Opening Day Battle In Detroit Recalls Unique Slugfest Between Babe Ruth’s Yankees And The Red Sox

Home runs, which were hit in record numbers last year, portend to be even more prominent in 2018. Opening Day featured plenty of the long ball, including three by the same player.Chicago designated hitter Matt Davidson went deep with a trio of home runs in a 14-7 rout against Kansas City, and White Sox teammate Tim Anderson cleared the fence on two occasions in that game. Also smashing two homers on Opening Day was New York’s Giancarlo Stanton, his first hits as a Yankee after winning the 2017 National League Most Valuable Player award as a member of the Miami Marlins.The barrage of home runs makes what happened in Detroit, where the most runs were scored, even more of an anomaly. It was not necessarily remarkable that the Pirates and Tigers scored 23 runs in a game that lasted five and a half hours, but the fact they did it without even one home run being hit through nine innings.You have to go back almost one hundred years to find the last time that many runs were scored in an Opening Day game without a home run, which was on April 12th of 1926. In that contest the Yankees beat the Red Sox 12-11 and, despite the many sluggers in both lineups, not a single home run was hit.Lou Gehrig was hitting third with Babe Ruth behind him in the clean up slot and, though neither of the future Hall of Fame Yankees went deep, the duo did combine for three doubles and a half a dozen runs batted in. That production led the Bronx Bombers being up 11-1 by the fifth inning, making it seem that the game was going to end up as a blow out win.Boston, however, scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth, and then the Red Sox rallied for five more in the sixth. By then nineteen runs had been scored, all without a ball going over the Green Monster in Fenway Park.Fortunately for the Yankees, Ruth and Gehrig were not the only future Hall of Fame players in their lineup that day. Second baseman Tony Lazerri doubled in the seventh to bring in Ruth, and outfielder Earle Combs hit a single to score Lazerri with an additional insurance run.Since the Red Sox mounted another rally, that extra run eventually proved essential. Not only did New York hang on for that Opening Day victory, they went on to win the pennant.On the other hand, the losing team that day continued to lose all year, nearly twice as much as they won. In fact, when the Yankees were celebrating their pennant at the end of the season, Boston had suffered through 103 losses.Neither of the two opponents in the Opening Day game this year is likely to win a pennant like the Yankees did, nor is either expected to lose as many games as those Red Sox from 92 seasons ago. The Tigers and Pirates did, however, manage to score twenty runs in nine innings without hitting a home run, just as those rivals.And to think, for a few minutes the run total was 21, when Detroit’s Nick Castellanos was originally ruled safe at the plate. That run prompted the Tigers to storm the field in celebration of their 11-10 walk off win, only to have the call overturned after a review revealed Catellanos to be out.Manager Ron Gardenhire, who was coaching his first game ever as the Detroit skipper, was ejected after arguing the overturned call. It was probably good that he was not on the field when, in the top of the next inning, Pittsburgh outfielder Gregory Polanco put the Pirates ahead 13-10.Besides winning the game for his club, Polanco had managed to do what no other player could in that slugfest or in the one between New York and Boston long ago. He had hit a pitch over the fence.

Negro League Baseball and Its Latin Connection

As the 2010 Major League Baseball season begins the declining number of African-Americans in professional baseball again becomes a topic for discussion. Basketball and football has become the sport of choice for many black athletes instead of the game many still consider the “National Pastime”. The topic got additional attention recently with the reported comments of Los Angeles Angel centerfielder Torii Hunter. Hunter, an African-American, in referring to Latin American players reportedly said, “People see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they are African-American. They are not us. They are imposters.” Hunter later admitted using the word “imposter” was a wrong choice. He was only talking about cultural differences. But in spite of the “cultural differences” Hunter was so awkwardly trying to describe, there has been a historical connection between African-American and Latin American baseball players; a common thread that is rooted in 20th Century professional baseball history. The connection between the two from the past that Hunter overlooked: Negro League Baseball.

This spring marks the 63rd anniversary of racial segregation ending in Major League Baseball. On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson dawned the field wearing a Brooklyn Dodger uniform to play first base against the Boston Braves at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. He crossed over the color line to become the first African-American to play Major League Baseball since before the turn of the century. It was an “invisible” color line because white club owners had denied there was a league policy prohibiting black players from entering the Major Leagues. However except for a few that played during the early formation of organized professional baseball in the 1880′s, no African-American had played in the Big Leagues before Robinson.

This “invisible” color line not only kept African-American players out, but also Latin American players. During this “whites only” Major League era, there were a few light-skinned Cubans that crossed the line. But they faced racial insults and discrimination. White players saw them as no different in terms of race than they saw black players. Out of response to the “invisible” color line, Negro League baseball was born and from its infancy Latin American players were a part of it.

In the early 1900′s, the Cuban Stars and Havana Stars frequently toured the eastern US during baseball season. Since there were dark skinned Cubans on both teams, most professional white teams would not play them. The Cuban teams played the majority of their games against the top African-American teams at that time (Philadelphia Giants, etc). The Cuban Stars in 1920 were one of the initial teams of the first major Negro baseball league formed, the Negro National League (NNL). The team operated out of Cincinnati and was the first Negro League team to use a Major League stadium, as it’s home field. The New York Cubans, owned by Cuban born Alex Pompez, were in the Negro National League for 12 years starting in the late 1930′s. Pompez stocked his teams with not only African-Americans and players from Cuba, but also players from other Latin American countries. His 1947 team won the Negro League World Series. In 2006, Pompez was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

There were also Cuban players on other Negro League teams. Martin Dihago played with not only the Cuban Stars, but also the Homestead Grays and the Hilldale Daisies; and was considered by many as the best all around Negro League player. Jose Mendez pitched for the Chicago American Giants, Detroit Stars, and Kansas City Monarchs. Known as “El Diamante Negro”, The Black Diamond, in his native homeland of Cuba, Mendez ‘s skin color was too dark for him to cross Major League Baseball’s “invisible’ color line. He was the Monarch’s pitching star when they won the first Negro League World Series in 1924. Christobel Torrienti was a power-hitting outfielder in the 1920′s that played with the Chicago American Giants, Kansas City Monarchs, and Detroit Stars. He was a light-skinned Cuban, but it was said he did not cross the “invisible” color line because of his hair. It was thick and curly Negroid type hair. Dihago was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1977, Mendez and Torrienti in 2006.

There were many other Latin American players that spent their summers playing in Negro League baseball.

Winter league baseball also connected African-American and Latin American players before Major League Baseball’s “invisible” color line was erased. Playing winter league baseball was the way African-American players supplemented their Negro League salaries. Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and many other Negro League players spent their winters in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, or Venezuela. They played against the best Latin American players. In addition, many white Major Leaguer players supplemented their salaries in winter league baseball. The legends of many great Negro League players are filled with stories from games played in the winter leagues. It was also a haven for African-American ballplayers, as they did not have to confront racial prejudice and discrimination in those Latin American countries as they did in the United States.

When the “invisible” color line was finally erased, African-American baseball fans did not make a big differentiation about the dark faces they saw on the diamond as more African-Americans and Latin Americans came to the Major Leagues during the 1950′s. They cheered as loud for Minnie Monoso, Roberto Clemente, and Orlando Cepeda as they did for Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Ernie Banks.

Hunter’s reference to Latin American players as “imposters” was a wrong word choice. Along with African-American ballplayers, they also felt the real sting of racial discrimination while trying to play professional baseball. They both were kept out of the Major Leagues for almost half a century only because of one reason: their skin color. Even after the “invisible” color line was erased, they both still faced discrimination in professional baseball. During Spring Training, neither could stay in the same hotels with their white teammates in Florida and Arizona. That did not change until the 1960′s. And some Major League managers and coaches who could not let go of the past also tried to unsuccessfully stereotype them both as lazy and mentally slow.

Their history of facing racism in professional baseball will forever link African-American and Latin American players. It is a connection started in the days of Negro League baseball that goes beyond any cultural differences Torii Hunter tried to reference.

No Premier League Side in the Semi-Final of the Champions League! Is it a Sign of EPL’s Fall?

Firm followers of UEFA competitions and most especially the Champions League, can attest to the reality that there have been EPL sides in the semi-final of the champions league for the previous six seasons i.e. 2003-2009.
In the past six seasons, EPL sides regular in the champions league (Liverpool FC, Manchester United FC, Chelsea FC and Arsenal FC) have all some way featured in the semi-final of the champions league in the past six seasons, which made English and even foreigners marvel at their absence this season, in the semi-final of Europe’s elite club competition.

In 2005, Liverpool (the all red) and Chelsea (the true blues) locked horns in an entertaining semi-final with both sides led by managers who have managed his team for barely two seasons, Liverpool went on to win the encounter, after a closely contested semi-final match. Liverpool eventually emerged triumphant in that year’s Champions league, after defeating Ac-Milan in an epic final which saw one of the greatest comebacks in football history, 3-0 to 3-3 and then victory.

The proceeding year, Arsenal featured in both the Semi-final and final of the Champions league, to mark a turn-around in their footballing history, but were not so lucky to win the trophy after only qualifying for their first final match in the champions league. They battled with Barcelona in that year’s final, i.e. 2006 final, but got beaten by 2 goals to 1, with Jens Lehmann sent off in that match.

In 2007, Liverpool and Chelsea once again were drawn to do battle in the semi-final of the 2006/2007 season. With the first leg drawn to be played at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea had the opportunity of progressing, and they took full advantage of the home factor by defeating Liverpool by a lone goal after a highly contested fixture. At Anfield, Liverpool played with caution while also surging forward in search for the goal that will put them on level terms with Chelsea, luckily for Liverpool the goal came. A low cross from Steven “general” Gerard found an unmarked Daniel Agger, who sliced the ball through the bodies of Chelsea players and bang into the net early in the first half. Liverpool preserved the one goal lead even after 90 minutes until the extra time was over, then it was time for the ultimate decider; penalty kicks, Pepe Reina was the hero of the day as he saved the deciding spot kick to send Liverpool into the final for the second time in three seasons and a replay of 2005 final with AC-Milan, that dispatched Manchester United in the other semi-final clash by 5 goals to 3 on aggregate.

The final was a highly anticipated one, as two of Europe’s power houses in club football go head-to-head to decide the winner of the 2007 Champions League, eventually two Pippo Inzaghi goals, which made him the highest goal scorer in the Champions league, won Ac Milan the trophy for the seventh time in their footballing history.

The following year saw the best from English teams in the Champions League. All four English representatives made it to the quarter final, with three (Liverpool, after ousting Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester United) out of the four progressing onto the semi-final, Liverpool were eventually dumped by fellow English team Chelsea. The progression of Chelsea into the final in 2008 was the first time they were playing in the Champions League’s final; they battled with Manchester United for the coveted trophy, matched United strength for strength, skill for skill, technique for technique, but were just unlucky to miss out in the spot kicks, as United went on to win their third and Sir Alex Ferguson’s second UEFA Champions League trophy, which also aided Cristiano Ronaldo in winning the world player of the year award.

The year 2009, saw a different football style displayed by a team. 2009 Champions League was won by Barcelona of Spain, after showing the footballing world how the game should be played; neat defending, accurate passing, and clinical finishing: characterized the play of Barcelona en-route to winning the trophy for the third time in their history, after triumphs in 1992 and 2006.

2010 came with a lot of promise for the English sides, after bright starts from all the sides in their respective groups; Liverpool won its first game against Debrecen at Anfield, by a lone goal scored by Dirk Kuyt, which made him the club’s third highest goal scorer in Europe with 12 goal to his name. Chelsea also won its first game against FC Porto by a lone goal scored Nicolas Anelka, in a dull encounter due to the water soaked pitch.

Manchester United didn’t do badly in its first game; same was the case for Arsenal, all the English representatives representing well to the delight of English stalwarts. Things started becoming shaky as the competition progressed further to its crucial stage. Liverpool were ousted very early in the competition, as they were ousted in the group phase, even before the last group game. The victory of Fiorentina over Olympique Lyonnais in the game before the last, meant Liverpool were forced to the Europa league were they have solace recently, making an impressive run to the semi-final, having not scored lower than three goals on aggregate in the previous rounds, i.e. round of 32, round of 16 and quarter final, which has earned them a clash with Athletico Madrid away in Spain.

Chelsea were next up for elimination, after a partly successful run in the group onto the round of 16. Chelsea had great scares during a few of their group phase games, Athletico Madrid away in Spain was one those, where they had to settle for a 2 all draw after going through Didier Drogba, only to see a Sergio Diego Aguero brace give Athletico the lead, but Drogba proved to be very clinical in finishing when he slotted his second past Athletico’s goal. The most surprising of Chelsea’s group phase result came on the last day of the group. Apoel Nicosia making only its debut in the Champions League held all conquering Chelsea, with a full first team squad, to a 2 all draw at Stamford Bridge.

Arsenal had the most impressive group phase performance where they picked up 16 of the 18 available points in a group which consisted of Olympiakos, Standard Liege, and Az Alkmaar, which are low pedigree teams with frequent Champions League due to inability to make it through the preliminary.

Manchester United, I would say, had an indifferent group campaign. Had a great start, but flattered during the crucial mid games, needed the last game to confirm qualification but put threw any doubts into the thrash after a Michael Owen hat-trick cancelled out Edin Dzeko’s opening goal, for VFL Wolfsburg at Old Trafford.

With the progression of three tops teams from England into the round of 16, hopes and expectation were extremely high. The English teams, however, didn’t get the perfect draws, Chelsea were billed to face Inter-Milan, tutored by Jose Mourinho, Manchester United drawn to do battle with 7 times European champions, Ac-Milan, and Arsenal getting a re-match of the 2009 group game against Porto Fc, 2004 winners.

The first legs saw the English teams face real test of strength, skill and technique.

Manchester United were tested for all the mentioned above against Ac-Milan, first in Giuseppe Meazza, San Siro and then in Old Trafford, but then they emerged victorious on both legs, winning 7-2 on aggregate, with Wayne Rooney scoring four of the seven goals, i.e. 2 goals in each leg.

Arsenal had a similar situation, against Fc Porto, the Portuguese representatives giving them a good run for their money, most especially in Portugal, where the first leg was hosted, which Fc Porto won by 2 goals to 1, in a match which Porto’s second goal by Falcao, was a bit controversial, appearing to be an offside goal.

At Emirates stadium, Arsenal showed no mercy, firing 2 goals past Helton in goal for Porto in quick succession, and at half time, it was Arsenal 2 Porto 1. Porto started brightly in the second half of the game, attacking Arsenal from all angles of the pitch. As the game grew, Arsenal became for more confident, and began playing like the Arsenal we are use to watching in league games. Samri Nasri threw the Emirates into ecstasy, when he dribbled past three Porto defenders and slotted past helpless Helton, who tried to rush out to prevent the goal, but all to no avail. Super sub, Emmanuel Eboue, came on minutes later and sealed the victory, with a clean finish, after he outran the Porto defenders and was set up by Andre Arshavin, with only the keeper to beat, he rounded him neatly before netting Arsenal’s four to cap a fine performance from truly smoking gunners. Nicklas Bendtner, who had earlier netted 2 superb strikes, added a third to mark his first hat trick in his Arsenal career.

It wasn’t a bed of roses for Chelsea neither, as they had to suffer defeats in the hands of Inter-Milan on both legs, which put paid to their Champions League campaign. At the magnificent Giuseppe Meazza, Inter tested Chelsea for wits, work rate and technique, as both teams played out their lives to progress in the competition. Chelsea partly outplayed, but all the “ball possession” could not fetch them the win which they set out to achieve. The ball possession favoured Chelsea in the first leg match, but these were not translated into goals neither were they translated in the goal attempt, shot-on-goal, and so on. Of all the teams which started European campaign in September, Liverpool can be deduced to be the most disappointing of all, due to the fact that it was knocked out in the group phase.

Presently, there are only two English teams in European competition, Liverpool FC and Fulham FC and they both have interesting fixtures in the semi-final, having to face Athletico Madrid and Hamburg, respectively.

There is the possibility of an all English Europa league final, a feat which has not been achieved for over 6 seasons.
The absence of premier league teams In the semi-final of the champions league, in my own estimation, does not connote the fall of the premier league, rather the sole reason is the reality that we have come to face, which is the fact that teams form other countries have sat down and reviewed the methods of English teams, which they have applied, and it has worked magically and very effectively too.

English teams were neither totally outclassed, outpowered nor outplayed, but rather the element of luck was against them, and also the English teams have had a good run in the past, so let other teams enjoy same, so people won’t say the Champions league is an English competition. The English teams will rise up to take what’s rightfully theirs, which is the prestige it has earned over the years, a prestige which in my estimation, is in jeopardy considering the inability of making it to the semi-final of Europe’s elite club competition.

Upon this I settle, the absence of English teams in the semi-final of the champions league is by no means equal to the fall of the premier league, and besides which other league is so unpredictable as the premier league? A league where any team can beat any team, home or away; name the league.

Season-Long Cash Fantasy Football Leagues

Daily/Weekly fantasy football leagues get the most press nowadays but they are still FAR in the minority of desired games that fantasy football participants like playing. Long before then, the majority of people playing fantasy football will be registering their season-long private fantasy football leagues and joining their season-long public fantasy football leagues.

For those wanting to take advantage of unique fantasy football features but don’t have enough people for a private Commissioner League or prefer to play for higher stakes, there are numerous public fantasy football leagues that utilize these options. 2015 public fantasy football leagues are listed below and come in a range of entry fees/payouts.

  • Traditional leagues (available in Live Draft and Autodraft) – 10-team head-to-head league featuring the most widely-accepted positions and scoring system: 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WR/TE, 1 TE, 1 D, 1 K.
  • PPR leagues – 10-team Live Draft head-to-head league resembles the Traditional league but an additional starting RB/WR swing position is added and the scoring system awards a point per reception and RB/WR TDs drop to 4 points each with bonuses awarded (extra 1 or 2 points) for longer TDs.
  • TD Only leagues – 10-team Live Draft head-to-head is a big departure from Traditional fantasy leagues and harken back to the days of scoring on paper when the Commissioner made life easy on himself and only needed to score points for Touchdowns. TD scoring only is what you will find here so you won’t have to worry about drafting any idiot kickers. TD points vary with the distant of the touchdown.
  • League Average leagues – 10-team Live Draft head-to-head league resembles the Traditional league but an additional starting RB/WR swing position is added and the scoring system matches the standard except for ranges for the kicking and defensive statistics. The twist in this league is you will receive 2 decisions per week; one versus your H2H opponent and one versus the League Average (average score of the starting lineups for that week). This league type awards higher-scoring teams more than standard H2H.
  • Bye Week Rollover leagues – 10-team Live Draft head-to-head league resembles the Traditional league but an additional starting RB/WR swing position is added and the scoring system matches the standard except for ranges for the kicking and defensive statistics. The twist in this league is you will be able to choose players the week before they are on Bye and determine if you want their points for that week to also carry-over to their Bye week, thus locking in two weeks (good or bad).
  • In-game change leagues – 10-team Live Draft head-to-head league resembles the Traditional league but an additional starting RB/WR swing position is added and the scoring system matches the standard except for ranges for the kicking and defensive statistics. The twist in this league is you will be able to change players at the half. This helps if you have a player that is hurt or underperforming. Of course, the first half is locked in already and you will only be able to replace the second half with another player’s half that is currently open (either first or second half).
  • Total Point leagues – 10-team Live Draft Total Point league resembles the Traditional league but an additional starting RB/WR swing position is added and the scoring system matches the standard except for ranges for the kicking and defensive statistics. The twist in this league is that the standings are based off of the total points accumulated over the course of the season by your starting lineup. This league truly awards the highest scoring team. This league runs a full 17-week season and has no playoffs.