Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oil Slick Hits Tampa Bay

By Tony Mangia


New York Yankees' manager, Joe Girardi, concerns himself these days with resting his ace starter, Phil Hughes, and prepping a line-up card for the upcoming All-Star game. Tampa Bay Rays counter part, Joe Maddon, must occupy himself with the possibility of shuffling his anemic lineup and replacing an inefficient bullpen. The Rays have lost 8 of 11 games in two weeks and find themselves tied with the Boston Red Sox and looking up at the Yankees. A sterling 32-12 start has slip-slided away to where all the cowbells, mohawks and Parrotheads in Pinellas County might not help win games this year.

The Rays have dropped 10 of 16 since coming to New York and taking two of three from the then-stumbling Yanks. An pedestrian record of 18-16 at Tropicana Field doesn't help. Tampa Bay still has one of the youngest and most talented line-ups in the league, but lately, its either feast or famine. Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford are all having exceptional years, but B.J. Upton has not turned it around after last season's dismal numbers. They either break the scoreboard or get zip. Timely hits are as rare as fans at The Trop.

Good starting pitchers seem to silence the Rays hitters while their own under 28 rotation is looking a lot older. The first two starters---David Price and Jeff Niemann---are cruising at 16-4, but the remaining three hurlers are a combined 18-14 with a 4.50 ERA. The closer, Soriano, has been solid, but the bullpen is still the team bugaboo. If the Rays go there, its all over. Good pitching efforts seem joined at the hip with low run production.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have picked up 7.5 games on the Floridians---who once led the majors by six. The Rays---two years removed from the World Series---can't blame it on youth or sneak up on teams anymore. They'll have to find a way to keep up this summer. For the battle-tested Yanks and Sox, it's business as usual.


Thinking about Hughes' long-term usefulness, Girardi is pulling from the starter from Friday's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Citing a work load of 82 innings thus far this season, Girardi is adamant about keeping the reluctant-to-rest rightie's season total under 175. The Yankees may even have Hughes pitch the back end of the rotation after the All-Star game. His next start will be in nine days against the Mariners at Yankee Stadium.

Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Hughes are gimmes for the July All-Star game with Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera probably being grandfathered in as well; but what about two of the three Yankee outfielders? Bret Gardner and Nick Swisher are having good years. Swisher has 11 HRs, 44 RBIs, and has been hitting around the .300 mark all year. Gardner has 23 stolen bases, is hitting .320, and is one of the most exciting players to watch on the bases. I think Girardi would like to reward them, if anything, for keeping things loose in the dugout and on the field. A-Rod looks like a no-go for the first time.


The Rogue Pierogi

Still can't get over the rebel dumpling who was dumped by the Pittsburgh Pirates for criticizing the team---rightfully so---then rehired. I don't know how the foam covered mascot ranks at PNC Field---probably just above beer vendor...maybe not---but he cannot break the chain of command and publicly disparage his superiors. Sounds awfully similar to another story in the news these days.

An Ogre in Yellow and Violet

Who knew Ron Artest was just a big, cuddly, mis-understood Shrek? If his exuberance and shout-outs after winning the NBA Championship weren't enough to attract a sponsor, I don't know what are. Artest is an oddball and has used poor judgement in the past, but that hasn't stopped advertisers from flocking to Kobe or keeping Tiger around. You wouldn't call Artest a weirdo like Dennis Rodman, although he is a character. I don't know what he could sell or if I would even care what novelty he's hawking, but I hear Zoloft calling.

We Thought You Meant "24" With Jack Bauer

Portugal won a World Cup match against North Korea, 7-0, after a 99 yard touchdown drive and a PAT by the Portuguese footballers. Kim Jong-il allowed the people's lone television station to broadcast the game live to North Korea's citizens for the first (and probably last) time. Immediately after the whooping, the programming director (guess who?) ran 24 hours of The Great Leader and his militia at work. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Monday, June 21, 2010


By Tony Mangia


A lot has been made of Mark Teixeira's notoriously slow starts. It's become a sort of ritual for the Yankee's first baseman to plod through the first month and pick it up later. This season started no differently for Tex, only April turned into May, then into June. This weekend Tex came alive by belting two home runs---including his first grand slam as a Yankee---as the Bombers took two of three from the surging Mets and recovered first place in the AL East.

Fans have blamed some of the power outage on A-Rod's injuries; which meant the lack of protection behind Teixeira. Since June 8, Tex has batted .302 and hit four dingers. He is on pace for a 30 HR/100 RBI season even if he continues to slump like this. Those numbers are a downgrade for the slugger but, non-the-less, still respectable.

Teixeira's stoic face hides the fact that he is slumping and his defensive play at first almost totally overshadowed the slide. I've never seen a first baseman make the plays that Tex does. Whether he's going right or left, down or up, vertical or parallel, the agile fielder continues to amaze. In every game, Tex seems to make a few dazzling plays and if you don't think that saves opposing runs and win games, you can have your Steve Balboni back. Against the Mets, with two outs and men on first and second, Tex went left and snared a blistering shot just over the bag, getting an out and drying up a Met rally. A lesser first baseman would have let it roll into the right corner. If you don't think these rally-killers don't hurt look, just remember David Wright's face on the replay. Give Teixeira another 100 RBIs for Runs Being Incinerated.


The Yankees continue their Royal Sampler of the Weak. Road games against the fledgling Diamondbacks and the fading Dodgers should fatten up the Pinstriper's record. The next few weeks include home games against the disappointing Seattle Mariners and Oakland A's. The Yankees continue gobbling up feeble teams and, at this pace, they'll look like a fifty-legged version of Kobyashi inhaling hot dogs at the Nathan's competition. Nothing says Fourth of July in NYC like a first-place Yankee team and Coney Island. All the schedule makers forgot to do was include the Pirates and Royals for a double-superfecta banquet of sitting ducks. The Yankees better make the most of it now. First place in the AL East is a fickle spot and Boston and Tampa Bay lay in wait, behind one game each.

Good news for the Yankee starters: Javier Vasquez pitched a tough three-hit seven-inning game in a losing cause, Phil Hughes out dueled met ace Mike Pelfrey and C.C. Sabathia looked like his old big self and went eight strong innings in a humid 90 degree Yankee Stadium. That tarp they brought out in the eighth inning wasn't for the rain, it was a huge Brawny paper towel for the 20 pounds of sweat the gigantor, C.C., flooded the field with. Mariano Rivera has his own version of a no-hitter going. He hasn't allowed a hit for 22 outs. Even Joba Chamberlain got to fist-pump this weekend.


And The Oscar Goes To The Italian Team

Italy has produced many great actors--- Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren to name a few. The tradition continues with their World Cup soccer team. I've never seen so many flops, winces and pratfalls. It looks like an audition for Roberto Benigni movie. Adding to the comedy was a brilliant upset tie by New Zealand. The Kiwis played with true grit while the over-confident Romans looked like bambinos. Not the La Dolce Vita.

Not A Sideshow

Manute Bol, the 7'7' Sudanese NBA player died last week in Virginia. Bol, who--along with Gheorge Muresan-- was the tallest basketball player in NBA history and played for four teams. In 10 years, Bol had 2,086 blocks and 1,599 points. His unique physique--190 pounds and a 8'6" wingspan-- made him a curiosity, even among the giants of the NBA. Legend has it that he killed a lion with a spear with his Dinka tribe in Africa. The gentle giant may be more remembered for his smile and humanitarian missions than his basketball skills. Charles Barkley--a former teammate and not the most eloquent speaker--said something that made me think hard about Bol and this planet. "If everyone in this world was a Manute Bol," Barkley said, "It's a world I'd want to live in." Enough said about a man.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Subway Serious

By Tony Mangia

Yanks Need To Pick It Up Against Real Teams

The New York Yankees are tied for first place in the AL East and fans are still feeling uneasy. Less than three weeks ago, the Tampa Bay Rays led the Yankees by six games and looked invincible, while Boston looked ready to rebuild. Yankee fans were ready to settle for the wild card on a silver platter. The recent surge by the Yankees can be attributed to an unbelievably weak stretch of teams on the schedule and the mediocre play of the Rays. The Pinstripers had feasted on patsies like the Indians, Orioles and the hapless Astros. Don't let the 20-5 dominance against these sub .500 teams fool you. The Yankees are only 21-20 against above average ball clubs.

Even the slumping--and low-scoring-- Phillies managed to look like the NL Champions of last year with their pitching quieting the Yankee's bats in two wins this week in the Bronx. Now the streaking Mets come to Yankee Stadium. The Mets took 2 of 3 from the Yankees at Citi Field two weeks ago and have won 7 in a row on the road. Manager Jerry Manuel finally has job security and the team has a little swagger to boot. The Yankees may have overlooked the then-staggering Queens team a fortnight ago, but now have the full attention of their cross-town rivals. The Flushing nine have been beating on the same lowly teams as the Yanks, but some Mets have publicly attributed their current 18-6 tear to beating the Yankees in that last series as an inspiration.

The AL East is slowly kneading into shape. The Boston Red Sox are only two games out while the Toronto Blue Jays have started their annual migration south. It's still amazing to see Cito Gaston in the Jays dugout. How long would he have lasted anywhere else? There is still 100 games to go, but expect this division to produce the AL wild card.

Things that should concern the Yankees include the groin injury to A-Rod and the nagging sore right foot that is bothering Jorge Posada (Mr. Grand Slam) again. Both continue to play musical chairs in the DH position. Other quagmires are the inconsistency of Joba Chamberlain to get an out and the lack of a set-up man. Joba's been pulled more times than a pork sandwich and nobody else is picking up the slack. Reliever, Alfredo Aceves is still on the mend, but there is no return date.

Tonight's pitching match-up could be the key to the series. Javier Vasquez (6-5) has been throwing well in his last few outings and we all know how good he is against NL teams, but Hisanori Takahashi (5-2) has been a capable fourth man for the Mets. It's hard to believe that the marquee match-up isn't between C.C. Sabathia and Johan Santana on Sunday, instead the main event will be Phil Hughes (9-1) against Mike Pelfrey (9-1) on Saturday afternoon. Both of these pitchers are in the top three in their respective leagues.


Nice to see former-St. John's basketball star, Ron Artest, take a sip of champagne as a member of the 2010 NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers. Artest's up and down play up until game seven had me rolling my eyes, but he made up for all those errant three-point bricks by scoring 20, hustling for 5 steals, and hitting the most important trey with 1:01 left in the clinching game. The much-maligned (usually deservedly so) enforcer from the Queensbridge Projects has come a long way and proven his heart is as big as his body. As much as I dislike the Lakers, it was worth the victory just to hear Artest thank his psychiatrist afterwards.


It was only a matter of time before the World Cup's vuvuzelas made it to our shores. The other night a fan was thrown out of Yankee Stadium for smuggling in one of the annoying horns and hitting someone with it. What cracks me up is that the man said he smuggled it through the gates by hiding the three-foot instrument in his shorts. I guess none of the security guards wanted to pat down that leg.


New York State is using its fiscal problems to push for legalization of Mixed Martial Arts in New York state. Supporters say it will bring $2 million in taxes to the state and cited 44 other states who have sanctioned it. I support the sport, but hope that boxing doesn't let the popular and ever-growing MMA upstage and overshadow it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


By Tony Mangia



I took a few days off--hangover-- after catching the USA/England FIFA World Cup match to collect my feelings. At a west side bar Saturday, I tried to get caught in soccer fever and found myself rooting against the USA. I wasn't supporting England but came to the conclusion that deep down I didn't care and hoped a team from Cameroon or Japan would become the Butler of Cup play but, this time, make the final shot to win. Kim Jong-il already has his version of the Group of Death but, do North Koreans know what a "Cinderella" is?

Every four years, futbol fans come out of the woodwork in this country like Olympic mascots and tight-spandex bicycle outfits during the annual Tour de France. Only in soccer, our country is a mid-level conference team. Kind of like a Cornell in basketball or a Utah football team---high hopes but no chance to win it all---as opposed to the Olympics where we are the Dukes and Floridas.

All the flag waving and red, white and blue painted faces for a sport nobody here really watches otherwise. I wonder if any of these people raised the American symbol of freedom on Flag Day the following Monday? Their colors were probably left outside in the rain Sunday---along with all that patriotism.

Soccer is one sport the U.S. gets...well...kicked around. It's a cult sport in America. Kind of like the show True Blood---rabid fan base to viewers who get HBO. At least in Olympic sports the United States can create a dream team after we get roughed up by foreigners. The U.S. doesn't have enough great players to bully soccer nations like Argentina and France who constantly beat us--although we keep trying in other sports. Remember U.S. dream teams in baseball and hockey who failed to bring home world titles. For god's sake, we are worried about facing Slovenia this Friday---a country with as many people as the borough I live in.


Anyway, back to the bar on Saturday. A couple of things bothered me. All male British soccer fans look like Phil Collins (circa. 80's) with crew cuts on their round bull-dog heads and the women resemble Fergie---not the hot singer but the puffy, Prince of England's drunk, extortionist ex-wife. She'll never make any one's WAGs list.

From what I read in the papers, I thought Washington was ready to cross the Delaware. No, not more conference re-alignment. Headlines warned, The Redcoats are Coming!, and the bar did explode in cheers--not bombs--after England's goal. It was the most soccer fans I ever saw in one place. The English were throwing babies (yes, babies) into the air. It must be a British thing. I was informed (warned?) by the Irish patrons that they did not support England and they hated the French for robbing them of a qualifying berth in the tournament. Basically, they rooted for teams to lose.


Then, the Brit's goalie pulled a Bill Buckner. The walls of the pub caved in from the roar. Irish- Red Sox-soccer-fans got a kind of revenge while USA...USA...USA was chanted ad-nausea along with "Beckham, you suck!" The English star wasn't even playing. The final was a 1-1 draw. I heard some fans claim it was "like beating BP." Oh yeah, take that you British oil conglomerate which pollutes OUR waters and all you stand for! Nobody won! It ended in a tie---or level play for the soccer informed. I didn't go that far and only equated it to slapping Simon Cowell.

Soccer to me is flops on the field, crying after a goal and fans singing together. It all sucks. If I ever see a group of Jersey guys cuddling and serenading the Giants--I'll become a Jets fan! I can even take the vuvuzelas that have been irritating so many. Wait until the next U.S. based World Cup is held and the Brazilians, the Dutch and the rest of the world is subjected to the cackling hosts of The View and loud-mouthed American reality stars. After the ear bleeding, fans will be begging for the giant kazoos again.

Now I'm as American as Starbucks. I went to the recent Memorial Day parade, I still hate Brad for dumping Jennifer and I'll catch an occasional Fox News broadcast--why do all the female anchors on Fox make me think of a Hooters restaurant?-- but I'm not going to go out of my way to cheer for a team in a sport I know little about. I only know one USA member's name is Landon Donovan and that equals as many others I know in the whole tournament---and his name is Kaka. Andiamo Italia!


Parents of the Year

The Gosselins were like the Yankees of abusive parents until Balloon Boy's mom and dad took the title last year. Jail is probably keeping them out of the tabloids this year. This year's competition is stiff leading off with the 2 year-old chain-smoker's folks in China and the four year-old who swigged Schmidts at a Phillies game but a late entry appeared this week with the announcement that the financially-broke father of Abby Sunderland--the 16 year-old sailor plunked from the Indian Ocean last week--sold the girl's television rights to a---you guessed it---reality show. I don't know how much of a sport yachting is, but to allow a kid---who would be sent to child services for being unattended one night at home--- to spend months alone in perilous seas is unconscionable.


Two weeks ago, it was a Guinness crocheting record at Citifield and last week it was a basket weaving recording star when Lady GaGa drank beer, stripped down to her bejeweled undies and flipped the bird to fans and photogs. Wow, how rebellious. She claims she's a Yankee fan. Please keep her from the stadium now that Cameron Diaz has denied a relationship with the blond-loving A-Rod.


The Knicks have lined up a super committee to get in a last ditch effort to recruit LeBron James to New York. They're really pulling out the stops with the most annoying guys in the city; Donald Trump, then Donny Deutsch, Charlie Rose...zzzzzzzzzzz...

Thursday, June 10, 2010


By Tony Mangia


Ivan Calderon walks into the mid-Manhattan gym at noon, surrounded by a posse of four. Kingsway Gym is full of reporters and photographers and if it wasn't for the boxer's shiny blue sweatsuit---emblazoned with his nickname "Iron Boy" on the back---you wouldn't notice him at all. Diminutive is the only word to describe him. Such is the plight of a 108 pound fighter; even one who is defending his world title against Jesus Iribe Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

Calderon, the WBO jr. flyweight world champion, is no stranger to title defenses. This will be the southpaw's 18th title defense (17-0-1) since 2003. Even at 35, Calderon (33-0-1) shows no signs of letting up. He is coming off a seventh-round technical decision in a rematch against Rodel Mayol in September 2009. Calderon was outboxing Mayol throughout the fight until a bloody head butt stopped the fight and Iron Boy won on the scorecards.

The Puerto Rican Calderon is being cautious of Mexico's Iribe (17-6-4, 10 KOs). "I saw video of him and he is a strong fighter," the soft-spoken champ says, " he throws a lot of punches." Iribe is ten years younger than Calderon and is no stranger to top competition. He moves good and is tough and determined. This should be a good fight.

Calderon looked sharp at the workout. The leftie's hand speed is incredible---he looks like a smaller version of Manny Pacquaio---and he is proud to say he's trained very hard to put on a show for the people. "For our weight class to be a main event at the Garden is a great honor," he proudly states.

The often overlooked lower flyweight divisions--a few classes below featherweight--offer a refuge from all the mediocre fights in the higher---more visible---weight classes. The speed of the smaller fighters and the action in the ring never stops. The nine-year pro, Calderon, is routinely recognized as one of the best pure boxers in the game today. His trainer even had a hard time keeping the hand pads in time with the fighter's combinations during the workout.

For now, Calderon will stay focused on this fight, but has no plans of quitting the fight game. "I plan to move on up to 112 after this fight," he confessed, "Or even dare to go to 115." Either way, what these fighters lack in stature they make up in undaunted courage and skills.

The WBO junior flyweight championship is this Saturday night at The Theater at Madison Square Garden and will be televised on the FSN Network and Fox Sports Espanol. The under card includes the pro debut of Steven Badgley, a U.S. Army helicopter pilot, who jokes he used to fight in the "ghetto ring", a makeshift boxing arena in the desert of Kirkuk, Iraq.



According to the, a 57-year-old drunken lonelyheart, in Ohio, called the 911 emergency line fives times looking for a husband---any husband for herself. She was convicted of improper use of the 911 system.


Cant' believe the Washington Nationals pulled Steven Strasburg after the seventh and seven straight strikeouts! Thanks a lot Joba Rules. Nolan Ryan must be laughing in his cleats.


Not being a big hockey fan (I didn't watch one minute--except the outdoors match) all I can say is the Blackhawks have the coolest logo in sports. Canada, it's been 17 years since a Stanley Cup called the Great White North home, but you still have the Olympics.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Yankee Stadium Wins By KO

By Tony Mangia


Saturday night's first fight at the new Yankee Stadium will be remembered for one of the strangest episodes in modern boxing. The WBA junior middleweight championship fight, between Yuri Foreman and challenger Miguel Cotto, was marred by Foreman's corner throwing in the towel only to have referee, Arthur Mercante Jr., throw the towel back and continue the fight.

The shenanigans began in the seventh round after Foreman (28-1, 8 KOs), the Brooklyn rabbinical student, slipped and re-injured an already bandaged right knee. Foreman continued to box, courageously on one leg--earning the respect of the fans. Foreman valiantly came out in the eighth with as much mobility as a peg-legged stork. Foreman's wife, Leyla Leidecker, began to scream at the fighter's trainer, Joe Grier, and his corner to stop the fight while Cotto began to punish the slow-moving Foreman. The single-legged fighter didn't have much of a chance when Grier threw the white surrender towel.

Cotto (35-2, 28 KOs) raised his hands in victory and his corner people, photographers and promoters crammed into the ring. In a bizzare scene, Mercante pushed everyone from the canvas and asked Foreman if he wanted to continue. He even told the lame fighter, "You're fighting hard and I don't want to see you lose like that." This is where things get sticky. What fighter, worth his weight, is going to back out? A trainer is there to make sound decisions that a boxer's heart won't. The fight resumed and Mercante defended himself later by saying it was a good fight and " I did the right thing to let it continue."

Mercante was hired for the inaugural fight in tribute to his late father, who refereed the last fight (Ali-Norton) at the old stadium 34 years ago. Junior, is no stranger to controversy. In 2001, he was the referee at the Khalid Jones-Beethavean Scottland fight on the USS Intrepid when Scottland collapsed in the ring, then lapsed into a coma. He died a week later. Mercante later blamed the fighter's death on "being banged around in a elevator" as they took Scottland to an ambulance.

Rules (no matter how stupid) Are Rules

New York State Athletic Commission rules state: only the referee can stop a fight. Throwing in the towel is illegal in New York and only an athletic commission inspector can enter the ring and plead with the referee to end a bout. In this case, Mercante ignored the inspector and let Foreman continue to fight. Mercante put Foreman's health and life in jeopardy after he saw the inspector and tossed him from the ring. The NYSAC supports Mercante and claims he followed rules and didn't cross any lines.

Mercifully, Mercante stopped the match at :42 seconds in the ninth after Cotto landed a vicious shot to the right side of Foreman's body. The Jewish fighter crumbled. At this point, Cotto was picking up steam and it would only be a matter of time before the courageous Foreman would be beaten like a boiled potato. Foreman lost his title by TKO, but said he knew the fight was over.

There was more blame--thankfully--than blood to spread around. First, of course, is the referee. He can't override the trainer's decision to halt a fight---even if towel throwing is illegal in the New York ring. He knows what a white towel means. Second, is the inspector who didn't get the attention of Mercante. He saw Grier toss the towel and made too little an effort to stop the fight. Thirdly, some of the blame goes to Foreman's trainer, Grier, who---first of all---know that the white towel is illegal and should have made sure the inspector saved his fighter. Even Foreman's wife knew better and almost got into the mix. She threatened to punch out Mercante.

Cotto's Redemption?

Two things were apparent on Saturday night---Miguel Cotto still has it and Yankee Stadium never lost it. After his last two fights, where Cotto was unrecognizably pulverized by Antonio Margarito and Manny Pacquiao---who was in attendance---the Puerto Rican fighter, and local favorite, looked strong. He has the option of staying at 154 pounds or go down to 147 for his next fight. Yuri Foreman was valiant, in a losing cause, but his guts and heart will never be questioned by people who saw this fight.

The stadium never looked better and is sure to host more fights. Only 20,000 people attended---way under the 30K anticipated---but Cotto and Foreman aren't exactly the biggest names out there. In order to lure big-time fights, Yankee Stadium would have to contend with expansive Cowboys Stadium and Las Vegas, which draw either the big crowds or high rollers. There is even talk with WBA promoter Bob Arum for a return boxing event at the stadium. How about October, Manny and Floyd?


436, If You Include the Mets Players

At Citifield, 427 Mets fans set a Guiness World Record for most people crocheting simultaneously. I guess Oliver Perez was on the mound.

The Spelling Bee is I-N-I-Q-U-I-T-O-U-S

On Saturday afternoon, I had a choice of watching Nascar on Fox, Rugby on ABC or The Scripps Spelling Bee on ESPN. I'm one of those guys who doesn't consider chess, cup-stacking or putting letters together a sport but I can't understand the Nascar announcers' grits and biscuits lingo and I'll be damned if I can figure out anything about rugby. I think most of these kids are good spellers because they had to learn to spell their own names. Some kids have every letter of the alphabet in their first name alone and one didn't even have a single vowel in his whole surname. I don't think it's fair when one kid has to spell nephrocytary or genethliac while another kid gets jehu.

Boston Celtics fan, Mayor Bloomberg, Woos LeBron to New York

New York's trans-fat-free mayor continues to campaign for LeBron James as a Knick. Bloomberg contends that by bringing James to our city, he would generate $57.8 million for the city. In a website video, the mayor said: " Willis on one leg, Clyde with the steal, Dr. J soaring from the line---Come on, Le Bron, write the next chapter in New York City basketball history." Hey Bloomie, Dr. J never played for a NYC team. He was a Net and 76er.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Triple Crowns and Title Belts

By Tony Mangia


Saturday promises to be a big sports day in New York. Here it is, the first week of June and the Belmont Stakes kicks off the afternoon with a field of twelve ponies and night falls at Yankee Stadium with a twelve-round junior welterweight title fight. There is no Triple Crown on the line this year and Miguel Cotto vs. Yuri Foreman doesn't conjure up visions of Ali-Norton, but I'm still breaking my piggy-bank and heading over to the OTB.

Now, I'm not a railbird or even a casual frequenter of the once ubiquitous OTB parlors--there seemed to be one on every New York City corner--and I don't know a furlong from a filly, but this could be the last summer of OTB betting if New York State decides to close shop because of declining revenue. Private corporations have expressed interest in taking over the legal bookie joints and gambling on getting it off life support.

I just show up for the Triple Crown races--The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness and, finally, The Belmont. Like the frat boys, yuppies and other fair-weather wagerers who walk over the race stub-littered floor, I'm one of those annoyances, the OTB regulars scowl at. We are like migrating birds who arrive every May and June; take up space at the betting windows and ask questions like, "How much is a dollar box on the superfecta for the...which one is the Belmont race?" We're as welcome as a BP representative at a Green Party rally. After Belmont, we've flown out the doors until next years race at Churchill Downs.

I shuffle shyly at a window while TV jockeys, guys with names like Hector the Selector and Chick, stand behind me, turning away from the race monitors long enough to huff and shake their heads. Time is money and money is two minutes and another long shot at Arlington or General Maximus to show at Monticello. I sense their urgency--their tapping feet and stares as they roll their racing forms into clubs. The only thing more important than their next bet is satisfying that nicotine craving outside . It always amazes me how un-rich all the bettors look at the, ironically named, Winners Circle lounge. Polo shirts and white shoes seem to be acceptable fashions. Not too many winners in that loop.

In the past few years, I've dreamed of the big hit---the superfecta that pays 300 grand. Clutching a fistful of cash and a head full racing results, I use a system---which is so void of logic---to make my picks and then plan my early retirement. I mix and match the favorites, box my exactas and trifectas, then throw in a 30-1 nag to fatten the payoff. I still work, but my picks haven't.

People have all kinds of stratagems---the jockeys, names of the horses...the names of the jockeys. I've picked horses because I heard someone on the subway say, " There's a sale at Macys." I'm looking at the race field and there's a horse running called MomMarriedaSailor. Sale...sailor? It's an omen and you have to take it.

This year's field is up for grabs. The Kentucky Derby winner, Super Saver (I wish I knew you were a mudder) and the Preakness winner, Lookin' at Lucky (my dream breaker) won't be running and Ice Box is the only Grade 1 horse in the field. I have absolutely no idea what that means, but it sounds important, so I'm picking him. Anyway, I've devised a new fail-safe scheme to win.

The new system consists of my favorite horse's names, jockeys, trainers and, how could I forget, the oddmakers. Take the top three in each category:

  • NAMES OF HORSES: Uptowncharlybrown, First Dude, Game on Dude. Take anything with Dude in it.
  • JOCKEYS: Mike Smith (Drosselmeyer), Jamie Theriot (Stay Put), Calvin Borel (Dave in Dixie) Never bet against Calvin "Bo-rail"
  • TRAINERS: Nick Zito (Ice Box, Fly Down), Rick Dutrow (Spangled Star), Bob Baffert (Game on Dude)
  • ODDS: Ice Box 3-1, Fly Down 9-2, First Dude 7-2
Now take the four horses whose name pops up most. Ta da! My $2 superfecta picks---boxed--- Ice Box, First Dude, Fly Down and, the retirement maker, Game on Dude. Next, bet the first three and add Dave in Dixie as another $2 superfecta-boxed. And what about Make Music For Me, whose Alexis Barba, could be the first woman trainer to win at Belmont. Don't want to miss that action. Throw that horse into another $1 superfecta-boxed. My uncle's name is Victor and in post number 9 is Stately never ends, so don't bet the rent. I'll see you on a tropical beach somewhere...dude.


Yankee Stadium gets its first title fight since Muhammad Ali squared off against Ken Norton in 1976. The new stadium is hosting a 12-round WBA super welterweight title match between Yuri Foreman, a rabbinical student and the first Orthodox Jewish boxing world champion in 75 years, and local favorite, Puerto Rican fighter, Miguel Cotto.

Yankee Stadium has a long history of championship fights including Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling in 1938 and Sugar Ray Robinson famously calling it quits in the 13th round in 1952.

The last few times we saw Cotto was in beat-downs by Antonio Margarito and Manny Pacquiao. It is also the first time he is fighting since the death of his father/trainer in January and with his new trainer, Emanuel Steward. Foreman's story of going from Russia to Israel and settling in Brooklyn to fight professionally is amazing, but the real suspense will be on the FDR on fight night when Foreman, in observance of his religion's Sabbath, will remain at his mid-town hotel until 9:15 p.m., then get a police escort to the stadium for the 10:15 start time.

It's hard to pick a victor in this fight. Cotto (34-2, 27 KOs) has seen better days. He has experience and can punch hard, but it's hard not to remember his battered face after Pacman had his way with him. That's the kind of beating that makes an older fighter think twice about getting into a mix. The champion, Foreman (28-0, 8 KOs), on the other hand, can box, but is short on power. He really hasn't fought anyone in Cotto's class. I'll put my money on Cotto. I think he's got one more good fight in him.

This real star of this fight is the new stadium itself. A crowd of 40 thousand is expected and, hopefully, this is the beginning of more historic bouts to come.


Maybe That Sound Was Ben Roethlisberger's Reputation?

The other day, engineers in Pittsburgh used college students to simultaneously flush 250 toilets at the new Consol Energy Center arena to test the plumbing pressure. It wasn't as big a flush as the one where all Pirate fan's playoff hopes and dreams went down the drain two decades ago.

Is That What The Kids Call It Now?

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He Was Safe!

I wonder what would have been more valuable on ebay---a ticket from Detroit Tigers' Armando Galarraga's "mis-called perfect game/one-hitter" or one from the game, if he got the call, and it went into the books as a perfect game?