights won, just like the Dodgers did. No chance. Not with Pops’ attitude. The Knights didn’t have Orel Hershiser either. Without Hobbs, the Knights had no chance. They were swept in the World Series.

The Pittsburgh manager: Without question, his performance in the one-game playoff was one of the worst in history. Why on earth didn’t he intentionally walk Hobbs? In case you forgot, Hobbs hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning to beat Pittsburgh, 3-2, in the one-game playoff. There was nobody else in the Knights lineup who could beat you. Who cares if Hobbs is the go-ahead run? The Pittsburgh media crucified the manager for this strategy, and management agreed. He was fired, justifiably, two days later.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Podcast: Kansas City Royals - The Draft

In honor of Kansas City hosting the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Josh Suchon and Matt Hurst hold their first-ever fantasy draft. Rather than choosing current players from all teams, we took a twist on the typical fantasy draft and made sure to choose only Kansas City Royals players from the franchise's history. We plan on having the teams "play each other" via a computer simulator and posting the results. The Out of Ink team will also be performing more of these drafts soon, so check back often.

The concept is building a team for a best-of-7 playoff series. We limited our rosters to 20 players. Matt Hurst won the coin toss, and elected to draft second and third overall. Josh Suchon selected George Brett (1980) with the first overall pick. Hurst countered with Bret Saberhagen (1989) and Bo Jackson (1990).

After that, the picks alternated. The rest of the picks in the first 10 rounds, in order: Darrell Porter, David Cone, Zack Greinke, Carlos Beltran, Kevin Appier, Frank White, Mark Gubicza, Dan Quisenberry, John Mayberry, Mike Sweeney, Amos Otis, Willie Wilson, Danny Tartabull, Jeff Montgomery, Joakim Soria, Gary Gaetti, Jose Offerman.

This is how the final rosters stack up.

Monday, July 9, 2012

My review of the Celebrity Softball Game (really)

-- by Josh Suchon

Tuned into the Celebrity Softball Game because the menu on my television incorrectly said it was SportsCenter, and I wanted to see what I didn’t miss in the Home Run Derby. (I used to love the Home Run Derby, but it’s just too damn long. When they shorten it to two rounds, I’ll start watching again.)

Bo Jackson

Watched the Celebrity Softball Game for a few minutes because I wanted to mock it and figured I’d get a few minutes of material for jokes. Continued watching the game because I got the dumb idea that I’d take a page from the Ken Levine book of blogging and write a ridiculous review of this ridiculous event.

A funny thing happened on the way to me ripping everything. I actually watched the whole thing, and was actually entertained.

I still don’t like the hybrid rosters of baseball legends, celebrities, musicians, athletes from a few other sports, and a few token hot chicks. I’d rather see one of the following rosters:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Podcast: Making the MLB All-Star Game Better

In this episode of the Out of Ink podcast, Josh and Matt discuss if Major League Baseball's All-Star Game is the best feature of star athletes of all the professional leagues, ways to improve the Midsummer Classic and their best memories of the All-Star Game.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sharpie Scribbles - Chapter X: I'm Not Who You Think I Am

-- by Matt Hurst
I have never been an autograph chaser.

Even as a kid it just seemed weird to me to get someone's name scribbled down on a piece of paper or a card or a ball. I'd rather have someone's picture taken with me.

That proves I was there. It takes a split second longer to get a picture taken with somebody than to have them scribble something down. Plus, it can't be faked.
Much better than an autograph, in my opinion.
This is no offense to anyone who seeks out autographs. I do weird stuff that I'm sure would cause many of you to look at me cockeyed.

I don't know if I would put money on it, but it's probably very close - I bet I've signed as many autographs as I've had things signed.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not famous. Sure, I've had moments of minor fame in my life (interviews on radio and television shows, broadcasting and radio work, a byline and picture everyday in the newspaper) but by no means should anyone ask me to scribble my name on something.

And yet, I have.

Walking in and out of special entrances to Major League Baseball parks every day for four years will cause kids to just ask you for your autograph. I was in my early to mid-twenties and in decent enough shape for a kid to possibly confuse me for a ballplayer.

I'd always tell them "Trust me, you don't want my autograph."

They'd think I'd be giving them a line, but I'd say "I'm just a baseball writer" and they'd feel foolish for approaching me. I'd thank them for the offer and that would be that.

Once, though, during spring training, a kid asked me for my scribble. I gave him my line and his mother said, more to me than actually out loud, "Please just do it. He wants as many as he can. Then we can leave."

I felt like I was doing the mom a favor.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sports metaphors to explain dating and sex

-- by Josh and Matt

You don’t need to like sports to enjoy sports metaphors.

When a politician finishes a speech or a debate, the staff will often claim their boss “hit a home run.” How often do you hear the phrase “game over” to explain situations that don’t involve games?

Even if you don’t like baseball, and even if definitions are slightly different, you understand the jist of “getting to first base” or “getting to second base” in the mating dance.

To “spit game” you need not be involved in an organized game. Of course, dating is a game and sometimes you have to “play the game.”

In the naming game for dating and mating, the options are endless with sports metaphors.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sharpie Scribbles – chapter IX, the King and the Ring

-- by Josh Suchon

Note to readers: The feedback on the “You Were Lucky, Hershiser” story was so positive, and triggered so many memories from a childhood where my playground was the Oakland Coliseum, I’ve decided to share more of these stories. I’m blatantly stealing this idea from “Cardboard Gods” author Josh Wilker, who used his baseball card collection to tell the story of his childhood in the 1970s. Wilker gave me his blessing, so I’m going to use my autograph collection to tell the story of my childhood in the 1980s.

This chapter doesn’t fit the usual formula of baseball players who I bugged for Sharpie Scribbles as a kid, then bugged for interviews as an adult journalist. These are just two more good stories from my summer internship with the Watertown Indians minor league baseball that I wanted to share.

As mentioned in the previous chapter of this series, we had three memorable promotions during that summer. Sparky Lyle Day went fine overall, but I constantly felt like an idiot because it was so disorganized.

This post is about the other two big events: when legendary fast-pitch softball star Eddie Feigner's barnstorming team came to town, and when unknown pro wrestling wanne-be imposters came to town.

Let's start with The King.

The first time I saw Eddie Feigner was an episode of ABC’s Wide World of Sports. He was incredible. The Washington Post once described him as “the greatest softball pitcher who ever lived.” Feigner was the pitcher on a four-player softball team, dubbed “The King and his Court,” that took on all comers around the world. They didn’t have outfielders. They didn’t need outfielders he was so dominant.

The King could pitch behind his back, through his legs, from second base, blind-folded, and you still couldn't hit him.

By 1996, Feigner was 71 years old and still unhittable, but a younger guy did most of the pitching to save his arm. The King pitched an inning or two against the best team of ringers we could assemble from the area. The game wasn't close. Nobody could touch the King. Everybody on "The Court" mashed at the plate. 

The King and his Court were a relic from an era long before I was born, the ultimate barnstormers. Combine that with a ballpark that was located at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, it felt like we were in the 1950s.

I was on the on-field PA announcer. I introduced the players and described the action. Most importantly, I handed the wireless microphone to “The King” and let him entertain the crowd by giving the history of himself, the team, and tell stories.