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Donald Driver scores with Thank You Fans Tour

Photo: Sarah Kloepping/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Photo: Sarah Kloepping/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

GREEN BAY – Donald Driver swept into the Boys & Girls Club the same way he cut across the middle of a football field: with energy, optimism and a clear purpose.

Driver, in fact, is sweeping across all of Wisconsin as part of his Thank You Fans Tour, which began Thursday and wraps up Sunday with his charity celebrity softball game at Fox Cities Stadium in Grand Chute.

His message for the boys and girls was that they can be anything they want to be if they work at it and their parents support them; "Even the next Green Bay Packer. Just don't break my records," he said, flashing his trademark smile.

He knows what it is to overcome long odds. Growing up in Houston, Driver was homeless for a time in his early teens and admits to stealing cars and selling drugs to support his family. Moving in with his grandmother and athletics allowed him go a different, better direction. He was a four-sport star in high school and excelled at track and football at Alcorn State in Mississippi, where the Packers found him.

Driver, who retired in 2012, is the Packers' all-time leading receiver, with team records for receptions (743) and receiving yards (10,137). He was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame on July 22 at Lambeau Field.

It was a loud, rambunctious group at the club, as you'd expect from a room full of pre-teens, but when Driver told them, gently, to shush, they shushed and listened to his message.

The west-side Boys & Girls Club of Greater Green Bay was his seventh stop of the day, several of them unannounced. He dropped in at restaurants where people nudged each other and wondered if it was really him, until he smiled. Then they knew.

Photo: Richard Ryman/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Photo: Richard Ryman/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

"It's been a great lesson for myself. It kind of brings you back to reality," Driver said. "It makes you appreciate the fans so much more now. We even stopped in these little towns and see individuals that never get a chance to see us at all.

"Every stop we've had since Thursday morning has been remarkable."

Proceeds from Sunday's charity celebrity softball game and from corporate sponsorship of the tour go to the Donald Driver Foundation. Supporting the tour are Kohl's, Jockey International, Associated Bank and Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin.

"We've helped so many organizations and programs continue to grow. We've supported the Boys & Girls Club right here in Green Bay," he said. "We just left the Miracle League (in Manitowoc). We helped build a playground and baseball field for those individuals who just want to play the sport that they love."

Acoya Hernandez, 12, of Green Bay, was thrilled to present Driver with a drawing made by club members and to help him draw tickets for a raffle, even though one of the tickets she pulled out of the bucket belonged to her sister, Haylie, 13, and she admitted that she's at least half a Dallas Cowboys fan.

Photo: Sarah Kloepping/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Photo: Sarah Kloepping/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Kaeden Harris, 10, more than balanced Hernandez's fandom. Wearing a Driver jersey, he stepped up to the microphone and explained they had a drawing "for his guy here," before reading a poem that was part of the artwork, his smile equaling that of Driver.

"You wonder why we do the things that we do? This is why we do this, because of kids like this," Driver said. 

Other tour highlights included giving three families back-to-school shopping sprees, making cream puffs at the Wisconsin State Fair, dropping in at Leinenkugel's 150th anniversary celebration Saturday in Eau Claire and more.

"I give to the state of Wisconsin because you all have given me so much for 14 amazing years of playing," he said. "This is why we've done this tour. This is why we continue to support the local community. To give this support back."

Story by Richard Ryman, courtesy of USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

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Donald Driver softball game lineup includes former Packers, celebrities

GRAND CHUTE - When the Donald Driver thank you tour makes its way to Fox Cities Stadium on Sunday, a handful of former Green Bay Packers will share the field with a mix of celebrities from the entertainment world.

Driver, who has embarked on a thank you tour following his induction into the Packers Hall of Fame, will host a softball game at 1:05 p.m. Sunday on the field usually occupied by the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

Joining Driver and his family will be former Packers James Jones, Dorsey Levens, Andre Rison, Nick Collins, Aaron Kampman, Robert Ferguson, Craig Nall and Tony Fisher.

Other athletes in the lineup include five-time Olympic gold medalist Bonnie Blair, former UFC Lightweight champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis, former Milwaukee Bucks and Marquette basketball player Steve Novak and former Wisconsin Badgers basketball player Josh Gasser.

The entertainment world — which Driver has dabbled in since winning ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" in 2012 — will be represented by Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Gavin DeGraw, "Gossip Girl" actress Jessica Szhor, "General Hospital" actress Emily Wilson, "Rules of Engagement" actor Adhir Kalyan, "The Voice" contestants Andi and Alex Peot and NBC’s "The Biggest Loser" host Jen Widerstrom.

“We will have a great group of Packers legends and celebrity friends battling it out this Sunday,” Driver said in a released statement. 

Fox Cities Stadium is familiar territory for Driver. During his playing days, he hosted the annual charity game that features current Packers players. Jordy Nelson is now in that role.

General admission tickets for Sunday's game are $10 and available at 920-733-4152, in person at the stadium box office or through timberrattlers.com.

The parking lot opens at 9:30 a.m. Parking is $10 for cars and $20 for buses and RVs.

The gates to the stadium will open at 10:30 a.m. There is a sponsor game scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. The featured game will start at 1:05 p.m.

Story by Ed Berthiaume, courtesy of postcrescent.com.

 

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Bart Starr gives pep talk after latest recovery

Photo: Mike Roemer/AP

Photo: Mike Roemer/AP

Story by Brent Schrotenboer, courtesy of USA Today.

Legendary former Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr has overcome a series of serious health problems in the past three years, including two strokes, a heart attack, a broken hip and a bronchial infection that nearly killed him in 2015.

This year, Starr, 83, also has been dogged by more physical troubles — most recently a sinus infection that required surgery and a hospital stay last week near his home in Alabama.

It’s normally a pretty minor procedure. But because of Starr’s age and recent condition, there were concerns about putting him under anesthesia, at least until Starr came out of it afterward and gave his nurses a victory speech of sorts.

“He sat in the bed, and for about 10 minutes gave them this big pep talk like nothing was wrong with him,” Starr’s wife, Cherry, told USA TODAY Sports Tuesday. “It was the funniest thing you’ve ever heard. He was just going on and on and on. He hasn’t talked that way in three years.”

He emphasized teamwork.

“He was just saying, 'It was so nice to see you all together, and you know we have to work as a team,’ ” she said. “He talked like he was talking to a football team. It was the cutest thing in the world. It really was.”

His recovery marks the latest triumph for Starr, who still has trouble walking and talking but always seems to bounce back up after medical issues sack him to the turf.

In 2014, Starr, the MVP of Super Bowls I and II, survived two strokes, a heart attack and several seizures.

Then he battled a bronchial infection that risked his life when his heart rate hit around 200 beats a minute in 2015.

Yet he fought back both times and even made an emotional return to Green Bay for a Thanksgiving Day game later that year.  

Now this.

Before the surgery on Thursday, Cherry Starr said they weren’t sure if the procedure would happen as scheduled. “They were worried about putting him to sleep in his condition,” she said. “He’s just had a lot of issues to deal with this year.”

To help recover from his previous setbacks, Starr left the country for experimental stem cell treatments in Tijuana, Mexico. Though the medicine is unproven, Cherry Starr believes it helped him, at least until his recent infections knocked him down again and erased his gains.  

Starr also has been exercising regularly with a private instructor and was back in exercise class again on Monday after the surgery.

In many ways, his formula for health is like his formula for football. He’s got to get up when he’s tackled. He’s got to work for it. And it takes a team to succeed.

Sometimes a motivational speech helps, too.

“He’s resting real well at night time,” said Cherry Starr, his wife of 63 years. “Right now, things are really good.”

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Bud Selig reaches pinnacle of baseball career by joining exclusive Hall of Fame family

Photo: Gregory J. Fisher/USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Gregory J. Fisher/USA TODAY Sports

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – As Bud Selig delivered his Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech Sunday afternoon, many of his friends and family were sitting front and center among the sizable crowd.

Seated on stage behind Selig was his new, extended family – those already admitted into the most exclusive club in baseball, including some of the greatest players in the game’s history. For someone whose path began as an excitable, avid young fan, it couldn’t have been more satisfying.

“This weekend, every Hall of Famer has been so warm with me,” Selig said before the ceremony at the Clark Sports Center. “I’ve known a lot of them for years, of course. The first thing they said was, ‘We’re proud that you’re now part of the family.’

“I heard that over and over again. In a great sense, I feel like I’m home.”

In his speech, Selig acknowledged those members of his new baseball family who traveled from far and wide to pay tribute to the new five-member class of inductees.

“I am honored to be in your presence,” said Selig, who was inducted on his 83rd birthday, the only Hall of Famer ever to go in on the date he was born. “On your shoulders, this game became part of the fabric of our country, and we are forever indebted to you.”

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Selig was one of five inductees in the Class of 2017, joining longtime club executive and friend John Schuerholz as well as three former players, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.

During his 22 years as commissioner of baseball, Selig participated in every induction ceremony, handing out bronze plaques to honorees. On the receiving end of baseball immortality this time, he admitted the feeling was profoundly different.

“Now, as I stand here at this moment, I am humbled,” he said in his speech. “I am deeply honored to receive baseball’s highest honor. I stand here amongst many friends, including the great Henry Aaron, my friend of 59 years, and one of the best and most decent and dignified people I have ever known."

Later, in a media session after the ceremony, Selig admitted to being nervous on stage, though he said that wasn't the reason he dropped his speech momentarily before making a quick recovery.

"Everybody kept asking me how I felt," he said. "I've given thousands of speeches, in all kinds of circumstances. I kept trying to insist I wasn't nervous but I was tense. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense but I made myself feel better.

"I wanted, in a short period of time, to really illustrate what had gone on for the last 22 or 23 years. I hope I did that. I keep using the word but I'll say again it was overwhelming. Was I nervous? Yeah, now I'll admit, I was nervous."

The theme of Selig’s 18-minute-plus speech, which took 32 drafts to construct to his satisfaction with outside help, was “a great journey,” and his life in baseball certainly qualified. The official start of that journey came when Selig spearheaded efforts to return baseball to his hometown after the Braves left Milwaukee for Atlanta following the 1965 season.

Despite his many accomplishments as commissioner, Selig has been unwavering that bringing the Brewers to Milwaukee out of bankruptcy in Seattle is the feat of which he is most proud.

“I made it my mission, my quest, and I devoted five long years in a relentless effort,” he said. “And that day when the Brewers arrived, March 31, 1970, will forever be one of the proudest days of my life.”

Selig paid tribute to three renown members of the Brewers who preceded him into the Hall of Fame – Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and Rollie Fingers. Yount and Molitor, who couldn’t attend the ceremony because he was managing the Minnesota Twins in a weekend series in Oakland, were inducted representing the Brewers. Fingers went in representing the Athletics but finished his great career in Milwaukee.

“Robin and Rollie and Molly represented the Brewers in so many ways,” Selig said in his speech. “You three were more than just players to me and the city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. You are forever etched in the minds of Brewers fans. You are forever etched in the journey of my life.”

Selig also took time to acknowledge the man who bought the Brewers in 2005, Mark Attanasio, saying, “The Brewers and their fans throughout Milwaukee and Wisconsin are in good hands.”

Selig noted the turbulent times after he became interim commissioner in 1992 and the bitter labor wars that followed. The game was shut down two years later, leading to cancellation of the World Series, and Selig portrayed the game as a deeply divided civil war.

“Everywhere you turned, there was rancor and adversity,” he said. “Big markets versus small markets; American League owners versus National League owners; and worst of all, owners versus players. We were a game stuck neutral.

“We went through a terribly painful period to institute a new economic system. The 1994 strike was the most painful experience of my life.”

Under Selig’s guidance, the game shifted out of neutral to drive, then later to overdrive. Labor peace was achieved and there have been no more work stoppages. Revenue sharing helped smaller markets such as Milwaukee get their heads above water and paved the way for many initiatives that grew the game, such as expanded playoffs, interleague play and the World Baseball Classic.

“Success comes from working together,” he said. “The unprecedented success we have achieved over these past 25 years has come from ending the divide, from building harmony, and from working as one for the good of the game.”

Selig mentioned the one period for which he has received the most criticism of his commissionership – the so-called “Steroid Era” in which performance-enhancing drugs led to nearly superhuman offensive exploits. But, under advice from current baseball officials, he did not dwell on that topic.

“We desperately needed a drug-testing program, and we had to work together to get it done,” said Selig, who off stage reminded reporters that the program had to be collectively bargained with the players association, which for years fought testing.

“While the process was more difficult and time-consuming than I would have liked, in the end, baseball and the players association developed a program that is the gold standard for sports and business alike.”

Selig paid tribute to many baseball figures who have passed on, including bombastic New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

“We never agreed on anything in 40 years but we remained great friends during that entire time,” Selig said. “And he was incredibly cooperative during my tenure as commissioner.”

Selig acknowledged what he called “the single most important day in baseball history,” April 15, 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the game’s color barrier. On that date 50 years later, Selig announced as commissioner that Robinson’s No. 42 would be retired permanently to honor his legacy.

At the end of his speech, Selig feted family members, past and present. Of wife Sue, he said, “She has been an extraordinary partner and helpful in every way.”

He paid tribute to his parents, Ben and Marie, who not only allowed his passion for baseball but nurtured and fostered it.

“If they were here today, they would be proud of this journey,” he said.

Selig concluded his remarks by repeating a closing line from a speech he gave at an awards dinner of baseball writers in New York City a few years back.

“That night, I said, ‘What you have seen here are a little boy’s dreams that came true,’” Selig said. “Thank you for this magnificent honor.”

The inductees were not shown their plaques in advance, and Selig was asked later if receiving his made it finally hit home that he indeed was going into the Hall of Fame.

"I had given them out for 22 years, and here I was getting one," Selig said. "It was quite a feeling. I kept drinking water to make sure this was all happening, to make sure my system was still functioning.

"It's an overpowering feeling."

The previous day, Selig was asked to recall fond birthdays from his past. He talked about his 15th, when his mother took him to New York to see a Broadway play and a game between the Indians and Yankees. Selig laughed about having the audacity of youth to think a birthday cake being rolled onto the field for New York manager Casey Stengel was actually for him. 

But, he agreed after the ceremony there would be no surpassing birthday No. 83.

"My mother was really the one who got me interested in baseball," he said. "My 15th birthday was just an amazing experience. But nothing can top this. I don't know what else to say other than it's a remarkable human experience."

Photo: Gregory J. Fisher/USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Gregory J. Fisher/USA TODAY Sports

Inscription on Selig’s plaque:

Allan Huber Selig

“Bud”

Commissioner from 1992 to 2015, the first seven years in acting capacity, before being formally named by unanimous vote among all 30 owners in 1998. Presided over an era of vast change to the game, on the field, while extending its breadth and depth off of it. Fostered an unprecedented stretch of labor peace, introduced three-division play and expanded the postseason. Under his leadership, umpiring was centralized and replay review was established. Celebrated the national pastime’s pioneering diversity by universally retiring Jackie Robinson’s No. 42. Bridge builder and devoted fan who returned baseball to Milwaukee as Brewers’ owner before serving as second-longest tenured commissioner.

Story by Tom Haudricourt, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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Andy North overcame injuries to win two U.S. Opens

Story by Gary D'Amato, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Photo: Journal Sentinel files

Photo: Journal Sentinel files

CAMBRIDGE, Wisc. -- Andy North, standing inside his cottage on Lake Ripley, motions for a guest to enter through the screen door. He's moving slowly, gingerly, wincing with every step. His face is drawn and pale.

"Double hernia surgery," he says, an explanation and an apology conveyed with a broadcaster's economy of language.

Pardon the pun, but it's par for the course. North, 67, of Madison, is the only golfer from Wisconsin to win the U.S. Open, and he did it twice. But he was waylaid by an assortment of injuries, surgeries and illnesses, the cumulative result of which left him a shell of the golfer he could have been.

There were back and neck problems, which plagued him throughout his career. Five surgeries on his left knee. One on his right knee. One on his neck. Skin cancer. Plastic surgery to rebuild his nose. Prostate cancer.

"I had surgery every year from 1986 to '93," he says. "I was going through operations every year. You know, it's Labor Day, let's go have surgery."

It's been more than 30 years since North won his second U.S. Open title in 1985 and he has played little competitive golf over the past decade. Most golf fans today know him more for his astute observations as an analyst and reporter for ESPN than for his playing career, which effectively ended in the early 1990s.

How good could he have been if his medical chart didn't look like the Green Bay Packers' weekly injury report?

"Who knows?" he says. "I truly feel I could have had a lot better career if I had been just a little bit healthier. But at the same time, you go out and do what you can do and deal with it the best you can."

Some make light of his resume because he won just one regular PGA Tour event, the 1977 Westchester Classic. He's been called a fluke U.S. Open champion, but only by those who have no idea how hard it is to win one of them, let alone two.

"Some people want me to apologize for doing something twice that almost everyone out here is still dreaming of doing once," North said in a 1996 story in Golf Digest magazine. "That can be a little hard to take."

North is one of 21 men in the 116-year history of the U.S. Open to win the title multiple times. Only six men won have won it more than twice and all are in the World Golf Hall of Fame except for Tiger Woods, who will be.

North grew up in Madison, the son of Stewart North, a successful high school football and basketball coach who returned to college, got his doctorate and then taught education administration at the University of Wisconsin.

Whether he inherited the competitive gene or it was learned behavior, young Andy North played every sport under the sun and was good at all of them. But just like that, it was all taken away.

When he was in the seventh grade he was diagnosed with a degenerative bone disease in his left knee. He was non-weight-bearing for two years, on crutches the entire time. So much for the budding athlete.

"My world ended," North says.

His doctor allowed him to play just one sport -- golf -- and he had to do it on crutches and from a motorized cart. As fate would have it, his parents had joined Nakoma Golf Club and the pro there, Lee Milligan, convinced the board to let 13-year-old Andy use a cart.

"They had a great junior program at Nakoma and Lee really cared about the kids," North says. "You could have been 100 other places where it wouldn't have turned out that way."

North threw himself into golf and in short order was a good player. Two years after taking up the game he was a '"4 or 5 handicap." He won the state high school title as a sophomore at Monona Grove High School and at 17 made it to the championship match of the 1967 State Amateur before losing to Dick Sucher.

He attended the University of Florida on a golf scholarship, was a three-time All-American and turned pro immediately upon his graduation in 1972. He breezed through Q School that fall and set off on the PGA Tour in '73 with his bride, Susan, and a bunch of goals and dreams.

"We filled up the car with whatever we had and took off," he says. "You just kind of take on the world. I thought it was the greatest deal."

He finished 64th on the money list as a rookie and improved in each succeeding year: 53rd, 37th, 18th, 14th.

"I felt like I got a little bit better every year and was figuring it out," he says. "I had a couple chances to win. I thought I played really well in '76. I had a ton of top-10, top-12 type finishes."

In '77 his touchy back flared up and he spent most of the year fighting the pain and rigging up traction in his hotel room at night. After a tournament on the West Coast, he was so miserable that he was going to withdraw from Westchester, but Susan already had flown to New York and urged him to play.

"And then I went out and won the tournament," he says. "You see it all the time. Guys are playing terrible and they figure it out and, boom, they win. After that, I didn't see any reason I couldn't win a bunch of times."

At the 1978 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills outside Denver, North held the lead after the second and third rounds.

"I was in complete control of the tournament the entire week," he says. "I hit the ball great. I really didn't make any mistakes. In the final round, I had a 15-footer for birdie on the 13th hole and if I made it I would go up five. I was lining up my putt and I told my caddie, 'If I make it, this thing's over.' "

He made it. But the thing wasn't over.

"I didn't hit a good shot the rest of the way," North sighs.

He held on to win by a single shot, besting a field that included Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Johnny Miller, Hale Irwin, Tom Weiskopf and Tom Watson -- all of whom finished in the top 10.

"I was relieved it was over," North says. "There wasn't any joy at all. It was like, 'Oh my God, finally.' It's not a two-hour window on Saturday and it's over. You have to come back and do it the next day and the next day and the next day, which is what makes our sport hard. You don't sleep as well on the lead. You don't eat as well. By the end of the week, you're on fumes.

"You're excited and you're happy and all those things, but I don't think anybody enjoys it as much as they think they will, just because it's such a relief that it's over."

Winning the U.S. Open had been his No. 1 goal. Like many major champions, North stood on the mountaintop and found it difficult to sustain the drive that got him there.

"My goal from the time I was about 14 years old, I wanted to win the U.S. Open," he says. "All of a sudden, you've done it. Now what do you do? I went through a period of a couple years after the Open when I played OK, but you're a rudderless ship. You went through the motions, you did all the stuff you needed to do, but something was missing."

The injuries started piling up, too. His back, always a problem, was getting worse. He had elbow surgery in the fall of 1983 and his swing changed.

"All of a sudden," he says, "you're just stumbling around."

Photo: Scott Halleran, Getty Images

Photo: Scott Halleran, Getty Images

Then, surprise, he went out and won the 1985 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills. He'd missed the cut at Westchester, flew into Detroit the Saturday before the championship started and studied every nuance of the course Ben Hogan had "brought to its knees" in '51.

"I felt I was better prepared for that week than probably for any tournament I ever played," he says. "I spent a ton of time on the greens late in the evenings when no one was out there, chipping and putting and doing stuff that really helped me as the week went on."

He played beautifully the first three days, leading the field in greens hit in regulation.

"And then Sunday I went out there," he says, "and I had nothing. Absolutely nothing. Scraped it around the first 11 or 12 holes, never laid the club on the ball. I was terrible."

T.C. Chen of Taiwan was in command until he staggered to a quadruple-bogey 8 on the par-4 fifth hole -- a mess that included a double-hit chip shot, which instantly immortalized him as "Two-Chip Chen."

North, coming off three consecutive bogeys on Nos. 9-11, hit a shot out of a fairway bunker on No. 12 and suddenly found what had been missing.

"I was like, 'Ooh, that felt like how it was supposed to feel,' " he says. "I missed an 8-footer for birdie but the next hole is a par-3 and I hit a 5-iron in there to about 12 feet and made that and it was like I was in complete control after that."

He bogeyed the final hole -- "because I could" -- and beat Chen, Dave Barr and Denis Watson by a single stroke.

It was to be North's last hurrah. Injuries continued to take a toll. Surgeries came, one after another.

"I never could go practice like you're supposed to," he says. "After 1985, I never practiced again. I never did the kind of practicing I did for 15 years before that. From that point on, you faked it. You go hit a few balls and fake it. You can't beat guys doing that."

North segued into television announcing in 1993, at first on a one-year contract with ESPN. He made a seamless transition from playing to talking about it. He plays a couple of times annually on the PGA Tour Champions just to remind himself how difficult the game can be.

"If I can't tell people something they don't know, then I'm not doing my job," he says. "That's kind of how I've approached it."

North's television duties keep him involved in the game but give him wide latitude to do other things, in and out of golf.

He has designed a handful of courses, including Trappers Turn in Wisconsin Dells and The General at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa in Galena, Ill. He and Susan are involved in several charities and his "Andy North and Friends" events have raised millions for the UW Carbone Cancer Center. He's an enthusiastic -- some might say rabid -- follower of University of Wisconsin sports. He was Watson's assistant captain on the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team.

"It's been nice to do a lot of other stuff," he says. "I've never been bored. Every day you get up and you're ready to go do something."

North looks back on his playing career with pride.

"There aren't a lot of people that can say they played with (Gene) Sarazen and (Byron) Nelson and (Sam) Snead," he says. "I got to see Arnold (Palmer) at his best, Jack (Nicklaus) at his best, (Lee) Trevino at his best, (Greg) Norman and (Nick) Faldo at their best. All the way up to Tiger (Woods), Phil (Mickelson) and Rory (McIlroy). It's pretty neat."

If not for all his injuries, there is a good chance North might have been mentioned in the same breath with those players. Nicklaus and Watson are among those who have said as much.

"There was no doubt in my mind I'd win eight or 10 majors," North says of his mind-set after winning his first U.S. Open title. "I loved the fact that they were harder to win. I like that you didn't have to shoot 20-under par. I just thought I would win eight or 10 of them.

"The (U.S.) Open, particularly. I thought I'd win a bunch of those."

He won two more than Snead and Mickelson, Faldo and Norman. One more than Palmer.

It's not a good resume. It's a great one.

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Selig, Kohl, Marcus and others bonded at UW fraternity before going on to greatness

SOME 60 YEARS LATER, MANY OF HIS UW FRATERNITY BROTHERS WILL ATTEND BUD SELIG'S INDUCTION INTO THE HALL OF FAME IN COOPERSTOWN.

Story by Tom Haudricourt, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Photo: UW Digital Collections

Photo: UW Digital Collections

When Bud Selig steps to the podium next Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y., to deliver his acceptance speech during induction ceremonies for the Baseball Hall of Fame, there will be many familiar faces in what is expected to be an enormous crowd.

One group of men will be viewed with particular fondness by Selig, linked by a unique bond that has endured for more than a half century. Herb Kohl, Steve Marcus and Lewis Wolff will be joined by others who first met as members of Pi Lambda Phi fraternity at the University of Wisconsin in the mid to late 1950s.

“All of his associates and fraternity brothers, we feel we’re getting in (the Hall of Fame), too,” Wolff said. “We identify with Bud so much.”

By any measure of future success, the group of young men who gathered daily at the Pilam fraternity house was an extraordinary bunch. There were those who went on to become prominent attorneys, businessmen, physicians and leaders of men in their communities but it went far beyond that with some. And it all started with childhood friends Selig and Kohl, who grew up on the West side of Milwaukee and stayed together through every level of education.

“We grew up a half block from each other,” said Kohl, whose family lived on 51st Boulevard. “We went to Sherman School together, then Steuben Junior High and Washington High School. Then it was on to UW. We were very close, so it was no surprise we ended up in the same fraternity.”

It’s difficult to imagine a pair of college roommates going on to greater things than Selig and Kohl, each destined for individual greatness.

Kohl would serve in the Army Reserve before getting his professional career started in financial investing, then the family grocery and department store businesses before buying the Milwaukee Bucks and going on to serve 24 years as U.S. senator from Wisconsin. Not a bad life path.

Selig would return to Milwaukee to work in the family car business but had little interest in making that his livelihood. An avid baseball fan, he made it his mission to return Major League Baseball to his hometown after the Braves bolted for Atlanta in 1965. Selig led the group that founded the Milwaukee Brewers five years later and went on to become commissioner of baseball, serving a 22-year term that morphed from turbulent to transformational.

As if that weren’t enough, Selig was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in December and will be inducted with four others on his 83rd birthday, gaining immortality in the sport he loves so dearly.

Marcus arrived in Madison from Milwaukee a year after Selig and Kohl, and was new to both cities. Marcus was born in Minneapolis but spent parts of his childhood in Ripon and Oshkosh, where he went to high school before his family moved to Milwaukee. He, too, pledged Pi Lambda Phi, where he quickly noticed Selig’s affinity for baseball.

“That’s about all he thought about,” Marcus recalled. “We’d come back to the fraternity house, especially in the spring, and he always had a baseball game on. In those days, it was just radio. He knew what games were being played and how to find them.”

Like Selig and Kohl, Marcus would return to Milwaukee and become a huge success, joining the entertainment and hotel corporation founded by his father, Ben (Selig’s father also was named Ben). He is chairman of the board of the Marcus Corporation, which owns or manages 895 movie screens in eight states as well as 17 hotels, resorts and other properties in nine states, including the venerable Pfister Hotel downtown.

Wolff, who arrived at UW that same year from St. Louis, said Selig and Kohl were more focused as students than he was initially.

“We were in the fraternity together but they were in the library most of the time,” Wolff said. “I didn’t know where the library was until I was a junior.

“From the day I met Bud, I told him he was the 15th man picked on a nine-man team, but he never missed a fraternity or college game in any sport. He was always there rooting. He had an unbelievable passion, especially for baseball, for somebody who wasn’t that active physically in it.”

Wolff, 81, was destined to make his mark as a baseball owner as well. He first launched a career as a real estate mogul in the Bay Area of northern California and was credited with the redevelopment and revitalization of downtown San Jose. He joined an ownership group that purchased the Oakland Athletics in 2005 and remained a managing partner until selling his share of the club last November.

The fraternity success stories from those years went on and on. Frank Gimbel would become a dogged legal prosecutor before switching sides to criminal defense attorney in Milwaukee. Known in town as “Mr. Clout, he also served many years as chairman of the Wisconsin Center District.

Bill Grinker went to Harvard Law and landed in New York City, where he became a successful director and consultant to the small business community. Mel Pearl returned home to Chicago and became senior partner of a huge law firm.

Not exactly the bunch of losers that partied all day and night at Delta Tau Chi fraternity in the movie “Animal House.”

“It is unique,” said Kohl, 82, whose younger brother, Allen, also was a fraternity member. “A lot of the guys have gone on to have very successful lives. We’ve stayed in touch with each other. We’ve had several reunions of that fraternity over the years. A bunch of them have been in Milwaukee. It’s always good to see everyone.”

There will be another reunion of sorts in a week at Cooperstown. Wolff is making the 3,000-mile journey from California on his private jet, stopping in Phoenix to pick up fraternity brothers Don Sandler and Jim Metz.

“It will be a long jaunt but it will be worth it,” Wolff said. “I would not miss this, period.

“He still stays in touch with so many of us. People are just drawn to Bud. He really was a born leader. If you stamped out a list of leadership, Bud’s name would be at the top.”

Wolff watched Selig exercise his leadership skills in getting UW football player Charlie Thomas, an African-American running back who played behind Heisman Trophy winner Alan Ameche, in their mostly Jewish fraternity. This was years before the Civil Rights movement reached its peak, and Wolff said Thomas’ proposed membership “was a big deal in those days.”

“Bud and a few of us thought he’d be great for the fraternity but he had to be voted in,” Wolff recalled. “Some of the guys were not excited about it. I remember Bud saying, ‘We’re going to stay here in this meeting as long as it takes, even if it goes into the next day, to settle this in a fair way.’ And, so, Charlie eventually was voted in, and we loved him.”

Selig called that night “an interesting experience” but never considered it controversial to bring Thomas into the all-white fraternity. He and Thomas had become good friends, spending nights together in the library and stopping on the way back to their rooms to eat burgers at a joint they called “Greasy George’s.”

“He was a wonderful human being; I loved Charlie,” said Selig, who long has considered the seminal moment in major-league history to be Branch Rickey integrating the game with Jackie Robinson.

“The guys really liked him. It wasn’t because he was a football player. He later became superintendent of all the suburban Chicago schools. He was a remarkable guy.”

Many years later, when Wolff owned the Oakland A’s, he often watched Selig work a room in similar fashion as commissioner. Selig became the consummate consensus builder, cajoling, pleading and often pestering owners until they saw things his way and voted as he desired.

“He could be very persuasive,” Wolff said. “That’s what made him a successful commissioner.”

Selig’s fraternity brothers watched him use those same skills to lead the charge to get Miller Park built when the future of the Brewers in Milwaukee was at stake in the late ‘90s. Kohl said Selig had become accustomed to getting his way as far back as the sixth grade, when the two friends were captains of peewee baseball teams that advanced to the league championship game.

“We were both undefeated and playing for the championship on a Saturday morning,” Kohl said. “We get to the field and we start warming up, and we see this big, tall guy, well over 6 feet tall, come in and start warming up.

“I said, ‘Selig, who is this guy?’ He says, ‘Well, my regular pitcher, Freddie, couldn’t make it, so we got this guy.’ I said, ‘Why isn’t Freddie here?’ He said, ‘Freddie wouldn’t drink his orange juice so his mother wouldn’t let him come.’ We had a big fight about it and Selig said, ‘Quit your whining and let’s play ball.’

“So, I relented and we did and, sure enough, this guy pitches a no-hitter against us and we lost, 9-0. Selig wanted to win so badly, he puts this ringer out there. I never saw the kid again. He disappeared after the game.

“So, fast-forward all those years later and I turn on the television, and Bud Selig has just become the commissioner. He’s holding a big press conference and he says, “My No. 1 responsibility is to protect the integrity of the game.” I looked at the TV and said, ‘This is the guy who brought the ringer to win the game in the sixth grade.’”

Asked about Kohl's account of that day, Selig smiled broadly and said, "Herbie loves telling that story. The only problem is it's not true."

Kohl, of course, was speaking with mock contempt about Selig's integrity. As longtime owner of the Bucks before selling the club three years ago, he knew the importance of a commissioner who looks out for the sport, not his own reputation and popularity. Selig took an early hit over the labor war that led to the cancellation of the ’94 World Series and caught flak about overseeing the game during the so-called “Steroid Era” but Kohl said his childhood friend kept his eye on the ball.

“He devoted his life to baseball in various ways,” said Kohl, who also hopes to attend Selig’s induction ceremony. “First of all, getting the team back to Milwaukee. He was a great owner. Then he became commissioner and did a wonderful job.

“He saw the sport through some of the darkest days that weren’t his fault. He grew the game in every way and left it in outstanding shape. He has done great things in the game of baseball and wonderful things for Milwaukee. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and I’m very happy for him, and very proud of him.”

Kohl and Selig remained loyal not only to their fraternity buddies but also their alma mater through philanthropy. Kohl provided the lead gift for the Kohl Center athletic facility and founded the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation, which provides grants to students and teachers. Selig established the Allan H. Selig Chair in History in 2010, has helped create scholarships for students and serves as a guest lecturer in the history department.

More than 60 years after an extraordinary group of young men bonded at Pi Lambda Phi, inspired each other and set their course for future success, many will unite in Cooperstown in support of Selig. According to Marcus, 82, it is the least they can do to celebrate the ultimate achievement of one of their own.

“That says more about Buddy than it does about the rest of us,” said Marcus, who will make his first trip to Cooperstown. “When he became the commissioner, he could have put all of us in his rear-view mirror. And he never did that. He could have put Milwaukee in his rear-view mirror. He didn’t do that, either.

“He insisted on staying here and has been a major contributor to the community in many ways. It was amazing that he laid down that marker and it actually happened, and that we would be the home base of Major League Baseball. When you think about how difficult the beginning days of his commissionership were, it’s really amazing. But all he went through in getting problems straightened out, and how much patience and determination that took, it helps you understand why this is so well deserved.

“He’s very excited about it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him quite as excited about anything, except maybe becoming a great grandfather.”

Selig is beyond thrilled that so many of his fraternity brothers will be on hand to witness his induction into the Hall of Fame. But, looking back at those years when a group of young men united before going on to great success, he said there was no way to forecast what lied ahead.

“We were just kids,” he said. “I can’t give you any logic for it. Herb and I were big sports fans. We talked about things that everybody talked about.

“Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine this would happen. It turned out to be an amazing group.”

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Donald Driver will make cream puffs at State Fair on his "Thank You Fans" Tour

As if Donald Driver could get any more popular around here, the beloved former Packers wide receiver, as part of his "Thank You Fans" tour, will help make cream puffs at Wisconsin State Fair on Aug. 11.

The tour, believed to be the first of its kind for a professional athlete to travel around and formally recognize his supporters, will help benefit the Donald Driver Foundation and also give fans an opportunity to interact with the charismatic and ever-active retired player, who still looks as fit as he was in his playing days.

"I am excited to make some cream puffs at the Wisconsin State Fair, and maybe eat a few too," Donald Driver said in a statement. "A great Wisconsin tradition, plus I get to share a treat with some awesome fans."

Kathleen O'Leary, Wisconsin State Fair Park CEO, said cream puffs and Donald Driver, both cherished and smile-inducing, are a natural local pairing.

"As iconic as Original Cream Puffs are to the Wisconsin State Fair, and Donald Driver is to the Green Bay Packers, we are excited to bring them together," O'Leary said.

Click here to watch a video of Driver talking about the upcoming tour stop.

Also on Wednesday, it was announced that Driver will attend the Miracle League of the Lakeshore's All-Star Game in Manitowoc on the evening of Aug. 11. He will participate as a coach, and might even put on a glove and play too. The annual Donald Driver Softball Game in Appleton will be held on Aug. 13.

These stops, as well as others yet to be announced, are part of Driver's much-anticipated Aug. 10-13 tour through Wisconsin. Driver, who was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame on July 22, retired from the NFL in 2012, following a 14-year career and as the franchise's all-time leader in receiving yards.

"I have wanted to do this tour since I first announced my retirement from the Packers, and now is a perfect time to say thank you for all of the support," Driver said. "My wife Betina and I raised three beautiful children here, and we remain ingrained in our support for the state of Wisconsin, because of the incredible, lifelong friendships and relationships that have been built over 20 years."

Driver's adversity-overcoming story from homeless kid in Houston to seventh-round draft pick in Green Bay to four-time Pro Bowler, Super Bowl champion, "Dancing with the Stars" winner and New York Times bestselling author is well-documented and inspiring. Inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016, he has returned to the state many times for charity events and public appearances. He spoke to OnMilwaukee in February on a range of topics, including his extensive post-career work, love of Green Bay fans and Aaron Rodgers vs. Brett Favre.

On Aug. 11 at the State Fair, you won't want to miss a chance to see Driver and perhaps even eat a cream puff prepared by the Packers legend.

Story by Jimmy Carlton, courtesy of onmilwaukee.com

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Junior Bridgeman fourth on Forbes retired jock pay list led by Michael Jordan

Photo: Tim Harris

Photo: Tim Harris

Retired Milwaukee Bucks great Ulysses "Junior" Bridgeman, who has made millions more in the restaurant business than he ever did during his 12-year NBA career, ranks fourth on the latest Forbes list of highest-paid retired athletes.

Forbes estimates Bridgeman’s income in 2015 at $32 million. The publication estimates Bridgeman owns more than 450 restaurant franchises, which NBA.com reports are mostly made up of Wendy’s and Chili’s.

Another retired NBA player, Michael Jordan, tops the Forbes list with an estimated $110 million in income. Jordan is followed by soccer’s David Beckham at $65 million and golfer Arnold Palmer at $40 million. Bridgeman is the only retired athlete with Wisconsin connections on the list.

Bridgeman retired in 1987 after a 12-year NBA career mostly with the Bucks. His top annual salary was $350,000, according to a 2014 profile in Louisville Business First, a sister publication of the Milwaukee Business Journal.

After he retired, Bridgeman bought five Wendy’s franchise locations in Milwaukee. Bridgeman and his family then moved back to Louisville, Ky. — his college team was the University of Louisville — in summer of 1987 and continued accumulating more Wendy’s locations. He has built his business ever since from its headquarters in Louisville.

Story by Rich Kirchen, courtesy of the Milwaukee Business Journal.

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Donald Driver's 'amazing' story never gets old

Franchise's all-time leading receiver cherishes Packers Hall of Fame induction

Photo: Victoria McBryde / packers.com

Photo: Victoria McBryde / packers.com


GREEN BAY – As the 1999 draft wound down to the seventh round, then Packers general manager Ron Wolf saw one player left on his board graded a bit higher than everyone else.

“I think he was up there in the fourth round,” Wolf said of the scouting staff’s evaluation. “The board was wiped out, and we kept staring at Donald Driver, Donald Driver.

“Even though we thought we didn’t need a wide receiver, we finally took one, and look what happened.”

Packers fans are forever grateful Driver’s availability couldn’t be ignored. Green Bay drafted him with its final pick in ’99, No. 213 overall in the seventh round, and over the next 14 years, Driver would go on to become the franchise’s all-time leading receiver.

Driver was immortalized on Saturday night at Lambeau Field with his induction into the Packers Hall of Fame. It’s an honor that was inevitable once his name was splashed all over the team record books but equally improbable given his humble upbringing in Houston, modest college career at Division I-AA Alcorn State, and longshot status in the draft.

Driver caught just 37 passes over his first three years but then developed into a go-to guy. He eventually posted seven seasons with 70-plus catches and 1,000-plus yards, breaking Sterling Sharpe’s franchise mark for receptions and James Lofton’s for receiving yardage.

His career totals of 743 catches and 10,137 yards go along with three Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl title, plenty to be proud of for a guy who started by running around with reckless abandon on special teams just to get noticed in practice.

“I don’t know if it’s one thing specific that I can pick,” Driver said Saturday, regarding what he’s most proud of. “Everything in my career has been truly a blessing. I think God made a way out of no way.”

From living out of the back of a U-Haul truck at one point as a kid, Driver grew to love football from his father, a quarterback who earned a scholarship to Texas A&M and might have turned pro if not for his own father’s death, which forced him to give up his NFL dreams and take care of the family.

Driver simply never let his dream die. Wolf credited Alonzo Highsmith, now the Packers’ senior personnel executive, for scouting Driver at Alcorn State. Then, as a rookie longshot, Driver kept making an acrobatic play almost daily in his first training camp.

“He was just fearless, so you knew right away if we nurture this, we have something really special here,” said Wolf, who presented Driver for induction. “If he doesn’t kill himself first.

“Obviously we didn’t realize the steps this young fellow here would take, but we didn’t draft players to fail. We drafted players we thought would have an opportunity to make our team, and Donald more than did that.”

He even overcame a scary neck injury in 2003 against the Vikings that saw him leave a nearly silent Lambeau Field on a stretcher. Driver said after that, his wife wanted him to hang it up.

“I told her, ‘I don’t think God’s done with us yet. If I can recover from this, let’s just see where God takes us,’” Driver said. “Eleven years later, He took us to places we never thought we would go. It’s been truly amazing.”

A fan favorite who triumphed on “Dancing With The Stars” before his final season in 2012, Driver was involved in countless community endeavors during his time in Green Bay. His post-football life has continued in that vein, with television and book projects oriented toward special, inspirational stories.

None will ever be as big as his own, though.

He admitted the thought of entering the Packers Hall of Fame never crossed his mind until he was approaching Sharpe’s franchise receptions record in 2009. Two years later, he broke Lofton’s yardage mark after missing the second half of the Super Bowl due to a leg injury.

 “To be the all-time Packers leading receiver in franchise history, that tells you you’re among some of the greatest icons and legends that have played in green and gold,” Driver said. “To surpass those individuals is something I know I’m going to cherish for a long time.

“And my day will come when somebody will break mine, and I hope they cherish it as much as I cherished it when I broke theirs.”

Story by Mike Spofford, Courtesy of the Green Bay Packers.

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Only one former head coach was ever rehired by Packers

Lombardi brought Blackbourn back as a scout

Photo: Green Bay Packers

Photo: Green Bay Packers

“Who is Lisle Blackbourn?”

If there was a Jeopardy category titled “Packers History,” it’s a question that would likely stump many a contestant if given only the following clue.

“The Only Former Head Coach Rehired by the Team”

Blackbourn coached the Packers from 1954-57 and rejoined the organization in 1964 as a scout.

During his four seasons as coach, Blackbourn compiled a dismal 17-31 record and left a trail of bad blood behind.

He was 54 years old when he was hired by the Packers and had never coached in the pros. His relationship with his players turned sour in his second season and never improved. Blackbourn also said years later that he was required to meet with the executive committee every Monday noon and answer questions about the previous day’s game. “Sometimes they’d clap, sometimes they’d boo,” he said.

He was eventually fired Jan. 6, 1958, while on a scouting trip to Mobile, Ala. Fred Trowbridge of the executive committee called Blackbourn at the Senior Bowl and asked him to resign. Blackbourn rejected the euphemism and insisted that the Packers announce he was fired.

But, clearly, Vince Lombardi held Blackbourn in higher regard. Six years later, Lombardi hired him to scout college prospects for a new scouting pool the Packers had helped form.

Blackbourn had been a successful coach at the high school and college level for 30 years before he was hired by the Packers the first time and was well connected.

It was on Blackbourn’s watch that the Packers drafted 11 players who became key starters on at least two of Lombardi’s championship teams. The list included Hall of Famers Forrest Gregg and Bart Starr from the 1956 draft; Paul Hornung as the first overall pick in 1957; and the Packers’ biggest one-day draft haul ever – Dan Currie, Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke and Jerry Kramer – over the first four rounds of the 1958 draft, held a month before Blackbourn was fired.

Now that the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s voting procedure has opened the door a little wider for contributors, there’s a movement afoot to promote the candidacy of Jack Vainisi, the Packers’ talent scout from 1950 until his death in November 1960 at age 33.

Vainisi certainly warrants consideration. If the Hall is ever going to honor a scout, Vainisi and Eddie Kotal would be the strongest candidates. They were the leading pioneers in the field and might have uncovered more rare talent than any two NFL scouts ever.

Kotal, hired by the Rams in 1945, was the first scout to live on the road for weeks if not months at a time driving from college to college in search of players. Through his efforts the Rams landed three of the most unheralded Hall of Famers of all-time: Andy Robustelli, a 19th-round draft choice; “Night Train” Lane, an undrafted free agent; and Deacon Jones, a 14th-round pick.

Kotal, by the way, played for the Packers from 1925-29 and served as an assistant coach from 1942-43. Also, he and Blackbourn both played at Lawrence College in Appleton, Wis., in the early 1920s.

Vainisi had a hand in selecting 16 of the 22 starters on Lombardi’s first championship team in 1961.

But too often history is viewed in terms of black and white, or good guys and bad guys.

While Vainisi deserves all the credit he gets for his role in helping build Lombardi’s dynasty, Blackbourn should at least share in it.

During Blackbourn’s years as head coach, Verne Lewellen was general manager and Vainisi held the title of administrative assistant and talent scout. All three played a role in the draft, although Blackbourn once said they usually agreed with Vainisi’s recommendations.

Actually, it was Blackbourn who expanded Vainisi’s role and paid him a salary equivalent to the assistant coaches.

Blackbourn also was the one who declared after the first day of camp in 1956 that Starr, a 17th-round draft pick, had already jumped out at him, and he remained in Starr’s corner throughout their two seasons together.

“He was very gracious and very kind and extremely helpful as a coach to me,” Starr said four years ago. “I thought he was a good teacher.”

Lombardi, in turn, paid Blackbourn the highest testament when he hired him in 1964 as Green Bay’s CEPO scout. CEPO (Central Eastern Personnel Organization) was the Packers’ first scouting combine.

Story by Cliff Christl, Courtesy of the Green Bay Packers.

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Peter Jackel: My Mount Rushmores of Wisconsin sports

Since 1941, the majestic sculpture of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt in the Black Hills of Keystone, S.D., have represented one of the most iconic and enduring images of the United States.

I am thus inspired to present my “Mount Rushmore” of sports in Wisconsin, both at the local and state levels. For better or worse, here’s what I offer for your consumption:

PACKERS: Bart Starr, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Don Hutson

Comment: The first three are obvious. The fourth was a real challenge considering Reggie White, James Lofton and Forrest Gregg are among the other greats who played for the Packers. The choice falls to Hutson, a receiver who revolutionized his position during his Packers career from 1935-45.

BREWERS: Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Prince Fielder, Rollie Fingers

Comment: As great as Yount was, Molitor is my choice for the greatest Brewer. He is 10th all-time in major league history with 3,319 hits. Had he not missed most of the 1984 season with an injury, Molitor easily could be in the top five.

BRAVES: Henry Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette

Comment: What’s remarkable to me is Aaron won only one National League MVP award during his 23-year-career. No player has ever intrigued me more than Spahn, who didn’t win his first major league game until the age of 25 and finished with 363 victories. At the age of 44 in 1965, he finished his career with the Giants by compiling a 3.39 earned run average in 71⅔ innings. And then he was released. How many millions would such a performance be worth these days?

BUCKS: Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Sidney Moncrief, Giannis Antetokounmpo

Comment: The Bucks have abused the ridiculous practice of retiring numbers as much as any sports organization, with eight numbers hanging in the rafters to show for their one NBA championship. But Abdul-Jabbar is one of the five greatest players of all time. Robertson is still in the top 20 in NBA history. And it’s remarkable to think Antetokounmpo is still only 22.

UW FOOTBALL: Russell Wilson, Ron Dayne, J.J. Watt, Joe Thomas

Comment: I was so tempted to put Brent Moss on this list and it doesn’t have anything to do with being a homer. Let us not forget that the former Park High School All-State running back was the focal point on the first Badgers team to win a Rose Bowl in January 1994. And that team laid the foundation for the football excellence that has been on display in Madison ever since. And I do realize Alan Ameche won the Heisman Trophy in 1954, but I just cannot omit any of the four names listed above.

RACINE COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Tony Romo, Burlington; Brent Moss, Park; Kevin Barry, Park; Johnny Clay, Park

Comment: It hurts not to include Chris Maragos, the only player from Racine County to earn a Super Bowl championship ring and who might end up with the longest NFL career of any Racine County player. But Barry and Clay are the only two county Players to ever be named the AP Player of the Year in Wisconsin. Moss was the Rose Bowl and Big Ten MVP during the 1993 season. And the recently retired Romo is, statistically, one of the five greatest passers in NFL history.

RACINE COUNTY BOYS BASKETBALL: Jim Chones, St. Catherine’s; Robert Berryhill, Horlick; Caron Butler, Park; Jim McIlvaine, St. Catherine’s

Comment: I will always remember Berryhill as the Michael Jordan of county basketball during his time at Horlick from 1983-86. He was really someone to see. As for McIlvaine, let’s not forget that he was the AP Player of the Year in Wisconsin as a senior at St. Catherine’s in 1990 and was a legitimate defensive game-changer who was given a seven-year $33.6 million contract by the Seattle SuperSonics in 1996.

RACINE COUNTY GIRLS BASKETBALL: Sonja Henning, Horlick; LaTonya Sims, Park; Samantha Logic, Case; Keisha Anderson, Park

Comment: A strong argument could be made that Henning is the greatest athlete to come out of the county. She was the AP Player of the Year in basketball in Wisconsin as a senior at Horlick in 1987, is the all-time leading scorer among boys or girls in county history and was a first-team All-America for Stanford in 1991 (a year after she started on its national championship team).

STATE COACHES: Vince Lombardi, Al McGuire, Dick Bennett, Bo Ryan

Comment: The legend of Lombardi burns as brightly as ever going on 50 years after he coached his last game for the Packers. Ryan never won a national championship, but he might have done more with less – relatively speaking – than any coach in college basketball history. He wasn’t getting elite one-and-done players. He made a career of masterfully molding role players into dominating teams that exponentially raised the profile of UW basketball.

Story by Peter Jackel, Courtesy of The Journal Times.

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Vince Lombardi-Bart Starr: Greatest Head Coach-Quarterback Tandem in NFL History

Photo: Tony Tomsic/Getty Images

Photo: Tony Tomsic/Getty Images

From 1920-1932, the NFL championship was not decided in a playoff format. Who ever had the best winning percentage at the end of the season was awarded the NFL championship. (Every team did not play the same number of games, and ties didn’t count in the standings).

That changed in 1933. In that season, the National Football League split into two divisions (later called conferences), with the division winners playing in the NFL Championship Game. Ever since then, there has been an ever-evolving postseason, which now ends on Super Bowl Sunday.

Since 1933, only five combinations of head coach/quarterback have won at least three championships together. In 1940, ’41 and ’46 (with time lost due to World War II) Sid Luckman and George Halas won three NFL Championships. In 1974-75 and 1978-79 Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw took home four Super Bowls with the Steelers. In 1981, ’84, and ’88 Bill Walsh and Joe Montana won three Super Bowls in San Francisco. And Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have five Lombardi Trophies and counting with New England.

However, there is one more coach/quarterback tandem in this group. This tandem won the 1961, 1962 and 1965 NFL Championship games as well as Super Bowls I & II. Of course, it is Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr.

Vince Lombardi-Bart Starr: Greatest Head Coach-Quarterback Tandem in NFL History

In nine seasons together they were 96-34-6 in the regular season, won six Western Conference titles and the aforementioned five championships. During that run, they were 9-1 in the playoffs. Their three consecutive world championships (1965 NFL Championship and Super Bowls I & II) are, to date, the only occurrence of three titles in a row since the inception of the NFL Championship Game in 1933. Subsequently, the Packers are the only franchise to win three straight championships from the pre-Championship Game Era as well.

In addition to this, the Packers would compete against two Hall of Fame quarterbacks. They faced Y.A. Tittle in the NFL Championship Game, and in Super Bowl I, they would face the Hall of Fame head coach/quarterback tandem of Hank Stram and Len Dawson. Their record in those game was 3-0.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s Place in NFL History

Winning five Super Bowls is impressive, but the five championship wins are hardly unprecedented. Brady was the second quarterback (after Starr) to win five championships. Belichick is the third coach to win five championships after Lombardi and Halas. Halas won two NFL Championship Games prior to the arrival of Luckman. Additionally, he won the 1921 American Professional Football Association (the league name before NFL) championship.

While Belichick is the first head coach to win five Super Bowls, Brady isn’t the first NFL player to accomplish that feat even though he is the first quarterback. With the Dallas Cowboys win in Super Bowl XXX, Charles Haley became the first player to win five Super Bowls. Additionally, the Patriots are the fourth franchise to win five Super Bowls, with the others being the Steelers, Cowboys and 49ers. Additionally, they are the eighth NFL franchise with five or more world championships.

To date the opponents of the Patriots have featured only four Hall of Fame players. That’s a far cry from the 13 that were on the opponents of the Packers in the 60s.

There’s no doubt that together, Brady and Belichick are great. In the Super Bowl Era, they’re the best. However, when you look at the entire history of the NFL, overlooking the era before the Super Bowl is an injustice to those that played and coached.

As of right now, the two rank as the second-best quarterback/head coach tandem in NFL history. The greatest tandem is Starr and Lombardi. However, another Super Bowl victory will change that narrative.

Story by Michael Pallas, Courtesy of LastWordOnProFootball.com

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A Tale of Four Arenas: Milwaukee’s NBA Venues are All Still Standing, and Very Near to Each Other

A picture of the progress being made on Milwaukee’s under-construction basketball arena (with the nearby Bradley Center and Milwaukee Panther Arena) has recently made the social media rounds, claiming it to be the very rare instance of three NBA facilities (past, present, and future homes of the Milwaukee Bucks) all next door to each other.

It’s an interesting image, one that both illustrates the progression of the Milwaukee Bucks’ home courts and a developing part of downtown Milwaukee. The new arena fills the long-dead area left vacant by the mistake that was the Park East Freeway. The Bradley Center marks the 1980s desire to erase Downtown’s seedy image of dirty bookstores and street walkers. The Panther Arena, better known historically as the MECCA, was a harbinger of Milwaukee’s post-war drive for Big League City status.

But mostly hidden in the image is what makes it, among American sporting venues, a singularly unique snapshot of four former, present and future arenas in the same area. Just to the left of the Bradley Center’s peak is the roof of the Miller High Life Theater (previously known as the Milwaukee Theater and originally known as the Milwaukee Auditorium). Back in 1951, the Tri-Cities Blackhawks of the fledgling National Basketball Association relocated to Milwaukee and became the Hawks. The Hawks played their home games at what is now the Panther Arena, but, due to scheduling conflicts that arose from their last-minute relocation, were forced to play six home games at the Auditorium. The Hawks played their home games full-time at the Arena over the next three seasons before leaving the city for St. Louis.

The Arena was used regularly after the Hawks’ departure as a concert and event venue, and once again become home to NBA basketball in 1968 when the expansion Bucks moved in. The Bucks were a powerhouse at the Arena, which was renamed the Milwaukee Exposition, Convention Center and Arena or MECCA in 1974, making 16 playoff appearances in 20 seasons, including 12 division titles and an NBA title.

But even with regularly filling the MECCA to capacity, the venue’s limited size meant the team continually lingered near the bottom of the league attendance rankings. In late 1986, ground was broken on the Bradley Center, a gift to the city from Lloyd Pettit and Jane Bradley Pettit intended to attract an expansion NHL team to Milwaukee. Named for Bradley Pettit’s father, Harry Lynde Bradley, the arena never managed to draw an NHL team, but did provide the Bucks with one of the finest facilities in the NBA. The team set a franchise attendance record in their first season in the new arena, besting their previous per-game high by over 50 percent. Unfortunately, the Bucks also fell into their first period of extended futility at the Bradley Center, missing the postseason for seven straight seasons between 1991 and 1998 (previously the team had only missed the postseason four times in their history).

By 2013, the Bradley Center had become one of the oldest venues in the NBA. League commissioner Adam Silver gave the franchise an ultimatum to either relocate or build a new facility. The following year, Senator Herb Kohl, who had purchased the team in 1985 to prevent them from leaving the city, sold the Bucks to a pair of New York billionaires with a provision that both Kohl and new ownership group each put up $100 million towards the building a new arena. With a healthy contribution of taxpayer money from the city and state, ground was broken on the facility in June 2016.

The new arena, which is currently known as the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center, but will soon have an official corporate-branded identity, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018. 

Story by Matthew J. Prigge, Courtesy of Shepard Express.

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As progress rounds off Marquette's edges, celebrating a unique program's unlikely success

Photo: AP

Photo: AP

We should begin with the tale of the Bumblebees. This has nothing to do with entomology, chunk light tuna, or Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, in case you were wondering, but you probably weren’t. The Bumblebees were a set of basketball uniforms—dark blue edging toward black, with horizontal yellow stripes and the number in white—and there is not a single Marquette alumnus/a who wouldn’t sell a kidney to get their hands on an authentic one.

They were worn just long enough for the Warriors—and we’ll get to the nickname business in a minute—to win the 1970 NIT and then to run off a perfect regular season in 1970–71, only to be upset in the NCAA tournament by Ohio State in the game that the late Al McGuire once referred to as “the only time I ever got screwed without getting kissed.” Then, the NCAA stepped in with its seven-league boots of stupid. But, first, let Joe Thomas, Marquette ’71, tell how the Bumblebees came to be.

“Al was an executive with Sand Knit,” Thomas said. “So, one day, he shows up with these uniforms, and we said, ‘We are not wearing these uniforms,’ and Al told us that this wasn’t a democracy.”

A brief aside: Marquette basketball in those days was indeed a dictatorship. Often, it was a smoothly running one, like Rome under the Caesars. However, more than occasionally, it was more like Freedonia as presided over by Rufus T. Firefly. This was one of the latter episodes, as Thomas explained.

“The uniforms had these ugly yellow socks,” he said. “So we told Al, ‘O.K., we’ll wear the uniforms if we don’t have to wear the socks.’”

It was an effective compromise until the guys in the blazers stepped in. They claimed the design of the uniforms confused the officials. “They told us that when we jumped, the guys on the other team got hypnotized or something,” said Jim Chones, the center on that undefeated team that lost to Ohio State.

“The refs said we looked like kaleidoscopes,” Thomas said. “They couldn’t read the numbers.”

The NCAA banned the uniforms, and they disappeared into boxes wherever it is that 100 years of eccentric, excellent basketball was stored on the snowblind campus along Wisconsin Avenue.

I have been back twice this year, once for the 100th anniversary of the student publications, and then last Saturday for a gala celebrating 100 years of Marquette basketball. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I felt a certain karmic symmetry to the dual centenaries. A century of basketball, and a century of people to document the wildness of it all.

The gala was held in the BMO Harris Bradley Center, an arena not quite 30 years old that has housed the Milwaukee Bucks and Marquette and a perfectly good building soon to be sacrificed on behalf of greed masquerading as progress. It was built to house an NHL team that never arrived.

To the immediate south is the old Milwaukee Arena, which always reminded me of a rolltop desk. The Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers play there now.

To the immediate north rises the iron work of what will be a new $524 million pleasure dome to replace the Bradley Center, which really doesn’t need to be replaced, unless you require a building in which you can charge 300 large for a luxury suite, which the new one will. Once the new building is finished, the Bradley Center must be demolished within a time frame specified in the deal. I have no sentimental feelings about that place at all. So there will be this spanking new monument to corporate over-compensation, and there will be the old, rounded arena, where most of the magic took place back in my day, back in the era that made all the other eras that folks gathered to celebrate. The Arena abides. Old cheers echo there. And, next door, in the doomed Bradley Center on Saturday, the ghosts came out to play.

*****

The first person I saw at the reception was Greg (Pope) Johnson, who lived next door to me on the 11th floor of McCormick Hall, the beercan-shaped men’s dorm in which I lived for two years. (McCormick went coed years ago, and it’s coming down soon, too.) His roommate was the late Maurice Lucas, who went on to glory with the Portland Trailblazers at the end of the 1970s. They were good neighbors, generally; the music through the cheesecloth walls was always jazz and very solid. (Living next door to Luke and the Pope gave me a real jones for Weather Report and the Jazz Messengers.) Pope came to the business-casual gala in a lovely Hawaiian shirt of which I was very jealous.

There are so many of them gone now: Luke, lost to cancer at 58; Dean (The Dream) Meminger, still the most iconic and charismatic player in the program’s history, dead of a cocaine overdose in 2013; and the entire coaching staff of the 1977 national championship team, Al, Hank Raymonds and Rick Majerus.

Bo Ellis and Butch Lee were there to represent that particular bunch of Warriors who gifted McGuire with a national championship in his last game as a coach. They appeared on a panel representing the 1960s and 1970s, and master-of-ceremonies Jay Bilas made the mistake of introducing Bo as the only Marquette player to play in two Final Fours.

“I am,” Bo corrected him, “the only Marquette player to play in two national championship games.” And, it was only after the laughter died out that you noticed that Bo was not wearing socks. It was business-casual, after all.

So many of them came back, young and old. Bo and Butch Lee and Earl Tatum. Travis Diener, Steve Novak and Rob Jackson from the surprise 2003 Final Four team. (Dwyane Wade was in France, but he sent along a video tribute.) The event was the brainchild of Steve Wojciechowski, who was dragooned into the role of piñata by practically everyone on the dais and who is currently entering into his fourth season as the coach of the Golden Eagles (Yeah, we’ll get to that, I promise).

The coaches that did attend—Tom Crean, Mike Deane, and Kevin O’Neill—all talked about coping with the history of the program, and McGuire’s giant shadow. It was too much for some people; the late Bob Dukiet came and was so overwhelmed by it that he tried to sever the program from its history to the point where former players staged a kind of palace coup. O’Neill brought the program back, and Deane followed him as Marquette lodged itself temporarily in several pre-fab conferences—The Great Midwest? Conference USA?—before landing in the Big East.

It was Crean, however, who most firmly and permanently reattached the present and the future to the past. It was while Crean was coaching that McGuire died of leukemia in 2001 and, all through McGuire’s final illness, the two men stayed in touch.

“He always told me not to worry about what he had done,” said Crean, who admitted that he’d “been booed in this building” in the years after the Final Four run. “He told me to do things the way I wanted to do them.” Which is how, I guess, the Warriors became the Golden Eagles, although there was some serious blowback on the whole nickname thing throughout the festivities.

“We were proud to be Warriors,” said Tom Flynn, one of McGuire’s earliest recruits. “Many of us wondered what happened when they stopped being Warriors.”

The transition was legendarily clumsy. The Warriors were traditionally represented by a Gilbert-and-Sullivan Indian named, grotesquely, Willie Wampum. This became increasingly embarrassing and controversial as the years went by. So the school started trolling for a new team monicker. They settled on Golden Eagles, which did not sit well with former Warriors, who wondered why they couldn’t be represented by, say, a Viking, or an Ostrogoth, or a member of the Fianna from the Kingdom of Ulster.

So the school tried again, and for one brief (and completely idiotic) moment in 2005, the team was known as the Marquette Gold. Wes Matthews, now with the Dallas Mavericks, remembers how that went over. “They said, ‘Marquette Gold,’ and I thought, man, I don’t know if I can do that,” Matthews said. The new nickname lasted a week before it was ridiculed into blessed oblivion.

(I campaigned hard for a return to what they used to call the football team back in the 1920s and 1930s, The Golden Avalanche. Some young weisenheimer from the Marquette Tribune suggested The Shameless Capitulators. I never was more proud of my degree than when that happened.)

There was more to Saturday night than the celebration of a successful basketball program. It was a celebration of identity, forged in the most unlikely of places by some of the most unlikely people ever to walk the campus of a Jesuit institution. The team won a lot of games, but it also had a coach who once responded to someone who insulted his center by saying the player “couldn’t throw the ball in Lake Michigan” by bringing the player down to the beach and having him do that very thing. It won an NCAA championship, but it also once had a player take down the nets at Madison Square Garden with a switchblade. Nothing like that can happen in college basketball any more. The corporate partners would stroke out.

Progress is as progress does. The edges of the program are rounded off now; the whole operation is a little smoother and professional, in every conventional sense. The Bumblebees are still packed away, and they’re still against the rules, as far as anyone knows. Very soon, the games will be played in a brand-new and ridiculously expensive arena as progress marches north along Fourth Street in downtown Milwaukee. But the old arena will remain because the ghosts always need a homecourt on which they can play forever.

Story by Charles Pierce, Courtesy of Sports Illustrated.

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Ray Nitschke, Dave Robinson ranked among NFL's best linebackers

Ray Nitschke and Dave Robinson anchored a Packers defense that dominated the NFL.

Ray Nitschke and Dave Robinson were a dynamic duo for the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s. And Gil Brandt of NFL.com just made the call as to where they rank with the all-time greats.

Brandt recently released his list of the 45 best linebackers in NFL history and both Robinson and Nitschke were ranked in the top 15. Robinson came in at No. 15 and Nitschke came in at No. 4.

Robinson was named to the 1960s All-Decade Team after leading the Packers to three NFL championships (two Super Bowls) and being named to the Pro Bowl three times. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.

Nitschke is considered one of the all-time greats as helped the Packers win five NFL championships (two Super Bowls). He was named to he All-Pro team seven times and he was also named to the 1960s All-Decade Team as well as the 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

There was another Packer to make the list and that was Ted Hendricks who was ranked No. 5. He played for the Packers for one season (1974), but he had one of his best seasons as he recorded 75 tackles, five interceptions and seven blocked kicks.

As for the three players who were ranked ahead of Nitschke, they were Dick Butkus (No. 3), Derrick Thomas (No. 2), Lawrence Taylor (No. 1).

Story by Brian Jones, Courtesy of http://gnb.247sports.com

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Bud Selig sees Hall of Fame from new perspective

Photo: Tom Haudricourt

Photo: Tom Haudricourt

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - Bud Selig isn’t sure how many times he has visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He’s guessing somewhere around 25 times, including once in each of his 22 years as Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

But Selig never had been on the receiving end of a trip to Cooperstown. On Thursday, he was given his orientation as an upcoming inductee into the Hall of Fame. All new members get the royal treatment, but none has had the same perspective as Selig beforehand.

“I didn’t think anything could overwhelm me but this is overwhelming,” Selig conceded before the day’s full schedule of events even began. “I haven’t been able to get it off my mind. Everywhere I go, people remind me about it.”

Selig, voted in by a 15-1 margin by the Today’s Era Committee in December, was the last of the five 2017 inductees to make an initiation visit, following former players Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez, and executive John Schuerholz. It proved to be a day he’ll never forget, leading to the July 30 induction ceremony on his 83rd birthday.

Here’s how the busy yet buoyant day went:

8:46 a.m. CDT: Selig boards a private plane at Mitchell International Airport for the 1-hour, 15-minute flight to Griffiss International Airport, a former military base in Rome, N.Y. The departure is several minutes behind schedule due to poor weather in Milwaukee and a longer-than-expected drive in heavy traffic from his home in Bayside.

Selig settles in with his usual thick stack of newspapers, which he scours for as much baseball news as possible while also chatting with two invited reporters about his road to Cooperstown.

“I’ve been thinking about Hall of Famers,” he said. “Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Branch Rickey, who was my boyhood idol, Joe DiMaggio, who became my favorite player, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays. Think of the names. And now I get to join them.”

Selig talks about the early preparation for his acceptance speech, the accomplishments that will be chronicled on his bronze plaque and the artifacts from his years as owner of the Milwaukee Brewers and commissioner to be donated to the induction exhibit.

On the topic of his speech, Selig later says, “It’ll get changed about 8,000 times between now and July 30. That’s the one thing I’m most sure of.”

11:15 am. EDT: Selig’s plane lands in Rome, N.Y., where two vans from the Hall of Fame await to take his delegation to Cooperstown, about an hour’s ride away through scenic upstate New York. Selig is taken directly to The Otesaga Resort Hotel on scenic Otsego Lake for lunch with Hall chairman Jane Forbes Clark, president Jeff Idelson and several senior staff members.

1:15 p.m.: Selig and the Hall of Fame staff gather for a planning meeting for induction weekend. As baseball commissioner, Selig helped hand plaques to recipients on the stage. Now, he learns about the schedule, media opportunities, his speech and many other details that go into being inducted. He signs two dozen baseballs that go into the Hall’s archives, following the tradition of every member before him.

“I used a Hall of Fame pen,” he said. “I asked if I could keep it and they said, ‘Sure.’ ”

2:30 p.m.: Selig is brought to the Plaque Gallery, the most sacred location in the Hall of Fame, where bronze plaques hang of all Hall of Famers. He is shown the plaques of Hank Aaron, Robin Yount and others of interest before moving to the center of the rotunda to inspect the five-man inaugural class of 1936: Christy Mathewson, Ty Cobb, Ruth, Honus Wagner and Walter Johnson.

He then is taken to the specific location in the gallery where his plaque will hang forevermore. And, in a new touch this year, he is asked to autograph the granite backing over which the plaque will hang.

Selig then meets with local and national media to discuss his upcoming induction as well as other baseball topics. Some of the questions are tough. He is asked if he has any regrets from his years as the commissioner or if he fears hearing any boos at his induction.

“If you’re worried when you become commissioner about being booed … you’re going to do things that are not always popular or easy,” he said. “But you do what’s in the best interests of the game. You understand that whatever you do, somebody might not agree with. I’m proud of what we did.”

3:15 p.m.: Selig is taken to a place only special visitors are allowed to go – the basement archives of the museum. There, thousands upon thousands of artifacts are stored in boxes and other containers for safe keeping. Hall of Fame vice president of exhibits and collections Erik Strohl reveals the museum has more than 40,000 three-dimensional artifacts on site, only 12% to 15% of which are exhibited at any given time.

Several items considered of interest to Selig are displayed on a table for him to examine, wearing white gloves to protect their integrity. He is shown fielding gloves from as far back as the 1870s, a glove worn by Gehrig and another by Derek Jeter. There is a gold leaf-coated baseball from an all-star game in 1858 between teams from Manhattan and Brooklyn, considered to be the first game for which admission was charged.

Selig is shown a Seattle Pilots baseball cap, worn just one season before they became the Brewers. There is a Kenosha uniform from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, a jersey worn by Steve Barber from the first Brewers club in 1970, a Warren Spahn cap and the bat Eddie Mathews used to hit his 506th career home run.

“Look at all of this,” Selig said in wonderment. “Have you ever seen anything like it? This is unbelievable. It really is. I could stay down here all day.”

The coup de grace was a Babe Ruth-used bat, which Selig was allowed to hold, examine and use to take a few practice swings. For a devout follower and fan of baseball history, it was like being a kid in the candy store.

“Well, we know at least two people who have held this bat,” Selig says with a smile.

3:45 p.m.: Selig is taken on a personal tour of the museum by Strohl, stopping to see exhibits of personal interest. The first stop is an extensive collection of artifacts honoring Aaron, a longtime friend of Selig’s.

“He has been more generous to us than any other living Hall of Famer,” Strohl tells Selig.

Selig makes stops at other exhibits paying tribute to Jackie Robinson, Gehrig and Ruth, and also is shown an exhibit containing the bronze nameplate with the inscription “Commissioner Selig” from his former office in downtown Milwaukee.

4:30 p.m.: As a relaxing end to his big day, Selig attends a staff reception with cake and punch served. He says a few words of thanks before departing.

“This is a great day in my life,” he said. “It was eye-opening in a lot of ways, I can tell you that. This takes your breath away.

“Everybody here was so nice. They really go out of their way to help you.”

5 p.m.: Selig’s visit comes to an end. As he exits the Hall of Fame, he tells staff members, “I guess I’ll see you in July.”

Story by Tom Haudricourt, Courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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ILYA to honor sailing families at Inlands

The Inland Lake Yachting Association (ILYA) will celebrate the sailing achievements and contributions to the sport of 23 families at its annual championship on August 16–20, 2017. The championship will be held at Lake Geneva Yacht Club and the Buddy Melges Sailing Center in Fontana, Wisconsin, and the families will be honored at a dinner at the Yacht Club on August 18.

The 2017 theme for this major annual sailing event is “Sail It On” designed to recognize the generations of ILYA families whose excellence on the race course and dedication to the sport have inspired sailors throughout the country and helped establish the rich traditions upon which ILYA activities are based. The August 18 celebration will feature stories, videos, and speakers on each family’s accomplishments within the ILYA.

Established in 1898 to encourage and promote yachting and interlake racing, the ILYA now includes 51 yacht and sailing clubs in ten states and the District of Columbia. Its annual championship attracts World, National, Olympic, Club, and Intercollegiate champions.

The ILYA Championship is America’s #1 inland lake yacht racing competition and features some of the fastest monohull sailboats in the world. This year’s Inlands, as it is referred, is expected to attract more than 200 boats and 500 competitors to determine the top sailors in the A-Scow (38 feet, 6-7 crew), E-Scow (28 feet, 3-4 crew), C-Scow (20 feet, 2-3 crew), and the MC-Scow (16 feet, 1–2 crew).

Selected for recognition is the Melges family from Lake Geneva Yacht Club, with ILYA championship titles won by Harry C. Melges Sr. (in Class A), Olympic medalist and America’s Cup helmsman Harry C. “Buddy” Melges Jr. (Classes A, E, C), Melges 24 World Champion Harry Melges III (Classes E, C, M, X), Hans Melges (Class X), and Harry Melges IV (Class X, Melges 17).

Also, from Lake Geneva is the Porter family, with ILYA championships won by John Porter (Classes A and E), Melges 24 World Champion and 2013 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Brian Porter (Class E), Vincent Porter (Classes A, E, X, Laser), Davis Porter (Class X), and R. J. Porter (Melges 17).

From the Minnetonka Yacht Club (Minneapolis) is the Allen family, with Ken Allen, Olympic gold medalist Bill Allen (Classes A, E, C), crew Richard Allen and Bob Allen, A-Boat skipper Harry Allen, and third generation sailors Robbie Allen (Class X), Lindsay Allen (Optimist) and Amanda Allen (E Scow).

Also, from Lake Minnetonka is the Bowers family, with Finn North American Champion and Olympic team coach Gordy Bowers (Classes A, E, C, MC), brothers Mark Bowers, Dan Bowers (Class E), Steve Bowers (Class E), Tom Bowers (Class C), and Mark’s son Erik Bowers (Class E), a 2016 and 2020 Olympic Laser contender.

Additional Lake Geneva/Delavan area families to be honored are the Davenport, Lund/Mattison/Navin, and Goes families. From Pewaukee Yacht Club, the Barkow/Friend, Gutenkunst/O’Malley/Sawyer, Meyer/Ruf/Koch/Schmidt/Spencer/Tornehl/Davis families.

Other families to be recognized are Burton, Strothman/Tews (Lake Minnetonka, MN), Driessen (Gull Lake, MN), Eckert (Cedar Lake, WI), Everist (Okoboji, IA), Keck (Lakes LaBelle, Nagawicka, Beulah), Prange (Okauchee, WI), Reese/Hirn (Long Lake, IL/Lake Geneva), Tesar/Quiram (Clear Lake, IA), and Wyman (Oshkosh, WI).

The five days of racing at the 2017 ILYA Championships will be followed by award ceremonies on Saturday August 19 and Sunday August 20. Including the 2017 event, Lake Geneva Yacht Club will have been host for the championship 18 times, most recently in 2015 and 2016.

Courtesy of Scuttlebutt Sailing News.

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A movie is being made about this Iowa 6-on-6 girls' basketball team

A movie about an Iowa high school state championship team, a tale of love and the impact of 6-on-6 girls' basketball in the state during the 1950s is being made.

Angel Pizzo, the screenwriter for sports film classics like "Hoosiers" and "Rudy," will write a screenplay about the Maynard High School girls' basketball team winning a state title in 1956, eastern Iowa TV station KWWL reports. The school is now called West Central of Maynard.

The movie will be based on the 2013 book "Maynard 8 Miles" by Brian J. Borland.

“I loved Brian’s book and thought immediately that here was an opportunity to write a sports story from the female vantage point, something I’ve never done,” Pizzo said in a news release. "Very few people know how special girls’ basketball was in Iowa during the ’50s."

The final state championship in six-player basketball was held in 1993, according to a previous Register story.

In this 1956 Register file photo, Carolyn Nicholson (far left) is reading a congratulatory telegram after the Maynard High School girls' basketball team won a state championship. A movie about Maynard's state title-winning season and Nicholson's life is being made. (Photo: Register file photo)

In this 1956 Register file photo, Carolyn Nicholson (far left) is reading a congratulatory telegram after the Maynard High School girls' basketball team won a state championship. A movie about Maynard's state title-winning season and Nicholson's life is being made. (Photo: Register file photo)

"Maynard 8 Miles" focuses on the basketball career and life of Maynard native Carolyn Nicholson, a leader on Maynard's 1956 state title-winning team. Maynard defeated Garrison 62-51 in the championship, with Nicholson — a senior — scoring 25 points.

Borland is Nicholson's son. Borland's father, Glenn, played basketball at Oelwein High School (eight miles from Maynard) and went on to become a starter and captain of the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team.

"I always knew my dad played for the Badgers, but my mother was so modest that until I was in the 40s, I never knew she was a superstar and for awhile was the darling of an entire state," Borland said in the release. "When I learned about that, I started researching it, and what a story I uncovered.”

Nicholson was inducted into the Iowa Girls' High School Athletic Union girls’ basketball hall of fame in 1971, the Cedar Rapids Gazette reports. She finished her Iowa prep basketball career with 3,079 points. 

Nicholson died in 2009. Borland's father passed away in 2016.

Bo Ryan, former head coach of Wisconsin, will co-produce the film with Borland. Ryan said he read the book in one sitting, KWWL reports.

"I couldn’t put it down," Ryan said in the release. "I can’t wait for the movie.”

The film is planned to be produced in 2018, with a premiere likely happening in Iowa.

More information about the book and movie can be found at maynard8miles.com.

Story by Aaron Young, Courtesy of The Des Moines Register.

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MACC Fund reaches $60 million milestone for cancer research

Supports research at Medical College, Children's Hospital and UW

The Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer Fund recently contributed $1,387,500 to its three beneficiaries — the Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Center, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center — bringing its total contributions to date to more than $60 million.

The MACC Fund has contributed a total of $60,633,311 to research since its founding in 1976.

The fund was founded by Milwaukee Bucks player Jon McGlocklin on the night of his retirement.

“I have been asked many times if I could see what the MACC Fund would accomplish over the years and did I realize the impact it would have on the lives of children and their families,” said McGlocklin, who is MACC Fund president. “I could only hope that someday we would have given $60 million in the fight against childhood cancer and blood disorders helping cure rates to steadily increase for our children. Now we must continue to fight until all the kids live.”

Former television and radio sportscaster Eddie Doucette co-founded the fund, following his son Brett’s battle with leukemia as a toddler, which he survived.

“If someone would have suggested in 1976 that someday we would be able to contribute $60 million dollars specifically earmarked for research to eradicate pediatric cancers I would have thought it unfathomable,” Doucette said. “Back then the cure rate was 20 percent; today it’s over 80 percent. What a tremendous testimony this is to the way people in this region have supported the MACC Fund mission through the years. My sincere and heartfelt thank you goes to all who have made this milestone achievement possible.”

Scientific research supported by the MACC Fund is conducted at the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Interdisciplinary Medical Research Center at the University of Wisconsin. Translational, clinical-based research is conducted at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Story by Lauren Anderson, Courtesy of biztimes.com

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Arnie Herber: The Green Bay Packers First Hall of Fame Quarterback

The most common debate among Packers fans is whether Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers is the greatest Green Bay Packers quarterback. Sure, maybe there is some talk of Bart Starr. People have even talked about this trio as the three Hall of Fame quarterbacks. The mistake is thinking Rodgers is likely the third Packers Hall of Fame quarterback when the fact is that honor belongs to Favre. Arnie Herber was the first Packers quarterback to reach the Hall of Fame. Herber was elected to the fourth class in Pro Football Hall of Fame history.

Arnie Herber: The Green Bay Packers First Hall of Fame Quarterback

Arnie Herber’s Beginnings

Herber was a local Green Bay child. He actually grew up a Packers fan, selling programs at games so as to watch the team play. This must have started at an early age as Herber was just nine years old when the Packers took their current form. He was a high school star at Green Bay. After high school, he spent a freshman year on the University of Wisconsin team. He then spent his sophomore season playing for Regis University in Denver. When Regis dropped football the following year, Herber returned to Green Bay.

Herber’s professional career began with a tryout. While working as a handyman, Herber attracted Curly Lambeau‘s attention. Lambeau gave Herber his chance and Herber earned playing time. Herber played for the Packers from 1930 until 1940. He also played for the Giants from 1944 through 1946. He came out of retirement to play as many young men were serving in World War II.

By The Numbers

The numbers look small now. The changing nature of the NFL does not do justice to Herber’s career. In a nearly unthinkable fact, the NFL did not even keep official statistics during the first two years of his career. In 2016, Drew Brees led the NFL with 673 passing attempts. Also, 39 different quarterbacks completed 133 or more passes. That would include such players as Bryce Petty and Cody Kessler. Herber never attempted 133 passes in any season. It was a new era for football. It was only in 1906 that President Teddy Roosevelt moved to make the forward pass legal in football, in football’s first players’ safety crisis. People did not did the passing game the central role it has today.

In 11 seasons (where the NFL kept stats at least), Herber threw for over 100 passes seven times. In this time, he led the NFL in pass attempts and yards three times (1932, 1934 and 1936). Between 1932 and 1939, Herber finished top four in passing yards seven times. In his full 11-year career, he finished top ten in touchdown passes ten times and top five nine times. Arnie Herber’s 81 career touchdowns were third in NFL history at the time of his final game.

Father of the Game

Herber was there at the beginning. The Packers were instrumental in the development of the passing game of the NFL. He was not just a passer, he was the premier long ball threat of his day. The tandem of Arnie Herber and Don Hutson created one of the greatest passing threats ever. Herber walked onto a great Packers team and helped them finish the first three-peat in NFL history with titles in 1930 and 1931. Herber finished his career with four championships. He led the team through championship seasons in 1936 and 1939.

This puts the current ring count at Bart Starr with five, Arnie Herber with four and then Favre and Rodgers with one each. Titles are not the be all end all. Favre managed to lead the NFL in yards just twice, but did finish top five in 12 of his 16 seasons. Similarly, he had 12 seasons in the top five for touchdowns. Favre led the NFL four times. This means Herber led the league 27.2 percent of his seasons as Favre similarly led in 25 percent of his. Herber was a pioneer. His name should not be forgotten. He is a local fan, who took a tryout and turned it into a Hall of Fame career.

Story by Jonathan Barnett, Courtesy of LastWordOnProFootball.com

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