Wednesday, October 29, 2014

October 29, 1939: In Memory of Babe Siebert

October 29, 1939, 75 years ago: The Babe Siebert Memorial Game is played at the Montreal Forum. It raised $15,000 for his family -- about $257,000 in today's money.

Charles Albert Siebert grew up in Zurich, Ontario, on the shore of Lake Huron. He played left wing and won Stanley Cups with the 1926 Montreal Maroons and the 1933 New York Rangers. With Nels Stewart and Hooley Smith, he formed one of the first named forward lines in hockey, the S-Line.

In 1934, playing for the Boston Bruins, he played in the 1st All-Star benefit game for an NHL player, Ace Bailey of the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose career was ended by a vicious check by Bruin defenseman Eddie Shore. Indeed, Bruins general manager Art Ross traded for Siebert specifically to convert him to a defenseman and play in place of the suspended Shore. When Shore returned, they formed a formidable defensive pairing.

But the 2 stars couldn't get along, and, in 1936, the Bruins traded him to the Montreal Canadiens. He was immediately named Captain, and won the 1937 Hart Trophy as NHL MVP. The following fall, he played in another All-Star benefit game, this time for Canadiens superstar Howie Morenz, who had died in March from complications from leg surgery. (The Habs had slumped since his injury, and this, plus the thought that he would never play again, and all the well-wishers coming in and bringing him booze, brought on a heart attack. With today's medicine, he would have had his leg in an immobilizer, been out of the hospital the next day, and would have been back on the ice at the start of the next season, presuming he didn't want to retire. He was only 34, so he should have had several years left if he so chose.)

Siebert's wife Bernice was left a paraplegic following complications during the birth of their 2nd child. He spent most of his income on her medical bills and various means of making life more convenient for her. Fans at the Forum routinely saw him carry his wife to her seat before every home game, and then carry her out after. This made him immensely popular with fans, especially women.

In 1939, 35 years old and plagued with injuries, he retired. This made him, probably, the last NHL player other than a goaltender to wear Number 1. He was immediately offered the Canadiens' head coaching position.

He never got the chance to coach a game. On August 25, 1939, while vacationing with his family and swimming with his daughters Judy and Joan, then just 11 and 10 years old, at a family cottage on the shore of Lake Huron, he drowned attempting to retrieve an inflatable tire they were playing with.

The league organized an all-star benefit game to aid Siebert's widow and daughters. It was the third such benefit game in NHL history, and, as I said, Siebert had played in the 1st 2. The Canadiens faced an all-star team composed of the best players from the remaining teams. The All-Stars won, 5-2. Though only about 6,000 fans showed up, the organizers met their target of $15,000.

Albert "Babe" Siebert should not be confused with Earl Seibert (note the different spelling), a defenseman who also played in the 1930s, and most of the 1940s. He won the Cup with the 1933 Rangers and the 1938 Chicago Blackhawks, and he was the player who got tangled up along the boards with Morenz, and, until his own death in 1990, blamed himself -- unfairly, since it wasn't the broken leg that killed him. Seibert is also in the Hockey Hall of Fame, as is his father, Oliver Seibert (the 1st father & son in the Hall), and in 1998, as part of its 50th Anniversary celebrations, The Hockey News ranked him Number 72 on their list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players. (Babe Siebert didn't make the list.)

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October 29, 1860: In the match for the 1860 whip-pennant‚ emblematic of the championship of the U.S.‚ the Atlantics top the Eckfords‚ 20-11. Both clubs are from Brooklyn, until 1898 a separate city from New York. With the game tied at 5-5 after 5 innings‚ the Atlantics score 6 in the 6th‚ 5 in the 7th‚ and 4 in the 8th to win.

As agreed upon‚ in order to maintain neutrality, all umpires are players from a 3rd club. The umpire chosen for this game is Asa Brainard, the star pitcher for another Brooklyn team, the Exceslior club. That he was chosen to umpire such an important game at the age of 19 shows how highly regarded he must already have been.

After the shocking death of teammate Jim Creighton in 1862, Brainard would succeed him as the best pitcher in baseball. Forced out by the arrival of Candy Cummings (not the inventor of the curveball, as some would have you believed, but a very good practitioner of it), he left for the National club of Washington, D.C. (not the forerunners of today's Washington Nationals). In 1869, he became the pitcher – not the only single pitcher, but he tossed more than 70 percent of their innings in those 1869 and '70 seasons – for the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first openly professional team, and his name, Asa, became the source of the pitching term “Ace.”

When the National Association was formed in 1871, Red Stockings founder Harry Wright took 5 of his players to Boston and formed the Boston Red Stockings, the team that would eventually become the Atlanta Braves. Brainard took the other half of the team with him back to the capital and formed the Washington Olympics.

But he suffered from tuberculosis, and, like many such people in that era, he traveled to Denver for its dry, thin air. It did him no good: He died there in 1887, just a few weeks after the famed gunfighter and dentist John Henry "Doc" Holliday also died from tuberculosis in Colorado.

There is a bias among voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame against the true pioneers of the game. Only 8 men who played so much as 1 game before the NL's 1876 founding are in the Hall: Knickerbockers member and original rules compiler (and no less than co-writer) Alexander Cartwright, Harry and George Wright from the Cincinnati & Boston Red Stockings/Braves, Al Spalding and Cap Anson from the Chicago White Stockings/Cubs, Candy Cummings who didn't last long into the NL, Jim "Orator" O'Rourke who later starred for the Giants, and James "Deacon" White who went on the play for several teams. Until White was elected in 2013, the last one elected was Harry Wright, all the way back in 1953. (George Wright was the last survivor of these, living until 1937.) 

There are quite a few players from the pre-NL, or even pre-NA era, who have been overlooked. Coming to mind are Brainard and Creighton from the Excelsiors; Joe Start, Lip Pike, George Zettlein and Dickey Pearce of the Atlantics; and Bobby Matthews of the New York Mutuals, who also had Start and Pike at times. Brainard, for his stardom in both the amateur and the early professional era, is a particular omission that should be corrected at the next available opportunity.

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October 29, 1866: The final championship match of the season is between the Irvington club of New Jersey and the host Atlantics‚ with the 2 clubs playing a rubber match to determine the champion of the 1866 season.

The Atlantics break a 5-5 tie by scoring 7 in the 10th inning and winning‚ 12-6, to keep the Championship. This is the closest a team playing its home games in New Jersey will come to being a sport’s “world champion” until the New York Giants win Super Bowl XXI, 120 years later.

October 29, 1889, 125 years ago: The National League Champion New York Giants win their 2nd consecutive World Championship by taking this year's best-of-11 matchup in 9 games. After spotting the American Association Champion Brooklyn Bridegrooms (the once-and-future Dodgers were so named because 3 of their players had gotten married in the 1887-88 off-season) 2 runs in the 1st‚ the Giants rally to win 3-2 behind Hank O'Day's pitching -- the same Hank O'Day who would be the umpire who ruled against them in the Fred Merkle Game 19 years later. Slattery scores the winning run in the 7th inning‚ coming in from second as catcher Doc Bushing misses a two-out 3rd strike.

The next season, the 'Grooms would join the NL, and win the Pennant. They would win 2 more Pennants before the Giants won another, in 1899 and 1900. But over the next 40 years, the Superbas/Robins/Dodgers would win just 2 Pennants, while the Giants would win 13. And the Yankees, not even formed yet, would win 11. Ah, but over the last 17 years of New York's 3-team availability, it would be a different story: The Yankees would win 12 Pennants, the Dodgers 7, the Giants only 2.

October 29, 1898: Because of NL interest in curbing rowdyism on the field‚ information is provided indicating that there were 62 expulsions during the season. Bill Dahlen of the Chicago Colts (soon to become the Cubs) and Patsy Tebeau of the Cleveland Spiders (soon to collapse and go out of business) tied for the lead with 6 thumbings each. Dahlen was also suspended for 3 days.

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October 29, 1920: The Yankees sign Red Sox manager Ed Barrow as business manager – the job that will, in a few years, begin to be called “general manager” – completing the front office team that will build the game's most successful record. Hugh Duffy, the Boston Braves star who batted a record .438 in 1894, replaces Barrow at Fenway Park.

Barrow had managed the Red Sox to the 1918 World Series, and, regarding the hitting and pitching talents of Babe Ruth, said, “I’d be a fool to turn the best lefthanded pitcher in the game into an outfielder.”

The choice had already been made for him, but he would help the Yankees win 14 Pennants and 10 World Series in his 26 seasons as Yankee GM. Shortly before his death in 1953, he was elected to the Hall of Fame. At the Yankees’ next home opener, a plaque was dedicated in his memory and hung on the outfield wall near the Monuments, and would later be moved to Monument Park.

He is buried in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, Westchester County, New York, along with several other baseball-connected personalities: The Yankee owner who hired him, Jacob Ruppert; a Yankee slugger he signed, Lou Gehrig; the Boston owner and Broadway promoter who previously hired him, Harry Frazee; the Governor of New York who sometimes threw out the first ball at big Yankee games, Herbert Lehman; the opera singer who often sang the National Anthem at Yankee games, Robert Merill; and the Brooklyn-born comedian who remained a Dodger fan after they moved West to his own new home of Hollywood, and was a member of the first ownership group of the Seattle Mariners, Danny Kaye.

October 29, 1921: The Harvard University football team loses to Centre College of Danville, Kentucky, ending a 25-game winning streak. This is considered one of the biggest upsets in college football, as the “Praying Colonels” (no, I’m not making that mascot name up) were the 1st team from outside the old Northeast (Jim Thorpe's Pennsylvania-based Carlisle counts) to beat one of the old “Big Three” of Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

Today, Harvard, like all the Ivy League teams, is in the FCS, the Football Championship Subdivision, what used to be known as Division I-AA. Since the official founding of the Ivy League as a sports conference in 1955, Harvard has won its football championship 14 times, including sharing last year's title with Princeton (its most recent outright win being in 2011).

Centre would prove that their 1921 win over Harvard was no fluke: On 4 consecutive Saturdays in 1924, the Colonels defeated Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. Their biggest star of 1921, Bo McMillin, was a rough Texan who was one of the 1st good NFL quarterbacks, and would coach Indiana to its 1st football title in the Big Ten in 1945. Today, however, Centre are in Division III, but have won their league 12 times, including 6 times from 1980 to 1990. Their last title was in 2003.

October 29, 1931: For the 1st time under the current format, as voted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, the Most Valuable Player award is given, in the American League. The choice is an easy one, and is unanimous: Robert "Lefty" Grove of the Philadelphia Athletics, who had maybe the best season any pitcher has ever had, going 31-4 with a 2.08 ERA, and helping the A's win their 3rd straight Pennant.

The 1st official NL MVP will be Frankie Frisch, 2nd baseman for the Pennant-winning Cardinals. The Fordham Flash batted .311 and led the NL in stolen bases, before leading them to victory over the A's in the World Series, avenging the previous season's defeat. He will become player-manager in 1934, and lead "the Gashouse Gang" to another World Championship, his 4th as a player, also including 1921 and 1922 with the Giants. He and Grove, who'd won the Series with the A's in 1929 and 1930, will both become easy choices for the Hall of Fame.

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October 29, 1950: King Gustav V of Sweden dies of flu complications at age 92. As the host of the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, he presented decathlon and pentathlon champion Jim Thorpe with a laurel wreath and, according to legend, said, “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world,” coining a phrase that has become an unofficial title for the Olympic decathlon champ. Thorpe’s response is said to have been, “Thanks, King.” Gustav V was the great-grandfather of the current monarch, King Carl XVI Gustaf.

October 29, 1953: Denis Charles Potvin is born in Hull, Quebec, across the Ottawa river from the Canadian capital of Ottawa, Ontario. One of the greatest defensemen in hockey history, he was the Captain of the New York Islanders’ 4 straight Stanley Cups of 1980 to 1983. Arguably the team’s greatest player ever, certainly its most important, his Number 5 has been retired, and he was the first Isles player elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. His brother Jean Potvin also played for the Isles for a time, and his cousin Marc Potvin also played in the NHL.

However, his name is best remembered for an incident in the Ranger-Islander rivalry. On February 25, 1979, the teams played at Madison Square Garden, and Potvin checked Ranger All-Star Ulf Nilsson into the boards, breaking Nilsson’s ankle. In spite of the fact that no penalty was called, and the fact that Nilsson has always maintained that it was a clean hit, and that fact that then-Ranger coach Fred Shero also said it was a clean hit, the moron Ranger fans have spent 30 years chanting, “Potvin sucks!” – against all opponents, not just the Islanders. This led to some confusion, years later, when Felix Potvin (no relation) would tend goal for various teams, including the Islanders for a time.

In retaliation, Islander fans have done a “Rangers suck!” chant for every home game, regardless of opponent, and New Jersey Devils fans do the same. Ranger fans also had a chant of “Beat your wife, Potvin, beat your wife!” Denis Potvin usually beat the Rangers instead.

Part of Ranger mythology is that Potvin’s hit knocked Nilsson out for the season, and that’s why they lost the Stanley Cup Finals to the Montreal Canadiens. In fact, Nilsson returned in time for those Finals, in which the Rangers won Game 1 at the Montreal Forum, but then dropped the next 4, including all 3 at the Garden.

October 29, 1959: Michael Alfred Gartner is born in Ottawa. Mike Gartner was a right wing who starred for several hockey teams, including the Washington Capitals, who retired his Number 11. But he never appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals, being traded by the Rangers at the trading deadline in 1994, in a trade that helped them win the Cup, to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who made it to the Western Conference Finals before losing.

Among players who have never won a Cup, he is 2nd to Phil Housley in games played and 2nd to Marcel Dionne in goals, with 708.

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October 29, 1961: Joel Stuart Otto is born in Elk River, Minnesota. The center won a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989.

October 29, 1964, 50 years ago: Ground is broken for the current Madison Square Garden, on top of Penn Station at 32nd Street & 7th Avenue.

October 29, 1968: Johan Olav Koss is born in Drammen, Norway. The speed skater won a Gold Medal at the Winter Olympics in 1992 and 3 more at the 1994. He and American speed skater Bonnie Blair were named Sportspeople of the Year by Sports Illustrated in 1994.

October 29, 1969: The first-ever computer-to-computer link is established on ARPANET, thus making this a possible birthdate for the Internet.

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October 29, 1970: Edwin van der Sar is born in Voorhout, South Holland, the Netherlands. The goalkeeper starred in his native land for Ajax Amsterdam (winning 4 league titles, 3 Dutch Cups, the domestic “Double” in 1998 and the Champions League in 1995), in Italy for Juventus (where he was the first non-Italian to be their starting goalie) and in England for Fulham, before going to Manchester United (where he backstopped them to 4 Premiership titles and the 2008 Champions League). He has now retired.

October 29, 1971: Winona Laura Horowitz is born in Winona, Minnesota. Her hippie parents named her for her birthplace. Sometimes, that works, as with Florence Nightingale. Sometimes it doesn't, as with David and Victoria Beckham's son Brooklyn.

She renamed herself Winona Ryder, after 1960s rocker Mitch Ryder. She is bets known for playing Veronica Sawyer in Heathers. You don’t like that? “Lick it up, baby, lick it up!”

October 29, 1972: Dwayne Tyrone Wade Jr. is born in Chicago. He led the Miami Heat to the 2006 NBA Championship with Shaquille O'Neal, and the 2012 and 2013 titles with LeBron James, and remains one of the league’s top stars.

Also on this day, Gabrielle Monique Union is born in Omaha, Nebraska. She played Alice Kramden to Cedric the Entertainer’s Ralph in the 2005 film version of The Honeymooners. She was formerly married to Michigan and Jacksonville Jaguars running back Chris Howard, and was one of several actress who had been linked to Derek Jeter. She is now, interestingly enough, married to the aforementioned Dwayne Wade.

Also on this day, Tracee Joy Silberstein is born in Los Angeles. The daughter of singer Diana Ross (and sister of actress Rhonda Ross Kendrick), she acts under the name Tracee Ellis Ross. She starred as Joan Clayton on the Fox sitcom Girlfriends. That show has often been compared to a sitcom of the previous decade, Living Single, with Joan compared to Queen Latifah’s character Khadijah James, not least because both characters’ fathers were played by basketball player turned actor Michael Warren (Officer Bobby Hill on Hill Street Blues). She now stars on the ABC sitcom Blackish.

October 29, 1973: Robert Emmanuel Pirès is born in Reims, France, the son of a Portuguese father and a Spanish mother. The midfielder was a member of France’s World Cup winners in 1998, and the Arsenal champions of 1998 (League and FA Cup “Double”), 2002 (another Double) and 2004 (undefeated League season).

"Super Rob" recently signed with FC Goa on India's west coast -- not surprisingly, as the city was a Portuguese colony before it was a British one, and still has a large Portuguese community. The Indian Super League is going for a higher profile in this, its 2nd season of operation: Goa's manager is Brazilian legend Zico, and they also have Andre Santos, who, unlike Pirès, did very little to help Arsenal while he was there. Pires' countryman David Trezeguet, Spanish World Cup hero Joan Capdevila, and Italian legend Alessandro del Piero have also joined teams in the ISL.

October 29, 1974, 40 years ago: Robert Allen Dickey is born in Nashville, Tennessee. It's bad enough that he has the name "Dickey," but instead of "Bob," "Bobby" or "Rob," he prefers to call himself "R.A." In baseball, "R.A." is a longtime slang term, short for "Red Ass," meaning a player who's always angry.

Baseball has never truly trusted knuckleball pitchers, and Dickey didn't make his major league debut until 2001, with the Texas Rangers. As late as the dawn of the 2010 season, when he signed with the Mets, he was 35-year-old journeyman from whom little was expected. But pitching in the spacious confines of Citi Field helped him, and in 2012 he won 20 games, had the best season by a Met pitcher since David Cone in 1988, and won the Cy Young Award. He became a superstar.

And what did the Mets do with this superstar? Immediately traded him, of course, to the Toronto Blue Jays, along with 2 other players, for 4 players, including Travis d'Arnaud, whom they think will be their catcher of the future. This trade hasn't yet worked out for the Mets. As for the Jays, this trade, and some other offseason pickups, led many "experts" to pick them for the Playoffs in 2013. Then, Dickey and the other new mound acquisitions discovered something they'd forgotten: Pitching in the American League is hard.

Dickey's career record is 89-82, including 14-13 each of the last 2 seasons. Take away his 20-6 season in 2012, and it's 69-76. His career ERA is 3.98, his ERA+ 104, his WHIP 1.299. In only 2 of his 9 full seasons has he been better than 2 games over .500, and in only 3 has he had an ERA+ over 105. In other words, he's really no better than an average pitcher who had 1 incredible season and made the most of it.


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October 29, 1981: Bill Giles‚ the Philadelphia Phillies' vice president for the past 11 years‚ heads a group of investors which purchases the club for just over $30 million‚ the highest price paid to date for an MLB club.

Giles is the son of longtime National League President Warren Giles. He turned over day-to-day operation of the club to David Montgomery in 1997, and since 2000 has been NL president himself, although this is a powerless, purely ceremonial role, pretty much limited to awarding the trophy named for his father to the NL’s Pennant winner.

Also on this day, Amanda Ray Beard is born in Newport Beach, California. The swimmer won Gold Medals at the 1996 and 2004 Olympics.

October 29, 1983: Maurice Edward Clarett is born in Youngstown, Ohio. As a freshman, the running back helped Ohio State win the 2002 National Championship. Then, figuring freshmen are allowed to come out for the NBA Draft, he tried to make himself eligible early for the NFL Draft, and racked up over $1 million in legal fees.

When he was finally drafted, in 2005 by the Denver Broncos, he was released before ever stepping onto the field, even in an exhibition game, and remained in debt. In 2006, he was arrested for armed robbery, and plea-bargained. Released from prison in 2010, his only pro playing experience has been in 2010 and '11 for the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League. He has become an advocate for mental health, citing his own issues with it, and a motivational speaker. He has also repaired his relationship with Ohio State. Although it seems incredibly unlikely that he'll ever again be involved with pro football, unless it's in a coaching or advisory role, he seems to be okay now.

October 29, 1984, 30 years ago: Eric Craig Staal is born in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The All-Star center is the Captain of the Carolina Hurricanes, with whom he won the 2006 Stanley Cup. In May 2009, he scored the winning goal with 31 seconds left in regulation in Game 7 to give the 'Canes a first-round Playoff series win against the New Jersey Devils. For this, I hate his guts.

He has 3 brothers who play pro hockey: Carolina teammates Jordan and Jared (Jordan won the 2009 Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins), and Marc of the New York Rangers (therefore someone who sucks).

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October 29, 2006: Silas Simmons passes away at the Westminster Suncoast retirement community in St. Petersburg, Florida. The 111-year old Delaware native was a southpaw hurler in the Negro Leagues for 17 years, and played for the Homestead Grays, New York Lincoln Giants, and Cuban All-Stars. He is believed to be the oldest professional baseball player who ever lived. The longest-lived major leaguer was Chester "Red" Hoff, who pitched in the 1910s and lived to be 107. (The oldest living former major leaguer now is Mike Sandlock, a catcher for the 1940s Braves, who just turned 99.)

October 29, 2008: After a 2-day delay for rain, Game 5 of the World Series is resumed at Citizens Bank Park. It begins in the bottom of the 6th, with the game tied 2-2. Geoff Jenkins doubles, is bunted to 3rd by Jimmy Rollins, and driven in by a Jayson Werth single. Rocco Baldelli ties the game with a home run in the 7th. Later in the inning, Utley takes a grounder, fakes a throw to 1st, then throws Jason Bartlett out at home for the 3rd out in a play later described as having saved the Series for the Phillies.

In the bottom of the 7th, Pat Burrell leads off with a double. Eric Bruntlett, pinch-running for Burrell, scores on a single by Pedro Feliz to put the Phillies up by a run again, 4–3.

In the top of the 9th, Brad Lidge gives up a single and a stolen base, but faces Eric Hinske with the chance to give the city its 1st World Championship in any sport since the 1983 76ers. Harry Kalas, the Hall of Fame voice of the Phils, had the call:

One strike away, nothing-and-two to Hinske. Fans on their feet. Brad Lidge stretches. The 0–2 pitch! Swing and a miss! Struck him out! The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 World Champions of baseball!

Brad Lidge does it again, and stays perfect for the 2008 season, 48-for-48 in save opportunities! And let the city celebrate! Don't let the 48-hour wait diminish the euphoria of this moment and celebration! Twenty-five years in this city that a team has enjoyed a World Championship, and the fans are ready to celebrate. What a night! Phils winning, 4–3, Brad Lidge gets the job done once again!


Harry would die early the next season. He deserved that title.

October 29, 2012: Hurricane Sandy hits the New York Tri-State Area, causing devastation all over the Jersey Shore, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, and causing flooding in Lower Manhattan. In some places, power was out for a week. (It was a Monday, and power wasn't restored to my residence until the following Monday.) In terms of damage, it was the 2nd-worst hurricane in American history, behind Katrina, which nearly destroyed New Orleans in 2005. In terms of lives lost, there are 286 that were blamed either directly or indirectly on the "superstorm."

In sports terms, the main effect around here was that the Nets' 1st game as a Brooklyn team, scheduled for November 1 against the Knicks at the Barclays Center, was postponed, and was instead played on November 3, the regularly-scheduled 2nd game against the Toronto Raptors. The Nets won, 107-100. The New York City Marathon was also canceled, for the 1st time in its history.

2 comments:

dukhomia said...
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Unknown said...

Uncle Mike, do you have any information about the Montreal Maroons, or Denton Mullin, Centre, who played for the New York City Knickerbocker Hockey Team in the 1920s, then becoming coach of the New York Crescents in 1926. Developed players Colville, Shebickey, Cooper.