Saturday, February 14, 2015
by Steve Ferguson, OTSL Co-Founder
In all my formative years seeing Wrigley Field on TV
I really relished the chance to see it live in all its splendor
Finally the opportunity presented itself in the summer of 2003
Granted the game wasn't important as standings were concerned
But the atmosphere and the excitement were there nonetheless
At last I stepped through the doors of this hallowed stadium
The golden plaques on the wall, the green grass, beautiful field
And of course who could forget the legendary ivy covered walls
Watching the game took me back to some of the great days of this park
The days when the Cubs had some of the best talent
Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins and Ron Santo
But none of them quite matched the talent, personality or pizzazz
Of Mr. Cub himself Ernie Banks
The first African-American player in Cubs history
His awesome ability both defensively and with the bat
Coupled with his energetic zest, his unforgettable effervescent smile
He had an insatiable passion for the game like no other
It made him so easy to love and accessible to all
When he finished his career in 1971
He had been selected to 14 All-Star games
Won 2 Silver Slugger awards, hit 40 plus home runs 6 times
And bashed 512 home runs
But I will always remember this man for one quote
Let's play 2!!
All of us who follow baseball will forever remember Mr. Sunshine
One of the best ever in this great game!
Sunday, January 04, 2015
by James Ferguson, OTSL Special Contributor
As we awake today, January 4, 2015, we do it with a heavy heart. During the middle of the night ESPN broadcaster Stuart Scott lost his battle with cancer. Stuart was a remarkable character who brought his passion for life in combination with his passion for sports and put it on display every night for all of us to enjoy.
Stuart leaves behind 2 daughters and many friends that will miss his enthusiasm. Stu did things his own way, bringing a side of the African American culture to center stage on SportsCenter, but he also represents the community of cancer survivors and for those still fighting the disease.
It is in this role that his memory will leave an indelible mark on us all. As a cancer survivor myself, I personally would like to thank him. Cancer can only take your body, but it can't take your soul, it can't take the love that he gave to his friends, his family and fans. Today I wear my scars in dedication to Stuart.
I promise to remember to fight through anything with a different kind of passion, because I still can. We each are responsible for how we will be remembered, but none of us know how long our journey will last. It is up to us to make the most of this gift called life.
Today those of you who may have known him personally or were a fan of his work should shed a tear. The world lost an inspirational, positive, dedicated, hard working man, but he will live on in the words he spoke as he received the Jim Valvano award last year. "Every day I am reminded that our life's journey is really about about the people who touch us.....when you die, it does not mean you loose to cancer, you beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner of which you live."
It should be up to us all to live these words out, as he no longer can. My condolences go out to all who knew this amazing man. Booya!
Sunday, August 03, 2014
By Anthony Strait, OTSL Floor Director
LeBron James announced he was returning to Cleveland and the Cavaliers. The fans of Cleveland rejoiced while many of the Heat faithful showed their displeasure. But wait…wasn’t it just four years ago that Cleveland fans burned LeBron’s Cavs jersey while Miami threw a well-criticized pep rally? How about the heat Carmelo Anthony received for re-signing with the Knicks for essentially a raise; wouldn’t we all want a bump in pay in our regular jobs? Of course the sports fan feels that titles should trump money or the idea of not wanting to uproot a family. Knicks fans who celebrated his re-signing were also the ones saying “don’t let the door hit you on the way out of New York” just a week earlier. Meanwhile Bulls fans who wanted him now say their team is better off without “Me-lo” despite the fact that Chicago was in dire need of a scorer after their lack of offense showed in the playoffs. The same people who bashed LeBron for leaving for Miami are the ones bashing Melo for staying in an obvious rebuilding situation. Not one of those fans however would leave any money on the table let alone $54 million.
Flip-flopping isn’t just confined to Basketball of course. In baseball we all hate cheaters now and forever; guys like Clemens, Bonds, McGwire and Sosa should never be allowed in the Hall of Fame for their allege involvement in PED use. Alex Rodriguez is the worst thing to happen to the sport because he is a cheater. If we all hate cheaters then what was Nelson Cruz doing not only playing in this year’s All-Star game but starting as the American League Designated Hitter after serving a 50-game suspension for performance enhancing drug use? How come the very Milwaukee Brewers fans who want A-Rod banned cheer for Ryan Braun who served 81 games and got an innocent man fired? For all the drama surrounding Ray Rice it won’t stop fans from drafting him on to their fantasy league teams or Ravens fans supporting “their” guy. Heck by next month the firestorm will all be forgotten as the NFL regular season starts. The very fan that bashes ESPN and its coverage of news stories more than likely has their cable box programmed to the channel upon powering on the device.
In a world where social media allows us more access to our favorite superstar, today’s sports fan have become more fickle and passionate than ever before. Meanwhile today’s athlete is under more scrutiny than ever before while being asked to turn the other cheek when fans become abusive in any way imaginable. Can you imagine what Michael Jordan would have gone through if Twitter were around to put his bad games and off-court issues under a microscope? How about what the social media reaction would have been to Magic Johnson’s announcement that he was HIV positive twenty-three years ago? One could only think what an anonymous online troll would say about Muhammad Ali’s refusal to be drafted into the United States Army almost fifty years ago. The advent of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook allows fans to voice their opinions no matter how valid or invalid they are.
What it has also exposed is how we, the 21st century sports fan, have become clueless hypocrites within our very own desire to have our favorite teams win year after year.
How else would you explain the many people who troll LeBron James’ Instagram account only to leave hateful comments while saying he will never be better than Michael Jordan himself? No one ever thinks about how many of those fans have actually seen MJ play in his heyday without some YouTube highlight reel or NBATV rebroadcasting a game over twenty years old. The very Yankees fans who call for Joe Girardi to be fired never face the truth that he is perhaps doing as good a job as possible with an old, injury-prone roster on possible last legs. We want athletes to take pay cuts and think about championships when we would never take an hourly pay cut in our typical 9-to-5 jobs nor become the “company man” for the good of the team. As much as we hate certain personalities, we wish they were on our team. Melo and Russell Westbrook are scrutinized while Kevin Durant is held with such high regard. The truth is they have the same amount of titles – ZERO – as the very fans who root or loath two of the game’s finest. Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa were inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame last weekend despite having well-known players on their rosters that used PEDs. You don’t see anyone putting an asterisk next to their accomplishments.
Today’s fans troll ESPN articles just to leave a “who cares?” comment not realizing they obviously cared enough to click on the article to voice their opinion in the first place. Click on any ESPN or even Yahoo sports article and read the many comments under those stories. For every ten there may be one or two with some actual sports knowledge. The rest border between bizarre to racist due to the anonymous identities these users take on without revealing their true selves. Today’s fans go on Twitter and bash athletes and teams only to ask for a follow five minutes later should any of them actually get a reply. We demand to trade players that fall out of favor yet we expect athletes to show loyalty towards a particular team but more importantly the same group of fans who want to play fantasy General Manager. We complain about all the coverage a story is receiving not knowing we are the ones who are making it a bigger story with our reactions alone. We also go on Twitter to pretend to care about issues that we never pay any attention to as long as it provides a chance to vent. To fans, we are always right even when we are flat out wrong. There is a saying that if teams ever actually listened to their fans, eventually they will be sitting with them in the cheap seats. Too bad we can’t rationalize a team or player’s decision to not take it as a personal insult on us as if we personally knew them.
Today’s sport fan also switches teams and allegiances when it fits them. Gone are the days of having just one favorite team. Nowadays fans have several to choose from when the time is right like during a winning streak or when a team stands out as a contender. Do you know any New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets fans prior to 2012? How about Yankees fans before 1996? Lakers fans and Celtics fans or those who called themselves fans since 2008 were virtually extinct last season as two storied franchises suffer bad seasons. The New York Giants finished 7-9 in 2013, meanwhile when they won the Super Bowl in 2011 the bandwagon blew a few flat tires due to overcrowding. What today’s sports fans have done is take away the spotlight from the actual true fans who cheered no matter how good or bad their favorite team performed. Gone in all the trolling that is done is that we are closer to the games now more than ever before. Where athletes across the board can actually communicate with the fan bases that support their cause. Without question the 21st century fan at times come off as spoiled, irrational and defiant to reality more and more.
As technology advances and the 24-hour news cycle goes on with the hottest story of the moment the one thing will never cease is that the sports fans will cheer, boo, support or loathe without an explanation other than its our paying birthright. Today’s sports fan takes it to a whole different level due to social media. The 21st century sports fan will only continue to change their minds at every turn, change allegiance after every win or loss and insult an athlete just because we choose who is likeable and who is not. We will continue to come up with unrealistic trade scenarios without any knowledge on how the salary cap or team budget works because we can’t help ourselves. The hypocrisy of today’s common sports fan will only grow as we fight more and more to have the moon and the stars. The typical envy we have because these star players make all this money, that somehow they are above being human and think the way we want them to will linger.
This new generation of sports fan is as passionate as ever before but at the same time giving the term “fan” a black eye. There is a reason the term “fan” comes from the word fanatic.
Sunday, July 06, 2014
By Anthony Strait, OTSL Floor Director
In the sticky humidity that blanketed the Arena Fonta Nova, the United States men’s soccer team played 90 minutes on their heels. 90 minutes staving off a relentless attack from Belgium as they got off shot after shot. They had their chances as regulation time ran low, but Chris Wondolowski’s chance sailed high and wide a mere six yards away. The game went to extra time when the USA's bent but not broken defense and the goalkeeper who had been Superman up to that point finally surrendered the go-ahead goal. Belgium even added a second goal thanks to a timely substitute who sped past the much tired U.S. defense.
Much like the spirit of the nation these men represented in this World Cup, they gave it one last push. A goal scored by the youngest member of the team gave hope and then chance after chance made for a suspenseful finish. Alas however, the U.S. didn’t as much lose (as many could take from it) as they simply ran out of time. In the end, it was Belgium who escaped to live another day. What could you say about a valiant effort that left us as a country merely heartbroken over the What-If's of an amazing World Cup run? I have two words that we all can say collectively: "Thank You!"
Thank you to captain Clint Dempsey for waiting just seconds into the opening match to start this run with one of the quickest goals ever scored. Thank you for leading this young team through injury and leaving it all on the field. Thank you to John Brooks for the header that gave us our revenge over Ghana after they broke our hearts four years ago in South Africa. Thank you to Tim Howard for standing as firm as can be in goal. Howard’s amazing performance in defeat should not be lost as his 16 saves set a record that stood for half a century. He all but kept the United States in a game where they were dominated for much of the match. Thank you to Jermaine Jones for the beautiful strike - or as ESPN’s Ian Darke described it an “Absolute Cracker” - that pulled us even against Portugal. Dare I say thank you to Cristiano Ronaldo for giving the U.S. a much needed assist to advance to the round of sixteen. Thank you to Julian Green for giving us hope when all seemed lost with an amazing header. Thank you to coach Jurgen Klinsmann for his quirky motivational tactics and pushing a young team with little World Cup experience to their best in order to compete with the best.
There is much more to be thankful for as the USA's run come to a close. Thank you for the massive viewing parties as people of all shades of color and sizes gathered for each match. Thank you for the excitement and anticipation as we waited for the next match to show the world that we can compete on the grandest stage. Thank you for uniting a country too often divided by different views, different beliefs and the very hate that to this day continues to undermine the very change that made America as great as it can ever be. Thank you for laying the ground work to which can be built upon for years to come so that four years from now we will be back stronger and hungrier than ever.
Thank you for doing the unthinkable and escaping the “Group of Death”. Thank you for bringing us together with one chant. But most importantly, thank you for allowing us for a few weeks to believe. Cheers to the United States Men’s Soccer team! A great run and great effort, much like the country and colors they represented.
Saturday, June 28, 2014
By Anthony Strait, OTSL Floor Director
Derek Jeter-the honorable captain of the New York Yankees celebrated his 40th birthday this past week. To honor one of the great Yankee players of All-Time, lets run down a list of 40 things that should have Jeter in Cooperstown when he retires.
40. Derek Jeter makes his Major League Debut on May 29, 1995 against the Seattle Mariners. Following an 0 for 5 start; he recorded the first hit of his career with a sharp single to left field off starter Mariners closer Tim Belcher.
39. Jeter became the number six overall pick by the Yankees in the 1992 draft behind the likes of Jeffery Hammonds, B. J. Wallace, Paul Shuey and Chad Motta-who combined for a grand total of only 2 All-Star game appearances.
38. Named 1994 Baseball America’s minor league player of the year.
37. Playing his first full season in the majors, Jeter wins the American League Rookie of the Year after finishing with a .314 average, 104 runs scored, 78 runs batted in and 10 home runs. Winning all 28 first place votes allowed him to become the fifth unanimous winner in the award’s history.
36. What became something of a trademark: Derek’s jump throw from the hole between the shortstop position and 3rd base to get would-be baserunners trying to reach base became as much as common a sight in The Bronx as the number 4 train dropping off thousands of people at the 161st Street/Yankee Stadium stop on gameday.
35. 12…as in the number of times Jeter has batted .300 or better during his 19 year career.
34. 71.6..as in Jeter’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Third most among active players and 58th all-time.
33. 13 All-Star appearances.
32. July 11,2000: Jeter wins MVP of the 2000 MLB All-Star game in Atlanta with three hits including the two-run single that gave the American League the lead for good in a 6-3 win for the Junior Circuit.
31. Jeter spearheaded the Yankees offense during the 1996 postseason, batting .361 in the Yankees American League playoff wins against Texas and Baltimore and the World Series against the Atlanta Braves.
30. In game one of the 1997 Division Series against Cleveland, Jeter, along with Tim Raines and Paul O’Neil, went back-to-back-to-back with home runs in the bottom half of the 6th inning to give the Yankees the lead in a Game One win.
29. Old Yankee Stadium may have been the house that Ruth Built, but Derek Jeter was the true Hit King with 1,276 all-time.
28. Opening Day 1996 in Cleveland saw Jeter hit his first career home run in Jacobs Field.
27. May 28, 2011: in Seattle, fans witness Jeter passing Rickey Henderson to become the franchise all-time stolen base leader, notching his 328th stolen base.
26. On June 3, 2003 Jeter is named just the 15th captain in the long and storied history of the New York Yankees. Don Mattingly was the last captain before his retirement in 1995.
25. 5…as in the five Silver Slugger awards he has won in his career.
24. September 20, 1996: against the Boston Red Sox, Jeter recorded the first walk off hit of his career with an RBI single in extra innings to give the Yankees a 12-11 win.
23. Sports Illustrated names Jeter their “Man of the Year” following his 2009 season and another World Series title.
22. Jeter led the majors in hits in 1999 and again in 2012 at the age of 38.
21. May 26, 2006: Jeter becomes just the 8th Yankee to record 2,000 career hits against the Kansas City Royals.
20. Derek Jeter had to wait a decade after his debut to accomplish this feat, but on June 18, 2005 versus the Cubs he hit his first career grand slam home run.
19. Following the Mets win in Game 3 of the 2000 World Series to climb back in the series, Manager Joe Torre moved Jeter into the lead-off spot to help jumpstart the struggling Yankee offense. He responded on the very first pitch he saw from Mets pitcher Bobby Jones, hitting a lead-off home run that all but wiped away any momentum the Mets received from winning the previous night.
18. In Game One of that very series against the Mets, Jeter’s defense saves the day for the Yanks. In the top half of the 6th inning Todd Zeile hits a deep fly ball to left field that hits the top of the wall. Timo Perez (who was on base) was heading home to possibly give the Mets the lead when Jeter catches the cut-off throw from left field and with a perfect throw home gets Perez out at the plate to end the inning.
17. In Game Three of the 2003 American League Championship Series Jeter homered off Pedro Martinez to spark the Yankees rally. They came from behind to win that game 4-3.
16. September 16, 2008 Jeter passes Lou Gehrig for the most career hits in Yankee Stadium history.
15. Five…Gold Gloves won by Jeter throughout his career.
14. Four…number of times Jeter finished the season with an on-base percentage .400 or higher (1999, 2000, 2006, 2009).
13. A staggering 158 career postseason games played in his career.
12. Game Five of the 2001 American League Division Series Jeter catches a pop fly along the 3rd baseline off the bat of Terrance Long, flipping and tumbling into the crowd while doing so.
11. July 1, 2004 against the Red Sox, Jeter makes a running catch in extra innings. Running full steam; his momentum carried him two rows into the stands as he crashed face first into the seats along the 3rd base line. Jeter emerged bloodied under his right eye but may the play to end the inning.
10. Following the very last game at old Yankee Stadium it was Jeter as the team captain and face of the franchise who addressed the sold out crowd with a speech as the Yankees and their fans bid farewell to “The House That Ruth Built”.
“From all of us up here, it's a huge honor to put this uniform on every day and come out here and play. Every member of this organization, past and present, has been calling this place home for 85 years. There's a lot of tradition, a lot of history and a lot of memories. The great thing about memories is you're able to pass them along from generation to generation.”
“Although things are going to change next year and we're going to move across the street, there are a few things with the New York Yankees that never change. That's pride, tradition, and most of all; we have the greatest fans in the world. We're relying on you to take the memories from this stadium and add them to the new memories we make at the new Yankee Stadium and continue to pass them on from generation to generation. We just want to take this moment to salute you, the greatest fans in the world.”
9. In the 2009 postseason he hit .355, including .407 in the World Series.
8. The Yankees have been in the playoffs in all but two seasons during Jeter’s playing career-that’s 16 playoff appearances in 18 years.
7. Mr. November is born on November 1st, 2001. With Game Four of the World Series tied in extra innings-Derek Jeter hits the game winning home run just a few moments after midnight marking the first time a game has been played in the month of November.
6. As part of the 1998 Yankees team that won 114 games and is considered among the greatest teams ever, Jeter finishes the campaign with a .324 batting average, 19 homeruns and 84 runs batted in.
5. The Flip. With the Yankees holding a slim 1-0 lead in Game Three of the 2001 Division Series at Oakland and trailing in the series, Jeter made one of the all-time great defensive plays. As Terrance Long doubled down the right field line. Outfielder Shane Spencer’s throw missed the cutoff man. Jeter, hustling across the field to get to the errant throw, made a backhanded flip to Jorge Posada who was able to tag out Jeremy Giambi before he was able to touch home plate. The Yankees won the game and would go on to win the series.
4. July 9th, 2011, Jeter joins the 3,000 hit club in style with a homerun off Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price on a 3-2 pitch. He finished the day with five hits.
3. As one of the more celebrated sports figures of our generation he has been featured in many endorsements, television shows like Saturday Night Live and even has his own wax figure in Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in Midtown Manhattan.
2. He is the Yankees all-time leader in hits, games played, stolen bases and at-bats.
1. Five…as in five World Series championships during his 19-year career including four in five years from 1996-2000 with another one added in 2009.
The one number these days that is on the mind of Yankee and Baseball fans alike are the amount of games remaining in his stellar career. With that amount dwindling by the day - and barring a playoff run - we are witnessing the end for a once in a generation player who became the face of New York sports on and off the field with the kind of grace and humidity that could never be taught in Spring Training. Happy Birthday and cheers to a living legend.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
By Pedro Hazel, Jr. OTSL Founding Partner/Executive Producer
"On The Sportslines" expresses its deepest condolences on the passing of Ralph Kiner, slugger for the Pittsburgh Pirates and later Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians. He was also a member of the New York Mets television broadcasting team since their inception in 1962.
Ralph Kiner was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975. He hit 369 home runs in his career, winning or sharing the National League homerun title in each of his first seven seasons in Pittsburgh. He hit 50 or more homers twice in that period.
Growing up watching Mets telecasts I remember hearing Kiner tell incredible stories about players he knew and hung around with; and looking forward to "Kiner's Korner" after the game, especially if the Mets won. He had been a regular part of the Mets TV broadcasting team until several years ago when his health began to fade. But even with his health isuses he was still able to do a few games a year. He was a trooper.
The last of the original Mets broadcasting triumvirate is gone. Kiner, along with the other two original Met broadcasters, Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy are now calling games together in heaven. Ralph, you will be sorely missed.