St. Louis Cardinals fans are in for a treat as Albert Pujols is profiled on “60 Minutes,” 6 p.m. Sunday on CBS. You also might stick around and watch Oklahoma cowboys Jet and Cord McCoy in “The Amazing Race” at 7 p.m.
Here’s a synposis of the Pujols profile from the network:
When he’s not helping the Cardinals win baseball games with amazing statistics and prodigious home runs, Pujols is helping others. And not just because he is a nice guy. It’s because he was once one of those others, a poor boy in a poor country. Now a rich superstar, he says charity is his passion. Pujols, who some consider the greatest player in the game today, talks to Bob Simon for a “60 Minutes” profile.
Pujols took Simon and “60 Minutes” cameras down to his native Dominican Republic on one of his regular visits to help the country’s poor. His foundation provides essentials like medical care and mattresses to the residents of shantytowns called bateys.
“This is not so I can be Mr. Nice Guy, ‘Look at that baseball player…’” he tells Simon. He is as dedicated to helping others as he is about playing ball, maybe more so. “It’s my passion and I believe this is what God is calling me to do… I was one of those little boys with no hope.” His foundation also supports people with Down syndrome, another passion for Pujols, whose daughter was born with it.
Pujol’s warm feelings for his fellow man do not extend to National League pitchers, however. On the rare occasion a pitcher keeps him off the bases for a game, the next day he’s out for blood. “Whoever is pitching is going to pay up,” smirks Pujols.
Unlucky pitchers have been paying up for years. Pujols hit his 400th home run last August to become just the 47th player in history to reach that plateau. But he did it in the first 10 years of his career. Over that period, in each season, he batted over .300, had more than 30 home runs, and drove home 100 or more runs — a feat unmatched by any great player the game has ever know.
Pujols is a legend already, ensconced in the statistical pantheon so venerated by the game’s biggest fans. Says baseball writer Peter Gammons, “If you look at history, there is no doubt that he is in the top 10 players of all time … No question he is going to be a Hall of Famer.”
For teenagers with Down Syndrome, Pujols is already a hall of famer. Cameras capture him dancing with dozens of them at an annual prom he throws for the teens – the highlight of the year for them. “And for me too,” says Pujols.
The Texas Rangers are close to hiring Fox Sports Southwest studio analyst John Rhadigan as the team’s new play-by-play voice, according to a report Friday in The Dallas Morning News.
The Rangers can do better than Rhadigan, a solid studio analyst, but he has no play-by-play experience. It shows how much Rangers ownership despised former play-by-play announcer Josh Lewin, an enthusiastic announcer with network experience. They dumped him to bring in someone who hasn’t broadcast any MLB games.
Gold-throated radio voice Eric Nadel would be the best choice to work with analyst Tom Grieve, but he likely prefers to stay on radio. The Morning News reported Scott Franzke, who worked Rangers pre- and postgame radio before becoming the Philadelphia Phillies play-by-play announcer, was among the early candidates.
Rhadigan joined Fox Sports Southwest in June 2001 and has handled Rangers pre- and postgame shows.
Cliff Lee shook the baseball world with the surprise announcement that he was signing with the Philadelphia Phillies. Bob Costas, an analyst with MLB Network, gave some of his opinions on the move:
ON WHETHER PHILADELPHIA’S ROTATION IS NOW THE BEST OF ALL-TIME:
“Philadelphia’s pitching staff is going to be in the argument. Of course, they have to go out and do it and a lot of things can happen. Injuries and off-years, but potentially, they’ve got a staff that will be in the argument with the best of all-time. One that immediately comes to mind is the 1954 Cleveland Indians, with Early Wynn and Bob Lemon in the prime of their career years. Bob Feller was still very effective, Art Houtteman, Don Mossi, that was an awesome rotation. In 1971, the Baltimore Orioles had four 20-game winners. … But I think [Roy] Oswalt or [Cole] Hamels are probably better than the Orioles’ fourth starter, Pat Dobson. Potentially, this Phillies’ rotation, if everyone maxes out, is about as good as any in the modern history of the game.”
ON LEE SIGNING WITH THE PHILLIES:
“Obviously, Cliff Lee was going to be rich no matter what, so he cashes in big time. But when money is not the only thing, then it restores some of your confidence that there are other factors. That’s part of what free agency is supposed to be about. It isn’t just about money, it’s about selecting your circumstances. What if you want to live closer at home? What if a particular city appeals to you? What if you prefer the National League over the American League or if you want to join a contending team? There are lots of considerations that should go into free agency other than money. In this case, although money was a factor, the fact that it wasn’t the single dominant factor is kind of refreshing.”
ON THE IMPACT OF THE NEW YORK YANKEES:
“They took a swing and missed. … I don’t think it’s a disaster, but it’s a disappointment. I don’t think the Yankees are going to get much sympathy, considering the advantages they have every year and the run of success they’ve had. Outside the talk show callers in New York, I don’t think they’re going to get much sympathy.”
ON WHETHER PHILADELPHIA IS THE WORLD SERIES FAVORITE:
“If you were talking about the old, straight pennant race days where over 162 games the best team would generally prevail, I’d say the Phillies are the World Series favorites. Or even when it was two divisions and you played eventually a seven-game League Championship Series, you might say that. But now, it’s such a gauntlet that you have to run. Would I be surprised if the Phillies don’t win the National League East? Yes, I’d be surprised. … But now anything can happen in a short series in the postseason.
Will every Stephen Strasburg start be nationally televised? It’s beginning to seem that way after TBS picked up his second start at noon Sunday at Cleveland and the MLB Network plans to air his expected third start against the Chicago White Sox at 6 p.m. June 18 from National Park.
It’s easy to see why the networks are jumping on the Strasburg bandwagon. His 14- strikeout performance in his major-league debut Tuesday night against Pittsburgh on MLB Network was amazing to say the least.
Said FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal: “This is my 24th year covering baseball, and last night was one of my five favorite nights ever at a ballpark. To see Strasburg perform at such a high level was electrifying. Granted, Strasburg was facing the Pirates, the lowest-scoring team in the majors, but the quality of his pitches was so good, I’m not sure the opponent would have mattered. He touched 100 mph — with movement. He threw his breaking ball for strikes. His changeup was in the 90-mph range. And the last of his pitches was a fastball at 99. You couldn’t take your eyes off him. Let’s just hope he stays healthy and his starts remain must-see events for hopefully, the next 10 or 15 years.”
For its Sunday telelcast, TBS plans to add two super slo-mo cameras; a centerfield camera and a right field line camera.
— KOKH-25 will air the White Sox at Cubs game at 3 p.m. Saturday. Kenny Albert and Eric Karros will call the action. Carlos Silva (8-0, 2.93 ERA) is expected to pitch for the Cubs.
— The 8 p.m. Monday premiere of the Golf Channel documentary, “Caddy for Life: The Bruce Edwards Story,” not only will recall the inspirational life of one of golf’s pioneers, but also will shed light on the disease that tragically took his life. Based on The New York Times best-selling book by John Feinstein, the film is an emotional remembrance of the extraordinary relationship between one of history’s greatest golfers, Tom Watson, and his longtime friend and caddy, Edwards. It recounts Edwards’ battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, until his death in 2004.
— A reminder of the great achievements of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden is captured in the HBO Sports special “The UCLA Dynasty,” a 2007 documentary that traces the incredible success of the UCLA men’s basketball program, which captured an astounding ten national titles during a 12-year run. The HBO2 service will air an encore presentation of the one-hour documentary on at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
As the MLB season gets under way, here are some of the broadcaster movements over the offseason:
TBS has dropped Chip Caray, who was criticized for making factual mistakes during playoff broadcasts, as its primary play-by-play announcer. Ernie Johnson, Dick Stockton and Brian Anderson will split the duties for the Sunday afternoon games.
Orel Hershiser has joined ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball,” replacing Steve Phillips, who left the network following his affair with an ESPN production assistant. A former Cy Young award winner, Hershiser will provide a pitcher’s perspective to the broadcasts.
Newcomers to ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” studio show include Nomar Garciaparra, Doug Glanville, J.P. Ricciardi and Aaron Boone. Boone also will be a game analyst on Monday night broadcasts, and Garciaparra will work select Wednesday night broadcasts.
Victor Rojas has left his job as MLB Network studio host to become a play-by-play voice of the Los Angeles Angels.
Veteran CBS sportscaster Dick Enberg has been hired as a TV play-by-play announcer for his hometown team, the San Diego Padres.
Fired ESPN analyst Steve Phillips, who recently left the sex rehab clinic in Mississippi that has reportedly treated Tiger Woods, appeared Monday on NBC’s “Today” show to discuss his sex scandal and addiction.
Interviewed by Matt Lauer, Phillips said. “People look at sex addiction as an excuse; it’s not an excuse. I’m fully responsible for everything that I did and accept responsibility for that.”
Phillips said he knew he had a problem before his affair with 22-year-old production assistant Brooke Hundley went public.
“I started calling facilities in August, well before everything blew up, and before there really was a problem where I ended up losing my job,” he said. “I knew I had a problem; I needed to get help.”
Hundley crashed her car into Phillips’ house after dropping off a letter detailing their affair to his wife, Marni. “I’m sorry for him and his family,” Hundley told NBC. “I’m sorry for my family. I was 22; I made some mistakes. If I could take them back, I would, OK?”
Phillips offered insight on sex rehab and sex addiction.
“People who go there are broken people,” he said. “That’s really the essence of the addiction, that you’re broken inside. You’ve got a hole that you’ve tried to fill, whether it was with alcohol or drugs or sex or gambling, with whatever. You go there and try to get the basics of why did you do what you did. For most addicts, whether it’s alcohol or sex or whatever, it is that you have that hole inside based upon shame and trauma that occurred from childhood.”
Josh Lewin, one of my favorite announcers, who also works for my favorite baseball team, the Texas Rangers, will be coming back for next season and likely 2011. The Rangers announced Friday that they had signed him to a one-year extension with a mutual option for 2011.
John Blake, Rangers executive VP of communications, sure Lewin won’t be missing as many games late in the season as in the past. He also has served as radio voice of the San Diego Chargers.
“We felt like we needed to have our No. 1 television guy here more at the end of the year,” Blake said. “We’ve accomplished that in this. There’s only three games he can miss the last month of the season.”
From reading comments on the Dallas Morning News’ Web site, www.dallasnews.com, I can see that Lewin, 41, has worn thin on some Rangers’ fans in his previous eight seasons with the team. But I think he does a great job of keeping a slow-paced game interesting by delving into a variety of topics with analyst Tom Grieve.
The big news from baseball’s winter meetings doesn’t involve trades or free agent signings. Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons has decided to leave ESPN after the meetings to join the MLB Network and the New England Sports Network.
Gammons’ knowledgable and thoughtful reports will be missed by ESPN viewers. He will be a studio analyst for MLB and a studio analyst, reporter and online contributor for NESN.
Said Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president: “As a print journalist moving to television, Peter was a pioneer who became a Hall of Famer. His contributions to ESPN will never be forgotten. We’re sad to see Peter go, but understand his desire for new challenges and a less demanding schedule.”
Said Gammons: “My decision to leave ESPN and move on at this point in my life has been conflicted. I owe a great deal of my professional life to ESPN, having spent more than half of my 40 years in journalism working for the network, and the choice to move on was made with nothing but the strongest feelings for the people with whom I worked. ESPN gave me a great deal more than I gave it, and will always be a huge part of who I am.”
“My friend Tom Rush – who taught James Taylor and me our first guitar chords – once wrote how strange it seems to walk away alone. With no regrets.”
Gammons, 64, was honored as the recipient of the 2004 J.G. Taylor Spink Award for outstanding baseball writing during the 2005 Hall of Fame induction ceremony July 31 in Cooperstown, N.Y. He was selected in balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
He began his career as a reporter for the Boston Globe in 1969 and wrote a very popular weekly Sunday baseball column for many years. He has also worked for Sports Illustrated covering the National Hockey League, college basketball and Major League Baseball (1976-78, 1986-90).
ABC was hoping the 6,000 fans who watched the taping of the Shaquille O’Neal vs. Albert Pujols home run contest Aug. 13 in O’Fallon, Mo., wouldn’t reveal who won the competition until after the “Shaq Vs.” episode airs at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Media coverage wasn’t allowed and fans couldn’t bring in cell phones or recording devices.
I doubt if it’s much of a secret.
In a preview clip of the show, O’Neal turned to a youth baseball player who was catching batting practice with him and said, “I suck, don’t I?”
The player said, “Yes.”
Shaq undoubtedly was no match for the Cardinals slugger — even after being given a handicap, believed to be having the fences moved in.
Another young player dissed Shaq after he hit a foul ball. “The fence is this way!”
O’Neal looks to have fun with the episode anyway and joking refers to himself as “Shaq-ie Robinson” at one point.
O’Neal watched the Cardinals take batting practice and threw out the first pitch before the Aug. 11 game against the Reds, and he and Pujols held a press conference on Aug. 12 to preview their contest.
“Usually I try to get into the mind of my opponent,” O’Neal said during the news conference. “But I don’t think it’s wise to talk smack to a guy that always has a bat in his hand. So I will have to use a different approach with the great Albert Pujols.”
Fox broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver and MLB Commissioner Bud Selig discussed Tuesday’s All-Star game in a conference call this week. Here are a few of the highlights:
Buck on whether he likes the format of playing for home-field advantage format: “Tim and I are on record saying this has made the best All-Star Game of the four major sports even better. Before the format change, you would see the starters for one maybe two at bats and then they would be on their way to the airport. Now its completely different. We sit in with the managers and talk about how they’re going to manage and win the ball game, not just to get everyone in. Now personally, I love to see them go a step further. We were awfully close to a frightening situation last year at Yankee Stadium. Great ballgame but as it turned out we were maybe one out away from having J.D. Drew pitch in the ballgame. I’m glad they ended up adding another pitcher and a 33rd person on each roster but I’d love to see the starters start the game and see, for example, Tim Lincecum pitch five innings and see a real baseball game.”
Selig on whether he thinks the format of playing for home-field advantage works: “A lot of people think that the 2002 tie really drove the change in format. We had been talking about this for at least a year before. I remember as kid watching Ted Williams break his elbow in the first inning of the 1950 All-Star Game in Chicago’s Comiskey Park. He played the whole game. But later the All-Star Game had lost its desire. Since the format change, the games have been played with remarkable intensity. It isn’t like we had a brilliant recipe for how we decided how to award home-field advantage before. One year the AL got it, the next the NL got it. Do I think playing for home-field advantage is good? You bet I do. Frankly, the events over the last six years have really made me feel stronger about this.”
McCarver on his time in St. Louis and its baseball tradition: “I played in St. Louis from 1959-1969 and again in 1973 and 1974 and was fortunate to be on teams that were very successful so you would get no argument from me in saying St. Louis was and still is the best baseball town in America. My experience there was nothing but terrific. With Joe living in St. Louis and me going back, from a personal standpoint, this game is very special for both of us.”