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Hickok SportsThoughts

Sports historian and author Ralph Hickok of www.hickoksports.com sometimes meanders on about current happenings in sports and sometimes looks back in languor.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Franco Is the Answer to a Lot of Questions

If the trivia question begins, "Oldest major-league player to," the answer is probably Julio Franco. (Provided it's not a question about pitching, that is.)
Franco turned 47 Tuesday. When he broke into the major leagues with the Phillies in 1982, among his teammates were Steve Carlton, Pete Rose, and Gary Matthews. Carlton has been in the Hall of Fame for 11 years and Rose has been wishing he were there for even longer. Gary Matthews Jr. is in his seventh season as a major-leaguer.
Franco has been traded twice. The eight other players involved in those trades have been out of baseball for 10 years or more.
So far this season, he's appeared in 85 games for the Atlanta Braves and he's hitting .292. That's 23 points better than Gary Matthews Jr.
He's the oldest starting position player in MLB history. He's the oldest player to get more than 50 hits in a season, the oldest to hit a grand slam home run, the oldest to hit a homer as a pinch-hitter, the oldest to hit more than home run in a game, and the oldest to have two stolen bases in a game.
If he hits another home run this season, he will become the oldest player to have 10 home runs in a season, as well as the oldest major-league player ever to hit one at all. The record is currently held by Jack Quinn, a pitcher who hit a home run four days before his 47th birthday.
Franco says he wants to play until he's 50. If he does, he'll have a shot at breaking another of Quinn's records: oldest player to appear in a World Series game. Of course, he'll need a little help from his teammates to break that one.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Rush to Chutzpah

The funniest sports story of the year is already in. No others need apply.
Rush Limbaugh wants to help Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens kiss and make up. But Limbaugh and McNabb haven't kissed and made up yet. You'd think that would have to be the first step.
In case you've forgotten, Limbaugh briefly worked on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown a couple of years ago. He was forced ro resign after he said that McNabb was overrated because the media wanted "a black quarterback to do well."
The astonishing thing about Limbaugh's remark was the ignorance it demonstrated. How on earth could ESPN have hired someone with so little knowledge of pro football?
Quite a few black quarterbacks had done well before McNabb arrived in the NFL. At the time Limbaugh spoke, McNabb wasn't even the best black quarterback in the league. At best, he ranked third, behind Daunte Culpepper and Steve McNabb.
In fact, McNabb wasn't, and isn't, the best black quarterback the Philadelphia Eagles have ever had. He has yet to catch up to Randall Cunningham. Cunningham won the Maxwell Football Club's Professional Player of the Year award for the first time way back in 1988. That was the same year that another black quarterback, Doug Williams, was named Super Bowl MVP. Yet, 15 years later, Limbaugh unwittingly revealed that he had no idea that black quarterbacks had previously done well in the NFL.
And now he wants to be the peace maker for McNabb and Owens?
McNabb has already told Owens "keep my name out of your mouth." Rush Limbaugh may be the next recipient of that message.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Deadline Trades Weren't Headline Trades

Manny Ramirez at least made it interesting.
The week or so before major league baseball's trading "deadline" can be a frenzied and frenetic period for fans, not to mention general managers, as contenders try to improve their rosters at the expense of teams that are pretty much out of it.
The teams that have given up on the season, meanwhile, typically try to pick up young prospects while ridding themselves of older players and excess payroll.
The air is full of rumored trades, some made in heaven and some merely made in the media.
But not this year. Less than a week before the deadline, the biggest name being mentioned in the rumors was A. J. Burnett, who is considerably less than a household name.
In fact, the names being tossed around belonged to such nonentities that more interesting stories were coming out of NFL training camps as they opened.
Then Manny came to the rescue. A story broke in Sports Illustrated that he wanted the Red Sox to trade him. The Red Sox said they'd try, and evidently they did try. For a while, it looked as if Ramirez was going to the Mets in a three-team deal. But that didn't happen.
Manny decided he never wanted it to happen, anyway. And then, of course, he did his Hollywood bit, coming up the bench less than an hour after the deadline had passed to get the game-winning hit Sunday.
The biggest trade of the weekend was probably the one that sent Matt Lawton from the Pirates to the Cubs in exchange for Jody Gerut. If that doesn't stir your cockles, it's understandable.
Why no blockbusters this year?
The main reason is that at least 20 of the 30 major-league teams are within reach of the playoffs, so there were twice as many buyers as sellers.
That ratio seemed to inspire the sellers to get greedy. With at least three teams interested in Burnett, the Florida Marlins insisted on packaging him with third basemen Mike Lowell. But nobody wanted to take Lowell, who has a big contract and a low batting average, so Burnett's still with the Marlins.
Theo Epstein, the Red Sox general manager, said it was like going to the store with a $5 bill to buy a gallon milk and finding out the price was $100.
He went home without the milk. Fortunately, Manny was waiting and all was forgiven on both sides.