Puckett a true baseball legend

first_imgThere are those memories in our sports childhood that will be etched in our minds forever.Many them include our icons in games or performances which epitomized their careers, and especially times when our favorite teams or players won on their sport’s grandest stage.For me, those memories include Steve Young winning the 1994 Super Bowl against the Chargers and when Duke won the National Championship in 2001.There are also those memories that will forever be engrained in our brains which we could only wish never happened.I remember how upset I was when Duke fell to UConn in 1999 and being on the verge of tears when — yes, at one point I followed NASCAR — Dale Earnhardt went into the wall at Daytona in what turned out to be his final race.But there is one sports moment that leaves those other memories in its dust. In fact, without it, who knows if those memories or my love for sports would even exist? Perhaps I wouldn’t even be reading the sports page, let alone be writing for it.In Game Seven of the 1991 World Series between Minnesota and Atlanta, the Twins’ Jack Morris was outstanding on the hill and I will never forget when Dan Gladden’s trotted home from third base on a single to left by pinch-hitter Gene Larkin to win it for the Fall Classic for the Twin Cities.The celebration ensued as my team had just won the World Series. I was seven years old, so it was the first World Series that I can remember, but I feel safe in saying that it will be my favorite one for as long as I can live.But Game Seven really only belongs with the happy memories listed above. It’s Game Six that sits atop my list of greatest games ever, and it will be hard for any future contest to surpass it.A certain happy-go-lucky center fielder stole the show at the Metrodome. In the third inning, he showed off why he earned six Gold Gloves when he seemingly jumped seven feet off the ground to snag a ball off the plexiglass to rob Atlanta’s Ron Gant of an extra-base hit.I bit my nails sitting on the edge of my seat as the game went into a 10th inning and then the 11th. Tens of thousands of Homer Hankys waved as the same center fielder led off the bottom half of the 11th frame against freshly inserted starter-turned-reliever Charlie Leibrandt.They continued to wave after he took ball one. On the next pitch he belted the ball to present-day Home Run Porch. A simple swing and Game Seven became a reality. “And we’ll see you tomorrow night!” legendary announced Jack Buck proclaimed.All that Kirby Puckett did in that game outside of the miraculous catch was go 3-for-4 — just missing the cycle by a double — with two runs and three RBIs, while adding a sacrifice and a stolen base.The numbers can string on forever. With his career shortened to 12 years, Puckett never ceased to amaze. He finished with more than 2,300 hits and more than 200 homers, over 1,000 RBIs and a career batting average of .318. And most people don’t realize the short, stocky man also had 134 stolen bases.There are even more numbers on my part: I have more than 150 Puckett baseball cards at home, three of them signed by him to go along with numerous posters and other memorabilia. I don’t know how many hours I spent following his short career.But as unfair as it seemed that his career was cut short, it was even more devastating Monday, when his life was cut short, one week shy of his 46th birthday.As much as it hurt when he was forced to retire and as much as it hurt Monday, I didn’t find myself that upset. After all, it’s hard to believe that the Puck would want me — or any of his fans — to wallow in our sorrows for an extended period of time.Just one thought of that wide smile of his — you know which one I’m talking about — made me realize that he would want his life celebrated.That’s what the 10-time All-Star was all about, and that’s why kids — especially this one — loved him. As someone who was just starting to play the game when he had that unbelievable Game Six performance, watching him perform that day, and every day, with a smile on his face made us realize what playing baseball was all about.Even when glaucoma forced him into retirement, he didn’t let the disease bring him down. Instead he remained an inspiration to us all.”Don’t take life for granted because tomorrow isn’t promised for any of us,” Puckett said at a ceremony in 1996.Despite a less-than unblemished record after hanging up his jersey, Puck always remained, and always will be my hero. Rest in peace, Number 34, may we all smile as wide as you and if I touch the lives of one-tenth of the people that you did, I’ll consider my life a success.Eric Schmoldt is a senior majoring in history. Share is his celebration of Kirby Puckett’s life by sharing your memories at [email protected]last_img read more

Trojan basketball still needs more time

first_imgFrustration is natural, but give the Trojans time.We shouldn’t overreact. But, admittedly, it remains increasingly difficult not to.We’re watching the USC men’s basketball team amid its worst season in school history.The 23 losses are a program first. They have won 20 percent of their games, the lowest since the program’s inception. The Trojans have won one game since mid-December, while utilizing a shortened eight-man rotation, including two walk-ons, for much of conference play.Nothing in that is reassuring that next year will see USC return to the NCAA tournament following four appearances in the Big Dance from 2007-2011. Most Cardinal-and-Gold fans remain understandably aggravated, frustrated and irritated with recent results. If they weren’t, it’d be strange. Nobody likes losing. And nobody likes ugly losing.“I’m frustrated for the players,” USC coach Kevin O’Neill said Saturday. “And I’m frustrated for our fans. I’ve done this for 33 years at many different places and at different levels. Basketball sometimes goes like this.”The responses have been what you would expect: Just fire the coach. That’s what they say. It sounds easy, painless and something a school like Kentucky might do, should its team be swimming in mediocrity.“Coaching staff should get the boot,” read one message board post following the Trojans’ latest ordeal — a 56-52 loss at Arizona State on Saturday.But here’s the thing: USC isn’t Kentucky.The Trojans haven’t been to the Final Four since Dwight Eisenhower was president. They haven’t won a regular season conference title since 1985. USC basketball is vastly different from USC football.Recovering from NCAA-levied sanctions is not as seamless as USC football coach Lane Kiffin has made it look on the gridiron.If you’re looking for an explanation as to why the Trojans have become fixated in the Pac-12 cellar, it’s a rather simple one.USC has one player, redshirt sophomore forward Evan Smith, from its 2009 recruiting class. Its 2008 class vanished in the aftermath of then-coach Tim Floyd’s resignation three years ago. In short, USC has no recruited junior or senior scholarship players available.  The Trojans lost three starters from last season’s 19-win team in forwards Marcus Simmons and Nikola Vucevic and center Alex Stepheson. They lost five players this season, three of them starters, because of season-ending injuries.The counterargument remains: O’Neill should have recruited better.He recruited senior guard Jio Fontan and redshirt junior forward Aaron Fuller, two transfer players, but they’ve been in street clothes for much of the season. He recruited a 7-foot center in redshirt sophomore forward Dewayne Dedmon, but he hasn’t played since Jan. 26 and has worn a splint on his hand, a brace on his left knee and a boot on his right foot at different points this season.“I’ve never seen a team with that conglomeration of situations and circumstances that have led to where we’re at,” O’Neill said. “It’s not an excuse; it’s a set of circumstances.”Whatever it is, it certainly explains the Trojans’ current predicament.NCAA investigations and sanctions are designed to be crippling. The Trojans’ success in football is the exception to the rule. You aren’t supposed to be ranked in the top 10 amid scholarship restrictions and a postseason ban.No, O’Neill’s team isn’t facing such restrictions now, but back in 2010 the program was, and that lingering cloud over the program in the months before the NCAA released its findings hampered the program.“It killed recruiting,” O’Neill said, reflecting upon his first season with the program in 2009-2010. “I got the job late, we didn’t self-impose until January, and then we didn’t get the sanctions confirmed until May really handcuffed us for a full year.”In football, guys will take a chance on USC. After all, the program has produced more NFL draft picks than any school in the country. But such isn’t the case when it comes to basketball. It doesn’t have the same pedigree.The Trojans start two freshmen, two sophomores and one junior in James Blasczyk, who is a first-year transfer and has been limited because of a stress injury to his right foot. And those players aren’t the one-and-done types you’d see at    top-10 programs. That talent doesn’t typically flock to the Galen Center.Until USC is a few years removed from its self-imposed sanctions and can field a healthy unit, we won’t be able to fairly evaluate O’Neill, the coaching staff and his personnel.Is this a coach who can annually lead the Trojans to the NCAA tournament? The top of the Pac-12 pecking order?I’m guessing he can. A season ago, he took a depth-plagued USC team to the Big Dance. He led Marquette to back-to-back 20-win seasons in the early 1990s. But even at this point, it’s still just endless speculation.We only know this: As the nightmarish 2012 season comes to a close, O’Neill’s young group needs more time to develop. Evidently, based on recent weeks, it needs a lot of time. “The 19th Hole” runs Mondays. If you would like to comment on this story, visit DailyTrojan.com or email Joey at [email protected]last_img read more

Rays’ 2-way player McKay to have season-ending surgery

first_img Tampa Bay Rays two-way rookie Brendan McKay will have season-ending surgery on his left throwing shoulder Wednesday.The 24-year-old McKay tested positive for the coronavirus in early July and missed most of the club’s preseason camp. He was cleared to resume activities July 31 and reported to the club’s alternate site, but then experienced stiffness in his pitching shoulder and was shut down last week.“Obviously frustration, but we’re optimistic with the procedure that Brendan will have. Hopefully we’ll have him for 2021 spring training and go from there,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said Tuesday night before a series opener against the Yankees. “There’s no doubt it’s unfortunate for him, for us, because we probably would have already been using him, but just the shoulder never cooperated.”Cash said the issue is in the back of McKay’s shoulder, but the exact nature of the injury won’t be known until after the procedure.McKay was 2-4 with a 5.14 ERA in 13 games (11 starts) last season, and went 2 for 10 with a home run as a designated hitter. He’s also played 49 minor league games at first base since being selected fourth overall in the 2017 draft out of Louisville.The Rays sit in second place in the AL East entering Tuesday’s action, 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees.Image credits: AP WATCH US LIVE Associated Press Television News SUBSCRIBE TO US COMMENT Last Updated: 19th August, 2020 07:42 IST Rays’ 2-way Player McKay To Have Season-ending Surgery Tampa Bay Rays two-way rookie Brendan McKay will have season-ending surgery on his left throwing shoulder Wednesdaycenter_img First Published: 19th August, 2020 07:42 IST FOLLOW US LIVE TV Written Bylast_img read more

Dodgers extend winning streak to nine

first_imgThe last time he pitched in Miami before Sunday was last Sept. 10, when Hill threw seven perfect innings. He was then removed due to a pitch-count restriction with much ballyhoo. Manager Dave Roberts faced no such dilemma this time.Besides the fact that Hill’s fingers have been blister-free since May, he allowed a double to Ozuna to begin the second inning. Hill got out of that jam and mostly succeeded in avoiding stressful situations. The left-hander allowed just one run on five hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out nine, two shy of his season high.“The last five or so outings have been really good,” Hill said. “Today was no different: just attacking the hitters. Austin (Barnes) did a great job behind the dish.”“He was in complete control today,” Roberts said of Hill. “Some of the best stuff he’s had all year.”Since compacting his windup with help from pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, Hill has a 1.45 ERA in five starts dating to June 21. He has 44 strikeouts in 31 innings over that span.Sunday, he pitched all five innings with a lead.Turner’s solo home run against Marlins starter Chris O’Grady (1-1), his 11th this season, gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Turner’s sacrifice fly in the third inning allowed Logan Forsythe to tag up and score the Dodgers’ second run.Chris Taylor’s triple, followed by a single by Barnes, made it 3-0 in the fourth inning.Miami got its only run against Hill in the fifth inning on a fluky infield single by a future Hall of Famer.With one out, former Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis lined a double to left field. A single by J.T. Riddle sent Ellis to third. With the ninth spot in the batting order due up, Marlins manager Don Mattingly removed O’Grady and inserted Ichiro Suzuki.Suzuki’s 3,055th career hit was a tapper back to the pitcher’s mound, and it caught Hill off balance. The pitcher fell down. Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager retrieved the ball but had no play as Ellis scored easily.“They hung in there. They were fighting. You could see it,” Roberts said. “For us to still find a way to win says a lot about our guys.” MIAMI >> The Dodgers won their ninth consecutive game Sunday. Their 3-2 win over the Miami Marlins completed their 11th series sweep and lifted their record to 64-29, the best mark in baseball.After a day off Monday, the Dodgers will begin a two-game series against the Chicago White Sox in their most comfortable position this year. They hold a 101/2-game lead in the NL West over the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks, who lost their fifth consecutive game Sunday. Only the Houston Astros lead their division by a greater margin.It remains to be seen if the Dodgers’ current streak — 29 wins in their past 33 games — is their new reality or a mere twist of fortune. Either way, it’s been short on drama. The Marlins at least made the series finale interesting at the end.After Dee Gordon reached on an infield single off Brandon Morrow to begin the eighth inning, then advanced on Kenley Jansen’s balk — his first in six years — he scored on Christian Yelich’s single to narrow the Dodgers’ lead to a single run. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img Jansen ultimately locked down a save, his 23rd in 23 tries this year. Even that required a diving stop by Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner on a ground ball to his left, robbing J.T. Riddle for the game’s final out.“I think a lot of offensive guys are going to be really happy to get out of this place,” Turner said of Marlins Park. “If we were at home at Dodger Stadium, we might have hit 20 homers this series, but this place is enormous. They have a very athletic outfield, they cover a lot of ground. They made a lot of good plays today. The whole series, really.”The most memorable play Sunday was a wall-scaling, home run-robbing catch by left fielder Marcell Ozuna, reaching high above the rail to snatch Kiké Hernandez’s blast before it could fall in the Dodgers bullpen in the sixth inning. The Dodgers made five other outs on the warning track.Ultimately the long outs didn’t matter. Dodgers starter Rich Hill (6-4) continued his resurgence by pitching five strong innings, and the bullpen survived its eighth-inning hiccup. The Dodgers hadn’t swept a three-game series against the Marlins since 2008.“Today’s win was a great team win,” Hill said. “You saw great defense. The offense came through. And the bullpen has been tremendous. You can say that it starts with the starters. It’s really all 25 guys in here that are coming to compete every single day and bringing their best out on the field. It’s a lot of fun to see.”last_img read more