Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How to Be a New York Basketball Fan In Detroit -- 2016-17 Edition

The New York Knicks visit the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night, November 1. They will do so again on March 11, 2017. The Brooklyn Nets' lone visit of the regular season won't be until March 30.

Before You Go. The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press (or "Freep") websites should be consulted before you decide whether to go. While the game will be indoors, you will be spending some time outdoors.

Tuesday afternoon is forecast to be in the low 50s, and Tuesday night in the low 40s. Most likely, you'll be staying overnight if you go, so let me add that Sunday's weather is set to be a little colder. They're also predicting rain for Tuesday afternoon, but not a storm. At least they're not predicting snow: Keep in mind that Detroit is in the Midwest snowbelt, and it's worse in the suburbs than it is downtown where the other 3 teams now play.

Since the July 1967 race riot, Detroit has become known as a city of poverty, crime, decay, and poor city services, the kind of place where even Batman would fear to tread. The legendary comedian Red Skelton once said, "In Detroit, you can go 10 miles and never leave the scene of the crime." It's no wonder the RoboCop film series was set there.

There was a Nike commercial a few years back, in which young basketball players were seated, yoga-style, in front of a TV screen, on which their "master," a fat black man with a turban and sunglasses who looked nothing like an athlete, was dispensing wisdom. At the end, after the Swoosh logo was shown, the camera went back to one of the students, who asked, "But, Master, what if we behave badly?" And the Master lowered his shades, looked over them, and said, "You go to Detroit." This was in the early 1990s, when the Pistons had begun to fall from their 1989-90 "Bad Boys" championship teams, and going to Detroit was not a good option in any sport -- indeed, the only Detroit team doing well at the time was, strangely, the Lions, who were then a perennial Playoff team thanks largely to Barry Sanders.

I once saw a T-shirt that read, "I'm so bad, I vacation in Detroit." As I mentioned, I have. (I'm not saying I'm "bad," or a "hard man," just that I went.) Newark had a race riot 2 weeks before Detroit's. In May 1999, I saw Detroit, and I realized just how far back Newark had come, by seeing how far Detroit had not.

In the 1950 Census, Detroit was the 4th-largest city in America, after New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, with over 2 million people just within the city limits. "White flight" after the '67 riot has led to the Detroit metropolitan area having roughly the same number of people it had then, about 5.3 million, but within the city limits the number has dropped from over 2 million to just 680,000. The suburbs are beautiful, but the city itself is a hole, and good men (and a few bad ones) have busted their humps trying to get it back on its feet.

One of the good men who's tried is Mike Ilitch, probably the most famous American of Macedonian descent, who runs Little Caesar's Pizza, and owns the Tigers and Red Wings. He rebuilt the city's historic Fox Theater, put Little Caesar's headquarters in the building above it, and had Comerica Park built across the street. He, and many others, including Pistons Hall-of-Famer turned major area businessman Dave Bing, who served a term as Mayor, are trying, they really are. But Governor Rick Snyder, a Tea Party Republican, has ordered a State takeover of Detroit's finances. Apparently, he didn't learn the lesson of Hugh Carey, New York's Governor in 1975, who found another way to get New York City's finances back on their feet. In Detroit's case, as in every other place in which it's tried, austerity hasn't worked.

I should also note that Detroit is a border city. The Detroit River, connecting Lakes Huron and Erie, is one of the few places where you can cross from north to south and go from America to Canada. Windsor, Ontario -- the closest thing there is to a "South Detroit," making that line in the Journey song "Don't Stop Believin'" problematic -- is considerably safer, and, like Detroit itself, has a gambling casino. If you want to visit, you'll need to bring your passport. You can use either the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel or the Ambassador Bridge.

Tickets. Alone among the Detroit-area teams since the Lions moved back downtown into Ford Field, the Pistons are far from the city. Therefore, if you can get around the city and get a hotel near the arena, you won't have to deal with Detroit's reputation for crime and poverty.

The Pistons averaged only 16,236 last season, well below the Palace's capacity of 21,231 -- just 73 percent, or a little under 3/4 full. It hasn't been all that long since they were a championship contender. But tickets shouldn't be too hard to get, especially since the Red Wings are underway and doing well. So among the crimes you won't have to deal with, most likely, is ticket scalping.

In the Lower Level, seats between the baskets go from $91 to $325, and behind them from $34 to $60. In the Upper Level, they're a bargain: $40 between the baskets, and only $20 behind them.

Getting There. It is 647 miles from Madison Square Garden to the Palace -- about 30 miles longer than from Midtown Manhattan to downtown Detroit. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

Except... Wayne County Metropolitan Airport is 22 miles southwest of downtown, on the opposite side of the city. A taxi to downtown will set you back a bundle. There is a bus, SMART (Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation) bus Number 125, that goes directly from the airport to downtown, but it will take an hour and 20 minutes. You're better off renting a car at the airport, which is southwest of the city, and then driving to the arena, which is northwest of the city -- a whopping 50 miles. They didn't really think when putting the Palace and the Silverdome where they did, far from both downtown and the airport. Sure, it was safe, and it was where a huge part of the fanbase was. But it wasn't convenient for anybody living in any other part of the Detroit area, or fans coming to watch their teams there.

Do you remember the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza had a girlfriend, played by a pre-Will & Grace Megan Mullaly (using her real voice, you'd never recognize her as W&G's Karen), and he had to accompany her to a funeral in her hometown of Detroit? "It's kind of an expensive flight," George said. This was not just George being his usual cheap self: At the time, over 20 years ago (wow, it's been that long), it was expensive, more expensive from New York to Detroit than it was to the further-away Chicago. It's actually a bit cheaper now: A check of airline websites shows that, while flights can by had for around $500 round-trip.

Too rich for your blood? The news gets worse: There is no good way to get to Detroit, and that's got nothing to do with the city's reputation. Forget the train. The only Amtrak route in and out of Detroit is to and from Chicago, which in the opposite direction.

The most direct route is the Lake Shore Limited, formerly known as the Twentieth Century Limited when the old New York Central Railroad ran it from Grand Central Terminal to Chicago's LaSalle Street Station. It leaves New York's Penn Station at 3:40 every afternoon, and arrives at Union Terminal in Toledo at 5:55 every morning. From there, you have to wait until 6:30 to get on a bus to Detroit's Amtrak station, arriving at 7:35. The station is at 11 W. Baltimore Avenue, at Woodward Avenue, 2 1/2 miles north of Comerica, so walking there is not a good option; the number 16 or 53 bus would take you down Woodward.

In reverse, the bus leaves Detroit at 9:45 PM, arrives in Toledo at 10:50, and then you have to hang around there until the Lake Shore Limited comes back at 3:20 AM, arriving back in New York at 6:23 PM. Total cost: $184. A lot cheaper than flying, but a tremendous inflammation in the posterior.

How about Greyhound? Yeah, ride a bus for 14 hours to Detroit, there's a great idea. (Rolleyes.) Actually, having done it, I can tell you that it's not that bad. Two Greyhound buses leave Port Authority every day with connections to Detroit. One is at 5:15 PM, and arrives at 7:20 AM, with a 1 hour and 35 minute stopover in Cleveland in the middle of the night (but you won't have to change buses, in case you want to stay on the bus and sleep). The other leaves Port Authority at 10:15 PM, and you will have to change buses in Cleveland, arriving 6:50 AM and leaving 7:50, arriving at 11:25 AM. Despite having to change buses, this one is actually faster, taking 13 hours and 10 minutes, as opposed to the single through bus ride, taking 14 hours and 5 minutes.

Compared to most of Detroit, the bus terminal, at 1001 Howard Street, is relatively new and quite clean. It was just about within walking distance of Tiger Stadium, which really helped me in 1999. It's also not a long walk to Ford Field, but I wouldn't recommend this. Better to take a cab, especially if you're getting a hotel. Round-trip fare: $102 if you make an advanced purchase, $180 if you're buying at Port Authority. So Greyhound is also far cheaper than flying, possibly cheaper (and definitely not much more expensive) than Amtrak, and less of a pain than Amtrak.

If you decide to drive, the directions are simple, down to, literally, the last mile. you'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. I point this out merely to help you avoid confusion, not because I-90 will become important -- though it is for "How to Be a Yankee Fan in Chicago" and some other cities. In Ohio, you'll take I-80's Exit 64, and get onto Interstate 75 North. This will take you into Michigan. Go past the exits for Detroit, to Exit 81. This will lead you onto Lapeer Road, a.k.a. Michigan State Route 24. The Palace will be on your left, very shortly.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 3 hours in Ohio and an hour and 15 minutes in Michigan. That's 11 hours. Counting rest stops, preferably halfway through Pennsylvania and in the Cleveland suburbs, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Detroit, it should be about 12 and a half hours. There are a few hotel chains within a 10-minute drive.

Once In the City. Detroit was founded in 1701 as Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit du Lac Erie (Day-TWAH, strait of Lake Erie), by Antonie de La Mothe Cadillac, for whom the downtown Cadillac Square and the brand of car was named.

Detroit's centerpoint, in culture and in terms of address numbers, is the Woodward Fountain, where Woodward, Michigan and Gratiot Avenues come together, with Cadillac Square just off to the east. Woodward is the East-West divider.

The suburbs are nearly all-white; the city itself, nearly all-black. If there is another city on the planet that is so segregated, I'm not aware of it. The sales tax in the State of Michigan is 6 percent, and does not go up in either the City of Detroit, the County of Wayne in which Detroit sits, or the County of Oakland in which Auburn Hills sits.

Detroit is a weird city in some ways. It often seems like a cross between a past that was once glorious but now impossible to reach, and a future that never quite happened. (That observation was once made about the remaining structures from New York's 1964-65 World’s Fair and the Astrodome in Houston.) Art Deco structures of the 1920s and '30s, such as the Penobscot Building (the tallest building outside New York and Chicago when it opened in 1928, the tallest in Michigan until 1977) stand alongside abandoned, boarded-up or chained-up stores.

But alongside or across from them, there are glassy, modern structures such as the Renaissance Center, shown in the photo above: A 5-tower complex that includes, at its center, the 750-foot tallest building in Michigan (the tallest all-hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere), and, in one of its 4 outer towers, the headquarters of General Motors (although the RenCen was originally financed by Ford).

Downtown also has the Detroit People Mover, a monorail system that is part of the suggestion of Detroit trying to get from 1928 to 2028 while jumping over the difficult years in between. Like the Washington and Montreal Metro (subway) systems, the company running it prides itself on the artwork in its stations.
The People Mover, outside the Renaissance Center

It has a stop called Times Square, but it won't look anything like the one in New York. It has a stop called Bricktown, but it won't look anything like Brick Township, the sprawling Jersey Shore suburb off Exits 88 to 91 on the Garden State Parkway. It's cheap, only 75 cents, and it still uses tokens, although it also accepts cash. Be advised, though, that it stops running at midnight, except on Fridays and Saturdays, when it runs until 2:00 AM. Bus fare is $1.50.

Auburn Hills is 37 miles northwest of downtown Detroit. This is farther than the Meadowlands and the Nassau Coliseum combined are from Midtown Manhattan, farther than Foxboro is from Boston, farther than the Bills' stadium is from downtown Buffalo, farther than Landover (home of the Redskins' stadium and the site of the former Bullets & Capitals arena) is from downtown D.C. or downtown Baltimore, even farther than Anaheim is from downtown Los Angeles.

Separated from Pontiac, where the Silverdome is located, and formed as a separate town in 1983, its population is listed as 21,412 -- roughly the same as the capacity of the Palace, which opened in 1988. Aside from the Pistons, Auburn Hills is best known as the site of the world headquarters of Chrysler Corporation. The Walter P. Chrysler Museum was there, but it closed in 2012, because it wasn't getting enough visitors.

Going In. Unlike the boxed-in parking at Tiger Stadium, one of the big reasons it was replaced, the Palace is surrounded by parking on 3 sides: A North Lot, a West Lot and a South Lot. Compared to most stadiums and arenas, parking is cheap, only $10.
The Pistons won the 1989, 1990 and 2004 NBA Championships here, and almost won another in 2005. The Detroit Shock won 3 WNBA Championships here, and, as a result, every time a title is won, the address changes: Currently, it's "Six Championship Drive, Auburn Hills, MI 48326." However, the Shock moved to Tulsa in 2010, so unless the NBA tries again with a new WNBA team, only the Pistons (theoretically) will be able to change the address to "Seven Championship Drive." Lapeer Road and Harmon Road, Auburn Hills, off I-75.

Don't even think about trying to reach it by public transportation: You'd need 2 buses and then a half-hour walk. There may be express bus available from downtown Detroit, but I haven't been able to find a reference to it.

Most fans will enter at either the North Tower or the South Tower. These are just names, and don't look any more like skyscrapers than do the 4 "corner" escalator towers at Madison Square Garden. These "towers" also have concession stands, as you'll see in a moment. You can also enter at the West Atrium. The arena and court are laid out north-to-south.
Unfortunately, the building's best-known event isn't a Pistons title or a rock concert, but the November 19, 2004 fight between the Pistons and the Indiana Pacers that spilled into the stands, becoming known as "the Malice at the Palace." Even the WNBA had a rare brawl there, between the Shock and the Los Angeles Sparks in 2008.

Food. When I visited Tiger Stadium in its final season, 1999, it had great food, including the very best ballpark hot dog I've ever had. This is, after all, Big Ten Country, where college football tailgate parties are practically a sacrament. Granted, the Pistons are not a football team. But do they ever provide, and not just the usual stadium or arena fare.

There's Sub Station at Section 118, featuring a Meatball Sub, an Italian Sub, a Turkey Sub, Root Beer Floats, Waffle Cones, Hot Fudge Sundaes, Brownie Sundaes and Fresh Baked Cookies. If Cookie Monster finds out about this, he may want Sesame Street to trade him from New York to Detroit.

The Meijer Fresh Stand, named for a salad company, is at Section 120, selling salads, fruit cups and veggie cups. At the other end of the health-food spectrum, in the arena's North Tower, there is the North Tower Burger Bar, featuring a "Classic Cheese Burger" (why they don't write "cheeseburger" as one word, I don't know), a Bacon Boursin Burger and a Santa Fe Burger. Also in the North Tower is a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant and a Crown Royal Bar, featuring not just the eponymous Canadian whisky, but barbecue sandwiches (pulled pork, pulled chicken and brisket) and loaded tater tots. The North Tower also has Frozen Daiquiri and Margarita stands.

Hungry Howie's Pizza is at Section 123. Mac Mania is at Section 106, serving macaroni & cheese dishes, including Creamy Cheddar, Buffalo Chicken, Smoked Bacon. There's a Grilled Andouille Sausage stand at 107, a Taco stand at 119, a Nacho Grande stand at 123, Dippin Dots carts at 108 and 120, and a Gluten Free stand at 125. And, since Detroit (if not Auburn Hills) does border Canada and calls itself "Hockeytown" (at which Montreal and Toronto must laugh), the Palace, as does Joe Louis Arena, has a Tim Horton's stand.

As you might guess, in Detroit, probably the American city best known for having Polish people, there is plenty of kielbasa to be had. But nothing mentioned of the other major ethnic groups that Detroit is known for, Greek or Arab -- though, in the case of the latter, this may be understandable in a post-9/11 world, especially since Detroit is a border city (even if the Palace is 33 miles from the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel).

Team History Displays. The arena's very address, 6 Championship Drive, is a testament to its history, although half of those titles, 3, are WNBA titles won by the now-gone Detroit Shock (all coached by Pistons legend Bill Laimbeer). Championship Drive extends west from the north-south Lapeer Road/M-24, leading into the arena parking lots. So does another street referring to the arena's history, Isiah Thomas Drive -- although those of you who are Knicks fans may want to ignore that name.

The Shock's 2003, 2006 and 2008 WNBA Championship banners still hang in the Palace rafters, as do the Pistons' NBA Championship banners for 1989, 1990 and 2004; their Eastern Conference Championship banners for 1988, 1989, 1990, 2004 and 2005; and their Central Division Championship banners for 1988, 1989, 1990, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. (They won the 2004 NBA title without having won their Division in the regular season.)
Their is no notation of the Pistons' Fort Wayne era (1941-57), even though they reached the NBA Finals in 1955 and '56, and their 1944 and '45 National Basketball League titles made them, essentially, the world champions of professional basketball in those seasons. They note neither championships nor retired numbers from those days. And, yes, there was an auto/war vehicles plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana, so the "Pistons" name made sense long before they arrived in the Motor City.

The Pistons have 10 banners honoring team legends. Longtime team owner William Davidson (who built the Palace) and general manager Jack McCloskey have banners without numbers on them. Chuck Daly, who coached the Pistons to their 1st 2 titles, has the Number 2 retired for him.

From before their 1st title, the Pistons have honored Number 15, center Bob Lanier; and Number 21, Dave Bing, who served a term as Mayor of Detroit.

From the 1989 and 1990 World Championship teams, a.k.a. the Motor City Bad Boys, these numbers are retired: 4, guard Joe Dumars; 10, forward Dennis Rodman; 11, guard Isiah Thomas; 15, guard Vinnie Johnson; and 40, center Bill Laimbeer. (Greg Monroe was wearing 10 when the number was retired for Rodman, who gave him permission to keep wearing it as long as he remains with the Pistons. So far, the Number 44 of Rick Mahorn remains available.)

From the 2004 World Championship team, which Dumars built as general manager: 1, guard Chauncey Billups; and 3, center Ben Wallace. Both were retired last season, making for 12 honorees.
Before the retirements of Billups' and Wallace's numbers

Bing, Lanier, Thomas, Rodman, Dumars, Daly, George Yardley, Bailey Howell, Dave DeBusschere (later acquired by the Knicks), Adrian Dantley, and 2004 title-winning coach Larry Brown (still the only man to coach both an NCAA Champion and an NBA Champion) have been elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame based at least in part on what they did with the Pistons in Detroit. So have a few other players from the team's Fort Wayne days.

While Dick Vitale did coach the Pistons (and the University of Detroit Mercy), and he has been elected to the Hall, it was based on his broadcasting career, not on his coaching. (He was a decent college coach, but awful in the NBA.)

Bing, Lanier, Thomas and DeBusschere were named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players in 1996. Katie Smith of the Shock was named to the WNBA's 15th Anniversary 15 Greatest Players in 2012.

Stuff. The Pistons Locker Room is a team store in the South Tower of the arena. There are smaller souvenir stands elsewhere.

Most of the books about the Pistons focus on the 1988-89 and 1989-90 title-winning Bad Boys. A good retrospective, if a bit out of date, is the 1997 book The Detroit Pistons: Four Decades of Motor City Memories, by Steve Addy. After the 2004 title, the staff of the Detroit Free Press published Men at Work: Blue-Collar Pistons Show Who's the Boss. DVD collections for the 1989, 1990 and 2004 World Championship teams are also available.

Charles C. Avison wrote Detroit: City of Champions, telling of how the city produced champion after champion in the Great Depression and World War II: The Tigers winning Pennants in 1934, '35, '40 and '45; the Lions debuting in 1934 and winning the NFL Championship in 1935; the Red Wings winning the Stanley Cup in 1936, '37 and '43; and Alabama-born, Detroit-trained Joe Louis winning the Heavyweight Championship of the World in 1937 and keeping it until his first retirement in 1948. Back then, Detroit was a city where anything was possible. But then, the Pistons didn't arrive in the Motor City until 1957.

During the Game. A November 13, 2014 article on DailyRotoHelp ranked the NBA teams' fan bases, and listed the Pistons' fans as 25th. The days of packing 'em in for "Dee-troit bas-ket-ball!" are over, at least for now. The article compares the Pistons to the Oakland Athletics: A once-great but now terrible team in a once-hip but now terribly poor city (in the Pistons' case, being in the wealthy suburbs doesn't seem to help), and playing in a large venue that they cannot hope to fill.

You might think this would lead the fans who do show up to have a chip on their shoulder, and to be nasty. Most likely, they won't be. "The Malice at the Palace" (where, not to condone the players' reactions, but the fans did provoke them) was 11 seasons ago. It was 1 event in the 59-season history of Detroit Pistons basketball. You do not have to fear for Pistons players running into the seats to come after you.

Nor do you have to worry about wearing your Knicks or Nets gear in the Palace, or anywhere in the Detroit area. Maybe if you were wearing Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, or possibly Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers stuff. Not Knicks or Nets.

In those 59 years, the Pistons have had just 2 public-address announcers. (Those of you who are Yankee Fans may scoff, knowing that the Bronx Bombers had only Bob Sheppard for 57 years. But it's still remarkable.) Ken Calvert served from 1958 to 2001, at the Olympia, Cobo Hall, the Silverdome and the Palace, including the rise and fall of the Motor City Bad Boys of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Since 2001, the announcer has been John Mason, who made famous the chant, "Dee-troit bas-ket-ball!" He became so admired around the NBA that he was invited to announce the 2007 All-Star Game in Las Vegas, which, of course, does not have a team of its own. He hosts 2 different daily radio shows in Detroit.

In addition to the "Dee-troit bas-ket-ball!" chant, the Pistons use Europe's "The Final Countdown" as a get-the-crowd-going song. Their mascot is Hooper the Horse -- a "hooper" is a basketball player, and a car's pistons provide "horsepower," get it? Some of Hooper's stunts include rappelling off the roof of the Palace, and breaking bricks with his hoof. He can also juggle and perform magic tricks. Hooper's "birthday" is March 15, and he celebrates his birthday at a Pistons home game. Guests often include other NBA mascots, plus fellow Detroit mascots Paws the Tiger and Roary the Lion.

The Pistons have a Cheer Team (currently 9 men and 11 women), a Dance Team (18, all women), another dance team called the D-Town dancers (14 men and 7 women), and a Drumline (13 men -- as far as I know, the closest any NBA team comes to having a pep band). I can see having a cheer/dance team, but 3 separate teams that, essentially, do the same thing?

Those of you who are Yankee Fans might see the name Reggie Jackson playing for the Pistons. No relation to Mr. October, he previously reached the NBA Finals for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

After the Game. Detroit has a rough reputation, but the Palace is in the middle of a parking lot in the middle of the northwestern suburbs. You will almost certainly be safe. But, as usual, be aware that some people may have had too much to drink.

Speaking of drinking, if you want a postgame drink or meal, the Palace Grill is just to the east of the arena, between it and Lapeer Road. Across Lapeer from the arena is Ciccarelli's Sports Bar, named for Dino Ciccarelli, a former NHL star with, among other teams, the Red Wings. A McDonald's is just to the north, at Lapeer and Dutton Road. And a bar called Hoops, which I'm guessing caters to basketball fans, is to the south, at Lapeer and Zelma Drive.

In downtown Detroit, I have a source that says that locals who root for the Giants gather at the Town Pump Tavern, 100 W. Montcalm Street at Park Avenue, 2 blocks from Comerica Park. So that might be a good place for Knick fans who are staying in the city.

Expatriate Jet fans are said to gather at Cobo Joe's Smokehouse BBQ & Sports Bar, 422 W. Congress Street at Cass Avenue, across from the Joe Louis Arena/Cobo Hall complex. Cheli's Chili Bar is owned by hockey legend and Detroit native Chris Chelios, at 47 E. Adams Avenue, across Witherell from Comerica Park and thus a short walk from Ford Field.

If your visit to Detroit is during the European soccer season, which is now in full gear, most of the better choices to watch games are in the suburbs. Thomas Magee's is the home pub of the Detroit branch of the U.S. national team fan group, the American Outlaws. 1408 East Fisher Service Drive, in the Lafayette Park neighborhood, a 5-minute walk from Comerica Park and Ford Field. SMART Bus 34 to Gratiot and Russell.

Sidelights. For all its problems, Detroit is a great city, not just a great basketball city or even a great sports city. Check out the following – but do it in daylight:

* Site of Tiger Stadium. The 1st ballpark on the site was called Bennett Park, after Charlie Bennett, a catcher for the NL's Detroit Wolverines, who didn't play there. Bennett Park opened in 1896, for the Detroit team in the Western League, which became the American League in 1901. However, the team we know as the Tigers (so named because the orange stripes on their socks evoked not just tigers but the teams at New Jersey’s Princeton University, also called the Tigers) are officially dated from 1901.

After the 1911 season, the wooden Bennett Park was demolished, and replaced with a concrete and steel structure, opening on April 20, 1912 (the same day as Fenway Park in Boston) and named Navin Field, after Tiger owner Frank Navin. He died in 1935, and his co-owner, Walter Briggs, expanded the place to its more familiar configuration in 1938, renaming it Briggs Stadium. In 1961, new owner John Fetzer renamed it Tiger Stadium.

The Tigers played there from 1912 to 1999, and the NFL's Lions did so from 1938 to 1974. The Tigers won the World Series while playing there in 1935, 1945, 1968 and 1984; the Lions won the NFL Championship while playing there in 1952, 1953 and 1957. (The '52 Championship Game was played in Cleveland against the Browns; the '53 and '57 editions, also against the Browns, at Tiger Stadum.)

A youth baseball field is now on the site. Northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Street, 1 mile west of Cadillac Square down Michigan Avenue (U.S. Route 12). The official address was 2121 Trumbull Street. Number 29 bus from downtown.

* Comerica Park and Ford Field. The center piece of Detroit's attempts to revive its downtown core, if not its entire city, are the new ballpark (2000) and football stadium (2002). The area is called Foxtown, after the Fox Theater, which Tigers/Wings/Little Caesars owner Mike Ilitch has had restored.

It took a few years to kick in, but Comerica has become a fortress for the Tigers, as they've made the Playoffs 7 times in the last 9 seasons, including the last 4. They've won 2 Pennants in that stretch, but, as yet, no World Series in the last 30 years. The official address is 2100 Woodward Avenue, but it's actually a block away from Woodward, at Witherell Street and Adams Avenue.

Ford Field is not yet a fortress for the Lions. They've mostly been terrible since coming in, including the only 0-16 season in NFL history thus far. They have made the Playoffs since then, and have a shot at them again this season.

Ford Field hosted Super Bowl XL in 2006, won by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the final game of Detroit native Jerome Bettis; and the 2009 NCAA Final Four, the only one ever held in the State of Michigan, won by North Carolina, overcoming a "home-court advantage" for Michigan State in the Final. 2000 Brush Street at Adams Avenue, separated from Comerica by Brush Street. Both stadiums are accessible by the Broadway and Grand Circus stops on the People Mover.

* Joe Louis Arena and Cobo Center. Opening in 1979, while Louis was still alive, this 20,000-seat building was considered very modern at the time. A new arena is currently being built.

The Red Wings have come a long way from the building’s early days, when they were nicknamed the Dead Things, winning 4 Stanley Cups in 6 trips to the Finals between 1995 and 2009. It's considered one of the loudest arenas in the NHL: In 1992, a writer for Hockey Digest compared it to Chicago Stadium, the now-demolished home of their arch-rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks, and said that, if the visiting team scores 2 early goals, the Chicago fans quiet down, but Detroit fans stay loud throughout the game.

The Joe hosts college hockey, including the Great Lakes Invitational, in the week between Christmas and New Year's. Michigan Tech is the host, with Michigan and Michigan State usually participating, and a 4th team in rotation -- this year, it's Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. (Comerica Park hosted it in 2013, since the NHL Winter Classic of January 1, 2014 was being held there between the Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.)

The Joe also hosted the 1980 Republican Convention -- right, the GOP meeting, and nominating union-buster Ronald Reagan no less, in a majority-black, heavily union city, in an arena named for a boxer who struck a blow for racial equality. (Then again, in 2012, the Democrats met in conservative Charlotte.)

The Joe was built next-door to Cobo Center, which was named for Albert E. Cobo, Mayor from 1950 to 1957. Its centerpiece, a building originally known as Cobo Hall, has been Detroit's major convention center since its opening in 1960, and, following the rejection of a plan to demolish it and put a new Pistons-Red Wings arena on the site, it recently underwent a renovation and expansion.
Cobo Center, with the PeopleMover track in front of it

It includes a 12,000-seat arena that was home to the Pistons from 1961 to 1978, the Michigan Stags of the World Hockey Association in the 1974-75 season, and a convention complex that includes the city’s famed annual auto show. It is known for some legendary rock concerts, including the KISS album Alive! and area native Bob Seger’s Live Bullet. Unfortunately, it may be best known for the January 6, 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan during a practice session for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. 600 Civic Center Drive at Jefferson Avenue. Each arena has its own station on the Detroit People Mover.
Walter Miriani, who succeeded Albert Cobo as Mayor,
shows off the interior of Cobo Hall.

* Little Caesars Arena. The Red Wings are moving. Their new arena, unsurprisingly named for owner Mike Ilitch's fast-food company, will seat 20,000, and is scheduled to open in time for the 2017-18 season, meaning this is the last season for The Joe.

In addition to the Wings, it will host the Great Lakes Invitational, rotate with the Xcel Energy Center as host of the Big Ten hockey tournament, and has already been lined up to host 2018 NCAA Tournament basketball games. 2501 Woodward Avenue at Henry Street, across Interstate 75 from Comerica Park and Ford Field.

* Site of Olympia Stadium. From the outside, it looked more like a big brick movie theater, complete with the Art Deco marquee out front. But "The Old Red Barn" was home to the Red Wings from 1927 to 1979, during which time they won the Stanley Cup in 1936, '37, '43, '50, '52, '54 and '55.
In 1950, they hosted Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and Pete Babando's overtime winner defeated the Rangers. In '54, they had another overtime Game 7 winner, as "Tough Tony" Leswick hit a shot that deflected off Doug Harvey, the great defenseman of the Montreal Canadiens. (In hockey, the shooter is still credited; in soccer, this would have been officially listed as an "own goal" on Harvey.)

The Olympia was also home to the Pistons from 1957 to 1961, and the site of some great prizefights, including Jake LaMotta's 1942 win over Sugar Ray Robinson – the only fight Robinson would lose in his career until 1952, and the only one of the 6 fights he had with LaMotta that LaMotta won.

Elvis Presley did 2 shows there early in his career, an afternoon and an evening show on March 31, 1957. (If you think that's a lot for one day, he did 3 shows at the Fox Theater on May 25, 1956.) He returned to the Olympia on September 11, 1970; April 6, 1972; September 29 and October 4, 1974; and April 22, 1977. The Beatles played there on September 6, 1964 and August 13, 1966. (However, it was in the Detroit area -- specifically, on the University of Michigan's radio station in Ann Arbor -- that a disc jockey started the 1969 rumor that Paul McCartney was dead. In a 1989 interview, Paul said, "'Paul is dead'? I didn't believe that one for a minute.")

It was the neighborhood, not the building, that was falling apart: Lincoln Cavalieri, its general manager in its last years, once said, "If an atom bomb landed, I'd want to be in Olympia." It was not a nuclear attack, but an ordinary demolition crew, that took it down in 1987. The Olympia Armory, home of the Michigan National Guard, is now on the site. 5920 Grand River Avenue, corner of McGraw Street, on the Northwest Side. Number 21 bus. If you’re a hockey fan, by all means, visit – but do it in daylight.

* University of Detroit Stadium. Also known as Titan Stadium, this was the Lions' first home, from 1934 to 1937, until what became Tiger Stadium was double-decked. The Lions played and won the 1935 NFL Championship Game there, beating the Giants.

The previous NFL team in the city, the Detroit Wolverines, play there in their lone season, 1928. Built in 1922 and seating 25,000, the University's suspension of its football program in 1964 doomed it, and it was demolished in 1971. The school, now known as the University of Detroit Mercy (it's a Catholic school), has since put a new, multipurpose, artificial turf field on the site. 3801 McNichols Road at Birchcrest Drive. 016 Bus.

* Silverdome. Originally Pontiac Metropolitan Stadium, this stadium was home to the Lions from 1975 to 2001 (after which they moved back downtown to Ford Field), and very nearly became home to the Tigers as well, before owner John Fetzer decided to commit himself to Tiger Stadium.

Heisman-winning running backs Billy Sims and Barry Sanders ran wild for the Lions here, but the closest they got to a Super Bowl was reaching the NFC Championship Game in January 1992 – unless you count hosting Super Bowl XVI, 10 years earlier, the beginning of the San Francisco 49er dynasty led by Bill Walsh and Joe Montana.

The Pistons, playing here from 1978 to 1988, had a little more luck, reaching the NBA Finals in their last year there. It seated 80,000 for football, set an NBA attendance record (since broken) of 61,983 between the Pistons and Boston Celtics in 1988, and 93,682 for a Mass by Pope John Paul II in 1987.
In 1994, it hosted 4 World Cup matches, including 1 by the U.S. and 1 by eventual winner Brazil. It hosted 2 games by the U.S. national soccer team, in 1992 win over Russia and the 1994 World Cup draw against Switzerland. Elvis had his biggest crowd ever at the Silverdome, 60,500, on New Year's Eve, December 31, 1975.

It hosted a Don King-promoted boxing card in January 2011, and in August 2010 hosted a friendly between Italian soccer giant A.C. Milan and leading Greek club Panathinaikos – appropriate, considering the area's ethnic makeup.

In 2013, the roof was deflated as an energy-saving measure, with the idea that, if a new tenant was found, a new roof would be put in as part of renovations. But in March 2014, the owners announced that they would be auctioning off the contents of the facility, including seats and fixtures, suggesting that they were not optimistic that anything new will be coming anytime soon. In October 2015, it was announced that the Silverdome would be demolished the following Spring, and the area would be part of a Oakland County, Michigan mixed-use development. So far, despite a fire in June (officially ruled an arson), demolition has not yet begun.

1200 Featherstone Road, Pontiac. Getting there by public transportation is a pain: The Number 465 bus takes an hour and 25 minutes, and then you gotta walk a mile down Featherstone from Oakland Community College. Still easier to reach by public transit than the Palace, but if you didn't drive in (or rent a car at the airport), then, unless you have to see everything on this list, or if you're a Lions fan living in New York who has to see it one more time, or if you're a soccer nut on a pilgrimage to all World Cup sites, I'd suggest skipping it. But if you have rented a car, it's only 4 miles south of the Palace, taking Lapeer Road to Opdyke Road to Featherstone.

One idea for the Silverdome was to make it the home of a Major League soccer team. That won't happen now. Detroit is the largest metropolitan area in North America without a Major League Soccer team. Detroit City FC plays in the 4th tier of American soccer, at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck, a 7,000-seat high school football stadium, 5 1/2 miles north of downtown. Number 10 bus. The closest MLS team to Detroit is the Columbus Crew, 204 miles away. However, the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry may complicate that. The next-closest team, Toronto FC, may be preferred by Detroiters.

* Motown Historical Museum. Detroit is generally known for 3 good things: Sports, music and cars. The Motown Historical Museum is the former Motown Records studio, which company founder Berry Gordy Jr. labeled "Hitsville, U.S.A." His sister, Esther Gordy Edwards, now runs it, and it features records and costumes of performers such as the Supremes, the Temptations and the Four Tops.

Last week, a plan for a major expansion was announced. It will remain open during this process. 2648 W. Grand Blvd., on the North Side. Number 16 bus.

* Henry Ford Museum. The centerpiece of the nation's foremost automotive-themed museum is a replica of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Henry Ford himself established the museum: "I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used... When we are through, we shall have reproduced American life as lived, and that, I think, is the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and tradition."

It contains the fascinating, including early cars and bicycles, Henry Ford's first car (his 1896 "Quadricycle"), Igor Sikorsky's prototype for the helicopter, the bus Rosa Parks was riding in when she refused to give up her seat to start the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott, and a Buckminster Fuller "Dymaxion house."

It also contains the macabre, with the chair Abraham Lincoln was supposedly sitting in when he was assassinated at Ford's Theater in Washington (the theater owner was no relation to Henry); and the chair, and the rest of the car as well, that John F. Kennedy was definitely sitting in when he was assassinated, the back seat of in the 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible limousine he was riding in through downtown Dallas.

Next door to the museum is Greenfield Village, which Ford imagined as a kind of historical park, a more modern version of Colonial Williamsburg – that is, celebrating what was, in 1929 when it opened, considered modern American life, including a reconstruction of the Menlo Park, New Jersey laboratory of his good friend Thomas Edison. Ford and Edison were both friends of rubber magnate Henry Firestone (whose tires certainly made Ford's cars easier to make), and Firestone's family farm is reconstructed on the site.

I am not excusing Henry Ford's control-freak attitude toward his employees' private lives, nor his despicable anti-Semitism, nor his failed union-busting in the 1930s. To be fair, he did give his black auto workers the same pay and benefits as his white ones. But I am recommending the museum. It's a tribute to the role of technology, including the automobile, in American life, not to the man himself. Oakwood Blvd. and Village Road. Number 200 bus to Michigan Avenue and Oakwood Blvd., then a short walk down Oakwood.

* Greektown Historic District. Although Detroit is famed for its Irish (Corktown, including the site of Tiger Stadium) and Italian communities, and has the largest Arab-American community of any major city, its best-known ethnic neighborhoods are Greektown and the Polish community of Hamtramck. New York’s Astoria, Queens has nothing on Detroit's Greektown, which not only has some of the country’s finest Greek restaurants, but also the Greektown Casino, which is at 555 E. Lafayette Street, at Beaubien Street. Greektown Station on the People Mover.

* Hamtramck. Pronounced "Ham-TRAM-ick," this city is actually completely surrounded by Detroit. When the Dodge Brothers (who later sold the car company bearing their name to Chrysler) opened an auto plant there in 1914, it became a hub for Polish immigration. However, the Polish population of the city has dropped from 90 percent in 1970 to 22 percent today. And Arabs and South Asians have moved in, making it Michigan's most internationally diverse city. Nevertheless, if you want the best kielbasa, kapusta, golumpkis and paczkis this side of the Oder, this is the place to go. Hamtramck Town Shopping Center, Joseph Campau Street and Hewitt Street. Number 10 or 34 bus.

* Mariners' Church. On my 1999 visit to Detroit, I discovered this church by accident, walking past it without realizing it was there until I saw the historical marker. Every March, it holds a Blessing of the Fleet for every person and ship going to sea. Every November, it holds a Great Lakes Memorial Service for those who have lost their lives at sea within the past year.

The most famous of these ceremonies was for the 29 men lost on the iron ore freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. Built and homeported in Detroit, the Big Fitz was commemorated by Gordon Lightfoot, whose 1976 song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" mistakenly, but poetically, called the church "The Maritime Sailors' Cathedral." (Edmund Fitzgerald himself was the president of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, which invested in the ship's construction, because it was heavily invested in the ore industry.)

170 E. Jefferson Avenue, at Randolph Street, across from the Renaissance Center. If you're going to visit the church, be careful, because Randolph Street empties into the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

* Spirit of Detroit. In front of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, the city hall named for the 1974-93 Mayor, stands a marble monument with a bronze statue of a kneeling man, the seals of the City of Detroit and Wayne County, and a Biblical inscription, from 2nd Corinthians 3:17: "Now the Lord is that spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." In his left hand, the 26-foot-high kneeling figure holds a gilt bronze sphere emanating rays, to symbolize God. The people in the figure's right hand are a family group.

The statue was dedicated in 1958, 4 years after the Municipal Center opened. In recent years, a large jersey has been placed over it when the Tigers, Pistons or Wings have been in their sport's finals. (As yet, this has never been done for the Lions, who haven't been to an NFL Championship Game since 1957, 9 seasons before they started calling it the Super Bowl.) 2 Woodward Avenue at Jefferson Avenue.

* Monument to Joe Louis. Erected in 1986, on a traffic island at the intersection of Woodward & Jefferson, it is a 24-foot-long arm with a fisted hand suspended by a 24-foot-high pyramidal framework. Since it is a monument to Louis, the great black heavyweight champion, the arm and fist are black bronze.

* Colleges. The University of Michigan is 44 miles west of downtown Detroit, in Ann Arbor.  It is possible to reach it from Detroit by bus, but it will take 2 hours: You can take the 851 bus to the airport, and transfer there to the 787.

Gerald Ford was President from August 9, 1974 to January 20, 1977, and was a graduate of (and an All-American football player at) Michigan in the 1930s. His Presidential Library, and a School of Public Policy named for him, are on the Ann Arbor campus, at 1000 Beal Avenue. However, he is the only President whose Library and Museum are separated, and his Presidential Museum is in his hometown of Grand Rapids, at 303 Pearl Street NW, 158 miles northwest of Detroit. You'll need Greyhound if you want to visit Grand Rapids.

Michigan Stadium is at 1201 S. Main Street at Stadium Blvd. "The Big House" has hosted UM football since 1927. Its peak attendance is 115,109 for Michigan's 2013 win over Notre Dame. This past year, it set new records for highest U.S. attendance for soccer (109,318 for Manchester United beating Real Madrid in the International Champions Cup), and for highest attendance anywhere on the planet for hockey (105,491 for the NHL Winter Classic, the Toronto Maple Leafs beating the Detroit Red Wings).

Adjacent is Crisler Arena, named for Herbert "Fritz" Crisler, the UM football coach from 1938 to 1947, who, in another connection between Princeton University sports and the State of Michigan, had previously coached Princeton's Tigers, and brought his "winged" helmet design with him, making Michigan's "maize and blue" helmets among the most famous in college football. Elvis sang at Crisler Arena on April 24, 1977. The other sports facilities, including Yost Arena (hockey) and Fisher Stadium (named for Ray Fisher, who pitched for the Yankees in the 1910s before they got good and then coached at Michigan, including Charlie Gehringer), are adjacent.

Michigan State University is 88 miles northwest of Detroit, in East Lansing, adjacent to Lansing, the State capital.  Greyhound runs 4 buses a day from Detroit to East Lansing, at 8:00 AM, 12:10 PM, 2:20 PM and 7:40 PM, and it takes about 2 hours. Two buses go back to Detroit, at 3:40 and 5:55 PM. $38 round-trip.

Spartan Stadium, formerly Macklin Field, is at 325 W. Shaw Lane at Red Cedar Road, which is named for the river that bisects the MSU campus. Jenison Field House (the old basketball arena, where Magic Johnson starred on their 1979 National Champions), Breslin Events Center (their new arena), and Munn Arena (hockey) are a short walk away, at Kalamazoo Street & Birch Road.

According to an October 3, 2014 article in The New York Times, UM has a decided, though not overwhelming, advantage in fans in the Detroit area, and also in most of the State of Michigan. Only around the State capital of Lansing do you get an edge for MSU.

Home Improvement. The 1991-99 ABC sitcom is easily the best-known TV show to have been set in Detroit, with the studio for the show-within-the show Tool Time being in the city and the Taylors' house in the suburbs. I don't think the exact town was ever specified, but a likely location is in Bloomfield Hills.

As far as I know, there were no location shots, not even in the episode in which the Taylors got to see the Lions' annual Thanksgiving game from a Silverdome skybox. So if you're looking for the Taylors' house, you're not going to find it -- if there was ever a house, not just a studio set, it was likely in or around Los Angeles. Other shows set in or around Detroit have included Martin, Freaks and Geeks, Sister, Sister, and 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.

Several films have been set, but not necessarily filmed, in Detroit. Axel Foley, Eddie Murphy's character in the Beverly Hills Cop films, was a Detroit police detective, but most of the film, including the Detroit scenes, was shot in Los Angeles. While RoboCop was set in Detroit, it was filmed in Dallas. (And you thought "Dallas sucks" was just a sports chant.)

Billy Crystal's movie about the 1961 home run record chase, 61*, used Tiger Stadium as a stand-in (with computer-generated help) for the original Yankee Stadium (since the 1973-76 renovation left it looking very little like it did in 1961). Other recent movies set in Detroit include Eminem's Roman à clef, 8 Mile; and Clint Eastwood's retired autoworker vs. gangs film Gran Torino.

* Windsor. Across the Detroit River is Windsor, Ontario. Most Americans know it for Caesar's Windsor, one of 4 casinos in the area. Like its namesakes in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, it has a Roman theme. It may be only 2 miles from downtown Detroit, but because it's in Canada, where they have things like sensible gun laws, national health care, and, you know, water that its city government hasn't turned off, it may feel like the other side of the world (if not in Rome itself). And, because it's in Canada, you'll need a passport.

377 Riverside Drive East. There is bus service available -- less for Michiganders wanting to gamble, more for Windsorites wanting to go to concerts and Red Wings games. (They are Canadians, after all.) You can contact Transit Windsor at tw@city.windsor.on.ca.

The Wings' first home was actually in Windsor: They played their first season, 1926-27, at the Border Cities Arena, which still stands, and is now named Windsor Arena. Like a lot of old arenas (this one was built in 1924), it looks like a barn, and so is nicknamed The Barn. It seats only 4,400 people in its current configuration, but it still hosts the University of Windsor hockey team. Its longest-term tenant, the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, now play elsewhere. 334 Wyandotte Street East, at McDougall Street.


A visit to Detroit does not have to be a scary experience. These people love basketball -- especially "Dee-troit bas-ket-ball!" And, while they don't necessarily like the Yankees, they don't have a problem with Knick fans. They love basketball, and they should be able to show you a good time.

Monday, October 24, 2016

How to Be a New York Football Fan In Cleveland -- 2016 Edition

Tomorrow night, the Cavaliers are about to begin their 1st-ever defense of the NBA Championship, against the Knicks. At the same time, at the same sports complex, the Indians are going to play Game 1 of the World Series, against the Chicago Cubs.

That success has not rubbed off on Cleveland's football team, which is, however, the most historically successful of the Forest City's teams, with 28 Playoff appearances (but none since 2002), 13 Division titles (but none since 1989), 17 Conference Championship Game appearances (but, again, none since 1989), 15 trips to their league's championship game (but none since 1969), and 8 league titles (but none since 1964).

In 2016, the Cleveland Browns are 0-7. This coming Sunday, they will host the New York Jets. Of course, knowing the Jets, they will blow this, and hand the Browns their 1st win of the season.

But maybe not!

Before You Go. You've no doubt heard the legends of wind blasting off Lake Erie and "lake-effect snow." Well, this will be late October, so cold and wind could be an issue.

Cleveland.com, the website connected with the city's main newspaper, The Plain Dealer, is predicting temperatures in the high 40s by day, the low 40s by night. You'll need a winter jacket. They're predicting rain for the day before, in case you arrive ahead of time, but the Sunday should be dry.

Cleveland is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to change your timepieces.

Tickets. The 3 years away from the NFL, and the losing ever since the 1999 return, including their 0-6 start to this season, has rendered the Browns' support deep, but not very wide. They averaged only 66,186 fans per home game last season. Tickets may be easier to get than you would have thought.

Browns tickets are among the cheapest in the NFL. Seats in the lower level, the 100 sections, are $142 along the sidelines, $89 in the end zones. Seats in the middle level, the 300 sections, are $84 and $79. Seats in the upper level, the 500 sections, are $95 and $58.

Do not order tickets in the east end zone. That's the Dawg Pound. You will be surrounded by, dare I say it, rabid Browns fans.

Getting There. Cleveland is 500 land miles from New York. Well, not quite: Specifically, it is 465 miles from Times Square to Public Square; and 459 miles from MetLife Stadium to FirstEnergy Stadium. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

This may be a good idea if you can afford it: Like New York, Boston and Chicago, but unlike most of the American League cities, Cleveland has good rapid transit from the airport to downtown. In fact, with the extension of the RTA Rapid Transit's Red Line in 1968, Cleveland became the first city in the Western Hemisphere to have rapid transit direct from downtown to its major airport. If you don't mind leaving out of LaGuardia, you can get a nonstop, round-trip fare of under $700.

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, named for William R. Hopkins, a City Manager in the 1920s and an early pilot, is about 12 miles southwest of downtown, and the Red Line takes 24 minutes, 9 stops, to get from Hopkins to Tower City.

Train? Bad idea. Not because of the price, just $162 round-trip -- cheaper than Greyhound, for once -- but because of the schedule. The Lake Shore Limited (formerly known as the Twentieth Century Limited when the old New York Central Railroad ran it from Grand Central Terminal to Chicago's LaSalle Street Station) leaves New York's Penn Station at 3:40 every afternoon, and arrives at Cleveland's Lakefront Station at 3:27 in the morning. In reverse, the train leaves Lakefront Station at 5:50 AM and arrives back at Penn Station at 6:23 PM. Time-wise, this is incredibly inconvenient.

And, unlike the Cleveland Union Terminal, now known as Tower City Center but hasn’t had long-distance passenger rail traffic since 1977, Lakefront Station, at 200 Cleveland Memorial Shoreway, is not exactly one of the great rail terminals of this country. To make matters worse, while the RTA Green Line and Blue Line both serve Lakefront Station, the RTA doesn't run overnight, and thus any Amtrak train that comes into the station will not be serviced by it.

How about Greyhound? There are 9 buses leaving Port Authority every day with connections to Cleveland, but only 2 of these are nonstop: The rest require you to change buses in Pittsburgh or Buffalo. The ride, including the changeover, takes about 13 hours. Round-trip fare is $242, although it can be as little as $116 with advanced purchase.

The terminal, at 1465 Chester Avenue, adjacent to the Cleveland State University campus east of downtown, was a hideously filthy hole on my first visit in 1999, but apparently they got the message and cleaned it up, and it's tolerable again. At least on the inside; on the outside, it's a magnet for panhandlers. It's a 7-block walk from the terminal to Public Square, but it’s better to take a cab, or to walk 3 blocks to the corner of 13th Street & Superior Avenue and take the Number 3 bus in.

If you decide to drive, the directions are rather simple, down to (almost literally) the last mile. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. I point this out merely to help you avoid confusion, not because I-90 will become important. You'll take I-80's Exit 173, and get onto Interstate 77 North. Take Exit 163 toward E. 9th St. This will take you into downtown. If you're driving, I would definitely recommend getting a hotel, and there are several downtown, including some near the ballpark.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, and a little over an hour in Ohio. Counting rest stops, preferably at either end of Pennsylvania, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Cleveland, it should be no more than 10 hours.

Once In the City. Cleveland, which once had a city population of over 900,000, but is now under 400,000 with a metro area population of 3.5 million, was founded in 1796 by Moses Cleaveland, a hero of the War of the American Revolution, a General in the Connecticut militia, and a shareholder in the Connecticut Land Company. When the Northwest Ordinance was passed in 1787, a lot of New Englanders moved to what's now the Great Lakes States, and many "original" Ohio families can trace their roots back to Connecticut and Moses' expedition to what was known as the Western Reserve.

Supposedly, the reason for the difference in spelling is that, in 1830, the city's 1st newspaper was established, but the editor found "Cleaveland Advertiser" was too long to fit on the incorporation form, so he dropped an A.

The city is centered on Public Square, at the intersection of Ontario Street and Superior Avenue (U.S. Route 6), with Euclid Avenue (U.S. Route 20) flowing into it. The Terminal Tower, a 708-foot Art Deco masterpiece, is at the southwest corner of Public Square, and includes the Tower City rail hub and shopping mall. It opened in 1930 and, until 1964, was the tallest building in North America outside New York. At the southeast corner is the Soldiers & Sailors Monument, probably the best memorial to the American Civil War outside of that war's preserved battlefields. And at the northeast corner is the Key Tower, at 948 feet now the tallest building in the State of Ohio; Richard Jacobs, who owned the Indians for a time, also owned the real estate development company that built the Key Tower (named for Key Bank) in 1991.

The sales tax in Ohio is 5.75 percent, and in Cuyahoga County (which includes Cleveland), it's 8 percent.

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) runs a heavy rail Red Line, similar to New York's Subway, and light rail Blue and Green Lines. They converge at the Tower City, and all 3 run together from there to East 55th Street. The Blue and Green Lines both start at South Harbor, and run together to Shaker Square before diverging. The fare is $2.25, and is the same for RTA buses.
An RTA train at Tower City

Going In. Built in 1999 on the site of the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, and known until 2013 as Cleveland Browns Stadium, FirstEnergy Stadium seats 68,000 (down from 73,000 when it opened, and from 86,000 at the old stadium).
The official address is 100 Alfred Lerner Way (formerly Erieside Avenue), named for the 1st owner of the revived Browns franchise. It is across from Lakefront Station, and adjacent to the Great Lakes Science Center and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Parking is $21. The West 3rd Street station of the light rail system serves it. The field is natural grass, and is aligned northeast-to-southwest.
The stadium has also hosted college games, including "home games" for Ohio State, Bowling Green State and Kent State, and Playoff games for the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA). The U.S. men's soccer team has played 2 games there, a win over Venezuela in 2006 and a draw to Belgium in 2013. The U.S. women's soccer team has also played there.

Food. Ohio -- much more than New Jersey and Maryland, which got into the conference last year -- is part of Big Ten Country, where college football tailgate parties are practically a sacrament. Aramark, the successor company to Harry M. Stevens, runs the concessions. However, the Browns' website is woefully inadequate in describing the food options at the stadium.

From other sources, I can tell you this: First Down Favorites are behind Sections 104, 121, 504 and 528; B Spot (barbecue) at 115 and 540; Grill Portables at 122, 146 and 344; and Great Lakes Cheesesteaks at 139 and 420.

There was a restaurant called the New York Spaghetti House on East 9th Street, just a few steps from Progressive Field, but it went out of business in 2001. Original owner Mario Brigotti, who died in 1998 at age 99, was a friend of another Italian Clevelander, Mario Boiardi – a.k.a. Chef Boyardee.

Team History Displays. The Browns have won 8 league championships: 1946, 1947, 1948 and 1949 in the All-America Football Conference; and 1950, 1954, 1955 and 1964 in the NFL. However, they have not won a World Championship since 1964.

These titles are shown on the facing of the upper deck, and are the only achievements they mention. They do not mention the Division Championships of 1951, 1952, 1953, 1957, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1980, 1985, 1986, 1987 or 1989; or the Wild Card berths of 1958, 1972, 1982, 1988, 1994 and (the only one they've won since their return) 2002.
On the other side of the stadium, the Browns have a Ring of Honor, which includes 16 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who are identified mainly with the Browns:

* From the 1950 NFL Champions: Head coach Paul Brown, quarterback Otto Graham, running back Marion Motley, offensive tackle and placekicker Lou Groza, guard Bill Willis, center Frank Gatski, receiver Dante Lavelli and defensive end Len Ford.

* From the 1954 and 1955 NFL Champions: Paul Brown, Graham, Groza, Lavelli, Ford, Gatski, and offensive tackle Mike McCormack.

* Between the 1955 and 1964 titles: Receiver Bobby Mitchell, better known for his later tenure with the Washington Redskins.

* From the 1964 NFL Champions: Groza, running backs Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly, receiver Paul Warfield (better known for his later tenure with the Miami Dolphins), and guard Gene Hickerson.

* From the 1980s: Guard Joe DeLamielleure and tight end Ozzie Newsome.
Graham (14), Jim Brown (32), and Groza (76) have had their uniform numbers retired. So have 2 other players, both of whom died before the 1963 season began: Running back Ernie Davis (45), the 1st black Heisman Trophy winner (in 1961 with Syracuse University), whose leukemia prevented him from ever playing a down of pro football; and safety Don Fleming (46), who, in those days before players got salaries large enough to not have to take an off-season job, was electrocuted along with a co-worker on a construction site.

Jim Brown was recently honored with a statue outside FirstEnergy Stadium. They honored Paul Brown with a statue at their training facility. Graham, Motley and Jim Brown were named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary team in 1999. They, Groza and Warfield were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999 -- as was an earlier football star of the Cleveland area, Jim Thorpe of the Canton Bulldogs. They and Ozzie Newsome were named to the NFL Network's 100 Greatest Players in 2010.
Jim and his wife Monique Brown at the unveiling

In the TSN 100 poll, Brown ranked Number 1, chosen as the greatest football player ever, ahead of Jerry Rice at Number 2. In the NFL Network 100, Brown ranked Number 2 behind Jerry Rice.

Stuff. The Cleveland Browns Pro Shop is located on the Main Concourse, across from Section 112. There, you can get the usual team-themed items. You might even be able to buy an orange Browns hard hat or a rubber dog mask, as seen in the Dawg Pound.

There are several good books about the Browns. When the Browns returned in 1999, Bob Moon published a comprehensive history, The Cleveland Browns: The Great Tradition, and Scott Huler published On Being Brown: What It Means to Be a Cleveland Browns Fan.

Terry Pluto, the Plain Dealer columnist who is the poet laureate of Cleveland sports, wrote Browns Town 1964 and Things I've Learned from Watching the Browns. Jonathan Knight (not the New Kid On The Block) wrote Kardiac Kids: The Story of the 1980 Cleveland Browns and Sundays In the Pound: The Heroics and Heartbreak of the 1985-89 Cleveland Browns. And, in a 2014 book that is now somewhat out of date, Scott Kevin O'Brien wrote Why Is Daddy Sad on Sunday?: A Coloring Book Depicting the Most Disappointing Moments in Cleveland Sports. (The "Daddy" on the cover is wearing a Number 19 Browns jersey, presumably in honor of Bernie Kosar.)

The NFL has released 1964 WORLD CHAMPION CLEVELAND BROWNS: Three Restored Vintage Films on One DVD (season highlights, NFL Championship Game preparations, and the game itself in color); The History of the Cleveland Browns in 2008 (so far, not much reason for an update), and Cleveland Browns: NFL Greatest Games (featuring entire network broadcasts of a 1980 win over Green Bay known as the Dave Logan Game, a 1989 51-0 season-opener over Pittsburgh, and  2002 win over Atlanta that clinched what's still the only Playoff berth of the reborn Browns).

During the Game. According to a 2015 Thrillist article on the NFL's Most Obnoxious Fans, the Browns ranked 25th -- in the bottom quarter, among the least obnoxious. But that only applies when they're not facing a fellow AFC Northern Division team.

Cleveland fans really hate the cross-State Cincinnati Bengals (254 miles away); they really, really hate the former Browns, now the Baltimore Ravens (375 miles); and they really, really really hate the closest NFL team, the Pittsburgh Steelers (135 miles). Oddly, despite the closeness (171 miles) and a historical rivalry (the 1952, '53, '54 and '57 NFL Championship Games), they don't particularly hate the Detroit Lions; and, despite the closeness (183 miles), they don't particularly hate the Buffalo Bills. I guess it's a Divisional thing.

So, unless you bring up those other teams, or remind anyone that the late Yankee Boss George Steinbrenner was from Cleveland, or tell the classic "Cleveland Jokes" (like about the city going broke in 1969, the Cuyahoga River catching fire the same year, or Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff's line, "They made me feel at home in Cleveland, so I had to escape again"), you shouldn't have any problem wearing your Jets gear in the city.

The Browns will be honoring the 30th Anniversary of their 1986 team that came oh-so-close to reaching the Super Bowl against the Giants -- appropriate this week, since their previous Playoff game was against the Jets, an overtime victory for Cleveland that Jet fans still grumble about.

The Browns hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. Their fight song, one of the NFL's oldest, is "Hi-O-Hi-O for Cleveland." They have as mascots both a man in a dog suit named Chomps and a live bull mastiff named Swagger, who kind of looks like Hooch from Turner & Hooch.
Both are in reference to "The Dawg Pound," the old bleachers at the east end of Municipal Stadium. In 1985, cornerback Hanford Dixon said, "We had the idea of the quarterback being the cat, and the defensive line being the dog. Whenever the defense would get a sack, the defensive linemen and linebackers would bark." Soon, the fans watching training camp would bark along with the players. 

When the season began, much as Washington Redskin fans wore pig masks (or just plastic pig snouts) in honor of their offensive line, nicknamed The Hogs, fans in the bleachers would wear dog masks, and yell, "Woof, woof, woof!" Or, in competition with a similar chant for the hated Steelers, "Here we go, Brownies, here we go! Woof, woof!"

It got a little crazy, as the fans, led by 400-pound John Thompson, a.k.a. Big Dawg (he had that on the back of a Number 98 Browns jersey), began throwing dog biscuits onto the field. Sometimes, they'd throw eggs, or even batteries. When Cleveland-area native Arsenio Hall got his talk show in 1989, he put a little bleacher section behind the band, and called it The Dawg Pound, and pumped his fist while they yelled, "Woof, woof, woof!" Later that season, across the State, when Cincinnati Bengals fans began throwing stuff onto the field, Bengals coach Sam Wyche got a microphone, and told the fans, "Will the next person that sees anybody throw anything onto this field point 'em out? And get 'em outta here! You don't live in Cleveland! You live in Cincinnati!" and got a standing ovation. (Cincinnati doesn't like Cleveland any more than vice versa.)

After the Game. Cleveland has some rough areas, but you should be safe downtown. There are a number of places you could go after the game, with names like the Greenhouse (2038 East 4th Street at Prospect Avenue) and the Winking Lizard (811 Huron Road East at Prospect). A House of Blues is at 308 Euclid Avenue.

The Winking Lizard, a.k.a. Winks, is the home of the local Jet fans' club. The local Giant fans meet at Anthony's, 10703 W. Pleasant Valley Rd. at York Rd., 18 miles southwest of downtown. Bus 45.

I couldn't find a reference to any bar in the Cleveland area that specifically caters to New Yorkers, and references to Giants or Jets fan clubs, unlike in some cities (where they’re more likely to tolerate NY football fans than baseball fans), came up empty.

If your visit to Cleveland is during the European soccer season, the best place to watch your club is probably The Old Angle Tavern, at 1848 West 25th Street in the Ohio City neighborhood, acros the Cuyahoga, west of downtown. Red Line to West 25th-Ohio City.

Sidelights. Cleveland has a losing reputation. The Indians (for the moment) haven't won a World Series since 1948, the Browns haven't won an NFL Championship sine 1964 (Super Bowl –II, if you prefer), and the Cavaliers have played since 1970 and took until 2015 just to win their 1st NBA Finals game, before finally winning a title this past June. But Cleveland is still a great sports city.

The new stadium was built on the site of Municipal Stadium, which was also the Indians' part-time home from 1932 to 1946, and their full-time home from 1947 to 1993. The NFL's Rams played there from 1936 to 1945, winning the 1945 NFL Championship Game there, but moved to Los Angeles due to lousy attendance. The Browns, founded with the All-America Football Conference in 1946 and moving into the NFL in 1950, played there until 1995, before being moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens and being reborn in 1999.
The Browns won the AAFC Championship in all 4 seasons of that league's existence, then won NFL Championships in 1950, 1954, 1955 and 1964. In fact, the Browns played in a league championship game every season they played, from their 1946 debut until 1955. The 1950 NFL Championship Game, won by a Lou Groza field goal in the last 30 seconds of a chilly Christmas Eve encounter over, ironically, the Rams, is regarded as one of the greatest games in pro football history, although the Rams got revenge in the 1951 title game in Los Angeles.

The Browns lost the 1952 Title Game at home to the Detroit Lions, lost to the Lions in Detroit in 1953, beat the Lions at home in 1954, and beat the Rams in Los Angeles in 1955. A new generation of Browns won the 1964 NFL Championship Game at home against the Baltimore Colts – though it's hard to argue that Baltimore taking the Browns in 1995 was revenge. Still, that '64 Title remains the Browns' last World Championship -- and, until the Cavs won the NBA title this year, the city's last. No city with at least 3 major league sports teams has ever had to wait longer.

Most Clevelanders who watch college football are Ohio State University fans, even though Ohio Stadium is 145 miles away in Columbus, which is further from the Browns' Stadium than the Steelers' Heinz Field, 135 miles. Still, while O-State has won many Big Ten titles and some National Championships over the years, including since 1964, they are a team for the entire State, not Cleveland-specific, and have played very few home-away-from-home games in Cleveland.  And Cleveland State only restarted their football program in 2010. So while Cleveland is a great pro football city and a great high school football city, it is not a good college football city.

Municipal Stadium hosted a Beatles concert on August 14, 1966. The Beatles also played Cleveland's Public Auditorium on September 15, 1964. That building, which opened in 1922, not only still stands, it now hosts the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Elvis Presley sang there on November 6, 1971 and June 21, 1974.

It also hosted the Republican Conventions of 1924 (nominating Calvin Coolidge) and 1936 (Alf Landon). And it hosted the only Presidential Debate of 1980, when Ronald Reagan hit Jimmy Carter with the lines, "There you go again," and, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" 500 Lakeside Avenue East, a 6-block walk from Public Square and across from City Hall.

The center of the sports world tomorrow night will be the downtown Cleveland sports complex, with both venues opening in 1994. The Indians' Progressive Field will host Game 1 of the World Series, and the Cavaliers' Quicken Loans Arena will host the season opener, with the raising of a banner and the presenting of championship rings. 2401 Ontario Street, downtown.

There were 2 different ballparks known as League Park, constructed at East 66th Street and Lexington Avenue on the city’s East Side. The first was built in 1891, and was the home of the National League's Cleveland Spiders until 1899 and the American League team that became the Indians from 1901 to 1909. A second park built there in 1910 was the Indians' home until 1946.

Unlike most parks of the pre-World War I era (or even before the 1960s), something remains of this park: The ticket office that stood in the right-field corner still stands. And there is a baseball field, a public park, on the site today, although it is currently undergoing renovations. However, this is a poverty-stricken neighborhood – it has never really recovered from a race riot in 1966 – so do not visit at night. The Number 3 bus will take you up Superior Avenue to 66th, and it’s a 6-block walk; a bus called "The HealthLine," which can be picked up on Euclid Avenue across from the Soldiers & Sailors Monument at Public Square, will take you up Euclid Avenue to 66th, and it's a 7-block walk.

There is a Baseball Heritage Museum, inside the 5th Street Arcades shopping center at 530 Euclid Avenue.  It began as a private collection of Negro League memorabilia, and it grew to include stuff from the Indians and all kinds of baseball, including amateur, industrial/semi-pro, women's and international leagues.

The Cleveland Arena was home to one of the great minor-league hockey teams, the Cleveland Barons, from 1937 to 1974, the World Hockey Association's Cleveland Crusaders from 1972 to 1974, and the Cavaliers from their 1970 debut until 1974. It was here, on March 21, 1952, that local disc jockey Alan Freed hosted the Moondog Coronation Ball, which is often called the first rock and roll concert (which is why Cleveland is the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). The place held about 10,000, but about twice that tried to get into Freed's show, launching him on a career that would take him to his pioneering job on New York’s WINS and then WABC.

Elvis sang at the Arena on November 23, 1956. While the 1988 film Heartbreak Hotel shows him, played by David Keith, in concert at the Cleveland Arena in 1972, that film is fiction, and the website elvisconcerts.com clearly states that he gave only 1 concert in the State of Ohio that year, at the University of Dayton Arena.

The Arena was demolished in 1977. The HealthLine bus will drop you off at 36th Street; but, again, this is an uneasy neighborhood, so be aware of your surroundings.

From 1974 to 1994, between the Cleveland Arena and the Gund/Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavs played at The Coliseum at Richfield, a.k.a. the Richfield Coliseum. This was also the home of the minor-league Barons in the 1974-75 and 1975-76 seasons, and the NHL version of the Barons (who had been the California Golden Seals) in the 1976-77 and 1977-78 seasons, before money problems forced them to be merged with the Minnesota North Stars.

On March 24, 1975, in his first fight after regaining the heavyweight title from George Foreman, Muhammad Ali fought a journeyman fighter from North Jersey, Chuck Wepner, a.k.a. the Bayonne Bleeder. Wepner actually knocked Ali down in the 9th round, and that pissed Ali off: He clobbered Wepner, but the Marine veteran refused to go down, until he had nothing left and fell to an Ali punch with 19 seconds left in the 15th and final round. Supposedly, seeing this fight on TV led Sylvester Stallone to create the character of Rocky Balboa. Wepner is still alive at age 74, and recently retired from running a liquor store in Carlstadt, Bergen County.

Like the Meadowlands Arena and the Nassau Coliseum, the Richfield Coliseum had two levels of seats and one level of concourse – and, when a full house of 20,000 showed up, this was a mess. The location was also bad, picked because it was halfway between downtown Cleveland and downtown Akron, but it didn't exactly help people of either city. When the Cavs moved out, its days were numbered, and it was demolished in 1999. The site is now a wildlife sanctuary. 2923 W. Streetsboro Road, and don't expect to take public transportation: The closest bus, the 77F, drops you off almost 6 miles away.

Elvis sang at the Coliseum on July 10 and 18, 1975; and on March 21 and October 23, 1976. Elvis actually gave concerts in Cleveland before becoming nationally famous. On February 26, 1955, nearly a year before "Heartbreak Hotel" hit the charts as his first national hit single, he did 2 shows at the Circle Theater, at 105th & Euclid (built 1920, demolished 1959 for the expansion of the Cleveland Clinic, hence the bus is called the "HealthLine," and this area is a bit safer). On October 19, 1955, he again played 2 shows at the venue.  The next day, he did a matinee at Brooklyn High School (9200 Biddulph Road, Number 45 bus to Biddulph and walk a mile west) and an evening show at St. Michael's Hall (Mill Road & Wallings Road, 77F bus to Wallings, walk a mile west and a couple of blocks south on Mill).

No NCAA Final Four has ever been held in the State of Ohio. Ohio State won it in 1960, and lost Finals in 1939, 1961, 1962 and 2007, but they're in the State capital of Columbus, 142 miles from Public Square, and considerably closer to Cincinnati. The most notable college in the area is Cleveland State University, whose Vikings notably reached the Sweet Sixteen as a 14th seed in 1986, upsetting Indiana and St. Joseph's of Philadelphia before David Robinson and Navy beat them by 1 point to keep them out of the Elite Eight, but that's as close as any Northern Ohio team has come to the Final Four. Their campus is headquartered on Euclid Avenue between 17th and 26th Streets.

With the demise of the Barons, minor-league hockey has been played at the Coliseum and The Q, but the closest NHL team is the Pittsburgh Penguins, 134 miles away. It's not clear how much of the fandom of the Columbus Blue Jackets, 143 miles away, comes from Cleveland, but with Cleveland being a big boost to Ohio State's fandom, I can easily imagine Clevelanders preferring a team from Ohio's capital, however much they might dislike the State government, over the team from Steeler Town.

If Cleveland ever did get another hockey team, it would rank 17th in population in NHL markets.

Cleveland's highest-ranked soccer team is AFC Cleveland, which plays in the National Premier Soccer League, the 4th tier of American soccer. Their home field is Stan Skoczen Stadium, in Independence, 10 miles south of downtown. Bus 77 will get you to within a mile away.

I once asked Drew Carey, through Twitter, if he loves soccer so much, why didn't he try to get a Major League Soccer franchise for Cleveland, instead of buying into the group that owns the Seattle Sounders? Especially since Cleveland had done so well in the Major Indoor Soccer League. He said there was no suitable playing facility, unless they wanted to play before 50,000 empty seats at the new Browns stadium. This made sense, which is why the nearest MLS team is the Columbus Crew, 138 miles away. The next-closest is Toronto FC, 289 miles away.

There is a Cleveland Museum of Art, but it's way out on the East Side of the city, at 11150 East Boulevard at Wade Oval Drive, near the campus of Case Western Reserve University. It's a 15-minute walk from the Euclid-East 120th Street Station on the Red Line, or a 35-minute ride on the HealthLine bus. As I said, near the Browns' stadium are the Great Lakes Science Center, at 601 Erieside Avenue; and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, at 1100 East 9th Street.

Cleveland was home to a President, James Garfield, elected in 1880 but assassinated just a few months into his Presidency. Although he died near us, at his "Summer White House" in Long Branch, New Jersey, he was born in the Cleveland suburb of Orange (now Moreland Hills, and he was the last President to be born in a log cabin), and his home, Lawnfield, stands at 8095 Mentor Avenue in Mentor, northeast of the city. It takes 4 buses to get there: The 3, the 28, the R2 and the R1, but it is possible to get there without a car or an expensive taxi.

William McKinley, elected in 1896 and 1900, was from Canton, 60 miles away, and there are some historic sites there relating to him. We Yankee Fans also know Canton as the home town of Captain Thurman Munson. But most sports fans know it as the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 2121 George Halas Drive NW, off Exit 107 on Interstate 77, 57 miles south of downtown Cleveland. It is possible to get there via public transportation, via GoBus, but it takes 2 hours and 20 minutes. Each way.

Also associated with Ohio are Presidents William Henry Harrison, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison and William Howard Taft, but they were from the Cincinnati side; Rutherford B. Hayes, whose hometown of Fremont was closer to Toledo; and Warren G. Harding, whose birthplace of Blooming Grove and adult hometown of Marion are closer to Columbus.

If you're a fan of The Drew Carey Show, and you remember the cast's hangout, the Warsaw Tavern, you should know that there is a real-life bar with that name, in Brooklyn (a separate city) south of downtown, on West 22nd Street at Calgary Avenue. Take the Number 35 bus.

The House from the film A Christmas Story, in which Cleveland stands in for Chicago and author Jean Shepherd's hometown of Hammond, Indiana, is at 3159 West 11th Street at Rowley Avenue, and was restored by a fan to its exact appearance in the movie, made in 1983 but set around 1939 or so. Take the Number 81 bus. The Higbee's store was also real, but was most likely based on Chicago's real-life Marshall Field's chain. Higbee's still stands on Public Square, and the sign visible in the movie is still there, but the store moved out years ago, and the building is now home to the Cleveland Convention & Visitors Bureau and Horseshoe Casino Cleveland.


A visit to Cleveland can be a fun experience. These people love football. They don't like the Yankees, but they don't much mind the Jets, and their city should be able to show you a good time. Again, don't mention that The Boss was a Clevelander. And, for your own sake, don't mention the name of Art Modell.

Rethinking the All-Century Team

Top row, left to right: Johnny Bench, Willie Mays, Stan Musial.
Middle row: Mike Schmidt, Brooks Robinson,
Ken Griffey Jr., Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan.
Bottom row: Bob Gibson, Yogi Berra, Cal Ripken, Warren Spahn,
then-Commissioner Bud Selig, Roger Clemens and Hank Aaron.

October 24, 1999: The Yankees beat the Braves, 7-2 at Turner Field, behind the pitching of David Cone and 3 hits from Bernie Williams, and take a 2 games to 0 lead in the World Series.

Before the game, the winners in the fan balloting for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team are introduced. With some older players overlooked by young fans, some "wild cards" were added by a "select panel."

* Cy Young, several teams, 1890-1911. Died 1955.
Christy Mathewson, New York Giants, 1900-16. Died 1925. Added by panel.
Walter Johnson, Washington Senators, 1907-27. Died 1946.
Robert "Lefty" Grove, Philadelphia Athletics and Boston Red Sox, 1925-41. Died 1975. Added by panel.
* Warren Spahn, Boston/Milwaukee Braves, 1942-65. On hand, threw out the first ball before Game 1, even though he never pitched for the Braves in Atlanta. Died 2003. Added by panel.
* Sandy Koufax, Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, 1955-66. On hand, making a rare public appearance. Joked that Spahn had to be added to the All-Century Team, "because he pitched for most of the century." Still alive.
* Bob Gibson, St. Louis Cardinals, 1959-75. On hand. Still alive.
* Nolan Ryan, best years with the California Angels and Houston Astros, 1966-93. On hand. Still alive.
* Roger Clemens, best years with the Boston Red Sox, then still active with the Yankees, and would start and win Game 4. 1986-2007. On hand. Still alive.

* Lawrence "Yogi" Berra, Yankees, 1946-63. On hand. Died 2015.
* Johnny Bench, Cincinnati Reds, 1967-83. On hand. Still alive.

1st Basemen
* Lou Gehrig, Yankees, 1923-39. Died 1941.
* Mark McGwire, Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals, 1986-2001. On hand. Then still active. 1986-2001. Still alive.

2nd Basemen
* Rogers Hornsby, best years with the St. Louis Cardinals, 1917-37. Died 1963.
* Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1947-56. Died 1972. Joe Morgan, one of the finalists on the ballot, was part of the NBC broadcasting crew for this Series, and said that if he were one of the 2nd basemen chosen, and Robinson was not, he would forfeit his place to Robinson. Morgan finished 3rd in the 2B voting, so it wasn't necessary.

* John "Honus" Wagner, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1897-1917. Died 1936. Added by panel.
* Ernie Banks, Chicago Cubs, 1953-71. On hand. Died 2015.
* Cal Ripken Jr., Baltimore Orioles, 1981-2001. On hand. Still alive.

3rd Basemen
* Brooks Robinson, Baltimore Orioles, 1955-77. On hand. Still alive.
* Mike Schmidt, Philadelphia Phillies, 1972-89. On hand. Still alive.

* Ty Cobb, Detroit Tigers, 1905-28. Died 1961.
* Babe Ruth, Yankees, 1914-35. Died 1948.
* Joe DiMaggio, Yankees, 1936-51. Died earlier in 1999.

* Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox, 1939-60. On hand despite already being ill, and it turned out to be his last appearance in a big-league ballpark, following his emotional appearance at that season's All-Star Game at Fenway Park in Boston, his former home field. As he did on that occasion, he tipped his cap to the fans. Died 2002.
* Stan Musial, St. Louis Cardinals, 1941-63. On hand. Died 2013. Added by panel.
* Mickey Mantle, Yankees, 1951-68. Died 1995.
* Willie Mays, New York/San Francisco Giants, 1951-73. On hand. Still alive.
* Hank Aaron, Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, 1954-76. On hand, and threw out the first ball. Still alive.
* Pete Rose, Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies, 1963-86. Probably better known as a 3rd baseman or a 1st baseman. On hand, despite having been banned for baseball for life, for betting on baseball games while a manager. Still alive.
* Ken Griffey Jr., Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds, 1989-2010. On hand. Still alive.

With the steroid accusations against Clemens and McGwire, the ban on Rose, and the "kid vote" for Griffey in mind, the next-highest vote getters at the positions in question were Greg Maddux (who was on hand as an active Brave) for Clemens' spot, Jimmie Foxx (who died in 1967) for McGwire's, and Roberto Clemente (who died in 1972) for Griffey's and Shoeless Joe Jackson (who died in 1951) for, ironically, Rose's. So if Jackson, also banned permanently for gambling-related offenses, is also removed, the next-highest outfielder was Reggie Jackson (who was on hand, being a Yankee front-office man).

Which picks were right, and which were wrong? Presuming we keep the same numbers at each position...

Cy Young is a difficult case, since, like Griffey 100 years later, the turn of the Century happened right in the middle of his career. Yes, he was great from 1900 to 1911 (especially from 1900 to 1908), but was that, alone, enough to put him on this list? I don't think so. Replacement: Bob Feller, Cleveland Indians, 1936-56, then still alive, died 2010.

Clemens is a question mark, and not just because 2000 to 2005, some of his best work, came after the turn of the Century. Was he a steroid user? He is, so far, the only one to challenge the charges in court and beat the rap. (Barry Bonds challenged, and lost.) But that doesn't mean he was innocent. The fact that his numbers are in question, and that we have to cut them off with the end of the 1999 season regardless, means he should be removed. Replacement: Whitey Ford, Yankees, 1950-67, then as now still alive.

Why not Negro League legend Satchel Paige? Because we don't have reliable numbers for what he would have done against major league pitching for a full career. The best Negro League players would have starred in the majors. We know that. We saw that with guys like Robinson, Mays and Aaron. But the average Negro League player would not have made the majors. This is also true of Japan's two top-level leagues, which is why Sadaharu Oh wasn't nominated, although Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Cool Papa Bell and Oscar Charleston were among the 100 finalists for this team.

Why not Tom Seaver? As good as he was, for as long as he was, he didn't have Feller's dominance, or Ford's postseason resume. Indeed, the 1 game the Mets lost in the 1969 World Series, he lost it.

Having McGwire as one of the 1st basemen is a joke. Yes, he hit a lot of home runs. Yes, he was a good defensive 1st baseman early in his career, if not later. But Harmon Killebrew wasn't considered, and he was exactly the same kind of player, without the steroids. Replacement: Eddie Murray, Baltimore Orioles, 1977-97. A member of the 500 Home Run and 3,000 Hit Club, and 3 Gold Gloves.

At 2nd base, I thought about taking Hornsby off for Eddie Collins, as Collins was also a great baserunner and a great defensive 2nd baseman, and (something Hornsby fell a little short of) a member of the 3,000 Hit Club. But Hornsby did show some of what he could do in the post-1920 Lively Ball Era, whereas Collins, who played until 1930, really did. I don't think I could convince very many people, even those who know their history, to replace Hornsby for Collins.

I can't make Derek Jeter one of the shortstops, nor Mariano Rivera one of the pitchers, because their best work came after the dawn of the 21st Century. It's the best players of the 20th Century, not the best players who played in the 20th Century.

At 3rd base, you could make a case for Eddie Mathews (512 home runs), George Brett (3,154 hits) or Wade Boggs (a .328 lifetime batting average and 3,010 hits). But who do you take off: Brooks, a 16-time Gold Glove who had 2,848 hits; or Schmitty, a 10-time Gold Glove who had 548 home runs?

I don't care how many hits Rose had, he doesn't belong. He had a .303 lifetime batting average, less than many of the members of the 3,000 Hit Club. He hit 160 home runs, fewer than any nonpitcher on this team except Robinson, Wagner and Cobb -- and Robinson only played 10 seasons, while Wagner and Cobb played in the Dead Ball Era. And the reason Rose was named an All-Star at 5 different positions (2nd base, right field, left field, 3rd base and 1st base) was that he wasn't any good at any of them. So his removal from my "All-Century Team" has nothing to do with his crime as a manager, or his personality. Replacement: Frank Robinson, Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Orioles, 1956-76. Then as now, still alive.

Griffey, in spite of his injuries, had a great career with big numbers. But counting only what he did until the end of the 1999 season, his place on this Team cannot be justified. Again: It's the best players of the 20th Century, not the best players who played in the 20th Century. Replacement: Roberto Clemente, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1955-72. Died in a plane crash after the 1972 season.

Why not Tris Speaker? .345 batting average, 3,515 hits, an all-time record 792 doubles, great defensive center fielder? Because, now that Rose and Griffey are off, I can't justify taking off any other player, and I don't think he was a better all-around player than Frank or Roberto.

For the same reason, not Carl Yastrzemski. His greatness cannot be questioned, but who could you really take off for Yaz? Or for Duke Snider, or for Lou Brock, or for Dave Winfield, or for Tony Gwynn?

Why not Reggie Jackson? Because it's not my favorite players, it's the best players, and while he had 563 home runs and was one of those guys, like Rose, about whom it could be said, "Winning teams keep following him around," after his Oakland days, at which point he was no longer a baserunning threat, he was pretty much a one-dimensional player. Great at that dimension, but that was it.

So here's my revised All-Century Team, by position, and in chronological order:

Pitchers: Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, Bob Feller, Warren Spahn, Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan.

Catchers: Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench.

1st Basemen: Lou Gehrig and Eddie Murray.

2nd Basemen: Rogers Hornsby and Jackie Robinson.

Shortstops: Honus Wagner, Ernie Banks and Cal Ripken.

3rd Basemen: Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt.

Outfielders: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Frank Robinson.

It is a bit interesting that the only players on this Team that I saw at anything close to their best were Ripken, Murray and Ryan -- and I seriously considered taking Ryan off, as, easily, he is the weak link on this staff, and would be even if Young and Clemens were still on it.


October 24, 1854: The Gotham club defeats the Eagle club 21-14‚ at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey. The 1st attempt at publishing a play-by-play scorecard will be presented in the New York Clipper (the closest thing America had to an all-sports publication in those pre-Civil War days), and will show outs by inning and total runs scored by each player.

October 24, 1857: Sheffield Football Club, the world's first football club, is founded in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. Today, they are still in business, but are stuck in the Northern Premier League Division One South, which is the 8th level of English soccer, 7 levels below the Premier League. Sheffield Wednesday is in “The Championship,” the 2nd division; Sheffield United, in League One, the 3rd division.  

In a weird quirk, Sheffield FC wears red jerseys at home and blue on the road; United wears red and white stripes as its basic uniform, while Wednesday wear blue and white stripes.

Also on this day, Edward Nagle Williamson is born in Philadelphia.  Ned Williamson was a 3rd baseman for the Chicago White Stockings, forerunners of the Cubs. In 1884, he set a major league record with 27 home runs – mainly because the White Stockings’ home ground, Lakeshore Park, had the shortest right-field fence in the history of the game: 184 feet. The White Stockings had long led the National League in doubles, because any drive over that short fence was ruled a double instead of a home run.

But in 1884, the rule was changed and it was a home run. Williamson hit 25 homers at home, only 2 on the road. Apparently, somebody had enough, because the City of Chicago took over the ground, and the White Stockings had to move. In 1885 they built West Side Park, built another with that name nearby in 1893, and moved to what’s now called Wrigley Field in 1916.

A knee injury hampered Williamson's career in 1889, and he died of tuberculosis in 1894, aged only 36. His single-season home run record lasted until 1919, when Babe Ruth hit 29.

October 24, 1874: The Boston Red Stockings, forerunners of the team now known as the Atlanta Braves, clinch their 3rd straight championship of the 1st professional baseball league, the National Association. They beat the Hartford Blues, 11-8 at the South End Grounds in the Roxbury section of Boston. They finish the season 52-18. They won their 1st 12 games, from May 2 to 22, and had 3 other streaks of 6 wins.

The last survivor of the 1874 Red Stockings was shortstop George Wright, who was also the last survivor of the 1st openly professional team, for whom this team was named, the 1869-70 Cincinnati Red Stockings. He lived until 1937.

October 24, 1875: In the wake of the National Association Pennant having been taken by the Boston Red Stockings (forerunners of the Atlanta Braves) for the 4th straight season, and by a wider margin (in terms of winning percentage, anyway) than any major league that would come after it ever has, causing several teams to drop out of the NA, the Chicago Tribune calls for the formation of an organization of major professional teams: Chicago‚ Cincinnati‚ Louisville‚ Philadelphia‚ New York‚ Boston‚ and Hartford: "Unless the present Professional Association leadership adopts rules to limit the number of teams allowed to participate in the Championship season‚ all clubs will go broke."

Most likely, this editorial was written by William Hulbert, president of the Chicago White Stockings. Also on this day, he meets in Chicago with Boston Red Stockings pitcher, and Illinois native, Al Spalding. Hulbert stresses to Spalding that his roots are in Illinois, and that he should play for the Chicago club. He also stresses to Spalding that the current National Association is going to result in all teams going broke without tighter control, that teams must stick to their schedules and not leave opponents in the lurch, and that gambling must be driven out of the game. Spalding agrees, and signs with the White Stockings for the 1876 season.

The following winter, on February 2, 1876, he gathers some other team owners in New York and founds the National League, and remains its guiding force until his death in 1882, by which point professional baseball had been stabilized. The White Stockings, rather than the American League's Chicago White Sox, are the forerunners of the Chicago Cubs.

While the New York meeting on February 2, 1876 is, essentially, the birthdate of the National League, October 24, 1875 is its conception. Whether that makes Spalding or Hulbert "the mother," I don't know.

October 24, 1884: The New York Mets lose the World Series. Well, not exactly.

The Providence Grays, Champions of the National League, defeat the New York Metropolitans -- and, yes, this early franchise was called the Mets for short -- 3-1, behind the pitching of future Hall-of-Famer Charlie "Old Hoss" Radbourn, at the Polo Grounds in New York. This gives the Grays the first-ever postseason series between champions of 2 major professional baseball leagues, a series that was officially called the "World's Series."

A Game 3 was played, for charity, and the Grays won that, too. The Grays had won the NL Pennant in 1879, too, but would go out of business after the 1885 season. The last surviving Providence Gray was right fielder Paul Radford, who lived on until 1945.

Aside from teams known as the the Providence Steam Rollers in the NFL (1920-1931, 1928 Champions) and the NBA (only the inaugural 1946-47 season), the State of Rhode Island has never had another major league sports team -- the New England Patriots, who play 25 miles from downtown Providence in Foxboro, Massachusetts, don't count.

The last survivor of the 1884 Providence Grays was outfielder Paul Radford, who lived until 1945 -- 61 years, 10 States and 11 Presidents later.

October 24, 1885: The St. Louis Browns, Champions of the American Association, defeat the Chicago White Stockings, Champions of the National League,13-4 in the 7th and last game in their series. The Browns claim the Game 2 forfeit didn't count, and therefore claim the championship. Each club receives $500.

These 2 teams would meet again the next season, forging the NL rivalry that still exists between the teams, by 1901 known as the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs.

This was the first of 4 straight AA Pennants for the Browns. The last surviving member of the 1885-88 AA Champions was 3rd baseman Walter Arlington "Arlie" Latham, who lived until 1952.

October 24, 1891, 125 years ago: Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina is born in San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic. He was his homeland's dictator from 1930 until he was assassinated in a coup in 1961, at the age of 69. During his rule, the capital of Santo Domingo was renamed Ciudad Trujillo (Trujillo City), reverting to Santo Domingo under the replacement government.

Unlike most Dominicans, and unlike later Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, he didn't like baseball. Like many dictators, however, he understood how to manipulate sports for his own purposes. He invited many black American and Caribbean players to play professionally in his country, for good pay and without segregation.

Satchel Paige was one, and remembered a 1937 game in which he saw soldiers with rifles around the field, an "encouragement" to pitch well. Fulfilling his contract at the end of the season, Satch left, later writing in his memoir, "I never did see Trujillo again, and I ain't sorry."

October 24, 1892: Goodison Park, the world's 1st stadium built specifically for association football (whose abbreviation "assoc." is the source of the word "soccer") is opened in Liverpool. Home to Everton Football Club, it is across Stanley Park from Anfield, home ground of Liverpool Football Club, which was built in 1884 as Everton's home before they moved across the park, and Liverpool FC was founded to take their place at Anfield.

This makes the 2 Merseyside teams in the Premiership the closest major rivals of any major sport on the planet. Imagine that, instead of being in their actual locations, the Yankees' home field was where the Metropolitan Museum of Art is, at 82nd Street and 5th Avenue on one side of Central Park, and the Mets played where the American Museum of Natural History is, on the other side of the Park at 79th Street and Central Park West. Now imagine that the Yankees and the Mets play each other as often as the Yankees and the Red Sox (or the Mets and the Phillies) do. Finally, imagine that the Yankees were only half as successful as they've actually been, and you've got Liverpool; and the Mets twice as much as you know them to have been, and you've got Everton; and that the Mets (Everton) were actually the older team. Now, you've got an idea of the intensity of "the Merseyside Derby."

Goodison Park hosted some of the 1966 World Cup matches, and even hosted a post-World War I tour by two U.S. baseball teams, the New York Giants and the Chicago White Sox. It seats 39,572. Everton would like to expand the stadium, but there's no room, so, like Liverpool, they are looking to build a new stadium; but, also like their Red rivals, the Blues haven’t gotten it past the planning stage.


October 24, 1908: Baseball's anthem, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," is introduced by singer Bill Murray -- no relation to the later actor who got his start on Saturday Night Live. At the time the song was written by composer Albert Von Tilzer and lyricist Jack Norworth (words), neither had ever seen a game. But Norworth had seen an advertising sign on the new (opened 1904) New York Subway:


And he was inspired to write a song about an Irish girl -- apparently his favorite subject, as so many of his songs had an Irish theme, not surprising for New York City at that time:

Katie Casey was baseball mad.
Had the fever and had it bad.

Just to root for her hometown crew
every sou, Katie blew.

On a Saturday, her young beau
called to see if she'd like to go
to see a show
but Miss Kate said no,
I'll tell you what you can do:

Take me out to the ballgame.
Take me out with the crowd.

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack.
I don't care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team.
If they don't win, it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out
at the old ballgame.

Katie Casey saw all the games.
Knew all the players by their first names.
Told the umpire he was wrong,
all along, good and strong.
When the score was just two to two,
Katie Casey, she had the clue.

Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song.

Take me out to the ballgame.
Take me out with the crowd.

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack.
I don't care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team.
If they don't win, it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out
at the old ballgame.

A "sou" is a penny. Sometimes that archaic lyric is changed to "Every cent, Katie spent." In 1927, Norworth rewrote the song, and the girl subject became Nellie Kelly -- a better rhyme, and still Irish. But most people don't even know there are verses: They only sing the chorus.

Edward Meeker made the first recording, but Murray appears to have been the first to sing it live. Murray had also recorded "Tessie," which became a ballpark chant for Boston Red Sox fans in 1903. Ironically, Murray was a fan of the New York Highlanders, the team that would become the Yankees. In an even greater irony, Von Tilzer didn't see a live major league game until 1928, Norworth until 1940.

It apparently took until 1934 for the song to be played at a major league game. In 1976, Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck noticed that, while organist Nancy Faust was playing it during the 7th Inning Stretch, broadcaster Harry Caray was leaning out of the press box, and inviting fans to sing the song with him. So Veeck piped Harry and the fans into the public-address system at Comiskey Park, and a tradition was born. Harry took it with him across town to Wrigley Field, and, with the Cubs' partnership with cable-TV "superstation" WGN, made the singing of that song at that stage of the game a national phenomenon. (And probably saved Wrigley for at least 2 more generations.)

Unfortunately, Harry always got the words wrong, and, to this day, the celebrities the Cubs bring on to sing it in Harry's place (since his death in 1998) have repeated his mistakes: They sing, "Take me out to the crowd," and, "I don't care if I ever get back."

In 1994, I heard it played at Mercer County Waterfront Park (now Arm & Hammer Park), home of the Trenton Thunder of the Class AA Eastern League. The Thunder didn't do too well in that 1st season of professional baseball in New Jersey in the modern era, and it inspired me to sing, "I don't think this team's gonna come back, for it's root, root, root for the home team, if they don't win, it's the same."

October 24, 1909: William Arthur Carr is born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. In the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, Bill Carr won Gold Medals in the 400 meters and as part of the U.S. team in the 4x400 meter relay. A car accident the next year ended his career at age 23, and he lived until 1966.


October 24, 1911: A 6-day postponement due to rain is over, and the field at Shibe Park is ready to play Game 4 of the World Series. With Albert "Chief" Bender pitching, the Athletics beat Christy Mathewson and the Giants 4-2, giving the A's a 3-games-to-1 lead.

Bender, a member of the Chippewa tribe from Minnesota, frequently had to hear fans taunt him with Indian war whoops. Knowing that this was a period of great immigration from Europe, he would sometimes yell at the fans taunting him, "You lousy bunch of foreigners! Why don't you go back where you came from?" Since a lot of them were immigrants, this had the desired effect. He was elected to the Hall of Fame.

Those 6 days are still a Series record for postponement due to inclement weather. But the 1989 San Francisco earthquake resulted in a 10-day postponement.

October 24, 1914: Palmer Stadium opens in Princeton, Mercer County, New Jersey. Princeton defeats Dartmouth 16-12. The 42,000 seat horseshoe will remain the Princeton Tigers' home until 1996, when, finally bowing to the reality that age has rendered it unsafe, it is demolished. Princeton played all their 1997 games on the road while Powers Field at Princeton University Stadium is built on the site, and the new 27,773-seat stadium opened on September 19, 1998.

October 24, 1915: Robert Kahn (no middle name) is born in Manhattan. Under the pen name of Bob Kane, in 1939, he and artist Bill Finger created the comic book character Batman. He lived until 1998.

October 24, 1921: Edwin George Ditchburn is born in Gillingham, Kent, England. Ted Ditchburn was the goalkeeper on the 1951 Tottenham Hotspur team that won the Football League title, the 1st for the other North London club, known that season as "the Push and Run Spurs."

On June 15, 1952, he played for Tottenham in a 7-1 victory over Manchester United (the winners of the last 2 League titles playing each other) at Yankee Stadium. On June 18, 1953, he played for England as they beat the U.S. 6-3 at the Polo Grounds. He lived until 2005.

October 24, 1925: Kenneth Donald MacKay is born in Windsor, Queensland, Australia. A star batsman and bowler (hitter and pitcher) for the Australia cricket team in the 1950s and early 1960s, he only lived until 1982. In Australian Cricket, the Game and the Players, Jack Pollard wrote, "While cricket is played in Australia, he will be fondly remembered."

October 24, 1926, 90 years ago: Yelberton Abraham Tittle is born in Marshall, Texas. Y.A. Tittle was a sensational quarterback at Louisiana State University, where one of his receivers was future big-league baseball player and manager Alvin Dark.

He starred for the San Francisco 49ers, joining with running backs Hugh McElhenny, Joe “the Jet” Perry and John Henry Johnson to form “the Million Dollar Backfield” in 1954 – the only season in which one team had an entire backfield that went on to reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Tittle has joked about the nickname, though: “They should have called us the Hundred Dollar Backfield, because that’s about what they paid us.” ($1 million in 1954 would be about $8.8 million in today's money.)

Despite all that talent, which also included Hall-of-Famers Bob St. Clair at offensive tackle and defensive end Leo Nomellini, the 49ers only reached the Playoffs once during Tittle’s tenure, tying with the Detroit Lions for the 1957 Western Division title, and losing a Playoff for the right to face the Cleveland Browns for the NFL Championship. (The Lions won that one, too – and haven’t won an NFL Championship since.) The 49ers would not reach an NFL Championship Game until Super Bowl XVI, in the 1981-82 season.

In 1961, the New York Giants traded for Tittle, despite his being 35 years old. He helped them win 3 straight Eastern Division titles, but they lost all 3 NFL Championship Games, all in miserably cold weather: 1961 to the Green Bay Packers on a snowy New Year’s Eve at Lambeau Field, 1962 to the Packers on a frozen field at Yankee Stadium, and 1963 to the Chicago Bears on an equally-rock-hard gridiron at Wrigley Field, with the Bears winning 14-10 with the clock winding down, but an already-injured Tittle leading the Giants on a desperate drive that ended with an interception.

In 1964, hit hard in a game in Pittsburgh, his helmet knocked off, his bald head dripping blood as he knelt on the field, a photograph of this scene won a Pulitzer Prize. Tittle retired after the season. Despite never winning a title, he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the Giants have retired his Number 14. He is still alive, at age 90, but is stricken with Alzheimer's disease.

October 24, 1928: George Donald Bullard is born in the Boston suburb of Lynn, Massachusetts. A shortstop, he played 4 games for the Detroit Tigers at the end of the 1954 season. He died in 2002.

October 24, 1929: The New York Stock Exchange is hit with "Black Thursday," a crash that will last until the following "Black Tuesday." Calendars aside, Black Thursday is the effective end of the Roaring Twenties; Black Tuesday is the beginning of the Great Depression and the Dirty Thirties. It will be 25 years, until 1954, before the Dow Jones Industrial Average tops its September 3, 1929 peak.

Also on this day, James Patrick Brosnan is born in Cincinnati. A pitcher, he debuted with the Chicago Cubs in 1954. In 1959, he was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to his hometown Cincinnati Reds, and chronicled the season in a diary, published as The Long Season. It was the first autobiographical baseball book to not be excessively sanitized, and he was criticized not so much for specific passages but for "violating the sanctity of the clubhouse." It was, however, tame in comparison to Ball Four, the diary another pitcher, Jim Bouton, kept 10 years later.

In 1961, as Brosnan kept another diary, he had his best season in the major leagues, and the Reds won their only Pennant between 1940 and 1970. This book was titled Pennant Race, and was better received. The Reds traded Brosnan to the White Sox in 1963, and he retired after the season. He later became sportscaster, continued writing, and lived until 2014.


October 24, 1931: The George Washington Bridge opens to traffic, connecting the Washington Heights section of Manhattan with Fort Lee, Bergen County, New Jersey. Today, it carries U.S. Routes 1 and 9 and Interstates 95 over the Hudson River. Until the Golden Gate Bridge opened in San Francisco 6 years later, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world.

The GWB is the gateway for Yankee Fans driving from New Jersey into Yankee Stadium, as it was for the old Stadium, and for baseball Giants fans going to the Polo Grounds. Many was the time that Phil Rizzuto, living in Hillside, Union County, New Jersey during his time as a Yankee broadcaster, would talk about leaving a game early by saying, "I gotta get over that bridge!"

October 24, 1937: John Hardy Goetz is born in Raber Township, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in a section named Goetzville for his family. A pitcher, he appeared in 4 games for the 1960 Cubs. He died in 2008.

October 24, 1948: Phillip Bennett (no middle name) is born in Felinfoel, Wales. A legend of Welsh rugby, Phil Bennett helped his country-within-a-country win the Five Nations Championship (the Six Nations Championship with the addition of Italy in 2000) in 1969, 1970 (shared with France), 1973 (a 5-way tie), 1975, 1976 and 1978.

As Captain of the Wales side, he told his teammates before a 1977 match, "Look what these bastards have done to Wales. They've taken our coal, our water, our steel. They buy our homes and live in them for a fortnight every year. What have they given us? Absolutely nothing. We've been exploited, raped, controlled and punished by the English – and that's who you are playing this afternoon."

He now commentates on the game for Welsh television.

October 24, 1949: Czesław Bolesław Marcol is born in Opole, Poland. He was a soccer player until age 14, when a tragedy forced the family to move to the Detroit suburb of Imlay City, Michigan. There, he was taught how to kick an American-style football.

It paid off. The Green Bay Packers drafted him in 1972, and as a rookie he helped them win the NFC Central Division, setting team records that still stand for most field goals attempted (48) and made (33) in a season.

In the opening game of the 1980 season, the Packers played their arch-rivals, the Chicago Bears. Marcol attempted a game-winning field goal in overtime, but it was blocked, and the ball came right back to him, and he took it and ran for a 25-yard touchdown, giving the Pack a 12-6 win.

He later overcame alcohol and cocaine addictions, and is now an addiction recovery counselor in Dollar Bay, Michigan, across the Upper Peninsula from the aforementioned Goetzville. He was elected to the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.


October 24, 1950: Rawlins Jackson Eastwick is born in Camden, New Jersey, across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, and grows up in neighboring Haddonfield. "Rawly" was a relief pitcher who helped the Cincinnati Reds win the 1975 and 1976 World Series, but after being acquired by the Yankees in 1978, he was injured, and only played 8 games for them before they traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies in midseason for Jay Johnstone. Eastwick hardly played again after that, retiring after being cut by the Cubs in spring training in 1982.

He now runs office buildings in Boston, and was scheduled to be at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, but was delayed, and avoided injury in the explosions.

October 24, 1952: Omar Renán Moreno Quintero is born in Puerto Armuelles, Panama. A center fielder, he led the National League in stolen bases in 1978 and 1979, and helped the Pittsburgh Pirates win the 1979 World Series. In 1980, he stole 96 bases, a team record -- but didn't lead the NL, because Ron LeFlore stole 97.

He played for the Yankees from 1983 to 1985, and he and his wife Sandra now run a youth baseball charity in Panama.

Also on this day, Reginald Sherard Walton is born in Kansas City, Missouri. An outfielder, he appeared in 43 games for the Seattle Mariners and 13 for the Pirates in the early 1980s, making him a teammate of Moreno.

Also on this day, Ángel Rafael Torres Ruiz is born in La Ciénaga, Dominican Republic. He pitched in 5 games for the Cincinnati Reds at the end of the 1977 season.

Also on this day, Christoph Paul Daum is born in Olesnitz, East Germany. A midfielder, he was signed by 1. FC Köln (usually listed as FC Cologne in English), and thus defected to the West. But he is better known as a manager, having taken Stuttgart to the 1992 Bundesliga title, winning the Austrian Bundesliga with Austria Wien in 2003, and winning the Turkish Süper Lig with Istanbul clubs Beşiktaş in 1995 (also winning the Turkish Cup in 1994) and Fenerbahçe in 2004 and 2005. He now manages the national team of Romania.

October 24, 1956, 60 years ago: Tom Whittaker dies of a heart attack in London, only 58 years old. He is 1 of only 2 men to die in office as manager of North London's Arsenal Football Club, the 1st being his former boss, Herbert Chapman, in 1934.

Born in Aldershot, Hampshire on July 21, 1898, where his father was stationed in the British Army, Tom grew up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and thus was a "Geordie." He served first in the Army, then in the Royal Navy, during World War I. He played as a "wing half," a position that became obsolete as fullbacks became more defensive, from 1919 to 1925, all for Arsenal. In 1925, on a tour of Australia as part of a Football Association all-star team, he broke his kneecap, and his playing career was over.

But his service to Arsenal was far from over. Chapman, who had led Huddersfield Town to the League title, became manager, and, when Tom's attempt to come back from injury led him to want to study to become a physiotherapist, thinking he could do it better, Chapman encouraged this. He was the club's head trainer from 1927 until 1947, first under Chapman, then under George Allison, taking time off in World War II to be an air raid warden.

When Allison retired in 1947, Tom was named manager. In his 1st season, 1947-48, he took them to the League title. He led them to the FA Cup in 1950 (beating Liverpool in the Final), to the FA Cup Final but lost in 1952 (ironically, to his hometown side, Newcastle United), and winning the closest League title race ever, beating Burnley by goal difference on the last day of the 1953 season. In total, he was a part of the club's 1st 7 League titles, their 1st 6 FA Cup Finals, and their 1st 3 FA Cup wins. (There were no European club tournaments until the 1955-56 season.)

The club's last game with Tom in charge was on October 20, a 3-1 home win over arch-rival Tottenham. It should surprise no one that they lost their next game badly, on October 27, 4-0 to Everton at Goodison Park.

October 24, 1957: Ronald Clyde Gardenhire is born at a U.S. Army base in Butzbach, Hessen, Germany, and grows up in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. A good-field-no-hit shortstop for the early 1980s Mets, he managed the Minnesota Twins to 6 American League Central Division titles between 2002 and 2010, and was named AL Manager of the Year in 2010.

His son Toby was drafted by the Twins, but never made the big club, and is now head coach at a small college.

October 24, 1959: The greatest player in the history of basketball makes his NBA debut. If you're paying attention to the date, you will notice that Michael Jordan hasn't been born yet, and neither have LeBron James' parents.

The place is the old Madison Square Garden. The home team is the New York Knicks. The visiting team is the Philadelphia Warriors. Unfortunately for the Knicks, it is the Warriors who have the player in question: West Philadelphia native Wilton Norman Chamberlain.

Wilt, at this point a 23-year-old 7-foot-1-inch center, scores 43 points. Kenny Sears scores 35 for the Knicks, but it's nowhere near enough, as the Warriors beat the Knicks, 118-109. Basketball will never be the same again.

A little more than 2 years later, on March 2, 1962, these teams will play at the Hershey Arena outside Harrisburg, and Wilt will score 100 points in a 169-147 Warriors victory.

Also on this day, Michael Quinn Brewer is born in Shreveport, Louisiana. A right fielder, he played 12 games for the Kansas City Royals in 1986.


October 24, 1960: Ian Michael Baker-Finch is born in Nambour, Queensland, Australia. He won 18 PGA Tour events, including the 1991 British Open. Now living in Florida, he is a golf commentator for CBS.

October 24, 1962: Eugene Thomas Larkin is born in Flushing, Queens. A 1st baseman, he went to Columbia, where he broke several school records set by an earlier 1st baseman from New York, named Lou Gehrig.

He was 1 of 7 players to be a part of both of the Minnesota Twins' World Series titles, in 1987 and 1991. In Game 7 in 1991, he had the bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 10th that clinched the title, 1-0 over the Atlanta Braves. He still lives in the Minneapolis suburbs, and runs a baseball school.

Also on this day, Jay McKinley Novacek is born in Martin, South Dakota. The All-Pro tight end from the University of Wyoming (whose teams are also called the Cowboys) helped the Dallas Cowboys win 3 Super Bowls. The 5-time Pro Bowler was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012, but, as yet, has not been elected to the Pro Football Hall. He and his wife Amy star on the reality-TV series Saddle Up With Jay Novacek.

Also on this day, Biggie Mbasela (his real, full name) is born in Kitwe, Northern Rhodesia, the British colony that became the independent nation of Zambia. Better known as Gibby Mbasela, he was a forward who won 2 league titles in his country, and was named Zambian Footballer of the Year in 1990.

He was not among the 18 members of the Zambia national team killed in a plane crash off the coast of Gabon on April 27, 1993. He was, however, among those who took Zambia to the Final of the 1994 African Cup of Nations, losing to Nigeria. Shortly after retiring as an active player, he fell ill, and died on May 1, 2000, only 37 years old.

October 24, 1963: Mark Andrew Grant is born in the Chicago suburb of Aurora, Illinois. He was Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year in 1985, but his big-league career never really worked out. He was one of the players the San Francisco Giants traded to the San Diego Padres to get Kevin Mitchell, leading him to miss out on the 1987 and 1989 postseasons. Bad luck befell him again when the Braves traded him before their 1991 Pennant run. He is now a broadcaster for the Padres.

October 24, 1966, 50 years ago: Roman Arkadyevich Abramovich is born in Saratov, Russia. He turned an investment into the Russian black market into oil and aluminum empires, and developed a close relationship with then-President Boris Yeltsin, and has worked with Yeltsin's successors, Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev.

He has been indicted on numerous corruption charges, but has never been convicted. It’s good to have friends in high places. His fortune has gone up and down, but is now believed by Forbes
magazine to be about $8.4 billion. Two divorce settlements and his sports investments have not helped in this regard, as you'll see below.

In 2003, he bought Chelsea Football Club of West London, leading to its new nickname of "Chelski," or "Chavski," as the club's popularity with London's tracksuit-wearing, baggy-pantsed, jewelry-flashing, cap-turned-sideways, foul-mouthed juvenile delinquents (we don't really have a single name for such in the U.S.) has led to them being called "The Chavs."

In 2004, he hired manager Jose Mourinho away from the Portuguese club F.C. Porto, and together they built a team that won the Premier League title in 2005 and again in 2006 – this after winning just 1 title in the team's 1st 99 seasons, in 1955 (and that with a former Arsenal player as their manager, Ted Drake). Early in the 2007-08 season, Mourinho decided he'd had enough of Abramovich's meddling and left for Internazionale in Milan, Italy, and that for Real Madrid in Spain, returned to Chelsea in 2014-15 and won another League title, but crashed and burned the next season. He now manages Manchester United, but Chelsea embarrassed them 4-0 yesterday.

Despite winning the FA Cup in 2007 and 2009, both the Premier League and the FA Cup (a.k.a. "winning The Double") in 2010, the UEFA Champions League in 2012, the Europa League in 2013, and the League again in 2015, Chelsea is believed to be heavily in debt under Abramovich's ownership, due to the high sums paid in wages, transfer fees, and upkeep of the aging home ground, Stamford Bridge. He is believed to have sunk over 1.25 billion pounds – about $1.6 billion – into the club in his 13 years of ownership.

In 1999, he was elected to the Russian Parliament, the Duma, from the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, the oil-rich easternmost oblast (what they call a "state" of Russia, and from 2000 to 2008 served as its Governor, making him a "neighbor" of 2007-09 Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, as this is the part of Russia that she claimed could be seen from her home State. (But she never actually said, "I can see Russia from my house" – that was Tina Fey doing the impersonation.)

Twice divorced, the 50-year-old "Mad Russian" is now married to Darya "Dasha" Zhukova, a 35-year-old fashion designer known on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption as "Marat Safin's Girlfriend" – while she was dating the Russian tennis star, the show's co-host Tony Kornheiser slobbered over her so much it made my feelings for Catherine Zeta-Jones look mature by comparison. They are parents of 2 children, and Abramovich has 5 others with his 1st 2 wives.

October 24, 1967: Ian Raphael Bishop is born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. A star bowler for the West Indies cricket team from 1989 until succumbing to injuries in 1998, he is now a TV commentator for the sport, frequently waxing poetic about the decline of his former "national team."


October 24, 1971: Caprice Bourret (no middle name) is born in the Hacienda Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. In the mid-1990s, she moved to London to further her modeling career, and became a star there, using just her first name. In America, she is best known for appearing on VH1's The Surreal Life in 2005. In England, she is best known for being a former girlfriend of Arsenal Captain Tony Adams.

October 24, 1972: Jackie Robinson dies. The 1st black player in modern baseball had been suffering from diabetes, which had robbed him of most his eyesight, caused such poor circulation in his legs that amputation was being considered, and damaged his heart to the point where it killed him at age 53.

Just 10 days earlier, he had flown from his home in Stamford, Connecticut (his wife Rachel, now 93, now lives near their old house), and was a special guest at Game 2 of the World Series between the A's and Reds in Cincinnati. It had been 25 years since the great experiment that he and Brooklyn Dodger president Branch Rickey (who died in 1965) had reached its successful conclusion with the Dodgers winning the Pennant and Jackie making it through the season, not just surviving but excelling. His former teammate, Pee Wee Reese, was on hand, and former Dodger broadcaster Red Barber introduced him. Jackie said, "I'm extremely pleased to be here, but I must confess, I'm going to be even more pleased when I see a black face managing in baseball."

Jackie's eulogy was delivered by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and his funeral was attended by most of his surviving teammates. Roy Campanella was there in his wheelchair. Among his pallbearers were former Dodger pitcher Don Newcombe and basketball legend Bill Russell.

Earlier in the year, in Los Angeles, Jackie's hometown (if not the team's), the Dodgers retired uniform numbers for the first time, packing away Jackie's Number 42, Campy's Number 39 and Sandy Koufax' Number 32. Jackie was the 1st black player in the Hall of Fame, Campy the 2nd, and Koufax had been newly elected at the time of the ceremony.

It would be 2 more years, on October 3, 1974, before Frank Robinson, no relation, was hired as Major League Baseball's 1st black manager, with the Cleveland Indians, the team that had been the first in the American League to add black players with Larry Doby and Satchel Paige.

Oddly, Frank beat Jackie to being the 1st black player to get his number retired: The Orioles let him go before the 1972 season, and, though he was still active, announced the retirement of his number on March 10 of that year.

Ironically, while black Hispanics are now the leading presence in the game, very few black Americans are in the major leagues. Jackie would probably be disturbed by that, but not puzzled, as he would surely factor in the rise of pro football and basketball as sports preferred by African-Americans, especially since he played those, in addition to baseball, at UCLA.

Of the 30 current MLB franchises, 10 have never had a nonwhite manager, including the Yankees. It took until this season, with former Red Sox star Dave Roberts, for the Dodgers to have their 1st black manager. Currently, of the 28 MLB teams that don't have vacancies, only 2 have a black manager: The Dodgers, and the Washington Nationals with Dusty Baker. Jackie would not be happy about that. One other has a white Hispanic: The Chicago White Sox with Rick Renteria. 

In 1997, on the 50th Anniversary of Jackie's arrival, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced that Jackie's Number 42 would be retired for all of baseball, as yet a unique honor. All players then wearing it would be allowed to continue to do so for the remainder of their careers, but no new players could wear it, and no current players could switch to it.

The last remaining Number 42 in baseball was Mariano Rivera of the Yankees; the Yankees appeared to have been waiting for Mariano to retire before retiring the number for both him and Jackie, but in 2007, on the 60th Anniversary of Jackie's arrival, they retired it for Jackie, and did so again for Mariano when he hung 'em up in 2013, just as they retired Number 8 for both Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra.

Also on October 24, 1972, Patrick Williams (no middle name) is born in Monroe, Louisiana. He was a 3-time Pro Bowler at defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings. He is now an assistant coach at a high school in his home State.

October 24, 1973: Jackie McNamara is born in Glasgow, Scotland. He won 4 Scottish Premier League titles and 3 Scottish Cups with Glasgow’s Celtic Football Club, serving as their Captain in 2005. He was recently fired as manager of another Scottish club, Dundee United.

Also on this day, Jeffrey William Wilson is born in Invercargill, New Zealand. Jeff Wilson starred in rugby union, rugby league (playing for his country in both codes, making him a rare "Double All-Black") and basketball. He was a member of the New Zealand team that lost to host South Africa in the 1995 Rugby World Cup immortalized in the film Invictus. He now commentates on rugby for Sky Sports.

October 24, 1974: The expansion New Orleans Jazz play their 1st home game, the 1st NBA game played in New Orleans. It doesn't go so well: Pete Maravich is held to just 11 points, while Freddie Boyd drops 35, and the Jazz hit a sour note, losing to the Philadelphia 76ers 102-89.

The game is played at the Municipal Auditorium, where they played their 1st season, until the Superdome opened, going from a building that opened in 1930 with 7,853 seats to one brand-new with a basketball capacity of 47,000. The Auditorium was damaged in Hurricane Katrina and, 10 years later, its future remains in doubt.

Also on this day, Corey James Dillon is born in Seattle. He set single-season rushing yardage records for the University of Washington, the Cincinnati Bengals and the New England Patriots. On October 23, 2000, he rushed for 278 yards against the Denver Broncos, breaking Walter Payton’s 1977 record of 275. Dillon’s record has been surpassed by Jamal Lewis and Adrian Peterson. In the 2004 season, he was a member of the Patriot team that won Super Bowl XXXIX. (By cheating?) He rushed for 11,241 yards, but, as yet, has not been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Also on this day, Wilton Alvaro Guerrero is born in Don Gregorio, Dominican Republic. The older brother and former Montreal Expo teammate of Vladimir Guerrero, he is best known for a 1997 incident with the Dodgers, where he was found to have a corked bat. He is now a scout with the Dodgers.

Also on this day, Jamal David Mayers is born in Toronto. One of the few black players in the NHL, the right wing was an Alternate Captain for his hometown Maple Leafs, and retired after winning the 2013 Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks. He is now an analyst for the NHL Network.

October 24, 1975: Juan Pablo Ángel Arango is born in Medellín, Colombia. He began his soccer career in his hometown, at Atlético Nacional . He later played for River Plate in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Aston Villa in Birmingham, England, before starring for the New York Red Bulls. He retired in 2014. 

October 24, 1981: The Dodgers tie the World Series up at 2 games apiece, 8-7, thanks to some poor Yankee fielding. Reggie Jackson and Willie Randolph hit home runs for the Bronx Bombers -- Reggie's last in a Yankee uniform, as it turned out -- but Jay Johnstone, who'd helped the Yankees beat the Dodgers in the 1978 World Series, returns the favor.

Johnstone would later write, in his memoir Temporary Insanity (a title based on his quirky personality), that George Steinbrenner stormed into the locker room and demanded that Ron Davis (Yankee reliever and Ike's father) tell him why he threw Johnstone a fastball.

October 24, 1982: Joseph Macay McBride is born in Augusta, Georgia. Dropping his first name, Macacy McBride pitched for the Atlanta Braves in 2005, '06 and '07, and for the Detroit Tigers in '07, with a 6-2 career record, his career ending due to nagging injuries.

October 24, 1983: Christopher Adrian Colabello is born in the Boston suburb of Framingham, Massachusetts. A 1st baseman, he reached the ALCS with the Toronto Blue Jays the last 2 seasons.

October 24, 1985: Richie Evans is killed in a crash while practicing for the Winn-Dixie 500 Modified Feature, at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. He was 41, and had won 17 professional races.

Also on this day, Wayne Mark Rooney is born in Liverpool, England. Because England needs to believe that its soccer players are the best in the world, "Wazza" was their great hope in the 2000s, starring at hometown club Everton for 2 seasons, and saying, "I'll always be a Blue."

Then Manchester United shoveled a lot of money at him, and he jumped ship. His name is mud on Merseyside now, not just among the Everton fans whom he betrayed, but also among the Liverpool F.C. fans, who never liked him in the first place because he was an Evertonian, but now despised him for going to the team they really hate the most, Man U. With Rooney, Man U have won the Premier League in 2007, '08, '09, '11 and '13, and the UEFA Champions League in 2008. 

But after a good showing for England in Euro 2004, he's been a total bust for the national side. He lashed out against Portugal in the 2006 World Cup Quarterfinal and got himself sent off, leading to England's defeat on penalties (where his talents really could have been used). He was a big reason why England didn't even qualify for Euro 2008. England washed out in the Round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup, and Rooney was caught on camera cursing out his own country's fans. England lost in the Quarterfinal to Italy on penalties, and while Rooney made his, he didn't score in regular time or in extra time. England was actually knocked out of the 2014 World Cup after just 2 games of the Group Stage, their 3rd game meaningless. And they got knocked out of Euro 2016 in the Quarterfinal -- by Iceland.

Why has Rooney done so well for club, and so badly for country? Because Man United cheat. Dives, dirty tackles, goals given when they are clearly offside, opposing goals rules offside when they are clearly not. Between them, Man U, Chelsea and Liverpool have made up the bulk of the England side for over 10 years, and -- Liverpool less so than the other 2, but hardly innocent -- they are known cheaters, but their players almost never do well in international tournaments. Rooney has become England's all-time leading scorer, breaking the record of 1960s Man U legend Bobby Charlton, but that's been built up in friendlies and tournament qualifiers against small countries like San Marino and Montenegro.

Rooney is a dirty player. (He doesn't just cheat on the field: He was caught cheating on his wife, TV personality Colleen Rooney. While she was pregnant.) And his most infamous dirty play, at least for club (if not country), also took place on an October 24, as you'll see shortly.

Point-blank: If the rules were applied correctly, Manchester United would not have won a single trophy in the last 30 years, and the people of England would see Wayne Rooney for what he truly is: Incredibly average. Come to think of it, Rooney is an Irish name, and he was born in Liverpool, across the Irish Sea from Dublin. If he'd been born there -- perhaps while his mother was visiting relatives? -- and was playing for the Republic of Ireland, the people of England wouldn't think he was so great.

October 24, 1986, 30 years ago: John Thomas Gordon Ruddy is born in St. Ives, Cambridgeshire, England. A national side teammate of Rooney's, he is the starting goalkeeper for Norfolk side Norwich City.

Also on this day, Aubrey Drake Graham is born in Toronto. Like Robyn Rihanna Fenty, the rapper uses his middle name.

October 24, 1987: Anthony Henri Vanden Borre is born in Likasi, Zaire, once the Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The right back won Belgium's League with RSC Anderlecht in 2013 and '14, and was a member of the Belgium team that knocked the U.S. out of the 2014 World Cup. He is on a season-long loan with French club Montpellier.

October 24, 1989: Eric John Hosmer is born in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Cooper City, Florida. The 1st baseman for the Kansas City Royals has won 2 Pennants, including the 2015 World Series, has 3 Gold Gloves, and was the Most Valuable Player of this year's All-Star Game.


October 24, 1990: The Boston Red Sox announce they will not renew the contract of former All-Star Dwight Evans, a.k.a. Dewey. Evans signs a 1-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles, plays the 1991 season for them, and retires with 385 home runs and a reputation as one of the best-fielding right fielders ever.

In that 1991 season, I visited Boston for the first time, and watched the Red Sox without Evans beat the Orioles with him at Fenway Park. Coming out of South Station, one of the city's two major rail terminals, I saw that the street area around it was called Dewey Square. Forgetting about Admiral George Dewey, the naval hero of the Spanish-American War, I thought, "Wow, this city is so crazy about its Red Sox, they named a square after Dwight Evans!"

October 24, 1991, 25 years ago: David Justice, Lonnie Smith and Brian Hunter hit home runs to back Tom Glavine, and the Atlanta Braves beat the Minnesota Twins 14-5. The Braves need 1 more win to clinch their 1st title in Atlanta -- but Game 6 and, if necessary, Game 7 will be at the Metrodome.

This was the only game of the Series that was not close.

October 24, 1992: For the 1st time, a World Series is won by a team from outside the United States of America. The Toronto Blue Jays clinch their 1st World Championship with a 4-3 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 6.

Dave Winfield's 2-out‚ 2-run double in the top of the 11th gives Toronto a 4-2 lead. The Braves score 1 run in the bottom half of the inning, and have the tying run on 3rd when the final out is made. Jimmy Key wins the game in relief‚ and Candy Maldonado homers for the Blue Jays.

Toronto catcher Pat Borders‚ with a .450 BA‚ is named Series MVP. Winfield, derided as "Mister May" by Yankee owner George Steinbrenner for his poor performances in the 1981 World Series and subsequent Pennant races, finally has his ring, in his 20th season in the majors.

October 24, 1993: Cloyce Box dies in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, Texas. He was 70. A 2-time Pro Bowl end, he helped the Detroit Lions win the NFL Championship in 1952 and 1953. He later opened a ranch, which was the stand-in for the Southfork Ranch on the 1st 5 episodes of Dallas in 1978.

Also on this day, Heinz Kubsch dies at age 63. A goalkeeper for FK Pirmasens, he was the backup goalie on the West German team that won the 1954 World Cup.

October 24, 1996, 20 years ago: Game 5 of the World Series. Andy Pettitte, in just his 2nd season in the majors, opposes seasoned veteran John Smoltz, who is pitching in his 4th World Series. The Yankees take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 4th, thanks to an error by Marquis Grissom and a double by Cecil Fielder.

In the bottom of the 6th, the Braves put 2 runners on with nobody out. A bunt is attempted by Mark Lemke, but Pettitte snares it, and throws lefthanded to Charlie Hayes at 3rd base, nailing the lead runner. The next batter, Chipper Jones, hits a comebacker to Pettitte, who throws to Derek Jeter covering 2nd base for one, over to Fielder on 1st, and it's an inning-ending double play.

That's the Braves' last threat until the last out, when John Wetteland comes on to face once and future Yankee Luis Polonia, who lines a shot into the gap, which an injured Paul O'Neill somehow catches, to save the 5-hit shutout.

The Yankees have taken all 3 games in Atlanta, and take a 3 games to 2 lead back to Yankee Stadium, just as former Brave, now Yankee, manager Joe Torre predicted to owner George Steinbrenner. This is the last game ever played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, after 30 major league seasons (plus 1 preceding season in the minors), as the Braves move into Turner Field for the next season.

Also on this day, Kyla Briana Ross is born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and grows up in the Los Angeles suburb of Aliso Viejo, California. She was one of the "Fierce Five" U.S. Olympic team that won the women's gymnastics Gold Medal at the 2012 Olympics in London.


October 24, 2000: Game 3 of the World Series at Shea Stadium. The Mets defeat the Yankees‚ 4-2‚ behind the pitching of Rick Reed and their bullpen. Benny Agbayani's 8th inning double is the key hit for the Mets as they cut the Yankees Series lead to 2-games-to-1. Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez strikes out 12, a Series record for a Yankee pitcher, but loses a postseason game for the 1st time after 8 wins.

The loss ends the Yankees' record streak of 14 consecutive wins in World Series action. This would be the last World Series game won by the Mets until Game 3 in 2015.

October 24, 2002: Game 5 of the World Series at Pacific Bell Park (now AT&T Park) in San Francisco. Jeff Kent hits 2 home runs, and the Giants pound the Anaheim Angels 16-4. (Only once, the 1936 Yankees against the New York edition of the Giants, has a team scored more than 16 runs in a Series game.)

The Giants now need to win just 1 of the possible 2 games in Anaheim to take their 1st World Championship in 45 seasons in San Francisco. They, and their long-suffering fans, will have to agonize through the next 2 games, and then wait 8 more years.

Also on this day, Hermán Gaviria and Giovanni Córdoba are struck by lightning in training with Deportivo Cali in Cali, Colombia. Gavriria, a midfielder who had played for Brazil in the 1994 World Cup, dies instantly, at the age of 32. Córdoba died 3 days later, at 24.

To make matters worse. Córdoba's brother, Hernan Córdoba, a striker for Atlético Huila, was killed in a car crash 7 years later. He was only 19.

October 24, 2004: The Boston Red Sox take a 2-games-to-0 lead in the World Series with a 6-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park. Curt Schilling, again wearing the Bloody Sock, gets the win. Orlando Cabrera‚ Mark Bellhorn‚ and Jason Varitek each drive in a pair of runs.

But, as disgusting as the Red Sox cheating their way to another World Series is, that wasn't the most disgusting sporting event that happened on this day. Not by a long shot.

Arsenal had gone 49 straight Premier League games without a loss, a record streak for top-flight English "football" dating back to the founding of The Football League in 1888. Arsenal hadn't lost since Leeds United beat them on May 7, 2003 -- 536 days.

Making it 50 straight games without a loss would have been great semantically, but more important was who they were playing in Game 50: They went into Old Trafford, home of the other dominant team of the era, Manchester United.

The game was scoreless going into the 72nd minute (out of 90, so 80 percent done), mainly because United's players, particularly the Neville brothers -- right back Gary and midfielder Phil, not the singing Neville brothers of New Orleans -- were kicking Gunners forward Jose Antonio Reyes into oblivion, rendering him too timid to shoot -- he was, literally, intimidated. In addition, United's Dutch striker, Ruud van Nistelrooy -- nicknamed Van Horseface due to an uncanny facial resemblance to Seattle Slew -- had a challenge on Arsenal defender Ashley Cole that was clearly worthy of a straight red card. So the Red Devils should have been down to no more than 10 men, possibly as few as 8.

But the referee was Mike Riley, and he hates Arsenal. (Not to be confused with the Mike Riley who is currently head football coach at the University of Nebraska.) He gave only 2 cards to United all match, a yellow each to the Neville brothers. Indeed, van Nistelrooy was retroactively given the penalty he would have gotten if, in fact, he had received a straight red during the game: 3 domestic games. (2 yellows, which equal 1 red, would have been a mere 1-game suspension.)

In that 72nd minute, United's young striker, Wayne Rooney, on his 19th birthday, executed a blatant dive in the 18-yard box. Instead of properly giving him a straight red card and sending him off, Riley called a foul on Arsenal defender Sol Campbell, who never even touched Rooney. It was a completely bogus call, and he awarded a penalty, which van Nistelrooy converted. Rooney added another goal that he didn't deserve in the 90th minute, and United had unfairly won, 2-0.

In contrast to the 2 yellow cards on United, Riley had actually given Arsenal 3 yellow cards -- and the alleged penalty foul by Campbell wasn't one of them.

The fireworks for this most dubious of games in the long and dubious history of Arsenal-Manchester United matches were hardly over at the final whistle. Despite being teammates on the national side, Campbell refused to shake Rooney's hand, a deserved mark of disrespect. Entering the tunnel to head to the locker rooms, United manager Alex Ferguson was hit in the face by a slice of pizza from the postgame spread in Arsenal's locker room.

The game becomes known as the Battle of the Buffet, and, as it turned out, the Arsenal player who threw the slice was 17-year-old Spanish midfield wizard Cesc Fàbregas. As it also turned out, this, not anything he did on the field from 2003 to 2011, was the best thing Fàbregas did in an Arsenal uniform, the traitorous bastard.

October 24, 2006, 10 years ago: Game 3 of the World Series, at the brand-new 3rd ballpark to be named Busch Stadium. The St. Louis Cardinals follow the 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates, the 1911 New York Giants, the 1923 Yankees, and the 1970 Cincinnati Reds in hosting a World Series in their 1st year in a new ballpark. (They have since been followed by the 2009 Yankees.)

Chris Carpenter pitches brilliantly, and Braden Looper closes out the 3-hit shutout in the 9th, as the Cardinals defeat the Detroit Tigers 5-0, and take a 2-1 Series lead. This was Carpenter's World Series debut, as he had been injured for the 2004 Fall Classic, in which the Cards were swept by the Boston Red Sox. Would he have made a difference, thus extending the Curse of the Bambino to at least 2007? We'll never know, but he made a difference in 2006.

October 24, 2007: Game 1 of the World Series, the 1st Series game for the Colorado Rockies. They had won 21 of their last 22, counting both the regular season and the postseason. But Dustin Pedroia puts an end to that early, leading off the game with a home run. This is only the 2nd time this has been done in a Series game, after Don Buford of the Baltimore Orioles off Tom Seaver of the Mets in Game 1 in 1969.

The Sox run away with this game, 13-1, and, after doing spectacularly well for the last month, the Rockies will not win another game that counts until April 1, 2008.

October 24, 2011: Game 5 of the World Series. Mitch Moreland and Adrian Beltre back the veteran Darren Oliver with home runs, and the Texas Rangers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2. The Rangers need 1 more win to take their 1st-ever World Championship.

They're still looking for that 1 more win. Indeed, this remains the last World Series game played in the State of Texas.

October 24, 2012: Babe Ruth, Babe Ruth again, Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols… Pablo Sandoval? Yes, Pablo Sandoval hits 3 home runs in a World Series game, helping the San Francisco Giants beat the Detroit Tigers 8-3 in Game 1. 

Also of note was Gerry Davis becoming the umpire with the most postseason games worked: He would finish the Series, which was swept by the Giants, with 115.

Also on this day, Jeff Blatnick dies -- not from Hodgkin's lymphoma, which he had battled in the early 1980s, but from complications from heart surgery. He was only 55.

After beating cancer, the Albany-area native won America's 1st-ever Olympic Gold Medal in Greco-Roman wrestling, in 1984 in Los Angeles. (Steve Fraser won the 2nd the same day.) Interviewed afterward, through tears of joy, he yelled, "I'm a happy dude!" His cancer returned, but he beat it again, and served as a commentator for NBC at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

From 1994 onward, he was involved in Ultimate Fighting, helping to standardize its rules and broadcasting the sport. When he died, it was for announcing UFC bouts, not his wrestling title, that he was best known.

Also on this day, Margaret Osborne duPont dies in El Paso, Texas. She was 94. The top female tennis player in the world in the late 1940s, she won the U.S. Open 3 times, the French Open twice, and Wimbledon in 1947.

October 24, 2013: Game 2 of the World Series. Despite another steroid-aided home run by David Ortiz, Michael Wacha outpitches John Lackey, and the Cardinals beat the Red Sox 4-2, to tie the Series up heading to St. Louis.

After their sweeps of 2004* and 2007*, this was the 1st World Series game lost by the Sox since... Game 7 in 1986.

October 24, 2014: Game 3 of the World Series. After 11 seasons in the major leagues, Jeremy Guthrie of the Kansas City Royals makes his 1st World Series start. After 16 seasons, so does Tim Hudson of the San Francisco Giants. Guthrie gets the key hits he needs, Hudson doesn't, and the Royals beat the Giants 3-2, and take a 2-1 lead in the Series.

Also on this day, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi dies in a car crash in Witbank, South Africa. He was 34 years old. He won a Silver Medal in the 800 meters at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and Gold Medals at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and the 2009 World Championships of Track & Field.