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Umpire Big Egos are a Bad Thing for Baseball 0

Posted on April 18, 2015 by Dean Hybl
Jordan Baker added himself to the list of awful ego-driven umpires by ejecting Ubaldo Jimenez during the Orioles-Red Sox game on April 17, 2015

Jordan Baker added himself to the list of awful ego-driven umpires by ejecting Ubaldo Jimenez during the Orioles-Red Sox game on April 17, 2015

Umpires who think they are bigger than the game has been a thorn in the side of baseball for generations. With Bud Selig, who seemed unwilling or incapable of addressing the problem, now out of the way, it is time for his replacement, Rob Manfred, to address this critical issue.

The problem was amplified last night when umpire Jordan Baker, who first umpired in the majors in 2012, made a ridiculous call that has the potential to impact one of the teams involved for days.

It is one thing when umpires make the wrong call on a close play and hold their ground. While you would hope they would be most concerned about getting plays right, part of being good at your job is feeling you are correct. Fortunately, the addition of replay as an opportunity to correct umpire mistakes has helped this phase of the game.

However, the bigger problem, and the one that Baker exemplified last night is when an umpire makes a horrible judgement call that cannot be altered by replay.

With the Baltimore Orioles clinging to a 1-0 lead with two outs and no one on base in the fourth inning, pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez was working on a no-hitter when Boston Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval came to the plate. Considering that Jimenez was horrible in 2014 and fortunate to even make the starting rotation this season, you can guarantee that his focus was to continue the scoreless streak he has had to start the season and to keep getting players out.

So when his first pitch to Sandoval, who as a left-handed hitter with a large figure is known for setting up close to the plate, sailed in and hit Sandoval below the shoulder with a slider, you can bet that he disappointed to have added a base runner, but ready to move on to the next batter, Mike Napoli.

Watching the game live, there seemed to be nothing out of the normal until suddenly Baker came out from behind home plate and immediately threw Jimenez out of the game. There had been no warning or any previous close pitches by either team.

According to crew chief Jerry Meals, who of course is going to defend his fellow umpire, Baker felt that Jimenez was retaliating for a hard slide Sandoval had made into second base earlier in the game.

First, even if the hit-by-pitch was done in retaliation, that is part of the game and has been for generations. However, there is no evidence that the errant pitch was related to any previous action. It was just a bad pitch. Read the rest of this entry →

State of NCAA Men’s College Basketball is Debatable for What is Best for Game 4

Posted on April 11, 2015 by Chris Kent

As the 21st century moves forward, college basketball is becoming more and more known for the early departures. The so called “one and done era” has been alive for more than a decade. Gone are the days when student-athletes made a splash as a freshman and then continued to do so over three or four years in college.

Look no further than Kentucky for proof of this. Since John Calipari was hired as the Wildcats’ head coach in 2009, Kentucky has been the prime source of the “one and done era.” Add in a few sophomores who decided a second attempt at a Final Four or a national championship was worth coming back for and the Wildcats have been a landslide leader in this trend of kids leaving school early for the riches of playing pro basketball.

A total of seven Kentucky players declared to enter the NBA Draft earlier this week.

A total of seven Kentucky players declared to enter the NBA Draft earlier this week at a press conference shown here.

Last year was no different. After falling two wins short of becoming the first undefeated national champion in 39 years – following their 71-64 loss to Wisconsin in the 2015 national semifinals – , Kentucky announced that seven players from last year’s team have declared for the NBA draft. Among the seven are four starters including the starting backcourt of sophomores Andrew and Aaron Harrison, freshman center Karl Anthony-Towns, and junior power forward Willie Cauley-Stein. The others are forward Trey Lyles and guard Devin Booker, both freshman, along with 7-foot sophomore center Dakari Johnson.

All seven have the ability to play at the next level as either starters or reserves. Some have the potential to start right away for anybody while the fortunes of others will be influenced by how the NBA Lottery turns out. Early mock drafts have Anthony-Towns competing with Duke freshman center Jahlil Okafor – who has also declared for the draft – for the top overall pick. Anthony-Towns is  6-11 and weighs 250 while Okafor is 6-11 and 270. Both were among the nation’s dominant big men last season.

Should all seven of these players be drafted, it would set a new record for the most players selected from one school in a single draft. The Wildcat’s six selections in the 2012 draft – lead by top overall pick Anthony Davis – is the current record. Davis had lead Kentucky to the national title in 2012 in what was Calipari’s first championship. Read the rest of this entry →

Horton Smith: First Masters Champion 1

Posted on April 03, 2015 by Dean Hybl
Horton Smith

Horton Smith

In 1934, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month became the first winner of what is now considered among the most prestigious of all golf tournament championships.

Horton Smith made his professional golf debut in 1926, in 1929 he won eight tournaments and in 1930 finished third in the U.S. Open and tied for fourth at the British Open. However, he entered the first-ever Masters (then known as the Augusta National Invitational) in 1934 without having previously won any of the tournaments that would eventually be considered the “majors”. Read the rest of this entry →

Remembering “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks 1

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 4

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 12

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 →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Horton Smith: First Masters Champion
      April 3, 2015 | 8:58 am
      Horton Smith

      Horton Smith

      In 1934, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month became the first winner of what is now considered among the most prestigious of all golf tournament championships.

      Horton Smith made his professional golf debut in 1926, in 1929 he won eight tournaments and in 1930 finished third in the U.S. Open and tied for fourth at the British Open. However, he entered the first-ever Masters (then known as the Augusta National Invitational) in 1934 without having previously won any of the tournaments that would eventually be considered the “majors”.

      Read more »

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