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When I look at the Hall of Fame ballot and wonder how baseball will ultimately deal with the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, I try to think back to when the game and its ethics really changed. I cant pinpoint a date, but I do remember a player from my youth. Brian Downing was with the Chicago White Sox at a time when I listened to every game I possibly could on the radio. That particular season the late great Harry Caray was calling the White Sox games. What struck me as unusual was Caray almost seemed to have a vendetta against Downing. He was always finding fault with him and ultimately the pressure of playing in Chicago wore Downing down. On December 5, 1977, Downing was part of a huge six-player trade with the Angels that sent him back home to California. Downing had always been a player who battled adversity and beat the odds. He made his Magnolia High School team, but hardly played and was cut. Same story pretty much at Cypress College. It looked as though his baseball dream was over. But then he went to a White Sox open tryout camp and was signed. When Downing played his first game with the White Sox he was a third baseman and believe it or not on the very first pitch he severely damaged his knee when he tried to make a diving catch near the dugout and tumbled down the steps. When he returned, he was converted to catcher and became a back-up to veteran Ed Herrman. But he never was much of a hitter and could never please Harry Caray. Downing didnt fare much better in his first year with the Angels and realizing his career could be slipping away, he committed to a "serious weight training" program in the off-season of 1978, changed his batting stance dramatically and even had a batting cage installed in his home. From there his career began to take off, though not particularly fast. Downing was so good at getting on base he often batted lead-off and he once led the American League in walks. He ran into more adversity in 1980, when he suffered a broken ankle and was ultimately forced to move to left field. Though not a great fielder, through hard work, he become more than adequate and actually didnt make a single error in the 1982 season. Downing played with the Angels right through the 1990 season before the Angels effectively forced him out in a bit of contract dispute. He played his final two years in Texas as a designated hitter. By the time he left the Angels though Downing had built up franchise record numbers in games played, at-bats, runs, hits, total bases, doubles, home runs, RBIs and walks. He retired on the final day of the 1992 season at age 41. His final game and last at-bat came at the Angels ballpark, and he ended his career with a pinch-hit single off his former teammate and future Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven. Downing received a prolonged standing ovation. Ten years later Brian Downing was honoured as a member of the Angels All-time team and still later on August 27, 2009 he was named to the Angels Hall of Fame along with his former teammate Chuck Finley. The point of this is, Brian Downing was one of the very first to get involved in weight training. By all accounts, he transformed his long lanky body into a muscular physique with nothing more than dedication and extremely hard work. Others perhaps inspired by Downings success followed his path. Others learned of the shortcuts to building a new body with PEDs and created the era that still clouds baseball to this day. Downing carved out a career that is to be admired, but his nickname then - "The Incredible Hulk" - is strangely ironic now considering the brand of baseball it may have helped span over the last 35 years. Changes in Philly It was sad for me this week to see that Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews were let go by the Phillies as broadcasters. "Sarge", as Matthews is affectionately known, had a great career as a player and worked with the Blue Jays as a batting coach, and even spent two years in the Toronto radio booth with Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth. I only had the pleasure of working with "Sarge" for one year, in 2001 and enjoyed every minute of it. He was insightful and funny and a good friend. He is apparently staying with the Phillies in another capacity but he will be missed on the air. A couple of interesting notes on Gary Matthews playing career. He slugged seven homers in 19 career post-season games. If thats not impressive enough, in his final Major League at-bat "Sarge" singled off Texas lefty Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams, only to be immediately picked off first base to end the game. What a way to end your career. All the best "Sarge"! Jeff Bagwell Astros Jersey . on the 15-day disabled Monday list because of a strained right hamstring. Lance McCullers Astros Jersey . Kadri was dressed in a green jersey at Thursdays practice and skated as an extra forward on the teams fourth line as the Leafs. http://www.baseballastrosonline.com/dal ... os-jersey/. City has reached new heights under manager Manuel Pellegrini as they transition from big spending/immediate impact to perennial contender. Yaya Toures seeming discontent Tuesday may complicate that, as does the little issue of Financial Fair Play. Preston Tucker Astros Jersey . (January 11, 2014) – Once again Kevin Martin proved why he is the all-time TSN skins leader, winning $11,500 in prize money and a spot in the Travelers All-Star Curling Skins Game presented by Pintys final following a semifinal victory over Brad Jacobs earlier this evening at the Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre in Banff, Alta. Carlos Correa Astros Jersey . However, Therrien added that Galchenyuks status for next Wednesdays game against the Detroit Red Wings is questionable. Galchenyuk has been out since Jan. 6 with a broken right hand.BALTIMORE -- The Washington Nationals made themselves right at home at Camden Yards in an interleague duel between crosstown rivals and division leaders. Doug Fister allowed two runs over seven innings and Washington hit three solo homers in a 6-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night. The Nationals usually win with pitching, and Fister was more than efficient. But on this night Washington beat the hard-hitting Orioles at their own game, using home runs by Wilson Ramos, Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth to win this matchup between teams located 40 miles apart on I-295. "This is a good ballpark to hit home runs in," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "All you need to do is look at the other dugout to see that." Fister (8-2) scattered seven hits, walked two and struck out three. He is 8-1 in his last 11 starts and 52-52 for his career, the first time the right-hander has been at .500 since 6-6 in 2010. "He was pretty good," said Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph, who hit into two double plays. "He sinks the ball so well and hes got that curveball, he didnt bust it out until the second or third time around. And hes got a good enough slider to hit one off the barrel." Fister has earned the right to be considered the ace of a staff that includes Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. But, Williams said, "Everybody has pitched very well. To throw labels on guys isnt fair. They have all pitched very well; sometimes it just doesnt come out as a win." Each team has one win in the rain-shortened, home-and-home showdown that concludes Thursday night. Baltimore is 7-2 in its last nine games and Washington has won eight of 10 overall. "Were getting some momentum together and thats kind of where were at right now," Fister said. "Thats good going into the break." Manny Machado went 3 for 4 with a homer for the Orioles and Chris Davis had two hits and an RBI. Machado is 12 for 21 in four games since returning from a five-game suspension. "I feel fine at the plate, seeing the ball well," Machado said. "Im just trying to keep this going." Orioles starter Bud Norris (7-6) gave up five runs and six hits in four-plus innings in his first appearance since June 21.dddddddddddd. He won four straight starts before going on the disabled list with a right groin strain. "As much as you do side work and (simulated) games and stuff like that, theres no substitute for the adrenaline and the challenge of facing major league hitters," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. "Especially ones as good as Washington has. So it will get better. Weve seen what hes capable of." It was Norris shortest outing of the year, and the five runs and two home runs he allowed matched season highs. "I felt pretty good," he insisted. "Got a little achy there at the end, but Im happy with the results and its kind of out of my head now. Ill get a couple more bullpens in and just go from there and into the break and feel good going into the second half." Washington jumped on Norris for two first-inning runs. After Anthony Rendon and Werth hit successive doubles, Adam LaRoche delivered an RBI single. Davis singled in a run in the bottom half, and Ramos made it 3-1 in the second with a shot to left. Desmond hit his 16th home run in the fourth, a drive that landed in the front row of the bleachers in centre field. Machado got the run back in the home half with his ninth home run, the fifth in eight games. LaRoche added a sacrifice fly in the fifth and Werth homered off Brad Brach in the seventh. The Nationals played their 13th consecutive errorless game, matching their longest streak since coming to Washington from Montreal in 2005. Rendon made several sparkling plays at third base and started a 5-4-3 double play in the sixth after Baltimore put runners at the corners with one out and the score 5-2. "Their third baseman had a great night," Showalter said. "We could have got back in it a little bit but they didnt let us defensively." NOTES: Wei-Yin Chen (0-2, 7.71 ERA vs the Nationals) faces Gonzalez in the series finale Thursday night. ... Ramos extended his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games. ... Washingtons Danny Espinosa went 0 for 3 and is mired in an 0-for-22 skid. His teammate, Bryce Harper, went 0 for 4 and is 4 for 28 since coming off the DL following left thumb surgery. China Jerseys wholesale jerseys ' ' '


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