October 9, 2008

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LONGSHOTS: C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
by Dave Long

Here are some stories making news this week around the country and here at home.

News Item: Ming Dynasty in Making?

A record will be set at the Verizon Wireless Arena when seven-foot-eight-inch Yao Ming steps on the floor as the Celtics and Houston Rockets meet on Saturday night — he’ll be the tallest person to ever play basketball in New Hampshire. Who’s the previous record-holder, you ask? A couple come to mind. Fred Petty, a seven-footer from England with a sweeping hook shot who played under Senator Lou D’Allesandro at New Hampshire College in the mid-’70s. And there’s all-name teamer Pembroke Burrows the third. He later was half of the twin towers with Artis Gilmore when Jacksonville lost to Sidney Wicks and UCLA in the 1970 NCAA championship game. Give or take, he was around 7’1” and played at defunct Belknap College somewhere in the Lakes Region after being stashed there to keep him away from competing recruiters. There have been a number of seven-footers passing through Dartmouth over the years, with maybe the best being Brendan Haywood, who I saw doing the game on WMUR when mighty North Carolina came north to play in Hanover. But that’s only the second-tallest player in a game I’ve done on local TV.  The first is record-holder 7’6” Manute Bol, who came to NHC in a bizarre night with an SRO that so packed the gym players literally couldn’t go out of bounds as the crowd ringed the court.

Ming comes here Saturday on a team that has a chance to see the Celtics in June after adding mercurial Ron Artest to him and Tracy McGrady. A team that won 22 straight (without an injured Ming) before the Celtics ended it during a three-game sweep of the Texas triangle last February. That makes Saturday a hot ticket because it’s the Cs’ first visit in two years against a prime-time opponent with interesting players and there’s the chance to be there when history is made.

News Item: Teixeira and Niedermeyer Link Suspected

A major clue to what ever happened to the actor who played Douglas Niedermeyer in the classic fraternity spoof Animal House came to light this week. While the detestable Doug did show up some years ago in an episode of Seinfeld as the “maestro,” he’s gone underground since Animal House hit theaters in 1978. Thanks to numerous close-ups in the batter’s box against the Red Sox this week, an eerie, separated at birth, similarity between Angel slugger Mark Teixeira and Niedermeyer was discovered. Could it be Teixeira is his offspring, a product of a banned secret cloning operation, or maybe he found the Holy Grail to eternal youth? As Sarah Palin and Tina Fey like to say, I’ll have to get back to ya on that one, but it’s something and we picked up a big clue this week.

News Item: 18 Boston Alumni in Post-Season Play

Here’s a great post-season stat. There are 17 former Red Sox players dotting rosters of 2008 playoff teams. Throw in Dale Sveum managing the Brewers and the alumni list is 18. The Angels were the only team with none. They only seem familiar because the Sox have played them the last three times they’ve been to the World Series. The Philly-Milwaukee series had eight alums alone. In J. C. Romero and Rudy Seanez, a couple were so bad in Boston you wondered how the heck they ever got another job in the majors. But with ERAs of 2.75 and 3.53 I guess there’s life after Boston. Tom Gordon’s been gone so long you probably forgot he was still playing. There’s a few cup-of-coffee types in David Riske, Eric (yikes) Gagne and Cliff Floyd. Two who could still help are 92-year-old Philly lefty Jamie Moyer and Tampa’s Carlos Peña — who’s hit 77 homers and drove in 222 runs in the two seasons since Theo let him walk for nada. Orlando Cabrera and Gabe Kapler, who hit .301 for the Brewers, represents the 2004 world champs, while Eric Hinske represents the 2007 edition. And there’s L.A. with Nomar, D-Lowe and Manny. While Nomar is a sad shell of the great player he once was, at a young enough age to make you say hmmmmm, Derek Lowe is on a hot streak and Manny is being Manny in having maybe the greatest closing two months since Yaz carried Boston home in 1967. And since in addition to the Big Three they bring along old friend Joe Torre as manager, we can only hope it’s an L.A.-Boston series.  

News Item: And Then There Were Three in 2008

That alumni figure leads to the most astonishing thing about the 2008 Red Sox. Just three players on the playoff roster were also on the playoff roster in 2004. That’s a little skewed, as Kevin Youkilis played 70 games in 2004 but wasn’t on the post-season roster and Mike Timlin was with the team all year but isn’t on the 2008 ALDS roster — which leaves only David Ortiz, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield. That’s a shocking turnover in such a short period for a team that has stayed in the top tier during the same time. By contrast the Yankees had 10 guys who played for both the first World Series winner in the Torre era in 1996 and the last in 2000. And even the 2008 Patriots, in a sport where serious and career-threatening injuries are a weekly occupational hazard, still have twice that number of guys on today’s roster from their first world championship team, which came three years earlier in 2001. 

The turnover hastened by free agency and the ultimate Manny Being Manny drama has seen key players like Lowe, Pedro, Johnny Damon and finally Manny brought here by former GM Dan Duquette migrate elsewhere as they’ve kept winning. That means Theo Epstein has had to put his full stamp on the current Red Sox in a short time. And while not offering the star power of the 2004 edition (at least not yet), it’s still winning, though in a different way, with better fielding, more speed (three guys with over 20 steals) and a little less thump. It’s happened thanks in part to a farm system that blossomed quickly under his leadership. It made the team younger while giving it emerging payroll flexibility and the bargaining chips to put them in position to sustain it over the long haul. They’ve now got guys to step in when others leave and more ammo to get the big piece via a trade or free agency when needed — like a new bopper this off season. So it’s been a pretty masterful job by an inexperienced guy who took over the team five years ago at just 29. 

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day

9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
9/11/2008 After disaster Brady's bunch won't pass on season
9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial — stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK — it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did
02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat