still had it

On May 25, 1935, Babe Ruth was playing for the first time in the National League. He had turned 40 years old, and the New York Yankees let him go to the Boston Braves. The Babe played regularly for Boston, but it wasn't going well for the aging slugger, and as he took the field at Pittsburgh's Forbes Field that day, his batting average was at .153, with only 3 homers, which gave him 711 for his career.

I'm not sure there's an explanation for what happened that day. The Braves were a terrible team with a record of 8-19 (they eventually finished in last place). Ruth came up in the top of the first with one out and a man on, and hit his 712th home run off of Pirates pitcher Red Lucas. Top of the third, same situation: one out, man on, although the pitcher was now Guy Bush. Ruth hit another home run, his 713th. By the time Ruth faced Bush in the 7th inning, he had added an RBI single ... at that point, he had knocked in all five Boston runs, but they trailed, 7-5. There was no one on base this time, but The Babe wasn't done. He hit his third home run of the game, the 714th of his career. The 4-for-4 day boosted his batting average to .206. His career record 714 home runs lasted from 1935 until Henry Aaron broke it in 1974.

Landon Donovan was arguably the greatest soccer player in U.S. history. While still a teenager, he joined the San Jose Earthquakes in MLS and helped them to two league championships in four years. He then moved to the Los Angeles Galaxy for the majority of his career. When he retired, he held the all-time MLS regular season record with 145 goals.

Chris Wondolowski was something of a late bloomer. In 2010, at the age of 27, Wondo led MLS in goals scored while playing for the Earthquakes. In 2018, still with the Quakes, he scored ten goals, making it nine straight seasons with at least ten goals, a league record. At the end of that season, he had 144 career league goals, one short of Donovan's record.

At the beginning of 2019, Wondo, now 36 years old, started the team's first four matches, all of which they lost. Wondo didn't score in any of them. He found himself on the bench for the fifth game, which the Quakes won. Wondo became a late-game substitute, and was scoreless for the season, while the Quakes were getting better every week under new coach Matías "Pelado" Almeyda.

Today, Wondolowski got his first start in awhile, due to an injury to regular starter Danny Hoesen. And this followed:

Hopefully, this marks a late resurgence for Wondo, but in any event, he has been a True Earthquake.

Since I brought up Babe Ruth to start this post, I should probably add that after that three-homer game, Ruth played five more games and never had another hit.


sports

Some context:

Liverpool is one of the most storied clubs in English soccer. They were founded in 1892. They have won the top flight of English soccer 18 times over the years, although their most recent was back in 1989-90, before the First Division became the Premier League that everyone knows today. Five times they have won the European Cup, which is more times than any other English team. Their home, Anfield, is world famous, and has been their home since their founding in 1892. Their fans are famously loyal ... they have a song, the venerable "You'll Never Walk Alone", which was originally from a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. A version performed by the Liverpool band Gerry and the Pacemakers hit the top of the UK charts in 1963, and it became the soccer team's anthem, played before every home game. That this is important can be seen whenever an Anfield match is televised here in the States ... the announcers never talk over the crowd's singing. Here is an especially spirited rendition ... their opponents were Borussia Dortmund, who also use the song as their anthem, so supporters for both teams joined in:

Today, Anfield welcomed Barcelona for the second match of two in the Champions League semi-finals. Barcelona had beaten Liverpool at home 3-0, which meant Liverpool was behind before today's match even began. Not only that, two of Liverpool's biggest stars, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, were out with injury. And let's not forget that the greatest player of all time, Leo Messi, plays for Barcelona.

Liverpool got an early goal: 3-1. Early in the second half, they got two more: 3-3. And then came a smart, tricky corner kick, when Trent Alexander-Arnold noticed that the Barcelona players were busy getting set up. He took the kick before they were ready, Divock Origi scored: 4-3.

That was the final score. Liverpool advance to the Champions League final.

That's enough context. Here is what happened after the match:


thoughts on kentucky

A few scattered thoughts, the day after the Kentucky Derby, many of which I have written about before. First, a post from 2012:

I’m looking at the will of my great-great-great-great-great grandfather on my mom’s side of the family. John Cralle II died in Virginia in 1757. Some excerpts:

To Thomas Cralle Lamkin, son of Mary Jones, widow and relict of Charles Jones, late of Northumberland County five negoes vixt: Little Ben, Isaac, Peggs Bess, Blacka Top and Aggy. If he should die before he arrives to age or day of marriage, his mother Mary Jones to enjoy two of the said slaves that may be left at his death, she to have her choice during her natural life, then to revert to my children the remaining part

To son William Matthews Cralle nine negroes vizt: Chnce, Cate, and their daughter Bess, Frank, Alice, Stephen, Cate, Dominy, and Edmond.

Mulatto man Will, may be free at my decease.

To son Rodham Kenner Cralle three negroes vizt: Harry, George, and Nanny and my watch.

To daugher Mary Foushee my silver tankard, and negro wench Rose Anna

Rest of my estate both real and personal to be equally divided between five children Kenner, John, Rodham, William, and Mary, except Ben and Matthews whom I give to my son Kenner, son John to have Rachel, Old Ben to make choice of his master among my children.

From "How African-Americans disappeared from the Kentucky Derby", by Katherine Mooney:

When the horses enter the gate for the 145th Kentucky Derby, their jockeys will hail from Venezuela, Florida, Panama and France. None will be African-American. That’s been the norm for quite a while. When Marlon St. Julien rode the Derby in 2000, he became the first black man to get a mount since 1921.

It wasn’t always this way. The Kentucky Derby, in fact, is closely intertwined with black Americans’ struggles for equality, a history I explore in my book on race and thoroughbred racing. In the 19th century – when horse racing was America’s most popular sport – former slaves populated the ranks of jockeys and trainers, and black men won more than half of the first 25 runnings of the Kentucky Derby. But in the 1890s – as Jim Crow laws destroyed gains black people had made since emancipation – they ended up losing their jobs....

Soup Perkins, who won the Kentucky Derby at 15, drank himself to death at 31. The jockey Tom Britton couldn’t find a job and committed suicide by swallowing acid. Albert Isom bought a pistol at a pawnshop and shot himself in the head in front of the clerk.

The history of the Kentucky Derby, then, is also the history of men who were at the forefront of black life in the decades after emancipation – only to pay a terrible price for it.

And finally, an anecdote I have told many times. When my maternal grandmother was alive, she always looked forward to the Kentucky Derby. She was born in Kentucky in 1903, although it appears she had moved to California by the time she was 7 years old. Each year, when they played "My Old Kentucky Home" at the Derby, she would cry. I don't actually remember this happening, but I definitely remember her telling me about it on several occasions. It mattered to her.

Her name, before she later married, was Georgia Catherine Cralle. She was descended from the aforementioned John Cralle II.

As in my earlier mentions, I don't know what to make of all of the above.


before it was roaracle

It's a story likely to interest only sports fans from the Bay Area.

In 1962, Franklin Mieuli bought the NBA Philadelphia Warriors, moved them to the Bay Area, and renamed them the San Francisco Warriors. Most of their home games were played at the Cow Palace (which was actually in Daly City), and then later at Civic Auditorium in SF. The Oakland Coliseum Arena opened in 1966, and the Warriors played more and more of their home games there. By 1971, the Arena was their only and permanent home, and the team was renamed the Golden State Warriors. They won the NBA championship for the 1974-75 season, coached by Al Attles, who was just announced as part of the newest class of members of the Hall of Fame.

Then came the dark years ... they went 9 years without making the playoffs, and then, after a brief resurgence, had another streak of 12 years without a playoff appearance. After that streak was broken (for one year), they proceeded to miss the playoffs for five more years, making a total of one playoff appearance in 18 seasons. At that point, Steph Curry blossomed, first under coach Mark Jackson and then under Steve Kerr, the team's fortunes finally went upwards, and now, the Warriors have won three championships in the last four seasons.

Meanwhile, time passed until the name of their home became the Oracle Arena, naming rights for sports stadiums having become a major way for teams to get additional money. Warrior fans were famously loyal through the bad years, and when they were rewarded with champions, they rose to the occasion, such that the Oracle became known as the Roaracle.

Meanwhile, four years before Mieuli bought the team, baseball's New York Giants moved to San Francisco. Soon afterwards, their new home was built, called Candlestick Park. It went down as one of the worst ballparks in baseball history. The Giants played at that shithole for 40 years, never winning the World Series (they only made it to the Series twice), before moving to their new, beloved park in China Basin, where they eventually won three World Series.

The Warriors have built a new arena, called the Chase Center, to be opened for next season. It's location? San Francisco, next to the Giants ballpark, which this year was renamed to match its new sponsors: Oracle Park.

It's been a long time since it was affordable to attend Warrior games, but there was a period when my wife and I went to quite a few games. In particular, she worked for awhile at a car dealer that had complimentary Warrior tickets for salespeople to offer to prospective buyers. When those tickets went unused, the sales force could take them for themselves. When the tix were still untaken, my wife would sometimes grab them, which is why we spent some time sitting at half court in the lower bowl, enjoying the Warriors. These were not great teams ... this was during that first nine-year streak without a playoff appearance. There were remnants of the old champs ... Al Attles was still coach, Franklin Mieuli was still owner, Clifford Ray was finishing his career as the only remaining player from the championship team. Not a great team, but with some colorful characters ... there was Lloyd Free, who scored lots of points and changed his name legally to World B. Free, and the future Hall-of-Famer Bernard King, who one night, during a loss against the Dr. J-led 76ers that we attended, scored 50 points (to this day, I can close my eyes and see Bernard running down the wing).

But one player stood out above all others for my wife. She was a new fan to the game ... she's never been much for sports on TV, never really got into the day-to-day soap opera of a season, but she found she liked going to Warrior games in person and taking in the excitement of the individual game, if not the season as a whole. The Warriors had the first pick overall in the 1980 draft, and they chose a 7-foot center named Joe Barry Carroll. This coincided with my wife getting those freebie tickets, so we saw a lot of J.B., and perhaps since she was a bit of a rookie just like him, she took him on as her favorite player. His play rewarded her fandom ... he played every game his rookie season, averaging 18.9 points and 9.3 rebounds a game and being named to the first-team All-Rookie squad. His next season was only a slight drop. But Joe Barry was unpopular with the fans. The reasons were complicated ... if you're interested, look up the names Robert Parish and Kevin McHale ... but I always thought part of the problem was that he showed no emotion on his face when he played. Among his many nicknames was "Joe Barely Cares". This would piss my wife off no end ... not his play, which she liked, but the fans' reactions. I still remember one game, it was poster night, and the young fellows sitting in front of us were badmouthing J.B., and she started hitting them atop their heads using her rolled-up poster.

I bring all of this up because tonight will be the final regular-season Warrior game at the Roaracle, so there's a lot of nostalgia going on.

Here's Bernard King back in the day ... he wore #30 with the Warriors, which will be retired some day because the man who wears that number now is Stephen Curry.

And World B. Free, who had a pair of the biggest thighs we'd ever seen:


managing expectations

We attended last night's MLS season opener for the San Jose Earthquakes. Last season the team was just awful, winning only four games all year. During the off-season, their primary move was to hire the respected Argentinian coach Matías Almeyda, who has worked on three occasions with teams fallen on bad times (River Plate, Banfield, and Chivas) and took part in a turnaround. He would seem to be the perfect new manager for the Quakes, so much so that it was surprising he even came here at all.

My nephew is the most knowledgeable person in our family when it comes to soccer. He's the right age, growing up as the sport was blossoming in the States ... as a little tyke, he attended the very first Major League Soccer game ... and, unlike most people, has managed to turn a passion into a full-time job, currently with Toronto in MLS. He often suggests to me that managers aren't nearly as important as we think, that it's the players that matter (I'm simplifying here). I decided this meant the 2019 Quakes might make an interesting study of that concept. They were a bad team, and while they mix-and-matched a few players, they didn't sign any big stars outside of Almeyda. If managers lack importance, the Quakes aren't likely to be revived.

Hard to say after one game if the revival is taking place. MLS rules (and the reluctance of the San Jose front office to spend lots of money) mean Almeyda probably hasn't been given the kind of money he could use to rebuild the roster, although that is mere supposition on my part. Last night, the Quakes' play looked more positive, and a goal in the 11th minute gave fans some hope, but eventually, San Jose lost, 2-1. Their defense was erratic, and while the offense had plenty of possession, they rarely seemed like they were on the verge of scoring.

Almeyda has said from the beginning that recovering from a four-win season takes time, and he found some positives in the defeat. But mostly, the game reminded us just how far the team has to go. And outside of the never-give-up spirit the team showed (not something we saw too often last year), I can only say of Almeyda's influence so far that the Earthquakes will probably win more than four games in 2019. Here are some highlights, including a look at Matías, who if nothing else is the best-looking coach in the league:

And here is the view from our seats:

Avaya 2019 opener


world cup blog peeks out from under the covers

I'm gradually waking up the World Cup blog. I've posted a few things recently, including one from today that ranks the competing nations by "degree of civil liberties and political rights". Check it out to see the results:

Human Rights Soccer

Spoiler: Sweden is #1.

Another Spoiler: The opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia will be the worst match by this method.