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Over 60 ... And Getting Younger: February 23, 2012

Shooting Stars

I am enthralled by the Jeremy Lin scenario!

He has captured New York and in one fantastic stroke, revived the memories of Knicks fans to days of previous glory. It is a Horatio Alger story with an Asian Twist. The hero is a Taiwan born, Harvard educated, sky, conservative, soft-spoken, young lad, named Jeremy Lin. He has reached beyond all political boundaries and became everybody’s hero.

He has accomplished all this in a sport not used to seeing Asians on professional basketball teams. He has held his ground and not lost his sense of humor and his bearings. As a septuagenarian sports nut I have seen many “shooting stars” in my day. Some have lasted through long professional careers and some have petered and flamed out. I fervently hope this does not happen to Jeremy.

I have observed many of these brightly lit bursts onto the sports pages. Dino Restelli of the 1949 Pittsburgh Pirates hit seven home runs in his first 10 days in the National League. He was the prime hero of heroes. Talks arose in the media as to whether Babe Ruth’s 60 homerun record was in danger from this newly arrived “shooting star” with a homerun bat. That year, 1949, he hit only 13 homeruns and batted .241 for the entire year. His last major league appearance was in July 1951, but I’ll never forget those first 10 days.

The “Hondo Hurricane” was another case of “over-hype.” “Hit like Babe Ruth and pitched like Bob Feller” was the phrase that followed this 6’5” rookie from Hondo, Texas into the big leagues. The year was 1947. He pitched for the New York Giants but was not too successful. Immediately, they tried his talents as a slugger but that, too, failed. He had just not lived up to his “Superman Statistics.” However, he is noted for being on third base when Bobby Thompson hit his historic homerun in 1951.

Roy Campanella, the great Dodger catcher, said that Karl Spooner had the best fastball that he had ever caught. In his major league debut, he struck out 15 batters. The press went wild. The saying in 1954 was, “The Dodgers should have come sooner with Spooner.” He pitched a shutout in 1954 against World Series bound N.Y. Giants. A left shoulder injury ended his career in 1956. Shirley Povich, the great sportswriter, said with great honesty, “Let us reserve judgment” on these new phenoms.

I sincerely hope that Jeremy Lin is not a flash in the pan. I hope he has a long glorious team life with the New York Knicks. He has the perfect temperament for New York.

Onward and upward Jeremy!