Related To Somebody Famous For Something Else: Pat Riley’s dad, Lee Riley

Like many people, I’ve been watching the HBO show Winning Time, about the start of the Showtime-era Lakers. Not surprisingly, one of the main subjects of the show is Pat Riley, played here by Adrien Brody.

In one episode, Riley is shown to have a mental breakdown that leads him to smash much of his shed with a baseball bat. He then tells his wife (played by Gillian Jacobs) that he’s haunted by the missed opportunity of his father (who the bat belonged to), who was only able to have one hit in the majors despite playing the game for years.

While I have no idea if that actually happened, what Pat Riley says about his father is true. Lee Riley (also known as Leon Riley) played professional baseball for 22 seasons, but only briefly made it the majors. It was at the old age of 37 during the 1944 series for the Phillies, and even then it was largely because most of the younger players had joined the war effort. In 12 plate appearances over four games, the outfielder got one single hit: a double off Boston’s Ira Hutchinson in late April.

YearAgeTmLgGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSOPS+TBGDPHBPSHIBBPos
194437PHINL412121110010000.083.083.167.250-3020000/7H
1 Yr1 Yr1 Yr1 Yr412121110010000.083.083.167.250-3020000
16216216216216248648640404000400000.083.083.167.250-30810000

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/8/2022.

Of course, that was just his MLB career. His minor league career was far longer. While somewhat incomplete, you can see what Baseball Reference has below:

Register Batting
Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH IBB
1927 20 2 Teams 2 Lgs D-A 33 103 103 23 4 3 2 .223 .379 39
1927 20 -7.1 Lincoln WL A 10 26 7 0 2 1 .269 .539 14
1927 20 -5.1 Ottumwa MSVL D 23 77 16 4 1 1 .208 .325 25
1928 21 -5.7 Pueblo WL A 141 489 181 43 17 13 .370 .607 297
1929 22 -4.5 Pueblo WL A 159 606 185 41 27 24 .305 .581 352
1930 23 -3.2 Pueblo WL A 147 527 175 27 18 20 .332 .566 298
1931 24 -2.9 Pueblo WL A 139 534 161 39 16 16 .302 .524 280
1932 25 2 Teams 2 Lgs A-AA 151 546 546 184 40 11 15 .337 .533 291
1932 25 -3.3 Rochester IL AA STL 78 257 71 9 5 6 .276 .420 108
1932 25 -2.2 Omaha WL A 73 289 113 31 6 9 .391 .633 183
1933 26 2 Teams 2 Lgs A STL 130 450 450 114 21 11 7 .253 .396 178
1933 26 -0.4 Elmira NYPL A STL 128 448 114 21 11 7 .255 .397 178
1933 26 -0.6 Houston TL A STL 2 2 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 0
1934 27 2 Teams 2 Lgs A-C STL 105 373 373 100 15 6 11 .268 .429 160
1934 27 1.0 Davenport WL A 87 300 81 14 4 8 .270 .423 127
1934 27 2.8 Huntington MATL C STL 18 73 19 1 2 3 .260 .452 33
1935 28 3.0 Davenport WL A 112 413 132 23 7 12 .320 .496 205
1936 29 2.9 Davenport WL A BRO 123 431 129 24 6 12 .299 .466 201
1937 30 7.6 Beatrice NESL D BRO 114 393 146 27 19 14 .372 .644 253
1938 31 8.8 Beatrice NESL D BRO 115 524 425 117 155 30 15 17 122 15 82 28 .365 .480 .626 1.106 266 12 5
1939 32 3 Teams 3 Lgs A-A1-AA 81 204 204 58 8 3 7 .284 .456 93
1939 32 4.9 Baltimore IL AA 38 52 11 3 0 1 .212 .327 17
1939 32 7.2 Elmira EL A BRO 23 84 23 3 1 4 .274 .476 40
1939 32 5.0 Knoxville SOUA A1 PIT 20 68 24 2 2 2 .353 .529 36
1940 33 9.5 Oneonta CAML C 116 394 134 21 10 14 .340 .551 217
1941 34 9.5 Rome CAML C 120 404 158 27 6 32 .391 .725 293
1942 35 2 Teams 2 Lgs B-A1 PHA 132 414 414 107 16 8 7 .259 .387 160
1942 35 7.5 Memphis SOUA A1 61 203 64 8 4 4 .315 .453 92
1942 35 11.1 Wilmington ISLG B PHA 71 211 43 8 4 3 .204 .322 68
1944 37 12.1 Utica EL A PHI 125 515 383 69 98 18 5 5 70 2 117 54 .256 .435 .368 .803 141 4 11
1944 37 8.2 PHI NL Maj PHI 4 12 12 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .083 .083 .167 .250 2 0 0 0 0
1945 38 17.3 Bradford PONY D PHI 107 466 334 82 104 20 6 13 82 9 121 43 .311 .504 .524 1.028 175 9 2
1946 39 16.0 Bradford PONY D PHI 73 274 182 46 49 11 1 4 36 5 87 33 .269 .515 .407 .921 74 5 0
1947 40 16.8 Schenectady CAML C PHI 30 96 70 15 18 4 0 2 12 0 24 10 .257 .453 .400 .853 28 1 1
1948 41 17.6 Schenectady CAML C PHI 12 31 20 6 7 1 0 1 5 1 11 2 .350 .581 .550 1.131 11 0 0
1949 42 18.9 Terre Haute IIIL B PHI
Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH IBB
Majo Majo Majo Majo Majors 4 12 12 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .083 .083 .167 .250 2 0 0 0 0
Mino Mino Mino Mino Minors 2265 8187 7695 335 2418 460 195 248 327 32 442 170 4012 31 19
All All All All 2269 8199 7707 336 2419 461 195 248 328 32 0 442 170 4014 31 19 0
AA ( AA ( AA ( AA ( Minors 116 309 309 82 12 5 7 .265 .405 125
A (1 A (1 A (1 A (1 Minors 1269 4664 4532 69 1399 284 120 131 70 2 117 54 .309 .511 2316 4 11
A1 ( A1 ( A1 ( A1 ( Minors 81 271 271 88 10 6 6 .325 .472 128
B (2 B (2 B (2 B (2 Minors 71 211 211 43 8 4 3 68
C (5 C (5 C (5 C (5 Minors 296 998 961 21 336 54 18 52 17 1 35 12 .350 .606 582 1 1
D (5 D (5 D (5 D (5 Minors 432 1734 1411 245 470 92 42 49 240 29 290 104 .333 .562 793 26 7
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/8/2022.

Lee Riley would ultimately die in 1970 at the age of 64, living long enough to see his son win stardom in the NCAA and begin his NBA career.

Famous for Something Else: Charlie Powell, the minor-leaguer with 83 NFL games and a fight against Ali

Today’s “Famous for Something Else” is one who I honestly am surprised I hadn’t heard of until recently: Charlie Powell. After all, I doubt that there were any other former minor leaguers who had the honor of getting knocked out by Muhammad Ali. And even if there were (and if there were I will find out), I doubt any of them also played several seasons in the NFL.

Charlie (sometimes spelled Charley) Powell, however, did all of these things. Born in Dallas in 1932, he would grow up in San Diego. His was in an athletic family, and his brother Art would go on to be one of the lead receivers in the American Football League of the 1960s. According to the Los Angeles Times, Charlie’s time at San Diego High School was to that point perhaps the most decorated student-athlete career in the history of the city, as he lettered 12 times in four different sports (football, baseball, basketball, and track). The Harlem Globetrotters and major college football programs wanted to him to join up, but instead he decided to go into professional baseball.

It was a season that, as the Times obituary put it, left him “realizing his sporting riches would be elsewhere.” Looking at the admittedly bare-bones stats of that lone short season in Stockton that Baseball Reference has, it isn’t hard to see why:

Register Batting
Year Age AgeDif Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB
1952 20 -2.6 Stockton CALL C SLB 10   30   5 0 0 0           .167   .167   5          
All Levels (1 Season)       10 30 30   5 0 0 0           .167   .167   5          
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/24/2021.

And so, Powell instead went into football, joining the 49ers in time for the 1952 season at the age of 20, making him the youngest NFL player at that time. In 1953, he had his first boxing match, drawing with a fighter named Fred Taylor in Hollywood.

As evidenced by the fact he’s the subject of an installment of this series, it should be obvious he had far more luck on the gridiron and in the ring than he ever did on the diamond. Although his statistics from his time in the NFL are a bit hazy due to some less-than-stellar record-keeping during that era as well as the fact that some statistics (such as sacks) weren’t even officially recognized yet, anecdotally it is said that Powell once sacked Bobby Layne (himself someone you may see in a future installment of this series) ten times in one game. To put that into perspective, the most sacks in a single game from an era where NFL record-keeping existed well enough where we can be sure is seven.

Here are the NFL statistics for Powell that we do know:

Defense & Fumbles Table
          Game Game Def Def Def Def Fumb Fumb Fumb Fumb  
Year Age Tm Pos No. G GS Int Yds TD Lng Fmb FR Yds TD Sfty
1952 20 SFO RDE 87 7 7                 1
1953 21 SFO LDE 87 12 10         1 1 0 0  
1955 23 SFO RDE 87 12 7 0 7 0 7 0 1 0 0  
1956 24 SFO RDE 87 12 11                  
1957 25 SFO RLB 87 12 8         0 1 3 0  
1960 28 OAK RDE 87 14 14                  
1961 29 OAK RDE 87 14 14                  
Care Care       83 71 0 7 0 7 1 3 3 0 1
5 yr 5 yr SFO     55 43 0 7 0 7 1 3 3 0 1
2 yr 2 yr OAK     28 28                  
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/24/2021.

Perhaps Charlie Powell’s most interesting athletic career, however, came in the ring. In 39 career bouts, Powell went 25-11-3, with 17 of his victories coming by knockout.

He was, according to my research, a legitimate heavyweight fighter, not some sideshow coasting on his achievement in football. According to his obituary, he once was rated the fourth-best in the world by The Ring magazine. His brother Art and a promoter named Don Chagrin both say that he could have been even more successful if he had had better management and had focused entirely on boxing. In fact, he himself admitted it later in life.

Still, he had some great success. In 1959, he defeated the Cuban Nino Valdes, who at the time looked like a possible challenger to then-champion Floyd Patterson. A few years later, he would step into the ring against a young hotshot with a big mouth but the talent to back it up, a man then called Cassius Clay but later known as Muhammad Ali.

The Jan. 24, 1963 match-up in Pittsburgh was over quick. Clay declared before the fight that he’d beat Powell in three rounds, and, of course, he did just that, winning by KO. According to a newspaper account from the time, Clay declared himself the “greatest” and then went to badmouthing future opponents, including then-champion Sonny Liston, who he said he hoped to unseat by the next November and who he categorized as being neither as fast or as rough as Powell, who he complimented in his own Ali-like way:

“Powell was rough. They couldn’t call him a push-over. I was concentrating on three. The man was strong for two. He’s the roughest fighter I’ve met yet for three rounds.”

That wouldn’t be the end of Charlie Powell’s boxing career, however, as he would fight six more times after that, perhaps most notably a six-round loss against Floyd Patterson in 1964 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico. Hiram Bithorn, of course, is most notably used for the sport that Powell began his professional sports career in: baseball.

Powell died on Sept. 1, 2014 after a years-long battle with dementia. He was 82. Although his brother believed that his dementia was the result of his years on the gridiron and in the ring, he had never joined any of the major lawsuits against the NFL.

September 25th, the past, the future, and what lies between.

There are some days that burn themselves into the history of sports.

Some of them are for good reasons: Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier on April 15, 1947, for example.

Some of them are for bad reasons: September 5 and 6, 1972 were the days when the Munich Massacre happened at the Olympics.

And some of them are for reasons both good and bad: June 17, 1994 was perhaps the most eventful day in sports history. There was even a documentary about it. Game 5 of the NBA finals was in New York. The New York Rangers had their victory parade. The first World Cup on American soil began. Baseball wasn’t on strike yet. Arnold Palmer (I’ll get back to him) played his final US Open round. Overshadowing it all, though, was Buffalo Bills legend OJ Simpson in a white Bronco.

Yesterday, September 25, 2016 was one of the last kinds of those days. The mixed kind. For you see, yesterday saw both the past and the future die. It also saw the present live.

Jose Fernandez was the future. An immigrant who fled Cuba after years of trying, diving into the water to save his mother during the trip. He pitched with a joy that few have seen, and his pitching brought that same joy to all except those who opposed him. His determination was also legendary: when he arrived in America at 15, he was by all accounts a far cry from the stud pitcher he became. It was only through hard work that he became a prospect, then a super-prospect, and then a ace.

And then he got hurt, and was mostly missing for two whole season.

And then he came back, better than he was before. A rising star who was an attraction by himself, and with endless potential ahead of him. One of the new faces of baseball, every bit as amazing as Trout, Harper, Machado and their ilk.

Except, in some ways, Fernandez was more than any of them. He represented the ideal of the game of baseball that in some ways has only existed in our minds. The game where everyone can play, regardless of where they come from or what language they can speak. The game where people can have fun like they had when they were kids, even if they are being paid absurd amounts of money. The game that is a game, not a war (like football).

And now he’s gone. A potential Hall of Fame career, up in smoke along the Florida coast, along with the lives of two of his friends. What he could have been, whether he could have met that potential and continued to bring so much joy to a game that at times desperately needs it… we will never know.

We do, however, know what Arnold Palmer had. He had quite the past. He wasn’t the greatest golfer ever, but he may have been the most famous, and with good reason. He has a drink named after him- not even Babe Ruth has that (he had to settle for a candy bar that officially isn’t even named after him). He loved the sport he played, and was one of the best at it. While it is tragic that he has passed, he lived a full life, and left his mark upon the sports world that his talent deserved.

Arnold Palmer, in other words, lived the life that Jose Fernandez could have lived.

Between mourning the lost future of Jose Fernandez and the glorious past of Arnold Palmer, the games went on, as they almost always do. It was full of the moments- good and bad and in-between- that define sports, and life. Vin Scully said goodbye to LA, yes, but there was also a walk-off HR to clinch the division. Football and golf went on, bringing their usual pains and triumphs. There is less than a week left to go in the MLB season, with some races still be decided, some careers still left to be finished and continued.

Yes, the games go on. They won’t show us what Jose Fernandez could have become, or what Arnold Palmer once was, but they will go on. And they will help us ease the pain and nostalgia, just as they help us forget the woes of everyday life on any given day.

After all, that’s what we love sports for, is it not?

Matching MLB Players with Olympians (2016 Edition)

Back in 2012, the BBC put up a neat little online app that said what Olympian you were most similar to in height and weight. Needless to say, I took advantage of the kindness of our friends across the pond by using it to compare MLB players to Olympians. Well, the BBC did it again, adding a age portion to it as well. So, after the jump, check out how some MLB players compare to Olympians.

Continue reading

An @HOVG Addendum: The biggest baseball alum of NCAA Snubs

Over at Hall of Very Good, I looked at the best baseball alums of every team in the NCAA Tournament.

Consider this an addendum: the best baseball alums of various NCAA snubs!

Monmouth: The best Monmouth baseball alum is active now: Brad Brach. Three other Monmouth grads have made the show, however. They are Ed Halicki, Bob Hooper, and Tom Kelly.

St. Bonaventure: This is an easy one, as John McGraw played for (and coached) Bonaventure in the 1890s, even though he already had played a bit professionally (the idea of the strict separation of amateur and professional was not yet completely solidified). There’s also some evidence that Hugh Jennings was involved with Bonaventure, but it’s not listed at Baseball Reference. Danny McDevitt is the most recent MLB player who was a Bonnie.

St. Mary’s: Hall of Famers Harry Hooper and Hank O’Day are St. Mary’s grads, although I’d give the edge to Hooper. Honorable mentions: Von Hayes, Gus Triandos, Duffy Lewis, Tom Candiotti, Dutch Leonard, and Mark Teahen.

South Carolina: A baseball power in recent years, I’d say Brian Roberts (who had transferred there from UNC) is the best Gamecock alum, although you certainly can make arguments for Dave Hollins, Mookie Wilson and Bill Landrum. Current Gamecocks include Justin Smoak, Steve Pearce, and Jackie Bradley Jr.

San Diego State: Tony Gwynn. Done. (Other alums include: Stephen Strasburg, Graig Nettles, Mark Grace, Tony Clark, Harold Reynolds, and Dave Roberts.)

Valparaiso: Lloyd McClendon, apologies to guys like Al Pilcarik and Freddy Spurgeon.

So, there you have it. Make sure to go to Hall of Very Good to see the best alums of those who DID make the bracket.

 

Short Predictions for the NFL Wild Card Round (2016)

Some short predictions for this week’s NFL playoff games:

 

The Chiefs are hot, and have been hot ever since they got out of a very poor start to the season. So much of the NFL playoffs is who is hot at the right time, so I think the Chiefs will beat the Texans.

The Bengals would have been my pick to win against the Steelers… but then Andy Dalton got hurt a few weeks ago. So, I’m picking the Steelers.

Seattle beat up on the Vikings earlier in the year, and even with Marshawn Lynch not available (again) I think they will win again in the freezing cold of Minnesota.

The Packers have been stumbling a ton the later part of the season, but I feel like Aaron Rodgers is ultimately going to wake up (and hopefully be protected long enough) to beat Washington.

 

So… I picked…. all road teams.

Weird.