UM Sports Trivia

By CHRIS WALTERSKIRCHEN

As Little League baseball begins in Missoula a little story about a player who struggled in his first season of professional ball but now is considered a star in the Majors. Each year players come to play for the Missoula Osprey who travel great distances and most have had to leave their family–and that takes time to adjust. In 2003 Emilio Bonifacio was 17 years old when he arrived in Missoula to a team that was still sharing a playing field with the Legion Missoula Mavericks.

Bonifacio was challenged by a rough in-field surface and an unusual sun field. He struggled at the plate hovering around .200 for much of the season. Bonifacio also struggled with a language barrier having spoken Spanish exclusively for much of his life. Missoula fans admired Boniface’s enthusiasm despite his struggle and he was a fan favorite. Bonifacio moved up the Diamondback’s ladder but was traded to the Marlins organization and is now in his fifth season in the Majors and currently is Third in the National League in Stolen bases.

Fifty years ago this week Seattle was gaining National attention as the Seattle World’s Fair opened.  In the spring of 1962 Seattle had no major league teams in any major team sports. The first major sports team was the Seattle Supersonics who won an NBA title in 1979 and would stay in the Emerald City until 2008.

Then there was the Seattle Pilots who played bare bones Minor League Stadium before leaving for Milwaukee in 1970. In 1976 the Seahawks were Seattle’s expansion NFL team. In the spring of 1977 The Seattle Mariners were born, neither the Mariners nor the Seahawks have ever won a League Championship, but the Seahawks did make it to the Super Bowl after the 2005 season. Ironically Seattle once had an NHL team that reached the Stanley Cup finals in 1918 but the finals were canceled after 2 games in Montreal because health officials in Seattle felt the risk to players and fans was too great given a major outbreak of Influenza.

Fifty years ago Monday the 34th Academy Awards were held. A sports themed film was one of the nominees for best Picture, “The Hustler” starring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason tells the story of pool hustlers. The movie that won best Picture was “West Side Story” detailing the rivalry of two feuding street gangs in New York City. Oddly enough the rival gangs from West Side story now sound like two NHL hockey teams, the Jets and the Sharks. For what it’s worth this past December the San Jose Sharks defeated the Winnipeg Jets 2-1.

Last week Former Notre Dame and pro quarterback Blair Kiel died of a heart attack at the age of 50. Kiel was a four year starter for the Irish from 180-83.  Keil went on to play 9 seasons in the NFL; Kiel’s last quarterbacking was with the arena league where he shared playing time with former Griz Brent Pease. Blair’s nephew Gunnar Kiel was one of the top recruits in the nation in 2012, not surprisingly Gunnar Kiel chose Notre Dame.


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Chris Walterskirchen has been an observer of Montana sports for nearly half a century. A Kalispell native, Chris has worked in various capacities for professional and college sports organization of at various times: ranging from announcing and statistical work to the concessions and even a stint as a costumedmascot.

Chris has academic degrees in communications and elementary education. His style of sports trivia involves more than just who won and who lost, but also focuses on the obscure or human side of sports. In this blog you will learn things like the Grizzly football team has won 210 games over the 19 seasons since they have had Monte as their mascot or that UNLV is the only school that both the Griz and Lady Griz have both faced in the NCAA basketball tournament

When not following sports Chris enjoys taking care of animals of all kinds (a peacock rescue?) and reading to pre-schoolers.