LAS VEGAS – Bryce Harper’s return to the Philadelphia Phillies ahead of all forecasts after Tommy John surgery “has been his approach to the game since he was 10 years old,” according to one of his early coaches.
It was predicted Harper might not rejoin the Phillies until the All-Star break but Burlin Germany, a longtime developmental coach in Las Vegas said he was “not surprised at all” that the Las Vegas high school phenom shattered the timetable.
“He’s always sacrificed his body, just to play the game,” said Germany. “He plays the game at 110 percent and 100 miles per hour.”
“He has a drive like no other,” said Germany, who coached Harper in his 10th grade.
Harper skipped his senior season to play for the College of Southern Nevada. Harper powered the school to the Junior College World Series in 2010. He had 31 home runs in 66 games, with 98 RBI and a .443 batting average.
Harper was 17 when the Washington Nationals made him the No. 1 overall selection in the MLB draft. In his fifth season of coaching the Los Angeles Dodgers’ elite Las Vegas scout team, Germany held the same position under the direction of longtime St. Louis Cardinals scout Manny Guerra for more than a decade.
The two-time NL MVP made his return on May 2, 160 days after undergoing Tommy John surgery to repair the UCL in his right arm, his throwing arm.
Germany said “the effects of throwing a baseball coming off Tommy John would probably still take some time to get his arm in shape,” he said. “But the guy just loves to play the game and I just wish him the best.”
An injured Harper helped the Phillies reach the World Series last season for the first time since 2009.
Playing in 99 games during the regular season, he hit .286/.364/.514 (147 OPS+) with 28 doubles, 18 homers, 65 RBI and 63 runs. His post-season production in 17 games: .349/.414/.746 with seven doubles, six home runs, 13 RBI and 12 runs.
Germany’s best memory of his year with Harper?
“I was just amazed at how young he was and playing at that level.”
Harper arrived at the Phillies game Friday showing hometown pride. He was wearing his Las Vegas High letterman’s jacket.
MEMORIES? HE’S HAD A FEW
I asked the recently retired sports writer Tim Dahlberg to share some of his greatest memories over 43 years with the Associated Press, all in Las Vegas.
Some of the most bizarre ones, he said, included Fan Man “swooping in as we sat outdoors covering Holyfield-Bowe II and Tyson biting off Holyfield’s ear. Through it all I covered what might be remembered as a golden age for boxing when it was the only sport in town aside from the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels and a big fight was so eagerly anticipated the town was on edge all week waiting for it all to unfold.”
He recalled the heavyweight showdown between heavyweights Larry Holmes and Gerry Cooney as “one of the more racist promotions I’ve ever seen. Cooney was on the cover of Sports Illustrated that week, Holmes the champion was relegated to the inside. There was a phone set up in Cooney’s dressing room for President Reagan to call if (Cooney) one, but there wasn’t one in Holmes’.”
SUGAR SWEET MEMORIES
Has it really been nearly 20 years since 19-year-old LeBron James showed up at N9NE steakhouse at the Palms with his friends and ordered syrupy-sweet soft drinks with their steaks?
It’s hard not to think back at that after his 18-year-old son, Bronny, announced he would be attending USC. “I’m really proud of him,” James said. “This is an incredible thing. To my knowledge, he is the first one out of the James gang to go to college”
On a signboard along I-15 near Little Darlings’ strip club: “We’ll take the A’s but we’d rather have the D’s.”
While watching King Charles’ coronation, it brought to mind the two most shocking assignments during my 12 years with the Associated Press, which involved England’s royal family.
The first one was straight out of a spy novel.
The second was confirmation that Prince Andrew was a royal pain. Jerk would be putting it lightly.
On February 26, 1983, two booming 21-gun salutes announced the arrival of the royal yacht Britannia in raining San Diego harbor.
Queen Elizabeth II was making her first visit to California, accompanied by her husband, Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh and future King Charles III, then 35. It was part of her 10-day tour of the West Coast.
It was a special assignment for me from a personal standpoint. I felt a connection to the royal family because my grandparents had left Great Yarmouth, England in 1882 and settled in Miles City, Montana. My father was born in 1887.
Welcoming the Britannia were about 200 boats of all types lining each side of the 412-foot-long floating palace, outside a 350-yard no-float zone.
Security for the royal visit was in some ways reminiscent of World War II. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Navy divers were seen searching for mines, one of the many precautions taken.
Months later, the Los Angeles Times reported federal officials had received information from intelligence reports warning of the possibility that certain groups “might attempt to create an embarrassing situation, sabotage or an assassination.”
I was standing at the rear of a Coast Guard cutter. A day earlier, the AP informed me I would be on the cutter with other media.
Two boats ahead of us, a yellow 59-year-old wooden hulled yacht took a hard right turn and, ignoring the security perimeter rules, headed straight toward the Britannia.
This at a time of high tension between Britain and Northern Ireland. Three and a half years earlier, 79-year-old Lord Louis Mountbatten, a beloved British royal, was assassinated when a bomb planted on his 29-foot fishing boat exploded, killing seven, including his daughter and her twin sons.
Claiming responsibility was the Provisional Irish Republican Army, which also coordinated a deadly attack on British troops that day. The IRA were in the midst of a 25-year terror campaign to drive the British from Northern Ireland.
A World War II hero, Mountbatten was a second cousin of Queen Elizabeth II and great uncle of future King Charles III.
As the rogue yacht, Arrow II, bolted toward the Britannia, the commanding officer of the Point Judith got on a bullhorn and ordered the small yacht to get back in line in an “or-else” tone.
I had just asked a man in plain clothes what media outlet he represented; he didn’t respond. Since we appeared to be the only non-personnel on the cutter, I assumed he was Secret Service. Upon hearing the captain’s command, we focused on the breakaway boat. In a holy shit moment, I turned back to the mystery man and was stunned to see him holding a submachine gun.
On high alert, he rushed to the side of the cutter, prepared for the worst-case scenario. I’m still processing where he kept the submachine gun: down a pant leg or inside his jacket?
An aerial photo in the Los Angeles Times showed the cutter yards away from ramming the Arrow II. Both appear to be about 75 yards from the Britannia, way too close for comfort.
As the Britannia was docking near downtown, I left the Point Judith and boarded a media bus to travel to the queen’s next stop.
Near the back of the bus, I found a vacant seat and started scribbling what I had just witnessed. I would dictate it at our next stop. The bus driver began to pull away when a couple reporters started hollering to stop the bus. A young woman was seen running alongside the bus, furiously waving.
She climbed on and took the last remaining seat, which was next to me.
Out of breath, she shook her head in consternation and said, angrily, “My father is an idiot!”
Introducing myself as an AP reporter, I responded with, “Rough day, huh?”
Her name was Erin Malone and she had quite a story.
Her father, she said, “nearly got us killed.”
Her father, Ed Malone, owner of the Arrow II, was a prominent San Diego-area developer who had unsuccessfully run for city council in 1981.
Two months after the Britannia incident, the Coast Guard sought a fine of $5,000 against Malone for creating “an incident of international proportion.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Malone was accused of “disregarding repeated Coast Guard orders that (Malone) turn his vessel around” as the queen’s ship entered San Diego Bay.
The Times’ story said an armed Coast Guard cutter – the Point Judith – with a secret service aboard was nearly forced to ram Malone’s boat
“We felt that (Malone’s) actions were alarming; they were flagrant and had the potential for a very dangerous situation.”
“If we would have had to use force out there, it would have been spectacular, to say the least,” said Lt. Commander Christopher T. Desmond, executive officer of the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety office.
He said the Coast Guard vessels “were ready to use force.”
Malone’s explanation: He lost power in one engine and thought the best plan was to turn in a wide arc using only his rudder.
That was “not consistent with Malone’s statement of engine problems,” said Desmond.
Malone could have been fined $25,000. The final settlement was just under $5,000.
It was a wild introduction to the royal family and it wouldn’t be my last.
One year later, as the AP’s coordinator of coverage of the Los Angeles Summer Olympics, I was invited to cover Prince Andrew’s speech at a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser for the British Olympic Association.
Buckingham Palace briefed reporters on protocol: Speak to the prince only if he initiates the conversation, shake hands only if he offers his first and refer to him only as “Your Royal Highness.
But the Buckingham Palace spokeswoman emphasized it was unlikely the 24-year-old bon vivant would attend the champagne reception at the swank Beverly Wilshire hotel.
My main assignment was to cover his address to hundreds of British expatriates and, if possible, follow up on his messy skirmish with the media the day before. Appearing at a low-income housing development, the scandal-prone prince, ever at war with the media, turned a high-powered spray gun on reporters. Suits, dresses and cameras were bombarded with white paint.
With the fundraiser reception winding down, I had few colorful details for my story. I approached two young women in hopes of gathering some quotes about the prince, who had recently been nicknamed “Randy Andy” in a London tabloid newspaper for his recent affair with soft-porn actress Koo Stark.
Barely into my introduction, I saw the womens’ eyes light up as someone approached on my left side. I turned to find Prince Andrew offering a handshake.
I gulped, trying to recall the protocol ground rules.
All I got out was my name and “Associated Press.”
“Press?” the prince said, biting off the word. “Did you say press?”
“Yes,” I said, adding, “Associated Press, Los Angeles bureau.” He was unimpressed.
“Out!” he said, thrusting a thumb over his shoulder.
He repeated the order.
I stood my ground, explaining I had press credentials and was told he wasn’t attending.
When I didn’t budge, I was shocked when he grabbed a lapel on my tuxedo. This was not going to be a good look: the petulant prince dragging a reporter out of the reception. Not the image, I’m sure, the AP wanted to see on front pages around the world.
After a contemptuous stare, he spoke: “Trust I didn’t get any (paint) on you yesterday.”
“I wasn’t there,” I replied
“A pity,” he said, turning on his heels and walking away.
My biggest regret: I was the only reporter who talked to him, and I didn’t even get in a question about the shameful paint-spraying incident. London’s scandal-loving headline writers had a field day with it, referring to him as “Vandal Andy,” “Hooligan Prince” and, my favorite, “A Royal Squirt.”
His worst behavior was yet to come, ending in disgrace nearly four decades later.
If you have tips for Norm’s column, e-amil him at firstname.lastname@example.org.