Friday, February 28, 2014

February 28, 1960: The Original Miracle On Ice

     On February 28, 1960, down 4-3 headed into the third period of the Gold Medal contest against Czechoslovakia the United States hockey team exploded for six goals on the way to a 9-4 victory in Squaw Valley California. This was the first ever Gold Medal for the United States in hockey and is often referred to as the "Forgotten Miracle."

     The day before it took everything that the United States had to topple the Soviet Union squad 3-2. Solly" Sologubov stopped by the American locker room and told the team to try using oxygen to offset the mile-high air of Squaw Valley. The Russian captain had to do quite a bit of convincing before the United States team captain Jack Kirrane looked at Solly and said "Okay Solly bring it in." The Russian then proceeded to roll a cart with a tank into the room, and with the exception of Bill Cleary each of the American took a few breaths of oxygen before they went out and destroyed their opponent.
Coming off such a victory had the Americans searching for that extra gear it would take to win the top prize. They skated to a 3-3 tie after one period, then fell behind 4-3 after two. While in sitting with their heads down in the locker room the captain of the Soviet squad Nikolai "

    A 24-year-old carpenter from Warroad, Minnesota by the name of Roger Christian was the biggest star of the third period as he three of his four goals in that final frame. 5 minutes and 59 seconds into the third period Christain sent a 20 foot shot past the Czech netminder to tie it, then at the 7:40 mark Bob Clearly put the Americans in front 5-4 as he cleaned up a rebound. At the 11:01 mark a penalty was called against Czechoslovakia which led to three goals in a 67 second span. Those goals were scored by Bob Cleary, Christian, and Bob's brother Bill. Weldon Olson picked up the last goal for the Americans as the Czechoslovakian's sat stunned by the offensive outburst. While we all celebrate the Miracle on Ice in 1980 this game was a miracle comeback in itself. It would take 20 years for the United States to reach the top of that mountain again. With the 1980 victory being well publicized it is one that is sure to never be forgotten. With coverage being much different two decades earlier the 1960 United States hockey team never has gotten the recognition that is deserved. Today they do.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

February 27, 1977: Stan Mikita Joins The 500 Club

     On February 27, 1977, Chicago Blackhawks legend Stan Mikita became the eighth player in NHL history to record 500 goals in his career. Unfortunately, his Hawks fell to the Vancouver Canucks on home ice, however, the milestone was still celebrated by Mikita, his teammates, and everyone in attendance. The historic goal came during the third period when he fired the puck past Vancouver netminder Cesare Maniago. Mikita lit the lamp 41 more times before his Hall of Fame career came to an end.

     With many historic milestones in sports we often hear that the player feels that the weight of the world is on his shoulders. Stan Mikita felt the same way. Once he reached 499 he knew that everyone from his teammates to the fans were waiting for him to score his 500th. The day he scored the historic marker he arrived early, took a nap, and watched a little bit of golf on tv. He was simply trying to work with a clear head and it would prove to be an effective way to go about things.

     Once the game was underway the fans in the stands cheered each and every time the puck would touch Mikita's stick as they anticipated the history making moment. They waited and waited and with time winding down it seemed like they might have to wait for history to be made on another night. Then it came. He lit the lamp just six minutes and four seconds to go in the contest, and the wait had come to an end. While the Canucks held the Hawks at bay and won the game, a weight had been lifted and Mikita was happy that he was able to score his 500th goal in front of his hometown fans.

     Along with his 541 goals Mikita had 926 assists to bring his points total to 1,467. Regarded as one of the best centers of his time, Mikita led the league in scoring four times, won two MVP awards, appeared in nine all star games, and etched his name on Lord Stanley's Cup once. Forever a legend, Mikita was inducted into Hockey's Hall of Fame in 1983.

You can watch Mikita score his 500th here:

If you would like to read more about the life and times of Stan Mikita check this out:

You can also view his career numbers along with a list of accomplishments here:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February 26, 1935: The Yankees Release Babe Ruth

     On February 26, 1935, the New York Yankees released Babe Ruth. On the same day the legendary slugger signed a one-year contract with the Boston Braves. It marked the end of a baseball era in New York where Ruth had forged a career that would reach almost mythical proportions. The 40-year-old Ruth, who had been sold to the Yankees from the Boston Red Sox in 1920, finished his American League career with 708 home runs, 659 of those came wearing the Yankees pinstripes. Over his 15 years in New York he helped lead to seven A.L. pennants and 4 World Series titles. He would play just 28 games with the Braves before a dispute with the president of the club Emil Fuchs led to retirement. With a stroke of a pen one of the finest eras in the history of baseball came to an end.

     His signing with the Braves came with stock options, a vice president title, as well as the assistant manager title. Managing was something Ruth yearned for and the Braves skipper Bill McKechnie was a man who he held great admiration for. However, things did not work out the way he had expected. The initial deal called for 3 years. Excited for the chance to extend his career in the town where it all began, Ruth declared that he would play in at least 100 games with the club and his expectations were high. He acknowledged that the National League had great pitching with names like Dean and Hubbell, but was ready for the challenge. He came into it thinking he could play at least two years and had high hope for a third as well.

     Unfortunately, things went south before the regular season even began. The Braves had drawn record crowds during Spring Training and Ruth expected a portion of the gate receipts; Fuchs thought otherwise. Once the season was underway Ruth struggled at the plate, was a bit dinged up, and was simply not reaching expectations. This coupled with the tension between the club owner led to him leaving the sport that made him a household name. Although, Ruth stated that the straw that broke the camel's back was when Fuchs refused his request to go watch the French Ocean Liner Normandie come into port in New York. At the time Ruth was nursing a sore knee and saw no reason why that the club president would refuse his request. Saying that he felt as if Fuchs had double crossed him he quit. He was given an unconditional release following his announcement, but no other major league club expressed interest in him as either a player or a manager. It was not a storybook ending for the man who had given his life to the game.

     It might not have been the storybook ending, but the story that came before it is what counts the most. That story is one that most men can only dream of. Babe Ruth lived it. During that story Ruth led the league in home runs 12 times, RBI's 6 times, took home the batting title in '24. and  was a World Series Champion seven times. As a pitcher he had recorded a 94-46 record; only 5 of those wins came in a Yankees uniform. In 1916 he recorded nine shutouts which tied an A.L. record. Once he moved on to New York he focused on his abilities as a slugger and by doing so he became one of the finest sluggers to ever play the game. An inaugural member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Ruth will forever be remembered as not only one of its greatest players, but as someone who helped transform the game into America's National Pastime.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February 25, 1964: Cassius Clay Defeats Sonny Liston

     On February  25, 1964, a brash young fighter by the name of Cassius Clay surprised the world by beating Sonny Liston with a technical knockout in Miami Beach, Florida. Liston came into the bout a 7 to 1 favorite, but the 22-year-old Olympic Gold Medalist came into it with a confidence that could be matched by no other. In the weeks leading up to the fight Ali proclaimed that he would float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. He did exactly that. He danced around Liston and landed punch after punch on his way to becoming the World Heavyweight Champion.

    There was a reason that Liston was considered a clear-cut favorite. He was an ex-convict who struck fear in those who faced him with a devastating left-jab and a stare that would frighten his opponent before a punch was thrown. Whoever chose to challenge Liston would usually end up face down on the canvas as the referee counted him out. Liston had taken the title from Patterson in 1962. Patterson attempted to regain the crown in '63, but Patterson was no match for him as he took him out with a first round TKO. Next man up... Cassius Clay

     Being just 22-years-old nobody knew that Clay would become one of, if not the greatest boxer of all-time. Liston's reputation preceded him while Clay was just beginning to build his reputation. His reputation would build quickly as he was very vocal in believing he could beat Liston. Clay even proclaimed he would knock the champ out in eight rounds, then even had a bus painted with the proclamation down the side. Clay taunted his opponent with insults and would continue to do so until the bell rang on the day of the fight.

     When the fight finally began, Clay proved he was more than just a young kid running his mouth. He danced around and unleashed a fury of punches that would lead to victory. Liston never did any damage to his opponent while the punches that Clay landed did evident damage as Liston had a cut under his left eye as well as a cut on the cheek. Before the fourth round a desperate Liston had one of his cornermen rub a compound on his gloves. Liston then was able to get the compound in the eyes of Clay, which caused his eyes to burn and his vision to blur. In turn, Liston was able to unleash his own bit of punishment, but Clay was able to hold him off until the bell rang on the kid. After the round Clay's trainer Angelo Dundee was able help clear things up by sponging his eyes out before Clay when back to work. When he did get back to work he held his own until Liston claimed that he had suffered a shoulder injury. He said the injury happened in the first round and it progressively got worse as the fight continued. After the sixth round was complete, Liston refused to come back out of his corner. The injury was too much for Liston to handle and Clay was the champ.

     After the fight a jubilant Clay said "You guys wouldn't believe in me but I meant it all along when I said Liston will go down in eight and I will prove I'm great. Now I'm the greatest." A defiant Liston said "He doesn't belong in the same ring with me. He beat me because I was hurt and Clay didn't do the hurting. I did it myself so I can't blame him. But next time around, I'll get him for sure." Liston was wrong. When they met again a little over a year later the boxer who had began calling himself Muhammad Ali would beat Liston again. He was the greatest.

Watch the fight in its entirety here:

Monday, February 24, 2014

February 24, 1978: Kevin Porter Breaks The NBA Assists Record

     On February 24, 1978, Nets guard Kevin Porter dished out an NBA record 29 assists in a 126-112 win over the Houston Rockets in front of a home crowd in New Jersey. Porter's 29 assist performance bested Bob Cousy's mark of 28 assists in a game that had been set in 1959. Guy Rodgers tied Cousy's record in 1963, then would have to wait 15 years to see the day the record would fall. Porter's record stood for more than a dozen years before Scott Skiles of the Orlando Magic surpassed it with 30 assists in a game in 1990.

     Porter learned that it is just as good to give as it is to receive while he marched his way into the record books. Most of the assists went to teammates John Williamson and Bernard King, who scored 39 and 35 points in the victory. With the game well at hand, Porter's 29th assist came with just 33 seconds left in the game when he found Howard Porter who hit a jumper to help the playmaker reach the mark. Porter also contributed 14 points in the game. Porter's 29 assists were more than the entire Rockets team combined as they had 18 total assists on the night.

    After being drafted by the Washington Bullets in 1972, Porter developed into one of the best passers in the game. He helped the Bullets reach the Finals in '75, but fell to the Golden State Warriors in a four-game sweep. Following the Finals loss Porter was shipped to Detroit via trade. His time in Detroit was tumultuous, he played well, but injury limited him to a backup role. Midway through his second season with the Pistons  he was traded to the Nets, there he would rise back to the top of his game. He spent just one year with the Nets before returning to Detroit as a free agent. His second go around in the Motor City was much better than his first. Although, it was a one year stint as well, for Porter. In that one year he led the league in assists while having the best year of his career statiscally. When it was all said and done Porter led the league in assists four times ('75,'78,'79,'81), he finished his NBA career where it began in Washington. Porter knocked down 7,345 points and dished out 5,314 assists. He is a great example of how each man on a team is valuable. The man who sets a play up is just as valuable as the man who finishes the play off.

You can check out Porter's career numbers here:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

February 23, 1960: The Wrecking Ball Swings At Ebbets Field

     On February 23, 1960, an end of a baseball era began as a wrecking ball began the deconstruction of Ebbets Field, the famed home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The ballpark had been empty since the Dodgers headed to L.A. after the '57 season and after realizing no other major league clubs were interested in moving to Brooklyn, plans were made to develop the site into a $22 million housing complex. In the eyes of many, the ballpark was an old friend that they hated to see go. A small crowd of Dodger faithful were joined by former catcher Roy Campanella who had caught the last game at the ole ballpark on September 24, 1957. Campanella who had been confined to a wheelchair after a car accident two years earlier was joined by a 70-year-old Otto Miller who had caught the first game for the club at Ebbets on April 9, 1913. After a short ceremony in which Campanella took dirt from behind home plate, a wrecking ball that was painted like a baseball began to swing. The baseball cathedral was coming down.

     The Dodgers time in Brooklyn was like a love affair between the team and the fans. They had suffered through many lean years then would rise to the top of the National League. From 1941 to 1953 "Those Bums" from Brooklyn took on the moniker "wait til next year" as they could not seemed to win the World Series. That all changed in '55 as they brought the glory of a title to the fans that had loved them through it all.

     Men like Zack Wheat, Dazzy Vance, Babe Herman, Max Carey, Dixie Walker , Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, along with a multitude of other players played ball in the ballpark that the Dodgers called home for 44 years. Memories were made, hearts were broken, and thousands upon thousands of fans found great joy as they watched the Dodgers play ball there. In many of the newspapers of the day, the articles about the demolition read much like an obituary of an old friend. In the eyes of many, the ballpark was an old friend that they hated to see go. It took 10 weeks for the demolition to be completed. At the end of those 10 weeks, the place that had celebrated 9 National League Pennants and a World Series title was gone, but the stories from that old ballpark would be told for generations to come.

While doing some research about Ebbets Field I ran across this article in the Nevada Daily Mail  it was published on September 25, 1987. It's a great piece that reflects on Ebbets Field with a lot of great quotes from the legendary Vin Scully. Take a look at it here:

Here is a great video about the ballpark from yesteryear.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

February 22, 1959: Lee Petty Wins The First Ever Daytona 500 With A Photo Finish

     On February 22, 1959, the inaugural Daytona 500 was held. More than 40,000 packed the stands to witness the historic event that would eventually become one of the grandest racing events in all of motorsports. Those 40,000 souls witnessed a classic photo finish. When they left the track each of them thought that Johnny Beauchamp had driven his '59 T-Bird to victory. Then came a stunning development. A photographer stepped out of the woodwork and said that he had a photo that might prove Lee Petty's Oldsmobile crossed the line before Beauchamp and his Ford. The inaugural event kicked off with instant controversy that would take three days to sort out. After those three days, Lee Petty was determined to be the winner.

     Once the photo came to the attention of Bill France the head of NASCAR,  he immediately contacted Andy Anderson who recorded the event. After reviewing the film France and company felt the footage was inconclusive and name Beauchamp the unofficial champion. In the meantime, France put out a call for any amateur photographers that might have taken a photo that would help them come to a conclusion. Both drivers proclaimed they had won it while they waited for the official winner to be named. The difference between first and second was a big one. The first place prize $17,900 while second took home just $6,900. By today's standards that would be the difference between $144,000 and $55,000. You could bet your ass that they each were hoping for the top prize. After viewing a national newsreel, along with some more photos that came to the attention of France the original decision was overturned. Lee Petty was the victor.

     One helluva way to kick off what has become one of the biggest events in the world of motorsports. 55 years later another driver hopes to add his name to the list that starts with the name Lee Petty. Check out the list here:

Friday, February 21, 2014

February 21, 1952: Dick Button Grabs The Gold

     On February 21, 1952, American figure skater and Harvard senior Dick Button landed the first ever triple-loop in Olympic competition on his way to winning the Gold Medal in Oslo, Norway. This was the second Gold for Button who also took home the top-prize in the '48 games that were held in St. Moritz, Switzerland. In those games he landed the first ever double axel as he revolutionized the sport.

     A crowd of 5,000 witnessed the historic performance. Much like in '48 when he pulled off the double axel, Button stunned the crowd with a confidence to achieve what no man had ever accomplished before. From beginning to end the performance by Button was flawless, throughout his routine the crowd cheered, but the moment that brought about the greatest cheers was the perfectly executed triple loop to bring the program to a close.

     Button would go onto have a successful career behind the mic announcing other figure skating competitions. As mentioned before, he revolutionized his sport as he ventured into new ground which essentially raised the bar for all that followed him. Button was the first to do many things in the sport of figure skating. Along with being the first to land the double axel and triple loop, he was the first American to win Gold in the sport of figure skating. He won his first Gold Medal at the age of 18, and to this day he is the youngest skater to win the title. He is also the only American to ever win the European title and he was the first American to win a world title. At one time Button held the National, North American, European, and World titles, he is the only figure skater in history to hold each of those titles at the same time, Button is the only American to win back-to-back Gold Medals in the sport of figure skating and helped bring the sport to the forefront on his native soil. Button was a true pioneer who changed the sport he came to know and love, while doing so he became an Olympic hero that will be remembered as long as the games are played.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

February 20, 1976: Ali Knocks Out Coopman For His 50th Win

     On February 20, 1976, in front of a sellout crowd at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan Puerto Rico, Muhammad Ali won the 50th fight of his career, with a 5th round knockout of Belgian born fighter Jean-Pierre Coopman.

     The fight was a one-sided affair as Ali dominated Coopman from start to finish. Ali came into the contest weighing in at 226; 20 pounds heavier than his opponent.  That along with a speed advantage proved to be too much for Coopman. The Belgian threw plenty of punches, but only connected with a few, and those punches he landed were ineffective. All the while, Ali stood flat-footed and opened up with a flurry of punches when he felt the urge. It was a David and Goliath fight, and David forgot to bring his slingshot.

     Late in the fifth Ali finished toying with his opponent and landed a vicious uppercut that knocked Coopman out cold. After the referee was done counting him out the champ helped drag his dazed opponent to his corner. The Sports Illustrated cover that featured the two fighters came with a cover caption "The Champ Tames His Lion" this was in reference to Coopman's nickname "The Lion of Flanders." The fight was hardly comparable to taming a lion for Ali. It would have been more comparable to taming a kitten for the man who is widely considered the greatest of all time.
Watch the fight here:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

February 19, 1989: Darrell Waltrip Wins The Daytona 500

     On February 19, 1989, running on fumes, Darrell Waltrip drove his Tide sponsored Chevy Monte Carlo to victory lane at the Daytona 500. With other drivers falling out of contention behind him as they were forced to stop for gas, Waltrip rolled the dice and held on to the win that had evaded him for 17 years.

     With four laps to go, Waltrip took over first when the race leader Alan Kulwicki cut a tire. Kulwicki later speculated that he doubt his car would have made it with what little fuel it was living on. Ken Schrader, who had sat in the pole position at the beginning of the day, paired up with Dale Earnhardt and made a hard charge at Waltrip. Both Schrader and Earnhardt decided to stop for a splash of gas, which put Waltrip in a precarious position. His Crew Chief Jeff Hammond advised he pit as well; Waltrip wasn't hearing it. This was his chance at a victory he had only dreamed of. The gamble paid off big the moment his fuel starved car crossed the finish line in first place.

     When Waltrip got out of his car in victory lane he grabbed the reporter and screamed "I won the Daytona 500!!! I won the Daytona 500!!!" Then jokingly asked "This is the Daytona 500 isn't it? I'm not dreaming am I?" He wasn't dreaming. He had finally won the big race. The announcers and drivers alike were anxious to see if any "modifications" had been made to the gas tank. The car passed inspection with flying colors and when the inspector was asked how much fuel was left in the tank he said "For five dollars I'd drink it." Waltrip simply left it all out there literally and figuratively and for that he took home one of most coveted prizes in NASCAR.

Watch the finish here:
Victory Lane:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

February 18, 1994: Dan Jansen Captures The Elusive Gold Medal

     On February 18, 1994, years of frustration and heartache came to an end when American speed skater Dan Jansen took the Gold Medal in the 1,000 meter event at the Olympic Games in Norway. Jansen had found great success on the international stage, but when it came to the Olympics hijinx and tragedy would lead to great disappointment. That all changed in 1994 as he broke through to win the Gold in a record setting fashion. Jansen dedicated the Gold Medal effort to his sister who had passed away in 1988 after battling leukemia. His story is one that is full of triumph and tragedy that won over the hearts of many as they watched in him prevail in those '94 games.

     At the '84 games in Sarajevo, he missed out on a Bronze medal by .16 of a second. It was disappointing, but nowhere near the tragedy he and his family had to endure in '88. Jansen was in Calgary with hopes of a medal in his mind once again. In the early hours of the morning he received a phone call from his brother in Wisconsin telling him that his 27-year-old sister Jane was losing her fight with leukemia. Three hours after that phone call he found out her fight had ended. A distraught Jansen did everything in his power to focus on the race, but just couldn't do it. Paired inside Japan's Yasushi Kuroiwa, Jansen false started once, then got a bad jump out of the gate. He was able to overtake his competitor in the front stretch, but lost his footing in the first turn, fell to the ice, then crashed into the padding. As Jansen fell his competitor tried to avoid him, but was unable to do so and crashed as well. Four days later, Jansen fell again during the 1,000 meter event. Jansen left those games with a heavy heart as he headed home to bury his sister. At the '92 games in Spain, Jansen came up short once again. He botched a turn in the 500 and came in fourth, then finished 26th in the 1000 meter.
     Jansen came into the '94 games hoping to change his fortune. Things didn't go his way in the 500 meter as he slipped during the competition and came in a disappointing eighth place. When the 1,000 meter event came up four days later, Jansen knew this was his last chance at winning a medal. He left it all on the table, and skated the race of a lifetime. With  a great start out of the gate he led by six-tenths of a second at the 600 meter mark. With the crowd cheering him on, Jansen continued on his path to Gold. The crowd gasped as he swayed a bit going into the second to last turn, then struggled through the last turn. But his stride kept him in front and he crossed the line .58 seconds better than his competitor. With tears of joy streaming down his face, Jansen skated a victory lap with his one-year-old daughter Jane. He had been through a valley, and he had climbed a mountain. Dan Jansen became an Olympic hero, and it went well beyond what he did as a sportsman. He showed that there are times in life that we will get knocked down, and in those times the only thing we can do is get back up. I believe one of the most important lessons in life is to not let things defeat you. The resilience that Dan Jansen showed is something that lies within all of us. It is something to remember when life might be knocking you down. Get back up. You will succeed.

This is a great video from the team USA Youtube channel. It is titled: Gold Medal Moments: Dan Jansen -- Heartbreak: 

Monday, February 17, 2014

February 17, 1941: Joe Louis Rings Gus Dorazio's Bell

     On February 17, 1941, with 15,903 on hand at Convention Hall in Philadelphia, the Brown Bomber Joe Louis successfully defended his title for a 14th consecutive time with a 2nd round knockout of Gus Dorazio.

     In the weeks leading up to the fight, Dorazio claimed that he was confident that he could take down the boxer that no one else could seem to beat. He was wrong. Although, he did look like a formidable contender as he bobbed and weaved his way though the first round while landing a couple of blows to Louis' stomach. An overconfident Dorazio came to his corner between the rounds and told his trainer Jimmy Wilson "This guy ain't so tough. He's a sucker for a hook. I'm going out and stiffen him." The trainer tried to reel his fighter back in a bit, and advised that he stay down for a few rounds to see how things go. "But then the bell rang" explained Wilson later. "When I saw Gus stand erect, I knew it was over." And right he was.

     In the second round Dorazio attempted to come out of his crouch and land a left hook. Louis countered with a solid left of his own to the face of his competitor. In what was a brief moment of stunned indecision Dorazio stood erect, and Louis landed the punch that ended the fight. It was a lethal right that didn't travel more than six inches, but it did catch Dorazio right on the chin, and sent him falling face first into the canvas. That punch that sent Dorazio sprawling across the canvas came 1 minute and 30 seconds into the second round. It had him so dazed that when he was sitting in his dressing room he kept mumbling "they shouldn't have stopped the fight" as if he didn't even realize that he had been knocked out. When Louis was asked about Dorazio's effort he said "at least he tried."

      Dorazio was one of a long list of victims that joined the Bum of the Month Club. It was a club that was reserved for whichever bum attempted to beat the champ. From January of '39 to May of '41, Louis successfully defended his title 13 times. No boxer since the bare-knuckle era had defended his title as frequently as Louis had which earned his competitors the nickname Bum of the Month. He was simply an unstoppable force.

If you would like to read more about the Bum of the Month Club take a look at this:


Sunday, February 16, 2014

February 16, 1992: Michel Goulet Joins The 500 Club

     On February 16, 1992, Chicago Blackhawks winger Michel Goulet became the 17th player in NHl history to score 500 goals in his career. The historic goal came on a breakaway during the first period of a 5-5 tie against the Calgary Flames on his home ice in Chicago. Goulet finished his career with 548 goals and scored more than a 1,000 points as he forged a career that would end with a Hall of Fame induction. To date, only 42 players have scored 500 goals wearing an NHL sweater.

     Dirk Graham got the scoring started for the Hawks with a powerplay goal just two minutes and fifteen seconds into the game. Calgary defenseman Frantisek Musil evened things up with a little more than three minutes to go in the period. Minutes later Goulet made history. His goal came with 37 seconds left in the frame and it was a thing of beauty, he took a quick pass from Steve Larmer, then found nothin but open ice in front of him. The only man he had to beat was the Calgary netminder Jeff Reese. Goulet faked him out of his pads, and fired the puck right past him. It was a memorable moment not just for his teammates, but for all 18,472 in attendance as well; they had just a truly historic moment.

     In the second period Calgary lit the lamp three times and Chicago was only able tally one in the frame. The Hawks trailed 4-3 going into the third. Three minutes and four seconds into the period Tony Horacek scored an equalizer for the Hawks, four minutes later Bryan Marchment put them in front with a goal that was setup by Horacek and Jeremy Roenick. It looked like the Hawks were going to hold onto win the contest 5-4, then watched it slip away with just one minute and twelve seconds to go in regulation as Calgary winger Gary Roberts fired one past Ed Belfour. After each goalie held their own in the overtime period each team would have to settle for a tie. It was a hard fought battle that would be remembered most for Goulet's historic goal.

     The Hall of Fame career of Michel Goulet began with the Quebec Nordiques when he was a 19-year-old kid. He lit the lamp 32 times in his rookie season, and would quickly prove to be one of the best young stars in the league. Goulet scored 50 goals during '82-'83 campaign, which would be the first of four consecutive seasons with 50 goals. With the Nordiques in a rebuild mode after a more than disappointing '89-'90 season Goulet was shipped to Chicago where he continued his march toward the Hall of Fame. He helped them reach the Stanley Cup Finals in 1992, but fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

     In March of '94, the Hawks were playing the Canadiens in Montreal. Goulet was seriously injured in what looked like a routine play. He fell against the boards, hitting his head, which resulted in a severe concussion. It would ultimately end the career of the 33-year-old. It was a moment in which suddenly the game meant nothing, as he was hauled from the ice on a stretcher. He had to go through a painstaking process of recovery before taking his doctor's advice to retire from the game. The five time All Star, spent 15 years on the ice and had many great moments. He never did win The Cup as a player, but was a part of two Stanley Cup Championship teams as a member of the front office of Colorado Avalanche in 1996 and 2001. One of his greatest moments was that night he scored his 500th goal. In The Legends of Hockey video that will be posted below, Goulet reflects on how similar it was to one of his childhood heroes 500th goal. That hero was Jean Beliveau, and when you watch each of the men score their 500th you will see what he was talking about. He called that night "something special," it truly was something special.

Watch Goulet's historic goal here:

And, here is the link to the Legends of Hockey - Michel Goulet video:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

February 15, 1974: Phil Esposito Scores His 1,000th point

     On February 15, 1974, in a 4-2 victory over the Canucks in Vancouver, Phil Esposito of the Boston Bruins recorded his 1,000th career point. Esposito was the tenth player in the history of the league to reach 1,000 points. The 31-year-old Esposito reached the milestone quicker than anyone before him. It came in his 749th game, which had bested Bobby Hull's mark of 909 games to 1,000 points, today that distinction belongs to Wayne Gretzky who reached 1,000 in 424 games. Esposito would score 590 more points before he hung up his skates, and currently sits tenth on the list of all time scorers in NHL history.

     Esposito's historic 1,000th point came in the first period when he dished a pass off to Johnny Bucyk who sent the puck flying past Vancouver's goalie. Esposito and company were helped out by two more Garry Sheppard goals to seal the victory. An elated Esposito boasted that he would be mounting the puck in his rec room at home. He would finish the season with 68 goals and 145 points, both totals led the league.

     The Hall of Fame career of Phil Esposito spanned 18 seasons, it included 2 Stanley Cup Championships, 10 All Star game appearances, and 5 scoring titles. The list of accomplishments go on and on which is why he is considered a legend of the game. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984, insuring that generations to come will know the name Phil Esposito.

Check out Esposito's career numbers and accomplishments here:


Friday, February 14, 2014

February 14, 1988: Bobby Allison Outduels His Son At Daytona

     On February 14, 1988, Bobby Allison took the checkered flag in dramatic fashion at the Daytona 500, as he held off his son Davey who made a late charge at the top prize. The 50-year-old Allison became the oldest driver to win a 500 mile race, and is still the oldest driver to win that event. It was the first time since 1960 that a father-son duo finished 1-2, the last time that had been accomplished was at the Heidelburg Raceway when Lee Petty held off his son Richard for a victory.

     Allison had won the Busch Grand National race one day earlier, and before that he had taken the checkered flag in his 125-mile qualifier. He then capped it off with  a victory that will go down in NASCAR history. The race had 7 cautions, the lead changed hands 26 times among 12 drivers. Bobby Allison drove his Buick Regal into the lead by passing Darrell Waltrip with 18 laps to go then kept the hammer down until the checkered flag waved. His son Davey did everything he could to pass his father, most notably was an attempt to pass him on the final turn on the final lap, his dad still beat him by 2 1/2 car lengths. After the checker flag waved, Bobby jumped on the radio and acknowledged that his old man's car was just too strong. It was the third time that Bobby celebrated in victory lane following the Daytona 500, Davey would have to wait until 1992 to have his own party in victory lane after the famous race.

     The '88 Daytona 500 marked the first time that a restrictor plate would be introduced for safety reasons. Because of the restrictor plate Bobby Allison averaged 137.531 miles per hour, at the time it was the third slowest average in Daytona 500 history. Another reason why his average was held back was 7 caution flag flew, which included a violent wreck that involved The King Richard Petty. It happened on the 106th lap when Phil Barkdoll made contact with him. After skidding out of control, Petty's car went airborne and flipped seven times before coming to a rest. Petty was taken to a hospital for observation then released.

     Later in that 1988 season, Bobby suffered massive head injuries after wrecking his car at Pocono. The injuries would lead to memory loss and ended his career behind the wheel. In '92 his son Clifford was killed while practicing at Michigan, then in '93 he lost Davey in a helicopter crash at the Talladega Superspeedway. Just last year The Sporting News published an article that was about Allison's struggle to remember the race. Quite frankly, it's heartbreaking. While the career of Bobby Allison did not have a storybook ending, it is a career to be admired. He won 84 races, took the pole position 58 times, and finished in the top ten 446 times. The win at Daytona was the final win of his career. The picture of him celebrating with his son is a powerful one, as it shows the pure the joy and jubilation each of them had during that moment in the sun.

You can read the aforementioned article here:

You can watch the finish here:
You can also watch the Petty crash here:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

February 13, 1994: Tommy Moe Takes The Gold

     On February 13, 1994, American skier Tommy Moe took the Gold medal in the men's downhill in Lillehammer, Norway. It gave the U.S. their first Olympic medal in alpine skiing since the '84 games. 5 days later Moe celebrated his 24th birthday by winning the silver medal in the Super G a.k.a the Super Giant Slalom, making him the first American male skier to win two medals in a single winter Olympics.

     Moe was said to had skied the downhill event of a lifetime as he beat out the local favorite, Norwegian, Kjetil Andre Aamodt by just four one hundredths of a second, which made it the closest race in Olympic history. Moe, who called Alaska home at the time, said "I can't believe I skied that well." just moments before shaking the hand of Hillary Clinton. Moe was the newest American hero.

     Moe's girlfriend and future wife Meghan Gerety learned of the victory while she was practicing for her own event. The night before she offered these words of encouragement "Just go out there and ski the way you want to. Don't put pressure on yourself." He most definitely skied the way he wanted to. There were 40,000+ on hand to watch the event. The majority of those 40,000 were hoping to see Aamodt secure the victory. When Moe hit the first intermediate he was two-tenths of a  second slower than Aamodt's time. Moe found an extra gear and attacked every turn with strength and precision as he caught up with his competitor's. The cheers of the crowd  turned to a murmur as they were stunned when Moe surpassed the Norwegian's time, then flew across the finish line in first place. 47 more challengers attempted to beat Moe's time, but none could top the Gold Medal effort.

Watch Moe take the Gold:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

February 12, 1937: The Cleveland Rams Join The NFL

     On February 12, 1937, it was announced that the Cleveland Rams would be leaving the American Football League to join the NFL. One year later they would take the place of the St. Louis Gunners in the Western division. The Rams stint in Cleveland was short. After the Championship season of 1945, the team packed its bags and headed for Los Angeles. The team resided in L. A. for 48 years before shifting to St. Louis in 1995.

     This was not the same AFL that merged with the NFL in the late 60's. The AFL the Rams were originally a part of, was a league that lasted just two seasons, before giving way to the league that has proved to have true staying power as time has progressed. Cities such as Boston, Minneapolis, and Buffalo all had hopes of being the newest addition to the NFL, but the financial stability that the owner of the Rams, Howard Marshman brought to the table won out in the end.

     It was not an easy transition for the franchise to make. Between 1937 and 1942, their best finish was third place, and even then their record was below .500, as they went 5-6 in '42. World War II nearly spelled the end of the franchise. The entire '43 season was scrapped because of a player shortage as many of the young men chose to serve their country, rather than play a game. but came back the next season. The Rams were back on the field in '44, then finally saw a complete turnaround in '45 with the emergence of a rookie quarterback that was destined for the Hall of Fame. That quarterback was Bob Waterfield, he led them to a 9-1 record before winning the NFL Championship game 15-16 over the Washington Redskins. That title was secured by an early safety. Less than a month after winning the title, the then owner of the Rams, Dan Reeves, announced that they were headed west. It must have been a bittersweet time in Cleveland to watch the team go, after they had finally achieved great success.

You can read about the 1945 title game here:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

February 11, 1971: Jean Beliveau Reaches The 500 Goal Plateau

     On February 11, 1971, Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau recorded the 500th goal of his career in a 6-2 thrashing of the Minnesota North Stars. Beliveau came into the contest just three goals away from reaching the magic number and he wasted no time getting there. Beliveau scored two goals in the first and added a hat trick to the story with a goal at the 6 minute and 42 second mark in the third. Beliveau was just the fourth player the NHL history to reach the 500 goal plateau.

     The 39-year-old came into the contest knowing he was on the brink of 500, but said he hardly thought about it until he scored his second goal of the night.  The third goal and the 500th of his career was assisted by rookie right winger Phil Roberto and veteran Frank Mahovlich. Roberto, just 21 years of age, had grown up watching Mahovlich and Beliveau play. After acknowledging they were heroes of his he said  "I'd never dream I would get to play on a line with them. And, as for assisting on Jean's 500th goal, it's just too much. It's terrific."  Grinning from ear-to-ear, a happy Beliveau posed with his stick and held up the puck, before being presented with a Canadiens jersey that had the #500 across the back.

     This would be the last season in the career of Jean Beliveau. He spent 18 years on the ice, all in a Canadiens uniform. During those 18 years, he played in 1,125 games, his name was etched on the Stanley Cup 10 times, scored a total of 507 goals, along with 712 assists to bring his point total to 1,219. He led the league in scoring in '56, that same year he took home the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP, it was an award he would win again in 1964.  Just one year after his career came to a close Beliveau was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Monday, February 10, 2014

February 10, 1949: Jumping Joe Fulks Scores a Record Setting 63

     On February 10, 1949, in front of a home crowd in Philadelphia, Warriors forward "Jumping Joe" Fulks set an NBA record with a 63-point-performance in a 108-87 win over the Indianapolis Jets. The 63-point-effort shattered the previous mark of 49 that had been set by George Mikan of the Minneapolis Lakers in January of that same year. Fulks' record would stand until November 8, 1959 when Elgin Baylor scored 64 for the Minneapolis Lakers. The current record of 100 points in one game was set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962, that is a record that might just stand the test of time.

     Only 1,500 fans witnessed the history making performance. Those fans took home a memory that would
last a lifetime. Fulks nailed 27 of 56 from the floor, then added nine more points with free throws. The newspapers of the day said that Fulks was the only man in the arena that didn't realize he was on a record breaking pace. He knocked down 30 points in the first half which surpassed a record that had been set by Carl Braun of the New York Knickerbockers, then with the crowd yelling "shoot! shoot!! shoot!!!" Fulk knocked down 33 more. Fulks only realized he had broken the record late in the game, when his coach Eddie Gottlieb pulled him to the side and told him to hang back because he was sitting on 59.The 27 field goals was nine better than a record that was shared by Mikan and Braun. It was said that Fulks made goals with every kind of shot. He dropped one-handers and two-handers from the side, underneath and from the outside. When Fulks left the game with one minute to play the Jets players cheered him and their coach Burl Friddle rushed over to shake his hand.

     Jumping Joe played 8 years of professional basketball. He, like many other athletes of the era, served in the military during World War II. Because of the war, his career at the professional level didn't begin until he was 25 years old. Not to mention the BAA (which would become the NBA) was still finding a foothold in the world of sports. While serving he played with a Marines All-Star squad, then when he returned stateside he played with a touring team called the All-Star Leathernecks. He soon caught the attention of the professional syndicate and found a contract in his hands to play with the Warriors. In his eight years as a professional Fulks scored 8,003 points, grabbed 1,379 rebounds, and dished out 587 assists. He is considered an innovator of the game who revolutionized the jump shot. He is recognized as one of the best to ever play the game at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.

If you would like to learn more about the Hall of Fame career of Joe Fulks check this out:

And you can check out his career stats here:

Sunday, February 9, 2014

February 9, 1988: Lemieux Shatters The All Star Points Record

     On February 9, 1988, 22-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins standout, Mario Lemieux led the Wales Conference to a 6-5 All Star game victory over the Campbell Conference, with a 3 goal and 3 assist performance, in front of a packed house at The Arena in St. Louis. The six-point performance is a still standing NHL All Star game record.

     The Campbell conference got the scoring started with a goal from Dale Hawerchuk of the Winnipeg Jets just 3 minutes and 25 seconds into the contest.  New York Rangers right winger Tomas Sandstrom scored the equalizer with a goal that was assisted by Lemieux at the 14: 45 mark, only to watch Wayne Gretzky put the Campbell back in front minutes later.

     In the second Lemieux was busy setting up his teammates as he picked up assists on goals by Mike Gartner and Peter Stastny that gave the Wales squad a 3-2 lead. Then the goal scoring started for Lemieux. His first of the night extended the lead to 4-2, it came 11 minutes and 34 seconds into the second period.  The wraparound shot had the coach of the opposing squad Glen Sather beside himself when he was asked about it later. The coach who normally guided Gretzky's Oilers during the regular season said "There isn't a player in the world who could have scored a goal like that." Luc Robitaille of the L.A. Kings added a goal to the Campbell side of the scoreboard before the end of the frame which simply set up for an exciting finish.

     Denis Savard of the Chicago Blackhawks tied the game a little more than five minutes into the third. Those that were cheering for the Wales side didn't have to wait long to see Lemieux put his team back on top as he notched his second goal of the game at the 8 minutes and 7 second mark. The Wales held the lead until Robitaille struck again with a game-tying goal with just 3 minutes and 32 seconds left in the third. Both goalies fended off what was thrown at them and overtime would have to be the decider.

     Lemieux capped things off with the game winner 1 minute and 8 seconds into the overtime period. It was  a backhander that was setup Mats Naslund of the Montreal Canadiens. Naslund assisted on all three of Lemieux's goals. Naslund also picked up assists on two of the first three goals and had a 5 point night of his own. Lemieux's 6 point night shattered the previous record of four that had been held by Gretzky, Ted Lindsay, Gordie Howe, Pete Mahovlich, Don Maloney, and Ray Bourque. At the end of the night, the young star seemed hardly impressed by his accomplishments. He said "I just got lucky tonight. I was in the right place at the right time Mats Naslund set me up perfectly."  He might have called himself lucky, but he was much more than that, as he established a record, and etched his name in the history books.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

February 8, 1942: Baseball and a Breakout at Folsom Prison

     On February 8, 1942, a group of major league baseball players that included Ernie Lombardi, Gus Suhr, Joe Marty, Johnny Babich, and Ernie Bonham traveled to Folsom Prison for an annual contest against the prison's baseball team. In the seventh inning, with the prison team down 24-5, two inmates decided they were done watching the game and made a break for it. The game was immediately suspended and a manhunt was on.
     The inmates: Elvia E. Mead and Philip Gardner cut a hole through a fence while the game was being played and swam down the American River for nearly three hours before they were caught. Both men were serving life terms. Mead for murder and Gardner for burglary. With the men back behind bars, the day would be remembered for much more than a baseball game.

     As I looked into this, I thought this might have been the last game the prison squad would get to play against the major leaguers. That was not the case. In fact, the following spring the prison squad knocked the major leaguers off 6-4. I was able to find a game between the two squads as late as 1951, and as early as 1913. One thing I found funny while I researched this was an article that was published in the Sporting News in 1943, it was basically an ad for a catcher convict, that had told sheriff's all around to keep their eyes peeled for one and if they found a guy to contact the prison. Some pretty wild stuff.

     In a place where hope and joy would seem hard to come by, a simple game would bring both to the men that had found themselves in prison for a variety of reasons. I'm sure a great deal of those men looked forward to those games more than anything else as a life behind bars would be a bleak thing to have in front of a person. The men who played enjoyed these games and the men who simply sat and watched enjoyed them as well. They played every weekend and on many holidays as well, on each of those days, for a few hours at least, they were simply enjoying the game that is played on the diamond. None of the games that were played will ever have the notoriety that the escape of '42 had, but I would imagine each of them came with a lot of great highlights and smiling faces as they enjoyed a game they loved.

Ladies and Gentleman I now present to you Mr. Johnny Cash:

Friday, February 7, 2014

February 7, 1949: Joltin Joe Gets Paid

     On February 7, 1949, "Joltin Joe" DiMaggio became the first player in the history of the American League to crack six figures when he inked a one year deal with the New York Yankees that would pay him $100,000. The first player to sign for six figures was Hank Greenberg in '47, when he inked a deal with the Pirates that paid him $100,000 The year before the Yankee Clipper had hit .320, parked a league leading 39 balls over the wall, and also led the league with 155 RBI's, while finishing second in the MVP voting. The raise in pay was substantial as DiMaggio had made $65,000 the year before. By today's standards DiMaggio's $100,000 would be worth right around $980,000. While it is a far cry from the baseball contracts we see today, it was a historic moment in the career of DiMaggio and the Yankees organization.

     In an article that was published in the Sporting News in 1949, Joe was asked what was the lowest salary he had ever made, DiMaggio told the reporter that he had once peeled oranges at a citrus farm in California for $3.50 a day. Apparently, Joe only made the $3.50 because he quit after his first day. He would eventually find his way to the diamond. It all began with his brother Vince's team, the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, needing a shortstop. In October of 1932 he found himself on the field with the Seals and a legendary career was about to begin. DiMaggio made a name for himself in San Fran by putting together a 61 game hitting-streak, then leading the Seals to a title win in 1935. An accident jumping off a jitney bus one year earlier nearly sidelined his career altogether, he came away from it with an injured knee, and Yankees offer to buy the young slugger dropped from $100,000 to $50,000. At either price it would have been money well spent, but the Yankees walked away from that one smelling like roses. The first contract that DiMaggio signed with the Yankees was reported to be for  $7,500. By today's standards, it would have been the equivalent to a little more than $125,000, nice little chunk of change for a 21-year-old kid. Good times were on the way. 

     From 1936 to 1942, DiMaggio's became one of the brightest shining stars in all of baseball. In that time he was selected to each All Star game and had helped the Yankees win  five championship titles. Not to mention the 56 game hitting-streak in 1941. The war put his career on hold for 3 seasons, he left for war at the age of 27 and returned at the age of 31. When he did get back on the field he performed at an All Star level once again. He won the league MVP award in '47, in that same year he added another World Series ring to his collection. 

     After the stellar '48 season, DiMaggio was going to be 34-years-old, the team came him with an offer of $75,000, which was a raise of $10,000. Joe turned down the initial offer and would have to meet with the GM a few times before a mutual agreement was reached. If it was looked at from a purely statistical side, DiMaggio did not live up to expectations in '49 as injuries hampered him and even though the Yankees won the World Series, Joe hit just .111 in the Fall Classic. Unfortunately, it was something that he could not avoid. The Yankees brass had faith in him and inked him to another $100,000 deal not only in 1950 but 1950 as well. It came at a time when his career was coming to a close, his best days were behind him, however, he was reaping the rewards of those days that had passed. He had become a larger than life figure that brought the fans to the stands in Yankee Stadium and everywhere else he played as well. The 1951 season proved to be the swan song for Joe as Father Time knocked and he answered. He had made 13 All Star appearances and won 9 World Series titles, along with a long list of other accomplishments that earned him a spot in Cooperstown. According to, DiMaggio made just over $632,000 in his career, today that would equal $7.3 million. Just think, some backup players can make $7 million for one year these days. It's pretty astounding. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

February 6, 1967: Ali Makes Sure Terrell Remembers His Name

     On February 6, 1967, in a battle of heavyweights, at the Astrodome in Houston, Muhammad Ali retained his title by taking down Ernie Terrell with a unanimous 15-round decision. The two had been scheduled to fight at the Astrodome in March of '66, but Ali's refusal to serve in Vietnam sidetracked the champ's plans. He would have to put the Terrell fight on hold while the legalities of the refusal to serve panned out. In the meantime, he fought in Europe and Canada. With his political troubles in the rearview mirror, Ali returned to American soil where he beat Cleveland Williams with a dominating 3-round TKO. Next man up. Ernie Terrell.

     The blood boiled hot before it even began. In late December of '66, Ali and Terrell met in front of some television cameras for an interview with Howard Cosell. The interview rapidly headed south when Terrell referred to Ali as Cassius Clay. It was the name that Ali had abandoned when he turn to his Muslim faith in religion. He considered it to be his slave name and took it as a great insult. I will include a link to the video below, because I don't believe words can do it justice with how infuriated Ali looked as the situation escalated. He promised to punish Terrell as he called him an Uncle Tom. Some thought it was just another over the top Ali stage show, but the disrespect that he felt he had taken was far beyond a publicity stunt which is something Terrell learned by the end of the 15 rounds in which they would battle.

     From the beginning it looked like Terrell might put up a good fight, he landed some key left jabs in the first round, then held his own in the second before the tables turned. The Associated Press scored the fight with Terrell only winning the second round. In the fourth round Ali did damage to Terrell's right eye that closed it to a slit. He was bleeding above it and Ali was in clear control. Terrell's trainer and staff were able to get the bleeding under control, albeit temporarily as Ali reopened the wound in the seventh and it continued to bleed until the final bell rang.

     In the eighth and ninth Ali taunted his opponent as he yelled "What's my name?" over and over again. When Terrell would Cassius Clay, Ali would unleash another blow that would lead to defeat. Terrell was bloody and bruised when it came to an end, but he never did go down. The evidence of battle was very easy to see when it came to Terrell. On the other side of the ring stood Ali, without a mark on him. It dominant show of force for the 25-year-old Ali, and it was his 28th victory in a row. He had not suffered a loss up to that point in his career. Looking back on it now, it might have been much wiser to not poke the bear. When Terrell poked the bear, the bear attacked.

This link is a great highlight reel that features the interview with Cosell, as well as a followup interview. If you wanted to view the heated interview go to the 1 minute and 58 second mark. Otherwise, the whole thing is well worth watching. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

February 5, 1969: Vince Lombardi Heads To Washington

     On February 5, 1969, an era in Green Bay Packers football came to an end, as Vince Lombardi was named head coach of the Washington Redskins. The legendary coach had been the guiding force behind the Green Bay Packers since 1959. With him at the helm, the Packers had transformed into a Championship squad, winning 5 titles from 1961 to 1967. After moving to the front office in '68, Lombardi quickly realized that he needed to be on the sideline to be happy. When the Redskins came knocking, the Packers organization held an emergency meeting that gave Lombardi an unconditional release from a contract that was supposed to carry over for the next 5 years. His tenure Green Bay had come to a conclusion, and a new chapter was about to begin in Washington. It was a short chapter in Lombardi's life, but not insignificant. In 1969, the coach guided the Redskins to their first winning season in 14 years by posting a 7-5-2 record. Unfortunately, in the summer of 1970, Lombardi was diagnosed with colon cancer, and by September of that year the disease had taken his life. Forever a legend, Lombardi's one year in Washington laid the groundwork for some of the great Redskins teams of the 1970's.

     The Redskins made an offer he couldn't refuse, that included $1 million stock in the organization at half-price, and a salary that was reported to be $110,000 per year. For those within the Packers organization, it was a hard pill to swallow to part ways with the coach, but as we all know there are times that we simply move on. The opportunity for Lombardi to own stock within the Redskins organization was a determining factor in their decision to grant him his realease. When the Packers president Dominic Olejniczak spoke about the decision he said "Stock in football corporations is difficult to obtain, and in all probability this would be the chance of a lifetime for Mr. Lombardi." Lombardi acknowledged that he was sad to leave Green Bay, but was excited to take on the challenge of turning the Packers into a contender.

     Lombardi immediately changed the culture in Washington. The players believed in what he was selling and for the first time since 1955 they were winners. While his time in Washington was short, his impact on the players was evident when they heard that he lost his battle with cancer in 1970. Some of these men were moved to tears when they spoke about him, it was a sentiment that was shared by many of his former players in Green Bay as well. Even today, there are many Vince Lombardi quotes that people still look to as a source of inspiration and motivation as his legacy continues to impact lives. I'm going to leave you with one of those quotes that inspires me.

"The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of  strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will." -Vince Lombardi 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

February 4, 1969: John Madden Becomes the Head Coach Of The Oakland Raiders

     On February 4, 1969, Al Davis announced that John Madden would be the next head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Madden had worked his way up from the college ranks, to a spot as an assistant to John Rauch on the Raiders coaching staff. In 1967, Madden was the linebackers coach and helped guide the team to the Super Bowl with Rauch at the helm. The choice to hire Madden came after Rauch was lured away by the Buffalo Bills. It turned out to be a great choice by Davis as Madden spent the next 10 years as the Raiders head coach, going 103-32-7. He also guided the Raiders to Super Bowl glory in '76 and will always be considered a legend. Not only in Raider country, but among the entire football community as well.

   Madden's career in football began as a player on the gridiron, he played at Oregon, College of San Mateo, before finishing up at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California where he played both defense and offense. After a knee injury dashed his hopes of a career in the NFL, he soon turned his focus to coaching. In 1960, he found himself as an assistant at Hancock College in Santa Maria which led to his first head coaching position with the school just two years later.  In 1963, Madden caught the eye of San Diego State's Don Coryell, who helped mold him into the coach he was going to become. Then the Raiders came knocking at the door in '67 and the beginning of an era was about to begin.

     After he showed that he could lead as an assistant, Al Davis looked to Madden as an obvious choice. Davis had a history of promoting within the organization which is how Rauch landed the position in 1966. Rauch had coached under Davis, then found himself guiding the ship after Davis was promoted to commissioner of the AFL. At 32 years of age, Madden was about to become the youngest head coach that the league had ever seen. Before reaching the top of the mountain, Madden and the Raiders had their share of success and failure. They reached the AFC Championship games five times in seven years, but were not able to get past it and found themselves with the dreaded "can't win the big game" label. That all changed after posting a 13-1 regular season in '76, then toppled the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs before pummeling the Minnesota Vikings  32-14 in Super Bowl XI. Following the Super Bowl victory, Madden guided the Raiders back to the AFC Championship game in '77. After the team failed to make the playoffs in '78 he decided to retire. The biggest factor behind the decision to retire, was an ulcer that he had battled throughout the '77 season, it carried over into '78 as well. The time had come to take a break from the high-stress job of guiding a professional football team.

     In his 10 years at the helm, Madden had went from an up an coming assistant, to one of the best coaches of the era. His record of more than 100 wins and only 32 losses speaks for itself. While this generation will remember him for the video games that has his name in the title, or all the Sunday's we listened to him call games on television, the generation before will always remember the coaching career that led him to each of those things.

     Madden announced his retirement from coaching  in January of '79. A tearful Madden said "Things like this are easy to talk about and hard to do." Early in the press conference he said that he would not be returning to coaching and reiterated when he said  "I'm an Oakland Raider. I started with them when I was young and I will always be an Oakland Raider." He never did return to the coaching ranks again. Instead, he joined the ranks of the broadcasters that bring the fans the games on Sunday's. His days in Oakland might have come to a close but he would always be a Raider. In 2006, Madden was forever immortalized in Pro Football's Hall of Fame. It had been nearly 40 years since Al Davis put out a press release that told the world a little known assistant by the name of John Madden was going to be the head coach of the Oakland Raiders.


Monday, February 3, 2014

February 3, 1980: Gervin Shines While Bird Drops The First Three Pointer In The History Of The NBA All Star Game

     On February 3, 1980, the East took down the West with a 144-136 overtime victory in the NBA All Star game at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. The game featured Magic Johnson who became the youngest player to be selected to the game at 20 years and 5 months. Another kid who found himself in the game was Boston's rookie Larry Bird, the 23 year-old became the first player in NBA history to score a 3-pointer in an All Star game when he drained one from behind the arc with 1 minute and forty seconds to go in the overtime period. San Antonio Spurs star big man George "The Iceman" Gervin provided the majority of the offense for the East with a 34 point performance. The West was led by Utah Jazz standout Adrian Dantley with a 23 point effort.

     The game was an entertaining one from beginning to end. In typical All Star game fashion the defense was almost non-existent, while the offensive units put on a show. An excited Gervin proclaimed "It was my kind of game." Gervin was on his way to a third consecutive scoring title at the time and showed off his talents in front of more than just a stadium full of fans and a nationwide audience, he impressed his peers as well.

     The West jumped out to a 37-28 lead in the first, before the East made a hard charge to tie it up 64-64 as the two squads headed to the locker rooms at the half. In the second half the East came out with a simple yet effective game plan. Their head coach, Billy Cunningham, who also led the Philadelphia 76ers, instituted three plays in the first half that seemed to restrict his players from success, in the second half he opened up a passing game that led to a much more fluid squad, who outpaced the West 44-27 in the 3rd quarter that put the East ahead 108-91. After Cunningham found a strategy that seem to out control in the hands of the East, the head coach of the West, Lenny Wilkens had a trick up his sleeve as well. Wilkens, who led the Seattle Supersonics during the regular season called on one of his own stars Jack Sikma to pair up with Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabar. It was a game changer as the West came storming back into it and slowly but surely the 17 point deficit was erased. Phoenix Suns guard Paul Westphal was key member in the comeback as he was the one who dropped the shot that tied the contest at 122 all, then tied it up again at 128 with just 17 seconds to go in regulation, which sent the game to overtime. While Utah's Dantley outscored him, Westphal's 21 points were key in giving the West a shot to win.

     Before the overtime began, Bird had just 2 points on his portion of the scorecard, then dropped 5 in the overtime which included the historic 3 point shot. Bird also picked up an assist when he slapped the ball directly into Gervin's hands for the last points of the ballgame. Gervin's 14 of 26 performance that included 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals earned him MVP honors as the West walked away with bragging rights.

Sidenote; The record for youngest player to make the NBA All Star game has since been surpassed. That distinction now belongs to Kobe Bryant who was just 19 years and 5 months old when he made his first appearance in the contest.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

February 2, 1949: The Car Accident That Changed Ben Hogan's Life

     On February 2, 1949, golfing legend Ben Hogan was seriously injured when a bus right outside of  El Paso, Texas was trying to pass a truck and slammed into the '49 Cadillac that he was driving with his wife Valerie by his side. Hogan saw the bus coming and threw himself across his wife in an effort to protect her, if he wouldn't have done so, chances are that he would have perished in the accident as the steering wheel of the automobile punctured the drivers side seat. Hogan suffered a fractured pelvis, a broken collarbone, a fractured ankle, knee damage, and a chipped rib. The devastating injuries would leave him hospitalized for 59 days. However, it was just a speed bump on the road of life as he made a full recovery and made a triumphant return to the PGA tour the following year.

     Hogan turned pro in 1930, it took him 10 years to win a tournament and there were times that the financial strain seemed too great to endure. Several times he found himself nearly penniless. With the encouragement of his wife he continued to battle on. After winning his first tournament in 1940, he won two more in a row and looked to have turned a corner. As he steadily rose through the ranks and became one of the top golfers in the world, he would win the PGA Championship in '46, then again in '48. He also took home the top prize at the U.S. Open in '48. Going into 1949, he must of felt on top of the world, that all changed the moment a bus driver made a fateful decision.

     The road to recovery was a painstaking process. After multiple surgeries to repair the broken bones a blood clot formed that required an emergency surgery, yet again he had avoided the worst case scenario. After his stay of nearly two months in a hospital bed, he headed home, where he would continue the healing process. He not only returned to the links in 1950, he also won the U.S. Open.

     That run to the U.S. Open title has been referred to as "The Miracle at Merion" it came June of 1950, 16 months after the accident. But first he returned to the golf course during the Los Angele Open in January of of that year. While many thought he wouldn't be able to make it through the 72 hour event without wearing down. He defied the odds by hanging in until the end before Sam Snead won the event in a playoff.  With his legs wrapped in bandages from ankle to thigh, Hogan pulled off a victory that will be remembered forever. The Open was guaranteed to be a grueling event for Hogan, the third day of the event was 36 holes and would take everything he had to simply make it to the end, much less be in contention for the title. On the first day a little known golfer named Lee Mackey shot a record setting 64, leaving Hogan was eight shots back. On the second day Hogan made a hard charge at the lead by shooting a 69 that put him just two strokes behind. At the end of the third day, Hogan survived the 36 hole marathon, and was tied with George Fazio and Lloyd Mangrum. One day later he beat them both in a playoff by shooting a 69. The man who had been told just 16 months earlier that he might not ever walk again was once again a champion. It took true determination and will to make that happen.

     Hogan played with pain throughout the rest of his life and career. The pain limited him to playing in no more than 7 PGA events a year, but it did not limit his greatness. He won 13 more times, which included six majors. In 1953 alone, he won three majors, which was something that would not be matched until Tiger Woods accomplished the feat in 2000. The accident that seemed like it could have ended a career became a distant memory but the pain that lingered on throughout his life was a constant reminder of how close he had come to death. Over the course of 22 years, Hogan recorded 64 PGA wins which ranks him 4th on the all-time list for wins in a career. Only Sam Snead, Tiger Woods, and Jack Nicklaus sit ahead of him on that list. A true legend in his time, Hogan will always be remembered as one of the greatest to ever swing a golf club. Probably the toughest as well.