Episode 7 — My Fault: The Trey Junkin Story


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Trey JunkinClick the Apple Podcasts bug to listen.

Trey Junkin was a long-snapper in the NFL longer than anyone else, ever. He can count on his fingers the number of bad snaps he made in 20 seasons in the NFL. But if you remember him, you remember him because of his very last snap. And it was a bad one. Also: You are a New York Giants fan.

Junkin played in the NFL for 19 seasons — “it kinda pisses me off” that it wasn’t 20, he says.

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But he did play in a 20th season. He’d already submitted retirement papers when Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi called him and asked if he could snap for punts in a wild-card playoff game in San Francisco. Junkin, 41 and with a bad knee among other ailments, hesitated, but agreed.

Trey Junkin with the Arizona Cardinals
In an image tacked to his wall: Trey Junkin after a happier finish, with the Arizona Cardinals in 2001.

Junkin practiced with the Giants for only a couple of days, but head coach Jim Fassel asked him to add placekick snapping to his duties. Again, Junkin hesitated. He had barely practiced with the unit, and while it looks simple, the process of snapping on placekicks, and “that triangle: snapper, holder, kicker,” is complex.

“There’s a million things that can go wrong,” he says. “And there’s only one thing that can go right.”

Fassel insisted, and Junkin agreed.

Things went well in San Francisco until they didn’t. The Giants built a 38-14 lead late in the third quarter, with all punts and kicks going smoothly, but the 49ers launched a furious comeback to take a 39-38 with just over a minute to play. Along the way, a first disaster: A bad snap on a field goal attempt that would have extended the Giants’ lead to 41-33.

And then, with six seconds to go, the Giants lined up for what would have been the game-winning kick.

“My fault,” Junkin says about those two snaps. Not the whole game. Not the second-half collapse or the officiating mistake that ended the game rather than properly giving the Giants one more snap. But that last bad snap? “That’s mine.”

Giants fans still cringe at the mention of Trey Junkin’s name. His career was the 16th longest in NFL history, the sixth longest among non-kickers/punters. The names above him on that list: Jerry Rice, Brett Favre, Bruce Matthews, Darrell Green and Jim Marshall. Four Hall of Famers and one (Marshall) who should be.

For most of his 19-plus years in the league, he was anonymous, a perfectionist working in the game’s trenches. But all anyone remembers about him now is that one snap, his last.

He’s well aware of this. He’s thought about it a lot. He’s talked about it a lot. And he welcomed me to his home in Winnfield, Louisiana, to talk about it for Can’t Win 4 Losing.

Helmets
In the barn he used as a home gym when he was still physically able to do so, Trey Junkin has a collection of helmets from all the teams he played for. The only exception: The New York Giants.

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Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Other Songs Used

In order of appearance:

In the West” by Kevin McLeod (Creative Commons 4.0)
“Room With a View” by Jahzzar (Creative Commons 3.0)
“Horses to Water” by Topher Mohr and Alex Elena
“Call to Statesmanship” by U.S. Army Herald Trumpets
“Bravura” by U.S. Army Band
Except as noted: public domain or Creative Commons non-attribution license.

Did you catch the NFL Films music vibe we were going for?

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Episode 6: Zippy Chippy—Legendary Loser to Champion of Champions


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Zippy ChippyZippy Chippy ran 100 races and lost 100 times. But he was a star, featured in People magazine and on “Good Morning America,” among many others. So many fans bet on him that he routinely went off as the favorite. Most of those fans didn’t know that Zippy was hardly a lovable underdog who goshdarnit gave it his all but wasn’t good enough.

“Nobody got too close to him,” says William Thomas, author of the horse’s biography: The Legend of Zippy Chippy. “Even the grooms and the hotwalkers were very leery.”

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Zippy was, and at 26 still is, an ornery cuss. He’s been known to bite, and he once caught his owner and trainer, the late Felix Monserrate, by the back of his jacket and held him suspended in midair for 15 minutes. Track workers came running at the sound of Monserrate’s screams, but they weren’t able to help him. They were laughing too hard.

Zippy Chippy had a champion’s bloodlines. He’s a direct descendent of Man o’ War, three Triple Crown winners and the greatest broodmare of the 20th century, La Troienne. Bloodlines are everything in thoroughbred racing, but Zippy Chippy parlayed that advantage into a career of futility that began at Belmont Park in New York but ended at fairground tracks in Massachusetts. His career winnings were about $30,000.

Zippy Chippy lives now at Old Friends at Cabin Creek, a thoroughbred retirement farm in upstate New York whose owner, Jo Ann Pepper, refers to herself as Zippy’s mom. And here’s the twist: Zippy is so popular that, through donations and merchandise sales, his presence pays for the upkeep of a small herd of horses who won millions of dollars and stood in the winner’s circle at major races.

“This is the most beautiful irony of any story I’ve ever come across,” Thomas says.

As you’ll hear in the story, what happens to thoroughbreds when they come off the track is a serious issue in the racing industry. The Old Friends retirement farms are supported entirely by donations, volunteer work and merchandise sales. Please consider donating or, if you’re in the area, volunteering. Visit OldFriendsEquine.org to learn how you can help these magnificent animals.

This summer Can’t Win 4 Losing visited Zippy, his caretakers and his fellow retirees, including his bosom buddy, Red Down South. Click on Zippy’s smiling face for a gallery.

Zippy's face

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Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Other Songs Used

“William Tell Overture” by Rossini
“Ipanema Daydream” by Bird Creek
“The Creek” by Topher Mohr and Alex Elena
“Dreamland” by the 126ers
All are either public domain or used under a Creative Commons license.

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Episode 3: Casey Stengel — How to Learn By Losing


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Casey Stengel
With the Yankees in the ’50s, he had the greatest run in managerial history. But before that, Casey Stengel skippered a series of relentlessly terrible teams. Host King Kaufman asks: Did the Old Perfessor learn to win by losing? Plus: What if the worst player on the worst team in a league met the best player on the best team in that league 40 years later? And what if one of those guys was the host of a podcast about losing?

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Casey Stengel
Stengel in 1935, his second year as manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. They finished fifth.
Casey Stengel
Stengel in 1938, his first year as manager of the Boston Bees. They finished fifth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Casey Stengel managed the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1934-36 and the Boston Braves from 1938-43. The Braves were known as the Bees from 1936-40. Stengel’s teams in Boston and Brooklyn went 581-742, a .439 winning percentage, and never finished higher than fifth in the eight-team National League.

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People in the story

Steven GoldmanSteven Goldman is a baseball columnist for FanRag Sports and the author of Forging Genius: The Making of Casey Stengel. He is also the host of The Infinite Inning podcast. He was a pioneer of the blog format with his long-running The Pinstriped Bible, and was the editor and co-writer of the books Mind Game, It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over and Extra Innings: More Baseball Between the Numbers. He was editor in chief of Baseball Prospectus and edited seven editions of the Baseball Prospectus annual.

Marty AppelMarty Appel is a longtime baseball author, publicist and historian and the author of the 2017 biography Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character. He was George Steinbrenner’s first public relations director with the Yankees, the youngest person ever to hold that position for a major league team. He’s also led public relations for WPIX in New York and the Atlanta Olympic Committee. His many other books include Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss and Slide, Kelly, Slide, a biography of Mike “King” Kelly, who was mentioned in Episode 1.

Steve JacobsonSteve Jacobson was a reporter and columnist for Newsday for four decades. He covered Stengel when the Old Perfessor was manager of both the Yankees and the Mets. He’s the author of several books, the most recent of which is All Bets Are Off with Arnie Wexler, about Wexler’s life as a gambler.

2nd story: Extreme Little League

Vince Beringhele
Vince Beringhele.

At 7, I was the worst player on the worst team at North Venice Little League in Los Angeles. I’ve told this story before, including the part about how the funky rules forced me to play as officially one year older than I really was. The dominant player in that league was a kid named Vince Beringhele. When he was 11, coaches around the league were talking about how he’d probably play pro ball someday. We were the extremes of the league.

He did play pro ball. He spent three years in the Dodgers organization before knee injuries ended his career. I decided to try to talk to him. He’s the head baseball coach at Cal State Los Angeles, and I caught up with him as he was getting his team ready for the 2017 conference tournament in Stockton, California. He was a lot less scary than when I was trying to hit against him!

We talked about how in sports, everybody, even the best player in the league, loses eventually.

Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Other songs used

“Aces Hight” and “AcidJazz” by Kevin McLeod (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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Episode 2: The Stanley Can—The Washington Capitals and the Worst Season Ever


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Washington Capitals goalie Ron Low
Ron Low

The Washington Capitals were the worst team in NHL history in their inaugural year. By late March they’d played 37 road games without earning so much as a point, and they’d lost 17 straight overall. Then they got a win. “The reaction was totally frickin’ crazy,” says goalie Ron Low, who with teammates Ron Lalonde and Jack Lynch helps tell the story of the Stanley Can Caps. Plus: The No Whine Timeline lets you know when it’s OK to complain about your lousy team.

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Read a transcript.

People in the story

Ron LowRon Low was the starting goalie for the 1974-75 Capitals. His record was 8-36-2 with a 5.45 goals against average, more than two goals above league average. “If that would have ever bothered me,” he says about that figure, “I would have liked to quit hockey.” Low, who was in his second year in ’74-75, spent 13 years in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils. He had a long career as an assistant coach and scout and was the head coach of the Oilers from 1994-99, and the New York Rangers from 2000-02.

Ron LalondeRon Lalonde was a third-year center who was traded from the Red Wings to the Capitals on Dec. 14, 1974. He played that season and four more for the Caps before winning an American Hockey League title with the Hershey Bears in his last year as a player. He’s been a financial planner and investment counselor for 36 years.

Jack LynchJack Lynch was a defenseman in his second year in the league when he was traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Caps on Feb. 8, 1975. He sustained a devastating knee injury in 1977 and was never the same player. Like Lalonde, he played with the Capitals through 1979. He is now retired after a long career in public and media relations with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Recreation.

Career stats: Low | Lalonde | Lynch — (Courtesy Hockey-Reference)

Historical Figures

Milt SchmidtMilt Schmidt was the general manager of the expansion Washington Capitals. He had been a Hall of Fame center for the Boston Bruins, a member of the famed Kraut Line. He won Stanley Cups in 1939 and ’41 and the Hart Trophy, the NHL’s Most Valuable Player award, in 1951. He coached the Bruins for 11 seasons before becoming general manager in 1967. He was the architect of two Stanley Cup-winning teams in Boston before taking the Capitals job in 1974. He died in January 2017 at the age of 98.

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Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Note: All links to Amazon on this page are affiliate links, meaning we get a fee if you use the link to make a purchase. 

Other songs used

“D.J.” by Jahzzar (CC BY-SA 4.0)
“Disco High” by UltraCat (CC BY-SA 3.0)
“Hustle” by Kevin McLeod (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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Bonus Episode: There Is Joy in Mudville


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John Thorn and friendGo deeper on this week’s episode, “The Mighty Casey,” with longer interviews and behind-the-scenes stories. Guests are official MLB historian John Thorn and Joanne Hulbert, the town historian of Holliston, Mass. — aka the “real” Mudville.

At right, John Thorn poses in his Catskill, N.Y., house with a figure he calls George Wood, “after the 1880s outfielder.” The figure was a gift from the staff of Total Sports Publishing, a publishing house Thorn ran in the late ’90s and early ’00s. “I suppose I could call him Mini Me.”

In this bonus episode, hear longer versions of host King Kaufman’s interviews with Thorn and Hulbert about “Casey at the Bat.” Also: King reads some poetry! Two highlights from the many parodies and sequels that followed the publication of “Casey at the Bat” in 1888. It’s not so bad, really. And: Learn more about Thorn’s house, and King’s plan for it.

For more on the historical figures in the “Casey at the Bat” story, see the Episode 1 show notes.

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Note: All links to Amazon on this page are affiliate links, meaning we get a fee if you use the link to make a purchase. 

Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

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Episode 1: The Mighty Casey — Casey at the Bat, striking out for over a century


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Man in Casey at the Bat costume
Tim Wiles of the Baseball Hall of Fame in costume as Casey.

It appeared on Page 4 of the San Francisco Examiner one day in 1888, and yet, somehow, Casey at the Bat survived to become one of the few 19th century American poems most Americans have even heard of. CW4L host King Kaufman goes in search of the story behind the remarkable staying power of a poem about a guy who (spoiler alert) struck out, written by a guy who wanted nothing to do with it after it was published. 

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Read a transcript.

Note: All links to Amazon on this page are affiliate links, meaning we get a fee if you use the link to make a purchase. 

People in the story

John Thorn
Thorn with a pennant from the 19th century Knickerbocker Baseball Club.

John Thorn is the official historian of Major League Baseball. He is also an author, commentator and the proprietor of the Our Game blog, a treasure trove of baseball history and art. His most recent book is Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game, which goes back way further than you probably think, and has nothing to do with Abner Doubleday. He also co-wrote the seminal sabermetrics book The Hidden Game of Baseball: A Revolutionary Approach to Baseball and its Statistics with Pete Palmer.

Joanne HulbertJoanne Hulbert is an emergency-room nurse and baseball poetry researcher, and the town historian of Holliston, Mass., which, along with Stockton, Calif., lays claim to being the “real” Mudville. Poet Ernest Thayer was from nearby Worcester. She wrote about DeWolf Hopper at The National Pastime Museum.

Hal BushHal Bush is a professor of English at Saint Louis University and a writer of criticism, biography, history and fiction. His most recent book is the novel The Hemingway Files.

The recital of Casey at the Bat is by Neil Rogers.

Historical figures

DeWolf HopperDeWolf Hopper (1858-1935) was a musical-theater star who made Casey at the Bat famous by performing it with members of the New York Giants and Chicago White Stockings in the audience in 1888, causing a sensation. It became his signature piece, and he claimed to have performed it more than 10,000 times. His 1927 autobiography, quoted in the episode, was Once a Clown, Always a Clown. Voice impersonation: Jonathan Luhmann. Hopper’s real voice is also heard.

Ernest ThayerErnest Thayer (1863-1940) was the author of Casey at the Bat. The Marky Mark of poetry, a one-hit wonder. A brilliant student at Harvard and the editor of the Harvard Lampoon, he was invited to San Francisco to write humorous pieces and verse for the Examiner by his classmate, William Randolph Hearst. Casey at the Bat was his last submission. He’d already gone back to Massachusetts to run the family woolen-mill business and wanted little to do with his famous poem. Voice impersonation: Joe Goffeney.

King KellyMike “King” Kelly (1857-1894) was baseball’s first superstar. He played every position but was mostly an outfielder and catcher. He was a batting champion and great base-stealer. Kelly was the subject of “Slide, Kelly, Slide,” the first pop song to become a hit record, and his (ghostwritten) autobiography was the first by a baseball player. He was convinced Casey at the Bat was about him, and he performed it — by most accounts very badly — as Kelly at the Bat. He died suddenly of pneumonia at the age of 36 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1945. He’s shown here in his Boston Beaneaters uniform, possibly in 1888, the year Casey at the Bat was published.

Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

The old-timey piano music throughout this episode is from old player-piano or pianola rolls. The music at the very beginning is “Old-Fashioned Auto Piano” by Razzvio. Similar music elsewhere is from a medley called “Follies” by Daveincamas. The artists here did the recording and manipulated the pianolas. The actual musicianship happened 100 or more years ago. The sad piano music is “Movie Piano Theme” by EK Velika. All of these songs are from FreeSound.org and are used under the CC BY 3.0 Creative Commons license.

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