Tuesday’s Den: My first book report since 8th grade……

When I was a kid, we had to do book reports for school; read a book, then write a report on it, to prove we read it, I guess. This is my first book report since 8th grade.

My birthday is right around Christmas; when I was 12, my dad gave me a book, The Open Man, written by the Knicks’ Dave DeBusschere, a diary of the Knicks’ 1969-70 championship season, when they won their first NBA title.

This was the first real book I ever read; it grabbed my attention and I basically ignored the rest of the week until I finished the book. The nucleus of the Knicks was still mostly intact, so this was good stuff, and I devoured every word. A lot of my enthusiasm for basketball got its start from reading this book. 

Now it is 2020, our current life is at a standstill, so this weekend I re-read The Open Man; brought back lot of memories, but boy, a million things have changed since 1970. Maybe more than a million.

— The current Madison Square Garden opened in 1968; DeBusschere scored the first basket there, but he was playing for Detroit then. Knicks traded for him during the ’68-’69 season; he was the missing link, a solid defender, a glue guy who made the Knicks a championship contender, the hottest ticket in town.

— DeBusschere was player/coach of the Pistons when he was 24; he also pitched for the White Sox, when being a two-sport athlete was possible. He is pretty honest in this book; he makes fun of his wife’s cooking a lot, pokes fun at Bill Bradley (his roommate on the road), and explains how draining it is to be a starter in the NBA.

— Back then, players roomed two-to a-room on the road; now? Not so much.

— In 1963, the White Sox had to decide whether to protect DeBusschere in a waiver draft, or another pitcher named Denny McLain- they let McLain walk.

McLain won 31 games in 1967, 24 more in ’68 for the Detroit Tigers, and DeBusschere quit baseball, which helps explain why the White Sox have sucked for a long time. Of course, McLain later wound up in prison because of off-field issues, so there’s that.

— Keep in mind, the NBA then wasn’t like it is now; light years different
a) Back then, the minimum salary was $13,500; now, it is $898,310
b) Teams didn’t have their own airplanes, and they often played three nights in a row, in three different cities.
c) These days, Steph Curry makes $500,000 a game; lot of stars don’t play the second night of a back/back, even of they’re not hurt. There was no load management in 1970.

— This season, the Lakers have seven assistant coaches, two video coordinators; in 1970, the Knicks had a head coach (Red Holzman), a scout (Dick McGuire) who wasn’t with the team much- their trainer (Danny Whelan) did a lot of game management-type stuff. They practiced in a cold, cruddy old gym called Lost Battalion, which DeBusschere complains about constantly in the book. Teams have their own practice facilities now; they’re really nice.

— The book is a running diary of the season; the starters played a lot during preseason games; that doesn’t happen anymore.

— One preseason game in Bangor, Maine was sponsored by Celtics’ player Don Nelson, who put up the money to hold the game, and pocketed whatever profits there were. Nelson went on to be a very good head coach in the NBA, with the Bucks/Warriors.

— Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a rookie that season; he got the Bucks to the Eastern Conference finals in his first season, which was the second season in Bucks’ history. Interesting to read how DeBusschere describes him as the season goes on.

In a November 1st regular season game, Kareen played the whole 48:00; don’t think anything like that would happen these days, or else……..

— There was no 3-point line back then; getting shots close to the basket was the premium, so big guys had much bigger rebound totals than they do now. Missed 3-pointers give out longer rebounds, so these days big guys get fewer rebounds.

— The ABA was going on at this time, so lot of prominent players didn’t cross paths with the Knicks that year. When his playing days were over, DeBusschere became commissioner of the ABA, before it folded and four of its teams joined the NBA.

— In 1970, if you got fouled while shooting, and the other team was over the limit, you got three free throws to make two, a terrible rule.

— Oscar Robertson played for the Cincinnati Royals that year, coached by Hall of Famer Bob Cousy; weird thing is, after the Bucks lost to the Knicks in the Eastern Conference final, they traded for Oscar, before the Knicks-Lakers series even started.

— DeBusschere wasn’t that glowing when talking about Baltimore Bullets’ star Earl Monroe, who was a great scorer; he criticized his passing/defense, which must’ve been awkward a couple years later, when the Knicks acquired Monroe. Earl the Pearl helped the Knicks win their 2nd (and last) title, in 1973.

— Bullets, by the way, became the Washington Bullets, and eventually Washington Wizards years later.

— There were no NBA teams in Portland, Cleveland, Dallas, Sacramento; there were almost no international players; DeBusschere complains that the Knicks went 4-9 on national TV that year, even when they won the title. Nowadays, every freakin’ game in available nation-wide.

— Playing for a winning team in New York back then had its advantages; celebrities like Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford sat behind the Knicks bench, much like Spike Lee sits across from he bench now.

DeBusschere tells the story of playing the Phoenix Suns in Utah, before the Jazz existed; after the game, he and Bill Bradley go to Redford’s home in the snowy hills, making the last couple miles of the trip on snowmobiles.

Cocktail parties with rich and famous people were the norm, and still are, especially when you’re winning.

— His persoanl matchups with stars like Elgin Baylor, Gus Johnson, Connie Hawkins were fun to read about. Teams played against each other more, so the players knew each other’s tendencies much better. Lot of physical play.

— Reading this book was fun, brought back lot of memories, and now that the NBA may be starting up in Orlando next month, motivated me to get my NBA notebook ready. Pretty soon there will be live basketball on TV again, and that is a good thing. 

Sunday’s Den: Mt Rushmore of QB’s for AFC teams

Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens (moved to Baltimore in 1996)
— Otto Graham— 57-13-1 as Cleveland’s QB, won three NFL titles.
— Joe Flacco— Won a Super Bowl, also threw ball for 38,245 yards.
— Lamar Jackson— Won 19 of first 24 starts, but is 0-2 in playoff games.
— Brian Sipe— Threw for 23,713 yards, went 57-55 before jumping to USFL.

Buffalo Bills
— Jim Kelly— Four straight AFC titles, threw for 35,467 yards- helluva run.
— Joe Ferguson— Threw for 27,590 yards, handed off to OJ a lot. 1-3 in playoffs.
— Jack Kemp— 43-31-3 with the Bills; went 22-6 with the Chargers.
— Doug Flutie— 21-9 with Buffalo, 38-28 overall in NFL; also played in USFL, CFL.

Cincinnati Bengals
— Ken Anderson— 91-81 with Bengals is impressive; threw for 32,838 yards.
— Boomer Esiason— 62-61 in Cincinnati; threw for 27,149 yards, won an AFC title.
— Andy Dalton— 70-61-2 in regular season with Bengals, 0-4 in playoff games.
— Carson Palmer— Threw for 22,694 yards with Bengals; went 38-21-1 in Arizona.

Cleveland Browns
— Tim Couch— Went 8-6 for Browns in 2002, but didn’t play in playoff game.
— Baker Mayfield— 12-17 with Browns; too bad he doesn’t play as well as he talks.
— Derek Anderson— 16-18 in Cleveland from 2006-09; lasted 13 years in NFL.
— Brian Hoyer— 10-6 with Browns; 38 career starts in 11 years.

Denver Broncos
— John Elway— 14-7 in playoff games; I think he’s the best QB ever.
— Peyton Manning— Went 45-12 with Denver, won two AFC titles.
— Craig Morton— Went 41-23 with Broncos, got Denver to first Super Bowl
— Jake Plummer— 39-15 as Denver’s starter, retired at age 32.

Houston Texans
— Deshaun Watson— 24-13 in three years with the Texas.
— Matt Schaub— Went 46-42 in Houston, threw for 23,221 yards.
— David Carr— Got pummeled as QB of the expansion Texans (22-53).
— Brock Osweiler— 8-6 in one year with Texans, 15-15 overall in NFL.

Indianapolis Colts
— Johnny Unitas— 117-60-4 with Colts, won three NFL titles.
— Peyton Manning— 141-67 with Colts, threw for 54,828 yards.
— Andrew Luck— Went 53-33 with Indy before his early retirement.
— Earl Morrall— Won 24 of 28 Colt starts, including 16-7 loss in SB III.

Jacksonville Jaguars
— Mark Brunell— 63-54 in Jacksonville, 24 more wins than any other Jaguar QB.
— David Garrard— 39-37 for Jaguars, threw for 16,003 yards,
— Byron Leftwich— 24-20 with Jags, is now Brady’s OC in Tampa Bay.
— Blake Bortles— Started for five years in Jacksonville, was backup for Rams LY.

Kansas City Chiefs
— Len Dawson— 93-56-8 with Chiefs, started 2 of first 4 Super Bowls.
— Patrick Mahomes— 24-7 with Chiefs, won KC’s first Super Bowl in 50 years.
— Trent Green— 48-40 for Chiefs, threw ball for 21,459 yards.
— Alex Smith— Underrated career; 50-26 in KC, 94-66-1 overall.

Los Angeles Chargers
— Dan Fouts— Threw for 43,040 yards, playing in a more defense-friendly era.
— Philip Rivers— 128-107 in San Diego, only 5-6 in playoff games- he threw 411 TD passes.
— John Hadl— Wore #21, threw for 26,938 yards, also coached in the USFL.
— Stan Humphries— 47-29 for Chargers, led San Diego to their only Super Bowl.

Miami Dolphins
— Dan Marino— Threw for 61,361 yards, 420 TD’s, but never won a Super Bowl.
— Bob Greise— 92-56-3 with Miami, won two Super Bowls.
— Jay Fiedler— 36-23 in Miami from 2000-04, only 1-2 in playoff games.
— David Woodley— 27-12-1 with Dolphins, led them to a Super Bowl.

New England Patriots
— Tom Brady— Won six Super Bowls, threw 614 TD passes.
— Steve Grogan— Went 75-60 with Patriots, led them to Super Bowl in 1985.
— Drew Bledsoe— Threw for 29,657 yards, 166 TD’s; also played for Bills, Cowboys.
— Babe Parilli— 44-32-7 for Boston Patriots in early AFL days; they played at Fenway.

New Jersey Jets
— Joe Namath— Won Super Bowl III, was only 62-62-1 as Jets’ QB, hampered by a bad knee.
— Ken O’Brien— Threw for 24,386 yards, 124 TD’s.
— Mark Sanchez— 33-29 in regular season, went 4-2 in playoff games.
— Chad Pennington— 32-29 as a starter, also won a couple playoff games.

Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders
— Ken Stabler— 69-26-1 for Oakland in 70’s; won their first Super Bowl title.
— Daryle Lamonica— 62-16-6 for Raiders, was Oakland’s QB in Super Bowl II.
— Jim Plunkett— 38-19 for Oakland, winning two Super Bowls. 8-2 in playoff games.
— Rich Gannon— 45-29 for Raiders, 37-18 from 2000-02; was 4-3 in playoff games.

Pittsburgh Steelers
— Terry Bradshaw— Won four Super Bowls in six years; was 107-51-1 for Steelers.
— Ben Roethlisberger— Has thrown for 56,545 yards, won two Super Bowls.
— Neil O’Donnell— 39-22 for Pittsburgh in early 90’s; lost Super Bowl XXX to Dallas.
— Kordell Stewart— 48-31 for Steelers in late 90’s, only 2-2 in playoff games.

Tennessee Titans
— Warren Moon— Threw for 33,685 yards for Oilers, was 27-13 from 1990-92.
— Steve McNair— 76-55 with Titans, got them within yard of OT in Super Bowl XXXIV
— George Blanda— Won first two AFL titles with Oilers, kicked in NFL until he was 48. 
— Dan Pastorini— Was Oilers’ QB in Bum Phillips era; was also their punter for five years. 

Friday’s Den: Mt Rushmore of quarterbacks for each NFC team…….

St Louis/Arizona Cardinals
— Jim Hart— Was  87-88-5 as starter, 40 more wins than any Cardinal QB.
— Neil Lomax— Threw for 22,711 yards, 136 TD’s.
— Charley Johnson— Went 36-28-5 as a starter, from 1961-69.
— Carson Palmer— Went 38-21-1 as Arizona’s starter, from 2013-17.

Atlanta Falcons
— Matt Ryan— 109-90 with Falcons, twice as many wins as any other QB.
— Steve Bartkowski— Threw for 23,470 yards, 154 TD’s.
— Michael Vick— Went 38-28-1 in Atlanta, a great dual threat.
— Chris Chandler— Led Falcons to their first Super Bowl, in 1998.

Carolina Panthers
— Cam Newton— Threw for 29,041 yards, led Carolina to a Super Bowl.
— Jake Delhomme— 53-37 with the Panthers, threw for 19,258 yards.
— Kerry Collins— 22-20 for expansion Panthers, in their first four years.
— Steve Beuerlein— 23-28 here; only four QB’s won more than 8 games for Carolina.

Chicago Bears
— Jim McMahon— Went 46-15 as QB of great Bear teams in the 80’s.
— Jim Harbaugh— Took over for McMahon, went 35-30, threw for 11,567 yards.
— Jay Cutler— Threw for 23,433 yards, most in Chicago history.
— Bill Wade— QB of ’63 NFL champs; went 27-20-2 with Bears.
I didn’t include Sid Luckman on this list, because he played so long ago (1939-50), but I probably should have; he at least deserves a mention. 

Dallas Cowboys
— Roger Staubach— Went 85-29 as Cowboys’ QB, from 1969-79.
— Troy Aikman— Won three Super Bowls, threw for 32,942 yards.
— Tony Romo— 78-49 in regular season, only 2-4 in playoff games.
— Don Meredith— 47-32-4 when Dallas first became good, in the 60’s.

Detroit Lions
— Bobby Layne— Won consecutive titles as Detroit’s QB in ’52, ’53.
— Greg Landry— 40-41-3 as Lions’ QB, for 1968-78
— Matthew Stafford— 41,025 passing yards, no playoff wins (0-2)
— Scott Mitchell— 27-30 as Lions’ QB, from 1994-98.

Green Bay Packers
— Bart Starr— 9-1 in playoff games, won five NFL titles.
— Brett Favre— 160-93 in Green Bay, threw for 61,655 yards.
— Aaron Rodgers— Packer fans aren’t spoiled, are they?
— Lynn Dickey— Threw for 21,369 yards on sub-par Green Bay teams.

Los Angeles Rams
— Kurt Warner— Hall of Famer won Super Bowl XXXIV.
— Norm Van Brocklin— Went 42-20-3, won ’51 NFL title for Rams.
— Roman Gabriel— 74-39-6 as LA’s QB in the 60’s.
— Jared Goff— 35-16 as the Rams’ QB the last three years.

Minnesota Vikings
— Fran Tarkenton— Went 91-73-6, won four NFC titles.
— Tommy Kramer— Thew for 24,775 yards, went 54-56 in Minnesota.
— Brad Johnson— Went 28-18 for Vikings, won Super Bowl in Tampa Bay.
— Daunte Culpepper—- 17 Viking QB’s have won 10+ games; they switch QB’s a lot.

New Jersey Giants
— Eli Manning— Won two Super Bowls, threw for 57,023 yards.
— Phil Simms— 95-64 with the Giants, threw for 33,462 yards.
— YA Tittle— Went 32-13-3 in early 60’s; was one of opposing coaches in Any Given Sunday.
— Charlie Conerly— 57-31-1 as QB of the Giants in the 50’s.

New Orleans Saints
— Drew Brees— 65,068 passing yards, 467 TD’s, a Super Bowl title
— Bobby Hebert— 49-26 while leading the Jim Mora-era Saints.
— Aaron Brooks— Threw for 19,156 yards, 120 TD’s in 82 starts (38-44).
— Archie Manning— Played for terrible Saints teams; I heard he has three sons. 

Philadelphia Eagles
— Donovan McNabb— 92-49-1 in Philly, threw for 32,873 yards, 216 TD’s.
— Randall Cunningham— 63-43-1 with the Eagles; once had a 91-yard punt.
— Ron Jaworski— Threw for 26,963 yards, led Eagles to their first Super Bowl.
— Nick Foles— Only 25-13 for Eagles, but he won then a Super Bowl.

San Francisco 49ers
— Joe Montana— 100-39 as a starter, won four Super Bowls.
— Steve Young— 91-33 in regular season with 49ers, won one Super Bowl.
— John Brodie— Threw for 31,548 yards in era when passing wasn’t a big thing.
— Jimmy Garoppolo— 19-5 in his first 24 games, won NFC title last year.

Seattle Seahawks
— Russell Wilson— 86-41-1 as a starter, won a Super Bowl, almost won two.
— Dave Kreig— 70-49-1 as a starter, threw for 26,132 yards.
— Matt Hasselbeck— 69-62 as a starter, got Seahawks to their first Super Bowl.
— Jim Zorn— Mobile lefty QB’d the expansion Seahawks, threw 107 TD’s.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
— Doug Williams— 33-33-1 with Bucs; they were 2-26 before he got there.
— Brad Johnson— 26-23 with Bucs, won them their only Super Bowl.
— Trent Dilfer— 38-38 in Tampa, then won a Super Bowl for Baltimore.
— Jameis Winston— 28-42 as a starter, threw for 19,737 yards- they let him walk.

Washington Redskins
— Joe Theismann— 77-47 as a starter, threw for 25,206 yards, won a Super Bowl
— Sonny Jurgensen— Threw for 22,585 yards, went 52-51-5 in Washington.
— Mark Rypien—- 45-27 playing for Joe Gibbs, also won a Super Bowl.
— Billy Kilmer— 50-23-1 in George Allen era, got Redskins to their first Super Bowl. 

Tuesday’s List of 13: Best/favorite play-by-play announcers:

1) Al Michaels:
— Has been doing baseball, football on TV since I was in Little League.
— Called 1980 Olympic hockey Miracle on Ice
— Called numerous Super Bowls, including the only Super Bowl the Rams won
— Called numerous World Series, including the ’72 Series, which the A’s won

2) Dick Enberg:
— Was part of the greatest college hoop broadcast team ever, with Al McGuire and Billy Packer.
— Did NFL games on NBC for years.
— Did baseball for years; his last job was with the Padres just a few years ago. 
— Hosted a good TV game show, Sports Challenge.

3) Curt Gowdy:
— When I was a little kid, Gowdy called everything; college basketball, baseball, AFL/NFL.
— He worked 13 World Series, 16 All-Star games.
— He worked nine Super Bowls, 14 Rose Bowls, 24 Final Fours.
— There is a state park in Wyoming named after him.

4) Vin Scully:
— By far, the best baseball announcer ever.
— He broadcast Dodger games for 66 years. 66 years!!!!
— Also did NFL and golf on network TV.
— Was very good playing himself in the baseball movie, For Love of the Game.

5) Keith Jackson:
— To me, he will always be the voice of college football.
— Was also the first play-by-play guy on Monday Night Football.
— Did baseball playoffs and also did basketball games with Dick Vitale.
— Also was ABC’s lead play-by-play guy on NBA games for two years.

6) Brent Musburger:
— Is still working at age 80, doing Raiders’ games on radio.
— Is most famous for doing NFL Today pre-game show with Irv Cross, Jimmy the Greek.
— Did lot of college basketball and college football.
— Has a talk show now on Las Vegas-based VSIN on Sirius Radio.

7) Jim Nantz:
— Golf, basketball, football; Nantz is good at everything.
— Played college golf at Houston, teammates with Fred Couples, Blaine McCallister.
— Once worked Utah Jazz games with Hot Rod Hundley.
— With his voice/demeanor, would be the greatest funeral home director ever: “Welcome, friends. Sorry for your loss.”

8) Jack Buck:
— Was more relaxed than his son Joe is; he was almost flippant at times- I mean that in a good way.
— Did baseball Cardinal games in St Louis for years.
— Did Monday Night Football on the radio with Hank Stram.
— I was lucky enough to meet him in Cooperstown the day he got inducted into the Hall of Fame. Good guy.

9) Marv Albert:
— A New York icon; he did Knick/Ranger games for years.
— One of the best NBA announcers ever.
— Did NFL games on NBC for years.
— His son Kenny Albert will be on this list before too much longer.

10) Pat Summerall:
— In my mind, the best NFL play-by-play guy ever.
— Also did golf and tennis on CBS, as well as NBA/ABA games.
— Was a kicker for the Giants for 10 years.
— Jerry Jones referred to Summerall as “royalty in the broadcast booth”

11) Sean McDonough:
— Has very quietly put together a tremendous career for a long time.
— Was watching a replay of the ’92 NLCS; McDonough was doing that game. 1992.
— College football, college hoop, baseball, Monday Night Football; he’s done it all.

12) Mike Emrick:
— Best-ever NHL announcer (along wth Dan Kelly)
— Has won six national Emmy awards (no other NHL voice has more than one)
— Worked NFL games with Matt Millen, Hank Stram in 1992, 1993.
— Was voted into US Hockey Hall of Fame, in 2011. 

13) Joe Tait:
— Never got any national love, but was great doing Cavaliers/Indians games on WWWE.
— He broadcast Cavalier games on the radio for 39 years.
— When I was a kid, listening to games on the radio was a big thing, especially before the spread of cable TV. Listening to Joe Tait on WWWE was a lot of fun for me; he did baseball with Herb Score, the pitcher whose career ended early because of an injury- they were a great team.

If you’re wondering why Bob Costs isn’t on this list, he disqualified himself when he dismissed the A’s 20-game winning streak in 2002. You can hear it in the movie, Moneyball. “a certain element of randomness……”

Ray Scott was at the end of his great career when I was really young, in the mid-60’s; he probably belongs on this list, but I didn’t hear him call very many games. 

2 Lists for Friday: My favorite TV shows, and records that will never be broken……

When I was a little kid, I preferred comedies; now I only watch one-hour reruns— watch ballgames and movies the rest of the time. Here are 13 of my all-time favorite TV shows:

13) Without a Trace— Jack Malone (Anthony LaPaglia) runs an FBI unit specializing in missing persons investigations, while his personal life falls apart around him. Sometimes they found the people, sometimes they didn’t, which is part of what made the show so good.

12) Suits— A brilliant young college dropout slips into a job interview with one of New York City’s best legal closers, and talks the guy into hiring him as a lawyer, even though the young man has never gone to law school— he took the bar exam for other people (and passed it) many times, on the sly.

This show ended in part because one of the actresses (Meghan Markle) married a prince from England.

11) Lost In Space— This show was on in the 60’s; a space colony family struggles to survive when a spy/accidental stowaway throws their ship hopelessly off course. Dr Smith (Jonathan Harris) was the annoying stowaway who provided comic relief; his interaction with the Robot (“Danger!!! Danger!!!) were one of the highlights of the show.

One of the prized pieces of my bobblehead collection is a Robot bobblehead.

10) Addams Family— The Addams Family is not your typical family: it takes delight in most of the things of which normal people would be terrified. Gomez Adams (John Astin) is an extremely wealthy man and is able to indulge his wife Morticia’s (Carolyn Jones) every desire, whether it’s cultivation of poisonous plants or a candlelit dinner in a graveyard.

Morticia would read the stock ticker, and if Gomez lost, he would say “Easy come, easy go”

Cousin Itt, Thing, Lurch were all excellent characters. 

1993, I have an emergency appendectomy; I’m in the hospital couple of days. Guy in the next hospital bed is watching Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and when they run the credits at the end of the show, I get kind of excited, because Felix Silla played one of the robots.

Felix Silla played Cousin Itt on the Addams Family; my neighbor wasn’t impressed when I gave him that bit of trivia. The nurse smiled, then checked to see if she gave me too much medication.

9) White Shadow— An NBA player retires and gets a job as a basketball coach in a inner-city high school; the uniforms that Carver High wears in this show are the same ones that the star (Ken Howard) of the show’s team wore in high school on Long Island.

Basketball scenes were very well done.

Bruce Paltrow was the show’s creator; Gwyneth Paltrow’s father. 

8) Green Acres— A New York City attorney (Eddie Albert) and his city-loving wife (Eva Gabor) attempt to live as farmers in the bizarre community of Hooterville. Hank Kimball was my favorite character, playing the bumbling county agent.

My lasting memory of this show is that seemingly every time I had it on, my father would walk in the room and say “Why the hell are you watching this?” Then five minutes later, he’d be laughing harder than I was.

7) Mister Ed— A wisecracking talking horse is the star, but he only talks to the guy who owns the barn he lives in, Wilbur Post (Alan Young). Mister Ed was a big baseball fan; he once took batting practice off of the Dodgers, with Sandy Koufax on the mound.

Good trivia; Dodgers’ CF Willie Davis was Mister Ed’s favorite ballplayer.

6) M*A*S*H— The staff of an Army hospital in the Korean War find that laughter is the best way to deal with their often-horrendous situation.

Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) is the star of the show; Alda was so recognizable as Hawkeye that it probably hurt his acting career after M*A*S*H went off the air— the series finale is one of the most-watched TV shows ever.

Alda played a therapist on Ray Donovan the last couple seasons.

 5) CSI— An elite team of police forensic evidence investigation experts work their cases in Las Vegas; in real life, I searched fingerprints for ten years for the state of New York, so I know a little bit about this line of work, but what attracted me to this show was a) Las Vegas and b) the loyalty the characters had to their co-workers and their jobs.

The eulogy Gil Grissom (William Peterson) gives after Warrick Brown is murdered is one of the great speeches (albeit a short one) in television history. 

4) Billions— Showtime series in its 5th season, a U.S. Attorney goes after a hedge fund king in a battle between two powerful New York figures. Making things sticky is that the attorney’s wife (Maggie Siff) works as a psychologist for the hedge fund guy.

Lot of interesting cameos thru the years; John Malkovich, Kevin Pollak, Eric Bogosian, pro wrestler Becky Lynch, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Durant, Mark Cuban. Great show.

3) Law and Order— 20 years, 456 episodes that follow a crime (usually a murder), usually adapted from current headlines, from two separate vantage points, the police investigation and the prosecution in court.

One of the few shows that survived the stars of the show moving on and being replaced by other characters. This show was a launching pad for many acting careers; there are 26 actors who have appeared in Billions who also appeared in at least one episode of Law and Order.

2) Odd Couple— Two divorced friends who are complete opposites share an apartment; one is really neat and stuffy photographer, the other a sloppy, easy-going sportswriter.

1) Magnum PI— The adventures of a Hawaii-based private investigator (Tom Selleck), as he solves cases with the help of his buddies, TC (Roger Mosley) a helicopter pilot, club manager Rick (Larry Manetti) and Higgins (John Hillerman) who runs the estate Magnum lives on.

The parade of beautiful women as guest stars on the show was an 80’s who’s who of  Hollywood: Sharon Stone, Jill St John, Mimi Rogers, Leslie Uggams, Erin Gray, Dana Delany, to name a few.

Frank Sinatra did an episode near the end of the series; Ernest Borgnine, Carol Burnett, Cesar Romero, Ten Danson, Dennis Weaver— a long list of famous guest stars. 

Friday’s List of 13: Records that will probably never be broken……

1) Cy Young won 511 games; he also lost 315. From 1901-03, he won 93 games; none of those things are ever happening again.

2) Vin Scully broadcast Dodger baseball games from 1950-2016; undoubtedly the best baseball announcer ever.

3) Cal Ripken Jr played in 2,632 consecutive games; that ain’t happening again. Might be a while before someone plays in 632 consecutive games.

4) Phil Jackson won 11 NBA titles as a head coach; Red Auerbach won nine, but in an era when players didn’t change teams as much.

Jackson coached Michael Jordan’s Bulls to three straight titles from 1996-98, took a year off, then won three more in a row with the Kobe/Shaq Lakers, from 2000-02.

5) UCLA won seven consecutive national basketball titles. Seven. Then they lost in the national semifinals in double OT the 8th year, and won the title again the next year.

Great college players don’t stay in college for too long these days; sustained success is much more difficult now.

6) From 1959-66, Boston College won eight consecutive NBA titles; they lost the Eastern finals in ’67 to Wilt Chamberlain’s 76ers, the only year Bill Russell didn’t play in the NBA Finals. Russell played 13 years in the NBA, won 11 titles.

7) Wilt Chamberlain had 32 games where he scored 60+ points; this is a guy who shot 51.1% from the foul line for his career- he missed 5,805 free throws in his career, or else he might have had a few more 60+ point games.

8) In 1916, Georgia Tech won a college football game 222-0, over Cumberland College; there are a few D-I teams these days trying to find Cumberland’s phone number so they can schedule a game with them.

9) Nolan Ryan threw seven no-hitters, including one at age 44. Max Scherzer is a really good pitcher these days with 170 wins, but has only 10 career complete games.

10) 109 yards is the longest touchdown in NFL history; can’t be a longer one:
— Antonio Cromartie ran a missed field goal back 109 yards for a TD in 2007.
— Cordarelle Patterson ran a kickoff back 109 yards for a TD in 2013.

11) Rickey Henderson stole 130 bases back in 1982, when he was 23 years old. Takes a lot out of a guy’s legs to run that much, plus you have to be a really good hitter to get on base that much.

Henderson had a .398 on-base %age that year, .401 for his Hall of Fame career. He led the league in stolen bases 11 times.

12) Buffalo Bills won the AFC title four years in a row, very impressive, but then they lost the Super Bowl all four years.

13) Wayne Gretzky dominated hockey so much that in most NHL fantasy leagues, Gretzky was off-limits; whoever drafted him would automatically win. Gretzky scored 2,857 points in his amazing career; next highest in NHL history is Jaromir Jagr, with 1,921. 

2 for Wednesday: NFC trends and Joe’s favorite actors……

Arizona Cardinals:
— Two primetime games are both on road, at Dallas and Seattle.
— Three straight road games, weeks 3-5: Panthers-Jets-Cowboys.
— Arizona is 0-3-1 SU in last four home openers (1-3 ATS).
— Cardinals lost last four road openers, by average score of 31-15.

Atlanta Falcons:
— Two primetime games are both on road, at Green Bay, Seattle.
— Falcons have only four outdoor games this season.
— Atlanta won last three home openers, by 11-7-4 points.
— Falcons are 3-10 ATS in last thirteen road openers.

Carolina Panthers:
— Panthers will see old friend Ron Rivera when they visit the Redskins in Week 16.
— Only primetime game is a Week 8 home game with Atlanta.
— Carolina won five of its last six home openers (4-2 ATS).
— Under is 6-2 in Panthers’ last eight season openers.

Chicago Bears:
— Bears don’t play Green Bay until Week 12, then again in Week 17.
— Four primetime games for Chicago, two at home, two on road.
— Bears lost five of last six home openers (under 4-1-1).
— 16 of Chicago’s last 19 road openers stayed under total.

Dallas Cowboys:
— This will be first time since 2014 their home opener isn’t against the Giants.
— Dallas opens brad-new SoFi Stadium when they visit the Rams in Week 1.
— Cowboys won seven of last nine home openers (3-0-1 ATS last four)
— Dallas covered 10 of its last 13 road openers (5-5 SU last ten).

Detroit Lions:
— Detroit is one of two NFL teams (Redskins) with no primetime games.
— Lions have only one 4:00 game; they are on national TV Thanksgiving Day.
— Detroit won six of its last nine home openers (over 7-3 in last 10).
— Detroit covered three of last four road openers.

Green Bay Packers:
— Have five prime-time games, including Weeks 3-4, at Saints, vs Falcons.
— Won seven in row, 12 of last 13 home openers (10-3 ATS).
— Four of their last five home openers stayed under total.
— Over is 11-3 in Green Bay’s last 14 road openers. 

Los Angeles Rams:
— Three east coast trips in first five games of the season.
— Week 7 Monday night home game, then 1:00 Sunday game in Miami in Week 8.
— Rams won/covered their last five home openers.
— Under McVay, LA is 3-0 in road openers, scoring 34.7 ppg.

Minnesota Vikings:
— Vikings get only two primetime games, both on road (Seattle, Chicago)
— Minnesota has only four outdoor games this season, only one after Week 8 (Tampa)
— Vikings won/covered their last five home openers (under 6-0 last six)
— Minnesota is 4-11-1 SU in last 16 road openers (5-9-2 ATS).

New Jersey Giants:
— This is first time in six years their road opener isn’t in Dallas.
— Giants started out 0-1 seven of last eight years.
— Big Blue’s last six home openers stayed under total.
— Giants are 2-7-1 ATS in last ten road openers.

New Orleans Saints:
— Three primetime games in first five weeks of season.
— Saints lost four of last five home openers (0-5 ATS)
— Average total in their last four home openers: 62.8.
— New Orleans lost seven of last nine road openers.

Philadelphia Eagles
— Eagles have consecutive primetime games vs Giants, Cowboys before their bye.
— Philly has one 1:00 game after Thanksgiving; they play at 4:25 four weeks in row.
— Eagles won last four home openers, but are 3-8 ATS in last 11.
— Under is 3-1-1 in their last five road openers.

San Francisco 49ers
— 49ers have consecutive games in New Jersey, in Weeks 2-3.
— Niners have five primetime games, four of them at home.
— Five of their last six home openers stayed under the total.
— 49ers lost five of last seven road openers; they’re 9-5 ATS in last 14.

Seattle Seahawks
— Four primetime games, three of them at home.
— Host Giants/Jets in consecutive games, Weeks 13-14.
— Under is 16-2-1 in Seattle’s last 19 home openers.
— Seahawks won their last 11 home openers (8-3 ATS).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
— In their history, Bucs have won six playoff games; Brady has six Super Bowl rings.
— From Weeks 5-11, Tampa Bay is in primetime five of seven games.
— Bucs lost five of their last seven home openers.
— Tampa Bay won four of its last five road openers.

Washington Redskins
— No primetime games, only three 4:25 games.
— Weeks 12-14, they play three in row on road: Dallas, Steelers, 49ers.
— Washington lost five in row, seven of last eight home openers.
— Redskins covered their last four road openers.

Saturday’s Den: Looking at Nolan Ryan’s no-hitters, and other random stuff…….

We start with a recap of Nolan Ryan’s seven no-hitters, thrown to seven different catchers:
1) 5-15-73: Angels 3, Royals 0 in KC:
— Ryan got knocked out of his previous start in the first inning on May 11; on the 12th, he came in and got a six-out save. He pitched this no-hitter on two days’ rest.
— Lou Piniella was the Royals’ RF in this game. 
— Bobby Valentine batted 3rd, Frank Robinson 4th for the Angels.
— Angels’ catcher: Jeff Torborg, who caught three no-hitters, including Sandy Koufax’ perfect game in 1965.

2) 7-15-73: Angels 6, Tigers 0 in Detroit:
— Ryan gave up six runs in six IP in his previous start.
— Game was 1-0 into 8th inning; Angels scored four in the 8th.
— Jim Perry was the opposing pitcher; he won 217 big league games.
— Angels catcher: Art Kusyner, who hit .149 in 41 games for the Halos that year.

3) 9-28-74: Angels 4, Twins 0:
— His last start of the year; he had thrown 45 innings in his previous five (4-1) starts.
— 8 walks, 15 strikeouts; 23 of 35 batters didn’t hit a fair ball.
— Rod Carew, Tony Oliva played for the Twins that day; damn good hitters.
— Angels’ catcher: Tom Egan, who wound up batting .103.

4) 6-1-75: Angels 1, Orioles 0:
— Ryan had given up 11 runs in 13 IP in his previous two starts.
— Dave Chalk knocked in Mickey Rivers in 3rd inning, with the game’s only run.
— Jerry Remy led off for the Angels; he is now the Red Sox’ TV analyst.
— Angels’ catcher: Ellie Rodriguez, who played nine years in the majors.

5) 9-28-81: Astros 5, Dodgers 0:
— Was 1-2, 5.68 in his previous three starts.
— Ryan missed two months in the middle of this season (June 10-August 14)
— Dodgers wound up winning the World Series a few weeks later.
— Astros’ catcher: Alan Ashby, who played 17 years in the big leagues.

6) 6-11-90: Rangers 5, A’s 0 in Oakland:
— Was 0-3, 10.13 in his previous five starts, including a 5-4 home loss to Oakland five days before this game.
— A’s were 38-18 at the time, lost the World Series that year.
— Julio Franco hit two homers, knocked in four runs for Texas.
— Rangers’ catcher: John Russell, who hit .225 in a 10-year big league career.

7) 5-1-91: Rangers 3, Blue Jays 0:
— Two walks, 16 strikeouts, not bad for a 44-year old.
— Blue Jays wound up 91-71 that year, losing ALCS.
— Jeff Huson played SS for Texas that day; nowadays, he is the Colorado Rockies’ TV analyst.
— Rangers’ catcher: Mike Stanley, who hit 187 homers in a 15-year career.

8) In David Cutcliffe’s 12 seasons as Duke’s football coach, the Blue Devils have won 72 games. In the 24 years before Cutcliffe came to Durham, the Blue Devils won 73 games.

9) Lost my mind a little earlier this week when some NFL writer posted his positional ratings for every team, and he had Jared Goff ranked 21st amongst NFL quarterbacks. No bleepin’ way.

Under Sean McVay, Goff is 35-16 as a starter; he’s won an NFC title game on the road, putting up 34 points in a hostile Superdome. No way in hell is Daniel Jones or Baker Mayfield better than he is; Matthew Stafford has played 11 years in the NFL, is 0-3 in playoff games. Goff is 2-2 in playoff games, in only four years.

10) There was a great story this week about the late Don Shula, and about how single-minded coaches can be.

Shula obviously coached the Miami Dolphins, and for part of that time, the TV show Miami Vice was a very popular program on NBC. Don Johnson was one of the stars.

After a Miami win one day, a Dolphin staffer brings Johnson in to meet Shula; Johnson is a big sports fan, but Shula has no idea who Johnson is. When the staffer mentions Miami Vice, Shula thinks he is an actual policeman. Focus helps coaches be great; Shula had great focus.

11) These days, by the way, Don Johnson is often seen at Cal-Santa Barbara basketball games. He was in Nash Bridges (his dad was played by James Gammon, the manager in Major League) and he was also very good as a golf pro in Tin Cup.

Our last two nuggets are from the great baseball writer Joe Posnanski:
12) Since 1905, there have been 16,657 players make their way to the major leagues; of that number, 1,621 (9.7%) played on a team that won a World Series.

13) 403 played on 2+ World Series champions; 30 played on 5+ title teams. 

Thursday’s Den: Paul’s list of the best TV characters……

My friend Paul presents his all-time best TV characters:

1) Hawkeye Pierce, M*A*S*H— Alan Alda played this character so well, a wise-cracking surgeon who got himself thru working in an Army hospital in the Korean War by making people laugh, but by the end of the series, you could see the weariness of war on his face.

Rest of this list is presented in alphabetical order:
— Jeb Bartlett, The West Wing— Martin Sheen played the President for 155 episodes, when life was more normal. He won a Golden Globe for Best Actor- Television Series Drama in 2001, and also won two SAG awards.

— Archie Bunker, All in the Family— Carroll O’Connor played this”lovable bigot” from 1971-83; Archie had a gruff, overbearing demeanor, largely defined by his bigotry towards a diverse group of individuals. Tension with his son-in-law (Rob Reiner) still resonates today, if you follow Reiner on Twitter.

— Bugs Bunny— Created in the late 30’s, Bugs became famous for his flippant, personality and his catch phrase “Eh…What’s up, doc?” He was also the official mascot of Warner Brothers Entertainment.

— Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory— Jim Parsons has won four Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe, a TCA Award, and two Critics’ Choice TV awards for his portrayal of a theoretical physicist at Cal Tech, He has a genius-level IQ, but lacks social skills.

— Basil Fawlty, Fawlty Towers— Played by the great British comic actor John Cleese, Basil is the proprietor of the hotel Fawlty Towers- he is cynical, snobbish and is desperate to belong to a higher social class. In a 2001 poll, Basil ranked #4 in all-time British TV characters.

— Dr J0el Fleischman, Northern Exposure— Rob Morrow planed central character at the beginning of the series, a young, somewhat uptight doctor from Queens who is contractually bound to practice in a remote Alaskan town for four years to repay a student loan from the government.

— Arthur Fonzarelli, Happy Days— Henry Winkler played Fonzie, a stereotypical greaser who wore a leather jacket, rode his motorcycle and was a lot cooler than any of his friends in 1950’s Milwaukee. In 1999, TV Guide named Fonzie the #4 TV character of all-time.

— Frank Furillo, Hill Street Blues— The show chronicled the lives of the staff of a single police station located on Hill Street in an unnamed large city; Daniel J Travanti played Lt Furillo- this show won eight Emmys in its first season, and 98 Emmy nominations overall.

— Bob Hartley, The Bob Newhart Show— Newhart played a Chicago psychologist whose interactions with his wife, friends, patients, and colleagues lead to humorous situations and a lot of laughs. Great supporting cast: Jerry the dentist, Howard the pilot and his wife Emily, played by Suzanne Pleshette.

— Oscar Madison, Odd Couple— Jack Klugman played a divorced New York City sportswriter who shares his apartment with his friend Felix Unger, when Felix’s wife tosses him out of their home. The two men have almost nothing in common, which is what made the show so funny.

— Mary Richards, The Mary Tyler Moore Show— Mary Tyler Moore plays the associate producer, and later producer at TV station WJM in Minneapolis, at a time when not many women got jobs like that. Great supporting cast: Ted Knight, Ed Asner, Gavin MacLeod, Betty White and Valerie Harper.

— Homer Simpson, The Simpsons— Homer Jay Simpson is the bumbling husband of Marge and father of Bart, Lisa and Maggie Simpson; he is voiced by Dan Castellaneta. In 2010, he was voted by Entertainment Weekly as the #2 second-greatest cartoon character, behind Bugs Bunny.

— Andy Sipowitz, NYPD Blue— Dennis Franz played a detective working on the Lower East Side of Manhattan; he was the only cast member to appear in every episode of the show’s 12 seasons. One writer described Sipowicz as havng “an underrated, edgy mixture of grit and sensitivity”

— Jon Snow, Game of Thrones— Kit Harington plays Jon Snow, the illegitimate son of Ned Stark, the honorable lord of Winterfell, an ancient fortress in the North of the fictional continent of Westeros. Knowing his prospects are limited by his status as a bastard, Jon joins the Night’s Watch, who guard the far northern borders from the wildlings who live beyond The Wall. 

— Tony Soprano, The Sopranos— James Gandolfini played a character that was loosely based on a real-life New Jersey mobster. Throughout the HBO series, Tony struggles to balance the conflicting needs of his actual family with those of the Mafia family he controls.

— Spock, Star Trek— Leonard Nimoy played science office and first officer aboard the USS Enterprise as it explores the galaxy and defend the United Federation of Planets. Spock later served as a Federation ambassador; he is part human, part Vulcan, who was raised in a test tube for two months.

2 for Saturday: Christy talks about her home state, and Chris the Bartender’s favorite sports movies…….

Christy tells us about the best things about her home, Louisiana:

PEOPLE:  I haven’t lived anywhere else so I can’t offer an unbiased opinion. I can tell you that for the most part, the people here are hard working, resourceful innovators who, as long as you don’t cross them, will bend over backwards to help you. Without questions……without expectations.

I think there is a great misconception that we are simple minded as opposed to a people desiring a simple life. The culture here is thick with history, superstition, slang, racism … there are many divisive opinionated ideas on every subject and the how and why of things … but most times hospitality overcomes out of respect for one another. Some of us have blended with our culture and see past the hostility. 

LAND:  The land here is green throughout the year. Wildlife thrives, the rivers and creeks usually full of fish but you do have to watch out for predators… alligators, snakes, etc. The weather is volatile at times. But I love the smell of the pine after storms and the feel of grass underfoot. Gardening is year round. I love that … playing in the dirt. Eating from the vines. Between the wildlife and gardens, the food source here is diverse. We eat very well.

FOOD:  I remember sipping coffee from demis tasse (very small) cups at my grandma’s kitchen table when I was about 4. Always gumbo and a percolator on the stove. Fig cake wasn’t far off if the figs from the backyard tree were in season. She wouldn’t speak English, though she understood every word … even spoke French to her chickens she fed from the back screen door.

My other grandmother also had us sipping coffee from her kitchen table while she cooked… Lots of vegetable soups and casseroles. Both had backyard gardens. I didn’t learn to cook from recipes but from sight, smell, and taste. You use what you have. Tis true in life as it is with everything else … Pots on the stove nonstop.

The reputation of spicey foods in Louisiana is not always the case. We are able to grow so much but most of our food can be seasoned on the table. You learn to cook what you like and with what you have. We use what we need, use and make it ” a little more” … just because life is good …” laniappe.”  A little somethin’ extra … ordinary.