Sports

Here's to watching without bleary eyes

One of my most vivid memories of being a kid was Oct. 2, 1978.

My after-school routine as a seventh-grader that year was to make the one-mile walk home leisurely and carefree. Maybe my friend Todd and I would roll hedgeapples under school buses as they passed by, or toss rocks into the pond by his house.

But on this day, I ran all the way home, which I'll never forget because:

1. It's probably the last time I ran a mile.

2. Bucky Dent.

I made it home without passing out, whipped the house key off the chain around my neck, ran inside and turned on our classic RCA television-record player combo. (Can't find those these days, eh?)

In that pre-cable era, it didn't take long to find the correct channel for the Yankees-Red Sox one-game divisional playoff, and I missed only the first two or three innings. Plenty of time to catch the Yankees' four-run seventh, highlighted by Dent's three-run homer over the Fenway Park's Green Monster.

It is with that youthful exuberance for baseball that I say thank you to MLB, TBS and any other three-letter acronym that wants to take credit for the 4 p.m. start time of Tuesday's Tigers-Twins playoff game in Minneapolis.

Everywhere in this great (and contiguous) country of ours, kids exited school Tuesday and got home in plenty of time to see the majority of the game. Sorry, Alaskans and Hawaiians.

No matter the reasoning by baseball and TBS, it was a terrific idea. Even with three extra innings and 4 hours, 37 minutes of baseball, only youngsters with really early bedtimes — and heartless parents — didn't get to see Minnesota's Alexi Casilla (who'll never get the name recognition that Dent enjoys) drive in the game-winning run with a single.

And as adults, wasn't it nice to watch a memorable October game end before our normal bedtime?

Alas, prime-time TV means more advertising revenue for TBS and Fox, so I'm not naive enough to think 4 p.m. first pitches are going to become the norm. At least with divisional series, there are so many games that the early prime-time start is a little after 5 p.m. That still gets us to bed before Letterman.

Joe Willie's watchman — Joe Namath quarterbacked the New York Jets for 12 seasons, and Winston Hill had his back for all of them.

Hill isn't a household name across the NFL, but he's adored among long-time Jets fans. He'll be honored as part of the team's season-long 40th anniversary as the franchise's all-time left tackle.

Of course, there's a local connection. Wichitan Sharon Cranford is Hill's older sister, and mother-in-law Evelyn Smith is also from Wichita.

Hill will have an entire weekend honoring him at the end of this month. A banquet with family and supporters on Halloween Night will be followed by a halftime ceremony the next day as the Jets host Miami. Hill's daughter, Heather, will sing the national anthem.

Hill started 174 games as a Jet and appeared in four AFL all-star games and four NFL Pro Bowls. He played collegiately at Texas Southern.

Cowboys vs. Texans, the other Texans — The NFL is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the American Football League with 16 "legacy" games this season. Original AFL franchises wear throwback uniforms, which range from the Chargers' powder blues (great) to the Jets' navy blue of the old New York Titans (yuck).

Today's Cowboys-Chiefs game will be the only time a non-AFL team gets in the act, commemorating the early 1960s rivalry between the Dallas Cowboys and Dallas Texans (now the Chiefs).

Dallas Texans uniforms aren't that much different from Chiefs gear — red top, white pants, red helmet. The Cowboys will wear their less-than-attractive white retro helmets with their '60s uniforms, making for quite a Dallas day.

In Kansas City.

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