Category Archives: Sports

Savvy Writing Like This Could Save Baseball Cards From Extinction

Candidly, I never heard of Jett Bandy before opening this pack of Topps Heritage Baseball Cards (with the cool 1968 retro design), but I am now a fan. Based solely on the Brewers catcher’s connection to the Tom Cruise movie, “Cocktail.” Here’s a closer look so you don’t have to squint:

Where was this kind of trivia on baseball cards when I was a kid? I do remember being enthralled by the journalism in annual Red Sox yearbooks, which usually documented every player’s favorite movie and TV show. This stuff matters just as much as the stolen bases and RBIs (for that matter, why do so many baseball cards ignore stolen bases and saves in the career statistics?).

Anyhow, hats off to the Topps writer responsible for this card!


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Filed under Sports, Trading Card of the Week

What Does a Bad News Bear Say to an Overweight Panda?


On the 40th anniversary of “The Bad News Bears,” I tracked down once-chubby catcher Mike Engelberg for his observations on the “Fat Panda” controversy with overweight Boston Red Sox star Pablo Sandoval.

You can read my interview at The Hall of Very Good baseball blog.

In the classic movie, Engelberg got melted chocolate all over his uniform and the ball. 12-year-old actor Gary Cavagnaro wound up losing 70 pounds and gave up his movie career. The producers didn’t think a skinny catcher would be “funny” in the sequel.

Cavagnaro, now a 52-year-old sales manager for a multinational electronics company (we all have to grow up), is a fascinating guy!

P.S. I recently defended the besieged Sandoval in a WBUR column, “We Are All Fat Panda.”

P.P.S. The awesome 1977 Mike Engelberg baseball card at the top of this post was designed by the Dick Allen Hall of Fame blog.



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Filed under Bad News Bears, Red Sox, Red Sox Schlock, Sports, Sports Psychology

Why Do More Kids Choose Lacrosse Over Baseball?


A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION – More Major League teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, are taking a page out of the Minor League promotional playbook and letting kids run the bases after weekend games. (Mine got there before the stampede!)

Want insights on why more kids today prefer playing lacrosse over baseball?

That question has haunted me ever since my days as a volunteer Little League coach. And I got to ask it to Pittsburgh Pirates GM Neal Huntington during my ongoing quest to visit more “foreign” ballparks (outside of Fenway Park.)

You can read my interview with Huntington in this month’s New Hampshire Magazine. Relevance? He’s the son of NH dairy farmers!

P.S. Pittsburgh’s PNC Park is the most impressive ballpark I’ve visited to date.


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Filed under New Hampshire Magazine, Sports

New San Francisco Tourism Slogan: “What the F**K Are You Lookin’ At?”


I love visiting other ballparks outside Boston and I seize every excuse I can to visit them. On a recent business trip to San Francisco, the inconsiderate Giants neglected to factor my work obligations into their game schedule. I missed the afternoon game, but at 10:30 at night, after having dinner with friends, I had the ballpark perimeter to myself.

Under dim street lamps, I eagerly devoured every bit of text on the Giants Wall of Fame plaques – it was just like opening up packs of baseball cards from my childhood. With a big grin, I couldn’t wait to see which Giants – perhaps successful enough to make my friend Shawn Anderson’s Hall of Very Good, but not the Baseball Hall of Fame – would show their faces next. Continue reading

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Boy Scout Bruce Jenner

Bruce Jenner Boy Scout ad-web

From my childhood autograph collection. I think they had one of these ads for President Gerald Ford and home run champ Hank Aaron, too.

When you help start a Boy Scout troop, there’s no guarantee you’ll grow up to star on a cheesy E! reality show after winning the Olympic Decathlon. But you never know.

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Am I the slowest runner EVER?

Slowest run ever? These stats speak for themselves.

Slowest run ever? These stats speak for themselves.

According to my RunKeeper app, I just ran 1.1 miles in 36 hours and 7 minutes. That translates to a 32 hour, 56 minute mile.

The sports world was amazed when Roger Bannister first ran a 4-minute mile in 1954.

Moroccan Olympic gold medalist Hicham El Guerrouj now owns the world record for the mile at 3 minutes 43 seconds (watch him do it).

So how did I wind up taking 527 times as long as Mr. El Guerrouj to strut a mere four laps around my local high school track?

Forgetting to shut off the RunKeeper app will do that to you.

P.S. The world record for the Beer Mile — an insane competition requiring runners to chug a can of beer every quarter mile — is 4 minutes 57 seconds.

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Fan Mail Can Go Both Ways – A Note From My “Pen Pal” Dan Quisenberry

I was a Red Sox fan growing up, but how could I NOT love Dan Quisenberry, the guy who led the league in saves throwing underhand!

I was a Red Sox fan growing up, but how could I NOT love Kansas City Royals closer Dan Quisenberry, the guy who led the league in saves throwing underhand!

Handwritten letters are endangered species.

About the only places they live on are birthday cards, thank you notes and summer camp letters, which kids are forced to write because nostalgia keeps their parents signing those checkbooks (another endangered medium).

On the occasion of one of my favorite childhood baseball players, Dan Quisenberry, missing out on the Baseball Hall of Fame, I just wrote a column for The Atlantic reminiscing about the thrill of receiving a two-page letter from him in 1981. (“How Athletes Ensure Immortality: Not all greats make the Hall of Fame. Not all Hall of Famers are remembered. But a player who forges personal connections with fans with live on.”)

You can read the story here, but I’d also like to share the full text of the letter for the benefit of the world’s Kansas City Royals fans — or anyone who still cherishes the power of handwritten letters.

The idea of a professional athlete, let alone the American League’s best closer, taking the time to write a two-page letter to a kid he thought was “creative,” is unfathomable to me as a jaded adult. Sadly, Quisenberry died of brain cancer at age 45 — younger than the age that many of the kids watching him pitch would be now.

Here’s Dan’s letter for you to read for yourself:

Dan Quisenberry Letter - Page 1 of 2 (Double click to enlarge)

Dan Quisenberry Letter – Page 1 of 2 (Double click to enlarge)

** Continue reading

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Filed under Dan Quisenberry, Sports, Sports Psychology, Submarine Pitchers