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Sports Then and Now



Remembering Sports Greats We Lost in 2016 4

Posted on December 31, 2016 by Dean Hybl
Muhammad Ali won the Heavyweight Boxing Championship three times during his career.

Muhammad Ali won the Heavyweight Boxing Championship three times during his career.

While it is inevitable that every year we say goodbye to some of those who shaped sports history, it seems like 2016 included more than the normal share of all-time sports legends. Muhammad Ali and Arnold Palmer were not just sports legends, they were national icons whose celebrity transcended sports. At their peak, Pat Summitt and Gordie Howe were synonymous with their respective sports. In addition, the year included the death of several well-known members of the sports media as well as a number of accomplished coaches.

Below is a brief remembrance of some of the sports greats who passed away in 2016:

Muhammad Ali: While it is not difficult to poke holes into Ali’s self-proclaimed moniker as the “Greatest of All-Time”, there is little doubt that during his peak, Ali was one of the most recognized people on the planet. An Olympic boxing champion in 1960, Ali (then known as Cassius Clay), won the Heavyweight title in February 1964 with a sixth-round TKO of champion Sonny Liston. Ali, who was 22-years-old at the time he won the title, maintained the belt until 1967 when it was stripped following his federal conviction for refusing draft induction. It would be more than three years before Ali would return to the boxing ring. During the 1970s, Ali regained the Heavyweight title twice more while participating in some of the most iconic boxing matches of all-time. He fought Joe Frazier three times, winning the last two, and also defeated George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle.” After retiring in 1980, the once polarizing Ali developed into an American icon. His battle with Parkinson’s syndrome over the last two decades saw the charismatic Ali struggle to communicate, but he was often in the public eye.

Ralph Branca: Branca won 88 games and as a three-time All-Star during his 12 year Major League career, but he is best known for giving up the “Shot Heard Round the World” to Bobby Thomson during the 1951 National League Playoff between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. He had only eight career wins before going 21-12 with a 2.67 ERA during the 1947 season. However, what Branca is perhaps best known for during the 1947 season was his willingness to stand next to teammate Jackie Robinson at the beginning of the season when others were reluctant. Branca won 13 or more games three other times during his career.

Dennis Byrd: Byrd’s NFL career was cut short in 1992 when he was paralyzed as a result of an on-field hit. He recovered enough to walk onto the field to start the 1993 season and went on to be a motivational speaker. He died as a result of a car accident in October.
Read the rest of this entry →

History of NASCAR Pit Crews 1

Posted on December 07, 2016 by Scott Huntington

One of the most iconic aspects of a NASCAR race is the nonstop, top-speed action of the pit crew on the sidelines. These amazing individuals are in charge of high-speed maintenance and repairs for the cars that are tearing their way around the track. We’ve all probably watched them change a tire in a few seconds, but did you ever wonder how these pit crews got their start?

1950s -- 55 seconds

The Time Before

Races didn’t always need the skills of a pit crew. When racing became a mainstream sport back in the 1950s, most of the races were less than 100 miles, total. The only race that really needed the assistance of pit stop engineers was the Southern 500, which was arguably ahead of its time.

That didn’t mean the shorter NASCAR races didn’t have their own version of the pit crew. Cars would blow tires, bump fenders or destroy engine parts that required replacement in order to keep racing. Until the mid-1950s, all these changes were done by hand. The pneumatic air guns that we’re so used to seeing didn’t make a debut until later in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Back then, the fastest recorded time for a tire change was about 55 seconds utilizing manual tools.

Choreography and Timing

After the pneumatic air gun hit the mainstream and pit technicians were able to change tires and remove faulty parts faster than before, the focus switched to speed and efficiency. By using impact wrenches and much faster floor jacks, pit crews could reduce the time it took to change a tire by 17 seconds.

pit-crews-harrell-2015

Adding choreography and practicing the motions that each pit crew position needed to do brought the overall pit stop time down to 33 seconds.

Specialized Pit Crew Roles

Until now, the idea of pit crews included the concept that everyone was interchangeable. The guy handling the fuel one pit stop could be slinging a tire at the next. Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, the idea of specialized pit crew roles began to emerge.

By creating these specialized roles, pit crews were able to practice and perfect the nuances of their specific role rather than trying to do everything.

Today, the average pit crew is made up of 12 people, each trained to perfect their specific role, including:

  • Front and Rear Tire Carriers: As their name suggests, these are the people who carry the replacement tires into the pit and the worn tires away.
  • Fire and Rear Tire Changers: Changes the tires, handling the impact gun to remove and replace the lug nuts.
  • Jack Man: Operates the hydraulic jack that lifts and lowers the car.
  • Gas Man: As the name suggest, he refuels the car usually using two 12-gallon cans.
  • Support Crew: They pick up any slack and help the crew with little tasks.
  • Car and Crew Chiefs: The car chief figures out the best adjustments to make on the car itself. The crew chief is in charge of the crew.
  • Engineer: Works with the car chief to figure out the exact build for each race car.

There will also be a NASCAR official in the pit to make sure all rules are followed, as well as an extra man that may handle tasks like assisting the driver or cleaning the windshield.

By relying on these specialized roles, pit crews can pull off a four-tire change in an astonishing 12 seconds, getting their drivers back on the track that much faster.

The history of the NASCAR pit crew is an exciting and varied one, and every change and invention has helped it become the efficient machine that keeps races going. NASCAR wouldn’t be the same thing that it is today without the smooth motions and choreographed movements of the pit crew.

FREE MIKE Sports Comic Book: Worst About Sports 2

Posted on December 21, 2015 by Mike Raffone

Yellow Cover FREE Worst About Sports

A best selling book on my top 25 picks on what’s best about sports wouldn’t be complete without a complementary book on my top 25 choices on what’s worst about sports.

As I penned in my previous book – Best About Sports – the subject of sports always triggers debate.

Pick a player, celebrate a team or remember a championship moment, regardless of the sport, and I guarantee that a lively discussion will quickly follow.

In a relative’s living room, at a neighborhood bar or around the office water cooler, the mere mention of a certain player or team will instantaneously ignite colorful conversation and more than likely ruffle some one’s feathers.

Sports fans not only articulate what they like about an athlete, a team or a game, but they also love to pontificate about what they dis-like about them.

We can all agree that it’s our constitutional right, privilege and duty to vent over what we dis-like in the arena of sports just as much as we celebrate what we do like about sports.

I, for one, feel it’s my obligation to speak up and share about those players, teams, mascots, sounds or situations in sports that stoke my personal embers of distaste. I’ve accumulated my own list of the top 25 things that agitate me the most.

In Worst About Sports, you’ll probably agree with some universally irritating dis-likes that figure prominently on my list. They include spitting in baseball, grunting in tennis, stoppage time in soccer, non-sport sports like NASCAR, pool and curling and the once mega-rich, but now retired, broke athletes.

However, some entries that squeezed into my top 25 Worst About Sports may surprise you, but they disturb me nonetheless and have warranted a chapter in my book. They include Twitter, steroids, tattoos, adjusting the fellas, whining in the NBA, spitting in baseball and the University of Notre Dame’s leprechaun mascot.

Remember, this is my book chronicling my collection of the top 25 things I find worst about sports. It’s a reservoir of my personal angst.

The book overflows with my very own vituperative views on things I dis-like in sports. These are my opinions and personal picks.

If you disagree and want to share what and who irks you in the world of sports, then email me at mikeonsports@yahoo.com.

Otherwise, enjoy the book. And, it’s FREE! So, share it with friends. Just click HERE to safely download.

MIKE on sports!

FREE MIKE Sports Comic Book: Best About Sports 3

Posted on December 14, 2015 by Mike Raffone

Yellow Cover FREE Best About Sports

The subject of sports always triggers debate.

Pick a star player, celebrate a title winning team or remember a championship moment, regardless of the sport, and I guarantee that a passionate discussion will quickly follow.

Animated, verbal altercations about any accomplished athlete or team embroil sports fans everywhere. They foster lively conversations about what happened “way back then” as well as what is happening “now.” And, that’s what I believe is Best About Sports

Once again, I bring to life about what I know is best about sports in the updated second edition of my FREE sports comic book.

In a relative’s living room, at a neighborhood bar or around the office water cooler, the mere mention of a certain player or team will instantaneously ignite colorful conversation and more than likely ruffle some one’s feathers.

Reference the New York Yankees & impassioned Boston Red Sox fans will be eager to engage in an animated verbal altercation.

Criticize Kobe and Los Angeles Lakers lovers will immediately compare the Black Mamba to MJ as well as list Bryant along with Magic, Wilt, Kareem, Shaq and even Mikan in their long line of NBA titles.

Praise the Pack and surely Steelers, Saints and Patriots faithful will some how seek to metaphorically kick you right in your Cheesehead.

Wear a FC Barcelona jersey in public and you’ll quickly feel the glaring eyes of Manchester United hooligans lurking ominously nearby.

Sports chatter stirs the embers of conversations from yesterday’s big game as well as from championship games played decades ago. Read the rest of this entry →

The Heckler: A Big Mouthed Sports Fan 3

Posted on September 28, 2015 by Mike Raffone

The HecklerBecause I enjoy his antics, this big mouthed sports fan is an easy choice for today’s Sports Then and Now blog.

This big babbler has been barking from the stands at sporting events since the first chariot races in Rome and original Olympic Games in Greece.

He’s that garrulous guy who plays the role of the annoying fan at games. He’s been seen and heard at every pro game in every sport for as long as fans can remember.

Many observers would say he’s just as bothersome, or entertaining, “now” as he was back “then” at sports events!

The colorful and, at times, irritating big mouth sits court side at NBA games, in the end zone at NFL games or behind home plate at Major League Baseball games and creatively maligns the opposing team’s players. His duty is to toss barbs at the other team and their fans.

Universally known as the Heckler, this super fan ironically may not boast too many fans of his own.

Some fans may find him insulting, but I like him and think he’s an expected, entertaining part of attending a professional sports event.

He’s pretty funny, especially if he’s rooting for the same team.

Plus, I can handle his non-stop heckling – provided he’s seated far enough away and doesn’t make the little hairs on the back of my neck stand at full attention with his non-stop jibber-jabbering.

And, I get a kick out of watching rival fans deal with the Heckler during a game. The guy’s entertainment factor wears off quickly, especially when he’s not cheering for their squad.

Soon, opposing fans within earshot realize this guy has a bullhorn for a voice box and no off switch for his grating trash talk.

During the rest of the game, these same rival fans are constantly on edge, much to my delight and that of all of my fellow fans.

For the rest of the game, I’m entertained by watching these rival fans try to keep themselves in check.

In a fight to the end, they struggle to restrain themselves from dumping their beer on this loud mouthed Heckler.

Because of the entertainment factor he has always provided at games since fans can remember, this timeless irritant and big mouthed sports fan secures a spot in today’s Sports Then and Now blog.

Out of curiosity, what’s your favorite Heckler line?

Let us know. Just keep it clean and leave everyone’s mother out of your response. Lol

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

 

Famous Athletes Afraid of Flying 5

Posted on September 10, 2014 by Scott Huntington

Professional athletes spend roughly half of their time on the road during the season, so flying between destinations is part of the job. Therefore, athletes who suffer from aviophobia, or a fear of flying, may find it very difficult to handle the constant air travel. Sports teams tend to travel in style, taking chartered planes to their road games, but this doesn’t make the trip any easier for these athletes who get just as nervous for the plane rides as they do for their athletic events.

Wayne Gretzky

wayne

You wouldn’t know it by the records he broke on the ice, but the Great One was actually terrified to fly early in his career. His roommate at the time, Ace Bailey, eventually learned how to calm him down before flights and made flying much easier for Gretzky. Tragically, Bailey was on one of the planes involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Gretzky also used a hypnotist to help him get over this fear.

Cortland Finnegan

Despite his fearless attitude on the football field, Cortland Finnegan does have one fear: flying. When he was selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2008, Finnegan thought about taking a cruise ship to the game because the thought of flying over the Pacific Ocean terrified him.

James Harrison Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Joe Cronin: Player-Manager
      October 1, 2017 | 8:21 am
      Joe Cronin

      Joe Cronin

      In recognition of the start of the baseball playoffs, we recognize as the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month a man who managed pennant winning teams in Washington and Boston and spent more than decade as a player-manager.

      When the Boston Red Sox acquired Joe Cronin following the 1934 season they didn’t just get an All-Star player, they also got a new manager.

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