Saturday, October 24, 2015

October 24, 2000: The Last World Series Game Won by the Mets

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, at least for the moment, the only World Series game the Mets have won in the last 28 years.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 24, 1875, 140 years ago: In the wake of the National Association Pennant having been taken by the Boston Red Stockings (forerunners of the Atlanta Braves) for the 4th straight season, and by a wider margin (in terms of winning percentage, anyway) than any major league that would come after it ever has, causing several teams to drop out of the NA, the Chicago Tribune calls for the formation of an organization of major professional teams: Chicago‚ Cincinnati‚ Louisville‚ Philadelphia‚ New York‚ Boston‚ and Hartford: "Unless the present Professional Association leadership adopts rules to limit the number of teams allowed to participate in the Championship season‚ all clubs will go broke."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 24, 1885, 130 years ago: The St. Louis Browns, Champions of the American Association, defeat the Chicago White Stockings, Champions of the National League,13-4 in the 7th and last game in their series. The Browns claim the Game 2 forfeit didn't count, and therefore claim the championship. Each club receives $500.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edward Meeker made the first recording, but Murray appears to have been the first to sing it live. Murray had also recorded "Tessie," which became a ballpark chant for Boston Red Sox fans. 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, 1915, 100 years ago: Robert Kahn (no middle name) is born in Manhattan. Under the pen name of Bob Kane, in 1939, he and artist Bill Finger created the comic book character Batman. He lived until 1998.

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

On June 18, 1953, he played in goal for England as they beat the U.S. 6-3 at the Polo Grounds. He lived until 2005.

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.” ($1 million in 1954 would be about $8.8 million in today's money.)

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

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

In 1964, hit hard in a game in Pittsburgh, his helmet knocked off, his bald head dripping blood as he knelt on the field, a photograph of this scene won a Pulitzer Prize. Tittle retired after the season. Despite never winning a title, he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the Giants have retired his Number 14. He is still alive, at age 89, but is stricken with Alzheimer's disease.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A little more than 2 years later, these teams will play at the Hershey Arena outside Harrisburg, and Wilt will score 100.

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


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

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

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

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

October 24, 1966: Roman Arkadyevich Abramovich is born in Saratov, Russia. He turned an investment into the Russian black market into oil and aluminum empires, and developed a close relationship with then-President Boris Yeltsin, and has worked with Yeltsin’s successors, Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev. He has been indicted on numerous corruption charges, but has never been convicted. It’s good to have friends in high places. His fortune has gone up and down, but is now believed by Forbes magazine to be about $12.8 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 UEFA Champions League in 2012, the Europa League in 2013, and the League again 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 12 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 49-year-old “Mad Russian” is now married to Daria “Dasha” Zhukova, a 34-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 93, now lives near their old house), and was a special guest at Game 2 of the World Series between the A’s and Reds in Cincinnati. It had been 25 years since the great experiment that he and Brooklyn Dodger president Branch Rickey (who died in 1965) had reached its successful conclusion with the Dodgers winning the Pennant and Jackie making it through the season, not just surviving but excelling. His former teammate, Pee Wee Reese, was on hand, and former Dodger broadcaster Red Barber introduced him. Jackie said, “I’m extremely pleased to be here, but I must confess, I’m going to be even more pleased when I see a black face managing in baseball.”

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

Earlier in the year, in Los Angeles, Jackie’s hometown (if not the team’s), the Dodgers retired uniform numbers for the first time, packing away Jackie’s Number 42, Campy’s Number 39 and Sandy Koufax’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 2 more years, on October 3, 1974, before Frank Robinson, no relation, was hired as Major League Baseball’s 1st black manager, with the Cleveland Indians, the team that had been the first in the American League to add black players with Larry Doby and Satchel Paige. (Oddly, Frank beat Jackie to being the 1st black player to get his number retired: The Orioles let him go before the 1972 season, and, though he was still active, announced the retirement of his number on March 10 of that year.)

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

Of the 30 current MLB franchises, 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. With Don Mattingly having just left the Dodger managerial post "by mutual consent," this may be about to change.

Currently, of the 27 MLB teams that don't have vacancies, not one has a black manager. Only Fredi González of the Atlanta Braves, a white Cuban, is Hispanic. 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 in 2013, just as they retired Number 8 for both Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 24, 1975, 40 years ago: Juan Pablo Ángel Arango is born in Medellín, Colombia. He began his soccer career in his hometown, at Atlético Nacional . He later played for River Plate in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Aston Villa in Birmingham, England, before starring for the New York Red Bulls. He retired a year ago. 

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

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

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

October 24, 1985, 30 years ago: Wayne Mark Rooney is born in Liverpool, England. Because England needs to believe that its soccer players are the best in the world, "Wazza" was their great hope in the 2000s, starring at hometown club Everton for 2 seasons, and saying, "I'll always be a Blue."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


October 24, 1990, 25 years ago: The Boston Red Sox announce they will not renew the contract of former All-Star Dwight Evans, a.k.a. Dewey. Evans signs a 1-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles, plays the 1991 season for them, and retires with 385 home runs and a reputation as one of the best-fielding right fielders ever.

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

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

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

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

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

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, 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. Mathewson died in 1925, Johnson in 1946, Grove in 1975. 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. (Yogi recently died. Bench is still alive.)

First Basemen: Lou Gehrig and Mark McGwire. (Gehrig died in 1941. 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. (Hornsby died in 1963, Robinson, as stated earlier, on this date in 1972. 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. (Wagner died in 1955, Banks earlier this year. Ripken is still alive, and 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. (Ruth died in 1948, Cobb in 1961, DiMaggio earlier in 1999. 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. He died in 2002. Musial was still alive at the time, and died in 2013. 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 (who was on hand as an active Brave) for Clemens’ spot, Jimmie Foxx (who died in 1967) for McGwire’s, and Roberto Clemente (who died in 1972) for Griffey's and Shoeless Joe Jackson (who died in 1951) for, ironically, Rose’s. So if Jackson, also banned permanently for gambling-related offenses, is also removed, the next-highest outfielder was Reggie Jackson (who was on hand as a Yankee front-office man).


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

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

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

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

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 7, 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, particularly the Neville brothers, right back Gary and midfielder Phil, were kicking Jose Antonio Reyes into oblivion, rendering him too timid to shoot -- he was, literally, intimidated. In addition, United's Dutch striker, Ruud van Nistelrooy -- nicknamed Van Horseface due to an uncanny facial resemblance to Seattle Slew -- had a challenge on Arsenal defender Ashley Cole that was clearly worthy of a straight red card.

But the referee was Mike Riley, and he hates Arsenal. (Not to be confused with the Mike Riley who is currently head football coach at the University of Nebraska.) He gave only 2 cards to United all match, a yellow each to the Neville brothers. 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, on his 20th birthday, executed a blatant dive in the box, and instead of giving him a straight red card and sending him off, Riley called a foul on Arsenal defender Sol Campbell, who never even touched Rooney. It was a completely bogus call, and he awarded a penalty, which van Nistelrooy converted. Rooney added another goal that he didn't deserve in the 90th minute, and United had unfairly won, 2-0.

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

The fireworks for this most dubious of games in the long and dubious history of Arsenal-Manchester United matches were hardly over at the final whistle. Despite being teammates on the national side, Campbell refused to shake Rooney's hand, a deserved mark of disrespect. Entering the tunnel to head to the locker rooms, United manager Alex Ferguson was hit in the face by a slice of pizza from the postgame spread in Arsenal's locker room. The game becomes known as the Battle of the Buffet, and, as it turned out, the Arsenal player who threw the slice was 17-year-old Spanish midfield wizard Cesc Fàbregas. 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 24, 2014: Mbulaeni Mulaudzi dies in a car crash in Witbank, South Africa. He was 34 years old. He won a Silver Medal in the 800 meters at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and Gold Medals at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and the 2009 World Championships of Track & Field.

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