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American Horse Racing Through the Years 0

Posted on August 18, 2014 by Eva Thompson
The horse racing industry in the United States brings in over $26 billion each year.

The horse racing industry in the United States brings in over $26 billion each year.

Horse racing provides a full spectrum of entertainment unlike any other sport. Whether your horse wins or loses, spending a day at the races makes for a great afternoon or evening outdoors watching beautiful animals compete.

The Tradition of Horse Racing
Horse racing has been a long standing tradition among many cultures. The sport dates back all the way to 4500 BC among nomadic tribesmen in Central Asia, who first domesticated horses. Archeological records reveal that the Ancient Greeks, Syrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians also participated in horse racing to entertain the masses and honor outstanding horsemanship required for battles. Later horse racing became popular among British royalty and aristocracy where it received the nickname “Sport of Kings”.

These days, horse racing represents one of the only legal forms of gambling around the world, including Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, the United States, South America, the Middle East, and Australia. Read the rest of this entry →

Serious Dedication: An Ode to Infamous Sports Fans 0

Posted on August 17, 2014 by Brooke Chaplan
For years Rollen Stewart and his rainbow wig were fixtures at major sporting events.

For years Rollen Stewart and his rainbow wig were fixtures at major sporting events.

You know a sports fan is dedicated to the team when they are more famous than the actual athletes they support. Here are 8 famous fans from history, and the events that placed them in the unofficial fan hall of fame.

1. He Wasn’t Supposed to Know!

In 1977, Bobby Murcer took to the plate in an attempt to hit a home run for a young, terminally ill fan—Scott Crull. Not only did Murcer bat an impressive 2 homers, but he dedicated them to young Scott on national television. Unfortunately, Crull hadn’t been told he was dying yet. Oops!

2. John 3:16

Some sports fans are there to support the team, others to support their…religion? Rollen Stewart, commonly called “Rainbow Man” thanks to the rainbow wig he liked to wear around, did just that. Along with his wig he wore a shirt with the words “Believe in Christ.”

He didn’t discriminate between sports, showing up at all major sporting events in the 70s and 80s including the Super Bowl, Olympics, World Series, and the World Cup. Unfortunately, he found himself in jail serving three life sentences for holding a maid hostage in 1992.

3. The Loyal Dictator

Apparently North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong Il, had his own personal library of videos of every game Michael Jordan played. He was an avid Bull’s fan, and reportedly said he thought the youths and workers in his own country should be made to play more basketball. Read the rest of this entry →

A Brief History of the Dover International Speedway 0

Posted on August 14, 2014 by Scott Huntington

Whether you’re a horseracing fan, a NASCAR fan, or a fan of both, there’s just something special about Dover Downs. Affectionately nicknamed, “The Monster Mile,” the Dover International Speedway has been home to at least two NASCAR races a year since 1969.

Dover Downs

This track isn’t one of those that began just as a horseracing course later retrofitted to accommodate auto racing. From the very beginning, Dover Downs was built for both horse and auto racing. Its NASCAR history began with a bang, as the first race – known as the Mason-Dixon 300 – was won by none other than Richard Petty.

NASCAR Niche

It quickly became clear NASCAR was the biggest auto racing draw to the track, so beginning in 1971, the Dover International Speedway did away with all auto races that were not NASCAR sanctioned. This meant all the attention at Dover was now on the two 500-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.

And though Richard Petty had the first win on the track, Jimmie Johnson is the one who really seems to own the place. He has had 9 wins there. Mark Martin could also make a viable claim of supremacy at the Monster Mile as well, as he has had the most top-five finishes with 23, and the most top-ten finishes as well, with 31. Read the rest of this entry →

20 Years Ago: Baseball’s Darkest Chapter 2

Posted on August 12, 2014 by Dean Hybl
The 1994 baseball strike brought out the worst in sports greed.

The 1994 baseball strike brought out the worst in sports greed.

It is hard to believe that 20 years have now passed since money and greed in sports reached a startling climax with what ultimately became the cancellation of the final two months and postseason of the 1994 Major League Baseball season.

In the coming months retiring baseball commissioner Bud Selig will receive many accolades for all he has done to support the resurgence of the game of baseball, but as acting commissioner in 1994 he oversaw the destruction of the game and while it may have recovered financially and in overall popularity, in certain pockets, things have never been the same.

On August 12, 1994 the team with the best record in baseball was the Montreal Expos with a mark of 74-40. Now if you are under the age of 25, you may not even remember that there was ever a baseball team in Montreal and for that you can thank Selig and the others who failed to save the 1994 campaign.

The Expos, who had entered the league in 1969 and went an entire decade before posting a winning season, had developed into a solid franchise having posted .500 or better records 12 times since 1979. However, ironically, their only previous postseason appearance had come during the strike shortened 1981 campaign when they lost the National League Championship Series in five games to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

It was very clear that after all the close calls in previous seasons, 1994 was going to be the year for the Expos.  Despite losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-0 on August 11th to end a six game winning streak, the Expos were six games ahead of the Atlanta Braves and clearly looked positioned to capture their first-ever division crown and potentially reach the World Series for the first time.

With a young nucleus that included future stars Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez, Marquis Grissom, Rondell White and Moises Alou along with several other solid major leaguers, the Expos were clearly poised for success.

It was also clear that the city of Montreal was excited and supportive of their 1994 team. Some historians will say that Montreal never really supported the Expos and that a move was inevitable. Others will tell you that the fan base in Montreal during that time was quite solid and had they been able to experience World Series joy, as had happened in Toronto in the previous two seasons, the Expos would have eventually received a new stadium and would still be there today.

It is hard to predict “what might have been”, but one thing is clear, in the weeks prior to the baseball shutdown fans in Montreal were becoming extremely excited about the prospects for their team.

Though the Expos ranked 11th of 14 teams in the National League in overall attendance at the time of the strike, that total was a little deceiving as the Expos had played only 52 home games (compared to 62 on the road) and had been averaging an extremely respectable crowd of more than 24,000 fans per game. In fact, they had drawn more than 30,000 fans (including more than 39,000 for the final game) per night for a four game mid-week (Monday-Thursday) series against the St. Louis Cardinals from August 1-4.

With 30 home games remaining as they drove toward a possible pennant, it is likely that the Expos would have continued to draw large crowds through the remainder of the 1994 season.

Of course, we will never know, as both the baseball players and owners dug in and ultimately the two sides would not settle their differences until the remainder of the 1994 season was gone and the start of the 1995 season was delayed. The end result was a 232 day work stoppage and the cancellation of more than 900 games, including the playoffs and World Series for the first time since 1904.

While it is very easy to vilify Selig and the owners for their role in the strike and some of the aftermath, you also have to give much of the “credit” to Donald Fehr and the players. Read the rest of this entry →

35 Years Ago: Yankees Lose Captain in Shocking Accident 2

Posted on August 02, 2014 by Dean Hybl
It was 35 years ago that New York Yankees captain Thurman Munson died in a plane accident.

It was 35 years ago that New York Yankees captain Thurman Munson died in a plane accident.

While current New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter has spent much of this season saying good bye to baseball fans across the country, it was 35 years ago that another Yankees captain left the game in a sudden and tragic manner.

On August 2, 1979, the two-time defending World Series Champion New York Yankees were struggling to stay in contention in the American League East. Despite having completed a must-needed three game sweep the day before with a 9-1 win over the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees stood in fourth place in the division 14 games behind the first place Baltimore Orioles.

A much needed off day, it would prove to be one of the toughest in team history.

After the three game series in Chicago, Yankee captain and veteran catcher Thurman Munson chose to spend the off-day in his hometown of Canton, Ohio, rather than travel back to New York.

An 11-year veteran, Munson had been the fourth pick of the 1968 MLB Draft and in 1970 was named the American League Rookie of the Year. Over the next decade, Munson was considered the “heart and soul” of the Yankees as they looked to regain the glory of past decades.

In April of 1976, a season that would end with the first World Series appearance for the Yankees in a dozen years, Munson became the first New York player to be designated as team captain since the retirement of Lou Gehrig in 1939.

Munson was a seven-time All-Star and in 1976 was named the American League MVP. He posted three straight seasons of 100+ RBIs from 1975-77 and had five seasons with a .300 or higher batting average. Read the rest of this entry →

Ricky Carmichael: Motocross Legend 8

Posted on July 18, 2014 by Scott Huntington

Ricky Carmichael has taken a nontraditional path to the NASCAR circuit; he got there by absolutely dominating the motocross world. Born in 1979 in Clearwater, Florida, he first began racing motocross at a very young age. His parents were either very supportive of him or very nearly criminally negligent of him because he began racing at the incredible age of 5.

ricly

For the next ten years, he owned the American amateur races; as he went on to win an astonishing 67 titles. That’s nearly seven titles per year from age 5-15. Then in 1996 he decided to stop beating up on all the poor amateur racers and made the jump to pro racing. You know how sometimes there’s a bit of a learning curve when an athlete turns pro? You always hear people talking about college quarterbacks being stunned their rookie years by the speed of the NFL and so on. Well, there was no such harsh transition for Ricky Carmichael. In 1996 he won the AMA Motocross Rookie of the Year Award racing for the Kawasaki team.

Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Rod Carew: Hitting Machine
      July 5, 2014 | 3:42 pm
      Rod Carew

      Rod Carew

      With the Major League All-Star Game being played this year in Minnesota, we recognize as the July Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month one of the best hitters of the last half a century who was named to 18 straight All-Star teams, including in each of his 12 seasons with the Twins.

      Few have been as good at the craft of hitting a baseball as Rod Carew. During 19 major league seasons, Carew won seven batting titles and hit .330 or better ten times.

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