Archive for August, 2009

Paul Johnson’s message is clear

Since the first time I had a conversation with Paul Johnson, seated in his office at Georgia Southern University, one thing sticks out in my mind: He never changes. He is comfortable with his life. My wife was with me, and he invited her to join us, which she did and soon joined in the fun herself.

A lot of coaches I know would have begun squirming about and looking for a way to bring this intrusion to an end. Not this coach. He has roamed the planet since he left Newland, N.C., (pop. 709), county seat of Avery County (pop. 17,167).

He played for a high school coach who left his mark on him as a lad. Western Carolina was his next move, but he never played football. He broke into coaching at his old high school, for the same coach he’d played for. Appalachian State was next, for a master’s degree, then the coaching whirligig began, at Lees-McRae, a junior college not far from his hometown.

From Lees-McRae to Georgia Southern to Hawaii to Navy, back to Georgia Southern, and …

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Olympics could take golf to new places

It’s not that this is golf’s first dance with the Olympic Games, and there are pros and there are cons. From his fishing boat in Wyoming, where the brown trout were striking, Billy Payne spoke enthusiastically.

“I’m excited about it. I’m an advocate of spreading the game around the world, and what better way than through the Olympic Games,” said Payne, the president of Augusta National, which one might describe as the heartbeat of golf in this country.

From his summer home in the Grand Tetons, Payne had hardly had time to digest the news from the IOC executive committee meeting in Berlin. And that Tiger Woods and Anika Sorenstam, among others, were among vigorous supporters. Exciting stuff to Payne, the man who had brought the Olympics to Atlanta in 1996.

Golf was on his hope list of events, and Augusta National would have been the site, although he was not yet a member of the club. But, opposition arose not only from Juan Antonio Samaranch, then president of the …

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After he left Atlanta the first time, Torre “grew up”

Joe Torre and the Dodgers were merely passing through our town, and Joe was not happy at all. “This is our only trip to Atlanta, three games against the Braves, then next week they come out to L.A. for four games.
“And that’s it. It’s not like we’re in the same league, like interleague play. Makes no sense, and it’s probably not going to change,” Torre said, resting behind the desk in the visiting manager’s office at Turner Field.

It’s coincidental that a record Torre holds should break into the news, that for hitting into four double plays in a game, when he was a New York Met. “I’d like to thank Felix Millan for making it possible,” he said impishly. “He singled four times in front of me.”

Torre has been carrying on a fractious relationship with this town since he was fat and l4, when he came to visit his brother, Frank, then the first baseman for the old Atlanta Crackers. Joe returned as the first Braves catcher when they relocated from Milwaukee …

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Note to Bud: Shoeless Joe is worthy of Hall of Fame

Out of Cooperstown the other day came a speculative story that Bud Selig might be softening on Pete Rose and his “lifetime” suspension from baseball. A Hall of Fame board of directors, including several former players — such as Henry Aaron, Frank Robinson and Joe Morgan — came out of the meeting in support.

On the other hand, the commissioner said he had nothing more in mind than “to review the matter.” And added, “I would remind you that he [Rose] voluntarily accepted a lifetime suspension” when Bart Giamatti laid the wood to him. Giamatti died nine days later, thus removing from the office the best man whoever held the title. Later, there was a report that Commissioner Selig was into his waffling act again, at which point I might suggest that while he’s waffling, he might reconsider the case of the most controversial victim of a commissioner’s sword, Shoeless Joe Jackson.

It is a case I know well and which still comes up often in my life. It was 60 years …

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