Thursday, July 27, 2017

U.S. Takes CONCACAF Gold Cup, Yanks Sweep Reds


Last night, for the 6th time, the U.S. men's soccer team won the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

CONCACAF is the acronym for the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football. The Gold Cup replaced the old CONCACAF Championship in 1991. 

Guatemala won it in 1967. Haiti won it in 1973. Honduras won it in 1981. Canada won it in 1985 and 2000. Costa Rica won it in 1963, 1969, and the last tournament before the name changed, 1989. Mexico has won it more than any other country, 10 times: 1965, 1971 and 1977 under the old name; 1993, 1996, 1998, 2003, 2009, 2011 and 2015 under the new name.

The U.S. has won it 6 times, all under the new format: 1991, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2013, and against last night, defeating Jamaica 2-1 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers.

Attendance: 63,032. Officially, anyway. There were a lot of empty seats. This may have been because a lot of Mexican fans bought tickets and didn't show up, since their team didn't make it.

Only once, in 2000 (Canada over Colombia), has the Final featured neither the U.S. nor Mexico. On 5 occasions, the U.S. and Mexico played each other in the Final: 1993, 1998, 2007, 2009 and 2011, with Mexico winning all of those except 2007. It was widely expected to happen again this time, but Jamaica shocked Mexico in the Semifinal.

The U.S. got to the Final by winning its group, gaining a 1-1 draw with Panama in Nashville, then beating Martinique 3-2 in Tampa and Nicaragua 3-0 in Cleveland, then beating El Salvador in the Quarterfinal in Philadelphia and Costa Rica in the Semifinal at the Dallas Cowboys' stadium.

The Final was scoreless until the end of the 1st half. Jozy Altidore, who now plays his club soccer for Toronto FC, tends to play well for his country but not his clubs, making him the American Peter Crouch. He also tends to have games where he plays like garbage except for scoring a goal, making him the American Theo Walcott. He scored a beauty to make it One-Nil to the Stars & Stripes.

Jamaica pulled one back early in the 2nd half, and then got very chippy, committing all kinds of fouls on the U.S., but only receiving 1 yellow card in each half. U.S. fans tend to view CONCACAF referees -- always from a neutral country, but can any referee from a Latin American country truly be unbiased for a U.S. game? -- as corrupt, rather than incompetent.

The game got frustrating. The introduction of Clint Dempsey, currently tied with Landon Donovan for most career goals for the national side, brought a lot of optimism on social media, but he couldn't find the winner.

Finally, in the 88th minute, Jordan Morris, a 22-year-old forward and Stanford University graduate, who plays for his hometown team, the Seattle Sounders, found the winner on a free kick, sending U.S. soccer fans into a frenzy. The team hung on through 3 minutes of stoppage time. Final score: Stars & Stripes 2, Reggae Boys 1. (That's not a stereotype nickname: The Jamaica National Team actually does call themselves the Reggae Boys.)

Apparently, firing Jurgen Klinsmann as manager and bringing Bruce Arena back made a big difference.

One more thing, before I move on to my coverage of yesterday's Yankee game:

Dear England: We've won 6 major tournaments in the last 26 years. You haven't even been to the Final of one since 1966. Don't tell us what to call the sport. You call it "football," and we'll call it "soccer."

*

As for the Yankees: Two games, wrapping up in under 21 hours. A recipe for fatigue, but the Yankees cooked the Cincinnati Reds' goose.

Luis Severino started for the Yankees in yesterday's matinee conclusion of the series, and he went 7 innings -- Joe Girardi is improving, he actually let Sevy throw 112 pitches -- allowing 2 runs, neither earned, on 3 hits and 2 walks. He struck out 9.

Rookie sensation Clint Frazier drove in runs with singles in the 3rd and 5th innings. The Yankees added 2 in the 6th, and 5 in the 7th, including home runs by Didi Gregorius (his 16th of the season, and he has been on fire lately) and Todd Frazier (his 17th of the season, but his 1st as a Yankee).

Luis Cessa made the game interesting in the 8th, allowing 3 runs. David Robertson pitched a perfect 9th to end it. Yankees 9, Reds 5. WP: Severino (7-4). No save. LP: Homer Bailey (2-5).

That's 5 out of the last 6 for the Yankees, who thus remain a game behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East, but a game ahead of them in the loss column.

Tonight, the Yankees begin a 4-game home series with the Tampa Bay Rays. Here are the projected starters:

* Tonight, 7:05 PM: CC Sabathia vs. Chris Archer.

* Tomorrow, 7:05 PM: Masahiro Tanaka starts for us, and Rays manager Kevin Cash has yet to decide who his starter will be.

* Saturday, 1:05 PM: Caleb Smith vs. Blake Snell. Sounds like a pair of law firms.

* Sunday, 1:05 PM: Jordan Montgomery vs. Jacob Faria.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Top 10 Athletes From New York State

July 26, 1788: New York becomes the 11th State to ratify the Constitution of the United States, thus joining the Union.

Top 10 Athletes From New York State

Forget Pennsylvania. Forget Ohio. Forget Florida. Forget Texas. California is the only State that can seriously challenge New York for the title of State with the best Top 10 Athletes.

Honorable Mention to Bobby Thomson, the best athlete from Staten Island (Richmond County), New York City. He is famous for hitting 1 home run, but he hit 264 in his career and was a 3-time All-Star -- with that epochal 1951 season not being one of them. He was a very good player, if 2 or 3 steps below Hall of Fame quality.

Honorable Mention to Dick McGuire and Nancy Lieberman, the best athletes from Queens (Queens County), New York City. I won't call Dick the Knick, the Knickerbockers' 1st real superstar, a "wizard," because that would make Nancy, also from The Rockaways and long a candidate for the title of Greatest Women's Basketball Player Ever, a "witch." But both were magicians on the hardwood, to the point where Nancy was nicknamed "Lady Magic."

And, of course, Dick's brother was Al McGuire, an okay player as his early 1950s Knicks teammate, but better known as the coach who took Marquette University to the 1977 National Championship and was then a great color commentator on CBS college basketball broadcasts.

Honorable Mention to Whitey Ford and Phil Rizzuto of Queens, New York City. Holy cow, I would be a real huckleberry if I did this list without at least mentioning the Chairman of the Board and the Scooter.

Honorable Mention to Willie Keeler and Waite Hoyt of Brooklyn (Kings County), New York City. The 1st great Yankee hitter (and he was great well before he got to the Yankees), and the 1st pitcher to put up a Hall of Fame career based on what he did as a Yankee. (Keeler's teammates Clark Griffith and Jack Chesbro may have put themselves over the top with their Yankee tenures, but didn't make it solely with their Yankee tenures.)

Honorable Mention to George Davis of Cohoes, Albany County. A Hall of Fame shortstop at the turn of the 20th Century, he was probably the greatest athlete to come out of the State's Capital Region, including Albany, Renssalaer, Troy and Schenectady.

Honorable Mention to Carmen Basilio of Canastota, Madison County. The greatest athlete from the Syracuse area. None of the great Syrcause University running backs was actually from there. Larry Csonka was from Ohio. Ernie Davis and Jim Nance were from Western Pennsylvania. Floyd Little was from Connecticut. Leroy Kelly was from Philadelphia. And Jim Brown, as you'll see, was from Long Island.

He was twice Welterweight Champion of the World, from June 10, 1955 to March 14, 1956, and again from September 12, 1956 to September 23, 1957. He gave that title up to try to take the Middleweight Championship from Sugar Ray Robinson, and did, holding it until Robinson took it back on March 25, 1958.

Honorable Mention to Ryan Lochte of Bristol, Ontario County. The greatest athlete ever to come from the Rochester area, the swimmer won a Gold Medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, 2 in 2008 in Beijing, 2 in 2012 in London and 1 more in 2016 at Rio de Janeiro, for a total of 8. Granted, that's 1 Olympics for Michael Phelps, but Lochte won Golds over the course of 4 Olympics, which Phelps but few other athletes have also done.

See that? A guy wins Gold Medals in 4 straight Olympics, and he doesn't make his home State's Top 10 Athletes. Let's move on.

Honorable Mention to Vinny Testaverde of Floral Park, Nassau County. He is the only Heisman Trophy winner produced by the Empire State. He was a 2-time Pro Bowl quarterback. He played his 1st NFL game when Ronald Reagan was President and the biggest singer in the world was Whitney Houston, and his last when George W. Bush was President and the biggest singer in the world was Rihanna. In between, he passed for 46,233 yards, was the last starting quarterback for the old Cleveland Browns and the 1st for the Baltimore Ravens, and got the Jets to within 30 minutes of a Super Bowl.

Honorable Mention to Patrick Kane of Buffalo, Erie County. The best hockey player ever to come from the Empire State, he has been dogged by controversy of his own making. But he's already a scorer of 285 goals and 752 points, a 6-time All-Star, a winner of the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's Rookie of the Year, a winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player, a winner of the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer, a winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and a 3-time Stanley Cup winner with the Chicago Blackhawks, including scoring the overtime winner in Game 6 in 2010, to give the Hawks their 1st Cup in 49 years.

He's only 28, so he may have half of his career, or even more, ahead of him. Unless he does something really stupid (and, as we've seen, the potential is there), he will likely get his Number 88 retired, and be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Honorable Mention to Bruce Jenner of Mount Kisco, Westchester County. What happened as the father/stepfather of the Kardashian sisters and after transitioning to Caitlyn Jenner isn't an issue here. What matters is the record-setting decathlon win at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. That's 10 separate events, and the Olympic decathlon champion is traditionally considered "the world's greatest athlete."

So while he (now she) may have been a one-shot wonder, he was not, as this Epic Rap Battle of History suggested, "the most overrated athlete anyone's ever seen."

Honorable Mention to Gene Tunney of Manhattan (New York County), New York City. He famously beat Jack Dempsey to become Heavyweight Champion of the World in 1926, and beat him again to retain the title in 1927. He defended the title once more in 1928, then retired -- and, unlike every other Heavyweight Champ except Rocky Marciano, stayed retired. Had he kept going, he might be higher on this list; but since he didn't, it speaks to his integrity. And he was only 31 -- presaging 2 others on this list.

Career record: 65-1-1. The only blots on his record were a loss and a tie to Harry Greb, who eventually became Light Heavyweight Champion. They fought 5 times, with Tunney winning 3 of them. His son, John Tunney, served California in both houses of Congress.

Honorable Mention to Hank Greenberg of Bronx (Bronx County), New York City. Before Henry Aaron was Hammerin' Hank, and before Sandy Koufax was the greatest Jewish baseball player ever, Henry Benjamin Greenberg was both of those things. He refused to play a key game in the 1934 American League Pennant race because it fell on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur. The Detroit Tigers won the Pennant anyway. This series of events made him the idol of millions, Jewish and otherwise.

A 5-time All-Star, he won 4 Pennants with the Tigers, including the 1935 and 1945 World Series. He nearly broke his idol Lou Gehrig's American League record with 183 RBIs in 1937, and nearly broke Babe Ruth's major league record with 58 home runs in 1938. He was the 1st player to win the MVP at 2 different positions: 1st base in 1935 and left field in 1940.

He was the 1st major athlete to enlist in the U.S. Army in the leadup to World War II -- before the U.S. got into the war. He was discharged in time to hit a grand slam on the last day of the 1945 season to clinch the Pennant.

He had a bad back, and wanted to retire after the 1946 season. But the Pittsburgh Pirates traded for his rights for 1947, and offered to make him the 1st $100,000-a-year player in North American team sports history. He accepted, and retired after the season.

His injury and nearly 4 years away at war limited him to 331 home runs and 1,628 hits. But he had a lifetime batting average of .313, and a huge OPS+ of 158. The Tigers retired his Number 5, and he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Later, he served as an executive with the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox, helping them build Pennant winners in 1954 and 1959, respectively. Late in life, he began playing tennis, and won an age-group tournament.

Honorable Mention to Rod Carew of Manhattan, New York City. Though born in Panama, grew up in the Big Apple. 3,000 Hit Club, 7 batting titles, Number 29 retired by the Minnesota Twins and the team then known as the California Angels, Hall of Fame.

Dishonorable Mention to Manny Ramirez of Manhattan, New York City. If you didn't know he cheated, he'd be a good case for the Top 10. But he did cheat, and you do know it, so let's move on.

Alex Rodriguez isn't on this list anyway: While he was born in Manhattan, he grew up and was trained as a baseball player in Miami.

10. Art Monk of White Plains, Westchester County. Somebody had to hold the NFL's career records for receptions and receiving yards before Jerry Rice, and James Arthur Monk was that man, raising the record for receptions from 819 to 940. He also previously held the record for receptions in a season, with 106 in 1984.

He won 3 Super Bowls with the Washington Redskins, and was named to the NFL's 1980s All-Decade Team, the Washington Redskins Ring of Fame, and the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. The Redskins don't retire numbers (except for the 33 of Sammy Baugh), but Monk's 81 has not been given out since he retired.

9. Abby Wambach of Pittsford, Monroe County. No soccer player, male or female, has scored more goals at the international level than her 184. She won Olympic Gold Medals in Athens in 2004 and London in 2012, and Captained the U.S. team that won the 2015 Women's World Cup. And may have been the 1st gay athlete to be able to publicly say, "I never felt like I was in a closet."

8. Mike Tyson of Brooklyn, New York City. Born at the same hospital as Michael Jordan (who doesn't count here, because he grew up in North Carolina), Iron Mike was the youngest Heavyweight Champion of the World ever, winning the WBC portion of it at age 20 on November 22, 1986. By August 1, 1987, he held the WBA and IBF titles as well.

On June 27, 1988, with Michael Spinks also undefeated and still recognized as champ by The Ring magazine, "The Bible of Boxing," he got in the ring, and ended the dispute as to who was "the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World" in 90 seconds. It was at the Convention Hall (now named Boardwalk Hall) in Atlantic City, New Jersey, next-door to Trump Plaza. Donald Trump was there. If only Tyson had then gone after Trump.

But the death of his trainer and legal guardian, Constantine "Cus" D'Amato, in 1985, before Tyson could work his way up to the title, left him morally adrift. One thing led to another, and, after winning his 1st 37 fights, only 4 of them going the distance, he lost the title and then his freedom.

He regained the title in 1996 and was 45-1, but then came Evander Holyfield, and not only was Tyson exposed as a great puncher but not a great boxer, but whatever positive image he had was gone forever. He only won 5 of his last 12 fights.

In the film A Low Down Dirty Shame, which came out in 1994, before Holyfield and later Lennox Lewis exposed him, Jada Pinkett Smith says, if both men were in their prime, Tyson could have beaten Muhammad Ali. Keenen Ivory Wayans tells her, "Mike Tyson can't spell Muhammad Ali!"

Honorable Mention to the 1st Heavyweight Champion trained by Cus D'Amato, also of Brooklyn: Floyd Patterson. Holding the title from 1957 to 1959, he became the 1st man to lose it and regain it, holding it again from 1960 to 1962.

7. Carl Yastrzemski of Bridgehampton, Suffolk County. He broke the Long Island high school single-game basketball scoring record, and went to the University of Notre Dame on a basketball scholarship. It soon became apparent that baseball was his best sport.

An 18-time All-Star, a 7-time Gold Glove and a 3-time American League batting champion, in 1967 he put the Boston Red Sox on his back and led them to their "Impossible Dream" Pennant, winning the Triple Crown, leading the AL in batting average, home runs and runs batted in, making himself the obvious choice for AL Most Valuable Player, and also earning him Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year award. He also got them to the Pennant in 1975.

He retired in 1983, a member of the 3,000 Hit Club, with 452 home runs -- the 1st AL player with at least 3,000 hits and at least 400 home runs. But his 3,308 games played are the most that any athlete has played in North American sports without winning a World Championship. The Red Sox retired his Number 8, and he was an easy choice for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

6. Warren Spahn of Buffalo, Erie County. The most accomplished athlete from Western New York (even if you count Syracuse, and you shouldn't, that's Central New York) isn't, as you might expect, a tough, gritty football player, although that would include Bill Bergey, Ron Jaworski, Daryl "Moose" Johnston, and 1980s Giants Jim Burt and Phil McConkey.

A veteran of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, Spahnnie was a 17-time All-Star who won 363 games, more than any lefthanded pitcher ever, and more than any other pitcher in the post-1920 Lively Ball Era. He won the Cy Young Award in 1957, and probably would have won it a lot more had it existed sooner. His 2,583 strikeouts were more than any lefthander before him. He pitched the Braves to the National League Pennant in Boston in 1948 and in Milwaukee in 1957 and '58, winning the 1957 World Series. He pitched his 1st career no-hitter at age 39, and his 2nd at 40.

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the now-Atlanta Braves retired his Number 21, and he came in at Number 21 on The Sporting News' 1999 list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players -- the highest-ranking lefthanded pitcher, 2 places ahead of Lefty Grove and 5 ahead of Sandy Koufax.

He and Koufax were both named to the MLB All-Century Team, and Koufax agreed that Spahn belonged: "After all, he pitched for most of the Century!" Not quite, but he did debut with the Braves in 1942, when Casey Stengel was their manager; and his last season, 1965, included a stopover with the Mets, Casey's last year as a manager. In between were Casey's 10 Pennants, including the 1957 and '58 World Series against Spahn's Braves. Spahn said, "I'm the only guy who played for Casey both before and after he was a genius!"

5. Julius Erving of Roosevelt, Nassau County. An All-Star 5 times in the ABA and 11 times in the NBA, "Doctor J" became the stylish symbol of 1970s and early '80s basketball. The 1974 and 1976 ABA Championship he led the New York Nets to remain the last 2 league championships won by any basketball team in the New York Tri-State Area. He got the Philadelphia 76ers to 4 NBA Finals, winning the NBA Championship in 1983.

Moreover, he did something no one thought possible. Philly fans' favorite athletes are the tough guys, the ones who get knocked down, get back up, and knock guys down and make them stay down. Guys that Theodore Roosevelt described as those "whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood... who spends himself in a worthy cause." Dr. J. showed them that a man could do that and still look cool. He showed them that it was okay to love a pretty boy.

The University of Massachusetts and the team now known as the Brooklyn Nets have retired Number 32 for him; the Sixers, who had already retired it for another New Yorker, Brooklynite Billy Cunningham, gave him Number 6, and retired that for him. He was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame, the ABA All-Time Team (he was easily the greatest player in that league's 9-year history), and the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players.

4. Sandy Koufax of Brooklyn, New York City. Like Yaz, he went to college in the Midwest, in his case the University of Cincinnati, on a basketball scholarship. He liked sports, but wanted to be an architect. To actually be one, not to pretend to be one like the Seinfeld character George Costanza.

The only thing he built was one of the most remarkable careers in baseball history. For the 1st third, he struggled. For the 2nd third, he may have been the best pitcher ever. And we never got to see the last third.

He was a 7-time All-Star. A rookie on the Dodgers' 1955 World Series winners in Brooklyn, he didn't make the Series roster. He was on their roster for their 1959 win, and the key figure in their 1963 and 1965 wins. He was the 1963 NL MVP, and won the Cy Young Award in 1963, '65 and '66 -- when it was still an award for the most valuable pitcher in both leagues.

His 382 strikeouts in 1965 remains a record for National League pitchers and all lefthanded pitchers. He pitched a no-hitter every year from 1962 to '65, the last a perfect game. As the biggest Jewish sports star of his time, he refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur, turning him from big star to all-time icon. Then he lost Game 2. Then he pitched a shutout in Game 5. Then he pitched a shutout to win Game 7 -- only Jack Morris in 1991 has done that since. Sports Illustrated named him Sportsman of the Year for 1965.

At the close of the 1966 season, his career records were 165-87, a 2.79 ERA, and 2,396 strikeouts. But his elbow was in terrible pain, and he didn't like the idea of all those cortisone shots. Unlike Denny McLain when he was faced with the same decision a few years later, Koufax decided enough was enough, and retired shortly before his 31st birthday.

He was the youngest man ever elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, at 36. The Dodgers retired his Number 32. He was named to the MLB All-Time Team in 1969, and in 1999 was named to the MLB All-Century Team and Number 26 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players.

3. Lou Gehrig of Manhattan, New York City. It's not just the streak of 2,130 consecutive games played, a record long since broken by What's His Name from Maryland. (No, not his teammate. The other big ballplayer from Maryland.)

He was the American League's 1st baseman in the 1st 6 All-Star Games. He won 6 World Series with the Yankees: 1927, '28, '32, '36, '37 and '38. He was named AL MVP in 1927 and 1936. In 1931, he had 184 RBIs, which remains an AL single-season record. In 1932, he became the 1st AL player to hit 4 home runs in a game (and a double off the wall meant he just missed becoming the only 5-HR-a-game man). He won the Triple Crown in 1934, the 1st Yankee to do so.

Only the illness that took ended his career, took his life, and came to bear his name stopped him from reaching 500 home runs (he finished with 493) and 2,000 RBIs (1,995). His lifetime batting average was .340 -- which, coincidentally, was Cal Ripken's peak for one season. His career OPS+ was 179. That's insane. The only guys who've done better are Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Barry Bonds (and Bonds cheated).

His Number 4 was the 1st retired by any MLB team. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1939, out of (well-founded) fear that he might not live to see himself become eligible. He was named to the MLB All-Time Team in 1969, and the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999. That same year, The Sporting News put him at Number 6 on their list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players -- behind Ruth, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and Hank Aaron.

He might have been given a bad break, but he did an awful lot while he lived. And as great as all that is, he's not the greatest athlete from New York City, or even from Manhattan.

2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of Manhattan, New York City. The greatest college basketball player of all time, he went 88-2 at UCLA, and won the National Championship, the National Player of the Year, and the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player all 3 years: 1967, '68 and '69. Not 4, but not because he left early, but because freshmen weren't eligible until 1972.

1970 NBA Rookie of the Year. 1971, '72, '74, '76, '77 and '80 NBA MVP. 19-time All-Star. 1971 NBA Champion with the Milwaukee Bucks. 1980, '82, '85, '87 and '88 NBA Champion with the Los Angeles Lakers. That's 6 titles, and twice, 1971 and 1985 -- 14 years apart -- he was named MVP of the NBA Finals. Sports Illustrated named him Sportsman of the Year for 1985.

He is the NBA's all-time leader in minutes played, field goals made, and points scored in both the regular season and the Playoffs -- ahead of Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

He was 1 of the top 5 players in the NBA at the moment he entered, at age 22. He was 1 of the top 5 players in the NBA at age 40. He may be 1 of the top 5 players in NBA history. His Number 33 has been retired by UCLA, the Bucks and the Lakers. He was an easy choice for the Basketball Hall of Fame and the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players. And he is the greatest athlete ever produced by the greatest city in the world. "Roger, Roger."

How does anybody top that? By being the best ever in one of the "Big Four" sports:

1. Jim Brown of Manhasset, Nassau County. He was born in Georgia, and moved to Long Island at age 8. He earned 13 varsity letters in high school: Baseball, football, basketball, track and lacrosse. He set a Long Island high school basketball record of 38 points in a game -- soon broken by Yastrzemski. He starred in football and lacrosse at Syracuse University. Since lacrosse has never been a major league sport, we'll never know for sure, but there are people who says Brown is the greatest athlete ever, since he was the best ever in 2 sports: Football and lacrosse.
He was voted Number 1 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999, ahead of Jerry Rice at Number 2. When the NFL Network did the 100 Greatest Players in 2010, it put Rice at 1 and Brown at 2. I'll focus on Rice when I do this list for Mississippi (he'll have serious competition from Walter Payton), but here's why many thing Brown is still Number 1:

He did all of the following despite playing just 12 games in a regular season from 1957 to 1960, and 14 from 1961 to 1965, as opposed to the 16 games a season has been since 1977. He played 9 seasons, and was named to the Pro Bowl every season. He won the 1957 NFL Rookie of the Year award and 3 NFL MVP awards. He was the NFL's record holder for rushing yards in a game from 1957 (his rookie season) until 1976, for rushing yards in a season from 1958 (breaking Steve Van Buren's 1949 record by 381 yards) until 1973, and for rushing yards in a career from 1963 until 1984.

He was the 1st man to rush for over 9,000, 10,000, 11,000 and 12,000 career yards, and the 1st man to score 100 touchdowns, both overall and rushing. His 5.2 yards per carry remain an NFL record. He also caught 262 passes, at a time when that was a decent career total, and a record for a running back. He helped the Cleveland Browns reach the Playoffs 4 times, winning the 1964 NFL Championship.

And, like Koufax, he retired at the peak of his game, but not because of injury. Rather, he decided that he wasn't going to leave the set of the film The Dirty Dozen and fly all the way across the ocean -- going from London to Cleveland -- just because the owner of his team gave him an order. At age 29, he decided he could make more money acting than playing football, which, at the time, was easily true. Or, as he put it, he'd rather make to Raquel Welch (his co-star in the 1969 film 100 Rifles) than take orders from Art Modell (an easy choice).

Syracuse retired his Number 44, and, after he and Modell made peace, the Browns retired his Number 32. He was named to the NFL's 1960s All-Decade Team, its 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, and the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. Although 9 players (currently led by Emmitt Smith, with 18,355) now have more rushing yards than his 12,312, he is still the standard by which big fullbacks are measured, having succeeded the legendary Bronko Nagurski in that regard.

A bit hard to believe: Jim Brown played his last game at age 29; Sandy Koufax, not quite 31; Gene Tunney, 31; Dick McGuire, 34; Abby Wambach, 35; Lou Gehrig, not quite 36; Hank Greenberg, 36. (Bruce Jenner was 27 when he won his Gold Medal, but under the rules of the time, wouldn't have been able to make money off his achievement for another 4 years if he wanted to compete in the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, which the U.S. ended up boycotting anyway.)

It would have been nice to see what each of them could have done, even with just a couple of more years. Especially when you know what Kareem, Yaz and Spahn were doing even in their early 40s.

If you believe that Jim Brown is not the greatest football player ever, or the greatest athlete ever to come from the State of New York, then consider how much justification you will need to make your case. Gehrig and Kareem come close as New Yorkers, and Rice and Payton come close as football players. But they still have to come to the mountain, because the mountain isn't going to come to them.

Jim Brown is the mountain.

Triple Your Pleasure

The Yankees returned home last night, for a short 2-game Interleague series with the Cincinnati Reds. If it wasn't quite the 1939 World Series (the Yankees of DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Ruffing and Gomez swept the Reds of Ernie Lombardi in 4 straight) or the 1961 World Series (the Yankees of Mantle, Maris, Berra and Ford beat the Reds of Frank Robinson in 5), it was certainly better than the 1976 World Series (the Yankees with Thurman Munson and Catfish Hunter, but not yet Reggie Jackson, got swept by the Big Red Machine of Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan).

One of the weirdest plays in the 115-season history of the Yankees -- or even the 136-season history of the Reds -- happened last night. With the game scoreless in the bottom of the 2nd, Matt Holliday led off against Luis Castillo. As we've seen, National League players named Luis Castillo have some unpleasant (for them) history at the new Yankee Stadium.

But this was different. Holliday singled to right. Didi Gregorius singled to right. Chase Headley singled to left, but Holliday couldn't score. Bases loaded, nobody out. The Yankees should've gotten at least 2 runs home.

The batter was Todd Frazier. From Toms River, Ocean County, New Jersey, he was making his Pinstripes debut, having come to the Yankees in a trade while we were on the road. He got a nice hand.

Frazier hit a ground ball up the middle. Jose Peraza, the Reds' shortstop, got it, and stepped on 2nd base. That's 1 out. He threw to Joey Votto at 1st base to throw Frazier out. That's 2 outs. In the meantime, Holliday came home to score.

But Gregorius thought the ball might be caught, so he stayed close to 2nd. Maybe 99 times out of 100, that's the smart thing to do; maybe 999 times out of 1,000, it's at least the safe thing to do. But, seeing what was happening, he ran for 3rd base. Votto saw this, and threw across the diamond, and Gregorius was caught in a rundown. Eventually, he was called out for running wide of the baseline to avoid a tag. That's 3 outs.

A triple play. The 1st pulled by the Reds since 1995, the 1st against the Yankees since 2011. But since Holliday scored while the play was still in progress, and none of the outs concerned him, his run still counted.

"A strange play," said Captain Obvious, in his secret identity of Joe Girardi.
Not to be Captain Obvious myself, but, for any Met fans
who may be reading, this is not actually Joe Girardi.
This is Brandon Moynihan, the actor who plays
Captain Obvious in the Hotels.com TV commercials.

"Got to be a record," Frazier said. Not quite: It was the 1st run scored during a triple play since the Seattle Mariners did it against the Minnesota Twins in 2006.

This wasn't a case of, to paraphrase the old Doublemint gum slogan, "Triple your pleasure, triple your fun." But it did get the Yankees on the board. Cliche alert: That's baseball: You never know when you're going to see something you've never seen before.

A triple play, but we still score? Cliche alert, part 2: Whatever works.

So, anyway, one-nil to the Pinstripe Boys. Gregorius made up for his baserunning faux pas with a sacrifice fly in the 4th inning, to make it 2-0. An Austin Romine double brought home a run in the 5th, to make it 3-0.

Jordan Montgomery walked a batter in the 2nd inning, but kept a no-hitter going through 5. We were 12 outs away from having a no-hitter and a run-scoring triple play in the same game. Cliche alert, part 3: Baseball is a funny game.

In the 6th, Montgomery ran into trouble, allowing a leadoff double, and 2 grounders that each advanced the runner a base, to make it 3-1. Girardi kept him in through 7, and brought Dellin Betances in for the 8th.

Cliche alert, part 4: Walks can kill you. Betances bracketed a strikeout with walks. A fielder's choice moved the runners up, and then he allowed an RBI double to make it 3-2, with the tying run on 3rd.

Girardi brought in Adam Warren, and I figured this was another game that Girardi had blown with his pitching musical chairs. But Warren got a strikeout to end the threat. And Gregorius, clearly the man of the game, in whatever direction you want to suggest, got us an insurance run with his 15th home run of the season. Aroldis Chapman pitched a perfect 9th to close it out.

Yankees 4, Reds 2. WP: Montgomery (7-5). SV: Chapman (12). LP: Castillo (1-4). The Yankees have now won 4 of their last 5, and it really should be 5 in a row; while the Reds have lost 10 of their last 12.

Even better, the Boston Red Sox lost last night, so the Yankees close to within 1 game of 1st place in the American League Eastern Division -- and, because we have 4 games in hand on them, we are actually a game ahead of them in the all-important loss column!

This briefest of actual series, rather than a 1-game rainout makeup -- 2 games, most likely ending within 21 hours -- concludes with a matinee today, with Luis Severino starting for New York, and Homer Bailey, he of 2 career no-hitters but otherwise with a career record of just 59-56, for Cincinnati.

Then, tomorrow night, the Tampa Bay Rays come in for a 4-game series.

*

Hours until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 9, tonight at 9:30, in the Final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, against Jamaica, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, home of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. The U.S. had expected to play Mexico in the Final, but Jamaica pulled the upset.

Days until The Arsenal play again: 3, on Saturday, 11:20 AM our time, as they begin the 2-day Emirates Cup. Four teams, two doubleheaders. The early game on Saturday is Sevilla of Spain against Red Bull Leipzig of Germany, followed by Arsenal vs. Benfica of Lisbon, Portugal. The next day, Benfica play RB Leipzig, while Arsenal host Sevilla.

Days until the Red Bulls play again: 3, on Saturday night at 7:30, home to the Montreal Impact.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": 11, a week from this Sunday, August 6, against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium. They will next play the Philadelphia Union on Sunday, September 17, at at Red Bull Arena. They will next play the D.C. Scum on Saturday, September 27, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. They are not scheduled to play the New England Revolution again this season. The Red Bulls might make the Playoffs, but the Revs probably won't, so they almost certainly won't face each other again until next season.

Days until the Premier League season begins: 16, on Friday, August 11. A little over 2 weeks.
The Arsenal open the season at home to Leicester City, in a game moved back from the intending opening to suit British TV.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series: 16, on Friday, August 11, at Yankee Stadium. A little over 2 weeks.

Days until Rutgers University plays football again: 37on Friday, September 1, home to the University of Washington. A little over 5 weeks.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 44, on Friday night, September 8, home to Sayreville, a "derby." A little over 6 weeks.

Days until the New Jersey Devils play again: 73on Saturday night, October 7, home to the Colorado Avalanche. A little over 10 weeks.

Days until the New Jersey Devils next play a local rival: 80, on Saturday night, October 14, against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in Midtown Manhattan. Their 1st game against the New York Islanders will be on Sunday, January 7, 2018, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn -- and they'll have played the Rangers 3 times by then. Their 1st game against the Philadelphia Flyers will be on Saturday, January 13, 2018, at the Prudential Center in Newark -- and they'll have played the Rangers 3 times and the Islanders once by then. This is a weird schedule. But at least we have it. The NBA usually doesn't release its new season's schedule until August.

Days until the Alex Rodriguez Contract From Hell officially runs out, and the Yankees can spend his salary on new players: 97, on October 31.

Days until the next election for Governor of New Jersey: 104, on Tuesday, November 7. A little over 3 months until we elect Phil Murphy, defeat Kim Guadagno, and end Christieism forever. But only if you vote!

Days until the next Rutgers-Penn State football game: 108, on Saturday, November 11, at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.

Days until the next North London Derby: 115, on Saturday, November 18, at the Emirates Stadium. This game could be moved to the following day, for TV purposes.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving high school football game: 120, on Thursday, November 23, at 10:00 AM. A little under months, and thank God it's at home, at Jay Doyle's Green Grove, rather than at that purple shit pit on Route 9.

Days until the next Winter Olympics begins in Pyeongchang, Korea: 202, on February 9, 2018. A little over 6 months.

Days until the next World Cup kicks off in Russia: 323, on June 14, 2018. Under 11 months. Has Bruce Arena turned our chances around? Maybe. Or maybe, with the tournament on his soil, Vladimir Putin will tell his bitch Donald Trump to tell Bruce Arena to tank the games. Maybe not. Or maybe only if we end up playing Russia. I don't think Arena will listen. If he doesn't, I hope his life insurance is paid up, because Putin has had people killed for defying him.

Days until September 2018 roster call-ups, when we can finally start to expect seeing most of these wonderful "prospects" for whom Yankee general manager Brian Cashman threw away a chance at the 2016 Playoffs: 402. A little over a year, or a little over 13 months. Of course, Clint Frazier is already up, but we've hardly benefited enough to offset the cost of Andrew Miller. We could end up seeing another of them sooner than that, but since most of them are at Double-A Trenton now, if that, who's kidding who?

Days until the next Congressional election: 468, on November 6, 2018. Under a year and a half, or a little over 15 months.

Days until the Baseball Hall of Fame vote is announced, electing Mariano Rivera: 532, on January 9, 2019. A little under a year and a half, or a little over 17 months.

Days until the Baseball Hall of Fame vote is announced, electing Derek Jeter: 897, on January 8, 2020. A little under 2 1/2 years, or a little over 29 months.

Days until the next Summer Olympics begins in Tokyo, Japan: 1,102, on July 24, 2020. A shade under 3 years, or 36 months.

Days until the next Presidential election: 1,564, on November 3, 2020. Under 3 1/2 years, or a little over 39 months.

Days until Liberation Day: 1,642, at noon on January 20, 2021. A little over 3 1/2 years, or a little under 42 months. Note that this is liberation from the Republican Party, not just from Donald Trump. Having Mike Pence as President wouldn't be better, just differently bad, mixing theocracy with plutocracy, rather than mixing kleptocracy with plutocracy.

How to Be a Met Fan In Colorado -- 2017 Edition

Next Tuesday, the Mets arrive in Denver to play the Colorado Rockies.

Before You Go. Denver is a city of unusual weather, because of its elevation. I still remember that Monday Night Football game in 1984, when the Green Bay Packers, thinking they'd escaped the Wisconsin chill, got surprised by a blizzard when they played the Broncos at Mile High Stadium. On October 15. Check the Denver Post website before you decide to go.

For the moment, the projections are varying greatly. For Tuesday, they're saying low 80s in the afternoon, with a 30 percent chance of a thunderstorm; for Wednesday and Thursday, high 80s; and for all 3 nights, low 60s.

Denver is in the Mountain Time Zone, so you'll be 2 hours behind New York time. And there's a reason it's called the Mile High City: The elevation means the air will be thinner. Although the Rocky Mountain region is renowned for outdoor recreation, if you're not used to it, try not to exert yourself too much. Cheering at a sporting event shouldn't bother you too much, but even if the weather is good, don't go rock-climbing or any other such activity unless you've done it before and know what you're doing.

Tickets. When the Rockies began play in 1993, there had never been a major league team in the entire Mountain Time Zone, and the Denver Bears and their successors the Denver Zephyrs had been among the best-attended teams in the minor leagues.

That, plus the huge capacity of Mile High Stadium, allowed Colorado fans to set several major league attendance records that are unlikely to be broken in my lifetime, including most fans for an Opening Day game (80,227), most fans for a single regular-season game (same -- the old Yankee Stadium and Cleveland Municipal Stadium had a few bigger crowds for doubleheaders, but the Dodgers didn't top that at the L.A. Coliseum in the regular season), most fans in a single season (4,483,350 in that 1st season of 1993) and most fans per home game (56,094 in the strike-shortened 1994 season).

When Coors Field opened in 1995, with a capacity around 47,000 (now officially 50,398), every game was still sold out, until 1999. The Rockies have gone downhill since their last Playoff berth in 2009, but are still averaging 37,578 this season, about 5,400 more than last year. So tickets may not be easy to come by.

For tickets that are available, a Rockies game is the most economical in the major leagues: Infield Boxes are $54, Lower Outfield Reserved are $32, Right Field Box are $26, Left Field Reserved are $20, Right Field Mezzanine are $19, Upper Reserved Infield are $17, Upper Right Field Reserved are $15, and the center field "Rockpile" seats -- a holdover from the bleachers of that nickname at Mile High Stadium -- are the cheapest seats in Major League Baseball, just $7. That's right: Seven dollars. For a Major League Baseball game. In the 21st Century.

Getting There. It's 1,779 miles from Times Square in New York to the Denver plaza that contains the State House and the City-County complex, and 1,790 miles from Citi Field to Coors Field. You're probably thinking that you should be flying.

The good news: Denver International Airport, like its predecessor Stapleton International Airport (named for 1923-47 Mayor Benjamin F. Stapleton), is a major change-planes-here spot for going to the West Coast and Las Vegas, so there are lots of nonstop flights available.

The bad news: Ordinarily comparatively cheep, this week, flying to Denver is not. You'be lucky to get in and out for under $1,200.

Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited leaves Penn Station at 3:40 PM Sunday, and arrives at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time on Monday. The California Zephyr leaves Chicago at 2:00 PM Monday and arrives at Denver's Union Station at 7:15 AM Mountain Time on Tuesday. The return trip would leave Denver at 7:10 PM Friday, arrive in Chicago at 2:50 PM Saturday, leave Chicago at 9:30 PM Saturday, and get back to New York at 6:23 PM Sunday. The round-trip fare is a whopping $729.

Conveniently, Union Station is at 1700 Wynkoop Street at 17th Street, just 3 blocks from Coors Field. The front of the building is topped by a clock, framed by an old sign saying UNION STATION and TRAVEL by TRAIN.
Greyhound allows you to leave Port Authority Bus Terminal at 4:00 PM Wednesday, and arrive at Denver at 10:50 AM on Friday, a trip of just under 45 hours, without having to change buses. That 44:50 does, however, include layovers of 40 minutes in Philadelphia, an hour and a half in Pittsburgh, an hour in Columbus, an hour in Indianapolis, 2 hours in St. Louis, half an hour in Salina, Kansas, and another half-hour in Burlington, Colorado; plus half-hour meal stops in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Kansas. Round-trip fare is $370. You can get a bus back at 7:10 PM Sunday and be back in New York at 3:50 PM Tuesday. The Denver Bus Center is at 1055 19th Street, 5 blocks from Coors Field.

If you actually think it's worth it to drive, get someone to go with you, so you'll have someone to talk to, and one of you can drive while the other sleeps. You'll be taking Interstate 80 most of the way, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska, before taking Interstate 76 from Nebraska to Colorado, and then Interstate 25 into Denver. (An alternate route: Take the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Turnpikes to Interstate 70 and then I-70 through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado into downtown Denver. It won't save you an appreciable amount of time over the I-80 route, though.)

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 hours and 30 minutes in Indiana, 2 hours and 45 minutes in Illinois, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Iowa, 6 hours in Nebraska, and 3 hours and 15 minutes in Colorado. Including rest stops, and accounting for traffic (you'll be bypassing Cleveland and Chicago, unless that's where you want to make rest stops), we're talking about a 40-hour trip.

Even if you're only going for one game, no matter how you got there, get a hotel and spend a night. You'll be exhausted otherwise. Trust me, I know: Trains and buses are not good ways to get sleep.

Once In the City. Founded in 1858 as a gold rush city, and named for James W. Denver, then Governor of Kansas Territory from which Colorado was separated, Denver is a city of 700,000 people, in a metro area of 3.4 million -- roughly the population of Brooklyn and Staten Island combined. It's easily the biggest city in, and thus the unofficial cultural capital of, the Rocky Mountain region.
The State House in downtown Denver

Broadway is the main north-south drag, separating East addresses from West. But the northwestern quadrant of the street grid is at roughly a 45-degree angle from the rest of the city, and this area includes the central business district, Union Station and the ballpark.

The sales tax in the State of Colorado is 2.9 percent, however, the City of Denver adds a 3.62 percent sales tax, for a total of 6.52 percent. ZIP Codes in Colorado start with the digits 80 and 81, with the Denver area running from 800 to 810. The Area Code for Denver is 303, with 720 overlaid.

Bus and light rail service in Denver is run by the Regional Transportation District (RTD), and goes for $2.25 for a single ride, and $6.75 for a DayPass. Denver switched from tokens to farecards in 2013.
Don't worry, the weather isn't forecast to look like this during your visit.
I chose this picture for the look of the train, not for the snow and wet streets.

The Denver Post is a good paper, but don't bother looking for the Rocky Mountain News: It went out of business in 2009.

Going In. Coors Field is in the Lower Downtown, or LoDo, section of Denver, a mile and a half northwest of Civic Center Park, the government center which contains the City & County Building and the Colorado State House. The Number 60 bus will get you to within 3 blocks of the ballpark. Denver has a light rail system, RTD, but chances are your hotel will be downtown, and you'd have to change trains at least once, so the 60 bus is the way to go. If you're driving, parking is $13.

The mailing address is 2001 Blake Street. Blake bounds the 1st base side, 20th Street the 3rd base side, 22nd Street the right field stands, and Wewatta Street and the light rail tracks the left field side.
Most likely, you'll enter through the home plate gate, at 20th & Blake (shown above). I like that: All visits to the ballpark should make your first view of the field from behind home plate. This was rarely possible with the old New York ballparks: The stadiums pointed east, and both subway exits put you at the right field corner (if you entered Yankee Stadium from the 157th Street plaza, or the left field corner if you came down 161st Street). In the case of Coors, it's just more convenient.
The field is natural grass, and points due north. Outfield distances are 347 feet to left field, 390 to left-center, 415 to center, 375 to right-center, and 350 to right. Why so far? To counteract the easy home runs that were hit at Mile High, due to the thin mountain air. A line of purple seats, 6 rows from the top of the upper deck, shows the exact point at which the elevation of the park is 5,280 feet above sea level, making it "a mile high."
After years of opposing teams complaining that the highest elevation in MLB history resulting in too many home runs, prior to the 2002 season the team ordered a study to determine if the elevation was the cause. As it turned out, the study suggested it was not thin air, but dry air that was doing it.

So a giant humidor – a room-sized version of the kind of box where a smoker would store his cigars – was put into the ballpark, and the baseballs were stored there. As a result, the ball is no longer going as far as it once did, although the thin air does make it go farther than at most ballparks. The thin air also makes curveballs curve less, which means it's still not a good park for pitchers. Nevertheless, the team's pitching staff can no longer be called, as it once was, "the Rocky Horror Pitching Show." The longest home run was by Andres Galarraga, a 529-footer in 1997.
This past February, Coors Field hosted 2 hockey games. The University of Denver beat arch-rival Colorado College 4-1 in a game billed as the Battle On Blake. And as part of the NHL Stadium Series, the Colorado Avalanche hosted the Detroit Red Wings, perhaps perversely celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the birth of their brief but nasty rivalry. The Wings won 5-3.

Food. Being a "Wild West" city, you might expect Denver to have Western-themed stands with "real American food" at its ballpark. Being in a State with a Spanish name, in a land that used to belong to Mexico, you might also expect to have Mexican food. And you would be right on both counts.

A stand called Buckaroos is at Section 148, Burritos is at 134, the Helton Burger Shack (named for Rockies star Todd Helton) at 153, a full-service bar called the Camarena Loft behind 201, another called Margaritas at 330, 3 Monster Nacho stands, and, for club-seaters, the Mountain Ranch Club Bar.

There's also stands with baseball-themed names, including several Fan Fare stands, Fair Territory in 106, and Yard Ball Yogurt at 330. There's a Starbucks-type place called Madeline's at 151, a pair of sandwich bars called the Club Carvery behind 219 and 238, a coffee bar call Java City at 223, a Chinese-themed Wok in the Park at 150, and a Blue Moon Brewing Co. outlet at 111. The Rooftop at Coors Field has, according to a recent Thrillist article on the best food at each major-league ballpark, the best item at Coors Field: The CHUBurger, made by Colorado brewer Oskar Blues.

Buckaroos has "Dinger Nuggets," which I'm hoping is standard chicken nuggets, not dinosaur meat. (I'll get to that in "During the Game.")

Team History Displays. The Rockies' history is short. They have made the Playoffs 3 times (in 1995, 2007 and 2009, all through the National League Wild Card, they haven't yet won the Western Division in the regular season), have won just 1 Pennant (2007), and have won a grand total of zero World Series games. As yet, they have no figures in their history who are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. No Rockies players were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Players in 1999. In 2006, Larry Walker won the Rockies' edition of the DHL Hometown Heroes contest.

However, there are 7 men with Rockies connections in the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, whose display is at the new Broncos' stadium: Original owner Jerry McMorris, original manager Don Baylor, team president Keli McGregor; early stars Andres Galarraga, Larry Walker and Vinny Castilla; and more recent star Todd Helton.

And while Walker's Number 33 has not been reissued, officially, their only retired number, aside from the universally-retired 42 for Jackie Robinson, who died over 20 years before the Rockies ever played a game, is the Number 17 of 1997-2013 1st baseman Todd Helton.

Those numbers are on the outfield wall, as is a display reading "KSM," for Keli Scott McGregor. Keli McGregor was a native of the Denver suburbs who played for Colorado State, and then briefly with the Broncos in 1985. He joined the Rockies' front office in the Autumn of 1993, after the 1st season, and was team president from 2001 until 2010, when he died of an undetected heart virus at age 47.
The 2007 Pennant is displayed top the left field scoreboard, under the giant Rockies logo. The 1995 NL Wild Card banner used to be on the wall, but once a Pennant was won, it seemed a bit silly. (Nevertheless, the Mets still have that 1999 Wild-Card display on the third-base facing of Citi Field, along with their 2 World Championship, 3 other Pennant, and 2006 NL East stanchions.) There is no mention, anywhere in the stadium, of the Pennants won by the Rockies' minor-league predecessors, the Denver Bears (also briefly known as the Denver Zephyrs).

Stuff. Coors Field has the Majestic Team Store behind Section 149, in the left-field corner. I don't know if the Rockies gear they sell includes cowboy hats with team logos on them, to tie in with the State's Western heritage. In addition, there are 7 Rockies Dugout Stores throughout Colorado, including 1 in Denver at 535 16th Street.

Don't look for old Rockies videos on DVD – there aren't any. Unless you want to find the official highlight film of the 2007 World Series, in which the Rockies got swept by the Boston Red Sox. You'd think that, having won 14 of their last 15 regular-season games, making it 21 out of 22 counting the Playoffs, winning their 1st-ever Pennant, and setting a major league record for highest team fielding percentage (.989), there would be a commemorative DVD. But there isn't.

There are, however, a few books about the team, including A Magical Season: Colorado's Incredible 2007 Championship Season, by the staff of the Denver Post. You can also pick up Colorado Rockies: The Inaugural Season, by Rich Clarkson, which came out right after that 1993 season ended.

The first-year Rockies probably got more respect than any 67-95 team ever. To compare, the 1969 Seattle Pilots went 64-98. They also played in a stadium that was inappropriate for the major leagues – albeit because it was an expanded 1930s Triple-A park, not a 1940s Triple-A park converted into a 1970s football stadium like Mile High. They got fewer fans in a homestand than the '93 Rox got in their home opener, got moved to Milwaukee right before their second season started, and today are remembered only for being in Jim Bouton's book Ball Four. Even Seattle fans would prefer to believe their major league history started with the Mariners in 1977.

During the Game. A recent Thrillist article ranked Rockies fans 29th among the "most intolerable" fans. More accurately, that makes them the 2nd-most tolerable.

Coloradans love their sports, but they're not known as antagonistic. Although the Jets came within a half of derailing a Bronco Super Bowl in 1999 (1998 season), and the Devils came within a game of short-circuiting their Stanley Cup run in 2001, the people of the Centennial State don't have an ingrained hatred of New Yorkers. As long as you don't wear Kansas City Chiefs or Oakland Raiders gear, you'll probably be completely safe. (But, as always, watch out for obnoxious drunks, who know no State Lines.)

Wednesday night will be Dollar Dog Night, though 1 $1.00 hot dog to a customer. That's the only promotion during this series.

The Rockies hold auditions for National Anthem singers, as opposed to having a regular, but they give priority to groups, even letting their Group Sales department handle applications.

When construction workers were excavating to build Coors Field, they found dinosaur bones. So the Rockies' mascot was made a dinosaur. In honor of the thin air's propensity for allowing home runs, the mascot was named Dinger the Dinosaur. Great idea, right? Well, a Tyrannosaurus Rex (or even a "Tyrannosaurus Rox") would probably scare kids, so Dinger is a purple triceratops, wearing a Rockies jersey, Number 00. Think of him as Barney's cousin from the weird side of the family.
The Rockies play Bruce Channel's song "Hey! Baby" after "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the 7th inning stretch. Why? I have no idea. Channel isn't from Colorado, or any other Rocky Mountain State (he's from Texas). Why not a Colorado singer's song? You got me.

I guess "Rocky Mountain High" – whose singer used the stage name John Denver, for crying out loud – isn't particularly rousing. And his "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" was already the 7th inning stretch song for the Baltimore Orioles. Also not especially crowd-cranking is "How to Save a Life" by The Fray, who, unlike John, are from Denver. Sometimes the Rockies play "Get Free" by the Australian rock band The Vines.

Their postgame victory song used to be "Rocky Mountain Way" by Joe Walsh of The Eagles, but it's been replaced by "Take the Field," as recorded by the Colorado Symphony.

After the Game. Denver has had crime issues, and just 3 blocks from Coors Field is Larimer Street, immortalized as a dingy, bohemian-tinged, hobo-strewn street in Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road. But that scene was written in 1947, and LoDo has become, with the building of Coors Field and the revitalization of Union Station, a sort of mountain Wrigleyville. So you'll probably be safe.

LoDo is loaded with bars that will be open after the game, including Scruffy Murphy's at Larimer & 20th, and an outlet of the Fado Irish Pub chain at Wynkoop & 19th. But the only baseball-named place I can find anywhere near Coors is Sandlot Brewery, at 22nd & Blake, outside the park's right-field corner. Behind home plate, at 1930 Blake Street, is The Sports Column, hailed by a recent Thrillist article as the best sports bar in the State of Colorado.

Perhaps the most famous sports-themed restaurant near Denver is Elway's Cherry Creek, a steakhouse at 2500 E. 1st Avenue in the southern suburb of Cherry Creek. Bus 83L. It's owned by the same guy who owns John Elway Chevrolet in another southern suburb, Englewood.

About a mile southeast of Coors Field, at 538 E. 17th Avenue in the Uptown neighborhood (not sure why a southern, rather than northern, neighborhood is called "Uptown"), is The Tavern, home of the local New York Giants fan club. Jet fans gather at Chopper's Sports Grill, possibly named for Chopper Travaglini, at 80 S. Madison Street at Bayaud Avenue, 3 miles southeast of downtown, in the Pulaski Park neighborhood. Bus 83, then a mile's walk.

If your visit to Denver is during the European soccer season (which is now winding down), your best bet for watching your favorite club is at The Three Lions (named for the crest on the jerseys of the England national team), 2239 E. Colfax Avenue, about 2 miles east of downtown. Number 15 bus.

Sidelights. Sports Authority Field at Mile High, formerly Invesco Field at Mile High, has been the home of the NFL's Denver Broncos since 2001. Everyone just gives it the same name as the old facility: "Mile High Stadium." It includes the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, and the Broncos' Ring of Fame.

It was built on the site of the McNichols Sports Arena, home to the NBA's Denver Nuggets from 1975 to 1999, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche from 1995 to 1999, and the first major league team called the Colorado Rockies, the NHL team that became the Devils, from 1976 to 1982. The Denver Dynamite played there from 1987 to 1991, made the Arena Football League Playoffs every season, and won the 1st ArenaBowl in 1987. But the cost of running the team was too high, and it folded.

It hosted the NCAA Final Four in 1990, with UNLV (the University of Nevada at Las Vegas) clobbering Duke. (The University of Colorado, in Boulder, made the Final Four in 1942 and 1955, although it wasn't yet called the Final Four.  No other Colorado-based school has made it, and none has won a National Championship -- not in basketball, anyway.)

When the time came to play the final concert at McNichols, the act that played the first concert there was brought back: ZZ Top. This fact was mentioned on a Monday Night Football broadcast, leading Dan Dierdorf to note the alphabetic distinction of the long red-bearded men, and say, "The first one should have been ABBA." Which would have been possible, as they were nearly big in the U.S. at the time. However, the fact that the arena only lasted 24 years, making it not that hard for the act that played the first concert there to also play the last, says something about America's disposable culture.

The old stadium was just to the north of the new stadium/old arena. The current address is Mile High Stadium Circle, but the old intersection was W. 20th Avenue & Bryant St. (2755 W. 17th Avenue was the mailing address.) It was built in 1948 as Bears Stadium, an 18,000-seat ballpark.
When the American Football League was founded in 1960, it was expanded to 34,000 seats with the addition of outfield seating. The name was changed to Mile High Stadium in 1966, and by 1968 much of the stadium was triple-decked and seated 51,706.
In 1977 – just in time for the Broncos to make their first Super Bowl run and start "Broncomania" – the former baseball park was transformed into a 76,273-seat horseshoe, whose east stands could be moved in to conform to the shape of a football field, or out to allow enough room for a regulation baseball field. The old-time ballpark had become, by the standards of the time, a modern football stadium.
The biggest complaint when the Rockies arrived in 1993 wasn't the thin air, or the condition of the stadium (despite its age, it was well-maintained, and was not falling apart), but the positioning of the lights: Great for football fans, but terrible for outfielders tracking fly balls. But it was only meant to be a temporary ballpark for the Rockies, as a condition for Denver getting a team was a baseball-only stadium. What really led to the replacement of Mile High Stadium, and its demolition in 2002, was greed: The Broncos' desire for luxury-box revenue.

At Bears/Mile High Stadium, the Broncos won AFC Championships in 1977, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1997 and 1998, winning the Super Bowl in the last 2 years after losing the first 4 in blowouts.  (They've now won an AFC title at the new stadium, but not a Super Bowl.) The Denver Bears won Pennants while playing there in 1957 (as a Yankee farm team), 1971, 1976, 1977, 1981, 1983 and 1991 (winning the last one under the Denver Zephyrs name).

The old stadium also hosted the Denver Gold of the United States Football League, the Colorado Caribous of the original North American Soccer League, and the Rapids from their 1996 inception until 2001 -- in fact, they played the stadium's last event, before playing at the new stadium from 2002 to 2006. The U.S. national soccer team played a pair of games at Mile High Stadium in the 1990s, and beat Mexico at the new stadium in 2002 (the only game they've played there so far).

While the 2008 Democratic Convention was held at the Pepsi Center, Senator Barack Obama gave his nomination acceptance speech outdoors in front of 80,000 people at New Mile High Stadium.

The Red Lion Hotel Denver and the Skybox Grill & Sports Bar are now on the site of the old stadium. At McNichols, the Nuggets reached the ABA Finals in 1976, and the Avalanche won the 1996 Stanley Cup (albeit clinching in Miami). Elvis Presley sang at McNichols on April 23, 1976.

The new stadium, and the site of the old stadium and arena, are at Mile High Station on the light rail C-Line and E-Line.

The Nuggets, known as the Denver Rockets until 1974, played at the Denver Auditorium Arena, at 13th & Champa Streets, from their 1967 inception until McNichols opened in 1975. It was also the home of the original Nuggets, who played in various leagues from 1935 to 1948, and then in the NBA until 1950.

It opened in 1908, and its seating capacity of 12,500 made it the 2nd-largest in the country at the time, behind the version of Madison Square Garden then standing. It almost immediately hosted the Democratic National Convention that nominated William Jennings Bryan for President for the 3rd time – although it's probably just a coincidence that the Democrats waited exactly 100 years (give or take a few weeks) to go back (it's not like Obama didn't want to get it right the 1st time, as opposed 0-for-3 Bryan).

The Auditorium Arena hosted Led Zeppelin's 1st American concert on December 26, 1968. It was demolished in 1990 to make way for the Denver Performing Arts Complex, a.k.a. the Denver Center. Theatre District/Convention Center Station on the light rail's D-Line, F-Line and H-Line.

The Pepsi Center is across Cherry Creek from downtown, about 2 miles northwest of City Hall. The intersection is 11th Street & Auraria Parkway, but the mailing address is 1000 Chopper Circle, in honor of Robert "Chopper" Travaglini, the beloved former trainer (and amateur sports psychologist) of the Nuggets, who share the arena with the NHL's Colorado Avalanche. It is 1 of 10 current arenas that is home to both an NBA team and an NHL team.

Chopper was actually a Jersey Boy, albeit from Woodbury on the Philly side. He died in 1999, age 77, right before the new arena opened. Chopper Circle is an extension of Wewatta Street.

Pepsi Center/Elitch Gardens station on the RTD light rail. If you're coming in that way, you'll probably enter from the west gate, the Grand Atrium. If you're driving, parking starts at just $5.00. The rink is laid out east-to-west, and the Avs attack twice toward the east end.

In addition to hosting the Avs and the Nugs, the Pepsi Center has also hosted NCAA Tournament basketball games, the 2008 edition of NCAA's hockey "Frozen Four," and the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

The Denver area's Major League Soccer team, the Colorado Rapids, plays at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, about 8 miles northeast of downtown. They'e won the MLS Cup since moving there, in 2010.

The U.S. national team has played there 3 times: A 2-0 win over Guatemala in a World Cup Qualifier on November 19, 2008; a 1-0 win over Costa Rica in a World Cup Qualifier on March 22, 2013 (the famous Snow Classico); and a 2-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago in a World Cup Qualifier this past June 8. The women's team has played there twice: A 2008 win over Brazil, and a 2012 win over Australia. It's also hosted football, rugby, lacrosse and concerts.

6000 Victory Way. If you're going in by public transportation from downtown Denver, Number 48 bus to 60th Avenue & Dahlia Street, then Number 88 bus to 60th & Monaco. Then they make you walk 10 blocks on 60th to get to the stadium.

The Beatles played Red Rocks Amphitheatre in suburban Morrison on August 26, 1964. It is still in business, and a Colorado Music Hall of Fame is a short walk away. 18300 W. Alameda Parkway, 10 miles west of downtown. Sorry, no public transportation.

Elvis played 2 shows at the Denver Coliseum on April 8, 1956, and 1 each on November 17, 1970 and April 30, 1973. Built in 1951, it still stands, seating 10,500, and is best known for concerts and the National Western Stock Rodeo. 4600 Humbolt Street at E. 46th Avenue, off Interstate 70, 3 miles northeast of downtown. Apparently, no public transportation to there, either.

Denver has some renowned museums, including the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (their version of the Museum of Natural History) at 2001 Colorado Blvd. at Montview Blvd. (in City Park, Number 20 bus), and the Denver Art Museum (their version of the Metropolitan Museum of Natural History), at 100 W. 14th Avenue Parkway at Colfax Avenue (across I-25 from Mile High Stadium, Auraria West station on the C-Line and E-Line).

Denver's history only goes back to a gold rush in 1859 – not to be confused with the 1849 one that turned San Francisco from a Spanish Catholic mission into the first modern city in the American West. The city isn't exactly loaded with history.

There's no Presidential Library – although Mamie Doud, the eventual Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower, grew up there, and her house is now a historic site. Mamie and "Ike" were married there, their son John (a future General, Ambassador and military historian) was born there, and the Eisenhowers were staying there when Ike had his heart attack in 1955. The house is still in private ownership, and is not open to the public. However, if you're a history buff, or if you just like Ike, and want to see it, it's at 750 Lafayette Street, at 8th Avenue. The Number 6 bus will get you to 6th & Lafayette.

After his heart attack, Ike was treated at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center in nearby Aurora, 12 years after Senator John Kerry, nearly elected President in 2004 and now Secretary of State, was born there. It's not a Presidential Birthplace, because Kerry narrowly lost. It is now the University of Colorado Hospital. The Fitzsimmons Golf Course is across Montview Boulevard – it figures that Ike would be hospitalized next to a golf course! 16th Avenue & Quentin Street. Number 20 bus from downtown.

The University of Denver's Newman Center for the Performing Arts hosted a 2012 Presidential Debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. 2344 East Iliff Avenue, about 5 miles south of downtown. The University's Magness Arena hosted the Frozen Four in 1961, 1964 and 1976. 2250 E. Jewell Avenue. Both can be reached via H Line light rail to University of Denver Station.

Denver doesn't have as many tall buildings as the nation's bigger cities, nor are they as interesting, architecturally. The tallest building in the State of Colorado is Republic Plaza, 714 feet high, at 17th Street & Tremont Place downtown.

The University of Colorado is in Boulder, 30 miles to the northwest. At Market Street Station, 16th & Market, take the BV Bus to the Boulder Transit Center, which is on campus. The ride should take about an hour and 20 minutes. Colorado State University is in Fort Collins, 65 miles up Interstate 25 north, and forget about reaching it by public transportation.

The U.S. Air Force Academy is outside Colorado Springs, 60 miles down I-25. As with Fort Collins, you'd need Greyhound. Unlike CSU, you might not be able to just go there: Some of the area is restricted.  It is, after all, a military base.

Colorado Springs was also home to the Broadmoor Ice Palace, which hosted what's now called the Frozen Four every year from its inception in 1948 until 1957, and again in 1969. The 3,000-seat arena at The Broadmoor Resort & Spa was home ice to Colorado College from 1938 to 1994. 1 Lake Avenue, across Cheyenne Lake from the main hotel. Its 7,750-seat 1998 replacement, the Broadmoor World Arena, is 4 miles to the east, at 3185 Venetucci Blvd.

A few TV shows have been set in Denver, but you won't find their filming locations there. The old-time Western Whispering Smith and the more recent one Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman were set in old Colorado, but filmed in Southern California.

Probably the most famous show set in Colorado is South Park, and that's a cartoon, so forget seeing anything from that. Not quite as cartoonish was Mork & Mindy, set in Boulder. The McConnell house actually is in Boulder, at 1619 Pine Street. But don't try to copy the opening-sequence scene with Robin Williams and Pam Dawber on the goalposts at the University of Colorado's Folsom Field. You could fall, and end up saying, "Shazbot!"

The most famous show ever set in Colorado was Dynasty, ABC's Excessive Eighties counterpart to CBS' Dallas, starring John Forsythe as Blake Carrington, an oilman and a thinly-veiled version of Marvin Davis, who nearly bought the Oakland Athletics from Charlie Finley in 1978 with the idea of moving them to Mile High Stadium, but the deal fell through. Right, you don't care about Blake, all you care about is the catfights between the 2nd and 1st Mrs. Carrington's: Krystle (Linda Evans) and Alexis (Joan Collins).

The Carrington mansion seen in the opening credits is in Beverly Hills, but the building that stood in for the headquarters of Denver Carrington is in Denver, at 621 17th Street, while the one that stood in for Colbyco is at 1801 California Street. The show is being rebooted, premiering on The CW Network on October 11. It may take place in Denver, but is being filmed in Atlanta. 

Movies set in Denver or its suburbs include The Unsinkable Molly Brown, the original Red Dawn, and, of course, Things to Do In Denver When You're Dead. Films involving skiing often take place in Colorado towns such as Aspen or Vail. City Slickers, a film with loads of baseball references, has a cattle drive that ends in Colorado, but there's no indication of how close it is to Denver. Flashback
takes place on the Pacific Coast, but Denver's Union Station stands in for a train station in San Francisco.

*

Denver had been considered a potential destination for Major League Baseball many times: The Continental League planned a team for there for 1961, it was a finalist for expansion teams in 1969 and 1977, and, as I said, the A's came within inches of moving there for the 1978 season. When they finally got a team in 1993, they were embraced as perhaps no expansion team has ever been embraced -- even more than the Mets themselves in 1962. And, the way it's worked out, the Rockies' 1st-ever game was against the Mets (a Met win at Shea), and their 1st game at Coors Field was against the Mets (a Rockies win in 14 innings).

The Rockies have seen the bloom come off the rose, but they've also seen some real success. The experience of Coors Field should be a good one. Have fun!