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COLUMN: Baseball, basketball and a King

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By Bob Watkins

Hottest buzz around baseball at the midsummer break?
Big market teams Phillies and Red Sox are all but dead.
The NL’s leading candidate for a Cy Young has a fastball that clocks somewhere around the president’s approval numbers, 48. But oh my, can R.A. Dickey butterfly hitters with his knuckleball.
Baseball’s best surprise is in Pittsburgh. Leading Cincinnati by a game and St. Louis by two and a half in the NL Central, the Pirates are 11 games over .500 at mid-summer for the first time since you were young, handsome and had lots of hair.
Hope for Pirate fans? This morsel of history — in October 1991, the World Series teams were Minnesota and Atlanta, both had finished dead last the season before.

BASKETBALL?
Beyond meat market camps, no hoops in July, right? Wrong.
The London Olympics are three weeks away and that USA basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski finalized his 12-man team roster Saturday without college player of the year Anthony Davis, is at least puzzling.
Coach K’s credentials and success are impeccable, but leaving a shot block and rebounder and team-first man off the roster that includes egos the size of Charles Barkley’s rear-end, will merit a close watch on what happens in London.

KELLY COLEMAN ... KING AGAIN
Kentucky basketball legend Kelly Coleman gets another curtain call this Saturday.
Arguably the finest high school player in the Commonwealth’s rich history, certainly so east of I-75, the King will be first among the 16 inductees to the newly formed Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend in Elizabethtown.
Honorees to be celebrated at a banquet in the city’s community center include Geri Grigsby, Clemette Haskins, Wah Wah Jones, Cliff Hagan, Clem Haskins, Wes Unseld, Jim McDaniels, Darrell Griffith, Rex Chapman, Richie Farmer, coaches Roy Bowling and Bob Keith. Inducted posthumously: Ralph Beard and coaches  S.T. Roach and Ralph Carlisle.
Quite a class.
Sidebar? Has to be King Kelly. He gets his day ... again.
He already has a plaque alongside Muhammad Ali, Paul Hornung, Steve Cauthen, Wes Unseld, PeeWee Reese, John Unitas and a host of other Kentucky sports legends in the prestigious Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame in Louisville.
The honor this week is another thumb in the eye for the KHSAA.When the governing body introduced its inaugural class to the Dawahare’s High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1988 the class of 26 included best of the best — minus one. Kelly Coleman.
Inexplicably, the KHSAA’s selection committee left off the pride of the Wayland High School Wasps and the KHSAA’s first officially recognized Mr. Basketball in 1956; Coleman earned his nickname, but added enormously to state lore beyond borders of his home state. He had shattered or re-set scoring and rebound records from Wayland all the way to the Sweet 16. Some still stand, including crown jewel 4,337 points. A record not threatened in 56 years.
Justifiably wounded by being left off the first class list, the King vowed to never accept induction to the KHSAA Hall. The snub did more. It damaged KHSAA’s selection process credibility and earned it the “its all politics” label.
Ironies...
• Seven inductees to the KHSBHF Hall joining Coleman in E’town were included in the KHSAA’s first class in 1988.
• As all HOFs are destined to do, the E’town-based basketball hall of fame will inherit legitimate questions about its selectors and processes from critics of its own.
- Left off its inaugural class: 1948 Brewers High School, only unbeaten team in Kentucky history, 36 straight wins and the state title.
- The prince of Cuba and 1952 Cubs and Murray State legend Howard Crittenden.
- College basketball Hall of Famer and NBA’s first Sixth Man, Frank Ramsey, left out while teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Cliff Hagan goes in.
How will the KHSBHF avoid oversights and slights made by KHSAA? Executive director Rick Whobrey declined to answer the question.

WORTH REPEATING
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist officially signed a contract with Charlotte last week. A columnist in the city’s newspaper wrote about the impact the popular ex-Kentucky star could have on the Hornets: “... it wasn’t as if (the Hornets) quit. But they lacked a leader. Kidd-Gilchrist will be that leader. Yes, he will put up jump shots that entice innocent children to hide behind their parents. But if you watched him help push his Wildcats to the NCAA championship last season you can’t fathom him allowing his team to go quietly.”
Interesting prose. But “entice innocent children to hide behind their parents”?

PARTING SHOT
Calling it a taboo subject, former Olympics 200- and 400-meter champion Michael Johnson weighed in anyway, his opinion on rising dominance by “Afro-Caribbean and Afro-American in athletics.”
“It’s impossible to think that being descended from slaves hasn’t left an imprint through the generations. ... I believe there is a superior gene in us.”
History repeats itself. Johnson’s remarks last week caused not a ripple with media nor condemnation from civil rights leaders is peculiar.
Those of us old enough to remember Jan. 17, 1988, know it was a day when Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, after apologizing profusely, was fired by CBS Sports for making virtually the same observations.
Jimmy The Greek died eight years later. Friends said cause of death was a broken heart.
And so it goes.