Monday, January 28, 2019

Marquette Wins & Family Fun -- How I Spent My Winter Vacation

Got back a few days ago after spending most of a week in the icy Midwest. While in Milwaukee and Chicago, I was fortunate to see a lot more than just my breath: I also visited with my son and daughter and their wonderful spouses; my little brother and his fiancee; college buddies; former neighbors; Marquette's incredible student media set-up; and last but definitely not least, 2 (more) wins by my Marquette Warrior Eagles.

Wow ... what a trip!


With about 6 inches of snow falling in Milwaukee, Robbie and I weren't sure our flight was going to take off. After all, such a snowfall in Charlotte would have shut down the airport for about a month.

Thankfully, Milwaukee is used to handling wintry conditions with ease, and our flight actually landed early. My brother Dave and his son Connor picked us up at the airport and took us to their house in Mequon, where we met Dave's future wife Heather. We also posed for this picture as proof that we were, indeed, officially in the frozen tundra. Brrrr!

After dinner with Dave and Heather, we went to a bar in downtown Milwaukee to meet up with my old college buddies Tom, John and Jim. (Jim also brought his wife Mary Ellen and son Brian.) Tom drove in from Detroit and the others from the Chicago burbs.

It was great catching up with the boyz. At various stages of my MU life, the 3 were my roommates. Junior year, Tom, Jim and I shared one of the diviest dives ever with a fourth guy. (Wherefore art thou, Mike Greene?) John was my roommate senior year. I hadn't seen John in several years, so it was great to finally spend some time with him. He was the best man at our wedding, but he isn't the greatest at keeping in touch. (And I'm not blameless, either.)

While we were flying from Charlotte to Milwaukee on Saturday, my daughter Katie and her husband Ben were flying from Seattle to Chicago. They also made it in and stayed the night with my son Ben (yes ... lots of Bens) and his wife Sammi in their place on the North Side.


The kids (and kids-in-law) drove up from Chicago to join us in Section 224 at the Fiserv Forum -- the new home of our Marquette Warrior Eagles. All in all, we had 13 in our group.

Here's the family, looking very blue and gold ...

And here's my Class of '82 gang ...

Our heroes treated us to a nice come-from-behind victory over Providence on Dwyane Wade Day, a great experience from start to finish.

Afterward, we said our goodbyes to our friends and then the 8 of us headed to the greatest frozen treat emporium in the world ... 

Ben (the son) couldn't limit himself to a double-dip of Leon's amazing butter pecan frozen custard, so he got a triple. Not to be topped, Ben (the son-in-law) went back and got a second double-dip. I'd call 'em pigs ... but it's hard to blame 'em!!

After snarfing down our Leon's, we said goodbye to Dave and Heather. We then drove to the Marquette campus for a tour of Johnston Hall, where Robbie and I spent a huge percentage of our time as students. In addition to being home of the College of Journalism (now called the College of Communications), Johnston is where all the student media is housed. 

Robbie and I both worked at the Tribune (newspaper), and I also wrote for the Journal (magazine). In fact, in 1981-82 -- when I was Trib managing editor as a senior and Rob was sports editor as a junior -- we were part of the very first Tribune staff to use computers to produce the newspaper. Quaint, eh?

As you might imagine, things have changed a little since then. 

Mark, who is in charge of student media, and student editors Sydney and Tara gave us a personal tour of the state-of-the-art newsroom, TV studio, radio station, server room and lots of other cool spots that weren't even a twinkle in Marquette's eye back in the early-80s.

Here we are in the middle of the newsroom ...

After going to the Marquette Spirit Shop to buy some new gear to wear at future events, we got on the road and drove to the Chicago burbs. There, we met up with Sammi's parents Linda and Mickey and sister Jenna to catch up on everything going on in our extended family. We hadn't gotten to spend time with them since Sammi and Ben got married some 10 months earlier, and it was nice seeing them again.

Following our meal, we drove to Sammi and Ben's place for a couple days/nights of Nadel family fun.

Much merriment ensued, including libations, food and, naturally, board games. I'd love to say I emerged victorious more than the others, but that would be lying.


One of the highlights of the trip was the big lunch we had Monday with our great friends from our old Bell School neighborhood -- the Brundidges. It's always wonderful getting together with Darcia and Mike, and this time was even better because their sons Troy and Chris were able to join us, too.


Katie and her Ben had to get back to Seattle, and Rob eventually made her way to the el to start her trip back to Charlotte -- I mean, somebody has to support me, and I can think of nobody better at it than my Sugar Mama!

I decided to stay a couple extra days to hang out with my Marquette bud Tom, and we had primo seats to see the Blackhawks beat the Islanders in a shootout.


Tom and I drove back up to Milwaukee for the Marquette-DePaul game. Another resounding success for our 12th-ranked heroes.

First, I had to get a shot of me chilling with Bango ...

My friend Rob Judson, special assistant to MU coach Steve Wojciechowski, was kind enough to get us a couple of amazing seats -- 5th row center court. Here was our view from the best seats I've ever occupied as a non-journalist "civilian" at a major sporting event ...


The problem with great trips is that they have to end. Tom dropped me off at Midway Airport and I flew home to Charlotte, where Robbie picked me up.



Thankfully, my wonderful week didn't end with the trip.

On Friday, it was nice to re-join my Ardrey Kell Lady Knights for our big conference game against Providence. They had upset us at our place back in December and we not only wanted a little payback but we needed to win to stay in the conference race. 

In an exciting game, we kept building small leads and Providence kept cutting into them, but we finally held them off at the end, 57-53. 

I really appreciate Coach Buseick (and the girls) for giving me a little time to spend with my family and close friends, and I was glad to be back for that wonderful, hard-fought victory. We're now 14-5 overall and 5-2 in the league.

And then on Saturday, Marquette wrapped up a stellar 3-0 week by rallying for a gutty road win at Xavier, improving the record to 18-3 overall and 7-1 in the Big East. What a season for the guys!

Life is good, baby! Hope all y'all can say the same.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Here's My Baseball Hall Call for 2019

As I have gotten older (and hopefully, but not necessarily) wiser, I have tried hard to not get too worked up about stuff I can't control. The state of politics in this country makes that challenging many days, but I'm trying.

And so it is for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

This might have been my last year as a voter, as rules that were put in place a few years ago aim to slowly weed out "fossils" like 58-year-old me. I follow the major leagues as closely as I ever have -- perhaps more closely now, because I don't have the kind of Cubs/White Sox tunnel vision I had for most of my writing career. I take the responsibility seriously, I think I do a good job of vetting candidates, and I respect both the Hall and the process.

However, I do understand that other ex-sportswriters might not follow the game as closely as they once did, and I understand how that concerns the Baseball Writers Association of America and the Hall.

So if this is my last year as a voter (it might not be, but one year soon it will be), I'm not going to get worked up about it. It will have been a good run.

Along those lines, I didn't get my undies in a bundle last month over the selection of ex-White Sox slugger Harold Baines by the "Today's Game Era Committee."

Baines was a very good ballplayer, but there was a reason he was rejected by hundreds and hundreds of Hall voters for several years: His career was not Hall of Fame material. Led by White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, however, 3 of the 16 people on the committee had close ties to Baines and lobbied hard to get him into the Hall.

It is not supposed to be an old-boy's network, and this certainly diminishes the stature of the most-watched and most-respected Hall of Fame in all of sports.

But again, I can't do anything about it, it doesn't affect my life, and if that's what the Hall wants to do, well, whatevs.

I will admit that as I looked at this year's ballot, I found myself saying a couple of times, "This guy's not a Hall of Famer, but if Harold got in ... " I decided not to change how I vote, though. 

As always, I couple my first-hand knowledge of a player's career with his statistics, and I make my selections.

Having said all that, let's get to this year's ballot, starting with the newcomers whom I did NOT choose:

TODD HELTON had a dominant 7-year stretch for the Rockies from 1998-2004, averaging 35 HR and 118 RBI. But his stats were SO much better in the thin air of Colorado that it's difficult to not look at his overall numbers as somewhat artificial. He also saw a pretty significant performance decline in the second half of his career. 

LANCE BERKMAN had a fine career, mostly with the Astros. He put up some good run-production numbers and finished in the top 10 of MVP voting 6 times. With six 100-RBI seasons in 15 years compared to three in 22 years for Baines, Berkman seems every bit as deserving of the Hall as Harold. But I've already said Harold isn't deserving, so I'm not going to lower my bar.

ANDY PETTITTE had enough success over a long pitching career to receive some consideration, but I'm going to invoke my 5-year rule for steroid cheats and not even think about voting for him until the 2024 class ... if he is still on the ballot and/or if I am still a Hall voter then.

ROY OSWALT had a great first 8 years to his career (2001-08), pitching kind of like a poor man's Pedro Martinez. He finished in the top 5 of Cy Young voting 5 times, had a 129-64 record with a 3.13 ERA, and averaged 200 IP and 167 whiffs (OK, OK ... a VERY poor man's Pedro). But injuries derailed his shot to be Hall-worthy. 

FREDDY GARCIA and JON GARLAND played major roles in Chicago's first World Series-winning team in 88 years and first pennant winners in almost a half-century ... but they weren't close to being Hall of Famers.

TED LILLY rates special mention ... but only for his hilarious Tanner/Bad News Bears, glove-slamming exhibition after giving up a soul-crushing 3-run homer to Arizona's Chris Young in the 2007 NLDS.

Other first-time Hall candidates who have no chance: RICK ANKIEL ... JASON BAY ... TRAVIS HAFNER ... DEREK LOWE ... DARREN OLIVER ... JUAN PIERRE ... PLACIDO POLANCO  ...  MIGUEL TEJADA ... VERNON WELLS ... KEVIN YOUKILIS ... MICHAEL YOUNG. Hey, at least Baines has all of them beat!

As for those who have been on the ballot for multiple years but have not earned my check mark, I discussed them in last year's article: HERE.

I did vote for two players in their first year of eligibility:


Duh. The greatest relief pitcher ever, and it's not even close. I'm not going to waste my time and yours by reciting his stats.


In an era that introduced the coddling of starting pitchers, Halladay was a throwback: a workhorse who wanted the ball every 5th day and always wanted to finish what he started. 

In the 10 seasons after he became a regular in Toronto's rotation in 2002, he averaged 17 wins and 219 innings, had a 2.97 ERA, won the Cy Young Award in each league (AL 2003 with Toronto, NL 2010 with Philadelphia), and was selected for 8 All-Star Games. He led his league in complete games 7 times, and innings and shutouts 4 times each. 

Halladay also pitched the 20th perfect game in MLB history, and threw the second postseason no-hitter ever. 

An outstanding, Hall of Fame body of work for a man who died too young (plane crash, November 2017, at age 40).

My other five selections are holdovers from last year and were discussed in previous years' editions of The Baldest Truth.

Here are the 7 players who received my check marks for the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2019:








The Hall of Fame will announce its 2019 class on Jan. 22.

** A quick look-ahead to next year: 

Derek Jeter is a slam dunk, but otherwise the newcomer list will look pretty unimpressive: Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Adam Dunn, Cliff Lee.

After Jeter, the best newcomer to the 2020 ballot will be Paul Konerko, the captain of the 2005 champion White Sox.

Even though I really like Konerko, my knee-jerk reaction is: Not a Hall of Famer. Then again ...

His numbers are at least as good as (and in most cases better than) those of Harold Baines.