This is not an easy thing for a lifelong, loyal Dodger fan to admit: The greatest player in baseball history was a Giant.
At least in my opinion, that's the case. Willie Mays turned 82 years old today, and I still think he's the greatest player in the history of the game. Here are a few of his amazing accomplishments:
--.302 Lifetime Career Batting Average
--660 Home Runs
--3,283 Career Hits
--1,903 Career RBI
--24-time All-Star (tied with Stan Musial #1 in this category)
--Eight Consecutive 100-RBI Seasons (one of only five players to do this)
--1951 National League Rookie Of The Year
--1954 World Series Champion
--Two-Time Most Valuable Player (1954 & 1965)
--Two-Time All-Star Game MVP (1963 & 1968)
--12-Time Gold Glove Award Winner (including the first year of this award--six years into his career)
--Hit Over 50 Home Runs Twice (1955 & 1965--the longest gap between 50-plus homer seasons in MLB history)
--Member of MLB All-Time Team
--Member of MLB All-Century Team
It is said that the term "Five-Tool Player", now a very commonplace term used to describe all-around outstanding players, was invented in describing Mays' abilities.
So Happy Birthday, Willie. The "Say Hey Kid" will always be remembered as one of the the all-time greats, if not the greatest to ever play the game.
Maybe I've been hanging around Rod Babers for too long. My co-host of "The Sports Buffet" here on SportsTalk AM-1300 The Zone has had a longtime man-crush for LeBron James that few others possess. But when it comes to voting for the Most Valuable Player of this year's NBA season, count me in among the multitudes who felt James was the clear winner--and apparently, so did 120 of the 121 voters who actually have a ballot for the MVP award. It tied the 99.4% mandate that Shaquille O'Neal previously enjoyed alone as the largest voting margin in the history of the award. Everyone's on board, right ?
Well, not everyone. Gary Washburn, who writes for the Boston Globe, did not vote for LeBron. He voted for the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony--the only voter of 121 not to cast his ballot for James. He explains his reasons in this article:
Whether you agree with his decision or not, you have to admire his convictions. Then again, would he have stuck with his choice of Melo had he known he would be the only one to vote for Anthony over James ?
Tonight's NCAA national championship game between Louisville and Michigan mixes a lot of the old and new. Louisville will be trying to win the school's third national championship, but the Cardinals haven't been in a national title game since 1986, when they beat Duke at Reunion Arena in Dallas--my first-ever Final Four--in a great game, 72-69. That Louisville team, featuring Pervis "Never Nervous" Ellison winning the Most Outstanding Player award as a freshman, beat a veteran Duke team in its first Final Four under Mike Krzyzewski and featuring Johnny Dawkins, now the coach at Stanford, and current ESPN analyst Jay Bilas.
Michigan has only won one national championship. That was in 1989 at the now-destroyed Kingdome in Seattle, beating Seton Hall in a great game, 80-79 in overtime. That Wolverines team featured Rumeal Robinson in the backcourt and forward Glen Rice, won won the MOP award. Ironically, neither of the Michigan teams featuring the "Fab Five" to reach the national title round ever finished the job; Duke hammered all the all-freshman Fab Five team in 1992, and North Carolina was able to seal its 77-71 win over the five sophomores the following season following Chris Webber's timeout gaffe for a technical foul (the Wolverines had no timeouts remaining when Webber mistakenly called one in the last ten seconds). Of course, even if Michigan had won either of those games, they would not be listed in the NCAA records, since the extensive violations involved in the recruiting of the Fab Five led to all of the school's wins being vacated and the banners being taken down from Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor.
These latest incarnations of Louisville and Michigan are exciting teams. Prior national championship matchups between fast-paced teams quite often didn't live up to the hype. Either one team was on and the other wasn't, bringing about a rout for the team that was on its game, or neither team was on, and a sluggish, turnover-plagued poor-shooting finale took place. I don't see that happening tonight. I think that both John Beilein at Michigan and Rick Pitino of Louisville will turn their teams loose, and it could be a full-court, end-to-end thriller.
I'll take Michigan to win it tonight, 79-78. But I think we're all in for a lot of fun, no matter who wins.