So-Called Expert takes on Mike Scioscia in Week 11 of NFL Challenge

By RANDY YOUNGMAN

    As he prepares for his 14th season with the Angels, Mike Scioscia is the longest-tenured manager in the majors as ranked by continuous service with the same team.

The all-time record is 50 years by Connie Mack, who managed the Philadelphia A’s from 1901-51, until his retirement at age 88. That means Scioscia, 53, would have to manage 37 more years — until he’s 90! — to break Mack’s mark.

That’s not going to happen, but if and when his managerial career ever ends, Scioscia won’t have to worry. I know he would be able to find work as a greeter, entertainer, emcee and auctioneer.

Scioscia expertly filled all of those roles as celebrity host of his ninth annual charity golf tournament, which was held this week at Moorpark Country Club in Ventura County. As always, proceeds from the tournament will benefit the Amateur Baseball Development Group, which provides funding for local youth and high school baseball programs in Southern California.

Just for good measure, Scioscia also agreed to serve as guest prognosticator in my weekly one-on-one Pigskin Challenge here at calgolfnews.com.

OK, and if I lose, I have to make another donation to ABDG. Such is the price of being a golf philanthropist.

Scioscia doesn’t have time to play much golf, but he enjoys the game, calls himself “a solid 16” handicapper and says he plays several times a year during the offseason.

When he’s staying at his Orange County home on Balboa Island, he usually plays Pelican Hill in Newport Coast, and when he’s at home in Westlake Village, he usually plays Moorpark CC. (I also have it on good authority that he also recently played at San Gabriel Country Club with a local priest. Apparently, even long-tenured managers can use divine intervention.)

During Scioscia’s playing days with the Dodgers in the mid-1980s, I remember playing behind him in spring training at Dodger Pines, a golf course owned by the team in Vero Beach, Fla.

“If you were behind me, I’ll bet that was a long day,” he said, laughing.

Well, as a matter of fact . . .

Scioscia’s tournament this year was played in strong, swirling winds that made club selection very difficult on approach shots. He jokingly told the banquet audience afterward that the Angels played against the wind the first six weeks of the 2012 season. I knew it was something like that.

Among the sporting celebs who played in this year’s event were Angels broadcaster Mark Gubicza, former Dodgers great Fernando Valenzuela, former Angels batting coach Mickey Hatcher and Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, Scioscia’s former bench coach with the Angels.

Also on hand was Scioscia’s high school baseball coach, Harry “Ace” Bell, who coached him at Springfield High in Morton, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb in Delaware County.

“I heard about this catcher playing in junior high; I think he hit .190 in eighth grade,” Bell said during his remarks at the podium. “He came up the next year and hit .532. Of course, he didn’t have any leg hits.”

Ba-da-bing! Yes, Scioscia turned an appropriate shade of crimson. And that was before a 1976 newspaper photo of Bell and his star catcher was shown on the big screen. In it, Scioscia was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a caricature of Spiro Agnew with Mickey Mouse ears. “Thanks for dressing up,” Bell said.

Scioscia got his turn to insert the needle while emceeing the live auction after the dinner, when he begged and goaded members in the audience into opening their wallets – and sometimes shaming them into increasing their bids – to maximize charitable contributions to ABDG.

He got $2,500 for a game-used Mike Trout bat, which will be autographed in person by the newly honored AL Rookie of the Year at a game next season. A bidding war ensued, so Scioscia promised another Trout bat and meet-and-greet for the same price.

Ditto for another live auction item called “Orange County Experience,” featuring golf and lunch for four at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo (one of this contest’s sponsors), limousine service to an Angels home game and Scioscia’s personal Diamond Club seats.

When bidding occasionally stalled, Scioscia added limo service and bottles from his private wine collection to certain packages, both at his own expense. Trust me, that is unprecedented at charity golf events.

Here’s how good Scioscia is as an auctioneer. He got somebody to offer $300 for a bundt cake, then added a few Cuban cigars and a bottle of wine to increase the winning bid.

I just hope he’s not as good at picking NFL games. He’s always been a Philadelphia Eagles fan, so I knew he’d pick them in Week 11. Big mistake. I hope.

Ready or not, it’s time for this week’s NFL predictions, with a lot of golf balls on the line, as always.

Here are my picks and comments, noting the five games on which Scioscia and I disagree:

Miami Dolphins (4-5) at Buffalo Bills (3-6): Bills. Can’t explain normally competitive Dolphins getting blown out at home by Titans last week, so I’m going with the cold-weather team over the warm-weather team in this Thursday night yawner of a matchup.

San Diego Chargers (4-5) at Denver Broncos (6-3): Broncos. (Scioscia picked Chargers.) Must-or-bust game for Norv Turner’s slackers, who are 1-4 since 3-1 start.  Chargers blew a 24-0 halftime lead against Broncos in first meeting and have never recovered.

New Orleans Saints (4-5) at Oakland Raiders (3-6): Saints. (Scioscia picked Raiders.) Saints are 4-1 since an 0-4 start and no longer are a longshot to make the playoffs. Too bad Al Davis isn’t around to suffer through the latest Raiders fiasco.

San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1) at Chicago Bears (7-2): 49ers. Bears QB Jay Cutler and 49ers QB Alex Smith both sustained concussions last week, so it could be Jason Campbell vs. Colin Kaepernick on Monday night. Ugh.

Green Bay Packers (6-3) at Detroit Lions (4-5): Packers. Numbers are compelling: Packers swept Detroit last season, are 12-1 under Coach Mike McCarthy in this rivalry and have won 20 of the past 23 games in series.

Arizona Cardinals (4-5) at Atlanta Falcons (8-1): Falcons. With a 2nd-and-goal at the 1-yard in the closing minutes, Falcons should have won in New Orleans to remain undefeated. They’ll take it out on an Arizona team that is winless since a 4-0 start.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4) at Carolina Panthers (2-7): Buccaneers.  Tampa Bay has averaged  33 points in winning four of past five; Carolina continues to spin its wheels.

Philadelphia Eagles (3-6) at Washington Redskins (3-6): Redskins. (Scioscia picked Eagles.) Expectations were high for both teams at season’s start, but Philly definitely is the bigger under-achiever. QB Nick Foles likely to start in place of Michael Vick (concussion), but that might be a positive considering Vick’s recent play.

Cleveland Browns (2-7) at Dallas Cowboys (4-5): Cowboys. Hard to believe, but Dallas is only one game behind division-leading Giants in loss column. Not hard to believe Browns are in last place, again.

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) at Houston Texans (8-1): Texans. Mismatch of the Week. Jags only seven games behind AFC South leaders as they try to keep pace with Chiefs in the race for the top pick in the next NFL draft.

Indianapolis Colts (6-3) at New England Patriots (6-3): Patriots. (Scioscia picked Colts as his Upset of the Week.) This AFC rivalry no longer features Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, but Andrew Luck is having a break-out year as Manning’s successor. Pats shouldn’t be favored by 9 ½ points — not after almost losing to Bills at home.

Cincinnati Bengals (4-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-8): Bengals. Cincy snapped a four-game losing streak last week by overpowering the Giants, and Chiefs are simply pathetic. K.C. QB Matt Cassel has more turnovers himself than 28 NFL teams. Enough said.

New York Jets (3-6) at St. Louis Rams (3-5-1): Rams. (Scioscia picked Jets.) If Rams can almost beat 49ers on the road – do you hate ties as much as I do? — they can beat the disappointing Jets at home. Is it Tebow Time yet? Apprently not.

Baltimore Ravens (7-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3): Ravens. My Upset of the Week, and Scioscia agrees. As usual, these division rivals are battling for first place, but I don’t think Steelers have a chance with Byron Leftwich filling in for sore-shouldered Ben Roethlisberger.

Byes this week: Minnesota Vikings (6-4), New York Giants (6-4), Tennessee Titans (4-6), Seattle Seahawks (6-4).

Last week: Larry O’Brien, baseball agent, 8-5-1; So-Called Expert 9-4-1.

Season totals: Guest prognosticators 84-61-1; So-Called Expert 86-59-1.

Football Pool and Golf Ball Challenge winner: Phil Montoya 11-2-1. (Won six-way tie-breaker in random drawing.)

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