Archive for the Sports Category

Ella hits Tiger Town

Posted in Family, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2020 by macmystery
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Ella shows off her Tiger Rag commemorating Clemson’s 2016 National Championship. The Tiger Rags were handed out to all fans in attendance of the 2017 home opener vs. Kent State, when the Tigers celebrated the national title.

Three years ago today (Sept. 2, 2020 since this post will go up after midnight), I took Dylan and Ella, along with my nephew Brayson, to the season-opening Clemson football game against Kent State in Death Valley.

For Ella, it was her first Clemson game. And she ate it up.

The Tigers won 56-3 that day over the Golden Flashes. Since Dylan has been the focus of a lot of the photos I’ve put out there, this is Ella’s turn to shine.

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Left to right, Brayson, Ella and Dylan pose at the top of the hill in Death Valley late in the 4th quarter against Kent State.

 

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Ella gives the Tiger Cub a high five.

 

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A good photo of Ella and Dylan, though I feel like something is missing. (Note my Deshaun Watson G.O.A.T shirt.)

 

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It took a lot of work to get Ella to pose with this Clemson cheerleader on the field after the game. She is beautiful. The cheerleader’s not bad, either, I guess. If you’re into that.

 

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Ella was much more thrilled to be posing with a member of the Rally Cats, or as Ella called them, the sparkly cheerleaders.

 

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Clemson backup quarterback Zerrick Cooper pauses for a photo while signing autographs for the kids on the field after the game.

 

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The Tiger Band throws shade at Ohio State during the halftime show by spelling out the score of Clemson’s 2016 playoff win over the Buckeyes, who have never beaten the Tigers.

 

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Tiger Band gives the Clemson head coach some love.

Happy birthday, Kid

Posted in Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2020 by macmystery

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The Splendid Splinter, Ted Williams (Baseball Hall of Fame)

 

Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived, would have been 102 years old today.

Williams, not just figuratively, but statistically, as well, is one of the greatest, if not THE greatest hitter in Major League Baseball history.

If you love baseball, it’s really hard not to love Ted Williams.

He is the all-time leader in on-base percentage (.482), second all-time in slugging percentage (.634) and second in OPS (1.116), the combination of those aforementioned two numbers, which essentially paints a picture of how productive a hitter is.

The leader in both categories in which Williams is second? Babe Ruth, often considered the game’s greatest player. But Williams, unlike Ruth, played his career in the live-ball era and played the majority of his career after integration, meaning all of the best players could finally make the major leagues. (More on this topic later.)

He is the last major leaguer to hit higher than .400 in a full season – .406 in 1941.

He won the Triple Crown in 1942 (.356, 36 HRs, 137 RBIs) – the last season before he joined the Marines as an aviator for World War II. And he won the Triple Crown in 1947 (.343, 32, 114), his second season back from WWII.

As a 2nd Lt., Williams was an F4U Corsair flight instructor at Naval Air Station Pensacola. He was in Pearl Harbor awaiting transport to a unit in the Pacific when Japan surrendered in 1945. He missed three full seasons in his prime (1943-45) for the war.

When the Korean War happened, Williams was called up from the reserves and assigned to VMF-311, Marine Air Group 33 in Phang, South Korea.

For much of the war, he was future astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn’s wing man. Glenn called Williams the best pilot he had ever seen. Glenn’s wife said he was the most profane man she’d ever met.

Williams earned the Naval Air Medal when his plane was hit across enemy lines and he guided it back safely, despite the plane eventually catching fire after a crash landing.

He finished his military career with two Silver Stars and three Bronze Stars. And he never complained about his time in the prime of his career lost to the service.

Using Williams’ averages during those periods in his career, in almost five full seasons, military service cost him 864 hits, 155 home runs and 582 RBIs. Adding those numbers to his career totals, Williams would have amassed more than 3,500 hits, good for fifth all-time behind just Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron and Stan Musial; 671 home runs, behind just Barry Bonds, Aaron, Ruth and Alex Rodriguez; and more than 2,400 RBIs, easily eclipsing Aaron as the all-time leader.

And it’s fair to say Williams could have done even more damage. He retired as a 41-year-old after a 1960 season that saw him hit .311 with 29 home runs and 72 RBIs. An all-star, he posted an OPS of 1.096. For reference, that OPS would have been second in the major leagues last season by .004.

In his retirement, Williams was an avid and talented fisherman, owning several records during his lifetime. He is a member of the International Fishing Hall of Fame, making him one of just four athletes to reach the Hall of Fame in multiple sports joining Jim Brown (football, lacrosse), Cumberland Posey (baseball, basketball) and Cal Hubbard (baseball, football).

Politically, Williams was once described as even “to the right of Attila The Hun,” except when it came to civil rights. Possibly the best thing Williams did off the baseball field during peacetime was to use his acceptance speech upon induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966 to advocate for the inclusion of Negro League players who had been denied the opportunity to play in the major leagues and were not eligible for the Hall.

“I hope that some day the names of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson in some way could be added as a symbol of the great Negro players that are not here only because they were not given the chance.”

 

 

Sporting another team’s colors

Posted in Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2020 by macmystery

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A Patrick Mahomes/Kansas City Chiefs T-shirt passed on to me by my friend Francie Szarek.

When you get deep into the NFL playoffs, or the playoffs in any sport, most folks’ teams are no longer in the mix.

Some people just kind of roll with it, enjoying the games. Some people have a betting interest.

And then I think there are a lot of fans that kind of pick favorites for the rest of the way. Sometimes because there’s a team they like a little that’s not their team, sometimes because of a particular player or players (I root for the teams that have the most Clemson guys on the roster), and then some are simply rooting AGAINST teams they can’t stand (see the Patriots).

Today, I’m wearing a Kansas City Chiefs/Patrick Mahomes T-shirt passed onto me to wear by my friend Francie Szarek. I think she’d admit she lives in a Pittsburgh Steelers household, but her husband’s Steelers are out and as a Kansas native, she’s all in on the Chiefs.

I was already pulling for the Chiefs. My Cowboys haven’t been in the NFC Championship in 20 years. And the Chiefs knocked the Houston Texans, my second favorite team, out last week. With three Clemson players on the roster, that makes them my favorite the rest of the way.

But wearing another team’s colors, gear etc., … do people do that? I can’t remember the last time I did it. Maybe Georgia Tech T-shirts in the 1980s? But I was a kid, and that happens.

Among my adult friends, any of them wearing another team’s stuff are an indication sex is or was happening. Obviously, today, I am an exception.

Do any other adults out there wear another team’s stuff?

Sweet Caroline!

Posted in Family, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2020 by macmystery

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My niece Caroline is ready to step to the free-throw line.

Bah bah nah. That’s what come’s after Sweet Caroline, no?

If there’s any confusion, this  is most assuredly not about that popular Neil Diamond ditty. While I’ll admit it’s catchy, when you listen to the words, the song is actually quite creepy.

It is even more so when you consider it was allegedly written about a quite underage — barely even teenage — Caroline Kennedy. Think about that next time you’re singing along during the seventh-inning stretch at a shitty Boston Red Sox game.

Nope. This epic blog post is about Caroline, my niece, named after my mother, Carole.

Caroline is my sister Michele’s only child, born roughly a half a year after my own daughter, Ella. Unlike Ella, who is quite small, Caroline is big. Quite big.

I don’t mean this in a bad way. But she takes after her father in the fact that she’s tall. Quite tall. And getting taller.

At the ripe age of 11, she has already surpassed her mother in shoe size. I’m sure Michele welcomes this. It means she’ll no longer worry about Caroline stealing her shoes.

Problem is, it means she’ll be buying a lot more shoes. And the growing is far from over.

Caroline isn’t just big in stature, she has a big voice and it’s impossible not to notice she’s in the room. And issues with her ear she’s had since birth mean she’s sometimes unintentionally loud.

And my nickname for her? Lovingly, it’s Big Head.

But her size betrays her. When you’re with her, you feel like you’re in the room with another adult. It’s easy to forget, she’s only 11. Sometimes it’s tough to not be hard on her. Her size, unfairly, honestly changes your expectations.

But she’s a good kid. And something else she has that’s big — her heart.

Caroline has been playing church league basketball for a couple years now. I’ve managed to attend several games when in town.

Her coaches have tried to take advantage of her size — who wouldn’t. They want her to go to a spot, turn, and ask for the ball. When she gets it, they want her to turn and shoot. No dribble. Simply post up. There’s no one in her league who can contest her.

All this makes sense. The results? A few points — the games are low-scoring and her shooting has been suspect. And a lot of rebounds.

But not so many wins.

In fact, until last week … zero wins. Some close calls, but no bananas.

Basketball-wise, Caroline has some things to work on. I have told her a couple of times, the best thing she could do to improve is play as much basketball as possible.

There is a conflict, unfortunately. The things her coach asks her to do aren’t wrong. They are the things that give the team the best chance to win.

But she needs to improve her shooting, dribbling, passing, … and the mental aspects. And she won’t get better at those things if all she does is post up, catch the ball, turn and shoot. She can only get better at those things by doing them. She needs to play ball, a lot of it, and against kids her size, where she’s forced to do those things.

During this offseason, she made a decision to get more serious about basketball. A huge Clemson fan, she has made it her goal to play for the Tigers.

A realistic goal? Who knows. But she’s playing with a purpose.

She has actually gone and talked to the people who would be her coaches at the junior high and high school level about what she can best do to be ready to play for them.

Last week, I got the texts from my sister that I usually get during Caroline’s games. Except this time, they ended differently.

Trailing 5-4 late in the 4th quarter — with both buckets belonging to Caroline — a late score from the coach’s daughter gave her team a long-elusive 6-5 win.

Caroline finished with 4 points on 2-for-3 shooting with 11 rebounds and zero fouls.

“It feels good,” she texted me after her first win. “I played like I had a goal in life.”

I reminded her that her goal was good, but to be careful to enjoy the moment and have fun, even if the goal doesn’t work out.

“I know and I did but I still want to work on my goal.”

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This week, Caroline and her team did it again. She scored 6 points — all on putbacks —  and her team won 8-4.

A winning streak. Who’d have thought it?

There’s really no point to all of this except that I love her. And some things seem to be breaking her way.

And there is no one happier for her than me. She, and her mama, deserve it.

 

At the finish line at last, R.I.P Silver Fox

Posted in Journalism, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2018 by macmystery

 

David Pearson

David Pearson

Born and raised in Georgia, I reside now in Beaufort, S.C., in the Lowcountry of the Palmetto State. But for roughly 15 years, Spartanburg County in the state’s upcountry was my home. My two children were born there.

Working for the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, I immersed myself in the area’s sports history, if not its history in general. And that included learning all about David Pearson.

Pearson died Monday (David Pearson’s New York Times obituary). He was to the Hub City what Hank Aaron is to Atlanta. Or, in an even better analogy, what Rocky Balboa is to Philadelphia.

What he is to stock car racing is the greatest driver to ever slide behind the wheel.

I am no longer a NASCAR fan for myriad reasons, too many to count or run down here. But I respect it. And there was a time the sport mattered more to me.

My parents, particularly my mother’s family, had roots in rural South Carolina, and there was a knowledge of stock car racing passed down. I heard tales of Fireball Roberts. There was disdain, but respect, for Richard Petty and the Petty clan. Cale Yarborough was a good ole South Carolina boy I heard good things about.

But there was nary a mention of Pearson, born in Whitney, a textile mill village in Spartanburg. And in a lot of ways, that is symbolic of Pearson’s career.

I have never fallen for the fool’s gold that is the Cup, be it the Winston, Sprint or Monster Energy. Auto racing championships are misleading. They are disingenuous. They lie to you.

There is one thing and one thing only that matters in racing. Winning. At the end of the day, you either won or your didn’t.

Richard Petty, a winner 200 times over, is nicknamed The King. Rightfully so. He is the all-time NASCAR leader in wins, and his mark will never be broken.

Richard Petty’s statement on the death of David Pearson

And if you care about such things, he won seven championships, tied with Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson for the all-time record.

If Richard Petty was NASCAR’s Joe DiMaggio, David Pearson was almost certainly its Ted Williams.

And like Williams, Pearson was better.

He won 105 times, 95 times fewer than Petty. Also a number no other driver has sniffed. But Pearson did it in less than half as many races than King Richard.

Contemporaries, Petty and Pearson clashed often, finishing 1-2 in a race 63 times. Pearson won 33 of those.

Essentially a part-time driver, Pearson picked and chose the races he ran, rarely ever coming even close to a full schedule. In fact, the only years Pearson competed in close to a full slate — 1966, 1968 and 1969 — he won NASCAR’s top championship.

From 1972 to 1978, Pearson raced in just 143 races. Roughly 20 races a season over seven years. He won 43 times, averaging six wins a year. That number alone is only one fewer than Bill Elliott, one of the sport’s all-time greats, won in his entire career.

Petty was big. He was brash. He was public.

Pearson was quiet. Friendly. But he was private.

The Silver Fox, as he was nicknamed for his driving acumen, was overshadowed while he was still winning. And he was somewhat, though not in Spartanburg, forgotten when he retired.

Until 1999.

As so many publications did for so many sports when the new millennium approached, Sports Illustrated named its driver of the century.

This time, Richard Petty didn’t win. It was David Pearson.

A panel of 40 of the greatest drivers, owners, executives and crew chiefs in the sports history gave Pearson the narrow victory. (Actually over Earnhardt. Petty was third.)

It happened again in 2011. This time the accolade came from the Sporting News.

Pearson’s peers knew.

Despite my long tenure in Spartanburg, I didn’t get to know Pearson. I was a copy editor and a page designer, rarely getting out to cover, report or write. I met him only a couple of times.

(It was my pleasure, however, on several occasions early in my tenure at the SHJ to pull a fax off the machine in the sports department in the wee early hours of a Saturday morning to find Pearson’s name in that Friday night’s results for one of the handful of dirt tracks in the area. He was in his 60s at the time.)

Two of my friends and co-workers got to know Pearson a little better. I am jealous of them both.

Chris Winston and Todd Shanesy have both spent time as the keeper of the stock car racing flame on the SHJ staff.

Winston, like me, no longer working for a newspaper, put together a book on stock car racing in South Carolina that included an entire chapter dedicated to Pearson.

I expect him, in the near future, to put his thoughts about Pearson together. When he does, I’ll share a link.

Shanesy still works for the Herald-Journal and wrote Pearson’s hometown obit on Monday night.

For Shanesy’s 1999 story on Pearson’s Sports Illustrated honor, he talked to Cotton Owens. Owens, whose given name was Everett, is a NASCAR Hall of Famer for his time as both a driver and a team owner.

Also a Spartanburg native, Owens owned the Dodge team that Pearson drove to the 1966 Grand National Championship and voted him No. 1 in that Sports Illustrated poll.

Owens wrapped Pearson up best.

“He was just the best ever. It didn’t matter what kind of track it was. Short track, speedway, dirt track, whatever. Pearson could win anywhere, any time.”

“There’s never been anybody like him.”