1) Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona did something as a baseball manager that no other baseball manager has ever done, and in all probability never will. In 1994, while managing the Chicago White Sox farm team, the Birmingham Barons of the AA Southern League, he managed basketball superstar Michael Jordan. Many of you will remember that Jordan temporarily retired from basketball to try his hand at professional baseball. Jordan attended the White Sox 1994 training camp and was assigned to Birmingham, where he played the entire season under Francona, batted .202, hit three home runs and had fifty-one RBIs. Although Jordan’s baseball stats were pretty good for a basketball player, they weren’t very good for a baseball player, so he returned to the NBA for four seasons before again “retiring” for three seasons, only to come back and play two more years before finishing his illustrious basketball career. Jordan’s father was murdered in July, 1993, and Michael cited as the reason for his 1994 experiment the fact that his father had always wanted him to try baseball.
2) I was a hockey goalie for over twenty years. I don’t remember who it was, but back when I was a teenager playing in Toronto, some manager or coach told me that people tend to judge goalies by the shots they let in, not by the shots they stop. “So,” he cautioned me, “don’t embarrass yourself by letting in soft ones.” Ironically, my greatest embarrassment as a goalie wasn’t a shot I let in, but one that I stopped. I was playing in a charity hockey game, the proceeds of which were going to help a young man who had sustained a brain injury such that he would never play organized hockey again. But on this special night he was dressed in his hockey gear and was about to take a penalty shot on me. The referee told me that the player had been instructed to “go left.” Of course, I was to let him score, so when he skated in on me and made his move, I stacked my pads to my right. When the resounding boos rained down following my “great stop” we all realized that his left was my right. After a PA announcement that, for “technical reasons,” the penalty shot was invalid, he was allowed to take another. Needless to say, he beat me cleanly the second time.
3) Important life lessons are learned by playing team sports. Let’s consider just one of those I learned playing hockey. Even if I’d been the best goaltender the world has ever known, so good that I never allowed even one goal to be scored on me, without the efforts of my teammates I would never have won a single game.
4) Although I watched him play hockey for twenty years (two with St. Mike’s in the OHA and eighteen in the NHL), I’d never met Dick Duff until this week when Pete Conacher arranged for him to be a guest at our broadcast/hockey group’s regular weekly lunch. I’ve always felt that Duff was an underrated player. He played over a thousand games in the NHL, scored 283 goals and had 289 assists, mostly when there only six teams. During the 60s he was on more Stanley Cup winning teams than any other player – two with the Leafs and four with the Canadiens. Only eight players have won more cups than Duff, and they were all teammates of his: Henri Richard (11), Jean Beliveau (10), Yvan Cournoyer (10), Claude Provost (9), Jacques Lemaire (8), Serge Savard (8), Rocket Richard (8), and Jean Guy Talbot (7). When I mentioned his six Stanley Cups, Duff quipped, “Winning the Stanley Cup is easy. All you have to do is play with guys like Henri Richard, Jean Beliveau and Yvan Cournoyer.” Duff is in the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
5) Many years ago in Toronto I ran across a guy who ate cake sandwiches. He would wrap a piece of bread around a sliver of cake and eat it. When asked why he did this, he explained that when he was a kid his mother wouldn’t let him have a piece of cake unless he ate a piece of bread as well. So to adhere to her rule he’d wrap the bread around the cake. It became a habit which he still had as an adult.