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Junker: A collection of discoveries

| Monday, Aug. 17, 2009

The notebook is full, so it's time to clean out some of the things I found out while I was looking up something else.

· With the start of another football season, it's amazing how much the game and television are tied together. It wasn't always that way. The first pro football game was televised Oct. 22, 1939. Brooklyn beat Philadelphia, 23-14. There were only 1,000 TV sets in the New York City area that were able to pick up the broadcast at the time.

· Most hockey fans have heard the phrase "Gordie Howe Hat Trick." It consists of a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game, honoring the skill and toughness of the Detroit Red Wings Hall of Famer. In truth, Howe only accomplished the feat twice in his entire NHL career.

· Lou Gehrig played in 2,130 straight games, but, perhaps more incredible, is the fact that in 1931. he played every inning of every game the Yankees played that year.

· Frank "Home Run" Baker never hit more than 12 home runs in a season. His nickname came from hitting two important home runs in the 1911 World Series for the Philadelphia Athletics. He is in the Hall of Fame.

· Western Pennsylvania has been a hotbed for NFL quarterbacks, and in fact, has produced it's share of great athletes in many sports. Although baseball isn't one of the tops, still, in the 1970's, the WPIAl produced three first round draft picks. Shortstop Bob Gorinski of Mt. Pleasant, who was taken by Minnesota 22nd overall in 1970; outfielder Scot Thompsonof of Knoch High School, taken 7th overall by the Cubs in 1974; and pitcher Tim Conroy of Gateway, taken by the Oakland A's with the 20th pick in 1978.

· We've come to expect the "Star Spangled Banner" to be played before nearly all athletic competitions in the United States. It was first played at a sporting event in the seventh inning of Game 1 of the 1918 World Series between the Cubs and Red Sox. World War I was raging. The song, at that point, was not yet our National Anthem.

· Peguing defenseman Brooks Orpik is named after former Penguin coach Herb Brooks, who, of course, coached the U.S. to the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

· Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson have each won four-straight Cy Young awards. A handful of other pitchers have won back-to-back Cy Young awards, including Roger Clemens, Jim Palmer and Denny McLain. But all of this was after 1967 when Major League Baseball started to give out two Cy Young awards each year to a pitcher in each league. Most impressive though is Sandy Koufax's run of three Cy Youngs in four years when only one was handed out in the majors.

· We tend to think of all the technical improvements with sporting goods and equipment as a modern, more recent phenomenon, but actually, equipment experiments have taken place since the beginning of organized team sports. Remember the Steelers and Browns using a white football for night games in Cleveland• And how about the Brooklyn Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals• They used a yellow baseball in the first game of a doubleheader in 1938. They switched back to white for the second game. It didn't help the Cardinals, who lost both games.

· People talk about the Pirates' 16-, and soon to be 17-straight losing seasons. But think about this. Since 1984, they have had only four winning seasons. In the 20 years previous to 1984, they had just four losing seasons.

· Adam and Andy LaRoche had the rare opportunity, as brothers, to play on the same major-league team for the end of last season and the first half of this season. Any of us who have a brother and ever dreamed of playing sports professionally, could only imagine how cool it would be to have a locker next to your brother in a major-league clubhouse. Paul and Lloyd Waner enjoyed that dream for 14 seasons with the Pirates. And although it's ancient history now, no brothers on the same team or playing for different teams, have as many as combined hits as those two since. More than 60 years after either of them played a game, their 5,611 combined hits are more than the three Alou brothers, the five Delahanty brothers or the three DiMaggio brothers. For the record, the LaRoche brothers, as of this writing, are only 4,722 hits behind Big and Little Poison.

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