NCAA MEN’S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT-SWEET 16 TODAY (SIMULATED)

EAST REGION

Kansas vs. Louisville

Indiana vs. Florida State

 

MIDWEST REGION

Gonzaga vs. Providence

Kentucky vs. San Diego State

 

WEST REGION

Baylor vs. Seton Hall

Michigan vs. Maryland

 

SOUTH REGION

Dayton vs. Ohio State

Michigan State vs. USC

 

NFL keeping its draft in April as scheduled

Commissioner Roger Goodell told NFL teams on Thursday that the draft will go on as originally scheduled for next month.

The draft will still take place April 23-25. It was originally scheduled for a big outdoor production in Las Vegas, but those plans were scrapped because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a memo obtained by The Associated Press, Goodell said that “public health conditions are highly uncertain” and there was no guarantee of significant improvement by moving it to a later date as reasons for not moving the date of the draft.

The draft, which has become a huge extravaganza since leaving New York in 2015, will be scaled down and “televised in a way that reflects current conditions.”

Prospects and their families will not be at the draft. It is possible the draft will more resemble a studio TV show.

Even without the big party on the Strip, the draft should still draw considerable attention and TV ratings while the rest of the sports world is largely shut down because of the coronavirus.

Goodell instructed the 32 teams to close their facilities to all but a select few employees on Wednesday. On Thursday, he told teams to plan to conduct draft operations outside of team facilities and with the ability to talk to other teams as well as draft headquarters.

 

Seven best remaining free agents who will prove to be excellent value signings

Free agency has slowed to a crawl. The first wave and the initial flurry of transactions are long gone. Except for the unprecedented quarterback market, which remains flooded with options, much of the intrigue is over. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still moves to be made. That doesn’t mean there are still not interesting options at multiple positions that could make a difference for an NFL team in 2020. That doesn’t mean there aren’t still some pieces available who could impact a season. There is far more value to be found at this stage in the process. And in many cases, less competition for their services and market factors working in favor of teams, and not against them.

There are seven remaining free agent options that continue to catch my eye and, in some cases, there are players yet to be signed who undoubtedly will out-perform fellow free agents who got exceedingly more money in the early hours of free agency last week. Happens every year. Free agency is a most inexact science even if it’s not quite like the draft in that regard. Here are some of the free agents who I’m expecting to exceed expectations given how the market has played out to this point:

 

Cam Newton

Recent MVP. Still young. Body should be fresh after taking almost no hits in 2019 and sitting out much of 2018 as well. I’m not super concerned about his foot. The shoulder is healed. He is a touchdown machine and as motivated as any player in the NFL. And you’re telling me maybe I can get him for one year and $15M after no one would trade for him with just $19M remaining on his previous deal with Carolina. This guy has been winning football games his entire life and he isn’t done by a long shot.

 

Jameis Winston

Now I am supposed to believe he isn’t even an NFL starter? Not even one of the best 32 quarterbacks? Yeah, the interceptions are an issue, but they are also a huge issue for Philip Rivers, who is 10 years older, and he still got $25M. What am I missing here? The Raiders would rather have Marcus Mariota than him? Really? He’s going to have to sign a one-year, $7M deal to be a back-up option after leading the NFL in yardage and throwing 30 picks? Even with the abundance of QB options and with a bunch of QBs about to be selected in the draft, I didn’t anticipate it being this bleak for him. Someone could end up getting a steal that saves their season.

 

Cam Wake

Yes, he is getting older. And yeah he got hurt last year. But he has been tremendously durable, was still creating pressure and moving quarterbacks around with the Titans last year before suffering a season-ending injury and pass rush is always in demand. He is as respected as they come and a physical specimen who stays in tremendous shape. As a situational rusher on a pitch count, you could do way worse than Wake. And if you need even more than that out of him, I think it’s there. His motor always runs hot and deserves to end his career with a winner. If the Patriots were not in their retooling phase he’d be a natural fit there.

 

 

Mike Daniels

For years this guy was a premier defensive tackle able to collapse the pocket. He commanded significant attention from the opposing offensive line. He was a beast. Then he got banged up and the Packers moved on, and then he was stalled by injuries again last year after signing a hefty one-year deal with the Lions. I wouldn’t give up on him just yet. He could be a great value play for a contending team in need of a rotational guy up front and, as with Wake, might prove to be more than that as well. If the Ravens’ deal with Michael Brockers falls apart, I’d make a call to Daniels.

 

Logan Ryan

He keeps putting up big seasons even as he approaches age 30. Last year was a key part for the Titans, defending 18 passes, nearly picking up five sacks and picking off four passes. He can play. Proved it in New England and in Tennessee. Maybe you can get him on a short-term deal at this point. I’d certainly be trying if I needed help in the secondary, like the Broncos and Colts.

 

Derek Wolfe

He was a consistent producer throughout his entire career with the Broncos. He was a guy teams were asking about at the trade deadline the last few years. He may be slowing down some, but is a heady player who works hard and has a nose for the backfield. Even if in a more limited role, he has something to give.

 

Jason Peters

No longer a perennial All Pro, but still a quality pass protector when healthy … That hasn’t been the case (Peters’ health) nearly as much as you would like in recent years, but I’d be willing to gamble on him on a one-year deal rather than trade a second-round pick and have to give Trent Williams a huge new deal via trade. A true warrior for a long time who could be huge for a team looking for help bringing along a developmental tackle for the long haul.

 

2020 NFL DRAFT: WIDE RECEIVERS

RANKING TOP 35

#35: Binjimen Victor, Ohio State… 35 – 573 – 16.4 – 6 touchdowns

#34: Joe Reed, Virginia…. 77 – 679 – 8.8 – 7 touchdowns

#33: Kendrick Rogers, Texas A&M…. 30 – 351 – 11.7 – 2 touchdowns

#32: Diondre Overton, Clemson… 22 – 352 – 16.0 – 3 touchdowns

#31: Kalija Lipscomb, Vanderbilt… 47 – 511 – 10.9 – 3 touchdowns

#30: Aaron Fuller, Washington…. 59 – 702 – 11.9 – 6 touchdowns

#29: James Proche, SMU…. 111 – 1225 – 11.0 – 15 touchdowns

#28: Gabriel Davis, Central Florida…. 72 – 1241 – 17.2 – 12 touchdowns

#27: Van Jefferson, Florida…. 49 – 657 – 13.4 – 6 touchdowns

#26: John Hightower, Boise State…. 51 – 943 – 18.5 – 8 touchdowns

#25: Juwan Johnson, Oregon…. 30 – 467 – 15.6 – 4 touchdowns

#24: Jawan Jennings, Tennessee…. 59 – 969 – 16.4 – 8 touchdowns

#23: Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State…. 86 – 1171 – 13.6 – 13 touchdowns

#22: Chase Claypool, Notre Dame…. 66 – 1037 – 15.7 – 13 touchdowns

#21: Devin Duvernay, Texas….. 106 – 1386 – 13.1 – 9 touchdowns

#20: KJ Hill, Ohio State…. 57 – 636 – 11.2 – 10 touchdowns

#19: Quartney Davis, Texas A&M…. 54 – 616 – 11.4 – 4 touchdowns

#18: Collin Johnson, Texas…. 38 – 559 – 14.7 – 3 touchdowns

#17: Anotnio Gandy-Golden, Liberty…. 79 – 1396 – 17.7 – 10 touchdowns

#16: Lynn Bowdon Jr., Kentucky…. 30 – 348 – 11.6 – 1 touchdown

#15: Tyler Johnson, Minnesota….. 86 – 1318 – 15.3 – 13 touchdowns

#14: Bryan Edwards, South Carolina…. 71 – 816 – 11.5 – 6 touchdowns

#13: Denzel Mims, Baylor…. 66 – 1020 – 15.5 – 12 touchdowns

#12: Michael Pittman Jr., USC….. 101 – 1275 – 12.6 – 11 touchdowns

#11: Jalen Reagor, TCU….. 43 – 611 – 14.2 – 5 touchdowns

#10: Donovan Peoples-Jones….. 34 – 438 – 12.9 – 6 touchdowns

#9: Quintez Cephus, Wisconsin….. 59 – 901 – 15.3 – 7 touchdowns

#8: Justin Jefferson, LSU….. 111 – 1540 – 13.9 – 18 touchdowns

#7: Tee Huggins, Clemson….. 59 – 1167 – 19.8 – 13 touchdowns

#6: KJ Hamler, Penn State….. 56 – 904 – 16.1 – 8 touchdowns

#5: Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State….. 65 – 1192 – 18.3 – 8 touchdowns

#4: Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado….. 56 – 764 – 13.6 – 4 touchdowns

#3: Henry Ruggs III, Albama….. 40 – 746 – 18.7 – 7 touchdowns

#2: CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma….. 62 – 1327 – 21.4 – 14 touchdowns

#1: Jerry Jeudy, Alabama….. 77 – 1163 – 15.1 – 10 touchdowns

 

PROFILES TOP 10:

#1 Jerry Jeudy

ALABAMA

6’1” 190 pounds

Jeudy is considered a rare athlete and is as good as there is speed. No other receiver in college football gets off the line of scrimmage better than he does. He has exceptionally quick feet and combines that with good body control that allows him to blow by defenders when running his routes. He can excel as fast as anyone and stop on a dime in a moments notice. He is a better receiver over the middle and has the balance to get out of the initial tackle and take off for huge chunks of yardage after the catch. He can track the football downfield and has excellent hands. He can work outside and in the slot in the NFL. The biggest concern is his size at only 6’1” and 190 pounds. The concern is bigger defensive backs can get into his grill early and slow him down at the line of scrimmage. He may be considered the most exciting receiver to come out of Alabama since Amari Cooper in 2015. He is a definite top 10 selection.

 

#2 CeeDee Lamb

OKLAHOMA

6’2” 190 pounds

Lamb could be the best contested – catch receiver in college football. He has long arms very strong hands and contract the football much like Jeudy of Alabama. His lower body is very strong and that allows him to out muscle defenders. He has shown signs of explosiveness when attacking the football. He also has the ability to break tackles in the open field and is catch radius is enormous. He is one of the few receivers in college football that excels on the back – shoulder catch. One other ability Lamb has is he is an excellent blocker. The biggest concern at this point is he doesn’t create a lot of separation. At times he can get caught up at the line of scrimmage against bigger defensive backs who can press him. He has the potential to be a great one in the NFL. He could use a little more coaching to polish his route running. He is definitely a #1 receiver.

 

#3 Henry Ruggs III

ALABAMA

6’0” 195 pounds

Ruggs is perhaps the fastest receiver in this draft, with pure long speed. Many are comparing him to Tyreek Hill. He has the ability to stretch the field and make big plays. He has outstanding ball – tracking skills and body control when adjusting to throws downfield. He actually plays bigger than his size at the point of reception. He is an explosive leaper and does attack the football at the point of reception. Ruggs may have the strongest hands of any receiver in this draft. One area that scouts would like to see improvement is his route running. He needs to learn the nuances of the NFL game and be more creative with the football in his hands. He is considered a first round selection and will excel once he is coached up.

 

#4 Laviska Shenault Jr.

COLORADO

6’2” 225 pounds

Shenault did everything at Colorado including lining up outside, in the slot, and was used as an H-BACK in the running game. He has excellent vision and was very creative as a running back with good balance and natural power to over – run defensive backs. He was absolutely unstoppable in the open field because of his explosiveness. He is good against press coverage and can handle physical defensive backs. In the NFL, coaches must expand his route running. His durability is also a concern at the NFL level because he missed games in each of the last two years. He has the ability to be very good in the NFL once he is coached up. Once he becomes more refined and pays attention to details, he can be a number one receiver.

 

#5 Brandon Aiyuk

ARIZONA STATE

6’0” 195 pounds

Aiyuk became a true star last season. He has excellent speed and can be physical and is very competitive. He is one of the best receivers when it comes to running after the reception. Once catching the football he had the ability to slip multiple tacklers and uses vision and creativity like a running back. He became more of a complete receiver during his senior season. Aiyuk is a downfield threat with good leaping skills and a competitive nature to win contested – catches. His understanding of route running was much better during his senior season. His athleticism allowed him to create more separation.

He is still considered relatively raw in NFL standards. He’s not a big receiver and failed a physical before the Senior Bowl. With NFL coaching he has the potential to be a big – time receiver. Until he gets up to speed he will be seen as a complementary offense of weapon.

 

#6 KJ Hamler

PENN STATE

5’9” 175 pounds

Hamler is definitely undersized, but he is competitive, tough and has excellent speed. Defensive backs have had issues covering him. Along with his natural speed, he gets off the line of scrimmage extremely fast, making defenses think twice about pressing him. He has excellent body control that allows him to gear down when necessary. He is considered above average on catch – and – run situations, and shows excellent vision with the ball in his hands and has the creativity to be deadly in open space. He takes pride in going after the football downfield and has excellent leaping ability to rip the ball away from defenders. He is not considered a well – rounded receiver yet. He needs to do better at coming back to the football and attacking on stop routes. With an emphasis on big – play ability in the NFL, Hamler fits that mold. He has the potential to become a quality starter in the right situation.

 

#7 Tee Higgins

CLEMSON

6’4” 215 pounds

Higgins is another big receiver who has excellent speed and ball – tracking ability as a deep threat. He has good body control and strong hands and is very competitive attacking the football. He is catch radius is enormous both downfield and in shorter situations. He is a physical wide receiver and is a premier blocker, which is a plus in the run game. Scouts believe he looks average when working against very physical corners who look to press him. He wasn’t exposed to many routes at Clemson and so there is some concern that he can separate on the intermediate routes. His big play ability will earn him a significant role in the NFL if he can become more than a one – dimensional deep threat.

 

#8 Justin Jefferson

LSU

6’3” 190

Jefferson is one of the better route runners in this NFL draft thanks in part to Joe Burrows breakout season at LSU. He has an excellent feel for the game and is a tough receiver at the point of attack. His size and speed allows him to have better leverage against defenders and he can create separation. Jefferson works well against zone coverage and his ball skills are excellent. He makes the adjustments necessary to make the catch. He does lack the top – and speed. He does work a lot in the slot and hasn’t seen much coverage against the press. At this point, he is not a major run – after – catch threat in the NFL. Jefferson is probably considered a second round selection, but he has a great feel for the game and will be a consistent receiver at the next level.

 

#9 Quintez Cephus

WISCONSIN

6’1” 200 pounds

He is one of the most athletic receivers in the draft and plays bigger than his size. He is a polished route runner in the short, medium and long game. He has strong hands and good leaping ability that allows him to dominate in many job – ball situations. His speed off the line of scrimmage and the ability to escape defensive backs made him a threat at Wisconsin. He also has a natural feel against defensive backs who want to jam him early. Scouts are curious whether he could have the same kind of big – play threat in the NFL. A questionable background off the field has made some NFL teams think twice about drafting him. He was tried on two counts of sexual assault last summer and was found not guilty on both counts. He has shown the ability to win on a variety of routes and if a team is comfortable with his background, he could be a future starter, but not a number one selection.

 

#10 Donovan Peoples – Jones

MICHIGAN

6’1” 210 pounds

He is another receiver with potential to be better at the next level. He was very good with his underneath routes and has dynamic ability when he gets the football. He has the strength to bust tackles and turn short gains into long runs. He adjusted the football downfield very well and can make the difficult catch. He handles press coverage very well and is one of the premier blockers in this class. He also has the ability to be a very good punt returner.  Scouts believe his biggest concern is his inconsistency and he left several big plays on the field at Michigan. He must become a better route runner and not rely so much on his athleticism. He should get the opportunity to make more plays in the NFL than he did at Michigan since the Wolverines were a heavy run offense. In the right system, he could be a good #2 on the outside or as a big slot receiver.

 

Aaron Donald reacts to Rams signing Michael Brockers after Ravens deal fell through

Michael Brockers agreed to a hefty contract with the Baltimore Ravens over a week ago, but the defensive lineman will instead continue playing for the Los Angeles Rams in 2020. You can count Aaron Donald among those who are pleased the original deal fell through.

Brockers agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal with the Ravens on March 16. However, there was talk this week that Baltimore had concerns over the 29-year-old’s physical and was exploring other options. The Ravens announced on Friday that they were unable to come to an agreement with Brockers, and reports that the former first-round pick is re-signing with the Rams immediately followed.

Brockers and Donald have now been teammates for six seasons and counting with the Rams. Brockers had 63 tackles and three sacks last season for the Rams, and some key players have already left the team this offseason. It’s no surprise that Brockers being unexpectedly retained was well received.

 

Report: Jadeveon Clowney may wait until training camp to sign

Jadeveon Clowney is not close to finding a team to sign with, and it sounds like that may remain the case for quite some time.

The defensive lineman remains unsigned nearly two weeks into free agency, and nothing appears close. According to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, there is a growing belief around the league that Clowney may wait until training camp to sign.

Things can change quickly in free agency, and it’s cautioned that Clowney might sign quickly if something comes his way that he likes. However, he has yet to receive an offer to his liking. The Seattle Seahawks have reportedly offered Clowney a deal somewhere in the $13-15 million per year range. That is well short of what Clowney has been looking for.

Clowney’s health is likely an issue, as teams can’t examine him themselves before making a major investment in him. It’s not clear when that will change. What is clear is that Clowney isn’t really willing to settle for less than his perceived value, even if it means sitting and waiting for a while.

 

Report: MLB unlikely to have All-Star Game in 2020

The Midsummer Classic could be one of the unfortunate casualties of a shortened MLB season.

Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reported on Friday that having an All-Star Game in 2020 is unlikely but has not been ruled out. He also added that both the league and the players are willing to play up until Thanksgiving if necessary in order to play as close to a full season as possible.

This year’s All-Star Game was scheduled for July 14 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif. With the contest no longer determining who gets home-field advantage in the World Series however, it can ultimately be expendable.

Plenty in baseball are willing to explore creative solutions for the abbreviated calendar, and it looks like the All-Star Game may be first to get the kibosh.

 

USC lands Malik Thomas and now has No. 1 recruiting class for 2021

The USC Trojans continue to have a big week in recruiting — in basketball.

Andy Enfield landed another commitment, securing a pledge from 4-star guard Malik Thomas on Friday, 247 Sports’ Evan Daniels reports. Thomas is shooting guard who attends Damien High School in Southern California. He called USC his “dream school” in an interview with Daniels.

Thomas plays for the Compton Magic AAU team and is the second member of that program to commit to the Trojans this week. The other is four-star guard Reese Dixon-Waters.

Between Thomas, Dixon-Waters, and Harrison Hornery, USC now has three commitments to their 2021 recruiting class, which is ranked No. 1 in the country.

USC also got commitments from graduate transfers Tahj Eaddy and Isaiah White for next season.

Maybe this is some sort of a consolation for Trojans fans after what happened with the football team.

 

Donald Trump consulted with A-Rod, J Lo on coronavirus response

Donald Trump looked for advice and help in many areas in formulating his response to the coronavirus pandemic. That search apparently included consulting with one of entertainment’s biggest power couples.

ABC’s Katherine Faulders and John Santucci reported on Friday night that the president sought advice from Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez regarding the coronavirus.

That seems like a bizarre place for the president to go in his conversations, but he’s a sports fan and also said he had spoken with Tom Brady recently.

What do you think Rodriguez and Lopez told him? Maybe they advised him on virus-spreading models, the potential GDP impact, and the best use of congressional stimulus funds.

 

Kirk Herbstreit believes coronavirus outbreak will cancel college football season

All of us are hoping the coronavirus pandemic is under control by the start of the 2020 football season, and it seems like there is a decent chance of that happening. Even if the spread has slowed dramatically, however, Kirk Herbstreit does not think we are going to see college football this year.

Herbstreit said during an appearance on ESPN Radio Thursday night that he would be “shocked” if the 2020 college football season is not canceled.

“I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football. I’ll be so surprised if that happens,” Herbstreit said, as transcribed by TMZ. “Just because from what I understand, people that I listen to, you’re 12 to 18 months from a (coronavirus) vaccine. I don’t know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don’t know how you can do it with the optics of it.”

While he is certainly not an epidemiologist, Herbstreit said he believes what we have seen with the coronavirus outbreak thus far is only “scratching the surface of where this thing’s gonna go.” He’s also concerned about the lack of preparation time for teams even if the pandemic has quieted down in a few months.

“You don’t all of the sudden come up with something in July or August and say, ‘Okay we’re good to go’ and turn ’em loose!” Herbstreit said.

At this point, the NFL seems to be the only league refusing to make major changes to its schedule. However, there are plenty of people around the league who believe the start of the 2020 will be delayed, at the very least.

There has been some talk that the NBA season could resume in June, but no one really knows exactly what the future holds. If the NBA and NHL are able to finish their seasons, that will be a good sign for football.

 

Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell cleared from coronavirus

The first known NBA player to contract the coronavirus has finally been cleared.

The Utah Jazz announced on Friday that Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell and all of the team’s players and personnel have been cleared by the Utah Department of Health to end their isolations, meaning they are not at risk of infecting anyone else with COVID-19.

Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus on March 11, and his positive test essentially brought the entire sports world to a screeching halt. The NBA quickly postponed its season, setting off a domino effect of almost all other leagues doing the same.

Gobert had initially mocked the coronavirus paranoia, and he later apologized for not taking it seriously and putting others at risk.

Mitchell tested positive after Gobert. Mitchell and other Jazz players were reportedly upset with Gobert for how he handled himself. Gobert has since tried to make things right by urging people to take COVID-19 seriously and making a huge donation.

 

Texas AD says Shaka Smart will return as basketball coach

Shaka Smart seemed to be on the hot seat for much of the 2019-20 season, but he will get a sixth season as the head coach at Texas.

Longhorns athletic director Chris Del Conte told Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman that Smart will remain the head coach after a 19-12 season.

“Shaka’s our coach,” Del Conte said Friday. “Nothing’s changed. We won five of the last six down the stretch, finished third in the conference. We have a good team coming back. Nothing’s changed on my end.”

This may come as a bit of a surprise. Smart has never won an NCAA Tournament game with the Longhorns and has just one season with a winning record in Big 12 play. His 90-78 record is underwhelming at a school with Texas’ expectations, and his 40-50 record in conference play is even moreso.

Former Longhorns have been disappointed with the direction of the program under Smart, but Del Conte does not share their concerns. Smart will get at least one more year at the helm.

 

Report: Grizzlies owner inquired about moving team last summer

Memphis Grizzlies owner Robert Pera might just have his sights set on a bigger market.

Longtime Grizzlies beat reporter Ronald Tillery reported on Friday that Pera inquired about moving the team last August.

The Grizzlies began in Vancouver in 1995 and moved to Memphis in 2001. Despite having stars over the years like Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Zach Randolph, the team has only had one appearance in the Conference Finals since the move (though they have earned ten total playoff berths).

Memphis is obviously one of the smaller markets in the NBA, and the Grizzlies have consistently ranked in the bottom ten in attendance in recent years. That said, the team did outdo expectations this season with a fresh core led by Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr gaining the No. 8 seed in the West. So a lot has changed since August, especially with that exciting new culture taking shape.

 

Oakland City University approved as provisional member of River States Conference

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio – The River States Conference is pleased to announce that Oakland City University has been approved as a provisional member of the conference. The announcement comes after approval from the RSC Council of Presidents.  Pending Oakland City’s reinstatement to the NAIA, the Mighty Oaks would become full members of the conference on July 1, 2020.

Oakland City is a past member of the NAIA and was in the conference from 1968-75 when the league was known as the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Founded in 1916, the KIAC rebranded in the summer of 2016 and changed its name to the River States Conference.

The Mighty Oaks’ reinstatement to the NAIA is pending the NAIA Council of President’s meeting next week.

“The River States Conference is delighted to see Oakland City University return to the NAIA and the conference,” said Michael Schell, RSC Commissioner. “They have been great to work with through the application process, and I look forward to seeing them compete this fall.”

“Oakland City University is excited to return to the NAIA and especially the River States Conference,” said Dr. Ron Dempsey, President of OCU. “The institutions in the RSC will provide our intercollegiate Mighty Oaks tremendous competition, and we are looking forward to developing some intra-conference rivalries.  As president, I am proud that OCU is able to associate and compete with such a stellar group of colleges and universities.”

Oakland City has been a member of NCAA Division II as an independent. The Mighty Oaks sponsor 14 sports teams – six men’s, seven women’s and one co-ed. Oakland City participates in 13 of the 17 RSC Championship sports with the only exceptions being men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field.

The Mighty Oaks compete in men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s tennis and volleyball. Oakland City also has a co-ed cheerleading team. Oakland City would be eligible for conference and national postseason right away pending full membership.

Oakland City is located in Oakland City, Ind. Founded in 1885, the university has an enrollment of 1,500The school’s mission statement states, “Oakland City University is a Christian, faith-based learning community dedicated to the enhancement of intellectual, spiritual, physical and social development for positive leadership.”

Oakland City brings the RSC membership back to 13 institutions. The Mighty Oaks increase the conference’s membership to four schools within the state of Indiana. The RSC membership, which is spread across five states, now includes four schools in Kentucky, four in Indiana, two in Ohio, two in Pennsylvania and one in West Virginia.

The addition of Oakland City increases NAIA national tournament automatic bids for the RSC in several sports. Baseball and softball return to having two automatic bids with Oakland City being the 10th team in each of those sports. Likewise, RSC men’s and women’s cross country and volleyball move back to two automatic qualifications with the Mighty Oaks being the 12th sponsored team in those areas.

Oakland City’s membership gives the RSC 13 men’s and women’s basketball teams, 11 women’s soccer teams, 10 men’s soccer teams, nine women’s tennis teams, seven men’s tennis teams, 10 women’s golf teams and 11 men’s golf teams.

Oakland City joins River States Conference member institutions Alice Lloyd (Ky.) College, Asbury (Ky.) University, Brescia (Ky.) University, Carlow (Pa.) University, Indiana University East, Indiana University Kokomo, Indiana University Southeast, Midway (Ky.) University, Ohio Christian University, Point Park (Pa.) University, University of Rio Grande (Ohio) and West Virginia University Institute of Technology.

 

BIG TEN STATEMENT ON ORGANIZED TEAM ACTIVITIES

The Big Ten Conference announced today that it will extend the previously announced suspension of all organized team activities through May 4, 2020 and will re-evaluate again at that time.

This is an additional measure to the previously announced cancellation of all conference and non-conference competitions through the end of the academic year, including spring sports that compete beyond the academic year. The Conference also has previously announced a moratorium on all on- and off-campus recruiting activities for the foreseeable future.
The Big Ten Conference will continue to use this time to work with the appropriate medical experts and institutional leadership to determine next steps relative to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The main priority of the Big Ten Conference is to ensure the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, faculty, fans and media as we continue to monitor all developing and relevant information on the COVID-19 virus.

 

Three Football Assistant Coaches to Take on New Roles in 2020

MUNCIE, Ind. – Ball State football head coach Mike Neu announced today that three of his assistant coaches have earned title changes for the upcoming season.

Patrick Dougherty, who is the longest tenured assistant coach on the BSU staff, has added the title of assistant head coach. He has coached the tight ends since his arrival in 2014 and took on the special teams coordinator role in 2016. Dougherty also served as the team’s recruiting coordinator for two seasons in 2015 and 2016. He helped kick returner Malik Dunner earn All-MAC accolades three straight years in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Alex Bailey, now in his sixth season at Ball State, is the team’s new recruiting coordinator. Bailey will continue his work as the wide receivers coach. He has mentored some of the most prolific wide receivers in Ball State’s history in his time on staff including recent graduates KeVonn Mabon and Jordan Williams. This past fall, Ball State’s top two wide receivers earned All-MAC honors – Justin Hall and Riley Miller. Miller was also the team’s MVP in 2018 while Hall took home ESPN.com Freshman All-America accolades in 2017.

Finally, offensive line coach Colin Johnson was tabbed Ball State’s run game coordinator. Johnson, a former Ball State offensive lineman himself, is in his second year on the Ball State coaching staff. The Cardinals’ rushing average in 2019 (219.4 yards per game) was their second highest mark in the past 40 years. Two of Johnson’s linemen were honored as All-MAC players last year – Danny Pinter and Curtis Blackwell. Pinter was also named team MVP and is now hopeful to hear his name called during the NFL Draft at the end of April.

“All three of these coaches are integral parts of our staff and have truly earned these added roles,” Neu said. “They are excited to be here as we continue our rise in the Mid-American Conference and work towards our ultimate goal of bringing a MAC championship back to Muncie.”

Ball State concluded the 2019 season 5-7 overall and 4-4 in the MAC. The Cardinals won the Bronze Stalk Trophy from Northern Illinois for the first time since 2008 and capped the year by knocking off league champion Miami for the Red Bird Rivalry Trophy, 41-27.
Ball State opens the 2020 season on Thursday, Sept. 3 with a home game against Maine.

 

Morton Named Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Incoming Purdue freshman Ethan Morton capped off a sensational high school career by being named Pennsylvania’s Gatorade Player of the Year.

Morton led Butler Area High School to a WPIAL Class 6A title last month and were playing for a PIAA Class 6A title before the coronavirus pandemic shut down all sports activities.

“It’s a great honor to receive an award like this, especially when you see all the outstanding players who have won it in the past,” Morton told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “That is something I will never take for granted and always cherish. It wouldn’t have been possible without my teammates, we all played together and for each other this year with so much love and passion.”

Morton finished his senior season by averaging 23.4 points, 13.0 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game. The 6-foot, 6-inch point guard has a 4.0 GPA and led Butler to its first WPIAL title since 1991. He shot 56 percent from the field and 81 percent from the free throw line, finishing his career with 2,198 career points.

Morton is part of an incoming recruiting class that is ranked No. 23 nationally by 247Sports, including standouts Jaden Ivey and Zach Edey. In addition, redshirt freshmen Mason Gillis and Brandon Newman will have four years of eligibility joining the newcomers.

 

SPORTS EXTRA

OP/ED

Bruce Arians Is Ready To See Tom Brady Air It Out And Not Be A “Checkdown Charlie”

Tampa Bay has a new quarterback and the Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians has challenged his free agent Tom Brady to actually be a quarterback this season and not be a “Checkdown Charlie” as some people felt TB12 became recently in New England. So much for that plush semi-retirement Brady might have been hoping for in Florida this winter.

Recently Bucs head coach Bruce Arians was asked about what he expects from Tom Brady, his soon to be 43-year-old quarterback in 2020.  Arians, never one to mince words, bluntly explained  what he expects Brady to do this season: “I think the freedom of looking downfield on certain routes and in certain situations, when the matchup’s perfect — take it, don’t be afraid to take it — some quarterbacks are afraid to take it. I’m not looking for a ‘Checkdown Charlie’ quarterback.”

Arians added that Brady was still throwing a good deep ball last year in New England when the team utilized the play-action pass.

Tom Brady will experience a new kind of pressure this season with Tampa Bay; the kind that comes with being a high-priced QB who is expected to make a real difference right away with a new team.

Buccaneers fans will be allowed to do something this season that TB12 has never experienced by fans, boo him.  That’s because he is not the GOAT for their franchise, he will just be another quarterback the team has signed in the hopes of getting back to the Super Bowl. Loyalty will once again need to be earned through performance, because you and I have contributed to as many Tampa Bay wins as Tom Brady has to this point in our lives.

It will be interesting to see how much patience Bruce Arians has with Tom Brady, who developed a reputation for no longer likening when his head coach called him out publicly or at practice in front of his teammates.

With how unusual the 2020 NFL season might be, due to the Coronavirus, there may not be a learning curve for Tom Brady and his new teammates to build any chemistry. True, Brady did impress Arians with his understanding of the Buccaneers’ offense; but drawing things up on a whiteboard is a lot different than doing it at 43 during a game with players you have little chemistry with.

Bruce Arians won’t be shy about calling out his future Hall of Fame quarterback; so hopefully Tom Brady is bulking up on his avocado ice cream now, because come this season, it is time to become a real quarterback again.

 

TODAY IN SPORTS HISTORY-1995

NEW YORK-Some nights, the Madison Square Garden electricians don’t have to turn on the lights. Some nights, the athletes do it themselves. But tonight, one athlete turned on the lights.

Michael Jordan was that one athlete, soaring and swerving, slicing and spinning to 55 points, then whipping a pass to Bill Wennington, once of St. John’s, for the decisive basket in the Bulls’ 113‚111 victory over the Knicks, the most magnetic regular-season theater in New York sports history. Usually the most memorable games anywhere occur in the World Series or the Super Bowl or the National Basketball Association playoffs or the Stanley Cup playoffs or a championship fight. But tonight was just a regular-season game. Sort of. In a sense, if the Knicks and the Bulls continue on their paths toward becoming opponents in the first round of the N.B.A. playoffs, tonight’s game was really the opener of that three-of-five-game series, even though it won’t count.

Looking to that series, Michael Jordan gave the Knicks something to remember him and the Bulls by. Oldtimers might argue for Johnny Vander Meer’s second consecutive no-hitter at Ebbets Field during the 1938 season or for the Yankees snatching the American League pennant from the Red Sox in the final game of the 1949 season. But the Cincinnati Reds’ left-hander never possessed Jordan’s luster. And the Yankees’ triumph was a team effort. Jordan was performing a virtual solo tonight.

Hours earlier, this was obviously an event: Jordan’s return to the Garden nearly two years after wrecking the Knicks’ championship hopes in the 1993 Eastern Conference playoff final, after a season of minor league baseball as a .202 hitter for the Birmingham Barons, after rejoining the Bulls only 10 days ago. By late afternoon, nearly a dozen television trucks were parked on West 33d Street, contributing to the traffic jam that had horns honking. Fans were in their seats earlier than usual.

Whatever the scalpers were getting was worth it. In more than a quarter of a century in what is still considered the new Garden, Jordan’s 55 points were the most by an opposing player. Bernard King scored 60 there for the Knicks on Christmas 1984 against the Nets. But the Jordan numbers weren’t as dazzling as the number he did on the Knicks in only the fifth game since his comeback began.

Michael Jordan and the Bulls, who had won three N.B.A. titles at this point and would win another three straight in 1996‚98, lost to Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic in six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals the following May.

 

TODAY IN BASEBALL HISTORY

1913       The Browns trade Buzzy Wares to the Montgomery Rebels in exchange for the rent-free use of the minor league’s team stadium during spring training. The Southern Association Class-A team will return the 26 year-old infielder to St. Louis later in the season.

1970       Commissioner Bowie Kuhn announces the return of the All-Star selection to the fans. The over-exposure of the Midsummer Classic, two games each season between 1959-1962, and the lack of fan input prompt the MLB Promotion Corporation to modernize the marketing of the game by restoring fan balloting for the starting eight position players.

1977       Upset about losing his second base job to Bump Wills, Ranger Lenny Randle attacks and fractures the cheekbone of his manager Frank Lucchesi. The Ranger skipper may have triggered the episode, which occurred just before the team’s exhibition game against Minnesota, by once-again calling the usually even-tempered infielder a punk.

1978       By releasing the aging superstar, the A’s end the fifteen-year career of Dick Allen. The Wampum, Pennsylvania native finishes his stormy relationship with major league baseball with 351 HRs, 1,192 RBIs, and a .292 batting average.

1981       The White Sox trade southpaw Ken Kravec to the Cubs for Dennis Lamp, who will post a 25-21 (.543) record during his three seasons with the South Side club. With the departure of Kravec, the recently acquired Carlton Fisk has an opportunity to return to his iconic uniform #27 but chooses to stay with his new reverse digits of 72, which will be retired by Chicago in 1997.

1985       Sports Illustrated’s April 1st edition tricks the nation when author George Plimpton weaves a fictitious tale of The Curious Case Of Sidd Finch, a Mets rookie phenom who throws a 168 mph fastball. Staged photographs and quotes from Mets in real-life help to give the story a realistic edge.

1986       The Red Sox trade designated hitter Mike Easler to the Yankees for DH Don Baylor, who will provide valuable veteran leadership for the eventual AL champs while hitting only .238 for Boston. Easler, known as the ‘Hit Man,’ will live up to his nickname, batting .302 in his only full season with the second-place Bronx Bombers.

1988       Four days shy of his 47th birthday, Phil Niekro’s 24-year Hall of Fame career comes to an end when the Yankees put him on waivers at the end of spring training. The right-handed knuckleballer, best known for his tenure with the Braves, compiled a 318-274 record along with a 3.35 ERA while hurling for four teams, which also included the Yankees, Indians, and Blue Jays.

1999       At Havana’s Estadio Latinoamericano, the Orioles edge the Cuban National team, 3-2, thanks to a Harold Baines’ eventual game-winning hit in the 11th inning. The contest marks the first time a U.S. team had played in Cuba since March 1959, when the Dodgers played the Reds in two exhibition games on the island.

2003       The commissioner’s office announces teams will pay tribute to the U.S. Armed Forces during the seventh-inning stretch of all home openers by having `God Bless America’ performed. Although the song has been part of all games since the September 11th terrorist attacks, it will be heard only in major league ballparks at the home openers, Sunday, and holidays games.

2003       Three days before Opening Day, the YES Network claims Cablevision has nixed a proposed deal signed 17 days ago that would have provided televised Yankee games to nearly three million cable subscribers in the NYC metropolitan area. According to a YES Network press release, the giant cable company failed to sign a finalized version of the hand-written document that both parties exchanged on March 12th, because Cablevision president James L. Dolan took exception to unacceptable alterations in the typewritten draft.

2006       The insurance claim filed by the Astros in January to get back approximately $15.6 million of Jeff Bagwell’s $17 million guaranteed contract is denied by the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company. The insurers cite no adverse change in the 37 year-old first baseman’s condition between the end of last season and the Jan. 31, 2006 policy.

2008       The decision to have manager Manny Acta catch the ceremonial first pitch from President Bush at the Nationals’ home opener is reported not to have been made by the White House. Traditionally, the honor goes to the game’s starting catcher, today being Paul Lo Duca, cited in the Mitchell Report on drug use in baseball, who watches his manager catch the toss from the Commander-in-Chief.

2008       The 24,663 fans at Chase Field give opposing Rockies left-hander Doug Davis an ovation as he walks off the mound after appearing in an exhibition game against the Diamondbacks. Before the game, Colorado announces the very popular 32 year-old hurler will have his thyroid removed after the results of a biopsy reveal a lump in his throat to be cancerous.

2013       Mets GM Sandy Alderson announces an MRI has revealed 34 year-old Johan Santana has re-torn his surgically repaired left shoulder capsule and indicates additional surgery is a “strong possibility” for the left-hander. The Venezuelan southpaw, who missed the entire 2011 season due to the injury, will probably never pitch again for the team, finishing his six-year, $137.5 million contract with the team, a deal he signed upon his trade to the team in early 2008, on the disabled list.

2014       Mike Trout and the Angels come to terms on a $144.5 million, six-year deal, keeping the 22 year-old outfielder on the team through 2020. The five-tool phenom from Millville, N.J., the American League’s MVP runner-up in his first two seasons in the majors, was the unanimous choice for the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2012.

2017       In the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump has declined the Nationals’ invitation to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day at Nationals Park, citing a scheduling conflict according to club officials. Since President William Taft’s toss in 1910, every Commander-in-Chief has participated in the tradition at some point in their term in office, except for Jimmy Carter.

 

WORLD SERIES HISTORY-1910

The first decade of World Series baseball came to a close as two regulars, the Chicago Cubs (making their fourth appearance) and Philadelphia Athletics (making their second) went head-to-head for the championship title. Both teams were powerhouses with the A’s chalking one-hundred two victories and winning their pennant by fourteen games. The A’s boasted three .300 hitters with Eddie Collins, Rube Oldring and Danny Murphy and a thirty-one game winner in Jack Coombs, a twenty-seven year-old righthander who was 12-12 the previous season. Both teams suffered devastating injures and would not be at full strength for the Series. The Cubs had lost second baseman Johnny Evers to a broken ankle and Philadelphia was missing Oldring with a broken leg and pitcher Eddie Plank who was suffering from an arm ailment.

Although A’s manager Connie Mack was handicapped with the loss of one of his starting pitchers, he remained confident in his other aces Jack Coombs and Chief Bender. Bender, coming off his first twenty victory season in the Major Leagues (he was 23-5), opposed the Cubs’ Orval Overall in Game 1 of the Series. The matchup proved a mismatch, with Bender pitching a one-hitter into the ninth inning and Overall departing after allowing three runs and six hits in the first three innings. The A’s, getting three hits and two RBIs from Frank Baker, scored a 4-1 victory as Bender completed a three-hitter with eight strikeouts.

In Game 2, Coombs maintained his team’s momentum with a solid, but unspectacular Series leading performance. Although he lasted a complete game, he surrendered eight hits and nine walks while managing a 9-3 victory. Philadelphia had consecutively beaten two of Chicago’s top aces and prepared to tee off on a third against Series veteran, Ed Reulbach. The A’s came out swinging in Game 3 and drove Reulbach off of the mound in the second inning after tallying three runs. Harry McIntire took over in the third with a 3-3 tie, but was shelled for four runs in the 1/3 inning. The Cubs continued to collapse and before the inning was over, the A’s had tacked or a fifth run en route to a 12-5 romp. Coombs remained unbeatable while pitching with only one day of rest. Playing well on both sides of the plate, he only gave up six hits and had three hits and three runs batted in.

Suddenly, the mighty Chicago Cubs, considered sports first official dynasty, found themselves on the brink of elimination. Realizing that Philadelphia’s advantage was the direct result of poor pitching, the Cubs put their faith into the right arm of rookie Leonard (King) Cole, who had just completed a 20-4 season. The twenty-four year-old newcomer handled the pressure well, but was pulled in the eighth inning, while trailing 3-2. Hanging on by a thread, Chicago managed to get something started in the ninth when playing Manager Frank Chance tripled home Frank Schulte. Then, in the tenth, Chicago’s Jimmy Sheckard came through with a two-out, game-winning single against Bender, who had gone the distance, but paid for it with a 4-3 loss.

Still alive by their “last stand” victory in Game 4, the Cubs decided to go with their winning reliever, Mordecai Brown against the undefeated Coombs for Game 5. Both pitchers rose to the occasion and went neck and neck for seven innings. Philadelphia pulled ahead by one before adding five more in the eighth on the way to a 7-2, Series winning victory. Not only had the A’s defeated baseball’s biggest dynasty, they did it with only two starting pitchers (Bender and three-time winner Coombs).

 

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL’S BEST EVER

PETE ALEXANDER

Had Grover Cleveland Alexander been a writer, the French would have called him a poete maudit, a cursed poet. Alexander had within him the greatness and the frailty that make for tragedy. Except for Ty Cobb among his contemporaries, no other player had to cope with so many personal demons. With Cobb and Christy Mathewson, Alexander is one of the most complex players of the Deadball Era.

The only ballplayer named for a sitting United States president and portrayed on film by a future one (Ronald Reagan in The Winning Team) was born February 26, 1887, in the tiny farming community of Elba, Nebraska. He was one of thirteen children (twelve boys), the sixth of eight to survive into adulthood, born to the former Margaret Cootey and William Alexander.

Life on the Nebraska plains was harsh, as the infant and child deaths in the Alexander family amply prove. The Alexander farm was self-sufficient, however, and there was always enough food. Alex-called “Dode” by family and folks around Elba and St. Paul-considered himself “an average farm boy” and described his youth as “more or less a matter of long days of work and short nights of sleep.” He acquired a reputation as a corn shucker, a task his father credited with giving him the powerful right wrist that made his curveball so deadly. Alex developed his control throwing stones at clothespins or chickens (if his mother needed to fill the dinner pot). To be fair, he gave the chickens a running start. Despite the hardships, he graduated from St. Paul High School.

William Alexander hoped his son would study law as had his presidential namesake, but Dode wasn’t interested. Instead, he became a lineman with the telephone company so he could play ball on the weekends. Acquiring a local reputation as a pitcher, he signed with Galesburg (Illinois-Missouri League) for the 1909 season. After a slow start, he went 15-8 with an estimated ERA of 1.36 and 6 shutouts. On July 22, pitching in Galesburg against Canton, he threw the only no-hitter of his career, a 2-0 masterpiece in which he struck out ten, walked one, and hit a batter. A few days later, he beat Macomb, 1-0, in eighteen innings while allowing eight hits, hitting a batter, walking no one, and striking out nineteen.

In late July, however, he suffered an injury that ended his first season prematurely and cast doubts about his future. Alex was running from first to second trying to break up a double play when the shortstop’s throw hit him square in the right temple. Reports vary, but he was unconscious between thirty-six and fifty-six hours. He awoke suffering from double vision, which he endured through the fall and winter into the next spring. The double vision disappeared as suddenly as it came, and he was able to pitch again. The short-term effect, then, was relatively negligible. The long-term effect of the blow might have been the epilepsy that would do much to make the last half of his life a living hell.

The 1910 season got off to a bizarre start for Alexander. Galesburg sold him to Indianapolis, who, having heard of Alex’s double vision and believing that Galesburg had been too anxious to let him go, sold him to Syracuse (New York State League) without even giving him a look. Syracuse prospered from the gift. Alex went 29-11 with an ERA of 1.85. Thirty-one complete games and 217 strikeouts against only 74 walks in 345.7 innings made for a nice bonus. Particularly eye-popping was the number of shutouts-15. He put to rest the rap in the Syracuse press that he was a bit soft on July 20 by beating Wilkes-Barre in two well-pitched complete games. He resolved any other questions about his stamina with a string of 52 consecutive scoreless innings and 6 shutouts that only the end of the season stopped.

Alexander was clearly ready for the majors, but the Phillies were particularly interested in George Chalmers of Scranton. They got Chalmers for $3,000 and, as insurance, drafted Alex from Syracuse for $500. Chalmers struggled over seven seasons, but Philadelphia’s investment in Alex paid a better dividend.

Alex caught the National League by surprise. He didn’t look like a pitcher, as did his older contemporaries Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. All three were in the six-foot-one range, but whereas Alexander was a wiry 185 pounds, Mathewson and Johnson were a hard, chiseled 195 to 200 pounds. Matty and Walter had a majestic, almost regal way about them while Alex always had an unhurried shuffle, a uniform that never seemed to fit just right, and a cap that looked a size too small and stood on his head at a precarious tilt. All that changed when he pitched. He was the picture of grace and efficiency-often completing games in ninety minutes-with a smooth, usually sidearm delivery, possessing excellent control of a sneaky fastball and a devastating curve.

Alexander didn’t impress anyone at spring training except catcher Pat Moran, who saw something in him and persuaded the team to take the new pitcher north. He got to show his potential in the last game of the pre-season City Series, pitching five scoreless innings against the defending World Series champion Athletics. Alex debuted in Boston on April 15, losing a 5-4 decision on an unearned run in the ninth. He picked up his first win on April 26, beating Brooklyn in the first game of a doubleheader, 10-3.

Alex’s performance in 1911 is arguably the greatest season by a rookie pitcher in the twentieth century-28-13 with a 2.57 ERA. Twenty-eight wins led the league and remain the twentieth-century record for rookies. One of his biggest wins came in Boston against Cy Young in September, a one-hit 1-0 shutout. His 227 strikeouts, good for second in the league, stood as the record for rookies until Herb Score gunned down 245 for the Indians in 1955. He also led the league in complete games with 31, innings pitched with 367, and shutouts with 7 (four of them consecutive). His ERA was good enough for fifth. Pitching relief occasionally between starts, he picked up three saves. All of this came as part of a 79-73 team.

The Phillies in 1912 reversed their numbers to 73-79 and took Alexander down a bit with them. He went 19-17 with a 2.81 ERA but led the league with 195 strikeouts and 310 innings pitched. Philadelphia improved to second, well behind the Giants, in 1913, Alex contributing a 22-8 mark and a league-best 9 shutouts. Consistently inconsistent, the Phils fell to sixth in 1914 with a 74-80 slate. The fall was no fault of Alexander’s; he went 27-15 with a 2.38 ERA, leading the league in wins, innings pitched (355), strikeouts (214), and complete games (32).

The Phillies decided to make a change. Out went skipper Red Dooin. Enter Pat Moran, the good-field-fair-hit catcher who had persuaded the team to give Alex a real chance. Moran, an extraordinary manager who was building a Hall of Fame career until he died suddenly during spring training in 1924, was a genius at getting the absolute best out of his pitchers, as Alexander, Eppa Rixey, and a number of lesser talents had their finest seasons under him. Grover Cleveland Alexander was about to become Alexander the Great.

Beginning with the 1915 season, Alexander embarked on a three-year reign of terror over the National League. He went 31-10 to lead the league in wins and achieved his first pitcher’s Triple Crown, leading the league with a microscopic 1.22 ERA and a career-high 241 strikeouts. He led the league in every important pitcher’s category: innings pitched (376 1/3), complete games (36), winning percentage (.756), and shutouts with an incredible 12, a figure that stood as the National League record for one year. To make his domination of hitters humiliating as well as complete, he pitched four one-hitters. The first one-hitter, a 3-0 win in St. Louis on June 5, was the closest Alex ever came to a major-league no-hitter, as shortstop Artie Butler singled past Alex’s head with two down in the ninth.

Behind Alex’s leadership, the Phillies edged out the Braves by one game and headed into the World Series with the Red Sox. He defeated Ernie Shore, 3-1, in Game 1 as both pitched a complete game. Dutch Leonard beat Alex, 2-1, in Game 3 as Duffy Lewis singled in the bottom of the ninth to score Harry Hooper. Moran hoped to use Alexander in Game 5, but Alex felt worn out from the long season, and the Phillies lost a heartbreaker, 5-4, behind Erskine Mayer and Rixey.

Alexander rebounded from the disappointment of the Series loss with another Triple Crown: 33-12, 167 strikeouts, and a 1.55 ERA. He reached a career-high and league-leading 389 innings, 45 starts, and 38 complete games-and 16 shutouts. With the shutouts Alex reached two pinnacles: He’s the only National League pitcher to reach double figures twice in shutouts, and he holds the major league record for shutouts by three over Jack Coombs in 1910 and Bob Gibson in 1968. Coincidentally, he pitched his record-breaking 14th shutout on September 1, a 3-0 gem over Brooklyn’s Jack Coombs. Making his shutout record yet more astonishing is that he attained it pitching half his games in tiny Baker Bowl, a graveyard for pitchers. Alex’s heroics weren’t enough for the Phillies, who improved their won-lost record from the previous year but slid in 2.5 games behind Brooklyn.

Philadelphia remained in second in 1917 albeit ten games behind the Giants, but it wasn’t Alexander’s fault. He went 30-13 and with 200 strikeouts to lead the league along with a 1.83 ERA and a league-best 8 shutouts, 44 starts, 34 complete games, and 388 innings pitched. Under the rules of 1917, Alexander was awarded the ERA title because he pitched 10 or more complete games. However, under today’s rules, the award goes to the Giants’ Fred Anderson, who compiled his 1.44 ERA in 162 innings with a nondescript 8-8 record and fewer than 10 complete games.

With the war raging in Europe and the United States having entered the fray the previous April, the Philadelphia front office carried off one of the most cynical acts in baseball history. Gambling that Alexander would be drafted into the army, on December 11, 1917, they sent Alex and catcher Bill Killefer to Chicago for Mike Prendergast and Pickles Dillhoefer and $55,000.

Adapting to Chicago nicely, a $5,000 bonus from Charles Weeghman helping the process, Alex won two of his three decisions in 1918, all complete games, with a 1.73 ERA when the army came calling. Philadelphia’s gamble paid off. Ironically, the Cubs won the pennant anyway behind the Triple Crown pitching of southpaw Jim Vaughn.

Alexander invested his bonus in Liberty Bonds and reported for duty at Fort Funston, Kansas. On May 31 he married Amy Marie Arrants of Omaha, whom he’d met on a blind date several years before when she was visiting friends in St. Paul.1 A sergeant assigned to the 89th Division and the 342nd Field Artillery, Alex shipped out from New York on June 28 and arrived in Liverpool on July 9. His unit went to the front late in July.

Many men survived the war, but they didn’t recover from it. One of the many cruel coincidences of the war is that it destroyed the two greatest National League pitchers of the Deadball Era, if not of the twentieth century, Christy Mathewson and Grover Cleveland Alexander.

Alexander spent seven weeks at the front under relentless bombardment that left him deaf in his left ear. Pulling the lanyard to fire the howitzers caused muscle damage in his right arm. He caught some shrapnel in his outer right ear, an injury thought not serious at the time but which may have been the progenitor of cancer almost thirty years later. He was shell-shocked. Worst of all, the man who used to have a round or two with the guys and call it a day became alcoholic and epileptic, a condition possibly caused by the skulling he’d received in Galesburg. Alex tried to cover up his epilepsy, using alcohol in the mistaken belief that it would alleviate the condition. Living in a world that believed epileptics to be touched by the devil, he knew it was more socially acceptable to be a drunk.

A human wreck, Alexander returned to the Cubs on May 11, 1919. Working his way back into pitching shape, he dropped his first five decisions. Once he got turned around, Alex finished 16-11 for a distantly third-place team and led the league with 9 shutouts and a sparkling 1.72 ERA. His ERA remains the lowest for a Cub pitcher since the team began playing in Wrigley Field. He transcended his fifth-place team in 1920 with his last Triple Crown season: 27-14 with 173 strikeouts and a 1.91 ERA. In addition, he led the league in starts (40), complete games (33), and innings pitched (363 1/3) and threw in 7 shutouts and 5 saves.

From 1921 on, Alexander was a different pitcher, depending on finesse and pinpoint control, never striking out a hundred batters again, walking very few, having ERAs over three for the first time in his career, but still winning more than he lost. Alcohol was taking over his life, as he drank to relive the past, forget the present, and forestall the future. No longer a great pitcher, he was still a very good one, capable of picking up 22 wins in 1923 and setting a major-league record by starting the season pitching 52 consecutive innings before issuing a walk.

After the Cubs finished last in 1925, the front office brought in a career minor-leaguer named Joe McCarthy to manage in 1926. McCarthy, who would become a great manager, thought Alexander’s drinking was hurting the team. Alex made clear from the start that he had no use for McCarthy. With Alex muddling along at 3-3, the Cubs traded him to St. Louis for the waiver price on June 22. Legendary Cardinals player-manager Rogers Hornsby, wanting to win the pennant, figured Alex could help him and tolerated the drinking as long as it didn’t interfere with business. Alex helped, his 9-7 effort providing the margin in St. Louis’ two-game lead over Cincinnati.

The 1926 World Series, pitting the Cardinals against a powerful Yankee team featuring veteran bombers Babe Ruth and Bob Meusel and young guns Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri, cast the Alexander legend in stone. Alex pitched complete-game wins in Games 2 and 6 before the climactic seventh game. Alex entered the game to relieve Jesse Haines in the seventh inning with bases loaded, two out, and the Cardinals hanging on to a 3-2 lead. He struck out Lazzeri, held the lead, and the Cards were champs. Whether he was hung over, drunk, or sober — Alex and Amy always maintained he was sober — will probably never be known. Two interesting footnotes to the tale emerge: (1) Alexander, though striking out only 48 batters in 200 1/3 innings during the season, struck out 17 Yankees in 20 1/3 innings; and (2) Lazzeri, also hiding epilepsy, fell down a flight of stairs to his death during a seizure in 1946.

Reveling in his Series glory, Alexander enjoyed his ninth and last twenty-win season in 1927, going 21-10 with an ERA of 2.52. He slipped to 16-9 in 1928, pitched his ninetieth and last shutout, and was pounded mercilessly by the Yankees in their Series sweep of the Cardinals. His ninth and last win of the 1929 season, against eight losses, gave him 373, the number he believed put him ahead of Mathewson’s 372 and gave him the National League record for wins. It wasn’t to be, however, as researchers in the 1940s discovered an error in Matty’s 1902 numbers, improving his record from 13-18 to 14-17. The two righthanders, both victims of the war, would be forever linked in the record books. On December 11, twelve years to the day after Philadelphia traded him to Chicago, the Cardinals traded Alexander and Harry McCurdy to Philadelphia for Homer Peel and Bob McGraw-three of the most insignificant players ever connected to a Hall of Famer.

Alex lost all three decisions with Philadelphia in 1930, his first losing record ever, and was released. He tried to continue with Dallas in the Texas League but was ineffective and was soon let go. He pitched a few games over the next three years as a novelty with the House of David team. He was allowed to shave, but since a shot and a beer cost the same as a razor blade, he frequently had a stubble. Failing here, he was out of baseball for good. The coaching position he longed for never materialized because no one wanted to take a chance on him.

The last two decades of Alexander’s life are the picture of a man spinning out of control with nobody able to stop the free-fall. Alex entered various sanitariums seeking help, but nothing worked. He was hooked. Having put up with enough, Amy divorced him in 1929, hoping to shock him to his senses. Roy H. Masonnof of St. Paul filed a $25,000 lawsuit against him in January 1930, charging him with being a “love pirate.” Everybody cooled off, and Alex and Amy remarried in 1931. He shuffled around the country in an odyssey of odd jobs (including a stint recounting his strikeout of Lazzeri in a Times Square flea circus), cheap hotels, boarding houses, and the like. His poverty and inability to straighten out became an embarrassment to the National League. The Alexander file at the Hall of Fame contains a collection of letters exchanged among Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, National League president Ford Frick, Cardinal president Sam Breadon, and Cardinal general manager Branch Rickey-all of them addressing the question “What to do about Alexander?” They finally settled on the ruse of a National League pension of fifty dollars a month that was actually paid by the Cardinals and sent to whoever was keeping Alex to dole out to him as necessary. That, they hoped, with his small army pension, might keep Alexander from drowning.

Alexander’s desperate situation found relief only in his election to the Hall of Fame in 1938. He pulled himself together enough to go to Cooperstown for the first induction ceremony on June 12, 1939, and thoroughly enjoyed the time with the honorees. It was bittersweet, though, as Alex said in 1944, “I’m in the Hall of Fame, . . . and I’m proud to be there, but I can’t eat the Hall of Fame.”

The Alexanders divorced again in 1941 but remained close. Amy thought Alex never really considered them divorced and said he always sought her advice and friendship. He suffered a heart attack on October 15, 1946, as he was leaving Sportsman’s Park after watching the Cardinals beat the Red Sox in the World Series. In 1947 he was injured in a fall during an epileptic seizure in Los Angeles. He developed cancer on his right ear, necessitating its amputation. Amy thought the cancer might have been sun-related because Alex was fair and got sunburned often. It’s possible, too, that the root of the cancer stemmed from the shrapnel fragments he took during the war and the infection he suffered upon their removal. He made his last public appearance as the Yankees’ guest for Games 3 and 4 of their World Series sweep of the Phillies. Back in St. Paul after the Series, on November 4 he left his hotel room to mail a letter to Amy telling her he was looking forward to meeting her in Kansas City. He went back to his room and-mercifully-died. He was buried with full military honors in his family’s plot in Elmwood Cemetery outside St. Paul. His death certificate said Alex died of cardiac failure. Amy thought he died in a fall from an epileptic seizure. Either way, having reached the zenith, he had fallen to the depths. Never meeting a batter he couldn’t beat or a bottle he could, pursued by demons one can only imagine, Alexander was the cursed pitcher.

Amy, ever speaking kindly of Alex, died in Los Angeles in December 1979 at age eighty-seven.