May 23, 1958: Mitch Albom Born

Mitch AlbomOn this day in 1958, Mitch Albom was born in Passaic, New Jersey. The author, sportswriter, radio talk show host and frequent on ESPN‘s “The Sports Reporters,” is best known for his novels

In his day-job with the Detroit Free Press, Albom also covers the Motor City’s professional teams and the University of Michigan. In both mediums (but especially his novels), he captures humans’ emotional search for happiness and life’s meaning like no other writer. Here are three of his books worth reading.

  • The Fab Five: The definitive account of the college basketball’s most revolutionary team of the last 25 years (even if they  never beat Duke). Albom chronicles the story of Chris Weber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson from their recruiting to their loss to North Carolina in the 1993 NCAA title game.
  • Tuesdays with Morrie: A dying man’s wonderful wisdom is captured over a series a Tuesdays by Albom in this moving, inspiring book.
  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven: The life of a good man, tragedies, flaws and all, are told through the stories of five seemingly random individuals. In the end, Albom creates a Heaven that we all hope exists.

December 31, 2000: Mississippi State and Texas A&M Play Thrilling Independence Bowl

On this day in 2000, Mississippi State beat Texas A&M 43-41 in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana. Played in unexpected snow, it was the most thrilling game of the whole bowl season.

2000 Independence BowlOn this day in 2000, Mississippi State beat Texas A&M 43-41 in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana. Played in unexpected snow, it was the most thrilling game of the whole bowl season.

Before the number of college bowl games exploded in the 2000s, spending the holidays in Shreveport was considered to be the worst postseason for any team.  However, the game for years featured strong teams from the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 and was generally a good one.

Both teams rolled into the game with 7-4 records. Just before kickoff a snowstorm rolled in and covered the field in snow, making the game was bit sloppy with missed extra points and numerous turnovers. A&M led 20-14 at halftime and 35-21 in the 4th quarter.  The Bulldogs rallied with two touchdowns to send the game into overtime.

A&M struck first with running back Ja’Mar Toombs scoring a 25-yard touchdown on the first play of overtime. But Terence Kitchens extra point was blocked and returned for two points. Down 41-37, Bulldog quarterback Wayne Madkin scored on 6-yard touchdown run to seal the game.

College football purists have expressed concern that some of the playoff bowl games will be played on New Year’s Eve. If the games are half as exciting as the 2000 Independence Bowl, planning New Year’s Eve around football will not be an issue.

December 26, 1919: Babe Ruth Sold to New York Yankees

On this day in 1919, Boston Red Sox Owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth’s contract to the New York Yankees. The move permanently altered the course of baseball history and created the “Curse of the Bambino (Ruth’s nickname).”

Babe Ruth - 1918On this day in 1919, Boston Red Sox Owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth’s contract to the New York Yankees.  The move permanently altered the course of baseball history and created the “Curse of the Bambino (Ruth’s nickname).”

Ruth signed with the Red Sox as an ace pitcher in 1914. During his 5 years with the team, he compiled a record of 89-46 and won three World Series titles. However, Ruth also emerged as a one-of-a-kind power hitter during those five years and had expressed wishes to focus on that part of his game.

For reasons ranging from Frazee wishing to finance a musical to not wanting to meet Ruth’s salary demands, he sold his star player to the Yankees for $125,000 ($1.6 million in today’s dollars). You know the rest of the story. The Yankees won their first four Worlds Series titles with Ruth (The franchise now has 27.) and the Red Sox would not win another championship until 2004, finally breaking the “Curse.”

December 12, 1965: Gale Sayers Scores Six Touchdowns in Game

On this day in 1965, Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers scored 6 touchdowns in a 61-20 rout of the San Francisco 49ers at Wrigley Field. The performance was the most exciting in the career one of the most electrifying players in NFL history.

Gale SayersOn this day in 1965, Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers scored 6 touchdowns in a 61-20 rout of the San Francisco 49ers at Wrigley Field. The performance was the most exciting in the career one of the most electrifying players in NFL history.

A rookie out of the University of Kansas, Sayers was already a star when the Bears and 49ers met in the 13th game of the season. He scored early on a screen pass. Then with his team leading 13-7, Sayers ran off-tackle for a 21-yard touchdown and took a 7-yard pitch for another. The Bears led 27-13 at halftime.

In the third quarter, he sealed the game with touchdown runs of 1 and 45 yards. Ironically, his most exciting score came on an 85-yard punt return in the 4th quarter when the Bears already had the game in hand.

His performance that day tied Ernie Nevers’ and Dub Jones’ records for the most touchdowns in a game, and has not since been touched. Knee injuries limited Sayers career to seven seasons, but performances like this one are why he was still inducted into the Hall of Fame.

December 7, 1963: Instant Replay Debuts in Televised Sports

On this day in 1963, video instant replay was used for the first time in CBS’ telecast of the Army-Navy game. While the start was bumpy, it revolutionized the way games were broadcast.

Army-Navy 1963On this day in 1963, video instant replay was used for the first time in CBS’ telecast of the Army-Navy game. While the start was bumpy, it revolutionized the way games were broadcast.

Showing plays again had begun in sports telecasts as early as 1955, but because of technological constraints, the plays would be re-run several minutes after they happened. For the Army-Navy game, CBS Sports Director Tony Vena had invented a system to replay instantly. Because of technical difficulties, it was only used once, showing Army’s Rollie Stichweh’s touchdown at full speed. Broadcaster Lindsey Nelson assured viewers that Army did not score again. Navy won the game 21-15.

Since then, instant replay has become vital to any broadcast. It’s hard to imagine life without it.

December 4, 1956: Paul Hornung Wins Heisman Trophy

On this day in 1956, Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung became the only player to ever win the Heisman Trophy on a losing team. Johnny Majors, an All-American running back on an undefeated Tennessee team, finished second. Thus began the Vol fans tumultuous relationship with college football’s most prestigious award.

1956 Heisman TrophyOn this day in 1956, Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung became the only player to ever win the Heisman Trophy on a losing team. Johnny Majors, an All-American running back on an undefeated Tennessee team, finished second. Thus began the Vol fans tumultuous relationship with college football’s most prestigious award.

Tennessee has never had a Heisman Trophy winner and only two players, Majors and Peyton Manning, who finished second in the race. The first time, Heisman voters chose to break the mold and select a player from a losing team. The second time, voters decided to make Charles Woodson of Michigan the only defensive player to ever receive the Heisman. Tennessee fans’ reaction to Manning’s loss is the stuff of embarrassing lore, but the behavior stemmed from this original insult in 1956.

Notre Dame started the season ranked third in the preseason AP poll. They laid an egg in their opening game, losing 19-13 to Southern Methodist, on their way to a 2-8 season. Their losses included a 28-14 defeat by Purdue, a 47-14 drubbing by Michigan State, a 40-0 shutout by Oklahoma, a 33-7 whooping by Navy and 48-8 slaughter by Iowa.

Today, any player from a team with that resume would be laughed out of the race, but not in 1956. Times were obviously different and when asked about it, Majors always said the Heisman should have gone to Syracuse’s Jim Brown, who finished fifth in the voting (The Heisman would not be awarded to an African-American player until the Orangemen’s Ernie Davis won it in 1961.).

While Tennessee fans’ behavior following Manning’s loss was trashy by all standards, it is important to understand where their frustration began.

December 1, 1963: Wendell Scott Cheated Out of NASCAR Win

On this day in 1963, Wendell Scott won a NASCAR race at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida. Unfortunately, the only African-American driver to win a NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) race was not crowned the winner because of the sport’s racist culture at the time.

Wendell ScottOn this day in 1963, Wendell Scott won a NASCAR race at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida. Unfortunately, the only African-American driver to win a NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup) race was not crowned the winner because of the sport’s racist culture at the time.

After honing his racing skills making moonshine runs in the late 1940s, Scott began racing professionally in the 1950s.  He competed on the lower level NASCAR circuits at venues that would allow him to race. He performed so well that he was able to move up to the Grand National level in 1961.

In the 1963 season, Scott finished 15th in points and in Jacksonville, crossed the finish line for a win. However, the flagman did not wave the checkered flag when Scott crossed the finish line. Even though he lost by two laps, Buck Baker was awarded with the victory.  Track promoters did not want Scott kissing the beauty queen so Baker did the victory celebration, and hours later Scott was officially listed as the victor.

Scott died of spinal cancer in 1990. A special ceremony was held in 2010 in which his family was presented the trophy for his win in 1963.

November 29, 1976: Reggie Jackson Signs with New York Yankees

Reggie Jackson Signs with the YankeesOn this day in 1976, Reggie Jackson signed a five-year contract with the New York Yankees as a free agent. This was one of the first blockbuster signings in the history of free agency in baseball.

Reggie Jackson Signs with the YankeesOn this day in 1976, Reggie Jackson signed a five-year contract with the New York Yankees as a free agent. This was one of the first blockbuster signings in the history of free agency in baseball.

After the era of free agency began in late 1975, the New York Yankees were the first team willing to spend the money to get the best players. One of the first players they signed was Jackson, already a five-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion with the Oakland Athletics.

Because of his high salary demands, Jackson was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in 1976. He played one year there, before signing a five-year contract for $2.96 million ($12,142,924 in today’s dollars) with the Yankees. While he his relationship with the team was tumultuous, the signing paid dividends. The Yankees won the World Series in 1977 and 1978, with Jackson earning the nickname “Mr. October” when he hit five runs in 1977 series.

 

November 25, 1971: The Game of the Century

On this day in 1971, number-one ranked Nebraska beat number-two ranked Oklahoma 35-31 on Thanksgiving Day in Norman, Oklahoma. This is one “Game of the Century” that lived up to its hype.

Johnny Rodgers Returns PuntOn this day in 1971, number-one ranked Nebraska beat number-two ranked Oklahoma 35-31 on Thanksgiving Day in Norman, Oklahoma. This is one “Game of the Century” that lived up to its hype.

Nebraska, the defending national champion, had started the season atop the polls and remained there. Oklahoma averaged an unfathomable NCAA-record 472 rushing yards per game. The Cornhuskers were 10-0 and the Sooners were 9-0, with its final opponent of the season being a dismal Oklahoma State team. The winner would be Big 8 Champion and on its way to Miami to play for the national title in the Orange Bowl.

Nebraska jumped out to a 14-3 lead, thanks in part to a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown by Johnny Rodgers. The Sooners bounced back, as quarterback Jack Mildren rushed for a touchdown and passed for another, and headed into the locker room with a 17-14 halftime lead.

The Cornhuskers went ahead 28-17 with two strong scoring drives in the 3rd quarter. Again, Mildren threw and rushed for a touchdown and the Sooners led 31-28 with minutes left in the game. Nebraska made its game-winning drive with quarterback Jerry Tagge completing a crucial third-down pass to Rodgers. Running back Jeff Kinney ran into the end zone for the winning score with two minutes left. Legend has it that President Richard Nixon called both Nebraska head coach Bob Devaney and Oklahoma head coach Chuck Fairbanks after the game.

The Cornhuskers defeated Alabama 38-6 in the Orange Bowl to win the national title, while the Sooners beat Auburn 40-22 in the Sugar Bowl. So special is this game that even though Nebraska’s move to the Big Ten ended this rivalry, the two schools have scheduled a two game series starting in 2021 to commemorate its 50th anniversary.

November 23, 1996: The Mass Transit Incident

On this day in 1996, 17-year-old Eric Kulas was allowed to wrestle in an ECW match at the Woodland Ballroom in Revere, Massachusetts. The match led to assault charges against Jerome Young, aka New Jack, and is one of the most disgusting moments in wrestling history.

Eric Kulas - Mass TransitOn this day in 1996, 17-year-old Eric Kulas was allowed to wrestle in an Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) match at the Woodland Ballroom in Revere, Massachusetts. The match led to assault charges against Jerome Young, aka New Jack, and is one of the most disgusting moments in wrestling history.

When Axl Rotten was unable to compete in tag team match with D-Von Dudley against The Gangstas (New Jack and Mustafa Saed), Kulas convinced ECW owner Paul Heyman to let him fill in for Rotten. Kulas was 5’10” and 350 pounds and told Heyman he was 23 and was trained by the legendary Killer Kowalski. Heyman claimed that Kulas’ father also vouched for him. Regardless, his father let him wrestle.

ECW was never for the faint of heart, with its hard-core violence and heavy bleeding, and no place for a 17-year-old. As the character of Mass Transit, a Ralph Kramden-like bus drive, Kulas was basically brought in to be a punching bag like all wrestlers are in their early matches.  Young stated after being pummeled by crutches and a toaster, Kulas asked to be cut. Young obliged with a scalpel. Kulas freaked out and so did his father, who repeatedly screamed, “Ring the fucking bell. He’s 17!” Following the match, medics rushed into the ring. The match was a house-match and was not televised, but a fan with a camcorder captured the match and it s below.

Young was charged with assault, but when the jury learned of the Kulas family’s duplicity in putting him in the ring, he was acquitted. Sadly, Kulas died in 2002 from complications from gastric bypass surgery.

Below the video of the match are interviews from Young and other ECW wrestlers recalling the event and showing how brutal a sport it actually is (Warning: They contain graphic language and violence).


ECW:Mass Transit Incident – Full Match by MatasakoScar