Category Archives: Sports news

Slugger tells it straight about home run record

Giancarlo Stanton is a young man after my own heart.

The Miami Marlins baseball star has declared that Roger Maris’s 61 home runs during the 1961 season is the legitimate single-season record. Why would the Marlins’ slugger say that? It’s likely because he stands a chance of hitting more than what Maris hit during his epic home run battle with New York Yankees teammate Mickey Mantle.

Maris’s total no longer is the major-league record — officially. The record actually belongs to Barry Bonds, who hit 73 during the height of the Steroid Era in Major League Baseball. Indeed, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa also hit more home runs in a single season than Maris, but they, too, were juiced up with performance-enhancing drugs.

“When you grow up watching all the old films of Babe Ruth and [Mickey] Mantle and those guys, 61 has always been that printed number as a kid,” Stanton said.

I am one baseball fan who has serious trouble accepting Bonds as the home run king, either for a single season or a career. I continue to consider Henry Aaron to be the all-time HR monarch, as he hit 755 dingers during his storied career. He did so without the chemical help that Bonds — who hit 762 home runs during his career — received along the way.

Maris surpassed Babe Ruth’s record of 60 home runs — which The Babe set in 1927 — while battling Mickey Mantle during the entire 1961 season. They were neck and neck all season long. Then Mantle went down with an injury late in the season — and became his buddy Roger’s greatest cheerleader as Maris continued his chase for baseball immortality.

That’s the record worth chasing now. To that end, I am pulling for Giancarlo Stanton to surpass it.

Is it gut-check time for the NFL?

The National Football League needs to re-evaluate a few priorities.

A young man is trying to find a spot with one of the NFL’s professional football teams. He’s a pretty good quarterback. He once led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013.

Then he did something foolish, perhaps even stupid. He decided to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem at the start of football games. Colin Kaepernick was protesting the plight of African-Americans. He decided to make a political statement by declining to stand for the Anthem.

He’s been vilified ever since.

Why the NFL re-evaluation? Well consider a thing or two. The league has allowed actual convicted felons to play football. They’ve been convicted of spousal abuse, sexual abuse, illegal dog fighting, drug peddling. Why, one of the game’s all-time greats — retired linebacker Ray Lewis — once pleaded no contest to a charge in connection with the murder of an individual. He retired recently and has been feted as one of the game’s giants. Huh? Yep.

Kaepernick has been convicted of nothing. He has committed no crime. He merely chose to make a political statement. Yes, I wish he hadn’t done it that way. But that is his prerogative. It’s in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees him the right to do what he did.

Kaepernick was waived by the 49ers. He wants to keep playing football. General managers, team owners and head coaches are afraid of fan reaction, I suppose.

Check out John Feinstein’s excellent column on Kaepernick right here.

Do you remember when a young boxer declined induction into the U.S. Army, citing his religious objection to the Vietnam War? The late Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title in 1967 and then denied the opportunity to fight for a living. He was deprived of more than three prime years of his career. Then in 1970, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Ali had been denied his constitutional right of religious freedom.

Ali returned to the boxing ring and, well, the rest is history.

Colin Kaepernick is facing much of the same recrimination. It is unjust. It’s gut-check time in the NFL.

Yes, they should ‘fear’ CTE

Terrell Davis used to be a great football player.

The newly inducted Hall of Fame running back for the Denver Broncos now says he lives in fear — along with other former football players — of a disease he might get later on in life. It’s called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

Davis has reason to be very afraid.

The young man took a battering while carrying a football for the Broncos. He took many hits to the head, as did so many other professional football players. Indeed, studies have revealed recently that more than 80 percent of former NFL players are — or will be — afflicted by CTE, which ultimately diminishes cognitive ability.

“We’re concerned because we don’t know what the future holds. When I’m at home and I do something, if I forget something I have to stop to think, ‘Is this because I’m getting older or I’m just not using my brain, or is this an effect of playing football? I don’t know that.”

Read more about Davis’s comments here.

What does the NFL do about this? It already has taken steps to penalize players who hit other athletes on what they call “helmet-to-helmet contact.” The league has been forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to players afflicted by CTE.

The NFL is now dealing almost daily with reports of athletes becoming afflicted with CTE at various stages of its progression.

The term CTE only recently has become part of every-day language, sort of like HIV/AIDS and ALS have become over the years.

Do these grown men stop doing what they do? Do we make football an illegal activity? Must the NFL resort to retooling the game into a two-hand touch football game? No, no and no.

But I surely can understand the fear that Terrell Davis and other former football players are expressing as they advance in years toward elderly status.

I suppose it would be imperative that the NFL do all it can to (a) protect the players on the field with improvements in the equipment they wear and (b) spend whatever it takes to care for those who are permanently damaged by the sport they choose to play.

A glimpse into my city’s future?

ST. PAUL, Minn. — It might be that I have caught a glimpse of Amarillo, Texas’s future.

It presented itself more than 1,000 miles north of the Texas Panhandle in Minnesota’s capital city.

Amarillo is in the midst of a downtown renovation/revival/redevelopment. It includes a first-class hotel that’s about to open next to a first-class performance center, across the street from the Civic Center.

St. Paul happens to have — and perhaps this is just a coincidence — a world-class entertainment venue across the street from a historic hotel. I didn’t see the municipal complex, but it cannot be too far from the hotel and the performing arts center, given that this city’s downtown is fairly compact.

We came here to visit my cousin and her husband, who took us to see a world-class performance of “Jesus Christ, Superstar” at the Ordway Entertainment Center. Before we went to the play, we enjoyed a light dinner at the St. Paul Hotel, which was built in 1910.

The hotel was packed. So was the Ordway center.

Oh, did I mention that down the street in St. Paul there’s a ballpark where they play minor-league baseball? There. I just did.

Which brings me to another point: Amarillo is about to break ground on construction of a multipurpose event venue/ballpark which — another coincidence! — will be the home field for a AA minor-league baseball team that will relocate to Amarillo from San Antonio.

They played a ballgame at the St. Paul ballpark. After it ended, they shot off fireworks that entertained a huge crowd of folks gathered in an outdoor park.

I now shall put some of this into a bit of perspective.

St. Paul’s population is about 304,000; Amarillo’s is at 200,000. St. Paul is next to Minneapolis; its metro-area population is about 3.5 million residents, while Amarillo’s metro population is about 280,000. St. Paul is separated from Minneapolis by the Big Muddy, aka the Mississippi River; Amarillo doesn’t have that kind of waterway coursing through it.

So, I realize I’m not making an apples-to-apples comparison.

I do, though, intend to suggest that economies of scale can produce success for Amarillo’s effort to remake its downtown district. Our city’s economic development gurus keep looking toward places such as Fort Worth and Oklahoma City as benchmarks for Amarillo’s potential future. They, too, have done well to revive their downtown districts.

I continue to harbor enormous optimism that Amarillo’s effort is going to produce success. Will it reap the pound-for-pound harvest that other communities have hauled in? Not necessarily. If Amarillo is smart, aggressive and creative in its marketing of what lies ahead, then it surely can enjoy the fruits of it all.

We came up way up north and saw what looks to me like a potential glimpse of what lies ahead for Amarillo, Texas.

O.J. gets parole; now, just disappear, will ya?

The Nevada state parole board did what most experts thought it would do: It granted Orenthal James Simpson parole after serving about nine years in the slammer.

O.J. Simpson was sent to The Joint for a crime unrelated to another one for which he was acquitted — and which the vast majority of Americans believe he committed. A jury convicted Simpson of assault, theft and assorted other felonies relating to his effort to recover some sports memorabilia.

The other crime? The one for which he was found not guilty? That was the double murder of his former wife and her friend.

OK. Simpson gets paroled. He’ll have to behave himself while he walks among the rest of us. If he messes up, he goes back to prison.

What I wish now is for Simpson to vanish. I want him away from the public glare. He’ll get a chance to cash in on that $25,000 monthly pension he gets from the National Football League. He was, after all, once a damn good football player.

I also believe he was guilty of the crime for which he was acquitted. That has no bearing, though, on the parole board’s decision to set him free.

I just want the media to turn to other matters. Indeed, I am hoping that this is the final thing I’ll ever write about O.J. Simpson.

Now, O.J.? Get to work looking for the “real killer” of Nicole and Ron.

Let’s still call it an ‘MPEV’

I get scolded from time to time by readers of this blog. One of them scolded me mildly because I keep referring to the still-to-be-built sports and entertainment facility as a “multipurpose event venue.”

He wants the upcoming downtown Amarillo site called a “ballpark.”

I believe I’ll take his suggestion/edict under advisement, but for now I’ll continue to use the MPEV reference.

The MPEV is going to be home to a AA minor-league baseball franchise. The city recently announced the relocation of that franchise from San Antonio to Amarillo. The San Antonio Missions — as the team is now called — plan to play ball in Amarillo beginning in April 2019, which means the planners here need to get cracking. They need design plans approved and construction to begin immediately … if not sooner.

The strategy, though, puts many other events in the MPEV. Plans call for the venue to play host to myriad other activities that have nothing to do with balls and strikes, home runs, hot dogs and beer. Yes, the baseball team will be the primary tenant of the MPEV, but not the only one — if the grand plan is developed fully.

Thus, MPEV remains to my way of thinking a suitable term of art to refer to this upcoming venue.

I always appreciate constructive criticism.

For now I’ll pass on the latest suggestion on how we ought to refer to the MPEV.

This young man is the next superstar?

Jordan Spieth seems like a quiet young man. He hails from Dallas. He plays golf for a living. He’s pretty good at it, too.

He won a golf tournament over the weekend by sinking a shot out of a sand bunker. Spectacular stuff, to be sure. For a golf fan who is still waiting for the return of its most recent super-duper star, a guy named Tiger, I am pleased to see another young man emerge to capture the attention of the golfing world.

Golf is about as statistic-happy a sport as, say, baseball. Consider this little tidbit the announcers tossed into our laps: Spieth, who’s 23 years of age, is the second-youngest player ever to win his 10th professional golf event. The youngest is the aforementioned Tiger Woods; the third youngest is a guy out of Ohio named Jack Nicklaus.

Think about that for a moment. Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Jack Nicklaus.

The young Texan surely understands that he currently is walking among some pretty tall cotton.

Amarillo mayor is talkin’ baseball

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson is sounding mighty pleased these days, with good reason.

The city scored a big win this past week with an announcement that a minor league baseball franchise is pulling up stakes and relocating to the city she has helped govern for the past few weeks.

The San Antonio Missions will play ball at the new ballpark/multipurpose event venue to be built in downtown Amarillo. They’ll start their 2019 season in April of that year and the plan is for them to stay possibly for decades, depending on the number of contract extensions they sign.

OK, we don’t yet know the name of the new team, but a couple of things jumped out at me as I watched Nelson’s TV interview this past weekend.

* She credits the weather as being a big selling point for the Elmore Group deciding to move the Missions to Amarillo. That’s a bit of a surprise. Nelson said the weather from “April to September” is ideal for evening baseball. Low humidity, “downtown wind,” placid temperatures after the sun goes down all worked in Amarillo’s favor to luring the team here.

But … but … but what about those infamous spring winds, Mme. Mayor? Isn’t there a standing joke here about how, if you don’t like the weather, “just wait 10 minutes”? Let’s hope for the best on that one.

* Nelson also answered a valid question about the cost of the multipurpose event venue and how it’s going to cost more than that what the non-binding referendum in November 2015 called for. That measure pegged the price at $32 million; the current price tag is $45.5 million. “That’s an apples and oranges” comparison, Nelson told KAMR’s Jackie Kingston.

The referendum presumed an “independent baseball team” would be playing at the MPEV. The Missions are a major league-affiliated minor league AA team, which she said will provide a much better entertainment product for fans to enjoy.

See the interview here.

I am in the mayor’s corner in celebrating the pending arrival of this new entertainment feature to Amarillo. I’ve noted before, but I believe it bears repeating: I see no downside in the city’s effort to its downtown district.

What became of this Amarillo ‘movement’?

When you see the word “movement” attached to a political activity, you ought to get the feeling of a groundswell, an initiative with staying power.

I thought recently of a “movement” that surfaced in Amarillo in 2015. It was called the Amarillo Millennial Movement. Do you recall it, too? Good on ya if you do.

The AMM is gone. It vanished into thin air seemingly the moment that city voters in November 2015 approved a non-binding referendum calling for construction of the multipurpose event venue in downtown Amarillo.

Its co-founder was a young woman named Meghan Riddlespurger, who followed her friend and mentor Melissa Dailey to Fort Worth; Dailey was forced out as director of Downtown Amarillo Inc. When Dailey hit the road, the AMM’s co-founder hit the road with her.

The ostensible idea behind the AMM was to energize the city’s younger residents, to encourage them to stay in Amarillo rather than bolt for greener pastures, more opportunity, greater career choices. AMM got excited about the MPEV and a few of those young folks — their numbers aren’t exactly clear to me — became involved in the pro-MPEV campaign.

It’s troubling to me that AMM isn’t around today to relish the news that came out about the pending start of the 2019 Texas League baseball season, which will include an Amarillo-based team affiliated with the San Diego Padres of the National League.

The Local Government Corporation managed to finish the deal. The LGC persuaded the San Antonio Missions to come here in time for the 2019 season. The ballpark where they’ll play must be done on time for them to throw out the first pitch.

We’re focusing on the baseball element. The team that will play at the ballpark will be its primary tenant. There will be other events at the MPEV/ballpark. That’s what I always understood was the focus behind AMM’s mission, to generate youthful exuberance to attend the various other entertainment-related events at the venue.

Riddlespurger has spoken publicly about the negativity she experienced while leading this AMM effort. That was one major reason why she decided to leave Amarillo. Interesting, yes? She helps found an organization that urges young residents to stay home, then she bails on the city to pursue a career opportunity.

Hey, I don’t blame her for seeking to advance her own future.

The Amarillo Millennial Movement, though, is a “movement” in name only. AMM is no longer around to witness the culmination of its greatest political triumph.

My hope springs eternal. Perhaps another group can rise up and join the marketing effort that will be required to ensure that the MPEV/ballpark attracts the activity it must to make it worth the effort to build it

When it’s built, MPEV will benefit entire city

I’m still trying to process the news today of the arrival of a AA baseball franchise in Amarillo.

The meter is now running. The San Antonio Missions are moving their franchise here in time for the start of the 2019 Texas League season. That means the multipurpose event venue — aka the ballpark — will need to be completed in time for the first pitch.

The MPEV is the reason the Missions are coming here. They want to play in a shiny new venue. They want to play hardball in the downtown district.

It’s going to cost about $45.5 million. Yes, it’s more than the $32 million price tag attached to the November 2015 citywide referendum that voters approved. It doesn’t bother me that the cost escalated. Why? Because the plan is for the MPEV to be funded through hotel occupancy tax revenue.

The grumbling has begun. Some folks might not want the ballpark to be built. They believe the city has too many other needs that attention. Roads and streets; parks, police and fire protection … those kinds of things.

I’ll concede that I am not an urban planning expert. I have gotten around the country a good bit over the years and I’ve noticed that vibrant cities have one thing in common: a bustling, busy and active downtown business/entertainment district.

My wife and I just returned from a nearly 3,800-mile road trip. We witnessed plenty of pizzazz in places like Nashville and Memphis, Tenn. We saw more of it in Roanoke, Va., a city that’s quite a bit smaller than Amarillo, but which boasts a highly attractive downtown district. I do not know all the particulars of those communities, so my perception is based on first impressions.

I do know a bit about Amarillo’s personality and my sense is that the city’s population — which is on the cusp of 200,000 people — is going to respond positively to the development that will follow once the ballpark is built.

Moreover, the word will get out. The city’s marketing gurus need to find creative ways to send the message well beyond Amarillo’s corporate borders that this city is a happening place.

What, then, might happen? Those hotels that have sprung up all along Interstate 40 are going to fill up. Revenue will pour in. The city will be able to invest that revenue in the kinds of projects that will improve the city’s image and lure even more activity into this community.

The announcement today completes just the first phase of the city’s redevelopment and revival. The City Council, the senior city administration and the Local Government Corporation have received the commitment they wanted from a professional sports franchise to relocate here.

The ballpark is the critical element that lured that franchise to this city. There’s little time for dawdling and delay. Work needs to begin soon.

And when it’s finished, I am willing and ready to suggest that the entire city will reap the reward.