OBSERVATIONS: Paul Brown Was Pro Football’s ‘Innovator’

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, congratulating the Cincinnati Reds for signing two functional relief pitchers, Emilio Pagan and Nick Martinez. Do they have Trevor Bauer’s phone number?

—THE INNOVATIVE MAN: As a pre-teen in the late 1940s, I tuned into WAKR radio in Akron on Sunday afternoons to listen to Cleveland Browns football. . .the Original Browns in the old All—America Conference, a rival to the NFL.

At other times, I was listening on mom and dad’s upright floor model Philco radio to Walter Winchell, Edward R. Murrow, The Green Hornet, The Shadow, George Burns & Gracie Allen and, yes, Amos & Andy.

The Browns played the Los Angeles Dons, the Miami Seahawks, the Chicago Rockets, the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Buffalo Bisons and others.

The league lasted four years and the Browns won all four championships with a 47-4-3 record. The NFL absorbed the Browns, Los Angeles, San Francisco and 
Baltimore in 1950

As an ‘We’ll Teach You a Lesson,’ the NFL scheduled the Browns against the 1949 NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles for their first game. Cleveland had the last giggle. The Browns beat the Eagles, 35-10, and won the NFL title with a 10-2 record.

What I didn’t realize at the time was the monumental influence of Paul Brown. He founded the Browns and the team was named after him. And he founded the Cincinnati Bengals and Paul Brown Stadium was his namesake.

Brown integrated pro football in the All-America Conference with fullback Marion Motley and lineman Bill Willis.

Brown invented the helmet face mask, he was the first to hand out playbooks to the players, the first to send in all the plays with alternating messenger guards, the first to use film to scout opponents, the first to use radio transmitters in his quarterback’s helmet.

Said Jim Brown, the best running back in football history (In my opinion and many others), “When you saw a Paul Brown team, it would be Paul Brown, the creator. There’d be something always new.”

—QUOTE: Comedian Steven Wright also was an innovator: “I invented the cordless extension cord.”

—750 MORE HITS FOR PETE?: Tony Gwynn finished with a career batting average of .338 and Pete Rose, the Hit King, finished with a career average of .303.

For Rose to match Gywnn, he would have to go 750 for 750 to raise his career average to .338.

That’s no knock on Peter Edward Rose, just a pointer on how good Gwynn was. Heck, if Rose added 750 hits that would give him 5,003 for his career. Let’s see somebody match that. . .and nobody is going to match his 4,256.

—QUOTE: From Steven Wright on statistics: “Seven percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.” (Neither Gwynn nor Rose had to make up a single stat and they all are amazing.)

—THE HIT MAN: Kareem Jackson should carry a sign draped around his shoulder pads: “Caution. Contact May Be Hazardous To Your Health.”

The 14-year veteran safety for the Denver Broncos is a devout head-hunter. So far this season he has been suspended twice for six games, ejected in two other games, been callled for four illegal hits and fined $89,670.

He travelled to New York this week to ask NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, “Why is everybody always picking on me?”

—QUOTE: Maybe Kareem Jackson should take Steven Wright’s advice: “When I was in school the teachers told me practice makes perfect. Then they told me nobody’s perfect, so I stopped practicing.”

—QUESTION OF THE DAY: Why are baseball players looking for work called free agents? They certainly don’t sign for free.

—WRIGHT IS RIGHT: Steven Wright says you can’t have everything, even if you are a baseball free agent and sign for $350 million: “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?”

—OK, PAY UP: For those who want Ohio State football coach Ryan Day fired immediately, be prepared to wipe out your savings and checking account to help the school pay for it.

If Ohio State fired Day today, his parting gift would cost $46.22 million. Yep, that’s what OSU would have to pay him to empty his office.

And in an attempt to grab publicity, the minor league Kalamazoo Growlers minor league baseball team formally offered Day a job as its third base coach.

That’s obviously a takeaway from when Day was named Ohio State coach and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said, “By getting that job, Day was born on third base.”

“We think Ryan was born for the third base position.” said Growlers Owner Brian
Colopy. “We will do whatever it takes to get Ryan to Kalamazoo.”

See? It worked. Colopy got his three minutes of ‘fame.’

—QUOTE: From Steven Wright: “If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn’t it follow that electricins can be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, modells deposed and dry cleaners depressed?” (And can football coaches be passed over?)

—HOME SWEET MANSION: Does Shohei Ohtani really need a $500 million contract?

He reportedly lives in a 21,000-square foot mansion with 18 bathrooms, an outdoor waterfall and parking for 50 vehicles.

My guess is that half those parking spots are occupied by his own vehicles. And 18 bathrooms? Maybe he needs all that money for toilet paper.

—QUOTE: From Steven Wright: “The other night I was lying in bed, looking up at the stars and I wondered, ‘Where the hell is my roof?’” (Maybe Wright can sleep in one of Shohei Ohtani’s 18 bathrooms.)

—QUICK EXITS, STAGE RIGHT: New Michigan State football coach Jonathan Smith has to wonder, “Was it something I said?”

No sooner had he transferred his gear from Oregon State to his new job in East Lansing than he learened that the three top quarterbacks last season announced their intentions to enter the transfer portal.

Within 24 hours, Katin Holser, Noah Kim and Sam Leavitt said they weren’t staying. Kim was the Spartans starter the first half of the season and Holser started the second half. And Leavitt is a highly respected freshman.

Mel Tucker was 2-0 when he was fired for sexual indiscretions and the Spartans went 2-8 the rest of the way.

—CALLING ALL QBs: If Joe Flacco starts for the Cleveland Browns Sunday and beats the Los Angeles Rams, the Browns will have accomplished something unprecedented in NFL history.

He will be the fourth different quarterback to start a game and win in the same season. So far Deshaun Watson, PJ Walker and Dorian Thompson-Robinson have started and won games.

The Browns are accepting applications for a quarterback to start the week after Sunday.

—QUOTE: From (none other) than Steven Wright: “The candle shop burned down last week. Everybody stood around and sang Happy Birthday.”

And happy birthday to all of you celebrating today.

OBSERVATIONS: Reds Should Sign Bauer, Duvall

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave a week before the MLB winter meetings, not counting the days until Christmas, counting the days until spring training.

—TRUTH OR GOSSIP?: There is more gossip floating in the wind concerning the Cincinnati Reds than one hears at a church ice cream social.

ONE: CEO Bob Castellini reportedly sent a message to agents that he is ready to unbutton his back pocket, pull out his wallet, blow off the dust and spend some of that Joey Votto money on free agents.

Truth or gossip?

TWO: The Reds were close to bringing back free agent pitcher Sonny Gray, but those dirty birds in St. Louis snatched him with a three-year $75 million deal.

Truth or gossip?

THREE: A fan ostensibly reached out to free agent pitcher Trevor Bauer via social media and asked if he would like to return to Cincinnati.

Bauer’s reply, according to Sports Illlustrated: “Yeah, of course. Loved playing in Cincinnati and never got to celebrate playoffs with the fans, still have a lot of friends there, got on really well with the staff and front office and the team is good and has real winning chance, what’s not to like?”

That might be the longest sentence in history. But. . .

Truth or gossip?

Bauer won the Cy Young with the Reds during the Covid-19 shortened 2020 season with a 5-4 record and a 1.73 earned run average in 11 starts.

He pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2021 before he was suspended for 324 games after he was accused on alleged sexual assault. His suspension was reduced to 194 games, but the Dodgers released him. He settled the sexual assault charge with his accuser.

He pitched in Japan last season with the Yokohama Bay Stars and was 10-4 with a 2.76 earned run average for 19 starts.

Now he wants back in MLB. He carries more heavy baggage than is on a railroad porter’s wagon, but the Reds should sign him. His experience and success is what this team needs and he was a solid citizen with the Reds.

—ACQUIRE ADAM: The Reds also could use a right-handed outfielder with some nitro in his bat, right? That’s like asking if there was anybody more American than George Washington.

How about signing free agent Adam Duvall to return to Great American Ball Park? In 2016 the now 35-year-old Duvall hit 33 homers and drove in 103 for the Reds and folllowed that in 2017 with 31 homers and 99 RBI.

Duvall made his major league debut in 2014 and in his first game he hit a home run off Cincinnati’s Mike Leake. The next year he was traded to the Reds. . .for Mike Leake.

He made $7 million with the Boston Red Sox last season. How about a two-year deal for $22 million? It is easy for me to spend Bob Castellini’s money.

—CEASE (AND DESIST): Former Reds general manager Jim Bowden, the guy Marty Brennaman called Ol’ Leatherpants, writes for The Athletic and still sticks his nose in the Reds’ business. . .but that’s his job now.

He believes the Cincinnati Reds should acquire Chicago White Sox pitcher Dylan Cease by trading Jonathan India and the Reds No. 1 draft pick last year, pitcher Ty Floyd.

Cease was 14-8 with a 2.20 earned run average in 2022, but 7-9 with a 4.58 ERA in 33 starts last season. Something obviously was off last season with Cease.

My opinion? Hey, Ol’ Leatherpants, Cease and desist.

—WATCH OUT FOR ‘THE GRIZZ’: This is an alert to the basketball teams at the University of Dayton and Wright State University: Be on the lookout for Oakland University.

Oakland was picked in a pre-season poll to finish sixth in the 11-team Horizon League. Apparently the Golden Grizzlies, or The Grizz, can’t read. They are more like The Grinch.

They beat Xavier this week on Xavier’s court, 78-76. An upset? Maybe, maybe not. The Grizz nearly beat Ohio State on the Buckeyes’ floor, losing, 79-73. They held their own at Illinois, losing by 64-53.

They’ve beaten a Mid-American Conference team, Bowling Green, they beat Marshall in the Cayman Island Classic and hung tight with a solid Drake team, losing by 85-77.

The Grizz visit Dayton at UD Arena December 20 and play fellow Horizon League member Wright State in home-and-home games in February.

UD? Wright State? You’ve been forewarned. You’re welcome.

—QUOTE: From former tennis great Martina Navratilova: “Whoever said, ‘It’s not whether you win or lose that counts,’ probably lost.”(Navratilova lost about as often as Bjorn Borg got a haircut.)

—NO. 6 OR NO. 1?: The Athletic web-site authored a putdown of the University of Dayton’s basketball team in a rundown of the AP’s Top 20.

It was talking about No. 6 Houston and said, “When your best wins are against Utah and Dayton, it’s possible to be overshadowed by those teams who participated in glitzier multi-team events.”

So they believe Dayton’s wins over LSU and St. John’s in the prestigious Charleston Classic are aberrations? And the web-site KenPom ranks Houston No.1, as does PhD statistician Evan Miyakawa. And Bart Torvik of T-Ranketology ranks the Cougars No. 2.

The man I respect most in this business is Joe Lunardi (Joey Bracketology) of ESPN. He has Houston as a No. 2 seed for the NCAA tournament. . .and Dayton as a No. 12 seed.

—FOOT-ING THE BILL: The Chicago Bears put the foot in football Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings. Cairo Santos kicked four field goals to score all 12 points in a 12-10 win.

So Da Bears won without a touchdown. NFL teams that didn’t score a touchdown in a game were 0-and-27 before Santos kicked away that stat.

The Vikings? Last season they set an NFL record by going 11-0 in games decided by one score. This year they are 5-and-6.

—QUOTE: From former MLB player/broadcaster Ken Harrelson: “In baseball you hit your home runs over the right field fence, the center field fence and the left field fence. Nobody cares. In kicking field goals, everything has to be right over second base.” (But they have to be as high as a home run.)

—SHOW SOME RESPECT: Because it plays lower tier FCS non-scholarship football, the University of Dayton is a poor man’s old shoe compared to the high-visibility basketball program.

That’s not fair to kids like Gavin Lochow, a freshman wide receiver for the Football Flyers. He was so good last season that he is a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award, given annually to the top freshman receiver in FCS.

Lochow was a quarterback at Huntington (W.Va.) High School and not just any ol’ signal-caller. He was West Virginia’s high school quarterback of he year his senior seasons.

But he was switched to wide receiver by the Flyers. He caught 35 passes for 402 yards and five touchdowns. His average reception was for 11.5 yards.

And when he wasn’t doing anything, he returned kickoffs and averaged 24.2 yards, second amongst all FCS freshmen.

Yet if his name ever appeared in the local newspaper, I missed it. Must have been on page six.

—BAILING OUT IN BOULDER: Word out of Boulder is that several recruits that committed to the University of Colorado football team are de-committing.

Is there something sinister involved? Is coach Deion Sanders leaving after just one season, a mediocre 4-8 campagin, 1-8 in the Pac-12?

What was perplexing is that Sanders was an all-time great in the NFL as a defensive back, but his Colorado defense was as porous as onion skin paper.

The Buffs gave up 418 points, an average of 34.8 a game, 122nd of 133 schools playing big-time football. In two of their four wins they gave up 42 and 35 points.

—QUOTE: Deion Sanders, fearing that the NFL’s Detroit Lions would draft him out of Florida State: “I was kinda scared because I thought Detroit was gonna take me. I would’ve asked them for so much money they would have to put me on layaway.”

—HE’S ALWAYS WRIGHT-ON: By popular demand (mostly from me), more from my favorite comedian, Steven Wright: “I have the oldest typewriter in the world. It types in pencil.” (I have one that types with a hammer and a chisel. I used it to cover the first Olympic Games in Greece.)

OBSERVATIONS: Blowback from Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, saddened by defeats to Ohio State, the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Benglas. At least the Dayton Flyers won on the basketball court, but even that one was not a no-doubter.

—IS CLARETT CLEAR?: Ryan Day is 56-7 as Ohio State football coach, 39-0 against every Big Ten team not nicknamed the Wolverines.

And that’s the rub. His three Big Ten losses are all to Michigan, including 30-24 this year and for that Buckeye Nation wants Day’s head atop a yard marker and his whistle tightened full bore around his neck.
Former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett was adept at reversing his field and he is equally adept at reversing his field on social media.

Before this year’s Michigan game, Clarett posted on ‘X’ (formerly Twitter):

“Ryan Day gone get the victory today. I think him, the team and coaches tired of hearing about it. Got to get the monkey off his back.”

After the game he changed course and wrote ungrammatically, “Ryan Day. . .Love you bro but gotta go. This is why you’re paid millions. Cant (sic) get paid 9’ms and lose 3 straight (to Michigan).”

This is a guy who was suspended after one year at OSU and then had more run-ins with the police than he did with linebackers.

—QUOTE: From legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes: “When you’re winning, you don’t need any friends. When you’re losing you don’t have any friends anyway.” (Ryan Day is accepting all friend requests.)

—THIRTY-SIX AND COUNTING: When Dorian Thompson-Robinson started his first NFL game, he was the 36th different quarterback to start for the Cleveland Browns since the team entered the league in 1999 as an expansion franchise.

We would name them all, but some are hiding in the Witness Protection Program.

Numbert 37 is likely for Cleveland’s next game. With what transpired on the field Sunday in Cleveland’s 29-12 loss at Denver, look for former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco to make his Browns’ coming-out party.

—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame coach Don Shula: “Sure, luck means a lot in football. Not having a good quarterback is bad luck.” (The quarterbacks with the most luck were Andrew Luck and Sid Luckman.)

—CRY ME A RIVER: Pittsburgh
Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson probably is smiling this week instead of looking to pick a fight with a teammate. He was targeted seven times and made four catches for 50 yards during Pittsburgh’s 16-10 win over the Bengals.

A week ago during a 13-10 loss to the Browns, he caught only two passes. During the game, he was in coach Mike Tomlin’s grill late in the game, complaining about being nothing on the field but a loose trinket.

When the game was over he was still moaning as he walked up the ramp to the lockerroom. Once in the lockerrom, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick basically told him to shut his yap. They nearly came to blow before T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward stepped in to quell the uprising.

Johnson helped the Steelers to amass 416 total yards against the Bengals, the first time in 59 games the Steelers covered more than 400 yards.

And the Pittsburgh defense held the Bengals, minus quarterback Joe Burrow, to 222 yards, only 25 rushing. It was the first game all season the 7-4 Steelers had more total yardage than the opposition.

—A COWBOY OR A COACH?: It was Waylon Jennings who sang, ‘Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.’

That’s true. Let them grow up to be college football coaches. . .unless your name is Ryan Day and you have to play TTUN.

It was big news when Texas A&M paid Jumbo Fisher $77 milllion to ride off into the sunset. Well, add two more to the list.

Indiana fired Tom Allen and paid him $20.5 milllion to go away. And Houston paid Dana Holgorsen $14.8 million to make himself invisible.

Where do we sign up? If you get fired, nobody can call you a quitter.

—QUOTE: From college basketball TV analyst Dick Vitale: “It was tough getting fired by the Detroit Pistons. I really didn’t know where I was going until ESPN called. I said, ‘ESPN? Never heard of it. Sounds like a disease.’” (To many of us it is a disease.

—TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN: So why was YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun smiling when he left UD Arena to board the team bus? He had a $90,000 check in his pocket, the money UD paid YSU to make the 3 1/2 hour bus ride.

For $90,000, he might have made the 86-hour walk from Youngstown to Dayton.

Or as comedian Steve Wright says, “Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.”

—BOB AND BOB: I thought I had heard all of catcher/comedian Bob Uecker’s quips, but as so often happens, I was wrong.

While with the St. Louis Cardinals, Uecker was catching Bob Gibson when manager Johnny Keane ordered him to go to the mound to chat with the always surly Gibson.

“What in the hell are you doing out here,” Gibson said to Uecker.

“I’m just on my way to center field to talk to Curt Flood,” said Uecker.

—MR. UTILITY MAN: Outfielder Travis Jankowski is the epitome of a journeman major leaguer, bouncing from San Diego to Cincinnati (16 games in 2020) to Philadelphia to New York (Mets) to Texas.

He played 107 games last season for the World Series champion Texas Rangers, his most games in a season.

He only played 73 games for the 2022 Mets, but manager Buck Showalter said of the 32-year-old fourth outfielder, “He’s my favorite player.”

That’s quite the compliment for an extra player who should wear a utility belt to home plate. But he now will own a World Series ring. . .and another team next season. He’s a free agent.

—OVERTIME OGRES: As a maven of minutiae, I came across this meaningless (but interesting to me) factoid:

The last 14 times the Florida State basketball team has played overtime games, the Seminoles have won all 14, an NCAA record.

—QUOTE: From former North Carolina coach Dean Smith: “If you make every game a life and death proposition, you’re going to have problems. For one thing, you’ll be dead a lot.” (And playing a lot of overtime games speeds up that process.)

—SAVE YOUR MONEY: If you are a bettor, it is best to stay away from picking the favorite and giving the points for State Rivalry football games.

Examples abounded over the weekend:

^^^Alabama was a 13 1/2-point favorite over Auburn and won by three, 27-24.

^^^Washington was a 14 1/2-point favorite over Washington State and won by three, 24-21.

^^^Georgia was a 24 1/2-point favorite over Georgia Tech and won by eight, 31-23.

^^^Tennessee was a 27 1/2-point favorite over Vanderbilt and won by 24, 48-24.

^^^Purdue was a 6 1/2-point favorite over Indiana and won by four, 35-31.

^^^Louisville was a 7 1/2-point favorite over Kentucky and lost by seven, 38-31.

^^^Illinois was a 5 1/2-point favorite over Northwestern and lost by two, 45-43.

So, do you catch the drift here?

—QUOTE: From a habitual gambler. “I hope I break even. I need the money.”

—WRIGHT IS RIGHT: Another one-liner from my favorite comedian, Steven Wright: “I intend to live forever. So far, so good.” (Yep, and me, too, Mr. Deadpan.)

OBSERVATIONS: ‘Turkey Day’ at the old Akron Rubber Bowl

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIOS from The Man Cave on this Thanksgiving morning, awaiting the arrival of family for our prime rib dinner. Turkey? Nah, Nadine says I’m a big enough turkey.

—A PERSONAL SUPER BOWL: Not only is Thanksgiving for, well, giving thanks, it is for football, isn’t it?

Even back in high school at dear ol’ Akron East, it was for football. Every Thanksgiving morning, the Akron Public Schools football championship was decided with a game in the old Akron Rubber Bowl. — Turkey Day for the City Series championship, a tradition for 50 years. “All the way to Turkey Day”was our slogan during the season.

The Rubber Bowl, jammed against a hill next to Derby Downs and above the Akron Municipal Airport, was our Super Bowl before there even was a Super Bowl.

There was nothing better that morning than to watch my East Orientals (Yes, that was our nickname, now it’s Dragons), beat the bejabbers out of our big rival, the Garfield Presidents (Now the Rams).

The Rubber Bowl is gone, both original school nicknames are gone and the Turkey Day game is gone. Time marches on and sometimes that march is sad.

—PAYING FOR NOTHING: This is bizarre and has to be a unique situation for any MLB team.

What two players are the Cincinnati Reds paying the most money? Well, it is two guys who aren’t even on the roster.

It is Joey Votto, whom the Reds are paying a $7 million buyout and Ken Griffey Jr., whom the Reds will pay $3.7 million this year, the last payment on his deferred contract.

The highest paid player on the roster right now is pitcher Hunter Greene at $3.3 million.

And speaking of pitching, FanGraphs rates the Reds starting staff, as currently assembled, as the 10th best in MLB. Atlanta is first, Philadelphia second and Tampa Bay third.

—FRANK-LY SPEAKING: A little known factoid appeared on Facebook this week, a factoid that I never heard before.

In 1987, Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose sent relief pitcher Frank Williams to the mound 85 times. He was 4-0 with a 2.30 earned run average.

It was the most games in MLB history that a pitcher appeared in without losing a game.

Williams had an identical twin brother who often showed up in the clubhouse and some of us susspected he pitched half of those games to keep his brother’s arm from falling off.

Williams appeared in 60 games the next year with a 2.59 ERA and a 3-2 record. After that season, the Reds released him and he signed with the Detroit Tigers.

—GENO MOVING AGAIN: Eugenio Suarez just can’t keep a job. The former Cincinnati Reds third baseman was traded this week by the Seattle Mariners to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It is strange that he keeps changing uniforms. He has hit 21 or more home runs in seven straight full seasons (He hit 15 in the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season).

He hit 49 homers for the 2019 Reds, then was part of a trade to Seattle with Jesse Winker that brought the Reds Jake Fraley, Brandon Williamson and Connor Phillips.

—TV TEDDY SPEAKS: Legendary college basketball official TV Teddy Valentine, a resident of Charleston, S.C., officiated three games at the Charleston Classic, but none of Dayton’s three games.

During the St. John’s-Utah game he stopped in front of my press row seat and said, “Y’know, the year the Flyers had Obi Toppin they would have made the Final Four. In fact, they probably would have won it if Covid hadn’t stopped the season.”

Toppin, by the way, scored 21 points this week as the Indiana Pacers beat the Atlanta Hawks, 157-152.

Valentine is 65 and is amazingly phyically fit. And he also brought forth the name of former UD coach Don Donoher and said, “Anybody who can’t get along with Donoher, well, something must be wrong with them.”

As any basketball fan knows, when it comes to delivering foul calls, Valentine delivers them quicker than Amazon.

—TURN THE PAGES: Never have I seen an author work so hard on a book as Dayton Daily News sports writer David Jablonski.

And I don’t mean just writing ‘The Epicenter of College Basketball, A History of UD Arena,’ which I know is a chore from personal experience.

But there he was at the Charleston Classic, stack of books under his arm as he trudged up the TD Arena steps, selling his creation personally. And I know how tough that is, too.

The book is more than worth the $20, even if you aren’t a Flyer Faithful inhabitant of UD Arena. It is stuffed with UD basketball history.

If you see Jablonski, flag him down. Or you can snag one at the UD Arena shop, the UD book store on campus, The Flyer Spirt Shop on Brown Street or at UDarenabook.com. Put it on your Christmas wish list or gift list.

— DEFENSIVELY SPEAKING: There are a couple of amazing statistics involving the Cleveland Browns and it goes without saying, but I’ll say it, they involve the defense.

On 52.7% of an opponent’s possessions, the Browns force a three-and-out, the best NFL percentage of this century. It is led, of course, by Myle Garrett, the impressario of sacks.

And in five of the last six games, a Browns game has been decided on the last two snaps of a game.

—HE’S A PEACH-EATER: If you believe Fox Sports football analyst Joel Klatt (and I don’t believe him), there is no reason to play the College Football Playoffs. He says Georgia is a lock.

He did inject one caveat by writing, “If Ohio State quarteback Kyle McCord plays well, this is one of the best teams in the country (One of the best???). This is a team that could even challenge Georgia.”

This guy obviously has eaten too many peaches.
—QUICK TRIVIA: There are 16 teams in MLB, the NFL, the NBA and the NHL that have one thing is common. Can you guess?

Here is a clue: The Twins, Timberwolves and Wild. And the answer is, all three play in Minneapolis but they go by their state names. . .Minnesota.

The others: MLB: Texas Rangers, Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Tennesse Titans.

NBA: Utah Jazz, Indiana Pacers.

NHL: Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche.

OBSERVATIONS: How UD Saved the Charleston Classic

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from room 235 of the Marriott Courtyard in Charleston, S.C., where University of Dayton basketball fans have commandeered the Historic District, saving their mayhem for inside TD Arena during the Charleston Classic.

—UD SAVED THE TOURNAMENT: This is a story about how a basketball team’s fans saved a tournament from extinction. And it involves the University of Dayton’s Flyer Faithful and the Charleston Classic.

It happened back in the 2012 and ESPN was about to pull the plug on the Charleston Classic for lack of attendance.

Then, like Mighty Mouse, UD and its fans rode in to save the day.

Call it karma, but on Thursday night I sat next to Mark Epstein, an affable, friendly guy and former assistant tournament director. He told me the story and said emphatically over and over, “The Dayton Flyers saved this tournament.”

Said Epstein, “I wasv the assistant tournament director for the first six or seven years. We were having a hard time drawing fans. Even though we had South Carolina and Clemson in it, hometown teams, they were finishing their football seasons and their fans weren’t traveling.

“And we were in trouble,” he added. “ESPN literally told me and tournament director Bobby Cremins they were going to shut it. Bobby and I asked for one more year and ESPN said, ‘OK, one more year and that’s it.’ They didn’t really want to give us another year.”

Epstein said the tournament had a weak field that year. . .South Carolina Upstate, Coastal Carolina.

“We knew they weren’t going to draw,” said Epstein. “So the evening sessions comes along and the first game Dayton is playing and they had 3,500 people (in the 5,500-seat TD Arena. We knew right then and there we were home free. And I will say it until the day I die. . .Dayton saved the tournament. That’s why they keep getting invited back. Dayton saved the tournament.”

And Dayton keeps bringing The Flyer Faithful.

If you haven’t experienced The Flyer Faithful on the road, especially at tournaments, well, it’s like red ants invading a family re-union picnic.

It starts with pre-game. Hotels, bars, restaurants and the streets of Charleston are dominated by fans wearing red and blue.

At ‘Toast,’ a popular breakfast nook, Flyer fans gather and you hear, “Scrambled eggs, but hold the grits.” The grit is for the fans to show at the game.

On Thursday, the Flyers came from 15 down to LSU with nine minutes left to win, 70-67, on a Nate Santos three-point shot with :03.5 seconds left.

During a 19-2 run that got the Flyers back into the game, the Flyer Faithful went stark, raving bonkers. Big deal, they always do.

The uninitiated thought it was something special, so many fans making so much noise. Uh, no. Routine for UD fans.

When this one was over, the roof was gone, pipes were still rattling, windows were shattered and ear drums felt as if they had been beaten on by a ball peen hammer.

And that’s only a slight exaggeration. And it’s why Dayton keeps getting invited to in-season tournaments: “Have fans, will travel.”

—HERE’S THE PITCH: The free agent market for starting pitchers is overstocked and that gives the Cincinnati Reds, if they so desire, a chance to pluck one.

They probably won’t shop from the top shelf where Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, Sonny Gray and Yoshinora Yammamoto sit. Too pricey.

But on the middle shelf sits Jordan Montgomery, Marcus Stroman and Eduardo Rodriguez, able arms that might fit Cincinnati’s budget.

Trevor Bauer, once a Reds pitcher, albeit briefly, is job-hunting. He pitched gloriously in Japan for the Yokohama BayStars last season after exoneration of sexual assault charges while pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers. With Yokohama he was 10-4 with a 2.76 earned run average, two complete games, 31 walks and 136 strikeouts.

But is his excess baggage and idiosyncrasies too much for the Reds’ clubhouse?

—MORE QB WOES: Just when it appeared the Cleveland Browns and quarterback Deshaun Watson had turned a corner and saw broad daylight, Watson turned a corner this week and smacked into a brick wall.

An MRI this week revealed damage inqbn Watson’s shoulder that needs season-ending surgery. So that leaves the Browns back on QB withdrawal.

So does P.J. Walker start Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Nope, the Browns are going with rookie Dorian Thomas-Robinson. He isn’t certain of his last name and in a previous start wasn’t certain whether to pass, run or duck. Mostly he ducked. Now he must try to find the ways and means to victory.

Said Watson, with whom the Browns seemed to be under the influence of succees: “I’m still in disbelief. I’m still trying to process all the information. I felt like we were turning a corner to really make a run and still believe we still will with the guys in this locker room. I just wanted to physically be a part of it. It’s tough to try to wrap everything around my head right now.”

That’s OK, Deshaun. The Steelers probably will wrap everything around Thompson-Robinson’s head.

—NY MINUS TDs: Terrific line from NFL insider Adam Schefter on the offensive plights of the Jets and the Giants: “New York does pizza, New York does bagels, but New York doesn’t do touchdowns.”

McCoy: UD Flyers Face Three Big Tests in Four-Day Span

By Hal McCoy

Charleston, S.C. — Although the University of Dayton basketball team played with grace and style at Northwestern last Friday, the Flyers muffed a chance to make a solid statement.

Some late turnovers and a game-long inability to prevent second-chance field goals led to a 71-66 defeat.

It was an opportunity to gain a top-tier victory on the road against a Power Five program, a win that woul have impressed the NCAA selection committee when it comes time to pick at-large teams

So now the focus shifts to this historic city, often besieged in its early beginning by Spain, France, Native Americans, Blackbeard the pirate and the Union army during the Civil War.

The city survived and thrived and now the Flyeres are given another opportunity to thrive and survive, to grab attention in the Charleston Classic.

It begins at 4 p.m. Thursday when the Flyers play LSU. Then on Friday they’ll play either Rick Pitno’s ranked St. Johns team or North Texas, depending upon who wins and loses in the first round.

And the Flyers play a third game on Sunday against either Houston, Towson, Utah or Wake Forest.

“Two things really hurt us (against Northwestern),” said Flyers coach Anthony Grant. “Their second shots. . .they had eight offensive rebounds in the second half that resulted in eight to 12 points for them. And our turnovers (15 to Northwestern’s 7).

“We turned the ball over too much,” he added. “Both are things that we can control, for the most part, and things I think we will get better at.”

They are fixable and must be fixed before the Flyers embark on their mission against high-level opposition this week.

“Hopefully, this game (the Northwestern loss) will be a game we look back on and say it made us better,” said Grant. “These opportunities for us, two games in. . .we don’t have a whole lot of opportunities on our schedule, so we have to get some wins and make the most of it.”

UD guard Koby Brea, who missed summer workouts after undergoing surgery that implanted rods in both tibia, is recognized as a long-range sniper. But during two exhibition games and the regular season opener against Southern Illinois Edwardsville, it look as if he was shooting a basketball that didn’t fit inside the rim.

But he was on target at Northwestern, hitting four of six three-pointers en route to 15 points in 25 1/2 minutes.

“It has been a long process, but one game at a time and I feel I’m getting better each game,” said Brea.

“We played pretty good (against Northwestern), but we feel we can take it to another level,” he added.

They’ll need another level this week, beginning against LSU (1-1), a team that was stunned by Nicholls State, 68-66, in its last game on a three-pointer with 1.2 seconds left.

“It is extremely big,” said Brea about the Charleston Classic. “We know how big it is for us and, honestly, we’re not feeling great about this game (Northwestern), but we have a really big opportunity in front of us. We have to make sure we go there with confidence and do what we have to do.”

Grant was more than pleased with Brea’s resurrection.

“It was really good to see Koby Brea be aggressive,” said Grant, knowing the Flyers need Brea’s contribution in the immediate future.

“We’ll be ready for more opportunities like we’ll have this week,” Grant added.

The Flyers were without veteran point guard Malachi Smith and will be without him in the Charleston Classic and will be without him the entire season.

In his stead, transfer guard Javon Bennett has stepped in and stepped up. He played 36 of the game’s 40 minutes at Northwestern and contributed 12 points, five assists, a steal and even an offensive rebound despite his pencil-thin 5-foot-10 stature.

“I thought Javon did a real good job and I thought he ran the team. . .did a pretty good job of keeping his composure in his first road game as a Dayton Flyer,” said Grant.

Smith underwent season-ending knee surgery after suffering an injury in the first half of the Southern Illinois Edwardsville game.

“It’s a tough loss, obviously for the team and all of us individually,” said Brea. “He and I went through the whole (recovery) process together this summer. Now to have to go through it again really hurts.

“I feel extremely bad for him but the best thing we can do for him is be there for him,” added Brea. “He knows we all got his back.”

Bennett carries the biggest load on his back, running the offense in Smith’s absence.

“I feel he’s doing a really good job,” said Brea. “He is hanging in there really well and going for the first game to the third game, counting the exhibition games, he has made steady improvements. He is getting a lot more comfortable and he is going to be a big impact as well.”

And the Flyers know it. They’ll all have to make major impacts to trudge their way through three games in four days.



McCoy: Once Around a Harness Track, Leading the Parade

By Hal McCoy

Dayton, OH — Now I know what it was like to stand in front of The Charge of the Light Brigade or to face the controlled stampede of ten 2,000-pound beasts directly in front of me.

Like most harness racing fans, my previous experience at the track was sitting in a glassed-in clubhouse, seated comfortably at a table with a Yuengling and a racing program.

But at a recent sunny afternoon at the Dayton Raceway at the Hollywood Casino, my seat moved at between 35 and 41 miles an hour around the 5/8ths-mile oval.

I was in starter Mike Woebkenberg’s gated truck facing the horses for their rolling start that begins with Woebkenberg flipping the switch on a microphone and saying, “All right, gentlemen, let’s gather ‘em up and bring ‘em as a group.”

Then, the thrill of a lifetime. What an experience to have those talented athletes, hooked to sulkies coming within an arm’s length, nostrils flared, the clop of their hooves pounding in your ears.

Once they are all lined across the wide-spread wings of the gate, they are pounding the dirt at 35 miles an hour as the pace truck pulls away to the side and follows the field around the course.

The horses pound by, all four hooves off the ground at times.

And as the race begins and Woebkenberg watches closely — he also serves as a judge — my education begins.

If there is a better ambassador for any sport than Woebkenberg, I have yet to meet that person. He is Alfred Lord Tennyson’s version of The Babbling Brook, but his non-stop chatter comes from a hoof-shaped heart and is stuffed with interesting and enlightening information.

His wife, Becky, sits in the driver’s seat, but all she does is steer the truck. Mike controls the accelerator and operates the swinging gate as he controls the horses.

“It is a unique look at racing and I promote this as the most exciting 30 seconds in sports that nobody gets to see,” he said.

And I got to see it almost straight from the horses’ mouths.

“From the grandstand the horses look like Willie Worms because you have no idea how fast they are going,” he said. “When you are in here, right up against them, you realize speed. We have to go 40 miles an hour to keep up with them.”

Woebkenberg is a third generation race horseman. He drove and trained them and “I’m very passionate about my sport and have done this for 30 years.”

Harness racing puts $3 billion (not million, billion) into the Ohio economy, “And nobody knows we exist,” he said.

There are women competing as drivers, “On an equal basis and no other sport can say that,” he added. “We have wheel-to-wheel racing, everything NASCAR has but the advertising on the cars and driver’s suits.”

Woebkenberg said he and Becky start more than 3,800 races a year, “More than anybody else in the world. We do Dayton, Miami Valley, the Little Brown Jug (in Delaware, OH.) and 105 days of county fair racing at 65 fairs. The Ohio fair racing is literally the biggest and best in the world and it’s our minor leagues.”

And that’s not all there is to Woebkenberg. He builds the starting gate rigs in Famersville, OH., and says, “We send ‘em all over the world. We have one leaving this week for Prnce Edward Island. We sent one to Hungary and we sent two to France.

“I’m a little guy in the middle of nowhere who has develped a product, or a tool, that has become the accepted norm in the world. . .and that’s a neat thing,” he said.

The rigs cost $125,000 and comes complete with the truck on which it is installed.

As he talked, Race 2 was on the track and he said, “This part of my job is like herding cats. I have to get nine horses and nine drivers lined up, make sure they are the right drivers and the right saddle pads, get them in the same place at the same time. Once I get ‘em in order and open the wings, then it’s an art form.”

And Woebkenmberg is the Picasso of starters, or the Andy Warhol, a guy who put himself through The Ohio State University shoeing horses.

“The art form is that if I go too slow I jam ‘em up and if I go too fast they can’t catch me,” he said. “Every field is different and I have to gauge them. And it’s the modern version of a cavalry charge.”

As he readied himself to open the gate, he marked up a program and said, “I destroy a program. It’s a tool to me. My job is to give everybody a fair and equal start. I don’t even look at the odds. I don’t want to know the odds. But I have to know the horses because some have some uinique quirks. I have to know them and I have to know that to get them to the gate. I don’t want somebody to say, ‘Well, he was 1 to 9’. . .well, no.”

And why does the starting rig follow the field around the track? “I’m a full judge and also if anythng happens we’re the first responders and we’re there within seconds.”

There are only approximately 40 starters licensed in the U.S., “And licenses are very hard to get,” he said. “And I teach a school (for starters).” He also teaches at two schools for harness racing judges.

Drivers are a pot pourri of independent contractors with lives outside of racing — a female Wilmington College professor (Casey Kelly), a retired attorney and a retired Columbus police officer (Danny Hale). On this day’s 14-race card, there were owners, trainers and drivers from six states.

After the third race, I headed into the paddock building and ran in to the winner of the race, sitting on a barrel in his red and white driver’s suit. Wih a wry grin, he said, “I’m Jeremy Smith from Wasington Court House. We have a lot of Smiths around here but I am the best.”

His ride was probably routine for him, but my ride was exhilarating, as exciting as the ride I once took around NASCAR’s Charlotte Motor Speedway with Rusty Wallace.

And I got to smell the horses’ breaths.



OBSERVATIONS: Watson Goes From a Dirge to a Symphony

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, killing time before heading to Charleston, S.C. to cover the University of Dayton’s basketball team in The Charleston Classic this week, beginning Thursday with a game against LSU.

—THE BIG BROWN-OUT: Ever since the Cleveland Browns handed quarterback Deshaun Watson a $230 million contract, there have been 230 million jokes about how the team flushed the gross national product of Peru down a commode.

Me? Guilty. Remember a couple of weeks ago when I said the Browns’ investment in Watson, who carries more excess baggage than a traveling diva, was money spent on sagging stocks and hedge funds? Well, as Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, “Never mind.”

As one man said, the quarterback who was a maestro for the Houston Texans, finally found his baton in Cleveland Sunday and conducted one hell of a symphony in Baltimore. It started awfully and ended beautifully.

Watson threw a deflected pik-six on his team’s first play and a few seconds later the Baltimore Ravens scored again. It was 14-0 before I had two sips of coffee.

Watson was 1 for 9 and looked as if the football was a foreign object in his hands.

One disgusted Browns fan left the house to cover the outdoor furniture with a tarp, read a couple chapters of a Dan Jenkins novel and finish a glazed cinnamon roll the size of a tractor tire from Jim’s Donuts. It was me.

I returned in time to watch Cleveland’s final drive, a drive that climaxed with Dustin Hopkins’ game-winning walk-off 40-yard field goal.

Cleveland 33, Baltimore 31. . .a game for the ages. And suddenly the talking heads on sports shows are mentioning Cleveland and the Super Bowl in the same sentence, the same guys who earlier this season called the Browns the longest running comedy act in the NFL.

The Browns were behind for 59 minutes and 58 seconds before taking the lead (and the game) for the first time on Hopkins’ kick.

The Browns trailed, 31-17, with 11:34 left. They were 0-17 when trailing by 14 or more in the final quarter. And they were 0-24 in games they were behind by 14 at any point of the game.

Watson? He completed all 14 of his second half passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. And he scrambled for a 16-yard first down on the team’s game-winning drive.

Said defensive end Myles Garrett to the media on Watson, “I kept on trying to tell y’all once he hits his stride, he’s gonna be back to his previous ways. We’re just seeing a glimpse into what he can be and who he is.”

The Browns (6-3) host the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday. The Steelers have been outgained by their opponents in nine straight games, the first team in NFL history to do that and have a winning record.

Can the Browns reverse that amazing stat? As Sherlock Holmes would say, “It’s elementary, my dear Watson.”

—THE BIG BOOTS: NFL fans got a big kick out of Sunday’s games and some just got kicked in the teeth.

For the first time in NFL history, five games in one day ended in walk-off game-winning field goals — balls sailing end-over-end through the uprights as the clocks clicked to 0:00. The Browns (on the good side) and the Bengals (on the bad side) were involved in two of them.

^^^Cleveland’s Dustin Hopkins kicked a 40-yarder to beat Baltimore, 33-31.

^^^Houston’s Matt Ammendola kicked a 38-yarder to beat Cincinnati, 30-27.

^^^Detroit’s Riley Patterson kicked a 41-yarder to beat Los Angeles (Chargers), 41-38.

^^^Seattle’s Jason Myers kickerd a 43-yarder to beat Washington, 29-26.

^^^Arizona’s Matt Prater kicked a 23-yarder to beat Atlanta, 25-23.

No kicker missed on their game-winning kicks. But Cleveland’s Hopkins made certain he was not another Browns joke.

Late in the game he missed an extra point kick that would have tied the game, 31-31. Instead the Browns trailed, 31-30. But Hopkins saved the team and himself from having to hide all week with his game-winning kick.

—THE BIG PAYOFF: When I grow up, I want to be a college football coach so when I get fired I get paid $76 million to get lost.

That’s what Texas A&M did to Jumbo Fisher. They fired him, even though they had to pay off the rest of his contract, a cool $76million.

Why did I ever become a sports writer?

—BYE-BYE BILL?: Rumblings emanating in New England suggest that Patriots coach Bill Belichick is seated uncomfortably on a hot plate. The Patriots are 2-8 and three times this season they’ve scored zero touchdowns in games.

Tom Brady, wherefore art though.? Oh, that’s right. Belichick helped expedite Brady’s one-way ticket out of town.

If Belichick is deposed, the Boston-area media would be ecstatic because of his droll, mono-sylllabic two-word mumblings when he ‘answers’ questions at press conferences.

But with his track record of six Super Bowl titles — with Brady at quarterback — Boorish Bill most likely would land right side up as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders or Washington Commodores.

So, Las Vegas or Washington media, brace yourselves.

—WHERE’S THE ‘D?’: After emphasizing defense during pre-season practices, the Wright State basketball team traveled to Colorado State for its season opener and was waxed 105-77.

Those were the most points ever scored against a coach Scott Nagy team and only the second time a team hit 100 against his Raiders.

As Nagy told Dayton Daily News contributor Doug Harris, “We’re embarrassed.” The 28-point drubfest came after WSU actually led by 11 points in the first half.

Colorado State, picked to finish mid-pack in the Mountain West Conference, shot 64%, the first time any team shot above 60% against a Nagy-coached team at WSU.

There is no doubt the leakage at Fort Collins was an aberration and anomaly. There is too much talent at WSU.

The Raiders get a chance to heal and make amends Tuesday night when they host the University of Toledo (2-0) in the Nutter Center. The Big ‘D’ will be needed. Toledo beat the Horizon League’s Detroit Mercy, 94-60, and the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, 87-78.

—NOT SO EVEN STEVEN: From deadpan comedian Steven Wright, one of my favorite comedic geniuses:

^^^”I would kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.”

^^^“How do you know when you are out of invisible ink?”

^^^“If at first you don’t succeed, sky diving is not for you.”

^^^“What happens if you get scared half to death twice?”

^^^“So what is the speed of dark?”


OBSERVATIONS: While We Wait. . .Some Baseball Oddities

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLCITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, moving to the patio because it’s 75 degrees. . .and just what month is this?

—AND IT’S THE TRUTH: While everybody waits to see if/when the Cincinnati Reds sign a notable free agent or to see what team trades for Jonathan India, let’s delve into some baseball oddities.

What piqued my interest was a video I saw on Facebook. One of baseball’s rarest events is an inside-the-park home run.

The video was from 1976. First, Toby Harrah of the Texas Rangers lined one to right. Former Reds manager Lou Piniella of the New York Yankees ran to the wall and crashed into it, missing the ball. As Sweet Lou lay writhing on the ground, Harrah circled the bases for an inside-the-park home run.

The game was not delayed to repair the wall after Piniella tried to knock it down.

Next up was light-hitting Bump Wills. Yankees center fielder Mickey Rivers was playing shallow. Wills hit the ball over his head and the ball took a right turn along the wall. Wills touched ‘em all. . .the only back-to-back inside-the-park home runs in baseball history.

The same year, Harrah, a shortstop, play every inning of a doubleheader and did not have one ball hit to him, something that never happened before to a shortstop nor since. Harrah could have left his glove in the dugout and come to think of it, he could have stayed in the shade of the dugout.

—Cleveland’s Kevin Kouzmanoff hit the first major league pitch he saw for a grand slam home run. It came off former Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez, pitching at the time for Texas. Volquez had a knack for twisting his neck to watch balls fly over walls.

—Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, swinging for the St. Louis Cardinals, hit a routine fly ball. Routine? It was a two-run sacrifice fly. I couldn’t find who scored from second, but I know it wasn’t Billy Hamilton.

—Two former Reds, Mike Cameron and Bret Boone, hit back-to-back home runs twice in the same inning, playing for Seattle.

—Rookie Robby Thomson of the San Francisco Giants was caught stealing four times in one game. For the year he stole 12 bases. . .and was thrown out 15 times. Manager Roger Craig couldn’t locate his red light, or he was too busy teaching his pitchers the split-fingered fastball.

—In one game, the Boston Red Sox hit into two triple plays. . .and still beat the Minnesota Twins, 1-0. Obviously, the Twins needed to turn three triple plays.

—And, finally, Barry Bonds is the only player in history to have his hat size increase from 7 1/2 to 9 1/2 over the course of his career.

Did you know that Texas manager Bruce Bochy wears a size 8 1/4 hat, but his head always has been that size.

—FAMILIAR NAMES: The three finalists for the American League Cy Young Award are (drum roll, Griswalds): Gerrit Cole, Kevin Gausmann and Sonny Gray.

And isn’t it baffling and befuddling that two are former Cincinnati Reds pitchers — Gausmann and Gray. Now there are a couple of oh G’s.

—CASH-ING IN: As of this moment, with Joey Votto gone, the highest-paid player on the Cincinnati Reds’ roster for the 2024 season is pitcher Hunter Greene at $3.3 million. Next highest is catcher Luke Maile at $3 million.

—FROM UD TO INDY: Obi Toppin is enjoying his emancipation from New York to Indianapolis.

The former University of Dayton constellation is starting for the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and played two large hands in his team’s record-tying 152-111 win Monday over the San Antonio Spurs.

The points tied a franchise record and Toppin was among six Pacers in double figures with 19. He made 6 of 11 shots and was 6 for 6 from the foul line in 27 minutes.

He had two steals and one ended with one of his tomahawk dunks to help Pacers coach Rick Carlisle win his 900th career NBA game.

In addition, Toppin drew the unenviable assignment of guarding 7-foot-4 rookie phenom Victor Wembanyama, The French Freak.

Toppin, of course, had help, but he was a big part of holding Wembanyama to 13 points.

_WALK ON BY: One of the best stories from the World Series not associated with Bruce Bochy was that of Texas outfielder Evan Carter.

The 21-year-old rookie had never played in a major league game until he was called up from Triple-A in September and played 23 games.

Then in the postseason he played like a superstar. He played in all 17 Texas postseason games and reached base in all 17. He hit .300 with nine doubles, a home run and 12 RBI.

His nickname is ‘Full Count’ because he is adept at working the count. And he showed it in the post-season by drawing 12 walks in the 17 games over 74 plate appearances.

—TOOT THEIR OWN HORNS: The University of Dayton’s Flyer Pep Band can do what it does in UD Arena for Flyers basketball games. . .toot its own horns.

The band, led by director Willie Morris, has been named winner of the 2023 Stan Musial Sportsmanship Award.

The band was selected because it adopted, supported and played for the Fairleigh-Dickinson team at the 2023 NCAA First Four in UD Arena and for the first round of the NCAA in Columbus.

FDU won its game in Dayton, then upset Purdue in the first round of the NCAA in Columbus. The Flyers Pep Band traveled to Columbus to play for FDU against Purdue.

“We always say that we were a part of that win because to have that kind of upset you have to have someone to cheer you on,” said Cole Joniak, Flyer Pep Band president. “We looked like FDU fans because on that day we were.”

The band will travel to St. Louis to accept the award on November 18 and the ceremony will be telecast on CBS on Christmas Eve.

And it is apropos that the Stan Musial award is going to a musical group this year. Every year during Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown, Musial would entertain folks in the Otesaga Hotel lounge by playing the harmonica.

—SMILES FROM MYLES: An awesome quote from Cleveland Browns defensive game-wrecker Myles Garrett: “I love playing on the road because there is nothing better than making 50,000 people go dead-ass quiet. You give them a little something to remember and that’s how legends are made.” (A couple of weeks ago, Garrett silenced not only the city of Indianapolis, but all of Marion County.)

—QUITE A GROWL: A short take on from where the Cincinnati Bengals have come in a few short weeks — From Toothless Tigers to Sabre-toothed Tigers. And it is Joe Burrow rattling and waving the sabre.