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Bill Freehan: Michigan Man 2

Posted on May 12, 2018 by Dean Hybl

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was an 11-time American League All-Star at one of the most demanding positions in baseball, yet outside of Detroit his exploits have been largely forgotten.

For more than a decade, Bill Freehan was the rock behind home plate for the Detroit Tigers. In addition to earning All-Star honors 10 straight years and 11 times overall, Freehan was a five-time Gold Glove winner and in 1968 finished second in the American League in the MVP voting.

A true “Michigan Man”, Freehan played his entire sports career representing teams from Michigan. Read the rest of this entry →

44 Years Ago: Number 44 Became Number 1 1

Posted on April 08, 2018 by Dean Hybl
Hank Aaron being celebrated after hitting career home run number 715 on April 8, 1974

Hank Aaron being celebrated after hitting career home run number 715 on April 8, 1974

It was 44 years ago today, April 8, 1974, that Hank Aaron, wearing number 44 for the Atlanta Braves, broke the seemingly unbreakable home run record of Babe Ruth with his 715th career home run.

In the decades since, the home run in baseball has lost some of its individual luster as juiced balls, juiced bats and juiced people (not to mention shrunken ballparks) have made the home run a much more common occurrence than in past generations.

However, that “cheapening” of the home run has in some ways elevated the realization of just how amazing it was for Aaron to amass more than 700 home runs despite playing much of his career during a time when baseball wasn’t geared to make it easier to hit home runs.

Few players have displayed the long-term consistency of greatness that Aaron compiled during his career. From 1955 through 1973 (19 years), he finished in the top 17 in the National League MVP voting every year, including 13 times in the top 10 and winning the award in 1957.

He led the National League in home runs four times and blasted 40 or more home runs in a season eight times. He hit a career-high 47 at the age of 37 in 1971 and two years later hit 40 home runs in just 120 games.

While his total of 755 career home runs has technically been passed, Aaron is still recognized by many as the Home Run King. His 2,297 career RBIs and 6,856 total bases are still the highest totals in Major League history. Not to mention, he finished his career with 3,771 career hits and a .305 career batting average.

In celebration of the 44th anniversary of his record-setting home run, check out videos of that blast as well as Aaron’s career.

 

Read the rest of this entry →

Premier League Forwards: Then and Now 0

Posted on February 19, 2018 by John Harris

Since 1992, the Premier League has caught the imagination of sports fans everywhere, and over the last 24 seasons, it has risen to become one of the most popular leagues in the world; indeed, by some measures, it is the most entertaining competition on the planet.

Alan Shearer scored 260 career goals in the Premier League.

Alan Shearer scored 260 career goals in the Premier League.

There are many reasons behind the Premier League’s success, but one factor has consistently helped to make it an enthralling spectacle, and that’s the number of top-class forwards who have graced the competition over the years.

From early stars such as Alan Shearer and Andy Cole to the current leading scorer Harry Kane – the favorite with sports betting companies to clinch the 2017-18 top scorer title – Premier League fans have been blessed with some prolific forwards. To celebrate the league’s heritage of top-quality strikers, we take a look at five of the all-time greats and compare them to the current season’s top five goalscorers.

Then: the all-time Premier League strikers

If there is one striker who is synonymous with the Premier League, it is the competition’s all-time leading scorer, Alan Shearer. In 441 games for Blackburn and Newcastle, Shearer scored 260 Premier League goals, topping the scoring charts for three seasons from 1995 to 1997. Strong, tireless, and dominant in the air, Shearer was the quintessential English striker.

Shearer’s main rival was the mercurial Andy Cole. A controversial figure, he moved from Newcastle to Manchester United, for whom he won five Premier League titles. Blessed with pace and a silky touch, Cole won over the Manchester United fans and formed one of the Premier League’s deadliest strike partnerships with Dwight Yorke.

There are a number of candidates for the title of the Premier League’s first overseas star, but none were as deadly as Thierry Henry. Signed by Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, Henry became a global star, mesmerising defenses as he helped Arsenal to become one of Europe’s top sides. No top ten Premier League striker scored his goals more quickly. Read the rest of this entry →

Bob Cousy: Houdini of the Hardwood 0

Posted on February 04, 2018 by Dean Hybl
Bob Cousy

Bob Cousy

The Boston Celtics traded prior to the 2017-2018 season for All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, but the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was the first in a long line of superstars to play for the Boston Celtics.

Before there was Bill Russell and Larry Bird, the Boston Celtics were powered by a 6-foot-1 inch guard from Holy Cross. Bob Cousy was the on-the-court leader for the Celtics in the era during which they emerged as a basketball juggernaut. Read the rest of this entry →

Pro Football Hall of Fame Gets a Bit Closer to Legitimacy 0

Posted on February 03, 2018 by Dean Hybl
Nearly 50 years after retiring from the NFL, Jerry Kramer (#64) has finally been selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Nearly 50 years after retiring from the NFL, Jerry Kramer (#64) has finally been selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

For me and likely many other long-time lovers of the history of pro football, the relationship with the Pro Football Hall of Fame has always been a messy one.

I have enjoyed the great fortune of visiting the Pro Football Hall of Fame multiple times over the years, including taking my kids to Canton in 2015. The museum is a wonderful place to see, recall and learn about the many great moments, players and teams that have been part of the nearly 100 year history of the NFL.

However, while the Hall of Fame was created to be a historical archive to tell the story of professional football, over the years it has become more associated with the players specifically enshrined as Hall of Famers.

That is where for me the relationship starts to get a bit challenging.

While most of the 310 men who have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame through 2017 are unquestionably deserving, the process in which players are chosen has often been an uneven process in which some former players, coaches and administrators are quickly recognized while others with similar credentials either wait for many years or are totally omitted.

Made up of sports media professionals, the Hall of Fame selection committee has a long history of personal vendettas and bias.

Longtime committee member Paul Zimmerman reportedly said that Ken Stabler would never get inducted in his lifetime and sure enough Stabler was not inducted until the year after he died in 2015.

My greatest frustration with the Hall of Fame selection committee stems from their regular practice of making players and coaches who clearly have Hall of Fame credentials wait extended periods of time before being inducted.

Among the clearly deserving Hall of Famers who have been forced to wait beyond their initial year of eligibility were Fran Tarkenton, Shannon Sharpe, Derrick Thomas, Hank Stram, Willie Lanier, Tom Mack and Willie Wood.

The one position that has historically been treated with limited respect by the selection committee is position of wide receiver. Entering 2018, 25 modern era wide receivers have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, but only four of them (Jerry Rice, Raymond Berry, Paul Warfield and Steve Largent) were selected in their first year of eligibility. Read the rest of this entry →

50 Years Ago: The Ice Bowl 0

Posted on December 30, 2017 by Dean Hybl
It was 50 years ago that the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers met in the Ice Bowl.

It was 50 years ago that the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers met in the Ice Bowl.

There have been a lot of iconic games during the nearly 100 year history of the NFL, but no game has quite combined championship drama with unprecedented weather conditions like the 1967 NFL Championship Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers. Played fifty years ago on December 31, 1967, the game has become known simply as “The Ice Bowl.”

The buildup to the 1967 NFL Championship Game actually started a year earlier when the Packers made a late goal line stand to preserve a 34-27 victory over the Cowboys in the 1966 NFL Championship Game played at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

Neither team had an easy path through the 1967 season. In actuality, the two best teams in the NFL during the regular season were the Los Angeles Rams and Baltimore Colts. However, they were in the same division and only one of the two teams could make the playoffs in an era before the wild card.

Baltimore entered the regular season finale in Los Angeles with a 11-0-2 record, including a 24-24 tie with the Rams during their earlier meeting. Not only did the Colts lose their chance at an undefeated regular season during their 34-10 loss, they also lost a chance at reaching Super Bowl II. Instead, the Rams earned the Coastal Division title and a spot in the playoffs.

Even though the Rams had a better record (11-1-2) than the Packers (9-4-1), their divisional playoff game was played in Green Bay on December 23, 1967. The Rams had defeated Green Bay 27-24 in a hard fought regular season game two weeks earlier, but this time the Packers dominated. Read the rest of this entry →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Billy Kilmer: Hard-Nosed Quarterback
      September 2, 2018 | 7:32 pm
      Kilmer

      Billy Kilmer

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month began his NFL career as an athletic running quarterback, but he endured a near fatal car accident to completely change his game during a career that spanned nearly two decades.

      Anyone who is familiar with former NFL quarterback Billy Kilmer probably remembers him as the portly, un-athletic, but very tough quarterback for the Washington Redskins in the 1970s. However, during his first two NFL seasons, Kilmer was primarily used as a running quarterback and running back for the San Francisco 49ers.

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