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Welcome to the 600 Club Albert Pujols 0

Posted on June 04, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Albert Pujols became the 9th player in MLB history to reach 600 career home runs with a blast against the Twins on June 3rd.

Albert Pujols became the 9th player in MLB history to reach 600 career home runs with a blast against the Twins on June 3rd.

While reaching a milestone home run number is not as earthshaking news in the world of Major League Baseball as it once was, that does little to negate the impressive achievement of longtime slugger Albert Pujols. With a grand slam home run Saturday night, he became just the ninth player in major league history to reach 600 career home runs.

When Pujols first joined the St. Louis Cardinals in 2001, Major League Baseball’s 600 home run club consisted of three members in Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714) and Willie Mays (660) and had not added a new member in 30 years.

For multiple reasons that have been well chronicled, home run production has escalated in the last two decades and thus the number of players accumulating large career totals has also risen.

Beginning with Barry Bonds in 2002 and now including Pujols, six players have reached 600 home runs in the last 15 years. Bonds, who hit 509 home runs after turning 30 years old and 340 after turning 35, finished with a modern era record of 762. Alex Rodriguez completed his career with 696, Ken Griffey with 630, Jim Thome with 612 and Sammy Sosa with 609.

What is somewhat different for Pujols than the other five recent players is that he has reached the total through a long period of consistent numbers, without having one or two huge (50+) home run seasons.

During his 11 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, which included two World Series titles, Pujols finished in the top five in the MVP voting 10 times (three MVP Awards and ninth the other year) and hit at least 32 home runs every year with six seasons above 40 and a high of 49. He also had a .328 batting average for the Cardinals and drove home more than 100 runs 10 times. Read the rest of this entry →

Chris Evert Was Hard to Beat on Clay 0

Posted on May 30, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Chris Evert won a record seven French Open Women's Singles titles. The first two came back-to-back in 1974 and 1975.

Chris Evert won a record seven French Open Women’s Singles titles. The first two came back-to-back in 1974 and 1975.

With Serena Williams not competing in the 2017 French Open due to her pregnancy, the women’s field is wide open and includes only two past champions (2009 winner Svetlana Kuznetsova and defending champion Garbiñe Muguruza). It is a far cry from the 1970s and 1980s when every year you knew there was one female player who would be pushing for the title.

With the possible exception of Rafael Nadal, who is aiming for his record 10th French Open title, no tennis player, man or woman, in the modern era of tennis has been more unbeatable on clay than Chris Evert.

Between August 1973 and May 1979, Evert won an amazing 125 consecutive matches on clay while losing only seven total sets.  After losing a third set tiebreaker to Tracy Austin in the semifinals of the 1979 Italian Open, she rebounded to win her next 72 matches on the surface.

She won seven French Open Championships and three of her six U.S. Open titles came while the tournament was played on clay.

Even though Evert was particularly tough to beat on clay, it wasn’t like she didn’t also display dominance on other surfaces.

Easily the most consistent player in women’s tennis history, Evert won at least one grand slam title in 13 consecutive years. She reached at least the semifinals in each of her first 34 grand slam appearances and 52 times out of 56 total appearances in the four biggest tournaments in tennis.

While her total of 18 total grand slam singles titles is tied for fifth in women’s tennis history, it is likely she would have won considerable more titles had she participated in all four majors every year during her career.

Instead, Evert participated in the Australian Open only six times (winning twice).  After winning the French Open in 1974 and 1975, she skipped the tournament for three years before returning to win the title five more times between 1979 and 1986.

Her overall career singles record of 1,309-146 (.900) ranks as the best of any player in professional tennis history. Read the rest of this entry →

Paul Blair: Defensive Whiz 0

Posted on May 30, 2017 by Dean Hybl

Blair-OriolesMore than 40 years before current stalwart Adam Jones first patrolled centerfield for the Baltimore Orioles, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month roamed the field with grace while also providing the Orioles with timely hitting for more than a decade.

On a team that built its strength through pitching and defense, Paul Blair fit perfectly. He is one of seven members of the Orioles from that era who won at least three Gold Gloves and is tied with Mark Belanger for the second most in team history. Read the rest of this entry →

Memorial Day Remembrance: Nile Kinnick – American Hero 0

Posted on May 29, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Nile Kinnick won the 1939 Heisman Trophy representing the University of Iowa.

Nile Kinnick won the 1939 Heisman Trophy representing the University of Iowa.

In honor of Memorial Day, we remember a former Heisman Trophy winner who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and was more than just a football hero; he was an American Hero.

In 1939 with war starting in Europe, but the United States still two years removed from entering the war, Nile Kinnick Jr. led the Iowa Hawkeyes to an improbable run into the national Top 10.

A talented all-around athlete, Kinnick had been a Junior Legion baseball teammate of Bob Feller. He also excelled in both basketball and football first at Adel High School in his hometown and then, after the family moved to Omaha following his sophomore year, at Benson High School.

Choosing to return to his home state and attend the University of Iowa, Kinnick played both football and basketball as a sophomore in 1937.

He earned All-Big 10 and third team All-American honors in football. On the basketball court he ranked 15th in the Big 10 in scoring.

Following an injury-plagued junior season in which he earned honorable mention honors on the gridiron, Kinnick decided not to continue his basketball career and instead looked to concentrate on his senior football season for the Hawkeyes.

After posting a 2-13-1 record on the football field during the two previous seasons, the Hawkeyes and their senior leader looked to change their fortune in 1939.

Dubbed the “Ironmen” because most of the starters played both ways and rarely came off the field, the Hawkeyes posted a 6-1-1 record, finished second in the Big 10 and were ranked ninth in the final AP Poll.

Kinnick was the unquestioned star of the Hawkeyes in 1939.

Known for his late game heroics, Kinnick scored the game winning touchdown against Notre Dame and threw late touchdown passes in wins over Indiana and Wisconsin.

Playing primarily at left halfback, Kinnick rushed for 374 yards and five touchdowns. Though he attempted only 31 passes, he totaled 638 passing yards and 11 touchdowns. He also served as the punter and placekicker while also returning punts and kickoffs. Read the rest of this entry →

How Racing Safety Has Evolved 0

Posted on May 15, 2017 by Scott Huntington

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Former F1 pilot Hans Stuck is credited with one of the most memorable quotes in autodom.

“When I raced a car last,” Stuck proclaims, “it was a time when sex was safe and racing was dangerous, now it’s the other way around.”

Social commentary aside, Stuck is right. The advances made in safety for racing drivers over the last half-century have reduced the sports mortality rate by orders of magnitude, and even allowed drivers to walk away from crashes that at one time would most certainly have been fatal.

Even now, engineers and medical experts work tirelessly to continue to improve the safety record of a sport that is inherently dangerous. Let’s take a look back at how things came so far.

Read the rest of this entry →

Clowns, Dumps, and Mike Milbury 2

Posted on May 09, 2017 by Victor Uhlman

Joe-Louis-arenaI grew up in the Joe Louis Arena. Some of the best moments of my childhood were spent shuffling around clumsily on the ice of the Joe, strapped up in goalie pads that weighed twice as much as I did. Even at a young age, I felt honored to, in one way or another, share the ice with the Detroit Red Wings. As I grew up, I had the absolute honor of watching one of the greatest dynasties of hockey in their prime. I sat rinkside and watched Yzerman, Lidstrom, and the Russian five change the entire game right in front of my eyes. And when we couldn’t make it to the game, my entire extended family would crowd around our tiny television as if we were practicing some archaic religion, cheering and crying with every goal scored and every shot missed. The Joe hosted its last heartbreaking, yet cathartic game on April 9th, laying to rest one of the most legendary and charismatic ice hockey venues in the history of the sport. This is why I and many others were dumbfounded, yet not surprised, when NBC’s Mike Milbury called the Joe Louis Arena “a dump” in need of retiring.

Milbury is in the news again this week for referring to P.K. Subban, arguably one of the leagues most talented and lovable players, as “a clown” who needed to get a “rap on the head” from head coach Peter Laviolette. Ignoring just how asinine and problematic this statement is, it points to both a dangerous trend for Mike Milbury, and an even more dangerous one for NBC and the league itself. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Paul Blair: Defensive Whiz
      May 30, 2017 | 9:21 pm

      Blair-OriolesMore than 40 years before current stalwart Adam Jones first patrolled centerfield for the Baltimore Orioles, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month roamed the field with grace while also providing the Orioles with timely hitting for more than a decade.

      On a team that built its strength through pitching and defense, Paul Blair fit perfectly. He is one of seven members of the Orioles from that era who won at least three Gold Gloves and is tied with Mark Belanger for the second most in team history.

      Read more »

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