The Doc, the Giants and a breath of fresh air

Doc & Dad

Dr. John McGovern, right, and Bruno Benziger celebrate their 50th birthday in 1975.

Last week, the White Plains community bid a fond farewell as we celebrated the life of Dr. John V. McGovern. The Doc was truly a Renaissance man and a charter member of “The Greatest Generation,” the group of Americans that grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II.

Dr. McGovern specialized in allergies and immunology, enjoyed singing show tunes and was a licensed pilot who appreciated the fine arts and the opera. Oh yeah, and he also fathered 13 children.

He was a role model for me, like my father, and Bruno Benziger, our Boy Scout troop leader, my uncles Tom and Jimmy, and so many of the men of the previous generation who taught us life lessons and showed us the way, Growing up in White Plains in the 50s and 60s was simply amazing. Those were the days.

I remember the Doc as a healer. When I was a third grader he began treating me for asthma. Weekly shots became bi-monthly, but when I went away to college, the treatments ended.

Dr. McGovern set me on the road to recovery. Along with Dr. John Parrinello, another allergist who treated me in middle age, I eventually grew out of my asthma. .

As a sixth grader back in 1962, I was having particular difficulty breathing. Anyone who has ever suffered with asthma, knows that wheezing feeling, where every breath is painful.

One gray November Sunday, the asthma was squeezing the air out of my lungs. My mother and father wanted to call Dr. McGovern, but I knew he was at the Giants game at Yankee Stadium. In those days, doctors could be paged at sporting events. And they made house calls.

I begged my parents not to call, and they waited until the game ended. The Doc arrived at the house shortly after. He took out his stethoscope, listened to my lungs, and said “this boy has pneumonia. He needs to go to the hospital.”

Shortly after I was admitted to St. Agnes Hospital in White Plains, where I stayed for six days. I recovered, and to this day, nearly 55 years later, knock on wood, I’ve never been hospitalized again.

Oh, by the way, the Giants beat the St. Louis Cardinals 31-28 on that November Sunday in 1962.  That one was for you Doc. Thanks for curing me.

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Giants vs. Packers: Storied playoff history

 

Packers Jim Taylor rumbles in 1962 NFL Championship game at Yankee Stadium.

The Giants-Packers rivalry is one of the most storied in the NFL, dating back to their first meeting in 1928, which New York won 6-0.

Five times the two teams squared off for the NFL championship, with the Packers winning four, including back-to-back victories in 1961 and 1962. Five years ago, the Giants went into Lambeau Field and beat a 15-1 Green Bay squad 37-20. In 2008, the Giants beat the Packers in a 23-20 overtime thriller in frigid Green Bay to win the NFC Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl.

Four of the seven post-season meetings between the two clubs were decided by a touchdown or less. The Pack won the other two via shutouts.

New York and Green Bay have met 60 times including the regular season, with the Pack holding a 32-26-2 advantage. Their most recent meeting occurred last October, when the Packers won 23-16.

Here are thumbnails on their seven playoff meetings:

Dec. 11, 1938 — Giants 23, Packers 17
In a see-saw battle, the Giants rallied to become the first team since the NFL split into two divisions in 1933 to win two NFL championships.

The Giants took a 16-14 halftime lead before Green Bay surged in front in the third quarter on Tiny Engebresten’s 15-yard field goal.

danowskiGiants halfback Hank Soar, who would later become a major league baseball umpire (he was the first base ump when Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in the 1956 World Series), carried the ball five times and caught a pass on the ensuing drive before making a leaping catch from quarterback Ed Danowski, right, for 23 yards and the winning touchdown.

A championship game record crowd of 48,120 witnessed the game at New York’s Polo Grounds. Each member of the Giants teams received $900, while the losing Packers received $700 per man.

Dec. 10, 1939 — Packers 27, Giants 0
Green Bay avenged its loss to New York the previous year with a resounding victory, the first shutout in championship game history.

The Packers took a 7-0 lead in the first half on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Arnie Herber to Milt Gantenbein.

Green Bay then pulled away with 20 points in the second half, which featured a 31-yard touchdown pass from Cecil Isbell to Joe Laws in the third quarter and a 1-yard touchdown run by Ed Jankowski in the final period.

The game was moved from City Stadium in Green Bay and held at the larger Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis near Milwaukee. Top tickets were priced at $4.40.

Dec. 17 , 1944 — Packers 14, Giants 7
In a game played in the midst of World War II, Green Bay scored a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter and held on to win the NFL title.

The Packers celebrated a victory that avenged a 24-0 loss to the Giants a month earlier,

Ted Fritsch scored on a 1-yard run and then hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass from Irv Comp to give Curly Lambeau’s visiting Packers the win.

Ward Cuff scored on a 1-yard plunge in the fourth quarter for the only score for coach Steve Owens and the Giants.

Giants tackle Al Blozis played in the game while on furlough. Six weeks later he was killed in battle by German machine-gun fire. His number 32 was later retired by the Giants.

Dec. 31, 1961 — Packers 37, Giants 0
In the first NFL championship game ever played in Green Bay, the Packers routed the Giants to give coach Vince Lombardi the first of his five NFL titles. A total of 16 Hall of Famers, 11 of them Packers, dressed for the contest.

Paul-HornungThe Packers were led by Paul Hornung, left, who scored a record-tying 19 points with a touchdown, three field goals, and four extra points.

After a scoreless first quarter, Hornung, who finished with 89 yards rushing, ran for a 6-yard touchdown, the first of 24 Packers points in the second quarter. Green Bay’s defense had four interceptions, and the Giants’ offense picked up only six first downs, one by penalty.

Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr passed for three touchdowns, two to tight end Ron Kramer.

Dec. 30, 1962 — Packers 16, Giants 7
With the temperature in the teens and an icy wind estimated at 30 miles an hour or more, Yankee Stadium was an icebox for the players and 64,892 fans. Both teams came out with cleatless, rubber-soled shoes, and the weather put a crimp in the Giants passing attack led by quarterback Y.A. Tittle.

“I remember the first pass Y. A. threw me; it was a simple square out,” said Giants flanker Frank Gifford. “The wind took it, and the ball sailed way over my head. Y. A. was a great, precise passer. One of the Packers, I don’t remember who, turned to me and said, ‘It’s going to be a long day, Frank.’ ”

Green Bay fullback Jim Taylor led all rushers with 85 yards and scored the game’s only offensive touchdown and guard Jerry Kramer kicked three field goals to account for the Packers scoring.

The Giants registered their only touchdown in the third quarter when Jim Collier recovered a blocked punt in the end zone.

New York would go on to lose its third straight championship game — this one to the Chicago Bears — in 1963, before enduring 18 years of playoff futility. The Packers would win the 1965 NFL championship game, and then went on to win the first two Supers Bowls in 1966 and 1967.

Jan. 20, 2008 — Giants 23, Packers 20 (overtime)
In one of the coldest games in NFL history, the Giants beat the Packers in overtime in the NFC Championship game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The game-time temperature was -4 with a wind chill of -24

tynes-kicks-jpgFollowing Corey Webster’s interception of a Brett Favre pass early in overtime, Lawrence Tynes, right,  kicked his third field goal of the game from 47 yards out to give the Giants a hard-earned victory.

Green Bay led 10-6 at the half sparked by a 90-yard touchdown pass from Favre to Donald Driver, but the Giants rebounded in the third quarter to take the lead on touchdown runs by Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.

Mason Crosby’s fourth quarter field goal tied the game 20-20, and Tynes missed a pair of field goals, including one at the gun, before kicking the game-winner.

The Giants advanced to the Super Bowl, where they knocked off the previously unbeaten New England Patriots 17-14 to win their third Super Bowl.

Jan 15, 2012 – Giants 37, Packers 20

Eli Manning passed for 330 yards and three touchdowns, outdueling Aaron Rodgers in a divisional round upset.

Hakeem Nicks caught two touchdowns, including a 66-yarder in the first quarter and a 37-yard Hail Mary pass just before halftime that gave the Giants a 20-10 lead.

Manning hooked up with Mario Manningham on a four-yard TD pass in the third quarter to extend the Giants lead. Brandon Jacobs ran 14 yards for the final New York touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Much like the last time, the Giants went on to beat the Patriots 21-17 in the Super Bowl.

And once again, Manning and Rodgers will match up as quarterbacks.


Merry Christmas Dad

Dad, you are a hero. You were always my hero.

As you may know, in 1998 Tom Brokaw wrote a book called “The Greatest Generation” It was about a generation that transformed America and made it better for all us.

It was a generation that gave new meaning to the words courage, sacrifice and honor.

It was your generation. The Greatest Generation.

You lived through the Picture 059Great Depression. You fought for our country in World War II, preserving our freedom. Later you  married Mom and raised a family, teaching us good Catholic values and setting an example for all of us.

If there was a category in the Guinness Book of World Records for most weddings attended or christenings or first communions or graduations, you would surely hold the record. You were always there for us, looking out for us, always supportive.

You made sure each one of us was pointed in the right direction. You made life better for my family, for your grandchildren and great grands too. You defined the values, set the pace and then let us fly.

It was you that interested me in sports at an early age, and I’ve carried that passion through my entire life. Hey, they don’t call me SportsLifer for nothing.

You saw some of the most historic sports events in history, including a no-hitter, one of the major moments in TV history, and Roger Maris’ 60th home run to tie Babe Ruth’s record.

Monte Pearson’s no-hitter

On a steamy August Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1938, New York right-hander Monte Pearson pitched the first no-hitter in Yankee Stadium history. The Yanks beat the Cleveland Indians, 13-0, that afternoon to complete a doubleheader sweep.

Pearson, who was 16-7 that year and won exactly 100 games lifetime,  faced the minimum 27 batters, striking out seven. Tommy Henrich and Joe Gordon each homered twice.

In the opener that day, Joe DiMaggio’s third straight triple of the game plated two runs in the bottom of the ninth to cap a three-run rally and give the Yankees an 8-7 victory. A crowd of 40.959 was on hand as the Yankees increased their American League lead  to 12 games en route to their third straight championship.

First college football game ever televised

One year later come September, Fordham University defeated Waynesburg College of Pennsylvania, 34-7, at Randalls Island in New York. But that wasn’t the story. NBC filTVCollegeFootballmed the first college football game ever televised, as Bill Stern brought the play by play to viewers.

Waynesburg’s Bobby Brooks made history with a 63-yard touchdown run, the first televised TD. Reportedly, there was no victory dance in the end zone.

The W2XBS broadcast signal had about a 50-mile radius, and there were about a thousand TV sets in the New York metropolitan area at the time. The signal didn’t even reach Waynesburg, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh. So who saw the game? Who knows?

Columbia shocks Army
In October of 1947, Army was a huge favorite as the Cadets brought a 32-game winning streak into New York to face Columbia’s Lions. Army had not lost since 1943; Columbia was coming off losses to Yale and Penn.

Army led, 20-7, at the half, but the Columbia combination of quarterback Gene Rossides and received Bill Swiacki brought the Lions back for a stunning 21-20 victory.

60 for Maris

And in September of 1961, Roger Maris of the Yankees hit a long home run into the upper deck at the old Yankee Stadium against Baltimore’s Jack Fisher. The round-tripper was Roger’s 60th of the season, equaling the mark Babe Ruth set in 1927.  Maris hit number 61 on the final day of the season, setting a record that many feel still stands.

These events, interesting in of themselves, have something else in common. You were right there for each and every one. You was just 13-years-old at the Pearson no-hitter, with other family members. The decision was made to leave once the Indians got their first hit. That never happened.

You went to the Waynesburg-Fordham game with your cousin Bobby Pugliese, who was at that time the manager of a powerful Fordham team.  By the time Maris tied the Babe in 1961, you were a father of four, two boys and two girls, including me, the oldest.

Our first Yankee game

You took me to my first Yankee game nearly 60 years ago, vs. the White Sox on a brilliant Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Six Hall of Famers were in the lineup that day, including Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, plus both managers, Casey Stengel and Al Lopez.

You also brought me to my first Giants game, also at Yankee Stadium, five days before JFK was assassinated in 1963. And to my first Knicks and Rangers games at the old Madison Square Garden on 8th Avenue and 49th Street. We once saw an NBA doubleheader.

We saw a Miami-Notre Dame game at the Orange Bowl in Miami, a Yankee game against the Rays in St. Pete, and some great Iona Prep football. Remember when you brought home some early VCR prototype in 1967 and taped the Thanksgiving Day game against New Rochelle with Marty Glickman doing the play by play on WPIX. That was mighty impressive..

You’ve always been there for me, whether it be coin, advice or a good meal. Over the years we must have spent 100,000 hours talking sports, and there’s still nothing I’d rather do. I treasure the times I spend with you always.

Merry Christmas, Dad. Love you always.


It just happened–for the first time in history: Giants, Jets, Knicks, Rangers won on same day

IMG_0104December 11, 2016 was a landmark day in New York sports history. On that Sunday, the Giants, Jets, Knicks and Rangers all won.

Big deal you say? Well….yes. As a matter of fact, 12/11/16 marked the first and only time all four of those NY teams won on the same day. And that goes back to 1960, the year the Jets took off….as the New York Titans.

Think about that for a minute. 57 seasons of competition. Five Super Bowl championships, two NBA titles and a Stanley Cup. And yet, not once did the Giants, Jets, Knicks and Rangers ever win on the same day. Until December 11.

Oh sure, there were hundreds of instances when the four didn’t play on the same day. The Jets on a Sunday, the Giants on a Monday for instance. Strikes by the NFL, NBA and NHL also came into play several times.

In the entire decade of the 70s (from 1971-80), the Giants and the Jets managed to win on the same day just three times. That’s some lousy football.

On four separate occasions – in 2014, 1988, 1968 and 1962 – the Giants, Jets and Rangers all won on the same day. But the Knicks lost. In 2010 both football teams won along with the Knicks, but the Rangers lost.

Four others times, in 1986, 1971, 1968 and 1962, the football teams both won but the Knicks lost to the Lakers. In each case, the Rangers were idle.

Finally, on Dec. 11 it all clicked. That day the Jets rallied to beat the 49ers 23-17 in overtime on a 19-yard touchdown run by Bilal Powell. On Sunday night, the Giants defeated the Cowboys 10-7 as Odell Beckham caught a 61-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning for the game winner. The Rangers, playing at Madison Square Garden that night, routed the Devils 5-0. behind the shutout goaltending of Antti Raanta. And later that night, on the West Coast, the Knicks beat the Lakers 122-118 as Kristaps Porzingis scored 26 points and Derrick Rose added 25.


And the loser is….Minnesota

When the Cavaliers shocked the Warriors to win the NBA Championship last month, Cleveland ended a string of 52 years without a championship, dating back to the Browns winning the NFL title against the Baltimore Colts 27-0 in 1964.

So now Minnesota – make that the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul – has the longest championship drought in North America professional sports.

Minnesota’s dry spell extends nearly 25 years, all the way back to October 27, 1991. That night the Twins behind Jack Morris beat the Atlanta Braves 1-0 in 10 innings to win Game 7 of the World Series. Kirby Puckett and his teammates had plenty to celebrate.

But since then, not a single Minnesota team – Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves or Wild – has even made it to a championship series.

Washington, D.C. is next on the list. The last championship for teams that represent our nation’s capital came in early 1992, when the Redskins beat the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl.

Ironically, the original Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961. Washington hasn’t had a team in the World Series since 1933.

Toronto won its last championship in 1993 when the Blue Jays won the World Series on a dramatic, ninth inning home run by Joe Carter.

Houston last won a title in 1995 when the Rockets took the NBA crown. And Atlanta beat the Cleveland Indians later that year to win the World Series.

Like Cleveland, all the cities mentioned about have teams in at least three of the four major pro sports, baseball, football, basketball and hockey.

For cities that don’t have either basketball or hockey franchises, San Diego and Cincinnati have suffered the most. The Chargers last won a championship in 1963, when they humbled the Boston Patriots 51-10 for the AFL crown. The Cincinnati Reds last won the World Series in 1990, sweeping the Oakland A’s.

Nobody wants to be on this list, but Minnesota now tops the charts.


The 10 greatest comebacks in sports history

When Texas A&M rallied from 12 points down with less than a minute left to play and went on to defeat Maryland in double overtime in the NCAA West Regionals, it marked the biggest comeback in the last minute of a game in college basketball history. And it proved that “never say die” and “play to the last whistle” are more than just clichés.

The Aggies trailed Northern Iowa by a dozen points with 34 seconds remaining before they closed out regulation with a stunning 14-2 run that sent the game into overtime. A&M then won the game 92-88 in the second OT to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2007.

“We played the game the right way, even at the end,” said Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy, who admitted afterward he would need time to wrap his head around what had transpired. “We didn’t have guys just coming down jacking up 3s. We tried to drive the ball.”

The previous college basketball comeback record was set in 2005, when UNLV rallied from 11 points down with 59 seconds left to beat San Diego State in overtime.

Some might argue the Aggies spirited surge ranks as the greatest comeback in the history of sports. It may well be. Here are the 10 biggest single-game comebacks of all time.

1. Buffalo Bills 41, Houston Oilers 38, OT, 1993 NFL playoffs: In the midst of their four-year Super Bowl run, the Bills engineered a comeback for the ages. Already trailing 28-3 at halftime behind four touchdown passes by future Hall of Famer Warren Moon, Buffalo fell even further behind early in the third quarter when Houston safety Bubba McDowell intercepted a pass from quarterback Frank Reich, who was filling in for the injured Jim Kelly, and returned it 58 yards for another Oiler touchdown, putting the score at 35-3. At this point, many Bills fans headed home out of the chilly western New York weather, convinced the game was lost.

Amazingly the Bills rallied with five straight touchdowns, four on Reich passes, the last a 17-yard toss to Andre Reed to put Buffalo up 38-35 with less than three minutes left in regulation. In the waning seconds of the game, Houston’s Al Del Greco made a 26-yard field goal kick to tie the score and send the game into overtime.

Not to be denied, Steve Christie kicked a 32-yard field goal, winning the game for Buffalo 41-38 and completing the largest comeback victory (32 points) in NFL history. The Bills made it to the Super Bowl that year but lost to the Dallas Cowboys. It was the third of four consecutive Super Bowl appearances for the Bills; they lost all four games.

2. Cleveland Indians 15, Seattle Mariners 14, 11 innings, 2001: The Indians tied the greatest single-game comeback in MLB history when they reversed a 12-0 deficit to defeat the Seattle Mariners 15-14 in extra innings.  The Indians scored three runs in the seventh, four in the eighth, and five in the ninth to force extra innings before Jolbert Cabrera drove home Kenny Lofton with the winning run in the bottom of the 11th.

Cleveland scored five runs in the ninth after two outs to tie the game at 14-14, capped by a two-strike bases-loaded triple by Omar Vizquel. To emphasize what an insane comeback this was, they had been down 14-2 at the seventh inning stretch, and somehow managed to win.

What made the comeback even more impressive was that the Mariners set an American League record and tied the MLB record with 116 victories in 2001.

3. Boston Celtics 97, Los Angeles Lakers 91, 2008 NBA Finals: In one of the largest turnarounds in the history of the NBA Finals, the Celtics came back from 24 points down, the biggest Finals turnaround since 1971, to win Game 4, 97-91.  The victory gave the Celtics a 3-1 series lead and was the biggest reason Boston went on to win its first and only title since 1986.

4. Kentucky 99, LSU 95, 1994: If any lead is safe, you’d think being up 31 points with 15 minutes to play would suffice. LSU led Kentucky 68-37 in the second half of their February contest, but then the Wildcats rallied—led by Walter McCarty and Travis Ford—with 62 points to end the game with a 99-95 win. Kentucky coach Rick Pitino remarked, “I know I’ve never, ever witnessed anything like it.”

 

5. Los Angeles Kings 6, Edmonton Oilers 5, OT, NHL 1982 playoffs: The Miracle on Manchester is the nickname given to an NHL playoff game between the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers. The game, the third in a best-of-five postseason series, was played at Los Angeles Forum, the Kings home at the time, which was situated on Manchester Boulevard. The Kings completed the largest comeback in NHL playoff history, going from being down 5-0 to win the game 6-5 in overtime. Combined with upset wins in Games 1 and 5, the Kings eliminated the heavily favored Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier-led Oilers in a 3-2 series victory to reach the second round.

6. Maryland 42, Miami 40, 1984: Trailing 31-0 at halftime, the Terrapins came all the way back to stun the Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl. Frank Reich, the same quarterback who would lead Buffalo to an improbable comeback win against Houston in the NFL playoffs, threw six touchdown passes in the second half to spark the amazing rally. “In the first half, everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong,” one of Reich’s teammates said. “In the second half, everything that could possibly go right, went right.”

7. Indiana Pacers, 107, New York Knicks 105, NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals: Reggie Miller scored eight points in nine seconds to draw the ire of Spike Lee and New York fans everywhere. We’ve all seen the video. Reggie hits a three, steals the ball and then quickly hits another three to tie the game with 13 seconds left. Miller, who finished with 31 points, made two free throws seconds later to life the Pacers to the Game 1 win. In the postgame frenzy, the celebratory Pacers headed to the locker room. Reggie, in his euphoria, screamed “They choked, they choked.”

8. Detroit Tigers 14, Milwaukee Brewers 13, 1901: It happened in 1901, and hasn’t happened in 115 years since – the greatest ninth inning comeback in baseball history. On April 24, 1901, in their first American League game, the Detroit Tigers scored 10 runs in the ninth inning to beat Milwaukee, 14-13.

9. Rockets 81, Spurs 80, 2004: Tracy McGrady scored an unfathomable 13 points in 33 seconds to bring Houston back from an eight-point deficit in the final minute against the Spurs. McGrady capped it off with a buzzer-beating three for the win.

10. Philadelphia A’s 17, Cleveland Indians 15, 1925: The Indians led, 14-2 and 15-3, and had a 15-4 advantage in the middle of the eighth. Then came the deluge. Thirteen Philadelphia runs turned a huge deficit into a 17-15 win. Future Hall of Famer Al Simmons led the Athletics’ attack with three hits, including a home run, and three RBIs.


Cubs must prove they’re World Series worthy

1. Pressure’s on: Not buying all that pre-season hype about 2016 being the year of the Cubs. Sure, the Cubbies are loaded with young talent, and they did make it to the NLCS last year. But Chicago was swept by the Mets, stretching the futility another year. The Cubs last made the World Series in 1945, when Harry Truman was President. Joe Maddon is a good manager, but he’s not a miracle worker. Get to the World Series first Cubbies, then I’ll believe. After all, the Cubs have been rebuilding since 1908.

2. Hang it up, Peyton: You won the Super Bowl, you’re tied with brother Eli, it’s time to retire. Very few athletes get to go out on top. If you play another season, it can only end bad. Just ask Joe Namath, who finished with the Rams, or Johnny Unitas, who went to the Chargers.

3. Super Bowl leftovers: Only four players have won both a Heisman Trophy and a Super Bowl MVP. Roger Staubach, Jim Plunkett, Marcus Allen and Desmond Howard are the answer to this trivia question. BTW, there has been a least one turnover in every Super Bowl except for Super Bowl 25, when the Giants beat the Bills in the wide-right game.

4. Billy Ball: Mickey Mantle once said this when describing his fiery friend and former Yankee teammate Billy Martin: “Billy is the only guy in the world who can hear someone give him the finger.”

5. Comic genius: Is there a funnier pairing than Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau who play Felix and Oscar in Neil Simon’s 1968 film classic “The Odd Couple.”