California gov.: Pro sports without fans possible in June

California Gov. Gavin Newsom thinks pro sports could be back playing in his state – without fans – in early June.

The Democratic governor said during a news conference Monday that the state is making good progress against the coronavirus, posting a 7.5% decline in hospitalizations over the last two weeks.

If the progress continues, he said pro sports could return in the “first week or so of June without spectators and modifications and very prescriptive conditions.”

That is extremely welcome news for California teams that have wondered if they would have to make contingency plans to play elsewhere.

Los Angeles County has become the epicenter for the outbreak in California and Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said she needs to hear details from Newsom about how sports can be safely played.

“I know for all of us we’d be very excited to be able to see our teams starting to get ready to play again,” she said. “I look forward to hearing from the state what the protocols are going to be and the directives to make sure that the activity is able to happen in a way that keeps everybody as safe as possible.”

Major League Baseball and its players association are in negotiations about starting the season around July 1, with spring training to resume either in a team’s ballpark or in Florida or Arizona.

The National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer have allowed practice facilities to reopen for limited workouts. The National Football League announced its schedule two weeks ago and intends on having a complete season. Newsom’s announcement through should clear the way for teams to be able to hold training camp in their home cities.

The National Hockey League is still assessing its plans.

Newsom’s announcement follows those made by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that allowed sports to resume. Florida and Arizona earlier this month gave the go ahead for professional sports.

 

Report: NFL testing protective facemasks to play amid coronavirus pandemic

One of the many concerns about conducting a contact sport such as football during the coronavirus pandemic involves players, particularly those who line up across from each other ahead of plays, expelling air and droplets through standard facemasks and onto opponents.

The NFL hopes to have a solution to this issue before games begin.

As explained by ESPN, NFL Players Association medical director Thom Mayer said on Monday’s The Adam Schefter Podcast that new facemasks may require surgical or N95 material:

“Back in early March, I had suggested that we should consider novel and emerging ways to handle the helmets and the facemasks and the spread of the virus,” Mayer said. “And these guys, the bioengineers that we use and that the league uses — Oakley, as you may or may not know, does all the face visors for the league under contract — these guys got the bit between their teeth.”

Mayer added that issues such as what happens if modified facemasks fog up during games are being addressed. He also explained that he would encourage players to embrace social-distancing protocols while off the field, including when on the sidelines during games.

During Bundesliga matches that occurred over the weekend and on Monday, substitutes sat at least several feet away from each other and wore masks.

As things stand on May 18, the NFL plans to begin the 2020 regular season on Thursday, September 10, when the Houston Texans play the Kansas City Chiefs, the defending Super Bowl champions.

AP Sources: Rooney Rule to require for more interviews

The NFL is amending the Rooney Rule to require more interviews of minority candidates for head coaching and coordinator positions, two people familiar with the decision tell The Associated Press.

Reacting to a lack of diversity progress in hiring for those jobs, the league will require teams to interview at least two minority candidates from outside the organization for head coach openings. At least one minority candidate must be interviewed for a coordinator’s spot, the people said Monday on condition of anonymity because the NFL has not announced the additions.

The rule, named after the late Dan Rooney, who owned the Pittsburgh Steelers, was adopted in 2003. It has had some impact, but in the recent spate of coach hiring, few have gone to minority candidates.

During a Super Bowl week news conference, Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted that changes were needed to the rule. Those changes are coming now.

Team owners will hold a conference call Tuesday that replaces the scheduled spring meeting in California. They will vote on two proposed resolutions that would allow assistant coaches to be interviewed at any time for coordinators’ jobs elsewhere. The other proposal would use draft pick positioning as an incentive to hire more diverse candidates in the coach and general manager position.

The changes and proposals were first reported by NFL Network.

“The Rooney Rule does not force someone, or cannot mandate that someone gets hired,” NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent told the AP last season. “What it does is mandates that there is a diverse slate of prospects.

“Many will say it’s not about a number just because of the number of men of color that play, there should be a certain number of head coaches or general managers or (team) presidents,” added Vincent, who is black.

Team presidents and other top-level executives posts are being addressed with these changes.

“We’ve got to look at the entire landscape,” Vincent said. “We should be looking at diversity among all disciplines in our sport.”

After the 2018 season, eight head coaches lost their jobs. Only one opening was filled by a minority candidate, Brian Flores in Miami.

Following last season, five jobs came open and one minority, Ron Rivera, was hired, by Washington.

The NFL has only two general managers of color, Andrew Berry in Cleveland and Chris Grier in Miami.

Tony Dungy, the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl and a strong advocate for diversity in the NFL, believes the spirit of the Rooney Rule has not been adhered to in recent years.

“What I think has happened is people have said, `Let me interview a minority candidate to satisfy the rule, and then I can get on with this hiring process or hire who I want to,” the Pro Football Hall of Fame coach said. “The whole point of it was to slow down the process, take your time, get the best candidate and make a decision.

“There’s so much pressure now on all of them to do it quickly, get the No. 1 candidate, put together a staff. Nobody wants to take their time. That is the major problem. You get people interviewed who may not fit what the team may be looking for.”

 

Frank Reich: ‘I’m optimistic’ Phillip Rivers will spend multiple years with Colts

Although longtime Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers signed a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts for the 2020 season, he may not have plans to remain with the organization past 2021.

Rivers, wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps, has lined up a high school coaching job for when he retires from the NFL. However, there’s no telling when the 38-year-old will call it quits. He could end up like Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and play well into his 40’s.

While there is a possibility Rivers retires when his contract is up, Colts head coach Frank Reich believes the eight-time Pro Bowler has plenty of football ahead of him.

“I can just tell you I really believe it’s Philip’s intent to play multiple years . . . I’m very optimistic it will be a multiple year thing,” Reich said, according to The Athletic’s Zak Keefer.

Indianapolis currently has four quarterbacks on its roster in Rivers, Jacoby Brissett, Jacob Eason (2020 draft selection) and Chad Kelly. The Colts waiting until the fourth round to select a QB in the draft likely stems from their belief that Rivers will remain with the Colts past 2021.

With Brissett’s contract up after this season, Reich will be hoping Rivers doesn’t retire after just one season with the organization. If that ends up happening, then the Colts may be in some trouble at QB with an inexperienced Eason and the potential for Brissett to sign with a new team.

Tom Brady checked out of Patriots’ offense after 2018 loss to Steelers?

There are a number of reasons why Tom Brady ended up leaving New England this offseason, and both sides are to blame for different issues. Brady probably wanted more love and respect shown by the Patriots and didn’t get the contract offer he sought. The Patriots always gave Brady less than his market value in order to win, didn’t give him great weapons, and probably low-balled him to start their contract negotiations.

Boston Sports Journal’s Greg Bedard wrote a recent article on Brady’s departure from the Patriots, comparing it to how many other great quarterbacks left their teams.

In the article, Bedard says Brady was intent on making sure he orchestrated his separation from the Patriots rather than letting Bill Belichick dictate it. Bedard also said that Brady “largely checked out in 2018 after the loss to Pittsburgh and hated how the offense pivoted to a more run-based attack.”

That infamous loss to the Steelers came after a loss to the Dolphins on a miracle play the previous week. The game effectively ended after Brady threw four straight incompletions in Steelers territory down 17-10. Three of the incompletions were intended for Rob Gronkowski.

The Patriots ended up winning the Super Bowl, but Brady was hearing it from the doubters then. He only threw for two touchdowns and three interceptions in the three playoff wins.

There has also been some recent talk that Brady had issues with Josh McDaniels, though Brady disputed that.

Brady probably had been thinking about his exit as he got later and later in his Patriots career. His camp even made it public last year that the quarterback wasn’t set on returning to New England.

BALTIMORE RAVENS WILL PAY ALL STADIUM WORKERS EVEN IF GAMES ARE PLAYED WITHOUT FANS

The Baltimore Ravens are looking out for the people who work for them in a really big way.

The NFL is preparing for the potential that games may be played without fans in 2020. Regardless, the Ravens will pay all stadium workers, whether there are fans in the stands or not.

Ravens president Dick Cass recently did a conference call arranged by the United Way. During the call, he said the team has set up a fund to ensure no workers are laid off or furloughed.

“IF WE DON’T HAVE THAT KIND OF STAFF BECAUSE WE HAVE A REDUCED CROWD AT THE STADIUM, WE ARE PLANNING ON CREATING AN EMPLOYEES’ ASSISTANCE FUND,” CASS SAID, PER THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, NOTING THAT “WE HAVE NOT TERMINATED OR LAID OFF OR FURLOUGHED ANYBODY AND WE DON’T INTEND TO.”

During the same call, Cass did say he expects training camp to open on time. That’s something that we’ve been hearing consistently. Though, he mentioned teams “may have to make adjustments,” which is understandable given the challenges the pandemic have created.

The franchise has been proactive about helping the greater Maryland community. In addition to this fund that protects workers, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti recently donated $1 million to aid COVID-19 relief efforts.

Cody Latimer felony charges stemmed from argument at poker game

Washington Redskins wide receiver Cody Latimer is facing three felony charges over an argument at a poker game, according to a police report.

The report, obtained by Mike Klis of 9News in Denver, details how Latimer brandished a gun at his best friend over a poker dispute. During the game, Latimer became involved in an argument with another person, which led Latimer’s friend, Roderick English, to break up the game and kick everyone out.

30 minutes later, Latimer allegedly showed up at English’s apartment, pulled out a handgun, and said he had saved two bullets for English and English’s girlfriend. The police report states that Latimer waved the gun around without directly pointing it at anyone, but said he was going to “kill everybody.”

Later, Latimer said he would never kill English or English’s girlfriend before emptying the magazine. He again became agitated, however, and fired two shots in English’s direction. That led English to push Latimer against a wall, and Latimer struck English on the head with the gun.

The police report states that both Latimer and English consumed alcohol during the poker game.

Latimer was arrested early Saturday. He faces five charges, three of them felonies, including second degree assault.

Latimer spent the last two seasons with the New York Giants before joining the Redskins this offseason. The 27-year-old receiver caught two touchdown passes in 2019.

 

Ideal landing spots for intriguing NFL free agents

Left tackle Jason Peters | Best fit: Chargers

ROBINSON: Armed with one of the NFL’s best skill-position groups and a stacked defense, the Chargers appear ready to contend. But their quarterback timeline perhaps does not line up with the rest of their roster’s. To raise bridge quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s ceiling and accelerate first-round pick Justin Herbert’s development, the team must address left tackle.

Pressure bothered Herbert more than many of his draft-class peers last season. The Oregon product’s 16.3 Total QBR figure when pressured landed in another zip code from the numbers of Joe Burrow (82.6) and Tua Tagovailoa (44.1). Jalen Hurts and Jordan Love also fared better.

The Chargers traded left tackle starter Russell Okung for Panthers Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner but have probably the NFL’s thinnest left tackle group. Despite being 38, Peters — the former Eagle — would change the complexion of the Bolts’ offense. The future Hall of Famer rated as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-best pass-protecting tackle last season and sixth-best overall. Potential Okung in-house successor Trent Scott rated as PFF’s fourth-worst tackle.

While 2019 third-rounder Trey Pipkins showed promise on 251 snaps last season, Peters supplies better security. Even if this is a one-year arrangement, the Chargers would extract short- and long-term benefit from the 11-year Eagle’s presence. Peters would align with the Bolts’ troika of aging free agents (right tackle Bryan Bulaga, defensive tackle Linval Joseph and cornerback Chris Harris) and increase the team’s chances to make the playoffs this season.

The nine-time Pro Bowler would also give Herbert more time to throw, increasing the quality of his reps. That will help when Pipkins (or a to-be-acquired young tackle) takes over down the line.

 

DE Everson Griffen | Best fit: Colts

The Colts splurged for DeForest Buckner via trade and top-market extension, but GM Chris Ballard’s roster-reconstruction effort has seldom included splash moves. Jadeveon Clowney makes sense, but authorizing a $15 million-plus payment after handing Buckner a $21M-per-year deal does not seem like Ballard’s style.

If the Colts want a cheaper, healthier player who outflanks Clowney in pass-rushing ability, Griffen would help a team lacking defensive end stability. Buckner is a game-changer at defensive tackle, but at end, the Colts employ injury-prone Justin Houston as their anchor and 2018 second-round pick Kemoko Turay as an intriguing apprentice. Turay missed 12 games last season with a broken ankle.

Before his 16-game 2019 season, Houston missed 21 games from 2015-18 –- mostly because of knee injuries. Having run into extensive knee trouble as well, Clowney would not instill much faith here. His 2018 mental health episode aside, Griffen has not missed more than one game in a season since his 2010 rookie year. Griffen, who is fourth on the Vikings’ career sack list with 74.5, is 32 but should have juice left.

Griffen booked his fourth Pro Bowl berth last season and recorded eight sacks (five more than Clowney) and 24 QB hits (17 more than Clowney). While Clowney is better against the run, the former No. 1 overall pick is 0-for-6 in 10-sack seasons. Griffen has three of those and six eight-plus-sack campaigns despite only becoming a starter in 2014.

RB Lamar Miller | Best fit: Falcons

This might seem like an odd pairing, particularly when taking into account Atlanta’s offseason signing of Todd Gurley, but Gurley is far from a sure thing. He had just 1,064 yards from scrimmage with the Rams in 2019, a career low, despite playing in 15 games. There are no guarantees that Gurley will hold up for a full season or that he is explosive and dynamic even if he does. No one else on the Falcons’ roster is cut out to carry the load.

Miller, the former Dolphin and Texan, missed 2019 because of a preseason ACL tear, but he is productive when healthy. He has averaged 981 yards and 4.4 yards per carry his past five seasons, and is a home-run hitter, with three touchdown runs of at least 85 yards in his career. Miller isn’t a dynamic pass-catching threat, but he is reliable in that department, and would be good as a safety valve for Matt Ryan.

More than anything, Miller would give the Falcons reliability; he would be the perfect insurance policy for Gurley and because of his injury, he would come cheaply. Miller also might be getting better with age — before his injury, he was coming off his highest-graded Pro Football Focus season ever, a 75.9 overall mark in 2018.

Great values can be had at running back; the Falcons didn’t take one in the draft, but signing Miller would be to their benefit. They can have him for a season, and if he is productive, they won’t have to worry about making a decision on him long term. If the Gurley of three years ago were on the roster, Miller would be unnecessary. He’s not, so Miller is the perfect fit.

LB Clay Matthews | Best fit: Cardinals

The lack of a traditional NFL offseason may have something to do with Matthews remaining unsigned,, or perhaps he’s merely waiting for the perfect situation to present itself. But one thing is certain: Matthews has much left to offer.

Matthews notched eight sacks last season, which isn’t a number that jumps off the page, but his appeal lies in his efficiency. Matthews had 339 pass snaps in 2019, and rushed the passer on 279 of them (82.3 percent). Per Pro Football Focus’ pass rushing productivity statistic, which takes into account sacks, hurries and quarterback hits relative to how many times a player rushes the passer, Matthews was 32nd among all NFL edge rushers last year, ahead of  Chandler Jones, Justin Houston and Khalil Mack.

Matthews’ ideal role falls somewhere between every-down edge rusher and pure situational player. He doesn’t offer much outside of his pass- rushing skills, but he’s good enough in that role to justify more snaps, and a tolerance of his shortcomings elsewhere. Where would he fit perfectly? The answer doesn’t even require a trip out of the NFC West.

The rising Cardinals should bring Matthews aboard. He’ll be affordable, likely commanding a salary around last year’s $3.5 million with the Rams, and he’ll slot in perfectly opposite Jones on the majority of downs. Matthews did the majority of his damage lined up on the left side, which is fine; Jones’ production was split almost equally between right and left.

Also, Arizona doesn’t have much pass-rushing depth. 2017 first-round bust Haason Reddick is their best reserve pass rusher, and he has just 7.5 career sacks. First-round linebacker Isaiah Simmons is a jack-of-all-trades who should cover huge swaths of territory in the middle of the field, which would allow Matthews to focus on rushing the QB.

Guard Larry Warford | Best fit: Dolphins

Cut by the Saints, Warford is in the back end of his prime but ready to provide an instant upgrade for a team that needs it on the interior. The soon-to-be 29-year-old is coming off a 2019 season in which he earned a 73.1 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, the seventh-best mark among right guards.

In his seven seasons in the league, he has produced, ranking at the 60th percentile or better among guards according to the overall PFF grade. The Kentucky product was named to the Pro Bowl in each of the past three seasons with New Orleans.

No team entered the offseason with a worse offensive line situation than the Dolphins. After tearing down the unit going into 2019, Miami suffered through a season of horrid blocking in the passing and running games. The Dolphins ranked last by a wide margin in most statistics that aim to capture offensive line performance.

Miami has upgraded its offensive front, signing free agents Ereck Flowers (LG) and Ted Karras (C) and drafting OT Austin Jackson and guard Robert Hunt. Flowers will likely step in at left guard, but the Dolphins could improve at right guard, where 2019 third-round pick Michael Deiter is slated to start. He had an extremely rough rookie season.

It’s especially important for Miami to protect rookie QB Tua Tagovaiola, who was injured frequently in college. Warford has started exclusively at right guard. It makes sense for Miami to slide him in opposite Flowers and form a solid guard duo for Tua to throw behind.

Edge rusher Vinny Curry | Best fit: Raiders

Curry, whose contract with the Eagles expired, will turn 32 in June before heading into his ninth NFL season, but the veteran has shown no signs of slowing. With 41 pressures on 243 pass-rush snaps in 2019, he was the eighth-most efficient pass-rusher among edge rushers out of 96 qualifiers. Curry consistently achieved that level of efficiency for Philadelphia in a passing down-centric situational role, which should help his game age well as wear-and-tear is minimized.

Curry averaged just 16.1 pass-rush snaps per game for Philadelphia in 2019, with two-thirds of his total snaps coming on passing plays (262 of 393). Las Vegas has a pair of young defensive ends set to anchor the edge in Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby, but it still needs more pass-rushing help. The Raiders have ranked last in quarterback hits in back-to-back seasons since trading Khalil Mack to Chicago.

In 2019, the Raiders’ total of 64 quarterback hits was barely more than half of Pittsburgh’s league-leading total of 118. In his typical situational role, Curry can provide some juice that will greatly aid Vegas’ pass-rush woes while not stepping on the toes of the budding Ferrell/Crosby duo.

5 favorites to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year

The NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award is historically filled with some big names — Von Miller, Luke Kuechly, Aaron Donald, and the Bosa brothers are all fairly recent winners. Someone new will join them in 2020, but who will it be? Probably an impact player who’s blowing up plays in the backfield, if history tells us anything.

Here are five big favorites to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

  1. Javon Kinlaw, DL, 49ers

Kinlaw lands in a great situation. The Niners are loaded up front, meaning he won’t be given special attention by blockers and will be able to learn from the best. He’s still raw, and he’ll probably be stuck on the interior, but Kinlaw has a lot of untapped potential. The 49ers have developed their defensive linemen well, so Kinlaw could have a pretty high ceiling quite quickly, putting him on the radar for this award.

  1. Patrick Queen, LB, Ravens

Though drafted late in the first round, Queen is such a perfect fit in Baltimore that he should be productive right away. He should start for the Ravens, and his all-around skills should translate well to their needs. The Ravens can do a lot with Queen, from coverage to blitzes, and that should allow him to stuff the stat sheet. That’s how you make an impression as a rookie, and it could make him a major sleeper to win the award.

  1. Derrick Brown, DL, Panthers

The SEC Defensive Player of the Year has been called the most talented interior prospect since Aaron Donald, and it’s safe to say Donald worked out pretty well in the NFL. Brown could do the same, and should make an immediate impact on Carolina’s defensive line. If he can get to the quarterback with regularity, people will begin to take note. He could very quickly become a Rookie of the Year contender with some quick development.

  1. Isaiah Simmons, LB, Cardinals

Simmons’ ability to do it all on defense should only work in his favor. The Clemson star can play as a linebacker or in coverage, which is a recipe for a lot of quality statistical performances. If he can get a few sacks while also excelling in coverage, people will take notice, and he’ll establish himself as a star quickly on the defensive side of the ball. If used as a complete, almost positionless defender, that versatility should also work in his favor.

  1. Chase Young, DE, Redskins

Young is the clear favorite to take home the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He’s ready to go from day one, incredibly polished, and was an absolute beast at Ohio State. There is no reason he can’t rack up a very impressive sack tally in his rookie year. Young is one of the best defensive prospects to come through the draft in recent years, and expectations are high. That could work against him, but the bet is that he’ll do everything expected of him and prove a success in year one.

NFL 2020 team tiers: Who’s a Lombardi contender?

Tier 1: True Lombardi contenders – ‘Nuff said.
Tier 2: Best of the rest – Could see these teams making the playoffs or getting close … just not winning it all. Basically, they’re the NFL’s middle class.
Tier 3: Rebuilding and rebounding – They seem to have a cogent, or at least semi-cogent plan and understand who they are and where they need to go.
Tier 4: Stuck in the middle – Still have enough talent to mess around and maybe finish .500, but given their lack of assets and strange decision making and the pressure they are under, I don’t envy their position.
Tier 5: Is this rock bottom? – Would anyone be shocked to see these teams picking in the top 10 again next year?

Tier 1: Lombardi contenders (8 teams)

Kansas City Chiefs – Super Bowl winners kept the band together and have the best player on the planet.

San Francisco 49ers – Love their roster and love their offseason. Could be back in the big game. Don’t foresee a hangover here.

Baltimore Ravens – Best record a year ago with an MVP QB who just turned 23 and a rebuilt defensive front 7.

New Orleans Saints – If not for some terrible calls and bad breaks they’d have won one in the last few years already.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Tom Brady and Gronk surrounded by the best cast they have had in a decade.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Maybe the best defense in the NFL and they get Big Ben back.

Seattle Seahawks – Russell Wilson keeps you in the equation every year.

Philadelphia Eagles – They have won recently and the supporting cast around Carson Wentz is legit.

Tier 2: Best of the rest (9 teams)

Dallas Cowboys – If only they had a defense.

Buffalo Bills – Not sure they win a title with their QB, but they will be a factor in the AFC, big-time.

Green Bay Packers – Picking battles with Aaron Rodgers is not smart. Giving him nothing else to work with is even less on point.

Tennessee Titans – Always good for nine wins or so, but will be hard pressed to duplicate last year’s run.

Minnesota Vikings – Generally good enough to reach the postseason, but not nearly good enough to grab a trophy.

Indianapolis Colts – Will be among the more improved teams in the league, but how much does Philip Rivers have left?

Denver Broncos – Defense should keep them viable through December.

Los Angeles Chargers – Plenty of wild-card potential here.

Arizona Cardinals – Wouldn’t be stunned to see them grab the seventh playoff spot in the NFC if the defense can hold its own. That’s a big if.

Tier 3: Rebuilding and rebounding (4 teams)

Cleveland Browns – If not for yet another regime change with another rookie HC/GM and all that constant turmoil, they would be in the above group. I don think they could push for a playoff spot. But I gotta see it to believe it when it comes to this franchise.

Miami Dolphins – The tear down is over and they’ve begun reaping their draft pick haul with another monster class coming in 2021.

Carolina Panthers – Matt Rhule understands the college rebuild game like no one else and I like the direction they are headed in.

Las Vegas Raiders – They are done shedding expensive veterans and had a ton of picks in 2020. Time for more wins.

Tier 4: Stuck in the middle (6 teams)

New England Patriots – Brady is gone, and some older players on defense, too, but they kept a guard on a franchise tag, didn’t upgrade much at the skill positions and could be in store for their first losing season in forever. Jarrett Stidham may be good enough for them not to be awful, although being awful now might be best for the long term.

Detroit Lions – If Matthew Stafford stays healthy they will be competitive, but with the coach and GM fighting to keep their job, will that be enough?

Atlanta Falcons – Notorious for overestimating their own talent and being askew on how good the roster really is, looks like more of the same in 2020. Can they survive another middling-at-best season with a suspect cap situation and with so much $$ in aging stars?

Houston Texans – The run of former Bill Belichick assistants continues (maybe we need a New England subgroup, sans Titans?). Deshaun Watson will keep them from being terrible, but Bill O’Brien’s GM mistakes have them in cap/draft pick trouble for years to come and that locker room will not get over the DeAndre Hopkins trade anytime soon.

Los Angeles Rams – The heady times of that Super Bowl appearance seem long ago. Roster has taken a nosedive, huge questions remain about the overpaid QB, salary cap and budget issues are real, getting sued by former players not a good look and they have plundered future drafts already. Since they flirted with the playoffs a year ago I kept them out of the bottom tier, though I suspect that is where they land next year at this time.

Cincinnati Bengals – Had they done the tear down that was screaming out to be executed in 2019, shed salary and vets at the deadline and entered 2020 with more than just seven picks, they would be with the rebuilding teams. They will be a better team, but will an old-school front office adjust to the changing times? Regardless, they are the only team in this group likely not heading in a downward direction.

Tier 5: Is this rock bottom? (5 teams)

Chicago Bears – No QB of the present, no QB of the future, not enough draft capital and a front office that has gone a long while without hitting a double much less a homer, with far too many K’s along the way.

New York Giants – DeAndre Baker situation just the latest in a long line of ugly situations for this once storied franchise. They have been stuck in reverse for years now and not sure when that stops. Rough time to hire a novice coach.

New York Jets – They won seven games a year ago, but face a brutal schedule this year and the specter of Woody Johnson returning from the UK in 2021 casts a unique shadow.

Washington Redskins – Another new set of coaches for their young QB and perhaps the worst offensive talent in the NFL. No history of any sustained success under this owner. Some analysts tabbing them for 1st overall pick in 2020.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Still fighting with their best players. It’s a toxic culture that players have been trying to avoid. Gave away some vets for pennies on the dollar yet still riddled by bloated contracts. Perennially picking in the top 10.

Bills, Ole Miss lineman “Gentle Ben” Williams, 65, dies

 Robert Jerry “Ben” Williams Jr., former Buffalo Bills defensive end and the first African- American player to appear in a game at Mississippi, has died. He was 65.

Ole Miss announced in a release that Williams died Monday from natural causes at a Jackson, Mississippi, hospital. Affectionately known as “Gentle Ben,” he was the Rebels’ first black player to earn All-America honors as a first-team selection in 1975, and was also a three-time first team All-Southeastern Conference selection.

Williams is the Ole Miss career sacks leader with 37, including a single-season record of 18 in 1973, and a member of its Team of the Century.

Williams was drafted by Buffalo in the third round in 1976 and went on to spend his entire 10-year NFL career with the Bills, with 140 starts in 147 games.

He retired as the Bills’ career sacks leader with 45 1/2 before his record was shattered by Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Smith, who went on to set the NFL career record. Smith often credited Williams for helping his development during his rookie season in 1985.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, Williams earned his nickname because of his friendly off-field personality.

From Yazoo City, Mississippi, Williams and James Reed became the first black football players to enroll at Ole Miss in 1971. Williams played as a true freshman in 1972, while Reed made his debut the following year.

Athletic director Keith Carter recognized Williams’ achievements for breaking the football program’s race barrier and being the first black to be elected by the student body as Colonel Reb, a campus favorite honor now called Mr. Ole Miss. The Williams-Reed Football Foyer at the Olivia and Archie Manning Center honors the players’ contributions.

“Gentle Ben’s impact on our university, the SEC and college football as a whole is immeasurable,” Carter said in the release. “He was a great person, player and ambassador for our university, and will forever be beloved by Rebel Nation.”

Williams eventually returned to Jackson, where he owned a construction company. He served on several Ole Miss boards, and was active in local charities.

In 1992, he helped establish the Robert Ben Williams Minority Scholarship Endowment.

Williams was inducted into the Ole Miss and Mississippi sports halls of fame, and selected an SEC Legend in 2002.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

LeBron: “Definitely not giving up on the season”

LeBron James reiterated Monday that he is hopeful the NBA season can resume, with the caveat that the health and well-being of players won’t be jeopardized by a return to play.

The Los Angeles Lakers star, speaking on the Uninterrupted platform’s “WRTS: After Party” show that was released Monday, said it remains his wish that the season comes back “sooner than later.” The NBA suspended the season on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and two unidentified members of the Lakers were among the league’s players who subsequently tested positive for the virus.

“Definitely not giving up on the season,” James said. “Not only myself and my teammates, the Lakers organization, we want to play. There’s a lot of players that I know personally that want to play. And obviously, we don’t ever want to jeopardize the health of any of our players or any of the players’ families and so on and so on.

“This is a pandemic that we have no idea (about). We can’t control it,” James added.

James was among a group of some of the league’s highest-paid players, National Basketball Players Association president Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder also part of the group, who met last week to talk about the season. Those players affirmed to one another on that call that they would like to see the season resume.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told players’ union members on May 8 that he was hoping to make some sort of decision about the future of the season within no more than a four-week window. By that timeframe – barring any adjustments based on what’s happening with the pandemic – Silver and the NBA would be hoping to decide upon some course of action by June 5.

That said, there has been no definitive timetable from the NBA on when a decision would be made. The league is prepping for many options.

Donald Sterling tried to block JJ Redick from Clippers because he didn’t like white players

Donald Sterling was an absolute disgrace of an NBA owner, and we are getting another testament to that this week.

Speaking on Monday with TNT’s Ernie Johnson, LA Clippers head coach Doc Rivers revealed that Sterling attempted to nix the team’s acquisition of JJ Redick in 2013 because he did not like white players.

“JJ changed his mind, I think he was going to sign with Minnesota,” Rivers recalled. “I literally talked JJ out of it. ‘Come play with me, come play with the Clippers, with Chris Paul and DJ [DeAndre Jordan] and Blake [Griffin]. You’d be a great fit. The trade’s done, or the free agent signing is done, JJ agrees, I jump on a plane, I fly back to Orlando, and I get a call from [then-Clippers president] Andy Roeser. [He] says, ‘Hey the deal’s off.’ I say, ‘What do you mean the deal’s off?’ ‘Donald doesn’t like white players.’ And I said, ‘Excuse me?’ ‘Donald Sterling said no.’ I said, ‘Well we’ve already agreed!’

“So I land, I’m in the garage of the Orlando airport,” Rivers added. “I get a call from Coach K [Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski], who’s upset because of JJ. I get a call from JJ’s agent, I think it was Arn Tellem, who’s screaming at me.”

Rivers then described how he went on to call up Sterling himself and had a heated conversation with him, saying that he would not let Sterling ruin his reputation. The phone call ended with Rivers saying that he was quitting his job with the Clippers and hanging up. Only at that point did Sterling finally relent and allow the Redick deal to go through.

Rivers, only a few weeks into his Clippers tenure at the time, ultimately stayed with the team and remains their coach to this day. Meanwhile, the acquisition of Redick, who became a pivotal part of their offense with his floor-spacing and shot making ability, was ultimately massive for the Clippers.

As for Sterling, he was, of course, banned from the NBA for life in 2014 after being caught on tape making ugly, racist remarks to his former mistress. That opened the door for current owner Steve Ballmer to buy the Clippers. Granted, Sterling was a well-known racist even before then, and his presence actually deterred some huge-name talent from signing with the team.

Dan Majerle suing Grand Canyon after being fired

Dan Majerle is suing Grand Canyon University after being fired by the school two months ago.

Majerle was fired by GCU on March 12, a week after the program’s final game of a 13-17 shortened season.

Arizona Sports reports that Majerle filed a lawsuit against the school. The suit alleges GCU breached its contract by not paying Majerle his severance.

Majerle was the program’s only coach since moving to Division-I and went 136-89 over seven years, including four straight 20-plus win seasons prior to the 2019-2020 season. The 54-year-old head coach was an assistant for the Phoenix Suns prior to his time at Grand Canyon and had a lengthy playing career with Phoenix.

Bryce Drew was named GCU’s new head coach mere days after Majerle was fired.

US Open no longer ‘open,’ eliminates qualifying for major

The U.S. Open might feel more like a closed shop this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which already has postponed the U.S. Open at Winged Foot from June to September, has forced the USGA to do away with qualifying for the first time since 1924.

Open qualifying is the hallmark of golf’s second-oldest championship. The USGA often points out that typically half of the 156-man field has to go through either 36-hole qualifying or 18-hole and 36-hole qualifying.

It even invested in a marketing campaign that was rolled out in February titled, “From Many, One,” to illustrate that more than 9,000 people apply to play in the U.S. Open, eventually yielding to one winner.

The USGA did not announce Monday how other players would become exempt.

Among those who have yet to qualify is Phil Mickelson, a runner-up six times in the only major he hasn’t won.

Mickelson said in February he would not ask the USGA for an exemption, and that if he didn’t qualify or become exempt, he wouldn’t play. Winged Foot is where Mickelson made double bogey on the final hole in 2006 to lose by one.

The field presumably will be smaller because of the later date, though the USGA did not mention the field size in its April 6 announcement that the U.S. Open was moving to Sept. 17-20 at Winged Foot, in Mamaroneck, New York.

“As you can imagine, this was an incredibly difficult decision, as qualifying is a cornerstone of USGA championships,” said John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of championships for the USGA. “We take great pride in the fact that many thousands typically enter to pursue their dream of qualifying for the U.S. Open and we deeply regret that they will not have that opportunity this year.”

Bodenhamer said no qualifying provides “the best path forward” to holding the U.S. Open.

The USGA said there would not be qualifying for three other championships it will hold this year – the U.S. Women’s Open (moved to December in Houston) and the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur, both still scheduled for August.

The U.S. Open, which dates to 1895, had so many players wanting to compete in the years after World War I that it introduced qualifying in 1924. Then, it went to two stages of qualifying in 1959 – 18-hole local qualifying and 36-hole sectional qualifying.

Ken Venturi in 1964 and Orville Moody in 1969 are the only U.S. Open champions who got through both stages. Lucas Glover in 2009 was the last U.S. Open champion to go through 36-hole qualifying.

The USGA had 108 local qualifiers planned in 45 states and one in Canada, followed by 12 sectional qualifiers – nine in the U.S., one each in Canada, England and Japan.

When the U.S. Open was postponed, 50 players were exempt through various categories, such as past champions the last 10 years or top 10 from last year’s U.S. Open, major champions from the last five years and the top 30 players who reached the Tour Championship last year.

The pandemic shut down golf on March 13, two months before the top 60 in the world ranking would have been exempt for the U.S. Open. The world ranking has been frozen since the shutdown. It was unclear when it would resume because while the PGA Tour is to resume on June 11, circuits in Europe, Japan and Asia have not said when they would return.

The USGA, meanwhile, has lost 10 championships to the coronavirus. It said Monday that four more were canceled – the U.S. Mid-Amateur and Women’s Mid-Amateur, and the U.S. Senior Amateur and U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur.

Devils’ Schneider: NHL players concerned as pause lingers

Veteran New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider said Monday that a growing number of players are concerned the NHL will announce a “drop-dead” deadline for returning to play as the coronavirus pandemic lingers with summer coming up fast.

The 34-year-old Schneider said some Devils are apprehensive because the NHL has said it would take three weeks of training before allowing games. That would take any restart into June.

“I think that’s everyone’s concern right now,” said Schneider, the team’s union representative. “It’s a lot of guys asking is there a drop-dead date? What’s the date that it’s just too late, that you can get a semblance of a season or a playoff.”

A late restart has the potential to cause a delay in the start of the 2020-21 schedule. Schneider said it doesn’t make sense to restart the season if the hiatus goes into June and July. The Stanley Cup is typically awarded in early to mid-June.

The NHL paused the season on March 12. League spokesman John Dellapina said last week officials are not publicly discussing any deadlines.

“We are following the guidance of medical experts and government authorities regarding when we can open club facilities,” he said.

The NBA, which stopped its season just before the NHL, cleared the way to open team practice facilities for individual voluntary workouts beginning May 8. The NFL is allowing teams to open their club headquarters to a limited number of personnel starting Tuesday. Both leagues have required state approval for such moves.

The Devils have a 28-29-12 record and 68 points, last in the Metropolitan Division. Schneider said he wants to play but is concerned about returning for six or seven meaningless games. Players would have to isolate themselves but still increase their risk to possible infection – and injuries.

“Is it worth it for us to spend five, six weeks to do something that ultimately won’t matter?” Schneider asked. “Personally, I would like to at least get out and get that feeling again. Nine or 10 months is a long time to not have played a game and not really ramp it up in that sense. My hope is that we get a chance to come back and play.”

D-backs OF Starling Marte says wife dies of heart attack

Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Starling Marte announced on social media that his wife Noelia has died of a heart attack.

“Today I go through the great pain of making public the unfortunate death of my wife Noelia, due to a heart attack,” Marte wrote on Instagram on Monday. “It is a moment of indescribable pain. On behalf of my family, I am grateful for the expressions of esteem and solidarity in this difficult time.”

“We are deeply saddened to learn of tragic passing of Noelia Marte,” the Diamondbacks wrote on social media. “Starling and his family are part of the D-backs’ family and we will do all we can to support him and their children during this incredibly difficult time.”

The 31-year-old Marte has played his entire eight-year big league career with the Pittsburgh Pirates before being traded to the Diamondbacks during the offseason.

The Pirates also responded on social media, saying “the entire Pirates family extend our deepest condolences to Starling Marte and family during this terrible time.”

AP source: Marlins will allow players access for workouts

The Miami Marlins will allow players on their 40-man roster access to their spring training complex to pitch off a mound or hit in batting cages beginning Tuesday, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press.

The person confirmed the decision to the AP on condition of anonymity Monday because the Marlins made no announcement. The rest of the complex in Jupiter, Florida, will remain closed, the person said.

The optional workouts will be individual, with a staff member present, and those involved will abide by social distancing guidelines, the person said.

Major League Baseball is considering proposed methods to salvage a season delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. Plans have been formulated to possibly start the season in early July.

Big Ten Announces Men’s Golf All-Conference Teams and Individual Award Winners

Illinois’ Jerry Ji and Rutgers’ Christopher Gotterup capture individual honors

ROSEMONT, Ill. – The Big Ten Conference announced the men’s golf All-Conference teams and individual award winners on Monday, as voted on by the conference coaches. Rutgers’ Christopher Gotterup was named Big Ten Player of the Year, while Illinois’ Jerry Ji was tabbed the Freshman of the Year.
Gotterup finished among the top-15 in six out of seven tournaments during the fall and spring seasons, highlighted by his first career individual title by eight strokes at the Fighting Irish Classic in South Bend, Ind. The Little Silver, N.J., native capped his junior season earning the Les Bolstad Award, given to the conference player with the lowest stroke average (69.89) during the season. Gotterup becomes the first Scarlet Knight golfer to win Big Ten Player of the Year since Rutgers joined the conference in 2014-15.
Ji captured the Freshman of the Year laurel after carding a trio of top-20 finishes and ranking second on the Illinois team with a stroke average of 72.00 over 18 rounds in 2019-20. The Hoofddorp, Netherlands, native paced the Illini at the Maui Jim Intercollegiate, firing a three-round total of 204 (-6) to tie for 15th. Ji becomes Illinois’ seventh Freshman of the Year honoree and first since Michael Feagles in 2017.
The All-Big Ten first team features Illinois’ Michael Feagles, Iowa’s Alex Schaake, Maryland’s Peter Knade, Minnesota’s Angus Flanagan, Northwestern’s David Nyfjall, Penn State’s Ryan Davis, Purdue’s Joe Weiler and Rutgers’ Gotterup, with Schaake, Flanagan, Nyfjall and Gotterup all earning unanimous first-team nods.
The Big Ten also recognized 14 Sportsmanship Award honorees. The students chosen are individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, the students must be in good academic standing and have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting.

2020 BIG TEN MEN’S GOLF ALL-CONFERENCE AND INDIVIDUAL AWARD WINNERS

Big Ten Player of the Year: Christopher Gotterup, Rutgers

Big Ten Freshman of the Year: Jerry Ji, Illinois

Les Bolstad Award: Christopher Gotterup, Rutgers 

ALL-BIG TEN TEAMS

First Team

Michael Feagles, Illinois

ALEX SCHAAKE, IOWA

Peter Knade, Maryland

ANGUS FLANAGAN, MINNESOTA

DAVID NYFJALL, NORTHWESTERN

Ryan Davis, Penn State

Joe Weiler, Purdue

CHRISTOPHER GOTTERUP, RUTGERS

Second Team

Jerry Ji, Illinois

Giovanni Tadiotto, Illinois

Gonzalo Leal, Iowa

Brent Ito, Michigan

James Piot, Michigan State

Connor Glynn, Minnesota

Eric McIntosh, Northwestern

Felix Kvarnström, Ohio State

Unanimous selections in ALL CAPS

Sportsmanship Award Honorees

Adrien Dumont de Chassart, Illinois

Jack Sparrow, Indiana

Benton Weinberg, Iowa

Will Koras, Maryland

Henry Spring, Michigan

James Piot, Michigan State

Connor Glynn, Minnesota

Tanner Owen, Nebraska

Everton Hawkins, Northwestern

Justin Wick, Ohio State

James McHugh, Penn State

Joe Weiler, Purdue

Tony Jiang, Rutgers

Nick Robinson, Wisconsin

Big Ten Announces Women’s Golf All-Conference Teams and Individual Award Winners

Michigan State’s Valery Plata named Player of the Year, Northwestern’s Irene Kim selected Freshman of the Year and Nebraska’s Kate Smith earned Mary Fossum Award

ROSEMONT, Ill. – The Big Ten Conference office announced the 2020 women’s golf All-Conference teams and individual award winners on Monday. Michigan State’s Valery Plata was named the women’s golf Big Ten Player of the Year, Northwestern’s Irene Kim received Freshman of the Year accolades and Nebraska’s Kate Smith earned the Mary Fossum Award.

Plata earned Player of the Year honors after she completed the year ranked 26th by Golfweek and 72nd by Golfstat. The sophomore earned medalist honors at the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational (-11; 205), in addition to placing in the top 20 in five of her six events. Plata tied for second at the Mary Fossum Invitational (+1; 220), tied for 17th at the Landfall Tradition (+2; 218), tied for 12th at the UCF Challenge (-3; 213) and tied for 19th at the All State Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate (E; 219). Plata is the sixth Spartan to earn the award and first since Sarah Burnham won back-to-back honors in 2017 and 2018.

Kim was named Freshman of the Year after completing her rookie campaign ranked 88th by Golfweek and 108th by Golfstat. Kim earned the first medalist honor of her collegiate career at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic (-9; 207). She also earned a top-20 finish at the Bruin Wave Invitational where she finished tie for 17th (+9; 225). Kim is the fifth Wildcat to claim this honor and first since Stephanie Lau in 2016.

Nebraska’s Kate Smith earned the Mary Fossum Award, honoring the conference player with the lowest stroke average relative to par this season, at .018.

2020 BIG TEN WOMEN’S GOLF ALL-CONFERENCE AND INDIVIDUAL AWARD WINNERS
Women’s Golf Big Ten Player of the Year:
 Valery Plata, Michigan State
Big Ten Freshman of the Year: Irene Kim, Northwestern
Mary Fossum Award: Kate Smith, Nebraska

All-Big Ten Teams

First Team

Priscilla Schmid, Indiana

Valery Plata, Michigan State

Allyson Geer-Park, Michigan State

Ashley Kim, Michigan

Kate Smith, Nebraska

Kelly Sim, Northwestern

Yurika Tanida, Michigan State

Second Team

Tristyn Nowlin, Illinois

Irene Kim, Northwestern

Virun Olankitkunchai, Maryland

Brooke Riley, Northwestern

Aneka Seumanutafa, Ohio State

Paz Marfa, Michigan State

Kornkamol Sukaree, Illinois

Hailey Borja, Michigan

Sifat Sagoo, Purdue

Sportsmanship Honorees

Reena Sulkar, Illinois

Mary Parsons, Indiana

Jacque Galloway, Iowa

Elena Verticchio, Maryland

Hannah Ghelfi, Michigan

Valery Plata, Michigan Sate

Grace Curran, Minnesota

Kate Smith, Nebraska

Kelly Su, Northwestern

Adeena Shears, Ohio State

Sarah Willis, Penn State

Kan Bunnabodee, Purdue

Maeve Rossi, Rutgers

Tess Hackworthy, Wisconsin

TODAY IN SPORTS HISTORY-1974

PHILADELPHIA-The Philadelphia Flyers arrived today. With a remarkable 1‚0 shutout of the Boston Bruins at the Spectrum, the National Hockey League’s West Division champions turned back the East Division champions, 4 games to 2, and became the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup and the league title.

Nothing better typified a championship victory for the Flyers in their seventh season of existence than a shutout, a tribute to Bernie Parent, their goalie. Although it was the first time he held the high-scoring Bruins scoreless, Parent’s sensational performances in the six games earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy as the outstanding player in the series.

The deciding goal today was scored by Rick MacLeish in the first period. MacLeish scored 13 goals in the playoffs to lead all players. However, none could have been more important to him and his team than the last one, on which he barely saw the puck and had little to do except to be in the right spot at the right time. Andre (Moose) Dupont, a Flyer defenseman, had received the puck at his position on the right point from MacLeish, who won the face-off from Gregg Sheppard on Philadelphia’s first and only power play in the opening period. Dupont skated inside the blue line to the center and let go a soft shot at Gilles Gilbert, the Boston goalie. MacLeish, in the meantime, was battling Dallas Smith and Carol Vadnais, Boston defensemen, for position in front of the net. The puck struck Rick in the upper leg, deflected off his stick and slithered past Gilbert into the goal.

“Aw, I saw that lousy shot by Dupont,” said the 24-year-old Gilbert. “But when a puck bounces off somebody on the way, you don’t know if it’s going high or low, right or left.”

When Bobby Orr, Boston’s superstar, was sent off the ice by Referee Art Skov for tackling Bobby Clarke on a breakaway with just 2 minutes 22 seconds left, it signaled the end of the game for all intents and purposes. Orr sat disconsolately in the penalty box and watched the Flyer fans create bedlam until the final buzzer sounded.

Then, with Parent and Clarke leading the way, the Flyers skated round the rink carrying the Stanley Cup as hundreds of fans swarmed on the ice. Those in the stands clapped and yelled and cried. The ending was almost as emotional as the beginning. First the rink crew wheeled in an organ, then they laid down a 30-foot carpet. And out stepped Kate Smith, in person, the good-luck “charm” of the Flyers. A recording of “God Bless America” by her had been “good luck,” for the Flyers had won 36 of the 40 games at which it was played.

Kate gave it everything she had. She waved passionately to the roaring crowd. She threw punches in the air, and the fans screamed louder. With a spotlight on her, she aimed her hand pistol-like at the Bruins, and then started singing “God Bless America.”

The rafters resounded, everybody joined in, and when she finished, the famous singer left in a tumult. But not before Orr and Phil Esposito stopped her to shake hands, hoping, perhaps, some of the luck would rub off.

ALSO:

1984: The Edmonton Oilers, featuring one of the highest-scoring offenses in N.H.L. history, ended the Islanders’ four-year Stanley Cup reign with a 5‚2 victory in Game 5 at Northlands Coliseum. Wayne Gretzky showed the way with two goals in the opening period.

1973: Secretariat, who had won the Kentucky Derby two weeks before, made a bold move in the backstretch and thundered home ahead of Sham to win the Preakness Stakes by two and a half lengths in 1 minute 542û5 seconds. The time was two-fifths of a second off the track record and made Secretariat the prohibitive favorite to win the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes.

1989: The N.C.A.A., whose investigation had led to the resignations of Coach Eddie Sutton and Athletic Director Cliff Hagan months earlier, placed the University of Kentucky’s storied basketball program on probation for three years for widespread recruiting and academic violations.

TODAY IN BASEBALL HISTORY

1915       Pirates player-manager Fred Clarke files for the patent for flip down sunglasses designed to for use in the outfield. In addition to the sunglasses, which the future Hall of Famer believes are “good for motorists, too,” also creates and will be issued patents for a sliding pad and a mechanical method of positioning the tarpaulin.

1918       The Senators play the District’s first Sunday game, beating Cleveland in a dramatic, 1-0 twelve-inning contest in front of the largest crowd in the history of American League Park. The 17,000 spectators packed into the Washington D.C. ballpark include 2,000 soldiers, who are guests of the team, several U.S. Senators, and a Justice from the Supreme Court.

1929       At Yankee Stadium in the section known as Ruthville, a 17 year-old college sophomore and a sixty year-old truck driver die, with another seventy-five fans reported hurt when an unusually violent storm causes the overcapacity crowd in the right-field bleachers to stampede trying to seek cover. The incident occurs when the sudden cloudburst makes it obvious the contest will end with New York ahead of the Red Sox, 3-0, at the end of four and a half innings, making it an official game.

1933       For the first time in major league history, brothers on opposite teams homer in the same game. Red Sox catcher Rick Ferrell takes his brother Wes deep, but the Indians’ righty returns the favor as he homers in the third on a pitch called by his sibling.

1941       Lefty Grove wins his twentieth consecutive game at Fenway Park, the longest home-park streak in the big leagues. 
The southpaw starter establishes the new record when the Red Sox beat Detroit, 4-2.

1954       Bob Carpenter apologizes to second baseman Granny Hamner for having him followed by a detective. Although his team is one game-behind from first place, the Phillies’ owner suspected his players were not ready to play mentally or physically.

1956       Dale Long’s eighth-inning Forbes Field’s two-run round-tripper against Chicago is the first in a string of eight consecutive games in which the Pirates’ first baseman will homer. Don Mattingly (Yankees, 1987) and Ken Griffey Jr. (Mariners, 1993) will match the Adam, MA native’s major league mark.

1962       Cardinal Stan Musial singles for his 3,431st career hit, establishing a National League record. ‘Stan the Man’ delivers the historic hit as a pinch-hitter, something he will accomplish coming off the bench 14 times in 19 at-bats (.735) this season.

1968       At Tiger stadium, Earl Wilson stops Senator Frank Howard’s home run streak. The ‘Capital Punisher’ had established the major league mark by hitting ten home runs in the previous six games.

1972       In an exchange of outfielders, Cincinnati trades Bernie Carbo, their number-one pick in the 1965 draft, to the Cardinals for Joe Hague. Unknown at the time, the move is precipitated by an ugly incident that occurred when the spring training hold-out becomes physical with Reds’ GM Bob Howsam during a contentious negotiation session.

1976       The day after Carl Yastrzemski passes Boston legend Ted Williams for the most games played in a Red Sox uniform he enjoys a memorable day a the plate, going 4-for-4, including three home runs and 4 RBIs. Yaz’s offensive output contributes to the team’s 9-2 victory over the Tigers in the Motor City.

1979       After a bitter six-week strike, the major league umpires return to work when the MLUA and MLB come to terms on a contract that includes allowing umps to have in-season vacations, the institution of a 401(k) plan, increases in salaries, pensions, and per diems, and a return to merit-based assignments for post-season games. During the work stoppage, amateur arbiters replaced the men in blue.

1981       After giving up a single to leadoff hitter Terry Harper, Pirates’ hurler Jim Bibby retires the next 27 Braves en route to a 5-0 one-hitter. The right-hander threw a no-hitter as a rookie with the Rangers.

1984       Joining the club in St. Louis, Eric Davis makes his major league debut, grounding out to short as a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning of the Reds’ 9-1 loss to the Redbirds. The 22 year-old rookie is forced to wear a numberless jersey when Cincinnati forgets to pack an extra road uniform.

1993       With the team record mired at 13-25, Jeff Torborg is replaced by Dallas Green as the Mets skipper. The 1990 American League Manager of the Year with the White Sox posted an 85-115 record (.425) during his brief stint with New York.

1994       The first ‘Jay Buhner Buzz Cut Night,’ which will become a very popular recurring promotion, is held at the Kingdome. Mariners fans, willing to have their heads shaved to emulate the team’s right fielder, who plays an active role by encouraging fans to participate and giving a few haircuts himself, receive free admission to seats in right field to cheer on ‘Bone.’

1998       For the second time this season and fourth time in his career, Mark McGwire hits three homers in a game. ‘Big Mac’ becomes the 12th player to have two three-homer games in a season when he smacks three two-run round-trippers against the Phillies.

1998       After giving up an eighth-inning three-run homer to Bernie Williams, Armando Benitez nails Tino Martinez between the shoulder blades, igniting a bench-clearing brawl. Graeme Lloyd races in from the Yankee bullpen to punch the O’s closer, and Alan Mills bloodies Darryl Strawberry’s face after the New York outfielder ends up in the Baltimore dugout also trying to get a shot at Benitez.

2000       In the park’s last year, Jason Kendall became the first Pirate to hit for the cycle in Three Rivers Stadium. The Pittsburgh backstop has a two-run homer in the first, a single in the second, a double in the third, and a two-run triple in the eighth to join Giant Jeff Kent (1999) as the only player to accomplish the feat in the stadium’s 31-year history.

2001       Reversing their original decision, the Elias Sports Bureau, major league baseball’s official statistician, will now list Randy Johnson’s 20 strikeouts as tying a record. Although the game went extra innings, the Big Unit’s nine-inning performance is now noted along with the Roger Clemens and Kerry Wood 20K outings in the 2002 record book.

2002       Cubs’ first baseman Fred McGriff’s two-run homer at Miller Park ties Ellis Burks’ record of homering in 40 different major league parks. The ‘Crime Dog’s’ eighth-inning blast knots the score 3-3 in an eventual 4-3, 11-inning victory over the Brewers, snapping Chicago’s nine-game losing streak.

2004       Brad Thompson breaks a 97 year-old minor league record set in 1907 by Irvin Wilhelm by hurling 57 consecutive scoreless innings. The 22 year-old Cardinals farmhand, playing in the Southern League for the Tennessee Smokies, falls just two innings short of Orel Hershiser’s professional mark of 59 established in 1988.

2004       Yankee spokesman Jason Zillo announces Cracker Jack, which has been baseball’s most famous snack for over 100 years, will not be sold at Yankee Stadium and will be replaced by a product known as Crunch ‘n Munch. The change, short-lived due to the fans’ negative reaction, is being made, according to Yankees’ officials, because Crunch ‘n Munch tastes better, but may have happened due to Frito-Lay’s decision to package the game’s well-known treat in only bags and not boxes.

2004       Breaking his own record set two weeks ago, Julio Franco becomes the oldest player to hit a pinch-hit home run. The Braves’ first baseman is 45 years, 269 days old when he accomplishes the feat.

2008       Jon Lester, diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma two seasons ago, no-hits the Royals, 7-0, becoming only the third lefty in franchise history to throw a no-no at Fenway Park. The 24 year-old’s batterymate, Jason Varitek, also makes the record books for being the first backstop to catch four no-hitters in the majors.

2009       Dontrelle Willis wins his first game in nearly 20 months, limiting the opposition to one hit in 6+ innings in the Tigers’ 4-0 victory over Texas. The former 2003 National League Rookie of the Year, who signed a three-year deal worth $29 million with Detroit last season, was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder during spring training.

2010       After being benched for criticizing Fredi Gonzalez, who pulled him from the previous game for loafing, Hanley Ramirez, at the prompting of Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Tony Perez, apologizes to his manager and individually to his teammates prior to today’s contest in St. Louis. The visiting All-Star shortstop and reigning National League batting champ, amidst of being booed by the Busch Stadium fans, collects three hits and drives in a run in the Marlins’ 5-1 victory over the Redbirds.

2010       Mets center fielder Angel Pagan initiates the tenth triple play in franchise history when he snags Nationals’ Cristian Guzman’s sinking liner with first and second base occupied. After making a catch that totally surprises baserunners, the outfielder overthrows the infield, but catcher Henry Blanco takes the errant toss and throws the ball to Jose Reyes at second base to double off Livan Hernandez, who relays the ball to first baseman Ike Davis to triple up Nyjer Morgan, making it the first 9-2-6-3 triple killing in major league history.

2011       In the Rockies’ 7-1 victory over Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Park, 40 year-old Jason Giambi becomes the second-oldest player to hit three homers in a game. In 1962, Stan Musial became the oldest major leaguer to accomplish the feat when he hit a trio of round-trippers at the age of 41 facing the Mets in the Polo Grounds.

2013       After pinch-runner Cliff Lee becomes a pickoff victim at first base in the bottom of the ninth inning, Phillies catcher Erik Kratz, who did not start the contest, ties the game with a solo home run to left field off Cincinnati flame thrower Aroldis Chapman. The next batter, Freddie Galvis, blasts a home run to complete the improbable Citizens Bank Park comeback, giving Philadelphia a dramatic 3-2 walk-off victory.

2016       At U.S. Cellular Field, Chris Sale, with a four-hit complete-game 2-1 victory over the Astros, improves his record to 9-0 to become the first White Sox pitcher in nearly a century to win his first nine starts of the season. Ed Cicotte also accomplished the feat during the infamous 1919 Black Sox season.

WORLD SERIES HISTORY-1960

Pittsburgh Pirates (4) vs New York Yankees (3)

After a thirty-three year hiatus, baseball’s first modern National League champions (1901), the Pittsburgh Pirates finally returned to the Fall Classic. Their opponent, the American League’s New York Yankees had participated in eight of the last ten contests and only had to wait one year to get back to the big show.

Pittsburgh had no problem knocking off their “postseason cobwebs” and started strong with an opening 6-4 win against the perennial champs in Game 1 at Forbes Field.

However, their initial momentum was cut short as the Yanks dominated Games 2 and 3. Mickey Mantle did more than his share (two home runs and five runs batted in) and his teammates followed close behind totaling nineteen hits off of six different Pirate pitchers. The result was a 16-3 victory in the Steel City and a 10-0 shutout back home in the Bronx. Bobby Richardson took Mantle’s example in the opener and added a grand slam off of reliever Clem Labine in the third and a two run single giving him a record six RBIs. “The Mick” responded with two more home runs of his own and three other hits, while Whitey Ford tossed his usual four hitter.

A determined Pirate team went back to the basics and gave the ball to first-game winner Vern Law for Game 4. The National League’s Cy Young Award winner, combined with relief ace Roy Face to beat back the Yankees, 3-2 in an outing that was decided on Bill Virdon’s single in the fifth that scored two of Pittsburgh runs. Attempting to avoid a comeback, New York made a controversial decision and decided to go with Game 1 loser, Art Ditmar, who had only lasted 1/3 of an inning. Some believed (in retrospect) that Stengel had thought the “Bucs” would underestimate the young pitcher, giving him the advantage. Unfortunately the Yankees skipper was wrong as Bill Mazeroski took him for a key-double in the Pirate’s three run, second inning. Face returned with 2 2/3 innings of hitless relief after replacing starter and winner Harvey Haddix to nail down the 5-2 triumph which put Pittsburgh in the lead.

It was a completely different story in Game 6 as the day belonged to the “Bronx Bombers”. Richardson had two triples, Johnny Blanchard added two doubles, Roger Maris and Yogi Berra (and Blanchard) all collected three hits each and before it was over, the Yankees had finished with seventeen hits and twelve runs. Whitey Ford added to the “Buccos” embarrassment by shutting them out again and many felt that it was all but over. Despite forcing another opportunity at their own Forbes Field, Pittsburgh had clearly been dominated by New York who had outscored them a staggering 46-17 by the end of Game 6. However, Game 7 would erase those numbers and leave fans in both agony and ecstasy.

Vern Law and the rest of the Pirates showed why they were still there by rolling over New York to take an early 4-0 lead. However, the Yankees came back with key performances at the plate by Bill Skowron, Mantle and Yogi Berra who shot to a 5-4 lead going into the eighth inning. They continued to lead 7-5 and looked to be in great shape as reliever Bobby Shantz appeared at the top of his game. Fortunately for the Pirates, appearances can sometimes be deceiving.

Gino Cimoli led off the Pittsburgh eighth with a pinch-single and Bill Virdon hit a sharp grounder toward Yankees’ shortstop, Tony Kubek. After the speeding ball took a bad hop and struck Kubek in the throat (resulting in a single), Joe DeMaestri was summoned to replace him as both Pirates remained on base. Dick Groat followed with another single cutting the lead to 7-5 and Roberto Clemente kept the rally going with an infield hit that scored Virdon and advanced Groat to third. Now trailing 7-6, Pittsburgh had two runners on base and Hal Smith at the plate. Smith, who entered the game in the top of the eighth after Pirates catcher Smoky Burgess had left for a pinch-runner in the previous inning, sent shock waves through the Pittsburgh crowd by blasting a timely home run over the left-field wall.

Bob Friend, an eighteen game winner for the Pirates and the “Bucs” starter in Games 2 and 6, came on in the ninth to try to protect the 9-7 lead. The Yankees Bobby Richardson and pinch-hitter Dale Long both greeted Friend with singles and Pirates manager, Danny Murtaugh was forced to lift the veteran pitcher in favor of Harvey Haddix. Although he forced Roger Maris to foul out, Haddix gave up a key single to Mantle that scored Richardson and moved Long to third. Berra followed suite hitting a short grounder to first, with Rocky Nelson stepping on the base for the second out. In what, at the time, stood as a monumental play, Mantle, seeing he had no chance to beat a play at second, scurried back to first and avoided Nelson’s tag (which would have been the third out) as McDougald raced home to tie the score, 9-9. The Yankees were still alive.

Ralph Terry, who had gotten the final out in the Pirates’ eighth, returned to the mound in the bottom of the ninth to finish the job. The first man he faced was Bill Mazeroski. With a count of one ball and no strikes, the Pirates’ second baseman smashed a historical long drive over the wall in left ending the contest and crowning the National League as champions.

As the Pirates erupted in a wild celebration, the Yankees stood in disbelief knowing that they had clearly dominated the series, but were unable to finish the task. The improbable champions were outscored, 55-27, and out-hit, 91-60, but in the end the home team prevailed. Years later, Mickey Mantle was quoted as saying that losing the 1960 series was the biggest disappointment of his career. For Bill Mazeroski, it was the highlight.

BASEBALL’S BEST: NORM CASH

Norm Cash would have loved it. The story drew upon metaphors including baseball, the Old West, and the camaraderie of friends. Its title, City Slickers, was evocative of the relationship between the burly cowboy and the legions of brewers, auto manufacturers, and teamsters who became his fans. The director, Billy Crystal, who also played the protagonist Mitch Robbins, later filmed a motion picture about the 1961 American League baseball season at Tiger Stadium. In a poignant scene, an elderly cattle driver named Curly, played by Jack Palance, teaches Mitch the meaning of life. Moments later, “Mitchy the Kid” delivers a calf, who he names Norman. Sadly, Norm Cash never had the opportunity to see City Slickers. It was released in theaters in 1991, five years after he drowned in a tragic boat accident. But just who was Norm Cash? He was a larger than life first baseman from Texas who lived, drank, and played hard, sang country and western in the clubhouse, and could be depended upon in clutch situations. This is his story.

Norman Dalton Cash was born on November 10, 1934, in Justiceburg, Texas. A railroad junction located southeast of Lubbock, Justiceburg boasted a population of 25 according to the 1925 population census. Fittingly, its most famous citizen wore 25 as his uniform number for most of his professional baseball career. Cash’s most dominant childhood memories were of helping on the family farm: “My dad’s life was hard work…he had 250 acres of fertile land and we grew cotton on 200 acres.  I drove a tractor from the time I was ten. Sometimes I drove it ten to twelve hours.”

Working with a hoe on the farm also allowed him to develop his wrists. Ironically, those who knew Cash during his youth remember his athletic abilities, not on the baseball diamond but on the football gridiron. In 1955, during his senior year at Sul Ross State College in San Angelo, he set the school rushing record with 1,255 yards. Following graduation, Cash was even drafted in the 13th round as a halfback by the Chicago Bears. Instead, he chose baseball, signing with the Chicago White Sox as an outfielder on May 21, 1955. Meanwhile, Cash had married his childhood sweetheart, schoolteacher Myrta Bob Harper, on January 24, 1954.

After two seasons at Ft. Bliss, the left-handed hitter and fielder was promoted to Comiskey Park midway through the 1958 season. Cash was soon converted to a first baseman, and after some seasoning at Indianapolis, he was recalled by the White Sox in 1959. Playing backup to Earl Torgeson, Cash batted only .240 but fielded a stellar .993 in 31 games. The White Sox, led by speedy infielders Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox, raced to the summit of the American League standings, hitting 46 triples and stealing 113 bases in 94 victories. The “Go-Go Sox” outdistanced second-place Cleveland by five games to capture their first pennant in 40 years. However, the Sox were badly overmatched by the Los Angeles Dodgers, losing the World Series in six games. Much like their 1906 predecessor, the ’59 incarnation of the White Sox were, indeed, hitless wonders. Not even late season acquisition Ted Kluszewski could save the Sox from their 97 aggregate home runs and anemic .250 batting average. During the offseason, President Bill Veeck acquired veteran Roy Sievers, Gene Freese, and Minnie Minoso to bolster Chicago’s offense. However, he was forced to mortgage his future prospects, including Earl Battey, Don Mincher, Johnny Callison — and Norm Cash. No match for Kluszewski and Torgeson, Cash was sent to Cleveland with Bubba Phillips and Johnny Romano in the seven-player Minoso deal on December 6, 1959.

Although Cash wore a Cleveland cap on his 1960 Topps baseball card, he never played an inning for the Indians. On April 12, as the Tribe headed north from Tucson at the conclusion of spring training, Cash found himself traded yet again. This time, he was dispatched to Detroit in exchange for outfielder Steve Demeter. Detroit general manager Rick Ferrell was dumbfounded when Frank Lane, his Cleveland counterpart, offered Cash for Demeter, unsure if he meant “cold cash or Norm Cash?” While Demeter’s career with the Indians consisted of merely four games, Cash became a fixture at first base in Detroit for 15 years. Lane was not through making controversial trades with the Tigers. Five days later, he sent Rocky Colavito to Michigan for Harvey Kuenn, and later in 1960, the two clubs swapped managers, Joe Gordon for Jimmie Dykes.

Cash’s teammates took an immediate liking to him. A comedian both on the field and in the clubhouse, he once tried to call time after being picked off first base. In another instance, Cash was stranded on second base during a thunderstorm. Once play resumed, however, he returned to third base. The umpire was baffled.

“What are you doing over there?”

“I stole third,” he answered.

“When did that happen?”

“During the rain.”

On several occasions, he gave a muddy infield ball to the pitcher instead of the game ball so the hitters could not see it as well. Al Kaline remembers:

“Whenever you mention Norm Cash, I just smile. He was just a fun guy to be around and a great teammate. He always came ready to play. People don’t know this, but he often played injured, like the time he had a broken finger.” Sonny Eliot, Detroit’s ageless wacky weather man, describes Cash as “just old fashioned likeable,” comparing his physical form to a kewpie doll from a state fair. “Whenever he came to bat, I would yell ‘Hey kewpie doll,’ and he’d turn around and laugh.” It was another Southerner and recent transplant to Detroit who presented Cash with his nickname: “I was in Baltimore [for six years] and there was a fellow there named Norman Almony,” remembers Ernie Harwell. “Everybody called him Stormin Norman. When Norman Cash lost his temper once in a while, I gave him the nickname Stormin Norman. I don’t think he liked it at first, but after a while, he started treasuring it.”

After a respectable 1960 season in which he batted .286 with 18 home runs, Cash captured the baseball world by storm in 1961. Although playing in the shadow of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, Cash posted one of the most outstanding offensive single season records in American League history. Stormin’ Norman led the junior circuit with 193 hits and a .361 batting average. Number 25 also established personal marks of 41 home runs, 132 RBIs, and eight triples. Even more astounding, he hit .388 on the road! Facing Washington’s Joe McClain on June 11, Cash became the first Detroit player to clear the Tiger Stadium roof, hitting a home run that landed on Trumbull Avenue. Another against Boston’s Don Schwall struck a police tow truck. He was equally skilled at first base, fielding a sterling .993 as he caught dozens of long foul balls before they could fly into the stands. With Kaline’s .324 batting average and Colavito’s .290 complementing Cash in the lineup, the Tigers, led by Frank Lary and his 23 victories, challenged the Yankees for the American League pennant. The Bengals came within a game and a half of the Bronx Bombers on September 1 before retracting to finish eight behind in the standings with 101 victories.

Was Norm Cash destined to become a one-year wonder? Even at the time, he knew his ’61 season was a freak, saying that everything he hit seemed to drop in, even when he didn’t make good contact. After Frank Lary injured his leg on Opening Day and Al Kaline broke his shoulder during a nationally televised game in May, it became clear that the Tigers would not again challenge the Yankees in 1962. The season was equally disappointing for Cash, who batted only .243 for the season. The 118 points shaved from his average remains a record of futility among batting champs. Cash ultimately found his swing, batting .342 in an autumn exhibition trip to Japan, but by that point, the regular season was long over. Still the 1962 season was far from a write-off for the affable Texan. Cash hit 39 home runs, including three more roof shots, as the league runner-up to Harmon Killebrew’s 48. His .993 fielding percentage was identical to his 1961 average.

Cash never again cracked the .300 plateau. Years later, when Mickey Lolich asked why, he replied that “Jim Campbell pays me to hit home runs.” Indeed, Cash’s 373 home runs for the Tigers remains second only to Al Kaline’s 399 among aggregate team records. However, it soon became evident that other factors besides the maturation of expansion pitching compromised Stormin’ Norman’s batting average. Cheating in baseball was as much an issue in 1961 as it remains today, and Sonny Eliot remembers why Norm Cash called that season “the Year of the Quick Bat.”

“We used to sit in the old Lindell’s A.C.,” said Eliot, referring to the popular watering hole adjacent to Tiger Stadium. “We’d just rib the hell out of him. ‘Did you put cork in the bat? If not cork, was it lead?’ Or whatever it was, we’d just rib him.”  He struck out frequently, and fans expecting another batting title consistently booed cash for the balance of his career. Even his wife joined in the chorus on occasion. Stormin’ Norman knew that inherently, they were as good natured as he was. After all, when Mayo Smith removed Cash from the lineup during a slump, the manager was also booed. Although he was not bothered by the sounds of tens of thousands of boos, “when one or two guys get on your back, they drive you nuts.” For their appreciation of his congeniality and humor, the Tigers Fan Club crowned Cash as King Tiger in 1969. George Cantor described Cash as “the most popular man on the team,” who knew “all the best watering holes” throughout the American League.

Although Cash stifled the cork in 1962 and thereafter, he sound found himself fighting a much larger battle in alcoholism. Denny McLain described his roommate as “a modern medical miracle,” who abused his body so mercilessly that he “should [have turned] it over to the Mayo Clinic.” Stormin’ Norman violated every curfew rule in the book, but he somehow arrived at the ballpark every day, “not only eager to play, but madder than hell if he didn’t.” Granted, Cash rarely showed up on time: he “could not make 9:00 am workouts because he threw up until 10:00 am.” McLain credited hustle and determination as the secret to Cash’s big league longevity, although the bespectacled righthander did admit that he was  often bewildered “how he managed to remain upright” when he took the field. Still, McLain admitted that “I always felt better about everything when I looked over and saw Stormin’ Norman at first base.” Players were rarely unanimously accepted by their peers, but Cash proved an exception. As pitcher Jerry Casale once conveyed, “on a team with so many friends, there was no one nicer than Norm Cash.”

Cash was nothing if not consistent for the balance of the 1960s. He was the only American League hitter to slug 20 or better home runs each year from 1961 to 1969. In 1964, he set a record among Detroit first baseman by fielding an outstanding .997. On July 9, 1965, Stormin’ Norman hit an inside-the-park home run against the A’s at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City. The blast must have ignited Cash’s non-corked bat, as he decimated American League pitching with 23 home runs and 58 RBIs in 78 games after the All-Star break. His second-half exploits earned him Comeback Player of the Year honors, and in 1966, he was invited to the All-Star Game. Cash, once again, led junior circuit first basemen in fielding with a .997 percentage. Meanwhile, the Cash family was expanding, as Norm and Myrta welcomed son Jay Carl on April 28, 1963, and daughter Julie Lee on December 28, 1964.

Stormin’ Norman proved to be the exception on the 1968 Tigers as he was fighting an early season slump. On July 27, the 6-foot-0 Cash was barely hitting his weight, batting .195 on a team cruising to its first American League pennant in 23 years. In dramatic fashion, he hit a torrid .333 in his last 54 games to finish the season at .263. Included in his 12 home runs and 33 RBIs in August and September was a three-run blast against Oakland on September 14. The winning pitcher of the 5-4 decision was Denny McLain, his 30th of the season. Cash led Tigers batsmen in the World Series, hitting .385 against Cardinals pitching. Setting a dubious October record as Bob Gibson’s 16th strikeout in Game One, he redeemed himself the following afternoon, homering off Nellie Briles in an 8-1 complete-game victory for Mickey Lolich. Facing elimination in Game ESix, Cash enjoyed another productive day at the plate, accounting for two of the 13 Detroit runs, tying the Series at three games. This set the stage for an historic Game Seven. The Tigers were unfazed at the prospect of facing a pitcher who specialized in winning Game Sevens, Bob Gibson. In the clubhouse after practice, manager Mayo Smith encouraged his players that Gibson “can be beat, he’s not Superman!” To this, Cash chimed “Oh yeah? Just a little while ago, I saw him changing in a phone booth!” Tigers hitters proved to be Kryptonite with two outs and no score in the seventh inning. Cash ignited a Detroit rally with a single off Gibson, and later put the Tigers ahead as the first runner to score on Jim Northrup’s triple. The final score was 4-1, and the Detroit Tigers were world champions.

After being relegated to pinch hitting in 1970, Cash enjoyed a renaissance season playing in the Renaissance City in 1971. So torrid was his first half that spectators across Major League ballparks voted him to start the All-Star Game on July 13. Played in Detroit, it drew 53,559 spectators. American League manager Earl Weaver, however, took exception to Cash’s assignment, as he was not the reigning MVP playing for the defending World Champions. Boog Powell, Weaver’s first baseman in Baltimore, could claim both. Accordingly, Weaver, scrapped Cash from the lineup and replaced him with Powell. The roster move was not kindly received by the Detroit faithful. After public address announcer Joe Gentile introduced the National League All-Stars were announced, he began to present the American League. Starting with Weaver! Again, a cloud of boos rained over Tiger Stadium. Although Rod Carew was the next to be announced, the Twins’ second baseman did not take his place when called. Carew was apprehended by Cash and Bobby Murcer to prevent him from leaving the dugout, thereby prolonging the catcalls. Only after a prolonged interval did Carew emerge, breaking up the hecklers.

When the dust cleared on the 1971 season, the Tigers had won 91 games, but finished 10 games behind Earl Weaver and the Orioles. Stormin’ Norman clubbed 32 round trippers — one shy of Bill Melton’s league lead — while driving in 91 runs, batting a respectable .283. His offensive record was enough to win his second American League Comeback Player of the Year Award. It would have surprised nobody to hear Cash proclaim, after accepting the honor, that he hoped he would win the award again next year. Cash was, however, named to the All-Star team once again in 1972, his fourth and final trip to the midsummer classic. is offensive output may have retracted, but the Tigers vaulted ahead in the standings to win their first American League East Division title.

A player known for his pranks, Cash saved his most famous stunt for the twilight of his career. It occurred on July 15, 1973, as the Tigers entertained the visiting California Angels. Not one Detroit batsman had hit safely off starting pitcher Nolan Ryan. With two away in the bottom of the ninth, the Ryan Express had already fanned 16 as his Angels led, 6-0. Potentially the final hitter of the game, Norm Cash strode to the plate substituting a table leg for a bat. Home plate umpire Ron Luciano forbade Cash’s creative use of equipment. Cash protested, “But Ron, I’ve got as much chance with this as I do with a bat.” As Jim Northrup remembered from the third base dugout, Cash reluctantly retrieved a bat and struck out on three pitchers against his fellow

Texan. The no-hitter was Ryan’s second in as many months; as Cash returned to the dugout, he turned to Luciano and expressed, “See, I told ya.”

The 1974 season was a transitional one for the Tigers and their personnel. For only the second time in franchise history, Detroit finished the season in last place. Stormin’ Norman no longer held the nomenclatural monopoly when youthful infielder Ron Cash joined the Tigers in spring training. Equipment manager John Hand wanted to change the name on Norm’s uniform, but the first baseman refused. Cash exclaimed in disgust, “If the people can’t tell the difference between me and the other guy, something’s the matter!” He became even more incensed when he received a telephone call from the general manager on August 7. Batting only .228 with 12 home runs and 12 RBIs, Cash was released. “I thought at least they’d let me finish out the year. Campbell just called and said I didn’t have to show up at the park.”

Norm Cash was a player who knew his baseball career would not last forever. As a player, his offseason occupations included banking, ranching, and auctioning hogs. In the early 1970s, Cash hosted a local variety show in Detroit called “The Norm Cash Show.” In 1976, he teamed with former October archrival Bob Gibson as broadcasters for ABC Monday Night Baseball. Although Cash continued to display his brand of humor, it was not appreciated by all. On-air remarks such as equating entertainment in Baltimore with going “down to the street and [watching] hubcaps rust” earned Cash his dismissal from the network. In 1978, he made his film debut with a cameo appearance in One in a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story. In a scene filmed at Lakeland, Cash was standing with Kaline, Freehan, and Northrup to watch LeFlore in first spring training after accepting his release from Jackson State Prison. When the others marveled at his speed, Cash chimed in with “He can’t be too fast, the cops caught him.”

Now divorced from Myrta, Cash married his second wife Dorothy on May 22, 1973. They moved upstate from Detroit, first to Union Lakes, where Cash worked as a sales representative for an automobile machinery manufacturer. When asked, Cash remarked that “it’s good money…but to tell the truth I’m looking for something else to do.” Sadly, the good times were short-lived. As Detroit automakers proved to be no competition for Japanese imports, Cash’s financial windfall proved to be short term. His health began to deteriorate, suffering a massive stroke in 1979. As Ernie Harwell remembers, Cash was out of commission for quite a while. Fortunately, by 1981 he was healthy enough to broadcast Tigers games for the ON-TV cable network. He and Hank Aguirre provided color commentary alongside Larry Adderly’s play-by-play. By 1983, partial paralysis of his face made him slur his words and he could no longer continue. In 1986, Cash returned to Tiger Stadium to participate in the Equitable Old Timers’ Game. Fans were shocked to see the first baseman a shadow of his physical self. He could no longer field routine infield balls, as a throw from third base hit him in the head before bouncing away. Cash handled the situation with humor, but privately, he was embarrassed by the incident. What nobody realized at the time is that the appearance would be his last at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.

Scott McKinstry remembers Sunday evening of the Columbus Day weekend being a grey, misty one. “I was standing at the lighthouse…on Lake Michigan looking out over the water to where boats head out from Charlevoix to Beaver Island.” The weather forecast echoed the somber mood to be shared by Tigers fans in unison. Earlier in the day, Cash left his condominium to meet Dorothy and a friend for dinner at the Shamrock Bar on Beaver Island. Those present could affirm that Cash had been drinking. After dinner, he returned to the dock to check on his boat after dinner. Unable to navigate the slippery pier in cowboy boots, he fell into the water and could not pull himself out. The next morning, he was found floating in 15 feet of water in St. James Bay. Norman Dalton Cash was pronounced dead on October 12, 1986. He was 51 years old. Tragedy would hit the Cash family a second time in 1987 when Norm’s son Jay committed suicide.

Like Buddy Holly before him, the Texas legend of Norm Cash lives on. Ernie Harwell recalls receiving an autographed photo from Cash inscribed with his trademark humor, “to the second-best broadcaster in the big leagues. The other 25 tied for first place.” Gary Peters, who broke in with the White Sox concomitantly with Cash, remembers his diverse collection of hobbies which included horseback riding, fencing, waterskiing, dancing, and playing the ukulele. Whitey Herzog, Cash’s roommate in 1963, once claimed that “there was nothing Norm Cash couldn’t do.” Describing Cash as his roommate, however, might have been an exaggeration; Herzog recalls the experience as “just like having your own room.” On April 23, 2005, the sandlot in Post, Texas where Stormin’ Norman played Little League, was rededicated in memory of Garza County’s most famous athlete as Norm Cash Field.

Perhaps the most vocal and outward posthumous tribute to Norm Cash in the final hours of the ballpark whose first base he called home from the Eisenhower to the Nixon administration. A sellout crowd of 43,556 jammed Tiger Stadium on September 27, 1999 for the final game against the Kansas City Royals. Several Tigers switched uniform numbers to pay homage to players who passed before them. Paying tribute to Ty Cobb, Gabe Kapler did not wear any number at all. Rookie Rob Fick switching his number 18 for 25 to honor Norm Cash. Only Fick went one step further. The Tigers enjoyed a comfortable 4-2 eighth-inning lead when Fick crushed a Jeff Montgomery fastball for a grand slam home run. In true Norm Cash fashion, the ball nearly cleared the right field roof. Tom Stanton reports in The Final Season, a diary which paints Tiger Stadium as a metaphor for the bond between fathers and sons, that Fick “looked up in the sky and thought of my dad,” who passed away the year before. “I know that he had something to do with all this.”

So did Norm Cash.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME: BEN FRIEDMAN

Michigan quarterback Benny Friedman and end Bennie Oosterbaan were one of the game’s first great passing combinations. With Oosterbaan making circus catches off Friedman’s soft throws, Michigan roared from behind to beat Ohio State 17-16 in a pivotal game for the 1926 conference title. The two Bennies also led Michigan to a Big Ten title in 1925. “He never makes a mistake”, Yost said while watching Friedman capture consensus All-America honors in 1925 and 1926. He had poise and remarkable ability. The handsome son of a Cleveland, Ohio tailor, Friedman went on to play professional football, first in his hometown of Cleveland and then in Detroit before finishing up his career in New York for six seasons with the gridiron Giants and Dodgers. Friedman hated to lose, and his combativeness, wild inventiveness and determination to win drew thousands of fans Sunday after Sunday. In all of his years as a player, college or pro, Friedman never suffered an injury and never missed a game.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S BEST: DICK BUTKUS

Dick Butkus (LB, Illinois, 1962-64)
Tackles: 374 | Tackles per game: 14.4
Legendary sports writer Dan Jenkins once wrote that if every college football team had a linebacker like Butkus, “all fullbacks would soon be 3 feet tall and sing soprano.” Few linebackers hit as hard or as often as Butkus, a two-time All-American at Illinois. He was named the Big Ten’s MVP in 1963 and finished third in Heisman Trophy voting the next year. Against Ohio State in 1963, Butkus made 23 tackles, a school record at the time. In 1985, a trophy awarded to the best linebacker in college football was named in his honor.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: 1942-43

At a Glance
NCAA Champion–Wyoming (31-2; coached by Everett Shelton/fourth of 19 seasons with Cowboys; won Big Seven Conference by three games with an 11-1 record).
NIT Champion–St. John’s (21-3; coached by Joe Lapchick/seventh of 20 seasons with Redmen).
New Conference–Metropolitan New York (disbanded after 1962-63 season).
New Rule–Any player eligible to start an overtime period is allowed an extra personal foul, increasing the total for disqualification to five fouls.
NCAA Consensus First-Team All-Americans–Ed Beisser, C, Sr., Creighton (10.9 ppg); Charles Black, F, Soph., Kansas (11.4 ppg); Harry Boykoff, C, Soph., St. John’s (16.6 ppg); Bill Closs, C-F, Sr., Rice (17 ppg); Andy Phillip, F, Jr., Illinois (16.9 ppg); George Senesky, F, Sr., St. Joseph’s (23.4 ppg).

Illinois, undefeated in Big Ten competition (12-0) after having four sophomore starters on a league championship squad dubbed “The Whiz Kids” the previous season, placed four players on the first five of the all-conference team–forward Andy Phillip, center Art Mathisen and guards Gene Vance and Jack Smiley. The fifth Illini starter was named to the second five–forward Ken Menke. Phillip was the first player to average more than 20 points per game for a full season in Big Ten play (21.3). All but Mathisen went on to play professionally

This is the only year when the Big Ten wasn’t represented in the NCAA Tournament. lllinois, the only Big Ten team to go undefeated in league play in a 30-year span from 1930-31 through 1959-60, didn’t participate in a postseason tournament although it ranked first in the final Dunkel Ratings. The school’s athletic director declined a bid because he thought it would be unfair to his players to keep them away from their classes for three weeks. The Illini’s lone loss was to Camp Grant at Rockford, Ill., where coach Doug Mills played a mostly substitute lineup. Something more pressing dismantled the team at the end of the school year when all five starters headed to active duty in the armed forces. Before entering the service, however, Phillip led the Illini’s baseball squad in innings pitched with 64. Mills won two-thirds of his games decided by fewer than four points in his 11 seasons as coach through 1946-47 (26-13 mark in that category).

Purdue’s streak of winning seasons stopped at 23 when the Boilermakers lost six of seven games in a mid-season stretch to finish with a 9-11 record. . . . Iowa sandwiched a ninth-place finish in the Big Ten between ties for second in 1941-42 and 1943-44. . . . St. Louis (11-10), coached by Bob Klenck, ended a string of seven straight losing seasons and began a streak of 19 consecutive winning records. . . . Notre Dame coach George Keogan died of a heart attack on February 17, 1943. In 24 seasons as a college coach (20 with the Irish), he never compiled a losing record and won 13 straight one-point games from 1924-25 to midway through 1933-34. Keogan passed away before ever appearing in the NIT or NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame (18-2) was still bound by the school’s ban on postseason competition. . . . Kentucky lost seven consecutive games to Notre Dame until defeating the Irish, 60-55. Notre Dame’s only other defeat this season was in its first game after Keogan’s death when the Irish bowed to a Great Lakes Naval team coached by Butler’s Tony Hinkle.

Center Ed Beisser, forward Ralph Langer and guard Dick Nolan finished their three-year varsity careers at Creighton with two Missouri Valley Conference undisputed championships and one co-championship. The No. 1 seed Bluejays were undefeated entering postseason competition but were nipped by Washington & Jefferson, 43-42, in the first round of the NIT at Madison Square Garden. They didn’t post a losing Missouri Valley Conference record in their first 15 seasons as a member of the league. . . . Toledo’s undefeated homecourt streak reached 40 games before it was snapped by DePaul, 49-40. . . . Valparaiso, compiling a 17-4 record, claimed to possess the tallest team in the country with a starting lineup averaging 6-6. . . . Western Michigan All-American forward Harold Gensichen had played in high school at South Bend, Ind., under John Wooden, who would become a college coaching legend over the next three decades.

St. Joseph’s George Senesky (23.4 ppg) became the only non-Rhode Island State player to lead the nation in scoring in a seven-year span from 1937-38 through 1943-44. Senesky went on to coach the Philadelphia Warriors to the 1956 NBA title. . . . Manhattan, boasting eight freshmen among its first 10 players, registered an 18-3 record, including a 42-38 victory over eventual NIT champion St. John’s. . . . Syracuse’s streak of 18 consecutive winning records under coach Lew Andreas ended when the Orangemen compiled an 8-10 mark. . . . Bud Palmer, who led the Ivy League in scoring in conference competition (14.2 ppg), later became a longtime network sports announcer for ABC. . . . Penn State co-captain John Egli, an NCAA East Regional all-tournament team selection the previous year, eventually became his alma mater’s all-time winningest coach in 14 seasons from 1954-55 through 1967-68. He received the Purple Heart after being wounded at Bastogne on Christmas Day, 1944, and hospitalized in England for six months. . . . Andrew “Fuzzy” Levane, the third-leading scorer for St. John’s NIT champion, went on to coach the NBA’s New York Knicks in 1958-59 and 1959-60. Teammate Lou Rossini eventually coached Columbia and NYU in the NCAA playoffs. . . . Al Negratti, a member of three Seton Hall teams that combined for a 51-7 record, later coached Portland for 12 seasons from 1955-56 through 1966-67, including an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1959. . . . Fred Lewis, LIU’s leading scorer under coach Clair Bee, coached Syracuse to an East Regional runner-up finish in the 1966 NCAA playoffs.

Rudy Baric, MVP of the NIT the previous year when he led West Virginia to the title, guided his alma mater to a 14-7 record in his only season as the Mountaineers’ coach. . . . Davidson defeated North Carolina, 57-41, for the Wildcats’ lone victory in a 19-game stretch of their series from 1939 through 1948. . . . Western Kentucky, coached by Ed Diddle, became the first school to compile 10 consecutive 20-win seasons. . . . Center Don Barksdale’s 18-point effort helped UCLA end USC’s 42-game winning streak in their intracity rivalry, 42-37. UCLA finished with a 14-7 overall mark for its first winning record in 12 years. . . . West Texas A&M went undefeated in Border Conference competition for the second consecutive campaign.

1943 NCAA Tournament
Summary: Virtually every university anticipated having players enter the military in the aftermath of the tourney. Wyoming (31-2/coached by Everett Shelton) had its winningest season in school history despite playing just nine home games during the year. After losing at Duquesne in the fourth contest of the campaign, the Cowboys did not lose to another college team the remainder of the year. Their only other setback was to the Denver Legion squad. Wyoming, the first major-college team to win 30 games in a season, would have become the only champion to trail at halftime in every tournament outing if the Cowboys didn’t score the last three baskets of the first half in the national final to lead Georgetown at intermission (18-16). Wyoming tallied the game’s last nine points as the Hoyas couldn’t hold a five-point edge with six minutes remaining.
Outcome for Defending Champion: Stanford (10-11 overall; 4-4 in conference competition) became one of only two defending champions to compile a losing record. Stanford’s first three defeats were against military base opponents. Only two teams in the nine-member PCC posted a worse league mark.
Star Gazing: Wyoming’s Kenny Sailors became the fourth consecutive Most Outstanding Player not to be his team’s leading scorer for the season. The jump shot that Sailors is credited with inventing is commonplace in today’s game, but was unheard of in his day. “If your feet left the floor,” Sailors said, “you were a freak.”
Biggest Upset: Wyoming went to New York and defeated homestanding St. John’s in overtime, 52-47, in a benefit game for the American Red Cross between the NCAA and NIT champions. Center Milo Komenich scored a game-high 20 points for Wyoming, which recovered after blowing an eight-point lead in the last two minutes of regulation.
One and Only: Wyoming’s Shelton later became the only coach to guide teams to the championship game in both the Division I and Division II Tournaments. Shelton directed Sacramento State to a second-place finish in the 1962 Division II Tournament.
Celebrity Status: Sam Mele is the only individual to lead the American League in doubles as a player and manage an A.L. team to a pennant (Minnesota Twins in 1965) after leading a school in scoring in an NCAA Tournament (total of 18 points for NYU in two losses). . . . Henry Hyde, a 12-term Republican Congressman from Illinois and eventual chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was a freshman forward-center for Georgetown. The 6-3 Hyde scored two points in a 53-49 victory over a Chicago hometown team, DePaul, and fellow freshman George Mikan in the Eastern Regional final (playoff semifinals) before going scoreless in the title game loss to Wyoming. “I can only say about the way I guarded him (Mikan scored one point in the second half) that I will burn in purgatory,” Hyde deadpanned. “The rules were considerably bent.”
Numbers Game: The only team to fail to have at least one player score in double figures in the championship game was Georgetown, a 46-34 loser against Wyoming. . . . DePaul’s Ray Meyer became the first individual to reach the national semifinals in his initial season as a head coach. . . . Texas’ John Hargis had a tourney-high 30 points in a 59-55 opening-game victory over Washington. . . . Dartmouth missed its first 34 shots in a 46-35 defeat against DePaul. . . . The Big Ten (regular-season champion Illinois), Missouri Valley (Creighton), SEC (Kentucky before Tennessee won postseason tournament) and Southern Conference (Duke before George Washington won postseason tournament) did not have representatives in the NCAA tourney.
What Might Have Been: Texas, rather than Wyoming, might have advanced to the national championship game if Longhorns guard Curtis Popham hadn’t been summoned by the Army Air Force in mid-season.
NCAA Champion Defeats: At Duquesne (10-point margin) and at Denver Legion (8). . . . The highest single-game scoring output by an individual against Wyoming was 29 points by Texas’ Hargis in the national semifinals.
Scoring Leader: John Hargis, Texas (59 points, 29.5 ppg).
Most Outstanding Player: Kenny Sailors, F, Jr., Wyoming (28 points in final two games).

Championship Team Results
First Round: Wyoming 53 (Komenich team-high 22 points), Oklahoma 50 (Reich 17)
Regional Final: Wyoming 58 (Komenich 17), Texas 54 (Hargis 29)
Championship Game: Wyoming 46 (Sailors 16), Georgetown 34 (Feeney 8)

TODAY IN THE NBA

May 19, 1928
Dolph Schayes is born in New York City.

May 19, 1987
Los Angeles Lakers guard Magic Johnson was named the Edge NBA Most Valuable Player after averaging 23.9 ppg and a league-high 12.2 apg, becoming the first guard in 23 years to gain that honor.

May 19, 2009
The NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers win the first overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft lottery. This was the Clippers’ first lottery win since the 1998 NBA Draft where they selected Michael Olowokandi out of the University of Pacific.

BASKETBALL’S BEST: ELVIN HAYES

One of the most talented power forwards ever to play the game, Elvin Hayes used his trademark turnaround jumper and aggressive defense to win a secure place in the NBA record books. Fifth on the all-time list in games (1,303) and third in minutes played (50,000), he missed only nine contests in his 16 years in the league, a tribute to his durability and conditioning.

An All-Star for each of his first 12 seasons, he scored more points (27,313) than any other player in NBA history except for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Moses Malone. He also ranks fourth on the league’s all-time rebounding list with 16,279 boards.

Hayes was immensely popular with fans, who appreciated his dominating style of play as well as his persona off the court. But he was less endearing to coaches and teammates. Critics felt he had an attitude problem that sometimes short-circuited the teams he played for and gave him a Jekyll-and-Hyde personality.

“For some players and coaches, being around Elvin every day is like a Chinese water torture,” John Lally, a trainer with the Washington Bullets when Hayes was with the team, told the Washington Post. “It’s just a drop at a time, nothing big, but in the end, he’s driven you crazy.”

“I’m very honest about myself,” Hayes said in an article in the Dallas Times Herald, “and that’s one reason I get in trouble. I speak what I feel. Other people are more diplomatic, but I don’t feel, by doing that, that I’m a man.”

The roots of what some would call his abrasive personality, as well as his offensive playing style, can be traced back to his childhood in Rayville, Louisiana. It was then (and still is) a sleepy cotton town with a population of roughly 5,000. Although racial prejudice was “thick as cotton in a field” and abuses against African-Americans were rampant, Hayes’ father taught him the value of pride and the need to demand respect.

“My father,” Hayes told the Times Herald, “always taught me to be strong and to have dignity, to not have to bow down or have anyone run over you.”

A quiet, introverted youth, Hayes first picked up a basketball in eighth grade, by accident. He was wrongly blamed for playing a classroom prank and was sent to the principal’s office. But another teacher, Reverend Calvin, saw Hayes and said he was welcome in his class. Although the youngster showed no inclination for any sports, Calvin thought he would benefit by playing basketball and put him on the school team. Hayes was so clumsy, however, that he evoked laughter with his awkward attempts at shooting and dribbling.

But young Hayes was determined to improve, and during the summers he practiced long hours. As a 6-foot-5 ninth grader he was a benchwarmer on the junior varsity squad at Britton High School when he became determined to crack the starting lineup. “I was too weak to shoot the turnaround then,” Hayes recalled, “so all summer long I shot with a small rubber ball at a basket in my yard. My development was almost overnight.”

In Hayes’s senior year, 1963-64, he led Britton to the state championship, averaging 35 points during the regular season. In the championship game he picked up 45 points and 20 rebounds.

Hayes saw basketball as a free ride out of the poverty of Rayville, so he leaped at the University of Houston’s invitation to become one of the school’s first African-American athletes. He said his coaches there were the first whites he had ever met who treated him with respect. “They helped me overcome 18 years of hate,” he remembered.

Having grown up in a segregated southern town, Hayes harbored a great deal of mistrust when he entered college. But as one of only 100 African-Americans in a school of 20,000, he had to do some adjusting, and Houston Coach Guy Lewis helped him. Lewis took the player under his wing, brought him home for meals, and made him almost a part of Lewis’ family. The chip on Hayes’s shoulder began to feel lighter.

During this time a sportswriter at the Houston Post coined a nickname for Hayes that lasted throughout his career. The reporter saw a parallel between the Navy’s aircraft carrier Enterprise, called “the Big E,” and Hayes. Both, he said, were rallying points.

Hayes helped create a powerhouse team at Houston, where he perfected his turnaround jumper as a way to score against taller players. It was in a game in 1968 that he rose to national prominence. The contest pitted No. 1 UCLA, a squad riding a 47-game winning streak behind Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), against Hayes’ No. 2 Houston team, which stood at 16-0. The game was played on January 20 before a crowd of 52,693 at the Astrodome and a national TV audience, and it ranks among the greatest college games ever.

Houston wasn’t given much of a chance against the powerhouse Bruins, but with time running out, the score stood at 69-69. “I got the ball down low on the left side,” Hayes remembered later in Sports Illustrated. “I was going to shoot my turnaround when I was fouled. A lot of people thought I was going to miss because I was a 60 percent foul shooter. I didn’t even think about being nervous because I had the game right in my hands.”

Hayes stepped up to the foul line with 28 seconds left and swished both of his offerings. The final score read: Houston 71, UCLA 69. Hayes outplayed Alcindor (although many argue that Alcindor was sufferiing from an eye injury), knocking down 39 points to Alcindor’s 15 and grabbing 15 rebounds to Alcindor’s 12. At the end of the season, in which he averaged 36.8 points, Hayes was named College Player of the Year by The Sporting News.

Hayes rode the momentum of his college years into the NBA. The expansion San Diego Rockets, preparing for their second season, made him the first overall pick of the 1968 NBA Draft. As a rookie for the Rockets in 1968-69, he led the league in scoring with 28.4 ppg, ranked fourth in rebounding with 17.1 rpg, and started at center for the West in the NBA All-Star Game. He also set an NBA rookie record for minutes played in a season (3,695), averaging 45.1. The Rockets, who had floundered through a 15-67 season the year before, posted a 37-45 record and reached the playoffs. However, Hayes lost out on NBA Rookie of the Year honors to the Baltimore Bullets’ Wes Unseld, who was also the MVP that season.

The following season Hayes finished third in the league in scoring with 27.5 ppg, and he paced the NBA in rebounding with 16.9 rpg, but the team struggled. After 26 games, coach Jack McMahon was replaced by Alex Hannum. Hayes and Hannum never saw eye to eye, and the club fell to last place in the division with a 27-55 record.

In 1970-71 Hayes hit his career high in scoring, pouring in 28.7 ppg, and he ranked third in the league in rebounding (16.6 rpg). The Rockets improved to a 40-42 record but missed the playoffs by one game. Because Hayes was the team’s bulwark, local sportswriters blamed him for the Rockets’ dim glare. The criticism didn’t sit well with him.

“I was totally unhappy, disgusted with it all,” he said. “I lived up in the hills of La Jolla and I’d be driving home late at night — I had this fast car — and the thought of just running it off the road was always with me.”

Prior to the 1971-72 season, the franchise moved to Houston, where adoring fans still remembered Hayes from his college days. The Rockets also brought in a new coach, Tex Winter, but Hayes and Winter didn’t get along either. A disgruntled Hayes averaged 25.2 ppg, 10th in the NBA, and the Rockets missed the playoffs for the third straight year. Shortly after the season ended, Houston traded Hayes to Baltimore for Jack Marin and future considerations.

Bullets coach Gene Shue already had Wes Unseld playing center, and he realized that Hayes was at his best in the power forward position, where he could capitalize most on his scoring and rebounding skills. Hayes welcomed the move, and he responded by averaging 21.2 ppg in 1972-73, helping Baltimore to the Central Division title. The club advanced to the playoffs but lost to the New York Knicks in the first round.

The next year the Bullets played as the Capital Bullets. K.C. Jones took over as coach, and the team won another division title. Hayes pumped in 21.4 ppg and put together a career year on the boards, averaging a league-best 18.1 rebounds. He also led the NBA in minutes played, averaging 44.5, and ranked fifth in blocked shots with a career-best 2.96 per contest, earning the first of two straight selections to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team. But once again, the Bullets lost to the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs.

In the 1974-75 season, a powerful Bullets squad tied with the Boston Celtics for the best record in the NBA at 60-22. Hayes, who made his seventh straight All-Star appearance at midseason, averaged 23.0 ppg for the year and earned his first selection to the All-NBA First Team. Many expected Washington to contend for the title, and the Bullets seemed headed in that direction when they rolled past the Buffalo Braves and Boston to reach the 1975 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. But an underdog Warriors squad led by Rick Barry won in a sweep to stun the Bullets.

Over the next two seasons, the Bullets posted strong regular-season records but failed to advance past the conference semifinals. Hayes began to take heat for the team’s disappointing performance, although he turned in two more All-Star campaigns. In 1975-76, he averaged 19.8 ppg and 11.0 rpg. In 1976-77, he contributed 23.7 ppg and 12.5 rpg, led the league in minutes played, and earned his second selection to the All-NBA First Team.

Things took a surprising turn in the 1977-78 season. The Bullets posted a modest 44-38 record that year, but they caught fire in the playoffs, eliminating the Hawks, Spurs and 76ers en route to the NBA Finals against another unsung team, the Seattle SuperSonics.

Seattle and Washington exchanged wins through the first six games, setting up a Game 7 showdown in Seattle. For only the third time in the 12 NBA Finals that had gone to seven games, the visiting team pulled out a victory on the road, as the Bullets won the title with a 105-99 triumph. Hayes averaged 21.8 ppg throughout the 1978 playoffs.

At last, after 10 seasons in the NBA, Hayes had a championship ring and partial vindication for at least some of the criticism that had dogged him along the way. “Finally winning the championship completes the picture,” Hayes remarked, “because no one can ever again say that E’s not a champion.”

For the next three seasons, though, the picture was clouded by critics who said Washington’s failure to repeat its championship was due to Hayes. His stats were still good, however. In 1978-79, he averaged 21.8 ppg and 12.1 rpg and helped the Bullets back to the Finals, where they lost a rematch with Seattle. In 1979-80, Hayes scored 23.0 ppg, but the Bullets finished third in their division and were blown out in the first round of the playoffs. And in 1980-81, with Unseld and Hayes winding down their careers, the Bullets missed the playoffs entirely. In what would be his last season in Washington, Hayes led the Bullets in scoring (17.8 ppg), rebounding (9.7 rpg), and blocked shots (171).

Following the 1980-81 season, the Bullets traded Hayes back to Houston for two second-round draft choices. At 36, he was the oldest player in the NBA at the time, yet he played in all but two games over the next three seasons. After starting at forward alongside Moses Malone in 1981-82 and averaging 16.1 ppg and 9.1 rpg, Hayes moved into a reserve role for his final two campaigns. He finally retired after 1983-84, his 16th NBA season.

Hayes then returned to the University of Houston to complete his academic education and after 2 1/2 years of hard work, he graduated with degrees in recreation and speech. He later took up the life of a country gentleman, raising cattle on his ranch near Brenham, Texas, and acquired a Houston car dealership.

In 1990 he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

NHL’S BEST: BOBBY CLARKE

Picture a smallish pro hockey player — he’s 5-foot-10 — with a big, wet mop of curly hair atop his choirboy face. A huge smile lights up that face, a smile made even larger by the wide gap where his top front teeth once were. His eyes mischievously twinkle; he might even give you a wink. A trickle of blood streams down the side of his face and splashes onto his distinctive orange and black jersey decorated with a stylized “P” and the number 16. On the left chest of that jersey sits an oversized letter “C.”

This can only be Bobby Clarke and, for a sizable portion of fans, he represented not just an overwhelming and fierce desire to win at all costs but the NHL of the 1970s itself.

Nearly a half-century after he first pulled that Philadelphia Flyers sweater over his head, Clarke remains one of the great leaders in the history of the sport and the player who helped give a franchise its identity.

Like the club he sparked to consecutive Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975, Clarke combined high-level skill with high-level antagonism. On one hand, he was a supreme playmaker, a crafty and timely goal-scorer, an indefatigable checker, a virtuoso faceoff specialist — a complete player. On the other hand, he could also be a vicious stickman, a cheap-shot artist and an incorrigible instigator.

But his was no split personality. Rather — as with Ted Lindsay and the young Stan Mikita, two small, exceptional NHL players who preceded him — Clarke’s talent and truculence were inseparable. The glue that bonded the two sides of Clarke’s game was an incomparable work ethic, a personality trait to which all Flyers had to measure up. He made sure those who skated with him did just that.

“I loved to get on the ice,” he said on the “Legends of Hockey” TV series. “I loved to practice and I loved to play. The rest of the time, I wasn’t that good at anything else, but playing and practicing, that’s what I loved to do. So I could at least demand from other people that they work hard because I would always be able to do that.”

“If Bobby Clarke were a sewer digger in Flin Flon,” said Fred Shero, his coach during the Cup years, “he’d be the best sewer digger and hardest worker.”

Flin Flon, the northern Manitoba mining town called “The City Built on Rocks,” was Clarke’s home. Born there on Aug. 13, 1949, he played his hockey mostly outdoors until he was around 9. He’d even skip school to play. Hockey was all that truly motivated him.

He’d worn only hand-me-down skates during his entire youth hockey career. But at 16, weeks before his tryout with the junior Flin Flon Bombers, he took the money he saved from working all summer at the town’s only gas station and hitchhiked south to Brandon and back, having found a shoemaker who custom-made skates. The round trip took four days, but those skates, he believed, would help him get a spot on the roster.

Bombers coach Patty Ginnell didn’t need much convincing. He had already seen Clarke play 40 minutes a game in youth hockey. The skinny kid with big glasses and big teeth may have been a diabetic, but Ginnell recognized he never lacked energy. He could skate all day and he was one of those players the puck seemed to follow around, a sure sign of good hockey instincts. He already had great stick skills. And he possessed the heart of a lion.

Ginnell liked the whole package and he became a primary influence on Clarke’s career. “Every day he just made us work — just skate and skate and skate. And just shoot. And just practice hard every single day,” Clarke told his daughter Jakki for her book, “Flyer Lives.” “… And we learned that if you were going to have any success, it was because you had to work.”

Clarke absorbed another of Ginnell’s important lessons: how to survive the rugged and wild Western Canadian Junior Hockey League (now WHL), where intimidation tactics ruled. “He made you play with courage,” Clarke said. “If you were afraid, he made you go out there and do things.” Whatever those “things” may have been, he learned how to handle himself against bigger foes and led the league in scoring twice, setting assists and points records, largely by feeding big-shooting wing Reggie Leach.

Still, Clarke suspected his diabetes would limit his career, scaring off NHL clubs. Ginnell believed otherwise and took Clarke to the Mayo Clinic, where doctors attested Clarke could indeed play in the NHL as long as he took proper care of himself. Ginnell would show their findings to any scout coming to watch Clarke.

Regardless, every NHL team passed on him in the first round of the 1969 NHL Draft, concerned about his illness. When the Flyers’ second-round pick came up, scout Gerry Melnyk piped up at the draft table, saying: “I don’t give a damn if this kid’s got one leg; he’s the best player I’ve seen at this level. He’ll right away be our best player.” Melnyk’s insistence got Flyers executives to contact a Philadelphia doctor, who concurred with the Mayo Clinic verdict. They picked Clarke at No. 17. He’d never skate one game as a minor league pro.

If Clarke’s first two NHL seasons were unremarkable in terms of points, he attracted much attention while steadily growing. Fourth in Calder Trophy voting (for rookie of the year) in his 46-point rookie season, he received consideration for the Hart Trophy (MVP) the next season, when he had 63 points.

Shero took over prior to Clarke’s third season in 1971-72, and it didn’t take long for the mercurial coach to realize his young star’s special character. If Shero occasionally threw a worthless drill at his team during practice and if Clarke saw it was nonsensical, he’d challenge the coach. Shero was actually testing Clarke’s brains and guts.

Clarke had 81 points that season, earning League-wide recognition with the Bill Masterton Trophy for dedication and perseverance, and then a spot with Canada for the Summit Series against the Soviet national team in September 1972. He was Canada’s youngest player at 23 but grew into a leader.

Centering Ron Ellis and series hero Paul Henderson, Clarke got two goals and four assists in eight games, but his most important contribution may have been slashing Valeri Kharlamov in Game 6, cracking the ankle of the Soviet team’s best player and neutralizing him for the balance of the competition. “If I hadn’t learned to lay a two-hander once in a while, I would’ve never left Flin Flon,” he said. Over time, Clarke’s deed took on a darker hue, but he never let it bother him. “I have no regrets,” he said.

Clarke brought the confidence he gained playing with and against the world’s best back to the Flyers. In January 1973, Shero named him the youngest captain in NHL history (23) at the time with Clarke on the way to a 104-point season that made him the first player from a post-1967 expansion team to score 100 points. Philadelphia, on the rise, improved by 19 points in the standings in 1972-73 and made it to the Semifinals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where it lost to the Montreal Canadiens. Clarke won the Hart Trophy, another first for a player on an expansion team.

Still, few expected Clarke and the Flyers to reach the heights they did in 1973-74. They took a 27-point leap in the standings and won the West Division (finishing one point behind the Boston Bruins for first overall) before reaching the Stanley Cup Final against the heavily favored Bruins. After losing Game 1 in the final minute, Philadelphia took Game 2 — its first victory in Boston in seven years — on an overtime goal by Clarke. After forcing a turnover on the boards, he skated across the goalmouth, got a pass and fired a backhander. It was stopped by diving Bruins goalie Gilles Gilbert, but Clarke picked up his own rebound, pivoted and shot forehand from a sharp angle to win it. That goal, still considered the most important in franchise history, announced to the world the Flyers, in their seventh season, could hang with an Original Six powerhouse. Philadelphia won the Cup for the first time, in six games.

For an encore the following season, Philadelphia again won its division and Clarke set an NHL record for assists by a center, with 89, as Leach joined the Flyers and formed a formidable trio with Clarke and Bill Barber. Clarke led all playoff scorers with 12 assists as the Flyers won the Cup for the second straight year, defeating Buffalo in the six-game all-expansion Final. Again, Clarke was awarded the Hart Trophy.

Just as prominent as the Flyers’ point totals were their penalty totals, and they rewrote the record book there as well. Clarke was not only the Flyers’ offensive and defensive catalyst, he often initiated those frequent punch-ups.

“It happened like in a Western movie,” Stephen Cole wrote in his book “Hockey Night Fever.” “The Flyers would ride into town spoiling for a fight. Bobby was the guy on the lead horse, squinting into the sun, figuring out how to bust into the local Wells Fargo. The plan, always improvised, usually began with a calculated provocation — a face-wash, a spear, a wild elbow. The other team retaliated, as expected. And then the Flyers bench emptied, alive with manufactured rage, justified in beating the hell out of smaller, more law-abiding teams. Afterwards, the Flyers galloped off, waving their hats in the air, two points safe in their saddlebags, heading off to the next town, another job down the line.”

Clarke matched his assist record in 1975-76 and had an NHL career-high 119 points and a League best plus-83 rating. He earned his third Hart Trophy as the Flyers led the Campbell Conference with 118 points, the best showing in franchise history, and made a third consecutive trip to the Cup Final, though they were swept by Montreal.

Over the next eight seasons, Clarke remained a productive player. He received serious consideration for the Hart Trophy nearly every year and began drawing more attention for his defensive excellence, capturing the Selke Trophy as a 33-year-old in 1982-83, which was also his most prolific late-career season (85 points). Along with his 1987 induction to the Hall of Fame, winning the Selke was one of his most cherished honors.

In 1979 the Flyers named him a playing-assistant coach to coach Pat Quinn, and for a few seasons he surrendered the captaincy. The 1979-80 team had a 35-game unbeaten streak, and Clarke got at least one point in 26 of them. The Flyers returned to the Cup Final, losing to the New York Islanders that spring, and Clarke had 20 points in 19 playoff games.

On March 19, 1981, he scored his 1,000th point, on a goal against the Bruins at the Spectrum. Earlier in the game, a Leach shot creased his temple, cutting him and resulting in a few stitches. Clarke never bothered getting a clean sweater, and the photos of his historic point include the blood spots on his shirt, symbolic of the effort Clarke expended along the way.

When he retired in 1983, Clarke was fourth all-time in NHL assists and 11th in points. He still holds numerous franchise records, including those for: seasons (15), games (1,144), assists (852), points (1,210), playoff games (136), playoff assists (77) and playoff points (119).

Asked if he had any regrets, if there was anything more he’d like after such an accomplished career, daughter Jakki wrote, “He grows a bit wistful at this and, after a long pause, he says, ‘I’d just like one more shift.'”

TODAY IN THE NHL

1974: The Philadelphia Flyers become the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup when they defeat the Boston Bruins 1-0 at the Spectrum in Game 6 of the Final.

Rick MacLeish scores a power-play goal at 14:48 of the first period, deflecting a shot by defenseman Andre Dupont past Gilles Gilbert for what turns out to be the only goal of the game.

Bernie Parent makes 30 saves for his second NHL postseason shutout. Parent is voted winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after finishing 12-5 with a 2.02 goals-against average in 17 games.

MORE MOMENTS:

1984: The Edmonton Oilers end one dynasty and start another when they defeat the New York Islanders 5-2 at Northlands Coliseum in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final to win their first championship. Wayne Gretzky scores two first-period goals and assists on a goal by Ken Linseman early in the second period. Islanders rookie Pat LaFontaine scores twice in the first minute of the third period to cut Edmonton’s lead to 4-2, but goalie Andy Moog keeps New York from getting any closer until Dave Lumley hits the empty net. The Oilers become the first former World Hockey Association team to win the Cup. Edmonton, which was swept by the Islanders in the Final a year earlier, goes on to win the Cup four times in five years. The loss ends the Islanders’ four-year run as champions and stops their streak of 19 consecutive series victories, an NHL record that has yet to be approached.

1994: Stephane Matteau scores at 6:13 of the second overtime to give the New York Rangers a 3-2 win against the New Jersey Devils in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Matteau beats Martin Brodeur on the Rangers’ 50th shot of the game, putting New York ahead 2-1 in the best-of-7 series. It’s the first of two double-overtime goals by Matteau in the series.

1995: Wade Flaherty makes 56 saves in his second NHL playoff start before Ray Whitney scores the winning goal at 1:54 of the second overtime, giving the San Jose Sharks a 5-4 victory against the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome in Game 7 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. After the Sharks fail to hold three two-goal leads, Flaherty survives a 17-shot barrage in the first overtime before Whitney, the second player taken by the expansion Sharks in the 1991 NHL Draft, gets the winner against Trevor Kidd.

1996: Paul Coffey becomes the highest goal-scoring defenseman in NHL playoff history by scoring twice in the Detroit Red Wings’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final. Coffey scores a power-play goal in the first period and a shorthanded goal early in the third. His 57 career playoff goals are one more than Denis Potvin.

2008: The Red Wings advance to the Final for the first time since 2002 by defeating the Dallas Stars 4-1 at American Airlines Center in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final. Kris Draper, Pavel Datsyuk and Dallas Drake score in the first period to give Detroit a 3-0 lead, and Henrik Zetterberg adds a shorthanded goal early in the second. Chris Osgood makes 28 saves to help the Red Wings close out the Stars after Dallas wins Game 4 and 5. Datsyuk’s goal is his ninth of the 2008 playoffs and the 11th consecutive playoff goal he’s scored on the road, including his last two in 2007.

2012: Chris Kreider scores one of the Rangers’ three third-period goals in a 3-0 victory against the Devils at Prudential Center in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final. It’s the fifth goal of the playoffs for Kreider, who joins the Rangers for the playoffs after their 82-game regular season concludes. He sets an NHL record for most goals scored in the playoffs by a player who has yet to play in a regular-season game, passing Eddie Mazur, who scores four times for the Montreal Canadiens in 1951 and ’52.

2015: Marcus Kruger ends the longest game in the history of the Chicago Blackhawks when he scores at 16:12 of the third overtime, giving Chicago a 3-2 victory against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final at Honda Center. A shot by defenseman Brent Seabrook hits Kruger in the glove and drops to the ice; he quickly scores to tie the series at one win apiece.

2016: Martin Jones makes 22 saves for his second consecutive shutout and the Sharks defeat the St. Louis Blues 3-0 in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final at SAP Center. Tomas Hertl scores twice for the Sharks, who move within two victories of their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

2017: Matt Murray makes 24 saves to help the Pittsburgh Penguins hold off the Ottawa Senators 3-2 at Canadian Tire Centre, evening the Eastern Conference Final at two wins apiece. The Penguins lead 3-0 midway through the second period, but goals by Clarke MacArthur and Tom Pyatt get the Senators within one before they run out of time. It’s the first playoff start in 2017 for Murray after he replaces Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 3; he starts every game for the Penguins on the way to their second straight championship.

2018: The Tampa Bay Lightning move within one win of their second trip to the Stanley Cup Final in four years when they defeat the Washington Capitals 3-2 at Amalie Arena in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final. Andrei Vasilevskiy makes 28 saves for the Lightning, who hang on for the win after taking a 3-0 lead on goals by Cedric Paquette, Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan in the first 20:33.

2019: Jaden Schwartz scores three goals for his second hat trick of the playoffs, helping the Blues defeat the Sharks 5-0 at SAP Center in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final. The hat trick gives Schwartz 12 goals during the 2019 postseason, one more than he scores during 69 regular-season games. He’s the first player with multiple hat tricks in one playoff year since Johan Franzen of the Red Wings in 2008. Forward Vladimir Tarasenko becomes the first player in Blues history to score on a penalty shot in the playoffs since St. Louis enters the NHL in 1967. The Blues move within one win of their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1970.