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SPRING TRAINING

Shelley Duncan decides to see what pine tastes like before grabbing a spot on the bench after the Cleveland Indian first baseman struck out looking on March 20 in Goodyear, Ariz., against the Oakland Athletics.

photo by Scott Salisbury

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Countdown Toward History

!! EUREKA !!

With Their 10th Win of the Season on Monday Night, a 90-84 Win Over the San Antonio Spurs, the New Jersey Nets Cannot Go Down in NBA Infamy With the Most Losses in a Single Season.

That Dubious Distinction Still Belongs to the 73 Losses of the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers.

'ANY DAY NOW; news that's bound to break'

'ANY DAY NOW; news that's bound to break'
A Sports Satire Blog By Christopher C. Wuensch

Friday, February 26, 2010

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 All too often, an Olympic hockey team will take on the persona of its country.

The rink rats of the young, on-the-go United States squad can skate laps around their opponents. Team Russia and its staunch defense mirrors its proud, disciplined people.

So the question begs to be asked. Do the players from traditionally neutral Switzerland participate in on-ice donnybrooks, one of hockey’s oldest traditions?

The answer is no. Swiss gloves stay on for all 60 minutes of a game. Admirably, the country’s unbiased attitude instills in their hockey players.

But perhaps the Swiss should consider occasionally, albeit temporarily, letting down their guard on the frozen pond and shouting "en garde."

Since hockey became an Olympic sport in 1920, Switzerland has medaled only two bronzes — the last coming in 1948.

Canada and the Soviet Union — countries that practically invented fighting and bad behavior — by comparison, have claimed two-thirds of the Olympic Game’s 21 gold medals. Great Britain has won more gold medals (1936) than Switzerland.

The true hockey fan will tell you, however, that there’s no fighting on the Olympic level. Same goes for collegiate, minor, most European, and all women’s leagues, where a bare-knuckle scrap or old-fashioned hair-pulling earns combatants an automatic ejection.

When it comes to finding tough-guys in Switzerland, however, they’re not all Swiss Misses.

Just ask Semaden, SUI-native Mark Hardy, who is no Missus — even though his middle name is ‘Lea.'

In 15 seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars and New York Rangers, Hardy spent more time in an NHL sin bin than any other Swiss-born player.

The current Kings assistant coach spent 1,243 minutes of his playing career watching from the bad box, where he idled 1,000-plus minutes more than eight of the next most penalized Swiss-born players to compete in the NHL combined.

The closest Swiss compatriot to Hardy and his 20 hours of penalty time is the New York Islander’s Mark Streit, the captain of the country’s 2010 Olympic squad and owner of a paltry 172 minutes isolated in time out.

Hardy, 51, was mostly muscle. His career 62 goals in 915 games left his resume with a dreary .06 goals-per-game average. In light of his back-of-the-net ineptitude, his place in hockey lore is on solid ice.

For proof, just ask Mike Keane to show you the bruise he surely still has from Hardy. In the 1993 Stanley Cup finals, Hardy leveled the Montreal Canadiens’ right winger with a YouTube-worthy body check that lives on today in search engines under the guise of “Hockey Brawls, Fights and Hits.”

Hardy and Keane, it turns out, are intertwined in international hockey history like a twisted game of six-degrees of Kevin Bacon — if by that you mean the actor with his jersey pulled halfway over his head getting pummeled by six different people at once.

Hardy was raised to salute a flag that resembles the Red Cross symbol, but likely honed his proclivity for doling out pain after relocating to Montreal and becoming a Canadian citizen.

Keane — who like Hardy only played on the World Championship level and not the Olympic stage — put up his dukes in the infamous “Punch-up in Piestany.”

Keane is one of just nine players to win a Stanley Cup with three different franchises. But the Canadian is renowned for dropping his gloves and fighting Russia’s Valeri Zelepukin in the violent, 20-minute, bench-clearing melee at the 1987 World Junior Championships in Czechoslovakia.

If we’re to believe teammate Theoren Fleury, Gare Joyce’s book “When the Lights Went Out,” and Wikipedia, Keane was “fighting like it was for the world title.”

When it comes to fisticuffs, the Swiss prefer their pugilism between the ropes and not the ice. Or at least they used to. You have to go back to 1936 to find the last time Switzerland fielded an Olympic boxing team.

None of the Swiss boxers — four of whom were peculiarly named Walter — failed to win a medal that year. And ever since, Switzerland’s proclivity for pacifism is a legend of its own commendable mettle.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

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THE FLYING ANIMAL

X Games legend Shaun White says his old nickname "The Flying Tomato" has gone rotten. The 23-year old is informing everyone at this week's 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver that he now goes by the moniker "Animal."

You be the judge.

 

Catch White as he goes for a Snowboarding gold medal on Wednesday.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

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PUNXSUTAWNEY ROBIN: SALUTING THE BEST GOPHER BALL PITCHERS OF ALL TIME

Today is Groundhog Day, the glorious time of year when we celebrate the most notorious gopher this side of Caddyshack.

Men such as "Punxsutawney" Phil Norton , who, in one tragic inning on Aug. 8, 2000, joined a litany of infamous gopher ballers to yield a Major League record four home runs in one inning.

Today we rejoice the pitchers who brought inclement weather to the bleachers of ball parks in the form of hailing home runs—many of whom lost their own silhouettes in the shadows created by the likes of Bonds, McGwire and Sosa.

The irony being that Western Pennsylvania’s famous marmot, Punxsutawney Phil , is said to have lived to the ripe old age of 123 by ingesting an “elixir of life — a mysterious “Groundhog Punch.”

So by all accounts, Phil Norton is not fuzzy, nor lives in an underground burrow. In fact, the lefty grew up 1,100 miles south of Punxsutawney in Texarkana, Texas. But his place in baseball history is concrete — that is, until another gopher-ball pitcher coughs up five dingers in a single inning.

When he does, you’ll hear the collective sighs emanating from Norton, a former Chicago Cub and Cincinnati Red, and the other 25 pitchers he shares the dubious mark with.

Among them will be future and current hall-of-famers Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Catfish Hunter.

Those enshrined in Cooperstown certainly aren’t immune from playing the role of the gopher.

Warren Spahn served up 71 more homers than he got wins in his 21 year career. His National League record 434 home runs given up didn’t keep him out of the hall. Perhaps personally slugging 35 homers (third-best all-time for a pitcher) helped Spahn gain access among the game’s greats.

Other notable pitchers going down in gopher lore with Johnson, Smoltz and Catfish include:

Bert Blyleven : His 50 homers given up in 1986 is a single-season record.

Fergie Jenkins : He led the Majors in homers-yielded a record seven times.

Frank Tanana : Allowed 448 career home runs at a clip of one dinger per every six strikeouts, tops all-time in the American League.

As far as legends go, however, no one topped Robin Roberts when it came to doling out free souvenirs to the paying customers in the cheap seats.

Roberts surrendered a Major League-best 505 home runs in his career. Even more remarkable is that the Springfield, Ill., native still managed to carve out a Hall of Fame career behind six 20-win campaigns. He twice struck out more batters in a season than anyone else and made seven all-star squads.

The state of Vermont was so enamored with the pitcher, they officially dubbed July 21 as “Robin Roberts Day.”

Roberts is 83-years old now. There are no reports of a man in a top hat yanking him from a serene slumber this morning to predict the weather.

Had he been so rudely awakened, his prognosis would have been simple to forecast:

Pitchers and catchers report in 16 days.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

ANY DAY NOW news that's bound to break

Sports Satire by Christopher C. Wuensch



 
It turns out notorious hip-hop artists Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls aren’t the only ones creating original music long after their untimely deaths.

Citing the track record of the deposed, coastally-proud rappers, the late Walter Payton has decided to get back into the sports-music industry.

The hall-of-fame running back has announced plans to release a re-mastered version of the Super Bowl Shuffle, a tribute to the sporty anthem put out by Sweetness and his Chicago Bears teammates nearly 25 years ago.

Payton admitted that he found motivation to posthumously release the new song after witnessing the success of still-mortal San Diego Charger running back LaDainian Tomlinson, whose recent music video LT Slide-Electric Glide has become a Web phenomenon.

Payton, who made a name for himself in the Midwest, has yet to announce whether he’ll collaborate with East Coast’s Smalls or West Coast’s Shakur on the project.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

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There’s a familiar cliché in the world of hockey that equates an impenetrable goaltender, a net-minder making seemingly impossible saves, as “standing on his head.”

This, of course, is a cleverly concocted metaphor. No one — not even the most chiseled of modern day athletes — can stand upside-down for 60 minutes. The world record for standing on one’s head is about eight-and-a-half minutes.

New Jersey Devils' Goaltender Martin Brodeur is the exception to the rule that says the human body will lose consciousness after several minutes suspended feet-over-neck.

Standing on his head doesn’t cause black-outs for the 37 year old — it causes his opponents shutouts.

Since breaking into the NHL in 1991, with the Devils, Brodeur has toppled many of the league’s most hallowed goaltending records.

Among the most impressive is the career mark for ice time, breaking Patrick Roy’s record 60,235 minutes. Depending how you look at it, that’s more than 1,000 hours or 42 days or six weeks between the pipes.

There’s plenty of other ways Brodeur could have spent that time, besides equaling the world’s record for standing on one’s head 7,086 times.

For instance:

· He could have watched Berlin Alexanderplatz, the longest movie ever made (931 minutes), a whopping 65 times.

· If he spent those hours in the air, he’d have garnered the requisite 40 air hours it takes to earn a pilot’s license.

· According to www.sixweeks.com he could have sculpted perfect abs.

· If he were a terrorist (to anyone other than opposing teams), the United States government could have held him the legal limit of 42 days before levying charges against him. It’s a good thing Brodeur is on the up-and-up with Uncle Sam. Four days after setting the NHL’s new minutes mark, the goalie officially became a U.S. citizen.

· Brodeur’s new mark is comparable to 25 average work (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) days.

· That same time span, cruelly, is also the average life span of worker bees.

· Instead of logging all that ice time, he could have sat through Placido Domingo’s world record for the longest ovation (101 curtain calls, 80 minutes of applause 101 curtain calls and 80 minutes of applause on June 30, 1991 in Vienna, after singing Otello) a mind- and posterior-numbing 758 times.

· If it takes 200 minutes (at 20 minutes a pound) to cook a 10-pound turkey, Brodeur could have served up a 3,011-pound bird if he put it in the oven his rookie year. He’d be hard-pressed to find a turkey that size. The biggest turkey on record is 86 pounds.

· At a nonstop and steady pace of 60 mph, he’d circumnavigate the Earth 2.5 times instead of fending off slap shots.

· Roger Bannister could have run 20,078 three-minute miles.

· He could have sat through 48 consecutive Jerry Lewis telethons.

· He could have watched all 452 episodes of The Simpsons 4.5 times.

· Brodeur could have switched to football and played every minute of every game in the NFL this season and still have close to 45,000 minutes of free time.

· If he took the ice on Jan. 1 and played his minutes consecutively, he wouldn’t get a break until Feb. 1.

· Predictions are big business in the world of sports. If Brodeur spent his entire career on the phone with Miss Cleo Psychic Hotline ($4.99 per minute) he’d run up a $300,000 phone bill.

· Ghandi could have watched Brodeur’s entire career during both of his 21-day fasts. The Indian spiritual leader likely would have found the nachos at Continental Airlines Arena — the ones that come replete with three puny jalapenos and a thick layer of plastic cheese — rather easy to resist.

· At six weeks, he’d still have two weeks to wait before his Snuggie arrived via standard U.S. mail. And spending that amount of time on the ice requires something warm and fuzzy to wear.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

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Unless you’re playing hockey in Manitoba’s Selkirk Arena — aptly nicknamed “the Barn” — sports and farm animals rarely intertwine.

Manny Pacquiao summoned bovine intervention in the final moments of his Welterweight bout against Oscar de la Hoya last December. As the Fightin’ Filipino rejoiced his victory over the Golden Boy on the Las Vegas canvas, HBO commentator Jim Lampley dubbed Pacquiao as the “bell cow” of his pugilistic generation.

The Bell Cow leaves the barn again tonight when Pacquiao climbs back into the ring for another Welterweight bout; this time versus Miguel Cotto.

Old McDonald gives his pre-fight assessment of Lampley’s Bell Cow:

“Pundits who say that Manny Pacquiao is nothing more than a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” really gets my goat.

There are some folks who tell us — those of us that think the Filipino is the cock of the walk — that we shouldn’t count our chickens before they hatch. They say that ‘even a blind pig finds an acorn every once in a while.’

Hold your horses. His career 49-3-2 record suggests an endless row of lambs being led to the slaughterhouse.

You’ll see tonight that Pacquiao is the best pound-for-pound fighter when he grabs the bull by the horns.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

ANY DAY NOW news that's bound to break

Sports Satire by Christopher C. Wuensch




Months after a November photo revealed a drastic difference in Sammy Sosa’s now-lighter skin tone, the infamous Chicago Cubs slugger admits attempts to “desaparezca fuera de vista.”

Translation: disappear out of sight.

A frail Sosa was a mere shell of his former 6-foot, 220-pound Earth-thundering self when he sat down recently with reporters. Slammin’ Sammy — he of a sixth-best all-time 609 dingers and a U-Haul full of steroid allegations in tow — confessed to recently taking a herbal supplement grown along the shoreline of the Yaque Del Sur river of his native Dominican Republic.

The ground-root herb cocktail Sosa had been ingesting twice weekly was literally causing him to disappear.

A week after the interview, the only thing left of Sosa was a moderate pile of fine powder.

Sosa’s wife Sonya would not address the speculations that the slugger’s ashes were to be stored in either a syringe or a hollowed-out bat.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

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The Associated Press is reporting that — after a mere 85 games — there are cracks in the concrete ramps of the new Yankee Stadium.

That didn’t take long for the young girl to show her crow’s feet. Usually it takes at least a few decades for a stadium to reveal its age.

Take, for example, the Toronto Blue Jays’ Rogers Centre. You probably know it as the Sky Dome. Back in 1989, when it first opened its retractable roof, the Sky Dome was considered a modern-day Coliseum.

A mere two decades later, it’s a lumbering dinosaur of a sports venue — a Toronto-saurus Rex, if you would.

Most people, however, would not.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

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SIX DEGREES OF SOCKS


When I think of summer, I think of baseball ->

One of the greatest summers for baseball was 1961 ->

That summer, Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s record for home runs (61) in a single season ->

Maris & Ruth are legends in
Yankee lore ->

The Bronx Bombers play the Boston Red Sox
this weekend at Fenway Park ->

Which brings me to socks; as of this summer, I’ve gone 61 consecutive days without wearing socks…

Friday, August 14, 2009

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e-MAIL BAG

Sports editors get bizarre e-mails. Many of them leave you scratching your head, wondering: how the heck did I get on their list?

Among the press releases I regularly receive is from a company called FieldTurf. The company proudly boasts itself as the “global market leader in terms of synthetic sports fields with over 3,000 fields installed.”

Installations range from the gridirons at Boston College and Rutgers University to the Twins’ diamond in Minnesota, to name just a few of the major NCAA programs and MLB teams to use FieldTurf surfaces in their house.

On Thursday, FieldTurf - announcing through an e-mailed press release - added 94-year-old Vaught-Hemingway Stadium/Hollingsworth Field, the football home to Ole Miss University, among those to make the switch.

Other programs that have recently switched to FieldTurf this month, according to my e-mail: Indiana State University.

Stay tuned for more...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

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Playing backyard sports is about as American as Red, White and Blue Polo shirts, Barack Obama Chia Pets and Sacagawea coins.

It’s there behind the house, between the shrubs and birdbath, around the tool shed and dangerously close to mom’s flower garden, where dreams are sculpted mostly from creative imaginations.

When Eunice Kennedy Shriver peered out of the curtains to the backyard of her Maryland home, she was also overcome with visages of grandeur.

Granted, her backyard was probably a lot bigger than yours or mine. Her vision certainly was.

It was in that plot where the older sister of John F. Kennedy created Camp Shriver for physically and emotionally challenged children in 1962. Eventually, the camp spawned the Special Olympics. Today, the games boast more than 2.5 million athletes in 180 countries.

Kennedy Shriver passed away earlier this week at the age of 88. Her contributions to the world she left behind are irreplaceable and irrefutable.



This weekend, when you finally decide to trim that lawn, don’t just kick the Frisbee aside seconds before its perilous doom by lawn mower blades. Take a moment to imagine the Wiffleball field or the outline of the end zones which once gave you hope that anything was possible. Eunice Kennedy Shriver once did and, for that, the world outside the backyard is a better place.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

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Jack Wilson, we hardly knew you. Hardly knew you outside of Pittsburgh, that is.

The Bucs shipped Wilson and pitcher Ian Snell to the Seattle Mariners today in exchange for five minor leaguers.

At this point, Pittsburgh Pirate fans are used to the all-too-familiar feeling that comes when your favorite team trades its best player. It’s a painfully numbing sensation on par with getting punched in the pant’s zipper.

Wilson’s four homers and .267 batting average this season wasn’t what made him a fan favorite. It was his Johnny Punch Clock, coal-coughing mentality that fans empathized with.

He may not have much of a stick, but he sure has a glove. Only Honus Wagner, Arky Vaughan and Dick Groat played more games in Pirates’ history at shortstop than Wilson. Since 2001, Wilson’s turned more double plays (832) than anyone in the Major Leagues.

The Mariners get a shortstop who is almost guaranteed to be penciled in to the starting lineup on a daily basis. Only Jimmy Rollins has played in more games this decade.

While covering the Pirates in spring training, Wilson was the popular answer when I asked fans who their favorite player was. Wilson and centerfielder Nate McLouth, who many fans dubbed Nate “The Great.” Months later, Pittsburgh traded McLouth to the Atlanta Braves. You can almost hear the collective sighs settling over Steel City like another layer of depressed smog.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

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SOMETHING
TO OINK
ABOUT

It appears a blood culture is going to send Vicente Padilla weezing his way into baseball infamy.

The Texas Ranger right-hander is not going down for steroids. Rather, he’s the first Major Leaguer diagnosed with the H1N1 virus — AKA the dreaded “Swine Flu.”

The 31-year old won’t be the last ball player to contract the infection that’s affected close to 400 people worldwide. After all, locker rooms are breeding grounds for all sorts of fungus, fuzz and algae.

Case in point, the influences of influenza led to the postponement of a Pacific Coast League game Friday night in Utah between the Portland Beavers and Salt Lake Bees.

We won’t have to wait until pigs fly before another big leaguer takes ill of swine flu.

So, how exactly did Padilla attract the nasty, pig-dubbed bugs?

Even if he traveled to his hometown of Chinandega over the All-Star break — a 4.67 ERA rarely gets you the fan’s nod — the likelihood of him contracting the virus was as slim as a bearded pig, a swine traditionally known for its svelte figure. Only 26 cases were reported in Nicaragua through early June.

Operating on the assumption that Vicente didn’t hop a Padilla Flotilla out of the country, let’s retrace some of his steps using baseball lineage and history to find out where he may have acquired the virus that’s left him not quite feeling like a pig in…well, you know.

Consider this swine search a Six-Degrees of Kevin Bacon, if you would.

Here we go:

Vicente Padilla pitched 19 games in his professional career for the Phillies’ Scranton/Wilkes Barre Triple-A affiliate.

Pitching for the Red Barons (1st degree), Padilla was impressive, accruing a porky 8-0 record.

Of course, Scranton/Wilkes Barre is no longer home to the Red Barons, nor are they even linked to the Philadelphia. Phillies farm hands one step away from the show now play their home games in Allentown, Pa., as members of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. We have our first swine link.

The IronPigs (2nd) are the Triple-A farm team of the aforementioned Phillies (3rd); a ball club raised in a city largely designed by famed architect and native son Edmund Bacon.

In a cosmic twist, Edmund not only sired much of the city’s modern-day infrastructure, but also actor Kevin Bacon.

That sensation rippling down your neck to your arms right now aren’t goose bumps; they’re hog pumps. In football, they call that ‘pig skin.’

We’re already pretty far from where we started, but there’s no ignoring the swine theme. Just wait.

Edmund Bacon (4th) is the namesake of Eddie Bacon. Irony or coincidence isn’t lost on Eddie, a native of Frankfort, Kent.

Eddie is the only player in Major League Baseball history with the last name of Bacon. That’s a relatively low ratio considering there are 26 (the same number as Nicaraguan swine flu cases) Eddie Bacons on Facebook alone.

Bacon (5th) took the mound once as a member of, none other than, the Philadelphia Athletics. On Aug. 13, 1917, he gave up 7 walks and struck out none in six innings of work.

If Bacon is still alive today, he’s 114 years old and probably not hiding out in Bacone, Okla., or sending a grandson to Colchester, Conn.’s, Bacon Academy.

The chances are even better that Bacon hasn’t recently hung out, hacking and wheezing, with the Texas Rangers’ pitching staff and doled out cases of swine flu.

But it does bring us back to Padilla. And although we haven’t successfully proved a link between the pitcher and swine flu, we have traced a line in time of sickly pitching.
Padilla’s and Bacon’s careers intersect at the nexus of mediocrity — proof that marginal pitching discriminates against no era.

And that’s something to oink about.

Friday, July 24, 2009

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'O BROTHER...


Surely as kids, Chris and Shelley Duncan had their dust-ups between one another. What brothers haven’t?

Some of the best rivalries in all of sports are brotherly — think Peyton and Eli (Manning) or Ronde and Tiki (Barber).

Brotherly love took on a new twist in the Duncan household in Oro Valley, Ariz. when the Boston Red Sox traded for younger brother Chris on Wednesday.

The trade lands Chris, 28, in the belly of one of the most storied rivalries in the history sports in the Red Sox Yankees. Shelley, 29, plays for the New York Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

Shelley’s already bore the wrath of the rivalry. In 2007, he allegedly John Hancocked a ball for a 10-year-old Red Sox fan adorned with the phrase “Red Sox Suck!” He later apologized.

As for the brother rivalry? Chris has gotten the edge over his older brother, hitting 55 career dingers to Shelley’s 8. Chris, a former Cardinal, is also the last player to homer in St. Louis’ Busch Stadium.

Despite playing in all but seven games this season for the Cardinals, the Red Sox will option Chris to Triple-A Pawtucket.

There’ll be no waiting for the brothers to collide in baseball’s ultimate enmity. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Pawtucket will meet on Aug. 1 at PNC Field (formerly known as Lackawanna County Stadium) in central Pennsylvania.

The young Yanks have won six of the eight meeting between the two teams this season.
above: Shelley Duncan goes spikes high on a Tampa Ray infielder

BLAMMO

BLAMMO
Would you believe these are two seventh graders?

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