Cheering Miller, Lamenting King


Cheering Miller, Lamenting King

Jon Miller is an amazing talent, a gracious man and a deserving recipient of the National Baseball Hall of Fames Ford C. Frick Award.

Still, Mondays news that Miller will take his well-earned place in Cooperstown, N.Y., this summer, was bittersweet for me.

Bill King also was an amazing talent and a gracious man, and he would be every bit as deserving of the Frick Award as is Miller.

Sadly, it appears as though King, who passed away in 2005 after 25 years of calling As games, will never receive the games highest honor for broadcasters.

One of my most cherished memories as a professional is that of Bill pulling me aside after hearing some of my rookie-year work at KNBR.

Youre already good on the air, and youre going to get better, he told me, his wiry hand tightly gripping my forearm.

But dammit, stop saying, Ya know! Youre driving me @&! crazy. Youre a fine writer, Mychael. Dont bastardize the language just because the radio allows it. Youre better than that.

That a living legend took the time to offer constructive, colorful criticism meant the world to me. And of course, he was right. I was being lazy. And youll never hear me say those words again, all because of Bill.

Thats just a tiny example of what made him a Hall of Famer as a person, but he was a million times better behind a microphone. And thanks to the As and their web-savvy fans, King was among the 10 finalists for the Frick Award a couple of times in the recent past.

But he didnt even make the finalist cut this year or last, and the old adage is true: out of sight, out of mind.

Probably forever -- at least when it comes to baseball.

Its an absolute shame, because King is the best, most complete broadcaster the Bay Area has ever known. And while he might have been even better at football and basketball than he was at baseball, he was Hall of Fame good at the national pastime as well.

Dont take my word for it. Heres what Lon Simmons -- a Frick Award winner himself, one of Millers idols and a former radio partner of Kings -- told me in 2008:

"I've voted Bill No. 1 on every ballot I've had," said Simmons, who, as the 2004 Frick honoree, is part of the committee that selects the annual winner. "When you think of play-by-play, you have to think of Bill King as one of the best there ever was. ... He certainly has all the qualifications.

I was friends with Bill for a long time and I was on the air with him for a long time, and I really do believe he belongs in the Hall of Fame. He should get in there.

He probably wont, though, so I hope Miller at least gives him a nod when he steps up to the podium in upstate New York later this year.

The mere mention of Kings name at Cooperstown will have do for those of us who grew up convinced that no night was complete without hearing at least one Holy Toledo!

-- Mychael UrbanWhat's on your mind? Email Mychael and let him know. He may use it in his weekly Mailbag.

A's spring training Day 42: Roster longshot Decker could claim outfield spot


A's spring training Day 42: Roster longshot Decker could claim outfield spot

MESA, Ariz. — As the pieces are beginning to fit for the A’s 25-man roster, Jaff Decker may be an unlikely feel-good story come Opening Night.

A non-roster invitee this spring, the journeyman has impressed with his all-around game to the point that he might make Oakland’s club as a fifth outfielder.

There’s other factors that play into it — how many relievers the A’s carry will determine whether they keep five outfielders — but things are breaking right for the 27-year-old Decker, who’s with his fourth organization and has never made an Opening Night roster.

When Jake Smolinski went down with a shoulder injury that required surgery, it thrust Decker into the competition. Then Monday, the A’s released veteran Alejandro De Aza, who had impressed this spring but had an opt-out clause in his minor league deal. The A’s think enough of Decker that they cut De Aza loose. On Monday, Decker returned from a minor oblique issue and started in left field, going 1-for-3 in a 10-3 loss to Kansas City.

“I’m super excited,” Decker said. “I feel like I fit in well here, and I get along with the guys really well. It’s a good group of baseball minds, baseball guys. I hope I have done enough and shown I’m healthy enough to land that spot.”

De Aza hit .300 in 19 games and displayed the veteran savvy that seemed to make him a possible fit on the A’s bench. Manager Bob Melvin expressed hope that De Aza might re-sign with the A’s if he doesn’t find a big league opportunity elsewhere.

But Decker, who bats left-handed as does De Aza, is hitting .308 and has his own attributes, including a strong arm and the ability to play all three outfield spots. It’s a nice package of skills for a player who, at 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, doesn’t appear the prototypical big league outfielder at first glance.

If the A’s keep seven relievers, they will take five outfielders into the regular season. The decision on a seventh reliever appears to be between lefty Daniel Coulombe and right-hander Frankie Montas. But the A’s could hang on to both and only keep four outfielders, with Mark Canha being the fourth.

Decker fun fact: His first name is pronounced “Jeff.” He’s named after his uncle, whose first name was misspelled on his birth certificate. Decker’s uncle kept the spelling.

MELVIN ON RAIDERS: Melvin, a Bay Area native who is quite tuned in to the history of local teams, weighed in on the Raiders announcing a move to Las Vegas. That news has a direct impact on the A’s, obviously, as a co-tenant of the Coliseum with the Raiders.

“It’s too bad,” Melvin said. “Like us, they have a rich tradition and unbelievable fan base. They’re well supported in the Bay Area. It’s tough to have to deal with it.”

NOTEWORTHY: In his first start since being named part of the rotation, Andrew Triggs struggled mightily against the Royals, getting tagged for eight runs and three homers in 3 2/3 innings. While stressing that now is no time for complacency in his position, Triggs also said he was approaching the game differently than if it were the regular season. He kept throwing his changeup, his fourth best pitch, in an effort to get more comfortable with it.

“If this were (the regular season), we probably would have said in the first or second inning, this wasn’t so great, and gone out there and started back-dooring cutters and working off the sinker,” he said. “But we made a concerted effort to work on a pitch, it wasn’t very good, and the results showed that.”

FAMILIAR FACE: One of the homers off Triggs came from former Athletic Brandon Moss, who connected for a two-run shot in the fourth. The outfielder signed a two-year $12 million contract with the Royals in the offseason.

ODDS AND ENDS: Coulombe had a great day, tossing three scoreless innings. That’s three outings in a row without allowing a run for the lefty after a rough patch before that. Melvin pointed out that the ability to throw multiple innings will be important if Coulombe makes the team. … Matt Chapman homered in the fifth, his third long ball of the spring. He’s hitting .261 and playing stellar defense. “He’s got a lot of enthusiasm and it rubs off on guys,” Melvin said.

Fairfield-native Avila gets NABF Featherweight title shot

Fairfield-native Avila gets NABF Featherweight title shot

Fairfield native Manuel "Tino" Avila (22-0, 8 KO) will challenge Joseph Diaz Jr. (23-0, 13 KO) for his NABF Featherweight title on May 6th at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

This will be Avila's first appearance on pay-per-view television, as part of the undercard for the Canelo Alvarez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. main event presented by Golden Boy Promotions.

This will be the biggest test of each fighter's budding careers,  and could prove to be the most action-packed fight of the night. 

Avila is coming off a hard-earned split decision victory over Jose Ramirez last November. The 24-year will undoubtedly enter the bout as an underdog.

Diaz - a former U.S. Olympian - has successfully defended his title four times, including a unanimous decision victory over Horacio Garcia in December.