Monday, July 30, 2012


A Step in the Right Direction

From the stand point of the Toronto Blue Jays, Saturday’s 5-1 win over the Detroit Tigers was a step in the right direction. That followed a Friday night victory, with some optimism.

Most of the chatter about the Jays, recently, revolves around their injury problems. They have had horrible luck with the injury bug this year, losing key players at inopportune times. Nonetheless, the games must be played, and players need to come off the bench to fill the gaps.

That is exactly what Omar Vizquel did on Friday night. Omar will be 47 years old in a couple of months. He banged out a double and a triple to help the cause. He now ranks 44th on the all time major league baseball hit list, trailing Harold Baines by five hits. Vizquel has also provided some fine defence for the Jays, in key situations, and has great presence in the clubhouse.

On Saturday, Henderson Alvarez started the game for the Jays, and should be buying the soda for Brett Lawrie and Travis Snider. Both made outstanding plays in the field in the first inning, followed by a Miguel Cabrera single. Without those gems, the outcome could have been radically different. As it was, Alvarez allowed five hits over seven strong innings to record the victory, and even up his season totals to seven and seven.

In the fourth inning, Brennan Boesch drove in Delmon Young for the Tigers with a double to the wall. The crowd erupted in applause. For a second, that stunned me. Then I realized that many Tiger fans make the trip east on the 401 from Tiger Country: Windsor, Chatham, St. Thomas, London, even a few from Detroit.

Edwin Encarnacion, Colby Rasmus, and Yunel Escobar provided the Jays with home runs to chase the Tigers’ starter Anibal Sanchez. The appearance was Sanchez’s first in a Tiger uniform, having just arrived from the Marlins, part of the great garage sale of 2012 for the Florida team.

Encarnacion’s home run proved to be the winning run. The first pitch from Sanchez did not suit Edwin, but it was called a strike. He waved his right hand in disgust at the call. Second pitch, same location, but called a ball. Third pitch, same place, except that this time the ball was deposited in the outfield seats. It was his 28th of the year, tying him with Bautista for the team lead.

Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland took much of the blame for the loss. On at least three occasions in his post-game interview, Leyland voiced regrets about leaving Sanchez in the game too long.

“To be honest with you,” Leland told the scrum in his office after the game, “I screwed it up. I extended him one inning too long. He’s a good looking pitcher.’

With regard to the loss, Leland said, “Plain and simple, you can’t sugar coat it! Right now, we’re just not hitting.”

In Sunday’s final game against the Tigers, Brett Cecil got little run support as the Jays fell 4-1. All of the Detroit runs came of the bat of Jhonny (The spelling is correct, honestly!) Peralta, who hit two home runs. Doug Fister pitched a gem for the Tigers.

The Jays embark on a ten game road trip, with many games on the West Coast. I know it’s tough on some of you old birds to stay up that late, but I have faith in you.

James Hurst

July 29, 2012. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Let the Games Begin-London, 2012

They passed around the Olympic Torch at Wimbledon last weekend. It has circulated the British Isles, in anticipation of the opening of the Games. The Opening Ceremonies will be shown on our television screens this Friday night, beginning at 7:30pm, and will be watched by billions of people around the globe.

Prior to the ancient games held in Greece, warriors dropped their spears and their shields, and peace was declared throughout the lands while the games were in progress. Such will not be the case today, unfortunately. Warring nations will participate in the Games in London, but will continue their nasty business in their native lands.

Despite the best efforts of the authorities over the years, from founding father Pierre de Coubertin to the present director of the Games, Jacques Rogge, the Games remain an important political event for all concerned. Sadly. No matter what surface you scratch, there will be political undertones at these Olympic Games.

When you win your gold medal, you get to take the podium. You receive your medal, then stand proudly as you listen to your national anthem, and watch your nation’s flag rising to the top of the flag pole. Over the years there have been dozens of Olympic skirmishes about flags. Sadly.

The city of London, and the country, have been preparing for the event for several years. The Olympic rings hang from the Tower Bridge over the Thames. Londoners with money, and any sense at all have headed to the country. Streets are already crowded, even the weather is heating up. Yesterday, it was plus thirty degrees Celsius in the city!

Ticket holders have been warned to get to their sites two hours before the events. They are also cautioned in the literature to be prepared to wait for the tube on their way home. Mind the Gap.

There are events scheduled throughout the country. The Canadian women’s soccer team plays its first few games in Coventry. They are ranked seventh in the world, and expectations are high. With some good fortune, they might end up playing the final at Wembley Stadium, host site of the Games.

Brits are on a bit of an emotional high today because one of their own, Bradley Higgins, won the Tour de France bicycle race last weekend in Paris. That marked the first time a Brit has won the event. Pip pip!

Over the years, the Games have increased in size. This year, there are 164 countries sending athletes, observers, trainers, coaches, and others to the Games. There are 36 sports represented at the games. It has grown to a monstrous size, and it is time to put the brakes on the entire undertaking.

At my Olympic Games, there is no synchronized swimming. There are no horses, there is no shooting. There are no events that are judged so poorly that results are thrown out after the event. There is no rhythmic gymnastics.

For those of you who read this column, occasionally, you know I love sports. This may surprise you: I am going to eliminate basketball from the Games. Soccer, volleyball, golf, bicycle riding, and even ice hockey at the Winter Olympics! The main reason is because I want to downsize the Games, and the events I have listed, and others as well, have their own world championships that are more important than the Games.

Let’s keep it simple. Run, jump, throw. Maybe a little action in the pool. Let the Games begin!

July 14, 2012

James Hurst

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Argos Entertain Blue Bombers-2012

On Wednesday evening, the Toronto Argonauts host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in a mid-week game at the Rogers Centre. The Argonauts are reeling after a disappointing loss to their arch-rivals, the Hamilton Tiger Cats, last weekend. The Blue Bombers are off to a horrid start, thumped last weekend by the Edmonton Eskimos.

The Argonauts have placed kicker Noel Prefontaine on the shelf for the next nine games. Although he leads most categories as a kicker over his career, he was not experiencing a stellar start to this season, rolling along at a fifty per cent success rate. The Argos have signed an import, Swayze Waters, to handle the kicking duties Wednesday. They have also signed Etienne Boulay, a former Alouette, to play Wednesday.

Many of the National Football League camps are now under way south of the border. Traditionally, Canadian football scouts keep a close eye on the roster moves from those camps. There are always outstanding players cut by the NFL teams. They find their way to Canadian teams, learn a little about three-down football, and enjoy their careers in the CFL.

The Blue Bombers have relegated quarterback Buck Pierce to the sidelines for this game. They will be starting Alex Brink at the helm, in hopes that he will be able to kick start their anaemic offence. In their three losses this season, the Blue Bombers have been outscored 116 to 56.

The loss to the Tiger Cats was significant for the Argos. They have four games scheduled against the Cats this season, including the Classic on Labour Day, always a fan favourite. Even though they fell 36-27 to the Tabbies, they had a significant advantage in first downs, and controlled much of the play. Their prime problem was that they could not get the ball into the Hamilton end zone, after marching down the field. Reminder: Touchdowns count for six points, missed field goals-one point.

Chad Owens is having another stellar season for the Argos, and his play is worth the price of admission. The “Flyin’ Hawaiian” is a brilliant runner from scrimmage, and snares his share of passes. But it is his returning of punts and kickoffs that brings the fans at the Rogers Centre out of their seats. He stands at five feet, eight inches, and has the ability to leave the giants floundering in their attempts to bring him down. A little reminiscent of a former Argo, Pinball Clemons.

Early in July, the Argos scratched a win over the Calgary Stampeders in Toronto. The Calgary quarterback, Drew Tate, went down early in the game on a seemingly innocuous play. He left the game, and did not return. This past week, he was informed that he requires surgery, and that he is done for the season. Just an unfortunate part of the world of professional football.

In the game against Calgary, the Argos introduced the lineup from one of its teams in the early 1970s. Included in this group was quarterback Joe Theismann. He went on to have a stellar career in the NFL. Unfortunately for the Argos organization, there were less than 20 000 fans in the seats, and few of them paid any attention to the activities on the field during the introduction of the old boys. Even Russ Jackson tipped his hat to the fans!

Argo faithful will be keeping a close eye on Ricky Ray, as he attempts to lead the double blue in his fourth game at the helm. He was acquired in the off season to lead the team to the Grey Cup Championship, and he is well aware of the pressure. This will be his time to step up to the plate. Otherwise…….

James Hurst July 17, 2012.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Baseball All Stars-2012

Baseball All Stars-2012

Most Major League baseball teams have played half of their regular season games, give or take 81 games. As has been the case for many years, at this point in the season, there is a break called the All Star Break. Most of the players look for a little respite for a few days. The chosen few have gathered this year in Kansas City to celebrate the game.

Festivities always begin with a “Home Run Derby”. Sluggers from both leagues strut their stuff in a knockout competition, resulting in bragging rights for the winner. This year, Prince Fielder stole the show with a fine display of hitting, for his second crown. He ousted the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista in the final, as the American Leaguers swept the Nationals in the competition.

The All Star game itself is not just for fits and giggles. The winning team also gains home field advantage in the upcoming World Series. That will not be terribly significant to the Oakland club, as their chances of participating in post season play are slim, slim, and none. Because of the main difference between the leagues, that being the use of a designated hitter in the American League, there is something on the line.

Most of the all stars are chosen by the fans. Ballots are distributed in all Major League parks prior to the game. Fans can also vote on line. Fans punch out circles on the ballots, and send them to an address in Massachusetts. One player may be selected for each position, as well as three outfielders. Fans may also write in the names of players not listed on the ballot.

On line voting is the most popular method of choosing the players. Fans are restricted from voting too many times. I think the limit is 25 votes per day.

The Texas Rangers played their last game before the break at home. It was a typically sweltering Texas evening, with the possibility of a shower or two. Early in the game, a runner led off first base as the pitcher prepared to face the next batter. Unexpectedly, there was the loudest clap of thunder most of the fans and players had ever experienced. The base runner hit the deck. Players scurried off the field. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The umpires huddled, and the rains came.

With such a break in the action, the television network decided to fill the air time with a wonderful show. Major League baseball players were contacted, and asked to select the best players in the major leagues. Players selected essentially became all stars chosen by their peers, which, of course is the way that it should be done. No popularity contest. No stuffing of the ballot box. Simply the best. In ascending order. Six players.

  1. Carlos Ruiz, catcher, Philadelphia Phillies. “Chooooch” has been assigned the job of handling the best, and likely the most expensive pitching corps in the majors. He had one 7 runs-batted-in game this year, and is arguably the best defensive catcher in baseball.

  1. Paul Konerko, first base, Chicago White Sox. Don’t be surprised to see him enter the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown some day. Last year he had 31 home runs, his 12th season with at least 20 home runs, breaking Frank Thomas’ club record.

  1. David Wright, Third base, New York Mets. This is his ninth season, and he experienced a bit of an off year last year. He is an amazing fielder, and usually bats .300.

  1. Melky Cabrera. Left Field, San Francisco Giants. Last year was a breakout season for Cabrera, with 100 runs, more than 200 hits, and better than a .300 average from each side of the plate! He is one of 95 players from the Dominican Republic now in the Major Leagues.

  1. Joey Votto, First Base, Cincinnati Reds. Only Canadian of the lot. Joey gets on base more often than any other player in the majors. He was the MVP in 2010 of the National League. In 2 100 plate appearances, he has only popped out three times! (Some players have been known to pop out three times in one game!)

  1. Josh Hamilton, Left Field, Texas Rangers. Many of the players polled regard Hamilton as “not human”! He had one game this year in which he hit four home runs, a la Carlos Delgado. At Camden Yards, he had eight runs batted in. Feared by all starting pitchers.

There you have it: All Stars chosen by their fellow players. The way it should be done.

James Hurst

July 10, 2012.   


Monday, July 09, 2012


Mike Danton-The Lost Dream

The Lost Dream-The Mike Danton Story

Michael Sage Danton was born in Brampton, Ontario on October 21, 1980. He is the son of Mike and Sue Jefferson. The name printed on his birth certificate is Michael Stephen Jefferson.; however, following his estrangement from his family, he changed his name to Danton.

For many years, Steve Simmons has followed Danton’s career. He has interviewed virtually everyone in Danton’s life, and spent countless hours researching his latest book, The Lost Dream. Simmons is a columnist with the Toronto Sun, and appears regularly on the Sunday morning talk show The Reporters. He does not shy away from controversy.

The sub title of Simmons’ book: The Story of Mike Danton, David Frost, and a Broken Canadian Family. The book contains all the ingredients of a nasty adventure---sex, drugs, booze, deceit, greed, love, hatred, and a controlling villain in the person of David Frost.

Simmons breaks the book into 15 chapters. It covers the life of the Jefferson family, and the involvement of Frost. Many local hockey fans will recognize the name. Frost took over the hockey responsibilities of several young players, and several of them played in Wellington, either as Dukes, or as members of the Quinte Hawks during the days of the “outlaw league”, the Metro Junior Hockey League in 1996-1997.

There were a few trademarks that observers noticed regarding the players recruited by Frost. They either played and according to his edicts, or they were gone. Frost brought several players to the Quinte Hawks, took over the coaching responsibilities, and controlled their lives from Room 22 of the Bay View Inn. Much of the activity in that Inn was exposed in a Napanee courtroom in 2006.

According to Simmons, the Crown botched the case, and Frost was acquitted of all charges in the sordid affair. But it was another opportunity for Canadians to peer into the window of the life of David Frost.

Frost is referred to as “Svengali”, a manipulative fictional character. He certainly had a powerful influence on the life of a young Mike Danton, and undoubtedly contributed to his rise in the hockey world to the National Hockey League.

Danton played four years of junior hockey for seven different teams. Many of the moves between teams were orchestrated by Frost, in his attempts to keep a group of players together. Following his NHL career with the New Jersey Devils and the St. Louis Blues, Danton served five years in an American prison for the attempted murder of David Frost.

Last year, Danton played for teams in Sweden and South Moravia. He has signed to play for the Coventry Blaze in the Elite League in England. Prior to that, he spent two years at St. Mary’s University in Nova Scotia. In his second year at St. Mary’s, Danton was named an Academic All Canadian, achieving a 3.9 grade point average for three semesters.

For the most part, Frost is “persona non grata” in hockey circles. There are no “Welcome Mats” set out for him in any arenas. He knows the game, but his methods of accomplishing hockey success were simply outrageous.

Danton remains estranged from his family to this day.

The Lost Dream is available at the Wellington Public Library.


NBA Playoffs 2012

NBA Playoffs 2012

Dwayne Wade and his mother Jolinda have traded roles a few times lately. He will sit proudly at the front of the congregation in her church. She has had her proud moments watching her son play basketball.

Dwayne plays for the Miami Heat, now in a battle with the Boston Celtics for the eastern crown of the National Basketball Association. He and his friend LeBron James are together the very best tandem in basketball.

Jolinda is the main pastor at the church. Dwayne contributed two million dollars to construct the building. Her story is truly remarkable, as she has risen from the depths of heroin and cocaine addiction to become a beacon for many lost souls in her congregation.

Dwayne is now in a position to help his team to the NBA championship. There is one other main character on the Heat, currently on the injured list. His name is Chris Bosh, and he used to play for the Toronto Raptors. As I am sure you remember, a couple of years ago, Bosh and James headed to Miami to play with Wade. Together, they were going to beat all comers, instantly. Such was not the case.

They now are in a position to accomplish that goal, without Bosh’s help. He has played well this year, but is not a necessary cog in the wheel. Wade and James will get the job done without Bosh’s assistance.

The San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder are battling it out for the western championship. The Thunder are led by Kevin Durant, also one of the top players in the NBA. The Spurs are long in the tooth, relying on Tim Duncan to show the way.

Bosh may play before the season wraps up. reported that he is practising, but not always with the full team in a hard workout. Team President Pat Riley is keeping a close eye on the big fellow as he goes through his paces. Coach Erik Spoelstra commented, regarding Bosh’s return: “I’m not even preparing for that right now. I’m preparing for who we have in the gym. Our focus is Monday. That’s all that any of our guys should be focused on.”

The Monday focus worked out quite well for the Heat, as they crushed the Celtics in game one of the best of seven series. LeBron had 32 points and 13 rebounds. Both he and Wade had seven assists. Rajon Rondo missed nine layups, and went 8 for 20 for the Celtics.

The other two top players for the Celtics, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, are playing through injuries. Kevin Garnett did score 23 points, but seems to be the only option for Rondo when he gets in trouble.

Garnett is in his sixteenth season in the NBA, having jumped from his Illinois high school directly into the league. Ray Allen has been there for 15 years, and Paul Pierce for eleven. There is no doubt that fatigue will be a factor in this series.

This has been a shortened season, due to the work stoppage. Players agreed to play too many games in too short a time frame. There is wear and tear on every player at this time. There will be more serious injuries through these playoffs.

The Heat are positioned as well as any of the four teams to win the big one. LeBron has three league MVP titles to his name. He is there to win the league championship. He is the only three time MVP without a league crown. The others in the club: Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Kobie Bryant. They all had hoisted the championship trophy. Mr. James wants to wear that belt. In a couple of weeks, we will have the answer.

James Hurst

Wellington Times


Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders

Many of you readers may remember the board game called “Snakes and Ladders”. You rolled the dice, and counted spaces to try to win the game. If it so happened that you might land on a ladder, you saved time and space by climbing to another level; however, if you landed on a snake, you catapulted down, and had a struggle getting back up to be in contention.

I would suggest that such is, and will be the case for the Toronto Blue Jays for the rest of this season. In fact, that will be the case for all of the teams in the American League East. Currently, the Baltimore Orioles head the League. There is not much a chance that will last. The Yankees and the Red Sox are snapping at the heels of the Blue Jays. Because they spend zillions of dollars with no real recourse or penalty, they will be contention at the end of the season. The Jays are currently mixing it up with the Tampa Bay Rays. They have tons of talent, but always seem to struggle going down the stretch.

You must get to the ball park to check out the action. The Jays play 81 games at home every season. That gives you plenty of opportunity to organize an excursion around Aunt Betty’s Strawberry Social, and the Sunday School picnic.

There are always wonderful events that take place at the park which you may miss by watching the games on television. For instance, in the game I caught last week, I witnessed the Major League debut of Yan Gomes. Yan was born in Brazil, and is the first Brazilian-born player ever to play in the Majors. I found that quite remarkable. I would venture to say, without research, that every other Latin American and South American country has had at least one representative prior to Gomes’ appearance. Mind you, Brazil has always had stronger ties with Portugal than with Spain.

In front of a respectable crowd of 31 000 fans at the Rogers Centre, Gomes smacked a single in his second plate appearance in the fourth inning. The ball was tossed into the infield after the hit to Derek Jeter, the Yankee short stop. Jeter held up the game to make sure that the ball arrived safely into the Jays dugout, as a souvenir for Gomes. One of the New York press guys enquired, “How did Jeter know it was Gomes’ first Major League hit? Do they really pay attention that closely?” My response was to the affirmative. They are all members of a very special club, and Gomes had just become a full-fledged member. It was a classy gesture on Jeter’s part. To be expected from the future Hall of Famer.

Gomes ended the day with two hits, earning a spot on the roster, for the present. He was called up from Las Vegas, and the Jays sent Adam Lind down to the Pacific Coast AAA team. Gomes spent much of his childhood in Miami, and went to high school there before attending The University of Tennessee and Barry University. Rest assured, there was some cheering and shouting in Sao Paulo and Rio.

But there is so much more to cheer about for the Blue Jay faithful. Bautista has found a groove, and J. P. Arencibia is contributing nicely. In fact, he was named the American League Player of the Week for his work. He is batting in the .330 range, with lots of power. Edwin Encarnacion is also in the midst of his finest major league season. He ranks second in runs batted in and home runs in the American League. He has solved the first base mystery for the Jays, consistently digging the errant throws out of the dirt to record the outs.

Yunel Escobar is a treat to watch at short stop. He covers all of the territory effectively, and throws effortlessly to first base. His partner at second base, Kelly Johnson, has worked well in the field and at the plate. He has hit 55 home runs as a second baseman dating back to 2010, third most by any second sacker in the major leagues.

Omar Vizquel was picked up in the off-season as a utility player. He is 45 years old. But he still has cat-like reflexes, and can turn sure base hits into double plays in an instant. He will also enter the Hall of Fame some day, and is surely a fine influence in the locker room.

Yikes! I have run out of space without a word about pitching, which has been phenomenal this year. Stay tuned! More ladders, less snakes!

James Hurst

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