by Shawn Annarelli
The Nittany Pride is a monthly publication, which is why every Thursday at noon I will post the “Weekly Sports Replay” to breakdown and give a new spin on the latest events in sports in a more timely manner.
Rivera to the Rescue
Former Yankees executive Herb Rayburn signed 21-year old Mariano Rivera to a $3,000 contract in the lukewarm Panamanian winter of 1990.
Rivera, now a grey-bearded 41-year old veteran, eclipsed Trevor Hoffman’s record 601 career saves on Monday.
Rivera recorded his record setting 602nd save in 13 pitches against Minnesota’s Trevor Plouffe, Michael Cuddyer and Chris Parmelee.
On the fifth pitch of the ninth inning, Rivera got Plouffe to dribble a grounder to second baseman Robinson Cano for the first out.
Cuddyer sliced Rivera’s tenth pitch to right fielder Chris Dickerson for the second out.
Rivera’s next three pitches to Parmelee were strikes. Parm
elee took Rivera’s first delivery for a strike through the heart of the plate. Parmelee connected with the next pitch for a broken bat foul ball down the first base line.
The final pitch was Rivera’s signature cutter, a pitch which freezes batters in their stance and strikes their confidence down.
This one, a 93 mph strike through the lower, middle part of the plate, would be no different.
Parmelee began to offer a swing but stopped at the last second. Rivera’s hurl looked to be too far outside to bother hacking at, but the ball swerved over the plate just before it reached Russel Martin’s catcher’s mitt.
Umpire John Hirschbeck emphatically called strike three and briskly walked off the field. Parmelee stood upright, but solemnly dropped his head and shoulders and followed Hirschbeck’s lead to the dugout.
But Rivera’s pace was slower than anyone else’s on the field. Martin trotted toward his pitcher, and the fielders, bullpen and dugout sprinted toward the mound.
Rivera calmly took nine baby steps toward Martin before being engulfed by teammates and coaches, a familiar scene over the years.
As a rookie, Rivera finished third in the Cy Young Award voting, never done before.
As a pitcher, Rivera closed out five World Series victories, never done before.
As a closer, Rivera added another save yesterday to set the all-time saves mark at 603, never done before.
New York has seven more games to play this season and has already clinched the AL East division.
Rivera is also signed through 2012, so times Rivera is engulfed by pinstripes may not be over.
Hello Mr. President
Last week five-time defending Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson mingled with President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House.
Mr. President and Mr. Nascar relieved themselves momentarily from their busy work schedules to honor Johnson for his ongoing dominance in the world of stock car racing.
However, instead of discussing the American Jobs Act or Johnson’s left turn skills the two most prominent men in their respective trades found fatherhood as a common ground.
President Obama, of course, has two daughters, and Johnson’s daughter is 13 months old.
Discussing fatherhood was probably a nice retreat for these two, but it wouldn’t be what I would discuss with the President.
Not a chance.
Me: Mr. President, it is an honor to meet you.
Mr. President: Hi son. Uh, who are you?
Me: My name is Shawn, your biggest fan.
Mr. President: Oh, thanks Shawn. So why are you in my house?
Me: I was just hoping to play a quick game of basketball against you.
Mr. President: Ok, but if you foul me I’m going to consider you a national threat to the country.
Me: Gulp. Can we play Horse instead?
Steelers Rebound from Week One Beat Down
The Steelers’ defense would like to forget about the week one whipping they received from the Ravens in a 35-7 blowout. Fortunately, the Steelers defense revived itself and laid a goose egg on the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday.
The visiting Seattle offense sputtered for just 3.49 yards a play and 164 yards of total offense, a welcome follow-up performance after the not-so Steel Curtain allowed 170 rushing yards alone against the Ravens.
Six different defenders totaled five sacks on Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.
Pittsburgh added insult to Seattle’s offensive line’s incompetence by tackling their rushers six times in the backfield. Seattle only ran the ball 13 times, so every other carry was for a loss.
Surely, the Steelers would love to play the Seahawks at home more often. The last time the two teams met in Pittsburgh the Steelers won 21-0 and allowed only 144 total yards.
The offense also did pretty well for itself on Sunday.
Ben Roethlisberger broke out of his first week funk for 298 passing yards and a touchdown pass to Mike Wallace, who led all receivers with 126 yards.
Wallace is also only the second Steeler in the last decade to open the season with back-back 100-yard performances at wide receiver. Plaxico Burress did it to start the 2003 season with Tommy Maddox at quarterback.
Next week, the Steelers play the Peyton Manning-less Colts. Without their world-class signal caller the Colts have been outscored 61-26 by the Texans and Browns.
Playing a broken record
Last week the Pirates further cemented themselves as baseball’s doormats with an 82nd loss to extend their losing streak to 19 consecutive seasons.
Now, the Pirates have a 69-87 record this season with eight more games to be played. Pittsburgh is 18-43 in its last 59 games, a far cry from their 51-44 start to the season.
With the club now playing .295 baseball over the last nine weeks, one must wonder if the first half of the season was simply a fluke.
The Pirates’ season usually takes this form anyway.
Pittsburgh normally plays close to .500 before completely collapsing in late May or early June, known as the annual June swoon to Pirates fans.
2011’s burnout simply came a month late.
Sweet play of the Week
Never mind Tom Brady’s record setting pace for passing yards in a season. Forget Wes Welker’s 99-yard touchdown reception.
When a 325-pound nose tackle with a 5.08 40-yard dash returns an interception for 28 rumbling, bumbling yards, he has to receive “Sweet Play of the Week” honors.
Last week, Patriots long-time nose tackle Vince Wilfork dropped into shallow coverage and stuck his hands in the air for a big surprise.
San Diego’s Philip Rivers threw a perfect strike to Wolfork, who nearly dropped the errant pass. Nonetheless, Wilfork gained possession of the ball and lumbered down the sideline before being tackled by helmetless Chargers fullback Mike Tolbert.
Sour Play of the Week
Pirates outfielder Alex Presley bounced a fly ball off his glove and into the stands to assist the Marlins’ Omar Infante with his second homerun of the game.
On most weeks, such a play would receive “Sour Play of the Week” honors, but Presley was out soured by Egyptain soccer player Amir Sayoud.
Sayoud, who plays for an elite Egyptian soccer team, lined up a penalty shot and tried to trick the goalie.
Only he somehow ended up falling flat on his face in the process.
Sayoud faked a kick, but drove his left foot into the ground with such force he spring boarded forward in a nose dive. The midfielder did manage to get off a weak shot, which the goaltender saved easily.
Not only was Sayoud’s penalty kick a miserable failure, it was also illegal. He didn’t get a goal for his troubles, but he did get a yellow card.
Transaction of the Week
Pitt and Syracuse announced they are bolting the Big East for the ACC.
At this point, we should not be surprised at all when a school decides to ditch one conference for another.
The additions will increase the ACC’s size to 14 teams. Virginia Tech and Florida State figure to be the most competitive football programs, while Pitt, Duke and North Caroline will be the most powerful basketball programs.
At the latest, the two athletic programs will join the ACC in 2014, but they may negotiate an earlier exit and entry.
Upset of the Week
The Ohio State Buckeyes football program, immersed in suspicion and guilt for NCAA conduct violations, continued to fall further last Saturday.
The 17th ranked team in football, Ohio State took a beating from the unranked Miami Hurricanes who held them to 35 yards through the air on 18 pass attempts.
Despite easily dismantling Ohio State, Miami did not receive enough votes to be ranked by the Associated Press.
Did you know?
- Isaac Redman, despite being Pittsburgh’s short-yardage back for two years, scored his first career rushing touchdown last week against the Seahawks.
- Georgia Tech rushed for 604 yards in Kansas last week, and they weren’t running 100-yard sprints.
- Manny Ramirez wants to make a return to baseball, probably because he cannot return home after being charged with domestic battery for allegedly slapping his wife in the face.
- Penn State is ranked 109th in the country in total passing yards, averaging 158 yards through the air a game.
- The Penguins are playing. Their preseason began Wednesday with first star Evegni Malkin scoring a goal and assisting a Chris Kunitz score.
Like it, Love it, Hate it? Email me at email@example.com with any comments, suggestions or topic ideas for next week’s Weekly Sports Replay. Have a good one, Shawn.