FROM MY SEAT 

A few items on my mind this week . . . and I’d like to share.

MIDSUMMER MUSINGS The All-Star spotlight shone especially brightly last week upon pitchers in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. In the major-league affair Tuesday night, Chris Carpenter became the first Cardinal hurler to start the midsummer classic since Rick Wise in 1973. The next night in Sacramento, Chris Gissell became the fourth Memphis Redbird pitcher in seven years to start for the Pacific Coast League in the Triple-A All-Star Game. Gissell follows Larry Luebbers (1999), Bud Smith (2001), and Dan Haren (2004).

The Memphis Redbirds do a lot of things very well, but baseball history is not one of them. Before a doubleheader with the Iowa Cubs on June 5th, four former big leaguers were introduced as part of “Cardinals Weekend” at AutoZone Park. Considering the opponent, the Redbirds included former Cub great Andre Dawson in this bunch. No problem there. But Lee Smith -- the game’s alltime saves leader -- was introduced as “representing the Cubs side,” his eight years with Chicago mentioned in his introduction. What the Redbirds chose to ignore is that Smith also happens to be the alltime saves leader for their parent affiliate, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Former Cardinal Jack Clark was introduced, and the crowd was told he led the league in RBIs twice, once as a Cardinal. Clark, in fact, never led the National League in RBIs, though he did hit what amounted to a pennant-winning home run for St. Louis in the 1985 National League Championship Series. No mention from the Redbirds.

Finally, base-stealing maestro Vince Coleman was introduced and was honored for having led the National League in stolen bases four times. Coleman led the NL in steals for six straight years as a Cardinal (1985-90). He also happens to have been the first Memphis Redbird batter in history, having attempted a comeback that began with Memphis in the 1998 inaugural season. But you wouldn’t have known this on that first Sunday in June at AutoZone Park.

The debate at the University of Memphis over how to report attendance figures to the NCAA is bewildering. Actual attendance or ticket sales (the latter figure being a few thousand more one game after the next)? It’s as though the U of M is weighing which end of the elephant should face the living-room window. The issue should be how the university can reduce the discrepancy between tickets sold and actual attendance. How can John Calipari’s program convince basketball fans -- with tickets, mind you -- that seeing the game at FedExForum beats staying at home on the couch? Tickets sold is a nice measuring stick for the bean-counters in the athletic department. Turnstile count is a much better barometer for a team’s connection to its community.

I love the selection of Hakim Warrick by the Grizzlies. I’m as “old-fashioned” as Jerry West, it would appear. Give me the guy who has spent four years in a solid college program, having been nurtured not only in the nuances of basketball, but in the manner of living life as an independent adult. It’s no guarantee for success -- Bonzi Wells played four years at Ball State -- but it’s a head start. I like Lawrence Roberts, too. If Lorenzen Wright wants out, here’s a guy who’ll take his minutes in a heartbeat.

The stars having aligned, I ran into an old hero at the Cupboard restaurant on Union last week. Derek Harper was the longtime point guard for the Dallas Mavericks and the spark plug for six playoff teams from 1984 through 1990. (Here’s a niche statistic for you: Harper was the first player in NBA history to improve his scoring average each of his first eight seasons.) What brought Harper to the Bluff City? He was visiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the organization for which he coordinates a benefit golf tournament in Dallas. One more example, this chance encounter, that exemplifies the reach of the St. Jude cause.

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