Ed Before we hit the breakfast buffet for today’s scramble of random thoughts, a quick note for anyone who didn’t get last week’s Sunday Morning Coffee in their email. We had some technical issues. I heard from many that they didn’t receive it. The post was about the life of baseball gentleman Bill Virdon and can be accessed by this link: https://royberger.com/sunday-morning-coffee-december-5-2021-crossing-paths-with-a-baseball-lifer/. Remember, if you don’t get an SMC you can always go to royberger.com on Sunday morning to see if a new one has been posted. It’s also on the Sunday Morning Coffee Facebook page. Additionally, we’ve had some problems with the content going to spam, probably where it belongs anyway, but by all means check your spam folder weekly. Appreciate everyone who contacted us and, of course, all who read SMC.
With Steven Spielberg’s remake of one of my favorites, West Side Story, debuting this weekend, another great love story came full circle Wednesday night in Las Vegas. Roy Abrams and Betty Anne Cooper finally got married. It only took 39 years. Back in 1982, Abrams, then a 39-year-old CEO of a direct marketing company in New York City, bought wedding rings for what he thought was an imminent engagement and marriage to pretty Betty Anne, who worked on his staff. Then life got in the way and the two went in different directions. No knife fight, no rumble, no candy store, no Officer Krumpke, just Tony and Maria going their separate ways. Roy eventually moved to Las Vegas; Betty Anne stayed on the East Coast. They reunited six years ago. Abrams kept the rings and finally got to slip it on his new bride’s finger this past Wednesday night. “I kept them all these years because you never know,” Roy, now 78, smiled. The new Mrs. Abrams is not revealing her age, but she looked all of 28 beaming on the altar. Never say never. Unless you are a New York Jets fan.
One of the best things I’ve seen on television in a long time, other than Alabama beating Auburn and Georgia on consecutive Saturdays, was the November 28 CBS special — One Last Time, with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. A few weeks ago, I mentioned the remarkable 60 Minutes story that aired a month earlier, about the love and respect between these two and Bennett’s declining mental health. To see him on stage at Radio City Music Hall, struggling with Alzheimer’s, was heart wrenching. Truly incredible. I was never a big Tony Bennett fan, especially since he sued me in 1984 for canceling a concert date I had booked for him while managing a venue in Tucson, but that’s a story for another Sunday. I sat in awe during the CBS special. If you haven’t seen it, find it; but to truly appreciate what was accomplished, watch the 60 Minutes piece first.
Yes, the College Football Playoff committee got it right. Alabama, off their beat-down of Georgia, should be the top seed. Michigan and Georgia, second or third, the order doesn’t matter because they play each other in one of the semifinals on December 31. And I do agree Cincinnati deserved the final spot considering their unbeaten record, highlighted by a win over Notre Dame. True, Cincy didn’t play the caliber of competition the others did, but they are the only team of the four to be unbeaten and should be in the field. The ironic thing is how easily these playoff pairings could have been turned upside down and chaotic. If Auburn had stopped Alabama from going 97 yards in the game’s final 95 seconds to put the Iron Bowl into overtime that eventually resulted in a Bama win, it would have been two losses on the season for the Tide. And then say Alabama beats Georgia in the SEC title game. Then who’s in and who’s out on New Year’s Eve?
Not that my gambling opinion is worth much, a point proven over and over again, but it will be Alabama and Michigan in Indianapolis on January 10.
Happy 84th birthday to Max Baer Jr. Jethro is the only Beverly Hillbillies cast member remaining. Uncle Jed, Granny, Elly May, Mr. Drysdale and Ms. Hathaway are all gone.
Glad for the family of the late Gil Hodges on his recent selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Golden Era Committee. Hodges played in the big leagues for 18 years and was an extraordinary first baseman for the Brooklyn/LA Dodgers in the 50s and early 60s. He then managed the New York Mets to their miracle world championship in 1969. That alone is HOF worthy. He died in 1972, two days short of his 48th birthday. On the other hand, I’m sad for Maury Wills who fell short on the same ballot. Wills and his speed revolutionized baseball in the 60s and 70s. Maury, a gentlemen who spent hours with me on my Big League Dream book chapter about his life and career, is 88-years-old. He always hoped he’d live to see the day he would be enshrined in the Hall. He won’t be eligible again for another five years. The window is closing.
Last season was the first in NFL history where road teams won more games than the home side though narrowly. Visitors went 128-127 in stadiums that were mostly empty for Covid precautions. With fans returning this season, you’d expect normalcy to prevail, but it hasn’t. In fact it’s more tilted to the road teams who, as of kickoff today, have won 98 games and dropped 93.
Is it just me or every time a defensive back breaks up a pass and then puts his hands in the air signifying ‘I didn’t do anything wrong’, a pass interference flag flies?
Loved the faux Southern accent that new LSU coach Brian Kelly unveiled during a campus introductory pep rally last week in Baton Rouge. And please don’t be a cynic about that accent: Kelly could have gotten it at birth in Evert, Massachusetts, or during his college days at Assumption University in Worcester. True, it may not be Dixie, but Massachusetts is south of somewhere like Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire and Kelly could easily have picked up that twang there. If not, then perhaps at one of his career coaching stops at Grand Valley State in Michigan or maybe Central Michigan or Cincinnati or his 11 years at Notre Dame. He sure channeled his inner Jussie Smollett and turned on the Southern schmooze in front of the LSU students, stopping just short of using ‘y’all’ or the most famous line in Southern lingo, ‘bless his heart.’ Next, Kelly will be in touch with the LSU drama department, advising if they ever do a stage production of Gone with the Wind, he’d like to be cast as Rhett Butler. Kelly is as non-Southern as a New York street pretzel. Bless his heart.
Coming soon to Broadway, adapted from That’s Life by Frank Sinatra, is the smash musical Riding High in April, Shot Down in May starring the Cuomo bros with cameos by Al Franken and Matt Lauer.
PGA Tour standouts Jordan Spieth and Henrik Stenson have done hundreds of things on a golf course that I can only dream about. Last weekend they did one thing I never have and if it stays that way, that’s just fine by me. On Sunday, in the final round of the Hero World Challenge, a 20 player invitational on the Albany Golf Course in the Bahamas, these two giants of golf hit from the wrong tee box. Holes 9 and 17 run parallel to each other. For the first three rounds of the tournament the tee boxes were in the same spot which is just about universal in the sport. The Tour warned the players that the location of the tee boxes may be switched on any given day. Clearly Jordan and Henrik missed the memo. On Sunday, the pair were the first group of the day to play, trailing the leaders by almost 20 strokes with no chance of winning. When the duo finished number eight they went to where the ninth tee box was all week. However, the ninth tee location was switched to 17 for the final round. Thus the ninth tee box was where 17 had been all week. There were signs on each box as big as Bryson’s ego indicating which hole was which on this day. Spieth didn’t pay attention nor did Henrik. Nor did their caddies or seemingly the gallery or on-course marshals. They both hit nice drives and as they were leaving the box one of the techs in the TV truck noticed the snafu, notified a PGA official who got on his cart and stopped the pair as they were heading down the fairway to hit their second shots. He told them what they just did, and they needed to go back to the right tees, take a two stroke penalty and re-hit. Stenson, embarrassed, jokingly asked the official if both he and Spieth could just “go to the airport and get the day over with” as they were now further back than when the round started. Spieth said, “I’m down with that.” Unfortunately, they had to finish- Stenson 19 strokes behind Viktor Hovland, the winner who played from all the right places, while Spieth was 24 back. In the resulting press conference both Spieth and Stenson were in good spirits about the snafu saying it had never happened to them before. Sweden’s Stenson quipped “It would be nice in the future if a little note can be left on the tee box to make sure we tee it up from the right place. That would have been helpful.”
ABBA has been around forever, their music crossing generations and genres, but incredibly they have never been nominated for a Grammy Award until this year. Their I Still Have Faith in You is up for song of the year.
Having more money than they clearly know what to do with, BMG Music Entertainment, a joint venture with Sony, just paid $150 million to purchase the entire recorded music catalog of Motley Crew. Why?
And our music trivia question this morning is one even our music historian, Phil Mark of ‘Stump Phil’ Seattle radio fame, might struggle with: Who was the only pop group to have two recordings in the weekly top 20 that were recorded under different band names? The year was 1965.
Shocking was the sudden death of maybe-Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit during a workout at California’s Santa Anita racetrack on Monday. The three-year old ran in the recent Breeders’ Cup Classic, but I would have figured following that second place finish he would have found a permanent home on the stud farm. Nope, trainer Bob Baffert planned to race him again. While no official determination has been decided yet on the 2021 Derby winner, pending the investigation into Baffert’s use of an illegal substance, as least Medina Spirit goes to rest, for now, with the roses.
In December 1965 Don’t Think Twice by the Wonder Who reached #12 on the pop charts. That same month Let’s Hang On by the Four Seasons got to #4. The Four Seasons were the Wonder Who.
Texas Southern University is a historically Black college of 10,000 students in Houston. Athletically they play in the SWAC — Southwestern Athletic Conference. TSU has a very unique method of partially funding their athletic budget: their basketball team plays an incredibly difficult non-conference road schedule which results in the Tigers getting a nice payout to visit and get beat by 30 or so points a game. Going into last Monday night TSU was 0-7 with losses at Oregon, St. Mary’s, Washington, Air Force, North Carolina State, BYU and Louisiana Tech. They are in over their heads but that’s okay because they get paid for it. My college basketball insiders say their payout is somewhere in the area of $85-$100,000 per game, which makes the Texas Southern athletic director smile. Coach Johnny Jones, formerly at LSU, uses these games to prepare his team for the SWAC season where the competition from Alcorn State, Grambling, Prairie View A&M, Jackson State and the like isn’t nearly as intense. So when the 283rd ranked Tigers, off a 27- point loss to La Tech a few nights earlier, went to Gainesville to play 20th ranked Florida on Monday night they were a 24-point underdog. It figured to be more of the same and their eighth straight loss. But a funny thing happened on the way to the swamp. The Tigers weren’t ready to lie down. Instead they took it to Florida for a convincing 69-54 win becoming the first SWAC team since 1936 to beat a ranked SEC team. Here’s hoping Florida didn’t put a stop payment on the check.
As long as we are talking college basketball upsets, Charley Portwood, a proud Purdue alum and SMC reader, was beaming on the driving range last week about the Boilermakers and their number one ranking, the first ever for the illustrious program. In between seven-irons, Charlie told me Purdue is “not only the best college basketball team in the country, but probably the world!” Oops, all it took was one trip to that hoops mecca, Piscataway, New Jersey, for Rutgers to beat them 70-68 and knock Purdue off the perch in their first outing on top.
Bob Dole, who passed on Sunday at age 98, was an American hero and a political icon for as long as any of us can remember. He was also my senator when we lived in Wichita, Kansas, in the 1990s. Senator Dole is the answer to a great political trivia question. He’s the only candidate to run for Vice President and President of the United States and never win either election.
We are away the next two Sundays for the holidays. Next week is Andi’s 60th birthday, a national holiday in our house. Wasn’t she just 24? And believe it or not, two weeks from yesterday is Christmas. Time is moving too fast. So we will see you again in 2022. A Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year everyone!