Sporting news: Earl Weaver, Stan Musial, Lance Armstrong

I’m less distressed by Lance Armstrong’s cheating, and the inevitable lying that he did, but really bothered by the bullying threats to those who would dare besmirch his name.

I was a big New York Yankees fan when I was a child. But when the Bronx Bombers went into a tailspin after the 1964 World Series and were frankly terrible for close to a decade, I had to find a secondary American League team to support. That franchise was the Baltimore Orioles with the Robinson “brothers,” Brooks and Frank, fine pitchers such as Jim Palmer, and their feisty Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver, who died this week at the age of 82. He was thrown out of more Major League Baseball games than any other manager; he could be quite entertaining.

Not that I ALWAYS rooted for the Orioles in the World Series. In 1969, I HAD to root for the New York Mets over the Orioles, and of course, the Amazin’s won. But I was cheering on the Orioles in 1970 when they beat the Cincinnati Reds, the team that had given up on Frank Robinson. I chose to support the Pittsburgh Pirates, though, in 1971 – I loved Roberto Clemente – and 1979, both of which the Bucs won.

In fact, when Baltimore was up 3 games to 1 in the 1979 Series, I did something very unusual: I wagered money on a baseball game, not very much, but still. I picked Pittsburgh to win Game 5, and it did. Then I bet Pittsburgh would win Game 6, and it did. But I was not brave enough to bet that the Pirates would win Game 7, which it did, taking the Series.

I was watching some TV obit about Hall of Fame baseball player Stan Musial; it referred to him as a shortstop, which didn’t sound right. He played mostly in the outfield, and at first base, though he did pitch one game. I saw him play only at the end of his illustrious career, as he retired after the 1963 season. I remember when Albert Pujols, the Cardinals’ recent All-Star first baseman moved to the Angels, it was proof that he’d never be “another Stan Musial,” loyal to one team; I thought it was unfair, as these are different times, and few ballplayers stay with one team their entire careers.

I’m still disappointed that the Baseball Hall of Fame did not allow ANY recent players into Cooperstown this year. Punish the folks you thought, or knew, were using performance-enhancing drugs (PED), but there were plenty of “clean” players to pick from as well. Lee Smith, who was the career saves leader (it’s a pitching stat) when he retired, and still can’t get 50% of the writers’ vote, let alone the 75% needed for induction.

Speaking of PED, I am reminded that when Lance Armstrong was stripped last year of his seven Tour de France tournament wins, there was great criticism by many people of the anti-doping agency that concluded that Armstrong had doped. “Not our Lance!” Frankly, I’m less distressed by his cheating, and the inevitable lying that he did, but really bothered by the bullying threats to those who would dare besmirch his name, even suing accusers. It was only when he heard his son protecting his name that he had to say to the lad, “Stop defending me,” and at least some of the truth came out.

I really enjoy Dustbury’s accounts of Oklahoma City Thunder NBA basketball games, enough that I’ve become a fan of the team.
As for the National Football League, the San Francisco 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons this week, which I was happy about. The Falcons collapsed the previous week against Seattle (who I was rooting for), and won only with a last-second field goal; the Falcons tanked against the 49ers, after taking a 17-0 lead. I’ve always liked San Francisco teams. My second favorite baseball team growing up was the SF Giants, which had my favorite ballplayer of all time, Willie Mays. Somehow, this affection geographically spread to the NFL 49ers.

The Baltimore Ravens beat the New England Patriots. I’m not much of a Ravens fan, but I have an even more irrational dislike of Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback, Tom Brady. After they won the Super Bowl a couple of times, I found them to be insufferable.

In the Super Bowl: Go 49ers!

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