Archive for August, 2009

Aug
31

Jessica’s Savage Update

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It took over a decade for Jessica Savitch to make a name for herself in television journalism, and about sixty seconds to ruin it. Three weeks later, she was dead and never got a chance to redeem herself.

Time again to recall another gone too soon, as I thought of TV people from the past while watching all of the coverage of Ted Kennedy’s death over the weekend.

Savitch was a Philadelphia girl who made good in local TV news in Philly. In fact, she was, for a time, a co-anchor in the City of Brotherly Love with Mort Crim , who would eventually co-own Detroit news, along with Bill Bonds.

Savitch was, as is the case of most females on the tube, an attractive blonde. But she combined brains with that cheesecake, and was much more of a cerebral on-air personality than a bubblehead.

Eventually, her career outgrew Philadelphia and Savitch ended up on NBC News. This was in the late-1970s. Her star power was such that she became anchor of the weekend version of the NBC Nightly News by the early-1980s.

Savitch published an autobiography, “Anchorwoman,” in 1982.


An old publicity photo of Jessica Savitch. Note the different (wrong?) spelling of her last name


But there was trouble in her life, far beyond what we could see while watching her on our TVs.

She had a stormy 10-year relationship with a man who wasn’t her husband—a news director named Ron Kershaw. Savitch’s first marriage ended after just 10 months. Next, Jessica had an affair with a man who turned out to be a closet homosexual.

It gets worse.

Her next marriage, to Donald Payne in early-1981, was tumultuous and during it, she suffered a miscarriage. As if that wasn’t enough, Payne hanged himself on August 1, 1981 in the couple’s basement.

Rumors swirled that Savitch was taking drugs to help her through life, which wouldn’t have been surprising, given her personal soap opera.

On October 3, 1983, those rumors appeared to have a great deal of truth to them.

While doing a sixty-second between-shows update on NBC called the NBC News Digest, Savitch was a mess. She slurred her speech, seemed to have difficulty reading the script, and her eyes started to droop by the end of the update. It was, at once, shocking, creepy, and sad.

You can view her horrific performance by clicking HERE.

The Digest debacle, had it happened during the age of the Internet, would have been explosive and one of the most virulent pieces of video ever. As it was, it was still notorious, despite it occurring in 1983. NBC didn’t put Jessica on the air after that, even though she tried to explain away her performance as being a result of mixing (legal) medications and being fatigued.

As it was, those gruesome sixty seconds would be her last turn in front of a camera, and that’s too bad, because Jessica Savitch was a damn good newswoman.

Less than three weeks after the Digest appearance, Jessica had dinner in New Hope, Pennsylvania with Martin Fischbein, the vice president of The New York Post.

The weather was inclement—rainy and windy—and Fischbein may have missed posted warning signs as he drove out of the wrong exit from the restaurant and up the towpath of a canal on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River. The car veered too far to the left and went over the edge into the shallow water of the canal. After falling approximately fifteen feet and landing upside down, the station wagon sank into deep mud which sealed the doors shut.

Savitch and Fischbein both perished, having drowned in the vehicle, unable to exit it.

Jessica Savitch was 36 years old.

Savitch’s estate was awarded over $8 million in a wrongful death action. Some of the money was used to set up college scholarships. The Jessica Savitch Distinguished Journalism lecture series is held at her alma mater, Ithaca College.

In a stroke of cruel irony, Savitch once said the following.

“A press card does not provide you with an invisible shield. You’re flesh and blood.

How right she was—in more ways than one.

Categories : Enotes, history, Television
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Aug
31

Michigan Blew It With Miles, So Now It Must Pay

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Unless a bunch of University of Michigan football players, past and present, have banded together in a deliberate attempt to sully the reputation and undermine the authority of Rich Rodriguez, then U-M is going to have to lie in a bed of its own making.

Actually, Bill Martin’s making.

This latest crisis involving the Michigan football program—the one where players past and present allege NCAA violations in terms of off-season workouts, etc.—is on Martin, the school’s fumbling, bumbling Athletic Director.

For it was Bill Martin who so botched up the hiring of Lloyd Carr’s successor that he wasn’t even able to convince longtime Michigan assistant Les Miles to flee Louisiana State University and come home.

Les Miles should be the coach at Michigan, period.

Miles should have taken over from Carr in a transition that would have been not only a lot smoother, but almost seamless.

Les Miles wanted Michigan, badly. But, amazingly, Michigan didn’t seem to want Les Miles in a quid pro quo manner.

Michigan, the Victors Valiant. Michigan, the Leaders of the West. Michigan, the winningest football school in America. Michigan—who let one of their own slip through their fingers.

Martin didn’t show Miles nearly enough love upon Carr’s exit in 2007.

The following aren’t my words, but my sentiment.

Former broadcaster Bob Page, during his appearance on “The Knee Jerks” on July 13—the weekly sports gabfest I have with Big Al on Blog Talk Radio, put it thusly when it came to the Miles debacle.

“All Bill Martin had to do was make one call and say, ‘Les, it’s time to come home now. We don’t care what you’re making at LSU. We’re not interested in anyone else. We want you to come home now’,” Page told us of how Martin’s coaching search should have started and ended with Les Miles.

I agree with Page’s assessment, 100 percent.

Martin didn’t do that. Instead, he publicly stated that Miles was merely one of the candidates Michigan was considering.

Les Miles—a National Championship-caliber college football coach, who cut his teeth at Michigan, wasn’t the clear-cut choice to take over from Carr?

Martin screwed up. It got so bad that he couldn’t even get Greg Schiano to leave Rutgers.

RUTGERS!!

Martin didn’t go after Miles hard enough, nor quick enough. It should have been a slam dunk—fait accompli. Carr leaves, Miles comes. End of story.

It’s likely that Les Miles felt snubbed by Michigan’s tentativeness and, when push came to shove, that was enough to convince him that he was best served to stay put in Louisiana.

It wasn’t the inadequacy of the Wolverines’ facilities. It wasn’t the inadequacy of the Big Ten, versus the Southeastern Conference. It wasn’t the notion of replacing someone as respected as Carr. It was none of those that kept Miles from moving back to Ann Arbor to take over the Michigan football program, as should have been his fate.

It was Bill Martin’s wishy-washiness when it came to launching his coaching search—a search that should have taken nothing more than a phone call and the first flight to Baton Rouge to complete.

Now look at what Martin has.

He has almost constant upheaval and a square peg in a round hole—Rodriguez, who still has that outsider feel about him.

But I’ve said it over and over: you don’t blame the peg—you blame the person trying to cram it into place.

It just seems to me that there’s too much smoke this time to think there isn’t some sort of fire when it comes to these new allegations of NCAA violations, as uncovered by the Detroit Free Press.

There’s always going to be attrition when a new football staff takes over a program. That’s to be expected. The defection of Justin Boren way back in early 2008, shortly after RichRod took over, could be taken with a grain of salt, because those things happen.

But the Boren instance was just the first of several whispers, both loud and soft, of Rodriguez’s way of doing things being looked at with crossed eyes. Again, that happens. But this is Rodriguez’s second season and still the university is trying to get out from underneath the transition phase of his hiring.

Something’s amiss at Michigan. All these kids, who were recruited to Michigan and who, one would presume, love the school, aren’t making this stuff up. The only question will be the severity of the violations, and the consequences.

Would any of this had happened if Les Miles was coaching Michigan?

I don’t bet. I don’t gamble. But even I as a non-risk taker would shake hands with you and say, comfortably, one word.

No.

Categories : football, Out of Bounds
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Aug
31

Monday Morning Manager

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My weekly take on the Tigers, also known simply and affectionately as “MMM.”

Week of 8/24-30: 4-2

This week: 8/31: TB; 9/1-3: CLE; 9/4-6: at TB


Goat of the Week

Time to go into nitpick mode.

The week was four up, two down for the Tigers, against two contenders, so how many Goats can there be? Of course, at MMM, we only need one.

Putting Aubrey Huff under the microscope last week didn’t have the magical effect it’s had for others this season. He’s still scuffling along.

Huff, acquired a couple weeks ago from Baltimore, hasn’t done much of anything since joining the Tigers. These things typically go one of two ways: the newly-acquired player with hardly any pennant race experience comes in and provides an instant spark; or the pressure of possibly being the missing piece to the puzzle weighs heavily on the new guy.

With Huff, it appears to be the latter.

However, there might be a sign of life. Huff had a hard-hit double into right-center field in the seventh inning of Sunday’s game, and while the Tigers stranded him, maybe that’s a good sign. It was the hardest ball Huff has hit as a Tiger.

Ian Casselberry, from BlessYouBoys.com, said on a podcast I was on yesterday hosted by Joe Dexter that he feels Huff is one big hit away from bursting out and going on a tear.

We’ll see. But in a week deemed successful from a team standpoint, Aubrey Huff contributed very little to it. Hence the Goat label.

Dishonorable mention: Righty starter Edwin Jackson, who’s only gone into the seventh inning once in his past six starts. Yes, this is really nitpicking, but there you have it. MMM isn’t always interested in justice—it needs word count!

Hero of the Week

How about some love for Fernando Rodney?

For someone who didn’t even have a true role on the team in spring training (set-up man? “disaster” closer?), Rodney has been, in a word, magnificent.

Only one blown save opportunity all year. The vaunted changeup working on most nights. The walks-to-innings pitched ratio down considerably.

Rodney saved three of the Tigers’ four wins last week, and he’s pretty much money in the bank anymore.

Sunday’s game was prime for major disappointment. The Tigers scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth, on Placido Polanco’s dramatic, two-out home run, and had taken a 4-3 lead on a day where the bats were once again limp noodles. It was a game that, had the Tigers blown it in the ninth, would have been devastating.

But Rodney did his thing, taking care of the Rays in the ninth, and the Tigers had themselves the closest thing to a walk-off win: a lead-changing bottom of eighth, followed by a shutout top of the ninth.

Honorable mention: Normally light-hitting Gerald Laird and Adam Everett, who had back-to-back two-run doubles in a five-run fourth inning to spark the Tigers on Friday night.


Quick scouting reports: Indians and Rays

At first blush, the Tigers should take care of the Indians, right?

Not so fast, Delaware Mud Breath!

The Tribe, despite waving the white flag at the trade deadline and preparing for the future, have been playing pretty good baseball as of late. In fact, since July 22, they’ve won more games than the Tigers.

The Indians are on a 21-14 roll, during which time the Tigers have gone 20-17.

Yet the Tribe doesn’t have Victor Martinez. Doesn’t have Ryan Garko. Doesn’t have Cliff Lee. And still doesn’t have a “normal” Grady Sizemore.

Sizemore is having a disappointing season, a la that other great AL center fielder, Curtis Granderson.

The numbers: .247 BA, 18 HR, 62 RBI, 91 K.

Here’s another telling one: 13-for-21 in stolen bases in 2009, compared to 38-for-43 in 2008.

Not very Sizemore-ish, is it?

He’s down in doubles, too—though up in triples.

Yet the Indians are playing well, so this three-game set in Detroit may not be the slam-dunk people think.

The Tigers will quickly re-acquaint themselves with the Rays on Friday in Tampa, just four days after completing a four-game series in Detroit.

MMM gave you the Rays scouting report last week
, so let’s just say that it will be interesting to see how the Tigers fare in Florida, after finally getting the road monkey off their backs by virtue of winning their series at the Angels last week.
Under the microscope

This week, MMM doesn’t put a player under the scope, but rather, an entire position.

What will happen of left field for the Tigers?

The other two OF positions seem set: Granderson in center; Magglio Ordonez, warts and all, in right.

But who will play left field the most down the stretch and, the baseball gods willing, in the playoffs?

Marcus Thames? Herculean strength, but not much else.

Ryan Raburn? Maybe the most athletic of anyone, and with some pop, but is he more of a utility player?

Carlos Guillen? How healthy IS he, anyway?

Aubrey Huff? A clang-clang glove perhaps best suited for DH duty.

Clete Thomas? More of a RF, but he’s played some LF, too.

Whew!

Manager Jim Leyland has some decisions to make. So let’s put LF under the scope this week and see who gets the bulk of the playing time out there.

Bottom line: Last week showed MMM that the Tigers might, indeed, have what it takes to fend off the chasers in the Central Division. Taking four of six from the Angels and Tampa is encouraging.

The Tigers are close to putting this division race to bed. They’re maybe one five or six-game winning streak away from pounding some nails into the coffins of the Twins and White Sox.

BUT…the Tigers don’t go on long winning streaks. They win a few, lose a couple, etc. Why? Because their hitting isn’t formidable enough to bash its way to wins for a week or so.

The division is there for the taking, obviously. But the Twins aren’t to be trusted, so beware.

Tigers’ magic number to clinch the division: 29

That’s all for this week’s MMM. Join me every Monday!

P.S. Also join me and Big Al from The Wayne Fontes Experience every Monday night as we co-host “The Knee Jerks” on Blog Talk Radio. The Tigers are a weekly topic. We go live at 11 p.m. ET, and every episode can be downloaded for your listening convenience!

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Aug
30

September’s Baseball Means One Eye Always Elsewhere

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The old centerfield scoreboard at Tiger Stadium—before modern technology replaced it in 1979—slapped you in the face. And no wonder; it had arms.

Trudging up the runway from the concourse to your seats, whether in the upper or lower deck, chances are one of two things would enrapt you: the famed “short porch” overhang in right field, or the behemoth scoreboard above the centerfield bleachers.

But the porch wasn’t big enough, or interesting enough, to hold your attention for very long.

The scoreboard was the 400-pound gorilla in the room.

It was made up of body parts.

The clock was the head—first a Longines with an hour and minute hand, then a digital version consisting of hundreds of lights.

The clock/head rested squarely on the torso, which towered over the bleachers.

The scoreboard’s upper chest contained the meat and potatoes: score by innings, balls and strikes and outs, player at bat, etc. Toward the belly button were the umpires’ numbers, upcoming home dates, and the space for an “E”, if the official scorer ruled an error.

Extending left and right were the arms, which ran from upper deck to upper deck.

The arms contained the out-of-town scores; American League on the left, National League on the right.

With no fancy-shmancy game casts from the Internet to help him, the scoreboard operator received his information the old-fashioned way. Not quite from courier pigeon, but not much quicker. Even the phones were slower back then.

Sometimes there’d be no score at all—but rather the letter “R”, which meant there was a rain delay going on.

The scores changed much like the tally of hamburgers served on a McDonald’s sign: when nobody was watching.

The Braves would tie up the Phillies and you wouldn’t see the lights change. All you knew was that it was 3-2, Philadelphia a few moments ago, and now it was 3-3.

The scoreboard changed its scores much like how the tortoise ran his race: slow and steady.

It was July, 1971, and the hated Baltimore Orioles were keeping the second-place Tigers at arm’s length in the old East Division.

The Tigers won the league pennant in 1968—the last year before baseball quartered itself into four divisions—but the Orioles were the kings of the East Division, winning it in 1969 and 1970. Easily.

The Tigers were busy trying to keep at the Orioles’ heels when I settled into my seat that July night in 1971, ready to witness my first big league baseball game in person.

I wasn’t quite eight years old, but already I knew enough to keep my eye on the left arm—the one displaying the American League scores.

Despite my attentiveness, I missed it.

The Orioles were winning elsewhere, while the Tigers were taking care of the Yankees before me.

But then, when the action on the field didn’t dictate it, there was nonetheless a low, dull roar forming throughout the stadium.

The Orioles had given up some runs, and were now losing their ballgame. The scoreboard operator with his crude method of keeping track of such things changed the Orioles from winning to losing.

The Detroit baseball fans, so wise, noticed and gave their loud approval.

The crowd’s reaction fascinated me, still fascinates me to this day, because it wasn’t like an announcement was made over the PA system. Craggy Joe Gentile hadn’t said a word about the Orioles from behind his microphone in the press box, through which his words were heard from the box seats to the washrooms.

The Orioles score simply changed and somehow the fans noticed. And reacted. Loudly.

The Tigers wouldn’t catch Baltimore when all was said and done, and the Orioles captured their third straight East Division title in three years of divisional play.

Scoreboard watching in mid-July might seem a little premature, but now we’re in the thick of that exercise.

August is slipping away, and behind it comes the most dramatic month of all.

I’ll spot you a thrilling Stanley Cup playoff run, or NFL games in December that are pocked with playoff implications, yet you won’t come close to my September baseball schedule.

There isn’t anything like baseball in fall’s first month.

All over the Major Leagues, games are played with a chill in the air and fire in the belly.

Every game, every inning—indeed, every pitch—matters, when the mad rush to the playoffs takes place in September.

The scoreboard watching is delectable.

Today, of course, you don’t watch scoreboards, per se—you surf the Internet looking for your up-to-the-minute dope.

But the premise is the same. The objective hasn’t changed one iota: to see how the teams ahead or behind yours are doing.

It’s mushrooming now in Detroit.

Did the White Sox win? How are the Twins doing?

Damn—Jermaine Dye hit a home run in Chicago. White Sox up, 4-3.

Yeah! The Rangers just had a big inning in Minnesota.

Friday night presented yet another opportunity for scoreboard watching.

The Tigers were handling the Tampa Bay Rays—themselves embroiled in scoreboard watching with the Red Sox and Rangers for the Wild Card spot—and so everyone around Detroit felt free to zero in on the White Sox’ battle in New York with little impunity.

The Tigers finished off the Rays and now undivided attention could be paid to what was going on in the Bronx.

The Yankees had taken an early 2-0 lead, but the White Sox scratched out a couple of runs later on to tie it. The game moved into extra innings.

Doubtless Tigers players watched in the clubhouse, likely half-dressed, as the drama played out in new Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees were batting in the bottom of the tenth. They managed to put a couple of runners on base with two outs.

Second baseman Robinson Cano then decided matters with a three-run homer to give the Yankees a 5-2 win, one of those newfangled “walk off” jobs. But, more importantly for the Tigers, it meant a 5-2 loss for the White Sox.

The White Sox dropped to third place, behind the surging Twins, who are 8-2 in their last ten games and who can never be trusted.

The Tigers woke up Saturday morning with a solid four-and-a-half game lead over the Twins and a full five games ahead of the stumbling White Sox.

The scoreboard watching is just getting started. So will be, soon, September baseball.

Gentlemen, start your keyboards!

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Aug
28

Dip-Sh*ts

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In this day of rising inflation, I suppose it only makes sense that companies no longer nickel-and-dime you to death. Some are quartering you to the grave.

Take fast food giants Burger King and McDonald’s, for example.

Apparently we’re all a bunch of dipping sauce packet abusers, for BK and Mickey D’s are beginning to place us on rations.

Yes, despite the economy being in the toilet and other fast food players such as the submarine sandwich industry engaging in pricing wars, Burger King and McDonald’s are having some fun at our expense.

Next time you order some Chicken McNuggets or Chicken Fries or anything that requires dipping sauce, look for a handwritten or half-typed, half-handwritten sign near the drive-thru window or the counter.

It’ll tell you how many dipping sauce packets you get, free of charge, based on what you’ve ordered and the size, along with what it’ll cost you to dare ask for more.

No joke.

Dipping sauce packets are tiny things, perhaps no more than an ounce, ounce-and-a-half in size. Sometimes you can barely fit your processed food into the little tub, truth be told.

They can’t possibly cost more than a few pennies each to produce.

Yet BK and McD’s wants to charge us a quarter (!) for each packet that exceeds the limit that they’ve mandated.

Twenty-five cents?!

First, is there really such an abuse of the dipping sauce packet supply that we need to be rationing? It’s not like they’re freely available to the paying customers, like the hot sauce at Taco Bell—who, by the way, couldn’t care less how many you pilfer. Good for them.

We’ve always had to ask for dipping sauce at BK and McD’s, even before the rationing. And, frankly, usually the reason you would ask was so that you would get some to begin with!

How many times are the sauces left out of your bag? How many times do the cheerful employees forget to ask you if you’d like dipping sauce?


You’re looking at 50 cents!

The sauce distribution at McD’s was always curiously miserly to me. They were treated like gold nuggets. It was almost as if the folks working there hoped you’d forget about them, because they sure didn’t go out of their way to remind you.

Sometimes they’ll ask, but I notice that they ask more now that they’ve put us all on rations.

So you’d think that BK would want to get the upper hand on McD’s. Well, not the location near where I live.

Yesterday I saw that the BK on 12 Mile in Madison Heights is now putting us on dipping sauce rations, too. Instead of doing the opposite—proudly declaring, “NO LIMIT on dipping sauces!”—thus gaining a competitive edge, that location is getting in on the gouging.

Think about this for a moment. Each of these dumb-dumbs have a dollar menu, from which you can order various things, including a cheeseburger. So is one dipping sauce worth 1/4 of a burger?

I wouldn’t be so cranky about it if BK and McD’s had been vigilant in the past about providing sauce and asking if you’d like some. Or if they had been providing it in full view, a la Taco Bell, and folks were taking 10, 11 at a time.

So depending on the size of the item you’ve ordered, you’ll be afforded one (or two) dipping sauce packets, tops. Anything beyond that? Twenty-five cents seems to be the going rate, per packet.

Maybe if the packets were larger, or if it hadn’t been such a teeth-pulling exercise to get them at all in the past, then maybe we wouldn’t be asking for so many.

And how can there have been an abuse of an item that has always had to be requested?

The submarine sandwich people are falling all over themselves right now, offering $5 foot-long subs and, in the case of Quizno’s, even cheaper sandwiches that are only slightly smaller. Those folks know when to strike when the iron is hot.

BK and McD’s?

Gouging us on one-ounce dipping sauce packets while the nation’s economy tanks.

I thought we “deserved a break today” and should “have it our way.”

Sure—for a quarter.

Categories : economy, Enotes, food, society
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Aug
28

Before Smoltz-for-Alexander, Tigers Struck Gold With Fryman

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He was a tobacco farmer, really. And how many of them play big league baseball?

But Woodie Fryman might have been thinking that his days of a full-time purveyor of tobacco were drawing near, as he languished as the black sheep of the Philadelphia Phillies’ rotation in the summer of 1972.

It’s a “What have you done for me lately?” business, pro sports is. Often, it’s lately, as in…oh, yesterday. And Fryman hadn’t done much good for the Phillies for a whole bunch of yesterdays as August ’72 approached.

If you’re sick of hearing about how the Tigers traded prospect John Smoltz for the aging, sourpuss Doyle Alexander in 1987, and of how Doyle was lights out helping the Tigers to the divisional title, then you’ve come to the right place.

For before there was Smoltz-for-Alexander, there was cash-for-Fryman.

Woodrow Thompson Fryman, the tobacco farmer from Ewing, Kentucky without whom the Tigers may not have won the 1972 East Division.

Fryman was 32 in August ’72, which isn’t ancient but can look it when you’re 4-10 and pitching for a team that would go on to lose 97 games, as those Phillies did.

Besides, the Tigers weren’t full of spring chickens themselves. They were a (clear throat) veteran team, to put it politely. Not old—experienced, thank you.

The core of the 1968 World Champion team was still there, but everyone was four years older, naturally, and precious few prospects were being produced by the farm system.

GM Jim Campbell was making it a habit—often out of necessity—of plucking players from the 30+ year-old scrap heap and fitting them with Old English Ds, both to put a Band-Aid on a wound that would have to be attended to later, and to give his manager, Billy Martin, the horses needed to win a division that was tantalizingly close and ripe for the taking.

Campbell supplied Martin with the lefty-swinging catcher Duke Sims, rescued from the Dodgers (also in August ’72), who hit .313 for the Tigers down the stretch. At the end of the month, Campbell brought Frank Howard in from the cold (actually, from the heat of Texas), wallowing with a horrible Texas Rangers team.

The year prior, Campbell acquired veterans like 2B Tony Taylor, lefty reliever Ron Perranoski, and righthander Dean Chance.

All this mainly because the Tigers’ farm system wasn’t churning out very many big league-caliber players. Martin was the first to notice, and called the front office out about it, which eventually hastened Billy’s firing in 1973.

So here comes Woodie Fryman, purchased from the Phillies on August 2, 1972.


Fryman as a nearly-40 year-old pitcher for the Expos


Fryman pitched two games in relief without allowing a run, including 6-1/3 shutout innings in Cleveland a few days after joining the Tigers.

Then Fryman started his first game as a Tiger on August 9, in Yankee Stadium. He threw a six-hit shutout at the Yanks, who were among the four-headed monster trying to win the East Division—along with the Tigers, Red Sox, and Orioles.

Fryman started four days later against the Indians at Tiger Stadium and pitched another complete game, allowing just two runs.

Four days after that, Fryman shut down the Twins, allowing two runs in yet another complete game victory.

Fryman had pitched a tad over 35 innings as a Tiger and allowed just four runs, for an ERA of 1.02.

Woodie Fryman was a throwback. His windup recalled those of pitchers decades before him: after getting the sign from the catcher, Fryman would lean forward, swing both arms behind him, raise them above his head as they met, the ball just now hitting the mitt, and then complete the motion, which included hiding the ball along his waist until the last moment before firing it toward home plate.

Fryman and his throwback windup and left arm suddenly were carrying the Tigers, in a nip-and-tuck race that would leave the Orioles and Yankees behind in the final turn and leave just the Tigers and the Red Sox in a furious run down the final straightaway.

Fryman would pitch every fourth day and give the Tigers nothing but excellence. Only once in 14 starts did he surrender more than four runs. His ERA as a Tiger was a miniscule 2.06. His record was 10-3.

Without Woodie Fryman, the Tigers would have been left in the lurch. With him, the Tigers had enough to win the East by a nose over Boston.

In the ALCS, Fryman got roughed up in Oakland in Game 2, but then gave the Tigers eight strong innings in the decisive Game 5, four days later. The A’s squeaked out a 2-1 victory, breaking Tigers fans’ hearts all over Michigan.

Fryman wasn’t anywhere close to being done, it turns out, when the Tigers came calling in 1972. He’d pitch until 1983, as a 43-year-old. He wasn’t all that eager, apparently, to turn to tobacco farming full time. But his days as a starter pretty much ended, and with a bang, with the Tigers in 1972-73.

The Tigers didn’t make the playoffs again until 1987. Fryman’s heroics in ’72 were talked about frequently around Detroit, until Doyle Alexander came along.

Not too many folks talk about ole Woodie Fryman around these parts anymore.

What has he done for us lately, right?

Hmmph.

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Terry Frei needs a history lesson. And a Valium.

Frei is a sports writer for the Denver Post, and he’s got his shorts in a knot over the Red Wings’ signing of free agent Todd Bertuzzi, announced last week.

The column, “Wings whiff on toxic Bertuzzi,” appeared recently.

Frei has apparently not been paying very good attention to the Red Wings—odd for someone who roams the Rocky Mountains, where they’re obsessed with the Winged Wheel and wondering where the rivalry went off to.

“Purely from a hockey standpoint, it makes no sense,” Frei writes—perhaps one-handed as he scratches his head with the other. “Bertuzzi, who had 15 goals last season for the Calgary Flames, is washed up.”

Ahh, I see.

Bertuzzi will be 35 before next season ends, but if Frei thinks that such a player can be washed up, then he’s not even paying attention to his own team.

Joe Sakic just retired, at age 40. He had 36 goals two years ago, when he was closing in on age 38.

And what of Chris Chelios, age 47? How can Frei watch his hockey, when his peepers are embedded in his rectum?

Frei then points out that the only playoff series Bertuzzi’s teams have won in the past five years came with the Red Wings—in 2007.

So how is that an argument for why the Red Wings shouldn’t have signed him? Seems to be one of those hockey/good luck/superstition things to me.

Frei hasn’t been paying attention, because if he had, he’d know two things: 1) the Red Wings have trademarked the rescuing of veteran players; and 2) he doesn’t know more than Red Wings GM Ken Holland and his support staff.

Holland doesn’t “whiff”, as the headline of Frei’s column stated. In his 12 years as GM, Holland has made maybe two or three bad signings and/or trades.

Uwe Krupp in 1998 (which Holland would admit to). Bringing Dominik Hasek back in 2003 (which Kenny would NOT admit to, despite me trying a few years ago). And the Kyle Calder trade at the 2007 deadline.

That’s it.

Does Frei truly think Holland has gotten dumb, or is he just jealous over a rivalry that’s turned from Red Sox-Yankees to (insert NFC North team)-Lions?

Maybe it grinds Frei that the Red Wings are one of the classiest organizations in pro sports. They aren’t the Avalanche, who clumsily and shamelessly publicly courted Patrick Roy (!!) to be their coach, all while their current coach, Tony Granato, twisted in the wind.

It was disgusting. “Toxic,” even.

I can understand Frei’s state, after watching the Red Wings toy with the Avalanche in the 2008 conference semi-finals.

But the true source of Frei’s displeasure might be the fallout from Bertuzzi’s cheap shot leveled against Steve Moore, back in 2004.

“What Bertuzzi did was disgraceful,” Frei writes. “…To me, though, what’s most galling at this point is the cavalier acceptance of Bertuzzi within the sport as just some guy who temporarily snapped, went a bit far, but served his five minutes in the penalty box, and is back on the ice…”

First, the “cavalier acceptance” isn’t coming from Holland or the Red Wings. Are they to blame? The NHL has deemed Bertuzzi fit to play in their league. So the Red Wings should prop themselves up as some beacons of justice and vow never to employ him?

Would the Avalanche do such a thing?

OH, I forgot—the Avs aren’t a player or two away from Stanley Cup contention. They’re a player or two away from the conference cellar.

Second, Bertuzzi’s not getting off scott-free here. He’s going to have to pay—financially. And he already has.

Third, I believe Bertuzzi IS just someone who temporarily took leave of his senses.

Another history lesson for Frei: Eddie Shore.

Shore was a bruising defenseman for the Boston Bruins in the 1930s and ’40s who lost his mind in anger one night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was searching for King Clancy, but in Clancy’s absence from the ice, Shore went after Ace Bailey, drilling him to the ice, head first.

Bailey’s injuries were life-threatening. It was touch and go for a while. And he’d never play hockey again.

But Shore did.

It’s a shame, but tempers are lost in the heat of battle. The league is remanded with the power to suspend or ban a player for life. But failing that, does that mean the teams should refuse to hire that player?

That seems to be asking an awful lot.

Frei concludes, “Bottom line: Bertuzzi is a lot of things. His ‘case’ is a black eye for the league. Yet even if it just comes down to trying to win games, he’s more trouble than he’s worth.”

I guess I need to give Frei another news flash.

Bertuzzi was adored in the Red Wings locker room. He got along well with his coach, his GM, his teammates. His relative ineffectiveness in the ‘07 playoffs was due to his bad back, which had just been operated on months before.

Kenny Holland doesn’t need any advice or scolding from little Terry Frei.

Frei best write more about teams he’s actually been paying attention to.

I know that means having to cover the Avalanche, which I understand isn’t the greatest gig in the world anymore.

The Avs’ big brother just skated by and splattered them with some more snow, and Frei can’t stand it.

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Aug
26

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

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Ted Kennedy doesn’t have any brothers who are living, so who will give him his stirring eulogy?

Teddy—the Kennedy brother who was still standing, at age 36, when Bobby was gunned down in Los Angeles in 1968, seeking the presidency. The lone brother—after Joe died in WWII, after John was killed while president prior to Bobby’s assassination.

Teddy Kennedy, who survived a plane crash that broke his back, and who survived a controversial car wreck in 1969 that not only killed a young woman but also his chances of ever becoming president himself.

Teddy Kennedy, the accidental (no pun intended) patriarch of the Kennedy family—the “Liberal Lion” of the U.S. Senate.

Teddy’s gone now, succumbing at age 77 to brain cancer in a year that’s been virulent when it comes to celebrity deaths.

Just last week, we lost Don Hewitt, creator and executive producer of “60 Minutes”, and who produced and directed the famous Kennedy/Nixon televised presidential debate of 1960.

And now Teddy’s gone, and who will deliver his eulogy for the ages?

It was one of the first—maybe the first—eulogies that stuck with me. I was no older than an adolescent when I heard Teddy’s words, spoken as they laid RFK to rest in 1968. Probably heard it on some documentary or something.

“My brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will someday come to pass for all the world.”

Teddy delivered those words, with a halting, staggering voice, inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan in June 1968. He never broke down, but he came close.

This was perhaps the most famous part:

“…to be remembered as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”

At least, it was the most famous part for me, because those were the words that stuck with me forever.

I don’t know that we’ll ever hear a better tribute than that sentence.

It captured, perfectly, Bobby Kennedy’s mission statement. Whether you agree with the Kennedys politics or not (and Lord knows there are tons of folks who don’t), you have to acknowledge the poignancy of those words.


The three youngest Kennedy brothers—John, Bobby and Teddy—before two-thirds of them were cut down by political violence
I guess what I always admired about the Kennedys—at least the three political sons of Joseph and Rose Kennedy—was their empathy for the poor and less fortunate, despite themselves being born with the proverbial silver spoons in their mouths.

The family legacy, certainly, was tarnished as the years went on, thanks to some churlish behavior by a few bozos in the clan.

Teddy was one who stumbled.

The 1969 accident at Chappaquiddick (and Kennedy’s actions following it), which killed Mary Jo Kopechne, effectively torpedoed Teddy’s chances of becoming the Leader of the Free World. It was a horrific display of bad judgment, and it rightly gave people pause about his moral qualifications to be president.

He gave it a shot in 1980, trying to unseat a sitting president from his own party. The political winds indicated that Jimmy Carter was highly vulnerable in 1978-79—which he was, but not to Kennedy, as it turned out.

Kennedy’s campaign was disorganized and his message wasn’t clear. Chappaquiddick’s impact took the campaign by surprise, along with perhaps Carter’s willingness to use it. But Carter was desperate, stumbling along with an approval rating in the 20s.

“If he (Kennedy) runs, I’ll whip his ass,” Carter was quoted as saying, by those close to him.

And that’s exactly what Jimmy did.

Kennedy started out of the gate slowly, regained a little momentum in springtime, but then faded again. He conceded the nomination during the convention in New York.

Carter’s inability, though, to win over Kennedy supporters hurt him badly against Ronald Reagan in the general election.

When Kennedy appeared on stage after Carter’s acceptance speech—which Teddy was late for—he shook the nominee’s hand but didn’t raise arms with him in the traditional show of party solidarity. Some say that didn’t do Carter any favors, either, in terms of bringing Kennedy supporters on board.

Maybe Teddy himself wrote his own eulogy—or words for his epitaph.

This is what he said after conceding the 1980 nomination to Carter.

“For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

That might do just fine.

Categories : Enotes, history, Politics
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Aug
25

Stir Crazy

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You’ll never be able to make fried rice like me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help you in your ultimately futile effort.

Yeah, I get cocky about it, because no American whips up fried rice like I can.

And you’ve probably been tossing out those cartons of uneaten white rice from the Chinese take-out joints all these years, oblivious to their culinary potential.

Tsk, tsk.

I first started frying rice and creating various concoctions with it about 20 years ago, when I purchased my first Chinese cookbook, having been on an Asian food jag. It was around the time that I discovered Thai food and its glorious heat and spice. Till then, I thought the only spicy Asian stuff was the Szechuan and Mandarin cuisine of China. Silly me.

Homemade fried rice, when done properly, is good on so many levels.

Number one, you’re using up every bit of your Chinese take-out leftovers, so you can feel satisfied about that.

Number two, it’s a terrific way to get rid of some other leftovers that may be in danger of going bad in the fridge.

Number three, you can have fun with it and experiment with different sauces and spices.

The key is preparation, as it is with any stir-fry dish. I’ve made the mistake of starting to stir-fry before all the ingredients were ready for the wok/skillet, and before you know it, you’re Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance in that famous chocolate-wrapping/conveyor belt scene from “I Love Lucy”—trying desperately to rinse and chop veggies while trying to keep the the stuff that’s cooking from burning up.

So get everything prepped before you even turn the burner on.

I like to use a carbon steel wok (like THIS), but you can use a non-stick skillet, too. But it ought to be a big one. Stir-frying is fun, but only if you have enough room to stir and fry. If the skillet is too small, the food won’t cook evenly and it’s not stir-frying—it’s more like flipping pancakes.

If you use a non-stick skillet, make sure to be armed with a wooden or plastic stir-fry utensil (spatula, etc) so as not to ruin the no-stick surface. I use a carbon steel wok mostly, which allows me to utilize my stainless steel spatula, which looks a lot like this.

The best fried rice NOT made by an Asian:

AT LEAST 4 cups of COLD, cooked white rice*
Two eggs
Soy sauce
Ground WHITE pepper
About 1 t fresh ginger, minced
Two cloves of garlic, minced (NEVER garlic powder!)
Salt (to taste)
MSG (if you wish)
Hot pepper flakes (to taste)
Frozen peas and/or corn
Assorted chopped veggies (celery, green pepper, green onion, carrots)
Tiny cooked, canned shrimp (optional; or leftover shrimp)
Any leftover, chopped, cooked meat (boneless chicken or pork, etc)
Sesame oil (about 2 t)
Cooking oil of choice

*Rice MUST be cold, and before cooking, wet hands and break up rice as much as you can, preferably into a separate bowl for easy access when it’s time to add; try to avoid as many clumps of rice as possible

Ready? Here we go.

Make sure everything is chopped and ready to go. As for the amount of the above ingredients that show no amount, you’ll have to use your own judgment. Generally I use about a cup of frozen peas or corn, two stalks of chopped celery, and about six chopped green onions.

1. Heat EMPTY wok/skillet on high heat for about two minutes
2. Pour 2 T cooking oil onto w/s and swirl to cover; add minced garlic and ginger (don’t keep garlic in oil too long before next step, or else it will get brown and crusty)
3. Break the eggs into the w/s and, using spatula, quickly break yolks and fry until you have shards of “scrambled” eggs
4. Add chopped veggies, all at once (EXCEPT for the peas and/or corn!!) and stir-fry until opaque and medium crunchy; also sprinkle mixture with about a 1/4 t of white pepper while frying (MSG added here, if desired)
5. Empty cooked eggs and veggies into another dish and save for later use
6. Keep heat high and add 2 more T of cooking oil
7. Add separated rice and 2 t of sesame oil; stir fry about 5 minutes (while frying rice, add soy sauce to taste, and to give light brown color; also, this is where you’d add desired amount of red pepper flakes for some heat); stir rice VERY often (like, constantly)
8. Add frozen peas/corn, and any shrimp, meat, etc. that you chose to use
9. Stir fry mixture, which is now getting heavier, over high heat, while adding more soy sauce to taste; make sure frozen peas/corn and meat are heated through
10. Pour eggs/veggie mix into the fray
11. Keep stirring and frying over HIGH heat!!
12. Add more soy sauce to taste
13. Enjoy!!

Fried rice, as prepared above, can be a meal all by itself, or at the very least, a substantial side dish. Either way, it’s yummy.

While you make this dish, it’s nice to sip wine or drink beer while cooking.

It doesn’t hurt to make sure that the folks you’re cooking for also have plenty of wine and beer, as well! Just in case.

Categories : culture, Enotes, food
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Aug
24

The Endless Cocktail Hour

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Michael Jackson, I see now, never had a chance.

He was a walking vessel of prescription drugs so powerful and of such a wide variety, that I’m amazed that he lived as long as he did.

Pop star Jackson, who slipped into death in late June at age 50, officially died as a result of homicide, according to a source close to the Los Angeles County coroner.

The straw that broke the camel’s back, according to reports, was the powerful anesthetic propofol, which was administered to Jackson in lethal doses.

Jackson couldn’t sleep. So he had his doctor, Conrad Murray, fill him with a volatile cocktail that included propofol and other sedatives.

The list of drugs connected with Jackson reads like a pharmaceutical journal. It makes Elvis Presley look like a popper of Flintstones vitamins.

Clonazepam, Lorazepam, Tamsulosin, Temazepam, Tizanidine, Trazodone and Valium.

Except for Valium, I have no idea what these drugs do, but there’s a lot of them and many of them have the “pam” suffix, which even I know typically means a sedative.

Regular people swallow a couple of OTC tablets or a couple teaspoons of NyQuil if they have trouble sleeping. Others take meds prescribed by their doctor.

Jackson was taking propofol to sleep, which is like using a bazooka to kill a housefly.


Dr. Conrad Murray, Jackson’s doctor and someone who might be in a heap of trouble

In case you missed it in the fourth paragraph, propofol is an anesthetic, not a sleeping medication. Oh, it will put you out, alright, but out as in “coma”.

Jackson was a frequent doctor shopper, moving from one to another until he got what he wanted prescribed for him. It was going on for years, and apparently was all a big family secret.

The problem, of course, doesn’t end with Jackson’s death. Hollywood is filled with doctors who, whether from being starstruck or from being just plain old greedy and derelict, will give their “patients” pretty much whatever it is that they want.

I placed patients in quotation marks because they’re not likely to have any sort of long-term relationship with these docs.

It’s running rampant, this powerful-meds-by-demand thing that’s coursing through Tinsel Town like blood through veins.

Doubtless several more stars will die because of it.

Jackson was so doped up, and probably for so long, that it might explain some of his erratic behavior.

Michael would be placed into coma-like states, on his orders. He would literally be administered an IV that would drip-drip the anesthetic into him. Then, at the designated time, the drip would stop and Michael would wake up.

Then, he no doubt would take more drugs to speed up and accentuate the waking up process and prolong the “awake state.” Until it was time to “go to bed” again, when he’d be stuck with another needle.

This is mind-boggling, and just plain weird.

Yet dozens in his inner circle let it all happen, right under their nose.

Maybe they were afraid of being cast out. Jackson, in his prime, was one of the most powerful people in show business. Best not to piss off those kinds of folks.

Jackson wasn’t a man. He wasn’t a human being. He was a chemistry experiment.

When I first heard of the death of Michael Jackson, I thought of how young it was to go, at age 50.

The more I find out about it, I think of how amazing it is that he lived to be as old as 50.

Seriously.

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