MEN’S NCAA TOURNAMENT SWEET 16

EAST REGION

#4 Louisville 74 #1 Kansas 72

#11 Indiana 81 #2 Florida State 71

 

MIDWEST REGION

#1 Gonzaga 75 #5 Providence 74

#3 Kentucky 76 #2 San Diego State 70

 

Sunday

WEST REGION

#1 Baylor vs. #5 Seton Hall

#6 Michigan vs. #2 Maryland

 

SOUTH REGION

#1 Dayton vs. #5 Ohio State

#3 Michigan State vs. #10 USC

 

Report: MLB owners approve deal with players over reshaped season

Major League Baseball and its players worked closely and swiftly to hash out what a shortened 2020 season might look like after the start of the campaign was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Players approved a deal proposed by owners on Thursday that called for the 2020 season to be reshaped to an extent. MLB owners followed suit the following day.

What exactly does this mean?

If the 2020 season is canceled altogether, vested MLB veterans would earn the same service time as they did in 2019. This means Mookie Betts and other impending free agents would still hit the market next winter.

Any player who has not made his MLB debut would lose a year of service time. It’s an issue that was brought up during the entire Kris Bryant drama earlier in the year.

Minor-league players will still receive some sort of compensation should their season be canceled. The numerical value is not yet known.

MLB pledged $170 million to player salaries that it will divide among players in April and May. The hope is that the season can get started in June. But the expectation is that it won’t begin until July, at the earliest.

It’s great to see these two sides come together and do what’s best for everyone involved. At a time of national emergency, it’s something other entities around the United States could use as an example.

 

Former Astros slugger Evan Gattis explains purchase of ‘snitches get stitches’ glass featuring Mike Fiers

The 2020 MLB season may still be in a holding pattern as the world continues to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but the suspension of play hasn’t eliminated off-the-field drama.

Former Astros player Evan Gattis brought old feelings about Houston’s infamous cheating scandal back to the surface when he tweeted out a photo of a glass featuring Athletics pitcher Mike Fiers and the phrase “snitches get stitches.”

The glasses were sold by a Houston-area bar and restaurant called The Flying Saucer. The establishment’s Twitter account said the glasses sold out quickly and Gattis was the last customer to purchase one.

Despite proudly displaying the glass on social media, Gattis explained he has “zero bad feelings” about Fiers and thought the novelty item was “funny.” He understood there would still be a great deal of “anger” aimed at members of those Astros teams.

Fiers, who played for the Astros from 2015-17, told The Athletic in November that Houston electronically stole signs in 2017. The Astros beat the Dodgers in seven games to win the 2017 World Series, only placing a bigger spotlight on the scandal.

Since emerging as the primary whistleblower, Fiers has received praise and criticism for his decision to publicly address how the Astros gained an illegal advantage. He revealed last month he has even received death threats, but he made it clear he can handle whatever comes his way.

“Whatever, I don’t care,” Fiers told The San Francisco Chronicle. “I’ve dealt with a lot of death threats before. It’s just another thing on my plate.”

 

Report: NFL owners likely to approve expanded playoff format next week

When NFL players agreed to the new collective-bargaining agreement, the deal allowed the NFL to expand the playoffs and regular season. Now, team owners are reportedly like to vote in favor of the expanded playoff format for the 2020 season early next week.

According to NFL.com’s Judy Battista, NFL team owners are expected to take part in a conference call on Monday and Tuesday next week in place of the canceled owners meeting. During that conference call, the owners are expected to approve the measure to move to a 14-team playoff format next season.

The new rule will eliminate the No. 2 seed in each conference receiving a first-round bye during the wild-card round of the NFL Playoffs. Instead, those two teams will host the added wild-card opponent.

If the new rule had been in place for this past season, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Rams would have represented the No. 7 seed in their respective conferences. It also would have resulted in the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers losing the first-round bye.

The NFL is expected to use the two additional playoff games in negotiations for new deals with media networks, with discussions already underway.

 

Expanded NFL playoffs all about the profits, not the product

First, the good news: The NFL and NFLPA appear close to finalizing a new collective-bargaining agreement. That means that fans of the most popular league in the country should see business hum along without interruption.

Now, the bad: Based on current reports, part of the deal includes an expanded postseason, one with seven qualifiers from each conference.

What, you thought that was a good thing? Wrong. The NFL playoffs should not be trifled with. The current setup works perfectly, and it serves to further underscore the importance of the regular season. The two first-round byes in each conference are coveted, and the season’s final weeks are always chock-full of games with do-or-die stakes.

This change would bring the NFL closer in line with the NHL and NBA, where over half the league makes the playoffs. That’s a bad thing. In 2019, a 14-team field would have included the Steelers in the AFC and the Rams in the NFC.

Anyone who watched the Steelers knows they weren’t a playoff-quality outfit, not without Ben Roethlisberger. The Rams? They couldn’t beat the Steelers. Both teams likely would have been shredded in their first-round matchups.

Teams fall just short of the postseason every year, and it stings. Fans are disappointed, and players lose out on the potential for a few playoff bonus checks. That’s how it should be. The current system makes for predictable intrigue in the sense that at least four new teams have made the postseason every year since 1990. That kind of turnover is a good thing, particularly for a league that prizes parity above all else. More teams in the field likely means a reduction in year-to-year turnover, and that’s bad for the product.

The system is not broken, so why is the NFL trying to fix it? Money, of course.

A seven-team field with just one bye means six games on Wild Card Weekend, up from the current four. That’s a 50 percent increase. Couple it with a 17-game schedule, also likely with a new CBA — though not slated to start until 2021 — and everyone gets richer. For the players, it means that $5 billion could be headed their way.

About the only good thing that will come of this is the fact that the NFL’s meaningless preseason would be shortened from four games to three. Still, the league could have done that without changing the playoffs or adding to the regular season.

It is telling that the owners are the ones pushing for the playoff and regular-season alterations. That should tell you all you need to know about the motivation behind these proposed changes. The spin might be all about making more excitement for fans, but it’s really about creating more wealth for a select few.

This is about greed, nothing more. The NFLPA is on board, so long as it feels the players will be getting their fair share. At some point, though, constantly reaching for more profit will backfire. What happens at the next CBA? An 18-game schedule? Two more teams added to the playoff mix? Why stop there? Why not do away with the preseason altogether, play 20 regular-season games and have 18 teams make the playoffs?

Call me old-fashioned, naïve or a combination of the two, because I’m pining for an NFL where the status quo is good enough, where making the playoffs is an accomplishment, where everything isn’t about the bottom line, but that’s where I am.

American sports fans are playoff-obsessed, but watering down the field will make me less interested, not more. Even the inevitable major upsets here and there aren’t worth the trade-off. These gripes will fall on deaf ears, however. As usual with the NFL, it’s full steam ahead when it comes to making money. It’s the league’s only true purpose, and one it pursues with vigor.

Remember that while you’re celebrating more playoff games and an expanded regular season. You might like the changes, but they’re not for your benefit. With the NFL, they never are.

 

REPORT: NFL CONSIDERING USING VIRTUAL CLASSROOMS FOR PLAYERS IN PLACE OF OTAS

As NFL teams start preparing for a summer without organized-team activities, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the league is reportedly considering using technology to help players practice and learn during the summer.

According to NFL.com’s Judy Battista, the NFL has had discussions about implementing virtual classroom work for their players instead of offseason programs. While the dialogue around the idea is still ongoing, strength and conditioning coaches could produce workout videos for players to use at home.

Of course, the idea itself comes with complications. The NFL shut down all team facilities through April 8 and if officials are already anticipating OTAs to be canceled months in advance, the facilities would likely remain closed. NFL players will then not have access to an NFL-caliber workout facility nor gyms, which might also be shut down if the pandemic is ongoing.

The concept of using virtual classrooms to help players during the summer could still be an option. It might be especially beneficial for rookies that will need to learn a new system and won’t have the ability to work directly with coaches. Videos and conference call sessions could at least allow some access to their coaches.

The NFL, like every other sport, is in unprecedented territory during the COVID-19 pandemic. The increasing talk of practices getting pushed back this summer is part of the reason why some in the NFL believe it will be nearly impossible for the season to start on time.

Given the technology available to the NFL, it would be wise for the league to take advantage of it. Ultimately, the steps to implement more technology in coaching this offseason could also set the stage for its future usage.

 

NCAA considering playing college football season during late summer?

We don’t know how long the coronavirus pandemic will last, but it certainly sounds like major changes are being considered to sports that are still several months away.

College football is one sport that could see major changes to its schedule. According to Michael Smith of Sports Business Journal, there is some consideration to playing an abbreviated college football season in July, August, and September. The thinking is that warmer summer weather may help slow the spread of the virus, particularly as some experts have warned that we could see a resurgence in spread next winter as temperatures turn cooler again.

There are many logistical issues that would arise as a result. Stadiums would need to be staffed, media partners would need to approve, and there’s no guarantee fans could even attend the games. It speaks to the fears about a regularly scheduled season, however, that this is even being tossed around. Some in the know do not think the season can go ahead as scheduled. This is an imperfect alternative, and it may not even work.

 

2020-2021 College Football Playoff odds: Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama virtual locks

College Football Playoff odds are out and the oddsmakers are partial to Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama and Oklahoma with LSU and Georgia on the outside looking in.

Provided there is no postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic, we’re about five months away from the start of the college football season. And it’s already a safe bet about which teams will make the College Football Playoff.

The latest College Football Playoff odds are out and the Clemson Tigers are the betting favorites, according to SportsBetting.ag who gives Dabo Swinney’s team -200 odds to win their third national title in the last five years.

With Heisman candidates Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne back for one more year, Clemson will be tough to stop in the ACC, which makes it easy to see them back in the College Football Playoff. They have the easiest path so of course, they’ll have the best odds.

The Ohio State Buckeyes have -150 odds to come in second behind Clemson who beat them in a thrilling Fiesta Bowl last season. The Buckeyes bring back quarterback Justin Fields who is the leading competitor to Lawrence in the Heisman Trophy race. Considering Ohio State owns Michigan and Penn State could take a step back this year, the Buckeyes have a clear path to the playoff. The Big Ten West challengers, Wisconsin and Minnesota won’t be good enough to beat the Buckeyes in a potential Big Ten Championship Game.

After missing the playoff for the first time last year, Alabama has the third-best odds at -125. Nick Saban loses a lot on offense with Tua Tagovailoa, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III off to the NFL. They reload at Alabama so the next wave of talent will have to take over and the Crimson Tide are the best in the SEC, ahead of Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn who all rank in the top-11 for playoff odds.

The race for the No. 4 spot in the playoff is always an interesting one and this year will be no different. Oklahoma has owned the Big 12 and despite losing Jalen Hurts, CeeDee Lamb, Kenneth Murray and more to the NFL Draft, the Sooners have the fourth-best odds at +125. Lincoln Riley hopes sophomore quarterback Spencer Rattler can be the next Sooners quarterback to make it to the Heisman ceremony.

Last year’s national title winner, LSU, has the sixth-best odds as the Tigers have to replace a ton of talent and production, none more important than Heisman-winning quarterback Joe Burrow.

Potential sleepers include Notre Dame at +275, Texas at +400 and Oregon at +500 make sense as teams who could fill that No. 4 spot.

I’d bank on Clemson and Ohio State making the playoff right now. I’m 100 percent confident in them.

I’m 90 percent in on Alabama making it back to the playoff. Saban will find a way.

I’m out on Oklahoma right now but reserve the right to hop back in if Rattler takes to Riley’s offense and looks like the real deal. I can see Sam Ehlinger leading Texas to the Big 12 title and getting in the playoff. And another darkhorse I think has a really good shot is Oregon despite losing quarterback Justin Herbert to the NFL Draft. I think the offense won’t miss much of a beat without him and the defense is ready to be one of the best in the nation, and easily one of the best in the Pac-12.

2020-2021 College Football Playoff odds

Clemson -200

Ohio State -150

Alabama -125

Oklahoma +125

Georgia +150

LSU +200

Notre Dame +275

Florida +350

Texas +400

Texas A&M +400

Auburn +500

Oregon +500

Penn State +600

Michigan +650

Washington +1000

Wisconsin +1000

Florida State +1400

Oklahoma State +1400

Tennessee +1400

Utah +1400

Miami FL +1600

Minnesota +1600

Iowa State +2000

Nebraska +2000

Iowa +2500

 

Report: Billy Gillispie could return to Division I coaching with Tarleton State

Billy Gillispie hasn’t coached Division I basketball since 2012, but that could be changing.

According to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, the former coach of Texas A&M and Kentucky is reportedly a candidate to take over as basketball coach at Tarleton State. The Texas-based school will begin playing in the Western Athletic Conference in 2020-21.

Tarleton State won’t be eligible for postseason play until 2024-25, but seeing Gillispie’s name back in the news is interesting. At one point, he was one of the hottest coaches in the country. Then came a failed stint at Kentucky, followed by a Texas Tech tenure marred by allegations of player abuse. Since then, he’s found success coaching Ranger College, a junior college. Now he may be tapped to help a school transition into Division I play.

 

Report: NBA floated playing games in centralized location due to pandemic

The NBA is determined to return to action and play games again this season despite the coronavirus pandemic. There is, however, a real chance that those games could temporarily look much different once they do restart.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the NBA is looking into alternate arrangements for games in the event that teams cannot play safely in their home cities or arenas due to localized outbreaks. That could lead to the league playing games in a centralized location, possibly in a non-NBA city.

One idea that has been suggested is to play at a casino property in Las Vegas, which will have ample space for teams. The Bahamas have been mentioned, and there has even been talk of taking over a college campus.

The NBA will pay close attention to what the Chinese Basketball Association does, as that league is facing similar issues as it tries to restart and is considering similar actions. If the NBA does do this, it could be a model for MLB, which may be forced into doing something similar as well. Whatever the case, even when the NBA returns, it sounds like it may not be normal for a while.

 

Melvin Gordon reveals how holdout changed relationship with Chargers

In 2019, running back Melvin Gordon held out in search of a new contract from the Los Angeles Chargers. He ended up missing the first three weeks of the season, not getting what he wanted, then losing work to teammate Austin Ekeler even once he returned.

Gordon admitted in a conference call Friday that he regretted the holdout, and not just because of lost money. He felt the attitude in the building changed toward him as well.

“I mean it was tough but, I definitely felt like I ruined some relationships,” Gordon said, via Kevin Patra of Around the NFL. “It’s all part of it. Obviously, you try your best to kind of put that aside and go out there and still give it your all. That’s what I tried to do. At times it definitely was difficult. You kind of felt some tension. Well, I kind of felt some tension walking around, but I just tried my best to keep a smile on my face and just show up for work every day. Like I said it was difficult and challenging, but I got through. Obviously, I can’t take back what I did. What I did was done. And now I’m here.”

Gordon is a cautionary tale when it comes to holdouts. He lost money and ultimately the Chargers realized they could move on without him. Ultimately, he landed with the Denver Broncos for less money than he turned down from the Chargers, and he seems to know that he did himself a disservice last year.

 

5 best NFL moves of the offseason

While there are definitely still moves to be made, the bulk of the big free agents and trades in the NFL are behind us. Most stars have new teams, and some moves have definitely been bigger than others. Some have been smarter than others, too — the NFL is full of big-money signings that don’t work out, and huge trades that fall short of their intended impact.

We’re betting these moves won’t fall in those categories. Here are five of the best and sharpest moves of the NFL offseason so far.

  1. Ravens trade for Calais Campbell

Campbell has a reputation as a quality teammate, not to mention an excellent pass-rusher. He had 31.5 sacks in three seasons with Jacksonville, and it’s an absolute coup for Baltimore to be able to land him in exchange for only a fifth-round pick. Campbell will solidify Baltimore’s defense and improve their pass rush. The acquisition was even more important now that the Michael Brockers signing fell through.

 

  1. Colts land Philip Rivers

There’s nothing exceptionally wrong with Jacoby Brissett as a quarterback, but his 2019 performance indicated that the Colts need more out of that position. That’s why they went out and got Rivers. Yes, there are concerns after the veteran quarterback threw 20 interceptions last season, but he’s an upgrade over Brissett and should improve the offense. This is, after all, a guy with 397 NFL touchdown passes. Rivers playing with the Colts’ existing talent should make them better immediately.

 

  1. Browns’ signing of Jack Conklin

The Browns desperately needed offensive line help. It was their biggest, most obvious need, and a big reason for their underwhelming 2019 season. They went out and addressed that by bringing in Jack Conklin, the top tackle on the free agent market. Conklin should immediately prove beneficial to Baker Mayfield just by keeping the quarterback on his feet more and allowing him to make plays. It may not fix all of Cleveland’s line issues overnight, but it’s a huge step forward.

 

  1. Cardinals stealing DeAndre Hopkins in trade

In what is clearly the steal of the offseason so far, the Cardinals essentially landed one of the game’s best receivers for a second-round pick and a player in David Johnson who is on a big-money contract and wasn’t really in their plans anyway. Hopkins’ arrival gives Kyler Murray an incredibly dangerous weapon, and a new toy for coach Kliff Kingsbury to play with. Hopkins is an elite talent with five 1,000-yard seasons to his name, and it’s a clear statement of intent on Arizona’s part, too. If nothing else, Hopkins is going to make Arizona very exciting to watch in 2020, and could even put them in the playoff discussion.

 

  1. Buccaneers sign Tom Brady

There are great moves and there are franchise-changing ones. Tom Brady joining the Buccaneers fits neatly into the latter category. The franchise immediately has more credibility than it has over the past decade, and they are suddenly being discussed as a possible contender. That’s what Brady’s presence means. The veteran quarterback still has one of the sharpest minds in the game, and his physical tools have not abandoned him yet. He has weapons to work with on offense, and he doesn’t turn the ball over, which is much more than his predecessor Jameis Winston can say. This is well worth the risk for the Bucs, who are suddenly one of the league’s most talked-about franchises. That’s just the way they’d want it.

 

Report: Gordon Hayward expected to opt into final year of Celtics contract

No matter what happens with the rest of this NBA season, Gordon Hayward will most likely be running it back with the Boston Celtics for one more year.

Sean Deveney of Heavy.com reported this week that front office executives around the league expect the former All-Star to pick up his sizable $34.1 million player option with the Celtics for next season.

“It’s too much money to pass up,” an anonymous GM was quoted as saying. “[Hayward] could get a longer deal if that is what he really wants. But I don’t think the Celtics want to give it to him, they have a lot of young guys to pay and the starting [salary] number on whatever the contract is will not be close to $34 million. He can opt in this year and then take a big contract next year. When you look at what he has done since his injury, he has only gotten better. He could get better next year and be ready for the summer of 2021.”

Hayward, who recently turned 30, signed a four-year, $128 million deal with Boston in 2017, but the broken leg that he suffered in his first game as a Celtic set him back multiple seasons. He has finally started looking like his old self again this year though, averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists a game in 45 starts.

Cashing in on $34 million next year probably seems like a no-brainer, but concerns for the Celtics might be that forward Jayson Tatum is due for an extension soon and that Hayward is not entirely over his injury issues.

 

Aaron Boone shuts down talk of Aaron Judge moving to first base

Limiting the wear and tear on Aaron Judge is a real concern for the New York Yankees, but dramatically altering his spot in the field will not be the way.

Appearing this week on ESPN New York’s “The Michael Kay Show,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone shut down the notion of Judge potentially moving from right field to first base.

“No, no, no, no,” said Boone, per George A. King III of the New York Post. “Sometimes when a guy has a few injuries, and significant injuries, sometimes there is a unlucky, fluke thing. You are playing major league sports and injuries come with it.

“He’s had a couple of unfortunate injuries the last couple of years, but moving him? Absolutely not,” Boone went on. “He is an elite defender and one of the game’s great players. Never a discussion to move him.”

Judge, a 2019 Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award winner in right, is currently recovering from a stress fracture in his rib and a partially collapsed lung stemming from a dive in the outfield last season. The past few years have also seen the two-time All-Star miss time with various injuries, including an oblique strain and a fractured wrist.

Boone recently gave a positive update on Judge’s health though, and while he obviously offers his primary value at the plate, his manager clearly believes that the benefit of keeping Judge in the outfield is worth the cost.

 

SPORTS EXTRA:

TODAY IN SPORTS HISTORY-MARCH 29, 1984

NEW YORK-At the opening of the Baltimore Colts’ new suburban offices and training complex four years ago, Robert Irsay addressed the small audience that had gathered in Owings Mills, Md. “This building,” the Colts’ owner said, “is a symbol of our dedication to bring winning football back to our fans. We want our team to match the standards set by this building.”

Dedication and standards-words to remember Robert Irsay by now that he has shown he understands neither. But in trying to sneak his National Football League club’s belongings to Indianapolis in the dark of night this morning in 12 moving vans, he did show what a grimy business so much of sports has become. He also showed that the Supreme Court must rule on the legality of “free-agent franchises,” as created in the N.F.L. by Al Davis in winning his Federal antitrust case that permitted the Raiders to go to Los Angeles from Oakland in 1982.

By moving the Colts’ franchise in such a murky manner, Robert Irsay almost makes Al Davis look like a silver-and black knight. Almost. But at least Al Davis went to court. In baseball, Walter O’Malley and Horace Stoneham at least had the permission of the other National League club owners before taking the Dodgers and Giants to California for the 1958 season. Without the necessity of N.F.L. approval, Robert Irsay moved his club’s shoulder pads and film projectors in the middle of the night after a decent average of 40,923 ticket sales in Memorial Stadium last season, including a regular-season club record of 60,559 for one game. If the Colts can be moved that way, any other franchise area in any sport can wake up some morning to find itself without a team.

The offices and training complex in Owings Mills are now as empty as Robert Irsay’s promise to notify Mayor William Donald Schaefer of Baltimore of his decision before he moved the franchise. From now on, when people think of Robert Irsay, they will remember the television film-clips of big yellow moving vans rumbling along dark rain-slicked roads after the Colts’ offices and locker rooms had been evacuated.

Moving vans usually project a sense of success-a new home or a new job. And the movers always arrive early in the morning. But these movers resembled kidnappers or burglars using darkness to avoid detection. The yellow Mayflower vans had been gathered yesterday afternoon from as far north as New Jersey and as far south as Virginia, along with a busload of 45 movers and a truckload of packing material. The vans arrived at the Colts’ complex about 10 that evening. Shortly before dawn today, the vans had been loaded and were on their way to Indianapolis.

The vans had been arranged by Mayor William Hudnut of Indianapolis with his neighbor, John B. Smith, the president of the Mayflower Corporation, as part of that city’s offer to snatch the Colts. When the Colts’ office staff arrived this morning at the empty complex, they were paid through the remainder of the week with checks drawn on an Indianapolis bank. The coaches, trainers and equipment men needed to accompany the team had been alerted to the move quietly late last night. Not that they were surprised. Robert Irsay also had shopped the franchise to city officials in Phoenix, Memphis and Jacksonville in recent years.

As with almost all the other teams that have moved since World War II, beginning with the football Rams going to Los Angeles from Cleveland in 1946, the new Indianapolis franchise will steal the nickname, too. That’s always the cheapest trick in any franchise move.

 

TODAY IN BASEBALL HISTORY

1933       After missing half of last season when he broke his leg, Cubs outfielder Kiki Cuyler breaks his other leg and will miss nearly three months of this season. The 36 year-old future Hall of Famer has led the league in stolen bases four times and will finish with 328 career steals.

1935       The reigning National League champion Cardinals release 44 year-old right-hander Dazzy Vance, who appeared in his first and only World Series during his one season with the team. The future Hall of Fame hurler will return to the Dodgers, where he spent the most productive years of his career, finishing his major league 16-year tenure in the major leagues with a 197-140 (.585) record along with an ERA of 3.24.

1944       During a Pacific Coast League minor league exhibition game, Oakland lends L.A. five players after some of their opponents suffer an assortment of injuries in a car accident. The ‘visiting’ team beats the hometown Oaks, 6-2.

1948       Thirty-four players participate in an unusually long exhibition game when the Yankees and the Red Sox take 17 innings to play a 2-2 tie. The four-hour, two-minute contest, features the Bronx Bombers scoring runs in the bottom of the ninth and tenth innings to keep the score knotted but fails to push in the winning run in the final frame when Frank Crosetti attempt a two-out bunt to squeeze in a runner from third.

1954       The Cubs fire skipper Phil Cavarretta after he tells reporters the team had little chance to finish in the first division. The 36 year-old player-manager, who compiled a 169-213 (.442) record during his three years at the helm, is the first person to lose a managerial position during spring training.

1973       At the suggestion of A’s owner Charlie Finley, orange-colored balls are used in an 11-5 exhibition game loss to the Indians. The concept is dropped after Cleveland outfielder George Hendrick, who hit three home runs in the contest, claims he had difficulty picking up the ball due to the lack of red seams on a white sphere.

1975       Mel Stottlemyre, suffering from a torn rotator cuff, is given his unconditional release by the Yankees. The team’s future pitching coach compiled a 164-139 record and a 2.97 ERA, tossing 152 complete games that include 40 shutouts.

2000       The Expos and Labatt announce the C$100M sponsorship deal, negotiated two years ago, will go forward as planned. The Brewery has committed to pay C$40M over the next twenty years for the naming rights to Montreal’s proposed downtown ballpark, and approximately another C$60M to be the team’s primary sponsor, a role the company has played for the past 15 years.

2001       Todd Helton signs a nine-year, $141.5 million contract extension, making him the highest-paid player in Rockies’ history. Last season, the Colorado first baseman batted .372, hit 42 homers, and knocked in 147 runs.

2002       After the team purchases Rickey Henderson’s contract from Pawtucket, the Red Sox, places future Hall of Fame outfielder on their Opening Day roster. The ‘Man of Steal,’ who joined the exclusive 3,000-hit club on the final day of last season, will begin his 24th year in the majors, appearing with his eighth different club.

2002       Major League baseball announces there will be a minute of silence at 9:11 at every major league team’s first-night game this season to remember September 11th’s tragic events. The song ‘God Bless America’ will continue to be sung during the seventh-inning stretch of all contests.

2002       The Brewers announce the Miller Park’s retractable roof will be used only on a limited basis at the start of the season as engineers try to eliminate persistent noise coming from the year-old roof. The problem in the pivot system, located behind and above home plate in the so-called Uecker seats, is not a hazard, according to the engineers who designed the structure.

2007       In a split-squad game between the Cubs and Diamondbacks at Mesa’s HoHoKam Park, Ria Cortesio becomes the first female ump to work a major league exhibition game since Pam Postema in 1989. The thirty year-old, who is starting her ninth year overall as an arbitrator and fifth in Double-A minor league ball, hopes to be the first woman umpire in major league history.

2008       In an exhibition game celebrating the club’s 50th anniversary of their move west from Brooklyn, the Dodgers lose to the Red Sox in front of 115,300 fans at the LA Coliseum. The crowd is the largest ever to watch a baseball game, surpassing the previous record when approximately 114,000 patrons attended an exhibition contest between the Australian national team and an American services team during the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.

2009       The Yankees dedicate a permanent September 11 memorial at the entrance of George M. Steinbrenner Field, the team’s Spring Training home in Tampa, Florida. The tribute to the victims and their families of the terrorist attacks of 2001 features a foundation in the shape of the Pentagon, which supports two towers made from steel from the World Trade Center placed on a grassy spot representing the heroes of United Flight 93, who perished in a field in Pennsylvania.

2009       John Franco throws out the ceremonial first pitch to a standing ovation from the crowd attending the collegiate matchup between St. John’s and Georgetown in the first baseball game ever played at Citi Field. Before tossing his signature pitch, a breaking ball in the dirt, the former Mets reliever goes to the mound wearing a familiar blue and orange jacket, but takes it off, revealing the colors of his alma mater, a Red Storm jersey with his number 45.

2009       On a damp and chilly afternoon, 22,397 patrons become the first fans to attend a baseball game at Citi Field, the Mets’ new home, when St. John’s University hosts Georgetown in a collegiate contest. The weather dampened the schools’ hope of breaking the NCAA attendance record of 40,106, set during a game between San Diego State and Houston played at Petco Park in 2004.

2009       Dontrelle Willis is placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Tigers. D-Train, unsuccessful since winning 22 games with the Marlins in 2003, has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, believed by the doctors to be easily treatable, according to the southpaw.

2010       Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announces President Obama will throw out the first pitch prior to Washington playing Philadelphia at Nationals Park on Opening Day, continuing a century-old tradition. In 1910, William Howard Taft became the first Commander-in-Chief to toss the ceremonial first pitch to start the season.

2013       The Giants and Buster Posey, last season’s National League MVP, come to terms on an eight-year, $159 million contract extension that includes a full no-trade clause. The deal, which will keep the 26 year-old backstop in a Giants’ uniform through 2021, is the second-richest contract ever given to a catcher, surpassed only by the Twins’ signing of Joe Mauer two seasons ago to an eight-year, $184 million pact.

2013       Tiger right-hander Justin Verlander agrees to a seven-year, $180 million contract, the richest deal for a pitcher in baseball history. The 2011 American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner, already signed through 2014 under a previous $80 million, five-year deal, decides not to test free agency in two years, stating that “the pull of Detroit was too much.”

2017       The Dodgers commemorate Kirk Gibson’s historic pinch-hit, walk-off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series by offering a special ticket package to sit in the right-field pavilion seat, recently painted blue and autographed by him, where the ball landed. The team is donating two-thirds of the $300 price of the ducats, which includes a companion seat, two commemorative T-shirts and food and drink, to the Kirk Gibson Foundation to raise money and awareness for Parkinson’s research, the neurological disease which affects the Fall Classic hero.

2018       Matt Davidson becomes the fourth major leaguer to hit three home runs on Opening Day, contributing to the White Sox’s 14-7 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. The White Sox slugging third baseman joins Dmitri Young (Tigers, 2005) Tuffy Rhodes (Cubs, 1994) and George Bell (Blue Jays, 1988) in accomplishing the feat on the first day of the season.

2018       Excluding international openers, this date marks the earliest start of the major league season in the history of the game. All the teams are scheduled to play on Opening Day for the first time since April 10, 1968, the last season before divisional play started in the American and National Leagues.

 

WORLD SERIES HISTORY-1911

As the “teens at the turn of the century” emerged, baseball was fast becoming more than just another entertainment spectacle. Soon it would officially be christened “America’s national pastime” due in part, to the success of the World Series. After its introduction in 1903, many had doubted that the merging of the National and American Leagues into a single sporting syndicate would last until the following season. Eight years later, the Fall Classic had proven all of the cynics wrong and evolved into much more than just a postseason exhibition. It had become the pinnacle of growth in Major League baseball and had set a precedent for all other professional sports in America. And they were only getting started…

The 1911 Series echoed a classic rematch of the 1905 contest between the New York Giants and the returning Philadelphia Athletics. Pitching was the most noteworthy aspect of the previous Series with five shutouts in five games and the confident Giants were poised for another outstanding performance on the mound. Christy Mathewson, their ace with three shutouts in the 1905 classic, returned to the big show with a 26-13 record and was backed up by a young emerging lefty named Rube Marquard, who had twenty-four wins as well. The A’s were also ready as their staff including Jack Coombs, Eddie Plank, Chief Bender and Cy Morgan who had combined for eighty-two victories. Both teams were also dangerous on the other side of the plate. Philadelphia’s outfielders Danny Murphy, Bris Lord and Rube Oldring batted a composite .312 and New York had set a long-standing Major League record with 347 stolen bases.

The media frenzy surrounding the 1911 Series was unprecedented due to such an even an unpredictable match-up. The A’s, were more than ready to defend their championship title and the Giants were ready to repeat history. Some favored Philadelphia as the returning champions, but many felt that New York was a stronger team after overcoming a difficult season in which their ballpark, the Polo Grounds, had burned to the ground. From April to late June, the Giants played at the yard of the American League’s new Highlanders (soon to be Yankees) and still managed to win ninety-nine games with no real “home field” advantage.

Game 1 opened before a record setting attendance of 38,281 at the newly rebuilt Polo Grounds as once again, Chief Bender and Christy Mathewson went head-to-head in a classic pitcher’s duel. After taking the lead in the second when Frank Baker scored on a Harry Davis single, the A’s stumbled and lost their advantage after several crucial errors in the fourth. Later in the seventh, New York collected the tie-breaker and 2-1 game winner when Chief Meyers scored on a Josh Devore double. In the end, Mathewson had thrown another six hitter (six was becoming his Series standard) and Bender tossed an impressive five hitter with eleven strikeouts.

Game 2 looked very familiar as another stalemate broke out on the mound between New York’s Rube Marquard and Philadelphia’s Eddie Plank. Neither walked a batter and hits were few and far between. With the score tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Marquard had retired two in a row, but was starting to show signs of weakening. Frank Baker, the A’s clean-up man who was only in his third season, took advantage of the pitcher’s fatigue and knocked one straight over the right-field wall. The Athletics held on to win 3-1 and tied the Series at a game apiece.

The next day, Baker proved that lightning can strike twice with an encore performance in Game 3. Mathewson had the Giants in the lead 1-0 going into the middle of the ninth when the A’s young powerhouse stepped up to the plate and delivered another home run over the right-field wall. The New York pitcher stood in disbelief as he watched a second Giants lead slip away in the final inning. Inspired by Baker’s back-to-back performances, the A’s also repeated and rallied to a 3-2 triumph in the eleventh inning. Both team’s aces had gone the distance with Coombs giving up only three hits and Mathewson surrendering an unimaginable nine.

Although the last two games had been close wins, the A’s were showing an incredible resolve and started to play like returning World Champions. The Giants on the other hand, were in shock, after giving up two consecutive leads so late in the game, the Series momentum had turned and New York was in trouble. They would have plenty of time to think about it as Game 4 was postponed for an entire week due to rain. When the clouds finally parted, a well-rested Christy Mathewson came back for revenge. This time his long-time advisory, Chief Bender, got the best of him in a 4-2 decision that gave the Athletics a three game lead.

Philadelphia came out swinging in Game 5 ready to end it then and there. Coombs had held a 3-0 advantage after six innings and a 3-1 lead going into the ninth. Down, but not out, New York found their own resolve and managed to start a comeback rally while going on to win 4-3 in the tenth. Fred Merkle scored Fred Snodgrass off of Philadelphia reliever, Eddie Plank. The Giants had escaped elimination and forced at least one more outing for the championship title.

Unfortunately for Giants fans, the win only prolonged their suffering as New York’s luck was about to run out. Philadelphia was disappointed in their failure to shut the door on their opponent in Game 5 and was determined not to fail again. Scoring four runs in the fourth and seven in the seventh, the A’s steamrolled the Giants on their way to a 13-2 victory and a second consecutive World Series championship. The Giants had failed miserably at the plate with six starters batting .190 or less and earning only eight runs in six games. One man in particular, clean-up man Red Murray went zero-for-twenty-one. The A’s had truly earned their back-to-back title with great tenacity, although most of the credit went to the inspired performance of “Home Run Baker”.

 

MAJOR LEAGUE’S BEST PLAYERS AND MORE

Mel Allen was The Voice:

“his boom box of a voice” – Curt Smith

“that wonderful, unmistakable voice” – Dick Young

“the venerable Voice of Summer” – Sports Illustrated

He was the voice of the Yankees from 1939 through 1964 and became the most prominent sports broadcaster in America. His credits include twenty World Series, twenty-four All-Star Games, fourteen Rose Bowls, five Orange Bowls and two Sugar Bowls. During his prime years, it seemed that Allen was on the air for every major sports event; the presence of The Voice signified that the game was a major event.

He was born Melvin Israel in Birmingham, Alabama, on St. Valentine’s Day, 1913, the first of three children of Russian immigrants Julius and Anna (Leibowitz) Israel. (The family was living in Johns, Alabama, but the nearest hospital was in Birmingham.) Julius sold dry goods in several small Southern towns before settling his family in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Allen told broadcast historian Curt Smith he got his first exposure to baseball while sitting in an outhouse looking at pictures of bats and gloves in catalogs from Sears or Montgomery Ward. He saw his first Major League games when he visited an aunt in Detroit; Babe Ruth hit a home run in one of them.

Melvin advanced quickly through small-town schools and entered the University of Alabama at the age of fifteen. He tried out for football, but didn’t make the team; instead, he became an equipment manager.

He also served as public-address announcer for the Crimson Tide’s home games. When a Birmingham radio station asked coach Frank Thomas to recommend a play-by-play announcer, Thomas—apparently figuring play-by-play was just like PA announcing—named Melvin Israel. His radio career began on station WBRC in 1935. In addition to doing play-by-play for the Tide, Israel received both an undergraduate degree and a law degree from Alabama and passed the bar exam.

On vacation in New York in 1937, he auditioned for the CBS radio network. In later years he made it seem like a lark, as if he had just wandered in off the street. In fact, his Alabama football broadcasts had been noticed by Ted Husing, CBS’s top sports announcer, and by the entertainment newspaper Variety. Whether it was lark or design, he was offered a job at $45 a week.

Mel’s father was not pleased, thinking his son was wasting a good education. He was even less pleased when Melvin explained that CBS wanted to change his “Jewish” surname. Trying to placate his father, Mel took Julius’s middle name as his new last name. At CBS Allen announced variety shows starring Perry Como, Jo Stafford, and Harry James. He interrupted Kate Smith’s afternoon program with a news bulletin reporting the crash of the airship Hindenburg. He worked some college football games.

Allen particularly impressed his bosses with a long ad-lib description of the Vanderbilt Cup yacht race, broadcasting from an airplane overhead. That led to his first baseball assignment, as a color commentator on the 1938 World Series. (In those days there was no exclusive Series broadcast; all the major networks carried the games.)

When Allen arrived in New York, the Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers were the last holdouts against radio. Since all the other teams were broadcasting some of their games, the fear that radio would hurt attendance had been buried. But at least one of the New York clubs was always at home, so the teams agreed to a blackout to avoid competing with each other. Opening Day games were broadcast, along with an occasional important series. Local stations re-created highlights of some afternoon games in the evenings, and the Yankees permitted a New York station to carry the night games of their farm team in nearby Newark, New Jersey.

In 1938 the pioneering executive Larry MacPhail became general manager at Brooklyn. He notified the other teams that the Dodgers were going on the air in 1939, and he brought Red Barber from Cincinnati to handle the broadcasts. The Yankees and Giants decided to broadcast their home games, since they never played at home on the same day. Arch McDonald, an established play-by-play man in Washington, was hired as the principal announcer for both teams.

Wheaties, baseball’s primary sponsor, chose Allen to replace McDonald on the Washington Senators’ broadcasts. But Washington owner Clark Griffith signed his former pitcher, the Hall of Famer Walter Johnson, to go behind the mike, so Allen never became the voice of the Senators.

McDonald’s assistant, Garnett Marks, didn’t last long. He wasn’t fired when he delivered a commercial for Ivory Soap, and the words came out “Ovary Soap.” But when he did it again, he was gone. Allen replaced him in June.

Arch McDonald didn’t last long, either. His down-home style—low-key, with long pauses between pitches—didn’t play in New York. After one season he returned to Washington.

In 1940 Allen began his reign as Voice of the Yankees. He continued doing only home games of the Yanks and Giants. Allen often told of an encounter with Lou Gehrig during that season, when Gehrig was dying of the disease that now bears his name. On a rare visit to the Stadium, the Yankee legend said, “Mel, I never got a chance to listen to your games before because I was playing every day. But I want you to know they’re the only thing that keeps me going.” Allen said he left the dugout in tears.

The Yankees and Giants couldn’t find a sponsor for their broadcasts in 1941, so the teams were off the air. Accordingly, Allen never got a chance to chronicle Joe DiMaggio’s fifty-six-game hitting streak, although he later recorded a re-creation of the end of the streak.

Allen entered the Army in 1943 and was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. According to the Library of American Broadcasting at the University of Maryland, Sergeant Allen kept his hand in by calling a few Alabama football games while in the service.

When Allen was discharged early in 1946, both the Giants and Yankees wanted him, but the Yankees had an edge. MacPhail had taken over the Yankees by then, with co-owners Dan Topping and Del Webb. He announced another innovation: Yankees broadcasters would travel with the team. Until then, road games were re-created in a studio from a telegraphed play-by-play summary. Allen went with the Yankees. (Barber said MacPhail had offered him the Yankees’ job but he chose to stay in Brooklyn, where he was a civic institution.)

It was a marriage of The Voice and The Dynasty. Beginning in 1947, the Yanks played in fifteen of the next eighteen World Series. Broadcasters from the two league champions customarily handled network coverage of the Series, so Allen claimed the fall classic as his own stage.

His signature phrases entered the American language: A home run was “going, going, gone!” He punctuated any remarkable play with “How about that?” Although he is often credited with coining Joe DiMaggio’s nickname, the Yankee Clipper, David Halberstam says Arch McDonald deserves credit for that. Allen was the first to call DiMag Joltin’ Joe. He labeled Tommy Henrich Ol’ Reliable.

Allen’s style was exuberant; his rich voice conveyed excitement. He was constantly compared with Red Barber—inevitably, they became the first broadcasters honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1978. Curt Smith described them this way: “The Ol’ Redhead was white wine, cr?pes suzette and bluegrass music; Mel, beer, hot dogs, and the United States Marine Band.” Jim Woods, who worked with both men, said, “One was a machine gun, the other a violin.” Nobody who heard them would have any difficulty discerning which was which.

In radio days a team’s principal broadcaster—usually hired by the sponsors—ruled the booth. He assigned innings to his assistants, decided who would read the commercials and parceled out pregame and postgame duties. Several of Allen’s assistants agreed with Curt Gowdy’s assessment: “It wasn’t very easy to work for him, but when it was all over, you were glad you did.” Gowdy and Jim Woods said they learned from his polish and professionalism but chafed under his high-handedness. As Woods put it, “Whatever Allen wanted, Allen got.”

Red Barber joined the Yankees’ broadcast team in 1954, after leaving Brooklyn over a dispute with owner Walter O’Malley. It was quite a comedown for a man who had commanded his own booth as principal broadcaster for twenty seasons. At first Barber worked only televised home games, handling pregame and postgame shows and two and one-half innings of play-by-play on TV.

Barber insisted in his autobiography that there was no friction between this pair of giant egos—”Mel accepted me as an equal”—but others said their relationship was cool. They were opposites: Barber was married, a homebody who disliked traveling, and a devout Christian; Allen, single, gregarious, a man-about-town, and a Jew. Barber’s career was going downhill; Allen was king of the hill. According to Jim Woods, who was dumped from the Yankees broadcasts in 1957 to make room for former shortstop Phil Rizzuto, Allen and Barber were united in their mutual loathing of the jock-in-the-booth. Allen and Barber resolved their differences enough that Allen, nearly eighty years old, traveled from New York to Florida in 1992 to attend Barber’s funeral.

Allen’s fame grew as television replaced radio as the primary mass entertainment. He switched to TV coverage of the World Series in 1951, the first time the Series was televised coast-to-coast.

Like most radio broadcasters who attempted that transition, Allen never fully mastered the new medium. Echoing a common complaint, Ben Gross of the New York Daily News wrote in 1954 that Mel “has frequently been castigated for talking too much during his baseball telecasts. Like so many others, he often seems unwilling to permit the camera to tell the story and, at times, attempts to gild the picture on the tube with excessive verbiage.”

Some accounts say Allen was the first to suggest the center-field camera shot that is now standard on baseball telecasts. Yankees General Manager George Weiss limited the use of the shot for fear that opposing teams, watching TV, would steal the catcher’s signs.

Since Allen was the Voice of the Yankees, he was accused of partisanship on the Series broadcasts. Allen acknowledged he was partisan, but also declared, “I never rooted.”

He was renowned, too, as a skillful pitchman for the sponsors. A home run was “a Ballantine blast,” after the beer sponsor, or “a White Owl wallop,” after the cigar sponsor. In addition to his work on network college-football broadcasts, Allen was the sports voice of Movietone newsreels and hosted boxing matches.

Allen moved his parents, brother, and sister to the New York area and continued living with his sister after their parents died. His brother, Larry, who also adopted the name Allen, became his statistician and assistant.

Allen was six-foot-one, slim, and dark-haired in his youth, but began balding at an early age. By the 1950s he usually wore a hat during his TV broadcasts. He never married, but was often seen in the company of beautiful Broadway showgirls. Red Barber wrote in The Broadcasters, “His job was his life … the wife and children he never had.”

“I never saw anyone love his work more than he did,” said Lindsey Nelson, a prominent football broadcaster of the 1950s and later the voice of the New York Mets.

In the fourth game of the 1963 World Series, the Dodgers were on their way to an unprecedented sweep of the Yankees. In midgame, Allen was suddenly unable to speak. He blamed a flareup of a “nasal condition,” but many commentators said he was struck speechless by the Yanks’ humiliation. Sportswriter Dick Young called it “psychosomatic laryngitis.”

As the 1964 season ended, Allen’s world came crashing down. The Yankees’ president, Dan Topping, summarily fired him. Rizzuto represented the team on World Series telecasts. Joe Garagiola replaced Allen on the 1965 broadcasts.

The Yankees never explained his dismissal, so the rumor mill percolated. “They said I was a lush or that I beat my relatives or that I’d had a breakdown or that I was taking so many medicines for my voice that I turned numb,” he told Curt Smith years later. None of the rumors appeared in print, so Allen never publicly denied them. He said Topping gave him no explanation, saying only, “It wasn’t anything you did, Mel, and it wasn’t CBS.” CBS had just bought the team; as soon as Allen was gone, the network brought in one of its executives to supervise the Yankee broadcasts. There would be no more principal broadcaster. Allen believed the Yankees’ primary sponsor, Ballantine Beer, wanted to shed his high salary.

Topping told Red Barber, “I’m tired of him popping off.” But Allen said, “If they had objected to my talking a lot, I’d have been fired long ago.” Larger issues were at play; Ballantine beer was losing market share and the Yankees, despite winning the 1964 pennant, had drawn fewer fans than the last-place Mets. CBS wanted to promote a new, friendlier image for the regal Bronx Bombers.

The true story of Allen’s sudden fall from the pinnacle remains a mystery. “He gave the Yankees his life,” Barber said, “and they broke his heart.” Adding insult to injury, NBC dropped him from its college football telecasts.

Only fifty-one years old, he wasn’t out of work for long. The Braves played their final season in Milwaukee in 1965, held hostage by a court order although they had already announced that they intended to move to Atlanta. An Atlanta TV station hired Mel to broadcast some of the team’s games to their soon-to-be home.

Allen and Atlanta seemed a natural match: the biggest of big league voices for the new big league city, and a Southerner, to boot. But he didn’t join the Braves in Atlanta. In 1968 he went to Cleveland to televise Indians’ games. During one dull evening in a losing season, he stunned his broadcast partner–and, no doubt, the audience–by reciting Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha.” He turned down an offer to broadcast the Athletics’ games when they moved to Oakland. Allen said his business interests, including a Canada Dry soft-drink dealership, kept him on the East Coast, but his sister, Esther Kaufman, told biographer Stephen Borelli he would not leave New York because that would be admitting defeat.

Allen made public appearances for Canada Dry, broadcast University of Miami football, and hosted local and network radio sports shows. One of his few baseball assignments was the 1966 Little League World Series for a Sacramento radio station. While other broadcasters routinely jumped from team to team, Allen vanished from big-time sports for eight years. “It was as if he had leprosy,” Sports Illustrated’s William Taafe wrote in a 1985 profile.

Allen returned to Yankee Stadium on June 8, 1969, to serve as master of ceremonies on Mickey Mantle Day. In 1976 WPIX, the Yankees’ flagship TV station, hired him to narrate a special program celebrating the opening of the refurbished Yankee Stadium.

By then CBS and Dan Topping were long gone; George Steinbrenner owned the franchise. When Steinbrenner was a young assistant football coach, he had sought Allen’s advice about getting into broadcasting and Allen spent forty-five minutes with him. Steinbrenner never forgot that kindness. On Opening Day in the new-old stadium, the Yankees recognized Allen’s place in their history. He stood on the field during pregame ceremonies alongside other symbols of the Yankee legacy: Bob Shawkey, who had thrown the first pitch in the Stadium in 1923; Pete Sheehy, the clubhouse manager since 1927; restaurant owner Toots Shor; and former Postmaster General James Farley, who was said to be “the longest-running season-ticket holder.”

The next year Allen was back on Yankee broadcasts, calling a few dozen games for the SportsChannel cable network. He continued in that role until 1985. Beginning in 1977, Allen said, “How about that?” to a new generation of fans across the country as narrator of Major League Baseball’s weekly highlight show, This Week in Baseball (known as TWIB). Joe Reichler, a former sportswriter working in the commissioner’s office, gave him the job. He was the program’s signature voice even after his death: TWIB created an animated figure, complete with microphone and fedora, to introduce each week’s show with his trademark greeting, “Hello, everybody. This is Mel Allen.”

In 1978 the Baseball Hall of Fame established the Ford C. Frick Award to honor broadcasters for “major contributions to baseball.” Allen and Barber were the first to be recognized. (Broadcasters are not considered members of the Hall of Fame; there is no “broadcasters’ wing,” either. The winners are honored in an exhibit near the Hall’s library.)

Marty Appel, a former Yankees publicist who was producing the team’s broadcasts on WPIX, brought Allen back one last time in 1990 so he could be the answer to a trivia question: the first man to broadcast a major league game in seven decades. His Yankee career stretched from Lou Gehrig to Don Mattingly.

Allen died on June 16, 1996, at his home in Greenwich, Connecticut. He had suffered from heart trouble for years. He was buried in Temple Beth El Cemetery in Stamford, Connecticut. His gravestone reads: “Mel Allen Beloved son brother – uncle.” More than a thousand people attended a memorial service in New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral sponsored by the Committee for Christian-Jewish Understanding. On July 25, 1998, a plaque commemorating his career was unveiled in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.

Only two sports broadcasters have equaled Mel Allen’s fame: the pioneer radio announcer Graham McNamee and Howard Cosell, the man so many fans loved to hate. Like Allen, both dominated the big events of their time. In Allen’s time, more than half of the television sets in the United States would be tuned in to the World Series. There were just three national TV networks – ABC, CBS, and NBC – and no regional sports networks.

With fewer games on television and fewer sports competing for attention, the leading broadcasters – Allen on baseball, Lindsey Nelson on college football – were the voices and faces of American sports. As Allen acknowledged, his renown was partly an accident of time and place: in New York, when the Yankees were giants. His success was also a product of his unique, vibrant voice and the craftsmanship and showmanship that he achieved by hard work.

Later generations of broadcasters—Gowdy, Brent Musberger, and Joe Buck—enjoyed similar wide exposure on showcase events. None was ever called The Voice.