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75 Years Ago: NFL Action on “A Day That Will Live in Infamy” 0

Posted on December 04, 2016 by Dean Hybl
December 7, 1941 was Tuffy Leemans' Day at the New York Giants football game.

December 7, 1941 was Tuffy Leemans’ Day at the New York Giants football game.

The first Sunday in December of 1941 began much like Sundays have for years prior and for the 75 years since.  The morning for many included a church service and then was followed by Sunday afternoon National Football League action.

Though the NFL in 1941 was not the Sunday national obsession that it has become over the past 75 years, there was still excitement for the final three games of the regular season.

In New York, a crowd of 55,051 packed the Polo Grounds for “Tuffy Leemans’ Day” as the New York Giants were recognizing their All-Pro running back in the final regular season game of his sixth NFL season. Leemans had led the NFL in rushing with 830 yards as a rookie in 1936 and as was common during the era, he was a multi-threat who also could be a passer, receiver, punt returner and play defense. He would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978.

The Giants entered the game with an 8-2 record and having already clinched the East Division title. Their opponents, the cross-town rival Brooklyn Dodgers (yes the Brooklyn Dodgers was also the name of an NFL team from 1930-1943) entered the game with a 6-4 record.

Brooklyn had defeated the Giants 16-13 earlier in the season, but a recent loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers had knocked the Dodgers out of contention for the division title.

On this afternoon, Brooklyn All-Pro Pug Manders was a one-man-show as he scored touchdown in the second, third and fourth quarters to give the Dodgers a 21-0 lead. He sandwiched touchdown runs of three and two yards with a 65-yard interception return for a score. The Giants made the final score 21-7 when Kay Fakin caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from Hank Soar.

As would be the case in all the NFL Stadiums that day, soon after the Pearl Harbor Bombing commenced at 12:55 Eastern time, the public address announcer told all servicemen in attendance to report to their units immediately.

At Griffith Stadium in Washington, DC, the Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles were each finishing out the season. The Redskins were 5-5 on the year, while the Eagles were 2-7-1 entering the final contest.

In front of a crowd of 27,102, the Eagles scored early on a run by Jack Banta. Future Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh hit Al Krueger for a 19-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to tie the contest.

The Eagles regained the lead in the third quarter with a six-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Thompson to Hank Piro to make the score 14-7.

By the time Baugh tossed a pair of fourth quarter touchdown passes to Joe Aguirre to secure the 20-14 victory, many of the initial audience was likely gone. Soon after the bombings, the Public Address Announcer started to page high-ranking government and military leaders, though he did not mention the attacks. Read the rest of this entry →

Then and Now: Softball’s History and Evolution 0

Posted on November 23, 2016 by John Harris
The history of softball dates back to 1887.

The history of softball dates back to 1887.

While common conjecture assumes softball is the younger sibling of baseball (which isn’t too far off), this sport actually evolved thanks to cold weather, boredom, and a football game. Back in 1887, Yale and Harvard graduates were battling the chill and boredom during a Yale versus Harvard game. When it was discovered that Yale defeated its competitor, an enthusiastic Yale grad threw an old boxing glove at a Harvard spectator, who returned in kind by attempting to knock the glove back with a stick—his makeshift form of a bat. George Hancock watched with delight nearby, and concocted the idea of an indoor baseball game, and spectators flocked to play this impromptu game. He tied together a boxing glove in a makeshift ball, then chalked the bases and pitcher’s box.

Fast forward almost a century and a half, and today’s version of softball is enjoyed by over 40 million players. So how did we get from a tied-up boxing glove to today’s leagues? Track the evolution of one of America’s sports and see what it took to transform the game as we know it.

Softball Begins to Spread

After Hancock’s inventive game was spread, it became a popular pastime in Chicago that winter. While originally intended for baseball players to partake in for practice during inclement weather, softball soon took on its own importance and play was transferred to the outdoor field. It took off, and softball began to spread through the Midwest. As rules were created and amended during the following decade, it was referred to as kitten baseball, diamond ball, pumpkin ball, and even mush ball, before finally earning the official moniker of softball in 1926. Read the rest of this entry →

World Series Game 7 is Special Baseball Treat 0

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 →

5 Surprising Facts about the Most Famous Sports Stadiums 0

Posted on October 08, 2016 by Dixie Somers
Fenway Park is the oldest stadium used for Major League Baseball today.

Fenway Park is the oldest stadium used for Major League Baseball today.

Sports stadiums are the modern gladiator arenas. Rabid fans descend upon the booming bowl of seats to watch their favorite athletes perform out on the field. And modern stadiums have great influence over the way we experience the spectacle. Through innovative design, fan interaction concourses and a curated ballpark menu, stadiums have come to be a spectacle unto themselves. And you could learn all about these unique fan experiences with an online athletic administration master’s degree. Get a head start. Here are 5 facts about the most famous stadiums in the world.

1. Fenway Park

Fenway Park is the oldest stadium used in the major leagues. Built in 1912, the park is older than many West Coast states. But many people don’t know the Green Monster wasn’t designed that way. Leftfield used to have a large hill that tapered up to a smaller wall during the dead ball era. It was called Duffy’s cliff, named after the Red Sox leftfielder that roamed the area. When it was removed in 1933, the Green Monster emerged.

2. Roman Colosseum

There are many spectacular facts about planet Earth’s original massive stadium. The side of the Colosseum collapsed during an earthquake in 847, the West exit is known as the Gate of Death for the dead gladiators dragged through it, and the word Colosseum is always capitalized for the famous structure despite the fact that the word translates into “large arena for entertainment.” But the most amazing fact is that the wooden floor of the Colosseum would be removed and the open channels below would be filled with water for mock naval battles. Read the rest of this entry →

Arnold Palmer Took Professional Golf to New Heights 1

Posted on September 26, 2016 by Dean Hybl
Arnold Palmer won seven golf majors and finished second 10 times.

Arnold Palmer won seven golf majors and finished second 10 times.

While other golfers enjoyed more success on the links, it can easily be argued that no golfer did more to raise the profile of professional golf as a global sport than Arnold Palmer, who passed away Sunday at the age of 87.

Originally from Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Palmer played golf at Wake Forest University and won the 1954 U.S. Amateur Championship.

He turned professional in 1955 and the 25-year-old rookie quickly displayed his ability by claiming the Canadian Open championship. In 1958 he earned his first major with a one-stroke victory at the Masters and went on to be the PGA Tour money leader for the year.

After again winning the Masters in 1960, he claimed his only U.S. Open title with an epic performance at Cherry Hills Country Club in Colorado.

At a time when the third and fourth (final) rounds were played on the same day, Palmer entered the final round trailing leader Mike Souchak by seven strokes. Also ahead of him were golfing legend Ben Hogan and amateur Jack Nicklaus, both three strokes off the lead.

Arnold’s Army began to grow during the afternoon as he peppered the course with great golf shots while his opponents started to struggle amidst his charge. Palmer registered a final round 65 (six under par) and ended the tournament two strokes ahead of Nicklaus and four ahead of Souchak and five others.

It would prove to be the only U.S. Open victory for Palmer as he lost three other times in a playoff.

Later in 1960, Palmer began growing his international legacy by traveling to Scotland to play in the British Open at a time when few Americans participated in the tournament. Though his hopes of winning the golf grand slam ended with a one-stroke loss to Kel Nagle, Palmer planted the seeds for future American success in the legendary tournament. Read the rest of this entry →

Vintage Video: There Will Never Be Another Vin Scully 1

Posted on September 25, 2016 by Dean Hybl
Vin Scully has been an icon since announcing his first major league game in 1950.

Vin Scully has been an icon since announcing his first major league game in 1950.

After more than six decades, legendary Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully is saying goodbye to the broadcast booth. To say that we will never see another Vin Scully may be quite an understatement.

Since he debuted as the third announcer along with Red Barber and Connie Desmond for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950, Scully has been baseball’s great storyteller.

Listening to a Vin Scully broadcast is not just an afternoon enjoying live baseball. It is an afternoon remembering both legendary and relatively obscure players from baseball’s past while also likely having American culture and history woven into the conversation.

Scully is not just a walking baseball encyclopedia, he is a walking American history book.

Having grown up in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, Scully spent two years in the U.S. Navy before attending Fordham University. During his college career, Scully played on the baseball team while writing for the school newspaper and broadcasting football and basketball games on the radio.

Following his graduation, Scully was a fill-in announcer for CBS Radio station WTOP in Washington, DC. It was during this time that Red Barber, the Sports Director for the CBS Radio Network, recruited him to broadcast college football games.

After joining the Dodgers broadcast team in 1950, Scully continued to learn his craft from the legendary Barber. In 1953, Barber got into a salary dispute with World Series broadcast sponsor Gillette, propelling the 25-year-old Scully into the broadcast booth for his first World Series. He still holds the record as the youngest broadcaster to announce a World Series game.

He eventually became the lead announcer for the Dodgers and stayed with the team when they moved to Los Angeles following the 1957 season.

Though he is originally a New Yorker, it was in California where Scully truly became a broadcasting legend. Announcing Dodger games during the era of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Maury Wills, Scully became a fan favorite as many would bring transistor radios to the stadium just to hear Scully call the action. Read the rest of this entry →

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