Wow. You don’t have too many days like that come along do you? I don’t know if there’ll ever be another sports day quite like June 17th, 1994. Obviously it’s been well documented in the years since, but to run it down one more time it was the day of the O.J. Simpson chase, the opening day of the 94 World Cup, the Stanley Cup parade for the NY Rangers, Arnold Palmer’s final round at the U.S. Open (ironic obviously), Ken Griffey Jr. became the fastest player ever to 30 HR’s in a season, and of course the famous game 5 of the NBA Finals. That one probably won’t be topped. But yesterday was pretty crazy itself.
I woke up to the news that Jose Fernandez had passed away. Damn. Easily the best young pitcher in baseball, the kid was on his way to being a superstar. Hall of Fame type potential. He had one of the best rookie seasons in MLB history, and after essentially working his way back from Tommy John surgery the last two seasons, he was back to being one of the best pitchers in baseball. He was one of the few pitchers who was fun to watch on the mound. That’s pretty rare that a pitcher is must watch TV, and he was. And then you hear about the back story of him and his mom leaving Cuba for America, just amazing. Fuck. Just brutal news for baseball fans everywhere.
But you carry on, and of course Sunday’s in September mean NFL. But the Jays are in the midst of a pretty tight wildcard race, and even though I’ve ripped the tournament pretty good I’m still interested to see what happens in the World Cup so I did check out a bit of the World Cup semi’s (though honestly, nothing until the 3rd when I saw Europe was up 2-1).
We’ll start with the Jays. So if you read my NFL blog I put out this morning, I had to admit two big wiff’s on my part. Well that Jays blog I wrote declaring them finished just 11 days ago looks like it was spot off as well. I’m shocked at what happened this week. That’s all it was. One week, and everything changed. The only loss they had all week was against “the King”, and that took the Mariners 12 innings. Up until going to Seattle, the Jays were getting shutdown like that against guys who were “the latest AA callup”. Yesterday, I knew they were winning that game in the bottom of the 9th. Granted, if that’s Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman on the mound I don’t have the same confidence, but the body language has been a complete 180 from a week ago in Anaheim.
Jonah Keri brought up a great and simple point on Twitter yesterday too. Bautista and Donaldson are getting healthy. Two massive bats like that are obviously going to bolster the lineup, which helps the pitching staff’s psyche, and if the guys are feeling good with the bats then the D is going naturally to improve a bit. I have some faith again, but both the O’s and the Tigers have one guy each who can shutdown the Jays in a one off so they’re far from out of trouble.
Meanwhile down the street at the ACC, the gimmick tournament had one of their gimmick teams head to their gimmick final! How many of you loathe me for continually calling it a gimmick? Many I’m sure, but it is. I’m not saying it hasn’t provided some good hockey and great moments, it absolutely has. I’d probably take it a lot easier if it hadn’t been marketed and desperately pushed to be more than it was.
ANYWAY, team Europe pulls the minor upset. I don’t know that it’s that major of an upset like some might make it out to be. They have a pretty complete roster. And could the media PLEASE stop overrating Ralph Kruger?! He’s coaching a pretty loaded team! And I watched probably everyone of those 48 games in Edmonton, and that man got owned most nights by coaches who could run a bench. He had a flawed hockey team, he deserved another season, but because he was wronged and he is a great quote the media wants to make him out to be Scotty Bowman 2.0.
I do love thought that a team which got referred to as “Euro Trash” by whoever it was at the Toronto Sun (kind of ironic that someone in the Toronto media refers to anyone as “trash” hey?) has shoved it up everyone’s ass in this tournament. But the showdown between Canada and Europe is about as awful of a final as the NHL and NHLPA could have asked for. Who cares? This one has to go to OT in the 3rd game before I honestly will give a damn. Team North America aside, this tournament has been a massive dud.
While that game was going on, the Jays game was going on, and the early games in the NFL were going on, I came across the news of Calgary Stampeders defensive back Mylan Hicks passing away. He was even younger than Fernandez at 23 years, and was killed in a senseless shooting outside a Calgary night club. I’d love to tell you more about Hicks, I honestly can’t though as my CFL knowledge in the last few years has dropped off and I just simply wouldn’t be the person to speak about him. But it still is a major tragedy in sports, especially in this country, and even more so in this province. A damn shame, I wish I could put it a lot better than that.
The news did get a little more joyful later on though. A little. Vin Scully, perhaps the greatest play by play man in sports history, called his final game. And what a freaking game it was!! 2 outs, bottom of the 9th, and Corey Seager the Dodgers tremendous young SS tied the game with a solo blast. If that weren’t enough excitement for Vin to call, the Dodgers then won it with a walk off by Charlie Cluberson, essentially a career minor leaguer, to win the NL West. You just couldn’t have had a more storybook ending to such an amazing career.
I can’t do his career justice in this piece. I’d need 5,000 words to even crack the surface and since this piece isn’t just on Vin I can’t do it. But it is a style that we’ll never see again. The man was seemingly flawless in the way he called the game. He had the perfect feel for the moment, and never would look to overshadow the moment like so many play by play men do today. He was a minimalist when he had to be, and the most incredible story teller you’ve ever heard when he had to be. He did it without a colour commentator!! He was so good that he didn’t need anyone else to talk to, I don’t think I can ever put into words how amazing that is! There are so many tremendous Vin Scully calls, but this one may have been his greatest:
So that was bittersweet, but just when you felt like the day was done and getting ready to watch the final football game of the day, news broke of a sports legend having finished up on the 18th hole.
The first person I ever knew about in golf was Arnold Palmer. Jack Nicklaus had more titles, but Arnold Palmer was the name, the face of the sport. And remember, I grew up in the 90’s. This was after Jack was 50. He had won all of his 18 majors by then. Yet if I heard golf I would think Arnold Palmer. To be fair to what else happened yesterday, he didn’t get cheated. He had been out of the spotlight for a few years, and while at age 87 we did get robbed of some time, we were lucky to have so many years with such a legend. 95 professional wins, 62 on the PGA tour, 7 major championships, and likely the greatest ambassador the sport of golf has ever had. Earlier in this piece I spoke about “the King”, referring to Felix Hernandez. Lebron James has that nickname as well. But Arnie was the first to have that moniker, and he deserved every bit of the nickname “the King”.
Sad day. Exciting day. Stunning day. Action packed day. Incredible day. I don’t know if this piece was anything good, but there was just too much happening to not touch on all of it, and this was the best way I knew how. September 25th, 2016 won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
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