Wednesday, June 24, 2015

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 6/20/15

ITEM: Lovely actress Charlize Theron reportedly ends her engagement to actor Sean Penn. Message to Ms. Theron: Sports columnists--although most couldn't afford to purchase the STRAP on a Louis Vuitton handbag--are very loyal and make EXCELLENT boyfriend material..........TRIVIA QUESTION: The 2001 Oakland Athletics--who finished 102-60 under manager Art Howe--had THREE players on the squad who scored 100+ runs apiece. Can you name this talented trio? Answer to follow..........The definition of "security": We all know that Nats pitcher Max Scherzer signed a long-term contract a few months ago for over $200 million. But can anyone out there fathom JUST the SIGNING BONUS: $5 million this year and $15 million EACH YEAR in 2019, 2020, and 2021?..........Did you know that the four main starting pitchers for the 2003 Cincinnati Reds had a combined W-L record of 17-44 and a robust, collective ERA of 5.54? Suffice it to say that it wasn't the best of years for pitchers Ryan Dempster, Danny Graves, Jimmy Haynes, and Paul Wilson--and one of the various reasons why the squad finished 24 games under .500..........I had the opportunity to chat/reminisce with former NFL quarterback Dan Pastorini last week, or as my Dad used to refer to him as: DANTE ANTHONY PASTORINI. Yes, now THAT'S Italian, folks..........So saddened to hear about the tragic death of former MLB player Darryl Hamilton--the victim of an apparent murder-suicide. I had the privilege of interviewing Darryl on "Monday Night Sports Talk" a few years ago--a true gentleman who was very generous with his time. We kept in touch--as he desired to come on the show at any time--and I considered the man a casual friend. A very talented player who batted .291 over a 13-year career with various teams, he'll be remembered for more than just his athletic ability. My MNST co-host Tony DeAngelo commenting on Hamilton: "Darryl Hamilton was one of our first 'major' guests on 'Monday Night Sports Talk' and I'll admit: I was NERVOUS when I called the Commissioner's office and asked to speak with him. I was greeted by a man who could not have been more appreciative, kind, punctual, and professional--and I will never forget that." Yes, you'll be missed greatly, Mr. Hamilton..........ITEM: Hip-hop mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs is arrested on charges of assault with a deadly weapon (kettlebell) after he goes after one of his son's football coaches at UCLA--who was admonishing the kid at practice. Former NFL Pro Bowl lineman Leon Searcy chimes in with this: "Why, Diddy--WHY? You just made it harder for your kid. They're gonna eat his %$# up in the locker room. So what if they yelled and screamed at your kid--it's FOOTBALL. You don't like it? I'm sure there's a badminton team on campus that he could join."..........Former pitcher Pedro Martinez will have his # 45 jersey retired by the Red Sox on July 28th--a well-deserved honor. His numbers in Boston were ASTOUNDING, but perhaps most impressive is THIS: Between 1998 and 2003, Pedro's ERA was NEVER above 2.89 in a season. And yes--this was in a league that incorporated the DH and during an era when PED's were rampant. Simply remarkable, folks..........*O.K.--here goes: New Zealand lawyer Jane Northwood marries British martial artist James Southwood, divorces, marries former competitive PGA golfer Bob Eastwood--divorces again--then walks down the aisle with current PGA player Lee Westwood. She would then be providing legal advice with the catchy, full-married name of Jane Northwood Southwood Eastwood Westwood..........ITEM: Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia keeps a 6-liter Methuselah of Ace of Spades champagne (valued at $7,000) in the Yankee clubhouse in order to celebrate A-ROID's recent 3,000th career hit. The aforementioned Tony DeAngelo: "And to think that in the old days, these guys would simply buy a six-pack of beer and bring it back to their hotel room."..........FACT: Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello's salary will RISE about $8 million in 2016 from the current value of $12.5 million per year; at press time, he was 4-8 with an ERA of 5.61. And I sincerely apologize to ALL those Sox fans who just had a meal before reading this; pass the TUMS..........Answer to trivia question: JASON GIAMBI (109), JOHNNY DAMON (108), and MIGUEL TEJADA (107)..........Finally, condolences go out to the family of former NFL kicker Danny Villanueva--who passed away recently of a stroke at the age of 77. One of the league's first Latino kickers, Villanueva spent eight seasons in the league with the Rams and Cowboys between 1960 and 1967; the final game of his career was the famed "Ice Bowl" played between the Cowboys and Packers. A graduate of New Mexico State (where he remains a member of the NMSU Athletics Hall of Fame), Danny later became a pioneer of Spanish-language television--being part-owner of a chain that would later become known as Univision. He also founded an investment firm and was well-known for giving back financially to his alma mater--having donated several million dollars. One of his largest gifts went toward funding the Fulton Athletic Center at NMSU and also establishing the Danny Villanueva Scholarship endowment. May this special, giving individual rest in peace.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - -6/6/15

Summertime Memories

As summertime approaches, I'm reminded of those warm days from long ago when it was all about ONE thing (at least for myself AND friends): BASEBALL. Some vivid memories I had as a kid that often rise to the surface:

*the smell of hot dogs at the Derby (CT) Little League snack bar
*having those same hot dogs bought for me by my LL coach whenever I pitched a good game
*shagging fly balls for HOURS during summer vacation (daytime)--with only a 64-oz. bottle of Pepsi to fuel us
*the exhilaration of knowing we would be shagging fly balls ONCE AGAIN the following day
*the camaraderie among friends--getting along with each other because, well, there was no other CHOICE
*how GOOD a case of sunburn felt after a day of hitting/chasing fly balls at Emmett O'Brien H.S. (CT)
*cool dips in a neighbor's swimming pool after chasing fly balls each day
*stopping play during "road games" whenever the Good Humor man would arrive daily
*using rocks as bases during backyard games
*the joy associated with catching your first SKY HIGH fly ball
*NOT choking up on a Wiffle ball bat
*kneeling in an on-deck circle for the first time--and trying to stay balanced
*how HUGE a Little League field appeared to a 9-year-old
*my very first 'Pitch-Back' net/screen
*visiting the batting cages in Milford (CT) whenever we could come up with a few bucks
*trying chewing tobacco (wrapped in bubble gum, like Rod Carew) for the first time--and getting violently ill
*Wiffle ball games NIGHTLY--after dinner--at a neighbor's "field"
*my Dad--still perspiring after a day in the "sweatshop", but still willing to play catch with me
*just having a catch with ANYONE--and the pure joy that two gloves and a baseball could bring
*occasional trips to West Haven to watch minor league baseball
*the excitement of checking box scores daily
*very few arguments among the neighborhood gang when calling pitches on the "honor system"
*getting my first "raspberry" on my backside
*chewing on the leather strings of baseball gloves
*trying to imitate Willie Stargell's pre-pitch antics at the plate while at LL games
*making sundials in the dirt at sandlots in order to get home for dinner on time
*getting home on time for dinner in order to be ALLOWED to play the next day
*keeping score in the dirt at those same sandlot games
*the smell of fresh-cut grass while fielding ground balls
*my Dad putting spotlights in our backyard so we could play Wiffle ball AT NIGHT
*my very first baseball glove--a Vada Pinson model
*4th of July MLB doubleheaders (NOT day-night/separate admission ones)
*my Dad ALWAYS providing me with chewing gum before a baseball game
*Wiffle ball tournaments at the Pine Street playground in Derby (CT)--with my coach, Leo, calling me "Babe"
*the excitement when any relative came to watch me play a baseball game
*my Dad wearing his tiny glove while playing catch with me--an old Red Schoendienst model
*my Mom's distinct voice--calling my name (Bobby!!) at dinnertime whenever I was playing a game a few houses away
*foot blisters from wearing stirrup socks that were too thin
*the sound of a neighbor's Dad whistling for him (LOUDLY) when it was time for dinner
*the aroma of my Mom's sauce wafting through the neighborhood as I ran home from a stickball game
*the TASTE of my Mom's sauce while carbo-loading after an energetic day filled with baseball
*breaking baseball bats and putting screws in them in order to CONTINUE using them
*the voices of Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy, and Ralph Kiner in the background (on Mets telecasts) as we played stickball in the street
*the sound of cleats on the dugout steps
*looking for the best buy on tennis balls at Caldor before playing stickball games
*folding our baseball caps and placing them in our back pockets--like the big-leaguers did
*Phil Rizzuto wishing a "Happy 90th birthday" to someone on Yankees telecasts
*Phil Rizzuto thanking someone for sending cannolis up to the broadcast booth
*trips to Hardee's in Derby (CT) at night to get a soda after a long day of playing baseball/soaking up sun
*stickball games played in the front AND back of Bradley School in Derby (CT)
*the sound of crickets at night while we were STILL playing ball
*the expression "It's too hot" NEVER being uttered by any kid in our neighborhood
*my Dad giving me his resin bag when I pitched--the small one he used for bowling
*wearing baseball hats/helmets of our favorite teams while playing baseball games
*making a Wiffle ball do strange things while pitching to friends
*the smell of a freshly-oiled baseball glove
*using electrical tape on Wiffle ball bats--just to make them look "cooler"
*bus trips with my Dad to Yankee Stadium
*blisters while wearing certain brands of baseball spikes--no matter WHAT socks you wore
*hitting "fungoes" until our hands bled--then changing hitters
*amazement at how my Mom was able to remove grass stains from baseball pants
*Finally, the joy of being able to reminisce in a column like this.

Enjoy the summer of '15, folks...................