Author Archives: Chris

About Chris

Growing up in the northern suburbs of Detroit, I quickly fell in love with Detroit sports of all kinds and continue to blog about them in my spare time.

Racing with the Stars

Jim Leyland meets... Jim Flealand

I came across an interesting promotion from the Toledo Mud Hens. As famous ballpark races continue to take hold of this country’s pastime, a new novelty race has joined the ranks of the sausages of Milwaukee and the Presidents of Washington, D.C.

The Mud Hens have created a new nightly event: “Racing With the Stars.” Jim Flealand, Kitty Holmes, and Jamie Farrmadillo run around the warning track at Fifth Third Field on a nightly basis. The picture of Jim Leyland with his presumably plushy and soft likeness is the most amusing thing I have seen in quite some time. Continue reading

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A Return to Blogging?

Yes, the blog has certainly fallen by the wayside over the past year or so.  Hundreds of hours spent in high school, hundreds more still spent doing homework, and hundreds of hours spent at a part-time job have a tendency to rearrange priorities.  Still, it’s summer, and I will not rule out a return to Detroit Sports Unleashed.  In these occassional hours of boredom for at least these few months, I am hoping to get my blogging mojo back.

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On the Bright Side…

So maybe the Tigers are 0-3 at the hands of the Kansas City Royals thus far in 2008… but at least no bloodthirsty hawks are attacking the fans of Comerica Park!

13-year-old Alexa Rodriguez was attacked by a hawk while on a tour of Fenway Park, once again reaffirming that it is best for any A-Rod’s to maintain a low profile while in Red Sox Nation.

Hawk attacks student at Fenway [Sports Illustrated]

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61*

Recently, I was told the movie 61* was in the DVD bargain bin.  “That’s the movie they shot in Tiger Stadium!” I reacted.  Of course, I had to get my own copy, and after watching the movie, I must say it’s a must-see for any baseball fan, casual or die hard.  The story follows New York Yankees M & M boys Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle as they pursue Babe Ruth’s single season home run record during the 1961 season.  Alert Tigers fans are easily able to recognize Tiger Stadium throughout the movie — the crew used Michigan and Trumbull as Yankee Stadium during the 2001 filming of the movie.  Having little time to spare, the production team actually spray painted the seats in the stadium, which were later steam cleaned once filming was complete.  The third deck of Yankee Stadium, as well as the skyline, were added digitally later on.  Of course, I received my own pleasant surprise when Tiger Stadium was also featured as itself in the movie — the Yankees play several critical series against the Tigers in a pennant race in the movie, allowing the stadium to come to life for Tigers fans once again.  In one particular shot with the Yankees team bus outside the stadium, viewers can clearly see Michigan Central Stadium and a good glimpse of Corktown — not baseball related, but interesting nonetheless.

Connections to Detroit aside, this is the best sports movie I have seen in some time.  Billy Crystal did a marvelous job portraying Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris — the two personalities were incredibly authentic.  Maris was a devoted husband, and a tortured athlete, particularly in the 1961 season, when the press refused to leave him alone.  With a crazy New York lifestyle, Mantle was unable to take care of himself, but remained a Yankees fan-favorite at the time.  The movie brought to mind things I never even considered — prior to watching, I had little knowledge aside from Roger Maris had hit 61 homers in one season, and that Mickey Mantle was a Yankees legend.  Now, that is not to say that the film is entirely historically accurate.  After all, Hollywood does what it has to do to make a buck, and teammate Bob Cerv appears with the Yankees from the very beginning, despite not being traded to the Bronx until May of that season.  Still, the entire movie is a very moving picture, and creates a spectacular profile of America’s tortured athlete.  Life with the world rooting against you is something we rarely consider when heckling our least favorite athletes.  The drama of 61* is enough to make any casual fan appreciate all of the hard work and patience our athletes exercise on a daily basis, as well as the struggles with fame and time away from the family.

Also be sure to check out the “making of” in the special features — that was far more interesting than I had expected.  Billy Crystal talks about how it was to direct the film, and there is an entire segment on transforming Tiger Stadium into Yankee Stadium.

61* is available from Circuit City for $6.99 on DVD online.

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Happy Holidays

 Certainly a Pistons classic — Rasheed Wallace’s remix of an old seasonal favorite.  From DSU to you, happy holidays, regardless of which you may celebrate.  While at least a year old, this clip is still good for a little laugh.  Rasheed and the Pistons are off to a 20-7 start, second in the league only to the Big Three (KG, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen) in Boston, who stand at 22-3.  It should be noted that the Pistons knocked off the Celtics in crunch time in Boston last week.  And, in a Christmas miracle, the Lions topped the Chiefs this past Sunday.  So relax with the family and enjoy a little time for yourself this holiday season — and enjoy a little time for sports.  The Red Wings and the Pistons have plenty to give their fans, to be sure.

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Wolverines add a dash of Mountaineer, find their new head coach

Coach Rod at his 12/17/2007 News Conference accepting the Michigan Head Football Coaching job.

After pulling from the West Virginia ranks to find a head coach for the mens basketball team in the spring, Michigan has taken another sip of the Mountaineer Kool Aid by hiring Rich Rodriguez as the replacement for Lloyd Carr, who announced his retirement after the Ohio State game.  The Rodriguez administration will be fully in place following the Capital One Bowl on January 1st, which is Carr’s last game coaching the Michigan Wolverines.  Through 13 seasons in the Big House, Lloyd led the team to a 121-40 record for a .752 winning percentage.  With a win over Washington State in the Rose Bowl, Michigan took home the 1997 national championship.  While Carr may have seen widespread success at Michigan, critics will always remember his struggles against Ohio State following their hiring of Jim Tressel.  It is true that Carr struggled against these new-breed Buckeyes, but it is also true that Carr helped continue a rich football tradition for over a decade at Michigan, brought a championship to Ann Arbor, and made winning so common that it became almost expected.  Taken for granted, fans were shocked at this latest season, in which the Wolverines began 0-2, and finished the season unranked.  It should be noted, however, that the Wolverines responded to their 0-2 “demise” by reeling off an eight-game winning streak, before falling in their final two contests to Wisconsin and Ohio State.

Rich Rodriguez may be the best possible option for Michigan.  He comes from a winning team, and will bring that kind of attitude straight to Michigan.  Being a very highly respected program in itself,  the Wolverines should adjust relatively quickly.  Rodriguez will certainly bring his spread offense with him to Ann Arbor.  The same type of offense that was featured by Appalachian State and other teams who managed to give the defense fits will take a little time to adapt to the Big House.  With the recruiting prowess of Michigan, getting the right personnel in the mix should pose little challenge, particularly over the long term.  The hiring was surprising to many because Rodriguez had recently signed a one-year contract extension that was to keep him in West Virginia through 2013.  The spread option offense will definitely have the power to add a much quicker, and fast-paced threat to Michigan’s offense — I cannot wait to see it implemented in its full effect.

Rodriguez introduced at Michigan [Fox Sports]
Michael Rosenberg: U-M didn’t make a good hire — it made a great one [Detroit Free Press]

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Like it or not, Detroit is still Hockeytown

Red Wings Score

A few months ago, the debate was raised amongst Michiganders — is Detroit still Hockeytown?  For a short period, it looked as though hockey had passed its Golden Years in the Motor City.  The Pistons were poised to make another deep playoff run, the Michigan Wolverines had a highly ranked football team, and the Lions were busy assembling their first winning season in years.  Now it is clear that Hockeytown is here to stay.  Michigan finished the season unranked, and will face the Florida Gators in the Capital One Bowl on January 1st.  The Lions surged out to a 6-2 start, and had a chance to take the division lead from the Packers — since that time, they have lost five straight games, and have fallen, once again, to a lowly losing record.  While the Pistons appear strong, the greatest sports team in Detroit right now are the NHL’s Red Wings.

At 22-6-3, the Wings’ 47 points puts them on top of the entire NHL.  Games are generally televised, and the team even opened up a section of $9 tickets for home games.  Hockey has just not been this accessible in recent years, yet fan support still dwindles.  Average attendance has dropped to just under 18,000 fans per game, a figure that may be high for some markets, but is certainly disappointing for the Red Wings.  Last season, the team sold out all regular season home games, before failing to sell out a single game during the playoffs.  Tickets will certainly continue to cost a pretty penny unless you are fortunate enough to get your hands on the limited supply of $9 offers, but hockey is definitely the top sports pick for this winter.  Henrik Zetterberg has continued to impress, and leads the team with 23 goals and 20 assists.  Not to be outdone, Pavel Datsyuk has 12 goals and 24 assists of his own.  Hockey is simply more entertaining to me than anything else Detroit has to offer at the moment.  My time spent watching sports has been limited to a point of near suffocation, however on those rare days when I have both time to watch a game and a choice of which game to watch, I keep it on the ice.  I have said it before and I will say it again: the “new” NHL is far more entertaining than the old product, and it’s a damn shame so many people are missing out.

The Red Wings and the NHL still have plenty to learn in the area of marketing, though the best thing either can do is to put a quality product on the ice, and the league & its owners have done just that.  Tickets for Wings contests range from just over $20 to nearly $90, leaving many common people out.  If the Red Wings truly want more fans to see the games, the only thing left to do is lower ticket prices, plain and simple.  I’ve never been to a Wings game myself, I haven’t the money to spare.  Maybe getting an extra 2000 fans into Joe Louis Arena each night with lower prices would detract from the team’s total revenue, but with the salary cap, the Red Wings should have a lot of breathing room in the budget.  After all, the payroll used to exceed $80 million — now it’s under $50 million.  If the NHL wants to be considered a major sports league in the long term, they have to get fan interest up today, so it can spread tomorrow.  A big step towards this goal is fixing the unbalanced scheduling problem, something that the league appears to have remedied.  Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the new format earlier in the year, which includes “24 divisional games, 40 in-conference matchups, 15 games against non-conference teams and three wild card games against out of conference teams.”  Each team plays every team in the league at least one time.  That means no longer must fans here in Detroit wait three years in between Sidney Crosby sightings, and matchups against teams other than Columbus, Chicago, and  Nashville.  The league has plenty of talent, and it made no sense not to show it all off.  Even if the NHL remains a niche market, that is fine, so long as it caters to its niche correctly.  Steps are being taken to ensure that this is the case.  I strongly encourage everyone to watch more hockey this season — if a championship comes to Detroit in 2008, it just might be the Stanley Cup.  The action is physical, lightning quick, and sometimes unpredictable.  Hope is not lost for Detroit — do not let the same old Lions ruin your winter.  After all, Detroit is Hockeytown, and represents the game on a level unseen in any city in North America.  Young talent, veteran leadership, and classic hockey moments day-in and day-out.

Don’t forget to vote your Red Wings into the 56th NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta.  Look for the best of the best to come out on 27 January 2008.  Balloting ends January 2nd.

XM/NHL All-Star Fan Balloting (Presented by 2k Sports)

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George Mitchell issues report on steroids in MLB

Gary Sheffield

As most Americans are already aware, Senator George Mitchell released his report on steroid use in Major League Baseball this week. If you choose to read through 400 pages of investigation and legaleze, by all means be my guest — I want a full 10-page summary on my desk by tomorrow morning. If instead you are like myself and have limited time to peruse 400-page PDF files, I would advise skipping the minor details like out of place commas and players no one has ever heard of, and just concentrating on the major issues at hand, mainly the big names and those players pertaining to Detroit.

Upon its initial release, I saw Mitchell determined that 5-7% of players who played in 2003 used steroids illegally (though this figure has since disappeared from CNN’s coverage, not sure where it came from) — a statistic that is a high rate for substance abuse, though not one surprising considering that some estimations by players came near or exceeded 30%. Of course, Tigers slugger Gary Sheffield is mentioned in the report, as he was part of the original BALCO investigation. The Iron Shef maintains that he never knowingly took any illegal performance enhancing drugs. Surprisingly enough, ex-Tiger Nook Logan is in the report, possibly for purchasing HGH, which makes sense given his compact frame, though he hardly appeared to bulk up during his tenure in Detroit. Other former Tigers include Fernando Vina, Rondell White, Mark Carreon, Phil Hiatt, and Hal Morris (hat tip to Bless You Boys). Fortunately for those of us in Detroit, most of the media attention will be focused on Miguel Tejada, Roger Clemens, and, of course, Barry Bonds. Each has attended the All-Star game at least four games. Barry Bonds was indicted this past November for perjury for testimony regarding use of performance enhancing drugs to a federal grand jury in December 2003. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is not discounting the prospect of punishing players who illegally obtained an edge, saying “Discipline of players and others identified in this report will be determined on a case-by-case basis. If warranted, those decisions will be made swiftly.”

As for the Tigers, they have released a statement that essentially states that the team is reviewing the report and is not making a statement at this time. Sheffield is the only player who might draw fire, though there is technically no official evidence. He did train with Barry Bonds several years ago, and Bonds arranged for him to use “the cream” and “the clear.” In a classic move, Sheffield claims he never came into direct contact with BALCO bigshot Victor Conte, and was never told by Bonds that the products he was given contained steroids. One would think that with any kind of drug or substance, it would be advantageous to know what you are putting into your body, but Sheffield claims to have used the products without questioning their chemical makeups. Sheffield appears to be the only individual who may come under scrutiny. The only other significant mention regarding the Tigers is an incident with unknown perpetrators (turn your PDF reader to page 159 of the file, which can be found below):

At the end of the 2004 season, a clubhouse employee was cleaning out the Detroit Tigers locker room when he found a black toiletry kit that was locked. He and another Tigers employee opened the bag and found unused syringes and vials that they determined were
anabolic steroids. They did not report the incident. The employee said that he could not remember who the bag belonged to.

Similar kits were probably found in every Major League clubhouse at one point or another, and without knowing to whom it belonged, this part serves only to show how widespread the problem truly was. It would not surprise me if Mitchell’s 5-7% range is an underestimate.

It will definitely be interesting to see how MLB acts on this newly acquired information.  There is no question steroids has been a problem in baseball, and if the league wants to avoid government intervention, they will have to show even further progress in the fight against the use of illegal drugs in MLB.  It is hard to say how retroactive any punishments may be — it is easy to say players in the report should be punished, but there were likely hundreds of additional players who were using similar products who were able to escape detection by Mitchell.  After all, he did not have the power to subpoena — there truly was no way to force any players to cooperate.  Answers to many secrets may disappear as players from the era in question begin to retire and disappear from the public radar. Continue reading

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