Bulls

Illinois' All-Time baseball team

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Illinois' All-Time baseball team

Illinois' all-time baseball team is unique for at least two reasons: It features eight Hall of Famers, including three from the Nokomis area. And a ninth, Jim Thome, a designated hitter who has hit more than 600 homers, will likely punch a ticket to Cooperstown after he finally retires.The infield is set with Jim Bottomley at first, Red Schoendienst at second, Lou Boudreau at shortstop and Freddie Lindstrom at third. Kirby Puckett is one outfielder, Ray Schalk is the catcher and Red Ruffing and Robin Roberts are the starting pitchers.That was easy, right?Well, not really. Ruffing and Roberts were chosen over another Hall of Famer, Joe McGinnity, from Cornwall Township in Henry County. He won 246 games and had an ERA of 2.66 in 10 seasons from 1899 to 1908. He had seven 20-win seasons and two 30-win seasons. He pitched the Giants to the World Series championship in 1905.Nicknamed "Iron Man" because he once worked in an iron foundry, his nickname came to convey his longevity and durability. He routinely pitched in both games of doubleheaders and is said to have won more than 500 games in his professional career. He pitched his last game at age 52. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1946.So there are nine virtual locks on Illinois' all-time team. What about the other two outfield positions?It is difficult not to include Greg Luzinski in one outfield spot. A graduate of Niles Notre Dame, he made the phrase "Lu-Power" a household word among major league scouts who often compared future prospects to Luzinski's long-ball prowess.Luzinski, a 6-foot-1, 255-pounder, joined the White Sox after playing a key role in the Phillies' drive to the world championship in 1980. His two game-winning hits in the National League playoff series against the Astros paved the way for their World Series victory over the Royals. In 1983, he hit a then record 32 homers for a designated hitter.The other outfield post? One-time Cub Dave Kingman gets the nod, at least for the time being over rising star Curtis Granderson. Kingman hit 442 homers in his career. He is the first player to hit 400 or more homers without being inducted into the Hall of Fame.Here is Illinois' all-time team:Firstbase:Jim Bottomley, Nokomis: Described as "the best clutch hitter I ever saw" by one-time Cubs manager Frankie Frisch, Bottomley drove in 100 or more runs for six years in a row for the Cardinals. He set a major league record with 12 in one game. He was the National League's MVP in 1928.

Others: Ted Kluszewski, Argo; Phil Cavaretta, Lane Tech; Dave Bergman, Maine South; Scott Stahoviak, Carmel; Bill Skowron, Weber; Dave Christianson, Kennedy; Art Grzeskowiak, Morton East andRobert Jones, Proviso East.

Second base: Red Schoendienst, Germantown: A 10-time All-Star, he played 19 years with the Cardinals, Giants and Braves and managed the Cardinals from 1965 through 1976. A switch-hitter, he averaged .289 and had 2,449 hits in his career. He was a member of five World Series-winning teams as a player, manager and coach. His National League record, .9934 fielding average in 1956, stood for 30 years.Others: John Castino, New Trier; Jack Perconte, Joliet Catholic; Scott Spezio, Morris; Don Kolloway, Blue Island; Chuck Hiller, McHenry andMike Woodard, Proviso East. Third base: Freddie Lindstrom, Chicago (Loyola): After a tryout with the Cubs didn't pan out, he signed a contract with the Giants as a 16-year-old sophomore out of Loyola Academy. From 1924 to 1936, he had a .311 batting average. At 23, he hit .358. Two years later, he hit .379. In 1930, legendary Giants manager John McGraw ranked Lindstrom ninth among the top 20 players of the previous quarter centuryOthers: John Castino, New Trier; Joe Zdeb, Maine South; Joe Karmeris, Reavis; Ray Jablonski, Kelly; Doug Rader, Glenbrook North; Pete Mackanin, Brother Rice and Dave Wilhelmi, Joliet Catholic.Shortstop: Lou Boudreau, Harvey (Thornton): After leading Thornton's basketball team to the state high school championship game for three yearsin a row from 1933 to 1935, he starred in basketball and baseball at Illinois. He was an eight-timeAll-Star and was manager and American League MVP of the Indians' World Championship team in 1948. He won the American League batting title in 1944 with a .327 average.Others: Chico Walker, Tilden; Jim Walewander, Maine South; Jeff Jackson, Shawn Livsay, Simeon; Kelly Dransfeldt, Morris; Aaron Capista, Joliet Catholic; Sammy Esposito, Fenger; Dal Maxvill, Granite City; Ducky Schofield, Springfield andDick Schofield, Springfield.Outfield:Kirby Puckett, Chicago (Calumet): In a 12-year major league career,all with the Twins, he became the franchise's all-time leader in hits, runs, doubles and total bases. At the time of his retirement, his .318 batting average was the highest by any right-handed hitter in the American League since Joe DiMaggio. A 10-time all-star, he was the second player to record 2,000 hits during his first 10 years. He led the Twins to two world titles.Outfield: Greg Luzinski, Niles (Notre Dame): He played for the Phillies from 1970 to 1980 and for the White Sox from 1981 to 1984. He averaged .275 with 307 homers and 1,128 RBI. He was a four-time all-star. He was MVP runner-up in 1975 when he led the National League with 120 RBI and in 1977 when he posted career highs with a .309 batting average, 39 homers and 130 RBI.Outfield: Dave Kingman, Mount Prospect (Prospect): At 6-foot-6, he was recognized as one of the most feared sluggers of the 1970s and 1980s. From 1971 to 1986, he played with eight teams and accumulated 442 homers and 1,210 RBI. He led the National League in homers in 1979 and 1982, was a three-time all-star and was American League Comeback Player of the Year in 1984. His best season was in 1988 with the Cubs when he batted .288 with 48 homers, 115 RBI, 97 runs scored and a .613 slugging percentage.Others: Curtis Granderson, Thornton Fractional South; Larry Murray, Phillips; Brett Butler, Libertyville; Mike Marshall, Buffalo Grove; Jesse Barfield, Joliet Central; Brian Rosinski, Evanston; Ron Kittle, Gary (Ind.) Wirt; Rich Becker, West Aurora; Wes Chamberlain, Simeon; Les Filkins, Chicago Washington; Alex Rowell, North Chicago; Richard Coleman, Lane Tech; Eric Shellenbach, Barrington; Jesse Lucious, Rich East; Keith Thomas, Kenwood; Mark Doran, Thornwood; Bo Flowers, Walther Lutheran; Jim Aducci, Brother Rice; Hank Bauer, East St. Louis; Jody Gerut, Willowbrook; Johnny Groth, Chicago Latin; Frankie Gustine, Hoopeston; Del Unser, Decatur; Jayson Werth, Chatham Glenwood; Johnny Wyrostek, East St. Louis and Dick Wakefield, Chicago. Catcher:Ray Schalk, Nokomis: A defensive standout for the White Sox, he led the league in fielding percentage eight times and putouts nine times. He was the first to catch four no-hit games. His record of 30 stolen bases by a watcher in 1916 stood for 66 years.Others: Tom Haller, Lockport; Dan Wilson, Barrington; Jeff Reed, Joliet est; Erik Pappas, Mount Carmel; Todd Hundley, Fremd; Bob Cummings, Brother ice; Phil Masi, Austin; Ray Fosse, Marion; Gene Lamont, Kirkland Hiawatha; Mke Uremovich, Waukegan; Robert Triplett, Phillips; Nick Trzesnick, Andrew; Harry Chiti, Kincaid; Bruce Edwards, Quincy; Jim Sundberg, Galesburg and Joe Gerardi, Peoria Spalding.Pitcher: Red Ruffing, Nokomis: A one-time outfielder, he became a pitcher after losing four toes on his left foot in a mine accident as a youngster. He won 273 games in his career, won seven of nine World Series decisions for the Yankees, was instrumental in seven pennant winners and won 20 or more games from 1936 to 1939.Pitcher:Robin Roberts, Springfield (Lanphier): In an 18-year career, mostly with the Phillies, he won 286 games and had an ERA of 3.41 with 2,357 strikeouts. In 1950, he led the Phillies to their first National League pennant in 35 years. He was the Phillies' first 20-game winner since Grover Cleveland Alexander in 1917. He was a seven-time all-star and two-time National League Pitcher of the Year. He won 28 games in 1952.Others: Bill Gullickson, Mark Grant, Mike Grace, Joliet Catholic; Steve Trout, Mark Mulder, Thornwood; Denny McLain, Mount Carmel; Jim Bouton, Bloom; Paul Splittorf, Fritz Peterson, Arlington; Scott Sanderson, Glenbrook North; Jim Clancy, Ed Farmer, St. Rita; Bob Kipper, Aurora Central Catholic; Kevin Foster, Evanston; John Ericks, Chicago Christian; Marvin Freeman, Vocational; Charlie Leibrandt, Loyola; Dan Schatzeder, Willowbrook; Byron Von Hoff, Batavia; Jim O'Toole, Leo; Scott Jones, Hinsdale South; Jeff Scott, Kankakee Eastridge; Larry Monroe, Forest View; Tom Brennan, Oak Lawn; Dave Otto, Elk Grove; Don Schulze, Lake Park; Ben Shelton, Scott Nelson, Oak Park; Brian DuBois, Reed-Custer; Jim Caine, St. Charles; Kris Honel, Providence; Mike Bowden, Waubonsie Valley; Buzz Capra, Lane Tech; Jason Frasor, Oak Forest; Tom Gorzelanny, Marist; Warren Hacker, Marissa; Bob Turley, Troy; Dutch Leonard, Auburn; Rick Reuschel, Quincy; Don Stanhouse, Du Quoin; Johnny Ridney, Oak Park; Russ Meyer, Peru; Larry Gura, Joliet East and Joe McGinnity, Cornwall.Designated hitter: Jim Thome, Peoria (Limestone): He is the eighth player to hit more than 600 home runs in the major leagues. Widely considered as a future Hall of Famer, He has played for seven teams since 1991. A five-time All-Star, he has more than 2,200 hits and 1,600 RBI in his career. He hit a career high of 52 homers in 2002.Others: Cliff Floyd, Thornwood; Curtis Parham, Thornridge; Jim Dwyer, Brother Rice.

Lauri Markkanen, Lonzo Ball making rookie history as they prepare to face each other

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen, Lonzo Ball making rookie history as they prepare to face each other

It'd be a stretch to say that any rookie is having a better or more impactful season than Philadelphia's Ben Simmons. The Sixers are 9-7, and Simmons looks like a 10-year veteran with his decision making, athleticism and all-around feel for the game. He's the frontrunner for MVP, but there are two other rookies vying to catch Simmons and win that title. And they'll face each other tomorrow night in Los Angeles.

Lonzo Ball was the second pick in June's NBA Draft, and fellow Pac-12 freshman standout Lauri Markkanen went five picks later to the Bulls, who had traded up as part of the Jimmy Butler trade. Both players were drafted to rebuilding franchises - the Lakers still working out the kinks in the post-Kobe era, and the Bulls beginning their rebuild after dealing Butler - and were expected to make immediate impacts on their franchises.

Ball's was more pronounced, as the Lakers dealt D'Angelo Russell to the Nets on draft night to free up space at the point for their prized No. 2 pick. Markkanen's came more abruptly, as the 20-year-old was thrust into the starting lineup after Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic's fight put Mirotic in the hospital and Portis on paid leave. However they got there, both players have been impressive in their early NBA careers.

Starting with Markkanen, the Bulls knew the 7-foot stretch forward was a perfect build for the modern NBA. He set freshman 3-point and rebounding records that, since 1992, only some guy named Kevin Durant had reached. After a successful summer in Eurobasket he was set for a large role with the Bulls, and he's succeeded in just about every aspect. His 15.6 points per game are third only to Simmons and the other Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma, and his 8.1 rebounds are second to Simmons. And his 2.6 made 3-pointers per game are most among rookies, and well past No. 2 on the list (Utah's Donovan Mitchell, 1.9 per game).

In fact, Markkanen would become the only rookie in NBA history to average at least 8.0 rebounds and 2.5 3-pointers per game. The 2.5 3-pointers would break a rookie record currently held by Damian Lillard (2.3 per game). The closest a rookie has ever come to reaching those marks was Stephen Curry, who averaged 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 3-pointers per game as a rookie. Allen Iverson also met the 4/2 threshold, but that's a far cry from Markkanen's 8/2.5 mark. Paul Pierce's rookie season saw him average 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 3-pointers.

But that's not all. If he kept those averages up he would be just the fifth player EVER to accomplish those thresholds. The others are James Harden, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins and Antonie Walker, who naturally did it twice.

So, yeah, Markkanen is having quite a rookie year.

So, too, is Ball. While he's had some real issues with efficiency, slashing .313/.228/.462 and has committed 2.6 turnovers per game, his counting stats have been outstanding. Ball is averaging 8.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists, and that puts him in equally impressive company.

Simmons has reached those numbers this season, too, averaging 18.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.0 assists. You may have heard of the other two players, named Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson.

The two future Hall of Famers averaged these numbers:

Robertson: 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 9.7 assists (missing averaging a triple-double for the season by 20 assists)

Johnson: 18.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists

Ball is also averaging 0.9 blocks, and no other rookie guard has ever accomplished that. It might not always look pretty for Markkanen and Ball as they feel their way out in the NBA, but just remember watching these two that they're in the midst of making history in the new era of the NBA.

Bears need Mitch Trubisky to become a closer, but teammates see it coming

Bears need Mitch Trubisky to become a closer, but teammates see it coming

With Sunday’s game on the line and the Bears owning the football at their 17-yard line, the offense needed a drive for field goal position to tie the Detroit Lions. But rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, with 1:03 on the clock, wasn’t thinking 3 points. He was thinking touchdown and a win, and the huddle knew it.

“I think that's his mindset all the time,” said guard Josh Sitton, who recognized something familiar in Trubisky’s face that Sitton had seen over his years with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. “He's a play-maker, he's got all the confidence in the world in himself and the guys around him.

“You can just see it on his face. I don't think he really says anything, he doesn't really need to say anything, you can kind of see it, by that look in his eyes. He's got what it takes to be a great player in this league.”

It was not intended to be any even remote comparison with Rodgers. More than eyes are involved in that. But while the drive Sunday ended in failure in the form of a missed field goal, something was noted in the process.

The 13-play drive for the Bears’ first touchdown Sunday was the longest sustained by the offense under Trubisky. And it was a statement possession for an offense that had not scored a first-quarter touchdown in nine prior games.

But if a negative among the many Trubisky positives was the fourth time in five situations that Trubisky has failed to direct a game-winning or –tying drive, which goes a long way to answering why the Bears are 2-4 under him. Actually the number of come-up-short drives is more than those if you count things like a three-and-out at Baltimore in regulation before Trubisky led a seven-play drive for a winning overtime field goal.

Still, looking a little deeper, Trubisky has gotten progressively “closer” to being the kind of finisher that the Bears have needed for decades. At the very least, Trubisky is keeping drives alive longer and longer, if not ending them with points. In these situations:

Vs.                     4th qtr/OT situation

Minnesota         1 play, interception ends potential winning drive

Baltimore          3 plays, punt, regulation ends in tie

                           7 plays, game-winning FG in OT

Carolina            Game already decided

New Orleans    2 plays, interception ends drive for tie

Green Bay        5 plays, ball over on downs on drive for tie

Detroit               11 plays, missed FG for tie

Within the huddle, the team confidence in Trubisky and vice versa has clearly grown, regardless of outcome, and that is something the offense did not consistently have in Mike Glennon, Matt Barkley, Brian Hoyer, Jay Cutler, Jimmy Clausen or even Josh McCown.

“[Trubisky] is just growing and growing and you just see it,” Sittyon said. “You saw the talent right away and he just keeps ... the nuances of the game, he just keeps learning and learning. He gives you all the confidence in the world as a guy in the locker room and on the field, in the huddle.

“He has that look in his eye where you're thinking 'All right, he's going to get the job done.’”

Staff addition? Probably not but Bears have an opening

Taking a morning-after look around the NFL after the Bears’ 27-24 loss to the Detroit Lions:

Something to probably dismiss but at least worth mentioning… .

The Denver Broncos on Monday fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, the same Mike McCoy who handled the Denver offense as John Fox’s OC. Don’t expect anything in-season, certainly not at this point, but the situation does offer an interesting future option if somehow Fox sees the fourth and final year of his contract, even looking further down the coaching road irrespective of Fox’s presence.

McCoy was ousted from a foundering Broncos situation, presumably over not being able to make anything much out of Trevor Simian

McCoy, who was the mix of candidates and interviewed to succeed Lovie Smith back in 2012, wouldn’t necessarily be brought in as offensive coordinator by Fox or anyone else. What about the role of “consultant” or “assistant head coach” added to the Bears offensive staff?

The Bears have neither position on the staff currently, and haven’t had an assistant head coach since Rod Marinelli had that as part of his title from 2009-2012 under Lovie Smith. Marinelli, like McCoy, had been a head coach as well.

Notably, Fox kept McCoy on his staffs when Fox was hired both in Carolina and Denver, a good measure of Fox’s take on McCoy’s offensive-coaching skills. Fox added the job of passing-game coordinator to McCoy’s duties as quarterbacks coach with Carolina in 2007-08. Since then McCoy coached Peyton Manning in Denver and Philip Rivers in San Diego.

Also notably, perhaps in the other direction, Fox might have brought McCoy to Chicago after the latter was fired as Chargers head coach after last season. That didn’t happen, possibly because McCoy instead wanted a full OC position, which wasn’t open with Loggains in place.

Offensive consultants aren’t necessarily staff bloating; they have been referred to as “coaches for coaches.” Bruce Arians brought in longtime OC Tom Moore when Arians became Arizona Cardinals head coach (following Phil Emery’s decision to go with Marc Trestman over Arians). Moore previously served as offensive coordinator, then senior offensive coordinator, then offensive consultant through the Peyton Manning years in Indianapolis. Moore subsequently became offensive consultant for the Jets (2011) and Tennessee Titans (2012), the latter stint while Loggains was offensive coordinator.

Longtime offensive line coach Jim McNally has been a “consultant” with the Jets (2011-12) and Bengals (2012-this season). Randy Brown was a kicking consultant working under Bears special teams coaches in the Dave Wannstedt and Dick Jauron regimes, going on to work under John Harbaugh in Philadelphia and Baltimore.