Monday, July 29, 2013

All-Time Favorite Sports Figures Day 4 - Kelly Hrudey

For this series of articles I thought that I'd delineate who my all-time favorite athletes were in each of the four major sports.  Previously I've profiled Rod Carew, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Barry Sanders, each one a first-time ballot HOFer for their sport.  Today's entry is not so exhalted, and despite my being a die-hard LA Kings fan, my favorite King is not Wayne Gretzky, and it's not even Luc Robitalle.  Heck it's not even Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick or Dustin Brown.  Nope it's the goaltender who took the Kings to their first Stanley Cup Finals, Kelly Hrudey.

Why Hrudey?  I started watching Hockey in the late 70's/early 80's when it was shown on the USA Network, and though the Kings were the closest team to me geographically, those were the pre-Gretzky era, and despite stellar players and lines, they weren't contenders year in and year out.  During those years the New York Islanders won four straight Stanley Cups behind HOFers Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin, Clark Gilles and Goalie Billy Smith.  Smith was my all-time favorite Islander, and still is, though Pat LaFontaine (also a HOFer) runs a close second to me.  In 1980 the Isles drafted Hrudey though he wouldn't get to the big club until 1983-84 and wouldn't taste his first playoffs until the next season.

Hrudey and Smith would platoon in Goal for the next four years, .  In those four post-seasons the Isles only got out of the first round twice, and never advanced past the Division Finals.  However, in 1987 Hrudey would be in goal for the longest game that I've ever watched all of, the Game 7 matchup played April 18 to the 19th.  Yes, it went to the next day, starting at 7:30 PM EST and ended just before 2:00 AM the next day.  Pat LaFontaine put the game winner in at 8:47 of the fourth OT, at that point Hrudey had saved an amazing 50 shots IN A ROW, and 73 overall, still an NHL record.

By 1988-89 the Isles were on a downward spiral that they are arguably still in.  Ownership wouldn't spend money to replace the future HOFers who retired due to injury or left for greener pastures.  Hrudey was traded to the Kings led by Gretzky and Robitaille, and in 1993 he led them to their first Stanley Cup finals behind amazing play by Gretzky (scoring in OT in Game 7 of the Conference Finals against Toronto will always be a favorite memory of mine).  Sadly the Kings would be beaten 4-1 by the Canadiens (in their LAST Cup Victory to date).

Kelly played 8 seasons with the Kings, leaving in 1996 to join the San Jose Sharks.  He retired 2 years later.  Now he's a broadcaster in Canada and occasionally shows up on Kings broadcasts, especially with the recent stellar play by our current goaltender Jonathan Quick aka "Connie".  Kelly as a broadcaster is insightful and funny, and a welcome presence from the past.

I actually do not own ANY Hrudey cards at the moment, I'd like to remedy that.  His RC is pictured above, I just bid on one on the bay of E.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

All-Time Favorite Sports Figures Day 3 - Barry Sanders

1989 was a heady year for sports cards, Upper Deck the first premium regular issue card set was released in April and for the first time in decades Topps wouldn't be the only company making Football cards.  Upstart Pro Set run by Lud Denny out of Texas managed to snag a license and so did Score, a second year company that had some success with their 1988 Baseball card set.  April 1989 also saw the drafting of Troy Aikman by the Cowboys at #1 and at #3 my subject today, Barry Sanders.

Eschewing his senior season at Oklahoma State, the Heisman winner with 2850 rushing yards and 42 TDs held out during his rookie training camp, but started the season off with a bang, 18 yards on his first NFL carry and a TD on his fourth.  He'd win ROY and become a fan-favorite due to his soft-spoken demeanor and was the complete opposite of the other famous "Sanders" Deion who was also drafted in 1989.

Barry had the uncanny ability to make defensive players look incredibly silly.  He could bust out huge runs, and often just took over games due to the Lions inability to land a quality QB during the 90's.  Severely undersized at 5'8 and about two bills, he might have been short in stature but could take the rock and score at will.  Oh and he was never a show-off.  You won't find any video of Barry spiking the ball or showing off, ever.  

A side note, I started my first Fantasy Football League in 1990 and my original starting backfield was Barry and Emmitt.  I would trade Emmitt, but I never let go of Barry, he was my player for his entire career.  At one point I owned several of the Pro Set RCs and at least one of his Score (and Topps too for good measure).  I do still have an entire 1989 Pro Set collection, but that Score Rookie is no longer mine.  I should get another one some day.

Barry's career was astounding, but short.  Echoing the actions of Jim Brown in 1965 Barry retired in 1999 after 10 seasons and only one playoff win.  Years later he'd finally say that the culture of losing in Detroit had gotten the best of him, and he couldn't continue.  Since Detroit most likely wouldn't have traded him (he'd signed a huge contract extension just a couple years earlier) he up and left.  He was, at the time, the 3rd ranked Running Back in NFL history.  Had he played another 4 years like Emmit Smith he would have undoubtedly passed Walter Payton.

To me, Barry was always a class act, and my favorite player during his career.  Since then he's continued to be a solid citizen and role-model, even if his marriages haven't lasted.  His eldest son Barry Jr. is a Sophomore at Stanford and while some have labeled him a "project" he does appear to have his Father's gift for changing direction on a dime, so while I'm unabashedly a Bruin, I'll be following the Cardinal over the next few years to see if we have the second coming of one of the greatest backs to ever play.

Tomorrow I'll wrap this all up with my final selection, my favorite Hockey player, the only one of these first four who is not in their respective HOF.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

All-Time Favorite Sports Figures Day 2 - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

I am a second generation UCLA Bruin, and I'm damn proud of that fact.  My Father attended UCLA in the early 70's and graduated in 1974 with a degree in English.  My Mother worked on campus from 1972 to 1980, and I attended the UCLA Child Care Center beginning in it's second year of existence, and in fact am still Facebook friends with one of my counselors from that time period.  The Godmother of my daughter is on of my Mom's friends who she worked with in the Registrar's Office during those heady years of Walton, Wickes, Rowe, Patterson and our next subject, the former Lew Alcindor, known today and forever as the greatest Basketball Player ever, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

So despite the fact that I never actually got to see Kareem play for the Bruins, he's still my all-time favorite Hoopster.

KAJ had such a storied career that if you don't know who he is, you can't really be a sports fan.  Kids of the 90's say that MJ was the best ever, but I disagree, KAJ CHANGED the game.  In the NCAA anyway.  His Freshman Bruin squad (remember Freshmen weren't allowed to play varsity back then) actually defeated the Varsity squad during their annual pre-season romp.  That would't have been a big deal, except that the Varsity was the DEFENDING NCAA CHAMPIONS!  They outlawed the Slam Dunk during his time at UCLA because he was the only one who could really do it!  Can you imagine a college game without a dunk?

In the NBA he only won 6 championships, 2 finals MVPs, 6 regular season MVPs, scoring champion multiple times, 19 time all-star and he STILL holds the all-time scoring title with 38,387 points in 1,560 games.  Kobe Bryant, currently 4th on the list, has 4 more seasons at an average of 16 points a game to catch him, which isn't all that assured given Kobe's injury problems lately.

During his playing career ended Kareem dabbled in acting, most notably the still hilarious "Airplane" in 1980.  Here's his best clip:

I love that movie.

Post-retirement KAJ has become a renaissance man, though really he always was.  Despite the fact that his god-given talents made him a great basketball player, I'm not sure he ever REALLY loved the game like so many of his peers.  I think for him the game was a means to an end, he got a fantastic education, the sports career that 99% of humans would kill for, and the stability that being a star-athlete brings.  But I often felt that KAJ was never as comfortable as a star as some others would be.  He seems kind of shy to be honest, and his demeanor around reporters during his career did him no favors.  He SHOULD be the head-coach somewhere in the NBA, but he burned bridges and has never really been given a chance.  Not that he cares really.  Now he's a film-maker, educator, historian and all around good guy.

I should mention that I had a chance to meet Kareem back at the old LA Times Book Festival when it was on campus at UCLA.  Now I have met a ton of celebrities over the years, I've worked with Tony Hawk on a TV shoot, met Warren Beatty and Natassja Kinski on the movie they were shooting on the property I worked on, ran into dozens and dozens of actors living in LA, and been to multiple training camps and shows where autographs were available.  THE ONLY time I was ever star-struck and just unable to communicate was when I met KAJ.

I think I mumbled something about him being my and my late-father's favorite player.  This was the same book festival where Deacon Jones slapped me on the back because I was wearing a Kings Jersey and gave me an autographed book because I reverently told him to slap me on the head!  Kareem made me nervous and self-conscience because he really is a giant of a man in more ways than just stature.

That statue of him in front of Staples was LOOOONG overdue.

Friday, July 26, 2013

My Favorite Sports Figures Series Will Continue

I've gone ahead and written three more posts for my Favorite Sports Figures Series - I suppose looking at that headline, it's a misnomer.  These are my favorite Athletes, not favorite sports action figures.  That could be a whole other series!

The series will continue for the next three days at least as I go through my favorite Basketball, Football and Hockey players.  After that, we'll see if there's any interest I can continue into Olympics, NASCAR, Boxing, Wrestling and Tennis. I can't really do Golf or Soccer since I care not one iota for either.

Heck at some point I could even do a blog on The America's Cup.

So stay tuned, three more days of this will be forthcoming, and what's new this time is that they're all already written!


All-Time Favorite Sports Figures Day 1 - Rod Carew

One topic that's always good for conversation is who are your all-time favorite athletes and why?  I'll run down a few of mine and then open it up for comments.

Baseball - Rodney Cline Carew

When Rod was traded to the Angels in 1979 I was 8 years old, we went to see two games that magical 1979 season, the first time the Halos made the playoffs in their then 18 year history.  I still have the two programs, complete with filled out scorecards.  For the next six season there was one consistency in the Angels lineup, Rod.  He batted over .300 for 5 of his 7 seasons as an Angel, only failing in his last two season when he was slowed by age and a new-comer named Wally Joyner.  Oh and he was an All-Star 6 of those 7 years, batting a gaudy .339 which was only good for 2nd in the AL behind Wade Boggs who flirted with .400 that season.

In his retirement he's been a hitting instructor for the Angels and Brewers, and sadly lost his daughter Michelle to Leukemia in 1995.  To this day there is a statue of the younger Carew at Angels Stadium.  To me Rod was always the class of the organization, even despite his chilly reception by reporters (a theme that we'll see repeated in a few paragraphs).

Viva Rod!

Fantasy Football 2013

2013 marks the 24th Season that I've run a Fantasy Football League - and at least the 14th on Yahoo (they only go back to 2001, but I'm pretty sure I ran one there before then).

If you wish to join up, there's still 9 NEW teams available, but I'm going to be kind of picky.  I want players who aren't going to disappear after the first few weeks.

So leave me your email and a sentence or two as to why I should choose you and if you get an invite you'll know you are in rare company.

FWIW - I do have a couple of people who have been playing with me for over a decade, including a few who played all the way back in 1990 when I started ON PEN AND PAPER!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Budget Collector and San Diego Comic-Con

No, I am not in San Diego this weekend, nor am I planning on going.  But I USED to go to Comic-Con.  In fact my first year was 1985 and I've been to TEN of them!  I won't bore you with the standard "guide to comic-con" or what to do or not do.

Nope, I'm just going to point out a couple of cool freebies that I've heard about so far:

At the Lego booth they're giving away Loki Keychains for playing their Marvel Super-Heroes game

Mega Bloks is giving away free Power Rangers figures.

That's it.  That's all I know about so far.  I hear Hasbro is giving away some sort of Kreos and I do see an exclusive Devastator Kreo figure on eBay.  So maybe they are.

And maybe sometime I'll get to go again.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Jordan Farmar (UCLA) Signed with the Lakers again

Woot!  This makes me very happy.  Hope you have a great season Jordan!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Build Your Own GI Joe and Win a Custom Figure!

Not my contest, wish it were, but in order to promote the Digital and Blu-Ray release of GI Joe Retaliation Paramount has a new site where you can customize your own Joe and enter to win a real copy of him!  How cool is that?

Here's the site:

and here's my Joe!

MacDonald Allen Smythe is his real name, and I could probably come up with a back-story, but I'm too busy working on my novel.

Bruins in the NBA 2013-2014 Edition

I haven't really collected Basketball cards since the hey-day of 1989 Hoops and Skybox.  I once owned a 1988 Fleer set which I bought for something like $12 and sold for $90 way back in the day.  Basketball cards aren't my forte.

That said I do have quite a few virtually ALL former Bruins.  I have an entire 3 ring binder devoted to them, and at some point I'll post more pictures.

Here though, is the UCLA Bruins Alumni in the NBA for 2013-2014.  Looks like I'll be rooting for the Clips more often this season.

Matt Barnes - LA Clippers
Ryan Hollins - LA Clippers
Darren Collison - LA Clippers
Kevin Love - Minnesota Timberwolves
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute - Minnesota Timberwolves
Shabazz Muhammad - Minnesota Timberwolves
Jrue Holiday - New Orleans Pelicans
Malcolm Lee - Phoenix Suns
Earl Watson - Portland Trailblazers
Arron Afflalo - Orlando Magic
Trevor Ariza - Washington Wizards
Russell Westbrook - Oklahoma City Thunder

Here's a decent article about them all:

Obviously all of these guys have more recent Rookie Cards than say Baron Davis.  Shabazz Muhammad, the most recent draft pick won't have his RCs out for a few more weeks and they won't be licensed right away (i.e. Press-Pass, SaGE).

Here's their rookie years and what companies made their RCs.  Mostly these are all going to be under $5 unless you're looking for the serial numbers with autographs.

Barnes - 2002-2003 UD Authentics and SP offered some nice RCs in his Bruin Uni.
Hollins - 2006-2007 Lots of low end UD and Topps and cheap autos.
Collison - 2009-2010 Panini & UD pumped Collison out.
Love - 2008-2009 Topps & UD ran the presses.  Also has a McDonalds All-American in two versions $4 - 20.
The Prince - 2008-09 UD, Skybox
Jrue Holiday - 2009-10 UD & Panini Also has a McDonalds All-American in two versions.
Lee - 2011-2012 Panini & UD
Watson - 2001-2002 UD & Topps
Afflalo - 2007-2008 UD & Topps
Ariza 2004-2005 Topps, Skybox, UD
Westbrook 2008-09 Topps, UD

Thursday, July 4, 2013

GI Joe Battleground is out

I'm playing #GIJOEBATTLE & loving it! Play with my invite ID (LPtxaH) to to get a head start!