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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ramble On ... Congrats to WEEI-Radio and Glenn Ordway

WEEI and Big Show host Glenn Ordway were nominated for Radio Industry Achievement Awards by R&R (Radio and, WEEI for Station of the Year in a Top 25 market and Ordway for "News/Talk/Sports" Personality of the Year. The awards will be presented March 12-14 at a ceremony in Marina del Rey, California. My best to Glenn and the folks at WEEI-Radio Boston.


Bud Bank

This AP story was on earlier this week:

NEW YORK -- Baseball commissioner Bud Selig made more than all but three of his sport's players in 2007.

Selig received a raise of about $3 million to nearly $17.5 million that year, according to Major League Baseball's latest tax return.

His compensation was listed at $17,470,491 for the 12 months that ended Oct. 31, 2007, according to the return, which is available at That was up from $14,515,071 in the prior 12 months.

MLB's contribution to Selig in its benefit plan was $461,540, an increase from $400,999 in the previous return. He got $422,590 in expense account and other allowances, up from $140,603 in the previous fiscal year.

His total compensatoin adding benefits and expenses was $18.35 million.

Selig's pay was first reported by the Sports Business Journal.

In 2007, the only players who received higher cash compensation were a trio of the Yankees: Alex Rodriguez at $23 million (plus $4 million deferred), Derek Jeter at $22 million (including a $2 million payment as part of his signing bonus) and Jason Giambi at $21.5 million (including a $500,000 payment as part of his signing bonus). Roger Clemens fell just short at $17,442,637.

Selig took over as acting commissioner in September 1992 and was elected permanently in July 1998. His current term runs through 2012.


Check out the online voting section for the annual Hobey Baker Award and click (HERE) if you would like to vote.

Of course, many who do not follow college hockey are wondering, 'Who is Hobey Baker?' Here's a clip on him written by Bill Esposito:

There are those wrote during Baker's era, just before the Great War, that he was the greatest athlete who ever lived. You can argue with that, but not too loudly because old-timers who saw him play hockey and football at Princeton will shout you down.

Certainly he was the greatest Princeton player of that time, with a ton of talent and a carload of charisma. Jeffrey Hart penned that Baker was "probably the most charismatic athlete of all time."

Consider: he captained Princeton's hockey and football teams ... he is a charter member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame and one of a handful of Americans to be inducted into Canada's Hockey Hall of Fame ... he is a member of Princeton's Hall of Fame, both football and hockey, and each year the best hockey player in the country receives the Hobey Baker Memorial Award.

Baker was a player who continually brought a crowd to its feet, whether he caught the puck on the end of his stick, or picked an enemy punt out of the air. He was not, it was written, a showman, but he did everything with a sense of showmanship because it was natural to him.

And, when the skates and sticks and football pads were put away, Hobey Baker proved that his athletic skill could be carried further. He enlisted as a pilot in World War I and was part of the federal Lafayette Escadrille in France, flying with Rickenbacker and flying against Von Richtofen and Goering. He shot down three German planes in dogfights so gloriously depicted in the movies "Hells Angels" and "Dawn Patrol," and having survived the war, looked forward to the world remaining for him to conquer. Just before he was to leave France to return for a hero's welcome, he was killed while testing a repaired aircraft. He was only 26.

George Frazier, the Harvard man who wrote so well of so many things in his Boston-based column, had this to say about Hobey Baker years later: "The fateful fact that he perished in the special splendor of his youth of course has something to do with the legend that he has become. It always does, whether in the case of a poet named Thomas Chatterton, a songwriter named Brooks Bowman, a cartoonist named Sam Corbean, a cornetist named Bix Beiderbecke, or an athlete named Hobey Baker. And yet it is also a fact that the good, far too frequently, die young and that whom the gods love, they often destroy." Frazier continued to say that everything, in Baker's case, seems to have conspired to insure immortality.

Hobart Amory Hare Baker was born in Philadelphia in 1892 and with his brother, Thorton, attended the prestigious St. Paul's School, where, it is written, he was "industrious rather than brilliant" in his classwork. As for athletics, it was further written that he was "phenomenal." In the 1909-10 season, his senior year, the St. Paul's team defeated Princeton, the Tigers' only loss that year. He would later lead Princeton to a pair of hockey championships as well as stunning the opposition on the football field. After his junior collegiate season in 1913 he was proclaimed "The Wonder Player of Hockey."

On the football field, he drop-kicked a pair of field goals in 1912 to give Old Nassau a 6-6 tie with Yale and the next year he drop-kicked a 43-yard field goal to again tie the Elis, 3-3. His scoring marks at Princeton stood for almost half a century.

He didn't wear any headgear, either on the gridiron or on the ice, and with a shock of blond hair topping his strong frame, he was the only player out there, someone said, for the crowd to look at. As George Frazier noted, "It is part of the legend, and not the least true, that he was as handsome an undergraduate as his college ever had."

Baker's ability, as great as it was, was topped by his sportsmanship and he is perhaps known for this more than his playing skills. He was only penalized once in his college career - he was called for slashing against Harvard in 1913 - and was counted on always to visit the opposition's locker room after a game. Opponents as well as teammates loved him and his tremendous celebrity never occurred to them. It certainly was not a part of Baker's attitude and he remained inaffected when crowds shouted "here he comes," as he entered the football field or hockey arena.

Baker took part in what has often been described as one of the most exciting games in hockey history, in January of 1914 against Harvard. It was 1-1 after regulation and the teams battled through a pair of ten minute overtimes. Then they entered a sudden death struggle with the sellout crowd going bananas. Twenty-three minutes into the sudden death Harvard broke out with a lanky reserve player slicing in to score the winning goal. Years later that Harvard man would play some hockey with his grandchildren and would still use the same stick that brought the Cantabs that prized victory...Leverette Saltonstall's career included the governorship of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a long spell in the United States Senate but he was always eager to tell you "how we beat Hobey Baker and Princeton," his craggy face, once described as "the New England states put together," lighting up in smile of fond memory.

Speaking of sticks, they compete at St. Paul's School for an award known simply as "Hobey's Stick," and the Hobey Baker Memorial Award trophy is annually given for prowess in hockey, "college hockey's Heisman Trophy." At Princeton, the ice arena is named for him.

There was no professional hockey back then before World War I, or at least, no organized sports as it is today, and Baker began working at the Morgan Bank on Wall Street. He joined the Saint Nicholas Skating Club hockey team and mark this, the Saint Nick's squad was an amateur group which players had to pay to join. They played all over with the big posters heralding "Baker Plays Here Tonight" and the crowd jammed arenas to see this wonderman. Newspaper began to feature stories on him and while he cooperated with the press he never went overboard. The Saint Nick's team once defeated the Montreal Stars to take the Ross Cup, a vintage hockey prize, and the Montreal press reported, "Uncle Sam has the check to develop a first class hockey player who was not born in Montreal. Baker cooked our goose so artistically that we enjoyed it."

He must have been something out there on the ice, or on the 40-yard line, his blond hair shinning in the light of the sun. He was typical of the heroes of that Horatio Alger period, young men strong of heart, sound of limb, confident but not cocky in the knowledge that they could do whatever job was given them and do it with joy, with elan, with a zest for competition. Indeed, one is reminded of Lester Chadwick, writer of the fabled "Baseball Joe Matson" stories, who described his hero a "a glorious representative of young American manhood." And, Burt L. Standish, who gave us the Frank Meriwell sags, might have seen Baker in action with that constant smile. Like Baker, Meriwell was always at his best when he smiled at the foe.

Baker's era of our nation's history will never be seen again. It was a time of confidence, of almost arrogance, of determination, all wrapped up in one of John Philip Sousa's marches. It was written of Baker that after his college days he showed "an unmistakable restless" and that when he did get to France in the war he was "as adventurous a pilot as he had been an athlete," seeing comparisons in aerial combat and sports. He was, it wa written, "exhilarated with this war," He flew a plane painted orange and black, Princeton's colors, and during his stay he became engaged to Mimi Scott, described as "a Newport beauty." Faded photographs of that era show as a storybook couple, she in her uniform, he in his flyer's suit, as pure Fitzgerald as ever lived.

A national day of mourning marked his passing. America, and American sport, will never see his like again, for the Hobey Bakers are with us but a brief span and perhaps that is how it should be. We can treasure their memory more and try to emulate them, for it is a rare gift that we have them with us.


Former Boston Globe basketball writer Peter May re-surfaced with this this take-out on Yahoo Sports. It is worth a read:

The man largely responsible for Dwight Howard’s presence in an Orlando Magic uniform was in New Hampshire over the weekend, doing what he does the best and loves the most: scouting college players at a hockey game.

“Basketball is not hockey to me,’’ John Weisbrod was saying. “I’m still a hockey guy at heart.”

This “hockey guy” – he played at Harvard and coached in the minors – nonetheless found himself running the Magic in the critical spring and summer of 2004. Elevated to the position of general manager in March 2004, Weisbrod, who had no basketball background whatsoever, but a boatload of athletic experience as a hockey player and executive, signed off on four big decisions in the space of two weeks in June and July.

Five years later, they almost all look like no-brainers. But after that frenzied two-week stretch yielded Howard, Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu and hastened the departure of Tracy McGrady, Weisbrod was vilified by fans (had there been a blogosphere the size of today’s, it would have been exponentially worse), received bags of hate mail (some of which he still retains) and for a while had to move into an area hotel under an assumed name because of death threats. The FBI installed surveillance cameras at his house.

If you Yahoo search the words “polarizing” and “Weisbrod,” your computer will explode. It wasn’t easy.

“It’s strange looking back on how it all worked out,’’ Weisbrod said after a day of meetings with his current employer, the Boston Bruins, for whom he scouts. “I had had a history of team-building in hockey and I thought I could do the job with the Magic. We needed to blow it up and start all over and I knew it was not going to be pretty. It was a hectic time – but a good time.”

The Magic ended up with the No. 1 overall pick in 2004 and the choice was quickly pared to two: the young, athletic, upside-laden Howard and the dependable, more-seasoned and incredibly polished Emeka Okafor. Howard was a risk because he was in high school. Could he be the next Kwame Brown? Okafor was more of a sure thing, having played three years at Connecticut and winning an NCAA title along the way. In all his years coaching at UConn, coach Jim Calhoun puts Okafor on his own Mt. Rushmore along with Ray Allen and Ben Gordon.

Weisbrod didn’t act in a vacuum. He leaned heavily on his basketball people, current GM Otis Smith and current assistant GM Dave Twardzik. But, in the end, he made the call. And even though Okafor won the Rookie of the Year award, and even though Okafor was named to the 2004 Olympic team, there isn’t an executive in the NBA who would take him over Howard, who won gold in Beijing and became the first player to amass 3 million All-Star votes.

“I had always tried to use character as the deciding factor in evaluating players, but, in this case, it was hard because they were both outstanding individuals,’’ Weisbrod recalled. “It then became about the basketball part. Dwight was not as much of a finished product, and in that way, he was more of a gamble. He had more hurdles to climb. But when you calculate a guy’s chances to improve, you look at character and he was flawless. The more time I spent with him, the more I said to myself, ‘He is going to bring it to bear every day because he is so earnest, so hard-working.’ I had no difficulty seeing him get to where he has gotten. He had it in him.”

The Magic also were a bit worried about Okafor’s physical condition. While he had been reasonably healthy at UConn, in his first four years in the NBA, Okafor missed a total of 80 games. Howard missed none. And Weisbrod knew the Magic were more than a player away from becoming a very good team and had time to wait and allow the ridiculously talented Howard to develop. Nonetheless, Weisbrod has a vivid memory of the fans in New York booing when David Stern announced that Orlando was taking Howard ahead of the better-known Okafor.

“There were times when I went back and forth, but that was early on in the process,’’ Weisbrod said. “I think as long as two or three weeks before the draft, we were clear what we were going to do. And we felt good about it.

“It has been gratifying to watch Dwight’s career and see it come to fruition. But to me, the most stressful part of that [draft] night was not making the Howard pick, but the Jameer Nelson trade.”

Indeed, Weisbrod couldn’t shake a grin when he got an e-mail last week from one of his former workers at Orlando. Nelson had been chosen as a reserve for the Eastern Conference All-Stars.

“We had agreed to trade a future No. 1 to Denver, who was picking 20th. Jameer was the only one we wanted,’’ Weisbrod said. “And we had to sweat it out because there were a number of picks out there between the time we made the trade and the time Denver made the pick for us.

“That part was the icing on the cake for us and, in some ways, more memorable because it literally went down to the wire. And it is also gratifying to see him succeed.”

With those two in the fold, Weisbrod then moved McGrady to Houston five days later. To many, that is what he is most remembered for in his stint as the Magic general manager. McGrady was still popular in Orlando, but Weisbrod wanted more of a team identity. And, although he didn’t say it, it was clear that McGrady was not a “hockey guy.”

Weisbrod readily admits the deal (the principals were Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley) didn’t pan out as hoped but he said McGrady, whom he had named captain and received league permission to put a “C” on McGrady’s uniform, simply had to go. T-Mac wanted out. Weisbrod was happy to accommodate him.

“We were changing a culture and it didn’t work out with Steve. He had been such a ferocious competitor in Houston and we thought he might have got swept along with what we were doing,’’ he said. “But if we had kept Tracy, you have to wonder: Would Dwight have developed so quickly?”

Two weeks later, Turkoglu came aboard as a free agent. Weisbrod was ripped for overpaying the ex-King by giving him the full, midlevel exception. Eight days after that, another character guy, ex-Celtic Tony Battie, was acquired, although it cost the Magic Drew Gooden (no great loss) as well as someone Weisbrod thought might really help them down the road: second-round pick Anderson Varejao.

“I thought he would complement Dwight quite well,’’ Weisbrod said.

At that point, Weisbrod was almost persona non grata in Orlando. But as he looks back on his handiwork from that time, he can’t help but feel happy. Howard may be the one player not named LeBron who any exec would choose to build a team around. Nelson and Turkoglu are solid; the latter was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player last season and could well have been an All-Star. The Magic are among the top four teams in the league, record-wise.

Weisbrod spent 14 months as the general manager before returning to his first love. He still follows the Magic, still counts friends in the organization, but if there’s a choice on television between a hockey game and a basketball game, he’s going with the former. He has an unabashed love not only for the sport, but for the camaraderie it engenders, something he doesn’t see as much in basketball.

“I used to tell my players, if you’re on the bench, and you look to the left and then to the right, you have to be able to say to yourself, ‘I will take a bullet for either one of those guys.’ It makes you tough,’’ he said. “In basketball, there’s a lot more individualism and egotism and it’s harder to get that kind of mentality. I’m not saying one is better than the other, but I do think it comes more naturally in hockey. Then again, that’s what I am: a hockey player.”

A hockey player who made one of the most crucial basketball decisions of the decade – and looks all the smarter for it as the years roll on.


Condoleezza Rice as the next Pac-10 commissioner?

Two sources told The Seattle Times last Thursday that Rice, who spent the last four years as U.S. secretary of state, has thrown her name into the pool of candidates to replace Tom Hansen, who will retire July 1.

Rice was provost of Stanford from 1993 to 1999, during which time she was active in athletic affairs, including overseeing the hiring of Tyrone Willingham as football coach.

She has long talked about her love of football and once said her dream job would be to become NFL commissioner.

TL comment? - Silence.


Beanpot Finals Tomorrow on NESN. Harvard vs Carelli's BC for 3rd Place...Third, like a kissin' your sister.


And, to make sure that you are still paying attention, check this out and post your comments on this kid:

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