After Further Review

Knees Blocked Oliva’s Path to Cooperstown by thad mumau

Tony Oliva really did have it all. Except for good knees.

 The only modern-day player to win batting titles in his first two years in the majors, the tall left-handed hitter with the sweet swing limped through the final five seasons of his career.

 Several knee surgeries reduced Oliva to a designated hitter role during that time and also took away the speed that had made him a stolen-base threat. It should be remembered that knee operations were not as sophisticated back then, and neither were the results.

Oliva came to the United States from his native Cuba when he was almost 23 years old. A couple seasons in the minor leagues included a stop at Charlotte where he hit .350 and knocked in 93 runs against Class-A South Atlantic League pitching.  Read more

Claytor Endures ‘The Grind’ in Seeking PGA Dream by thad mumau

Daniel Claytor shares a dream with hundreds of other young men. Like many of them, he has the capacity for making that dream come true, enormous potential rooted in the ability to hit a golf ball. To hit very good golf shots frequently.

Earning a PGA card is an elusive quest. Daunting at times. So close and yet so far, as the old saying goes. Because it’s not simply a matter of playing well. WHEN you play well is the ticket.

Claytor, 27, is a native of Rocky Mount, NC, where he graduated from Northern Nash High School. At Barton College, he was a three-time All-America, the first athlete to accomplish that in school history. He won six NCAA golf tournaments.

He was the points leader in the Swing Thought Qualifying School Scholarship Race last year, placing third in Player of the Year points and second in money earned in National Series tour events. He was named the 2017 Daniel Converse Award winner. The honor is based on performance, integrity and exceptional professionalism on and off the golf course.

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Thinking About Cooperstown Numbers by thad mumau

For years there have been magic numbers regarding entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Career numbers like 3,000 (hits by a batter, strikeouts by a pitcher); 500 (home runs), 300 (pitching wins).

Such numbers were not required, mind you, just thought of as “guarantees” that a plaque would be hung of players who amassed them.

Then along came chemicals men ingested (by swallowing or absorbing), causing heads and statistics to swell beyond normal proportions. (see Barry Bonds on both counts.)

Hence, some of the numbers once considered automatic ticket punches to Cooperstown have not been viewed so reverently. Because, of course, cheaters were recording those numbers.

As a result, those who receive Hall of Fame ballots these days must adjust their thinking.

For other reasons, too. Today’s pitchers are not ringing up as many victories. Pitch counts – also known as babying hurlers – reduce innings, which means guys aren’t around long enough to pick up as many decisions. Read more

Book is a Love Story of Baseball in the ’60s by thad mumau

Maz to Yaz to Amazin’ was a natural as far as I was concerned. The idea of writing a book about baseball in the 1960s was exciting. Doing it was a bunch of fun.

The ’60s were the pinnacle of major league baseball, a decade overflowing with sensational players, sizzling pennant races and spectacular feats. It was marked by change as the landscape of the game was altered dramatically. There were new rules, new teams, new stars and a new makeup, as leagues were broken into divisions and playoffs preceded the World Series.

It was a decade filled with fluorescent memories, beginning with the first-ever World Series-ending home run long before walkoff was a trendy baseball term; closing with a truly amazing Fall Classic; with one of the most fantastic individual stretch runs sandwiched in between.     Read more

MY OLD BASEBALL by thad mumau

I have this old baseball. It has turned a yellowish color despite being stored in a plastic bag, but you can still make out the names even though they were signed more than 60 years ago.

The autographs of Wynn Hawkins and Danny Osinski stand out for me. Partly because both pitchers made it to the major leagues, but also because they “adopted” a small boy who idolized them.

Jim Pokel was the most popular local autograph back then, and my daddy and other men who knew baseball talked a lot about an infielder named Donnie Montgomery.

Those names and others scrawled on my treasured ball were listed on the roster of the Fayetteville Highlanders. I was nine years old when the 1956 Carolina League season began.

My daddy worked at a tire store, and one of the co-owners had purchased two season tickets to support the team. But he didn’t care much for baseball, and knowing that Dad loved it, he gave the tickets to him. Read more

The Highlanders of 1956 by Thad Mumau

It was 62 years ago when Fayetteville won the Carolina League baseball championship. The Highlanders finished fourth in the regular-season standings, then surged through the playoffs by knocking off two teams led by future major league stars.

A Cleveland Indians affiliate back then, the Highlanders boasted a terrific starting rotation comprised of five right-handers. They anchored a pitching staff that finished second in the league in earned run average.

All five starters won 10 or more games, Larry Dressen leading the team with 17, followed by Wynn Hawkins with 16, both posting sub-3.00 ERAs. Danny Osinski, Ray Konkoleski and Ted Fowler rounded out that outstanding rotation.

The Highlanders were a fine team. They had Donnie Montgomery, a .300 hitter who could play several positions. Long-time Fayetteville resident Bob “Rabbit” Mayhew was the shortstop. Ed Cook and Dick Hofleit were power-hitting outfielders.

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THE ORIGINAL TITO by thad mumau

Collecting baseball cards, discovering the wealth of baseball information in The Sporting News and buying a Street & Smith’s Baseball Yearbook every spring helped me get to know big league players. Not just the stars, but the other guys. And writing about some of those other guys from the 1950s and ’60s is one of the things I like to do.

John Patsy Francona comes to mind. The original Tito, the Cleveland Indians’ manager’s dad. Particularly his 1959 season, when he had the highest batting average in the majors but did not win a batting championship.

 Tito Francona won the center field job with the Baltimore Orioles during spring training in 1954 and played well enough (.258, 9 home runs, 57 RBIs, 11 stolen bases) that he finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting. A misleading honor, however, as White Sox shortstop Luis Aparicio received 22 of 24 first-place votes. Read more

The Minor Leagues Are a Crystal Ball by thad mumau

As the Fayetteville/Buies Creek Astros embark on their second season, dirt is being moved to begin building a baseball stadium for the team. Not just any ball yard. A multi-million dollar tabernacle with all the fixin’s.

I’m excited! I love baseball and having our own ball club downtown is very Americana. Families finishing supper, driving to town and watching a game. Root, root, root for the home team. Vendors hawking hot dogs, peanuts and Crackerjack.

Take me out to the ballgame.

Minor league baseball is special. Anyone following the game knows that. You see a kid pitcher firing speedballs, some of them maybe hitting the backstop, and some day down the road, you see him on your television screen.

The chance to see prospects develop. From the home team and the visitors. To do this, you’ve got to attend games on a regular basis. Catching a game here and there, you might miss it. Miss that gangly outfielder getting hold of one and sending the ball into orbit.

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Play Ball! by Thad Mumau

This is my favorite time of year. The grass turning green doesn’t so much signal spring to me as it sends the reminder that baseball season is right around the corner.

I’m a baseball lover. Not a fan, because that word doesn’t do justice to how I feel about what I reverently call The Game.

Growing up, I played cow pasture ball, where games were marked not by innings but by entire afternoons. Where ground rules were made to deal with cow paddies and sand spurs and finding ways to get outs in battles of three-on-three.

Opening Day is always grand. The national holiday for optimists. So much hope, so much promise, so many questions. Will the phenoms be flops? Can those speedballers avoid Tommy John surgery? Will rosters bolstered by off-season transactions stay healthy? Read more

March – Lion or Lamb?

March 1 and it’s the age-old question:  will March come in like a lion or a lamb?  Well, I don’t know, but it will come in busy as a bee!  Let’s look at what March ushers in – or out. 

It’s the end of the high school basketball season, and the state playoffs are already underway.  But as basketball leaves us, baseball begins – and so does golf, tennis, lacrosse, track, and girls’ soccer.  And it is not only in high school.  March means it’s ACC Basketball Tournament time followed quickly by the NCAA and NIT tournaments.  And college baseball has already begun.  In fact, our own Methodist University Monarchs are already sporting a gaudy 10-2 record!  Softball, golf, tennis, track and lacrosse are also underway.

And speaking of golf, our Mid-South Sports sponsored professional golfer, Daniel Claytor, has already won twice on the Florida leg of the tour.  His latest win came at Eagle Harbor Golf Club in Jacksonville, Florida where Daniel’s final round 62 not only won the tournament, but also set a new course record!  It must be the Mid-South Sports logo on the left sleeve of his Donald Ross shirts!

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Sports Flash

The Game of the Week »

It’s PLAYOFF TIME – ROUND 3! Join us this week as the South View Tigers host the Scotland County Fighting Scots. ... READ MORE »

Methodist University Football »

Methodist University’s season has come to an end – but it was a fun year.  2020 looks like it will be a banner... READ MORE »

DANIEL CLAYTOR »

Mid-South  Sports, Inc. is proud to help sponsor pro golfer, Daniel Claytor.  Daniel is from Rocky Mount, NC and was a... READ MORE »

Lloyd Foster Extra Effort Award »

Once again, each Friday night of the 2019 High School football season, Mid-South Sports will be naming a recipient for the... READ MORE »

INSIDE THE HUDDLE »

Inside the Huddle is our Friday night coaches show presented by Fayetteville Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.  Hosted by... READ MORE »