Who am I?

I'm from Houston, a graduate of the University of Texas, a fan of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans. But this blog will be about the "greater sports", whatever that means.

Follow me on Twitter: @lhd_on_sports


LHD_PotW (629) MLB (185) NFL (165) NCAA (129) NFL Playoffs (73) NBA (70) NHL (64)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sportsman of the Week Ending 8/23/2015

An outstanding individual game effort stood above the rest this week.  Houston Astros recent acquisition pitcher Mike Fiers, not necessarily a household name, pitched the fifth no-hitter of 2015 in shutting out the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday August 21.  Starting with a lot of pitches and a few walks early in the game, Fiers looked improbable to even get through the sixth inning.  Then he got in a groove, retiring the last 21 batters in order blowing away the Dodgers with fastballs up in the zone.  Nary a close call was seen, just one warning track drive easily cradled by RF Jake Marisnick.  Fiers finished his first complete game with 134 pitches.  It was the first Astros home (and complete game) no-hitter in 22 years, their last was in 2003 combined against the New York Yankees.  Fiers etches his name in baseball history, and our Sportsman of the Week!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sportsman of the Week Ending 8/16/2015

The PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin wrapped up the PGA's "major" season and this week's sportsman set it on fire.  Australian Jason Day notched the best scoring tournament in a major ever.  Better than Tiger ever did, better than Jack, he Golden Bear, Jones, you name it.  Finishing at 20 under par, Day seemed to never miss a shot.  With two-time 2015 major winner Jordan Spieth breathing down his neck all day Sunday, he continually kept he (and other significant challengers) at bay.  And many remember Day's challenges at the U.S. Open, where he battled vertigo over the weekend, collapsing to the ground at one point, and eventually finishing and impressive 9th when many thought he would have to withdraw.  Day had completed six of the last 19 majors in the Top 5.  This time, he finished number one.  Golf has another deserving major winner, our Sportsman of the Week!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Sportsman of the Week Ending 8/9/2015

Major League Baseball is in crunch time, and some teams are beginning to look like contenders.  One of those teams is the Toronto Blue Jays.  And their MVP candidate Josh Donaldson.  In what is becoming more and more of an absolute steal, the Jays got their slugger in the offseason via trade.  This week, Donaldson went 10-26 with 5 HR and 2 2B.  The best stat was that the Blue Jays went 7-0.  Sweeping the Wild Card contending Minnesota Twins and American League East division leading New York Yankees (in the Bronx).  Playing well is one thing, leading your team to big wins is another.  All of the above adds up to Josh Donaldson being our Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Fan's Guide to National Baseball Hall of Fame Weekend

It somewhat goes without saying that visiting the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, New York, is a must see for serious, or even casual baseball fans.  The amount of memories, memorabilia, sounds, sights, and history of the game present makes one truly hear the echoes of the crack of the bat and snap of the glove.  The museum averages approximately 300,000 fans per year, impressive given that it's not in a major city that would draw a lot of walk-in traffic.  But if there is one weekend that takes the regular experience and puts life and emotion to it, it's Hall of Fame induction weekend in late July.  I had the opportunity to experience one of the great induction classes of all time in 2015, with Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz  were enshrined as the first four person elected class since 1955.

I start off by saying the weekend met and exceeded all my expectations.  Packed into two days in town, it all went by so fast but memories will last a lifetime.  I offer the below memories, thoughts, advice, and perspective as a personal diary of the fun along with a guide for other fans.

1.  The more inductees the better

Having gone in a banner year for inductees, the dynamics of a diverse fan base added to the experience.  Far and away, fans from Houston dominated the crowd.  Having waiting 50 years of franchise history to have a player that was inducted, they (or shall I say "we") went all in. Dominican Republic nationals also showed up en mass (mainly on Sunday) to support the second Dominican player inducted in the Hall's history (Juan Marichal the first).  Larger classes would also tend to attract more of the enshrined Hall of Famers to attend.  You can bet as many as possible make plans to return, but the larger the hype, the better chance of seeing more of the living greats.  This weekend drew over 50 greats from Whitey Ford (class of 1974) to Frank Thomas (class of 2014).  With a number of good players on upcoming ballots, there should be strong classes for the next five years (think Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Jim Thome).

Astros fans lined the streets for Craig Biggio

Dominican Republic fans support their inductee Pedro Martinez

2.  Plan key activities, but allow free time to take it all in

The weekend includes activities on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.  If you try to do only events, you'll miss some of the fun of the spontaneity of the weekend.  While the smallish shops around town are completely overwhelmed, many bring their wares to the streets allowing fans to simply walk up and down and check it out.  There are a number of small bars and pubs to pop in and grab a pint.  On this particular weekend, Tony Gwynn's widow brought in some of his brews he had been working shortly before his depth.  For this weekend only, .394 beer was stocked and we partook.  In this bar we also saw former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone just relaxing and talking with fans.  Up and down the street you'll see former players (Lou Pinella, Larry Dierker, Art Howe) and other celebrities quietly mingling with fans.  I would have liked to have had more time to walk the streets.

Sampling Tony Gwynn's .394 Pale Ale at Cooley's in Cooperstown proper

As for the events, plan and see the Parade of Legends on Saturday.  Period.  Make it a non-negotiable.  You may be lucky enough to see one or two Hall of Famers around town but this parade has almost all of the weekend participants right in front of you waving to the crowd and sometimes interacting with fans.

Pro tip - bring folding chairs and set them up along the fence early.  Protocol seems to be that chairs placed reserve a spot without a person being present.  By 10 am that morning chairs are already lining up.  We placed ours at about 2:30 pm and were just on the second row with a great view.

Fans reserve their spot hours before Parade

 The parade is right after the Awards Ceremony (Frick and Spink) which may be worth skipping (we did).  If you go to that event, you may struggle to get a good view for the parade.

Getting this close to legends is a must-do for Hall of Fame Weekend
The Big Unit takes in the moments on his camera

Craig Biggio gets ovation from Astros fans

I also heard good feedback from someone who went to the Monday Roundtable with new inductees (Hall Membership is required).  I did not take it in, but the next day at Doubleday Field the recent inductees interacted with fans in a more casual atmosphere taking questions from the media (some submitted by fans).

3.  Don't count on seeing the Museum in depth

With so many fans in town, the logistics just aren't in your favor.  If you have a decent size group, I highly recommend getting an annual Hall of Fame membership.  It allows you to draw four complimentary tickets and most importantly, gets you in the short line to get in.  The regular line winds down the street by noon on Saturday.  The membership also might come with reserved seating for the ceremony (check out the details or determine you level).

The Hall of Fame Museum is a beehive of fans on Saturday

Great exhibits to all inductees are prominent

Seeing the Hall of Fame Gallery is mandatory

Four of my childhood favorites side-by-side

You can see all of the museum you want, no doubt.  But you'll have to wait for folks to clear out of the way and photos in front of exhibits take a while.  You may want to consider seeing some exhibits in depth and passing over others just to get through.  You definitely want to see the museum even at this level.  The weekend would not be complete without it.

4.  Decide on transportation logistics and execute

With Craig Biggio so close to getting in, I booked my airfare before the class was announced.  This paid off as the good flights quickly filled up (at a higher price) shortly after.  There were 85 Albany-bound through passengers for our Houston flight with one stop, and 69 through passengers coming back.  B-G-O chants were going at some points.  The poor folks getting on at the "stop" in Tampa thought they had good seat selection with (SWA) "A" group but by the time they got on, there were only center seats due to the through count.

You'll have to stay in a nearby town very likely, Albany worked well for us.  It was about 75-85 minutes away, not too bad a drive.  Airport access, hotel selection, and restaurant options were plentiful.  Get your rental car early, prices are high due to demand.

Once you get to Cooperstown, you will park and walk the remainder of the day.  There are two options here.  The first is to find their colored designated parking lots on the edge of town and pay $2 - $5 per person for an all-day trolley.  We did not use this option, but most thought it was run well.  I will say after the parade, the line for the trolley back to the lots was long and slow.  Instead, we budgeted (or fell into) just paying high prices for parking on private property.  On Saturday, it was $40 on a large estate within 5 minute walk from the Hall.  On Sunday it was $30 in a field just adjacent to Clark (7 minute walk).  Parking prices at other nearby locales were similar.  To us it was worth the time savings to maximize our trip to spend the money.  In both cases, we rolled into town, paid, and within minutes were taking in the sights.  Others may choose differently.  I would do the pay to park again, it's just part of the vacation budget.

5.  Wear as much baseball stuff as you can

Just as you see kids with balloons, Mickey Mouse ears, and eyes of wonder at Disney World, you see fans decked out in every team imaginable for Hall of Fame Weekend.  Not only in town, but in Albany, at airports, driving on the road, in the hotels, etc.  Of course teams that had inductees were the most, for instance several fans wearing Montreal Expos attire were also seen (Randy and Pedro).  Or someone with a White Sox jersey and a sign for Carlton Fisk and Frank Thomas (both acknowledged the fan during the parade).  It's a time to celebrate your team, bring your colors and represent!

An eclectic mix of fans line the streets for the Parade of Legends

A kid waving a popular sign drawing cheers from the Astros crowd

6.  Induction Day

I would recommend dedicating Sunday only to the induction ceremony (not worth trying to squeeze in the museum or in town attractions).  Get there early and relax.  There will be a lot of waiting if you get there early enough to get your place.  Bring chairs, blankets, playing cards, glove, ball, etc.  Bring coolers with lunch (the food sales lines were very very long).  Bring lots of hydrating fluids.  It's not a giant tailgate party but several folks were partaking in beer.  And bring sunscreen and an umbrella for shade or rain.  Nestled in the hills there isn't much breeze.

Pro tip number 2 - The same Parade spot reserve protocol applies to the induction ceremony (held at the Clark Sports Center about 1 mile south of town).  Fans start placing blankets and chairs out Friday, maybe before.  There is plenty of room to walk up on Induction Day and find a place, but the prime real estate will be long gone.

With four speeches it dragged on at times (fans aren't necessarily hanging on every word).  I can imagine kids in particular getting restless during the 2 - 3 hour ceremony.

Craig Biggio addresses the crowd of 45,000+
Randy Johnson reflects on his career during induction speech

7. Autographs are tough to come by (free ones at least)

I debated bringing some of my childhood baseball cards for potential autographs but decided against it in the end.  Probably the right choice.  There are several schedules signings up and down Main and Pioneer Streets but these are pay to play.  I know Rickey Henderson (rumored $300), Tommy Lasorda and Tony LaRussa were part of signing events.  Craig Biggio and the other inductees signed at the Roundtable event on Monday (for a fee).  If you want autographs, the safe way is to bring money and find out when and where (word is up and down the streets and in local media).  The only Hall of Fame player I saw signing free autographs after the parade was Cal Ripken Jr. (for 10 - 15 minutes).  Several autograph hounds (mostly kids) were waiting at the airport (near rental car area before, near ticketing counters after).  This may be a way to go, but it looked like a long day of sitting and waiting.

If you read this and are planning to attend a Hall Weekend and have any questions, comment here or tweet me at @lhd_on_sports and I'll be glad to answer!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sportsman of the Week Ending 8/2/2015

It was a busy week in baseball that started with the Hall of Fame induction, went through the trade deadline, and ended with a new team in first place in the National League East.  Led by our sportsman of the Week, the New York Mets went 4-2 including a sweep of rival Washington Nationals to take the division lead.  Lucas Duda is on a power binge.  In those six games, he slugged 7 HR with 10 RBI while going 9 for 19 for a .473 clip while slugging 1.632 over the stretch.  Duda isn't exactly tearing it up this season, but he tore it up for the week, a worthy Sportsman of the Week!