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A Press Democrat Blog

Old School

Robert Rubino connects current sports news with the past

Pete Gent, R.I.P.

Pete Gent, the former Dallas Cowboys receiver who became a noted writer, died Friday. He was 69. Gent’s breakthrough novel, “North Dallas Forty,” was  fresh, funny and controversial. It’s been said that it was football’s “Ball Four,” Jim Bouton’s diary-like account of the 1969 baseball season that portrayed big-league players as overgrown adolescents. Published in 1973, just three years after “Ball Four,” “North Dallas Forty” took readers far beyond the sanitized version of football delivered by televised games. Gent described… Read More »

Harbaugh and Payton

As 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh congratulated Saints coach Sean Payton Friday night after New Orleans’ lopsided but meaningless preseason win, I couldn’t help but recall the first time Harbaugh and Payton crossed paths, sort of. It was 1987, and Harbaugh was an NFL rookie quarterback with the Chicago Bears. Payton was an NFL scab QB with the Bears. The players’ were striking for improved wages, benefits and pensions, and the NFL owners decided to use strike-breaking players, called “replacements” in… Read More »

Ex-SF Giant makes Pro Football Hall of Fame

Spring this trivia question on an unsuspecting friend. What former San Francisco Giant is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? That would be Deion Sanders, of course, inducted in the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday. Sanders played parts of nine seasons of major-league baseball, including 52 games for the Giants in 1995 as a center fielder. With the Giants, Sanders batted .285 in 235 plate appearances, with five homers and 18 RBIs, a .346 on-base percentage,… Read More »

John Mackey, union leader

John Mackey, who died Thursday, was honored as a pioneering Hall of Fame tight end — and rightly so. I prefer to remember him as a pioneering union leader who helped take NFL players from the dark ages of autocratic ownership control to a more enlightened era of improved compensation and benefits.

Role models for NFC West, part 7

Maybe you think the 49ers and the rest of the NFC West are pitiful. Maybe you’re outraged at the thought that the NFC West “champion” can make the playoffs, even with a non-winning record. OK, but there have been underachieving teams in pro sports that suddenly overachieved in the postseason and gave fans quite a show. For example: 2008 Arizona Cardinals. The maligned Cardinals slipped into the playoffs at 9-7. Then, scoring at least 30 points a game, they beat… Read More »

Role models for NFC West, part 6

Maybe you think the 49ers and the rest of the NFC West are pitiful. Maybe you’re outraged at the thought that the NFC West “champion” can make the playoffs, even with a non-winning record. OK, but there have been underachieving teams in pro sports that suddenly overachieved in the postseason and gave fans quite a show. For example: 2007 Golden State Warriors. Don Nelson returned as coach, and the team returned to the postseason for the first time in 13… Read More »

Role models for NFC West, part 5

Maybe you think the 49ers and the rest of the NFC West are pitiful. Maybe you’re outraged at the thought that the NFC West “champion” can make the playoffs, even with a non-winning record. OK, but there have been underachieving teams in pro sports that suddenly overachieved in the postseason and gave fans quite a show. For example: 1979 Los Angeles Rams. After making a change at quarterback from Pat Haden to Vince Ferragamo, the Rams won four of their… Read More »

Role models for NFC West, part 4

Maybe you think the 49ers and the rest of the NFC West are pitiful. Maybe you’re outraged at the thought that the NFC West “champion” can make the playoffs, even with a non-winning record. OK, but there have been underachieving teams in pro sports that suddenly overachieved in the postseason and gave fans quite a show. For example: 1976 Phoenix Suns. After slouching into the playoffs with an unassuming 42-40 record, this team suddenly discovered its chemistry, melding rookie of… Read More »

Role models for NFC West, part 3

Maybe you think the 49ers and the rest of the NFC West are pitiful. Maybe you’re outraged at the thought that the NFC West “champion” can make the playoffs, even with a non-winning record. OK, but there have been underachieving teams in pro sports that suddenly overachieved in the postseason and gave fans quite a show. For example: 1973 New York Mets. This team barely broke .500 with 82 wins. Nevertheless, on the strength of pitching (Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman… Read More »

Dandy Don vs. 49ers

Don Meredith, an original Dallas Cowboy and an enormously likable presence on the first Monday Night Football telecast, died this week at 72. In a 10-year career that included two starts (and near-misses) in the NFL championship game, his best game, from a statistical standpoint, was against the 49ers on Nov. 10, 1963 at Kezar Stadium. Meredith completed 30 of 48 passes for 460 yards and three touchdowns (also one interception). Despite Meredith’s gaudy numbers, the Niners prevailed, 31-24, behind… Read More »