Thursday, February 28, 2013

February 28, 1959: The Los Angeles Rams Trade Nine Players For Ollie Matson

On February 28, 1959, the Los Angeles Rams sent 9 players to the Chicago Cardinals for running back Ollie Matson. It is regarded as one of the most lopsided trades in NFL history. Matson's career in Chicago began in 1952, he was a versatile player who not only played in the backfield, he also was a spectacular kick returner and played some defensive back as well. In his 6 years in Chicago, Matson averaged 4.4 yards per carry as he rushed for 3331 yards and scored 24 touchdowns out of the backfield. He was definitely more than just a running back as he caught the ball 130 times and scored 16 touchdowns as a receiver. He might have showed his greatest versatility as a kick returner, his numbers on punt returns were respectable it was the kick return numbers that were astounding. In 86 kickoff returns for the Cardinals he had averaged 28.5 yards per return and punched the ball in 6 times. His best year on the ground came in 1956 when he rushed for 924 yards, he was simply one of the best in the league. In all six years he wore the Cardinals uniform he was selected to the Pro Bowl.

Despite Matson's accomplishments the Cardinals only posted a winning record in 1956. Pete Rozelle was the General Manager for the Rams and he put the deal together that would send offensive tackle Ken Panfil, defensive tackle Frank Fuller, defensive end Glen Holtzman, defensive tackle Art Hauser, defensive end John Tracey, running backs Don Brown and Larry Hickman as well as a second and fourth round pick. It was a monster deal that in the end didn't have the desired result for either team. Matson rushed for 863 yards his first year in L.A., then his production fell off drastically and the team around him could not help him win a game. He played 4 seasons total with the Rams, by the end of his tenure there many fans considered the trade to be the reason the club digressed. Ollie moved on from Los Angeles after the 1962 season then played for Detroit one season before spending his final 3 seasons in Philly. On the Cardinals side Frank Fuller and Ken Panfil both went to the Pro Bowl the first year they played in Chicago. Fuller would play the rest of his career with the Cardinals, he was by far the best player they received in the trade. Panfil suffered a career ending injury in the 1961 preseason. Art Hauser only appeared in two games with the Cards before being moved to the New York Giants. None of the other players panned out for the team and this trade had bust written all over it. I'm sure both teams would have rethought the whole deal if they only knew how it would all work out. It's one of those deals that both teams rolled the dice and neither one of them really came out on top.

Ollie Matson played for 14 years in the National Football League, when he retired in 1966 his 12,799 all purpose yards were second to only Jim Brown. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972. While his days in Los Angeles didn't go the way many might have wished they would, he was a great player. The trade might have taught general managers a thing or two about going all in on one guy.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February 27, 1992: Tiger Woods makes his PGA Tour Debut

On February 27, 1992, a 16 year old kid by the name of Tiger Woods made his PGA debut at the Nissan Los Angeles Open. He failed to make the 36 hole cut, but everyone knew this kid was something special. Coached by his father Earl almost literally right out of the crib he was destined to make a name for himself. At 8 years old he scored 80 for the first time, by the time he was 12 he broke 70. In 1991, Tiger became the  U.S. Junior Amateur Champion and won a handful of awards along the way. Just one year later he was facing off with the best in the world. He stepped on the course at the Riviera Country Club in L.A.a kid, when most kids are thinking about getting their drivers license for the first time here he was driving the ball off the tee against the best players in the world. In his first round he shot a 72 then in the second round he shot a 75, he missed the cut by just 6 shots. It was a respectable performance and the best was yet to come. The picture to the right is a young Tiger Woods teeing off for the first time on the PGA Tour.

Tiger won The Junior Championship title 2 more times, he is the only golfer to win the title 3 times. After graduating from high school he attended Stanford and had continued success. In 1995, he became the youngest player to ever compete in The Masters.  By the age of 20, Tiger became the first golfer to win 3 consecutive U.S. Amateur titles. In 1996, he left Stanford after 2 years to turn pro. He immediately  landed huge sponsorship deals and was on his way to becoming a household name. In 1997, he won The Masters, becoming the youngest player ever to win the tournament. Just two months later he was ranked the #1 golfer in the world, no other golfer had reached the ranking as quickly as Tiger did. In 2000, he won The Masters, The U.S. Open, The British Open, and the PGA Championship making him the youngest player to achieve the Career Grand Slam. At that point he was definitely a household name and everyone in the world knew who Tiger Woods was. He continued his winning ways for a number of years, becoming one of the best known athletes in the world of sports.

Since that day in Los Angeles, Tiger Woods has won  75 PGA events, which is second behind Sam Snead's 82, he has also won 14 Major Championships, only 4 behind the great Jack Niklaus. The 10 time PGA Player of the Year has had some injuries hamper him as well as his share of controversy later in his career, it has definitely cast a shadow on one of the best golfers the world has ever seen. I realize that as humans we all make mistakes and Tiger surely made his, the difference between me and him is when I make a mistake TMZ isn't waiting on my doorstep to exploit it.He is by far the greatest golfer of this generation and hopefully I get to talk about how he surpasses Snead's and Niklaus' records sometime in the future. He has had a couple down years by his standards but he is a winner and winning is what I believe he will do.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February 26, 1981: Minnesota North Stars vs. Boston Bruins Brawl

On February 26, 1981, the Minnesota North Stars traveled to Boston to take on the Bruins, what took place was a fight fest that ended with a total 84 penalties and 406 penalty minutes being handed out. The North Stars walked into the game with a 0-27-7 record in Boston and their approach to this game was beat them into submission with their fists. It didn't work as they were beaten 5-1 by the Bruins.

Just 7 seconds into the contest two fights broke out and from there on out a melee ensued. Right around the 8 minute mark fists started flying again, which led to a bench clearing brawl. Several North Stars players were ejected and on the way to their locker room they started fighting with some of the fans. The fight involving the fans also got a cameraman involved, he was trying to film the action when one of the North Stars players decided to make him the next opponent. The boos at the Boston Garden rained down on the North Stars as the players had to be restrained by security. Before it was all said and done 5 more fights had taken place and the two teams had set a record for penalty minutes in a hockey game. 3 of the 5 goals the Bruins scored that night came while they were shorthanded and the North stars walked out of that building without a victory in Boston in 35 tries. When the two teams met in the playoffs later that season it would be Minnesota prevailing over Boston with a 3 game sweep. The 406 penalty minutes in one game was a record for 23 years, then in March of 2004 the Senators and the Flyers rang up an astounding 419 penalty minutes in a game to take the title from the North Stars and Bruins. It would seem that no team would want to have that record in their resume but then again everyone loves a good hockey fight.

Here is some footage from that night in Boston:

This is an absolute classic moment, watch as John Wensink challenges the entire Minnesota bench:

Monday, February 25, 2013

February 25, 1972: Steve Carlton traded for Rick Wise

On February 25, 1972, the St. Louis Cardinals traded Steve Carlton to the Philadelphia Phillies for Rick Wise. It looked like an even swap at the time, Carlton was only 26 years old and Wise just a year older, they both showed they had what it took to pitch in the majors. The year before he was traded Wise had pitched a no hitter for the Cincinnati Reds and became the first player to hit two homers in a game that he threw a no no, that game made him a legend in Philly and a lot of fans were pissed when they acquired Carlton at his expense. They shouldn't have been. Carlton had a 77-62 record and was coming off a 20-9 season, his counterpart had 75-76 record up to that point, on paper the Phillies were getting the better player. It was still widely perceived that it was an even swap and that Carlton would not do well in Philly.

Anyone that doubted Carlton would do well in The City of Brotherly Love would be proved wrong. He won the Cy Young award with a  27-10 record in his first season in Philly, it was the last time a player won 25 games or more. The following season he digressed as he posted a 13-20 record, it was just a hiccup, Carlton posted a winning record for the team for the next nine years in a row. Those years included 3 more Cy Young awards and a World Series ring in 1980.

Meanwhile, Wise posted a 16-16 record in his first season in St. Louis then followed it up with a 16-12 record and an All Star appearance. Just two seasons after joining the Cardinals he was traded again, this time it was to the Boston Red Sox. He suffered an arm injury his first season in Boston then bounced back with a career high 19 wins in 1975. He followed it up with two solid seasons before being shipped to Cleveland. It was the second time Wise would be traded for a future Hall of Famer with Boston acquiring Dennis Eckersly in the deal. His time in Cleveland started off rough, he led the American League in losses with 19, he did bounce back in his second year with the club by posting a 15-10 record. In 1980 he joined the San Diego Padres as a free agent. After two mediocre years with the Padres he hung up the cleats for good in 1982. When I talk about Rick Wise, I hope I don't diminish him, he did something I've never done, hell he pitched in the majors and even tossed a no hitter. His record stands at 188-181, he pitched for 18 years which is something I could only dream of doing. Carlton on the other hand is 4th on the all time strikeout leaders list, posted a 329-244 record, represented Philadelphia 7 times in the All Star game and was a key cog on the 1980 World Series Championship.

The trade that brought Carlton to Philly was all about money. Carlton was offered $60,000 and wanted another $5,000 to make the deal. Gussie Bush, the owner of the Cardinals stood his ground and refused to sign him for that much money. In the end they chose to ship him to Philly for Wise, who was asking for the same amount of money from that club. In the end both players inked deals, Carlton signed a $60,000 deal with the Phillies and Wise signed a $57,500 deal with the Cardinals. It seems that Gussie Busch was simply standing his ground on a pay increase rather than looking at the true potential of this kid named Carlton. Steve was shocked by the trade, he even said he would have signed the deal with St. Louis if he knew they were going to move him because of the contract issues. Looking back it's easy to say the Cardinals should have held onto Carlton and gave him every penny he asked for but nobody could ever know the heights a player will reach before the player has a chance to scale the mountain. Carlton certainly reached the top of the mountain with his Hall of Fame induction in 1994 and will always be a legend in Philadelphia.

Associated Press story that followed the trade:,4156851

Sunday, February 24, 2013

February 24, 1982: Gretzky breaks the goals record

On February 24, 1982, Wayne Gretzky scored his 77th goal of the season, it was a historic moment as he surpassed Phil Esposito's record of 76 goals set in the '70-'71 season. The goal not only was a milestone for the young Gretzky, it also gave his team a 4-3 lead over the Buffalo Sabres. He scored two more before the game was over giving him a hat trick on the historic night and a 6-3 win for his Edmonton team. Gretzky hit the milestone in the 64th game of the season then put on a show, on the way to scoring a record setting 92 goals on the year. The record still stands today.

The historic 77th goal came 13 minutes and 24 seconds into the third period. Gretzky had put 7 shots on goal before his eighth shot went under the pads of Don Edwards, and history had been made. Despite them seeing their team go down by a goal the crowd in Buffalo gave Gretzky a standing ovation, as he was mobbed by his teammates. "The first thing that came into my head" Gretzky said "was that it put us up 4-3.' He went onto say Then there was relief  and a a sense of satisfaction, it took a lot of pressure off me." The show was far from over for Gretzky, he scored again late in the game, then put it passed Edwards one more time to complete the hat trick. Edwards had been a tough nut to crack up until that night in Buffalo. He had only let one goal get by him in the nine prior games against the young phenom. On that night, Edwards skated the length of the ice to say congratulations to the kid who just lit him up. It was true sportsmanship.

Wayne Gretzky was a phenomenal player who earned the nickname "The Great One". His list of accomplishments is long. When he retired in 1999, he held or shared 61 NHL records. To this day many of those records still stand tall. Some of the records might never be broken, but we can't forget a lot of people thought no one would ever surpass Esposito. You never know when the next kid will come along and make history.

Watch goal #77 here:

Saturday, February 23, 2013

February 23, 1985: Bobby Knight tosses the chair

On February 23, 1985, in a game against the Purdue Boilermakers the head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers, Bob Knight lost his temper and threw a chair across the basketball court. Knight, a very successful coach  was also a bit volatile to say the least.

The game was a huge game for his Hoosiers and when they fell behind early, the pot started boiling and it would soon boil over. Purdue had grabbed an 11-2 lead when Hoosiers guard Steve Alford was called for committing a foul, Knight came flying off the bench irate at the call, it wouldn't take much more to set off the ticking time bomb. Less than a minute later another foul was called against Indiana this time it was Marty Simmons who helped keep the coaches steam building up. Then as Purdue inbounded the ball the refs called yet another foul on the Hoosiers Daryl Thomas, it was the straw that broke the camels back.  Knight lost his shit, the only thing it led to was a technical foul for the coach which simply stirred the proverbial pot a bit more. He turned around furious and grabbed the first thing he saw and threw it, the chair went flying across the floor toward a group of student who were sitting ground level. Some people were shocked others had seen that temper flare up before, usually it was seen in practice, this time it was seen by everyone as it led many sportscasts around the United States. The incident led to a one game suspension and two years probation from the Big 10.

It was just one of many incidents in Bob Knight's career as a coach, the temper would eventually lead to Indiana going a different direction in the year 2000. It was the end of a marriage that started in 1971. In his time at Indiana he did more than lose his temper, he won ballgames. The Hoosiers won 11 Big 10 titles and 3 National Championships with Knight leading the team. Following the dismissal from Indiana, Knight took a job as head coach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders in 2001. He led the Red Raiders to the Sweet 16 twice before he retired in 2008.  Knight will always be known for incidents like this one where he tossed a chair in a moment of anger, he will also be known as one of the best coaches to ever teach a kid the game. With 902 wins he is third on the NCAA all time wins list for a basketball coach.

Watch the incident here:

Friday, February 22, 2013

February 22, 1980: The Miracle On Ice

On February 22, 1980, by beating the mighty Soviet Union 4-3 the United States National Hockey Team pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of American sports. It would become known as "The Miracle on Ice" after Al Michaels made the famous call exclaiming "Do you believe in miracles!!?!!" it was a moment in sports history that has become legendary.

The scene was Lake Placid, New York. The Soviets were an unstoppable force who had won the previous four gold medals dating back to the 1964 games. Their team featured  Vladislav Tretiak who was regraded as the best goaltender in the world at the time, the team around him was a phenomenal bunch who dominated every team on the way to the medal round. The Americans were led by coach Herb Brooks, he put together a team full of college kids, nine of them had been coached by Brooks at the University of Minnesota. The only player who made the cut from the previous Olympic squad was Buzz Schneider. It was a fresh group of young men who were prepared by Brooks to stun the world. 

Once the puck dropped at The Field House in Lake Placid, it didn't matter who was the favorite and who was not, they were two teams with the same goal and that goal was to win. It was evident early that both teams were hungry for the win. The Soviets struck first when Vladimir Krutov was able to deflect an Aleksi Kasatonov slapshot passed American goalie Jim Craig. Buzz Schneider was able to tie it back up before the Soviets took the lead right back with a goal from Sergei Markarov. With time winding down in the first period Dave Christian fired in a long slapshot, the Russian goalie misplayed the rebound and Mark Johnson came flying in and put it passed him. The period ended with the score all knotted up at 2. 

The Soviets coach Viktor Tikhonov made what he would call the biggest mistake in his coaching career by pulling his star goaltender and replacing him with Vladimir Myshkin. The move surprised both teams. The Soviet team dominated the second period outshooting the Americans 12-2, only one of those 12 shots got passed the American goalie, the period ended with the Soviets leading 3-2. 

The Americans were desperate to get something going against the Soviet team. The prime opportunity to strike came when a miscue by the Soviets led to a powerplay for the U.S., the Americans attacked the net furiously, then late in the powerplay, Mark Johnson snuck one under Myshkin. With the score 3-3 the Americans had a new lease on life. A couple of shifts later the captain of the United States squad, Mike Eruzione put his team on top with just 10 minutes to play. The 8,500 on hand erupted as the Americans led for the first time in the contest. It was far from over, the Soviets attacked furiously and Jim Craig stood on his head as he deflected every shot they put on net. In a last ditch effort the Soviets pulled their goalie, they had never even practiced 6 on 5 hockey because their coach didn't believe in it. They threw everything they had at the Americans net, missing a number of shots wildly in desperation. With the time winding down the entire crowd started the countdown then Al Michaels made the famous call: "11 seconds, you've got 10 seconds, the countdown going right now. Morrow up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES!!??!! YES!!!" Perhaps the highlight of Al Michaels career came right there in that moment.  

The Americans had to play one more game before claiming the gold medal. It was a hard fought battle with Finland that they prevailed by the score of 4-2. The team showed their resilience in that game as well, as they came back from a 2-1 third period deficit to win the gold medal. 

Since that day in Lake Placid that American team has become truly legendary. A handful of them went onto have successful professional careers and all of them will forever be held in the highest regard in the history of American sports.

Miracle on Ice Gold Medal Moment: Lake Placid

The last minute of the game with the famous call 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

February 21, 1986: Rollie Fingers announces he is retiring

On February 21, 1986, Rollie Fingers announced he would be retiring from baseball. He had inked a deal to play for Pete Rose and the Cincinnati Reds following the his release from the Milwaukee Brewers after the 1985 season. His decision to retire came about after Reds owner Marge Schott would not bend on a clean cut policy for the team, she insisted Fingers shave off the most famous mustache in the history of baseball. When the General Manager of the team Bill Bergesch spoke to Fingers about the issue he was told "Well, you tell Marge to shave her St. Bernard, and I'll shave my mustache", neither side gave in and his 18 year career in the big leagues came to an end.

In high school Fingers was very successful, he pitched and played the outfield. After graduating in 1964 he was highly sought after by a number of major league teams. Ultimately his decision came down to the Kansas City Athletics and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He decided to sign with the A's because he had much more of a shot to make their roster, the Dodgers rotation was stacked at the time. The A's originally wanted him to play the outfield but quickly changed their minds after realizing his pitching potential. As a starter Fingers moved through the minor league ranks of the A's system before getting his call to the show in 1968. The team had moved to California just one year earlier. As a starter Fingers had mixed results, it wasn't until the 1971 season that he took on the closer role. This was before the days of the modern pitcher and Fingers was a pioneer in this position. He excelled as he made 17 of 19 saves that season. The A's went all the way to the ALCS that year, it was their first postseason appearance since 1931 when the team was in Philadelphia. Starting in 1972 the A's won three straight World Series, their roster was stacked. It included Reggie Jackson, Vida Blue, Bert Campaneris, Blue Moon Odom, Sal Bando, Joe Rudi and  of course one of the best closers of all time in Rollie Fingers.

The famous mustache came about when Reggie Jackson showed up to spring training in 1972 with a beard, Fingers and many other players started to grow their own facial hair figuring it would lead Jackson to shave off the beard. It had the reverse effect. The A's were owned by the ultimate showman Charlie Finley, instead of making his players shave he decided to start a contest to see who could grow the best facial hair by Opening Day. Fingers won the contest and $300 for his handlebar mustache. Finley saw the opportunity to turn it into a promotion and started "mustache day" at the ballpark, anyone with a mustache got in free. It's too bad that many years later Marge Schott didn't use his famous mustache to promote her team rather than write him off over something so stupid.

His days in Oakland ended when he hit free agency following the 1976 season. A number of teams put in a bid for his services, the San Diego Padre put in the winning bid and he pitched there for the next four years. In those four years he went 34-40 with 108 saves. While the team around him was mediocre Fingers was the best closer in the game, he won the unofficial National League Fireman of the Year Award in 1977, 1978, and 1980. After the 1980 season the Padres traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals, just four days after the trade the Cards moved him to Milwaukee. In Milwaukee he stabilized the closer position which was something the team was struggling with before he arrived. The Brewers had an explosive offense with Robin Yount and Paul Molitor leading the way, Finger was a final piece to a puzzle that would lead the franchise to their first postseason appearance in the history of the organization. In the strike shortened year of 1981, Fingers was lights out as he saved 28 of the 62 wins for the club on the way to winning the American league East title. They fell short that season by losing to the Yankees in the divisional playoffs, however Fingers was named League MVP and he took home the Cy Young award for his dominant performance. In the '82 season Fingers had 29 saves when he hit the disabled list with a torn muscle in his forearm, it was a season ending injury. A young rookie named Pete Ladd took on the closer role the rest of the way, the Brewers advanced all the way to the World Series where they met the St. Louis Cardinals, they lost the series in 7 games. The only thing Fingers could do was sit there and watch. The following season he was not able to bounce back, as tendonitis caused him to miss the entire 1983 season. His last solid year came in 1984, he made 23 saves for the Brew Crew but the team posted a more than disappointing 67-94 record and they finished last in the AL East. His one last run with the Brewers came in 1984, at that point Father Time was at his doorstep. He made 17 saves, he also recorded 8 blown saves before the season was done. His time in Milwaukee was over, then with the ridiculous demand by Schott for him to shave the following season brought his career to an end altogether. He had recorded 341 saves and was the all time saves leader at the time of his retirement, the record stood until 1992 when he was surpassed by Jeff Reardon. Seven years after retiring, Fingers was inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February 20, 1997: Hakeem Olajuwon reaches 23,000 points

On February 20, 1997, Hakeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets became just the 15th player to surpass the 23,000 point mark in NBA history. He reached the milestone in a 107-97 win over the Toronto Raptors.  Olajuwon scored close to 4,000 more points before his Hall of Fame career ended in 2002.

The Nigerian born player was one of six children who came from a hard working class family. Growing up he played goalie in soccer before he discovered basketball at the age of 15, he knew right away it was the sport for him. After high school Olajuwon was hardly recruited but still caught on with the University of Houston. When he first arrived there the coaches asked him to dunk, it was something he had never done before. The coaching staff set up a chair in an effort to demonstrate what they were asking for, so Hakeem went and stood on the chair. When the coaches told him not to use the chair they found out that even at 7 foot tall Olajuwon wasn't able to dunk the ball. It was something he would be sure to learn. With a lack of playing time as a redshirt freshman he asked his coaches how he could see more time on the floor, he was advised to workout with former NBA MVP and Houston resident Moses Malone. Olajuwon took the advice and played head to head games with Malone and several other NBA players. The result was great, he returned to the Cougars a different player. He and his teammates became known as the "Phi Slama Jama" the first slam dunking fraternity. His Houston team made back-to-back Final Four appearances in 1983 and 1984. In '83 Houston was knocked off by N.C. State in the Championship Game. They suffered the same fate the following year, this time it was Patrick Ewing and Georgetown that beat them in the final game of the tournament. He had come a long way from Nigeria and the best was yet to come.

Olajuwon chose to leave school one year early so he could enter the NBA draft. After a coin flip between the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers went Houston's way, they made Olajuwon the #1 pick of the 1984 draft. It was where he wanted to play, him knowing they had the high pick was the main reason he left school early. Olajuwon was drafted before NBA legends Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton. One year earlier the Rockets won the first pick after winning a coin flip over the Indian Pacers. They took 7' 4" Ralph Sampson with that pick, so two flips of a coin formed what would became known as the "Twin Towers" of the NBA. Olajuwon's impact was huge for the Rockets, he averaged 20.6 points with 11.9 rebounds in his rookie season. The team had gone a dismal 29-53 the year before he arrived, after he showed up the record improved to 48-34 and they went to the playoffs. The team was eliminated by the Utah Jazz that season but the fans in Houston were feeling good about the future.

His second year was better than his first as he led his team all the way to the 1986 NBA Finals. The Rockets fell to the Boston Celtics who had also beaten the Rockets in the 1981 NBA Finals. When Ralph Sampson suffered a knee injury the following season he was traded to the Golden State Warriors, the departure of his teammate only made Olajuwon better, he was now the true leader of his team. He led the Rockets in almost every category on the books and became a perennial all star. The list of accomplishments is long but they  did not come without a few bumps in the road. In the '90-'91 season he caught an elbow from the Bulls' Bill Cartwright that fractured bones around his eye, the end result was 25 missed games. In the '91-'92 season he missed 7 games due to an irregular heartbeat. Olajuwon came back from those setbacks and performed at the top level. Despite his performance, his Houston team had become mediocre at best. They hadn't won a playoff series from 1988 to 1992. With Olajuwon coming off a sub par year in 1991 there was speculation he might be traded, luckily for Houston it never materialized because Olajuwon would lead the team to back-back Championships just a few years later.

Following the '93-'94 season he was named League MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, as well as the Finals MVP, he is the only player in the history of the NBA to win all three awards after one season. The Rockets met the New York Knicks that season in the Finals, the Knicks featured Patrick Ewing who had helped Olajuwon fall short of winning the National Championship in college, this time he wouldn't be denied the hardware. It was a battle that went to 7 games, before Houston claimed their first NBA Title in franchise history. Olajuwon was a beast in the series, averaging 28.9 points per game and 11 rebounds per game.

The following season a trade reunited Olajuwon with his college teammate and  frat brother from Phi Slama Jama, Clyde Drexler. It wasn't the smoothest of transitions but they gutted out a tough season and made the playoffs. Drexler came on like a beast in the playoffs and Olajuwon caught fire as well. They advanced through the playoffs beating the likes of David Robinson and the San Antonio Spurs before meeting the Orlando Magic and a kid named Shaquille O'Neal. This series was nowhere near as tough for Olajuwon and the Rockets as they swept the the Magic to become just the fifth team in league history to win back-to-back titles. Olajuwon took home the Finals MVP for the second year in a row. His numbers were ridiculous, he averaged 33 points per game with 10.3 rebounds a game throughout the playoffs.

His years in Houston ended after the '00-'01 season, the team never did reach the top of the mountain after the Championship in 1995. Olajuwon, by the time he left the team had scored 26,511 points. He signed with the Toronto Raptors for one year before retiring at the end of the '01-'02 season. He scored his last 435 points as a Raptor. Olajuwon gave everything he had to Houston and he owns 9 different franchise records because of it. He was elected into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008. The road to all his achievements is so much more astounding to me because, he traveled a very different road to get to them. Truly a remarkable career.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February 19, 1977: Rod gilbert reaches the 1,000 point plateau

On February 19, 1977, Rod Gilbert became the first player to score 1,000 points as a member of the New York Rangers. He reached this milestone in a 5-2 loss to the New York Islanders. Gilbert spent his entire 15 year career with the Rangers and is the only player to reach the 1,000 point plateau wearing only a Rangers uniform.

The road to a 1,000 points was far from easy. Before he even got his start in the NHL, Gilbert broke his back. It was the last game of the '59-60 season for his junior team, a fan threw some debris on the ice which caused Gilbert to slip and fall. Gilbert showed true resilience by working his way back from the injury and got his first taste of the NHL in the 1960 season, it was just a one game call up but he did grab an assist in that one game. That assist marked the 1st of 1,021 career points. The following season he was called up during the regular season, once again it was only one game in the pros, but he did get a chance to play in the 1962 playoffs. He played in 4 games against the Toronto maple Leafs scoring 5 points in those games. The 20 year old kid looked like he had all the ability to make it in the pros.

Gilbert became a full time player on the team at the start of the '62-'63 campaign. He scored 11 goals with 20 assists in his rookie year. His second year in the league he scored 24 goals then followed that season up with a 25 goal performance. Gilbert scored 20 goals or more in 12 of his 15 seasons in the NHL. Everything was looking good for the young player when the back issue came back to haunt him. He tried to play the '65-'66 season wearing a special back brace, it hampered his breathing which in turn caused him to have less stamina, surgery was his only option. Once again Gilbert showed resilience, he bounced back by scoring 28 goals in the '67-68 season and led the Rangers to the playoffs for the first time in 5 years.

In the '70-'71 season Gilbert was teamed up with Vic Radfield and Jean Ratelle, they formed a line that would became known as the GAG line (goal-a-game) as they averaged at least one goal per game while they played together. The first season the trio was together they led the Rangers to a franchise record 107 point season. the following season Gilbert scored a career high 43 goals, Ratelle and Hadfield also reached the 40 goal mark that season making them the first line to have all three offensive players to reach the mark. The Rangers reached the Stanley Cup Finals that season but fell just short to the Boston Bruins. It was the closest Gilbert came to winning the top prize in all of hockey. Gilbert's production was at a high level through the end of the '76-'77 season, you can just look at his numbers and let them tell their own story. He only played in 19 games early in the '77-'78 season before he hung up his skates for good. Gilbert had accomplished a number of milestones in a Rangers uniform and the team retired his #7 because of it. He was not only the first Rangers player to score 1,000 points, he was the first player to have his number retired by the team. When it was all said and done Gilbert had scored 406 goals and recorded 615 assists. He received the highest honor in hockey by being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982.

The first piece of art was done by Adam Port you can check out more of his great work here:

Monday, February 18, 2013

February 18, 1996: Pippen and Jordan score 40 points in the same game

On February 18, 1996, at Market Square Arena in Indiana, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls became just the ninth set of teammates to score 40 points in the same game, Jordan scored 44 and Pippen knocked down 40. They reached this milestone in a 110-102 win over the Pacers. The Pacers had beaten the Bulls 103-97 earlier in the season at home and were trying to add to 3 wins in a row over the Chicago team in their home arena. Despite having 5 players in double figures they could not stop the Jordan and Pippen show.

The Pacers were able to stay very close to the Bulls on the scoreboard throughout the entire contest, at the half the teams were only separated by two points with Chicago leading 53-51. In the second half Pippen caught fire, he drained 29 of his 40 points. With a little more than 8 minutes to go in the game the Pacers were able to get within one point before Chicago rang off 8 straight points, 5 by Pippen and 3 by Jordan. The 107-95 score gave the Bulls their biggest lead of the game with just 1 minute and 54 seconds to go. The Pacers tried to even things up to no avail and the Bulls took home a winner. It was a statement game for Chicago, they wanted the Indiana team to know they could win in their house and Jordan and Pippen made that statement loud and clear.

It was the 5th win in a row for the Bulls and it brought their record to 46-5. They went onto post a 72-10 regular season record before grabbing their 4th NBA Championship Title. Pippen and Jordan forged one of the best duos of all time, they won a grand total of 6 Championships together with the Bulls. Simply put they were great and I'm glad I got to witness that greatness with my own eyes.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

February 17, 1980: Buddy Baker Wins the Daytona 500

On February 17, 1980,  Buddy Baker won the Daytona 500. It was a monumental win for Baker as he had been seeking the victory at NASCAR's biggest event for 19 years. With an average speed of 177.602 Baker shattered the previous record for the event which was 161.550 set by A.J. Foyt in 1972. The car Baker drove was a gray Oldsmobile, his opponents nicknamed it "The Gray Ghost" they said it was so fast that it blended in with the asphalt as he passed them.

Baker knew his car had everything it would need to win the race, but he also knew that he had thought he could win it before, only to have his heart broken. In 1971 Baker was in contention until a late pit stop cost him, then in 1973 he was leading by half a lap when his engine blew with only six laps to go in the race. In 1978 he suffered the same fate this time he was leading with only 5 laps to go when his engine blew. In '79 he won the pole position then just 38 laps into the race he had an engine issue that ended his day early. Even with the history of Baker's failures at Daytona on his mind, he was more than optimistic before the 1980 race. 24 hours before the green flag was set to wave he told reporters "I'm flying. I'm running laps at 197 miles per hour. I'm going to win if nothing goes wrong." Everything went right for Buddy Baker that day.

Baker won the pole position with a speed of 194.009 and each and every opponent knew he was the guy to beat. "The Gray Ghost" led 30 of the first  33 laps before Baker laid off a bit and watched a handful of drivers battle for the lead before moving back up from on lap 88 he held the lead until lap 180. With only 20 laps to go and the final pit stops upon them Baker and his team needed everything to go right to give him a chance to win this race. The gas man barely got his nozzle out of the tank before baker jumped on the throttle sending him and his teammate falling to the ground. The pit stop put Baker in a great position and by lap 182 he held a six second lead over the second place driver Neil Bonnett. Even with the lead and only a handful of laps to go baker knew fate could be cruel and definitely had some of the previous attempts running through his head. He just stepped on the gas and opened up a 13 second lead, his crew chief wanted him to slow down and conserve fuel but baker wouldn't listen. He was a man on a mission and this mission was going to be accomplished. With just three laps to go a wreck forced a caution which in turn guaranteed Baker would have enough fuel to finish the race. Baker cruised to victory lane. He was almost beside himself  as the mob of people emerged upon him in victory lane. It had been a long road to becoming the winner of NASCAR's most famous race.

Baker was a fierce competitor, he finished in the top 10 more than 300 times and won 19 races in his long career. The win at Daytona was the pinnacle for Baker, he said "Winning this race is something you will always be remembered for" and he was right. His average speed of 177.602 miles per hour had set a new mark for any 500 mile race, it still stands as the record at Daytona. It was one helluva day for Buddy Baker.

Watch the entire race here, if you advance to the 2 hour mark you can watch the last ten laps and Baker's post race interview:

Saturday, February 16, 2013

February 16, 1970: Joe Frazier vs. Jimmy Ellis for the World Heavyweight Title

On February 16, 1970, Joe Frazier fought Jimmy Ellis for heavyweight title. The road to this fight came about after Muhammad Ali was stripped of his title following his refusal to be drafted in 1968. With the boxing world looking to crown a new champion Frazier took on Buster Mathis to win a New York version of the title, from there he steamrolled through Manuel Ramos, Oscar Bonavena, Dave Zyglewicz, and Jerry Quarry. Ellis won a different version of the title by beating Leotis Martin, Oscar Bonavena, and Jerry Quarry in an elimination tournament. Ellis would successfully defend that tile one time against Floyd Patterson. With both boxers claiming to be the champ there was only one way to decide who should own the title and on December 29, 1969 a contract was signed that put the wheels in motion for the February matchup.

Frazier was a 6-1 favorite due in large part to Ellis not fighting for over 17 months. Ellis believed it was being overplayed because he had been training for a fight that fell through. He insited that all he needed to do was drop a few pounds and he would be good to go. Elllis also had legendary cornerman Angelo Dundee on his side who gave him a vote of confidence by saying "Jimmy is like a bomb ready to go off. I've got to cool him off a little." Dundee was quick to point out more than one fight that fell through also and he believed his boxer would have no problem fighting Joe Frazier. When Ellis was asked about the odds he said "Odds mean nothing to me. I was an underdog against Leotis Martin, Oscar Bonavena, and Jerry Quarry."  He was about to find out Joe Frazier was a much more formidable opponent than any of those men that came before him.
Joe was in absolute great shape as he trained twice a day to trim down for the fight. His intense workouts included everything from the speed bag, to sparring partners were included. By comparison Ellis had light workouts, mainly skipping rope and shadow boxing, he was very much unprepared to take on Frazier.

More than 18,000 people packed Madison Square Garden to see who would be the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World. In the first round Ellis looked good as he executed his strategy to keep the fight in the middle of the ring, until Frazier landed a series of punches on his way to winning the first round. Frazier later said "Maybe he did take the first round, but that didn't mean nothing. I had command all the way." In the second round Frazier was able to take control, he tied Ellis up which took away his jab. Frazier then took him out of his game by getting him against the ropes and landing two crushing left hooks, the momentum had shifted. It was all Frazier from there on out, in the third he landed a huge left hook that had the whole crowd buzzing, Ellis was clearly rattled but survived the round. As Frazier walked to his corner following the third round, he had a smile form ear to ear on his face because he knew that Ellis was no match for him.

Joe Frazier came out in fourth looking like a ball of fire as he landed blow after blow. Once again Frazier put Ellis on the ropes and landed two massive left hooks that sent him crashing down, Ellis got to his feet only to have another left hook send him to the ground again, after the bell rang Ellis was able to get to his feet and head to his corner. The fourth round was done and so was Ellis, his trainer Angelo Dundee refused to let the boxer go out for any more punishment. Smokin Joe Frazier was declared the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the World by way of knockout.

This was a quite the display by Joe Frazier and he was declared the champ, many considered Ali to be the real champion. There is no way around it that with Ali's title being taken from him rather than him losing it to an opponent left a cloud over the title. What was going on with Ali was out of Frazier's hands and when Ali returned to the ring, he took him on in what was called the "Fight of the Century" Frazier beat Ali by unanimous decision and any talk of him not being the real champion was put to bed. He did lose his title to George Foreman in 1973 but went onto have several more memorable fights including some of the greatest fights of all time against Ali.

Watch the full fight here:

Friday, February 15, 2013

February 15, 1932: Eddie Eagan becomes the first athlete to win gold in both the Summer and Winter Olympics

On February 15, 1932, by taking home the Gold Medal as a member of the American bobsled team, Eddie Eagan became the first athlete and only American to ever win a gold medal in both the Winter and Summer Olympics, he had won the gold medal in boxing as a lightweight in 1920.

Eagan was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, his father was killed in a railroad accident in 1899, Eddie was only a year old. His mother taught German and French to support him and his four brothers. While Eddie was in high school he took up the sport of boxing and he excelled in the ring. He was very dedicated to boxing and he was also dedicated to advancing his education. After graduating he enrolled at the University of Denver where he won the amateur middleweight title. He only spent one year at the school before enlisting in the Army, the 20 year old would serve as an artillery lieutenant in France during World War I. When he returned home from war Eagan enrolled at Yale and became the captain of their boxing team. He had success at Yale, winning the heavyweight title for the AAU Championships in 1919. Eagan came very close to winning the light heavyweight title that year also but just fell short. He would go onto fight in the Inter-Allied games in Paris, France where he won the middleweight championship. It all led to him representing the United States in the 1920 Olympics, held in Antwerp, Belgium. He fought men from South Africa, Great Britain, and Norway on his way to winning gold for his country.

After taking home the gold he returned home and graduated from Yale in 1921, he then went onto Harvard to study law. He spent just one year at Harvard before being offered a Rhodes scholarship which is widely considered the most prestigious scholarship in the world, it gave Eagan an opportunity to study law at Oxford University. From 1922 to 1925 he not only studied at Oxford he also boxed. Eagan became the first American to win the British amateur boxing championship in 1923. He got another chance to compete in the Olympics in 1924 as a heavyweight but failed to bring home a medal.

When his days at Oxford came to an end Eddie traveled the world challenging any amateur boxer he came across, it was said that he didn't lose a fight. He returned to the states and in 1927, he helped train Gene Tunney who was set to fight Jack Dempsey in a rematch that would become known as the "Long Count Fight",  Tunney won the controversial match and Eagan played a large part in helping him be in the shape he needed to face a foe like Dempsey.

Following that fight Eagan started practicing law and it looked as if his glory days were well passed him. Then an old friend by the name of Jay O'Brien persuaded him to join the Olympic bobsled team. O'Brien was head of the U.S. Bobsled Olympic Committee and he was put in a bind when one of the members of the four man team decided to not compete in the event, O'Brien turned to his old friend who had never stepped a foot in a bobsled. The thing about Eagan was he could do anything he put his mind to. In college he was much more than just a boxer. He excelled in every sport he participated in which included tennis, fencing, swimming, and wrestling. He was very confident that he would be able to have success in the bobsled as well. His teammates on the bobsled team were an interesting group of men to say the least. The driver was a 20 year old kid by the name of Billy Fiske,  4 years before at just 16 years old he became the youngest athlete to win a gold medal, that record would stand until 1992. Eagan took the second spot on the sled, then there was Clifford "Tippy" Gray behind him. Gray was a 40 year old accomplished songwriter who was said to have written more than 3,000 songs. The brake man on the sled was Eagan's old friend Jay O'Brien, he was 49 years old when he jumped in the sled on that February day.

The 1932 Olympics were held in Lake Placid, New York, the city got slammed by a blizzard that forced many events including the bobsled to be delayed. Three days after they were originally scheduled to race Eagan and the boys jumped in the sled and made history. They smoked the competition in the first three heats then in the fourth the team came very close to catastrophe as one of the sleds runners almost went off track Fiske was able to correct it in the knick of time and the team finished two seconds faster than the silver medalists. It has been more than 80 years since that day in Lake Placid and not one man has done what Eagan did by winning that gold medal.

Eagan was the only member of the team to survive more than ten years following the historic run. His friend O'Brien passed away after having a heart attack in 1940. Fiske became the first American to join the British Royal Air Force, on August 16th of 1940 his plane was severely damaged in battle, Fiske was severely burned and passed away just two days later. Gray was entertaining troops in England when the town he was in was heavily bombed, it caused Gray to have a heart attack which led to his death in 1941. Eagan lived a long fulfilling life. After the '32 games he served as the assistant U.S. attorney for Southern New York. In 1941 with the United States entering World War II he joined the Army Air Corps, becoming the Chief of Special services in the air transport command. By the time the war ended Eagan held the rank of lieutenant colonel. Following the war Eagan remained part of the sports world, he had stints as head of the New York State Athletic Commission, then was appointed to lead Dwight D. Eisenhower's People to People sports committee, before taking on the Director of Sports Programming for the 1964 World Fair that was held in New York. Eagan passed away in 1967 at the age of 69, he was a remarkable man who led a remarkable life. While Eagan is the only American to win gold in both the Summer and Winter games he is joined by three other athletes, Jacob Tullin Thams of Norway, Christa Luding-Rothlinburger of Germany, and Clara Hughes from Canada are all in a very elite club with Eddie Eagan.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

February 14, 1951: Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake Lamotta meet in the St. Valentines Day Massacre

On February 14, 1951, Sugar Ray Robinson took on Jake Lamotta for the World Middleweight Title, the fight would become known as the "St. Valentines Day Massacre". It was the sixth and final time the boxers met in the ring. Robinson's record stood at 123-1 with the one loss being handed to him by Lamotta eight years before the Valentines day matchup. On paper it would look as if Robinson dominated Lamotta as he had won 4 out of 5 fights before their final bout, Robinson might have held the edge on wins but every single time they met an epic battle took place. This fight would be no different as it went 13 rounds before a winner was decided.

In the first 7 rounds the boxers went back and forth, Robinson took an early edge before Lamotta came back with a vengeance to even things up. In the 8th round Robinson took control and pummeled Lamotta through the 10th round. In the 11th Lamotta tried desperately to get back into the fight by cornering  Robinson and unloading a barrage of punches that his opponent was able to withstand, it would prove to be all Lamotta had in him. He came out in the 12th physically drained and the battle was showing as he had a cut above his right eye. Robinson beat Lamotta so violently in the 12th that the match could have easily been stopped, Lamotta just wouldn't quit. In the 13th Robinson continued the violent assault on the beaten and bloody Lamotta until 2 minutes and 4 seconds into the round the referee finally stopped the fight, Lamotta was on the ropes still refusing to go down.

Lamotta was known as "The Bronx Bull" and he was as tough as a bull. He might have lost the fight but the guy wouldn't give up. He never did hit the canvas. The fight marked an end to a series of  great battles. Both fighters were among the greatest of their time and they will always be remembered for it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

February 13, 1964: Chicago Cubs second baseman Ken Hubbs Killed in plane crash

On February 13, 1964, Chicago Cubs second baseman Ken Hubbs lost his life when the plane he was piloting crashed in Provo, Utah, he was just 22 years old. Hubbs got his pilots license just two weeks prior to the crash, it was something he did to get over an extreme fear of flying. It turned out to be a very fateful decision for the player who had taken home rookie of the year honors in 1962.

Hubbs was a great athlete as a kid and he even got to play in the 1954 Little League World Series. In High School he excelled in football, basketball, and of course baseball. His coaches called him the best player they had seen in every sport he played. He was recruited by John Wooden to play basketball at UCLA and also received a scholarship offer to Notre Dame to play quarterback. Ultimately  he decided to play baseball and signed with the Chicago Cubs as a free agent in 1959.

Hubbs received his first call to the show in September of 1961, it was just a cup of coffee as he played in only 10 games that season. After losing their starting second baseman Don Zimmer in the 1961 expansion draft it left second base open and Hubbs seized the opportunity. The kid could play defense and he had a cannon of an arm, going 78 games without an error in 418 chances, both broke major league records. He batted .260 with 5 home runs in his rookie season, led the team in triples and was second in doubles and runs scored. Hubbs had everyone in Chicago buzzing just knowing that he would get better. He not only took home the Rookie of the year award, he also won the Gold Glove. The defensive highlight of the season came when he started a triple play on September 30, 1962. The following season his averaged dipped to .235 but some said that he was even better defensively. The one knock on Hubbs was he struck out a lot and had a tendency to hit into the double play. I'm sure that the fans in Chicago thought he would get better with time, unfortunately for Hubbs it was time he wouldn't have.

After participating in a charity basketball game in Provo, Utah Hubbs and his good friend Dennis Doyle decided to surprise family and friends by returning to Colton, California a day early. A snow storm moved into Provo the morning of February 13th that Hubbs thought he could beat. The plane made it almost 5 miles before the crash. The most likely culprit for the crash was poor visibility and the overall weather conditions were poor. It was a very sad day for all of baseball as the sport had lost one of  their brightest young stars. It was also a very sad day for all the families involved. Dennis Doyle and his wife and just had a baby one month earlier, his wife and baby had arrived in California just one day earlier so Hubbs and Doyle were anxious to get home and see their families. It was a very sad end to not one but two lives that had everything in front of them.

I wish this was a story that ended with a Hall of Fame induction, he seemed like he had all the ability to reach that point. I imagine it would be a much greater story. The story of how Hubbs died can also remind you of the life he lived, he made his mark in his short time on this earth. By all accounts he was not only a great ballplayer he was a great person. I guess a person can only wonder what might have been.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

February 12, 1988: The NHL's All Time Penalty Leader Tiger Williams Released by the Hartford Whalers

On February 12, 1988, the Hartford Whalers released Dave "Tiger" Williams, it marked the end of a 14 year career as Willaims retired following his release. He left the NHL as the all time leader in penalty minutes with 3,966 in the regular season and another 455 in the playoffs, bringing his total to 4,421. He was more than just a tough guy, he could also light the lamp and scored 15 goals or more in 11 of his 14 seasons on the ice. Tiger would often ride his stick like a horse after he scored a goal which was just another way to get under his opponents skin. It was his specialty.

He got his start in the NHL after being drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1974 draft, he first hit the ice for the team in January of 1975. Williams was the enforcer for the team protecting stars like Darryl Sittler and Lanny McDonald which led to a lot of time in the penalty box. He didn't only take a penalty he also put the biscuit in the basket averaging 15 goals per season over 5 years in Toronto. His time in Toronto ended because the team's owner Harold Ballard had an ongoing feud with Darryl Sittler. Ballard chose to trade the players that Sittler was closest to rather than just move Sittler to another team. The owner not only traded the players, he traded them to cellar dwellers in a form of spite. In February of 1980, Williams got the call saying that he had been traded to the Vancouver Canucks a team that was struggling to say the least. Williams didn't turn them into an instant contender but he added an element to the team that made other teams know they better come to play when they had to skate against Vancouver.

Williams had his best offensive year with the Canucks in the '80-'81 season as he scored 35 goals on a very mediocre team. That season he spent 343 minutes in the box as he continued the gritty play that made him a true Tiger. That season Williams was selected to the All Star game for the first and only time in his career. He would be best remembered by Canucks fans for his contributions during a Stanley Cup run in 1982. The Canucks matched up against the New York Islanders for the top prize in the NHL only to be swept out . Williams scored 3 goals and 7 assists in the playoffs and served 116 penalty minutes before his team lost in the Finals. He played for two more seasons in Vancouver before being traded to the Detroit Red Wings in August of 1984. Williams said the trade to Detroit almost made him cry as he had became a part of the city of Vancouver. He resides there to this day.

His time in Detroit was short lived, he only played in 55 games with the Red Wings scoring just 11 total points before he was traded again to the L.A. Kings in March of 1985. Williams had a couple of good seasons with the Kings as he scored 20 goals in '85-86 then 20 goals in the '86-'87 season, and at the same time he was wracking up the penalty minutes like it was nobody's business. In the '86-'87 season Williams recorded a career high 358 minutes in the sin bin. After a little more than two seasons with the Kings he was traded one last time to the Hartford Whalers in 1985, it would prove to be the final stop in his long career. He only played in 26 games with Hartford, scoring 6 goals and recording the last 87 penalty minutes of his career with the Whalers. Tiger Williams was a player that might not stand on top of the goals and points categories but he did do his job and he did his job well.

Watch Tiger drop the gloves:

The celebration he made famous:

Monday, February 11, 2013

February 11, 1990: Buster Douglas Knocks Out Mike Tyson

On February 11, 1990, in Tokyo, Japan, Buster Douglas stunned the world by knocking out the undisputed Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson. Douglas walked into the fight as a 42-1 underdog and no one thought he would be able to take on "Iron Mike". Douglas had lost his mother just 23 days before the fight, it was a motivating factor for Douglas, he would have made her proud as he had trained hard, and came in prepared to fight the champ.

From the moment the bell rang Douglas was looking confident. The early rounds had a lot of back and forth action, Douglas held his own as he knocked Tyson back with thunderous shots. Douglas not only surprised the world by hanging in there I'm sure Tyson was surprised by the dominance he was displaying in the ring. By the fifth round Tyson was clearly being dominated, everyone watching was just waiting for that moment when he landed a blow that turned the momentum back his way. That moment came in the eighth, Tyson landed a crushing right uppercut that sent Douglas crashing to the floor. Douglas pounded the canvas with his glove in disgust before rising to his feet, more determined than ever to win this fight. In the ninth round  Tyson looked like a man on a mission, his only problem was Douglas had a mission of his own. Midway through the round Douglas unleashed a combination of punches that sent Tyson crashing into the ropes, the only thing that saved Tyson was the bell. Tyson wouldn't be so lucky in the tenth, Douglas landed a huge uppercut  before a rapid combination that sent Tyson to the floor. It was the first time he had ever been knocked down, he tried desperately to put his mouthpiece back in his mouth and get back to his feet, but couldn't beat the count. Buster was the new Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Tyson was so dominant in his early years that I would have thought that there wasn't a boxer on the planet that could beat him. He might have been overlooking the fight with Douglas knowing that Evander Holyfield would be his next opponent. It almost seems that he didn't take the matchup with Douglas seriously which cost him his title. Tyson tried to get a rematch with Douglas only to be turned down. Douglas decided to defend his title against Evader Holyfield, the fight against Holyfield was unsuccessful as Evander took the title from him in October of 1990. Buster Douglas might not have held the title long, but he will forever have his name cemented in sports history as an underdog who defied the odds by beating Iron Mike Tyson.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

February 10, 1999: Russ and Geoff Courtnall become the First Brothers to play in 1,000 games apiece

On February 10,1999, Russ Courtnall of the Los Angeles Kings joined his brother Geoff in the 1,000 game club. It was the first time in NHL history brothers had played in 1,000 games apiece. Geoff appeared in 1,048 games over 17 seasons with the Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues, and Vancouver Canucks. Russ played for 16 seasons, got his start with the Toronto Maple Leafs, he then spent time with the Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota North Stars, Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers, and finally the L.A. Kings. They were teammates only once in their careers during the '94-'95 season in Vancouver .

Throughout their careers the brothers put up solid numbers,  Geoff scored more the 20 goals in 11 different seasons while Russ accomplished it 10 times. As far as scoring 30 or more goals in a season Geoff did it 7 times while his brother only achieved it once. They were both speedy players who could setup a goal and score one as well. Their career numbers are very close. Russ scored 297 goals and had 447 career assists under his belt bringing his point total to 744. His brother Geoff scored 367 goals along with 432 assists for a total of 799 points. Russ came very close to being a Stanley Cup Champion in 1989 with the Montreal Canadiens, the team lost 4 games to 2 in the Finals to the Calgary Flames. Geoff  won it the year before after he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers late in the '88-'89 season. Geoff only played in 31 games between the regular season and playoffs for the Oilers but he helped the team win the holy grail of hockey in those 31 games. His time in Edmonton might have been short but it was the only time either brother would hoist The Cup.

There are 282 players in the 1,000 game club, there are only four sets of brothers. Kevin and Derian Hatcher, Brent and Ron Sutter, and Scott and Rob Niedermayer have since accomplished the feat. Just playing in a 1,000 games puts a player in a pretty elite club, if you even try to think of how many men have played in the history of the NHL then realize only 279 men are in that club it makes it truly a remarkable milestone in any players career. To have a player accomplish the milestone along with his brother makes it even more remarkable, more brothers will achieve their dreams of playing in the NHL and chances are that another set will hit that milestone, Goff and Russ Courtnall will always be the first.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

February 9, 1976: Negro Leaguer Oscar Charleston is selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame

On February 9, 1976, a special committee on Negro League Baseball selected Oscar Charleston to be enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Charleston is considered to be one of the best hitters in the history of the Negro Leagues. Buck O'Neil once said Charleston was Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Tris Speaker all rolled into one.  Described as a barrel chested, left handed hitter, who could hit for both power and average. His blazing speed not only made him one of the best defensive players of his time it also made him a constant threat to steal a base.

In 1912, Charleston joined the U.S. Army, he was only 15 years old. While serving in the Philippines, Charleston honed his baseball skills as the only African American player in the Manila league. After he was discharged Charleston joined the Indianapolis ABC's, a team that Charleston served as a bat boy for, in his youth. Charleston was considered a milder mannered person, he did not drink or smoke, but when he stepped on the baseball field he was one of the fiercest competitors to ever play the game. His temper was almost as famous as his play. He was suspended for fighting with a white umpire his rookie season, he had an incident where he yanked the hood of a member of the Ku Klux Klan who was taunting him after a game, and he took on an entire group of Cuban Soldiers after a game in Cuba. The fiery player had his moments with his temper but his aggression was best used in the batters box.

His career was scattered between ten teams. Everywhere he went he knocked the cover off the ball, while showing off his defensive skills in the outfield. Throughout his entire career Charleston was often a player/manager. As Father Time caught up with him he lost the speed it took to play center field and moved to first base. The one thing he didn't lose was the ability to kill the baseball. In 1932, Charleston took on the player/manager role with the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Featuring future Hall of Famers Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, and Judy Johnson, the Crawfords might have been the best Negro League squad ever assembled. Many of  Charleston's peers considered him the best they had ever seen, he could do it all.

His career was remarkable. His playing days ended in 1941, however he was involved in the sport of baseball until he passed away in 1954. With Charleston being recognized in Hall of Fame he will forever be remembered.  Like many of the great Negro League players the information regarding Charleston is scarce, it is unfortunate. While accurate information is hard to come by there is one thing that I know to be accurate, he was one of the best and he has a plaque in Cooperstown because of it. I often think about how great it would have been to see some of the men from the past perform in their prime, you can just look at Charleston's numbers and know it would have been fun to watch him play.

His numbers tell the best story:

A video that tells about the life and times of Oscar Charleston:

Mark Chiarello painted the last picture you can check out more of his work here: