BASHOF Dinner, Eddie De Bartolo, Dwight Clark, Juli Inkster, George Seifert, Cal Baseball, Stanford Basketball
I’VE LONG been a supporter of the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame for its work in providing money for youth sports program but it depresses me to see how the annual banquet has become bloated and lost its focus.
One of the staples of the banquet over the years has been videos of the youngsters who benefit from the program, so we all had visible evidence of the value of the program. There were no such videos this year, nor any awards to the top young athletes, as there had been in the past.
Emcee Joe Fonzi from Channel 2 tried to be funny, which was a big mistake. Worse, there is no longer any limitation on speeches, which tend to be overly long. Though the event was totally sold out, largely because of the 49er emphasis, with both George Seifert and Dwight Clark inducted, I’d estimate that at least half of the audience had left by the time the program was half finished.
Nancy and I left after Seifert, the third inductee, not because we didn’t want to hear Sandy Tatum but because we wanted to get home before midnight.
Lou Spadia, who started the event and ran it for many years, understood that, on a weekday night, working people don’t want to stay out late. Neither do retired people. Spadia had the event tightly organized and focused on the athletes, both the young ones who benefit from the program and the older ones who are being honored.
Monday night’s event was nothing like that. The event had been expanded to celebrate San Francisco sports in general, bringing in tributes to the Giants World Series win and the America’s Cup. But, there have been plenty of tributes to the Giants, so another one was hardly necessary, and the America’s Cup is two years away.
But these weren’t as irrelevant as the musical episode which was inaugurated last year, with a singer from “The Phantom of the Opera” singing three songs, the last of which was “God Bless America.” Phony patriotism at is worst.
Despite all this, Nancy and I enjoyed ourselves. We were sitting at a table which was labeled “individuals”, with Dave Casper and his wife sitting on Nancy’s left and Ira Miller sitting on my right. Ira and I had some catching up to do because he and his wife, Sharon, moved to Chicago after he took a buyout from The Chronicle in February, 2006. They do a lot of traveling in the winter months, rather than endure the Chicago winter, and had just spent two weeks in Hawaii. Ira is still on the committee which votes on the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and we discussed Terrell Owens’ chances of making the Hall. Ira pointed out one fact I had forgotten: The last time TO was in a playoff game his team won was 1998 with the 49ers. As I’ve written both in this column and the Examiner, he won't make the Hall of Fame.
Casper is a very intelligent man and he played in the first Oakland era of the Raiders, when Nancy and I tailgated with friends before Raiders games. So, we all had much to talk about – until the Caspers had to leave because they both had to get up early to go to work on Tuesday morning.
There were some highlights during the program we saw. Juli Inkster had a very interesting story about how she juggled competition with her marriage and children, often having both her husband children on thee tour with her. It was a reminder of how much more difficult it can be for a woman athlete to balance competition and marriage..
Eddie De Bartolo introduced Clark, and he had an amusing story about how he missed “The Catch” in the 1982 NFC Championship game. Eddie had gone down on the field before the end, thinking he’d have to console players in the locker room because it seemed the 49ers were going to lose.
“I got behind a horse and he raised his tail (to do you-know-what) just as the play started, so I couldn’t see anything. Everybody in the stadium saw the play and everybody who was watching on TV saw it, but I missed it,” said De Bartolo.
Clark himself was surprised at the outcome. “That was Bill Walsh’s favorite play,” he remembered. “We practiced it all the time, but Joe threw too high every time. But this time, he put it in a place where I could get it.”
And, pro football history was forever changed.
VIDA BLUE: Nothing wrong with his memory. Years ago, he saw my wife driving her Jaguar and, assuming I had paid for it, made a remark about sportswriters’ salaries. I told him Nancy had paid for the car herself with her real estate earnings, so he nicknamed her “the Jaguar lady.” When we talked at the pre-party for BASHOF, he again called her that and told me, “You married up.” No argument from me.
JERRY BROWN: Discussing what sports teams could do about new stadiums if his proposal to divert cities’ redevelopment money to the state is approved, Brown suggested pro teams could use college stadiums, Cal for the Raiders, Stanford for the 49ers.
This is a real non-starter. Stanford got special exemptions to host the 1985 Super Bowl and one game in 1989, after the Loma Prieta earthquake. It would lose its tax exemption if a pro team played there regularly, and that would cost more than they’d get in gate receipts. And, of course, it’s only a 50,000-seat stadium, about 20,000 below what the 49ers need.
One pro game was played at Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium, in 1973, when the Raiders had a schedule conflict with the A’s, who were in the second of their string of three straight World Series, all of which they won. The game was a memorable one, as the Raiders ended the Miami Dolphins’ win streak, but there was such a storm of protest from residents near the stadium that the university promised not to schedule another pro game there. So, don’t expect the Raiders in the remodeled Memorial Stadium when it opens next year.
This ignorance of sports realities shouldn’t surprise anybody. Brown has always been anti-sports. He chased Oakland city manager Robert Bobb out of town when Bobb campaigned for a ball park in midtown Oakland.
Brown’s plan for new apartments in midtown has spurred a growth in new restaurants. I think Bobb’s ballpark plan would have brought even more economic growth to Oakland.
But, I have reluctantly come to agree with the governor about the redevelopment money. These are very hard times for the state, which requires tough decisions. Assigning priority to building sports stadiums and parks would be criminal.
There is an alternative: Owners could dig into their very deep pockets and build parks or stadiums privately. The Giants did that with AT&T Park. In Texas, Jerry Jones got $3.25 million of public money from Arlington (where the stadium is located) for his Taj Mahal of football stadiums, but he paid for the rest of the stadium, which cost a reported $1.4 billion.
Every study I’ve seen has shown that the value of baseball and football franchises has risen dramatically in the last decade. The Giants have had a turnover in their ownership since the group was formed in late 1992, but every minority partner who has left has made a tidy profit, to be taxed as capital gains, the preferred tax of the wealthy because it’s cheaper.
Wolff’s silent partner is John Fisher, one of eight billionaire owners in baseball because he made the wise decision to be born to the founder of the Gap. Fisher could easily finance a new A’s park himself and reap the benefits when he eventually sells for a much higher price.
But Wolff has made his money – much less than Fisher but probably substantially more than anybody reading this – by using other people’s money in real estate deals. He’s seen the opportunity to do anoher real estate deal in San Jose and simply can’t understand why his friend, baseball commissioner Bud Selig, can’t change the deal MLB made with the Giants.
STANFORD BASKETBALL: In the Mike Montgomery-Trent Johnson times, I wrote often about Stanford because the teams were almost always good ones, right through Johnson’s last year when he took his team to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.
I haven’t paid much attention, though, in the three years that Johnny Dawkins has been the coach because they haven’t been very good. Their season records have been deceptive (15-15 this year) because they’ve played soft nonconference schedules, but their conference records have not been better than this year’s 7-11, which is more indicative of the type of teams they’ve had.
Still, early this season, I thought there might be some hope for this year’s team. I hadn’t seen the Cardinal in a live game until last Saturday at Haas Pavilion and what I saw made me doubt that Dawkins will ever produce a team comparable to those in the Montgomery-Johnson era.
There’s certainly individual talent on the team, but the key word there is “individual.” Stanford relies on players, especially Jeremy Green, to work for their own shots. Frankly, the Cardinal reminded me of the Ben Braun teams at Cal, with little direction. The excuse that some have made for Stanford, the youth of the team, doesn’t hold up at this stage of the season. The Cardinal has faded down the stretch, after a good start. That’s the opposite of what you expect from a young team and it really makes me wonder about Dawkins as a coach.
CAL BASEBALL: Jeffrey Earl Warren, a 1970 Cal graduate, writes a blog, “A Fan’s Notes.” This week, he has a letter from Carl Stoney about the fundraising to keep Cal baseball alive. I know Carl and there is no more loyal fan, believe me.
According to Stoney, who also played baseball at Cal, the fundraising is approaching $6 million, but the administration wants proof of $10 million by March 31. If you want more information, go to Warren’s blog. Everything is there.
I have feelings of my own about Cal baseball because it helped me climb the ladder at the Daily Cal. When I signed up in the fall of 1956, I was the 25th on the list, but in the spring, when everybody else on the staff was more interested in track I was assigned to baseball, my first love. That team, with Earl Robinson as the leader, went to the College World Series. I didn’t, because I was working in the summer to help pay for my education. But, the stories I wrote that spring got me attention and, the next year, I was first assistant sports editor in the fall and sports editor in the spring.
I can’t say that I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter of Cal baseball since then. I’ve tried to write about the subjects of most interest and, in the Bay Area, college baseball is not among them. But in 1999, I was asked by The Chronicle sports editor to cover the College World Series, and that was a very special event, though Omaha won’t show up on my list of favorite cities.
There are still many Cal alums who care deeply about baseball, so I hope the fundraising results in the sport being saved.
GIANTS IN 2011: For a team defending a World Championship, the Giants are surprisingly unsettled, with questions almost everywhere.
The infield is dependent on Pablo Sandoval getting back to his 2009 form. Reports from spring training are good; Sandoval has lost weight and is showing more plate discipline. I still think he’d be better off just batting lefthanded. Pitchers obviously figured out how to pitch to him as a righthanded hitter last year. If he doesn’t make it back, the best alternative would be Mark De Rosa, which is scary. He’s hardly faced major league pitching in the last two seasons because of wrist surgeries. At this stage of his career, he’s better off as a utility infielder, especially since Freddy Sanchez has injury problems at second.
Manager Bruce Bochy is going to have to do a lot of juggling in the outfield, too. Andres Torres is set in center, with Aaron Rowand as a $12 million backup. While others were lauding Rowand’s hustle, I wrote at the time of his signing that he was only a slightly above average player. He’s not even that now, but the Giants would have to eat part of his salary to be able to trade him. Pat Burrell is a good power hitter, despite his slump in postseason last year, but a butcher in the field. In right field, Cody Ross is nothing like the player he was in the playoffs last year. He should be a fourth outfielder, but the Giants don’t have anybody better. Nate Schierholtz is an outstanding fielder with a great arm but he has little power. When I first saw him, I thought he’d be a good hitter for average but he hasn’t done that when he’s been a starter, though he’s been a good pinch-hitter.
The outfield situation will get complicated if Brandon Belt is installed at first base, shoving Aubrey Huff to left field, but that would be a good thing because Belt’s bat would be a big upgrade for the offense. The Giants’ scouting department is taking deserved bows for discovering Belt, but the fact is, he’s the first hitter the farm system has developed since Matt Williams. (I don’t count Buster Posey because he was an outstanding hitter in college ball.)
TV: I’ll be a guest on Comcast’s “Chronicle Live” show at 5 p.m. Friday, re-broadcast at 10 p.m.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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