Friday, October 29, 2010

Bulls Honor Roll

Bulls retired numbers:
  4 - Jerry Sloan
10 - Bob Love
23 - Michael Jordan
33 - Scottie Pippen

World champion head coaches:
1991 - Phil Jackson
1992 - Phil Jackson
1993 - Phil Jackson
1996 - Phil Jackson
1997 - Phil Jackson
1998 - Phil Jackson

NBA Most Valuable Player:
1988 - Michael Jordan
1991 - Michael Jordan
1992 - Michael Jordan
1996 - Michael Jordan
1998 - Michael Jordan

Most Valuable Player of NBA Finals:
1991 - Michael Jordan
1992 - Michael Jordan
1993 - Michael Jordan
1996 - Michael Jordan
1997 - Michael Jordan
1998 - Michael Jordan

Rookie of the Year:
1985 - Michael Jordan
2000 - Elton Brand
2009 - Derrick Rose

Defensive Player of the Year:
1988 - Michael Jordan

Sixth Man Award:
1996 - Toni Kukoc
2005 - Ben Gordon

League leader in scoring:
1987 - Michael Jordan
1988 - Michael Jordan
1989 - Michael Jordan
1990 - Michael Jordan
1991 - Michael Jordan
1992 - Michael Jordan
1993 - Michael Jordan
1996 - Michael Jordan
1997 - Michael Jordan
1998 - Michael Jordan

League leader in rebounds:
1988 - Charles Oakley
1989 - Charles Oakley
1998 - Dennis Rodman

League leader in assists:
1967 - Guy Rodgers

League leader in steals:
1988 - Michael Jordan
1990 - Michael Jordan
1993 - Michael Jordan
1995 - Scottie Pippen

League leader in field-goal percentage:
1981 - Artis Gilmore
1982 - Artis Gilmore
2003 - Eddy Curry

League leader in free-throw percentage:
1971 - Chet Walker

NBA Coach of the Year:
1967 - Johnny "Red" Kerr
1971 - Dick Motta
1996 - Phil Jackson

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kindred Spirits

Lovie Smith

"We feel good about it."

Alfred E. Neuman

"What, me worry?"

Monday, October 25, 2010

At Last

     “No matter what happens,” White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said before the 2005 World Series, “when you win the American League pennant, you’ve had one wonderful year. But then you get greedy, and you want to get four more [wins]. It’s only been since 1917, so I think it’s time, and hopefully these guys can get the job done.”
     The South Siders’ opponents in their first World Series since 1959 were the Houston Astros, who had come into being in 1962 and were appearing in their first Series ever. As far as casual fans, the national media, and TV ratings were concerned, the match was made someplace other than heaven. But the White Sox and their fans couldn’t have cared less.
     Game 1 was played in Chicago on October 22. Roger Clemens started for Houston and was not effective, leaving with a sore hamstring after two innings and three White Sox runs. Joe Crede made the difference for the Sox with both bat and glove; his fourth-inning home run snapped a 3-3 tie, and he made diving stops at third base in the sixth (with a runner on third and one out) and the seventh (with two on and two out). The Sox added a run in the eighth on Scott Podsednik’s triple with A.J. Pierzynski aboard. Sox closer Bobby Jenks struck out three of the four batters he faced to preserve the 5-3 win for Jose Contreras.
     Game 2 was one of the most entertaining games ever played in Chicago—or anywhere else, for that matter. The cold, wet weather did not dampen the enthusiasm of the 41,432 who turned out. Mark Buehrle pitched seven innings for the White Sox, allowing four runs on seven hits. His counterpart, Andy Pettitte, left after six innings with a 4-2 lead. Dan Wheeler started the seventh for Houston and retired Crede on a foul pop-up. Then Juan Uribe stroked a double to center. Podsednik struck out. Tadahito Iguchi coaxed a walk. Jermaine Dye was up next; he worked the count to 3-and-2 before the next offering hit his bat—but was ruled to have hit his arm. Now the bases were loaded, and the crowd was in an uproar.
     Chad Qualls replaced Wheeler on the mound. Konerko stepped up to the plate. He swung at Qualls’s first pitch and drilled it over the wall for a grand slam. It was one of the most electrifying moments in Chicago’s long baseball history. Konerko circled the bases and then took a curtain call to acknowledge the tremendous ovation from the rain-soaked crowd. After the game, Konerko maintained that he’d been focused on getting a hit to tie the score and that the idea of hitting a home run hadn’t occurred to him. “That’s usually when you get them,” he said, “when you’re not trying to.”
     Cliff Politte retired the Astros in order in the eighth, and Jenks came on in the ninth with the Sox still ahead 6-4. With two outs and runners on second and third, pinch hitter Jose Vizcaino lined a single to left, and the game was tied. Neal Cotts replaced Jenks and got the third out with no further damage.
     Houston manager Phil Garner handed the ball to All-Star closer Brad Lidge for the bottom of the ninth. Lidge retired Uribe for the first out, but then the unlikely Podsednik belted a home run to right-center field, and the White Sox were 7-6 winners. After hitting no homers during the regular season, Podsednik had now hit his second of the postseason. Few home runs, even by the most illustrious sluggers, have been more impactful. It was only the 14th game-ending (or “walk-off”) homer in World Series history, and it gave the Sox a commanding 2-0 lead in the Series.
     “Clearly, everything they’re doing now is right,” Garner said. “They can’t do anything wrong.”
     The White Sox were hitting on all cylinders as the series moved to Houston, and they were soon to be world champions.

Adapted from Heydays: Great Stories in Chicago Sports
(c) 2009, 2010 by Christopher Tabbert

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Captain Quade Takes the Helm

     When Mike Quade signed on as the Cubs' third-base coach in 2007, he became the third Prospect High School alumnus to suit up for the North Siders, joining catcher Tom Lundstedt (1973-1974) and outfielder Dave Kingman (1978-1980).
     Quade has now joined a somewhat less exclusive club, having been appointed the Cubs' manager. Fifty-six men preceded him in that often-thankless role, starting with Al Spalding (founder of the famous sporting-goods company) in 1876, when the team was known as the White Stockings. Only four (Cap Anson, Charlie Grimm, Frank Chance, and Leo Durocher) lasted more than five years in the job, and only one (Chance) won the World Series.
     Quade's predecessors have finished in first place 21 times, in last place 13 times. The Cubs never finished last until 1925, their 50th season in the league, but they have done so a dozen times since their most recent pennant in 1945. Durocher, who famously said, "Nice guys finish last," was not generally regarded as a nice guy. Nonetheless, he was among the Cub skippers who finished in the cellar.
     Quade is a nice guy, which doesn't mean he can't also be a winner. He has earned his shot, having managed 2,378 games in the minor leagues before landing a coaching job at the major-league level. He is one of those rare and fortunate people who can honestly say that there is no job in the world he'd rather have than the one he has. Best of luck to him.

World Series champions
1907 - Frank Chance
1908 - Frank Chance

National League champions
1876 - Al Spalding
1880 - Cap Anson
1881 - Cap Anson
1882 - Cap Anson
1885 - Cap Anson
1886 - Cap Anson
1906 - Frank Chance
1907 - Frank Chance
1908 - Frank Chance
1910 - Frank Chance
1918 - Fred Mitchell
1929 - Joe McCarthy
1932 - Charlie Grimm
1935 - Charlie Grimm
1938 - Gabby Hartnett
1945 - Charlie Grimm

Division champions
1984 - Jim Frey
1989 - Don Zimmer
2003 - Dusty Baker
2007 - Lou Piniella
2008 - Lou Piniella

Won National League wild card
1998 - Jim Riggleman

Finished exactly .500
1878 - Bob Ferguson
1952 - Phil Cavarretta
1977 - Herman Franks

Finished in last place
1925 - Bill Killefer, Rabbit Maranville, George Gibson
1948 - Charlie Grimm
1949 - Charlie Grimm, Frankie Frisch
1951 - Frankie Frisch, Phil Cavarretta
1956 - Stan Hack
1966 - Leo Durocher
1974 - Whitey Lockman, Jim Marshall
1980 - Preston Gomez, Joey Amalfitano
1981 - Joey Amalfitano
1987 - Gene Michael, Frank Lucchesi
1999 - Jim Riggleman
2000 - Don Baylor
2006 - Dusty Baker

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Impressions of Papa Bear, Part 3


     “There's only one man I embrace when we meet,” said the legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, “and only one I call ‘Coach’—George Halas.”
     One Sunday, according to Green Bay star Paul Hornung, the Packers were dressing for a game against the Bears when insistent knocking was heard at the locker-room door. Hornung opened the door, and found none other than Halas standing there.
     “I need to see Lombardi,” Halas said to the startled Hornung.
     Lombardi came to the door. “Hello, Coach,” he said. “What can I do for you?”
     “Vince,” said Halas, “I just came by to tell you that we are gonna kick your ass!” With that, he turned and walked away.

     At a banquet in 1966, Mike Ditka got off a memorable remark about Halas’s frugality: “He tosses nickels around like they’re manhole covers.” Ditka claimed to have heard it from teammates Bill George or Fred Williams—he couldn’t remember which. Either way, Halas was furious. Twenty years later, Ditka reflected on another side of “the Old Man.” “I was probably one of fifty who owed him money that he never got back,” Ditka wrote. “They don’t tell the stories about how many times he bailed someone out of a bad jam. He helped Willie Galimore’s family and Brian Piccolo’s family after their deaths. I think that was an element that made you closer to the club and more obligated to the club and I think that was good. It was a loyalty thing and I’m sure he wanted it that way. You wouldn’t see that now.”

     Halas retired from coaching for good on May 27, 1968. Except for a pair of two-year sabbaticals and three years in the Navy during World War II, he had been the Bears’ head coach since 1920. He had won 324 games—95 more than Curly Lambeau, who ranked second at the time. He’d compiled a winning percentage of .671. The Bears had won eight championships.

     At Lambeau Field in Green Bay on November 3, 1968, Gale Sayers had one of the greatest days of his incomparable career, rushing for 205 yards as the Bears upset the defending Super Bowl champions 13-10. One week later, on a gloomy afternoon at Wrigley Field, Sayers took a pitchout and was upended by the 49ers’ Kermit Alexander just as he was making one of his patented cuts. His right knee buckled. Sayers popped up and took a step or two toward the sideline before collapsing. All of the ligaments in the knee had been torn. Although he would come back the next year and perform courageously, he would never be quite the same again. As Sayers was carried off the field on a stretcher, Kermit Alexander wept. So did George Halas.
     More injuries followed. “There was a series of operations,” Sayers remembered. “In 1971, I played in St. Louis to see how I could go. I felt my movement was good, but the pain was just too great. I told Abe Gibron, the new head coach, that I’d had it. I saw Mr. Halas. The meeting was kind of emotional. He asked me if there was anything he could do. I told him there was nothing and I did appreciate everything he had done for me. ‘Well,’ Mr. Halas said, ‘I do want to do something.’ He gave me a check for $50,000.”

     Halas’s old-fashioned paternalism grated on some, and indeed it proved increasingly anachronistic when the big money started rolling in during the 1960s and 1970s. By then many players viewed the concept of team loyalty in a different light, believing that they needed to look first and foremost after their own individual interests. Like Sayers, Dick Butkus had his magnificent career cut short by knee injuries. After the 1973 season, Butkus was through, but there were still four years left to run on the contract he had signed the previous summer. When Halas balked at paying him for the remaining years, Butkus slapped a $1.6 million lawsuit on him. “He never thought I would really sue him,” said Butkus. “Other guys had talked about it, but no one had ever done it.”
     The two parties eventually settled out of court, but for Halas it was a bitter reminder that life had changed since the early days. “I was asked not so long ago,” Halas wrote in 1979, “if I were 24 now instead of 60 years ago, would I have my old eagerness to make a career in professional football. I said, as a player, yes. But as a coach, manager and owner, no. Football has largely turned from a personal sport into an impersonal business. The personal relations which meant so much to me are no longer so strong.”

     When the Bears needed a new head coach in 1982, Halas interviewed Mike Ditka at his (Halas’s) kitchen table and then hired him—bypassing his general manager, Jim Finks, was supposed to be the one who made these decisions. At the press conference held to introduce Ditka, one member of the media suggested that perhaps the decision should have been left to others. Halas was 87 years old, after all, and maybe not in full possession of his faculties. Rising to the occasion, Halas looked squarely at his interrogator, moved forward in his seat, and declared, “There’s no senility in this goddamn carcass!”
     Halas was vindicated when Ditka and the Bears became world champions in Ditka’s fourth year at the helm. Sadly, he was not around to say, “I told you so,” having passed away on Halloween night in 1983.

     “If there was ever anyone quite like him,” David Condon wrote in the Tribune the morning after Halas died, “I never met the person.”

     For other, wealthier moguls who’d made their fortunes in other businesses, owning a professional sports franchise was an ego-gratifying diversion. For Halas, the Bears were never a hobby. They were his life.

Part 3 of 3.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

1985 Bears Flashback: On the Prowl

     October 13, 1985. The Bears visit Candlestick Park in San Francisco, seeking to avenge their 23-0 loss in the 1984 NFC championship game at the same site. After that game, 49er safety Ronnie Lott had mockingly told the Bears, “Next time, bring your offense.”
     Now, the Bears heed Lott's advice. They return to San Francisco with the most potent offense in the league at 31.5 points per game. Quarterback Jim McMahon comes out winging (27 of Chicago’s first 37 plays are passes), and the Bears open up a 16-0 lead early in the second quarter. By halftime the 49ers close to within 16-10, but the Bears soon quash any thoughts of a comeback. San Francisco manages only three first downs and 45 total yards in the second half. Defensive tackle Steve McMichael manhandles All-Pro guard Randy Cross and terrorizes quarterback Joe Montana, who is sacked seven times in all.
     Walter Payton rushes for 88 of his 132 yards in the second half as the Bears rely on the ground game to hold the lead. As the clock winds down on the 26-10 victory, coach Mike Ditka inserts defensive tackle William “Refrigerator” Perry at fullback, and the 325-pound rookie carries twice for four yards. "When the 49ers saw that I was the ball carrier," Perry says, “their eyes got really big.” What begins as a way to tweak the 49ers for using guard Guy McIntyre in the backfield in the ’84 title game (“I have a long memory,” Ditka says) will spawn a national phenomenon almost overnight.
     After the game, 49er coach Bill Walsh is asked to describe the Bear defense. “Use any adjective you want,” he says. “I’ll say it was intense and ferocious. They gave us a good, sound beating.”
     The Bears are 5-0 for the season, and McMahon will appear on the cover of the next issue of Sports Illustrated, under the header BEARS ON THE PROWL.

Adapted from Heydays: Great Stories in Chicago Sports
(c) 2009, 2010 by Christopher Tabbert.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Etched in Time, Update

     The Blackhawks have returned to work, preparing to defend their Stanley Cup title with a roster far different from the one that won it just four months ago. The Cup itself will be getting a well-earned rest after a whirlwind summer during which (as per tradition) it made the rounds with each of the winning players.
     When the Cup is shortly put away until its appointed hour to be trotted out for next year’s champions, it will bear the names of 52 members of the 2010 Blackhawks’ organization, which were recently engraved on its base. Of course, the names of players, coaches, and officials of the winning team are engraved on the trophy every year. But this might be the first year in which the names of players are in the minority.
     The 1934 Hawks have 21 names on the Cup, 18 of them players.
     The 1938 Hawks have 22 names on the Cup, 17 of them players (the names of three players and the trainer were originally included, but were inadvertently removed when the trophy was refurbished in the 1950s).
     The 1961 Hawks have 29 names on the Cup, 23 of them players (including two backup goalies who were on the roster but had yet to appear in a regular-season or playoff game).
     Fifty-two is now the maximum number of names allowed per team, which seemingly should be plenty. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine how any more than that could be made to fit. Amazingly, the Hawks were able to find room for only 23 players among the 52 names. The other 29 are coaches, executives, and all sorts of other employees including the team massage therapist. With all due respect to the massage therapist, Pawel Prylinski, can he possibly be more worthy of having his name immortalized on the Stanley Cup than winger Bryan Bickell, who played in 16 regular-season games and four playoff games but whose name was left off?
     To his credit, Bickell maintains that he is not offended by the snub. "It makes you want it [to win the Cup again] even more, to try and get the name," he said. "I had a day with it, and I made the best of it."

     Following is a list of the names engraved on the Stanley Cup for the 2010 Blackhawks, in order. (None of the job titles referenced below actually appears on the Cup--with one notable and deserving exception: Captain.)

W. Rockwell Wirtz (chairman)
John McDonough (president)
Jay Blunk (executive vice president)
Stan Bowman (vice president/general manager)
Al MacIsaac (vice president)
Kevin Cheveldayoff (assistant general manager)
Scotty Bowman (senior adviser)
Dale Tallon (former general manager)
Joel Quenneville (head coach)
Mike Haviland (assistant coach)
John Torchetti (assistant coach)
Stephane Waite (goaltending coach)
Mike Gapski (head trainer)
Troy Parchman (equipment manager)
Jeff Thomas (assistant trainer)
Clint Reif (assistant equipment manager)
Pawel Prylinski (massage therapist)
Jim Heintzelman (equipment assistant)
Paul Goodman (strength and conditioning coach)
Paul Vincent (skating coach)
Brad Aldrich (video coach)
Marc Bergevin (director of player personnel)
Mark Kelley (director of amateur scouting)
Norm Maciver (director of player development)
Michel Dumas (amateur scout)
Ron Anderson (director of player recruitment)
Tony Ommen (senior director of team services)
Mark Bernard (general manager of minor-league affiliations)
Dr. Michael Terry (team physician)

Jonathan Toews, Capt.
Dave Bolland
Nick Boynton
Troy Brouwer
Adam Burish
Dustin Byfuglien
Brian Campbell
Ben Eager
Colin Fraser
Jordan Hendry
Nicklas Hjalmarsson
Marian Hossa
Cristobal Huet
Patrick Kane
Duncan Keith
Tomas Kopecky
Andrew Ladd
John Madden
Antti Niemi
Brent Seabrook
Patrick Sharp
Brent Sopel
Kris Versteeg

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The "Called Shot"

     In Game 3 of the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field, Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees strode to the plate in the fifth inning under a barrage of lemons and other objects thrown from the stands and a hail of verbal abuse from the Cubs’ dugout. Bad blood had been stirred up between the two clubs over the Cubs’ decision to award shortstop Mark Koenig, a former Yankee, only a partial share of their World Series money because he had not played the entire season for the Cubs. Koenig had made key contributions to Chicago’s pennant drive, and Ruth, among others, was outspoken in his belief that the decision was petty and unjust—although those weren’t the exact words he used.
     The mighty Yankees had a 2-0 lead in the Series. The game was tied 4-4. Homers by Ruth and Lou Gehrig off Cubs ace Charlie Root had given New York an early 4-0 lead, but the Cubs had come back to knot it up in the fourth. When Ruth came up again in the fifth, the crowd and the Cubs’ bench were in an uproar.
     Root threw the first pitch for a called strike, then threw two balls. His next pitch was another called strike, and the jeering from the crowd grew louder. At this point Ruth made an ambiguous gesture with his index finger (or was it his middle finger?). Was he pointing toward the Cubs’ dugout, toward Root, or toward the center-field bleachers? Cubs catcher Gabby Hartnett thought he heard Ruth say, “It only takes one to hit it.” Gehrig, who was in the on-deck circle, remembered it this way: “Babe was jawing with Root and what he said was, ‘I’m going to knock the next pitch down your goddamned throat.’”
     The next pitch was low and away. Ruth swung and hit a tremendous home run into the center-field stands—reportedly the longest ever hit at Wrigley Field to that time. Some in the crowd sat in stunned silence, while others (including presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt) cheered. Gehrig followed with another home run of his own, and the Yankees went on to sweep the Cubs, four games to none. “We should have gone home after winning the pennant,” Cubs second baseman Billy Herman said. “The World Series was a disaster.”
     Had Ruth really called his shot? Most newspaper accounts of the game made no mention of it, and Ruth himself neither confirmed nor denied it until much later, by which time the event had become so ingrained in baseball mythology that there was no turning back. Then he said, “Well, I guess the good Lord was with me.”
     For his part, Charlie Root swore until his dying day that Ruth had never pointed to the seats. If he had, said Root, “I’d have put one in his ear and knocked him on his ass.”

Reprinted from Heydays: Great Stories in Chicago Sports
(c) 2009, 2010 by Christopher Tabbert.

Monday, October 4, 2010

George Blanda, 1927 - 2010

     When George Blanda performed his greatest feats on the gridiron, he was 43 years old and had been retired from the Bears for 12 years. Yes, he had retired in 1958 after 10 seasons of moderate success with the Bears—only to return to the fray when the American Football League opened for business in 1960.
     Blanda was selected by the Bears from the University of Kentucky in the 12th round of the 1949 draft. He was the Bears’ starting quarterback for the entire 1953 season, compiling a record of 3-8-1, and he started seven more games in 1954, going 4-3. Thereafter his playing time at quarterback steadily diminished, and he was exclusively a placekicker in his later years with the Bears.
     Blanda did not recall his tenure in Chicago fondly. He later said that Bears head coach and owner George Halas “was too cheap to even buy me a kicking shoe.”
     After sitting out the 1959 season, Blanda joined the upstart AFL and led the Houston Oilers to back-to-back titles in 1960 and 1961. In the pass-happy new league, Blanda threw for 36 touchdowns in 1961 and was voted Player of the Year. But it was in 1970 (the year of the AFL-NFL merger) that Blanda became a household name. His heroics as placekicker and backup quarterback carried the Oakland Raiders to four late comeback wins in a five-week period. He was named Player of the Year of the newly expanded NFL.
     “If you put him in a group of the most competitive, clutch-type players,” former Raiders head coach John Madden said, “he’d have to be the guy who would win it all.”
     Blanda retired for good in 1975 at the age of 48, having played for an all-time record 26 seasons—16 of them after his initial retirement. He entered the Hall of Fame in 1981, his first year of eligibility. He passed away last Monday at the age of 83.