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Founding Editor: MARK BAUSCH



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WDBX Sunday Sports Review hosted by Mark Bausch
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Sunday Sports Review Show Intro mp3 #1
(featuring Ozzie Smith, Tony La Russa, Bruce Weber,
Jerry Kill, Rich Herrin and (the late) Charlie Spoonhour...and Joe Buck)

 

MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com

Lead

Columnist


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here


Mike Huss' Take Five

posted February 4

Random thoughts & observations as the calendar changes from January & February

Just what in the world is going on at the University of Missouri-Columbia?

Happy 93rd birthday, Red Schoendienst

Has it really been fourteen years since the two-touchdown favorite St. Louis Rams were defeated by the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI: starting the legend that is Bill Belichick and Tom Brady?

Speaking about going down memory lane, will 2016 really be the fifth year of Albert Pujols as a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim?

AND FINALLY FROM THE “COMING ATTRACTIONS” BUREAU: So with no teams from either New York or Boston, inquiring minds wonder if the World Wide Leader in Cable Sports Broadcasting will even cover Super Bowl L or will the network simply start their opening night pre-game shows for the Yankees vs. Red Sox








Comments?        Contact Mike at:    mike@stlsports.com

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WDBX Sunday Sports Review Highlights
Geary Deniston, Mike Huss, Mike Rainey, Derrick Langston, Todd Hefferman & Mike Baker talk sports with host Mark Bausch every Sunday


Sunday Sports Review 151115 (November 15)
Hefferman, Deniston, Huss & Rainey
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Sunday Sports Review Show Intro mp3 #1
(featuring Ozzie Smith, Tony La Russa, Bruce Weber,
Jerry Kill, Rich Herrin and Charlie Spoonhour...and Joe Buck)

Tony La Russa, IMB and the Sweetheart

Mark Bausch

Dear reader, if you were lucky, you had a high school sweetheart or two.

I had mine...and in my mind's eye, the young lady in question was the prettiest girl in school.

But the prettiest girl in school went away to college. There, she found another gentleman's charms a little (a lot?!) more to her liking than those of yours truly.

click here to read more...

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Blues v Hawks Pre-Game…


Mark Bausch

Bausch

Editor
St. Louis Sports Online
editor@stlsports.com
====================

posted March 19, 2014

 

There’s nothing quite like meaningful hockey in March!

With the Blues (101 points) in front of the Blackhawks (93 points) in the NHL’s Central Division by eight points, a win tonight in Chicago’s United Center would likely put the Blues in the driver’s seat for home-ice in a CHI-STL playoff series.

Tonight’s game will highlight the importance of the Blues’ acquisition of G Ryan Miller, who is 7-0-1 (0.933 save percentage) since his move to St. Louis from Buffalo. So watch Ryan Miller…and watch how his play inspires his teammates.

For Chicago—a hockey commentator somewhere on this planet noted that captain Jonathan Toews, who has led the ‘Hawks to two Stanley Cups before his 26th birthday (April 29), may very well be the greatest Blackhawk in the history of the franchise.

Think about that—Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Denis Savard (to say nothing of goaltenders Glenn Hall and Tony Esposito)…is Toews superior to these five?

If Stanley Cups matter…the answer is yes.

So watch Ryan Miller tonight…but also watch Jonathan Toews…and how the Blues attempt to contain Toews (and his skillful wingman Patrick Kane).

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David Freese—Gone But Not Forgotten
(November 23)

Mark Bausch

Earlier this week, the Cardinals announced that they had traded David Freese to the Los Angeles Angels, as part of a two-for-two swap that resulted in CF Peter Bourjos moving east to St. Louis.

The trade is a good one for St. Louis—an analysis will follow on these pages…but Freese had grown stale in STL and the Cards’ primary 2013 center fielder, John Jay, had as well. At the very least Bourjos will platoon with Jay in 2014, while rising star Matt Carpenter, and rookie Kolten Wong, will assume the third and second base positions, respectively.

It is hard to get a handle on just how large of an impact St. Louis-area native David Freese has had on STL baseball.

Here is one way of looking at Freese…

…scroll down to read the rest of the article


Role Models in Radio;
Role Models in Coaching?

(November 10)

Mark Bausch

There’s always good radio to be found the day after the Philly Eagles lose. That’s because 97.5 The Fanatic employs long-time sports-talk radio pro Tony Bruno, who, with wit and wisdom and alacrity, persuades most (but not all) of his ever-insufferable listeners not to jump from the top of the nearest tall building. The wonder of the internet brings Bruno and his Philly-based station to anyone looking for an entertaining listening experience.

In a similar vein, the Cardinals’ flagship radio station, ‘The Voice of St. Louis’ (TVoSTL), in the mid-afternoon of Wednesday, November 7, 2012, supplied a great deal of potential.

Hosts and callers alike on this station, during the mid-afternoon time slots, lean right-of-center (ya think?!)…and the day before (November 6) was election day.

...scroll down to read the rest of the article


WDBX Sunday Sports Review Highlights
Geary Deniston, Mike Huss, Mike Rainey, Derrick Langston, Todd Hefferman & Mike Baker talk sports with host Mark Bausch every Sunday


Sunday Sports Review 151206 (December 6)
  Huss, Deniston & Rainey
-----
Sunday Sports Review 151122 (November 22)
  Huss, Deniston & Rainey
-----
Sunday Sports Review 151115 (November 15)
Hefferman, Deniston, Huss & Rainey
-----


MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com

Lead

Columnist


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here

Soccer Anyone?


(posted February 5, 2016)


This weekend in San Francisco that rich & arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League is holding its annual debutant ball. All week there will be all sorts of pre-game hype, silliness, bad behavior, pomp & circumstance occurring in Tony Bennett’s City by the Bay. It all leads up to Sunday’s kickoff and the play-by-play description of the annoying Jim Nantz.

Here in the 314-flyover country, our town is still smarting over the Rams’ recent decision to bolt for the riches, gold and high taxes of Southern California. Many in our region feel like that jilted teenage girl whose starting quarterback prom date just walked away from her for the captain of the cheerleaders.

As the wounds slowly heal, many of the local big shots are trying move on. St. Louis will likely not be an NFL city ever again. This well is too poisoned. NFL interest locally is hostile. Right or wrong, two teams leaving the Gateway City in 25 or so years translate to a tarnished image.

Now the region is searching for and seems focused on a consolation prize: one that will attempt to restore the region’s self-esteem while trying to recoup some of that discretionary income.

Allow me to spell the newest best option: MLS

Over the past few years Major League Soccer has rivaled the National Hockey League in area of expansion. The League’s plans call for 24 teams by 2020: with Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minnesota set to join the league during the next three years. But they are not stopping there.  "There is no shortage of demand for MLS expansion teams, and we believe the opportunity exists to grow beyond our current plans," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. "During the next few months, we will evaluate the possibility of growing the league to 28 teams and establish a process and timeline should we decide on further expansion."

Given these MLS plans and given St. Louis now has a hole in its sports portfolio, we just might have a marriage right here in river city. Soccer has a deep tradition in our town. Many members of the greatest generation and prior played the game as they immigrated to America. Several St. Louis kids played on that 1950 United States World Cup team with shocked the globe with a 1-0 win over England. In the 1950s, 60s and 70s loads of local urchins played the game from Carondelet Park to Forest Park to Fairgrounds Park. During this span St. Louis University and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville were kings of NCAA soccer. A 1970s letter writing campaign brought the great Pele’ to town to play in an exhibition at Busch Stadium II. A hybrid of outdoor soccer soared indoors during the 1980s: as many of the local kids played for the St. Louis Steamers before packed houses at the old Arena on Oakland Avenue. Recently, large crowds have filled Busch III and the Dome for international matches and World Cup qualifiers.

So yeah, there might be a fit here. To that end Sam Stejskal of MLSoccer.com wrote: “The Major League Soccer-to-St. Louis bandwagon picked up a little bit of steam on 1/27/16, when Missouri Governor Jay Nixon told reporters that he’s scheduled to talk with Garber about a potential expansion franchise for St. Louis. “I look forward to working with you, your staff and local leaders to explore ownership candidates and to investigate viable stadium solutions to bring MLS to St. Louis,” Garber said in the letter”

In a January 2016 interview with Sports Illustrated Garber continued to plant seeds and tease:  “St. Louis has been on our radar screen as long as the league’s been in existence. We’ve never been able to find the right investor. We’ve never been able to find the right stadium solution. We know that there’s a stadium possibility – whether or not that’s an MLS possibility [is] still to be seen, “We know that there’s support for a facility in a great location and we’ve had discussions with those that were part of that project about bringing MLS to town. So the fact that there’s one fewer pro team there I think is a positive for our league as it relates to St. Louis.”

This all sounds great. But forgive this bureau on being skeptical. To this untrained eye, three questions have to be answered honestly before the MLS even considers St. Louis

First: is there someone in the 314 with an extra $100 Million for the expansion fee for an MLS team? The last time I looked there are not many members of that club in this town.

Secondly: just where will this team play? A new soccer stadium: just who will pay for it?  While there have been some glitzy photos and big talk last week about the building of a new soccer palace behind Union Station, exactly who will be signing the check and how much public money is involved? Those big talkers might want to first chat with one Mr. David Peacock for his experience on exploring public cash.

Thirdly and perhaps most importantly: will the MLS be successful in St. Louis? Will this work? I really hope the push for professional soccer in St. Louis is not a knee-jerk reaction to the Rams move to LA. Hopefully this is not a mad rush to find that elusive prom date after being jilted by the big man on campus. If St Louis wants to venture into these waters they should do it methodically and analytically: not haphazardly and emotionally. The luring of an MLS franchise is an expensive proposition that cannot be taken lightly. We need to find out, justify and confirm if this Baseball Town really will support Major League Soccer. Is there enough corporate support for this venture? If they build a soccer stadium, will they really come?

Finally, I remember watching a prior movie. In the spring of 1997 I was hosting sports talk radio locally on WGNU-AM. Gateway International Raceway opened its doors in Madison, Illinois. The new brickyard was the talk of the town and the talk of the local media. I remember being bombarded by PR spokespersons from all aspects of professional racing for interviews and promotional time. I was not alone as many of my local media colleagues also were also contacted a lot. Many local scribes, gab-masters and TV talking heads were more gullible and naïve than me: as they did live broadcasts/stories from the pit, drove a race car around the oval track, hung out with drivers and got their pictures taken with pretty girls. The industry’s targeted marketing plan worked. The message back in the spring of 1997 is how St. Louis would be the new hot bed for auto sports. Just like that auto racing became St. Louis’ new flavor of the week.

Well, it’s now almost nineteen years later. How did that turn out, eh?

The last thing St. Louis needs right now is another business/sports team bolting town or failing. Regarding the MLS, this town needs to make sure this is done right: is done at all. 

This week that rich & arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League is holding its annual debutant ball in San Francisco. Here in the 314-flyover country, our town is still smarting over the Rams’ decision three weeks ago to leave town and bolt for the riches, gold of SoCal.

The region is searching for and seems focused on a consolation prize: one that will attempt to restore the region’s self-esteem while trying to recoup some of that discretionary income.

Professional Soccer might be the answer.

But let’s all make sure first, shall we?








Have the Rams Played Their Last Game in STL?


(posted December 20)


On Thursday night December 17, 2015 on the artificial tundra at the facility formerly known as the Trans World Dome the St. Louis Rams in their bright yellow uniforms took on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wear solid red uniforms. Both teams entered the game with losing records.  Watching this struggle on TV likely stirred the memories of Millennials to those of Power Rangers playing football. When the final gun sounded the Rams defeated the Bucs 31-23.

Thursday might have been the final home game of the St. Louis Rams. Thanks to the greatest lease ever crafted in the history of professional sports, Team Owner Stan Kroenke and his Rams are allowed to bolt town and the Gateway City can’t stop him. It would not cost Kroenke a dime to move his team to sunny California, San Antonio, Texas, London, or somewhere in between

Local football followers know too well the story of how Kroenke purchased land in Inglewood, California and then in January announced his intention on building a football stadium with an entertainment center attached. Logic tells you that one would not construct a $1 Billion+ football palace unless there is a team to play in it. Kroenke owns a football team. You do the math.

Meanwhile, City fathers, media and fans insisted this region would not be pushed around and counterpunched with plans for a brand new football stadium on the banks of the Mississippi. January’s knee jerk reaction was long on talk but short on specifics. Smart money still believed the Rams would be back in Southern California in 2016.

But then a Wild Card, possible Game Changer and perhaps St. Louis lifeline arrived out of the blue. In February it was announced that the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders (two teams unhappy with their stadium situations) would combine forces and resources to build a football palace of their own: this one in Carson, California. It’s now like a climax scene from the classic TV series Gunsmoke: with Inglewood and Carson staring each other down. 

And here we are: high noon.

We suggested many times in this space during 2015 that two things MUST occur in order for the chance of the Rams staying in St. Louis. The first is the Carson plan must be solid and litigation free. That Raiders/Chargers plan seems to be picking up traction. A most impressive sign was the plan’s hiring of Disney Corp’s CEO Bob Iger as the group’s chairperson. One would have to assume that a powerful guy like Iger would never have agreed to the job without a strong probability the plan would get the nod over Kroenke. League Big Shots will likely accept Iger’s phone calls as among Disney’s holdings is one of that rich & arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League’s funding partners. Allow me to spell it: ESPN. So it does appear that the Carson plan is solid and to some pundits is now ahead of Kroenke on the race to California.

The second hurdle this bureau suggested is the St. Louis Riverfront stadium must be financially sound and litigation-proof. Over the past months the St. Louis group has acquired riverfront property, won court challenges, secured high-dollar naming rights and just yesterday gained approval from the St. Louis Board of Aldermen for their share of funding for the project. City of St. Louis residents were not allowed to vote on the proposal but were allowed to watch their elected officials to spend their money on a project that may or may not occur.

This week, the St. Louis Task Force thought they received an early Christmas gift from the NFL in the form of additional league funding for the project. As expected the local media took at face value and the celebration started. But the one thing that rich & arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League does not joke about is money. In a 12/17/15 strongly-worded clarification to Chairman of the Stadium Task Force Dave Peacock, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote “The NFL G-4 Program permits a club to request stadium financing up to a maximum of $200 Million, provided that certain requirements are met. No proposal has yet been presented to increase the available financing beyond the current $200 Million maximum and there can be no assurance that such a proposal would achieve the necessary support.”

Well, I guess that clears that up. Bottom line, the St. Louis group has made strong strides in their stadium proposal to keep the Rams in the 314. While not fully complete it is fair to say that St. Louis’ presentation will likely has more specifics, is more complete and advanced than those than the competing bids of San Diego and Oakland.

The matter now goes to the Lords of that rich & arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League. Much like Judge Judy or the trio of three robed arbitrators on the TV Show “Hot Bench”, the Lords will make their final ruling.

To this untrained and uneducated eye, it appears that according the League’s relocation guidelines, the Lou has checked more required boxes than the two California teams on the League’s honey-do list. Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports.com: writes “Rams owner Stan Kroenke is likely stuck in St. Louis for another year, and he is focused on a possible move to Los Angeles and is not in the business of paying ‎people $6 million plus to leave for a product he isn't all that engaged in right now, anyway. Kroenke's best-case scenario now is to have any moves to Los Angeles pushed back until 2017. It's hard to imagine his Inglewood stadium projects get 24 votes by mid-January, and that will lead to the status quo for the most part.”

Perhaps true. But at the end of the day the Lords of that rich & arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League will do whatever they want: likely whatever makes them the most money. Their relocation rules are actually just guidelines: in reality, suggested guidelines.

This is what St. Louis should fear the most: what occurs behind closed doors. Sometime back influential Dallas Cowboy Owner Jerry Jones strongly endorsed Kroenke to LA boldly announcing the League can’t stop him. (Side Note: inquiring minds do wonder if Cowboy Jerry would feel the same way if his BFF Silent Stan wanted to relocate to San Antonio versus LA.)

Much like the City of St. Louis residents in the stadium funding vote, Gateway City football fans’ vote in the process do not count and will watch it all unfold helplessly from afar.

So now our town needs to trust the Lords of that rich & arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League. Please forgive this bureau’s skepticism over the events, rules and the process and for having this gut-felling this process will not end well for St. Louis.

On Sunday December 13, 1987 the St. Louis Football Cardinals hosted the New York Giants in their final 1987 regular season home game. It was a 3:05PM kickoff played on the artificial surface at Busch Stadium II. The Big Red won the game 27-24: improving the team’s record to 6-7. St Louis’ final score that afternoon came on a Stump Mitchell 6-yard rush. The Cardinals would finish the 1987 season with a 7-8 record. The Big Red never returned to St. Louis to play another home game. 

Last Thursday, the St. Louis Rams defeated Tampa Bay in the last home regular season game of 2015. It was a 3:05PM kickoff played on the artificial surface at the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams won the game 31-23: improving the team’s record to 6-8. Second verse same as the first? Perhaps: but eerie indeed.

Let the process begin.

Maybe it’s just me, but Thursday’s final gun sounds a lot like the chime signaling High Noon.




 


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MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com
For Many St. Louisans—the Sound of Baseball Remains the Voice of Harry Caray


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here



posted March 8

Last Saturday (March 1), Harry Caray would have been 100 years old.

 

No kidding: It might be—it could be—it is: a century

 

For those of us baby boomers that grew up in the Gateway City, state of Missouri, the Ozark region or throughout the Midwest, Harry Caray was the soundtrack of summer. For a quarter century, Caray was the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals. His style was unique and no holds bar. His voice boomed describing the exploits of Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson and others. For twenty-five years, Harry Caray was the sound of St. Louis baseball.

 

In the world where one can be immediately identified by their first name (Elvis, Ozzie, Madonna, etc), if back in the day you said that “Harry” was on the radio, you knew exactly who was on the air. For many of us growing up in the 1960s and earlier, Caray’s familiar, bold and dramatic musings heard through a transistor radio muffled under a pillow (as we were hiding it from our parents after being sent to bed) created the perfect ending to a summer’s evening.

 

Born Harry Christopher Carabina from Italian and Romanian parents, he grew up on La Salle Street on the near south side of St. Louis on 3/1/1914. Caray’s father died when he was an infant and his mother died when he was around eight years old. In essence he grew up as an orphan.

 

In his youth Caray played semipro baseball before auditioning for a radio job at age nineteen. It was then when young Harry found his calling. He would cut his teeth in the radio business in markets such as Joliet, Illinois and Kalamazoo, Michigan before returning to his home town. He joined the Cardinals radio broadcast team in 1945. It was here in St. Louis and particularly behind a hot KMOX radio microphone where the legend of Harry Caray evolved.

 

It was Caray’s voice that narrated the stories of the successful seasons of the mid/late 1940s, the challenging 1950s and the memorable 1960s for the Cardinals. But it was during the down years of the 1950s when Caray’s career rose to prominence. In February 1953, August A. Busch, Jr. convinced his Anheuser-Busch Board of Directors to purchase the Cardinals from Fred Saigh. The Big Eagle and Harry Caray were both cut from the same cloth. Both wanted to be the center of attention. Both appreciated pretty girls. Both were Type-A. Both were highly competitive.

 

But most importantly, both could sell beer. That alliance would make Harry larger than life. Over the KMOX airwaves he was an unabashed homer. But above all, he could sell beer. Busch once referred to Caray as his best beer salesman. The bond was then formed.  

 

Behind Busch’s influence, the powerful KMOX signal and Caray’s bombastic style the Cardinal radio network became the largest in the Major Leagues. Prior to 1957, St. Louis was the westernmost franchise. Cardinal fans were emerging west of the Mississippi. Caray was the evangelist. Casual and non-baseball fans listened to the games only to hear what Harry had to say. During it all, he promoted and pushed Budweiser. The match seemed made in heaven.

 

The Cardinals went to the World Series three times during the 1960s: winning it all twice. After advancing to the series in 1967 and 1968, St. Louis was expected to make it a three-peat. It didn’t happen. In 1969 St. Louis finished a disappointing third in the newly created NL East. But days after the final out, a bombshell was dropped in the Gateway City. Harry Caray and the Cardinals parted ways. The larger than life broadcaster was out as Cardinal broadcaster.

 

There have been many of urban legends as to what led to the split. We’ll never know for sure. But we did observe in a pre-cable, pre-internet era, that the divorce was far from amicable.

 

Leaving St. Louis, Caray took his talents to Oakland where he spent one season working for the colorful Charles O Finley’s A’s. One year later, Caray was signed as an announcer by legendary owner and promoter Bill Veeck of the Chicago White Sox. It would not take long for Harry to discover that Chicago was indeed his kind of town. 

 

During Caray’s tenure on the south side, the White Sox were not very good. In his first season the Sox went 56-106.  The high water mark was 1977 when they won 90 games. During Caray’s time on the South Side, the Sox had a losing record in eight seasons.

 

But despite the ineptness on the field, fans listened to the White Sox games because of Harry Caray. Partnered with the colorful and unpredictable Jimmy Piersall, the broadcasts were more entertaining than the games. Caray introduced Comiskey Park fans to the familiar chant from the musical group Steam as pitchers were removed from the game or when the Sox were going to win: “na-na-na-na---na-na-na-na-----hey, hey, hey---Good Bye”.

 

Caray and Piersall would broadcast games from the bleachers. On July 12, 1979 Harry spoke over the Comiskey Park PA pleading for calm on “Disco Demolition Night” where the Sox had to forfeit the second game of a doubleheader. Fans rushed the field causing extensive damage.

 

Yep, the White Sox were not very good then—but it was sure fun to listen to the games.

 

In 1982, Caray moved to the north side of Chicago: signing a contract to broadcast games for the Cubs. It was there through the magic and power of the WGN-TV Superstation signal where Harry Caray would be introduced to a new generation of baseball fans. The Cubs turned Harry loose over the airwaves and it proved to be reality television at its finest. The Cubs were not very good. But just like when with the White Sox, baseball fans tuned in to hear Caray offer his insight and opinions: from trying to pronounce player’s names backwards to welcoming who at the ball park that day to saluting the smallest towns throughout the fruited plain.

 

During his stay with the Cubs, Caray introduced his trademark: the seventh inning stretch singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”. Regardless of the score or the loyalty, Wrigley Field fans sang along with Harry: as Caray, then in his 70s, used his microphone as a baton.

 

My last conversation with Harry was in 1996. It was during a Saturday afternoon game at Busch Stadium II between the Cardinals and Cubs. Prior to the game, I was in the press lounge. Sitting very quietly in the corner was Harry Caray watching the Fox Network pre-game show. On the screen was his grandson Chip. As I passed his table, Harry smiled and said to me, “isn’t he great?” I politely smiled, agreed continued some small talk. During it all Harry just kept smiling.

 

 

So here is this larger than life personality I grew up listening to via a transistor radio under my pillow savoring the moment as a proud grandfather. I started smiling also.

 

In 1989, Harry would be inducted into the Broadcaster’s wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame and a year later, into the National Radio Hall of Fame. He suffered a stroke in 1987. But Caray would not leave the broadcast booth. Then in February 1998, Caray fell at a restaurant and suffered a head injury. He died February 18, 1998 of cardiac arrest with resulting brain damage. 

 

1998 was the season of the great Home Chase that rescued baseball from the 1994 Work Stoppage. The Cardinals’ Mark Mc Guire and the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa would blast long flies in pursuit of Roger Maris’s single season home run record. It would have been fun and perhaps fitting had Harry hung around one more year to describe those events as only he could.

 

Today, television (particularly cable television) is the primary outlet for baseball. The legendary baseball voices from past years have been replaced by some combination of blow-dried polished announcers and former ball players: each parroting team written talking points and are nothing more than an extension of the team’s marketing department. You know: always remember that good seats are available, always look for the positives and never criticize the Home Team.

 

I wonder if Harry Caray would have been hired as a broadcaster in today’s environment. My thinking is probably not. And that’s too bad. Games were sure more fun during Harry’s day.

 

Last Saturday (March 1), Harry Caray would have been 100 years old.

 

Holy Cow

 

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MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com
Dan Kelly: Simply the Best


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here



posted February 7

On the same date the Beatles made their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show a half century earlier, this Sunday will also mark the twenty-fifth  anniversary of the death of long-time St. Louis Blues broadcaster Dan Kelly. He once was called the "purest, most knowledgeable, most accurate" voice in hockey. Kelly was 52 years old when he died at his Chesterfield home after a five-month struggle with cancer.

Patrick Daniel Kelly was the best play-by-play announcer ever to broadcast a hockey game. He was an announcer, a salesman, a preacher and a teacher. Born on St. Patrick’s Day 1936, no one has ever come close to his talents in describing the sport of hockey. To this day he remains the Gold Standard in the industry. When Dan Kelly’s voice boomed behind a nationally televised hockey game, you knew that game had to be important.

There will always be a debate on who is/was the best baseball announcer. While Cardinal fans lobby for the talents of the legendary Jack Buck, one can understand why those on the West Coast provide equal testimony for the great Vin Scully. Yankee fans speak with pride about the calls of Mel Allen. Yet those in Michigan fondly will counter about the homespun style of Ernie Harwell. You will never get consensus on who is the best baseball announcer. But there is no debate on who is hockey’s best announcer. As NBC’s Bob Costas once said: “hockey is a sport that should never be broadcasted on radio. Yet in broadcasting hockey, Kelly is like Secretariat in the Belmont. Whoever is second is really closer to third or fourth”.

The Canadian-born, portly Irishman cut his broadcasting teeth in the CFL and on his native land’s best-known hockey vehicle: Hockey Night in Canada. Back in the day when only the original six teams skated in the National Hockey League, a young Kelly would assist legendary broadcaster Danny Gallivan in calling the Saturday night Game of Week as it beamed throughout all the Canadian provinces and in the northern US.  It was THE event on TV in Canada.

Then in 1966, the NHL expanded: doubling from six to a dozen franchises. The new markets would be Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Local insurance executive Sidney Solomon Jr. and his son Sidney III owned the St. Louis franchise and nicknamed them the Blues. The Solomons purchased the deteriorating fire trap at 5700 Oakland Avenue and transformed it into a hockey arena. The Blues games were aired over the 50,000 red-hot watts of KMOX Radio that first season. Buck was named as the team’s first radio play-by-play man with former NHL defenseman and Coach Gus Kyle providing the analysis. Jay Randolph replaced Buck once spring training arrived. The Blues finished in third place that first season. But behind the goaltending of veteran Glenn Hall, the Note advanced in the playoffs to the NHL Finals: only to lose to the mighty Montreal Canadiens in four straight games. 

The following year, the Blues searched for a new play-by-play man to take over for Buck. A young up-and-coming St. Louis hockey executive named Scotty Bowman recommended Kelly to the Solomons. They’d pay Kelly a king’s ransom to lure him and his family from Ottawa to St. Louis. But it would be money well spent.

It took the 34-year-old Kelly and his partner Kyle only a short period of time to earn the respect and admiration of the St. Louis listening public. Kelly would educate his mid-America radio audience about the rules, traditions, beauty and skills of hockey. With the help of the KMOX signal, Kelly and Kyle would spread the word into over 44 states and throughout Canada. Kelly’s familiar “He Shoots, He Scores” call quickly became and still remains a St. Louis hockey staple. Kyle would be the loveable sidekick: referring to close games as “barn burners” and occasionally butchering the English language. A classic “Kyleism” occurred after a jolting Bob Plager hip check. Old Gus said: “Plager hit him so hard, his socks changed feet”. It was just great stuff.

Back in those days, the Blues were the hottest ticket in town. There was actually a season-ticket waiting list for Blues games. 1968-1969 was memorable for the franchise and Kelly would serve as the narrator. He painted the pictures with words over the KMOX airways as Hall of Fame goaltenders Hall and Jacques Plante captured the Vezina Trophy. Kelly’s description of all six goals scored by Red Berenson on a November 7, 1968 night in Philadelphia remains legendary. Kelly and Kyle would announce with fervor the fisticuffs when the Plager Brothers and/or Noel Picard would not back down from the League’s tough guys. That season the Blues won the Conference title and returned to the NHL Finals: only to again be swept by Montreal. After the season Kelly narrated a KMOX-produced album re-living those 1968-69 highlights.

It took less than one season, but Canadian born Dan Kelly became a St. Louis original.

He would become the Gateway City’s hockey evangelist. For the next nineteen seasons, it would be Kelly’s voice describing Blues action on those cold winter nights. He was behind the microphone in January 1972, when some Blues players went into the stands in Philadelphia to confront the Flyer fans: eventually sending Head Coach Al Arbour and those players to jail. He calmly explained to fans why trading Berenson to Detroit was a good thing as a young star named Garry Unger would be coming to town. Kelly helped hockey fans grieve over the sudden death of young defenseman Bob Gassoff. He told fans to keep the faith as the Solomons were contemplating bankruptcy due to rising debts. He introduced Ralston Purina as new Blues owner and Emile Francis as the team’s new President.  A few years later, he watched helplessly as Ralston left the Blues for dead: with the distinct possibility the team would be relocated to Saskatoon. He introduced and interviewed Harry Ornest: a Beverly Hills businessman who bought the team off the scrap heap while bringing hockey executives Ronald Caron and Jacques Demers to town with him. Kelly described the classic 1981 first round Game 5 playoff game when Mike Crombeen’s double-overtime goal advanced the Blues into the next round.

It was Kelly’s voice that narrated arguably the franchise’s most memorable game: May 12, 1986 (a. k. a. the Monday Night Miracle). The Blues faced elimination in Game 6 of the Conference Finals against Calgary. St. Louis trailed 5-1 in the third period, only to tie the game and then win it in overtime on a Doug Wickenheiser goal. Kelly’s voice provided that soundtrack.

Dan Kelly was the link. From the Solomons to Ralston to Ornest to Shanahan: from player trades to coaching changes, from possible relocation to financial stability, it was Kelly that was the constant for Blues fans. He not only taught the Gateway City the game of hockey, but also served as the voice of reason and experience.

While hockey was his trademark, Kelly was also versatile in other sports. He was in the locker room in Montreal when the Cardinals captured the 1982 National League Eastern Division title. In 1983, he and Mike Shannon described Bob Forsch’s second no-hitter. He was one of the CBS regional NFL TV broadcasters.  Kelly was behind the University of Missouri radio network microphone when the Al Onofrio-coached Mizzou football team marched into Columbus to upset Ohio State. Kelly teamed with Bob Starr during the glory years of the St. Louis Football Cardinals: including the legendary Mel Gray phantom catch game against Washington. Plus Kelly made countless cameo appearances on Jack Carney’s highly-rated KMOX radio show.

Unlike today, especially as seen on local cable telecasts, Kelly was not bashful to speak his mind: even if it ruffled the feathers within the Blues front office. One night he was in New York to emcee an event honoring Arbour. Kelly introduced himself saying, “I come from St. Louis where we had Scotty Bowman and Al Arbour and we fired them both. How smart are we?”

Then in 1988, hockey’s greatest voice grew weak and ill. We eventually found out that cancer was the culprit. Others would describe Blues games. But it wasn’t the same. We then realized just how spoiled we all were. In January 1989, the Blues honored for their play-by-play man. That night it also was announced that Kelly would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The guest list included local celebrities such as Buck, Costas, Whitey Herzog and Shanahan as well as his hockey colleagues Don Cherry and Jiggs Mc Donald. They all took turns playfully roasting, yet honoring the Voice of the Blues. But the Great Kelly was too ill to attend in person. Ironically, he listened to all the festivities on KMOX Radio from his hospital room.

A month later, hockey’s greatest announcer died at the far too young age of 52.

Now a generation has passed since we heard Dan Kelly announce a hockey game. Millenials do not know what they missed. Thank goodness for audiotapes. On his tombstone at Resurrection Cemetery in southwest St. Louis is engraved “Voice of the Blues”. That just says it all.

“Hockey is a sport that should never be broadcasted on radio. Yet in broadcasting hockey, Kelly is like Secretariat in the Belmont. Whoever is second is really closer to third or fourth”.

Said another way, Dan Kelly was simply the best.

 

 

 

 


 

 

=====

MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com
A Valentine to Spring; A Valentine to Baseball


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here



posted February 16


During this cold and chilly Valentine’s Day weekend, there are signs of love and warmth starting to spring up. Perhaps it can be best summarized in these few words:

“Pitchers and catchers are working out in Jupiter, Florida.”

Yes, baseball is back and not a moment too soon. On this weekend of love, God’s most perfect game is returning from its winter hiatus. One can almost hear the serene and familiar sounding lyrics from the Mary Tyler Moore Show of the 1970s:

“Love is all around, no need to waste it. You can have a town, why don't you take it”

Yes indeed, baseball is back. The last time we left our local nine was on a chilly late October Wednesday night at Fenway Park as the Boston Red Sox completed the deal in winning the 2013 World Series. Meanwhile the Red Birds returned to the Gateway City to start their winter vacation with an impressive consolation prize: the National League pennant.

2013 was a very good year for the Cardinals. Many positive things occurred. St. Louis compiled a 97-65 record: best in the Senior Circuit and tied for best in the Majors. As thoughts of the Christmas holidays and Super Bowl blowout start to fade, local and national pundits are now preparing for the 2014 baseball campaign. You know “that long and winding road”.

To that end, the Cardinals are getting loads of valentines and lots of love from the national press. It would be a fair point for a franchise that was one game away from the World Series in 2012, two games away from a World Series championship in 2013, that the anticipated 2014 squad might even be better than the previous two.

A lot of that love is directed to the young pitching staff. Let’s review. Here is the rundown of the 2013 accomplishments of those St. Louis pitchers who are as of today, 26 years old or younger:


                    Age   W     L    Inngs Pitched
Shelby Miller       22    15    9    173.1
Trevor Rosenthal    23    2     4    75.1
Seth Maness         24    5     2    62
Kevin Siegrist      23    3     1    39.2
Joe Kelly           25    10    5    124
Michael Wacha       21    4     1    64.2
Tyler Lyons         25    2     4    53
Carlos Martinez     21    2     1    28.1
John Gast           24    2     0    12.1
Jamie Garcia        26    5     2    55.1
Lance Lynn          26    15    10   201.2


Drilling down on these numbers further, in 2013 Red Bird pitchers 25 years of age or less as of today compiled a 45-27 record: 46.4% of 2013 wins. Going one step further, 2013 St. Louis pitchers 26 years of age or less as of today were 65-39: 67.0% of 2013 wins.

Pitching has always been and always will be the most coveted asset in Baseball. In that department, it appears the Cardinals are solid. This anticipated roster also explains why the Red Birds are being shown love nationally and expectations are high throughout Cardinal Nation. 

From the time that final out was made at Fenway in late October to their arrival in Jupiter in mid-February, I suspect all of these young arms were flooded with compliments, Atta-boys and verbal bouquets from their families, friends and groupies. Plus with the national reports it could understood how these young pitchers would really feel good about themselves arriving in FLA.

To that end, establishing the correct mindset/attitude will be the initial challenge for third-year St. Louis Manager Mike Matheny. The Manager and his staff need these ball players to buy into the reality that it isn’t 2013 anymore and that potential always takes a back seat to actual performance. Matheny and GM John Mozeliak should be fully aware that as defending National League Champions, they are not going to sneak up on anyone in 2014. As defending National League Champs, opponents will circle games with St. Louis on their calendars. Opposing teams will be ready, eager and able to take their best shot against the heralded Red Birds young arms.

Welcome to challenge #1 of 2014: the mindset of a young roster that has experienced success.

To that end, this week, Red Bird catcher Yadier Molina discussed this subject when he told Derrick Gould, the baseball beat writer of our town’s only newspaper, “For me, honestly, it’s the best team that I’ve been a part of when you look at it on paper,” Molina said. “We’ve got a great lineup. We’ve got a shortstop who can swing the bat. But it’s on paper.”

“We still have to concentrate. We can’t take it for granted.”

Can I get an Amen from the congregation, please?

Molina, Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday must take the lead in creating that culture into the 2014 locker room, much like Chris Carpenter, Lance Berkman and Jake Westbrook did in prior seasons. Any youngster straying away from this script should be visited by one of these veterans. This is likely why St. Louis signed infielder Mark Ellis as a free agent in the winter. Ellis is an articulate and confident veteran who can assist in molding that attitude.

Yes, baseball is back and not a moment too soon. Welcome to spring training 2014 Cardinal Nation. This the first stop of this upcoming eight (hopefully nine) month odyssey.

And although anticipation is high throughout Baseball Heaven, there will be many peaks, valleys, challenges, accomplishments, smiles and frowns before it could be said:

“They’re gonna make it after all.”


=====

MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com
Happy Birthday, Hank Aaron


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here



posted February 7

On Wednesday February 5, Hank Aaron will turn 80 years old.

The 1950s, 60s and 70s was an era when many of baseball’s glorious names performed their skills and built their legends. Behind this backdrop, with his quiet dignity, Henry Louis Aaron was at the top of that list. Ascending from humble beginnings to the ranks of the Negro League to Major League Baseball, Aaron demonstrated a consistency and steadiness that is admired even in today’s trash-talking world of social media and wall-to-wall tabloid sports journalism. When #44 played you never saw flashiness and you never saw boasting: only consistent performance with class. He never felt the need to show up an opponent. His work did all of his talking.

Aaron’s body of work outlined in his resume is beyond impressive: it screams volumes In his 23-year career he blasted 755 career home runs (#2 all time)—3,771 career hits (#3 all time)—2,297 career runs batted in (#1 all time)—a lifetime batting average of .305---624 career doubles ---1957 National League Most Valuable Player----24 All Star Game appearances--NL batting champion in 1956 and 1959—three-time gold glove winner. Although Aaron hit 755 career home runs, he never hit 50 or more long flies in a given season. You can do the math.

As a right-handed hitting outfielder for the Milwaukee Braves, Aaron made his debut at the age of twenty on April 13, 1954. An injury to a Braves’ outfielder created an opening for young Aaron to be added to the Big League roster. And from that day, he never looked back. In his first Major League game, Aaron went hitless. Two days later, he slapped the first of his 3,771 career hits in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Eight days later, Aaron blasted his first Major League home run: also against the Red Birds and against pitcher Vic Raschi.

It would be the first of many that would span throughout five Presidential administrations.

Ironically, Aaron could have actually had 756 career home runs. It was a night in St. Louis in a game against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium I. The Red Bird pitcher was Curt Simmons: a left-hander whose most effective pitch was a slow ball. On that night, Aaron was so anxious to hit Simmons’ slow ball that when he made contact, the ball eventually landed on Grand Avenue,  Yet, Aaron was called out by the home plate umpire for being out of the batter’s box. When asked after the game, Simmons uttered a quote that is still used on Cardinal broadcasts to this day: "Trying to throw a fastball by Henry Aaron is like trying to sneak a sunrise past a rooster."

Aaron became one of the most feared hitters in the game. In 1955, he hit .27 home runs, drove in 106 RBIs and posted a batting average of .328. As the 1957 National League Most Valuable player, Aaron was an integral part of a Milwaukee Braves team that won their only World Series Championship as they defeated the heavily-favored New York Yankees in seven games. Then over the next two decades, Hank Aaron would continue to pile up offensive numbers.

Hank Aaron was all business: serious business. He once said, “I never smile when I have a bat in my hands. That's when you've got to be serious. When I get out on the field, nothing's a joke to me. I don't feel like I should walk around with a smile on my face.”

Unsung and at times unappreciated, he did not have the advantage of playing in the bright lights of New York. Aaron didn’t have the charisma and personality of Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. So when it became obvious during the 1960s that Ruth’s career home run total would be strongly contested, many of the press swarmed after Mays and Mantle. But up in Milwaukee and later down in Atlanta, Hank Aaron quietly continued to hit home runs. It eventually became obvious that if anyone was to eclipse the Babe, it would be the man wearing #44 for the Braves.

Quietly and consistently Aaron climbed the ladder. He finished 1973 with 713 career home runs: one shy of Ruth’s all-time record. It would be a long winter of anticipation for the slugger. Letters poured into the Braves offices, as many as 3,000 a day for Aaron. Some wrote to congratulate him, but many others were appalled that a black man should break baseball's most sacred record. Among the negative correspondence were death threats.

On Opening Day 1974, Aaron homered in Cincinnati to tie Ruth. Then on Monday night April 15 before 53,775 fans at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium during the Braves home opener, Aaron blasted his 715th career home run. It occurred at 9:07 p.m. in the fourth inning against Al Downing and the Los Angeles Dodgers before a nationally televised NBC Network audience. This was a big deal and the eyes of the nation were focused on the events in Georgia. 

Two years later, #44 returned to the town where he started it all two decades prior: this time to the Brewers as a Designated Hitter. On October 3, 1976 at the age of 42, Aaron played his final Major League game as a DH for the Brewers. He was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 1982, receiving 406 of a possible 415 ballots. It’s still unclear and quite mind boggling how the nine naysayers did not vote for #44 in Round One.

Years after Aaron retired, impressive yet skeptical home run totals surfaced. Fifty home runs in a season by one player occurred more and more frequently. Under this shadow, home runs never looked the same. As more and more long flies flew, more and more whispers grew louder and louder: questioning the authenticity of those home runs. The word steroids started to surface.

On an August 2007 night in San Francisco, Giants’ outfielder Barry Bonds hit his 756th career home run passing Aaron. Bonds was viewed skeptically as suspicion linked him to performance enhancing drugs. The magic of the home run was diminished. When Aaron passed Ruth, the game was beamed nationally on NBC as a must see event. When Bonds passed Aaron, the game was shown as a regional broadcast on ESPN 2 with limited fanfare.

Despite the cloud, Aaron would have none of it. The former Home Run King congratulated the new King on taking over the thrown via a classy video to the sold out crowd at AT&T Park.

To this day, although Bonds has the numbers, many followers of baseball regard Aaron the true Home Run King. Despite it all, #44 avoided the controversy.

In his later years, Mantle expressed his respect for Aaron saying, “As far as I'm concerned, Aaron is the best ball player of my era. He is to baseball of the last fifteen years what Joe DiMaggio was before him. He's never received the credit he's due."

In 1999, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of breaking Ruth's record, Major League Baseball announced the Hank Aaron Award, given annually to the best overall hitter in each league. Three years later, Aaron was awarded the Medal of Freedom.

In his 1990 autobiography “If I had a Hammer” Aaron wrote: “I have always felt that although someone may defeat me, and I strike out in a ball game, the pitcher on the particular day was the best player. But I know when I see him again I'm going to be ready for his curve ball. Failure is a part of success. There is no such thing as a bed of roses all your life. But failure will never stand in the way of success if you learn from it.”

As we once again deal with lawsuits and PED innuendos relating to prominent athletes in prominent markets, it is sometimes good to reflect back to a simpler time.

"Trying to throw a fastball by Henry Aaron is like trying to sneak a sunrise past a rooster."

Happy 80th birthday, Hammering Hank



 =====


Mark Bausch

Bausch

Editor
St. Louis Sports Online
editor@stlsports.com
====================
posted November 23

David Freese: Gone But Not Forgotten

Earlier this week, the Cardinals announced that they had traded David Freese to the Los Angeles Angels, as part of a two-for-two swap that resulted in CF Peter Bourjos moving east to St. Louis.

The trade is a good one for St. Louis--an analysis will follow on these pages...but Freese had grown stale in STL and the Cards' primary 2013 center fielder, John Jay, had as well. At the very least Bourjos will platoon with Jay in 2014, while rising star Matt Carpenter, and rookie Kolten Wong, will assume the third and second base positions, respectively.

It is hard to get a handle on just how large of an impact St. Louis-area native David Freese has had on STL baseball.

Here is one way of looking at Freese...

In his four+ year major league career (all with St. Louis, spanning 2009-2013), David Freese appeared in 466 regular season games.

During that same period of time, Freese played in nine post-season series (including the one-game 2012 wild-card game vs. Washington), and during those series, appeared in 48 post-season games.

Do the math, dear reader!

While wearing a Cardinal uniform, hometown hero David Freese appeared in 10% as many post-season games as regular season games.

When you think of modern-era post-season baseball, Derek Jeter comes to mind as a perennial post-season participant.

In his nineteen years as a Yankee, Jeter has appeared in 2602 regular-season games...and a mind-boggling 158 games (in sixteen different series). 158 games! That's a regular season of baseball that Jeter has played, in MLB's post-season tournament.

The math, though says, that Jeter's post-season appearances amounted to about 6% of his regular season appearances.

What about Freese' new teammate in Los Angeles...Albert Pujols?

During his eleven-year tenure as a Cardinal, Pujols played in 1705 (Hall of Fame-quality) regular-season games but 'only' (?!) 74 post-season games.

Pujols' playoff-to-regular season percentage therefore stands at 4%.

My point is this: if your recollections of David Freese are primarily post-season-based...there's a reason for that. He played A LOT of October baseball as a Cardinal.

October baseball is good.

October baseball is meaningful baseball.

David Freese was good at October baseball.

Gone but not forgotten.

=====

 

Comments?
Contact Mike at:
           mike@stlsports.com

=====
Mark Bausch

Bausch

Editor
St. Louis Sports Online
editor@stlsports.com
====================
posted November 10

Role Models in Radio; Role Models in Coaching?

There's always good radio to be found the day after the Philly Eagles lose. That's because 97.5 The Fanatic employs long-time sports-talk radio pro Tony Bruno, who, with wit and wisdom and alacrity, persuades most (but not all) of his ever-insufferable listeners not to jump from the top of the nearest tall building. The wonder of the internet brings Bruno and his Philly-based station to anyone looking for an entertaining listening experience.

In a similar vein, the Cardinals' flagship radio station, 'The Voice of St. Louis' (TVoSTL), in the mid-afternoon of Wednesday, November 7, 2012, supplied a great deal of potential.

Hosts and callers alike on this station, during the mid-afternoon time slots, lean right-of-center (ya think?!)...and the day before (November 6) was election day.

'The Voice of St. Louis' (TVoSTL) has always tilted a bit to the right.

For example, you can bet the mortgage that long-time CBS VP Robert Hyland had no use, in 1972, for most of the positions held by that year's Democratic presidential nominee (George McGovern).

But somehow, back in those days, the political views of the newsreaders and hosts at TVoSTL were, if not difficult to ascertain...they were at least restrained. Hyland himself voiced an occasional, usually right-of-center 'editorial' in the early a.m. (before what is now called morning-drive), but his opinions were not delivered with the 'in-your-face' and 'take-no-prisoners' mentality that a certain Cape Girardeau-born nationally-syndicated personality (heard five days a week on TVoSTL) has popularized.

And the 'take-no-prisoners' approach to talk-radio has metastasized: in all likelihood, the locally-based right-of-center show that commences on TVoSTL at 2 pm (and other regional shows like it around the country) would not exist were it not for the popularity of the nationally-syndicated show that precedes it.

=====

On Tuesday, November 6, voters in Missouri re-elected Democratic senator Claire McCaskill...while voters in the United States re-elected President Barack Obama.

These results virtually guaranteed that compelling mid-afternoon radio would be found the next day on TVoSTL.

Indeed, during the 2 o'clock hour on November 7, while discussing the election results and a 60 Minutes TV segment that featured a chilly and forced conversation involving US senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Harry Reid (D-NV), TVoSTL's mid-afternoon local host chimed in with his own view, agreeing with the notion that it would be hard for anyone (including the Republican leadership in the US Senate) to work with Reid, saying "Yeah, I hate Harry Reid too."

First, I chuckled--I was right! Then I groaned and quite literally thought of Robert Hyland, whose approach to radio is missed by many.

But Hyland is gone, and a man with the golden EIB microphone has acolytes all over the United States.

My chuckle and groan was followed by a click, as I changed the station to a St. Louis-based sports-talk station, whose update guy was discussing the St. Louis University men's basketball program and its head-coaching situation.

Back to sports, and to SLU basketball in particular.

To recap, in the wake of what is apparently a life-threatening medical issue, SLU head coach Rick Majerus has relinquished his coaching duties and has been replaced, on an interim basis, by veteran basketball man Jim Crews.

Crews, who played (1972-1976) and served as an assistant coach (1977-1985) at Indiana for more than a decade while the Hoosiers were coached by Bob Knight, was, beginning in 1985, a head coach at Evansville and then Army, for 24 successive seasons (seventeen and seven years, respectively), during which time his teams qualified for four NCAA tournaments.

From a basketball perspective, SLU's athletics department is fortunate that Majerus, prior to the 2011-12 season, was able to persuade Crews to return to coaching and join his staff at SLU.

My own thinking about Crews, though, centers on a post-game press conference held at the Arena at SIU-Carbondale, after an Evansville-SIUC game.

I don't recall the outcome of the game. I don't remember anything about the game itself. I'm not even certain as to the game's exact date, although I am certain it was in the late 1990s.

What I do recall, vividly, is being embarrassed, as a 1980 graduate of Evansville, to be in the same room with Jim Crews, as he, while serving as Evansville's head basketball coach, berated and belittled...INTENTIONALLY...a young man who was apparently the Aces' beat writer for the Evansville daily newspaper.

The reporter, who didn't look a day over the age of thirty and did not at all resemble the late Mike Wallace in demeanor, had the temerity to politely ask a mundane question about something that had transpired during the game he had just witnessed...a game that, as part of his job description, he was required to describe to his paper's readers.

Jim Crews would have none of the reporter’s questions and the reporter did not persist in asking them. Crews left the closet-sized room for the comfort of his team's locker room, leaving most of the other half-dozen or so in the tiny room shaking their heads. I do not recall, ever, in person, witnessing a more childish, silly and needless display of (bad) attitude by a person in a position of leadership.

Well, that's not exactly true.

A couple of months later (late in the decade of the 1990's), Bob Knight visited Jupiter FL as a spring-training guest of his buddy, then-Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

During one pre-game session near the Roger Dean stadium first-base line, La Russa and a horde of media left the area, and Knight and I remained in place, alone for several minutes.

While the details are not important, suffice it to say that as Jim Crews was to that Evansville-based basketball reporter, Bob Knight was to yours truly.

Mr. Knight was not interested in idle chat of any type that morning, and had a rather direct way of expressing that perspective. Furthermore, his approach is not likely to be found in the classic book 'How to Win Friends and Influence People'.

=====

No one can deny the (broadcasting) excellence of Rush Limbaugh, in terms of listenership and revenue generation. Limbaugh is a wealthy man and a man of significant influence.

No one can deny the (coaching) excellence of Bob Knight, in terms of four-year player graduation rates and national championships. Bob Knight is in basketball's Hall of Fame, and, like Limbaugh, a man of significant influence.

But the effect of Limbaugh, on aspiring broadcasters...and the effect of Knight, on aspiring coaches--it seems to me that the plusses and minuses of those effects can (and should) be debated, in part because, in fact, only a fraction of their work is on public display.

What listeners hear, on the radio, from Limbaugh...is unique to him...and impossible to duplicate. And what goes into Limbaugh's daily 'performance' is something unseen to his listeners; it is private. Indeed, Limbaugh's private life is just that: private.

But in radio studios all over America, the talk-show posers try to imitate the master.

Including the clownsuit at 2 pm on TVoSTL. Click.

And what fans of college basketball saw of Knight, on the bench, was certainly unique to him...and also impossible to duplicate. One can argue, I think, that Bob Knight succeeded as a college basketball coach in spite of his public demeanor, not because of it.

But even today, in high school and college gymnasiums all over America, the coaching posers still try to imitate the General, in all his glory.

=====

Bob Knight was dismissed, at Indiana, in September of 2000, after physically accosting and verbally abusing an IU undergrad. It was, according to the leadership at Indiana, the last in a long line of missteps committed by Knight.

Jim Crews was dismissed, at Army, in September of 2009, under cloudy circumstances that some said involved physically accosting and verbally abusing Army players (i.e. cadets). Crews’ offense was, according to the athletic leadership at Army, the last in a string of missteps. His dismissal came only a few weeks after signing a three-year contract extension (with a two-year option), and just weeks before the start of the college season.

Three years after his dismissal at Army, one hopes that Jim Crews emulates the results associated with Bob Knight, and leaves out the General's 'colorful' side.

That dog won't hunt in the genteel college basketball climate that is St. Louis University, whose most successful modern-day coach (the late Charlie Spoonhour) opened practices to the public at the old gym on Pine Street and, for awhile, was arguably the most beloved sports figure in St. Louis.

It really was a site to see—while Spoonhour watched his team do 3-on-3 drills, runners were circling the track above the court. Runners as in students and faculty. Other athletes were exercising courtside, too…but there was an excitement in the air: everybody wanted to be a part of Spoonball—it was fun and all of St. Louis knew it.

One hopes that interim coach Jim Crews gets the memo.

<> 

 

WDBX Sunday Sports Review
SSR Show Intro mp3 #1
(featuring Ozzie Smith, Tony La Russa, Bruce Weber, Jerry Kill, Rich Herrin and Charlie Spoonhour, and Joe Buck)
SSR Show Intro mp3 #2
(featuring Jan Quarless, Rick Ankiel, Ron Caron, Walt Jocketty, Brian Jordan and Joe Buck)


 

==========

MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com

Lead

Columnist


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here


Blues Hockey in the Springtime: Game On!


posted March 24

It’s late March here in the Gateway City. That means three things are on the minds of local sports fans. First, late March means the Cardinals are making final preparations for breaking their Spring Training camp and heading north. Second, the NCAA basketball tournament is in full swing and bracket watching/cursing continues.

 

Third, it’s time to start paying attention to the National Hockey League and particularly our town’s entry: the St. Louis Blues.

 

We are entering the final month of the drudgery of the NHL regular season. The sole purpose of this six-month ordeal is to thin the herd from thirty teams to sixteen teams. Only in the National Hockey League do you play six months of slugfest hockey so that 53.33% go to the post-season.

 

This weekend the Blues punched their ticket. They will be one of those sixteen invitees in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It has been a very good season for our local ice heroes. At this writing, St. Louis leads the Central Division with 103 points: posting an overall record of 48-16-7. Local hockey fans now know there will be playoff tickets to save up for. Local media may start growing their silly playoff beards to help the cause.

 

But history tells us that although the Blues again will be playing in the NHL’s second season, the real question is: just how long will they be around? In their first three seasons of existence, thanks to the structure of the newly-expanded NHL, St. Louis reached the Stanley Cup Finals. Since then it has not been so good. During most of the following forty-two seasons since 1971 when they did make the playoffs, the Note was knocked out in either the first or second rounds.

 

Cautious optimism exists by puck heads in the Show Me State. But history does not lie. Do we know if the Blues will reach round three of the playoffs will reach the third round of the playoffs for third time in 43 seasons? Do we know if they will reach the Cup Finals for the first time since the Nixon administration? Heck, Red Schoendienst was the Cardinal Manager and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In was TV’s most popular show the last time the Note played in the Finals.

 

So instead getting all emotionally raveled, unshaven and joining the local media on their cheerleading bandwagon, let’s see what we know and what we do not know about our Blue. 

 

We know the Blues have a solid and successful Management team calling the shots. All have successful track records. Let’s start at the top. The team’s current Chairman Tom Stillman became the team’s NHL Governor on May 9, 2012. Stillman is also the Chairman and CEO of Summit Distributing: a St. Louis-based beer distributor. He entered the beer business in 1994 with the acquisition of a local wholesaler and has delivered steady growth and results. Stillman is also a bottom-line businessman. Unlike his predecessor he announces actual attendance totals for home games. While he is not afraid to spend money for players to improve the product, Stillman makes it crystal clear that in order for the Blues to be successful, all revenue streams, from season tickets to luxury boxes to concessions to broadcasting rights must justify the expenses.

 

Said another way, Tom Stillman is an upgrade from the smooth-talking Dave Checketts.

 

We also know that Ken Hitchcock is a successful NHL Head Coach.  Now in his seventeenth NHL season, Hitchcock’s career Head Coaching record is 653-398-88. His teams finished in first place seven times and at this writing, his 2013-14 are in the top spot in the Central Division. Hitchcock’s name is engraved on the Stanley Cup as the Head Coach for the 1998-99 Champion Dallas Stars. Hitchcock has an Olympic Gold Medal as the Assistant Coach for Canada’s championship hockey team this year in Sochi. Hitchcock has represented Canada at international competitions. He led his team to the Silver Medal at the 2008 World Championships

 

Said another way, Ken Hitchcock is an upgrade from the overmatched Davis Payne

 

We also know that Doug Armstrong is a proven and successful NHL Executive. Armstrong joined the Blues as the Executive Vice President and General Manager on July 1, 2010. He was named President of Hockey Operations and General Manager/Alternate Governor on September 4, 2013. Armstrong was a part of the Stars’ organization after moving to Dallas in 1993. He helped lead the franchise to two Presidents’ Trophies, two Western Conference titles and the 1999 Stanley Cup championship. Armstrong spent 17 years with Dallas:  his final six seasons as the club’s General Manager. The 49-year old Armstrong was also a member of the Management Group that oversaw Canada’s 2014 Olympic Gold Medal winning hockey team.

 

Said another way, Doug Armstrong is an upgrade from local media favorite John Davidson.

 

Therefore, ergo and hence, all three men have successful resumes. That is what we know.

 

That now brings us to the players. And that is what we don’t know.

 

It’s past time for these Blues players that we have been told possess all that potential to put up or shut up once and for all. Management has provided tools and support. They went out and acquired Jay Bowmeester and Ryan Miller. Management invested the money to lock down Bowmeester, Alex Petroangelo and Alexander Steen. Management has provided the time, talent and treasure. The Front Office has done its part.

 

It’s now time (past time?) for the players to step up and prove once and for all they are worthy. While I’m sure they are all good people, here’s the bottom line. To date, this core group of players has not done it in the playoffs. It’s time once and for all for David Backes to prove that he is as much as a Blues Captain as Brian Sutter or Barclay Plager were before him. It’s time once and for all for TJ Oshie, Steen, Patrick Berglund, Barret Jackman and the rest not to be as invisible in the playoffs as Keith Tkachuk was in prior first rounds. It’s time once and for all for Petroangelo to demonstrate in the playoffs that he is worthy of that big-money contract he held out for and if he can be mentioned in the same breath as Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger. 

 

Once and for all, it’s time. Can they do it? Yes--Will they do it? That is what we do not know.

 

Frequent visitors to this space might recall these musings provided by this bureau in early March.

“Two areas concern me. Their first and/or second round opponent will likely be some combination of the Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks and/or Anaheim Ducks. At this writing St. Louis is 0-2-1 versus Vancouver, 0-3-0 against Anaheim, 1-2-0 against Los Angeles and 0-3-0 against San Jose. Said another way in 2013-14 the Blues are 1-10-1 against their likely first and/or second round opponents. Said even another way, ten of the Blues fourteen losses were against these four Western Conference fraternity brothers.”

 

“We’ll see if the addition of Ryan Miller and Steve Ott will change the dynamics. Until then, in order for the Blues to avoid their normal fate of a first or second round exit, the road to the Conference Finals will go through the West Coast: at least once or twice.”

 

“Secondly & not to sound snarky, remember these are still the St. Louis Blues. Year in and year out when expectations are high, the Blues always found some way not to get the job done. Local fans & media have had their hearts broken more times than a teenage girl with a Facebook page.”

 

Those sentiments remain unchanged. Here is what we know and what we don’t know.

 

It’s late March and the St. Louis Blues are in the playoffs again. That we know.

 

But will the Note last more than one or two rounds this time? That we don’t know.

 

Either way we need to answer those questions once and for all.

<> 

 

Mark Bausch

Bausch

Editor
St. Louis Sports Online
editor@stlsports.com
====================
posted June 12

Blackhawks, Kings and Blues

In this year's Stanley Cup tournament, how, exactly, did the Blackhawks defeat the Kings? And why did the Kings vanquish the Blues?

Late last week, in the fifth game of their best-of-seven Western Conference championship playoff series, the Blackhawks of Chicago defeated the Kings of Los Angeles. The winning goal was scored in the game’s second overtime period and made the score 4-3 (advantage Chicago).

Combined with Blackhawk wins in the first, second and fourth games of the series, the victory resulted in the end of the Kings’ reign as Stanley Cup champions, as they were defeated by Chicago four-games-to-one.

The series-clinching double-overtime goal was scored by Hawks’ winger Patrick Kane.

Kane, who was born in Buffalo NY, beat all-world LA goalie Jonathan Quick with a medium-range one-timer reminiscent of Hall of Fame snipers Jari Kurri and Mike Bossy.

It was Kane’s third goal of the game…and added to his reputation as one of the NHL’s premier finishers.

Kane’s series-clinching goal was the successful culmination of a two-on-one break, as he and superstar center Jonathan Toews skated toward the Kings’ net with only LA defenseman Rob Scuderi between them and goalie Quick.

The puck-carrying Toews quickly but patiently approached Quick on the left-wing side before cleanly passing the puck to Kane, who lagged behind Toews a fraction of a second on the right side of the rink.

The perfect set-up from Toews was, in a blink-of-the-eye, buried by Kane--and an Original Six Stanley Cup final between Chicago and Boston was set.

As Chicago prepares to do battle with Boston, a look back at the Blues’ last two playoff losses (both to LA) as well as the Blackhawks’ recent victory over LA is warranted.

Throughout Chicago’s series with LA, commentators referenced the hard-hitting and physical nature of the Kings-Blues opening round series. LA’s players noted that their six games with the Blues were more physical than either subsequent battles with San Jose or with Chicago.

Indeed, nhl.com stats suggest that the Blues (with 40 hits per game) virtually matched the Kings (41 hits per game) hit-for-hit, in their six game series, while the Blackhawks, in their five game series with the Kings, were outhit (per game) 44-32.

Let those numbers sink in, puckheads. The Blues were as physical as the Kings (but lost), while the Blackhawks were not as physical as the Kings (and won).

So why did Chicago have success against Los Angeles?

Two words: speed and skill.

Think about that the next time a so-called hockey know-it-all says that the only thing keeping the Blues from playoff success…is their lack of toughness.

It just is not true. In the 21st Century version of NHL hockey, speed and skill win games and win championships.