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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: January 2007

Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

Stan Hudy is a sportswriter for The Saratogian and Community News. He covers high school and youth sports in the Saratoga County area as well as writing a weekly book review on sports books. He's not just a "stick and ball" sportswriter, he's willing to take on any sport as well as any subject.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A reward for "The Ripken Way"

CLIFTON PARK – On that special day, July 29, there will be a man standing proudly at the podium at the Baseball Hall of Fame. He represents more than just his own accomplishments. With his steel blue eyes, his closely cropped, gray hair, Cal Ripken, Jr. will be inducted into sports most prestigious venue.
What will make that day special isn’t that the man who broke Major League Baseball’s longest playing streak is being inducted, but his entire family will be honored.
On that day, “The Ripken Way” earns its way into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
For Cal Jr., his brother Billy and his late father, Cal Sr., the recognition on baseball’s most prestigious stage is long overdue.
Cal Jr. has always been in the spotlight, whether he wanted it or not, something he probably took from his father. The career Baltimore Oriole played in 2,632 consecutive games, breaking Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130. The 19-time All-Star hit .276 during his 21 seasons, winning the American League Rookie of the Year in 1982 and the MVP in 1983 and 1991.

His brother, also talented, played for 12 years in the major leagues, including five-and-one-half with his brother with the Baltimore Orioles and in 1997-1998, under his father, Cal. Sr. as manager. Cal Sr. spent 37 years with the Baltimore Orioles organization, serving as player, coach and manger. He had his time at the major league level, sometimes wrought with harsh memories, but his love of baseball never dwindled.
Even after his passing, “The Ripken Way” lives on. Passed from father to sons, Cal. Sr. will earn his rightful place in Cooperstown.
In 1997, Clifton Park hosted it’s first-ever Babe Ruth World Series and Cal Sr. made an appearance at the Clifton Common to host a baseball clinic, teaching “The Ripken Way”. The event was open to the public, free of everyone, children, players, parents and grandparents were encouraged to attend.
A lot of the youngsters didn’t know who the gray-haired instructor was, but they knew his last name well. He was “Cal’s dad”.
With the patience of a saint and the baseball mind that has been envied across the nation and the world he spoke about the things that can make a player, any player better.
Once his early morning clinic was complete, he sat at a table, under a tent provided and signed. He signed, he smiled and best of all he talked baseball. Whether young, old, boy or girl, and even to a then-green sports writer from a local newspaper, he was a gentlemen.
There was no rush, he had time. It was important for his to find out everyone’s name, shake their hands and to the surprise of many, thank them for coming to see him. While he smiled, signed and shook hands, I stood nearby, albeit nervous, and asked my questions.
This baseball great, who stood in baseball’s cathedrals, managed the best in the business, encouraged me to keep asking questions and wanted to make sure I had everything I needed.
Almost a year later he was gone.
I wrote a column about his passing in March of 1999, the spring before Clifton Park would host it’s second Babe Ruth World Series and what that day meant to me along with the people of Clifton Park.
A short time later, it was announced that the Babe Ruth League, Inc. had reached an agreement to rename its largest baseball division, ages 5-12-year-olds to Cal Ripken Baseball, through an agreement with Cal Ripken, Jr. The name, Cal Ripken Baseball, pays homage to the man and the family who spent so many hours showing others how to be the best they can be.
Formerly known as the Bambino division, the name change paid homage to another great name in America’s Pastime, the Ripkens.

On that day in July, the family name will receive another, prestigious and well deserved honor. It will be those memories from a sunny day in Clifton Park that will come to mind as the ceremony takes place just 90 minutes away in Cooperstown.
Congratulations to Cal, Jr., Billy and my friend, Cal, Sr. and “The Ripken Way.”

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Nick Saban the anti-coach

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” is a quote that will live forever in the history of presidential annals.
Bill Clinton was vilified for his remarks during the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. He lied to the nation over a woman.
Now we have a new quote in sports from the anti-coach, Nick Saban, who fled the Miami Dolphins after a two-year stint and a 15-17 record. He now races to the comforts of Tuscaloosa, Alabama for a $32 million dollar payday with an eight year guaranteed contract.
Saban lied to a city, a state as well as a few million people who followed the fish during his flailing years as head coach.
His infamous parting shot before his dash for cash…
“I’m not talking about any of that stuff,” Saban was quoted. “And I’d appreciate the courtesy of it not being asked.”
What? Who? Me? A multi-million dollar paid pro football coach asked if I might leave after I missed the playoffs, again? How dare you?
Now “Slick Saban” can take his cash, which will equate to more than 100 million dollars in the poverty-stricken state of Alabama and give his wife a home in a Tara-style mansion and make more bold-faced lies to recruits of the Crimson Tide.
What a legacy the Crimson Tide have purchased for themselves. Paul “Bear” Bryant must be turning over in their graves.
Parents would disown a child if he ever considered not playing for the tough, almost sadistic Bryant, let alone quit the squad after going through four years of “gym classes” and water restricted football practices.
Parents knew what they were getting. Their players would work hard, more than they ever had before and they would do nothing to embarrass the University, the Crimson Tide or their own parents.
Now lesson number one at Alabama is “How to speak out of both sides of your mouth” by Professor Saban. Just think of what media darlings “Slick Saban” will produce.
Granted Saban can coach…at least in the collegiate level where he had a 48-16 record with LSU and a national championship in 2003.

College coaches are never expected to tell the truth. Does each coach really believe that his team can win every game? Does every coach plan on staying somewhere forever? Can every player really do it if he applies himself? Gives it his all?
Does every coach really want to give credit to the other team after a loss?
Lying is part of the job, it’s just when it is played out in the media in front of dozens of microphones and played hundreds of times and dominates the sports broadcasts and web-sites.
Saban joins the groups who have jumped ship, quit jobs, taken the higher paying deal somewhere else. Pro players do it, coaches do it, the public does it when looking for greener pastures, but we just don’t have to see it in print and on screen each day.
Why can’t a coach just say, “Hey, $32 million, would you turn that down?”
Now that’s a coach I would want to play for.
For now Alabama has just spent $32 million trying to buy one for the Crimson Tide.
The question is will it really be worth it?