Yes, I used to think a Ron Guidry slider was a pure thing of beauty, that is, until I saw a picture of actress/model Carmen Electra the other day–decked out in a skin-tight, blue dress at a hotel in Las Vegas. My goodness………TRIVIA QUESTION: Who is the only member of the Florida Marlins to be named the MVP of MLB’s yearly All-Star game? Answer to follow……….Call me crazy, but there’s something funny/ironic about the fact that the State College Spikes (NY-Penn League) have a pitcher on their roster named Brooks Pounders—and his weight is currently listed at 271 lbs……….This week in sports history, July 27, 1993: 27-year-old Boston Celtics forward Reggie Lewis dies at a Massachusetts hospital after collapsing while shooting baskets at the team’s Brandeis University training center. Lewis died of apparent cardiac arrest; he had collapsed due to a heart condition the previous April during a playoff game vs. Charlotte, but continued to work out lightly due to conflicting diagnoses. Lewis had averaged 20.8 points per game during the ’92-’93 NBA season and also was a participant in the ’91-’92 NBA All-Star game……….ITEM: Eleven Notre Dame athletes, including eight football players (one of whom was Nate Montana–son of Joe) are arrested for underage drinking at an off-campus house. I’m just wondering how long it will take some distillery out there to market a new type of booze called “Fighting” Irish whiskey……….Answer to trivia question: JEFF CONINE–who homered in the 8th inning of the 1995 All-Star Game–helping the National League to a 3-2 victory over the AL……….Happy birthday wishes go out to former major league pitcher Terry Taylor–who blows out 46 candles on July 28th. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, there may be a good reason: Taylor spent just one season in the “bigs”–1988 with the Mariners–starting five games for the last-place Seattle club. The results weren’t pretty either, folks: He pitched a total of 23 innings–giving up 26 hits and walking 11 batters while giving up 17 runs. Yes, Terry Taylor’s lifetime numbers? 0 wins, 1 loss, with an ERA of 6.26. Hey, they all can’t be the “Big Unit”, right? Best wishes, Terry……….Finally, I’ve been asked to comment about the death of longtime Yankees owner George Steinbrenner–who passed away last week at the age of 80. To me, the man was fascinating–and truly lived a Jekyll and Hyde-type existence. He was a ruthless owner at times– but a devoted humanitarian, too. Yes, my main criticism of George over the years is rather simple–and involves others: Steinbrenner and some fellow owners–along with a greedy posse that still calls itself a “union”–truly set the tone for the “briefcase mentality” so prevalent in baseball these days. Yes, it was during “The Boss'” reign that baseball truly became BIG BUSINESS–NOT a game anymore–along with becoming much too corporate. The current game of baseball–for the TRUE baseball fan out there–remains a shell of what it once was strictly due to the INSANE amounts of money involved; “Joe Fan” remains too far-distanced from the prima donna player of today due to ridiculous salaries and rising prices–phenomena that can be traced directly to individuals like George Steinbrenner. However, we must be reminded that his “payroll overkill” and lavish spending were always within the rules; as Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free-Press recently wrote, “He used his money advantage constantly.” Steinbrenner simply used a well-developed, ruthless business approach: Spend money to MAKE money—and he did it better than any Yankees fan could have imagined after he took over a struggling franchise back in 1973. My personal, rather immense respect for the man goes well-beyond the scope of baseball. He should be highly commended for his “no-nonsense” approach to business along with his huge disdain for incompetence; he was a tough boss and simply demanded the absolute best from his employees. He held people ACCOUNTABLE for perceived mistakes and continually expected the highest quality of work from them–an approach that sadly seems outdated today. His drive/want to succeed (albeit sometimes at almost any cost) cannot be criticized. His payment of college tuition for countless, disadvantaged individuals went under-publicized; that was the way he wanted it. He even contributed regularly to the Jimmy Fund–a charity usually associated with the rival Red Sox–and did it almost anonymously. Let’s just say that George Steinbrenner has become the model for the modern owner in ANY sport. He changed the game of baseball; for some, it was in a negative fashion–for others (especially Yankees fans), it was glorious. In a money-fueled society, this fact surely stands out: The man used about $150,000 of his own money to buy a team back in 1973; the team was worth approximately $1.5 BILLION when he took his last breath. Without question, THAT’S success, my friends. Finally, the Boss’ life SHOULDN’T be sugar-coated–something that my fellow columnist Phil Mushnick of the N.Y. Post has written so candidly about. But there is absolutely NO doubt about his impact on the game of baseball–and that’s worthy of Hall of Fame enshrinement.
Rest in peace, Mr. Steinbrenner.