Friday, April 29, 2011

Bears First-Round Draft Picks

     If past history is any indication, offensive tackle Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin has a 10.6 percent chance to eventually be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Nine of his 85 predecessors as a Bears first-round draft choice have done so, which is a pretty good success rate. Alas, at least an equal number have proven to be all but worthless. Time will tell whether Carimi gets his bust in Canton, goes bust, or ends up somewhere in between.     
     Two of the Bears' first-round draft picks were future Bears head coaches (Jim Dooley and Mike Ditka). Three were Heisman Trophy winners (Tom Harmon, Johnny Lujack, and Rashaan Salaam).
     In 1965, the Bears drafted two future Hall of Famers (Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers) with consecutive picks. From 1975 (Walter Payton) through 1990 (Mark Carrier), every first-round pick became a productive player, at least for a while, and most became stars. For the past 20 years, it has been a lot more bad than good. Brian Urlacher is the only bonafide all-timer in the group, while Tommie Harris was a star that shone briefly. Rex Grossman was not quite as good as his admirers wished him to be nor quite as bad as his detractors believed him to be.
     Below is the complete list of Bears first-round draft choices. The player's overall draft position is in parentheses, and an asterisk indicates a Hall of Famer.

Bears first-round draft picks

1936 - Joe Stydahar, tackle, West Virginia (6)*
1937 - Les McDonald, end, Nebraska (8)
1938 - Joe Gray, back, Oregon State (10)
1939 - Sid Luckman, quarterback, Columbia (2)*
1939 - Bill Osmanski, fullback, Holy Cross (6)

1940 - Bulldog Turner, center, Hardin-Simmons (7)*
1941 - Tom Harmon, halfback, Michigan (1)
1941 - Norm Standlee, fullback, Stanford (3)
1941 - Don Scott, back, Ohio State (9)
1942 - Frankie Albert, quarterback, Stanford (10)
1943 - Bob Steuber, halfback, DePauw (9)
1944 - Ray Evans, tailback, Kansas (9)
1945 - Don Lund, back, Michigan (7)
1946 - Johnny Lujack, quarterback, Notre Dame (4)
1947 - Bob Fenimore, halfback, Oklahoma State (1)
1947 - Don Kindt, defensive back, Wisconsin (11)
1948 - Bobby Layne, quarterback, Texas (3)*
1948 - Max Bumgardner, defensive end, Texas (10)
1949 - Dick Harris, center, Texas (11)

1950 - Chuck Hunsinger, halfback, Florida (3)
1950 - Fred Morrison, fullback, Ohio State (10)
1951 - Bob Williams, quarterback, Notre Dame (2)
1951 - Gene Schroeder, end, Virginia (12)
1952 - Jim Dooley, back, Miami - Florida (8)
1953 - Billy Anderson, defensive back, Compton - Calif. (6)
1954 - Stan Wallace, defensive back, Illinois (6)
1955 - Ron Drzewiecki, halfback, Marquette (11)
1956 - Tex Schriewer, end, Texas (10)
1957 - Earl Leggett, defensive tackle, LSU (13)
1958 - Chuck Howley, linebacker, West Virginia (7)
1959 - Don Clark, back, Ohio State (7)

1960 - Roger Davis, guard, Syracuse (7)
1961 - Mike Ditka, tight end, Pittsburgh (5)*
1962 - Ronnie Bull, running back, Baylor (7)
1963 - Dave Behrman, center, Michigan State (11)
1964 - Dick Evey, defensive tackle, Tennessee (14)
1965 - Dick Butkus, linebacker, Illinois (3)*
1965 - Gale Sayers, running back, Kansas (4)*
1965 - Steve DeLong, defensive end, Tennessee (6)
1966 - George Rice, defensive tackle, LSU (12)
1967 - Loyd Phillips, defensive end, Arkansas (10)
1968 - Mike Hull, running back , USC (16)
1969 - Rufus Mayes, tackle, Ohio State (14)

1970 - none
1971 - Joe Moore, running back, Missouri (11)
1972 - Lionel Antoine, tackle, Southern Illinois (3)
1972 - Craig Clemons, defensive back, Iowa (12)
1973 - Wally Chambers, defensive tackle, Eastern Kentucky (8)
1974 - Waymond Bryant, linebacker, Tennessee State (4)
1974 - Dave Gallagher, defensive end, Michigan (8)
1975 - Walter Payton, running back, Jackson State (4)*
1976 - Dennis Lick, tackle, Wisconsin (8)
1977 - Ted Albrecht, tackle, California (16)
1978 - none
1979 - Dan Hampton, defensive end, Arkansas (4)*
1979 - Al Harris, defensive end, Arizona State (8)

1980 - Otis Wilson, linebacker, Louisville (19)
1981 - Keith Van Horne, tackle, USC (11)
1982 - Jim McMahon, quarterback, Brigham Young (5)
1983 - Jimbo Covert, tackle, Pittsburgh (6)
1983 - Willie Gault, wide receiver, Tennessee (18)
1984 - Wilber Marshall, linebacker, Florida (11)
1985 - William Perry, defensive tackle, Clemson (22)
1986 - Neal Anderson, running back, Florida (27)
1987 - Jim Harbaugh, quarterback, Michigan (26)
1988 - Brad Muster, fullback, Stanford (23)
1988 - Wendell Davis, wide receiver, LSU (27)
1989 - Donnell Woolford, defensive back, Clemson (11)
1989 - Trace Armstrong, defensive end, Florida (12)

1990 - Mark Carrier, defensive back, USC (6)
1991 - Stan Thomas, tackle, Texas (22)
1992 - Alonzo Spellman, defensive end, Ohio State (22)
1993 - Curtis Conway, wide receiver, USC (7)
1994 - John Thierry, defensive end, Alcorn State (11)
1995 - Rashaan Salaam, running back, Colorado (21)
1996 - Walt Harris, defensive back, Mississippi State (13)
1997 - none
1998 - Curtis Enis, running back, Penn State (5)
1999 - Cade McNown, quarterback, UCLA (12)

2000 - Brian Urlacher, linebacker, New Mexico (9)
2001 - David Terrell, wide receiver, Michigan (8)
2002 - Marc Colombo, tackle, Boston College (29)
2003 - Michael Haynes, defensive end, Penn State (14)
2003 - Rex Grossman, quarterback, Florida (22)
2004 - Tommie Harris, defensive tackle, Oklahoma (14)
2005 - Cedric Benson, running back, Texas (4)
2006 - none
2007 - Greg Olsen, tight end, Miami - Florida (31)
2008 - Chris Williams, tackle, Vanderbilt (14)
2009 - none
2010 - none

2011 - Gabe Carimi, tackle, Wisconsin

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"God Disguised as Michael Jordan"

Derrick Rose's sensational performances in this year's NBA playoffs have drawn inevitable comparisons to Michael Jordan's early days with the Bulls a quarter century ago, when Jordan was already a superstar but not yet considered the greatest player the game had seen. It was 25 years ago yesterday, on April 20, 1986, that Jordan dumped 63 points on the Boston Celtics for a playoff record that still stands. The account below is excerpted from the recent book Heydays: Great Stories in Chicago Sports.

     Michael Jordan was already known as the most exciting basketball player in the world when he suffered a broken foot in the third game of the 1985-86 season, his second with the Bulls. He missed 64 games, then returned just in time to help the Bulls eke out the last playoff berth. The closing weeks of the regular season presented an interesting spectacle, as new general manager Jerry Krause imposed strict limits on how many minutes Jordan could play in each game.
     “I was scared to death,” Krause explained. “I didn’t want to go down in history as the guy who put Michael Jordan back in too soon.” Meanwhile, Jordan kept begging coach Stan Albeck to let him play more. “I didn’t want to watch my team go down the pits,” he said. “I thought I was healthy enough to contribute something.”
     In the first round of the playoffs against the Boston Celtics, Jordan contributed something. He scored 49 points in Game 1, but the Bulls lost 123-104. In Game 2, he sank two free throws (his 53rd and 54th points of the game) to send the game into overtime. Then he scored seven more points in overtime, including a three-point play that gave the Bulls a 125-121 lead with 1:39 left. Two baskets by Boston forced a second overtime. Late in the second session, Jordan dunked over Robert Parish—giving him 63 points for the game, a new playoff record, and tying the game yet again. But despite his heroics, the Celtics finally prevailed 135-131.
     Jordan had scored 104 points in two games against a team that was being touted as the best of all time. “I didn’t think anyone was capable of doing what Michael has done to us the past two games,” said Boston forward Larry Bird, who was soon to receive the Most Valuable Player award for the third consecutive year. “He is the most exciting, awesome player in the game today. I think it’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan.”
     The Celtics swept the best-of-five series in three straight, despite Jordan's 131 points (43.7 per game), and went on to take the championship. Jordan and the Bulls would be heard from again in the near future.

Excerpted from Heydays: Great Stories in Chicago Sports
(c) by Christopher Tabbert

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


     The last Chicago team to win the World Series in the 20th Century did so with 82 years to spare.
     The 1917 White Sox won 100 games (still a franchise record) and cruised to the American League pennant by nine games. In the World Series against the New York Giants, they won the first two games at Comiskey Park, 2-1 and 7-2, with Eddie Cicotte going the distance in Game 1 and Red Faber doing likewise in Game 2.
     The Sox pounded out 14 hits in Game 2, and even Faber—an .058 hitter for the regular season—joined in the fun, rapping a single to right in the fifth inning. When Giant right fielder Davy Robertson threw home to hold Buck Weaver at third on the play, Faber alertly took second. Then, seeing that pitcher Pol Perritt was ignoring him, Faber took off for third on the next pitch. He slid in, apparently safe, only to come face-to-face with Weaver, who was still occupying the base. “Where the hell are you going?” Weaver asked. The sheepish Faber replied, “Why, back to pitch, of course.”
     Faber could afford to laugh at his baserunning blunder after the Sox scored an easy victory in the game, but the Sox weren’t laughing when they were shut out in Games 3 and 4 at New York. In the pivotal Game 5 on October 13, back at Comiskey Park, they were down 5-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, and their hopes for a world championship seemed to be fading fast. But the Sox rallied for three to tie the score.
     When the Sox took the field for the eighth, manager Pants Rowland called on Faber, even though he had pitched seven tough innings just two days before. Faber set the Giants down in order. The Sox scored three times in their half of the eighth to take the lead. Faber was again perfect in the top of the ninth, and the Sox won 8-5. It was the turning point of the Series: the momentum had shifted back in Chicago’s favor.
     For Game 6 in New York, Rowland again elected to go with Faber. In the top of the fourth, the Giants fell apart defensively. Eddie Collins reached on a bad throw by third baseman Heinie Zimmerman, a former Cub who, it was said, “fielded by ear.” Joe Jackson lofted an easy fly ball that Robertson dropped. Then Happy Felsch hit a bouncer to Zimmerman, and it appeared that Collins was hung up between third and home. Inexplicably, however, catcher Bill Rariden and pitcher Rube Benton both left the plate unattended. With the unfortunate Zimmerman chasing him, Collins streaked home with the first run of the game. Jackson and Felsch scored on a single by Chick Gandil, and the White Sox were on their way. Faber went all the way, scattering six hits, as the Sox won 4-2 to claim the Series.
     Faber pitched 27 innings in the Series, winning three games and losing one. He and Cicotte pitched 50 of the 52 innings between them. Faber went on to star for the South Siders until 1933, but he missed the infamous 1919 World Series with an injury. “If Red had been available,” catcher Ray Schalk said, “there would never have been a Black Sox scandal.”

Reprinted from Heydays: Great Stories in Chicago Sports
(c) by Christopher Tabbert

Monday, April 11, 2011

60-Win Bulls

     When LeBron James announced last summer, on his now-infamous live TV show "The Decision," that he was taking his talents to South Beach, the Bulls appeared to be in a bad way. Like a number of other teams, the Bulls had feverishly pursued James, and when they failed to land him, it wasn't clear whether they had a Plan B--and if so, what that plan was. At the time, the Bulls had but a handful of players under contract, not enough to field a team, having cleared roster space and salary-cap space to accommodate James and/or Dwayne Wade and/or Chris Bosh, all three of whom ended up in Miami.
     Well, Plan B has worked out nicely. The Bulls signed a big-name free-agent, power forward Carlos Boozer, brought in some well-chosen complementary players, and saw continued improvement from their own young veterans Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and the sensational Derrick Rose.
     Under rookie head coach Tom Thibodeau, the retooled Bulls have surpassed all expectations. They have notched 60 wins, and they will enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but reaching the 60-win plateau would seem to bode well. Five previous Bulls teams have won 60 or more games in a season, and each captured the world championship.

50-Win Bulls teams (in ascending order)

50-32 (.610)
Head coach: Doug Collins
Playoff record: 4-6 (lost Eastern Conference semifinals)

51-31 (.622)
Head coach: Dick Motta
Playoff record: 3-4 (lost Western Conference semifinals)

51-31 (.622)
Head coach: Dick Motta
Playoff record: 3-4 (lost Western Conference semifinals)

54-28 (.659)
Head coach: Dick Motta
Playoff record: 4-7 (lost Western Conference finals)

55-27 (.671)
Head coach: Phil Jackson
Playoff record: 6-4 (lost Eastern Conference semifinals)

55-27 (.671)
Head coach: Phil Jackson
Playoff record: 10-6 (lost Eastern Conference finals)

57-25 (.695)
Head coach: Dick Motta
Playoff record: 0-4 (lost Western Conference semifinals)

57-25 (.695)
Head coach: Phil Jackson
Playoff record: 15-4 (won NBA championship)

60-Win Bulls teams (in ascending order)

61-21 (.744)
Head coach: Phil Jackson
Playoff record: 15-2 (won NBA championship)

62-20 (.756)
Head coach: Phil Jackson
Playoff record: 15-6 (won NBA championship)

67-15 (.817)
Head coach: Phil Jackson
Playoff record: 15-7 (won NBA championship)

69-13 (.841)
Head coach: Phil Jackson
Playoff record: 15-4 (won NBA championship)

70-Win Bulls teams

72-10 (.878 -- NBA record)
Head coach: Phil Jackson
Playoff record: 15-3 (won NBA championship)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

White Sox All-Opening Day Lineup

     The White Sox' home opener at U.S. Cellular Field is upon us, and the South Siders and their fans are anticipating an exciting season. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf gave general manager Kenny Williams the okay to spend the money needed to stock the roster for a serious run at the pennant. The Sox, in Williams's words, are "all in" for 2011.
     We're taking a look back at the Sox' openers of the past to compile the club's All-Opening Day roster. The lists below reflect Opening Day lineups from 1920 through 2011. (The information for years prior to 1920 is not readily available.)

* Asterisks indicate consecutive years.

Most Opening Day starts
  1. Frank Thomas, 14* (1991-2004)
  2. Luke Appling, 14 (1933-1949)
  3. Nellie Fox, 13* (1951-1963)
  3. Ozzie Guillen, 13* (1985-1997)
  3. Paul Konerko, 13* (1999-2011)

First team (most Opening Day starts by position)
  P. Mark Buehrle, 9 (2002-2011)
  C. Sherm Lollar, 10 (1952-1962)
1B. Paul Konerko, 11* (2001-2011)
2B. Nellie Fox, 13* (1951-1953)
SS. Luke Appling, 14 (1933-1949)
3B. Willie Kamm, 9* (1923-1931)
LF. Bibb Falk, 7 (1921-1928)
CF. Lance Johnson, 7 (1988-1995)
RF. Harold Baines, 8* (1980-1987)
DH. Frank Thomas, 5 (1998-2004)

Second team (second most Opening Day starts by position)
  P. Billy Pierce, 7 (1951-1959)
  C. Ray Schalk, 8* (1920-1927)
1B. Frank Thomas, 9 (1991-2000)
2B. Ray Durham, 8* (1995-2002)
SS. Ozzie Guillen, 13* (1985-1997)
3B. Robin Ventura, 8 (1990-1998)
LF. Minnie Minoso, 7 (1952-1961)
CF. Chet Lemon, 6* (1976-1981)
RF. Magglio Ordonez, 7* (1998-2004)
DH. Greg Luzinski, 4* (1981-1984)

Third team (third most Opening Day starts by position)
  P. Wilbur Wood, 5* (1972-1976)
  C. Mike Tresh, 8 (1940-1948)
  C. Carlton Fisk, 8 (1981-1991)
1B. Earl Sheely, 7* (1921-1927)
2B. Eddie Collins, 7* (1920-1926)
SS. Luis Aparicio, 10 (1956-1970)
3B. Bill Melton, 7* (1969-1975)
LF. Carlos Lee, 5* (2000-2004)
CF. Mike Kreevich, 5 (1936-1941)
RF. Jermaine Dye, 5* (2005-2009)
DH. Jim Thome, 4* (2006-2009)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Coming on Like a Fire Truck

     Former Bulls center Artis Gilmore was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame this week, which naturally led one to ask, "What took so long?" For some reason, Gilmore never became as famous as his accomplishments warranted. Actually, there are several likely reasons: 1) the NBA was not as popular during Gilmore's career as it became later; 2) Gilmore was overshadowed by the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the dominant center of his era; 3) the Bulls did not win any championships during Gilmore's tenure; 4) Gilmore was not a self-promoter in any way, shape, or form.
     At seven-foot-two and 240 pounds, Gilmore was a genuine force at both ends of the court. He ranks first all-time in field-goal percentage, first in defensive rebounds, third in blocked shots, and fifth in total rebounds. When he is officially inducted into the Hall in August, Gilmore will be joined by two other Bulls alumni, forward Dennis Rodman (his polar opposite in the self-promotion department) and assistant coach Tex Winter (innovator of the triangle offense that was and continues to be Phil Jackson's bread and butter). Winter's absence from the Hall to this point was an even more glaring omission than Gilmore's.
     Below is a look back at Gilmore's first year with the Bulls, which featured a surprising and electrifying late-season drive to the playoffs. That drive culminated on April 8, 1977 -- 34 years ago this coming Friday. This account is reprinted from the recent book Heydays: Great Stories in Chicago Sports.

     Despite the acquisition of center Artis Gilmore, the 1976-77 Bulls got off to a horrendous start, losing a club-record 13 straight games early in the season. It seemed that their futility might even exceed that of the previous year, when they had struggled to an abysmal 24-58 record. Gilmore, a veteran of five outstanding campaigns in the recently defunct American Basketball Association, couldn’t seem to get it going in Chicago. Worse, his placid demeanor suggested that he didn’t care. His tremendous size and massive salary made him an easy target for increasingly frustrated Bulls fans.
     Gilmore and his teammates improved as the season went along, but the Bulls were still mired at 24-34 with just six weeks to go. From then on, with Gilmore leading the way, they played like men possessed. When the Bulls started winning, it appeared that they might salvage some sort of respectability out of an otherwise wasted season. Then it became reasonable to hope for a .500 finish. Finally, it looked as if they might even make the playoffs.
     The stirring stretch drive galvanized Chicagoans, who began turning out in droves for home games, and captured the attention of the national media. “Chicago is coming on like a fire truck,” said Don Criqui of CBS. The climb reached its climax on April 8. It was a Friday night, and the largest crowd ever to witness a Bulls game at the Stadium—21,652—was on hand. Fans were in the usual standing-room-only spots, behind the last row of seats, but they were also standing or sitting in every aisle of the first and second balconies.
     The Bulls had won 18 of their last 22, and they needed just one more to clinch the coveted playoff spot. The Houston Rockets were their opponents, and it was a thrilling contest from the opening tipoff. The Bulls surged to an early lead, but an 18-4 rally by the Rockets sent the two teams into the halftime break tied 51-51. The two smallest players on the court, Calvin Murphy of Houston and Wilbur Holland of the Bulls, had done most of the damage, with 18 and 15 points respectively.
     In the third quarter, with Gilmore tying up Moses Malone to the extent that it was possible, Bulls guard Norm Van Lier repeatedly sprung forwards Scott May and Mickey Johnson on fast breaks. As the huge crowd roared its approval, May scored 10 points and Johnson nine in the quarter. The running game carried the Bulls to a 98-82 lead with only 7:55 remaining, but the Rockets wouldn’t go quietly. Determined play by Malone and Rudy Tomjanovich inside the paint brought them to within four points in the final minute.
     Johnson’s 18-footer in the closing seconds finally settled the issue, and the Bulls prevailed 113-109. It had been a smashing performance by the Bulls’ starting five, each of whom played between 35 and 45 minutes. The key was Van Lier’s astute distribution of the ball; he finished with 18 assists while ensuring a balanced attack that saw Johnson score a game-high 27 points, May 22, Gilmore 19, and Holland 16.
     The Bulls closed out the regular season with another win, their 20th in 24 games. Coach Ed Badger said that his players had come to “accept the fact that if they played the same way every night, we could beat anybody.” Suddenly the unthinkable—a world championship—was being discussed by the same fans who had showered the Bulls with catcalls only weeks before. So hot and so confident were the Bulls entering the playoffs that it was actually plausible. But they were turned back in the first round by a team with superior depth, the Portland Trail Blazers, in an epic best-of-three series. When the Blazers went on to win the title, to a man they said that the Bulls had been their toughest foe of the playoffs.

Reprinted from Heydays: Great Stories in Chicago Sports
(c) 2009-2011 by Christopher Tabbert

Friday, April 1, 2011

Cubs All-Opening Day Lineup

     Opening Day at Wrigley Field is upon us, with the outlook for the weather (forecast for showers and possible snow flurries) and for the Cubs' pennant prospects less than ideal. Nonetheless, hope springs eternal in the hearts and minds of Cubs fans, and never more so than on Opening Day.
     We're taking a look back at the Cubs' openers of the past to compile the club's All-Opening Day roster. Ernie Banks made 17 consecutive Opening Day starts for the Cubs between 1954 and 1970, eight at shortstop and nine at first base. He ranks third at both positions while ranking first overall in Cubs annals. Billy Williams is next with 14 Opening Day starts at four positions: ten in left field, two in right field, one in center field, and one at first base.
     The lists below reflect Opening Day lineups from 1919 through 2010. (The information for years prior to 1919 is not readily available.)

* Asterisks indicate consecutive years.

Most Opening Day starts
  1. Ernie Banks, 17* (1954-1970)
  2. Billy Williams, 14* (1961-1974)
  3. Ron Santo, 13* (1961-1973)
  4. Ryne Sandberg, 13 (1982-1997)
  5. Five players tied with 12

First team (most Opening Day starts by position)
  P. Fergie Jenkins, 7 (1967-1983)
  C. Gabby Hartnett, 12 (1922-1938)
1B. Charlie Grimm, 12* (1925-1936)
2B. Ryne Sandberg, 13 (1983-1997)
SS. Shawon Dunston, 11 (1985-1997)
3B. Ron Santo, 13* (1961-1973)
LF. Billy Williams, 10 (1962-1973)
CF. Andy Pafko, 7 (1944-1951)
RF. Sammy Sosa, 12 (1993-2004)

Second team (second most Opening Day starts by position)
  P. Carlos Zambrano, 6* (2005-2010)
  C. Jody Davis, 6* (1983-1988)
1B. Mark Grace, 12* (1989-2000)
2B. Billy Herman, 10* (1932-1941)
SS. Don Kessinger, 10* (1966-1975)
3B. Stan Hack, 12 (1932-1947)
LF. Riggs Stephenson, 6* (1926-1931)
CF. Hack Wilson, 6* (1926-1931)
RF. Bill Nicholson, 7 (1941-1948)

Third team (third most Opening Day starts by position)
  P. Rick Sutcliffe, 5* (1985-1989)
  C. Clyde McCullough, 6 (1941-1954)
1B. Ernie Banks, 9* (1962-1970)
2B. Glenn Beckert, 8 (1965-1973)
SS. Ernie Banks, 8* (1954-1961)
3B. Aramis Ramirez, 7* (2004-2010)
LF. Hack Miller, 4* (1922-1925)
CF. Rick Monday, 5* (1972-1976)
RF. Andre Dawson, 5 (1987-1992)