Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

100 Years of the Indy 500 Began With the Dream of a Visionary
May 29, 2011

40 cars lined up for the 1st Indy 500; The Winner Started in the 28th position-no winner has started farther back

On This Date In History: Not all success stories are college graduates or even college drop outs. On this date in 1909, entrepreneur Carl Graham Fisher was looking ahead to a big day. In just a 3 days, he was going to stage the first race at the Indianpolis Motor Speedway . Four days later he was scratching his head because the opening of his Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a three day, 300 mile race didn’t go very well. Drivers were blinded by the dust kicked up from the gravel roadway and 5 people were killed. Fisher abruptly stopped the race. But, he didn’t give up. He had the 2.5 mile oval set with brick and in 1911, the first Indy 500 was held.

Fisher didn’t give up on a lot of things. He was born half blind but didn’t know about it until he was 31. He started a small bicycle business and promoted it by riding a bike across a tightrope. He opened what is thought to be the first auto dealership in America and promoted that business in Indianapolis by floating across the city in a hot-air balloon. Part of the reason he opened the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was that he wanted to try to make Indianapolis the hub of the auto-industry instead of Detroit. He also went into business making auto headlights. He later sold that in 1912 to Union Carbide for $9 million. Perhaps buoyed by the success of making Indianapolis Motor Speedway the “Brickyard”, he conceived of the idea and helped develop the nations first coast to coast highway, the Lincoln Highway, named for his favorite hero. He went a step farther and pushed for the Dixie Highway from Indianapolis to Florida, which John Mellencamp made famous later.

Fisher's Elephant

In Florida, he became a real estate mogul and bought an overgrown island off of Miami. He had it cleared of mangroves, filled in the swamps and built a bridge to what is now known as Miami Beach. As part of a promotion, he once used an elephant with a baseball player on its head, which I have no idea how that promotes a real estate development. But, Fisher is considered a genius while that moniker has escaped me. He also began a “Miami of the North”, developing what would become Montauk on the eastern tip of Long Island. At one point he was worth $100 million in 1920’s dollars. But..easy come easy go.

Miami Beach Memorial Honoring Fisher

Miami Beach Memorial Honoring Fisher

Before the hype of Global Warming, a number of hurricanes devastated Florida and just hammered the real estate market in Florida. That took a toll on Fisher’s fortune. Then the stock market crash of 1929 wiped him out. He ended up in a small cottage on Miami Beach, but he didn’t stop. He developed the Caribbean Club in Key Largo. He died in 1939 with an estate estimated at just $40,000. But, he is credited with helping to inspire President Eisenhower to develop the interstate highway system. He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame and was named one of Florida’s 50 most influential people of the 20th Century.

From rags to riches to rags again….yet he left a legacy of benefit for the entire nation. Ever wonder what you can do if you try?

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Not Wearing a Hockey Goalie Mask on the Ice Can Leave One Always Ready for Halloween
November 1, 2010

Playing Goalie in Hockey Without a Mask is a Sure Way to Get No Dates

Plante Without Mask

Plante Without Mask

On This date in History:   Today, hockey players all wear helmets and goalies all wear masks.  In fact, many goalies have developed masks with creative designs on the front.  However, masks and helmets were not always the norm.  It wasn’t until the late 70’s or early 80’s that players were required to wear helmets and even then, veteran players who began playing before the rule was put in place had the option.  Gordie Howe played hockey until he was 51 years old and he never had his head covered.  Goal keepers were a little ahead of the game and it wasn’t by rule.  On this date in 1959, Montreal Canadiens goalie Jacques Plante first wore a mask in a game. Prior to that, goalies did not wear a mask and routinely they were hit in the face by a puck flying at what, up to 100 mph? Maybe faster. And those pucks are made of hard rubber. I’d say that a flying puck left a mark or two.  I suspect that  goalies in the NHL at that time did not have hottest girlfriends on the team. But Plante wasn’t the first to try a mask. The first was Clint Benedict of the old Montreal Maroons who wore a partial leather mask in the 1930’s for a brief time but he said it obscured his vision so he stopped using it.

Plante With Mask

Plante With Mask

Now, Plante had used a white fiberglass mask in practice all season but his coach wouldn’t let him wear it in a game.  But, in a November 1, 1959 game, he got hit in the face as a puck screamed across his nose and mouth. The blood poured.  He went to the locker room for stitches.  It took more than 20 minutes, which was a long time for stitches in a hockey game. Seems that the delay was not due to a slow doctor but instead was a result of  Jacques arguing with the coach about his returning with a cream colored mask.(not sure why it wasn’t the white one) He told the coach either he wore the mask or he didn’t play. Later, Plante explained, “I already had four broken noses, a broken jaw, two broken cheekbones and almost 200 stitches in my head,” he pointed out. “I didn’t care how the mask looked.” See, Plante was so good that he could do just about whatever he wanted. He even knitted his own underwear….hardly a manly, tough goalie sort of thing. But he said it calmed his nerves.

Plante courageously put on a mask, to the chagrin of his coach, after he was pummled on Nov 1 1959

It seems pretty courageous for anyone to go into the goalie box without a mask. And Plante did just that. But, it took perhaps even more courage to enter the box wearing a mask. He was jeered and mocked by other players and the fans for years. I’m sure “sissy” wasn’t the only word that he was called. But, after a few years, other goalies thought it might be a pretty good idea and since one of the best did it, why not? The practice of wearing a mask became the norm across the league and today goaltenders embrace the mask as they put all sorts of wild designs on the apparatus to express their personality or show loyalty to the team.

Jacques Plante: A profile in courage. You don’t suppose that the other goalies decided the mask was a good idea when they saw Plante, after wearing the mask, with the best looking dates in the league?

Weather Bottom Line:  Look for a big change for the end of the week as a big fat area of high pressure comes down from the north driving Arctic air our way with perhaps a little hurricane moving up off the east coast to help drag down the cold air.  I could argue that a couple of models want to give us snow on Thursday…but I won’t make that argument now.  No weather excuse not to vote though…should be seasonal with a fair amount of sunshine on Tuesday.

When A President Threatened to Abolish Football in the United States
October 10, 2010

Teddy Roosevelt Cut A Manly Figure as a Collegiate and Liked College Football But That Didn't Prevent Him From Threatening the Game with a Big Stick

1st Football Game Between Rutgers and Princeton Nov 6, 1869

On This Date in History:  President Theodore Roosevelt had an affinity for football.  It provided physical fitness to build bodies and competition to build character.  He liked the way that it taught teamwork and inspired individuals to never give up.  American football had been in its development stages during the 19th century and at least 10 of his Roughriders listed their occupations as football players when they signed up in 1898.  While the beginnings of the NFL did not come about with George Halas until 1920, professional football in America can be traced to as early as 1892 and college football to 1869.  Perhaps all those football players joining up with Teddy Roosevelt to fight the Spanish is an indication of the rather wild and woolly landscape surrounding college football at the time.  Now, you have to remember, at the turn of the century western colleges and universities were in a relatively fledgling state and the dominance of higher education resided in what we now call the Ivy League.  That also held true for college football and the three reigning powers of the gridiron were Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

Robert "Tiny" Maxwell in 1905

The presidents of those institutions as well as others were scratching their heads on this date in 1905 as the previous day they had been taken to the proverbial woodshed by the young President of the United States.   You see, President Roosevelt had seen a photograph of Swarthmore College lineman Bob Maxwell who had been savagely beaten during a game.  Seems that Penn knew that the agile, 250 pound Maxwell was the best player on Swarthmore so the team focused its effort on everyone pounding Maxwell early and often.  The photo of him staggering off the field  was so graphic that the Old Roughrider must have thought that the game had gotten too rough.  As it turns out, he had good reason.  Players wore very little padding and helmets were nothing more than a leather cap.  Routinely, slugging and punching took place on the field and gang tackling was rampant.  A favorite play was the “flying wedge” in which an entire team formed a  V and plowed down the field like a tank. The players would often lock arms or even grab on to one another’s belts equipped with special handles.  More often than not, the result was players strewn across the field and slugfests erupting.   In 1905, there was roughly one-fifth the number of college football players as there are today, yet, 18 were killed and 159 severely injured in that one year alone. 

The "Flying Wedge" Formation

So, on October 9, 1905, Teddy summoned representatives from Yale, Harvard and Princeton to the White House.  When they arrived, he may have walked softly but he certainly brandished the Big Stick.  He told them that if footbal could not put an end to on-field brutality, then he would abolish the game with an Executive Order.   It’s kinda funny that young men being maimed or killed on the field did not make the coaches and presidents of the schools to consider changes and  it took a roar from the Bully Pulpit got their attention.   They should have noticed all by themselves that interest in football was on the decline due to the violence, high risk of injury and potential for fatalities.  On the West Coast, Stanford and Cal had  even dropped football due  in favor of English Rugby.   So, the following day the coaches got to work on making changes in order to save their jobs if not to help save some lives. 

Football Has Never Been For the Faint of Heart

First, the American Football Rules Committee was formed with the three influential forces on the governing body rising in the form of Walter Camp,  Harvard’s William Reid and Captain Palmer Pierce of the United States Military Academy.  The committee established a neutral zone along a line of scrimmage between the opposing teams with a requirement that at least 6 men had to be on that line.   The distance required for a 1st down was changed to 10 yards instead of 5.  The forward pass was put into the rules and, perhaps most importantly, mass formations were banned as was gang tackling.  Game times were reduced to one hour with two 30-minute halves.  While it doesn’t appear to monumental on paper, these rules changes had some dramatic results.  The forward pass was used sparingly but the defenses were forced to weaken their lines due to the threat of the pass.   That little neutral zone reduced the number of fights that broke out and the 6 man requirement took away the mass momentum plays.  Two yards and a cloud of dust off-tackle plays became more common.   With a less-potent ground attack, the additional five yards required for a new set of downs resulted in more frequent punts and an increased use of the field goal, which were worth 4 points at the time, compared to 5 points for a touchdown.   In 1906, only 6 players were killed and 3 of those were Ivy Leaguers who died in fistfights. 

Walter Camp Did Not Outlaw Touchdown Celebrations

The committee changed its name to the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States when it met in 1906 before eventually settling on the National Collegiate Athletic Association moniker.   Whatever the name, conditions for football improved and Roosevelt did not ban the game.  Nevertheless, the NCAA football rules committee became much more vigilant. In 1907, the number of deaths on the football field were up again to eleven.   In reaction to the new rules, the Minnesota Shift was developed in which the line and backs would shift, sometimes twice, prior to the ball being snapped in a somewhat intricate manner.  The maneuvers were designed to outflank the defense.   The death toll rose to 33 in 1909 (The NY Times via the Chicago Tribune claimed 26 deaths at the time) and it was that year, specifically a game between Harvard and Yale in November 1909, that veteran sportswriter Frank Deford says was the real turning point in the sport.  So, in 1910, new rules were implemented that made the line of scrimmage requirement 7 men and reduced the reward for a field goal to 3 points. By 1912, the touchdown was changed to 6 points.   Pushing and pulling the ball carrier was disallowed and players running interlocked interference was banned.  The flying tackle, which called for a tackler to leave his feet, was also put on the shelf.  But, they did not ban touchdown celebrations.

Weather Bottom Line:  Look for Sunday and Monday to be carbon copies with lots of sun, a cool start and an afternoon high about 40 degress higher than the morning as it pushes toward 90.  A trof comes through Monday night but its too dry to provide rain.  The temperatures Tuesday should back off a shade though to the mid 80’s.  Keep in  mind the normal high is about 72.  Wednesday, we get a system from the southwest coming up that kicked off some severe weather in the Southern Plains but it will be too dry for even it to give us more than just a smattering of showers.  But, cooler air filters in behind it and we go to near average or slightly above average temperatures for the end of the week into the weekend.  We need rain.  We’ve had .20″ of rain since Sept. 1.

A Man Who Biked Across America With No Brakes Before The Nation Was Tamed
August 11, 2010

George Loher Showed How Easy it Really Was to Ride a Bike in 1895

George Loher Showed How Easy it Really Was to Ride a Bike in 1895

On This Date in History: In Oakland, California a reasonably successful butcher by the name of George Loher decided he needed some excitement in his life. Did he look for a girlfriend? Turn to crime? Maybe try a new line of work? No, he had bigger ambitions. On this date in 1895, George Loher decided it would be “a pleasant undertaking” to go to New York…on a bicycle.

Yellow Fellow had a double frame

Yellow Fellow had a double frame

He left San Francisco on his Stearns Yellow Fellow bike to begin his herculean task. The Stearns’ company model was pretty similar to bicycles of today and Loher was weighed down with over 50 pounds of equipment, clothes and supplies to such an extent that observers weren’t sure he’d ever get out of the Bay Area. But, he did.

Stevens Rode This Thing Across the Country Before Loher

Stevens Rode This Thing Across the Country Before Loher

It would seem Loher took the northern route, heading to Oregon and then across thirteen states and territories. He crossed deserts, sandy valleys and 5 mountain ranges. Believe it or not, he was not the first to ride a two-wheeler across the country. 11 years before, another guy from Oakland named Thomas Stevens rode a high-wheeler across the nation and later around the world. But, the tea-totalling butcher and “wheelman” enthusiast was the first to do so with the new pneumatic tire and for some odd reason, he had no brakes. Seems, his method of stopping was to drop a bunch of brush and sticks tied to a rope on his bike and drag it behind to slow his momentum. I don’t think it worked too well. In Oregon, his trip almost ended when he nearly ran into a train. In Washington, he broke his front forks and in Montana he smashed his front wheel on a boulder.

George Peddled a Long Way from the Butcher Shop

George Peddled a Long Way from the Butcher Shop

Undaunted, he continued on and in North Dakota he must have gotten into trouble because he was cursed at in Swedish. His luck changed in Wisconsin because he took time to party down with a bunch of tobacco traders. One doesn’t think of Ohio as being a big oil state but he rode between oil wells in the Buckeye State. One publication describes him as a typical tourist. Well, Snow White and I just returned from an adventure in Virginia and Washington DC and we didn’t decide to visit a prison but Loher thought it would be a good idea to visit Sing Sing prison in New York. The warden must have thought he was some sort of VIP because he let the traveler take a rest in the electric chair. Loher said “I found it a comfortable piece of furniture (that is, when the dynamo is not running.)”

Jules Verne's guys went around the world in 80 days

Jules Verne's guys went around the world in 80 days

Loher finished his adventure in 80 days, which would have made Jules Verne smile. And then…he returned to Oakland on a train and went back to his butcher shop. He wrote a journal about his exploits but didn’t publish it because he thought it was too ordinary. Hence, he was lost to the pages of history until the late 1960’s when he grand-daughter was rummaging through some of his stuff and found the manuscript. She had it published in the early 1970’s.

This is rather odd in American lore because most of the time people do extra-ordinary things…in this case cycling over 4300 miles in the days before automobiles and paved roads and when Swedish was still being spoken in North Dakota…and then cash in with a book or something. Not George. He simply went home. Apparently, he did it because, as one published article says, he “wanted a larger slice of life” and he certainly must have been adventuresome because he neglected to pack a map. He just rode like Forrest Gump until he ran into the ocean.

Today, so many people cycle across America that there even a webpage dedicated to it.  This guy biked across the nation in 43 days.   But, one of the first people to do so was George Loher and he did it when paved roads were the exception, not the norm and the number of roads across the nation was pretty sparse in some areas.  The book is called The Wonderful Ride and it looks like you can find it on antique or used book websites. Or you can buy a new one on Amazon for about $141!

Weather  Bottom Line:  We should have more in the way of scattered t’storms late in the day as we heat up again to the upper 90’s.  It’s because a front is getting close but it won’t move through.  It will stick around for about 24 hours before lifting up and when it does, the rain chances go back down.  This weekend, another front comes down and increasese the rain chances and it might move through to cool things down, though I’m not so sure just how far it will get nor how much it will knock down the heat.  In other words, aside from a few wrinkles, the song remains the same.

Before Lance Armstrong, there was Greg LeMond
July 27, 2010

We Should Not Forget Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year in 1989, America's Now Somewhat Forgotten Cycling Hero

Remember the guys with the white hats in Australian Rules Football?

On This Date in History:  I have to confess, I was not really aware of the Tour de France until the mid to late 1980’s.  My only real consolation is that I bet that I was not too much different than most Americans.  ESPN had not been around too long and it was filled with the non-major sports.  Largely, it was Sportscenter with  Australian Rules Football and rodeo mixed in.  I suspect that they had Tour de France coverage then but I really didn’t pay much attention until an American got some headlines.   Cycling is one of those sports that has just got to be extremely difficult and requires perhaps the most endurance and leg strength of any sport.  Americans, for some reason, never really got too enthused about it though.  The Tour de France is one of the premier events of the sport and, until 1986, no American had sniffed a championship for years since the first race near the turn of the century.

Heiden's Physique Lent Itself to Cycling as well as Speedskating

A shot in the arm to the sport in America came from speedskater Eric Heiden, who had gained fame by winning 5 gold medals in speed skating at the 1980 Winter Olympics.  During his career he set 15 world records on the ice.  But, that wasn’t enough for him.  Heiden took up cycling and even won a few American professional races and while he was doing that was working toward a career as a orthopedic surgeon.    With all of his personal accomplishments, his push in the sport of cycling may have affected the most people.  His goals were not just personal, but he also planted the seed for an American sponsored cycling team patterned after those in Europe.  That dream came to fruition as the first American cycling team, the 7-Eleven Team.  He participated on that team in the 1986 Tour de France.

A 17 Year Old Wrote Down His Goals

While Eric Heiden was planting seeds and creating dreams, a young man from California was setting out a path to not only live out his dreams, but also make his own history.  On October 18, 1978, the young man wrote out a list of goals.  His first task was to win the 1979 Junior World Championship Road Race.  The next was to win a 1980 Olympics Road Race.  He wanted to win a professional World Championship by the age of 22 and finally, top it all off with a Tour de France Victory by the time he turned 25.  The 17-year-old California Kid reached just about every goal.  He won the 1979 Junior Championship and made the US Olympic Cycling Team for the 1980 Olympics but was thwarted from going farther thanks to President Carter’s decision to boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  In 1983, at age 22, he won the professional World Championship.  And, on this date in 1986, Greg LeMond became the first American to win the Tour de France.

LeMond Showed Great Determination in 1986 But He Set a Great Example in 1989 and 1990

It was not particularly odd that LeMond did not win the final stage nor that he only won one of the 23 stages. The 2010 winner, Alberto Contador,  did not win any of the stages.   The tour championship is determined by overall time and LeMond edged out Bernard Hinault by 3 minutes 10 seconds.  After nearly 5000 km of racing, that doesn’t seem like much but apparently it was a reasonably comfortable margin.  What was perhaps a little strange is that LeMond did not compete on Heiden’s American 7-Eleven team.   Instead, he was part of the established La Vie Claire team that featured 5 time Tour de France Champion Hinault.  There was also an odd thing about the championship due to the teammate relationship between LeMond and Hinault.  The previous year,  Hinault was attempting to win his 5th  Tour victory which no one had done to that point.  One story is that LeMond was way ahead, presumably during one stage, but was told by the team coach to slow down to allow Hinault, who was supposedly trailing just behind during that stage, to catch up so that he could be in a position to win his 5th Tour de France.  As it turns out, Hinault was over 3 minutes behind and the action created somewhat of a controversy.  Because of LeMond’s sacrifice, Hinault went on to win.  To express his gratitude, he told LeMond that he would help him win the next year.

The Yellow Jersey Fit LeMond Well Three Times

According to LeMond, it did not matter to him whether or not Hinault would try to keep his promise or not because he was determined to win.  As any champion, Hinault was extremely competitive and so it is debatable whether or not he really was working toward the benefit of LeMond.   But, in one of the stages through the Alps, Hinault rode extremely hard and it was difficult for observers to believe that Hinault was doing LeMond any favors.  But, Hinault ran out of steam and LeMond survived.  Later, Hinault claimed that it was all part of his strategy to tire out all of the other competitors because he knew that Greg would be the only one who could keep up.  While its not likely too many people bought the story, the end result was the same.  LeMond proved stronger than anyone, including, Hinault and he went on to victory.   The video (titled “LeMond Drops Hinault”) of that fateful stage is grainy but it does exemplify how tough it was and the perserverance and determination of LeMond to defeat his teammate turned nemesis.  Humbly, LeMond recounts that another teammate, Andy Hampsten, made a personal sacrifice to help LeMond to victory in Paris.

X-Ray of Greg LeMond Shows A Few of the Shot Gun Pellets Lodged In His Body

Greg LeMond went on to win the Tour de France 2 more times.  It is quite well known that Lance Armstrong overcame cancer to win the Tour de France which is a true testiment to Houston Rocket’s head coach Rudy Tomjanovich’s admonition to “don’t ever underestimate the heart of the champion.”  Armstrong’s achievement has been a true inspiration to millions of people who suffer from the disease around the world.  Less known is the struggles of Greg LeMond and the obstacle that he overcame.  LeMond’s website lists the event in 1986 but most accounts say it was in April 1987 that he, his uncle and brother-in-law were turkey hunting when his brother-in-law accidently shot Greg in the back with a shot gun.  For that reason, LeMond did not participate in the 1987 or 1988 Tour de France.  But, he came back from his injuries to win in 1989 and 1990.  The remarkable thing is that he did it with 35 shot gun pellets still lodged in his body!  Three of those pellets remained in his heart and five in his liver.  The blast had also cracked a finger, broke two ribs and collapsed a lung.  LeMond credits the medical team of Dr. Sandra Beal with saving his life.  He thought that was going to die as he had lost nearly 3/4 of his blood.  Yet, like Armstrong, he came back from a near death experience to reach the pinnacle of his professional.

Before Lance Armstrong, there was Greg LeMond.  A great example of how, no matter how bad things get, perserverance, effort, determination and the human spirit can overcome the longest of odds.  We have remarkable abilities and potential if we try.  It’s something I try to get across to my students and to kids whom I visit at schools.  It’s also something I need to remind myself of from time to time.   You never know what can happen if you try.  But, if you don’t try, it’s almost a guarantee of the result: nothing.

Weather Bottom Line:  Look for the cold front that came through over the weekend to return today.  While it did not bring much in the way of rain on Sunday, I don’t think we can count on that today.  Look for several showers and t’storms by the afternoon.  With the abundant moisture in place, if you find yourself under a t’storm it could bring some pretty healthy rain totals.  The other day, I pooh poohed by earlier forecast from about a week ago that the biggest impact of Tropical Storm Bonnie would be the rains it brings to the Tennesee Valley.  I had surmised that it went to West Texas.  While that assessment was correct in the sense of the main shortwave energy, I think my first thought was also correct as it would appear that it swept up a whole mess of moisture and instability into Tennessee.  This warm front will represent the leading edge of that stuff so, after today, look for continued hot and humid conditions but there will be a chance every day of scattered storms in the afternoon for most of the remainder of the week.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning: Too Old To Win Another Super Bowl?
July 15, 2010

Are Manning and Brady Too Old To Win Another Super Bowl?

Stallworth's Big Catch in the 1980 Superbowl Landed Him on the Cover of Sports Illustrated

On this Date in History:  When I was a kid, I hated the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The sole reason was that they knocked the Raiders out of the playoffs with the lucky “immaculate reception.”  Then they got so good and always kept the Houston Oilers out of the Super Bowl.  While I didn’t like the team, I secretly really admired and liked the players.  I loved Lynn Swann when he was at USC.  I never really liked Penn State after the Nittany Lions embarrassed the Texas Longhorns in the 1972 Cotton Bowl.  The star in the 30-6 victory was running back Lydell Mitchell but Franco Harris made some big runs  for Joe Paterno so I didn’t like Franco forever.   Vietnam Veteran Rocky Bleier  and Steeler’s running back was cool but I didn’t want to admit it.  And then there was John Stallworth.  I didn’t like him because it seemed the Steelers just got better each year with more good players.  When he joined the Steelers in the 74-75 season, they were already on the rise yet, somehow they got another good receiver.  John Stallworth was born on this date in 1952 and he went on to be elected to the National Football League Hall of Fame in 2002.  In a Superbowl that I thought was a great game that seems to get overlooked, on January 20, 1980 he caught a 73 yard touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw that sealed the fate of the underdog but competitive Los Angeles Rams.   John Stallworth went on to a life off the field that is every bit as successful as it was on the field as he now heads up Genesis II, a firm that devotes itself to philanthropic efforts.

Terry Bradshaw Was Very Tough. Click For Video of October 10, 1975 Cheap Shot Sack by Joe "Turkey" Jones That Literally Could Have Killed Bradshaw, who came back to win two more Superbowls in '79 and '80

Now, Terry Bradshaw was the starting and winning quarterback of the Steelers in the 1980 Superbowl and was on tough son-of-a-gun.  I hated him because he was the Steelers quarterback but he was damn good and, even as a Hall of Famer, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves.  He survived what could have been a fatal sack by Joe “Turkey” Jones in 1976 to come back and win his 3rd and 4th championships.  If you are too young to remember, I encourage you to click on the photo to the left for some video.  The win in 1980  was Bradshaw’s fourth championship at the age of 32.  I heard a radio show today that was questioning whether or not Tom Brady at 33 was too old to win another Superbowl.  They didn’t really talk about Peyton Manning but you have to put him in the same category because he’s a year older than Brady.  When you look at past history, a kneejerk reaction might be that the odds are against him.  But, a close examination may result in a different conclusion.   Its certainly not impossible and every quarterback is different, though Brady has suffered a serious injury in his career.  In the most recent Superbowl, winning quarterback Drew Brees was 31 years old while Peyton Manning was just shy of his 34th birthday.  Manning had won the big one a few years before at age 30.   Thirteen of the 44 winning quarterbacks in Superbowl history have been 33 years of age or older.  That would suggest that Brady has a little less than a 1 in 3 chance.  However, 14 who were 33 or older ended up on the short end.

John Unitas Played In an Era When Quarterbacks Were Not Protected By The Rules Yet Survived Long Enough to Win a Superbowl at age 37

Of 88 starting NFL quarterbacks in the Superbowl, 62 have been younger than 33 years old.  So, it seems that getting there at age 33 is more difficult than winning it once you get there.  When you look at it even deeper, you find that of the 13 older quarterbacks to have been victorious, Bart Starr, Len Dawson and John Unitas represent four of the veteran champions as they won 4 of the first 5 Superbowls.  So, from 1972 on, we’re down to nine thirty-33 or better quarterbacks to wear the Superbowl ring.  The final 9 included some multiple winners.  John Elway won twice at at 37 and 38.  Jim Plunkett was 33 the first time around and 36 when he captured his second Superbowl title.  Roger Staubach, Joe Theismann, Joe Montana, Steve Young and Brad Johnson are the other winners who were at least 33 years old.   So there are just 10 men who have won the big prize as a starting quarterback when they were older than 32. 

Ben Roethlisberger is the Youngest Quarterback to Win the Superbowl

Now, it may appear on the surface that it’s more improbable to win a Superbowl with a young quarterback and certainly a rookie.  But the average winning age of a quarterback in the Superbowl is 29.95 years while the average age of the quarterback for the losing side is 30.   The youngest quarterback to win a Superbowl was Ben Roethlisberger who was just 23.  The next youngest….Tom Brady at 24.  But, 15 of the 44 Superbowl winners have been under the age of 28.  To be sure, the total is limited to a fewer number of exceptional young quarterbacks when you consider that Roethlisberger, Troy Aikman and Terry Bradshaw had all won two Superbowls before their 28th birthday.  And…oh by the way…Tom Brady had won 3 Superbowls before the ripe old age of 28.  Nevertheless, the trend seems to be younger because 9 out of the last 10 Superbowls have been won by a quarterback under 33 years old, including the last 7 in a row.   And, in those last 10 years, only 3 winners have been 30 or older.  

George Blanda Was Paid $600 For First Year in the NFL in 1949; He was still tossing touchdowns against players less than half his age in the 1970's.

 The recent trend seems to say that youth is being served in the NFL.  But, the NFL has never had a young quarterback win as much as Tom Brady.  Also, it seems that guys in the early days of the Superbowl like Unitas and Starr and Earl Morrall seemed to fit the “old man” moniker that  they gained in their mid to late 30’s.   Today’s 30 something quarterbacks seem more youthful than their predecessors.  While age may be working against veterans like Bret Favre who last won a Superbowl in 1997, I think that thinking that talented individuals like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning (who are well into their 30’s) have every bit of an opportunity to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.  Brady has been injured seriously once but he and Manning both tend to avoid big hits.  Kurt Warner was 38 when he retired and he could still bring it.  Warren Moon was still chucking the most beautiful, tightest spirals the league has ever seen at 44 and Elway went out as a champion and fastball chucker at age 38.  Athletes are individuals and their individual circumstance has more to do with their success later in their careers than simply a calendar.  George Blanda was an NFL quarterback in the 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s.  His first year he even played linebacker for the Bears as well as quarterback and placekicker.  Blanda was still coming off the bench to bail out the Raiders in the mid-70’s with his arm and kicking field goals until they finally ran him off after his 48th birthday and after 26 seasons!  Tom Brady is a long way from reaching the elderly status of “Old Man Blanda” and both he and Peyton Manning have much left in the tank.

Here is a list of Superbowl starting Quarterbacks:

I – 1/15/67
Bart Starr, Green Bay Packers – Alabama (*33)
Len Dawson, Kansas City Chiefs – Purdue (31)

II – 1/14/68
Bart Starr, Green Bay Packers – Alabama (34)
Daryle Lamonica, Oakland Raiders – Notre Dame (26)

III – 1/12/69
Joe Namath, New York Jets – Alabama (25)
Earl Morrall, Baltimore Colts – Michigan State (34)

IV – 1/11/70
Len Dawson, Kansas City Chiefs – Purdue (34)
Joe Kapp, Minnesota Vikings – California (31)

V – 1/17/71
Johnny Unitas, Baltimore Colts – Louisville (37)
Craig Morton, Dallas Cowboys – California (27)

VI – 1/16/72
Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys – Navy (29)
Bob Griese, Miami Dolphins – Purdue (26)

VII – 1/14/73
Bob Griese, Miami Dolphins – Purdue (27)
Bill Kilmer, Washington Redskins – UCLA (33)

VIII – 1/13/74
Bob Griese, Miami Dolphins – Purdue (28)
Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings – Georgia (33)

IX – 1/12/75
Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers – Louisiana Tech (26)
Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings – Georgia (34)

X – 1/18/76
Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers – Louisiana Tech (27)
Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys – Navy (33)

XI – 1/9/77
Ken Stabler, Oakland Raiders – Alabama (31)
Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings – Georgia (36)

XII – 1/15/78
Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys – Navy (35)
Craig Morton, Denver Broncos – California (34)

XIII – 1/21/79
Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers – Louisiana Tech (30)
Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys – Navy (36)

XIV – 1/20/80
Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers – Louisiana Tech (31)
Vince Ferragamo, Los Angeles Rams – California, Nebraska (25)

XV – 1/25/81
Jim Plunkett, Oakland Raiders – Stanford (33)
Ron Jaworski, Philadelphia Eagles – Youngstown State (29)

XVI – 1/24/82
Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers – Notre Dame (25)
Ken Anderson, Cincinnati Bengals – Augustana (IL) (32)

XVII – 1/30/83
Joe Theismann, Washington Redskins – Notre Dame (33)
David Woodley, Miami Dolphins – Louisiana State (24)

XVIII – 1/22/84
Jim Plunkett, Los Angeles Raiders – Stanford (36)
Joe Theismann, Washington Redskins – Notre Dame (34)

XIX – 1/20/85
Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers – Notre Dame (28)
Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins – Pittsburgh (23)

XX – 1/26/86
Jim McMahon, Chicago Bears – BYU (26)
Tony Eason, New England Patriots – Illinois (26)

XXI – 1/25/87
Phil Simms, New York Giants – Morehead State (32)
John Elway, Denver Broncos – Stanford (26)

XXII – 1/31/88
Doug Williams, Washington Redskins – Grambling (32)
John Elway, Denver Broncos – Stanford (27)

XXIII – 1/22/89
Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers – Notre Dame (32)
Boomer Esiason, Cincinnati Bengals – Maryland (27)

XXIV – 1/28/90
Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers – Notre Dame (33)
John Elway, Denver Broncos – Stanford (29)

XXV – 1/27/91
Jeff Hostetler, New York Giants – West Virginia (29)
Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills – Miami (FL) (30)

XXVI – 1/26/92
Mark Rypien, Washington Redskins – Washington State (30)
Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills – Miami (FL) (31)

XXVII – 1/31/93
Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys – Oklahoma, UCLA (26)
Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills – Miami (FL) (32)

XXVIII – 1/30/94
Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys – Oklahoma, UCLA (27)
Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills – Miami (FL) (33)

XXIX – 1/29/95
Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers – BYU (33)
Stan Humphries, San Diego Chargers – NE Louisiana (29)

XXX – 1/28/96
Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys – Oklahoma, UCLA (29)
Neil O’Donnell, Pittsburgh Steelers – Maryland (29)

XXXI – 1/26/97
Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers – Southern Mississippi (27)
Drew Bledsoe, New England Patriots – Washington State (24)

XXXII – 1/25/98
John Elway, Denver Broncos – Stanford (37)
Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers – Southern Mississippi (28)

XXXIII – 1/31/99
John Elway, Denver Broncos – Stanford (38)
Chris Chandler, Atlanta Falcons – Washington (33)

XXXIV – 1/30/00
Kurt Warner, St. Louis Rams – Northern Iowa (28)
Steve McNair, Tennessee Titans – Alcorn State (26)

XXXV – 1/28/01
Trent Dilfer, Baltimore Ravens – Fresno State (28)
Kerry Collins, New York Giants – Penn State (28)

XXXVI – 2/3/02
Tom Brady, New England Patriots – Michigan (24)
Kurt Warner, St. Louis Rams – Northern Iowa (30)

XXXVII – 1/26/03
Brad Johnson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Florida State (34)
Rich Gannon, Oakland Raiders – Delaware (37)

XXXVIII – 2/1/04
Tom Brady, New England Patriots – Michigan (26)
Jake Delhomme, Carolina Panthers – Louisiana-Lafayette (29)

XXXVIX – 2/6/05
Tom Brady, New England Patriots – Michigan (27)
Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia – Syracuse (28)

XL – 2/5/06
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers – Miami (OH) (23)
Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle – Boston College (30)

XLI – 2/4/07
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts – Tennessee (30)
Rex Grossman, Chicago Bears – Florida (26)

XLII – 2/3/08
Eli Manning, New York Giants – Ole Miss (27)
Tom Brady, New England Patriots – Michigan (30)

XLIII – 2/7/09
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers – (26)
Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals – (37)

XLIV – 2/7/09
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints – (31)
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts – (33)

 Weather Bottom Line:  It’s going to be perhaps the hottest day of the year.  Humidity will be relatively high for having afternoon highs in the upper 90’s.  I”m from Houston and grew up on the Gulf Coast and lived there much of my life.  I often scoff at some of the whining we get around here when its humid.  But this time, it’s gonna be tough even for those of who are used to it.  While we’ll get a break with a front that will bring rain and t’storm chances Thurday night into the weekend, I suspect that we may be heading into another extended period of hot and humid conditions.  This is certainly not the same as last year when we had zero 90 degree days in July for the first time in history.  Maybe this is Global Warming’s Revenge.  Be careful and keep an eye on the elderly and others who may have difficulty.  Take care of the pets and livestock and for goodness sakes, don’t go and leave your child in the car…even for just a few minutes.

The LSD Psychedelic No-Hitter- No One Died
June 12, 2010

Dallas Braden Celebrated His Mother's Day No-Hitter

On this Date in History:  A pitcher throwing a no-hitter is quite an accomplishment as going through an entire Major League line-up without giving up a single hit to big league hitters is quite difficult.  Typically, it happens 2 or 3 times in any given season.  Every now and then a pitcher not only denies any hits, but he also issues no walks, does not hit a batter and his teammates to do give up an error.  That would mean that 27 men came to the plate and 27 men went back to the dugout.  Perfect games are pretty rare, though Oakland A’s pitcher Dallas Braden pulled off the feat this year against the Tampa Bay Rays and there were two others as well, which is very odd. 

Speed Makes Hitting Difficult..throw in some wildness and you can really be effective

Most of the time, a no-hitter is celebrated.  There have been some interesting ones that end up with a pitcher giving up zero hits but still losing the game.  Then there was the time that Nolan Ryan no-hit the Tigers in 1973 (box score).  Ryan was one of the hardest throwers in baseball history and racked up 5,714 strikeouts in his storied career.  He had 7 no-hitters, 12 one-hitters and 18 two-hitters.  Early in his career, he was wild and so batters had a sense of fear going against a guy who wasn’t too accurate with his pitches that often reached 100 mph.  In the 6-0 victory, Ryan struck out 17 Tigers but walked 4, which wasn’t too bad considering he walked 8 in his next no-hitter.  But, he was just wild enough to keep the Tigers on edge.  In the 9th inning, the Tigers’ Norm Cash came to the plate with a sawed off table leg as a bat.  “I wasn’t going to hit him anyway,” explained Cash.

Dock Ellis Could Be a Dominating Pitcher

Now, Ryan was naturally a little wild but he was always in control of his emotions and his focus.  The same can’t be said of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Dock Ellis.  When the right-hander took to the hill in San Diego on this date in 1970 he sported a pedestrian  4-4 record.  In his four losses, his lack of control was a key reason for the team’s defeat.  Wildness was certainly a hall mark of this game as well except for the final 3 innings.  Observers say that Ellis’ concentration suddenly became laser like and he only allowed one baserunner over the last 3 frames.     The thing is that Ellis did not even know he was going to pitch that night.  He thought that he wasn’t going to pitch until the next day.  So, what exactly  does a big leaguer do on an off day? 

Dock Ellis was known as a "free spirit"

Well, the Pirates had finished a series in San Francisco on Wednesday June 10th and after the game, the team flew to San Diego where they were to start a weekend series on Friday June 12, 1970, hence  the team was off on Thursday.   So, after the team arrived in San Diego, Ellis decided it was a good time to take a couple of trips.  First he dropped acid and then drove to Los Angeles to spend the team’s off day with friends.  He was up until all hours of the night drinking screw drivers and smoking dope.  When he woke up around noon, he promptly took another hit of acid.  He figured that it was a good thing to do since he was not going to pitch until Friday.  What Dock Ellis didn’t know was that it was Friday.  Ellis had slept all day Thursday.     About an hour after venturing into his second inning of Purple Haze, his girlfriend informed him that he was scheduled to pitch that night.  Whoops!   So, he caught a quick flight from LA to San Diego and arrived in time for the game.  What’s a guy to do who is tripping on LSD before he starts throwing 90 mph fastballs to batters? Should you call in sick? Nope; can’t let the team down.  Dock decided it was a good idea to load up on 6 amphetimines!

Ellis Was Pretty Care-Free In His 20's but Later Gave His Time to Rehabilitate Prisoners

Ellis recalled later, “I can only remember bits and pieces of the game.  I was psyched.”   I suppose he’s lucky that he didn’t have a “bad trip” because Ellis says that he had a “feeling of euphoria” and was “zeroed in on the cather’s glove.”  Ellis admitted though that he did not hit the catcher’s mitt too much.  See, Ellis hit one batter and walked 8 others.  After 6 innings the count was one hit batter and 7 walks!   Of the 9 total baserunners, 3 successfully stole bases off him, but no one crossed  the plate…and no one registered a base hit.  But, Ellis doesn’t remember much of that either.  He recalls the bases being loaded a couple of times and he remembers hitting the batter…but that’s about it.  What he does remember is the hallucinations he had while on the mound and most observers say that its a miracle that he not only pitched a no-hitter but also did not hurt or kill anyone.    As it turns out, Ellis can thank Willie Stargell for his success as the slugger hit two solo homeruns to secure the 2-0 win.  This was truly an ugly no-hitter that has only gotten uglier 40 years later when it is now known that Dock Ellis threw the only LSD aided No-Hitter in Major League History.

SPC Severe Weather Outlook June 12 2010

Weather Bottom Line:  Saturday morning featured that little shortwave that I had mentioned yesterday.  As I had suspected it was mainly just  a rain event with perhaps some thunder.  It will continue to be warm and humid throughout the day.  The next disturbance on Saturday morning was well out to the west so it fits that we get our next best chance of rain late Saturday night into early Sunday morning.  The timing will also limit the severe potential but heavy rain in spots is possible.   After that, I suspect that this unsettled pattern will stick around for a few days so get used to the unseasonably warm and humid conditions with periods of rain and t’storms passing through from time to time.

Yao Ming Baby Birth Makes China Ask, How Tall? American or Chinese?
May 23, 2010

Wonder if Van Gundy Will be the Godfather?

Yao and Ye Li Could Be Parents Standing Tall

If you recall, several months ago, I reported that a certain member of the Houston Rockets was expecting to become a father as his wife was pregnant with their first child.  It was not just another basketball player.  The player in question was none other than Yao Ming whose popularity probably exceeds that of any basketball player in the world due to his giant fan-base found in his native China.  For that same reason, he probably ranks near the top of the list of all professional athletes when it comes to world-wide name recognition.  Now, when I reported on the pregnancy announcement, I had suggested that perhaps his child may be the catalyst for world peace.  While that mayor my not prove to be true, I’m not so sure there won’t be some rough spots before we get to that point.  See, Yao and his wife, Ye Li  had a baby girl on May 21, 2010.  But, here’s the catch: the little girl was born in Houston.  That means that, by birth, she is an American citizen.  But, China forbids dual citizenship and both of her parents are Chinese citizens.  Hmmm…could be a bit of international intrigue before we get to my ideals of global cooperation. For months now, stories have circulated concerning fans in China asking if the child would be a Chinese citizen.  So far, I believe the answer, if there is one, remains in the minds of the parents. 

Tale of the Tape: Speculation Regarding Height of Ye Li and Yao's baby

 At the time of the pregnancy news, the China Daily ran a story regardling speculation of how tall the child would be given that Ye Li is 6’2″ and Yao is 7’6″.  For the record, the baby came in at a fairly pedestrian 7 pounds 6 ounces (though some sources claim 9 ounces).  In the meantime, there have been several birth announcements in the press.  Most, like the USA Today article, are simply reprints of the AP story.   The Houston Chronicle had its own story but it included just two short paragraphs.   The Singapore Straits Times wasn’t much more helpful.   And suprisingly, the China Daily birth announcement was also not filled with much more than anything else except for one line.  In relation to the question whether or not the child would be American or Chinese, it says the Mings consider the birth a “private” matter.  I suppose that explains why there isn’t much more news on the subject other than the child was born.  I suppose it remains for pundits to determine if that small statement is particulary telling or not.

Funeral Obsessed Frances

On This Date in History: Frances Hiller was what we might call eccentric. The 18th century woman was married to a doctor who had made a fortune from a patented medicine that he had invented. Frances bought hundreds of hats and wore costly jewelry, even when gardening. Her odd ways may have dervied from the fact that she had 23 children! She was rather economical in that department as well as the 23 kids includes 7 sets of twins. That is amazing but its also quite sad because not a single child lived beyond infancy. So, she had attended a lot of funerals, which may explain her strange story.

Hiller Financed Frances Eccentricies

Hiller Financed Frances Eccentricies

While she lived, Frances Hiller planned her own funeral which included a very ornate casket. Dr. Henry Hiller hired a famous wood carver to fashion a pair of exquisite caskets. But, Hank went and died in 1888 before the caskets were finished. So, she kept her husband’s body in a vault until the work was completed. It had hand carved vines, cupids, bats, dragons and angels, which seems like a display of contrast. Perhaps the angel was slaying the dragon. If the angel was doing battle with the large reptile, it would have to watch out for the skull that featured lizards crawling out of the eye socket. When the finally got around to burying Henry, he was taken in his fabulous casket in a procession that marched to the sounds of a military band and was escorted by a procession of 2000 people.

In 1893, she married her chauffer…..a boy toy perhaps? I dunno but part of the deal was the guy had to change his name to Henry Hiller. I suppose thats not a bad trade from being a chauffer to being married to a rich widow. Anyway, she was married but kept her casket handy…even on display in her parlour. She would climb into it and show visitors how she would look when she was dead. She even had a life-sized wax replica of herself made to place in the casket so she could see what she’d look like six feet under. Finally she died in 1900 and I bet the chauffer didn’t sign a pre-nuptual agreement so he made out pretty well.

Such an Eyesore Even Photographers Kept their Distance

So, she finally got her wish and made it to the casket on this date in 1900. It was a duplicate of the one Henry had used. The wood was of the finest quality which means it was quite heavy. It took 10 men to carry it. The funeral car was drawn by 4 black horses with black netting. The funeral car sagged terribly from the weight and almost fell apart. A journalist who was on hand said that the excitement and hoopla was only matched by the local cattle fair. Frances was placed in an enormous masoleum that were quite a site…but in 1935, they were condemned as an eyesore. The cemetery tore it down and buried the couple in their ostentatious coffins. Today, all that remains are an urn and bronze plates that mark the location. This brings to mind the old adage…you can’t take it with you.

We can use some boring weather

Weather Bottom Line:  We have a summer-like week ahead.  A big fat ridge over the eastern US will prevent any major systems coming in.  Look for highs generally in the mid 80’s for the first part of the week followed by upper 80’s thereafter.  Our dewpoints on Sunday afternoon were already  in the upper 60’s and there is no reason to think it will get any drier anytime soon.  So, with that type of moisture content and pretty warm temperatures, we may get a pop up afternoon t’shower or two each afternoon but, for most, it will be a pretty boring week ahead with any rain that falls being the exception rather than the rule.  It’s okay.  After all the rain we’ve had, boring isn’t a bad thing for awhile.  Oh…BTW…I’ve seen for many days now the models trying to put a 1008 or 1004 mb low off the SE coast of the US later in the week.  With hurricane season getting going on June 1, don’t be surprised to see this feature showing up on local and national newscasts.  The general consensus  is that the hurricane season will be more active than average, which fits into the idea that we are in the midst of a cycle of a more active tropical Atlantic which has been observed and noted for a long time before the idea of global warming came to the public conscience.  So, while there may be an attempt to connect the forecast with climate change, it may not hold water.

Good Weather For Preakness 2010; Still Attendance Questions
May 12, 2010

Click on Image For Official Preakness Site

In previous years, taking target practice with beers at guys running on port-o-cans was popular...not this year

The Preakness:  Last year I went to the Preakness and I  was looking forward to witnessing the infamous infield party that I had heard so much about.  I was told it was extremely wild. I had heard about port-o-can races in which people raced across the top of the portable bathrooms lined up in areas of the infield.  What I learned was that, not only did people race, but spectators routinely threw beer cans at the racers in a make-shift game of a shooting gallery.  When I got to the infield, it was very sparsely attended.  Apparently local officials felt that the infield, which was said to have reached numbers of 60,000, was too wild.  Last year, they disallowed attendees from bringing their own beer.  Infield tickets were priced at $50.  I thought that I saw a pack of cigarettes priced at $10.  One blogger claims that there were specials of $1 pints of beer available, but I tend to recall witnessesing something closer to the Washington Post’s  story that asserted beer was sold at $3.50 for a 16 oz beer.  They had concerts all during the races with some bands that I did not know.  There was a big stage with huge monitors pointed away from the main grandstands and away from the VIP tenst set up adjacent to the front stretch on the infield.  ZZ Top was the headliner in the afternoon.  I think I got the treat of seeing the “little old band from Texas” with about 200 other people.  Beyond the dearth of people, what else that was interesting was that how the grandstands could barely hear anything that was going out over the speakers.  Attendance was down 31%.  I believe that the number at Pimlico was about 77,000 whereas in 2008 the attendance number was about 112, 000.

Pimlico Officials are Hopeful that New Policies Will Make Last Year's Showing to be Just An Abberration

So, this year they are modifying the policy.  Infield goers still can’t bring their own beer, but the ticket price has been lowered to $40.  Also, the Washington DC NBC affiliate reports that revelers will be permitted to drink all the beer that they want after purchasing a mug for $20.   You can also bring in picnic lunches.  Sorry, no thermoses.  They are also going for bands that might be more attractive to younger patrons with the Maryland band O.A.R. as well as a country music entry, Grammy Award winners the Zac Brown Band.  The story ends with a Pimlico official as saying that ticket sales are outpacing last year.  That in itself shouldn’t be too difficult.  The real question is how much higher is the sales pace?  This blog claims that “Sanity reigns at the Preakness.”  The organizers hope that sanity still reigns on the infield because, in spite of the liberalized pricing policy, they still have rules at Pimlico.  Regardless of where you are at Pimlico to see if Calvin Borel can win the second leg of the Triple Crown, the weather will be outstanding.

SPC Severe Risk Thu AM to Fri AM well Northwest of Pimlico

Front Through Baltimore By Saturday Morning with High Pressure Building In

Preakness Stakes 2010 Weather Forecast for Pimlico:  The general pattern of disturbed weather is mainly for the Midwest and part of the Ohio Valley as there is a big trof that will be slowly moving west to east and little waves of energy will be ejecting from the Southern Plains to the Northeast.  As the trof moves East, the shower activity will move with it. However, the shortwave energy will not be rounding about as the mean trof approaches the Mid-Atlantic.  Hence, while scattered showers and t’storm will be possible for Thursday and Friday with Friday being the best chance for thunderstorms around the track, I see nothing in the data that suggest much of severe weather.  The main storm track will be well to the Northeast such that the risk for severe weather will be in the Ohio Valley and points North for Thursday into Thursday night. 

High Pressure Contnues to Build In Through Sunday Morning

The front eases through Baltimore on Saturday morning, probably before daybreak.  From that point forth, high pressure will be building in with drier air filtering in.  The NAM vertical profile suggests that in the early to mid afternoon there may be a relatively thin cloud deck at 5000 feet.  The GFS also has a layer of higher moisture at that level but does not indicate a solid deck.  Guess here is that it’s partly cloudy at best.  The high continues to build in throughout the day on Saturday from the Northwest.  I would think that there might be a breeze from the the North and then Northeast with relatively low humidity.  Preakness post time temperatures  will be running in the mid 70’s.  While there will be a risk for rain on Thursday and Friday, I see nothing that suggests anything overly excessive and the drying trend on Saturday I would think would result in a relatively fast track, certainly nothing like the mud that we saw at the Kentucky Derby.  Final hint:  Bet Big, Win Big.

Speed Killed Casey Jones; Speed Will Win the Kentucky Derby
April 30, 2010

John Luther Jones: Man, Myth, Legend

Casey Jones' Legend Etched in Stone

On This Date in History:   John Luther Jones was born on March 14, 1863 in Missouri while the  Civil War was in full swing.  In 1876, the family moved to Cayce, Kentucky.   John Luther  was over 6’4″ tall and had gray eyes and dark hair.  He loved trains since he was a young boy and his fascination with the iron horse only increased as he watched them come and go from the Cayce depot.  He was born during the Civil War and in 1878, at the age of 15, he took a job with the Mobile and Ohio Railroad as a telegrapher and six years later moved to Jackson, TN where he continued with the Mobile and Ohio as a flagman.   

John Luther "Casey" Jones

 

When he moved to Jackson, the men with whom he worked asked where he was from.  Locally, Cayce was pronounced with two syllables so the men started calling him “Casey” Jones.  In 1884, he married Miss Mary Joanna “Janie” Brady who was the daughter of the woman who ran the boarding house in which he resided in Jackson.  The couple settled down in Jackson and had three children together.  Casey was not a drinking man and was thought to have been devoted to his family.  He certainly was devoted to railroading because in fairly short order, he was promoted first to brakeman by the Mobile and Ohio and then to firemen.  His big break came through the misfortune of others.  A yellow fever epidemic struck and the illness took its toll on the crews of the Illinois Central Railroad.  With a shortage of experienced people, the Illinois Central provided a unique opportunity for rapid advancement of firemen to engineers.   So,  Jones left the only company for which he had ever worked and went to the greener pastures of the Illinois Central.  

Sim Webb lived to tell the tale

 

In March 1888 he started work for his new employer and on February 23, 1891 Casey Jones became an engineer for the Illinois Central Railroad.  He developed a reputation for his fierce desire to always be on time.  His reputation for punctuality was so well known it is said that people could set their watch by the passage of his train.  He also developed a distinct style of operating the steam whistle.  Janie Jones said, “he established a sort of trade mark for himself by his inimitable method of blowing a whistle. It was a kind of long-drawn-out note that he created, beginning softly, then rising, then dying away almost to a whisper. People living along the Illinois Central right of way between Jackson and Water Valley would turn over in their beds late at night and say: ‘There goes Casey Jones,’ as he roared by.”   

The Skipper (Alan Hale, Jr) Was Casey Jones in Short Lived 1958 TV Show

 

Now, the Illinois Central had a passenger run from Chicago to New Orleans which involved 4 different trains.  Jones was given engine number 638 for the Memphis to Canton, MS link.  This service came to be known as a “Cannonball Run,” which was a generic term for fast or express passenger and freight trains.  Keep in mind that Jones did not like to be behind schedule and he had already been deemed a hero for his 1895 rescue of a little girl.  Jones had been doing maintenance work on the engine when he saw some kids dart in front of the locomotive.  All crossed the track except the one girl who froze on the tracks as the train approached.  Jones supposedly perched himself atop the cowcatcher and snatched the child from the tracks as the train approached.   

Casey Jones' Illinois Central Engine 638

 

At 10 PM on April 29, 1900, Casey Jones’ pulled his train behind engine 638 into the Canton station and, when he was ready to go home, he heard someone say that engineer Joe Lewis was ill and could not take out the engine 382 for the return trip to Memphis.   Jones volunteered to take on the duty.  By the time they left at 12:50 AM,  he was already more than an hour and a half behind schedule so he had his fireman, Sim Webb, “open it up.”   Casey had a reputation for going too fast and  I suppose that’s how he made sure that he kept his schedule.   This night was no different.   At times that night,  John D’Angelo of virtual railroader says it’s entirely possible that the “Cannonball” reached speeds close to 100 mph.  Jones came upon a freight train on a side track and so Jones reduced his speed to a still rapid 50 mph as he intended to pass.  This particular freight train was long.  So long, in fact, that the rear cars were on the main track.  Casey figured that they would do as normal and that is “sawing.”  As Jones train passed, the freight train would move forward so as to clear the rear cars from the main line prior to Jones’ engine 382 arriving.  The trouble was that the engineer of the freight train did not realize just how fast Casey Jones was moving and they did not move their freight train forward fast enough.   

Casey Jones Wreck Site 1900

 

As they came around a curve, Jones saw the freight cars on the track ahead and he shouted for Webb to jump.  As Webb lept to safety, Jones tooted his whistle and applied the brakes in vain.   Engine 382 of the Illinois Central Railroad plowed into the caboose of the freight train.  It is said that he had managed to slow his train down to 35 mph, thus saving all of the passengers but he was killed.  Sim Webb had landed in some bushes and was not injured.  Later ,he told Janie Jones, “that as I jumped Casey held down the whistle in a long, piercing scream. I think he must have had in mind to warn the freight conductor in the caboose so he could jump.”   The legend is that he was found with one hand clutching the whistle and the other the brake.   Casey Jones’ watch stopped at 3:52 AM  on this date in 1900 and his action is credited with saving the lives of all of the passengers.   In spite of the heroic lore that has followed his name, an investigation concluded that he was largely to blame for driving too fast.  

Saturday (Derby Day) Severe Weather Probability

 

HPC Rain total forecast estimate for Saturday (Derby Day)

 

Weather Bottom Line:  The Lentucky Oaks weather forecast and Kentucky Derby weather forecast could not be more different.  A frontal boundary is slowly plodding its way across the nation.  It will not arrive in Louisville in time to really affect that 136th Kentucky Oaks.  There is a very slight chance for a late afternoon isolated t’storm Friday afternoon but for the most part, it will be warm and breezy.  I think that it will be dry with partly cloudy skies and highs in the low to perhaps the mid 80’s.  The data also suggests that conditions will still be favorable for all of the Kentucky Derby events for Friday night including the Brownstable-Brown Gala.  Previously, the data suggested rain chances increasing around midnight but the last few runs, all models have been holding off the rain until the 5AM to 7AM timeframe.  So, aside from late departures from the parties, it should be a fine night.  An unofficial Derby tradiition is cruising and the police have had issues over the years trying to control that activity.  This year should the cops should get some help from mother nature.  

HPC Sunday Forecast Rainfall Estimate

 

For Derby Day, rain will begin in the morning.  There is some disagreement on how much.  The 6Z NAM only throws out a half inch of rain into Saturday evening with most of that coming in the first half of the day.  The 6Z GFS though has about 2 inches of rain for the daylight hours of Saturday.  The Hydrometeorlogical Prediction Center seems to split the difference and comes up with rain totals of 1.25 to 1.5 inches of rain for Saturday.   There is also a slight risk of severe thunderstorms for Saturday.  My biggest concern with this is that I think the best chance for tornadic activity will be in the same region of Arkansas and Mississippi that got hit with those brutal tornadoes last weekend.  What is going on is that there will be a shortwave moving up along the front through the Ohio Valley on Saturday morning.  Sensible weather wise, that should mean that after it passes, then rain chances diminish Saturday afternoon in Louisville.  While the jet streak moves to the northeast with the shortwave, there may still be sufficient jet stream venting to work with some afternoon heating to the mid to upper 70’s Saturday afternoon to trigger scattered rain and t’storms.  Obviously, the GFS is more bullish on this scenario.  I would not be surprised to see a wet track on Saturday but times of actual rain falling will be sporadic.  

SPC Sunday Severe Weather Outlook

 

Late Saturday, there will be another shortwave with the associated jet stream energy developing in the lower Mississippi Valley.  It should develop in such  a manner that a surface low will probably emerge.  It is in this developing area that the risk of tornadic activity will be its greatest.  As that low moves up along the front Saturday evening toward the Ohio Valley, a tremendous amount of moisture will be drawn up from the Gulf.  This entire system, in fact, is what is also drawing the oil in the Gulf of Mexico onto the Louisiana coast.  Rain chances will increase markedly on Saturday night with the risk of severe weather back in the picture.  My guess is that we would be talking about strong winds as the most likely threat for Sunday morning.  But, it’s the rain that has the attention of officials.  A Flood Watch is in effect for Saturday and Sunday in Louisville and I would not be surprised to see it extended through Monday morning as the NAM takes rain totals to nearly 5 inches by 7AM Monday and the GFS is closer to 4.5 inches.  The HPC is in line with these numbers as it adds another 3 to 3.5 inches for the Sunday AM to Monday AM timeframe.