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Saturday Sports: Oakland A's; Chicago Cubs; Tom Goldman says goodbye

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: The Oakland A's take off for the Vegas Strip. An almost perfect game undone in a totally original way. Do I really have to tell you what team? And a send-off for a friend. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Tom, thanks so much.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: All right. News of the week - Oakland A's bought some land for a new stadium in Las Vegas, running out on the fans of Oakland who have suffered with them, exulted for them. Is the future of baseball just, you know, moving around to score the best deal?

GOLDMAN: You know, right now, I don't think so. This possible A's move has taken years to get this far. If it happens, it would be the first baseball relocation since 2005. It would be sad for Oakland, another loss for a city once proudly teeming with pro sports. But MLB has been supporting the move, comfortable as other leagues are now with cozying up to the lucrative gambling mecca, even though some forms of gambling remain taboo in sports.

SIMON: This is just for you. Cubs vs. Dodgers yesterday. Cubs won 13-zip. But Drew Smyly had a perfect game going into the eighth inning, six outs from being the first Cub pitcher to throw a perfect - you can see where this is going. Dave Peralta hits a dribbler. Drew Smyly and his catcher both charge the ball. The catcher has to jump over his pitcher to avoid a collision. Crunch. Flat, kaput. Here's the announcer's call.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED COMMENTATOR #1: No.

UNIDENTIFIED COMMENTATOR #2: Come on. That can't be how it ends.

UNIDENTIFIED COMMENTATOR #1: Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED COMMENTATOR #2: Can't be.

SIMON: Oh, it is. The utter Cubness. And in line with this, oh, I hate to - Tom, this is your last week in our show. You're retiring after 33 years at NPR, 25 as the network's first full-time sports correspondent. I think I can reveal you're now going to be a greeter at Caesar's Palace. What? All right, my friend. What do you remember?

GOLDMAN: Oh, gosh, Scott. Do you have a year or two? I'll give you two memories. Interviewing the irrepressible fitness guru Jack LaLanne when he was 89. And I asked him whether people in this busy world had time to stay fit. And without hesitating, he said, stand up. So I stood up. He said, sit down. I sat down. Stand up. Sit down. After about 10 of those squats, I was breathing pretty hard. And he said, see? You got time. I remember Betsy Andreu...

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: ...Wife of former bicycle racer Frankie Andreu, a teammate of Lance Armstrong's. And Betsy was the foundation of a major story we did in 2006 on Armstrong's doping, alleged at that point. He admitted it to Oprah seven years later. Betsy endured big hits to her reputation and intimidation from the Armstrong camp, but for her, speaking truth was most important. Always impressed by that.

SIMON: Yeah. I want to play a clip from our first time with you as a regular for the past 14 years. December 6, 2008, talking about a disappointing show from the Portland Trailblazers.

GOLDMAN: What else?

SIMON: They were trounced by the Boston Celtics.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GOLDMAN: My 10-year-old son, who has at the top of his holiday wishlist a Rudy Fernandez Blazer jersey and who watches NBA games while shooting a Nerf basketball against the wall - he turns to me and says, this is boring. I'd like to personally thank the Blazers for leaving me with a bored 10-year-old on a Friday night.

SIMON: (Laughter) Well, Tom, is he listening to our show now? And what's he saying?

GOLDMAN: He's asleep.

Scott, he's still bored.

SIMON: Yeah. No, my children have no idea what we're saying. Tom, let me ask. Why are you leaving us?

GOLDMAN: Scott, I took a voluntary buyout during our recent financial crisis. And it feels strange right now, but seriously, I chose to go. And as you know, many of our colleagues didn't. They lost their jobs. They're hurting. It's important to remember their contributions to this network. I also want to thank all those who've sent me really nice messages. You and I have often talked about how people never came to NPR for sports, but the hope was once they got here, they'd get something out of what we did. And I think many did get it. And that, Scott, makes me happy.

SIMON: God, I'll miss you. And farewell. I have bowdlerized that most famous of sports poems. Ready?

GOLDMAN: Ready.

SIMON: Oh, somewhere in this favored land, the sun is shining bright. The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light. And somewhere people laugh, and somewhere children shout. But there is no joy on WEEKEND EDITION SATURDAY. Mighty Tom has taken the buyout. (Laughter) What do you think?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) You're too good. Oh, my God.

SIMON: (Laughter) Oh, we could tour playing that. Well, all right. God bless. I will - we'll be friends forever, but I'll miss you, our Saturdays here. Thanks so much, Tom.

GOLDMAN: It's been a wonderful ride. Thank you so much, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.