Mondays With Murray: He Could Have Had More Than Garden of Roses

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 5, 1989, SPORTS

Copyright 1989/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

He Could Have Had More Than Garden of Roses

For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: “It might have been!” — JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER

  I was reminded anew of the poet’s lament the other day. I was interviewing this fellow for whom it all went a-glimmering years ago.

  You remember that scene in “On the Waterfront,” where Marlon Brando takes his brother’s hand reproachfully off his arm, looks at him with these big sad eyes and says “I coulda been a contendah! I coulda been somebody!”

  Well, that’s kind of what it was like. Sad. Heart-rending.

  Years ago, this fellow — I will call him George, although I think his nickname was Slick back in those days — was the silkiest-fielding first baseman you ever saw. He could go to mondaysmurray2his right, he could go to his left. You couldn’t throw the ball over him or under him. He had a gun for an arm. He wore the latest thing in equipment, a George McQuinn-model mitt called the Claw.

  He played for Yale but the scouts came around by the score. They hadn’t seen anything this slick around the bag since Hal Chase, Joe Judge, Joe Kuhel. His own idol was Lou Gehrig.

   He had missed a couple of years as a fighter pilot in the Second World War but that only meant he was more mature, steadier, more reliable, not given to anxiety. He could have been great.

 Around first base, he was a combination of Frank Merriwell and Dink Stover. Flawless, graceful, sure-handed. He was left-handed, which is what a first baseman should be.

  At the bat, for some unaccountable reason, he hit right. Maybe it was ideological.

  Whatever it was, he couldn’t hit the curveball.

  Well, look. That can be learned, right? Not everybody rolls out of bed with the ability to hit .350. Not everybody is Ty Cobb. George batted .264 his senior year and helped Yale get to the College World Series, no less.

 Everyone figured a few seasons at Binghamton and Newark and it would be Yankee-Stadium-here-we-come! I mean, the good life. Old Dependable. The new Iron Horse.

  Well, we all know how those things work out. Wife, child. You need a job. You put the dreams on hold.

   Then they want you to go into the family business. Well, in this case, the family business was politics. George’s father was a U.S. Senator. Duty called.

  There was no time to iron out the kinks in the swing, spend the hours in the batting cage, go for the brass ring. It was the salt mines for him. He never got to wear the Yankee pinstripes; he wore the three-piece kind. With the old school tie.

  It was speeches on the hustings, handshakes from the backs of trains, smoke-filled rooms, a stint in the oil business. He had to put away the old uni, hang up the George McQuinn glove, put the old lineup cards in a trunk. Just another guy who never made it to the bigs.

  Oh, he’s not starving, or hanging around bars, telling guys how he went 4-for-5 off Hubbell or took Allie Reynolds downtown.

  He lives in this big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. He has a chauffeur. He has his own airplane. In fact, he has his own air force.

  But, he makes — what? $200,000 a year? Something like that. You think Don Mattingly would play for that? Will Clark makes that in a month.

  In case the guys he used to rob of hits down the line or make the 3-6-3 double play have lost track of him, he has done all right. I mean, it’s not like being the All-Star first baseman or having a locker in Yankee Stadium or your own bubble-gum card but George found work all right.

  He’s the President of the United States.

  Now, that’s an OK job for a guy who was the president of the debating club, or the campus wheeler-dealer. But, George Herbert Walker Bush could have been somebody. He could have been in a lineup with Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Billy Martin.

  Casey Stengel could have been yelling at him: “Hey, Bush! Is that a name or a description? Don’t the Yales throw curveballs?”

  Life could have been a blast.

  You know, when the President of the United States calls, you drop everything and go. I mean, you never know. He may need you. It’s well known that I know exactly what to do about Noriega, the Middle East, the balance of trade. I could handle the Soviets in my sleep.

  I know he’d want to keep my visit a secret. So I slept at the J.W. Marriott instead of the Lincoln bedroom. No use letting Sam Donaldson get wind of it.

  I like it that people don’t know that I’m an expert on international relations.

  They even did a good job of pretending not to know who I was at the White House’s northwest gate, as usual. It was roped off when I got there. The president of Egypt was just leaving.

  There were about 10 of us sportswriter-sportscaster types on hand. I was pretty sure I was the only one who knew what to do about Angola, though.

  With Presidents, you try the oblique approach, though. I cleared my throat. “Mr. President, what did you bat at Yale?” I didn’t want to rush things. Plenty of time to get into Lebanon.

  Well, when I tell you the next 40 minutes were spent in discussing baseball, you have to know our President is a master of camouflage — don’t forget, he used to be head of the CIA — or, and here is the conclusion I came to, he still thinks wistfully of what might have been. He’d rather be running the World Series than the world.

  There have been lots of football players in the White House — Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford. Even a tennis player, Woodrow Wilson, a rail-splitting champion, Abe Lincoln, and a horseback rider-boxer, Teddy Roosevelt. But, there has never been a baseball player.

  It suddenly occurred to me, the President enjoyed the sensation of being asked by a lot of guys with notebooks things like, “What kind of a pitch did you hit?” “Why didn’t you swing at that fastball?”

  He was just like a guy sitting in front of his locker with a beer meeting the sporting press after a game in which he’d just gone 4-for-4— or popped up Ball 4 to lose the game.

  So if you’re stuck in a 9-to-5 job you hate, if you have to run the family business when you would rather run the Dodgers, take heart. George Bush, who was one of the best there ever was at digging out low throws and taking the cutoff to throw the guy out at the plate, spends all day talking to people who never even heard of Lou Gehrig.

  Nicaragua never came up. When someone wanted to know if the government should step into baseball expansion, the President gave the idea short shrift. There are a lot of things wrong with the country, but the Chicago Cubs ain’t one of them, seemed to be his notion.

  And the prisoner of Pennsylvania Avenue was hustled off to talk about the bustout in East Germany. You had the feeling he’d rather stay and talk about the 1953 Yankees. After all, if it weren’t for a lousy break here and there, he could have been one of them. He could have been a star.

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 60753, Pasadena, CA 91116

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while wondering how much Habs’ coach will pay . . .

Scattershooting


After blowing a 3-0 lead and dropping a 4-3 OT decision to the visiting Dallas Stars on Saturday night, Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien had a good rant. . . . Here’s part of it: “(The officials) looked frustrated tonight — the referee. He should have been because to me it was embarrassing. I can’t say anything else. We take responsibility for some of our stuff and when we’re not good I’m going to stand up here and say we aren’t good enough tonight. Well, tonight we had to beat two teams and it was tough.” . . . If you watched this game, you know that Julien had a point — the officiating wasn’t very good. . . . But what I want to know is this: Are the ghosts that used to live in the Montreal Forum not hanging out in the Bell Centre?

Paul George of the Los Angeles Clippers was hit with a US$35,000 fine by the NBA after saying out loud that his team had been the victim of “home cooking” in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. . . . This being the NHL, I’ve gotta think Julien will get touched for 10 grand, in Canadian funds of course.


It’s too bad that there isn’t one WHL team with an in-house organist; in fact, an NHL scout has told me that he doesn’t think there is a team in the 60-team CHL with an organist. . . . Mal Isaac, a sports writer with the Regina Leader-Post back in the day, wrote this in the Feb. 12, 1972, edition: “The stadium is no longer a dull place to watch a hockey game, organist Alan Vanstone has taken care of that. His work on the keyboard has done wonders to liven up the crowd.” . . . The stadium was Exhibition Stadium, then the home of the Regina Pats. Vanstone was the father of Rob Vanstone, today The L-P’s sports columnist. . . . If a team can’t afford an organist and keyboard, how about a trumpeter? . . . The goal is to bring some spontaneity into your building and this is a great way to do it.


Joggers


——

Scott Ostler, in the San Francisco Chronicle: “All it would have taken was for one Astro — Jose Altuve? Alex Bregman? — to stand up in the clubhouse and say, ‘Guys, we don’t need this. We’re good enough to win without banging on trash cans.

“Another way that message could have been stated: ‘Fellas, have you ever seen Shoeless Joe Jackson’s induction plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame?’ ”

——

One more from Ostler: “Some songs we’re going to hear over ballpark PA systems when the Astros are in town: ‘Knock Three Times,’ ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart,’ ‘Woman, Woman (Have You Got Cheating On Your Mind?),’ ‘We Got The Beat,’ ‘Knock-Knock-Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.’ ”


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, after the Astros held a news conference in an ill-fated attempt to put the cheating scandal behind them: “Let me say that Thursday’s questioning by the media was uninspired. Perry Mason’s place as an icon of incisive interrogation is in no danger this morning. . . . Let me say that the answers provided by the Astros’ owner were as unresponsive as Jimmy Hoffa would be should someone find him this afternoon.”


“Pitchers and catchers have reported and spring training games start next week,” noted Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe. “When is spy camp?”


Bruce Jenkins, in the San Francisco Chronicle, referencing MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and former pitcher Mike Krukow: “If Manfred takes the proper steps, and teams know it’s time to limit sign-stealing to acceptable means, ‘You’ll see a lot less cheating,’ Krukow said. ‘And if the hitters don’t know what’s coming, you’ll see a lot less offense. That’s going to be a big thing this season.’ ”


Murrow


“Bob Knight, the winningest basketball coach in Indiana history, returned to Assembly Hall for a Hoosiers game for the first time since the school fired him 20 years ago,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “Apparently it took that long to make sure all the chairs were bolted down.”

——

Another report from Perry: “This just in: Astros hitters seek permission to wear catcher’s gear during their at-bats this season.”



The Boston Celtics are going to retire Kevin Garnett’s number (5) at some point next season. Here’s Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports: “KG will be the 24th player to have his number retired by the Celtics (though none of those other jabronis have starred in a movie as good as ‘Uncut Gems’) and soon enough all Celtics players will have to wear triple-digit uniform numbers.”



Former WHL D Chris Joseph will be inducted into the Burnaby Sports Hall of Fame on Feb. 27. . . . Joseph, 50, was born in Burnaby, moved with his family to Golden, B.C., for three years as a youngster, then returned to Burnaby where he played at the Burnaby Winter Club. He went on to play with the junior B Burnaby Blazers and in the WHL with the Seattle Thunderbirds (1985-87). . . . He also played for the Canadian junior team at the 1987 World Junior Championship, the one whose medal chances ended with a brawl against the Soviet Union at Piestany. In 1988, the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers lent him to the Canadian team and he helped the club win WJC gold in Moscow. . . . Pittsburgh selected him fifth overall in the NHL’s 1987 draft and he went on to play with the Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vancouver Canucks, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes and Atlanta Thrashers. He retired after playing four seasons in Europe. . . . Joseph and his family live in St. Albert, Alta., where he operates a hockey academy and is a firefighter. He and his wife, Andrea, lost their son Jaxon in the crash of the Humboldt Broncos’ bus on April 6, 2018. Chris now speaks frequently about the need for mandatory seat belts on buses and better training for big rig drivers. “The Humboldt Broncos affected the nation so much we do feel we have to speak out for those that haven’t got the attention and make the roads safer for everyone,” Chris told Grant Granger, the Hall of Fame’s chairman.“We feel a little bit of responsibility to use that for the greater good.” . . . The reception is at 6 p.m., with dinner at 7. Tickets are $85 each, at tickets09@shaw.ca, or 604-436-6372. It all will happen at the Firefighters’ Banquet Hall, 6515 Bonsor Ave., in the Metrotown area of Burnaby.


Whale


JUST NOTES: Hey, NHL, it’s Friday night and the NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge is on seven of the eight Sportsnet channels here. There isn’t one NHL game available. I think Sportsnet is your Canadian broadcast partner. No? . . . The eighth Sportsnet channel? It’s showing WWE Friday Night Smackdown, followed by WWE Main Event. . . . Hey, NHL, TSN and the Scotties Tournament of Hearts say “Thank you.” . . .

Isn’t it about time that someone inside Houston’s organization told the Astros to shut up? BTW, they open the regular season on March 26 against the visiting Los Angeles Angels. I’ve got the over-under on Houston batters to be plunked at 5.5. . . . You have to know that at least some part of MLB doesn’t mind this cheating mess because the TV ratings for Houston’s games are going to be up, up, up. Everyone is going to watch the train wreck. . . . And we await MLB’s ruling on whatever it is that the Boston Red Sox were doing.

Big day drawing closer for Gillis, Teigan. . . . Transplant, donation records in Ontario

If you wonder what it’s like for someone who is staring at a kidney transplant and watching as the date for surgery quickly approaches, well, Stephen Gillis is providing a look into what he is going through.

Gillis, who coaches a minor hockey team in Vancouver, is scheduled for a transplant on Tuesday at Vancouver General Hospital, with a friend, Michael Teigan, as the donor. You may be aware that Gillis’s hockey team put together a video a while back as part of the search for a donor.

With Transplant Day drawing ever closer, Gillis’s Facebook posts provide some insight into his thoughts and feelings . . .

“With one week till our kidney transplant, my donor Michael’s awesome girlfriend and my dear friend, Denise, held a ‘Kidney Relocation Party’ with some of Michael’s dearest friends.

“Van Minor Atom A1 parents and players, who have gone above and beyond supporting us, gave Michael some amazing gifts including a t-shirt and card made by our awesome manager, Tara Rodas, and personal cards from each player and a lovely donation to Michael’s recovery time.

“Friends were tasked to bring kidney-related items to the party, which included cooking lamb kidney (which is the only kidney I hope to reject), an original 19-page Kidney screenplay, poems, and an unbelievable kidney donation-themed rendition of ‘The Downeaster Alexa’ by Billy Joel. A special night with special people.

“Thank you to all who have supported our journey together and know that you too can be a hero by registering to be an organ donor to save a life one day. It takes 30 seconds, www.register.transplant.bc.ca.

——

Later came another post . . .

“(Wednesday) was a special day for Michael & I as we march toward Transplant Tuesday.

We had a lovely interview with the great Robin Gill (that will run on) Global National news on Sunday, Feb. 16 at 5:30 p.m., and then will also run on Global BC’s morning show with our friends @paulyhays & @soniasunger. Thanks to Global News for their continued support of our story and raising awareness for organ donation and the Kidney Foundation of BC & Yukon.

“We also, surprisingly, ran into our transplant surgeon Dr. Dave, who is an absolute beauty. ‘We are going to make sure you are both okay and by 4 p.m. Tuesday it will all be over.’

“I am starting to feel calm for the first time in years. Literally, service dogs run up to me lately as they can tell my energy. The only time the worry leaves me is when I am at the rink with the kids, until Dr. Dave gave me our pre-game talk. I think I am finally ready to let go and have this miracle happen.

“Check out our interview Sunday evening on @globaltv and please consider becoming an organ donor and have the conversation with your family. Know you don’t have to be a living donor, just think: Do you really need to take anything with you when you go on the next part of your journey on the other side?

——

Gillis and Teigan also were to be busy on Saturday night.

As Gillis, who spent Friday night at WWE Smackdown in Vancouver, posted:

“Michael and I will be on stage for a very special Kidney/Organ Donation-themed Vancouver Theatre Sports show at 9:30 p.m. at the Improv Centre.

“Please consider coming out and laughing with us and possibly donating to The Kidney Foundation of Canada, BC & Yukon Branch.”

——

If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca



The Trillium Gift of Life Network reports that the province of Ontario set a record for organ donations and transplants in 2019. . . . All told, organs from 684 deceased and living donors resulted in 1,386 transplants. . . . One of the reasons for the increases is that donors who in times past wouldn’t have been eligible because of one medical condition or another now are able to donate because of medical advancements. From a news release: “Transplants of healthy and suitable organs from donors with hepatitis C, for example, can now safely occur, expanding the pool of potential donors and decreasing wait times for recipients on the list.” . . . Jessica Patton of Global News has more right here.


Scattershooting on a Thursday night while watching Ovie shoot for 700 . . .

Scattershooting

A lot of what follows was to have been up here earlier in the week, but I got caught up in the Trevor Weisgerber story that you may have read here. If you haven’t seen it, just scroll down a bit and ready about the hockey coach who is fresh off a kidney transplant . . . Apologies, then, if some of what follows is a touch dated . . .


Followers of the WHL should be looking to the Pacific Northwest and thanking the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds for having breathed some life into the 2019-20 season.

Considering that their home arenas are located a few slapshots apart — of course, with SeattleSeattle-area traffic that can turn into a long drive in terms of time — we should expect this to be a healthy rivalry.

Now, however, I think it’s fair to say that this is the WHL’s top rivalry.

On Saturday night, the Silvertips hung a 5-2 beating on the host Thunderbirds, who actually play in Kent, Wash.

There was some nastiness, of course, a lot of it stemming from a second-period incident in which Everett F Justyn Gurney delivered an unpenalized shoulder to the head of Seattle D Cade McNelly. Less than 24 hours later, the WHL suspended Gurney for two games.

It was after the game when things really heated up.

Dennis Williams, the Silvertips’ head coach, told Josh Horton of the Everett Herald: “I Everettdon’t know what (Seattle’s) mindset is. Do they not want to play hockey? The game of hockey is skilled. It’s making plays, it’s going up the ice. From the midway to the second on, we knew we had them beat.”

Williams also told Horton that he lifted No. 1 G Dustin Wolf in the third period because “I just don’t trust them.”

On Sunday afternoon, Thunderbirds general manager Bil La Forge responded, telling Andy Eide of ESPN radio in Seattle: “Their comments post-game got me riled up. We always are portrayed as the big bad Thunderbirds. We do play hard and I’m not apologizing for that nor will I ever. But I think them yelling down at us from their high horse has to stop.”

La Forge, who obviously had done some research, also told Eide: “I think the numbers speak for themselves. They’ve been suspended 52 games in the last three seasons, we’ve been suspended 40. Twenty-six of their (game) suspensions have been against us and only eight of our game suspensions have been against them. That tells me that we’re playing hard, I’m not going to deny that. But, we’re trying to play within the rules as much as possible.”

Meanwhile, Thom Beuning, the veteran play-by-play voice of the Thunderbirds, was tweeting:

The Silvertips and Thunderbirds are scheduled to face each other three more times this season, starting tonight (Friday) in Everett. Happy Valentine’s Day!

And the U.S. Division-leading Portland Winterhawks are sitting back, enjoying every second of this, and saying: “Have at ’er boys!”

(Eide’s complete story, with lots of great quotes from La Forge, who used to work for the Silvertips, is right here.)


A couple of days later, Tom Gaglardi, the majority owner of the Kamloops Blazers, did his best to stimulate the rivalry not only between his team and the Kelowna Rockets, but also Kamloops1between the cities. . . . Gaglardi didn’t just throw some fuel on the fire; he opened the gas bowser and left it running. . . . When Gaglardi chatted with Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week, the Blazers (32-16-4), who had lost five in a row (0-4-1), were leading the B.C. Division, with the Rockets (23-25-3) 19 points back in fourth spot. . . . In the fall of 2018, you may recall, the WHL’s board of governors heard bids from Kamloops, Kelowna and the Lethbridge Hurricanes, each of whom wanted to play host to the 2020 Memorial Cup. . . . In the end, the governors chose the Rockets whose big boss, Bruce Hamilton, is the chairman of that board of governors. . . . “I think you know how I feel,” Gaglardi told Hastings. “Yeah, it was our turn. It should have been ours. It was the wrong thing. The league did the wrong thing. . . . Yeah, I’m sour, for sure. I’m disappointed.” . . . Hastings’ complete story is right here. . . . The Hurricanes (33-12-7), meanwhile, are second in the Central Division, six points behind the Edmonton Oil Kings (35-8-9).


Annoying


There is ample speculation that quarterback Tom Brady won’t be returning to the New England Patriots. However, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel doesn’t see him landing with the Buccaneers. Bianchi explained: “Not to be mean, but putting Tom Brady on the Bucs would be like putting the Mona Lisa in Room 217 of the Red Roof Inn.”


The San Francisco Giants have a manager (Gabe Kapler) and 13 coaches, none of whom chews tobacco. As Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle writes: “The new day in baseball has been coming for a long time now, and with the Giants, it’s here. In the old days, not that long ago, everybody chewed and dipped, and drank. Including the batboy.” . . . If you aren’t aware, using smokeless tobacco is against MLB’s rules, but it’s against the law like speeding and not using turn signals are against the law. . . . “The Giants, though, might have the first tabacky-free MLB coaching staff in history. That’s a guess,” Ostler adds.


A recent gem from the readerboard at the El Arroyo restaurant in Austin, Texas: “Did anyone catch the football game at the J-Lo and Shakira concert?”



Here’s Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times after an incident during a college basketball game: “Houston guard DeJon Jarreau bit Cincinnati’s Keith Williams on the calf during a loose-ball scrum, so he was ejected from the game. Or more precisely, extracted.”

——

One more from Perry: “Who says there’s too much time between the NFL’s conference-championship games and the Super Bowl? Pamela Anderson and Jon Peters managed to get married — and separated — in that two-week span this year.”


A tip of the fedora to the Spokane Chiefs for honouring the Spokane Jets, who won the 1970 Allan Cup, a trophy that once was among the most famous in all of hockey. . . . Dan Thompson wrote a terrific story about the Jets and some of the men who returned to Spokane for Sunday’s game, and it’s all right here, from the pages of the Spokesman-Review.


Baseball


After a Saturday hockey game in which the Calgary Flames physically abused F Elias Pettersson of the host Vancouver Canucks, Ken Campbell of The Hockey News points out that the NHL has allowed its best players to be subjected to this kind of treatment for years and years. Hey, remember when Bobby Hull complained of it? . . . Campbell has more right here. . . . Could it be that the NHL is starting to realize that cross-checking is a problem? Maybe if the NHL does something about that, the WHL will, too.


Former Swift Current Broncos F Sheldon Kennedy has been named to the Order of Hockey In Canada, as well he should have been. He, along with Ken Dryden and Dr. Charles Tator, will be saluted at the Hockey Canada Foundation annual affair in Niagara Falls in June. . . . The WHL posted a story on its website announcing the honour and pointing out that Kennedy roller-bladed “across Canada to raise awareness and funds for sexual assault victims. Kennedy devoted his post-hockey career to child-abuse prevention and education.” . . . Unfortunately, the WHL didn’t bother to explain why Kennedy headed down this career path after bringing an end to his professional hockey career. It was, of course, because he — along with a number of teammates — was sexually abused on hundreds of occasions by Graham James, who then was the Broncos’ general manager and head coach. . . . I have written it before and here it is again: It is long past time for the WHL to unveil an award in Kennedy’s honour, one that should go to anyone who has been involved with the WHL at any level and has gone on to do outstanding work outside the walls of the league.



According to Forbes Magazine, the New York Knicks, who are one of the NBA’s poorest-run operations, carry the highest valuation of the Association’s 30 teams, at $4.6 billion. . . . Here’s Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports reacting to that: “The Knicks should serve as a true inspiration to anyone who dares to dream of being super rich despite sucking at pretty much everything. That’s the real American Dream.”


JUST NOTES: Congrats to Brent Kisio, who became the winningest head coach in the history of the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Saturday night, when he put up victory No. 189. That put him one ahead of Bryan Maxwell. It’s believed that Kisio also has more friends among the zebras than Maxie did. . . . The Everett Silvertips have signed head coach Dennis Williams to a two-year contract extension. A tip of the fedora to Everett GM Garry Davidson for announcing the length of the extension — through the 2022-23 season. The 40-year-old Williams is in his third season with the Silvertips. His regular-season record is a rather solid 127-48-14, and he is 19-13 in the playoffs. . . . Earlier in the week, the Winnipeg Ice signed head coach James Patrick to a three-year extension. Patrick is in his third season with the Ice, which will make the playoffs this go-round for the first time on Patrick’s watch. . . .

Hey, Sportsnet, I think it’s time to suggest to your hockey analysts — hello there Garry Galley; hi Louie DeBrusk — that they stop talking when the play resumes. There’s a time for analysis/nattering and a time for play-by-play; when the puck is in the area of a goal, it’s play-by-play time. And we won’t even get into the fact that Galley talks far too much. . . . Nick Taylor, who calls Abbotsford, B.C., home, went wire-to-wire in winning the Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the weekend, even starting down Phil Mickelson in the final round on Sunday. Here’s hoping that Taylor’s accomplishment isn’t forgotten by all of the year-end award voters come the closing weeks of 2020. . . .

The best part of a Major League Baseball game is the strategy involved; it’s why you don’t have to be a fan of one of the two teams involved in a game to enjoy it. That’s why I absolutely despise the rule announced this week involving a relief pitcher having to face at least three batters if he doesn’t end an inning. It also could spell the end to the left-handed specialist. . . . And a big happy birthday to Brad Hornung, a friend who turned 51 on Thursday.


AAA Warriors coach has kidney transplant . . . Weisgerber at home, planning on playoff return . . . ‘I feel better after two weeks than I have the last two years’

Trevor Weisgerber has some catching up to do, and he hardly can wait.

Weisgerber can’t remember the last time he sat down with his wife, Laurren, and two children — London, 7, and Ty, 4 — to watch a movie and actually was awake for the end.

That’s what happens when you are dealing with kidney disease.

These days, though, Weisgerber, in his first season as head coach the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League, is a couple of weeks removed from having a kidney transplant, and he’s feeling like a new man.

In a conversation with Weisgerber from his Moose Jaw home on Monday, he recalled life in the years before the transplant:

Weisgerber
Trevor Weisgerber hopes to be back with his hockey team early in March. (Photo: Epic Hockey)

“You’re gone all day working and running around and doing what you do. I would take the kids to hockey, be on the ice as much as possible at their practices, but as soon as I came home, my heart rate would go down . . . instantly sleeping.

“We would watch a movie . . . I’d be lucky if I got through the introductions. In the last two years, I don’t think I’ve seen more than a quarter through a movie.”

When I spoke with him, he was 15 days removed from the transplant and his voice was vibrating with energy and enthusiasm.

“It’s definitely life-changing,” he said. “I’m only two weeks in but I can tell the difference already.

“I feel better after two weeks than I have the last two years. It’s incredible . . . absolutely incredible.”

Weisgerber, 40, has known for 11 years that he had a rare kidney disease known as Mucin-1, which has run rampant through one side of his family.

“It goes through our whole family . . . one Grandpa and his siblings . . . through all their families. It’s pretty crazy,” Weisgerber said. “There’s not a lot they can do right now, but I’m hoping with more testing that they can figure out something for our kids or even our kids’ kids.”

Weisgerber, a native of Vibank, Sask., was a point-producer during his playing days, which included stops with the Beardy’s Rage and Yorkton Terriers in the SJHL, three seasons at Lake Superior State U, and seven seasons in the now-defunct Central league.

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(If you run a Google search for ‘Trevor Weisgerber hit’, you will find the above YouTube video of a concussion-inducing check that left Weisgerber unconscious and ultimately ended his playing career.)

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It was while Weisgerber was in the CHL with the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees that he found out he had Mucin-1. During his preseason physical it was discovered that his creatinine level was abnormally high. Creatinine is a waste product that is the result of normal muscle use. The kidneys filter the creatinine from the blood and pass it into the urine.

“I ended up getting a biopsy done and they said that I had it,” he said. “I monitored it from then on.”

At that time, his glomerular filtration rate (GFR) was in the 55 range. GFR is the best way to measure kidney function. For instance, my wife, Dorothy, began peritoneal dialysis (PD) when her GFR reached 10. She had a transplant on Sept. 23, 2013 and her GFR now is in the mid- to high-60s.

Weisgerber’s kidney function kept declining until April 2018 when he ended up on PD.

“My kidney function was around five or six,” he recalled, “so they said I needed to do that.”

Kidney patients on PD hook up to a machine called a cycler for about eight hours at home every night. In short, the cycler drains toxins from the body through the use of fluids.

The cycler now is in Weisgerber’s past and he couldn’t be happier.

Weisgerber2“Obviously, a guy is going to be on medications for the rest of his life, and they can cause complications,” Weisgerber said. “But just to be able to live a normal life and not have to hook up to that machine . . . just the routine of having to go to bed at a certain time and having to be on that machine for eight hours, and hooking it up . . . just little things that you don’t realize.

“Before I got the transplant, I was super itchy from all the toxins; it was crazy. The most uncomfortable . . . just so, so itchy. One of the biggest things is that I don’t have that itching anymore.”

In Weisgerber’s case, it was hoped that PD would be beneficial and keep him going until later this year because a cousin was going through testing in the hopes of being a living donor.

However, PD wasn’t being as effective as it had been, which brings us to Jan. 25.

Weisgerber’s daughter, London, was playing in a hockey tournament and he was in the penalty box, running the clock. All of a sudden his phone rang; it was a number from Saskatoon. He didn’t answer it. It rang again. He still didn’t answer. When it rang a third time, he decided that it might be a good idea to see who was calling.

Well, it was Dr. Abubaker Hassan, a nephrologist at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon.

“Dr. Hassan said, ‘We have a kidney for you. . . . we need you up in Saskatoon,’ ” Weisgerber said. “It was like, holy moly.

“It was really unexpected. You’re scared; you don’t know what to expect. I have an uncle who had gone through it three years ago. He filled me in on everything but, still, you don’t know what to expect.”

When the call ended, Weisgerber went home, packed and headed for Saskatoon. He had surgery the next day.

“Everything went really well,” he said, noting that he spent 10 days in hospital before returning home. For now, he will visit Regina or Saskatoon once a week for bloodwork and checkups.

Weisgerber understands that his new kidney came from a “younger gentleman in Edmonton” who had died. The Weisgerbers will be in touch with the deceased donor’s family, something that is done, at least in the beginning, through a case worker.

Weisgerber plans on writing a letter, while Ty and London “are making pictures and everything.”

“We’re just super fortunate,” he said. “I’m just excited that a guy can live his life again and be somewhat normal here. They say it helps with their healing process, too. The whole thing is emotional.

“Obviously, it isn’t good that a person passed away. But it’s good that he was an organ donor and he does give a life.”

During the process leading up to a transplant involving a deceased donor, the recipient is told that there may well be a feeling of guilt because he/she actually is benefitting from someone else’s death.

Weisgerber said that hasn’t bothered him, but that “it does get a guy emotional, that you’re that fortunate to be able to be a match to that person . . . that he was an organ donor and he pretty much gave a guy a new chance at life.”

These days, Weisgerber’s focus is on getting on with his life, which means looking after a few rental properties and a return to his hockey team. As of Monday, he had missed three games; he expects to miss four more as the Warriors finish their regular season.

Transplant recipients take anti-rejection medications for the remainder of their lives, something that compromises their immune systems. As a result, Weisgerber has been told that it might not be a good idea for him to be in a dressing room or on a bus, at least not in the early days as his system adjusts to the changes.

“The plan is to be back for playoffs at the end of the month,” he said. “The way things are going and the way I feel I can’t see why I wouldn’t be. I’m really looking forward to getting back with the guys and having a long playoff run here.”

The Warriors (29-10-1), who were in first place for a lot of the season, were second in the 12-team league, two points behind the Regina Pat Canadians (29-7-5) and three ahead of the Saskatoon Contacts (27-13-2). Moose Jaw also went 5-1-1 at the Mac’s tournament in Calgary, where they dropped a 6-2 decision to the Calgary Buffaloes on New Year’s Day.

In terms of Weisgerber’s schedule, the surgery couldn’t have been scheduled at a better time. As he said: “It was absolutely perfect. It’s actually incredible that it happened then.”

The Warriors had 10 days off while he was away and his primary business — Epic Hockey — doesn’t start a new cycle until July when he begins working with midget AAA, junior and professional players who are preparing for new seasons. He also runs skill development camps, spring teams and conditioning camps for minor hockey players. During hockey seasons, he often travels to smaller communities to work with minor programs.

That all began after he spent one season as an assistant coach with the SJHL’s Kindersley Klippers and two (2010-12) as an assistant with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors.

It was after his stint in the WHL that he started Epic Hockey.

Now, with a renewed energy level, he can hardly wait to get back on the ice.

“You don’t really realize how you feel,” he said. “I was super tired all the time, didn’t have a lot of energy. You would work and do stuff but at the end of the day, as soon as you sat down, you’d be falling asleep. You always felt blah.

“You just do what you do. You don’t realize how bad you actually feel and how tired you actually are.”

And now when he’s at home, you can bet there will be more family movie nights, although Laurren, London and Ty will have to forgive him if he asks for flicks they’ve already seen.

These days, he promises to stay awake for the entire show.

So, kids, no spoilers. OK?

Mondays With Murray: In This Corner, With the Pen, is the New Guy

On Feb. 12, 1961, the Los Angeles Times introduced its readers to the new guy — James (Jim) Patrick Murray. He wasn’t a call-up from the minor leagues. He had been honing his craft at places like the Los Angeles Examiner, Time and Life magazines and Sports Illustrated for many years. Jim was very familiar with L.A.; he had covered Hollywood for Time and Life.

For the next 37 years, sports fans from Los Angeles and beyond would form a long-lasting relationship with Jim. Some loved him, some hated him . . . but they all read him.

It all started on that Sunday in February 1961 with today’s column — In This Corner, With The Pen, is the New Guy. If Helen of Troy was the “face that launched a thousand ships” these were the words that launched a million laughs, smiles, frowns, tears and scowls.

ENJOY!

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SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 1961, SPORTS

Copyright 1961/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

In This Corner, With the Pen, is the New Guy

  I have been urged by my friends — all of whom mean well — to begin writing in this space without introducing myself, as if I have been standing here all the while only you haven’t noticed. But I don’t think I’ll do that. I think I’ll start off by telling you a little about myself and what I believe in. That way, we can start to fight right away.

  First off, I am against the bunt in baseball — unless they start bunting against the ball John McCraw batted against. The last time the bunt won a game, Frank Chance was a rookie.

  I think the eight-point touchdown has had it. It’s added nothing to the game unless, of course, you count the extra bookkeeping.

  I’m glad the Rams traded Billy Wade. I won’t say Billy was clumsy, but on the way back mondaysmurray2from the line of scrimmage with the ball he bumped into more people than a New York pickpocket. I have seen blockers make ball carriers look bad. Wade was the only ball carrier I ever saw make the blockers look bad. Those poor guys were getting cross-eyed trying to look for him out of both corners of their eyes. They never knew which way he went.

  The play usually ended up with some mastodon of a defensive end holding Billy upside down by the heels and shaking him. Like a father with a kid who’s just swallowed a quarter. Billy gave up more ground, faster, than Mussolini at the end of the war. The Chicago Bears better put his shoes on backward or he’ll dance right out of that little ballpark of theirs. I expect him to be the only quarterback ever tackled for a loss in the seats.

  I think Jim Brosnan is the best writer in baseball. I think Cincinnati would be gladder if he were the best pitcher.

  I know what’s wrong with Eisenhower’s golf swing but I’ll be cussed if I can figure out what to do with that spasm of mine. (Ike lifts his left leg; I think I leave my feet altogether.).

  I’d like once more (if Jimmy Cannon will pardon me) to see Elroy Hirsch and Tommy Fears going out on a pass pattern and looking back for a Waterfield pass. Throw in Jimmy David on defense and I’ll pay double. David was the only guy I ever saw who could maim a guy while pretending to help him up.

  I hope Steve Bilko has lost weight. The last time I saw him in the Coliseum, the front of him got to the batter’s box full seconds before the rest of him. If he were batting left-handed, part of him would be halfway to first base before the pitch came in. Even then, the umpire could beat him down there.

  I don’t think anyone should be surprised at the disappointing showing of our Olympians in the ’60 Games. There is an old adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” So our boys did. The coaches didn’t like it, but the girls did.

  I think almost every pitcher in the big leagues has a good spitball but I prefer to see Lew Burdette load one up for the batter in a tight situation and then make believe he’s only wiping his chin. The only way you can be sure the ball is wet is if the ump calls for it and Lew rolls it to him.

  I think the Washington Huskies football players were more enterprising than a bunch of Dead-End Kids in an empty candy store. But I still think the guys who are beating Minnesota over the head for claiming (correctly) that it had an edge in the second half in the Rose Bowl are the same guys who would be crying “Washington was robbed” if the roles were reversed in that game.

  I have been held up to you as somewhat of a joke athletically, but I want you to know I had one superlative as a college freshman baseball player. I was the most nervous right fielder our team ever had. Our coach, Ralph Erickson, had only four fingers on his right hand and the prevailing theory was he had the regulation five until he saw us and started biting his nails. I caught a fly once and got so carried away I almost decapitated our first baseman on the throw-in. As I remember the first baseman, it wouldn’t have affected his play much. He didn’t use his head a great deal.

  I won’t say the kids today are softies but I’d like to see them learn to play Little League with the ball I had to play with. This was a “dime rocket,” the cover of which came off after the first solid hit and it had to be wrapped in thick friction tape. I’d like to see Duke Snider throw it out of the Coliseum. In fact, I’d like to see him hit it past the pitcher’s mound on the fly. I have bowled with lighter balls.

  I was gratified by the reaction to the announcement Jim Murray was to write a sports column, an immediate and interested “Who??!” Mel Durslag did throw a bouquet, though. I’ll read the card as soon as I take the brick out.

  I came to Los Angeles in 1944 (the smog and I hit town together and neither one of us has been run out, despite the best efforts of public-spirited citizens) and my biggest sports disappointment was the 1955 Swaps-Nashua race, which I helped arrange. I have never believed Bill Shoemaker was property tied on his mount that day when they sprang the barrier. But I will ask Bill — and believe what he says because his next lie will be his first.

  I really don’t understand why the Angels haven’t signed up Bob Kelley to do their broadcasts. He’s the only guy in town who can prevent Vin Scully from throwing a shutout.

  I hope Bill Hartack, the jockey, continues to take himself off sore horses. I know it irks the stewards but I’d rather have them sore than the horses — especially if I’m betting on the race because if there’s one sore horse in the field, I’m usually on him, handicapping it all the way.

  I couldn’t tell from that letter of Billy Wade’s whether Don Paul wanted Waterfield’s job or just wanted him to eat in his restaurant.

  Every sportswriter is expected to make a prediction and because I would like to leave the game ahead, I will predict the Angels will not win the pennant — this year, anyway. On the other hand, the way they have been messing around with baseball, they just might change the game to loball. Then, the Angels would be a threat. Just my luck.

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 60753, Pasadena, CA 91116

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What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation? 

  The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, established in 1999 to perpetuate the Jim Murray legacy, and his love for and dedication to his extraordinary career in journalism. Since 1999, JMMF has granted 104 $5,000 scholarships to outstanding journalism students. Success of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation’s efforts depends heavily on the contributions from generous individuals, organizations, corporations, and volunteers who align themselves with the mission and values of the JMMF.

Like us on Facebook, and visit the JMMF website, www.jimmurrayfoundation.org.

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A dozen years ago, Linda McCoy-Murray compiled a book of Jim Murray’s columns on female athletes (1961-1998). While the book is idle waiting for an interested publisher, the JMMF thinks this is an appropriate year to get the book on the shelves, i.e., Jim Murray’s 100th birthday, 1919-2019.  

Our mission is to empower women of all ages to succeed and prosper — in and out of sports — while entertaining the reader with Jim Murray’s wit and hyperbole.  An excellent teaching tool for Women’s Studies.

Proceeds from book sales will benefit the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization providing sports journalism scholarships at universities across the country.

Emotions of a kidney mother: ‘I go from being so sick of dialysis and ready for a better life to full-on terrified.’

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a parent to a youngster with kidney disease? Here’s an emotional posting from Lindsey Backmeyer of Kamloops, whose daughter, Ferris, 3, is in need of a transplant and continues to do daily peritoneal dialysis at home:

“So it’s pretty official and looking like Ferris will be listed on a deceased donor list in early March!!

FerrisJan2020
Ferris Backmeyer, 3, is about to go on a deceased donor list in the hopes of finding a kidney match. (Photo: Lindsey Backmeyer/Facebook)

“I can’t accurately put into words how that makes me feel but I’ll try. I go from being so sick of dialysis and ready for a better life to full-on terrified.

“Literally as soon as a month from now our whole world can get blown apart. Sounds dramatic but that’s how it’ll feel. I’ll have to hand my daughter’s life over to surgeons hoping they do some of their most amazing work. We will fear for her life. Full on fight or flight mode. I don’t know how anybody can feel ‘ready’ for that.”

Lindsey added that her husband, Pat, “should know by end of April whether or not he (can) donate through the paired exchange program. If he is approved we will likely temporarily come off the (deceased donor) list and do a round of that to see if a match can be made.

“A live donor really is what’s best for Ferris so we remain hopeful one can be found. As of our meeting on Friday there aren’t any living donors approved to donate to Ferris.

“Please share to help find my girl the kidney she so desperately needs!”

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If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca


If you’re a regular here, you are well aware of the travails of Zach Tremblay, 16, and his mother, Jana. They are stuck in what Jana calls “IHA limbo” as they wait until the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital gives the OK for him to begin hemo-dialysis treatments there. . . . They have been in Vancouver since Jan. 6 and it seems they may be there until at least the end of March. . . . Gord McIntyre of Postmedia has more on their story right here.


Dr. Anson Cheung, one of two heart surgeons at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, performed four heart transplants in a 60-hour stretch in the autumn of 2019. . . . “I even did open-heart surgeries during that time,” Dr. Cheung told Susan Lazaruk of Postmedia for a wonderful story that is right here. . . . One of the heart transplants involved Prem Sagar of Surrey, who underwent surgery on his 68th birthday.