NFL Conference Championship Games

New Salon column.

It’s the second time ever that two teams with single-digit wins have met to see who goes to the Super Bowl. The first was the Ice Bowl, the 1967 NFL Championship Game in Green Bay when the Packers beat the Cowboys on Bart Starr’s sneak. And those two nine-win teams only played a 14-game schedule.

I can’t figure out if the Cardinals and Eagles are historically mediocre for teams advancing so far or if they’ve advanced historically far for teams so mediocre.

Ignorance is not a skill

New Salon column.

I’m picking on Dave Kindred, longtime Sporting News columnist, who doesn’t really deserve it. He was the straw that broke the camel’s back, though. I’m sick of baseball writers dismissing newfangled stats without even bothering to learn about them, and then bragging about that refusal.

Ignorance isn’t a skill. It’s something journalists are supposed to fix, not brag about.

Sure they didn’t mean White House?

The U.K. Sun reports that singer Amy Winehouse is among prominent Jews who have been targeted by terrorists in the wake of Israel’s invasion of Gaza. British intelligence says the discussion of attacks on an Islamic-extremist Web site should be taken seriously, the Sun reports.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has responded by requiring Americans to take off their shoes before listening to “Back to Black.”

Don Larsen’s perfect game

New Salon column about watching the rebroadcast of Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series.

A few other thoughts:

• It was really a pleasure to watch the hitters march right up to the plate, get set and wait for the pitch. No relaxation techniques or surveying the defense before stepping in. Nobody stepped out to lovingly adjust both batting gloves and his helmet before every stinkin’ pitch.

It helped that nobody wore batting gloves or helmets.

But this, along with the relative paucity of mid-inning pitching changes, is the main reason games are so much longer today than in the past. Batters just won’t get in the box.

• The thing that looked the most similar to today’s game was fielding. I guess there are only so many ways you can field a grounder or catch a popup. It was interesting how both teams, when whipping the ball around the horn after a bases-empty out, threw it to the catcher. College teams sometimes do this today, but you never seem major leaguers do it.

Interesting might be too strong a word there.

• The pitchers didn’t stand in the on-deck circle before they hit. They waited in the dugout. Then, when it was their turn, they bounded up the steps — and marched right into the box.

I don’t remember this practice from my early days of fandom, the early ’70s. I do remember that in situations when the next hitter — whether he was a pitcher or not — might hit or might be hit for, the on-deck circle would sometimes be empty. Nowadays there’s a rule that says you have to put somebody in the on-deck circle, and the umps actually enforce it. Kind of a dumb rule, because you can put a pinch-hitter out there and still send the scheduled hitter up.

• Yogi Berra would stand up after every pitch to throw the ball back to the pitcher. That was a lot of work for his legs. I can’t think of a catcher today who does that. They mostly drop to one knee after the pitch and throw that way. Berra also bounced a lot in his crouch, and when warming up a pitcher, he kind of leaned on his right leg while crouching. Don’t know if he was favoring an injury that day or if that was a habit. His legs took an awful beating, though. And it’s not like he was a bouncy young thing in 1956. He was 31, and he’d caught more than 1,200 games.

• Roy Campanella, the Dodgers catcher, looked like a fat middle-aged bus driver who somehow got drafted to play. He was a month shy of 35, and 1956 was sandwiched between his last good offensive season and the last year of his career. He stepped way in the bucket as he flailed at pitches. He’d go 4-for-22 with seven strikeouts in the ’56 Series, but even while he was hitting .219 during the regular season, he walked more than he struck out.

Thanks to segregation, which helped keep Campanella — a pro at 15 — out of the big leagues till he was 26, Berra had a much longer big-league career than Campanella did. But at least the numbers say that at his best, for a few years in the early ’50s, Campanella was a better hitter than Berra. That’s saying a lot.

• The Dodgers played an exaggerated shift on Mantle when he hit left-handed, as he did in Game 5 against Sal Maglie. They pulled Pee Wee Reese to the right of second base. I’d never heard that teams did that for Mantle. Just for Ted Williams.


I have a few lifetime goals. I mean, I have some silly ones like raising my kids well and doing meaningful work, that sort of thing. But I have some really important ones.

I’d like to see a no-hitter in person.

I’d like to pick every baseball division winner some year (I once came close, in the three-division era, when I got three, and the fourth team, the Tigers, should have won but crapped out down the stretch).

I’d like to pick every NFL division winner some year (I’ve never been within two zip codes of this).

I’d like to go 11-0 picking NFL playoff games some year. This is the most realistic of my goals, including the silly ones above, but I don’t think I’ve ever done better than 8-3. I didn’t have a lot of confidence going in this year that I’d do it. I never do. But I thought I had a good chance to get through Saturday, because I didn’t think much of the Cardinals or the Chargers, and I thought the Colts were playing well.

My perfect record lasted three hours. Actually, less than that because it was pretty apparent well before the end that the Falcons weren’t going to come back. Where did that Cardinals performance come from? They played defense and everything. And the Falcons looked rattled and jittery.

Oh well, I’m going to regroup with some simpler, more attainable goals than the 11-0 playoff thing: Clear the clutter off my desk and make a million dollars.

The new new blog

Welcome to the new I’m your host, Though the Salon column is a going concern, I’ll be using this site for some goodies and extras.

Exactly what that’ll be, well, we’ll just have to figure it out together. Maybe a few items that don’t quite rise to the level of Salon-worthiness, for completists only. Maybe the odd non-sports riff, though I’ve been told by Salon that I’m welcome to do that on the big site.

The first thing I plan to do is collect all of the books, movies and TV shows I’ve written about for Salon and create an archive of those stories. Almost all of them are about sports. Some are reviews, others are interviews.

We might be in pipe-dream country here but I’d also like to post short items about a lot of books and movies and TV shows I haven’t written about over the years, but would have liked to. I get a lot of these things sent to me and, considering I’m the world’s slowest reader who isn’t still actually sounding out the letters as I go, I don’t get to most of them before they’re old news.

So, Your home for old news!

Maybe. We’ll see. Suggestions welcome. In the meantime, I’m spending most of my very limited blog-related time trying to figure out how to use WordPress. Like, if someone could teach me, by talking to me like I’m an idiot, how to use my own image as a header, that would, as the kids say, be swell. I have some calls out …