Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!


October 31, 2001: Game 4 of the World Series. It's not just Halloween -- the 1st time a Major League Baseball game has been played on the day, due to the 9/11 postponements -- it's also a night of a full moon. During batting practice at Yankee Stadium, Arizona Diamondbacks 1st baseman Mark Grace, who so long played for the Chicago Cubs without winning a Pennant and is enjoying his 1st World Series, can be seen on the official Series highlight film looking up, and saying, "Full moon! You know what that means: Strange things happen!"

The Yankees trail the Diamondbacks 3-1 in the bottom of the 9th, and are about to fall behind in the World Series by the same margin of games. This is due in large part to the fine pitching of Curt Schilling, who was asked about the “mystique” of Yankee Stadium. He said, “Mystique, aura, those are dancers in a nightclub.” (Three years later, pitching for Boston, he would prove he was still not intimidated by Yankee Stadium, saying, “I can't think of anything better than making 55,000 Yankee fans shut up.”) Schilling had outpitched the Yankees' Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez. Grace had homered for the Snakes, Shane Spencer for the Yankees.

Byung-Hyun Kim, a “submarine” style pitcher from Korea, tries to close the Yankees out. But Paul O'Neill singles, and, after Bernie Williams strikes out, Tino Martinez comes to the plate as the Yankees' final hope. Tino electrifies the crowd by slamming a drive toward the upper deck. On the video, a fan in the front row of the Bleachers tries to catch the ball, but it bounces off his hand. Now, imagine you’re that fan: Are you excited that the Yankees have come back in this World Series game, or are you mad that you were unable to catch this historic homer (and probably hurt your hand in the process)?

As the clock strikes midnight, for the 1st time ever, Major League Baseball game is played in the month of November. It is the bottom of the 10th, and Derek Jeter steps to the plate against Kim. A fan holds up a sign saying, “Mr. November.” Michael Kay, broadcasting this game for the Yankees, has asked, “How did he know to hold up that sign for Jeter?” The answer is easy: He didn’t hold it up specifically for Jeter. Jeter was just the batter when the clock struck 12, making him the first batter for whom it could be held up.

At 12:03 came a typical Jeter hit, an inside-out swing to right-center, and it just... barely... got over the fence for a game-winning home run. Kay yells out, "See ya! See ya! See ya!" Yankees 4, Diamondbacks 3. The Series was tied. The old ballyard was shaking. The “Yankee Mystique” had struck again. It is hits like this that got Jeter the nickname “Captain Clutch.”

The next night, the 1st game to officially be played in the month of November, a fan made up a sign that said, “BASEBALL HISTORY MADE HERE” on what looked like an ancient scroll. Another fan made up a sign that said, “MYSTIQUE AND AURA APPEARING NIGHTLY.” (Two years later, in the Aaron Boone game, that same fan made up one that said, “MYSTIQUE DON’T FAIL ME NOW.” It didn’t.)

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October 31, 1864, 150 years ago: Nevada is admitted to the Union as the 36th State. President Abraham Lincoln wanted its silver revenues to win the American Civil War. Turns out, he didn't need them.

Nevada has been a part of the Union for a century and a half. But, due to gambling and other issues, no Nevada city, including Las Vegas, has ever been granted a team in any major sports league -- not even MLS or the WNBA (if you consider those "major").

October 31, 1887: Édouard Cyrille Lalonde is born in Cornwall, the easternmost city in Ontario, bordering Quebec. “Newsy” (from working in a newspaper plant) was one of early hockey’s greatest stars, winning 7 scoring titles and Captaining the Montreal Canadiens to their first Stanley Cup in 1916.
On December 29, 1917, in the 1st-ever NHL game, he scored a goal on route to the Canadiens’ 7-4 victory over the Ottawa Senators. In 1922, the Canadiens angered him and a lot of their fans by trading him to the Pacific Coast Hockey Association’s Saskatoon Sheiks, but the Habs got future Hall-of-Famer Aurel Joliat in the deal. From his retirement in 1927 until Maurice Richard surpassed him in 1954, his 455 combined goals in all leagues in which he played stood as a pro record.
He was also the best lacrosse player of his era, and in 1950, he was named athlete of the half-century in lacrosse. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1950, the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1965, and the Sports Hall of Fame of Canada. He had lit the torch when the Sports Hall of Fame opened in Toronto in August, 1955. He lived to see all of these achievements, living until 1970.
In 1998, 72 years after he played his last NHL game, he was ranked number 32 on The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players, making him the highest-ranking player on the list who had played in a professional league before the founding of the NHL. He was the first Canadiens player to wear Number 4, and Joliat got it after the trade, but it was retired for later star Jean Beliveau.
October 31, 1891: The University of Kansas and the University of Missouri play each other in football for the 1st time, and Kansas wins, 22-10. This becomes the most-played college football rivalry west of the Mississippi River.

Originally called the Border War, and evoking memories of proslavery raids before and during the Civil War, by the 2004 the schools agreed to rename it the Border Showdown in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq War. (Colorado State and Wyoming, however, still call their rivalry the Border War. CSU fans would rather beat Wyoming than Colorado.)

In 2007, a T-shirt created by a Missouri alumnus gained national attention. It depicted the 1863 burning of Lawrence, seat of KU ("UK" is correct, but "KU" is preferred) following the raid of Confederate guerrilla William Quantrill and his Bushwhackers, who included Jesse and Frank James. The image of Lawrence burning was paired with the word “Scoreboard” and a Mizzou logo. On the back of the shirts, Quantrill was quoted, saying "Our cause is just, our enemies many." Some Kansas fans interpreted these shirts as supporting slavery. KU supporters returned fire with a shirt depicting abolitionist John Brown, perpetrator of the anti-slavery Pottawottamie Massacre, with the words, “Kansas: Keeping America Safe From Missouri Since 1854.”

Missouri's move from the Big 12 Conference to the Southeastern Conference (I'm guessing Colonel Quantrill and his latter-day apologists would approve) ended the football edition of the rivalry after the 2011 season. The current all-time results are disputed: Missouri say they lead 57-54-9, while Kansas give themselves 1 more win, thus giving Kansas a lead of 56-55-9.

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October 31, 1900: Ban Johnson, founder and President of the American League, writes a letter to National League President Nick Young. In it, he offers a deal for peaceful coexistence: Accept the AL as a "major league," and it won't pursue NL players. This was possible because the NL had contracted from 12 to 8 teams for the 1900 season. Johnson was willing to let his 8 teams (totaling 16) leave the NL teams alone and respect their contracts.

Young refused the deal. In retaliation, Johnson authorized his teams' owners to raid any NL team for any player they wanted. These would include future Hall-of-Famers Cy Young, Jimmy Collins, Napoleon Lajoie, Sam Crawford, Elmer Flick, Clark Griffith, Jack Chesbro and Willie Keeler. The "war" between the Leagues will rage for 2 years, until the NL, with a new President, Harry Pulliam, accepted the AL in 1903. After this deal, Johnson agreed to accept the reserve clause and respect all NL contracts.

October 31, 1933: Phillippe Joseph Georges Goyette is born in Lachine, now a part of the city of Montreal. Apparently, Halloween is a good day to be born if you want to become a Canadiens legend. Phil Goyette was a center who won Stanley Cups with Les Habitantes in 1957, ’58, ’59 and ’60.

He was the first coach of the New York Islanders in 1972-73, but was fired due to a poor record midway through the season. He has never coached again, but is still alive.

October 31, 1942: David Arthur McNally is born in Billings, Montana.  Dave McNally pitched a complete game to clinch the 1966 World Series for the Baltimore Orioles, and won another game and hit a grand slam in it to help them win it in 1970. His career won-lost record was a sterling 184-119.

But he’s best known as one of the two pitchers, along with Andy Messersmith, who played the 1975 season without a contract to test the legality of the reserve clause. McNally, by then with the Montreal Expos, had been injured, had a successful ranch in his native Montana, and was ready to retire anyway, so he was an ideal player to make the test, since he didn’t need the money. The clause was overturned.
McNally retired to his ranch and a car dealership, and wrote a memoir, A Whole Different Ball Game. He died of cancer in 2002.

Also on this day, David Ogden Stiers is born in Peoria, Illinois. Best known as Major Charles Emerson Winchester III, the pompous but sometimes surprisingly human surgeon on M*A*S*H, he has spent much of the last few years doing voiceovers for PBS documentaries – in his real voice, not in Charles’ Boston Brahmin accent. I still can't believe "Chahles" wore a Brooklyn Dodger cap in one episode.

October 31, 1943: Louis Brian Piccolo is born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Dropping his first name, the All-American running back from Wake Forest overcame his natural prejudice to help Chicago Bears teammate Gale Sayers come back from a devastating knee injury, then developed lung cancer at died at age 26.

Shortly before Piccolo’s death, Sayers was given the NFL’s most courageous man award for winning the 1969 rushing title on a knee with no cartilage in it. At the award ceremony, he said he didn’t deserve the award, because Piccolo was showing more courage. “I love Brian Piccolo,” he said, “and tonight, when you get down on your knees to pray, I want you to ask God to love him, too.”

The Bears retired Piccolo’s Number 41. In the 1971 film Brian’s Song, Piccolo was played by James Caan, and Sayers by Billy Dee Williams, career-making roles for both men.

October 31, 1946: Stephen Rea is born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He starred in The Crying Game and was nominated for an Oscar for it. He’s best known in the U.S. as Inspector Eric Finch, a good guy who figures out, to his horror, that he’s really working for the bad guys, in V for Vendetta. It was because of that film that he was the only actor besides Colin Firth that I recognized from the original, British soccer, version of Fever Pitch.

October 31, 1947: Frank Charles Shorter is born in Munich, Germany, where his father was serving with the U.S. Army. He grew up in Middletown, Orange County, New York, won the Olympic marathon in 1972, and finished second in 1976. Thanks to his ’72 win, the Boston Marathon was reborn as an event the whole country wanted to watch, and the New York City Marathon, which started the year before, took off.
Along with Jim Fixx and his Jim Fixx's Book of Running, Shorter is probably more responsible than anyone for the rise of recreational running in America. I leave it to you to decide whether that’s a good thing.
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October 31, 1950: John Franklin Candy is born in Newmarket, Ontario, outside Toronto. In the closing minutes of Super Bowl XXIII, when the Cincinnati Bengals had just scored to take the lead, the San Francisco 49ers were nervous, when quarterback Joe Montana pointed out of the huddle to the stands and said, “Isn’t that John Candy?” The question relaxed the players, and Montana drove them for the winning touchdown.

Candy played the Cubs’ broadcaster in Rookie of the Year, and I give him a lot of credit for playing someone similar to, but not a total caricature of, Cubs broadcasting legend Harry Caray. On the other side of Chicago, he also shot a scene at the old Comiskey Park in its closing days for Only the Lonely. Considering his weight, I’m not surprised that he died young (43), but I’m still sorry about it. He gave us a lot, but he had a lot more to give.

Also on this day, Margaret Jane Pauley is born in Indianapolis. Dropping her first name, she was the longtime co-host of The Today Show on NBC, and is married to Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau.

October 31, 1951: Nicholas Lou Saban Jr. is born in Fairmont, West Virginia. The son of legendary football coach Lou Saban, Nick hasn’t yet moved around to as many coaching jobs, but he has moved around with considerably less ethics than his father.
He did, however, lead Louisiana State to the 2003 National Championship, and Alabama to the 2009 and 2011 editions. He and Bear Bryant, with Kentucky and Alabama, are the only coaches to win SEC Championships at 2 different schools.

October 31, 1953: John Harding Lucas II is born in Durham, North Carolina. He played both basketball and tennis professionally, and was a member of the Houston Rockets’ 1986 NBA Western Conference Champions. His overcoming of drug addiction led him to become an NBA head coach and an addiction counselor. He is currently an assistant coach under Mike Dunleavy of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Like Dunleavy, he has a namesake son who played in the NBA, John Lucas III, who, unlike his father whose 1974 Maryland team was prevented under the rules of the time from playing in the NCAA Tournament due to its loss in the ACC Final, went to the 2004 Final Four with Oklahoma State. John III played in the NBA with the Rockets, played last season with the Utah Jazz, was just waived by the Washington Wizards without playing a game for them, and is currently a free agent. Another son, Jai Lucas, is now an assistant coach at his alma mater, the University of Texas.

October 31, 1959: Mats Torsten Näslund is born in Timra, Sweden. The 5-foot-7 left wing was known as Le Petit Viking (the Little Viking) when he played for the Canadiens, a tenure that included the 1986 Stanley Cup, in which he became the most recent Canadien to score 100 or more points in a season. He helped Sweden win the 1994 Olympic Gold Medal, and as general manager of the team he built their 2006 Gold Medal team.
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October 31, 1960: Michael Anthony Gallego is born in Whittier, California. Mike Gallego was the starting 2nd baseman on the Oakland Athletics’ 3 straight Pennants of 1988-90. In 1993, he was voted the 2nd baseman on their 25th Anniversary team (25 years since they’d moved to Oakland). He briefly played for the Yankees in the early 1990s, and is now back with the A’s as their 3rd base coach.

Also on this day, Reza Pahlavi is born in Tehran. He was 18 years old and the Crown Prince of Iran when his father, the Emperor, Mohammed Reza Shah, was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Luckily for him, he was already in the U.S., training as a fighter pilot (much as was his cousin and fellow heir to a throne, now King Abdullah II of Jordan).

He now lives in Potomac, Maryland, outside Washington. He is the founder and leader of the Iran National Council, a government-in-exile, having gotten a degree in political science from the University of Southern California. Unlike his father, who ran a brutally repressive, unofficially fascist regime, he has been an outspoken supporter of human rights, saying that in order to bring freedom to his homeland, “Idealism and realism, behavior change and regime change do not require different policies but the same: empowering the Iranian people.”
On his website, he calls for a separation of religion and state in Iran and for free and fair elections "for all freedom-loving individuals and political ideologies." A follower of Shia Islam, he has stated that he believes that religion has a humanizing and ethical role in shaping individual character and infusing society with greater purpose.
His supporters have referred to him as “His Imperial Majesty Reza Shah II” since his father’s death on July 27, 1980, but he officially calls himself “the former Crown Prince,” and admits he has no realistic hope of the monarchy being restored, even when the Ayatollahs are finally and rightfully toppled. Although he has been married for 28 years, he has no children, and a cousin is next in line to the throne.

October 31, 1961: A federal judge rules that laws in the city of Birmingham‚ Alabama against integrated playing fields are illegal‚ eliminating the last barrier against integration in the Class AA Southern Association. Rather than allow black players, the SA team owners vote to shut the league down.
In 1964, the original South Atlantic League (a.k.a. the SAL or "Sally League") filled the void, renaming itself the Southern League, and allowed integration. The Western Carolinas League became the new South Atlantic League. Charlie Finley, a Birmingham native who, by this point, owned the Kansas City Athletics, put a new team in Birmingham's historic Rickwood Field, and named them the Birmingham A's. Many of the players who became part of the "Swingin' A's" dynasty of the early 1970s played in Birmingham, including Reggie Jackson, who says it was his first exposure to full-scale racism. The A's won the Pennant in 1967, but, by that time, Reggie had been promoted to the big-league club, which moved to Oakland the next season
In 1976, the A's contract with Birmingham ran out, and baseball did not return to Rickwood Field until 1981, when the Detroit Tigers brought a team in, and brought back the Barons name.
Built in 1910, Rickwood is the oldest standing baseball stadium in the world, and still hosts games, including annual "throwback" games by the Barons and Negro League reenactors. Because of its old-time architecture, the films Cobb, Soul of the Game and 42 have all used it (the last of those using it as the CGI-aided base for all the 1947 National League parks, including Ebbets Field).
The Barons moved into suburban Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in 1988. While it still hosts the SEC baseball tournament, the Barons moved again in 2013, to Regions Field downtown. They have won 13 Pennants: In the old Southern League in 1906, 1912, 1914, 1928, 1929, 1931 and 1958; in the new Southern League as the A's in 1967, and in 1983, 1987, 1993, 2002 and 2013. The Birmingham Black Barons, who also played at Rickwood, won Negro League Pennants in 1942 and 1948, the latter with a 17-year-old kid from the neighboring town of Fairfield, named Willie Mays.

October 31, 1963: Fredrick Stanley McGriff is born in Tampa. In 1982, the Yankees traded 1st baseman Fred McGriff, young pitcher Mike Morgan and outfielder Dave Collins to the Toronto Blue Jays for pitcher Dale Murray and 3rd baseman Tom Dodd. Dodd did play 1 year in the majors, but for Baltimore, and is not the man for whom the ballpark belonging to the Norwich Navigators, a former Yankee farm team, is named. (That was Senator Thomas Dodd of Connecticut, whose son Chris Dodd also served in the Senate.) Murray got hurt and never contributed to the Yankees, either. Collins was pretty much finished.

In contrast, in 2001, 19 years after the trade, Morgan pitched against the Yankees in the World Series for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and McGriff was also still active. By trading him, the Yankees essentially traded 493 home runs for nothing.

Or did they? McGriff was 19 at the time, and did not reach the majors for another 4 years. Had he done so with the Yankees, he would have smacked right into Don Mattingly at his peak. And the Yankees seemed to be loaded with designated hitters and pinch-hitters at that time. They may not have had any place to put him. Still, in retrospect, the trade looks really bad.

McGriff was involved in some other big trades: The Jays traded him to the San Diego Padres in 1990, a trade which brought them Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar, key figures in their 1992 and ’93 World Champions; and the Padres sent him to the Atlanta Braves as part of their 1993 “fire sale,” a pure “salary dump.”

McGriff hit the 1st home run at the Rogers Centre (then called the SkyDome) in 1989. With the Jays that season and the Padres in 1992, McGriff became the 1st player in the post-1920 Lively Ball Era to lead both leagues in home runs. He helped the Braves win the World Series in 1995, and later played for his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He served as the head baseball coach at Jesuit High School in Tampa, Lou Piniella's alma mater, and now hosts a sports-themed radio show in Tampa.

He has been eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame since the election of January 2010. He has not yet made it. He fell just 7 homers short of the magic 500 Club, and has a career OPS+ of 134. He has never been seriously suspected of steroid use. Baseball-Reference.com's Hall of Fame Monitor, on which a score of 100 is a "Likely HOFer," has him at exactly 100, meaning he should make it. Their Hall of Fame Standards, on which a score of 50 matches the "Average HOFer," has him at 48, meaning he falls slightly short.

According to B-R, his 10 Most Similar Batters (weighted toward players of the same position) includes 4 HOFers: Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell, Frank Thomas and Billy Williams; 1 guy who absolutely should be in, Jeff Bagwell; 2 guys not yet eligible who have decent shots, Paul Konerko and Carlos Delgado; and 3 guys who would probably make it if they weren't tainted by steroids: David Ortiz, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield.

He was always popular – ESPN’s Chris Berman took the public-service-announcement character of “McGruff the Crime Dog” and nicknamed McGriff “Crime Dog.” And he was on winning teams. So why hasn't he been elected? His son Erick McGriff played wide receiver at the University of Kansas.

Also on this day, Carlos Caetano Bledorn Verri is born in Ijui, Porto Alegre, Brazil. The soccer player was nicknamed “Dunga” by an uncle, Portuguese for “Dopey,” since he was short and expected to stay that way.

But the midfielder grew to 5-foot-9-1/2, and, being Brazil by birth but Italian and German by ancestry, could have been expected to star in soccer. He did, for several Brazilian teams, with his longest tenure at Internacional (like the Milan club known as “Inter” for short) of Porto Alegre; for Fiorentina in Italy and Stuttgart in Germany.

Dunga was a member of Brazil’s 1994 World Cup winners, but bombed as manager of the national team at the 2010 World Cup. Then he flopped as manager of Internacional. But when Brazil was slaughtered by Germany in the Semifinal of this year's World Cup, on home soil, the CBF (the Brazilian answer to the USSF or England's FA) hired him back. He is 3-0 since, having beaten fellow South Americans Colombia, Ecuador, and arch-rival Argentina.

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October 31, 1964, 50 years ago: Marcel van Basten is born in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Better known as Marco van Basten, the striker starred for Ajax Amsterdam, winning League Championships in 1982, ’83 and ’85 and the Dutch Cup in ’83, ’86 and ’87 – meaning they won “The Double” in 1983. He moved on to AC Milan in Italy, winning Serie A in 1988, ’92 and ’93, and back-to-back European Cups (now the Champions League) in 1989 and ’90. He led the Netherlands to the European Championship in 1988.

Despite an ankle injury that essentially ended his career at age 28, 3 times he was named European Player of the Year, and the magazine France Football placed him 8th in a poll of the Football Players of the Century. He has managed both Ajax and the Netherlands national team. He is now the assistant manager of Dutch top-flight club AZ Alkmaar.
October 31, 1966: Michael Edward O’Malley is born in Boston. Mike, a comedian and actor, formerly star of Yes, Dear, is a tremendous Boston Red Sox fan. But he’s funny, so I forgive him.

October 31, 1967: After 11 seasons of the Cy Young Award being given to the most valuable pitcher in both Leagues, each League has a winner. The NL winner is announced as Mike McCormick of the San Francisco Giants. The AL's winner will be Jim Lonborg of the Pennant-winning Red Sox.

October 31, 1968: Antonio Lee Davis is born in Oakland, California. After going undrafted out of the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), he played pro basketball in Athens and Milan before signing with the Indiana Pacers. He was an All-Star for the perennial Playoff contenders and Knick nemeses, although they didn’t reach the NBA Finals until after he left.  He is now an NBA studio analyst for ESPN.

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October 31, 1970: Stephen Christopher Trachsel is born in Oxnard, California. In 1996, the Chicago Cubs pitcher was named to the All-Star Team. On September 8, 1998, Steve gave up Mark McGwire’s steroid-aided 62nd home run.  But just 20 days later, he was the winning pitcher for the Cubs over the San Francisco Giants in the Playoff for the NL Wild Card berth. Since the Cubs only made the Playoffs 4 times in the 61 seasons between 1946 and 2006, this makes him a Wrigleyville hero for all time.

He also pitched for the Mets, winning the NL East with them in 2006. He last pitched for the Baltimore Orioles in 2008, and now lives outside San Diego.

October 31, 1972: The Philadelphia Phillies trade 3rd baseman Don Money and 2 others to the Milwaukee Brewers for 4 pitchers‚ including Jim Lonborg and Ken Brett. This was one of those rare baseball trades that works out well for both teams.

Lonborg was a key cog in the Phillies developing a pitching staff that would reach the Playoffs 6 times in 8 years from 1976 to 1983, though he Lonborg retired after 1978). Money helped stabilize the Brewers and make them a contender by 1978 and a Pennant winner in 1982, and trading him allowed the Phillies to make room for the best player in the history of Philadelphia baseball, Mike Schmidt.

Also on this day, Gaylord Perry of the Cleveland Indians is named AL Cy Young Award winner. His brother Jim, of the Minnesota Twins, had won it 2 years earlier. The Perrys remain the only brothers to both win the Cy Young.

October 31, 1973: David Michael Dellucci is born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The outfielder was a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks team that beat the Yankees in the 2001 World Series, and of the Yankee team that won the 2003 American League Pennant. He was released by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2009 and retired. He now works as a color commentator on baseball broadcasts, and is married to The Price Is Right model Rachel Reynolds.

October 31, 1976: José María Gutiérrez Hernández is born in Torrejon de Ardoz, Spain. “Guti” was a midfielder who starred for Real Madrid as they won Spain’s La Liga in 1997, 2001, 03, ’07 and ’08; and the Champions League in 1998, 2000 and ’02. He is now seeking to become a coach, and says his dream is to manage Real Madrid's youth team.

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October 31, 1983: George Halas dies at age 88. He was the founder of the Chicago Bears, for all intents and purposes the founder of the NFL, formerly the winningest coach in NFL history (324), and no coach in the history of professional football has won as many league championships, 8: 1921, 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946 and 1963.

One of his last acts as owner was to hire former Bears star Mike Ditka as head coach, and Ditka would lead them to a 9th World Championship in 1985. When asked by Bob Costas in the locker room afterwards if he thought of “Papa Bear,” he said, “I always think of Coach Halas.”

This was in spite a reputation for being cheap, which led a younger Ditka to say, “George Halas throws nickels around like manhole covers.” It was also Halas’ cheapness that kept the Bears in Wrigley Field, with a football capacity of just 47,000, in spite of Soldier Field having over 65,000 seats and lights, because he didn’t want to pay the rent the City of Chicago was demanding. The Bears didn’t move there until 1971, when the money available to teams on Monday Night Football, which couldn’t be played at then-lightless Wrigley, more than offset the cost of the rent. In spite of this, when the aforementioned Brian Piccolo got sick, Halas paid all his medical expenses and for his funeral.

An NFL Films documentary from 1977 showed Halas walking through the Bears’ practice facility at Lake Forest, Illinois (the main building is now named Halas Hall), and announcer John Facenda said it was “like visiting Mount Vernon and seeing George Washington still surveying the grounds.” The NFC Championship Trophy is named for him, and, after his death, the Bears put the initials GSH for George Stanley Halas on their left sleeves. Unique among NFL teams, they have retained this tribute to their founder on their uniforms. (Even the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't keep Art Rooney's initials on a patch for more than one season.)

He had planned to hand the team over to his son George Jr., but “Mugs” predeceased him in 1979. His daughter Virginia handed control to her husband, Ed McCaskey. Unfortunately, Big Ed handed a lot of control over to his and Virginia’s son, George’s grandson, Mike McCaskey, who ran the franchise into the ground before Big Ed took it back and handed it over to another son, George Halas McCaskey. Big Ed has since died, but Virginia is still alive, and is the sole owner of Da Bears. At 93, she is, as was her father before her, the oldest owner in the NFL.

October 31, 1987: Nicholas Foligno is born in Buffalo, New York, where his father Mike was an All-Star right-winger for the Sabres. Nick, a center, now plays for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Brother Marcus is now a left wing for the Sabres.

October 31, 1992: Rutgers plays Virginia Tech in a Halloween Homecoming thriller, in the next-to-last game at the old Rutgers Stadium. The stars were quarterback Bryan Fortay of East Brunswick, running back Bruce Presley of Highland Park, tight end Jim Guarantano of Lodi, and receiver Chris Brantley of Teaneck. RU won on the final play, 50-49. Yes, that score is in football, not basketball.

October 31, 1998: Elmer Vasko dies at age 62. “Moose” was an All-Star defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks, winning the Stanley Cup with them in 1961. Despite playing 13 seasons in an era where hockey team owners wouldn't spring for mouthguards, let alone team dentists, he never lost a tooth in an NHL game.

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October 31, 2002: The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association votes 9-6 to prohibit the use of metal bats in the state high school tournament in 2003. Twenty-five of 40 leagues will switch to wood for the regular season. The State is the 1st to outlaw metal bats. In this particular case, Massachusetts is ahead of the curve in baseball.
October 31, 2004, 10 years ago: The Minnesota Timberwolves offer Latrell Sprewell a 3-year, $21 million contract extension, substantially less than what his then-current contract paid him. Claiming to feel insulted by the offer, he publicly expressed outrage, declaring, "I have a family to feed ... If Glen Taylor wants to see my family fed, he better cough up some money. Otherwise, you're going to see these kids in one of those Sally Struthers commercials soon."

He declined the extension, and, having once more drawn the ire of fans and sports media, had the worst season of his career in the final year of his contract -- maybe the worst "contract year" in the history of sports.

In the summer of 2005, the Nuggets, Cavs, and Rockets all expressed interest in signing Latrell Sprewell, but no agreements were reached. Spree never played again, and the former All-Star has never been hired in any capacity by any basketball team since. By 2008, through his own stupidity, he had fulfilled his own prophecy: He was bankrupt, his mansions foreclosed on and his yacht repossessed.

Sprewell’s contract rejection was the last event of October 2004, a truly futzed-up month in sports, following the Boston Red Sox cheating their way to a World Series win and the delay (and eventual cancellation) of the new NHL season.

Things would soon get worse for the NBA as this new season dawned: The Malice at the Palace was coming, and the Finals would be played by, perhaps, the last 2 teams that Commissioner David Stern wanted in them: The defending champions and Malice participants, the Detroit Pistons; and the San Antonio Spurs, whose Tim Duncan may be the most boring superstar in American sports history. Detroit and San Antonio: 2 “small markets” who did very little to boost TV ratings, although the Finals, won by the Spurs, was very well-played. Gee, maybe Stern didn’t fix as many titles as we thought he did.

October 31, 2009: Game 3 of the World Series, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Alex Rodriguez's fly ball in the right-field corner becomes the subject of the 1st instant replay call in World Series history. The Yankee 3rd baseman's hit, originally ruled a double, is changed by the umpires to a home run after the replay clearly shows the ball going over the fence before striking a television camera and bouncing back to the field.

It figures that A-Rod's 1st World Series home run would be controversial. But it does help make the difference, as the Yankees win, 8-5, and take a 2-games-to-1 lead in the Series, retaking home-field advantage after the Phillies won Game 1.

October 31, 2010: Game 4 of the World Series. Southpaw pitcher Madison Bumgarner and catcher Buster Posey of the Giants become the first rookie battery to start a World Series game since Spec Shea and Yogi Berra appeared together for the Yankees in Game 1 in 1947.

The freshmen do not disappoint, as Bumgarner, just 21, becomes the fourth-youngest to post a Fall Classic victory, limiting the Texas Rangers to 3 hits while throwing 8 strong innings, and Posey contributes to the Giants' 4-0 win in Arlington with an 8th-inning home run.

Bumgarner and Posey. Two young men with a lot of promise in baseball. I wonder whatever happened to them...

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