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Pretty good day

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff July 31, 2008 06:11 AM

Here's how sick I am. July 31 is a very important day on my calendar.

On this date, 54 years ago, Joe Adcock of the Milwaukee Braves had a signature day in baseball history. The slugging first baseman had four home runs and a double, that, according to all accounts, came within a foot and a half of going over the fence. That gave him a then record 18 total bases in one game, a mark that stood for 48 years, or until the Dodgers' Shawn Green had four homers, a double and a single in a game at Miller Park against the Brewers.

Adcock was a powerful, slow-footed masher who played 10 of his 17 big league seasons for the Milwaukee Braves. He was a big part of a powerful batting order that also featured Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews. He slugged over .500 eight times, finishing with 336 homers and 1,122 runs batted in.

The other thing I recall about Joe Adcock was his home town: Coushatta, Louisiana. Coushatta, Lousiana. That sounded very cool to an 8-year-old living in Trenton, New Jersey. Adcock's baseball card always told us that his favorite offseason pursuit was hunting. I didn't know from hunting. And when he retired, he did so on his farm in Coushatta, where he raised horses until he passed away at age 71 in 1999.

I just always loved the idea of four homers and a double that almost was a fifth homer, and that July 31 date always stuck in my mind. I find it fascinating, and oh-so-typical of baseball, that Adcock had his big day wearing a Milwaukee uniform in Ebbets Field against the Dodgers, while Green had his in a Dodger uniform playing against Milwaukee.

Adcock's total base record lasted 48 years. Green's might last until the Cubs win the World Series or Manny stops being Manny, whichever comes first.

No-Nos

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff July 30, 2008 10:35 AM

07302008lackey600.jpg
John Lackey unleashes the pitch that Dustin Pedroia bounced into left field with one out in the ninth inning to end the no-hit bid. (Jim Rogash / Getty Images)

Welcome to the Pity Party.

You're damn right I was rooting for John Lackey to get the No-No on Tuesday night. I was there. I mean, it's not as if the Red Sox were losing 1-0 or 2-0. They were down 6-0, going nowhere, so pardon me if I was rooting, and rooting hard, to see the first no-hit, no-run game of any description since a Lawrenceville School kid named Pete Thurston threw one in 1964. I call 44 years a sufficient enough wait.

Yes, I have covered a no-hit game. But it wasn't a no-run game. I was in Anaheim on the September night in 1986 when White Sox right hander Joe Cowley threw an ugly No, but no No-No, against the Angels. He walked seven, for God's sake, and gave up a run.

After the game, Chicago Tribune writer Ed Sherman and I were back at the hotel having a beer. We spied Cowley at the other side of the bar, drinking alone. We sent him a beer.

That, believe it or not, was the last of Cowley's 33 major league victories. He was picked up by the Phillies, but he contracted Blass Disease (the inability to throw strikes) the following spring and was let go after an 0-4 start that featured 17 walks and 2 Ks. I'm tellin' ya', no other sport can match baseball for weird stuff like this.

So I still need a No-No

Nope, sorry, I didn't see Hideo Nomo's, Derek Lowe's, Clay Buchholz' or Jon Lester's. I didn't see Dave Morehead's, either (although I remember reading about it in the early edition of the old Record-American I purchased at Cleveland Circle), and I had yet to set foot in Boston when Jim Bunning threw the last visiting pitcher No-No in Fenway back in 1958.

I was out of town for both Lowe and Buchholz. I don't know what the hell I was doing the night Nomo went No-No (so I cannot join in the chorus hooting down poor Don Orsillo for not being sufficiently giddy) and I was home in an on-and-off mode the night Lester threw his. That is to say, I watched the early portion of the game (including Ellsbury's great catch), but then switched to something else (playoff basketball, I'm guessing). Anyway, TV doesn't count.

Is one No-No too much to ask for a good baseball fan who has 32 years worth of no No-No scorebooks in his possession? As a writer, the closest I came was a one-hitter the irascible Doyle Alexander threw against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium. Rick Burleson broke it up with a leadoff single in the ninth, as I recall. I got into the eighth inning one day with Roger Clemens in Cleveland, but Dave Clark ended that one.

As a spectator, count me among the assembled on Labor Day in 2001 when Mike Mussina came within an out of a perfect game in that enthralling duel with David Cone. You know I was rooting for Mussina, especially when that psychopath came up to bat with two away in the ninth. I can't even mention his name.

(Editor's note: We'll say it for Bob, it was Carl Everett.)

Other than these few major league flirtations, the closest I came to seeing a No-No was in 1972. I was working on a book about minor league baseball, and I arrived in Appleton, Wisc. just in time to catch the second game of a twi-nighter. As I walked through the turnstiles, the guy said, "Too bad, son, you just missed a no-hitter." Turns out a kid named Wayne McCauley had indeed thrown a seven-inning No-No. But I think I'd still need the itch scratched by a true nine-inning No-No.

I will say this. I saw a few lunkheads leave in the sixth or so, but very, very few people left Fenway after that. I guess the difference between me and most of them was that they were rooting for someone to break it up. I knew the game was a hopeless case; I wanted the No-No.

I ain't apologizing.

Rooting for Cuban

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff July 29, 2008 10:39 AM

If you're a Cubs fan, whom would you like for an owner?

Would you like some bond trader/securities/holding company geek, undoubtedly a boring, rich middle age white guy (or guys), or would you want Mark Cuban, who, it turns out, is currently the high bidder?

Double duh.

No, Mark Cuban has yet to accept a championship trophy from David Stern, but it's not because he hasn't made an honest effort. He has completely energized what was a 99 percent dead franchise, and he has brought a lot of energy to the NBA. He has also been a constant irritant to the commish, and I'm sure there has been a conversation or two between Stern and Bud Selig on that topic.

I don't like everything Cuban does. He is completely obsessed with officiating. He seems to think it is quantifiable and not hopelessly objective. And, of course, he looks good right now in light of the Tim Donaghy situation, which, if nothing else, should remind people just how important referees really are. But I think he hurt his team in the 2006 Finals by creating a distraction concerning the officials his team and coach didn't need.

But on that subject we can agree to disagree. To argue anything other than the fact that Mark Cuban has been a dream owner for the players and fans of the Mavericks would be completely foolish and inaccurate.

Bill Veeck is dead. Baseball needs a stir-the-pot owner as it settles into the 21st century. And, unlike Veeck, Cuban really has serious money. My colleague Nick Cafardo says he doubts Cuban could ever muster the 75 percent approval he'd need from the owners, that there is no way they will allow someone they fear would be a Big Spender into the club.

Worse yet, Mark Cuban would automatically be the smartest kid in the class. That might also bother some of those baseball people, including our own.

Nick is probably right. But there is no doubt who would be the best owner for a very important franchise.

If you just happen to love baseball, you now have a horse in this race. Root for Mark Cuban!

Good company ...

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff July 22, 2008 03:35 PM

You have enough opportunity elsewhere to read about how it all came about, or what people think about the save rule that was given to baseball by the late Jerome Holzman in 1969.

Jerome Holzman, who died on Monday at age 82 from the complications of a stroke, earned a place in sports history few writers will ever know. For better or worse, he did write the current save rule. That ensures a legacy.

What I want to tell you is that I have lost, if not a friend, a solid, lovable acquaintance. Jerry Holzman was good company.

I first met him during the baseball playoffs in 1975 or 1976. What I remember was sharing a ride to the airport and heading to the coffee shop, whereupon Jerry sat down, rubbed his hands together and said, "OK, now let's have some good basketball talk!"

He knew I was covering the Celtics, and it turned out that he loved basketball. He had covered preps, as they call it in most areas of the country, for 11 years while working his way up the ladder, and he had fond memories of the Illinois state high school basketball tournament. He rhapsodized about the Judson Twins, one of whom, he said, once threw a pass off one side of the backboard to his sib, who took the carom on the other side and laid the ball in.

Over the next 20-some years, Jerry always wanted to talk basketball when we met, and I wanted to talk baseball.

The relationship reached its peak when Michael Jordan arrived. Jerry was a major big-time Larry Bird fan, and he absolutely bristled when the folks in Chicago immediately canonized Jordan. "Jordan's a ball hog!" Jerry would declare.

One night I was at the Marriott Hotel bar in downtown Denver when a waiter told me I had a phone call (This was pre-cell phone). It was Jerry, back home in Chicago.

"Do me a favor," he yelled. "Tell this guy here that Jordan couldn't carry Bird's sneakers!"

Now this was deep into the Bulls' championship run. Nothing I was going to say would convince someone from Chicago that anyone was anywhere near as good as Michael Jordan. But was flattering that Jerry Holzman thought I was the man to do it.

But baseball was what Jerry was known for. Again, you can read all about it elsewhere. One of my favorite days ever was the time he invited me to lunch (he lived in Evanston and we drove out to a spot on Lake Michigan). After lunch, he took me back to the house and there I laid eyes on what was perhaps the single most famous private collection of baseball books in the world. He had floor-to-ceiling bookcases everywhere, all filled with books on baseball. I read that a society paid $300,000 for the collection, but who really knows what something like that is truly worth?

We can argue the ins and outs of Jerry's save rule forever, but he should be remembered for something else about which there is no real debate. For Jerry Holzman left us with an indispensable record of both sportswriting and sport itself in the 20th century in the form of a 1974 book entitled "No Cheering In The Press Box."

Jerry had the inspired idea of tracking down 30 elderly, retired sportswriters to get their recollections of the sports and journalistic world they had known. In so doing, readers were transported far back into the early days of the 20th century. It is a timeless work one well worth tracking down via Amazon, or wherever.

It was a life well-lived, even if he did leave us with the three-run, one-inning save. Nobody's perfect, and Jerry never claimed to be. I can tell you trips to Denver have never been the same for me.

Good people gone

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff July 16, 2008 01:54 PM

Some phone calls from old friends are nice. Some are not so nice.

Well, I guess "nice" isn't exactly the issue here. What I'm talking about is unfortunate news.

The bearer of sad tidings in this case was former Boston College basketball coach Bob Zuffelato, who has long been an NBA personnel man. He was calling to report the unfortunate news that one of his BC players was dead of a pulmonary embolism.

Billy Collins was BC's starting center from 1973-74 through 1975-76. He was solid rather than flashy and he remains one of the best rebounders BC ever had. He is eighth in total rebounds and fifth in average among on the all-time BC list. He averaged more than 10 rebounds a game in both his sophomore and junior seasons and just under 10 as a senior.

Billy Collins was a member of the greatest high school crop in Boston basketball history. Along with Ronnie Lee, Bobby Carrington, Will Morrison, King Gaskins and Steve Strother, he was one of the celebrated "Boston Six." There has never been a group like them. The Boston Shootout was created by Ken Hudson for the express purpose of showing off the Boston Six, and they did him proud by winning that first four-team tournament in 1972.

Collins was a Dorchester native who starred for Kevin Mackey at Don Bosco. "One of my all-time favorites," Zuffelato says. 'He was a nice kid."

Collins did the dirty work for Mr. Z's teams, playing on one NIT squad and one NCAA team. Collins had 18 points in BC's first round conquest of Furman in the 1975 NCAA tournament, and he also had 18 in the ensuing loss to Kansas State in the Eastern Regionals in Providence.

Zuffelato had been able to keep in touch with Collins over the years, and so he was among those contacted by Collins' widow when he died last month in Las Vegas, where he'd made a home for some time.

For those of us who remember the Boston Six with great fondness, this is very sad news. Bill Collins was 54.

Now unless you're a New Yorker it's very possible the name of Red Foley has no resonance. He was not a superstar in the newspaper business and he had no national profile.

But Red Foley was very much a part of the baseball experience in New York for more than 40 years. He was a dedicated, no-frills baseball writer for the New York Daily News, and when he retired he continued on as an official scorer for the Yankees and Mets. He was so renowned as a scorer that he worked a record 10 World Series.

A small, dapper man with an astonishing baby face right out of the "Our Gang" comedies, Arthur (Red) Foley was a Runyonesque character whose great abiding passion was baseball. He was a lifelong bachelor who might as well have been betrothed to Mother Baseball. He had a healthy head of well-groomed hair and he was always immaculately dressed, even on a hot summer day. He loved his stogies, too.

He was poifect for the Daily news, churning out endless lively prose that had "tabloid" oozing from every syllable. A fly that produced a run was a "sac fly;" no need to add superfluous letters. The slugging right fielder for the Yanks in the 70s was Reggie Jax. He left the fancy word crafting to others. Red Foley got right to the point.

He was part of a ruling hierarchy of New York baseball writers. Men like Jack Lang, Leonard Koppett, Phil Pepe and, of course, the legendary Dick Young set the tone and the agenda for the dispensing of New York baseball information and criticism in the pre-internet, pre-talk show
world. There would have been no place for a kindly, gentle, uncomplicated man such as Red Foley in the hurly-burly of today's media climate.

Red Foley was a man of his times. He died peacefully at 79, leaving behind nephews, nieces and a lot of fans who'd like to see "Reggie Jax drove home the fifth run on a sac fly" one more time in the Daily News.

Bill Russell. Name sound familiar?

It might not be had it not been for a man named Hal DeJulio, who has passed away from the complications of Alzheimer's at 81 in suburban San Francisco.

DeJulio was a member of the 1949 NIT champion University of San Francisco team coached by Pete Newell. He was merely a role player, but he wound up making lasting contributions to the school and its basketball program. There may have been no more devoted USF alum anywhere.

His greatest contribution was to identify the possibilities inherent in a lanky, unpublicized kid at Oakland's McClymonds High School. The kid's name was Bill Russell. No one else seemed very interested in this prospect, but DeJulio was transfixed, convincing USF coach Phil Woolpert to grant a scholarship to this gawky lad, who had no apparent offensive skills. Of course, he did have a few other things to offer.

"I knew when he [Woolpert] got him in there and saw him run and jump, he'd see he had a man from Mars, something he'd never seen," DeJulio said. "He had incredible timing, speed and he was intelligent right from the start. Russell's the greatest basketball player who's ever lived."

He's surely the greatest team sport winner in American history; that is beyond argument. he won two NCAA championships, an Olympic gold medal and 11 NBA championships in 13 seasons. In 21 winner-take-all games, spanning his collegiate NCAA games, Olympic medal round games, and best-of-5s and best-of-7s in the NBA, Russell was 21-0.

Case closed.

But it's entirely possible none of this would have happened had DeJulio seen and appreciated what Russell could do. He had no name and could easily have fallen between the cracks.

Russell knows. He has never failed to mention Hal De Julio when the subject of his career beginnings is raised.

* * *

Bud Selig got away with one on Tuesday night, but another damaging tie in the All-Star Game is always possible, and, short of 15 or 18-man pitching staffs, I offer the only plausible solution to the problem.

Back to the future; that's all.

You identify a starter who is in a position to go three innings (if he merits them) and then you let him go three. You follow that with a guy for the next two, and then one guys for the sixth and seventh. Now it's the eighth and you've only used three pitchers. None of this one inning stuff, starting with the third. You're sitting there in the eight with seven or eight guys ready to go one, or more. That should get you to the 18th, or even 20th.

You stop worrying about getting everyone into the game. You manage to win.

And you might think about stocking the teams with more starters and fewer closers. Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of glorifying closers at the expense of starters.

Exceptions to the rules

Posted by Chris Forsberg, Boston.com Staff July 2, 2008 11:35 AM

In his Wednesday column, the Globe's Bob Ryan writes that, "In the world of sport, talent is more than an equalizer. Talent is everything." Ryan compares the fates of New England Patriots defensive back Willie Andrews and Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones.

The Patriots released Andrews Tuesday after his second run-in with the law this offseason, while the Cowboys traded for Jones, a participant in a Las Vegas incident in which a bouncer at the Minxx Gentleman's Club was shot and permanently paralyzed from the waist down.

Ryan touches on how this all relates to Manny Ramirez:

No, Manny Ramírez didn't kill anybody, directly or indirectly. He wasn't involved in any activity in which someone was paralyzed, either. This, however, is not cause for celebration.

Manny Ramírez did something that, had it happened in the private business world, might very well have gotten him arrested if someone had been of a mind to press charges. There is no possible excuse for a fit 36-year-old athlete to put his hands on a 64-year-old traveling secretary, much less shove him hard enough to hit the floor. Never mind the idea that Manny had made an impossible request of Jack McCormick. Ramírez's request for 16 last-minute tickets to a sold-out game is laughable. The idea that this foolish request would be the springboard to an assault is disturbing.

How could the Red Sox not suspend Manny for at least one game? First of all, the "risk" in the Big Picture is minimal. There is no more inconsequential sampling in American sport than one Major League Baseball game. Not having a star for one baseball game is statistically irrelevant. It's one game out of 162. You've got so little to lose. Manny went 0 for 3 with a walk and two whiffs Monday night. Some reward for dishonoring yourself.

But that's hardly the point. Manny was not just out of line. Manny was actually indulging in a criminal act. The Red Sox had an obligation to inform the rest of the organization, as well as the rest of baseball, that they will not tolerate criminal acts on the part of anyone, even future first-ballot Hall of Famers such as Manny Ramírez. It is incomprehensible that such smart people as John Henry, Larry Lucchino, and Theo Epstein didn't understand how much they had to gain by taking a stand for honor and decency. There is no more thankless task in baseball than that of the traveling secretary. How can any of the Red Sox brass now look Jack McCormick in the eye?

Only days before, a journeyman pitcher named Shawn Chacon got physical with Houston Astros general manager Ed Wade. Like Willie Andrews, Shawn Chacon was the definition of "expendable." He was released, and deservedly so. There are plenty of Shawn Chacons out there. He has probably thrown his last pitch in the major leagues.

If, for example, Brandon Moss had shoved Jack McCormick to the floor in a silly tiff over tickets, or over anything, you think he'd still be a member of the Boston Red Sox?

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