Maybe Kentucky fans knew something when fewer than 2,000 attended a Friday evening practice at Freedom Hall in Louisville. A star recruit’s defection (Alex Legion) was but a prelude to what the Wildcats face … a push-the-rock-up-the-hill season.
On Saturday, Alabama-Birmingham combined pressure and trap defense with a single hothand shooter (Robert Vaden) and made it a recipe to send Kentucky reeling.
With a 14-point lead in the second half, Coach Billy Clyde Gillispie had no answers for Vaden’s dream game, nor the Blazers’ half-court pressure.
With an exclamation mark, Coach Mike Davis’s team climbed to a new level of prominence and ended Gillispie’s honeymoon at Kentucky. Eight games in and a three-game losing streak, Gillispie is fielding “what happened?” questions already. Kentucky’s schedule says Gillispie had better get some rest because there will be lots more to come.
The Wildcats’ splendid first half against UAB looked like a break-out, but the last 20 minutes was a message. Wildcat Nation must come to grips with reality. Hard times loom ahead until the new coach lures some new faces to Lexington. Eighteen-year-olds who can handle tough love and tough times.
Baseball’s Black Eye
Major League Baseball’s latest black eye delivered in the Mitchell Report last week puts new sunlight on the best book title for baseball this side of Roger Kahn’s Boys of Summer.
The Last Pure Season, 1960 was penned by Kerry Keene, a baseball historian who, 40 years later leaves us to wonder: Was Keene clairvoyant, a prophet, or just a good guesser?
In 1960 …
• Players earned 25 times more than the average American. By 1999 the gap was 400 times greater.
• Highest price for a ticket was $3.50 (box seat in Yankee Stadium).
• Without steroids the Splendid Splinter (Ted Williams) was all of that and hit a home run in his last at bat on last day of the season and ran the bases straight into retirement.
• Two of the game’s best ever were born, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr.
• The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Yankees in a World Series Game 7 walk-off home run (Bill Mazeroski).
• In 1960 … Gil Hodges won the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award for spirit and sportsmanship. And, a skinny kid from Mobile, Alabama told a reporter that summer, “I’m no home-run hitter.” (Henry Aaron).
Today, Major League Baseball is an embarrassment. Already stained by greed, no loyalty from owners or players and indifference to fans, Baseball’s image is heroes exposed as rich cheats who shoot up to win.
Requiem To Ralph Beard
Ryan Clark of Crittenden in Grant County, is a web editor at Northern Kentucky University and has recently gotten a book on the market. Game of My Life: Kentucky features 30 ex-UK basketball players discussing the best game each ever played. Should be a good read for Kentucky fans.
One of Clark’s subjects was Ralph Beard who died recently. “When my Grandad was growing up his hero was Ralph Beard,” Clark wrote in an e-mail. “So, of course I had to get Ralph into the book. I called him out of the blue last year and he was warm and gracious, and over the course of the year we became friends. It didn’t surprise me when I told Ralph that Grandad thought of him as his hero. His response was, ‘Well, you guys need to come over to my house and visit.'”
Clark’s grandfather, 72-yearold Hubert ‘Goose’ Tatum of Louisville, went along to meet his boyhood hero, Ralph Beard.
“In May (2007), we spent a few hours with Ralph and his wife Bettye, and I know Grandad thought that was the coolest thing in the world. Last week, we lost a friend in Ralph Beard. And Grandad was able to go to the funeral and send him off.”
Addition by subtraction. Alex Legion’s flip-flop-flip at Kentucky is finished. The Detroit native will transfer. Rashad Carruth, uh, Alex Legion was so focused on his game that he could not accept tough love as a bridge to stardom at college level, then he belongs at a school where a coach strokes his ego daily and promises 25 shots a night. Whatever happened to Rashad Carruth?