Hamlin scores 2nd win of season at rain-shortened Darlington

Denny Hamlin won NASCAR’s first Wednesday race since 1984 when rain stopped the event with 20 laps remaining at Darlington Raceway.

The Daytona 500 winner was out front but out of fresh tires and trying to hang on when he got unintended help from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch. The reigning Cup champion caused Chase Elliott to crash eight laps earlier to bring out the caution.

A furious Elliott waited for Busch on the apron of the track and flipped Busch the middle finger as he passed. As NASCAR cleaned the track, it started to rain and the cars were called to pit road under red-flag.

It was an already active evening at “The Track Too Tough To Tame” as drivers were racing against the field and the weather. As the drivers sat in their cars waiting for NASCAR to pull the plug, a handful of Elliott’s crew members sat on the pit wall staring down Busch.

One of Busch’s crew members sat between them on the wall and NASCAR eventually ordered everyone back over the wall. Eight minutes later, the race was called and Busch was greeted by Alan Gustafson, Elliott’s crew chief and Busch’s former crew chief when he drove for Hendrick Motorsports, for a conversation between two masked competitors.

Busch immediately copped to the error.

“There’s no question I made a mistake and just misjudged the gap,” Busch said. “They’re upset, they’re mad. I’m not just going to fix and we’re going to go have ice cream tomorrow. They’re going to dwell on it and I’m sure there are repercussions of it I’m going to have down the road.”

Meanwhile, a fox was scampering across the deserted track and Hamlin, wearing a mask that depicted his actual smile, was having a muted celebration in the rain.

He walked to victory lane under a large black umbrella. It was a 1-2 finish for Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota. Hamlin has won three times at Darlington and has two wins this season.

“I got my happy face on. Made sure I brought it with me,” Hamlin said of his mask. He said he also had masks made with a “sad face” but only brought the smiling masks to a track he counts among his favorite.

Hamlin thought he was in good shape when he made his last pit stop but a caution by Clint Bowyer, who won the first two stages of the race, jumbled the strategy with 34 laps remaining.

Hamlin had no choice but to stay out on the track, and his crew chief Chris Gabehart told him over the radio, “you ain’t going to like it, but we’re going to have to eat our vegetables here.”

Hamlin, the leader because he didn’t pit on the restart with 29 to go, only had to hold off traffic for one lap before the Busch and Elliott collision. The rain then came and Hamlin earned the trophy.

“It’s a driver’s race track,” he said. “You can do different things to make (the car) handle. We got it right.”

The race marked the first time in NASCAR history that the Cup Series had two points-paying races at the same track in one week.

The start of NASCAR’s second race back during the coronavirus pandemic was moved up an hour because of poor weather, but that was then delayed nearly 90 minutes because it rained most of the day.

When the action finally began, the 310-mile affair was spirited from start to finish because drivers were unsure if they were racing to the halfway point – the mark a race becomes official – or the distance.

NASCAR returned to action Sunday at Darlington after a 10 weeks off by using a a strict health protocol and limiting those in attendance to only the most essential for conducting a race.

Health screenings were required to enter the track and each of the 40 cars were allowed just 16 team members.

Fox Sports again broadcast the race primarily from a studio in Charlotte, North Carolina, with just one pit reporter at Darlington. For its prerace show, drivers used varying technology to make brief appearances while sitting alone in their motorhomes.

Drivers had to travel to the track alone, pass through a health screening and then isolate before the race. They are required to wear face masks.

NASCAR has an ambitious return plan of 20 races spanning its three national series between Sunday’s return and June 21. Spectators are not expected to be permitted to any of the events in this span.

Rain disrupted the schedule Tuesday night when the Xfinity Series was washed out. That race is now scheduled to be held Thursday afternoon.

NCAA to lift moratorium on football, basketball workouts

The NCAA Division I Council voted Wednesday to lift a moratorium on voluntary workouts by football and basketball players effective June 1 as a growing number of college leaders expressed confidence that fall sports will be possible in some form despite concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

This decision clears the way for individual workouts by athletes, mostly on their own, subject to safety and health protocols decided by their schools or local health officials..

NCAA officials noted that the workouts could go on as long as all local, state and federal regulations are followed. The status of voluntary workouts for other sports will be determined later.

“We encourage each school to use its discretion to make the best decisions possible for football and basketball student-athletes within the appropriate resocialization framework,” Penn athletic director and council chair M. Grace Calhoun said in a statement. “Allowing for voluntary athletics activity acknowledges that reopening our campuses will be an individual decision but should be based on advice from medical experts.”

From Notre Dame to LSU and more, a number of schools have announced plans to reopen campuses for the fall semester and conferences have begun setting up plans for how to play football amid the pandemic. The latest came this week with the Florida State system announcing plans for its 12 schools and more than 420,000 students.

Many questions remain, including specific safety protocols and whether fans would be allowed if games proceed.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said in conference call Wednesday that he believes the Buckeyes could safely play home games with 20,000 to 30,000 fans in its 105,000-seat stadium.

“I think we can get there,” Smith said.

Smith said he hadn’t figured out yet how those 20,000 to 30,000 spectators would be chosen. He said masks and other precautions would be required to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Smith added that Ohio State is ready to open the 15,000-square-foot Woody Hayes Athletic Center to athletes starting June 8 if the NCAA allows it. About 10 players at a time would be allowed to work out on staggered scheduled with social-distancing and other hygiene precautions in place. Some coaches returned to the complex on a limited basis this week.

Other schools also are looking into ways they can hold workouts as safely as possible.

Middle Tennessee athletic director Chris Massaro said his school plans to take the temperature of players daily and make sure they are wearing masks. Massaro has even discussed moving some equipment from the weight room to the Red Floyd Stadium concourse to make sure workouts allow social distancing.

“We’re a little bit kind of almost like guinea pigs,” Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill said. “We’re the ones that are coming back first, football’s coming back first all across the country. So we’ve got to make sure we’re doing our part so there’s not a setback, and it’s going to take all of us buying in and doing whatever we can to keep everybody else healthy and safe.”

The presidents of Miami and Notre Dame said in separate interviews they expect the football season to be played.

Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins told MSNBC he expects to have clarity on how – or if – the football season can happen in the next few weeks.

“The team itself, I feel we can manage that one,” Jenkins said. “Then the question is people in the stands. We have an 85,000-person stadium. Can we get 85,000 people in there? That will be a big challenge to do that. But could we get a smaller number — 10,000, 15,000, 20,000? I don’t know.”

Miami President Julio Frenk told CNN he hopes the Hurricanes can play this fall and that safety would be the top priority.

“They will probably play in empty stadiums, like so many other sports,” Frenk said.

Scott Woodward, the athletic director at defending national champion LSU, has said that his school was preparing to welcome back its athletes after the Southeastern Conference’s closure of athletic facilities to students is slated to end May 31.

LSU will offer summer classes online and doesn’t have plans to reopen its campus to the general student population at least until the fall semester.

The Division I Council also passed a series of waivers that included suspending the minimum football attendance required of Football Bowl Subdivision members for two years.

Most athletic departments need the revenue generated from football to fund their other sports. Hundreds of schools are reeling financially from the effects of the pandemic. Athletic departments, particularly at smaller schools and in Division II, have already cut a number of sports.

The NCAA this week lowered the minimum and maximum number of games Division II schools are required to play in all sports next year. The move includes a 33% reduction in the minimum number of games needed for sponsorship and championship qualification in most sports.

Under the plan, D-II schools must play at least five football games to maintain NCAA sponsorship and at least seven games to be eligible for playoff consideration. The maximum number of allowable games is 10.

The requirements would return to normal in 2021-22.

 

NFL studying helmet face guard that works like surgical mask

With an eye toward getting back on the field during a pandemic, the NFL is working on a helmet face guard that might provide the same sort of protection as a surgical mask.

Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, who heads up the league’s competition committee, said the issue was raised during a conference call about a month ago.

“A lot of players have played with a clear shield to protect their eyes,” McKay said Tuesday during a video conference call with Atlanta media. “This would be extended even further.”

Thom Mayer, the medical director of the NFL Players Association, said league engineers and sports equipment company Oakley are testing prototypes of a modified face mask that might contain surgical or N95 material.

“I had suggested that we should consider novel and emerging ways to handle the helmets and the face masks and the spread of the virus,” Mayer said on a podcast with ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “These guys got the bit between their teeth.”

Work on the face mask is far enough along that “there will probably be a recommendation” to use it when the league begins its preseason schedule in August, according to Mayer.

Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter, who also serves as president of the NFLPA, welcomed any attempt to improve player safety.

“There are no bad ideas at this point,” he said. “You kind of have to think outside the box. Just because it is an idea does not mean things are definitely going to happen, but you need to explore it and you need to understand it.”

Falcons cornerback Isaiah Oliver withheld judgment until he’s able to check out a prototype.

“I haven’t seen anything like that,” Oliver said Wednesday. “I would have to look into it to see what it looks like.”

Oakley is already contracted by the NFL to provide visors that some players use on their face masks. The company also has developed durable eyeglasses for the military that are designed not to fog up – technology that may prove useful in its latest project.

The new coverings would likely have to cover the entire face mask.

“They’ve got some prototypes,” Mayer told Schefter. “Some of them, when you first look at them, you think, `Gosh, no’ because you’re not used to seeing it. You’re just not used to seeing it. But they’re looking at every issue you can imagine, including when it fogs up. What do we do with that? But these guys are used to dealing with this stuff.”

McKay said he expects the new face masks would quickly gain acceptance, assuming they meet two main standards.

“They’ve got to be comfortable for the players,” he said. “And they’ve got to be safe.”

While McKay has never been a fan on the tinted visors that some players already use, he’s learned to accept that look.

“I understood that some players needed it because of their eyes,” McKay said. “In this instance, if this is what the doctors in the medical field think is needed, then we should look into it.”

Tretter said the NFL is “probably going to look a little different this year,” and modified face masks might be part of the changes.

“You have to focus on fitting football inside of this world of coronavirus and not get caught up in trying to fit coronavirus inside of this world,” he said. “You can’t expect just to throw football back in and think that the virus is going to kneel down to football. You have to look through different ways of making sure people stay healthy.”

Redskins draft pick from Liberty says he had coronavirus

Washington Redskins rookie receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden said Wednesday he tested positive for the new coronavirus in March and has fully recovered.

Gandy-Golden said in a statement that he tested positive during NFL draft training on March 24, had mild symptoms and was cleared on April 7.

“I self-quarantined for two weeks and followed all guidelines from health experts,” he said. “I feel 100% now and can’t wait to get on the field with the Redskins.”

Gandy-Golden played the past two seasons at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, which reopened in March despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the evangelical school, appeared to reference Gandy-Golden during a Fox News appearance on Wednesday.

“Even the one student who was an online student who never was on campus who tested positive, it turns out he quit school to go into the NFL draft back early in March even though he was online, but somehow that got press,” Falwell said. “That was crazy.”

Liberty spokesman Scott Lamb responded to an email inquiry about Gandy-Golden’s diagnosis and Falwell’s comments with a paragraph from the school’s website that does not specifically mention the former football player. The site makes reference to a graduate student who tested positive for the coronavirus on March 24 but was not on campus during the two weeks prior.

“Prior information that the graduated student came to an on campus clinic was incorrect,” it said. “While the student lives in Lynchburg with family, the location of infection cannot be pinpointed, in part, because the graduated student traveled to Florida on business in the two-week period before the test.”

A Redskins spokesman said the team was unable to comment on Gandy-Golden’s medical situation.

“First things first, you definitely want him to be safe,” Redskins defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said on a video call with reporters. “Moving forward, I have full faith in our medical staff. It’s really what they determine, what the NFL determines, is safe for us to move forward with. … You just pray for the players we do have and just do everything you can to take the precaution to be safe.”

Washington selected Gandy-Golden in the fourth round of the draft last month, 142nd overall. He was not asked about his health during a conference call with reporters on April 25.

NFL reinstates Cowboys’ Aldon Smith, who last played in ’15

Aldon Smith will be able to take part in team activities with the Dallas Cowboys after the NFL on Wednesday conditionally reinstated the pass rusher from an indefinite suspension for off-field issues.

Smith, who hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2015, will be able to participate in the Cowboys’ virtual offseason program starting next week. He can also meet with teammates and coaches.

The Cowboys, who lost sacks leader Robert Quinn in free agency, signed Smith to a one-year contract last month despite his uncertain playing status. Smith was reinstated after meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on a video teleconference last week.

Smith was drafted seventh overall by San Francisco in 2011 and had 14 sacks as a rookie. He was an All-Pro in 2012 when he had 19 1/2 sacks and the 49ers reached the Super Bowl. He had 44 sacks in 50 games during his first four NFL seasons in San Francisco with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, now on the Cowboys staff for new head coach Mike McCarthy.

Smith had several legal issues as a player with San Francisco and Oakland. He was first suspended with the 49ers in 2014 before receiving a one-year ban in November 2015 with the Raiders. Smith applied for reinstatement to the NFL in 2016, but that decision was initially deferred.

Oakland retained Smith’s contractual rights before releasing him in 2018 after San Francisco police issued a warrant for his arrest in a domestic violence case.

The Cowboys still have a suspended pass rusher under contract in Randy Gregory, who is seeking reinstatement. Gregory was indefinitely suspended in February 2019 for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, his fourth league suspension coming about seven months after he had been reinstated by Goodell.

Gregory slid to the Cowboys late in the second round of the 2015 draft after testing positive for marijuana at the NFL combine.

Most overpaid and underpaid player at every NFL position

Underpaid quarterback: Lamar Jackson, Ravens

Jackson won the 2019 NFL MVP, but entering his third season the former first-round pick is a cap hit of just under $2.6 million for the Ravens. That’s quite a bargain that has also allowed Baltimore to add key pieces in free agency.

Overpaid quarterback: Jacoby Brissett, Colts

Brissett signed a two-year, $30 million contract just after Andrew Luck retired last year, and he’s set to be the 13th-highest-paid quarterback this year at over $21 million while Philip Rivers takes over the starting job. It seems unlikely that Brissett will get a comparable contract when he enters free agency next offseason.

Underpaid running back: Joe Mixon, Bengals

Still working on his rookie contract in his fourth NFL season, Mixon is set to make just over $1.7 million in 2020. He’s emerged as one of the most dynamic running backs in the game over the last two years, with consecutive 1,100 yard rushing seasons.

Overpaid running back: Le’Veon Bell, Jets

Bell finally got paid in free agency after holding out for all of 2018 in Pittsburgh and has the biggest cap hit at running back this year at nearly $15.5 million. That puts him over $4 million higher than the next closest back, and yet Bell had only 789 yards rushing and 3.2 yards per carry last season.

Underpaid wide receiver: Terry McLaurin, Redskins

McLaurin showed himself to be a budding star in his rookie season, with 919 yards receiving and seven touchdowns in 14 games for Washington. A former third-round pick, McLaurin’s cap hit is still less than $1 million this year.

Overpaid wide receiver: A.J. Green, Bengals

Green signed the franchise tag this year, making him the third-highest-paid wide receiver in the league with a cap hit of nearly $17.9 million. His past performance has earned that lofty salary, but Green has been unable to stay on the field recently, playing only nine games in 2018 and missing all of 2019.

Underpaid tight end: George Kittle, 49ers

It’s only a matter of time before Kittle becomes one of the top-paid tight ends in the NFL, but for now he remains grossly underpaid. Entering his fourth season, Kittle has a cap hit of just over $2.2 million despite consecutive 1,000 yard receiving seasons.

Overpaid tight end: Cameron Brate, Buccaneers

Finding consistent snaps has been a problem for Brate over the last two seasons with O.J. Howard in town, and now he will also have to compete with Rob Gronkowski in 2020. However, Brate still has the 18th-highest cap hit at tight end at $4.25 million.

Underpaid offensive tackle: Dion Dawkins, Bills

Through three NFL seasons, Dawkins has become one of the game’s top left tackles. That’s a status that should make him very rich soon, but still on his rookie contract his cap hit is only about $1.3 million this year.

Overpaid offensive tackle: Nate Solder, Giants

Solder has struggled since becoming one of the highest-paid offensive linemen in the league when he signed with the Giants in 2018. Heading into his age-32 season, his cap hit remains the second-highest among all offensive linemen at $19.5 million.

Underpaid offensive guard: James Daniels, Bears

Daniels has been an outstanding performer along the Bears offensive line in his first two NFL seasons. The former second-round pick will have a cap hit of just under $1.9 million this year.

Overpaid offensive guard: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Chiefs

“The Doctor” has mostly been a solid performer during his NFL career, though he’s played more than 14 games just once since he was drafted in 2014. His performance at right guard last season was somewhat inconsistent for the Super Bowl champs, yet he has the 14th-highest cap hit among all NFL guards this year at just less than $9 million.

Underpaid center: Erik McCoy, Saints

McCoy was a plug-and-play center for the Saints last year, immediately establishing himself as one of the best players in the NFL at the position. There’s still plenty of time to go on his rookie contract, and the second-year player will make less than $1.4 million this year.

Overpaid center: Trey Hopkins, Bengals

Hopkins’ play has been inconsistent with the full-time move to center, but he has the 15th-highest cap hit at the position, worth more than $5.5 million. The payday is far from elite, but his struggles last year still weren’t worthy of such a high salary.

Underpaid defensive end: Nick Bosa, 49ers

Bosa was the second pick in the 2019 draft, going onto win Defensive Rookie of the Year and make the Pro Bowl with nine sacks. The 49ers are getting Bosa at a bargain price given the performance, as he’s the 28th-highest-paid player at his position with a cap hit of over $7.6 million.

Overpaid defensive end: Leonard Williams, Giants

Williams was franchised by the Giants and is set to make north of $16 million. He filed a grievance to be considered a defensive end, which would add $1.7 million more to his salary. Either way, it’s a huge salary for a player who had just a half-sack in 15 games last season.

Underpaid defensive tackle: Vita Vea, Buccaneers

Vea has been an elite early-down run-stuffer in two season since he was selected 12th overall in 2018. While he’s not much of a pass rushing threat, the Bucs are still getting a bargain for the $4 million cap hit.

Overpaid defensive tackle: Solomon Thomas, 49ers

Thomas was the third overall pick in the 2017 draft, but he lost playing time last year and had his fifth-year option declined by the 49ers. Through three seasons, Thomas has only six sacks but is still set to make more than $9 million this year.

Underpaid outside linebacker: T.J. Watt, Steelers

Watt has become one of the premier pass rushers in the league three seasons into his career, with consecutive Pro Bowl seasons and an All-Pro designation last year after recording 14.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles. Still on his rookie deal, Watt’s cap hit is nearly $2.95 million in 2020.

Overpaid outside linebacker: Vic Beasley, Titans

Beasley’s career has been inconsistent in Atlanta, but the Titans apparently feel he’s a fit for their defense, signing him to a one-year, $9.5 million contract this offseason. While Beasley led the league in sacks back in 2016, he’s averaged only six per year since then.

Underpaid inside linebacker: Darius Leonard, Colts

Leonard has been a tackling machine for the Colts in two seasons, accumulating 284 tackles along with 12 sacks. He was Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018 and made his first Pro Bowl last season, yet his cap hit remains just below $2 million for 2020.

Overpaid inside linebacker: Anthony Hitchens, Chiefs

Hitchens was a solid performer during the Chiefs Super Bowl season, recording 88 tackles and two sacks in 15 regular-season games. However, that performance wasn’t enough to make him worthy as the fourth-highest-paid inside linebacker in the NFL in 2020, with a cap hit of nearly $12.7 million.

Underpaid cornerback: Shaquill Griffin, Seahawks

Griffin has quickly become an elite cornerback, making the Pro Bowl in his third NFL season. The former third-round pick is another example of Seattle’s great defensive drafting, and his cap hit is still only about $2.3 million this year.

Overpaid cornerback: Malcolm Butler, Titans

The Titans paid Butler in 2018 after four seasons in New England, and he has the seventh-highest cap hit of any corner at nearly $13.4 million in 2020. However, he played only nine regular-season games last season and struggled when he was on the field.

Underpaid safety: Marcus Williams, Saints

Williams has been an elite safety in three NFL seasons in New Orleans. He’s set to get paid soon, but for now he will be a cap hit under $2 million in 2020.

Overpaid safety: Keanu Neal, Falcons

Neal became a star early in his career, making the Pro Bowl in his second season in 2017. Since then he’s play a total of four games in two years due to injuries. The Falcons hope for better health this year, especially since Neal has the 16th-highest cap hit among safeties at nearly $6.5 million.

REPORT: NFL SALARY CAP COULD SKY ROCKET NEXT SEASON DESPITE PANDEMIC?

As the NFL starts to allow teams to reopen their facilities in preparation for the summer, the league is gearing up for a full season despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Coming off a record-setting 2020 NFL Draft, the NFL could potentially enjoy even more success this season despite the ongoing global crisis.

At a time when millions of people are desperate for sports, the appetite for football is anticipated to be greater than ever. The NFL drew record viewership because of it for the NFL Draft and with the return of other sports uncertain, many are expecting to see a huge spike in ratings for NFL games this fall.

As a result, Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline projects that the NFL’s salary cap for the 2021 season could land around $220 million, a mark that could have even reached $230 million if not for the public health crisis across the globe.

The NFL will only see a slight bump in this year’s salary cap from $188.2 million in 2019 to $198.2 million for the 2020 season. Thanks to potentially record-setting ratings, new media contracts and a new collective-bargaining agreement, Pauline projects a dramatic spike next offseason.

A salary cap spike exceeding $20 million would be fantastic news for NFL players. There was recent speculation that record-breaking contract extensions for Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott could take a hit due to the economic crisis. In that scenario, it could have led to the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys lowering their offers or waiting another year before signing their star quarterbacks to mega contracts.

If Pauline’s projection plays out, then the leverage in negotiations would go right back to Mahomes and Prescott. As a result, Prescott could start pushing harder on a four-year deal worth $40 million annually, while Mahomes could raise his asking price to $45 million annually.

It’s worth noting that projections in April estimated the NFL could lose billions in revenue if games are played in empty stadiums. So, if the latest estimate is an early indicator of where the league is headed, fans won’t have to just watch football at home this year.

Fanless NFL Season Would Cost the League $5.5 Billion

If the National Football League plays an entire season without fans in the stands, it would cost the league a staggering amount of money.

According to Mike Ozanian of Forbes, a season without spectators would cost the league $5.5 billion.

That figure comes from compiling the league’s projected losses in ticket sales, concessions, parking, and merchandise. Ozanian does a team-by-team breakdown of how the loss of fans would impact each organization. Squads like the Cowboys and Patriots, who have higher attendance and do better with merchandising, would take a greater hit. While teams like the Bills and Bengals would see a smaller impact.

The merchandising, concessions, merchandising, and parking, factors represent 38% of the league’s total revenue according to 2018 figures.

As Pro Football Talk reports:

It’s unclear whether and to what extent games will be played without fans. It’s possible that some states will allow stadiums to be open, and that others won’t. It’s also possible that medical advances in the coming weeks and months (such as a greater understanding of what it means to test positive for coronavirus antibodies) will make it easier to open stadiums and invite fans at low or no risk for developing COVID-19.

Any money lost in 2020 will potentially affect the 2021 salary cap. As recently explained, however, the league and the union set the annual spending limit via negotiation, and it’s possible that the two sides will agree to, for example, borrow against future salary caps in order to keep the 2021 cap at or near where it otherwise would have been.

Falcons Owner Arthur Blank has recently speculated that the league season could begin without fans. While Panthers Owner Dave Tepper has held open the possibility of limited fan attendance with social distancing protocols enforced.

However, in the final analysis, September is still a long way away and a lot will happen with the virus between now and then.

REPORT: DAK PRESCOTT WANTS $45 MILLION ON FINAL YEAR IF FORCED INTO FIVE-YEAR CONTRACT

Dak Prescott wants a four-year deal. The Dallas Cowboys want him to sign a five-year contract. This is at the crux of the impasse between the two parties right now.

Now here’s some new information that could be holding things up.

Chris Simms of NBC Sports was on 105.3 The Fan’s “K & C Masterpiece” Tuesday and dropped some knowledge.

“FROM WHAT I KNOW OF THE SITUATION, AND I KNOW FROM SOME PEOPLE WHO ARE IN THE KNOW THAT HE’S BEEN OFFERED FIVE YEARS, $175 MILLION,” SIMMS SAID (H/T SI.COM). “HE WANTS A FOUR-YEAR DEAL. IF THEY DO AGREE TO A FIVE-YEAR DEAL THEY WOULD LIKE A REALLY BIG NUMBER AT THE END OF THAT FIFTH YEAR TO COVER THEIR BUTTS FOR WHAT THE MARKET MIGHT BE AT THE POSITION FIVE YEARS FROM NOW. AND I’VE HEARD HE’S ASKING FOR SOMEWHERE LIKE NORTH OF $45 MILLION IN THAT FIFTH YEAR.”

The five-year, $175 million number isn’t new. It’s the same yearly total — $35 million per year — that’s been reported for a while now. However, the idea that Prescott wants $45 million in his fifth year (if the five-year deal is the only thing being offered) is new.

It also makes sense. The reason Prescott wants a shorter deal is that the salary cap is expected to continue rising in the years to come. If he’s able to get into free agency one year earlier, it benefits him long term.

NFL player suing United Airlines over alleged sexual assault

An NFL player claims he was sexually harassed and assaulted multiple times by a woman during a recent flight, and he has filed a lawsuit against United Airlines.

The player chose to remain anonymous, with court records obtained by Master Tesfatsion of Bleacher Report referring to him as “John Doe 1.” The lawsuit states that another alleged victim, “John Doe 2,” was sitting in the same row as the NFL player and was also sexually harassed and assaulted. The lawsuit accuses United Airlines of failing to properly respond during the flight and failing to cooperate with authorities.

The alleged incident occurred during a Feb. 10 flight from Newark to Los Angeles. The NFL player says a woman made “multiple unwanted sexual advances,” including grabbing his penis and ripping off his protective face mask. The player says the woman was intoxicated and taking prescription pills.

The victims say they made four complaints against the female passenger before flight attendants finally moved her to another seat. The NFL player and “John Doe 2” are seeking compensatory and punitive damages. A statement from attorneys representing the two alleged victims says the goal of the lawsuit is to make sure no passengers make complaints in the future that “go unheeded until it’s too late and the damage is done.”

This is not the first time a professional athlete has had an issue with United Airlines, though the previous incidents were far less serious.

CENTRAL MICHIGAN LATEST COLLEGE TO DISCONTINUE SPORTS PROGRAMS

It’s the unintended consequence of the current global pandemic. With college campuses shut down, universities around the United States are struggling in a big way from a financial perspective.

The Central Michigan men’s track and field program is the latest to be impacted. The school announced on Tuesday that the program is being discontinued.

“AS PART OF STRATEGIC BUDGET PLANNING AMID THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS DIRECTOR MICHAEL ALFORD ANNOUNCED TODAY THE UNIVERSITY’S DECISION TO DISCONTINUE ITS MEN’S TRACK AND FIELD PROGRAM, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY,” THE SCHOOL ANNOUNCED, VIA ITS OFFICIAL WEBSITE. “ALFORD SAID THE DIFFICULT DECISION — WHICH IMPACTS MEN’S INDOOR AND OUTDOOR TRACK — WAS MADE AMID LOOMING UNIVERSITY WIDE BUDGET CUTS.”

Sadly, this isn’t the last time we’re going to see something like this happen. It obviously isn’t the first.

Some of these programs don’t really impact a school’s bottom line in a positive way. In many cases, it’s the larger sports that prop them up from a financial perspective.

Even then, this is not great news.

Report: MLB gave players two options for 2020 season

It appears negotiations between MLB and the MLB Players Association to begin the 2020 season that hasn’t yet begun because of the coronavirus pandemic won’t get much friendlier between the two parties anytime soon.
On Tuesday afternoon, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweeted that owners have presented two new proposals to the players, and logic suggests the union won’t happily embrace either:

JON HEYMAN:

MLB in recent talks gave the union 2 options: 1) negotiate a new financial arrangement (sonething other than prorated pay for players playing games with no fans in attendance) or 2) wait until the Coronavirus to clear to the point where fans can attend games.

MLB has been espousing a 50-50 revenue split behind the scenes but no formal proposal has been made to players yet. In any case, players do seem very much resolved not to agree to a revenue sharing proposal on principle (they view at as a form of salary cap, and a bad precedent).

In March, MLB and the players agreed the league would prorate salaries for a season shortened due to the virus outbreak. However, multiple reports have surfaced that the league wants players to dump that deal and instead agree to a 50-50 revenue split.

Agent Scott Boras, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer, Bauer’s agent, and Rays starter and 2018 Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell all publicly criticized this proposal.

Florida, Arizona, New York, Texas and California have welcomed pro sports to their states despite concerns regarding the pandemic, but it appears events such as MLB games will occur behind closed doors and without spectators for the foreseeable future.

This reality will likely affect current and future negotiations between owners and the players for the resumption of spring training sessions and the start of the campaign that may only last a few months.

Across the pond, the English Premier League may not allow supporters to attend matches for an entire year. Earlier this month, the Dutch health minister said fans may not be allowed to attend games in Holland until a coronavirus vaccine is available to the masses.

Agency that oversees Coliseum says A’s haven’t paid rent

The head of the agency that oversees the Oakland Coliseum says the A’s have informed him they had “no ability to pay” the annual $1.2 million rent on the facility.

“They said because they haven’t used it, they were not able to generate revenue and they have no ability to pay,” Henry Gardner, the interim executive director of the Coliseum authority, said in a statement.

“We recognize that we’ve all been upended in a number of ways,” Gardner said. “Maybe there are some things we are willing to negotiate and waive, but we can’t just say no rent.”

The A’s have made the payment annually for use of the city- and county-owned baseball stadium and could face penalties for failure to pay.

The A’s released a statement Wednesday noting the authority hadn’t been able to make the Coliseum available to the team because of the local shelter-in-place directive as well as state and local bans on public gatherings of more than 1,000 people at city facilities.

“The A’s have fully supported the health directives and community efforts by the City of Oakland, Alameda County and the State,” the statement said. “The A’s sent notice to the JPA (authority) in March stating the Club is in support of these public health efforts and would defer annual rent payment, given the building was not available for use, per provisions in the contract.”

“The A’s look forward to when the City and County feel it is safe to lift current directives, and the A’s are granted access to the facility to play baseball,” the statement said.

The baseball season has been delayed because of the pandemic and it remains unclear when it may begin, though baseball has been moving closer to approving a start date.

Report: Scottie Pippen ‘beyond livid’ with Michael Jordan over ‘The Last Dance’ portrayal

ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary has shined a light on the drama that surrounded the 1990s Chicago Bulls dynasty. It turns out it has also created some new controversy, too.

According to David Kaplan of ESPN 1000, Scottie Pippen is furious with Michael Jordan over how he was portrayed in the documentary.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this. ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan wrote in early May that Pippen was “wounded and disappointed” by how the series made him look.

The documentary largely focused on Jordan as its centerpiece, which is understandable. Pippen was shown showing up late for a season because he didn’t want to get surgery over the offseason, which Jordan branded as “selfish.” Pippen was made to look bad for struggling in a playoff game due to a migraine. The documentary also took an in-depth look at Pippen’s refusal to enter the final moments of Game 3 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals due to coach Phil Jackson setting up a play for Toni Kukoc instead of Pippen. Many focuses on Pippen were about negative events.

While Jordan didn’t make the documentary, he did have the final say over what made the cut. It may be that Pippen feels like he’s not getting his due and is made to look like he served too much of a complementary role to Jordan. Some of the comments made in the media probably haven’t helped either. Whatever the reason, the documentary certainly seems to have reopened some old wounds instead of healing them for good.

Pac-12 preparing to play 2020 college football season?

When the Cal State system announced earlier this month that campuses will likely be closed through the fall college semester, it threw a lot of people for a loop.

What exactly would this mean for the upcoming 2020 college football season? Colleges in other states seem to be preparing to open their campuses here soon amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Without a nationwide policy in place, the 2020 season remains very much up in the air. Though, there seems to be some good news on this front.

The Pac-12 issued a statement on Tuesday regarding return-to-play protocols. The conference seems to be confident that fall sports will be played.

“At our Pac-12 CEO meeting earlier today, we discussed the current COVID-19 crisis and reaffirmed that we will be guided by science and data, the counsel of medical experts, and the health and safety of everyone connected to our campuses in our decision-making,” the conference said in a statement, via 247Sports. “We consulted without Pac-12 COVID-10 Medical Advisory Committee, over 50 of the world’s leading infectious disease experts, public health experts, physicians, researchers and trainers. The Committee has developed a comprehensive set of return-to-play protocols and guidelines carefully designed to enable our member universities, when they determine it is appropriate, to as safely as possible bring student-athletes back to campus and ultimately resume athletic competition.”

The Pac-12 previously released a statement in response to the above-mentioned Cal State news. In said statement, the conference noted it will be making decisions separate from that of the state schools.

Meanwhile, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan noted last week that he expects the Utes to open their campus for student-athletes by June 1.

All of this comes with California governor Gavin Newsom surprisingly announcing on Monday that sports could return with fans in attendance at some point early next month.

All in all, this is great news.

NCAA weighs moratorium amid push to offer fall sports

The NCAA Division I Council is debating whether to let a moratorium on voluntary workouts on campus expire at the end of the month as a growing number of college leaders express confidence that fall sports will be played in some form.

NCAA spokeswoman Michelle Hosick said the topic was on the agenda for the council for Wednesday, though it was not clear a decision would be made. The moratorium on athletic activities for all sports currently runs through May 31.

From Notre Dame to LSU and more, a number of schools have announced plans to reopen their campuses for the fall semester and conferences have begun setting up plans for how to play football amid the coronavirus pandemic. The latest came this week with the Florida State system announcing plans for its 12 schools and more than 420,000 students.

Many questions remain, including specific safety protocols and whether fans would be allowed if games proceed. But the presidents of Miami and Notre Dame said in separate interviews Wednesday they expect the football season to be played.

Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins told MSNBC he expects to have clarity on how — or if — the football season can happen in the next few weeks.

“The team itself, I feel we can manage that one,” Jenkins said. “Then the question is people in the stands. We have an 85,000-person stadium. Can we get 85,000 people in there? That will be a big challenge to do that. But could we get a smaller number — 10,000, 15,000, 20,000? I don’t know.”

Miami President Julio Frenk told CNN he hopes the Hurricanes can play this fall and that safety would be the top priority.

“They will probably play in empty stadiums, like so many other sports,” Frenk said. “But we hope to have a season and we hope to have a winning season.”

Scott Woodward, the athletic director at defending national champion LSU, said his school was preparing to welcome back its athletes after the Southeastern Conference’s closure of athletic facilities to students is slated to end May 31.

LSU will offer summer classes online and doesn’t have plans to reopen its campus to the general student population at least until the fall semester.

Most athletic departments need the revenue generated from football to fund their other sports. Hundreds of schools are reeling financially from the effects of the pandemic. Athletic departments, particularly at smaller schools and in Division II, have already cut a number of sports.

The NCAA this week lowered the minimum and maximum number of games Division II schools are required to play in all sports next year. The move includes a 33% reduction in the minimum number of games needed for sponsorship and championship qualification in most sports.

Under the plan, D-II schools must play at least five football games to maintain NCAA sponsorship and at least seven games to be eligible for playoff consideration. The maximum number of allowable games is 10.

The requirements would return to normal in 2021-22.

Stephen F. Austin gets postseason bans; agrees to sanctions

Stephen F. Austin received postseason bans and agreed to several sanctions including probation, scholarship reductions and the forfeiture of wins on Wednesday for having low scores on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate.

The football team won’t be allowed to participate in the 2020 postseason, the men’s basketball team can’t participate in the 2021-22 postseason and the baseball team will be prohibited from participating in the postseason in the spring of 2021.

The three teams from the school in Nacogdoches were on a nationwide list released Tuesday that faced bans for posting a four-year score below 930. The scores are based on academic eligibility, graduation and retention. Athletes receive one point a semester by remaining academically eligible and another if they graduate or come back to school for the next term.

Stephen F. Austin’s men’s basketball team had the lowest score of any team in Division I at 810 and its football program was one of six other Division I teams nationwide that fell below 900, at 894.

The school’s baseball team also fell below the 930 mark.

Along with the bans, the school agreed with the NCAA to several sanctions, the most severe of which includes three years of probation, a public reprimand and censure, and a fine of $5,000 plus half of 1% of the total budget for men’s basketball and football.

Stephen F. Austin also agreed to return 50% of its financial share earned from participating in the 2016 NCAA Tournament and forfeited 289 victories in four sports where ineligible student-athletes participated. That includes 117 victories by the men’s basketball team from 2014-2019, 112 wins in baseball from 2015-2019, 29 wins in football from 2013-19 and 31 softball victories in 2018.

By vacating those wins, the men’s basketball team forfeits three conference championships and its victort in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. The school will remove banners recognizing those accomplishments from its coliseum.

Stephen F. Austin must reduce its scholarships for football in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons by 2.5% and cut its baseball scholarships by 5% in either the 2020-21 or 2021-22 season. The men’s basketball team will lose one scholarship in either the 2020-21 or 2021-22 season.

NBA Draft 2020: 5 best fits for Anthony Edwards

Anthony Edwards heads into the 2020 NBA Draft as the top collegiate prospect. That doesn’t mean he’s a lock to achieve greatness at the next level. The former Georgia standout needs to be drafted by the right team in order to unlock his prodigious potential.

It’s easy to see why scouts are intrigued by his offensive potential. He’s a powerful guard who uses his quickness and strength to overpower individual defenders. Combine that with a silky smooth jumper and there’s an easy recipe for terrific offensive production at the next level.

The challenge for Edwards will be learning to operate efficiently inside a team concept. He was forced to do it all for his college team. That led to some questionable shot selection and inconsistent effort on the defensive end of the floor. He desperately needs a quality ecosystem at the next level to put a halt to those bad habits.

That makes Edwards more dependent on fit than some other elite prospects in his class. Landing with one of the following five teams would be ideal.

  1. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs have one of the best cultures in the NBA and they need to find a potential star. They’d need a lot of lottery luck to get in a position to take Edwards, but San Antonio represents a great landing spot for the mercurial guard.

Pairing him alongside Dejounte Murray in the backcourt would help conceal a lot of Edwards’ defensive weaknesses. His (still somewhat theoretical) jump shooting ability would also give the Spurs offense some much-needed spacing.

Most importantly, landing Edwards would give San Antonio a boost of roster flexibility going forward. They need a spark to build around for the future. Edwards could ignite the rest of the Spurs roster.

  1. Sacramento Kings

The Kings are another franchise that would need some Lottery luck to land Edwards, but the idea of pairing him with De’Aaron Fox in the backcourt should cause Sacramento’s coaches to salivate. The two could form a high-octane backcourt that could vault the franchise back into playoff contention in short order.

Adding Edwards to the mix in Sacramento would give the team a ton of options on a nightly basis. The idea of putting Fox and Edwards in a small lineup with Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Marvin Bagley is particularly exciting. Edwards would give that group the athleticism on the wing required to really flourish.

It’s also possible that landing Edwards would allow the Kings to move on from Hield. That could help the Kings bring back a player they feel better fits their roster in the coming years.

Landing in Sacramento might not be the best spot to improve Edwards’ defense, but it could do wonders to improve his offensive efficiency. Keep a close eye on the Kings as a team that might want to move up to grab Edwards as the draft approaches.

  1. Detroit Pistons

The Pistons badly need to add talent on the wing to add punch to their offense. Derrick Rose isn’t going to power their attack forever. Edwards could give Detroit just the player they need to ease Rose’s burden.

Detroit could also afford to give Edwards the sort of offensive freedom he’ll want to enjoy during his rookie season. After Rose, there just aren’t any other quality playmakers on the roster. If Edwards lands in the Motor City, he’s going to get a ton of time with the ball in his hands.

Adding Edwards to the mix would also give the Pistons one of the most physical starting five’s in the NBA. Rose is very physical for a point guard. Blake Griffin might not have the explosion that defined his game in years past but he’s still a big body to handle in the post. Putting Edwards on the wing might conjure up images of the Bad Boys days again in Detroit.

The Pistons have a lot of holes to fill on draft night, but landing Edwards would be one of the highest-upside plays available to the franchise. He might struggle to carry the load early in Detroit, but learning on the job could accelerate his development as a rookie.

  1. Charlotte Hornets

Malik Monk has not been able to develop into the primary scorer the Hornets envisioned when they drafted him. It might be time for Charlotte to roll the dice on another SEC wing capable of powering their offense.

The Hornets always seem to head into the draft looking for star power. Edwards hs one of the highest ceilings in his class. Officials in Charlotte would rush to the podium if he’s on the board when their pick comes up.

The presence of Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham would help Edwards ease into a primary playmaking role. It might even allow him to focus on playing as a more complementary option during his rookie season. Landing in Charlotte might not be great for his chances of nabbing the Rookie of the Year Award, but it might help him learn how to become a winning player sooner rather than later.

The Hornets have some decent options to deploy in their backcourt, but they need a star to tie everyone together. Edwards has that potential. He’d give the franchise a useful injection of star power to build around.

  1. Golden State Warriors

Kerr’s focus on building a cohesive group makes him the perfect pro coach for Edwards. Playing alongside stars like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson would also give the talented wing the easiest transition to the NBA possible.

It’s really a match made in heaven for both parties. Edwards needs to learn what it’s like to be a part of a machine rather than the entire engine. Landing in Golden State would allow him to learn what it means to play a secondary role for an elite team right away. That’s not a privilege he enjoyed in college.

The Warriors would love to add Edwards because he would give the franchise another potential star to utilize on the wing. Curry and Thompson aren’t going to play at an elite level forever. Adding a guy like Edwards to take some of the regular season burden away from them might help extend their playoff effectiveness.

Drafting Edwards would also give Golden State a solid alternative to Andrew Wiggins in case his acquisition doesn’t work out. That’s not the main reason why the Warriors will be interested in Edwards’ services, but it’s a nice bonus.

Saints exploring Superdome naming rights options

The New Orleans Saints are preparing to look for a new naming rights holder for the Superdome.

Mercedez-Benz has held naming rights under a 10-year agreement that expires in July 2021 and Saints have said this week that the German automaker does not intend to extend the deal.

In 2015, Mercedes-Benz also entered into a 27-year naming rights contract with the home stadium of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, which opened in 2017.

“Each contract came about for different reasons rather than a desire to have two stadiums,” the Mercedes-Benz public relations department stated in an email to The Associated Press. “The Mercedes-Benz Superdome was an opportunity that came to us during a time when we were trying to channel business and funds to New Orleans for the post- (Hurricane) Katrina rebuilding a decade ago.”

The statement went on to say that buying naming rights to Mercedez-Benz Stadium represented an opportunity to mark the company’s decision five years ago to move its North American headquarters to Atlanta.

Mercedes-Benz said it is “fully prepared to honor” its current contract with the Saints.

“That said, we understand that the Saints need to plan for their future and we fully support them in exploring their options,” the statement said.

The Superdome currently is undergoing $450 million in renovations and is slated to host the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four in 2022 and the Super Bowl in 2024.

2020 NFL schedule: Ranking the five easiest stretches that any team will face during the upcoming season

It’s now been more than two weeks since the release of the 2020 NFL schedule, and since I’m in quarantine and have nothing better to do, I decided to comb through all 32 schedules to find the five easiest stretches that any team will face this year (I also took some time to figure out the five most difficult stretches, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, that’s coming out next week).

To figure which teams had the five easiest stretches, I took multiple things into account like Super Bowl odds, whether a team will be playing at home or away during their “easy” stretch, and what their opponent’s over/under for the season looks like. I also considered a few independent factors. For instance, the Seahawks, who have the third-easiest stretch of any team in the NFL this year in our rankings, will play two east coast teams at home during their stretch, which is viewed as an advantage because the Seahawks have a history of dominating teams from the eastern time zone at home during the regular season.

When putting this list together, I really only followed one rule: For a stretch of games to count in the rankings, it had to be at least three weeks long. There are a lot of teams that play two straight difficult games, but once you throw in a third one, things usually get slightly easier.

Alright, let’s get to the rankings, and remember, the five most difficult stretches will be coming out next week. But for now, let’s dive into the top-five easiest schedule stretches.

  1. Washington Redskins (Weeks 8 thru 11)

Opponents: BYE, Giants, at Lions, Bengals

The Redskins don’t have an easy schedule this year, but they will be catching somewhat of a break coming out of their Week 8 bye. After that week off, they will play consecutive games against the Giants, Lions and Bengals. Although this stretch is considered “easy” based on these rankings, the Redskins might not dominate this three-game span, and that’s because they’re just not expected to be very good.

Of course, even if they were to win every game during this stretch, that might not even help them, and that’s because after their Week 11 game against the Bengals, the Redskins will start a four-game stretch where they play at the Cowboys, at the Steelers, at the 49ers and at home against Seahawks. That stretch is so difficult that it ranked among the top-five hardest stretches in the NFL this year. Unfortunately for you, you’ll have to wait until next week to find out exactly where it ranks when we release our list of the five most difficult stretches that any team will face this season. The Redskins were the only team in the NFL that landed on both our “Easiest stretch” list and our “Most difficult stretch” list.

  1. Seattle Seahawks (Weeks 13 thru 15)

Opponents: Giants, Jets, at Redskins

This stretch of games couldn’t come at a better time for the Seahawks. By the time the schedule hits December, there’s a good chance Seattle will be in a dogfight to win the NFC West, and the good news for the Seahawks is that their easy stretch starts in December. Starting in Week 13 (Dec. 6), the Seahawks will get to play consecutive home games against the Giants and Jets. That’s a huge advantage for a team that has been known to dominate teams from the eastern time zone at home. Since Russell Wilson’s rookie year in 2012, the Seahawks have played 20 regular season home games against teams from the eastern time zone and they’ve gone 16-4 in those games. Of those four losses, one came to an eventual Super Bowl team (2015 Panthers) and another one came against a team that finished its season with the NFL’s best regular season record (2019 Ravens). The other two losses came in 2017 during a rare rut where the Seahawks lost consecutive home games (Falcons, Redskins). Basically, it’s not going to be easy for Daniel Jones or Sam Darnold to stroll into CenturyLink Field and steal a win.

As for that other game during this stretch, although it’s being played in Washington, that shouldn’t bother the Seahawks, who are 7-0 in the eastern time zone since the beginning of the 2018 season.

  1. Arizona Cardinals (Weeks 2 thru 5)

Opponents: Redskins, Lions, at Panthers, at Jets

After going 5-11 in 2019, it’s hard to say how good the Cards are going to be in 2020, but now that I’m looking at their schedule, this might be one team that should be considered a dark horse to get to the playoffs, and that’s because they’re easy stretch comes during the beginning of the season. After playing the 49ers in Week 1, the Cardinals get a stretch of four very winnable games with home showdowns against the Redskins and Lions, before hitting the road for consecutive games against the Panthers and Jets.

Another big upside for the Cardinals is that they’re going to be able to compact their two road games into one trip. Coach Kliff Kingsbury has already announced that the team will be staying out east for that two-game swing to Carolina and New York.

The fact that the Cards will be able to compress that into one trip is huge because it comes during a stretch where they’ll actually be playing three road games in a row, which can take a toll on NFL teams (The third road game comes in Week 5 when they play at Dallas). If the Cards can sweep this stretch, they could start the season 4-1, and maybe even 5-0 if they can upset the 49ers in Week 1.

  1. Miami Dolphins (Weeks 10-13)

Opponents: Jets, BYE, at Jets, Bengals

One of the craziest scheduling quirks of 2020 involves the Dolphins, and luckily for Miami, the strange quirk on the schedule is going to work out in its favor. Starting in Week 10, the Dolphins will play consecutive games against the Jets, marking the first time in 29 years that two teams have played consecutive games against each other (The last time it happened came in 1991 when the Chargers and Seahawks played two games in a row against each other). For the Dolphins, this works out to their advantage, because they’ve been dominating the Jets over the past few years. Since the beginning of the 2016 season, Miami is 6-2 against the Jets with the only two losses coming by a total of 15 points. The scheduling quirk means that the Dolphins will get to try to beat their old coach (Adam Gase) two times in a span of 14 days.

After facing the Jets twice, the Dolphins “easy” stretch will end with a Week 13 home game against the Bengals. Not only is that a winnable game, but it’s coming at a winnable time: Since the beginning of the 2016 season, the Dolphins are 7-2 in December home games. The heat in Miami can cause some issues for an opponent, which is why the Dolphins have been able to score some major home upsets in December over the past four years, including two wins over the Patriots (2017, 2018) and a shocking win last season over an Eagles team that eventually made the playoffs (The Dolphins were 10.5-point underdogs in that game).

  1. Baltimore Ravens (Weeks 15 thru 17)

Opponents: Jaguars, Giants, at Bengals

Ravens coach John Harbaugh should send a thank you note to everyone in the NFL scheduling department, because not only did the Ravens get the easiest schedule stretch of the any team in the NFL this year according to our rankings, but that stretch will be coming at a key time. The Ravens 2019 schedule will close with three very winnable games with two of those coming at home (Jaguars, Giants) and one coming on the road in Week 17 (at Bengals).

The reason this is a big deal is that the NFL playoff format is changing this year, and there’s a good chance this stretch of games could work out to Baltimore’s advantage. With seven teams now qualifying for the postseason out of the AFC, that means only one team will be getting a first-round bye. With only one bye up for grabs, there’s a good chance that Ravens will be battling it out for the top seed over the final few weeks of the year, and with a season-ending schedule that looks like this, there’s a good chance the Ravens will end the season on a high note and clinch the No. 1 overall seed.

To put Baltimore’s season-ending schedule in perspective, the Chiefs’ final three games are against the Saints (at New Orleans), Falcons and Chargers.

As for the Ravens, you could argue their “easy” stretch actually starts in Week 14 when they play the Browns. Not only will Baltimore get 11 days of rest going into that Monday night game in Cleveland (They play on a Thursday in Week 13), but they’ve gone 12-4 against the Browns since the beginning of the 2012 season.

Ranking top QBs from 2018-2021 draft classes: Here’s how Trevor Lawrence, Lamar Jackson, others stack up

How would Joe Burrow stack up to Trevor Lawrence? How about if we threw Lamar Jackson or Josh Allen in the mix? What about Kyler Murray, Drew Lock, and Tua Tagovailoa?

Although these questions relate to the same position, this exercise can be likened to comparing apples to oranges to grapes. There’s no perfect way to rank a collection of players mixed between the NFL and college.

Based on what we know from the first two years in the NFL from the famed 2018 quarterback group, the rookie seasons from the 2019 quarterback class, what we saw in college from the 2020 class, and projecting the 2021 class forward, below is how I’d rank the passers from 2018 all the way to 2021, if these quarterbacks were all in a draft right now.

I’m comparing across levels based on everything we know about each quarterback’s talent today, and what they’ve shown on a field to date. Of course, even an average season in the NFL is much more difficult than an amazing collegiate campaign. But for the sake of this article, the 2020 and 2021 quarterbacks are ranked mostly due to how much individual success I believe they will have in the pros based on their talent and overall skill sets.

  1. Lamar Jackson, Ravens

The NFL’s reigning MVP wasn’t the perfect prospect but did enter the league with polish in key areas of playing the position, such as drifting away from pressure within the pocket, gliding through his progressions — in Bobby Petrino’s classic NFL system at Louisville — and he possessed historic levels of play-making ability with his legs.

The latter element of his game exemplifies the new-age style of succeeding at quarterback in the pros. Jackson is rare cat athletically. He effortlessly ran for 1,206 yards at 6.9 yards per attempt in 2019, and while he can still grow as a passer, he took a sizable step forward in that area from his rookie year to his second season in Baltimore. Per PFF, Jackson had a 118.5 quarterback rating from a clean pocket in 2019 and managed a 97.7 rating while pressured.

He’s an elite-dual threat quarterback at the forefront of a new era of quarterbacking in the NFL.

  1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

Lawrence had a mediocre-at-best start to 2019, but after the midway point in the season, he was lights out — until the national title loss. Traits-wise, Lawrence is Andrew Luck 2.0 as a prospect. Huge arm, solid accuracy to all levels, fast processing of coverages, natural pocket presence, a tendency to keep his eyes up with chaos around him, and high-level athleticism to create with his legs.

He had a phenomenal, unprecedented true freshman season in 2018 when all those advanced skills were on full display every week en route to a championship. The talent around him at Clemson is certainly among the best in the country, yet Lawrence is not simply a product of his environment. He’s the perfect quarterback for the modern-day NFL because of the luxuries provided by his improvisational capabilities and scrambling talent.

  1. Joe Burrow, LSU

Burrow emphatically checked all the quarterback evaluation boxes in a legendary 2019 season at LSU, a campaign nearly impossible to see coming. While the arrow seemed to be pointing up for the Ohio State transfer over the final few games in 2018, he did not look like someone ready to set every defense he faced on fire.

Burrow is amazingly accurate to all levels of the field — particularly deep — doesn’t hang on one read too long, possesses inherent pocket-drifting mastery, and is legitimately Patrick Mahomes-esque when creating outside the structure of the play and finding targets down the field. Burrow diced up top SEC defenses all season, scorched Clemson in the national title game, and displayed grizzled veteran-like toughness along the way.

His arm isn’t gargantuan, yet it’s plenty strong enough for the NFL level. Burrow should make a quick transition to the NFL game in Zac Taylor’s offense and instantly elevate the Bengals offense.

  1. Justin Fields, Ohio State

The No. 2 recruit in the 2018 class — behind only Lawrence — Fields has been an impeccable talent since high school, and following split-time duty at Georgia, he erupted in 2019 after his transfer to Ohio State.

At 6-3 and 221 pounds, Fields has a filled-out, athletic frame and scrambles with ease when receivers aren’t open. He has tantalizing arm talent and a quick, smooth delivery. Everything seemingly comes naturally to him. In the Buckeyes’ spread offense, Fields repeatedly made the correct decision when throwing the football, and his passes arrived well-placed with zip to all levels. Even nitpicking him is hard, because he only put a small collection of bad plays on film last season when he completed over 67% of his passes with 41 touchdowns and only three interceptions at 9.2 yards per attempt.

Like Lawrence, he’s ahead of most young quarterbacks when it comes from winning inside the pocket and can win with his legs. If he takes even a small step forward in his second full season at Ohio State, Fields will be get No. 1 overall pick consideration.

  1. Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins

Tagovailoa was advanced as a prospect in two vital areas — accuracy and pocket management. From the moment he stepped onto the field at Alabama, his ball placement was special. And he understands he can’t drop his head when moving away from oncoming rushers inside the pocket and drifts awesomely.

But he’s an average athlete for the position by NFL standards. The same goes for his arm. While he flashed the ability to move through his progressions, a strange tendency pops on film when Tagovailoa locks onto read No. 1 far too long, which gives defenders ample time to make a play on the football.

Don’t get me wrong though — Tagovailoa enters the NFL without many clear-cut flaws when it comes to the fine details of playing the quarterback position.

  1. Josh Allen, Bills

A surprise this high on the list after where he was as a ultra-talented but equally as raw prospect and a shaky rookie season in the NFL, Allen took a large step forward in Buffalo in 2019.

Despite his monstrous arm, Allen was dreadful on long balls in his second NFL season, but was fantastic at the short-to-intermediate levels of the field, combined areas that made up nearly 85% of his throws. Sure, there were a few off-target swing passes but significantly more lasers through small windows. Behind a sturdier offensive line than what was provided to him in 2018, Allen was more patient standing and surveying yet didn’t become a statue, as that would be a failure to accentuate his entire skill set.

As a runner, he accumulated 510 yards on 109 carries and scored nine touchdowns. The arrow is tilted up for Allen.

  1. Kyler Murray, Cardinals

Murray did a more than admirable job behind Arizona’s ghastly blocking unit as a rookie in Kliff Kingsbury’s system. His 64.4% completion percentage was buoyed by a steady diet of screens, and he had a pair of ugly two-game stretches early and late in the season.

Other than that, Murray took what defenses gave him and ripped a few jaw-dropping throws each game, passes that hinted at future brilliance. His running wasn’t as much of a weapon as it was in the Big 12, but it’s a part of his game almost assured to be utilized by Kingsbury in Year 2 and beyond.

  1. Baker Mayfield, Browns

Mayfield had a strong rookie season, yet proper context was mostly glossed over. His six games with a passer rating over 100 came against defenses that had the following finishes in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA: 21st, 22nd, 28th, 31st (2x), 32nd.

But, despite the relative ease of the defense against which he played exceptionally, a quarterback rating performance over 100 in the NFL isn’t easy, and Mayfield demonstrated a fun blend of gun-slinger mentality and stellar accuracy in Year 1. He was mostly comfortable in the pocket too.

Even with Odell Beckham added to the roster in 2019, Mayfield took a big step back. His offensive line rarely did him any favors, yet he invited pressure and ran into it much more frequently than he did as a rookie. And as a lower-level athlete, he doesn’t bring much impact as a runner. Also, Mayfield threw with less decisiveness and worse ball placement overall. But his numbers — 59.4% completion, 78.8 rating — were not fully indicative of his play. Most games featured a handful of beautiful tosses, it’s just not all of them were caught and some ended as unlucky interceptions. Still, Mayfield has to play with much more poise in 2020 if he’s to return to the type of player he was as a rookie.

  1. Drew Lock, Broncos

Lock was difficult to peg in these rankings because he only appeared in five games in 2019. But he was my No. 1 quarterback prospect in his class — slightly ahead of Murray — but would’ve been behind most of the passers in the 2018 class.

Essentially, I’m conservatively slotting him in these rankings mostly due to a small NFL sample size from him to this point in time.

Lock started with a bang — he looked more than comfortable in his opening two starts before cooling down in his final three contests — but encouragingly never had a true stinker. Even his 18-of-40, 208-yard, one-interception showing in a 23-3 loss to the Chiefs came during a 24-degree snowstorm and featured a handful of impressive throws.

True to his collegiate form, the 2019 second-rounder was ultra-aggressive when he saw fit and placed some dimes down the field in his late-season audition. He needs to get better moving through his reads and removing some ill-advised, off-balanced throws from his game. But Lock’s arm strength stands out on film, as does his athleticism as a scrambler.

  1. Justin Herbert, Chargers

Herbert was on the draft radar for two years and, strangely, hype subsided for him in a mostly successful senior season that finished with a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin.

With a cannon arm and fine athletic talent, Herbert checks the two boxes easiest to uncover on film. And, many times during his illustrious career at Oregon, he had outings that featured a variety of jaw-dropping throws at the intermediate level and down the field. As a senior, he stepped out of the limelight offensively, as the Ducks went full ground-and-pound with one of the best and most experienced offensive lines in the country.

Herbert is typically poised and accurate from the pocket, and he flashed phenomenal throw-on-the-run skill. There were glimpses of coverage-reading confusion and wayward ball placement. Most of those occurrences happened in Oregon’s biggest, most marquee contests. Those blips are concerning, but having evaluated him for two full seasons, I like what Herbert brings to the field athletically, with his arm strength, and in the majority of cases, from a mental/processing standpoint.

  1. Sam Darnold, Jets

Darnold was a #DraftTwitter darling during the 2018 pre-draft process. I wasn’t as awestruck by him. He finished as my QB4 in that class with a late first-round grade. The adoration for Darnold stemmed from a fantastic, out-of-nowhere redshirt freshman season in which Darnold took over as the USC starter in late September. He completed over 67.2% of his passes with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions at 8.4 yards per attempt as a 19 year old. His film was littered with high-level throws fit into tiny windows down the field.

He took a step back in his super-hyped 2017 campaign — he led Division I in turnovers — but the big-time throws still popped up on film throughout the season. With the Jets as a rookie, Darnold took a fair amount of time to acclimate to the NFL as such a young starter — mostly struggling mightily against pressure — but ended on a three-game tear with five touchdowns, no picks at 7.5 yards per attempt and 63.1% completion.

His second season was marred by a case of mono that kept him out of three contests, Adam Gase’s ultra-conservative offense and New York’s porous offensive line that did him no favors. The elite-level flashes were there, but they were few and far between. His pocket presence was average, and some of the aggressive nature he flashed at USC and as a rookie subsided.

  1. Daniel Jones, Giants

Jones demonstrated he was capable of outstanding throws at the intermediate level and down the field, and he mostly worked well underneath in Pat Shurmur’s West Coast Offense as a rookie. Those positives were countered by a propensity to be careless with the football, both in the pocket and by way of throwing passes into precarious situations.

Like many young quarterbacks, he was mostly frantic against pressure, and while a few awesome throws were made under duress, Jones released many more off-balanced passes from a muddy pocket that were (or should’ve been) intercepted. He tossed 12 picks but that number very easily could’ve been much higher if some defensive backs had more reliable hands.

As someone who thought Jones was drafted much too high, I was impressed by his downfield ball placement — not a strength at Duke. His quick release and accuracy on short throws were elements of his game he regularly displayed in college and instantly appeared during his rookie season.

  1. Dwayne Haskins, Redskins

At Ohio State, Haskins parlayed a historic season — 70.8% completion and 50 touchdowns to just eight interceptions — into being a top 15 pick.

But for as gaudy as his statistics were during his single year as the Buckeyes starter, Haskins’ lacked quickness in his feet to avoid pressure in the pocket and wasn’t noticeably accurate down the field. Also, Ohio State’s offensive line was sturdy, and Haskins’ collection of skill-position players was ridiculous. He was more of a project than his numbers indicated.

Yet, when he did see the field in the NFL from Week 10 through the rest of the season, Haskins did make a few pinpoint throws deep and showed slightly improved pocket mobility, although neither would now be considered a strength. He quickly checked down and had severe problems against pressure in most occasions. However, Washington’s offensive line was brutal, and outside of Terry McLaurin, the Redskins were mostly devoid of skill-position talent.

  1. Jordan Love, Packers

Love is the ultimate long-term project at the quarterback spot. But he has first-round talent. In 2018, with a tiny collection of NFL talent around him, Love threw 32 touchdowns to just six picks at 64.0% completion and 8.6 yards per attempt. His senior season didn’t go nearly as well. His statistics took a noticeable dip, and he frequently put the ball into harm’s way, often not noticing underneath defenders or throwing late toward the sideline.

Despite all that, Love has freaky arm talent and natural athletic gifts, a combo that allows him to make Mahomesian throws to all levels of the field, from any platform, in any situation. He can win from the pocket too but has to sharpen his rough edges in that aspect of his game in order to succeed in the NFL.

  1. Josh Rosen, Dolphins

Everyone missed on Rosen in the 2018 Draft. And he’s the cautionary tale of how the aesthetics of a quarterback’s play can be wildly deceiving.

A prized recruit at UCLA, Rosen looked like an NFL quarterback starting in his freshman season with the Bruins. His footwork was incredibly clean, his release was perfect, and he threw a gorgeous tight spiral to every level. He flashed good pocket management skills too.

He looked the part and was universally liked. He finished as my QB3 in the 2018 class.

But in the NFL, his unreliable downfield accuracy, mostly hurried play against pressure, and a tendency to stand in and take gigantic hits inside the pocket as opposed to avoiding them catalyzed a terrible rookie campaign. His situation in Arizona was atrocious, yet Rosen rarely if ever flashed the ability to overcome, and he’s not the type of athlete to make off-script plays on a regular basis.

In his short audition with the Dolphins in 2019, the same issues materialized for Rosen behind, yes, another abysmal blocking unit. To his credit, amazing throws did happen early in the season. History says Rosen won’t be be a franchise quarterback in the NFL, and he probably never had that type of complete skill set. But he has been dealt a bad hand twice in two seasons on different teams.

NFL’s Rooney Rule additions are a positive step forward, but more teeth needed

Punishment is a greater deterrent than reward.

You can argue that philosophical question in my Twitter mentions, but it’s what I believe. And that’s part of the reason Tuesday I’m glad to see the minority coaching incentive proposal fail and the Rooney Rule get strengthened.

But there’s still something missing.

The Rooney Rule is the 17-year-old necessary tool that has helped the league reach its diversity height among coaches as recently as two years ago. But it’s also been the rule that has been circumvented and made a mockery of regularly by team owners who show no interest in deviating from their plan at the head coach or general manager positions.

The NFL finds itself in this position because its group of team owners have, by majority, turned their backs on hiring minorities at the head coaching and general manager positions. And so now the league is forcing teams to interview more minorities for positions.

“Clubs will now be required to interview at least two external minority candidates for head coach vacancies; at least one minority candidate for any of the three coordinator vacancies; and at least one external candidate for the senior football operations or general manager position,” the league wrote in a statement. The Rooney Rule will also be applied to executive positions like team president and other senior-level front-office positions.

Additionally, teams will no longer be allowed to block assistant coaches from interviewing for coordinator positions with other teams. Assistants have (rightly) been griping about this for years, and lifting these restrictions should, in theory, help those minority candidates who have been spinning their wheels in the lower ranks.

“What the chairman (Art Rooney II) and the commissioner did today and what the ownership voted on today has been a fight for decades to get mobility that has disproportionately affected people of color,” NFL EVP of football operations Troy Vincent said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. “Just the ability to get an interview, you don’t get hired unless you have an interview. The mobility resolution today was significant [and] historic, because it has been a fight for decades. That’s the foundation. Frankly, we would call that the linchpin of these inequalities. With these initiatives, the enhancement of the Rooney Rule which is a tool, it just allows us to have a broader scope of how we look at things.”

Vincent went on to say that the league is better positioned today with centralized data to learn which teams do a better job at retaining women and people of color in their employ. Are people actually getting opportunities to advance with certain clubs? That sort of information can eventually be used to inform team owners of their shortcomings.

But that will take years. And what we have seen over the decades, and even still with the passage and strengthening of the Rooney Rule, are teams working the edges of the rule. They check the box and hire who they wish. Minority coaching hopefuls and executives have been telling reporters on and off the record for years about the sham interviews they did or did not take part in.

If there is a fear that what the league did Tuesday was simply add another hurdle for teams to clear before they again circumvent the rule, it’d be understood.

In 2003 when the Rooney Rule was introduced, it came with the warning that teams that did not adhere to the rule would face penalties of a fine up to loss of draft picks. In nearly two decades, only once has a team been dinged for working around the rule, and that cost the Detroit Lions just $200,000 and no draft picks.

What I believe is missing from Tuesday’s developments are greater — or at least imposed — punishments. Team owners have learned that they can touch the stove and not get burnt. If some team owners were/are interested in rewarding draft picks for doing the right thing, should they not also be intrigued by stripping draft picks for not doing the right thing?

The incentive proposal was doomed to fail, and despite what league officials said on the Tuesday call, I can’t see it ever getting resuscitated. “As long as production, expertise and leadership are footnoted with references to ethnicity, some entities within the NFL process may continue to feel justified in doubting its legitimacy,” one coach of color told me over the weekend.

“The idea that the NFL might unearth the next example of leadership excellence through a more inclusive mindset, should be incentive enough,” he continued

He nor I live in the fairy tale world that’s regularly repeated by folks with bald eagles as their Twitter avatar. Hire the best person for the job. Well … of course.

Sweeping generalization here, but there is incompetence at every level of every company (other than this one) across America. The best person isn’t hired for the job. You do get passed over by someone without your qualifications. It happens in the NFL and it happens in other sports leagues and it happens at your job and at your favorite department store.

To be frank (and fair), the NFL as a singular entity has done a good job with its minority hiring practices. The league office received high marks in its hiring of women and people of color in the most recent Racial and Gender Report Card, published last October.

But the NFL collective, made up of 32 individual businesses, is what must be dealt with here. Roger Goodell can’t change the hiring wishes of individual billionaires, nor should he be in a position to demand who they hire anyway.

But he and the league can change their hiring practices, which is what’s being done here with the Rooney Rule’s augmentation. “The facts are we have a broken system,” Vincent said bluntly.

I believe the league and its team owners should have gone a step further here and instituted — or showed an intention to implement — punishments for those who intend to keep the system broken.

2020 NBA DRAFT PROFILE: ANTHONY EDWARDS

Overview
Edwards is a dynamic scorer who is at his best taking the ball to the paint and using his power and explosive athleticism to score the ball over length. He can hit the step-back jumper, has smooth three point range and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

Edwards’ jumper is a thing of beauty. He’s got a quick trigger with a compact, elbow-in release and he’s become a lethal shooter from beyond the arc. He’s excellent at shooting off the dribble and creating his own space, rising up off the bounce in one smooth motion. He’s got a perfect flick of the wrist and nice follow through.
Edwards is a true power guard who plays like a bigger version of Victor Oladipo. He’s simply too much for 1 defender to handle and can get his shot at will. His explosive power and effortless elevation are a thing of beauty. And when he dunks the ball it looks like he could rip the rim off the backboard. We haven’t seen a power guard like this in a while.
Edwards holds his own on the defensive end and has lots of potential to be a lock-down defender. As he gains experience he should begin to stand out more on that end of the floor. He’s put on at least 30 pounds from his HS junior season and now has the frame to hold his own in the paint and guard the small forward position.

The Latest: Jazz G Conley donates $200,000 to virus work

Mike Conley of the Utah Jazz has donated a total of $200,000 to five communities to assist with the coronavirus response.

Conley’s donation will go toward addressing food insecurity, homelessness and remote learning needs.

He is giving to the Utah Food Bank in Salt Lake City; CodeCrew in Memphis, Tennessee; Community Shelter Board and the Columbus Urban League in Columbus, Ohio; the Indianapolis Public Schools Foundation in Indianapolis; and the New Haven Missionary Baptist Church in West Helena, Arkansas.

Conley says the pandemic “has reminded me that I am in this position because of the support and sacrifices of others I’ve encountered all along the way. I wanted to be there for the communities that have been fundamental to my personal growth.”

If Major League Soccer resumes its season, it surely will be without fans in the stands.

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan says that would be a huge blow to Atlanta United.

The franchise has set numerous attendance records since joining MLS in 2017, averaging more than 50,000 per league game each of the last two seasons. Atlanta drew an announced crowd of 69,301 for this year’s opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but the season was shut down a few days later because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re lucky with the support and atmosphere and energy that’s created in our stadium,” Guzan said on a video conference call with Atlanta media. “We’re all eager to get back, but we have to get back in a safe and responsible way. If that means fans can’t take part, that’s a massive blow to us. That’s certainly something we feed off of on game day.”

Guzan expressed some skepticism about the idea of resuming the season with all teams based in Orlando, a proposal that has been floated as the best way to get the season going again after a two-month layoff.

“A lot of questions have to be answered from a league perspective before something like that can take place,” Guzan said. “I don’t think it would be for every game left in the season. I don’t think you can ask the players to relocate to another city for the rest of the season.”

The Italian soccer federation has given the country’s top three leagues until Aug. 20 to complete their seasons.

The federation has also come up with alternative plans if the leagues have to be halted again because of the coronavirus pandemic. They could resort to playoffs or decide positions by applying coeffecients.

The following season is now scheduled to start on Sept. 1.

Serie A has been suspended since March 9. There are 12 rounds remaining in the league and the Italian Cup is in the semifinal stage.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says being back in group training with some of his players “felt like the first day in school.”

The Premier League leaders were among the English clubs undertaking staggered workouts in small groups following a relaxation of national lockdown regulations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Those at the practice session at Liverpool’s training complex were still required to maintain social distancing. Video footage showed Mohamed Salah giving the thumbs-up before swerving to avoid Klopp as the forward ran onto the field to join teammates.

Klopp compared the current period to a pre-season and is keeping things simple to start off with despite saying his players are “in good shape.”

The German coach says the players are “getting used to the pitch, boots and ball, turns, passes, half-passes, softer passes, running, little accelerations and stuff like that.”

Liverpool leads the Premier League by 25 points and needs to win two more games to clinch its first league title since 1990.

The Kentucky-Michigan college basketball matchup scheduled for Dec. 6 in London has been postponed until 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic. And the three-game series has been restructured.

The schools were scheduled to highlight the inaugural Basketball Hall of Fame London Showcase doubleheader at the O2 Arena. The series also included Marist against UMBC. Michigan will now host the Wildcats on Dec. 4 in Ann Arbor before the schools meet in London one year later. Kentucky will host the Wolverines in Lexington on Dec. 2, 2023.

Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame President & CEO John L. Doleva says in a statement that the “unknown combination” of health, safety, international travel regulations and the economic viabilities for all parties required postponing the event.

Kentucky coach John Calipari says he is disappointed to not go to London and looked forward to meeting Queen Elizabeth II.

“But I’m glad we were all able to come together, figure this out and preserve this series for the future,” Calipari says.

Michigan coach Juwan Howard says: “The Hall of Fame took the time to review what is happening around the world and explore all options – all the safe options for the teams and most importantly the fans. The best thing is this tremendous event isn’t canceled, it’s just delayed.”

The presidents of the University of Miami and Notre Dame say in separate interviews that they expect the football season to be played, though both raised the very real possibility of crowds being much smaller than usual or eliminated entirely.

Appearing on CNN, Miami’s Dr. Julio Frenk says he hopes the Hurricanes can play this fall and that safety would be the top priority.

“They will probably play in empty stadiums, like so many other sports,” Frenk said. “But we hope to have a season and we hope to have a winning season.”

Speaking on MSNBC, Notre Dame’s the Rev. John Jenkins says he expects to have clarity on how – or if – football season can happen in the next few weeks.

“The team itself, I feel we can manage that one,” Jenkins said. “Then the question is people in the stands. We have an 85,000-person stadium. Can we get 85,000 people in there? That will be a big challenge to do that. But could we get a smaller number – 10,000, 15,000, 20,000? I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that question. That’s something we’ll have to think through.”

The head of the organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup says a global recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic could affect the ability of fans to afford to travel to Qatar.

The World Bank is forecasting a deep recession caused by the shutdown of economic activity around the world.

Organizing committee secretary general Hassan Al Thawadi says he is hopeful the tournament will be an opportunity for the world to come together again in November 2022. But he says there are “concerns about the global economy and the ability of fans to be able to afford traveling and afford coming and participating and celebrating the World Cup.”

Al Thawadi says organizers want a “a price range that is affordable for fans and a price range that is workable, functionable for the industry, for service providers, for the supply chain that is responsible for delivering the World Cup.”

Watford defender Adrian Mariappa says he is one of the six people to test positive from the first round of coronavirus checks in the Premier League and is surprised that he contracted the disease.

Mariappa says on the websites of British newspapers The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail he has been “scratching my head to try to work out how I might have got coronavirus” because he hasn’t “really left the house apart from some exercise and the odd walk with the kids.”

The 33-year-old Mariappa says he hasn’t had any symptoms and has felt “as fit as ever.” He says he has spent lockdown dividing his time between homeschooling and following Watford’s fitness program.

Two members of Watford’s staff also tested positive for COVID-19. Burnley said assistant manager Ian Woan has also contracted the virus.

Tests on 748 people were conducted from 19 of the 20 Premier League clubs on Sunday and Monday. The 20th club started testing on Tuesday.

The Portuguese soccer federation says six of the 15 stadiums seeking to host matches when the league resumes next month amid the coronavirus pandemic have failed health inspections.

All stadiums must comply with a series health measures established by local authorities to be able to host matches.

The federation says the stadiums for league leader Porto and second-place Benfica were among the nine stadiums that passed the inspections conducted by local health authorities.

The stadiums that failed belong to smaller clubs. They will be allowed to make changes to their venues before another inspection is conducted.

The Portuguese league was set to resume at the end of May but its start was delayed until June 4 so there was time to rigorously inspect stadiums and conduct medical tests on all professionals involved in the matches.

The league was stopped with Porto leading Benfica by one point with 10 rounds to go.

Soccer players in Africa and the Americas are receiving food packages from their union while the sport is shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Players in Botswana, Egypt, Colombia, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay were identified as getting food aid by world players’ union FIFPro.

FIFPro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann says some players “are being stranded in terms of income.”

FIFPro represents players in 65 countries. The union says most players have contracts paying them salaries comparable to national averages.

Baer-Hoffmann says the vast majority of soccer players are “under the same financial pressures as the rest of society.”

Tottenham is looking into whether defender Serge Aurier has broken social-distancing rules for the third time.

Aurier posted a picture on Instagram on Tuesday appearing to show off a new haircut and sitting next to a stylist who was tagged in the post.

The Premier League club says it is “investigating the circumstances and will deal with the incident appropriately.”

The 27-year-old right back has been forced to apologize twice for breaking lockdown rules during the suspension of the Premier League because of the coronavirus pandemic. He posted a video of himself running with a friend and also training with Tottenham teammate Moussa Sissoko.

French rugby club Toulon plans to resume training next month in small groups of three players amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The three-time European champions say their players and coaching staff will have blood and heart tests next week at their training center.

The groups of three will jog, do bodybuilding and work on their fitness levels in specially marked zones to avoid contact with others.

France came out of lockdown on May 11. Toulon hopes players can train in groups of 8-12 in July and return to full training in August.

Japan’s beloved high school baseball tournament has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The tournament is a huge annual event in Japan and is followed much the way Americans follow the college basketball tournament.

The Japanese High School Baseball Federation says the cancellation was the first since World War II.

Asahi newspaper president Masataka Watanabe says “the decision is needed to protect the health of the players, officials and fans.”

The high school tournament has showcased some of the biggest stars in Japanese professional baseball. They include major leaguers like Ichiro Suzuki, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Matsui.

The summer tournament was scheduled to start in August at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya. A smaller spring tournament was canceled earlier.

Rayo Vallecano players have returned to training after the Spanish soccer club accepted some of their salary demands.

The players from the second-division club had not practiced this week as a protest for not being taken off furlough. They had only trained individually at home.

The club says it met with players and decided to change their furlough conditions now that group sessions have begun and their workload increased.

Most soccer clubs in Spain used government furloughs to reduce their labor costs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Players from second-division club Elche also refused to practice at the team’s training center last week and the club also eventually complied with their demands.

The Spanish soccer season is expected to resume on the second weekend of June.

Big Ten Men’s Tennis All-Conference Teams and Individual Awards Announced

Michigan and Ohio State take home individual honors

ROSEMONT, Ill. – The Big Ten Conferenced announced the men’s tennis all-conference teams and individual award winners on Wednesday. Michigan’s Andrew Fenty was named Athlete of the Year, while Ohio State’s Cannon Kingsley was honored as Freshman of the Year.

Fenty is the first Wolverine selected as the Big Ten Athlete of the Year since Evan King earned the award in 2012 and 2013. The sophomore led the Wolverines to a 14-3 overall record this season, while posting a 12-8 singles mark. Fenty finished the season ranked No. 16 by the ITA and held a 6-3 dual mark, playing all matches at the No. 1 position. In doubles, Fenty finished with a 20-2 overall record, including an 8-0 dual mark.

 Kingsley is the fifth Buckeye in six years to be named Big Ten Freshman of the Year after John McNally last claimed the title in 2018. Kingsley is currently No. 14 in the ITA Rankings. He finished his rookie campaign with a 19-3 record in singles action and a 10-1 doubles mark. Versus ranked singles opponents, Kingsley held a 9-2 record and was ranked in the top-25 of the singles rankings all season, climbing to a season-high No. 12 for three weeks.

The complete list of All-Big Ten selections and Sportsmanship honorees can be found below.

2019-20 All-Big Ten Men’s Tennis Awards

As selected by Big Ten coaches

ALL-BIG TEN FIRST TEAM

Aleks Kovacevic, Illinois

ALEX BROWN, ILLINOIS

Bennett Crane, Indiana

Kareem Allaf, Iowa

Ondrej Styler, Michigan

ANDREW FENTY, MICHIGAN

Stefan Milicevic, Minnesota

Dominik Stary, Northwestern

JOHN MCNALLY, OHIO STATE

Kyle Seelig, Ohio State

CANNON KINGSLEY, OHIO STATE

ATHELL BENNETT, PURDUE

ALL-BIG TEN SECOND TEAM

Siphosothando Montsi, Illinois

Will Davies, Iowa

Mattias Siimar, Michigan

Steven Forman, Northwestern

James Trotter, Ohio State

Christian Lakoseljac, Penn State

ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

Andrew Fenty, Michigan

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

Cannon Kingsley, Ohio State

Unanimous selections designated in ALL CAPS

SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD HONOREES

Vuk Budic, Illinois

Carson Haskins, Indiana

Will Davies, Iowa

Mattias Siimar, Michigan

John Carlin, Michigan State

Siim Troost, Minnesota

Victor Moreno Lozano, Nebraska

Chris Ephron, Northwestern

JJ Mercer, Ohio State

Gabriel Nemeth, Penn State

Franz Luna, Purdue

Jared Pratt, Wisconsin

Big Ten Women’s Tennis All-Conference Team and Individual Awards Announced

Maryland and Ohio State take home individual honors

ROSEMONT, Ill. – The Big Ten Conferenced announced the women’s tennis all-conference team and individual award winners on Wednesday. Ohio State’s Shiori Fukuda was named Athlete of the Year, while Maryland’s Ayana Akli was honored as Freshman of the Year.

Fukuda is the Buckeye’s third Big Ten Athlete of the Year in the last five seasons, joining Francesca Di Lorenzo who earned the title in 2016 and 2017. Fukuda led Ohio State to a 9-3 record while earning 2020 ITA All-America plaudits. She posted a 24-7 overall singles record and a 9-3 dual mark, climbing to a career-high eighth ITA ranking during the season. The junior finished the season at No. 11, the highest ranked Big Ten athlete.

Akli is the first Terrapin in school history to be named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Akli finished her freshman year with a 21-3 singles record and 16-5 doubles record playing solely at the No. 1 position in singles and doubles. She is currently ranked 90th by the ITA after climbing as high as No. 71 this season. Akli posted a team-leading nine dual match victories at the No. 1 position in her first season as a Terrapin.

The complete list of All-Big Ten selections and Sportsmanship honorees can be found below.

2019-20 All-Big Ten Women’s Tennis Awards

As selected by Big Ten coaches

 ALL-BIG TEN TEAM

Asuka Kawai, Illinois

Mia Rabinowitz, Illinois

ELISE VAN HEUVELEN TREADWELL, IOWA

AYANA AKLI, MARYLAND

Andrea Cerdan, Michigan

GIULIA PAIRONE, MICHIGAN

Mary Lewis, Michigan State

Dalila Said, Minnesota

CLAIRE REIFEIS, NEBRASKA

JULIE BRYNE, NORTHWESTERN

SHIORI FUKUDA, OHIO STATE

Danielle Wolf, Ohio State

Ena Babic, Purdue

DENISE STOICA, WISCONSIN

ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

Shiori Fukuda, Ohio State

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

Ayana Akli, Maryland

Unanimous selections designated in ALL CAPS

SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD HONOREES

Josie Frazier, Illinois

Annabelle Andrinopoulos, Indiana

Danielle Bauers, Iowa

Saya Usui, Maryland

Nicole Hammond, Michigan

Sammie Memije, Michigan State

Cammy Frei, Minnesota

Isabel Adrover Gallego, Nebraska

Hannah McColgan, Northwestern

Kolie Allen, Ohio State

Gracey Hirsch, Penn State

Zala Dovnik, Purdue

Sydney Kaplan, Rutgers

Xinyu Cai, Wisconsin

SPORTS EXTRA:

TODAY IN SPORTS HISTORY-1977

BALTIMORE-Some of the best-paid athletes in America spent the better part of two minutes trying to catch Seattle Slew aboard other horses today and, when the 102d Preakness Stakes was over, they joined the public in tossing bouquets at the undefeated 3-year-old colt. “He’s got to be a good horse,” said Willie Shoemaker, who has won 7,000 races in his career but who finished fifth today on the English champion J.O. Tobin. “He wins every time he runs.”

“My horse ran O.K., but that other horse is too much for anybody,” said Angel Cordero Jr., who won two of the last four Kentucky Derbies but who ran sixth today aboard Hey Hey J.P. Chris McCarron, who finished last with Regal Sir, said, “I never got a close enough view of Seattle Slew because the pace was too fast for my horse.” And this report came from Danny Wright, who had the best view of all for the first blistering mile because Cormorant raced stride for stride with Seattle Slew and his French jockey, Jean Cruguet: “We were leading him down the backstretch and going into the far turn, but then he asked his horse to move and he did. I thought to myself: oh-oh. Then the bubble kind of busted. We just couldn’t beat him.”

In the Kentucky Derby, the favored Seattle Slew had been literally left at the gate but then overcame all kinds of adversity to finish in front of 14 challengers. That was his seventh straight victory and this afternoon at 5:40 o’clock he moved into the eighth position in the starting gate looking for No. 8.

Cormorant was in the race from the moment the gates sprang open. “He gave everything he had,” Wright reported, “but he couldn’t out foot Seattle Slew today. We were actually leading him for almost a mile, and I thought I still had a lot of horse under me. But then…”

When that bubble “busted” for Wright, it expanded for Jorge Velsquez aboard Iron Constitution. By the time they headed into the stretch, he replaced Cormorant as the “chaser.” “My instructions were to make one run at him,” Velsquez related. “And we did make one run at him in the stretch.” But as they flashed past the finish, Iron Constitution was still a length and a half behind “him”-Seattle Slew. And if any question was left unanswered, it was this: Could Iron Constitution or anybody else catch him if the race was longer?

The Belmont is five-sixteenths of a mile longer, but Velasquez was making no claims: “I thought I was gaining a little on him. But if the race was longer? My horse was trying his best, but I can’t say that he would catch Seattle Slew.” And that’s what it came down to: Could anybody ever catch the undefeated Seattle Slew?

Seattle Slew went on to win the Belmont Stakes in June by four lengths over Run Dusty Run. He remains the only undefeated Triple Crown winner. Slew won 14 of 17 races in his three-year career.

 

ALSO:

1881: The United States National Lawn Tennis Association, composed of 33 clubs, was formed in a New York City hotel room as the national ruling body of the sport. Now simply the U.S.T.A., it assumed control over all rules-from the height of nets to the sanctioning of tournaments.

1979: The Montreal Canadiens, led by goalie Ken Dryden and right wing Guy Lafleur, defeated the Rangers, 4‚1, in Game 5 at the Montreal Forum to win their fourth straight Stanley Cup. It was Les Habitants’ 21st Cup in their 61 years in the N.H.L. and their 18th since the Rangers had last won in 1940.

1981: With center Butch Goring scoring two goals and being named the post season’s most valuable player, the Islanders defeated the Minnesota North Stars, 5‚1, at Nassau Coliseum to win their second straight Stanley Cup in five games. The Islanders went on to win four straight titles under Coach Al Arbour.

TODAY IN BASEBALL HISTORY

1907       After the Giants’ 3-0 loss to the Cubs that drops New York out of first place, the players need to form a protective ring around umpires Hank O’Day and Bob Emslie. Pinkerton guards fire shots in the air, trying to disperse unruly fans who have spilled onto the field at the Polo Grounds.

1919       The Giants trade outfielder Jim Thorpe to the Braves for hurler Pat Ragan, who will pitch in only seven games for New York. The former Olympian, who appeared in only two games with his former team this year, will play 60 games for Boston before retiring at the end of the campaign, compiling a career .252 batting average during his six seasons in the major leagues.

1925       At Navin Field, the Tigers and Senators tie a nine-inning major league record, turning a combined nine double plays. Washington puts their twin killings to better use when they beat Detroit, 6-2.

1926       Earl Sheely ties a big league record with seven consecutive extra-base hits. After doubling in each of his last three at-bats at Fenway Park yesterday, the White Sox first baseman collects three doubles and a home run in today’s 8-7 loss to Boston.

1927       For the second consecutive day, an umpire at Ebbets Field is the target of fan abuse. Arbitrator Frank Wilson needs a police escort after the Robins (Dodgers) drop a twin bill to Cubs.

1930       After hitting three consecutive home runs, his first three-homer performance in a regular-season game, Babe Ruth decides to bat from the opposite side (right-handed) in the ninth inning. After two quick strikes, the 35 year-old ‘Sultan of Swat’ crosses the plate to bat lefty, but A’s hurler Jack Quinn still strikes out the Bambino in Philadelphia’s 15-7 rout of the Yankees at Shibe Park.

1943       At Comiskey Park, it takes only one hour and twenty-nine minutes for the White Sox to defeat the Senators, 1-0. The 89-minute contest is the quickest nine-inning game ever played in the American League.

1947       Joe DiMaggio is slapped with a $100 fine, along with four teammates who are penalized to a lesser degree, by Yankee GM Lee MacPlail for not fulfilling contract requirements to do promotional duties for the team. The New York outfielder had reneged on a promise to pose for a Signal Corps photograph featuring soldiers wearing new Army uniforms.

1952       The Dodgers score a major league record fifteen first-inning runs en route to a 19-1 rout over the Reds at Ebbets Field. After Ewell Blackwell retires the first batter, the next 19 Brooklyn batters reached base (10 hits, 7 walks, and 2 HBP), including Captain Pee Wee Reese getting to first base three times during the frame.

1952       Joe Nuxhall, best known for signing with Cincinnati in 1944 after obtaining the permission of his parents and high school principal, returns to the Reds seven years after pitching two-thirds of an inning in his major league debut as a 15 year-old. The southpaw gives up just one hit in the final three frames of the team’s 19-1 loss to Brooklyn at Ebbets Field.

1957       Reaffirming their decision to bar females from the Fenway Park’s male-only press box, Boston baseball writers deny a seat to Doris O’Donnell, a feature writer following the Indians.

1959       At a meeting at John Galbreath’s Ohio farm, in the face of growing pressure to expand, baseball owners decline to add new teams to the major leagues. Given the lack of plans for expansion, Commissioner Ford Frick, at a later date, will announce that MLB will ”favorably consider an application for major league status within the present baseball structure by an acceptable group of eight clubs which would qualify under ten specifications.”

1962       On the day he is released by New York, right-hander Robin Roberts will pitch two scoreless innings for the Orioles at Cleveland Stadium, after signing as a free agent with the Birds. The 35 year-old future Hall of Famer, who never appeared in a game wearing a Yankee uniform, will compile a 42-36 record during his four seasons with the Birds.

1963       Jim Maloney ties a major league record shared by Max Surkont (1953 Braves) and Johnny Podres (1962 Dodgers) when he strikes out eight consecutive batters, beginning with the last out in the first inning, in the Reds’ 2-0 victory over Milwaukee at County Stadium. The Cincinnati right-hander also equals the franchise mark with 16 strikeouts in one game, established by Noodles Hahn in 1901.

1969       The Mets are at .500 at the latest point of the season in team history. The 18-18 record is reached when Tom Seaver blanks the Braves at Atlanta Stadium, 5-0.

1981       In the first round of the Northeast Regional in the NCAA Tournament at New Haven’s Yale Field, future major leaguers Ron Darling and St. John’s Frank Viola hook up in what many believe to be the greatest college baseball game ever played. After being held hitless for eleven innings by the Bulldogs, the visiting Redmen score the lone run of the contest on a double steal in the top of the 12th inning after both hurlers had thrown 11 scoreless innings.

1986       Rafael Ramirez strokes four doubles in seven trips to the plate. The infielder’s quartet of two-baggers helps the Braves to edge the Cubs in 13 innings at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, 9-8.

1988       Bobby Doerr, often referred to as the silent captain of the team by teammate Ted Williams, has his jersey #1 retired by the Red Sox, the organization he spent 14 years as a player and for many seasons after his retirement in 1951for which he served as a coach and scout. The nine-time All-Star second baseman became the first player in club history to hit for the cycle twice (1944, 1947) and led the team in his only World Series appearance, hitting .409 (9-for-22) in the 1946 Fall Classic loss against the Cardinals.

1992       Manager Buck Rodgers and eleven others are injured when the Angels’ team bus goes out of control on the New Jersey Turnpike and crashes into trees. The 53 year-old skipper is seriously injured and will miss nearly 90 games.

1996       In a 12-10 defeat of the Pirates, Larry Walker sets a Rockies’ club record with 13 total bases. The right fielder drives in six runs with a pair of two-run homers, a triple, and a double.

1997       Roger Clemens, en route to 354 career victories, picks up his 200th win when he tosses eight innings in the Blue Jays’ 4-1 win at Yankee Stadium. The 34 year-old ‘Rocket’ becomes the first player to reach the milestone wearing a Blue Jays uniform.

1997       Cleveland slugger Jim Thome, not known for his speed, steals his only base of the season. The Indians’ first baseman’s swipe of home plate in the top of the fourth inning will prove to be the game’s only run in the Tribe’s 1-0 victory over Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium

1998       Professional baseball returns to Bridgeport, Connecticut for the first time in nearly half of a century when the hometown Bluefish beat the Newport Bears in front of a sold out crowd in their new Ballpark at Harbors Yards. The Atlantic League club is the first pro team to play in the Park City since the Bees of Colonial League suspended play after the 1950 season.

2000       Major League Baseball has its first six grand-slam day less than one year after establishing the mark with five, with Garret Anderson (Angels), J.T. Snow (Giants), Brian Hunter (Phillies), Jason Giambi (A’s), and Adrian Beltre and Shawn Green (Dodgers) all contributing to the record. The NL also set a league record, blasting four of the six base-loaded homers.

2004       In a 5-3 Tampa Bay victory over Cleveland at Tropicana Field, Jose Cruz Jr. ties a franchise record, accumulating ten total bases. The Devil Rays right fielder’s 4-for-4 performance includes three doubles and a home run.

2004       In his return to Texas, Alex Rodriguez is roundly booed by the patrons at the Ballpark in Arlington. The fans continue to show their displeasure when the Yankees’ third baseman drives a 2-1 pitch over the fence during his first inning at-bat.

2005       At the Ballpark in Arlington, the Rangers establish two team records when the club hits four homers in one inning and goes yard a total of eight times, routing the Astros, 18-3, in a Lone Star interleague game. Rod Barajas, Hank Blalock, Laynce Nix, and Mark Teixeira all go deep in the team’s eight-run second inning, with Kevin Mench, Richard Hidalgo, and David Dellucci, who connects twice, also contributing to the franchise mark.

2005       Before their interleague game with the Athletics, the Giants pay homage to Juan Marichal by dedicating a nine-foot bronze statue outside SBC Park. The ‘Dominican Dandy’, a San Francisco hurler from 1960-1973, joins Willie Mays and Willie McCovey as the third player to be honored.

2005       When Dae-Sung Koo bats against Randy Johnson, Mike Piazza confides to David Wright in the dugout, “If he gets a hit, I’ll donate a million dollars to charity.” The Korean reliever, batting lefty off the Yankee fire-balling southpaw and who was afraid to stand in the batter’s box in a previous game, promptly hits a 91-mph fastball to the wall in center for a double, causing the Mets catcher to remark he’ll be making a significant donation to a charity over the next 20 years.

2008       “It’s been a lot of negative stuff going on around here and I’ve been feeling some of that and I was just expressing how I felt at the time, but it wasn’t anything to do with race. I wasn’t trying to bring race into it. I probably should have thought more about what I was going to say.” – Mets manager Willie Randolph. Willie Randolph apologizes for his negative remarks concerning SNY’s coverage of him as the Mets skipper. The first black major league manager hired in New York had brought up race when asked about the way he is being portrayed by the team’s TV network.

2009       The Twins enjoy a six-run and a seven-run inning when they trounce the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, 20-1. Joe Mauer leads the Minnesota offense with a grand slam and two doubles, driving in a career-high six runs.

2009       The letter “I” on the Big Mac Land sign at Busch Stadium is knocked out by Albert Pujols’s first-inning blast off Sean Marshall in the Cardinals’ 3-1 victory over Chicago. During any game, if a Cardinal player hits a home run into Big Mac Land, built in the left field stands (section 272) as a tribute to Mark McGwire, everyone at the game is entitled to redeem their ticket for a free Big Mac at all participating restaurants in the fast food chain.

2009       During a five-hour rain delay at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida, UConn and South Florida players entertain the fans, and mostly themselves, with an impromptu dance-off. When the play resumes tomorrow, sixth-seeded Connecticut will advance to the semifinal round of the Big East Championship with a 4-2 victory over the No. 2-ranked USF Bulls.

2012       Cincinnati fan Caleb Lloyd catches both home run balls hit in consecutive at-bats, just three pitches apart, by starter Mike Leake and shortstop Zack Cozart during the fourth inning of the Reds’ 4-1 victory over Atlanta at Great American Ball Park. The 20 year-old Thomas More College junior keeps neither as he gives the infielder’s ball to Nick Rise, a friend who had helped get the tickets to the game, and, at the request of the Reds, gives the pitcher, who hit his first career round-tripper, the other in exchange for a tour of the Reds’ clubhouse and an autographed bat and ball signed by the grateful hurler.

2012       Rockies starter Jamie Moyer extends his major league record when he makes his debut at the newly opened Marlins Park, having now pitched in 50 major league ballparks. The 49 year-old southpaw started his career with a victory for Philadelphia at Wrigley Field in 1986.

2013       Mike Trout becomes the youngest player in American League history to hit for the cycle when he goes 4-for-5 in the Angels’ 12-0 rout of the Mariners. The 21 year-old ‘Millville Meteor’ beats out an infield single in the third, triples in the fourth, doubles in the sixth, and goes deep in the eighth, becoming the sixth player in franchise history to accomplish the feat.

2014       The A’s manage only one hit, a fourth-inning solo home run from Brandon Moss, but it is enough to beat Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field, 3-2, for their fifth straight and 11th victory in its past 12 games. Oakland is the first American League team to win with a home run as its only hit since Jim Thome’s solo shot in 2006 gave the White Sox a 1-0 victory over the Cardinals at U.S. Cellular Field.

WORLD SERIES HISTORY-1962

New York Yankees (4) vs San Francisco Giants (3)

Over the last few decades, the defending champion New York Yankees had made an art out of dominating the American League on the way to their twenty-fifth Fall Classic. It was becoming all-too-predictable and the early 1960’s were looking a lot like the 50’s when the “Pinstripes” played in eight out of the ten world championships.

On the other side of the ball, the National League’s representatives were a familiar opponent to the Yanks as well as former “roommates”. The Giants had finally recaptured the National League pennant for the first time since moving across the country to San Francisco (after the 1957 season) and it seemed fitting that the prelude to this “Subway Series” revival was a playoff between the Los Angeles Dodgers who used to call Brooklyn their home.

Series veteran Whitey Ford was given his usual Game 1 start by the Yanks sophomore manager Ralph Houk and extended his World Series consecutive-innings scoreless streak to thirty-three before San Francisco got on the scoreboard in the second inning. The Giants Billy O’Dell kept pace with “The Chairman” through six innings, but finally surrendered to Clete Boyer and his fellow “Bombers” in the closing innings for a 6-2 loss.

Jack Sanford got revenge the following day though with a three hit, 2-0 shutout that evened the contest at a game apiece. Billy Pierce continued the cycle in Game 3, blanking the Yankees through six innings until the newly crowned single-season homerun leader, Roger Maris, broke through the deadlock with a two run single in the seventh and eventually scored on a force-out grounder. Yankees closer Bill Stafford almost blew it in the ninth after giving up a two run blast of his own to Ed Bailey, but managed to pull it together for the 3-2 victory.

Game 4 featured a rare break-out performance at the plate by the Giants’ Chuck Hiller. An unlikely threat to the Yankees power pitching, the second baseman had hit only twenty home runs in his eight year Major League career. Those numbers didn’t matter though as he nailed a bases-loaded homer off of Yankees reliever Marshall Bridges in the seventh. It was the first grand-slam ever in a World Series outing by a National Leaguer and snapped the two all tie that resulted in a San Francisco victory at Yankees Stadium. In a strange twist the winning Giants reliever was none other than Don Larsen who (exactly six years earlier to the day) pitched his record-setting perfect game for the home team against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Ralph Terry, who had gone 0-4 in Series outings finally managed to cross over in Game 5. As with the rest of the outings, both teams were locked in a tie late in the game. This time, it was Tom Tresh’s turn to take the lead. The New York rookie hammered a three run, eighth-inning homer off Sanford who lost the game despite putting up ten K’s in 7 1/3 innings. After a five day absence (due to travel and three rain delays) the Series returned with the Giants well rested and ready to even the score. Billy Pierce’s three hitter and Cepeda’s three hits and two RBIs netted San Francisco’s the crucial 5-2 triumph that held the Fall Classic at a 3-3 standoff.

Terry, who had given up the deciding blast to Bill Mazeroski in the 1960 heart-breaker, returned for the start in Game 7 and responded by holding the Giants to just two hits (and a 1-0 lead) going into the ninth. The Yankees pitcher had found some redemption winning twenty-three games during the regular season in ’62 and was on his way to a complete-game victory. Pinch-hitter Matty Alou led off the inning with a perfect bunt for base one, but Terry answered back by striking out both Felipe Alou and Hiller. Willie Mays, who had just completed a phenomenal forty-nine homer, one-hundred forty-one RBI season, rose to the occasion and blasted a double to right field. Maris made a sprinting grab and managed to reach cutoff man Bobby Richardson to hold Alou at third. Despite the great defensive stand by the Yankees, clean-up man, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda were due up next. During the regular season, McCovey had tallied twenty home runs and fifty-four RBIs while Cepeda added thirty-five homers and one-hundred forty-four runs batted in. Houk elected to keep Terry in, believing the right-hander would handle the Giants lefty. With a one ball, one strike count on McCovey, Terry brought the heat, but the Giants slugger sent the offering toward right field. Second baseman Richardson moved slightly to his left and desperately reached up with his glove snagging the ball and another World Series title.

Once again, the mighty Yanks had been able to hold off a worthy opponent despite failing to win consecutive games at any point in the Series and getting .174 and .120 batting marks from two of their biggest threats, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. Their less-than stellar stats were certainly a compliment to the Giants pitching staff as the “The M&M Boys” had posted one-hundred seventy-eight home runs combined in the last two seasons. It mattered little though as the American League’s dynasty had proven that they were back and ready for more.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME: RED GRANGE

Harold “Red” Grange was the miracle man of the 1920s, picked for the all-century team, named the “Galloping Ghost” because no one could catch him. During his time, Grange was to college football what Babe Ruth was to baseball. He was fast, elusive, football’s greatest open-field runner up to his time. Here are some dates: October 6, 1923, the Grange makes his debut for Illinois against Nebraska with touchdown runs of 50, 35, 12 yards. October 18, 1924, he scores four touchdowns in the first 12 minutes against Michigan on runs of 95, 67, 56, 44 yards. For the day he carries the ball 21 times for 402 yards. November 8, 1924 he runs for 300 yards, passes for 177 against Chicago. October 31, 1925, Grange runs 36 times, gains 363 yards and has two 65-yard touchdowns against Pennsylvania. He played only 20 games in college but had 31 touchdowns and 3,362 yards. Over his career – high school at Wheaton, Illinois; college at Illinois, pro with the Chicago Bears, he carried the ball 4,103 times, gained 33,920 yards, an average of 8.4 per try. The three-time consensus All-America is still considered as one of the game’s greatest players.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S BEST: GALE SAYERS

  1. Gale Sayers (RB, Kansas, 1962-64)

    Rushing yards: 2,675 | Yards per carry: 6.5 | Touchdowns: 20

    Until his family moved to Omaha when he was 8 years old, Sayers lived in a small town named Speed, Kansas. He returned to the state as a Jayhawk, and made Lawrence the new Speed, Kansas. As a sophomore in 1962, Sayers immediately made his varsity presence known. He rushed for 114 yards in the season opener against TCU, and at midseason, Sayers torched Oklahoma State for a Big Eight-record 283 yards on only 22 carries. He was the first FBS player with a 99-yard rush. The “Kansas Comet” averaged 6.5 yards per carry in his Jayhawks career. He was a consensus All-American in 1963 and 1964. Sayers was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

BASEBALL’S BEST: STEVE CARLTON

The 1980 season was a banner year for Steve Carlton. Lefty, as he was universally known around the league, led all National League pitchers with 24 wins. He was the major-league leader in strikeouts with 286. He struck out 10 or more batters in 11 games. Carlton led all pitchers in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) with 10.2. Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Stone led all pitchers in wins with 25, but Carlton won the 1980 National League Cy Young Award by an overwhelming margin and finished fifth in the NL MVP voting behind his teammate Mike Schmidt. After his historic 1972 campaign (27 victories for a Phillies team that won only 62 games and finished in the NL East basement), Carlton’s next three seasons had been marred by mediocrity. But with a renewed focus, he established himself as one of the game’s top pitchers during the period 1976-1980. During those seasons he won 20 games or more three times, and won the NL Cy Young Award twice. Carlton was the best left-handed pitcher in the game.

Baseball is an apt metaphor for life. It’s incredibly complex, with many facets that make sense. And there are also plenty of maddening aspects that are excruciatingly difficult to wrap your head around. The one tendency that is most striking about the game is how unfair it can be at times. Just imagine that you were a participant in a simple trade to benefit both parties, one solid player for another. Yet, as the years go by, you wind up being another player on the bench, an answer to a trivia question in some seedy bar, and — the final touch — a footnote in history.

This must have been what Rick Wise felt if he watched television on the evening of October 21, 1980, as Steve Carlton was charged with the awesome responsibility of pitching the Philadelphia Phillies to their first-ever World Series title. The journey to the doorstep of immortality was an improbable one. The Phillies established themselves as the top club in the National League East from 1976 to 1978, only to lose in the NLCS all three years. In Game Five of the 1980 National League Championship Series, Philadelphia fought back from a 5-2 deficit to clinch the pennant in front of a raucous Houston Astrodome crowd. In Game Five of the 1980 World Series, the Phillies scored two runs off Kansas City Royals relief ace Dan Quisenberry in the top of the ninth inning to go up 4-3 and win the game, thus sending the Phillies back home up three games to two in the Series, with Carlton ready to go.

Where would the 1972 Phillies have been without Carlton? That question may have been answered on the night of October 21, 1980, when Carlton pitched seven solid innings and Phillies fans finally saw their team win its first World Series. Without Lefty the Philadelphia Phillies of his era would be somewhere between here and parts unknown.

Steve Norman Carlton was born on December 22, 1944, in Miami, Florida, the only son of Joe Carlton, an airline maintenance worker, and his wife, Anne. As a boy Steve liked to hunt. One time, while he was rabbit hunting in the Everglades, his rifle jammed so he picked up a rock and from 90 feet away hit a rabbit in the head. He was also known to knock off a line of birds hanging from telephone wires with just a handful of rocks. Once Carlton flung an ax toward a quail that had taken shelter between the branches of an oak tree. With incredible precision, he sliced the head off the bird.

During his teenage years, Carlton became a big believer of the teachings of Eastern philosophy, in particular the writings of Paramahansa Yogananda, who believed that greatness in life can be achieved through meditation. The teachings of the Yogananda and other philosophers played a crucial role in Carlton’s maturation process as a big-league pitcher.

At North Miami High School, Carlton played baseball and basketball. A basketball forward who could outjump most centers, he could also throw a football 75 yards. He had no plans beyond high school and had little to no interest in academia, nor did he have a desire to attend a major university. Even as a young baseball player he showed the signs of the enigmatic superstar that puzzled many throughout his career. His concentration swirled around what was in front of him rather what was around him. In his senior year of high school, Carlton was good enough on the pitching mound that he decided to quit the basketball team and focus solely on baseball.

In October 1963, while attending Miami Dade College, Carlton signed a $5,000 bonus contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. For Rock Hill of the Class-A Western Carolinas League in 1964, he compiled a record of 10-1 with an ERA of 1.03 and struck out 91 batters in 79 innings. In midseason Carlton was promoted to advanced Class-A Winnipeg (Northern League) and then to Double-A Tulsa. Overall, he won 15 games. In 1965 he made the Cardinals roster out of spring training and on April 12, 1965, Carlton made his major-league debut, against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, facing one batter in a relief role and walking him.

The young left-hander had a very introverted personality, but there was a tinge of brashness to it. One day as catcher Tim McCarver stood shaving in front of a mirror, Carlton walked up behind him, tapped him on the shoulder and said, “You need to call more breaking balls behind in the count.”1 With shaving cream halfway around his face, McCarver looked up at his new teammate and was incredulous as he felt that a young nobody would call him out in front of his teammates. “Who are you to tell me to call more breaking balls behind in the count?” McCarver said. “What kind of success have you had to tell me that?”

The pairing of McCarver and Carlton was quite interesting. McCarver had a knack for getting close to pitchers, but Carlton was a very stubborn pitcher who would make up his mind beforehand. McCarver was also known to be very headstrong, and the two would often butt heads. McCarver would eventually become Carlton’s personal catcher for the Phillies during the late 1970s.

Carlton saw little action for the Cardinals in 1965 and spent the early part of the 1966 season at Triple-A Tulsa, going 9-5, with an ERA of 3.59. On July 25, the Cardinals summoned Carlton to pitch in an exhibition game during the Hall of Fame festivities in Cooperstown. Facing the defending American League champion Minnesota Twins, the 21-year-old impressed the Cardinals by pitching a complete game and striking out 10 as the Cardinals won, 7-5. Six days later, on July 31, he was in a Cardinals uniform, starting against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In four innings of work he struck out one, walked two, and gave up two runs. On August 5 Carlton started again and got his first major-league victory, over the New York Mets. He tossed a complete game, striking out one, walking three, and yielding only one run. By the end of the season he had made nine starts and won three games. The next season Carlton became a vital piece of the Cardinals rotation, winning 14 games, losing 9, and posting an ERA of 2.98. On September 20 Carlton struck out 16 batters and pitched a complete game, but wound up the loser as St. Louis lost to Philadelphia, 3-1, at Connie Mack Stadium. The 1967 Cardinals won the pennant and the World Series, beating the Boston Red Sox in seven games. Carlton started Game Five, pitched six innings, giving up three hits and one unearned run, and took the 3-1 loss.

The most dominant force on the successful Cardinals teams of the 1960s was pitcher Bob Gibson. He was the most competitive and most feared pitcher of his era. He saw the battle between a pitcher and batter as a simple act of survival. Sandy Koufax was Picasso, but Bob Gibson was the Terminator. And Steve Carlton wanted to be just like him. Carlton watched Gibson go about his daily business. How he conducted himself on the mound. From Carlton’s point of view, the pitching mound was Bob Gibson’s office. No one dared to walk into his office. “Steve learned more from Gibson than he did from anybody,” said Tim McCarver. “The way he went about his independent selection of pitches. His refusal to listen to meetings because nobody could pitch like he could.”

Steve CarltonIn 1968 Carlton won just 13 games (he lost 11) but was 8-4 at the end of June and was named to his first All-Star team. His mentor, on the other hand, dominated the league with a minuscule ERA of 1.12. In that year’s World Series, Carlton pitched four innings in relief, giving up three earned runs and seven hits as the Detroit Tigers came back from a three-games-to-one deficit to beat the Cardinals.

During an exhibition game in Japan after the season, Carlton decided to test the pitch that was an effective part of Gibson’s arsenal. He would do so against the greatest player in the history of Japanese baseball, Sadaharu Oh. “I had been fooling with a pitch in Japan, after Sadaharu Oh hit two home runs off me, I figured what the heck,” Carlton said. “I threw Oh, a left-handed hitter, the slider. When he backed away and the ball was a strike, I knew I had something.”

With a new pitch added to his repertoire, Carlton’s 1969 season was his best so far. He won 17 games, losing 11. He had 210 strikeouts 236⅓ innings. Carlton lowered his ERA from 2.99 the previous season to 2.17. His WAR (Wins Above Replacement) was 6.8. He made his second All-Star team. On September 15 he set a major-league record by striking out 19 in a nine-inning game against the visiting New York Mets. Carlton, however, lost the game, 4-3. After the 1969 season, Carlton believed that he earned his way into the conversation as one of the game’s elite pitchers and wanted to be compensated fairly. He asked for a raise in his salary from $26,000 to $50,000 for 1970. The Cardinals had a different view and Carlton missed a significant part of spring training. Then he led the National League with 19 losses (he won 10 games) and his ERA jumped dramatically to 3.73. On May 21 in Philadelphia he struck out 16 Phillies but lost the game, 4-3.

Carlton’s mechanics were off in 1970. He had taken a break from the slider, the pitch that brought him to the precipice of superstardom. There are conflicting tales as to why he stepped away from the pitch, but one story that sticks out is that the Cardinals cajoled Carlton into not throwing the slider for fear it might hurt his curveball.

One of the most important people to enter Carlton’s life was a night watchman who was known to people as “Briggs.” During the 1970 season, he was sending Carlton four or five letters a week. Briggs was concerned that Carlton’s lackluster performance on the mound was due to poor concentration. So he sent him letters that contained snippets of writings from Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. Carlton was aware of the work of the two philosophers but never applied their theories to baseball. One can suggest that for a fan to send his favorite player five letters a week is a strange individual, but Carlton viewed Briggs as anything but strange. He was a spiritual guide who understood that the key to solving the riddle that is a major-league hitter is to develop a mind free from distraction.

With a newfound concentration and focus, Carlton produced his first 20-win season in 1971. A look at the numbers, though, suggests that he had only slightly improved from his mediocre 1970 campaign:

1970: 10-19, 3.73 ERA, 193 strikeouts, 109 walks, 4.2 WAR, 1.372 WHIP, 13 CG

1971: 20-9, 3.56 ERA, 172 strikeouts, 98 walks, 4.1 WAR, 1.365 WHIP, 18 CG

In 1971 Carlton made his third All-Star team. A notable highlight of the season was a 12-strikeout performance against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 22. Eleven days later he walked 10 batters in a start against the San Francisco Giants. After the season, he again asked for a raise. This time the asking price was for $65,000 per year. Gussie Busch, the Cardinals owner, offered $60,000. Carlton decided to hold out. His holdout, combined with teammate Curt Flood’s refusal to accept a trade to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 1969 season, and the ensuing litigation deeply angered Busch, who felt he had no other alternative but to defend his principle — that he was the owner of the club and had the final say on policy, no matter how unpopular it might be. Thus, he ordered that Carlton be traded.

Carlton was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for right-handed pitcher Rick Wise on February 25, 1972. The trade didn’t cause an earthquake around the league. Wise had won 75 games to that point in his big-league career while Carlton had won 77. Wise walked fewer batters while Carlton struck out more. Carlton held the major-league record for strikeouts in a nine-inning affair but Wise also had a notable historic performance on June 23, 1971, when he pitched a no-hitter and slugged two home runs against the Cincinnati Reds. McCarver remarked that the deal was “a real good one for a real good one.”6 However, Carlton was incensed that the Cardinals would trade him to Philadelphia. He was so angry that he called the head of the Players Association, Marvin Miller, and asked him what could be done about the deal. Miller gave Carlton two options — accept the deal or retire. Carlton decided to accept the trade.

Carlton set a personal goal of 25 victories that year. He began to throw the slider again. In his second start of the 1972 season, in a battle between student and teacher, Carlton got the best of his former mentor, Bob Gibson, by tossing a three-hit shutout against the Cardinals. He began the season 3-0. On April 25 he had a 14-strikeout performance against the San Francisco Giants, and on May 7 he struck out 13 Giants and upped his record to 5-1. But he then lost five games in a row and on May 30 his record was 5-6. Then Carlton went on a tear, pitching in 19 games with 15 wins and four no-decisions, and on August 17 his record was 20-6. In this stretch, he posted a WHIP of 0.932, and struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings. He hurled five shutouts and tossed 15 complete games.

On October 3 Carlton’s complete-game victory against the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field made his season record 27-10. The Phillies finished with a record of 59-97, which made them the cellar dwellers in the National League East. Carlton’s ERA for his remarkable campaign was 1.97. He tossed 30 complete games and hurled eight shutouts. Carlton struck out 310 batters and walked 87 in 346⅓ innings. His WHIP was 0.993 and his WAR was 12.1. Teammate Don Money, a third baseman, posted the second highest WAR on the club, a paltry 1.

The most impressive stat from Carlton’s 1972 season was 46 percent — he accounted for 46 percent of the Phillies victories. Carlton was a one-man wrecking crew for the Phillies. Not only was he a maestro on the mound, but he was pretty handy with the stick as well. On April 19 he had two hits off his mentor and former teammate Bob Gibson, as the Phillies beat the Cardinals, 1-0. On July 23 the Phillies beat the Dodgers 2-0 on a two-run triple by Carlton. And on September 28 Carlton had a single and an RBI double as the Phillies defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, 2-1.

Carlton was the unanimous choice for the 1972 NL Cy Young Award, and he also finished fifth in the MVP voting behind Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench.

Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Willie Stargell offered the best metaphor to describe Carlton in 1972: “Sometimes I hit him like I used to hit Koufax, and that’s like drinking coffee with a fork.”

Historic pitching seasons typically come in the context of a club soaring to championship heights. Lefty Grove, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, and Greg Maddux all had such seasons. Carlton’s incredible season was remarkable for many reasons, but the most extraordinary aspect was that while the Phillies were an abysmal failure on a daily basis, he succeeded whenever he got the opportunity. Baseball is a sport centered on the psychology of how players handle failure. Steve Carlton was surrounded by a disastrous Phillies team but he managed extremely well by establishing himself as the best pitcher in the game. He took the ideas put forth by Bob Gibson and turned them into poetry during the summer of ’72.

There was hope that Carlton would deliver an encore performance of his record-breaking 1972 campaign. He started the 1973 season 4-2, but by August 26 he was 11-16 with an ERA of 3.90. There were no memorable highlights to speak of in 1973, but there were a number of lowlights. His best game was a four-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts against the San Diego Padres on May 26. Carlton probably was suffering a tired arm. In ’72 he pitched in 346⅓ innings, the most in his career. After a mediocre 1973, some wondered if he had been a one-season wonder.

Carlton stopped talking to reporters in 1973. Later he would say that speaking to reporters disrupted his concentration and it affected his performance. He never stopped talking to the Philadelphia radio crew, but when he spoke it was only about subjects other than baseball. The silence was so deafening that Braves announcer Ernie Johnson remarked, “The two best pitchers in the National League don’t speak English: Fernando Valenzuela and Steve Carlton.”

In 1976, Carlton finally found the right mental balance on the mound and won 20 games for a Phillies team that won its first of three straight division titles. He collaborated with trainer Gus Hoefling, who believed in the philosophy that your body is your temple. Under Hoefling’s guidance, Carlton incorporated a grueling training regimen that included martial arts, meditation, and stretching his left arm in a container of rice. Carlton sought to become devoid of emotion. He believed that emotion was subjective and the training was designed to remove any form of distraction that could disrupt his concentration on the mound. The Phillies organization went so far as to build him a $15,000 “mood behavior” room next to the clubhouse. Carlton would sit in this soundproof room and sit on an easy chair staring at a painting for hours. On days off, his teammates would catch Carlton performing martial arts exercises to keep up with his strength training.

On October 9, 1976, Carlton pitched in his first postseason game since the sixth game of the 1968 World Series, as he took the mound for Game One of the NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds. He gave up five runs, four of them earned, struck out six, and walked five in seven innings of work as the Phillies lost 6-3 to Cincinnati. The Reds swept all three games.

In 1977 Carlton won 23 games, made his sixth All-Star team, and won his second Cy Young Award. On August 21, 1977, he struck out 14 as the Phillies beat the Houston Astros, 7-3. Four starts later, Carlton again struck out 14 as the Phillies defeated the Cardinals, 11-4. However, in the 1977 NLCS he was anything but super. In 11⅔ innings of work, including the loss that clinched it for the Dodgers in Game Four, Carlton gave up nine earned runs and had an ERA of 6.94.

In 1978, Carlton produced a 16-13 record for a Phillies team that won its third straight division crown. In 1979, the Phillies fell to fourth place in a tough National League East, but Carlton had a good year. He posted an 18-11 record and made the All-Star team for the seventh time. He pitched two one-hitters. The second was against the Mets on the Fourth of July. The next start, he struck out 14 in a complete-game victory over the Giants.

In 1980 Carlton finally established himself as one the great pitchers in the game. In a year that saw the Phillies fight their way to a World Series title, Carlton produced many incredible highlights. In his fourth start of the year, he pitched a one-hitter against the Cardinals. In his two consecutive starts against the San Diego Padres he struck out 22 in 16 innings. In the 1980 postseason, Carlton went 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA. In the second game of the World Series, against the Kansas City Royals, he gave up 10 hits but struck out 10 and got the win. Carlton returned for Game Six and handcuffed the Royals, 4-1, to help seal the Phillies’ first World Series title.

In the strike-shortened 1981 season Carlton finished third in the Cy Young Award voting behind Dodgers rookie left-hander Fernando Valenzuela.

The next season, 1982, was another banner year for Carlton as he became the first pitcher to win a fourth Cy Young Award. He led all major-league pitchers with 23 wins. He was the leader in strikeouts with 286. He tossed six shutouts and completed 19 games.

In 1983 Carlton posted a record of 15-16 and led the National League in strikeouts with 275 as the Phillies won the National League pennant. In his only World Series appearance, Carlton struck out seven in 6⅔ innings as the Phillies lost Game Three to the Baltimore Orioles, 3-2.

From 1982 to 1984, Carlton competed with Nolan Ryan for the top spot on the all-time strikeout list. The mark to beat was the 3,509 strikeouts of Walter Johnson. Ryan tied the mark on April 27, 1983. With his 3,526th strikeout on June 7, 1983, Carlton surpassed Ryan as the strikeout king. The 1983 season ended with Carlton at the head of the list with 3,709 strikeouts to Ryan’s 3,677. (Eventually Ryan caught up to Carlton and took over as the all-time strikeout king by a considerable margin.)

On September 23, 1983, Carlton went eight innings and got victory number 300, defeating the Cardinals, 6-2. He struck out 12 and picked up his 15th win of the season. By 1985, his skills had diminished considerably. He found himself on the disabled list for the first time in his career with a strain in his rotator cuff. When Carlton was released by the Phillies on June 24, 1986, he was 18 strikeouts short of 4,000. Ten days later he signed with the San Francisco Giants. On August 5 Carlton became the second pitcher to record 4,000 strikeouts as he fanned Eric Davis of the Cincinnati Reds. But his brief tenure with the Giants was mostly unsuccessful, and he was released on August 7, two days after the record strikeout. He went 1-3 with the Giants with a 5.10 ERA. In his only win, he pitched seven shutout innings against the Pirates.

Carlton announced his retirement but it was short-lived. He finished the 1986 season with the Chicago White Sox, going 4-3 with a 3.69 ERA. The White Sox did not offer him a contract for 1987, so he signed on with the Cleveland Indians, where he made history with teammate Phil Niekro as they became the first teammates with 300 wins each to appear in the same game.

The combination was broken up on July 31, 1987, when the Indians traded Carlton to the Minnesota Twins. On August 8, 1987, he got his 329th and final victory as the Twins defeated the Oakland A’s, 9-2. When the Twins won the World Series that year, the team made a customary visit to the White House to receive congratulations from President Reagan. In the photo that was taken of the occasion, all of Carlton’s teammates were listed by name but he was listed as an unidentified Secret Service agent.

Carlton pitched his final major-league game against the Indians on April 23, 1988. He allowed eight earned runs in five innings of work and was the losing pitcher. Carlton was released by the Twins on April 28 after four games (0-1, 16.76 ERA).

Carlton sought work from another team but found no takers. No one wanted to take a chance on a pitcher who was beyond the twilight of his career. The New York Yankees offered him the use of their training facilities but no spot on their spring-training roster for 1989. He believed that there was a conspiracy by the Twins organization to prevent from ever pitching again. “The Twins set me up to release me by not pitching me and other owners were told to keep their hands off. Other teams wouldn’t even talk to me. I don’t understand it,” Carlton said in a 1994 interview. There was no conspiracy. No collusion between teams. Big-league GMs saw what everybody else had seen. Steve Carlton was done.

Carlton retreated to Durango, Colorado, with his wife, Beverly, whom he married in 1965, and spent time riding motorcycles and dirt bikes. He was an avid skier, and devoted hours to poring over his Eastern metaphysical books. His sons Steven and Scott were already grown and living in different states.

And yet, Lefty believed he could still pitch on a major-league level.

In 1994 Carlton was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility with 96 percent of the vote. For a man who refused to entertain reporters’ questions for many years, he called a press conference on the day he was elected. For 45 minutes Carlton spoke at great length on numerous subjects including fear. Prior to his formal enshrinement, Carlton made some controversial comments to writer Pat Jordan in which he declared that the last eight US presidents up to that point were guilty of treason, that AIDS was created by the government to eradicate society of gays and blacks, and that the world was being ruled by the Elders of Zion and Jewish bankers. Carlton’s teammate and closest friend Tim McCarver defended him against charges that he was an anti-Semite. “He is a very complicated person and has a hard time being human,” said McCarver.

The psychology of Steve Carlton the big-league pitcher was one of pure determination to perfect his craft. He turned a simple game of toss between catcher and pitcher into a mental game of chess within himself. When Carlton finally ended his freeze-out of the press, many were confused by the bizarre nature of his comments, but it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Because of the flawed nature of his introverted personality, Carlton gave the press what he thought they wanted to hear instead of chatting with them on a more personable level. To the press he was a goofy former big-league pitcher content with living a life of isolation in the mountains. To many baseball fans, he was an artist. No one knew the real Steve Carlton.

Nevertheless, when he delivered his Hall of Fame acceptance speech on July 31, 1994, he was greeted enthusiastically by many Phillies fans who had come to pay homage to a man who had provided them with endless amounts of joy during their summers.

In 1998 Carlton and his wife, Beverly, were divorced after 33 years of marriage. That year he was ranked number 30 by The Sporting News among the 100 Greatest Baseball Players. The next year he was a nominee for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. With his jersey number 32 already retired by the Phillies in 1989, Carlton received another honor as the club unveiled a statue of him outside Citizens Bank Park in 2004.

As of 2017 Carlton was living in Durango. He had reduced his public appearances to charity golf outings and taking part in ceremonial first pitches at Phillies games, the most notable being in 2008, when he tossed out the traditional first pitch prior to Game Three of the World Series between the Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays.

In his 24 years as a major-league pitcher, Carlton finished with a record of 329-244. His career ERA was 3.22. He struck out 4,136 batters, good enough for fourth place on the all-time list. Carlton is the major-league record holder (as of 2017) for pickoffs with 144. He pitched six one-hitters, and started 69 consecutive games in which he pitched at least six innings.

In an interview with Roy Firestone, Carlton was asked, “Why do you think you were put on this earth?”

“To teach the world how to throw a slider,” Carlton replied.

He was pretty darn good at it.

BASKETBALL’S BEST: GEORGE YARDLEY

George Harry Yardley III was born November 3, 1928, in Hollywood, California, to George and Dorothy Yardley. George’s father was something of a Midwest sports legend, becoming the first person to captain the football and basketball teams at the University of Chicago. George was an athletic child, though he did not play organized ball until high school. Like most children of means in Southern California, he was handy with a tennis racket. He later took up golf.

George enrolled at Newport Harbor High in 1942, playing football, basketball and tennis for the school teams. As a senior in 1945-46, he made the All-Sunset League First Team as well as earning Third Team All-CIF honors. Tall and skinny with long, loping strides, he did not attract serious scholarship consideration from any colleges, but was proficient enough as a student to earn acceptance to Stanford University, where he would earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering.

George made Everett Dean’s varsity basketball squad as a sophomore in 1947-48, and was named to the All-Conference Second Team as a junior. His best season came as a senior in 1949-50, when he was co-captain with Gus Chavalas. The squad also included Jim Ramstead, a talented junior. George scored 237 of his team-high 423 points in Pacific Coast Conference games, breaking the PCC scoring mark of Stanford legend Hank Luisetti.

Luisetti was famed for introducing the running one-handed shot to basketball. George did not have the moves of his fellow Stanford alum. Instead, he was an early master of the turnaround jumper. He got off the floor very quickly for a man his size, and with his long arms could shoot over most defenders at will. Though he could not know it at the time, the turnaround was tailor-made for the game that would evolve after the 24 second clock was introduced to pro ball. In 1949-50, George’s jumper was good enough for 16.9 points per game and honorable mention as an All-American. He finished his college career with 820 points.It was at Stanford that George acquired his nickname, “Bird.” Contrary to stories that circulated later, it did not come from his leaping ability, nor was it a reflection of his flamingo-like frame. The tag had nothing to do with basketball. In the fall of 1946, as a 17-year-old pledging a fraternity, George was younger than most frosh, because many of them were World War II veterans. Usually he got stuck with the dirty jobs. His ex-soldier roomie said guys who did the dog work in the Army were called “yardbirds.” Yardley was dubbed “Yardbird,” which was shortened to “Bird.”

In the spring of 1950, George was the first draft pick of the Ft. Wayne Pistons. Other first-rounders that year included Paul Arizin, Bob Cousy and Larry Foust. Hesitant to move east, and wary of the low salaries being paid by the pros—especially after the absorption of the National Basketball League by the newly renamed National Basketball Association—George worked locally and played AAU ball for the San Francisco Stewart Chevrolet team, which was coached by Luisetti. He averaged 13.1 points in 1950-51 and led his team to the AAU national title.

In the semifinals of the 44th annual AAU tourney, played in Denver, Yardley was the biggest star. Against the Phillips 66ers and their famed seven-foot center Bob Kurland, he scored 25 points and, showing his quickness, made several steals. The San Francisco club won, 66-63, in three overtimes, thanks to a pair of clutch free throws by George in the final minute. Rob Yardley, George’s son, recalled that his father considered this victory over Kurland’s team—the defending champion and winner of seven of the eight previous AAU tournaments—to be his “finest moment.”

In the AAU finals, George burned the nets for 32 points—including 20 in the first half—and the Stewart Chevrolets ran away from the Colorado Collegians (players from Colorado A&M), 76-55. George, said the Los Angeles Times, “turned in a spectacular all-around game and with his amazing jumps took the ball off both backboards with phenomenal regularity.” The Bird was named tournament MVP and was honored as an AAU All-American for the season.

George continued to rebuff Fred Zollner’s attempts to sign him for the Pistons. To a man with an engineering degree and a shot at making the Olympic team, the $6,000 being offered by Ft. Wayne (about 50 percent more than the average NBA salary) was not particularly tempting.

Before the 1951-52 season, George decided to enlist in the Navy and fulfill his military obligation while playing ball for Los Alamitos Naval Air Station. He led the Chevrolets back to the AAU tournament and won All-American honors again. Unfortunately, he suffered a broken hand in the last game of the AAU season, ending his Olympic dream. Bob Kurland, Clyde Lovellette, and other college and AAU stars won the Olympic gold medal for America with relative ease in 1952.

In 1952-53, George led Los Alamitos to its first ever All Service title, and a second-place finish in the national AAU tournament. On March 21, 1953, playing in the finals, again at Denver, Los Alamitos fell to the defending champion Peoria (Illinois) Diesel Cats, 73-62.

George led all scorers with 29 points. According to the Chicago Tribune, when the erstwhile Stanford whiz left the game in the final minutes, the enthusiastic crowd of 6,500 gave him a “thunderous ovation.” After the game, when he came forward to receive his trophy as an AAU All-Star, chairman Lou Wilke called George “the greatest basketball player in the world today,” prompting another huge ovation from the appreciative audience.

That summer, George joined a tour of South America with a team of amateur All-Stars. He later told the Los Angeles Times they played before 20,000 fans in Buenos Aires, and Juan Peron, Argentina’s dictator, invited the Americans to his villa for a weekend. At this point, George had decided to turn pro. Having received national recognition as an outstanding player, he waited until a salary was offered commensurate with his reputation. He stayed in shape playing beach volleyball, and he married his longtime sweetheart, Diana Gibson. On Saturday, August 29, 1953, the couple exchanged vows in Westwood, California. They had been introduced by their grandmothers.

Two days later, the Pistons announced that they had signed George. The figures, not made public, included a $9,500 salary—more than double the NBA’s average at that time—and a $1,500 bonus. By the end of his career he would nearly triple that salary, earning as much as $28,000 in 1958—a very good pro sports salary for the decade.

George was part of an exciting influx of amateur talent in 1953-54. Also joining the NBA that season were AAU superstars Clyde Lovellette, Ernie Barrett, Walt Davis and Don Sunderlage. George joined a good Pistons team coached by Paul Birch. Veteran guards Andy Phillip and Fred Scolari handled backcourt duties, with Max Zaslofsky joining the team during the year and taking over from Scolari as the starter. The Pistons’ front line included center Larry Foust and forwards Don “Monk” Meineke (the reigning Rookie of the Year), Mel Hutchins (the NBA’s best defensive forward), and rookie Jack Molinas, an exciting star drafted in the first round out of Columbia University.

George failed to become a regular at first. Molinas, a terrific finesse player and a talented offensive rebounder, made the starting lineup ahead of George, despite a complete disinterest in playing defense. This irked his Ft. Wayne teammates, who felt he was not earning his points at the other end of the court. But coach Birch, who was instrumental in drafting Molinas, gave his man carte blanche.

George’s playing time finally increased in the second half of the year, after Molinas, accused of wagering on Pistons game, was suspended on January 10, 1954, by commissioner Maurice Podoloff. George played in 63 of the team’s 72 regular season games, averaging 9.0 points and 6.5 rebounds. The Pistons finished third in the NBA’s four-team Western Division with a record of 40-32. The NBA, whittled down to nine teams at this point, adopted a confusing round-robin playoff format involving three teams from each division. The Pistons lost two games to the Rochester Royals and two to the Minneapolis Lakers, who went on to defeat the New York Knicks in the finals for the NBA title. George was entrenched at forward by this time, and he tied for the team lead with 42 postseason points.

Although George made his mark on the league as a rookie, he must have had second thoughts about playing in the NBA. The 1953-54 season marked a low point for the league in terms of the quality of play. Anyone coming within 10 feet of the basket could count on being hammered, thus neutralizing driving guards and forwards and turning the foul lane into a back-alley brawl. Referees let the players go at it, knowing if they whistled every foul, the fans would boo the endless free throw shooting that would result. These were the days of the one-shot foul, so anyone with a decent chance of scoring a basket was usually hacked before getting a good look. With no shot clock, the end of games either came down to foul-shooting contests or out-and-out stalls.

This scenario spelled potential disaster for the NBA, which had just signed its first-ever TV deal with NBC. Basketball fans that gravitated from college to the pros after the NCAA scandals of 1950-51 hated the action they were seeing on the court. And when the Molinas story broke, the NBA could no longer claim it was “clean.”

George was appalled by the violence he encountered in his first season. “The first time around the league as a rookie, they just didn’t push you around—they hit you with a clenched fist in the face,” he later told the Los Angeles Times, adding that he received 100 stitches to his face during his career.

“The weak didn’t make it,” he said.

The NBA had to do something. During the following year, the 1954-55 season, the 24-second shot clock was introduced, and it revolutionized the league. From a game dominated for decades by the buffalo, pro ball now belonged to the gazelle. And although there would always be a place in the NBA for the bruising, physical defender and rebounder, a team could no longer afford to put too many thugs on the court. Time was, quite literally, running out on this approach.

For players like George, the shot clock changed everything. It enhanced the value of players who could create their own shot and the value of players who could get open looks for their teammates. George fell into the former category. He was comfortable shooting the ball squared-up, on the move, leaning one way or the other, and, of course, starting with his back to the defender and spinning as he rose off the hardwood. In 1954, he was one of the few shooters in the league who were willing and able to fire up high-percentage shots within 24 ticks. And this would make George a star of an entirely new magnitude.

About his shooting ability, George later recalled, “I was one of the best jumpers in the league, and I could move my body to one side or the other when I was shooting and still control my shot, which helped me shoot over other players.”

As was the case with many early players, George utilized the backboard a lot. “I think you can shoot the ball harder and with more accuracy by using the backboard,” he said, “because your distance doesn’t have to be exact, since you can put it off the board and it will bounce into the basket. I didn’t bank it on straight-on shots or from the baseline, but I usually hit the board on shots anywhere between the baseline and out front.”

Frank Ramsey, Boston’s great sixth man who came to the NBA a year after George and ended up shooting his way into the Hall of Fame, described for Terry Pluto in Tall Tales the Yardley technique: “George had a turnaround jumper—he took it right in your face. He just jumped over you and shot like the guys do today.”

George was not only the right man at the right time, but he was also in the right place. Fred Zollner hired a new coach, former NBA referee Charley Eckman. Despite his inexperience, he knew enough about pro basketball to recognize that, with the new 24-second rule in place, the Pistons would be better off if he kept the team loose with jokes and simply let the veterans freelance. Indeed, years later Eckman would boast that his team did not call any set plays; but one season earlier, this would have been unthinkable. For George, it meant freedom on the offensive end. It also meant, more than ever, he would be a target for fists and elbows. It was a trade-off he was apparently willing to accept.

At first, Eckman did not know what to make of George. “He was such a skinny, chalky-white bastard that you thought he was dying from malnutrition,” he said for Terry Pluto’s Tall Tales. Also, George, who was easy going off the court and apparently relaxed on the court, was actually a very intense competitor. Often he got sick just before a game, so Eckman kept a case of Ginger Ale or 7-Up on hand for George, just in case. The coach once observed, “When he goes so far as to toss his cookies, well, then we know he’s going to play a hell of a game. It’s when he doesn’t get sick that we worry.”

But soon George’s value to the team became apparent. He led the Pistons with 17.3 points per game, and combined with Foust and Hutchins to haul down nearly 30 rebounds a night. At guard, Phillip proved to be a superb set-up man. The Pistons were talented and deep. They blended an undisciplined-yet-effective offense with the NBA’s best defense and went 43-29 to finish three games in front of the defending champion Minneapolis Lakers in the West. The Lakers were without George Mikan, who retired after the 24-second shot was instituted. He had no taste for sprinting up and down the court three or more times every minute and correctly anticipated the game was passing him by.

After a first-round bye, the Pistons defeated the Mikan-less Lakers in the playoffs, playing their two home games away from Ft. Wayne, in Elkhart and Indianapolis, because their gym was unavailable for postseason games. The lack of a homecourt advantage nearly cost them in Game Two, as they needed an extra period to down Minneapolis 98-97. The Lakers took Game Three with an overtime victory of their own, but the Pistons came back to finish off the best-of-five series with a 105-96 victory.

This earned Ft. Wayne a berth in the NBA Finals against the Syracuse Nationals. It may not have been a coincidence that Danny Biasone, the man who sold the league on the shot clock, was part owner of the Nats. Like the Pistons, Syracuse was made for the new game. Coach Al Cervi’s squad had skilled players at several key positions, including Dolph Schayes at forward, Paul Seymour and George King in the backcourt, and young Johnny Kerr off the bench. Earl Lloyd and Red Rocha functioned as enforcers.

The finals opened in Syracuse with George and the Pistons looking to grab the momentum. They had Game One under control until benchwarmer Dick Farley entered the game for the Nats in the fourth quarter. He sparked his club to an 86-82 comeback victory. The Nationals got a big game from Schayes and a clutch shot by Rocha to take Game Two, 87-84.

The Pistons limped back to their new home away from home (Indianapolis) and proceeded to turn the tables on the Nationals. Hutchins starred in a 96-89 Game Three victory, and the Pistons knotted the series with a 109-102 shootout in Game Four. Game Five saw Fort Wayne establish a 15-point lead in a tense defensive struggle, only to have the Nats storm back and threaten to steal the game. Their momentum was final broken by an irate Pistons fan, who threw his folding chair onto the court and had to be escorted from the arena. The Pistons held on for a 74-71 win and a 3–2 series lead, but the last two games would be played in Syracuse.

Back home in their cramped arena, the Nationals were brimming with confidence. The Pistons had not won in their building in six seasons, and there was no reason to expect that this trend would change. In Game Six, there was a glimmer of hope for Ft. Wayne, but that ended when a fight between Don Meineke and Wally Osterkon woke up the crowd and the team, and the Nats evened the series with a 109-104 win.

George had played well throughout the postseason, and was seen by many as a key to the Pistons Game Seven hopes. The Nats obviously agreed, as they gave him special defensive attention and limited him to just nine points. However, the focus on George opened up opportunities for other Fort Wayne players, and the Pistons found themselves with a 17-point advantage early in the second half. Cervi inserted Farley and another super-sub, Billy Kenville, and their energy quickly turned the game around. The Nats took a 91-90 lead on a pair of Schayes free throws, then fouled George, who sank his shot to tie the game at 91-91 with less than a minute left. Syracuse went ahead after guard George King converted one of two free throws with 12 seconds left. When King and Paul Seymour batted the inbounds pass away from Andy Phillip, the buzzer sounded and the Pistons lost, 92-91.

Fort Wayne paced the West again in 1955-56, but with a mark of just 37-35. George topped all Piston scorers at 17.4 points, with Foust a close second at 16.2. The team’s backcourt was revamped with the release of Zaslofsky and diminished playing time for Brian. Rookie Chuck Noble was inserted in the starting lineup and Corky Devlin spelled Phillip, who was now 33 years old. Neither Noble nor Devlin was drafted, making Eckman’s team as walk-ons.

After a first-round bye in the playoffs, the Pistons met the St. Louis Hawks, who had dispatched the Lakers in the first round. Mikan had returned for Minneapolis, but was no longer an impact player. The Hawks, on the other hand, had a couple of talented scorers in Bob Petit and Jack Coleman, and a couple of razor-sharp bench players in Jack McMahon and Alex Hannum—both of whom would go on to coach NBA champions. St. Louis gave the Pistons all they could handle in the best-of-five series, taking the first two games before dropping the final three.

Waiting for the Pistons in the finals were the Philadelphia Warriors. They were going to be trouble. The team had the two biggest guards in the league—Tom Gola and Jack George—along with forward Paul Arizin and center Neil Johnston. Gola, a center in college, was a player built for the new NBA, as was Arizin. Like George, they were capable of scoring whenever they touched the ball. Johnston, an old-style hookshot artist, gave the Warriors an added dimension in the pivot.

In the opener, the Pistons dug in on defense and built a double-digit lead. Philadelphia coach George Senesky had obviously studied Fort Wayne’s last trip to the finals, because he inserted a high-energy substitute named Ernie Beck. Beck started hitting shots and getting the home crowd into the game, and the Warriors were in control the rest of the way to a 98-94 win.

Game Two, in Fort Wayne, went to the Pistons. George was the man, calmly hitting two clutch free throws with 42 seconds left. The Warriors put the ball in Beck’s hands again, but this time the magic was not there. Devlin stole the ball and drove for what should have been the deciding layup, but missed the shot. The Warriors called time and set up one final play. They inbounded the ball, and Arizin drove under the bucket. According to the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, “Yardley blocked his shot and gained possession of the ball. The Pistons held it up for the few seconds needed for the final buzzer.” George’s game-high 30 points, 19 rebounds, late free throws, and defensive gem had preserved an 84-83 victory.

The teams returned to Philadelphia for Game Three, and once again it was close, with the Warriors winning 100-96 on 27 points from Arizin. Piston fans greeted their team for Game Four, expecting them to even the series. Philadelphia had never enjoyed much success in their building, but Arizin proved unstoppable again, leading his club to a 107-105 victory with 30 points. A late rally by the Pistons fell just short. The Warriors wrapped things up 98-88 in the City of Brotherly Love, ending a brief but closely contested final. George led the team in scoring for the series, and he was Fort Wayne’s overall postseason leader, averaging 23.0 in 10 playoff games.

In 1956-57, the Pistons tied for first in the West, although the three top teams, Fort Wayne, St. Louis, and Minneapolis, all finished with losing marks of 34-38. For the season, George again topped the club in scoring, averaging 21.5 points on 41 percent shooting. He finished fifth in the league scoring race. He also averaged 10.5 rebounds, which ranked ninth in the NBA. The Pistons still had a great front line, with Foust, Hutchins and Bobby Houbregs joining George, but the guard situation remained in flux. Andy Phillip was dealt to the Celtics, and Gene Shue was brought in from the Knicks to run the offense. Noble and Devlin were still in the mix, along with Billy Kenville, but the team failed to get reliable production from its guards all year long.

With first place in the West undetermined at season’s end, two tiebreaker games were played. The Hawks beat Fort Wayne 115-103 in the first and Minneapolis in the second tiebreaker, 114-111, to claim the division championship. That left the Pistons and Lakers to go at it in the opening round of the playoffs. The Pistons bowed out after losing a pair of barnburners to the Lakers by scores of 131-127 and 110-108. The finale came on March 19, 1957, at Memorial Coliseum. Dick Schnittker of Minneapolis missed a free throw with four seconds to play, but teammate Clyde Lovellette grabbed the rebound away from Larry Foust and dunked it, giving Minneapolis a 109-108 lead. The Pistons called two timeouts trying to set up a final shot, but the second timeout was one too many. Shooting the technical, Schnittker scored a free throw for the game’s final margin.

For the 1957-58 season, Fred Zollner moved the Pistons franchise to Detroit, where the club shared Olympia Stadium with the Red Wings. In the final standings, the Pistons slipped a game to a 33-39 record, tying the transplanted Cincinnati Royals, who moved from Rochester in 1957, for second place. The Hawks led the West at 41-31, thanks to fine seasons by Bob Pettit and Cliff Hagan. They would go on to win the championship that spring.

Charlie Eckman did not make it through the year. He was replaced by Red Rocha after winning just nine of the first 25 games. Under Rocha, the Pistons improved their record to 34-38.

The Pistons were a profoundly different club in a number of ways. Gone were Foust, Hutchins and Devlin—dealt away for point guard Dick McGuire, rebounding specialist Harry Gallatin, and two of the league’s early African-American stars, Sweetwater Clifton and Walter Dukes.

In a lineup that often featured a trio of 30-something ex-Knicks, George, now 29, became Detroit’s go-to guy. His high game was a 52-point performance against Syracuse on February 4. He hit for 48 against the Nats two weeks later. George also netted 51 against Boston on January 15, despite being guarded for much of the game by Bill Russell. He also blitzed St. Louis for 48 and 44 points and burned Minneapolis for 49, 44, 43, and 41-point nights.

By early March, George was within striking range of the NBA scoring mark. On March 6th, the Bird set a new NBA single-season record during his 49-point night against the Lakers in Minneapolis. He eclipsed the old mark of 1,932 on the home floor of its former owner, George Mikan, who achieved this figure in 1950-51. George also set a new season mark for free throws in this contest, sinking 11 for a total of 635. He finished the year with 655. Dolph Schayes held the old record of 625 in a season.

At the Boston Garden on March 8, the Celtics, in a nationally televised game, defeated the Pistons, 108-103. With the East title already clinched, Boston’s primary focus was on defending George. It worked as the Pistons’ ace could score 22. But the next day, in Detroit’s regular season finale at Syracuse, George broke the once seemingly impossible 2,000-point barrier. He started with 13 in the first quarter, but the Nationals’ Earl Lloyd held him to one free throw in the second period.

George needed nine points when the fourth quarter opened. With three minutes to go, he still needed two. He decided to trail a Syracuse play, hanging at half court in hopes of getting an outlet pass behind the Nats’ guards for an uncontested shot. “I cherry-picked on them,” George admitted in a 1995 interview. “It was a dunk, which was doubly pleasing because they were really making a big effort not to let me make it.”

In the last minute, he knocked down a free throw, boosting his regular season total to 2,001. George topped the NBA in scoring with a 27.8 average, ahead of Schayes and Pettit, who finished at 24.9 and 24.6, respectively. Recalling the 1957-58 season, George remained modest: “That was my best scoring year,” he observed, “but we didn’t have as many guys who could shoot well that season, so you didn’t have to share the ball as much.”

He also downplayed his 2,001 point achievement: “Bob Pettit was a little behind me the year I scored the 2,000, and he broke his arm near the end of the season, so I was lucky. Had he continued playing and not broken his arm, he might have been the first one to score 2,000. But as it worked out, I broke 2,000 first.”

George Yardley’s’s mark would last one year, as a healthy Pettit scored 2,105 the following season. Jack Twyman and Wilt Chamberlain would obliterate Pettit’s record one year afterward.

While George shot well in 1957-58 (41.4 percent), the next year he pressured himself to repeat as the league’s top scorer, and his numbers fell. He also suffered a series of physical ailments, including hypoglycemia and asthma. Recalling that season in 1995, he said the illnesses were at least partly psychosomatic. Yet he kept trying to play, because that’s what pros had to do. In a January 25th game against the Celtics, George broke his left (non-shooting) hand in a scramble under the basket in the second quarter. He was summoned to Fred Zollner’s box on his way to the dressing room for medical treatment. “You’re through as far as I’m concerned,” barked Zollner. “I never want to see you again.”

George, who never liked Detroit as well as he did Fort Wayne, was happy to go. On February 13, 1959, he was traded to Syracuse for swingman Ed Conlin. Wearing a light arm cast, George played the remaining 11 regular season games for the Nats.

Teamed with Dolph Schayes on Syracuse’s front line, George was revitalized in the playoffs, averaging more than 25 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game. The Nats killed the Knicks in the first round, then extended the eventual-champion Celtics to seven games in the Eastern finals. A blown 16-point lead in the first half and a missed layup by Syracuse in the final moments of the deciding game was all that stood between George and a third shot at an NBA championship. He and Schayes combined for 67 points in the finale, but it simply was not enough.

“I recall that we led by quite a bit in that seventh game, and we easily could have won that game,” George said years later. “That was the best team I ever played on, no question about it.”

“George was a scoring machine,” Schayes told the Los Angeles Times in 1988. “Teams couldn’t defend us. If they concentrated on me, George scored 20. If they concentrated on George, I scored 20.”

George returned to Syracuse for the 1959-60 season—his last in the NBA—and averaged 20.2 for a terrific team coached by Paul Seymour. Besides Schayes, the Nats had Johnny Kerr, Larry Costello, Dick Barnett and Hal Greer in uniform. They finished 45-30, but fell to Wilt Chamberlain and the Warriors in the opening round of the playoffs. George shot poorly against Philadelphia, averaging just 13.3 points and spending significant minutes on the bench. He just could not get it going.

It was a great disappointment. Except for the playoffs, George has fond memories of the 1959-60 campaign. “I thought I was still playing better all the time,” he maintained. “I think I had my best year in my last year. We had a better team and I didn’t get to shoot as much, and I played the defensive forward. So I had to play all the tough guys, and I scored about 20 points a game, which I still think was my best season.

“The only reason I quit after the 1959-60 season is that I had promised my wife Diana I would retire before the kids [Marilyn, twins Robert and Richard, and Anne] started school. Otherwise, we would have them starting school in California, pull them out and bring them to Syracuse, and pull them out in the spring and go back to California to school.”

George had been working as an engineer in the off-season and purchased his own business during the last season. His company represented people who manufactured products for use in the energy field. “I started my business, the George Yardley Company, for three months of my last year,” he once explained. “I took over the company on January 1, 1960. I played for three and a half months with Syracuse, and then retired.”

George was not banking on his NBA reputation to drive his business. On the contrary, he was recognized in engineering circles for his expertise in missiles—a boom industry during the Cold War. His contributions to the perfection of the liquid oxygen seal enabled the U.S. to deploy its Titan ICBMs.

George remained active physically for the rest of his life. In fact, he worked out with the Lakers during 1960-61, the year the team moved to Los Angeles. Diana agreed to her husband playing one more pro season, but Syracuse owned his rights and wanted Elgin Baylor in return. So George simply practiced with the club during much of his first season back on the coast.

One year later, a new opportunity to play pro ball emerged with the formation of the American Basketball League. An invention of entrepreneur Abe Saperstein, it featured a team in Los Angeles called the Jets. Bill Sharman had retired from the Celtics in order to coach the club. Among the ABL’s innovations was a three-point line. George found the possibility of joining the Jets intriguing. He cut a deal to suit up for home games and to accompany the team on the road when he could incorporate business into the itinerary. George scored 482 points for the Jets in his final pro season.

In 1996, George Yardley received the long overdue honor of induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In addition to his sparkling college and AAU achievements, he was an NBA All-Star six times and All-NBA twice, averaging 19.8 points per game in the regular season and 20.3 in the playoffs.

Former coach and teammate Dick McGuire later said he liked George because he was a great shooter who didn’t “hog the ball.”

COLLEGE BASKETBALL 1944-45

At a Glance
NCAA Champion–Oklahoma A&M (27-4; coached by Hank Iba/11th of 36 seasons with Cowboys).
NIT Champion–DePaul (21-3; coached by Ray Meyer/third of 42 seasons with Blue Demons).
New Rules–Defensive goaltending is banned, five personal fouls disqualifies a player (had been four since 1910), an extra foul is not allowed in overtime games, and unlimited substitution is introduced.
NCAA Consensus First-Team All-Americans–Howie Dallmar, G, Sr., Penn (10.2 ppg); Arnie Ferrin, F, Soph., Utah (17.4 ppg); Wyndol Gray, F, Soph., Bowling Green (15.1 ppg); Billy Hassett, G, Jr., Notre Dame (8.6 ppg); Bill Henry, C-F, Sr., Rice (20.7 ppg); Walt Kirk, G, Jr., Illinois (10.6 ppg); Bob Kurland, C, Jr., Oklahoma A&M (17.1 ppg); George Mikan, C, Jr., DePaul (23.3 ppg).

NCAA champion Oklahoma A&M defeated NIT kingpin DePaul, 52-44, at Madison Square Garden in an American Red Cross War Fund benefit game featuring the nation’s two premier pivotmen–DePaul’s George Mikan and A&M’s Bob Kurland. Mikan fouled out of the contest after 14 minutes with the Blue Demons leading, 21-14. Cecil Hankins, the top pass receiver for A&M’s Cotton Bowl winner, scored a game-high 20 points and Kurland contributed 14. Mikan had set a school record by pouring in 53 points against Rhode Island State in the NIT semifinals.

Incredibly, three of the NCAA consensus first-team All-Americans previously or later played an entire season for other four-year universities–Penn’s Howie Dallmar (previously attended Stanford), Bowling Green’s Wyndol Gray (played next season for Harvard) and Notre Dame’s Billy Hassett (previously attended Georgetown). Elsewhere, Jim Jordan, the only unanimous selection to the All-Southern Conference team, became an immediate star for North Carolina after the Navy transferred him to the ROTC unit there from Mount St. Mary’s, where he was the school’s captain and leading scorer. . . . Hassett eventually became the first Notre Dame player to play for an NBA champion (Minneapolis Lakers ’50). . . . Dallmar went on to coach his alma mater for six seasons from 1948-49 through 1953-54 before coaching Stanford for 21 seasons from 1954-55 through 1974-75.

Rice, coached by Joe Davis, managed its most lopsided victory in history (95-22 over Baylor) en route to a school-best 20-1 record. The Owls’ lone defeat in a 33-game stretch was against NCAA champion-to-be Oklahoma A&M, 42-28, in the All-College Tournament in Oklahoma City. Bill Henry became Rice’s third different first- or second-team All-American frontcourter in four years. . . . Winless Baylor (0-17) lost back-to-back games at Arkansas by a total of 126 points (90-30 and 94-28). . . . Texas lost three consecutive contests to service squads while Longhorn standouts John Hargis (Marines) and Slater Martin (Navy) served in the U.S. military. . . . Freshman George Kok averaged 18.7 points per game for Arkansas. . . . Nebraska (2-17) ended a school-record streak of 12 consecutive conference defeats by defeating Kansas, 59-45.

In a gigantic mismatch, Kentucky overwhelmed Arkansas State, 75-6, although Alex Groza, the Wildcats’ standout freshman center, did not play in the game. Groza led Kentucky to an 11-0 start with an average of 16.5 points per game before he was inducted into the Army. . . . Mississippi coach Edwin Hale concluded his two-year stint with the Rebels. Hale was the last coach in the 20th Century to finish his Ole Miss tenure with a winning record (22-18).

Big Ten Conference champion Iowa, coached by Pops Harrison, compiled its best winning percentage in school history (.944) with a 17-1 overall record but declined an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Iowa’s Dick Culberson, a transfer from Virginia Union, became the first African American ever to play for a Big Ten team. . . . NCAA consensus second-team All-American Max Morris of Northwestern led the Big Ten in scoring in league games (15.8 points per game) after earning MVP honors for the Wildcats’ football squad the previous fall as an end. . . . DePauw (Ind.) defeated Indiana for the second straight season. . . . Notre Dame forward Leo Klier sandwiched a year serving in the U.S. Navy between All-American seasons. The captain and leading scorer (16.1 ppg) of the Irish’s 15-5 squad was freshman forward-center Vince Boryla, who later served two years in the U.S. Army before becoming an All-American for the University of Denver. Notre Dame’s second-leading scorer was 5-7 Johnny Dee, who later coached Alabama and his alma mater.

Temple outlasted Penn State, 63-60, in five overtimes. . . . Dartmouth suffered its first losing record (6-8) in 25 years. . . . St. John’s (21-3), coached by Joe Lapchick, finished in third place in the NIT although standouts Harry Boykoff, Dick McGuire and Max Zaslofsky were serving in the U.S. military. . . . Princeton started playing home games in a different arena after University Gymnasium was destroyed by fire. . . . Columbia defeated Fordham, 73-58, in a contest featuring several rules revisions designed to eliminate the zone defense and reduce the effectiveness of a tall center. The innovations were suggested by Columbia graduate Julian Rice and Oregon coach Howard Hobson. One change was to widen the foul lane from six to 12 feet. The other revision was to award three points for baskets scored from beyond an arc 21 feet away from the rim. Also, a fouled player had the option of shooting a free throw for one point from the regular 15-foot distance or shooting for two points from beyond the arc. During the game, the two teams combined for 20 “long goals” and eight “long fouls,” and at halftime, the crowd voted its approval of the rules changes. Eleven years later, the wider lane was adopted as a rule, but it took 41 years for the three-point field goal to be implemented.

Oregon (30-13/coached by John Warren) had its winningest season in school history. . . . UCLA was in its 18th season as a member of the Pacific Coast Conference when the Bruins posted the best record in the South Division for the first time. League members Washington (10), California (seven), Southern California (six), Oregon (five), Stanford (five) and Oregon State (four) each had at least four divisional or conference crowns by that stage. . . . North Carolina began a stretch when the Tar Heels defeated South Carolina 23 times in 25 meetings to 1960. . . . Gordon Carver became an All-Southern Conference first-team selection for the second straight season after quarterbacking Duke to its first bowl victory (29-26 over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl). . . . Davidson compiled a .500 record (9-9), but sustained its most lopsided defeat in school history (89-20 at North Carolina). . . . Maryland also incurred its most lopsided defeat in history (85-22 to Bainbridge Navy). . . . Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (N.Y.) claimed to be the only undefeated team during the regular season, compiling a 13-0 record before losing to Bowling Green, 60-45, in the opening round of the NIT. . . . Five members of Brooklyn’s team admitted they received $1,000 each and were promised $2,000 more if they lost a game against Akron. The gamblers were arrested and the game cancelled.

1945 NCAA Tournament
Summary: The era of the big man arrived. Bob Kurland, continuing his vast improvement in just a couple of years after showing up at Oklahoma A&M as the stereotyped awkward seven-footer, led the Aggies to the NCAA title with 17.1 points per game. They prevailed although Kurland was their only returning letterman. Oklahoma A&M won the national final against New York University, 49-45, although the Aggies hit just 5 of 15 free-throw attempts. Oklahoma A&M, which won the Cotton Bowl, became the first school to win a football bowl game and the NCAA basketball tournament in the same academic year. “Think and then act,” A&M coach Hank Iba said. “Never act and then alibi.” Oklahoma A&M was making its first NCAA Tournament appearance after losing three district “play-in” games in a four-year span (1939, 1940 and 1942).
Outcome for Defending Champion: Utah (17-4) was eliminated in the opening round, 62-37, when Kurland scored a tourney-high 28 points for A&M. One of the Utes’ other three setbacks was by 28 points to Ohio State.
Star Gazing: Guard Doyle Parrack, Oklahoma A&M’s fourth-leading scorer with 7.6 points per game, went on to coach Oklahoma City to four consecutive NCAA playoff appearances from 1952 through 1955. He also coached both the men’s and women’s teams for Oklahoma.
Biggest Upset: NYU, featuring just one senior on its roster, erased a 10-point deficit in the final two minutes of regulation on its way to frustrating Ohio State, 70-65, in overtime in the national semifinals.
One and Only: Oregon swingman Dick Wilkins is the only freshman to lead a single tourney in scoring average (22 ppg).
Celebrity Status: Wilkins, who scored a game-high 23 points for Oregon in a 79-76 loss to Arkansas in a West Regional semifinal and a team-high 21 points in a 69-66 consolation win over Utah, played several years of professional football as a wide receiver after being the top pass catcher with the Ducks for quarterback Norm Van Brocklin during their Cotton Bowl season in 1948. . . . Mel McGaha, the first player in Arkansas history to earn four letters in basketball and a sophomore backup guard for the Razorbacks’ Final Four team, was manager of the Cleveland Indians (1962) and Kansas City Athletics (June 11, 1964-May 14, 1965). McGaha didn’t play in two tourney games, but he was a swingman in 51 games in the 1948-49 season for the New York Knickerbockers of the Basketball Association of America. Teammates Mike Schymchyk (9th round as end by Los Angeles Rams in 1946) and Earl Wheeler (15th round as center by Washington Redskins in 1947), two of the Hogs’ top four scorers who each tallied four points against Oklahoma A&M in the national semifinals, became NFL draft choices in ensuing years.
Numbers Game: Dolph Schayes became the Doogie Howser of Final Four players. He is believed to be the youngest Hall of Famer to appear in an NCAA championship game, joining NYU’s varsity lineup in midseason as a 16-year-old freshman and helping the Violets reach the NCAA final against Oklahoma A&M two months before his 17th birthday. . . . Iowa refused an NCAA bid for the second straight season. . . . The Big Six (regular-season champion Iowa State) and Southern Conference (South Carolina before North Carolina won postseason tournament) did not have representatives in the NCAA tourney. The EIBL did not have a complete league schedule.
What Might Have Been: Kentucky (22-4) could have fared better in the playoffs if standout center Alex Groza wasn’t inducted into the Army in mid-season.
Putting Things in Perspective: Arkansas’ 79-76 victory over Oregon in the opening round shattered the previous two-team tourney scoring record by 36 points. Arkansas defeated champion-to-be Oklahoma A&M, 41-38, at Little Rock in mid-season.
NCAA Champion Defeats: At Temple (2-point margin), at NATTS Skyjackets (3), at Arkansas (3 in Little Rock), and at DePaul (2).
Scoring Leader: Bob Kurland, Oklahoma A&M (65 points, 21.7 ppg).
Highest Scoring Average: Dick Wilkins, Oregon (44 points, 22 ppg).
Most Outstanding Player: Bob Kurland, C, Jr., Oklahoma A&M (37 points in final two games).

Championship Team Results
First Round: Oklahoma A&M 62 (Kurland team-high 28 points), Utah 37 (Satterfield 14)
Regional Final: Oklahoma A&M 68 (Hankins 22), Arkansas 41 (Kok 12)
Championship Game: Oklahoma A&M 49 (Kurland 22), NYU 45 (Grenert 12)

TODAY IN NBA HISTORY

May 21, 1986
Ralph Sampson, who teamed with Hakeem Olajuwon in a Twin Towers alignment for the Houston Rockets, caught an inbounds pass with one second left and bounced in a turnaround jumper to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 114-112 at Los Angeles in Game 5 of the 1986 Western Conference Finals. The loss kept the defending champion Lakers, who had won 62 games during the regular season, out of the NBA Finals for the only time in a span of eight years from 1982 through 1989.

May 21, 1991
With a 105-97 win over the Detroit Pistons at Chicago Stadium in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Final series, the Chicago Bulls set an NBA playoff record for consecutive wins at home with 15. The Bulls’ postseason home winning streak was broken on June 2, 1991 by the Los Angeles Lakers, with a 93-91 loss in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

May 21, 1992
Golden State’s Don Nelson was named IBM NBA Coach of the Year, becoming the first NBA coach to win the award three times. Nelson guided the Warriors to a 55-27 record, the second-best mark in franchise history. Nelson also won the Coach of the Year award in Milwaukee in 1983 and 1985.

May 21, 1994
In Denver’s 91-81 loss to Utah in Game 7 of their Western Conference Semifinal Round series, Dikembe Mutombo swatted away two shots to give him an NBA record 38 for a seven-game playoff series, obliterating Hakeem Olajuwon’s previous mark of 30, set in 1993 against Seattle.

May 21, 1996
Chicago’s 93-88 home win over Orlando in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals draws an 8.6 rating and a 13.8 share on TNT. With nearly 8.2 million persons tuning in, it is the most-watched NBA game in cable television history.

May 21, 1998
The Sacramento Kings traded veterans Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe to the Washington Wizards for Chris Webber.

NBA SEASON RE-CAP 1964-65

The NBA tried to lessen the impact of big men — specifically Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell — by widening the foul lane from 12 to 16 feet. In addition, a major trade that took place at the NBA All-Star break would have far-reaching implications for years to come.

Chamberlain, in the midst of his greatness at 28 years old, was dealt by the San Francisco Warriors to the Philadelphia 76ers for Paul Neumann, Connie Dierking, Lee Shaffer and cash.

The immediate results: San Francisco went from 48-32 the season before to 17-63, while Philadelphia improved from 34-46 to 40-40. More importantly, Chamberlain was back in the Celtics’ division, and would have to be dealt with even before the NBA Finals.

Still, Chamberlain’s move to the East couldn’t stop Boston from dominating the NBA once again.

Although Celtics founder Walter Brown died in August, 1964 — which put more of the team’s administrative load on coach Red Auerbach — Boston seemed unaffected. It broke its own league record with 62 victories despite the retirements of Frank Ramsey and Jim Loscutoff.

The Lakers won the West with 49 wins as West (31.0) and Baylor (27.1) finished in the top five in scoring. While the Lakers defeated Baltimore in six games in the West Finals, the East Finals between Boston and Philadelphia was a classic, with the home team winning each of the first six games.

Boston won Game 7 by a point, with John Havlicek’s deflection producing the famous “Havlicek stole the ball!” radio call from Celtics broadcaster Johnny Most.

Still, the seventh game of the East Finals provided some hope for the rest of the league that the Celtics might be beaten one day soon. If Philadelphia had been able to convert in the last five seconds, the Celtics dynasty would have been halted at six straight titles and Chamberlain and the 76ers might have begun their own dynasty.

But Havlicek deflected the inbounds pass of Hal Greer to Sam Jones, who dribbled out the five seconds and preserved the dynasty for another year.

The Finals were less exciting, with Boston closing out the Lakers, who were without the injured Elgin Baylor, in five games.

PLAYOFFS

Eastern Division semifinals
Philadelphia defeated Cincinnati (3-1)

Western Division semifinals
Baltimore defeated St. Louis (3-1)

Eastern Division finals
Boston defeated Philadelphia (4-3)

Western Division finals
Los Angeles defeated Baltimore (4-2)

NBA Finals
Boston defeated Los Angeles (4-1)

Points — Wilt Chamberlain, S.F. Warriors-Philadelphia 76ers (34.7)
Assists — Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati Royals (11.5)
Rebounds — Bill Russell, Boston Celtics (24.1)
FG% — Wilt Chamberlain, S.F. Warriors-Philadelphia 76ers (51.0)
FT% — Larry Costello, Philadelphia 76ers (87.7)

AWARD WINNERS

Most Valuable Player  Bill Russell, Boston Celtics
Rookie of the Year  Willis Reed, New York Knicks
Coach of the Year — Red Auerbach, Boston
All-Star Game MVP — Jerry Lucas, Cincinnati Royals

TODAY IN THE NHL

1979: The Montreal Canadiens win the Stanley Cup for the fourth consecutive season and the sixth time in the 1970s by defeating the New York Rangers 4-1 in Game 5 of the Final at the Forum.

The game is tied 1-1 entering the second period, but Montreal forward Jacques Lemaire scores a power-play goal at 1:02, Bob Gainey makes it 3-1 midway through the period and Lemaire scores again at 18:49. The Canadiens limit the Rangers to four shots in the third period and 15 for the game, making life easy for goaltender Ken Dryden.

The Canadiens win the Cup for the 22nd time in their history. It’s the last game for Lemaire, Dryden and captain Yvan Cournoyer; all three retire before the start of the 1979-80 season.

MORE MOMENTS

1981: Butch Goring scores two goals in the first period to help the New York Islanders defeat the Minnesota North Stars 5-1 at Nassau Coliseum in Game 5 of the Final and win the Stanley Cup for the second consecutive season. Billy Smith makes 24 saves but faces 10 shots after the first period. Goring wins the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after scoring 10 goals and finishing with 20 points in 18 games.

1991: The Pittsburgh Penguins get the jump on the North Stars in Game 4 of the Final at Met Center by scoring three goals during a two-minute span in the first 2:58. Kevin Stevens scores 58 seconds into the game, Ron Francis makes it 2-0 at 2:36 and Mario Lemieux beats Jon Casey 22 seconds later. The early three-goal lead sparks Pittsburgh to a series-tying 5-3 victory.

1992: Stevens, a Boston-area native, scores four goals, three in a 5:55 span of the first period, and the Penguins defeat the Bruins 5-1 at Boston Garden. The victory gives Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 Wales Conference Final.

1993: Jari Kurri scores his 100th career playoff goal to help the Los Angeles Kings defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 in Game 3 of the Campbell Conference Final at the Forum in Inglewood, California. Kurri reaches the milestone by scoring a shorthanded goal 9:26 into the second period.

1995: Detroit Red Wings goalie Mike Vernon makes 15 saves in a 6-0 victory against the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals at Joe Louis Arena. It’s the fourth NHL playoff shutout for Vernon but his first since 1989. Sergei Fedorov has a goal and three assists for Detroit.

2009: Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins becomes the third player in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to score the first goal of the game six times in one playoff year. Crosby opens the scoring 1:51 after the opening faceoff and the Penguins defeat the Carolina Hurricanes 7-4 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final at Mellon Arena. Evgeni Malkin scores three goals for the Penguins, who go on to sweep the series.

2014: The Los Angeles Kings score five goals in the third period to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-2 in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final at United Center. The Kings become the second team in NHL history and the first in 23 years to win a playoff game by four or more goals in a game it trailed after two periods. The Blackhawks lead 2-0 late in the second period, but a goal by Justin Williams with 1:46 remaining gives Los Angeles some life. Jeff Carter scores three times during the third period, helping Los Angeles win in Chicago for the first time in eight Stanley Cup Playoff games. It’s the first time a team wins by four or more goals when trailing after two periods since 1991, when the Boston Bruins score six third-period goals to overcome a 1-0 deficit in Game 5 of their first-round series against the Hartford Whalers.

2016: Jake Allen makes 31 saves and the St. Louis Blues even the Western Conference Final at two wins each with a 6-3 victory against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center. It’s Allen’s first start of the 2016 playoffs. Troy Brouwer and Kyle Brodziak score two goals apiece for the Blues.

2018: The Washington Capitals get two goals by T.J. Oshie and 24 saves by Braden Holtby in a 3-0 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final at Capital One Arena, evening the best-of-7 series 3-3. Oshie opens the scoring at 15:12 of the second period and wraps up the win by putting the puck into an empty net with 50 seconds remaining in the third period. The shutout is Holtby’s first of 2017-18, regular season or playoffs.