You have seen stories I have written in the past about some of the local baseball leagues that existed 50 years ago. Most of them are now just memories for us older folks. Recently, a group of us were talking about these leagues and how toward the end of the season towns liked to pick up an extra player to help them win the playoffs. In those days it wasn’t unusual for a town to have a good player playing in some minor league system. These lower minor leagues usually ended by September 1st so when the players came home, it was certain one of the area teams would pick them up to finish the season. Even if they weren’t pitchers for their minor league team, they often were asked to pitch for these local teams, because they were great athletes and probably had pitched some time in their past. This would always cause a lot of discussion between the local teams as to just how fair this procedure was. Really, the only thing that the other team was mad about is the fact that their hated rival got to this player first and signed him up before they did. No league president would interfere because these rivalries created a lot of interest which in turn filled the stands and added some much needed money to the league treasury. You can bet that the next year all the teams would go out and scour the area to see if there were any of these guys available for that final push for local bribing rights. All I know is that it was a lot of fun as a kid to go and watch these games, because the baseball was excellent and it only cost a couple bucks to see the game.
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti says that fellow Italian Mario Balotelli should not be shouldering all the blame for Liverpool’s recent poor form.Liverpool’s 1-0 loss to Newcastle on Saturday was their fourth in 10 Premier League games this season and they have been beaten twice in their first three Champions League outings. By contrast, Brendan Rodgers’ side lost just six times in total last term as they came close to claiming the league title.Summer arrival Balotelli has been singled out by some as a key cause for the change in fortunes, not least because the £16 million signing has scored just once in 11 Premier League and Champions League games, but Rodgers has defended him and Ancelotti followed suit.”There is a lot of talk about Balotelli, too much,” Ancelotti said as Madrid prepared to face Liverpool at the Bernabeu on Tuesday. “He is a quality player who has joined a team which at the moment is missing an important player like [Luis] Suarez, who scored so many goals.”They need to look for another solution, find another style with new players. I do not believe that all of Liverpool’s problems at this moment are down to Balotelli, but he has to work to help the team come through this situation.”Balotelli was especially targeted after Madrid’s 3-0 Champions League at Anfield in October, when he was withdrawn by Rodgers at half-time after his side had been completely outclassed. After that first meeting Rodgers publicly criticised Balotelli for swapping shirts with opponent Pepe as he left the pitch, drawing further attention to what was already a controversial gesture.Ancelotti, who made light of the incident in his own post-match news conference at Anfield three weeks ago, again saw the funny side of what had happened.”Swapping shirts at half-time with an opponent is something very normal,” he said. “If Marcelo tomorrow swaps shirts with a player I will not take him off for that.”