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Sports Then and Now



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 →

College Football’s Aerial Icon: The Goodyear Blimp 0

Posted on October 26, 2015 by Mike Raffone

Good Year BlimpToday’s Sports Then and Now blog recognizes one of college football’s most recognized icons – The Goodyear Blimp.

That’s because this season marks the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company’s 60th year of aerial advertising during college football games.

The company’s annual broadcast coverage will culminate with a lucky college football fan hitching a ride on the famous blimp.

However, few football fans know the history behind the beloved blimps.

Furnishing amazing aerial views of some of the most recognized sporting events in the world, the Goodyear Blimp hovers way above the ground at approximately 1,000 feet. Read the rest of this entry →

The Fall Classic: When Mr. October Reggie Jackson Once Starred 2

Posted on October 05, 2015 by Mike Raffone

Mr. October Reggie JacksonIt’s only fitting that former Major League Baseball star Reggie Jackson leads off the month of October in this Sports Then and Now blog.

The Hall of Fame slugger wore the colorful uniform of the Oakland A’s and the traditional pinstripes of the New York Yankees.

He normally starred during the spring and summer months of the Major League Baseball season.

However, Reggie Jackson flourished on the baseball field during the fall – especially during the sport’s beloved Fall Classic.

That’s when he earned his nickname Mr. October.

New York Yankees teammate Thurmon Munson first used the title when questioned during the 1977 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Munson told a reporter to interview Jackson. He referred to the Yankee right fielder’s history of fantastic post-season games and said, “Go ask Mr. October.”

A 1999 Cooperstown Hall of Fame inductee, Reginald Martinez Jackson enjoyed a stellar 21-year Major League Baseball career. He retired in 1987. Jackson was a 14-time All-Star who hit 563 dingers, drove in 1,702 runs and batted .262 with 2,584 total hits.

The 1973 American League MVP also had his number 9 jersey retired in Oakland and his number 44 jersey retired in New York. Pretty great accomplishments, indeed!

A clutch hitting right fielder, Jackson had the ability to perform his best during post-season play. Mr. October ranks as the only baseball player ever to be named World Series Most Valuable Player for two different teams. Jackson first won the award in 1973 with the Oakland A’s. He won it again in 1977 with the New York Yankees.

Jackson’s World Series numbers are incredible. In 27 Fall Classic appearances, Mr. October belted 10 home runs, drove in 24 runs and batted an impressive .357. He won five world titles. In the deciding Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, Jackson hit three consecutive first pitch home runs off of three different Dodger hurlers.

Baseball fans will never forget this amazing Oakland A’s and New York Yankees’ right fielder and his Fall Classic heroics.

In a Boys of Summer sport, this Baseball Hall of Famer rightfully earned his fitting autumn nickname – Mr. October.

MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!

Lester, Ortiz Help Red Sox Close In On World Series Title 1

Posted on October 29, 2013 by Ryan Kuketz
Jon Lester's second masterful performance of the World Series has the Boston Red Sox needing just one win for their third title since 2004.

Jon Lester’s second masterful performance of the World Series has the Boston Red Sox needing just one win for their third title since 2004.

With the World Series tied at 2 games apiece, Jon Lester proved to the world that he is truly an ace, as the Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 in game five of the World Series, which gives Boston the 3-2 series lead.

Lester pitched 7 and two third innings, giving up just one run on four hits. The one run he let up was a home run to leftfielder Matt Holliday in the bottom of the 4th that tied the game at 1. Lester then retired 13 straight hitters before giving up a double to David Freese in the 8th inning, and was taken out after Pete Kozma flew out, and closer Koji Uehara shut the door with a 5 out save.

The Red Sox offense started early as they scored their first run in the first when Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz had back to back doubles to take a 1-0 lead. With the game tied at 1, the Red Sox took the lead for good in the top of the 7th when David Ross hit a ground rule double that scored Xander Bogaerts.

Ross’s ground rule double, may have stayed in the yard at Fenway, and had it not bounced into the stands, Bogaerts would have easily scored from first base. After Jon Lester struck out on a bunt foul, Jacoby Ellsbury, who is most likely playing in his final games with Boston, hit a bloop single into centerfield which scored Bogaerts. Ross tried to score on the play but was thrown out at the plated by Shane Robinson. The tag at the plate was close, but Yadier Molina was just able to tag Ross out. Read the rest of this entry →

25 Years Ago: Gibson Takes Eck Deep to Propel Dodgers to Improbable Title 1

Posted on October 15, 2013 by Dean Hybl
Kirk Gibson completely changed the 1988 World Series with one swing.

Kirk Gibson completely changed the 1988 World Series with one swing.

It was 25 years ago today that Kirk Gibson limped out of the Los Angeles Dodgers dugout and into baseball immortality. In his only at bat of the series, Gibson blasted a home run off future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley that not only lifted his team to victory in the first game of the 1988 World Series, but set the stage for a surprising series victory for the underdog Dodgers.

Though Gibson’s home run did not end a World Series the way blasts by Bill Mazeroski and Joe Carter did, his homer arguably was just as important in deciding a series as any other home run in history.

The 1988 Oakland A’s were believed to be virtually unbeatable. Assembled with a combination of home grown players and experienced veterans and managed by Tony LaRussa, the A’s won 104 games in the regular season and then swept the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.

Oakland scored 800 runs during the season and were led by Jose Canseco, who hit 42 home runs, drove home 124 runs, stole 40 bases and hit .307 to earn American League MVP honors. They also had an outstanding pitching staff including 21 game winner Dave Stewart and lights-out reliever Dennis Eckersley, who led the league with 45 saves in his first full season as a closer.

To the contrary, many believed that manager Tommy Lasorda had been using smoke and mirrors to coax his Dodgers team through the regular season and into the World Series. Sure they won 94 games in the regular season, but as a team hit just.248 and Gibson was actually the team leader with a .290 batting average and 25 home runs while finishing second on the squad with 76 RBI (Mike Marshall led the team with 82).

The Dodgers were in the 1988 World Series because they had one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Even with perennial ace Fernando Valenzuela enduring the worst season to that point in his career, the team still had an ERA under three runs per game.

The main reason for that was Orel Hershiser, who was on his way to winning the Cy Young Award with a 23-8 record and 2.26 ERA. Read the rest of this entry →

Surprising St. Louis Cardinals Win the 2011 World Series 79

Posted on October 29, 2011 by Dean Hybl

An improbable season ended with the St. Louis Cardinals as the 2011 World Series Champions.

The 2011 St. Louis Cardinals are a perfect reminder that in sports it isn’t how you start, it is about how you finish.

Considering that they lost their best pitcher to injury before the season even began and with just six weeks left were 10.5 games behind in the Wild Card race, it is quite amazing that last night they claimed the 11th World Series Championship in team history.

Even in the World Series they seemingly had an insurmountable mountain to climb as they were twice down to their final strike before rallying for an improbably extra inning victory in game six.

Then in the decisive seventh game they trailed early, but scored the final six runs to defeat the favored Texas Rangers.

Since Tony Larussa became manager of the Cardinals in 1996, the team has had their greatest success in seasons when they weren’t given much of a chance.

The 90-72 record that St. Louis posted in 2011 was actually the seventh best single season total for the franchise during Larussa’s tenure. Yet, the only other World Series title the team has earned came in 2006 when the team won only 83 games.

The Cardinals finished the 2011 season winning 24 of their final 33 games to sneak into the playoffs on the final day of the season.

They then won the final two games of their first round playoff matchup against the heavily favored Philadelphia Phillies to advance to the NL Championship Series. 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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