Imagine: John Lennon And The Orange Bowl

December 8, 1980 — John Lennon was murdered outside the Dakota in New York. If still alive, the ex-Beatle would be 77.

John Lennon’s death was one of those seminal events where you remember exactly how you first heard the tragic news.

That night, I was at the old Orange Bowl in Miami to see the Miami Dolphins face the New England Patriots in Monday night football.

Late in the fourth quarter, famed broadcaster Howard Cosell informed the nationwide audience on ABC-TV that Lennon had been shot.

No public announcement was made at the Orange Bowl. There were no cell phones, no text messages, no wireless Internet to deliver the story.

The game went into overtime, and the Dolphins win 16-13 on a 23-yard field goal by Uwe von Schamann.

It was a beautiful December South Florida night.

After the game, I took a bus back to my car, drove home with the radio off. Still hadn’t heard about Lennon.

The next day, as I was driving in to work the sports desk at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, I turned on the radio. Every station was playing Beatles music and John Lennon songs.

Finally, one of the DJs reported that Lennon had been shot and killed the night before.

At work of course Lennon’s death was the only topic of conversation. I still remember the rock & roll writer at the paper writing his piece on Lennon.

And the story that referred to John as “The Thinking Man’s Beatle.”

John Lennon was just 40 years old when he was killed. Although he is gone, he is still with us in his music.

Happy Birthday, John.

John Lennon and Joe Pepitone: Born The Same Day

SportsLifer Top 50: Number 13

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.

Top 10: The Best of the SportsLifer

1. Woodstock: Better Late Than Never

“The thing the sixties did was show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.”

– John Lennon

Well, I finally made it to Woodstock, 39 years too late.

2. Empty Seats at Yankee Stadium

As the Yankees get set to open their final season in the original (albeit renovated) Yankee Stadium, look ahead to what I predict will be the toughest ticket in New York sports history — Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium in 2009.

Yankee tickets weren’t always tough tickets. Even during the great championship runs and dynasties, an SRO crowd in the Bronx was a novelty, not a daily occurrence.

3. NFC East Is NFL’s Beast
Historically, what’s the best division in the NFL?  If you use Super Bowl titles as the ultimate criteria, then it’s the NFC East, hands down.

4. Running Backs Once Ruled at Syracuse

Just like USC is known for producing tailbacks and Penn State linebackers, Syracuse University was once a football factory for running backs.

5. Celtics-Lakers Would Be Historic NBA Final

They’re the Lennon and McCartney of basketball, the Rogers and Astaire of hoops, the Batman and Robin of the hardwood.

6. All-Star Game: The Price Ain’t Right
The last time the All-Star game was held at Yankee Stadium in 1977, tickets were priced $10-15 for box and reserved seats. That’s a far cry from the $150-725 price range for the July 15 midsummer classic, and roughly two-three times the cost of tickets for last year’s game at San Francisco.

7. The Lifeline That Is Football

On a November afternoon in 1963, five days before President John F. Kennedy is assassinated, a 12-year old with this mother, father and cousin sees Y.A. Tittle and the Giants pound the 49ers in Yankee Stadium.


8. The Best of Yankee Stadium: Post-Season

As Yankee Stadium closes its doors, this is the final of a three-part retrospective on the moments that shaped Yankee Stadium, New York and the world of sports.

9. Top Ten All-Time Quarterback List

1. Johnny Unitas (Colts, Chargers, 1956-73)
A three-time champ with Baltimore, nine times an All-Pro, seventh all-time with 290 touchdown passes. Holds the NFL equivalent of Joe Dimaggio’s streak, 47 straight games with a TD pass.

10. Bidding Adieu to The House That Ruth Built

It’s been compared to the Colosseum, been called The House That Ruth Built.

Mel Allen, the late Yankee broadcaster, once said, “St. Patrick’s is the Yankee Stadium of cathedrals.”

Woodstock: Better Late Than Never

“The thing the sixties did was show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.”

— John Lennon

Well, I finally made it to Woodstock, 39 years too late.

Back in the summer of ’69, just out of high school, I was on the New York State Thruway, just over the Tappan Zee Bridge, when the transmission on the old Ford woodie wagon gave out. Never made it past Tuxedo Park.

I did see Jimi Hendrix at the Westchester County Center in White Plains in 1968, and I caught the Who in an amazing concert at Holy Cross College barely a month after Woodstock. Yeah, and in 1973, I made the trek to Watkins Glen in upstate New York along with 600.000 others to see the Allman Brothers, the Grateful Dead and the Band live and in concert.

But Woodstock was THE rock concert of all-time, the singular event that defined the Sixties for present and future generations.

So this week I drove up to Bethel, N.Y., near Monticello, to see The Museum at Bethel Woods, which celebrates the Woodstock festival and the spirit of the Sixties.

(To clarify, Bethel is about an hour and a half from Woodstock, which bore the name of Music and Arts Festival. Frame of reference, Max Yasgur’s farm was in Bethel.)

It’s a wonderful museum and brought back some memories and flashbacks of that time in America’s life. And the music — from Richie Havens to Hendrix, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Santana, Janis Joplin and the Jefferson Airplane — was amazing.

How did they ever pull off a show like Woodstock, in the middle of nowhere, with more than 400,000 people? And with no cell phones?

Woodstock Weekend in Sports

Meanwhile, there are some sports parallels for Woodstock weekend beginning Friday, August 15, in the summer of 1969. Going into baseball action that weekend, the Mets were in third place in the National League East, 10 games behind the Cubs and a game behind the Cardinals.

Over the weekend, the Mets swept Saturday and Sunday doubleheaders from the expansion Padres, and were sitting eight games back of the Cubs by the time Hendrix played the National Anthem at Woodstock on Monday morning. The Miracle Mets run was underway.

The Yankees were in fourth place in the newly-formed American League East, tied with the Washington Senators 22 1/2 games behind the Orioles. The Yankees did win two of three in Chicago on Woodstock weekend.

The Jets, fresh off their Super Bowl III triumph, crushed the Giants, 37-14, at the Yale Bowl before 70,874 fans to stamp themselves and the AFL as legitimate, at least in New York.

And In golf, Raymond Floyd edged out Gary Player by a stroke to win the PGA tournament in Dayton, Ohio.

The SportsLifer Top 50 Countdown (11-20)

The SportsLifer countdown of momentous events attended continues this week with the fourth installment, numbers 11-20. Baseball dominates the top 50 more than any other sport, and this segment includes record-setting moments by Barry Bonds, Jim Hickman, Roger Clemens and Eric Young.

We’ll conclude next week with the SportsLifer Top Ten. Don’t miss it.

And readers, it would be great to hear your own lists.

20. Yankees hit 8 home runs to equal team record for one game, beat White Sox 16-3, Yankee Stadium, 2007

19. Yankees and Tigers play to 3-3, 19-inning tie, second game of twi-night doubleheader, 1968

18. Rockies outscore Dodgers 16-15, 10 home runs, Eric Young steals 6 bases, Coors Field, 1996

17. Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk brawl at home plate, Red Sox edge Yankees 3-2, Fenway Park, 1973

16. El Duque Hernandez tames Padres 9-3, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada homer, game 2, 1998 World Series

Roger Clemens beats Cardinals 5-2 for 300th win, also gets 4,000th career strikeout, 2003

14. Follow Tiger Woods, others, at first round of U.S. Open Golf tournament, Winged Foot, 2006

13. Dolphins defeat Patriots 16-13 in overtime at Miami’s Orange Bowl on night John Lennon is shot, 1980

12. Outfielder Jim Hickman hits for natural cycle for Mets who defeat Cardinals 7-3 at Polo Grounds, 1963

11. Giants’ Barry Bonds hits home run #756, breaks Hank Aaron’s record, San Francisco, 2007

Special Category:

Ran a press conference on IBM scouting technology called “Advance Scout” at NBA All-Star game in Oakland, 2000

First installment: 41-50. includes the St. Louis Hawks, Holy Cross, and a Ranger rout.

Second installment: 31-40. stars Lew Alcindor, The Mick, and the Boston Marathon.

Third installment: (21-30), recalls the play of Willie Mays, Joe Namath and Lawrence Taylor and others.