Sports: Thoughts

Lot’s going on in the sports world, and not all of it good or uplifting news, but I will discuss some of the bigger stories, and some things going on in Western Pennsylvania. Most of the problems in sports are, in my view, media driven.  The media, a lot of times, even creates the problem, and does little to come up with a solution.  Every problem has a solution, but sometimes it is never found.  One media driven problem is that baseball will have a strike when the labor agreement ends. It is the example of the media’s obsession with predicting gloom and doom.  The media, whether its the sports or news, thrives on trying to create fear, anger, and stress.  They like to call it keeping everyone informed. Do they ever keep you informed of good things?  The answer is rarely.  But now to the world of sports.

Baseball elected two new members to the Hall of Fame.   Derek Jeter and Larry Walker became the newest members of the Hall.  Both players were deserving, and it is a shame that Walker had to wait until his last year on the ballot to gain entrance. The steroid issue came up, with Bonds and Clemens making very small gains, around 1 to 2%, which does not bode well for their future chances. Many of the same people that are appalled at the Astros sign stealing methods, still voted for Bonds and Clemens.  They acquired their astronomical statistics from cheating.  You hear all kinds of excuses for voting for Bonds and Clemens.  I am not even going dignify these lame reasons by listing them.  Here is a possible solution to the problem.  Take away all the stats they acquired while on PED’s.  Everybody knows when they started to take the drugs.   All you have to do is look at Bond’s and see when his head got as big as a basketball.  This may help Bonds and Clemens get into the Hall of Fame because their stats are that good before they took PED’s.  The record book will look a lot better with Hank Aaron at the top of the career leader board and Roger Maris the season leader in home runs.    Of course the media is still talking about the Astros.  They want the players to apologize and if they do, then everything will be fine. Please move on from this but I know this will not happen.

Then there is the Pittsburgh Pirates.  What are you doing? I don’t mean the what are doing, when you see someone putting peanut butter on a medium rare filet mignon. I mean, the what are you doing with the rest of your life.  Are they going to rebuild or not.   Of course, by the time I get to the end of this sentence Starling Marte could be traded, but lets assume the Pirates are going with what they have in 2020.  What  they have is 6 solid players at 1st, 2ond, SS, LF, CF,and catcher. In fact they have a top 10 first baseman, left fielder, and center fielder, in all of baseball.  The two big holes are 3rd base and right field. There are two things that this management team must be hoping for, or counting on. One, that Gregory Polanco can play 130 to 140 games. I don’t think they even care how well he plays them, just that he plays them.  Two, Ke’Bryan Hayes is ready for the major leagues.   The other big weakness in 2019 was the pitching staff.  Without any additions to the staff, management is hoping for the new coaching staff to really improve the performance of this staff.  It could happen.  As a long time Pirate fan I am very comfortable with the current situation, and I think this team could contend with the above happening.  Even though the moves of this team have been very very modest to say the least, they have upgraded a horrible defense.  We are about 2 months from opening day and a lot could still happen, which could change the outlook, but for now I say things are looking up.

A couple of brief comments to finish up.  I only follow college basketball peripherally, during the regular season, but it does seem that the top 5 in basketball, is losing on a regular basis.  I often think, that there will be an NCAA basketball tournament someday, that will have the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th seed as the final four.  Maybe this will be the year.  Another week, where a couple of NFL players were arrested, which still makes me think that there should be a clock on NFL.com running with the caption, it’s been this long since an NFL player has been arrested.  A week from Sunday is the SUPER BOWL, between Budweiser and Frito Lay.  I think that Budweiser will win the commercial battle by 2.  I have one final question. Does anybody watch all of the Super Bowl pre game shows, from beginning to end, even just on one network.  I hope not, but there probably is. There is something wrong when the event is bigger than the game.  Congratulations NFL for making your championship game, irrelevant.

Sports: Astros Much Ado About Nothing

The sign stealing scandal of the Houston Astros has the baseball world talking, with   MLB Network almost giving  it 24 hour coverage.  There is outrage everywhere, and talk of vacating the Astros World Series title. According to the media, players have been scarred for life, because of the way the Astros beat them.   Some of the coverage and writing acts like this is something new to baseball, cheating.  You have got to be kidding, me.  Baseball has had the most cheating, and circumventing of the rules than any sport in history, and this goes back to the very beginning of the game.  The team of the 90’s the Baltimore Orioles were one of most cheating teams in all of baseball.  The Baltimore Orioles were the  team of the 90’s? Yes they were the best team of the 1890’s.  More on that later, but let me clear up one thing here.  I do not condone what the Astros did in the least.  In fact, I am not sure the penalties were harsh enough.  I suspect that Alex Cora may get a 2 year suspension.  However, this idea that the Astros title should be vacated is absurd.  None of the biggest cheaters have ever had their records removed from baseball.  Go to any statistical site and you will find that Barry Bonds is  the all time home run leader.  In my mind Hank Aaron still is.    People that write about vacating the Astros title, probably vote for Bonds and Clemens to get into the Hall of Fame.  Let’s look at all the cheating that has gone on in baseball over the years, and I will try to keep this brief, but it will be difficult.

There are many areas of the game that players and coaches have figured out, how to cheat. . The steroid era, which saw so many home run records broken, and MLB did nothing about it, until forced, because home runs started to fill the seats, when it was desperately needed.  In fact 6 of the top 15 home run leaders all time were considered steroid users.  Considering the steroid era lasted around 10 years, that is quite a high number.  Nobody is changing the records books any time soon. Many people feel that steroids saved baseball, because of all the exciting home run races and the records that were broken in a short period of time.  Next we have pitchers, doctoring up the ball, by applying substances to the ball or roughing up the ball with sandpaper and nail files.  The spit ball has a long and interesting history.  It  was made illegal, when it was thought a spit ball  hit a player in the head and killed him around 1920.  What was interesting about making the spitball against the rules, was that pitchers that were highly skilled in throwing the pitch were grandfathered in, and were allowed to throw the pitch until they retired.  See, baseball has always had screwed up thinking.  The advantage of  making the ball slippery whether by spit, or a substance like vaseline, is that it would take spin off the ball so the ball would act a lot like a knuckle ball, but with more speed.  The most famous spit ball pitcher of the modern era was Gaylord Perry  and of course he was rewarded for his cheating by being elected to the Hall of Fame.  Another victory for cheating in baseball.  Then we have doctoring the bat by using pin tar and cork.  The best bat doctoring though has to be by those 1890’s Baltimore Orioles, who would shave down one side of the bat to make bunting easier, which was a major part of the game at that time.  Finally there has been gambling, that has tainted baseball.  Pete Rose and the Chicago White Sox of 1919 and the players involved were banned from baseball for life.  You can do lot’s of things in baseball but don’t bet.

Now, lets turn to that team of the 1890’s the Baltimore Orioles of the National League, the only league at the time. They were, by far, the dominate team of the decade.  This team did not stop at just shaving bats to gain an edge.  This team sneaked balls into the outfield so if a ball got past them they would be able to get to the other ball quicker. They blocked opposing runners in the base paths. They interfered with foul balls near their dugout. They did many other things to break the rules.  The press called their play “aggressive” and chastised teams that played more by the  rules.  The entire National League was a rough and rowdy league.  Fans were finally beginning to tire of the act.  Thus the American League was born, and vowed to clean up the game and play by the rules.   The league was founded in 1901, which was basically a league derived from the Western League.  Their success was rapid to the point, that the first World Series was played in 1903 between the two leagues, with the Boston Americans beating the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 9 game series.  If it wasn’t for cheating the American League may have never existed.  That brings us back to sign stealing, which has been going on forever.  Now, even Bobby Thompson’s shot heard around the world is “tainted” because the Giants devised something to get the info to Thompson before the pitch.  Really now, after almost 70 years that home run is diminished.  Maybe we should vacate the Giants National League pennant.  Let’s face it cheating has benefited the game more than it has hurt it.  Steroids brought the crowds back into the stadium, it helped start the American League, and it got rid of the dead ball era after the Black Sox scandal. Ten years from now someone will find a new way to circumvent the rules.   Cheating is part of the folklore of baseball and despite the severe penalties for this latest sign stealing scandal, the game will move on and most likely thrive. Let’s hope the media can, but I am not too sure.

Sports:1965-66 Pittsburgh Pirates the Team Time Forgot

The Pittsburgh Pirates last World Series Championship was 1979, with the Willie Stargell, we are family Buccos, and a thrilling 7th game win over the Baltimore Orioles. The other championship seasons for the Pirates were 1909, 1925, 1960, and 1971.  The group that won the championships in 1909, 1925, and 1971, had some good runs of 3 to 4 years, that included a championship season.  The 1960 and 1979 Pirates had, that one year, of a magical combination of camaraderie, skill, and luck that led to a world championship. Then there was the  run of the Barry Bonds Pirates, that won three straight division titles in 90, 91, and 92, but could never quite make it to the world series. They are still talked and written about today. But a team that is rarely mentioned is the Pirates of 1965 and 66. For 1.9 seasons, they played some of the best baseball, this town has ever seen. From May 21 1965 until Oct 3 1966 the Pirates won 173 games and lost 108. From May 21 in 1965 they finished the season 81 and 48 for a winning percentage of .628.  Translated into a 162 game season that would be 102 wins for the year. In 1965 they were 90 and 72 and in 66 they were 92 and 70.  Unfortunately, there was a team out in Los Angeles that was simply better.

The beginning of the 1965 season marked the end of the first Danny Murtaugh era in Pittsburgh.  He had managed the Pirates to the 1960 World Series victory over the Yankees and the Pirates had mostly good years under his regime which began in mid season of 1957.   The new manager of the Pirates was Harry “The Hat” Walker.  Nicknamed the hat for way he always adjusted his hat between pitches, when he was batting.  There were no helmets in those days, when Walker played.  He was one of the most respected hitting instructors in baseball, and the Pirates developed into one of the best hitting teams in baseball during the next 2 years.  The Pirates still had a good core from the 1960 team which included Bill Mazeroski, Roberto Clemente Bill Virdon and pitchers Vernon Law and Bob Friend.  But this was a team with lots of new faces.  Don Clendenon was at 1st, Gene Alley was the new shortstop, and a young Willie Stargell was the left fielder.  Bob Bailey, the new Pirate bonus baby as they liked to call them in those days, was the third baseman.  Jim Pagliaroni  and veteran Del Crandell anchored the catching.    The pitching staff besides Friend and Law had the fire balling Bob Veale and Don Caldwell to round out a solid rotation and Tommie Sisk was a spot starter. The season did not get off to a great start to say the least.  Bill Mazeroski had a broken foot suffered in spring training, and would not  field his position until mid May.  Roberto Clemente suffered a thigh injury in winter baseball, that would hamper him the first half of the season, and cause him to miss about 10 games in April.  Despite all of this the Pirates jumped out to a 5 and 2 start thanks to some very strong starting pitching, particularly by Bob Veale. But then they went on a skid, that would take them to 9 and 22.  Bill Mazeroski started his first game at second base on game 32, but even that could not get the Bucs going as they lost their next 2 games to drop to a season worse 9 and 24. At this point in the season, Harry Walker was considered more of a pain in the ass with his incessant talking and constant hitting instruction.  He really seemed to bug the great one, Roberto Clemente.  But from that point on this team really jelled.  They won their next 12 games, and became one of the best hitting teams in baseball the rest of the season and into 1966. After the 12 game winning streak, they lost their next 2 games, but then ran off another 7 in a row.  For the rest of the summer they treaded water, and finished at the All Star break 44-43.  They continued to have ups and downs after the break, until about mid August, and then they ran off a nice 12 and 2 streak.  The streak was highlighted by a great double header win over the Dodgers at Forbes Field. They beat Sandy Koufax in 11 innings in the first game 3-2, and Vernon Law out dueled  Don Drysdale 2-1 to win the second game, and move the Pirates to within  2.5 games of first place in the National league.  But alas, that would be as close as they would get. Even though they finished strong, by winning their last 4 games to finish 90-72, it would not be enough and they finished 3rd.  But it was one hell of a run in 1965. Vernon Law got the comeback player of the year, as well.

There was great hope entering the 1966 season with that great finish of 65.  The Pirates now loved the fact that Walker talked so much.  Even Clemente was getting use to hit. The 66 season saw the Pirates contend from the beginning. They got out of the gate quickly and were in first place from April 18th to May 4th.  They stayed near the top the rest of way until they regained first place on July 14th.  They remained in first or second except for one day until September 28. They were only 1.5 games out of first place with 3 games to play but were swept by the Giants and finished 3rd again only 3 games back.  It was the first year that Steve Blass contributed to the season in a big way with a an 11 and 7 record and ERA of 3.87.  This team could hit and they were a grinding team.  Their longest win streak was 6 and longest losing streak was 4.  They were never below .500 for the entire season.  They did everything well.  They seemed like a team that could take it all in 1967.  But again, it was not meant to be.  They acquired Maury Wills in the off season and it seemed that this would be the catalyst to propel the Pirates to the World Series.  The 67 team did not jell, however, and Walker was fired in mid season with Murtaugh taking over, but the results were the same.  It would only be Blass, Stargell, Clemente, and in a minor way Mazeroski, to be around for the run in the early 70’s that would bring the next title to the Pirates.  But, for  that two year period, this Pirate team played some great baseball, and was an exciting group to watch. They just couldn’t get to the big stage.  In my mind, it still does not diminish the way they played the game. I will always remember them and that magical stretch they had from mid May of 1965.

Golf: The Brain

This blog could be the blog about making a blog.  It started out looking at one particular area and then turned into it’s current state, a mixed bag of end of the year thoughts, and highlights. Confused, you should be on my end of this blog. Like most stories, let’s start at the beginning.  The original idea for this golf blog was to look at the right brain, and see if we use the right brain  enough, when we are playing golf. The difference, between the right brain and the left brain, is that the right brain is the more intuitive side, and the left brain is the more factual side.  The left side tells you, this is a pen, and your right side tells you how to use it.  There are lots of articles, and even books about right and left brain dominance, some of which, I have read.  It was thought, that people could be more right brain dominate, and others could be left brain dominate.   I am not going to expound any more about this subject, and  how this affects an individual, because in researching this theory, I found out this is all hogwash.  Boy, do I wish I hadn’t read those books, that proposed the left right brain theory.   More up to date data shows that there is more communication between the left and the right brain than was thought previously.  Even though the right brain may be more intuitive and creative, it is being shown that the left brain may still be driving the bus. This so called dominance of one brain over the other is simply not true. This shot a hole in the idea that maybe we are not as intuitive as we should be on the golf course, especially if we are left brain oriented . This is found in an internet course called Brain Myths Exploded, lessons from Neuroscience.  It is an 11 hour course and I am about half way through it.

Considering, that I am still thinking that this game is 100% mental, once you reach a certain level, I find all this new information on the brain very interesting. Instead of this idea, that one side of the brain is dominating the other side of the brain, maybe it is the lack of communication of the two sides, when we are playing, that causes us to play so poorly at times, or to hit a particular bad shot. This could be saying the say thing as the domination factor,  just in a different way, but I doubt it. Lack of communication is not the same thing as dominance. Meanwhile, unless we get some unusual weather here in the Burg it may be awhile before I get to test out any of these theories. The brain probably is the most important club in the bag when it comes to playing golf. We just don’t know how far we can hit it, yet.

On a more personal note I am headed to San Diego for Christmas with the grandkids and family.  Looking forward to that trip, and seeing everybody.  I was able to play a few more rounds of golf, since the end of the season golf blog.  I wound up playing 135 rounds of golf this year, which is more than last year but just a little shy of my record of 150 rounds.  It will be tough to break that record, because  a lot of 36 hole days were played that year, and I think those days are behind me.  I think I can still play 36 holes in one day but not on a regular basis like I did 3 or 4 years ago.  The weather was better this year, which helped in getting more rounds in, than last  year. My most recent round was highlighted my a near hole in one.  On the 17th hole at Ponderosa I hit a cutting 7 iron about 140 yards into a cold wind that stopped about 3 inches behind and right of the hole.  It was a close call for hole in one number 6.   It has been a good year over all and I hope that I continue to have good health and be able to play this goofy game as much as I want. There may be one more blog before the end of the year but if there is not, Happy New Year, and see you in 2020.

 

Sports: Pirates, Management Team in Place, What’s Next.

Well, the Pirates have a manger, a general manager and a President, finally.  They shall remain nameless in this blog to protect their families.  The question now is, what are they going to do.  The consensus is that the Pirates need to tear it down and rebuild.  If you watch MLB Network, there doesn’t seem to be any other way for the Pirates to get back on top. Certainly, for the new management team, this is the safest way to go. If you are rebuilding you are going to get at least a 2 year reprieve on criticism and maybe even a third.  It is the cheapest way to go.  Even though the payroll of the Pirates is one of the smallest in baseball,  it can be pared down even further, by trading Starling Marte, Chris Archer, Gregory Polanco, and Keone Kela.  With the exception of Polanco, they should all bring back some good prospects and they are, by far,  making the most money.  Trading them would more than make up for the money be paid to Huntington and Hurdle over the next two years.  Polanco was called one of the most disappointing players in all of baseball, by Joel Sherman on MLB Now, the show for the thinking fan. Geeze, and I thought I was hard on Polanco. The point is, he probably is not going to get much of a return.  The rebuild proponents, which there are many, point to  the 93 losses the Pirates suffered this past year, as the reason this team needs to start over.   But let’s just wait one gall darn minute here.  At the All Star break this team was 44 and 45, and about 3 games out of first place.  Then they collapsed mightily, on and off the field.  So are you going to base a rebuild on just a 2 month bad stretch.  Granted, they have not come close to making the playoffs since 2015, but at least when they take the field this is not a bad or old team.

According to Baseball Reference, by measuring , Wins Above Replacement, a player value stat (WAR) the Pirates have 5 solid Major Leaguers in Josh Bell, Adam Frazier, Kevin Newman, Bryon Reynolds and Starling Marte.  WAR is a production number, so the more you play the more your WAR can go up. Jacob Stallings with only 71 games played and 210 plate appearances had a WAR of 1.4 with 2 being a Major League starter.  With more starts Stallings should be able to hit that 2 number easily. That would give the Pirates 6 position players considered Major League starters. Compare that with the rest of the NL Central at the moment.  The Cincinnati Reds have just one, the Milwaukee Brewers 3, the St. Louis Cardinals 5 and the Chicago Cubs 7.  I know that gives Stallings the benefit of the doubt on a small sample size but who cares.  The Pirates starting 8 is pretty good and the oldest member of the group is Marte at age 30.  The Pirates have 2 glaring weaknesses third base and right field.  How they will deal with that I have know idea and again I do not care.  I know the pitching is a mess but there is lot’s of pitching out there on the free agent market.  The management team has not really given us a clue on what they will do, but it will become evident, as this offseason moves along what’s going to happen.

Derek Shelton, the new Pirate manager, (sorry Derek I mentioned your name) said that this will be a fun clubhouse.  He may be the first manager to win Manager of Year and lose 95 to 100 games, if he can keep that promise.  I can hear Bob Walk saying after the 95th loss, ” This is the happiest I have ever seen the Pirate clubhouse since I have started broadcasting. They weren’t this happy when they first made the playoffs in 2013″.  Bringing happy and losing together, would be quite an accomplishment for the new Pirate manager. In case you haven’t figured it out, I am against the rebuild solution to the Pirate situation.  Have a 140 million dollar payroll,  make a few good trades, and this team can contend. What ever happened to that saying, the nucleus is there.  How big does a nucleus have to be for it to be significant.  The Pirates have 6 in the field and despite the pitching being such a disaster they have about 4 or 5 solid arms. In my view that’s enough to add on, not tear down and start over again.

Sports: Devaluing Conference Champions

This week is Championship Week in college football.  There are the 5 power conference championship games, this weekend, that will have little or no significance on the College Football Playoff rankings.  This week more than any other shows the fallacy of the playoff system in college football.  The best thing you can say about it is, it’s better than nothing and better than picking just two teams.   You will hear on Sunday night such terms as meeting the eye test, most deserving and total body of work, on the self serving ESPN network.  This is a perfect example of a sport, and a sports network  thinking that their fan base is just plain stupid.  There is no other sport that picks their champion by such obscure phrases.  All other championships are decided on the field, not by some closed door committee. Granted, there are some at large bids for the NCAA tournaments, but the majority of the teams are in the tournament by winning their conference championship games, and there are 64 teams in the tournament.  Let’s look at what will probably happen this weekend, but also, what could  happen this weekend, which will have little bearing on the final four.

The biggest game of the five is LSU vs. Georgia, for the SEC Championship. This game will dictate what the weekend will be like.   LSU is about a touchdown favorite to win the game and a victory would eliminate Georgia from the top 4, unless a lot of other things happen. This puts Georgia under more pressure to win the game.   If Georgia pulls off the upset, then LSU would most likely stay in the top 4, and compete for the National Championship. For Georgia, it is a win or most likely go home scenario, which doesn’t seem quite fair.  The same thing can be said of the Ohio St. vs Wisconsin game.  If Wisconsin  pulls off the big upset, that probably won’t get them in the top 4, but it is unlikely to knock  Ohio St. out of the top four.  Wisconsin, would probably have to win by 14 or more points, to put Ohio St. out.   If  OSU, LSU, and Clemson, all win, and Clemson is almost a 30 point favorite to beat Virginia,  then it all boils down to the two winners of the Big 12, and Pac 12 Championship games. Then the committee would have to choose one and those phrases will be rolling off everybody’s tongue, come Sunday night. No matter what happens, one conference champion will not get in the playoffs, and if one or more upsets occur, as many as 3 conference champions will not have a crack at the National Championship.  Talk about making conference championships insignificant, the NCAA does it again. Of course, there is an easy solution to the unfairness of the whole mess.

The winners of the five conference championship games make the playoffs.  These are the five power conferences, and if you win your championship game you should move on. This is what sports are all about. What happens when Notre Dame has a great year. Just join the ACC Notre Dame, they need you really bad, and with this system, now you need them.  The end of the season games are more significant, and a conference championship game should be a playoff game. So how would the playoffs go from that point on.  The two lowest ranked teams that won would play the next week, and the winner would occupy the fourth spot. The schedule would then proceed as it is now.  Let’s look at those three disgusting phrases that are now used to pick the 4 teams. This team meets the eye test.  In other words, they look like the best team when you watch them play, and in many stats categories.   How many teams in other sports look great to the observer, but still lose the big game.  Try, too many to count.   The most deserving team, due to a tougher schedule, some  heartbreaking losses or who knows what.  Some times you don’t always get what you deserve.  Welcome to the real world.  The total body of work.  Three teams,  Ohio State, LSU, and Clemson, are going into these Championship games undefeated and untied.  Many people are of the belief, if these teams lose, they are one loss teams that DESERVE to go on, because of their total body of work.  Should they have made the New York Giants defeat the New England Patriots twice, because the Patriots were 18-0 going into that Super Bowl. That was a nice body of work, until the Super Bowl.  How can any team have a chance at a National Championship in football, and lose their conference championship game. The committee and ESPN will try and convince you, if that happens.  There is only one way to determine a champion and that is on the field.  Playoff football is different.  When is college football ever going to realize this.

Sports: John Henry Johnson

John Henry Johnson was one of the best running backs in NFL history, playing from 1954 to 1966. When he retired, he was the fourth leading rusher of all time.  However, it took 21 years to get him elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  So what made me think of John Henry Johnson this particular week, a running back who played over 50 years ago.  For some reason, his career has always been over looked by the media, and the football hierarchy. This past 2 weeks, it has happened again, and to me, it just seems mystifying.   The NFL, celebrating 100 years, is starting to announce all time teams, and John Henry Johnson was nowhere to be found.  When the Browns and Steelers met 2 weeks ago there were local articles about some of the more memorable Steeler-Brown games. Of course, they left out the most memorable Brown-Steeler game.

It was October 10, 1964, on a Saturday night, at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium before 80,000 fans.  This was the second of  8 games, where Pittsburgh went up to Cleveland on Saturday night, beginning in 1963, and ending in 1970.  This was the only game the Steelers would win on Saturday, in Cleveland, but that was not the reason this game was the most memorable of the series.  The 1964 Browns would go 10-3-1, and win the Eastern Division title and then go on to beat the Baltimore Colts 27-0, after a scoreless first half, to win their last NFL title. But on this rather pleasant Saturday night in Cleveland, the Pittsburgh Steelers would reign supreme.   This was the John Henry Johnson game.  He would carry the ball 30 times, gain 200 yards, score 3 touchdowns and lead the Steelers to the upset win 23 to 7.  There were many things that were significant, in this performance.  He is still the oldest player in NFL history to rush for 200 yards in a game, being about 5 weeks shy of his 35th birthday.  He went on to gain over a 1000 yards for the 14 game season and is still the oldest running back in NFL history to rush for 1000 yards.  This against one of the best Cleveland Browns team in their long and illustrious history.  This is by far, the most memorable Pittsburgh-Cleveland game.

Now, one season, and one game, where you out shine the great Jim Brown, does not make you one of the top 12 running backs of all time.  John Henry Johnson, however, had a long and illustrious career. He had a better career than either Steve Van Buren or Marion Motley who are on the top 12 running back list.  He played in more games, rushed for more yards and had more receiving yards than both players. He was between Van Buren and Motley on career touchdowns.   He won an NFL Championship with the Detroit Lions in 1957, and to this day is the only black player to win an NFL Championship in Detroit.  But, he was known just as much, for his outstanding blocking.  Maybe too well known, and described better, as vicious blocking.  He reportedly broke many a jaw and face and some of these in exhibition games.  He ended Charlie Trippi’s career with a hit that broke his nose and fractured his skull, in an exhibition game.  Was it this style of play, that made people want to forget John Henry?  When someone ask Jim Brown, arguably the greatest running back of all time, who is the best running back he had ever seen, without hesitation, he said John Henry Johnson.  Johnson started his career in San Francisco, where he was part of the million dollar back field, of Y. A. Tittle, Joe Perry, and Hugh McElhenny. He did more blocking during those years or his stats would have been even better.  This is the only backfield that has all members in the Hall.   It was always a bit of mystery why he was not elected to the Hall of Fame sooner.  People that truly know the game,  knew that he was one of the top 12 running backs of all time, maybe even in the top 6. When Cleveland comes to Pittsburgh this Sunday to face the Steelers in round 2, and we know how the first game ended, I will be thinking of John Henry Johnson, one of the all time greats.  The thing I will be thinking is, I wonder whose jaw he would break to retaliate. He probably wouldn’t be fined or suspended either.  John Henry Johnson died in 2011. At his Hall of Fame induction speech, in 1987,  he said he thought he would be dead first, before he got into the Hall.  Thank God, he was wrong.   I don’t think it was a coincidence that he was in the same class as another Steeler, Mean Joe Greene.