The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







Year End Tidbits

by Jerry Keys

Star Wars Episode VII is coming to America this April.  As a high-ranking Boston Red Sox official referred to the New York Yankees as "the Evil Empire".  The Yankees and Red Sox are raising the stakes as they once did 25 years ago. 

After losing Andy Pettitte to free agency and Roger Clemens to retirement, New York has restocked with Kevin Brown, Gary Sheffield, Kenny Lofton, and Javier Vazquez.  Boston bolstered their pitching with ace Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke; and is on the verge of landing Alex Rodriguez. 

Clemens meanwhile has hinted at a 21st season with Pettitte's new team, the Houston Astros.  Clemens was not only a father figure to Petitte, but he has hinted about pitching for Houston in 2004.  Before the 1999 campaign, Clemens tried to get a trade to Houston.

Jerry Keys

The Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles are also stocking up some big names but neither will make much noise outside of their home cities.  A third place team in the AL East could well win 95 games, have the third best record in the AL, and still be shut out of the playoffs.

Recently we had to say goodbye to a few sport star immortals, a hockey legend, a baseball wizard, and a football warrior.  Herb Brooks passed away this August in a one-car crash on his way to the airport after attending a Hall of Fame celebrity golf event.

Brooks was an NHL coach for the New York Rangers (1981-85), the Minnesota North Stars (1987-88), the New Jersey Devils (1992-93) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (1999-2000).

Brooks played hockey at the University of Minnesota, where he later coached from 1972-79, winning three national titles.

But the Hall of Famer was most noted for the David vs. Goliath 1980 Winter Olympic defeat of the indestructible Soviet hockey team. As the final seconds ticked away, announcer Al Michaels yelled, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!''  Michael's remark still remains as one of the most famous in sports broadcasting history. 

He took a hand picked rag tag team and molded them into champions (think "Hoosiers").  "You're looking for players whose name on the front of the sweater is more important than the one on the back,'' Brooks once said. "I look for these players to play hard, to play smart and to represent their country.''

That shocking victory, plus defeating Finland for the gold medal, assured the team a place in sports immortality and gave the nation a reason to celebrate at a morbid time in its history.

The hostage-taking in Iran, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the energy crisis had cast a dark cloud over the United States.

The young U.S. team was given no chance against a veteran-savvy Soviet squad that had dominated international hockey for years and had routed the Americans 10-3 in an exhibition game the week before the Olympics (think "Rocky IV").

Players kept a notebook of "Brooksisms,'' sayings the coach used for motivation, such as: "You're playing worse and worse every day and right now you're playing like it's next month.''

Brooks returned to lead the 2002 U.S. Olympic hockey team to a silver medal. Players from the 1980 team, led by Mike Eruzione, lit the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony in Salt Lake City.

Hall of Fame QB Otto Graham passes away on the 17th of December due to complications from a dissecting aneurysm.  He had just turned 82 on December 6.

Graham led the Cleveland Browns to four AAFC titles and three NFL championships.  He set the precedent by which today's quarterbacks are measured.  His number 14 is retired by the Browns and he was enshrined in the Hall in 1965.

He was a tailback in college at Northwestern and was switched to a T-quarterback in the pros.  He led the Browns to a divisional or league title in each of his 10 years with the Browns (AAFC, 1946-49; NFL, 1950-55) and earned All-League honors nine times.  He topped all AAFC passers four times and was the NFL's leading passer twice. 

He took part in 121 touchdowns (88 passing, 33 rushing) during his six NFL seasons, while his NFL passing totals included 872 completions in 1,565 attempts for 13,499 yards.

His 158.33 quarterback rating, the highest possible mark under the NFL's quarterback rating system, was accomplished in a 31-7 win over the Chicago Cardinals on October 10, 1954 remains one of only two perfect rating games in team history.  He holds the club record for highest completion percentage in a season (64.73; 167-258, 1953). 

And Warren Spahn passed away in November at the age of 82.  Spahn holds a special place with me because he was one of my father's heroes in the 1950's and I always made the connection of Spahn and Phil Niekro (my hero growing up and a spitting image of my father, seriously!  Just ask Tom Rowland, he asked for his autograph at the Cherokee Restaurant about 20 years ago).

Spahn compiled a 363-245 record with a 3.09 ERA in 1942 and from 1946 through 1964 with the Boston and Milwaukee Braves and 1965 with the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants. His 363 wins are sixth on major league baseball's overall victory list and tops for southpaws.

Spahn ranks 8th all time in innings (5243), 20th in strikeouts (2583), 11th in games started (665), 21st in complete games (382), and 6th in shutouts (63).  Some ranks aren't spectacular but most of the players ahead of him played in the era of 500 innings pitched and 40-win seasons.

Spahn was a 14-time National League All-Star, and won 20 or more games in a season 13 times, a N. L. record, and led the league in wins eight times, in ERA three times and in complete games nine times. Spahn was the National League Cy Young Award winner in 1957 and pitched two no-hitters in his career, the last a 1-0 win over the Giants on April 28, 1961, at the age of 40.  From 1947-63, he tossed at least 16 complete games and collected 20 or more wins during 13 of those seasons.  The southpaw was inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame in 1973, the first year he was eligible, and was a member of baseball's All-Century Team.

He was immortalized in August with a larger-than-life bronze statue in front of Turner Field.
What makes his accomplishments even more remarkable is the fact that his career was shortened while he served a three-year tour of duty in World War II, where he received a battlefield commission. His first big-league win didn't come until he was 25 years old in 1946.

"You know, the thing that amazes me, well, the 363 wins definitely," fellow Cooperstown member Niekro said earlier this summer. "But you know he was in the Army for four years in his prime. If you take those four years and put them back into Major League Baseball, he probably wins another 30, 40 or 50 games, and that puts him above 400 [wins]."

"Spahnie would joke around when he wasn't pitching, but when it was his turn, it was business,"
Johnny Logan said. "I remember times when the bases were loaded or it was a crucial moment, and when [Braves manager] Fred Haney would approach the pitcher's mound, Spahnie would say, 'What do you want?' "Haney said, 'Are you gonna get this guy out?' Spahnie would say, 'I'm not going to depend on my relievers to do it. I'll get him out.'"

One of Spahn's greatest competitive moments actually resulted in a Braves loss. On July 3, 1963, a 42-year-old Spahn locked up in a classic duel with a 25-year-old Giants right-hander named Juan Marichal. The two future Hall of Famers each worked into the 16th inning of a scoreless game, neither one conceding to a reliever, that ended when Willie Mays hit a solo homer off Spahn.

Spahn was, for everyone in baseball, the ultimate representative of a different era in pitching. . His career was a triumph of not only skill, but of determination, diligence, and dexterity. In the years in which he was well beyond his physical pitching peak, he was still winning 20 games per season.

Spahn began his career with the Boston Braves but it was after the Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953 that Spahn achieved his greatest prominence and success. In the next 11 seasons in Milwaukee, Spahn won 20 games nine times, averaged nearly 21 victories per season, and in 1963, at the age of 42, won 23 games. The Braves never had a losing season in Milwaukee and won the World Series in 1957.

Along with Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews, Spahn was at the core of the Braves' triumph over the vaunted New York Yankees in the '57 Series.  The Braves returned to the Series in '58 but the Yanks evened the score.
Spahn's presence highlighted closing ceremonies at Milwaukee County Stadium in September 2000,  where he stated, "This has been a part of my life. I came here as a young man, and I'm leaving as an old man."