Friday’s Den: Doing some thinking out loud…….

13) Happy 81st birthday to Dick Vitale!!!! One of ESPN’s greatest voices, the former coach had a birthday earlier this week. This is a guy who has helped raise over $100M to help fight pediatric cancer, he has done a lot of good in his lifetime.

Long time ago, early 90’s, I wrote an article for a magazine called College Sports, which was good but didn’t last very long. My job was to write a college basketball preview, but I had to do it in June or July, not so easy.

Someone got me Dick Vitale’s phone number, and told me this: “Make sure your first question is a good one, because it is the only one you’ll ask.”

Left a message and little while later, Dick Vitale calls me back from a car; he was great, just like you’d think, very energetic. I asked my one question, he rattled on for several minutes, I said thank you, and that was that. Always appreciated that he did that for me.

12) I should mention that I also interviewed a coach for the article; I can’t remember who else I tried to call; I wanted to call Jerry Tarkanian, but he had just left UNLV, so that wasn’t an option. Anyway, I call Purdue and figure the secretary will blow me off like a couple of others had already done, but the phone picks up, and I hear a familiar voice:

“Purdue basketball, coach Keady speaking”

I damn near swallowed the phone; Gene Keady answered his own calls. After a rough start, I explained my job, and he couldn’t have been nicer; answered all my questions, gave me great stuff, and sent me on my way. The article was well received.

This is how much I appreciated his help; I got married a little while after that, and I wore a Purdue Boilermakers’ lapel pin in my tuxedo that day, like he did on the sidelines.

Some thoughts on the first night on the MLB Draft…….
11) Say what you want about Roger Goodell, but the guy has some personality, he appears to like/enjoy football and embrace his job. He should enjoy it, an 8-figure salary to oversee our most popular sport, but he basically does a good job.

Rob Manfred is baseball’s commissioner; he looks as bored and disinterested as I did when I trudged off to my office job for 34 glorious years. Manfred must make millions; does he even like baseball? Smile once in a while, fix the negotiations so there are games this summer.

NHL fans boo their commissioner Gary Bettman, but compared to Manfred, Bettman is freakin’ Pete Rozelle or David Stern.

Now that I’ve vented about that, we move on…….

10) This is the weirdest draft ever, has to be; there was basically no high school baseball this spring, and the college season didn’t last very long. What is usually a 30-round draft will be only five rounds this year. Lot of scouts are getting furloughed; how are teams making decisions?

9) Mets’ first round draft pick was Pete Crow-Armstrong, who is from the same prep school that produced Lucas Giolito, Max Fried and Jack Flaherty. But what makes this kid a little unique is that his mom is actress Ashley Crow, who played the mother in the 1994 movie Little Big League, where her 12-year old son inherits the Minnesota Twins, then names himself manager.

8) Tampa Bay Rays’ first round pick was a high school pitcher named Nick Bitsko, a kid from eastern Pennsylvania who played zero baseball this spring, and threw only 32 innings last year. He isn’t even 18 years old yet, but he is a first round pick with almost zero experience.

7) First seven picks were college players, an all-time record; 18 of the 29 players taken in the first round were college kids. 18 position players, 11 pitchers were chosen.

6) Spencer Torkelson was the first player taken in the draft, by Detroit; ESPN lists him as a 1B, but they introduced him as a 3B, so that’s interesting. Dan O’Dowd said on MLB Network that the kid is a great hitter; they should just let him play where he is most comfortable, not screw with his head and make him change positions.

Torkelson is the 4th Arizona State guy to be the first pick in the draft:
1965: Rick Monday, A’s
1976: Floyd Bannister, Astros
1978: Bob Horner, Braves

Elsewhere in the world…….
5) Korean baseball teams have three foreign players, but two have to be pitchers, only one can be a position player. Former Phillies’ OF Aaron Altherr is the NC Dinos’ one foreign position player, and they have him batting 8th, after he got off to a slow start.

Dinos are the best team in the league so far, at 24-7; Altherr is batting .286, with 30 RBI in his first 31 games.

4) Weird thing; foreign players do not belong to the Players’ Association in the KBO; only the Korean players belong to that. Go figure.

3) Of the first 147 games in the KBO season, only ten were 0-0 after four innings. Hitting is better than pitching in the KBO, and the defense is a little suspect.

2) Mike Schmidt, George Brett are two of the greatest third basemen ever; how odd is it that they both drove in exactly 1,595 runs in the careers?

1) RIP to Claudell Washington, 65, who played 17 years in the majors for seven teams, but he came up to the A’s as a 19-year old in 1974, and boy could he hit. He helped the A’s win the ’74 World Series, their third in a row. Joe Rudi even moved to 1B to make room for Claudell in the outfield.

This was before ESPN and the Interweb, so news got out slowly back then; the Sporting News was great for baseball knowledge, but it was a weekly paper. Remember reading how when he first came up to the majors, Claudell ate all junk food, saved the rest of his meal money and bought a mink coat with the extra money.

Claudell Washington hit .278 for his career, made two All-Star teams. RIP, sir.

TV highlight of the day: Rounds 2-5 of the baseball draft; Texas Rangers picked a guy in the 2nd round who wasn’t in the top 500 of the list of an analyst on MLB Network. Dan O’Dowd, former GM of the Colorado Rockies, said he saw the kid play and “……he should’ve gone to college”

Author: Armadillo Sports

I've been involved in sports my whole life, now just write about them. I like to travel, mostly to Las Vegas- they have gambling there.