Friday May 26
Last Updated (Friday, 21 December 2012 11:30) Written by Ben Pogany

While the game doesn’t lend itself to individual stardom that say the NBA does, there are certain players from every generation that just exude all-star through and through.  The list of players who have been named to fifteen or more All-Star games is one of the most exclusive in all of sports, more so than the 3000 hit club, the 500 home run club, or the perfect game club.  While the election process is by no means an exact science, to be an All-Star year in and year out for that long takes more than just raw talent, more than just being the best player at your position in your league.  It’s a blend of consistency and durability combined with popularity and iconicism.  Playing in a big market like New York or Boston doesn’t hurt your chances either.  These players are institutions of the game.  The question is, is it getting harder to be that larger than life superstar in the currently constituted major leagues?  For one, the league has gotten progressively larger, making one’s ability to stick out and lock down All-Star spots far more difficult.  It's been eleven years since a player with fifteen or more All-Star games to his credit played in the big leagues (Ripken and Gwynn).  However, closing in are three long serving Yankees.  Will they be next to join this exclusive club?  A look at the 15+ club, and at which current players have hopes of one day joining those ranks.

MLB Players with 15+ All-Star Games To Their Credit
Hank Aaron 1954-1976   (25)
Willie Mays 1951-1973   (24)
Stan Musial 1941-1963   (24)
Mickey Mantle 1951-1968   (20) 
Cal Ripken 1981-2001   (19)
Ted Williams 1939-1960   (19) 
Rod Carew 1967-1985   (18)
Carl Yastrzemski 1961-1983   (18)  
Yogi Berra 1946-1965   (18) 
Al Kaline 1953-1974   (18)
Brooks Robinson 1955-1977   (18)
Pete Rose 1963-1986   (17)
Warren Spahn 1942-1965  (17)
Tony Gwynn 1982-2001   (15)
Ozzie Smith 1978-1996   (15)
Roberto Clemente 1955-1972 (15)
Nellie Fox 1947-1965 (15)

Next in Line?:
Alex Rodriguez 1994-2012  (14)
Derek Jeter 1995-2012   (13)
Mariano Rivera  1995-2012 (12)
Ichiro Suzuki 2001-2012  (10)
Albert Pujols 2001-2012   (9)   

Note: The first All-Star game was not played until 1933, which is why you won't see the likes of Babe Ruth or Cy Young in this club.

Written by Ben Pogany
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Whether you’re a soccer fan or not, it's been hard not to get swept up in the hoopla of World Cup fervor.  There’s just something undeniably profound about taking part in something that directly connects you with the vast majority of the rest of the world.  In this respect, watching a World Cup soccer match is an experience unparalleled in the sports world; it's almost like you’re watching not just a game but world history right before your eyes.  You can’t help but feel just a little bit more worldly upon hearing those vuvuzelas buzz.  With that in mind, and of course conceding that soccer inhabits a plane all to itself, I decided to take a look at the “worldliness” of our other big sports.

Some notes before we get started: For the record, we're not going to even go into Olympic-style sports.  These are only the big ones.  No one wants to read an article about biathlon.  There's something to be said for rugby and cricket, but because no one in America knows squat about these realms, I won't bother trying to teach myself about them in the next ten minutes. It's also not lost on me that for the Big Four, these are American-based leagues.  Inherent ethnocentricity aside, it shouldn't be lost on you that everyone knows that these are where the best of the world come to play, so save the comments.

Soccer: 208 nations boast a FIFA-recognized soccer team and 76 have participated in a World Cup. Still, this is not to say that all nations were created equal (at least on soccer terms). 11 countries have reached a World Cup finals, and seven have taken home the ultimate prize.  Going into South Africa, there were really about eight to ten teams that one could have reasonably predicted with any degree of sanity winning the cup. But because one only needs a ball and some flat earth to take part in "the beautiful game," soccer's reach is unlike anything else.

Baseball: Baseball, the so-called American Pastime, is of course filled with Central American superstars but the list really doesn't get much far beyond the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Panama and Cuba. Then you've got Japan, a handful of mediocre Chinese and Korean athletes, and of course, Canada.

Football: Football is even less worldly.  Outside of Somoa, which can barely be classified as "international,"  and Canada (dido), the only countries that can claim 4+ current NFL'ers are Germany, Nigeria, England and Jamaica.  And believe me when I say that the stars are few and far between here.  Of the 253 men in the Hall of Fame, only seven originated in a country not called the United States.  Still, Commish Goodell sees dollar signs abroad, and is intent on expanding the NFL's sphere of influence into as many new markets as possible.

Basketball: If there is one American export that is truly gaining traction in recent years, the NBA is it.  The '09-'10 season included 83 international players from 36 countries, up from 36 international players from 24 countries and territories in '99-'00.  However, there are maybe five certifiable stars at most if we're counting Nash from Canada and Duncan from the Virgin Islands.  Outside of the US, France can count the most NBA'ers among its ranks with ten, but can we really call this a legit basketball country when the closest thing to a star they can boast of is Tony Parker?  (And can we all just stop and marvel at what has happened to the American-born, white hoopster?  We went from Bird and McHale to ....Brad Miller?  Wow.)

Hockey: Hockey is Canada, Russia, Czech Republic, Finland, Slovakia, Sweden, and the Yanks, with over half the league of Canadian decent.

Golf: Golf remains an American-dominated sport, though its share of the top 100 has nearly been cut in half from 56 in 1999 to 32 ten years later.  There are four Americans and four British currently sitting among the top 10.

Tennis: Gone are the days of Sampras and Connors, McEnroe, Agassi and his ponytail wig.  In men's tennis today, there are the Swiss and the Spaniard, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and then there is everybody else.  Since 2004, the two have combined to capture a dominating 23 out of a possible 27 majors.  Still, despite the dominance at the top by what amounts to 2 countries, there were a whopping 15 countries represented among the top 20 ranked tennis players entering this past Wimbledon.  (America can only boast #6, Andy Roddick, among those twenty.)  Nineteen countries in the Open era (1968-present) have reveled in a countryman winning a major.

Written by Ben Pogany
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Here’s a look at the 25 “can’t miss” #1 picks who turned out to be exactly that.

  1. Magic Johnson ('79)
  2. Lou Alcindor ('69)
  3. Shaquille O'Neal ('92)
  4. Oscar Robinson ('60)
  5. Lebron James ('03)
  6. Hakeem Olajuwon ('84)
  7. Tim Duncan ('97)
  8. Elgin Baylor ('68)
  9. David Robinson ('87)
  10. Patrick Ewing ('85)
  11. Allen Iverson ('96)
  12. James Worthy ('82)
  13. Bill Walton ('74)
  14. David Thompson ('75)
  15. Elvin Haynes ('68)
  16. Walt Bellamy ('61)
  17. Bob Lanier ('70)
  18. Ralph Sampson ('83)
  19. Dwight Howard ('04)
  20. Danny Manning ('88)
  21. Larry Johnson ('91)
  22. Brad Daugherty ('86)
  23. Derrick Coleman ('90)
  24. Yao Ming ('02)
  25. Elton Brand ('99)
Written by Ben Pogany
  1. Alfred Hitchcock: Psycho, Vertigo, Rear Window, North By Northwest, Strangers on a Train.
  2. Billy Wilder: Double Indemnity, Some Like It Hot, Sunset Blvd, The Apartment, The Lost Weekend.
  3. John Ford: The Searchers, The Grapes of Wrath, Stagecoach, How Green Was My Valley, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
  4. Charlie Chaplin: City Lights, The Gold Rush, The Great Dictator, Modern Times, The Immigrant.
  5. John Huston: The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Asphalt Jungle, The African Queen, Key Largo.
  6. Orson Welles: Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil, Othello, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Stranger.
  7. Frank Capra: Mr Smith Goes to Washington, It's a Wonderful Life, It Happened One Night, Mr Deeds Goes to Town, You Can't Take It With You.
  8. Elia Kazan: On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden, Gentleman's Agreement, America America.
  9. David Lean: Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Doctor Zhivago, A Passage to India, Great Expectations.
  10. Howard Hawks: Scarface, Bringing Up Baby, The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, Red River.
  11. Victor Fleming: The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Joan of Arc, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Reckless.
  12. Michael Curtiz: Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Four Daughters, Angels With Dirty Faces, White Christmas.
  13. William Wyler: Ben-Hur, The Best Years of Our Lives, Mrs. Miniver, Roman Holiday, Funny Girl.
  14. Fred Zinnemann: High Noon, From Here to Eternity, A Man for All Seasons, Julia, Oklahoma!.
  15. D.W. Griffith: Birth Of A Nation, Intolerance.
  16. Joseph L. Mankiewicz: All About Eve, The Barefoot Contessa, A Letter to Three Wives, 5 Fingers, Sleuth.
  17. Robert Wise: The Sound of Music, West Side Story, The Day the Earth Stood Still, I Want to Live!, The Sand Pebbles.
  18. George Stevens: Shane, Giant, Diary of Anne Frank, A Place in the Sun, Swing Time.
  19. Sam Wood: The Pride of the Yankees, A Night at the Opera, Goodbye Mr Chips, For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Day at the Races.
  20. Stanley Kramer: Judgement at Nuremberg, Inherit the Wind, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, The Defiant Ones, Ship of Fools.

Honorable Mentions: George Cukor, John Frankenheimer, Cecil B. Demille, Erich Von Stroheim, Otto Preminger.

(List refers to directors who spent the majority of their careers working in America, which would otherwise include Igmar Bergman, Akira Kirosawa, Sergio Leone, and F.W. Murnau.)

*Best Director Academy Award winners are in italics.

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Written by Ben Pogany Thursday, 03 June 2010 10:01
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Baseball is a game that we all call on to be bigger than us.  We infuse it will myth and lore, propped up on the shoulders of giants from eras past.  We look to it as a living history, the records and stat lines left behind unassailable truths of past triumphs and heartbreak.  And yet when we get right down do it, baseball is merely a reflection of ourselves, capable of greatness and yet instilled with human frailty.   I’m brought to this line of thinking by two very distinct stories that hit the sports world yesterday, Jim Joyce’s squandering of Armando Galarraga’s shoulda-been perfect game, and the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr.   

Baseball, more than any other sport is a game in which its records are held in everlasting reverence.  We painstakingly monitor of every home run and strikeout, striving to break the game down into math or science, to solve the riddle all the while not realizing (or choosing to ignore) that baseball is played by humans who could never truly be reduced to a simple equation.  Part of us wants see the sport as neat and infallible, and what could be neater and more infallible than a bunch of numbers.  We invent grand occurrences and track them fervently, the unassisted triple play, hitting for the cycle, the perfect game.  Achievements to be remembered and treasured for a lifetime.  These occurrences go well beyond the specific player, or his specific city.  These are triumphs for baseball itself, and all who love it.  Maybe that’s why I still feel so upset about Galarraga-gate.  I feel personally slighted, like myself and the sport I love have been robbed of something dear.   Armando Galarraga did something that only 20 others in the history of the sport have done (well, since we starting writing stuff down), and because some fraud of an umpire called the 27th batter safe when he was clearly out by a step and a half, Armando and the baseball world at large went to sleep feeling wronged.  Jim Joyce’s miscall was nothing less than a complete and utter travesty, a blight on the game.  There’s no going back, no rewriting history.  It just wasn’t supposed to happen this way.  It shouldn’t have happened this way.  The sanctity of our record books, of our history, have been tarnished.  Armando Galarraga retired 27 batters in a row, and yet somehow was not perfect.  Baseball, despite our yearning for it to be so, is not perfect.  Last night, human error trumped greatness.


Which brings me to the second headline of the night.  The Kid has retired.  A beacon of unassailable greatness amid an era of cheaters and frauds has taken his final swing.  Like Ruth and Dimaggio before him, Ken Griffey Jr embodied the magic and majesty of baseball.  Capable of the greatest greatness, and yet you never forgot that he was just a kid having a blast playing his favorite game.  Griffey transcended the sport, instilling in us the hope and wonder we all yearned for and sought after in watching baseball.  Though his colleagues committed unspeakable afronts against the game through the use of performance enhancers, Griffey always shone above them, ever reminding us what was truly possible in this sport.  While countless others of the era were far less than their numbers signified, Griffey was so much more.  Though baseball will always be fraught with the inevitable tinge of humanness, Griffey reminded us that that isn’t always such a bad thing after all.

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For our second installment of the greatest NBA Draft classes of all-time, its 2003, a class that will continue to own the game for years to come.  Here are the top 10 value picks:

1)    LeBron James—St. Vincent-St. Mary High School
to the Cavaliers (1)—Fifteen years from now, there will be three names that stand above all others: Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, and LeBron James. King James has already amassed 5 all-star appearances, a league MVP, a scoring title, and 3 All-NBA first-team spots. Now for that elusive ring.
2)    Dwyane Wade—Marquette to the Heat (5)—The five-time all-star and reigning scoring champ led Miami to the promised land in ’06, and seems to get better with every passing year. His quickness and signature one-two step makes him almost impossible to guard effectively.
3)    Carmelo Anthony—Syracuse to the Nuggets (3)—The third youngest player to ever reach 2,000 points (after Kobe and LeBron), Melo has led his Nuggets to the playoffs every year since joining the NBA.
4)    Chris Bosh—Georgia Tech to the Raptors (4)—
5)    Josh Howard—Wake Forest to the Mavericks (29)—A star in decline, J-Ho averaged nearly 19 points a game from 06-09, proving a vital force during Dallas' 2006 finals run. 
6)    Mo Williams—Alabama to the Jazz (now on the Cavaliers) (47)—Mo got his first substantial playing opportunity filling in for the injured TJ Ford (fellow 2003 draftee) in Milwaukee. In 2008, he was traded to the Cavs in a six-player deal involving among others Luke Ridnour (also 2003), where he would serve as right-hand man to LeBron (again, 2003). In 2009, he was selected to replace Chris Bosh (you see where I’m going with this) on the All-Star team, one day before he scored a career-high 44 points against the Suns. 7)    David West—Xavier to the Hornets (18)—The two-time all-star has posted over 18 points and 7 rebounds a game in each of the last five seasons. He is also reportedly a damn good tuba player.
8)    TJ Ford—Texas to the Bucks (8)—Though hampered by injuries for much of his career, the Pacer point guard can score points in bunches and is ever mentioned in a Paul Wall song for being “deadly on them threes.”
9)    Chris Kaman—Central Michigan to the Clippers (6)—Without a doubt one of the ugliest members of the NBA, Kaman has established himself as a dominant center, posting 16 points and 13 boards a game in his breakout 07-08 campaign.
10)    Kendrick Perkins—From Ozen High School to the Grizzlies (traded to Celtics) (27)—The one-time NBA champ's departure from Boston may go down as one of the worst trades in Celtics history.  So much for ubuntu.

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Written by Ben Pogany
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Celtics/Lakers is not the longest-standing rivalry in sports, nor is it the most hate-fueled.  But purely in terms of two teams coming together to fight for the top prize in their sport, nothing even comes close.  (To give some perspective, the Cardinals and Yankees have met an MLB-leading 5 World Series', while the Cowboys and Steelers have met in a league-high 3 Superbowls.)  Celtics-Lakers on in a whole other hemisphere, a rivalry all the more compelling for having spanned three distinct eras.  With the Celtics out ahead 9-3 in the finals, the Lakers likely won't be tipping the all time rivalry balance any time soon, that is, unless we break it down into eras.  Russell & co dominated era 1, Magic edged out Bird in era 2, and in the current era, a 1-1 ties means we'll have to wait for the rubber match of the rubber match.

Era 1: 1959-1969 
Boston wins 7-0

Boston’s Key 5:
Bill Russell
Bob Cousy
Tom Heinsohn
John Havlicek
KC Jones
Coach: Red Auerbach

LA’s Key 5:
Elgin Baylor
Jerry West
Gail Goodrich
Wilt Chamberlain (68-69)
Rudy Larusso
Coach: Fred Schaus


Era 2: 1984-1987
LA wins 2-1

Boston’s Key 5:
Larry Bird
Kevin McHale,
Robert Parish
Dennis Johnson
Danny Ainge
Coach: K.C. Jones

LA’s Key 5:
Magic Johnson
James Worthy
Kareem-Abdul Jabbar
Kurt Rambis
Byron Scott
Coach: Pat Riley


Era 3: 2007-Present
Tied 1-1

Boston’s Key 5:
Paul Pierce
Kevin Garnett
Ray Allen
Rajon Rondo
Kendrick Perkins
Coach: Doc Rivers

LA’s Key 5:
Kobe Bryant
Pau Gasol
Derek Fisher
Lamar Odom
Andrew Bynum
Coach: Phil Jackson

Page 9 of 13

 

 

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