In 1952, when the legendary Hank Aaron began his historic Major League Baseball career by leaving the Negro Leagues and signing with the Boston Braves, he was replaced by someone who would build a legacy of trailblazing that is far less known than what Aaron did in becoming the original home run king.Toni Stone was not nearly the player Aaron became, but she—yes, she—was good enough to assume his roster position, breaking the gender barrier in pro baseball.It’s a little-known fact pointed out by The Root that Stone, whose birth name was Marenia Stone, had pretended to be 16 when she was really 26 so she could sign on with the American Legion Junior League team, which had previously been open to teenage boys.She then joined the barnstorming San Francisco Sea Lions, where she changed her name to Toni Stone. And from 1949 to ’53, she played on several semipro and Negro League teams. After Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, more and more players fled the Negro Leagues to play in “The Bigs.”Syd Pollack, owner of the Indianapolis Clowns, sought to replace Aaron with someone of talent and who would be a novelty to help draw a crowd. Stone was his answer.But he was not expecting her to be all about the game and not the show. She was a skilled ballplayer who wanted to play ball—not dress in a shorts or a skirt as the all-white women of the professional women’s league did.She said in a 1991 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle that she was routinely ridiculed by fans who did not want a woman playing among men.“They’d tell me to go home and fix my husband some biscuits,” she said.But she pressed on. Although she did not consistently get on the field, she accomplished something that gave her a life joy, she said to The Chronicle: She said she got a hit off of the great Satchel Paige.“The happiest moment of my life” she said of the unexpected hit she got off of Satchel Paige.Whether a myth or true—a historian said Paige was not at the site of the game Stone said she got her hit off of him—she represented something new at a time when chauvinism was rampant and women had their “place,” and it was not with men on the baseball field.Stone played professional baseball for just one more year. At the end of the 1953 season, the Clowns sold her contract to the Kansas City Monarchs, replacing her with two female players, Connie Morgan at second base and Mamie “Peanut” Johnson on the pitcher’s mound. Her time on the Monarchs was unfulfilling, and she left after a season, returning to San Francisco to become a nurse and to care for her husband, who would live to be 103 years old.She lived in relative obscurity until she was rediscovered and inducted into the Women’s Sports Foundation International Sports Hall of Fame in 1985—11 years before she passed away in Alameda, Calif.
Surely Doug Adler will be fired after comparing Venus Williams to a gorilla?! #sick— Lana Angel Nadal (@Rafasgirlalways) January 19, 2017 Venus Williams (@WTA Twitter)An ESPN commentator has apologized for a remark he made about tennis player Venus Williams that led Twitter to demand he be fired. So far, the network has not done so, but it has removed him from further broadcasts.Doug Adler found himself in hot water over his description of Williams’ assertive playing style as she was on her way to beating Stefanie Voegele in the second round of the Australian Open Wednesday, Jan. 18.“[Voegele] misses a first serve and Venus is all over her,” Adler said. “You see Venus move in and put the guerilla effect on. Charging.”The former tennis player clarified on Thursday, Jan. 19, that he was likening Williams’ approach to “guerilla” tactics, according to the Associated Press. He also said he “simply and inadvertently chose the wrong word to describe her play.”A statement issued to the AP by ESPN acknowledged the error but later revoked Adler’s reporting duties.“During an Australian Open stream on ESPN3, Doug Adler should have been more careful in his word selection. He apologized and we have removed him from his remaining assignments,” the statement read.Williams emerged with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Voegele, but many viewers were stuck on Adler seeming to compare the seven-time Grand Slam winner to a primate. They called for him to lose his job because of it.ESPN commentator, Doug Adler, compared Venus Williams to a gorilla. He must be fired NOW!— Agent Provocateur (@De_Imperial) January 19, 2017 Your move @ESPNTennis @espn. That Doug Adler person needs to lose his job for being stupid & racist #VenusWilliams #AusOpen https://t.co/b5EA3FFRwf— Shashana (@Shashana80sKid) January 19, 2017Other viewers felt Adler meant “guerilla,” not “gorilla.”A tennis commentator just said “guerilla” in reference to Venus Williams’ play. Media will turn that into a racist “gorilla” statement watch— Tyler Keemer (@T_Keem) January 19, 2017 That’s not true. I’ve heard him call hundreds of matches, tv & radio. He meant Guerilla as in soldier bro. He loves Venus Williams. #tennis https://t.co/yVbwlzrFMx— Crackbillionair (@crackbillionair) January 19, 2017The Williams sisters are no strangers to this type of controversy. In 2012, when Serena Williams won her fifth Wimbledon title, an ESPN sportswriter originally titled his headline, “Serena Rides Savage Serve to Title” before it was changed to “Serena Rides Huge Serve To Title.”Both Venus and Serena Williams were compared to men in 2014 by Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpischev. He deemed the championship-winning duo the “Williams brothers,” according to Atlanta Black Star.“I thought [his comments] were very insensitive and extremely sexist as well as racist at the same time,” Serena said at the time. “I thought they were in a way bullying.“I think a lot of people weren’t happy as well … but the WTA and the USTA did a wonderful job of making sure that in this day and age … for someone with his power, it’s really unacceptable to make such bullying remarks,” Serena added, noting the $25,000 fine imposed on Tarpischev by the WTA.
In honor of the 2017 Major League Baseball season, which starts April 2, FiveThirtyEight is assembling some of our favorite baseball writers to chat about what’s ahead. Today, we focus on the National League East with MetsBlog.com writer Maggie Wiggin and FiveThirtyEight senior political writer Harry Enten. The transcript below has been edited. neil (Neil Paine, FiveThirtyEight senior sportswriter): I will have everyone know that I am wearing a non-Mets hat today to maintain my impartiality during this chat. (The Orioles are my wife’s team, so I stole her hat today …)Let’s get started. The top projected team in the East according to Fangraphs is the Washington Nationals. That’s been true for a number of years, including seasons in which the Nats both won the division and fell short spectacularly. Do we think they should be the favorites again this year? Or is it an every-other-year thing where they’ll disappoint again?heynawl-enten: Last year, the Mets were actually favored in the preseason projections. That turned out great for them!maggiewiggin: I think the Nationals have the edge, but it’s a close enough competition with the Mets that it should be a tight race down the stretch.neil: Is it fair to say that Washington has been a tough team to get a read on during this stretch? They always seem to have one of the most talented rosters in the league, but it doesn’t always translate.maggiewiggin: They always seem to have one piece of the team really underwhelm. In 2015, it was the bullpen. Last year, it was Bryce Harper (though Daniel Murphy’s transformation into Mecha Ted Williams offset that). I don’t know if that makes them any different from other teams, but they never have that unbeatable vibe.neil: How many more chances do you think the Nationals will get with this Harper/Stephen Strasburg core? I remember when they shut Strasburg down in 2012 — the rationale was that they were playing the long game for many shots at a championship. Fast forward to now, and I wonder whether they’d feel the same way.maggiewiggin: It’s tough to feel any certainty with Strasburg. He keeps approaching this true ace-level pitching without ever quite getting there. I thought we were finally seeing it last season before (another) injury did him in. Harper is also up and down, but in 2015, we actually did see him get there.heynawl-enten: The crazy thing for me is that Strasburg has never really had that standout season. His highest wins above replacement in a season is 3.5. He’s never finished higher than ninth for Cy Young. Heck, he only garnered a vote in one season.maggiewiggin: Whenever I look at Strasburg’s numbers, the only one that ever really blows me away is that he’s going into his eighth year in the bigs. We’re all getting old.heynawl-enten: At least we’re all getting old together.maggiewiggin: Except for Max Scherzer, it would seem.heynawl-enten: He’s Dick Van Dyke for baseball.neil: I bet he does a better British accent. Meanwhile, with all this talk of getting old, 23-year-old Trea Turner has no idea how we feel at all. With him improving and the additions of catcher Matt Wieters and outfielder Adam Eaton, could this be the most talent that Washington has had in this Harper/Strasburg era? (And will it be enough to pass the Cubs? Thinking big-picture here.)maggiewiggin: They’re definitely stacked, but it’s hard not to imagine the loss of Wilson Ramos stinging.heynawl-enten: Cubs? You’re talking Cubs? I’d like to see the Nats advance past the divisional round first.neil: Come to think of it, Wieters might be a nice metaphor for the Nats. Supposed to be a future Hall of Famer, he ended up being just “pretty good” (though he’s been even less than that recently).maggiewiggin: I do think the impact of picking up Eaton was overshadowed by the hefty price tag. There’s a ton of speed at the top of that lineup now and some killer defense up the middle. Pretty much the anti-Mets on those measures.neil: Great transition! Let’s talk about those Mets.heynawl-enten: Thank goodness they kept Bartolo Colon.neil: We’ll get to Bart later.heynawl-enten: neil: Anyway, the Mets! The big problem for them last year was health. (And the next-biggest problem. And the next-biggest.) That would seem to portend an improvement this year, right? They can’t possibly be that hurt again.maggiewiggin: It’s pretty much their only glaring weakness at this point.neil: But pitchers are weird creatures, too. Does relying too much on pitching set you up for that?maggiewiggin: It’s a lot of eggs in a very rickety basket, but, oh man, those eggs taste good.heynawl-enten: I’m hungry now.maggiewiggin: So’s Bartolo — it’s why we love him.heynawl-enten: Nice.maggiewiggin: But what the Mets are making work for them is the rare combination of quality and quantity on the mound. Every guy who comes up seems to outperform expectations. Their injury-ravaged rotation was top in the game in FanGraphs’ WAR last year; that shouldn’t happen.heynawl-enten: Their fifth starter at this point is Jacob deGrom clone Robert Gsellman. He didn’t do too horribly last year. The biggest question mark I have is Matt Harvey. And that wasn’t all about injuries last year.neil: Yeah, do we think he’ll ever be the same? (And does he really need to be?)maggiewiggin: No, on both counts. But it would be nice if he could claw his way back to something like a mid-3’s ERA and 175-ish innings. His baseline was just so incredibly high if you look at what he did for three seasons, even right after Tommy John surgery.heynawl-enten: Most of the Mets staff is getting into their upper 20s in age. I do wonder about that a little bit. Especially given the heat at which some of these guys (like Harvey) could throw.maggiewiggin: You’ve basically got a whole staff throwing 91 mph sliders — it’s not exactly ergonomic.neil: And if that staff isn’t quite as lights-out, is there reason to think the offense will be able to offset any decline? The Mets were tied for the fourth-fewest runs scored in the National League last year.maggiewiggin: Compared to last year, the offense boils down to two things for me: how much you buy into situational hitting as a repeatable skill and how quickly they can get Jay Bruce out of there.neil: Right, because they were terrible with runners on/in scoring position.maggiewiggin: Almost historically so.heynawl-enten: Look, Jay Bruce is a quality … Oh who am I kidding. Why oh why did they make that trade?neil: It was important for blocking Michael Conforto’s development.heynawl-enten: He is perhaps the other big question mark to me. Conforto had the sophomore curse last year.maggiewiggin: They traded for Bruce because they were chasing the Cespedes dragon.neil: Speaking of, seems like they basically had to bring Cespedes back just to keep the lineup afloat and anywhere near on par with what they figure to get out of the pitching.maggiewiggin: The team is barely a borderline contender without Cespedes, if that. But I agree that Conforto is the wild card here.neil: “Wild card” might be the operative term. Again.heynawl-enten: Nice.neil: Either way, it seems like there’s kind of a gap between the top two teams and the rest of this division. That’s what we thought before last season as well, but Miami kept things competitive until the end. Then they suffered a tragic loss that can’t really be quantified, the death of Jose Fernandez. Is there any way that the Marlins can rally back to their form for most of last season and contend again, or was that chance lost forever with Fernandez’s passing?maggiewiggin: The Marlins are definitely a team without a real identity now. They were built around this incredibly dynamic duo of Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton, but it’s hard to see any real path to contention for them this year. Their starting pitching tops out at mediocre, though I expect the lineup to surprise a bit.neil: Even without Barry Bonds as hitting coach?maggiewiggin: The true Barry Bonds is inside all of us. I think their big spending on relievers had one express purpose — setting up a midseason fire sale to fill a barren farm system. They’re going to be treading water for a couple of years.neil: Yeah, I think many fans might be surprised how poorly their farm system grades out. It’s in last place, according to Baseball America.heynawl-enten: The best thing the Marlins have going for them is that Jeffrey Loria is probably going to sell the team, at long last.neil: That is actually great news for them. Loria is the worst. Going back to Stanton, what do we expect of his 2017 season? His exit velocity was still on point, but big chunks of his 2016 were awful.maggiewiggin: He’s another guy who just can’t stay healthy.heynawl-enten: “Awful” is a bit of an overstatement. He did have 2.5 WAR last year. But, yeah, he’s only played in more than 120 games once in the last four seasons.maggiewiggin: It actually says a lot about him that his .815 OPS was a career-low.neil: So it seems like he might be due for better things this year, then, if he stays in the lineup.maggiewiggin: If he’s on the field, the power is going to be there too. He’s a very, very strong man.neil: Very true, and Christian Yelich is no slouch either. Maybe the thing for Miami is whether they have the depth around their stars to really make any noise.maggiewiggin: And the pitching. Wei-Yin Chen is their number one starter — that’s never a good sign.neil: Eek.maggiewiggin: They do have a solid bullpen, but again, how much of that is still around on Aug. 1? Not a lot if everyone’s doing their jobs right.neil: Well, that was one thing I wanted to ask about all three of the teams projected to finish 3-4-5 in this division: Which direction are they moving in the Success Cycle? If Miami is moving toward a rebuild, the Braves seem like they might be moving toward respectability with some of their offseason pickups.heynawl-enten: They’re timing it well to move into their new stadium.maggiewiggin: The Braves have such a rich talent pool in the minors, they’re getting very close to being a force again.neil: Yeah, it can’t be long it seems, with Dansby Swanson assuming a full-time role and the best farm system in MLB coming up behind him.heynawl-enten: One thing to keep an eye on with the Braves is how strong they finished last year. They were 18-10 in September and October.neil: Positively Mets-like in that regard.maggiewiggin: The Matt Kemp acquisition in left field surprisingly worked out very well for them, so far at least.neil: And now apparently they’re trying the pitcher version of that with Bartolo, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia.heynawl-enten: Granted, Dickey hasn’t been worth very much, but I like the idea. “Cheaper” veterans combined with youngsters.maggiewiggin: The only question is: Who will they package with Kelly Johnson when they trade him to the Mets?heynawl-enten: HAH!neil: It’s an annual tradition.So, any chance the Braves actually challenge the Nats and Mets? Or are they still a year or two away?maggiewiggin: Like with the Marlins, the rotation seems to be the biggest weakness, but a hot first half combined with a big get at the deadline could have them nipping at some heels for sure. But realistically, 2018 seems to be when that window opens.heynawl-enten: I wouldn’t be shocked if they stayed competitive for some of the year. Winning the division is another question entirely.neil: I have to ask the same of the Phillies, who’ve shared the NL East’s basement apartment with the Braves these past few years …heynawl-enten: Last season, the Phillies were quite awful in every month not named April.neil: They were also the luckiest team in baseball not named “Texas Rangers.”maggiewiggin: They have some serious depth issues. Anything other than exceptional health could get ugly fast.neil: Then again, on the upside, they were the youngest team in baseball last year. And, similar to Atlanta, they have one of the best farm systems in baseball.maggiewiggin: Both teams have managed their rebuilds very well in that way.heynawl-enten: But I feel like they’re still a few years away.maggiewiggin: I agree. They lack any clear top-level talent right now, though they have a few promising names.heynawl-enten: I guess the good news is that the Phillies finally got rid of Ryan Howard. That signing didn’t make sense when it happened, and it certainly makes no sense now.maggiewiggin: The fact that they kept him around as long as they did will remain one of life’s great unsolved mysteries.neil: He was worth -1.0 WAR or worse in four of his final five seasons! 😱heynawl-enten: Getting back to the larger point, I think the Phillies have the least to look forward to of any NL East team this season. Well, either them or the Marlins.maggiewiggin: The lowest upside as currently constructed, definitely.neil: But the parallel rebuilds in Philly and Atlanta might also underscore that the clocks are ticking in Washington and New York.maggiewiggin: It’s going to be a very different landscape in two years — that’s for sure. Especially if Washington keeps deferring money like the world is ending.heynawl-enten: Remember, the Braves were good for all those years, and then they weren’t. Dynasties have a way of ending, and the Nationals have not a single thing to show for it. The Mets may hold on a little longer, given the age of their pitching staff (getting older, but not close to old).maggiewiggin: Hey, if Tim Tebow can get a real, live hit, anything’s possible.heynawl-enten: He got a hit? The world might really be coming to an end.maggiewiggin: Hmm, maybe the Nats’ financial strategy is sounder than I thought. RANKTEAMPECOTAFANGRAPHSDAVENPORTWESTGATEAVERAGE 4Atlanta Braves7673747674.6 EXPECTED NUMBER OF WINS 3Miami Marlins7778797777.6 1Washington Nationals8891899289.9 5Philadelphia Phillies7372727372.4 Based on projected wins or over/under win totals. Data gathered on March 15, 2017.Sources: Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, Clay Davenport, Las Vegas Review-Journal How forecasters view the NL East 2New York Mets8985858986.9
Sports analytics, no matter the field’s renegade posturing, has now been around long enough to have its own pieces of conventional wisdom. Baseball’s cognoscenti know all about the primacy of on-base percentage over batting average, and they’ve also come to realize once-treasured strategies like bunting and stealing bases are best used sparingly. In basketball, the mid-range jump shot is slowly being phased out as an inefficient relic of antiquity. Spreadsheets are shaming football coaches into rolling the dice more often on fourth downs.But for many American fans tuning into the World Cup this month and next, soccer’s nuggets of analytic insight remain as foreign as the game itself. There are set pieces to orchestrate, attacking strategies to plan, areas of the defense to exploit — and it isn’t always apparent which tactics are best. But analytics has clear advice on how to do some things right.Soccer analytics is very much viewed as a discipline in its infancy. And the sport itself is often described as especially resistant to the pull of number-crunching, whether due to its fluid nature, its sportocratic establishment culture, or a fear that the unsentimentality of data will rob the Beautiful Game of its celebrated elegance.There’s not much truth to that. Off and on, people have been tracking relatively detailed soccer data in some form for more than six decades, up to and including the modern companies that exhaustively log every event on the pitch.That said, WAR isn’t coming to soccer anytime soon. Most attempts to create an all-in-one statistical index for soccer players (like we have for basketball and baseball) have suffered from a distinct lack of transparency1Generally speaking, no formulae for these indices have been released to the public — just vague assurances like this: “The Castrol Index tracks every move on the field and assesses whether it has a positive or negative impact on a team’s ability to score or concede a goal.” and a noticeable bias toward strikers and other scorers, whose output is most readily quantifiable. There are a number of interesting metrics at fans’ disposal, but no magic algorithm that accounts for a player’s role on his club, the system he plays in, the quality of his teammates and countless other factors. By necessity, even the individual plus/minus ratings ESPN uses for the talent portion of our Soccer Power Index fall prey to this phenomenon — we simply have to be more conservative when assessing the impact of a fullback than of a prolific goal-scorer. That makes it hard to distinguish between the value of, say, Manchester United teammates Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidić.At the team level, though, the numbers offer more hope. They have the potential to provide soccer with broad strategic conventions comparable to the sabermetric-minded rules of thumb in other sports. None of these is a hard-and-fast decree, but they offer guidelines generated by actual data instead of blind hunches.In “The Numbers Game” by Chris Anderson and David Sally — probably the definitive volume on statistical analysis in soccer — the authors tell the story of Charles Reep, a former Royal Air Force Wing Commander who was tracking play-by-play data for matches and serving as a quantitative consultant for Football League teams as early as the 1950s.Reep’s research was quite groundbreaking for its time, even if it was fatally flawed. The Wing Commander gathered data on how often a given number of successful passes were strung together, and how frequently goals resulted from those sequences, broken down by length. Reep determined that a team’s probability of retaining possession dropped precipitously with each consecutive pass attempt, and that most goals were scored on possessions of fewer than three passes — often originating from quick counterattacks.In Reep’s mind, this meant teams should abandon trying to control possession and maneuvering through the defense with endless passing. Instead, they should focus on getting the ball downfield in as few movements as possible on offense, and applying pressure on defense to generate opportunistic counter-rushes. The numbers seemed to suggest that the long game was the most efficient tactic for soccer success.But subsequent analysis has discredited this way of thinking. Reep’s mistake was to fixate on the percentage of goals generated by passing sequences of various lengths. Instead, he should have flipped things around, focusing on the probability that a given sequence would produce a goal. Yes, a large proportion of goals are generated on short possessions, but soccer is also fundamentally a game of short possessions and frequent turnovers. If you account for how often each sequence-length occurs during the flow of play, of course more goals are going to come off of smaller sequences — after all, they’re easily the most common type of sequence. But that doesn’t mean a small sequence has a higher probability of leading to a goal.To the contrary, a team’s probability of scoring goes up as it strings together more successful passes. The implication of this statistical about-face is that maintaining possession is important in soccer.2As analysts have also recently discovered it to be in hockey. There’s a good relationship3Correlation coefficient in last season’s English Premier League: 0.78. between a team’s time spent in control of the ball and its ability to generate shots on target, which in turn is hugely predictive of a team’s scoring rate and, consequently, its placement in the league table. While there’s less rhyme or reason to the rate at which teams convert those scoring chances into goals, modern analysis has ascertained that possession plays a big role in creating offensive opportunities, and that effective short passing — fueled largely by having pass targets move to soft spots in the defense before ever receiving the ball — is strongly associated with building and maintaining possession.As for the long ball, it’s proven futile in today’s game. During the 2013-14 English Premier League season, the percentage of a team’s passes classified as “long” by Whoscored.com’s data was very negatively correlated4Correlation coefficient: -0.8. with how many goals it scored.5If you’re concerned that the EPL isn’t representative of worldwide soccer, the numbers are essentially identical in Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga, and Italy’s Serie A.The same goes for trying to spearhead an offense from the wings instead of attacking up the middle. In their book, Anderson and Sally write about a seminal piece of quantitative analysis on the 1986 World Cup from researcher Mike Hughes: “Successful teams played a passing game through the middle in their own half and approached the other end of the pitch predominantly in the central areas of the field, while the unsuccessful teams played significantly more to the wings.” The numbers from the 2013-14 season in Europe’s “Big Four” leagues6England’s Premiere League, Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga and Italy’s Serie A. bear this out as well. The percentage of a team’s attacks made up the middle did have a moderately positive7A correlation of 0.32. relationship to its scoring rate relative to the league average, while the relationship between wing attacks and scoring was of the same magnitude and in the negative direction.This, coupled with the fact that corner kicks are surprisingly ineffective at generating goals, is probably related to the negative correlation between a team’s propensity for winning aerial duels8That is, battles for possession strictly on balls played in the air. and its overall goal-scoring rate. By the numbers, it’s a losing bet to count on goals in the air via set pieces — or even off crosses in open play — as a steady way to generate offense, just as it is to rely on the long ball to consistently produce chances. Instead, the statistics seem to support an approach more in line with the artful tiki-taka style exemplified most notably by FC Barcelona and the Spanish national team. In soccer, data and aesthetics are not mutually exclusive, just as they aren’t in any other sport.That’s the one bit of analytics wisdom that could stand to become more conventional. For now, though, we have a reasonably good idea of which metrics correlate with a team’s success more than others. Keep those in mind as you gorge on soccer over the next month.
Jim Tressel feared the worst when he received a phone message from San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Singletary on Oct. 25. Singletary, who was with his team in London, wanted to talk about former Buckeye and current 49ers quarterback Troy Smith. “He said it was regarding Troy, and as a parent, I’m like, ‘Oh, what did Troy do?’ because that’s how you think as a parent,” Tressel said. “So I called him back real quick, and it was good news.” The good news was that Smith would be starting against the Denver Broncos in place of injured quarterback Alex Smith. Singletary was simply gathering information about his new quarterback. Smith is 3-2 as a starting quarterback for the 49ers. Conversations like that between Tressel and Singletary are not unlike the talks Tressel has with Ted Ginn Sr., who coached Smith at Cleveland’s Glenville Academy. Since Tressel was hired in 2001, 14 of Ginn’s former players have played for Tressel at Ohio State. At least one Glenville player has committed to OSU every year since 2002, forming what has become known as the “Glenville pipeline.” But the connection between the two coaches started when Tressel was still coaching at Youngstown State University. Ginn and Tressel met while attending meetings for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in 1997, where the two discovered that they shared a common vision for their programs. “I always admired him and understood his work,” Ginn said. “He took the leash off us at Youngstown State and made you great. He gave you a purpose and a reason to play football at Youngstown State, and I saw that early on.” The Glenville Tarblooders were hardly a power when Ginn became coach in 1997, as the school was struggling to subsist in one of the poorest areas in east Cleveland. But the school’s fortunes changed when Smith transferred there in 2001 and teamed up with future Buckeye and 49ers teammate Ted Ginn Jr., helping the school reach the state playoffs during his senior year. Smith was the first Tarblooder to play for Tressel at OSU and was followed by a wave of others that included future NFL players Donte Whitner and Ginn Jr. The two schools have since become linked with each other, and Ginn Sr. said the values he shares with Tressel made him comfortable forming that relationship. “Coach Tressel helps you become a man but he also lets you know that you’re doing a job,” Ginn said. “You’re a servant to your state and community. It’s an obligation that you have to do. He’s doing a great job selling Ohio State to the players, and that creates a winning concept.” Senior offensive lineman Bryant Browning, who graduated from Glenville in 2006, echoed Ginn’s sentiments. “Coach Ginn and coach Tressel have that connection with each other,” Browning said. “Both guys really care about you on and off the field and make sure you do the right things to become a proper young man.” The mutual respect between the two coaches goes beyond football, Tressel said. “Coach Ginn has made a huge difference in many young people’s lives,” Tressel said. “His passion really is his school and giving those kids opportunities to become all they can be. “It just so happens that football is kind of his hobby,” Tressel said. “In his 24 hours of the day, he probably spends two or three hours on football and the rest on the kids.” Ginn said he doesn’t get much sleep at night, and there are times when he receives phone calls late at night to help his players. “If we don’t help the kids, who will?” Ginn said. “Take that responsibility of helping the kids like a father and giving them guidance — that’s not in the coaching curriculum, but we put it in the book.” Coming to OSU as an underdog quarterback, Smith surpassed expectations by winning the Heisman Trophy in 2006. During the trophy ceremony, he thanked Tressel and Ginn for their guidance. But the accolades Smith received at OSU didn’t make his transition to the NFL any easier, as he started in only two games during his three years with the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens released Smith before the start of the 2010 season, and he signed with the 49ers as a backup. But an injury to starting quarterback Alex Smith led him into the starting role, and he made the most of it. The 49ers defeated the Broncos in Smith’s first start as he threw for 196 yards and a touchdown. Afterward, Ginn reflected on the player who had come to embody everything he and Tressel coach for. “That’s a miracle,” Ginn said. “If you go by the design of what people think and what’s been in place for many years about kids from the inner city, that is a miracle.”
With just four games remaining in the regular season, the Ohio State men’s lacrosse team sits one game behind Bellarmine for the fourth and final Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament spot heading into this weekend’s matchup against Hobart. A loss to Loyola (Md.) last weekend dropped Buckeyes’ conference record to 1-2 on the year. Hobart sits at 4-5 overall on the year but is tied with OSU for fifth in the ECAC with a 1-2 conference record. Senior midfielder Dominique Alexander knows that the season is coming to an end but isn’t worried about potentially being left out of the postseason. “We’re not necessarily worried, we’re just going to take it one game at a time,” Alexander said. “Our focus is completely on Hobart right now and getting this win.” Recent matchups have seen the Buckeyes struggle to find offensive production, only scoring eight goals total in contests against Notre Dame and Loyola (Md.). A matchup with Hobart could be exactly what the Buckeyes need to get back on track. On the year, Hobart is allowing nearly 12 goals a game. Coach Nick Myers said he’s not concerned about OSU’s offensive well-being. “We’ve proven that we can score goals, we have confidence in the guys that we have,” Myers said. “We’re sharing the ball well offensively. We just have to generate more quality shots and be more mindful of some of the turnovers.” Senior attacker Nick Liddil said he’s noticed the offensive issues but thinks there’s an easy solution. “We just have to play like a team,” Liddil said. “Play Buckeye lacrosse and play like we know how to. Hopefully we can have a better offensive output than last week.” OSU is set to play the bottom two teams in the ECAC, Air Force and Michigan, on the road before finishing the season at home against Fairfield. Saturday’s game against Hobart is set for noon at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
Then-junior running back Carlos Hyde breaks through the line during a game against Miami (Ohio) Sept. 1, 2012 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 56-10.Credit: Lantern file photoOhio State football coach Urban Meyer isn’t the kind to let a player back into his lineup without earning it.Senior running back Carlos Hyde, who returns Saturday from a three-game suspension after an incident at a Columbus bar in July, is no exception.Despite coming into the season as the projected No. 1 running back for OSU, Hyde has had to work his way back up the ladder and win back his starting position.“He has done a really good job,” Meyer said to the media Monday. “He’s running the scout team the entire time, has had a very good attitude and taken care of his business in the classroom. We are anxious to get Carlos back.”Although he has been working hard and “handled his business the right way,” Hyde will not instantly come back as the starter Saturday against Florida A&M (1-2), Meyer said after practice Wednesday.“That’s not fair to the other guys. But he’ll play,” Meyer said. “He’s done everything and above that I and (running backs coach Stan Drayton) have asked him to do.”One of those “other guys” is redshirt-senior running back Jordan Hall, who has started for OSU during Hyde’s suspension. Hall leads OSU with 402 yards and six touchdowns on the ground and is averaging 6.28 yards per carry.Hall was out for a majority of the 2012 season because of injuries, but Drayton said after the OSU game against Buffalo Aug. 31 that being on the sideline helped him grow.“Well, he’s made an unbelievable change as a person. He’s grown tremendously,” Drayton said. “All the adversities that he had to face with the injuries and some of the things that he quite honestly put on himself with the consequences that he had to face, he’s really grown and embraced all those things and now it’s transferring into his football play.”Hall’s play so far this season has made the offense much better this year than it was last year, Meyer said after the game against California last weekend.“He’s played great. Jordan Hall and that offensive line, they’re doing the job that I can’t even explain how good they’re doing,” Meyer said. “They’re helping me out so much with the running game, and they’re opening up running lanes for me and play action is opening up deep.”But the problem OSU faces Saturday against Florida A&M is how to use both Hall and Hyde with only so many touches to go around.Meyer said he has spent a lot of time thinking about how the running backs will split time on the field.“It’s a good issue to have, because Carlos did a lot for us a year ago, a lot. He’s a very talented running back and that was hard,” Meyer said. “(The suspension) was hard on everybody. It was hard on Carlos most of all, but it was hard on all of us, too, because Carlos did a lot of good things, and that whole situation, I don’t know. I’ll answer that later in the week. But Jordan Hall certainly has earned the right to touch the ball in a big way, so I’m not sure yet.”Hall said the return of Hyde will be a boost for the offense because there will be another player who can challenge opposing defenses.“Carlos can run the ball,” Hall said. “So it’s hard for a defense to prepare for two different type of backs and a quarterback that can run and plus receivers on the edge, so I mean, I’m an unselfish player, I’m just trying to win at the end of the day.”Hall rushed for a career-high 168 yards against California, but after the game, Meyer said it will be tough spreading the ball around evenly on offense in weeks to come.“It’s a lot of weapons that you have to worry about and with getting Carlos back, that’s just adding to the mixture and I just can’t wait to see him go this week,” Meyer said.Hall agreed it will be difficult to make everyone happy with so many play makers on offense.“There’s only one football. (We’ve) got to be unselfish to win,” Hall said. “We’re just trying to win at the end of the year.”The Buckeye running backs will get their chance at Ohio Stadium Saturday when OSU is set to take on Florida A&M at noon.
Members of the OSU women’s hockey team huddle before a game against Wisconsin at the OSU Ice Rink on Feb. 13. OSU lost, 2-0. Credit: Alaina Bartel / Lantern photographer
Ohio State junior guard C.J. Jackson (3) talks with head coach Chris Holtmann during a timeout in the first half of the game against Radford on Nov. 12. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorZero points, zero assists, four turnovers. Ohio State junior point guard C.J. Jackson’s statline was not good when he sat on the bench with head coach Chris Holtmann in his ear early in the first half.“At the beginning my mind was sped up a little bit,” Jackson said. “I was trying to make the home-run play and once [Holtmann] pulled me to the side he just told me to hit singles. And that’s what I tried to do once I came back in.”Jackson slowed his mind down and found his rhythm to overcome his rough start. The 6-foot-1 point guard helped lead Ohio State to an 82-72 victory against Radford at the Schottenstein Center Sunday. He finished with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Holtmann wants his point guards to be able to facilitate for others while avoiding turnovers. Jackson began the Buckeyes’ matchup with the Highlanders turning the ball over on the opening possession. Jackson proceeded to commit three more turnovers in the first seven minutes of the game before Holtmann subbed him out with 13:21 remaining in the first half.Senior forward Jae’Sean Tate said he and Jackson both have to work on reducing turnovers as the team’s primary ball-handlers, but praised his teammate’s ability to respond to adversity.“Once coach pulled him out I went over to him like, ‘Look bro, there’s a lot of basketball to be played,’” Tate said. “And once he got out there and saw a couple shots going in and hit the singles like coach said, then he just took over the game — more aggressive, he found his rhythm and he made everybody around him better too.”Holtmann only sat his starting point guard for 3:18 before calling his number to check back into the game. Despite leading 15-14, the Buckeyes had already committed seven turnovers while converting on only five shot attempts.After a two-minute lull in scoring for the Buckeyes, Jackson hit a 3-pointer to give Ohio State a 18-14 lead with 15:14 remaining in the first half. Jackson’s 3-point basket sparked a 13-0 Ohio State run and the Highlanders did not come within eight points for the remainder of the game.Holtmann said Jackson has been making great strides at the point guard position and commended his coachability and willingness to improve.“I thought he responded well,” Holtmann said. “Obviously outside of his turnovers, I thought he was pretty good defensively and I thought he — he can make shots, he can really shoot the ball.”The Eastern Florida State transfer played his first season at Ohio State last year, but only started nine games, primarily serving as Jaquon Lyle’s backup. Jackson’s stats were unimpressive. He shot below 40 percent and averaged less than six points per game. However, he came on strong to finish the season, averaging 10.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game in his final seven games.After Lyle quit the team in April and transferred to New Mexico, Jackson became the sole point guard on Ohio State’s roster. In his second season at Ohio State, Jackson has been thrust into a much larger role as the team’s floor general at the Division I level. Holtmann admitted there will be some growing pains for the JUCO transfer.“He’s got a big load, right,” Holtmann said. “He’s against pressure, he’s our primary ball-handler. We’re going to live through his mistakes. I’ve been really pleased with a lot of his growth.”Jackson hopes he’ll be able to avoid early statlines like he had Sunday and find his rhythm from the opening tip.
Genuine royalty met pop aristocracy at the Royal Variety Performance tonight, as Prince Charles shook hands with Lady Gaga.The singer also met the Duchess of Cornwall, who said: “My grandchildren call me Gaga”. Speaking during rehearsals for the big night, which is broadcast on ITV next Tuesday, Lance Corporal Jones said: “It’s a really exciting performance, telling a really poignant story which is really important to my family in particular, but it should also touch the hearts of many people watching around the country.”It’s a big, heart-warming moment for the forces – but I don’t want to spill the beans too much.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Fellow star Perri Kiely added: “Good old Jordan, we’ve missed him. Even I’ve never been away from him for this long.”He’s done so well out there with the trials and conquering his fears, we’re really proud of him.”The group won Britain’s Got Talent in 2009. Emeli Sande took to the stage at the Royal VarietyCredit:Matt Frost /ITV / Rex / Shutterstock Diversity’s Jordan Banjo appeared on I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!Credit:ITV / Rex / Shutterstock The Prince meets David WalliamsCredit:NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP / Getty Actress Sheridan Smith was supposed to be appearing at the performance, but had to pull out after her father died. Among the event’s performers are dance group Diversity, although one of their members, Jordan Banjo, was not able to join as he is on his way home from Australia, where he was been participating in I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here.Speaking during rehearsals for the Royal Variety, his older brother Ashley Banjo, 28, joked that he would meet Jordan at the airport with a snake, in a reference to his struggles with his phobia of the animals on the ITV programme. The Duchess donned a full-length red gown for the occasion, while her husband was dressed in a sharp black tuxedo.The royal couple also met Robbie Williams and charity bosses at the star-studded event at the Hammersmith Apollo.The Duchess was given flowers by the young granddaughter of Bill Kenwright, producer of the performance, before the royal couple took their seats. Credit:Max Mumby The Duchess of Cornwall met Robbie Williams and Lady GagaCredit:NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP / Getty The soldier, from Essex, blew the nation away with his magical illusions on the TV talent contest earlier this year, earning himself the opportunity to perform in front of a royal audience.L/Cpl Jones, 26, added: “I feel very privileged and honoured to be here, performing for the Royal Family as well, and then in front of the nation.”He said he remains passionate about his main job as a military musician, a role in which he performed in front of the Queen at her 90th birthday celebrations this year. Credit:NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP / Getty The show, which will be broadcast next week, is being hosted by comedian David Walliams.Walliams led a group of people to the royal box, asking Charles and Camilla “can I see your tickets please?”, before joking to the group: “There’s some riff-raff here sitting in your seats.”Gaga and Williams are among the performers at the show, alongside Sting and Emeli Sande, while magician and Britain’s Got Talent winner Richard Jones also takes to the stage.