Monthly Archives: February 2009

RANGERS (FINALLY) RETIRE ANDY BATHGATE’S #9 AND Harry Howell’s #3

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

      

It was a long time coming at the Garden.  The Rangers had decided to retire Adam Graves’ #9 last year and announced, at the time, that they would “honor” (but not retire) the #9 of Ranger legend (and Hall of Famer) Andy Bathgate and the #3 of Hall of Famer Harry Howell.  Anyone who knows about the two #9s knows that Adam Graves, as a hockey player, was nowhere near the player that Andy Bathgate was in the pre-expansion era.  There must have been a behind-the-scenes backlash because eventually it was decided to retire (rather than just “honor”) both Bathgate’s and Howell’s numbers.

    

When the Rangers announced that the retirement night would be for Graves, I asked a former Garden higher-up who had been there for over 20 years how they could possibly retire Graves’ number and not retire it for Bathgate.  He essentially laughed at my naivete and simply said “a few million dollars.”  But clearly others stepped up to tell the right people that this would be a travesty.  Hence, the wonderful retirement ceremony that took place this past Sunday night at the Garden.

    

Nothing against Adam Graves, arguably the greatest community guy in the history of New York sports, a huge statement.  Whether that should count towards getting your number up in the rafters is an entirely different matter.

       

ANDY BATHGATE – SUPERSTAR

       

People forget what a superstar, as a Ranger, Andy Bathgate was in his heyday.  Even Stan Fischler, the night Adam Graves had his number retired, told the MSG audience that Andy Bathgate was Adam Graves before Adam Graves.  Utter nonsense, of course, as Graves was a one-time second team NHL All-Star who never cracked the top 10 in scoring.  Bathgate, on the other hand, was a first-team NHL All-Star twice, beating out a guy named Gordie Howe.  And he was a second-team NHL All-Star twice, finishing second to, you guessed it, Mr. Hockey.

    

Here’s an even more impressive and fascinating stat that you probably won’t read anywhere else.  From 1955-56 through 1962-63, Andy Bathgate, as a Ranger, finished in the top 5 in scoring every season, a stunning accomplishment.  That eight-year stretch of scoring brilliance was surpassed only by Wayne Gretzky (13 years) and Stan Mikita (nine years).  Phil Esposito also did it eight years in a row.

    

Andy Bathgate won the Hart Trophy (MVP) in 1958-59.  He tied Bobby Hull for the scoring championship in 1961-62 (Hull was given the Art Ross trophy because he scored more goals).  He eventually won his Stanley Cup with Toronto.  He was the main and often the only real offensive threat for the Rangers in the above-mentioned eight-year span, where he averaged over 78 points a season (a staggering number in the 70-game, pre-expansion NHL) and led the Rangers in scoring by an average of 21 points per season over any other teammate (most stats here are from Hockey-Reference.com).

    

One can easily argue that he was the greatest player, AS A RANGER, in the history of the Rangers (we might have to go back to the ‘20s and ‘30s for that debate, but that’s for another time).

     

THE GREAT HARRY HOWELL

     

 Harry Howell was an all-time great defensive defenseman.  Aside from playing more games as a Ranger than anyone else in the history of the Rangers, Harry Howell won the Norris Trophy for best defenseman in 1966-67.  This is particularly notable because Howell is the only defenseman not named Bobby Orr to win the Norris Trophy when Orr was healthy (Orr won the Calder (Rookie of the Year) in 66-67 and then would win the next eight Norris trophies).

    

Howell was as steady as they come and played on the Rangers power play (with Rod Gilbert in the 1960s often playing the other point, leaving it up to Howell to essentially defend alone against short-handed rushes).  And what old-timers will remember is that Howell was the greatest at “accidentally” turning the wrong way in the neutral zone when an opponent shot a puck out of their defensive zone which led to hundreds of icing calls against the Rangers’ opposition over the years.

    

Howell played in every game in ten Ranger seasons.  He was a first-team All-Star in 1966-67 and played in seven All-Star Games.

     

MANY THOUGHT IT WAS LONG OVERDUE

     

It’s hard to know what went on behind the scenes over the last 20 years or so but it’s interesting to see the present-day reaction.  When told on Adam Graves Night that their numbers would be retired, Howell said “It’s been a long time coming.”  Bathgate praised Graves more as a great community guy than as a player.  It was clear that both were happy with kind of an edge about how long it took to finally happen. 

    

On their night, however, others didn’t pull any punches.  Eddie Giacomin, blunt as always, simply said “I thought this should have happened 20 years ago.”  Vic Hadfield agreed that it was long overdue.  Rod Gilbert said that he “had been praying for this day for many years.”      

     

DOES THIS OPEN A PANDORA’S BOX?

     

Of course it does.  Excellent hockey writer Larry Brooks of the New York Post has already stated that he thinks the numbers of Brad Park, Jean Ratelle, Vic Hadfield and Ron Greschner should be retired.  Great debates abound but next week you can read an article here about why Frank Boucher (who?) is easily the greatest Ranger ever and what the next banner raised at the Garden really should have on it to right a number of wrongs.

    

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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Steve as Guest Host on WFAN – 2/22/09

s28671Steve Kallas filled in for Rick Wolff, and was joined by attorney Ernest Fronzuto who discussed the case of his client, Steven Domalewski, the 12-year-old boy who suffered devastating injuries when was hit in the chest with a ball hit off an aluminum bat on June 6, 2006 at a youth baseball game in Wayne, New Jersey.

PROFESSIONAL BOWLERS ASSOCIATION IS RIGHT: EARL ANTHONY #1

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

The PBA recently announced the top 50 bowlers of the 50 years of the PBA.  There was much dispute, discussion and anticipation about who would be #1 and who would be #2.  The contestants, of course, were Earl Anthony and Walter Ray Williams, Jr.

    

Thankfully, the experts got it right and named Earl Anthony the greatest bowler of the last 50 years.

     

Anthony, the smooth left-hander, had plenty of firsts and finished first plenty of times.  He was the first bowler to reach $1 million in earnings.  He was the PBA Player of the Year six times, a stunning accomplishment.  He won the George Young High Average Award five times.  And, as stated, he finished first 43 times, including a record 10 “majors” (that dispute over whether or not the two USBC Masters he won were “majors” or “titles” disappeared in the last year or so).  Cool as they come and as smooth as a bowler can be, Anthony dominated the tour and amassed his stunning accomplishments in only 14 years.  He is a member of both the PBA Hall of Fame and the USBC Hall of Fame. 

    

Hall of Famer Williams, of course, has surpassed many of Anthony’s records.  He is the first player to reach $4 million in earnings and he has now won a record 45 titles, seven of which are majors.  He has now won a title in 16 consecutive years, breaking the long-standing record of (you guessed it) Earl Anthony (15 consecutive years).  He is right-handed, which makes it more difficult in the eyes of most to win titles.  He also has been named PBA Player of the Year six times.  And his career is still stunningly successful.

      

CONTROVERSY?

      

Interestingly, on the ESPN telecast when the decision was announced, two experts took a middle ground despite believing Walter Ray is the better bowler.  Randy Pedersen (#35 on the list), for example, has stated numerous times on national TV over the last few years that we were “looking at the greatest bowler ever” when watching Walter Ray.  On the day of the announcement, however, he took a more politically correct stance, not saying that he thought the experts were wrong.

    

Even fan favorite Bo Burton (#15 on the list), who seemed to tell Pete Dougherty of TimesUnion.com just a few months ago that he thought Walter Ray was the best, simply said, on national TV, that maybe they will take another vote in five or ten years and the result might be different.

    

It might be too much to ask for a little controversy.

    

Writer Pete Dougherty, who did have a vote, voted for Earl Anthony and presented an interesting stat:  Earl Anthony won a staggering 11.1% of the tournaments he entered while Walter Ray was a distant second, having won 6.4% of his tournaments.

        

HERE’S WHY IT’S AN ESPECIALLY GOOD DECISION

       

In the world of sports that we live in today (you know, nothing happened in the history of sports before 1979), it’s usually the latest who is viewed to be the greatest.  For example, when ESPN came out with its Top 50 athletes of the 20th Century, they somehow voted Michael Jordan #1.  While there’s no chance that Jordan is the greatest athlete ever (Jim Thorpe, Jim Brown and Jackie Robinson were certainly better “athletes” than Jordan), there’s a real question as to whether Jordan is even the greatest basketball player ever (Wilt, Russell, Oscar – pick any one and you might be right).  And if you had to pick the greatest player in a team sport (as opposed to the greatest athlete), well, the first three guys on that list would be named Babe Ruth.

    

But I digress.  In the world of today, it was excellent to see someone recognized from yesterday.

       

WHAT DOES WALTER RAY THINK?

        

Thankfully, Walter Ray totally gets it.  He was widely-quoted as saying: “I feel Earl’s record is better than mine because it was more condensed.  Earl bowled 14 years and 400 or so events.  I’ve bowled well over 600 by now, maybe 700.  Some people will argue Earl’s era was tougher, but others will argue my era was tougher.  The reality is, people threw the ball differently in each era.  That’s the way the game is played.”

    

Walter Ray continued: “I’m very pleased to be No. 2.  If Dick Weber would have had 45 titles at the time Earl was still bowling, he probably would have kept on bowling because he would have wanted someone to chase.  As it was, he retired because no one had close to the number of titles he had.  He didn’t have anything to shoot for.”

    

Amen to that.

    

So there you have it.  The #2 bowler agreeing with the selection of the #1 bowler.  That kind of class rarely exists today.

         

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

SAY IT AIN’T SO, JOE, PART II

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

     

It was hard to believe that Joe Torre would actually write a book and throw some of his former players under the bus.  But it certainly seemed that way when the excerpts got out.  Torre and others said wait until you read the book.  Torre did a number of interviews (Larry King, Mike Francesa, Bob Costas) and essentially said “I don’t think I broke the code” of whatever goes on in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse, something Torre had accused pitcher David Wells of when he wrote his book.  In Say it Ain’t So, Joe, Part I  (Kallas Remarks, 1/30/09), this writer thought there was little or no difference and that Joe, having already won the battle and the war, decided to keep fighting (by writing a book) and, as a result, lost some ground. 

    

Well, after reading the book cover to cover, listening to the entirety of the King, Francesa and Costas interviews with Torre (and partially, in Costas’s case, with his (Costas’s) MLB Network colleague, co-author Tom Verducci), it still says here that this was a clear violation (with multiple offenses) of the code and that hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of Yankee fans will always look at Torre in a different light now.  And, yes, this is being written by a life-long Yankee fan who thought (and still thinks) that Torre did a great job and will someday (but no longer soon) have his number retired at the new (but not the same) Yankee Stadium.

 

A COUPLE OF SUGGESTIONS FOR THE PAPERBACK EDITION

         

The whole “who wrote what part of the book” quickly became a moving target for critics of the book.  When the paperback edition comes out, maybe they can put Torre’s words in red ink and Verducci’s words in blue ink.  When there’s a vivid description of trainer Steve Donahue rubbing hot liniment all over the body of Roger Clemens, including his testicles (p. 132, too much info there?), is it Torre’s insight or Verducci’s?  When talking about the Red Sox, when Grady Little was named manager, Pedro Martinez, according to the book (p. 190), “was so happy he danced naked around the clubhouse, cracking up his teammates by playing with his ‘member’.” (again, too much info).  Presumably, Torre wasn’t there, so (I guess) those are Verducci’s words.

    

Another suggestion would be to check Joe Torre’s acknowledgements section right after page 477.  Torre has stated numerous times that he read the book over and over and apparently, if he didn’t understand anything (like the Single White Female reference about A-Rod), he “trusted” Tom Verducci.  He wouldn’t change anything in the book and firmly believes that he didn’t cross any lines.  Aside from the absurdity of that position (that’s Joe’s story and he’s sticking with it, almost with a What, Me Worry? tone), the “Acknowledgements” section starts first with a thank you to George Steinbrenner and then he acknowledges Arthur Richman, who suggested to Steinbrenner that Joe would be a good candidate, by writing, in his own book “Arthur Richmond for suggesting to The Boss that he hire me.”

    

I’ve never seen a name spelled incorrectly in an Acknowledgement.  After all, this might be the most personal part of a book for any author.  Maybe Torre read the book over and over again, but it doesn’t seem that he read his Acknowledgements even once.

       

SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF BREAKING THE CODE

     

“I’ve always tried to respect guys’ privacy” – Joe Torre (p. 182)

    

About Chuck Knoblauch (pp. 56-57), Torre said “I never realized how fragile he was.”  He then went on to describe conversations with Knoblauch (and with others about Knoblauch) that went on in the clubhouse after Knoblauch walked off the field on June 16, 2000 after having one of his inexplicable I-can’t-throw-from-second-to-first games.  Whatever the content of the conversations, it violates what is said in the clubhouse should stay in the clubhouse.

    

About Roger Clemens (pp. 77-78), Clemens asked Torre if he could use the office phone to call his mother (that’s what the book says).  The two men then had a conversation about Clemens fitting in and, when Torre told Clemens, “fit in my ass, you be who you are.  Be Roger Clemens,” Roger replied “That’s what my mom is always telling me.”  Funny?  Yes.  Breaking the code?  Absolutely.        

    

More on Clemens (p.135):  After the Piazza bat-breaking, Clemens-throws-it-in-his- direction World Series fiasco, pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, who was eating a cheeseburger with George Steinbrenner in Torre’s office (?), found Clemens in the locker room, crying uncontrollably.

    

On Jason Giambi (p.170):  Torre couldn’t believe that Giambi needed his personal trainer to motivate him. “You need to be self-motivated here.  You don’t need somebody to push you. He [the trainer] had to tell him everything.”  Torre went on to say that Giambi didn’t always work hard enough.  Code?  You be the judge.

    

It gets worse.  Alex Rodriguez, whether Torre understands it or not, was going to take a lot of grief for A-Fraud, which, as the book states (p. 245): “People in the clubhouse, including teammates and support personnel, were calling him “A-Fraud” behind his back.”  With his now admitted steroid use, A-Fraud might seem mild.  But that misses the point.  When Torre, on the interview circuit, said Larry Bowa called him A-Fraud as a joke, that’s great.  But a) so what?; and b) what page of the book is that on? Answer: it’s not in the book.

    

The whole get-your-own-cup-of-coffee statement by Torre to A-Rod (pp. 249-50, so A-Rod would seem more like a member of the team) is both funny and sad.  It’s funny, because A-Rod actually goes and gets his own cup of coffee and tells Joe Torre about it.  Torre, of course, uses that as one example to show that Alex “just didn’t get it.”  It’s sad because it also makes A-Rod appear to be a simpleton.  Code violation?  Of course.

    

There are plenty more examples, but we’ll just give you the page numbers for Kevin Brown (p. 323, “curled up on the floor after getting hammered by Tampa Bay; Torre: “I think he had some emotional issues”) and Kyle Farnsworth (p.425, Torre found Farnsworth on the floor in the Shea Stadium trainer’s room, crying).

    

Carl Pavano, there’s not enough space to write about him.  But suffice it to say that when Mike Mussina criticized Pavano to reporters during spring training, Torre is quoted in his book (p.320) as saying that “Moose didn’t do the right thing, the way he went about it.”  Code?  What code?  Is there one or not?  Even Bernie Williams was made to look like an idiot (pp. 352-53). 

       

WHAT ABOUT BRIAN CASHMAN AND THE YANKEE FRONT OFFICE?

          

Well, clearly it became more difficult to operate with the Yankee front office as that group got bigger and bigger and bigger.  Did Brian Cashman and others make a lot of bad moves?  Of course they did.  Did Brian Cashman get the Yankees to the playoffs (and, to some degree, a World Series victory) in 2000 by acquiring David Justice (20 HR, 60 RBI in 78 games)?  Of course he did.  Now, I’m no fan of the Yankee hierarchy (not mentioning Torre at the final Yankee game at the Stadium was an everlasting disgrace), but you shouldn’t slaughter a guy publicly for plenty of bad moves without mentioning David Justice.  Or does the code not apply to non-players?

    

And I guess we’ll never know what George Steinbrenner thought when Joe Torre told him that, in 1996, the Yankees were going to sweep Atlanta in Atlanta and come back to win the World Series in Game 6 at the Stadium.  We had all heard that famous story for years.  But I never heard (until now) that down, 1-0 in games, Torre told Steinbrenner, just prior to Game 2 (p. 16), “You should be prepared for us to lose again tonight, but then we’re going to Atlanta.  Atlanta’s my town.  We’ll take three games and win it back here on Saturday.”  Yikes!  Presumably, Verducci (not Torre) goes on to write, “Sure enough, the Yankees lost to Maddux, 4-0.”

    

I’ve never heard of such a thing – a manager tells an owner we’re going to lose tonight?  In the World Series?  That’s bizarre.  This whole prophet thing is right out of Kreskin.  Joe Torre, the magician.  Could he really have told the owner that we’ll lose tonight?  Well, that’s what the book says. 

    

As for Cashman never telling the hierarchy at the final meeting that Torre wanted a two-year deal for one year of security, well, that’s also bizarre.  Assuming it to be true, if you were looking for a new contract and you asked for a meeting and you flew down to Tampa and you sat in the room to discuss your future, wouldn’t you be intelligent enough to bring it up at the meeting?  According to Torre, he forgot about it until he saw Cashman after the meeting at the elevator.  Could you, in Joe Torre’s shoes, actually forget your own idea for your own security (or, at least, your perceived view of your own security)?  That’s Brian Cashman’s fault?  Come on.    

      

DID JOE TORRE MAKE AN ON-THE-FIELD MANAGERIAL MISTAKE IN 12 YEARS OF MANAGING THE YANKEES?

      

Apparently not.  I can’t find one in the book, unless you count this:  At one point, Torre said he wanted to tell Mariano Rivera to be aggressive against Bill Mueller in Game 4 of the 2004 playoffs with the Yankees about to sweep the Red Sox.  He decided not to because Rivera had easily struck out Mueller earlier in the series.  Mueller, of course, walked and started the beginning of the greatest collapse (by the Yankees) in the history of baseball.

    

What?  I’m sorry, but you have to tell the greatest relief pitcher ever to be aggressive?  Come on.

    

There’s no discussion of pitching out to get Dave Roberts (who pinch ran for Mueller).  There’s no discussion of trying to steal on Tim Wakefield later in the series when Jason Varitek was catching.  How about bunting on Curt Schilling in Game 6?  Bringing in Jeff Weaver in the 2003 World Series for two innings (with Rivera in the bullpen as the game ended — one inning was a huge gamble but two was ridiculous)?  Torre (or Verducci) tries to explain some of these blunders away.  But to no avail.

    

But without question, the biggest blunder took place in the 2007 “bug” game against Cleveland.  It’s impossible to believe that, if either Don Zimmer or Mel Stottlemyre had still been around (Torre’s in-game decision-making suffered greatly when these guys left), Joba Chamberlain would have been left in the game to give up the tying run in Game 2 (after the Yankees had lost Game 1) of the best-of-five playoff series (see Kallas Remarks, 3/29/08, A Torre Error Ended the Torre Era) with the greatest reliever ever in the bullpen.

    

The chapter in the book devoted to the game (chapter 15), entitled “Attack of the Midges,” should have been entitled “Where’s Mariano?”  It’s hard to believe that a top baseball writer like Tom Verducci didn’t realize the mistake (then or now) because he sure wrote in the book what virtually every Yankee fan knew:  that the rookie Chamberlain, in his first playoff appearance, was quickly in trouble for whatever reason.  Verducci (I assume) writes (p. 438):  “It was quickly evident how badly Chamberlain was compromised [due to the bugs].  He walked the leadoff batter, Grady Sizemore, on four pitches.  Chamberlain had faced 91 batters during the season and only twice even went so far as a 3-and-0 count.”

    

Well, that should have been enough to get Mariano in the game.  Virtually every Yankee fan knew that.  But, apparently, not Joe Torre.  It was all downhill from there with Mariano (later) pitching two scoreless innings in a tie game.  The Yankees would eventually lose and, in the next two games, Torre would bring Mariano in in the eighth inning (too little, too late).  It’s not too much of a stretch to say that, if Torre had brought Mariano in after the four-pitch walk by Chamberlain, there would be a good chance that he’d still be managing the Yankees.  A stunning mistake, never discussed in the book.

    

Of course, to this day, Torre says his big mistake was not taking his team off the field.  That, of course, would be a non-baseball mistake.  Not putting in the greatest closer ever (in the eighth inning), as he had done dozens of times before, ended the Joe Torre era.

       

SO, WHY DID HE WRITE THE BOOK?

        

It is still a mystery.  The party line (Torre and Verducci) is that this is a “piece of history” for your bookshelf.  But it’s a piece of history, according to Joe Torre, like David Wells’s book is a piece of history according to David Wells or Jose Canseco’s books are a piece of history according to Jose Canseco (and his books ring truer every day). 

    

If Brian Cashman ever wrote a book that blamed all of the Yankee problems on managerial decisions and none on his (or the front office’s) player moves, it would be a piece of history according to Brian Cashman.  Of course, Cashman, to date, has elected to take the high road, but the point is he’d be laughed out of town if he took that position.  Torre’s reputation has been hurt because of the breaking of the code and the one-sided nature of the book (let me know if you find any on-the-field managerial mistakes), but it says here he still is a Hall of Fame manager who simply made a big post-Yankee mistake (you don’t think some Dodgers are worried? – even Larry Bowa said recently that it could be a problem for a few guys this year in the Dodgers clubhouse).

    

Maybe he wrote it for the money.  Maybe he is mean-spirited (Yankee announcer Michael Kay recently said that he is).  But this book and the decision to write it was not made by the guy we knew and loved as Yankee manager for 12 playoff-bound years.  After all of the attempted explanations (wasn’t anyone around to give him some good advice?), it’s still inexplicable.

      

WE’LL LEAVE THE LAST WORDS TO BOB COSTAS

       

After doing the Torre and/or Verducci interview on TV, Costas did a spot on New York radio.  While he did say that Torre “broke the code” (although he was quick to point out that it was “only by degree” (whatever that means)), here’s what Costas had to say:  “There are scars there that are going to take a long time to heal, if ever.”  Later, he said, “The hurt feelings take a long time to heal.”

    

Finally, maybe not even knowing that he was speaking for hundreds of thousands or even millions of Yankee fans, Bob Costas said, talking about Joe Torre writing a book:  “Does Joe Torre need this?  How big is the upside to Joe Torre? That’s what has me scratching my head.”

     

We’re all scratching our heads, Bob.  

     

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

SOME FASCINATING THINGS YOU MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE SEEN AT THE SUPER BOWL

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

There were a number of fascinating things that happened during the great football game that was Super Bowl 43 (time to forget about the Roman Numerals, no?).  Here’s a list and a brief discussion:

 

1 – THE HARRISON TOUCHDOWN RETURN – One of the greatest (maybe the greatest) plays in the history of football, Steeler James Harrison picked off a pass headed into the end zone and trudged down the sideline about 100 yards to just get in for a game-changing play.  But did anyone notice Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals running (out of bounds) down the sideline for about 25 yards?  The excellent NFL VP of Officiating, Mike Pereira, reviewed the play for the NFL Network and stated that the Steelers would have had one more play even if Harrison was tackled on the one because the Cardinals were charged with a face mask penalty.

    

But here’s the fascinating part:  As Fitzgerald was sprinting down the sidelines out of bounds, he literally ran into his own man (#21, Antrel Rolle) who was not in the game.  So it’s pretty clear that Fitzgerald would have gotten to Harrison earlier and (maybe) tackled him before he scored the game-changing touchdown.  While, according to Pereira, the Steelers would have had one more play before the half, there’s certainly no guarantee that they would have scored a touchdown or even whether they would have settled for a field goal.  In theory, at least, one could argue that Larry Fitzgerald running into his own man might have cost the Cardinals the Super Bowl.  Fascinating, no?      

    

2 – THE LATE SAFETY – There’s been a lot of talk about this, but this writer thinks that the Steelers should have played it extra safe with a lead late in the game.  Up six, the Steelers could have played FOR a safety.  That is, if they ran three running plays up the gut (or even three QB-type sneaks), they would have either forced Arizona to use all of their time outs OR they could have run significant time off the clock (or some combination thereof).   

     

On television, John Madden realized when the Steelers lined up for third down that they might actually take a safety (he said they could do it literally as the ball was being snapped).  Of course, since there was a hold in the end zone on the pass completed on that play, the safety was automatic.  Al Michaels never understood the taking a safety potential, stating that the Steelers had to get a few yards for the punter to have an easier punt out of the end zone, as if the Steelers would have punted on fourth down.  If the Steelers had wound up punting from their own end zone (if it had played out that way) up six, it would have been one of the dumbest plays in Super Bowl history.  Interesting, no?

     

3 – THE LARRY FITZGERALD TOUCHDOWN LATE IN THE GAME – The Steelers were roundly criticized for playing their safeties too deep and allowing Larry Fitzgerald to run a little slant and go right up the middle for a touchdown to give the Cardinals the lead late in the game.  And there is certainly some truth in that criticism.  But that’s not why Fitzgerald scored. 

        

On that play, Fitzgerald was lined up in the slot.  Both wide receivers ran out patterns.  Inexplicably, BOTH safeties went to double the outside receivers on their respective side.  Since All-World Troy Polamalu was lined up on Fitzgerald’s side, it’s hard to believe he would leave Fitzgerald to double anyone else on the planet.  But that’s exactly what happened and that blown coverage, even more than the prevent defense that the Steelers were playing, was the key to the Fitzgerald touchdown.

    

4 – THE SUPER BOWL-WINNING TOUCHDOWN AND CELEBRATION – Everybody saw the stunning catch in the end zone by Santonio Holmes to, essentially, win the Super Bowl.  Tens of millions of people saw Holmes, after the touchdown, definitely use the football as a prop to do a Lebron James-like celebration.  But no penalty was called.  Why not?

    

Well, according to Mike Pereira, VP of Officiating, it WAS a penalty.  But since it wasn’t immediately after the touchdown (Holmes was congratulated by numerous teammates first), no official actually saw it.  According to Pereira, if seen it would have been called.  While, again, we’ll never know what would have happened, at a minimum, the Steelers would have kicked off from the 15, not the 30.  Stunning stuff for the biggest game of the year.

    

5 – THE FINAL KURT WARNER FUMBLE PLAY – Still with a chance, Kurt Warner went back to pass and was hit while his arm was not yet going forward.  A close play to be sure, but it was properly ruled a fumble, essentially ending the Super Bowl.  Immediately the critics went nuts.  Why wasn’t it reviewed?

    

Well, it was reviewed.  But it was reviewed upstairs quickly and not announced in the normal way.  Apparently, it was quickly concluded (correctly) that it was a fumble.  But, in the biggest game of the year with tens of millions of viewers watching, it should have been given, for lack of a better phrase, the “full review” treatment.  That would have saved a lot of questions and criticism for the NFL.

    

All in all, a great Super Bowl: Steelers 27, Cardinals 23.

     

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

Steve on Rick Wolff’s “The Sports Edge” 2/1/09

Steve Kallas on Rick Wolff’s “The Sports Edge” Sunday, February 1, 2009 , on WFAN 660 AM radio in New York City.
   

Part 1

Steve and Rick discuss the criminal indictment of a Kentucky high school football coach for reckless homicide.

 

         

Continued

Steve and Rick continue to discuss the criminal indictment of a Kentucky high school football coach for reckless homicide.

          

Continued and Final

Steve and Rick finish their discussion on the criminal indictment and then discuss the case of a parent, at a high school basketball game, who ran on to the court and punched two players on the opposing team. 

 

 

IF ALLEGATIONS ARE TRUE, CASE OF INDICTED KENTUCKY HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL COACH A CLOSE ONE

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas 

    

It’s apparently never happened before – a high school football player dies of heat stroke and his coach is indicted for “Reckless Homicide.”  While about 5-6 kids a year die from heat stroke in a football environment, this is the first time a coach has been criminally indicted.

    

On August 20, 2008, in Louisville, Kentucky, Pleasure Ridge Park High School (“PRP”) was holding a football practice.  The heat index (temperature plus humidity) had reached 94.  According to some reports, parents at a nearby girls’ soccer game heard head coach David Jason Stinson yelling at his players that he wouldn’t give them water, that they shouldn’t ask for water, that he would tell them when they could have water.  Reports from alleged witnesses also state that the coach said that the players would run “gassers” (wind sprints, suicides) until somebody quit the team.  Witnesses also said that a boy, senior Antonio Calloway, had collapsed and was taken to the sidelines.

    

A few minutes later, 6’2’, 220 lb. sophomore Max Gilpin, whose father was watching from a distance, went to his knees and collapsed on the practice field.  PRP’s athletic director, Craig Webb, saw the whole thing unfold from a distance (he was at the soccer game) and got in his car (a Gator) and drove over to the 15-year-old Gilpin.  While the timing of virtually everything is in dispute, two parents lifted Max Gilpin on to the Gator and he was driven over by the athletic director to the water station near the practice field.  Once there, according to the athletic director’s deposition testimony (in a pending civil suit), a parent disconnected the hose to the watering system and started to shower Max from the back of his neck down over his body.

    

According to the AD, Max was sweating profusely and moaning.  Max’s legs were elevated over the Gator while he was being hosed down.  Eventually, an ice pack was brought over and placed on the back of Max’s neck.  The athletic director then told Max’s father to take his son’s shoes and socks off (Max had no shirt on when he collapsed).  Apparently a 911 call was made while Max was being hosed down at the watering station.

    

Eventually (the timing is an issue), an ambulance came to pick up Max but there was a delay in leaving as a discussion ensued as to whether the ambulance should take Antonio Calloway as well (the boy who had collapsed earlier).  Eventually, both were taken to the hospital in the same ambulance.

    

Two days later, Antonio Calloway was released from the hospital and went home. 

    

The next day, Max Gilpin died.

 

THE CIVIL SUIT AND THE CRIMINAL INDICTMENT

 

    

Max Gilpin’s parents, in the fall of 2008, filed a civil suit against head coach David Jason Stinson and all five assistant coaches of the PRP football team for negligence and reckless disregard.  The suit has been proceeding with discovery and the deposition of the athletic director, Craig Webb, was taken on January 16, 2009.  Coach Stinson’s deposition is scheduled for February 13, 2009.

    

In the interim, however, a Jefferson County grand jury decided to indict Coach Stinson for the Class D Felony of Reckless Homicide, which carries a penalty, if convicted, of one to five years in jail.  In Jefferson County, Kentucky, a grand jury is made up of 12 people, nine of whom have to vote for indictment.  While a defendant can request to testify before a grand jury in Kentucky, the grand jury does not have to hear his testimony if they don’t want to.  Apparently, in this case, they didn’t want to as Coach Stinson wanted to testify and was not allowed to appear before the grand jury.

    

On January 23, 2009, the first football coach to be criminally indicted for a death on a football field was indicted in Jefferson County, Kentucky.  Prosecutor David Stengel said that reckless homicide occurs when a “person fails to perceive a risk that a reasonable person in that situation would have seen” and that person’s actions (or, presumably, inactions) cause a death.  Stengel was also quoted (by the Louisville Courier-Journal, which has covered the story from the get-go) as saying, “This is not about football.  This is not about coaches.  It’s about a trained adult who was in charge of the health and welfare of a child.”

 

DIFFERENT ALLEGATIONS SUPPORT ONE SIDE OR THE OTHER

 

    

There’s a lot here but, for purposes of this article, a list will be set forth below.  It’s unclear as to what will be admissible in a civil trial and/or a criminal trial but here are facts reported either in the newspaper or elicited during the 251-page deposition of PRP athletic director Webb.

    

 

1)      The athletic director never asked the coaching staff what happened that day.  He eventually was told by the police not to talk to students or coaches but during the two-week or so time period between the August 20 practice and early September, he never made an inquiry into what happened;

2)      Jeff Gilpin, Max’s father, stated to a local TV station that, based on what he saw at practice, he didn’t believe the coaches had done anything wrong.  But after hearing all the facts (from other parents, etc.), he changed his mind.

3)      Unbeknownst to the school or the coaches, Max Gilpin had been taking creatine, which apparently can contribute to something like heat stroke.  The school did know that Max Gilpin was taking Adderal for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which also could have affected him that day.

4)      The doctors told Max’s parents that no autopsy would be necessary or conducted and said the cause of his death was heat stroke.

5)      When Max Gilpin collapsed, no coach immediately responded.  The athletic director, a few parents and eventually Mr. Gilpin were the first ones to get to Max, load him on to the AD’s Gator and take him to the water station.

6)      The coach was allowed to coach the whole season.  It was his first year as the head coach after three years as an assistant.

7)      Supposedly there is a player who did quit the team on August 20 during the “gassers”, allegedly to end the running drills.  The plaintiff’s attorney in the civil suit stated his name during the AD’s deposition.

8)      Apparently multiple e-mails exist from parents at the adjoining soccer game who claim that they heard the coach telling the football team that they couldn’t have water.            

9)      One teammate of Max’s appeared on CBS’s Early Morning show and stated that the team had a number of water breaks during the practice.

10)  There are allegations that the heat index (of 94) was taken in the shade that day by the coaches because, under Kentucky High School Association Rules, if the heat index is 95, a new set of precautionary steps must be taken.

11)  Coach Stinson was released on his own recognizance and must appear in court on March 20.  He vehemently denies all of the charges and is looking forward to telling his side of the story.

12)  A prayer vigil, with hundreds attending in 20 degree weather to support Coach Stinson, was held last Sunday, January 25,  where Coach Stinson addressed the crowd and was devastated about what happened to his player.

13)  Having said all of the above, there is a recent case in federal court (the 11th Circuit, which does not include Kentucky) where the court held that plaintiffs could not recover (in a section 1983 case for deprivation of rights of a student who died in similar circumstances to Max Gilpin) against a coach who had qualified immunity, according to the 11th Circuit.  See Davis v. Carter, No. 08-10162, 11th Circuit, 1/23/09.  This case will be looked into by Coach Stinson’s attorney.

14)  It is being reported today (February 1, 2009) in the Louisville Courier-Journal that Coach Stinson, who played for Howard Schnellenberger at Louisville in the mid-1990s, told Max Gilpin’s mother at the hospital about how he (Stinson) played for Schnellenberger who had very strict water policies.  Schnellenberger was sued in the late 1990s by a Louisville player who almost died due to lack of water (the case was later dismissed).  In that case, according to the Courier-Journal, Schnellenberger cited his coaches (such as Paul “Bear” Bryant of Junction Boys fame) for his own strict water policies.

                                                                             

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

     

Coach Stinson is scheduled to be deposed in the civil suit on February 13.  It’s hard to believe that his lawyers will let him testify in a civil case while under criminal indictment (remember, he tried to testify before the grand jury but, in Kentucky, the grand jury doesn’t have to allow him to testify before them).

     

The other defendants in the civil case, Stinson’s five assistants, were not indicted as they were found not to have committed any criminal act, according to prosecutor Stengel.

       

Coach Stinson returns to criminal court on March 20.

        

Clearly, there was enough evidence presented to a grand jury in Kentucky to indict this football coach.  It’s very unfortunate (un-American?) that he was not allowed to testify before the grand jury.  This is a close case depending on the believability of the witnesses and what they say under oath.  This will come down to a jury decision (Stinson’s attorney has apparently stated that his client will not take a plea) and is a very close call.  Was this the crazy, old-time coach who abused his players and pushed them too hard on the wrong day (after all, water wasn’t even allowed in practices all over the country in the 1970s and before)?  Or was this a hard-working coach trying to build his team towards a successful season and, rarely but sometimes, these tragic “incidents” happen? 

      

It will be up to a jury to decide.

      

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.