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user: Aaron / Flickr

You’ve heard of Babe Ruth. If he’s not the best known American athlete of the last century, he’s in the top five. He was more beloved – by Americans of all stripes – than probably anyone. Ruth loved the fans, and the fans loved him back.

 
In 1961, when fellow Yankee Roger Maris – a nice, humble guy – was approaching Ruth’s record of 60 home runs in a season, he became so stressed his hair started falling out.

When Hank Aaron started approaching Ruth’s career home run record, he had it worse, for two very simple reasons: 714 home runs was the record in baseball that even the casual fan knew. And second, unlike Maris, Aaron is black. Of course, that shouldn’t matter in the least – but it mattered a lot in 1974.

Aaron grew up in Mobile, Alabama, one of seven children. They say his wrists were strong from picking cotton, and also his unusual practice of swinging “cross-handed” – that is, holding the bat with his left hand on top, instead of his right, a habit he didn’t break until the minor leagues.
 
Aaron made it to the Milwaukee Braves in 1954, one of the first African-Americans to play major league baseball. According to Daniel Okrent, a best-selling author who invented fantasy baseball, this was baseball’s richest decade for talent, because every kid grew up playing baseball – not soccer – and, finally, everybody was allowed to play.

Steve Carmody

Two of the world's biggest soccer teams are officially coming to Ann Arbor. English champions Manchester United will play Spanish giants Real Madrid in the Big House on Aug.  2. The match is part of an off-season tournament that follows the World Cup in Brazil.

Northwestern's Kain Colter is tackled during a game with Army in 2011. Colter has argued the players should be allowed to form a union.
West Point / Flickr


Last week’s ruling made a big splash, but it’s actually very narrow. The decision by the National Labor Relations Board applies only to private schools. Further, the players still have to vote on it, and the university is going to appeal, in any case.

But the players have been very shrewd, starting with their leader, senior quarterback Kain Colter. I got to know him while researching my latest book, and he’s a very impressive young man.   

Kevin Ward / Flickr

On opening day, the late Ernie Harwell - the voice of the Tigers for 42 years - would recite the poem Song of the Turtle. It signaled spring and a renewed life and opportunities. For Tiger fans, it just wasn't opening day without hearing Ernie Harwell speak those words of that poem.

In memory of the late sportscaster, here's Michigan writer Terry Wooten reading his poem Old Ernie Harwell:

The Kentucky Wildcats started five freshman and fired off a three-point shot in the final seconds to beat the second-seeded Michigan Wolverines, 75-72.

MSU loses to UConn, E. Lansing stays calm

Mar 30, 2014
USA TST / MSU Athletics

Shabazz Napier scored 17 of his 25 points in the second half, and Connecticut beat Michigan State 60-54 to return to the Final Four a year after the Huskies were barred from the N.C.A.A. tournament.

UNDATED (AP) - The NCAA men's regional finals are set following Friday night's action. Second seed Michigan will take on No. 8 Kentucky in the Midwest final at Indianapolis, and fourth seed Michigan St. will battle No. 7 Connecticut in the East at New York's Madison Square Garden.

A typical student's view inside the Big House.
Andrew Horne / wikimedia commons

One debate I could do without is this: Who are the real Michigan fans?

I realize that sounds pretty stupid. Anybody who cheers for Michigan is a Michigan fan, right? But we make it harder than it needs to be.   

Some folks believe only people who graduated from Michigan can call themselves real Michigan fans.

The rest? They are mere “Walmart Wolverines” – fans who pick their college teams the way they pick their professional teams: mainly by geography.

user wyliepoon / Wikimedia Commons

A baseball diamond is still there, but not much else. 

Now Detroit’s Economic Development Corporation wants to see proposals to redevelop the former site of Tiger Stadium.

The EDC wants to establish a new headquarters for a Detroit youth sports league, Detroit PAL, along with three zones for mixed-use development at the site in the Corktown neighborhood.

The proposed plan should also have a youth baseball diamond “in the same area as many legendary baseball stars played.”

Mgoblue / University of Michigan

It's on to the Sweet Sixteen for the Michigan Wolverines and the Michigan State Spartans in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Michigan held off Texas 79 to 65.

Michigan Coach John Beilein says the win again shows the similarities this year's Wolverines squad has to last year's team, which finished second in the NCAA.

Steve Johnson / Flickr

The Madness of March has officially commenced, bringing along its usual mix of bracket trash talk, early upsets, and billion-dollar promises.

And, of course, mascots.

For Michigan fans, March Madness has brought out our usual suspects: the Wolverines, the Spartans, and, for a fleeting moment, the Broncos.

And while many (including the president) think that the Great Lakes State has some winning teams, on a mascot level, we sure don’t compete.

The St. Louis Billikens? The Tulsa Golden Hurricane? And what in the name of all things sports is a Bearcat?

So here it is, in all its glory — a glimpse of some of the mascot heroes of this year’s  March Madness.

How a vaguely scary good-luck charm became a fifth-seeded mascot

U.S. Navy

On Sunday, the Michigan Wolverines faced the Michigan State Spartans in the final of the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament.

After a decade of domination by the Spartans, John Beilein’s Wolverines held the upper hand the past few years. They surprised just about everyone when they won the regular season Big Ten title this year by three games. Now they had the rare chance to beat the Spartans three times in one season. 

Well, they say beating your archrival three times is almost impossible, and that proved true.

Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports / Michigan State Athletics

Adreian Payne scored a career-high 41 points last night to get Michigan State off to a solid start in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. MSU beat Delaware 93-78.

Payne set a tournament record by making all 17 of his free throws and also broke MSU's tournament scoring record, set by Greg Kelser in 1979.

Big Ten tournament champion Michigan State University, runner-up University of Michigan and Mid-American conference champion Western Michigan University all play their first tournament games today. 

screen shot / ESPN.com

President Obama, known as the first basketball fan in the White House, filled out his brackets for the NCAA men's basketball tournament yesterday.

He picked Michigan State to win it all.

"It's been awhile since Izzo won one," he said.

From ESPN.com:

Ford Motor Co.

In the course of his 88 years, William Clay Ford, who died Sunday, captained Yale’s tennis team, earned an engineering degree and chaired Ford Motor Co.’s finance committee, which is enough for any lifetime.

But he will likely be remembered mainly as the owner of the Detroit Lions, during five woefully unsuccessful decades. Since he took over the franchise in 1964, the Lions have won exactly one playoff game, and remain the only NFL team to miss out on all 48 Super Bowls.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder honored Olympic ice dancing champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White at the state Capitol today.

The two University of Michigan students won gold medals at the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

During the ceremony, Snyder noted many of the Olympic ice dancing pairs live and train in Michigan.

“I think it’s fair to say that Michigan is the ice dancing capitol of the world,” Snyder said, which drew applause from the audience.

user: mrmiscellanious / Wikimedia Commons

William Clay Ford's widow, Martha Ford, will take control of the Detroit Lions, a team her husband purchased 50 years ago. She will have controlling interest in the football team, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports. 

Ford, the last surviving grandchild of Henry Ford, passed away Sunday morning at the age of 88. 

NCAA

Once Tom Izzo got Michigan State’s basketball team rolling in the late ‘90s, the Spartans dominated the state for more than a decade.

Izzo’s teams have earned 16 straight NCAA invitations, seven Big Ten titles, five Final Fours, and one national title, in 2000. Along the way, Izzo took 18 of 21 against the Wolverines, who have had four different head coaches during his tenure.

But what a difference a few years make. Michigan basketball coach John Beilein has beaten the Spartans six of their last eight meetings, and returned the long-dormant program to its previous heights.

Jordan Valley Outfitters / Facebook

When I say "river rafting," you probably conjure up images of a beautiful warm day – maybe a packed picnic – but what about gliding down a Michigan river in the heart of winter?

Scott Harper and his wife have been taking people on winter rafting trips down the East Jordan River in Northern Michigan for the past 15 years.

They co-own Jordan Valley Outfitters in East Jordan.

*Listen to the interview above.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

If you like to hunt or fish in Michigan, heads up. There's a new fee system going into effect this coming Saturday, March 1.

It's the first significant hike in hunting and fishing fees in over 15 years.

Ed Golder of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources joined us today to tell us what's new and what the increase will go toward.

Listen to the full interview above.

Issue Media Group

Cities like Ann Arbor, Portland, and Seattle are known for promoting biking in their cities, but biking hasn't found much of a foothold in many traditional Rust Belt cities.

Some people are trying to change that. Issue Media Group has two pieces profiling those people.

In their publication Mid-Michigan Second Wave, writer Kelli Kavanaugh looks at this trend in Flint. Kavanaugh spoke with Flint native Andy Stamps who founded the Berston Bicycle Club Project. 

Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

The 2014 Winter Olympics have entered the record books. The Olympic flame has been extinguished, and athletes and reporters are packing up and heading home from Sochi. 

NPPR's Sonari Glinton joins us from Sochi. 

Meanwhile in Michigan, Michael Lee speaks with Mercedes Mejia. Lee is a professional mime and physical acting coach. He's worked with 10 of the 24 figure skating ice dance teams at the Sochi Olympics this year, including Michigan natives Meryl Davis and Charlie White who are bringing home a gold medal. He also works with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.

Lee says he helps the skaters become performers by teaching them how to animate their bodies. He learned miming from the late Marcel Marceau, an acclaimed French mime.

Lee explains the physical acting techniques he shows the ice dancers. It's all about breath, body movement, and emotions. 

Listen to the full interviews above.

The sweater that will be worn by the U.S. team at the closing ceremony for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Stonehedge Fiber Mill

At the 2012 Summer Olympics, the U.S. team got a lot of criticism for wearing Olympic clothing made in China to the opening ceremonies. 

For the Winter Games, designer Ralph Lauren used American material. The yarn for the sweaters and hats that will be worn in the closing ceremonies at the Winter Olympics in Sochi was spun in East Jordan, Michigan.

Here's what the sweater and hats will look like:

 

user: jpowers65 / Flickr

Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg played one game as captain of Team Sweden at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, before having to be flown to New York City for a surgery on his back. The injury could keep him out of action for the season.

The Red Wings addressed the surgery in a press release today. 

DETROIT- Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg today underwent successful surgery on his back. The procedure was performed by Dr. Frank Cammisa at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. 

U.S. Olympic Team / Facebook

Why in the world are the Winter Olympics in Sochi, one of Russia’s warmest places?  

Chalk it up to corruption – both the Russians’, which we’ve come to expect, and the International Olympic Committee’s – which we’ve also come to expect.

The IOC hasn’t just shown a willingness to be bought, but an insistence.

That’s how you get a Winter Olympic skating rink built in the shade of palm trees. The warm weather is funny, unless you spent your entire life training for these Olympics, and there’s no snow. Then it’s just heartbreaking.

user Luu / wikimedia commons

They reached the pinnacle yesterday: Michigan's Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the gold medal in ice dancing at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

They became the first Americans to do so, and they did it even with all the pressure of being the favorites to win the competition.

The two came to our studios last year right before their gold medal performance in the World Championships.

Their conversation with Cynthia Canty gives good insight into their solid and steady nature, and how they managed to live up to, and even exceed, the expectations at the Olympics.

Some of the things they credited to their success:

  • A hard-work ethic, even as kids (they're on the ice five hours a day, five days a week)
  • Parents who encouraged them, but were not too pushy
  • An incredible coach, Marina Zoueva of Russia
  • And White doesn't call it "swagger," he just calls it "a lot of confidence." 

Take a listen below:

Ludwig Welnicki / en.wikipedia.org

One of the most compelling Michigan stories to emerge from the Sochi Winter Olympics has been in the ice dancing competition. Fifteen of the 24 teams train at three Metro Detroit facilities, including Arctic Edge in Canton.

Sunday's short program left two teams at the head of the pack: Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and Charlie Davis and Meryl White for Team USA. Both pairs train at Arctic Edge, and both share the same coach.

Today, the two teams competed for gold, and...

<<< SPOILER  ALERT: DON'T CLICK THROUGH if you don't want to know what happened today in Sochi>>>

DNR

This weekend, state wildlife officials want people to go fish.

Today and tomorrow, people can fish in Michigan's lakes and streams without a license.

The Department of Natural Resources hopes the free fishing weekends will introduce newcomers, visitors and folks with rusty skills to one of Michigan's most popular sports.

The University of Michigan named a new president last month, and the football team landed another great class of recruits last week. But there’s another story that keeps eclipsing those two. Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon has details.

I’ve been reluctant to write about the Brendan Gibbons’ story, because so little is clear – from the incident that started this saga five years ago, to the various responses since.

One thing is clear: the athletic department continually fails to follow the advice legendary athletic director Don Canham,

“Never turn a one-day story into a two-day story.”

This story starts in 2009, when Wolverine kicker Brendan Gibbons had an encounter at a party with a female student. Ultimately, only two people know what happened, but we do know she contacted the Ann Arbor Police, then decided not to press charges.

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