Sunday, March 31, 2013

March 31, 1923: King Clancy Plays Every Position

On March 31, 1923, in the deciding game of the Stanley Cup Finals, Ottawa Senators defenseman King Clancy became the first player to play all six positions in a game, including goaltender. The Senators squad was battered and bruised which led Clancy to doing it all. His team went onto win the game by the score of 1-0 and the Senators took home the Stanley Cup.

The 1923 Stanley Cup Champions would be decided with a three game series. The Senators beat the Montreal Canadiens on their way to meeting the Edmonton Eskimos in the Stanley Cup Finals. In the first game of the series Edmonton grabbed a 1-0 lead early, before the Senators tied it up in the third with a goal by Lionel Hitchman. The game was headed to overtime. Two minutes into the extra frame, Cy Denneny scored the game winner and the Senators needed just one victory to be named champs.

The second game had Clancy's team reeling with injuries. At least 4 players weren't able to play the entire game and some of those that did play were far from 100%. The Senators took an early 1-0 lead with a goal from Punch Broadbent. They were able to hold onto it with Clancy doing literally everything to keep his team in the game. At the time goalies had to serve their own penalties if they were called for an infraction, when Clint Benedict took a two penalty Clancy jumped between the pipes and stopped everything the Eskimos threw at him. It was an amazing effort by Clancy that led his team to celebrating a championship victory.

It was just the beginning for Clancy, he spent 16 seasons on the ice between the Senators and the Maple Leafs. He won another Stanley Cup as a member of the Senators in 1927 then his third and final championship came with the Maple Leafs in 1932. His playing days ended in 1937 but his contributions to the sport were far from over. He coached the Montreal Maroons and officiated games before until 1953 when the Toronto Maple Leafs came calling. He was head coach of the Maple Leafs for three seasons, before moving to the front office. Clancy remained with in Toronto until he passed away in 1986. The man that could play every position in a game and dedicated his entire life to hockey was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

March 30, 1992: Sammy Sosa is traded to the Cubbies

On March 30, 1992, the Chicago Cubs traded outfielder George Bell to the Chicago White Sox for a relief pitcher named Ken Patterson and a young outfielder named Sammy Sosa. Bell was an established major leaguer that had won the A.L. MVP as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1987, on the other hand Sosa was just a kid who had not lived up to expectations up to that point. While Bell only played two more seasons, Sosa established himself as one of the best power hitters in the game on his way to becoming the all time home run leader in Chicago Cubs franchise history.

The White Sox had a win now mentality and they looked at 32 year old Bell as the final piece to the puzzle. Bell hit 25 long balls while knocking in 122 runs. His success was short lived, his numbers fell off dramatically in 1993 and he retired following the season. On the other side of town Sosa arrived to the Cubs as an unpolished 23 year old kid, while the hopes were high for him nobody could know what they had in store. In his first season with the Cubs he was still figuring things out, he hit just 8 homers and recorded 25 rbi over 67 games. Sosa's second season in a Cubs uniform was a turning point in his career, his numbers jumped dramatically, while Bell was struggling to put together one last season Sosa cranked out 33 jackertons and plated 93 runs, the Sammy Sosa era was just beginning on the North Side.

Sosa developed into a solid ballplayer that could knock the ball out of the yard anytime he stepped up to the plate. From 1993 to 1997 Sosa averaged 34 home runs a year and had knocked in over 500 runs. Then came 1998, the season will be remembered for the great home run chase with Sosa and Mark McGwire putting on an impressive show in a chase to see who could surpass Roger Maris' record of 61 home runs in a single season. The two sluggers knocked home runs out of the park at a record pace, they both surpassed Maris, Sosa finished the season with 66 homers while Big Mac took the crown with his 70 on the year.

With the '98 season included Sosa averaged 57 home runs a season over the next 5 years, it earned him the nickname "Slammin Sammy" Sosa. Despite all of his success at the plate he couldn't bring the Cubs the ring they have been seeking since 1908. He spent 13 seasons in a Cubs uniform, in those 13 years he jacked 545 home runs and plated more than 1400 runs. I'm pretty sure the Cubs organization was pretty happy with the deal they made in 1992. In February of 2005 the Cubs traded him to the Baltimore Orioles, coincidentally he he hit 600th home run in an inter league game against the his former club. After a year in Baltimore Sosa left the game for a couple of season before a season with the Rangers in 2007. He flirted with a return but it never came to fruition. Sosa officially retired in 2009.

While Sosa will forever be linked with steroid use in baseball, what he did in a Cubs uniform was remarkable. I know that the steroid era has been turned into something that many would like to forget but that's not the case for me. I look at it as history and good or bad we can't deny history. I have a lot of fond memories from the home run chase of 1998, one of the best memories was when McGwire hit 62, with the Cubs playing the Cardinals at Busch, Sosa came running into congratulate McGwire on his historic accomplishment. While some people criticized Sosa after he congratulated Big Mac, I think the two players had formed a bond over that season that couldn't be denied. It really was a year to remember and I would dare anyone to say they didn't enjoy it in the moment. I would understand if the view has changed over time but in '98 Sosa and McGwire captivated a nation. I'm sure each and every Cubs fan was pleased with the deal that brought Sosa to the North Side.

Friday, March 29, 2013

March 29, 1994: Jimmy Johnson resigns as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys

On March 29, 1994, Jimmy Johnson announced that he would be stepping down as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Johnson had helped build the Super Bowl winning teams of the early 90's but couldn't see eye to eye with the owner of the team Jerry Jones. Johnson served as Dallas' head coach from 1989 to 1993, in that time he won two Super Bowls and established the Cowboys as one of the best teams of the early 90's.

After winning the National Championship as head coach of the Miami Hurricanes in 1987, Johnson was the next hot coaching prospect. Jerry Jones had just purchased the Cowboys and was looking to replace the legendary Tom Landry. Landry had been the only head coach the Cowboys had ever known since their inception in the league in 1960. Jones and Johnson had been friends and teammates at the University of Arkansas which helped persuade Johnson to take the job in Dallas.

Johnson's tenure in Dallas started off a little rough, in his first season the Cowboys went 1-15. He had drafted what would become his franchise quarterback in Troy Aikman, but Aikman was raw and he still lacked a team around him. Four games into the 1989 season, Johnson engineered the largest trade in NFL history by moving Herschel Walker to the Vikings. The trade was instrumental in turning the team around, names like Emmitt Smith, Alvin Harper, and Darren Woodson came to Dallas through draft picks they had garnered from Minnesota. In his second year with the team Johnson had revamped the roster and their record improved to 7-9, the team was on the rise.  In just his third year the team posted an 11-5 record and grabbed a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. The team was knocked out in the division round but they had completed a huge turnaround and the best was yet to come.

The 1992 Cowboys were absolutely dominant under Johnson, they cruised to 13-3 and won the NFC East for the first time since 1985. The Cowboys rock and rolled through the playoffs then took down Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills by the score of 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII. There was no Super Bowl hangover for that club, they came right back the next year and did it again. The '93 team went 12-4 and won the NFC East crown for the second consecutive season.  The Cowboys marched right back through the playoffs and took down the Bills for the second year in a row, this time by the score of 30-13. With back to back Super Bowl Championships under his belt nobody expected the coach's resignation.

It ultimately came down to a power struggle and with Jones as the owner of the team, there could only to be one winner. Johnson surprised everyone with his announcement that he would be leaving the team. The tension between him and Jones had come to a boiling point and he was done as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones hired Barry Switzer to take over the club and he would lead them to the NFC Title game in his first season in 1994 then a Super Bowl Championship in 1995. While Switzer was the head coach the team won their third ring in a four year span, a lot of credit went to the way Johnson had built the team and deservedly so.

Johnson spent a couple of years in the booth before returning to coaching in 1996. It would be the second time in a row he would be following up a coaching legend, this time it was Don Shula in Miami. Things didn't go the way he had envisioned in Miami, while the team never dipped below .500 they never did achieve great success. The 1999 season was his last one, he resigned as the head coach of the Dolphins after a humiliating loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round of the playoffs. Now days you can catch him with the crew on Fox before games and at halftime, I would imagine that job is a lot less stressful than running a football team.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

March 28,1977: Lenny Randle attacks Frank Lucchesi

On March 28, 1977, Texas Rangers second baseman Lenny Randle attacked manager Frank Lucchesi before a Spring Training contest in Orlando, Florida. In the days leading up to the attack it had become clear that Randle had lost his starting position to a rookie named Bump Wills. The attack was vicious and by the time it was over Lucchesi had a fractured cheekbone, a concussion, and a busted lip. It would take surgery to repair the cheekbone and criminal charges would follow. His teammates condemned his actions and some of them said they would never play with him again. It was something they wouldn't have to worry about. After he was suspended for 30 days immediately following the attack, the team traded him to the New York Mets before the suspension was over.

Despite his struggles at the plate the year before, Randle felt he deserved the starting position and he let everyone from the media to his teammates know just that. He had even threatened to leave camp, only to be talked out of it by his teammates. When Lucchesi caught wind of Randle's complaints he responded with "It's just too damn bad that somebody stopped him from leaving. I'm tired of these punks saying play me or trade me. Anyone who makes $80,000 a year and gripes and moans all spring is not going to get a tear out of me." With tensions mounting the Rangers were set to play the Minnesota Twins in a spring training exhibition game. About an hour before the game, Randle went to talk to Lucchesi and whatever was said caused Randle to snap and what he did was far over a line that should never be crossed. Lucchesi's injuries left him in the hospital for a week and the team had no choice but to move him as soon as someone would take him off their hands. They practically gave him away.

Randle was able to bounce back with the Mets by hitting .304 on the year, it was his last decent season in the majors. He played with the Mets for two seasons, then bounced around a little before hanging up the cleats in 1982. Randle was described as a player who was always smiling and by most accounts he was a good teammate. He just had a moment that caused him to snap, unfortunately for him it probably defined his legacy. Randle's career was really of the up and down variety, he hit over .300 just twice in his 10 years in the bigs. He did have some memorable moments including a huge walkoff homer in the bottom of the 17th inning for the Mets in July of '77. The attack on his former manager would forever overshadow anything he ever did on the field.

Following the attack a warrant was issued for his arrest in the State of Florida, while Randle was able to avoid being prosecuted for a felony he was found guilty of a misdemeanor and was required to pay all of Lucchesi's medical bills. A civil lawsuit followed, in December of 1978, Lucchesi put the issue to bed by settling for an undisclosed amount of money. Lucchesi wished his former player the best and decided to just call it water under the bridge. I'm sure that undisclosed amount of money helped the water flow under that bridge at a much smoother rate.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March 27,1939: The Birth of March Madness

On March 27, 1939, March Madness was born when the University of Oregon won the National Title by beating Ohio State 46-33 in the inaugural NCAA basketball tournament. A field of eight teams were invited to the tournament, Texas, Villanova, Brown, Utah State, Oklahoma, and Wake Forest, all joined Oregon and Ohio State in the inaugural tourney. Through time the tournament grew to a field of 64 and has turned into one of the most watched sporting events in America.

The coach of Ohio State, Harold Olsen came up with the idea to hold the tourney to compete with the more prestigious NIT. If he only knew what it has become he might be stunned. The tournament was held on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. They had to give tickets away throughout the tournament just to have warm bodies in the seats. With the tournament in its infancy nobody really cared about it, in fact they lost $2,600 by the time it was all said and done. It's a far cry from the money the tournament generates today. Eight teams competed for the title until 1951, when they expanded the field to 16 teams. Throughout the years the NCAA expanded the tournament multiple times and it eventually became a field of 64 that we all watch today.

Since the inception of the tournament in 1939 the development of the game has come a long way. Ohio State's, Jimmy Hull took home the first Most Outstanding Player award as he led his team to the title game. The list of players that have taken home that award alone helps define how great the tournament really is, we have names like; Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Magic Johnson on the list that was started by Jimmy Hull. You can view the complete list here:

With one little idea the tournament was born. It really is amazing to think that once upon a time someone had to give tickets away just hoping people would show up to watch the NCAA Title game. Today thousands of fans will fight for the chance to land a ticket to watch the next Champions cut down the net. After losing $2,600 the first time around, the tournament has become something that generates billions of dollars and it all started with Oregon taking down Ohio State in 1939.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March 26,1979: Magic Beats Bird For The National Title

On March 26, 1979, Magic Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans won the National Title by beating Larry Bird's Indiana State Sycamores by the score of 75-64. The game stills holds the record for most watched ever and it established one of the greatest rivalries in the history of the sport.

Both Johnson and Bird had been stars in high school and they each continued to shine through college. Despite being recruited by powerhouses like UCLA and Indiana, Magic decided he wanted to play close to home. The Lansing Michigan native had narrowed it down to Michigan or Michigan State. When he was told he would be able to play point guard for the Spartans he decided that it was the place for him.

Bird had accepted a scholarship to play for Bobby Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers. He was just a small town kid from French Lick, Indiana and the life at the big school proved to be too much for him. 24 days after he became a Hoosier he decided that it wasn't going to work. Bird spent a year playing a little bit of basketball and working for the street department in French Lick before he enrolled at Indiana State. The school was far from a powerhouse but it was probably the best place for him as he was developing into the man he would become. Bird transformed the Sycamores from a team that had never been to the dance to a team that would go all the way to the title game in his senior year.  He had become a one man wrecking crew that averaged 30 points a game in his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons in college. Indiana State had never received an invitation to the big dance, that would change in his final year with the team. Bird was dominant through the first four games of the tournament and it led him to the showdown against Magic and Michigan State.

Michigan State coach Jud Heathcoate's plan was to disrupt Bird in hopes that he would have a bad offensive night. The plan worked. Bird shot just 7-21 from the field then 5 for 8 from the line, he finished with 19 points on the night but it wasn't enough to match Magic Johnson and the Spartans offense. Johnson scored 24 on the way to being named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. The game helped solidify basketball nationally as the entire nation tuned in to see these two greats go head to head.

The Boston Celtics had taken Bird with the 6th pick of the 1978 draft, he decided to play his senior season before he would enter the NBA. The Los Angeles Lakers took Magic with the first overall pick in 1979 and both players would be entering the league in the same season. They both went onto have some of the most storied careers in the history of the NBA. The Johnson/Bird rivalry continued throughout the 80's as the Celtics and the Lakers met three times in the NBA Finals. Bird and the Celtics were able to prevail over the Lakers in the 1984 Finals then Johnson and the Lakers beat the Celtics in 1985 and 1987. The rivalry between the two players truly helped basketball on both the collegiate level and the professional level.

The thing that I have always thought was great about the rivalry between these two players is how it developed into a great friendship. They had true disdain for one another throughout the early years, by the mid eighties a photo shoot brought them together that was followed by a lunch at Bird's house. The two players who couldn't stand each other realized they were much more alike than they would have ever thought and from that day on they were friends. Bird was one of Magic's biggest supporters when he was diagnosed with HIV, in fact Bird was the first player that heard the news. Bird did what any good friend would do by letting him know he would be there by his side in good times and bad. They had come a long way from the Championship game in 1979.

Monday, March 25, 2013

March 25, 1962: Bobby Hull Becomes Just The Third Player To Score 50 goals in an NHL Season

On March 25, 1962, in the final game of the season at Madison Square Garden in New York, Blackhawks left winger Bobby Hull scored his 50th goal of the season. Hull was just the third player to reach the milestone, only Rocket Richard and Bernie Geoffrion had accomplished the feat before "The Golden Jet" was able to join them in the exclusive 50 goal club.

It was a big game in New York that had the scoring title on the line. Hull had been in a battle all season long with Rangers right winger Andy Bathgate for the league lead in points and this contest would decide who took home the Art Ross Trophy. Just 5 minutes into the game Hull made history when he got the puck passed Rangers netminder Gump Worsley. The goal gave Hull a one point advantage over his rival, then just a few minutes later Bathgate evened things up with a goal of his own. Both players would be held in check the rest of the game despite spending a lot of time on the ice and they each ended the season with 84 points. Hull took home the Art Ross Trophy because he led in the goals category with 50 to Bathgate's 28. The Rangers won the game by the score of 4-1 and it marked the end of a truly great season for both players.

This season marked the prime of his career for Bathgate, at 29 years old he had literally grown up with a Rangers emblem on his chest. He had accomplished a lot throughout his time with the Rangers including being named league MVP in 1959. He was a selfless player who could put the biscuit in the basket just as quick as he could hit a teammate with a pass that setup the game winning goal. In February of 1964, Bathgate was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was a move that shocked him and the fans in New York. He helped Toronto win the Stanley Cup by scoring 5 goals and 4 assists throughout the playoffs. After one full season with the Maple Leafs he was dealt to the Red Wings, then picked up by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1967 expansion draft. At the end of the '70-'71 campaign his NHL career came to a close. It was a great career that earned him an induction into the Hall of Fame in 2009.

While the '61-'62 season was the pinnacle of Bathgate's career, it was just the beginning of Hull's journey to the Hall of Fame. At 23 years old it was his fifth full season in the league. From day one the Blackhawks new that had something special, at 19 years old he had blazing speed and made an immediate impact with the team on the way to finishing as the runner up for the rookie of the year honors. He only got better, by his third year in the league he led all players with 39 goals and 81 points, he had quickly become one of the brightest young stars in the league. While he didn't invent the slapshot he helped revolutionize its use by developing the fiercest slapshots in the game. He would lead the Hawks to a Stanley Cup Championship in 1961, by taking down the Detroit Red Wings. Hull would reach the Stanley Cup Finals two more times but wasn't able to win a second title. In 1966, Hull did something that no player had done before by scoring more than 50 goals in a season. He reached the 50 goal mark 5 times in his career, with his career high coming in the '68-'69 season when he lit the lamp 58 times.

Much like Bathgate, Hull grew up wearing the jersey of one team, that would change in 1972. Bobby was 33 years old and he was unhappy with his contract. A new league had formed that was known as the World Hockey Association. The Winnipeg Jets lured Hull away by offering him a million dollars over ten years to be a player/coach in their upstart league. Hull gave the league instant credibility and he continued his winning ways with in Winnipeg with a 77 goal season in 1975, then two championships, the first one coming in 1976 then the second in 1978. By 1979 the WHA and the NHL merged, the Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, and Hull's Winnipeg  Jets were all now NHL clubs. He played just 18 games with the Jets before being moved to the Whalers where his great career came to an end. At that point, Hull had lit the lamp 610 times as a member of the NHL and another 303 times while he was with the WHA. Bobby Hull had spent 20 years on the ice and had forged one of the best careers in the history of the NHL. He will forever be remembered as one of the greatest Blackhawks to ever strap on a pair of skates. He still holds franchise records for most goals in a season with 58 and no other player has scored more than his 604 goals with that uniform on. He joined the ranks of hockey's immortals in 1983 when he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Andy Bathgate's career numbers:

Bobby Hull's career numbers:

Both of these videos are close to 10 minutes long, they provide great insight to each of these great men.

Legends of Hockey Andy Bathgate: 

Legends of Hockey Bobby Hull:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 24, 2001: Randy Johnson Bird Killer

On March 24, 2001, Randy Johnson drilled a bird, that exploded on contact, while pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks in a Spring Training game against the San Francisco Giants. It was a freak accident that would be remembered forever especially since it was caught on film.  The bird's family could not be reached for comment.

Johnson will always be remembered for his dominance on the hill. He was a 10 time all star, 5 time Cy Young award winner who pitched a no hitter and a perfect game in his career. The Diamondbacks went onto win the World Series that season and Johnson was named the MVP of the series. He put together a remarkable career. The incident with the bird was something to be remembered but it definitely didn't have any long lasting impact on Johnson or his team.

Unfortunately the bird community still insists on trying to interfere in baseball games and it is only matter of time until another one is caught by a low hanging fastball. I know that I have made light of this incident and when it comes down to it I sort of find it funny. The chances of something like this happening have to be one in a million and unfortunately he was that one bird in a million.

Here is a video of the incident with a little skit afterwards. I almost fell out of my chair.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

March 23, 1957: North Carolina wins the National Championship

On March 23, 1957, the National Championship game took place in Kansas City, Missouri. The game featured #1 ranked North Carolina #2 Kansas. Despite the rankings the Jayhawks entered the contest as a 3 point favorite. They were pretty much playing in their own backyard and they had this kid named Wilt Chamberlain on their squad. The North Carolina team had a few weapons of their own and they were able hang with the Jayhawks the entire game and then some. When I say "and then some" I mean it took three overtimes to decide this one. The coach of the Tar Heels, Frank McGuire implemented a game plan that wouldn't only slow Wilt down it frustrated the entire Kansas squad. The plan was to shake Chamberlain up a bit then triple team him all night long which forced Kansas to shoot from the outside. It was a weakness for the squad and McGuire would exploit it.

The Tar Heels came out on fire, at one point they found themselves up 19-7 before the Jayhawks started to close the gap. The score at the half had North Carolina up 29-22 and Kansas had a hill to climb. The Jayhawks were able to get things together and they outscored the Tar Heels 24 -17 in the second half. With it all knotted up at 46 this game was headed to overtime. Throughout the game North Carolina tried to stall out by passing the ball around, both teams used the strategy in overtime. It was almost ridiculous, each team scored a basket in the first overtime then neither of them scored in the second overtime. With just 31 seconds to go Kansas' Gene Elstun hit one of two free throws that put the Jayhawks up 53-52. The Tar Heels attempted to drive the lane only to be blocked, then Joe Quigg grabbed a rebound and was fouled. Quigg went to the line and knocked down both shots that put North Carolina up by a point with just seconds to go. Ron Loneski tried to inbound the ball to Wilt, only to have Quigg knock it down and the Tar Heels were National Champions.

Despite the losing effort Wilt Chamberlain's effort earned him Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. In the Championship game he scored 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, it was an outstanding effort by one of the most outstanding players of all time. Kansas coach Dick Harp was simply out coached in this one. McGuire had studied every game that Kansas had played in what was a 24-3 regular season and he knew any team that had success triple teamed Chamberlain all day long. The strategy wouldn't work today since the shot clock is a part of the game, but ya never know Kansas still might have lost since none of the other players on the floor could hit the broadside of a barn. Maurice King was the only other player on the Kansas squad to score in double digits, he had 11 points in the game. The leading points scorer for North Carolina was Lennie Rosenbluth. He had helped them cap off a perfect 32-0 regular season by averaging 28 points on the year, he scored 20 points in this one. Rosenbluth and three other players reached double digits with one of them being the hero of the day Joe Quigg. Quigg only scored 10 points in the game but he sealed the deal by not only hitting the two crucial free throws, he also stole the ball out of the air with it all on the line. It was the first Championship in basketball for the Tar Heels.

This game is considered to be one of the best title games in the history of the NCAA. Largely because it is the only triple overtime Championship game in the history of the tournament. When I read about it, I can't help but wonder how different of a game it would have been if it was played by today's standards. It's really hard to say. It was hardly a triple overtime thriller with the way the game was played. If I was watching an overtime game and both teams were just passing the ball around I might yell a few choice words. It was a different time and really it was a whole different game. I'm glad the sport has evolved.

Friday, March 22, 2013

March 22, 1989: The Clint Malarchuk Accident

On March 22, 1989, at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, New York the Sabres took on the visiting St. Louis Blues. This game wouldn't be remembered for the score or for any type of milestone, it would be remembered for one of the most horrific injuries in the history of the NHL after Sabres goalie Clint Malarchuk had his throat cut by Steve Tuttle's skate. It all happened when the Blues right winger got tangled up with Sabres defenseman Uwe Krupp while crashing the net, as they flew in Tuttle was upended, then his skate caught the goalie in the neck and sliced his carotid artery. Within an instant Malarchuk was bent over losing a massive amount of blood. Everyone in attendance was beyond shocked, 11 people fainted, 3 players were physically sick, and two fans had heart attacks. With each and every heartbeat there was blood pumping out of his neck he had less than a few minutes to live when Buffalo's team trainer Jim Pizzutelli rushed to his side and pinched off the artery, which essentially saved Malarchuk's life.

Malarchuk left the ice on his own feet and his trainer was able to stop the bleeding until the wound could be stitched up by doctors. It took 300 stitches to close the slice across his neck and his life had been saved. Malarchuk knew he was close to death and his main concern was that his mother was watching the televised game, the first thing he asked was for someone to call his mom to tell her that he loved her, he then asked for a priest.  Luckily his life was saved and he didn't have to be read his last rites.

It had to be rough for the show to go on but the teams did finish the game with Jaques Cloutier stepping in between the pipes for Malarchuk. The Sabres would go on to lose the contest 2-1 but I'm sure they knew that they were lucky that a life hadn't been lost with this freak accident. I could only imagine the sick feeling that both teams had after witnessing such a horrible thing. Malarchuk made a full recovery and just four days after the accident he returned to practice and a week after that he returned to the ice against the Quebec Nordiques. Some of the different doctors he had spoken to told him to take the rest of the season off, it was something he didn't even consider. Malarchuk was between the pipes in the playoffs for the Sabres but his team was knocked out in the first round by the Boston Bruins. Even with an early exit from the playoffs he knew he was lucky to be there.

The video of the incident is very graphic and not for the faint of heart. It literally gives me chills when I watch it:

Here is an interview with Clint one week after the injury:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

March 21, 1980: Jimmy Carter announces the United States will be Boycotting the 1980 Summer Olympics

On March 21, 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced that the United States would not be participating in the 1980 Summer Olympics that were to be held in Moscow. The President's decision came after he had imposed a February 20th deadline for the Soviet Union to withdraw from Afghanistan. When his deadline fell on deaf ears he withdrew the United States from the Olympics in protest. 64 other countries showed support for Carter's decision by also refusing to participate in the Summer games. In this instance of politics and the sports world colliding the athletes were the ones who were most affected. These kids had worked their whole lives to get to the Olympics and for some of them it might have been there only chance to qualify for the games. There was a mixed response among the athletes after Carter made his decision, 44 of them were against it while 29 of them supported it, then 24 other athletes chose to stay neutral in the matter. Carter knew that the athletes were paying a price but he stood by his choice with strong conviction.

The Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan started on Christmas Eve of 1979 under Premier Leonid Brezhnev. His decision to invade came with heavy opposition from around the world. President Carter condemned Brezhnev and told the world the Soviet's were simply trying to control Afghanistan's oil supplies. The Soviet Union was entrenched in Afghanistan for 10 years. The conflict came very close to causing a World War. It is often referred to as The Soviet Union's Vietnam. Thousands were killed and wounded and millions of Afghanistan's citizens had to flee the country. In the end it is hard to say what it was all for. They finally withdrew in 1989 after billions of dollars and millions of lives had been affected by the conflict.

Carter's decision to boycott the 1980 Summer games was met with some resentment but it was also understood that the United States had to show that they would not condone the actions of the Soviet Union and their communist regime. The tension between the countries was nothing new and it was at an all time high. While some of the athletes made it known they didn't agree with the decision they had no choice but to live with it. In the grand scheme of things they were just playing a game while people were losing their lives during this invasion.

I can definitely feel for those kids who had worked so hard to reach the highest level and it's safe to say what happened to them was far from fair. With that said, you really have to look at a much bigger picture in a case like this one. There were lives at stake here and President Carter was trying to help save some of those lives by forcing the Soviet withdrawal. In the end the athlete's dreams were squashed and the Soviet's remained in Afghanistan. The tension only grew, the Soviet Union responded four years later by boycotting the 1984 Summer games that were set to be held in Los Angeles, 17 other countries joined their boycott of the '84 games. In both instances you can say both countries had put a political agenda ahead of the athletes that worked their entire lives just for a chance to compete with the best in the world. I'm sure if you were to talk with some of these athletes today they are still bitter and have every right to be. As an athlete you hope to be congratulated by the President after winning not being told by the President that you won't be able to compete over a political matter. It almost seems ridiculous really, but every now and then politics and sports collide. In my eyes anytime politics is involved in anything nothing real good comes out of it.

Here is a news archive from ABC about the boycott:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March 20, 1990: The Lakers retire Kareem's #33

On March 20, 1990, the Los Angeles Lakers retired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's #33. Jabbar came to the Lakers in 1975 after spending his first six years in the league with the Milwaukee Bucks. He helped lead the Bucks to a title in 1971 and had quickly become one of the best big men in the game. When he asked to be traded in 1975 the Lakers put together a deal that brought him to L.A., it was the best deal they ever made. He spent the next 15 years with the team and established himself as one of the best players in the history of the NBA by leading the Lakers to 5 titles and setting multiple franchise and league records. Many of those records still stand today, including the all time points record. In a halftime ceremony that Kareem would never forget, the fans at The Forum gave him a long ovation before Chick Hearn took the mic then passed it to his former teammate Magic Johnson then NBA commissioner David Stern told Kareem that he would be seeing him at the Hall of Fame.

You can watch the ceremony here:

Before he was known as Kareem he was known Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Junior, people called him Lew. Born and raised in New York he took up the game of basketball at an early age. He was always the tallest kid in his class and by eighth grade he could dunk the ball. He became a full fledged star in high school by setting New York City high school records in scoring and rebounds. His high school squad put together a stretch of 71 straight wins and won three straight city titles. His phenomenal play led him to UCLA where he would be coached by the legendary John Wooden.

In college, Alcindor's game developed under Coach Wooden. His college career was much like his high school career. He won three straight titles and was part of a historic winning streak. Alcindor was so dominant with the slam dunk in college that the NCAA banned it form 1969 to 1976, it didn't stop him from excelling at the sport. He was a three time college player of the year while winning his three national Championships. He became a legend in Bruins history and he was well on the way to establishing himself as an all time legend in the game.

The Milwaukee Bucks won a coin toss that gave them the first pick in the 1969 draft and Alcindor was their man. The impact he made in Milwaukee was profound, the team went from a 27 win season to a 56 win season in his first year with the club. Alcindor took home rookie of the year honors and he was just getting started. The Bucks brought in a future Hall of Famer in Oscar Robertson to compliment Alcindor and both players helped the Bucks win it all in 1971. Alcindor not only won his first ring that season, he won his first scoring title and was named league MVP. One day after the Bucks won the title Alcindor announced that he had converted to Islam and would be known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He may have had a different name but he was the same dominant force on the court. Jabbar helped Milwaukee win their division for four seasons in a row and claimed two more MVP awards while taking home another scoring title in 1972. He led the Bucks all the way to the 7th game of the NBA Finals in 1974 but lost in 7 games to the Boston Celtics. Following that season Jabbar decided that Milwaukee didn't address his cultural needs and requested to be traded to L.A. or New York. The Bucks listened and struck a deal with L.A., The Bucks received center Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, Junior Bridgeman and Dave Winters in return for Jabbar and a reserve player named Walt Wesley. Bridgeman had a solid career with Milwaukee and he even had his number retired by the team in 1988 but all four of those men combined scored 32,744 in their careers which is not even close to the production that Kareem produced.

The Kareem era in L.A. began with a bang, he averaged 27.7 points per game on his way to setting the rebound record that still stands today. He won his fourth league MVP award and they were happy with the deal they had made. His play on the court was absolutely dominant he won another MVP award before Magic Johnson arrived in 1980. Together they transformed the Lakers into one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history.  He won took home sixth MVP award in 1980 and helped bring the Lakers a title. Kareem and Magic found themselves in The NBA Finals 8 times in the 1980's and took home the Championship Trophy 5 of those times. When he announced that he would be retiring following the '88-'89 season he went on a farewell tour. It was very similar to what we watched last year with Chipper Jones from the Atlanta Braves, everywhere he played he received a standing ovation. Even with him playing for their opponent the fans knew they were witnessing one of the greatest players to ever take the court. After the Lakers lost to Detroit in the '89 NBA Finals the Kareem era had come to a close. It was one of the greatest eras that any city would ever get to experience with a player and they let him know that by raising his #33 to the rafters, then just last year they presented a statue that has Kareem shooting his famous sky hook. Forever a legend.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March 19, 1991: Brett Hull scores his 80th goal of the season

On March 19, 1991, at the Capital Center in Landover Maryland, Brett Hull scored his 80th goal of the season in a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals. Hull joined exclusive company, only Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux had reached the 80 goal plateau. Hull would score 6 more goals to surpass Lemieux's 85 goal performance from the '88'-89 season, he was just one goal short of tying Gretzky's 87 goal performance during the '83-'84 season and 6 shy of Gretzky's almost untouchable record of 92 goals scored in the '81-'82 campaign. The Golden Brett would go onto win the league's MVP award that season and to this day no other player has scored 80 or more in one season.

The historic 80th goal came in the first period with the Blues on the powerplay. Later in the contest Kelly Chase would sneak it past Don Beaupre for what would prove to be the game winner. Chaser was playing with the Blues minor league affiliate just the week before and it was his only goal of the season. The Blues were in a dogfight for first place in the Norris Division and were in desperate need of a win as they hit a six game slide. Hull and Chase helped end that slide. The game was just as important for the Caps, they were in a fight just to make the playoffs, it was a fight they wouldn't win.

Brett Hull was the most prolific scorer in the history of the St. Louis Blues. The '90-'91 season was one to be remembered forever. It almost seemed as if every time the puck touched his stick it would end up in the back of the net. The Blues ended up second in the division then beat the Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs. The Blues would meet the Minnesota North Stars in the divisional round and be knocked out in 7 games. It was a disappointing early exit from the playoffs after one of the best regular season's of all time.

Hull played with the Blues from 1988 to 1998, in his time with The Note on his chest he established himself as a fan favorite by lighting the lamp on a regular basis. The franchise recognized him by retiring his number in 2006 then naming a street and erecting a statue of him outside the Scottrade Center in 2010. Although he left the Blues organization in 1998 the fans in St. Louis would forever consider him a Blue. He signed with the Dallas Stars following his departure from the Gateway City and was able to capture his first Stanley Cup title with the Stars in 1999. He would win another Championship in 2002 as a member of the Detroit Red Wings.

As a St. Louisan, it was bittersweet to see Hull win The Cup with another jersey on his back. He was so great with the Blues and they were a perennial  playoff contender while he was here. He was fun to watch and anytime he was on the ice you just knew that there was a good chance you would see him throwing his arms in the air while celebrating the goal he had just scored. I do wish he could have done it all in a Blues uniform but it is a business when it comes down to it and sometimes shit just don't work out that way. I know as fan of that team I will always be happy he wore The Note on his chest.

Here is a great tribute to Hully from when the Blues retired his number:

You can check out the top scorers in NHL history here:

Monday, March 18, 2013

March 18 1985: Pete Ueberroth reinstates Mantle and Mays

On March 18, 1985, MLB commissioner Pete Ueberroth reinstated Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle after both Hall of Famers were permanently banned from baseball by former commissioner Bowie Kuhn for their affiliation with casinos.

In 1979, Mays took a job with Bally's Park Place Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, Kuhn forced him to resign as hitting instructor for the Mets as soon as he got wind of his association with the casino. Fast forward four years, Mickey Mantle took a job as the door greeter for the Clardige Casino also based out of Atlantic City, he looked at Mays' suspension as a joke and he needed the money. Kuhn thought it was much more than a joke, he looked at it as protecting the integrity of the game and no player or coach should have any affiliations with casinos. One of the first things Ueberroth did when he took over as commissioner was reinstate the Hall of Famers. Ueberrorth found no fault with Kuhn's ruling and he also believed there was no place in the game for gambling but he made an exception for Mays and Mantle since they meant so much to the game. While Ueberroth reinstated the players they would still not be allowed to work for a casino and a major league club at the same time.

While neither Mays nor Mantle would be allowed to gamble since they were casino employees, Kuhn believed that it could open Pandora's Box and his decision to take the actions he felt necessary didn't sit well with fans at all. Kuhn let it be known that he thought Ueberroth made the wrong decision by reinstating the two former greats. Mays and Mantle both were happy the ban had been lifted.  Mantle called it one of the happiest days of his life, he would say "I tried to act like it didn't bother me, but it did. You don't want to be kicked out of your favorite bar and you don't want to be banned from baseball." Willie Mays was just happy to be allowed back in the game that he loved so much and he expressed his desire to become an ambassador for the sport.

Mantle never did return to the game, he passed away in 1995. A year after the ban was lifted Mays was hired as the Special Assistant to the President of the San Francisco Giants, it is a position he still holds. Mays was able to become one of the most notable ambassadors of the game and Pete Ueberroth had a hand in making that happen. I know it was a controversial move by Kuhn at the time but I can understand the ground he stood on. While I don't think a lifetime ban was the appropriate action, I do think anyone involved with any sports franchise should not be allowed to work at a casino. Ueberroth made the right decision to reinstate both of these legends back into the game they helped revolutionize.

Here is a newspaper archive that followed the reinstatement:,2244153

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March 17, 1955: The Richard Riot

On March 17, 1955, following the suspension of Canadiens star Maurice "The Rocket" Richard a riot erupted in City of Montreal. Just one day earlier Clarence Campbell  suspended Richard for the rest of the season including the playoffs over an incident during a game on the thirteenth of March. When Campbell showed up to watch the Habs take on the Red Wings at the Montreal Forum, the crowd became enraged. With things escalating quickly a fan threw a homemade tear gas bomb inside the arena and the riot poured onto the streets. It was 3 a.m before order was restored, more than $100,000 in damage had taken place which would be nearly $850,000 by today's standards.

It all started with Richard and his former teammate Hal Laycoe getting into a confrontation in Boston. Laycoe was called for a high stick on Richard, the stick ended up opening up a cut above Richard's eye that took five stitches to repair. Since the Canadiens had the puck the penalty was delayed, as soon as the whistle blew Richard went after Laycoe with revenge in mind. Laycoe dropped his gloves expecting a fight then Richard came flying in and used his stick to pummel Laycoe. A referee by the name of Cliff Thompson tried to break it up, before Richard turned his aggression towards him. Richard hit Thomspon twice and the ref ended up knocked out cold on the ice. Richard was ejected from the game which carried an automatic $100 fine, his opponent Hal Laycoe got a 10 minute game misconduct plus a 5 minute major for fighting.  This wasn't the first incident for Richard and the referees, earlier in the season he had slapped a ref in the face and received a $250 fine for his actions.

When NHL Commissioner, Clarence Campbell heard about the incident in Boston he held a hearing on the 16th  he chose the season ending suspension for Richard and it enraged each and every Canadiens fan. The President of the league received death threats from the fans of Montreal.  The following day the fans showed up at the Forum well before the game even started holding signs that protested the suspension. The game that was scheduled for that night was an important matchup with the Red Wings, first place was on the line. Before the puck even dropped it seemed like the game was far less important than making it known that Campbell's decision was not going to be accepted in the City of Montreal. It was a serious distraction for the Canadiens squad as well and without their leader they fell behind by the score of 2-0 early.

With the team down, Campbell shows up with his girlfriend casually late. The fans in the Forum were disgusted to see his face and they let him know it by throwing anything they could find at him. Things escalated quickly with Campbell being pelted by the flying debris before the tear gas bomb went off. All the mayhem inside the arena flooded into the streets of Montreal. The mayhem went on for hours before order was restored. More than 50 people were arrested and damage had been done to shops, cars and other property all around The Forum. Although Campbell clearly incited the riot he condemned the rioters for their actions, it would have been pretty simple for him to not show up for this game. The play of the Canadiens squad didn't help, while the fans were focused on letting Campbell know that he was Montreal's most hated man, the Habs had fell behind 4-1, it would later be the final score after the Canadiens were forced to forfeit.

This riot was about much more than a fan favorite being suspended. There was a lot of tension between the francophone's (French Speaking Canadians) and the anglophone's (English Speaking Canadians) the francophone's felt they had been walked on for a number of years by their English speaking counterparts. The predominately francophone Canadiens team and their fans had one outlet to prove they were not inferior to anyone and that came on the ice. Campbell was looked at as an anglophone villain who handed out the harsh penalty to spite the francophone's. They were simply fed up with the way the entire system had treated them and this was a breaking point. It doesn't make their actions right but it does help explain what fueled the fire.

A lot of people outside of Montreal thought that the suspension to Richard was exactly what he deserved, after all he did knock out a referee and it wasn't his first run in with the men in stripes. It seems to me that Campbell's decision to attend this game was such a  misguided decision, he was trying to show he wouldn't back down from anyone, instead he added fuel to a fire that was already an enraging inferno. Even after the fire was out Campbell didn't apologize, instead he put all the blame on the rioters and even the City of Montreal. Some of the city officials including the Mayor made it clear that they believed Campbell was to blame.  Campbell infuriated the fans in Montreal even more with his lack of an apology and they way he shouldered none of the blame. Richard was urged by city officials to try and help bring things to a close, he did as they asked, it wasn't easy for him but he was looking out for the greater good of the city that adored him.

Even with Richard suspended the Canadiens reached the Stanley Cup Finals but they were eliminated by the Detroit Red Wings in a hard fought 7 games. The suspension had cost Richard the scoring title when his own teammate Bernie Geoffrin took the lead in points on the last day of the season, it was the closest Richard ever came to being the league leader in points for a season. It was something he had sought before and after the suspension. Richard and the Canadiens were able to put the suspension to bed with the return of The Rocket at the start of the '55-'56 season, he helped lead the team to 5 consecutive Stanley Cup titles before he retired following the 1960 Stanley Cup Championship. The same commissioner who suspended him years before would stand right next to him while presenting him hockey's top prize, it seems that it was water under the bridge as time moved on.

Rocket Richard is one of the greatest players to ever put on a pair of skates. The suspension he was handed might have been exactly what he deserved considering his actions. With that said, the way Campbell acted was holier than thou, him showing up to the game was not only stupid, it started something that he didn't even have to clean up. Property owners all around The Forum had to deal with damage and had to put the pieces back together all becasue he thought it was a good idea to show up as an in your face act of defiance to the fans in Montreal. Campbell is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, he was instrumental in the 1967 expansion of the league and held the post as NHL commissioner from 1946 to 1977, unfortunately  what became known as "The Richard Riot" would tarnish the legacy of Campbell forever.

Here is a short news report about the incident:

While I was looking up info for this fact, I ran across a 4 part documentary about the riot. It will give you great insight on what those in the francophone community felt and why it all happened. Each video is anywhere between 7-9 minutes long, if you have the time they are definitely worth watching.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

March 16, 1964: Paul Hornung and Alex Karras are reinstated after gambling suspension

On March 16, 1964, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle reinstated future Hall of Fame running back Paul Hornung and All Pro defensive tackle Alex Karras after a one year suspension for gambling. Hornung and Karras both had admitted they had bet on games they had played in and the commissioner was forced to take serious action. Five other players from the Lions were also suspended but none of those men were as well known as Karras or Hornung. Rozelle took swift action in order to make sure the players in his league knew he meant business when it came to gambling.

Both players had made a mark for their teams and it was a huge blow to not only their careers but for the organizations they played for. Hornung had won the league's MVP award in 1961 and was a back to back Champion as a member of  The Pack in '61 and '62. Karras was a monster on the field and he was selected to the Pro Bowl for three consecutive seasons starting in 1959. Both Hornung and Karras admitted to their indiscretions  and Rozelle chose to suspend them indefinitely. Hornung was remorseful for the decision he had made while Karras thought what the commissioner chose to do was unjust and he made it known. Karras took up professional wrestling until his suspension was lifted, it was something he had dabbled in before his career in the NFL began. After he returned to the NFL in 1964, he was asked to call heads or tails during a coin toss and replied "I'm sorry sir. I'm not permitted to gamble."

Both Hornung and Karras were lucky to be reinstated and they both would have success when their careers got back on track. Hornung won two more championships in '65 and '66 and Karras returned to the Pro Bowl in 1965. The suspensions of Hornung and Karros was something Rozelle had to do, some considered it controversial at the time but if he would have sat on the sidelines and let the inmates run the asylum it might have snowballed into something that changed the landscape of the NFL forever. Both players learned a lesson the hard way then moved on. It might have been a black eye for the NFL but time marches on and they were both able to overcome a bad decision.

Hornung credited Vince Lombardi for lobbying Pete Rozelle to reinstate him and he promised his coach he would stay away from gambling, it was a promise that he kept. After his days on the gridiron ended Hornung spent some time in the booth and became a successful real estate investor. Karras went onto have a successful career in film most notably he was part of the cast of Blazing Saddles and the hit tv show Webster. In the grand scheme of things the one year is a blip on the radar of these mens lives, they both had great careers in football and they both lived great lives after they left the game. It is too bad they made the choice to gamble but at least they were able to resume their careers on this day.

Friday, March 15, 2013

March 15, 1989: The New York Rangers retire Eddie Giacomin's #1

On March 15, 1989, the New York Rangers retired Eddie Giacomin's #1. It was a much deserved honor for one of the all time fan favorites in New York Rangers history. Giacomin played 10 seasons with the Rangers, he led the league in wins in three of those seasons and helped the team reach the Stanley Cup Finals in 1972. When his career was coming to a close the Rangers put him on waivers, he was quickly snatched up by the Detroit Red Wings. When the Red Wings came to Madison Square Garden to play the Rangers the crowd cheered Giacomin and chanted his name. It was an emotional return for the goalie who would always consider himself a New York Ranger. Many years later he would have another emotional return to The Garden on the night he watched his #1 raised to the rafters, he would forever be among the best in the history of the organization.

Giacomin broke into the league in the '65-'66 season and it was a bumpy ride right out of the gate he went 8-20-6 that season then would show he had what it took to play with the big boys the following year by leading the league with 9 shutouts on his way to posting a 30-27-11 record, Giacomin also led in wins and ties in his second year in the league and he made his first of six all star appearances. Giacomin and his backup Gilles Villemure shared the Vezina Trophy as the top goaltenders in the league in 1971. While he never did win the Stanley Cup he came damn close in 1972 when the Rangers took on the Bruins in Stanley Cup Finals the series went to 6 games with the Bruins coming out on top. Giacomin was a workhorse for his team and the fans in New York appreciated his strong play even after he was put on waivers in October of 1975.  After he was snatched up by the Red Wings Giacomin had two more solid years in Detroit before retiring on January 17, 1978.

Giacomin will forever be loved in New York and the night he returned to Madison Square Garden was something that will forever be remembered. Giacomin was in tears during the National Anthem, which could barely be heard over the crowd chanting ED-DIE! ED-DIE!! ED-DIE!!! It had to be one of the coolest moments in Madison Square Garden history while they were cheering for a member of the other team, he was one of them and they let him know that.  The New York Fans followed it up by cheering for him during the entire game, it truly showed how much they had come to appreciate him. He received the highest honor in hockey by being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1987, just two years later his #1 was retired by the Rangers. He got to listen to the thunderous chant of his name that night like he had so many many nights before. He stood there one more time on the edge of tears as he listened to those fans chant ED-DIE! ED-DIE!! ED-DIE!!!

Check out this Legends of Hockey Eddie Giacomin Video:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

March 14, 1980: Tragedy strikes the United States Boxing team

On March 14, 1980, 14 boxers and 8 staff members of the United States boxing team were killed when the plane they were riding in crashed while trying to land in Warsaw, Poland. The tragic event also took the lives of  the 65 other people on board. The athletes on board never got the chance to make their mark in sports as their lives ended way too early.

The flight originated in New York, the boxers were headed to Poland to participate in a televised event while they were preparing for the upcoming Olympic trials. The United States would later boycott 1980 Summer Olympics due to Russia's invasion of Afghanistan, the games were to be held in Moscow. The plane experienced a mechanical issue with the landing gear upon the first approach to the airport, the pilots tried a special procedure in their second attempt at landing to account for the faulty landing gear. The procedure caused a sudden thrust in power which caused an engine to break apart, which in turn severed the rudder and elevator control lines, the components controlled the direction and the altitude of the plane. A half mile from the airport, the plane crashed into an army base that had been a 19th century fortress, it was surrounded by a moat that was full of debris and wreckage. It was a horrific scene and 87 lives were gone in the blink of an eye.

The team was led by their coach Tom "Sarge" Jackson, he helped coach the 1976 boxing squad to 5 gold medals and was prepared to bring this team the same glory. Most of the boxers were in their late teens or early twenties, they had their whole lives ahead of them, then a cruel twist of fate took it all away.

They were just a bunch of kids pursuing their life long dreams, unfortunately those dreams were cut short. In 1984, a statue was erected outside of the Olympic training facilities in Colorado Springs, Colorado, it was dedicated to all those who lost their lives that day. The words "Down But Not Out... Gone But Not Forgotten" are inscribed on the statue which is followed by the list of those who were lost. The list is as follows: Kelvin D. Anderson, Elliott Chavis, Gary Tyrone Clayton, Walter Harris, Byron Lindsay, Andrea McCoy, Paul Palomino, Byron Payton, George Pimental, Chuck Robinson, David Rodriguez, Lemuel Steeples, Jerome Stewart, Lonnie Young, Joseph F. Bland, Colonel Bernard Callahan, John Radison, Junior Robles, Dr. Ray Wesson, Delores Wesson, and the coach Thomas "Sarge" Johnson. The statue stands as a reminder of those lives who were lost and the dedication they showed to their country.

Several boxers missed the flight for one reason or another. Joe Frazier's son Marvis was supposed to be on board but his dad had a fear of flying and kept him from going. If it was up to Marvis he would have been on that flight, luckily for him his old man intervened. Jimmy Clark missed his connecting flight in New York and  Dennis Armstrong's ticket was lost in the mail, finally Bobby Czyz was scheduled to go with the team before he suffered minor injuries in a car accident just days before the flight. Several other boxers missed the flight for various reasons, those reasons saved their lives. It was shocking news that spread rapidly, people all around the boxing community and sports world were beyond shocked. The families of all involved were devastated to have their loved ones taken away from them when it looked like they had such promising lives ahead of them.

At the time of the crash it was the worst air accident in the Polish history, it almost seems wrong to remember only 22 people when 87 died that day. The people of Poland had 52 residents on board, including a popular singer named Anna Jantar she was just 29 years old. It was devastating news for each and every family that had to receive a phone call to tell them what they feared the most, their loved one was on board. It was a sad day that should be remembered, while their lives ended, remembering them extends a legacy that will live forever. May they all rest in peace.

Here is the news report from ABC news following the tragedy:

Here is an in depth newspaper archive that includes some reactions from family members as well as several boxers:,1069822

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

March 13, 1954: Hank Aaron replaces an injured Bobby Thomson

On March 13, 1954, newly acquired Milwaukee Braves outfielder Bobby Thomson broke his ankle in three places while sliding into second base during an exhibition game against the New York Yankees. It was a huge blow to the team, many thought the minute the injury happened their season went right down the tube. Thomson, who was best known for his famous "Shot heard round the World" in 1951 was replaced by a 20 year old kid named Henry Aaron. Hammerin Hank spent the next 21 years roaming the outfield for the Braves and he became one of the most prolific hitters of all time.

 Thomson was brought over to the Braves in a 7 player deal and they had high expectations for the outfielder, despite the fact that people thought they couldn't make a run without him the Braves stayed in the race all season, on September 15th they were just four games out of first place, then stumbled a bit before finishing in 8th. Aaron impressed the fans and coaches by hitting .280 with 13 homers and 69 ribbies in 122 games, it was just the tip of the iceberg.

Aaron became a perennial all star, in fact he went to the mid summer classic every year from 1955 to 1975. He was a model of consistency, he hit 24 or more home runs every year from 1955 through 1973 and is the only player to hit 30 or more homers in as season at least fifteen times. He also hammered his way into the record books and some of his records still stand today, most notably the rbi record which stands at 2,297 His most coveted record will forever be the 755 home runs which was surpassed by Barry Bonds in 2007. Aaron faced relentless racism on his way to passing Babe Ruth's 714 home runs. To this day he has held onto some of the most ignorant letters he received on his way to breaking Ruth's record, which he did in April of 1973. He played with the Braves organization until the end of the 1974 season. The team moved to Atlanta in 1965 and they sent him back to the city where it all started by trading him to the Milwaukee Brewers following the '74 season where he wrapped things up after 23 years in the major leagues.

Aaron not only holds the rbi record he also is the record holder for extra base hits and total bases. He was a 25 time all star, a 3 time gold glover, he led the league in home runs 4 times and took home 2 batting titles. Aaron was named league MVP after the 1957 season, it was the only time he took home the award. The Braves also won the World Series in '57 which was his one and only championship. Hank Aaron was a truly one of the most consistent ballplayers to ever take the field and 40 years ago today he came jogging in for an injured Bobby Thomson, the rest is history.

Here is the newspaper story from the day after Thomson's injury:,2305057

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March 12, 1972: Bill Russell Day in Boston

On March 12, 1972, the Boston Celtics held "Bill Russell Day" at the Boston Garden, they honored him by retiring his #6 in a ceremony before his team took on and beat the New York Knicks 112-109. Russell spent his entire 13 year career with the Celtics and was a key component of one of the greatest dynasties in the history of the NBA. He was named the MVP of the league 5 times, selected as an all star 12 times, and won the NBA Championship Title an astounding 11 times before he retired following the '68-'69 season.

Russell was born in Louisiana, his family moved to Oakland, California during his youth and it was there he took up the sport that made him famous. He wasn't the typical superstar athlete in high school, in fact he struggled a bit and was nearly cut from his team several times. The coach of his high school team saw that he had the ability to play the sport and encouraged him to work on his fundamentals so he could reach his true potential. Russell listened to the coach and by the time he finished high school his hard work paid off enough to earn him a scholarship to the University of San Francisco. Great things were on the way for this kid.

Russell had grown to a towering 6' 9" and he became a dominant player on the court, teamed up with guard K.C. Jones they led the Dons to consecutive NCAA Championships in 1955 and 1956. He had averaged 20.7 points and 20.3 rebounds in his 3 years at USF. With the NBA Draft on the horizon in 1956, the Celtics general manager and coach Red Auerbach was hoping to figure out a way to land Russell on his squad, it wasn't going to be easy since the Celtics didn't pick until late in the first round. Auerbach started thinking trade and he knew that the Rochester Royals held the first pick and would not pay the money that Russell would demand so the next team on the list was the St. Louis Hawks. The owner of the Hawks, Bob Kerner was open to the possibility of a deal if he could land St. Louis native and former Saint Louis University star Ed Macauley. The deal almost hit a snag when Kerner decided he wanted a little bit more, the Celtics had to send Cliff Hagan to complete the transaction that brought Russell to Boston. The deal brought St. Louis a Championship in 1958 and it brought Boston a dynasty that lasted more than a decade.

After winning a gold medal in the 1956 Olympics Russell joined his new team. He played in 48 games, putting up a 14.7 points per game average while leading the league with a 19.6 rebounds per game average. Russell's rookie season ended with a title as the Celtics beat the St. Louis Hawks in 7 games. Russell went down in the third game of the 1958 Finals and his playoff run ended early, the Hawks took home the title after 6 games. It was merely a hiccup for Russell and the Celtics. They won the title for the next 8 consecutive years with Russell leading the charge. They were denied their ninth consecutive championship by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1967, but they came right back and won the title in 1968 and 1969.  The 1969 Finals went to a 7 games and Russel contributed with 21 rebounds in what would be his final game as a professional basketball player. He would surprise everyone by announcing his retirement following the season. The fans and media alike felt betrayed, Russell who was only 35 years old had not only left the team without a center they were also in need of a coach, he had taken on the role of player/coach during the '65-'66 season after Auerbach retired from coaching. Auerbach remained with the organization as GM and he was so blindsided by Russell's retirement that he didn't even draft a center. The first season the team was without their star center they missed the playoffs for the first time since 1950.

When Russell left the game he left on his own terms and they were terms the fans and media had to accept. Time heals all wounds and just a couple of seasons after he made his choice the organization honored him by raising his #6 to the rafters in Boston. Russell was one of the best defensive minded centers to ever play the game, he scored more than 14,000 points in his career and he was a rebounding machine that had more than 20,000 rebounds on his resume. Bill Russell will forever be a legend in Boston and he will also be remembered forever in the history of basketball, he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975.

Bill Russell's retirement letter which was published in Sports Illustrated in 1969:

Bill Russell's stats:

Monday, March 11, 2013

March 11, 1979: Randy Holt of the L.A. Kings is penalized 67 minutes in a 60 minute game

On March 11, 1979, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Randy Holt, was assessed 67 penalty minutes in a 60 minute game. It was a record setting night for Holt as he shattered the previous record of 52 penalty minutes in a game, set by Jim Dorey in 1968. Holt's record still stands today and there is a good possibility it will never be broken. The craziest thing is it all went down in the first period of play.

Holt's career started in the Chicago Blackhawks organization, most of his time with their organization was spent with their top minor league affiliate the Dallas Blackhawks. While he was in the minors Holt established himself as one of the toughest men around. Holt spent a little more than 3 seasons with the Blackhawks organization before he was dealt to the Cleveland Barons in November of 1977. The Barons lacked depth and it gave Holt an opportunity to stick around at the NHL level. It was the first time he played more than 12 games at the top level, in fact he played in 48 games for the Cleveland team. Holt only scored 5 points that season, he also recorded 249 penalty minutes which was the fourth most in the NHL during the '77-'78 season. The Barons organization folded following that season and Holt was claimed by the Vancouver Canucks in a dispersal draft. His time in Vancouver was short, he played just 22 games in a Canucks uniform before he was traded to Los Angeles. In that short time with Vancouver, Holt had spent 80 minutes in the sin bin. Changing uniforms didn't change where he spent his time, he finished that season with career high 282 minutes in the box and 67 of those minutes came in one game.

The night Randy Holt put his name in the record books the Kings took on the Flyers in Philly. Holt picked up his first minor early in the contest, then at the 14:58 mark he dropped the gloves and fought Philadelphia enforcer Frank Bathe, Holt was sent to the box with a 5 minute major for fighting and a game misconduct. With the game barely underway Holt had 22 penalty minutes under his belt, and there was a lot more on the way. At the end of the first period Holt decided to settle a score with Philadelphia center Ken Linseman, he thought Linseman had gotten a cheap shot on him earlier in the game and he wasn't going to let it slide. The result was a huge bench clearing brawl with fists flying from every angle. With the refs dealing with one group of men throwing down Holt squared off with Philadelphia right winger Paul Holmgren, it was epic. They pummeled each other by tossing haymakers and landing shot after shot to the other guy's face. The fight continued for a few more minutes all around him. The best way to truly comprehend what went down is to see it with your own eyes; When ordered was restored Holt was assessed 45 more minutes in penalties which included a triple game misconduct. he was now the owner of one of the most infamous records in hockey and he was also not very well liked in the City of Brotherly Love. The Flyers went onto win the game by the score of 6-3.

Holt spent another season in Los Angeles before being traded to the Calgary Flames in 1980, he had his best year in Calgary as far as playoff success goes. He helped the Flames reach the Semi Finals before they were knocked out by the Minnesota North Stars. Following that season he was dealt to the Washington Capitals. He continued to drop the gloves and was a regular resident of the penalty box, in his second year in Washington he led the entire league with 275 penalty minutes during the '82-'83 campaign. Holt's career came to a close in the '83-'84 season after a short stint with the team that he had faced off against just a few years before, he spent 26 games with the Flyers before he hung up the skates for good.

Holt played in 395 games in his NHL career, he scored just 4 goals and recorded a grand total of 41 points at the top level, he also was sentenced to 1,438 minutes in the sin bin. He wasn't known for his playmaking ability or his ability to score a flashy goal, he was known for letting his gloves hit the ice and taking care of business with his fists. With the numbers Holt put up and his lack of playoff success there is a good chance that his name would fall to the wayside when it comes to the history of hockey, that crazy night in Philadelphia made sure that his name would not be forgotten

Randy Holt's career stats: