Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 7/19/14

*GREAT CAUSE: Mark your calendars, folks--Sunday, July 27th. For the sixth consecutive summer, my good friend John Holt--sports reporter at WFSB in Hartford--has organized the "Scooper Sunday" charity event in conjunction with the New Britain Rock Cats. Proceeds that day will benefit the lifesaving work being done by the AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) as New Britain takes on the Portland Sea Dogs. Holt became involved in this wonderful event in memory of his brother, Lindsey, but maintains that it is also an attempt to assist others who may be struggling with depression, loneliness, and the immense impact of suicide loss. Ice cream, Italian ice, and frozen custard--available from various vendors--will be offered in over 25 different flavors; the event begins at noon. For more information on this worthy undertaking, search "Scooper Sunday At The Rock Cats" on Facebook or email Mr. Holt directly at John.Holt@wfsb.com..........TRIVIA QUESTION: Who was the last Baltimore Orioles player to lead the American League in stolen bases? Answer to follow..........Here's a more-than-disturbing tidbit for y'all: The U-T San Diego newspaper now has an "NFL Arrests Database" on its website that lists tons of arrests and citations involving players dating back to 2000--infractions that are MORE serious than, say, speeding tickets. One can actually log onto the site and utilize a search box to plug in a name, team, or position in order to read about the many offenders. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that this site (whose "honor roll" is growing) is not listed under Roger Goodell's "Favorites" whenever the NFL commissioner accesses his personal computer..........*O.K.--here goes: North Carolina basketball player Jamie Cherry marries ex-baseball star Darryl Strawberry, divorces, marries former MLB outfielder Chet Lemon--divorces again--then walks down the aisle with two-time Olympian wrestler Spenser Mango. She is then running up and down the court with the "fruity" full name of Jamie Cherry Strawberry Lemon Mango..........Did you know that the 2001 Pittsburgh Pirates--who lost 100 games under manager Lloyd McClendon--were led in victories by pitcher Todd Ritchie with a total of just ELEVEN? Just HOW bad was the staff that season? NO starting pitcher finished with an above-.500 record and the combined staff ERA was a robust 5.05--second worst in the league to Colorado (5.29)..........I may be in the minority, but count me among those who believe that Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill, and Rich "Goose" Gossage AREN'T totally deserving of plaques at Monument Park in Yankee Stadium. It just seems to me that players who are honored there should be classified as all-time Yankee greats who spent the MAJORITY of their careers in New York. Martinez spent a total of seven seasons in NY (six of them consecutively between '96 and '01) and made ONE All-Star team while in the "Big Apple." O'Neill spent just the second half of his career in NY; he hit .288 lifetime and won a batting title in '94 for the Yanks (BARELY qualifying). Finally, Gossage may be deserving of Hall of Fame status (elected in '08/over 300 saves lifetime). However, he was a major presence in NY for just six years between '78 and '83 (in a 22-year career)--leading the league in saves twice while in pinstripes before bolting to San Diego as a free-agent. Yes, there's no doubt that these guys DID win championships and were very talented ballplayers. But to place plaques/remembrances of them alongside the likes of Gehrig, Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Rivera--names SYNONYMOUS with immense greatness in New York baseball history? Nah--this just cheapens the mystique of an area once reserved for baseball ICONS, folks..........ITEM: 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith pleads NO CONTEST to THREE felony weapons charges (later downgraded to misdemeanors) and a DUI charge--but is only put on probation and required to complete a work-release program every Monday for 11 weeks. And you HAVE to almost LAUGH at the politics of it all after reading the recent tweet by Mike Garafolo of FoxSports.com: "Eleven Mondays of work release for Aldon Smith magically ends one Monday before the Niners' first MNF game at STL"..........According to The Huffington Post, the black mini-dress that 56-year-old actress Sharon Stone was recently wearing made her the "hottest woman at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival." Wow--and I used to think that NO ONE aged as gracefully as the aforementioned Mariano Rivera..........Answer to trivia question: BRIAN ROBERTS--who tied Carl Crawford for the AL lead back in 2007 with a total of 50 swipes..........Finally, condolences go out to the family of former college football coach Tom Jones--who passed away recently at the age of 90. Jones was an incredibly successful high school football coach in Alabama before becoming an assistant at Auburn from 1966-1971 under Shug Jordan. He then became head football coach at Troy State for a short time and also served as that school's athletic director. A Navy veteran, Jones excelled at both football and baseball at Troy during his younger days and later became one of the first inductees into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Tom Jones is survived by his wife of 64 years, Evelyn, a son, and three daughters. Rest in peace, "Coach."

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 7/5/14

Once again, many thanks go out to tournament director Nathan Grube and his wonderful staff for the hospitality shown to yours truly during the recent Travelers Championship. Each and every year, these people simply "get it right"; the media accommodations are superb (Ben & Jerry's ice cream bars in the dining area are just an added bonus) and the kindness shown by the many volunteers is apparent yearly as soon as I arrive at the TPC in Cromwell. Additional thanks go out to tournament coordinator Josh Belowich--whose immense attention to detail did NOT go unnoticed by THIS grateful media member. It's just SO refreshing these days to see/experience an event where integrity, kindness, and professionalism are stressed SO highly..........TRIVIA QUESTION: The 1995 Chicago White Sox--who finished with a record of 68-76 under managers Gene Lamont and Terry Bevington--were led in victories by a starting pitcher with a total of just 12. Can you name this former right-handed hurler who spent a total of ten years in the big leagues? Answer to follow..........Sports anchor Mike McCann--after Alfonso Soriano was DFA'd by the Yankees: "'Sori' it had to end this way."..........Is it JUST me--or is there anyone else out there who thought that Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria would be a MUCH better player than he is at this juncture of his career--now having spent seven seasons at the MLB level?..........Do you remember back in 2005 when the San Diego Padres won the NL West with a not-so-impressive record of 82-80? Just HOW mediocre was this team? The squad had NO player with more than 18 home runs and NO pitcher with more than 13 wins. However, the mediocrity caught up with them FAST in the post-season as they were blown away by the Cardinals in three straight games in that year's NLDS..........ITEM: Oklahoma freshman defensive back Steve Parker is arrested after police found him near a pool of vomit next to a car in Norman well after midnight. He admitted to drinking vodka and was busted on a public intoxication charge. Ironically, his coach--Bob Stoops--was raving about his size and speed the week before during an interview on a local radio station. I dunno about you, folks, but he may possess size on the gridiron, but he surely appears to be a "lightweight" when it comes to certain other things..........Once Roger Federer reached the age of 30 (about 2 years ago), I was of the opinion that he'd never win a Grand Slam tournament again; his intense competition had just become too young, too quick, and too strong in a sport where age means SO MUCH. But what you saw him accomplish last weekend in the Wimbledon final vs. Novak Djokovic shows you what the HEART of a champion is capable of doing. Down 5-2 in the fourth set, Federer was still able to break serve TWICE in order to send the match to a fifth set vs. the #1 seed. Yes, it was almost as if Federer KNEW his chances of winning another Grand Slam were just about exhausted--yet he gave the English crowd something they will never forget. He may have lost to the talented player from Serbia, but actually BUILT upon an already-immense legacy. He remains the greatest player to ever walk on a tennis court, and all current tennis fans should be amazingly thankful that they were able to witness his unmatched greatness over the past decade or so. Bravo, Roger, and congratulations, Novak..........If anyone out there can quickly pronounce the last names of major league pitchers Jeff Samardzija, Cory Luebke, and Mark Rzepczynski WITHOUT HESITATING, then you should probably be teaching a college speech course right now and NOT reading this sports column..........Answer to trivia question: ALEX FERNANDEZ--who compiled a career mark of 107-87 while pitching for the White Sox and Marlins between 1990 and 2000..........Lazzari's "Tough Question of the Week": Of the following, which is LEAST likely to happen during this month of July?: 1) Dodger pitcher Clayton Kershaw giving up more than five runs in a start 2) A Colorado Rockies pitcher throwing a complete game shutout, or 3) Yours truly getting that long-awaited date with the lovely Christie Brinkley..........Finally, sad news from Virginia as word comes down about the recent death of former Navy defensive back Blake Carter--who passed away unexpectedly at the tender age of 27. Carter died at his home in Norfolk--where he was serving as a surface warfare officer aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp. Blake was an impact player at the Naval Academy from 2006-2009--appearing in a total of 48 games. During his playing days, Navy went a combined 35-18 and appeared in four bowl games. Carter was known as an extremely kind, hard-working individual who could have played at a number of football "powers" after leaving high school. Instead, he decided to devote his life to the Navy at the urging of Terrence Anderson--a former All-American center for the Midshipmen. Condolences go out to his parents, Phyllis and Craig Carter, along with the rest of his loving family. May Lt. Blake Cameron Carter rest in peace.