For the fan in enemy territory

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The return of Fonzie could mean Happy Days for the Mets

The New York Mets have long been without a presence of leadership and quiet consistent confidence. There are several players that exude those attributes in Mets lore. One of them is Edgardo Alfonzo. While with the Mets, he became a leader and an example. He was what is called, 'clutch'. Not many players can claim that anymore, especially in Queens.

The team has been searching for quality back up players and all the while spending and wasting valuable money on starters that don't belong in the major leagues. According to MLB, Alfonzo had recently expressed interest in playing in the MLB again and more specifically with the Mets. The team has a need on the bench and even more so, a need at second base.

That position is currently being patrolled by Luis Castillo, who is having a poor season. His batting average (.246)and on base percentage (.340) are lower than his career averages. He does have seven stolen bases and two triples this season so far, but he is not getting on base and doing what he was paid to do entirely.

While the emergence of Ike Davis has pushed Daniel Murphy back to the minor leagues to learn second base, there is still a void at that position. The team brought in Frank Catallanotto to be the utility infielder, but his bad bat forced the team's hand into to cutting ties with him. They still search for that key contributor.

The rare player who can play multiple positions and hit well in a pinch. Alex Cora has been the player that can play multiple positions, but his bat has been inconsistent. Alfonzo was a great player, who still may have something left in the tank. He has been battling numerous injuries in the past several years and multiple teams gave up on him.

He has been playing in Japan and has proven himself as capable of playing at the big league level again. If the Mets are willing to pay for and take a chance on broken down players like Kelvim Escobar, why is Alfonso not worth a look?

He is at least worth the opportunity to pass his knowledge onto the younger players from the dugout. This team lacks that experienced leader. They struggle on the road because of a lack of confidence. They need a player that will bring a quiet confidence to their club house.

A positive example of what it means to be a winner and what they should strive to be. Not just a locker room speaker, or a guest appearance, but a mainstay in the club house and the dugout. A constant reminder of what they ought to strive for. He could bring just that.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The 25 greatest New York Giants players: Part 4/7, No. 20- No. 16

So far, we have named number 25 through number 21 on the list. Now we will go through the next five, number 20 through number 16.

No. 25- Bart Oates (C)
No. 24- Mel Hein (C)
No. 23- Joe Morris (HB)
No. 22- Rodney Hampton (HB)
No. 21- Kyle Rote (HB/WR)

No.20- Pepper Johnson -LB. Johnson was a second round draft pick in 1986. He was nicknamed "Pepper" by his aunt because he loved pepper so much as a child, he would sprinkle it on his cereal. His rookie year, he stepped into the starting lineup to create one of the fiercest and greatest linebacker corps in the history of the NFL. His rookie season campaign ended with hoisting a trophy, along side of Lawrence Taylor.

During his playing career, he was a part of two Super Bowl teams (86' and 90') with the Giants. He was also a Pro Bowl representative (1990) for the Giants one time and total of two times. He accumulated 19 sacks and 579 tackles in 106 games as a Giants player. He also scored 2 TD's and had 9 forced fumbles while wearing the big blue. His 579 tackles is good for fifth all-time in the Giants history in that category. He is one of the rare players to have success as a coach.

He has coached under former Giants defensive coordinator Bill Belichick since 2000. Johnson has been a part of three Super Bowls there under Belichick. He was the defensive line coach of the Patriots in the 2007 Super Bowl, coaching against the team that drafted him, the New York Giants. Today, he still coaches in New England and is a key reason for their defensive success over the years.

No. 19- Ottis Anderson -RB. Anderson may be one of the most beloved running backs in franchise history. However, he didn't start out that way. the Giants were his second and last stop in the NFL. He started with the St. Louis Cardinals as the premier starting running back and after 8 seasons with them, was traded in mid-season to the Giants. He was a key contributor in his first few seasons, but eventually accepted a diminished role.

He rushed for a career total of 10,273 yards, only 2,274 of which was with the Giants. His 35 rushing TD's is sixth best in Giants history for that stat, but he is remember for far more than these numbers. In 1990, he was the main running back for the Giants offensive attack on the Buffalo Bills.

His contributions in that game, earned him Super Bowl MVP honors. He totaled 102 yards and a TD in a ball control strategy that enabled the Giants to keep the explosive Buffalo Bills offense off of the field, just enough to keep the game in reach and win it on a Bills' missed field goal at the end of regulation.

During his playing career, Anderson was a two-time Pro Bowl player (though neither was with the Giants), a two-time Super Bowl champion (86' and 90'), rookie of the year (also not with the Giants) and comeback player of the year in 1989. He is just one of 22 running backs to rush for over 10,000 yards. After his playing career, he turned to the media and did analysis on the Giants on their flag station WFAN. He also became a motivational speaker, which he still does to this day.

No. 18- Joe Morrison -HB/WR. Morrison was nicknamed "old dependable" for a Giants team that needed his versatility. He played from 1959 to 1972, all with the Giants. He played for some bad teams in that time, including a team that won only one game in 1966. Ironically, he had his best season then, racking up 724 receiving yards.

His career numbers included 395 receptions, 4993 receiving yards, 47 receiving TD'S, 2474 rushing yards, 18 rushing TD's and on defense, he forced 28 fumbles while recovering 16 of them and even gaining two interceptions. He was one of those rare players that played both sides of the ball and was all over the place. The Giants retired his number 40, in appreciation of all of his contributions to the team. He spent his post-playing career as a coach in the college ranks.

He coached Tennessee-Chattanooga, University of New Mexico and University of South Carolina. He won his 100th game as a college coach in 1988. Tragically, he died at the age of 51, in February of 1989, due to congestive heart failure. His memory will live on in the minds of those who cheered for him and those bad 60's New York Giants teams.

No. 17- Leonard Marshall -DE. Marshall was a long-time disruptive pass rushing presence for a very successful Giants defense. His career spanned from 1983 to 1994, and all but the last two seasons were spent with the Giants. He was a second round pick in the 1983 NFL draft. In his 10 seasons with the Giants, he was a starter on two Super Bowl teams (86', 90'), a three-time Pro Bowl player (85', 86', 91'), accumulated 660 tackles and 79.5 sacks. He is second on the team all-time in tackles and third all-time in sacks.

He has one of the most memorable hits in NFL history under his belt. In the 1990 NFC Championship game, he laid a hit on Hall of Fame QB Joe Montana that was so fierce, it took Montana out of the rest of that game and ended his 49ers career. Montana's injuries from that hit included a bruised stomach, bruised sternum, cracked ribs and a broken hand.

All from one hit, and while Montana was trying to mount a comeback, Marshall put an abrupt end to it. The Giants held on to beat the 49ers and eventually beat the Bills in the Super Bowl. It can be argued that without that hit, they wouldn't have been in the Super Bowl to begin with and the 49ers dynasty would have lasted a few more years under Montana's direction.

After his playing career was over, Marshall has kept very busy. He has branched out into the media by hosting radio shows on WFAN and CBS radio. He has been active in charity work. He also has been a professor at Seton Hall University. He recently has been named head coach of Hudson Catholic High School in Jersey City, NJ.

No. 16- Y.A. Tittle -QB. Tittle is an iconic figure in NFL history. He played a total of 17 seasons. All but the final four of them (61' through 64'), were with other teams. In the last four seasons, however, he stamped his mark on the league and he did it in a Giants uniform. He led the team to three straight NFL championship games. They lost all three, but at least they were there.

While with the Giants, he threw for 10439 yards and 96 TD's. His career totals were 33070 yards passing and 242 TD's. He was elected into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1971, and his # 14 was retired by the Giants. That should tell us the impact he had on this franchise in just four seasons. He threw for a record 7 TD's in one game in October 28, 1962 against the Redskins. He was the first and only one of 8 other QB's to pass for consecutive 30 TD passing seasons.

He was a 7 time Pro Bowl selection and a two-time (61' and 63') NFL MVP with the Giants. He is iconic for a photo that was taken of him in his final year playing. The photo changed the way photographers think of photographing sports. After his career, he turned to insurance. He still is an iconic figure in the region and the sport of football.

That will bring us to the next part, where we will crack the top 15 on the list. I hope you will join me.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The 25 greatest New York Giants players, Part 3/7 : # 25 - # 21

After taking a look at the list of honorable mention players and reviewing the criteria for this list, let's begin the primary list of 25. Going backward, we will begin with the 25th greatest player.

No. 25: Bart Oates -C. Oates was the anchor of the wall of Giants that protected the QB and RB's from 1985 until 1993. He began his career in the USFL, and wasn't signed to play for the Giants until he was 27 years old. He was on the 86' and 90' Super Bowl Championship teams. He was selected to the Pro Bowl three times as a member of the Giants.

During his tenure with the team, he started 125 consecutive games. This was rare then and even more so now. After his Giants career had ended, he had a successful few seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, where he won another Super Bowl and was selected to another Pro Bowl. He never forgot his roots, though. He returned to the New York/New Jersey area after he retired.

He is currently the chairman for the New Jersey Hall of Fame. He holds a doctorate in Law from Seton Hall and has done voice over work for cartoons. He never had the spotlight or the media attention due to his position, but he was a major reason for two Giants titles. Though he never was a highlight provider, he made plenty of big blocks that setup those highlights that we cherish.

No. 24: Mel Hein -C. Hein was a rock on a rock solid front line from 1931-1945. His 15 seasons as a New York Giants player, led to several unique accolades. First, he was and still is the only offensive lineman to win the NFL MVP award. Second, he is one of only 5 Giants players to achieve such an accomplishment.

Third, he was one of only a very few (11 players total) to have his number (7) retired by the Giants. Fourth, he was elected into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1963. Finally, he was named to the NFL's 75th anniversary All-Time team.

In addition to all of this, he was a two-time champion, in both '34 and '38 for the Giants. The only reason, he is not higher on this list is because he is really unknown. He was a force on the early teams. Not many know much about the earliest teams, and that is unfortunate.

No. 23: Joe Morris -RB. Morris is one of the most memorable running backs in Giants history, despite not having the accolades that others have achieved at that position. He stands 5'7" and has been underestimated from day one. Drafted in the second round, he soon beat out the team's first round draft choice (Butch Woolfork) for the stating job.

He played that position on the team from 1982 to 1988. During this span, he accumulated 5296 yards rushing and 48 TD's to go along with 884 receiving yards and 2 TD's, totaling over 6,180 total yards with 50 TD's. He was a two-time Pro Bowl choice and is currently third all-time in rushing yards, attempts and rushing TD's in Giants history.

He was a key contributor to the 86' championship team. During that game, he rushed for 67 yards, had four catches for 20 yards and scored a TD. He still resides in New Jersey with his family, where he was part owner of the New Jersey Red Dogs (Arena Football) with former teammates Carl Banks and Harry Carson.

No. 22: Rodney Hampton -RB. Hampton was a beast in the Giants back field. An intimidating presence with good speed and elusiveness. He was the Giants first round draft pick in 1990. He was a Pro Bowl selection two times. He was also a member of the 90' Super Bowl team in his rookie year. He played from 1990 to 1997, all 8 seasons with the Giants.

In that time he accumulated impressive stats. He had 6897 rushing yards with 49 TD's. He also had 1309 receiving yards with 2 TD's. These totals helped place him first in his era, though since he has been surpassed and is now second in several categories. Such categories are career rushing yards, career rushing attempts and career rushing TD's.

Hampton was an important part of the Giants in the 90's, he was a leader and helped reestablish the Giants as a powerful running team. He still is active in Giants charities, though he remains more private these days.

No. 21: Kyle Rote -HB/WR. Rote was the Giants number one overall draft pick in the 1951 NFL draft. His collegiate career had him selected into the College Football Hall of Fame. As being the overall number one pick, Rote did not let the pressure get to him. He was selected to 4 Pro Bowls and was a vital member of the 1956 championship team.

He played for 11 seasons (1951-1961), all with the Giants. In that span, he amassed 4797 receiving yards with 48 receiving TD's. Though drafted as a running back, he was primarily a receiver and a double threat (rushing and receiving, though he also returned kicks and played some QB too).

He even spent 7 seasons playing both sides of the ball. While on defense, he forced 8 fumbles, two of which he recovered. After his playing career was over, he turned to broadcasting. Where he spent several years with NBC. During this time, he also did several commercial spots. Sadly he died in 2002, but his legacy will live on with many Giants fans from his generation and beyond.

In the next part of this series, we will take a look at the # 20 to # 16 players of the all-time greatest Giants players list. Please join me then.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The 25 greatest New York Giants Part 2/7 - Honorable Mention

In this next part, I will examine the players that just fell short of being in the top 25 all-time list. Before I do, let me review the criteria to which I am choosing these players. The players on both lists will all have met at least one or more of these.

First they must have been a New York Giants player for at least a full season. Second, they must have gained notoriety to some degree in the league as a Giants player. If they had gained such notoriety before or after their Giants career, then they would still be considered if they have made a substantial social or competitive contribution to either the sport, the team or society as a whole.

Third, they must have made a significant contribution to Giants history. Fourth, they must have been an example of the type of player that has forged the Giants reputation throughout the league as hard-nosed tough and gritty resilience. If a player does not meet any of these, they will not be on the list.

I will use statistics for the modern day players, but I will also factor in their place in history as well when comparing them to players of past generations. By doing this, it makes the process a little more fair to the older players in the annuls of lore.

In no particular order, the players who just missed out:

#1 Ken Strong - HB. Strong is most known for being the first at attempting and scoring on a fair catch kick. He was an All-Pro selection five times and inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1967. His career with the Giants was shortened by military service and contract disputes. He is one of only 11 retired numbers in Giants history.

He wore #50. He is not in the top 25 due to one reason only. He is not that well known. When you think of him, most fans ask, who? This may be a player that could have gone either way, but when looking at everyone else, I chose him here. There are others that could fall into this as well, but meet other criteria that keeps them on the list.

#2 David Tyree - WR/ST. Tyree is a former Pro Bowl player who was never a starter on the Giants, but is one this list for one reason. The Catch. In Super Bowl 42, he made a catch that was so legendary, that it catapulted the Giants to a improbable victory with an improbable play. He provided fans with multiple highlights in his career in New York, but none bigger than that moment.

#3 Jimmy Patton - CB. Patton was a member of the 1956 NFL Championship team. He was also a five time All Pro team member and a Pro Bowl player five times. He is second only to Emlen Tunnell in all-time team interceptions. He played for 11 years. He died tragically at he age of 40 in a car accident in 1973, just seven years after retiring. He is also one of those largely unknown Giants players that deserves recognition.

#4 Jessie Armstead - LB. Armstead was a fixture of the Giants defense in the late 90's. He was on the 2000 NFC Championship team and a five time Pro Bowl selection. He had 752 tackles and 12 interceptions total in his career. His 597 tackles as a player for the Giants is good enough to place him fourth all-time among the team in that stat. Despite playing two seasons at the end of his career with the Redskins, he signed a contract that enabled him to retire as a member of the Giants. He now works with the team in a player development role.

#5 Plaxico Burress - WR. Burress was a dynamic receiver in his time with the Giants. He was a key member in the 2007 Super Bowl run and even correctly predicted the outcome. He accumulated 3,681 yards receiving in his 4 seasons along with 33 TD's. His Giants career was cut short by legal troubles. As it stands, he played longer with Pittsburgh than with New York. He had shown heart and grit on the field as a player, but based on team statistics, I can't place him in the top 25 list.

#6 Dave Meggett - HB. Meggett was a catalyst for the 86' Super Bowl Championship team. He teamed with Otis Anderson to make the original 'thunder and lightning' tandem, a term associated with the running group core of the early 2000's. Meggett changed the game in his time. His statistics are not very comparable with others at his position, but his size (5'7"), versatility and speed made him a legend on multiple teams.

While with the Giants, he won a Super Bowl, made the Pro Bowl as a rookie and had six punt returns for TD'S, one kick return TD. He also had a total of 15 TD's on offense (10 as a receiver, 5 as a rusher). He was the elusive, utility back that was reliable in every phase of the game. His career total of 3,708 punt return yards is good for second all-time in the NFL.

#7 Osi Umenyiora - DE. Umenyiora is a vital part of the Giants current defense. He is a Super Bowl champion with a Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection thus far in his career. He is also a New York Giants record holder. He has the record for most sacks for a Giants player in a single game with 6 against the Philadelphia Eagles. The team tied an NFL record for sacks in one game with 12 that day, with half of those belonging to Umenyiora.

He currently has 48.5 sacks, going into the upcoming season. He played a major role in the pass rush that upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 42, alongside Michael Strahan. The future of his career is still uncertain, but he will always be remembered as a record setting champion.

#8 Jason Sehorn - CB. Sehorn was a key member of the 2000 NFC Championship team that eventually lost in the Super Bowl. He had tremendous athleticism and speed before a massively major knee injury. He never fully recovered to the level of his previous attributes. He had 360 tackles and 19 interceptions as a Giants player, which is 10th and 12th in team history respectively. He was as equally known off the field as he was on the field. His proposal and marriage to actress Angie Harmon was well publicized. He has acted in numerous commercials and tv shows. He was not the most productive cornerback in Giants history, but could arguably be the one with the most notoriety.

#9 Pat Summerall - K. The legendary voice of the NFL-tv media age has to be that of Pat Summerall. Few, however, remember him as a former player AND a former Giants player. He spent the last four years of his playing career with the team and accumulated 313 total points, 11th all-time on the team.

The last few generations will know him from the Madden series video games and being the play by play commentator on game day for decades. Many of the memories we have, he called. Many of the memories of video gaming we have, he called too. He has commercials and many other voice over appearances to his name. His reputation was forged as a member of the media, but he was a Giants player first.

#10 Jim Thorpe -HB/WR/ST. Thorpe is an example of what this list is about. He is a person who has accomplished a great deal and was never given the credit he deserved in his lifetime. He was a two-time gold medal winning Olympic athlete.

He was voted by the Associated Press as the #1 greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century and #3 in the entire century. Many people do not know of him. Like Jackie Robinson, he played in an age of discrimination and segregation.

He was a Native American. Being so, he was embraced a little sooner than an African American would have been in athletics, but still, he had his social struggles. Not only was he the first Native American to play professional sports, he was the first president of the AFPA, which eventually became what we know as the NFL.

He was signed by the Giants for not just his abilities, but to be a crowd draw. In other words, he was the original big name free agent acquisition. Not just that, but he was the first star on the very first Giants team in 1925.

He was a true pioneer. An athlete, a player/coach, the original athlete/administrator and original multiple sports star. Bo don't know Thorpe. Neither does Kordell 'Slash' Stewart.

Thorpe was the original slash, playing on every phase of the Giants team that season. He was the Giants in their first season, before they achieved success. His popularity kept a financially struggling Giants team stay afloat until they were able to finally find their stride and become the team that we all know.

Without his contributions, there would be no Giants. The team was poor, unpopular and lost in the shuffle of multiple football teams in the same same city in the early years of the sport. His contributions were a vital part of the building and success of not just Major League baseball, the National Basketball League and the NFL, but of the New York Giants.

In the next part of this series, I will get into the top 25 list, starting backwards form #25 to # 21. Please join me then.