Matthew Centrowitz not only won the gold medal in the men’s 1500 meters, he ended 108 years of American frustration in this marquee Olympic event.
You need to go back to 1908 to find the last time the USA took gold in the 1500 meters, aka the metric mile. Melvin Whinfield “Peerless Mel” Sheppard was the last American to win the 1500.
The year 1908 just happens to be the last year the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. Could this be a harbinger of things to come?
Sheppard won the first running medal at the 1908 and tied the Olympic record at 4:03.6. Sheppard also took gold in the 800 meters and medley relay in the 1908 Games, held in London.
Since then, four Americans – Abel Kiviat in 1912, Glenn Cunningham in 1936, Bob McMillen in 1952 and Jim Ryan in 1968 – placed second and took home the silver. But none could win the race.
Teddy Roosevelt was President at the time of the 1908 Olympics. Henry Ford produced his first Model T automobile that year, Bette Davis, Jimmy Stewart and Milton Berle were born. In 1908, Bulgaria declared independence from the Ottoman Empire.
Some of the greatest runners in history have won gold in the 1500. Paavo Nurmi in 1924 Herb Elliott, in 1960, Kip Keino in 1968, and Sebastian Coe, in 1980 and 1984, the only two-time Olympic champ.
Now that his Yankee career has ended (some would say mercifully), Alex Rodriguez can fill the third base slot on the all-time Yankee team.
A-Rod won two MVPs with the Yankees (2005, 2007), hit 351 of his 696 career home runs in pinstripes and had more than 1,000 RBIs. And he helped lead the Yankees to their last World Championship, in 2009, with an outstanding post-season effort when he hit .365 with 6 HRs and 18 RBIs. His 54 home runs in 2007 are the most ever for a right-handed Yankee hitter.
Of course, A-Rod’s reputation will be forever stained by his admitted steroid abuse, his playoff collapses, and his insecurity. But this isn’t the Hall of Fame, it’s the Yankee all-time team.
Third base is the only position on the team not manned by a Hall of Famer. (Yeah, Wade Boggs played for the Yankees for several years, but his greatest years were in Boston.)
After A-Rod, here are the next five greatest third basemen in Yankee history.
Graig Nettles, power hitter and Gold Glove fielder who led the AL in home runs in 1976 and was a member of the 1977 and 1978 World Series winners.
Red Rolfe, another outstanding fielder, helped the Yankees win five titles (1936-39 and 1941) and retired in 1942 to become baseball coach at Yale.
Joe Dugan, aka Jumping Joe, was the third baseman on one of the greatest teams ever, the 1927 Yankees. A .280 lifetime hitter, he played on 5 Yankee pennant winners.
Gil McDougald, played multiple infield positions on five World Champions under Casey Stengel. He was AL Rookie of the Year in 1951. McDougald later coached at Fordham.
Clete Boyer, tremendous glove man, played the hot corner for five straight pennant winners (1960-64), and hit 95 homers as a Yankee.
Boggs, who hit .300 or better in four of his five Yankee years, and Scott Brosius, who won three straight World Series in his four seasons, deserve honorable mention.
The rest of the all-time Yankee team consists of Hall of Famers….or sure-fire Hall of Famers in the case of the shortstop and relief pitcher. Here’s the list:
C – Yogi Berra
1B – Lou Gehrig
2B – Tony Lazzeri
SS – Derek Jeter
3B – A-Rod
OF – Babe Ruth
OF – Joe DiMaggio
OF – Mickey Mantle
LHP – Whitey Ford
RHP – Red Ruffing
RP – Mariano Rivera
It began in 1958, my very first baseball game, Yankees vs. White Sox at the original Yankee Stadium. The Yanks had four Hall of Famers in their starting lineup that day, including Mickey Mantle in center, Yogi Berra in right, pitcher Whitey Ford and pinch-hitter Enos Slaughter..
Chicago’s keystone combination of second baseman Nellie Fox and shortstop Luis Aparicio was also Cooperstown bound. And managers Casey Stengel of the Yankees and Al Lopez of the White Sox made it eight Hall of Famers in the house that afternoon.
That day my father even arranged for me to get an autograph from Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean, who was doing the Game of the Week for NBC.
Grand total, I’ve seen 58 Hall of Famers play in my lifetime. The list ranges from Ted Williams to Stan Musial, Willie Mays to Hank Aaron, Juan Marichal to Catfish Hunter, Carl Yastrzemski to Reggie Jackson, and Greg Maddux, Tommy Glavine and John Smoltz. Saw both of the 2016 inductees, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Mike Piazza. Saw Piazza as a Dodger hit a home run against the Rookies in Coors Fields’ inaugural season, 1996.
In 2008, I was in Cooperstown for the induction of reliever Goose Gossage. I’ve seen 14 Hall of Famers hit home runs, and five times saw two future Hall of Famers homer in the same game – Ted Williams and Mantle at Yankee Stadium in 1960, Mays and Billy Williams at Candlestick Park in 1962, Yaz and Reggie in the 1975 ALCS and again in the 1978 AL playoff game at Fenway Park, and Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson in the refurbished Yankee Stadium in 1986.
Was there when Mays hit a grand slam in 1962, and Carlton Fisk hit a bases-loaded HR at Opening Day in Fenway Park, 1973.
Witnessed wins by Jim Palmer, Ferguson Jenkins, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro and Randy Johnson, Watched Robin Roberts hurl a complete game shutout for the Orioles against the Yankees in 1965 Saw saves by Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage. Saw Nolan Ryan strike out 15 in a 1977 game against the Red Sox.
Saw seven Hall of Famers in a game at Candlestick Park – Willie Mays, Orlando Cepada and Juan Marichal of the Giants and Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and a young Lou Brock for the Cubs. Willie McCovey of the Giants didn’t play that day; sadly never got to see him play.
I’ve also seen 9 Hall of Fame managers, including Leo Durocher, Earl Weaver, Sparky Anderson, and Dick Williams, along with Stengel and Lopez and three recent inductees – Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa.
Once got an autograph from Phil Rizzuto in a luxury suite at Yankee Stadium. Phil offered me a cannoli, and signed my program over to my three kids.
Here’s the my complete Hall of Fame list, in order of induction:
HALL OF FAMERS I HAVE SEEN
Cal Ripken, Jr.
Ken Griffey, Jr.
Tony La Russa
58 players, 9 managers
Dizzy Dean, Phil Rizzuto
Mickey Mantle (1960)
Ted Williams (1960)
Willie Mays (1962), grand slam
Billy Williams (1962)
Harmon Killebrew (1967)
Carl Yastrzemski (1970, 1978)
Reggie Jackson (1971, 1978 (2), 1979)
Carlton Fisk (1973, 2 HRs), 1 grand slam
Jim Rice (1975, 1978)
Dave Winfield (1983, 1986)
Eddie Murray (1978)
Wade Boggs (1994)
Rickey Henderson (1986)
Mike Piazza (1996)