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.

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Wishing Well: 10 Changes We Need in Sports

Imagine if there really was a playoff system in college football, and that we really knew Alabama  was the national champion.

Ever wish you could change the world? How about the world of sports?

If the SportsLifer had the power, here’s 10 changes he would make:

1. A College Football playoff system

Let’s get it right…..finally. Give us an 8-team playoff. It’s a no-brainer

2. A daytime World Series game….and a doubleheader, too

Mandate one daytime Series game and one doubleheader per team, per season

3. Change in NFL OT rules so both teams get a chance

Each team gets the ball once in overtime….after that it’s sudden death

4. Change the NHL system for regulation wins

Three points for a regulation win; if game goes to OT/shootout rules apply

5. Schedule last two NFL games with division rivals

To lessen the chance of teams tanking, schedule the last two game within division

6. Call palming violations in NBA and NCAA

The palming violation is still a basketball rule, so call it once in a while beyond CYO

7. Charge a team error in baseball

If you can’t find a culprit on a pop-up or other botched play, give the team an error

8. A national holiday day after the Super Bowl

The least productive day in American industry now becomes a day of rest

9. One replay per team, per MLB game (no balls and strikes)

Not a big fan of replay, but let’s make use of technology to get the call right

10. NCAA Basketball Tournament, don’t change a thing

If if ain’t broke, don’t fix it. March Madness still works just fine, thank you


Strange and Unusual Sports Facts

Joe Pepitone and John Lennon had something in common – they were both born on October 9, 1940, Pepitone in Brooklyn and Lennon in Liverpool, England.

Ten strange and unusual sports factoids that may interest only me:

  • Former New York Yankee first baseman Joe Pepitone was born on October 9, 1940, the same birthdate as late Beatle John Lennon. Don’t know exactly what this means, but perhaps it explains some of the countercultural activities by Pepi, the first ballplayer to use a hair dryer in the clubhouse.
  • It takes 3,000 cows to supply the NFL with enough leather for a year’s supply of footballs.
  • The only two days of the year in which there are no professional sports games (MLB, NBA, NHL, or NFL) are the day before and the day after the Baseball All-Star Game.
  • Deion Sanders has played in both the World Series (1992 Atlanta Braves) and Super Bowl (1994, Super Bowl XXIX, San Francisco 49ers, 1995, Super Bowl XXX, Dallas Cowboys). The Braves lost the World Series in his only appearance, but both the 49ers and the Cowboys won the Super Bowl.
  • The Olympic rings cover every flag in the world. Yellow, green, red, black and blue were selected because at least one of those five colors appears in every flag in the world.
  • The Boston Celtics, a charter NBA franchise, have never had a player lead the league in scoring.
  • The Stanley Cup, emblematic of ice Hockey supremacy in North America, was donated in 1893 by Canada’s then governor general, Frederick Arthur, Lord Stanley of Preston. Originally awarded to honor Canada’s top amateur team, it eventually became the championship trophy of the NHL. Stanley Cup playoffs have been held continuously since 1894, although in the 1918-1919 season the finals were halted by a worldwide influenza epidemic. Oddly, Lord Stanley himself never saw a Stanley Cup game.
  • Who’s the only player to play in three straight  World Series for three different teams? Don Baylor — 1986 Boston Red Sox, 1987 Minnesota Twins, 1988 Oakland A’s.
  • In 1960, Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson hit one home run and knocked in 26 runs in 150 games and 460 at bats. That year against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he set a World Series record with 12 RBis, including a grand slam. He became the only player from a losing team ever to be voted World Series MVP, despite the exploits of Bucs second baseman Bill Mazeroski, whose home run won the Series for Pittsburgh.
  • There are 336 dimples on a regulation golf ball.

7/20/69: Man on the Moon, Baseball as Usual

 

Casey Stengel always said the Mets would win when they put a man on the Moon. Both miracles happened in 1969.

The whole world didn’t stop on July 20, 1969, when astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the Moon. It just seemed that way.

For even as astronaut Neil Armstrong was landing on the powdery surface of the Moon that day, uttering 11 of history’s most famous words —  “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” — the sports world carried on.

That famous Sunday featured a full schedule of baseball games, with many teams playing doubleheaders as was the norm in those days.

In Montreal, Bobby Pfeil’s bunt single in the 11th inning scored Ron Swoboda and gave the Mets a 4-3 win over the Expos and a split of their doubleheader. Montreal won the opener, 3-2.

The Mets, who would go on to miracles of their own that October, fell five games behind the Cubs in the National League East. Chicago’s Ferguson Jenkins and Dick Selma both pitched complete games as the Cubbies beat the Phillies, 1-0 and 6-1, at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia.

In Atlanta, Pat Jarvis pitched a six-hit shutout as the Braves maintained their one-game lead over the Giants and Dodgers in the NL West.

Orioles Rule AL East
Meanwhile, Syd O’Brien’s two-run triple in the eighth inning led the Red Sox to a 6-5 win over the Orioles. Despite the loss, Baltimore still led Boston by 11 names in the AL East.

And a shutout by Jim Perry, Gaylord’s brother, helped the AL West leading Twins to a 4-0 win over the Seattle Pilots and a four-game lead over Oakland.

The same day that Eagle landed on the Moon, Oakland left-hander Vida Blue, who went on to win the AL MVP and Cy Young award in 1971, was the losing pitcher in his major league debut. The A’s and Angels split a doubleheader that day.

In the Bronx, Gene Michael’s single drove in Roy White with the winning run as the Yankees beat the Washington Senators, 3-2, in 11 innings. Walk-off win was not yet part of the baseball vernacular.

This was the first year of divisional play in the majors. Four new teams — the Seattle Pilots and Kansas City Royals in the AL and San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos in the NL — joined baseball in 1969.

On that Sunday, July 20, Rod Carew of the Twins at .364 and Matty Alou of the Pirates at .354 and were the batting leaders. Oakland’s Reggie Jackson led the AL with 37 home runs; San Francisco’s Willie McCovey was tops in the AL with 30. Atlanta’s Phil Niekro led the majors with 15 wins.

Jacklin Celebrates British Open Win
In other sports, Tony Jacklin was still celebrating his win in the British Open the week before, first by an Englishman in 18 years.

And in football, Joe Namath and the rest of the Super Bowl champion New York Jets were gearing up for training camp at Hofstra University.

That same weekend, a car, shown above, driven by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., plunged off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island near Martha’s Vineyard. Kennedy managed to escape the submerged vehicle, but his passenger, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned. (Kennedy subsequently pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and received a suspended two-month jail sentence.)

In 1969, the average family income in the United States was $8,389.00, and the price of gasoline ranged between 29 and 35 cents a gallon. A six pack of Coca Cola was selling for 59 cents and Hershey bar was .10 cents. The cost for a new Ford Mustang was a whopping $2,832.00 for a standard model.

Richard M. Nixon was President of the United States, Woodstock was on the horizon and man was on the Moon.

Related Links

1969: Magical Time, Magical Year

Woodstock: Better Late Than Never


Leetch a Hall of Famer, On and Off the Ice

Hockey fans in general, and New York Ranger fans in particular, know all about newly-inducted Hall of Fame defenseman Brian Leetch and his on-ice exploits.

Leetch, the Rangers second all-time leading scorer with 240 goals and 981 points, won the Calder Trophy as top rookie, two Norris Trophies as best defenseman, and the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1994 when the Rangers beat the Vancouver Canucks in seven games to win their first Stanley Cup in 54 years.

Who will ever forget his goal in the final game against Vancouver? With New York on the verge of a nervous breakdown after blowing a 3-1 lead in the series, Leetch scored the all-important first goal of the game to help lead the Rangers to a 3-2 win. I’ll never forget it.  I was in Madison Square Garden that night.

But there was another side of Brian Leetch that few fans knew, a side I was privileged to witness in person just before Christmas in 2001. Barely three months after the terrible attacks on the Twin Towers, a group of businesses and non-profits, including New York Cares, put on a toys for tots event in Manhattan for those unfortunate children who lost parents in the 9/11 attacks.

This event was held in the Garden, though not on center ice, and lasted most of the day. Other Ranger players came, handed out toys, signed a few autographs, and left.

But Leetch was there when the doors opened, and he didn’t leave until the last toy had been given out and the last child had left. He seemed to have a kind word for all.

There were no news cameras there day, no ESPN coverage, no feature stories in the next day’s Sunday papers.

But I know. I was there to see a great Ranger, and an even greater man, put smiles on kids’ faces and give them a little boost at a time when they needed it most.

You’re a good man, Brian Leetch, because you really do care. A Hall of Famer off the ice as well as on.


Happy Father’s Day, Dad

The first college football game ever televised, Waynesburg vs. Fordham in 1939.

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.

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 filmed 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.

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, equalling 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. My father was right there for each and every one. He 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.

My Dad went to the Waynesburg-Fordham game with his cousin, who was at that time the manager of a powerful Fordham team.  By the time Maris tied the Babe in 1961, my Dad was a father of four, two boys and two girls, including me, the oldest. Of course, my Mom had something to do that.

My Dad took me to my first Yankee game more than 50 years ago. He also brought me to my first Giants game, also at Yankee Stadium, and to my first Knicks and Rangers games at the old Madison Square Garden.

He’s always been there for me, whether it be coin, advice or a good meal. There’s still nothing I’d rather do than talk sports with my old man. I treasure the times I spend with him always.

Happy Father’s Day. Love you, Dad.

Related Links

Happy Father’s Day

TV Firsts


First Impressions Aren’t Always Lasting

On April 23, 1952, Hoyt Wilhelm, a rookie with the New York Giants, stepped to the plate and in his first major league at-bat clouted a home run at the Polo Grounds..

A right-handed knuckleballer, Wilhelm went on to record his first major league win that day as the Giants beat the Boston Braves, 9-5.

It marked  the start of a storied 21-year career that saw him post a 143-122 record, a 2.52 ERA and 227 saves with nine different teams. As a Baltimore Oriole, Wilhelm pitched a no-hitter against the Yankees in 1958.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1985.

No More Homers
Hoyt Wilhelm would come to bat 431 more times in his career, finishing with a .088 batting average. He never hit another home run.

Wilhelm is one of 100 players throughout baseball history who homered in their first  at bat. Of the remaining 99, only Cleveland outfielder Earl Averill went yard to begin his major league career.

Averill homered against the Tigers on opening day in 1929. He wound up with 238 home runs and a .318 lifetime average, and was a six-time All -Star.

Of those 100 players, only three hit grand slams — Bill Duggleby of the Phillies in 1898, Jeremy Hermida of the Marlins in 2006 and Kevin Kouzmanoff of the Indians in 2006.

First Pitch, Grand Slam
Kouzmanoff hit his grand slam on the first pitch he saw, one of just 22 rookies to accomplish that feat.

Only Bob Nieman of the St. Louis Browns in 1951 and Keith McDonald of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2000 homered in their first two at- bats.

Former Minnesota Twins third baseman Gary Gaetti wound up with 360 homers, the most of any player who homered in his first at-bat. Only five others — Averill, Bill White, Tim Wallach, Jermaine Dye and Carlos Lee — hit as many as 200 homers in their careers.

Earlier this year, Atlanta Braves outfielder Jordan Schafer became the 100th and latest player to homer in his first at-bat.