Cubs

IBCA to conduct history meeting

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IBCA to conduct history meeting

The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association will conduct a historical meeting at Redbird Arena in Bloomington at noon on Monday, Jan. 2 for the purpose of gathering information and memorabilia for the IBCA's new Hall of Fame Museum in Danville.

According to Bruce Firchau, a member of the IBCA's board of directors and chairman for the Hall of Fame Museum, the purpose of hosting and inviting basketball historians and media to this meeting "is to share our excitement with the media and historians, to acknowledge their expertise and to ask for their assistance in sharing their knowledge and ideas."

At the meeting, Firchau said the IBCA will communicate its goals, visions and themes to make the Hall of Fame Museum an exciting, interactive, historical site to visit. The IBCA's Hall of Fame Museum, scheduled to open in 2013, will be located in the David S. Palmer Arena at 100 West Main Street in downtown Danville.

"Our goal is to establish a connection between the media and historians throughout the state and the museum," said Firchau, who also is head basketball coach at Westminster Christian High School in Elgin. "This will provide a platform to share storied knowledge of Illinois basketball in perpetuity with the thousands of visitors that will make the pilgrimage to the museum in Danville."

I couldn't help but think of all of the wonderful voices that have been silenced in recent years -- Harry Fitzhugh, Vergil Fletcher, Dike Eddleman, Bobby Joe Mason, Gene Cross, Sam Miranda, Don Schnake, Walt Moore, Ken Barnes, Larry Hawkins, Lee Umbles, Jim Brown, Red Mottlow, Bill Chesbrough, Luther Bedford, Bob Hambric, Frank Lollino, Billy Harris, Sherrill Hanks, Jerry Leggett, John Thiel, Jake Fendley, Arthur Hicks, Ken "Preacher" McBride, Deacon Davis, Johnny "Red" Kerr.

I had a glorious opportunity to interview most of them while researching my book, "Sweet Charlie, Dike, Cazzie, and Bobby Joe: High School Basketball In Illinois," published by University of Illinois Press. But now they are gone. What a shame we don't have their voices on tape.

But here are some voices that could give today's generation of high school basketball players and coaches and future generations a wonderful and comprehensive education into the way it was, how it got to be the way it is and the movers and shakers who did it:

1940s: Johnny Orr, Ron Bontemps, Taylorville: Ted Beach, Rod Fletcher, Champaign; Dick Foley, Paris; Max Hooper, Mount Vernon.

1950s: Ted Caiazza, La Grange; Sweet Charlie Brown, Du Sable; Paul and Phil Judson, Bill Schulz, Hebron; Nolden Gentry, West Rockford; Mannie Jackson, Governor Vaughn, Edwardsville; John Tidwell, Herrin; Terry Bethel, Thom Jackson, Collinsville; Tom Cole, Springfield; George Wilson, Marshall, Dave Downey, Canton; Bill Small, West Aurora; Chico Vaughn, Tamms.

1960s: Cazzie Russell, Carver; Bogie Redmon, Fred Riddle, Rodger Bohnenstiehl, Dennis Pace, Tom Parker, Collinsville; Dave Golden, Pekin; LaMarr Thomas, Thornton; Rich Falk, Galva; Jerry Sloan, Jim Burns, McLeansboro; Don Freeman, Madison; Rich Bradshaw, Marshall; Eugene Ford, Crane; Dale Kelley, Galesburg; Terry Gamber, Mount Vernon; Dave Scholz, Decatur.

1970s: Rickey Green, John Robinson, Hirsch; Quinn Buckner, Thornridge; Audie Matthews, Bloom; Joe Ponsetto, Glenn "Doc" Rivers, Proviso East; Levi Cobb, Morgan Park; Pete Boesen, Jeff Baker, Maine South; Isiah Thomas, St.
Joseph; Mark Aguirre, Eddie Johnson, Westinghouse; Sonny Parker, Farragut; Ronnie Lester, Dunbar; Bo Ellis, Parker; Jay Shidler, Lawrenceville.

1980s: Russell Cross, Manley; Bruce Douglas, Michael Payne, Quincy; Marcus Liberty, Levertis Robinson, King; Nick Anderson, Deon Thomas, Simeon; Melvin McCants, Jamie Farr, Mount Carmel; Ed Horton, Springfield Lanphier; Walter Downing, Providence; Marty Simmons, Lawrenceville; Brian Sloan, McLeansboro; Eric Anderson, St. Francis de Sales.

1990s: Sergio McClain, Marcus Griffin, Howard Nathan, Peoria Manual; Antwaan Randle El, Melvin Ely, Thornton; Quentin Richardson, Whitney Young; Kevin Garnett, Ronnie Fields, Farragut; Rashard Griffith, King; Jerry Gee, St. Martin de Porres; Antoine Walker, Mount Carmel; Chris Collins, Glenbrook North; Mike Robinson, Peoria Richwoods; A.J. Guyton, Peoria Central.

The Chicago Catholic League, which didn't join the Illinois High School Association until 1974-75, is frequently overlooked in the discussion. But old-timers recall how intense the PublicCatholic championship games at old Chicago Stadium were and how many great players the Catholic League produced over the years.

Shelly Stark, a keen observer of Chicago basketball since 1950, rates Sweet Charlie Brown and Paxton Lumpkin of Du Sable, Clarence Wardlaw of Crane, Jamie Brandon of King and Abe Booker of Wells as the top five Public League players he has seen, rating them ahead of Cazzie Russell, Tommy Hawkins, George Wilson and Billy Harris.

Stark also rates Arthur Hicks of St. Elizabeth, Jack Stephens and Greg Carney of Mount Carmel, Tony Parker of Leo and Sam Puckett of Hales Franciscan as the top five Catholic Leaguers he has seen, rating them ahead of LaRue Martin, Kevin Boyle, Steve Krafcisin, Lloyd Walton, Jerry Gee, Antoine Walker and Eric Anderson.

Firchau has a "wish list" of memorabilia he is looking for to fill the new museum--old pictures, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, recordings of school songs, basketball programs and scorebooks and media guides, trophies, uniforms and warm-ups, old shoes, autographed basketballs, letter jackets, cheerleading and mascot uniforms, pennants, even old lockers and scoreboards and players' benches.

And if anyone knows how to get their hands on the huge cutout of the state of Illinois with lights for the participating towns that used to hang on the wall in old Huff Gym...well, contact ilhoopshall.com or call (217)
442-3865 or e-mail Firchau at firchau@sbcglobal.net.

When the IBCA was organized in 1971, the vision of founders Chuck Rolinski of Toluca and Sherrill Hanks of Quincy was to have a permanent building to display and tell the rich history of all levels of basketball played in Illinois.

The new Hall of Fame museum will combine videos, exhibits, photographs and memorabilia and also will honor the players, coaches, officials, teams, media and others who have impacted the game.

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

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USA TODAY

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

Kris Bryant was the 2016 National League MVP. And despite having what could be considered an even better campaign this past season, he finished seventh in voting for the 2017 edition of the award.

The NL MVP was awarded to Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on Thursday night, a fine choice, though it was nearly impossible to make a poor choice, that's how many fantastic players there were hitting the baseball in the NL this season.

After Stanton, Cinicinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto finished second, earning the same amount of first-place votes and losing out to Stanton by just one point. Then came Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon ahead of Bryant.

But there was someone who thought Bryant deserved to repeat as the NL MVP. Yes, Bryant earned a first-place vote — as did everyone else mentioned besides Rendon, for that matter — causing a bit of a social-media stir considering the Cubs third baseman, despite his great season, perhaps wasn't as standout a candidate as some of the other guys who finished higher in the voting.

So the person who cast that first-place vote for Bryant, MLB.com's Mark Bowman, wrote up why he felt Bryant deserved to hoist the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award for the second straight year.

"In the end, I chose Bryant because I believe he made the greatest impact, as his second-half production fueled the successful turnaround the Cubs experienced after the All-Star break," Bowman wrote.

"Though I don't believe the MVP must come from a playoff contender, in an attempt to differentiate the value provided by each of these three players (Bryant, Votto and Stanton), I chose to reward the impact made by Bryant, who produced the NL's fourth-best OPS (.968) after the All-Star break, when the Cubs distanced themselves from a sub-.500 record and produced an NL-best 49 wins."

It's easy for Cubs fans and observers to follow that logic, as the Cubs took off after the All-Star break following a disappointing first half. As good as Bryant was all season long, his second-half numbers, as Bowman pointed out, were especially great. He hit .325 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage over his final 69 games of the regular season, hitting 11 home runs, knocking out 21 doubles and driving in 35 runs during that span.

Perhaps the craziest thing about this year's MVP race and Bryant's place in it is that Bryant was just as good if not better than he was in 2016, when he was almost unanimously named the NL MVP. After slashing .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers, 102 RBIs, 35 doubles, 75 walks and 154 strikeouts in 2016, Bryant slashed .295/.409/.537 with 29 homers, 73 RBIs, 38 doubles, 95 walks and 128 strikeouts in 2017.

Of course, the competition was much steeper this time around. But Bryant was given the MVP award in 2016 playing for a 103-win Cubs team that was bursting with offensive firepower, getting great seasons from Anthony Rizzo (who finished third in 2016 NL MVP voting), as well as Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. While the Cubs actually scored more runs this season and undoubtedly turned it on after the All-Star break on a team-wide basis, Bryant was far and away the best hitter on the team in 2017, with many other guys throughout the lineup having notably down years and/or experiencing down stretches throughout the season. Hence, making Bryant more, say it with me, valuable.

So Bowman's argument about Bryant's impact on the Cubs — a team that still scored 822 runs, won 92 games and advanced to the National League Championship Series — is a decently convincing one.

Check out Bowman's full explanation, which dives into some of Bryant's advanced stats.

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

In the latest edition of HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan makes his picks for the weekend.

Kap made his picks with the help of Eddie Olczyk this week.