The Freethinkers | Walton & Spaceman | Ep 36

I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny day.
-Jimmy Cliff

The Freethinkers | There are exceptions to every rule, so our two guests aren’t rivals, but kindred spirits who are living for that “bright (bright) sunshiny day! Two great athletes as well as two of the most outspoken athletes of their time. They’re freethinkers who speak to everything in the world. Neither is shy to express themselves, they’ve been outspoken and even controversial at times.

The Freethinkers

Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a two-time NBA Champion and a two-time NCAA Champion. He played college basketball at UCLA for legendary coach John Wooden and was the National College Player of the Year three times, from 1972-1974. In addition to those two NCAA titles in 1972 and 1973, including an amazing 88-game winning streak, he was also the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player in those years as well. He won the NBA title in 1977 with the Portland Trailblazers and in 1986 with the Boston Celtics. He was the NBA Finals MVP in 1977 and the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1978. These incredible accomplishments have landed him in both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as well as the College Basketball Hall of Fame. However, with all these feats, he might be best known as the biggest Grateful Dead fan on the planet.

Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee

Speaking of planets, Bill “Spaceman” Lee had a 14-year major league baseball career with the Boston Red Sox and the Montreal Expos. He was an all-star in 1973 and in 2008 was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame. Bill played college baseball at USC under legendary coach Rod Dedeaux when they won the 1968 College World Series. He then was drafted by the Red Sox in the 22nd round of the 1968 draft. Bill began his career mostly as a relief pitcher, but then went on to become a starter in two games in the 1975 World Series. However, his career took a turn for the worse in May of 1976, as he got injured in a huge brawl with the Yankees and suffered a torn ligament in his left pitching shoulder. But Bill’s dynamic personality would not be curtailed and his tremendous popularity as the “Spaceman” continued even after his playing days in books and films.

So, fasten your seat belts as two planets are about to collide and hopefully you can see clearly again once you hear these freethinkers’ words of wisdom…

Further Listening:

Be sure to subscribe to the Sports Rivals podcast to listen to this rivalry on your favorite podcast app:

If you loved this episode, check out our others:

Pinch Hitters | Sweeney vs Harris | Ep 35

The pinch hitters | You’ve been sitting on the bench for the entire game and now your name is called by the manager to grab a bat and get to the plate in a key moment. Long one of baseball’s toughest jobs, the pinch hitter becomes the spotlight with just one chance to make good.

With the DH firmly in place in the AL, the job of the pinch hitter has been left largely to the NL. True pinch hitters have been replaced by versatile players signed for defensive work rather than just those precious moments at the plate.

Lenny Harris and Mark Sweeney sit atop MLB numbers for pinch hitters who made their living coming through when it mattered most.

Mark Sweeney

Sweeney, 14 years in the majors, is second in pinch hits (175) and first in pinch hit rbi. They played in the majors at the same time for 10 years and were keenly aware of one another.

Lenny Harris

Harris, an 18-year MLB veteran, is the all-time MLB leader in pinch hits (212) and most pinch hit at-bats.

Here are the stories of their most memorable at-bats, their preparation secrets and their memories of watching each other perform. They both relate their respect and admiration for the man each passed at the top of the pinch hit list – Manny Mota.

Insights, laughs, haunting at-bats and a Mother who saw through it all, it’s all here.

Step up to the plate and enjoy.

Further Listening:

Be sure to subscribe to the Sports Rivals podcast to listen to this rivalry on your favorite podcast app:

If you loved this episode, check out our others:

Dodgers vs Reds | Garvey vs Perez | Ep 34

Dodgers vs Reds | His manager, Sparky Anderson, said he was the “heart and soul” of the team. No small matter since that team was Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine of the 1970’s.

Dodgers vs Reds | The Players

Tony Perez

Tony Perez was that player and his plaque can be found in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Perez took home two World Series rings with the Reds in the four World Series appearances by that team. He put together an amazing seven seasons in which he drove in at least 100 runs.

During those years, the rivalry for the NL West’s top spot saw the Reds and Dodgers battle year after year.

Steve Garvey

On the Dodger side, Steve Garvey was at first base as part of the longest running infield in history. With Ron Cey, Bill Russell and Davey Lopes, Garvey anchored first for a team that went head-to-head with the Reds for postseason honors.

Garvey is a 10-time All-Star with 4 Gold Gloves and a NL MVP award in 1974. In 55 postseason games he posted a .338 average, including hitting .319 in 28 World Series games.

Two outstanding MLB veterans, two high-powered teams and two sides to the story of the Dodgers/Reds race for the ring in an ongoing battle of the 70’s.

Here is the story of that rivalry in the words of two of baseball’s best – Tony Perez and Steve Garvey.

Further Listening:

Be sure to subscribe to the Sports Rivals podcast to listen to this rivalry on your favorite podcast app:

If you loved this episode, check out our others:

Flyers vs Rangers | Clement vs Stemkowski | Ep 33

Flyers vs Rangers | The cities are only 97 miles apart by car and they are joined at the hip by a fisted hockey glove.

The New York Rangers are one of the Original Six teams in the NHL. The Philadelphia Flyers are an expansion team. The Flyers were about to become the first expansion team to defeat an Original Six team in the playoffs.

1974 was the first time these teams met in the Stanley Cup playoffs. In the semifinals, they would go to a Game 7 before the Flyers could take the next step towards the Cup. It was a physically bruising series.

The Rangers were the veteran team used to winning in the early and mid-70’s. The Flyers were the Broad Street Bullies making their move towards recognition. Intimidation was a built-in mindset for this team on the rise.

Flyers vs Rangers | The Players

Bill Clement

Bill Clement wore the Flyers uniform for a team that he says had made a commitment not to be intimidated by anyone. He would have his name engraved on Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first of two times in this 1974 season.

Pete Stemkowski

Pete Stemkowski was in his fourth year of seven that he would play for the Rangers. A 14-year NHL veteran, he remembers well this 1974 playoff engagement with the Flyers and will explain the regrets he still has about the series.

Both Clement and Stemkowski will take you to the ice for the story of these teams in a playoff series that Stemkowski maintains was one of the best in NHL history.

They will tell you about the fight between Dave “The Hammer” Schultz and Ranger Dale Rolfe – a fight that Flyer coach Fred Shero said was the turning point in Game 7 won 4-3 by the Flyers.

Was it a planned strategic fight? Why did no Ranger come to the aid of Rolfe who was taking a beating from Schultz? Where were the Ranger enforcers? Were the Rangers really intimidated by these Broad Street Bullies?

Here are the stories, and what stories they are, of an NHL rivalry that’s as good as it gets – the Rangers and the Flyers – told by two men who wore the sweaters in this 1974 season.

Lace those skates and let’s get to the ice.

Further Listening:

Be sure to subscribe to the Sports Rivals podcast to listen to this rivalry on your favorite podcast app:

If you loved this episode, check out our others:

Super Bowl TV | Gaudelli vs Zyontz | Ep 32

Super Bowl Producers | Imagine what it would be like to sit in the chair of the producer for a Super Bowl game, responsible for arguably the number one sports broadcast in the world. What is the night like leading up to the game? Do you sleep? Do you have superstitions? What is the moment like when the kickoff is one minute away?

Super Bowl Producers

Fred Gaudelli and Richie Zyontz have lived those moments, and are scheduled to live them again.

Fred Gaudelli

On this podcast you will hear them discuss with one another the answers to those questions, the lessons learned in Zyontz’s 40 years producing network sports and Gaudelli’s 31 years producing NFL prime time games, including 15 years of Sunday Night Football.

Richie Zyontz

John Madden

Both producers have learned by watching the other work and both have had the sheer joy and benefit of working closely with John Madden. The Madden stories are priceless and filled with respect and love.

John Madden

Listen to the wondrous moment Madden learned he had been elected to the NFL Hall of Fame and how that was shared in a most unusual setting.

These are men who have reached the pinnacle of success in producing television sports. Their rivalry is a shared respect for bringing to audiences the highest quality broadcast of the most watched event in sports.

Direct from the source, this is the television Super Bowl story from the men who sit center stage.

Further Listening:

Be sure to subscribe to the Sports Rivals podcast to listen to this rivalry on your favorite podcast app:

If you loved this episode, check out our others:

RE-AIR: Coaches | Raftery vs Carlesimo | Ep 13

If you derive a headache from constantly smiling widely or laughing uncontrollably, you better have a bottle of aspirin at hand for this matchup of coaches.

Bill Raftery and P.J. Carlesimo have run the gamut of basketball coaching and broadcasting, from college to the NBA, from regional networks to the Final Four.

They were direct coaching rivals from 1976 to 1981 when Carlesimo was the head coach at Wagner College and Raftery was the same at Seton Hall. There were some wild games between the schools, including a New Year’s Eve game that went to double OT, and boy, do these two ever give you some memories about that game.

The Coaches

Raftery coached college ball from 1963 to 1981 and then went on to become one of the most popular TV commentators in a college basketball HOF career covering the last 33 years. His infectious laugh and sense of humor shine through in that job and it shines brightly in this podcast.

P.J. Carlesimo

Carlesimo began his coaching career in 1971, most notably putting Seton Hall on the basketball map between 1982-1994, arriving just one year at the Hall after Raftery left.

P.J. went on to head coach in the NBA with the Trail BlazersWarriors, and SuperSonics/Thunder.

In between the coaching stints, Carlesimo also joined the ranks of TV analysts with TNT, ESPN, and NBC.

The Rivalry

What was the relationship between these two as they coached against one another? Raftery will kick it off with one big smile, “I never liked P.J.,” and off we go!

There were the weekly press conferences in New York City and New Jersey that turned into Broadway productions with the likes of Jim ValvanoLou Carnesecca, and Tom Penders.

There were late-night feasts after games the likes of which may not exist today. There were antics and fireworks during the games that both coaches will regale you with.

Did priests really ref games? What about that picture of Raftery flying off the bench in midair parallel to the court? An endless needling by these two of one another continues here.

Joyful, insightful, unabashed, and unique are just some of the adjectives that describe what you will hear from two of basketball’s most delightful and knowledgeable individuals and coaches.

Prepare to smile.

Further Listening:

Be sure to subscribe to the Sports Rivals podcast to listen to this rivalry on your favorite podcast app:

If you loved this episode, check out our others:

RE-AIR: UCLA vs Arizona | NCAA Mens’ BB

UCLA vs Arizona | NCAA Mens’ Basketball–Rivalries take time to build and this one has had decades.  UCLA and Arizona are two of college basketball’s premier programs.   Over the years the race for Pac-12 titles and the right to move to March madness has created high heat when they meet.

Today we hear the magnitude of that rivalry from two who were in the middle of the spotlight.

UCLA vs Arizona

Don MacLean

Don MacLean played at UCLA from 1988 to 1992.  They won the Pac-12 championship in the ’91-’92 season. He thrived on the rivalry.

Matt Muehlebach

Matt Muehlebach played at AZ from 1987 to 1991.  His teams never lost a game at home. Ironically, that streak would be broken by UCLA and MacLean.

MacLean was a pot-stirrer, especially on the court.  Listen to Matt talk about that while Don tells you how that went over with former UCLA coach John Wooden.

Matt speaks to what it was like to be on each of these raucous home courts when the two great basketball programs went head to head.  He’ll tell you about the “offer the hand and take it back move” made by Don to one of Matt’s teammates.  

Enjoy the story of an epic basketball rivalry through the memories of two who helped create it. 

Don MacLean with Coach Jim Harrick

Further Listening:

Be sure to subscribe to the Sports Rivals podcast to listen to this rivalry on your favorite podcast app:

If you loved this episode, check out our others:

AFL | Flores vs Maguire | Ep 30

AFL | The friendship derived from a rivalry can be amazingly close and long lived. Such is the case with our two guests today. Their rivalry came in a league that no longer exists, but one that transformed professional football.

The American Football League (AFL) played for ten years beginning in 1960. The AFL competed so successfully with the NFL that it forced a merger in 1970.

AFL Players

Paul Maguire and Tom Flores are 2 of only 20 who played in the American Football League for its entire 10-year existence. Flores was a quarterback for the Bills and Raiders and is the 5th leading passer in AFL history.

Tom Flores

He went on to a highly successful coaching career in the NFL, leading the Raiders to two Super Bowl wins – 1980 and 1983.

Paul Maguire

Paul Maguire was a linebacker and punter for the Chargers and Bills in the AFL. He played in 6 of the 10 AFL Championship Games. Following his playing days, he became a nationally recognized network television broadcaster, a career that lasted 46 years.

Flores and Maguire met on the football field, but their friendship has taken them around the world.

Did they really meet at the bottom of a tackling pile-up? Did Flores maneuver his offense not around, but at Maguire?

Smile. This rivalry comes with a lot of stories embellished with laughter. Flores and Maguire were football rivals and their lifelong friendship only enhances those football memories. Fortunately for us, we get to listen in and share the joy derived from their passion for the game and the life that went beyond.

Celebrate rivalries. Celebrate friendship. Celebrate Paul Maguire and Tom Flores.

Further Listening:

Be sure to subscribe to the Sports Rivals podcast to listen to this rivalry on your favorite podcast app:

If you loved this episode, check out our others:

RE-AIR: 1983 Sugar Bowl | PSU vs GA | Ep 17

1983 Sugar Bowl | Seasons in sports are played to lead up to a moment of finality – the World Series, NBA Finals, etc. College football is no different as teams play for a national championship game and a number 1 ranking to end a season.

In January of 1983, that moment was the Sugar Bowl.  Georgia came into the game ranked number 1 and Penn State number 2.  While not classified as a national championship game at the time, few doubted that the winner would claim that moniker.  

The Quarterbacks

Todd Blackledge

Todd Blackledge was the passing quarterback for a high-powered Penn State team that featured the running prowess of Curt Warner.  Penn State was a favorite in the game even though ranked number 2.  

Todd had a 31-5 mark for his career with the Nittany Lions and did not know when entering that game, that when the day was done, he would be the MVP of the Sugar Bowl.

Todd would go on to play in the NFL with KC and Pittsburgh and have a noted career as a television football analyst.

John Lastinger

At quarterback for Georgia was John Lastinger, who entered that day never having lost a game he started at quarterback from the time he was in high school. John was joined in the backfield by Herschel Walker who did the leg work.

John would go on in 1984 to win a Cotton Bowl game and scored the winning touchdown.  However, such was not to be John’s fate in 1983.

1983 Sugar Bowl 

Penn State won the game 27-23 and the national number 1 ranking that went with it. The game lived up to its pregame hype as you will hear Todd and John remember the day.

There was an opening Penn State drive that both agreed set the stage.

There was a penalty non-call in the game they each remember as critical. A little thing it was not, but rarely is it remembered except by those in the game.

Many in sports say it is far easier to lose by an overwhelming margin than a tight matchup. In the former, you forget the mistakes-they didn’t matter anyway. In the tight ones, you harken back and think “what if.” You will hear that here.

Two QBs in the Louisiana Superdome with a football world watching.

Here are their stories of that game.

Further Listening:

Be sure to subscribe to the Sports Rivals podcast to listen to this rivalry on your favorite podcast app:

If you loved this episode, check out our others:

Thanks!

Gary and I would like to thank everyone who listened to our podcasts as well as our guests who shared their stories, including successes, failures and laughter. Also, a special thanks to our awesome audio guru David Roberston, and our webmaster Zach Kutlow, who make The Sports Rivals podcast a reality.

Looking back, we had so many fun episodes this past year highlighted by:

-Bill Raftery and P.J. Carlesimo poking fun at their coaching rivalry (did Bill really have priests ref his home games?).

-Mark Allen and Dave Scott taking us step-by-step through their intense & grueling Iron War triathlon.

-Hall of Fame pitchers Jim Palmer and Dennis Eckersley remembering their amazing journeys including that fateful pitch by Eck to Kirk Gibson.

-And who could forget the wild ride with Steve “Psycho” Lyons and Rex “Bug Eater” Hudler?

Fasten your seatbelts – we’re looking forward to more rivalries that make the games in 2021.

Thanks again and Happy New Year!

ps        Please let us know which rivalries you’d like to hear.