Monday, July 6, 2009

Tiger, Federer - two of a kind

Fitting, wasn't it, that Tiger Woods and Roger Federer won on the same day? They are the best there's ever been at what they do, and we would do well to take a moment to appreciate and savor their greatness on the golf course and tennis court while we can. They are the Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan of their respective sports, and we shall not see their likes again. So drink in what you are witnessing. It's truly something historic.


Woods and Federer have become friends and fans of one another. One of the reasons they are members of each other's mutual admiration society is that they are among the scant few people on the planet who can truly understand the genius and focus required to achieve what they have.


It was very classy of Woods to allow scores of children 12-and-under to attend his tournament for free. (Wouldn't it be great if the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL followed suit at least occasionally?)

I also liked the way he honored veterans of the Armed Forces. The most memorable moment for me wasn't one of Woods' classic swings, but rather the scene of a veteran in a wheel chair motoring up the fairway with Tiger.


The winner of that hot-dog fest on the Fourth downed 68 franks in 10 minutes. That's more dogs than I probably will consume in the next 20 years.


I'd like to thank my friend and loyal reader, Blaise Lamphier, for keeping me on my toes. Like most of the media, I erroneously reported that Lou Gehrig's No. 4 was the first jersey ever retired by a professional sports team when the Yankees put it into mothballs in 1939. As Blaise correctly points out, two years early the Montreal Canadiens retired Howie Morenz's jersey (or as they used to refer to them in hockey - his 'sweater') after the player's untimely death.


Concerning my assertion that the Williams sisters had further distanced themselves from the Manning brothers as the greatest athletic siblings of all-time, reader and friend Gary Larder of the Rochester Red Wings advised me not to forget about baseball's Waner brothers.

I did some research and the Pittsburgh Pirates dynamic duo definitely belongs in the discussion. Known as "Big Poison'' and "Little Poison,'' the Waner Bros. combined for 5,611 hits while playing in the 1920s and '30s. Paul finished with a career batting average of .333, 17 points better than Lloyd's career mark. They are the only set of brothers enshrined in Cooperstown.


My Father's Day column evoked considerable response from readers. And it also elicited a few memorable stories of other dads out there. Here is one from Scott Kindberg, a long-time newspaper reporter and editor in Jamestown, who I got to know during my formative years as a Bills beat reporter in the mid- to late-1980s:

"Thanks so much for sharing your memory of your trip to Yankee Stadium with your dad. In a word, it was awesome.

"My only trip to the Bronx was with a friend and our sons, so I was never able to experience that thrill with my father, something I truly regret. Happily, I have plenty of other Yankees memories that I shared with him.

"Knowing your interest in all things in pinstripes, here's a story from May 1970. The Yanks were playing the Tribe at Cleveland Stadium. It was a doubleheader (back in the days when they had such things) and my father and I arrived early and headed straight to will-call to get our tickets.

"Because the will-call window hadn't yet opened, I struck up a conversation with a woman who was an avid Indians' fan. Keep in mind I was all of 9 years old. The lady was trying to convince me that Duke Sims — the Tribe's catcher — was going to have a better season than the Yanks' rookie catcher, a young man named Thurman Munson.

"Our debate lasted about 15 minutes and, apparently, I was doing a pretty good job of making a case for Thurm, but it was cut short when the will-call window opened. My dad got the tickets, handed me one and I headed for the turnstiles.

"Just as I was about to push my way through, a woman in front of me, turned in my direction and stuck out her hand to shake mine. As I looked up at her, she said (according to my dad), "Thank you for your kind comments about my husband. I'm Mrs. Thurman Munson." I don't think I uttered a word. I was too stunned.

"It's been nearly 40 years since that encounter and I remember it like it was yesterday. Is there any wonder why I've loved the Yanks my whole life? The best part, though, is that's a story my dad and I shared over and over again. The best part for me is that my father was there to witness it.

"There's not a game that goes by that I don't want to pick up the phone and talk to him about it. I take comfort by being able to watch games from his leather recliner that I inherited after his passing. One thing's for sure: I sound just like him as I alternately yell and cheer at every hit, run and error. Thanks again for making the Yanks a regular topic on your blogs. I hope all is well, and keep up the great work.

"All the best,"

Scott Kindberg, Jamestown

1 comment:

mikebeebe said...

I am often dumbstruck at the athletes we can consider "Best Ever" who have lived and played in my lifetime, indeed the past 20 years:

(ARod? Bonds?)

As good as players like LeBron/Kobe/Manning/Crosby etc are, it's hard to imagine any of them taking the top spot in their game. So amazing to have seen all these guys in their prime.