TribLIVE
Blogs | Sports | News
Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

« Font size »
Decrease | Reset |Increase

Morning Java: All they do is win, win, win

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

HARRISBURG – Morning, Lunatics …

>> There will be no chat this week because of the travel home from New York. Apologies for that. Tried to make it work. Just not practical.

I will, however, check in with TribLIVE Radio at 11:30 a.m.

After the Trib’s excellent Christmas bash tonight at the North Shore offices, I’ll pack up again tomorrow for the flight to Green Bay. And I’d be holding back if I didn’t admit to you right here that I’m looking forward to seeing Lambeau for the first time like … well, a kid on Christmas morning. Never been, always wanted to.

Oh, and I did I mention it’s supposed to be crazy cold?

Anyway, the combined fall of the Steelers and Packers is columnist Joe Starkey’s topic for the day.

Anyone seen Markus WheatonAlan Robinson puts out the APB.

Ramon Foster is Mr. Reliable, by Ralph Paulk.

Here’s our full Steelers coverage, including the Wisconsin snow forecast.

Here’s Packers news from the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Here are official game highlights from NFL.com.

>> The Penguins take the NHL lead in Ws by burying the Wild for a sixth consecutive victory. Josh Yohe reports from Consol.

Old friend Matt Cooke talks NHL violence, by Chris Adamski.

Here’s our full Penguins coverage.

Here’s Wild news from the Saint Paul Pioneer Press.

Here are official game highlights from NHL.com.

And in the spirit of all these young defensemen shining of late, here’s a bonus find for the morning: Jim Kubus, the Trib’s deputy managing editor for design, passed along this remarkable image of Ulf Samuelsson holding up a 9-month-old Philip Samuelsson during the 1992 Stanley Cup parade at Three Rivers.

FreezeFrame12.20

>> Pitt football misses out on another elite local talent, this from my alma mater, Jerry DiPaola reports. You have to wonder at which point this becomes a trend.

>> After the Green Bay game, I’ll be taking Christmas week off. There will, however, be a Monday edition of Morning Java.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and more, including his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the top four columnists in the country -- highest circulation category -- by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the top three columnists in the country by the National Headliners Awards. For 2013, he was named top columnist in the state by the Keystone Awards and second-place by the Pennsylvania AP Managing Editors.

211 Comments

  1. Wow. Recorded the Pens while working, then got home late and almost erased it without watching. Boy, am I happy I did watch it. How does this team keep rolling like this??

    Very happy for Maata, and I hope he finds that girl with the sign that said all she wanted for Christmas was him!

  2. The Packers aren’t the stacked, elite team they were the last time we faced them. But they haven’t fallen as far as we have. Rodgers is on the mend. If they make the playoffs and he’s running their offense, they can go deep. Only Seattle has separated themselves from the rest of the NFC pack.

    **************************************************

    21stheBest: I saw your quibble with what exactly it was NH said about lefty relief “specialists.” I guess I had purged the the “specialists” red herring part of the quote from my memory, just as it deserved to be, both then and now. Because the context was that the Pirates had just traded away John Grabow, their 8th inning set-up guy, and Tom Gorzelanny, who had become a long-relief guy. The “specialist” part of Huntington’s quip was not a fair description of the players involved and just a diversionary tactic, as the question he was answering was about the fact that the Pirates now had NO LEFTIES IN THE BULLPEN AT ALL (unless you count Donnie Veal, whom they wasted a roster spot on all year). Additionally, at the time Grabow was MORE effective against righties than he was against lefties.

  3. DK:
    How did Florida become the hottest team in the NHL?

  4. “After the Green Bay game, I’ll be taking Christmas week off.”

    You mean they won’t let you come home first?

    Now you can say you spent a week in Green Bay one night.

  5. JAL’s Walk Out to Winter Morning Links

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0NvZ4SsXAw

    GENERAL DAILY UPDATED BASEBALL SITES

    1- MLB Transactions

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/pittsburgh_pirates/

    3 MLB Important Dates

    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/schedule/important_dates.jsp

    BLOGS and such

    4—Pirates Prospects

    First Pitch: The 2014 Prospect Guide is Now Available

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/12/first-pitch-the-2014-prospect-guide-is-now-available.html

    5 Bucs Dugout

    Chris Stewart on umpires, shifts, and being traded to the Pirates

    http://www.bucsdugout.com/2013/12/19/5228478/chris-stewart-on-umpires-shifts-and-being-traded-to-the-pirates

    6 Rumbunter

    The Perfect Christmas Gift for That Hard to Please Clint Barmes Fan

    http://rumbunter.com/2013/12/19/christmas-gift-hard-please-clint-barmes-fan/

    7 Rant Sports

    Will Pittsburgh Pirates Begin The 2014 Season With Andrew Lambo As Their First Baseman?

    http://www.rantsports.com/mlb/2013/12/19/will-pittsburgh-pirates-begin-the-2014-season-with-andrew-lambo-as-their-first-baseman/

    8 Green Weenie

    12/19: Tommy O’Brien, Flop of the Year, Amos Otis, Jon Lieber…

    http://oldbucs.blogspot.com/2013/12/1219-tommy-obrien-flop-of-year-amos.html

    9 City of Champions

    Pittsburgh Pirates praised for 2013 draft class, plus Three Rivers, One Show podcast

    http://cityofchampionssports.com/2013/12/19/pittsburgh-pirates-praised-2013-draft-class-plus-three-rivers-one-show-podcast/

    10 Beach Lifestyle

    BeachLifestyle Radio Show-Al Oliver

    http://beachlifestyle.com/beachlifestyle-radio-show-al-oliver/#.UrQs1UC8BRV

  6. NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    11 Fox Sports

    Reports: Japanese team won’t allow MLB clubs to bid for righty Tanaka

    http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/japanese-pitcher-masahiro-tanaka-not-joining-major-league-baseball-121913

    12 Yahoo Sports

    Starlin Castro has $3.6 million seized in legal battle with Dominican baseball academy

    http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/starlin-castro-3-6-million-seized-legal-battle-233413499–mlb.html

    13 Deadline

    Thomas Tull Tapped For Baseball Hall Of Fame Board

    http://www.deadline.com/2013/12/thomas-tull-tapped-for-baseball-hall-of-fame-board/

    14 SB Nation

    The Best of Baseball 2013: A year-end list, part one

    http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/2013/12/19/5227634/-best-of-baseball-2013–mariano-rivera-tim-lincecum-alex-rios

    15 Baseball nation

    The rise of pitching helmets

    http://www.baseballnation.com/2013/12/19/5228158/pitching-helmets-headgear-brandon-mccarthy

    Pitcher helmets look silly? We’ll get over it.

    http://www.baseballnation.com/2013/12/19/5227512/pitcher-helmets-look-silly-well-get-over-it

    16 Belleville News Democrat

    Speed is in again for Major League Baseball

    http://www.bnd.com/2013/12/19/2968298/speed-is-in-again-for-major-league.html

    17 St Louis Post Dispatch

    Goold: Have the Cardinals found true glove?

    http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/birdland/goold-have-the-cardinals-found-true-glove/article_47a2f563-3846-5b31-bf72-9f307598109f.html

    18 Daytona Beach News Journal

    Commentary: Happy 125th to baseball great Fred Merkle!

    http://www.news-journalonline.com/article/20131219/SPORTS/131219396/1001?Title=Commentary-Happy-125th-to-baseball-great-Fred-Merkle-

    SPORTS WEBSITES

    19 Baseball Prospectus

    Managing Expectations

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22457

    20 Fangraphs

    Casey McGehee and Others Who Have Returned From Japan

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/casey-mcgehee-and-others-who-have-returned-from-japan/

  7. Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Steelers roster: Changes are coming, there is no doubt

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/12/19/5229130/steelers-roster-2014-projections-salary-cap-cuts

    5 Burning Questions Facing the Pittsburgh Steelers

    http://www.steelersgab.com/2013/12/19/jarvis-jones-or-leveon-bell-which-player-is-steelers-rookie-of-the-year/

    22 Steelers Gab

    Jarvis Jones Or Le’Veon Bell – Which Player Is Steelers Rookie of The Year?

    http://www.steelersgab.com/2013/12/19/jarvis-jones-or-leveon-bell-which-player-is-steelers-rookie-of-the-year/

    Soccer(football)

    23 LA Times

    U.S. finishes year 14th in world soccer rankings

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-sn-us-soccer-rankings-20131219,0,2168580.story#axzz2nyOK6XoQ

    24 World Soccer Daily

    Andre Villas-Boas carries the can for the mistakes of others

    http://www.worldsoccer.com/columnists/villas-boas-tottenham-sacked

    PENGUIN BLOGS and NHL Links

    25 Pensburgh

    5 reasons the Penguins are winning throughout the injuries

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2013/12/19/5227306/5-reasons-the-penguins-are-winning-throughout-the-injuries

    Song: Walk Out to Winter Aztec Camera

  8. Dejan, might I say, you definitely deserve a week off (if not more). Enjoy your family, enjoy the holidays.
    Merry Christmas.
    Oh, and thanks for everything you do here for us Loonies.

  9. ‘There will be no chat this week because of the travel home from New York. Apologies for that. Tried to make it work. Just not practical.’

    You know what makes it work. An airplane.

    Safe travels.
    :-)

    DK: You’re right. But I drove the whole family up this week. Brother lives there, and he took them all over the city while I worked.

  10. It was business as usual last night as the Pens scored a qoal first off and there were two fights and they won at home 5-2. What more could a hockey fan ask for?

  11. what’s even more amazing than the photo of Ulf and Phillip is the fact that 40,000 fans where at that Cup celebration…..just 300,000 or so less than after the ’09 win…….by the way Phillip will be catching hell from his team mates for that hat! Good Stuff.

  12. I’m sure the effort and maturity put forth by the WBS players hasn’t gone un-noticed by other teams around the NHL who might be targeting John Hynes for a head coaching job. Sure would hate to lose him.
    Ulfie’s picture with Philip……PRICELESS!

    • If someone in the NHL picks up Hynes, it would be a huge loss to this organization. His knowledge of the Pens systems and ability to put them in place in WBS has to be key to the successes of these young guys coming up. Would sure hate to lose that.

  13. Some on the Penguin’s game thread were upset by the two fights in the first period, which I missed. But from what I understand, Ballard was hitting low, which could cause injuries. Maybe someone should have hit him low, instead? Loser.

    • I’ve just heard that a recent CBC poll in Canada stated that 98% of the hockey fans were in favor of keeping violence in the game, while an ESPN poll taken in 2011 yielded similar results. Also, it seems as if most hockey players are accepting of or resigned to hockey violence, probably because they’re proud and want to prove how tough they are and can be, and it’s been said that unless the players someday soon get together and decide against the violence, it will remain and nothing will change.

  14. DK driving back from New York

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STt9dqPsFTE

    with friends.

  15. Baby Pens are the shot in the arm that our team needed. Tremendous energy, growing confidence, steadily improving play.

    On defense, making the simple, tape-to-tape passes out of the zone. On offense, d-men putting shots on net. Hope Letang is taking note.

  16. I just wanted to share this with you all…

    After getting fired from my job yesterday, I came home to find a package in the mail. It was from my husband’s cousin. She lives in a supportive living facility due to developmental issues. Inside the package was a Barbie Doll ornament! It touched my heart so much….I felt like all the kids I tried to help over the years were speaking to me through her, telling me it would be okay!

    Take nothing for granted ever.

    Merry Christmas,

  17. So the Pens just keep winning. I really like the simple play they are using with the young guys in the lineup. I hope Letang is taking notes.

    I’m afraid Matt Niskanen is playing himself out of Pittsburgh. If he maintains play the way he has in the beginning of the season, there is no way the Pens can afford to keep him here. He has played smart, smooth, and quick and unlike some other defensemen we watch, he finds a way to get the puck on net. Good for him. Seems like a nice guy.

    If Maatta isn’t considered for Calder at the end of the year, this league is broken. His play is unbelievable. Even when he makes mistakes, which he has, he doesn’t get frazzled or beat himself up, he just plays harder to get back into the play and make up for his mistakes, not unlike a certain 87 who is on the ice with him. Kid has natural talent oozing out of him.

    Speaking of 87, dat pass last night. Wow!

    • hey Ice, I follow your thinking on Niskie playing his way outta the ‘Burgh. But…what if…
      We keep Niskie and that makes Letang expendable? Not that I want that to happen, but, it’s a different perspective. Nice problem to have.

      • Can’t believe I just read that!

      • Jandstar, it wont be letang thats expendable if it comes to that…

      • I get hammered when I mention that, Jandy. I am not saying it out of disrespect for Tanger. In fact, it is just the opposite. If you have a lot of value, but maybe you play at a position of excess strength for your team, sometimes a trade works for all.

      • I’m not against that idea at all Jandy. This team is more about the unsung guys like Niskanen, Dupuis, Sutter and a few others that just continue to contribute and play good all around hockey. As awesome as Letang can be some of the times he often has lapses in judgment and hurts this team. I don’t think that will change and I think it hurts a lot more in the playoffs then it does in the regular season because of the style of play.

        The return for him would be fantastic. I’m not saying just do it at any cost but if the return is right and it can free up cap space going forward why not look into it.

    • Really was fun, wasn’t it, Ice? The Pens scored in about every way possible – jam it in, shot from the point, tip in a centering pass, score on a penalty shot. Didn’t see this one coming; I thought the guys would be tired. Silly me.

      • I thought for sure their collective butts would be draggin’.
        A pleasant surprise for sure :)

        • MN gave us a gift when they forechecked super hard right off the bat. We caught them with their forwards being too aggressive by moving the puck quick up the boards and with short passes at full speed right to the net. New puck support system is leaving teams at a loss as to what to do and how to defend. If they back off into the neutral zone we now bring our forwards back to support dmen up ice with speed and close support. If they’re too aggressive like MN was early last night we catch them with quick puck movement and short passes up ice right to their front door.

          Anyone else starting to miss the disco stretch? :)

          • The new breakouts have been great to watch. Using a variety of breakouts has proven to give opponents fits. Not only has Martin had an incredible impact on the defensive play of this team, but Disco Dan seemed to do some soul searching and video watching this offseason. I hope it all can continue.

        • I thought the same – a pleasant surprise for sure !
          Got another game tomorrow – 1 day to rest those young legs.

          • Yup. Hopefully Dumoulin is getting the same feedback that despres and bortuzzo have received about keeping it simple and not looking to cheat up ice to join the rush. He’s been caught in no mans land a few times last few games. Not saying he’s been bad but his positioning could be better and he needs to focus on keeping his feet moving too.

            Before i viewed Samuelsson as trade bait from the young batch but he’s starting to grow on me with decent IQ and positioning. And he has a very sneaky cross check that must be annoying to play against. He still holds onto the puck too long at times and needs to make quicker decisions but he’s playing his off side with despres. Which says something about what they think of samuelsson. He’d be better suited to play the left side and would probably make fewer mistakes but for them to give him that responsibility over despres says that they believe in his IQ, hands and skill level. Normally you’d want a skilled player to play their off side so not putting despres there says that they believe in 55.

      • I’m with you thinking they would be tired. Niskanen and Maatta both played a ridiculous amount of min in NY the night before and still both looked like they weren’t tired at all last night. This team sure is fun to watch.

    • Perhaps Niskie’s new partner is the reason why his game has ratcheted up his level of play? No disrespect to any of Niskanen’s past d partners – I am thinking of Engallend here. Might this phenomenon be somewhat similar to how James Neal’s play skyrocketed after playing with Geno?
      I am in no way comparing Geno with Maatta. Even I know that there is a world of difference :)

  18. So, it’s Wednesday night in NY. Very late. The Pens have just earned a hard fought shoot-out victory vs. the home team, which had rallied for 2 late goals to send it to OT. They collect themselves, get dragged to the airport and fly home. I’m thinking their heads hit the pillow at 2 or 3 a.m. in Pittsburgh – maybe later. It was their 3rd game in 5 days. Who could blame them for laying an egg in the 4th game in 6 days, vs a team that has been sitting and resting in Pittsburgh for a day? These stretches are a grind for any team.

    Not this team. Not these young legs. Not on Sid’s watch. Not on Kuni’s watch, or anyone else’s. They just went out and played with as much energy as they probably have all season. It was just stunning to watch. What a work ethic. What a team effort.

    The pass by Sid … Gotta be in his top 5 all-time.

    This team moves the puck so quickly – out of its own end, from side-to-side on power plays, etc. I guess we’ll find out later whether this is the high mark for the season, or just the start of a dominating run through the rest of the season. Whatever the case, this is great stuff.

  19. Bad Day on the Blue Jackets team bus. They choked away a 3 – 0 third period lead and lost to the Flyers last night. Mr. Umberger is having a less than good start to his Christmas season.

  20. Was the caption of that Freeze Frame Flashback really Son of Sam? I get the play on words, but I can’t believe it originally ran with that caption.

    Great picture of Ulfie and Phillip, though.

  21. So PITT football has a tremendous NEED …SPEED & SIZE for the defensive backfield for 2014.

    The WPIAL just so happens to have 2 of the finest seniors in the state graduating in that area.

    …and THUD. :-(

    PC and MAtt House whiff on 2 guys that live a “cab ride” from the stadium where the home team plays. I know you can’t bat 100% on all your needs….but if you are going to turn a program around…after 2-3 years on the recruiting trail…you have to do a better job than this….especially in an area where Pitt is so lacking. == > “WE HAVE TO RUN FASTER !”

    DK: Well, they DID get that lineman from Mt. Lebanon.

    • Friends, family, and co-workers wanted me to go to college locally. I went 500 miles away.

      One of best decisions I made in my life.

      When I came back home I had learned to “live.”

      Losing a local recruit may not be because Pitt can’t recruit.

    • Good point, Joey. Chryst seems to be doing a good job now of slowly keeping the stud OLine guys at home, with another good get this week. But, he is not keeping enough skill position guys around, and he is not making up for that well enough by getting kids from elsewhere to come to Pitt.

  22. Another “where did this come from” win last night.
    We knew Maatta could be good, but this?
    The Baby Pens will be scary good when the youngsters go back down…..that would mean both the big club, and little club will be in the hunt for championships.

    When the Pens get healthy, there might be some interesting decisions made.
    Maatta? Penalty shot? Really? :)

  23. 55 DAYS UNTIL PITCHERS & CATCHERS REPORT TO BRADENTON FOR SPRING TRAINING (Where is Jeff Clement?)

  24. I really dont understand the need to “tank” in the NBA at all.

    Yesterday, the 76ers, already one of the worst teams in the league, were thisclose to trading one of their only good players, Spencer Hawes, and a 1st round draft pick, to Houston for Omir Asik. The same Omir Asik that is hurt, and is out indefinitely. The same Omir Asik that had one career year last year, and has stunk the other years.

    2 years ago, the Sixers traded all-star Andre Iguodola for Andrew Bynum, who didnt play one minute for them due to injuries. Now they almost traded for another injured player.

    I just dont get it.

    • It is sort of like a disease slowly spreading through all of the Philly professional teams right now, plan. Acute cluelessness. At present, the Eagles are the only one not afflicted. And, even they gave up almost 50 points in Minnesota last week.

      • Jim, I just dont understand the need to deliberately tank.
        The Sixers were in an alternate universe, and started the season 5-3 i think. Reality has come fast, as they are 2-16 since. That is more their level.

        They are going to be one of the worst teams in the league regardless.
        Acute cluelessness is correct.

        • Plan, growing up, basketball was my favorite sport to play. I absolutely loved playing it and watching the NBA. I still love college hoops. But, try as I might every season, I just can’t stick with the NBA any more. I get excited in the playoffs for a particular series once in awhile. There’s just something about how once a team falls down it is so hard to build it back up again that bothers me. In the 3 other sports, if you go about it in an intelligent way, you can contend again in a few years after you have sunk to the bottom. It is not easy, as the Pirates have proven, but that was their own fault.

          In the NBA, it just seems so hard to build a winner. There are about, what, 5 impact players at most that enter the league each season? They constructed that lottery system for the top picks to keep teams from tanking purposely each season. I would have a hard time if my team were a middle of the pack team. That is death valley. You don’t get a lottery ball, and you have no chance of winning. You can be the smartest GM in the league and have no way to build a championship team w/o that #1 or #2 pick.

          I honestly don’t know what is going on in Philly. I assume they have been pretty inept, but I can see how it is pretty hopeless at times. D Rose is out here again, and no one is sure whether he will ever be the player everyone expected. So, do they tear the team apart? So much depends on 1 or 2 guys on an NBA roster.

    • Well, if ever there was a year to tank, it’s this year. Both Parker and Wiggins are likely to be available.

      Will see your Sixers tomorrow night, Plan, weather permitting. Part of my Bucks 10 game pack. Plenty of good sections available at the Bradley Centre.

  25. Just think if a Pittsburgh sports team (doesnt matter which one), would have this type of bobblehead for a player…………..

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/eye-on-baseball/24381320/photos-new-hunter-pence-bobblehead-is-outstanding

  26. Some guys just seem to find themselves at the center of big moments. Ollie Maatta, he of the extra letters in his last name, might just be one of those guys.

    I really thought the Pens were finally running out of steam a bit early in the 3rd period. The North Stars had just cut the once 4-0 cushion to 4-2, and the Pens committed 2 penalties in the space of 13 seconds. Uh oh! We know what usually happens to a supposed tired NHL team vs. a fresh one in that situation. The supposed tired team has no business killing both penalties. Sometimes, they get scored on twice there and the lead is gone. Watching at home, you are trying to make deals with fate. “We’ll be ok if we get out of this with a 4-3 lead.”

    That was high drama. The perimeter set up around Zoltan Zatkoff for that 2-man advantage was great. The spacing was terrific. Granted, that was not the Blackhawks trying to score there. But, the penalty kill was impressive nonetheless.

    It wasn’t enough for this team to just kill both penalties over nearly 2 full minutes. They decided to increase their lead, and rip the hearts out of the Wild right then and there. As Ollie hopped out of the box and took that pass, did anyone really think he was not going to find a way to put a dagger in Minnesota right there?

  27. Hey Brandie, For You:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-NB0GiPvh0

    Have a good one.

    Stuart

  28. Love the Ice Bowl Video. Interesting to watch old films where you can see the concussions of the old days. Check out 7:57 of the video where the tight ends head bounces off the frozen tundra of Lame-bo field.

    Lame-bo Field? Hallowed Grounds? Please. Memo to Derps: If you live in a city where the climate is -15 in December, Build a stadium with a roof.

  29. Note to DK** ” crazy cold”

    Its supposed to be 28 degrees at game time with flurries. Suck it up! My god.

  30. Thought I’d mention … Gregory Polanco is hitting .333 or thereabouts in the Dominican Winter League. He slugged HR #5 last night.

    Starling just started playing, and has been plunked 2 nights in a row – including on the left hand that forced him to leave last night’s game. I have not sifted through JAL’s notes yet to see if it is serious. That kid has to find a way to avoid getting HBP so much, especially in his hands.

    Ok, I return you back to talk of trading Christopher Letang and other Pens stuff. :-)

  31. Will it be cold enough for DK to try to freeze coffee in front of his hotel? :)

  32. Thank you, JAL, for Link #10 – an interview on Beachlifestyleradio with Super Scoop! My avatar! My hero as a young Bucs fan, the great Al Oliver. I have only gotten through about 10 minutes of the interview so far, but I think I love Al Oliver more now than I did as a kid – if that is even possible.

    He talked about his arrival with the Bucs in his first spring training at 19, and about meeting The Great One for the first time. He said that was an intimidating experience. He also talks about how his mom had passed away a year or two before that, and then his dad, and suddenly he was faced with trying to succeed as a big league player while also needing to assume responsibility for taking care of his younger brother and sister. That is a lot of responsibility and growing up to do so fast for a 19 year old kid.

    He said that he was able to do it because of the character he inherited from his dad, who had been stricken with an illness and quickly went from being a very healthy and strong man, to a very sickly man, to being gone in a very short space of time. He said his dad never complained, never whined about his illness. His only words to Al were, “Please take care of your younger brother and sister when I’m gone.” Al got the message loud and clear.

    My memories of Al as a player were that he hit line drive after line drive after line drive. .300+ lifetime hitter. But, I always found his treatment by the local media to be a bit unfair. I felt he was always portrayed in a bit of a negative way. It was always written, as I recall, that he felt under-appreciated. Maybe that is the curse of living in the shadow of Roberto and Willie.

    Anyway, Al devotes his time now to helping people live a better quality of life. I love Al Oliver more now than I did even as a kid. Good for you, Al!! Not changing my Avatar any time soon.

    • I’ve always loved Al too. And I’ll never forget when he spoke at my Little League banquet around 1973. beth Shalom Synagogue. He said he was the best centerfielder in baseball. Later he took questions and a teammate, the commissioner of the league’s son asked him why he was so conceited. It was pretty priceless. But Al was terrific.

      • You’re right, 21. They talked alot about him being conceited. After reading about how he chooses to spend his time now, a time when most people would retire and relax, I would say he is anything but conceited. In fact, he seems pretty selfless.

        So, maybe just “confident” would describe him better back then.

  33. Outstanding Morning Java today. Love that photo of Ulf Samuelsson. And just had three co-workers watching the Ice Bowl video.

    A few things I found interesting. The church shown at the :06 mark is St. Willebrord Catholic Church in downtown Green Bay. It is located kitty-corner to another Green Bay architectural landmark, the Brown County Courthouse. Vince Lombardi was a devout Catholic and was a daily Communicant at that church. To this day, the faithful of that Parrish avoid sitting in the part of the pew where Lombardi routinely sat for Mass.

    I also noted the Pabst Brewing Company scoreboard. Pabst was once a proud Wisconsin brewery. It got bought out by Miller and, when retirement benefits were severely cut by the company, a lot of bad blood flowed. It is now based in La La land, I believe.

    I will say this about Lambeau Field. It has changed with the new facade and atrium and, before that, the construction of indoor luxury suites. But when you enter it, you still see the outline of the classic stadium made legendary by NFL Films. You feel the ghosts there and its eternal connection with small town America.

    I’ve been there several times and drive by it a few times a month. When you take the Lombardi exit off Highway 41 and the stadium comes upon you on the right like a massive, silent sentinel, dominating the horizon and looking over the flat Green Bay landscape lacking any buildings of significant height, the first thing that comes to mind is astonishment that a professional franchise in the billion dollar NFL plays in this town. Nothing like it in all of professional sport, I dare say. It is almost impossible not to check cynicism at the stadium gates.

    Weather forecast for Sunday is temps at 24/10 with a 90% chance of snow. The weather folks are covering there backsides, as usual, but snow totals throughout Sunday morning and the game range from 2-10 inches, depending on the push from the Gulf of Mexico. Been to a fair share of games there, but never in snow.

    DK: Yikes. (Heads back to bags to pack even more.)

  34. Always loved seeing pictures of old baseball parks hosting football games.

    In 2015, it happens again………………

    http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/10171445/notre-dame-fighting-irish-visit-fenway-park-alamodome-future-shamrock-series-games

  35. And Pitt loses another one………

    RB Shai Mckenzie commits to Virginia Tech.

    Coach Chryst, you need to do better, sir.

  36. Forgot to mention this earlier but really like the symmetry of Maatta taking a good penalty and saving a goal on one end then popping out of the box for a breakaway and PS at the other. So much for feeling shame in the sin bin.

    Also been meaning to give Sutter some big ups for his recent play and production. Was obvious early on that he needed more help on the wall and with possession than Kokasew or d’agastini could offer so nice to see him show the form we expect and come thru in the clutch with geno out and experience being thin.

  37. Caught the last period of the Pens game last night. Man those guys are on fire and Maatta is very impressive.

    Was very surprised and impressed with the way they handled the 5-3.

    Always seems like they have to put you in suspense in the last period though, perhaps like basketball, that last few minutes are the most exciting.

    Last day at work today, house getting packed up the day after Christmas. Going to be a busy next couple of weeks. Probably won’t be in here much, unless DK continues to tweet out his link to the blog.

    Happy Holidays everybody…….even you Plan….Ha Ha. (seriously though, no hard feelings)

  38. Well, at least the Pens are operating these days like a well oiled machine and, hopefully, that well oiled machine can win their 10th straight at home tonight.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.


Other Blogs
Sports: Dejan Kovacevic | Steel Mill | Chipped Ice | Bucco Blog | Sitting Ringside | Pitt Locker Room | Penn State Sports | H.S. Sports Insiders
News: This Just In | Trib List
» Top TribLIVE.com Sports
» Top TribLIVE.com News
» Top TribLIVE.com Breaking News