Off the top of my bald head

Barry Warner: On the Astros, NCAA, Tiger Woods and more

It was a banner day for the Astros. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Last night’s home opener was incredible.  From the moment you entered Minute Maid, there was an electric feeling. Even with the roof open, the ovation for MVP Jose Altuve was thunderous.

After a 60 second snafu, the World Series banner was finally unfurled, a historical moment in our city.

On yesterday’s Reality Check owner Jim Crane shared with our listeners a few interesting facts.  GM Jeff Luhnow is not going anywhere for a “long time,”as the man behind the computers has been signed to a multi-year extension. He spent close to $5 million for 1,100 World Series Rings.  There are four levels, starting with the players and coaches, whose rings are close to $12,000 a piece. There are front office staff members, groundskeepers and support staff. The lowest level are the ushers and several game day employees.

My crystal ball has the Astros and the Cubs in the World Series.

Fixes for college basketball

Now that March Madness is over, with Villanova winning for the second time in three years, there must be some changes.

The One and Done rule has to be re-visited.  Calling freshman “student-athletes” is a joke. Most of these uber talented kids don’t go to class during the second semester.

The core strategy of the shoe companies is to identify the next Michael Jordan when he is still in middle school, have him play on a AAU sponsored team, steer him to a sponsored university, and ultimately sign him when he becomes an NBA star.  The NCAA suits are among the most pompous hypocrites in sports. They generate millions while the players are just pawns.

Another draft bust

One of the biggest mistakes made jointly by former GM Rick Smith Mc Nair and Bill O’Brien has come to an end.  Free agent guard Xavier Su’a Filo signed with the Titans. Four years ago, the Texans held the all-important first pick in the second round.  Many teams wanted to trade up to fill a specific need. But the rookie head coach and his boss held firm and took the out of shape, poor pass protector. Who did they pass up? A couple of potential Pro Bowl quarterbacks named Derek Carr and Jimmy Garrapolo.  Brilliant decision that wasted four years of progress.

The signing of QB Brandon Weeden is nothing more than a band aid.  The veteran was not good enough to beat out Tom Savage while here. The Texans need a mobile quarterback in case anything happens to DeShaun Watson.  It’s either draft a kid in rounds 4-7 or sign an experienced vet.

Bob Mc Nair, aka Mr. Goody Goody Two Shoes, would never touch Johnny Manziel.  But one team that has shown interest at the Aggies Pro Day is the Patriots.

R.I.P. Rusty

In the early sixties, I started following a high school phenom from New Orleans named Rusty Staub.  Little did I know then he would become one of my most cherished friends.

We met in 1965, then over his 23-year career, went to visits in Montreal, New York (where he became an icon) Texas and Detroit.  There is not enough space to list all the accomplishments of the first bonus baby of the Astros, getting a $100,000 check from Judge Roy Hofeinz.

When notified of his death, I cried like a baby. Upon opening both the New York tabloids, the Daily News and the post, the front- page article in color was his death.

Rusty was as iconic in the Big Apple as J.J. Watt for his philanthropy.

Rusty set up a charity in the 1980s to help the widows and orphans of police and firefighters who lost their lives protecting the citizens of New York City: the New York Police and Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund. The charity has raised tens of millions of dollars and provided additional support to families of first responders killed in the line of duty.

Following the 9-11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Mets players and coaches donated their entire salaries from their first game back, about $450,000, to Staub's foundation.

Staub also has helped serve up meals to thousands of hungry and homeless people at food pantries all over New York City through Catholic Charities, with funds from his annual golf tournament and wine auction dinner. Close to ten million meals were served at the time of his death at, three days short of his 74th birthday.

Over the years he owned two successful restaurants in Manhattan and made annual trips to France to acquire wines for his collection.

His loyalty to those close to him was legendary.  If you were Rusty’s friend, your back was always covered.

Whenever he visited Houston I was part of a select group of friends to have dinner.

My life has been blessed because of Le Grande Orange.  There will be a series of mass services in New York, Montreal, New Orleans and Houston later this month.

Tiger's back

The quasi spring religious golfing tournament, the Masters, has four-time winner Tiger Woods listed as the favorite. Here is the latest Vegas line: Tiger 9-1, Dustin Johnson 23/2, Jordan Spieth 11-1 Justin Thomas 11-1, Rory McIlroy 12-1, Bubba Watson 15-1 and Phil Mickelson 16-1.

Jim Nantz and his boss Sean Mc Manus, Chairman of CBS Sports, have an annual luncheon at Augusta with one of the clubs most prestigious members, Roger Goodell. At last year’s lunch Jim told them Sergio Garcia would be the winner.

A big blowhard

Mike Francessa, the out of work New York talk show host, joined his former partner Chris “Mad Dog” Russo on the MLB Network; When the topic turned to the Astros, the controversial Francessa claimed Jose Altuve is nothing special, “just a singles hitter”.  And Michelangelo was just a house painter.

The Astros MVP has better stats than the ultimate “singles hitter” Pete Rose, in career batting average, home runs, RBI and OPS.

  Chirp!

40 years later the amazing moment in sports history still holds its place

Do you (Still) believe in miracles?

Getty Images


It's hard to believe, but this week marks the 40th anniversary of "The Miracle On Ice" A result and event where "if scripted", Hollywood would immediately reject on general premise, due to it's improbability. For a younger generation who is unfamiliar with the story (or the odds), visualize a bunch of nobodies and college kids two weeks ago trying to defeat Patrick Mahomes and the KC Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Then, magnify that by about 50 times, and you'll have the general scope and idea. You see, this is exactly what TEAM USA was comprised of, a bunch of college kids, and nobodies going up against the mighty Soviets.

The average age on the American team was 21. They lacked speed, fire power and the tenure of their opponents. The Soviets hadn't lost an Olympic Hockey game since 1968. They had won 4 straight Gold Medals with their core players intact for entire stretches of their Olympic and Global dominance. By contrast, the only American returning from the 76' games was Buzz Schneider. Schneider would actually score the first goal vs. the Soviets. If you ask most American's today, they probably think Buzz was one of the astronauts. The Soviets were so dominating in this era, they had even defeated the NHL All-Stars 6-0 in 1979 to easily win The Challenge Cup.

Lake Placid, New York served as the backdrop for the 1980 Winter Olympics. Lake Placid is a small village in Essex County, NY with a population today of around 2,500 people. If you visit, it's amazing because everyone in that town claims that "they" were in attendance or had their elders in the tiny 8500 seat arena with their families. What makes the story even more remarkable, is that the matchup wasn't even supposed to happen. The U.S. were heavy underdogs even their opening contests with Sweden & Czechoslovakia. Not to mention, that no one really anticipated a contest vs the Soviets as a mere two weeks prior, the Soviets had easily defeated Team USA in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden by a score of 10-3. Adding insult to injury in that loss, was defenseman Jack O'Callahan pulling ligaments in his knee. Jack remained on the Olympic roster, but played sparingly throughout the tournament.

The Soviets steamrolled through their tier of countries, defeating Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Finland & Canada by a combined margin of 51-10. The American's railed for a 2-2 draw in their opening game vs. Sweden, then stunned the Czechs, and then handled, Norway, Romania & West Germany. Thus the stage was set. There are edited versions of the historic matchup available for viewing on YouTube. Unlike the late Jim Mckay who refused to reveal the result on ABC's coverage (the game had been played several hours earlier) would never have had the impact in today's age of social media, and technology. Most American's had no idea the result prior to the game's airing on that tape delay. As a 9 year old kid at the time, this was certainly the case for me! This improbable upset didn't actually secure the Gold Medal. Team USA had to play Finland (trailed 2-1) before rallying 4-2 for the victory.

The "Miracle On Ice" launched some amazing sports moments in the decade to come. The Flutie Hail Mary, Lorenzo Charles stunning the Cougars, Nova shocking the Mighty Hoyas, but nothing could ever match American Pride on February 22nd, 1980 after the Soviets went down 4-3.

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