Final Curtain Call- We’ll Miss Ya Smokin’ Joe

Joe Frazier, Champion and Competitor

Joe Frazier, Former Heavyweight Boxing Champ, Dies at 67

Joe Frazier, the former heavyweight boxing champ who died of liver cancer on Nov. 7 at 67, won’t go down in history as the greatest fighter of all time. Muhammad Ali, the man with whom Frazier sparred so epically, both inside and outside the ropes, owns that distinction. Frazier’s role in his rival’s outsize life will always define his own legacy: it’s impossible to mention “Smokin’ Joe” without summoning Ali a few seconds later.

Joe Frazier, pictured at his Philadelphia boxing gym in 2009,
died of liver cancer on Nov. 7, 2011, at 67 – Al Bello / Images

But if Ali defined Frazier, well, Frazier made Ali too. If not for Frazier’s greatness — his left hook crumbled opponents, and he defended his heavyweight title four times from 1970 to ’73 — Ali could never have been called the Greatest. And though the annals of boxing won’t remember
him as the better fighter, at times Frazier could be the bigger man.(See photos of Frazier’s life.)

Ali feared Frazier, and that insecurity brought out the worst in him. During
the height of their rivalry in the racially charged post–civil rights 1970s, Ali
belittled Frazier whenever he could. He’d call Frazier an “Uncle Tom,”
“ignorant,” “the Gorilla.” In black communities, Ali characterized Frazier as the white man’s champ. “I’m not just fightin’ one man,” Ali bellowed before their first bout, in 1971, the “Fight of the Century” at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. “I’m fightin’ a lot of men, showin’ a lot of ’em here is one man they couldn’t conquer. My mission is to bring freedom to 30 million black people. I’ll win this fight because I’ve got a cause. Frazier has no cause. He’s in it for the money alone.” (Frazier won the bout in a 15-round decision.)

Joe Frazier
Bettmann / Corbis

Frazier, who was inelegant, introspective and prone to mood swings that he called the slouchies, rarely rose to Ali’s bait. “I don’t want to be no more than no more than what I am,” he once said. Friends wondered
whether Frazier paid any mind to the social injustices that Ali harped on. Ali relished his role as cultural provocateur; his preaching, as much as his
pugilism, is why he is revered. Still, Ali never had reason to use Frazier as a comic foil, especially since the shots he took were far from funny. “Ali can’t touch me,” Frazier said, “in ability or decency.” (See Muhammad Ali photos by Magnum photographers.)

Joe Frazier grew up in Beaufort, S.C., where he was raised in a four-room shack on a farm, the second youngest of 13 children. He threw his first punches against a feed bag stuffed with rags, hung from an oak tree. Frazier told his siblings he’d be the next Joe Louis. “I’d hit that heavy bag for an hour at a time,” he once said. “I’d wrap my hands with a necktie of my Daddy’s, or a stocking of my Momma’s or sister’s, and get to it.” At school, kids would give him a quarter or a sandwich to walk with them as a repellent against bullies.

Ali portrayed Frazier as some sort of puppet of the white man, but in truth, Jim Crow sent Frazier fleeing from South Carolina. “Son,” Frazier’s mother told him, “if y’all can’t get along with the white man in the South, y’all better leave home.” A teenage Frazier hitchhiked to Charleston and, as he said, “caught the first thing smokin’ that was goin’ north.” Frazier settled in Philadelphia, where he took a job as a butcher in a kosher slaughterhouse. He caught the eye of a fight manager at a local Police
Athletic League, and lost only one of his amateur fights, to Buster Mathis at the trials for the 1964 Olympics. Mathis got hurt, however, and the trip to the Tokyo Games fell to Frazier. Despite fighting his final match with a broken thumb, Frazier came home with the heavyweight gold. (See the top 10 boxing matches of all-time.)

Joe Frazier
Chris Weeks / WireImage / Getty Images

The medal didn’t make Frazier rich: after Tokyo, he took a job as a janitor
in a North Philadelphia Baptist church. But he soon found some financial backing and turned pro in 1965. With Ali stripped of his boxing license because of his refusal to serve in Vietnam, Frazier soared through the heavyweight ranks and won the world title in 1970. But that same year, Ali returned to the ring; their first face-off — the Fight of the Century — came on March 8, 1971.

TIME wrote before the fight: “No amount of bluster is likely to deter Smokin’ Joe, a raging, bobbing, weaving, rolling swarmer who moves in one basic direction-right at his opponent’s gut. A kind of motorized
Marciano, he works his short arms like pistons, pumping away with such
mechanical precision that he consistently throws between 54 and 58 punches each round. He works almost exclusively inside, crouching and always moving in to slam the body. When the pummeling begins to slow his opponent, when the guard drops to protect the stomach, Frazier tosses a murderous left hook to the head. His coup de grâce is lethal. ‘Getting hit by Joe,’ says Light Heavyweight Ray Anderson, one of Frazier’s sparring partners, ‘is like getting run over by a bus.’ Some of his victims, like Light Heavyweight Champion Bob Foster, literally have no recollection of what hit them.” (See TIME’s “Thrilla in Manila” coverage.)

In typically understated fashion, Ali labeled the fight “the biggest sporting
event in the history of the whole planet earth.” It was the first time two
undefeated heavyweight champs had met for the title. Ed Sullivan, Alan Shepard, Bill Cosby, Michael Caine, Hubert Humphrey and Burt Bacharach were among the luminaries at ringside. Frank Sinatra took pictures for LIFE magazine. The fight lived up to the billing. Frazier, the body puncher, came out swinging for Ali’s head. Ali, the ring dancer, tried matching Frazier hook-for-hook. Ali turned up the showmanship: he invited Frazier to swing at his gut, and when Frazier connected, he’d shake his head, as if a little kid were punching him. “Nooo contest,” Ali crowed at one point.

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, Philadelphia, PA...

by cliff1066™ via Flickr

In the 11th round, however, Frazier pummeled Ali with two left hooks. Ali
staggered and barely survived the round. In the 15th and final stanza, Frazier landed one more roundhouse left, sending Ali to the canvas. He got back up, but by that point it was finished: Frazier won the fight on a unanimous decision.

Joe Frazier
Al Bello / Getty Images

It was the only time he beat Ali. Frazier lost his championship belt to
George Foreman, who knocked Frazier down six times before the ref stopped their 1973 title fight in the second round (“Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!” Howard Cosell memorably cried.) The next year, Ali got his rematch with Frazier, and won it in a decision to set up their rubber match, in Manila, on Oct. 1, 1975. The “Thrilla in Manila” took place in 100°F heat before an estimated 700 million closed-circuit and television viewers in some 65 countries. It became the duo’s most famous brawl. Frazier refused to wear down,
but by the 14th round, Ali was pounding him at will. Frazier’s eyes were almost swollen shut. Frazier’s trainer, Eddie Futch, threw in the towel at the end of the round. “I want him, boss,” Frazier screamed. Futch refused. “It’s all over,” Futch replied. “No one will forget what you did here today.” He was right. Afterward, Ali said he had never felt closer to death. He described Frazier as “the greatest fighter of all time, next to me.”

Frazier lost to Foreman one more time, in 1976, and attempted an early 1980s comeback, thankfully short-lived. He started a musical act, Smokin’ Joe and the Knockouts; that didn’t last long either. He opened up a gym in North Philadelphia, and like too many ex-fighters he fell on hard times. “Over the years, Frazier has lost a fortune through a combination of his own generosity and naïveté,” read a 2006 profile in the New York Times, “his carousing, failed business opportunities and deep hatred for his former chief boxing rival, Muhammad Ali.”

NYC: Madison Square Garden

by wallyg via Flickr

After their fighting days, Frazier matched Ali’s past unseemliness with some hurtful remarks of his own. “Look at him now,” Frazier told writer Thomas Hauser for his 1992 book on Ali. “He’s damaged goods. I know it; you know it. Everyone knows it … He was always making fun of me. I’m the dummy; I’m the one getting hit in the head. Tell me now, him or me: Which one talks worse now?” In 1996, after Ali lit the Olympic torch at the Atlanta Games, Frazier told a group of reporters, “I wish Ali had fallen into [the flame]. If I had the chance, I’d have pushed him in.” Such comments did not endear Frazier to any corporate sponsors.

But in recent years, Frazier’s bitterness faded. “Nobody has anything but
good things to say about Muhammad now,” Frazier told in 2009. “I’d do anything he needed for me to help.” A few years ago, the pair conducted a photo shoot together at Frazier’s gym, which is now shuttered. The day before Frazier’s death, Ali said in a statement: “My family and I are keeping Joe and his family in our daily prayers. Joe has a lot of friends pulling for him, and I’m one of them.”

Frazier lost this last fight. But in so many others, he thrilled the

See TIME’s Ali and Frazier cover.
Read how Frazier was diagnosed with cancer.

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Sports News Photos Of The Day- Bute Outpoints Johnson

Lucian Bute defeats Glen Johnson for the IBF Super Middleweight boxing championship

Robert Hood writes

Every now and then you see a picture of what happens to the human body during moments of extreme exertion. Are those concussion waves in Johnson’s scalp?

Mathieu Belanger / Reuters

IBF Super Middleweight champion Lucian Bute of Romania punches Glen Johnson of Jamaica during their IBF Super Middleweight championship fight at the Colisee de Quebec in Quebec City, Nov. 5, 2011. Bute won the fight.

AP reports

QUEBEC CITY – Montreal fighter Lucian Bute successfully defended his IBF super-middleweight title with a one-sided decision over Glen Johnson on Saturday night.

The 31-year-old Bute improved to 30-0, winning all 12 rounds on two judges’ cards and 11 of 12 on the other in front of a crowd of 15,306 at the Colisee.

“It was a great fight and a great performance for me,” said Bute, born in Romania. “Glen Johnson is a great fighter. To beat him, you have to avoid the jab. I did that and I tried to out-jab him. I have to be able to beat guys like him.”

Mathieu Belanger / Reuters   Lucian Bute poses with his belt after defeating Glen Johnson.

The 42-year-old Johnson dropped to 51-16-2. He has lost four of his last six fights.

The Jamaican injured his right arm in the fight.

“I think I won the fight,” said Johnson, known as the Road Warrior because he often fights in his opponents’ home cities. “I beat him with one hand.

Lucian Bute, Glen Johnson

“It’s tough to win in your opponent’s hometown because as soon as he does one little thing, the crowd goes crazy instead of paying attention to what the punches are telling you.”

On the undercard, Canadian super-bantamweight Steve Molitor improved to 34-2, outpointing Quebec fighter Sebastien Gauthier in a 10-round split decision.

Molitor had winning scores of 96-94 and 96-94 and other judge had it 96-94 for Gauthier.

Hometown fighter Pier-Olivier Cote (18-0) stopped American Jorge Luis Teron in the second round to take the vacant IBF Intercontinental light weltwerweight title.

Local favorite Kevin Bizier (15-0) drew a rousing cheer when he stopped Danish veteran Christian Bladt with a straight left to the jaw in the third round of their welterweight bout. American featherweight Rances Barthelemy (14-0) used his long reach to knock down Mexico’s Alejandro Barrera (21-10) three times en route to a second-round stoppage.

Story from AP and

It Was In The Cards- St. Louis Cardinals 2011 MLB Champs

Never-give-up Cards finish ultimate comeback

 By Anthony Castrovince /

ST. LOUIS — This was a team for the crafty, the creative, the cunning. For those who drive with the needle well past “E.” For those who believe not just in second chances, but thirds and fourths and fifths. For those who know you’re in until you’re out, and you’re rarely as out as you appear.

The St. Louis Cardinals are World Series champs. That’s a sentence best read with wide-eyed wonder, because what is arguably the greatest comeback in the game’s long history is now complete.

“If you watch the history of baseball,” manager Tony La Russa said, “teams come back. And sometimes they could have come back but they give in or give up. And I knew the character on our team, the coaches knew the character. We just challenged them to not give up.”

La Russa on never quitting

Tony La Russa talks about his club persevering and the road to the World Series title

This was the Team of the Living Dead, and its story will live on for all of eternity in the heart of every St. Louisan draped in red and every witness bewitched by ball.

Seventh heaven
The Cardinals are the 36th club in Major League history to win baseball’s ultimate prize in a decisive Game 7 or Game 8.                               
Date Winner Loser Score
10/28/2011 STL TEX 6-2
10/27/2002 ANA SFG 4-1
11/4/2001 ARI NYY 3-2
10/26/1997 FLA CLE 3-2
10/27/1991 MIN ATL 1-0
10/25/1987 MIN STL 4-2
10/27/1986 NYM BOS 8-5
10/27/1985 KCR STL 11-0
10/20/1982 STL MIL 6-3
10/17/1979 PIT BAL 4-1
10/22/1975 CIN BOS 4-3
10/21/1973 OAK NYM 5-2
10/22/1972 OAK CIN 3-2
10/17/1971 PIT BAL 2-1
10/10/1968 DET STL 4-1
10/12/1967 STL BOS 7-2
10/14/1965 LAD MIN 2-0
10/15/1964 STL NYY 7-5
10/16/1962 NYY SFG 1-0
10/13/1960 PIT NYY 10-9
10/9/1958 NYY MLN 6-2
10/10/1957 MLN NYY 5-0
10/10/1956 NYY BRO 9-0
10/4/1955 BRO NYY 2-0
10/7/1952 NYY BRO 4-2
10/6/1947 NYY BRO 5-2
10/15/1946 STL BOS 4-3
10/10/1945 DET CHC 9-3
10/8/1940 CIN DET 2-1
10/9/1934 STL DET 11-0
10/10/1931 STL PHA 4-2
10/10/1926 STL NYY 3-2
10/15/1925 PIT WSH 9-7
10/10/1924 WSH NYG 4-3
10/16/1912 * BOS NYG 3-2
10/16/1909 PIT DET 8-0

* Game 2 of the 1912 World Series ended in a 6-6 tie due to darkness, necessitating a Game 8.

So many — too many — teams talk about the adversity endured on the road to a title, but few lived it quite like these Cards. Theirs was a hurdle laid out not in some invented anecdote but in the cold, hard mathematics that lead to fairly basic conclusions. This team was 10 1/2 games back of the Wild Card on Aug. 25. The postseason, let alone the championship, was but a rumor.

Yet here they are.

“We have character,” Lance Berkman said. “We have tough, professional guys who don’t quit. It’s not like football where you get fired up and charge the field before every game, but it comes from inside where you’re going to fight for every last out.”

The Cardinals were counted out rather quickly. The season, as it pertains to champagne wishes and championship dreams, seemed over before it started. Staff ace Adam Wainwright blew out his elbow in a bullpen session on the back fields of the Jupiter, Fla., Spring Training complex early in camp, and all looked lost.

It didn’t end there. Matt Holliday needed an appendectomy after Opening Day, Ryan Franklin blew save after save early on, Albert Pujols started slow then snapped his wrist, David Freese tore a tendon in his right ankle in early August and general manager John Mozeliak called it “season-ending.”

David Freese is the sixth player to win both the LCS and World Series MVP. (AP Photo)

David Freese is the sixth player to win both the LCS and World Series MVP. (AP Photo)

If this is some sort of recipe for success, it’s a strange brew, indeed — one best kept away from those with acid-reflux issues (thankfully, the Tums factory is located right next to Busch Stadium).

But the sheer length of the Major League season allows the narrative to wind its way from A to Z and back again. And somewhere along the line, the Cards became the team they had long ago imagined themselves to be.

It just took time. And tenacity.

The Cardinals trailed the Braves in the NL Wild Card hunt by 10 1/2 games when they awoke on Aug. 25. And mark that down as the birthdate of a red-letter run. You’ll find no shortage of explanations, from the simple to the psychological, as to why or how the Cards came together from that day forward.

Chris Carpenter worked into the seventh inning on short rest in Game 7. (AP Photo)

Chris Carpenter worked into the seventh inning on short rest in Game 7. (AP Photo)

Some will point to an event called the Knights of the Cauliflower Ear dinner in downtown St. Louis, held Aug. 24, as the night Wainwright, of all people, stood in front of a crowd of area sports fans, declared, “We’re still in this,” and reminded everybody on board that the ship had not yet sunk.

Some will say a team meeting held before the Aug. 25 game against the Pirates helped the Cards clear the air and clear their heads.

“It was about continuing to play hard, to give something for our fans, no matter if we won or we didn’t win,” Chris Carpenter recalled. “It was about playing hard and playing like we are capable of, not embarrassing ourselves, and also not giving up.”

Some will observe that the pitching staff solidified itself after the Colby Rasmus trade in late July, while bolstering the bullpen and the starting staff simultaneously.

Mike Napoli had the World Series MVP all but clinched before Texas' collapses in Game 6. (AP Photo)

Mike Napoli had the World Series MVP all but clinched before Texas’ collapses in Game 6. (AP Photo)

Some will credit La Russa’s leadership, Pujols’ prominence or Berkman’s beneficence.

All of the above and more apply, of course, and that’s what makes a winning team — a conglomeration of characters stronger together than apart. You don’t make this ridiculous a late-season rise in a team sport without belief in your abilities and in the abilities of those around you. It’s the kind of stuff neither man nor squirrel can easily synopsize, though many a man has tried.

“It takes 25 guys to win a world championship,” Berkman said. “It’s not one or two guys. And this is a great group.”

The Cardinals went 23-9 down the stretch to overcome Atlanta. Their September surge was incredible, and it will certainly be pointed to by every future playoff hopeful seemingly out of the running and looking for a light at the end of the tunnel. But all it earned the Cards was a date with the 102-win juggernaut Phils, whose loaded rotation had made them a World Series favorite long before pitchers and catchers even reported.

No worries there. The Cardinals pushed the Phillies to the limit of a Game 5 in the National League Division Series, then pitted their ace, Carpenter, against the game’s most highly touted arm, Roy Halladay, and came out victorious, by a 1-0 count. Next up was an NL Championship Series date with the Brewers, who had long ago outlasted the Cards in the division race but who couldn’t adequately combat an abundant lineup and La Russa’s aggressive relief ruses. And the next thing you knew, St. Louis was home-field hosts of a World Series that only the most biased or bugged out would have predicted pre-Labor Day.

Matt Holliday has been replaced on St. Louis' roster for Game 7 tonight. (AP Photo)

Matt Holliday has been replaced on St. Louis’ roster for Game 7 tonight. (AP Photo)

Sure enough, the Series itself was a nightly test of wills. Game 2 slipped away on an Ian Kinsler swipe and a couple of sacrifice flies. Game 5 was a mess of miscommunication that had everybody wondering if La Russa needed a new landline or a long vacation.

And then Game 6. What more can be said about Game 6?

“Legendary,” Berkman said.

That’ll do.

Down to their last strike twice, the Cardinals showed the kind of resilience and never-say-die demeanor we try to instill in our kids the first time they take up athletic competition. Some called the comeback a microcosm of their season, when, in fact, it was just part of the bigger picture. The talent was on this team all along, but the championship grit was built, bit by bit, until it revealed itself, fully constructed, on the game’s greatest stage and in one of its greatest games.

Game 7 was the coronation, a first-inning deficit erased and a shockingly breezy victory unfolding. When it ended, the Cards were kings, their wild ride wrapped up in grand fashion.

Pujols was asked what he’ll remember most.

“Just the way that we did it,” he said. “The way that we got in and the way that we finished. We’re the world champions. It’s pretty special.”

Pretty unbelievable, too.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


Proud Selig pleased by thrilling postseason

 By Barry M. Bloom /

ST. LOUIS — This season came down to the wire to decide the two Wild Card playoff spots, had a postseason during which a record-tying 38 out of a possible 41 games were played and a Game 6 of the World Series that saw the Cardinals twice rally from being one strike away from elimination against the Rangers.

And even beyond that, the 2011 season witnessed the Cards’ improbable run from 10 1/2 games down in the National League Wild Card race end with their 11th World Series title after a dramatic win in Game 6 and a 6-2 victory in Game 7 on Friday night at Busch Stadium.

Following the final game of the season, baseball’s ninth Commissioner couldn’t have been more proud.

Selig on Cards’ run
Bud Selig discusses the Cardinals’ amazing run to the World Series

“This is terrific,” Selig told after presenting the World Series trophy to the Cardinals’ hierarchy in a light postgame drizzle. “It’s been an incredible postseason, incredible in every way. This World Series has just been spellbinding. It was one great game after another.”

Prior to the game, the excitement that was the past two months led Selig to eloquently delineate the state of the game he adores. He began a 23-minute news conference with a rare 8 1/2-minute soliloquy that touched on everything that has recently happened.

“I would not be ashamed to tell you that [Thursday] night in the 11th inning after everything that went on, I told a couple of people, ‘I’m really proud tonight to be the Commissioner of a sport that can produce what just happened,'” Selig said about a game St. Louis tied in both the ninth and 10th innings before winning it, 10-9, on a David Freese walk-off home run in the 11th.

The Cardinals celebrate their 11th World Series title. (AP Photo)

The Cardinals celebrate their 11th World Series title. (AP Photo)

“But it wasn’t only [Thursday] night. Since September, we’ve really had an incredible [couple of] months, topped off by Sept. 28, which everyone said we couldn’t replicate. But you play Spring Training, a 162-game season, a month of postseason games, and it all came down to Game 7. I said to my wife on the way over, ‘This is the one time all year you can say there’s no tomorrow.'”

The Cardinals were a huge part of it. Left dead and buried in the NL Wild Card race, the Cards played the Brewers in Selig’s hometown of Milwaukee beginning on Aug. 30. Selig recalled meeting with old friend and St. Louis manager Tony La Russa in the Commissioner’s Office before the three-game set began.

La Russa is also one of three active managers on Selig’s select 14-person committee overseeing on-field changes in the sport, so his visit was a little bit more than cursory.

“Tony came up to see me, and I congratulated him on his great year,” Selig recalled. “‘We’re not done,’ Tony told me. And he wasn’t kidding.”

The Cardinals came all the way back and clobbered the Astros in Houston on the season’s final day. When the Phillies eliminated the Braves in extra innings in Atlanta, the NL Wild Card berth was all theirs. At the same time, the Rays came from behind to defeat the Yankees at Tropicana Field and won the American League’s Wild Card berth when the Red Sox lost a heartbreaker to the Orioles in the bottom of the ninth inning at Camden Yards.

Ron Washington's team is the second to come within one out of a World Series and not bring it home. (AP Photo)

Ron Washington’s team is the second to come within one out of a World Series and not bring it home. (AP Photo)

Because of the two extra-inning games and a lengthy rain delay in Baltimore, all of it was decided in a span of 15 minutes.

“You couldn’t have written that script,” Selig said. “If you gave it to somebody, they’d throw it back at you.”

Selig said he worried how the postseason would top that incredible regular-season ending. But it did. The 38 postseason games tied a record and included 13 one-run games, five of them decided in the last at-bat and three of those on walk-offs. Three of the four best-of-five Division Series went the distance, and the other one went four games. Both best-of-seven League Championship Series were decided in six, including the Cards besting the Brewers, who were once owned by Selig. And the World Series was decided in seven games for the first time since 2002 and only the fifth time in the past 21 years.

“Somebody said on television, baseball has had a coming-out party since Labor Day,” Selig said. “I don’t think so. I think it’s always been there. I’ve said over and over and over, and I believe it of course, that it’s the greatest game in the world. I’ve believed it since I was 5 years old. It’s produced for this country, really, a remarkable chain of events.

David Freese was named the World Series MVP. (AP Photo)

David Freese was named the World Series MVP. (AP Photo)

“[Baseball] binds generations together. It does it like nothing else, but it takes moments like this to understand it. The game has never been more popular. There’s no doubt about that by any criteria you want to use. But its impact is greater than it’s ever been. This has been a proud moment for the great game of baseball.”

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Heart Attack City- Cards Live To Play Another Day

Now that’s a storybook finish

Joe Lemire   Joe Lemire  INSIDE BASEBALL

Cardinals Force Game 7


David Freese‘s home run leading off the bottom of the 11th inning gives the St. Louis Cardinals to a wild 10-9 victory over the Texas  Rangers in Game 6 of the World Series.

ST. LOUIS — Baseball can be the game of fables and fairy tales, the  anticipatory lull between pitches sewing the fabric of our imaginations that run  wild in backyards, cornfields and alleyways, anywhere there’s a stick and a ball  or a reasonable rendition thereof.

Nelson Cruz, David Freese
Charlie Riedel/ AP; Ron T. Ennis/ ZUMA PRESS
David Freese (right) tied the game with a triple over  Nelson Cruz in the ninth and won it with a solo blast in the 11th.

Twice down to their last strike, the Cardinals found a way to force Game 7.  Tom Verducci wonders if the Rangers can recover from Nelson Cruz’s unforgiveable  Buckner-esque blunder.


Read more:

Few are so fortunate to live those daydreams, much less correctly imagine the  professional uniform they will wear when their childhood fantasies play out on a  perfectly manicured professional ball field, surrounded by nearly 50,000  screaming voices whose faith is tested with each pitch and catch.

David Freese is the lone Cardinals hitter with local roots, raised in a  western St. Louis suburb where he idolized the local red-wearing nine. His  favorite team now employed him, and it faced its final strike on two separate  occasions Thursday night, not just the final strike of an inning or a game but  of a World Series that many thought they wouldn’t see this year.

Yet here the Cardinals sit, victors in one of the most dramatic  championship-series games in the sport’s century-plus history, having become the  first team to score in the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th innings of a World  Series contest — twice off the bat of the local hero, Freese — that it would  go on to win 10-9 to force a do-or-die Game 7 on Friday night.

Cards 10, Rangers 9

“It’s all about knowing that this is the game as when you’re six years old,”  Freese said. “It’s just elevated on a stage, and everyone is watching.”

The realities of the game are so much harder than a child could ever imagine,  a throng of critics there to document your success or failure and a fireballing  closer’s 98 mile-per-hour pitch humming faster through the air than through the  fantasies of a young mind.

“When you’re a little kid and you’re out there, you don’t have a bunch of  reporters and fans that are ready to call you a choking dog if you don’t come  through,” said Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman, who added his own heroics  with a game-tying single in the 10th. “So when you’re a kid, you don’t realize  what a big moment that is. I’m just going to caution all little kids out there,  be careful what you wish for.”

Cards 10, Rangers 9

Cards 10, Rangers 9 – World Series Best Shots: Game 6 – Photos –

In the bottom of the ninth inning with Texas leading 7-5, Freese missed the  first such offering from the Rangers’ Neftali Feliz to fall behind in the count,  one ball and two strikes on the at-bat and the season, when he got a second  chance and crushed a ball to right field that barely escaped the glove of right  fielder Nelson Cruz, colliding with the fence for a two-run, game-tying  triple.

“Playing anywhere else that game is over right there,” Berkman said. “That’s  a home run for sure in Texas, and in 99 percent of the ballparks in the league,  that’s the walk-off.”

Surely in every young boy’s dream, that bottom-of-the-ninth ball finds the  hands of a bleacher-bound fan rather than remain in the field of play.

And most assuredly such a hit isn’t preceded by an error so egregious that  even a younger child wouldn’t have made. A fifth-inning pop-up soared into the  Busch Stadium night and fell to Freese’s glove at third base, only to pop out  and fall again, this time to the ground, an error that led to a run his team  could ill afford to allow.

Cards 10, Rangers 9

“A four-year-old would have used two hands,” he said. “But you look at the  scoreboard and there’s four or five more innings left, and we’re down one with a  lot of game to play.”

Little did he know his team would bat in seven more innings and that he would  get not just the game-tying opportunity in the ninth inning, but a go-ahead  chance in the 11th.

This time he faced a different Texas reliever, Mark Lowe, who worked the  count full with a battery of fastballs and sliders before he ran up his first  changeup of the at bat, which Freese crushed to center field for the  game-winning home run.

It was a blast all-too-reminiscent of another Cardinals’ extra-inning home  run to win a postseason game: when Jim Edmonds did the same to win Game 6 of the  NLCS in 2004, a game a fan like Freese had cataloged for automatic recall as he  rounded the bases and drowned out everything else.

“I was running around the bases and Edmonds popped into my head, that moment,  because I remember when did that in Game 6,” he said. “But, seriously, growing  up or whatever and you see stuff like that happen, those become memories.”

Not in any of his many travels — not his college, nor his junior college,  nor his high school, not his Little League team — had Freese ever done what he  accomplished early in the cool Friday morning.

“I didn’t hear much,” he said. “When I rounded second, I was looking for my  team. I’ve never had a walk-off home run in my life. Never. Ever. I’ve never met  my team at home plate.”

The other reality you don’t consider as a child is the greeting you receive  at the end of your trot. The jumping, cheering mob of teammates consumed the  dirt around home plate, at which point Freese removed his helmet, spiked it  through his legs and entered the fray.

By the time he exited it, one of the artifacts he’d be sending to the  Baseball Hall of Fame, along with his bat, was two-thirds of his jersey, it  having been ripped apart by teammates, the right sleeve missing and unaccounted  for, thanks to the celebratory work of infielder Nick Punto.

“Hopefully it’s around here somewhere,” Freese said. “But, yeah, the  Shredder. We’ve got an alter ego on this team, and he comes out every once in a  while.”

Cards 10, Rangers 9

He’s come out more than once for this resilient team that sat 10½ games out  of the playoff picture with five weeks to play. It was so improbable a  regular-season comeback that their manager said he’d have publicly kissed the  rear of the man who promised an appearance on this stage back on the darkest  February night when the club lost one of its two aces for the season. And then  this game left a man in his 50th year of professional baseball at a loss to  compare this game.

“What happened today, I just think you had to be here to believe it,”  Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

Of course, there’s one more obvious catch — in the classic dream conjured by  every child, the game-winning home run comes in Game 7 to win the  championship.

“We’ve got one more game,” Freese said. “I want to win the World Series. I  hope we’re the ones smiling 24 hours from now.”

2011 World Series

Game 6

Game 5

Game 4

Game 3

Game 2

Game 1

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Fish Fishing For Cowher, Gruden

Cowher, Gruden linked to Dolphins job

Posted by Mike Florio
Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans Of America Hosts Annual Heroes GalaGetty Images
With Dolphins coach Tony Sparano’s days numbered and owner Stephen Ross reportedly looking for a superstar, the list of potential candidates is nearly as small as the number of games the Dolphins have won on their home field since December 2009.  Short of luring Bill Belichick or Sean Payton or Mike Tomlin or Mike McCarthy — all of whom are under contract with other teams and beyond all doubt not available — to town, the list would consist of three names:  Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, and Jon Gruden.  (The only other coach to win a Super Bowl in the last decade not named Belichick, Gruden, Cowher, Dungy, Tomlin, Payton, or McCarthy is Tom Coughlin.)
Jon Gruden

Dungy consistently has said he’s not returning, and based on the time I spend with him every weekend at dinner on Saturday night and all day on Sunday, I completely believe that.  So it’s down to Cowher or Gruden.

Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reports that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross “apparently” has his eyes on Cowher and Gruden, and that Cowher and Gruden could be interested.

“Both Cowher and Gruden have quietly planted seeds that they would like to return to coaching and are more than open to listening to an offer from Miami owner Stephen Ross,” Cole writes.  “According to two sources in and around the team, former Dolphins quarterback and current CBS studio analyst Dan Marino has been telling Dolphins management that Cowher, an analyst partner, is geared up for a return.  Cowher is also close with Ross confidant Carl Peterson.”

Cole says that Gruden, who signed an “exclusive” five-year deal with ESPN that kicks in next year that apparently doesn’t preclude him from returning to coaching, “told more than a few folks” while in Miami for the Week One game between the Patriots and Dolphins “that he’ll be ready to go next offseason.”  (Last year, Gruden’s son blurted out that the former Raiders and Bucs coach could be coming back to the game in 2012.)

General William R. Looney III, Air Education a...

Mike Freeman of takes it one step farther.  He reports that the Dolphins already have contacted Cowher through intermediaries.  Cowher has refused to discuss any jobs that currently are filled, and Peter King recently reported that Cowher’s primary factor in picking a new team will be whether and to what extent he believes he can win.

The ability to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck may not be enough.  With the salary cap back in place, Cowher would need to assess the full roster, and he’d need to analyze whether and to what extent players who need to go can be dumped without creating the kind of cap havoc that could make it hard to acquire competent replacements.

Regardless, it’s not hard to compile a list of “superstar” NFL coaches.  With no potential Jim Harbaughs in the college ranks and with Dungy staying put at NBC, it’s Cowher and Gruden.

From NBC Sports Talk

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+5 Amulets of Baseball Enhancement- Huh?

Placebo-ball: the science of baseball’s magical necklaces

Placebo-ball: the science of baseball's magical necklaces
As fans celebrate and detractors deride, baseball is a sport ridden with superstition. Playing 162 games per season will do that, leading to all manner of lucky hats (bats, chew tins, gloves, you name it), pregame rituals, and many other entreaties to the world of the magical. To make matters worse (if you’re a believer in this sort of thing), your opponents aren’t empty-handed either. You might be trying to placate the Lords of Batting Average, but the player on the mound answers to the Greek God of Strike Outs, and he’s at total cross purposes with you.

This is the background needed to begin to understand why tonight, as the World Series is played between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers, the field will probably be full of men who are wearing what can best be perhaps described as magical necklaces. Or, if you’re the geeky type, call them +5 Amulets of Baseball Enhancement.

Over the last several years, many major league players have been spotted wearing these bulky metal necklaces during games. Their symbolism isn’t religious. They feature no cross, no star of David. Instead, these necklaces supposedly help players perform better by easing fatigue and shortening recovery time.  The secret to these supposed benefits: titanium nanoparticles that help the body’s own energy flow more readily.

As we’ll see, there’s zero biological basis for any of these claims (as we’ll discuss at length).  That does not mean, however, that there’s no benefit to wearing these things.  The placebo effect is incredibly powerful, and the psychology of sports performance is a very complex beast. And let’s face it: if you were being paid anywhere from $80,000 to $18,000,000 per year to swing the ash (or maple) stick, you might not think twice about plopping down anywhere from $35 to several hundred dollars on something that, in short, can’t hurt. And if it gives you an edge? So much the better.

The current craze for sportswear laden with nanoparticles is being driven by a company called Phiten, which has an impressive collection of professional athletes endorsing its products. Those products include necklaces, bracelets, magnetic tape, clothing… even shampoo and bedding. They are said to be permeated with nanoscopic titanium (or gold) particles. What you won’t find on the company’s US website is any mention of what all that metal is supposed to do.

Fortunately, the Phiten sites in other countries and a YouTube video spell it out.  The material is “scientifically proven to provide almost instantaneous relief and restore flexibility” because it can “restore the energy flow, or natural bioelectric current, by restabilizing the flow.”  The products “emit energy, improving bioelectric current at the cellular level—blood cells carry more oxygen, muscle cells fire with more intensity.”  All of that means Phiten products will “increase performance, lessen fatigue, [and] reduce recovery time.”

No, that won’t actually happen

Boston Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett endorses Phiten necklaces
Boston Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett endorses Phiten necklaces. The necklaces did not keep the Sox from choking during the pennant race, however.

Can this possibly work?  In a word, no.  Having metal near or in contact with your skin isn’t going to change the flow of any energy unless there happens to be electrified wires hooked up to that metal.  It isn’t going to work through magnetism, either (although very similar claims were made about magnetic bracelets).  Titanium and gold aren’t magnetic.  And, even if they were, they’d be too weak.  Even bracelets that are permanently magnetized tend to only produce fields of a hundred milliTesla at the point of contact.  There is a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation in which magnetic fields alter the activity of the nervous system, but it requires fields of a Tesla or more. (For context, the Earth’s magnetic field is about 10-5 Tesla.)

Even if any of that made sense, there’s no indication that the human body has any sort of “energy flow.”  Acupuncture supposedly works through the same principles, but carefully controlled studies have shown that it doesn’t matter where you place the needles, even though their placement is supposedly dictated by the routes that energy flows through the body.  Researchers have also generated fake needles that don’t puncture the skin—they work, too.

But, despite all this, acupuncture does work.  For a variety of conditions, like pain and nausea, acupuncture (“real” or sham) provides relief.

So, in sum:  there’s no evidence that the body has any sort of energy flow (much less one that can influence the carrying capacity of red blood cells).  There is an obvious way in which it transmits energy—nerve impulses—but they are only influenced by electrical currents or strong magnetic fields.  The Phiten bracelets provide neither.  So there’s no biologically plausible mechanism by which these products can directly influence the body.

Yet, it’s possible that they work. How can that be?

Placebo doesn’t actually mean fake

How could something with no obvious biological effect actually have some effect on a biological organism?  Welcome to the strange world of the placebo.  Most people are probably familiar with placebo pills, which are commonly used as a control in drug trials.  Those trials, however, often reveal that a placebo will lead to improvement in self-reported symptoms.  These pills can also, through what’s called the “nocebo  effect,” produce just as many annoying side effects as a real drug.

How does this work?  Recent research indicates that, with suitable priming, placebos can lead to the activation signaling pathways that our bodies normally use to control things like, for example, sensitivity to pain.  So, a placebo pain-relief pill might rely on the endorphin signaling pathway, which is also targeted by morphine, or can trigger activity from the body’s cannabinoid pathways.  For things other than pain, there’s evidence that a variety of other signaling systems can be activated.

But placebos aren’t just limited to pills, as the acupuncture results imply; physical processes can trigger the effect as well.  In fact, it’s possible to do an entire placebo surgery.  In the case of an arthroscopic knee surgery, the physicians create skin incisions and move equipment around, but never actually place any hardware inside the joint.  No real surprise that, for osteoarthritis, this works just as well as actually having the knee joint cleaned out a bit.

The most significant debate about placebos in the science and medical community is probably about their ethics.  Is it appropriate, for example, to include a placebo group for a brain surgery trial?  Would having full, informed consent about a clinical trial include disclosure of placebo use?  Would it really matter?

(The answer to that question is “probably not.”  A few trials have suggested that telling people they’re getting an inactive pill that is known to be effective for no obvious reason can still generate a placebo effect.)

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that we don’t know the full extent of the placebo effect, but there’s every reason to believe that it could be activated by something physical, such as a bracelet or necklace that promises to improve your activity level and decrease your fatigue.  (Just don’t expect red blood cells to necessarily be the things doing the responding, as Phiten claims.)

It may be all in your brain

But there’s a chance that something beyond the placebo effect is also at play.  Performance in sports is profoundly affected by a player’s state of mind, which is why players and teams tend to have rituals and talismans that are thought to bring good luck in various forms.  There’s even research out there that suggests a team’s uniform color may have a profound effect on their winning percentage; in UK football, teams with red jerseys tended to win games and championships at rates above the expected average (there’s apparently a hierarchy of colors, with red > white > yellow).  Part of that may come through the effect of the uniform color on goalkeepers when penalties are taken.

These studies, however, are not without their detractors.  Red and black uniforms have been linked to aggression, but the effect was not present in one of the most aggressive sports around, ice hockey.  Another study that apparently found blue uniforms to be a benefit in judo was later criticized for ignoring confounding factors that eliminated the effect.

So, overall, the evidence for a uniform color effect is a bit mixed.  Still, it’s quite possible that things like the Phiten necklaces have a psychological impact on those wearing them beyond the placebo effect, one that leads to improved performances.

What we do know is that there is clearly no science behind the claims made by Phiten itself.  But that doesn’t mean its products have no effect on performance—and there seems to be some science that backs that up.  And, if nothing else, having a brightly colored necklace distracting opponents at key moments can’t really hurt.

                                      Photo illustration by Aurich Lawson

Let’s Try This Again Next Year- And Get It Right This Time

What The Phillies Should Do For 2012

By Bloggo Schloggo

Fred and Barney Philadelphia Phillies

Starting Pitching-
The Phillies have the best starting rotation in baseball in my estimation. Halladay, Lee & Hamels are as good as any 3 starters in the game. Oswalt has the capablities as he had shown when he first came to the Phils in the 2nd half of the 2010 season. I am beginning to doubt his commitment to the team and baseball as a whole. He also has health issues which may or may not be the cause of his poor performance overall. With the $16 mil option I think the Phils should send him packing. Especially with the great performance of young Vance Worley. The Phils have a solid 4 man rotation without Oswalt. Kyle Kendrick performed fairly well although at times spotty but well enough to be a 5th starter in any rotation.
What to do for 2012? Not much. The starting rotation should be fine as is with or without Oswalt.

Shane Victorino running to first base during S...
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Relief Pitching-
The Phils have a pretty good group of young relievers and more to come out of the farm system in the near future. I think a solid lights out closer is needed. Madson handled himself very well in that role this past season but I think he would be better as an 8th inning set up guy. I think Madson pitching the 8th is his perfect role. We need a bona fide 9th inning guy with the hard nosed, tough guy mentality that throws heat guided missiles for strikes that puts fear into opposing batters. When Bastardo is on he shows he can be a closer making hitters swing at air. But he isn’t established enough to fill that spot just yet. We need an established veteran that is a professional closer. Several Phils relievers are capable to handle any middle relief roles including Stutes and Herndon. Blanton can also provide a few innings of relief and also an occasional start when needed. Lidge is too injury prone and unpredictable and is not worth the $12.5 mil option on his contract.
What to do for 2012? Not much again other than a premier, shut it down, imposing closer.

Ryan Howard 14:22, 24 April 2007 . . Googie ma...
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1st Base– I really like Ryan Howard but for me he is more frustrating than any other player on the team. Yes he has power and hits home runs and is always an RBI leader. He is also prone to slumps, erratic plate appearances and inconsistency. After 4 years with 45+ home runs the last 2 he has averaged 32. His RBIs are also down 25 to 35 the last 2 seasons. His RBIs are more about the guys batting in front of him getting on base and him batting clean up. I have never seen a big league hitter look so out of sync at times. Totally uncomfortable about when and when not to swing. Looking at pitches he could cream and flailing at pitches in the dirt or a foot off the plate. A .253 batting average and 172 strike outs is nothing to write home about. With Howard’s multi-year, multi mil contract he’s not going anywhere. So Pujolses, Fielders, etc, 1st basemen won’t be coming to Philly.

Chase Utley rounding the bases after hitting a...
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2nd Base– Utley is about as solid a baseball player as you’ll find. Especially at the 2nd base position. Like Howard he has also been in decline. I’m looking for Utley to rebound and have a big 2012- that is if he can stay healthy. His injury problems have really hurt what was a promising hall of fame type career. He’s still one of the best at his position. Hopefully he can stay healthy and pick up where his career was and hit .300 with 30 homers. Utley is not going anywhere either.

Shortstop- Defensively what can you say? Jimmy Rollins is one of the best. He is getting older. Still Rollins was able to steal 30 bases. He can be a bit streaky but when he is on he is definitely an asset to the team as their lead off man. My bet is Jimmy will again be the Phils starting shortstop but look for other possibilities. Rollins is looking for a 5 year deal from the Phils. Triple-A shortstop Freddy Galvis is ready to be an everyday shortstop. Galvis, who will turn 22 in April, was named the Phillies’ top offensive Minor Leaguer after batting .278. Additionally, his fielding is considered above average. Rollins will probably be the Phils starting shortstop for 2012.

Baseball, Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies...
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3rd Base– This position is where there is a likelyhood for a major change. There are a lot of good fielding, hard hitting with power third basemen out there. Polanco is somewhere around 37 years old. He’s a career .300 hitter although he batted .278 this past season. He also is great defensively. The Phillies need more punch in their line-up and a third baseman with say a .275 or better average and can give you 25+ home runs would definitely be an asset. Defensive abilities are also a very important consideration at this position. Look for someone else to be playing 3rd base this coming season probably through a trade or free agency.

Right Field– Hunter Pence has a total wrap on this position. He has been a blessing to the team. In just 207 at bats with the Phils he hit 11 homers with a .324 batting average. The only Phillie to bat over .300. He will not be going anywhere and will get a negotiated pay raise.

Shane Victorino
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Center Field– Shane Victorino will again be the starting center fielder. When he is on he is on fire. He batted .279 with 17 home runs and 19 stolen bases. His speed makes him an apt centerfielder. Victorino is somewhat of a paradox. He’s built to be a leadoff hit for average singles and doubles hitter. A guy that can make a single into a double with the stolen base. At times I think he believes he is a power hitter and that can get him into trouble. He becomes less selective at the plate which means more strike puts and fewer walks. Victorino is not going anywhere unless the Phils can make a deal for a center fielder that can hit .300 and give you 30+ homers. There aren’t a whole lot of players out there available with those kind of numbers.

Left Field– Raul Ibanez is close ton 40 years old. He’s a solid player that goes out and does his job everyday just like the guy that carries a lunch bucket to work. The guy deserves a lot of credit despite the deep slumps he can go into annually. The problem is there are 2 top young guys that need that position. Namely- Mayberry and Brown. One bats left the other right. Mayberry batted .273 with 15 HRs and 49 RBI’s in only 267 at bats. Brown hit a disappointing .245 with 5 HRs and 19 RBIs in 184 ABs. Brown has so much potential and bats well over .300 in the minors. He deserves regular playing time to prove one way or the other he is going to be a part of the Phillies future. Mayberry on the other hand I think is a bona fide big leaguer. A platoon situation determined by righty/lefty opposing pitchers maybe the way to go at least to start the season. Mayberry also can play 1st base. The Phils aren’t getting any younger so these young players are going to have to start filtering into the system gradually. Left Field at the moment is probably the biggest question mark for the Phils going into 2012.

1911 photograph of John Titus, outfielder for ...
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The Bench-
Wilson Valdez you can’t put a value on. The guy can play anywhere and although his hitting maybe on the light side he’s a money ball player that hits-bunts-walks when it counts most. Utility players are always considered expendable and are throw ins on multi-player trade deals but Mr. Wilson should be an untouchable and remain with the Phils. Martinez is also valuable due to his versatility. Gload and Francisco are decent journeyman type players. But if needed to complete a deal as an extra player in a trade for a top rate third baseman they have to be in the expendable class.

"Full House at Citizens Bank Park" (...
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To surmise: the Phillies still have a great team with most of the same pieces in place for the 2012 season and forseeable future. A couple moves maybe for a closer or set up man and a bat or two with more punch should be the priorities on the Phillies shopping list at least for now.


Bloggo’s Number Crunch- Odd Odds

Odds that Phillies or Yankees Share Birthdays

Posted By: David Gassko
What are the odds that two players on a major league team’s active roster—the 25-man squad a team plays for most of the season—have the same birthday? You might imagine that they are fairly low—there are, after all, 365 days in a year, but just 25 active players on a baseball team. If you made that assumption, however, you’d be falling prey to a common statistical fallacy.
The odds that two players on a major league active roster will have the same birthday are in fact better than even. How can that be? It is all a matter of combinations.
1911 photograph of Fred Luderus, first baseman...

Image via Birthday-probabilities_leaderIf the question had been, what are the odds that you share a birthday with, for example, a Philadelphia Phillies player, the odds would be fairly low—about 1 in 15.09, in fact. But the odds that two players in the Phillies clubhouse have the same birthday are significantly higher, because we’re not comparing just one person to the whole clubhouse, we’re comparing the whole clubhouse to itself.Image via Image via Wikipedia

The graph above shows how the odds of two people having a matching birthday increase as the number of people being compared goes up.

In groups of 40 people—the size of a complete MLB team—the chances of a birthday match are about 90%. It’s no surprise, then, that the Yankees’ 40-man roster yields 2 matches (Edwar Ramirez and Mark Melancon on March 28 and Christian Garcia and Brett Gardner on August 24) and the Phillies’ 1 match (Clay Condrey and Ryan Howard will both celebrate their birthday on November 19).

Native American baseball player Ben Tincup of ...

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A 25-person major league clubhouse happens to have just enough people to go over the breakeven point—the odds are half-and-half with a 23 person group. Luckily, that coincides with the size of many common groups—classrooms in high schools, small offices, and bars in off hours, if you’re the betting type. Few people would guess that in all of those settings, the chances that two people will have a matching birthday are so high, but as is often the case, that only illustrates how strange and unintuitive statistics can be.

In other words, instead of having 1*25 = 25 combinations of dates to check, we suddenly have 25*24/2 = 300 combinations to check. With 300 possible combinations, you can see how the odds two players on the same active roster share a birthday will be pretty good—1 in 1.76 (57%) to be exact.As luck would have it, neither the Phillies’ nor the Yankees’ active rosters actually holds two players with the same birthday. But a comparison of the two teams’ 25-man rosters (25*25/2=312.5 combinations) does reveal one match: Yankees catcher Jorge Posada and Phillies pitcher Brett Myers were born exactly nine years apart—Posada on August 17, 1971 and Myers on August 17, 1980.

From the Book Of Odds

Most closers only stay in role for a single season

Daily Life & Activities / Sports

Few Baseball Closers Return for Seconds

Posted By: David Gassko
For Yankee fans, it is “ Enter Sandman;” for Red Sox fans, “ I’m Shipping Up to Boston;” for Twins fans, “Stand Up and Shout.” Those songs, respectively, are the entrance music for the closers of each of those teams, and when they come blaring through the stadium loud speakers they serve as a notice that, in all likelihood, the game is about to be over.
Mariano Rivera
Image via Wikipedia

The closers for these teams—Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, and Joe Nathan—are as dependable as they come. Not only are they better than the average closer in any given year—in 2008, they had 131 save opportunities and converted 119, or 1 in 1.1, compared with odds of 1 in 1.17 for all closers. But what it truly impressive about this cohort is that they are successful year after year, a very rare trait for a bullpen ace.


Data from Sean Lahman’s Baseball Archive [Internet]. The Baseball Archive. [accessed October 14, 2009]. Available from:

In 2006, Papelbon’s first year closing, Rivera saved 34 games, Papelbon saved 35, and Nathan saved 36. That was good enough to place them all among the top ( baker’s) dozen closers in the MLB—good but not great. But of the top thirteen closers in 2006, in 2008 only four were within five saves of their 2006 total—three of the four being Rivera, Papelbon, and Nathan. In fact, all three actually improved on their 2006 numbers, which is quite a feat.

Jonathan Papelbon
Image via Wikipedia

Most closers only stay in that role for a single season—at least for a single team. If we look at every closer since 1969—the season saves became an official statistic—and define a closer as the pitcher who led his team in saves that year, we find that 1 in 4.06 was not his team’s closer the next season. That number is actually significantly understated since a handful of pitchers—like Rivera, Papelbon, and Nathan—close year after year after year, while most are one-and-done.

If we look at it a different way, we find that most—1 in 1.78, to be exact—closer stints with a team last just one year. 1 in 5.64 last two years, 1 in 9.19 last three, and after that, it’s a real crapshoot. The graph to the right demonstrates just how few players closed for many years in a row. Only 11 players have ever lasted a decade or more in the closer’s role.

The record, 14 years, belongs to Lee Smith, who also held the record for career saves until 2006. Smith closed for the Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, Yankees, Orioles, and Angels from 1982 – 1995, amassing 470 saves in that time span, or a little under 34 per year.

Mariano Rivera currently lags one year behind, having led the Yankees in saves since 1997. He seems likely to break the record, given his superhuman dominance over that time.

Still in the long term, “in closers we trust” is probably not a very good philosophy to live by. After all, in the first playoff series of 2009 Papelbon – who had never allowed a run in 26 post-season innings – blew a two run lead against the Los Angeles Angels, providing an unexpectedly early end to the Red Sox Season.

From the Book Of Odds Beta

“Nails” Gets Nailed Again!

Lenny Dykstra– Cops Grand Theft Auto Plea

Lenny Dykstra

Former MLB great Lenny Dykstra struck a deal in his mega-criminal case, by pleading no contest to 3 counts of felony grand theft auto, and one count of submitting false statements to a financial institution.

Dykstra is charged with 25 crimes, but under the plea deal, 21 will be dismissed.

Dykstra will be sentenced on January 20.  He faces a maximum of 4 years in state prison, although under a new law, he’d serve any time he gets in county jail.

Dykstra is accused of leasing luxury cars from an L.A. dealership with fraudulent paperwork.  There were also drug charges filed.

He’s been released on his own recognizance until his sentencing.


Lenny are your pin-hole sized pupils due to being the under the influence of heroin, pain meds and other assorted narcotics or just because of the mug-shot cam’s flash? (we still love ya in Philly though). Maybe I should ask Mitch “the Wild Thing” Williams for the scoop and the poop.


How Do You Plead?



“THE DUDE” Did it or the Dude did done it again
Bloggo’s Lenny Dykstra Rap Sheet Review