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“Pain Is Temporary, Pride Is Forever” Says Badgers Star Freshman Guard Brad Davison + First Spring Training 2018 Notes

February 26, 2018

Tags: Brad Davison, Wisconsin-Michigan State Senior Day battle, Columbia basketball, Columbia track and field champions Hardie, Obeng-Akrofi, Sauer, Vasbinder, Mark Feinsand, Houston Astros spring training, loss of star Marlins, Pirates, Rays, and Royals

In a rare under-.500 season for my Wisconsin Badgers, first-year Brad Davison has been a breakout star. He’s playing with a chronically dislocated left shoulder that came out for the fifth time this season in the Sunday February 25 loss to Big Ten champion Michigan State.

I dislocated my left shoulder over 50 years ago while a grad student in Madison so I know all about the excruciating pain. But I was running for a bus - Davison has battled all season the big guys in the very physical Big Ten. He will have surgery after the season but he has toughed it out all season, even playing point guard on a team that lost two key guards, Kobe King and Trayvon Trice, early on to season-ending surgery.

The injured shoulder didn’t stop Davison from scoring a career-high 30 points and contributing mightily though Wisconsin lost a thriller 68-63 loss on Senior Day in Madison. Michigan State is a potential Final Four team and no disgrace to lose to them.

A former high school quarterback in the bordering state of Minnesota, Brad Davison epitomizes the term “gamer”. His motto is: “Pain is temporary, pride is forever.”

Columbia, my other alma mater, is still alive for the Ivy League four-game tournament on the weekend of March 10-11. A tough loss to Yale on Saturday didn't help their situation but they do hold a tie-breaker over Cornell with whom they are tied at 5-7 in league play as they head into the final weekend of the season.

They play at Dartmouth and at Harvard and the latter game will be especially tough. Though the Big Green is in the basement of the league, they are improving and the Lions' 3-point shooting and defense will have to be operating well to win.

Kudos to the track and field Lions who won four individual titles and one women's relay title at the Heptagonal Games at Dartmouth this weekend. 1000-meter runners Sarah Hardie and Alek Sauer repeated as title-winners in their events as did 400-meter runner Akua Obeng-Okrofi. Kenny Vasbinder was a first time winner in the 5000 meters.

Meanwhile, spring training games have started and fans are paying high prices to see minor leaguers play almost all the time. There used to be an unwritten rule that visiting teams bring at least three regulars on road trips. Because it is “unwritten” in an increasingly litigious baseball world, teams nowadays usually bring just one regular if that on the road.

The season of ridiculous quotes is at hand because there is no real game news until the season starts on March 29. My candidate for the dubious quote of the year so far comes from what an anonymous Houston Astros executive told mlb.com's national baseball writer Mark Feinsand: “I wish we could just fast-forward to opening day.”

Hey, man! Spring training should be the most leisurely time of year when the bodies get slowly but surely ready for the long grind of the baseball season. The Astros are also blessed with a new facility in Palm Beach, Fla. that they share with a perennial NL favorite (and usual playoff-disappointment) the Washington Nationals.

I know that injuries are the greatest fear in any spring training but can’t you just enjoy things a little bit? I guess because the Astros will undoubtedly be favored to repeat their World Series appearance, with the Yankees the co-favorites, people in Houston are already getting impatient for the coronation to begin.

I say: Not so fast Houston. THE HARDEST THING IN SPORTS IS TO REPEAT, and I’ll repeat that in lower case: The hardest thing in sports is to repeat as champion. Everyone will be shooting for you and if you have the slightest relapse in intensity the competition will come up and bite you.

It is far too early to make a prediction for 2018 except that certain teams will not be able to compete for a title. This development is very sad - the willful decimation of rosters by the Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Kansas City Royals because ownership wants to cut payroll is not a good augury for the future in those cities.

It is true that there are always surprises in every baseball season because the season is so long that bad teams will inevitably win at least 60 games and good teams lose at least 60. Yet even in the best of circumstances, the surprise teams rarely make or go deep into the playoffs.

The current situation is distressing and there is no easy solution. The current labor agreement has three more years to run and there is no automatic re-opener as far as I know. So my advice to others as well as myself is to enjoy the little moments of development and delight that baseball always brings. On every level of the sport from little league on up.

Heading to the 25th annual NINE baseball magazine conference in Phoenix. Will be participating in a closing panel on “Baseball and the West” with two authors versed in Walter O’Malley, Andy McCue and Jerald Podair, and the able historian of the SF Giants and Horace Stoneham, Rob Garratt.

Will also catch the Brewers-Rockies at the handsome Salt River Fields complex and the Rangers at the A's Ho-Ho-Kam park in Mesa. Back with news on Arizona baseball
next time. In the meantime - Take it easy but take it!



"Troubling Off-Season Trend Continues As Cubs Snag Yu Darvish At Reduced Rate"

February 12, 2018

Tags: Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer, JD Martinez, Scott Boras, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Michael A. Jones "The Black Babe Ruth, " Theater for the New City, Dave Roberts, Daniel Danielson, Perci Prince, Janelle Lester, Ralph Carhart, Phil Ross, Fleet Walker, Rube Foster, Daphne Danielle, Baseball Miracles

I’m not the first person to note that in America 2018 the line between real headlines and satirical “Onion” headlines is very small. The headline in today’s post actually appeared this past weekend on Sports Illustrated’s si.com website.

Yu Darvish, the talented righthander from Japan who is partly of Iranian descent, (more…)

On Miracles in Football and Baseball (updated with report on 50th anniversary of Columbia's 1968 championship cagers)

February 5, 2018

Tags: Ben Shpigel, Doug Pederson, Corey Clement, James White, Nick Foles, Baseball Miracles, John Tumminia, Jose Bautista Jr., Ray Fagnant, Ben Cherington, Bill Kaplan, Newburgh Armory Unity Center, Columbia celebration of 1968 basketball title, Jim McMillian, 2018 Ivy League basketball race

Thanks to an excellent game story on the Super Bowl by New York Times sportswriter Ben Shpigel, I read this morning that victorious Eagles coach Doug Pederson put up a sign this season in the Philadelphia clubhouse:
“An individual can make a difference. A team can make a miracle.”

It was no miracle that the Eagles ruined the Patriots’ attempt at a repeat Super Bowl title. It was some great offensive football led by backup quarterback Nick Foles that did the trick. A huge sack and fumble then cemented the victory late in the fourth quarter. (I wonder if horses born in Philly today will be named Foles' Foals!)

As a U. of Wisconsin graduate, I was pleased that former Badger running back Corey Clement - from south Jersey so playing near home - was a key part of the offense. Glad also that James White, another back developed well at Wisconsin, did his part to almost bring the Patriots back to the winner’s circle.

Early Super Bowl Sunday I was involved with a real miracle by sitting in on a baseball clinic in Newburgh, New York sponsored by Chicago White Sox scout John Tumminia’s Baseball Miracles project. Newburgh is just 65 miles north of NYC with rolling Catskills foothills serving as a lovely backdrop to this Hudson River town.

Talk about giving back! Brooklyn native Tumminia has lived in Newburgh since the end of his playing days as a St. Francis College-Bklyn and minor league outfielder.
His project has sponsored baseball and softball clinics all over the world.

“We strive to reach out especially to the youth who have never the played the game,” the mission statement explains. “At no cost, we provide instruction, gloves, bats, hats, shirts, and memories.”

Baseball Miracles traveled to Argentina late last year and previously put on clinics in Honduras, Kenya, South Africa, and Ireland. Domestically, they have brought the joy of baseball to the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, to underprivileged areas in Kentucky and New Orleans.

An impressive array of baseball scouts and coaches from big league organizations was on hand Super Bowl Sunday morning. Among them was White Sox scout/assistant Bronx Monroe H.S.coach Jose Bautista Jr. whose father pitched in the big leagues and is no relation to the free agent slugger Jose Bautista.

There was a chorus of boos from the youngsters when they thought Jose Jr. was related to the swaggering former Blue Jay slugger. Our Jose is also an assistant coach for the Bronx Monroe H.S. powerhouse team.

Others serving as clinicians yesterday included Alex Agostino of the Phillies, Kyle Bamberger of the Orioles, John Ceprini of the Reds, Ray Fagnant of the Red Sox, Cesar Presbott and Kelly Rodman of the Yankees, and Dennis Sheehan of the Diamondbacks.

I hadn’t seen Fagnant since a high school all-star game at Yankee Stadium several summers ago. In a great show of collegiality Red Sox and Yankee organizations cooperate on bringing national players to a mid-summer clinic that ends with a game at Yankee Stadium.

I attended this game years ago when Arizona high schooler Cody Bellinger, now reigning NL Rookie-of-the-Year, homered into the right field Stadium stands.
Fagnant told me that no one had done that until last year when six were hit, including three by a northern Ohio slugger Northcott now attending Vanderbilt who should be a high draft pick by his junior year.

Before the clinic began, Toronto Blue Jays executive Ben Cherington gave an introductory talk. He reminded the youngsters of three basic facts:

1. Have fun while learning. Afer all, the first three letters in fundamental are fun.
2. Learn how to practice. He recommended going to You Tube and putting in “Derek Jeter Practicing” and “Steph Curry Practicing”.
3. Learn how to be a good teammate even if you have a bad day.

And then the clinic of over two hours began. I’ve been to the long-running winter BeTheBest clinic in Atlantic City and this Baseball Miracle Clinic was run with the same efficiency and elan as the older one for the big boys and college players.

A couple of nine-year-olds really impressed me with their quick bats on wiffle balls soft-tossed by coaches. They also showed good speed around the bases.

One was wearing an Aaron Judge #99 jersey but he said he wasn’t a fan of any team. He just loved to play. Something I love to see!

A huge tip of the cap goes to 91-year-old Newburgh native and philanthroplst Bill Kaplan. A few years ago he funded the conversion of the old Newburgh Armory Unity Center that had been used mainly for storage of antiquated military equipment.

It is now an impressive modern facility. Much of the clinic took place on a field turf playing service that is set up for soccer but can also be used for baseball. There is an adjoining gymnasium, and a dining room.

Every Saturday the Armory Unity Center hosts Enrichment Programs for academics and sports. For more information, call 845-245-4035 or e-mail info@newburgharmory.org

In early August, Baseball Miracles plans a clinic at Yankee Stadium. For more information on this and other Baseball Miracles projects, e-mail: baseballmiracles.org

Before I close, I want to add a word on a celebration the night before the Super Bowl of my undergraduate alma mater Columbia's 1968 Ivy League championship basketball team. They won their only Ivy League title (so far), were nationally ranked finishing 23-5 and playing deep into the NCAA tournament.

All-time great Columbia forward Jim McMillian passed away last year but his widow attended as did two McMillian children. Both played basketball for Wake Forest in the late 1990s, daughter Eron attending the Winston-Salem school at the time of Tim Duncan.

Jim McMillian went on to a solid pro career, He was a starting forward on the great LA Laker team in the early 1970s that won 33 games in the regular season and the NBA title.

Another star on the '68 champs Heyward Dotson attended the Saturday event, but the other bulwark on the '68 team, seven-foot center from Brooklyn Dave Newmark, couldn't make the trip from his home in the SF Bay area.

To make the evening even more celebratory, Columbia completed a weekend sweep by holding off Dartmouth in the second half en route to a 77-74 victory. On Friday night the Lions handed Harvard its first league loss with a stirring come-from-behind 85-78 victory.

In a league where there is now a post-season tournament of the top four teams, Columbia is now 3-3 with four more weekends ahead. The Ivy League is the only league that plays on Fri. and Sat., a grueling test of stamina and talent.

Penn is undefeated, Harvard has only the Columbia loss, Princeton has two losses, but it is wide open for the last spot among Brown, Columbia, Cornell, and Yale. Tough luck winless Dartmouth will not be easy pickings for any of the contenders. All hail a very competitive underrated league.

That’s all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it!

Featured Work

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Story of baseball's reserve system and the men who fought to change it
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