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75 Years Ago: The Iron Horse Says Goodbye 1

Posted on July 03, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Lou Gehrig said goodbye to his fans on July 4, 1939.

Lou Gehrig said goodbye to his fans on July 4, 1939.

Imagine if one of the most iconic athletes of the current era suddenly retired, announced he had an incurable disease and within two years was dead. That is exactly what happened in 1939 when iconic New York Yankees star Lou Gehrig pulled himself out of the lineup after 2,130 consecutive games and then 75 years ago, on July 4, 1939, said goodbye to New York fans with his famous “luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech.

For 13 years, Gehrig was baseball’s most durable player as he famously was in the lineup every day. But durability wasn’t his only strength, he was also the best first baseman of his generation and was a run-producing machine.

Only Gehrig could push the Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth, into the number three spot in the batting order. He drove in 140 or more runs nine times during his career, including 185 RBI during the 1931 season. In 1934 he claimed the triple crown as he hit .363 with 49 home runs and 166 RBI.

Interestingly, likely because the Yankees did not reach the World Series that season, he finished only fifth in the MVP voting as Mickey Cochrane earned the award. Read the rest of this entry →

Daredevil Days: The 6 Most Outrageous Evel Knievel Stunts of All Time 4

Posted on April 11, 2014 by Dixie Somers
Evel Knievel was one of the most famous sports personalities of the 1970s.

Evel Knievel was one of the most famous sports personalities of the 1970s.

Inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999, Evel Knievel was dubbed “one of the greatest American icons of the 1970s” by The Times. He held the Guinness World Record for the “most broken bones in a lifetime” with 433 over the course of his career. Of more than 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps between 1965 and 1980, here are the most outrageous stunts he ever attempted.

Caesar’s Palace
Outrageous doesn’t begin to describe Evel Knievel’s jump of the fountains at Ceasar’s Palace in Las Vegas, and how he got there was even more unbelievable. In 1967, Evel created a fictitious corporation called Evel Knievel Enterprise, three fictitious lawyers to present his ‘case’, and even made fake calls to the casino’s CEO claiming to be from ABC-TV and Sports Illustrated. That was only the beginning of Knievel’s Caesar’s Palace fiasco, and even though he crashed during the jump, the ordeal, and his recovery, made him as famous as ever.

Ontario, California
On February 28th, 1971, riding his Harley-Davidson XR-750, Evel Knievel successfully jumped 19 cars to set the new world record. Filmed for the movie that held his name, Evel Knievel held that record for 27 years, until it was eclipsed by Bubba Blackwell. Bubba jumped 20 cars in 1998, also using an XR-750.

Los Angeles, California
In November of 1973 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Knievel successfully jumped 50 stacked cars. After that jump, he held the record for jumping the most stacked cars on a Harley-Davidson XR-750 for 35 years, until it was broken in October of 2008. His beloved 300lb, fiberglass and aluminum XR-750 is currently a part of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Read the rest of this entry →

40 Years Ago: Hank Aaron Becomes Baseball’s Home Run King 8

Posted on April 07, 2014 by Dean Hybl
It was 36 years ago this week that Hank Aaron became the all-time home run king.

It was 40 years ago that Hank Aaron became the all-time home run king.

Given how much emphasis sports put on championships, it may seem a little strange that the most significant home run in Major League Baseball history was not hit during the month of October, but instead was struck in early April by an aging player on a team that wouldn’t come close to reaching the postseason.

Such was the case 40 years ago, on April 8, 1974, when Hank Aaron forever cemented a place for himself in baseball lore with his record breaking 715th home run.

Every die-hard sports fan has a number of moments that are forever etched in their subconscious memory – to the point that even years after the fact they can recall not just the special moment, but also where they were and what they were doing at the time.

Though I was only six-years old, the night when Aaron set the home run record is one of those moments for me.

My family was paying special attention to the record because we had family friends who were from Atlanta and thus big fans of Aaron and the Braves. “Hammerin’ Hank” had tied the record during the season opener in Cincinnati and there seemed to be little doubt that he was going to set the record during the home opener, which was being shown on national television by ABC. However, for a while there was some doubt whether we would be able to see it.

It was a stormy Monday night in my hometown of Keysville, Virginia, thanks to a powerful early spring thunderstorm that brought lightning, thunder and heavy rains. There was no such thing as cable television in our town in 1974 and because we were about 75 miles from the closest television station, even with having an antenna on the roof we never really had crystal clear reception. The general practice at that time was also to unplug the television during electrical storms so that the TV wouldn’t get zapped. Read the rest of this entry →

Boston Red Sox Finish Improbable Season With World Series Title 0

Posted on October 31, 2013 by Dean Hybl

 

The Boston Red Sox slid past the St. Louis Cardinals to win Game Six and the 2013 World Series.

The Boston Red Sox slid past the St. Louis Cardinals to win Game Six and the 2013 World Series.

After a 2012 season filled with internal bickering, a trade that removed three of the best players from the roster and a record that was the third worst in the American League, who could have predicted that just 12 months later the Boston Red Sox would be the 2013 World Series Champions?

Yet, despite basically starting from scratch with a roster that included a dozen new faces, there were the Red Sox defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 in game six to claim their third World Series title in a decade and first being clinched at Fenway Park since 1918.

The final game was perhaps the least dramatic of a World Series that had two “first ever” endings.

Game three, a 5-4 Cardinals victory, was the first World Series game ever ended on a fielder obstruction play. Then the next night, the Red Sox tied the series at two games each when Koji Uehara picked off Kolten Wong with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to preserve a 4-2 victory.

As was the case throughout the season, the key for the Red Sox against the Cardinals was timely hitting, strong starting pitching and a lights out bullpen. Read the rest of this entry →

25 Years Ago: Gibson Takes Eck Deep to Propel Dodgers to Improbable Title 1

Posted on October 15, 2013 by Dean Hybl
Kirk Gibson completely changed the 1988 World Series with one swing.

Kirk Gibson completely changed the 1988 World Series with one swing.

It was 25 years ago today that Kirk Gibson limped out of the Los Angeles Dodgers dugout and into baseball immortality. In his only at bat of the series, Gibson blasted a home run off future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley that not only lifted his team to victory in the first game of the 1988 World Series, but set the stage for a surprising series victory for the underdog Dodgers.

Though Gibson’s home run did not end a World Series the way blasts by Bill Mazeroski and Joe Carter did, his homer arguably was just as important in deciding a series as any other home run in history.

The 1988 Oakland A’s were believed to be virtually unbeatable. Assembled with a combination of home grown players and experienced veterans and managed by Tony LaRussa, the A’s won 104 games in the regular season and then swept the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.

Oakland scored 800 runs during the season and were led by Jose Canseco, who hit 42 home runs, drove home 124 runs, stole 40 bases and hit .307 to earn American League MVP honors. They also had an outstanding pitching staff including 21 game winner Dave Stewart and lights-out reliever Dennis Eckersley, who led the league with 45 saves in his first full season as a closer.

To the contrary, many believed that manager Tommy Lasorda had been using smoke and mirrors to coax his Dodgers team through the regular season and into the World Series. Sure they won 94 games in the regular season, but as a team hit just.248 and Gibson was actually the team leader with a .290 batting average and 25 home runs while finishing second on the squad with 76 RBI (Mike Marshall led the team with 82).

The Dodgers were in the 1988 World Series because they had one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Even with perennial ace Fernando Valenzuela enduring the worst season to that point in his career, the team still had an ERA under three runs per game.

The main reason for that was Orel Hershiser, who was on his way to winning the Cy Young Award with a 23-8 record and 2.26 ERA. Read the rest of this entry →

40 Years Ago: King Beats Riggs in Battle of the Sexes 1

Posted on September 20, 2013 by Dean Hybl
Billie Jean King's 1973 match against Bobby Riggs was anything but normal.

Billie Jean King’s 1973 match against Bobby Riggs was anything but normal.

It was 40 years ago today, September 20, 1973 when Billie Jean King struck a major blow for women’s athletics by defeating the flamboyant Bobby Riggs in a made-for-television extravaganza billed as the Battle of the Sexes.

It is hard to step back in time 40 years and remember just how different the perception of female athletes was at that time. While today great female athletes are revered for their talents and in some sports are regulars on network television and in front of large stadium crowds, in the early 1970s women’s athletics was given very little value by much of the general population.

While today women are generally judged athletically based on their own skills and abilities, in the early 1970s equal rights era many dismissed the accomplishments of even the best female athletes because they were obviously not competitive with male athletes.

In early 1973 former men’s tennis champion Bobby Riggs proved that by thoroughly dismantling Margaret Court, one of the top women’s tennis players of all-time and still today the record holder with 24 Grand Slam singles titles, 6-2, 6-1.

Before facing Court, Riggs had actually first challenged Billie Jean King, but King initially declined the match, which led to the contest against Court.

After Riggs defeated Court, he again challenged King and this time she accepted.

Their match was played in front of a crowd of more than 30,000 at the Houston Astrodome and viewed by an estimated television audience of 50 million in the U.S. and 90 million worldwide.  Howard Cosell, who was at the peak of his visibility on ABC Sports and Monday Night Football, was the lead broadcaster for the match. Read the rest of this entry →

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