Prince Albert and a Grande Exit
I don’t know if you noticed it on Sunday when the regular season came to an end but Albert Pujols won the National League Triple Crown.
Not for the season . . . for the decade!
This year, Pujols led the NL in home runs with 47, finished third in batting average at .327, and finished third in RBI with 135.
For the decade of the 2000s, Pujols ranked first in the National League in average (.334), home runs (366), and RBI (1112).
Now that’s impressive.
Pujols became just the third player in history to win a decade Triple Crown joining Ted Williams (1940s-AL), Rogers Hornsby (1930s-NL) and Honus Wagner (1900s-NL).
I mention that stat for this reason. One of my goals as a sports fan is to see the superstars of my lifetime perform in person at least once.
Off the top of my head, here are some of the legends I’ll be able to tell my son Sam that I’ve been able to see in person:
Baseball: Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, Alex Rodriguez, Tony Gwynn, Ichiro Suzuki, Manny Ramirez, Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Derek Jeter, Barry Larkin, and Pujols.
Football: OJ Simpson, Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Tom Brady, Brett Favre, John Elway, Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Bruce Smith, and Lawrence Taylor.
Basketball: Michael Jordan (in college and the NBA), LeBron James, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Charles Barkley, Pat Ewing, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Pete Maravich, Kevin McHale, and OJ Mayo (as an 8th grader).
Golf: Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer.
My biggest regret is never making the effort to see Wayne Gretzky in person. I’ve been to quite a few NHL games, but never saw “The Great One” in action. That’s the gaping hole on my sports fan resume.
Who are some of the legends that you’re proud to say you watched in person – maybe even at McCoy Stadium! Let me know in the comments section.
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One of my mentors in sports broadcasting announced that he will not return to the Cincinnati Reds TV booth next season, as George Grande opted out of the final year of his contract to spend more time with his family in Connecticut.
There truly is not a nicer person on this earth than George Grande, and I could write a book about all that I learned from him during the years that I hosted the Reds pre-game show on FSN Ohio.
The most important lesson I learned was how to make use of your time in the hours leading up to the first pitch. George was constantly on the move, striking up casual conversations with players and coaches from both teams. By the time the game arrived, he had a notebook full of fresh material that he would sprinkle through that night’s broadcast.
For years, George has been the Master of Ceremonies every summer at the Hall of Fame Inductions in Cooperstown. One day soon, he’ll step to the mic as a recipient of the Ford Frick Award and he takes his place in the broadcaster’s wing of the Hall of Fame.
By the way, George was kind enough to join Steve Hyder and me on an episode of “PawSox Insider” this summer. You can listen to it here. It’s Episode 18, Part 1.