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Friday, September 13, 2019

College/NFL picks

The picks for this week

Last week 3-2

Kansas State +7.5
Air Force +3.5
BYU +4
Florida -8
TCU -2

Last week 3-2

Detroit +2
Pittsburgh -4
Cincinnati -1
Chicago -2.5
Atlanta -1.5

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Two-Homer Mania Revisited

By Harry Cummins

     Just when we thought it was safe for pitchers to toe the rubber again, Tuesday night happened!!

     Last month in Craw's Corner we detailed the season-long explosion of  MLB players hitting two home runs in a game. (Home Run Histrionics Aug 21,2019)

     Least we forget what is happening in this homer-happy of a baseball season, consider this. TEN different players had two homer games last night in a dumb struck display of baseball bashing.

 Here are the ten players who circled the bases twice last night:

Brett Gardner (NYY)
Didi Gregorius (NYY)
Corey Dickerson (PHIL)
Corey Seager (LAD)
Matt Olson (OAK)
Sean Murphy(OAK)
George Springer (HOU)
Martin Maldonado (HOU)
Kris Bryant (CHC)
Jason Heyward (CHC)

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Scoring position isn’t what it used to be

A single used to score a runner from second, with few exceptions. That’s why they call it scoring position.

The axiom was reinforced in my youth by playing APBA baseball, a table game using dice and player cards reflecting their real life performance. My 1955 game, one of the first versions sold, was understandably crude and not a precise reflection of real outcomes. But in my game, runners from second always scored unless it was a bunt or infield single.

That’s not how it is in 2019. Even three singles in an inning often do not change the score. Sending the runner home from second is more complex calculation, depending on the velocity and location of the hit and the arm of the outfielder. Increasingly, the runner is simply held at third.

The evidence is in.

According to research on (, 71 percent of the runners scored from second on singles in the 1950s. That share has steadily declined in each decade since so that in the current decade, only 58.8 make it home.

The article characterized the trend as a reluctance to take chances, though I differ with that point. As fewer runners being sent home, those who try are being thrown out more consistently. It’s not just that third base coaches don’t want to look bad; they really are mistaken more often when they take the chance. In the ’50s, 3.4 percent of such runners were out at the plate; in the 2010s, 4.7 percent are nailed.

What’s going on?

Outfielders have stronger arms, for one. Many approach 100 mph on their pegs, which more than makes up for the presumably better speed of today’s runners.

Like seemingly everything else these days, the trend favors homerun hitting. Singles lose some of their value when they do not advance runners as far as they used to. Homeruns always clear the sacks.

College/NFL picks

5 college and NFL picks against the spread every week.

Colorado +4.5
Fresno State +3.5
Coastal Carolina +7
North Texas +3.5

NY Jets -3
Tennessee +5.5
Indianapolis +6.5
Houston +7
Denver -1

Sunday, September 1, 2019

College Football Week One Action In Review

By Steven Weldon

     Week "zero" was a ton of fun, but the first big weekend of the college football season was still upon us. This past weekend, we had zany finishes, surprising victories and teams crumbling under pressure. I'll take a look at some things that stuck out to me this weekend.


   In a game that was moved from Jacksonville back to Florida State University's Doak Walker Stadium due to the impending Hurricane Dorian, Boise State took on the Florida State Seminoles in a hot, humid swamp. The Broncos would go down big and looked dead in the swampy Florida water. However, as Seminole fans know of recent history; no lead is safe. Boise State tromped all the way back from down 31-19 at the half to win 36-31.

  Thus why I urge the PAC-12 to add Boise State to the conference. Just as Utah dominated the Mountain West Conference before, Boise should be allowed a piece of the pie. They're always in the mix for a January bowl game and would likely not experience a drop-off as Colorado did. They deserve to be in a Power 5 conference.


  Never, ever underestimate your opponent. Football Championship Subdivision teams will often find a way to shock a team that believes they are the clear favorite. It didn't happen this week, but both Northern Iowa and Portland State came quite close to knocking off Power 5 Conference teams. Northern Iowa had a better chance, forcing a 3 OT game against the Iowa State Cyclones. The Cyclones are ranked #21 and are primed for a nice season. Northern Iowa had other ideas. Alas, the Cyclones slammed the door shut on the visitors coming for a paycheck. Portland State had a shot against the mistake-ridden Arkansas Razorbacks, but they would make their own mistakes leading to a seven-point loss.

  The mid-major teams also played well. In a shocking game in Reno, the Nevada Wolfpack defeated the Purdue Boilermakers on a game-winning field goal as time expired. Nevada isn't predicted to be a top team in the Mountain West, but they could be an interesting story.

  Memphis faced Ole Miss in a game that should be considered a rivalry based on location, and largely kept the Runnin' Rebels at arms' length the entire game. They would knock them off in a 15-10 victory. Another mid-major team shocking an SEC team.


  Finally, I turn my attention to the two biggest teams in Oregon.

  Friday night, the Oregon State Beavers faced the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Reser Stadium. Honestly, it looked like it would be a shootout. Both teams' offenses were firing on all cylinders and making the right plays. That was just the first quarter.

  The second quarter was not a good time for #BeaverNation, as the Cowboys offense torched them for 24 points, solidifying a victory that was well in hand before the final whistle.

  Down in Texas, the bright lights shone down on the Oregon Ducks and Auburn Tigers, a rematch of the national championship game played in 2011. This game went all Oregon for the first half, but the Ducks offense wilted and was not consistent enough to keep Auburn on their heels. The Ducks would lose with less than 10 seconds left in the game on a passing touchdown by Bo Nix.

 If you combine the Beavers' offense with the Ducks' defense, you've got a pretty good team.


  JT Daniels, Southern California Trojans Quarterback, suffered a Torn ACL against Fresno State. He's out for the season, leading the Trojans with a lot of ambiguity about how their season will go.

After another win over BYU, Utah is looking like the class of the PAC-12. With USC's season in the balance, look for the Utes to take the PAC-12 South.

 Jalen Hurts tossed six touchdowns for Oklahoma in a victory over Houston. When will the Sooners not have a talented, Heisman-potential quarterback?

Of course, Alabama smashed Duke. Wake us up if they're not leading the SEC this season.

Next week, I'll be at Autzen Stadium for Oregon-Nevada. Follow me on twitter, @Airweldon, for my college football input.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Long Day's Journey Into Night - Why I Will Always Remember Al Jackson

The longest day in baseball history started with a Al Jackson fastball!

By Harry Cummins

     Rolled neatly in blue plastic, the news landed on my doorstep last week with a dispirited thud.

     The New York Times reported that Al Jackson, a left-handed pitcher for the original New York Mets, had passed away at the age of 83.

     It was on a Sunday morning, fifty-five years earlier, that another newspaper arrived at my Manhattan hotel room, announcing the pitching match-ups for the big doubleheader out at Shea that afternoon with the visiting San Francisco Giants.  The 1964 World's Fair was in full-swing in neighboring Flushing Meadows and the Today's Pitchers line in the paper read Juan Marichal vs Al Jackson in Game 1.  It was a promising day to be in the greatest city in the world.

     I was quickly off to the nearest subway station and a chance to see the great Juan Marichal and Willie Mays, and to enjoy a Sunday in the 'Park with 57,037 other fans of the hapless, but lovable, last place Mets. It was the largest crowd in the major leagues that year in America's newest MLB stadium.   Little did any of us know what was in store on that historic afternoon, forever stamping this day (and night) as one of the most memorable in baseball history.

     When the little lefty Al Jackson toed the hill for the Mets at 1:08 pm and fired a fastball at Giants leadoff hitter Harvey Kuenn to open the twin bill, who knew that this would be the day baseball actually ran out of "peanuts and cracker jacks" and some of us wondered if "we would ever get back."

     Jackson pitched well in that first game but was no match for Marichal, who ran his early season record to 8-1 and the Giants took the contest 5-3 behind 3 hits from Orlando Cepeda.  Marichal's only mistake came on a 3 run home run by Jim Hickman, accounting for all of the Mets runs. Time of game: 2 hours 27 minutes.

     Game 2 of the doubleheader began at 4:02 that afternoon.

     Here, in brief statements, is an attempt to describe a nearly ineffable second game.

** The Giants were up 6-3 in the last of the 7th inning, when Joe Christopher's 3 run drive to deep centerfield barely eluded the glove of a leaping Willie Mays at the wall and tied the game 6-6.  In what was almost a miraculous catch high over the fence by Mays.. was instead ...a tie ball game.

** The game remained deadlocked going into extra innings. Lots of extra innings!

** When the historians remember Game 2, this is what they may or may not recall:

** Willie Mays played 3 innings at shortstop, the 11th,12th, and 13th innings.  He then went back to CF where he belongs, and where he was to play for another 10 innings!! This was the season Mays would go on to hit 47 home runs.

** Mets shortstop Roy McMillan grabbed an extra-innings smash off the bat of Tom Haller near second base and swipe tagged Orlando Cepeda out, in what Giants manager Alvin Dark called "one of the greatest plays I have ever seen."  A few innings later, McMillan nearly pulled off an unassisted triple play that sent the Mets faithful into a frenzy.  The rare triple killing occurred in the 15th inning, one inning after manager Dark was ejected from the game.  Long ago, this had stopped being an ordinary game, or day!

** What a 25 year-old Gaylord Perry of the Giants did in this game is now legendary.  The future Hall of Fame pitcher entered the contest in the 13th inning and proceeded to pitch TEN scoreless innings in relief, striking out 9 and walking just one.

**Duke Snider and Willie McCovey of the Giants, both made pinch hitting appearances in Game 2.

** Finally, at 11:25 P.M. with the concession stands now long closed, emptied of all food, and less than 15,000 fans remaining in the once packed stadium, the end came.

**  Galen Cisco of the Mets was pitching his 9th inning of shutout relief when Jimmy Davenport led off  the Giants top half of the 23rd with a triple.  Back-up catcher Del Crandall was then brought into the game as a pinch hitter for Gaylord Perry. Cisco threw a ball low and away ("the perfect pitch" said catcher Chris Cannizzaro later) but Crandall reached out and lined it to right for a ground rule double.  Then Jesus Alou, who went 4 for 10 in the game, beat out an infield roller for the insurance run.

** A scoreless bottom of the 23rd and it was over.  It was almost Monday when the Giants completed the Sunday twin bill sweep with a marathon 8-6 win.  Mets catcher Cannizzaro caught all 23 innings.  Tom Haller caught 22 innings for the Giants.

** Mays, Cepeda and Alou played all 32 innings of the doubleheader.  Christopher, McMillan and Ed Kranepool did the same for the Mets.

** The 23 inning second game took 7 hours and 23 minutes, in time, the longest major league baseball game ever played. The doubleheader was the longest ever (32 innings) and took a record 9 hours and 50 minutes to complete.  Mets manager Casey Stengel, never precise at math, said afterwards "the fans got 3 games for the price of one."  They got more than that.

......and Al Jackson, the man who started the longest day's journey into night with his pitch to Harvey Kuenn eons earlier, well, he also entered Game 2 as a pinch runner in a second inning rally that plated the Mets first run.  "He's artistic," Stengal once said of his athletic pitcher. "I know this because he was fielding all the bunted balls."

Al Jackson finished his major league career with a 67-99 won-lost record.  He once tossed all 15 innings in a 3-1 loss to the Phillies one August afternoon in 1962.  He threw 215 pitches that day.

But I will always remember Al Jackson for that first pitch he threw on the last day in May,1964...Memorial Day.

It was indeed a day, and a man, to preserve in remembrance!





Sunday, August 25, 2019

This Is The X..F..L?

By Steven Weldon

    In 2001, Vince McMahon, the World Wrestling Entertainment CEO, started a football league that was to be aired on NBC during the late winter-early spring months. No competition with the NFL's ratings, no problem. It was meant to be an even more gritty version of football, an alternative to the increasingly stuffy big league game.

  It flopped miserably.

  Don't worry though, they're trying again. Announced in 2018, with millions upon millions of dollars backing it, Vince McMahon announced a revival in 2020. The caveat continues to be that it's going to be different than the NFL. I trust that it will be, they have the blueprints laid down by multiple leagues that have failed before.

  The one thing that I do question is the logos and branding for the eight franchises.

  The teams are as follows;

  • Dallas Renegades
  • Houston Roughnecks
  • Los Angeles Wildcats 
  • New York Guardians
  • St. Louis Battlehawks
  • Seattle Dragons
  • Tampa Bay Vipers
  • DC Defenders

 I do not understand who had a hand in naming any of these teams. Granted, most of the decision making was made by multi-millionaires in Stamford, Connecticut who have no connection to any of these cities. The AAF had creative team names that related to their region. The XFL's team names? You can probably find them all in Madden NFL 2005's create-a-team mode. 

I'm ready for the XFL. Are the cities ready for the cookie-cutter teams?

I'll be watching for more of the XFL as the league's news heats up. Follow me on twitter, @Airweldon.