Mr Sports: Baseball, Football and Hockey

By Bob Labbe
By Bob Labbe

Cooperstown is about to welcome three new names to its roster of outstanding players to the Baseball Hall of Fame. One of which could be the most remarkable pitcher in history.

Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas will be enshrined into the Hall of Fame on July 27 along with managers Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa. This was the first time three players were elected in one vote since 1999 as a player has to receive 75-percent of votes to be elected. All three players rightfully deserve their places in Cooperstown, but it was Maddux who received over 97-percent of the ballots, the eighth highest in the history of the voting.
In my opinion, Maddux may have been the most all-round pitcher is history. Among his statistics in his 23 seasons in the majors were a 355-227 record and a 3.16 ERA. He won four consecutive Cy Young Awards from 1992-1995, an eight-time All-Star and won at least 13 games in 20 straight seasons. His 1.8 walks per nine innings is second best of all time (only Robin Roberts had few walks at 1.7). He also captured 18 Gold Gloves Awards for his outstanding defensive skills from the mound. Maddux was like having one additional defender in the field for his teams Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Diego.

In Maddux’s four-year stretch of winning the four Cy Young Awards for baseball’s top pitcher he was 75-29 with a 1.98 ERA, plus he finished in the top five of that vote five other times.

Maddux was one of the most intelligent pitchers in baseball. He seemed to find a way to get a batter out. He wasn’t gifted with a blazing fastball, though he could turn up the heat when needed, but he had the knack of finding the corner of the plate. One former player who batted against Maddux for years said, “The ball came out of his hand different.”

For the most part, Maddux called his own game. He would signal the catcher in some unusual ways to let him know what pitch was coming towards the plate. However Maddux could muster a pitch to confuse the hitter was what he was a master at doing. Most in baseball agreed that Maddux was a genius.

His stats speak for themselves. Now baseball has spoken for him. Greg Maddux is exactly where he belongs…enshrined among the best.

Huntsville Stars

What most of us knew for at least two years is now official: the Huntsville Stars are leaving.

The Southern League announced recently the Double-A team has been sold and will move to Biloxi, MS starting with the 2015 season. The southern city near the Gulf Coast will have a new team and a new stadium. A new stadium in Huntsville was one of the issues at hand for the long time Stars’ ownership. The team owners wanted one. The City of Huntsville couldn’t build one. The City is proposing one to be built in downtown Huntsville, but it won’t come for a few more years.

In the meantime, the Stars will play one last season at Joe Davis Stadium in 2014. Home opener is set for April 9th. Season tickets and individual game tickets are now on sale. Information regarding the last time the Stars will suit up for a season in Huntsville is available at 256-882-2562 or on-line at www.huntsvillestars.com.

NFL

The NFL Playoffs seem to have come down to quarterback showdowns in both divisional championships. In The AFC, Peyton Manning will lead his Denver Broncos against the New England Patriots and its top-notch signal caller Tom Brady. In the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers will invade Seattle as Colin Kaepernick leads the California squad against the Seahawks and its virtually unknown quarterback Russell Wilson.

The AFC game between Manning and Brady kicks off at 2:00 p.m. (Channel 19) while the Kaepernick-Wilson showdown gets the nod at 5:30 p.m. (Channel 54). The winners advance to the Feb. 2nd Super Bowl.

The Broncos win over San Diego was not surprising, but only winning by a touchdown was. Philip Rivers, quarterback for the Chargers, was our local player in the mix. The former Athens High School star played a gutsy game and staged a good comeback against Manning and the Broncos, but the Chargers seem to be just a play or two…or…a player or two away from making it one step closer to the Super Bowl. I’ve known Philip for many years and I hope his great talents can be showcased in the big game before he retires. The end could come within three years, so I hope he can at least make it to the granddaddy of the NFL season before he hangs up his cleats.

National Champs

Hoover High has been tabbed National Champion of the country’s high school football play by the USA Football Network becoming the first team from Alabama to be so named since the mythical national championship came to be in 1995. The Class 6A state champion Bucs were named No. 1 in the Public School Division.

Meanwhile, Madison Academy finished No. 24 in the Non-Public School Division after posting its perfect season and winning its second consecutive Class 3A state championship.

Huntsville Havoc

The hockey team is back in town this weekend, but for just one match. The Havoc are at home this Sunday for a 5 p.m. start time and its “Hockey Night In Huntsville” with $2 beer, hot dogs and sodas all match long.

Enjoy the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday!