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Legendary Vin Scully could have belonged to NY, not LA

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The pity is that he could have been ours all these decades, our own unique, lyrical baseball gift. New York City has been blessed for years with a proud battalion of excellence in the broadcast booth.

But there was only one Vin Scully.

And those who have tried nobly to fill his seat behind a microphone in New York’s ballparks since the final day of the 1957 season understand one thing quite well: there was Scully, and there was everyone else. That was true in 1957, and 1987, and 2007. He stood alone.

Scully broadcast Dodgers games for 67 years. The first eight of those years, he called New York home and Ebbets Field his home office, this son of Washington Heights, who graduated from Fordham Prep in 1944 and Fordham U in 1949. He was 22 when he first slipped behind the mic, paired with Red Barber, and he stayed on the job, to the great delight of just about everyone who loves baseball, until he was 89.

“Mine has been a glorious life,” Scully told me in 2013. “There’s nobody who could ever say they were given more blessings in this life than me.”

Vin Scully
Vin Scully
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Vin Scully calling a Dodgers game in the 1960s.
Vin Scully calling a Dodgers game in the 1960s.
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Scully died Tuesday night at age 94, and with him goes a manner and a style of broadcasting baseball games we’ll never hear again. He was well-heeled in the game’s nuances yet never came across as sanctimonious. He was an eloquent master of the language yet never got too carried away. It was his job to describe for those who couldn’t be there what it was like for those, like Scully, who were lucky enough to be in what his old partner Barber used to call the catbird seat.

When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, Scully moved with them and it was there that he became, quite literally, the eyes, ears and auxiliary brains for Southern California fans engaging in a crash-course in baseball. So much did his new audience grow to depend on him, even those who bought tickets to Dodger Stadium in the 1960s would often bring transistor radios because they trusted that Scully could describe what they were seeing better than their own eyes could.

I’ve told this story before, but that conversation I had with Scully in 2013 came when he called me back while I was trying to cross Manhattan on the way to a Nets game. Thanks to the wonders of Bluetooth, I was having a chat with Vin Scully through the speakers of my car radio. It was every bit as surreal, and wonderful, as you’d expect.

“Sure,” he said that day. “I think about what might’ve happened if the Dodgers had stayed in Brooklyn. It would’ve been a different career for me, that’s for sure. But I suspect I’d have enjoyed the ride every bit as much.”

Vin Scully
Vin Scully
Reuters

In New York, then, we never got day-to-day Scully after he turned 30. We got Scully on the NFL, and Scully on golf. One remarkable night in 1986, 31 years after calling the game that finally brought a championship to Brooklyn, he was there as the Mets performed perhaps the grandest baseball miracle in history. To this day, Mets fans can recite it by heart, every syllable Scully:

“Little roller up along first … BEHIND THE BAG! IT GETS THROUGH BUCKNER! HERE COMES KNIGHT, AND THE METS WIN IT …!”

Then, for 103 seconds, Scully didn’t say a word, letting the sights, sounds and emotions exploding at Shea Stadium do the talking for him. When he finally did clear his throat again it was perfect, of course: “If one picture is worth a thousand words, you have seen about a million words.”

Even the very best announcers, most of them, wouldn’t have trusted the moment to work on their behalf the way Scully did. But he did that all the time. Later, when MLB made it easier to access out-of-town games, a fresh generation of Scullyphiles tuned in to catch Dodgers games from the coast, just to hear Scully call them. He was in his 80s by then. But the voice was still straight out of 1949, still straight out of WFUV, still straight out of Washington Heights.

We could’ve had so much more of him if not for the wanderlust of Walter O’Malley. What we did get, though? We’ll treasure that, eternally.

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Revered Borje Salming leaves behind lasting Maple Leafs, NHL legacy as icon

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The beautiful part of it is that Borje Salming knew how the world perceived him before his passing as a victim of ALS on Thursday at age 71. The word “iconic” doesn’t quite do justice to the Hall of Fame defenseman. Salming was more that. He was revered. 

He was revered not only as a player, but also as an individual. Love and adoration flowed to Salming as a groundbreaker who became a pioneering role model in opening the door for an influx of his fellow Swedes into the NHL after he conquered an unwelcoming, antagonistic environment that confronted him and any who might threaten the Canadian hegemony of the league. 

Salming knew that. He knew that when he received a thunderous ovation at Maple Leaf Gardens during pregame introductions while representing Team Sweden prior to playing Team Canada in the 1976 Canada Cup. He knew that two weekends ago in Toronto on consecutive, emotional nights featuring one impromptu tribute and a second formal one that evoked tears. 

Similarly, he knew that at the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation Centennial Gala celebrating the country’s all-time greatest players at Avicii Arena in Stockholm just over one week ago, when his introduction evoked an emotional response. Salming was not only a beloved hockey player, but also a beloved individual in the way of Rod Gilbert, Jean Beliveau and Gordie Howe, and a beloved cultural icon in the way of Maurice Richard. 

Borje Salming
Borje Salming passed away at 71.
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Mika Zibanejad was born in 1993, three years after Salming retired from the NHL and the same year No. 21 stepped away from the Swedish League to which he had returned for his final three seasons. Zibanejad is of a different generation. But he’s not ignorant. 

“From my personal experience, the guys I grew up watching were Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Peter Forsberg, Mats Sundin, Daniel Alfredsson,” Zibanejad told Slap Shots on Friday. “I was too young to see Salming play, and I’m sorry I never got the chance to interact with him, but I know what he did for our game. 

“He opened doors for players from Sweden and Europe and changed everything for us, and that is because of his courage.” 

Before Salming and countryman Inge Hammarstrom joined the Maple Leafs for the 1973-74 season, just three Swedes had played in the NHL. Ulf Sterner was the first, playing four games for the Rangers in 1964-65, but the slick center could not make the leap in an era in which European leagues did not permit bodychecking in the offensive zone. 

Juha Widing, another center who played for the Rangers in 1969-70 before he was traded to the Kings for Ted Irvine, was next. Detroit defenseman Thommie Bergman joined the league in 1972-73. Salming and Hammarstrom came over a year later in a time during which those of his origin were painted as, “Chicken Swedes.” By the way? In 2011, NBC analyst Mike Milbury called Daniel and Henrik Sedin, “Thelma and Louise,” so there was that. 

Salming joined the Leafs in an era during which Bobby Orr was just going out; Denis Potvin, Brad Park, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe and Larry Robinson dominated on the blue line; and Raymond Bourque was just coming into the NHL. 

Borje Salming is honored in a ceremony on Nov. 11.
Borje Salming is honored in a ceremony on Nov. 11.
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From 1974-75 — Salming’s sophomore season — through 1979-80, the Swede was the only defenseman to be named either first-team or second-team All-Star in each of those six seasons. He was dominant at both ends of the ice, and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996. 

Salming was one of a kind. He kicked the door down for people like Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson to join the Rangers in 1978-79 as the 12th and 13th Swedes to play in the NHL. They faced constant physical abuse. They endured the slings and arrows so others could follow. 

Seventy-nine Swedes have played in the NHL this season. 

A statue of Borje Salming resides outside Scotiabank Arena.
A statue of Borje Salming resides outside Scotiabank Arena.
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“I know it was not easy for any of those players. Of all of us who are in the NHL now owe them a debt of gratitude,” Zibanejad said. “They paved the way for us. 

“It’s not something I think about on a day-to-day basis, but I do try to keep that in mind. I’m very thankful for what they did. I want to be able to have the same positive influence and make things better for the next generation. 

“That’s a way I can repay Borje.” 


The NHL gets younger and faster all the time, while Brian Boyle gets neither. But the 37-year-old center, currently unemployed as a free agent, should be a person of interest for Stanley Cup contenders looking to shore up their bottom sixes. 

“I’m not retired,” the one-time Ranger and Devil said in a text exchange this week. “I’d love to be playing but so far the offers haven’t been there 

Boyle, the 2018 Masterton winner, rehabbed from knee surgery after sustaining an injury in Game 6 of the Penguins’ first-round series against the Rangers. 

“I was good in four weeks,” said Boyle, an inspirational figure after having conquered chronic myeloid leukemia. “I’m training hard and am staying ready. We’ll see. 

“But all is great.”

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Artemi Panarin’s scoreless streak grows to 12 games in Rangers’ loss

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Artemi Panarin has gone 12 straight games without a goal after failing to score in the Rangers’ stunning 4-3 loss to the reeling Oilers on Saturday afternoon at the Garden. The 12 games tied the longest scoring drought of the Russian wing’s NHL career.

Game 12 likely stung more than the previous 11, however, considering Panarin thought he had scored twice.

Panarin had one of his more active games of the season, in two of the three periods at least. In addition to assisting on Chris Kreider’s second-period tally, Panarin posted two shots on goal and one takeaway. Both of his shots came in the first period.

The first came on a power play. Panarin wired one home from the right faceoff circle and had a look of relief rush upon his face. But Edmonton challenged for offside and the goal was rescinded after the replay revealed that Panarin never fully crossed the puck into the offensive zone before Vincent Trocheck entered.

Artemi Panarin reacts during the Rangers’ loss to the Oilers.
Jason Szenes

“Yeah, especially when I can’t score the last [11] games,” Panarin said when asked if he was frustrated. “Posts or something, always something. Just keep doing what I usually do. Try not to lose confidence. That’s the most important thing.”

Braden Schneider also had a goal negated after the Oilers challenged for goalie interference, which proved to be the case when replays showed Ryan Carpenter had made contact with Oilers goalie Jack Campbell in the blue crease.

Panarin later smacked a one-timer from the other faceoff circle and Campbell slid over to get in front of it just in time. It was unclear if the puck went in or not, so the refs got on the headsets with the situation room to give it a second look before it was officially deemed not a goal.

Panarin skated on the right wing of the top line next to Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider , similar to how the Rangers lined up at the end of their 3-2 loss to the Ducks in Anaheim on Wednesday and again in practice on Friday. That left Trocheck to center Jimmy Vesey and Barclay Goodrow. The Kid Line of Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko remained intact, while the fourth line featured Sammy Blais, Ryan Carpenter and Julien Gauthier.


Vitali Kravtsov was scratched for a seventh straight game despite taking part in warmups Saturday afternoon. Additionally, Libor Hajek replaced Zac Jones on the left side of the bottom defensive pair alongside Braden Schneider. Jones had played in the previous three games and seemed primed to get a run in the lineup, as Hajek already had, but  head coach Gerard Gallant opted to switch it up.


The Rangers dropped to 8-2-1 when scoring first this season after giving up four unanswered tallies in the third period.

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Rob Gronkowski plays baseball with marshmallows in supermarket: ‘Holy smokes’

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Former superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski showed off his prowess in a different sport: baseball.

While in a Sprouts Farmers Markert, the five-time Pro Bowler was recorded hitting a marshmallow into a sea of gawking people. Gronkowski even earned enough respect to be posted by MLB’s Twitter account, who captioned the video: “POV: You go to the store to get milk and Gronk is in produce crushing dingers.”

The gimmick took multiple attempts to successfully complete, with Gronk using a loaf of bread as a bat. During one trial, the bread slid out of its sleeve and flew to a customer – who later got it signed.

Gronkowski tried again and finally made contact by sending the marshmallow deep. Among a crowd of oohs and ahs, the former Patriots and Buccaneers tight end proudly saluted his hit.

Gronk hit dingers with marshmallows in a supermarket.
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“Holy smokes,” one person in the video said.



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