About Andy Purvis

Andy Purvis is a local author and radio personality. If you enjoy the blog attached and love reading inspirational stories about some of our most famous athletes, then please visit www.purvisbooks.com for all the latest info on his books or to listen to the new radio podcast. Andy's books are available online or in e-book format and can also be found in the local Barnes & Noble bookstore. Andy can be contacted at purvis.andy@mygrande.net. Also don't forget to listen to Dennis & Andy's Q & A Session right here on Sportsradiocc.com.

Killer

Football Coach Gene Stallings tells a wonderful story about his time spent as an assistant coach for the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant.  Most of you college football fans will remember that Bryant had a tower built where he would stand and watch his Alabama Crimson Tide practice.  The old saying was that you never wanted to see him come down from that tower during practice, because somebody was going to be dismissed.  Well, on this particular day, it was the very first day of freshman football practice.  Stallings said there were about thirty wide-eyed kids with the coaches standing in the end zone, waiting for the Bear.  Bryant walked out and welcomed the guys to Alabama.  I can hear Stallings now, trying to imitate Bryant’s guttural voice.  Bear said, “I want to welcome all you boys toAlabama.  We’re gonna teach you how to block and tackle and play Alabama football.  Now, to get started, old Bear has placed five footballs down in the other end zone.  Why don’t you boys run on down there and bring old Bear back one of them footballs.” Well, Stallings smiled and said.  “You should have seen these guys take off down the field.  Thirty boys trying to impress the Bear and only five footballs were to be had.”

The year was 1959, and Lee Roy Jordan was one of those boys.  Lee Roy was tougher than a two-dollar steak and had been recruited by Auburn and Alabama, but Auburn withdrew their offer soon afterward. Alabama liked his toughness, so Jordan signed with the Crimson Tide.  On this particular day, “Lee Roy Jordan brought back three of the five footballs” said Stallings.  Needless to say, the Bear was impressed and calmly said to Gene, “Hey, Coach Stallings, I don’t think this young man will have to practice very much.”

During the three years Lee Roy played (1960-1962),Alabama lost only two games, posting a 29-2-2 record.  The Tide defense gave up 25 points in 1961 and 39 points in 1962.  The 1961 team went undefeated and won the National Championship, with Lee Roy Jordan at linebacker. “He was one of the finest players I have ever coached,” said Bear.

Lee Roy Jordan attained All-American status in 1963 and was the MVP of that year’s Orange Bowl.  In 1963,Jordan was drafted with the sixth pick in the first round, by the Dallas Cowboys.  From 1963-1976,Jordan was a member of the “Doomsday Defense.”  His teammates nicknamed him “Killer” and made him captain of the Cowboys’ defense. Jordan recorded 1,236 career tackles in 154 starts.  His Cowboy teams won five conference championships, eight divisional championships, and one Super Bowl. Jordan was the seventh Cowboy to be inducted into the Dallas Cowboys’ Ring of Honor in 1989.

On November 4, 1973,Jordan intercepted Kenny Anderson of the Cincinnati Bengals, three times in five minutes, and returned one for a 31-yard touchdown.  He was some kind of player.

 

 

Andy Purvis

www.purvisbooks.com

Just Another Day At the Office

 

Legendary baseball announcer, Vin Scully, just announced that he will return one more year as the broadcaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  It will be his 67th year behind the microphone.  Imagine that.  He started when he was 20 years old and just turned 87.  I worked for the same company for 34 years, but that doesn’t hold a candle to the red-headed tenor’s run.  Scully, a story teller if there ever was one, has seen it all.  In the first week of June, 1989, Scully called 45 innings of baseball in 29 hours.  He worked the NBC’s 10-inning “Game of the Week” in St. Louis on June 3rd, then the Dodgers’ network’s 22-inning game that very same night inHouston, then 13 more innings the next afternoon.  Scully then flew toAtlanta and called an 18-inning game with the Braves on June 5th.  It was just another day at the office for the old redhead.

The 22-inning game, which the Astros won 5-4 on June 3rd at the Astrodome, was full of wonderful, wacky events.  Here are a few.  Forty-four players were used during the 22 innings, but not one of them got more than three hits.  John Shelby of the Dodgers went 0 for 10.  Five players went 1 for 1.  Orel Hershiser worked seven innings of three-hit, eight strike-outs, shutout relief and was still unhappy about being removed in the 21st inning, by manager Tommy Lasorda.  Fernando Valenzuela played first base for the Dodgers.  Pitcher Jim Deshaies pinch-hit for the Astros.  First baseman, Eddie Murray, played third base for the first time in his career, for the Dodgers.  Neither team scored a run from the seventh inning until the 22nd.  There were only two stolen bases.  The Dodgers’ hitters went 14 for 78, and the game ended at 2:50 a.m. Central Time.

I tried to imagine how a phone call might have sounded if an Astros player were to have called his wife from the clubhouse around 2 a.m.

“Honey, I’m still at the ballpark.”

“Sure you are.”

“I promise.”

“You’re shooting pool again, aren’t you?”

“No! Honest!  Turn your radio on.  We’re still playing.”

“Nobody plays baseball at 2 a.m. in the morning.   Can’t you at least make up a decent story?”

“Look, I’ve got to go.  I’m on deck to hit next.  The Dodgers are taking Orel Hershiser out and replacing him with their third baseman.”

“You’re not only lying, you must be drunk.”

“I won’t bother coming home tonight, Honey.  I’ll just sleep here in the clubhouse.”

“Ok, Buster, but I’ll be reading that box score in the morning.  You’d better have at least nine at-bats, or I’ll be taking the kids to live with my mother.”

Astros’ first baseman, Glenn Davis, actually did sleep in the clubhouse that night, but the story of the phone call above was made up.   The Dodgers’ next-day starting pitcher, Tim Belcher, was the only Dodger that did not get into the game.  He had stayed at the hotel.  Dodgers’ third baseman Jeff Hamilton, who had replaced Hershiser, would get the loss.  Houstonwon the game when Billy Doran singled, reached second on aDavisgrounder, and then scored on a single by Rafael Ramirez.

Can you imagine how the umpiring crew of Fred Brocklander, Bob Engel, Paul Runge, and “Dutch” Rennert felt?   They did not have the luxury of spending some time on the bench every other half-inning.

 

 

Andy Purvis

www.purvisbooks.com

Dog Days of Summer

Every wonder how that moniker came to be?  I would assume that it’s because some animals, especially dogs, do not sweat like we humans do.  Dogs get rid of their body heat by sweating through their tongue.  That’s why you see them hassling when they spend a lot of time out in the heat.  But how did baseball come to use this term?  One of the secrets of baseball, in my opinion, is that you play virtually every day.  Therefore, you do not have to wait very long to redeem yourself if you played poorly.  But 162 games in 180 days can get pretty tiring, especially in the heat of August.  This is the time of the year where players are grinding to stay healthy and push to keep their team in contention.

So, here lie the story of baseball and the dog days of summer.  On August 22, 1886, in a game between the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Louisville Colonels, a fellow by the name of “Chicken” Wolf, who played shortstop for the Colonels, hit a long fly ball that did not clear the outfield fence.  Red Stockings outfielder, Abner Powell, tried to run the ball down but was interfered with by a large dog that happened to be sleeping next to the fence.  This dog was disturbed by all the commotion and proceeded to chase Powell, eventually biting him over and over and then he would not let go.  Wolf continued to circle the bases and scored what was ruled a game-winning, inside-the-park home run forLouisville.  The dog days of summer had become a reality.

Chicken Wolf’s real name was William Van Winkle Wolf.  He was born inLouisville,Kentucky, on May 12, 1862.  He was a terrific player who played eleven years with the Colonels and won the American Association batting title in 1890, by hitting .363, in a 134 game season.  His salary that season was said to be 216 dollars.  The Louisville Colonels eventually became the St. Louis Browns of the American League.

Interestingly, we now have a day for fans to bring their dogs to the park for a game.  The dog days of summer live.

 

Andy Purvis

www.purvisbooks.com

Friday Night Lights

The only ninth inning he had ever seen was from the bench. Over 33,000 had purchased seats but no one was using theirs now. I couldn’t help… but think of Nolan Ryan, who was in the house, the last Astros’s pitcher to no-hit the Dodgers on September 26, 1981. Our guy would face Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, in his Dodger debut, and Justin Turner with history on the line. Every pitch had a purpose now since Minute Maid had never hosted a no-hitter. It had been only nine days since the last no-hitter had been thrown in Seattle, could lightening strike again so quickly?   Thirty-year-old Mike Fiers was the other guy in the Carlos Gomez trade. He was remembered more for hitting Giancarlo Stanton last year. Fiers had been a 22nd round pick by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2009. Now he was standing on the loneliest place on the diamond, the pitchers mound. His catcher, Jason Castro, had reminded him between innings to breathe.   On Friday night, August 21st, Mike Fiers threw 134 pitches for the first time ever in a Major League baseball game. He struck out ten while walking three, but more importantly, he gave up no hits. His team had scored three runs, compliments of Jake Marisnick and Evan Gattis home runs. It was the first time Fiers had ever pitched in the ninth inning or thrown more than 120 pitches. He had also never had his jersey ripped off. The score: Astros 3, Dodgers 0, It was the 11th no-hitter in Astros history. The Friday Night Lights shown brightly in Houston.  They call those fireworks.

Pre-Game Speech

Pre-Game Speech

 

 

One of the oldest rituals in sports is known as the pre-game speech, especially in the game of football.  There have been many coaches who have specialized in revving up their team before taking the field.  Knute Rockne, Don Coryell, Lou Holtz and Barry Switzer come to mind.  Frank Broyles of Arkansas was known for his fiery pre-game speeches where he would end his rant by asking one of his better players to say a prayer, before game time.  On this particular occasion, Broyles asked his team to hit their knees and said to his All-American tackle, Billy Ray Smith, “Would you say the Lord’s Prayer, Billy Ray?”  “Sure Coach” said Billy Ray.  Then Billy Ray kneeled with the rest of the team and said, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.”  Then he looked up and said, “How did I do Coach?”  “You did great Billy Ray, now let’s go get’em,” shouted Broyles.

Now that was funny, but there is one pre-game speech that the old pros still talk about from the 1958 NFL Championship game played in New York between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts’.  Colts’ Head Coach, Weeb Ewbank, was an interesting man.  He was usually quiet, meek, and mild-mannered in his command of the team.  But on this day, Ewbank used the very essence of reverse psychology on a team that had dominated the league that year.  The Colts led the entire league in offense and defense, and clinched their division three-quarters of the way into the season.  It had been a runaway.   Ewbanks seemed not to care about their success up to that point and opened his speech by saying that they were nothing more than a bunch of castoffs.

“Ameche:  (Alan Ameche) I didn’t like you.  I didn’t want you.  We had to draft you because the Bears didn’t take you, because they didn’t want you.  But we took you, so get it done.  Go see if you can do it,” said Weeb.  “Unitas:  (Johnny Unitas) Pittsburgh didn’t want you.  We got you for a seventy-five cent phone call.  You’ve had some success here, but I don’t know if it’s temporary or not.  We’ll see.  Taseff:  (Carl Taseff) We tried to trade you; they didn’t want you.  Lipscomb:  (Gene Lipscomb) The Rams were glad to get rid of you.  We got you for a hundred bucks.  You’ve been a problem here.  See if you can straighten yourself out today,” screamed Ewbanks.   Myhra:  (Steve Myhra – kicker) You’ve been awful.  You’ve had an awful year.  You’ve got to put those balls through the uprights.  Joyce:  (Don Joyce) The Cardinals couldn’t control you.  They were glad you came here.  Nelson:  (Andy Nelson) You were too small.  No one wanted you.  You weren’t big enough to play this game, but we gave you a chance.”

Nobody said anything while Ewbanks spoke; they just listened.  He went right down the line, made it sound like they were all a bunch of guys nobody wanted to have.  Weeb continued.  “Marchetti:  (Gino Marchetti) They said you weren’t going to get any better, but you did.  See if you can show up today. Berry:  (Raymond Berry) You aren’t fast.  One of your legs is shorter than the other and your back is bad,” said Weeb.

Weeb Ewbanks closed his pre-game speech after chewing everyone out by saying, “Remember this:  If you want to do anything, you got to do it inNew York.”  There was really nothing else to be said. “That was some speech,” said Gino Marchetti.  “It worked like charm.”

On December 28, 1958, everything changed for professional football as 45 million people watched the first televised NFL Championship game.  For the first time ever the game had to be decided in “sudden death” overtime.  The Baltimore Colts outscored the New York Giants, 23-17.

 

 

Andy Purvis

www.purvisbooks.com

Deer Hunting

Deer Hunting

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Mickey Mantle (8/13/1995). Growing up during the fifties on the East coast, Mantle became mine and many other young boys’ favorite player. At the age of 13, I got to see him play in the old Yankee Stadium and then met him on two other occasions where I received his autograph and spent some time with him. Every young boy needs a hero to hang their picture above his bed. Once your hero gets into your heart, they never get out.
There are many stories told about Mickey Mantle and his teammates, but one of my favorite Mantle stories includes one of his best friends and teammates, Billy Martin. In fact, Mantle named one of his sons after Billy. Anyway, these two were as different as night and day, except when it came to drinking and having fun. Mickey, of course, grew up in a country setting in Oklahoma, while Billy grew up a city boy, born in Berkeley, California. Billy had never been deer hunting and Mickey decided to take Billy to a friend’s ranch in South Texas, near San Antonio. As they arrived, Mickey told Billy to just stay in the car while he went to the door to let his friend know that they had arrived to hunt. Mantle’s friend welcomed him and told him sure they could hunt but he wanted Mickey to do him a big favor. The rancher had an old mule that was in his last days and he wanted him put down and did not have the heart to do the deed. That if Mickey would kill the old mule for him, the rancher would have the vet come out in the morning and dispose of the mule and Mickey would have his many thanks. Mickey agreed. It was here that the trouble started. On the way back to the car to get his gun, Mickey decided to play a joke on Martin. Mantle wore a mad look on his face and when he got to the car, he went immediately to the trunk and opened it while muttering under his breath. Mantle took out his gun while Billy questioned what was going on. Mantle said, “We’ve come all the way and that old Son-of-a-gun will not let us hunt on his land, so I’m going to shoot his mule.” With that, Mickey loaded his gun, went over to the barn, pointed and killed the mule with one shot. No sooner had the smoke cleared; Mantle heard gunfire from behind him and when he turned to see what was happening, Billy had his gun out, loaded, and was shooting the rancher’s cows and chickens. Anyone who knew the feisty Billy Martin would understand this story. I wonder what it cost them to get out of that mess.

Andy Purvis
www.purvisbooks.com

536

536

By 1967, Mickey Mantle was the only reason left to go to a Yankee game. He had fulfilled his promise to his wife, Merlyn, and hit his 500th home run on Mother’s Day. After the game, Mantle took the time to thank the Yankees winning pitcher that day, Dooly Womack, for allowing him a chance to celebrate. By now, Mantle had also conceded to himself and his close friends that he would never be able to catch Willie Mays statistically.
In 1968, Mantle felt lost. He could no longer hit or run like he used to. His body was breaking down. “Who are these guys?” Mantle was quoted as saying, after looking around at his new teammates. Tony Kubek and Phil Linz had left the team by 1965; Roger Maris and Bobby Richardson were gone by 1966. Elston Howard was traded in the middle of 1967; Yogi Berra was gone; and Whitey Ford was now the pitching coach for the Bombers. On May 30, 1968, Mantle was his old self again. He went 5-for-5 for the third time in his career with two home runs, a double, two singles and five RBI’s, and scored three runs. Washington Senators’ first baseman Frank Howard said, “I’ve never seen five balls hit so hard.” It was Mickey’s finest game since his Triple Crown season of 1956. On June 29th, Mantle hit his 529th home run. On July 27th of that season, he fell below the .300 lifetime batting average. He went 0 for 12 in three straight games and knew he would never be able to return to .300. He was ashamed and said he was going to quit. Five days later, he was thrown out of a game for cursing an umpire; it was the seventh time in 18 years. Six weeks later, on August 10th, he hit his 530th and 531st against the Minnesota Twins. On August 22nd, he tied Jimmy Foxx for third place of all time, with home run number 534.
On September 17th, the Tigers beat the Yankees in Detroit and clinched the 1968 American League pennant. The following day was a rainout. So, on the afternoon of September 19, 1968, Denny McLain was scheduled to pitch. McLain had already posted 30 wins, becoming the first pitcher since Dizzy Dean to accomplish that feat. When Mantle came to the plate in the eighth inning, the fans gave him a standing ovation. Even the Tiger players stood on the top step of the dugout and applauded. Everyone was a Mantle fan. Mantle was McLain’s hero, the reason he had become a switch-hitter when he was in high school.
No one knew what McLain was about to do. Denny called “time” and called his catcher Jim Price out to the mound. McLain said, “Listen, he only needs one more home run to beat Foxx. Let’s give him a shot at it. You just go behind home plate, put your glove up, and let me see if I can hit it.” Price understood; Mickey was his hero, too. Price returned and got down in his crouch and gave Mickey a look. McLain threw him a batting practice fastball. “It was like 50 mph with an arc on it,” said McLain. “And the dummy takes it for a strike.” Mantle now looks down at Price and says, “What was that?” Price responded, “I don’t know.” Mantle says, “Is he gonna’ do it again?” Price said, “I don’t know.” Price now gets up and calls time again, and starts towards the mound and McLain yells for all to hear, “Just tell him to be ready.” McLain continues, “I throw the next pitch and Mantle fouls it off and I’m thinking, oh man, now I’ve got him 0 and 2. I’m tired of messing around; I’m just going to strike him out.”
McLain is now beside himself and he yells, “Where the hell do you want it?” Mantle points with his bat. “I throw one more pitch and he hits a line drive into the right field stands for home run number 535. We all had tears in our eyes, because Mickey represented baseball in the fifties and sixties,” said Denny. As Mick goes by first base, Norm Cash hits him on the rear with his glove. “Nice going” and “Congratulations” are heard as he passes second and short. As Mickey gets to third, he starts yelling “Thank you” to McLain. “Thank you, thank you, I owe you one,” screams Mantle. McLain says, “Mickey that’s enough.” McLain is thinking he is going to hear from the commissioner if Mantle keeps this up.
As Mantle steps on home plate the crowd erupts and they are now standing again. Joe Pepitone shakes his hand. The Tigers are up again and the fans will not stop cheering; so Mickey comes out of the dugout for a curtain call and decides to head towards the mound. “I almost wet my pants as he started toward me. I just did not want him to get to the mound,” says McLain. Mickey finally sat back down. But that’s not the end of the story.
Joe Pepitone steps into the batter’s box and motions where he wants his pitch, then McLain throws a 90 mph fastball right at his head and down goes Pepitone out of the way. “When I got up,” said Pepitone, “I looked over in the dugout and Mantle has got both of his hands over his mouth laughing his butt off.”
McLain was right and he did receive a letter from the commissioner that said he was taking the integrity of the game in his own hands. McLain denied he intentionally threw a gofer ball to Mantle. Famous baseball writer Red Smith had the last word when he wrote, “When a guy has bought 534 drinks in the same saloon, he entitled to one on the house.” After the game, Mantle autographed the home run ball for McLain. He wrote, “Denny, thanks for one of the great moments in my entire career, Mickey.” In 1978, a fire took McLain’s home along with the baseball. Mickey signed another ball for him. “Until the day he died, he kept thanking me,” said McLain.
Mantle hit an uneventful home run number 536 the next day at Yankee Stadium off of Jim Lonborg of the Red Sox. He played his last game five days later on September 25, 1968, and recorded one single off Luis Tiant of the Cleveland Indians. I still miss Mickey.

Andy Purvis
www.purvisbooks.com

Crown Royal

In 1964, former Brooklyn Dodger, “Duke” Snider asked the Mets to be traded. They obliged by sending him to the dreaded San Francisco Giants, a team Duke had spent his career trying to beat. When he looked in the mirror with the Giants jersey on, then it hit him. What a sight, “The Duke of Flatbush” wearing a despised Giants uniform. Snider had to wear #28 because the Giants #4, worn by Mel Ott, had been retired years earlier. That year, Duke appeared in more games as a pinch-hitter than he did as a starter. During that 1964 season, in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Giants’ Manager Alvin Dark gave Duke $100 to take Dodgers’ pitcher Don Drysdale out to dinner the night before he was to pitch against the Giants. “Take the big donkey out, on me, and get him good and drunk,” said Dark. “We had dinner and lots of Crown Royal,” said Duke. The next day, Drysdale proceeded to pitch the game of his life as Duke, hung over from the night before, sat watching from the bench. By the eighth inning, Skipper Dark was not happy and wondered if Duke had actually executed his plan. Out of anger, Dark told Duke to pinch-hit in the ninth inning against Drysdale. Don Drysdale struck Snider out on three pitches. Duke sent a note for Drysdale to the Dodgers’ clubhouse after the game. It said, “Dear Donnie, don’t know what the last pitch was when it went by, but it smelled like Crown Royal. Love, Dookie.”

Andy Purvis
www.purvisbooks.com

Bed Check

This funny story was told by Green Bay Packer’s offensive guard Jerry Kramer. It seemed that his teammates, Paul Hornung and Max McGee, made a habit out of skipping bed check during training camp. One day, as practice was about to end and to their surprise, Head Coach Vince Lombardi announced that these two would be fined $500 each, for missing curfew the night before. Max and Paul had no idea how Lombardi had found out and proceeded to slip out again the next night. As fate would have it, at the end of that day’s practice, Lombardi increased their fine to $1,000 each for missing curfew a second night. With that announcement, Lombardi turned and looked directly at Max and Paul and said, “Gentlemen, the next time you miss curfew you will be fined $1,500 each; and if you two can find anything in Green Bay, Wisconsin, worth $1,500, call me and I will go with you.” That brought the house down with laughter.

Andy Purvis
www.purvisbooks.com