The loudest ovation at Mizzou Arena on Wednesday night didn’t come after a fancy dunk or a big block. It didn’t come from anything related to basketball.
At the first timeout, St. Louis Cardinals’ first baseman Albert Pujols was introduced and he was shown on the jumbotron. The crowd burst into applause and a loud standing ovation ensued.
Pujols didn’t seem to favor either team, though he sat directly behind the Red Raiders’ bench. He wore a plain black baseball cap and a black Oakley pullover. He wore no items supporting either Texas Tech or Missouri.
Pujols played a large part in the Cardinals’ trip to last season’s World Series. During the 2004 season, Pujols had 46 home runs and 123 RBIs with a .331 batting average. He was also one of the frontrunners for NL MVP. The Boston Red Sox swept the Cardinals in four games, but the St. Louis fans didn’t hold that against Pujols.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY NORM: Former Missouri basketball coach Norm Stewart spent his 70th birthday working.
Stewart took his normal spot on press row calling the game for the Tigers. Stewart still received a special treat from the Missouri band, though. When a timeout was called with 3:59 left in the first half, the band played “Happy Birthday” and the crowd gave its last standing ovation of the game.
Stewart played for the Tigers from 1953 to 1956, scoring 1,112 points and earning All-American honors after his final season.
Stewart returned to Missouri as coach in 1967. He stayed for 32 seasons and went 634-333. When he retired, Stewart was seventh on the all-time wins list for NCAA Division I basketball.
FASHION STATEMENT: Jason Horton played for the first time this season without the black sleeve that he usually wears on his right arm.
Horton, a freshman point guard, wore the sleeve for medical reasons, not to look like NBA star Allen Iverson. After having surgery to remove part of his rib this summer to stop a blood clot, Horton wore the sleeve to help his blood flow.
Horton said it was no big deal to have the sleeve off.
“It’s OK,” Horton said. “I mean, I just decided to play without it because I had been practicing without it.”
Horton said the sleeve was never a distraction and that the final decision to play without it was his call.
Having it off didn’t help Horton much against the Red Raiders. He turned over the ball five times and had five points on 2-for-6 shooting. He had seven assists but had one of his worst games of the season. Missouri coach Quin Snyder said that Horton looked like a freshman for the first time in a long time.
MAJOR PAINS: Associate head coach Melvin Watkins entered Mizzou Arena differently Wednesday night.
His normally confident stride was replaced with what appeared to be agonizing hobbling. Missouri sports information director Sam Fleury said that Watkins threw out his back Monday.
He said the injury didn’t occur during one of the Tiger’s practices, however.The obvious pain didn’t keep Watkins in his seat. He was quick to stand and get in the action as normal.
After the game, Watkins was unavailable for comment. Fleury said Watkins was in extreme pain and went home immediately to rest and recover.
Senior guard Jason Conley had no idea Watkins was even hurt.
“I didn’t even see him,” Conley said. “(Was it) his back? Really, I didn’t even know that.”