The Mets showed class by honoring Chipper Jones with a ceremony that was held in their press conference room before the start of the Braves’ last visit to Citi Field this year. Jones talked about how much he enjoyed playing at Shea Stadium and how he has no regrets naming his son, Shea, in its honor.
Contrary to popular opinion, he did not relish being known as the Mets’ tormentor. “I think John Rocker enjoyed that role far more than I did!” he quipped.
When asked if he ever thought about playing elsewhere, he said that he was always happy with the Braves and complimented the team on how they never him let him get near free agency by offering him generous long-term contracts. Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, shuffled his feet nervously, upon hearing Chipper say that.
As everyone knows, Jones’ counterpart on the Mets, David Wright, has one more year to run on his contract. Even with the Madoff mess allegedly behind them, the Mets’ payroll is likely to resemble that of the Milwaukee Brewers next year. They will be under tremendous pressure to re-sign RA Dickey, particularly if he wins the Cy Young Award this year, in addition to Wright.
The Mets organization’s gift to Chipper was a 3-D painting of his favorite ballpark, Shea Stadium, that was done by Charles Fazzino, who is one of the most respected sports artists today.
Fazzino, like every sports artist, was influenced by the Babe Ruth of sports painters, Leroy Neiman, who passed away early this summer at the age of 91. Neiman was to Joe Namath what Andy Warhol was to Marilyn Monroe. His artwork in Playboy was nearly as important to the success of Hugh Hefner’s monthly men’s magazine as the centerfold Playmate was. Shortly before he died, Neiman finished writing his fascinating memoir titled All Told (Globe Pequot Press).
In his post-game press conference last Sunday, Mets manager Terry Collins vowed to shake things up following the Braves’ three-game sweep of the listless Mets. For the tenth straight home game, the Mets failed to score more than three runs. Mets radio voice, Josh Lewin, who apparently has had it with Collins’ empty words as much as any fan, wondered aloud to his listeners, “What’s he going to do? Bring in psychics?”
The Mets have done very little to commemorate their 50th anniversary. They should have had at least one day to honor the best players of their past but not surprisingly that has not happened. The closest they came to that was honoring a handful of position players in June at the 92nd Street Y for an SNY special.
Davey Johnson was named the greatest Mets manager in their history at that event but in my opinion the most important manager in their history was Gil Hodges who was crucial in changing their image from lovable losers to professionals whose job was to win games. Hodges was the manager of the 1969 Miracle Mets and before that was the first baseman for those legendary Brooklyn Dodgers teams.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the untimely passing of Hodges who died way too young at the age of 47. Tom Clavin and Danny Peary have written the definitive look at his life, Gil Hodges (New American Library).
The authors spend a lot of time examining his years in Brooklyn and including how he nearly got arrested in Alabama for playing on the same barnstorming team as Jackie Robinson at a time when segregation was enforced with an iron fist in Dixie. Yes, Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley’s decision to move the team from Brooklyn to LA is obviously covered but what is interesting here is the Clavin and Peary talk about how the move affected the personal lives of the players at the time. They finger Gil’s chain-smoking habit as the culprit for his early demise.
The Yankees, who are normally in cruise control by the time Labor Day rolls around, have certainly made their fans squirm this year. Bombers fans who want to relive the glory days, as well as even a few dark ones in the team’s history, would be wise to check out Story of the Yankees (Black Dog & Leventhal) that is a compendium of New York Times articles about the team from 1903 through 2011. The book’s editor is retired Times columnist Dave Anderson.
One can only wonder how George Steinbrenner would have reacted watching his team blow a 10 ½ game-lead in the AL East. Triumph Books has just reissued Damned Yankees, an account of the Steinbrenner era in the Bronx, that was written by longtime baseball scribes Bill Madden and Moss Klein.
The Knicks wisely used the recent Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week to have Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler model the team’s new home uniforms that were designed by Hugo Boss. Also seen around Lincoln Center for MB Fashion Week were Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban who stopped by the GBK Fashion Lounge in the Empire Hotel. On the football front, former Giants linebacker and current Big Blue broadcaster Carl Banks, is the president of G-III Apparel. He unveiled a new clothing line called “4Her” that is an extension of NFL Women’s Apparel.
James Dolan, the CEO of Cablevision and Madison Square Garden, enjoys chucking the corporate life whenever he can by returning to his first love, playing the guitar. The Oyster Bay native, who grew up reading Good Times and to this day rarely misses an issue, has been at the helm of a terrific band, JD & the Straight Shot, for years. They have just released their fourth album, titled “Midnight Run” and they opened for the Eagles when they played at Atlantic City’s new and very much talked about luxury hotel, the Revel, during Labor Day weekend.
Like the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. ESPN will be licensing sixteen songs from the Rolling Stones’ sizable catalog to be used for its “Monday Night Football” package as well as for pre and post-game shows.
NBC is getting back into the national sports radio business as it will distribute sports talk shows, including one hosted by former Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer, as well as quick commentaries from the likes of Commack’s own Bob Costas, Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison and others to stations across the country. CBS will be doing the same thing when it launches the CBS Sports Radio Network in January.
ESPN New York has left its 1050 AM spot in favor of 98.7 on the FM dial. ESPN Deportes has replaced it on the AM dial. It would be great if ESPN could develop a Hispanic Michael Kay or Mike Francesa and listen to callers rant about the Mets and Yankees en espanol. ESPN Deportes will flop if they program national shows that emphasize South American soccer and the like instead of New York sports.
The Jets showed last Sunday that they were not as awful as many of their faithful feared following a winless preseason in which they generated exactly one touchdown. The very good news following their 48-28 win over the Buffalo Bills was that QB Mark Sanchez was extremely sharp and in sync with his receivers and thankfully had time to throw as the Jets frequently maligned offensive line was magnificent that day. The bad news was that the defensive backs kept missing easy tackles and allowed the Bills three fast and easy touchdowns in the second half to make a 41-7 blowout into a 41-28 competitive game with eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Victoria Azarenka, the top-ranked female tennis player in the world, showed a terrific sense of humor with the media at a Friday press conference prior to meeting Serena Williams in the women’s final of the US Open. Having beaten Serena only once in ten tries, Azarenka deadpanned that she wouldn’t watch videos of past contests because she did want to get depressed. When asked if she would do anything different against her, she quickly replied, “I’d better!” She expected that the crowd would be rooting for Williams since she is an American.
She clearly wasn’t intimidated by Serena but lost to her in heartbreaking fashion in a third set tiebreaker.
Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia and Spain’s David Ferrer played what most consider to have been the best match of the 2012 US Open that Ferrer managed to win in five sets with the last requiring a lengthy tiebreaker.
At his post-match press conference I asked Janko if he ever replayed lost points in the match in his head when he is alone. “No, I watch them on video,” he quickly retorted, “even though it is often painful.”