Monthly Archives: October 2012

Lee Thomas Questions

1) Injuries and lack of funds made things difficult your final years in Philedelphia. As a GM how did you try to compensate for that?

 

2) John Kruk said you had a chance to get Randy Johnson. Is that true?

 

3) Yankees have the toughest farm system in baseball to work through. Was it discouraging starting in the New York system?

 

4) What did you do immediately after the Joe Carter walk-off in the 1993 World Series?

 

5) Why do you think other teams did not take a flyer on Dan Duquette?

 

6) What was your role in the Manny Ramirez signing?

 

7) How did you try to proactively address behavioral issues with Lenny Dystra?

 

8) Matt Wieters, JJ Hardy, and Adam Jones all won Gold Gloves last night. How important are those three to Baltimore?

 

9) Why did you have 104 RBI in 1962?

 

10) Did you have a feeling performance enhancing drugs were being used in your Philadelphia clubhouse?

Hockey remains Zombo’s constant

There are two Rick Zombos. Both of them draw illustrations. One of them used to also draw penalties.

Photo by Brett McMillan
Current Lindenwood mens’ hockey coach and former NHL defenseman Rick Zombo speaks to a group of student last week at Lindenwood University.

Lindenwood men’s ice hockey coach Rick Zombo considered pursuing a liberal arts degree so he could become an illustrator. Since the University of North Dakota offered him a full ride as a hockey defenseman he decided to use his free education for something more practical. He declared himself an economics major.

Zombo eventually left drawing to the Rick Zombo of Dark Horse Comics, and the finance to those who enjoyed it. He had found finance classes to be little fun.

After three years at North Dakota, Zombo also left the Fighting Sioux for an NHL system.

While at UND Zombo had won a national championship.  They beat the University of Wisconsin his freshman season, but he also earned what he said is a PhD in hockey.

The Detroit Red Wings allowed Zombo to use his PhD. They drafted him in the eighth round of 1981 NHL Entry Draft.

At that time, he was still deciding between playing junior hockey in Canada, or playing in the NCAA. He eventually chose UND.

When he left college in 1984, Detroit still held his rights and signed him. Zombo was sent to the Adirondack Red Wings, the highest level of Detroit’s farm system.

He said he was ready for the pace of the game at the professional level. It was quicker, and most important for Zombo, more aggressive. The hard-nosed style of play suited him well.

While he thrived on the ice, off the ice he had to learn some life lessons.

Zombo, a Chicago native, was used to snow. He discovered his signing bonus purchase was not. The $25,000 signing bonus the Red Wings gave Zombo was used to buy a Mustang GT.

“When you buy your first brand-new car you think that’s the be-all and the end-all,” Zombo said. “Unfortunately when you take a car that weighs nothing, and has a real low-low end, and you’re in the snow hills of the Adirondacks, it is not the right car for Glen Falls, N.Y.”

While Zombo’s years in college didn’t prepare him to drive on snowy hills, they did prepare him to produce points as a professional hockey player. During Zombo’s first season in Adirondack he had 35 points.

“I made an NHL career playing against opponents’ leading scoring lines,” Zombo said. “That’s why I was on the ice. That is how I made a career. I kind of learned that at the college level.”

The Red Wings gave Zombo his first taste of NHL action during the 1984-’85 season. He joined them on a road trip in St. Louis for his first NHL game.

“When you come off the ice in practice and you have not an Adirondack Red Wing hockey bag in front of your stall, it’s a Detroit Red Wings bag in your stall, that’s the be-all and the end-all. Just putting your equipment inside of that new bag is huge,” Zombo said. “That’s the last time you touch your bag, because the trainers do all the work at the National Hockey League, and it’s a really interesting thing. It is culture shock, but you realize that you have earned that opportunity, and you want to appreciate it.”

Zombo split time between Adirondack and Detroit for the next few seasons. He became a full time NHL player when he made the Red Wings’ roster out of training camp at the beginning of the 1987-’88 season.

He had 17 points and a plus 24 rating his rookie season. The Red Wings won the Norris Division, and advanced to the Campbell Conference final where they were eliminated by the Edmonton Oilers.

That season was the first of consecutive seasons during which Zombo’s Red Wings played the Oilers and Wayne Gretzky in the conference final. Detroit lost both series and the Oilers went on to win the Stanley Cup twice in a row.

“My teams that I played on were no different than everybody else in the National Hockey League. Number 99 was written on the board. You hit him, you get him out of the game, you wear him down,” Zombo said. “To have fans say, ‘Is there an untouchable rule? Why does nobody hit him?’ He was that good. You couldn’t catch him. Being on the ice and having the responsibility of shutting down the best player in the National Hockey League, and also concerning yourself with his teammates was a wonderful challenge.”

The Red Wings made the playoffs two out of the next three seasons, but lost during the first round both times.

Three games into the 1990-’91 season Zombo was traded to the St. Louis Blues for St. Louis’ No. 1 goaltender Vincent Riendeau.

The Blues had lost defenseman Scott Stevens to the New Jersey Devils and needed a player to solidify their defense.

In Detroit, a new general manager was in the process of giving the Red Wings a facelift by bringing in young Europeans stars like Nicklas Lidstrom. To make roster space for young players Detroit started moving established players like Zombo.

Zombo never had more than 18 points during any of his four seasons with St. Louis, but then Blues assistant coach Ted Sator said Zombo was one of the team’s best assets.

“For me, he is the kind of player that coaches really, really, really like. Because you knew that every time he was on the ice, he was an intelligent player, and a very hard working player and a student of the game,” Sator said. “And you could trust [him]. And that is the biggest thing for a coach in any sport, is can you trust your athlete? You could always trust Rick when he was on the ice.”

Some in St. Louis remember Zombo not only for his reliability, but for slashing official Kevin Collins during a 1994 playoff game in Dallas. Collins had accidentally impeded Zombo from playing a puck, which eventually led to Dallas scoring the game winning goal. Following the initial interference, Zombo circled around the zone and hit Collins behind the knee.

The situation was a rare time when the NHL league offices disciplined Zombo. No penalty minutes were assigned to him during the game, but afterward the league suspended him ten games and fined him $40,000.

The Blues traded Zombo to the Boston Bruins in Oct. 1995. He played a season there before being released and signed by the Los Angeles Kings.

Los Angeles sent him to its minor league team in Phoenix, Ariz. Zombo played the majority of the 1996-’97 season for the Phoenix Roadrunners. He then retired from the NHL in 1997.

Since retiring Zombo has been involved in several business ventures. Some of his enterprises have involved hockey and some haven’t. He has hosted a sports talk radio show in the St. Louis area, sold outdoor supplies and helped to build an ice rink in suburban St. Louis.

After a while, it became clear to Zombo he needed to do what he was best at.

“When I retired from hockey I recognized that your marketability doesn’t gradually dissipate. It drops like a rock,” Zombo said. “So these people that I had, that I thought were pretty good acquaintances in the business world, went up in a puff of smoke over night. Coaching was where I was going to go.”

Zombo has coached pee-wee, high school and junior hockey since retiring. He also has served at the general manager and head coach for the defunct St. Louis Heartland Eagles.

In 2008, he joined the Lindenwood University mens’ hockey coaching staff. As an assistant, Zombo won consecutive American Collegiate Hockey Association Div. I titles.

LU hired Zombo to be the head coach in July 2010. During Zombo’s first two seasons as head coach Lindenwood has lost in the national final and semi-final games. Last year the Lions became the first team in the history of their conference to go undefeated during conference play.

“He knows so much about the game,” Lindenwood sophomore defenseman Nick Carey said. “It’s great just to pick his mind, and just talk to him, and just listen to what he has to say, because you are learning every time.”

Twenty-eight years after choosing hockey instead of drawing and economics Zombo is now using all three. He is drawing up the plans and crunching the numbers regarding a future move for his program to the NCAA Div. I level.

In 2014, the Lions would be eligible, and prepared for the move, if Lindenwood administrators and the NCAA give LU hockey permission to proceed.

“We’re the top dog of the ACHA,” Zombo said. “Everybody is jealous of Lindenwood hockey, because we have a history. It is not a tradition, we have a history, of success in winning. And everyone aspires to be like Lindenwood University.”

Rick Zombo Questions

1) Your freshman year at North Dakota you had 16 points. Your final year you had 31 points. What did you do to foster that kind of

growth as a player?

 

2) What was it like the first time you played in an NHL game during the 1984-’85 game?

 

3) What was it like playing against Wayne Gretzky during the 1987-’88 playoffs?

 

4) How did you become involved with the Hockey Performance Center of St. Louis?

 

5) How did you get started drawing? What is your favorite project?

 

6) I’ve heard you say: “Winning is quantitative, but not necessarily a true measure of being successful.” Was it hard to develop that

attitude after playing in the NHL?

 

7) When did you know you wanted to be involved in coaching and player development?

 

8) How did you get the nickname squirrel?

 

9) What is your favorite building you ever played in?

 

10) Who gave you the toughest fight you were ever in?

 

Catching history

Tim Forneris started his night behind the left field wagon gate. He ended it in USA Today.

Photo by Brett McMillan
Tim Forneris works as a public defender in St. Louis, Mo, and as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals’ grounds crew. Forneris is best known for returning Mark McGwire’s 62 home run ball in 1998.

On Sept. 8, 1998, he caught Mark McGwire’s 62 home run at the St. Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium. The home run broke Roger Maris’ single season home run record.

Some estimated it would be worth near $1 million. Forneris returned it to McGwire for free.

“My parents and I, like we had talked about it, and that is what was really weird,” Forneris said. “And I was like, ‘If I got it, I’d give it back.’ Because, I mean, I had nothing to do with it.”

McGwire’s 62 home run was a line drive that snuck between the top of the left field wall and advertising which hung down from the upper deck.

Members of the Busch Stadium grounds crew were behind wall to clean up celebratory confetti on the field. Forneris beat his co-workers to the ball, and they all ran through a tunnel toward the Cardinal clubhouse.

Halfway he remembered they had forgotten to clean up the confetti.

“If you ever watch that home run, as McGwire is actually touching home plate you will see the left field the gate bust open and all of us coming out,” Forneris said.

After play resumed, Forneris gave the ball to Cardinal equipment manager Buddy Bates. Following the game, a ceremony was held, during which Forneris presented McGwire with the ball.

The world now knew who Tim Forneris was.

Media from all over the world were at the ballpark. Post-game, reporters prodded for quotes as stadium security moved Forneris between the KMOX and WGN radio booths.

Next came a formal press conference. ESPN and other national outlets had reporters in the room, but they were all denied the first question. Forneris chose his friend, a local radio intern, instead. A McGwire question was mixed with jokes about playing basketball together at Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville, IL.

During the following days, critical pieces about Forneris’ giving the ball away appeared in national papers, such as the New York Times.

Forneris received mail from all over the country. Some praised him for not trying to make money off the ball. Others criticized him for giving the ball back to McGwire for free.

Dave Cline of St. Louis was at Busch the night McGwire broke the record. A 14 year old at the time, he thought Forneris’ actions were noble.

“You really didn’t want to see what people were writing about him. You really couldn’t avoid it either. I mean people, I think, were a little unfair to the guy,” Cline said. “You know it was a nice thing that he did in the end.”

Neither the St. Louis Cardinals nor Mark McGwire paid Forneris for returning the ball. He did get a call from a woman from Chrysler offering another kind of reward: a mini van.

“I’m like, ‘This is a buddy playing a joke on me, with like his girlfriend,’ ” Forneris said. “You know, like I don’t know her voice.”

The offer was real. Chrysler representatives met him at Mike Shannon’s Steaks and Seafood and gave him a brand new mini van. He still drives it today.

People recognized Forneris in public. He met Cardinal-great Stan Musial, attended black tie baseball awards shows, was given trips to Disney World, a lifetime pass to the Baseball Hall of Fame and appeared as a guest on David Letterman.

“As a Cardinal fan, the coolest thing out of it was Jack Buck knew my name, and would always ask me how I was doing and stuff like that,” Forneris said. “And that’s pretty cool. He is such a class guy, and he was Cardinal baseball.”

He has not made money off the ball or his story. He often does interviews when they are requested, but doesn’t look for opportunities to promote his name.

“I think it shows the kind of guy he is, a guy that is more concerned about giving back and about doing the thing that he thought was right,” 31 year old Stefan Helm of St. Charles said.

Forneris is now 36. He resides in St. Louis and works as a public defender. Even there, his role in the summer of 1998 is acknowledged. A judge has called him into chambers after a trial to confirm he is the Tim Forneris who caught 62.

McGwire and Forneris’ paths remain intertwined. Forneris is still a part of the Busch Stadium grounds crew, and McGwire is the Cardinals hitting coach.

They posed together for a picture on the field last October after the Cardinals won game seven of the World Series.

This past November, Forneris had to define their relationship while doing an ESPN 30 for 30 interview

“The guy from ESPN asked me, ‘Would you consider him a friend?’ I mean, no. Like an acquaintance, because of this situation,” Forneris said. “I mean it is not like we go out, and drink beers and hang out together. But yet, there is still this thing that kind of is overriding, that you are a friend through this circumstance.”

Tim Forneris Questions

1. How did you end up with a new mini van after catching No. 62?

2. Did people ripping you publicly bother you or your family?

3. Has that night become less special since McGwire’s steroid use has been confirmed?

4. What was the Late Show with David Letterman like?

5. At what point did you become aware giving the ball away you could be responsible for a gift tax (40% of sale price)?

6. What was it like having Don Marr give you a lifetime Hall of Fame pass?

7. What was the media’s reaction when you excused yourself from the post-game press conference to go tend to the field?

8. Did you ever consider keeping the ball for your personal collection?

9. What kind of relationship do you maintain with McGwire today?

10. What do you think of today when you hear “Welcome to the Jungle?”

Lady Lions end losing skid against old rival

Photo by Brett McMillan
Freshman forward Haley Stewart and other members of the Lindnwood womens’ soccer team warm-up before their Oct. 4 game versus Missouri Valley College.

Lindenwood played at Hunter Stadium Thursday, but they may not have had as much of a homefield advantage as usual.

The Missouri Valley College womens’ soccer team had eight St. Charles natives on its roster. Four of its 11 starters were from St. Charles. Lindenwood has one.

Viking’s sophomore forward Kendra Clamors, freshman forward Haley Ennis, junior defenseman Kelsey Hieb and senior midfielder Emily Lock all grew up in St. Charles.

The Lady Lions ended a three game losing streak beating the Vikings 4-1 at Hunter Stadium.

Lindenwood is now 4-5-1, and 0-5 in the MIAA. Missouri Valley is 6-4, and 1-0 in the Heart of America Conference.

LU junior forward Bailey Cody had a pair of goals Thursday including the game’s first at the 4:40 mark.

Cody had the game tying goal in a 2-2 road tie against the Vikings last season.

Both schools were members of the NAIA until 2011 when Lindenwood began its transition to NCAA Div. II.

“With this being out first year going D-two it is really important for us to play well together, and be strong,” Stewart said.

Cody finished the game with two goals and two assists. Freshman forward Haley Stewart also had a pair of goals. Cody assisted on Stewart’s goals and Stewart on one of Cody’s goals.

“They have definitely been our rivals in the past, especially last year when it was a really rough game, and they ended up beating us,” LU junior forward Bailey Cody said. “So we were really wanting to come out and get a game tonight.” LU never trailed, despite being outshot 15-11.

Five goals is the most the Lady Lions have scored during a game this season. The most they had scored before Thursday was three.

Cody said there was more open space against the Viking than there has been against MIAA teams.

“It was definitely different,” Cody said. “Some of the D-two teams we have played are a little more competitive than them. But we also came out to play tonight.”

LU junior goalkeeper Jade Davis made seven saves. Five of saves were made in the second half. Ennis scored Missouri Valley’s only goal of the game during the second half at the 63:28 mark.

“They got a lot of one-on-ones in and made me get off my line,” Davis said. “And you know I came up with them, but you know they could go either was.”

Davis now is 3-4-1 with an .855 save percentage and a 1.21 goals against average.

The Lady Lions will next play Truman State University, Sunday, in Kirksville, Mo.