The “Say Hey Kid” Willie Mays turns 90-(REPRINT FROM MAY 14 2021)

By Lenny Moon

THE MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL COMMUNITY LOST ONE OF IT’S ICONS ON JUNE 18 2024 IN HALL OF FAME MEMBER WILLIE HOWARD MAYS. PERSONALLY, THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT THE BIRMINGHAM, AL NATIVE IS THE GREATEST THE GAME FORMERLY KNOWN AS “AMERICA’S PASTIME” HAS EVER PRODUCED. THAT CONVERSATION STARTS WITH MR MAYS, THEN IT’S SUBJECTIVE FROM THAT POINT. THE ARTICLE CONNECTED WITH THIS CAPTION WAS POSTED DURING lennymoonsports.com COMMEMORATION OF THE “SAY HEY” KID’S 90TH YEAR OF BIRTH. IN CELEBRATION OF ONE OF MY CHILDHOOD HEROES RECENT TRANSITION, WE AT LENNYMOONSPORTS.COM DECIDED TO RE-PUBLISH THE EARLIER ARTICLE, JUST THE WAY IT WAS PRINTED THREE YEARS AGO +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Arguably, the greatest player the game of baseball has ever witnessed has gracefully turned 90 years of age. Born May 6, 1931, Willie Howard Mays in this author’s humble opinion was clearly the greatest five-tool master of the diamond “ever” (power, speed, arm, defense and hit for average). The only argument should be who was second, third etc. If the criteria is the greatest impact on “America’s Pastime” then the argument shifts into perhaps Jackie Robinson or Babe Ruth. But none yet born has been able to impact the game between the lines in as many ways as the Birmingham, Al native, whose career spanned from 1951-73.

Widely known for his power, the San Francisco Giants legend is currently sixth on the all-time home run list with 660 round trippers, trailing only Barry Bonds (762), Henry Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Alex Rodriguez (696) and still active Albert Pujois (667). Let’s delve into the aforementioned sluggers ahead of Mays. Three of the five ahead of “The Say Hey Kid” performed in the steroid era to go along with the “watered down” pitching  staffs in more contemporary times. The exception on the list is of course  Aaron who was Mays’ contemporary and actually  a Negro Leagues product as well. Mays played for the Birmingham Barons (1948-50) before being signed by the New York Giants in 1951. “The Hammer” played for the Indianapolis Clowns (1952) prior to being signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1954 (Robinson integrated the big leagues in 1947 when signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers). Another variable is that the Mays/Aaron era was matched with some of the most impressive pitchers in any era of MLB.

During the “Say Hey Kid’s” regime, hurlers such as Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, Juan Marichal, Steve Carlton, Whitey Ford, Fergie Jenkins, Gaylord Perry, Phil Niekro, Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Warren Spahn among others are all represented in Cooperstown as hall of famers. The ballparks were much larger making it more challenging to knock one out of the park. With the continued expansion of MLB franchises, a pitcher who would have otherwise labored in AA or AAA level competition were now major leaguers in the modern game. As for Babe Ruth, an asterisk would be in order in that he did not compete during the integrated segment of the game’s history obviously no fault of his own doing. The Babe will and should be credited with introducing the long ball to the game and was the first to post 60 home runs in a single season. Back to the versatility of Mays, that’s just the power segment of the five-tool star’s skill set.

Defensively, no one tracked balls hit into the alleys of MLB ballparks better than Mr Mays. Perhaps the most widely played catch by any outfielder transpired during the 1954 World Series when the Giants were pitted against Cleveland in the cavernous Polo Grounds in New York. On a full sprint while heading toward the wall and back to the infield, Mays snared the clout by the Indians Vic Wertz and in one motion uncorked an accurate throw into second base to prohibit the runners from advancing. He was later quoted as saying that the play was nothing special indicating that was fairly routine by his standards but magnified because it was the World Series. His patented “basket catch” was a style that he incorporated to insure that the ball would remain playable as long as he “kept the play (and the ball) in front of him” as only he could explain.

All told, there simply has not been a more complete player I the history of the league than Willie Mays. If the situation called for it, he proved that he could steal bases as he led the National League in four consecutive seasons, earned a record 12 Gold Gloves, finished with 3283 hits, 2062 runs, 1903 runs batted in and wrapped up his incredible career with a .302 batting average. Mays was selected to 24 All-Star Games, was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team among many, many other accolades. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re living in the midst of the greatest baseball player who ever lived and LennyMoonSports would like to take this opportunity to wish the “Say Hey Kid, Willie Mays” a Happy 90th and continue to shine as royalty to America’s Pastime.

TO MY DISMAY, I NEVER HAD THE OPPORTUNITY OF INTERVIEWING MY CHILDHOOD HERO WILLIE MAYS, BUT FOUND MYSELF IN HIS COMPANY ON A COUPLE OF OCCASSIONS. ONE THAT COMES FROM THE MEMORY BANK WAS WHEN HIS GOD SON BARRY BONDS WAS CHASING THE SINGLE-SEASON HOME RUN MARK DURING THE NEXT TO LAST SERIES THE GIANTS PLAYED IN 2001 IN HOUSTON VS THE ASTROS. MAYS WAS TRAVELING WITH BARRY WHEN HE TIED THE 70-HR MARK ESTABLISHED BY MARK MCGWIRE ON THREE SEASONS EARLIER. THE SAN FRANCISCO STAR SLUGGER WOULD GO ON TO ECLIPSE THE EXISTING STANDARD THE LAST SERIES VS THE DODGERS A FEW DAYS LATER JUST PRIOR TO THE END OF THE REGULAR SEASON. BACK TO THE HOUSTON STOP, ALTHOUGH BONDS WAS DOING THE SELECTED MEDIA SESSIONS, I WAS NOT ABLE TO MAKE IT HAPPEN ON THAT OCCASION.

THE SECOND NEAR OPPORTUNITY WAS WHEN THE ASTROS HOSTED THE MLB ALL-STAR GAME IN 2004 AND CELEBRATED THE GAME WITH THE PRESENTATION OF ALL OF THE LIVING MEMBERS OF THE 500-HR CLUB. MAYS TRAILED ONLY HANK AARON AND BABE RUTH AT THAT TIME AND THE CLUTTER OF MEDIA TYPES FROM AROUND THE GLOBE DID NOT ALLOW AN OPPORTUNITY TO PENETRATE THAT ENVIROMENT LEAVING ME (0-2). NONTHELESS, WHAT HE DID SHARE WITH ALL OF WE ADMIRERS WAS THE PRIVILEDGE OF WITNESSING THE GREATEST TO EVER “LACE UP THE SPIKES” DURING HIS ILLUSTRIOUS MLB CAREER.

NBA Logo passes at 86 yrs-NBA Finals pits Two Black Head Coaches-BCFHOF Legacy Photo

By Lenny Moon

The National Basketball Association community lost one of it’s icons recently with the passing of Jerome “Jerry” West. Known as “Mr Clutch” during his Hall of Fame career and the “NBA Logo” in more contemporary times, the Chelyan, West Virginia native was one of the most productive players the league has ever witnessed. His active playing career spanned from 1960-1974 which suggests that his impact on the game as a player would be foreign to the larger, younger roundball demographic.

West was proclaimed as the “NBA Logo” for bonafide reasons. Without going into the weeds with his vast amount of hardwood accomplishments in NBA arenas, Jerry was an NBA All-Star every single season that he laced them up (14 seasons). He was selected as a 10 x All-NBA First Team and a 4 x NBA All-Defensive First Team. The prolific Laker high octane scorer earned the status of being selected as a member of the NBA Anniversary Teams 35th, 50th and 75th respectively. His 14 year career scoring average was 27.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg and 6.7 apg. After being turned away by Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics six times in the NBA Finals during the 60s, his Lakers finally broke through in 1972 with a 69-13 regular season slate and procured his only NBA championship vs the New York Knicks in five games.

Jerry West was a superstar of the game, whose high level of play elevated when the stakes were higher in the playoffs. He has been the only player in league history to earn NBA Finals MVP in 1969 as a member of a losing team when his Lakers fell to Russell’s Celtics 4-3 and averaging nearly 38 ppg. His range was comparable to Steph Curry (without the 3-point line), excellent handle and at 6-3 was taller than most matchups during his era. He would go on to evolve as one of the most prolific player personnel talents in the league during his post playing days. It was West that placed his chips on a 17-year old teenager from Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania that would go on to become a legend in his own right. That youngster was Kobe Bean Bryant; nuff said. As General Manager of the Lakers, the team would amass six championships during the “Showtime Lakers” era ( led by hall of famers Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy) and ultimately the Kobe-Shaq era.

In the 75 year history of what we now recognize as the National Basketball Association, there have only been two occasions when both sidelines were engineered by Black head coaches. At press time, we’re witnessing a third with the Boston Celtics vs Dallas Mavericks in the 2024 NBA Finals. Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla who never played a minute of NBA ball, became an assistant with Boston in 2019 where he served for 3 seasons in that capacity. Following the abrupt firing of his former boss Ime Udoka, the then 33-year old became the league’s youngest head coach. A point guard while at West Virginia University, the 6-2 former Mountaineer product was an assistant at Fairmont State prior to being bumped up to the grand stage. In a relatively short period of time, Mazzulla moved at a mercurial pace. Following his inheriting the reins in Boston as interim head coach last season, the soft spoken leader has propelled his team to two consecutive Atlantic Division titles including posting the best regular season record (64-18) in his first campaign as the official head coach and an appearance in the NBA Finals.

The second of the two Black head coaches facing off in the 2024 NBA Finals is Bay Area native Jason Kidd. Unlike his counterpart with Boston, Kidd was one of the top point guards in the country on both the collegiate and professional levels. Arriving on the college scene as the National High School Player of the Year, he chose local California-Berkley University where the 6-4 point guard’s play led to his earning Pac-10 Player of the Year (1994) and having his jersey retired by his alma mater in spite of playing for the Bears only two seasons. Kidd would go on to become the 2nd overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks. Following his productive 20-year NBA career as a player (including a NBA championship with Dallas in 2011 and two Gold Medals), “J-Kidd” was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018. As a coach, Kidd has led all three of the teams he’s been the head coach (also Brooklyn and Milwaukee) to the playoffs. Since his return to Dallas in the coaching arena in 2021, he’s guided the Mavericks to 50 or more wins two of the last three campaigns including the 2024 NBA Finals appearance. Jason snared a championship ring as an assistant with Los Angeles Lakers in 2020 during the infamous “bubble” played in Orlando, Fl. (The other Black coach matchup in the history of the NBA Finals occurred in 1975 when Al Attles and his Golden State Warriors swept the Washington Bullets coached by K.C. Jones 4-0. The most recent occurrence was 2016 when the Cleveland Cavaliers led by Tyronne Lue bested the Steph Curry powered Warriors 4-3 who were coached by Mike Brown (stepped in for a disabled Steve Kerr).

Among the Black College Football Hall of Fame inductees in attendance during the 15th annual induction ceremony at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Ga:
Antoine Bethea (2024)-14 yr NFL/ Howard, Mel Blount (2011)-PFHOF 1989/ Southern University, Harry Carson (2012)-PFHOF 2006/ South Carolina State, Ben Coates (2022)-SB XXXV Champion/ Livingstone College, Richard Dent (2015)-PFHOF 2011/ Tennessee State, Jimmy Giles (2021)-4X NFL Pro Bowl/ Alcorn State, James “Shack” Harris (2012)- NFL Pro Bowl MVP/ Grambling State, Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson (2018)- SB XII Champion/ Langston, Harold Jackson (2019)-5X NFL Pro Bowl/ Jackson State, Ed “Too Tall” Jones (2013)- 3X NFL Pro Bowl/ Tennessee State, Frank Lewis (2019)-SB IX and SB X Champion/ Grambling State, Greg Lloyd (2018)- 5X NFL Pro Bowl/ Fort Valley State, Nate Newton (2022)- SB XXVII, SB XXVIII and SB XXX Champion/ Florida A&M, Lamar Parrish (2024)-8X Pro Bowl/ Lincoln University, Robert Porcher (2017)- 3X Pro Bowl/ South Carolina State, Everson Walls (2018)- SB XXXV Champion/ Grambling State, Sammy White (2022)-2X NFL Pro Bowl/ Grambling State, Erik Williams (2011)- SB XXVII, SB XXVIII and SB XXX Champion/ Central State, Doug Williams (2011)- SB XXII MVP/ Grambling State and Aeneas Williams (2016)- PFHOF 2014/ Southern University.

15th Annual Black College Football Hall of Fame set to Induct Class of 2024

By Lenny Moon

The Black College Football Hall of Fame will once again commence in Atlanta, Ga on June 8th to induct their latest contingent of exceptional contributors evolving from the Historically Black College and University experience. Listed below (alphabetically) are the current selections to be inducted at the College Football Hall of Fame event in downtown ATL.

Joe “747” Adams- QB Tennessee State University- (1977-1980)

This rifle-armed signal caller ranks second on the school’s all-time passing chart with 8,653 yards and 75 touchdowns in an era that predated the empty backfields and other pass first oriented offenses of more contemporary times. With Adams at the helm as the Tigers starting signal caller, TSU amassed an impressive 25-7 record. Although drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1981 NFL Draft, the Gulfport, Ms native spent the majority of his pro football career in the Canadian Football League with Saskatchewan, Toronto and Ottawa respectively.

Antoine Bethea- CB Howard University- (2002-2005)

Bethea enjoyed a 14-year NFL career that began with the Indianapolis Colts (2006-13), who drafted him in the 5th round of the 2006 NFL Draft, and later with stops at the San Francisco 49ers (2014-16) and the Arizona Cardinals (2017-18) before sealing his pro career with the New York Giants (2019). The 3-time Pro Bowler earned a Super Bowl ring while with the Colts (SB XLI) when his Indianapolis team defeated the Chicago Bears 29-17. The Howard University alum earned 1st team All-American his senior campaign while performing in the Mideastern Athletic Conference.

Waymond Bryant- LB Tennessee State University- (1970-73)

Selected with the 4th pick of the 1974 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, Waymond Bryant was a key cog in one of the best defensive units in the country of that era at Tennessee State University. During Bryant’s four years at the Nashville, Tn institution, Tennessee State compiled an astonishing 40-2 record, including two undefeated campaigns. Symbolic of their dominance, future NFL star defensive lineman Ed “Too Tall” Jones was part of that same 1974 NFL Draft class being selected with the number one pick by the Dallas Cowboys. Bryant played all four of his NFL seasons with Chicago.

Kevin Dent-DB Jackson State University- (1985-88)

Vicksburg, Ms native Kevin Dent’s decision to remain near home to connect with an institution of higher learning proved fruitful when he enrolled at nearby Jackson State University as a student-athlete in 1985. While there under the tutelage of head coach W.C. Gordon, Dent evolved as one of the top cornerbacks in the nation. The two-time SWAC Defensive Player-of-the-Year also became the first JSU gridder in their storied football history to become a 3-time All-American. Additionally, Dent pilfered 21 interceptions and was earlier inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

Richard Huntley- RB Winston-Salem University (1992-95)

From the time that Monroe, North Carolina native Richard Earl Huntley arrived at Winston-Salem University he immediately hit the ground running (literally and figuratively) he never looked back. Huntley rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons for the Rams and finished second on the all-time NCAA ball-carrier list with a whopping 6,286 yards (1,572 yds avg/ per season). He closed out his WSSU career as the CIAA’s career leader in scoring with 372 points and 62 TDs (15.5 touchdowns per season). Huntley was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2006 and would also include Pittsburgh, Carolina, Buffalo and Detroit in his six year NFL career.

Coach Edward Hurt- FB Coach- Morgan State University (1929-59)

Coach Edward P. Hurt arrived on the scene at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md in 1929 and the very next season, his team won the first of 14 CIAA football championships. From 1931 thru 1938 Hurt coached the Bears to a 54-game win streak. All told while serving as the head football coach at Morgan St, he led them to 11 undefeated seasons including the 1943 season when opponents failed to score a single point against his defense. Two of his proteges became members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and to no one’s surprise, both were linemen. Len Ford (Cleveland Browns) who would also play for Michigan as well as Morgan State was inducted in 1976 while Roosevelt Brown (New York Giants) entered a year earlier in 1975.

Lamar Parrish- CB Lincoln University- (1966-69)

Although he played some in the secondary at Lincoln University, Lamar Parrish was primarily known as a running back and return specialist at the Jefferson City, Mo institution. The year of 1969 was a banner one for Parrish as he averaged 16.8 yds per punt return, including a 95-yd return for a touchdown (both remain school records). The West Palm Beach, Fl native capped his senior year by earning All-American status to round out his sterling collegiate career. Lamar was converted to the secondary exclusively after being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1970 NFL Draft. He would go on to be named to 8 Pro Bowls, including 3-time NFL First Team All-Pro, starring as both a special teams star (1,709 total yds) and the secondary (47 interceptions) in his 13-yr NFL career.

A One-on-One Conversation with 6-Decade NFL Warrior, PFHOF Candidate John Wooten

By Lenny Moon

When John B. Wooten arrived on the scene in pro football, Dwight Eisenhower was the Commander in Chief in Washington D.C. That same year of 1959 when Wooten was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the 53rd pick of the 5th round of the NFL Draft, Alaska became America’s 49th state ( January 3 ), while Hawaii joined the union (August 21) to round out the current half-century total. Fortunately for the incoming offensive lineman from Colorado, perhaps the greatest player in the history of the game preceded him on the roster a couple of years earlier. Wooten would inherit the luxury of blocking for the immortal Jim Brown, referred to as “Superman” by many of his foes. Ironically, Wooten and Brown would formulate a lifelong bond until the mercurial athlete and activist transitioned on May 18th of last year. Following his nine seasons as an active All-Pro player primarily in Cleveland, Wooten continued the grind by adding to his resume, while remaining directly connected to the NFL. He continued his NFL service by becoming a sports agent, scout and Director of Pro Personnel (Dallas), Player Personnel and VP of Player Personnel (Philadelphia) from 1973-1997. From there, Baltimore came calling where Mr Wooten performed the duties of Assistant Director of Pro and College Scouting and later consultant with the Ravens. It was 2003 when he co-founded the Fritz Pollard Alliance (in conjunction with the NFL) along with attorneys Johnnie Cochran and Cyrus Mehri, with key contributions from former NFL greats Kellen Winslow and Harry Carson among others. Although he’s unofficially retired, Wooten is still a key cog in the operation of the FPA and at a spry 87 years of age, still grinding. We recently caught up with the 60-plus year NFL veteran and below are audio and video excerpts from that visit.

Wooten discusses his current semi-retirement role with the Fritz Pollard Alliance (see above)
Wooten comments on the 8 NFL head football coaching vacancies recently filled following last season (see above)
Wooten comments on the recent passing of the legendary Jim Brown (see above)
Wooten comments on the legendary Jim Brown part 2 (see above)
Wooten comments on Tony Dungy (see above)
Wooten comments on Brian Flores (see above)
Wooten comments on Brian Flores, Part 2 (see above)
Wooten comments on Denny Green (see above)
Wooten comments on Marvin Lewis (see above)
Wooten comments on DeMeco Ryans (see above)
Wooten comments on Jarod Mayo (see above)
Wooten comments on Jarod Mayo, Part 2 (see above)
Wooten comments on Art Shell (see above)
Wooten comments on Fritz Pollard (see above)
One of the game’s top coaches of all time is Fritz Pollard Alliance alum Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tomlin holds the NFL record for most consecutive non-losing seasons to begin a coaching career with 17, and has never had a losing season. Tomlin has led his Steelers to 11 playoff runs, 7 division titles, 3 AFC Championship Games, 2 Super Bowl appearances and won a title in Super Bowl XLlIII. Wooten talks about how he discovered future Hall of Fame head coach; Mike Tomlin (see video above)

Former Grambling State QBs Raising the profile of HBCU Football

By Lenny Moon

Two native sons of the state of Louisiana have merged their potent resources to comprise a platform for Historical Black College and Universities (HBCU) gridders that’s carrying that product to new heights. Both are proteges of the legendary football coach at Grambling State in Eddie Robinson. Although they toiled in different eras of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), both became historical quarterbacks in their own right. Monroe, La native James “Shack” Harris selected neighboring Grambling as his institution of higher learning from 1965 thru 1968 and promptly won or shared four SWAC titles. This was during the era when Black college football players largely did not have the option of exhibiting their talents anywhere but Black institutions due to segregation. Translation, some of the best gridiron talent in the country resided on HBCU campuses. Harris would go on to be drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the 1969 NFL Draft and became the game’s first Black signal caller to earn the right as the opening day starter with the Los Angeles Rams in 1974. Known as “Shack” by family, friends and teammates, Harris would also become the first Black quarterback in history to earn Pro Bowl status and punctuated his appearance by snaring the MVP of that contest.

Coach Robinson would tap into that same state of Louisiana when he secured another jewel at the quarterback position. A product of Zachary, La (15 miles north of Baton Rouge) Doug Williams tenure on the GSU gridiron scene was (1974-77) and compiled an impressive 36-7 record as a four-year starter and three SWAC championships. The two-time Black College Football Player-of-the-Year finished 4th in the 1977 Heisman Trophy balloting (unheard of for an HBCU QB). He would become the first ever Black signal caller drafted in the 1st round (17th pick of the 1978 NFL Draft by Tampa) and led the talent-challenged Bucs to their first three postseason appearances during his five seasons there. That would serve as a prelude to more history to come down the pipeline from the former GSU star that would permanently embellish his name next to one of the most prolific performances in Super Bowl annals. The setting was San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium (site of Super Bowl XXII) and the opponent was the Denver Broncos on January 31 1988. Williams led a demolition of the John Elway-led Broncos by getting up from a hyper-extended knee in the second quarter and promptly tossed a record 4 TD passes (all in that same quarter) to crush Denver 42-10. This marked the first time that a Black QB started a Super Bowl contest and saw the Washington signal caller break most of the existing significant passing standards in the game’s annals.

That lays the foundation for these two former star signal callers from the same collegiate football program, both mentored by the legendary Eddie Robinson (albeit different eras) that went on to stardom in the professional ranks as players and both spent considerable time in NFL front offices. This collaboration produced the establishment of the Black College Football Hall of Fame in 2009. A few years later, the HBCU Legacy Bowl would come into existence. In partnership with the National Football League, the Legacy Bowl which is an all-star game comprised of draft eligible seniors from the entire Black college football landscape for the purpose of exposing their talents to NFL scouts. Since the advent of integration, HBCU players drafted by the NFL has gone down considerably. Although there is still quality talent on those respective campuses the opportunity to be appropriately scouted by the NFL goes largely untapped. February 24, 2024 marks the 3rd year that the “Allstate HBCU Legacy Bowl” hosted by the Black College Football Hall of Fame and housed at Yulman Stadium on the campus of Tulane University in New Orleans will transpire. Kickoff is slated for 3:00 pm cst and in collaboration with the National Football League, aired nationally on the NFL Network. Additional ticket information can be obtained by contacting http://www.hbculegacybowl.com.

Sponsors of the 2024 “Allstate HBCU Legacy Bowl” include Coors Light, the New Orleans Saints, Allstate Insurance, the National Football League, Adidas, 15 and the Mahomies Foundation (Patrick Mahomes foundation), Riddell, the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Additionally Coca Cola, Zebra Technologies, Cisco, New Orleans & Company, Bobby Wagner (NFL player), Jameis Winston (NFL player), Terron Armstead (NFL player), Tulane University, Hyatt Regency-New Orleans, Alexander & Kennedy Financial Group and Teamwork Online.

This past calendar year, the sports world lost, in my humble opinion, the greatest athlete of any era that also evolved into one of the most impactful social activist of his era. James Nathaniel “Jim” Brown (1936-2023) played his entire nine year career with the Cleveland Browns and changed the standards of the running back position in the National Football League forever. At 6-2, 230 pound, the muscular Brown was larger than most of his era’s linebackers whose duty it was to attempt to bring him down. He combined a gracefulness with his sprinter’s speed and complimented that with an innate intellect that usually placed him slightly ahead of his competition. Brown led the league in rushing 8 of his 9 NFL campaigns. Also noteworthy was leading the “Cleveland Summit” when influential Black athletes of that era were called upon in support of World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali who was on the verge of being sent to prison for objecting to being drafted into the military for religious reasons. Among those that the recently retired Brown brought together in1967 was Bill Russell, Cleveland mayor Carl Stokes, John Wooten, Lew Alcindor, Bobby Mitchell and Willie Davis among others.

Other high profile athletes that the world of sports mourn who transitioned during the 2023 calendar year were Ralph Boston (USA Olympic star who became the 1st person to break the 27 ft barrier in the long jump and earned medals in the 1960 Rome Olympics, the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Vida Blue was a fireballing left-handed major league baseball pitcher that was an integral part of three consecutive World Series titles by Oakland As from 1971 to 1974. Formerly the world’s fastest human, Jim Hines of Texas Southern University became the first sprinter to officially break the 10 second mark in the 100 meter dash by posting a 9.95 in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. He would add a 4x100m Relay gold medal to his collection in that same Olympics.

George McGinnis was an all-star power forward in both the American Basketball Association (ABA) as well the National Basketball Association (NBA). McGinnis earned the MVP Award in 1975 while with the Indiana Pacers of the ABA and was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017. Willis Reed spent his entire pro basketball hall of fame career with the New York Knicks. The Grambling State product led the Knicks to two titles and was the NBA Finals MVP in both 1970 and 1973. The 6-10 center was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982. Otis Taylor spent his entire 11-year career with the Kansas City Chiefs and led his team to two American Football League championships in 1966 and 1969 as a standout wide receiver. The Prairie View A&M product exhibited one of the glorious moments in the history of the AFL when he snared a screen pass from QB Len Dawson and secured the Chiefs 23-7 Super Bowl IV victory over the Minnesota Vikings with a 46-yard game clinching touchdown.

RePost: Pro Football Hall of Fame QB Warren Moon talks with Lenny Moon about Path to NFL

By Lenny Moon

FORMER HOUSTON OILERS STAR SIGNAL CALLER WARREN MOON WAS SELECTED TO THE “HOUSTON SPORTS HALL OF FAME”, ANNOUNCED ON NOVEMBER 14 2023. MOON ELEVATED A DOWNTROTTEN OILERS FRANCHISE TO A PERENNIAL CONTENDER UTILIZING THEIR PATENTED “RUN-AND-SHOOT” OFFENSIVE ATTACK FROM 1984-93. THE 9-TIME PRO BOWL QB WILL BE INDUCTED ALONG WITH NAISMITH HALL OF FAME MEMBER CYNTHIA COOPER AND FORMER HOUSTON ASTROS STAR LANCE BERKMAN IN A CEREMONY SLATED FOR JANUARY OF 2024. THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED BACK ON SEPTEMBER 11, 2019.

Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon talks with Lenny Moon about his unconventional trek to play the quarterback position in the National Football League. After being undrafted by the NFL, Moon was determined to remain a signal caller and migrated to Canada where he played his first six years of pro ball while leading the Edmonton Eskimoes to five consecutive Grey Cup titles. In 1984 the NFL staged a bidding war for the services of the Los Angeles native with Bud Adams of the Houston Oilers winning out to secure the services of the future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback.
SEE ABOVE VIDEO

In August of 2006, Harold Warren Moon became the first and only Black quarterback inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Los Angeles, Ca native spent his first six pro seasons in the Canadian Football League where he led the Edmonton team to five consecutive championships.

During his 17 NFL seasons, Moon passed for nearly 50,000 yards (49,325), 291 touchdowns, nine 3,000 yard passing seasons, four 4.000 yard passing seasons and selected to the Pro Bowl nine times. While with the Eskimoes of the CFL, the prolific field general threw for 21,228 yards and 144 touchdowns. He holds the distinction of being the only pro football player in history to be inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame as well as the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

LennyMoonSports remembers MLB HOF teammates Lou Brock and Bob Gibson-(RePost)

By Lenny Moon

In the spirit of the month of October in Major League Baseball, motivated this re-post of two of the greatest performers the game has ever produced. Former St Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame members Bob Gibson and Lou Brock raised the bar during their prolific careers on the diamond. Gibson, an intimidating fireballer was a fierce competitor who owned the inside portion of the plate. He like many of his contemporaries took pride in finishing what they started; meaning completing games they started. As great as he was during the regular season, his greatness ascended higher in October. Brock, a product of an HBCU (Southern-Baton Rouge), was the most feared player on the bases since the legendary Jackie Robinson. With Brock it wasn’t a matter of “if” he would attempt a steal, it was most often “when”. The Arkansas native would end his career as the game’s leading base stealer (before being eclipsed by Rickey Henderson) and deposited over 3,000 hits. Like Gibby, Brock would elevate his game even higher during the postseason to help lead the Redbirds to three World Series appearances in the 60s (1964, 67 & 68) while winning two of the three (1964 and 1967). Ironically both MLB Hall of Famers died within a month of the other back in 2020.

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Historically, the St Louis Cardinals have been one of Major League Baseball’s storied franchises. Certainly, during the 1960’s St Louis became the team to beat in the National League earning three appearances in the World Series (1964, 1967 and 1968) while winning those first two. Spearheading the charge were two of the greatest players the game has ever witnessed. One an intimidating fireballer that literally changed the game from the way he dominated from the hill. The other, a multi-talented speedster that raised the bar on the artistic way of exploiting opposing defenses and altering the concentration level of pitchers and catchers. Both were born the same year (1939) and ironically this duo recently passed within one month of the other.

Hurler Bob Gibson spent 17 seasons (all with St Louis) as the ace of the Red Birds staff, and evolved into one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game. The 9-time all-star accrued a 251-174 record with 3117 strikeouts and a career 2.91 earned run averaged. The former versatile athlete who once played for the Harlem Globetrotters, was a 9-time Gold Glove winner to go along with his two Cy Young Awards signifying the top pitcher in baseball. Gibson peaked during the 1968 season when he posted a season not seen in MLB before or since. That campaign saw Gibson take the hill for the Cards on 34 occasions and posted a whopping 28 complete games. His 22-9 record does not nearly tell the story of his lack of run support that season. Gibby bewildered opponents by tossing 13 shutouts and a microscopic 1.12 ERA (major league record). That equates to less than 1.5 runs per 9 innings. That very next season, MLB lowered the mound to provide more of an advantage for hitters. Gibson is a member of Major League Baseball’s All-Century Team and was unanimously inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.

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The son of a sharecropper, Lou Brock was born in El Dorado, Arkansas and raised in Collinston, La (24 miles NW of Monroe). Brock penetrated the national baseball radar screen by leading Southern University-Baton Rouge, La to the 1960 NAIA National Baseball Championship while posting an impressive .500 batting average for the season. The 19-yr MLB veteran was originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs where he spent his first 3 1/2 seasons before being traded to St Louis in the middle of the 1964 season. Once he donned the red uniform of the Cardinals, he blossomed into one of the league’s premier talents. Brock ignited a sub-.500 team to an eventual World Series champion by hitting .348 and stealing 33 bases to close out that season. They would go on to defeat the favored New York Yankees in the Fall Classic to punctuate their comeback campaign.

Although a crafty, linedrive-type hitter that safely swatted 3023 base knocks, Brock will always be known for his legs and intelligence on the base paths. The 6-time all-star led the National League in steals in 8 of 9 years from (1966-74). He exhibited his consistency on the bases by pilfering 50 or more stolen bases 9 times. The postseason was another area where the former Southern Jaguar excelled where his .391 World Series batting average and 14 stolen bases are records for players that participated in at least 20 games. Brock’s 118 stolen bases in a single season were a MLB record until protégé Rickey Henderson came along to re-establish the standard of 130 in 1982. Brock’s career stolen base record of 892 was also eclipsed by Rickey’s current standard of 1406. Baseball Hall of Fame came calling in 1985 when he was inducted on the first ballot.

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Remembering “Wonderful Willie” Richardson

By Lenny Moon

It’s not too many occasions that one becomes colleagues with a former athlete whose trading cards that were once collected (and traded) by one of the many youngsters that placed this type of gladiator in such high esteem. Such was the case of yours truly and former Jackson State All-American and NFL Pro Bowl wide receiver Willie Louis Richardson. The Greenville, Ms native was a longtime football broadcaster for his beloved JSU Tigers when his life came to end back in 2016 in Jackson. He passed of a heart attack in his sleep at the age of 76. Our paths crossed during my several decades of covering the Southwestern Athletic Conference in which JSU is a charter member.

As a collegiate player, Willie starred for the Tigers from 1958-62 enjoying a spectacular career in the Mississippi state capital city. He earned Most Valuable Player awards in three post season all-star games including the then College All-Star game vs the defending NFL Champions that was a signature encounter during those days. No one that I’ve met better described the impact of Willie Richardson’s collegiate prowess better than former Detroit Lions star, fellow JSU alum and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Lem Barney. I had the good fortune of interviewing Barney several times over the years but it was that first encounter during his induction year of 1992 that really resonated with yours truly. That year was a banner one for Lem in that the secondary star was inducted into both the 1st Annual SWAC Hall of Fame staged in New Orleans as well as the PFHOF in Canton. One of the questions that I bounced off of the highly skilled former NFL secondary star was “What led to his determination of selecting JSU over his other options?”. He offered a two word response “Wonderful Willie”. Not Willie Richardson but simply “Wonderful Willie”.

Below is an excerpt of the aforementioned interview with Lem during the era of his TV broadcasting days with Black Entertainment Television (BET) along with veteran Charlie Neal (see video link below)

Lem Barney became the first of four Jackson State players inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992. Others that followed were Walter Payton in 1993 (Chicago Bears), Jackie Slater in 2001 (L.A./Stl Rams) and Robert Brazille in 2018 (Houston Oilers).

As accomplished an individual as Willie was, he had a distinctive humbleness about him blended with his apparent self confidence and outgoing personality. I had once read that the City of Jackson had honored him with a parade in the downtown district as a result of his earing MVP in the College All-Star Game in 1962. Bear in mind the era referenced in that state’s history represented the same year that president John F. Kennedy’s administration was forced to provide national guard escort for James Meredith to access his classrooms on a daily basis in Oxford, Ms. This of course followed a Supreme Court ruling that a Black had the right to attend a publicly funded university in the state of Mississippi despite the harsh resistance. Before I leave the topic of Mr Meredith, I discovered through dialog with Willie that he personally knew the civil rights icon who was still residing in the Mississippi area. The two were classmates at Jackson State prior to the civil rights activist embarked on his bold trek up Interstate 55. Upon that realization, I instantly requested a meeting with Mr Meredith in which “Wonderful Willie” graciously accommodated. Needless to say, one of the more surreal experiences of my professional career spending a Sunday afternoon with a true American hero. Thanks again Willie.

As a professional, Richardson was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the 7th round of the 1963 NFL Draft. He would play seven seasons with the Colts where he earned two Pro Bowl appearances, one season with Miami before wrapping his nine year pro career back with Baltimore in 1971. There was so much more to say about this gentleman that absolutely loved his alma mater. But for the consideration of allotted space, I’ll put a bow on this presentation by stating (in the spirit of Lem Barney) it was certainly my pleasure to have had the privilege and the honor of knowing “Wonderful Willie”.

Former Radio Executive Icon Ernie Jackson shared his American success story in print

By Lenny Moon

Renowned radio executive Ernest “Ernie” Jackson was called home back on April 30, 2021, having passed at 78 years of age. Prior to his departure, the upstate New York native compiled a comprehensive trek on his impressive professional career that encompassed his passion for community service. From the time that he accepted the position of General Manager at Houston’s top two urban radio stations KMJQ-Majic 102 FM (R&B) and KBXX-97.9 FM (Hip-Hop) he instantly became one of the most influential figures in town. Both stations (under the same roof) were going through challenging times upon his arrival and when Jackson retired in 2001, the two Houston-based stations were deemed “Top Urban Contemporary Radio Stations in America as Ernie was tabbed among the “Top Ten Radio GMs in America” by Radio Ink Magazine.

Jackson’s book entitled “Health, Heart and Pocketbook” can be purchased online at AMAZON (https://www.amazon.com) and BARNES AND NOBLES retail outlets or online (https://www.barnesand nobles.com). Below is an overview of the author’s recently released publication.

For decades, black radio was the second most powerful communication medium in the African American community. Driving the nation’s civil rights movement, radio was their primary and most trusted source for news and information, creating social and political awareness among listeners. But in 1996, a shot was fired… killing black radio!

Shocking and revealing, Ernest Jackson, Jr. exposes who killed black radio in his story, Health, Heart, and Pocketbook. The culprit neutralized the progressive impact of black radio, transforming it from a fountain of critical content and community service to a mere jukebox where news and information became unimportant.

Named one of the top 25 African Americans in broadcasting, Jackson was present for the rise and fall of it all. He shares his memories, beginning from the first time he hosted a local radio station for communication students, progressing into a 28-year influential broadcaster.

Using humor and warmth, Jackson merges the unpleasant faces of racism, failed relationships, and life’s chaos, with that of fond childhood memories of his mother, indulging in sweet cherries, and his love for photography.

EDITORIAL

My friend and colleague Ernie Jackson returned to the world of radio in 2014 when he accepted the position of General Manager of KPVU-91.3 FM. Although keenly aware of his status while he was engineering the ship at Majic 102 and the 97.9 The Boxx, I did not actually cross direct paths with him until his arrival at KPVU. At that time I performed the duties of radio voice for the program’s football and basketball teams. I quickly discovered his affinity for photography (see samples above) and soon afterwards his knowledge of sports. Being a seasoned sports journalist, it’s not difficult to determine if the conversation is exchanged with a novice or one with vastly more depth. Well Ernie possessed a package of a genuine “sports geek”, and I certainly say that in the utmost respectful manner. Being somewhat of a sports historian myself, EJ (my moniker for him) was a refreshing “go to” for a coherent conversation of great athletes and memorable sporting events of days gone by. We had actually developed a syndicated sports radio show model along with former Tennessee Titans star linebacker Eddie Robinson Jr. Both EJ and “ERob” were outstanding while I performed the duties of moderator. ERob would go on to become the head football coach of his alma mater at Alabama State where he was once an All-American on the field as well as Academic All-American in the classroom.

It did not stop there with EJ. He served as my sideline reporter for Prairie View A&M football where once again, performed brilliantly. As the play-by-play announcer, I always felt totally confident that I could drop in at any time of the contest, throw it down to Ernie where he was always ready to exhibit his preparation each and every game. That bonding would carry over to taking in the local Houston Texans games from the pressbox on Sundays when we were not on the road. As I mentioned during his services as one of the speakers, we had sports-related phone conversations 2-3 times per week. Talking about a “homer”, there was no bigger Astros, Rockets to go along with the Texans fan than EJ. Guys like Ernie Jackson depart in the flesh only. I’m sure I’m speaking for the thousands of others that came in direct or indirect contact with EJ that his impact is permanent.

Big George strikes again on the Big Screen

By Lenny Moon

It was only a matter of time before Hollywood reconciled that one of the most fascinating American success stories was lingering right under their noses the whole time. It conceivably could have been that even the brilliant creative minds that consistently produce content for public consumption were not capable of devising a story the likes of Big George Foreman. Born in Marshall, Texas and raised in Houston, the hard-hitting pugilist’s story could easily be appraised as falling under the category of “Least Likely to Succeed”. Attempting to survive in his city’s gritty Fifth Ward as a poor misguided juvenile, trouble was an entity that was never difficult to encounter whether one sought or it simply accommodated your presence just for breathing the oxygen in that radius. Sure there have been any number of success stories attached to individuals that rose above their humble beginnings to attain what many would assess an “Only in America” rewarding destination. What makes Big George’s story so compelling is that his professional boxing career came in two parts as the Heavyweight Champion of the World; a decade apart. Who could have written this script?

Sony Pictures Entertainment

Having closely witnessed George’s second trek toward capturing the heavyweight championship inspired the article written and published here on lennymoonsports.com back on September 18, 2018. As a tribute to the release for the big screen of the champ’s life story on April 28th, we chose to re-publish an epic moment of Foreman’s comeback vs then-title holder Evander Holyfield that legitimized his comeback prior to his eventual historical match vs undisputed champion Michael Moorer (see “Battle of the Ages” continued reading below)

Article originally published on September 18 2018 by lennymoonsports.com