Sports Odds And Ends, A Stanley Cup Tourney Review And Finals Prediction!

Marc Elliott

MCGREGOR… Have you ever been driving down the road with a Minnesota Twins game on the radio and then something exciting happens and you are going crazy in the car with arms and hands flailing around along with some hooting and hollering? Sure you have. That is what I found myself doing this afternoon when the Twins came back to go ahead of the Toronto BlueJays 6-5 in some exciting late innings action. That score stood as the final moving the Twins to 30-19 on the season and tied for 1st place in the AL Central. I was getting some strange looks from some of the oncoming traffic, but I don’t care. That’s part of being a true fan. The Twins are #6 in the latest Yahoo Sports MLB Power Rank…..

I WAS LOOKING around on youtube the other night and came across a couple of old sports gems. Last week was the anniversary of the Muhammad Ali-Sonny Liston II Heavyweight boxing match from 1965 and the topic of the alleged “phantom” punch came up once again. I remember listening to the fight on the radio with my father the night it happened and then watching a Wide World of Sports review of the fight the very next Saturday afternoon with Ali in the studio accompanied by Howard Cosell. I don’t recall if Liston was there also or not. I have watched replays of this fight ending many times and at many speeds and it appears to me that Ali just plain tagged Liston and put him down and that was that.

Many fans and anti-Ali types were convinced that the fight was fixed. It was fairly controversial for a couple of weeks beyond the event itself. What I saw in my search for more info though was fantastic. In the mid-seventies, Ali, for some reason decided to dive into the boxer versus wrestler debate with both sides claiming superiority over the other. Ali signed on to take on one Antonio Inoki from Japan and if I remember correctly it was available as a pay-per-view closed circuit event at local theaters and auditoriums. I went to watch. The best part was that before the match took place Ali wanted to see how this kind of thing might unfold for real. (or fake)

Somehow Ali hooked up with Verne Gagne and the AWA for an exhibition show at the Chicago Amphitheater. Ali’s two opponents that night in 3 round bouts were the best jobber in the history of pro wrasslin’,  Kenny Jay (career record 2-5789) and another hapless fellow named Buddy Wolfe. Buddy was actually a collegiate champ from St. Cloud State. However, winning wasn’t what he was in the AWA for. On that night Dick the Bruiser would “manage” Jay and Wolfe, and wrestling great Freddie Blassie would work Ali’s corner. Blassie was a wrestler of note at one time before becoming a manager.
Gagne himself was the third man in the ring.

First up was Jay, and Ali kept him at bay with some fierce jabbing while Jay kept trying to duck under for a takedown. Jay figured if he could get Ali on the mat that that was the great equalizer in a bout of this sort. This went back and forth for two and a half rounds before Ali started to pop Jay at will. Then in a clinch Jay must have said or did something to irritate Ali because a few moments later Ali hit him pretty good and put him on the canvas. That was the end of that.

Likewise for Wolfe, except at different points in the match Wolfe actually got his hands on Ali and gave him a couple of back-breakers and a hip toss and so on. But in the 3rd round Ali decided he had enough of Wolfe and started hitting him at will too. Wolfe didn’t go down, but at the end of the match a visibly upset Wolfe suddenly charged Ali in his corner and mayhem ensued. They got separated once, but then Wolfe grabbed the Champ again, and with Blassie and the Bruiser holding Wolfe back Ali gave him a punch that knocked him on his posterior after about 8 feet of flight.

Now I was leaning forward and laughing so hard I was near tears! This goes on for a bit longer and then the combatants are separated and Ali grabs a microphone and starts working the audience. I saw this way back when it occurred but honestly, I forgot all about it. I can’t say how many times I have replayed it since, but I laugh every time. Go to youtube and plug in; Muhammad Ali vs. Buddy Wolfe, the Jay bout will come up as a second choice if you want to view both. I’m smiling about it as I type….

WE ARE THREE ROUNDS INTO the greatest hockey tournament on the planet and it has been another breathtaking tourney. The series win by the Minnesota Wild over the STL Blues in the 1st round was awesome. The NY Rangers vs. the Washington Capitals was easily the best series of the 2nd round. And in the Conference Finals we bore witness to twin Game sevens for the first time since 2000. The CHI Blackhawks had the upper hand for the most part on the way to their 5-3 victory over Anaheim, and Tampa Bay also was in the drivers seat for most of their tilt with the Rangers on the way to a 2-0 win and Cup berth.

How will the Finals go? Great question. I like the Hawks somewhat as they were the club I pulled for (along with Montreal) before the NorthStars came into the Twin Cities. You have to love Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita or you are not a real fan. But even if I’m not pro-Tampa, I don’t dislike them at all. I will be happy for either club should they win it. And don’t forget that former Bulldog star JT Brown has been getting some pretty consistent ice time in the playoffs for the Bolts. In the end, and in a series that might go 6 or 7 games, I have to give the Hawks the slightest of edge here. And the Conn Smythe winner will be defenseman Duncan Keith. Can’t wait for Wednesday eve…. PEACE