Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Passing of A Legend Who Played For the 'Bronx Bombers and The Amazin's

In 1943, an 18-year-old born in St. Louis, MO made his Major League Baseball debut for the New York Yankees and greatness followed soon after for him as well as the “Bronx Bombers.” His ability at the plate and behind it as a catcher made him a MVP, multiple time All-Star and a major part in helping the Yankees garner multiple Pennants and World Series titles. He also had an amazing way of coming up with quips that would become legendary. One of his most famous was “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Well earlier this week, it was over for one of the greats of the professional diamond and a proud servant of the United States.
Baseball Hall of Famer and World War II veteran Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra passed away on Tuesday in his sleep at an assisted living facility in West Caldwell, NJ. He was 90 years old.
Berra passing is on the heels of the death of his wife of 65 years Carmen, who passed on Mar. 6, 2014 after complications with a stroke.
The couple is survived by their three sons, Dale, Larry and Tim Berra, who played pro sports. Dale played shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Yankees, where he was managed by his father from 1984-85 and the Houston Astros. Tim played in the NFL for the then Baltimore Colts in 1974. Larry played briefly for the New York Mets. Between the three children, they gave Yogi and Carmen 11 grandchildren.
Berra’s passing occurred nearly seven decades to the day of his Major League Baseball debut back on Sept. 22, 1943 as part of a doubleheader against the then Philadelphia Athletics. Berra went 2 for 5 at the plate in those two games, including hitting the first of his 358 home runs, which stands the fourth most in MLB history for a catcher.
Many of those in the baseball world, political world and many in New York expressed their feelings on the passing of one of the games greats.
President Barack Obama said that Yogi Berra, “epitomized what it meant to be a sportsman and a citizen.”
“Yogi Berra was an American original-a Hall of Famer and a humble veteran; prolific jokester and jovial prophet.
“We all looked up to Yogi,” current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-N.Y.), who ordered all city flags to be flown at half-staff said last week.
“We all felt a personal sense of connection. I think for so many of us, that felt like there’s another member of our families, and that was Yogi Berra.”
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) @MikeBloomberg said via twitter, “The future ain’t what it used to be. We’ll miss you, Yogi-thanks for bringing so much joy to our city.”
Four-time World Series champion with the “Bronx Bombers” and soon to be Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, who spent a lot of time with Berra when he visited the team during spring training and was a frequent visitor to the Yankee Stadium in the captain’s heyday said on his personal blog that Berra was one of the greatest baseball players and Yankees of all-time.
“To those lucky ones who did, he was an even better person. To me he was a dear friend and mentor. He will always be remembered for his success on the field, but I believe his finest quality was how he treated everyone with sincerity and kindness.”
To put how much Berra meant to New York City in perspective, this past Wednesday night, The Empire State Building was lit with pinstripe look in tribute to him.
As mentioned earlier, Berra was one of the very best on the diamond in professional baseball. He won three Most Valuable Player Awards (1951, 1954 and 1955). He is the all-time leader in World Series games played with 75 and hit 12 home runs in his career in the fall classic, with three of those in the 1956 World Series win over the Dodgers. He played in 14 World Series in his 19-year career and he helped the Yankees win 10 of them.
Berra would conclude his career with New York’s other baseball team the Mets in 1965 and in his last game on May 9 of that season he went 0 for 4 at the plate and grounded into a forced out in the last a bat of his career.
He would remain with the Mets for the next seven seasons as a coach under his former manager during his time with the Yankees Casey Stengel, Wes Westrum and Gil Hodges, which included their 1969 World Series championship season. 
In 1972, Berra would become the new manager of the Mets following the sudden death of Gil Hodges in Spring Training that summer. He led the Mets to the NL pennant as the knocked off the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Championship Series 4-1 on Oct. 10, 1973.
The excitement would be short lived as eleven days later the Mets lost in the World Series to the Oakland Athletics in seven games.
Berra’s tenure as manager ended on Aug. 5, 1975 when he was fired by the Mets. His record was 298-302.
He returned to the Yankees one year later as a part of their coaching staff and the team won three straight American League titles and back-to-back World Series championships in 1977 and 1978.
Before the 1984 season, Berra became the Yankees manager replacing Billy Martin, but Martin was rehired as manager by the late owner George Steinbrenner on Apr. 29 of that season after the Yankees got off to a 6-10 start.
This began a 14-year long feud between the guy that was known as “The Boss” and one of the greats in Yankees’ history.
In the years that followed, Berra became a bench coach for the Houston Astros from 1985 to 1989. The team made it to the NLCS in 1986, but lost to the Mets in six games.
It would be his last job as manager of a major league team. Berra concluded this part of his career with a 484-444 record and a 9-10 mark in the postseason.
He received an honorary doctorate from Montclair State University in 1996, where their baseball stadium on their campus is named “Yogi Berra Stadium.”
Two years later “The Sporting News” named Berra the No. 40 on their list of the Top 100 ballplayers of all-time.
On Dec. 4 of that same year, Berra opens the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center.
In 1999, Steinbrenner ventured out to Berra’s home in New Jersey to apologize for how the dismissal as manager of the Yankees was handled.
It was so bad that when Berra got the well-deserved honor of having his plaque in Monument Park, he never came to the old Yankee Stadium to receive that honor.
With their feud put in the rearview mirror, Berra started to work with then catcher Jorge Posada during spring training of 1999.
Berra would make his return to Yankee Stadium on July 18, 1999 for ‘Yogi Berra Day.’
In honor of the perfect back in the 1956 World Series versus Jackie Robinson and the then Brooklyn Dodgers, pitcher Don Larsen threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
On that same day, pitcher David Cone threw the 16th perfect game in MLB history as the Yankees defeated the Montreal Expos.
Four years ago, Berra received another incredible honor as he was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
Along with becoming one of the greatest players to ever grace the pro diamond, Berra served as a gunner’s mate on the U.S. Navy’s USS Bayfield during D-Day of World War II.
Berra was part of a six-man crew which fired machine guns and launched rockets from a Navy rocket boat at the German defenses at Omaha Beach of the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944. While he was fired upon, Berra was not injured and his bravery was rewarded with several commendations.
On the 65 Anniversary of D-Day, the Yankee great confirmed that he was also sent to Utah Beach during the D-Day invasion.
He would return to baseball following his military service, but it was in the minor leagues with the Newark Bears. While he was there for a short stint he really made an impression on the team’s manager with his amazing range of skills on the diamond. He was also a mentor to Hall of Famer Billy Dickey, who uniform No. 8 Berra took.
“I owe everything I did in baseball to Bill Dickey,” Berra said about his teammate.
Berra was called up by the Yankees and played in his first contest on Sept. 22, 1946 playing in seven games that season.
For all his greatness on the diamond with the stats and the titles and his amazing service to our country, Berra became well renowned for his one-liners, which became to be known as “The Yogisms.” Some of his most famed ones include:  

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

“It ain’t over till it’s over.”

“Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical.”

“Take it with a grain of salt.”

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.

“You can observe a lot just by watching.”

“I think Little League is wonderful. It keeps the kids out of the house.”

“I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.”

“It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.

This was a special man without question. He was a great baseball player as well as a hero for our country. He made his teams as a player and as a manager and they reaped the rewards by winning championships or coming close. More than anything else, he brought an excitement to those that watch on television or in the stands of the old Yankee Stadium. He gained the respect of all who watched him play, played with him or against him.
Via twitter many paid their respects to the Hall of Famer.
Mets Hall of Famer Mike Piazza @mikepiazza31 said, “Very sad to hear the passing of #YogiBerra. My deepest prayers to his family and the #Yankees family. Great player, Great Gentlemen.”
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand @SenGillibrand said, “With the passing of Yogi Berra, NY has lost one of our all-time greats. My thoughts & prayers are w/his family & the whole @Yankees family.  
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo @NYGpvCuomo said, “It’s hard to imagine NY without Yogi Berra, iconic and beloved baseball legend.”
Canadian actor, comedian and filmmaker Seth Rogen @Sethrogen said, “I don’t know much about sports, but Yogi Berra was always my favorite baseball player because he was a comedic genius.
Stand-up comedian, writer and actor Patton Oswalt @pattonoswalt said, “Yogi Berra has passed away. You know he’s gonna say something hilarious about it, so it’s not so sad…”
Information, quotations and statistics are courtesy of Thursday Sept. 214 edition of the Daily News; article “Sadly It’s Over Yogi Berra 1925-2015,” by Bill Madden, Chelsia Rose Marcius and Larry McShane; Sept. 23 article “Yogi Berra Dead: 5 Facts You Need to Know,” on

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Soft Spoken NBA Hall of Famer Passes Away

He was soft spoken at times, but he had a game and a personality that captured the NBA world when he played. His entrance into the NBA gave the blueprint to a few of the NBA’s top talents of this era his influence had a major impact on a fellow Hall of Famer. He set a standard on how to play the position of center and his greatness on the court helped turn the teams he played on into championship contenders and he led the city of “Brotherly Love,” to the NBA’s ultimate prize. His career landed him in Springfield, MA and nearly two decades ago he along with 49 other NBA players pasted and present at that time were named to a great list. Last week, this amazing player and trail blazer passed on.
Hall of Famer, three-time MVP and 12-time NBA All-Star Moses Malone passed away a week ago in a hotel room Norfolk, VA from an apparent heart-attack according to He was 60 years old.
The passing of Malone comes on the heels of the unfortunate death of another Sixers legend Malone's former teammate Darryl Dawkins, who passed away on Aug. 28 also from a heart attack. He was 58 years old.
Also according to that report, Malone was found in his hotel room after failing to arrive for a celebrity golf tournament. The Virginia medical examiner’s office said the next day that Malone passed away from a hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. The passing was confirmed by Det. Jeffrey Scott of the Norfolk Police Department
“We are stunned and deeply saddened by the passing of Hall of Famer Moses Malone, an NBA legend gone far too soon,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement yesterday.
“Known to his legion of fans as the ‘Chairman of the Boards,’ Moses competed with intensity every time he stepped on the court. He was among the most dominant centers ever to play the game and one the best players in the history of the NBA and the ABA. Even more than his prodigious talent, we will miss his friendship, his generosity, his exuberant personality and the extraordinary work ethic he brought to the game throughout his 21-year pro career. Our thoughts are with Moses’ family and friends during this difficult time.
Future Hall of Famer and former Sixer Allen Iverson via twitter said seven days ago, “My condolences to the family and friends of Moses Malone. You will be truly missed. Rest in peace Big Mo!!”
A funeral for Malone was held at Lakewood Church in Houston, TX this past Saturday, formerly the former basketball arena of the Houston Rockets called The Summit where Malone started from 1976-82. In attendance among the estimated 1,200 were some of Malone’s former teammates on the Rockets like two championship head coach Rudy Tomjanovich; Rockets studio analyst and Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy, John Lucas and Major Jones. Also in attendance were his former teammates of the Philadelphia 76ers that he help win the 1983 NBA title with in Hall of Famer Julius “Dr. J.” Erving and Maurice Cheeks; Hall of Famer and former teammate with the Atlanta Hawks Dominique Wilkins; former Rockets Ralph Sampson and Hall of Famers Clyde Drexler; Hall of Famers George Gervin, Artis Gilmore, Alex English and former Rocket swingman Tracy McGrady.
Malone was named one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players back in 1996-97 season and was named MVP of the 1983 NBA Finals as he and the aforementioned Erving and Cheeks along with Andrew Toney, Bobby Jones, Clemon Johnson and Marc Iavaroni swept the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0 to capture the title.
He averaged 20.3 points and 12.3 rebounds in his 21-year professional basketball career playing for eight different teams.
Before that season began, Moses, who joined the Sixers that season as a free agent made what became the most famous line in NBA history when he said “Fo’, Fo’, Fo’,” in predicting that the Sixers would sweep their way to the title.
They came pretty close winning 12 of their 13 playoff games and Malone lead the way averaging 26 points per contest during the 1983 postseason.
“No one person has ever conveyed more with so few words—including three of the most iconic in this city’s history,” 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil said yesterday. “His generosity, towering personality and incomparable sense of humor will truly be missed.”  
Malone was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame 14 years ago and was in Springfield, MA this past weekend for the Induction of the 2015 Hall of Fame class before he returned to Virginia.
Malone’s basketball journey began at Petersburg High School in Petersburg, VA where the team went undefeated during his junior and senior years capturing the state title in both years.
While he signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Maryland, but he was drafted by the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1974 and Malone became the first player to go from high school to the professional ranks of basketball.
That jump along with what he did after that many years later inspired the likes of future Hall of Famers, former MVP’s and NBA champions Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers; Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves and LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Malone began his career with the Stars in 1974-75 on the heels of signing a five-year, $1 million contract.
After the stars folded at season’s end, Malone played for the Spirits of St. Louis the next season. Malone averaged 17.2 points and 12.9 boards per contest in those two seasons.
After the 1975-76 seasons, the ABA and NBA merged and in the dispersal draft, Malone was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers with the fifth overall pick.
Malone was impressive in pre-season, he never suited up for the team as they felt they had a player of the same caliber in future Hall of Famer Maurice Lucas, who was acquired in that same draft.
Malone was traded to the Buffalo Braves prior to the 1976-77 season for a first-round pick in the 1978 draft.
After two games with the Braves, Malone was on the move again as he was traded to the Houston Rockets for two future first-round picks.
In Houston, Malone’s career took off as he averaged 13.2, 19.4, 24.8, 25.8, 27.8 and 31.1 points and 13.1, 15.0, 17.6, 14.5 14.8, 14.7 rebounds per game during those seasons.
Malone, whose No. 24 jersey hangs in the rafters of the Toyota Center in Houston led the Rockets to the 1981 NBA Finals, where they lost to Hall of Famers Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish and the Boston Celtics in six games.
“Everyone in the organization is deeply saddened by the passing of Moses Malone,” Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said in a statement last week. “Moses was a true gentleman and one of the great Rockets and greatest NBA players of all-time. He will be forever missed. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.”
Two seasons later, Malone joined the Sixers via a trade from the Rockets for Caldwell Jones and their future first-round pick in the 1983 draft. The Sixers went on that season to win 65 games, the most in the NBA. As mentioned earlier, the went 12-1 in the postseason, which was capped by a four-game sweep of Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Earvin “Magic” Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers in The Finals to capture the team’s third title in franchise history.
Malone won his second straight MVP Award and third overall with averages of 15.3 rebounds per game, leading the NBA in that category for the third straight season, while also scoring 24.5 points per contest in 1982-83, ranking fifth best in the NBA.
He played for the Sixers for two more seasons and then played for the then Washington Bullets, now Wizards for two seasons; Atlanta Hawks for three seasons; Milwaukee Bucks for two; the Sixers again and he would finish up with the San Antonio Spurs in the 1994-95 season.
Malone would finish his career as just one of four players to score over 25,000 points and grab over 15,000 rebounds, joining Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387 points-No. 1 in NBA history; 17,440 boards), Wilt Chamberlin (31,419 points, 23,924 boards) and Elvin Hayes (27,313 points and 16,279 boards).
His 27,409 points rank eighth all-time in NBA history and his 16,212 boards still rank fifth on the league’s all-time list. He also is the record holder in NBA history for offensive rebounds in a career with 6,731; offensive boards in a season with 587 and offensive boards in a game with 21.
As mentioned earlier Moses became one of the first to enter the NBA straight out of high school which paved the way for the likes of the aforementioned Bryant, Garnett and James along with Tracy McGrady, Phoenix Suns center Tyson Chandler and former NBA center Eddy Curry to name a few.
The one player that Malone had a major impact on was fellow Sixers’ legend, Hall of Famer and MVP Charles Barkley.
Drafted by the Sixers back in the 1984 NBA Draft, Barkley came into the league as a player that was very talented and skilled, but there was a lot of questions about his work ethic and dedication. That all changed when he met Malone.  
“Moses is singularly the greatest influence in my NBA career. He taught me how to work hard. I call him dad,” Barkley, who played for the Sixers from 1984-92 said about Malone.
Barkley echoed those feelings at Malone’s funeral service this past Saturday at when he recalled a time when he lived in the same apartment as Malone back when they were both on the Sixers and Barkley would order pizza constantly and that every time he did, he would hear a knock at his door and it would Malone.
Malone said to the future star once, “Hey Charles, you can’t lose weight eating pizza.”
“That type of leadership, stand on my case, at the time it was a struggle, but man, I cannot believe how lucky I am to No. 1, have a father figure on my team, but also living in my same building…to keep my moving forward. I always thanked him for that.”
Sampson said something along those same lines about Malone when he called him, “the most gentle, sweetest person you would want to know. Basketball was his specialty, but life was his calling. If you meet somebody like that, you gravitate to him. He was never up. He was never down. He was just Moses.”
Erving compared Malone to legendary entertainer Frank Sinatra by calling him “a guy who did it his own way and in the process, changed everything.
On the court he was a magnificent scorer and relentless rebounder. He was a player that made his teammates better on the court and was true friend off the court. He did not do a lot of talking, but when he spoke, he had the ear of everyone that listened. To some up the life of Moses Malone, he was a great basketball player, a true friend and one amazing person. One that will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.
Information, statistics and quotes are courtesy of article, “Charles Barkley eulogizes Moses Malone: ‘He treated me like a son;’ article, “Three-time MVP Moses Malone dies at age 60;”;;; 9/13/15 11 a.m. EPSN Bottom Line news crawl during “Sunday NFL Countdown;” 9/13/15 9 p.m. NBATV news crawl.