Tuesday, March 31, 2015

College Basketball Invitational Tournament: Brief Post

Game 1 of the best-of-three championship series:


UNIV. of LOUISIANA MONROE                58



Friday, March 27, 2015

College Basketball Invitational and Loyola University of Chicago

So most people have never heard of the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) tournament, which is going on right now and has its championship next week just like the NCAA tournament that gets (deservedly) all the attention.  But if you're from Chicago, maybe you should have heard of it.  Because there were only three men's teams from Illinois playing in the post-season, and two of them (NIT entries Illinois State and University of Illinois Champaign) are gone, gone gone (in the words of Phillip Phillips). 

The third team, my own alma mater Loyola University, is still alive and will be competing with Louisiana-Monroe in the best-of-three championship of the CBI. 


If you are not aware of the fact, only one team from Illinois has ever won the NCAA tournament.  One guess who it was.  Did you guess Loyola University of Chicago?  If you didn't, you're wrong.  LU won it in 1963. 

I'm not 100% certain, but I think Loyola's last postseason appearance was in the 1985 NCAA tournament where they went to the Sweet 16 and lost to a really really really (that's three "really's") good Georgetown team. 

Why should we care about this?  Well, there's been a lot of talk these past two weeks about how bad the state of Chicago, and of Illinois college basketball has been recently.  There's not much excitement around the usual teams, Illinos and DePaul.  No one talks about the Redbirds of ISU, or the Salukis of SIU, or Western, Eastern, Northern, Chicago State, UIC, Northwestern, or Loyola. 

Yet a bunch of NBA players and a bunch of players on the last few years' final four teams have been from Chicago.  Anthony Davis.  Derrick Rose.  Jabari Parker.  The Okafor kid from Duke this year.  All Chicagoans.  And there are plenty of others who are NOT superstars of their teams but instead are just good solid players. 

They aren't playing for local schools. 

It's a big change from when I was in school.  The best college bound HS basketball players were often heading to Illinois.  Or DePaul.  Some even went to Loyola.  A few went to Northwestern.  A couple more ended up at ISU.  Voise Winters?  Efram Winters, Mitchell Anderson, Kenny Battle, Mark Aguirre, Ken Norman, Terry Cummings, Alfredrick Hughes, Andre Battle, David Thirdkill, Darius Clemons..those were Illinois kids who played for Illinois schools.  They made Illinois college programs good. 

They're all leaving now.

Seeing Loyola playing for a championship, talking about it, promoting one of our Chicago teams, is a first step in increasing the visibility of the local programs.  Showcasing local talent, showcasing local coaching, those are good things.  The local news and sports should be at least talking about LU's postseason run, which has included wins over Rider, Oral Roberts and Seattle so far.  They don't have to make it the lead, or even higher than the upcoming Kentucky/Notre Dame matchup, but it should at the very least be news in the Chicago area market. 

It hasn't been.  No one, except for an occasional mention by WSCR's Mike Mulligan (a Loyola graduate), says anything about them.  And that's why Chicago and Illinois basketball are not relevant these days.  The big story is about major programs in other states.  Not a word about Illinois programs, except to ridicule them and maybe talk about DePaul's search for a head coach.

Go Ramblers!!!


Thursday, March 5, 2015


The loss of Minnie Minoso and Ernie Banks made me think about some of the encounters I've had with athletes over the years, notably Ron Santo.  At one time I was an autograph seeker.  I'd get various players to sign whatever I might have on me -- a notebook, a program, a baseball card, etc.  I never obtained too many really good ones until I started going to spring training in Mesa. 

There, I met a man from Cooperstown, New York, named Niles Curtis.  Mr. Curtis was a huge Cubs fan, and we kept in touch for many years until his death.  His wife rarely went to the games in Arizona, and usually Mr. Curtis was by himself. 

I met him at Fitch Park, where I was one of a small group watching prospects in the Cubs Accelerated Program (CAPS) work out on the fields there.  I knew my Cubs baseball back then, and Mr. Curtis knew a lot more.  He had some inside info about various prospects, what their strengths were, what they were working on, how their college or high school careers went...that sort of thing.  We were all watching a prospect named Kevin Orie, a tall, lanky kid who looked comfortable at short.  Orie had a brief stint as a Cubs third bagger, moved to second, then disappeared after he was traded. 

Anyway, later on a trip Mr. Curtis and I were watching the workouts at Ho Ho Kam park (the old park) before a spring training game.  The team would let people in to watch in the morning for free, kick everyone out around eleven, then reopen to ticketholders.  So this was before they kicked us out.  We were just sitting, watching, and over to my left I spotted my boyhood idol, Ron Santo, sitting in the stands with a uniformed coach. 

I said something to Mr. Curtis about Santo, about wanting his autograph, but not wanting to bother him.  Mr. Curtis said, "Go on over and talk to him!  Mr. Santo's a real gentleman, and he'll be happy to sign an autograph for you."

So I did.  I walked over, and somehow lost my voice.  I was standing in the presence of my IDOL!  The man who inspired me as a baseball player, made me want to be a third baseman!  I didn't know what to say!  I held out the program I had purchased, and said something like, "Would you sign your autograph for me?" 

Mr. Santo said, "Sure!"  He took the program and signed. 

I wandered away, having completely ignored the man next to him.  I looked back, saw them deep in conversation, and made my way back to my seat.  I sat down and Mr. Curtis looked at my program.  "Did you get Jimmy Piersall to sign as well?" he asked me. 

Oh!  That's who the uniformed man was.  Jimmy Piersall, the infamous subject of Fear Strikes Out, and the radio partner of Harry Caray back in their Sox broadcast days, was working as a minor league outfield instructor for the Cubs that year (and a few other years).  He was sitting next to Santo, talking about baseball, and I walk up like a dummy and totally ignore him!  Am I a moron, or what? 

I never did get Jimmy Piersall's autograph.  I think that if I was going to get it, it would have been on that day.  Any other day and who knows what Piersall mood you'd run into? 

In a future post, I'd like to write about my two encounters with Harry Caray himself.  One was in spring training and the other...well that's a story for it's own blog post.  Till then...


Monday, March 2, 2015

The loss of Minnie Minoso...

Some Chicago sports blog, eh?

No posts talking about the passing of Ernie Banks, the Cubs legend who had his best days in the late 50's and early 60's but was still productive when I became a fan in the late 1960's (mostly 1969).  He was never my favorite player.  I tended to like good ol' number 10 (Ron Santo) and Glenn Beckert and Fergie Jenkins.  But he was always a favorite player.  And I didn't even bother to post when he died.

No posts on the injuries to Derrick Rose and Patrick Kane.  No posts on the moves made by those teams to cover for those losses (the Bulls made no significant moves; the Hawks got the best available forward/center and a solid defenseman).

No posts on pitchers and catchers reporting.  On Kris Bryant.  On much of anything.

But I saw on the news last night that White Sox great Minnie Minoso passed away over the weekend, and it made me think about this blog.  I didn't see Minoso play; I only know that he was the first black Cuban player in the majors, and I believe that his numbers are thought to be Hall-of-Fame worthy.

But he was one of my grandmother's favorite players.

My grandmother, who died before I was even born, was a huge Sox fan.  And by "huge" I mean she liked them a lot, not that she was a large woman.  She was only about 4'11".  My grandfather was a Sox fan, also.  (He was a big fan, but he WAS also a big man -- something like 6'2")  So how did I become a Cubs fan?  Well, that's another blog entry.  Maybe some day.

Anyway, when I heard about Minoso's passing, I thought about my grandparents.  And I remembered some pictures that my grandmother took at a Sox game in 1951.  Some of the players were identified by just their first name, some by both names.  But here are those photos if you'd like to see these old Sox players and even a bit of the ballpark.  I have a few others as well.

Minnie Minoso

Lou Aloma

Chico Carrasquel (I think) (sp?)

Eddie Roberson (again, I think)(sp?)

Four old black and white photos of White Sox players from the old days. I've heard the names here and there. I don't think any of them except for Minoso were exactly "great" players (whatever that means), but they were solid players.

Rest in peace, Minnie.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Basketball Trade Deadline

A non-story here in Chicago.  No moves were made by the Bulls. 

Did they need to make a move?  Well, not just for the sake of making a move.  It appeared to me (with the limited effort I put into looking at the market) there wasn't anything out there that would justify giving up something they already have. 

I wouldn't have minded if they'd kicked the tires on a big man.  Others seem to want to get a wing who can spread the floor.  Seems to me that they've got those players on their team in Dunleavy, Butler, maybe Snell and McDermott.  OTOH, they've got bigs, sure, but they're OLD or banged-up bigs.  Nazr Mohammed is just taking up a spot on the bench mostly.  Joakim and Pau are both playing too many minutes, Gibson is solid but not as impressive as he was last year in my view, and Mirotic is more of a stretch four, not really a power forward even if he has the size. 

Maybe this team has been playing it right.  Players like Dunleavy, Rose and Butler, and even Joakim have taken time off for illnesses and minor  (or major, in Dunleavy's case) injuries.  Even McDermott got time off, but that was not so great because he needed minutes and reps in game situations. 

Maybe Pau or Joakim should think up some injuries that will keep them out for a little bit in this stretch run so that everyone is healthy and rested for the real season:  the playoffs.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Trade deadline tomorrow for the NBA...

So here comes the trade deadline -- and the Bulls are NOT expected to be a player in any way, shape or form.  Is there something that they can use?  Well, there's always SOMETHING that a team can use, but the more pertinent question is, is any player available that makes sense for the Bulls?

That's a question I can't answer.  I look at the bottom teams and I don't see much that would truly help the Bulls.  Teams like the Pacers aren't going to give up pieces of their future because their 'future" (Paul George) will presumably be back next year and they don't want to have him return to a gutted team.  Amare Stoudamire would have possibly made some sense; a scoring big who can give limited minutes (18-20 per game?) off the bench, but he made sense for Dallas and they didn't hesitate. 

I suspect that this year's deadline (like many in the past) will come and go without notice here in Chi-town. 


Monday, February 2, 2015

What an end! (Super Bowl LXIX)

It came down to the wire.  A four point lead, taken late in the game, by the Patriots is vulnerable to Russell Wilson et al.  An absolutely incredible catch by Kearse.  (Bounce, bounce...bounce...catch!)  Then Lynch's run to put them at around the one yard line, then the final play...

Has to be a run by Lynch.  Or maybe they have Wilson keep it and run it in.  Maybe the Pats are even going to concede the score by Lynch in order to have enough time for a few plays after the kickoff...  But if it doesn't work, they have a time out and two more shots at it...

So what's it gonna be?  Lynch?  Wilson?  Nope, neither.  It's a pass into the end zone...and...

Interception!  The rookie Butler takes it away, and the Pats have the ball with a few seconds left. Can't take a knee, the knee would be in the end zone.  The score would be 28-26 (Pats) and they'd have to kick off and who knows what could happen then?

Instead, it's a 5 yard penalty on the Seahawks, and now it's first and five on the 6 yard line.

Now Brady CAN take a knee.  And he does.  And the game's over.  Just like that!  Pats win, that's Brady's fourth Super Bowl victory (in six tries) and he also surpasses the record for the most TD passes thrown in Super Bowls (12).  He's the MVP, and the Pats go home winners again!

And the Seahawks and their fans have to wonder about that last play call - why not give it to Lynch?  It made no sense.

Well, neither of the teams was wearing a C (for Chicago), so I wasn't really invested in the outcome, but it was good to see an exciting game with a super exciting conclusion!


Two of my Scott Dyson stories are free on Kindle this weekend, starting today, for five days.  The KDP Promotion starts today (January 29) and runs through Monday, February 2nd.

Here are the links to the titles (which include SIX short stories!!) on Amazon:



Please download them (even if you're not crazy about reading them)!  And if you do enjoy them, consider leaving a review on Amazon   Thanks!