• SAUNDERS WAS ONE OF THE BEST — The sports world was saddened on Wednesday when ESPN announced that its longtime anchor John Saunders had passed away at the too-young age of 61.
Saunders had been with ESPN since 1986 and was perhaps its most versatile anchor. He handled all his tasks with aplomb, but it was his work on “The Sports Reporters” that I enjoyed the most because he served as a moderator for a panel of nationally known and highly acclaimed sports writers. I always wondered what it would be like if I ever had a chance to serve on the panel as it was four guys just sitting around and talking sports.
Saunders was at his best when it came to hockey, a sport he played at a high level in his native Canada. I’m sure he was always trying to push executives for more coverage, since to many fans hockey is seen more as a Canadian sport. I probably wouldn’t have watched any hockey at all if not for John Saunders as he made the game much clearer to me.
Saunders was an announcer’s announcer. He never got too high or too low, always keeping at an even keel, unlike some announcers who believe that fans relate more to bombast. He reminded me of longtime Kansas City Royals announcer Denny Matthews, who always has taken the approach that the game will tell the story and he’s just there to manage it.
ESPN has some big shoes to fill, much like it did when Stuart Scott passed away. Saunders was definitely a giant in the profession and will be missed.
RIP, John Saunders.
• ROYALS A WINNER IN 14 — Confession time. When I saw the Kansas City Royals were bringing in Chien-Ming Wang at the start of the 11th inning Wednesday night against the Chicago White Sox, that was my signal to hit the hay.
Wang had been miserable in recent outings and only pitching in blowout or mop-up situations. He gave up a run in the 11th, but fortunately the Royals continued to torment White Sox closer David Robertson by evening the game. It was his second blown save against KC in as many games and he was on the mound earlier in the season when the Royals scored seven in the ninth to stun the Sox.
The Royals finally won the game in the 14th, a much-needed victory since they had lost in extra innings to the Sox the night before.
It was good to see Royals starter Ian Kennedy throw another strong game, one run over six innings. That’s his third straight quality start, something the Royals need since Danny Duffy has been about the only reliable starter in the last six weeks. It also doesn’t help when the No. 5 pitcher in the rotation has barely contributed this year.
Duffy goes tonight and hopefully he can stay on his amazing roll.
• MARSHALL SUSPENDED — After viewing the video of Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall’s meltdown from Tuesday, WSU officials were correct in suspending him for Wednesday’s game in Canada.
I respect the fact Marshall was trying to stand up for his players considering how Tuesday’s game was playing out. But when you take these international trips, coaches have to know the level of officiating and game management will probably be less than stellar.
It’s fortunate that Marshall, in his exuberance, did not make physical contact with any officials. I’ve seen him get fired up during games before, but nothing to this extent.
As Marshall said after the game, he’ll learn from this experience so it won’t happen again.