All posts by seedyk

Cards on the 9s: Unexceptional Campaign is Pervis’ Farewell

This is the fourth in a series of remembrances of past Cardinal hoops seasons in years ending in 9.

So when I pitched Glorious Editor on the idea of this series, three campaigns of significance came to mind.

’59, when the Cards gained a toehold in the nation’s consciousness. ’79, the season before The Season. And ’09, when there was all sorts of stuff undermining the team we only learned about after the fact.

Some of the other campaigns, upon further examination, turned out to be, well, meh. Nothing, as we say, to write home about.

Like ’88-’89, which opened with an unexpected L to Xavier, denying the Cards and fans a Thanksgiving trip to the Big Apple, and ended abruptly with a 14 point loss to #3 Illinois in the Regional Semi.

In between there were some highlights. At one juncture, after 14 straight victories in December and January, including a 22 point beatdown of UK, and triumphs over Top 20 Georgia Tech and UNLV, Louisville was ranked in the Top 5. Yet the Cards faltered in February, going 5-4. (More on that free fall in a bit.)

Most of all, the campaign shall be remembered by most simply as the last go round for Pervis Ellison, a national champion, Final Four MOP as a rookie,  an unequivocal Cardinal great, and first pick in the ’89 NBA draft. But a fellow who never really became an endearing fan favorite. Continue reading Cards on the 9s: Unexceptional Campaign is Pervis’ Farewell

Cards on the 9s: ’79 ends with Too Little Too Late

(Third in a series of remembrances of U of L basketball seasons, from years ending in 9. Next: ’89.)

The 1978-79 season, despite the 24 wins against only 8 losses, never found a groove.

It was, to coin a phrase, a winter of discontent.

For the team, especially leader Darrell Griffith.

For Coach Denny Crum.

For the fan base, growing restless.

For the third season in a row, Darrell & Bobby (Turner), local legends since their early teen days at DuValle Jr. High and exploits for Chocolate City in the Dirt Bowl as prepsters, failed to meet heightened expectations. Wunderkind mentor Crum had led the Cards to the Final Four in his rookie season, again in ’75, and the arrival of that duo had the fan base frothing at the mouth in anticipation of more better success.

U of L lost 4 of its final 6 in ’76. Anticipation notwithstanding, the arrival of the wunderkinds didn’t immediately help. The ’77 campaign ended with 5 Ls in the last 8 games; ’78 with an OT defeat to Dave Corzine and DePaul in the MW Regional.

But a hopefully more mature Griffith and Turner, crafty senior Larry Williams, along with a heralded group of newcomers — Scooter McCray, Jerry Eaves, Derek Smith, Wiley Brown — had all pumped for a return to the final weekend of the season. Continue reading Cards on the 9s: ’79 ends with Too Little Too Late

On the 9s: ’69 Cards were a Scrappy Success

This is the second in a series, remembering U of L Cardinal teams of the past, in years ending in 9.

John Dromo was pissed.

The second year head coach of the U of L Cardinals certainly let the sports editor of The Cardinal know of his displeasure about a story in the student newspaper.

“Oh yes, I remember,” advises said editor Fred Smart a half century after the dressing down.

“Dromo said his wife was on the verge of tears.”

What possibly could have irked the hoops mentor so?

At that juncture of the season, the surprising Cardinals had moved on from the graduation of Westley Unseld, who was then fashioning a Rookie of the Year, NBA MVP campaign for the Baltimore Bullets, while showing off the greatest outlet pass in the history of the game.

Yes, Louisville’s ’68-’69 season had an ignominious beginning. The varsity had been throttled at Freedom Hall in the then annual rookies vs. varsity preseason clash by the precocious incoming freshman gang of Jim Price, Henry Bacon, Al Vilchek, Mike Lawhon and Larry Carter. 107-90 was the final tally, favor of the newbies. The varsity had turned it over 15 times in the first half.

But the Cards got their act together, and at the time of Dromo’s ire in mid February were 16-3 and atop the Missouri Valley Conference standings.

What was it then that got Dromo so upset? Continue reading On the 9s: ’69 Cards were a Scrappy Success

On the 9s: ’59 U of L Cards crash Last Weekend Party

This is the first of a series of remembrances of Louisville Cardinal hoops teams from seasons of years ending in 9. Today: 1959. Coming soon: 1969.

I guess Poachy Marks is as good a place to start as any.

Thanks to him, my dad and I were up close for the upshot of Louisville Cardinal basketball’s most improbable post season run ever.

Poachy owned an eponymously named haberdashery between 4th and 5th on what was then known as Walnut Street. One time when I was in there, so was the brash fellow who was soon to become our burg’s most famous son, then still known as Cassius Clay.

Looking at himself in a new outfit, and without turning away from his image, with that combination of braggadocio and wink, he called out to Marks, “Tell me Poachy, ain’t I the prettiest?”

Anyway, Poachy Marks was connected in the local sports scene. He was known to make a wager or two, and whether he was on the other side of that equation remains a mystery. To me anyway. Because of those connections, Marks scored my dad and me fifth row midcourt seats for the upcoming national semis and final returning for the second year in a row to Freedom Hall, which venue was accelerating toward its status as the epicenter of college hoops.

(Note: The final four didn’t become The Final Four™ until sometime in the mid 70s.)

Little did we realize, ducats in hand, just a couple of weeks beforehand that our beloved U of L Cardinals would implausibly crash that party, joining The Big O, He Who Would Become The Logo, and heralded Pete Newell’s Golden Bears to fight it out for the national crown. Continue reading On the 9s: ’59 U of L Cards crash Last Weekend Party

Reflections on U of L’s Last Hurrah in CWS

There was, as any sad U of L Cardinal fan understands, a consensus. A healthy consensus, and almost universal belief.

That Luke Smith, who again hurled brilliantly in this 2019 post season — three hits, none after the 3d, ten strikeouts, but one walk, and a single score on 106 pitches — should have been pulled after those eight masterful innings.

Should have been pulled because his competitive bile at the end of that half inning — hurling antagonistic invective toward the Vandy dugout and Julian Infante whom he’d just struck out — could well awaken the beast that is Vanderbilt. Should have been pulled because the Cardinals have not one but two shutdown closers. Michael McAvene with his 5/1 K/BB ratio and 7 saves. Michael Kirian with his 1.68 ERA, 4/1 K/BB ratio and 5 saves.

Or, at the very least, pulled in the 9th after walking JJ Bleday, the nation’s best basher, on five pitches, after getting leadoff Austin Martin to ground out to start the Commodore half.

That consensus however does not include Dan McDonnell, the successful Louisville mentor, who has turned the Cardinals into a national baseball power.

McDonnell, with a look on his face that was kind of difficult to comprehend — it looked like indecision mostly — stayed with his starter. (One of the advantages of good TV coverage, are those close ups in those tense situations.)

I, like most, think it was, at the time, and in retrospect, an egregiously wrong choice. You gotta trust your closers.

But Smith stayed on the mound. Continue reading Reflections on U of L’s Last Hurrah in CWS

Reflections on a U of L Walk Off

Sometimes you eat the bear. Sometimes the bear eats you.

Prior to Thursday night’s season-saving, Final Four-elevating 4-3 walk off by the Louisville Cardinals, 28 of the 52 victories in 2019 by the heading back to Dudy Noble Field Mississippi State Bulldogs have been of the come from behind variety.

In a little tit for tat, the Cards ended the season of their former assistant coach’s nine By. Coming. From. Behind.

As the number of the trailing, lifeless at the plate Cardinals’ outs was diminishing, the way too glib announcing team of Kyle Peterson, Eduardo Perez and Karl Ravech started hypothesizing about Bulldog/ Commodore pitching matchups for Friday night.

They weren’t the only ones who thought the game had a fait accompli feel to it.

In the top of the 7th, even before Tanner Allen’s “insurance” RBI single gave State a 3-0 lead, I — yeah me, ever the pessimist — texted my pal and declared, “This season is over.”

Silly me. Continue reading Reflections on a U of L Walk Off

Cards Survive Rain & Auburn, 5-3, Advance

A win is a win is a . . . you know . . . win.

Louisville, 41-1 when leading after six, 42-0 when leading after seven, hung on despite itself to eliminate Auburn’s Tigers from the CWS, and live for the proverbial another day.

The Cards will meet the vanquished of Mississippi State/ Vanderbilt Thursday evening.

U of L, with a 4-1 lead, endured a 20:07 rain delay before action resumed in the top of the 5th at 11:00 AM Omaha time Wednesday. In front of a “crowd” at first pitch you could count on fingers and toes, both the Cardinals and Tigers sleep walked through 2 1/2 innings before any energy sparked.

Given how well Adam Elliott was pitching, Dan McDonnell yet again made one of his patented curious post season pitching decisions, bringing in ace reliever Michael McAvene to hurl the top of the 7th. The Cards closer certainly needed to knock off some rust. Following his suspension during the regional, two laughers over East Carolina when he wasn’t needed and a DNP in the CWS opening L to Vandy, he hadn’t taken the mound since June 2.

But Elliott was on, and surely could have gone another inning at least. Continue reading Cards Survive Rain & Auburn, 5-3, Advance

Cards fall 3-1 in CWS Opener

The College World Series draw can be a cruel mistress.

Win the opener and the possibilities for success multiply. Drop the first one, and matters get dire.

In an opener, which is the only one to feature two national seeds, between college baseball’s winningest squads this decade, Vandy the higher-seeded favorite, in this game and to win the title, prevailed. 3-1.

Louisville will face the Auburn/ Mississippi loser Tuesday afternoon. Defeated departs. Winner gets life, but will still have to win three more in a row to advance to the title 2 of 3.

While falling to the Commodores doesn’t feel good, it’s no disgrace. U of L’s very familiar regional rival was ranked either #1 or #2 in all the pre-season polls. Vanderbilt finished #2 in all the polls, behind UCLA, which was swept in its Supers by the surging Michigan Wolverines.

Vandy’s ascendency into the sport’s upper echelon pretty much parallels U of L’s. But the Nashvillians have fared significantly better in their four CWS appearances than U of L’s now 2-9 record in five. They won it all in ’14, winning the opener against U of L, and were runners up the following season. Vandy’s harvested the highest rated recruiting class four of the last five seasons. Continue reading Cards fall 3-1 in CWS Opener

Louisville Rampages Way to Omaha, 12-0

Louisville 12, East Carolina 0.

It is at somewhat incomprehensible moments like this, that the writer’s craft and focus run off and hide.

How to explain in an ebullient but professional way how your favorite school’s baseball team has just drawn and quartered the tenth best squad in the land by scores of 14-1 and 12 zed to be the first to punch a ticket to the College World Series.

What hook to use? Where to start? Does it really matter if you get the essentials and the peripherals onto the page.

So . . .

. . . this morning, while cruising the interweb, before heading out to The Jim, I came across a mention of Peyton Manning. Who, as you might recall, used a barked “Omaha” as a trigger to his teammates that he was changing the call at the line of scrimmage.

So, should the Cards prevail, I thought I might start with that angle, and work from there, maybe talk about how the Cards pulled a Peyton Manning. Which the observant among you will notice I have done.

Then there’s the more obvious storyline, which if I weren’t such a contrarian, I would have put at the beginning of the lede.

Bobby Miller. The righty is U of L’s third starter, but got the nod on Saturday noon. And all he of the 6-1, 4.37 ERA (4-0, 3.12 at home) did was totally throttle the hard hitting Pirates. Continue reading Louisville Rampages Way to Omaha, 12-0

Cards Roll Pirates in Supers’ Opener, 14-1

Not a lot of schools have ventured into The Jim this season with a hurler more heralded than the ACC’s best, Cardinal Reid Detmers (11-4, 2.96), he who now holds Louisville’s  all time season strikeout record, 156 and counting before Friday noon’s first pitch.

But, in addition to holding a hard to conceptualize 10 game winning streak against U of L, that’s exactly the East Carolina held in its hands.

Jake Agnos (11-2, 2.02) was dubbed First Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball.

And he had the rabid and raucous Pirate faithful pumped to the max, when he struck out the side in the bottom of the 1st, and proceeded to mow down the first ten Cardinals he faced.

Meanwhile, Detmers was a bit off his feed, which seemed a bad omen against the hard hitting ECU lineup, featuring six .300+ batters and a couple of guys with homer totals well into the teens. Despite struggling a might, he was able to get out of the 1st, stranding two visitors. The Pirates were three up three down in the 2d, but threatened hugely in the the 3d. (Yeah, I used the word “hugely,” deal with it.) Continue reading Cards Roll Pirates in Supers’ Opener, 14-1