Tag Archives: us naval academy

Baseball in February: The Freedom Classic and an MVP Beats a Drug Charge

I was able to go to a baseball game today. It is hard to believe that there are ball games going on outside of Spring Training but NCAA College Baseball has been underway for over a week. Today drove up to Kinston to take in a game between the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy. The occasion was the Second Annual Freedom Classic.

It was a cold day with temps in the low 50s and winds blowing 15-25 miles an hour but I was able to get together with my friends in Kinston to watch a game for the first time since the Kinston Indians final season ended with a loss to Frederick in the Carolina League Championship series on September 15th.  Though the weather was cold it was good to be back with my friends watching a game at a wonderful baseball venue.  I hate the fact that the Indians owner sold them without a replacement team and did not offer the city a chance to find an owner that would keep the team in Kinston. But at least there was baseball in Kinston this weekend.

Of course spring training is underway and all of the teams are working out.  Lots of moves were made in the post season following one of the most dramatic seasons in baseball history. Big names moved, Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to the Angels, Prince Fielder to the Tigers, Ozzie Guillen taking over the Marlins and a host of other situations.

But despite all the positives there was a cloud during the post season involving the National League MVP, Milwaukee Brewers Left Fielder Ryan Braun reportedly failed a drug test for Performance Enhancement Drugs (PEDs).  Braun appealed the results of the test and Friday it was announced that Braun won his appeal based on issues with the chain of custody of the sample. Evidently the collector of the sample who was required to immediately send the sample to the testing lab via FedEx held onto the sample.

Braun was out proclaiming his innocence today. He was articulate and appeared humble but at the same time there are still questions in many people’s minds about the test and if he was clean or not.  Having been in the military for over 30 years I have been repeatedly drug tested and as a Company Commander had to oversee a unit drug testing program.  When I heard about the process used and the actions of the collector I was appalled. Chain of custody does matter in any type of drug test that can impact someone’s career no matter what line of work they are in.  Failure to safeguard samples undermines the integrity of any drug testing program and there are cases every year where positive results are thrown out because of a chain of custody violation.

I learned about the importance of chain of custody as a Company Commander back in 1986. I had a soldier test positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. We were sticklers about maintaining a solid chain of custody and based on the test results and the un-impeachability of the chain of custody I offered non-judicial punishment under Article 15 and reduced the soldier in rank. Since the soldier was otherwise a good soldier and back then a commander did not have to separate a soldier under pay grade E4 for a first drug related offense I elected to keep the soldier in the Army. The soldier appealed the sentence as is his right and to my surprise I was called to my higher headquarters and had my ass chewed by the group commander and Sergeant Major for not maintaining the chain of custody. I knew that was not the case but the Platoon Sergeant who had accompanied the soldier to the headquarters for the appeal inadvertently left the chain of custody documentation on his desk. When the group commander reviewed the paperwork he thought that the chain of custody had not been maintained. Within 5 minutes I produced the original documents which changed the nature of the conversation, the sentence was upheld and the ass chewing stopped. But I learned that the chain of custody for a drug test or paperwork regarding a failed drug test needs to be airtight to maintain the integrity of the system.

In the case of Ryan Braun I have my doubts, I but the incompetence of the collector who did not adhere to established rules of shipping a sample brought the chain of custody into question. If Braun was indeed innocent as he maintains then he will always have a cloud that follows him. If he lied and the test was really positive then justice was not done because chain of custody was called into question.

The little things do matter.

Since I got home I have had the MLB Channel on all night, that is so much more relaxing than almost anything else on television. Only about a week until the first Spring Training games begin. It may be cold but spring is in the air.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Baseball, News and current events

The Good the Bad and the Ugly: The Day in Sports

Well sports fans it has been a day hasn’t it?  Now most of my day has been spent in transit getting Judy and Molly down to North Carolina so I can go back to work and give Judy a chance to continue to recuperate. With the exception of listening to ESPN radio on the trip and catching the last few minutes of the Army Navy game when we got here I have been playing catch up on sports stories. Of course the Molly loved the ride down here and is passed out on our bean bag at the Island Hermitage as I get ready to call it a night. Of course Molly knows that the trip is all for her benefit and she has already had several long walks and is looking for the deer that populate the neighborhood.

This was an interesting day. There was a doping scandal, a bench clearing brawl, an unexpected winner, a buzzer beater, a major upper level ownership gaffe and a continuation of a decade of dominance and that was just at the Republican debate.  But I jest, the sports world was as scandalous as politics today as several stories broke to steal the limelight from the Presidential primary debaters in Iowa.

Ryan Braun NL MVP Busted? 

Topping the news from the baseball standpoint was the report that National League MVP Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers tested positive for a banned Performance Enhancing Drug (PED.)  This was a surprise and Braun has been denying the report and appealing the ruling.  If the test is upheld and his appeal denied Braun faces a 50 game suspension.  This is a blow to the Brewers who will most likely lose free agent First Baseman Prince Fielder and the loss of Braun will hurt.  Braun was not someone that I would have thought to have done PEDs but I guess anything is possible. He never in the minors or majors tested positive prior to this.  Baseball is no longer playing games with PED use and I expect that Braun will be suspended as no one else has ever won an appeal for PED use.  However it hurts the game because baseball has worked hard to clean up the mess created during the steroid era and has the most stringent policies in place of any professional sport.  Baseball is not going to mess around with this and because of the risk to reputations as careers goes the extra mile to ensure that if a test is positive that it is not a “false” positive.  From what I have read it appears that baseball and its testing agency are sure that this was an accurate test.  Too bad as the season was one of the most amazing in baseball history and this takes away some of the shine from all of the players and teams that made it great.

The Hansen Brothers and Dean Wormer enter NCAA Basketball

Meanwhile in Cincinnati Xavier and Cincinnati were playing in their yearly “cross town shootout” and with 9 seconds left in the game a bench clearing brawl better suited to a Charlestown Chiefs hockey game and the Hansen brothers.  Both University Presidents issued comments about the brawl reminiscent of Dean Wormer and his comments about Faber College’s Delta House. Methinks that some of these players will end up suspended as well.  Too bad they don’t have a penalty box. See the fight: http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/basketball/blog/the_dagger/post/Yancy-Gates-decks-Kenny-Frease-in-wild-Xavier-Ci;_ylt=AiT3clAGA6sDmaDIcDxL7cPevbYF?urn=ncaab-wp6817

Classless and Clueless David Stern tries even harder to Blow up the NBA

Not to be outdone in the “no class” category the Commissioner and Dictator of the NBA David Stern made a complete ass of himself and embarrassed a sport already reeling from the self inflicted wounds of the just ended player’s strike. Stern’s office voided a deal between the LA Lakers, New Orleans Hornets and Houston Rockets that would have sent Hornets star Chris Paul to the Lakers. The trade made sense for all the teams involved. In doing so Stern figuratively shot himself and the league in the balls to try to show that he was the boss. He has since back-peddled and the trade will probably be approved in a modified form. By doing this Stern showed his hubris and probably has ensured that the end of his reign as dictator will be only slightly less bloody than that waged by other dictators.  The sad thing is that people were starting to get interested in the NBA again.

Christian Watford and Indiana Shock Kentucky

But the bad news was balanced with good news, unless you are a fan of the Military Academy, University of Kentucky basketball or anyone not named Robert Griffin III at the Heisman Trophy presentation.  The unranked but undefeated Indiana Hoosiers knocked off the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats when Christian Watford sank a last second 3 pointer to defeat the favored Wildcats by a score of 73-72.

Navy Dominates

In Washington DC the Midshipmen of the Naval Academy defeated the Cadets of the US Military Academy, the Black Knights of the Hudson for the 10th time in the last 10 years. It has been termed the Decade of Dominance.  Though I am an ardent Navy fan I do feel bad for the Army players who like the classes before them have went a full college career without having beaten the Midshipmen.

Robert Griffin III wins the Heisman Trophy 

And finally in a presentation of an award that any of the players nominated could have won Baylor Quarterback Robert Griffin III was awarded the Heisman Trophy.  While I was hoping that Stanford Quarterback Andrew Luck considered the top draft choice in the upcoming NFL Draft would win I think that Griffin was deserving. He s the first player from Baylor to win the Heisman.  Griffin completed 72 percent of his passes for 3,998 yards.  He had 36 touchdown passes and led the nation with an 192.3 efficiency rating.

It was an amazing day in sports and like life it was a day of the good and the bad and the ugly. But that’s life.

Peace

Padre Steve+

1 Comment

Filed under Baseball, football, sports and life

“I have not yet begun to Fight!” John Paul Jones and the Battle of Flamborough Head

Battle off Flamborough Head September 23rd 1779

Two hundred thirty one years ago today a small naval battle occurred off the coast of Yorkshire England. From a purely military perspective the battle was rather insignificant. A squadron of five American and French ships intercepted a convoy guarded by two British ships. However, the battle was one that had immense psychological significance for the Americans as a ramshackle converted French East India ship with an inferior main battery forced a materially superior British warship to strike her colors. In fact the battle is so significant to the United States Navy that the body of the victor, Captain John Paul Jones was returned to the United States in 1905 from an abandoned site in northeastern Paris known as the former St. Louis Cemetery for Alien Protestants to be interred in Bancroft Hall at the United States Naval Academy. Jones had an unusual career as a British merchant skipper accused of murdering a mutinous crewman at Tobago and escaped to Fredericksburg Virginia out of fear that he would be tried in a local versus and Admiralty Court.

John Paul Jones

Jones went to the United States and due to his friendship with Henry “Lighthorse” Lee and other friends in the Continental Congress including a man who became a lifelong friend, Benjamin Franklin obtained a commission in the Continental Navy as a First Lieutenant.  At that time the “First Lieutenant” was the senior officer among the Lieutenants on a ship and often served as the First Officer or Executive Officer.  His first assignment was on the fleet flagship Alfred where he hoisted the first US Ensign aboard an American Naval vessel.  He took part in the raid on Nassau and upon his return assumed command of the Sloop of War Providence where he captured 16 prizes of war and escaped capture by the a British Frigate. He then assumed command of Alfred for a brief time capturing a key supply vessel that had winter clothing for British troops commanded by General Burgoyne in New York.  Following this he took command of the 18 gun Sloop of War Ranger in France received the first ever salute to an American man-of-war by a foreign power 8 days after the French had recognized the American Colonies as an independent nation.

Ranger receives the first salute rendered to an American warship by a foreign power

The nine-gun salute fired from Admiral Piquet’s flagship recognized this and the new Franco-American alliance. Jones wrote of the event: “I accepted his offer all the more for after all it was a recognition of our independence and in the nation.” After this made an epic raid on the port of Whithaven and captured the British 20 gun Brig HMS Drake in an hour long fight.  Jones’ raid on Whithaven struck fear into the British populace and forced the British to allocate more resources to the defense of British seaports than had previously been the case.  The capture of the Drake was of immense psychological importance and along with Jones’ other victories would ultimately lead to the formation of the United States Navy.

Bonhomme Richard

Jones’ exploits made him a celebrated figure and after giving up command of Ranger took command of the Bonhomme Richard a converted 42 gun former French East India ship named after Benjamin Franklin’s book “Poor Richards’ Almanac” and a mixed squadron of American and French ships including the 36 gun American Frigate Alliance, the 32 gun French Frigate Pallas and two 12 gun warships the Vengeance and Le Cerf. Detailed to provide a diversion for a combined French and Spanish fleet the squadron menaced Ireland and Scotland before moving into the North Sea.  As they came into English waters the Americans intercepted a 50 ship convoy on the 22nd of September. The convoy which was enroute to the Baltic was escorted by the 44 gun two-decker Serapis. Serapis was brand new and powerful in comparison with Bonhomme Richard though a larger ship was not designed as a warship nor had as powerful battery as Serapis. A second ship, the 20 gun Countess of Scarborough accompanied Serapis.

Jones directing the battle from the Bonhomme Richard

The battle was joined about 1800 on the 23rd and the Serapis which was more maneuverable than Jones’ flagship pounded the Bonhomme Richard holing her below the waterline and seriously damaging her with little damage to herself and Jones’ problems were compounded when with the first broadside two of Bonhomme Richard’s elderly 18 pounders burst damaging the ship and killing most of the gun crews on the lower deck.  Jones attempted to close the range in order to grapple the Serapis and make the battle a close aboard action. Eventually the bow of Bonhomme Richard ran into the stern of Serapis and the Captain of Serapis Captain Richard Pearson hailed Jones to ask if he had struck his colors (surrendered.) The First Lieutenant of Bonhomme Richard Richard Dale recorded Jones’ response for posterity “I have not yet begun to fight!”

Alliance opens fire on Serapis and Bonhomme Richard

Serapis then collided with Bonhomme Richard and in his attempt to extricate his ship from the American Captain Pearson ended up causing the ships to come side to side and Jones’ crew lashed the ships together.  The fight now became a close quarter fight with the remaining guns on both ships blasting large holes in the other at point blank range while Marines in the rigging poured relentless musket fire and grenade volleys on the exposed crews of their opponents. An American grenade thrower was able to drop a grenade down an open hatch of Serapis where it exploded near a charge of gunpowder placed in readiness setting off a chain reaction of explosions which knocked out five guns and killed or wounded most of the gun crews.

Bonhomme Richard had taken a severe beating with most of her guns knocked out, taking water and burning from fires ignited by the British onslaught. The Bonhomme Richard’s Carpenter and Master of Arms thinking that Jones was dead took it on themselves to hail the British to say that the Americans had struck their colors, which had been shot away in the engagement.  Pearson hailed Jones asking of he had really struck and Jones responded “I have not yet thought of it, but I am determined to make you strike.” The battle continued and the Alliance under the command of a Frenchman with an American commission Pierre Landais came up and delivered a devastating broadside much of which hit Bonhomme Richard, holing her again below the waterline and causing her to settle rapidly. At the same time she caused additional damage to Serapis. With his ship badly damaged and Alliance threatening Pearson stuck his colors in person at 2230 hours.  Jones would take possession of Serapis and the badly damaged Bonhomme Richard would sink the on the 25th of September despite Jones’ best efforts to save her.  Jones made temporary repairs Serapis and sought refuge in the Netherlands.

The battle was militarily insignificant but again a major psychological victory as Jones had for the second time defeated a British warship in British waters within sight of the local population.  Even though Jones had taken Serapis the British warships completed their mission of protecting the convoy. Jones’s post war career would leave him embittered. His opportunity to command the first US Navy Ship of the Line, the 74 gun America disappeared when that ship was given to France. Made a Chevalier of France by Louis the XVI and awarded a gold medal by Congress Jones found employment in the Imperial Russian Navy of Catherine the Great. Though successful against the Turks  jealous Russian commanders conspired against him and had him removed from his command of the Black Sea Fleet.  He retired to France where he died of a brain tumor on July 18th 1792.

In the years since that victory the United States Navy went from a militarily insignificant force to the most powerful Navy in the world. Jones and the ships that he captained would not be forgotten. Two Aircraft Carriers were named after Jones’ Sloop of war Ranger, while several destroyers have born his name.

The odds against Jones in his battle with Serapis were heavily weighted against him.  His victory over Serapis was another demonstration that the Americans should not be taken lightly and began a tradition of valiant service for the Navy that has endured throughout the centuries.  The victory off Flamborough Head reaches into the present as American sailors and their ships ply the world’s oceans keeping the sea lanes open and protecting American interests abroad.

Peace

Padre Steve+

3 Comments

Filed under History, Military, Navy Ships, US Navy