Stories indexed with the term ‘sports’

In the Archives: Dynamite Baseball Catcher

Editor’s note: Laura Bien’s local history column appears in The Ann Arbor Chronicle usually sometime around last Wednesday of the month. This month’s column draws upon the archives of The Ann Arbor Chronicle’s namesake – a 19th century University of Michigan student newspaper called The Chronicle-Argonaut. In its era, The Chronicle-Argonaut maintained a rivalry with the Michigan Daily – in the form of a “base ball” game. So it’s fitting that Bien’s column this month also highlights University of Michigan baseball from that time period.

Moses with his 1882 UM teammates.

Moses Fleetwood Walker with his 1882 UM teammates.

He smashed the color barrier in major league baseball. During his lifetime, Congress passed sweeping civil rights legislation. No modern baseball player can wear his team number on a uniform. And unlike Jackie Robinson, he was a University of Michigan alum.

Moses Fleetwood Walker was born Oct. 7, 1856 in Mount Pleasant, Ohio. His parents may have settled there due to the eastern part of the state’s long association with the Underground Railroad.

Moses, or Fleet as he was later called, was the fifth or sixth of seven children born to physicians Moses and Caroline Walker. The 1860 census lists two three-year-olds, Moses and Lizzie. The little girl, possibly Moses’ twin, does not appear in the 1870 census.

Soon after Moses’ birth, the family moved to nearby Steubenville, 40 miles west of Pittsburgh. Their neighbors there worked as bricklayers, dyers, pattern makers, tinners, and laborers. Moses attended an integrated school and at graduation chose Oberlin College, one of the first colleges in the nation to admit black and female students. When Oberlin formed its first baseball team in 1881, Moses joined as a catcher.

It was a tough position to play in that era. The catcher had no body protection or face mask. He didn’t even have a glove, but caught barehanded. In addition, in 1881 the pitcher’s throwing position was not 60 feet and six inches from home plate as it is today, but only 50 feet (and before that 45 feet). Pitchers for a time were even allowed to take a running start. Common catchers’ injuries included broken ribs and fingers, facial injuries, and concussions. [Full Story]

Column: A Tradition of Unity

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

On Veterans Day, we generally honor our Veterans. It’s a good idea, for lots of reasons: they served our country, often in unpleasant places, and in great danger, to keep the worst of the world away from our homeland.

My grandfather was a New York dentist who volunteered at age 39 to hop on a ship in the Pacific during World War II. My dad graduated from medical school, then enlisted in the U.S. Army, which sent him and his new bride to Fulda, Germany, to guard the border. It was an unconventional decision, but he’s always said it was one of his best.

“I earned more money than I ever had,” he often jokes, though that wasn’t hard to do for a recent medical school graduate. “People had to do what I said. And I never got shot at.” My parents also made lifelong friends, and still travel every year to see them at reunions.

I grew up hearing Dad say things like, “Smart to be seen in Army green!” And “Three meals a day, and –” well, I’m stopping there. (If you know that one, you know why.)

On Veterans Day, I’ve gotten into the habit of calling my old man to thank him for his service. But this year, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League spent Veterans Day telling its 183 member high school teams to stop performing the national anthem before their games.

The league commissioner, Ed Sam, was quick to explain, “It’s not that we’re not patriotic. That’s the furthest from the truth.”

I actually believe him. They’re not unpatriotic. They’re amazingly stupid. [Full Story]

Column: Reimagining the Olympics

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

The London Olympics features 26 summer sports, with 39 disciplines, and 302 separate competitions, in a desperate attempt to get everyone to watch.

As a result, the International Olympic Committee feels they now have something for everyone. So, we’ve got the Ancient Sports, or the Events No One Watches Anymore, like horse riding, rifle range, and archery – also known as, Things You Did in Summer Camp, But Stopped Doing After You Learned How To Drive and Talk To Girls. Why not include making moccasins and leather key fobs?

The Modern Penthathlon has got the complete collection of outdated events: fencing, horse jumping, shooting, a 3-K run and a 200-meter swim – or, The Full MacGyver. Introduced in 1912, the Modern Pentathlon is one of the least modern things about the modern games.

A truly Modern Pentathlon would include: (1) Aerobics – which is not as silly as rhythmic gymnastics; (2) Running Brain Dead On A Treadmill; (3) Bikram Yoga, for some reason; (4) Sitting On The Weight Machine I Want To Use For Five Minutes, While Admiring Yourself In The Mirror; and (5) Programming Your New Television.

The smallest category is The Things You Actually Want to Watch: swimming, track, gymnastics and basketball. Everything else is filler. Oh, and Tae Kwon Do, of course. Why? Because my editor likes it. That’s why. [Full Story]

Column: Rounding Out the Year in Sports

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren said, “I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.”

But this year, the sports page had plenty of both. Sad to say, bad news tends to travel faster.

So let’s start with some good news. In men’s tennis, the rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, already one of the best in tennis history, was joined by a man named Novak Djokovic, who won three major titles this year on a gluten-free diet – no joke. We might be watching the sport’s greatest era. Even better, all three players are true sportsmen, resorting to none of the ranting and raving of past greats.

Today, the spoiled brats are on the first tee, led by Tiger Woods, whose petulant tantrums on the course were eclipsed by his behavior off it. Now he’s trying to reassemble his knee, his swing and his life all at once. His opponents don’t like him, but they have to pull for him to return, along with their big paychecks.

The Detroit Red Wings made the playoffs for their 20th consecutive year – an incredible accomplishment of consistency in the modern era of parity and free agency. If you’re in college, you cannot recall when they were so bad we called them the “Dead Things.” General manager Ken Holland is the best in sports. Period.

The Tigers, meanwhile, stretched their playoff streak to one. Justin Verlander starts the game throwing 95-miles per hour, and ends it throwing over 100. He is the most dominant Detroit pitcher in four decades. Take your kids to see him now, so years later they can tell their grandkids. [Full Story]

Column: What Sports Teaches Us

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Sometimes the real world is so overwhelming it sneaks into sports. One of those times occurred after 9/11, when the crowd at Yankee Stadium sang “God Bless America,” with all their heart. I’m not very religious, but it sounded right to me.

It seemed appropriate that that signature moment, when we needed to be together, occurred in our country’s most hallowed arena, the nation’s front porch. We are probably the most sports-soaked culture in the world – we’re the ones who pay for the Olympics, after all – and I believe our code of conduct when we’re competing often represents our values at their best.

People like to say sports teaches us how to be aggressive. But you can learn that through alley fighting. Any jerk with no regard for others can be aggressive. Prisons are filled with them – 9/11 was conceived by them.

And it’s easy to play by the rules, too, if you never defend yourself.

So, I disagree. What sports teaches us is how to be tough without crossing the line. That’s the crucial difference. That’s why every sport I know not only has official rules, but unwritten ones, too, that anyone who cares about the sport is expected to follow.

If you’ve ever coached – any sport, any age – you know that is one of the hardest lessons to teach. And, I believe, one of the most important. [Full Story]

Column: The Dog Days of February

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Last week my beloved television went Poof! It’s seven years old – or, 14 in sports writer years.

So, what great sports events have I missed? Well, I can’t be sure, of course, but I’m willing to bet: Not many.

Sports writers complain about the dog days of summer, when all we have to write about is tennis and Tiger and the Tigers – and, well, that’s about it.

But there’s a lesser-known slow season for sports scribes, and it’s called February. College football picked its champion more than a month ago, the super-hyped Super Bowl has finally blown over, and baseball is still a solid six weeks away from opening day. And that leaves basketball and hockey. [Full Story]

Column: Dropping the Ball

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

The Heisman Trophy had humble beginnings. In 1935, the Downtown Athletic Club of New York City – a private organization with no ties to the NCAA or any major football conference or team – decided to give an award to the best player in college football. The next year, when the Club’s most famous member, John Heisman, died of pneumonia, the members named the award after him.

They made a fine choice. Heisman went to Brown University as an undergrad, and the University of Pennsylvania for his law degree before becoming a coach in 1892. He coached at six colleges, including Georgia Tech, where he led his team to a 33-game winning streak. Many historians consider him the father of the forward pass. And, on the side, Heisman was a skilled Shakespearean actor.

But his best line was his own. To start the season each fall, he would hold a football in his hand and tell his players, “Men, it is better to die as a young boy than to drop this ball.”

It did not take long for Heisman’s trophy to gain prestige. Today it’s probably the best-known trophy awarded to an American athlete. But, there is a catch: The winner has to be an eligible amateur athlete. [Full Story]

Column: In the Ring

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

When I read that the Spanish province of Catalonia voted to outlaw bullfighting, I was not surprised. A few years ago I traveled through Spain to write about bullfighting. Along the way, I met Barcelona’s director of tourism, and asked her why bullfighting was much less popular in Barcelona than the rest of Spain. She replied, “It is because we are civilized.”

Bullfighting’s biggest opponents, in fact, have always been Spaniards. Even bullfighting’s fans don’t brag about the 13,000 bulls killed every year in the ring, or claim they deserve to be killed.

But I’m not sure we’re in a position to judge bullfighting too harshly. We kill more than 35 million cows every year, and 100 million pigs and eight billion chickens. Not even Birkenstocks grow on trees. [Full Story]

Column: Memories of Whitmore Lake

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Whenever I drive up US-23, I can’t resist gazing at two structures on my right: The Whitmore Lake High School stadium press box, where my writing career started, and the big red ski jump on Whitmore Lake, where it almost ended.

I once volunteered to visit the Whitmore Lake Water Ski Club, the oldest in the state, to try water ski jumping. The problem is, this is not something you can gradually work up to. It’s your basic all-or-nothing proposition.

Take our coach, Hal Baker. On several occasions he had cleared a hundred feet, the sport’s main milestone, but one time he hit the side of the jump so hard, he embedded white paint in his skin. A few times, he leaned back too far, causing him to fall backward into the water – at 50 miles per hour.

“I’ve been pulled out unconscious a few times,” Baker said, with a reassuring maniacal cackle. This was a man who knew the thrill of victory, and the unconsciousness of defeat. [Full Story]

Column: Soccer Can’t Compete

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

The 2010 World Cup is in full swing – even if the U.S. was eliminated in the second round. I’ve played soccer, coached it and covered it, and there’s a lot to like about the sport.

First, soccer players are great athletes. The pros run about six miles a game. They can settle the ball down from any direction in a split second, play keep-away with it for days, and then blast it right on target, with either foot.

For TV viewers, it’s a pleasure to see the great expanse of green on your screen, with no TV timeouts interrupting play. And, unlike baseball’s World Series, the world is actually invited to play in the World Cup. It’s almost every nation’s favorite sport. And you can play it anywhere, with anything. [Full Story]

Column: Remembering George Carlin

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Comedian George Carlin died nearly two years ago, at the age of 71. Almost every elegy for him said, “He is remembered mainly for his skit on the ‘Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say on Radio.’” But I remember Carlin for a better bit.

I’m not going to discuss his “Seven Dirty Words” routine – it seems a shame to have your life’s work reduced to seven profanities. Carlin was better than that.

I believe Carlin was not only one of our funniest comics – which is, after all, the point of his profession – but also one of the most thoughtful, even insightful. I still use his comparison of baseball and football – and what they say about our society – when I teach my class on the history of college athletics.

Carlin not only breaks down two of our most popular sports, he deftly demonstrates how they define fans as liberal or conservative, dove or hawk, Prius or Hummer.

But I’ll let the man speak for himself. [Full Story]

Column: Why the Red Wings Rock

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

The Red Wings bowed out of the Stanley Cup playoffs Saturday, in just the second round. It was disappointing for Red Wings’ fans – okay, crushing.

But it’s worth remembering the Red Wings have made the playoffs for 20 consecutive years – the longest active run of any team not just in hockey, but in baseball, basketball and football. The last time the Red Wings didn’t make the playoffs, George Bush was just getting started – George H.W. Bush, that is.

That 1990 team was decent, but nobody thought it would spark a streak of 20 straight playoff seasons. To do that, the Red Wings have stayed at the top of their game with four different coaches, 25 goalies and hundreds of players. Not one has spanned the entire streak. But the team has been led during the entire stretch by just two captains: Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom – and no team has ever had better leaders than those two. [Full Story]

Column: Spartans Learn to Care

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

From the outside, it looked like a typically dominant Michigan State basketball team. By the end of January, the Spartans were undefeated in the Big Ten, and ranked fifth in the nation. That record hid some problems the public couldn’t see, but Coach Tom Izzo could.

It wasn’t talent. The Spartans returned four starters, including Big Ten player of the year Kalin Lucas, from a team that had already reached the NCAA finals the previous year. The problem was simpler, but more serious: the players just didn’t care enough about each other.

The coaches did. In January, Izzo, his trainer, his video guy and Dave Pruder, his long-time equipment manager, all lost close relatives. And every time, they were there for each other. In the middle of the season, Izzo drove down with his trainer to South Bend for his father’s funeral. Pruder told me, “We knew we could rely on each other. But the players didn’t.” [Full Story]

Column: Sports Talk with Coach Bacon

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

In America, you’re “behind the eight ball,” if you will, if you can’t “Talk Sports.” Jay McInerny once wrote that sports fans constitute the largest fraternity in America, and not knowing how to talk about them will put you on the outside of every airport and elevator conversation you encounter.

Now, normally, that’s a wonderful thing – but on the rare occasion you actually need to make small talk in such situations, Coach Bacon is here to cut through the clichés so you can bull with the best of them.

First, you’ve got to see through the silly semantics. They love to talk about the “respective captains from each team,” which means “the captains from each team,” because “respective” adds nothing to that clause. And, of course, the “ensuing kickoff,” which means “next.” [Full Story]

Column: Oh, Say Can You See a New Anthem?

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

The modern Olympics started in 1896, but it took 28 more years before the winners would hear their national anthem during the medal ceremony.

The Vancouver Games will conduct 86 medal ceremonies, during which any of the 82 countries present could be serenaded with their national anthem. But not all are created equal – including ours.

You probably knew the melody for our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” came from a popular British drinking song, and that Francis Scott Key added the words during the War of 1812. But you might not have known the song didn’t become our national anthem until more than a century later, in 1931. And we didn’t start playing the song before ball games until World War II.

“The Star Spangled Banner” may be two centuries old, but its status as our national anthem is relatively new – and, I think, not beyond reconsideration. [Full Story]

Column: Experiencing The Olympics

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Twelve years ago I covered the Winter Olympics in Nagano. It was exhausting – and exhilarating.

Every day, right in front of me, I got to savor the skill and the speed of the skiers and the snowboarders, the hockey players and the figure skaters. But what I remember most is the energy generated by the athletes and the audience, who seemed to feed off each other. I didn’t get to merely see it. I got to feel it – an experience shared with thousands of people from around the world, right as it happened.

So that’s why I was stunned when I called my friends back home, breathless about the drama stirring all around me, only to learn they had no idea what I was talking about. They weren’t impressed by the Nagano Olympics, or the coverage of it – take your pick. And that’s when I realized the Olympics I was experiencing had nothing to do with the one they were watching – or not watching at all. (Nagano had the lowest ratings in 30 years.)

Now, I realize TV can’t compete with being there, especially 12 time zones away. But it can come a lot closer than it usually does. [Full Story]

Column: Beyond the Super Bowl Hype

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

It’s hard to think of too many endeavors that receive more overblown attention than do sports. And within sports, nothing’s more overblown than the Super Bowl.

This time around, we’re getting endless stories about President Obama picking the New Orleans Saints – because … that matters? – a preview of the ads scheduled to run during the game, and several hundred articles analyzing the recuperation of Dwight Freeney’s sprained right ankle, and how that might affect national security. Or some such.

But in the midst of this morass are two stories worth telling. [Full Story]

Column: For the Love of the Game

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Old Man Winter is back with a vengeance. That’s okay. I like the snow – and I love the hockey.

You can play pond hockey, drop-in hockey or beer league hockey, but for me, the best hockey is the pick-up game at Michigan’s Yost Arena on Tuesday nights.

The game features some of the best players in the area, most of them former Michigan players, many of whom played pro hockey. But a few wannabes, like me, have gotten regular spots. It’s by invitation only, and I only got invited because I knew the guy who started it. Jeff Bourne – known as “Tiny,” thanks to his 5-6 frame – cared as much about attitude as ability. As he said: If you don’t pass, you’re an ass. [Full Story]

Column: Tiger Woods on the Good Ship Privacy

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

From the day Tiger Woods was born, his parents groomed him to become the best golfer in the world.

Incredibly, it worked. Woods’s uncommon ability to hit a golf ball landed him on the Mike Douglas show – when he was two. He got his first hole in one at six, and two years later he won his first international tournament. Tiger Woods has been the best golfer in the world for his age every year of his life.

Woods’s unequaled ambition also earned him a few bucks – about a hundred million of them last year alone, almost all of it from endorsements.

Perhaps more surprising, the guy seems normal. He’s got brains – he went to Stanford – he has a sense of humor, friends, a beautiful wife and two kids. If anyone had it all, it was Tiger Woods. [Full Story]

Column: The Legacy of “Raeder’s Raiders”

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Fifty years ago, Michigan football looked a lot different from what you see today. Most Saturdays, the stadium was half-empty. Freshmen were not allowed to play, and sophomores rarely did. The starting players on offense also served as the back-ups on defense, and vice versa. So, most of the better players got tuckered out pretty fast.

Michigan started the ‘59 season right where it left off the last one, by losing two games to extend their losing streak to six. The last of those was an embarrassing loss to Michigan State, 34 to 8.

Desperate, head coach Bump Elliott took a chance: he created a “third unit” of young back-up players to give the older guys an occasional rest. Elliott had no idea what he had created. [Full Story]

Hockey Players Find a Home in Ann Arbor

Michael and Will

Michael Paliotta and his younger brother Will in the lobby of the Ann Arbor Ice Cube. Michael's family was visiting from Connecticut – he lives in Ann Arbor with a host family while participating in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program here. (Photo by the writer.)

In a lobby filled with well-dressed young men, proud parents and assorted siblings, Gene and Sue Salaniuk stood back together and took in the scene.

They watched as Michael Paliotta, one of two teenage hockey players who currently lives in their house, talked with his parents amid a cluster of family members – two brothers and a sister – who’d made the trip to Ann Arbor from Westport, Conn., just to watch him play.

Six-year-old Will Paliotta stuck close, quietly playing with the buttons on his big brother’s suit jacket.

“I think Michael misses his brothers and sister,” Sue said softly, leaning toward Gene. He nodded and said, “Look how Will won’t let go of him.”

Two months ago, these people were strangers. But for the Salaniuks, Michael is now one of “their” kids; Will and the rest of the Paliottas are one of “their” families.

The Salaniuks have been hosting hockey players from the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in their Ann Arbor home for 13 years. Every few years they’ll tell the program’s housing coordinators that this will be their last. Then another bunch of 16- and 17-year olds come in and, well, they haven’t said, “no” yet. Their hockey family just keeps growing. [Full Story]

Column: Big House Luxury Boxes?

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

At the dedication game of Michigan’s new 84,401-seat stadium in 1927, the Wolverines sent new rival Ohio State home with a 21-0 thumping. In that informal era, it was perfectly natural for athletic director Fielding Yost to walk back to campus with the game’s star, Bennie Oosterbaan.

“Mr. Yost was feeling pretty good,” Oosterbaan told author Al Slote. “We’d won, and the stadium was completely filled. He turned to me and said, ‘Bennie, do you know what the best thing about that new stadium is? Eighty-five thousand people paid five dollars apiece for their seats – and Bennie, they had to leave the seats there!‘”

While no one can be certain what Yost would think of the luxury boxes that are going up right now (and no matter what the university is calling them, that’s clearly what they are), the record suggests he would approve it – and for the very reasons he pushed to build the Big House in the first place. [Full Story]

Column: For Better and Worse

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

And so, it’s done. The Detroit Tigers’ once promising season ended Tuesday in a cataclysmic collapse.

In the American League’s Central Division, Sports Illustrated had picked the Tigers to finish next to last. But by September, they had built a seemingly insurmountable seven-game lead. The team was a tonic for a troubled town in a troubled time. Some pundits even claimed the Tigers season was a metaphor for a Motown renaissance. They started comparing this team to the 1968 Tigers, and the role they played in healing a city that had been torn apart the summer before.

On July 23, 1967, the long-simmering tensions between the police and the people finally boiled over into a full-blown race rebellion – or riot, depending on whom you ask – that lasted five days, the worst in American history.

Enter the 1968 Tigers. [Full Story]

Column: The Greatest Play I’ve Ever Heard

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Let’s be honest: the Michigan-Indiana rivalry is no rivalry at all. Of the 59 games they’ve played, Michigan has won fully 50 of them, including all but one since 1967.

But 30 years ago, this game produced one of the most memorable plays in Michigan history.

The Wolverines entered the Indiana game ranked tenth, with six victories and only one defeat – to Notre Dame, on a last-second field goal. They knew if they kept winning, they’d get another chance at a national title.

But in the last minute of Michigan’s homecoming game – which had been as dreary as the weather – the Hoosiers did the unthinkable, and tied the game at 21.

A few plays later, the Wolverines found themselves with only six seconds left, enough time to run just one more play – but they were still 45 yards away from the endzone, too far for a field goal. They had no choice but to try one last gasp at a touchdown. [Full Story]

Column: Mascot Madness

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Mascots are supposed to inspire those who play for the team, but just as often they provide amusement for those who don’t.

On college campuses nationwide there are no fewer than 107 teams named for Lions, Tigers and Bears – oh my – but only the University of Idaho dares calls its teams the Vandals. I only wish the Vandals of Idaho could engage in macho combat with, say, the Ne’er Do Wells of Nevada.

With some teams, it’s hard to tell just whom they’re trying to scare. Take the Centenary College Ladies and Gentleman – the actual mascots. Are they intended to intimidate the ill-mannered? Or, how about the Brandeis University Judges, named after Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. Who’s afraid of the big bad Judges – the Parolees of Penn State?

And what are we to make of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons? What are they, Demons or Deacons? I think they should pick one, and stick to it. Their oxymoronic mascot reminds me of a chant I once heard at a Friends School in Pennsylvania, where the seemingly oblivious cheerleaders broke into the classic mantra: “Fight, Quakers, Fight!”

This otherwise silly subject takes a serious turn when we start talking about Native American nicknames. Some 600 high school and college teams have dropped such names, but over 2,400 still use them. [Full Story]

Column: Hard Times for Hockey Group

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

On Monday, Kimberly Knight will appear before Judge Melinda Morris to discuss a little financial matter. It seems the Ann Arbor Amateur Hockey Association is missing a few bucks – actually, its entire operating budget, almost a million dollars – and Judge Morris would like to ask Kimberly Knight where it is.

Kimberly Knight should have a pretty good idea. From 1999 to 2007, Knight served as the association’s treasurer.

Those were heady years for the organization. Enrollment was strong, with a high of 1,200 boys and girls playing hockey. The league was bringing in enough money to pay for kids who couldn’t afford to play hockey, and start saving for a rink of their own.

By 2007, it looked like the league’s dream might be within reach. Today, it’s closer to folding altogether. [Full Story]

Column: The All-Star Next Door

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Three years ago, a few folks in Dexter, Michigan – a small farming town just west of Ann Arbor – were buzzing with rumors that the only house for sale in their neighborhood might finally be sold.  

I found out from my mom, who found out from her hair-dresser, Chantel Williams, who lived next door to the vacant house, that Shani Inge and her husband, Brandon, had bought it. They moved to Dexter even though it’s a full hour from his office. He works at Comerica Park, in Detroit, playing third base for the Tigers. In fact, he just played in his first All-Star game. But you’d never guess it from the way he looks – and certainly not from the way he acts. [Full Story]

Back to the Future with Spaceball

When Don Botsford closed his Ann Arbor Gymkana in 1986, he put his spaceball court into storage, quietly ending an obscure and glorious chapter in Ann Arbor’s sports history.


Two Chronicle volunteers try their hand at spaceball. Don Botsford is in the foreground. (Photo by the writer.)

Or so we thought.

Last February Botsford, now 80, installed the court in his new gym, a 2,000-square-foot pole structure on his 20-acre nature preserve on the outskirts of town. It’s one of the few places in the world where people can still play spaceball – a game once dominated by players from Ann Arbor – and probably one of the few places in the world where anyone knows what it is.

“It’s a fun, silly game; it’s good exercise, and if you could get more people to play it they would get addicted,” said Washtenaw County prosecutor Brian Mackie, whose competitive spaceball career in the 1960s took him to distant shores (Cleveland) along with Botsford and two other players from Ann Arbor. [Full Story]

Column: Remembering The Bird

Somedays, one cannot get enough news about a certain event and even though The Chronicle doesn’t have a “sports section,” I was looking for one last tidbit before hitting the sack.

I know for a fact that most of your readers who at one time in their lives traded baseball cards remember the Bird. 1976 is just around the corner in the memories of many of us. [Full Story]