Sept. 16, 2009
STANFORD, Calif. - If Stanford goalie Alessandra Moss can take charge on the field like she can behind a frozen yogurt counter, the Stanford field hockey team is in good hands.
And judging by its No. 14 national ranking, the program's highest ever, Stanford and Moss are doing just fine. The Cardinal is 6-0, one victory from matching the best start in school history, and Moss has earned back-to-back conference player of the week honors one year after receiving the award three times.
The sophomore has a 0.83 goals-against average - the Stanford single-season record is 0.98 - and two shutouts, and last year established herself as a clutch player with a reputation as one of the nation's top penalty-stroke stoppers.
Though all are feats to be proud of, Moss might throw in another. During her summer job at Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt near her home in Manhattan's Upper West Side, she saw celebrity comedienne Tina Fey enter the store.
Charging her way through Pinkberry employees as she would through Cal forwards, Moss let them know, "I'm going to make it for her!"
"I had a very short interaction with her," Moss recalled of her brush with fame. "I asked her what she wanted. And I just stood there, staring and sweating.
Moss remembered the order with great clarity: "a Pinkberry Original smoothie, with blackberries, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. And she ordered a small Original, with blueberries and strawberries, for her daughter.
"It's funny how attached I am to this experience."
Wondering what a Manhattan native is doing playing field hockey? Her introduction to the sport was a bit unconventional. Moss' first love was ice hockey.
A big New York Rangers fan, Moss was a forward, not a goalie. She never considered another sport until a middle school P.E. teacher mentioned that his goalie was graduating and that Moss would be perfect, if she attended a summer camp.
She did. And while attending Phillips Academy, a Massachusetts boarding school, the field version finally took hold over the ice.
Perhaps because her background is unconventional, her style is too.
"I don't think that if you measured my basic skill against other goalkeepers, that I would come out anywhere near the top," Moss said. "I'm way more rag-tag. Whatever works, do it. When I'm in a zone, the ball is not going into the net.
"But, really, I'm like the luckiest goalkeeper in the world, because I play with the best defense. We have a system that is so incredibly fool-proof, so good, that they almost don't even need me."
Good thing Tina Fey did.
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BASEBALL: Gall retires with class
The baseball playing career of John Gall, a former major leaguer and Stanford's all-time hit and RBI king, ended on Sept. 7 in a Triple-A game in Round Rock, Texas.
The retirement of Gall, 31, an outfielder who played with St. Louis and Florida during parts of three big-league seasons (2005-07), was announced to the crowd of 9,000 before the game.
After his final at-bat, a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning for the hometown Express, Gall stopped near the third-base line and removed his spikes. He walked toward the dugout and hung his shoes on the dugout railing, signifying the end of his career, while greeted with a sustained standing ovation from the crowd.
After a series of hugs and handshakes from his teammates, Gall returned to the field for a curtain call, then disappeared from view, ending a 10-year professional career in which he batted .293 over more than 1,100 games and nearly 4,200 plate appearances.
Gall played all four seasons at Stanford, despite being drafted after his junior year by the Cleveland Indians. He had a career.358 average, 368 hits, and 263 RBI in 251 games - figures that rank at or near the top of the Cardinal's all-time lists - and reached the College World Series twice.
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MEN'S WATER POLO: Enter the Sandman
One of the most creative marketing strategies in Stanford athletics has come from men's water polo, particularly the selling of standout goalie Jimmie Sandman.
Those driving into campus from Embarcadero have no doubt seen, and perhaps pondered, the meaning of a banner hanging along the El Camino Real intersection, reading: "Enter the Sandman, The Final Chapter."
"I don't know if random passers-by have any clue what we're talking about," said assistant coach Jon Barnea. "But maybe it's intriguing enough that they'll check it out."
For those in the know, it's a tribute to one of Stanford water polo's all-time greats. Sandman, a senior from nearby Menlo School, is a returning first-team All-American.
He was the subject of a similar marketing campaign last year. An "Enter the Sandman" message covered a cube that was placed next to the football billboard near the same intersection. Strangely, that banner was stolen, and not by Sandman's mother.
"We just wanted to find a way to highlight Jimmie," Barnea said. "He's a guy who comes around once in a lifetime. We want everyone to experience what we see every day."
Sandman and the No. 2-ranked Cardinal (4-0) host the NorCal Invitational at the Avery Aquatics Center on Saturday and Sunday.
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FOOTBALL: Laird's streak ends
For the first time since the Vietnam War kept him away in 1969, Jack Laird missed his first Stanford football games when the Cardinal traveled to Washington State and Wake Forest to open the season.
Laird, 92, graduated from Stanford in 1940 and was a teammate of the legendary Hank Luisetti on the Indians' basketball team under John Bunn. In 1962, Laird returned to The Farm serving in athletic development and has been a fixture ever since, serving as the athletic department's chief fundraiser for a number of years. He can be seen almost every day exercising on campus.
"As I approach middle age, I'm getting kind of shaky as I walk," Laird said. "Then-athletic director Andy Geiger said `If you can get on the airplane, you can go on all the road trips.' Well, I'm still able to climb on the airplane, because they have a handrail, but once we get there, I'm a little unsteady."
Laird, an armed forces pilot in both World War II and Vietnam, had been to every Stanford football game, home and away, since 1970. However, he will be back at Stanford Stadium for Saturday's game against San Jose State, keeping alive a home streak that now numbers 226 consecutive games over 39 years.
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WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Appel's Glamourous trip
Jayne Appel crossed the Atlantic Ocean four times in the past two weeks and returned home with an armful of Glamour magazines, which feature her on pages 238-239 of the October issue.
Midway through the Stanford women's basketball team's tour of Italy, Appel flew to New York City for a luncheon to honor 10 college women determined to be budding leaders in a variety of fields. Appel was selected as "The Athlete."
Appel then returned to Italy to rejoin her team.
Stanford's 2008-09 Final Four season was highlighted by Appel's school-record 46-point performance against Iowa State in the quarterfinals. Appel underwent surgery after the season to repair a torn meniscus in her knee, but participated in double-day workouts preceding the Italian trip, and played while there.
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FOOTBALL: Walsh Legacy Game carries meaning for Harbaugh
Bill Walsh supported the hiring of Jim Harbaugh as Stanford's head football coach in 2007 and met with the new coach for lunch several times afterward.
Harbaugh recalled those meetings with the late coach - one that included Jim's father, Jack Harbaugh - with great fondness as he reflected on the meaning of the Bill Walsh Legacy Game on Saturday against San Jose State.
"Much of the tradition and fabric of this program is due to Bill Walsh," Harbaugh said. "Anyone who came in contact with him saw a good man and a great person, who is very much missed."
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WOMEN'S CREW: Stanford joins conference
Stanford's lightweight women's crew team will have a conference title to compete for this season. The Cardinal has joined the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association.
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MEN'S TENNIS: Freshman reaches U.S. Open semis
Stanford freshman tennis player Matt Kandath was a U.S. Open semifinalist last weekend, advancing in boys doubles before he and Jack Sock lost in a tiebreaker after splitting the first two sets.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics