Friday, July 29, 2011

A thank you for your condolences, plus musings on Hideki Irabu, the Buffalo Bills and which Brit should light the Olympic cauldron

Let me start by saying how much your words of concern and encouragement meant to me and my family following the death of my brother last week. The anecdotes from several people about Wayne’s acts of kindness were quite uplifting. We are grateful to all of you and thankful that my brother no longer is suffering.

I was saddened by the news of the apparent suicide of former Yankees pitcher Hideki Irabu. Though the man billed as the Nolan Ryan of Japanese baseball never lived up to the enormous hype or $12.8-million contract he received, he did provide me and many other Rochesterians with the most exciting night of baseball we’ve ever witnessed at Frontier Field.

On June 30, 1997, Irabumania swept through town as the foreign import made one of his final minor-league starts before joining the Yankees. It was an absolutely electric evening as 13,485 fans and 150 reporters (including 60 from Japan) stuffed the ballpark. The Red Wings weren’t gracious hosts, scoring four runs off Irabu in five innings. The much ballyhooed pitcher did, however, wow the spectators with his 95 mph fastballs and left with a two-run lead that the Columbus Clippers couldn’t sustain. The Wings' come-from-behind win wound up being the catalyst for their Governors’ Cup championship run.

While Irabu would go on to have some success – he was solid during the Yankees 1998 World Series-winning season – he never lived up to his advanced billing, finishing with a 34-35 won-lost record and a 5.15 earned run average over six seasons with three different clubs. Sadly, he will be best remembered for incurring the wrath of George Steinbrenner, who bombastically labeled him “a fat toad” after he failed to cover first one night.

Although Irabu didn’t fulfill expectations, I’ll always be grateful to him for providing me and thousands of other Rochesterians with an indelible memory.

The Bills could have used Paul Posluszny, but it would have been foolish for them to have tried to match the six-year deal he received from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Poz was a decent, but not great player for Buffalo. He never became the game-changer many thought he would become when he was drafted out of Penn State. He clearly was not the second-coming of Shane Conlan.

Speaking of Nittany Lions, I can’t believe that 2009 first-round draft bust Aaron Maybin is long for the Bills roster. Two seasons have taught us that he flat-out can not play at this level. It’s time to move on.

I’m wondering who will be the first one to mistakenly call Bills free agent quarterback Tyler Thigpen Tyler “Pigpen” on the air.

With the Summer Olympics in London just a year away, speculation has begun about who will light the cauldron during the Opening Ceremonies. I’m sure it will be Queen Elizabeth, but I think it would be cool, instead, to see Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr share the honors. Many Brits have been clamoring for William and Kate. One member of the British empire who WON’T be lighting it: Rupert Murdoch.


fjm said...

With her Diamond Jubilee next year, my money would be on Her Majesty being at least part of the final group, if not the one who lights the torch, mainly because of her symbolic role as Head of the Commonwealth of Nations. We know for sure that it won't be anyone remotely connected to the French!

Joe T said...

Talk about baseball connecting generations... The night Irabu pitched at Frontier Field was one of those memorable nights that my son and I still talk about.