No losers in womens NCAA Final Four

There were no losers in this weekend's NCAA Women's Basketball Final Four.  The men can only hope Monday's night's national championship game is as exciting as the women's finish.  Baylor overcame an injury to starter Lauren Cox and withstood a furious Notre Dame rally to win its third national championship with an 82-81 win that went down the wire.

I was riveted in watching the action, admiring how players on both sides played as if they had the proverbial "ice water in their veins." 

Friday night's semifinals were no less scintillating, as Baylor outscored Oregon, 72-67 and Notre Dame dropped Connecticut for the second straight year in the semis, this time by an 81-76 score.  The Fighting Irish unleashed a relentless attack, after trailing by nine points with 7:52 left in the game, as these two schools continued their heated rivalry.

With Baylor's thrilling win in the title game, UConn remains the last school to defend its national championship.  Notre Dame was attempting to make it back-to-back titles.

But here is the bottom line.  There were no losers this weekend.  I know that sounds trite, but it is the truth.  Pull out any cliche in the books.  They all apply to this weekend.  All the schools provided entertaining basketball.  What more can you ask for? 

Rooting for Geno and UConn

Geno Auriemma
You bet I'm rooting for the UConn women's basketball team Friday night, when they play Notre Dame in the NCAA semifinals.  In my lifetime, the success of the women's basketball program at Connecticut has become one of the great stories in sports.

Coach Geno Auriemma has built a program that in many cases placed Connecticut on the sports map. And to continue to dominate the sport for more than two decades is remarkable.  UConn may not win the National Championship every year, it just seems that way.  Eleven national titles, 12 straight trips to the Final Four and Connecticut seems to make it look easy, but it is anything but.

The players' success is the result, not only of talent and great coaching, but hard work.  As far as I'm concerned, this nearly three-decade dominance by UConn ranks right up there with other dominant teams in sports history be it the Yankees, Patriots, Packers, Celtics, Canadiens or UCLA.

But Geno is the leader, the pacesetter, the majordomo.  He is not afraid to put his neck on the line, whether it be for his team or to give an opinion.  His latest cause is exhibit A, suggesting that coaches just might be afraid of their players.  Read what he has to say.  He's right on.

Meanwhile, my TV will be right on Friday night, ready to root, root, root for Geno and the Huskies.

Fired up for Hartford Yard Goats baseball

Warren Schaeffer
As I write this post, the Hartford Yard Goats have played their first game of the season, losing a tough one on Opening Night to the Richmond Flying Squirrels, 1-0.  But it is going to be an exciting season, and once again I am looking forward to broadcasting the games with the "Voice of the Yard Goats," Jeff Dooley.

On Tuesday, the Yard Goats held their annual media day, a chance for the ballclub and its staff to rub elbows with the media.  For me, it was the chance to renew friendships with numerous people and meet new friends as well.  We are fortunate in Hartford to be affiliated with such a great organization as the Colorado Rockies.  Led by manager Warren Schaeffer, who starts his second year at the helm, hitting instructor Lee Stevens and new pitching coach Steve Merriman, it should be a season to remember.

I can tell you the staff and players work hard, putting in long days to develop as major league players. I can't wait for the new season to get underway.  See you on the radio.

Major moves by MLB and remembering Phil Rizzuto

As the 2019 Major League Baseball season gets underway, word is MLB is reducing the television package it has with Facebook and removing the "exclusivity" tag.  That is among the topics I talk
Phil Rizzuto/Credit: You Tube capture
about in the latest edition of The Baseball Beat.   Other items we discuss:

And I look back at the time former New York Yankees shortstop great and broadcaster Phil Rizzuto visited my hometown of Torrington, CT.  Rizzuto's visit and talk that night - which you hear on the podcast - was a special night in the history of sports in the city.

Enjoy!

Busy day for Mets and remembering Willie Stargell

Willie Stargell/Credit: You Tube
Mar. 26, 2019 turned out to be a busy day for the New York Mets, as we explore in my latest edition of The Baseball Beat.  The Mets and pitcher Jacob deGrom have agreed to a contract extension and Mets owner Fred Wilpon is buying back more of his ballclub.

The Boston Red Sox and catcher Sandy Leon were in the news and so are uniforms, as Sports Illustrated examines uniform changes for the coming season.  You can read the article by clicking here.

We also take a look back at my interview with Willie Stargell.  At the time the former Pittsburgh Pirate was a member of the Atlanta Braves coaching staff.  The Braves were in Richmond to play their AAA affiliate, when I caught up with Willie and hosted a press conference at which he was featured for being elected to the Hall of Fame.

Enjoy!

Historic day in Yankees managerial history and Mets were part of it

Yogi Berra/Credit: James H. Burns
March 25, 1965 was a historic day in the history of New York Yankees managers.  The Yankees were coming off of their record-tying five consecutive AL pennant, as they prepared to host their crosstown rivals the New York Mets in an exhibition game in Ft. Lauderale, FL on that date.

In 1964 the Yankees stunned the baseball world, firing the popular Yogi Berra after one season as their manager, following a Game 7 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.  Berra was replaced by the man who managed the Cards to that championship, Johnny Keane.

Now the Yankees were hosting the Mets, the ninth time the clubs had met in either spring training or the annual Mayor's Trophy game.  It was also the first time Yogi would cross paths with his former club.

Also in attendance on this intriguing day were Ralph Houk, the Yankees vice-president and general
Johnny Keane
manager, who fired Berra and Mets manager Casey Stengel, who preceded Houk as Yankees manager.  In other words, under the Florida sunshine in this not-so-usual spring training game were the previous four managers of the Yankees: Stengel, Houk, Berra and Keane.

The New York Times reported that day that there was no interaction, before the game, between Keane and Berra or Houk and Berra but that there was plenty of interaction and kidding between Berra and his former teammates.  Keane, however, did cross the field and enter the Mets dugout, accommodating photographers who wanted a picture with him and Stengel.

Berra told the media, "I'll root for the Yankees - in the other league."

In the game, with Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn on the mound - he pitched six innings of one-run ball - the Mets beat the Yanks, 3-2, to take a 5-4 lead in the series.

The Yankees beat the Mets in St. Petersburg the next day, 8-0, with Berra, Stengel and Keane posing together for a picture.

As for the game in Ft. Lauderdale, the Times reported that most of the 6,130 fans in the Yankees’ ballpark were rooting for the Mets.  Those same Mets fans would have more to cheer about as the 1965 season wore on.  The Yankees never came close to a record sixth-straight pennant, finishing with their first losing mark in 40 years, as their dynasty started to crumble.

Mike Tauchman deal reminiscent of Paul Zuvella trade

What a difference 24 hours make.  On Saturday, Mike Tauchman was on the bubble not knowing if he would make the Colorado Rockies big league roster or be farmed out to their AAA affiliate Albuquerque.  On Sunday, Tauchman had been dealt to the New York Yankees, made the roster and will be at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day when the contending Bronx Bombers play the Baltimore Orioles.

Mike Tauchman/Credit: You Tube
The trade is reminiscent of one between the Atlanta Braves and Yankees on June 29, 1986.  At the time, I was broadcasting games with Bob Black for the Braves' AAA affiliate Richmond.  On a sunny, Sunday afternoon at The Diamond, word starting sweeping through the press box and the ballpark that Richmond shortstop Paul Zuvella had been traded to the Yankees.  It was my assignment that day to conduct the post game interview on the field.

After the game, the trade was announced and I asked "Zoo" if he would be my guest.  He said "yes" but that he had to talk to the manager first.  That was when Zuvella had been given the word he had been dealt.  He gave me a great interview about Richmond and his days in the Braves organization, including his time in Atlanta, where he played in 97 games over three seasons.

When the interview concluded, I wished Zuvella good luck and predicted he would be in New York
Paul Zuvella/Credit: Gary Cohen
the next night, starting at shortstop for the Yankees against the Detroit Tigers.  Zuvella told me he had no idea where he would be but speculated he would probably be sent to the Yankees' AAA affiliate in Columbus.  Knowing that the Yankees were having big problems at shortstop, I said to "Zoo" the Yankees - who also acquired outfielder Claudell Wahsington in the deal - didn't trade for a shortstop to put him at Columbus.  Sure enough, Zuvella was in the Yankees' starting lineup the next night.

And so it is that Tauchman has gone from perhaps a AAA assignment to becoming a key component of the New York Yankees outfield, currently beset by injuries.  And it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.  My memories of Tauchman - when he played outfield for the New Britain Rock Cats in 2015 - was that of a ballplayer, willing to go the extra mile to realize his major league dream.  For example, after batting practice on the field, there was a good chance you would find him at the indoor cage, working on his batting stroke, before the game.  This latest step in his life as a ballplayer proves that hard work does payoff, whether you are a Colorado Rockie or a New York Yankee.

As for Zuvella, when his playing days were over he stayed in the game for a time, becoming a manager for the New Haven Ravens, who at the time were the AA affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.