Friday, April 24, 2009

Harry Kalas: A Legend Remembered

By: Ben Hutchison [special to Armchair Superstar]

A man that truly lived his life play-by-play is gone. He was the big voice from the (then) small town of Naperville. Born in 1936, Harold Norbert Kalas grew up developing a love for baseball at a young age. As a teenager at Naperville Community High School, Classmate Shirley Gibson saw he had a gift and a passion, “He always loved baseball and the statistics,” Gibson said.

Her statement is echoed in the 1954 Arrowhead, the schools yearbook. Under his senior picture, the caption reads, “future sports announcer.”

After graduating, he went on to earn a degree in Speech, Radio and Television at the University of Iowa in 1959. After announcing minor league games in Hawaii while in the Army, he worked his way into his first Major League broadcast booth in 1963 with Houston. In 1971 he joined the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

For 39 years, and over 5,000 games, he kept his audience on the edge of their seats. Always one to stay busy, Kalas is known outside of the baseball world for his work with NFL Films, where he was a narrator from 1975 to 2008.

During that time the name of his high school would change to Naperville Central, but something that did not change was his love for his hometown. He never forgot his roots, returning to Naperville in 1996 for his induction as one of Naperville Central’s recognized alumni. Central Baseball Coach Bill Seiple reflected on the event, “We sent him a letter, inviting him to come speak. He missed two weekend games in Colorado to come back and talk to our kids,” Seiple said.

He will be known for his memorable calls and for spontaneously breaking into song–as he did at the class reunion last fall, “We sang the school song. He led us in the school song,” said Gibson.

Kalas devoted his life to baseball and its fans; he was a storyteller, a dreamer and a friend to everyone.

“Just a regular guy, loved baseball, knew what he wanted to do and made a life out of it,” Seiple said.

His voice has fallen silent, but the legacy he leaves behind will live out loud forever.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Grading The "Expert": Reviewing McShay's 7 Round Mock

With the 2009 NFL draft just 2 days away, ESPN expert Todd McShay has released his 7 round mock draft. While I don’t know how it is possible for one person to research and make predictions on all 256 players who will be drafted this year, I still find it interesting to see who Todd has going where. I looked over the whole mock draft and there were a few picks in each round that stood out to me…some good, some bad, and some truly awful that only Matt Millen could make sense of.

Round 1:

1) Matthew Stafford (QB – Georgia) to the Lions: I agree with Todd that the Lions will call Stafford’s name here…however Stafford’s pedigree reminds me too much of Rex Grossman. You gotta love his arm strength, however Stafford isn’t consistent enough to turn this team into a contender, at least not for a couple years. The Lions have Daunte Culpepper to lead the team for the next year or two, and with the off-season that he had I think they would be better off going with an OT or Aaron Curry in the first round. Stafford isn’t enough of a sure thing to build around…I think that Sanchez may turn out to be the better of the two.

14) Malcolm Jenkins (CB, S – Ohio St) to the Saints: I think this is a good pick for the Saints. Jenkins will probably come in and start at safety right off the bat. With former Hoosier Tracy Porter back at CB next year the Saints will have the makings of a very athletic and skilled secondary…and with teams passing all the time to keep up with Drew Brees and company; this could lead to a ton of turnovers for the Saints D.

22) Darrius Heyward-Bey (WR – Maryland) to the Vikings: I don’t see the Vikings picking a WR here. The Vikes already have a proven deep threat in Bernard Berrian to loosen up the defense for AP and do you really want to try and outscore teams with Sage Rosenfels at QB? Am I the only one that saw the end of the Texans-Colts game last year? He was awful.

23) Clay Matthews (OLB – Southern Cal) to the Bucs: Former walk-on goes in the first round. LOVE IT!

Round 2:

31) Larry English (DE – Northern Illinois) to the Lions: First non-BCS player to get drafted. I think this is a solid pick by the Lions.

42) Alex Mack (C from Cal) to the Bills: According to Todd, Mack will be the 3rd center taken within the first 42 picks…last year the first C didn’t go off the board till pick 59.

49) Derrick Williams (WR – Penn St) to the Bears: Don’t agree with this pick at all. William’s value comes from his versatility…and the bears have plenty of it. Both return positions are taken care of and I don’t think Williams can come in and make an impact as a quality receiver for a few years. If the Bears go WR here I want to see a consistent performer like Brian Robiskie from OSU.

50) Lesean McCoy (RB – Pitt) to the Browns: I think this is a great pick. In all the games I saw McCoy play he stood out. With the year that Jamal Lewis had last year, I think McCoy could push for the starting job. Very similar player to Matt Forte…AKA, Awesome.

Round 3:

72) Pat White (QB, RB, WR – West Va) to the Jags: I love Pat White. He is a proven winner who is arguably the best thrower in this draft class. If he was a couple inches taller he would be a first round pick at QB. The Jags will find a way to maximize his potential by lining him up all over the field.

73) Sabastian Vollmer (OT – Houston) to the 49ers: Sounds more like a hockey player than an OT.

76) Shonn Greene (RB – Iowa) to the Jets: Nation’s leading rusher will be a good complement to T Jones.

84) Chip Vaughn (SS – Wake) to the Broncos: The Broncos use the 3rd round pick acquired from the Bears to draft a safety that would have looked good in the orange and navy.

Rounds 4-7:

101) Louis Murphy (WR – Florida) to the Cowboys: Good pick for the Cowboys. If Murphy can stay healthy his speed can be a major asset.

127) Travis Beckum (TE – Wisconsin) to the Colts: Another player who will produce if he can stay healthy. Peyton Manning gets another target to stretch the field for him.

140) Courtney Greene (SS – Rutgers) to the Bears: They need a safety, however after reading his bio I don’t think he is the one to get. Susceptible to the double move…sounds a lot like some other players on the Bears defense. I still have visions of Bernard Berrian burning the Bears on a 99 yard td last year.

175) Ramses Barden (WR – Cal Poly) to the Chiefs: Small school giant goes early in round 6. Having seen him play against Wisconsin last year, he is a beast. All of 6’6” and 220 pounds he could be red zone force.

183) Nate Davis (QB – Ball State) to the Bills: I saw him play in person against the Hoosiers and a few more times on tv…he has a gun. Learning the playbook and reading the defense could hold him back though.

198) Deon Butler (WR – Penn St) to the Ravens: Will give Flacco a nice target to throw to. He was more consistent than Derrick Williams last year in the Nittany Lions offense.

220) Andrew Means (WR – INDIANA!!) to the Bills: The only Hoosier that McShay has going in the draft. Means runs in the mid 4.3s and has the size to be a solid possession receiver. I think he can surprise people if he concentrates solely on football and drops his MLB aspirations.

256) Lendy Holmes (S – Oklahoma) to the Cheifs: Mr. Irrelevant!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Game Four Preview: Tonight We Dine in Hell

The fuse has been lit. After three games the Blackhawks-Flame(rs) series is set to explode. After numerous post whistle attacks on ‘Hawks forwards, the breaking point was reached in the form of Adam Burish breaking his stick on Rene Bourque.

Mike Keenan used this incident to once again play the media to his advantage, crying that Burish broke his stick over Bourque’s face, but he actually broke it over his shoulder. Keenan then whined to the media about the trash talking directed at Calgary captain Jarome Iginla, where he subtly let the media know (unprovoked) that race was not involved in the verbal assaults. This is classic Keenan stirring the pot.

Game 4 (4/22 at 8 pm CST) has the makings of being the most physical game of the series. The Blackhawks know they are on the cusp of a 3-1 chokehold while the Flames realize they are 60 minutes from a tied playoff series. The key for the Blackhawks will be walking the fine line of standing their ground while not letting the game devolve into a bar room fight with the more playoff savvy/veteran Flames.

Just as they did at the beginning of game 3, after Olli “oldest playoff virgin” Jokinen ran Niklas Hjalmarsson (who in this blog going forward will be known as 'Ham-sandwich') they must make the Flames pay on the power play for their ill advised penalties. I expect the referees to dish out penalties for the first couple of post-whistle skirmishes to try and rein in some of the expected violence. The game will hinge on how the referees look to call it and how badly both teams want to send a message.

A fast start by Chicago is imperative to take some wind out of the sails of the Saddledome. Both teams will come out flying, looking to pound the other into submission. The series is quickly mirroring the Philly/Pittsburgh or Ducks/Sharks matchups in terms of intensity and animosity. Patrick Kane on the power play half boards should give the Blackhawks an extra boost with the man advantage.

I look for the Blackhawks to stand their ground but maintain discipline, and execute with 2 PP goals to walk out of Calgary with a hard fought 3-2 win for a 3-1 series lead.


Colin O’Shea

Bulls-Celtics Turning Into an Instant Classic

Congratulations to Derrick Rose, who was named NBA Rookie of the Year today. Although this award has seemed like a foregone conclusion since about halfway through the season, when it became obvious that gunners like OJ Mayo and Eric Gordon weren't going anywhere with their awful teams, it's great to see Rose get some more of the recognition he deserves. has his top ten plays here.

And oh my goodness, does he deserve it. So far, this first round series between Chicago and Boston has been incredible. I didn't get to watch Game One, although I was getting constant text message updates from Noffke - "105 103 9 seconds left rose just fouled out", that were keeping all of the Bulls fans at Mother Bears on their toes. Derrick drops 38 and dishes 11 dimes. Unbelievable. (Picture is of Rose with another of my favorite Chicago sports stars)

I did get to watch Game Two. Wow. Bad result for the visiting team, but what a game!

There are so many guys, young and veteran, that are looking good. Rose in Game One was just one example. For the Celtics, Rajon Rondo is an absolute monster at the point. He got Derrick into quick foul trouble in this most recent game, saddling him with two early ones, then promptly did the same thing to Kirk Hinrich when he got in. Despite a tweaked ankle, Rondo played basically the entire game and had a triple double.

Ray Allen and Ben Gordon got into a shootout for the ages, culminating in Gordon's double-covered fallaway deuce to tie the game and then Allen's huge three to win it in regulation. A celebration like this would have been appropriate for either guy, though Gordon's "bullseye" was pretty awesome.

The big men for both teams are playing out of their minds. Kendrick Perkins and Big Baby Davis owned the offensive boards on Monday. Meanwhile, Davis' old LSU teammate Tyrus Thomas and his fellow Bulls big man Joakim Noah put on a shot-blocking clinic. If you like young big men performing well, this is the series for you.

If you prefer vets, well, maybe not. Brad Miller looks solid inside, not so good handling the ball. Kevin Garnett looks sharp on the bench wearing a suit.

The next couple of games are at the United Center in Chicago and I wish I could go! Hopefully the Baby Bulls can defend home court and get back to Boston with a 3-1 series lead. That wouldn't be a guarantee against the defending champs, but it would be awfully nice. Standing Room Only tickets are going for $35 on stubhub. Chicagoans, please jump on this and take some pictures so that I can live vicariously through you!