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Archive for the ‘MIKE on Sports’


Major League Baseball Honors Jackie Robinson Today 6

Posted on April 15, 2016 by Mike Raffone

MIKE Comic 125 Jackie RobinsonOn April 15, 1997 Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig mandated an unprecedented edict. It was never before witnessed in any American professional sport.

Selig ordered all Major League Baseball teams to officially retire the #42 jersey in honor of Brooklyn Dodgers great Jackie Robinson.

Selig’s historic move recognized Jackie Robinson on the 50th anniversary of his 1947 debut. On that day Robinson became the first black baseball player in the modern era to cross the color barrier that existed in the sport.

It’s hard for us to image today, but Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson’s bold, courageous decision to break the color line in 1947 opened the gates for other worthy, yet unfairly discriminated against, black baseball players.

Thanks to Robinson, other talented black baseball players quickly followed and begun playing on other previously all white teams in Major League Baseball.

As a player with the Brooklyn Dodgers, #42’s fortitude also kindled dialogue beyond the baseball diamond when it came to our country’s ugly segregation policies. Many attribute that Robinson’s brazen baseball move of crossing the color barrier helped propel the long overdue and ultimately successful Civil Rights Movement.

The Movie 42 Tells Robinson’s Story

Robinson’s heroic and individually spectacular personal life story was told in the motion picture 42 (release date: April 2013). It chronicled Robinson’s struggles and success as one of America’s most respected athletes ever.

When he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 as a 28 year-old rookie, #42 overcame significant public scrutiny as well as regular cruel and unnecessary racial abuse. He was the target of ugly taunts, knock-down pitches and hateful insensitivity directed at him because of his skin color.

However, the Dodgers’ tough talking manager Leo Durocher took a firm stand in defense of Robinson. Also, legendary Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reece’s comment in support of Jackie Robinson will never be forgotten. While standing with his arm draped around Robinson’s shoulders, Reece said, “You can hate a man for many reasons. Color is not one of them.”

The son of a Georgia sharecropper and a Southern California domestic laborer, Jackie Robinson immediately proved his mettle and demonstrated his athletic excellence. Despite the racial abuse he suffered, Robinson rose above the fray.

Instead of fighting back on the low ground, he immediately made an impact on Major League Baseball and quickly became a rising star.

Robinson was voted Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year in 1947. Soon after, he won both the National League batting title and the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949.

Jackie played his entire ten year career with the Brooklyn Dodgers. A first-time ballot Hall of Fame inductee, Robinson’s career accomplishments included six all-star games, a World Series Championship in 1955 and impressive lifetime stats of a .311 batting average, 1,518 hits, 137 home-runs, 734 runs batted in and 197 steals.

In addition to being selected to Major League Baseball’s All-Century team, Jackie Robinson was named #44 on The Sporting News’ list of top 100 baseball players ever.

As a result of what he accomplished after formally hanging up his baseball cleats in 1956, this remarkable athlete became a cultural icon.

Robinson is widely admired and credited for overcoming other barriers beyond the baseball diamond. He broke additional color lines that existed in mainstream America at the time.

Jackie Robinson Broke Through Other Racial Barriers

ABC Sports hired Jackie Robinson as the first ever black sportscaster ever to cover Major League Baseball. In the late 50s, Robinson crossed a business barrier and became the first ever black Vice President of a major United States corporation when appointed by Chock full ‘o Nuts Coffee.

Before his death in 1972, Robinson accumulated a never-to-be duplicated resume as a distinguished retired athlete.

Besides his Major League Baseball Hall of Fame induction, Robinson chaired the NAACP.

Plus, he received our country’s two single greatest non-sports related individual honors; i.e. the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Medal of Honor.

TIME Magazine named Jackie Robinson among the top 100 most influential people of the 20th Century.

TIME Magazine’s ranking not only honored a most worthy athlete, but also a courageous American who helped transition our country away from its ugly discriminatory past.

MIKE on sports!

On This Day in 1985 Villanova Upsets Georgetown in NCAA Title Game 0

Posted on April 01, 2016 by Mike Raffone

Villanova 1985 NCAA Champs

April 1, 1985 marks a special day in NCAA college basketball history.

College basketball players, fans, coaches and pundits have claimed that on that memorable day 31 years ago the Villanova Wildcats emerged as the closest a team has ever come to playing a perfect game.

Also, many have cited that April 1, 1985 marked the greatest upset victory in the history of NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship Games.

The iconic win captivated college basketball fans. At Lexington, Kentucky’s Rupp Arena, Villanova captured its first ever NCAA men’s tournament crown under its likeable chubby coach Rollie Massimino.

Seeded #8, Villanova remains the lowest ranked team to ever win an NCAA title. The Big East team bested #9 seed Dayton Flyers, #7 seed UNC Tar Heels, #5 seed Memphis State Tigers and #2 seed Michigan Wolverines to advance to the Big Dance’s biggest party.

On that special Monday night on April 1, 1985, Villanova played brilliantly against the previous year’s defending champion and dominating #1 overall seed in the field. Led by legendary coach John Thompson II, the Hoyas were odds on favorite to defeat the undersized and undermanned Wildcats. Read the rest of this entry →

1980 USA Olympic Hockey Upset: Miracle on Ice 0

Posted on February 22, 2016 by Mike Raffone

MIKE Sports Comic - Miracle on Ice

February 22, 1980 marked a national day of pride in America.

It birthed a miracle in the highly competitive arena of international sports.

Known as the Miracle on Ice, an unlikely hockey victory took place at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY and lifted America out of its funk.

During that precarious era in our nation’s history, the 1970s was a decade comprised of war protests, a Presidential scandal, and a troubling economy.

In the midst of those uncertain and depressing times, Americans were nervous and ripe for a miracle to lift their spirits.

And, then came along an unexpected special moment in sports history.

The event produced one of the most amazing upsets the sports world has ever witnessed.

Team USA’s stunning win over the heavily favored Soviet Union National Hockey Team still stands as one of the greatest victories in the history of team sports.

This USA win remains an unforgettable highlight of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games. Read the rest of this entry →

Cartoon Sportscaster Tank McNamara and the “Norts Spews” 2

Posted on February 09, 2016 by Mike Raffone

Tank McNamara

With a name that perfectly captures his comic strip persona, Tank McNamara barrels into Sports Then and Now with the “norts spews!”

Boasting a 40 year run as a syndicated comic strip character, big mouthed, broad shouldered broadcaster Tank McNamara easily bogarts his way into today’s blog with his “norts spews” or sports news.

Sure, I may have personally given Tank a mulligan – or two – or thirty when considering this bumbling, brash and bumptious local television reporter of comic strip fame.

But, his inclusion in today’s blog as well as in my sports comic book Favorite Sportscasters stems from the brilliance of two men who brought this imperfect talking head on sports to life.

Creators Jeff Millar and Bill Hinds

Until his 2012 passing, writer Jeff Millar and artist and now writer Bill Hinds gifted the American sports loving public with this magnificent creation.

Since 1974 Millar and Hinds have employed the overly confident Tank McNamara to lampoon the absurdity of sports.

However, the square jawed reporter, famous for his fumble mouth pronunciations like “norts spews” instead of sports news, quickly and frequently gets cut down to size.

Millar and Hinds expertly crafted the seemingly self-assured sportscaster into a buffoon of a former football player, beloved by readers of as many as 300 American newspapers.

In spite of his warts and easily deflated bravado, Tank McNamara remains a fan favorite. Loyal readers can easily recite the brute’s football bio from his fictional alma mater – Enormous State University – to the same #55 jersey number he wore as a college Sandcrab player and later as an NFL defensive lineman.

Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate, the Tank McNamara character seamlessly weaves commentary and illustrative artwork into American culture while furnishing a biting satire of today’s sports world.

Tank McNamara Pricks Societal Ills

From gambling to steroids, domestic disputes to felonious arrests and from breaking news on DUIs to sexual misconduct stories, Tank McNamara poignantly pricks all societal ills.

Tank McNamara’s snarky humor reaches its annual peak when creators ask readers to nominate their choice for Sports Jerk of the Year.

In the less-than-perfect world of sports entertainment, there is usually no shortage of candidates.

And, with a flawed former football player named Tank McNamara reporting on the winner of Sports Jerk of the Year, it’s easy to understand why this likeable lunk finds his way into my sports comic book Favorite Sportscasters.

Click above to download the book from Amazon to read about Tank and other “norts spews.”.

MIKE on sports!

The Palestra: College Basketball’s Most Beloved Arena 3

Posted on February 01, 2016 by Mike Raffone

The Palestra

As the NCAA basketball season inches towards tournament time, allow me to highlight my favorite place on the planet to watch college hoops.

As Philadelphia’s most revered sports venue, the Palestra is appropriately called the Cathedral of College Basketball.

Recognized as the birthplace of college basketball, this hallowed arena opened its doors on the University of Pennsylvania campus on January 1, 1927. On that seminal day, Ivy League rivals Penn and Yale tipped off in what would become the first of thousands of games held in this building.

Named after an ancient Greek rectangular enclosure, the sparkling new facility was designed to house 8,722 spectators.

However, more than 10,000 excited fans crammed into the Palestra to witness Penn beat Yale 26 – 15 on its opening day.

Since then, the Palestra has hosted more NCAA college basketball games than any other arena in the country.

Beginning 1955, the Palestra has also served as the home court for the round robin of Big 5 college basketball games. Though not an official league or athletic conference, the Big 5 boasts five successful college basketball programs located within a 17 mile radius of center city Philadelphia. Read the rest of this entry →

#TBT Sports Blog: Former Philadelphia Flyers Bobby Clarke 1

Posted on January 28, 2016 by Mike Raffone

Today’s TBT sports blog remembers my favorite hockey player of all-time – Bobby Clarke – who once starred for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Seems like only yesterday that Clarke was skating effortlessly up and down the old Spectrum Arena ice in Philadelphia in his orange, black and white #16 Flyers jersey.

Now, long since retired and 66 years-old, this Flin Flon, Manitoba native became a three-time NHL Most Valuable Player and skated his way into the hearts of hockey fans everywhere.

That’s because Bobby Clarke personified old-school hockey. He played without a helmet and hit about as hard as any player who ever took the ice. The Flyers captain was easily recognizable by his wide, toothless smile, long curly blond hair and incredible skill on skates.

The 17th pick of the 1969 NHL Draft, Clarke played his entire career for the Flyers franchise. Even after retiring, Clarke continued with the organization for many years first as General Manager and most recently as a Senior Vice President. He’s still Philadelphia’s greatest player ever, holding team records in total points and games played. He also appeared in eight NHL All-Star games.

As the Flyers captain, Clarke excelled during the 1970s. In both 1974 and 1975, he led the notorious Broad Street Bullies to back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships. Read the rest of this entry →

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