John McGrath: Pro athletes in exhibitions carry both risks and rewards

Column as I see 'em...

The email sent to me Saturday was tagged in capital letters:


Medical conditions regarding the best hitter of a Mariners team still desperate for offense are not something I want to be updated about on Nov. 15. On Nov. 15, I want to read emails with such subject lines as "MARINERS TRADE TWO CLASS A RELIEVERS FOR MIKE TROUT."

Cano, at any rate, is expected to report to spring training at full strength after breaking his right small toe during the fourth game of an exhibition series between major league players and a Japanese all-star team.


Had Cano been seriously hurt, the debate over the practicality of pro athletes participating in international competition would have moved to baseball. It became a hot-button issue in the National Hockey League last winter, when New York Islanders' center John Tavares — the No. 1 overall pick in 2010 — suffered a season-ending knee injury at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has long opposed the idea of NBA players participating in nonleague events. Cuban's laments about the risks outweighing the benefits sounded propitious over the summer, when Indiana Pacers forward Paul George fractured his leg during a scrimmage with the U.S. national team.

The 1974 Mets, managed by Yogi Berra, barnstormed through Japan — can you imagine the challenge of translating Yogi? — but the highlight of the tour was a home-run derby between power kings: Japan's Sadaharu Oh versus the Braves' Henry Aaron.

More than 50,000 fans gathered in Tokyo to watch Aaron hit 10 homers and Oh hit nine. Afterward, Aaron had nothing but nice things to say about Oh, and Oh had nothing but nice things to say about Aaron. The goodwill the two legends engendered that day turned into a lifelong friendship.

His first long carry went 42 yards. The next long carry went 62 yards, and he was just getting warmed up. Gordon gashed the Cornhuskers for 39 yards, 44 yards, 43 yards and 68 yards — all achieved before the fourth quarter, which he watched from the sideline.

A Heisman Trophy race in which Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was a clear favorite is now, like, a race.

The "Heidi Bowl."

"Heidi," a 1968 made-for-TV movie based on the 19th century children's novel, was scheduled by NBC to air at 7 p.m. on the East Coast. But the game took a while — more than three hours — and when it was evident the action in Oakland would conflict with "Heidi," NBC pulled the plug on football.

To make matters worse, NBC put the final score on a bottom-of-the-screen scroll, outraging fans denied the chance to watch the Raiders' comeback.

Three-hour football games were so uncommon in 1968 that one of them is recalled as infamous, which is funny. Between replay reviews and quarterbacks attempting 45 passes and long commercial breaks after touchdowns — followed by more long commercial breaks after each ensuing kickoff — any game finished within a three-hour window in 2014 is considered a whirlwind.

Beware of the newest NFC West behemoths. Cards-Hawks (Part I) might not be touted as the game of the year, but when the defending Super Bowl champs clash with the hottest team in the league, what other description applies?