The 2012 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue arrived in the mail last week, and all I'll say is THIS: Page 138, guys--PAGE 138..........TRIVIA QUESTION: What basketball player has appeared in the most games as a member of the Phoenix Suns? Answer to follow..........Throughout his later years, my Dad would often use the following sports analogy when describing his philosophy of life--and be SURE to remind me of it often: "Bobby," he'd say to me, "the secret to excellence in life is to take very few 'downs off' on a daily basis--in EVERYTHING you do." Great words of wisdom, Pop--which continue to fuel me to this day. Just imagine, folks, how much more efficient/stronger our society would be if more people heeded that advice. Wow..........This week in sports history, February 28, 1981: During a 104-103 loss to San Diego, Calvin Murphy of the Houston Rockets extends his record string of consecutive free throws made to 78. On this particular evening, Murphy was 5-for-5 from the line; he hadn't missed a free throw over a two-month period--dating back to December. Calvin had passed Rick Barry's previous NBA mark of 60 in a row just nine days before--on February 19th..........Dave Balfore--who overcame both Bell's palsy and leukemia--has been selected as this year's recipient of the Bob Casey Courage Award by the Connecticut Sports Writers' Alliance. Balfore was diagnosed with leukemia in June of 2008 after having already battled Bell's palsy--a form of facial paralysis. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but returned to be an integral part of Berlin High's (CT) Class M championship football team during his junior year. In September of 2011, Dave was told he was in remission at a monthly check-up; he is now a second-semester freshman at Western CT State University--majoring in Nursing. Tickets to/info about the Gold Key Dinner on April 29th can be obtained by emailing CSWA president George Albano at firstname.lastname@example.org..........The lovely Jennifer Aniston recently turned 43. Is it me, or does she look better NOW than she did at 30? Looking THAT good at THAT age is the equivalent of a 45-year-old baseball player hitting 40 home runs and driving in 120 runs in a season--WITHOUT the steroids..........Answer to trivia question: ALVAN ADAMS--who played in a total of 988 games as a member of the Suns from 1975-1988; he spent his entire career in Phoenix..........Speaking of the aforementioned SI Swimsuit Issue: Guys, check out the photos of lovely LPGA pro Natalie Gulbis in the body-paint section. Let's just say that Tiger Woods' best golf shot EVER isn't HALF as beautiful as THIS phenomenon. My goodness............Happy birthday wishes go out to NBA Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley--who blows out 56 candles on February 28th. A product of Notre Dame, Dantley played 15 seasons in the league between 1976 and 1991--averaging an impressive 24.3 ppg over his illustrious career. He played for seven different teams during his NBA tenure--the majority of it spent as a member of the Utah Jazz. While in Utah, Dantley won two NBA scoring titles--averaging 30.7 ppg during the '80-'81 season and then putting up 30.6 ppg during the '83-'84 campaign. Altogether, "A.D" played in 955 games; he had a lifetime FG% of .540 and shot a very respectable 82% from the free-throw line (8,351 attempts) during the course of his career. He became an assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets following his playing days and was elected to the Hall of Fame in Springfield in 2008. Best wishes, Adrian..........The passing of Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter last week from brain cancer at the age of 57 truly hit me hard; I spent so many years watching/admiring this guy during an era when baseball was much more fun to watch. As far as this "Kid" was concerned, I've spoken to many people since his death--all of whom remembered this fine man so very fondly. Dan Schlossberg--author of 35 baseball books and host of "Braves Banter" on BlogTalk Radio: "I knew Carter very well and always found him to be intelligent, sensitive, thoughtful, and well-spoken. He had an engaging smile and personality--plus terrific skills on the diamond. He left us way too soon." Mike McCann, anchor at WFAN Radio, chimed in with the following: "Gary Carter's acquisition in 1985 meant that the Mets were serious about winning. He brought more than talent to Shea: he brought TENACITY. From his first regular season game--with that walk-off homer--to a 'refuse-to-lose' attitude during the '86 Series, Gary proved to be the missing link that forged a champion." Finally, formerly MLB pitcher Dick Drago simply told me, "He played the game the right way--and had fun doing it." I'll choose to remember Mr. Carter as being a hard-nosed player who had an unmatched zest for the game of baseball--and for life in general. Yes, "Kid" Carter will truly be missed; may this special individual rest in peace.