Snakes mixed with Dolphins at team’s first training camp in 1966

(Every July I break out this story originally published in 2011 to coincide with the opening of another Miami Dolphins training.

It tells the story of the team’s first permanent training camp at St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, way back in 1966.

  In it are quotes from a couple of former players, Tom Goode and Billy Neighbors, who unfortunately have passed on, and there also is a reference to it being the 50th anniversary for St. Andrew’s, when actually the school is up to 56 now. The rest of it still works just fine, however, with entertaining anecdotes about snakes, and about flying to San Diego for an exhibition game in a World War II-era prop plane, and about the head coach using his son at quarterback.

  I’m hoping on this first day of Dolphins training camp 2017 you will find that it is worth your time. Here goes.)

By Dave George

Palm Beach Post Sports Columnist

In 1966 the expansion Miami Dolphins debuted in Boca Raton with an isolated training camp that South Florida residents barely noticed and that the players of the day would prefer to forget.
Saint Andrew’s School was the Dolphins‘ first permanent training headquarters, inheriting that assignment when a brief and failed experiment with sloppy facilities on Florida’s Gulf Coast forced the team to pull up stakes and move on the fly.
The school, in just its fifth year of existence, was surrounded by undeveloped scrub and marshland, with one lonely road leading in and out.

scanned 8/17/99 - SPT - WAHOO McDaniel - Miami Dolphins

Former Dolphins linebacker Wahoo McDaniel at team’s inaugural training camp in 1966.

That meant Boca Raton’s relatively small population center, situated far to the east, was far more a rumor than a daily reality to Dolphins coach George Wilson and his strange new conglomeration of rookies and scooped-up AFL veterans left unprotected by their former teams.
“There would be some people that would come out there to watch us practice, but you had to really want to come because of where it was located,” said former Dolphins center Tom Goode, 72, who had already played eight seasons with the Houston Oilers when Miami took him in an expansion draft.
“It was kind of hidden back off the road, full of palmetto bushes and snakes. Anywhere you could see water you’d see alligators, and you could always see a dead rattlesnake or something on the road coming into campus. Around the school they killed rattlesnakes, I know, and the mosquitoes, they’d just carry you off.”
The Dolphins had what they needed at Saint Andrew’s, however, in the way of multiple practice fields and dormitory rooms and hot cafeteria food.
What a nice change that was, because the first few weeks of training camp in St. Petersburg Beach were just plain silly.
Sparse accommodations
Miami’s first-ever drills were held there on what amounted to an empty lot with background views of the Gulf of Mexico. No goalposts were in place to begin, plus no equipment to speak of and precious little turf.
A gaggle of businessmen known as the Suncoast Sports Group had talked Dolphins founder Joe Robbie into using that tourist-friendly setting, but the team soon had to move its practices to nearby Boca Ciega High School and finally, on Aug. 7, all the way across the peninsula to Saint Andrew’s.
“They tried to put a practice field down over by the beach,” Goode said from his home in West Point, Miss. “It looked pretty going down, with the grass rolled up like carpet, but as soon as we started playing, the stuff tore all up. Seashells started coming through it and we had a lot of infections from cuts on our knees and hands and arms. The team doctor stayed busy with all of that.”
Frank Emanuel, an All-America linebacker at Tennessee and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, was drafted by the Dolphins of the AFL and the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL but chose Miami because he wanted to stay in the South. His first impressions of that St. Petersburg Beach training camp must have had Emanuel questioning his decision.
“We stayed in this little hotel called the Dolphin Inn right on the beach,” Emanuel,

George Wilson Undated Post file photo

First Miami Dolphins head coach George Wilson (Palm Beach Post file photo)

68, said from his Principal Financial Group office in Tampa. “Here I am a college guy, new to the pros, and I find out that we had to wear our same practice gear for both workouts during two-a-days. We’d hang it all up in the room, but that didn’t do much.
“They gave us a clean jock, thank goodness, but our pants and jerseys and so forth stayed wet.”
Miami’s first exhibition game was in San Diego, which presented another logistical problem. Five major U.S. airlines were shut down that summer because an estimated 35,000 industry workers were on strike. Robbie hustled up a ride to California for the Dolphins, but it was with Zantop International Airlines, a company that utilized World War II-era prop planes and only four years earlier had acquired a license to carry commercial passengers as well as freight.
“It took us days to get there, it seemed like,” Emanuel said. “We flew to the West Coast slow and low, and we had to stop on the way over and on the way back to gas up.”
After returning from that 38-10 loss to the Chargers, Wilson instructed his players to pile into their personal vehicles and carpool across the state to Boca Raton.
Move brings little fanfare
They arrived on a Monday at Saint Andrew’s, a private-school campus deserted for the summer by its all-male student body, and jumped right into preparing for that Friday night’s home opener against Len Dawson and the Kansas City Chiefs.
For an idea of the negligible impact that the Dolphins‘ arrival had on Palm Beach County, The Palm Beach Post splashed coverage and photos from the American Legion state baseball tournament across the front page of the sports section that week. The story about the Dolphins‘ opening practice in Boca Raton was on Page 2.
Teresa Vignau, the theater director at Saint Andrew’s, places a much higher value than that on the Dolphins‘ first training camp. She was 14 and living on campus with her family in 1966 because Vignau’s father, a French teacher, was a faculty member.
“We had a piano that my mother wanted to put in my bedroom but we weren’t having much luck because of the angle,” Vignau said. “My father, who stands all of 5-foot-6, runs out and asks these three tired linemen if they could help. They very sweetly came in and moved the piano for us.
“Some of the other guys on the team thought it would be really fun to shoot the ducks in the pond on campus. I didn’t see who did it, but I saw the duck. One of the animal-protection organizations came and relocated the flock after that.”
Wilson, who died in 1978, surely had his hands full that first summer.
He won an NFL title as coach of the Detroit Lions in 1957 but lost his first nine games with the Dolphins, counting four exhibitions and five regular-season games.
One of the major reasons was the lack of a quarterback. Bob Griese didn’t join the Dolphins until the following year.
Father turns to son
In 1966, Wilson had four mediocre passers from which to choose, and he gave much of the early playing time to his son, George Jr., who was never more than a backup at Xavier.
“I have to go by what I see in the games and practice,” said Wilson, who traded a 13th-round draft pick to Buffalo to bring his son to Miami. “Once we get on the field, it’s coach and player, not father and son.”
Wilson Jr. wound up throwing five touchdown passes with 10 interceptions and 11 sacks that year, soon giving way to veterans John Stofa and Dick Wood as the Dolphins scrambled to put together a 3-11 inaugural season.
“It got better, but it wasn’t very organized at first,” said Billy Neighbors, 71, a College Football Hall of Fame guard who played for Bear Bryant at Alabama and then four seasons with the Boston Patriots before coming to Miami in 1966.
“I assume it was a typical first-year operation. People didn’t know what the hell they were doing.”
Wilson lasted four years as Dolphins coach, which just happened to be the only four years that the team trained at Saint Andrew’s. He was fired with a 15-39-2 Miami record and replaced in 1970 by Don Shula, who moved the Dolphins‘ summer camp to what was then known as Biscayne College in North Miami.
By the time Shula arrived, one of the more colorful original Dolphins, pro wrestler Wahoo McDaniel, was gone.
McDaniel reportedly enjoyed handling the snakes he found near the Saint Andrew’s dorms and using them to spook teammates.
“It’s amazing that team survived,” Neighbors said.

[Not expecting major step back for Adam Gase and Dolphins]

[1972 Dolphins put up different stats in an entirely different era]

[Here are the trap games that should worry FSU, UM and Gators]

NBA is checking to see if Jupiter’s Billy Gabor is the league’s oldest living former player

 

We’ve written before about Jupiter’s Billy Gabor, the former pro basketball player who was around for the NBA’s inaugural season.

Well, Billy the Bullet, feisty point guard of the old Syracuse Nationals, continues to earn a headline every now and then.

Bill Gabor, photographed at his home in Jupiter in 2014, holding an engraved ice bucket. “When we won in 1955, we didn’t get anything from the NBA,” he said. “The stockholders gave us this engraved ice bucket.” The engraving reads “Presented to Billy Gabor World Champions Syracuse Nationals 1954-1955 by the Stockholders.” (Bruce R. Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

According to the best research I can muster, and with backing from the Peach Basket Society, a blog that tries valiantly to stay up with such things, it appears that Gabor just might be the NBA’s oldest living player.

Billy is 95 and still volunteers once a week at the Jupiter Medical Center. He no longer pushes wheelchairs around with patients half his age but stays busy with clerical chores there.

The daily, 3-mile walks from his beachfront apartment to the Jupiter Pier ended a few years ago, too. Too hot. Too far.

Still, his memories of his playing days remain sharp and there’s never been one of his stories that didn’t check out. I thought of him the other day when news of John Kundla’s passing stirred up a few nostalgic newspaper accounts. Kundla had been the oldest living former NBA coach at 101 and he was one of several Naismith Hall of Fame members from the great Minneapolis Lakers teams of the 1950’s.

Gabor remembers all of those guys well because he played against them.

George Mikan, the 6-foot-10 pioneer who averaged 27.4 points per game in the NBA’s opening season of 1949-50.

Jim Pollard, the “Kangaroo Kid.” Vern Mikkelsen, the power forward who led the league in fouling out for three straight seasons. Slater Martin, the hard-driving guard from Texas.

What we’re talking about is the NBA’s first super team, because those Lakers won four of the league’s first five championships, including the 1950 Finals against Gabor’s Syracuse team.

“Mikan was very slow and he couldn’t jump like they do today,” said Gabor, “but he was so strong he would just turn around and shoot a hook shot and nobody could do anything about it.”

Mikan averaged 32.2 points per game in that championship series against the Nationals, including 40 in the Game 6 clincher, which drew a crowd of 9,812 to the old Minneapolis Auditorium. That hook shot of his, Gabor remembers, was just as effective with either hand.

Gabor averaged 7.8 points in that series. He came to the NBA as a 27-year-old rookie, his career delayed by serving as a World War II bombardier. Syracuse’s best player at the time was Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes.

A couple more fun tidbits from those Lakers teams. Bud Grant, the Minnesota Vikings coach, played a couple of seasons of pro basketball there in his youth. Also, Pollard later was the coach of the Miami Floridians of the old ABA.

Here is the breakdown, as far as I can determine, of the oldest living former NBA players. It’s easy to be wrong on something like this, and a little morbid in the searching, but there’s a good chance Billy leads the list. (Another man, Nick Shaback, played for the Cleveland Rams of the Basketball Association of America, a forerunner and later a merger partner with the NBA. Tough to say whether that qualifies in this particular discussion, but he will be 99 in September.)

 

  1. Billy Gabor, Syracuse Nationals, 95 years old
  2. Whitey Von Nieda, Tri-Cities Blackhawks, also 95 but one month younger
  3. Johnny Macknowski, Syracuse Nationals, 94
  4. John Oldham, Fort Wayne Pistons, 94
  5. Wayne See, Waterloo Hawks, 93
  6. Gene Stump, Waterloo Hawks, 93
  7. Jim Riffey, Fort Wayne Pistons, 93

The NBA communications department told me they are trying to verify this list but it’s not the sort of thing that becomes a high priority. I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, way down the list, here’s an honorable mention for a guy whose local tie is  always an honor to mention. Bob Cousy, for years a regular at Bear Lakes County Club in West Palm Beach, will be 89 on Aug. 9.

[No matter what Vegas says, not expecting major step back for Dolphins]

[1972 Dolphins were a different breed in an entirely different era]

[Astros and Nats might bring World Series buzz back to WPB next spring]

Not expecting a major step back for Adam Gase, no matter what Las Vegas says

 

Not quite sure where I’m going with my Dolphins prediction right now. Training camp opens Thursday and it makes no sense to guess that there will be no injuries between now and September.

It does seem harsh, though, to predict a major step back in Adam Gase’s second year as coach. That’s what USA Today is doing with a 7-9 pick for Miami in 2017.

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase smiles as he speaks during a news conference after an NFL organized team activities football practice, Thursday, May 25, 2017, at the Dolphins training facility in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Back in May, the Southpoint Casino in Las Vegas went the same way, naming 7.5 as the over-under for the Dolphins.

Of course, it could happen that way. Gase, among all people, can be counted upon to stress to his players that a 10-6 playoff season in 2016 is wiped clean. The Dolphins of 2017 are a different animal, with some new players but all the old challenges.

Looking back, though, I can only find seven times in franchise history where the Dolphins had a dropoff of three or more wins from one year to the next. That’s seven times in 51 seasons. (Can’t count 1982, the strike-shortened season when Miami dropped from 11 wins to seven but reached the Super Bowl anyway.)

Don Shula had three of those precipitous drop-offs, proving that not even the winningest coach in NFL history can win them all.

The others were 2004, the year Dave Wannstedt resigned. He was 10-6 the previous season but stumbled to a 1-8 start and bailed on what turned out to be a 4-12 finish.

Nick Saban had a three-game dropoff in 2006, the year he already had one foot out the door for Alabama.

Cam Cameron broke all Dolphin standards by going 1-15 in 2007, a dropoff of five wins from Saban’s low point.

Finally, Tony Sparano went from that magical 11-win debut season in 2008 to 7-9 the following year.

In the last four cases, Miami didn’t have a great quarterback, or, at times, even a serviceable one.

Gase, on the other hand, seems to have something going now with Ryan Tannehill, providing all the good signs on that rehab from last December’s ACL injury continue to be good.

Working against Miami is a schedule that ranks sixth-toughest in the NFL. The Dolphins’ 2017 opponents had a winning percentage of .547 last year.

It’s possible, however, to read too much into that.

Prior to the 2016 season, and using the same methods, Buffalo was judged to have the 10th-toughest schedule in the league. Miami was No. 11 and Carolina No. 12.

Two of those teams wound up with losing records. Miami, going against the grain, had its best season in eight years.

[’72 Dolphins put up entirely different numbers during a different time]

[Here are trap games that should worry Seminoles, UM and Gators]

[A travel itinerary to attend all the best college football games in our state]

So my inclination right now is to say 9-7 for Miami this year. Sure, it’s a small step back, but I can find just one example of a Dolphins coach improving the team’s win total by four games from one season to the next and then immediately stepping it up again.

That was Shula, who went from six wins to 10 to 11 between 1976-78.

It’s a tough ask.

 

The 1972 Dolphins put up entirely different stats in what was an entirely different game

Every now and again I pull out the box scores from the Miami Dolphins’ Super Bowl dynasty more than 40 years ago and marvel at how much the game has changed.

The perfect Dolphins of 1972, for instance, averaged 359.7 yards in total offense. That was tops in the NFL at the time but would have ranked 11th in the league last year.

Don Shula and Bob Griese. (Bill Reinke/The Miami News)

Bob Griese completed eight passes for 88 yards in Super Bowl VII, the game that completed that 17-0 season. Ryan Tannehill has been held under 100 yards passing three times in his 77 career starts.

The 1972 Dolphins had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers, Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris, and that was in a 14-game regular season. Jay Ajayi was the only Miami rusher over 1,000 yards last year. Nobody else cleared 200, and that was over 17 regular-season games.

Don Shula’s No Name Defense allowed 10 touchdowns passing during the 1972 regular season and two during the playoffs. Last year’s Dolphins allowed 30 touchdowns passing and two long scoring bombs by Ben Roethlisberger in the first quarter of their only postseason game.

Sure, almost everything about the NFL has changed. The game is more wide open now, more exciting.

Got to hand it to Shula, though, for finding a way to win across 26 seasons as the Dolphins head coach, and seven years with the Baltimore Colts before that. He made the transition from Zonk to Dan Marino., but here’s the most unexpected stat of all.

Johnny Unitas attempted 44 passes and threw for 288 yards in Shula’s first career victory. Marino threw it 35 times and totaled 290 yards in completions during Shula’s 347th and final career win.

Bottom line, Shula was better than bold. He was smart enough to let his best players win for him, however that needed to be.

[Here are the trap games for Seminoles, Hurricanes and Gators in 2017]  

[Jeffrey Loria says media should stop talking about Marlins sale]

[Astros and Nats could bring World Series buzz back to WPB next spring]

 

 

In need of a Canadian Football League fix and a look at former FAU Owl Martese Jackson

At times like these a little bit of Canadian Football League action would go a long way.

Flicking through the various ESPN channels available on the basic package at our house, I found drone racing and beach volleyball and World Team Tennis the last several nights but no pro football.

Former Owl Martese Jackson breaks a tackle in FAU’s Red vs. Blue game at the school’s Boca Raton campus stadium on Saturday, April 5, 2014. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

Sure, NFL training camps are about to open and there are exhibition games in August but really, what would be the harm in ESPN or FS1 picking up a little CFL just to fill in the gaps? By the time the Grey Cup championship game rolls around in late November, nobody down here will be that interested but what about now, right here, in a dead zone of sports broadcasting that features lots of MLB and the accompanying ZZZZZ’s?

Look what we’ve been missing.

Just last week a 5-foot-6 kid who played just a little at Florida Atlantic went crazy returning kicks for the Toronto Argonauts.

Martese Jackson, 25, returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown against Winnipeg. Not bad for a guy playing in his second CFL game.

Then came an 84-yard kickoff return on which Jackson was stopped short of scoring but set up a Toronto field goal all the same.

Oh, and how about the 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that was negated by an illegal blocking penalty? If that one had counted, Jackson would have totaled a lot more than the 339 total return yards for which he was credited in the game, a number that ranks fourth-highest in CFL history.

What’s more, Jackson could have won a Winnipeg woman $1 million in a grocery-chain promotion offering the big payoff for a lucky contestant when two kickoffs are returned for touchdowns in the same game. Earlier that day, a Winnipeg return man had gone the distance.

See what I mean? Crazy CFL. Crazy fun.

Is there no chance that Tim Tebow won’t give this league one final try once his baseball dream dries up?

After all, the league’s leading passer is 37-year-old Ricky Ray from Sacramento State, and he’s playing in his 15th CFL season.

Get Tebow in the CFL and ESPN will be there all summer long. Or, failing that, Johnny Manziel.

[Beware these trap games for the Seminoles, Hurricanes and Gators]

[Jeffrey Loria says there is no Marlins deal so stop talking about it]

[Astros and Nats might bring World Series buzz back to WPB next spring]

In a week or two, of course, these delusions and cravings will pass. The NFL will be back, followed by college football.

In the meantime, does anybody out there get ESPN3? If I’m reading their schedule right, there’s a snippet of the Toronto-Saskatchewan game coming up there late Monday night and it sure would be cool to catch a glimpse of Jackson.

At FAU the Asheville, N.C., native never really rang the bell for former coaches Carl Pelini and Charlie Partridge, scoring one career touchdown on a total of 70 rush attempts, five receptions and 22 kick returns.

In Canada, though, they’re not selling him as an Owl, but as an exciting new star with the nickname of the Martese Falcon.

 

 

 

Here are the trap games that should worry Seminoles, Gators and Hurricanes, but unfortunately won’t

With Florida State opening against Alabama, Florida opening against Michigan and the ACC media picking Miami to finally win the Coastal Division, it’s chest-thumping time in the Sunshine State.

Here is the only summertime reminder you are likely to get that the season is long and the stumbling blocks are many.

Mark Richt gestures during Miami s Oct. 29, 2016 game at Notre Dame. (Getty Images)

Yes, we are talking about the trap games on everybody’s schedule. The potential for a little humiliation to go with all that hubris. The loss nobody saw coming, except maybe for the head coach, who worries too much anyway.

Here are my choices for that watch-your-step moment with each program. See if you agree.

Florida State – The Seminoles have a seven-game win streak against Boston College and they crushed the Eagles 45-7 last year so no problem, right?

Well, actually there are a few reasons to sweat this Oct. 27 test.

First, Boston College immediately follows Louisville on FSU’s schedule. It was Louisville that crushed FSU 63-20 last season at a time when the Seminoles were No. 2 in the polls, so the rematch is kind of a big deal.

Second, the BC game is on a Friday night, which is as flukey as it gets, and on the road, where there never, ever is a cruise-control setting.

Third, the Seminoles’ last trip to Alumni Stadium was a bruising, 14-0 FSU victory on a Friday night in 2015, and the score was a much scarier 7-0 until a fourth-quarter fumble return for a touchdown.

FSU should beat Boston College every time but there are no absolutes in college football, except maybe that Jimbo Fisher will always have a good quarterback.

Florida – The Gators have won 30 in a row over Kentucky, and that’s the longest active streak in major college football. Problem is, some of those recent wins have been real squeakers.

Like 14-9 in Jim McElwain’s first trip to Lexington in 2015. Like a wild, triple-overtime escape for the Gators at the Swamp in 2014.

Florida should beat Kentucky on Sept. 23 at what they’re calling Kroger Field up there now, but there are no absolutes in college football, except maybe that until and unless the Gators develop a quarterback, they could lose a game anywhere to anybody.

Miami – I’m looking at Toledo on Sept. 23 at Hard Rock Stadium for the simple reason that no one else is.

Everybody’s staring straight at FSU the previous Saturday and maybe investing a little early-season anxiety in that Sept. 9 trip to Arkansas State, with its cute 30,000-seat stadium and the utterly insane opportunity for a Sun Belt team to build an instant reputation by testing or upsetting Miami.

Well, let it be known that Toledo beat Arkansas State 31-10 last season in that same little stadium. And that Toledo played great in a game at BYU last year before losing 55-53 on a field goal as time expired. And that the Rockets’ Logan Woodside led the nation in touchdown passes last year, including five in that BYU game. And that Nick Saban once was the head coach at Toledo, which surely counts for something.

Miami should beat Toledo every time, but there are no absolutes in college football, except maybe that teams with FSU and Notre Dame on their schedule are going to have a milder reaction to a MAC matchup.

That’s all for now, but I’m reserving the right to freak out over more potential trap games as the season rolls along.

[Jeffrey Loria says there is no deal on Marlins sale so stop talking about it]

[Astros and Nats might bring World Series buzz back to WPB next spring]

[A dream travel itinerary to see Sunshine State’s top college football games]

 

 

Do the Marlins have a second-half surge in them?

After what the Miami Heat did last season, pairing an 11-30 start with a 30-11 finish, it’s fair to ask if the Miami Marlins might be capable of finding an utterly unexpected second wind, too.

Of course, so much depends on what happens with the team’s potential sale and the payroll dump that might precede it. Here, though, is what manager Don Mattingly had to say when asked during an All-Star Game media session what to expect from his team.

IAMI, FL – JULY 11: Manager Joe Maddon #70 of the Chicago Cubs and the National League and Coach Don Mattingly #8 of the Miami Marlins and the National League look on in the first inning during the 88th MLB All-Star Game against the American League All-Stars at Marlins Park on July 11, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

“Well, we’ll see,” said Mattingly, whose Marlins got to the All-Star break at 41-46. “You want your team to keep playing and then you ask them to take a mental break for four days and be ready to go when you get back, because the second half is what really makes you.

“Last year we were probably six or seven games over .500 at the break and we played OK the first few series and then we kind of faded and weren’t able to sustain. Hopefully, those lessons kind of carry us into the second half this year, knowing there’s so much baseball to be played.

“We talked about trying to pick up a game a week and just kind of keep winning series. You’re not going to make it all up in a week but you can do it over time. Hopefully in there somewhere we catch a streak where we win 8-of-10 or 9-of-11 where you really throw some games together. It does feel good going to the break knowing that your team played well right to the end.”

Last year Miami was 47-41 at the All-Star break and just six games out of first place in the NL East. Nothing much happened after that, with a 32-41 finish making the Marlins totally irrelevant at 15.5 games back.

Right now they are 10.5 back of the Nationals and in real danger of dropping off the face of the map again. Pair that with a decent 6-4 record in the last 10 games and it’s a real mixed bag. Lots of season left. Lots of ground to make up.

I’m not feeling it, but then I wasn’t with the Heat either.

 

Jeffrey Loria says ‘There is no deal’ for Marlins and tells media to stop talking as if there is one

There’s a lot of talk around town about the potential sale of the Miami Marlins to one of three investment groups but you won’t hear any of it from Jeffrey Loria.

MIAMI, FL – JULY 27: Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and former Marlin Jeff Conine looks on for the unveiling of the 2017 All-Star Game logo before the game between the Miami Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies at Marlins Park on July 27, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

The Marlins owner stepped into the National League clubhouse during Tuesday afternoon’s media availabilty and quickly was surrounded by reporters from South Florida and elsewhere. If he meant to visit with players or stroll quietly through the room to appreciate the All-Star Game environment at Marlins Park, that opportunity didn’t last long.

Asked when he thinks a deal will get done, Loria responded “That’s your words, not mine.” After a brief pause, he said “No comment.”

The question came again, however, as more reporters walked up and joined the conversation.

“There’s no deal,” Loria said emphatically. “Stop talking deal.”

Reminded that Marlins President David Samson has confirmed that the team will be sold, Loria said “At some point, maybe. Everybody sells something, maybe. Everybody gets married or unmarried, maybe.”

After a few minutes he turned and left, saying he was going back to his office. There was a moment, however, where Loria was able to talk about the late Jose Fernandez and how the charismatic pitcher surely would have been an All-Star here at his home ballpark. Fernandez was killed in late September in a boat crash off Miami Beach.

“There’s always been great interest in baseball in Miami,” Loria said. “What happened with Jose last year was rather unfortunate. We raised the payroll in anticipation of a really spectacular year. You can’t control what happens in people’s lives.”

Whether Loria will be involved in any pregame festivities on the field has not been announced. There are two of his players in the National League’s starting lineup – Marcell Ozuna in right field and Giancarlo Stanton as the designated hitter.

[Photos: MLB All-Star Game festivities in Miami]

[Miami fans enjoy All-Star Game despite long lines, traffic … and Jeffrey Loria]

[Marlins hope MLB All-Star events take focus away from team’s problems]

Baseball is a first but Miami’s already had its share of All-Star games in other sports

Tuesday may be the first baseball All-Star Game to visit Miami but South Florida is not entirely new to this high grade of sporting exhibition.

[RELATED: Photos from All-Star festivities]

The NBA All-Star Game was played at the old Miami Arena in Overtown in 1990. The East won 130-113 and few other details need mentioning, except that Pat Riley was the coach of the losing Western Conference team.

MIAMI, FL – JULY 27: Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and former Marlin Jeff Conine looks on for the unveiling of the 2017 All-Star Game logo before the game between the Miami Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies at Marlins Park on July 27, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

The NHL All-Star Game came to Sunrise in 2003 and it was another defense-optional affair, won 6-5 in overtime by the West.

Miami’s had the NFL Pro Bowl, too, on numerous occasions. Most recently it was a 41-34 win for the AFC in 2010 at what then was known as Sun Life Stadium.

There was one major missed opportunity, however. Baseball awarded the 2000 All-Star Game the Florida Marlins and the football stadium they shared with the Dolphins but soon took it back in response to a fire sale of top Marlins players in preparation for a sale of the team.

Overall, though, that’s a lot of major star power for the Magic City, a bonus to go with Super Bowls and World Series appearances and such.

In the end, any excuse to take a midseason break in Miami is a good one.

 

Wishing for Marlins’ All-Stars a better experience than poor Dan Uggla got

What would be a dream performance for Marcell Ozuna or Giancarlo Stanton playing at Marlins Park in Tuesday’s All-Star Game?

Well, something along the lines of Ted Williams’ day at Fenway Park in the 1946 All-Star Game would do.

Teddy Ballgame went 4-for-4 with a couple of home runs and five RBI in that 12-0 American League victory. His 10 total bases were a single-game record for the Midsummer Classic, along with just every other thing he did.

Heck, if there had been a Home Run Derby back then, Williams probably would have won that, too.

[RELATED: Photos from All-Star festivities]

Yes, something like that would be great to see from one of the Marlins in the combined showcase of Monday and Tuesday nights. And what is it that we absolutely, positively don’t want to see?

Florida Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla pictured in 2010, the last of his five seasons with the team. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

Think Dan Uggla in 2008 at Yankee Stadium.

For openers, the Marlins second baseman finished fifth in the Home Run Derby with six balls hit out of the park.

Then, after subbing in for starter Chase Utley, Uggla got caught in one of the longest and lousiest All-Star experiences ever.

Because the game lasted 15 innings and ended at the ungodly hour of 1:38 a.m., Uggla came to the plate four times, striking out on three of those appearances and grounding into a double play on the other. Oh, and one of those whiffs came with the bases loaded.

It was even worse in the field. Three errors, including two on consecutive plays in the 10th inning.

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When the American League finally won on a sacrifice fly by Texas’ Michael Young in the 15th, it should have come as a relief to Uggla. Instead, he stood at his locker expressing the kind of self-confidence that made him an All-Star in the first place.

“I know what kind of player I am,” Uggla said. “I’m fine. The only thing I’m mad about is that we lost. I never was down. You shake it off, you move on, and you keep playing.””

He meant what he said because the rest of Uggla’s season was a success, with 32 homers and 92 RBI.