This has been a tough year-plus as far as deaths of Hall of Famers are concerned. Baseball has had it the hardest with the most recent deaths being those of Don Sutton and Hank Aaron.
Sutton was the example of a workhorse starting pitcher, good for 15-19 wins over 35 starts a year. He broke in with the 1966 Dodgers as a teammate of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale and won 324 games in the majors and still has the Dodgers’ team record for wins. After finishing with his playing career, he went on to a long broadcasting career, most notably with the Atlanta Braves.
Take Sutton’s consistency as a pitcher, set a higher level of achievement and make him an everyday player and you get Hank Aaron.
Aaron was good for 30-40 home runs a year and, in his prime add a .300 or better batting average and good speed and defense. He was a fixture in the All-Star Game for the National League with the late 1960s NL All-Star outfield being him, Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente.
Aaron’s biggest rival, though, was not Mays, Clemente or Frank Robinson, it was a man who died when Aaron was 14 and whose biggest record he broke: Babe Ruth.
Aaron’s pursuit of Ruth’s home run record was fraught with threats against him and his family and a mishandling of it by then-Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, both which left an undertone of bitterness in Aaron’s life.
After his career, Aaron served as an executive for the Braves, for whom he played most of his career. He also was one of baseball’s biggest civil rights activists.
Speaking of equal rights, the annual media griping about NFL head coach hiring has been out in force. Here’s a solution: Wait until after the Super Bowl to interview and hire head coaches and penalize teams who don’t interview minority candidates.
As for the Super Bowl, history was made as Tampa Bay, by defeating the Green Bay Packers, will be the first team to host the Super Bowl.
The gambit made by the Buccaneers to sign Tom Brady and company has already paid dividends as the offense, after a few hitches, now matches the defense.
As for Green Bay, I don’t think this is the last shot for them despite Aaron Rodgers being 37. Tampa loaded up for a one-year run, New Orleans may have a huge loss at quarterback, the NFC East is unsettled, the Rams are intent in throwing away a solid quarterback, and the Seahawks are unsettled.
The AFC title game saw the Chiefs defeat the Bills solidly.
I’ll have to save something for next week, but this should be an intriguing Super Bowl, since the time off will allow Patrick Mahomes to recover from his injuries.
Jeff Harvey is a freelance reporter and columnist for the Princeton Times. Contact him at email@example.com