#TBT Sports Blog: MLB’s Mr. November Derek Jeter

MIKE Comic 48 Mr. NovemberToday’s #TBT sports blog remembers one of Major League Baseball’s most admired players ever – Derek Jeter.

In addition to his Captain Clutch nickname, the retired New York Yankee also came to be known as Mr. November.

Derek Jeter got the name through the unique circumstances surrounding the postponement of the 2001 World Series.

The former New York Yankee shortstop not only earned his own separate month on the calendar in Major League Baseball lore.

But, Jeter also will be remembered as one of the greatest players and most trustworthy athletes of his generation.

It’s only fitting, and maybe even a little coincidental, that we honor Mr. November at the beginning of the month of November – the morning after an exciting World Series Game 7 was decided the previous night, November 1st, when the Houston Astros captured their first world championship.

2001 World Series & Derek Jeter

Due to the shocking September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, the Fall Classic between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks was delayed. Games were pushed back until late October.

The Yankees won Game 4 of the series when Derek Jeter hit a walk-off home run in the 10th inning. This extra-inning game took place for the first time during the month of November. The Yankee Stadium scoreboard recognized Jeter’s historic moment and immediately called him Mr. November.

Derek Jeter Excelled in the Post Season

Historically, Derek Jeter excelled in the post-season where he won five World Series championships and batted an impressive .351. The Yankee shortstop also played in a total of 152 post-season games. During that time, he made 679 plate appearances and collected 191 hits. No wonder why Derek Jeter was known for being clutch.

In addition to his remarkable post-season statistics, Jeter served as a terrific role model during his 20 years with the New York Yankees. The Yankee great is expected to be a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee.

This 1996 American League Rookie of the Year and 2000 World Series Most Valuable Player made 14 All-Star appearances. Mr. November’s also collected five Silver Slugger Awards and won five Gold Gloves.

The Late Don Zimmer Called Derek Jeter the All-time Yankee

Legendary baseball coach Don Zimmer appropriately called Jeter “the all-time Yankee.” Upon retiring last year, Jeter ranked as the all-time New York Yankees leader in hits, games played, stolen bases and at bats.

Over and above his baseball exploits, Derek Jeter’s leadership and ever present smile made him one of the most successful product spokesmen in sports.

Global brands like Nike, Gillette, Ford, VISA and Gatorade paid Mr. November handsomely to endorse their products – no matter what month of the year.Honor the Legend - Derek Jeter Retirement Day Gear at MLBShop.comFor Major League Baseball fans interested in authentic Derek Jeter sports memorabilia, simply click on the image above and visit MLB Shop.

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MIKE – the ultimate talking head on sports!

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Happy Halloween: “Deadly Sports Stuff” Comic Book

Deadly Sports StuffHappy Halloween!

To celebrate today’s holiday, I just released my 3rd edition of the sports comic book Deadly Sports Stuff.

It’s available for safe downloading on Amazon for just 99 cents. Click HERE.

Here’s my intro. It should give you a feel for what’s inside Deadly Sports Stuff……

…..Today’s sports world is preoccupied with death.

The deadly language of sports is absolutely lethal. It permeates the entire landscape of sports.

Grim jargon and murderous mumbling in sports don’t stop with just a handful of carcinogenic cliches.

Check Out These Deadly Nicknames

Toxic titles are foisted upon famous teams like Doomsday Defense.

They’re given to aggressive players like The Cannibal.

And, they’re even emblazoned on college stadiums like Death Valley.

In spite of these notorious names, we accept them, along with other widespread mortal murmurings, as part of our country’s sports culture.

But, don’t blame me for the deadly diatribe.

The Media’s Morbid Manner When Reporting on Sports

Register responsibility with the media for the morbid manner it reports on NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and FIFA action.

Yes, unrelenting mortal utterances are ubiquitous.

I laugh when I see how completely the media’s shroud of deadly clichés, references and expressions envelop sports in our society.

That’s why I wrote Deadly Sports Stuff. This book demonstrates how fixated sports fans are on the macabre. For example:

We applaud NFL punters for their mastery in directing punts into that eerie area called Coffin Corner.

We pay homage to fatal named athletes like The Embalmer, The Undertaker and The Executioner.

Former NHL player Alf Pike

We admire the deadly marksmanship of a guy named Pistol Pete who was the greatest scorer in NCAA basketball history.

We proudly refer to two college football stadiums as Death Valley.

We even look back longingly at the 1994 Arkansas Razorback NCAA championship basketball team and their suffocating defense known as “40 Minutes of Hell.”

And, as fans, we revel in the excitement of Sudden Death Overtimes.

Sure, our country’s preoccupation with death and sports can make us wince.

But, we voluntarily participate in perpetuating the deadly language of sports.

In football, we explain how the blitzing linebacker buried the quarterback.

In baseball, we applaud teammates for successfully executing a suicide squeeze play.

And, in basketball, we always seem to reference how their deadly shooters murdered us.

Admittedly, we all love it. So, enjoy this killer comic book aptly called Deadly Sports Stuff. It will make you laugh, but it certainly won’t kill you! Happy Halloween. Boo!

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MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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#TBT Sports Blog: Mr. October Reggie Jackson

Mr. October Reggie JacksonIt’s only fitting that Major League Baseball’s Mr. October Reggie Jackson leads off today’s #TBT sports blog.

This Baseball Hall of Fame slugger wore the colorful uniform of the Oakland A’s and the traditional pinstripes of the New York Yankees. He normally starred during the spring and summer months of the Major League Baseball season.

However, Reggie Jackson flourished on the baseball field during the fall.

That’s when he earned his nickname Mr. October.

Late Yankee Thurmon Munson Coined the Name Mr. October

Yankee teammate Thurmon Munson first used the title when questioned during the 1977 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Munson told a reporter to interview Jackson. He referred to the Yankee right fielder’s history of fantastic post-season games and said, “Go ask Mr. October.”

A 1999 Cooperstown Hall of Fame inductee, Reginald Martinez Jackson enjoyed a stellar 21-year Major League Baseball career. He retired in 1987. Jackson was a 14-time All-Star who hit 563 dingers, drove in 1,702 runs and batted .262 with 2,584 total hits.

The 1973 American League MVP also had his number 9 jersey retired in Oakland and his number 44 jersey retired in New York. Pretty great accomplishments, indeed!

Reggie Jackson: World Series MVP for Two Different Teams

A clutch hitting right fielder, Jackson had the ability to perform his best during post-season play. Mr. October ranks as the only baseball player ever to be named World Series Most Valuable Player for two different teams. Jackson first won the award in 1973 with the Oakland A’s. He won it again in 1977 in spectacular fashion with the New York Yankees.

Jackson’s World Series numbers are incredible. In 27 Fall Classic appearances, Mr. October belted 10 home runs, drove in 24 runs and batted an impressive .357. He won five world titles. In the deciding Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, Jackson hit three consecutive first pitch home runs off of three different Dodger hurlers.

Baseball fans will never forget this amazing Oakland A’s and New York Yankees’ right fielder and his Fall Classic heroics.

In a Boys of Summer sport, this Baseball Hall of Fame player rightfully earned his fitting autumn nickname – Mr. October.

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MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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The Annual NFL Crucial Catch Campaign to “Intercept” Cancer

Today’s Sunday Special Sports Blog focuses on a priceless endeavor.

It recognizes the NFL, once again, for making A Crucial Catch its annual initiative to raise awareness of, or as its slogan aptly states, to intercept cancer.

The NFL’s Crucial Catch Campaign Continues Throughout October Each Year

The league’s A Crucial Catch campaign continues through out the month, and football fans need to acknowledge the NFL, teams, players and the NFL Players Association for their support of this critical cause each October.

Media and fans have been quick to criticize the NFL for the botched manner in which it has handled some of the egregious as well as convoluted off-field incidents of its players over the past few years.

From current suspensions, newly imposed rules, player hold outs, the occasional scandal to last season’s Colin Kaepernick protest, America’s most successful professional sports league has been microscopically evaluated on every decision it’s made and action it’s undertaken.

Despite many valid criticisms, the NFL needs to be recognized for the positive social message it annually evangelizes on behalf of the American Cancer Society with its A Crucial Catch marketing campaign.

Since 2009, the NFL has designated October as Cancer Awareness Month and has actively promoted the distinct symbol of a pink ribbon entwined with its iconic league logo.

However, the great cancer awareness campaign has gotten even greater as it heralds awareness of pancreatic, pediatric and cervical cancers.

Color Pink Has Abounded During NFL’s Crucial Catch Campaign to Intercept Cancer

During the month, NFL players have been allowed to skirt the normally stringent NFL uniform standards by donning pink gloves, cleats and socks. The league has also sold officially licensed NFL pink merchandise and even auctioned off player gear to raise funds for cancer research.

Historically, by promoting the pink ribbon and encouraging players to wear pink apparel on the football field, the NFL has publicly, and admirably, promoted a most worthy social cause. The league even commissioned large pink ribbons to be stenciled on the 25 yard lines of each NFL field.

All 32 NFL teams have actively participate in this month long promotion.

Since its 2009 launch, the NFL estimates that the A Crucial Catch message has educated and screened 191,700 woemn for breast cancer while  raising more than $18.5 million.

And that’s awesome news from the NFL and better news for women living in under served communities.

The NFL Makes Positive Strides for Research to Intercept Cancer

Though the NFL has made positive strides in promoting awareness to intercept cancer with its A Crucial Catch campaign, the league can still do far more, not just with cancer education, but also with other serious social issues like domestic violence.

With embattled Commissioner Roger Goodell’s appointment of several socially conscious, educated and successful women to his staff, expect more positive social change from the league.

Also, with ubiquitous television coverage, the NFL can be a powerful force for awareness and change concerning the debilitating health issues that afflict far too many women in our society.

May the popularly accepted A Crucial Catch serve as the example of the an admirable public service campaign that the NFL has launched and serve as a harbinger for many more. To quote the empowering NFL slogan during this month, “Everyone can make a crucial catch.”

Intercept Cancer with the Crucial Catch Collection at NFLShop.com

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MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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#TBT Sports Blog: Racing Weenies at Milwaukee Brewers’ Miller Park

Racing Weenies at Miller Park in MilwaukeeThe Milwaukee Brewers’ return to the MLB Playoffs has prompted me to dust off a popular #TBT sports blog from a few years ago.

The Milwaukee Brewers’ Miller Park’s Racing Weenies in-game entertainment inspired its genesis.

Let’s take a #TBT look back at Miller Park’s beloved packaged meat entertainers.

MLB In-game Entertainment

…..All sports fans can agree that MLB in-game entertainers can be especially creative in how they support their home team.

These entertainers range from perky cheerleaders to talented jugglers. They include dancers, twirlers and tuba players.

From Frisbee catching dogs on a baseball field to dunking gorillas on a basketball court, in-game entertainment absolutely enriches the sports fans’ experience at the park, stadium or arena.

Sports fans can also provide big time entertainment even when they’re not the main event. They include fans with streaming shakers, those who design and display giant cardboard signs and shirtless guys with painted faces sitting in bleachers during frigid weather.

In-game promotions involving team mascots are always fun, and they bring out the best in local sentiment.

For example, if you haven’t been to Nationals Park in Washington, DC, you’ve never witnessed the patriotic thrills of cheering on Tom (Jefferson), Abe (Lincoln), Teddy (Roosevelt) and George (Washington) in the famed Presidential Races.

The Sausage Race: Favorite MLB In-game Entertainment

Perhaps, my all-time favorite in-game promotion involving local mascots is the Sausage Race held at Miller Park in Milwaukee. They represent my all-time favorite non-athletes in sports.

This creative and fun 7th inning race involves a German Bratwurst, a Polish Kielbasa, an Italian Sausage and the All American Hot Dog.

What an event, and at a Major League Baseball game no less!

What fans can resist rooting on their favorite racing weenies? This one-of-a-kind foot race gets 45,000 frenetic fans cheering wildly for their favorite packaged meat mascot racing around the baseball field.

Kudos to Miller Park in Milwaukee

Kudos to Miller Park and what a way to think outside the bun!

It might sound cliche, but the Sausage Race at Milwaukee’s Miller Park is a real weener!

That’s why these packaged meat sausages, my favorite non-athletes of all-time, also rank as my #9 pick in my FREE sports comic book Favorite Non-Athletes in Sports!

FREE MIKE sports comic bookClick on the purple cover above to safely download my FREE sports comic book Favorite Non-athletes in Sports!

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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#TBT Sports Blog: NCAA Football’s Galloping Ghost Red Grange

Fomer Illinois running back Red GrangeToday’s #TBT Sports Blog features Red Grange – one of NCAA football’s greatest players of all time.

My post recalls Grange – an incomparable college football player with the unforgettable nickname – The Galloping Ghost.

In 2008, ESPN.com called Red Grange, an electrifying running back and kick returner, the greatest college football player ever.

However, 90 years earlier it was Chicago sportswriter Warren Brown who attributed The Galloping Ghost name to Harold Edward “Red” Grange.

Grange earned the Galloping Ghost moniker because of his race horse speed and quick, ghostlike movements that avoided tacklers in the open field.

Tackling Grange was like trying to lasso a fast moving cloud driven by a strong wind in a large open field. Few defenders ever succeeded.

A three-time All American at the University of Illinois, the 5’11″ and 175 lb. Grange led the Illini to an undefeated season and college football’s national championship in 1923.

The Galloping Ghost’s Best College Game

The Galloping Ghost’s best college game was against Michigan on October 18, 1924. Most college football fans called it the greatest individual performance in the history of college football.

Against the Illini’s fiercest rival, Grange spooked the Wolverine defense by racing the game’s opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. He scored three more times on runs of 67, 56 and 44 yards – all within the first 12 minutes of the game.

There was no television or internet back in The Galloping Ghost’s era. Instead, TIME Magazine highlighted Grange’s amazing college career by including The Galloping Ghost on the cover of its October 1925 issue. It was a huge national honor.

An original member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, Grange signed with the Chicago Bears immediately after college. Grange is also a history maker for the professional sport of football.

Back in the 1920s, professional football was only beginning to form nationally, and Grange became instrumental in its initial success.

Grange participated in a 67 day, 19 game cross-country series of exhibition games. For his efforts, The Galloping Ghost pocketed an incredible $100,000 for his role. The other players were paid only $100 per game.

Chicago Bears’ Owner Calls Red Grange Best RB Ever

Chicago Bears Hall of Fame owner George Halas called Grange the greatest running back he had ever seen. Unfortunately, The Galloping Ghost suffered a terrible knee injury in 1927 that inevitably shortened his professionally career.

The highlight of #77′s NFL career came in 1933. Grange made a heroic game saving play on defense in the closing seconds of the NFL’s first ever Championship Game held at Wrigley Field.

The spirit of this Galloping Ghost will always live on. And, today’s #TBT Sports Blog rekindles the fiery spirit of this amazing college football player.

Red Grange passed away in 1991, but today let’s remember the elusive, fast gridiron great whom ESPN.com recognized as the best college football player of all time.

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MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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#TBT Sports Blog: College Football’s Two Death Valleys

Clemson's Death ValleyToday’s #TBT Sports Blog tells the history of Death Valley – both of them.

One of college football’s most daunting places for visiting teams to play, Death Valley rests peacefully in one of my favorite sports comic books –  Deadly Sports Stuff.  Check out the excerpt below.

Deadly Sports Stuff

Two prominent universities lay claim to the mortal title. And both schools routinely spar over who owns the genuine birthright to their individual stadium’s deathly name.

Clemson University’s Death Valley

Aptly named Death Valley, the first is Clemson University’s football stadium. It’s ironically situated between a cemetery on a hill and a plain with a valley beyond.

Clemson claims its stadium is the genuine Death Valley of college football because it can clearly identify the genesis of its deadly sounding name.

In 1948, former Presbyterian College coach Lonnie McMillian bemoaned the fact that his teams rarely scored and never won when playing in Clemson’s Death Valley.

McMillian’s comments hold true for most other NCAA FBS teams as well. Clemson’s Death Valley boasts a remarkable home field advantage.

It’s here that the Clemson Tigers have won an impressive 71% of their home games. It’s also where their boisterous 81,500 seat stadium reaches a deafening decibel level of 133db.

Death Valley is famous for Howard’s Rock. Named after legendary Clemson coach Frank Howard, this actual rock originated from Death Valley Park in California. It serves as a landmark in the stadium.

Since 1967, Clemson players and coaches have traditionally touched the rock before each game amid fireworks and a raucous crowd.

Opposing teams have often become intimidated while witnessing this amazing spectacle, acknowledged as one of the richest in college sports. The lore and legend of Death Valley causes these would-be rivals to succumb to the Tigers on their notoriously scary home field.

LSU’s Death Valley

About 1,000 miles southwest of Clemson, SC stands the football home of the LSU Tigers. Coincidentally, Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, LA is also known as Death Valley.

However, the birth of LSU’s Death Valley stadium remains a mystery to most fans. There exists no clear cut agreement on when and where LSU’s Death Valley moniker was originally coined.

Some fans attribute LSU’s Death Valley name to the local Baton Rouge dialect’s pronunciation of Deaf Valley, which, ironically, is a gas station situated next to the actual football stadium where LSU played.

Fans near the gas station not only remember that it was impossible to hear when games were played in the monstrous stadium located next to the Deaf Valley gas station, but they also recall few visiting teams ever won at LSU.

When Louisianans described this experience to others outside the state, they sounded as if they said Death Valley instead of Deaf Valley.

Their unique dialect transformed the “f” into a “th” sound as they did when saying breath as “breaf”.

Tiger Stadium, or LSU’s Death Valley, is just as tough a place to play as Memorial Stadium in Clemson, SC.

LSU’s 95,542 seat stadium was named the scariest place to play in college football by ESPN in 2007, and the NCAA called it the loudest in FBS stadium in 2013.

Whether you believe LSU’s theory about the origination of its Death Valley or hold true to the media facts supported by Clemson’s claim, let’s agree on this one unwavering detail.

Both college stadiums are not only incredibly loud.

But, based on both schools’ impressive home winning records, they’re also metaphoric graveyards for opposing teams who reluctantly come to visit either Death Valley.

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MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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#TBT Sports Blog: Lou Holtz & ESPN College Game Day

ESPN sportscaster Lou Holtz

Today’s #TBT sports blog remembers the immensely likeable, former ESPN College Game Day commentator Lou Holtz.

His sterling studio schtick always earned him a spot in my living room each fall weekend.

Sure, the retired little Lou looked like he never played a lick and probably could never bench press a broom.

But, for cryin’ out loud – as this charismatic old coaching codger liked to say – I absolutely loved Lou Holtz as a talking head and co-anchor with Mark May during ESPN College Game Day broadcasts.

Lou Holtz’s Candid ESPN Coverage

Lou Holtz’s candid ESPN college football coverage always carried clout!

Viewers were smitten by the outspoken purity of this grandfatherly pigskin pundit and television’s a-typical talking head.

Who cared if this retired coach sported a face for radio rather than network television?

His colorful commentating was welcome in my living room any day of the week.

The former Notre Dame, South Carolina and Minnesota head football coach may have mis-pronunciated, inarticulated and mis-syllabicated whenever he opened his mouth.

But, what fan really cared?

The immensely loveable Lou emanated total trust.

He prognosticated with passion and purpose.

Most importantly, he generated unbridled enthusiasm from the ESPN Sports Center Studio.

Football fans looked quickly past his saucer shaped spectacles and learned to live with his lovable lisp.

They humored him for his histrionics and hair-brained hunches.

Why? Because they, too, absolutely loved Lou Holtz!

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MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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#TBT Sports Blog: Team is Knocking at the Door

knocking at doorToday’s #TBT sports blog remembers an old sports cliché about a team “knocking at the door.”

For me, this old adage has always screamed for further interpretation.

It’s confusing, don’t you think?.

Not even the most knowledgeable fan can fully explain the meaning.

The sports expression about the team “knocking at the door” begs me to ask.

Just how close in a game do you need to be to knock at the door?

If you get a five run lead, can you still knock?

Are only baseball teams allowed to knock?

Also, can only offensive teams knock?

And, when a defender knocks back, does he answer the door or answer the bell?

Someone needs to take some initiative and clarify this old sports cliché because it continues to confuse the heck out of all of us.

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MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

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#TBT Sports Blog: Boxer Roberto Duran or “Hands of Stone”

Former World Champion Roberto Duran

 

Today’s #TBT sports blog remembers world champion boxer Roberto Duran aptly nicknamed “Hands of Stone.”

This Panamanian boxer regularly pummeled his opponents.

With 70 career knock-outs, Roberto Duran punched with such power that observers claimed he possessed Hands of Stone.

ESPN.com called Duran’s nickname the greatest nickname in a sport famous for great nicknames.

 

Pound for pound the 5’7” and 150 lb. Duran is widely known as one the best boxers to have ever set foot in the ring.

His amazing endurance in the ring lasted five decades. Duran’s career spanned from his 1968 professional debut in Panama to his unexpected retirement in 2001 due to a near fatal car crash.

Roberto Duran Fight Against Sugar Ray Leonard

One of Duran’s most famous fights pitted him against fellow lightweight Sugar Ray Leonard in a rematch. Duran had already defeated Sugar Ray by unanimous decision in June 1980 in a fight called the Brawl in Montreal. Oddly, in their November 1980 rematch, Duran walked out of the ring uttering, “no mas,” meaning “no more,” in Spanish. As a result, he forfeited his championship belt.

An inductee into the World Boxing and International Boxing Hall of Fames, Duran fought 119 times, winning 103 bouts. He earned a reputation as a punishing brawler inside the ropes.

However, outside the ropes Duran made headlines as well Panamanian lore. The story tells of an angry Duran once knocking out a horse with his Hands of Stone. To add to his tough image, many reported that the brash boxer once paraded his pet lion Walla around a hotel.

Few boxers in history have mirrored Duran’s varied success in the ring.

Roberto Duran Won Championship in Four Different Weight Classes

The Hands of Stone Panamanian used his punching prowess to win four world championship belts in four different weight classes. Duran captured crowns in lightweight (1972-1979), welterweight (1980), light middleweight (1983-1984) and middleweight (1989).

There may be “no mas,” or no more, of the 60 year-old Roberto Duran in the boxing ring. But, this incredible fighter is featured in an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary film titled after his nickname.

In this film, boxing fans witness more, yes much more, of the boxer famous for having Hands of Stone.

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MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!