Links and Thoughts 6/4

In Los Angeles getting ready for some Kings-Blackhawks hockey. Here are a few links and thoughts:

-- Link: The Big Read: Tim Duncan.

-- Thought: Spent the weekend at the Salute to the Negro Leagues in San Diego. It was fabulous in so many ways -- but probably the best part was how much of his heart Dave Winfield puts into it. It’s a funny thing being a retired Hall of Famer. You can go a lot of different ways. Winfield still cares so much about the game that he gives all of himself (for no glory or reward) to keep the salute going (even though San Diego as a city really has no connection to the Negro Leagues) and to keep the memories alive of these great players. Good on ya, Dave.

-- Link: The French Open has always been my favorite tennis tournament … and also, in many ways, the hardest one to watch. The grueling Venus Williams match was Exhibit A.

-- Thought: Speaking of the Negro Leagues Salute, Minnie Minoso was there. Now, there are compelling arguments and counter-arguments about whether Minoso belongs in the Hall of Fame. I think he does, and I can give three quick reasons (we’re almost at face-off time!):

  1. You can make a strong case that he was the second best player in the American League in the 1950s behind Mickey Mantle. This and this alone might not be enough -- I’m leery of these “best of the decade” arguments, and you could also argue that Ted Williams or Yogi Berra were better than Minoso -- but it’s a good place to start. Minoso hit .306/.400/.476 in the 1950s, led over the decade in doubles and stolen bases and was top five in everything else, won Gold Gloves the first three years of the award, and did all this despite starting his career in the Negro Leagues before Jackie Robinson crossed the color line.

  2. He was a pioneer, the first black baseball player in Chicago -- which, at the time, was perhaps the American center of African American activity. But, unlike Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby and other pioneers, he was also from Cuba and had to deal with a severe language barrier. He handled himself beautifully.

  3. Minoso’s age has been a point of contention for a long time. For a long time, it was thought he did not start with Chicago until he was 28. Now, the case seems to be he was 25. But as people close to Minoso say, “Nobody REALLY knows how old he is.” I think it’s fair to say he certainly overcame a tremendous amount to become an iconic player and a great player.

The stunt stuff late in his career -- pinch-hitting at age 50 and then again at age 54 so he could play in five decades -- was silly but in fun. I’ve heard people say that has kept him from the Hall of Fame, that he made a mockery of the game or something I think that’s absolutely ridiculous.

I guess my overriding point is this: I don’t know if Minnie Minoso is a Hall of Famer. I’d vote for him, but I certainly see the counter argument. But here’s what I would say -- and I say this after spending so much time with Buck O’Neil in his later year: If they are going to put him in, do it while he’s alive. They waited until after Ron Santo was gone, and that was just painful and wrong.

-- Link: I wrote how excited I was going into Game 7 of the Pacers-Heat series because it would put LeBron James in the spotlight, where he would undoubtedly do something epic. He played brilliantly but in truth the whole game was a disappointment. The Pacers simply did not ask compelling questions of the Heat or LeBron and the game was over by halftime. I don’t know how the Spurs will match up with the Heat, but I’m eager to find out.

-- Thought: I don’t normally read crime novels or courtroom novels but someone recommended Defending Jacob: A Novel by William Landay, and I have to say it was pretty great. Well, “great” might not be exactly the right description -- sounds too cheery. It was haunting and engrossing. I can’t get it out of my head.

-- Link: RIP Deacon Jones, the man who invented and perfected the sack.