Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dandy Decade

Line of the decade hit the office the other day:

Tiger Woods needs a new driver.

Other than that, you won’t see mention of him in this breakdown of the 2000s. This is about sports, not golf.

2000: The Lakers win the first of three straight NBA titles. On their way to Team of the Decade. Shaq provides the muscle, but in four years he’ll flee and rip L.A. The city’s hero is Kobe. He sticks it out during the drag days of mid-decade, scores 81 in a 2006 game against Toronto and wins a fourth championship in 2009. No question. Bryant is Player of the Decade.

2001: The 9/11 World Series. The massacre pushed the Diamondback-Yankee clash so far back, Derek Jeter turned into Mr. November. So much drama at Yankee Stadium: late homers, “God Bless America.” Then came the ninth inning, Game 7, Arizona’s stadium. The D-comebacks won it, thanks to Luis going Gonzo against the arm with the Mo, Rivera.

2002: The Angels win it all. And what a World Series. Seven gut games against San Francisco that rivaled the Fall Classic of the year before. Tim Salmon’s Game 2 heroics. Spiezio’s Scott Heard Round the World in Game 6. As relays: By now, most Angels fans can recite Rory Markas' call verbatim: "Here's the pitch to Lofton. Fly ball, center field. Erstad says he's got it. Erstaaaaaad MAKES THE CATCH! The Anaheim Angels are the champions of baseball!"

2003: Andre Agassi is forever Grand. This was his third Aussie Open trophy in four years. While so many players sobbed about the tropical oven Down Under, Agassi simply sizzled. This made his Slam haul eight, up there with tennis’ greats. Yes, Sampras and Fed were better. But they didn’t have that Andre aura. Maury Allen put it this way in a recent piece at “When you are around athletes all your professional life, as some of us have been lucky enough to be, you can spot stardom. . . . Andre Agassi took over the breakfast room.” So Andre lied about his long hair. As a fellow baldy, I’ll give him a pass. And keep remembering how cool he was, from Frankfurt to Paris to London to New York to L.A. to Melbourne.

2004: The Red Sox vault from nearly dead to Yankee killers. Really the Comeback of the Decade. No baseball team had shed an 0-3 series deficit. And Boston had played mitt to New York’s pounding going back to the Joe D days. Not this time. Riding the crunch-time bat of David Ortiz, the Sox stuck it to the Yanks for the pennant and swept St. Louis for the world title. Their first in 86 years.

2005: City of the Decade? Boston, hands down. The Red Sox won two titles, the Celtics one. And the Patriots three. Their third came in the ’05 Super Bowl, a 24-21 thriller over Philly. Tom Brady lasered the football mostly to Deion Branch. In the end, the Eagles were sick of seeing them.

2006: Texas 41, Southern Cal 38. Vince Young with the winning touchdown in the January BCS title game to cap the 2005 season. The Longhorns national champions for the first time since 1969, the last time you’ll ever see an all-white gang pull that off. This was simply the Game of the Decade. I figured the Trojans would blow out the Horns. The California kids had more talent and the best coach, Pete Carroll. They also had a backyard field, the Rose Bowl. And a 12-point lead late. All Young did was win, just as the QB keeps doing with the Tennessee Titans.

2007: Mizzou No. 1. The snapshot was so rare, I bought two Sports Illustrateds freezing my Tigers’ spot atop college football. The Chase Daniel cover and Jeremy Maclin inside page adorn the Fox Den. I knew the moment wouldn’t last long. It didn’t. The next week, Oklahoma dealt us misery in the Big 12 title game. When will Missouri place first in the land again? Maybe 2017 or 2027. The wait is on.

2008: Phil Jackson. Now this is a giant. Not just because he stands 6-8. Also way up there is his championship number: 10. Six with the Chicago Bulls, four with the Lakers. He would get that fourth in L.A. by 2009, but his handling of this team in 2007-08 was exceptional. SI’s preseason edition predicted a Laker sinking. No one figured anything much better. Except me. Early in the campaign I wrote here something that almost came true, if only the Lakers had overcome Boston in the NBA Finals: Many fans dismiss him as lucky to have coached Jordan, Shaq and Kobe. The Jackson jeers get so loud, listen when he leads the Lakers to the NBA championship this season. Instead of lauding him for landing a record 10th trophy, some will grouse that of course he won; who wouldn’t with Kobe and Andrew Bynum? You see how silly this gets?

2009: Manny Pacquiao. If not for Kobe, the Filipino Fist would be 2000s’ Tops. So let’s make him the Foreign First. How stout was he in bouts? Won seven world titles in seven weight classes this decade. By the time he was fitting his last belt after belting Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto last month, he needed to let it out a few notches. Suddenly the skinny slug getting rice kicked in his face is flexing welterweight muscles. And aiming to nail Floyd Mayweather. But that’s next decade.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Air Goes Out Of Angels' Airwaves

What’s with Los Angeles radio? It’s as if we’re masochistic.

Here we have the No. 2 market in the country, and the airwaves treat it like Static City, Iowa.

We had Larry Elder, the sharpest libertarian on radio. Fired.

We had Tammy Bruce, the coolest righty on the air. Gone.

We had Doug McIntyre, the gutsiest oral hammer at illegal immigration. Axed.

We had Dave Smith, the aptly named Sports God. Goodbye.

We had Rex Hudler and Steve Physioc, the voices who kept Angel fans awake. Tell ’em bye-bye, baby.

What? Hud and Phyz off the L.A. baseball team?

You heard that right. The Angels announced the canning this week. Evidently had to do with money. The team had too many men in the booth. So they trimmed the staff.

Erased the face of the team: Hudler.

And bounced the top talent: Physioc.

Now Angel fans are stuck with a faceless foursome: Terry Smith and Jose Mota on the radio, and Rory Markas and Mark Gubicza on the TV side.

Fans hit the spit. Or at least bloggers did at the L.A. Times:

Wally Parks: The Angels will lose more fans off losing Hudler than if you have to get rid of Vlad or Figgy . . . (They’re) getting rid of your biggest Angels supporter and fan favorite, Rex Hudler.

Jeff: What a loss. He had a passion for teaching the game and pointing out details that other announcers missed. Many people assumed that because he was so pumped that he didn't understand the game. . . . My 8-year-old son knows more about baseball than most adults, thanks to Hud!

Dean: Rex Hudler is to Angel baseball what Tommy Lasorda is to the Dodgers, an unabashed homer and cheerleader, and a whole lot of people liked that and thought it made sense. . . . The Hud man is an icon.

And my favorite, from Angel Greg: Rory and "what's his name" are two of the most boring announcers in sports. Only the two Clipper announcers are more boring, and who listens to them? Hud pumped up us fans. Mota should go, but Arte won't let go of a Latino. After all, who would be his translator with all of the Angel players who won't learn to speak English?

Indeed, Mota spends more time translating Kendry Morales’ comments than on asking questions.

Hudler did it right — conducting an English interview with Erick Aybar. What a concept: a Dominican player speaking the language of the team paying him big bucks.

Hudler was practically the Angels’ logo. He was everywhere: radio, TV, charity events and every week co-hosting an hour of Jeff Biggs’ drive-time show on KLAA, the Angel station. That's Hudler on the right in the above photo.

Rex might’ve seemed like a loopy Wonder Dog. But he barked sharp insight — with zip. My favorite was his term for taking a pitch: "Spit on it."

The man offered a drier sense when it came to the condition of his son. He has Down syndrome? No, Up syndrome.

As for Physioc, I detected during the playoffs that something was awry. Here the Angels were in the meat of their Yankee series, and there was Phyz doing a Midnight Madness shtick for ESPNU all the way up in Seattle.

OK, the networks had the Angels covered in the pennant series. But Phyz missing his team at nut-cuttin' time in favor of some meaningless hoops seemed weird.

Now Hudler and Physioc are in the ether. The way of all the other vanished talent.

L.A.'s loss.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Saturday, November 21, 2009

MLB Network: Hazel Mae I? You Bet, Even When It Comes To Reliving The Angels' Deep-Six In '86

Two reasons we're hooked on MLB Network:

1. Hazel Mae. She's more of a Filipino knockout than Manny Pacquiao.

When Hazel fills the MLB screen, she delivers color and nuts of wisdom.

Really, she's just one of the heavy-hitting anchors on MLB. And she better watch her back, with Harold Reynolds down the hall. You might recall he got canned from ESPN for playing grabass.

2. Oh, there's a second reason?

Yes, baseball in the hot stove season. We get offerings such as Saturday's, with Reynolds and Al Leiter breaking down top AL pitchers. There were Justin Verlander and King Felix fanning Angels. And Bret Saberhagen in 1985 ringing up Reggie.

Yes, falling Angels everywhere on this show.

Which reminds me of the ultimate Hal-0 this past spring on MLB.

You might've caught it: Game 5 of the 1986 pennant series, the most painful in Angel history. MLB Network replayed all 11 innings of the Angels' 7-6 loss to Boston. Simply a wild time warp.

Anaheim Stadium. Blue wall. No ads. Just an Angel logo. Natch, no rocks. Seats throughout, explaining the attendance that was 20,000 more than today's capacity. And the light grass. Ag technology had to be weaker back then.

The batters. ABC showed that the bottom third of the lineup was carrying the Angel load. The trio was Dick Schofield, Bob Boone and Gary Pettis, although Schofield hit second in Game 5. Missing was a graphic called Miss October. Reggie's DH stood for Didn't Hit. The one time he singled, he was picked off. TV's Al Michaels evidently wasn't tuned in. With Jackson leading off the bottom of the 10th, Michaels thought it was 1977. He said with excited anticipation: "Who wrote this script?" Answer: Boston.

The pitcher. Mike Witt was a winner. Or should've been. No walks in 8 and two-thirds. One strike away from a pennant. Somewhere in there, ABC noted, "No pitcher has ever thrown two complete games in a championship series." In the fifth, an MLB Network historical note posted his perfect-game numbers of 1984 at Texas: 94 pitches, 10 Ks.

The broadcast. Good timing. While this 1986 gem aired, so did a look at the 1986 New York Giants on NFL Network. And MLB Network followed with Mets-Boston, exactly the World Series match-up after the Angels fell.

The hero. Dave Henderson almost wasn't. After Tony Armas hurt his leg in center, Henderson replaced him and pulled a goat of play in the sixth. Leaping for a Bobby Grich drive, the center fielder had the ball in his mitt, then ice-cream-coned it over the fence. Having given the Angels a 3-2 lead, Grich set a record for celebration. Michaels: "It may be one of the more memorable plays of the '80s." Unfortunately, not quite.

The banners. "The Sox are at Witt's end." "Yes We Can" (did Obama steal that?).

The slammer. With Boston's Mike Greenwell up in the eighth, MLB Network added an amazing note: He had two inside-the-park grand slams in his career. Against the same pitcher, Greg Cadaret. Once when Cadret was with the A's, once with the Yankees.

The seer. "Remember that man, Gedman," said Michaels in the eighth. Indeed, the Sox catcher who had homered and doubled would draw the hit by pitch in the ninth to set up Henderson's shot.

The traitor. Seven years after winning the Angels' first MVP Award, Don Baylor stuck it to his old team. Now DHing for Boston, he nailed a one-out homer in the ninth to cut the Angels' lead to 5-4. And he scored the winner on Henderson's sac fly in the 11th.

The pitches. Moore was thisclose to closing the door with two out in the ninth. He had Henderson at 1-2, 2-2, two fouls. Then goodbye, 6-5 Sox.

More timing. Just as Henderson parked Donnie Moore's forkball on MLB Network, A-Rod was hitting his dramatic homer in the ninth against the Phillies in real time.

The out. Grich was inches from winning it with two out in the ninth. With the game tied at 6 and the bases full, Bobby pushed a 2-0 count against Steve Crawford. Two balls away from triumph. The next pitch looked outside, but the ump said strike. Bobby eventually lined out to the mound. Michaels would point out that Crawford was on the roster because Tom Seaver got hurt.

The coach. Pitching coach Marcel Lachemann went to the mound for Angel pitching changes, not manager Gene Mauch.

The look. The Angels played one guy born outside the country: Jamaica's Devon White. Now Latin Americans dominate the roster.

The shots. Pettis was a foot from handing the Angels the flag in the 10th. Jim Rice said no way, leaping and hauling in his drive at the wall. The next frame, Angel left fielder Brian Downing kept the deficit at one by grabbing Ed Romero's rocket at the fence. Michaels: "Wow! Are we really seeing this game?"

The call. Michaels: "Anaheim was one strike away from turning into fantasyland."

The wrap. If I remember right, Mae put the last exclamation mark on this "All-Time Games" edition. How could I forget?

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pacquiao, And How

Heard the one about PacMan?

Ring the opening bell, and he slams the door shut.

Saturday night he swung it into Miguel Cotto's face.

Now PacMan -- the Filipino Fist whose real name is Manny Pacquiao -- stands at boxing's top step. His technical knockout 55 seconds into the 12th round gave him a seventh world title in seven weight divisions.

No wonder he's called the face of boxing. Really, who else is there? A couple of Russians at heavyweight you wouldn't know if they walked in the room?

No, you might not be able to spell Pacquiao. You couldn't care less about the alphabet boxing outfits. But you know numbers, and seven for seven? With the seventh belt coming in the World Boxing Organization's welterweight colors that Cotto had owned?

Now that's seventh heaven. For Pacquiao, one of the greatest pound-for-pound, punch-for-punch, dance-for-dance boxers you ever saw. For Vegas, his second home, where he packed 16,000 into the MGM's Grand Garden party. For the Philippines, where he's the hero for the ages. What, you heard of Flash Elrode, the super-featherweight champ of the 1960s? Didn't think so.

The island country is so wild about Manny, countrymen shelled out $50 a pop to catch him on screen at theaters around Las Vegas. The fight's promoter, Bob Arum, reported that his TV halls in Sin City drew 15,000, and you can bet most of them were Filipinos.

As for the live event, Cotto's Puerto Rican rooters raised the roof to an even higher level. Could that be because they had bet against the overdog Pacquiao? Partly.

In the end, the PacMan masses drowned them out. The Filipino Five in front of me in the nosebleed section locked arms the whole bout and in the end were bellowing "We want Floyd!"

That would be Floyd Mayweather Jr., the 40-0 former Ring magazine Fighter of the Year. Pacquiao will take his 50-3-2 record to him next year. The stack of cash awaiting that clash is exactly the right bribe.

Arum: "If Mayweather wants to fight Manny Pacquiao, have him call me."

What to call Pacquiao-Mayweather? Stormy Weather?

Pacquiao-Cotto was billed as Firepower. That worked, especially when the thousands squeezing out of the arena into the MGM casino saw what a fire trap they were in.

On the canvas, the only firepower came from Pacquiao, who weighed 144 pounds. His uppercut in the fourth round decked the 145-pound Cotto. The rest of the fight had this choreography: PacMan charging, Cotto reversing.

Cotto tried to jab his way to safety. PacMan timed it and cleaned his clock.

No wonder the Filipino was smiling on the way to his stool after the sixth round.

"Cotto couldn't win this with a gun," said Anthony Pepe, a radio guy from Boston who stood with me the whole fight.

Pepe was on target, especially since he bet Pacquiao by knockout. I made the same prediction, although didn't bet the fight. I was too satisfied with my $20 winner on Mizzou over Kansas State earlier in the day.

Anyway, we called this one right, which was more than what plenty of other media dudes can claim. Take Tim Smith. He's a biggie with New York's Daily News. And a fine fellow. But he told me Saturday morning Cotto would win.

What? As Pepe and I said as we met in the stands, we're not picking against PacMan's speed.

And did I mention nosebleed? No matter how far up we were, Cotto wasn't a pretty sight.

I'll tell you what was. The round girls. The blonde and brunette who traipsed around the ring holding the round number high were in better shape than the boxers. And wore outfits just as scanty.

So yes, Firepower was worth it. PacMan collected over $13 million, Cotto $7 million.

Vegas drew thousands of gamblers.

Nevada vacuumed millions in taxes. Arum told us press folk that Pacquiao pays 30% of his winnings to the state. If he fought in that old boxing mecca, New York City, he would have to shell out an additional 15%.

"That means," the old promoter said, "Manny Pacquiao will never fight in New York."

And it was worth it to fight fans. Nothing in sports matches a title fight. The atmosphere for Firepower was smokin'.

That's because Manny Pacquiao was packin' heat. Now he can cool off in his hometown, General Santos City, and see about renaming it as he ponders Mayweather.

President Santos City, anyone?

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Yank Ease

Damn Yankees?

Yes, and this: Damn good Yankees.

Loathe ’em or hate ’em, New York’s American League club is a fine nine.

Pinstripes at home. NY on caps. Facade at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees look good, no question.

Now they have the title to go with the image: world champions.

They have a player with the coolest nickname in sports: Saiko (pronounced Psycho). That’s Japanese for the best — a perfect fit for the tag’s owner, Hideki Matsui.

After his monstrous World Series, he deserves his other nickname, Godzilla. Not to mention his trophy for World Series MVP.

Psycho. A Rod. Tex. The Captain. These Yankees are a bunch of Mo-names.

And they pounded out one Mo world title, making the Yankee haul 27.

Just think; their victims last week — the Phillies — have a lousy two. They won it all in 1980 and last year.

I really thought Philly would make it three by sticking it to the Yanks. Only Ryan Howard forgot his stick. And the rest of the Phillies — except Chase Utley and Cliff Lee — paled vs. the hale New Yorkers.

Twenty-seven world titles.

The L.A. Angels are happy to own one at this point. Especially after their murderers’ low in the pennant series against the Yankees.

The Bombers simply exposed the Halos as hollow.

So much for my prediction: Angels over Philly in six.

What happened to Disneyland’s team?

How could the Halos look like such zeros?

The short answers:

Yankee pitchers fired strikes. Halo hurlers lobbed balls.

New York’s batters hit the blessed ball. L.A.’s lineup imitated the MLB logo — all stance, no swing.

So what do Anaheim’s homeboys do now? Suit up new guys.

Say bye to this costly trio: Vlad, Figgy, Lackey.

Say hi to these thirsty three: Wood, Evans, Bell.

You’ll need an iPhone to ID next season’s Angels. And time to brood if you’re a Halo fan. The 2010 bunch will hardly win the American League West by 10 games, as this year’s version did.

Which sets up the Halos nicely for contention in 2011.

Here’s saying they’ll have to rise that year on the wings of another manager. Mike Scioscia has to wear his Dodger blue one day, so he might as well get that move over with.

By then, Joe Torre will have returned to New York. Maybe to manage the Mets. Perhaps to give the Yankees advice.

As if they need it.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ready For Philly Phlight After Angel Dive

For the Los Angeles Angels, it’s a murderers’ low.

The Yankees simply exposed the Halos as hollow.

The Angels as the wrong angles.

The city as Loss Angeles.

So much for my prediction: Angels over Philly in six.

For this World Series, I couldn’t be serious.

New York sure is after ousting L.A. in the pennant series.

So now the Yanks and Phils are about to swing away in baseball’s championship round.

As for old news:

What happened to the Angels?

How could the Halos look like such zeros?

The short answers:

Yankee pitchers fired strikes. Halo hurlers lobbed balls.

New York’s batters hit the damn ball. L.A.’s lineup imitated the MLB logo — all stance, no swing.

So what does Disneyland’s neighborhood team do now? Suit up new guys.

Say bye to this costly quartet: Vlad, Figgy, Abreu, Lackey.

Say hi to these famished four: Wood, Sandoval, Evans, Bell.

You’ll need an iPhone to ID next season’s Angels. And time to brood if you’re a Halo fan. The 2010 bunch will hardly win the American League West by 10 games, as this year’s version did.

Which sets up the Halos nicely for 2011 heaven. Meaning a leap into the World Series.

Here’s saying they’ll have to rise that year on the wings of another manager. Mike Scioscia has to wear his Dodger blue one day, so he might as well get that move over with.

But enough about the locals. On the World stage, the Phillie-Yankee show was last set to open in 1964 — until the Phils phlopped horribly in September, handing St. Louis the National League pennant.

Forty-five years later, Philly-New York is a go. Minus Johnny Callison and Mickey Mantle, those teams’ stars back then.

Now we’re about to watch Ryan Howard slug it out with A Rod.

My call minutes before the first pitch: Philly in phive.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Angels Winging It All; Favre Packs A Viewing Punch

Baseball playoffs full of Dodger and Yankee stunners.

College football jammed with Bama and Texas charges.

The NFL packed with Brett Favre.

Is this fall heaven or what? With an apt team riding these clouds: the L.A. Angels.

Yea: The Angel bats, speed and arms broke Boston. Nothing like a sweep to answer the Henderson homer of 1986. And to draw a snappy rallying cry from R.J. in Riverside, as called in to Jeff Biggs' Angel radio show: Create Your Fate.

Boo: Joe Nathan's job title is closer. The only thing he closed Friday was Minnesota's series shot. As soon as he surrendered A Roid's rope, the Twins were done. As was my upset pick.

Yea: Chone Figgins has a funny first name. And he's one fun guy to watch at Angel Stadium. Glove, gun, bullet fast. The third baseman is pure entertainment. Especially on one night this summer. Between innings, the Angels ran their promo with a kid dashing to pick up the third base bag. But he couldn't lift it. So Figgins pulled it up for him, and the little buddy carried it across the finish line in time. Now that's a prize moment.

Boo: NBA teams playing games on consecutive nights. Baseball players chatting with guys on the other team during games. Both are drags, as spelled out by Jeff Biggs on his KLAA radio show.

Yea: Dave Campbell of ESPN radio. No better analyst in baseball.

Boo: Yankee fans. Can they come up with something more original? Their sense of entitlement will take a beating once the Angels whip them on the way to the championship.

Yea: Being an L.A. fan. The Angels and Dodgers could meet in the World Series. The champion Lakers could win 70 games.

Boo: Being a St. Louis fan. The Cardinals didn't exactly have a Holliday in the playoffs. The Rams look worse than their pre-George Allen days. And Mizzou. Playing in the downpour against Nebraska Thursday night, the Tigers looked downright poor. God help us when we go to Texas Oct. 24.

Yea: James Loney’s hustle in that miracle Dodger triumph in Game 2 over St. Louis.

Boo: Juan Rivera’s hustle. It slows in the field and on the base paths too often for the Angels. Mike Scioscia better get Rivera flowing fast in this title run.

Yea: Good to see Manny stiffening up his bat again. Must be back on those pregnant pills.

Boo: The L.A. Times sports section predicted the Cards would sweep the Dodgers in three. What? Bad enough to knife the local lads. Horrible when you're dead wrong.

Yea: Patrick Cain was dead on. He's an office colleague, sports nut to the max. And he predicted the Dodgers' ditching of the Cards when no one else saw it. Nothing new from Cain. He called the Arizona Diamondbacks' division title of 2007 and the Seattle Mariners' rise from the depths this year.

Boo: Someone at Angel Stadium please fix the typo atop of the visitor-side dugout. It reads: ANGELS BASEBALL '09. With the apostrophe turned the wrong way.

Yea: Jim Tracy. He dropped off the map after managing the Dodgers to the playoffs and directing Pittsburgh to nowhere land. The minute he popped up in Colorado at midseason, I sent a text to a pal in amazement. Now everyone's amazed at how the Rocks rolled under him.

Boo: So Obummer wins the Nobel Prize for piece of what? Considering his girly toss ahead of last summer's All-Star Game, the best line came from the guy behind me at work: He was more deserving of the Cy Young trophy.

Yea: Harold Reynolds. He's as smooth on MLB Network as he was as an MLB second baseman. At least as smooth as he was with the ladies at ESPN, which booted him for exactly that trait. Glad he's been back on the screen a couple of years now. He's the main reason to flip to channel 213.

And one more yea: Favre. You knew his stare-down of his old Green Bay gang would bust ESPN Monday night records. And when he chatted during that usually boring postgame press conference, you couldn't change the channel. That's one quarterback who has it. Period. Paragraph.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Angels Will Fly Anyway

OK, you win. I lose.

The one time I pick Boston to rise, the Sox flop. To the retched Royals, who haven't won anything since clickers had cords.

And when I call an Angel sweep of the Yankees, New York suddenly finds its bullpen. And wins two of three in Anaheim.

So there went my brilliant scenario of Boston winning the American League East, letting L.A. skirt the Sox in the playoffs' first round.

Now the Angels are stuck with Fenway. And they have one monstrous problem winning there.

Not that they won't do it. The Halos are headed for their second world title since 2002. They just face more turbulence.

Beating the Yankees in the first round would've been a breeze. Just like the last two times the Angels and Bombers met.

Beating the Sox is a code red proposition. The Angels could've done it 1986, but pulled Mike Witt. They could've done it in 2004, but served one up to Ortease. They could've done it in 2007, but pitched to Mannroid. They could've done it last year, but squeezed right out of it.

That's not a trend. That's history. These Angels have new orders: beat Boston, win the pennant, capture the World Series.

Too upbeat for guys like that grouser calling Angel radio after the loss to the Yanks Wednesday, saying Jeff Biggs' optimism made him throw up?

Tough. Just as Biggs pulled the plug on that downer, I'm flicking they of little faith. That too biblical for you? So what; they're the Angels.

The right tone: While at Angel Stadium recently, 'twas marvelous hearing the organ. Never noticed it before, and even griped that the park could use that old baseball feel of Dodger Stadium.

This time, the player tickled the keys to Gershwin's 'S Wonderful. All Angel Stadium has to do is play a second verse of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and I'd say 's paradise.

What? Too bad broadcasters and baseball writers get sucked in to using command to describe how hurlers spot pitches.

The word is control. That was part of the lexicon for eons. Don't know when it morphed into command, but that word needs a beaning.

Speaking of terms: Heard a cool one today. During the Angel radio broadcast, Rex Hudler said of taking a pitch, "Spit on it."

Last call: Shaking off that debacle mentioned above, I'm going with this doozy for Sunday:

The Redskins hand Detroit its first victory since Bobby Layne.

Serves Washington right for cutting fellow Mizzou Tiger Chase Daniel.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Jets' Pilot; The Angels Will Yank It Out

Now we know.

Remember when Pete Carroll bitched about the flight of Mark Sanchez to the NFL?

The Southern Cal coach knew:

1. Sanchez is an ace of a quarterback. The Jets also spotted that rocket arm and drafted him faster than an F-16 flyover. They look brilliant after On The Mark manhandled New England Sunday.

2. The Trojans had the equivalent of a corpse behind Sanchez. At least that's what Aaron Corp looked like in that burial in Seattle Saturday.

And do I care about USC's demise? No. It's only that we get radio blitzed in L.A. over all things Trojan. And I haven't been so stoked about my Jets since the '60s. As a Mizzou guy, I say to USC: Bite On.

Halo heat: The stretch, the pitch will start any minute at Angel Stadium.

Which leaves time to declare: The Angels will batter their punching bags, the Yankees.

Which leads to this: New York will soon enough turn into a little apple, or wild card. That will come to fruition when Boston follows the Angels’ sweep with its own broom job of the Yanks.

Which means good news for Angel fans. They won’t have to bother with the Sox in the playoffs’ first round. In other words, Los Angeles’ American League contingent has a chance to reach the second round.

The Angels own the Yankees. Especially in the playoffs. Now they’ll duplicate 2002 and 2005 and expose New York as the bullpen-less, Mr. June Rodriguez team that it is.

That Round 1 triumph will have the Angels flexing their confidence for a bashing of Boston in the pennant series.

And a six-game finishing of Philly in the World Series.

Want another tip? Rivera. He’s the Juan, all right. The Angels’ big bat in left field is a postseason MVP waiting to happen.

Focus, blue. What can the umpires possibly be seeing? A pitch goes right down the middle. And the guy behind the catcher calls balls.

The other day I'm watching the Angels' Jered Weaver firing pitches perfectly. Ball three, ball four.

Where else should he have thrown? One millimeter higher?

I'm hardly nitpicking. This is an epidemic. Umps simply let batters get away with watching pitches in the meat of the strike zone. Ball two, ball three.

Batters foul off everything else, making for snoozeroo baseball.

Message to the men in blue: Tighten the strike zone. Make batters do what Doubleday drew up -- swing.

Speaking of delays: These replays to decide football calls are killing the sport.

Where's the flow? Gone the way of the head slap.

Sideline catch. End zone dive. Fumble. Stop the game for five minutes so the refs can watch 15 angles.

Good thing for the clicker. And for MLB Network, which fills the gaps with old World Series games.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Saturday, September 12, 2009

When Air Force Football Soared In Europe

Ah, the great '80s.

Darryl Strawberry.

Steffi Graf.

The Berlin Wall.

Wait a minute. What was great about the bloody wall?

Nothing philosophically. It kept millions of Germans prisoners. And stood for the evil empire that Ronald Reagan tore down.

Yet when the Berlin barrier crashed with two months left in the '80s, one group saw the downside. That would be the American military.

For our GIs in Europe, the party simply stopped in the twilight of the '80s. Suddenly vibrant American communities from England to Turkey had no reason to stay in business.

Soon enough, our troop count shrank from 375,000 under Reagan to 100,000 under Clinton. With that disappearing act, bases, barracks, commissaries and schools vanished.

One big league followed them into the ether. When the wall came down, it took Air Force football's heyday with it.

What a stud league it was. Teams competed all over England, Germany, Holland and Spain. Fans packed base stadiums. And I had one fun ride covering the action for Stars & Stripes, the GI newspaper.

The other day, a bunch of former players huddled in Las Vegas to relive those glory days. The group invited me to speak at the reunion, and I was honored. I was also ready with points:

With so many Air Force guys in the room, I felt as safe as Brink's.

Reporting for Stars & Stripes was the dream job of the '80s. First, my boss was Bob Wicker, an MVP of a sports editor. Second, my beat was Air Force football.

That was my ticket to traipse around Europe covering America's finest. Up to England's bases at Upper Heyford, Mildenhall, Lakenheath. Over to Germany's fields at Bitburg, Ramstein, Rhein-Main.

OK, it could get ugly. The Chicksands base in England hanged me in effigy. My sin: picking the other team to win.

They all added up to our boys in blue playing a great American sport. In Europe.

Simply a ball on the west side of the wall.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Friday, September 4, 2009

Angels Will Take It; Jeter Is MVP; Who's That Man Posing As A Chick?

If you have one anymore, bet the mortgage. This lock will keep you in your house forever:

Angels over Philly in six.

Yes, L.A.'s other team will win it all for the second time since 2002. And in the process beat baseball's defending champion Phillies.

I've been picking the Halos all season. While friends scoffed. The team had so many weak links to strengthen without using steroids.

First, the Angels lacked power. Then they started jacking them out while trotting out the first all-.300 lineup since the Depression.

Second, the Angels couldn't hold a lead. Then they discovered a juicy righty in Kevin Jepsen to set up slam-the-door lefty Brian Fuentes.

Third, the Angels hurt for starting moundsmen. Then John Lackey and Ervin Santana revived to supplement Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders.

Fourth, the Angels searched all over for a fifth starter. Then along came Scott Kazmir from Tampa Bay. Along with his Boston-strangling resume, which the Halos need to finally beat the Sox in the playoffs.

Shazam! Quicker than you can spell Scioscia, the Angels have managed to emerge as MLB's best.

With Erick Aybar sprinting, Juan Rivera slugging and Torii Hunter snatching every shot near the wall, Anaheim is on course to reach the stratosphere of Disneyland's Space Mountain.

MVP: Give it to Derek Jeter.

He's on target for a .330 season. Playing a solid shortstop for the Yankees. Sparking them to MLB's best record right now.

Jeter is simply the face of baseball. And what an ambassadorial mug that is. He's the coolest dude this side of Kobe Bryant, without Kobe's obvious arrogance.

And what a career. Four World Series titles. On the verge of 3,000 hits.

Jeter should've won the Most Valuable Player trophy in 2006. The man murdered the ball at a .343 clip to lead New York to the American League East title. He was the cog in the league's main machine.

Yet he finished second in MVP voting to a faceless Minnesota first baseman, Justin Morneau.

Now Jeter faces another Minnesota barrier. This time it's Joe Mauer, which is German for wall. The Twin catcher is a brick of a backstop outslugging Jeter in all batting areas.

Can Jeter hurdle that dam and claim his first MVP Award? He has a month to close the numbers. And to rally the voters. He already has me.

Road rut: Talk about hitting a red light. The Angels pack their home park every night to the tune of 40,300. That's the fifth best average in baseball.

Away from home, it's not so sweet. The Halos draw just 26,400, the worst road mark. In all of MLB.

What? More fans around the country want to see the Royals? The Pirates? The Nationals?


An old Angel radio guy who now lives in the East was a guest recently with Jeff Biggs on KLAA. I called in to ask what gives with this Halo road rejection, but gave up while on hold for what seemed extra innings.

The way I see it, the Angels lack pizzazz with the rest of the country.

I mean, who glitters on this team? Maybe Torii Hunter. At least he speaks engagingly. And in English, something sluggers Vlad Guerrero and Kendry Morales shun in public.

Otherwise, the Angels are a team to the nines. No I guys. Not many national fans either.

Stan the man: Kudos to Stan Isaacs for his recent column on how to give sports a kick.

He proposed on this site that soccer drop the goalie.

That's exactly what I've been saying for years. Even when I lived in Germany. You can imagine what that idea did to local faces. Turned them into sneers.

Here's one for baseball: Limit foul balls to five per batter. The fifth would be an out, just as a two-strike bunt foul is a strikeout.

Fouls are doing their darnedest to make baseball boring. Ever since Bill James spelled out how fouling off balls tires the pitcher while drawing better offerings, batters hit 'em backward eternally.

So now every guy faces 10 pitches. Zzzzzzzz.

Keep the fouls to five, and you zip up the game.

Man, is this easy: You hear about the guy posing as a gal in track?

He cast himself as Caster Semenya. I guess that's a chick name.

And captured the 800 meters at the world championships last month in Berlin.

He won gold for one simple reason. He ran against girls.

Look at him up there. Caster is about as much of a woman as Ron Artest, for whom the South African is a dead ringer.

Semenya is South African. If you believe anything he says.

And he might get away with this flimflam. You should hear the track officials squirming about pee, DNA, who know what tests.

Here's the test they should give him quicker than he can run:

Pull his pants down.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pound Vick; Pitino's Play; Angels, Matthews Roll

Good timing.

Mike Vick leaps from the doghouse to the Eagle nest.

The Democrats' blue dogs growl at obummer's sick plan.

Which begs the question: Is Vick a blue dog?

If so, he'd want to electrocute himself. Such is what he thinks of canines.

You might recall Vick was the quarterback sacked for treating the animals like dog meat. About the only perversion he didn't pull was eat them.

Otherwise, the hanging and drowning kept him busy. Until the cops caught him. And he waddled into prison.

Two years later Vick rolled out from behind bars. And Philly signed him.

While many expected dog lovers to howl over Vick's comeback, two reactions are reality:

1. When the Eagles say they consulted with the Humane Society, that means they paid for silence. You can bet the NFL contributed millions to keep the HS, PETA and whoever else from barking too loudly.

2. Sports fans don't care about mangled dogs. Listen to talk radio, and all you hear is Vick should play. Period.

I'm not one of those callers. My take: Vick is sick. His moral fiber is wretched. Yes, he served his time. No, I won't watch Eagle games. Can't stomach it.

Lousville Lover. And how about Rick Pitino? He's lucky the Vick story drowned him out.

Otherwise the hoops coach and his roll on a restaurant table with a floozy would've taken center court.

Now it's so what. Pitino the disciple of discipline screws around on his wife. And pays the woman for an abortion. A Cardinal sin in the old days. Now he's a Kentucky king of midlife sex.

I say this: At least he's not dunking dogs.

On a brighter note: The L.A. Angels keep winning with the best of them. And they're doing it despite injuries in all corners of the clubhouse.

How do the Angels do what the Mets can't? Two words: Gary Matthews.

His bad-ass bat has held the fort while Torii Hunter recovers.

From the sound of fans, you'd think the Son of Sarge had deserted. One guy bitched on the radio right after Matthews mashed a three-run homer in L.A.'s 10-5 triumph over Tampa Bay.

The caller: "How can fans cheer him? Did they forget his error from the inning before?"

Amazing. Matthews produces. And delivers adult analysis in post-game interviews. And still draws fan jeers.

His response: win.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Monday, August 3, 2009

Corner on the Angels; calling on Dave Smith

An acquaintance in the East commented on the Angels recently with this: “They’re the worst of the contending teams.”

My response: “Really? Worse than the Twins, Tigers, Chisox, Yankees, Rays, Cards, Cubs, Astros, Brewers?”

No answer has landed. Not while the Angels win every bloody day.

If the answer ever comes back yes, I say: Good.

Let the masses miss the Halo heat. The fewer the fans who catch on, the better. By the time they do, Anaheim will own a second championship.

Take 2002. That summer while the Angels played in Boston, I wrote a pal in D.C. about Troy Glaus’ greatness. My friend’s take: Who him?

After Glaus finished with 111 RBIs and the Angels their title, I didn’t bother asking my friend again. Didn’t matter.

Kinda like the stock market. When hardly anyone has heard of a company, that’s the one that rockets. If you check out STEC and FUQI, it’ll probably be the first time. Yet they’re scorching. By the time Main Street invests in them, Wall Street will have seriously cashed in.

So let most of baseball’s gazers wallow in all things Boston and Philly. I’m keeping my eye on the best ball.

Come in, Dave Smith. Two years ago he resurfaced on L.A. radio as the drive-time voice of KLAA. He gave the Angels’ station the edge it needed.

Now he’s gone. Smith turned into dead air this summer, and that’s a drag for these parts. He’s the self-professed Sports God for a reason. He’s been here all his life and shares a sharp passion for our teams that no other broadcaster matches.

I asked a few people connected to the Angels what happened. Was Dave fired? Where is he? No one is clear. Not even Smith, who has nothing on about his whereabouts.

Come back, Dave. You were wrong about Mitch Kupcake. And wrong about running pitchers’ arms ragged. But you had a point about Sissy Vujacic. And it was tough to change the channel.

I have the perfect spot for Smith. 570 KLAC in the afternoon. Replace the screamers who turn their points into turbulence. Many Angel fans would stick with Jeff Biggs at KLAA. Aside from that, Smith would crush ESPN’s Mason and Ireland.

Speaking of dead air. What’s with Los Angeles pulling the plug on its top radio talent?

Dave Smith was only the latest talent to vanish into the ether.

In the past year we lost Larry Elder. He went the way of the dial when KABC traded him in for syndicated Mark Levin.

Now Levin is brilliant. He hits the mark with his darts, such as: Hillary Rotten Clinton, Little Dick Durbin and the New York Slimes.

But he tosses them from a basement in Virginia. He’s not Los Angeles.

Elder is. To the core, as he underscores with his Sage from South Central moniker.

And he was one radio voice who nailed it on economics: Downshift on government, and the American machine will rocket.

The good news is Elder might run for the Senate next year. If he decks Barbara Boxer, the radio rotation will be worth it.

I can hear Levin already: “Down goes Boxer! Down goes Boxer!”

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California and runs

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Seles Hurt Her Spot In History

Monica Seles entered the Tennis Hall of Fame recently.

With her go the nine Grand Slam titles, the No. 1 ranking, the innovative grunting.

Even more, one theme holds serve with so many tennis fans: If Seles had not been knifed 16 years ago, she would’ve been the greatest women’s player in history.

The stabbing simply follows her. Seles certainly didn’t dodge it at her Hall induction in Newport, R.I.: “I would like to thank all my tennis fans who were there from my No. 1 days, through my stabbing, and my comeback.”

It’s really Seles’ signature as Mary Carillo and other tennis voices laud her in “should’ve been the greatest” terms.

After all, Seles had won eight Slam trophies by the spring of 1993. She had passed Steffi Graf as the world’s dominant player.

The pro-Seles campaign makes it clear: At just 19, Seles was on course to smash Grand Slam records. Only the attack of April 30, 1993, when German sicko Guenter Parche stabbed her in the upper back during a tournament in Hamburg, kept her from reaching the all-time pinnacle.

No one has publicly disputed that, so let me be the lone dissenter: Monica Seles blew it.

She must take responsibility for throwing away the meat of her tennis prime after she had physically recovered from the stabbing.

Seles lost her shot at all-time No. 1 because she left the pro circuit for two years and three months after the mugging. She thus skipped two U.S. Opens, two Australian Opens, two French Opens and two Wimbledons in which she really was healthy enough to compete.

She said during her 1993-95 break that the half-inch wound had healed — that the mental trauma was keeping her from playing.

Mental trauma? Let’s tell it like it is: She wasn’t tough enough to bounce right back.

Here’s tough:

Paul Pierce was stabbed in his neck, back and chest and hit over the head with a bottle in a nightclub brawl in September 2000. A month later he was in training camp for the Boston Celtics.

Picabo Street blew out her left knee while training for the ski season in December 1996. She was skiing again seven months later, and seven months after that won the Olympic super G gold medal.

Niki Lauda nearly burned to death in a Grand Prix car crash in 1976 and was back on the track in seven weeks. He won the world championship the next year.

Now that’s physical and mental trauma. Those athletes faced fear and conquered it immediately. They had the steel Seles lacked.

If Graf had been knifed, here’s betting she would’ve played within two months. Ditto Serena Williams. They’re stone-cold champions — damned if a little knife job would knock them out 27 months.

All Graf did during Seles’ hiatus was keep winning — on the way to a near-record 22 Grand Slam titles. Many tennis followers take offense at that, since it was a Graf fan who stuck it to Seles. Furthermore, say those fans, Seles was dominating Graf before the Hamburg ambush.

That’s another point no one disputes. Until now.

Seles did stop Graf’s 66-match winning streak in the 1990 Berlin final. And beat her in the French Open finals of 1990 and ’92.

Yet Graf had a 10-5 edge lifetime against Seles. And on the biggest stage of all — the Wimbledon final — Graf waxed Seles 6-2, 6-1 in 1992.

Graf, who had her own problems with her wayward father, had what it took to overcome them. She won big time on every surface. She’s the greatest champion of them all.

Seles will forever ponder why she let that knife-inflicted pause drag out into two-plus years.

It’s a decision that shows she didn’t have that champion’s mettle, no matter what the TV puff pieces say.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California and runs

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Angel Angles

Made two predictions at a recent L.A.-Texas game at Angel Stadium.

One was spot on. The other spot off.

With Juan Rivera up and the count 2-2, I did a Russ Hodges imitation: "Tell it bye-bye, baby!"

Rivera jacked the next pitch straight into the rocks.

Then in the fifth, with John Lackey leading 3-0, two out, no one on, I told my neighbor, Scott Paullin: "Knock on wood, but Lackey's cruisin'."

That's when the cruise crashed. Six runs crossed before you could say Ranger rout, and Mike Scioscia had the hook out. Luckless Lackey again. Or maybe he's pitchless these days.

Here it comes: The Angels will make a huge deal this month. That comes with the same guarantee I made while saying Phil Jackson would stay. I was right. Charles Barkley wrong.

Yes, our OC boys bashed the Yankees to our glee Friday night. But that flop against the Rangers, just when we had Team Ryan on an Express down the division, showed the Angels need power and pitching.

Watch Los Angeles let one of its catchers, Mike Napoli or Jeff Mathis, go. And Lackey.

Turn it down:'s Rev is calling Steve Physioc the worst announcer in baseball.

Why? Because the broadcaster has the gall to call attention to the biggest offensive night of the season. Or would've been if Andruw Jones had parked No. 4.

What, was Fizz supposed to scintillate us with a breakdown of the No. 1 Angel Stadium experience? Because if you wanted homer musings from the booth, that was the only thing left in that Ranger series.

Or could Physioc reach for a homer of substance, one that ties history? Good for him that he announced the news.

Which adds to his credentials as the worst announcer in baseball? Against what list? Worse than John Sterling, whom Yankee fans and the Post's Phil Mushnick are trying to ditch? Worse than voices for the Marlins, Royals, Twins? I doubt if the Rev has a clue. About the only listeners who do are those of American Forces Network, which airs games from every market for our troops around the globe.

I used to be one of those AFN listeners. And knew that despite L.A.'s love affair with Vin Scully, he was not the best. Certainly not better than the Giants' Hank Greenwald, the Orioles' Chuck Thompson and the White Sox combo of Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall.

No, Physioc isn't the worst. Not even among Angel play-by-play guys. His voice far surpasses the tone of Rory Markas and Terry Smith. And the Fizz has more fun playing off Rex Hudler (with me and my Angel book above).

As far as our Orange County ears can figure, Physioc might be one of the best.

Quit this fire-Fizz campaign. It's childish.

We'd be better off bitching about something of substance: Angel players who don't speak English. At least not with a mic in front of them.

This Kendry Morales ignoring our language for Spanish the way Vlad does is outrageous. This is an American team with American fans paying them American millions.

Learn to speak to us without a Jose Mota dictionary, for crying out loud.

Follow hockey's lead. Guy Lafleur and Mario Lemieux were two French Canadians who entered the NHL knowing hardly any English. The Habs and Penguins made sure they learned it. Simple marketing. They knew their fan base spoke English, so get with the program, guys.

The Angels should do the same. So should every team in baseball, which has crashing attendance as it is.

Fans want players they can relate to. It sure would help if they could understand them.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lakers Net Another Championship

Two to the front of the class.

Roger Federer nails the French Open.

Kobe Bryant hammers out the NBA title.

Fed sheds the lie that he couldn't win a clay slam.

Kobe unShaqles himself.

Fed rebounds from his marathon loss at the 2008 Wimbledon final.

Kobe rebounds, passes, shoots beyond that crash in the 2008 NBA Finals.

The edge? Give it to Kobe. The tiebreaker: Mrs. Bryant. One radio guy went ment ripping her for hogging the postgame stage Sunday.

Whaaaat? She was worth every point in the ratings. Put it this way: If Bo Derek was a 10, Vanessa Bryant is a 24. She defines knockout.

Then there's Mrs. Fed, the meaning of mutti.

Set the DVR. For Christmas. Lakers-Cavs. With Shaq set to join LeBron in Cleveland, ABC is frothing over this clash.

Kobe-Shaq. Kobe-LeBron. Turn on that Hollywood spotlight.

The genius. Tommy Tutt, my Vegas buddy. All he did was text before Game 5 with this pick: "Lakers by 13. Bet the farm, the IRA, the wife."

I should have. L.A. won 99-86.

True fans. No one can dunk on Rose and Francis Gapuz. They don't just bleed purple and gold. They breathe it. And read it. And clip it.

This Love Laker couple has more Kobe & Co. mags and scrapbooks than a newsstand.

Had the privilege of watching Game 2 of the Finals with Francis. The Navy veteran knew exactly how to steer a victory to port.

With Team Gapuz on their side, the Lakers can't lose.

The dud. Some call him Charles Barkley. I go with Sir Chunk for his big, fat losing predictions. Such as Nets over Lakers in 2002. And Magic over Lakers in these Finals.

After the laughter died, Sir Chunk said Phil Jackson will quit this summer. That's my cue to guarantee Phil will stay on the Playa del Rey beach.

Now that he has 10 titles. Jackson is the greatest coach. Period.

His triumph Sunday was so convincing, even naysaying Roger Lodge on his radio show the next morning bowed to the Tower of Jax.

The teen. My niece Grace figured it all out, and she's just 13. Spotted the sweaty panic of Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy. And the cool coasting of the Laker boss. And said right there that Phil's force would clinch it.

Riley was right. Remember when Pat Riley bounced Gundy, took over in Miami and led the Heat to the 2006 NBA title? Looked like a knife job, which it was.

But it was a sharp move. Under Riley, the Heat overcame an 0-2 hole in the NBA Finals to beat Dallas. Under Gundy, the Heat would've wilted.

The name. Moniker of the year: D Swish.

Credit L.A. Times letter writer Jason Mathis for coming up with a twist on D Fish, the bucket-sinking Laker otherwise known as Derek Fisher.

Bucky Fox is an author in Southern California and editor of

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fish, Lakers Hooking A Title; Penguins Wing It

Derek Fisher, good to see you’re still in Club Clutch.

That .4 miracle in ’04 punched your ticket. Thursday night you upgraded with those crunch treys, lifting the Lakers to a 99-91 triumph in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

Other members of the Club:

Bobby Thomson for his homer in 1951 that let The Giants Win The Pennant!

Bill Mazeroski for his World Series-ending blast in 1960.

Joe Carter for his jack that finished the 1993 Series.

Ben Roethlisberger for his big fling in last winter’s Super Bowl.

Santonio Holmes for his KO grab of that Ben zinger.

Jim O’Brien for booting the Boys in the 1971 Super Bowl.

Adam Vinatieri for kicking the Rams in the 2002 Bowl.

Doug Flutie for passing BC into college football mythology in 1984.

Robert Horry for his King killer in 2002.

Next? Thanks to Fish in the Lake, L.A. won't have to bother clinching at home.

The boys in purple and gold will collect their 15th NBA banner by winning Sunday in Orlando.

Which sets up a rematch against the Lakers' nemesis, Boston.

The Celtics clocked L.A. last year. The Lakers will own this year's title.

Kevin Garnett will no doubt get Boston back to the Finals. The Kobe-Pao punch will swing L.A. to a return trip.

So bring it on. Lakers-Celtics, 2010.

You better believe Madison Ave is generating purple/green ads as we write.

Speaking of rematches: Detroit can have its Hockeytown. The Penguins won Game 7 there 2-1 Friday to turn Pittsburgh into Titletown.

Pittsburgh thus clinched its second championship of 2009. You might remember the Steelers of NFL fame.

Maybe L.A. can duplicate such a double with a Laker/Dodger sweep.

And does Pittsburgh have a lock on history or what? You heard the previous time a team in any sport won a final series Game 7 on the road was the Pirates in 1979. That was also a year the Steelers won it all. So a Steel City two-fer again.

Look out for 2010. You can see a Pen-Wing rubber Stanley Cup Finals just the Lakers and Celtics are revving up.

And this: The Denholm & Long Show on ESPN radio has a text contest on afternoon drive time. After the Magic's disappearing act at the foul line in Game 4, the Friday q was: Keeping with the boring movie "Kobe Doin' Work," what would you call Orlando's no-show?

The two best:

"Dwight Men Can't Jump."

"Brick Fest at Tiffany's."

Bucky Fox is an author in Southern California and editor of

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lakers Better Not Be Drowning

Hand us the gaspipe. Laker fans are ready to suck on it after that suicidal loss Tuesday in the NBA Finals.

Was that Kobe in the stretch? Missing? Fumbling? Choking?

Was that Ariza blowing a dunk just when L.A. could’ve grabbed control?

Was that Bynum doing nothing? Never mind that question. The answer is obvious. His M.O. is stand around and foul.

It was all enough for a 108-104 Loss Angeles.

So for us Laker crazies shooting for a sweep, Orlandon’t.

Maybe that's not so worrisome. L.A. still leads the series 2-1.

Then again, it's enough to make us recall another Florida team that came back from 0-2 to win it all just three years ago.

Two points are especially troubling for purple-and-gold nuts 2,500 miles from the middle three games:

Stan Van Gundy. So he's sow. And has a royal Dutch name. Simply, this guy can coach like a banshee.

That lob he drew up in Game 2 was some scary genius.

Now he’s throwing Kobe for a loop. After our stud was nothing but hoop.

Bryant in the last three quarters of Game 3 looked like Sasha from the field. And Shaq at the line. And Walton dribbling. Shoot, miss, turnover.

That’s so out of character for Kobe, you have to laud the guy forcing him to dive: Gundy. Obviously the head Magician's plan is stop Bryant at all cost. If that means five guys on him, fine.

The way this coach is rolling, Magic fans have to be kissing the court that Billy Donovan pulled his about-face two years ago.

Hedo Turkoglu. Shoots with the aim of a SEAL assassin. Drives like a Hummer in field. All while standing, what, 10 feet tall?

This Magician can score at will. If I were Gundy, I’d let the Turk shoot on every play. One hundred points later, you’re sure to have a victory.

I mean, no one can stop him. The Lakers sure couldn’t in Game 3. And he scored just 18. Wait till he really heats up.

Between the Turk and Orlando’s other dead-aim sequoia, Rashard Lewis, the Lakers are facing two tall tasks.

Don’t know what the answer is. Only that an even better coach than Gundy should have one by tipoff Thursday. He’s Phil Jackson.

And this: Manny Ramirez said in his steroid defense, "I didn't kill nobody, I didn't rape nobody."

Both double negatives. So he killed and raped?

Bucky Fox is an author in Southern California and editor of

Monday, June 8, 2009

Lakers Have The Magic

Talk about nut-cuttin' time. The Lakers hardened. The Magic cracked.

Los Angeles leads 2-0 in the NBA Finals.

Orlando looks lost after its 101-96 loss Sunday.

And L.A. fans who survived that cruncher can relax. Until Game 3 Tuesday in Florida.

The NBA Finals, where heart attack happens. I about had one during Game 2. Went nuts during Lamar Odom's cavalry charge in the fourth quarter. During Courtney Lee's missed chance. During Kobe's dish to Gasol. Pao? No, Pow!

And while focusing on these two guys:

1. Andrew Bynum. Man, could he lock this series. Every Laker fans is thinking what radio analyst Dean Merrill said Monday:

"If Andrew Bynum can stay on the floor, we have ourselves a sweep."

But no. Any Magician gets near him, and Bynum takes offense. Throws an arm, something. And before you say "Don't!" he's on the bench with two fouls.

That forces Phil Jackson to devise a multiplayer D against Dwight Howard.

If Bynum could stay in the middle, L.A. would blanket Orlando's long-range bombers. And coast. Yes, his benching means Odom flies in with his super game, but he could be spotting other guys.

One more point on Jabbar's 7-foot project. Notice how everyone's reaction to a Bynum flub is "he's still young"? I'm tired of that. He's been a pro three seasons. He's 21. His moment is now. Seize it.

2. J.J. Redick. Who? The old Dukie? The same.

Just when Laker fans got nervous that Jameer Nelson was righting the Magic ship, coach Stan Van Gundy yanked him for (1) Rafer Alston, drifting this deep in the playoffs, then (2) Redick.

That sigh you heard was from 15 million L.A. fans. Whom was Redick going to stop? Did Gundy expect this guard who had done nothing in Game 1 to light it up? I'm still waiting for answers, and it's almost Tuesday.

No question Gundy is a sharp guy. Won with Miami before Pat Riley knifed him. Won with Orlando after Billy Donovan bailed.

But like Redick, Gundy looks out of his league. Running the other team is Phil Jackson, he of nine NBA title rings. As Merrill said on the air Monday, "Phil always takes a team as far as it should go."

It should go all the way now. And it will. Jackson's record 10th ring is on the way.

And this: Jeff Biggs on KLAA's "The Drive" radio show suggested Monday that Vlad Guerrero should slide to sixth in the Angels' batting order. Good for the team, said Biggs, and "Vlad would understand."

Would he? I haven't heard Guerrero speak English the six years he's been in Anaheim.

Bucky Fox is an author in Southern California and editor of

Friday, June 5, 2009

Lakers Show The Magic In Disney Duel; Radio Rides To Hero's Aid

Two factors leapt from the NBA Finals' Game 1, a 100-75 Laker landslide.

That is, aside from Kobe soaring like a Disney ride in Los Angeles and Orlando.

1. Andrew Bynum stood his ground. With him hustling to his spot in the paint — just as the radio's No. 1 hoop analyst, Dean Merrill (a regular guest of Jeff Biggs on KLAA's "The Drive"), told us to watch for — the Laker center handled Orlando’s Dwight Howard.

And how. Bynum muscled like the he-man we saw before his injuries the past two winters, and Howard slunk away with one lousy basket. So much for the phony who stole Shaq’s Superman gig.

2. Jameer Nelson wasn’t worth the gamble. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy rolled Nelson onto the court, and fortune wasn't with them.

This is the Nelson who hurt his shoulder in a weird game accident that didn’t look damaging at all. That was back in February. He missed the next four months.

By Thursday, Gundy tried to make it look like he was making a game-time decision. What a crock. Obviously the coach saw on tape weeks ago that Orlando had no chance with Rafer Alston at the point against the Lakers. Better to go with Nelson and hope he improves enough by Sunday’s Game 2.

Nelson did kill the Lakers in the regular season. But now you can see the Lakers licking their chops against him. Why? His defense is as ugly as that black mouthpiece he keeps spitting out.

By the time this series ends, Nelson won't seem like victorious Horatio at Trafalgar. He'll have met his Waterloo.

He sees after all. Enough with the darts at Roger Lodge (on right in above photo with sidekick Dave Smith).

Last week I targeted the sports radio host for having the foresight of his old TV show, “Blind Date.” In other words, not much.

Lodge’s sin? Tossing Phil Jackson to the dustbin of NBA history for losing a playoff game. Meanwhile, the Jackson Five are making 1-2-3-4 work of Orlando in the Finals.

Now I have a new perspective. Lodge might miss on his rips of the greatest coach in basketball history. But he knows history. While noting Ichiro’s hitting streak this week, he didn’t miss a beat recalling Gene Garber’s stoppage of Pete Rose’s 44-gamer in 1978.

And Lodge is dead-on with his latest campaign: helping an injured soldier.

Army Sgt. Daniel Thornhill was in Afghanistan when a bomb blew off his legs. Now he’s at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, recovering from burn wounds.

Lodge knows a hero when he hears about one. And he's tuned in to Thornhill. The radio man made a big deal on a recent edition of “The Sports Lodge” on the Angels’ KLAA station about the sergeant’s condition.

And Lodge’s message was clear: Help our hero out, even if it’s with just a birthday card.

Send it to:

Sgt. Daniel Thornhill
Fort Sam Houston Fisher House
3623 George C. Beach Rd.
Fort Sam Houston, Texas 78234

Listen and learn: Another plus about Lodge. He and Smith don't interrupt each other. When Smith goes off on his leave-the-pitcher-in-forever tirade, Lodge lets him loose.

How refreshing after hearing KLAC's afternoon drive gang. Five guys scream at each other. And we're expected to get the point?

I sure don't.

Bucky Fox is an author in Southern California and editor of

Saturday, May 30, 2009

On A Roll On The Radio

I’m floating on airwaves these days.

* Made the right Laker call on the radio.

* Heard the sharpest hoop voice on the dial in Dean Merrill.

* Met the No. 1 radio personality, Tammy Bruce (the nonbaldy above).

My call. I had enough of the Laker bashing. Especially the piling on Phil Jackson.

L.A.’s favorite team loses one playoff game, and this city loses it. The screaming comes in loud and clear on sports talk radio.

Take KLAA, the Angels’ station. When not dissecting every Halo pitch, the voices hang on every Laker shot and miss. I love it, but last week reached my limit. The morning show, “The Sports Lodge,” kept hammering Jackson, with Roger Lodge and sidekick Dave Smith yelling fire in a crowded radio booth.

So after the Lakers’ Game 4 loss at Denver, I entered the fray. Called in, heard Lodge say “Bucky from Buena Park” and took off.

After lauding the show for reaching our military heroes via Armed Forces Radio, I said: “I’m tired of your myopia when it comes to Phil Jackson. He’s the greatest coach in history. And he’s going to turn Lamar Odom into our J.R. Smith.”

That would be Odom, L.A.’s towering talent, and Smith, the cocky gun on the Nuggets. Or Thuggets, full of other tattooed snots.

The Thugs’ low came amid Smith’s 24-point blitz in Game 4. Flapped his elbows in Jackson’s face. The coach with nine NBA titles looked down to avoid giving J.R. — Just Rank— the eagle eye.

So there was Lodge’s Hollywood and Whine belittling Jackson. Saying Phil won all his titles only because of great players.

I responded: “He has great players now and will win it all.” For a record 10th NBA championship.

Lodge kept trying to make like a sports expert. Only he sounded like he was still hosting “Blind Date.”

The next two games, Odom produced in-your-face games, and L.A. is back in the NBA Finals. What was that about Jackson losing his touch, Lodge?

Dean Merrill. Remember that name. He’s the best on-air hoop analyst you’ve never heard of. That’s because he’s been a ref of high school and college games in the L.A. area, not a slickster on ESPN. Yet he dribbles circles around the network guys, notably Magic Johnson, who has two serious flaws: 1. He’s part owner of the Lakers, making his ESPN work unethical; 2. he’s terrible, with syntax to match.

Merrill scores big time. Strong voice. Stronger paragraph construction. Strongest points.

He comes on Jeff Biggs’ afternoon KLAA show and breaks down the playoffs like the point guard Magic used to be.

Why all the fouls against the Lakers? Don’t blame the refs, says Merrill. Denver was playing Crash Basketball, with all five players hitting the boards, vacuuming rebounds and drawing hacks.

Why Denver’s guard strength? Coach George Karl was playing muscular Chauncey Billups 43 minutes, keeping Jax from countering with skinny Jordan Farmar.

Merrill paints inside basketball like no one. Only Jon Barry on ESPN comes close.

The Dean of Hoops is so compelling, the message is obvious. He should have his own show.

Tammy Bruce. She has her own show, but you don’t hear it. Why? She’s buried on Saturday afternoons on KABC in Los Angeles.

The only folks listening are crazies like me. And I’m crazy about Tammy. She’s the best. Period.

She takes tough political stands. And sells them with her brilliant overture.

Last year she nailed it. Debated a London lefty who wailed about Bush the butcher. Tammy could’ve sunk in this anti-W muck. Instead she threw it in the Brit’s face, saluting the president’s liberation of 53 million people.

Tammy has guts and a cool delivery. Then she visited my paper’s office last week, and wow. Is she hot. And lesbian, so there went that idea.

Still, I want to turn her on. On the radio, that is. And if she makes the right move and leaves tone-deaf KABC, which should have her on drive time, I’ll click on her Internet show.

By then, she’ll have plenty to cheer. Starting with the Lakers’ championship.

Bucky Fox is an author in Southern California and the editor of

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Nothing New About This New York Mess

The 1962 New York Mets supposedly died with their 40-120 record. Their Marvelous Marv mishmash is just a joke of a memory.

Isn’t it?

Then again, it’s still live and in action.

The Mets who came to Los Angeles last week looked so laughable, you’d have thought Casey Stengel was still managing them.

Trivia: Why did the ’62 Mets lose just 120 games? They had one tie and a rainout they didn’t bother to make up.

Jerry Manuel is the skipper these days. Suffering through the flubs that Casey used for punch lines, Manuel doesn’t have the Ol’ Professor’s wit. Just his headaches. As when Ryan Church failed to touch third base, helping New York lose Game 1 of the three-game sweep.

Manuel’s standup went like this: “I can’t explain how or why or anything, but he actually missed the base.”


My only consolation is I had left Dodger Stadium in the eighth inning of that first game. So I missed Church’s sin. Plus a you-got-it-I-got-it fly ball that dropped in the Mets’ outfield. Plus a wide throw home that clinched their 3-2 loss.

Trivia: Who was the only future Hall of Famer on the ’62 Mets? Richie Ashburn.

The ’62 re-enactment continued in Game 2 in a 5-3 Met loss. When Dan Murphy pulled a Marvelous Marv in left field, L.A. air god Vin Scully said, “I can’t believe the New York Mets.”

I do. Even believe in them. Which is why I fought traffic to catch that series opener. I’ve been a blue-and-orange fan since Seaver and Koosman trumped ’62 with their Amazin’ title of 1969.

Trivia: Who played on all four teams that were originally in New York? Darryl Strawberry, Jose Vizcaino and Ricky Ledee.

I’ll hang with my team through these dark nights. How dark? Injuries to infielder Jose Reyes and his backup, Alex Cora. Leaving Ramon Martinez to go oh for 12 in the series.

Martinez was so limp, Scully said: “Ramon Martinez is about ready to put an ad in the paper to get a base hit.”

Ramon wasn’t alone. The Met bats had no news fit to print. By Game 3, all this team did was leave runners dead on base. And lose 2-1. And look ready to collapse from first to last place by season’s end.

This was supposed to be a showdown between two contenders. The problem was the Mets were more suited for the Laugh Factory on the Sunset Strip.

Still, watching the Mets at Dodger Stadium was a ball. Sat up in the stratosphere with season-ticket holders, and one of them was a living almanac. He offered tidbits such as:

What was the longest-running intact outfield? Pittsburgh’s Bob Skinner, Bill Virdon and Roberto Clemente from 1956 to ’63.

Then came this gem from another in the group:

What team has the longest current winning streak in World Series games? The Cincinnati Reds.

Such byplay at a major league game is unbeatable. Dodger Stadium makes it all the more enjoyable with the organ. While so many other ballparks blare rock music, Chavez Ravine sticks with Nancy Bea and her show tunes, such as Camelot’s “What Do the Simple Folk Do?”

We watch baseball.

For a Mets fan, that Think Blue aura was the only winner of the week.

Bucky Fox is the author of "The Mets Fan's Little Book of Wisdom" and CEO of