Category Archives: Sports news

A true legend passes on

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

One should try to refrain from overusing the term “legend” when referring to famed athletes.

I will use the term today to mourn the death of a true legend of baseball: Henry Aaron, who died peacefully in his sleep overnight.

My goodness, what does one say about the man I consider to be Major League Baseball’s true home run king?

Hammerin’ Hank exhibited profound courage as he faced down blatant and hateful racism while he chased Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record. He surpassed The Bambino in April 1974 when he blasted No. 715 out of Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta. He kept all the hate mail he received just to remind him of the torment he endured.

Aaron went on to hit 755 home runs over a career in which he played for two franchises: the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves and then the Milwaukee Brewers. The Hammer became a civil rights activist and spokesman in his post-baseball life. He lived like a champion off the field as well as one who competed like one on the field.

Now, to be clear, Aaron officially is No. 2 on the career home list. He surrendered the title of all-time HR king to Barry Bonds, who finished with 762 home runs. Bonds, though, cheated his way to achieving the record by ingesting performance-enhancing drugs. Bonds never has acknowledged juicing up in the late 1990s and early 2000s … but he did.

Thus, I never can consider Bonds to be at the top of one of baseball’s greatest achievements.

The title of Home Run King will in my mind and heart belong to Henry Louis Aaron, a legend not just in his time … but for all time.

Oh, and how about them Sod Poodles?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Hey, let’s take a break from Donald Trump’s petty petulance at having lost an election.

I want to offer an atta boy to the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the defending Texas League champs and the minor league baseball team that plays hardball in the city I once called home.

Sod Poodles General Manager Tony Ensor, said this, “We are very pleased to announce that the Amarillo Sod Poodles organization has been formally invited by the Arizona Diamondbacks to become their new Double-A affiliate. Today’s announcement recognizes Amarillo and the Sod Poodles as being among the very best communities and franchises in Minor League Baseball. We are eager to review this affiliation opportunity with the Diamondbacks and our ownership group and look forward to discussing the exciting future ahead for baseball in Amarillo.”

There you go. The Sod Poodles have joined another Major League Baseball team in developing young talent that eventually hopes to end up in the Bigs. The Sod Poodles’ former parent club was the San Diego Padres. They have switched. To be candid, this one got past me. I must’ve been too preoccupied with other matters, such as the aforementioned Donald Trump’s bitching about losing an election to Joe Biden.

I’ll have to be content to cheer for the Sod Poodles  from afar, presuming they have a season this year; it didn’t happen for the Soddies, who wanted to defend their Texas League title won in the team’s first year of existence. We can thank the COVID pandemic for that.

Let’s hope they play ball this year … under the watchful eye of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Las Vegas Raiders? Please …

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I once was a huge, fervent, zealous fan of professional football.

Not so much these days. My favorite football team in the old days was an American Football League team that became a National Football League outfit: the Oakland Raiders.

I loved the Raiders back in the day, when Darryl “The Mad Bomber” Lamonica was their quarterback; when Ben Davidson was terrorizing opposing teams’ QBs; when Fred Biletnikoff ran perfect pass routes.

Then the Oakland Raiders moved to Los Angeles. My loyalty to them subsided, but only a little bit. They eventually would find their way back to the East Bay, playing once again in Oakland.

I am watching the Raiders today on TV. Only these days they call Las Vegas home.

The Las Vegas Raiders?

Arrggghhh!

I cannot go there.

Then again, I’m still pi**ed that the Houston Oilers moved to Nashville, that the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore, that the Chicago Cardinals moved to St. Louis and then to Phoenix, that the San Diego Chargers moved to LA, and that the Baltimore Colts sneaked out of town in the middle of the night and relocated to Indianapolis. I know what you might be thinking: What about the Dallas Texans moving to Kansas City? I’ll give the Chiefs a pass on that one.

My favorite team of all time remains the Oakland Raiders. The Las Vegas Raiders are imposters.

You didn’t ‘show up’ Bob Gibson

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

When I heard the news that Bob Gibson had died of cancer at the age of 84 I thought immediately of a radio interview I heard that mentioned Gibson’s name.

Bob Gibson was a first-ballot Major League Baseball Hall of Famer. He played his entire career with the St. Louis Cardinals. He won 251 games with the Cardinals and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1981.

He was a throwback to a time when pitchers controlled the field, controlled the game. One did not mess with Bob Gibson. Not ever!

Years ago, I was listening to a sports radio talk show. The host had former Philadelphia Phillies third baseman (and Hall of Famer) Mike Schmidt on the air. Schmidt was talking about how too many hitters like to stand in the batter’s box and watch their home runs fly into the stands, at which point they prance their way around the base paths.

Schmidt said in his day, pitchers wouldn’t stand for it. He mentioned a pitcher specifically who he said would take matters into his own hands: Bob Gibson. The next time the batter would come to the plate to face Gibson, Schmidt said, he would be greeted by a 95-mph fastball thrown at his head that Gibson would hurl at him.

Yeah, Bob Gibson was one tough dude. He also was a champion.

Hoping for return of AA hardball in Amarillo

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I no longer live in Amarillo but I retain a deep and abiding attention and affection for my friends there and I wish them all the very best at every turn.

I wish them continued joy as they cheer for a baseball team that was supposed to defend its Texas League title this year but got sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles are still the champs. They’ll get to defend their title next year … right? Well, let us hope so.

I do not for a nano-second believe we’re about to get a vaccine that will kill the COVID-19 virus deader than a door nail. It’s still some time in the future.

However, I remain hopeful to the extreme that continued measures — such as mask wearing and social distancing — will enable activities to resume to something approaching “normal” in the new year.

Hodgetown, the shiny new ballpark where the Sod Poodles play their home games, did play host to a college league this summer. Aspiring young hardballers got to play in front of government-mandated sparse crowds at the ballpark. It wasn’t exactly Class AA ball, which the Sod Poodles play, but it entertained the baseball faithful who were able to attend the games.

So, from some distance away, I want to extend a good word to my friends in Amarillo who are hoping to be able to swill a beverage or two and wolf down a hot dog at Hodgetown in 2021 while cheering for the Sod Poodles as they seek to defend their Texas League title.

Hey, I live near Frisco these days, where the Roughriders play ball in the same league as the Sod Poodles. If they play ball next year I intend fully to be in the Frisco stands cheering for the Soddies.

Get ready: no football

I believe football fans from coast to coast to coast need to steel themselves for some very bad news.

There might not be football this autumn. Two college conferences — the Lone Star and Mid-American — have “postponed” all football games until the spring. The Ivy League canceled its football season altogether.

The “power” conferences — such as the Big 12, the Pac 12, SEC, Big 10 — are set to play football. But wait! Are they really going to expose their student-athletes to the pandemic, to the coronavirus that continues to kill Americans?

I have this feeling in my gut, right along with my trick knee, that we aren’t likely to see college football this autumn. Or, perhaps, too the National Football League.

A lot of players are opting out of NFL play, citing concerns over the virus.

Am I dreading the thought of no football this fall? Yes. More so regarding intercollegiate football. I care less about the NFL than I care about NCAA football.

I care much more, though, for the well being of the student-athletes, their coaches, their family members, their friends and assorted loved ones who could be infected a potential killer that continues to ravage this nation.

Wait’ll next season

They’re done playing hardball at Hodgetown, the gleaming new baseball park in downtown Amarillo, Texas.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles were supposed to defend their Texas League title, but the COVID-19 pandemic put the kibosh on their season. Instead, the team ownership came up with an idea that sold quite well with the Sod Poodles’ enthusiastic fan base.

They formed two teams comprising college athletes. They decided to sell about 3,000 tickets per game played in the 7,000-seat ballpark, enabling fans to “socially distance” themselves while cheering for the young men on the field.

From what I understand, the makeshift season went over well. The fans got a good dose of baseball just when their hopes were dashed that the Sod Poodles would be unable to play even part of a season.

I consider this to be an example of quick thinking on your feet. To that end, the Sod Poodles’ management earns a bouquet from this former Amarillo resident. Well done. As one of the Sod Poodles fans said on Facebook:

Thank you to the coaches and players who came to Amarillo this summer to play America’s game. You guys just simply rock!! This season, as the old saying goes, was short but sweet! I know the fans in Amarillo are already anticipating another fun filled and exciting season in 2021! Go Soddies!!

Why not just scrap the season?

A part of the Lone Star Conference decision to “postpone” certain athletic activities has me puzzled.

The LSC has decided to postpone intercollegiate football and other sports until the spring, meaning that the student-athletes can start blocking and tackling for real during, oh, baseball season.

The COVID-19 pandemic has rattled LSC officials. They aren’t comfortable letting the athletes participate in the fall when their regular sporting events occur. Who in the world can blame them?

Why not just scrap the entire season? Just call it good. Football, soccer, volleyball and basketball will be there next academic year. So, why not just tell the student-athletes they will have to wait. Perhaps there’s a way to extend their eligibility a year to enable them to play these sports even if they have completed their academic work at their schools.

The impact is going to disrupt a lot of activity in communities where these LSC’s 18 schools are located. I am saddened for those who like attending football games on Saturday afternoons and evenings.

There will be some economic impact as well on the schools that derive income from attendance at football contests.

The overarching issue is the safety of the student-athletes. Allowing them close contact with fellow competitors while the nation is fighting a deadly infectious virus exposes them to too great a risk.

Let’s just call it a season. Wait until the next academic year … and hope we have this virus contained a whole lot better than we do at this moment.

No football this fall

If you live in places like, oh, Commerce or Canyon or Kingsville or Wichita Falls in Texas, and you planned to attend a college football game on a Saturday afternoon or evening … I have some bad news.

You’ll have to wait. You might be able to attend a game in the spring. Or perhaps later in 2021.

The Lone Star Conference, with 18 colleges in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, has declared that most outdoor sports this fall have been delayed. Yep, it’s the pandemic doing its dirty work here.

The LSC has made the decision to allow football teams to practice, but just not play games for real.

In a press release issued today, the LSC said: Cross country will compete in the fall as scheduled. Additionally, golf and tennis are permitted to compete in their non-championship segments in the fall.  No other outside competition will be allowed.
 
After extensive discussion, which included a review of the requirements set by the NCAA Board of Governors earlier this week, the council made the difficult decision to postpone due to the challenges of COVID-19.

Football, soccer, volleyball and basketball, which are classified as high contact risk sports by the NCAA resocialization principles, can practice during the fall under all applicable NCAA Division II rules, but not compete until the spring.

Those “challenges,” indeed, are profound and must not be trifled with. Accordingly, I want to applaud the Lone Star Conference for putting the health of its student-athletes, its fans, the family members and friends of all those who would be exposed to potential infection at the top of their priority list.

The next season awaits, no matter when it begins.

They’re playing ball in Hodgetown!

I have to say good word or three to my friends up yonder in Amarillo.

Minor league baseball — the organized version of it affiliated with Major League Baseball — is on the shelf for this season. That dang pandemic has scuttled minor league ball in cities all across the nation.

But in Amarillo, they have cobbled together a “league” with college players suiting up to play in the city’s shiny new ballpark named Hodgetown.

Amarillo has a couple of teams: Sod Dogs and Sod Squad. The name of the city’s AA baseball team is the Sod Poodles, and are affiliated with the National League’s San Diego Padres. The Sod Poodles are on the bench this season, which denies the Sod Poodles the chance to defend the Texas League championship they won in 2019 … in their first year of existence!

Not to be denied baseball, they put together a season featuring these young men. What’s cool — and which might not be getting the attention it deserves — is that the college players are swinging wooden bats. Yep, they aren’t wielding those metal instruments when they stride to the plate to take their cuts.

The NCAA plays baseball with those metal bats, which makes that annoying tinny sound when players hit a baseball with them.

I presume they’re sitting at an appropriate “social distancing” fashion at Hodgetown. Keep it up, friends.

I’m glad and happy for you that you are enjoying some hardball at the downtown Amarillo ballpark.