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  • Caesar Cliffius

    My name is Cliff Eastham. I live in West Virginia with my wife Debbie, the loveliest lady in the world, and my youngest daughter, Holly who is equally as lovely as her mother.

    I enjoy writing about sports, and love a good healthy debate. My favorite teams are the Cincinnati Reds and the Washington Redskins.

    There are only a couple of sports that I don't write about, Hockey and Soccer specifically. My favorite sports are Baseball, Boxing, NFL, NCAA Basketball, MMA.

    Feel free to look around, and your comments are most welcome. Subscribe via email if you wish.

    It is decreed.....Caesar Cliffius
    this 8th day of December, in the Year of our Lord 2009.

Is The National Baseball Hall of Fame a Place Just for Altar Boys ?

Baseball fans wake up!

After reading an article by my good buddy and colleague Illya Harrell about how Pete Rose, as a manager, ruined the career of Mario Soto, I had to write this.

In his article, Illya said that because Rose pitched Soto on three days rest repeatedly, he killed Soto’s career prematurely. He also said that should be another reason why Rose should not be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

It has always been my view that the Hall of Fame is for players who were exceptional on the field, period. I don’t feel it is necessary to involve the FBI with background checks, or investigators vetting someone to rattle all the skeletons from their closets.

The Hall of Fame is in critical condition folks. It is replete with drunkards, racists, adulterers and other forms of ill repute and debauchery. What is one more going to hurt?

Wait Cliff, you say drunkards are in the HOF? Yes, the great Babe Ruth was a known imbiber as well as Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and probably three-fourths of the men who played in the “dark ages.”

Racists, come on now. Okay, Ty Cobb was probably a card carrying member of the KKK if indeed it was in full vigor during his day. Cap Anson wouldn’t even allow his teams to play if there was a Negro on the opposing team. Color him Racist with the capital not edited out.

Adulterers, really Cliff? Don’t be so naive. There have been men throughout the ages who have stepped out on their wives. Baseball players are no exception. It was a common occurrence in the bygone days for men to “hook up” with women in certain cities on their schedules. Mickey Mantle comes to mind, sorry Mick I love you man.

What I am trying to show is that the Hall of Fame is not a place for “do-gooders”, Sunday school teachers, or altar boys. Not to say that there aren’t some in there, and I love them, but that is not, or should not be part of the criteria for enshrinement.

I am all in favor of role models, don’t misread me. That being said, I like what Hall of Fame member Bob Gibson said. “Why should I be a role model for your kid? Be a role model for your kid yourself.”

You could probably go checking into the lives of everyone of those men in the hallowed hall and find something with which to exclude many of them. I know gambling is against the rules, in fact the Golden Rule of baseball. However, when a man who has had more hits than anyone whoever put on a jock, won seven batting titles, had over 200 hits nine times, has done 20 years of humiliation (albeit self-imposed), he should be paroled.

Give him his due. If you who are reading this article feel he is such a criminal and low-life that he doesn’t belong, please open your own closet and let the skeletons walk free. Let them say, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, I’m free at last.”

Sources: Baseball-Reference.com

(c) 2009 Clifton Eastham All Rights Reserved.

Cliff Eastham is a Featured Columnist on Bleacher report, where this article was first published.

Open Letter to Ford Frick, RE: Roger Maris

(I realize he is dead)

Dear Mr. Frick,

You sir, have tainted one of the most revered records in all of baseball.

Why did you do it?  Did you fold under pressure or just have a personal vendetta against Roger Maris?

Maybe Mantle too as I believe you made your “decree” prior to being certain which one of them had the better chance of  taking the crown off the “beloved” Babe’s head.

This record was broken legitimately and within the course of a season.  Just because the season was eight games longer than the prior years, Maris should not be denied a bona fide record, broken without the aid of any performance enhancing techniques.

Unless, of course, you think three packs of camels a day enhanced him in any way.

Anyone who looks at the record book in the future will view it as a record that has a problem attached to it.

That is what people do when they see an asterisk you know.  They begin to let their eyes drift to the bottom of the page, in order to see what explanation needs to be said about a particular item.

You, as part of the elders of the game, took it upon yourself to proclaim that Maris’ record was not legit.

That is the only such hallowed record that has such a disgraceful companion with it.

It is my opinion, sir, and maybe only mine, but I believe you ruined the remaining portion of his baseball career.

His health began to decline and he was losing his hair due to the stress of the fiasco.

When a man has within his grasp, the chance to dethrone one of the all time greats, that should be what he has to deal with; not a baseball commissioner who had no backbone.

You are aware that he won two consecutive Most Valuable Player Awards.

Did you also know that he is one of only two players in the course of major league history to win two MVP awards and not be invited into the National Baseball Hall of Fame?

In great part, I point the finger of blame right at you.  For the longest time Maris was the only player with a “major” record who was not a Hall of Famer.

Your total disrespect for Maris and his outstanding achievement diminished his chances of being one of baseball’s immortals.

I have gone so far as to send a letter to Stan Musial (who was on the Veterans’ Committee at the time) to take a close look at Maris’ contributions to the game as well as his statistics.

I am not saying that Roger’s statistics alone made him worthy of the Hall of Fame.  I am saying, that what he did and how he did it, along with his two MVP awards made him a desirable candidate.

I know you are gone now and this letter will never reach you.  But it sure takes a load off my chest to write it.

If you and Roger are in the same place, and perhaps have mended the fences, please tell him I am still doing anything I can to help him gain entrance into the Shrine.

Eternally,

Cliff Eastham

Roger Maris’ No. 1 Fan

Cliff Eastham is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report where this article was first published.

Vada Pinson: The Most Underrated Baseball Player Ever

I have seen players come and go.  I’ve watched them during their first game and was still alive when they retired.

Some players are fortunate in that they receive accolades for what they do.

Others are not quite as lucky, laboring in the vineyard year after year, without much appreciation or love.

Vada Pinson was such a man.

I am not a romanticist, so I don’t want to make Pinson out to be bigger in death than he was in life.

I do, however, think the man should have been given more respect and props than he actually received.

I am a Cincinnati fan, always have been.  I use to watch games on TV and listened to all of the games, with Waite Hoyt drinkin’ Hudepohl’s and announcing the games.

I remember the teams back in the sixties very well.  I remember Crosley Field with a great deal of fondness.  Her terraces in the outfield in place of warning tracks, was a unique sight.  Pinson played that terrace as well as anybody whoever attempted it.

Pinson was 19 years old when he broke into the big leagues on Apr. 15, 1958, with the Cincinnati Reds.  Gus Bell was their starting center fielder, so Pinson had to watch for a little while, appearing in only 27 games.

Pinson got a break in 1959 when Frank Robinson moved from left field to first base.  Jerry Lynch moved to left, and Bell went to right, leaving Pinson to patrol center field.  He played every game that year.

During that full campaign, Pinson batted .316 with 20 HRs and 84 RBI.  He also had 205 hits and led the league in runs scored with 131, doubles with 47, plate appearances with 706 and 648 official ABs.

Pinson was honored that year by being selected to the National League All-Star team. He was also chosen to play in the Midsummer Classic in 1960. That would be the end of the accolades for Pinson.  He did manage to be awarded with a Gold Glove 1n 1961, when the Reds won the pennant.

In his 18-year career, Pinson batted over .300 four times.  He had more than 200 hits four different times, twice leading the league in that category.  He led the league in doubles twice, and in triples on two different occasions.

Pinson smashed 20 HRs or more seven times, and he knocked in more than 100 runs twice.

The closest he came to a Most Valuable Player Award was in 1961 when he led the league with 208 hits.  Pinson finished third in the voting that year.

Am I making a push for the Hall of Fame for Vada Pinson?  No, I am not saying he was that good, but I will say there are many enshrined there with stats that will not stand as tall as his.

Robinson, Vada’s teammate at Cincinnati for eight years, until Robby was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in 1966, has gone so far as to say Pinson should have been elected to the Hall of Fame.

I don’t think Pinson has had his fair share of praise over the years.

He hit 256 HRs during his career, along with 1170 RBI.  Pinson got 2,757 hits, scored 1366 runs, and batted .286.

Pinson’s 162 game averages for his career are 17 HRs, 77 RBI.  He averaged 180 hits and 90 runs.

He was also a very good base runner, stealing 20 or more nine times.  His career high in stolen bases is 32.  He was in the 20/20 club five times.

A splendid career by a man who did his job everyday, put up some great numbers and has two All-Star selections to show for it.

Underrated? You tell me.

Cliff Eastham is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report

MLB: Top Five Pitchers with the Best Five-Year Averages of All Time

I thought this would be an interesting list because of some recent debates I’ve had here about Sandy Koufax and his best five years.

Oh, he had a great five years and he finished on a high note and left on top of the game. That is why we remember it so vividly, and hold it in so high regard.

But, was it the best five years ever?

I did extensive research, using Wins, ERA, Strikeouts and WHIP. The five years did not have to be consecutive, I simply chose the best five.

I was surprised by two of the top five on the list.

Read on and see which pitcher had the best five years of all time.

No. 5—Jack Chesbro

When I was a kid, I was always told that Jack Chesbro had the record for most wins in a single season with 41.

That is not true. He actually is tied for 25th on the all-time list. Old Hoss Radbourn has the record with 59. There are two others with more than 50 wins in a season.

After backing up and shaking my head in disbelief, I decided to limit this list to the 20th Century forward.

The seasons that I chose as a sampling for Chesbro are 1901-1904, and 1906.

Jack Chesbro comes in at No. 5 on the list with a five-year average as follows:

27W—12L, 2.42 ERA, 160 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 1.087.


No. 4—Roger Clemens

Roger Clemens, love him or hate him, comes in at No. 4.

The problem is, with Roger we don’t know when he was juiced and when he wasn’t. Very hard when you try and compile a list.

The seasons I sampled for Roger are 1986, 1987, 1990, 1997, and 1998.

For those five years, Clemens averaged 21W—7L, an ERA of 2.41, 253 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 1.070.

Roger won a Major League-best seven Cy Young Awards, along with one Most Valuable Player Award.

No. 3—Randy Johnson

Coming in at third on our list is Randy Johnson.

The “Big Unit” is still compiling his statistics. He is definitely one of the best ever. His greatness is behind him and it was indeed great.

He won five Cy Young Awards, and he won them in both leagues.

The best years of his career were 1995, 1997, and 2000-2002.

Randy’s averages for those five years are:

20W-5L, a 2.44 ERA, one “list-leading” 327 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 1.051.

No. 2—Sandy Koufax

In the No. 2 slot on our list will come as a shock to many of you. Koufax’s best five years are thought by many to be the best ever.

As you can see, there is one better.

The years I picked for Sandy are 1960 and 1961-1965.

Sandy won three Cy Young Awards and one Most Valuable Player Award in his illustrious, albeit short career.

His five year average is:

23W-8L, a very fine ERA of 2.18, 299 strikeouts, and a “list-leading” WHIP of 0.962.

No. 1—Walter Johnson

Your winner with the best five-year average of all time is Walter “Big Train” Johnson.

Walter’s 417 career wins are second only to Cy Young’s 511. Of course, that statistic wouldn’t get you a cup of coffee on this list.

The “Big Train” won two Most Valuable Player Awards, and obviously played prior to the establishment of the Cy Young Award.

Walter’s best five years were 1912-1914, 1916, and 1918.

His average for those five years are:

A “list-leading” 29 wins against 14 losses, an amazing “list-leading” ERA of 1.48, 236 strikeouts, and a “list-leading” WHIP of 0.923

There you have it folks, the best averages for five years ever.

It may be worthy to note that Cy Young averaged 34 wins in his best five seasons, although he was blown away in strikeouts and WHIP.

So now you know. If someone says to you that Koufax had arguably the best five years of all time, say to them, “Let’s argue.”

The 10 Worst MVP Picks in MLB History

Since the inception of the MVP award in 1931, people have sat at bars and discussed who was the best player in a particular year. There have been debates, arguments, fistfights, and maybe even shootings concerning MVP choices.

One good example is 2007. I was certain Matt Holliday should and would win the National League MVP award. So I was ready to fight when Jimmy Rollins won it by a landslide.

Not that Rollins had a bad year; it was obviously great. I just felt Holliday’s was better, and he led the Rockies to the World Series.

Believe me when I tell you that pennants are a big determining factor in whether a player wins it or not.

As a side note, I had a preconceived notion that Maury Wills would be high on my list. However, after research, I determined that, indeed, he was worthy.

So much for the preamble, now let’s get on with the show.  I give you the 10 worst MVP picks in baseball history.

10. Rollie Fingers1981Milwaukee BrewersRP

Here we go with a reliever winning the MVP award. Rollie was 6-3 with an ERA of 1.04. He did have a league-leading 28 saves.

This is great for “Fireman of the Year,” but not MVP.

I realize this season was shortened because of a players’s strike, but there were still better numbers than that.

Steve McCatty of the Oakland A’s won a league-high 14 games and posted a very good ERA of 2.33. He threw a league best four shutouts in only 22 starts.

He came in a dismal 13th place in MVP voting, but he gets mine.

My Pick: Steve McCatty.

9.  Willie Hernandez1984Detroit TigersRP

Willie Hernandez was only 9-3 with a 1.92 ERA and won the American League MVP award in 1984. He did have 32 saves, although the only categories he lead the league in were games and games finished.

I have always been clear on this. Not only do I not think relief pitchers should not be eligible for MVP consideration, but I don’t think they should qualify for the Cy Young award either. They have the “Rolaids” Fireman of the Year, or whatever it is called now.

At any rate, other than the ERA, these stats do not cast a long enough shadow.

Don Mattingly was the obvious choice that year.  He hit 23 HR, had 110 RBI, and batted a league best .343. He also had a league high 207 hits and scored 91 runs. “Donnie Baseball” also led the league in doubles with 44.

If the Yankees had won the pennant, do you think Mattingly might have won it?

My Pick: Don Mattingly.

8.  Kirk Gibson1988Los Angeles DodgersOF

Kirk Gibson won the National League MVP award in 1988 with 25 HR, 76 RBI, and batted only .290. He had 157 hits and scored 106 runs.

The Dodgers won the pennant that year.  The voting supposedly takes place prior to the World Series, but that would have seemed to be his only redeeming quality that year.

“I can’t believe he won the MVP,” is what Jack Buck should have said.

If I see another video of Kirk doing the “chainsaw,” I think I’ll puke.

Will Clark of the Giants should have won the award. He hit 29 home runs, led the league with 109 RBI, and batted .282. Will also had 162 hits and scored 102 runs. He led the league in walks and intentional walks.

My Pick: Will Clark

7.  Nellie Fox1959Chicago White Sox2B

In 1959, second baseman Nellie Fox won the American League MVP award with a .306 average. He also hit 2 HR with 70 RBI, 191 hits, and scored 84 runs.

The only categories Nellie led that season were games and at bats.

Rocky Colavito of the Indians hit a league best 42 HR, knocked in 111, and scored 90 runs.

Harvey Kuenn of the Tigers led the league with a .353 average. He also led the league in hits with 198 and in doubles with 42 while scoring 99 runs.  Kuenn came in eighth in the AL voting that year.

My Pick: Harvey Kuenn.


6.  Zoilo Versalles1965Minnesota TwinsSS

Zoilo hit 19 HR, 77 RBI, and batted a shining .273. He also had 182 hits.

He led the league in runs, doubles, and triples. He also led the league in a dubious category—strikeouts.

The Twins did win the pennant that year, but he didn’t even have the best season on his own team.

Teammate Tony Oliva should have won the award that year.  He led the league with a .321 average, hit 16 HR, and drove in 98 runs.  He led the league in hits with 185 and also scored 107 runs.

My Pick: Tony Oliva.

5.  Dick Groat1960Pittsburgh PiratesSS

Dick Groat led the National League in batting in 1960 with a .325 average.

I guess he won the MVP award because he had the best year of the World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates.

He also hit two home runs and had 50 RBI. Dick had 186 hits and scored 85 runs.  Surely those weren’t the best stats anyone else put up that year.

Ernie Banks hit 41 homers, Hank Aaron knocked in 126, and Bill Bruton scored 112.

Willie Mays was the true MVP that year. He hit 29 HR, 103 RBI, and batted .319. He also led the league with 190 hits and scored 107 runs.

My Pick: Willie Mays.

4.  Jim Konstanty1950Philadelphia PhilliesP

Jim Konstanty was the MVP in the National League in 1950 with a 16-7 record and an ERA of 2.66. He also had a league leading 22 saves.

The only other categories in which Jim led the league were games and games finished.

Maybe it was just a bad year all across the board.

Nope. Warren Spahn won a league high 21 games for the Braves, while winning the second leg of the Triple Crown with 191 strikeouts.

Jim Hearn won the ERA title that year with an ERA of 2.49. Stan Musial hit 29 HR with 108 RBI while batting a league best .346. Stan also scored 105 runs.

Ralph Kiner led the league that year with 47 homers.

My Pick: Stan Musial.

3.  Frankie Frisch1931St. Louis Cardinals2B

This was the inaugural year for the MVP award, so maybe they didn’t know what they were supposed to do.

Frankie did lead the league in stolen bases with 28, but that was it.

He batted .311 with four homers and 82 RBI. He had 161 hits and scored 91 runs—not MVP-type numbers.

Of course, the Cardinals won the pennant that year, and you know, boys and girls, that speaks volumes.

Chuck Klein of the Phillies had an MVP year if there ever was one. He led the league in HR with 31, in RBI with 121, runs with 121, slugging with .584, and total bases with 347. He also batted .337 and had 200 hits.

My Pick—hands down: Chuck Klein.


2.  Marty “Slats” Marion1944St. Louis CardinalsSS

In 1944, Marty Marion won the MVP award in the National League with arguably the worst statistics ever.

He hit six HR, knocked in 63, and had a batting average of .267. He had only 135 hits and only scored 50 runs.

What happened?

Do you think the Cardinals won the pennant that year?  Good going, Spanky.

Bill Nicholson won two legs of the Triple Crown with 33 HR and 122 RBI. He also led the league in runs with 116 and total bases with 317.

Dixie Walker led the league in batting with an average of .357.

Marion did not lead the league in any categories whatsoever.

The writers must have been smoking the Chinese pipe during that vote.

The writers made a very bad choice in my opinion, but wait: The worst is yet to come.

My Pick: Bill Nicholson

1.  Mickey Cochrane1934Detroit TigersC

Mickey Cochrane of the Detroit Tigers won the MVP award in the American League in 1934 with a .320 batting average.

He also powered two homers and knocked in 76. He had 140 hits and scored 70 runs.

He didn’t lead the league in anything.

Because the Yankees came in second that year, one of the biggest robberies in MLB history took place.

Lou Gehrig won the Triple Crown with an average of .363, while hitting 44 HR and driving in 165. Lou also led the league in OBP, slugging percentage, and total bases.

What a ripoff.  That is your winner, folks.

My Pick: Lou Gehrig.

The National and American Leagues took an equal beating in this article.  Five bad choices each.  It wasn’t planned that way, it just happened.

How about you? What do you think was the most infamous ripoff in history?


Cliff Eastham is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report where this article was first published.

Pete Rose: Hall of Fame or Not?

(NOTE: This is a blog debate which was discussed between Cliff Eastham and Al Rinker, as part of the “Baseball Stew” program.”

CLIFF: Yo Al, I don’t care what anybody says about Pete Rose. He was as hard a worker at his craft as anyone whoever laced them up.

If he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. they should close it down. Whaddya Say?

___________________________________________________

AL: Cliff, they better lock the doors because Pete Rose does not belong in the Hall Of Fame.

Do I really need to tell you why?

Let’s start with gambling on your own team. I know you will say he didn’t bet against the Reds but how will we ever know that for sure?

Do you realize how many games he probably altered because of his addiction to gambling? How can you defend that?

_________________________________________________
CLIFF: I defend that by saying that gambling as a manager had no effect on his performance as a player.

The man has more hits than anybody. He’s probably the only player ever to give 100% on every freakin’ play.

_______________________________________________
AL: Cliff, does the word integrity mean anything to you?

Whether as a player or a manager, he gambled on the game and then lied to the American public for nearly 15 years!

We as a nation will forgive almost any mistake by a celebrity or public figure but don’t insult our intelligence when it was so obvious that he was lying. (See Roger Clemens)

The thought of Rose in the Hall with guys like Musial, Gehrig and Ripken to name a few would be a travesty! It will never happen.

________________________________________________

CLIFF: Integrity? Gimme Bullshit for $200 please Alex. Let’s talk Ty.

Ty Cobb had no integrity whatsoever. Players hated him, but he was a great player sans integrity.

Luis Aparicio must have had a tankful of integrity because he sure wasn’t worthy with his game (.262 with 83 HR). Please!

And don’t forget your old buddy Maz. Bill Mazeroski (.260, 138 HR) doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame any more than Joe Pepitone (with all apologies to Joe).

The institution is called the Baseball Hall of Fame, not Hall of Integrity, or Baseball’s Most Influential.

Where do we draw the line Al?

“This guy was a great player but he was a thief.”

“That guy couldn’t hit his ass with both hands but what a shining example.”

“The other guy batted .261 but he never got in any trouble. Who do we take?”

These may seem like extreme examples but I don’t think so. We should measure players by their life on the field, period.

If we want to judge players by their image let’s send ’em to “Who’s Who of America”, but not the Hall of Fame.

Now, I say Pete’s problems were at a time when he wasn’t playing baseball. The gambling did nothing to enhance his play on the field.

We can’t say the same thing about the players who have been found to be ‘juiced’.

Clemens, Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Conseco, Giambi, etc., should never see the inside of the Hall of Fame without paying at the door.

Their performance was clearly enhanced, not Pete Rose. He played hard, put up great numbers and did it all without any ‘helpers’.

Joe Jackson won’t ever be in the Hall either. Now, if he is guilty of what he was charged with, he should be banned.

His charge was actually trying to lose a game intentionally for monetary gain. That won’t do. I haven’t read up on him like I should have but I have heard people say that he was not one who was guilty of that crime.

If he was trying to lose, his stats show that he had a helluva way of doing it.

If not, he should be reinstated and installed by the Veterans Committee.

So, in closing, all you naysayers can sit in a corner and whine about Rose’s addiction to gambling.

I prefer to look at him being the only person with a major record who is not in the Hall of Fame. Shame on you all!


Cliff Eastham is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report where this article was also published.

MLB Playoffs Need Restructuring

(NOTE:  The following is a blog debate about restructuring the divisional playoffs in MLB, discussed by Cliff Eastham and Al Rinker in 2008. Therefore, when teams and seasons are discussed, they are from 2007.)

CLIFF: Al, I wanted to talk a little bit about restructuring the playoff format in the MLB. I know you are happy with the status quo, but I like to see some things change for the better.

Here are my thoughts:  I think the four playoff teams should be the teams with the best record, period.

It doesn’t matter to me if three or all four come from the same division.

A team who has had an outstanding year but didn’t win their division, should not be knocked out because a club in the Central Division won, but barely broke .500.

____________________________________________________________

AL: Cliff I believe the current playoff system is there for a reason.

Under your format there are about 8 teams that would not have a chance. I’m talking about the Central division in both leagues: The Indians,Twins Cubs and maybe the Brewers.

Those four teams would possibly not be one of the best records. We need a team in the Central to compete for the World SERIES!

Remember CLIFF all the other major sports (NFL ,NBA and the NHL) have the same format. Let’s leave it the way it is.

___________________________________________________________

CLIFF: It’s traditional thinking like that which keeps us in a box. Think outside the box, my man. That is my point, precisely.  We don’t need a team from a certain area, we need the best four teams.

Let’s take last year for instance.

In my format, the AL would have been just the way it was.

The National League, however would see some shakeup. The Cubs would be watching on TV.

The playoffs would see Arizona (west winner, best record) playing San Diego (4th best record). Colorado (2nd best record) would play Philadelphia (3rd best record). Winners would advance.

My reasoning is simple. Why should a team be penalized or punished because of their geographical location?

If all of the teams in the NL Central would end up being .500 or less, should they go to the playoffs? I think not!

Furthermore, I say that all pro sports use the same playoff format. The NFL is considering at least numbering the seeds by record, thus meaning a wild card could be a host team in the earlier rounds.

You say that several teams wouldn’t have a chance.  Come April, they all begin with a clean slate.  Everyone is in first place.

It worked fine prior to the MLB divisional setups we now have.

Remember the old days? In our favorite year 1961, the AL had ten teams and the NL had eight. There were no wild cards or runners up.

You either won the pennant or watched the series with a bag of popcorn in your hand.

In my system, the divisions could remain intact simply for geographical scheduling reasons.

I think it would be a better format and would keep the rif-raf out of the playoffs.

Cliff Eastham is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report where this article was also published.

© 2008 Clifton Eastham and Al Rinker. All Rights Reserved

NASCAR: Sport or Entertainment ?

(Note: The following is a blog debate which took place several months ago between Cliff Eastham and Larry Spurlock.)

LARRY: Cliff, you can take a young man with a little foot-speed and he could return a kickoff in the NFL for a TD with some blocking.

You can take a man with some old fashioned strength and a little nerve, and he could at some point swing a baseball bat really hard and get lucky and knock a Roger Clemens fastball over a 335′ fence.

Anybody who’s ever swung a golf club could put a few good strokes together and birdie a hole at any golf course. Heck, I’ve hit three point shots in basketball.

But here’s what the average person cannot do. 80 percent of the driving public has never gone over 100 miles per hour. 95 percent of the driving public has never gone over 120 miles per hour.

99.99 percent of the driving public could not drive a vehicle over 150 miles an hour for more than five minutes without disaster. And disaster is wrecking badly.  99.99 percent could not drive a vehicle that fast and make a turn around an oval track.

Now, here’s what NASCAR drivers do routinely. They drive up to 190 miles an hour while going around turns with other cars going as fast.  These cars are five inches to their left and six inches to their right. They do this for four to six hours at a time without accident.

And if they do have a routine wreck, it is just as painful on the body as 10 NFL tackles.

Drivers usually lose 10-15 pounds each race.

And the strength it takes to hold that wheel during a race is equal to what a baseball player needs to swing a bat.

CLIFF: Is that all you have Larry? Please!

NASCAR is no more a sport than Chinese Checkers, or shooting an unarmed deer.

It is just another excuse for rednecks and country bumpkins to bust some more suds. What a glorious day. Throw back a couple cases of beer with your buds and watch people who you can’t understand when they talk, drive continuously around an oval track for hours.

I’m sold! Sport it is. NOT!

Calling your own defense into question, I suppose all the drunken nuts who go drag racing on Friday nights are just a hop, skip and jump away from the Olympics. Special Olympics maybe.

I just came from dictionary.com and found this as their definition of sport: an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.

The only thing I can take issue with is hunting. Skeet shooting, sport. Shooting an unarmed animal, medieval entertainment. Please note that it uses the words athletic activity and physical prowess.

Regardless of your desperate attempt to categorize NASCAR as a sport, I don’t see it as athletic or physical.

You mentioned weight-loss. Does visiting a steam room or sauna constitute sport? I think not. I squeeze the remote on my TV all evening long. Does that make me a candidate for a Decathlon?

Spelling bees are very competitive. ESPN now televises them in an effort to convince non-thinkers that it is a sport.

Are you kidding me or what?

I say we make Jeopardy a sport. I’m really good at that. Bullsh!t for $200 please Alex. I once gained three pounds eating cheetos and watching Jeopardy.

Passing NASCAR or any other car racing activity as Sport, is just plain ludicrous.

You know what else we should elevate to a sport? Beauty pageants.

Yessir, they have to stay in shape to have what it takes to succeed. Let’s make that an Olympic event.

ESPN’s “Stump the Schwab” is more of a sport that NASCAR. At least you are being quizzed about sporting events.

Again, for all of you who can’t tell the difference between sport and entertainment. Baseball is sport, chess is entertainment.

Boxing is sport, Spelling bee is entertainment.

Football is sport, NASCAR is entertainment.

And truthfully, I don’t even find it entertaining. Jeff Gordon is the only NASCAR driver I can understand without an interpreter. As Jeff Foxworthy said, he enunciates.

LARRY: Cliff, you don’t have to like it for it to be a sport, which you, obviously don’t.

I don’t particularly believe fishing is a sport. I don’t like it and I don’t waste my time doing it. But it meets the definition given in the dictionary. So I don’t like it, but agree it’s a Sport.

Now, it’s your turn…Go ahead. Say it. You don’t like it BUT it is a sport.

By the way, there’s more NASCAR paraphanalia (sic) sold, yearly, in the USA than all of baseball, football, and basketball combined.
CLIFF: Ah, but the racing does not mean auto racing, rather athletic racing. Next thing you know you guys will try to make video games a sport.

As far as the paraphernalia is concerned I would have to see hard statistics to back that up.

I mean, there are plenty of caps and shirts sold to rednecks throughout the fruited plain, however I can’t imagine they would topple all three major sports combined.

You are right, I don’t just dislike it, I detest it. I’ll go to my grave, perhaps cussing, that it is not a sport. Do you all hear me? It is NOT a sport, it’s barely friggin’ entertainment.

As far as hunting and fishing, I hate those too. I am however, willing to accept fishing and some aspects of hunting a Sport. Left up to the illiterate masses I can see Madden NFL becoming a sport. Then you can have fantasy leagues of yourselves.

I’ll take “Done” for $1,000 Alex.


Cliff Eastham is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report where this article was first published.

I Should Have Been a Sports Writer

Since this is my first “rant,” let me begin by saying I am not qualified to be a writer. I lack the formal education that is generally associated with literary refinement.

In this modern day, people are more apt to pass on you if you do not have a college degree. That being said, I hope your dog dies.

Just kidding, of course—wanting to make sure you are still awake.

Let me start first by taking a shot at sports commentators and sportswriters. That is what I was called to do, but again my lack of education prevents me from being heard…or read, that is.

Commentators, especially from ESPN, continue to wear out the old, old, tired cliché “a buck fifty-nine”…meaning maybe an ERA of 1.59, one hundred and fifty-nine yards rushing, a pitiful batting average of .159. Are the rest of you tired of that, or is it just me? Just rambling.

Another sports idiom that makes me want to puke is “one for the ages.”  The phrase alone defines its exclusiveness.  Too many “ones” for the ages diminish the rest of them already set aside for the ages.

Jim Nantz is one who has beaten that horse to death.

I do like Chris Berman. If you aren’t sure which one he is, he is on ESPN and coined the phrase “…back, back, back, back…back”…and…”he…could…go….all……the…way.”

He always seems to bring something fresh to the table. Uses his own stuff, know what I mean? For example he is always throwing in something extra with people’s names, such as…”Bo ‘Diddly’ Jackson,” or “Ray ‘it’s been a hard day’s’ Knight.” Things like that make watching and listening more palatable.

Speaking of using one’s own stuff, allow me to add this. The only thing I don’t like about writing for “Bleacher Report” is the editing of it.  I don’t mind constructive criticism; I just don’t like the fact that anyone can edit your article any way they want.

I realize you can still revert back to the way it was, but if you don’t check in every few hours, someone has taken your article and “ran” with it.  Especially the title.  Don’t fool with a man’s title. Enough said.

The best football man is by far John Madden. He can tell you what the left offensive tackle did on the play before the replay man can roll it. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Al Michaels sucks. He is everyone’s favorite but I can’t deal with him. Fire him and bring in Pat Summerall.

Madden and Summerall, that was the best team ever. Before them it was Summerall and Tom Brookshire, but I digress.

What happened to split John and Pat was Fox’s nonsense. They weren’t going to re-sign Summerall so Madden decides to jump ship and go to ABC (he said he always wanted to do Monday nights). He would rather go to ABC than stay at Fox with some other hoser. Kudos to Madden!

Continuing with the story, Madden leaves and Fox signs Summerall, and sticks him on the last team Fox uses for football coverage. You know what I mean, the game nobody gives a crap about and the only time you see it is if all the other games ended early and they had to fill a hole. Thumbs down to Fox.

I can’t stand Joe Buck. His father was great, but he doesn’t deserve all the attention.

I can still hear his old man talking immediately following Kirk Gibson’s famous homerun, “I don’t believe what I just saw.”

I remember when Fox rolled Joe out with all the other kids. Joe Buck son of legend Jack. Thom Brenneman son of Hall-of-Fame announcer Marty Brenneman. So many sons there I half expected Little Ricky to come on the show.

Joe is showcased on nearly everything Fox puts their hands to. Football, baseball whatever. The man drives me nuts.

So you will know, the second best football guy is Dan Dierdorf, very knowledgeable man. Knows the game inside out.

For boxing I still like Barry Tomkins. HBO should never have let him leave.

Lampley is good but reminds me too much of a calculator, always telling you that Toney threw 84 more jabs than Holyfield and landed 39 more. How can you figure that crap up that fast. Oh yeah, that’s where I miss the college education.

Larry Merchant reminds me of a wise ol’ owl, always throwing in his two cents. He always gets kinda smart with boxers too, if they try to say hi to too many people. It is a little disrespectful if you ask me. I mean they don’t have sponsors so time is really a non-issue.

He kind of puts me in the mind of Jack Whitaker (not the Powerball winner). He was an “owl” type as well. Always throwing in his perspective on anything and everything.

I didn’t care too much for Curt Gowdy until he died. Now I miss him.

I don’t miss his old booth buddy, Al D’Regatis (never even knew how to pronounce it, let alone spell it). Just hearing his voice somehow takes me back to an Oakland-San Diego game. How depressing is that? Blanda setting up for a 38-yarder to tie the score. Please.

Bob Costas is great. He, not Michaels, is the king as far as this observer is concerned.

Vin Scully is very good but I can’t deal with a man who refuses to sweat in 95 degree weather. “Just getting ready to break the seal on this one at Candlestick Park.” I always liked that description for opening up a ball game.

Hockey sucks. Did you hear me? It sucks. Legalized thuggery is all it is. Fights every three minutes.

I like to watch a good fight, but give me boxing or Ultimate Fighting.

Also, I wouldn’t watch a soccer game live or on TV if you paid me real money. Boring!

And NASCAR, are you kidding me? Don’t get me started! When did driving a car become a sport? You can call it entertainment around me but don’t offend the word “sport.”

About like the Spelling Bee. I know, I know, ESPN shows the Spelling Bee so it must be sporting.

If a cat has kittens in the oven, you don’t call them biscuits.

I’m gonna sign off before my chest explodes and my heart falls to the floor and the Hell hounds dive into it like it is a chew-toy.


Cliff Eastham is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report where this article was first published.

Can You Remember?

The face of sports changes as it grows older. Athletes come, athletes go.

Rules change constantly in professional sports. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

Did you ever get a little smile on your face when someone asks, “remember when—?” Memories bring up feelings and emotions from the past, some good and some not so good.

Challenge your memory with these 10 events.

Have you heard about them? Did you live them? Did you even know about them?

Here we go.


#10 – When Sen. Bill Bradley Played Professional Basketball

He was an All-American high school basketball player and chose the Princeton Tigers as the team he wanted to play college ball for. Bill was a 3 time All-American and National Player of the Year in 1965.

He was a Rhodes Scholar so he went to Oxford after getting his degree at Princeton.

In 1966 he joined the New York Knicks as a 6’5” guard and was later moved to forward.

He retired from basketball in1977 and was inducted to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

His number 24 was retired by the Knicks.

#9 – When The Marquette Golden Eagles Were The Marquette Warriors.

The team was called the Warriors from 1954 until 1994.

They changed their name to the Golden Eagles because it was felt by many that it was disrespectful to Native Americans. What about prayer warriors?

Also, the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks use to be called the Miami Redskins, but changed because of the same reason.


#8 – When There Was No Shot Clock In NCAA Basketball

In 1985 the NCAA began using a 45 second clock (which was changed to 35 in 1993) in which a team had to shoot the ball.

The timer starts when the team inbounds the ball. If they don’t shoot in the appropriate time limit, the other team gains possession of the basketball.

A big reason for the rule was the North Carolina Tar Heels. Coach Dean Smith employed an offense known as the “four corners”.

Four of the players would stand at each corner of the offensive end of the court while the fifth man would dribble the ball until someone challenged him.

They could get a lead and just “milk” the clock with the four corner offense, usually until someone was fouled.

Phil Ford was an absolute expert at running this offense for Dean Smith.


#7 – When Ahmad Rashad Was Bobby Moore

When he was a running back and receiver for the Oregon Ducks he used his birth name of Robert Moore.

He was an All-American running back where he played alongside quarterback Dan Fouts.

He was a first round (4th overall) pick of the (then) St. Louis Cardinals in 1972 about the same time he changed his name to Ahmad Rashad (Rashad means ‘Admirable One Led To Truth’) after his mentor in St. Louis.

He was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007.

He later became a TV football announcer and analyst and also hosted NBA Inside Stuff.


#6 – When There Were No Baseball Playoffs In The Major Leagues ?

Prior to 1969 the only major league baseball teams to play for a championship was the regular season pennant winners from the American and National Leagues respectively.

They played the best 4 out of 7 in the World Series and the winner was the world champs of baseball for that year.

This is why you see such bloated ‘post season’ records today. Back then, there was no post season, it was just the World Series.

#5 – When NBA Referees Called Palming On Players

When pro basketball was really fun to watch (and some people on the court actually couldn’t dunk it) the referees called palming when a player (usually a guard) turned his wrist over while dribbling the ball.

Now, not only do they palm, sometimes they get away with taking a couple steps after terminating their dribble.

#4 – When Cornerbacks were Called Defensive Halfbacks And Wide Receivers Were Split Ends And Flankers

Back in the day (don’t you hate that axiom?) positions on a football field were different than they are today.

Cornerbacks and Safeties were called Defensive Halfbacks. Wide Receivers were called Split Ends and Flankers, or just Ends.

There was no such thing as a nose guard. You had Defensive Ends and Tackles, period.

Tight Ends were merely called Left or Right Ends.

There was a Fullback and a Left and Right Halfback, now you have ‘H’ backs, Scatbacks, Running Backs, Tailbacks, etc.

Of course Quarterbacks have always been called Quarterbacks.

#3 – When The “Top Of The Key” Looked Like The Top Of A Skeleton Key.

Long, long ago in a gymnasium demolished decades ago, the key of the basketball court was a good deal skinner than it is today.

The reason for the change was that some players had a distinct advantage with the lanes being so close to the basket.

This reason also resulted in a ‘3 second’ violation to be implemented.

In the old days offensive players could just plant themselves under the basket and get great position for an offensive rebound.


#2 – When You Didn’t Go To The Big Dance, If You Didn’t Win Your Conference Title Or Tournament

Prior to 1975 only one team per conference was allowed to participate in the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

If you didn’t win your tournament (or regular season title in the Big 10) you were at home watching on television.

It didn’t matter if you were the #1 rated team in the nation, if you didn’t win, you didn’t go.

Now look at how it has changed, with some conferences sending as many as 7 or 8 and smaller conferences just sending one.

I would personally like to see it go back to that.


#1 – When MLB Had Two All-Star Games A Year.

From 1959 until 1962 the National League All-stars and the American League All-stars met twice each year.

The idea for the extra game was for the extra revenue to help with the player’s pension fund.

However, many felt that the second game watered down the significance of the mid-summer classic, so it was abandoned.