Bucks vs. Ducks: Déjà vu all over again

This isn’t the first time Oregon and Ohio State have met in a history-making playoff.

Back in 1939, more than 75 years before Monday night’s first-ever football playoff, the Ducks beat the Bucks, 46-33, in the championship game of the first NCAA basketball tournament. FDR was President, Europe was on the verge of WWII and Lou Gehrig made his farewell speech in 1939.

Take a look at a picture from that game, notice the tight shorts, sneakers, knee pads, and especially the wooden backboard – that’s how long ago it was.

Oregon had the “Tall Firs” with center Slim Wintermute, Laddie Gale and John Dick,who led all scorers in the title game with 13 points. Bobby Ante and Gale had 10 apiece. Jimmy Hull had 12 points for Ohio State and was named the Most Outstanding Player (MOP) of the first NCAA tournament, which was held at Northwestern University’s gym in Evanston, IL. Here’s the box score.

The NCAA tournament had an eight-team field in 1939. Ohio State beat Villanova to win the East and Oregon beat Oklahoma in the West in what amounts to the first Final Four. Those games were held in Philadelphia and San Francisco respectively.

Oregon was coached by Howard Hobson and Ohio State was coached by Harold Olsen. Long Island University, which was undefeated that year, opted to play in the NIT instead and won that tournament. Temple won the first NIT in 1938.

PIGSKIN PICK: Oh yes, almost forgot. My pick in the first true playoff championship in NCAA big-time football? What else. Oregon 46, Ohio State 33. Just like 1939, Oregon takes a 21-16 lead at the half and then pulls away in the second half to win.


The greatest calls in sports history

“Do you believe in miracles? Yes” Al Michaels makes the greatest call in sports broadcasting history as the American hockey team beats the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Call it the hearing test. You know a great call when you hear one. Some are signature calls from legendary broadcasters; others were produced by relatively obscure announcers. All capture a magic moment. Here are my top 10 favorites:

10. Matteau Matteau, Matteau

Classic call by Howie Rose on Stephen Matteau’s goal in the second overtime to help the Rangers beat the Devils in Game 7 and advance to the Stanley Cup finals. Gotta love the reference to Mount Vancouver.

9. Kirk Gibson’s home run

“I don’t believe what I just saw,” said Jack Buck after Kirk Gibson took Dennis Eckersley deep with two outs in the ninth, Game 1, 1988 World Series. Dodgers beat A’s, 5-4

8. The Immaculate Reception
When Franco Harris, right, caught Terry Brashaw’s deflected pass at his shoetops and raced into the end zone to give the Steelers a wildly improbable playoff win over the Raiders, NBC broacaster Curt Gowdy called it “the miracle of all miracles.”

7. The Giants win the pennant

“The Giants win the pennant. The Giants win the pennant. The Giants win the pennant. The Giants win the pennant.”  New York announcer Russ Hodges goes crazy describing the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” Bobby Thomson’s dramatic, three-run ninth inning home run gave the Giants the National League pennant and broke the hearts of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

6. Cal vs. Stanford

Listen to the Cal announcers lose it during one of the most dramatic finishes in college in college football history when Cal beat archrival Stanford on the final play of the game. “The band is out on the field….the Bears have won.”

5. Havlicek stole the ball

Johnny Most, the gravelly-voiced play-by-play announcer for the Boston Celtics, makes his most memorable call in Game 7 of the 1965 NBA Eastern Conference finals. “Havlicek stole the ball. It’s all over. It’s all over.”

4. Secretariat wins the Belmont

Track announcer Chic Anderson has the call as Secretariat wins the Triple Crown in 1973 by an incredible 31 lengths. “Secretariat is widening now! He is moving like a tremendous machine! ….An unbelievable, amazing performance.”

3. Foreman beats Frazier

Howard Cosell had some amazing calls, but was at his best in the 1973 heavyweight championship bout when George Foreman knocked out a heavily favored Joe Frazier. “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!”

2.  Sandy Koufax perfect game

The great Los Angeles Dodger play-by-play man Vin Scully waxes poetic as Sandy Koufax completes his perfect game in 1965. In this recording of the ninth inning, Scully takes the listener on a word journey. “2 and 2 to Harvey Kuenn…swung on and missed, a perfect game.”

1. Miracle on Ice

Al Michaels is still broadcasting today, yet his most unforgettable call occurred 34 years ago in the tiny town of Lake Placid, New York. There a bunch of young American hockey players upset the Soviet Union in what ranks as one of the biggest upsets in sports history. “Do you believe in miracles?” says Michaels as the crowd counts down the final seconds. “Yes!!” The exuberance of the Team USA players and the stunned looks on the faces of the Soviets tells it all.


Instant replay: The 10 most improbable finishes in college football history

Auburn’s Chris Davis, en route to history, silences Alabama dreams of a three-peat.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes an improbable play that stirs the soul. Witness what happened on November 30, when Auburn shocked top-ranked Alabama with a length-of-the-field return on the last play of the game. 50 years from now, fans will remember where they were when the play occurred.

It was the greatest finish in college football history. Take a look at the top 10 with video links.

1. The War Damn Miracle

2013, Auburn 34, Alabama 28

Alabama, gunning for its third straight national championship, attempted to snap a tie with a 57-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game. The kick was short, but Auburn return man Chris David took the ball at the back of the end zone and ran 109 yards (officially 100) for the winning touchdown. Auburn had tied the game with 32 seconds remaining, following a 99-yard touchdown pass that gave Alabama the lead earlier in the fourth quarter. Ironically, in their previous game two weeks earlier, the War Eagles stunned Georgia on a last-minute 73-yard pass, known as The Immaculate Deflection.

2. The Play

1982, Cal 25, Stanford 20

Cal, trailing 20-19 with just four seconds remaining against arch-rival Stanford, used five laterals on a kick return to score the winning touchdown, racing the final yards through the Stanford band, which had come onto the field believing the game was over. John Elway, playing in his final regular season college game, led Stanford to a field goal before Cal’s hysteria on the ensuing kickoff.

With the clock winding down, Doug Flutie winds up to throw his Hail Mary pass.

3. The Hail Mary

1984, Boston College 47, Miami 45

On the day after Thanksgiving, Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie threw a desperation, 48-yard touchdown pass to his roommate, Gerard Phelan, on the final play of the game to lead the Eagles past Miami at the Orange Bowl. Flutie would go on to win the Heisman Trophy that season.

4. The Statue of Liberty

2007, Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42, OT

One of the wildest games in NCAA history, capped by one of the wildest endings. Playing in the Fiesta Bowl, Oklahoma scored 25 straight points but Boise State tied the game on a hook and ladder play with seconds remaining. After the Sooners scored in overtime, Boise countered with a touchdown and then won the game with a two-point conversion on another circus play — the Statue of Liberty.

 

5. The Lateralpalooza

2007, Trinity 28, Millsaps 24

You have to see this play to believe it. In a Division III showdown in Mississippi, Trinity used 15 laterals to score on a 61-yard kick return touchdown as time expired. The longest play in college football history took 62 seconds to complete,

6. The Bluegrass Miracle

2002, LSU 33, Kentucky 30

After Kentucky players gave head coach Guy Morriss a Gatorade shower, LSU scored on a  74-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Marcus Randall to wide receiver Devery Henderson on the final play of the game.


7. Miracle at the Big House

1994, Colorado 27, Michigan 26

Kordell Stewart’s 64-yard touchdown pass to Michael Westbrook as time expired stunned a huge Michigan crowd at the Big House in Ann Arbor. Stewart’s pass traveled nearly 80 yards in the air.

8. The Bush Push

2005, USC 34, Notre Dame 31

Trailing 31-28 with just seven seconds left to play, USC went for the win instead of kicking a tying field goal. Trojans quarterback Matt Leinart scored the winning touchdown on a keeper, helped by a shove from behind by running back Reggie Bush.

9. Happy Holiday

1980, BYU 46, SMU 45

BYU overcame a 20-point deficit in the final three minutes and scored three touchdowns, sparked by Jim McMahon’s 41-yard pass to Clay Brown at the gun, to stun SMU

10. Harvard beats Yale, 29-29

1968, Harvard 29, Yale 29

The Harvard Crimson headline said it all. Harvard scored 16 points in the final 42 seconds — including a touchdown and two point conversion after time expired — to tie rival Yale. The teams shared the Ivy League title at 8-0-1.


Alabama vs. Notre Dame: Best of the best

Coaches Paul “Bear” Bryant of Alabama and Ara Parseghian of Notre Dame met before the 1973 Sugar Bowl, the last time the Crimson Tide faced the Irish with a title on the line. 

When Alabama and Notre Dame square off for the BCS championship on January 7, they will be playing for college football supremacy — not only for the 2012 season but for all time. Since the Associated Press began ranking team in 1936,  Bama and ND have each finished number one eight times, more than any other school. Overall, the two schools have combined for 25 national titles, 14 by Alabama.

Going into this year’s BCS championship game, the Lou Saban led Crimson Tide have won two of the last three BCS titles. Meanwhile, the Irish last ranked first in the AP poll under Lou Holtz in 1988.

Notre Dame has won five of six meetings with Alabama. Their very first meeting, on New Year’s Eve 1973, was one of the most famous games in college football history. Both the Tide and the Irish entered the Sugar Bowl at Tulane University in New Orleans with undefeated records. Alabama was ranked number one by both the AP and UPI (Coaches poll), with Notre Dame in the top four in both polls. Legendary coaches Paul “Bear” Bryan and Ara Parseghian were meeting for the first time.

In a preview story, Sports Illustrated said: If ever there was a bowl game made in heaven…it is Alabama vs. Notre Dame. And before the game, ABC broadcaster Howard Cosell said: “At Notre Dame football is a religion; at Alabama it’s a way of life.”

A 93-yard kickoff return by Al Hunter in the second quarter sparked the Irish to a 14-10 halftime lead. Early in the fourth, Alabama scored on a trick play — a 25-yard touchdown pass to backup quarterback Richard Todd, to go in front 23-21. But kicker Bill Davis mixed the extra point and that would prove costly.

Notre Dame got a field goal to take the lead with a little more than four minutes remaining. Shortly after, the Irish were backed up on their own 3-yard line, but quarterback Tom Clemens connected on a 35-yard pass to reserve wide receiver Robin Weber on a third and long. That got ND out of trouble,and the Irish held on for the victory. Notre Dame was voted national champion by the AP but Alabama won the UPI Coaches poll.  .

The teams met the next year in the Orange Bowl, and ninth-ranked Notre Dame edged second-ranked Alabama 13-11 in Parseghian’s final game. Alabama’s only win in the series was a 28-0 victory in 1986. ND and Bama last met in 1987, and the Irish ran away with a 37-6 win in South Bend.

History lesson: If you consider 1936 as the beginning of the modern era in college football, as most experts do, Alabama and Notre Dame are kings with eight number one rankings apiece. Oklahoma has won seven and USC and Miami five apiece. Going back to the beginning of college football in 1869, Princeton claims 28 national championships and Yale 26. Princeton won the last of those championships in 1950.


Heisman Trophy no guarantee of NFL stardom

Jim Brown, perhaps the greatest running back in NFL history, did not win a Heisman.

Winning the  Heisman Trophy is a  tremendous honor. It may be the most important individual award in sports — certainly at the collegiate level. Yet it hardly guarantees a seat at the NFL head table.

Consider this — what do Jimmy Brown, Joe Montana, below right, Johnny Unitas, Walter Payton and Peyton Manning have in common? None of them won a Heisman Trophy. Neither did Jerry Rice or Lawrence Taylor or Reggie White.

All of them are listed in the top 10 of the NFL Network’s 100 greatest players in NFL history, a list compiled by a blue ribbon panel of current and former NFL coaches, players, executives, and media.

The first Heisman Trophy winner on the NFL top 100 list was 1988 winner Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State, ranked 17th. Only five others on that list were Heisman Trophy winners:

40. OJ Simpson (USC, 1968)
46. Roger Staubach (Navy, 1963)
55. Earl Campbell (Texas, 1977)
77. Tony Dorsett (Pitt, 1976)
85. Marcus Allen (USC, 1981)

Only eight of the 78 Heisman winners are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – the six above plus Doak Walker (SMU, 1948) and Paul Hornung (Notre Dame. 1956)

A total of 19 Heisman winners were the first pick in the NFL draft, including the first winner — halfback Jack Berwanger of the University of Chicago, the first player to be drafted by the NFL in its inaugural draft in 1936. Traded from the Eagles to the Bears, Berwanger opted not to sign in order to preserver his amateur status and compete for a spot on the US Olympic team in the decathlon.

And since 1986, only three Heisman Trophy winners were number one picks in the NFL draft — Carson Palmer of USC in 2002, Sam Bradford of Oklahoma in 2008 and Cam Newton of Aubun in 2010.

Only three Super Bowl MVPs were Heisman winners — Staubach, Allen and Jim Plunkett, the only quarterback to start and win two Super Bowls and not make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Perhaps one day recent Heisman winners like Cam Newton (Auburn, 2010) and Robert Griffin III (Baylor 2011) will gain NFL immortality. And this year’s winner, Johnny Manziel (Johnny Football) from Texas A&M, is just a freshman. But it’s still way too early to make that call.


Say It Ain’t So, JoePa

Forget his 409 wins at Penn State, Joe Paterno’s legacy will be his failure to do more.

Things aren’t very happy in Happy Valley these days, where Penn State University has been rocked by perhaps the ugliest scandal in collegiate sports history.

Coach Joe Paterno did what he was obligated to do. He even admitted should have done more. Now he has paid the ultimate price.

But the real victims here are the young boys who were abused on Paterno’s watch.

Anyone who cares about innocent children should read the 23-page Grand Jury report. It is an eye opener.

Page 6 in the report refers to March 1, 2002, when a Penn State graduate assistant, later identified as assistant coach Mike McQueary, witnessed the rape of a young boy by former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky in the showers of the Lasch Football Building on the University Park Campus.

The next morning, the graduate assistant telephoned Paterno and went to his house to report the issue. Paterno then notified his immediate superior at the time, Penn State athletic director Tim Curley.

According to the Grand Jury report, Sandusky’s keys to the locker room were taken away and the incident was reported to The Second Mile, Sandusky’s non-profit organization serving the youth of Pennsylvania.

The graduate assistant was never questioned by University Police, and nobody conducted a further investigation until more than eight years later, when McQueary testified to the Grand Jury last December.

Should Have Done More
Legally, Joe Paterno did what he was supposed to do. He reported the incident to his boss.

But morally, Joe Paterno failed that young boy in the showers and the other victims. As an authority figure, he should have followed up to ensure a proper investigation. He should have gone to the police.

Like others at Penn State, Paterno’s inactivity led to his dismissal.

The Grand Jury report cites seven other young boys who were victimized by Sandusky. No doubt, in time other horrors will surface.

This could have been prevented if Joe Paterno State had done the right thing when he had the opportunity.

“This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more,” Paterno said in a statement earlier this week.

Paterno could have done more, should have done more. Instead of turning away, he could have pursued the situation and made sure the authorities followed up.

But he didn’t, and sadly that will be his legacy.


The Top 10 List of Top 10 Lists

Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak has held up for nearly 70 years. It’s one of 10 baseball records that will never be broken.

People like top 10 lists. They’re neat and tidy. They cut to the chase. They can be controversial. And they work. Ask David Letterman.

Throughout the past three years, the SportsLifer has posted a wide variety of top 10 lists. Here’s the top 10 of top 10s.

1. 10 Baseball Records That Will Never Be Broken

SportsLifer also appears on Bleacher Report, and this blog earned a gold medal with more than 5,000 reads. And it’s been grounds for debate, soliciting 39 comments on the SportsLifer web site alone.

2. The 10 Best College Football Teams of All Time

Another Bleacher Report hit, this one led to a silver medal with 2,000 viewers.

3. Top Ten All-Time Quarterback List

An early SportsLifer blog, posted after Brett Favre retired from the Packers. Upon further review and based on his ill-fated comebacks, Favre slips from third to fifth, behind Dan Marino and Otto Graham.

4. Lords of The Ringless: Wide Receiver Edition

One of the popular Lords of The Ringless postings, which also feature running backs, quarterbacks and MLB and NBA players.

5. 10 Things You May Not Know About Yankees Vs. Red Sox

A natural rivarly and a natural top 10. Did you know Horace Clarke knocked in the winning run in the longest game the Yankees and Red Sox ever played — 20 innings.

6. Hometown Heroes: The Best Athletes from White Plains

Art Monk, Washington Redskins wide receiver and NFL Hall of Famer, tops this homeboy list.

7. Top Ten Best NFL Championship Upsets Ever

This list was sparked by the Giants upset of the previously unbeaten Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. That epic ranks second behind the Jets win over the Colts in Super Bowl III.

8. The 10 Best Game-Winning Shots In NCAA Tourney History

GOOD! HE DID IT! BRYCE DREW DID IT! VALPO HAS WON THE GAME A MIRACLE!”  What a shot!

9. 10 Things You Never Knew About Jake Beckley

Who knew “Old Eagle Eye” had nearly 3,000 hits and and still leads all first baseman in putouts and total chances. Beckley retired after the 1907 season. Remember.

10. The SportsLifer Top 10

Bucky Dent’s home run in Boston in the 1978 Yankee-Red Sox game playoff game tops the list of games the SportsLifer has seen….in person.