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http://www.stlsports.com/photos/stadia/newbusch/newretirednumbers.jpg

...the Retired Numbers @ Busch
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MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com

Lead

Columnist


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here

Blues v Hawks: Are We There Yet?

(April 20)

It started on Holy Thursday evening and finally concluded in the early morning of Good Friday. It will likely be remembered as one of the more memorable games in franchise history.

 

The St. Louis Blues defeated the Chicago Black Hawks in Game One of the first round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs in triple overtime by a score of 4-3 before a crowd of 19,423. Alexander Steen scored for the winning goal at the game’s 100-minute, 26-second mark. With the win, St. Louis takes a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 is scheduled about thirty-six hours later.

 

This was a victory the long-suffering, blindly-loyal Blues fans and local media have been dreaming about. Knocking off the Defending Stanley Cup Champions/hated rival Black Hawks at 14th & Clark before an actual sellout crowd is indeed something to crow about. As expected local media mouthpieces are gushing over the win and, as expected, are extrapolating how this will be a springboard for that long awaited Clydesdale-led parade down Market Street in June.

 

Heck, you can almost see blurry-eyed members of Blues Nation as well as many in the local media proudly examining their chin stubble imagining it growing into a long playoff beard.

 

The St. Louis Blues defeated the Chicago Black Hawks in Game One, 4-3 in triple overtime.

 

That’s the good news.

 

The bad news is the Blues now have to win fifteen more games. The Magic Number is now 15.

 

Welcome to National Hockey League’s real season. After the six-month drudgery and slugfest known as the NHL’s regular season, the herd is now thinned. After playing 82 regular season games over 180+ days, the NHL is now down to the league’s best 53.33%. One of those surviving sixteen that was not voted off the playoff island was Our Blue.

 

Expectations are high in the Gateway City that 2014 will finally be the year the Stanley Cup will reside in the Gateway City. St. Louis has a Head Coach and a General Manager with Stanley Cup and Olympic Medal championships on their resumes. St. Louis has an ownership group that is willing to stretch the budget in order to acquire the piece(s) with late season moves.

 

But despite these expectations, the Blues limped into the real season. At the end of the regular campaign St. Louis lost its final six games: being shut out in the final two. During that six-game losing streak, the Blues were shut out three times and outscored 22-5.

 

By hiccupping the final two weeks, St. Louis did not qualify as a Conference or Division winner. Instead they dropped in the standings whereby their Round One opponents would be the Defending Stanley Cup Champions that just happen to reside in Chicago: THOSE Black Hawks.

 

So behind this backdrop, let the playoffs begin. But during Game One, Blues Nation got that familiar springtime ill-feeling we know too well around these parts.  Despite scoring the first goal of the game, the Blues saw the Hawks tie and take the lead. The Blues provided Chicago two power play opportunities in the last 15 minutes, but the Hawks didn’t get a single shot on net off either of them. Eventually the Black Hawks regained that one goal lead. Chicago went into a prevent defense mode before Jaden Schwartz sent the game into OT with 1:45 remaining in regulation time. Then about sixty-two minutes of play later Steen scored the winner for St. Louis.

 

This was a confidence-building win for the Blues: given their losing streak and dealing with the aura of playing the defending Stanley Cup Champs. St. Louis went toe-to-toe with the Hawks.

 

Going into the series all eyes were on Ryan Miller: St. Louis’ recently-acquired goaltender and soon-to-be free agent. Miller is regarded as one of the NHL’s tops between the pipes and has played admirably in the Olympics. Prior to the trade he was in Buffalo: a team owning one of the lowest point totals in the League. The trade gave Miller a chance to be on a winner and would hopefully give St. Louis the missing piece of the puzzle in goal.

 

After allowing three first period goals on seven Chicago shots, Miller then slammed the door. The puck never got behind him in the final 80:26 despite facing 35 more Black Hawk shots.

 

Although on this Good Friday #39 is the toast of the town, there was/is/remains concern about the Blues late season acquisition. Miller, who hasn't seen playoff action since 2010-11 with Buffalo, struggled late since coming over to the Blues. In 19 games, he has posted a .903 save percentage and a 2.47 goals-against-average while winning ten games. Miller won seven of his first eight starts after arriving from Buffalo, but finished 0-5 with a 3.56 goals-against average.

 

But in Game One, Miller met the challenge against the Hawks: especially in Periods 2-3-4 and 5. No one understands the goaltender’s importance more than St. Louis Head Coach Ken Hitchcock. "We're going to need our goalie to be great," Hitchcock said the day before Game One. "He's shown the ability to get into people's heads if he plays the way he can."

 

In Game One, Miller answered the call. But again, it is only Game One.

 

That brings us back to the bullet point previously mentioned. Despite the win, it remains only one game. We’ve seen this move before. Blues fans should remember the past with the anxiety, anticipation, frustration and pain shared only by followers of a Major League Baseball Team that ironically is based in Chicago that also has blue as their predominant color.

 

Here’s a quick history lesson. Last May the Blues defeated the then-Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings in the first two games in Round One of the playoffs. There were loads of local hockey fans and many members of the local media gloating, trashing-talking and busting buttons over their heroes’ performance: wishing and hoping this would finally be THE year.

 

Now, remember how that turned out? The Blues are still trying to win Game Three of that series. Defending Champ LA won the next four straight games: advancing to the next round, sending the Blues to the golf course and those Bob Bassen retro-jerseys back into the closet.

 

So let’s review, on Good Friday the Blues have a 1-0 lead against Defending Champion Chicago. It still takes FOUR wins. Yes, Game 1 was memorable but it is now over: ancient history.

 

So we now return to our regular programming.

 

The St. Louis Blues defeated the Chicago Black Hawks in Game One, 4-3 in triple overtime.

 

That’s the good news.

 

That also means now the Blues only have to win fifteen more games.

 

 

 

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2014 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 140223 (February 23)
Baker, Hefferman & Deniston
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Sunday Sports Review 140216 (February 16)
Baker & Deniston
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Sunday Sports Review 140202 (February 2)
Hefferman, Huss, Rainey, Langston
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Sunday Sports Review 140126 (January 26)
Huss, Hefferman, Rainey
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Sunday Sports Review 140114 (January 12)
Huss, Deniston and Curtis
Bryan Curtis (grantland.com): The Steroid Hunt

=====
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.

scroll down or 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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Mike Huss' Take Five

posted April 15, 2014

 

Random thoughts & questions we wonder if the St. Louis Blues will score another goal

 

The headlines of the April 14, 2014 sports’ section of our town’s only newspaper read “Blues Looking for Positives”. Really?  Really? Are you referring to the same team that finished the season losing six games in a row while being shut out in their final two? Who wrote this banner: the apologists at Fox Sports Midwest?

 

Wanna feel old? Happy 73rd Birthday, Pete Rose (4/14/14)

 

What a great story that 2014 Masters Tournament winner Bubba Watson celebrated his green jacket win by going to the Waffle House. This is absolutely fabulous!! I just wonder how many of the blue blooded members from Augusta National or from CBS Sports joined the Champ to scarf down a few waffles.

 

Believe it or not, there will be only one Canadian team (Montreal) participating in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

 

AND FINALLY FROM THE “UPON FUTHER REVIEW” BUREAU: So, just how is that new Major League Baseball replay review idea working for you?

 

 =====

New Take Five by Mike Huss (April 15; scroll down on the left)

=====
Mark Bausch

Bausch

Editor
St. Louis Sports Online
editor@stlsports.com
====================
posted April 1

Hitting Prospects, Outfield Prospects and the Memphis Redbirds…
while Albert Pujols Keeps on Delivering for the Cards

It was Opening Day for the Cardinals in Cincinnati and the Redbirds opened the 2014 season with a 1-0 shutout victory over the Reds.

 

Albert Pujols’ little buddy (Yadier Molina) supplied all of the offense that Adam Wainwright and a quarter (Pat Neshek, Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal) of relievers needed to shut out the still-potent lineup that can tattoo the short fences at the Great American Ballpark.

 

Molina provided the necessary offense, and his usual brand of defense to a nice Opening Day win.

 

Meanwhile, in Anaheim, CA, Albert Pujols managed a two-base hit, but the LA Angels of Anaheim were defeated by division rival Seattle, 10-3.

 

Game 2 of the three-game series with the Reds commences tomorrow night, and the Cardinals’ #2 starting pitcher is none other than 2013 post-season hero Michael Wacha.

 

It is hard to fathom that two short years ago Wacha was the ace of the Texas A&M pitching staff.

 

Wacha was one of two players that the Cardinals were able to draft as a result of compensation awarded to them when Pujols signed with the Angels.

 

The other?

 

Steve Piscotti, a corner infielder/corner outfielder-type player who played collegiate baseball at Stanford.

 

Piscotti, along with Randal Grichuk and Oscar Taveras, are expected to man the three outfield positions comprise the starting outfield at AAA Memphis in 2014.

 

While Taveras was (and stil is) nursing nagging leg injuries in Jupiter, both Piscotti and Grichuk saw extensive Grapefruit League action.

 

This bureau was impressed by Piscotti’s presence in the batters’ box; his OPS data compiled in four minor league stops (spread out over two seasons, ending last season at AA Springfield) were remarkably consistent: .823; .819; 826; .810.

 

 

Grichuk, who was acquired from the Angels in the David Freese trade, is not quite the polished hitter (compared to Piscotti), but possesses significant power. Making contact will be a Grichuk goal in 2014.

 

Oscar Taveras is the golden boy of the Cardinals’ farm system (or at least he was until Piscotti came along). In Jupiter back-field hitting sessions, the ball jumps off of Taveras’ bat; Taveras himself is a big and solid man who is looking to get healthy and reestablish himself as what many were saying a year ago this time as the #1 position-player prospect in all of major league baseball.

 

 

In the meantime, the Memphis Redbirds have quite an outfield…

 

====================
posted March 18

It Used to Be Called “Postcards from Jupiter”…

…but in the age of the Internet, nobody sends postcards any more. I wanted to call the stlsports.com spring training feature ‘Notes on a Tablet’, but after a week in Jupiter with only a tablet to write on, the old desktop computer at home (with its old-fashioned but highly useful full-sized mechanical keyboard)…well, the old Dell was a highly desirable commodity.

 

Let’s call this update ‘Rick Ankiel Hide-and-Seek’.

 

What stands out from the ever-seductive up-close-and-personal look at the Cardinals that spring training affords both fans and media alike is one word: confidence.

 

From principal owner Bill DeWitt Jr. on down, the team’s management (including field manager Mike Matheny) literally act like they’ve been there before. In this case the ‘there’ refers to MLB’s post-season. And the Cardinals have been there before—with Matheny’s first two years as the Redbirds’ manager breaking all sorts of records.

 

It is difficult to decide whether Mike Matheny’s spring 2014 pre- and post-game easy manner with media is due to the fact that he is starting his third year as the team’s manager (and therefore knows the drill by heart), or that he knows that the wealth of affordable starting and relief pitching at his disposal is a luxury that few managers have enjoyed.

 

The importance that the Cardinals place on pitching is emphasized by the location of their primary practice pitching mounds: literally steps from the team’s spring clubhouse.

 

It was there that, many springs ago, then-pitching coach Dave Duncan efforted to block the view of a cameraman who aimed his lens at the young horse named Rick Ankiel.

 

Ankiel, in the previous post-season, experienced the flame-out of all flame-outs when, against the Mets, his pitches were as likely to find the backstop as they were his catcher’s glove. Duncan viewed his job, at that time, as one involving protecting his fragile lefthander from the prying eyes of the media.

 

Apparently looking for a job in baseball, Ankiel made an early-March appearance at his old haunt.

 

 

As bright as Ankiel’s star was more than a decade ago, Michael Wacha’s future seems at least as bright as that of Ankiel…before his epic fail. Wacha made regular appearances on the practice mound.

 

There, the six eyes of pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, minor league pitching coordinator Blaine Ilsley, and retired jersey #2 (Red Schoendienst) monitored Wacha and Tommy John-recovering Jason Motte.

 

 

Motte was throwing free-and-easy, popping the catcher’s glove with regularity, and punctuated his last fastball with his characteristic hop toward the catcher.

 

 

Wacha appears a bit thicker and stronger-looking than when last seen in the World Series…still only two years removed from pitching at Texas A&M, he is still filling out his long-and-tall frame.

 

Shelby Miller (l) and Joe Kelly (r) also appeared on the Ankiel hide-and-seek mound.

 

 

Perhaps the most athletic of the Cards’ starters, Kelly is not as physically imposing as Wacha, Adam Wainwright, or Lance Lynn. But his pitches, even on the practice mound, are fast and heavy—Kelly’s catcher seemed less-than-comfortable at times with pitches that would have been called strikes.

 

Miller’s throwing session was deemed important enough to be caught by Yadier Molina, who was not bashful about at least one aspect of Miller’s performance…

 

 

Our next spring training report will focus on some of the Cardinals’ hitting prospects, including their spring training 2014 newest signee: Aledmys Diaz.

 

 

 

MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com

Lead

Columnist


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here

For Many St. Louisans, the Sound of Baseball
Remains the Voice of Harry Caray

(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.

 

Scroll down to read more…

 

Blues Move Into March
(March 1)

Welcome to March, Gateway City Sports Fans

 

In the opinion of this bureau the first of March is always a good date. Aside from the Super Bowl (which has been a pipe dream and distant memory for our town’s local entry in that rich & arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League), January/February is a time of countless college basketball, NBA and NHL games that are generally all nondescript.

 

To this untrained eye, January and February are the two longest months of the sports season. These months also offer non-Chamber of Commerce weather. But once the first of March arrives, warmer weather gets closer, baseball games pop up in Arizona and Florida, the college basketball tournament is on the horizon and the NHL playoffs are finally being sorted out.

 

Scroll down to read more


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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

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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

 

=====

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
Blues News...in November?!


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here



posted November 17


The St, Louis Blues have jumped off to an impressive start in 2013-14.

On the morning of the third Saturday of November, our local ice heroes hold an overall record of 12-2-3: good for 27 points and fourth place in the highly-competitive Western Conference. The Blues have been compiling some impressive numbers in the first 20.7% (17 of 82 games) of this regular season. To date, the team is first in the National Hockey League in power play percentage (26.2%), third in the NHL in goals per game (3.6) and eighth in the league in Goals Against per game (2.3).

Alexander Steen has been very, very good in the early going: scoring 16 goals in 17 games and posting a +13. Veteran defenseman Jay Bowmeester has been solid on the back line logging many minutes while posting a +10. Free agent-to-be goaltender Jaroslav Halak has bolstered his bargaining position to date by posting a 2.31 goals against average in fourteen games.

Predictably anticipation and expectation are running high throughout that faithful but blinded cult known as the St. Louis hockey fans. Also predictably the local media has jumped on the bandwagon. Radio report use words such as “elite team” when describing the Note. The headline of the 11/16/13 sport section edition of our town’s only newspaper listed the headlines “Excellence on Ice Speaks Volumes”. In some circles I’m sure fantasies of that Clydesdale-led Stanley Cup parade down Market Street in June are popping up in the minds of some in Blues Nation and local media.

Yeah, enthusiasm is starting to swirl all around town about Our Blue.

So why do I not share this buzz and why do I not also feel the love?

I think there are a bunch of reasons.

First of all, apparently I’m not alone in this apathy. After eleven home games, the Blues have averaged 16,421 fans per game. This includes a non-sellout on a Saturday night against the highly-attractive Pittsburgh Penguins and drawing 14,190 on a Thursday night against Colorado in a match-up of two teams near the top of the Conference point total.

Now it should be noted, the team did run into some back luck early. On the Blues’ opening night, the Cardinals were also hosting Pirates down the street in Game One of the National League Division Series. Six nights later when Stanley Cup Champion and rival Chicago came to town, at the same time the Red Birds and Bucs were playing the deciding NLDS Game 5 at Busch III. It’s also true much local discretionary money went to baseball post-season tickets versus games in the first month of the NHL season.

But given that, someone please justify for me parting with more than a few bucks to drive downtown before Thanksgiving on a Tuesday night in October to watch the Winnipeg Jets or a Tuesday night in November to see the Phoenix Coyotes: especially when this same regular season won’t conclude until Easter 2014. Why should I do that?

(On a related note, memo to those local media members criticizing the size of the crowds at the Scottrade Center—I have one question. How many tickets did you purchase for those games? It’s not your place to criticize anyone on where or how a person should spend their money. Until you put your money where your month is, just shut that mouth.)

Secondly, I’ve seen this movie before. Remember a couple of years ago when the Blues beat Detroit in two games in Sweden and local hockey fans were hyperventilating? Remember last year when after hockey finally returned how the Blues jumped off to a 6-1-1 start to fire up the locals? Now, do you remember how all those seasons ended?

Folks, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet. I understand and appreciate how desperate Blues Nation is for a winner. They have endured as much pain, hardship and ridicule only fans of the Chicago Cubs can understand. But I’m not going to fall into the trap of many fans and media in this town that this is FINALLY THE YEAR after only 20.7% of the season. Everyone, please take a deep breath and go to a happy place.

Third, we are talking about the National Hockey League here. The NHL is at best the fourth most prominent and certainly the most irrelevant professional sports league in North America. Case in point: you are talking about a league that shut down three times for work stoppages in the past twenty years and hopes the paying fans forget that.

In this bureau’s opinion, there are 6-8 teams that should be eliminated in the 30-team NHL. Said another way there are 125-150 players that have no business being in the NHL. The presence of these 125-150 slugs water down the NHL product. You see there are more slugs than actual elite hockey players in the League. Do the math.

And because there are too many teams, there is this 6-month demolition derby known as the regular season to simply thin the herd for the playoffs. During the six month regular season, referees are lax on rule infractions in order to assist the slugs that are watering down the product. At the end of this six-month slugfest, sixteen teams (or 53.3%) of the league are allowed to continue. It is then during the warmth of mid-April and early May that the real hockey season begins and referees starting regulating the rules properly.

But to keep the fans interested/awake during the regular-season, the NHL has adopted some gimmicks to jazz up the experience. The most notable one as this bureau sees it is the overtime/shootout rules to determine a winner. While I understand and appreciate the League’s objective to avoid ties, why did adopt the “everyone’s a winner/everyone gets a trophy” mentality? Why is a team rewarded for losing a game in overtime? Your opponents beat you on the scoreboard yet you receive a point in the standings?

Also, thanks to the gimmicks found in the NHL regular season, a team that earns a hard-fought six-minute 2-1 victory is rewarded exactly the same as a team with a shooter that scored on a tired goaltender who has played 65 minutes in a shootout?

But these gimmicks do put butts in the seats during the herd-thinning regular season.

Now with that said, tell me again: why I should buy tickets for this?

And again, looking at the numbers, it appears that I’m not alone.

To those local hockey fans out there in cyberspace wearing the Bob Bassen jersey while sitting at your computer in your parents’ basement, I’m not dissing the accomplishments of your ice heroes. Refer to the top of this piece: “The St, Louis Blues have jumped off to an impressive start in 2013-14.” So please hold off on the email misspellings.

But forgive me, if I’m not ready to attend this pre-Thanksgiving party. Said another way:

Wake me up after the Super Bowl.

 

 

 


 

 

=====

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.

=====

Missouri High School Football Update

posted November 14


http://www.stlsports.com/photos/highschool/LONNEL%20COLE100wide.jpg

by Lonnel Cole


   Then there were two: two Public High League football teams left standing in Missouri's expanded, open playoff format, where every team is assured of at least one postseason game like the popular basketball system. In any event, as it were, the PHL has an undefeated Class 4 power, the Miller Career Academy Phoenix (10-0) and an emerging Class 2 upstart, the Carnahan Cougars (9-2) poised to advance to the sectional rounds on Saturday Nov.16, should they get by their respective opponents the St. Mary's Dragons (6-5) and the Lutheran North Crusaders (7-4) on Monday night Nov.11.
     For the Phoenix, it will be revenge time as they seek to avenge their only defeat last season: a 41-6 drubbing by the Dragons on a cold, damp Monday night.
   "We just came out flat that game," Phoenix coach Sorrell Harvey has reiterated. "It wasn't the  weather. It wasn't the fact that we had a bye week before the playoffs. We just played flat."
    "We saved our worst game of the season for that night," noted Phoenix assistant Jerome Petty.
       Although both teams have had turnover in players since, St. Mary's has had more significant change: Even the head coach Jake Parent has moved on, while the two offensive catalysts, running back Brandon Polito (who rushed for over 2,000 yards and scored 39 touchdowns) and quarterback Kevin Hennessey (over 1,000 yards rushing) have graduated, the Dragons have made it back with less prolific numbers, as running back William Pratt just eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau under new coach Alex DeMatties.
   The Phoenix meanwhile graduated quarterback Trevon King, who threw for 2,620 yards and top running back Devon Roberts who rushed for 1,087 yards, only to have first-year starters quarterback Jaylen James (1,129 yards passing) and running back Marquis Stewart (1,536 yards) step in and keep the attack thriving.
        In fact, the Phoenix have outscored their foes by an incredible margin of 474-92 thus far this season, prompting some to wonder if Career Academy is the new the Sumner of old in the PHL.  The Bulldogs have won four Missouri state titles, made it to nine state championship final games and won 14 straight PHL titles from 1983 to 1996 in their storied history under retired coach Lawrence Walls, for whom Harvey himself was a star running back on a state championship squad.
    "There's really no comparison in our team to those Sumner teams, " warns Harvey. "If anything I'm really disappointed in some of the coaching in the league this year, more than I am in the opposing kids. We shouldn't be beating teams this badly."
    The list of Career Academy victims include PHL foes such as ROTC 78-0,  Roosevelt  58-0,   Northwest 47-0, Soldan 44-0 and even Carnahan early in the season before it got hot 37-0. But Harvey may not be given his team enough credit for its dominance, considering that Northwest (6-5) and Soldan (6-5) actually finished with winning records, Carnahan's still alive and the Phoenix also trounced non-conference foes Cahokia 37-13 in the regular season and Lutheran South 57-3 recently in the playoffs.  Like the offense, the Phoenix had to replace a topnotch player, in fact, probably the most productive player in the PHL the last two seasons in middle linebacker Gabriel "Ox" Loyd, who had over 120 solo tackles last season.
    This season the shut-down Phoenix defenders have included Karon Thomas (111 total stops, counting solos and assists), Valentino Armendaiz (106 total), Darriell Collins (98 total), Ra-Sheen Bolden (87 total) and Travis Riley (seven interceptions, 60 total stops and three touchdowns off picks). Offensively they boast two big-play receivers in Javon Collard (13 recptions for 457 yards,a whopping 35.2 yards per catch average, and eight touchdowns) and Mark Frazier (16 for 393 and six touchdowns). Meanwhile the efficient line features center Keoshawn Barnes(5-8, 222), Daryl Brown(5-11,170), Kevin Knox(6-2,250) Vincent Kinzey(5-10, 340) and Terrance Sennie (6-2,250).
   "We have all new kids on the offensive line, so we are encouraged by their commitment to playing together and putting in the needed work. I like this team because it's tough and smart, plus I'm the only (varsity) coach  they've had in high school."

http://www.stlsports.com/photos/highschoolsports/131114cole1.jpg

Career Academy's terrific trio of defensive end Ra-Sheen Bolden (16), running back Marquis Stewart (2) and quarterback Jaylen James (11) have sparked the Phoenix to a 10-0 record and the Public High League title (Photo submission by Chris Cooper)


     Meanwhile the surging Carnahan Cougars are drawing rave reviews as they run roughshod over foes after enduring a two-year losing streak in 2008 and 2009 when the South Side program just started varsity football.
    "It's been a collective effort of the players, the coaches, the administration and the families," said Cougars head coach Lee Scott, following his club's 36-12 conquest of the Gateway Jaguars in the regular season finale recently. "I wish I had an easy answer for the success."
    No offense to Coach Hale's modesty, but the offensive playmaking ability of senior quarterback Dontrelle Busby has been a major starting point, though.Busby has passed  for 1,334 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 857 yards and 14 touchdowns, not bad for a first-year signal caller converted from slot receiver.
  "It ( the successful conversion) didn't surprise me because he's a great athlete and that's why we chose him to run the offense," said Cougars offensive coordinator Darren B. Hale. "While I wouldn't necessarily label him a true quarterback, he's an all-around athlete capable of operating a multi-option offense such as ours."
     But for good measure, Busby is also a load to deal with as a defensive back, as evidenced by a 95-yard interception return for a score he had in a recent 62-20 blowout of the Northwest Academy Hornets in the playoffs. However, he is one of several weapons for the soaring Cougars. Linebacker Chavez Hines (121 solo tackles, four sacks, two fumble recoveries and two picks), Curtis Phillips (96 total  tackles, five picks) and Isaiah Wright (80 total stops, five sacks, three fumble recoveries) have been right there with Busby (70 total stops, four picks).
    "It feels nice to know that hard work really pays off," said Hines. "That extra summer training, the extra wind sprints after practice that has finally paid off. A lot of people doubted us at first."


 

MIKE HUSS

stlsports.com
Live from St. Louis--It's Saturday Night


regular guest:
WDBX-FM Sunday Sports Review

Huss


email Mike
here

 


Late-August Cardinals Talk...
posted August 23

Barring something highly unforeseen, the St. Louis Cardinals will qualify for the 2013 National League Post-Season Playoffs. Given that, it should be another Red October in the Gateway City (meaning more bucks for retailers selling that overpriced 2013 playoff stuff in our town).

As the school kids return to classes for their 2013-2014 term there are only six teams in the fifteen-team Senior Circuit having winning records. Thanks to Commissioner Bud Selig’s expanded playoff scheme that debuted last October, there will again be two Wild Card teams qualifying for post-season play in each League. They’ll meet in a winner-take-all play-in game.  

And being a Division-winner tops a Wild Card team. Just ask those folks in Atlanta or Texas.

Thanks to a strong first half, St. Louis is solidly positioned to qualify. On the morning of August 23, the Cardinals find themselves in second place in the National League Central Division: one game behind Division leading Pittsburgh and 1 ½ games ahead of third place Cincinnati. At this writing the Red Birds are twenty-one games over .500 with a record of 74-53.

Yet it’s not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows regarding our local heroes. To say the Home Team has cooled off would be a bit of an understatement. Since the All Star break, the Cardinals are 16-17. But it’s concerning when you drill down on these numbers as during this span the Red Birds have played teams from the National League’s high-rent district (Atlanta, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh & Cincinnati): mostly losing. To make thing more intriguing, St. Louis has just started a stretch of games where they will play the Braves, Reds and Pirates over the next two weeks

But the real only threat, the sixth NL team boasting a winning record, is Arizona. Right now, the Diamondbacks are 7 ½ games behind the Reds for the final NL Wild Card spot and 8 ½ games behind St. Louis with only thirty-five regular season games remaining.  

So yeah, barring something highly unforeseen, the St. Louis Cardinals will qualify for the 2013 Major League Baseball Playoffs.

But what will this team look like once October does arrive? While the MLB infomercials constantly remind us that you cannot script October, you also can’t hide your lying eyes.

And in the St. Louis the major question surrounds the starting pitching. Assuming the current pace continues, how effective will their starters be? In the thirty-three games since the All Star break, only twice has a Red Bird starter pitched at eight innings. In six games during that stretch, Cardinal starters completed seven innings. Since the All Star break, (excluding the 8/7/13 game where Shelby Miller left the game with an injury after one batter), the average innings pitched by St. Louis starting pitching is 6.0 innings. Here is the breakdown for the number-geeks to enjoy:

 

Date        SIP*   SP**         Date        SIP*   SP**

08/22/13    6.0    Kelly        08/02/13    5.0    Westbrook
08/21/13    4.2    Westbrook    08/01/13    5.0    Miller
08/20/13    6.0    Lynn         07/31/13    6.0    Kelly
08/19/13    5.1    Miller       07/30/13    7.0    Wainwright
08/18/13    7.0    Wainwright   07/30/13    6.0    Lyons
08/17/13    6.0    Kelly        07/29/13    6.0    Lynn
08/16/13    6.2    Westbrook    07/28/13    5.0    Westbrook
08/15/13    5.1    Lynn         07/27/13    5.2    Miller
08/14/13    6.0    Miller       07/26/13    6.1    Kelly
08/13/13    7.0    Wainwright   07/25/13    7.0    Wainwright
08/11/13    5.1    Kelly        07/24/13    7.0    Lynn
08/10/13    5.0    Wacha        07/23/13    7.0    Westbrook
08/09/13    6.2    Lynn         07/21/13    6.0    Miller
08/08/13    4.2    Martinez     07/20/13    8.0    Wainwright
08/06/13    5.1    Kelly        07/19/13    5.0    Lynn
08/05/13    7.0    Wainwright   07/18/13    6.1    Westbrook
08/04/13    8.0    Lynn               

SIP*: innings pitched by starter
SP**: starting pitcher

 

And to summarize a bit further (again, based on numbers after the All Star break):

 

Starter    Avg Inngs/start    # of Starts
Kelly             5.7              6
Lynn              6.2              7
Lyons             6.0              1
Martinez          4.2              1
Miller            5.5              5
Wacha             5.0              1
Wainwright        7.2              6
Westbrook         5.6              6

 

Obviously the fewer innings the starters compile, the more innings the bullpen needs to pitch. With starter Jake Westbrook now on the Disabled list with back stiffness, closer Edward Mujica indicating stiffness and fatigue and staff ace Adam Wainwright throwing more pitches than any other NL hurler, these are legitimate concerns. But are the Cardinals alone in this concern?

At this writing, St. Louis is tied with the Dodgers for most NL team complete games (6). To compare and contrast, Cincinnati has four, Pittsburgh 3 and Atlanta 1 team complete games, respectively. BTW: the NL team average is 3 complete games as of 8/23/13.

Also at this writing, St. Louis is in the NL with 69 quality starts (when a starting pitcher goes at least six innings while allowing three or fewer runs).  To compare and contrast, Cincinnati has 77, Pittsburgh 63, Los Angeles 72 and Atlanta 8 team quality starts, respectively. BTW: the NL team average is 68 quality starts as of 8/23/13.

So the Cardinals are not alone. Still, the question remains the same: what will the team look like once October does arrive? And that leads to a follow-up observation: we’ll see soon just how good that “young pitching-rich talent” the local media has been boasting about really is.

From now until September 8, the Red Birds will play NL playoff contenders. From September 9 until the end of the season, they will play opponents that currently have losing records. Said another way, if St. Louis can weather these next two weeks, the schedule should be in their favor for the stretch. In MLB’s brave new world, winning the division trumps a play-in Wild Card game: especially for a team that boasted the best record in the game for most of the season.

Barring something highly unforeseen, the St. Louis Cardinals will qualify for the 2013 National League Post-Season Playoffs. Will they be Divisional Champs or a Wild Card team? Stay tuned

It will likely come down to the pitching: again. And the follow-up question remains the same:

Just what will the team’s pitching look like once October arrives?

 

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.


posted November 1

Serves at the Pleasure...Tick-Tock. Tick-Tock.

'Serves at the pleasure' is an interesting phrase and is often applied to the Attorney General of the United States (who serves at the pleasure of the President).  'Serves at the pleasure' also applies to a number of jobs in sports.

In essence, 'serves at the pleasure' means 'don't get too comfy, Big Boy'.

Among the many jobs in sports that 'serve as the pleasure' applies to...is hitting coach for any of the thirty major league baseball teams.

In fact, with few exceptions, most baseball coaches (hitting, pitching, bullpen etc.) at the major league level generally sign one-year contracts and are evaluated at the end of each and every season.

In other words, MLB coaches 'serve at the pleasure' of their managers and general managers...in part because the supply of men qualified to be major league coaches far outstrips the demand for their services.

In addition, many MLB coaches crave all that is professional baseball, and genuinely enjoy plying their trade at the major league level, so much so that some of them would work in the big leagues without asking for any financial compensation.

The position of hitting coach is among the most tenuous of all MLB coaching jobs. Since the Joe Torre-as-manager era in St. Louis (just over two decades), men serving as Cardinals' hitting coaches have included Don Baylor, Chris Chambliss, George Hendrick, Dave Parker, Mike Easler, Mitchell Page, Hal McRae, and, for the 2010, 2011, and 2012 seasons, Mark McGwire.

In other words, after three years or so, the average Cardinals' hitting coach finds a new stadium and a new batting cage to call home.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

In his three years as the Cards' hitting coach, Mark McGwire has generally earned high praise from baseball insiders. McGwire and his family make their primary residence in Orange County, California...a short drive from 'Angel Stadium of Anaheim' (the home stadium of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and former Cards' slugger Albert Pujols) and a longer drive (about fifty miles) from Dodger Stadium.

Early in Pujols' first season with the Angels, hitting coach Mickey Hatcher (thirteen years experience) was fired. Long-time Angels' minor-league hitting coach Jim Eppard was hired to replace Hatcher, and early last month (October 2) it was announced that Eppard would return in 2013.

On October 15, it was announced that the Dodgers fired their hitting coach. As this is written (November 1), they have not named a replacement.

McGwire, in his first two seasons as hitting coach in St. Louis (2010 and 2011) essentially served at the pleasure of Tony La Russa, his favorite manager as a player.

It was La Russa who championed McGwire's return to organized baseball after an absence that was likely due to a combination of family responsibilities (three sons, two born in the early 2000's) and the stigma associated with his involvement in baseball's steroids scandal.

Then, early in McGwire's first season as the STL hitting coach, his wife gave birth to triplets.

And at the conclusion of his second season (2011) as hitting coach (by all measures a successful one as his students, including star pupil David Freese, won the World Series), Tony La Russa, the man who, as manager, brought him to St. Louis twice (first, as a player on July 1, 1997 and then as hitting coach prior to the 2010 season) announced his retirement.

To the surprise of some Cardinals' insiders, McGwire was asked to return as the team's primary hitting instructor for the 2012 season. To the surprise of some of those same insiders, McGwire accepted the offer made by GM John Mozeliak, and signed on for a third season.

For the 2012 season, Mike Aldrete (the team's assistant hitting coach in 2011) was promoted to the position of 'bench coach' for new manager Mike Matheny, and three-time Cardinal John Mabry was hired as Aldrete's replacement.

McGwire and Mabry worked well together, and although the team's hitters were, in baseball terminology, 'streaky', as a team they ranked among the National League leaders in most offensive categories.

Mabry is well-liked by his students and possesses a firm but easy-going demeanor. If his hiring for the 2012 season was viewed by GM Mozeliak as insurance in case McGwire were to leave his post, well...you'd have to think Mozeliak would be satisfied.

Meanwhile, on October 25th, Mozeliak announced that Dyar Miller would not return as the team's bullpen coach in 2012.

No announcements were made about the rest of the Cardinals coaching staff.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

 

 

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.





Mike Tackles PEDs


posted January 16

I’ve been to the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum twice. The first time was a baseball-themed summer road trip with a bunch of my buddies in 1986. The second was in the summer of 2000 as a graduation present/trip with my stepson Dan. I’d love to return again and again. 

Going to the Hall is truly a special visit. It’s like going to the Bat Cave because there is only one highway into and out of town. Hidden in the quaint and quiet terrain of upstate New York, the village of Cooperstown provides the perfect setting to reflect and honor the game of Baseball.

While there are many floors and wings of displays, history and memorabilia throughout the Hall, the primary focus is the Gallery on the first floor. This is where the plaques of the Hall of Famers are hung. With its high ceilings, marble floors and columns, you get the feel of a place of honor when you enter the Gallery. Inside I was taken by the reverent silence. It seems those in the room felt it would be highly disrespectful to raise one’s voice. To those who appreciate the game of Baseball, the sleepy village of Cooperstown, New York is hallowed ground.

Last week the Hall of Fame voted in three new members. Greg Maddux was arguably the best pitcher of the early and mid-1990s. A four-time Cy Young award and eighteen-time Gold Glove winner, Maddux won 355 games in his career, posting a 3.16 career earned run average while appearing in thirteen post-seasons. With 305 victories and over 2,600 strikeouts in his twenty-two year career, two-time Cy Young Award winner Tom Glavine was one of the most dominating left-handers of his era. For nineteen seasons, blasting 521 career home runs, a career .301 batting average and a two-time AL Most Valuable player, Frank Thomas was one of the most feared hitters in the American League. There is no question all three in this class of 2014 are each well deserving of the honor.

But today in 2014, because of the big elephant in the room, the excitement of the Hall of Fame announcement is diminished. Because of the big elephant in the room, rather than celebration, there is bitter debate and finger-pointing. Because of the big elephant in the room, more emphasis these days are focused on those not in the Hall rather than those just elected.

And the name of that big elephant is spelled PED.

Performance enhancing drugs, or steroids if you prefer, have entered into and at times overshadowed the Hall of Fame debate. While the exploits of Maddux, Glavine and Thomas are celebrated, the achievements of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmiero are argued. To add even more spice, the traveling reality show known as Alex Rodriguez continues to spawn: most recently on the national stage of the highly-respected news show 60 Minutes with the anchor of the CBS Evening News as the lead questioner.

No one in the baseball history has hit more career home runs than Bonds. Only two pitchers in the game’s history have struck out more than the 4,672 batters Clemens fanned in his career. McGwire and Sosa each have hit more than 575 career home runs. Palmeiro hit 569 career home runs while accumulating 3,020 career hits. At this writing, Rodriquez has hit 654 career home runs and 2,939 career hits. Back in the day, these accomplishments provided practically automatic and immediate entry into Cooperstown. But today the big elephant is present.

But none of them are in. Right or wrong, confirmed or rumored, verified or suspected, Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro and Rodriguez have been linked to performance enhancing drugs. As such, the self-proclaimed arbitrators of virtue, the voters in the Baseball Writers Association of America, have to pick up the pieces and make sense of all of this. To date, those voters have decided that despite all their lofty numbers and despite all but A-Rod were never suspended & are considered in good standing, those players do not deserve entry into the Hall.

Meanwhile, as seen with the blowback from Rodriguez’ 60 Minutes segment, the Lords of Baseball are piling on to prove a point. They are shocked—they say, shocked.

Unfortunately, if the Lords are not responsible for this mess, at minimum, they are enablers.

Let’s go back twenty years. In August 1994, a player’s strike regarding the league’s collective bargaining agreement shut the game down. Ultimately, this action did something Adolf Hitler could not do: cancel the World Series. In the following months, both sides sniped at each other with no agreement in sight. In the spring of 1995, then-New York Judge now Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a temporary injunction to in essence end the strike. With the ruling the game was back. But the fans weren’t. It seems the betrayed ticket-buying baseball public found other things to do and other outlets to spend their money on as the strike lingered.

Baseball was in a bad place. Enter the great home run chase of 1998. McGwire and Sosa went head-to-head in pursuit of the most revered record in sport: Roger Maris’ single-season home run mark. The World Wide Leader of Cable Sports Broadcasting beamed their long flies from sea to shining sea. McGwire and Sosa’s faces were displayed on national sport & non-sport publications. Fans came in droves to watch these guys hit a baseball. Visiting stadiums would sell out when the McGwire or Sosa show came to town. In 1998, the Cardinals finished in third place in the NL Central with a record of 83-79: nineteen games out of first place. Still, over three million fans paraded through the Busch Stadium II turnstiles that season, primarily and specifically to watch Mark McGwire hit long flies while spending money along the way.

In a May 26, 2009 piece, Richard Sandomir of the New York Times wrote: “The players strike wiped out the playoffs and the World Series in 1994. It wounded the sport so deeply that baseball needed the record endurance of Cal Ripken, Jr. and the home runs of Mark McGwire & Sammy Sosa, whose slugging is now retroactively tainted, to recover its equilibrium and popularity”.

I remember two things vividly covering those 1998 games: 1) the incredibly long lines of people at the gates waiting to get in to witness Mc Gwire take batting practice, and 2) the mass exodus late in ballgames once the slugger took his final swings of the night: regardless of the score.

To baseball purists, the home run chase was a side show. But that side show lured fans and their wallets back to the ball parks. Fast forward to 2014, since 1998, sixteen of the thirty MLB franchises have constructed new stadiums. Teams are getting even richer with lucrative local cable television deals. In 2012 and in 2013, twenty-three teams drew over 2 million fans at home and nine of those twenty –three franchises drew over 3 million fans at home during those two seasons. It’s safe to say that financially, Major League Baseball has likely never been stronger.
And this upswing can be directly correlated to the McGwire/Sosa home run chase: a benchmark that would be eclipsed by Bonds a few years later. Now, all three are considered the poster boys of a dark era. Meanwhile, the owners became enormously richer while criticizing the culprits.

Is there hypocrisy here? As that news channel might say, we report, you decide.

In 2005, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig was grilled, slapped around and shamed by a Congressional Committee led by Senator John McCain over performance enhancing drugs and the game of baseball. Many of the game’s superstars testified, stuttered, cried and even forgot how to speak English. The Lords then changed their tunes. But the money kept rolling in.

It’s ironic: while McGwire, Sosa and Bonds’ exploits jump-started the game, their chances for admission into the Hall are dwindling. Meanwhile, Selig who oversaw and arguably turned a blind eye to the PED environment within baseball during the late 1990s/early 2000s will likely be welcomed into the Hall on the first ballot.

In the baseball-themed musical Damn Yankees, lead character Joe Hardy made a deal with the devil for success and riches. You can decide if the stage mirrors reality. When it comes to the Hall of Fame and the PED era, you would think Baseball shouldn’t have it both ways. 

Yet, the Lords, their ambassadors and the players likely feel they can—because they can.

Yep, it would be fun to return to Cooperstown again: particularly this summer when Maddux, Glavine, Thomas and former managers Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox are inducted. And while it would be worth the trip:

The place will likely just not look the same.


posted December 1

Random thoughts & observations as we pause to reflect on what we are truly thankful for: and it won’t be found on a diamond, field, court or rink

 

 

Johnny Football and Brent Musburger will be coming to Columbia, Missouri for a Saturday night prime-time extravaganza. Yeah, it indeed must be a big game.

Speaking of Ol’ Mizzou, they just have to be busting their buttons with pride over the recent press stories about that fun bunch of future alumni known as the Antlers.

Suggestion to Shane Robinson: rent, don’t buy your St. Louis summer residence.

Isn’t this the same Gary Pinkel that last year was supposed to be run out of town on a rail?

AND FINALLY FROM THE “THANKSGIVINGS PAST” BUREAU: In the mid-1970’s for some reason, that rich & arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League decided to play two Thanksgiving day games in St. Louis. In 1974, the then-St. Louis Football Cardinals would host Miami and in 1975, Buffalo would come to town. In the first game, many fans fled Busch Stadium II at halftime as Bob Greise and the Dolphins blew out the Big Red. The following year was more memorable as on the night before, a heavy snowfall blanketed the Gateway City. For some reason the football Cardinals and Stadium Management chose not to clear the snow from the aisles and walkways. So as fans arrived they cleared snow from their seats while plopping their feet in wet slush. Once again the Cardinals laid an egg and were losing significantly. Midway through the second half, fans were getting bored and were looking for some amusement. To that end, some highly-intoxicated patron fired a snowball from the upper deck in the general direction of the Cardinal bench to voice his displeasure of the action on the field. Unfortunately, the hurled snowball did not make it to the field. It hit an equally highly-intoxicated patron in the field box. Naturally, that fan retaliated and before you can say “I’ll take another drumstick, please”, the biggest snowball fight Gateway City history was unfolding to a national audience while the football game continued on the field. After that event, the League scheduled future Thanksgiving Day games in Dallas.





 


posted August 28

Random thoughts & observations as the Gateway City and the heat and humidity reintroduce themselves days before Labor Day


St. Louis Post-Dispatch Hockey Writer Jeremy Rutherford writes, “If St. Louis Blues fans want to attend the club’s three 2013-14 meetings against Chicago or Detroit, or even the season opener Oct. 3, they must purchase a larger ticket package. For fans who aren’t already Blues’ season-ticket holders, to see the Blackhawks on Oct. 9 or Dec. 28, or the Red Wings on Apr. 13, they will need to buy one of the following: full-season tickets, half-season tickets, a 12-game plan or a hat-trick (three-game) plan. A perk for season-ticket holders, which is part of the club’s plan, is allowing them to buy additional tickets for those specific single games.   The club, which currently has about an 80 percent renewal rate on season tickets from last season, is counting on the new policy increasing its sale of season tickets. “We’re hoping that, for sure,” Team President Bruce Affleck said.” Really? So that’s the spin, eh? It should be noted the Chicago Black Hawks have a waiting list of 11,000 for season tickets. In Detroit, Red Wing tickets are tough to find. So this bureau offers this silly yet simple suggestion. Perhaps the Blues should set their sights of not being knocked out in the first or second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The ripple effect of that on the ice success should eventually “get the red out”.

Speaking of our ice heroes, in light of last year’s work stoppage, inquiring minds wonder just how many members of the St. Louis Blues and/or members of the National Hockey League Players Association will be participating in this year’s Labor Day parade.

It’s time to play “fun with numbers”: as of morning of 8/26/13, the Cardinals are 57-8 when outhit opponents, they are 21-28 in games when they commit at least one error and the Red Birds are 64-12 when score more than three runs

Has it really been 36 years ago when Lou Brock stole his career 893rd base, breaking Ty Cobb's MLB career record, on August 29, 1977 in the 7th inning against the Padres in San Diego?

AND FINALLY FROM THE “YOU CAN’T BEAT FUN AT THE OL’ BALL PARK” BUREAU: The Miami Marlins’ poor win/loss records means the front office has to come up with creative ideas to put butts in the seats. To that end, we present “Legends of Wrestling Night at Marlins Park”. Fox Sports Florida picks up the story from here. “Saturday's game between the Marlins and Rockies started off with a ceremonial first pitch. There’s nothing out of the ordinary about that.  But then, former wrestling superstar Goldberg, who was the one to unleash that first throw, turned the evening on its head when he delivered his signature move to a man wearing a Rockies hat and a purple shirt. The wrestlers also sang during the 7th inning stretch. And there was the heel turn during the Sea Creature Race that left Julio the Octopus worse for the wear.”


mike@stlsports.com


posted April 28

Random thoughts & questions as the Stanley Cup playoffs begin and Cinco de Mayo will start five days later

Once again I am rolling my eyes listening to local hockey fans and media bloviate on the Blues securing the 4th place in the Conference for home ice advantage in Round One. Forgive my skepticism, but didn’t the Blues have home ice advantage for Rounds 1 & 2 last season?

In this bureau’s opinion, Rick Horton teamed with John Rooney is absolutely excellent radio and a first class broadcast. Also, in this bureau’s opinion, Jim Edmonds has been a refreshing addition to the apologists of Fox Sports Midwest. It is especially refreshing that to some of the FSM regulars seem not very comfortable with Jimmy Baseball on the set.

Should the Detroit Red Wings make the NHL playoffs, all of the original six of the NHL teams will qualify for the playoffs.

It’s amazing how much influence the World Wide Leader in Cable Sports Programming has? Case in point: during Thursday’s broadcast of that rich & arrogant cartel better known as the National Football League’s draft of college players, teams “on the clock” held off their announcement until the ESPN commercials have finished airing.

AND FINALLY FROM THE “OLD FRIENDS IN DIFFERENT PLACES” BUREAU: With the end of April approaching, it might be fun to check in with a few of our former heroes. On the morning of the final Saturday of April, Kyle Lohse is 1-1 with a 2.52 earned run average in 25 innings pitched. Meanwhile, Lance Berkman is batting .333 in 80 plate appearances with 2 home runs and 15 runs batted in.

Mike's at:

mike@stlsports.com


 

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.