Dan Le Batard is an extremely talented member of the sports media. He made a sizable impact as a columnist at the Miami Herald. He has become a national presence for ESPN. He has a daily TV show, “Highly Questionable,’’ and a daily radio show for the network.
The radio show went national in the fall of 2013. Before that, I was in south Florida a few times, visiting the grandkids, and would listen to Le Batard’s local radio show. The energy, the timing and the humor created with his partners was the best I’ve heard for any such show in the country.
I’ve also considered Le Batard’s use of his father, Gonzalo, a stroke of brilliance. I had an old man who was a character with unique ideas about sports and life, and Gonzalo reminds me of a Cuban version of him.
The other night, after a long day of football, the upstairs TV was still on. I was in the next room. “Highly Questionable’’ was announcing the show’s year-end awards in its usual irreverent way, and it sounded like Gonzalo was talking about Minnesota’s Jerry Kill as the coach of the year.
I walked in to see what that was all about. There was a short video of Kill going onto the field to shake hands after the Gophers’ narrow victory over Purdue. Darrell Hazell was hired at Purdue before the 2013 season, making him at the time only the fourth African-American coach to lead a Big Ten football program.
In the video, Kill goes to the first black guy that he sees in coaching garb, is ready to exchange a handshake, and then the Purdue assistant (wearing black) quickly points to Hazell, a few feet away and wearing a white pullover.
Kill gives it the “oh’’ look, adjusts, and steps over to shake hands with Hazell.
The Highly Questionable crew made the traditional joke about a white fellow seeing a black man and figuring that must be the guy I’m looking for, and went on to the next item available for a laugh.
I watched the video a couple more times (we can back things up with these modern TVs, you know). Here it is:
I got to wondering why I wasn’t aware of Country Jer’s small gaffe. If it came through my Twitter feed on the Sports Pickle, one of my favorite sites, I missed it. If it received any attention locally, on radio or on blogs, I missed that, too.
As it turned out, it was easy to find with Google. It got attention on the usual sites that specialize in tidbits such as this.
This is the kind stuff that our friends at GopherHole.com would never miss, if it involved a coach such as Bret Bielema. I did a search – “Gopher Hole, Jerry Kill shakes hands with wrong Purdue coach’’ – and nothing surfaced.
Maybe it’s there. Maybe the Gopher Holers had some fun with Country Jer on this, or maybe it was a blog item on startribune.com, or maybe it was a radio topic missed by me and my hard-working crew at AM-1500.
I hope we didn’t avoid it because we didn’t want to make our beloved coach blush. That’s why we have the Internet … to make all of us blush.
Seeing that video did remind me of a Twins game that I covered on May 29, 1977 in Memorial Stadium. Dave Goltz was winning a pitching battle with the Orioles’ Mike Flanagan 1-0 entering the eighth inning.
The Twins made it 2-0 on Bobby Randall’s two-out double. Dan Ford was batting next for the Twins, followed by Larry Hisle. There were black gents of similar height and shoulder width.
First base was open and Baltimore manager Earl Weaver ordered an intentional walk. Legend has it, Jim Palmer was in the dugout and as the count reached 2-0, he said: “Earl, why are you walking Ford to get to Hisle? Hisle kills Flanagan.’’
Whatever the truth, Weaver did come chugging out of the dugout, gesturing to Flanagan to stop the intentional walk. It was a 3-0 count by then, and Ford wound up getting a walk, and Hisle promptly singled for the Twins’ third run.
That was decisive in a 3-2 victory, after the Orioles rallied for two runs in the ninth.
I went to Weaver’s office after the game, to see what would happen when one of the beat writers with whom he constantly fenced – Ken Nigro or Jim Henneman – got on Earl about confusing the two right-handed hitters for the Twins who were black guys.
We walked in and The Earl immediately bellowed: “The first one of you sons (of a something) who asks about that is going to get punched.’’
I don’t think Kill would do that. I’m guessing he called Hazell on Sunday morning, as coaches do, and they had a laugh about it.
UPDATE: Gopher Hole did have a brief dialogue on Kill's search for Hazell at the time. Here's the link: