The Problem With Tom Brady

By Michael LeCompte

Tom Brady will start his record seventh Super Bowl when the Patriots take on the Falcons in Houston on Sunday and he will be looking for his record-setting fifth ring. Conventional sports wisdom and certainly the sports media have been applying “the greatest ever” tag to Brady for some time now.

There’s a big problem with that line of thinking though.

The problem with Brady is that he lacks that signature win. Sure, it could be argued that any Super Bowl win is a signature and Brady has four of them, but he fails to capture the hearts of fans and the essence of the game the way Bradshaw and Montana-the two other quarterbacks with four Super Bowl wins-ever did.

Brady is really nothing more than a cog in New England’s winning machine-he’s a system guy. The Patriots are going to spread it out and throw it quickly to several different receivers, while mixing in a consistent run game. Whoever the quarterback is in that system will thrive as long as they stay upright (as we saw this year with Jimmy Garropollo and even Jacoby Brissett under center early in the season). Brady’s biggest asset throughout his career has been his ability to stay healthy.

Bradshaw won his four Super Bowls in the 1970’s, playing in some classic playoff games and epic Super Bowl shootouts against Roger Staubach’s Cowboys. Beloved now for his goofy, grandfatherly, down-home wisdom, Bradshaw had several signature wins (the “immaculate reception” game and a brilliant 4TD performance in his fourth Super Bowl among them).

Along the way to his four Super Bowls Joe Montana had countless signature wins. He didn’t always put up the gaudy stats that Brady does, but when the pressure was on Joe Cool delivered. “The Catch” game stands out and his comeback win performance against Cincinnati is still probably the best Super Bowl ever.

These performances were in the past, though, and it’s a win now, instant-replay world that Brady lives in, but even there he doesn’t win with heart and passion. Some of Brady’s contemporaries may have less rings, but they already have several signature wins.

Aaron Rodgers still only has one ring, but he’s got enough Hail Mary bombs and clutch-performances to last two careers.

Russell Wilson is another guy who seems to make at least one play every Sunday (that usually involves escaping pressure from multiple defenders, running about 50 yards back and forth behind the line of scrimmage before deftly delivering the ball downfield) that illustrate the amount of heart he plays with.

After his first five seasons Wilson already has more signature wins than Brady-the epic 16 point comeback against the Packers in the 2015 NFC Championship chief among them.

When fans think about Brady’s four Super Bowl wins he doesn’t stand out, rather some clutch kicks by Adam Vinatieri in the early years and the Seahawks throwing the game away more recently endure.

Brady’s enduring moments were not achieved with heart and are judicial, rather than athletic. The infamous “Tuck Rule” ultimately started the Brady dynasty when an obscure rule (Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2) determined that his fumble wasn’t really a fumble. (The rule has since been discarded by the NFL).

The other enduring moment of Brady’s career has been Deflategate. Forever tarnishing his legacy and causing him to miss the first four games of this season, Brady reportedly used it as motivation to get back to the Super Bowl. This misplaced motivation should not be viewed as heart, though, rather it’s Brady getting mad at everyone else because he was caught cheating.

Brady is part of a ruthlessly efficient winning machine in New England. Unfortunately machines don’t have hearts. He may earn his fifth ring on Sunday and move past Bradshaw and Montana in the record books, but Brady will find that a fist full of rings doesn’t equal the heart of a champion.

5 Ridiculous Facts About Super Bowl 51

By Michael LeCompte

As the Super Bowl nears it’s hard for most fans to think of a matchup between two teams they could possibly care less about. This fact became evident this week when the NFL announced that ticket prices were dropping to their lowest cost levels in years for the big game in Houston. Despite the less-than-marquee matchup, though, there is still plenty of ridiculous surrounding the game.

  1. The NFL might like to advertise that ticket prices are lower this year, but the cheapest seat available at RNG Stadium on Sunday is still $2,700 and the average price is $4,744. What makes these figures ridiculous is that fans will still pay that price. What makes them even more ridiculous is the fact that the most expensive ticket for the first Super Bowl or (AFL-NFL Championship as it was originally called) was $12.
  2. Of course maybe these ticket prices aren’t so ridiculous when one considers that player’s salaries must be paid. In 1967, the year of the first Super Bowl the average player salary was $25,000. In 2016 the league minimum was 450,000 and the average player earned $2.11 million.
  3. Super Bowl LI. The roman numerals the NFL insists on sticking with for the Super Bowl are definitely ridiculous. It’s obvious the league’s product-the game of football-is here to stay, there’s no need to number the championship games anymore. MLB has the World Series every year-no numbers. The NBA has the Finals-no numbers. It’s time the NFL just held the Super Bowl every year, instead of a history and math lesson.
  4. Super Bowl hype rises exponentially every year as the NFL tries to outdo itself. This year’s attempt is 360 degree replay with a virtual camera at any position on the field to broadcast “be the player” replays.
  5. Johnny Football Takes Houston: perhaps the most ridiculous aspect of Super Bowl week was Johnny Manziel showing up to sign autographs and take selfies with fans-for a price. The former Texas A&M star was reportedly charging $50 per selfie-a claim he denied. A minor celebrity showing up to grab publicity in his home state wouldn’t be that ridiculous if Manziel weren’t attempting an NFL comeback. Perhaps posing with fans is how he is showing teams he’s serious about re-taking the field.

The NFL’s First Playoff Game

By Michael LeCompte

It’s hard to believe now amidst the hype and the NFL Networks 24/7 playoff coverage from Wild Card weekend to Super Bowl Sunday, but there wasn’t always a playoff in the NFL. Since its inception in 1920 the league champion was based on the regular season standings. The team with the best record was declared champion, simple as that, no extra games were played, no other team could challenge their record.

This system worked fine for the first twelve years of the NFL, however, in 1932 two teams ended the season with identical records. The Chicago Bears and the Portsmouth Spartans (who would later become the Detroit Lions) both finished with six wins. It was determined that a one game playoff would be held to crown a champion.

Originally set to be contested at Wrigley Field the game was ultimately moved indoors to the new Chicago Stadium on December 18, 1932, due to inclement weather. To make the game work in the arena the field was shortened to 80 yards and field goals were banned.

Playing with new rules and on a surface described as “mulch” the game, played in front of a capacity crowd of 11,198 fans, was a struggle. The Bears scored the lone touchdown that afternoon when Bronco Nagurski connected with Red Grange. Chicago would tack on a safety and won the game 9-0.

While it certainly wasn’t the most exciting game, this first, humble playoff experiment was significant for the NFL and spawned several rule changes before the 1933 season.

After Portsmouth contested the legality of Nagurski’s touchdown toss the forward pass became legal to throw from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage (previously the quarterback had to drop back beyond a minimum of 5 yards).

The league also split into two divisions before the 1933 season, with the winners of each(best record not counting ties) to meet in a one game playoff to determine the league champion.

The game was also the first major football game played indoors.

The NFL naturally expanded over the years, adding teams, divisions, and merging into a 32 team marketing juggernaut, with a 12 team, month-long “second season” playoff format.

From that “mulched” arena to the frozen tundra of Green Bay and now Jerry Jones’ “Palace in Dallas” the playoffs, like the game of football itself-have evolved.


The Origins of Athletic Eye Black

By Michael LeCompte

It has become part of the modern athletic uniform-neat black lines beneath the eyes or smeared all over the face like an ancient warrior of yesteryear-eye black. What is the reason for this athletic custom, though? Who first thought it would be a good idea to rub grease on their face before playing a game? Does the modern athlete don eye black to look cool and instill fear in their opponent, or are the supposed glare-reducing properties of eye black that significant?

Babe Ruth smeared burnt cork under his eyes before afternoon games as early as the 1920’s-reportedly to reduce irritating glare while playing hungover. However, Andy Farkas (1916-2001), a football player in the 1940’s is considered the father of athletic eye black.

andy_farkasBorn in Toledo, Ohio Farkas was such a gridiron star at St. Johns High that when the family moved to Detroit the Priests at his old school called the University of Detroit Jesuit High and made sure they had a spot on the football team for him.

After high school Farkas starred at the University of Detroit Mercy. In 1938 he was drafted by the Washington Redskins. As a halfback and wide receiver he was quick-footed and sure-handed. From 1938-1944 he amassed 2,103 rushing yards, 1,086 receiving yards, and scored 37  touchdowns.

A solid, hard-nosed player typical of the early NFL Farkas touched the football 774 times during his career and remarkably only fumbled once. During the 1942 season he was photographed playing while wearing eye black (this photo is believed to be the first instance of eye black being worn in the NFL). Farkas retired in 1945 after playing one season with Detroit.

Eye black has evolved with sport in America and is now ubiquitous from high school to the pros. Gone, though, are the burnt cork days of Ruth or Farkas, as today’s eye black is a beeswax and paraffin concoction. Modern athletes also have the option of applying their eye black in breathable synthetic strips.

In perhaps the greatest sign that eye black has become ingrained in sport and culture is that multiple universities have studied it. Both Yale and the University of New Hampshire have conducted studies on the real-world problem of whether eye black is effective or not.

The New Hampshire study found that eye black reduced glare the greatest in females and those subjects that did not have blue eyes. Yale found that eye black does indeed reduce glare (although to what extent is still debated).

Athletes looking for an edge or to intimidate will continue to smear on the eye black-whether it makes a difference or not. In the process the career of an early NFL great will continue to be indirectly celebrated.

A tin of Original Farkas Eye Black sells for $14.95 online.

The Curse of the Billy Goat

By Michael LeCompte

The Chicago Cubs are finally in the World Series. The franchise notably hasn’t won the Series since 1908 and hasn’t even been there since 1945. Of course the Cubbies have been close before over the past 70 years, but always came up just short, often collapsing spectacularly in the playoffs.

Fans and even some players over the years have attributed this century of futility to the curse of the billy goat.

Like any good sports legend the origin and true intent of the curse-or if it even happened at all-is shrouded in mystery.

According to legend the curse dates back to game four of the 1945 World Series when Billy Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern, was asked to leave his goat outside the gates because its smell was offending other fans. Although it is unknown what words were exchanged between Sianis and ticket-takers that day, fans supposedly heard the disgruntled fan mumble, “them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”

Sianis’ own family claimed for years that he respectfully led his goat away from the stadium gates, but later sent a telegram to the Wrigley family-who owned the team. The telegram read: “You are going to lose this World Series and you are never going to win another World Series again. You are never going to win a World Series again because you insulted my goat.” Whether that amounts to a curse, or is the rant of a discouraged fan is debatable.

The legend of the curse was born almost immediately when an account of the goat being turned away at the gate appeared in the next day’s Chicago Sun newspaper on October 7, 1945. The news story claims that the goat was refused entry to the stadium and that Sianis simply tied him to a stake in the parking lot and went in and enjoyed the game.

Whether Sianis slapped a curse on the Cubs or not, the futility and postseason collapses have been real for Chicago fans. A curse can become a convenient excuse over the years and is certainly fun to speculate about, but unfortunately the only curse the Cubs have been  under is a lack of talent-or of enough talent to win when it truly matters-October.

2016 was finally the Cubs’ year, they were good from start to finish-winning 103 games with a good mix of key veterans, several young superstars, and an unconventional, seasoned manager.

This Cubs team is reminiscent of another team that broke a famous baseball curse (the Red Sox) and that was also put together by current Chicago GM Theo Epstein. Those self described “idiots” in Boston that year certainly didn’t care about the ghost of the Babe and one gets the impression the 2016 Cubs aren’t dwelling on stories of goats.

Of course, if any fans do still believe in the curse they could point to the fact that Sianis never said that the Cubs would never go to the World Series again, just that they would never win it.

Sports legends-curses even-are fun, but the fact is there never was a curse of the Billy Goat and the Cubs are finally, legitimately good enough to prove it.

The Weird World of Extreme Ironing

By Michael LeCompte

In 1997 a London factory worker named Phil Shaw came home from work and realized the need to iron clothes for the rest of the week would prevent him from going rock climbing that evening. Not to be kept from his love of the outdoors, Shaw moved his ironing board into the backyard garden and enjoyed a pleasant evening ironing outdoors, and the extreme sport of ironing was invented.

A seemingly endless array of new sports or new twists on old games have sprung up over the past twenty years. Apparently slapping the word “extreme” on a leisure activity-or in the case of ironing-a chore, makes it more exciting and possibly even a sport. This extreme phenomenon encompasses a variety of activities from eating to jet skiing, wood-chopping, and now ironing.


Extreme ironing is just that-ironing. Participants must iron a garment or some article of clothing while outside, usually while engaged in another activity-such as running, driving, rock climbing, or scuba diving.

According to the Extreme Ironing Bureau, “extreme ironing is the latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt.”

Despite a 2004 Rowenta Tour across the U.S. to promote the sport, extreme ironing has yet to really catch on in America. (Although the first formal American chapter of the Extreme Ironing Bureau was formed in 2013) A rather tongue-in-cheek debate rages among extreme ironers and novices as to whether the activity is indeed an extreme sport, or merely a performance art.

From a cynical American perspective-where we are used to the multi billion dollar enterprises of mainstream professional sports-extreme ironing may not seem the least bit real. However, the sport has a governing body, a tour series, and professionals.

Phil “Steam” Shaw came out of retirement after an eleven year absence from the sport he created in 2012 and ran a half marathon with an ironing board strapped to his chest, ironing along the way.

Extreme ironing has been the subject of a documentary and has been featured on ESPN. However, whether it is a sport/activity with staying power, or if it is ever able to crack the mainstream sports market remains to be seen.

In the meantime it is something that the average person can do, regardless of physical prowess. The next time you need to iron think about moving your pressing game from the laundry room to the great outdoors. We can’t all be Tom Brady or Mike Trout, but we can be champions of the extreme.

10-10: 50 Years Later

By Michael LeCompte

When Notre Dame and Michigan State clash on the gridiron on Saturday night it will be the latest installment in a football series that dates back to 1897. It’s a rivalry game featuring two storied football programs. Throughout the years there have been some memorable meetings between the two schools, but none have been bigger, than the 1966 edition that ended in a tie.

Fifty years later the game is considered one of the finest college football games ever and the ending is still controversial and hotly debated among two loyal fan bases.

Coming into the game Notre Dame was 8-0 and ranked #1, Michigan State was 9-0 and ranked #2. Something had to give that afternoon in East Lansing, but when the final whistle blew nothing was settled.

ABC did not have the Fighting Irish and the Spartans on their schedule that Saturday, but in the week leading up to the game some 50,000 letters-from supporters of both schools-poured into the network’s offices and led to them televising the game nationally. The game was also the first football game that was ever broadcast in Vietnam, where it was shown to American troops.

The game was a hard-fought defensive affair through all four quarters. Michigan State knocked Notre Dame starting quarterback Terry Hanratty out of the game in the first quarter and took an early 10-0 lead.

Notre Dame eventually tied the game at 10 in the second half and got the ball at it’s own 30 yard line with 1:10 to play. In an offensive series that delighted, bewildered, and has drawn speculation and conspiracy for 50 years now, Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian then ran the clock out.

Ties are wholly unsatisfying. As fans we hate them. They almost seem un-American. We need someone or some team to lose and we need clearly defined winners-it’s the American way.

The notion that Parseghian played for the tie started swirling when the game ended and hasn’t stopped since. With the tie Notre Dame went on to finish the season undefeated and capture the national title. It could be argued that the tie was essentially as good as a win for the Irish because it kept them in contention for the title, while a loss would have paved the way for Alabama to finish the season #1.

Parseghian defended his decision then and still does now. Speaking this week to the Chicago Tribune, the now 93 year old former coach says, “we didn’t go for a tie; the game ended in a tie. Christ somebody ought to wake up to that.”

While the ending of the game seems disappointing it must be put into the context of its time and of the state of football in 1966. While 1:10 seems like enough time to cover the roughly 40 yards Notre Dame needed to get into field goal range for the win, the game was different back then. Teams didn’t launch the ball downfield seemingly at will, football was still a run-first affair. Kickers also weren’t as deadly accurate from long-distance as they are today, kicking for the win was much more of a risky proposition then than it is now.

What is also overlooked when critics claim Parseghian played for the tie is that Notre Dame was down to its backup quarterback, backup running back, and second string center. Those three players are pivotal for the success of any football team’s offense. For three reserves to move a team 40-70 yards for the winning field goal or touchdown is probably impossible.

While the lack of resolution may have stung in 1966, the 10-10 tie that fall afternoon has endured, for everyone involved-players, coaches, and fans-far longer than a win in favor of either team ever would have.



2016 NFL Preview

By Michael LeCompte

Every sports news outlet and publication has offered up its insider, in-depth analysis of every NFL team in the last month to get us ready for the season opener this Sunday. All of that analysis is wholly unnecessary, though, because while the NFL loves to declare that parity among its franchises has never been greater, there are really only about six teams with a legitimate shot to make the Super Bowl.

So, here’s a brief preview of the top storylines heading into the 2016 NFL season, a look at two teams (one from each conference that could surprise), and the six teams that have a realistic shot at reaching the Super Bowl.

The Storylines:

Tom Brady: He finally accepted his punishment for Deflategate and will sit out the first four weeks of the season. Football fans across the country see this as justice finally being served, while in Boston Saint Tom is now a true martyr. Whether he was guilty of anything, or whether the league overreacted with a heavy-hand doesn’t matter. The reality of the situation is that Brady finally chose to stop fighting and serve his four games because the Patriots open the season with games against Arizona, Miami, Houston, and Buffalo. New England should be able to start 3-1 and not miss a beat without Brady. It’s Jimmy Garoppolo time in New England now-for four weeks anyway-but remember, before Bledsoe went down nobody had ever heard of Brady either. A decade from now we might just be talking about Garoppolo the Great.

Colin Kaepernick: The for-now backup quarterback in San Francisco is a story as the season starts, but not for his national anthem protests which have dominated sports media recently. Kap’s fading football career (at least in San Francisco) is the real story this season. Here was a young guy who along with Newton and Wilson was ready to revolutionize the league. He went to one Super Bowl and was a Richard Sherman tipped pass away from another and then…nothing. While he could still probably outrun half of the NFL Kaepernick failed to develop as a passer and now finds himself on the bench.

Whether Kaepernick works his way back onto the field-in San Francisco or anywhere else will be a storyline to watch this season.

Teams To Watch

Every season a couple of teams seem to surprise and become competitive and perhaps even make the playoffs. In 2016 those teams are Oakland and Minnesota.

Oakland: The Raiders have been downright terrible for over a decade now. However, they are a young, talented team and with Manning gone in Denver their division is suddenly up for grabs. Oakland has the pieces in place for a dominant defense with a shutdown secondary and the offseason addition of Bruce Irvin at linebacker should help. With a little more consistent play on offense from quarterback Derek Carr the Raiders could snag a Wild Card playoff berth.

Minnesota: The Vikings made the playoffs as a Wild Card last year and were a shanked field goal away from upsetting Seattle. Expectations were high this year until Teddy Bridgewater tore up his knee. Most pundits feel the NFC North belongs to Green Bay now. The Vikings still possess a dominant, top-ten defense, though, as well as an explosive running game led by Adrian Peterson. While the signing of Sam Bradford at QB may not have thrilled fans, it could work. Bradford inherits a team that features a quarterbacks two best friends (the aforementioned running game and defense). Bradford doesn’t have to be brilliant for the Vikings playoff hopes to be alive and well.

The Legitimate Contenders

AFC: The Patriots are still the team to beat in the AFC. Brady, Belichick, Gronkowski, and company should dominate their weak AFC East schedule again, and are probably the AFC Super Bowl favorites.

Pittsburgh: If the Steelers-especially Roethlisberger-stay healthy they could challenge the Patriots for AFC supremacy. Always stout on defense Pittsburgh now has the explosive offense to put them over the top. Mike Tomlin’s penchant for going for two rather than kicking the now 33 yard extra point should also pay off over the season.

NFC: The NFC field is fairly crowded with four teams that could make it to Houston’s RNG Stadium in February.

Carolina: The Panthers went 15-1 last year and made the Super Bowl, yet they still don’t get the press or respect that most dominant teams do. Carolina should be just as good this season, perhaps even better with the return of big-play receiver Kelvin Benjamin.

Arizona: The Cardinals have a deep, shut-down defense and an explosive offense. This team has a lot of potential, but it will only go as far as Carson Palmer takes them. Arizona made the NFC Championship game last year before Palmer imploded. A more consistent year from their quarterback and Arizona could easily be in the big game.

Green Bay: It seems as though Green Bay has gotten preseason Super Bowl hype for about the past five years now, before being beset by injuries and forgetting to play defense. Rodgers and company should put up over thirty points a game yet again, but coming up with enough stops on defense could be an issue once more.

Seattle: The Seahawks have had the NFL’s top-ranked defense for four straight seasons now-a rare feat. How long the Legion of Boom can stay on top remains to be seen, but with the emergence of the Hawks’ offense into a top-ten unit last season, they don’t need to be as dominant as they have been. Seattle can now beat opponents in multiple ways-by shutting them down defensively, or overwhelming them offensively-which could equal another Super Bowl for Seattle.

There it is, a brief 2016 NFL preview for the casual fan. I will hold off on making some bold Super Bowl prediction due to the possibility of shredded knees, locker room discord, contract disputes, drug suspensions, and domestic violence charges. However, look for one of these six teams-New England, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Arizona, Green Bay, or Seattle- to hoist the Lombardi trophy come February.

The Rematch

By Michael LeCompte

Curry/LeBron II tips off on Thursday night and for the second straight year the NBA Finals are set to showcase the two best players in the league.

Last year the storylines going into the Finals were Curry, LeBron, and the Championship fates of two long-suffering franchises. The sharp-shooting “Splash Bros” of Curry and Klay Thompson prevailed and Golden State captured its first title in 40 years.

This year Curry and LeBron are again the headliners, but unlike last season Cleveland is now healthy enough to compete against the Warriors. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are healthy and ready to support LeBron and Cleveland is poised to win its first major sports Championship since the Johnson administration (the Browns won the NFL Championship in 1964).

Why Cleveland will win:

LeBron is the best all-around player the NBA has seen since Michael Jordan. He can score, defend, and he is big and physical. The only thing he hasn’t done extremely well is win in the Finals. “King James” is making his 6th consecutive trip to the Finals, yet he only has rings on two fingers.

This year could be different, though. LeBron came home two years ago to win a Championship in and for Cleveland and he has shown something beyond the impressive numbers this season-hunger. The one knock on LeBron throughout his career has been his mental toughness. When the games got hard, especially in the Finals, when his shooting touch ran cold, he often shrugged or threw his hands in the air, or started complaining to the refs.

Not so this year. Perhaps incensed by falling short to the Warriors last season and then having to watch them march through the regular season, winning a record 73 games, he has played with a hungry urgency, almost refusing to let his team down. This newfound hunger after twelve years in the league should serve the Cavaliers well in the Finals during those inevitable moments when Golden State seemingly can’t miss from beyond the arc.

Why Golden State will win:

Of course, the Finals still must be played and the Warriors won’t roll over for a suddenly hungry LeBron. After their record-setting regular season the playoffs have been anything but a cakewalk for Golden State. Perhaps that is what this historically good team needed, though, and why they just might repeat as champs.

The regular season looked ridiculously easy for Curry and company and until they were finally tested in the playoffs-falling behind 3-1 to the Thunder-it was unsure if this team had the resiliency to repeat.

The criticism of the Warriors is that they don’t play a good brand of basketball, that they are nothing more than a bunch of sharpshooters, willing and able to pick opponents apart from long-range without getting physical inside. Perhaps after winning it all last season they weren’t really hungry until the Oklahoma City series, but when they fell behind big in the Conference Finals, when every game became an elimination game for them, they dug deep and found a way to pull it out. That resiliency proved that as a team Golden State does indeed have the collective heart of a champion.

Toss Up:

Curry is healthy and the Warriors seem to have righted themselves in time for the Finals. The “Splash Bros” continue to launch from long-range and Golden State still has one of the deepest benches in the league.

LeBron has a healthy complement of sidekicks this time around and is shooting 55% from the field in the playoffs. As a team the Cavaliers have only lost twice in the playoffs and-perhaps taking a page from the Warrior’s playbook-have been relying on the three-pointer along the way.

The Pick:

Curry vs. LeBron II, the Rematch, is the perfect Championship matchup. It’s the showdown sports fans love, the two best players in the game-at the top of their games, in their primes-for the title.

This time, though, LeBron should have enough help to get it done and end Cleveland’s 52 year title drought.

The Pick: Cleveland in 7 games.

The Best That Could Have Been

By Michael LeCompte

Playing hurt used to be a part of the game of baseball and Dodgers outfielder Pete Reiser was one of the best at taking the field injured-even if he’d have to be carried off it.

Harold Patrick (Pete) Reiser (1919-1981) excelled at baseball, basketball, football, and bowling as a child. Although he dreamed of playing football for Notre Dame he signed with the Dodgers in 1938 at the age of 19 for $100.

A natural athlete, Reiser’s 5’10” 185 pound frame was built for speed and power and by 1939 he was playing for the Dodgers Class A affiliate in Elmira, New York.

Reiser was first bitten with the injury bug that would dog him for the rest of his career while batting .373 with Elmira. He felt a sharp pain in his arm while making a throw from centerfield. He stayed in the game-and then played for the next two weeks, ignoring the pain until it became unbearable. After finally going to a Doctor it was revealed that he’d fractured a bone in his right arm.

1941 was Reiser’s first full season in the majors and his best. He managed to stay healthy and won the National League batting title as the Dodgers captured the pennant.


After the season Reiser tried to join the Navy, but was classified 4-F.

Reiser started the 1943 season at a .356 clip until he ran head first into the cement wall in center at Ebbets field chasing down what would eventually be an inside-the-park home run. Although he failed to make the catch Reiser did manage to locate the ball and fire it to the infield before losing consciousness. When his teammates got to him blood was pouring out of a crack in Reiser’s skull. He would will himself back into the lineup a few days later, but would really never be the same player again.

Following the 1943 season Reiser successfully enlisted in the Army and played baseball at several military bases. When he dislocated his shoulder during one game he simply started throwing left-handed and stayed in the game, day after day.

Reiser re-joined the Dodgers following World War II, but played in constant pain as his shoulder popped in and out of place. His 1946 season was ultimately cut short when he fractured his fibula.

In 1947, following another head first collision with an outfield wall, Reiser was administered the Last Rites and lay unconscious in the hospital for four days.

Reiser continued to play-mostly as a bench player-for parts of five more seasons. Over twelve, usually injury-shortened seasons he hit .295 with 786 hits and 368 RBI.

Although the numbers aren’t impressive by today’s standards they do show the promise, and ultimately, the sadness of a career that could have been. Reiser was a gifted natural athlete with speed and power who many baseball pundits believe would have been a comparable talent to Willie Mays if not for the injuries. As his one time manager Leo Durocher said of Reiser, “he had everything but luck.”

After retiring as a player Reiser enjoyed a minor league managing career with the Dodgers, Cubs, and Angels.

Reiser played hard, fast, and usually, hurt. In an age before million dollar contracts and cutting-edge sports medicine when only death would put a player on the DL.

As fans we love it when our superstars gut out a win. However, for every Kirk Gibson hobbling around the bases or Schilling and his bloody sock, there’s an unsung hero of the game, someone like Pete Reiser, playing with reckless abandon for the love of the game.