Tag Archives: Obscure Athletes
As the Sweet 16 boils down to the Elite Eight, I’d like to turn your attention to a man who turned his knack for striking while the iron’s hot into a decade-plus-long NBA career. It was during the tournament in 1999, when Wally Szczerbiak stormed onto the national scene. His Miami, Ohio RedHawks were the 10 seed, facing the heavily-favored, seventh seeded Washington Huskies.
In a 59-58 win over Washington, Szczerbiak scored a remarkable 43 points. He took 33 shots from the field–the rest of the Red Hawks attempted just 22 shots. He collected 12 boards and shot 5-12 from three-point land. The team advanced to the second round, where they took on the 2-seeded Utah Utes.
It was a showdown featuring Szczerbiak versus Utah’s future NBA sharpshooter Andre Miller. Miller did his best, scoring 20 points and grabbing six rebounds, but it was Miami of Ohio, behind Szczerbiak’s 24-point, 8-rebound effort, continuing their Cinderella run to the Sweet 16. Miami finally lost to Kentucky, but Wally Szczerbiak became a household name (once households learned how to pronounce it).
Wally went sixth overall to the Timberwolves in that year’s draft. His tourney foe Andre Miller went eighth. After an impressive rookie season, two more solid years followed for Szczerbiak, including his 2002 campaign–his best as a pro. He made his lone All-Star game appearance in 2002 for the T-Wolves. And that off-season, seeing what they had in Szczerbiak, Minnesota decided they NEEDED to keep Wally in the Twin Cities, so they gave him a 6-year, $63 million extension, the structure of which was heavily back-loaded.
Six years and several teams later, Szczerbiak was one of the richest bench players in the NBA and an annual member of the NBA’s All-Expiring-Contract team, the players of which are constantly on tour throughout the land, and whom are traded mid-season almost every year (See: Raef LaFrentz). He was somewhat famously involved in the trade that sent Ray Allen to the Celtics, as he moved to Seattle before their final season as the SuperSonics in 2007-08.
He now works in broadcasting, as a member of the MSG network post-game crew for Knicks games. In total, Szczerbiak played parts of twelve seasons in the NBA, and was a pretty good player (14.1 PPG). But he always carried the “ridiculously overpaid” moniker. I say he was simply one of the most opportunistic players the game has ever seen. It’s good work, as they say, if ya can get it.
It’s a big episode today on the podcast, as we talk about Charlie “Clipboard Jesus” Whitehurst, Brandon Weeden’s move to Dallas, and the Men’s NIT Basketball Tourney.
All this week on Obscure Athletes PODCAST EPISODE 5 . Brought to you by the number 5. And watermelons.
Originally posted at ObscureAthletes
There aren’t enough Wheaties in the world to account for what Major League journeyman Fernando Tatis did in 1999. I’m not saying Tatis was a steroid user, but he makes Dean Palmer’s numbers seem legitimate.
I’m sure nobody thought any funny business was afoot when, in 1999, the historically light-hitting Tatis hit two grand slams in one inning for the Cardinals, less than a month into the season. Tatis set a record for that feat, which included a record 8 RBI in a single inning, all off of Dodgers’ pitcher Chan Ho Park.
Just listen to the soothing sound of Bob Costas talk all about that glorious evening in April, 1999.
Tatis’ career lasted parts of 11 Major League seasons, but due to various injuries, he played in over 100 games just four times. When he hung it up for good in 2010, he was a career .265/.344/.785 hitter–pretty good right? But the real story lies in the individual seasons.
Look at Tatis’ 1999 campaign. He hit 34 homers, more than he hit in any two other seasons combined! Just out of curiosity, I looked up the Home Run leaders for that year, and the numbers are downright hilarious. A stunning 45 players hit 30 home runs that season. His 34 home runs landed him in a tie for 25th in the majors. For comparison’s sake, last year just 14 players reached the 30-homer plateau. His 34 would have placed him 6th in baseball in 2013.
Anyway, in 1999 Fernando Tatis put up a .957 OPS, almost 200 points higher than his career average. He hit .298, and drove in 107 runs. He netted no more than 64 RBI in any other season. His 1999 season saw Tatis score 104 runs, 35 more than he scored in any of his ten other Major League seasons.
Tatis was named the 2008 Comeback Player of the Year, when he converted from third base to outfielder for the Mets. All told, Fernando played for five teams in his eleven-year career, and was able to hold on for eleven seasons thanks in large part to his 1999 supremacy. The Steroid Era features so many of these stories–guys who play serviceable baseball for a few years, then EXPLODE in the late-90’s for a season or two. Guys like John Jaha, for instance. These fellows make some of the best Obscure Athletes.