In a column for Sunday’s Detroit Free Press, Hall of Fame Detroit Tigers play-by-play man Ernie Harwell wrote on the day before his 92nd birthday that he remembers the day he began a journalism career.
“In 1936, my senior year, I decided to write for the Atlanta Boys High Tatler,” Harwell wrote (linked here). “For no reason at all, the editor assigned the newcomer to write a column, ‘Turning on the Heat.’
“In the upset of the year, that first column won me a Royal typewriter in the annual Quill and Scroll competition among 3,000 entries from all over the U.S. It was the first time any contestant from the South had won the literary award.
“For me, it has been downhill ever since.”
Harwell says he’s been doing a column for the Free Press the last 20 years, and writing for a major publication since 1934.
Harwell, who revealed last summer he had terminal cancer, was born in Washington, Ga., on Jan. 25, 1918.
He wrote a Christmas Day column for the Free Press’ A1 page (linked here) explaining: “This year, I’m not sending cards. Last July, doctors gave me only six months (more or less) to live. That was five months ago. I am still hanging around. But, while getting ready for my new adventure, I’m not dying to send out cards.”
== A story I did on Harwell 10 years ago — did you know he could have stayed as the Brooklyn Dodgers’ broadcaster and moved with the team to L.A. but instead, in 1949, took a job with the New York Giants, which opened the door for the hiring of Scully? (linked here). The Dodgers found Harwell working for the Atlanta Crackers in the middle of the ’48 season because Red Barber had a bleeding ulcer and had to be hospitalized. Harwell, by the way, came to the Dodgers in a trade – the Crackers wanted backup catcher Cliff Dapper, who could succeed Kiki Cuyler as their manager. The Dodgers, who had Roy Campanella, agreed.
== A story I did on Harwell in 2002 after he’d been fired by new Tigers team president Bo Schembechler (linked here)
Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
NBA: Clippers at Boston, 4:30 p.m., Prime Ticket: L.A. at Boston, 1.0: A bunch of Celtics fans scalping tickets might have thought something was wicked goofy when they got their courtside duckets for tonight’s game at $12 a pop.
NBA: Lakers at Washington, 4 p.m., Channel 9:
The Lakers may have an ego-hangover on account of the fact they just visited the president at the White House. On account of the fact they won the NBA title a year ago. On account of the fact they aren’t White House party crashers. Ever see the movie “Dave,” where the president is replaced by a look-alike. What if the Lakers left Jordan Farmar in DC and picked up Barry Obama to come off the bench for the rest of the season?
NHL: Kings at Toronto, 4 p.m. (no TV):
What’s new – the Maple Leafs are a mess again.
NBA: Lakers at Indiana, 4 p.m., Channel 9:
Ever wonder what happened to Tyler Hansbrough? The rookie out of North Carolina has missed nearly 10 games for the Pacers this season because of problems with an inner-ear infection. Say what? We’ve seen more of him helping find a lost dog in a cellphone commercial.
NBA: Clippers at New Jersey, 4:30 p.m., Prime Ticket:
Last meeting: A lopsided Clipper win on MLK Day at Staples Center. Expect more.
College basketball: UCLA at Oregon, 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket; USC at Oregon State, 5:30 p.m., FSW:
Named after Clifton N. (Pat) McArthur, a student-athlete and the first student body president, Mac Court on the University of Oregon campus is like what the old Boston Garden was in the NBA. And like that place, it’ll be gone. The third-oldest Division I arena in the country and built in 1926 – three years before The Great Depression – “The Pit” will be abandoned for a new, 12,500-seat facility on the other side of the campus starting next season. The building will be home to the School of Architecture. Tonight, Bill Walton will serve as the honorary UCLA captain when the Bruins face the Ducks. Walton probably knows that the Grateful Dead played at Mac Court on May 31, 1969 — his senior year at Helix High.
Golf: PGA’s San Diego Open at Torrey Pines, first round, noon-to-3 p.m., Golf Channel:
Farmers Insurance signed on late as this event’s title sponsor. Ironically, there’s nothing it can do to insure the tournament from being rained out before the tour heads up to L.A. — where we can pretty much guarantee more rain.
Winter X Games from Aspen, Colo., 9 a.m., ESPN:
There will be some snowfall, altitude sickness and kids having a tough time keeping down their Mountain Dew. Some will even go from here to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Others will just chill out at the Aspen Emergency Center.
NHL: Kings at Columbus, 4 p.m., FSW:
The B-Jackets have a great shot of missing the playoffs and coach Ken Hitchcock could lose his job. Otherwise, things are cozy in Columbus.
NBA: Lakers at Philadelphia, 4 p.m., Channel 9:
When Kobe Bryant grew up in Philly, there’s a good chance he watched “Sesame Street.” Or not. He made an appearance on the show recently, to explain to kids the word “miniature.” Like, once there was Lil’ Penny, now there’s Miniature Kobe. Which bears a remarkable resemblance to his Nike commercial doll.
Tennis: Australian Open, women’s final, 12:30 a.m., ESPN:
There’s been some photographic evidence that Venus Williams was playing in some matches earlier this tournament without any undergarment covering her behind. Was the moon of Venus just an illusion in the Southern Hemisphere?
College football: Senior Bowl from Mobile, Ala., 10 a.m., NFL Network:
Stafon Johnson, Taylor Mays, Charles Brown, Jeff Byers and Anthony McCoy are the former USC players participating in this game. With Tim Tebow as their quarterback on the South squad.
NHL: Kings at Boston, 4 p.m., FSW: L.A. at Boston, 2.0: Last meeting: A Kings’ shootout victory at Staples Center two weeks ago, twice beating Team USA goalie Tim Thomas on tweeners.
College basketball: USC at Oregon, 3 p.m., no TV; UCLA at Oregon State, 4:30 p.m., Prime Ticket:
On the flip side, both USC and UCLA could be battling for the top spot in the Pac-10 by the time this game is played.
Tennis: Australian Open, men’s final, 12:30 a.m., ESPN:
Defending men’s doubles champs Mike and Bob Bryan of Camarillo are trying to add their eighth Grand Slam to their collection. But right about now, the crowds may be more interested to see Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer as the last two men standing.
NBA: Lakers at Boston, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7: L.A. at Boston, 3.0: Everything’s not so fine with the Celtics, who’ve been struggling to play under .500 this month. The NBA fined forward Rasheed Wallace $35,000 for publicly criticizing game officials following a loss last week against Dallas. A couple days later, the league fined forward Glen “Big Baby” Davis $25,000 for shouting an obscenity to a heckling fan in Detroit. Maybe the re-emergence of Kevin Garnett, who’s been plagued again by a knee injury that isn’t supposed to be related to what kept him out of the playoffs last year, will calm down the chowderheads.
NBA: Clippers at Cleveland, 3 p.m., Prime Ticket:
The Cavs toyed with the Clips a week ago at Staples Center before pulling out a one-point victory. Without Clipper Darrell screaming from the rafters, it’ll be a much tougher task.
NHL: Kings at New Jersey, 2 p.m., no TV:
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur has three shutouts this month, seven for the season, and the Team Canada star also has went past 30 victories so far.
Pro bowling: Dick Weber Open, at Fountain Bowl in Fountain Valley, 10 a.m., ESPN2:
The list of entrants toward today’s stepladder final includes Northridge’s Howard Goldstein, Chatsworth’s Dave Wodka, Canyon Country’s Scott Critchfield, Agoura Hills’ Michael Reichstein, Moorpark’s Jason Thomas and Valley Village’s J.T. “Action” Jackson. Plus this Pete Weber guy of St. Ann, Mo., who’d like to keep the title in the family.
NFL: Pro Bowl, 4 p.m., ESPN:
Here’s a group of Pro Bowlers who’d rather not be competing. This NFL exhibition could be held in Santa Monica in May with The Eagles as the halftime show, and still, no one should have to pay to see this.
What didn’t fit into today’s “It’s Out of the Question” column (linked here) — because it evolved into a one-topic conversation — became stuff we’ve decided to post here.
You question us?
Because everything’s not a black-and-white question, fool …
== Over-under on the number of months USC AD Mike Garrett can go without a meaningful Q-and-A to explain the past problems and future solutions with his athletic programs?
== Remember when the USC women’s basketball program would win national championships to get the same spark of attention that new coach Michael Cooper received after a win over rival UCLA last week?
== If the Knoxvillian villagers want to raise their torches and rename a local sewage treatment plant in honor of departed Vols coach Lane Kiffin, why knock it? Wouldn’t a waste management center be more politically correct, since the program just recycled another coach – Vince Dooley’s kid – to take Fast Lane’s place?
== How could the Dodgers have used Joel Pineiro? Seriously?
== If this new Minnesota Vikings fight song that Prince wrote and recorded called “Purple and Gold” actually catches on, would the Lakers be open to having Jeffrey Osborne cut a version of it? Or better yet, after actually hearing it played, do Vikings’ fans now know that this is what it sounds like when the droves cry?
== How do you not push for a Favre-Manning Super Bowl?
We should get what we pay for. And we should pay for what has value.
And we do value knowledge. Especially immediate information.
The New York Times will see what happens when it allows those who go to their website a limited amount of free stories to read. But then, if the customer desires more, they’ll have to pay a flat fee for unlimited use. If you already subscribe — even if just to the Sunday edition — you’ll get on as part of the fee.
By that time, even more of us may have gone anyway.
So pay to read — isn’t that the whole concept of a unmanned newsrack?
Other stuff we learned this week in medialand:
== ESPN ombudsman Don Ohlmeyer isn’t sure the network covered the Alamo Bowl with any amount of fairness — considering the dustup between Craig James and Mike Leach (linked here). “Was the telecast balanced? ESPN thinks it was — and for me, that is the most troubling aspect of this whole affair.”
== What if you could watch ESPN on you Xbox360? (linked here)
== Car co-owner Jack Roush is grousing about how TV doesn’t always support NASCAR (linked here)
== ESPN’s next flood of “30 in 30” for this spring is out (linked here)
== If you can figure out how the Phoenix Suns have a chance to win a game while appearing on TNT, let ’em know before Jan. 28 (linked here).
== Pittsburgh is getting an FM all-sports station … jealous? (linked here)
== NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol says the net will lose a bucketful at the Vancouver Games, after preaching the profit of having the rights to the Olympics over the years. … how do we believe him? (linked here)
== Meanwhile, Ebersol, making an appearance on “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central on Wednesday, told host Stephen Colbert about the network’s upcoming coverage of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver: “One of the things that would really help things along is if you agreed to come to the Olympics not only as the member of the speedskating team, but as part of our team.” Ebersol then gave Colbert with a sweater vest with the NBC Sports Olympic logo.
“Do you have a title in mind,” asked Colbert, “because I kind of like host of ‘The Tonight Show.'”
== Is Erin Andrews engaged to “some little baseball player”? (linked here) Funny how one Purdue dude put that out there in case anyone was paying attention to rumors. It’s all atwitter with those who don’t want to believe it (linked here).
AND (NOT QUITE) FINALLY:
== If you paid for HBO, you got to hear this final rant by “Real Sports” host Bryant Gumbel:
“Finally tonight, an open letter to baseball’s usual suspects.
“Dear Barry, Roger, Sammy, and Rafael.
“I’m writing in hopes you saw Mark McGwire’s phony non-apology last week and learned from it. I’m assuming that you, like most people not named Tony La Russa, got a good laugh out of Mark’s crocodile tears and his self-serving claims about truth, guilt and the pharmaceutical way. So on behalf of all fans, do us a favor. If and when you’re ready to come clean, don’t insult us with talk of how much of what you did was God-given and how much was chemically induced. Let us figure that out, OK, and don’t play us for idiots. Don’t play us for idiots.
“Spare us the lies about taking ‘roids for health reasons. We’re all grownups. You took stuff for the same reason most of us break or bend rules: you thought you could get away with it, and you did. You did because commissioner Bud, being Bud, was of course asleep at the switch when you suddenly grew Shrek-like necks and bloated biceps. But even Bud is selling absolution these days. He’s cheering any and all mea culpas, even half-assed ones. If you don’t believe me, just ask A-Rod and Manny, Papi, Jason and the others who’ve come forward because they had to.
“There may be no crying in baseball, but there is forgiveness, maybe even enough to get you to Cooperstown. In closing guys, please feel free to share this letter with Bagwell, Nomar, Pudge and all those others who went from hitting homers to power outages overnight. Tell them fans are ready to accept what happened, tell them we’re ready to move on. Tell them that most of us get it, even if they, like you, still don’t.”
AND (ALMOST) FINALLY:
== From this week’s Onion Sports (linked here), a headline:
CBS Producers Ask Shannon Sharpe To Use At Least 3 Real Words Per Sentence
AND (REALLY) FINALLY:
== From a recent edition of The Onion (linked here), the “entertainment” section instead of “sports” … and it makes sense, since The Who is schedule to actually perform:
‘CSI’ Set To Perform At Super Bowl Halftime Show
MIAMI–Just three weeks before its highly anticipated on-field performance at the Super Bowl XLIV halftime show, the popular CBS crime drama CSI is gearing up for what network executives are promising will be a “thrilling, high-tech whodunit on fourth and inches.”
“We’re pulling out all the stops,” CBS president and CEO Les Moonves said. “Tons of impenetrable forensic jargon; a graphic, four-minute conversation about a victim’s rectal cavity; plus a special guest appearance from a certain former Nash Bridges star.”
The Best and Worst of the L.A. Sports Media shines a light on the TV guys — the anchors, reporters, sideliners, studio analysts ….
Dain Blanton, the subject of today’s story (linked here), fared well, as well he should.
Lou Riggs (linked here), the Santa Monica College instructor and sports casting training expert around town, had this to say about Blanton’s work:
“After he played in the 2004 Olympics, he still had a lot of volleyball left in him. But he also started thinking ahead. He started doing lot of color commentary for WCSN (now NBC Universal), and then started coming over to me on a regular basis after Tom Feuer hired him to do high-school football. He came over almost every week during football season for two years.
“He also started to expand his horizon, doing some play-by-play at NBC Universal, then adding sideline for Pac-10 football and then pro basketball. I told him at the start that he had everything it takes to be a good broadcaster, especially TV — He’s a good looking guy, well spoken, intelligent, listens extremely well, understands the importance of strong preparation and controlling an interview situation. I also told him he needed to be more assertive — without being a jerk. He’s getting a lot of opportunities because he works hard, is reliable and will always put in a top effort. He has many more horizons than even where he is today. A lot of talent with much potential.”
With the release of today’s Top 10/Bottom 5, where we can expect to please at least 10 people in the city and upset another five, we move on to cover the other stuff that didn’t make it into print:
== The rest of the U.S. Olympic figure skating team will be decided this weekend in Spokane, Wash., as NBC has the ladies free skate (delayed, 9 p.m., Channel 4 on Saturday, even though it’s live in the East). It comes after the ladies short program and free dance (3 p.m., delayed). The official announcement of the U.S. Olympic team comes Sunday (9 p.m.) with the champions exhibition airing Sunday (4 p.m.). Bob Costas and Dick Button host, with Tom Hammond, Scott Hamilton, Sandra Bezic and Andrea Joyce.
== CBS, which will do the Super Bowl on Feb. 7, have Jim Nantz and Phil Simms at the AFC championship game Sunday (Jets at Colts, Channel 2, noon). Pregame starts at 11 a.m. with a special intro by Joe Namath.
== Fox goes with four people — Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver and Chris Myers — covering the NFC championship game Sunday (Vikings at Saints, Channel 11, 3:30 p.m.), with the pregame at 3 p.m.
== HBO launches another “24/7” reality show focused on NASCAR’s Jimmy Johnson starting Tuesday at 10 p.m., a four-week series leading to the Daytona 500.
== AND FINALLY:
We can’t help but run this press release verbatim for the way it captures both the essence of pro bowling and the necessity of overhyping the next TV event — Sunday, 10 a.m., ESPN:
When the PBA Tournament of Champions was introduced in the early 1960s by PBA founder Eddie Elias, it provided the PBA Tour with an elite platform to showcase an exclusive field of champions.
The 45th Tournament of Champions … at Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas will feature 63 players who have earned their right to compete in the season’s second major of the 2009-10 Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour by virtue of winning a PBA title.
With an event that has a rich tradition and a stellar field of players there are many storylines. But there are a few especially noteworthy stories to pay attention to are:
= Kelly Kulick will once again make PBA Tour history by becoming the first woman to compete in a Tournament of Champions. She earned her berth by winning the first PBA Women’s World Championship. Kulick first made history by becoming the first woman to qualify for the Tour’s Exempt Tour back in 2006.
= Tom Smallwood, of Saginaw, Mich., who earned a Tour exemption after being laid off from his job at General Motors last spring, will try to win his second major after winning the PBA World Championship in December in storybook fashion against reigning Player of the Year Wes Malott.
= Australian two-handed specialist Jason Belmonte will compete in his first Tournament of Champions after winning his first Tour title in 2008-09.
The Tournament of Champions is open exclusively to Lumber Liquidators PBA Tour exempt-player champions; the winners of the most recent PBA Regional Players Championship and Regional Players Invitational; the United States Bowling Congress Masters winner; the USBC Senior Masters, PBA Senior U.S. Open and PBA World Championship winners; all Tournament of Champions past winners, PBA Hall of Famers, and for the first time, the PBA Women’s World Championship titlist.