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.


It’s the month the music died

1. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: January has been a rough month for musical artists, highlighted by the passing of David Bowie,who graced the cover of TIME magazine. Other notables have included Glenn Frey of the Eagles, Dale Griffin of Mott the Hoople and the unforgettable Natalie Cole. The talent may be gone, but the music will always be with us.

2. Bonus cantos: Fans at Madison Square Garden are certainly getting their money’s worth this week, with feature events the last three days all going into overtime. The Knicks held off the 76ers in a double overtime win Monday afternoon, then stopped the Jazz in overtime last night. The Rangers edged the Canucks in overtime on Tuesday.

3. There’s a first time for everything: When the Panthers host the Cardinals this weekend in the NFC Championship game, it will mark the first time in NFL history that Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks meet head-to-head in the playoffs. Carolina’s Cam Newton won the Heisman at Auburn in 2010, and Arizona’s Carson Palmer took college football’s highest honor at USC in 2002. That’s similar to what happened in last year’s World Series, when the Royals and the Mets staged the first Fall Classic encounter between two baseball expansion teams.

4. A Cespedes for the rest of us: Can’t fathom why the Mets don’t bite the bullet and at least try and retain Yoenis Cespedes. Without Cespedes, the Mets would not have made the playoffs last year. Be a shame to waste all that young pitching for lack of a big bopper in the middle of the lineup. And it will be tough for Met fans to swallow if Cespedes goes to the Nationals as rumored.

5. The people’s choice: Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis, tabbed a precocious neophyte by New York’s legendary guard and broadcaster Walt Frazier, is a popular guy. Already sales of KP’s #6 jersey rank fourth in the NBA, behind only Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and ahead of Kevin Durant. Porzingis is now a favorite of Knick fans, who booed his selection on NBA draft night and now cheer his every move.


Top 10 Rangers Stanley Cup playoff OT goals

Stephen Matteau, stick raised, celebrates the greatest OT goal in New York Rangers history.

Derek Stepan’s overtime goal the other night propelled the New York Rangers past the Washington Capitals into the Eastern Conference finals. The Game 7 goal was one of the biggest OT tallies in Ranger history. Here are 10 to remember:

1. Matteau, Matteau, Matteau: Stephen Matteau’s wraparound goal early in the second overtime in Game 7 beat Devils’ goalie Martin Brodeur and sent the Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup finals, where they would end a fabled 54-year championship drought. The Howie Rose call “Matteau, Matteau, Matteau” lives on in Rangers lore. Matteau also scored a double overtime goal in Game 3.

2. Triple Threat: Bryon Hextall scored an overtime game-winner at the 2:07 mark in Game 6 as the Rangers beat the Maple Leafs, 3-2, to win the 1940 Stanley Cup. Alf Pike in Game 1 and Muzz Patrick in double overtime of Game 5 also scored OT winners as the Blueshirts captured their third Stanley Cup. IMG_1372

3. Cup Winner: Bill Cook became the first player to score a Cup-winning goal in overtime as the Rangers beat Toronto, 1-0, in the 1933 finals. The Rangers would vacate Madison Square Garden for the circus after a first game victory, and took the best-of-five series in four games. Cook was the team’s first captain and was later elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

4. Stepan, Stepan, Stepan: Derek Stepan buried a rebound midway through the first overtime and the Rangers knocked out Washington in a tense, seven-game Eastern Conference semifinal in 2015. Each game was decided by a single goal.

5. The Stemmer: Pete Stemkowski scored in triple overtime to end the fifth longest game in Rangers history and set up a Game 7 showdown with the Blackhawks in the 1971 semifinals. Despite Stemkowski’s heroics, which also featured an OT winner in Game 1, Chicago won the series in seven games.

6. Gravy Train: Adam Graves scored at 14:08 of the first overtime to lead the Rangers past the Devils and into the 1997 Eastern Conference finals. The 2-1 victory enabled the Blueshirts to win the series in five games despite losing the opener.

7. Raleigh Rally: Center Don “Bones” Raleigh scored overtime goals in Games 4 and 5 to beat the Red Wings in the 1950 Stanley Cup finals. However Detroit won Games 6 and 7, the last in double overtime after Raleigh’s shot hit the crossbar, to deny the Rangers.

8. Hot Rod: All-time Rangers leading goal scorer Rod Gilbert (406 goals), pictured at left, scored on a slap shot at 4:20 of the first overtime as the Rangers beat the Flyers, 2-1, in Game 4 of the 1974 semifinals. Philadelphia won the series in seven games, then beat Boston for its first Stanley Cup.

9. Gaborik’s Goal: Marian Gaborik’s tally at 14:41 of the third overtime gave the Rangers a 2-1 win over the Capitals in Game 3 of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals. It was the third longest game in New York franchise history.

10. Hagelin’s Heroics: Carl Hagelin’s goal in the first overtime of the 2015 first round against Pittsburgh gave the Rangers the series in five games. It marked the team’s series-clinching OT goal since 1997, and the first at Madison Square Garden since Stephan Matteau’s gamer 21 years ago.

Workin’ overtime: Esa Tikkanen scored a pair of OT winners in a first round five-game series win in 1997…Bob Nevin delivered the clincher in Game 6 of a 1971 first-round series victory over Toronto…Fred Cook scored at 19:32 of the third overtime in the second longest game in Rangers history in the 1932 semifinals against Montreal.

Complete list of Stanley Cup overtime goals


Strange finishes for NHL legends

Bobby Orr a Blackhawk. Bryan Trottier a Penguin. Canadiens heroes in Ranger uniforms. As incongruous as it seems, these 10 Hall of Famers and others finished their careers in strange and unusual places

1. Bobby Orr – The man many consider the greatest hockey player ever – and certainly the greatest defenseman in NHL history – Orr played his first two seasons with the Boston Bruins, winning eight straight Norris Trophies, three Hart Trophies, two Conn Smythe Trophies, and a pair of Art Ross Trophies as the only defenseman ever to  lead the NHL in scoring. Orr also had a record +124 rating in 1970-71. He wound up playing 26 games over two seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks before knee injuries forced him to retire in 1978.

2. Ray Bourque – Another legendary Boston defenseman, Bourque won five Norris Trophies and scored 395 goals during his 20-year career in Boston. Bourque then went west to Colorado for two seasons, finally winning an elusive Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 2001. He still holds NHL records for goals (410), assists (1,169) and points (1,579) by a defenseman.

3. Brian Leetch – Like Orr and Bourque before him, Leetch won the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year. He also won the Norris Trophy twice, and a Conn Smythe Trophy with the Rangers in 1994. After 17 years in New York, Leetch was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for prospects Maxim Kondratiev, Jarkko Immon, and future first and second round draft picks in 2004, then closed out his career in Boston a year later.

4. Bryan Trottier – He’s the all-time Islander leader in a multitude of team categories, including games, assists and points. He won a Calder, Art Ross, Hart and Conn Smythe Trophy. And he led the Islanders to four consecutive Stanley Cup titles beginning in 1980. Trotts signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Penguins after the 1990 season and won two more Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. He retired after the 1994 season.

5. Guy Lafleur – This Montreal winger was already a Hall of Famer and retired for three years when he made a comeback with the Rangers in 1988. A five-time Stanley Cup champion with the Canadiens with three scoring titles and two MVPs, Lafleur, right, played his final two seasons with the Quebec Nordiques.

6. Doug and Max Bentley – The Bentley Brothers from Delisle, Saskatchewan, had similar careerr paths, Doug, the elder brother, broken into the NHL in 1939 and played 12 seasons with Chicago Blackhawks. Max joined Chicago the following year and was traded to Toronto in 1947, where he won three Stanley Cups. The Bentleys finished their careers wearing the Rangers crest in 1953-54. Max scored 245 career goals and Doug 219.

7. Bernie Geoffrion – Boom Boom played 14 years in Montreal and was one of the first players to score 50 goals in a season before he retired in 1964. Geoffrion won six Stanley Cups and Calder, Hart and Ross Trophies with the Habs. He joined the Rangers in 1966, and retired again in 1968. Boomer later coached the Rangers, Atlanta Flames and Canadiens.

8. Eddie Giacomin – The popular goalie played 11 seasons with the Rangers before being placed on waivers and claimed by the Detroit Red Wings on October 29, 1975. Giacomin was an outstanding netminder with the Blueshirts. Ironically, Giacomin’s first game with the Red Wings was Halloween, two days after he joined the team. Madison Square Garden partisans voiced their displeasure with the deal, and cheered on a 6-4 win for Giacomin, left. Seeing limited duty, Eddie finished his career with Detroit in 1978.

9. Ching Johnson – The Hall of Fame defenseman played 10 years with the Rangers and was a member of the 1928 and 1933 Stanley Cup champions. He was signed as a free agent by the New York Americans, and was scoreless in 31 games in his final campaign.

10.Sid Abel – A member of Detroit’s famed Production Line with Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay in the late 40s and early 50s, Abel won the Hart Trophy in 1949 and finished in the top five in scoring four times. He was traded to Chicago for cash before the 1952 season, and retired a year later.

Honorable MentionMarcel Dionne, fourth all-time with 731 goals, drafted by Detroit, played most of his career with the Los Angeles Kings and wound up with the Rangers; Bernie Federko, ended his career with the Red Wings in 1990 after 13 seasons with the St. Louis Blues; Pierre Pilote, three-time Norris winner with Chicago was traded to Toronto for Jim Pappin where he played one-year before retiring in 1968: and Bjore Salming, the first Swedish born player to earn an All-Star berth, signed as a free agent by Detroit after 16 seasons in Toronto.


The Babe, Huff, Joe Willie, Clyde and more — 12 New York sports icons in strange threads

The winningest goalie in hockey history and a future Hall of Famer retired recently after a brief seven-game stint with the St. Louis Blues. Wrong church, wrong pew. And wrong uniform. Brodeur will always be remembered as a Devil – he registered 688 wins during a 21-year run in New Jersey which started in 1991.

Here are a dozen iconic New York sports figures, legends on Broadway and Hall of Famers all, who wound up their careers in strange threads. Presented in chronological order:

1. Babe Ruth – The Sultan of Swat started and finished his career in Boston, but made his biggest mark in New York, where he hit 659 home runs and batted .349 during his 15 years with the Yankees. He left the Bronx in 1935 to join the Boston Braves, where he played 28 games and hit .181 before retiring. In one of his last appearances, on May 25, Ruth, right, belted three titanic home runs in a game in Pittsburgh, including his final home run, #714, the longest homer ever hit at Forbes Field. The Babe began his career as a pitcher for the Red Sox and won 89 games over six seasons before he was sold to the Yankees for $100,000 before the 1920 season.

2. Sam Huff – During his eight years as a New York Giant, Sam Huff never missed a game. He played in six NFL championship games, winning a ring in 1956, his rookie year. Huff was on the cover of TIME magazine at age 24, and was the feature subject in a CBS documentary called “The Violent World of Sam Huff.” Huff was traded to the Washington Redskins for defensive tackle Andy Stynchula and running back Dick James after the Giants lost the 1963 championship game to the Bears. He retired after the 1967 season, then returned to play for Vince Lombardi, a former offensive coach with the Giants and legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, in 1969.

3. Yogi Berra – It appeared as though Yogi Berra had played his last game in 1963. Yogi went to the dugout, where he managed the Yankees to the 1964 American League pennant. In a stunning development, Berra was fired after the Yankees lost a seven-game World Series to the Cardinals. He signed with the Mets as a free agent, and became a coach. However, Yogi played in four games with the Mets, catching in two of them, and had a pair of singles in nine at bats in his strange last hurrah. In his final game against the Milwaukee Braves at Shea Stadium, Berra struck out three times and was 0-for-4.

4. Willie Mays – The Say Hey Kid started and finished his career in New York, playing with two different National League franchises. separated by a 15-season stay by the bay in San Francisco. He began as a Giant in 1951 in New York, where he was National League Rookie of the Year. Mays, left, went West when the Giants moved to San Francisco for the 1958 season, and was traded to the Mets for pitcher Charlie Williams and $50,000 in 1972. Mays finished out his career in the 1973 World Series and knocked in the winning run with a 12-inning single against Oakland A’s reliever Rollie Fingers in Game Two. That Mets team, managed by another transplant Yogi Berra, lost to the A’s in seven games.

5. Don Maynard – The great wide receiver began his career with the Giants in 1958 and saw action in the 1958 NFL Championship game against the Colts, where he returned a pair of kickoffs, including one in overtime. Maynard then sat out the game for a year before joining the New York Titans in 1960. Maynard played 13 years for the Titans/Jets, where he had 633 receptions, 88 for touchdowns. He had a two-game, one-reception stint with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973. Maynard finished his career with the Houston Texans – Shreveport Steamer of the World Football League (WFL) in 1974.

6. Eddie Giacomin – On October 29, 1975, Eddie Giacomin was placed on waivers by the New York Rangers and claimed by the Detroit Red Wings. One of the most popular players in Blueshirts history, Giacomin was an outstanding netminder in his 10 plus seasons with Rangers. Ironically, Giacomin’s first game with the Red Wings was Halloween, two days after he joined the Red Wings. Madison Square Garden partisans voiced their displeasure with the deal, and cheered on a win for Giacomin. Seeing limited duty, Eddie finished his career with Detroit two years later.

7. Tom Seaver – Tom Terrific, aka The Franchise, was the heart and soul of the New York Mets. He finished 25-7 in 1969 when he won his first Cy Young Award and led the Miracle Mets to their first World Championship. Seaver won Cy Young Awards in 1973 and 1975 as well, and in nearly 12 seasons with the Mets won 198 games, still the most in team history. Then on June 15, 1977, the Mets traded Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for four players – Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Dan Norman and Pat Zachry. Seaver pitched for the Reds for nearly six seasons, returned to the Mets for one year in 1983, and wound up his career with the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox before retiring after the 1986 season.

8. Joe Namath – Broadway Joe of Beaver, Falls, PA., quarterback under coach Bear Bryant at Alabama, signed a $400,000 contract after the 1965 NFL draft to play in New York, and soon owned the town. Namath, right, played 12 years for the Jets, becoming the face of the American Football League (AFL) when he led the Jets to an upset win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Before the 1977 season, Joe Willie was waived and picked up by the Los Angeles Rams. He won two of his first three starts, then had a horrible Monday night in a loss to the Chicago Bears. He backed up Pat Haden the rest of the season, and never threw another pass.

9. Walt Frazier – Clyde was a first round pick out of Southern Illinois in the 1967 NBA draft and played 10 years with the Knicks. Frazier was a key piece of the Knicks only two NBA champions. In Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the Lakers, the Willis Reed game, Frazier scored 36 points and added 19 assists in a Knicks blowout. Prior to the 1977 season, Frazier was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers as payment for free agent Jim Cleamons. Frazier played his final two seasons and three games of the 1979-80 season with Cleveland before retiring. Clyde’s 4,791 assists are still the most in Knicks’ history.

10. Bryan Trottier – He’s the all-time Islander leader in a multitude of team categories, including games, assists and points. He won a Calder, Art Ross, Hart and Conn Smythe Trophy. And he led the Islanders to four consecutive Stanley Cup titles beginning in 1980. Trotts signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Penguins after the 1990 season, and won two more Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. He retired after the 1994 season.

11. Patrick Ewing – The number one overall pick in the 1985 NBA draft, Ewing quickly turned things around and made the Knicks a contender. The Georgetown product is the franchise leader in just about every major category, including games, points, rebounds and blocked shots. But after 15 seasons in New York and losses in the 1994 and 1999 NBA Finals, Ewing was sent to Seattle in 2000 in a multi-team deal in which the Knicks also traded Chris Dudley to Seattle and received Glen Rice, Luc Longley, Travis Knight, Vladimir Stepania, Larazo Borrell, Vernon Maxwell and two first and two second round draft picks. Ewing played a year with the SuperSonics and a year with the Orlando Magic, then retired.

12. Brian Leetch – One of the best defensemen in NHL history, Leetch helped the Rangers win their first Stanley Cup in 54 years in a seven-game series in 1994. Leetch won the Conn Symthe Trophy that year as playoff MVP, and also won two Norris Trophies as top defenseman and the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year. But late in the 2003-2004 season he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for prospects Maxim Kondratiev, Jarkko Immon, and future first and second round draft picks. Leetch played his final season with the Boston Bruins and retired in 2005.


Finally, Blueshirts are back in the Finals

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist exults as the Rangers advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

I began following the New York Rangers in grammar school. Back then there were just six teams in the NHL, and yet the Rangers missed the playoffs eight of nine seasons between 1958 and 1966. They weren’t very good….or else they weren’t quite good enough…and those would become  prevailing themes as I followed the Blueshirts through the years.

I went to my first hockey game in 1967, just days before Christmas, at the old Madison Square Garden on Eighth Avenue. The Rangers got blanked by the Boston Bruins that night, but the team was on the rise, thanks primarily to goalie Eddie Giacomin.

In 1972, the Rangers, fueled by superb goaltending and the GAG (goal a game) line of Jean Ratelle, Rod Gilbert and Vic Hadfield made the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in my lifetime. There they lost to Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and the Bruins in six games.

Several years later Espo was traded to the Rangers, and with John Davidson between the pipes the  Broadway Blues knocked off the Islanders and made it to the Finals in 1979, only to lose to the Montreal Canadiens in five.

The Islanders dominated the early 80s winning four straight Stanley Cups. Meanwhile the Rangers title drought continued, often to the accompaniment of 1940 chants in visiting arenas.

The Messiah delivers

Before the 1991-92 season began, the Rangers acquired Mark Messier, below, from the Edmonton Oilers with the express purpose of delivering a Stanley Cup. And the Messiah delivered, with help from defenseman Brian Leetch, goalie Mike Richter and a stellar supporting cast.

I was in the house on June 14, 1994, when the Rangers ended a 54-year jinx, defeating the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 to win their first Cup since 1940. That night, a fan in the Garden unfurled a banner that read “Now I can die in peace.” We all felt that way.

But not even the great Wayne Gretzy could bring another championship to the Rangers. After reaching the Eastern Conference finals in 1997, the Rangers missed the playoffs seven years in a row.

A rookie goalie named Henrik Lundqvist arrived in 2005, and backstopped the Rangers to their first playoff appearance since 1997. The Rangers gradually built a team to support Lundqvist, making a big trade to acquire sniper Martin St. Louis just before the trading deadline, and now they are back in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 20 years.

Some playoff runs are expected. The 1994 Rangers had the best record in the NHL during the regular season, and were favored to win the Cup. This year’s team has been a surprise, taking New York fans along for the ride. New York has become RangerTown.

After beating the Flyers in the first round, the Rangers rallied from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Penguins, then topped the Canadiens in six to advance to the Finals. They’re now on the doorstop, on the verge of making hockey history.