All posts by Mark Simon

I am a researcher and writer at Sports Info Solutions in Bethlehem, Pa.

Derek Jeter records his 3,000th hit

An excerpt from The Yankees Index, published by Triumph Books in June 2016. To purchase the book, click here. The Kindle version can be purchased here

Could it get any better than this?

The setting for the baseball game between the Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays was ideal—84 degrees and sunny for a Saturday afternoon in the Bronx, just before baseball’s All-Star Break.

But this wasn’t an ordinary Saturday. A Yankees legend was on the verge of history.

Derek Jeter entered the day with 2,998 career hits. He had done so in a way that was rather un-Jeterian and had some thinking the end of his career was approaching rapidly.

Jeter was hitting .257 with a puny .649 OPS entering the day. An injury in mid-June forced him to miss three weeks and he was 4-for-18 since his return.

“It looked like his career was dwindling to a quiet end,” said’s Yankees beat writer, Andrew Marchand.

This was not the same Jeter of whom Sports Illustrated’s Joe Sheehan said “(He) displayed just about every skill a player could have at one time or another. He hit home runs, drew walks, hit for a high average and had a tremendous throwing arm. He did just about everything you could do.”

But if Jeter established one thing in his career with the Yankees, it was a sense for the dramatic. From the game-tying home run in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS against the Orioles to his leadoff homer in Game 4 of the Subway Series against the Mets in 2000, to the “Flip Play” and the “Mr. November” walk-off home run in the 2001 postseason to the amazing fly-into-the-stands catch against the Red Sox in 2004, Jeter thrived in being the man of the moment.

The man pitching to him that day posed a challenge. Rays starter David Price had a 95-MPH fastball, the pitch that Jeter hasn’t been able to catch up to for much of the season.

Jeter was not the type to shy away from a challenge.

“Every at-bat, he was competing his ass off,” said former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.

“You were never cheated watching Derek Jeter,” said ESPN SportsCenter anchor Kevin Connors, who covered Jeter as a New York sports reporter.

And yet Jeter was hiding something. The normally unflappable Jeter was feeling the pressure.

That wasn’t supposed to be. Jeter was always the Yankees player who took the pressure off his teammates.

“The night of the first round (in 2005), I’m sitting in the dugout a few minutes before introductions like I’m nervous,” said his former teammate, Aaron Small.  “He comes by and says ‘What’s up man? You nervous?  This is the big time. We’re just playing a little kid’s game. Just relax.”

Jeter led off the bottom of the first expecting fastballs and got them, eight as a matter of fact. He fouled off two, but timed the last one right and grounded it into left field for a hit, one that put him one away from 3,000.

By the time Jeter came up again, it was the third inning and the Yankees trailed 1-0 with one out and no one on base. He worked the count to 2-1 and fouled off a changeup. He took another slider to run the count full.

Price tried another fastball- 95.4 MPH- and that didn’t work. Jeter fouled it off. Price tried a changeup, and Jeter fouled that one away too.

Price decided to try something new. It’s not easy to get out someone you’ll call “One of the all-time great players In the history of the game” when the game is over. He went to his curveball.

This one Jeter timed. And he timed it just right.

“I didn’t want to hit a slow roller to third base it have It replayed forever” he’d say afterwards.

Instead, he hit a fly ball into the left field stands for a home run.

“Three thousand, with an exclamation point!” yelled Yankees TV play-by-play man Michael Kay.

Yankee Stadium erupted. Even the Rays paid tribute. First baseman Casey Kotchman tipped his cap to Jeter as he rounded the bases.

“I felt like it was the right thing to do,” Kotchman said afterwards.

The game stopped for five minutes as the Yankees players came onto the field to congratulate their captain, who became the first Yankees player to reach the 3,000-hit mark.

Meanwhile, in the stands, the ball was caught by a young fan named Christian Lopez, who was sitting in Section 236. It is typical in this day and age for fans to auction historic baseballs, but Lopez decided to give the ball to Jeter. The Yankees rewarded that by allowing Lopez to personally give the ball to Jeter, and gave him tickets to every remaining game that season.

But that came afterwards. There was still a game to play and this one was a toss-up.  Jeter got a hit in the fifth as part of a two-run Yankees rally and another in the sixth, but was left stranded at second base.

The Yankees led by a run in the eighth inning, but the Rays tied it when Jeter’s former teammate, Johnny Damon tripled, and Ben Zobrist singled him in. Yankees reliever David Robertson kept the game tied into the bottom of the eighth.

Jeter was due up third in the Yankees half of the eighth and the Yankees set the table in front of him. Eduardo Nunez doubled and Brett Gardner bunted him to third base.

It would have been easy for Rays manager Joe Maddon to walk Jeter. But with solid-swinging Curtis Granderson on deck, he declined. He also thought about doing something extreme and playing a five-man infield, stationing a man behind second base to cut off that gap in his defense. But since it was the eighth inning and not the ninth, Maddon didn’t have the guts to try that bold a move.

As it turned out, Maddon had the right idea.

On a 1-2 pitch from Joel Peralta, Jeter hit a ground ball right up the middle, scoring Nunez with the go-ahead run. That proved to be the winning run when Mariano Rivera got the final three outs.

“I’m pretty happy with how things went today,” Jeter said in typically modest fashion.

“He went above and beyond,” Maddon said of Jeter afterwards.

Jeter went above and beyond the rest of the season as well. And then beyond that.

In 2012 he led the American League in hits and batted .316. The old Jeter was back, though eventually father time caught up to him in the form of a freak injury suffered in the ALCS that didn’t heal easily.

Still, Jeter had one more amazing moment in him. In his final regular-season game at Yankee Stadium in 2014, his walk-off hit against the Baltimore Orioles plated the winning run. It’s as if it was meant to be.

“Everything is perfect for that guy,” Marchand said. “He’s not perfect, but his career is as close to perfect as you could have.”

Derek Jeter in 2011

Through 7/8       After

BA          .257                        .338

OPS        .649                        .843

Hits        72                           90

Games  66                           65

Most Hits, Yankees History

Derek Jeter        3,465

Lou Gehrig          2,721

Babe Ruth           2,518

Mickey Mantle  2,415



Joe DiMaggio hits in 56 straight games

This is the draft I submitted to my editors for the Joe DiMaggio chapter of The Yankees Index. Please excuse any typos or grammatical errors. They were cleaned up in the book.

If you wish to purchase The Yankees Index, you can do so at this link, or other online or retail book outlets..

<Chapter title> 56- Joe DiMaggio’s Hitting Streak
When we talk of unbreakable records, we can divide them into two types—the kind of records that can’t be broken today because of the way the game is played (for example, no pitcher is going to match Cy Young’s total of 751 career complete games) and those that can be broken, but just seem extraordinarily difficult to reach.

Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak from the 1941 season falls into the latter category. Anyone can have a hitting streak. But not everyone can have a long hitting streak.

“It would take a lot, but it’s conceivable,” said Lyle Spatz, chairman of the Society for Baseball Research.

It would take a lot. Consider the following:

Since DiMaggio broke the record, no one has gotten closer than a dozen games of the mark. The only one to do that was baseball’s all-time hit king, Pete Rose, who hit in 44 straight in 1978. Rose is the only one to even muster a 40-game streak. Hall-of-Famer Paul Molitor, who hit in 39 straight in 1987, and Jimmy Rollins, who hit in 38 straight spanning 2005 and 2006 are the only other players to get within 20 games of the mark.

Arguably the six best hitters who played after DiMaggio’s streak ended are Ted Williams, Tony Gwynn, Stan Musial, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew and Ichiro Suzuki. The only one of those to have a 30-game hitting streak was Musial, whose longest was exactly 30 in 1950.

Only four players have gotten halfway there this decade. Andre Ethier got to 30 games in 2011 and Dan Uggla got to 33 later that season. But that’s not even really that close.

“It was a fun run,” Uggla told reporters afterwards. “But all things have to come to an end some time.”

Lastly only one Yankees player has gotten halfway there since DiMaggio’s streak ended– Joe Gordon, who had a 29-gamer in 1942.

It is amazing how impressive DiMaggio’s hitting streak was in that context, and it was also amazing how well DiMaggio hit during the streak.

DiMaggio hit .408 and had 91 hits in the 56 games. He had 15 home runs, 55 RBIs and only five strikeouts. Amazingly, after the hitting streak ended against the Cleveland Indians on July 17, DiMaggio put together a 16-game streak. In 72 games, he totaled 120 hits and six strikeouts.

There wasn’t a pitcher in baseball capable of getting DiMaggio out consistently that season (in which he hit .357). Consider this: He had 66 at-bats against the four non-Yankees who finished in the top five in ERA. In those, he hit .394 with 11 walks and only one strikeout.

When DiMaggio broke Wee Willie Keeler’s single-season mark by hitting in his 45th straight game (which he did with a home run against the Red Sox), UPI sportswriter Harry Ferguson joked that Red Sox manager Joe Cronin started a lineup that included Jesse James, Robin Hood, Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves and John Dillinger, because only a burglar lineup was capable of robbing DiMaggio of hits.
“(Cronin) had it figured this way:

1. If you pitch low to DiMaggio, he will get a hit.
2. If you pitch high and outside to him, he will get a hit.
3. If you (A) fast ball him (B) slow ball him or (C) curve ball him, he will get a hit,” Ferguson wrote.

When DiMaggio did outfox that defensive alignment by hitting the ball out of reach, he simply said. “I’m going to try to keep right on hitting. After all, that’s what I’m supposed to do, record or no record.”

Today’s hitter faces a challenge in terms of hitting approach. Most hitters are encouraged to swing for the fences rather than swing for base hits (one result- there are twice as many strikeouts per game now as there were in 1941).

But DiMaggio was someone who could slug without striking out. He had 361 home runs and only 369 strikeouts. He may not be thought of as one of the game’s top sluggers, but his .579 career slugging percentage ranks 10th all-time.

Those who saw DiMaggio attest to how remarkable a player he was. Hall of Fame managers Connie Mack and Joe McCarthy, baseball legend Ted Williams all refer to DiMaggio as the greatest player they ever saw.

Bob Feller, whom DiMaggio dominated in his career, said that Williams was a better hitter, but DiMaggio was “the best all-around ballplayer I ever played against.”

What also made DiMaggio great was that he was a winner. He played in 10 World Series and the Yankees won nine of them. He had the World Series-winning hit that clinched Game 4 of the 1939 Series against the Reds. And he hit a game-winning home run against Hall-of-Famer Robin Roberts in game 2 of a four-game sweep of the Phillies in 1950.

“You know, some fellows play a whole lifetime without even smelling the roses,” DiMaggio said in a 1980 interview. “So that’s quite an accomplishment to be with a bunch of guys that were able to perform and bring you home with all these pennants and World Series.”

DiMaggio did have two advantages over today’s players in compiling his streak. There was no such thing as reliever specialization in that era, so teams did not bring right-handers out of the bullpen to face him as often as they might now.

Also, baseball was not yet integrated, which prevented DiMaggio from facing what was truly the best competition (his worst documented career 0-for is 0-for-8 against Negro League Legend Satchel Paige).

We close with this note: A 2009 mathematical study done by Josh Witten concluded that the chance of the streak being matched are 1 in every 350,000 2,000-game careers.

In other words, don’t expect that to happen any time soon.

Did you know? Over a 73-game span in 1941, Joe DiMaggio had at least one hit in 72 games. He totaled 120 hits and 6 strikeouts.

<>- Longest Hitting Streaks by Yankees- Since DiMaggio’s 56-game streak
Joe Gordon 1942 29
Derek Jeter 2006 25
Don Mattingly 1986 24

<> Joe DiMaggio’s Longest Hitting Streaks
1941 56
1940-41 24
1940 23
1937 22
1937 21
1950 19

<>Joe DiMaggio: During 56-Game Hitting Streak
Batting Average .408
Hits 91
Runs 56
Home Runs 15
Strikeouts 5

Yankees Index chapter: 4 straight wins in 1996 World Series

Here’s a sample chapter from “The Yankees Index,” my new book, recently published by Triumph Books. It makes a great Father’s Day gift. If you’d like to buy the paperback version, you can find it here. The Kindle version can be purchased here. The book can also be found at other online outlets and wherever books are sold.

<Chapter Title>1996 Yankees win 4 straight to overcome 2-0 deficit vs. Braves in World Series

The first moment in the first night of the most recent Yankees dynasty was a case of déjà vu for David Cone.

This was the sixth inning of Game 3 of the World Series in Atlanta, with the Yankees trailing in the series 2-games-to-none and clinging to a 2-1 lead.

The Braves had the bases loaded with two outs and Cone had just walked Ryan Klesko to put themselves in great position to score. A year earlier, in a similar situation against the Mariners in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the ALDS, Cone walked Doug Strange to bring in the tying run in a game and series the Yankees would go on to lose.

Cone still had a one-run cushion this time, but the Braves had the perfect setup to take the lead, with catcher Javy Lopez at the plate. Lopez, the MVP of that year’s NLCS, was hitting .439 in the postseason entering that at-bat and had singled in his previous turn against Cone. Another hit would likely give the Braves the lead.

In 1995, Joe Torre (yes, I know, it’s Buck Showalter, but I made the mistake in the book, so I’m noting it here) had gone to Mariano Rivera after the walk to Strange and Rivera was again warming in the bullpen, but Torre stuck it out with Cone, who was flustered after a close pitch to Klesko was called ball four. Cone was a gutsy competitor and the feeling from Torre and Mel Stottlemyre was that he would figure out a way to get an out.

Atlanta had romped in the previous two games of the series  and this was a situation in which the Yankees’ season was on the line.

Cone composed himself and threw a perfect breaking ball that Lopez swung through for strike one. Cone threw another breaking ball, this one was a hanger, but Lopez popped it up in foul territory to the right side. Catcher Joe Girardi raced over by the stands, focused, and made the catch, hanging on as he stumbled to avoid running into two security officers.

“It was definitely a mistake but I got away with it,” Cone told reporters afterwards.

It was one of many times the Yankees would come through in this game and the next three. The Yankees hung on to win Game 3, 5-2

“I believe with one win that the whole mood and momentum changes,” Torre said.

But that didn’t happen at the outset of Game 4.

This time the Yankees trailed 6-0 after five innings and were on the brink of trailing 3-games-to-1. But a three-run rally in the sixth inning cut the lead to 6-3 and put the Yankees in position for a late-game rally.

The one that came in the eighth inning against Braves closer Mark Wohlers started innocuously when Charlie Hayes led off with a swinging bunt that appeared to be heading foul, but hugged the foul-line chalk for about 50 feet before coming to a stop just shy of third base. Hayes’ single was followed by another by Darryl Strawberry.

Mariano Duncan than hit a grounder to short that looked like a double play ball, but Braves shortstop Rafael Belliard bobbled it and was only able to get a force at second base.  Not getting both outs became pivotal.

Wohlers entered the day having thrown 7 1/3 scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts that postseason thanks largely to a 99-mile-per-hour fastball. But his air of invincibility disappeared with a hanging 2-2 slider he threw to Jim Leyritz. The Yankees backup catcher took a full albeit awkward swing and watched the ball carry  and carry until it just eluded the leaping attempt by Andruw Jones at the left field wall.

Tie game.

“He doesn’t get to play a whole lot,” Torre said afterwards. “And he’s struggled this year. But he can hit a ball out of a ballpark.”

The Yankees got a rally going with two outs and nobody on in the 10th inning. Braves manager Bobby Cox gambled by intentionally walking hot-hitting Bernie Williams with two men on base to load the bases for Wade Boggs.

The strategy backfired when Boggs, who possessed one of the best batting eyes in baseball history, worked his way back from a 1-2 count to draw a walk. The Yankees added another run when first baseman Ryan Klesko muffed a popup and won, 8-6. That tied the series at two games apiece.

It was the fifth late-game comeback by the Yankees in that postseason (they had two in each of the first two rounds).

Game 5 wouldn’t require a comeback, but it was epic nonetheless, arguably one of the best pitcher’s duels in World Series history, pitting Andy Pettitte against 24-game winner John Smoltz, who was 4-0 in that postseason to that point.

Again the Yankees would capitalize on a Braves mistake, this one being a dropped fly ball by four-time Gold Glove-winning centerfielder Marquis Grissom in the fourth inning, putting Charlie Hayes on second base. He scored  on Cecil Fielder’s double.

That run held up … barely.

The Braves put at least one man on base in each of the last six innings, but could not bring one around to home plate. Pettitte stymied them time and time again.

“Andy Pettitte was a classic pitcher tonight,” said rightfielder Paul O’Neill.

Their best chance came in the ninth inning, thanks to a leadoff double by Chipper Jones, who advanced to third base on Fred McGriff’s groundout.

Whether the Yankees would take a lead back to New York came down to closer John Wetteland’s ability to get two outs without letting Jones score.

Lopez got another chance at a potential game-breaking hit, but on Wetteland’s first pitch, he grounded to Hayes, who went to a knee to make sure the ball didn’t get past him. After an intentional walk, Cox sent up former Yankee Luis Polonia.

Wetteland came after Polonia with high fastballs and on the seventh pitch, Polonia whacked one to right center  field. It had the potential to be a game-winning double. But O’Neill, running on a bad hamstring, made a running catch near the warning track to give the Yankees a one-run win and a 3-2 series lead.

“My thought process was to try to get to it,” O’Neill said. “I thought off the bat I had a good play on it. But it just kept carrying and carrying.”

“It’s a game of inches,” lamented Braves manager Bobby Cox.

At that point, the 1996 Yankees could not be stopped and would not be stopped, even though they were going up against another great pitcher in Greg Maddux in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium. They took a 3-0 lead in the third inning with the key hit being a triple to center by catcher Joe Girardi against his former Cubs teammate.

The Braves clawed back with a run in the fourth, but Jimmy Key shut down any further offense by inducing a bases-loaded double play from Terry Pendleton.

The Yankees bullpen took over in the sixth inning and held the score at 3-1 heading into the ninth. Wetteland, going for his fourth save of the series, ran into trouble as the Braves cut the lead to 3-2 on Marquis Grissom’s two-out single.

With the tying run on second, Wetteland induced a popup from Mark Lemke right by the Braves dugout.  Hayes ran into a Braves player who stepped out of the dugout and took a tumble, but could not make the play.

That was the kind of ‘so-close’ that the Yankees had capitalized on throughout this comeback. But the Braves could not take advantage. On 3-2, Lemke again popped one foul on the third base side.

This time no one got in Hayes’ way. When he made the catch, the Yankees were champions for the first time in 18 years in one of their hardest-fought World Series triumphs.

<Inline>Yankees vs Braves, 1996 World Series

Yankees     Braves

Runs        18          26

Batting Avg .254        .216

HR          2           4

<Bar Graph>

1st 2 games  Last 4 Games

Braves      16    Yankees     17

Yankees 1   Braves            10

<Pie Graph>

Yankees World Series Wins- Series Lengths

4 Games     8 times

5 Games     6 times

6 Games     8 times

7 Games     5 times

<Sidebar>Did You Know? The Yankees are one of 3 teams to come back to win a World Series after losing the first 2 games at home (along with the 1985 Royals and 1986 Mets).

<Sidebar>Did You Know? The comeback from six runs down is tied for the second-biggest deficit overcome in a World Series win.


Yankeeography, David Cone

Giannone, John “A Yanks Cone-Back.” New York Daily News, October 23: Page 57.

Harper, John “Cone’s 6th Sense Tired, But He Knew He’d Get McGriff.” New York Daily News, October 23, 1996: Page 60.

Kriegel, Mark “Leyritz Gets 2nd Chance.” New York Daily News, October 24, 1996: Page 74.

Lupica, Mike “Yankee Doodle Andy; Kid Lays Down The Lore.” New York Daily News, October 25, 1996: Page 76.

O’Connor, Ian “Here’s Paul Giving His All.” New York Daily News, October 25, 1996: Page 78.

Zack, Bill “Error of Their Ways.” Chattanooga Times Free Press, October 25, 1996: Page 1.

What the 1986 Mets mean to me

This website was intended to promote my Yankees book, but I’m posting this here because I thought people would be interested in learning more about me.

What do the 1986 Mets mean to me?

I was thinking about that this week, with it being “1986 Weekend” at Citi Field as the Mets face the Dodgers.

I was 11 in 1986 and at that point in my life, I was watching a lot of baseball, in the early part of an accumulation of obsessiveness that would lead me down the path that took me to the career I currently have. That team established early on that they were going to be a big deal. They were going to smash both baseballs and their opponents. They were going to win with pitchers who brought both power and finesse. I wasn’t the only one in New York who revered them. The team was a citywide obsession.

When I think of the 1986 Mets, I think of baseball dominance. They’re the last NL team to win at least 108 games in a season. They won 18 of 19 in one stretch, 19 of 24 in another. They won twice as many games as they lost against six different teams. They won the NL East by 21 ½ games.

But more than that, I think of inspiration. The 1986 Mets won games they had no business winning whatsoever. One favorite came on July 3 against the Astros and I like it because of its foreshadowing. The Mets trailed 5-3 in the bottom of the 10th inning, but scored three runs to win, the winning run scored by Ray Knight, who struck out four times in a row, but followed with a walk-off home run.

Another is a game against the Reds on July 22. I didn’t get to stay up to see the end of this one, because it went 14 innings, but I remember how the Mets tied it—when Keith Hernandez’s potential game-ending fly ball was muffed by Dave Parker, allowing two runs to score.

Then, there are the famous games, like Game 6 of the NLCS against the Astros. I have a funny story about that one. My mom made me go to Hebrew School (which I hated) in the middle of the game. But to show just how obsessed everyone was with the Mets that season, we were told that another class would join us for a group project. The group project turned out to be listening to the ninth inning on a transistor radio brought in by the other class’s teacher (funny note: among those in the class: New York Daily News Yankees beat writer Mark Feinsand). So that’s how I heard the Mets three-run comeback to tie the game in the ninth inning. They won in 16 excruciating innings and I was home in time for Billy Hatcher’s tying home run in the 14th and Jesse Orosco’s game-ending strikeout in the 16th.

Years later, I would use the audio tape of that ninth-inning rally as my psyche tape any time I had a big exam (like my high school entrance exam and the SATs). And it worked well in conjunction with Eye of the Tiger.

There’s also Game 6 of the World Series, where once again, the Mets trailed 5-3 in the 10th inning and were one out from defeat when they rallied to score three runs. I took a spot on the floor, in front of my dad and his friends (one of whom fell asleep!) When Bob Stanley began pitching to one, I said aloud “Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a balk or wild pitch or something crazy here” and one of my dad’s friends took that up saying “yeah, a wild pitch, a wild pitch.”

Sometimes you can see it coming.

Game 6 of the World Series is a personal obsession and I suppose that’s not surprising. I’ve read and written a lot about it. In fact, when they gave us access to a new newspaper database at work, my means of testing it was to see how many different newspaper stories I could find from the day after that game. I printed out a rather nice collection of about 40. As Hall-of-Fame honoree Bus Saidt wrote “I’m sitting here and I still don’t believe it.”

The Mets won the World Series two days later and I remember it modestly well, though not quite as well as some of the other games along the way. That season was about journey as much as it was about final destination.

The one other thing I think about sometimes with the 1986 Mets is Cherish the Moment. That was the theme of my graduation from P.S. 190, and when I struggled with the speech I had to give as one of the sixth grade class reps (okay, “valedictorian” if you want to call it that), my mom suggested talking about the 1986 Mets and cherishing their championship. I didn’t, but looking back, it was a pretty good idea.

My father has said to me many times that you have to appreciate every championship your team wins, because you never know when the next one may be. The players on the 1986 Mets were supposed to win a lot of championships, but along the paths of their respective lives, they cherished the moment a little too hard and a little too much. They made mistakes and did some really dumb things. They came close, but they never could reach the pinnacle. The Mets haven’t won a World Series since.

But I have no regrets or bad thoughts when I think of the 1986 Mets. I cherish every moment from that season like no other. It’s one that will remain fondly with me for the rest of my lifetime as a baseball fan.

Remembering John Brophy

Legendary hockey coach John Brophy died this morning.

In 2000, I wrote a profile of him for the Trenton Times. He was a fascinating person to talk to and learn about, because he basically had 2 personas. Hopefully you’ll like what I wrote.


Brophy: Love him or hate him

Author: MARK SIMON; Times sports writer

NORFOLK, Va. _ At the end of this story, you will either love John Brophy or you will hate him.


It is a requirement for anyone in the ECHL _ whether you be a fan, player, coach or media member _ to feel some sort of emotions towards this silver- haired 66-year-old man, a hockey legend.


To fully understand Brophy, you must comprehend the fact that there are seemingly two of him. There is the good Brophy, the one who gave us 45 minutes of his time and told us we could learn more from him if we had another five hours to spare. There is also the bad Brophy, the one who hasn’t spoken to one of the team’s beat reporters for nearly a month.


The good Brophy has enhanced the careers of hundreds of players that he has worked with in 27 seasons as a professional hockey coach including the past 11 with the Hampton Roads Admirals. Among those he has developed at various levels are former NHLers Rick Vaive, Rob Ramage, Craig Hartsburg, Guy Carbonneau, and current Washington Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig. The good Brophy has won more than 900 games, second in pro hockey to Scotty Bowman, and three ECHL championships, including one with an Admirals team that made the playoffs as the lowest seed in the Northern Conference. He is the winningest coach in ECHL history.


”He wants to win hockey games,” said former Admirals owner Blake Cullen, ”not for himself, but for the team and for the city. He has a total one-track focus. It’s good old-fashioned pride in the hockey sweater.”


THE GOOD Brophy is a master motivator, as good at getting his team to respond as anyone who has worked in the sport.


”He demands the most out of his players,” said current Hampton Roads captain Rich Kowalsky. ”He has changed a lot of players’  careers. He has an association with winning and he wants to win at all costs. He’s never had a player not give 100 percent. No one who has ever come here has coasted.”


”I’m interested in finding out how far a player can go,” said Brophy, who came to the Admirals after being fired from his dream job, coaching the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1987 to 1989. ”There is no secret (to motivating). Some players will do more then others. I’ll stay all day with them at the rink if they want. You can’t make a player in an hour-and-a-half (of practice). Most of our players don’t really know what they have to do to get better. You have to stick it down their throat.”


The bad Brophy has gone too far many times.


Earlier this season when he cut Shaun Peet (now with the South Carolina Stingrays), he made Peet throw his skates in the garbage in front of the entire team. He once took a jersey, dunked it in Gatorade and made a player wear it for a game. When an overweight Al Iafrate was coming up with the Maple Leafs, Brophy made him shed the excess pounds in a sauna _ in full uniform.


”The last thing I want to do,” the good Brophy said during our discussion, ”is tell a player he’s not good enough to do his job. I don’t ever try to disrespect a player. ”


”WHEN HE snaps, he snaps,” Kowalsky said. ”The guys learn not to get caught up in it. You can’t let him get you down.”


”It’s nothing personal,” Brophy said. ”It’s just hockey.”


Brophy-snaps are as legendary as the man himself. Those offended easily should not sit behind the Hampton Roads bench when the Admirals come to Trenton on Jan. 22. He can be mad when the Admirals win. He will be mad if the Admirals lose.


John Brophy,” said Virginian Pilot sportswriter Tris Wykes, who covers the Admirals and to whom Brophy hasn’t spoken since early December, ”is the most profane man I have ever met.”


In more than 20 years of minor league hockey, playing for teams like the Troy Uncle Sam Trojans of the Eastern League, Brophy set the minor league record for career penalty minutes. This was at a time when play resembled the bumble-and-rumble style from the famous hockey movie ”Slapshot.” An article in the Admirals game program describes him as ”an intense, and at times ruthless defenseman.”


Cullen heard Brophy once tell a story where he found out that one of the players on an opposing team was a Mormon, who refused to play on Sunday.


The player was finally persuaded to play against Brophy’s team that Sunday by his coach. At the opening faceoff for that game, Brophy took his stick and smashed it against the player’s leg. ”You,” he said to the player, who was writhing in pain on the ice, ”picked the wrong Sunday.”


IF YOU detest him at this point, you’re not the only one.


Around the league, particularly in Roanoke and Richmond (which played its 100th game against the Brophy-coached Admirals last Sunday), fans and even opposing coaches have gone at it with Brophy, both verbally and physically.


”Those opinions,” the good Brophy said of his detractors, ”have nothing to do with how I am. I don’t mean to come off as a stupid guy.”


Taunting the bad Brophy is a big mistake. He has attempted to go after fans in the stands many times, one time even tossing a hacksaw blade at a would be heckler (he missed). He has been reprimanded, suspended and even arrested for his actions during games.


”Sometimes,” the good Brophy said, ”you do things you wish you could have back.”

Which brings us back to that Brophy, the one whom Wykes said is wonderfully polite around women, little children and animals. The one that Cullen said would lie down in front of a zamboni for his players. This is a man who loves his wife, former LPGA golfer Nancy White and who treat his three dogs Novie, Scotia (whom were named after Brophy’s birthplace, Nova Scotia) and Mud Duck like royalty. He used to let those dogs go out on the ice after practice and shovel up dog poop himself after they had relieved themselves.


The fans of Hampton Roads revere him like a god. He could have left many times but never did. When Brophy was hired, he requested that a clause enabling him to leave for a higher-level position be removed from his contract so that he could totally focus on this team. The people here will miss him dearly should he not end up coaching the Admirals when they move up to the American Hockey League next season.


”John,” Cullen said of a man he considers to be a lifelong friend, ”has had more to do with the growth and the success of the ECHL then any other individual. There is nobody like him.”

The little boy and the book

Once upon a time there was a little boy. The little boy wasn’t very good at sports, and others often made fun of this, but he liked sports. He liked sports a lot, because when he liked something, he usually liked it a lot.

The little boy wasn’t good at sports, but he liked to write. He liked to write even before he knew how to write. The little boy would go with his mom on the bus and see things and if an idea popped into his head, he’d tell her to write it down. If she didn’t write it down, he’d repeat it, over and over again. Once the little boy learned to write, he’d write things down himself. He still does. A lot.

The little boy didn’t just like to write. He liked to read. He liked stories and newspaper articles. The little boy was reading the newspaper when he was five. He tended to gravitate to the box scores and the statistics.

The little boy also liked books.  And he didn’t just read books. He’d read them with intensity. When the little boy’s fourth-grade class went away for a few days and others went on outdoor adventures, the little boy pulled out his “Mel Martin” baseball books, sat on his bed and read. If a class had a substitute teacher, the little boy put a book on his lap, put his head on the desk, and read for over an hour without so much as looking up.

The little boy also liked math, from the time he would play with his grandma’s adding machine in her house in Elmont. Growing up, he was always a step ahead of the others in his class. When they were adding, he was multiplying.  When they were subtracting, he was dividing.

For whatever reason, numbers came easy to the little boy. When he was seven, he got a book called The Bill James Baseball Abstract. It had a lot of complicated math, and the little boy didn’t know what to do with it. But he liked the book anyway, because it was about sports and it was about numbers.

Fast forward through life a little bit. The little boy was lucky. He went to a good high school and a good college and got a lot of practice at what he wanted to do. He eventually got to be a sportswriter and a sportscaster and a researcher, which allowed him to write, read,  do math and talk, all at the same time. People thought he was  good at what he did. They liked his articles, his broadcasts and his research. And he liked that people liked him and liked his work.

Now the little boy has written a book. In the book, he looked a lot up, he wrote a lot down,  he did a lot of math and most importantly, he told a lot of stories.  He’s really excited about the book and he really hopes that you will be too.

You can buy “The Yankees Index” at this link or at an online retailer or bookstore near you.

The little boy photo