Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for August, 2010

Deion Sanders the Baseball Player

Modesty?

This post is about Deion Sanders the baseball player.  He is not to be confused with his alter-ego football player.  Deion the football player was electric.  He went from sideline to sideline with relative ease, picking off passes and running back kicks.  However, Neon Deion received a lot of pub for playing two pro sports.  And while that is totally impressive, he was nothing more than a mediocre ball player.

Sanders was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 30th round of the 1988 draft.  He played in the minors for the Yankees while playing pro football with the Atlanta Falcons and really living up to his “Prime Time” nickname.  Honestly, I think Deion was probably rushed to the big leagues in 1989 when he made his debut with the Yankees.  This is back when the Yankees were a total train wreck, and the electric Sanders could create a little buzz around the team.

In his two years in pinstripes, Sanders hit a paltry .178 with 5 homers and 9 steals in 180 at-bats.  Following the 1990 season, the Yankees released Deion, making him a free agent.  The Yanks were concerned that by splitting his time on baseball and football, he was not progressing as a player.  Fair enough.  The Atlanta Braves took a chance on him and signed him prior to the 1991 campaign.

Prime Time took his 4.1 40-yard-dash time to the Braves and had his best years as a ball player.  In 1991 he sucked, posting an OPS+ of only 68.  However, in 1992 he enjoyed his best season as a pro.  He appeared in only 97 games for the NL champion Braves, but still found time to lead the National League in triples with 14 (Huge).  Sanders also swiped 26 bases and hit over .300 for the only time in his career.

In the 1992 NLCS the Braves were in the midst of a big series (obviously) and Deion decided to play football the same week.  Nice.  For this, he was criticized by professional idiot, Tim McCarver.  Tim thought it was a strange decision (I happen to agree) for Deion to leave his baseball team during the playoffs to play in the NFL.  Deion took exception to this and reacted in the following manner:

Classy.  Deion never recaptured the magic on the diamond that he had in 1992.  Maybe karma caught up with him.  He bounced around a bit, playing with the Reds and the Giants before finally bowing out for good after the 2001 season (his first appearance since 1997).

Here are the career totals:

  • .263 batting average
  • .319 OBP
  • 80 OPS+
  • 39 HR
  • 186 SB

For the most part though, Deion is remembered for his attitude.  An attitude that for some reason flew in the NFL but not in MLB.  He was a pretty effective 4th outfielder during his prime, but that was about it.  His speed could change a game, even in baseball.

This is most people’s problem with Deion.  He really seemed to be in business for himself at all times.  He was a tremendous athlete, a mediocre baseball player, and Hall of Fame football player, and a petulant child.

Read Full Post »

Charles Smith

Two legends of Connecticut basketball: Manute Bol and Charles Smith

I remember when Charles Smith broke into the NBA.  His rookie season (1988-89) is probably when I first starting really following the NBA.  Smith had the poor luck of starting his career in Los Angeles with the Clippers.  Here in 2010 the Clippers are a total joke.  Things were no different in the late 1980s.  The franchise had already made its mark as an annual loser.

Smith was the third overall pick in the 1988 NBA Draft out of the University of Pittsburgh.  He was drafted behind Danny Manning and Rik Smits (two guys who deserve posts on this site).  Charles was actually drafted by the 76ers  but was swapped on draft night for Hersey Hawkins.  The Clippers thought they had their frontcourt of the future in Manning and Smith.

Charles averaged 16 points and 6 boards a game as a rookie and was named to the All-Rookie first team.  It would be his only career award in the NBA.  Smith would go on to put up at least 20 points a game in the next two seasons.  However, instead of being seen as a young, rising star, Smith was seen simply as a good player on a bad team.

After one more season with the Clips, the organization did him a huge favor:  They traded him to the Knicks in a deal for Mark Jackson.  Smith stepped in at forward for the Knicks in the mid-1990s and played on some very good teams.  Smith saw his playing time and scoring decrease, but at least he played on some playoff teams.

In the 1993 playoffs, the Knicks were up against Jordan’s Bulls.  New York took a 2-0 lead in the series only to see the Bulls battle back to tie the series at two wins apiece.  The pivotal game five took place at Madison Square Garden.  With 25 seconds remaining the Knicks trailed by one point and Charles Smith had the defining moment of his career:

Truly a tough break.  Smith saw his playing time decrease even further and was traded to the Spurs for a pile of crap in February of 1996.  Smith then played a couple of years in San Antonio before retiring at the age of 31.  He retired with a career scoring average of 14.4 points per game.  Nice.

Since retiring, Smith has been active on the business side of the NBA and created a youth center for teens in his hometown of Bridgeport, CT.

Read as Charles remembers Manute Bol.

Read Full Post »

Tim Dwight

The Kamikaze Kid


Tim Dwight was fast. Lightning fast. In fact, the dude’s nickname in the NFL was “White Lightning.” Tim Dwight has always been an enigma, and for a small guy in the NFL (only 5’8″ and 180 lbs.), Tim Dwight was one of the Biggest Dogs ever. As a professional football player, Tim Dwight couldn’t size up to other players, but he had two things that can make anyone succeed in this world: speed and heart. And when I say “heart” I am not suggesting an image of Tim as this “Rudy Ruettiger” type figure. I mean “heart” in the sense that this guy was absolutely and uncompromisingly fearless. I have a distinct memory of him running back across the field after handing the ball off to Tony Martin on a double end-around and trying to block Warren Sapp. The play resulted with Dwight on the sidelines for the remainder of the season, but even a bone-crushing hit from a titan like Sapp couldn’t stop Tim Dwight for good.

Tim Dwight was the top recruit out of his High School in Iowa City, Iowa. He got several scholarships from multiple Big 10 schools but elected to attend the U of I. As a Hawkeye, he set school records for career receiving yards and touchdowns. He even finished 7th in the Heisman voting his senior year.

Many people were skeptical of Dwight succeeding in the NFL because of his size, but his supernatural speed attracted the curiosity of the Atlanta Falcons who drafted Tim Dwight in the fourth round of the 1998 NFL draft. In the first game of his NFL career and on his first career reception, he scored on a 44-yard touchdown pass from the transcendent Chris Chandler. In his first season, Dwight accompanied the Falcons to a Superbowl berth against the Denver Broncos. It was in Superbowl XXXIII that Tim Dwight really made a big-time name for himself. After trailing the Broncos 31-6 in the fourth quarter, the “kamikaze kid” delivered one of the most inspiring plays in Superbowl history, taking a kickoff 94-yards to the house. His 210 kick return yards for that game rank second all-time in Superbowl history.

Dwight followed his respectable rookie campaign with an historically underrated and overlooked sophomore season. Despite catching only 32 balls for 669 yards (seven of which were touchdowns), he led the league in yards per reception (20.9) These statistics are actually somewhat staggering if you put them into perspective. With 32 grabs going for 7 scores, Dwight scored a touchdown nearly 22% of time he caught a pass. Tack on another punt returned for a touchdown out of 20 attempts and one rushing touchdown on 5 carries, Tim Dwight was arguably the most valuable player in the league based on the number of times he actually got the ball. BIG. To recap, Tim Dwight had the football in his hands a grand total of 57 times and scored a touchdown on 9 of those plays, that’s roughly a touchdown every 6 touches. HUGE.

In 2001, Tim Dwight was traded to the San Diego Chargers in a deal that enabled Atlanta to select Michael Vick with the Chargers’ number one overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft. With the Chargers, Tim had a limited role in the return game but upped his impact as a wide-out. In 2002, Dwight caught a career high 50 passes for 620 yards but only 2 scores. As a receiver, he was never afraid to go over the middle, but unfortunately, this “fearlessness” that proved to be so crucial to his early success in the NFL became his Achilles heel. Injuries from on-the-field heroics kept Tim sidelined for most of his career in San Diego and his numbers decreased considerably. No longer able to maintain a 4/40 speed, the Chargers released Dwight in 2004.

Luckily, though, the Patriots signed Dwight to a one-year contract in 2005. In his only season with New England, he caught only 19 passes for 332 yards and 3 touchdowns (ouch). From 2006-2007 he bounced around the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders organizations before becoming an unsigned free-agent in 2008. To this day Tim Dwight remains a free-agent and it baffles me as to why any team would hesitate to sign him.

Everyone remembers Tim Dwight as being this preternaturally fast white dude who had a few decent years in the NFL. I personally love the guy because he was fun to watch and played the game with reckless abandon. He was a natural play-maker, a guy who could really make things happen when he got the ball in his hands. At the age of 35 I’m not sure Tim Dwight still has “White Lightning” speed, but I am confident that, if given the chance, he’d prove to everyone that he’s still a big dog with a lot of bite left in him.

Read Full Post »

Sid Bream

PURE JOY.

Sid Bream is partially responsible for my obsession with Major League Baseball.  If you are a BIG baseball fan, you can probably guess the moment where I became hooked.  However, out of fairness to Bream and is mediocre legacy, I think I owe it to him to recap his entire career.

Bream was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2nd round of the 1981 draft.  Bream did not come to the big leagues straight from high school having played his college ball at Liberty University.  If you are not aware, Liberty University is for the batshit crazy and was founded by the late Jerry Falwell.  That is the same Jerry Falwell responsible for these very memorable quotes:

  • “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals”
  • “The ACLU is to Christians what the American Nazi party is to Jews”

You know what?  This isn’t a Falwell post, it’s a Sid Bream post and I won’t hold his choice of college against him.  Back to Bream…

Bream ripped through the minors very quickly and debuted for the Dodgers in 1983.  He played first base almost exclusively and that was his role as a pinch-hitter for the Dodgers.  In September of 1985 he was shipped to the Pirates in a the deal that sent the LEGENDARY Bill Madlock to the Dodgers.

Sid went on to claim the 1st base job in Pittsburgh for the next five seasons.  He had some decent years there, highlighted by the 1990 season.  That year, Sid had an OPS+ of 124 while slugging 15 homers and driving in nearly 70 runs.  That Pirates club lost to the Reds in the NLCS, but it was not Sid’s fault as he hit .500 with a homer in the series.

That offseason, the Pirates decided to give the first base job to a young Orlando Merced and let Bream sign with the Atlanta Braves.  The Pirates had no idea Bream would come back to break their hearts.  The Braves and Pirates both won their divisions and played one of the more memorable NLCS in recent memory.  The series reached a seventh game which concluded with one of the greatest moments in playoff history.  The radio broadcast of what happened next is below:

Bream, one of the slowest players in the league, scored the series clinching run as he beat the throw home from a young, Barry Bonds.  Bream had no business going 2nd to home on that play, but he made it anyway.  What a big dog.

Anyway, Bream’s career really peaked at that moment and he is forever a piece of baseball history because of that play.  Sid played two more years and a year in Houston before falling out of the big leagues for good at the age of 33 in 1994.

Bream now works as a motivational speaker (duh!) and a minor league hitting instructor.  He left baseball with a .264 batting average and 90 home runs.  Sid Bream, I salute you.

Read Full Post »