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Remembering “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks 0

Posted on January 24, 2015 by Dean Hybl
"Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks has passed away at the age of 83.

“Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks has passed away at the age of 83.

The baseball world lost a legend with the passing Friday of Hall of Famer Ernie Banks at the age of 83.

Though “Mr. Cub” was most associated with the team for which he played his entire 19 year career, for fans outside of Chicago he is likely best remembered for his famous line “Let’s play two”, which epitomized his love for the game and acceptance as one of the superstars of the first full decade in which African-Americans played in the major leagues.

Since it has been 44 years since his retirement and 56 years since he was the dominant player, and back-to-back MVP winner, in baseball, it is easy to forget just how great a player Banks was.

After a stint in the U.S. Army and time with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League, his contract was sold to the Chicago Cubs in 1953 and he made his major league debut late that season. The lanky 6-foot-1, 180 pound shortstop moved into Wrigley Field for good in 1954. He finished second to Wally Moon (Hank Aaron was fourth) in the Rookie of the Year voting as he hit .275 with 19 home runs and 79 RBI.

Many like to point to Cal Ripken Jr. as the pioneer of the power hitting shortstops, but Banks was blasting long balls while anchoring the Chicago infield three decades before Ripken entered the league. He blasted 44 home runs in 1955 to set a new record for shortstops in a season, but eclipsed that mark in 1958 when he led the league with 47 home runs and 129 RBI to win his first MVP award.

He followed that up with another monster year in 1959 (45 HR, 143 RBI) to win his second straight MVP award. In 1960 he claimed his second home run title as he hit 41 home runs with 117 RBI. He also won the Gold Glove award for his fielding prowess at shortstop.

Though Banks was just 29 and would play for another decade, he would never again reach such illustrious power numbers. Read the rest of this entry →

The Biggest Super Bowl Upset of All Time 3

Posted on January 14, 2015 by Jeremy Biberdorf
The catch by David Tyree was the most amazing play from the biggest Super Bowl upset since Super Bowl III.

The catch by David Tyree was the most amazing play from the biggest Super Bowl upset since Super Bowl III.

This statement is contentious. There are certainly a few contenders for the biggest underdog triumph in the several dozen Super Bowls I have had occasion to see. I wasn’t around for all of them, but I have watched almost all of them at this point, on Youtube and from the private collections of friends. Super Bowl XLII has been thoroughly documented, but seeing it live, and several times thereafter, I can attest to the fact that it is the most incredible upset I have seen in a Super Bowl. It’s one of the craziest games, period, any sport. Here’s why.

The thing about Super Bowl XLII is that it is infuriating to watch. Stretches and entire quarters just draaaag ooooon. It’s Giants v. Patriots, and, if you haven’t seen it for yourself, everybody thought that Patriots would cream the Giants. After all, they won every other game, and were expected to come out on top of this one by 12 points, according to the Super Bowl Odds. The two teams had played each other one other time in the same season, back when the Patriots won 38-35. That was a brutal game in its own right, and you really see the Super Bowl players remembering that, wanting to come out on top.

The Giants spend 9 minutes and 59 seconds on their first possession. That’s a Super Bowl Record in its own right. It’s messy, but not unprofessional. The teams are so equally matched in their play, but the Giants just keep advancing, 2 steps forward 1 step back. Finally, they are only able to get a field goal. Utter torture. But they’re on the board at the end of the first quarter. The Patriots respond with a slap to the face, a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter’s first play. Read the rest of this entry →

Dallas and Green Bay Continue Storied Postseason Duels 7

Posted on January 11, 2015 by Chris Kent
Bart Starr scores the winning touchdown in "The Ice Bowl" in 1967

Bart Starr scores the winning touchdown in “The Ice Bowl” on this one yard plunge into the end zone.

The Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers. Need anyone say anymore? Despite that, there is plenty to talk about. Especially when the two of them meet in the NFL playoffs because memories abound. Chief among them is “The Ice Bowl” which was played on Dec. 31, 1967 at Lambeau Field. The winner was the champion of the NFL (which became the NFC) and advanced to Super Bowl II to meet the champion of the American Football League (which later became known as the AFC). This game is one of the most storied in the history of the National Football League. The postseason series resumes today when the Packers host the Cowboys in the NFC divisional playoffs.

The temperature at game time was -15 oF and the wind chill was about -48 oF. While Green Bay had the home field advantage that day, the elements were surely not friendly to either side. What edge the Packers had came from them just being used to it more during that time of the year compared to their visitors. It was so cold that attempts to heat the field backfired, transportation problems occurred, and equipment malfunctioned. Even though a tarpaulin covered the field in the days leading up to the game, it left moisture on the field which froze in a flash after the tarpaulin was removed. This created an icy surface on the field that got worse as the game wore on. The turf-heating system for the field malfunctioned and many players had difficulty starting their cars forcing them to make alternative transportation plans in order to get to the stadium on time. When the game did finally begin, referee Norm Schachter blew his whistle only to have it freeze to his lips. Upon freeing it from his lips, he ripped his skin off. The resulting blood just froze to his lips. The marching band from Wisconsin-State University LaCrosse (now The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse) could not perform their pre-game and half-time shows as their instruments froze and would not play. Several band members also got transported to area hospitals for hypothermia. This was literally a test of attrition and the limits of the human body were tested for every player, coach, official, fan, worker, and media person that day.

In the end, Green Bay won 21-17 on one of the most famous plays in NFL history. Bart Starr’s quarterback sneak from the

The bitter cold is shown hear from the fans' breath during "The Ice Bowl"

The bitter cold is shown hear from the breath of the fans cheering in the stands during “The Ice Bowl”

one-yard line on third and goal with 16 seconds left to play provided the winning score. Starr had called timeout prior to the play to discuss strategy with Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi. Knowing that the traction was difficult with the icy field, handing off to a running back or stepping back to make a throw would have been difficult. So Starr convinced Lombardi to sneak it in. In doing so, Starr followed a double team wedge block from right guard Jerry Kramer and center Ken Bowman against Dallas left defensive tackle Jethro Pugh to cross the goal line for the decisive score and a 20-17 lead. The extra point provided the final score. Dallas would down the ensuing Packers’ kickoff and could manage only two incompletions which ended the game. Jubliant Green Bay fans rushed onto the field knocking over players from both teams. It was the end to an iconic game in NFL annals.

Since then, Dallas and Green Bay have also had some lofty playoff history. For three straight seasons during the 1990’s, the Cowboys and Packers met in the playoffs. These meetings came at the height of the Cowboys dynasty period during the decade. Dallas won all three times and all three games were played at Texas Stadium in Irving, TX, the Cowboys prior home to their current plush digs at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX which opened in 2009. Behind the offensive brilliance of “the triplets” – Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin – along with a fast and aggressive defense, Dallas ended Green Bay’s season three straight years from 1993 through 1995 by a combined score of 100-53. The Cowboys beat Green Bay in the NFC divisional playoffs following the 1993 and 1994 seasons by respective scores of 27-17 and 35-9. The most memorable of those three games then came after the 1995 season when the two met for the NFC Championship. A very competitive game went back and forth into the fourth quarter before Dallas wore the Packers down en route to a 38-27 win. Smith ran 35 times for 150 yards and three touchdowns in the win which were all single game postseason career highs for him. Smith’s 35 carries and three touchdowns were also Cowboys single game playoff records which still stand as of this article. Read the rest of this entry →

How NHL Goalie Masks Evolved – From a Joke 0

Posted on January 10, 2015 by Ashley Andrews
Gerry Cheevers was the first hockey goalie to give masks personality.

Gerry Cheevers was the first hockey goalie to give masks personality.

When NHL goalie Gerry Cheevers sarcastically rebelled against his coach in a 1968 Bruins practice, he unknowingly changed the face (literally) of hockey forever.

Cheevers admittedly faked a head injury in that practice after taking a shot to his then plain-white fiberglass mask in hopes of cutting practice short, which the eccentric goalie was apparently fond of. When his coach found him perfectly healthy in the locker room, he demanded Cheevers get back on the ice.

It was then that Bruins trainer John Forristall decided to add a little flair to Cheevers’ “injury.” Gerry and John jokingly cooked up the idea to draw a line of ten stitches across Cheevers’ mask where the puck hit, completely oblivious to the statement they were making. The joke stuck and by the end of the season Cheevers’ mask was covered in black stitches, heralding the evolution of the goalie mask beyond mere functionality.

Now known as the grandfather of modern mask design, Cheevers’ crude stitched mask served a dual purpose; protection and personality. Protective gear in the NHL before the 1960’s was, well, irrelevant. Goalies almost never wore masks in games, and those who did were often scrutinized when masks became more popular. Cheevers’ inaugural design highlighted the importance of protective equipment (especially after the current Hall of Famer said it made him a braver and better goalie).

The stitched mask brought another unintended element to the ice. For the first time hockey was given a shot of creativity. Goalies especially saw an outlet to show whom the man behind the face-embalming mask was. Read the rest of this entry →

Stuart Scott Made ESPN Cool 1

Posted on January 04, 2015 by Dean Hybl
Longtime sports anchor Stuart Scott has passed away at the age of 49.

Longtime sports anchor Stuart Scott has passed away at the age of 49.

By the time Stuart Scott joined ESPN in 1993 the network was already recognized as the “worldwide leader in sports.” However, with his quick catch phrases and smooth delivery, Scott played a huge role in making ESPN cool (as the other side of the pillow). His death after a nearly eight year battle with cancer leaves a void at ESPN and in sports television that will never truly be filled.

A graduate of the University of North Carolina, Scott began his broadcast career with stints in Florence, South Carolina, Raleigh, North Carolina and Orlando, Florida before settling at ESPN.

Originally hired at ESPN as a host of ESPN2’s SportsNight, Scott soon became a regular behind the SportsCenter anchor desk, often teamed with Rich Eisen. His Hip-Hop references and quotable phrases quickly made him a favorite with the younger generation of ESPN fans.

Over the next two decades Scott was among ESPN’s leading faces and was especially prominent as part of their NFL and NBA coverage.

In 2002 suffered a freak injury when he was hit in the eye by a football at New York Jets minicamp. The incident damaged his cornea and he underwent multiple surgeries to deal with the damage.

His battle with cancer started in 2007 after he underwent an emergency appendectomy following a Monday Night Football Game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins. The surgeons discovered a malignancy that required additional surgery to remove possibly cancerous tissue. He returned to the air a month later and continued his on-air broadcasting while undergoing chemotherapy. The cancer returned in 2010 and again in 2013.

In 2014, Scott was honored as the recipient of the Jimmy V Award at the annual ESPY ceremony. He is survived by two daughters and millions of appreciative fans.

Below are a number of clips featuring Stuart Scott during his career and at the 2014 ESPY’s as well as remembrances of Scott by some of his sports colleagues.

 

Stuart Scott remembers his first episode of SportsCenter

Read the rest of this entry →

Fiesty Football Legend Clarke Hinkle 5

Posted on January 04, 2015 by Dean Hybl

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete is an all-time football great who was the NFL’s career rushing leader at the time of his retirement.

Considering that the NFL career rushing yardage record today stands at 18,355 yards, it might seem strange to know that when Clarke Hinkle retired in 1941 he was top runner in NFL history with 3,860 yards. Read the rest of this entry →

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