1997

Cleveland Indians shortstop Jay Bell & MLB’s rookie one-swing wonders

Imagine waiting three years for your one big opportunity. Then imagine knocking it out of the park on the very first pitch.

Jay Bell on 1988 Topps card #637

Jay Bell on 1988 Topps card #637

That’s how the first Major League Baseball swing played out for Cleveland Indians shortstop Jay Bell in 1986 when he connected for a homer off Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven in his first trip to the big league plate.

It turns out that after being called up from the instructional league in September of that year Bell got some solid advice from future Indians manager Mike Hargrove, who advised the struggling hitter on the way to the airport to swing at the first pitch he sees as it would likely be a fastball.

The irony was likely not lost on the baseball fans in attendance that day.

After being taken with the No. 8 overall pick out of high school by the Minnesota Twins in 1984 Bell was part of a minor league package shipped to Cleveland in exchange for Blyleven.

Cleveland also received pitcher Curt Wardle and outfielder Jim Weaver up front in the deal, and later pitcher Rich Yett. The man affectionately known as the Frying Dutchman would go on to help the Twins win a championship in 1987 just as Bell’s career was getting started.

Can you imagine how rare it must be to hit a major league home run off of the first pitch hurled your way?

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The Evolution of Batman in Cinema

A new Batman hits the big screen next year featuring Ben Affleck in the leading role as the Caped Crusader. He’ll follow in the footsteps of a handful of others who’ve put their own unique spin on Bruce Wayne dating back to the 1940s.

Luckily for us there’s someone looming in the shadows who recently felt compelled enough to showcase Batman’s cinematic past in his own way. Jacob T. Swinney has pieced together old footage of all who has worn the cape in movies over the years, helping to bring some perspective to the franchise and the changes it’s endured.

“The Evolution of Batman in Cinema” features a look at the Batman (1943) and Batman and Robin (1949) serial shows that started it all and the Batman: The Movie (1966) release that put the character over the top.

Swinney also includes footage of the nearly three-decade run that followed more than 20 years later including Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), Batman Forever (1995), Batman & Robin (1997), Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and The Lego Movie (2014).

The Evolution of Batman in Cinema from Jacob T. Swinney on Vimeo.

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Four teams remain in Stanley Cup Playoffs and none are from Canada

I hardly have time to care too much about the National Hockey League. There’s just too many other things going on in the world of sports to consume my attention.

But now we’re down to the final four teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That’s reason enough to start paying attention, right?

What’s interesting about the upcoming matchups this weekend is that there’s no hard feelings stemming from previous postseason clashes to help get the excitement brewing. Instead we’ve got one team in the mist of a marginally lengthy Stanley Cup drought and, in comparison, three others still cleaning up confetti from recent triumphs.

On Saturday it’s the top-seeded New York Rangers and the No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning meeting in the Eastern Conference. Sunday it’ll be the No. 1 Anaheim Ducks hosting the No. 3 Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference.

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Kenosha, Wis. is most interesting story in 1st round of NFL Draft

Something unique took place in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday that hasn’t happened since 1997.

When Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes was selected No. 11 overall by the Minnesota Vikings and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon was taken No. 15 by the San Diego Chargers, it marked just the fifth time since 1990 that high school teammates were drafted together in the opening round.

Waynes and Gordon starred on opposite sides of the ball at Bradford High School in Kenosha, Wis., home of Heisman Trophy winner Alan Ameche of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and former NBA All Star Nick Van Exel.

(Click here for a video feature on Waynes and Gordon via Big Ten Network)

The Big Ten rivals are the first set of high school teammates to earn such a distinction since Texas cornerback Bryant Westbrook was drafted No. 5 overall by the Detroit Lions and Nebraska cornerback Michael Booker went No. 11 overall to the Atlanta Falcons. Westbrook and Booker played together at El Camino High School in Oceanside, Calif.

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Let’s be honest, Lawrence Phillips never stood a chance

Lawrence Phillips with the St. Louis Rams and University of Nebraska Cornhuskers

Lawrence Phillips with the St. Louis Rams and University of Nebraska Cornhuskers

Take a quick glance back at the life of Lawrence Phillips and it’s not hard to imagine how he ended up residing in a California prison.

If it was uncontrollable rage that drove Phillips to succeed on the football field, it was fueled by an unsettling mixture of abuse, neglect and a lack of trust in others during his formative years.

When news broke this week accusing the former University of Nebraska, National Football League, NFL Europe, and Canadian Football League running back of murdering a cellmate, you’d have been hard-pressed to find anyone surprised at such allegations.

His rap sheet speaks for itself.

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Playlist: Wu-Tang Clan solo & affiliate compilation (1997-98)

By the time Wu-Tang Forever was released in 1997 the Wu-Tang Clan were the undisputed leaders of a genre otherwise dominated by coastal beefs and southern cocaine rap. Forever reconnected its members for a double CD that showed the group at their peak following a string of standout solo albums, which I compiled into a 26-track collection back in May.

What followed in the wake of that release were a flood of side projects that incorporated countless affiliates of the group and set the stage for a second dose of solo albums from key members. But before those rolled out near the end of 1998, often overlooked projects during the two year period from 1997-98 featured countless tracks worthy of revisiting.

Missing from this compilation is tracks from Sunz of Man The Last Shall Be First (1998) and La The Darkman Heist of the Century (1998) because neither is available on Spotify. Killarmy Dirty Weaponry (1998) was produced by 4th Disciple and Mathematics but does not feature official members. All songs in this list are produced by RZA unless otherwise noted.

Let me know what you think. The third installment will be released before the end of the year.

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Michael Cuddyer Hits For the Cycle For Second Time in MLB Career

It’s hard enough for players to hit for the cycle at least once in their Major League Baseball careers, never mind becoming just one of three big-leaguers ever to do so in both the American and National leagues. What makes the only cycle of the 2014 season so interesting is the familiarity involving a couple players and a pair of games.

Late Sunday night Colorado Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer accomplished the feat with a huge grin on his face when he belted a double down the third base line off of Manny Parra in the eighth inning of a 10-5 win at home over the Cincinnati Reds.

While with the Brewers on May 22, 2009, Parra gave up three of the hits Cuddyer would need for his first cycle (while with the Minnesota Twins) before going on to finish it off at the Metrodome with a triple off of Jorge Julio, who had played for the Rockies two years earlier.

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Random Movie Review: The Best of Times (1986)

When news spread about the passing of Robin Williams on Monday in northern California people of all ages shared memories about what the actor and comedian meant to them over the years.

For me, I’ll always remember Williams for his roles in such movies as World’s Greatest Dad (2009), What Dreams May Come (1998), Good Will Hunting (1997), Jumanji (1995) and Dead Poets Society (1989).

But the first time I remember seeing Williams in a movie was when he played Jack Dundee in The Best of Times (1986). Dundee, a mediocre wide receiver at Midway Union High School in Taft, California dropped the game-winning touchdown pass in the final seconds of a rivalry game in 1972. After 13 years of living in agony as a banker in his blue-collar town, Dundee gets one more shot at hated rival Bakersfield High School.

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