Friday, October 24, 2014

October 24, 2004: Man United Cheat Arsenal Out of 50 Straight Unbeaten

October 24, 2004, 10 years ago: A disgusting sporting event takes place -- and I don't mean a World Series game won by the Boston Red Sox, although that happened on this day, too.

North London soccer club Arsenal had gone 49 straight Premier League games without a loss, a record streak for English “football” dating back to May 2003. Making it 50 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 were kicking Jose Antonio Reyes, Arsenal's young Spanish striker, 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.

But referee Mike Riley gave only 2 cards to United all match, a yellow each to the Neville brothers. No, not Aaron and the New Orleans singers. Gary Neville was United's right back, and Phil Neville was a midfielder for them. Indeed, van Nistelrooy was retroactively given the penalty he would have gotten if, in fact, he had received a straight red: 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, executed a blatant dive in the box, and referee Mike 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 Ruud van Nistelrooy converted, Rooney added another 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 were hardly over at the final whistle. 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 room. The game becomes known as the Battle of the Buffet, and, as it turned out, the Arsenal player who threw the slice was young Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas. 

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, no stranger to getting stabbed in the back by a man who is supposed to be impartial, was sharp in his criticism:

Riley decided the game, like we know he can do at Old Trafford. There was no contact at all for the penalty, even Rooney said so. It's very difficult to take to see how lightly the referee gives the penalty. We can only master our own performance, not the referee's performance. We got the usual penalty awarded against us when we come to Manchester United and they are in difficulty. It happened last season and it's happened again...

At some stages there were incidents, especially on Reyes, where there was some deliberate kicking. The rules are there to be respected, and only the referee can make the players respect them.

Arsenal Captain Patrick Vieira was even harsher, and also totally correct: "You get used to it when you play at Old Trafford. We are used to it."

Indeed, just 13 months earlier, also at Old Trafford, Arsenal's chance at an unbeaten season in League play seemed to go down the drain when Diego Forlan dove in the box in stoppage time, but van Nistelrooy's penalty rebounded off the crossbar, preserving a scoreless draw. This led to the man Forlan dove on, Martin Keown, taunting van Nistelrooy at the final whistle, leading to the United bullies, pussies who could dish it out but couldn't take it, shoving a few Arsenal players before it could be broken up.

The aftermath?

* Mike Riley is now the Premier League's supervisor of officials, a position he deserves about as much as Bashar Assad deserves to be President of Syria.

* Neither club ended up winning the League title for 2004-05. West London club Chelsea did, beginning an era of superlative results (achieved by means every bit as shameful as United's) that continues to this day, at the expense sometimes of United, more often of Arsenal. Indeed, right after Arsenal's streak ended, Chelsea began an unbeaten streak in League play that would reach 40, which ranks 3rd behind Arsenal's 2003-04 streak and the Nottingham Forest streak of 42 in 1977-78 in the old "Football League Division One."

* Arsenal and United advanced to the 2005 FA Cup Final, and, again, United tried to kick Arsenal's players into submission. It didn't work, and the game ended goalless after extra time, and went to a penalty shootout. Arsenal goalie Jens Lehmann saved a penalty by Paul Scholes, while all 5 Arsenal shooters made theirs, and the Cup, and bragging rights between those teams in that season, belonged to Arsenal.

* It would take Arsenal 9 years to win another trophy, largely because Wenger chose to sell Vieira and build a team around Fabregas, then only 18 years old. This proved disastrous, as Fabregas was frequently injured, and ultimately put another knife in Arsenal's back by going on strike at the start of the 2011-12 season, to force a move to his former club Barcelona. Many Arsenal fans, seduced by Fabregas' goals and passes, blamed Wenger, rather than Fabregas and the "tapping up" of Barcelona players. In 2014, when Arsenal won the FA Cup again, and the Barcelona dream ended for Fabregas, and he practically begged to go back to Arsenal, Wenger basically said, "We don't need you, you traitorous little prick." So Fabregas went to Chelsea for the money.

* Ferguson retired after the 2013 season, having amassed more trophies than any manager in the history of British soccer -- and not a damn one of them without allowing his players to repeatedly cheat.

* Rooney, while a spectacular success in Premier League play, has been an equally spectacular failure in the international game. Although he starred for England at Euro 2004, he's scored only 2 goals in major tournaments since. He got sent off in the Quarterfinal of the 2006 World Cup, England didn't even qualify for Euro 2008, he was a bust in 2010 (and was caught swearing and lashing out at England's fans by a TV camera), he did next to nothing in Euro 2012, and he was useless at the 2014 World Cup, at which England was eliminated after 2 games of the Group Stage (making the 3rd game meaningless). You see, when he doesn't have English referees to overlook offenses ranging from offside goals to blatant dives to intimidating referees, he's really no better than average. And yet, despite his failures, with the retirements from international play of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, Rooney is now Captain of the England team. Based on what, exactly?

He also got caught cheating on his pregnant wife, although that's hardly unique among Premier League players. (Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud got caught doing so earlier this year -- at least his wife wasn't pregnant at the time.)

Oh yeah: This game in which Rooney, whether the English media and public are willing to admit it or not, stamped himself as an unprincipled fat bastard? It was played on his 19th birthday. He was born on October 24, 1985 in Liverpool.


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, 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, 130 years ago: 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.

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, 1892: Goodison Park, the world's first 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 the Mets twice as much as you know them to have been. 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 Chicago White Sox. 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. Ironically, Murray was a fan of the New York Highlanders, the team that would become the Yankees. 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 broadcaster Harry Caray was leaning out of the press box, and inviting fans to sing the song with him during the 7th Inning Stretch. 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, 1911: A 6-day postponement 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?" He was elected to the Hall of Fame.

Those 6 days are still a Series record for postponement due to inclement weather (rain, although snow is possible in Philadelphia at this time of year, and the Northeast did get snow on October 29, 2011). But the 1989 San Francisco earthquake resulted in a 10-day postponement.

October 24, 1926: 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.”

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 88, but is stricken with Alzheimer's disease.

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.


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, 1962: 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. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012, but, as yet, has not been elected to the Pro Football Hall.

October 24, 1966: 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 over $13 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 first 99 seasons, in 1955 (and that with a former Arsenal player as their manager, Ted Drake). Mourinho had enough of Abramovich's meddling and left for Internazionale in Milan, Italy, and that for Real Madrid in Spain, but has now returned to Chelsea.

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 Champions League last year and the Europa League this year, 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 billion pounds – about $1.6 billion – into the club in his 11 years of ownership.

In 1999, he was elected to the Russian Parliament, the Duma, from the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, the oil-rich easternmost “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 48-year-old “Mad Russian” is the domestic partner of Daria “Dasha” Zhukova, a 33-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 first 2 wives.


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 92, 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’s 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 two more years, on October 3, 1974, before Frank Robinson, no relation, was hired as Major League Baseball’s first 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.

Of the 30 current MLB franchises, 11 have never had a nonwhite manager. Ironically, one of the teams that has never had a nonwhite manager is the Dodgers -- but now they have a black owner, former basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
Currently, the only nonwhite managers are Lloyd McClendon of the Seattle Mariners and Fredi Gonzalez of the Atlanta Braves. That means only 2 out of 28 teams -- 2 teams currently having vacancies in the manager's post -- have a nonwhite manager. Jackie would not be pleased about that.

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 last year, just as they retired Number 8 for both Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra.

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 now manages a much smaller Scottish club, Dundee United.

October 24, 1974, 40 years ago: 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?)

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.

October 24, 1975: Juan Pablo Angel is born in Medellin, Colombia. He began his soccer career in his hometown, at Atletico National. 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 recently announced his retirement.

October 24, 1981: The Dodgers tie the World Series up at 2 games apiece, 8-7, thanks to some poor Yankee fielding.

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 one-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, 1992: For the first 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, 1996: 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.

October 24, 1999: The Yankees beat the Braves, 7-2 at Turner Field in Atlanta, 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. All the winners then living were in attendance:

Pitchers: Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, Warren Spahn, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens. (Spahn, the former Milwaukee Braves pitcher who threw out the first ball before Game 1 of this Series, has since died; Koufax, Gibson, Ryan and Clemens are still alive. Clemens was still active, and was scheduled to start Game 4 of this Series, however, steroid allegations have put his worthiness for this honor into question.)

Catchers: Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench. (Both still alive.)

First Basemen: Lou Gehrig and Mark McGwire. (McGwire is still alive, although his presence on this team is tainted by his confession of steroid use.)

Second Basemen: Rogers Hornsby and Jackie Robinson. (Both dead; Joe Morgan, one of the finalists, 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.)

Shortstops: Honus Wagner, Ernie Banks and Cal Ripken. (Banks and Ripken are still alive, and Ripken was then still active.)

Third Basemen: Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt. (Both still alive.)

Outfielders: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Pete Rose, Ken Griffey Jr. (DiMaggio had died earlier in the year. Williams was already ill, but attended, 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. Musial has since died. Mays, Aaron, Rose and Griffey are still alive, and Griffey was still active and just 29 years old, making his election, at that point in his career, the result of popularity more than achievement. Aaron, who starred for the Braves in both Milwaukee and Atlanta, threw out the ceremonial first ball. Rose’s election to the team was controversial, as he had been banned from baseball for betting on the game.)

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 for Clemens’ spot, Jimmie Foxx for McGwire’s, and Roberto Clemente and Shoeless Joe Jackson for Griffey’s and, ironically Rose’s; so if Jackson, also banned permanently for gambling-related offenses, is also removed, the next-highest outfielder was Reggie Jackson.


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 remains the only World Series game the Mets have won in the last 28 years.

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.

October 24, 2004, 10 years ago: 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.

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.

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.

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.

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