Robby

“Pitchers did me a favor when they knocked me down. It made me more determined.”

Frank Robinson

Frank Robinson is the only man to win the Most Valuable Player Award in both Major Leagues (1961 with the Cincinnati Reds; 1966 with the Baltimore Orioles). Frank Robinson belted 586 home runs in 20 plus seasons in the Major Leagues. Robinson played for the Reds, Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers, California Angels, and Cleveland Indians. Robinson became Major League Baseball’s first African American Manager when he was hired by the Cleveland Indians in 1975. In addition to managing the Indians, Robinson piloted the San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, and Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals. Frank Robinson was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1982.

Frank Robinson was a great competitor. He excelled when he first made it to the Major Leagues in 1956, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Robinson was an aggressive player who slid hard at all times. The Reds traded him to the Orioles prior to the 1966 season saying he was “an old 30.” He responded by winning the Triple Crown and leading the Orioles to their first World Championship. Robinson was a 14 time All-Star. When you watched him bat, it was as if he “dominated” home plate. He crowded the plate and dared pitchers to pitch inside. He got hit with pitched balls often, but never backed down. He was a winner.

Robinson also managed in the Major Leagues for 15 years. He was the American League Manager of the Year with the Orioles in 1989. Frank Robinson passed away recently; he forged a trail of greatness and will not be forgotten.

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Kyler

“Football has been my love and passion for my entire life.”

Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray is a great two-sport athlete from the University of Oklahoma. Murray has been an outfielder on the OU baseball team, and the Oakland Athletics drafted him in the first round of the 2018 Baseball Amateur Draft. Murray was selected ninth overall. Murray is a quarterback for the Sooners, and he recently said that he is going to go to the NFL Combine. Murray is a sure bet to be a first round selection in the upcoming NFL Draft. Kyler Murray won the Heisman Trophy, emblematic of the Nation’s most outstanding College Football player, in 2018.

Kyler Murray is choosing football over baseball. With his arm and his legs, not only did he win the Heisman Trophy, but he also led the Sooners to the BCS! Since his passion is football, he made the right choice. Football offers him instant recognition in the NFL and the potential for instant fame. Had Murray chosen baseball, in all likelihood, he would have spent several years in the Minor Leagues. Since football is where Murray’s heart is, he might have questioned a decision to play baseball during the many long bus rides that are a big part of the Minor Leagues. Yes, there is less risk of serious injury in baseball, and yes, careers in baseball quite often are longer than careers in football. However, in the end, Kyler Murray followed his heart. And I admire that.

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Nick

“Your character is the accumulation of your thoughts, habits and priorities on a daily basis.”

Nick Saban

Nick Saban is in his 12th year as the Head Football Coach at Alabama. Saban is in his 46th year as a football coach. All of Saban’s head coaching jobs, with the exception of a two year stint with the Miami Dolphins, have been at the collegiate level. Prior to coming to Alabama, Saban was the Head Coach at Toledo (1990), Michigan State (1995-1999), and LSU (2000-2004).

Saban has had a great deal of success in all of his head coaching jobs at the collegiate level. His teams have won more than 230 games while only losing 62. Saban has won six National Championships (LSU in 2003), and five with Alabama (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2017).I feel the way many others do. Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach of all-time. He goes for his seventh National Championship Monday evening vs. Clemson. In fact, it’s the fourth consecutive year the two schools have faced each other in the National Championship game. First, let’s give Nick Saban credit for being a great Head Coach for such a lengthy period of time. He is 67 years old and is showing no signs of slowing down!

Nick Saban is extremely focused and very bright. His work ethic is second to none. He is a great recruiter whose football knowledge is off the charts. What more can you say? Well, you can say that Saban has a quality that all great coaches and managers have. That is, he does a terrific job of holding his players accountable. That is the way to get players to continually improve, and Nick Saban has been doing that for decades!

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Erskine

“Branch Rickey was my mentor in Baseball and a strong influence in my life.”

Carl Erskine

Carl Erskine pitched in the Major Leagues for 12 years, all of them with the Dodgers (1948-1959). Carl’s lifetime record was 122-78 with a 4.00 ERA while pitching mostly at hitter friendly Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Carl Erskine threw two of the seven no-hitters in the National League in the 1950’s. Erskine won 20 games for the Pennant winning Dodgers in 1953, and in 1954, Carl was a National League All-Star. Carl Erskine was the pitching mainstay on five Pennant Winners and one World Championship team.

It is an honor to write about Carl Erskine because he is a close friend, a great man, and he was a very good pitcher. Carl’s mentor, Branch Rickey, was a very knowledgeable baseball man, and someone who was deeply religious. Branch Rickey broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball by bringing Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers. Carl Erskine broke into the Major Leagues in 1948, the year after Jackie’s arrival. Carl and Jackie became friends in an era when there was a great deal of racism. Carl Erskine is a man of great dignity and class and someone who always displays warmth to his fellow human beings.

Carl Erskine was a terrific competitor and as his Hall of Fame teammate, Pee Wee Reese, said, “Carl Erskine is a nice guy who wins.” Carl often was at his best in big games. He struck out 14 New York Yankees setting a World Series strikeout record in 1953.

I was privileged to broadcast Indianapolis Indians games with Carl for a number of years. On those broadcasts, and in our many conversations, I have learned a great deal from him. Carl Erskine turns 92 this week, and anyone who is able to spend time with him, cherishes the moment! He is that good a man!

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Greatest team in Red Sox history

“There’s no question in my mind, that this is the greatest team in Red Sox history.”

Red Sox Pres. Sam Kennedy

The 2018 Boston Red Sox were the best team in Baseball during the regular season and also were Baseball’s best team in the Post Season. The Red Sox won 108 games during the regular season and finished in first place, eight games ahead of the New York Yankees. Boston’s run in the Post-Season was incredible. The Red Sox had home field advantage in each of their three Post season Series yet had an outstanding 7-1 record on the road!

Having the best regular season record in Major League Baseball is no guarantee of success in the Post Season. As Hall of Fame Manager Whitey Herzog used to say, “It’s not the best team that wins, it’s the team that plays the best that wins.” The Red Sox were amazing in both the regular season and the Post Season. They have so many good hitters throughout their lineup.

Not only can these men hit, but they also have a terrific approach at the plate. They do not have an all or nothing mentality – home run or strikeout. They drill balls into gaps and still hit their share of home runs. I am hoping that more teams take a similar approach. The Red Sox have fine pitching, too, and they make big plays in the field.

Were they the best Red Sox team of all-time? Better than the 2004 Red Sox? As great as the 2004 Red Sox were, they were a Wild Card team that won 98 games, 10 fewer than this 2018 team. The Boston Red Sox now have won four World Series in the last 15 years.

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The Professor

Whitey Herzog: “George Kissell is the only man i know who can talk for 15 minutes about a ground ball.”

@Cardinals

George Kissell was a Minor League player, Minor League manager, Major League Coach, scout, Minor League instructor and Field Coordinator for the St. Louis Cardinals. Kissell spent all of his 69 years in Professional Baseball with the Cardinals. Kissell signed with the Cardinals in 1940 and in 1983 was recognized with “The King of Baseball” award. George Kissell had a B.S., a Masters in History and in Physical Education from Ithaca College.

George Kissell was a great man! He was a very warm and caring individual who was a great teacher. George Kissell knew all phases of baseball. He was very loyal and dedicated to the St. Louis Cardinals. George could have gone to the Cincinnati Reds as a coach under Sparky Anderson, but Kissell stayed with the Cardinals.

George Kissell was a mentor to players, to coaches and to managers. Joe Torre said, “George Kissell was so caring.” Jim Riggleman said, “I hung on his every word.” I spoke with George several times over the years and he could not have been nicer! When I first started broadcasting for the Indianapolis Indians, the Cincinnati Reds were our Parent team. Ron Plaza was the Field Coordinator, and he was extremely knowledgeable and terrific at his job. It is no coincidence that George Kissell was Ron’s mentor.

When the Cardinals acquired second baseman Fernando Vina, George told him there were nine different kinds of ground balls. Vina already had played for seven years in the Major Leagues. Under Kissell’s tutelage, Vina won two Gold Glove Awards for fielding excellence.

George Kissell was a credit to the game of baseball.

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J. Kramer

“My whole life has been one of seeking experience.”
Jerry Kramer

Jerry Kramer was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this month. Kramer played football at the University of Idaho and was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round of the 1958 NFL Draft. Kramer played his entire NFL career (1958-1968) with the Packers. He was an All Pro on five occasions and named to the NFL All Decade team in the 1960’s.
Jerry Kramer was the Green Bay Packers right guard in an era when the Packers were all about one thing: WINNING! Kramer played on five NFL Championship teams in seven years. Those Packer teams also won the first two Super Bowls. Vince Lombardi became the Packers Head Coach in Kramer’s second year and the first thing that Lombardi changed were the players attitudes.
The Packers became one of the greatest teams in NFL History with their Championship run and Jerry Kramer was one of several outstanding players on those teams. Kramer and the Packers were known for their “power sweep” and Jerry was one of the “pulling guards.” Their motto was, “Run To Daylight.” Jerry Kramer “threw” one of the most important and well publicized “blocks” in NFL History when he paved the way for Bart Starr to score the winning touchdown on a “quarterback sneak” in the “Ice Bowl.” (1967 NFL Championship Game).
Kramer, who also was a place kicker for the Packers, wrote several books. First and foremost was, “Instant Replay.” It was really special to watch those Packer teams in the 1960’s. I had so much respect for them because of their incredible determination which was a big reason for their success. Winning Championships is a lot more than having talented players. Jerry Kramer is a great man who overcame many injuries; some were football related; others were not. He has finally gotten something he has longed deserved: enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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