November 17, 1982: Duk Koo Kim Dies

On this day in 1982, South Korean boxer Duk Koo Kim died from injuries sustained in a boxing match with Ray Mancini in Las Vegas, Nevada. His death is the most influential moment in boxing in the last 50 years.

Sports Illustrated Cover - 1982On this day in 1982, South Korean boxer Duk Koo Kim died from injuries sustained in a boxing match with Ray Mancini in Las Vegas, Nevada. His death is the most influential moment in boxing in the last 50 years.

Kim challenged Mancini for his World Boxing Association lightweight title on November 13. It was Kim’s first bout in North America and his first scheduled for 15 rounds. While all boxers look at each fight as a war, Kim actually meant it and wrote the message “live or die” on his hotel lampshade. “Champion,” the 2002 South Korean movie on the life of Kim, portrayed him as a focused warrior, with his death in the ring being the result of pure courage.

The actual bout was brutal slugfest. In the later rounds, Mancini began to take control. He dropped Kim early in the 14th round, but his challenger pulled himself with an effort that Sports Illustrated’s Ralph Wiley called “One of the greatest physical feats I had ever witnessed.” Referee Richard Green still stopped the fight and declared Mancini the victor. Kim collapsed into a coma a few minutes later.

Four days later, Kim died of a subdural hematoma. Three months later, Kim’s mother committed suicide. Green also killed himself in July of 1983.

The fight effectively ended the 15-round championship bout, as every sanctioning body eliminated them by 1987. Now, all championship bouts last 12 rounds.  When you think about how many famous bouts ended after round 12 prior to the mid-1980s, you can see how much influence Kim’s death actually had.

November 12, 1933: First Sunday Football Game Played in Philadelphia

On this day in 1933, the Philadelphia Eagles tied the Chicago Bears 3-3 at the city’s Baker Bowl. The contest was the first football game to be played in Philadelphia on Sunday.

Baker BowlOn this day in 1933, the Philadelphia Eagles tied the Chicago Bears 3-3 at the city’s Baker Bowl. The contest was the first football game to be played in Philadelphia on Sunday.

The NFL was much less structured in its early days, with many franchises coming and going and games being played on different days of the week. By 1933, however, Sunday was becoming the day of choice for NFL games.

To give Philadelphia and Pittsburgh the ability to compete for franchises, Pennsylvania eased its blue laws so football could be played. Blue laws prohibited different businesses from being open on Sunday for religious worship reasons. These days, blue laws mainly focus on the sale of alcohol, but they cast a broader net in the early 20th Century.

With the new freedoms in place, both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh received their franchises. Watching the Eagles and Steelers are now Sunday traditions in the state of Pennsylvania.

November 2, 2007: The Fabulous Moolah Dies

On this day in 2007, Mary Lillian Ellison died of a possible heart attack or blood clot following shoulder replacement surgery. The wrestler, better known as “The Fabulous Moolah,” was 84 years old.

The Fabulous Moolah and Wendy RichterOn this day in 2007, Mary Lillian Ellison died of a possible heart attack or blood clot following shoulder replacement surgery. The wrestler, better known as “The Fabulous Moolah,” was 84 years old.

Her first match was in 1949 and by 1956, she had won the National Wrestling Alliance’s Women’s World Championship (it is now the WWE Women’s Championship). Moolah held the belt for nearly 30 years, making her the longest consecutive title-holder in wrestling history.

She is best remembered for her feuds with Cyndi Lauper and Wendy Richter in the 1980s when the WWE was cross-promoting itself with the music industry. In the 1990s, Moolah came back in a comedic role with her friend Mae Young, fighting with much younger female wrestlers of the WWE. She did, however, regain the WWE Women’s Title in 1999, making her the oldest champion in wrestling history at 76 years old.

An excellent documentary, “Lipstick & Dynamite,” was released in 2004 and highlights Moolah and her pioneering of women’s wrestling. It also showcases how rough a business it’s been since its inception.

November 1, 1959: Jacques Plante Dons First Protective Hockey Mask

On this day in 1959, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante donned a protective hockey mask in a game against the New York Rangers. A few players had worn protective masks before then, but Plante became the first hockey player to wear a protective mask full time.

Jacques Plante First Protective MaskOn this day in 1959, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante donned a protective hockey mask in a game against the New York Rangers. A few players had worn protective masks before then, but Plante became the first hockey player to wear a protective mask full time.

Early in the game, Plante was hit in the face by a shot from Ranger Andy Bathgate. After being stitched up, he told his coach Toe Blake that he would not go back in without the mask. Blake had been against the idea of a mask because of vision impairment and the macho silliness of the NHL at the time. Yet he did not have much of a choice but to allow the mask since he had no back-up goaltenders.

Plante continued to wear the mask throughout his hall-of-fame career. While he was criticized at first, protective masks have now become the norm in professional hockey.

October 28, 1973: Elmore Smith Sets Single-Game Shot Block Record

On this day in 1973, Los Angeles Laker center Elmore Smith set the NBA single-game shot block record with 17 in a 111-98 victory over the Portland Trailblazers. This is a record that no current player has come close to touching.

Elmore SmithOn this day in 1973, Los Angeles Laker center Elmore Smith set the NBA single-game shot block record with 17 in a 111-98 victory over the Portland Trailblazers.  This is a record that no current player has come close to touching.

Smith was an excellent shot blocker whose skills met opportunity. The Trailblazers were undersized and kept challenging the seven-foot Smith, who continued to block his opponents’ shots on his way to setting the record.

Since Smith’s historic night, only two players have blocked even 15 shots in a game. The late Manute Bol, who was seven feet seven inches tall, did it twice in the 80s and Shaquille O’Neal did it once in 1993. That’s the closest any player has come to Smith’s record.

October 26, 1982: Steve Carlton Receives Fourth Cy Young Award

On this day in 1982, Steve Carlton received his fourth Cy Young Award. At the time, he was the first pitcher to receive baseball’s highest honor for that position that many times.

Steve CarltonOn this day in 1982, Steve Carlton received his fourth Cy Young Award. At the time, he was the first pitcher to receive baseball’s highest honor for that position that many times.

Carlton received his first Cy Young in 1972, a year in which he accounted for 27 of the Philadelphia Phillies’ 59 wins. The Hall-of-Famer also won the honor in 1977 and 1980.

Since then, both Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson tied Carlton, with each respectively winning the award four years in a row. Roger Clemens, of course, shattered Carlton’s record by winning the Cy Young seven times.

October 25, 1921: Bat Masterson Dies

On this day in 1921, William Barclay “Bat” Masterson died after finishing his article for his New York newspaper, The Morning Telegraph. This was the sad end of one of the era’s greatest lawmen and sportswriters.

Bat MastersonOn this day in 1921, William Barclay “Bat” Masterson died after finishing his article for his New York newspaper, The Morning Telegraph. This was the sad end of one of the era’s greatest lawmen and sportswriters.

One of the first pieces I ever wrote for The Sweet Science was on Bat Masterson’s career as a boxing columnist. When the legendary lawman left the old West for New York City, he took a job as a sports editor for The Morning Telegraph, publishing three columns a week. Masterson held that position until his death in the early 1920s, being an influential voice during the era of fighters like Jack Johnson and Jack Dempsey.

If you are interested in reading the article, you can access it at the following link, http://www.thesweetscience.com/article-archive/2005/1683-bat-masterson-boxing-columnist.

October 15, 2000: Dale Earnhardt Wins Last Race

On this day in 2000, Dale Earnhardt won the Talladega 500 thanks to an unbelievable comeback in the final laps. The victory was the last win of “The Intimidator’s” career and one of his most dramatic.

Dale Earnhardt Celebrates Win at Talladega 500On this day in 2000, Dale Earnhardt won the Talladega 500 thanks to an unbelievable comeback in the final laps. The victory was the last win of “The Intimidator’s” career and one of his most dramatic.

Earnhardt found himself back 17 spots with 4 laps to go in the race. However, he worked his way to the front using his unprecedented skill and take-no-prisoners driving.  Earnhardt ended up beating Kenny Wallace by one-tenth of a second to win the race and a $1 million-dollar bonus.

On a side note, this was the last race to ever be sponsored by Winston Cigarettes.

In less than five months, Earnhardt would be killed in a crash at the Daytona 500. His last victory is a reminder of how his greatness remained constant throughout his career.

October 14, 2003: Steve Bartman Catches Hell

On this day in 2003, Chicago Cubs outfielder Moisés Alou went for a foul ball hit by Florida Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo at Wrigley Field in the eighth inning of game six the National League Championship Series. At the same time, a group of fans went to catch it, including Steve Bartman, who accidentally deflected the ball out of Alou’s reach.

Moises Alou Goes for Foul BallOn this day in 2003, Chicago Cubs outfielder Moisés Alou went for a foul ball hit by Florida Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo at Wrigley Field in the eighth inning of game six the National League Championship Series. At the same time, a group of fans went to catch it, including Steve Bartman, who accidentally deflected the ball out of Alou’s reach. The Cubs had led the game 3-0 and the series 3-2, but proceeded to give up 8 unanswered runs and then lose game 7. Bartman took the blame.

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past 15 years, you’ve heard the sad story of Bartman. As the Cubs began their implosion, fans began to harass Bartman, with some threatening to do bodily harm. After the game, everyone from Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group CEO Grant DePorter to then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich lambasted him. The great ESPN documentary “Catching Hell” compared Cubs fans’ nastiness towards Bartman to Boston Red Sox fans’ hatred of Bill Buckner for the ball slipping through his legs in game six of the 1986 World Series.

Bartman’s situation was a little different than Buckner’s because he was just one of many fans practicing the age-old ritual of trying to catch a foul ball. Considering the way he was treated, I could care less if the Cubs ever win another World Series.

October 10, 1990: Oakland A’s Win American League

On this day in 1990, the Oakland Athletics beat the Boston Red Sox 3-1 to complete a four-game sweep and win the American League Championship Series at Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum. The win set the stage for one of the biggest upsets in World Series history.

Dave Stewart Waves to CrowdOn this day in 1990, the Oakland Athletics beat the Boston Red Sox 3-1 to complete a four-game sweep and win the American League Championship Series at Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum.  The win set the stage for one of the biggest upsets in World Series history.

The A’s had finished the season with 103 wins and had American League MVP Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire, Dave Henderson and a prime Jose Canseco in its line-up. Pitcher Dave Stewart had 22 wins and Bob Welch, the year’s Cy Young Awards Winner, had 27. Closer Dennis Eckersley had 48 saves. In addition, they also had the National League Batting Champion in Willie McGee, who had been traded from the St. Louis Cardinals in late August with a .335 batting a average and enough hits to qualify for the title.

Their opponent in the Fall Classic was the Cincinnati Reds, who had won 91 games after finishing second-to-last in their division the prior year (Note: 1989 was also the year Pete Rose was banned from baseball for gambling so they may have been distracted). Few prognosticators, except for the Chicago Tribune’s Mike Royko, gave the Reds a chance. Oakland was returning to the Series for the third straight year, having lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988 and beaten the San Francisco Giants in 1989. The 1990 team seemed to be the most focused and complete of the three.

But as the old saying goes, “That’s why they play the game.” The Reds shocked the A’s , winning the first game 7-0. They didn’t let up from there and won the next three to sweep their heavily favored opponent.

The next year, the Reds went 74-88. Their continued futility throughout the 1990s makes their upset of Oakland even more shocking when remembered.