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Paul Blair: Defensive Whiz 0

Posted on May 30, 2017 by Dean Hybl

Blair-OriolesMore than 40 years before current stalwart Adam Jones first patrolled centerfield for the Baltimore Orioles, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month roamed the field with grace while also providing the Orioles with timely hitting for more than a decade.

On a team that built its strength through pitching and defense, Paul Blair fit perfectly. He is one of seven members of the Orioles from that era who won at least three Gold Gloves and is tied with Mark Belanger for the second most in team history. Read the rest of this entry →

The Incredible Value of the 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle Baseball Card 1

Posted on May 02, 2017 by Ross Uitts

It’s considered the most iconic post-War baseball card in the hobby yet it’s also commonly mistaken as his rookie card.

That’s right, the 1952 Topps #311 card is actually not Mickey Mantle’s rookie card.

That distinction would belong to the 1951 Bowman #253 card.

But even though that one is Mickey Mantle’s true rookie card, it’s actually his 1952 Topps #311 that is the more valuable of the two.

1951-Bowman-253-Mickey-Mantle-rookie-card

And as you might often expect, Mantle is a rare case where a player’s rookie card isn’t his most valuable.

So, why is that?

Well, the story is actually quite fascinating.

Topps has been the biggest name in sports cards since 1952 when they released their first official baseball card set.

And that’s the first of several factors that make’s Mantle’s 1952 Topps card so valuable: he was the most popular player in the industry juggernaut’s first set.  This immediately sends the card’s historical value through the roof. Even common cards of this set can fetch hundreds of dollars in top condition.

The second reason for its high value is because it’s way scarcer that you might expect.

To understand how scarce it is, you’ve got to remember that Topps and other manufacturers released baseball cards in multiple series. At the beginning of the 1952 baseball season, kids were chasing cards in Series 1, tearing through the 5 cent packs in search of their heroes. But Mantle was nowhere to be found. Series 1 only included cards #1-310, and Topps had earmarked Mantle to be card #311.

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Vintage Video: Remembering Jackie Robinson 2

Posted on April 14, 2017 by Dean Hybl
The first Jackie Robinson Day was held on April 15, 1997.

The first Jackie Robinson Day was held on April 15, 1997.

As the years since Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball, 70 years to be exact, continue to grow, it becomes harder for the increasing number of people who do not remember a time when the color of ones skin eliminated a person from consideration for “America’s Pastime” to understand just how significant and difficult an action it was for Robinson and those who helped him break the color barrier.  That is why 20 years ago, April 15, 1997, Major League Baseball forever retired the number 42 jersey of Jackie Robinson and set up an annual day to honor his legacy across the league.

In recognition of Jackie Robinson’s first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947 and the first “Jackie Robinson Day” on April 15, 1997, we have below some video links to remember this American hero and the day set aside to recognize his accomplishments.
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Remembering Sports Greats We Lost in 2016 4

Posted on December 31, 2016 by Dean Hybl
Muhammad Ali won the Heavyweight Boxing Championship three times during his career.

Muhammad Ali won the Heavyweight Boxing Championship three times during his career.

While it is inevitable that every year we say goodbye to some of those who shaped sports history, it seems like 2016 included more than the normal share of all-time sports legends. Muhammad Ali and Arnold Palmer were not just sports legends, they were national icons whose celebrity transcended sports. At their peak, Pat Summitt and Gordie Howe were synonymous with their respective sports. In addition, the year included the death of several well-known members of the sports media as well as a number of accomplished coaches.

Below is a brief remembrance of some of the sports greats who passed away in 2016:

Muhammad Ali: While it is not difficult to poke holes into Ali’s self-proclaimed moniker as the “Greatest of All-Time”, there is little doubt that during his peak, Ali was one of the most recognized people on the planet. An Olympic boxing champion in 1960, Ali (then known as Cassius Clay), won the Heavyweight title in February 1964 with a sixth-round TKO of champion Sonny Liston. Ali, who was 22-years-old at the time he won the title, maintained the belt until 1967 when it was stripped following his federal conviction for refusing draft induction. It would be more than three years before Ali would return to the boxing ring. During the 1970s, Ali regained the Heavyweight title twice more while participating in some of the most iconic boxing matches of all-time. He fought Joe Frazier three times, winning the last two, and also defeated George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle.” After retiring in 1980, the once polarizing Ali developed into an American icon. His battle with Parkinson’s syndrome over the last two decades saw the charismatic Ali struggle to communicate, but he was often in the public eye.

Ralph Branca: Branca won 88 games and as a three-time All-Star during his 12 year Major League career, but he is best known for giving up the “Shot Heard Round the World” to Bobby Thomson during the 1951 National League Playoff between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. He had only eight career wins before going 21-12 with a 2.67 ERA during the 1947 season. However, what Branca is perhaps best known for during the 1947 season was his willingness to stand next to teammate Jackie Robinson at the beginning of the season when others were reluctant. Branca won 13 or more games three other times during his career.

Dennis Byrd: Byrd’s NFL career was cut short in 1992 when he was paralyzed as a result of an on-field hit. He recovered enough to walk onto the field to start the 1993 season and went on to be a motivational speaker. He died as a result of a car accident in October.
Read the rest of this entry →

How Sports Management Has Changed Thanks to Technology 5

Posted on November 24, 2016 by John Harris

mlb-technologyThere are some huge differences between the sport of a few decades ago and the sport of today. One of the things that have seen many changes is sports management. Technology has meant that managers now carry out their work in many different ways. It has improved communication, documentation and the ability to analyze performance. Here are some of the key ways that tech has changed sports management.

Improved Communication

Communication in sports management is much more instant today, just like it is in any other arena. People now not only carry a personal phone with them, but that phone is also essentially a computer. They can contact anyone instantly by phone or using the internet. Social media is another key method of communication that has changed how sports managers operate.

Recording Games

The process to record sports footage just a few decades ago was slow and laborious. Today, like many things, it’s an almost instant process. Any sports manager can use a handheld device to record footage and watch it back instantly. This greatly improves their ability to view and share a video of players. Read the rest of this entry →

World Series Game 7 is Special Baseball Treat 1

Posted on November 02, 2016 by Dean Hybl
Corey Kluber is trying to become the first pitcher since Mickey Lolich in 1968 to start and win three World Series games.

Corey Kluber is trying to become the first pitcher since Mickey Lolich in 1968 to start and win three World Series games.

It is certainly fitting that a “World Series for the Ages” between two teams trying to break generational streaks of disappointments would culminate in a winner-take-all seventh game. Regardless of whether the Chicago Cubs or Cleveland Indians come out victorious, the 2016 World Series will go down in baseball annals as one of the most memorable World Series of all-time.

This marks the 37th time that a World Series champion will be crowned in a seventh game. Of the previous 36, 14 have been one-run games and four were decided in extra innings.

The last time a game seven went to extra innings was in 1997 when the Cleveland Indians could not close the game despite a one-run lead in the ninth inning and ultimately lost in the eleventh inning on a game-winning hit by Edgar Renteria.

While the closer for the Indians in 1997 was the shaky Jose Mesa, if Cleveland enters the final innings of this seventh game with a lead they have the strength of a bullpen that has been lights out during the 2016 postseason.

The only game seven appearance for the Chicago Cubs was during the 1945 World Series. The game seven starter for the Cubs that year was Hank Bowry, who had lost game five and then pitched four innings of relief to win game six 8-7 in 12 innings. He didn’t make it out of the first inning of game seven as the Detroit Tigers scored five runs on their way to a 9-3 victory.

This time the Cubs have the luxury of pitching a likely Cy Young Award winner who is working on regular rest after starting game three.

Though Kyle Hendricks did not allow a run before being lifted in the fifth inning of game three, the Cubs ultimately lost that game 1-0. Hendricks will certainly be trying to duplicate his performance in game six of the National League Championship Series when he allowed only two hits in 7.1 innings.

His adversary for this game seven is looking to become the first pitcher since Mickey Lolich in 1968 to win three games in a World Series and first since Bob Gibson in 1967 to win games 1, 4 and 7 in the same series. Just for the record, Lolich recorded complete game victories in games two, five and seven in 1968. Read the rest of this entry →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • George Musso: From Longshot to Hall of Famer
      August 5, 2017 | 4:52 pm
      George Musso

      George Musso

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month went from small college long shot to Pro Football Hall of Famer.

      When George Musso finished his college career at Millikin College in 1933, Chicago Bears coach George Halas offered the 6-foot-2, 265 pound lineman a tryout and eventually a $90 per game contract, but had serious doubts whether he could make the transition from small college football to the NFL.

      It took a year for Musso to adjust, but by 1935 he was an All-Pro tackle. Two years later, he moved to guard and again earned first team All-NFL honors. He became the first player in NFL history to earn first team All-League honors at two different positions.

      Read more »

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