King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Appreciating USC-Notre Dame the old-fashioned way. Plus: White Sox win pennant. How's the weather in Hades?


Salon Staff
October 17, 2005 8:00PM (UTC)

Since entering the world of digital video recorders, I've watched almost nothing in real time. I wait a while to start watching, so I can zip past the commercials and, you know, things like Scooter the talking baseball on Fox.

The downside of this is that it becomes impossible to watch two things at once on the same TV. You really can't flip back and forth when you're lagging behind real time. Stephen Hawking could explain this better than I, but take my word for it.

Advertisement:

So I decided to go old school Saturday and watch the action live because I wanted to see Game 3 of the National League Championship Series and the USC-Notre Dame football game.

Ideally, I'd do what we used to do on October weekends in my house growing up. I'd drag the second TV over next to the main one and watch two things that way. But there are way too many cables and wires connected to a TV these days for that, and anyway the wife, who already thinks I watch a crazy amount of sports, would die of mortification, then have me committed.

I didn't think it would happen this way because the football game started an hour before the baseball game, but USC-Notre Dame managed to be four hours long.

So that amazing football finale, Matt Leinart sneaking into the end zone with the winning touchdown after the home fans in South Bend thought the game had ended on the previous play, coincided with the St. Louis Cardinals' ninth-inning rally against Houston Astros closer Brad Lidge, which fell short.

It brought me back. I'm glad I don't have to do it that way anymore, but there was something deliciously thrilling about bouncing back and forth between channels, watching a pitch, then a play, then a pitch. I felt like an artist, a Miles Davis of the remote control, timing my changes perfectly, improvising, taking chances, feeling the rhythm of the two games in my bones.

The wife is calling some sort of hot line right now.

Advertisement:

It would take Tolstoy to tell the story of that USC-Notre Dame game properly, but I'll leave you in the hands of the Associated Press and of ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski, who called it "one of the greatest games ever played at Notre Dame Stadium (or anywhere, for that matter)."

The Web site's front page headline pointing to Wojciechowski's column dispensed with nuance and simply called it "The Greatest Game Ever Played."

Advertisement:

Not having seen the whole game -- I did record it on the second TV and will watch it when I have time, around Thanksgiving probably -- and not having an encyclopedic knowledge of college grid history, I'm not in a position to argue. From what I did see and do know, I'm not inclined to.

But I do want to give props to USC coach Pete Carroll for playing for a win, not a tie and overtime

When Leinart hit that astonishing 61-yard pass-and-run to Dwayne Jarrett on fourth-and-8, giving the Trojans the ball at the Irish 13 with a little over a minute left, down by three, most coaches would have run the clock down, kicked a field goal and taken their chances in overtime.

Advertisement:

Instead, USC threw incomplete, then ran Reggie Bush to the 7, then Bush again for a first-and-goal at the 2 with 23 seconds left and the clock running after the chains were set. Then came Leinart's rollout and run to the 1. With no timeouts left, USC couldn't stop the clock, which ran down to :00.

The Fighting Irish and their fans thought they'd won, but the officials ruled, correctly, that the hit that stopped Leinart knocked the ball out of his hands, and the fumble out of bounds should have stopped the clock. They put seven seconds back on, which was a mistake. The play actually ended with 10 seconds to go.

At that point, I can't think of a coach who wouldn't have wiped his brow, congratulated himself for dodging a bullet by taking such risks, kicked a field goal and gone to overtime. Carroll said he never considered a game-tying chip shot. He went for the win and he got it.

Advertisement:

I don't know if it was a smart move or not, but it worked, and it was great for college football. As entertaining as college football's overtime is, its flaw is the way it encourages teams to play it safe and go for the tie at the end of close games.

Teams other than USC, that is. As annoying as the Trojans' marching band is, playing that same fanfare over and over every Saturday, that win was just that great.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Advertisement:

White Sox win the pennant [PERMALINK]

If you're going to pitch like that, you can give away all the outs you want with your little bunts and steal attempts.

The Chicago White Sox won the American League pennant Sunday night by beating the Los Angeles Angeles 6-3 to take the League Championship Series four games to one. Jose Contreras threw a complete game for the victory, the fourth straight for a Chicago starter.

The last time the White Sox went to the World Series was in 1959, so that's a wow. The last time a team got four straight complete games in the postseason was in 1956. That's a shazam.

Advertisement:

For all the talk of smallball this and move the runner over that and playing baseball the right way by keeping pressure on the opposing hurler, the White Sox got to the playoffs with pitching and they're winning in the playoffs with pitching.

The White Sox now await the winner of the National League Championship Series, which the Houston Astros lead over the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 after wins at home Saturday and Sunday. Game 5 is Monday night in Houston. With a win the Astros would have the first pennant in their 44-year history.

The White Sox led the league in earned-run average, by a whisker over Cleveland, and were a very, very close third in overall runs scored, just behind the Indians and Angels, who also got this far with an average offense and very good pitching.

In a league in which the average team scored 4.76 runs a game -- and the below-average Chicago offense scored 4.57 -- the Sox and Angels both held opponents under four. In the division series Chicago held the Boston Red Sox, the game's highest-scoring team, to nine runs in three games.

Advertisement:

In the ALCS, the White Sox turned the Angels' bats to sawdust. Eleven runs in five games, 27 hits, a team average of .175 and an OPS of .466. The Angels are hardly a murderer's row, but against Chicago it was like they had nine pitchers hitting in every game.

Their slugger was Orlando Cabrera, who went 4-for-20, a .200 average, with a double and a homer. Vladimir Guerrero looked like Mario Guerrero, only without all that hitting.

And the Sox did it with their relief pitchers tied behind their backs. Well, not behind their backs, but on vacation. They got two outs in the Game 1 loss, then spent the rest of the series making sure their chairs didn't fall over backwards when they leaned back. The biggest worry the Chicago bullpen had was sore butts.

Angels fans spent their three home games, all losses, booing the umpires. They did get screwed on a call in Game 2 in Chicago, though the Angels weren't blameless in the dropped-third-strike incident. They got another bum deal in Game 4 Saturday when the umps missed a catcher's interference against Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski -- the batter in the Game 2 incident -- that would have prevented an inning-ending double play.

Advertisement:

And in Game 5 they groused again when Pierzynski -- again -- was ruled safe at first after having been called out when pitcher Kelvim Escobar tagged him with his glove, which didn't have the ball in it. The ultimate ruling was correct that time, though.

But even the Angels admit that the umps can only do so much. The Angels took a beating at the hands of the White Sox's arms. "I've never seen four horses like that that come out of the gate," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia and Contreras. "You might have to go back to Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, that group, or the group Baltimore had in, I guess, '66."

Actually, you'd have to go back to the 1956 New York Yankees, who had five straight complete games in the World Series, one of them a perfect game by Don Larsen. But let's not quibble.

No team has ever gone as long between World Series appearances as the White Sox have with their 46-year gap, though the White Sox themselves came close by going 40 years between their last two, in 1919 and '59. And while it isn't technically the same thing because it isn't between World Series, 43 years is an awful long time for Houston fans to wait.

Even the Red Sox, for all their futility since 1918, never went more than 28 years between pennants. The Chicago Cubs, at 60 years and counting, will break their crosstown rivals' record with their next pennant.

So it might stand forever.

The Cardinals are also having their problems with the men no longer in blue. Manager Tony La Russa and, incredibly, center fielder Jim Edmonds got themselves thrown out of Game 4 Sunday for arguing balls and strikes with ump Phil Cuzzi, who must have some idea what his strike zone is, but gives no clues with his calls.

And while Edmonds had a good case, and an umpire has no business throwing a player out in the eighth inning of a postseason game if that player isn't going nuts, the umps aren't costing the Cardinals either. Score five runs in three games and the umpires can't even help you if you pay them, even if you're pitching pretty well yourselves.

I've got five bucks that says you'll hear in the next 24 hours that only two teams -- out of 10, though you might not hear that part -- have ever squandered a 3-1 lead in the NLCS since it went to best-of-seven in 1985: the 2003 Cubs and the 1996 Cardinals. Another fin says someone on television will call one of those teams being the Cardinals "ironic." Double or nothing on the sawbuck that it'll be phrased this way: "Ironically enough ..."

If you're keeping score, teams that have taken a 3-1 lead in the ALCS have won 11 out of 14 times. That includes the 2004 Yankees, who blew a 3-0 lead, of course, but along the way led 3-1, this year's White Sox, who did better with their 3-1 lead, and -- ironically enough! -- the Angels, who blew a 3-1 lead in 1986.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

  • Bookmark http://www.salon.com/sports to get the new Kaufman column every day.
  • Discuss this column and the sports news of the day in Table Talk.
  • Send an e-mail to King Kaufman.
  • To receive the Sports Daily Newsletter, send an e-mail to kingnewsletter@salon.com.


  • Salon Staff

    MORE FROM Salon Staff



    Fearless journalism
    in your inbox every day

    Sign up for our free newsletter

    • • •