Reports have major junior leagues now aiming for Dec. 1 . . . Former Blades captain dies . . . Morden team changing nickname, logo

If you own a junior hockey franchise, you have to be watching the goings-on in MLB and wondering.

While the NBA and NHL have their teams all bubbled up and, at least to date, avoiding the coronavirus, you know that you don’t have the resources to attempt anything like that.

But then you look at MLB, which is attempting to do what you are hoping to do at some point this year — bring your team together and then travel in order to play games in various venues.

It isn’t going all that well for MLB, which is forging ahead despite having had two teams — the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals — decimated by the virus and another (Philadelphia Phillies) also been hit.

Through Tuesday, 23 MLB games involving nine teams had been postponed. The season is 13 days old.

At this point, then, you likely are holding your breath and hoping.

Earlier, the QMJHL and WHL had announced proposed starting dates of Oct. 1 and Oct. 2, respectively, for their 2020-21 regular seasons. The OHL hadn’t gone public with any such date.

Now there are reports that the three major junior leagues will announce perhaps as soon as today (Wednesday) that they hope to start their 2020-21 regular seasons on Dec. 1.

Postponing the start by two more months buys them some more time. The leagues will be able to sit back and watch developments, including the possible opening of schools.

The OHL and WHL also have teams located in the U.S., where, you may have noticed, things aren’t going so well. Two more months gives the leagues time to watch for improvements in that area, although under present leadership that doesn’t seem likely to happen.

And, of course, there’s the little matter of the U.S.-Canada border being closed. Do you think it’ll be open again in 2020?

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COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

On Sunday, the Cincinnati Reds placed 1B Joey Votto, a native of Toronto, on the injury list after he self-reported symptoms of the virus. On Monday, he hit a two-run, go-ahead homer to help the Reds beat the Cleveland Indians, 3-2. . . . It turns out that he tested negative and was reinstated. . . .

The much-ballyhooed Field of Dreams game, which was to have featured the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox on Aug. 13, has been postponed to August 2021. A date has yet to be announced. . . .

The Cardinals’ season is on hold after seven players and six staff members tested positive. . . . Six of the players are SS Paul DeJong, RHP Junior Fernández, C Yadier Molina, 1B Rangel Ravelo, SS Edmundo Sosa and RHP Kodi Whitley, each of whom gave the team the OK to release their names. The identity of a seventh player wasn’t released. . . . DeJong and Molina are all-star calibre players. . . . In a statement, Molina said he was “saddened to have tested positive for COVID-19, even after adhering to safety guidelines that were put in place.” . . .

Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, had some thoughts on the mess in which MLB finds itself. He concluded with this: “Baseball in 2020 reminds me of a guy at a poker table who is losing his shirt but keeps dipping into his bank account for another stake because he is ‘due for some good cards.’ It seems to me that MLB thinks it is due for some good news and just keeps on keeping on. . . . Albert Einstein reminded us that insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different outcomes.” . . . You should read the entirety of the curmudgeonly one’s latest post right here.

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The NFL’s Detroit Lions moved QB Matthew Stafford from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and placed him on the regular roster, saying that what was reported as a positive test actually was a false-positive. . . . The Jacksonville Jaguars did the same with QB Gardner Minshew after it was determined that he had tested negative. Minshew joked that the virus “took one look at me and ran the other way.” . . .

At least 48 players have opted out of playing in the NFL’s 2020 season. The league has a deadline of Thursday afternoon for players to make that decision. . . . Barry Wilner of The Associated Press has more right here.

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Rafael Nadal, the No. 2-ranked men’s tennis player, won’t play in this month’s U.S. Open, which is to start on Aug. 31. He said that he doesn’t want to travel during the pandemic. . . . The last time a tennis major didn’t feature either Roger Federer, who is out after having knee surgery, and Nadal? That was the 1999 U.S. Open. . . .

Meanwhile, Bianca Andreescu, who won the women’s U.S. Open title last year, said that she will be in New York to defend her title. . . . Andreescu, 20, from Mississauga, Ont., is the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam singles title. . . .

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The 104th running of the Indy 500 will take place without fans. Roger Penske, who owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said earlier in the year that the race, which was postponed from Memorial Day weekend to Aug. 23, would allow some fans to attend. . . . But with numbers rising in Marion County, Indiana, home of the Speedway, Penske has decided not to allow fans. . . .

The AHL has cancelled its 2020-21 All-Star Classic that was to have been played host to by the Laval Rocket on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. Instead, Laval will be the site of the 2021-22 Classic on a date yet to be determined. . . . The AHL is hoping to being its 2020-21 regular season on Dec. 4. . . .

Tennis lost the Madrid Open as the 2020 event, which features men’s and women’s draws, was cancelled. Originally scheduled in May, it had been postponed to September. But an increase in COVID-19 cases resulted in the event being cancelled.

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You will recall that the Houston Astros have been branded as cheaters after getting caught up in a sign-stealing scandal that has some baseball folks claiming the team actually stole a World Series title. . . . The other day, with the host Astros playing the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are particularly bitter, Houston’s Jose Altuve, who is really struggling at the plate, happened to strike out. Joe Davis, doing the play-by-play for the Dodgers, said Altuve was “perhaps guessing something else.” . . . Former Dodgers P Orel Hershiser, the analyst on the broadcast crew, disagreed. Said Hershiser: “Guessing’s harder than knowing.”



The QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes announced Tuesday that head coach Gordie Dwyer has left the organization in the hopes of landing a spot with a pro team. . . . Dwyer took over as head coach on Feb. 9, then went 6-6-0 before the league shut down because of the pandemic. . . . At the time, Dwyer took over from the fired Daniel Renaud, who had been the head coach since 2017. He was 23-28-0 last season. . . . The Cataractes will unveil their new coaching staff on Friday.


The Morden Redskins, a men’s team that plays in the South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League, has said that it will be changing its nickname and logo, which was fashioned after that belonging to the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. . . . Last month, Brandon Burley, the mayor of Morden, asked the team to make a change.


JUST NOTES: I haven’t watched a whole lot of the NHL since it resumed playing, but I’ve seen enough to realize that, despite what you might read in the rules book, cross-checking continues to be legal. . . . I need to find someone in Alberta to cut me in on the Edmonton Oilers’ 50-50 draw. If you aren’t aware, the winner of Monday’s draw put $1,629,722.50 into his/her bank account. On Saturday night, Danielle McGale won $381,275. Yes, she has a whole lot of new friends. . . . I was watching the MLB game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and host Minnesota Twins on Tuesday afternoon and there was a drone delay. Seriously.


Mondays With Murray: They Won’t Call Him Dr. Zero for Nothing

SEPTEMBER 28, 1988, SPORTS

Copyright 1988/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

They Won’t Call Him Dr. Zero for Nothing

Norman Rockwell would have loved Orel Hershiser. The prevailing opinion is, he wasn’t drafted, he just came walking off a Saturday Evening Post cover one day with a pitcher’s mondaysmurray2glove, a cap two sizes too big and a big balloon of bubble gum coming out of his mouth.

You figure his name has to be Ichabod. I wouldn’t say he’s skinny, but when he turns sideways, he disappears. If it weren’t for his Adam’s apple, he wouldn’t cast a shadow.

He’s paler than Greta Garbo. He’s so white you can read through him. If you held him up to the light you could see his heart.

He says things like, “Golly gee!” and, “Oh, my goodness!” If he gets really upset, you might figure he would go to, “Oh, fudge!”

He can’t really see without glasses and when he puts them on, people either think he’s a sports writer or a guy doing his thesis on major league baseball as a metaphor for the society we live in.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that he has a Roman numeral after his name. He is descended from the Hessian troops George Washington crossed the Delaware to defeat at Trenton. He is about as far from the public perception of a major league pitcher as it is possible to get. If you wanted to picture a big league pitcher, a guy like Burleigh Grimes would come to mind.

Some guys pitch out of a sidearm motion, others from a crouch, Grimes pitched out of a scowl. He had this big chaw of tobacco and a blue-black beard that could sand furniture, and the batter had two strikes on him stepping in.

Or you might prefer Big D, Don Drysdale. He pitched out of a towering rage.

Every batter was Hitler to Drysdale, or a guy who’d stolen his girlfriend. He threw the ball as if it were a grenade, or he hoped that it were. Big D didn’t much care whether he knocked the bat off you or you off the bat. He hit 154 batsmen in his time — 155 if you count Dick Dietz in the ninth inning of a spring game in 1968.

If anyone told you Orel Hershiser is on the verge of breaking one of the most unassailable pitching records in the books, Don Drysdale’s 58 consecutive scoreless innings, that this scholarly-appearing right-hander is almost certain to win this year’s Cy Young Award, you might be pardoned for asking, “With what?”

Orel Leonard Hershiser IV does not intimidate the batter, although his nine hit batsmen last year indicate it’s not entirely a good idea to lean over the plate looking to get at the curveball when he’s on the mound.

Hershiser throws ground balls. This is not to say his curve bounces but that his “out” pitch is a roller to shortstop. He throws a sinker, or what we kids in the old neighborhood used to call the drop. This is a pitch you hit on the top and it does exactly what a golf ball hit on the top does — it rolls along the ground till it hits something, usually an infielder’s glove.

Hershiser also throws a heavy ball — as did Drysdale. That’s a ball that comes up to the plate like a 16-pound shot. It can break your bat — and your wrist along with it — if you meet it squarely. Which you seldom do.

These are Hershiser’s stock-in-trade pitches and he can put them pretty much where he wants them, but he cut such a less-than-commanding figure when he first came into the game that the brain trusters thought he was a relief pitcher. He pitched in 49 games one year and worked only 109 innings. He started only four games. But he finished one.

One year, he pitched in 49 games, started only 10 but finished six. Somehow the message began to seep through that this guy had better than two-inning stuff and, when he came up to the Dodgers, he appeared in 45 games, started 20 and finished eight. Eight complete games is star billing in today’s baseball, particularly for someone who spent more than half the season in the bullpen.

It’s not that Orel Hershiser is your basic rag picker or junk dealer. His fastball is a 90-m.p.h. horror that struck out 190 last year. Still, no one calls him Dr. K or the Big Train. They might begin calling him Mister O, or Dr. Zero if he puts up nine more innings of shutout ball. Dr. Zero has put up 49 in a row so far. Only two pitchers have logged more — Drysdale, 58, and Walter Johnson, 55.

The record was once widely believed as unattainable as Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.

Five shutouts in a season is Cy Young stuff. Five shutouts in a row is Hall of Fame stuff. Drysdale holds the record with six in a row in the National League, and you have to go all the way back to 1904 to find a pitcher with five in a row in the American League. (Walter Johnson set his scoreless-inning record with a lot of relief appearances.)

Drysdale’s scoreless-inning progression was saved at Inning 45 in 1968 when, with the bases loaded, he apparently hit batter Dick Dietz. Umpire Harry Wendelstedt ruled that Dietz stepped into the pitch. Drysdale’s argument was even stronger. “How can you hit a guy with a strike?” he wanted to know.

Hershiser’s saver was an interference call on a baserunning assault that broke up a double play and apparently let a run score. Umpire Paul Runge ruled that the baserunner neglected baserunning and would have gotten 15 yards in football for what he did to the pivot man in the double play. Runge called the runner out, which disallowed the run.

It’s important to remember that Drysdale had to get three outs with the bases loaded after his incident in 1968. And Hershiser still had to get the next nine outs in 1988.

Dr. Zero needs a 10-inning shutout to pass Drysdale. If he gets it, he may celebrate with a hot chocolate.

If he misses it, he’ll say, “Oh, heck!”

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.