July 16, 2012 |
They give you a round bat and they throw you a round ball and they tell you to hit it square. - Willie "Pops" Stargell He's been on my mind a lot of late, that Wilver Dornel Stargell, masher of monster home runs. He was a great grizzly bear of a man, but a teddy bear at heart. The franchise that he served so well has, without respite, fallen on hard times. If you're still a Pirates fan after all these years, then you, sir, get a medal for unshakable loyalty, with oak leaf cluster.
July 9, 2012 |
Bill Lyon is a retired Inquirer columnist and author of "Deadlines and Overtimes: Collected Writings on Sports and Life" So, then, is this it at last? Is this the day we knew would come, the day we dreaded but tried to forget? The day the Phillies fell to earth? Ah, yes, let the good times roll, we said, and we did, we did, and never a thought about tomorrow. Five giddy, glorious, head-spinning years, the Golden Age of baseball in Philadelphia, when every night was a party … and now here comes the check and you can't cover it, and the man who bears it is named Reckoning, and he has no sense of humor.
July 8, 2012 |
Tiger Passes Jack Well, yes. And then again, no. The golfer Eldrick Woods did, indeed, win another tournament, this one last Sunday, the AT&T National at sweltering, storm-lashed Congressional Country Club. In the process he crept ahead of Jack Nicklaus in career victories, a most impressive milestone and yet still not the one that Tiger covets most. No, that one, as most of us have known by heart for more than a decade, has 19 numbered on it, that being the total of majors needed by Tiger to overtake Jack.
July 1, 2012 |
The best way to catch a knuckleball is wait until it stops rolling, walk over, and then pick it up. - Bob Uecker It flutters and jiggles, and shimmies and shakes, and swoops and loops, darting about, some say, like a drunken butterfly. Or like a Frisbee in a high wind. But almost all agree that the best way to describe the knuckleball is: "#&%@#!" No other pitch so vexes three people simultaneously - those who try to hit it, those who try to catch it, and those who try to determine whether it's a ball or a strike, and good luck with all three.
June 24, 2012 |
Requiem for a Reliever . . . It is 9:58 in the East, the 29th of October, 2008, a Wednesday, tart and brittle, and Philadelphia is a boiling sea of expectation and anticipation. A Phillies pitcher named Bradley Thomas Lidge is about to throw the last pitch of the World Series - swing and a miss - and fall to his knees, arms thrust heavenward, baying to the moon, overwhelmed by what he has done, and about to be buried in a dog pile of celebrants. That scene will live on forever.
June 18, 2012 |
"Nobody loves Goliath. " - Wilt Chamberlain "I played too hard to prove people wrong. " - LeBron James The Palestra, that wonderful little passion pit, was packed on a winter night. The latest Golden Child, LeBron James, was bringing his traveling troupe of fellow high school dunkateers to town, and this was the chance to see for your own critical eyes the source of all the commotion. He turned out to be all that had been advertised. He did, with elegant ease, whatever he pleased, redefining what is meant by a man among boys.
June 10, 2012 |
To paraphrase the great Bobby Jones, it was a stroke with which he was decidedly unfamiliar, and it sent his golf ball in a glorious, rainbow arc and into the woods, there causing a chattering stampede among the residents of the squirrel colony. Off Jones marched, and after a few strides disappeared from view. When he finally emerged from the woods he announced to his playing partners that he was assessing himself a 1-stroke penalty. For what, pray tell? As he addressed his ball, he said, it moved.
June 3, 2012 |
They went at each other like Ali and Frazier, again and again and again, so close they could hear each other's labored, desperate breathing, so close they could see the other's shadow, so close, so agonizingly close - ah, so close you wanted a dead heat because neither deserved to lose. And so it went, one riveting duel after another, one glorious race against each other after another, until the head-to-head total reached 10, which is incomprehensible in this day. Affirmed and Alydar.
May 27, 2012 |
It is High Noon in the Heartland, on the day in May that we set aside for remembering, and also for the worshiping of speed, which accounts for those 33 land missiles disguised as cars lined up in 11 meticulous rows, three across. The grandstands are massive, stretching out to the far, flat Indiana horizon, and the air is heavy and fat with the smell of gasoline and adrenaline and anticipation. There is the singing of "Back Home Again in Indiana," a paean to sycamores and the Wabash, and to little green apples, and then 33 drivers, wiry and small with no nerves and flame-retardant suits, shoehorn themselves into their land missiles and await the word, wait to be waved on their way, wait for this thunderous command, the most recognizable in sports: "Gentlemen and Ladies, start your engines.
May 21, 2012 |
AnnnnnnnnDrewwwwww . . . Down through the corridors of time it echoes still, loud and demanding and desperate, and punctuated for emphasis with a stomp of a shoe on hardwood that crackles like gunfire: AnnnnnnnnDrewwwwww . . . In odd moments I am surprised to hear it come to call again . . . and yet, almost 30 years later, it seems like just yesterday. It is Billy Cunningham, the coach of the 76ers, and he is calling out once again, an exasperated reminder, for Andrew Toney, whose talent is breathtaking but whose attention span is in periodic need of a helpful nudge.