The Other Manning Brother

The Other Manning Brother

As Father’s Day came and went on June 21, we saw a lot of dad talk on social media. In the NFL world, Eli Manning being Tom Brady’s dad was probably the number one hit, and rightfully so. But let’s steer away from dads for a minute and talk about brothers. Who is Eli’s brother not named Peyton? He would be Cooper Manning.
Both Peyton and Eli were stars in the NFL, so why not Cooper? Did he not like football? Cooper in fact loved football as much as his brothers growing up and played for Isadore Newman High School as a wide receiver.
Before Odell Beckham Jr., there was Cooper Manning at Newman. Standing at 6’ 4”, Cooper set school receiving records including a 1,000-yard season in his senior campaign. You will never guess who quarterbacked Newman that year, Peyton Manning.
But where did everything go wrong? Well, many of us New Yorkers are all too familiar with the condition spinal stenosis because of David Wright. Lo and behold, spinal stenosis took down Cooper’s career as well. Except Cooper had his career ended before it even started.
Set to begin his college career at Ole Miss, alma mater of dad Archie and later brother Eli, Cooper was diagnosed with spinal stenosis the summer before freshman year. He put his football career to an end immediately as he would have been paralyzed if tackled the wrong way.
Football or no football, Cooper still had to undergo two surgeries for his narrowing spine. Manning had to learn how to walk again after the surgeries and dealt with a blood clot near his spinal cord along the way.
While it is terrible Cooper never achieved his NFL dream like his dad and brothers, the oldest Manning brother has made quite the living for himself. Manning is the Principal and Senior Managing Director of investor relations at AJ Capital Partners. The company deals with developing new hotels and restoring old ones primarily in the Chicago area.
In the sports world, Cooper is the host of The Manning Hour on Fox NFL Kickoff. Manning interviews and puts on skits with current and former NFL players, including his brother Peyton. I highly recommend watching more of his clips.
Cooper sadly never got the chance to become the football legend his dad and brothers are, but one part of his football days will live forever in Canton. His number 18, which Cooper wore while playing at Newman. Did you ever wonder why Peyton wore 18 during his career? Peyton donned 18 to pay homage to his older brother who had his NFL dreams taken away. When Peyton’s enshrinement day in Canton comes along, he will have Cooper’s number 18 engraved on his plaque.
On a positive note, Cooper is looking like the Manning brother who will be the father of the next Manning quarterback in the NFL. His son Arch Manning threw for 2,438 yards and 34 touchdowns as a freshman on Newman’s varsity team this past year. Arch has received visits and scholarship offers from schools like Ole Miss, LSU, Tennessee, and many more. Imagine if Arch’s decision comes down to Ole Miss or Tennessee. Oh, how I’d love to be a fly on the wall for those family dinner discussions.
Do you Remember Dave Stieb?

Do you Remember Dave Stieb?

When you think of pitchers that ruled the 1980s and early 90s, names like Dwight Gooden, Jack Morris, and Orel Hershiser probably come to mind. Very quietly north of the border, Dave Stieb had a run of success in his own right.

The Blue Jays amazingly enough almost whiffed on drafting Stieb. Toronto scouted the righty at a varsity game as an outfield prospect. It was not until Stieb came into the game as a reliever that the Blue Jays were impressed and drafted him.

Stieb debuted for the Blue Jays in 1979, in hopes of helping bring the third-year franchise into relevance. In ‘77 and ‘78, Toronto won 54 and 59 games respectively. Stieb finished his rookie 8-8, a respectable start to his career. To show how tough times were in Toronto, Stieb’s eight wins tied for second on the starting staff.

As the calendar turned to 1980, Stieb began his 11-year run of excellence. From 1980-1990, the righty won 158 games while pitching to a 3.33 ERA. Six out of those 11 years Stieb won 16+ games. Stieb was selected to the All-Star team seven out of those 11 years, twice being named the American League’s starting pitcher in ‘83 and ‘84.

Along with Stieb’s success on the mound came an emerging Blue Jays squad. After back-to-back 89-73 second place finishes in ‘83 and ‘84, Toronto made its first ever trip to the playoffs in ‘85. Led by ace and 14-game winner Dave Stieb, the Blue Jays made it all the way to game seven of the ALCS before losing to the eventual champion Royals.

Despite all the victories, Stieb’s multiple near misses at baseball immortality are most eye-popping. Between 1985-89, Stieb had three no-hitters and a perfect game broken up in the ninth inning. Two of the lost no-hitters came in back-to-back starts against the Indians and Orioles on September 24 and 30, 1988. Both attempts were broken up with Stieb one strike away from becoming the first Blue Jay to toss a no-no.

Less than a year later on August 4, 1989, Stieb nearly became the 13th pitcher to pitch a perfect game. One out away from pitching himself into baseball lore, Stieb gave up a double to Yankees’ center fielder Roberto Kelly.

After coming close so many times, Stieb finally finished the deal on September 2, 1990. Facing the Indians once again, Stieb in his fifth attempt became the first Blue Jay to pitch a no-hitter in a 3-0 Toronto win at Cleveland Stadium. His no-hitter is still the only one in franchise history to date.

The injury bug bit Stieb after 1990, forcing him to have his role diminished as a starter. As the franchise’s best pitcher declined, the Blue Jays stepped up. Toronto captured its first World Series title in 1992 with Stieb as the fifth starter. Thanks to injuries, Stieb only started 14 games with his final appearance coming on August 8. Despite his season ending early, the Blue Jays rightfully awarded Stieb a World Series ring.

Every franchise at one time or another had “the guy” that put his team on the map. Tom Seaver was “the guy” for the Mets, Tony Gwynn was “the guy” for the Padres, and Dave Stieb was “the guy” for the Blue Jays. Don’t get me wrong Stieb is no Seaver, but his ability to help bring the Blue Jays out of the black hole of irrelevance should be cherished in Toronto for years to come.

Dock Ellis’s LSD No-Hitter

Dock Ellis’s LSD No-Hitter

Happy 50th anniversary to baseball’s most fascinating no-hitter! On June 12, 1970, Pirates’ right-hander Dock Ellis no-hit the Padres at San Diego Stadium in a 2-0 Pittsburgh win. What is extraordinary about Ellis’s performance is that he did it while high on LSD, also called acid.

Before diving into the details of this seemingly impossible feat, why was Ellis on LSD during his start in the first place? Well, the Pirates had an off-day Thursday before a Friday doubleheader with Ellis slated to pitch the first game at 6:00. Ellis chose to spend the day off by heading up to his friend’s girlfriend’s house in Los Angeles.

Before leaving the airport, Ellis took a hit of acid. After arriving in Tinseltown, Ellis continued taking hits of LSD. Waking up on Friday still thinking it was Thursday, Ellis took another hit of acid. It was not until his friend’s girlfriend showed him the newspaper that Ellis realized he better get back to San Diego.

High as a kite, Ellis made it to the stadium 90 minutes before first pitch. As for the game itself, Ellis was understandably erratic, walking eight batters while hitting another. Ellis recalled jumping out of the way of an apparent line drive. It turns out the ball was not hit hard and or even near him. Ellis also remembered the ball seeming small at some points, and large at others.

But wait, there’s more.

“I started having a crazy idea in the fourth inning that Richard Nixon was the home plate umpire, and once I thought I was pitching a baseball to Jimi Hendrix, who to me was holding a guitar and swinging it over the plate,” Ellis recalled.

When Ellis wasn’t having Jimi Hendrix hallucinations, he had trouble making out who the batters were. Ellis could only tell if they were left or right-handed. Pittsburgh’s catcher Jerry May put tape on his fingers so Ellis could see his catcher’s signs. That was definitely helpful, as Ellis claimed he was not able to see May clearly at points during the game.

The guy is pitching a no-hitter, he definitely has butterflies in his belly, right? Wrong. The LSD gave Ellis a feeling of euphoria throughout his dominant day on the mound.

Perhaps what is most astonishing is that Ellis said he could not feel the ball. So much for your pitching coach telling you to focus on your grips.

There have been 303 no-hitters in MLB history, and the fact that Dock Ellis threw one of them while high as a Georgia pine is nothing short of remarkable.

The 1914 World Series Upset

The 1914 World Series Upset

Every sports fan loves a good underdog story, whether it’s a wild card team or a club with a Cinderella story. But sometimes, we see a team flat out flop. This was the case in the 1914 World Series, when the heavily favored 99-53 Philadelphia Athletics were swept by the opposing 94-59 Boston Braves.
How could a 99-win team be such a favorite over a team with only five less victories? Well, the A’s lineup was centered around future Hall of Famers Eddie Collins and Frank “Home Run” Baker. Collins slashed .344 with 58 steals in 1914 while Baker batted .319 with 12 homers and 117 RBI. It was the fourth consecutive year Baker led the American League in home runs.
Philadelphia’s starting pitching staff was even more dominant. Future Hall of Famers Chief Bender, Eddie Plank, and Herb Pennock combined for 43 wins while pitching to a combined ERA of 2.64.
If that was not enough of a reason to favor the A’s, they were led by the winningest MLB manager of all-time, Connie Mack, who tallied 3,731 victories in his career. What could possibly go wrong?
Well to be blunt, everything began going wrong for Philadelphia even before the series started. As defending champions and winners of three of the last four Fall Classics, the A’s were heavily overconfident. They were about to face a Braves squad that was in last place in July before coming back to win the National League pennant.
Prior to the series, Mack gave Bender the week off to scout the Braves for himself. Bender instead defied orders and decided to take a vacation. “Why should I check out a bunch of bush league hitters?” responded Bender when asked about his decision.
Bender probably should have checked out that bunch of bush league hitters as they ambushed him in Game 1. The Athletics’ 17-game winner was rocked in 5.1 innings, giving up six runs in Philadelphia’s 7-1 loss in the opening game.
Game 2 was a pitcher’s duel between Eddie Plank and Bill James, who won 26 games for the Braves in 1914. Plank, unlike Bender, gave his team a chance to win. Plank threw a complete game allowing one run.
However, let’s not forget Athletics hitters were also cocky figuring they would steamroll the Braves. James tossed a two-hit shutout in Boston’s 1-0 win to give his club a 2-0 series lead heading home to Fenway Park.
The A’s batted .272 as a team in 1914 and were looking for answers after collecting only one run and seven hits in the first two games combined. Philadelphia finally had an offensive “explosion” in Game 3, tallying four runs in 12 innings.
Two of the four came thanks to Home Run Baker’s two-run single in the top of the tenth, but starter Bullet Joe Bush could not secure the win. After Bush gave up two in the tenth, he literally threw the game away in the twelfth. After a leadoff double, Bush threw wildly to third on a sacrifice bunt attempt, allowing the winning run to score. The powerhouse A’s were defeated 5-4 as Boston took a 3-0 stranglehold lead in the series.
The A’s offense went back into hibernation mode in Game 4, putting up one measly run on seven hits. Once again, Philadelphia’s pitching kept them in the game, but with no reward. The Braves won 3-1 and completed the first ever four-game sweep in World Series history. The Athletics’ anemic offense batted a combined .172 for the series.
How could a perennial title contender like the A’s faceplant so hard on baseball’s biggest stage? They were overconfident for sure, but many people also suspect poor relationships between Connie Mack and his players. It is rumored that the team did not play hard because they were not pleased with Mack’s penny-pinching ways.
Mack also owned the A’s, and really pinched his pennies after the loss. Feeling a grudge against him, he let Collins go to the White Sox on a $15,000 contract, making Collins the third highest paid player in the league behind Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker. Philadelphia’s other vital bat, Home Run Baker, got into a contract dispute with Mack. Baker ended up sitting out the entire 1915 season before Mack sold him to the Yankees for $35,000 in 1916.
Mack got rid of his star pitchers as well. He let Chief Bender go to the Baltimore Terrapins of the Federal League knowing he did not want to match the Terrapins’ contract offer. Eddie Plank was also let loose to the Federal League and signed with the St. Louis Terriers. Mack had no regrets of letting Plank leave, feeling he was solely after a big contract. For good measure, Mack sold Herb Pennock to the Red Sox for $2,500.
After shredding his juggernaut team, Mack and the A’s spiraled into irrelevance for a decade. The A’s experienced brutal losing seasons from 1915-1924, including a 36-117 record in 1916. Their .235 winning percentage is the lowest in baseball’s modern era. The next closest team? The 1935 Braves, who had a .248 winning percentage after going 38-115.
Whoever would have thought one disastrous World Series performance would be the spark to light a much larger fire. Oh, how the mighty can fall so quickly.
Is Eli Manning a Hall of Famer?

Is Eli Manning a Hall of Famer?

Eli Manning seems to be well on his way to the Twitter Hall of Fame, making now the perfect time discuss if he deserves to be enshrined in Canton as well.
Football by no means is solely based on comparisons, which Eli dealt with his entire career. Not only was he in the shadow of big brother Peyton, but Eli also was and still is compared to fellow quarterback draftees Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. Manning and Rivers were of course traded for each other. A trade that changed the course of football history.
Despite immense pressure to succeed, Easy E came through in the fourth quarter time and time again. It only took till his third full season to come up clutch. Manning led a 10-6 wild card team on the road to the Super Bowl, a road which included taking down the one seeded Cowboys and two seeded Packers.
Heading into Super Sunday, Big Blue was a 12.5-point underdog to 18-0 New England. In what was a defensive battle through three quarters, Eli and the offense turned on another gear. In the final 15 minutes, Manning went 9/14 for 152 yards and two touchdowns against the NFL’s fourth ranked defense.
It was that second touchdown that will live in Giants lore. Trailing 14-10 with 2:39 remaining, Manning led a 12-play, 83-yard drive capped off by a 13-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Buress in the back-left corner of the endzone. A 17-14 Giants’ win became one of the biggest upsets in sports history. I would be remiss if I did not mention Eli’s superb play on 3rd & 5 to get out of a sack and find David Tyree for 32 yards over the middle for the famous helmet catch. Drives like these put quarterbacks in Canton.
Eli had defeated an 18-0 juggernaut. Beating Tom Brady in the Super Bowl is a pretty notable accomplishment too. Named Super Bowl XLII MVP, the 27-year old had already put his name in the history books.
Anything you do once you can do twice right? Well, that was not the case the following season. The 2008 Giants are widely regarded as one of the best teams that did not win the Super Bowl. After an 11-1 start, the Giants finished 1-3 down the stretch.
The 12-4 Giants still secured a first-round bye but laid an egg against the Eagles in the divisional round. A sloppy 23-11 loss ended the Giants’ run at defending their title. It is often speculated the Plaxico Burress incident derailed a second straight championship run.
That second magical run came in 2011-12. During training camp, Manning was asked if he was in Tom Brady’s class. He said yes and put his words into action by having the year of his career in 2011.
Despite having the last ranked rushing attack and a defense ranked 25th, Manning put up MVP caliber numbers. His 29 touchdowns and 4,933 passing yards carried Big Blue to the division title with a 9-7 record. Six of the nine wins were thanks to fourth quarter comebacks orchestrated by Manning. The G-Men won the division on the season’s final day by beating the Cowboys at MetLife in a win or go home matchup. Eli led the way with 346 yards and three touchdowns.
Of all Eli’s playoff heroics, it was perhaps the 2011 NFC Championship Game that turned out to be the defining game of Eli’s career.
On a foggy and muddy evening at Candlestick Park, Eli was repeatedly pounded into the turf by the 49ers’ fierce pass rush. Manning took hit after hit, but he always got back up. His jersey was covered in grass stains, his shoulder pad was coming off, and his chin strap even ended up on his nose. Despite all, Eli hung in there all the way through while contributing 316 yards and two touchdowns in route to a 20-17 overtime win. Performances like these separate good quarterbacks from Hall of Famers.
The stage for the sequel was set for Eli vs. Brady II. In another low scoring game, Eli found himself trailing 17-15 with the ball and 3:46 on the clock. No way he could do it again to New England, but he did. This time it was the first play of the drive that will live forever. Manning dropped a dime to Mario Manningham on the sideline for 38 yards.
This was the start of the nine-play, 88-yard drive that got New York in the endzone to go up 21-17 with 57 seconds to play. 21-17 would be the final as the defense would knock down a Hail Mary. Eli had taken down the mighty Patriots yet again, earning his second Super Bowl MVP award in the process.
But how did such an under the radar Giants squad beat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick twice? Look no further than head coach Tom Coughlin. Coughlin like Belichick was an apprentice under legendary coach Bill Parcells. The two celebrated together when the Giants upset the Bills 20-19 in Super Bowl XXV. Safe to say both learned a lot from Parcells and applied it to their own schemes.
Eli was the right guy for the scheme and Coughlin knew it. Until this new age of running quarterbacks, the NFL was dominated by pocket passers, like Manning. Eli’s ability to stand strong in the pocket and deliver medium deep and deep passes was what made him so successful.
Although Eli was in the right system to succeed, he often did not have the talent around him. Just because the team had multiple losing seasons does not mean the quarterback should be blamed.
Manning was quite productive many years while the rest of the team was not. The 2014 and 2015 Giants went 6-10, but Eli threw for 4,400+ yards and 30+ touchdowns both years. 2015 is the more gut-wrenching season as the defense blew leads in the final two minutes of regulation five, yes five times. Eli cannot control how the defense plays.
Remember earlier when I talked about how Eli fit Coughlin’s system? Well that went out the window after the 2015 season as Coughlin stepped down as head coach. In came Ben McAdoo.
Despite being the offensive coordinator for Eli’s successful 2015 campaign, McAdoo changed the offensive scheme. Very seldom did we see vintage Eli throwing the ball deep down the field. McAdoo played against Manning’s strength of the deep pass by throwing line of scrimmage passes and 3-yard slants.
As you can expect, Manning’s numbers took a nosedive. In one year, he dipped from 35 touchdowns to 26 while his yardage dropped from 4,432 to 4,027. Still, New York made the playoffs thanks to their improved defense. The Giants defense folded in the playoffs, giving up 38 points to the Packers in the wild card weekend loss. Imagine if the 2016 team played to the same offensive scheme as Coughlin in 2015. What could have been.
After one year, the defense became an Achilles heel once again. Not to mention the offensive line was a sieve as well. Eli was repeatedly drilled into the ground with no time in the pocket to deliver the ball. This often led to rushed reads and throws, resulting in fumbles and interceptions. The final years of Manning’s career could have been much more productive had the team not caved around him.
Is Eli Manning on the same level as his brother Peyton, Brett Favre or Drew Brees? No, but the stats do not lie. Manning is seventh all-time in both passing yards, 57,023, and touchdowns, 366.
Not to mention his iron man streak of 210 straight games, which is third all-time behind Rivers and Favre. We all know his streak would have continued had McAdoo not screwed it up. Teams today would drool over the thought of having a franchise quarterback that could start 210 straight games. That is equivalent to over 13 seasons without missing a start.
Winning two Super Bowl MVPs carries enormous weight as well. Only five players in the history of the sport have won multiple Super Bowl MVPs. Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Bart Starr, and Terry Bradshaw are the other four besides Manning. What do these four have in common? They are all Hall of Famers knowing Brady will easily get in after he retires.
When you are one of five players to accomplish a feat of this magnitude, the red carpet to Canton should be rolled out for you. Eli Manning’s enshrinement amongst football’s greatest will come one day not too far from now.