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Bernie Bits: Night To Remember For Trent Frederic, Happy Anniversary to the ’99 STL Rams, Ozuna Update, Cards Prospect Watch

On this cold day, here’s a hot bowl of the Bernie Bits…

For Jan. 30,  2019.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“When you believe in yourself and the people you surround yourself with, you will win something really big someday.”

— St. Louis Rams coach Dick Vermeil, after his team’s thrilling 23-16 win over Tennessee in Super Bowl 34 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

THIS DAY IN SPORTS HISTORY

Super Bowl 34 was played on this day in 2000. On one of the greatest sports days in St. Louis history, the Rams used a record-setting 414 yards passing and two touchdown throws by Kurt Warner, a go-ahead 73-yard catch-and-run by wide receiver Isaac Bruce with 1:54 remaining and a game-saving tackle by linebacker Mike Jones on the final play to prevail over the Titans. Warner was named MVP. Bruce had six catches for 162 yards. Rookie wideout Torry Holt had seven receptions for 109 yards and a TD. Running back Marshall Faulk was held to 17 yards rushing but caught five passes for 90 yards.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Former St. Louis Rams tight end Lance Kendricks (here for 2011 through 2015) is 31 … former Cardinals reliever Keith Butler is 30; he appeared in 18 games for the Cards in 2013-2014, is 30 … former Blues winger Dan Hinote is 42. He played for the Note for three seasons beginning in 2006-2007 … former Blues defenseman Alexander Khavanov is 47. He played in 284 games for the Blues over four seasons starting in 2000-2001.

BORN ON THIS DAY

The late, great Payne Stewart was born in Springfield, Mo. in 1957. The charismatic Springfield native died in a private Learjet crash at age 42 back in 1999. Stewart won 11 times on the PGA Tour as part of his 24 professional wins. His most significant triumphs were two U.S. Open championships (1991 and 1999) and the 1989 PGA championship.

TRENDING UP

Marcell Ozuna. Well, supposedly, anyway. According to Jen Langosch of MLB.com, Cardinals president of baseball ops John Mozeliak made a side trip to check on Ozuna in the Dominican Republic as part of a visit to the island to participate in Sunday’s graduation ceremony at the Cardinals’ baseball academy in Boca Chica. Mozeliak went on a fact-finding mission to gauge the progress of Ozuna’s offseason rehab from shoulder surgery.

In corresponding with Langosch,  Mozeliak described his conversations with Ozuna as “overall very positive.”

Mozeliak watched as Ozuna took several rounds of batting practice. “Happy to report he is looking strong, working hard, and will begin his throwing program in early February,” Mozeliak told Langosch.

Wrote Langosch: “The Cardinals will monitor Ozuna’s throwing throughout Spring Training, but they do expect the outfielder to build up quickly enough to be full go by Opening Day.”

The Cardinals have been sweating over Ozuna, who went rogue by having the surgery and conducting the rehab without any oversight by the team’s medical staff.

Earlier today, Mozeliak checked in with Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com. “It was a very positive meeting,” Mozeliak told the great Commish. “From a pure baseball standpoint, he’s been swinging the bat for two weeks. I don’t think he’s quite letting it go but it looks like there aren’t going to be any real limitations or concerns from an offensive standpoint. He plans on beginning his throwing program when he reports to Jupiter (Fla.) in February. The question is, ‘What does that mean early in spring training games?’ He just needs to build up his arm strength. But I see no reason for him not be ready by opening day (March 28).”

TRENDING DOWN

St. Louis native Otto Porter Jr., who grew up in Sikeston, has been relegated to sixth-man duty for the NBA’s Washington Wizards. This means Porter is coming off the bench for a 21-29 team that’s paying him $26 million this season as part of a “max” four-year contract worth just under $107 million. Porter is in his second season under the big contract. The 6-9 small forward has never averaged more than 14.7 points or 6.4 rebounds per game in a season.

“I mean, of course everybody in the NBA wants to start,” Porter told reporters who cover the Wizards. “It’s an earned position, but at the same time, for the better of the team, you have to take sacrifices. And that’s what I’ve been doing.”

AS OTHER SEE US

Washington Post sports columnist Jerry Brewer wrote an excellent piece on what the NFL and Stan Kroenke did to St. Louis in moving the Rams.

Here’s an excerpt, starting with Brewer discussing our town’s unhappiness with a Rams-Patriots matchup in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

“All of a sudden, it feels like 2016 again, when Kroenke trashed the city in a 29-page relocation application that claimed St. Louis “lags, and will continue to lag, far behind in the economic drivers that are necessary for sustained success of an NFL franchise.”

“In shooting down a local proposal for a $1.1 billion stadium to pursue a $5 billion privately funded project in Inglewood, Calif., the application declared, ‘Any NFL Club that signs on to this proposal in St. Louis will be well on the road to financial ruin, and the League will be harmed.’

“That document is essentially one of the most stunning divorce petitions in American sports history. It serves as a reminder that, for as much as teams use civic pride to manipulate fan bases, the reality is that you are rooting for laundry.

“The sad tale of the Cleveland/Los Angeles/St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams represents the worst of this wickedly transient business and creates layers upon layers of conflict with every relocation.

“Cities don’t own teams, Green Bay excluded. Greedy owners ask cities to pay dowries to pretend they own teams, and those financial terms are always open for renegotiation. Sometimes, even when a city is willing to invest in retention, the owners would rather go elsewhere.

“It happened in St. Louis, and the unforgivable part is that one of its own betrayed the city. Enos Stanley Kroenke is named after two St. Louis sports icons, Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial. But the billionaire still left, in pursuit of more billions, and he tore down the city to justify the departure.”

READING TIME,  8 MINUTES

In writing for ESPN.com, baseball analyst Keith Law included three Cardinals’ projects on his Top 100 prospect list. Third baseman Nolan Gorman is No. 39, pitcher Alex Reyes is No. 42 and third baseman Eli Montero is No. 64. Here’s one line from Law on each prospect:

  • Gorman, age 19:  “His future is really about the power… if he hits enough to get to that power, and I think he will, he’s going to fight for home run titles for a long time.”
  • Reyes, age 24: “With the injuries and the below-average command he has shown when healthy, I see a lot of reliever risk here — albeit a high-end reliever who’d likely post a huge strikeout rate. That’s the difficulty of projecting Reyes to handle a starter’s workload when he has pitched so little in the past three years.”
  • Montero, age 20: “There’s a good starter kit here for a No. 4 or 5 hitter, a 25- to 30-homer guy with a solid OBP but maybe not as much average as you would want from a No. 2 or 3 hitter (though) enough for a regular.”

Moving on …

Congrats to our town’s Trent Frederic, the latest St. Louisan to make it to the NHL. Though Frederic and the Boston Bruins lost Tuesday’s home game to Winnipeg, Frederic’s NHL debut was a positive experience for him. Frederic, a big center, was put on a line with former Blues captain David Backes. As a kid, Frederic’s favorite player was Backes. At age 9, Frederick posed for a photo with Backes before the start of a Blues’ home game. That was 11 years ago. “I try not to be too star-struck to him,” Frederic said before the game (via NHL.com). “But I’m sure he has a clue.”

Frederic’s family made it to Boston in time for the game, led by his father Bob and mom Gay. And the highlight of the evening was Frederic dropping the gloves to fight and pummeling Winnipeg’s Brandon Taney. That prompted a celebration in the family section, with Trent’s excited parents botching a high-five attempt in a display of endearing clumsiness that’s getting a lot of play nationally.

“It’s a lot of emotion, and they’re just pumped, and I’m pumped to have them in my corner,”  Frederic said after the game.

You can watch the fight — and the Mom & Dad reaction — by clicking here.

Frederic was praised by Backes.  “He did a heck of a job standing up for himself and answering the bell when they were starting to run around a little bit,” Backes told NESN during the second intermission. “Gotta love the fire in the kid in his first NHL game.”

“He’s a good kid with a good head on his shoulders,” Backes had said after Tuesday’s morning skate.

The Bruins drafted Frederic 29th overall in the 2016 NHL draft, with Frederic spending two seasons playing at the University of Wisconsin before turning pro. He’d been playing for the Bruins’ AHL affiliate in Providence.

“It was good to get my feet wet. It lived up to the hype of a first NHL game,” Frederic told Boston-area media after the game. “It was a lot of fun.”

Moving on … 

Congratulations to our friend Kevin Harlan — the CBS, Turner Sports and Westwood One (radio) broadcaster who will be calling Super Bowl 53 on Sunday on the radio side. Harlan, 58, will share a unique piece of history when he settles into the Westwood One booth and gets to work in Atlanta. (The game can heard locally on 101ESPN.) This will be Harlan’s ninth consecutive year of doing play-by-play of the Super Bowl, tying the legendary Jack Buck. (After a two-year break, Buck went on another streak of call eight straight Super Bowls.) …

To be mentioned with Jack Buck is extremely meaningful for Harlan because of his St. Louis roots. Before becoming the chairman (now chairman emeritus) of the Green Bay  Packers, Kevin’s father Bob Harlan was a front-office executive for the baseball Cardinals. And Kevin has sweet memories of sitting in the back of the Cardinals’ broadcast booth during home games, listening to Buck call games. “It’s not lost on me how unbelievable and lucky it is for me to do this,” Harlan said. “I had no idea about (tying Jack Buck’s record.) Now, I am even more excited and honored than ever. Unbelievable.”

Will Brinson of CBS Sports ranked all 52 Super Bowls and had the Rams’ win over the Titans at No. 8.  We like Will, but the game should have been rated higher. But this is a good line from Brinson: “The world was one yard short from Jeff Fisher possibly winning a Super Bowl,” … Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon makes it clear: He’s rooting for New England to whack the Rams. “Patriots all day,” Gordon told SiriusXM NFL Radio “I don’t want the Rams to win. I live in L.A. Y’all don’t. I live in L.A., I gotta hear that all day. I need them to lose. … I love the guys over there, I’m cool with Todd (Gurley) but, man, I need them boys to lose.”

In an interview with Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports, Mike “The Tackle” Jones shared his thoughts on the Rams leaving St. Louis for LA. By the way, Dodd did a terrific job in reporting the St. Louis mood before Super Bowl 53.  “It’s a business until it happens to you, then it’s personal,” said Jones, the football coach at St. Louis University High School. “I’m a Ram, I won a championship with the Rams. That journey, that Super Bowl, all the guys, it’s the small things … We caught lightning in a bottle. … The people in St. Louis aren’t real happy,” Jones added. “You’ve got a team that won the Super Bowl. It’s not as if the people in St. Louis didn’t want the team. It’s not a good feeling.”

CLOSING TIME AT BERNIE’S PLACE 

Last call … 

The last word …

Here’s former Rams coach Mike Martz, explaining  why Isaac Bruce deserves to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this Saturday: “Go back and look at the big games, and see how well he performed, and the key plays that he makes in those games. A big-time difference maker who impacted his teams and made them championship teams. No receiver in the history of this league ever ran more precise routes … and I’ve studied all of the great receivers. But when you watch Isaac line up one-on-one there wasn’t a corner that would line up off of him and try to cover him. They tried everything. After awhile, they tried double-covering him, all the time. And some of (our) other receivers’ numbers started going up because of it. But there wasn’t a corner in this league that Isaac didn’t beat and beat routinely. His low center of gravity, his ability to plant and change direction without shuffling his feet and losing speed coming out of the break … it was freakish … and Isaac’s competitive edge was fierce. And beyond reproach. All of the receivers looked up to him because of that. They learned from him. He set the standard for how we executed and competed. Simply the best I’ve ever seen.”

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie