|04.02.10 at 10:48 pm ET|
Spring finally is in the air, and that mean one thing to baseball fans: Opening Day. After months of waiting and agonizing weeks of spring training speculation, the Red Sox roster is set and the regular season opens Sunday night. And the opponent is a familiar one — the defending World Series champion New York Yankees.
It is the second straight year that the Sox have faced the defending AL champs in their home opener, after they defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 5-3 last season. That was a memorable opener, with Josh Beckett helping the Red Sox get revenge after their defeat at the hands of the Rays in the playoffs the season before by dealing seven innings of two-hit ball. Beckett will be back on the hill Sunday night vs. Yankees ace CC Sabathia as the Sox try to keep their five-game home opening win streak alive. But before you focus on that, here are some of the memorable opening day moments in the past 30 years of Red Sox history.
The Red Sox and A’s opened the Major League schedule in 2008, but the game wasn’t played at Fenway or the Coliseum in Oakland. Instead, the Sox headed to Japan to play at the Tokyo Dome the year after winning their second World Series of the decade. It was the earliest opener ever, and it allowed Daisuke Matsuzaka to pitch in his home country. While Dice-K could only get a no-decision after struggling early, Manny Ramirez delivered the game-winning two-run double in the 10th inning to give the Sox a 6-5 victory.
Just in case Yankees fans had somehow recovered from the Sox’ astounding comeback after being down 3-0 in the ALCS, there was a little salt to rub in their wounds in the 2005 home opener. The teams opened the season in New York on April 3 (a 9-2 New York win), and eight days later, the Sox opened their home slate vs. the Yankees and received their World Series rings from 2004.
If the fans weren’t delirious enough, they certainly were after the Sox emerged with an 8-1 win. Here is a gallery from the memorable day.
The first game of the Terry Francona era was also the last Opening Day start in a Sox uniform for Pedro Martinez. Pedro had a forgettable day, giving up seven hits and three runs in his six innings in an ugly 7-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. Maybe he didn’t have his lucky charm with him that day.
Red Sox fans would prefer to forget the disastrous closer-by-committee idea. It was one that was doomed from the start, as the Sox let up five runs in the ninth to blow a 3-1 lead and lose the opener, 6-3. Despite a gem from Pedro, who let up one unearned on just three hits, Alan Embree and Chad Fox couldn’t hold the lead. Embree let up a two-run homer to journeyman Terry Shumpert and Fox gave up the game-winning three-run shot to Carl Crawford as the Sox fell.
The Sox entered the ninth inning down 5-2 to the Anaheim Angels but unleashed a furious comeback off of one of the best closers in the game, Troy Percival. The Sox rallied for four runs in the inning and earned a dramatic 6-5 win, thanks in large part to Percival imploding, walking three guys and letting up the four in just two-thirds of an inning to start off the year with an astounding 54.00 earned run average. That probably was enough to make Percival let out a few obscenities.
Roger Clemens delivered a gem at Fenway Park, but he was matched by Tigers ace Jack Morris. Both starters went nine innings and let up three runs and the game entered extra innings. Sox manager John McNamara brought in closer Lee Smith to take Clemens’ place, but that was a disastrous decision. Smith gave up a two-run bomb with two outs to Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell, giving the Tigers the 5-3 victory. And that is why you don’t bring a closer in when the game is tied.
The Sox held a precarious 1-0 lead over the Angels thanks to a solid performance from lefty Bruce Hurst. But the Angels rallied in the last inning and loaded the bases after an intentional walk with two outs. With Bob Stanley on in relief, Jackie Gutierrez, who had come in to play short after starter Glenn Hoffman was lifted for a pinch-hitter, committed an error that let two runs in, losing the game in shocking fashion.
This was a memorable opener for one reason: the return of Carlton Fisk to Boston in a White Sox uniform. Fisk signed as a free agent with Chicago in the offseason after spending his first 11 seasons in a Red Sox uniform. In the familiar surroundings of Fenway Park in his first game with the other Sox, Fisk smacked a three-run home run to give his new team a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning. The White Sox went on to win the game 5-3.
|04.02.10 at 7:56 pm ET|
The history between LaDainian Tomlinson and the New England Patriots has been a little rocky. Who are we kidding? The history has been like a gigantic boulder rumbling down the side of a mountain. The two sides just don’t get along, and now Tomlinson, who recently signed with the Jets, can look forward to playing the Pats twice a year.
Just ask LT. He’ll tell you he’s cool with that.
“The Patriots have always been one of them teams that, it’s hard for me to swallow that pill of losing to them, so it’s going to fun to play them twice a year,” he said to the media on Thursday. “And, it’s going to be one of my main goals to beat them twice.”
Tomlinson has had an up-and-down career against the Patriots. Sometimes he has been the heralded running back who never gets his due because he plays on the West Coast, while other times Patriots fans laugh and say, “Really? This guy is one of the best running backs of all-time?”
Tomlinson’s teams have a 3-5 record vs. the Patriots, with two of those losses in the playoffs. Here is a look back at LT’s career vs. the Patriots, dating back to 2001.
Oct. 14, 2001
Tomlinson had a decent game against a stingy Patriots defense in this early season matchup. He rushed for 74 yards with a score on 24 carries, and caught three balls for 13 yards. An OK day, but the Patriots ended up coming out on top, in what would be a recurring theme of that 2001-02 season.
Tom Brady led the Patriots back from a 10-point deficit and Adam Vinatieri nailed a 44-yard field goal to win the game. Sound familiar?
LT was running the ball pretty well against his earlier opponents, putting up three 100-plus-yard games before heading to Foxboro. The Patriots may have given the rest of the league a blueprint for how to stop LT that season, because the running back did not reach the 100-yard plateau again until the Chargers’ 15th game of the season. If you weren’t counting at home, that’s nine straight games.
Sept. 29, 2002
LT got a little bit of revenge on the Patriots in this game. OK, a lot of bit of revenge. He scorched the Pats defense for 217 yards and two TDs on 27 carries. His touchdown runs were for a game-tying 37 yards and then 58 yards on the game-winning score.
This was the Patriots’ first loss in 13 games, after they ran through the 2001 season and beat the Rams in the Super Bowl.
It was a little revenge for the Chargers running back, and he would go on to have a big season, rushing for 1,683 yards and 14 scores.
Oct. 2, 2005
LT and the Chargers would have to wait a couple of years to get another crack at the Patriots, but when they did, they brought some pain to Foxboro. The Chargers whipped the Patriots, 41-17, and LT had his second straight good performance vs. the Patriots.
He had a combined 168 yards (rushing and receiving) and scored twice. This was one of the worst beatings the Patriots had taken in recent years in Foxboro, and the Chargers showed they had a balanced attack. Drew Brees also threw for two TDs, keeping the defense off balance.
The win also snapped the Patriots’ 21-game home winning streak, just more bragging rights for Tomlinson.
Jan. 14, 2007
Patriots fans will remember this game for a long time, thanks to one of the biggest plays in Patriots postseason history by Troy Brown.
Tomlinson had a decent day on the ground, rushing for 123 yards with two TDs, but the Patriots somehow managed to escape San Diego with a win. After the controversial celebration by the Patriots at the middle of the field, LT just snapped.
Those are some harsh words for a team that just beat you on your home field. One thing teams shouldn’t do is feed the bear they call Bill Belichick, and LT gave him plenty of tape to show over and over again every time the Patriots played the Chargers.
Sept. 16, 2007
“I think the Patriots actually live by the saying, ‘If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.’ ” — Tomlinson
Tomlinson was quick to jump on the pile of people denouncing the Patriots domination in the 2000s, and man did he wish he didn’t say those words. The Patriots destroyed the Chargers, 38-14, and Tomlinson ran for a miniscule 43 yards on the day.
The Patriots really wanted to put a hurting on the Chargers, and you have to wonder if LT would have been better off keeping his mouth shut. In a matter of a year, LT had called the Patriots classless and cheaters. Boy, should he have kept his mouth shut.
The Patriots would go on to win all their games in the regular season and … we know, never mind.
Jan. 20, 2008
Two rushes, five yards.
That was Tomlinson’s stat line in the biggest game of his life. Yes, he was slowed by a knee injury, but who can forget LT sitting on the sideline with his helmet on, visor on … in a Chargers winter parka.
It was classic LT that season against the Patriots. They knocked him around in the first meeting and the super Charger never even stepped on the field to make an impact in this game. However, it wasn’t the Patriots’ best game ever, either. The Pats squeaked by the Chargers and the visiting team had ample opportunities to turn drives into points, but the Chargers never came through and the Pats were on to the Super Bowl.
This really was the beginning of the end for LT in San Diego, because he failed to show up in a big game again for the Chargers and Michael Turner kind of showed that he could be a feature back in this league.
Oct. 12, 2008
This was LT’s last shot against the Patriots in a Chargers uniform, and he played decently. But everyone could clearly see that this had become Philip Rivers’ team. Rivers threw for 306 yards and three TDs, while Tomlinson did what he had to on the ground.
He grinded out 74 yards on 20 carries and also had 44 receiving yards as the Chargers beat the Brady-less Patriots, 30-10.
So now, Tomlinson will get two cracks at the Patriots per year. The Chargers clearly didn’t think he had anything left in the tank, and the Jets were willing to get rid of Thomas Jones to bring in LT. We’ll just have to wait and see if LT will be smiling or hiding behind the mask after games against Brady and Co.
|04.02.10 at 7:24 am ET|
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:
Nationals at Red Sox, 1:05 p.m.
Rockets at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (CSNNE; WEEI)
Red Sox at Nationals, 4:05 p.m. (MLBN)
NCAA semifinals, Butler vs. Michigan State, 6:07 p.m. (CBS)
Bruins at Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. (NESN)
Revolution at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m. (CSNNE)
NCAA semifinals, West Virginia vs. Duke, 8:47 p.m. (CBS)
Cavaliers at Celtics, 1 p.m. (CSNNE)
Yankees at Red Sox, 8:05 p.m. (NESN/ESPN2)
AROUND THE WEB:
♦ Joey Johnston in The Tampa Tribune has a piece on Butler’s version of “The Blind Side,” junior guard Shawn Vanzant, who was taken in by a Tampa-area family as a youngster.
♦ William C. Rhoden in The New York Times tells the story of a former Butler track athlete now gravely ill with ALS heading to Indianapolis from his home in Florida to watch his alma mater in the Final Four.
♦ Tim Kawakami in The San Jose Mercury News looks at how the proposed 96-team NCAA tournament will water down the field.
♦ Mark Alesia in The Indianapolis Star examines graduation rates of players who appeared in the Final Four from 1991-2007, and it’s not as bad as you might think.
♦ Tom Moroney on Bloomberg.com has more on Major League Baseball’s attempts to make the Red Sox and Yankees speed up their games.
♦ Mark Heisler in The Los Angeles Times writes that while Lakers fans are panicking after the team’s recent struggles, history indicates there might not be reason for concern.
ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On April 2, 2000, the Red Sox signed which former Twins star as a free agent?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We have to find ways to win these games. We did in New Jersey because we had everyone in. Tonight, we didn’t have everybody there, so the results are there.” — Bruins forward Mark Recchi, after Thursday night’s 1-0 loss to the Panthers
STAT OF THE DAY: 121 minutes, 42 seconds — Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask’s shutout streak that came to an end 7:15 into Thursday night’s game
‘NET RESULTS: Following up on Thursday’s cricket link, here’s another, only with less-impressive play. This team clearly did not follow the Red Sox’ strategy of focusing on defense.
Impressive high school dunk, except it didn’t count as the referee called charging.
TRIVIA ANSWER: Gary Gaetti, who played just five games for the Sox that year, his 20th and final season in the majors
SOOTHING SOUNDS: Emmylou Harris is 63 today.
|04.01.10 at 7:04 am ET|
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:
Twins at Red Sox, 1:05 p.m. (ESPN)
Panthers at Bruins, 7 p.m. (NESN)
NIT championship, North Carolina vs. Dayton, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Stan Grossfeld in The Boston Globe writes about Bernie Carbo, who recounted how he was abusing drugs throughout his baseball career, including during the 1975 World Series, when he hit two memorable home runs for the Red Sox. Carbo now is a born-again Christian after receiving help from former Sox players.
A Yankees fan is hoping to stick it to Red Sox Nation this month. A John Hancock employee wrote a letter that was published on Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, indicating that he’s hoping to earn the right to throw out the first pitch before a Sox game by raising the most money of any John Hancock employee running the Boston Marathon. If he wins, Drewry said he plans to wear a Yankees hat, jersey and coat onto the field.
Baseball writer Tom Verducci will be on WEEI this afternoon. To prepare, check out his column at SI.com about 10 things he’s looking forward to this season.
Recently deposed Boston College basketball coach Al Skinner has been criticized for his work ethic at BC. Here’s a story from Tuesday’s New York Times about Steve Lavin, and it implies that the man who beat out Skinner for the St. John’s job isn’t exactly a workaholic himself.
Bob Kravitz at IndyStar.com catches up with Bobby Plump, the real-life high school basketball hero portrayed in the movie “Hoosiers.” Plump, the inspiration for Jimmy Chitwood, led Milan High to the 1954 Indiana state title and then starred at Butler. He now owns an Indianapolis-area bar. Here’s another piece from Tuesday’s New York Times in which Pete Thamel talks to Plump, who says the Bulldogs shouldn’t be considered a Cinderella team, but he’s enjoying the ride all the same.
ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On April 1, 1973, which Celtic tied an NBA playoff record with 24 field goals as part of his 54-point performance in a 134-109 rout of the Hawks in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I thought we were playing Michael [expletive] Jordan tonight the way he was getting the whistle,” — Kevin Garnett, on Thunder star Kevin Durant following Wednesday night’s Celtics loss
STAT OF THE DAY: 4 — Years Rick Pitino’s contract was extended at Louisville, locking him up through 2016-17
‘NET RESULTS: Denard Span of the Twins fouls a ball into the seats and then runs to the stands when he realizes it hit his mother. She’s OK.
Here’s a soccer game in which a player makes a pass with his back. Haven’t seen that before.
Check out this cricket catch. I don’t know the rules either, but it looks impressive.
In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s that incredible finish from Monday night’s Stanford-Xavier women’s basketball Elite Eight game.
Chicago Bulls guard Flip Murray flips in a shot from beyond halfcourt, but it doesn’t count.
TRIVIA ANSWER: John Havlicek
SOOTHING SOUNDS: Marvin Gaye was killed by his father on this day in 1984. Here’s his memorable rendition of the national anthem from the 1983 NBA All-Star Game.
|03.31.10 at 8:19 am ET|
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:
Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 p.m.
Thunder at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (CSNNE; WEEI)
WHAT’S ON THE WEB:
♦ In The Philadelphia Inquirer, Peter Mucha re-examines the end of the 2005 Super Bowl between the Patriots and Eagles and concludes that Donovan McNabb did not throw up during the Eagles’ final drive.
♦ Robert Wright has an interesting opinion piece in The New York Times in which he discusses the “moral litmus test” America faces in regards to Tiger Woods.
♦ The Miami Herald has the annual “Everyone hates Duke” column, and Israel Gutierrez starts his assault with Mike Krzyzewski.
♦ Meanwhile, John Harris in The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review looks at West Virginia coach Bob Huggins and his “anti-hero” status.
ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On March 31, 1991, which Bruin set an NHL single-game record with 10 penalties (six minors, two majors, a misconduct and a game misconduct) in a 7-3 victory over the Hartford Whalers?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Change is good sometimes. How many basketball coaches have been in the same position for 13 years? Very, very few.” — Boston College director of athletics Gene DeFilippo, at Tuesday’s press conference to discuss the reasons for Al Skinner’s departure
STAT OF THE DAY: 5 — Shutouts this season for Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, after Tuesday night’s 1-0 win over the Devils
‘NET RESULTS: “The Daily Show” takes a closer look at the proposed all-white basketball league and its founder.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
TRIVIA ANSWER: Chris Nilan
SOOTHING SOUNDS: Herb Alpert is 75 today. That’s the Carpenters introducing him.
|03.30.10 at 7:12 am ET|
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:
Red Sox at Rays, 1:05 p.m. (ESPN)
Bruins at Devils, 7 p.m. (NESN)
WHAT’S ON THE WEB:
♦ The Nets beat the Spurs Monday night (the Spurs must have been tired from romping past the Celtics the night before). This allowed New Jersey to get to 10 wins and avoid tying the 76ers’ 1972-73 mark for the worst record in NBA history. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski writes that brighter days appear to be ahead for the Nets, with free-spending Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov running the show. Stephanie Baker at Bloomberg.com has more about the 6-foot-7 Prokhorov, who says he’ll be the first NBA owner who can dunk (non-Michael Jordan category).
♦ Frank Hughes at SI.com writes about current and former NBA players organizing a summer charity game in Seattle to pay tribute to the city that lost its club to Oklahoma City. Celtics guard Ray Allen is one of the ringleaders. Also, there is a movement building to retire Gary Payton’s number at the game. Payton said he doesn’t want the Thunder to retire his number because he has no ties to Oklahoma City.
♦ In the New York Post, Mike Vaccaro writes that St. John’s can become relevant again with the hiring of Steve Lavin, which seems set to be announced Wednesday. Meanwhile, Al Skinner may be on the outs at BC, with a decision expected today.
♦ Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star writes about Butler’s run to the Final Four and how there is more to the team than the Cinderella story being talked about.
ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On March 30, 1976, which Celtic joined Bill Russell and Bill Bridges as the only players in NBA history to collect 10,000 before scoring 10,000 points?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We can’t keep hoping for other teams to lose games. We have to control our destiny and win games ourselves so we have our standing under control.” — Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg
STAT OF THE DAY: 6 — Times goaltender Tim Thomas has been pulled from a Bruins game, as he was Monday night in a 3-2 loss to the Sabres
‘NET RESULTS: NBA star Dwyane Wade and tennis great Andy Roddick played each other in tennis and HORSE.
Former Boston College hockey star Patrick Eaves, now playing for the Red Wings, had a little trouble with a shootout attempt.
TRIVIA ANSWER: Paul Silas
SOOTHING SOUNDS: Eric Clapton is 65 today.
|03.29.10 at 3:10 pm ET|
Another year, another round of renovations at Fenway Park have taken shape. The Red Sox announced the new improvements to “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark” on Monday with just under a week to go until the 2010 campaign.
The renovations aren’t major this go around, but the Fenway Faithful will notice some newer seats, improvements to the concourse behind home plate and even some vegetarian options on the menu. So if the Fenway Frank isn’t on your list of things to eat, try a veggie dog. (Does this still make it a true Fenway Frank?)
Fenway Park has come a long way since John Henry and friends bought the team in 2002. It seems like a lifetime ago when former CEO John Harrington announced plans to knock down the old stadium and put up a brand new park.
The improvements have been big and small, but there definitely are some renovations that stand out above all the rest. Here are the top five improvements to Fenway Park since 2002.
No. 5: Game On (2005) and Bleacher Bar (2008)
Remember the old days when the Cask ‘n Flagon was the only baseball bar in the Fenway Park area before games? The lines were almost to Kenmore Square to get into the famous tavern, but in 2005 the Red Sox unveiled Game On right across the street from the Cask.
It gave those who were of legal age to enjoy an adult beverage a place to go and not wait in one line, now they were able to wait in two lines. Once inside, patrons could choose from a quieter upstairs to a louder, TV-filled room in the basement, which also is equipped with a batting cage.
If one bar wasn’t good enough, adding a second one to Lansdowne Street was even more necessary. But this one goes a bit further and actually allows you to watch the baseball game through a screen in center field. In 2008, the former storage for landscaping equipment was turned into the Bleacher Bar, and now people can watch the games without actually paying for a ticket.
This makes the Fenway experience even more unique, because what other stadium allows you to watch games for free? Although we are guessing the Red Sox get a big taste of the profits.
These two renovations might not have affected the goings-on inside the park, but the two new bars brought more people and more buzz to the area before and after games.
No. 4: EMC and State Street Pavilion (2006)
This had to stay a little further down on the list because casual fans may never actual see the inside of the new luxury boxes that arrived in 2006.
There is a dress code for the club, which may take away some of the experience from the casual fans. According to the Red Sox website, men must wear business casual attire and women must wear clean dresses or dress skirts. Nothing screams take me out to the ball game like that attire right there. We wonder if the casual fan would want to sit up there if they couldn’t don their pink hats or Dustin Pedroia jerseys.
But the new luxury boxes do generate a lot of revenue to keep the team competitive and reach that 95-win plateau year in and year out. So, the new section has to make the list.
No. 3: Budweiser Right Field Roof Deck (2004)
What was once just a roof in right field where people dreamed of a left-handed slugger blasting a ball is now a place filled with tables, a big bar and a great view of the whole ballpark.
Fans can get a table and sit and enjoy the game from a great view of the whole park. The Red Sox and NESN took it a step further and started the dating reality show “Sox Appeal” from one of the tables in the Budweiser Roof Deck.
There are 55 tables up on the roof deck and fans have to enter a lottery for the seats, so not everyone has the opportunity to sit there. But the idea of putting seats above the retired numbers was a great idea, because it was just wasted space before that. Now it’s probably the second-best place to watch the game at Fenway.
No. 2: Yawkey Way Concourse (2002)
This was one of the first things that the Red Sox brass took care of when they started the renovations. The lines to get into Fenway are still long, but the old turnstile entrances were kind of a pain, because anyone could walk up to the gates, and the ticket-checking process used to take a little longer.
So the team decided to build a concourse on the famous street and only allow those with tickets a chance to hang out on Yawkey Way. Fans who have tickets can now grab a beer or some food right in the street and enjoy a good time before the game. NESN does its pregame show right in the area, so any person can wave to the camera to prove they were actually at the game or get caught by the boss for skipping out a little bit early from work.
The buzz outside that area is great now, especially before games against the Yankees, the playoffs and Opening Day. The Souvenir Store now gets all of those going to the game an open access to buy all sorts of Red Sox attire, and more revenue equals better players and more wins.
No. 1: Green Monster Seats (2003)
Can you name a better seat across the major leagues? We didn’t think so. Look back at old clips of games before the 2003 season and try to remember the big net that gobbled up all the home runs and would-be souvenirs. Now head to the park today and try to imagine that net there now.
The seats just made sense, and it was too bad these weren’t around for the Home Run Derby in 1999.
This has to be one of the most unique views in all of baseball. Yes, you do lose a little bit of a straight down view when you sit above the Green Monster but you are above the rest of the park with the best view of the entire field.
Now fans can gobble all those wasted souvenirs, and there is a standing room area if you don’t have an assigned seat in the section. The process to get the seats is like the Budweiser Roof Deck, as fans have to enter in a lottery to get the seats.
But when you look at the ballpark now, it looks like those seats have always been there.
According to Monday’s press release, “It is anticipated that 2011 will be the final year of major, annual improvements to the ballpark, completing a 10-year cycle.” So, who knows if anything else will come along and knock the Monster Seats off the top spot, but we are guessing that won’t be the case.
|03.29.10 at 2:51 pm ET|
Everyone loves an underdog, and no sporting event delivers more than the NCAA tournament. And while Cinderellas including St. Mary’s and Northern Iowa fell over the weekend after some shocking upsets (though St. Mary’s beating Villanova was not that surprising), at least fans still can root for Butler.
The Bulldogs return to Indianapolis for the Final Four riding a 24-game win streak after disparaging No. 2 seed Kansas State in the West Regional final 63-56 on Saturday. Butler will be playing just five miles from its campus and home base at Hinkle Fieldhouse, which just so happens to be where one of the greatest stories of a basketball Cinderella run was filmed: “Hoosiers.”
This Butler team is no Hickory High — it came into the tournament ranked No. 11 in the AP poll — but it still is an underdog against the likes of West Virginia, Duke and Michigan State, just like it was against Syracuse and Kansas State. In fact, a lot of people have egg on their face after picking UTEP as a likely upset candidate against the Bulldogs in the first round. Add up all that, and that is enough to make the Horizon League champs join the list of the tournament’s Cinderella squads, even if the Bulldogs don’t fit the traditional criteria that some of the other notables below do.
1966 Texas Western Miners
How do you know you are a Cinderella? Well, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a Disney movie made about your team.
Sorry to spoil the movie, but this was the Texas Western team that helped change the dynamics of college basketball. Don Haskins trotted out an all-black starting five in the NCAA championship tilt and stunned the legendary Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky squad, 72-65. So although UTEP (which is what Texas Western became) fell to Butler this year, it still has its own memorable story.
1970 Jacksonville Dolphins
Back when the term Cinderella was more about the fairy tale, future ABA and NBA great Artis Gilmore led Jacksonville on an unheralded run in the 1970 NCAA tournament. Though the Dolphins eventually fell to perennial powerhouse UCLA — which would win its seventh title in eight seasons — in the championship game, 80-69, they upset a number of high-profile teams along the way. With Gilmore and fellow 7-footer Pembrook Burrows in the middle, the high-scoring Dolphins — they were the first team in NCAA history to average over 100 points — took down the likes of Iowa and Rupp’s top-ranked Kentucky squad, helping Jacksonville become the smallest school (by enrollment) to ever make it to the Final Four and play for the title. And as the players recall, Jacksonville certainly played up the “nobody believes in us” mantra that has become a Cinderella staple to this day.
1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack
NC State and Jim Valvano were giant-killers. And in the 1983 championship game, they slayed one of the biggest favorites that college basketball had ever seen — Houston’s Phi Slamma Jamma squad, led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. No team with 10 losses had ever won the NCAA championship, until the Cardiac Pack pulled off the improbable and made its march. NC State, which won seven of its last nine games after trailing in the final minute, pulled off one of the most memorable endings in college basketball history thanks to Lorenzo Charles.
1985 Villanova Wildcats
Celtics fans will remember Ed Pinckney for his tenure in Boston, and Danny Ainge actually was dealt in the move to get Pinckney and Joe Kleine in green. But before he was an NBA bust, Pinckney was a star for ‘Nova in the 1985 tournament. In the first year the field was expanded to 64 teams, the eighth-seeded Wildcats became the lowest-seeded team ever to win a championship. But Rollie Massimino’s team came through with the upset in the final against Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown team, the top-ranked team in the nation and the defending national champion, thanks to a tremendous shooting display that featured the Wildcats shooting 78.6 percent from the field.
2006 George Mason Patriots
In 2006, George Mason redefined the term Cinderella and mid-major, all in one fell swoop. The 11th-seeded Patriots marched to the Final Four in stunning fashion, joining the 1986 LSU Tigers as the lowest seed to reach the tournament semifinals and provided the most memorable tournament run in recent history.
This was a team that lost to Hofstra in the Colonial tournament and had to face the likes of Michigan State — which had made a Final Four appearance the previous year — the defending national champion in North Carolina and tournament favorite UConn. But Jai Lewis, Tony Skinn and the Patriots overcome the odds and made it to Indianapolis. The slipper finally came off against Florida, which would go on to win the championship, with a 73-58 loss in the semifinals, but not before George Mason shocked the college basketball world on the sport’s biggest stage multiple times.
|03.29.10 at 7:27 am ET|
Welcome to Monday’s Morning Mashup. We’re changing our format starting today. Instead of the recap of all the day’s top news, we’re highlighting a few interesting stories from around the sports world. We still have our videos, trivia and other assorted tidbits below. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the wire updates.
First off, here’s what’s happening today on the local scene:
Sabres at Bruins, 7 p.m. (VERSUS)
Rays at Red Sox, 7:05 p.m. (NESN/MLBN)
Here are some stories worth checking out:
♦ Martha Burk, who led a 2003 protest against Augusta National for its exclusion of women, was interviewed by the New York Daily News and had some interesting things to say about Tiger Woods returning for the Masters. “I think this is a safe haven for him,” Burk said. “They’re all chauvinists themselves. It’s a perfect fit. He’ll be welcomed. These people have a fundamental disregard for women. What produced Tiger Woods as we now know him goes back a long way.” Added Burk: “He always seemed to be super disciplined, an automaton. But once [the scandal] came out, it wasn’t so shocking. This kind of behavior is part of a fundamental misogyny that is displayed by many people in power. We see this a lot with politicians, your Eliot Spitzer … They get to thinking they are above it all. Tiger Woods just outdid everybody.”
♦ In the Wall Street Journal, Jason Gay writes that Butler is the obvious choice for nonpartisan fans watching the Final Four. He notes that Butler’s home arena, Hinkle Fieldhouse, was the building used for the state championship game in the movie “Hoosiers.”
♦ Over in England, in the Guardian, there’s a story about a government proposal to allow fans the first option to purchase their local soccer team before the team is sold to an outside party. The plan also requires all teams to hand over a 25 percent share to supporters.
♦ The Washington Post‘s Mike Wise tells the sad story of Gilbert Arenas’ estranged mother, who lived a troubled life before her death this month at the age of 46.
♦ The Los Angeles Times has a feature about Mike Penner, a Times sports columnist who killed himself last fall after struggling with his transgender status.
ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On March 29, 1929, the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup championship, taking a 2-1 victory and winning the best-of-three series in two straight against which opponent?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This does not change our progress. You trip up a little here, but it doesn’t change the mission we’re on or the direction we’re heading.” — Ray Allen, on the Celtics’ loss to the Spurs Sunday night
STAT OF THE DAY: 1-for-14 — The Celtics’ numbers on 3-pointers Sunday night
‘NET RESULTS: Jim Playfair, coach of the American Hockey League’s Abbotsford Heat, wasted two perfectly good hockey sticks complaining about a referee’s call.
And in a Brazilian soccer game, these players received shots of pepper spray from police for their behavior toward the referee.
Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash really likes to give out high-fives.
TRIVIA ANSWER: New York Rangers
SOOTHING SOUNDS: Bobby Kimball from Toto is 63 today. He’s the singer with the mustache.
|03.26.10 at 11:08 am ET|
Athletes and commercials — they just go hand in hand, especially here in New England. Want to sell a product? Put a Boston sports figure in it. Want to get people at the water cooler saying, “Hey did you see that commercial with so and so?” Put a Boston sports figure in it.
Clay Buchholz is just the latest Boston athlete to grace a TV commercial with his work for ESPN. If you haven’t seen it, here it is:
Just another way to make the Yankees look like the bad guys. I mean, who doesn’t love Neil Diamond’s upbeat, happy song “Sweet Caroline”? Only a Yankee or Yankees fan could hate it.
Boston athletes have been starring in TV ads for years. Here’s a look at some of the better commercials.
DAVID ORTIZ, ESPN
We’ll keep with the Red Sox vs. Yankees rivalry here, and ESPN rode the rivalry for all it’s worth with this one. Big Papi is sitting with Jorge Posada in a production meeting and everyone is getting on Posada about his hat.
Ortiz starts playing around with it and does the No. 1 cardinal sin if you are a Red Sox player — and everyone’s favorite mascot reacted just how every other Sox fan would have reacted.
We don’t want to say it, but since Ortiz donned that Yankees cap for who knows how many takes, his career has been, well, un-Papi like. Are we saying this is the cause for all the problems? No. Well, maybe.
ROGER CLEMENS, ESPN
Clemens was in the twilight of his career. Just ask Jack Edwards — now the play-by-play man for Bruins games on NESN. Edwards pitched a story about Clemens losing the zip on his fastball, and Keith Olbermann didn’t want to hear it.
Neither did Clemens.
You know a commercial is pretty good when you have to throw a mannequin in a fake confrontation. Or was that really Edwards? Who knows.
JONATHAN PAPELBON, CAR COMMERCIALS
That’s right, commercials, plural. Here is a compilation of “Cinco Ocho” showing off his best acting skills. We got to say, we are so glad he is really, really good at his day job.
LARRY BIRD VS. MICHAEL JORDAN, McDONALD’S
This has to be one of the greatest sports commercials ever created, right? Every kid in the ’90s was trying to emulate the shots these two were putting in, and there is no doubt in our minds that these two guys could make every shot they were attempting.
It was the ultimate game of H-O-R-S-E, and this really should have been a pay-per-view event. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.
The only question is, who do you think would win this game?
And here’s the less-well-known sequel, with Charles Barkley trying to butt in.
THE CELTICS’ BIG THREE, ESPN
The hype around the new “Big Three” was huge, and again ESPN jumped all over it. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce hadn’t even played a game together, and the search for a good nickname was the first thing on everyone’s mind.
So, the players searched out Scott Van Pelt.
“The Boston Three Party” was a good nickname, but not one used very often, if at all today. Maybe they should have stuck with the “Three Amigos.” UH!
PAUL PIERCE, ESPN
This commercial goes a little unnoticed, but we have to believe there really are people out there like this hitchhiker.
Just look at Pierce’s face, it’s priceless.
The NBA bus campaign has led to some pretty good commercials in over the years, and this one has to be right up there. We wonder if anyone has ever asked Pierce if they can just touch him, because he plays his part in the commercial pretty well. Like he’s been there before.
TOM BRADY, SNICKERS
We thought about adding the picture of Brady with the goat, but it’s not a television ad. Although, his teammates would probably throw that one in there.
This commercial is pretty rare, because we don’t really see Brady doing these kinds of ads anymore. Usually it’s Peyton Manning showing off his funny side. Take a look.
The funny thing is that he probably could have told the Jets what play was coming and still they wouldn’t have been able to stop it. Although, with Rex Ryan in the fold, that might not be the case anymore. It’s too bad Brady doesn’t do more commercials like this, because he and Manning could have a rivalry of who is the funnier guy in commercials.
We’ll finish up with the Bruins, saving one of the best for last. It’s always a conflicting thing for a man at a sporting event. Do you buy a beer for the pretty girl with the other jersey?
Well, if you are this guy you do, and the bear is not a big fan of that.
How much did that beer go for, anyway? We think that guy should have stood up for himself and demanded his money back for his beverage. At least show some fight in front of the new woman. It’s only a mascot, right?
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