Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: Cranking up the sports time machine

In his last four seasons from 1963-66, before an injury cut short his career at 30, Sandy Koufax was 97-27 with a 1.86 ERA in 1,192 2/3 innings.
In his last four seasons from 1963-66, before an injury cut short his career at 30, Sandy Koufax was 97-27 with a 1.86 ERA in 1,192 2/3 innings. File photo

I’ve been dabbling around City League football records recently, attempting to figure out where this 2014 Bishop Carroll squad ranks among the all-time great teams.

Trouble is, I haven’t seen all of the all-time great teams, so any viewpoint is purely speculative. The best City League team I’ve seen is the 1977 Southeast team that went 11-0 and won a Class 5A state championship while producing a bunch of Division I players.

But there have been a lot of great teams and it’s not my objective to slight anyone.

On Tuesday, I heard from a couple of people who believe the 2010 Heights team is the best in league history. And who’s to say the Falcons aren’t? It was a tremendous team, for sure – an unbeaten state champion.

I made the remark to one guy that it would be great to see that Heights team go up against this season’s Bishop Carroll team.

But, until there’s a time machine – and wouldn’t one be terrific for us fans of sports? – we won’t ever see that game.

And isn’t that a major rub when it comes to sports? The endless debates we have about the greatest teams and players in history can never be truly resolved. Then again, do we really want them to be?

Having said that, there are so many items on a sports wish list of things I wish I could have seen. Let’s go through a few today.

Jack Nicklaus tied with Tiger Woods on Sunday at Augusta – These are clearly the two greatest golfers in history, but their careers did not overlap. And if you polled golf fans, I’m guessing it would be about a 50-50 vote as to who is the best. If they could play on golf’s biggest stage, in the Masters, we wouldn’t have to guess any longer. I think there was a stretch of 10 years in which Woods was the greatest golfer to ever live. But over the longer haul, Nicklaus gets my vote. Wouldn’t it have been something to have seen them go one on one in their primes?

Babe Ruth faces Sandy Koufax – Ruth is unquestionably, I believe, the greatest hitter in baseball history. He’s the Babe, what else do you need to know? Meanwhile, it took Koufax some time to harness his incredible talent. The former Los Angeles Dodgers’ left-hander was just 36-40 with an ERA over 4.00 in his first six seasons, covering 174 games. Then Koufax started commanding his fastball and perfecting his other pitches. The results were astounding. In his last four seasons from 1963-66, before an injury cut short his career at 30, Koufax was 97-27 with a 1.86 ERA in 1,192 2/3 innings. He gave up only 825 hits and struck out 1,228 while winning three Cy Young awards and an MVP. Ruth vs. Koufax. Now that would be something.

Dave Stallworth and Nate Bowman on the 1964-65 WSU team that played in the Final Four – This dream scenario reaches closer to home. Stallworth and Bowman, the two best players on the Shockers’ team that made it to the Final Four in Portland, Ore., were declared ineligible at the semester; Stallworth because he had used his allotted eligibility and Bowman because of academic issues. Without those two, the Shockers were blasted by UCLA in the national semifinals and blown out by Princeton in the third-place game. Would things have been different with those two in the lineup? It’s a question that has been asked by Shocker basketball fans for 50 years. And it will never have an answer.

What if Barry Sanders hadn’t retired at 31? – This is another one I think about from time to time and another one that hits close to home since Sanders went to North High. Sanders’ retirement announcement in the summer of 1999 was a shocker. He was coming off a 1998 season in which he rushed for 1,491 yards and was just two seasons removed from becoming just the second running back in NFL history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season. Sanders had 2,053 for the 1997 Detroit Lions. When he retired, Sanders was less than 1,500 yards away from overtaking Walter Payton as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. He currently ranks third behind Payton and leader Emmitt Smith, who finished his career with 18,355 yards. Sanders almost assuredly would have become the NFL’s career leading rusher had he hung around, but he was never driven by statistics. It was his time to leave the game. He’s never looked back.

Usain Bolt vs. Carl Lewis in the Olympic 100 meters – There’s never been a sprinter like Bolt, the Jamaican with six Olympic gold medals and the world-record in the 100 (9.58) and 200 (19.19). But wouldn’t it be amazing to see the flamboyant Lewis go up against the flamboyant Bolt in the fastest, most flamboyant race in the history of the world? Lewis has nine Olympic gold medals, though his best time in the 100 is just 9.86. Yes, just 9.86. But who knows how Bolt might have pushed Lewis to be even better.

That’s five scenarios for my sports wish list. What are some sports moments you’d love to have seen? And don’t you feel a bit cheated?

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone. I might weigh in with a Thanksgiving blog later today or tomorrow. It depends on how much pumpkin pie I eat.

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