#DigSportsDesk - The Lede
NBA November: A Fine Mess
By TERRY LYONS, Editor-in-Chief, DigitalSportsDesk
BOSTON, November 22, 2013 -- Meet the new NBA sheriff, same as the old NBA sheriff and his name is Rod Thorn.
The NBA's Dean of Discipline has been on a tear as of late, issuing fines and suspensions totaling some $305,000 in a span of three weeks of NBA mayhem. By comparison, in the first month of the 2012-13 NBA season, three players were fined $25,000 each and one incident between Demarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson resulted in two-game suspensions for each player which calculated to approximately $139,000. So by comparison this year, the NBA Cares coffers are $91,000 richer as compared to last,
Thorn, the longtime head of NBA basketball operations took a long hiatus from his thankless league gig to run basketball ops for the New Jersey Nets for 11 fun-filled seasons and Philadelphia 76ers in the year before he rejoined the league office as President of the basketball side. Thorn's return to the Olympic Towers now has all NBA players, coaches and team executives on notice, as the NBA "Swami of Shekels" makes a statement on player and coach on-court and off-court demeanor. From November 2 through 22, Thorn has been, well, "en fuego."
The vast array of violations would make a Hell's Kitchen county court clerk blush with amazement as the infractions have ranged from the normal referee-bashing, such as the $25 grand to New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson or the $20-grand to Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman, the cost of doing business, so-to-say, for coaches everywhere. The player side has been a bit more interesting and wide-ranging, as the league levy on liquid assets has plucked $25K from Houston's Dwight Howard for tossing a basketball into the stands to docking Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen a full night's pay ($45,000) for drop-kicking LA Clippers guard Chris Paul in the noggin' as he drove the lane.
The league exercised its clout with a hard $15,000 fine to NJ Nets big man Andre Blatche for his obscene gesturing on November 2 and continued to dish-out discipline for naughty words right up to the recent $10,000 f.u. (fine you) to Boston Celtics swingman Gerald Wallace for a post game slip of the tongue to media gathering after another tough loss got him down.
Freedom of speech, you say?
Not when the league's collective bargaining agreement and overall point of emphasis is to run a clean ship, clear of conspiracy theory-fueling banter directed at the game officials for their front-line attempts to bring peace and justice to the ever-shrinking regulation court long out grown by today's amazing athletes playing in NBA arenas from Miami to Portland. So, the ref-baiting, media cussin' is one thing, but the fine that took the cake this month was a whopping $25K to the Knicks' J.R. Smith who decided to go postal instead of post-up against Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Jennings as Smith "directed hostile and inappropriate language towards another player via his Twitter account, in violation of NBA rules."
#YouCan'tMakeThisStuffUp as there's still 33 fining days until Christmas when the majority of the sports world tunes into the NBA regular season for the first time.
Miami Dolphins 2013: What Would Lombardi Do?
By TERRY LYONS, Special to Digital Sports Desk
It was a cool New England night and all the focus of the sports world was on the World Series at Fenway Park, here in Boston. The date was October 30 and, with the Red Sox win over the St. Louis Cardinals and the World Series trophy glimmering in Boston manager John Farrell's hands, we all knew it was the last night we'd see baseball bats and gloves until pitchers and catchers report next spring.
The seasons change and so do I, so just tell me when the Boston Bruins, Celtics or New England Patriots are playing next. We all need to know.
It was only twenty-two days ago but it seems like an eternity since that glorious Wednesday afternoon, the day before Halloween. Sadly, it was also the first day we heard the vague reports of the Miami Dolphins locker room scandal involving then-teammates offensive guard Richie Incognito and offensive tackle Jonathan Martin, also known as the Dolphins harassment story or bullying case.
Here is the timeline of events since that October day:
Oct. 30: Martin went AWOL from Miami Dolphins training facility after reports of incident in team cafeteria
Nov. 1-2: Mostly quiet on the Dolphins front but story begins a slow boil. NFL Players Association story broke that union was not investigating issue.
Nov. 3: In the morning, the team issued a statement to the effect of "any notion of bullying in this instance" is speculation. By sundown, the team had suspended Incognito "indefinitely."
Nov. 5: Miami Dolphins players rallied to support Incognito with positive comments to press.
Nov. 6-8: The story went viral and global.
Nov. 9: Reports of another incident, a full year and a half earlier, are met with team statements that they "took immediate action" on a golf course incident involving Incognito.
Nov. 10: The NFL investigation into incident becomes public knowledge. The league soon appointed Ted Wells to conduct independent investigation.
Nov. 10: In an interview with Fox Sports, Incognito says he "regrets" racial slurs used but calls much of the reporting "out of context."
Nov. 10: Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland was quoted as earlier (Nov. 7) saying that Martin should "punch" Incognito.
Nov. 11: Reports surfaced that Dolphins must make personnel decisions related to the indefinite suspension by Dec. 2, to reinstate or release Incognito.
Nov. 11: Miami Dolphins owner Steven Ross stirred the pot further with comments stating he is "appalled" by situation, and planned to meet with Martin.
Nov. 12: NFL steps in, postponed Dolphins owner Steve Ross meeting with Martin.
Nov. 13: Miami coach Joe Philbin called reports "overblown."
Nov. 14: Incognito filed grievance with NFL Players Association.
Nov. 15: Martin met with Wells and NFL investigators. Martin stated he planned to resume career.
Nov. 18: NFL investigators request all involved to "respect process" of investigation.
Nov. 19: NFL investigator Wells interviewed Miami offensive line coach Jim Turner and center Mike Pouncey.
Nov. 19: Reports surfaced of Incognito and teammate verbally abusing front office staff member.
Nov. 20: NFL investigators met with Dolphins team GM Jeff Ireland.
That is 22 days, not 22 minutes, of activity but inaction, so here now, is the news.
In my humble opinion, there is one way and only one way to get to the bottom of the situation and to do what is right.
I ask? What would Vince Lombardi (above) do?
Of course, the late, great Lombardi cannot help us as it's been 40 years since his death in 1970. So, I did the next best thing to asking Lombardi himself. I asked Dan Lauria, star of stage and screen and the man who artfully, gracefully, respectfully played Lombardi on Broadway, to provide his insight into what Lombardi might think of today's NFL as compared to the NFL of the 1950s or 60s. That was an NFL where racial slurs weren't the issue because racial quotas were, indeed the issue.
Of course, Lombardi didn't buy into the civil rights limits of the day, where NFL teams not only refused to field African-American (black) quarterbacks but were not playing black linebackers.
"I didn't draft a linebacker,"said Lauria, quoting Lombardi, "I drafted a Packer."
That set the tone for a frank conversation with Lauria as I caught up to him in Boston where he is starring in "The Christmas Story" at Wang Theatre in Boston from November 20 through December 8.
Like any great coach, Lauria gave Incognito the full benefit of the doubt in terms of protocol or even lack thereof in the average NFL locker room.
"Let's assume Incognito is right in the way he saw it, but I think it's very presumptuous of anyone to 'take that mantle/take that place' where, 'with me, it's okay.' If someone did give him 'permission' to do that, then there are going to be enough other players to step up and say, 'you should've never done something like that because you don't understand the history."
Waxing philosophic on the arts right from his uncanny perspective as a Broadway and television screen actor, Lauria looked back to the skillful portrayal of Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers in the Peabody and Emmy Award winning tele-motion picture "Brian's Song," and he fondly remembered a scene where the practical joking Piccolo (James Caan) told Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) that legendary Bears coach George Halas (Jack Warden) was hard-of-hearing in one ear.
"That was an individual thing between one person and another one," said Lauria, noting the two Bears teammates who were fast becoming friends. "Incognito took a little license in one friendship and thought he could broaden it to everyone ... and ... that's the kind of conceit that is tough for me to understand."
Continued Lauria, thinking like a Lombardi, "It's one thing for the rookies to have to go buy some Dunkin' Donuts, but to exploit something like that - even though they might have the money - it's one thing to make some rookie who has a big bonus go for coffee or breakfast for everyone, it's another to pay for a $25,000 bottle of wine. You're making fun of what this man received for all those years and years of labor. There's a difference between hate and disrespect and I think they've crossed that line.
"I don't think Coach Lombardi would've tolerated that."
Look Back at 2013 World Series Coverage:
Game 6: Red Sox Win!
BOSTON -- October 30, 2013 -- The feel of a coronation was in the chilly air at Fenway Park long before the game started. It seemed only a formality for the Boston Red Sox to wrap up the World Series in Game 6 on Wednesday night, particularly after winning Games 4 and 5 against the Cardinals in St. Louis to put themselves in position for their first title-clinching victory at home since 1918.
Sure enough, the Red Sox rode Shane Victorino's three-run double and John Lackey's 6 2/3 effective innings to a 6-1 victory over the Cardinals and their third World Series title in 10 years. The Red Sox beat the Cardinals in the race to become the first team in this century to win three titles. Boston also won in 2004 and 2007 after going 86 years since their previous championship. Victorino drove in four runs after sitting out the previous two games with lower back stiffness, then getting dropped to No. 6 in the batting from No. 2 after going 0-for-10 in the first three games of the series. His bases-loaded double off rookie sensation Michael Wacha proved to be all the Red Sox and Lackey needed. Lackey allowed only one run as he scattered nine hits while walking one and striking out five.
Wacha, the breakout star of the postseason, was 4-0 through four starts, allowing only three runs in 29 2/3 in October until Victorino matched that run total with one swing. Wacha wound up being tagged for six runs in 3 2/3 innings. He gave up five hits and four walks while striking out five.
Victorino, Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew had two hits each for the Red Sox. Drew homered after entering the game 4-for-51 in the postseason. Matt Carpenter went 3-for-5 with the Cardinals, and Allen Craig added two hits. With St. Louis down 6-0, Carlos Beltran singled home the Cardinals' lone run in the seventh inning.
Koji Uehara pitched a perfect ninth to finish it off for the Red Sox, striking out Carpenter for the last out.
Victorino broke a scoreless tie in the third inning in a big way, whacking a three-run double off the Green Monster in left field with two outs off Wacha. Ellsbury led off with a single and moved to second on Dustin Pedroia's groundout. The Cardinals then decided to intentionally walk David Ortiz, who was 11-for-15 with five walks in the series to that point. Wacha struck out Mike Napoli but kept the inning alive by hitting Jonny Gomes with a pitch. Victorino made the rookie right-hander pay for the mistake.
The Red Sox chased Wacha an inning later when they scored three more runs. Drew, who was 2-for-17 in the series, hit a solo home run to right field, Napoli added an RBI single, and Victorino singled home a run off reliever Lance Lynn.
NOTES: Victorino batted sixth for the first time all season. He batted seventh twice in the regular season. ... Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said his players were no worse for the wear after arriving at their hotel just before midnight Tuesday night. The team's charter flight took off from St. Louis seven hours late because of mechanical problems. ... For trivia buffs, the Game 7 matchup on Wednesday night would have been Boston RHP Jake Peavy against St. Louis RHP Joe Kelly.
Game 5: Battery Up with Lester, Ross
(Wire Service Reports)
ST. LOUIS, October 29, 2013 - David Ross has no illusions about his hitting ability.
"There's a reason I'm hitting sixth, seventh or eighth in the order," the Boston Red Sox's backup catcher said. "It's because I'm not very good at hitting."
However, the guy who batted just .216 during the regular season saved arguably the biggest hit of his career for Game 5 of the World Series on Monday night. Ross snapped a 1-1 tie in the top of the seventh inning with an RBI ground-rule double, lifting his team to a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals and a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Boston can clinch Wednesday night in Fenway Park, where John Lackey will pitch against Michael Wacha, who has four wins in as many postseason starts for the Cardinals. Game 7, if necessary, would be Thursday in Boston.
Jon Lester dominated St. Louis for the second time in five days, allowing just four hits and a run over 7 2/3 innings. He walked none and struck out seven while earning his second win of the series. Lester pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings during Boston's 8-1 victory in Game 1. His batterymate supplied some unexpected help against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright with Xander Bogaerts at second and Stephen Drew on first in the seventh. Behind 1-2 in the count, Ross lined a breaking ball just inside the left field foul line, and it bounced into the seats as Bogaerts trotted home with the go-ahead run.
"Wainwright is one of the top pitchers in baseball," said Ross, who went 2-for-4 on the night. "I think he threw me a backup curve, and it felt good coming off the bat."
Ross had just 102 at-bats during the regular season, missing two months after suffering a concussion when he absorbed two foul tips in a 10-pitch span. He is contributing in the postseason, though, batting .286 in 21 at-bats and working well with his team's pitchers.
"He's swung the bat better in postseason than at any other time," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "And the rapport he and Lester have refined ... they are great together."
Later in the seventh, Jacoby Ellsbury added insurance with a two-out RBI single, ending Wainwright's night after seven innings. The big right-hander allowed eight hits and three runs, walking one and fanning 10, but he couldn't match Lester's shutdown pitching.
"Waino threw a good game for us," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "They got the big hit when they needed it, and we couldn't put much together."
Koji Uehara retired all four batters he faced for his seventh postseason save. He fanned Matt Adams on three pitches to end the eighth with David Freese at second after a one-out double, and he mowed through the top of the order in the ninth.
Early on, Boston's David Ortiz made another big impact, ripping an RBI double in the first inning to score Dustin Pedroia. The Boston designated hitter-turned-first baseman went 3-for-4, increasing his World Series average to an otherworldly .733 (11-for-15).
"He's in a really good place, obviously," Farrell said of Ortiz.
Ortiz's hit was the last time the Red Sox made contact with Wainwright until the third. Wainwright struck out the side in the first two innings and had eight whiffs through five innings.
St. Louis put Allen Craig, who hadn't played in the field since Sept. 4 because of a foot sprain, at first base to provide an extra right-handed bat against Lester. However, Craig limped into a 6-4-3 double play to end the second inning and grounded out in his other two at-bats. The Cardinals found some offense in the fourth when Matt Holliday lined his and the team's second homer of the Series over the center field wall to tie the score at 1. That was it for a St. Louis attack that has produced 13 runs in five games.
Matheny said his team's task Wednesday night is simple.
"We just play our game," he said. "If we go about it the right way, we'll be right where we want to be."
NOTES: Bogaerts and St. Louis 3B David Freese each had two hits. ... Boston's first strikeout Monday night was its 143rd of the postseason, setting an all-time major league postseason mark. The 2010 San Francisco Giants, who beat the Texas Rangers in five games to win the World Series, whiffed 142 times. At the end of Monday's game, the Red Sox's total this postseason was 156. ... St. Louis' 4-2 loss in Game 4 represented its first defeat in nine games this postseason when scoring first. ... Cardinals C Yadier Molina played his 20th career World Series game Monday night, second only to New York Yankees SS Derek Jeter (38) among active players.
Game 4: It's All-Square at 2-2
(Wire Service Reports)
ST. LOUIS, October 28, 2013 -- Jonny Gomes' approach in the batter's box is simple: Swing as hard as you can, just in case you hit it.
"I'm sure there's all kinds of books out there on me," the Boston Red Sox slugger said, "but if I'm fortunate to get a mistake, the bat will come through the zone hot. Look out."
The St. Louis Cardinals found out the hard way Sunday night. Jumping all over a Seth Maness fastball with two on and two outs in the top of the sixth, Gomes jacked a three-run homer that lifted the Red Sox to a 4-2 win, evening the World Series at two games each. Game 5 will be Monday night with Jon Lester working for Boston against St. Louis' Adam Wainwright. It's a rematch of Game 1, won easily by Lester 8-1.
Prior to the sixth-inning at-bat, Gomes was 5-for-34 (.147) in the postseason. He started Sunday only because right fielder Shane Victorino was scratched during batting practice when he couldn't shake lower back tightness. Despite Gomes' lackluster October numbers, Red Sox manager John Farrell had no trouble putting him back in the lineup and hitting him fifth. That was right behind David Ortiz, who is 8-for-11 (.727) in the World Series after going 3-for-3 with a walk and scoring two runs in Game 4.
"Very good player," Farrell said of Gomes, who was signed as a free agent last winter after helping the Oakland A's win the AL West in 2012. "Given the role he's been in, which is not an everyday role, he's ready every day. His importance to this team goes above and beyond the numbers that he puts up."
Before Gomes' game-changing at-bat, Dustin Pedroia singled and Ortiz drew a four-pitch walk. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny hooked Lance Lynn, who gave up just three hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings while fanning five, for Maness, a rookie right-hander who served as a middle-relief mainstay most of the year.
"He's been able to come in and get the big out when we needed it, and we wanted to give him a shot," Matheny said of Maness. "And it just didn't work out tonight."
Gomes' shot to left-center went over leaping left fielder Matt Holliday and settled into the Boston bullpen, quieting a Busch Stadium-record crowd of 47,469. While Maness crouched between the mound and the first base line with his head down, Gomes fired his right fist in the air to celebrate the biggest hit of his career.
"I looked at the lineup card and saw I was going to be protecting David Ortiz," Gomes said. "Good luck with that. I'm not dodging any situation. I'm going to try to step up."
Felix Doubront pitched 2 2/3 innings out of the Red Sox bullpen to get the win. Koji Uehara worked around Allen Craig's pinch-hit single in the ninth inning for a save, picking off pinch runner Kolten Wong at first for the final out. That denied Carlos Beltran, whose RBI single in the third inning opened the scoring, a chance at his 17th postseason homer.
"He got a little bit extra on his lead and then slipped," Matheny said of Wong.
The Cardinals' other run came on Matt Carpenter's two-out RBI hit in the seventh that scored Shane Robinson. St. Louis left two runners aboard in the second and fourth innings as sore-shouldered Boston starter Clay Buchholz worked out of trouble each time.
Buchholz pitched four innings, allowing three hits and an unearned run while walking three and fanning two.
"I don't think you can skip over (crediting) Buchholz," Farrell said. "He gave us everything he could."
And Gomes' big swing made sure Buchholz's work didn't go unrewarded.
Game 3: Red Birds Take Flight
(Wire Service Reports)
ST. LOUIS, October 27, 2013 -- From his perch in the St. Louis Cardinals' dugout, Trevor Rosenthal watched Game 3's last play unfold.
"I'm not sure what happened," he said, "but I'm glad we won."
And win St. Louis did, thanks to a rare but correct obstruction call on Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks that enabled Allen Craig to score the run which gave the Cardinals a 5-4 victory Saturday and a 2-1 lead in the World Series. With runners at second and third and one out after Craig doubled Yadier Molina to third, Jon Jay slapped a grounder up the middle. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia made a diving stop and threw home to easily erase Molina.
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia fired to third in an attempt to double up Craig, but the ball bounced past Middlebrooks and into foul ground. Middlebrooks fell over Craig and impeded his path to the plate, an infraction immediately called by third base umpire Jim Joyce. Left fielder Daniel Nava's throw home beat Craig. But plate umpire Dana DeMuth quickly gave the safe sign and pointed at Joyce's outstretched arm -- the umpire's sign for obstruction -- as St. Louis players streamed from the dugout to celebrate.Boston manager John Farrell immediately charged from his dugout to argue.
"It's a tough way to lose," Farrell said. "By the letter of the rule, it's the right call. But it's a tough one to swallow."
Crew chief John Hirschbeck said Middlebrooks tripped Craig. When informed by a writer that Middlebrooks said there was nothing else he could do to get out of Craig's way, Hirschbeck added that intent has nothing to do with determining obstruction.
"The runner has every right to go unobstructed to the plate," Joyce said. "Craig couldn't advance naturally to the plate."
The error on Middlebrooks made a winner of Rosenthal, who worked 1 2/3 innings but gave up a game-tying RBI single to Xander Bogaerts with two outs in the top of the eighth. Brandon Workman, who allowed Molina's single before Farrell relieved him with closer Koji Uehara, took the loss.
Boston starter Jake Peavy worked four innings, allowing six hits and two runs while walking one and striking out four. St. Louis starter Joe Kelly pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving up two hits and two runs while issuing three walks and striking out six. Boston tied the score with two runs in the eighth off Carlos Martinez and Rosenthal. Nava, whose RBI single in the sixth made it 2-2, scored Jacoby Ellsbury with a fielder's choice bouncer. Bogaerts, who tripled in the fifth and scored the team's first run on Mike Carp's fielder's choice, followed with his two-out chopper off the glove of shortstop Pete Kozma to bring home Shane Victorino with the equalizer. It erased a 4-2 lead that St. Louis built with one swing -- Matt Holliday's two-run double to the left field corner off Junichi Tazawa in the seventh that scored Matt Carpenter and Carlos Beltran.
St. Louis jumped all over Peavy in the bottom of the first. Carpenter led off with a single, moved to second on Beltran's sacrifice bunt and rode home on Holliday's single to right. Matt Adams and Molina followed with singles. Molina's hit knocked in Holliday for a quick 2-0 lead as a Busch Stadium-record crowd of 47,432 shook with delight.
Things settled down from there until the Red Sox worked their way back into the game, setting up the dramatic last three innings and the wacky ending.
"I'm happy it worked out in our favor," Rosenthal summed up.
It was the second straight game in which the Cardinals scored the go-ahead run as the result of a wild throw past third, a coincidence Farrell rued afterwards.
"It was a bang-bang play," he said. "We've forced a couple of throws and it's proven costly."
NOTES: St. Louis hosted its 60th World Series game, more than any other city except New York (191). ... Bogaerts, who turned 21 years old on Oct. 1, is the 11th-youngest position player to start a postseason game. Five of the 10 younger players -- Ty Cobb, Travis Jackson, Freddie Lindstrom, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays -- are in the Hall of Fame. ... Former St. Louis OF Willie McGee threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Game 2: Cards Strike Back
(Staff and Wire Service Reports)
BOSTON, October 25, 2013 -- It was the Boston Red Sox's turn to play a sloppy game as the BoSox imploded and committed two errors on one play, allowing the St. Louis Cardinals scored three runs in the seventh inning to rally for a 4-2 victory Thursday night in Game 2 of the World Series at Fenway Park. The best-of-seven series is tied one game apiece, with the next three games to be played in St. Louis on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
The Red Sox won 8-1 in Game 1 on Wednesday when the Cardinals committed three errors.
After David Ortiz hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning Thursday to put the Red Sox ahead 2-1 and end Cardinals rookie right-hander Michael Wacha's streak of 19 consecutive scoreless postseason innings, St. Louis answered in the seventh.
David Freese walked with one out and moved to second on Jon Jay's single, chasing Boston starter John Lackey. Reliever Craig Breslow entered, and pinch runner Pete Komza and Jay pulled off a double steal. Daniel Descalso then walked to load the bases.
Matt Carpenter flied out to left field, and Komza scored from third. Jay moved up to third when catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia failed to catch left fielder Jonny Gomes' throw home, and Jay scored when Breslow, who was backing up the play at the plate, threw wildly to third base.
Descalso wound up at third base, and he scored on Carlos Beltran's single. Beltran had two hits after leaving Game 1 with a bruised right ribcage that he suffered in the second inning as crashed into the right field wall while robbing Ortiz of a grand slam.
Lackey took the loss, allowing three runs and five hits in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out six and walked two. Wacha had a two-hit shutout before he walked Dustin Pedroia with one out in the sixth inning. Ortiz followed with an opposite-field drive over the Green Monster in left field for his fifth home run of the postseason, tying the Red Sox single-season record set by Todd Walker in 2003 and matched by Ortiz in 2004.
In six innings, Wacha allowed two runs and three hits, walked four and struck out six. He raised his postseason record to 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA. Carlos Martinez followed with two scoreless innings, and a third rookie, Trevor Rosenthal, struck out the side in the ninth on 11 pitches for the save.
St. Louis broke through with the game's first run in the fourth when Matt Holliday led off the inning with a triple against Lackey and scored on Yadier Molina's chopper to second base.
NOTES: Beltran was cleared to play after taking swings in an indoor batting cage about three hours before game time. ... Boston LHP Jon Lester denied allegations that he had an illegal substance in his glove in Game 1 when he threw 7 2/3 shutout innings for the win, claiming it was rosin. Photographs and video circulated around the Internet on Wednesday night and into Thursday that showed a green substance on Lester's glove, but Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said his team moved on from Game 1. ... Cardinals INF Daniel Descalso started at shortstop in place of Pete Kozma, who made two errors in Game 1. ... Game 3 will be played Saturday night at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, with Boston RHP Jake Peavy (12-5, 4.17 ERA regular season; 0-1, 8.31 postseason) facing Cardinals RHP Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69; 0-1, 4.41).
Game 1: Red Sox Win on St. Louis Cards' Es
By TERRY LYONS (Special to Digital Sports Desk)
BOSTON, October 24, 2013 - If the great boxing referee Mills Lane had been calling Game 1 of the 2013 World Series, he would have called it a TKO after Round 2 and if his contemporary, the late great trainer and cornerman, Angelo Dundee, had been working the St. Louis Cardinals bench, he might've thrown in the towel. It was that bad.
The Boston Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 8-1 as Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester threw 7.2 scoreless innings while fanning eight batters and coasting to the key victory at Fenway Park as his teammates cranked eight runs on eight hits while taking advantage of three costly St. Louis errors, two during the first two innings of the game when Boston established a 5-0 lead. The winner of the first game of the World Series has won nine of the last 10 and 14 of the last 16 and 21 of the past 25 Fall Classics.
"I thought we played a very good game all-around tonight," said Boston's first-year manager John Farrell with the skill of a diplomat. "We were able to go into the game with our approach. I thought we had a lot of quality 'At-Bats' and we were able to build some pitch counts against (Adam) Wainwright. But, whether we view this as three different series inside of one, a two-game set (to open the World Series at Fenway park), three over there (at St. Louis), and possibly two back here, it's always good getting that first one out of the way and it's a good feeling to try to build some momentum."
The game-changing moment for Farrell and the Red Sox occurred early in Game 1, as St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma committed two very costly errors during the first two innings. In the bottom of the first when Sox DH David Ortiz grounded to second baseman Matt Carpenter but his quick flip to Kozma to force Dustin Pedroia at second base was clearly bobbled and dropped. Initially, MLB umpire Dana DeMuth signaled Pedroia out at second but the umpiring crew convened in short center field after the call and reversed the decision.
"It was a pretty big swing moment," said Farrell in the post game interview room, counting his blessings, "even though you're not fully expecting something like that in the first inning. Instead of it being a two-out situation with runners on first and third, we're in a bases loaded situation where there's not a whole lot of margin for error in terms of the strike zone and the ability of Wainwright to expand the strike zone on (Mike) Napoli. Fortunately, he gets into a 2-0 count and the three-run double is a big moment and we were able to capitalize on the mistake.
"I think we've seen that when you give a team extra outs, as good as the teams you're going to play late in the season, it can come back to haunt you," said Farrell.
That it did, as Boston scored three runs in teh first, then followed with another two runs in the second when Kozma botched a Shane Victorino ground ball to again allow the bases to be filled as Boston's No. 3 hitter Pedroia stepped up with only one out. The Sox second baseman singled through the hole up the middle and then clean-up hitter David Ortiz ripped a long ball to right-center field which was ticketed for the Red Sox bullpen but was snatched by Cards' right-fielder Carlos Beltran who ran smack into the same low right field wall that Detroit's Torii Hunter went 'head-over-heels' on Ortiz' pivotal and memorable Grand Slam in the American League Championship Series.
Ortiz near home run became a valuable sacrifice fly to score Boston catcher David Ross but the key of the play, besides the obvious 5-0 score was the fact Beltran bruised his ribs while crashing into the wall. The Cardinals' right fielder was removed from the game and transported to a local Longwood-area hospital for x-rays which were reported as 'negative' by St. Louis Manager Mike Metheny.
Beltran's condition is now listed as 'day-to-day' heading into the second game of the series to be played Thursday night at Fenway. In that game, the Red Sox are scheduled to pitch John lackey while the cardinals plan to throw rookie Michael Wacha.
While Boston's G1starter Jon Lester pitched 7 2/3 innings of shut-out ball, the Sox continued to pad their lead, when Ortiz clobbered another ball which soared far over the right-center field bullpen wall, scoring Pedroia who was on base after yet another error, this one a throwing error by Cards' third baseman David Freese. The miscue marked the third error of the game for a team that had only committed three errors in 11 postseason games in 2013.
The win was the ninth consecutive World Series victory for the red Sox, dating back to Game 1 of the 2004 series. The game also marked the seventh straight game the Sox have won when left fielder Jonny Gomes starts.
Cardinals' Matt Carpenter Does "the Little Things"
By TERRY LYONS, Special to Digital Sports Desk & Huffington Post)
BOSTON, October 23, 2013 - As adult parents who value sports, it is with each and every practice or game we try to teach our children well. We teach the fundamentals and the values of hard work. We teach the rewards of good fitness through training and of practice and gaining expertise through execution and repetition. We teach good sportsmanship and explain that concept with the words, "Respect your opponent."
In victory and success, we teach our young athletes to act as though they've been there before and to pay tribute to a worthy opponent. In defeat, we teach the values of trusting teammates, learning from mistakes, keeping a disappointed head up, looking an opponent or inquisitive reporter dead in the eyes and living to compete another day on a higher plain.
So, I ask today? Why, on earth, do we not celebrate the fact that the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals, the two remaining Major League Baseball teams, the two teams with the best records in their respective leagues, are squaring off today for the best-of-seven World Series without so much as one syllable of trash-talking, rivalry-sparking, "look at me" posturing, media blow-out-of-proportioning rhetoric?
Are we not entertained?
The two teams are damn good and damn-near mirror images. They both possess: Strong, highly respected and professional managers - let's call it "great coaching." They have good, but not great "Hall of Fame starting pitching. They both run well, take an extra base, bat well, mainly by awaiting good pitches to force high pitch-counts. Both teams play hard, possess very deep line-ups, play strong defense and have depth and quality bullpens. Only in the last category can you give any one team an edge and that is relief pitching to the Red Sox.
To properly illustrate the overall point of great players doing their everything to help their respective teams win a game, I give you "Exhibit 1-A," in St. Louis second baseman, Matt Carpenter.
Carpenter broke from spring training not sure what his role or position would be with the Cards. He played 132 games at second base, 32 at third and two as an outfielder. While doing so, he became the team's lead-off hitter and all-around "go-to" guy by leading the major leagues in hits (199) runs (126) and doubles (55). Carpenter led all MLB second basemen in batting average (.321) and on-base percentage (.395).
"I'm a guy who rarely swings at that first pitch," said Carpenter as he sat almost by his lonesome during MLB's media day at Fenway Park yesterday. "I'm a guy who tries to have long 'at-bats' and in this series (with the pressure high), I'm going to go up there and take the same type of 'at-bat' as I always do."
Is that the key to St. Louis' postseason success, just doing the little things they always do?
"There's a lot of reasons why we've made it this far, but I think, first and foremost, we've had a good ability to keep moving when adversity hits us, whether it's an injury or when somebody gets sent down, we continue to keep moving forward. We compete every day," said Carpenter barely acknowledging the fact he was a big part of the Cards' success in this, his break-out year.
"Toward the end of spring training is when I had that moment where I felt 'I can do this,'" he said humbly. "It continued to grow as the games (played) started to pile up. I didn't know what was going to happen or even what expectations I had, but I did know, I was going to work hard at it and get the opportunity to win that job (starting at 2B). I came into spring training with that mind set. With the season that I've had, I couldn't have told you I was going to do that, but I did have confidence in myself as a player and I knew, given the opportunity, that I could probably do something."
Carpenter views his role, not as the typical major league lead-off hitter -- getting on and stealing bases -- but more as a man who can get a good look at a large number of pitches, then get the St. Louis offense going. While his stolen bases only total three, he did lead the league in two-base hits.
"We've always been an aggressive base-running team, trying to take the extra base and make things happen," he said. "We don't steal a lot of bases but we do run them aggressively. We're going to continue to do what's gotten us here and that's doing what we can do to just get on base in the first place and then trying to find a way to score - whatever that means, that's what we'll do.
"Little things is what wins the post season game, base-running, good defense - something like that," said the young infielder with the confidence of a veteran like Derek Jeter.
On the flip-side, Carpenter and the Cards are fully aware of the fact the top of the Boston red Sox order takes advantages in base-running and, while relief pitching might've grabbed headlines in the American league Championship Series, Boston's superior defense and base-running might've been the key differences in defeating the Detroit Tigers.
"They've got some guys in (Dustin) Pedroia, (Shane) Victorino and (Jacoby) Ellsbury are guys that can definitely steal bases and run the bases well, so that's something that we're going to have to be aware of, but we've got the best catcher in baseball (Yadier Molina) behind the plate, so we're not too worried about 'getting abused' in the stolen base department as I think we'll be able to handle that, 'just fine. But, we know, we have to play defense, hit the cut-off man and do all those little things to help control that."
Baseball Makes Us "Feel" Better
By TERRY LYONS, Editor-in-Chief, Digital Sports Desk
BOSTON, October 18, 2013 -- Just like your favorite blue jeans, the faded pair with the relaxed fit, or those old brown shoes or maybe even your favorite, partially torn college t-shirt, the sport of baseball somehow has a way to make things better just by being there every fall. Watching the sport, whether on television or in person, provides a cathartic release like none other. Whether you're a St. Louis Cardinals fan, an LA Dodgers groupie, a supporter of the Detroit Tigers or a member of the Boston Red Sox nation, the past two or three weeks provided some relief from the gloomy details of an embarrassing government shutdown, much like the sport helped a nation heal from the darkest depth of post 9-11 terrorism. Somehow. baseball makes us all feel a little better.
That was certainly the case last Sunday when Max Scherzer ruled the mound a day after Anibal Sanchez and a cast of supporting relief pitchers were blanking the BoSox 1-0 deep into the autumn night at Fenway Park, near Kenmore Square in Boston. An amazing thing happened that Sunday night for Boston, as not a hometown hit was made through five and two-thirds innings and only three base runners stared down but did not touch second base, and that was the fact barely a soul left the ballpark, even after Scherzer mowed down his 13th batter due to three strikes and out. The faithful nearly departed, but had hope.
That very afternoon, they stood in Fenway's darkened corridors, fixed on flat-screens tuned to the NFL game where Tom Brady and his Patriots were trailing the New Orleans Saints, 27-23. With only 2:23 left in the final quarter, Brady tossed a first and ten interception to Saints defensive corner back Keenan Lewis and every bit of common sense told the Fenway faithful to head back to their seats to watch the grounds crew manicure the infield. But a quick New Orleans "three-and-out" gave New England fans some hope and with only 1:13 remaining, Brady worked his magic like few quarterbacks ever before him.
With 11 seconds remaining, Brady rushed to spike the ball to stop the clock, not a time-out remained, Second and 17 yards to go, Brady lofted a pass to wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins and the comeback was completed and the Patriots won, 30-27. That comeback was on everyone's mind when Boston's third baseman, Will Middlebrooks doubled to left with only one out in the Sox' half of the 8th inning. A base-on-balls to Jacoby Ellsbury was followed by a Shane Victorino strike-out, so two outs, two on as second baseman Dustin Pedroia stepped up.
Like a good "Billy Joel" song, Baseball has that way about it. The pace is slow, methodical and the action very sporadic. Sometimes, like Games 1 and 2 of the American League Championship Series (ACLS), barely a highlight can be logged unless your idea of a highlight is someone swinging a wooden stick and missing thrown balls, albeit the balls whizzing by at 95 miles per hour. The drama builds, however, for those who wait.
Pedroia singled and the bases were loaded for David Ortiz, the Red Sox big-time slugger who goes by the nickname, "Big Papi." Now, it might become "Big Grand-Papi," as Ortiz drive to right barely cleared the outstretched glove of Tigers' right fielder Torii Hunter and both the ball and Hunter disappeared as they each made their way over the hip-high wall in Fenway's right center field. The home run ball was snatched by the Sox' bullpen catcher, crouched down as he was warming up closer Koji Uehara. (Sox Manager John Farrell's strategic optimism not to be overlooked). Hunter went head-over-heels in an instant as his momentum took his upper-body right over the wall. Home run, David Ortiz, and tie ball game!
The Red Sox went on to victory in the bottom of the ninth after Jarrod Saltalamacchia drove in the game-winning run as Fenway Park and its 38,029 fans went into a state of pure delirium.
Fast forward to this weekend and the storylines are plentiful.
In the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals seem to be in control as they return home with a 3-games-to-2 series lead and 22-year old pitcher Michael Wacha taking the mound against the Dodgers. Wacha is an amazing story as he burst onto the MLB scene as a 2012 first-round draft choice of the Cards. His postseason 2-0 record and 0.64 ERA are numbers to take notice of as St. Louis tries to the World Series. The LA Dodgers, with likely Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, likely NL Rookie of the Year winner Yasiel Puig amongst a line-up of sluggers and veterans, could force seven games.
In the American League, Boston returns home, just like the Cards, with a 3-2 series lead and young pitching ace Clay Buchholz on the mound. Nice? Not so fast, as Detroit will throw soon-to-be-awarded AL Cy Young award winner Scherzer on Saturday and 2011 Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander on Sunday, if the game is necessary.
That all amount to a crowning postseason for Major League Baseball. After a season where performance enhancing drug suspensions and an all-out circus surrounded New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez (still fighting PED accusations and a record 211-game suspension) took the air out of the MLB balloon, the power of baseball's on-field performances this postseason have carried the sport to lofty heights, once again. The four teams battling for the 2013 title have a combined 28 World Series championships to their credit. Postseason television ratings are up and the Fall Classic match-up will be a dream, regardless of the winners staking claim to a pennant this weekend.
Baseball is back and we need it, now more than ever. Baseball is back where it "oughtta be," just like the government, except we rejoice on the diamonds of Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles and St. Louis while the sorry group of law-makers in Washington make their very constituents shake their heads in disbelief.
Granik: One "Hall" of a Choice for Springfield
By TERRY LYONS, Editor-in-Chief of Digital Sports Desk
SPRINGFIELD, Mass -- The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will induct its Class of 2013 this weekend. Included in the diverse group of players, coaches and contributors to the game are five "direct elect" Hall of Famers: ABA great Roger Brown, little-known basketball pioneer Edward Henderson, NBA Veterans committee electee Richie Guerin and International great Oscar Schmidt. In addition, the rightful inclusion and the Hall of Fame's recognition of former NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik is a wonderful message for the many behind-the-scenes contributors to the global game of basketball.
At times, self-promoting players and media criticize the inclusion to the Hall for non-players of the game. The question arises when referees or executives are enshrined in the hallowed Hall, and the questions often come with a streak of venom and unfounded criticism. At issue is a simple question, really. Should the Hall be for players only? Or, should others, such as great coaches like Red Auerbach or John Wooden, refs like Earl Strom or Mendy Rudolph, contributors such as league and team officials like 24-second clock inventor and Syracuse Nationals owner Danny Biasone or the NBA's first Commissioner Maurice Podoloff, be designated for a separate wing?
I say no and I can highlight the career of Granik as the reason why, noting his official Hall of Fame bio only hints at the amazing impact made.
"One of the most influential contributors to the game of basketball. Granik spent 30 years in the NBA league office starting as a staff attorney in 1976 and finishing his NBA career as the Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer. He was involved in every major negotiation in the NBA from 1980 to 2005 including television contracts, collective bargaining and league expansion. Overseeing the expansion of the game into the international realm as a key figure in working out the details of professionals (NBA players) competing in the 1992 Olympic Games and subsequent international competitions. He was the NBA's chief negotiator on four collective bargaining agreements and has served as NBA Executive Vice President (1984-90), Vice President of USA Basketball (1989-96) and President of USA Basketball (1996-2000). He was also the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Chairman of the Board (2003-2007). In 2005, he received USA Basketball's Edward S. Steitz Award," it says.
The bio just tips the iceberg of the significance of such a key contributor to the game of basketball.
During his career in basketball, Russ Granik was a quiet, but powerful workhorse behind the meteoric rise of the NBA to global prominence in the 1990s. Most importantly, he was a champion for every level of the game of basketball. While his accolades and biography list major NBA contributions such as his negotiations of record-setting TV deals, resolved labor stalemates which resulted in trend-setting, progressive Collective Bargaining and Anti-Drug Agreements with the NBA's players, Granik's most significant contributions resulted from his work with the NCAAs, FIBA, the international governing body of basketball, global leagues, federations, Euroleague Basketball, and, most importantly, USA Basketball.
Under Granik's watch, seemingly unresolvable problems with regard to mending fences, unraveling "red-tape," and creating consensus for the betterment of the overall game of basketball became everyday by-products of a career built on creating goodwill, strong relationships and dealing with people as one would like to be dealt with during a negotiation. That as a professional, a person who is respected and treats people with respect. In essence, Granik is a thoroughly decent human being and he treats his constituents with equal respect. Granik walked softly but carried a resume that could literally part a Sea of Red Tape and, unlike many who only barked of problems while surfacing and creating more problems, Granik would grab a No. 2 pencil, a phone and call upon years of goodwill to resolve most problems before anyone else knew they even existed.
His work in building the NBA-FIBA player pacts, his early recognition of powerful allies with the likes of FIBA Secretary General Borislav Stankovic, the late Coach Alexander Gomelski of Russia and BIG EAST Commissioner/NCAA veep/USA Basketball power-broker (the late) Dave Gavitt, might've earned him induction on its own. Certainly, without Granik's hard work, negotiating skills and willingness to give and take just the right amount, allowed for (former) Eastern Bloc European players such as Drazen Petrovic of Croatia (then Yugoslavia), Sarunas Marciulionis of Lithuania (then of the USSR) and Aleksander "Sascha" Volkov of the Ukraine (then of the USSR) to be the first true NBA global ambassadors, coming to America complete with a bevy of gold and silver Olympic medals but with "game" and a "take it to the hoop" approach never seen before on the international basketball scene.
At the time, the NBA had Georgi Gluchkov of Bulgaria and Henry "Hank" Biasetti, a Canadian player of Italian descent who actually suited up in the NBA's very first game ever, an epic bout between the New York Knickerbockers and the Toronto Huskies in the way back machine that was 1946. But, the league - much because of Granik - was quickly thrust into a modern day model for immigration and exportation for talented ballplayers who wanted to travel to find a good game of hoops. While some may call it a theoretical jump, without Granik's work, the Petrovic/Marciulionis/Volkov era internationals would've been sitting in their rocking chairs wondering if they could've ever driven the lane to challenge the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson or Larry Bird. The confidence instilled upon a legion of countrymen and Euro-Latin-Australian-Asian counterparts might never have gathered the confidence to say, "Yes, I can do that."
The result might've put Dirk Nowitzki in goal for the German Bundesleague, it might've made Argentine Manu Ginobili a striker, US Virgin Isles favorite son, Tim Duncan, a swimmer or China's Yao Ming a rocket scientist, instead of a Houston Rocket all-star center. And, that, would've been a shame.
Note: Terry Lyons worked with Russ Granik at the NBA from 1980-2007.
HBO Doc on Marty Glickman? Swish!
By TERRY LYONS (Special to DigitalSportsDesk)
NEW YORK, AUG 25, 2013 - Whether you grew up in Canarsie or The Bronx, whether you attended Cardinal Hayes or Power Memorial, whether you were a fan of Joe Namath of the Jets or Fran Tarkenton of the football Giants, or whether you rooted for Mickey, Willie or the Duke, one thing was for sure. You loved Marty Glickman.
Marty Glickman was a gifted runner and accomplished athlete, an Olympian in fact, but to nearly all native New Yorkers and to a growing legion of sports announcers, Glickman was "The One." He was the best of the truly infuential sportscasters who pioneered sports from its coveted place in the radio industry to the world of live, televised and remote newscasting of the most important games of his day. Glickman's technique - that of a picture-painter and story-teller - influenced dozens of followers, many the current leaders of the sports broadcasting world, including Bob Costas (NBC, MLB Network, HBO), Mike Breen (ESPN, MSG Network) and Marv Albert (TNT, YES).
The story of Marty Glickman runs far deeper than that of any other pioneer in the field of sports broadcasting, however, as Glickman's life as a young athlete, then a Marine Corp. veteran returning from World War II, then as an accomplished broadcaster shunned because of his religious beliefs tell a deeper and most interesting story which is the subject of Martin Scorsese - Jim Freedman produced documentary which premieres on Home Box Office on Monday, August 26. "Glickman" is the first documentary film by Freedman, the producer, director and writer behind the tribute to a sportscaster who treated all the way he wanted to be treated, yet rarely could count on the same in return.
Born in the Bronx in 1917, Glickman's running abilities earned him the nickname of "The Flatbush Flash" as a high school runner and football running back who earned a scholarship to Syracuse University. Glickman defeated then world record holder Ben Johnson in the 60-yard dash and by doing so, earned the right to compete for a place on the USA's 1936 Olympic Track & Field team. His efforts on the track gave him a third place finish in a 100-meter qualifying race, but Glickman was placed fifth, most likely because of biased officials looking at his faith rather than the race results. It began a nasty turn of events which carried on at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin where the great Jesse Owens claimed three gold medals and his place in athletics infamy while Glickman was replaced on the 400-meter relay team, again because of his Jewish faith.
Glickman returned to the United States after the Olympics and was offered a $15 a night broadcast gig and he married his high school sweet-heart and began his broadcasting career in earnest, mainly doing radio re-creations of baseball games. However, when the second world war called upon the youth of the US, Glickman enlisted and was sent to fight in the Marshall Islands. When he returned, Glickman picked up on his broadcasting talent where he found a new niche, in the sport of basketball. It was his vivid descriptions of the fast-paced college and pro games at the birth of the popularity of the "city game" that brought Glickman to the forefront. "Television on radio," said CNN broadcast and talk show guru Larry King.
Yet, when it was time for the NBA to move from its very first and very modest tv deal on Dumont, to the more prominent and nationally broadcast NBC sports deal, Glickman was shunned again, this time by league officials who claimed they sought a "more Midwestern" voice for the national deal, yet the undertone of a religious biased decision was once again holding Glickman back from the job he earned outright.
Throughout the ordeal, Marty Glickman remained diligent and treated his colleagues, the athletes and his co-workers with respect as his graceful manner and strong command of a new, descriptive language of sports, often simple and location-based description, painted pictures for listeners of professional football games on radio and even high school football on tv. In fact, Glickman gave Freedman, the documentary's main producer, his very first job in the field when the younger Freedman was asked by Glickman to produce a weekend broadcast that his older brother could no longer help create.
"Glickman captures the nobility and excitement of Marty himself," said another "Marty" - in Martin Scorsese. "Inventive, accessible and veracious, a New York staple who ignited sports and taught America the only way to experience the games."
You can follow @GlickmanTheFilm or @HBODocs on twitter and can check listings on HBO and HBO 2 for the complete broadcast schedule.
New Coach Reminds Celtics: It's a Family Affair
By TERRY LYONS, Editor-in-Chief of DigitalSportsDesk.com
WALTHAM, Mass – July 5, 2013 -- The formalities were already covered by a series of phone calls between Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens. It was time to sit down and finalize a deal to make Stevens the 17th head coach to walk the sidelines for the storied National Basketball Association franchise. Not a soul outside of the organization was aware of the breakfast meeting at Stevens' mother's house in Indiana, a setting that would make the casting directors and set designers for the motion picture "Hoosiers" marvel in creative vision. The deal breaker was going to be the Celtics' ability to put Stevens and his family at ease with the daunting task and unfathomable opportunity being proposed to the young coach, the most successful coach in the history of tiny Butler University.
Stevens' mother's shitzu poodle, Mack, greeted Ainge and the Celtics hierarchy at the garage door. Then, with the snuff test administered by the 10-pound pooch successfully passed, the deal-making could unfold with the negotiating at a dining room table in a setting right out of Americana, in the hotbed of hoops in the Hoosier State where basketball is indeed a religion. Ainge, along with minority team owner Stephen Pagliuca and Managing Partner Wyc Grousbeck, gathered around the table covered with plastic to protect young Brady and Kingsley’s grandmother Jan's furniture from the kids’ arts and crafts projects
Believe it or not, before the job opportunity came along and before the phone rang and Ainge was asking Stevens if he'd be interested in succeeding Doc Rivers, the Stevens family's belongings were already all packed up and in storage, not because they envisioned a change of employers, but simply because they were trying to find the right home to settle down and raise two wonderful children right smack in America's heartland.
"It's really comical, and you have to be able to laugh at yourself," said Tracy, sincerely happy that their challenging real estate ventures were the subject of questioning instead of her viewpoint on x's and o's or the trials and tribulations as a coach's wife. "We had purchased a house in Carmel, Indiana a couple of years ago and immediately knew it just wasn't the right fit, she explained. "We tried to sell it for about a year and we hadn't received any offers. So, we finally get an offer, and we sold it and had to get out fairly quickly. We've been looking for a place and - this time - we didn't want to make the wrong choice in buying a new house. We were hoping to find a place quickly but it wasn't working out, so we decided to put all of stuff in storage and move in with Brad's mom. It was only going to be a few weeks, as we had (Butler University) basketball camp and Brad was going to be gone a lot in July, recruiting.
"The call comes in on a day when we'd just looked at two houses and we both agreed they weren't the right fit." she elaborated. “To me, it was a little bit of a 'sign,' as we still hadn't found a home and, maybe, this is something we should really think about. When it came time to meet, we met at Brad's Mom's house and they came in, walked through the garage and the dog is barking,” she laughed.
"Then, right in the middle of the meeting, my cell phone kept ringing multiple times, which sometimes means something is wrong," she recounted. "I looked at it and it was one of the basketball secretaries at Butler where we had 160 campers. She was calling to say a construction crew had turned off the water and while they had some running water, the restrooms were not working! So I had to excuse myself from the meeting, but when I came back, Brad said "I think I'm going to do it," and I said, 'Okay!"
The rest is history, and you can call it Celtics lore or maybe even Celtics "lure."
Amidst pure fate, some scrambled-up living arrangements and real-world issues like the timing and feel to sign on the dotted line for a longterm real estate move, -- never mind the ill-timed plumbing failures -- the fade-to-black background story that brought Ainge and Stevens together at this crucial moment in Boston Celtics franchise history actually began at the 2010 NCAA Final Four at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis. The former NCAA star from Brigham Young University and two-time NBA champion as a Celtics point guard sat with Pagliuca, a Duke University graduate, as the David vs. Goliath NCAA championship game unfolded, pitting Stevens' underdog Butler team against Duke and Coach Mike Krzyzewski's blue blood Blue Devils.
"In 2010, Steve and I went to the championship game against Duke, and, of course, Steve was rooting for Duke,” remembered Ainge. "Not to bring back bad memories for Brad, but as I sat there, I said to Steve, 'this is the best coach in college basketball, right there down on the sideline. He thought that I was talking about Coach K, so we had a little debate right then and there. But, well before that time, I had known of Brad and watched him coach, and I loved to watch his teams play. I love his poise, and more than anything, in talking to Brad about prospects for the draft, I always valued what he said, and I talk to a lot of coaches. For some reason, I just trusted his opinions, and I liked his feel and understanding of players - the character of players and the talents of players.
"Brad was my first choice," said Ainge at a packed press conference on the floor of the Celtics suburban Boston training facility, a place where the children of Celtics staff and players frequently traipse around, shoot baskets and glance up at replicas of 16 NBA championship banners that mimic the real ones that hung in the rafters of the fabled Boston Garden and now adorn the more modern-looking TD Garden on Causeway Street downtown.
"I've watched and admired his poise, his intelligence, his teams and their execution under pressure. I've always looked at him over the last few years as a candidate to be a great head coach, never really thinking it was going to be this soon in Celtics history.
“I viewed him as a great talent, but maybe more importantly, a man with great integrity and character,” noted Ainge who was shoulder-to-shoulder with the 10th different Celtics head coach since he played for Bill Fitch in the glory years of the '80s.
“I am absolutely humbled to be sitting in this room,” said Stevens as the time came for him to speak at his introductory media conference where he let it slip that he had already been reading Celtics great Bill Russell’s memoirs. “As any young basketball coach was or is, I am just in awe of the Boston Celtics organization and all that’s been accomplished by the many players, coaches and everybody else that has worked in this building to help them do what they’ve done.
“One of the things that I’m so thrilled about is to work in a place that has high standards but also places such a value on culture. It’s really important. I’m a process-driven guy. I believe in relationships. I believe in trying to be the very best you can be and that has clearly been something that has been stressed in every conversation that I’ve had here, starting with the multiple conversations I had with Danny.
"I want to thank and appreciate Butler, as there’s been a lot of emotion,” Stevens added, sincerely, as he named the Butler support team and called out to the players past and present. “I wouldn’t be sitting here and I’m not one of these guys that’s crazy enough to think that I’m here because of me. I’m here because I’ve fooled a couple of these guys and because we’ve had great people on our bus all the way through and I’m looking forward to working with the great people here.”
"Since the hire, the feedback we've gotten has been amazing from coaches, some that I've never heard from before, saying that same thing, that Brad is one of the great young coaches that they've ever been around. I couldn't be more excited about our partnership. We've spent a lot of time on the phone over the past 10 days, as it's been a very difficult decision for Brad, leaving a wonderful situation at Butler with his staff, his athletic director and his players,” noted Ainge.
"Brad's success will be determined by what I do to help him and support him and what (Celtics) ownership does to support us. We all know what we're about to embark on, and he will have great support from ownership and management. There will be transition from the college game to the NBA game, but we will give him that support to make the transition fast. He's a very smart guy, and I'm not worried about that. He's probably more worried about that than I am," said Ainge with a smile.
"Wyc and Pags knew how much I liked Brad from the very beginning," said Ainge. "We hadn't made a deal but it was getting close and the thing that was preventing it from happening was the uncertainty of the NBA. There was a tug to stay at Butler where he was recruiting new players and they’re going into the Big East. Brad loves his athletic director and it was just really, hard. But once he met everybody, he and his wife felt more comfortable."
The Celtics organization has long embodied the term "Celtics family," and Ainge took that organizational culture up a notch when he took over the basketball operations job in a place where he and his family literally grew up.
"I lived it," said Ainge. "I've been a coach and I've been a player, and I know how draining it can be. We welcome families here. We welcome players to include their families. We want the kids hanging around, shooting with their dads on the court, and we want the whole family to participate in the experience."
For Stevens, a self-described “process-driven, day-to-day guy,” his hard decision process was a fork in the basketball road. If he jumped at the pros, he would have to leave behind the security of a dream-come-true job at Butler and take that "leap of faith," as Ainge put it multiple times in the introductory press conference. In Stevens' mind, surely there was a laundry list of upside factors such as coaching a strong but ornery point guard in Rajon Rondo, who can masterfully quarterback a foundation of gutty, road-tested, high basketball IQ players who will compete mightily during a period of transition and change for this franchise.
On the long-range planning chart for the young coach and his family is the potential for a bright future, living in one of America's great cities, coaching the league’s most respected and winningest clubs with a newfound, windfall NBA bank account with a different type of security - financial security - to the tune of his freshly minted six-year, $22 million dollar deal.
In taking the gig, Stevens has the utmost admiration and support from senior management, in Ainge. In the past three days, he quickly learned - at his mom's dining room table - he has the support of team ownership.
Said Grousbeck, with a breath of fresh air and even - yes, humility, uncommon in NBA ownership circles, "Thank you to Brad and Tracy and their family for believing in us, believing in the power of "Celtics Pride." When you take charge of this organization and all of the tradition and pride that has been built by so many great people in the past, you are a trustee and your obligation is to build the Celtics pride and take it forward. We think that by having Brad and his family here, as a key part of the Celtics going forward, we're doing everything we can to bring back the championship ways. Both on and off the court, we think Brad will help us lead this franchise to where it needs to be and we're going to be patient, committed and resolute."
Reflecting back at the scene from his moms dining room table, Stevens thought hard and you could see the wheels turning in his mind, relishing the request to elaborate on the feeling he had when Ainge and the Celtics’ contingent departed.
“We were pretty well set on what the decision would be when they arrived because of the fact we were meeting in person,” said Stevens, painting the picture. “Obviously, it was important to them to meet us and be sure they felt good about us and for us, we felt a tremendous sense – we felt at home.
“Sitting there around that table, it was very evident, it was very obvious. When they left, it was obvious it was the right decision. But that didn’t make communicating the decision any easy to the people I spent 13 years with (at Butler). We’ve done nothing but look forward since and we had a blast with our family here in Boston yesterday, walking downtown.
“I just can’t wait to get back to normalcy,” added the young coach who can mark his calendar with a date to watch Celtics 2013 draft picks Kelly Olynyk and Colton Iverson along with 2012 No. 1 pick Fab Melo when they play on the Celtics summer league in Orlando just about 48 hours after Brad Stevens, the new head coach of the Boston Celtics, was introduced to a group of reporters who all shared the same opinion about a very good hire, a coach touting a new value in the Celtics’ family history – one of humility.
Boston: Another End of Innocence
By TERRY LYONS (Editor-in-Chief, Digital Sports Desk)
BOSTON, April 16, 2013 -- I am sick of giving my thoughts and prayers. I am sick of standing for a moment of silence. I am sick of it all. Whether it was the catastrophic events of September 11, 2011 or the lone-wolf criminal acts of Oklahoma City in April of 1995 or bombing of Centennial Park in Atlanta at the 1996 Olympics, or so many, many others, I'm just sick and tired of it all.
When I feel like this, my writing always comes up empty, because I just can't reach for my feelings. It hurts too much.
It hurt too much this past December 14th, as a senseless act took the lives of 20 young children and six brave adults at the Sandy Hook elementary school in nearby Newtown, Connecticut, a town I literally drove through that very morning when returning from my native New York to my new hometown of Boston. That crime hurt so much because of the little children robbed of their lives and taken from this earth in the years of their absolute innocence.
Now, here in Boston, we mourn again. We were enjoying a wonderful holiday in the Commonwealth and we were all celebrating in a day where the Boston Marathon weaves its way from Hopkinton through Wellesley and up the hills of Newton right on through Brookline and into Boston. The day was aptly described by weathermen everywhere as "perfect."
The elites ran off at 9am for the women, leading some 11,000 fellow females on to one of the most challenging marathon courses a runner will ever see. The elite men ran off at 10:00am and they chased the women and the physically challenged runners all the way toward Copley Square, some 26.2 miles away on a glorious spring day when the very best of Boston was on display under a clear blue sky.
Out in Lexington and Concord, tributes were paid to the men and women who fought for the American Revolution. They are the Patriots we hold forth and celebrate each year on Patriots' Day in Massachusetts and even though I'm only a newfound Bostonian, Patriots' Day is in my blood. I wake and I feel it every year. It is part of the fabric of the Boston community and we feel it.
And talk about fabric, like non-other, the Boston Red Sox are this community and the Red Sox toss the ball out at 11:00am on Patriots' Day every year and it is the toughest ticket in town, especially on a glorious spring day when the temperature pushes 55-degrees fahrenheit and the Sox are off to a great start. To be at Fenway on Patriots' Day is as good as it gets, unless you have a front row seat for the Boston Marathon.
And guess what?
We ALL have that!
Whether you make your way out to Hopkinton, as I like to do, or you take your lawn chairs up the block to Commonwealth, as I have done many a time, or you head downtown to take in the sights along Mass Ave or in Brookline, it just doesn't get any better than cheering on the runners. Runners like 66-year old Amby Burfoot who I had the pleasure of working with all this past week as he prepped for the 45th anniversary run of his 1968 Boston Marathon victory. Amby - nobody calls him Burfoot or Mr. Burfoot - was quite the story this year and he made the rounds on all the radio and TV circuits, he spent time with the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe and he was a gracious guest on all of the shows, inviting the average guy, the average runner to join him and his family as they ran the race with two things in mind - to have fun and to finish healthy.
Amby was stopped short of that goal on Mass Avenue in Boston because there was a terrible disturbance in the force, the force that guides all runners and marathoners. The force of sportsmanship, competitiveness and the force of reaching deep into the human spirit was ransacked by a cowardly criminal act. As some of the thousands of runners were crossing the finish line at Copley, two bombs detonated and the world changed again, sadly to the extreme far opposite side of righteousness and into the depths of hell where the cowards will exist in the afterworld.
The terror was extreme and the death toll rose from two to three souls overnight, and the police and authorities worked every waking hour to try their very best to restore order and to track down the criminals responsible for this act, but overnight the worst of the worst of the worst news surfaced.
The face of this criminal act is that of an innocent eight-year old boy and his family.
At this early point in the criminal investigation, we do not know why. We lash out against why, we try to figure out why, but we just don't know why.
Runners and fans, athletes and their families are as far away from political figures as you can get. They compete and they entertain us. They are sportsmen and, ever increasingly, sports women. They are global citizens, especially at a world class marathon where people from all over the world come to celebrate their sport and test their endurance in a race where they must qualify to do so. Boston is history, it's the Wimbledon of running. It is classy and it is beautiful, even on a 96-degree day like last year or a 32-degree day like so many before.
Hundreds of innocent people stood in Copley Square, many smiling and celebrating as their loved ones crossed the finish line. Then, like New York in 1993 and 2001, like Atlanta in 1996, like countless other cities and towns - in the USA and worldwide - we experienced the cowardice of crime and terrorism inserted, once again, into our daily lives.
That is the question my little girl looked up and asked of me yesterday afternoon when she didn't know an 8-year old was murdered. Now, with the (even more) terrible news of an 8-year olds fate, that is the question every parent is being asked again today, many by a youngster who will relate to the late Martin Richard.
None of us have an answer and unfortunately, there's a good chance we never will.