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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Vlad Jr. Arrives-- Will Danny Ainge's Record Survive?

Danny Ainge Revisited.  

by Harry Cummins

     OK, the 'legend in his own time' is finally here. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., amid great fanfare and anticipation, made his  major league debut this weekend for the Toronto Blue Jays.  After three games, hitting in the heart of the lineup, he is batting .250.

     So now the Great Chase begins.  We have 33 days (or less) to find out if the cherished record of Danny Ainge will survive yet another assault. say?

     For the uneducated or uncaring, the current President of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge remains as the youngest player ever to hit a home run for the Toronto Blue Jays.  He struck the immortal blow at the tender age of 20 years and 77 days.  Vlad Guerrero Jr is 20 years old, plus 44, days at the time of his debut. 

     Ainge's historic home run was the first of..well..the first of TWO he hit during his brief baseball career.  Ainge was selected in baseball's 1977 amateur draft, and made it to Toronto in 1979. Mostly a second baseman, he played third and the outfield as well and ended his short time as a baseball player after playing in 211 games.  He hit .220.

    Deciding to pursue a career in basketball, he was drafted in 1981 by the Boston Celtics who had to buy out his contract from the Blue Jays.  He remains one of only 13 men to have played in both MLB and the NBA.  The list includes the likes of Dave DeBusschere, Gene Conley, Chuck Conners and Dick Groat.

    Ainge became an important part of the Celtic teams that won NBA titles in 1984 and 1986.  In 1990 Ainge, a native of Oregon, was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers and helped them reach the NBA finals in 1992.  He later went on to coach the Phoenix Suns for 3 seasons.

     Nearly forgotten now was the multi-sport excellence displayed by Ainge, who to this day, remains the only person to be named a national high school first team All-American in football, basketball and baseball.  He led North Eugene High School to back to back state basketball championships and was considered one of the top prep recruits in the nation in football as well.

     Fans of BYU basketball won't ever forget, nor will I, the 1981 March Madness tournament game against Notre Dame when his coast to coast drive produced a one point win in the final seconds. It's a journey I can still see in my imagination.  By the way, Ainge concluded his senior season at BYU by winning the John Wooden Award as the best college basketball player in the nation.

     Now 60 years old, Daniel Ray Ainge must now wait, along with the rest of us, to see if one of his more obscure records will yet endure another highly celebrated challenger.

     Although the Boston Celtics are in the middle of an NBA playoff run, what do you want to bet their GM has a watchful eye on the daily box scores of the Toronto Blue Jays?


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