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Sports Then and Now



Shohei Ohtani Latest in Evolution of Elite Athletes in Baseball 1

Posted on July 11, 2021 by Dean Hybl
There have been many great athletes in the history of Major League Baseball, but you can draw a clear line in the evolution from Ruth to Mantle, Jackson and now Ohtani.

There are quite a few exciting young players in Major League Baseball, but while most of them fit the traditional model of players in baseball history, in my opinion one stands out as part of a very elite lineage of special athletes in baseball.

Whether he is throwing a 100 MPH fastball, launching a tape measure home run or gliding around the bases like an Olympic sprinter, Shohei Ohtani is clearly a unique athlete within the current game of baseball.

In my opinion, Ohtani is the fourth player over the last 100 years who stood out from the crowd, not just in relation to their baseball production, but more specifically in how their unique level of freak athleticism allowed them to do things never seen before.

The first of these four was Babe Ruth. Though most common images of him are from later in his career when he was slightly overweight, the reality is that the young Babe Ruth was a transcendent athlete who forever changed the game of baseball.

Ruth first burst on the scene in 1914 as a 19-year-old left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. He posted an 18-8 record with 2.44 ERA as a 20-year-old in 1915 and then won 23 and 24 games respectively over the next two seasons. He also led the American league with a 1.75 ERA in 1916.

Part of three World Series Championship teams in four seasons with the Red Sox between 1915 and 1918, Ruth set a World Series record by pitching 29.2 consecutive scoreless innings (it stood until 1961).

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Great Baseball All-Star Game Moments: Part 1 (1933-1959) 2

Posted on July 11, 2020 by Dean Hybl
Babe Ruth hit the first home run in All-Star Game history during the first All-Star Game in 1933.

Since its inception in 1933, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game has provided fans an annual opportunity to see most of the great stars of the game on the same field. While the game is an exhibition and has withstood periods of indifference by some players, management and fans, it remains a special mid-season moment.

Because of COVID-19, there will not be an All-Star Game played in 2020, marking only the second season without a game (the first was in 1945 during World War II) since the start of the annual contest in 1933.

Though there will not be any new memories this year, there have been many memorable games and moments in the 90 meetings between the top players of the American and National Leagues.

This is the first of a three-part series where we will relive some of the great moments and games in the history of this special series.

July 6, 1933 – Comiskey Park, Chicago
The idea of bringing the top players from both the American and National Leagues together in the middle of the season for one “All-Star” game was initiated by Arch Ward, a sports editor for the Chicago Tribune. The first game was played at Comiskey Park to coincide with Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition.

In a fitting testimonial to his legendary career, Babe Ruth hit the first home run in All-Star history when he lifted a pitch from Bill Hallahan into the right-field stands in the third inning.

The American League went on to win the game 4-2 with Lefty Gomez earning the victory.

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The Incredible Value of the 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle Baseball Card 1

Posted on May 02, 2017 by Ross Uitts

It’s considered the most iconic post-War baseball card in the hobby yet it’s also commonly mistaken as his rookie card.

That’s right, the 1952 Topps #311 card is actually not Mickey Mantle’s rookie card.

That distinction would belong to the 1951 Bowman #253 card.

But even though that one is Mickey Mantle’s true rookie card, it’s actually his 1952 Topps #311 that is the more valuable of the two.

1951-Bowman-253-Mickey-Mantle-rookie-card

And as you might often expect, Mantle is a rare case where a player’s rookie card isn’t his most valuable.

So, why is that?

Well, the story is actually quite fascinating.

Topps has been the biggest name in sports cards since 1952 when they released their first official baseball card set.

And that’s the first of several factors that make’s Mantle’s 1952 Topps card so valuable: he was the most popular player in the industry juggernaut’s first set.  This immediately sends the card’s historical value through the roof. Even common cards of this set can fetch hundreds of dollars in top condition.

The second reason for its high value is because it’s way scarcer that you might expect.

To understand how scarce it is, you’ve got to remember that Topps and other manufacturers released baseball cards in multiple series. At the beginning of the 1952 baseball season, kids were chasing cards in Series 1, tearing through the 5 cent packs in search of their heroes. But Mantle was nowhere to be found. Series 1 only included cards #1-310, and Topps had earmarked Mantle to be card #311.

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Roger Maris 61 in ’61: A Record That Stands Alone 31

Posted on October 01, 2011 by Dean Hybl

It was 50 years ago that Roger Maris blasted a record 61 home runs in a single season.

It was 50 years ago today, October 1, 1961, that New York Yankees slugger Roger Maris broke what many thought was an unbreakable record by swatting his 61st home run of the season. Though his mark has now technically been eclipsed on six occasions by three different players, the accomplishment is still considered to be something special and now that there is testing for performance enhancing drugs might never again be topped.

Though Maris had been the American League MVP in 1960, no one expected him to threaten Babe Ruth’s hallowed mark of 60 home runs in a single season.

In the 33 years since Ruth had hit 60 home runs in 1927 the 50 home run plateau had been reached only 10 times with Jimmie Foxx in 1932 and Hank Greenberg in 1938 coming the closest with 58 home runs each.

The way Maris started the 1961 season, no one could have predicted that he would finish the campaign by breaking Ruth’s record.

Maris hit only one home run in 15 games during April and through the first 28 games of the campaign had only three homers.

Then on May 17th he started a streak of four straight games with a home run and then added five more home runs the rest of the month to enter June with 12 home runs.

Maris wasn’t the only Yankee who entered June with double digits in home runs. Mickey Mantle blasted seven homers in each of the first two months to enter June with 14 home runs.

In June, Maris slugged 15 homers and Mantle 11 to give both players totals near the pace of Ruth as the season neared its mid-point.

When the Yankees played their 81st game on July 8th, Maris had 32 home runs and Mantle 29 to put both players in range of the record.

Maris blasted four home runs in a double header against the Chicago White Sox to give him 40 for the season and people started to discuss the possibility that Ruth’s record could be in jeopardy.

When Maris then went eight straight games without a home run and ended up having one homer in a 16 game stretch, the attention started to shift to Mantle, who was still blasting long balls. Read the rest of this entry →

The Truth About A-Rod in the Postseason 0

Posted on October 13, 2009 by Don Spieles

Yankees Rodriguez homers during game 3 of the ALDS in Minneapolis

Alex Rodriguez has not been as bad in postseason play as the media want you to believe.

Whether you’re a Yankee fan, baseball fan, or even if you’re just a gal who thinks that he looks good in a uniform, you have probably heard that Alex Rodriguez is lousy in the playoffs. It has been the mantra for media members whenever they talk about his playing prowess.  “Is he great? Yeah, but look how he plays in the postseason!”

In the recent ALDS against Minnesota, A-Rod managed to get some hits, including a game tying home run in game two.  With the newest headlines telling us that he may finally be coming around where October play is concerned, it’s about time that we really looked at it – in a historical perspective.

Of all the great Yankees, Mickey Mantle ranks at the top of many lists for the ultimate Yankee offensive threat.  He didn’t hit as many jacks as Ruth, but his speed, switch-hitting, and postseason experience matters more, at least in this conversation.  Reggie Jackson, who had a relatively short career with New York, carries the name “Mr. October” so who better to compare with the highest paid player in baseball history.

So, when you hold the numbers of these two legends up against the beleaguered current third-baseman from the Bronx Bombers, how do they look?

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Drew Pearson: Mr. Clutch
      August 7, 2021 | 6:59 pm

      Drew Pearson

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former NFL wide receiver know as “Mr. Clutch” for his penchant for making big receptions at crucial moments of the game. After waiting for more than 30 years, he is finally earning his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2021 Hall of Fame Class.

      During his decade with the Dallas Cowboys, Drew Pearson had a habit of making the big catch at the right moment to help the Cowboys time and again snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

      The favorite target of Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, Pearson was widely recognized as one of the great receivers of his era. Though at the time of his retirement many expected Pearson to easily breeze into the Hall of Fame, his enshrinement was derailed by changes to the game which artificially inflated receiver stats and made the numbers he produced during a time when wide receivers weren’t catching 100 passes a season seem inferior.

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