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NFL Hall of Famer passes away at 87

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NFL Hall of Famer passes away at 87

From Comcast SportsNet Tuesday, August 16, 2011

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Pete Pihos, a Hall of Fame receiver who helped the Philadelphia Eagles to a pair of NFL championships, has died. He was 87. The team said Pihos died early Tuesday at a nursing home in Winston-Salem, N.C., after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. Pihos was a member of the Philadelphia teams that captured consecutive championships starting in 1948. He made the game-winning catch in the 1949 game against the Rams. Pihos finished his nine-year career with 373 catches for 6,519 yards and 61 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1970. Pihos played with the Eagles from 1947-55 after a stellar college career at Indiana. He was a stalwart on both sides of the ball at tight end and defensive end and missed just one game in nine NFL seasons. A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Pihos was nicknamed "The Golden Greek." He lacked blazing receiver speed, but relied on pirouettes and pivots to break free from would-be tacklers and was a punishing runner after the catch. "I try to get position on my opponent without him knowing it," the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Pihos told The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1955. "I always watch my opponent's feet. When he crosses them or makes a definite commitment, that's when I make my move. I'll do whatever maneuvering necessary to reach the spot where the pass is to come." Pihos still ranks among the team leaders in a number of offensive categories with the Eagles. He's third in catches behind Harold Carmichael and Pete Retzlaff; fourth in touchdowns after Carmichael, Steve Van Buren and Tommy McDonald; and 10th in all-time scoring with 378 points. He was selected to the franchise's 75th anniversary team. A fifth-round draft pick by the Eagles in 1945, Pihos didn't start his NFL career until 1947 because his college career was interrupted by World War II, when he served in the military under Gen. George Patton. Pihos' impact on the Eagles' offense and defense was immediate. Philadelphia reached its first championship game in his rookie season, losing 28-21 to the Chicago Cardinals. The tandem of the sure-handed Pihos and Van Buren, a running back and fellow Hall of Famer, gave the Eagles a powerful offense, and Philadelphia claimed consecutive NFL championships in 1948 and '49. Philadelphia beat the Cardinals 7-0 in a blizzard in the 48 title game to claim its first NFL title. In the 49 title game, Pihos caught the eventual game-winning 31-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Thompson, and the Eagles beat the Los Angeles Rams 14-0 to become the first team to win back-to-back NFL championships in shutouts. Eagles coaches later decided to have Pihos concentrate on offense when the platoon system was instituted. But when the Eagles needed help on defense in the 1952 season, Pihos stepped in and was an All-Pro at defensive end. Pihos' last three NFL seasons were his most productive. In 1953, he had career highs in receptions (63) and yards (1,049) and scored 10 touchdowns. At Indiana, Pihos was a versatile star during the 1942, 43, 45 and 46 seasons. He led the Hoosiers in receiving in 1942 and 43 and in rushing in 1946. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. As a member of the Army, Pihos served 14 months in Europe during World War II. He told the Pro Football Hall of Fame that he had vivid memories of serving under Patton, whom he called "a tough son-of-a-gun." A native of Orlando, Fla., Pihos is survived by his ex-wife, Donna Pihos, who has been his caretaker for the past 12 years; their daughter, Melissa Pihos; and children from a previous marriage: son Peter Pihos Jr., daughters Nikki Pihos Walker and Lisa-Anne Pihos Mann, and stepson John Wesley Poole.

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

BALTIMORE — Baseball records are so precise. When to pursue them, when to value them even if minor risk is involved, is not nearly as clear cut.

The Red Sox, Chris Sale and John Farrell have stumbled upon that grey area, and it will continue to play out in the final two weeks of the regular season.

Sale reached a tremendous milestone on Wednesday night, becoming the 14th different pitcher in major league history to reach 300 strikeouts in a single season. No one else has done it in the American League this century. Clayton Kershaw was the last to get there in the National League two years ago.

“It was really fun,” Sale said of having his family on hand. “My wife, both my boys are here, my mother-in-law. Being able to run out and get a big hug from him and my wife and everybody — it was special having them here for something like this. … I’ll spend a little time with them before we head to Cincinnati.”

Now, there’s another mark ahead of Sale: Pedro Martinez’s single-season club record of 313. And the pursuit of that record is going to highlight the discussion of what matters even more.

The tug-of-war between absolute pragmatism and personal achievement was on display Wednesday, when Farrell gave ground to the latter. 

The manager was prepared for the questions after a celebratory 9-0 win over the Orioles. His pitchers threw 26 straight scoreless innings to finish off a three-game sweep of the Orioles, and the Sox had the game well in hand the whole night.

With seven innings and 99 pitches thrown and 299 strikeouts in the books, Sale went back out for the eighth inning.

If you watched it, if you saw Sale drop a 2-2 front-door slider to a hapless Ryan Flaherty for the final strikeout Sale needed and his last pitch of the night, you surely enjoyed it. Records may not be championships, but they have their own appeal in sports that’s undeniable. 

But Sale could have recorded strikeout No. 300 next time out. Surely, he would have. He needed all 111 pitches to do so Wednesday.

In this case, the difference between 299 and 300 wound up being just 12 pitches. 

It’s doubtful those 12 pitches will ruin Sale’s postseason chances, particularly considering he was throwing hard all game, touching 99 mph. 

Nonetheless, the Sox hope to play for another month, and they've been working to get Sale extra rest. So, why risk fatigue, or worse, injury?

“The two overriding factors for me,” Farrell explained, “were the pitch counts and the innings in which he was in control of throughout. Gets an extra day [for five days of rest] this next time through the rotation. All those things were brought into play in the thinking of bringing him back out.

“We know what the final out of tonight represented, him getting the 300 strikeouts. Was aware of that, and you know what, felt like he was in complete command of this game and the ability to go out and give that opportunity, he recorded it.”

If Sale makes his final two starts of the year, he’ll break Martinez's record of 313. At least, Sale should. But he might not make his projected final start, in Game No. 162, so that he’s set up for Game 1 in the Division Series.

(So, if he could do reach 314 Ks in his next start, he’d make this discussion disappear — but 14 Ks in one outing is not easy.)

When should exceptions be made to let someone get to a record? Where do you draw the line? 

Would it be reasonable to get Sale an inning or two against the Astros in Game 162 if he was a few strikeouts away, even though he may face the Astros in the Division Series?

Letting the Astros get extra looks against Sale is a different matter than Sale throwing 12 extra pitches. But neither is really a guarantee of doom. They're small risks, of varying size.

Consider that if Sale is on, he should rough up the Astros no matter what.

What's 12 pitches Wednesday for a guy who leads the majors in average pitches thrown per game? Not enough to keep Farrell from letting Sale have a go at one milestone.

Will the Sox work to put Sale in position for the next?

Records don’t usually fall into such a grey area. Outside of the steroid era, anyway.