On Katz, Scott, Etzel and more
Observations about our sporting world …
• ITEM: Former Portland Mayor Vera Katz dies at age 84.
COMMENT: Many nice things have been said about Katz, who also served three terms as speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives.
I never met Katz, but appreciate that she was the only one of Portland's mayors — and we're talking Tom Potter, Sam Adams, Charlie Hales and Ted Wheeler after her — who embraced the idea of bringing major-league baseball to the city.
"It took awhile, but she got there," says David Kahn, the head of the Oregon Stadium Campaign that pushed passage of 2003's House Bill 3606, which would allocate $150 million in funds to a baseball stadium in the Portland area. "It wasn't an automatic, but once she got in, she was all in."
This was when Major League Baseball was looking to relocate the Montreal Expos. A group including Kahn and Katz flew to New York City for a meeting with MLB officials, including John McHale, Jr., then the league's executive VP/administration.
"Vera represented the city on the trip," Kahn says. "Without an elected official, you're nowhere. She was a very significant advocate in those stages of that process."
Kahn later served in the mayor's office as special advisor for baseball.
"I really liked her," says Kahn, former general manager of the Indiana Pacers and Minnesota Timberwolves. "She was a special person. I appreciated how enthusiastic she was about the effort we made to get baseball here."
• ITEM: Portlander Dale Scott retires after 32 years as a major-league umpire.
COMMENT: I wrote about Scott, now 58, three years ago after he became the first official in the four major professional sports (baseball, football, basketball and hockey) to come out as gay.
Scott is retiring because of concerns with head injuries. He has had four concussions in the last five years as a result of a pitched baseball hitting him in the head, the last on April 14, 2017, in Toronto. Scott was carted off the field and sat out the remainder of the season. Now he is done.
"I'm fine with it," Scott tells me. "I was going to go two more years. After I got whacked again, I talked to a couple of doctors."
The Sheldon High graduate learned that if there is history of either Parkinson's disease or dementia in your ancestry, repeated head blows and concussions can bring those afflictions on sooner and more severely.
"It's all over my family," Scott says. "That sealed it to me. I kept asking myself, 'If I go back to work and get hit again, how can I justify it?'"
Scott had a grand career, working more than 5,000 regular-season games. He also had three World Series assignments, three All-Star Games and 91 postseason games.
"It's weird," Scott says. "When you're in it, you don't think about what you're doing — you just do it. You're on this wheel, and when you get off that wheel, you go, 'My goodness, I accomplished a lot of things.'"
Since news of his retirement broke, Scott has received phone calls, texts and emails from people all across the country.
"Some of the people I don't even know," Scott says. "It's been humbling and very touching."
Scott and husband Michael Rausch were married in 2013 but have been together for more than 30 years. They will continue to divide time between Portland and their winter home in Palm Springs, California. Scott will continue to follow his beloved Oregon Ducks — he attended all of their home games and road contests at Wyoming and UCLA this season — and travel to destinations without having to bring an umpire's mask and protector.
"I have a ton of frequent flier miles," Scott says. "I've never been to Italy or Germany. Now we can go in May or September and not have to worry about work. I'll tell you what: I'm looking forward to not having the plate in St. Louis in July."
• ITEM: NBC Sports Northwest and KPOJ (620 AM, "Rip City Radio") partner up.
COMMENT: I wrote about the changes brewing at NBCSW more than a month ago.
Beginning in mid-January, NBCSW and "Rip City Radio" will simulcast three local shows: Dan Sheldon and Nigel Burton from 6-9 a.m., Chad Doing and Travis Demers from 3-6 p.m., and — ta dah — a new program featuring Dwight Jaynes and Aaron Fentress from noon to 3 p.m.
Jaynes has hosted radio shows a couple of times — at KPAM (860 AM) and KXTG (750 AM "The Game"), the latter pairing with Doing. Fentress has never hosted but has been a feisty guest on various shows for years.
The two have been notable adversaries — er, colleagues — for years.
"When I was told I was going to do a radio show with someone, I was thinking, 'It's gotta be Dwight,'" Fentress says. "I've been debating with Dwight since he was a columnist at The Oregonian and I was a sports clerk, reading his column and then calling him out and telling him why I disagree with him. Now, 27 years later, we have a radio show.
"We probably agree 80 percent of the time, but then it's over in three seconds. When we disagree, it's on, and things are magnified. He knows how to get to me, how to push my button. The two of us together should be a lot of fun."
Jaynes is always up for a discussion, with little concession that he could be even a wee bit wrong — especially with Fentress.
"I'm looking forward to letting other people in on what is usually a private argument," Jaynes says. "Of course, I'm always right. I'll endeavor to straighten him out, but he's pretty tough to move.
"I think it's going to be a great show. Between the two of us, we have a lot of years experience covering just about everything in this state, and we know a lot of people."
The Jaynes/Fentress show will go directly against John Canzano's program at "The Game." It will be interesting to see which of those shows win the battle for listeners. Jaynes and Fentress will have the advantage of having viewers, too.
• ITEM: Jim Etzel becomes the new executive director of the Oregon Sports Authority.
COMMENT: The OSA has served as the state's sports economic development arm for more than two decades, promoting and helping create opportunities for teams and events in Oregon.
Etzel has been a fortress in sports marketing in the city for many years. The son of former University of Portland athletic director/baseball coach Joe Etzel formed Etzel Marketing (now Etzel Agency) with his brother, Tom, in 1995. They have promoted many major sporting events, both locally and nationally, for many years.
"I'm really excited," says Etzel, 54, who replaces Drew Mahalic, retiring after 22 years on the job.
It feels like my whole career has led me to this job."
Etzel will remain as board chairman at the Etzel Agency and will retain his ownership share, but has turned the presidency over to Brad Jersey. Etzel will start with the OSA, and his many contacts should help enhance the state's position in landing major events and, perhaps, major professional sports franchises.
"We're at the center of sports globally when you look at the influences that emanate from Portland, including Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, Columbia Sportswear and even Intel Sports, which is affecting broadcast media and E-Sports," Etzel says. "We want to take it to the next level.
"We have an idea of being more visionary going forward, and that's not a knock on Drew. I don't want to shoot for shiny objects all the time, but part of this job is to drive economic benefit for the state."
• Plenty is going on behind the scenes with Oregon State football, and there should be some major announcements in the next week, including filling out Jonathan Smith's coaching staff.
Smith has been hot on the recruiting trail the past week, but will try to get things pinned down in terms of assistant coaches.
There's still a very good chance he'll hire Trent Bray, but Keith Hayward is evidently going to stay at Oregon.
Despite some reports, Mike Hass — the former Biletnikoff Award recipient who played with Smith at OSU and is now employed in the baseball glovewear division at Nike — will not be joining the Beaver staff. Nor will Dennis Erickson, who coached Smith and Hass at OSU but, at age 70, is retired, at least for now.
"At this time in my career, it's not for me," says Erickson, now living in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. "But I'll do whatever I can in terms of advice if Jonathan wants it. And I'll start coming to more games and get back to being a Beaver. I'm really excited about Jonathan running the show there."
Erickson says he believes assistant head coach Mike Riley, 64, will be a big help for Smith.
"He's quite a bit younger than I am, and he's in a different situation," Erickson says. "I love Mike. I have great admiration for him and what he has done in his coaching career. It will be of tremendous benefit to Jonathan. Mike has no ego. He'll be there for Jonathan, and he has a lot more to give."
• Erickson coached both of the state's Pac-12 head coaches — OSU's Smith at Oregon State, Oregon's Mario Cristobal at Miami.
"Mario is a good guy, a tough guy and a really smart guy," Erickson says. "His older brother, Lou, also played for me at Miami. Mario wasn't overly talented (as an offensive tackle), but he understood the game. The Ducks made a great choice.
"It's fun to have two guys who played for you as head coach in one state. Makes me think I have done something right in my life."
• OSU coaches were greatly surprised at word that prep quarterback Spencer Petras of Rafael, California, has flipped his commitment to Iowa. Petras had assured OSU coaches after a meeting at his home Tuesday night he would be signing with the Beavers.
On Friday night, OSU coaches met with Crescent Valley's Talanoa Hufanga, who announced earlier he had narrowed his choices down to Southern Cal, UCLA, Michigan, Nebraska, Utah and Oregon.
A source says the 6-1, 215-pound Hufanga, who is projected to play safety or slotback in college, has UCLA and Southern Cal as his leaders, in that order, with Oregon State as a "dark horse" contender. Hufango, who will play in the U.S. Army and Polynesian all-star games, says he will announce his school on Dec. 28 and will sign on the late letter-of-intent date, Feb. 7.