Rocket fuels Thome's hit parade
Say good-bye to summer, and hello to autumn. With a six-pack, of course.
1. Blast him
Here are some factoids that pretty much got overlooked in all the reportage of Jim Thome's 500th career home run Sunday.
Angels pitcher Dustin Moseley became the 335th pitcher to serve Thome a homer ball. Steve Farr, then with the Yankees, gave up the first, back in 1991, but never a second. And journeyman Rick Reed, who won 93 games in a 15-year career, was Thome's favorite victim. Thome took Reed yard nine times.
But here's the best part. Number Two on the 'Jim Thome Smashes My Pitches Like Pumpkins On Halloween' list, with eight homers served, is ...
'Rocket' Roger Clemens, 354-game winner and future Hall of Famer.
2. Hope he wears it
Barry Bonds' record-setting 756th home-run ball fetched $752,467 at auction last week.
The buyer was fashion designer Mark Ecko, who, you may have heard, has opened a Web site — vote756.com — where fans have until Tuesday night to determine the ball's future. You can vote to 1) donate the ball to the Baseball Hall of Fame; 2) brand it with an asterisk before donating it to the Hall of Fame; 3) or blast it into outer space, where the ball would be 'out of sight, out of mind.'
I don't know how to interpret Bonds' reaction to Ecko, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle: 'He's stupid. He's an idiot. He spent $750,000 on the ball and that's what he's doing with it? What he's doing is stupid.'
Ecko, a fashion designer, responded by issuing a statement that he would custom-design Bonds a T-shirt that says, 'Mark Ecko paid $752,467 for my ball, and all I got was this ‘stupid' T-shirt.'
Hope he makes it big enough to fit over Bonds' head.
3. Is he a closer?
I'm happy for Jerrance Howard, the former Peoria High star who returned to the University of Illinois basketball program this week as an assistant coach.
Howard is a stand-up guy, a good person, a hard worker. The guy loves Illinois so much, he spent five seasons deep on the Illini bench, when he could have transferred to a number of so-called 'mid-major' and played serious minutes. He was revered for his leadership abilities.
All that said, Howard needs to prove himself as a big-time recruiter right quick.
The Illinois staff, which is as good as they come in terms of teaching, preparation, tactics and game management, desperately lacks a born salesman. Getting top-drawer recruits to consider the U of I hasn't been the primary problem.
Howard needs to help the Illini close the best deals.
4. Hall of Famer
Bradley alum John Veitch was inducted last month into the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame.
Veitch, 62, now the chief state steward for the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, made his mark as a private trainer. Most notably, he trained Alydar, the much-decorated thoroughbred best known for running second to Affirmed in the greatest Triple Crown series of all time, in 1978. Veitch also trained 1985 Breeders' Cup Classic champion Proud Truth.
5. Value judgments
Pirates football returns to Peoria next spring, after a one-year hiatus due to failure on and off the field. They return under new ownership — and with the highest-priced sports ticket in town.
The first two rows of Carver Arena go for $50 a seat per game in the Pirates season-ticket package. That's slightly more than Bradley basketball's $49.38 top ticket and more than triple the $16 for the best seats at Rivermen hockey.
On the other end of the spectrum, Bradley offers the cheapest season ticket, at $6.25 per game. The Pirates follow at $9.38, which is 50 cents less than the Rivermen.
Averages are based on total cost of one season ticket — in Bradley's case, that includes annual seat-maintenance fees. The figures here are based on regular-season games only.
For more comparisons, check out my Captain's Blog at pjstar.com.
6. Wave on wave
Kudos to John Searby, Bradley's new assistant athletics director for external operations. Searby, who replaced Dennis Kolina this spring, came up with the idea to rename the student section at Bradley basketball games the 'Red Sea.' Much better than the old 'Red Zone.'
Pregame intros now can take on an epic, miraculous, Biblical quality, as the Bradley players part the Red Sea on their way to the court.
And when the students are excited, they can start a vertical wave — rather than the traditional, worn-out horizontal fan exercise — with the Red Sea rolling down from the top of Carver Arena to crash the beach at courtside.
This could be pretty cool.
KIRK WESSLER is executive sports editor/columnist with the Journal Star. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (309) 686-3216.