Roger Clemens and Baseball’s 10 Best Starting Pitchers the Past 40 years

It is fun to think about and debate who are the best in any sport and thinking about who were the best starting pitchers the past 40 years was no exception.

My article that I wrote back in 2011 was originally published at: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/764220-the-10-best-starters-in-the-last-40-years-where-does-roger-clemens-rank

When looking at the rosters for Major League Baseball’s All-Star game this year, there isn’t a pitcher on either roster who has 200 or more lifetime wins.

In fact, the winningest pitcher in Major League Baseball playing today is Boston’s Tim Wakefield with 198 wins.

We’ve become accustomed to seeing so many great starting pitchers in the All-Star game the past few decades, so here is my list of Major League Baseball’s 10 best starting pitchers from the last 40 years.

10. Gaylord Perry

Gaylord Perry played from 1962-1983, and accumulated 314 wins, 265 losses, a 3.11 ERA, 3,534 strikeouts and two Cy Young awards.

Perry won 20 games or more five times and also had two 19-win seasons. He led his league in wins on three occasions and had eight seasons with 200 or more strikeouts. In 1972, Perry had a 1.92 ERA, and in 1978, he posted a 21-6 season.

A five-time All-Star, Perry was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.

 

9. Tom Glavine

From 1987-2008, Tom Glavine recorded 305 wins, 203 losses, a 3.54 ERA and 2,607 strikeouts. He was a 10-time All-Star and two-time Cy Young winner.

A five-time 20-game winner, Glavine led the National League in wins five times. In 1993, he posted a 22-6 record.

As a finesse pitcher, Glavine never struck out 200 batters in a season but is a certain future Hall of Famer.

8. Nolan Ryan

Nolan Ryan played from 1966-1993, notching 324 wins, 292 losses, a 3.19 ERA, a record 5,714 strikeouts and eight All-Star selections.

Ryan pitched a record seven no-hitters, and also threw 12 one-hitters and 18 two-hitters. He led the American League in shutouts three times, had two 20-win seasons and two 19-win seasons, but he never won a Cy Young award.

Ryan had nine shutouts in 1972 and in 1981 with a 1.69 ERA. He led the league in strikeouts 11 times and struck out a record 383 batters in 1973.  Ryan struck out 200 batters in a season 15 times, 300 batters in a season six times and was named to Major League Baseball’s All-Century Team.

The Texas Rangers’ president was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.

7. Pedro Martinez

Pedro Martinez entered the league 1992 and stayed until 2009. In that time, he managed 219 wins, 100 losses, a 2.93 ERA and 3,154 strikeouts. Martinez was also an eight-time All-Star and won three Cy Young awards.

He led the National League with a 1.90 ERA in 1997, and in 2000, led the American League with a 1.74 ERA. He led his league in ERA five times and led the American League in strikeouts three times.

Martinez won 20 or more games in a season twice and also had one 19-win season. With a 23-4 record in 1999, Pedro won the pitching Triple Crown that season. He struck out 200 or more batters in a season nine times with two seasons of more than 300 strikeouts and has a lifetime average of 10 K’s per nine innings.

Pedro is a certain future Hall of Famer.

6. Jim Palmer

Jim Palmer played from 1965-1984 with 268 wins, 152 losses, a 2.86 ERA and 2,212 strikeouts to his credit. Palmer was a six-time All Star and winner of three Cy Young awards.

He won 20 games or more in a season eight times and had 53 career shutouts. Palmer led the American League in ERA twice and posted a 2.07 ERA in 1972.

Palmer was also a four-time Gold Glove winner and elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990.

5. Randy Johnson

From 1988-2009, Randy “The Big Unit” Johnson posted a ridiculous 303 wins, 166 losses, 3.29 ERA and 4,875 strikeouts.

A 10-time All-Star, winner of five Cy Young awards and the 2001 World Series MVP, Johnson had three 20-plus win seasons and two other 19-win seasons. He led his respective league four times in ERA and nine times in strikeouts with a high of 372 strikeouts in 2001. Johnson struck out 200 or more batters in a season 13 times and 300 or more batters five times.

Johnson had 37 career shutouts and won the pitching Triple Crown of wins, strikeouts and ERA in 2002.  In 1995, Johnson was a dominating 18-2 and was only the second pitcher in history to win the Cy Young award four consecutive seasons.

Without question, Johnson is a lock first-ballot Hall of Famer.

4. Steve Carlton

Over a career spanning more than 20 years (1965-1988), Steve Carlton recorded 329 wins, 244 losses, 3.22 ERA, 4,136 strikeouts and 55 career shutouts. He was a 10-time All-Star and winner of four Cy Young awards.

In one of the greatest seasons ever for a pitcher, Carlton led the National League with a 1.97 ERA in 1972, winning a league-high 27 games for the last-place Philadelphia Phillies who only won 59 games that season. He also led the league in strikeouts that year with 310 to win the pitching Triple Crown.

Carlton also had six 20-win seasons, led the National League in wins four times and in strikeouts five times. He struck out 200 or more batters in a season eight times and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994.

3. Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux played from 1986-2008 and recorded 355 wins, 227 losses, a 3.16 ERA, 3,371 strikeouts and four Cy Young Awards.

Maddux won 20 games in a season twice and had five 19-win seasons. He was an eight-time All-Star who led the National League in shutouts five times and four times in ERA.

In 1994, Maddux had a 1.56 ERA, and followed that up with a 19-2 record and a 1.63 ERA in 1995.  Maddux is the only pitcher in the history of baseball to win 15 games or more in 17 consecutive seasons and was the first pitcher to win the Cy Young award in four consecutive seasons.

Maddux also won a record 18 Gold Gloves and is a first-ballot future Hall of Famer.

2. Roger Clemens

From 1984-2007, Roger Clemens posted 354 wins, 184 losses, a 3.12 ERA, 4,672 strikeouts and won a record seven Cy Young awards. Clemens was an 11-time All-Star, and was named American League MVP in 1986 and the All-Star game MVP that same year.

Clemens led the American League in ERA in 1990 with a 1.93 ERA and 15 years later led the National League in ERA with a 1.87 ERA in 2005. He led his respective league in ERA seven times and won 20 or more games in a season six times.

Clemens also had 12 seasons with more than 200 strikeouts, leading the American League in strikeouts five times and in shutouts six times. He had 46 career shutouts and won the American League pitching Triple Crown in 1997 and 1998. In 1986, Clemens had a 24-4 record, and 15 years later was 20-3 in 2001.

He was also voted to the Major League Baseball All-Century team.

  1. Tom Seaver

Tom Terrific played from 1967-1986, and racked up 311 wins, 205 losses, a 2.86 ERA and 3,640 strikeouts.

Seaver was a 12-time All-Star, won three Cy Young Awards and had five 20-win seasons. He led the National League in strikeouts five times, had 61 career shutouts and a 1.76 ERA in 1971.

Seaver struck out 200 or more batters in a season 10 times and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992.

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have their fans at a fever pitch – thinking more

After two decades of losing seasons, Pittsburgh Pirate fans were hungry for a winning season and started to think the post-season was a possibility back in 2011. It wasn’t meant to be that year but it foreshadowed what was to come the next few seasons.

My article was originally published at: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/750563-the-pittsburgh-pirates-have-their-fans-at-a-fever-pitch-thinking-more-than-500

There’s a transformation taking place on the north side of Pittsburgh. No, it’s not Renaissance III or another hotel or parking garage being built, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the Steelers or the Rooneys.

With young promising players such as local kid Neal Walker, who’s leading all second basemen in Major League Baseball in runs batted in and budding superstar Andrew McCutchen, baseball is becoming the “in” thing in Pittsburgh.

It’s not just about the food or the beautiful ballpark any more. It’s not just the racing pierogis and the bobbleheads and the fireworks. Night after night, more and more Pirate flags are being waved in the stands, and Pirate mania is growing.

Bucco fans, young and old, are starting to bring brooms to PNC Park, not to help with keeping the ballpark clean. But rather after taking the first two games of a series and going for a sweep of the series against such stalwart teams as the Tigers, Phillies and Red Sox. It wasn’t that long ago fans hoped their Pirates weren’t the team being swept at home.

Not since 1992, the franchise’s last winning season, has there been this much excitement for Pirate fans. Now, baseball games have some meaning approaching the All-Star break. The dreaded June swoon didn’t occur, thanks to solid starting pitching. The starting rotation of Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens, James McDonald, Charlie Morton and Paul Maholm have kept the Pirates in games all season long without great run support, as the Bucs are only hitting .240 as a team.

Pirate fans no longer leave in droves when the team’s behind after the seventh inning. Should they be ahead, closer Joel Hanrahan has been a sure thing with 22 saves in 22 save opportunities.

The Pirate players and their fans are undergoing a Hurdlization as new Pirate skipper Clint Hurdle has the young Bucs and their fans believing they can win. The energy at PNC Park is almost palpable and no longer are the Pirates an easy win and an easy series for their opponents. Just ask the Tigers, Phillies, and Red Sox.

After 10 long and lean years, maybe the crown jewel of a ballpark on the Allegheny River has a Pirate team worthy of playing in it, finally.

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

SEC Schools Go North? Instead we get Cupcake Saturday

It’s often brought up how southern football schools don’t travel north to face northern schools. This is especially true after mid-October. So I did some research and found out which southern football powers did travel north and it’s not often.

My article was originally published at: http://www.groundreport.com/sec-schools-go-north-instead-we-get-cupcake-saturday/

When thinking about truly rare occurrences or sightings, Haley’s Comet comes to mind as it becomes visible from Earth every 75 to 76 years. Seeing an SEC football team play north of the Mason-Dixon Line in October and November would certainly qualify as another rare event. Whereas that may not be as infrequent as viewing Haley’s Comet, it certainly seems that way.

The last time a major southern football program traveled anywhere near the Mason-Dixon Line in mid-football season or later was October 23, 2008, when Auburn traveled to Morgantown, West Virginia to take on the Mountaineers. The Tigers, playing their eighth game of the season, lost 34-17.

Some fans might think that late in the season is not the time for a non-conference game. However, consider some of the late season cupcakes that have been feasted upon by SEC teams. Auburn has played Alabama A&M, Arkansas State, Furman, Louisiana Monroe, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, North Texas, Northwest Louisiana, Samford, Southwest Louisiana, University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, and the University of Tennessee-Martin before or in between games with Georgia and/or Alabama. I guess the Southeast Little Sisters of the Poor Alabama chapter had scheduling conflicts.

The last time Florida was north of the Mason-Dixon Line, a gallon of gas cost $0.93 when the Gators traveled to face Rutgers in October of 1986. Since 2006, as a prelude to their annual season finale versus Florida State, the Gators have feasted on such cupcakes as Western Carolina, Florida Atlantic, The Citadel, Eastern Kentucky, Florida International, Appalachian State, Furman, and Jacksonville State. Florida found out in 2013 that not all cupcakes go down easy as Georgia Southern was not about to become Gator bait.

The last time South Carolina ventured far north was an early October match-up against Pitt in 1985. Some of the Gamecocks late November non-conference opponents in recent years have been: Coastal Carolina, Middle Tennessee, The Citadel and Wofford.

Georgia’s November non-conference opponents in recent years have included: Charleston Southern, Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, New Mexico State, Idaho State, Tennessee Tech, Troy and UAB.

To Georgia’s credit in 2010, they traveled north to face Colorado in an early October contest. Prior to that, the last time Georgia went that far north in early October was a trip to Ann Arbor to face Michigan – in 1965! The last late October northern trip for the Bulldogs was a trip to Cincinnati – in 1942!

Tennessee’s November non-conference foes have included: Akron, Louisiana-Lafayette, Memphis, Memphis State, Middle Tennessee State, Temple, Troy, and Wyoming.

Alabama has scheduled cupcakes before their season ending rivalry game with Auburn. Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Louisiana-Monroe, Tennessee-Chattanooga and Western Carolina have traveled to Tuscaloosa to be Alabama’s tune-up for the Iron Bowl.

This year is no different across the south. On November 21st, or it should be known as Cupcake Saturday, Charleston Southern travels to Alabama, Idaho is at Auburn, Florida Atlantic is at Florida, Georgia Southern is at Georgia, Charlotte is at Kentucky, and The Citadel is at South Carolina.

Talk about a snoozer of a line-up of games. Perhaps that Saturday should be called Honey Do Saturday down south, honey do this and honey do that and the men won’t  mind since they certainly will not be missing out on watching competitive football.

If a school can schedule a non-conference opponent for the 10th or 11th game of the season, why not play a northern school every now and then? That would help a school’s strength of schedule. In the past, if there was one school that an SEC team would travel north to play after the leaves have changed color, it’s Notre Dame.

Tennessee traveled to South Bend in November in 1978, 1991, 2001, and 2005. To the Volunteers credit, they also went north to face Rutgers and Boston College in late October of 1983 and 1987 respectively. Even LSU traveled to South Bend in late November in 1970, 1985 and in 1988 to play the Fighting Irish.

Alabama traveled north in mid-November to play Notre Dame in between games with LSU and Auburn in 1976 and 1987. Alabama also played at Cincinnati, the Bearcats not the Bengals, in between games with LSU and Auburn in 1984.

Alabama also traveled to State College to play Penn State in 1981 before their season ending game with Auburn and did the same with Boston College in 1983. The Crimson Tide also made October trips to Happy Valley to face the Nittany Lions in 1985 and 1989.

One might think northern schools are locked into their conference schedule and will not schedule a non-conference game late in the season. It does not happen often but Penn State played non-conference foe Temple last November and Rice played at Northwestern in November of 2011.

More proof that a major southern football program can travel to face a northern non-conference opponent late in the year occurred in November of 1993 when No. 1 ranked Florida State played No. 2 Notre Dame in South Bend resulting in one of the more memorable “Game of the Century” games. FSU also played at Notre Dame in November of 2003.

Imagine LSU playing in the Big House in Ann Arbor. LSU has never played Michigan. Ponder watching Florida play Ohio State in Columbus rather than Florida Atlantic at home. Imagine Alabama traveling to East Lansing to play Michigan State. One could call that Coach-School Reunion Saturday. For the betterment of college football, that would be a far more interesting and entertaining slate of games than Cupcake Saturday.

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

The Top 25 NFL Quarterbacks to not win a Super Bowl

I wrote this article back in back in January of 2011. It makes for a nice trivia question about the best quarterbacks to not win a Super Bowl.

My article was originally published at: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/554656-the-best-25-quarterbacks-ever-to-have-never-won-a-super-bowl

The NFL postsesaon is here and some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL will be trying to win their first Super Bowl.

Two make the list of the best 25 to have never won the Super Bowl.  See who they are and where they rank in our list.

25. Jim Everett

Everett threw for 34,837 yards and 203 touchdowns. He threw for over 3,000 yards in a season seven times and led the Los Angeles Rams to the postseason three times.

He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1990.   Everett had the misfortune of playing in the same era and division as the San Francisco 49ers of the ’90s.

24. Michael Vick

Vick has thrown for 14,609 yards and 93 touchdowns. A four-time Pro Bowler, he has led the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles to the playoffs.

Second all-time in rushing yards for a quarterback with 4,630 yards, he likely will surpass Randall Cunningham as the all-time leader in 2011.

23. Matt Hasselbeck

Originally a Green Bay Packer, Hasselbeck got his chance to shine as a Seattle Seahawk beginning in the 2001 season.

Hasselbeck has thrown for 29,579 yards and 176 touchdowns. A three-time Pro Bowler, he has thrown for over 3,000 yards in a season six times and led the Seattle Seahawks to Super Bowl XL.

22. Phillip Rivers

Rivers has played his entire career with the San Diego Chargers, throwing for 19,661 yards and 136 touchdowns.

A three-time Pro Bowler, he has thrown for over 3,000 yards in a season five times and in each of the last three seasons for over 4,000 yards.

21. Vinny Testaverde

Testaverde threw for 46,233 yards and 275 touchdowns in a career that spanned 21 years. Testaverde’s career passing yardage is in the top 10 all-time in the NFL.

A two-time Pro Bowler, he threw for over 3,000 yards in a season six times in his career.

20. Kerry Collins

Collins has thrown for 40,441 yards and 206 touchdowns.

A two-time Pro Bowler, he threw for over 3,000 yards in a season six times and led the Carolina Panthers, New York Giants and Tennessee Titans to the playoffs during his career.

Collins led the New York Giants to Super Bowl XXXV.

19. Archie Manning

A two-time Pro Bowler, Manning threw for over 3,000 yards in a season three times.

Manning played for the woeful New Orleans Saints for most of his career and overall threw for 23,911 yards and 125 touchdowns.  Manning’s greatest claim to fame may be that he is the father of two Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks, Peyton and Eli Manning.

18. Rich Gannon

In his career, Gannon threw for 28,743 yards and 180 touchdowns.

A four-time Pro Bowler, NFL MVP in 2002 and two-time recipient of the Bert Bell Award, he threw for over 3,000 yards in a season four times and led the Oakland Raiders to Super Bowl XXXVII.

17.  Dave Krieg

A three-time Pro Bowler, Krieg threw for over 3,000 yards in a season six times and for his career, threw for 38,147 yards and 261 touchdowns.

Krieg is 12th on the all-time list for wins by a starting quarterback.

16. Roman Gabriel

In his career, Gabriel threw for 29,444 yards and 201 touchdowns. A four-time Pro Bowler, he was named NFL MVP in 1969 and NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1973.

Gabriel had a very low 3.3 percent interception rate.

15. John Brodie

A two-time Pro Bowler and NFL MVP in 1970, Brodie threw for 31,548 yards and 214 touchdowns.

He played his entire career with the San Francisco 49ers and at the time of his retirement was third all-time in career passing yards behind only Johnny Unitas and Fran Tarkenton.

14. John Hadl

In his career, Hadl threw for 33,503 yards and 244 touchdowns.

A two-time Pro Bowler, Hadl threw for over 3,000 yards in a season three times.

13. Carson Palmer

Palmer has played his entire career with the Cincinnati Bengals and has thrown for 22,694 yards and 154 touchdowns.

A two-time Pro Bowler, Palmer has thrown for over 3,000 yards in a season five times.

12. Jim Hart

Hart threw for 34,665 yards and 209 touchdowns.

A four-time Pro Bowler, he guided the St. Louis Cardinals to three straight 10-plus win seasons.  Hart thrived under Don Coryell’s passing offense.

11. Randall Cunningham

In his career, Cunningham threw for 29,979 yards and 207 touchdowns.  A four-time Pro Bowler, Cunningham was recipient of the Bert Bell Award three times.

He led both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs and retired as the all-time leading rusher for a quarterback with 4,928 yards.

10. Steve McNair

In his career, McNair threw for 31,304 yards and 174 touchdowns.

A three-time Pro Bowler and NFL MVP in 2003, McNair threw for over 3,000 yards in a season six times and led the Titans to their only Super Bowl appearance.

9. Donovan McNabb

McNabb has thrown for 36,250 yards and 230 touchdowns.

A six-time Pro Bowler, he has thrown for over 3,000 yards in a season eight times. McNabb led the Philadelphia Eagles to the NFC Championship game four straight seasons and to Super Bowl XXXIX, losing to Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots.

8. Boomer Esiason

In his career, Esiason threw for 37,920 yards and 247 touchdowns.  A four-time Pro Bowler, he threw for over 3,000 yards in a season seven times.

Named NFL MVP in 1988, Esiason led the Cincinnati Bengals to Super Bowl XXIII losing to the San Francisco 49ers and Joe Montana’s last-minute comeback drive.

7. Ken Anderson

Anderson played his entire career with the Cincinnati Bengals and threw for 32,838 yards and 197 touchdowns.

A four-time Pro Bowler, he led the NFL in passing yards in 1974 and 1975 and set an NFL record for completion percentage in 1982, completing 70.6 percent of his passes.

Named NFL MVP in 1981, Anderson led the Bengals to Super Bowl XVI.

6. Sonny Jurgensen

Hall of Famer—In his career, Jurgensen threw for 32,224 yards and 255 touchdowns.

Jurgensen, a five-time Pro Bowler, was also named to the NFL’s All-Decade team of the ‘60s.  Even though Jurgensen’s playing career began before the Super Bowl, he was so good that he made this list in that short period of time from the inception of the Super Bowl till his final season in 1974.

5. Warren Moon

Hall of Famer—In his career, Moon threw for 49,325 yards and 291 touchdowns.

A nine-time Pro Bowler, Moon threw for over 4,000 yards in a season four times and had more than 300 completions in a season six times.  Moon is in the top 10 all-time for wins for a starting quarterback as well.

4. Fran Tarkenton

Hall of Famer—A nine-time Pro Bowler, Tarkenton led the Minnesota Vikings to the Super Bowl three times but always came away empty.

Tarkenton retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards with 47,003, touchdown passes with 342, completions with 3,686 and rushing yards for a quarterback with 3,674.

He also had the most wins as a quarterback, 124.

Each record has been surpassed since.

3. Jim Kelly

Hall of Famer—One of the toughest quarterbacks ever, Kelly threw for 35,467 yards and 237 touchdowns.

He led the Buffalo Bills to the Super Bowl four times, but always came away empty handed.  He was named to the Pro Bowl four times and passed for over 3,000 yards in a season eight times.

2. Dan Fouts

Hall of Famer—In his career, the former San Diego Charger threw for 43,040 yards and 254 touchdowns.

Fouts was selected to the all-decade team in the ‘80s and was selected to the Pro Bowl six times. He set the single-season passing record in 1981 with 4,802 yards and threw for over 4,000 yards in a season three times.

Fouts led the Chargers to two AFC Championship games, but his teams never made the Super Bowl.

1. Dan Marino

Hall of Famer—The former Miami Dolphins great retired as the NFL’s leader in passing yards with 61,361, touchdown passes with 420 and completions with 4,967.

All have since been broken by Brett Favre.

A nine-time Pro Bowler, Marino formerly held the record for most touchdown passes in a season, 48, and still holds the single season passing mark of 5,084 yards. Marino led the Miami Dolphins to Super Bowl XIX.

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

Pitt Football Should Begin Plans for An On-Campus Stadium

Back in 2012 and seeing how Heinz Field was not the panacea so many thought it would be for the University of Pittsburgh’s football program I wrote this article entitled, “Pitt Football Should Begin Plans for On-Campus Stadium.”

Proponents of an on-campus stadium love the idea and I had people inquiring to follow me on Twitter when I wasn’t even on Twitter at that point.

It’s funny how so many will tell you there’s no land in Oakland. Well, I have news for them that other than Panther Hollow Lake, it’s all land and structures that once existed on land such as Forbes Field and Pitt Stadium were torn down for new structures.

One thing is certain, I doubt any sports article ever included American Educator Hamilton Holt and English Painter William Blake in the first two paragraphs.

The below article I wrote was originally printed and can be found at: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1443182-pitt-football-begin-plans-on-an-on-campus-stadium.

American Educator Hamilton Holt was quoted as saying, “Nothing worthwhile comes easily.”

English painter William Blake said, “Great things are done when men and mountains meet.” When obstacles appear insurmountable, visionaries see opportunity.

For those who find challenges or change too daunting, it’s easier for them to simply become naysayers. You’re crazy. You can’t do that. It can’t be done. Man will never learn to fly. Man will never set foot on the moon. You can’t build a 23-mile tunnel under water between France and England.

Those are just examples of things naysayers have said only to be proven wrong. Thankfully, there were individuals who were not dissuaded and went on despite the countless naysayers and obstacles they had to overcome.

Former Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff was scoffed at when she proposed a new baseball stadium for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1991; but 10 years later her vision became a reality when PNC Park opened, and is now considered a jewel along the Allegheny River and acclaimed to be one of Major League Baseball’s finest ballparks.

On message boards Pitt fans and alumni regularly debate the merit of having an on-campus stadium versus that of playing at Heinz Field. The University of Pittsburgh should have and deserves its own on-campus stadium.

How can a university that boasts nine national championships in football not have its own on-campus football stadium?

If it’s to be done and done correctly, it will likely require the acquisition of property, the building of new roads and the redirecting of existing roads for improved infrastructure. Those aren’t easy things to do, but it most certainly can be done and the planning and design for Pitt’s own on-campus stadium and the process to have it built should begin in earnest.

After all, the Pittsburgh Steelers won’t play at Heinz Field forever. Modern stadiums used for professional sports seem to have a shorter shelf life than those of long ago and don’t nearly last as long as college football stadiums. Heinz Field opened in 2001; its predecessor, Three Rivers Stadium, lasted only 30 years.

The RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana, which opened in 1984, lasted less than 24 years for the Indianapolis Colts. Plans are in the works to demolish the Georgia Dome which opened in 1992 for a retractable football stadium for the Atlanta Falcons to play in with an estimated opening for 2017.

Oh sure, but what about traffic and parking in Oakland? I’ve heard it said no one wants to drive to Oakland, well make it so fans don’t have to.

Ever go to a Major Golf Tournament like the U.S. Open? There’s insufficient parking for 25,000 fans near a golf course. So, do what they do, and arrange for locations around Pittsburgh that have large parking areas such as shopping malls and high schools, and have buses transport fans to the game for a nominal fee.

That would pay for the buses and gas, and fans won’t have to worry about driving in traffic to and from Oakland, trying to find limited parking. This cuts down on traffic congestion, gas usage and pollution. Buses from the North Hills can use the HOV lanes to get into the city, and head towards Oakland and then again on the return trip.

I’m not going to ride a bus! Auburn, Florida State, LSU, Michigan State, Missouri, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon and Penn State are just some of the universities that have shuttles that transport fans from distant locations to campus. It works for these universities. It works for golf tournaments. Deal with it.

Ever hear of public transportation? Improve it and extend the T to Oakland. It’s imperative and has been talked about and suggested for years. It’s time.

This would allow fans from the South Hills to get to Oakland by parking their car at the various T stops that provide parking spaces. Fans could also park downtown if they wanted and then take the T to Oakland and then hit the city’s restaurants and night spots following the game.

Droves of people use the T now to attend Steelers and Pirates games, and allowing easy and convenient access to the region’s finest hospitals and university centers would be a boon to the region.

Oh, but the tailgating experience won’t be the same. Well, fans can still tailgate in those distant parking lots if they want. At Notre Dame, tailgating takes place in the parking areas north of campus, and fans are shuttled to campus by bus. It works.

What about the cost?

Funding is obviously an issue and definitely not a minor one. There are many potential sources to help with the financing for an on-campus stadium, which once constructed, becomes a revenue producer for the athletic department and the university.

Financing can come from a combination of philanthropy, and financing against committed contractual stadium revenues.

A stadium having a large number of suites, lounges, club rooms and loge boxes can be used to host and entertain alumni, corporate parties and donors. Deals for corporate naming rights and sponsorships would also bring in millions of dollars, as would ticket revenue, concessions, merchandise and parking.

Obviously, one wants to get the most out of any facility. An on-campus stadium would provide a venue not just for football games but other university athletics, graduations, convocations, concerts and
other large events.

An on-campus stadium would also benefit Pitt’s soccer and track and field programs, and could serve to create men’s and women’s lacrosse programs for Pitt to compete with some of the better lacrosse programs in the country in the ACC.

Going to a Pitt football game at Heinz Field is not going to a game at Pitt—it’s going to a game on the North Shore. With the Panthers now playing at Heinz Field, the majority of Pitt fans never set foot on campus on a football Saturday. They go to the game and then drive home or someplace to eat and drink afterwards.

Think about the benefits an on-campus stadium would provide for the university. It will bring thousands of people on campus where alumni can reconnect with the place they lived for a few wonderful years and got their college education.

Visitors will be exposed to the university and not some parking lot on the North Shore. They’ll be coming to campus because of Pitt football as opposed to now: no one goes to Pitt’s campus for Pitt football.

There’s no rekindling of nostalgia for alumni at a non-campus stadium. So those good feelings and memories aren’t relived on weekends in the fall for alumni and passed down to their kids, prospective future students and alumni.

Those rekindled memories and new ones help create an even greater passion between alums and their school and athletic programs. Fundraising for a highly visible sports program can also help bring new donors, and larger contributions towards academics and research.

Incorporate into the stadium design an Alumni Welcome Center for alumni to visit and be proud to do so. An on-campus stadium benefits fundraising as it means a trip back for alumni, a chance to roam around campus and show their kids where they went to school, where they hung out and share fond memories of their college experience. That’s a great selling point for prospective future students.

An on-campus stadium creates a special atmosphere at a university. There’s a natural tie-in of campus life and football weekends together.

Each home game would provide the opportunity for thousands of alumni and non-alumni fans to visit the campus six or seven times a year to show them and sell them the rest of the campus and the facilities.

It would be difficult to place a value on having large numbers of people on campus for six or seven weekends a year. All that positive visibility and exposure to the community and alumni can be a huge plus for any university.

Playing off campus doesn’t create the same enthusiasm for a program and its fans.The atmosphere surrounding an off-campus stadium simply can’t match that of an on-campus stadium. If there’s an upcoming big game, it creates a buzz and an energy on campus and gets everyone talking about it.

Students will be more involved with the game day experience. An on-campus stadium where students can walk to the games helps contribute to a raucous game day atmosphere.

An on-campus stadium also adds to a student’s college experience as well benefiting the school and the entire student body. Athletics and student fanaticism helps generate school spirit and are all part of the college experience. The student experience and campus atmosphere helps build passion and loyalty towards Pitt football and that gets passed on to their kids, friends and relatives.

The on-campus game day experience is important in programming students for life as a connection to the school and to the football program. How many generations of Pitt alumni have not had that experience? Far too many and maybe that’s why Pitt doesn’t draw as many fans to football games as they should.

Pitt is not a fledgling smaller division program or a newborn football program like the University of South Florida, which is considering building—an on-campus stadium.

The University of Cincinnati, which plays in a slightly smaller market than Pittsburgh, has their own on-campus stadium in Nippert Stadium which has a capacity of slightly greater than 35,000. Should they have a game that they anticipate will draw in excess of that capacity, they move those games to Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals. Pitt could do the same thing with the Steelers and Heinz Field.

If the University of Cincinnati—which doesn’t have nearly the football history, success and tradition that the University of Pittsburgh has had over the years—can build its own on-campus stadium, then so can Pitt. The Pittsburgh metropolitan area has over two million people in a region of the country that is notorious for their love of football far more so than Cincinnati.

For the University of Alabama-Birmingham, a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision member, the prospect of constructing an on-campus stadium has been the subject of debate for nearly two decades.

Currently, the Blazers play their games at Legion Field in Birmingham, a 72,000-seat
facility. In February 2011, UAB announced they would build a 30,000 horseshoe-shaped on-campus stadium. If UAB can have their own on-campus stadium, then why can’t Pitt?

Should the University of Alabama-Birmingham and hundreds of other colleges and universities place more value in their football program and the on-campus college football weekend experience than the University of Pittsburgh?

The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers played football in their on-campus Memorial Stadium from 1924-81. After 27 seasons of playing in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome two miles from campus, university leaders finally thought the better of it, and in 2009, the Golden Gophers returned to campus in their new TCF Bank Stadium.

Plans are also underway to build new on-campus stadiums at Baylor and Colorado State, neither of which can match Pitt’s tradition and legacy of football.

Pitt deserves more than temporary logos on the field and should have its own stadium with permanently painted logos and painted end zones of their own. It looks bad in Heinz Field, a stadium designed for an NFL team, with blindingly visible bright yellow seats during football telecasts.

There’s a charm in being on a college campus on game day. Heinz Field has a sterile, rented pro football feel to it, lacking in atmosphere in comparison to college stadiums.

Businesses in the Oakland community would benefit as well from thousands of Pitt fans descending upon Oakland for Pitt football games. With the games off campus, there’s no stopping to eat at a university restaurant or dining hall or at the bookstore to buy paraphernalia for the game. That’s revenue that could go toward the university’s coffers.

If you’re going to build an on-campus stadium, it needs to be done right. The University of Houston is building an on-campus stadium that will seat 40,000 with expandability to 60,000 seats at an estimated cost of $105 million. Perhaps, a 50,000-seat stadium with the ability to expand if desired in the future is an option.

A stadium with a retractable roof would eliminate the excuse of fair-weather fans that don’t want to sit out in the rain or the cold and watch a football game. An enclosed stadium of that size could also host the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament.

Imagine the on-campus feel: the nostalgia, the homecoming. Picture the band marching through campus and the players walking through campus on their way to a state-of-the-art brand new facility. Imagine statues of Pitt’s football greats at each gate-Tony Dorsett, Mike Ditka and Hugh Green with the fourth one up for debate: Larry Fitzgerald, Dan Marino, Bob Peck or perhaps Jock Sutherland.

Back in 1999, Dorsett, Ditka and Dave Wannstedt, along with other former players and coaches, signed a statement condemning the demolition of Pitt Stadium. They knew that the players would waste time shuttling to and from campus to their practice facility. The football team has to bus to the South Side to practice, and then bus to the North Side to play their games.

Students can’t walk to the games. The students have to take a bus to the North Shore to Heinz Field and usually leave in droves after Sweet Caroline is played at the end of the third quarter. That’s usually the loudest and most enthusiastic the crowd is at Pitt games, and it’s short lived as the students leave to get on buses to where? Pitt’s campus.

On-campus is where the students should be. It’s where the football team should be.

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez: Pittsburgh’s Modern Day Clemente, Stargell?

Well, that didn’t quite work out did it?  At the time, both McCutchen and Alvarez early on had comparable statistics to Pittsburgh Pirate greats Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. It’s nice to dream.

Alvarez left and in 2016, impressively hit 22 home runs in only 337 at-bats with the Baltimore Orioles this past season, however striking out 97 times. This past off-season, the front office of the Pittsburgh Pirates was evidently doing all it can to strike a deal for Andrew McCutchen.

My article, written in 2013, was originally published at: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1851325-andrew-mccutchen-pedro-alvarez-pittsburghs-modern-day-clemente-stargell

As one walks across the Roberto Clemente Bridge from downtown Pittsburgh to PNC Park, one is greeted on the left by a large bronze statue of the greatest modern day Pittsburgh Pirate, “The Great One,” Roberto Clemente, striking an ever so lithe and athletic pose.

Proceed another 100 paces on Federal Street and one then encounters the large imposing statue of Willie Stargell in a pose that emanates the power of Stargell’s intimidating and forceful swing.

For nearly a decade, these two Pirate legends played together in Forbes Field and later Three Rivers Stadium, leading the Pirates to playoff contention on a seemingly annual basis.

Are opposing pitchers today facing a modern Pirates’ version of Clemente and Stargell in Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez? At this point in their careers and ages, both McCutchen and Alvarez compare favorably statistically to Clemente and Stargell, respectively.

As the 2012 regular season ended, McCutchen was 26 years old, turning 27 on Oct. 10 with his fifth season completed in the major leagues. At 26, Clemente had finished his sixth full season, and we begin the comparison there.

Clemente had played in 771 games and McCutchen in 734. The Great One had 861 hits in those games, and McCutchen has 814. Statistically, that breaks down to 1.12 hits per game for Clemente and 1.11 hits per game for McCutchen.

Both had two seasons to that point in which they hit over .300, and McCutchen has played one less season. McCutchen’s career batting average is .296 and at that time Clemente’s was .288.

Even more telling is that despite having played in 47 fewer games, McCutchen hit 61 more home runs (103 to 42), had 48 more runs batted in (379 to 331) and stole 103 more bases (105 to 22).

Clemente won his only league MVP award in his 12th season, and McCutchen has matched that in this only his fifth season. In addition, Clemente made only one All-Star game in his first six seasons and McCutchen has been chosen to three All-Star games. Defensively, Clemente hadn’t won any of his 12 Gold Gloves yet, and McCutchen already has one.

Comparing Alvarez to Stargell at age 26 in terms of power and home run production is also noteworthy. At that age, Stargell had completed his fourth full season in the major leagues, Alvarez has only had two seasons in which he played more than 100 games. Despite that, Alvarez has hit 30 or more home runs in each of his two full seasons, while Stargell only did it once in his first four seasons.

As for home run titles, Alvarez tied for a share of the National League home run title this past season. Stargell led the National League in home runs twice in his entire career, the first time occurring not until his ninth full season in the majors.

In his first 519 games, Stargell hit 92 home runs; Alvarez has hit 86 in 470 games. That breaks down to Stargell hitting a home run every 5.64 games, and Alvarez hitting one every 5.47 games. In comparing at-bats-to-home run ratios, Stargell hit a home run every 19.28 at-bats, while Alvarez hit one every 19.36.

In areas one would expect Alvarez to improve, despite playing 49 fewer games, Alvarez has stuck out 142 more times than Stargell (565 to 423), hit for a lower batting average (.235 to .279) and driven in 70 less runs (268 to 338).

Neither McCutchen nor Alvarez should feel pressured to be the next Clemente or Stargell the way Bobby Murcer felt in being called, “the next Mickey Mantle.” There could only be one Mantle, as there could only be one Clemente or Stargell.

With Honus Wagner’s statue outside the home plate entrance of PNC Park and Bill Mazeroski’s statue outside the right field entrance, that doesn’t leave many spacious locations should—after long Pirate careers—McCutchen and Alvarez warrant statues of their own. Pirate fans no doubt hope that one day that will be a problem Pirate management has to face.

 Stats via baseball-reference.com.

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

The Pitt-Penn State rivalry – vastly overrated

This past year sparked a temporary renewal of a series that was discontinued 16 years ago in the year 2000. Pitt won this year’s game 42-39 and had not for a dropped Penn State pass or had the game even been a few seconds longer, Pitt would of lost making it eight of the last nine games in this series. That didn’t happen, and Pitt now has a two-game winning streak in the series. I believe the outcome for the next three scheduled games will be in Penn State’s favor, much like this overrated rivalry’s history.

The below article was originally published on February 21, 2015, at: http://www.groundreport.com/the-pitt-penn-state-rivalry-vastly-overrated/.

Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, one cannot help but be exposed to Pitt and Penn State football fans and hearing about the rivalry that Pitt and Penn State had.

If one would look at Pitt football’s online message boards, one would never know that the two schools haven’t faced one another since the year 2000. More likely, one might think the two schools play fiercely contested games annually and again would face each other perhaps as soon as the 2015 season opener for both schools. In fact, however, Pitt and Penn State will not meet on the gridiron until the 2016 season and a 16-year hiatus.

How good a rivalry was it and how did the Pitt-Penn State rivalry stack up against other college football rivalries across the country? Going back 50 years certainly gives a representative data set of information when considering any rivalry, but frankly, in terms of competitive balance Pitt-Penn State paled in comparison to other rivalries.

For those who claim Pitt-Penn State was a great rivalry, when looking at some of the better known college football rivalries during that same time period from 1965-2000, Army and Navy had a series record of 17-17-2, Texas and Oklahoma was 18-15-3, Notre Dame versus USC was 18-15-3 and Michigan versus Ohio State was 19-15-2.

Why even Michigan’s proclaimed “little brother” Michigan State fared better against Michigan than Pitt did against Penn State during that same time period. Michigan State had a record of 11-25 against the Wolverines in the same time frame that Pitt went 8-23-1 against Penn State.

In terms of rivalries Pitt-West Virginia and Pitt-Syracuse were far more competitive and evenly matched than Pitt-Penn State. In fact, Pitt’s series with West Virginia was much closer going 16-18-2 and against Syracuse going 14-21-1 over that same time span.

Penn State’s record against Syracuse wasn’t that much different from their record against Pitt during that same time period. Penn State went 21-5 versus Syracuse compared to 23-8-1 versus Pitt.

In 1965, head coaches John Michelosen at Pitt and Rip Engle at Penn State were in their final year as head coach of their respective schools. From 1966-2000, Pitt had eight head coaches face Penn State and not one had a winning record against Penn State head coach Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions. Those head coaches were: David Hart, Carl DePasqua, Johnny Majors, Jackie Sherrill, Foge Fazio, Mike Gottfried, Paul Hackett and Walt Harris.

Have you heard about the fierce Ohio State-Illinois rivalry? You haven’t? Me either, because no one considers it a rivalry. To put the Pitt-Penn State rivalry in perspective, in the last 32 games between Pitt and Penn State, Pitt defeated Penn State just eight times. In the last 30 games between Ohio State and Illinois, the Illini have beaten the Buckeyes 11 times.

Pitt fans, however, are quick to point out that Pitt won the last meeting between the two schools by a score of 12-0 in 2000. There was even a billboard in Southwest Pennsylvania proclaiming the score of the game. I doubt however that Pitt fans point out that the Panthers lost the previous seven meetings against the Nittany Lions prior to that contest.

One would think winning only one out of eight contests qualifies more as an aberration than a true rivalry.

If Pitt fans believe that Pitt would have been successful against Penn State since 2000, the records do not bear that out either.

Since 1936, the Lambert Trophy has been awarded annually to recognize the best team in northeastern college football and it has evolved to now recognize the best Division I college football team in primarily the Northeast United States or teams playing at least half of their games against Eastern opponents.

Pitt was awarded the first two Lambert Trophies in 1936 and 1937. Since 1965, Penn State has won 25 Lambert Trophies to Pitt’s three. Since their last meeting in 2000, Penn State has won the Lambert Trophy four times: 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2013. Pitt, on the other hand, has not won the Lambert Trophy since 1980.

In looking at the final college football rankings in the years that neither school won the Lambert Trophy since 2000, Penn State finished higher ranked than Pitt in the 2002 and 2006 seasons.

When comparing season records when neither school was ranked in the top 25, Penn State had a better season record than Pitt in 2007, 2011, and 2012 despite playing in a superior football conference. If anyone believes the Big East Conference was a tougher football conference than the Big Ten well that is sheer folly. Penn State also had a better record than Pitt in 2014.

In only four of the past 14 seasons did Pitt have a better record than Penn State, those being in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2010.

For as much vitriol that Pitt fans have toward Paterno and blaming him for the end of the Pitt-Penn State football series, in regard to wins and losses, he may have actually done Pitt a service in taking Penn State off their schedule.

Perhaps it is true that as time goes on,  the bigger the fish story becomes, and the faster we ran when we were young, and the line between what we remember and the actual truth becomes blurred and myths are created. For that is the case with the Pitt-Penn State football rivalry for as the records show, it is vastly overrated.

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

Presenting the All-Time Non-Winning Super Bowl Team

I got to wondering about the best players who never won a Super Bowl and it’s certainly an impressive list of all-time greats and hall of famers. Some on the list may surprise you.

My article was originally published at: http://www.groundreport.com/presenting-time-non-winning-super-bowl-team/

In this, the 50th anniversary of that quasi-holiday, man-made spectacle known as the Super Bowl in which heroic efforts are lauded and legends created, let us stop to consider those football greats who were not fortunate enough to win a Super Bowl ring.

When you consider that Charles Haley had the good fortune to play for the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers and win five Super Bowl rings, yet all those players that played their entire career with Arizona, Atlanta, Buffalo, Carolina, Cincinnati, Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Philadelphia, San Diego and/or Tennessee were never part of a Super Bowl winning team.

The list of following players, many that are in Pro Football’s Hall of Fame, may surprise you. Presenting the 50th Anniversary All-Time Non-Super Bowl Winning Team:

At quarterback, it can be none other than Dan Marino. Marino retired as the quarterback with the most completions, passing yards and touchdowns in NFL history. Marino played in SB XIX at the young age of 23 in only his second season in the NFL and probably believed that he would have other Super Bowl appearances. Neither he nor the Miami Dolphins have played in a Super Bowl since.

Honorable mention: Dan Fouts, Jim Kelly, and Fran Tarkenton.

At running back, at what might be the most difficult to choose between current and future Hall-of-Famers the picks are: Barry Sanders and O.J. Simpson. Sanders, a 10-time Pro Bowl selection, most likely would of been the NFL’s all-time leading rusher had he not elected to retire after a career playing for a seldom playoff contender in the Detroit Lions.

Simpson, the first running back to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season, unlike those that have accomplished the feat since, did so in a 14-game season in 1973. Simpson was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team.

Honorable mention: Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson, Adrian Peterson, Gale Sayers, and LaDainian Tomlinson.

At wide receiver, the choices are Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald. One could make a strong case that Moss was the second greatest receiver all-time and perhaps the most naturally gifted receiver ever. A seven-time Pro Bowl selection and member of the 2000s All-Decade team, Moss finished with 156 touchdown receptions. Fitzgerald has been selected to the Pro Bowl nine times in his amazing career spent entirely with the Arizona Cardinals. It took a remarkable Ben Roethlisberger-to-Santonio Holmes touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLIII to keep Fitzgerald eligible for the non-Super Bowl winning team.

Honorable mention: Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Calvin Johnson, Charlie Joiner, James Lofton, Steve Largent, Terrell Owens, and Andre Reed.

At tight end the choice is Tony Gonzalez. Can one argue with a 14-time Pro Bowler and the all-time reception, receiving yards and touchdown receptions leader for tight ends in NFL history?

Honorable mention: Antonio Gates, Ozzie Newsome, Charlie Sanders, Jackie Smith, Kellen Winslow, and Jason Witten.

At tackle: Anthony Munoz and Willie Roaf. Munoz spent his entire career with the Cincinnati Bengals and was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team. Munoz was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection. Roaf, also an 11-time Pro Bowl selectee, played most of his career with the New Orleans Saints and finished his career with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Honorable mention: Dan Dierdorf, Walter Jones, Jackie Slater, and Ron Yary.

At guard: John Hannah and Bruce Matthews. Hannah, perhaps the greatest guard in NFL history, was a 10-time All-Pro and was named to the NFL’s 75th anniversary All-Time team. Hannah spent his entire career with the New England Patriots.

Matthews was a 14-time Pro Bowler and 10-time All-Pro and named to the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade team. Matthews spent his playing career with Houston and Tennessee.

Honorable mention: Steve Hutchinson, Tom Mack, Randall McDaniel, Mike Munchak, and Will Shields.

At center: Dermontti Dawson. Dawson had the quickness that made him the rarest of centers. A seven-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro, Dawson was named to the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade team.

Honorable mention: Kevin Mawae, Dwight Stephenson, and Mick Tinglehoff.

Turning to the defensive side of the ball and as they say defense wins championships, any coach would of loved to have any of these players:

At defensive tackle it’s clearly Merlin Olsen and Alan Page. Olsen, the gentle giant out of Utah who played his entire career with the Los Angeles Rams, was a 14-time Pro Bowler and was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-time team.

Page was one of the quickest defensive tackles to ever play the position and was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection while playing for the Minnesota Vikings. Page finished his career with the Chicago Bears.

Honorable mention: Cortez Kennedy and John Randle.

At defensive end: Deacon Jones and Bruce Smith. Jones, the Secretary of Defense, was one of the greatest defensive players ever. An eight-time Pro Bowler, Jones was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team.

Smith, an 11-time Pro Bowler and nine-time All-Pro selection at defensive end, retired with an amazing 200 sacks to his credit. Despite Smith’s outstanding play his Buffalo Bills came up on the losing side in four Super Bowls.

Honorable mention: Elvin Bethea, Carl Eller, Claude Humphrey, John Randle, Lee Roy Selmon, Jason Taylor, and Jack Youngblood.

At linebacker: Dick Butkus, Derrick Thomas, and Junior Seau.

When one thinks of the image of a linebacker, often times Butkus is the image that comes to mind. An eight-time Pro Bowler, Butkus was named to the 1960s and 1970s All-Decade teams.

Thomas, a nine-time Pro Bowler and member of the 1990s All-Decade team, has 126.5 sacks in his illustrious career. Seau, a 12-time Pro Bowler, reached the Super Bowl twice but was on the losing side on each occasion.

Honorable mention: Randy Gradishar, Clay Matthews, Jr., Tommy Nobis, and Brian Urlacher.

At cornerback: Champ Bailey and Aeneas Williams. Bailey was a 12-time Pro Bowler and had 52 interceptions despite teams often avoiding throwing in his area.

Williams, who played for the Cardinals and the Rams, was an eight-time Pro Bowler and named to the 1990s All-Decade team and finished his career with 55 interceptions.

Honorable mention: Lem Barney, Lemar Parrish, and Roger Wehrli.

At safety: Ken Houston and Larry Wilson. Houston was a 12-time Pro Bowl selection and was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team. Houston had 49 interceptions in his career. Wilson was an eight-time All-Pro and was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team as well. Wilson played his entire career with the St. Louis Cardinals and had 52 interceptions.

Honorable mention: Kenny Easley, Paul Krause and Carnell Lake.

On special teams, the placekicker is Morten Andersen. Andersen retired as the all-time leader in games played in the NFL with 382 and is also the all-time leading scorer in NFL history with 2,544 points. Andersen spent the majority of his playing career with New Orleans and Atlanta and also had stops in New York, Kansas City and Minnesota. Andersen was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection.

Honorable mention: Gary Anderson, Nick Lowery, and Jason Hanson.

Punter: Shane Lechler. Lechler is the all-time career punting average leader in NFL history with a 47.5 yard average. A seven-time Pro Bowl selection, Lechler was named to the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade team.

Honorable mention: Greg Montgomery, Reggie Roby, Todd Sauerbrun, and Rohn Stark.

Kick returner: Devin Hester. Hester has been named to the Pro Bowl four times and was selected for the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade team. Hester is the NFL’s all-time leader in combined kick/punt return touchdowns.

Honorable mention: Dante Hall, Billy “Whiteshoes” Johnson, and Rick Upchurch.

There you have it, the NFL’s All-Time Non-Super Bowl winning team. It’s one list that it is an honor to be considered for but players would not rather make and be instead remembered as a Super Bowl champion.

 

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

Penn State’s All-Time Team

I wrote this article back in 2011 and with so many players leaving after their junior season for the NFL, they miss their senior year of college to cement their place in their school’s college football history. Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson is a classic case of that. Had he stayed for his senior year, he most likely is on this list. As it is, he made the right decision and is having an excellent pro football career with Jacksonville.

I think this list will need updated should Saquon Barkley have a great junior season in 2017. He may already be worthy of inclusion on it. I was surprised there wasn’t much dissension about my choices.

My article was originally published at: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/789688-announcing-the-penn-state-nittany-lions-all-time-football-team

Before another Penn State football season gets underway, let’s take this opportunity to think about all the great players who have donned the Blue & White uniform and comprise Penn State’s all-time team.

In breaking down Penn State’s offense it looks like this:

QB: Kerry Collins—Collins, who won the Maxwell Award as the outstanding player in college football in 1994, gets the nod over fellow Maxwell Award winner and Heisman trophy runner-up Chuck Fusina. Collins was the conductor of arguably the greatest offense in college football history. In 1994, Collins completed 66.7 percent of his passes and had an amazing passing rating of 172.86.

RB: Ki-Jana Carter—An All-American and runner-up for the Heisman trophy in 1994, Carter averaged an amazing 7.77 yards per carry that year. For his career, he averaged 7.16 yards per carry.

In 1993, as a prelude for what was to come the following season, Carter rushed for over 1,000 yards, averaging 6.62 yards per carry. In 1994, despite seldom finishing a game due to Penn State’s large leads, Carter rushed for 1,539 yards and 23 touchdowns on less than 200 carries. He also had 17 100-yard games in ’93 and ’94.

RB: Curt Warner—In 1981, Warner broke Penn State’s 68-year-old record for most yards rushing in a game by rushing for 256 yards against Syracuse. A few weeks later, he rushed for 238 yards against Nebraska in Lincoln, which Husker fans still remember.

An All-American in 1981 and 1982, upon graduation Warner was Penn State’s all-time leading rusher with 3,398 yards. He is still Penn State’s all-time leader in 100-yard games, with 18. Warner led Penn State in rushing for three consecutive seasons and was at his best in bowl games, rushing for over 100 yards against Ohio State, USC and Georgia.

Warner was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

When Heisman trophy winner John Cappelletti and All-Americans such as Blair Thomas, Charlie Pittman, Lydell Mitchell, Curtis Enis and Larry Johnson don’t make your starting lineup, it tells you that Penn State’s history of running backs is certainly a rich and illustrious one.

WR: Bobby Engram—Winner of the Biletnikoff Award in 1994 and generally recognized as Penn State’s finest wide receiver, Engram is Penn State’s career receiving yards leader and the only Penn State receiver to have over 1,000 yards receiving in a season—and he did it twice.

WR: Kenny Jackson—A two-time All-American in 1982 and 1983, Jackson was quarterback Todd Blackledge’s main receiving target on Penn State’s 1982 national championship team. His 25 career touchdown receptions rank second in Penn State history (behind Engram’s 31).

TE: Ted Kwalick—When asked about Ted Kwalick, coach Joe Paterno said, “He’s what God had in mind when he made a football player.” Penn State’s first two-time All American in ‘67 and ‘68, Kwalick was inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989 and was named to Sports Illustrated’s NCAA All-Century Team.

OT: Keith Dorney—A two-time All-American tackle in 1977 and 1978, Dorney helped lead Penn State to a 22-2 record during those seasons. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

OT: Levi Brown—A four-year starter and two-time second-team All-American tackle in 2005 and 2006, Brown’s play helped open up holes for running back Tony Hunt, enabling him to rush for over 3,000 yards in his career.

C: Glenn Ressler—Ressler was an All-American and the Maxwell Award winner in 1964. He gets the nod over All-American and Rimington Award winner A.Q. Shipley. Ressler was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001.

OG: Sean Farrell—A two-time All-American in 1980 and 1981, Farrell helped open the holes for Curt Warner to become Penn State’s then all-time leading rusher.

OG: Jeff Hartings—A two-time All-American in 1994 and 1995 and a leader on the offensive line of one of college football’s most prolific offenses.

AP: Lenny Moore—For Penn State’s all-purpose player, who better than Penn State’s finest all-around football player, Lenny Moore?

In addition to playing running back, Moore was also a standout defensive back and had 10 career interceptions while at Penn State. In 1954, he averaged 8.0 yards per carry and 17.5 yards on punt returns.

Simply put, Moore could do it all—and do it all very well—and went on to be an NFL Hall-of-Famer.  As reported by the Altoona Mirror, Joe Paterno once said, “Lenny Moore was probably the best football player I’ve ever coached, all-around. He was super.”

That’s good enough for me.

PR: O. J. McDuffie—McDuffie was one of the most electrifying and exciting players in Penn State history. He led Penn State in punt returns for three seasons. In 1989, he averaged 14.8 yards per return. In 1991, he ran back two punt returns for touchdowns.

KR: Curt Warner—Warner holds Penn State’s career all-purpose yardage with 4,982 yards and is second all-time in career kick-off return average, with a 28.8 yard average and a Penn State record three touchdowns on 32 returns. In 1979, Warner averaged 29 yards per return on 17 returns; in 1980, he bettered that as two of his 10 returns went for touchdowns and he averaged 35 yards per return.

K: Matt Bahr—An All-American in 1978, four times that season Bahr kicked four field goals in a game, making 22 field goals in all with a field goal percentage of .815. Matt’s brother, Chris, was also an All-American and had more field goals of over 50 yards or more than Matt, but Matt was the more accurate of the two.

P: John Bruno—Bruno is the only punter in Penn State history to have over 200 career punts with only one block and average over 40 yards per punt. Bruno is best known for his punting in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl and National Championship game, forcing Miami to have long drives against Penn State’s tough defense.

In turning to the defense, Penn State’s all-time defensive line and linebackers might be the best of any school in the country.

DT: Mike Reid and Bruce Clark—Both Reid and Clark won the Outland Trophy and were recognized as the best interior linemen in the country.

Reid won the Maxwell Award in 1969 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1987. He was named to Sports Illustrated’s NCAA All-Century Team.

Clark was the first junior to win the Lombardi Award and was an All-American again as a senior. Perhaps no other pair of defensive tackles from any school would be considered as dominant as Reid and Clark, with perhaps some consideration for Nebraska’s Rich Glover and Ndamukong Suh.

DE: Courtney Brown and Michael Haynes—Brown and Haynes were two outstanding pass rushers for the Nittany Lions. Brown was an All-American in 1999 and Haynes an All-American in 2002.

Brown holds Penn State’s career sack record (33) and career tackles for loss (70). Haynes led Penn State in sacks for three consecutive seasons and had 15 sacks in 2002. I’m sure quite a few might call for Tamba Hali to be one of Penn State’s defensive ends, but Haynes’ career and career numbers are more impressive.

One was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, another is Penn State’s single-season tackle leader and yet another won the Bednarik Award and is Penn State’s all-time leader in tackles, but none of them got selected to Penn State’s all-time team!

This is why Penn State is called Linebacker U. If one wasn’t a two-time All-American linebacker it hurt one’s chances of making Penn State’s all-time team. For my selections, we’re going to go with four linebackers using a 4-4-3 defense that coach Joe Paterno used in the ‘60s to bring Penn State into national prominence.

LB: Paul Posluszny—Not only was Posluszny an All-American in 2005 and 2006, but he also won the Butkus Award and was a two-time winner of the Bednarik Award as the outstanding defensive player in the country. Posluszny was Penn State’s all-time leader in tackles when he graduated.

LB: Dennis Onkotz—Onkotz laid the foundation for Penn State to become Linebacker U. He was a two-time first-team All-American in 1968 and 1969, and a second-team All-American in 1967. Onkotz was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1995.

Onkotz was also athletic enough to return punts for the Nittany Lions, averaging over 13 yards per return. He has the most career interceptions of any Penn State linebacker with 11, averaging 25 yards on interception returns with three for touchdowns.

LB: Lavar Arrington—A two-time All-American in 1998 and 1999, Arrington was the recipient of the Butkus Award in 1999 as the nation’s premier linebacker. He also won the Bednarik Award that year as the outstanding defensive player in the country.

His athletic ability made him a big-play defensive weapon on defense. Arrington finished ninth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1999 and was Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 1998—as a sophomore.

LB: Shane Conlan—Conlan was a two-time All-American and the linchpin on a defense that led Penn State to back-to-back National Championship games for the 1985 and 1986 seasons.

As reported by Sports Illustrated, Paterno once said of Conlan, “We’ve never asked a linebacker to do as many things as we’ve asked him to do.” Conlan showed his greatness playing like an All-American in both championship games and had two interceptions against Miami in the Fiesta Bowl to help Penn State win a National Championship.

The list of some of those who weren’t selected is very impressive as well: Jack Ham, All-American in 1970 and inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1990; Greg Buttle, All-American in 1975 and still holds the single-season tackle record with 165 in 1974; and Dan Connor, Bednarik Award winner in 2007 and Penn State’s all-time career tackle leader.

DB: Alan Zemaitis—Zemaitis led Penn State in interceptions, twice finishing with 12 interceptions, and set a Big Ten record in 2003 with 207 yards on interception returns. In 2005, Zemaitis had six interceptions and was named second-team All-American.

DB: Neal Smith—Smith, an All-American in 1969, is still Penn State’s career interception leader (19), over 40 years later! Smith’s single-season interception mark of 10 passes in 1969 has never been bettered—it’s matched only by Pete Harris (1978). Smith intercepted eight passes in 1968 and his 1968 and 1969 interception marks are two of the five highest in Penn State history.

DB: Mark Robinson—Robinson, a hard-hitting safety, was named All-American in 1982 and was instrumental in helping to stop Herschel Walker in the Sugar Bowl for Penn State’s first National Championship.

At some positions one can make a strong case for any number of players, so deep are the Lions in their football history. Few schools can compare with Penn State’s all-time team, particularly the Nittany Lions’ defensive line and linebackers.

It’s no wonder why Penn State is rightfully called Linebacker U!

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

Penn State football – 20 years in the Big 10 – tougher than expected.

Looking back before Penn State went into the Big 10 Conference, it was simply the Big two little eight conference, the big two being Ohio State and Michigan. The few years right before Penn State started Big 10 play, both Ohio State and Michigan were having down years for them, so it looked like Penn State would come in and win their share of Big 10 titles. It didn’t quite work out that way.

Schools that were part of the little eight rose up and had a few outstanding years and took their turn winning the conference: Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan State, Northwestern and Illinois all won Big 10 titles and Wisconsin established itself as a national power.

The article I wrote back in 2013 was originally published at: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1539158-penn-state-football-20-years-in-the-big-10-tougher-than-expected

Twenty years have passed since Penn State was an independent power in college football and began the seismic change in college football’s landscape regarding conference affiliations when they joined the Big Ten Conference.

In 1993, Penn State began play in the Big Ten, and despite having a down year in 1992 with a 7-5 record, Penn State fans expected that the Nittany Lions would be in the triumvirate of power in the Big Ten with Ohio State and Michigan. Only the year before, Penn State finished 11-2, ranked No. 3 in the country and was coming off two national championships in the previous decade. Justifiably, Nittany Lions fans had high hopes and expectations.

Another reason for optimism was that Ohio State was not its usual dominant self either. In the previous six years, the Buckeyes’ record was a non-impressive 41-25-4. Michigan appeared to be the stronger of the two schools as in the prior three years. Under head coach Gary Moeller, the Wolverines had a record of 28-5-3. Witnessing how the Pac-10 Conference champion would routinely beat up the Big Ten champion in the Rose Bowl, the big two and little eight didn’t seem Everest-like at all, not with a youthful 66-year-old Joe Paterno roaming the sidelines.

In that inaugural season, perhaps as a portent of things to come, the Nittany Lions were turned away on a goal line stand against Michigan in a 21-13 loss at home, and the following game lost 24-6 at Ohio State.

Those seeds of disappointment in 1993 would reap undeniable determination the following season. In 1994, in only their second year in the Big Ten, Penn State went undefeated with a high-powered balanced attack offense that had no peer, perhaps in the history of college football. Surprisingly though, 2005 and 2008 would be the only other seasons that would see the Nittany Lions capture a Big Ten title.

So why did the Nittany Lions not live up to their fans expectations for Big Ten success? Critics are quick to point out that Penn State’s schedule as an independent was void of strong competition, which is a fallacy. In the three years prior to beginning Big Ten play (1990-1992), the Nittany Lions faced Alabama, Miami, Notre Dame, Texas and USC during those years in the regular season. Therefore, it wasn’t the fact that Penn State wasn’t used to playing upper echelon teams in college football.

The inability of Penn State’s offensive line to move Michigan’s defense in that goal line stand in 1993 would foreshadow Penn State’s fortunes in the Big Ten. Just one more first down late in the game against Minnesota in 1999 may have been enough to run out the clock and prevent a Goliath-like upset by the Gophers ending Penn State’s undefeated season. Many recall quarterback Zack Mills running for his life behind porous pass protection during his years at Penn State.

In the years Penn State did win a Big Ten conference title, it was no coincidence that they had at least one offensive lineman make All-American during those seasons.

More likely the fact for Penn State’s disappointment was that the Big Ten raised its level of play and it was no longer the big two and the little eight. Wisconsin and Northwestern improved dramatically and perennial doormat Purdue became respectable and competed for Big Ten supremacy several times. Minnesota under head coach Glen Mason became competitive as well and managed to defeat the Nittany Lions four consecutive times.

If you asked Nittany Lions fans back in 1993 about the next 20 years, they certainly would have expected to win more conference championships than Northwestern (both won three outright or co-championships) and certainly didn’t expect to have half as many Big Ten titles as Wisconsin. Prior to the Nittany Lions joining the Big Ten, Wisconsin’s last conference championship was in 1962 and Northwestern’s in 1936.

The man most responsible for Wisconsin’s resurgence to power was Burgettstown, PA native Barry Alvarez. Alvarez lifted Wisconsin to the upper echelon of the Big Ten competing with perennial powers Ohio State and Michigan. From 1985 to 1992 the Badgers were only 12-52 in conference play. In 1993, his fourth season as Wisconsin head coach, dramatic improvement began to take place. Wisconsin would win the Big Ten title that year and play in the Rose Bowl for the first time in 31 years.

Considering how strong Wisconsin has been over the past two decades, Penn State’s overall 7-7 record against the Badgers is a respectable one.

Thanks to head coaches Gary Barnett and later Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern went from annual conference cellar dweller to annual bowl participant. In the 20 seasons from 1973-1992 the Wildcats won only 29 conference games. In the last 20 years Northwestern has won 70. The Wildcats surprised the college football world by winning the Big Ten championship in 1995, their first in nearly 60 years.

A similar transformation took place in Lafayette, Indiana, where head coach Joe Tiller took Purdue from Big Ten doormat to an annual bowl participant and to a Big Ten championship in 2000 and a trip to the Rose Bowl, Purdue’s first since 1967.  Even Illinois rose up and won a Big Ten title in 2001.

Iowa and Michigan State would each win a Big Ten title as well and both finished with an above .500 winning percentage for the past 20 years in conference play.The Hawkeyes were 81-78-1 and Michigan State had a record of 80-79-1.

The Nittany Lions particularly struggled against Iowa as they were only 7-9 against the Hawkeyes since joining the Big Ten Conference.

Lastly, there was the matter of the two Goliaths of the conference. Ohio State won or shared ten conference titles the past 20 years and Michigan five. In the previous 20 years from 1973-1992, Michigan won or shared 13 conference titles and Ohio State nine.

The Buckeyes were clearly the class of the conference the past 20 years with a 124-35-1 for a .778 winning percentage. Michigan was second best with a 109-51 record and a .681 winning percentage. The Nittany Lions had the third best conference record at 102-58 .638 with Wisconsin not far behind at 97-60-3 and a winning percentage of .615.

Penn State had a record of 7-13 versus the Buckeyes since 1993 with a 5-5 mark at Beaver Stadium and 2-8 at the Horseshoe in Columbus. Against the Wolverines, the Nittany Lions were 6-10 with an unimaginable nine-game losing streak when Lloyd Carr was head coach of Michigan.

Nittany Lion fans can take some solace in that Michigan fared only slightly better against Ohio State going 8-12 vs. the Buckeyes during the past 20 seasons. Wisconsin managed to go 5-10-1 vs. Ohio State. Perhaps the oddest records of note were Purdue going 4-4 vs. Ohio State in Lafayette and Ohio State being just 5-4 vs. Illinois at home since 1993.

Have the past 20 seasons of conference play tempered Penn State’s fans future expectations?  Will three conference championships in the next 20 years be good enough for Nittany Lion fans?

Although no one expects future Big Ten schools Maryland and Rutgers to contend for conference football titles anytime soon, the recent addition of Nebraska in 2011 has made winning a conference title an even more difficult task.

The resurgence of Michigan under head coach Brady Hoke and the stellar recruiting classes he and head coach Urban Meyer at Ohio State attract, Penn State may do well to match their success of the past 20 seasons.

Enter first-year head coach Bill O’Brien, succeeding a coaching legend, and despite NCAA sanctions wins national coaching of the year honors. Once those sanctions are over, I suspect those lofty expectations Penn State fans had will return.

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.