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It's a sad day as basketball just lost it's greatest
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Posted by jaygross
Comments: 0

I will start by saying that I am a huge Celtics fan and I am completely biased, so please bear with me. But today is a tough day as Red Auerbach passed away at 89.

Bill Simmons said it pretty well:

As a GM, he helped the C's win 7 more. He traded for Russell, Parish, Archibald and Walton. Drafted Havlicek, McHale, Cowens, Maxwell, Sanders, Ainge, Heinsohn, White, Sharman, Lewis and the Jones boys. Drafted Bird in '79 with the sixth pick in the entire draft, even though Bird wasn't eligible to play for another season. Coached nine championship teams and built the foundations for seven others. You could argue, successfully, that Arnold "Red" Auerbach is the greatest winner in the history of sports.

Just go to the Fleet Center and look up at all the banners and retired numbers, more than any of team. That's an easy indicator of just how great he was. You could make a strong argument for the Yankees and Canadiens, but I'd say Red's run would beat them all - and he was single mastermind behind all of it (unlike those other teams).

As a coach, he won 9 titles in 10 seasons - only the great Bob Pettit catching fire and scoring 50 in Game 6 of the 1958 Finals stopped him from making the clean sweep. When he stepped down, Bill Russell took over as a player/coach won 2 more in 3 years with the team Red built.

As great as Phil Jackson is (also with 9 titles in many more years), he had GM's like Jerry Krause and Jerry West to build his teams. Free agency let Phil get players like Shaq and Dennis Rodman. Red not only coached the dynasty, but was the mastemind behind building it.

Trading two future HOFers for the rights to Russell was a gutsy move - that turned out to be as good as any trade in sports history (11 titles in the next 13 years). A close runner up must be the rights to #1 pick (Purdue's Joe Barry Carroll) for Robert Parish and the rights to Kevin McHale - which resulted in 3 more championships and 2 more HOF careers. A year later he steals Dennis Johnson from Phoenix for Rick Robey.

Even though I am too young to remember the 50's and 60's teams, I have Red to thank for my Celtics teams of the 80's. How has it been 20 years since the last title - wow does time fly. If only Len Bias hadn't OD'd, Bird and McHale wouldn't have fallen apart from playing so many minutes and we'd have won a few more.

Even though his health had been fading the past few years, Red was signing often for his fans c/o his Washington DC home. I was lucky to obtain his autograph in this time.

ESPN's Ken Shouler wrote a nice article this morning about Red's style and  impact.

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RIP Joe Niekro
Friday, October 27, 2006
Posted by jaygross
Comments: 0

I have always loved watching knuckleballers pitch and seeing hitters get so frustrated. Whether it was Tom Candiotti, the Niekro brothers, Steve Sparks, or Tim Wakefield - every pitch is a totally different experience.

Yesterday's news that Joe Niekro has died on a brain aneurysm is awful. I remember Joe working his magic in big games for the Astros. One of the best things about having a good knuckleballer is that not only does he win games and eat up innings, but he throw off a hitter's timing for a few days. Imagine seeing him one day, Nolan Ryan, and then Joaquin Andujar the next - talk about constrast in styles.

I was pretty surprised when Joe was traded to the Yanks, but it was very interesting to see how Yogi and Billy Martin decided to use both Niekro brothers in their rotation.

In addition to being a really great player and competitor, Joe was great toward his fans. I have heard many stories from fans who have met him in person and how cordial he was to chat with. As a signer of autographs by mail, he was absolutely great - and was one of the first successes I got.

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Not So Happy Anniversary, How Has it Been 20 Years
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Posted by jaygross
Comments: 0

Has this image ever kept you up late at night? Does the picture above make you queasy, make your heart stop beating, or make you sick to your stomach? Welcome to the hell of being a Red Sox fan up until the wonderful feeling of vindication of 2004.

Yes, I'm talking about Game 6 of the 1986 World Series... and specifically the play with the ground ball going between Bill Buckner's legs. And today is the 20th anniversary. Growing up, every time I'd tell someone I was a Red Sox fan I'd hear "1918" and/or "Buckner".

I still remember watching that game in my living room of my parents' house... This was it, we were going to do it!!! The Sox were finally going to win! And then one of the most crushing, painful things possible happens and the rest is history. Most of my buddies were Mets fans at the time, so my phone immediately started ringing... and ringing and ringing. The next day (and 17+ years) had people constantly reminding me of this moment.

After stints with the Angels and Royals, Buckner came back to the Red Sox for 43 more at bats. I was at his first game back in a Sox uniform (opening day April 12,1990 at Fenway - Clemens vs. Jack Morris) and you couldn't believe the standing ovation he received. It was the loudest for any player by far - and this team had some stars and went on to win the AL East. I couldn't figure out if the fans:

  • A) felt sorry for him and felt compelled to cheer
  • B) related to his suffering with their own
  • C) figured he deserved a lot of credit for being brave enough to show his face in a Sox uniform again
  • D) were just delirious with excitement to have baseball after labor issues postponed the start of the season by 2 weeks
  • E) All of the above.

Since this is an autograph community, below is picture of ball signed by Bill Buckner and Mookie Wilson:

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