BOZICH | Monday Muse: Missing Pee Wee Reese on his 100th birthday
By Rick Bozich
But I’ll step around all those items for the Monday Muse.
1. Happy Birthday Pee Wee
With the screaming and finger-pointing and arguing and fussing going on in sports today, this is a perfect opportunity to celebrate a man who did not symbolize any of that junk — Pee Wee Reese.
The greatest sports ambassador Louisville has produced would have turned 100 Monday.
The 2,170 hits were terrific. So were the 10 appearances on the National League all-star teams as well as the World Series rings Reese won with the Dodgers in 1955 and 1959.
Reese sold the game that he loved as an announcer on the national game of the week. He remained Mr. Baseball as the representative to major-league players for Hillerich & Bradsby. Reese and Rex Bradley made annual trips to spring training, the All-Star game and World Series.
(In 1981, when I covered my first World Series, Reese and Bradley saw me looking more lost than usual in baggage claim at the Los Angeles airport. I’ll never forget the ride they gave me to our downtown hotel — and I had just met them that day on our flight from New York City.)
But Reese’s most remarkable work was simply showing big-league players how to be a teammate.
Sounds simple — until you remember that nearly 60 years after Jackie Robinson integrated major-league baseball with the Dodgers, the game’s biggest story at the All-Star game last week was about racist (and homophobic) tweets discovered on the account of Josh Hader, a relief pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Reese, who was 81 when he died in 1999, would have been the perfect guy to educate Hader. Reese never talked as if he believed he did anything remarkable after Robinson joined the Dodgers in 1947, including his refusal to sign a players’ petition that threatened players would demand to be traded if their clubhouse was integrated.
Reese simply thought he was doing the right thing by refusing to sign, by admonishing opposing players to stop hazing Robinson and by standing in the middle of the diamond on an evening when the heckling was particularly out of bounds.
How tight was the bond between Reese and Robinson?
Bradley worked with Reese at H & B. In 1972, they attended a National League playoff game where Robinson was honored prior to the first pitch.
Robinson was blind. Bradley said that Robinson died about a week later. But he said that Reese saw his friend standing across the field and delivered his standard greeting from a distance.
“Jackie immediately turned toward Pee Wee and yelled out his name,” Bradley said. Within seconds, the two men locked in a long embrace.
Considering the nonsense at last week’s All-Star Game, consider it a reminder of how strong Pee Wee Reese stood when it mattered.
“Pee Wee never thought he did anything special for Jackie,” Bradley said. “He said he treated Jackie the same way that he treated everybody — with respect and love.”
2. Super Clemson
If you believe a great Clemson football program is great for the Atlantic Coast Conference, your theory is about to be tested.
Not only do the Tigers figure to be the pick to win the ACC, Clemson is a lock to start the reason ranked in the top five (probably top three) in the pre-season polls,.
Virginia sports writer David Teel wrote that Clemson’s 40-4 record over the last four season is second nationally to only You Know Who, and that the Tigers have an extraordinary amount of talent returning, especially on the defensive front. In fact, Teel wonders if the Tigers will return more talented players than any ACC team in many seasons.
Writes Teel, “Clemson has reached each of the three subsequent playoffs. Do I hear four?’
I believe I do hear four. Or five.
3. The Top 25 — Vegas Style
The pre-season magazines delivered their college football Top 25s several weeks ago. The AP writers’ poll and USA Today coaches’ poll will be available in the next month.
There is one more precinct to report: What does Las Vegas say?
Brian Edwards is one of the top handicappers at VegasInsiders.com. He shared his power ratings for the 2018 season. Don’t look for local representation. Nobody local made the list.
Edwards didn’t deliver anything outlandish. His top four are teams that should make a string of Top Fours this season — (in order) Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Washington.
Other ACC teams in Edwards’ Top 25 are Miami (17) and Florida State (18).
Seems like a short list for the ACC.
4. Double Coverage
They say all the advantages have moved to the offense in how college football is officiated, but sometimes even the refs can’t help.
Ask this wideout.
The only problem with this video is that I wish it would have rolled about 15 extra seconds.
Just to see if the receiver ever got up.
5. Heisman Complaints
Kentucky halfback Benny Snell is the local player most likely to earn a nod or wink during those mid-season Heisman Trophy roll calls that start rolling into the Sunday afternoon/Monday morning college football conversation.
But there are writers who believe the New York Downtown Athletic Club, which presents the award, has stiff-armed its signature trophy by requiring that voters refrain from discussing their votes before the Heisman is awarded.
The Heisman honchos were convinced the pre-Heisman polls had become so extensive and unrelenting that they drained all the drama from the show that ESPN paid real dollars to televise.
Websites such as StiffArmTrophy.com have turned off the juice of their Heisman Hype, and writers like Stewart Mandel of TheAthletic.com are convinced that the strict rules on discussing your ballot have hurt, not helped, the award — as determined by declining TV ratings.
Could be. Or it might be that ESPN turns a five-minute announcement into a 60-minute ordeal.
6. Projecting Romeo
Managing expectations for freshman Romeo Langford will be an immediate challenge for Indiana basketball coach Archie Miller.
Langford is a five-star recruit, Indiana’s first in-state Mr. Basketball since Cody Zeller and a guy who should be an ideal fit for the opening a two-guard on the Hoosiers’ roster.
Expectations will rage again looking at the numbers that Bart Torvik posted on his analytics college basketball site.
Torvik’s formula projects that Langford will be the fourth-leading freshman scorer in the nation at 14.8 points per game, trailing only R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish of Duke and Nassir Little of North Carolina.
Torvik’s most optimistic projection for a Kentucky freshman is 10 points and 6.1 rebounds for forward E.J. Montgomery. Western Kentucky center Charles Bassey also made Torvik’s list with projected numbers of 9.9 points and 6.1 boards.
Hurry up, college hoops.
7. Kelan Martin Update
Former Louisville star Raymond Spalding celebrated his big moment last week, signing a four-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks.
One other former Louisville high school star is also scrambling to make his way into the league — former Ballard forward Kelan Martin.
Undrafted after a splendid four-season career at Butler, Martin earned a NBA Summer League invitation from the Utah Jazz. He played solid, but not spectacular basketball for the Jazz in Las Vegas, averaging 6.8 points and 4.3 rebounds.
Martin told Evan Massey of NBAAnalysis.net that he hopes to pattern his game after Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder, a pair of former Marquette stars who have built their NBA careers on toughness.
But the Jazz have yet to offer Martin a contract for training camp. He will study his options with his agent.
8. Your move, Coach Cal
Kentucky and Duke only play once every three seasons in their season-opening party that also includes Michigan State and Kansas. But they’re competing every day.
For players. For branding. For the “It” Factor.
Especially for attention.
Kentucky has often maintained the lead in the publicity game with its NBA Scouting combine, creative use of social media and other goodies.
But don’t ever think that Mike Krzyzewski, even at 71-1/2, is unwilling to embrace the new world media order. He’s not.
Yes, that was LeBron James Jr. who made an unofficial visit to Cameron Indoor Stadium. And Jay Bilas as well as Dan Shulman, the ESPN A team announcing crew, will be at the microphone when the Blue Devils make their summer tour of Canada.
Coach K has also signed up for an eight-part all-access look at the program that will air on ESPN + this fall.
You have been warned.
9. Poll Results I
10. Poll Results II
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