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Sports Then and Now



Sudden Sam McDowell 0

Posted on July 04, 2017 by Dean Hybl
sam_mcdowell_1965

Sudden Sam McDowell

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was a hard-throwing lefthander who often led Major League Baseball in both strikeouts and walks. His off-the-field story also made him the prototype for a famed television character.

Sudden Sam McDowell made his Major League debut for the Cleveland Indians a week before his 19th birthday and pitched in the majors for 15 seasons. Read the rest of this entry →

World Series Game 7 is Special Baseball Treat 1

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 →

Cubs vs. Indians: Baseball Gods Send America a Much Needed Distraction 0

Posted on October 23, 2016 by Dean Hybl
The Chicago Cubs got to celebrate their first National League pennant in 71 years. Will they have another celebration following the World Series?

The Chicago Cubs got to celebrate their first National League pennant in 71 years. Will they have another celebration following the World Series?

With just two weeks remaining in one of the bitterest presidential elections of all time, the Baseball Gods have provided a much needed national distraction that has been a combined 176 years in the making.

While many Americans likely cannot name the last five World Series Champions, even casual sports fans are already aware that the Cubs and Indians will be playing in a World Series for all ages.

After all, these are not just any two Major League teams, these are two teams with epic histories of finding new ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. There have been movies, songs, poems and books chronicling the failures and collapses of these two storied franchises.

What we do know, is that within the next 10 days either the 68 year streak of futility for the Indians or the 108 year streak for the Cubs will be over.

How we get from here to that moment is a compelling story that seems likely to shift at least some of the Facebook and Twitter focus from the Trump-Clinton election to America’s pastime.

The Cubs are not only making their first World Series appearance since 1945, but they finished the regular season with the best record in baseball for the first time since they lost that dramatic seven game series to the Detroit Tigers 71 years ago. Their 103 victories is the most in a season for the Cubs since winning 100 games in 1935 (they lost that series in six games to the Tigers).

Though the Indians have made three World Series appearances since last winning a championship in 1948, until the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Championship earlier this year to end the 52-year championship drought for the city of Cleveland, their burden seemed just as daunting as that of the Cubs.

However, now that the pressure of a city has been lifted from their shoulders, it almost seems like the Indians are playing with house money. While their 68 year World Series drought is certainly significant, it pales in comparison to that of the Cubs and the national fan base that watched much of their misery over the last several decades thanks to the WGN super-cable network. Read the rest of this entry →

Minnie Minoso: Baseball’s 7-Decade Man 5

Posted on May 18, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Minnie Minoso

Minnie Minoso

The May Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is the only person in professional baseball history to appear in a game in seven different decades.

Santurnino “Minnie” Minoso made his major league debut with the Cleveland Indians in 1949 and appeared in a major or independent league professional game in each of the following six decades to establish a record that will likely never be broken. Read the rest of this entry →

Will Jim Thome’s Homecoming be a Successful One? 14

Posted on August 26, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Jim Thome's return to Cleveland is a reminder of past glory.

The decision by Jim Thome to waive his no-trade clause with the Minnesota Twins and accept a return to the Cleveland Indians brings the career of baseball’s newest 600 Club member full circle.

It was the Indians that picked Thome in the 13th round of the 1989 baseball draft and for the Indians that Thome blasted a franchise record 334 home runs while helping the team reach two World Series.

Cleveland fell just short in both of those Fall Classic appearances and the perfect ending to the Thome story would be for the slugger to help his old team finally achieve championship glory.

However, not every sports story has a happy “fairy tale” ending and it isn’t likely that even Thome playing at his best would be the enough to get this Cleveland team to championship glory.

The Indians are currently six games out of first place in the AL Central and are 30-44 since June 1st.

While Thome has enjoyed a brief resurgence with four home runs and 13 RBI in August, he is still on pace for his lowest full season home run total (not counting his injury-plagued 2005 campaign) since hitting 20 homers with the Indians in 1994.

Even if Thome and the Indians can catch lightning in a bottle and somehow reach the playoffs, Thome will have to change his recent postseason ways to help the Indians advance to the World Series. Read the rest of this entry →

Jim Thome Joins Elite Home Run Club 7

Posted on August 16, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Jim Thome is the fifth player to reach 600 home runs in the last decade and eighth all-time.

In baseball the number of career home runs needed to reach baseball immortality used to be 500. Thanks to baseball’s “Steroid Era” and the sudden rise of sluggers eclipsing that mark, that magic number now appears to be 600 career homers. That club just got a little larger on Monday night as Jim Thome became the eighth player in baseball history to reach 600 career home runs.

Since becoming a full-time starter for the Cleveland Indians in 1994, Jim Thome has been one of the most prolific and consistent sluggers in baseball while leaving the headlines and accolades to others.

He eclipsed the 40 home run plateau six times and hit 52 in 2002, but never finished higher than fourth in the MVP balloting and earned only five trips to the All-Star game.

Because his greatest talent was hitting home runs during a time when that skill was no longer unique, Thome has often been pushed aside as a product of his time.

However, unlike many of the other sluggers of his era, even though his career started right about the time that performance enhancing drugs began to engulf baseball, there has never been any evidence or accusations linking Thome’s home run proficiency to use of a synthetic product.

Yet, it has taken him nearing the 600 home run plateau for many baseball fans to even acknowledge that Thome belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Read the rest of this entry →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • George Musso: From Longshot to Hall of Famer
      August 5, 2017 | 4:52 pm
      George Musso

      George Musso

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month went from small college long shot to Pro Football Hall of Famer.

      When George Musso finished his college career at Millikin College in 1933, Chicago Bears coach George Halas offered the 6-foot-2, 265 pound lineman a tryout and eventually a $90 per game contract, but had serious doubts whether he could make the transition from small college football to the NFL.

      It took a year for Musso to adjust, but by 1935 he was an All-Pro tackle. Two years later, he moved to guard and again earned first team All-NFL honors. He became the first player in NFL history to earn first team All-League honors at two different positions.

      Read more »

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