Sir Charles returns
Charles Barkley, above, returned to his chair as an NBA analyst for TNT on Thursday night after a six-week absence following a DUI arrest. Before his return, he sat down for a Q&A with TNT studio host Ernie Johnson on NBA.com. Barkley told Johnson, "(I) want to start with an apology and a thank you. My bad, my fault. Getting a DUI is unacceptable in any way, shape or form. I owe an apology to my family, to TNT, to T-Mobile (which pulled commercials featuring him after the arrest) and to my NBA family. I embarrassed all of the above."
Though his absence, whether self-imposed or suggested by TNT, was the right thing, Barkley's return is good news for NBA fans. His absence proved that he is the main spoke that turns the studio show's wheel. The show suffered while he was out and immediately gets better with his presence.
World Wide news of the day
ESPN is making another bold step in its attempt to take over the sports world. In April it launches its first Web site devoted to teams in a specific city. The test run is for Chicago. ESPNChicago.com will provide around-the-clock coverage of city sports. The site hopes to have original content and breaking news and will include a SportsCenter-style newscast with three- to five-minute highlights of the day's top stories. Former Chicago Tribune sports writer Gene Wojciechowski, who now works for ESPN, will provide original stories and columns, as will Chicago radio personalities Tom Waddle and Bruce Levine. If the site works, ESPN likely will try it in other cities.
Announcers of the day
The MLB Network has announced its broadcasting lineup for the World Baseball Classic, and former Rays announcer Joe Magrane drew the pool involving the United States. The first round begins March 5; the final is March 21-24. Gary Thorne and Rick Sutcliffe will call the final round. Here's the rest of the schedule:
Pool A (in Tokyo): China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Korea; announcers Jon Sciambi, Orestes Destrade
Pool B (Mexico City): Australia, Cuba, Mexico, South Africa; announcers Charley Steiner, Jose Mota
Pool C (Toronto): Canada, Italy, United States, Mexico; announcers Dave O'Brien, Rick Sutcliffe, Victor Rojas, Joe Magrane
Pool D (San Juan, Puerto Rico): Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Panama, Puerto Rico; announcers Rich Waltz, Jim Kaat
Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now
Just as disco was coming to an end, McFadden & Whitehead scored a huge hit with Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now in 1979. It spent a week at No. 1 on the R&B singles chart and went to No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also found its way into the Baltimore Orioles' clubhouse and became the team's motto. No one did stop them … until the World Series.
Kevin Millar, below, wasn't the best baseball player around, but he certainly was one of the more intense. As a member of the highly talented but occasionally lackadaisical 2003 Red Sox, Millar challenged his teammates to get a little more scrappy, a little more dirty, a little more determined. In other words, he challenged them to "Cowboy up!" The slogan worked until manager Grady Little stuck a little too long with Pedro Martinez in the seventh game of the ALCS, which ended with the Yankees' Aaron Boone cracking a winning homer off a Tim Wakefield knuckleball in the bottom of the 11th inning.
Give Joe Maddon credit. The Rays' manager does come up with cool slogans. Last year it was 9 = 8, meaning nine players working together for nine innings equals one of the eight playoff teams. This season the slogan is '09 > '08, meaning the '09 season is supposed to be better than the Rays' remarkable 2008. As far as we're concerned, these are the two best baseball slogans ever. But here are a few other great ones that come to mind.
Wait till next year
The most famous slogan in the history of baseball, adopted by many teams throughout the league, especially the Cubs of the past 50 years. But this first was the mantra of Brooklyn Dodgers fans in the 1940s. The Dodgers won the National League pennant in 1941, '47, '49, '52 and '53 but lost to the crosstown Yankees every time in the World Series. "Next year" finally arrived when the Dodgers beat the hated Yankees in seven games in the 1955 World Series.
We Are Family
In 1979, Sister Sledge, a pop group made up of four sisters from Philadelphia, turned a groovy beat and catchy little chorus about togetherness and family called We Are Family into a huge hit that reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. A cross-state team turned the song into its anthem. The Pittsburgh Pirates, led by captain Willie "Pops" Stargell, used the song to show their togetherness, and the Pirates won the NL East, beat the Reds in the NLCS and then stopped the Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now Orioles in a seven-game World Series.
Ya Gotta Believe
He was one of the best relief pitchers of his era. He was the father of country singing star Tim McGraw. But Tug McGraw's most famous contribution — at least in Queens — was his saying, "Ya Gotta Believe." During the 1973 season, McGraw coined the phrase even though the Mets were coming off a third-place finish in the National League East, 131/2 games behind the Pirates. The Mets went 83-73 in 1972 and did worse in 1973, going 82-79. But — maybe it was Tug's magic — it was enough to win the division. The Mets beat the Reds in the NLCS before falling to the A's in the World Series.
The best never-used slogan
We miss Lou Piniella, above. He was the Rays' manager during the dark days before the Joe Maddon era began and came up with a slogan that could never be used but might have been the best and most accurate team slogan we've ever heard. After a particularly bad spring training effort, a dismayed Piniella talked about all the slogans teams use, such as "Rays fever … catch it." "You know what ours should be?" Sweet Lou said. "Devil Rays baseball … My God!"
This catchall phrase was the brainchild of Giants manager Roger Craig, left. Everything was "Hum baby." It could mean a good player or a good play or just something to say when you didn't have anything else to say. The Giants rode the phrase to the NLCS in 1987, Craig's second full season as manager.
Hum this, baby
In the 1987 NLCS, Roger Craig's "Hum baby" Giants met the St. Louis Cardinals, whose unofficial antidote was "Hum this, baby." Sparked by shutouts in the last two games, the Cards knocked the Giants out in seven games.