TO THE SPORTS SECTION
DATE: October 11, 2003
I can’t believe what wusses today’s baseball players are. They wear
helmets when they bat that would withstand a howitzer shell. Yet someone
throws a ball close to their heads and they moan and groan like old women.
Even though the old timers didn’t wear helmets, only one player has died
playing major league baseball, Ray Chapman in 1920, who was beaned by
Yankee Sad Sam Jones. In 1978, in one of the classic at bats in World
Series history, Reggie Jackson was at bat against Dodger rookie Bob Welch
with two out in the 9th inning and the tying run on. Welch’s first pitch
was a strike. His second was straight at Reggie’s head, sending him
sprawling. Nobody said a word and the game continued with no bellyaching.
That used to be baseball. But they don’t play baseball today, with their
steroids and phony records and golf ball-like baseball, and their sissy
DATE: October 1, 2003
The people who run the Dodgers thought it would be a neat idea to trade
Mark Grudzielanek and Eric Karros to the Cubs for a weak-hitting, sore
armed catcher who couldn’t throw out my aunt Alice trying to steal second,
and to trade Gary Sheffield to the Braves. Grudzielanek was the Cubs’
leading hitter at .314 and 8th in the National League. Karros was the
Cubs’ 3rd leading hitter at .286 and is probably the best fielding first
baseman in the league. Sheffield was the Braves’ leading hitter and had
the 4th highest average in the league. The three led their teams to the
playoffs. Boston may be burdened by the Curse of the Bambino, but Los
Angeles is burdened by the Curse of Stupidity.
DATE: September 8, 2003
So CBS butchered the coverage of the US Open again. What else is new?
CBS shot the entire tournament from the high camera. If not shot from the
low camera (as the USA Network does at least part of the time), tennis on
television is terminally boring (and I play and love the game).
CBS cut away from an emotional Andy Roddick crying and hugging his family
and friends to show a ten second shot of loser Juan Carlos Ferrero just
sitting there staring off into space;
They pick banal, tennis-ignorant Dick Enberg to do the final interviews
when they have John McEnroe and Mary Carillo, people who actually know
something about the sport and can ask intelligent, informed questions.
Their graphics are mired in the 20th Century. They couldn't even ape
USA who showed the tiebreaker scores after the set score throughout
Gee, they’ve only been doing it for three decades. How long before they
DATE: July 22, 2003
When I see that the Lakers are signing geezers, I wonder why they set
their sights so low. Last I checked Bill Russell and Bill Sharman were
available and, unlike Malone and Payton, the two Bills know how to win.
DATE: June 14, 2003
It has always been my opinion that the only thing more boring than
watching golf on television was actually playing golf. That was, however,
before I tuned in to this year’s NBA Finals.
DATE: May 17, 2003
The first words you hear as a sophomore basketball player in high school
are “block out.” When the game was still on the line Robert Horry and Shaq
failed to block out, costing at least eight points. One of the main
reasons the Lakers lost was because they didn't play basic basketball.
DATE: April 13, 2003
Poor Ross Newhan. He’s a fine baseball writer where he generally only has
to deal with short, single syllable words like “hit, run, out, steal,
walk, win, lose,” etc. But when he strays from what he knows, and tries to
write about current events, he finds himself dealing with longer,
multisyllable words that are clearly beyond his ken, like
“Constitutional,” and “McCarthyism.” Stick to baseball, Ross.
DATE: April 5, 2003
The dumbest rule in sports, college basketball's "alternate possession
rule," showed why it's so idiotic in the Kansas-Arizona Regional final.
With Kansas up 78-75 and nine seconds left in the game, Arizona forced
what used to be a jump ball. Instead the arrow was for Kansas, so Kansas
got the ball out of bounds instead of losing it on a turnover.
This makes no sense. Whenever the defense forces what used to be a
jumpball the ball should be awarded to the defensive team because it's
done something right and the offense has done something wrong. It's time
to change the rule.
DATE: November 30, 2002
I don't expect sportscasters to know what they're talking about, but when
they're dead wrong, they should admit it, instead of inventing facts to
fit their erroneous call. In the 2nd quarter of the SC-Notre Dame game, SC
threw a lateral to a tackle on a trick play. Both commentators (one of
whom was Keith Jackson) called it a tackle eligible play, which it clearly
wasn't, even going so far as to claim that they informed the officials
they were going to run a tackle eligible play. On the replay the color man
(insert name) highlighted someone he thought was the tackle, but it
wasn't. As they ran the replay it was clear that the player he designated
was the end who ran out on a pattern. The tackle ran back for the lateral,
but neither sportscaster corrected the call. Shame on ABC!
DATE: October 23, 2002
Anybody who doesn't think Bobby Thomson's home run isn't one of baseball's
top ten moments, if not the top moment, doesn't know a fastball from a
DATE: June 26, 2002
Sports commentators drive me nuts. They speak as if they know the
esoterica that we viewers don't, when, in actuality, what they say is
generally unregurgitated slop uttered to sound good to the
unknowledgeable. But sometimes fate intervenes to slap them in the face.
In the Pete Sampras-George Bastl (a "lucky loser," a guy who didn't even
win his qualifying tournament to get into Wimbledon and only made the draw
because so many players withdrew) Wimbledon match today, with Sampras
serving at 30-0, 4-4 in the fifth set, TNT commentator Jim Courier said,
"Sampras is playing much better today than he did Monday." Sampras
proceeded to lose the next four points to lose the game and go down 4-5,
then lost the match when Bastl won his serve the next game.
DATE: June 9, 2002
“A cut over Tyson’s right eye opened up in the third round. Lewis’ glove
split Tyson’s left eye in the fifth. His nose bled on and off. And as the
rounds proceeded, the swelling gradually reduced Tyson’s eyes to slits.”
No, this isn’t an ancient clipping from Imperial Rome’s Vox Populi,
reporting on yesterday’s gladiatorial contest at the Coliseum, it’s a word
for word report from Sunday’s Los Angeles Times sports section. Could
anything be more damning? Boxing is a racist, barbaric anachronism that
has no place in a civilized society
DATE: May 26, 2002
The article promoting Brooklyn first baseman Gil Hodges for the Hall of
Fame caused me to wonder what the Times and baseball have against Maury
Wills? When Wills joined the Dodgers in 1959, the Times’ Dodger beat
reporter Frank Finch wrote, “The arrival of Maury Wills failed to stir
pennant fever in the Dodger clubhouse.” Maybe that was cute, but it was
also dead wrong as Wills not only led them to the pennant, but the World
Series victory over the White Sox.
Two men changed the way baseball is played, Babe Ruth, who turned it into
a power game reliant on home runs, and Maury Wills, who returned the
stolen base to the game after its virtual absence of 40 years. Wills not
only broke Ty Cobb's hallowed stolen base record of 96, which had stood
for 44 years, he was the catalyst for the Dodger pennants of ’59, ’63,
’65, and ’66.
The Dodgers of ’49-’56 were so dominant that they would have won without
Hodges. Without Wills the Dodgers of ’59-’66 wouldn’t have won one
pennant, much less four pennants and three World Series. If the Times
wants to support a Dodger who has been unjustly ignored by the Hall of
Fame, it needn’t champion a journeyman first baseman from Brooklyn. It
need look no further than Chavez Ravine and Maury Wills.
DATE: May 25, 2000
Oh, gee, the Dodgers are going to have to play short some pitchers. Maybe
that means that Davey Johnson won't pull a pitcher because the second
baseman committed an error in a late inning of a close game. But such
reasonable decision making would require common sense and intelligence,
two qualities totally lacking from major league managers since Billy
DATE: April 18, 2000
HBO's documentary on Bill Russell contained the following preposterous
line, (After trading for Russell), "Auerbach discovered he could play
defense," as if Auerbach had found something that had been hitherto
On December 11, 1954, UCLA beat Russell's USF team in the old Men's Gym
for USF's only loss during Russell's tenure. In my book, UCLA Basketball:
The Real Story, I quote UCLA Coach John Wooden as telling me in 1971, "It
wasn't the defense against Russell. It wasn't stopping Russell. It was
Russell stopping you."
I also quote The Times' Jack Geyer, in his contemporaneous game report,
"Time after time (Russell) indulged in a sort of one man volleyball, going
high in the air to tap the ball over to where he would retrieve it
unmolested. At least a dozen times Russell bounded high in the air to
block what appeared to be easy Bruin two pointers."
When Russell was drafted in 1956 there was no mystery about his game. He
was recognized as a defensive virtuoso. To assert that Red Auerbach, who
was a basketball genius in his own right, was surprised to "find that he
could play defense" after he traded for him is ludicrous.
DATE: April 9, 2000
How can an activity in which a bunch of guys in funny looking clothes
stroll around leisurely hitting a stationary ball be called a "sport?"
There's no running. There's no jumping. There's no sweating. There's no
physical exertion. Nothing anyone does affects what anyone else does. And
the replays! How thrilling to watch a little white ball roll into a hole
in the ground. Golly, that's sure a lot different than the last time we
watched a little white ball roll into a hole in the ground. Let's tape it,
honey, so we can see it over and over and over.
DATE: January 29, 2000
What a treat it is to read Bob Oates again! His game stories, written to
meet very short deadlines, were masterpieces, telling the story of each
game by analyzing a few "Big Plays." Later, his weekend NFL analyses were
more astute, enjoyable, and readable than anything anyone else has ever
written about pro football. I've been reading the Times Sports Section
since the days of Dyer, Zimmerman, Hyland, and Wolf. I've read the
legendary New York writers from the Golden Age of Sportswriting, Dan
Daniel, Roscoe McGowan, Red Smith, Dick Young, Jimmy Cannon, and Jimmy
Powers. When it comes to sportswriters, I've read 'em all. Bob Oates is,
hands down, the best.
DATE: January 15, 2000
NFL Lesson: If you want to win a playoff game, don't start a quarterback
DATE: November 27, 1999
Your article on Redlands' quarterback Danny Ragsdale was symptomatic of
the moronic thinking that dominates sports, and the lack of critical
writing that permeates the sports pages. Your reference to Ragsdale as a
"converted receiver playing quarterback" was disingenuous at best.
Ragsdale was one of the best high school quarterbacks in our city's
history. He didn't get a scholarship to a Division I school because he's
not six feet tall. Redlands' coach wasn't bright enough to play him at
quarterback, so this gifted passer languished at wide receiver for 4
years. When Ragsdale finally got his chance, he picked up where he left
off in High School and showed he's an extraordinarily accurate quarterback
with a rifle arm.
It's this type of thought process (I hesitate to call it "thinking")
that kept Doug Flutie out of the NFL for a decade. How stupid is a coach
who plays a talent like Ragsdale at wide receiver for four years? How
stupid is the NFL if nobody drafts him because he's not a 6-footer?
DATE: October 23, 1999
Oh, come on. How could anybody knowledgeable about baseball leave out
the 1952 Series, matching two of the best teams in history, from the list
of finest World Series ever? The fifth game at Yankee Stadium, with the
Series tied 2-2, was one of the greatest games ever played, an 11 inning
thriller with Dodger right fielders Andy Pafko and Carl Furillo twice
robbing Yankees of home runs preserving a 6-5 victory to send the Dodgers
back home to Ebbets Field leading 3-2, only to lose the sixth game in a
1-0 squeaker, and the seventh when Billy Martin made a last second,
lunging catch of Jackie Robinson's popup with the bases loaded in the 7th
inning to preserve a 4-2 win.
DATE: October 18, 1999
Am I missing something? It was pointed out during the playoffs that the
Red Sox catcher led the league with 23 passed balls, 19 of which came when
catching a knuckle ball pitcher. If the knuckle ball is so difficult to
catch that catchers can't catch it with oversized gloves, isn't it equally
difficult to hit? And if it is equally difficult to hit, why isn't
baseball a game of hitters trying to hit knuckle ball pitchers?
DATE: August 29, 1999
Todd Hollandsworth is a solid .300 hitter, fields well at 4 positions,
doesn't complain when treated like a worn out shoe, and acts like a mature
adult. When are the Dodgers going to dump this misfit?
DATE: July 5, 1999
Why aren't Branch Rickey and Al Campanis honored on the Dodger outfield
walls? Rickey created the farm system that produced so many champions, and
Campanis was the last person to work for the Dodgers who knew anything
DATE: May 24, 1999
For ABC to relegate John Wooden to second place behind Vince Lombardi in
its list of the greatest coaches of all time is ludicrous. Lombardi won
several titles with the same personnel, Starr, Hornung, Davis, Kramer,
McGee, Taylor, Nitschke, et. al. How does that set him apart from the
myriad of other coaches who won multiple championships with unchanged
superior personnel? Wooden, on the other hand, dominated for 12 years with
five completely different teams, a total change of personnel every three
years! Nobody, including Lombardi, is in Wooden's league.
DATE: May 18, 1999
The letter two weeks ago singling out NBA color man Bill Walton for
criticism was imminently unfair. Walton is no worse than all the other
witless motormouths who clearly don't have a clue about what they're
seeing on the court, yet pollute the telecasts with nonstop blather. With
the exception of the insightful and informative commentary of Doug Collins
and Hubie Brown, they all sound like a bad Saturday Night Live Comedy
DATE: May 17, 1999
Why aren't Branch Rickey and Al Campanis honored on the Dodgers'
outfield walls? Rickey created the Dodger farm system that produced all
the great players and Campanis was the last person associated with the
Dodgers who knew anything about baseball.
DATE: May 10, 1999
I have news for Shaquille O'Neal that any good high school basketball
coach could tell him: You shoot free throws with your legs.
DATE: February 20, 1999
Shame on the Times for publishing the mean spirited letter attacking
Mike Utley. My heart is filled with admiration for the Mike Utleys of this
world, victims of catastrophic injuries who refuse to abandon hope in the
face of tremendous odds, but persevere to try to make their lives worth
living. Mike Utley and Christopher Reeves are far more heroic for me than
Michael Jordan or Babe Ruth could ever hope to be.
DATE: January 14, 1999
So ESPN has taken it upon itself to name the 50 best games and athletes
of the Century? Is this the same ESPN who several years ago picked what it
thought were the top college basketball teams of the century and only
found room for one UCLA team, 68-69, omitting the undefeated 71-73 teams
of Bill Walton and the 67-68 team of Lew Alcindor and Lucius Allen,
clearly the three best teams ever? Is this the same ESPN who last Friday
broadcast a show where sportscaster Curt Gowdy said that "somebody" lost a
fly ball in the sun to cost Lefty Grove and the Philadelphia Athletics a
1-0 lead in the game and the 1931 World Series? Well, excuse me, ESPN, it
wasn't 1931, but 1929, and it wasn't a 1-0 lead but an 8-0 lead, and the
Cubs blew it, not the Athletics, in the 7th inning of the 4th game, and
the "somebody" was Cubs' Center Fielder Hack Wilson who lost a ball in the
sun, which contributed to the Athletics' 10 run comeback victory, and
Lefty Grove didn't start a game in the Series, and only pitched 4 innings.
Sorry, but this sloppy network too lazy to check facts and so full of
eastern bias won't get my attention.
DATE: January 13, 1999
For me, what set Babe Ruth apart was his ability to rise to the
occasion. The first game in Yankee Stadium? Babe hit a home run to win it.
The first All Star game? Babe hit a home run to win it. Babe Ruth was
truly the Michael Jordan of baseball.
DATE: January 2, 1999
The small minds who gave us the BCS succeeded in diminshing the interest
and importance of all the bowl games, built up over 100 years. Let's hope
that more intelligent minds will end the BS.
DATE: November 28, 1998
The computer that ranked Jimmy Connors the number one tennis player in
the world for the five year period from 1974-78 must have been a
malfunctioning TRS-80 when considering the last four of those years. In
two, 1975 and 77, Connors failed to win even one Grand Slam event. In the
other two he only managed to win one, the U. S Open, in 1976 and 1978. In
contrast, Bjorn Borg won 6 Grand Slam Titles from 1976-78. Other than the
computer, the only two people who considered Connors the number 1 tennis
player in the world from 1975-78 were Jimmy and his mother, Gloria.
DATE: October 28, 1998
If Ed Rosski wants to bring the arrogant, enormously wealthy NFL to Los
Angeles, let the money come from Rosski and the NFL. The Los Angeles
taxpayers shouldn't subsidize these business people with one penny of
DATE: October 11, 1998
Anybody whose "eyes roll" when someone else says escaping from tyranny
by sailing a leaky boat across the ocean to freedom is more important than
playing in a baseball game is a certifiable idiot. Shame on Mike
DiGiovanna, and on the Times, for his demeaning drivel about heroic Yankee
pitcher Orlando Hernandez last Sunday.
DATE: September 6, 1998
Excuse me for not falling all over myself with adulation about Mark
McGuire, et. al. and their assault on the single season home run record.
Bud Selig and the imbeciles who now run baseball have denigrated this
great record by souping up the baseball. I bet none of these people would
have had 50 by the end of August with the ball Ruth and Maris hit. But
we'll never know, will we?
DATE: July 26, 1998
John Lacy's letter last Saturday criticizing poor Sparky Anderson's
grammar reminded me of Dizzy Dean's comment when told that an English
teacher from Iowa had criticized his constant use of the word "ain't" on
his baseball broadcasts. "A lot of people who ain't sayin' 'ain't'," Diz
retorted, "ain't eatin'!"
DATE: June 27, 1998`
What happens to people when they become sports commentators on TV? Do
they just lose all long term memory and devotion to facts? For years the
ignoramuses who call tennis have been referring to the "fact" that Bjorn
Borg won Wimbledon by playing from the baseline. This was hard enough to
take when it came from people who clearly didn't know what they were
talking about. But now, NBC commentator John McEnroe, of all people, is
repeating this canard. McEnroe, who played Borg in two Wimbledon finals
and won one of them! Alas, 'tain't so, John. Bjorn Borg served and
volleyed at Wimbledon on virtually every first serve in both of his years
that he played McEnroe in the finals. I saw them; I remember them; and
I've got videotapes to prove it!
DATE: June 22, 1998
What a cruel irony! Al Campanis, who was summarily dismissed by the
Dodgers a decade ago in a craven act of injustice and ingratitude, died on
the same day that his successor was fired by the new regime.
DATE: June 21, 1998
Is there anything more annoying in TV sports than the golf commentators
who utter the inane redundancy, "That's a beautiful golf shot?"
DATE: May 3, 1998
One thing was determined by the Johnson-Mourning fight: Neither could
last three rounds against Margaret O'Brien.
DATE: February 22, 1998
I can tell the Clinton Administration how to get the American people to
lose interest in the Monica Lewinsky matter: Give CBS Sports the exclusive
right to cover it.
DATE: February 14, 1998
I just heard J. R. Henderson, a UCLA senior basketball player,
interviewed on the radio saying, "We looked at the films to see what we
done wrong." To prove this was not a slip of the tongue, he repeated this
butchering of the english language a moment later. Allowing a student who
participates in intercollegiate athletics so lucrative to the school to
remain so illiterate after 4 years on campus disgraces UCLA and does a
disservice to the individual who should be there to be educated, not just
to bring money into the coffers of the athletic department.
DATE: January 14, 1998
I write this as a former Los Angeles Rams' 50 yard season ticket holder
for more than a quarter century. Hooray for Frank del Olmo! In the middle
of this century, an American city was not deemed "major league" until it
had big league sports teams. Los Angeles made that transition with the
arrival of the Rams in 1946, the Dodgers in 1958, and the Lakers in 1960.
Now Los Angeles has the golden opportunity to define a major league city
for the third millennium as one that survives and prospers without an NFL
team. Los Angeles, by eschewing the pursuit of the NFL, and continuing
life without it, can show other cities, like Cleveland, that the absence
of the NFL neither diminishes a city's reputation nor its residents' joie
DATE: November 2, 1997
Coach Bobby Ross of Detroit, who constantly uses Barry Sanders as a
blocking back for pass protection, would probably use the Mona Lisa as a
DATE: October 14, 1997
People who think that the umpiring in this year's playoffs has reached
an alltime low, just haven't been watching baseball for the past quarter
century. For example, replays consistently prove that runners are being
called out despite not being tagged. The umpires have unilaterally changed
the rule from requiring a tag to simply calling a runner out if the throw
beats them. It's lazy, and it disgraces the game.
DATE: November 29, 1996
Query to T.J. Simers: If Emmitt Smith is football's "very best running
back," what sport is Barry Sanders playing every Sunday?
DATE: November 6, 1996
UCLA Chancellor Charles Young fires Jim Harrick for an ethics violation?
Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
DATE: January 22, 1996
Penny Hardaway has it all wrong. Shaquille O'Neal, by virtue of his
ability to throw a ball through a hoop, does not rise above criticism for
his irresponsibility in fathering a child out of wedlock. The burgeoning
rate of illegitimacy is the cause of many of our society's most serious
problems. Celebrities like O'Neal and Farrah Fawcett, as role models, who
flaunt their bringing children into this world outside of marriage do
untold harm by their bad example. Hooray for those who publicly chastise
DATE: January 6, 1996
As a 50 yard line Rams' season ticket holder for a quarter century, I
have 5 words for the NFL Stadium Committee and the budding Al Davis's who
are whimpering to get in line to foist a new NFL franchise on us: Get Lost
and Stay Lost.
DATE: December 26, 1995
Shav Glick's fine article about Rose Bowl history unfairly implies that
only the Big Ten unilaterally sent its second best teams to the Rose Bowl
in the early years to always face the champion of the Pacific Coast
Conference. In fact, the PCC adopted the same rule after Cal went to the
Rose Bowl in the three consecutive years of which Glick writes, 49-51.
This "no repeat" rule kept UCLA's best team ever, Red Sanders' 1954
juggernaut that annihilated Stanford, Oregon and USC 72-0, 67-0, and 34-0
respectively, from appearing in the 1955 Rose Bowl (in which SC lost to
Ohio State in a rainstorm). Only after Stanford took revenge for the 72-0
shellacking by orchestrating sanctions against the Bruins and the Trojans
in the late '50s did the PCC and Big Ten jettison the "no repeat" rule and
allow the conference champion to appear annually.
DATE: October 29, 1995
When the Rams started the season with a few lucky wins, some Rams
players attributed the victories to the enthusiasm of the St. Louis fans.
I must admit I took this personally, since I was a 25 year 50 yard line
season ticket holder when they were the Los Angeles Rams. I gave up my
seats last year when it became apparent to me that there was no one in the
organization, anywhere, who knew as much about football as I did the day
before I was born. Now that they are losing, I'm waiting to see of any of
these semi-literate geeks will say their losses are the fault of the
wonderful St. Louis fans, who, it should be noted, have been unable or
unwilling to support an American League baseball team, the Browns, an NFL
football team, the Cardinals, and an NBA basketball team, the Hawks.
DATE: September 9, 1995
There is something to be said for consistency, and Ralph Waldo Emerson
said it. But maybe its more pejorative than what Mal Florence implies in
Morning Briefing. Emerson opined that, "A foolish consistency is the
hobgoblin of little minds adored by little statesmen and philosophers and
DATE: August 30, 1995
The treatment of Mike Busch and his wife by the entire Dodger roster is
cruel, heartless, mean, and vicious. The Dodger players demean the City of
Los Angeles by their shameful, subhuman behavior. I wouldn't trade one
Mike Busch for the whole lot of them.
DATE: August 5, 1995
University of Southern California? When I was at UCLA we thought that
USC stood for the University of Second Choice.
DATE: July 31, 1995
Hooray for Todd Worrell. Finally someone (and a relief pitcher, no
less!) speaks out against Tommy Lasorda's refusal to allow a starting
pitcher to complete a game. I saw Lasorda pitch for the Angels in 1957. He
was an ineffective minor leaguer who rarely saw the money side of the 8th
inning, which might explain why he doesn't think anyone else can pitch 9
innings. His policy of pulling productive starting pitchers in late
innings for no justifiable reason (like, for instance, because the
shortstop makes an error) has cost the Dodgers hundreds of games.
These guys have talent, Tommy. Let 'em finish the game!
DATE: June 4, 1995
One need only watch a tape of a complete game of the 1952 World Series
to determine why today's games last so much longer. Then, when the average
time of games was slightly in excess of 2 hours, pitchers took less than
20 seconds, on the average, between pitches. Now it's closer to 40 seconds
between pitches, and that's the primary cause of 3 hour games.
Could not the same 24 second clock that saved the NBA also save
baseball? A clock could be prominently displayed for all to see, as it is
in basketball. If the pitcher doesn't deliver the ball within 24 seconds
of the umpire ruling the time period to start (when the ball is returned
to the pitcher), a ball would automatically be called. The umpire would
have the discretion to stop the clock in response to a request from either
the batter or pitcher that time be called. If a 5 person basketball team
can advance the ball 90 feet, pass it around, set up a play, and shoot,
all against competition, and all within 24 seconds, why can't a pitcher
make another pitch within the same period of time?