Friday, September 30, 2016

The Yankees Did NOT Need to Rebuild. They Do Now.

Last night, the Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 5-1 at Yankee Stadium II, clinching a series sweep, highlighted by the previous night's walkoff grand slam by the retiring Mark Teixeira.

It was the big 1st baseman's 206th "Teix Message" as a Yankee, and the 409th and probably last home run of a pretty good career, that includes 3 All-Star Games, 5 Gold Gloves, 6 postseason appearances, and the 2009 season in which he won the American League home run and RBI titles and the World Championship.

But the Baltimore Orioles also won, eliminating the Yankees from postseason competition.

The biggest deal of all last night, in the long run, was that this was the last time the big fat lying cheating bastard, David Ortiz, will ever play for the Yankees. He went 0-for-10 in this series. Would that he had gone 0-for-10 at any point in the 2004 American League Championship Series.

No player, not even his former Boston teammates Curt Schilling or Manny Ramirez, is more identified with beating the Yankees. And the North American sports establishment remains in operation of the Yankee Doodle Double Standard: They treat someone they know is corrupt like Donald Trump, a quirky entertainer who "knows how to win" and, with his Boston teammates, "made baseball great again"; while treating the Yankees the way the national media treats Hillary Clinton, as if every accusation, no matter how ridiculous, is absolutely true.

David Cone (who did pitch in Boston in 2001, but before Ortiz got there in 2003) and former teammate Jacoby Ellsbury gave him a leather-bound "book of farewells." Mariano Rivera gave him a painting of the new Yankee Stadium. (Not his own work. He only painted corners of the strike zone.)

What kind of tribute would I have given Ortiz? I would have had every Yankee Fan in The Stadium wait for him to be introduced, then get up, and turn their backs on him. Then, when he began to speak, get up and go to the bathroom, because his public statements thus far have been full of shit.

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With 3 games left in the regular season, home to the Orioles, the Yankees are 9 games behind the Red Sox in the American League Eastern Division, which the Sox clinched on Tuesday despite the walkoff Teix Message. They are 4 out of the 2nd AL Wild Card. They are mathematically eliminated.

That they stayed in the race until September 29 is irrelevant. The purpose of the New York Yankees is not to stay in the race as long as possible. The purpose of the New York Yankees is to win the World Series. That general manager Brian Cashman did not give the team what it needed to do that is inexcusable, and he should be fired for it.

It could have been so much better. The Yankees had a chance. Since Cashman traded Aroldis Chapman on July 26, later trading the other great closer, Andrew Miller, and the team's best hitter through that point in the season, Carlos Beltran, they have gone 32-28.

Of those 28 losses, 9 were by 2 or fewer runs; 3 of those were to the Red Sox. If Chapman and Miller had been available, and would have prevented, say, just under half of those disasters, 4; and if Beltran had been available, and would have provided enough offensive production to prevent, say, 2; thus turning 2/3rds of those 9 1-run or 2-run losses, 6, into wins, including 2 of the 3 against the Sox (thus gaining us 2 games in the standings, not just 1)...

Then the Yankees would trail the Sox by 1 game with 3 to go, and would hold the 1st Wild Card slot (meaning they would host Game 163, as they did last season, for all the good it did them).

So don't tell me the Yankees were never in it. That's a lie.

Don't tell me the Yankees "had to rebuild." That's an even bigger lie. The Yankees' top 5 farm teams -- Scranton, Trenton, Tampa, Charleston and Staten Island -- all made their leagues' Playoffs. Charleston won a 1st-half Division title. Scranton won their Pennant.The Yankees' farm system was fine. It's the major-league team that needed help. They didn't get it.

You don't give away the store for "prospects" when you already have prospects. We did not need to "restock our farm system."

The problem is that Cashman didn't call up the prospects we already had when he should have. The most notorious example of this was letting Rob Refsnyder rot in Triple-A when Stephen Drew was struggling to reach a .200 batting average.

"Be patient"? Be patient for what? The "prospects" that Cashman got are 2 years away from Triple-A, at which point, Cashman will still be letting Chase Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner block them. These "prospects," assuming they pan out enough just to get to Triple-A, will start feeling like Vic Power, wondering what might be the real reason they're not getting called up to the Yankees.

If I were in charge, I'd fire Cashman. I'd also fire Joe Girardi, who was bad enough with the bullpen when he could rely on Miller to pitch the 8th inning and Chapman the 9th, and was worse when it was Dellin Betances set to pitch the 9th, and a big 2-inning hole between the starter and Betances, all too rarely realizing that the starter could go more than 6 innings.

I would put Gene Michael, despite his age (78), back in the GM's office. I would let him make the necessary off-season deals. I would have him select the new field manager. And I would have him stay on as GM until next Opening Day, by which point he will have chosen his own successor as GM.

We cannot be patient and wait for these "prospects" to pan out. I'm still waiting for Steve "Bye-Bye" Balboni, Hensley "Bam-Bam" Meulens, Dan Pasqua, Scott Bradley, Jim Deshaies, Kevin Maas, Clay Parker, Kevin Mmahat and Brien Taylor to pan out.

(Yes, Mmahat, spelled with 2 M's at the beginning, and pronounced, "MOM-a-hot.")

When Cashman goes, and Girardi goes, then we can be optimistic again. Until then, I have to wonder if Cashman's next move won't be to trade Gary Sanchez for "prospects."

Sanchez and a few others could be part of the rebuilding job we didn't need before, but need now.

*

Anyway, it's October milestones time again -- including the end of September, though baseball doesn't play postseason games in September anymore.

September 28, 1955: Game 1 of the World Series, at the original Yankee Stadium. Yes, a World Series game was played on a September 28. This was also the 1st World Series game broadcast in color, on NBC (as were all World Series from the 1st telecast of one in 1947 until 1975), although hardly anyone has a color TV set at this point, and no TV recording of it, in color or otherwise, is known to survive.

There is film footage, though. That footage shows Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers stealing home plate against the New York Yankees. Home plate umpire Bill Summers rules him safe. Yankee catcher Yogi Berra says Jackie was out, and has a fit.

To the end of his life, Yogi insisted that he wouldn't have argued that strenuously if he wasn't sure, or if Jackie was definitely safe, as Monte Irvin of the New York Giants was when he stole home on Yogi in the 1951 World Series.

Whitey Ford was pitching, and he insists to this day that Jackie was out. But Phil Rizzuto claimed that Jackie was safe, and he knew because he was playing shortstop and had the best view of the play.

Whitey didn't like that, so he looked it up. The steal was in the top of the 8th inning -- and in the bottom of the 6th, manager Casey Stengel had pinch-hit Eddie Robinson for the Scooter! In the top of the 7th, a new shortstop took the field: Jerry Coleman (normally a 2nd baseman). Coleman was playing short when Jackie stole home.

So who was right? Judge for yourself. Here's the film. It's hard to tell from there. But this photo makes it obvious: He was out!
And if the Yankees had lost the game, and the World Series, because of this, there would have been an uproar -- or, as the Dodgers' legendary broadcaster, ironically now with the Yankees, Red Barber, would have put it, a rhubarb.

But the Yankees did not lose the Series, or even the game, because of the steal. The Yankees won the game, 6-5. Left fielder (and backup catcher) Elston Howard, a "rookie" at age 30, hit a home run off Don Newcombe in the 2nd inning, while 1st baseman Joe Collins hit 2 homers off Big Newk. Carl Furillo and Duke Snider hit home runs off Ford.

Like Carlton Fisk's home run in Game 6, 20 years later, Robinson's steal of home was a spectacular moment, but, ultimately, had no effect on the result of the Series.

Still, stealing home plate has become Jackie Robinson's signature, along with his grace under more pressure than any American athlete has ever faced. He did in 19 times in the regular season, plus this time in the World Series -- still the last steal of home in a World Series game. (One of the many records that Ty Cobb set, and one that he still holds, is the most steals of home in a career: 54.) It even became a point of reference in Buddy Johnson's 1949 song about Jackie, with the Count Basie Orchestra having made the best-known recording:

Did you see Jackie Robinson hit that ball?
Did he hit it?
Yeah!
And that ain't all:
He stole home!
Yes, yes, Jackie's real gone.

"Gone" meaning "cool." Not as in "left the vicinity" or "gone in the head." No player ever kept his head -- or had to -- as much as Jack Roosevelt Robinson of Pasadena, California (and Stamford, Connecticut).

Newcombe, Ford, Eddie Robinson, and Yankee left fielder Irv Noren are the only players from this game who are still alive, 61 years later.

This Series was a classic, and it went to 7 games. In the end, as would be said in the Brooklynese accent, the Dodgers finally dooed it. After World Series losses in 1916, 1920, 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953 (the last 5 of those 7 against the Yankees), losses in Playoffs for the National League Pennant in 1946 and 1951 (the latter against the hated New York Giants), losing the Pennant on the final day of the regular season in 1942 and 1950, and finishing 2nd to the Giants in 1954 -- 10 close calls in a span of 14 years -- 1955 turned out to be the "Next Year" that Dodger fans from Williamsburg to Coney Island, from Morristown to Montauk, from Poughkeepsie to Point Pleasant, had waited for.

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September 28, 1872: Franz Adolf Louis John is born in Pritzwalk, Brandenburg, Germany. A photographer and a soccer player for athletic club MTV 1879 Munich, he was among 11 players upset in 1900 that the club's steering committee wouldn't let the team join the SFV, the group that ran soccer in southern Germany. So he led them to walk out, and form a new club.

They named it Munich Football Club Bayern (meaning "Of Bavaria"), and he served as its 1st president, from 1900 to 1933. Today, known as Fußball-Club Bayern München, it is the most popular (but also the most-hated) sports team in Germany, having won 26 league titles and 5 European Cup/Champions League titles.

Franz John did not see most of this. He left Munich in 1904, moved back to his hometown of Pankow near Berlin, and died in 1952. Bayern won its 1st title in 1932, then didn't win another until 1969, after the 1963 founding of the national league (the Bundesliga). 

September 28, 1932: Game 1 of the World Series. The Chicago Cubs score 2 runs in the 1st inning, but the Yankees outscore them 37-17 over the rest of the Series. Lou Gehrig hits a home run, and the Yankees win, 12-6.

September 28, 1959: Game 1 of the National League Playoff. It was the Braves' move to Milwaukee, with is (then) modern stadium and its huge parking lot, that made Walter O'Malley want a better ballpark for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and ultimately made him move the team to Los Angeles. Now, after the Braves have won the last 2 Pennants, there is a tie for the flag, and these 2 teams, representing cities that didn't even have teams 7 seasons ago face off at Milwaukee County Stadium.

Dodger manager Walter Alston starts Danny McDevitt, who pitched a shutout in the last game at Ebbets Field, 2 years and 4 days earlier. But he doesn't get out of the 2nd inning this time, as he falls behind, 2-1. Alston brings Larry Sherry in to relieve, and he goes the rest of the way. John Roseboro hits a home run off Carlton Willey, and the Dodgers win, 3-2, to take a 1-0 lead back to L.A.

September 28, 1995: Albert Johanneson dies of meningitis in Leeds, England. He was only 55. One of the 1st black South Africans to make it big in soccer, the left winger took to English pitches at a time when there weren't many black players in the country at all, and faced terrible discrimination.

Nevertheless, he helped Yorkshire club Leeds United gain promotion to the Football League Division One in 1964, finish runners-up in both the League and the FA Cup in 1965, and win the League in 1969.

September 28, 1998: The Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants, having finished in a tie for the NL's Wild Card berth, face each other in a Playoff game at a raucous Wrigley Field. Former Minnesota Twins World Series winner Gary Gaetti hits a home run, and Rod Beck holds off his former team to save a fine performance by Steve Traschel, and the Cubs win, 5-3.

Sammy Sosa goes 2-for-4 for the Cubbies, and scores 2 runs. Barry Bonds goes 0-for-4 for the Jints. I guess Sammy's steroids were working that night, and Barry's weren't.

September 28, 2011: One of the most remarkable days in the history of regular season baseball. The Yankees have won the American League East, with help from the Red Sox, who went 7-20 in September, a month they began by leading the Division by 1 game and the Wild Card by 9.

But the Baltimore Orioles come from 3-2 down in the bottom of the 9th at Camden Yards, as Robert Andino singles off Jonathan Papelbon to give the O's a 4-3 win. This gives the Yankees the Division title. The Sox can still win the Wild Card, but the Rays complete a sweep of the Yankees, coming from 7-0 down to win 8-7 in the 12th inning on Evan Longoria's 2nd home run of the game.

Yankee Fans have a good laugh, though: The Sox become the 1st team ever to miss the Playoffs completely after having a 9-game lead for any berth in September. The Sox may have won the World Series twice in the last 8 years, but this night adds to their long list of chokes.

The Atlanta Braves also choke, having led the St. Louis Cardinals by 10 1/2 games for the NL Wild Card on August 25, but going 11-20 since, while the Cards went 23-9. On the final day, the Cards beat the Houston Astros 8-0 as Chris Carpenter pitches a 2-hit shutout, while the Braves lose to the Phillies, 4-3 in 13 innings. The Braves are out.

Also on this day, the Florida Marlins play their last game under that name and at the Miami Dolphins' stadium. They lose 3-1 to the Washington Nationals, ending 19 years of play in the suburb of Miami Gardens. The next season, they will be named the Miami Marlins, and move to the new, garish, retractable-roof Marlins Park, built on the Little Havana site of the Orange Bowl.

*

September 29, 1932: Game 2 of the World Series. The Chicago Cubs take a 1-0 in the 1st inning, but the Yankees score 2 in the bottom half, and Lefty Gomez handles the Cubs the rest of the way. The Yankees win, 5-2, and take a 2 games to 0 lead as the Series heads out to Chicago.

September 29, 1937: Ray Ewry dies on Long Island at age 63. He was America's 1st great Olympic medalwinner, albeit in standing jumps, events that are no longer contested. He won 8 Gold Medals: The standing long, high and triple jumps at Paris in 1900; all 3 again at St. Louis in 1904; and the long and high jumps at London in 1908.

September 29, 1943: Wolfgang Overath is born in Siegburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. A midfielder for FC Köln, he helped them win the 1st Bundesliga title in 1964, and the DFB-Pokal (Germany's version of the FA Cup) in 1968 and 1977.

He competed for Germany in 3 World Cups, losing to England in the 1966 Final, finishing 3rd in 1970, and winning it on home soil in 1974. He is still alive.

September 29, 1954: Willie Mays makes The Catch. It was Game 1 of the World Series. The New York Giants had won the National League Pennant, beating out their crosstown rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Cleveland Indians had won the American League Pennant, winning League record 111 games to beat out the Yankees, who had won the last 5 World Series. Indeed, the last 8 AL Pennants had been won by the Indians (1948 & '54) and the Yankees (1947, '49, '50, '51, '52 & '53).

Game 1 was played at the Polo Grounds in New York. The game was tied 2-2 in the top of the 8th, but the Indians got Larry Doby on 2nd base and Al Rosen on 1st with nobody out.

Giant manager Leo Durocher pulled starting pitcher Sal Maglie, and brought in Don Liddle, a lefthander, to face the lefty slugger Vic Wertz, and only Wertz. Somehow, this got into Joe Torre's head (despite being a native of Brooklyn, Torre says he grew up as a Giants fan) and into Joe Girardi's binder (Girardi wasn't even born for another 10 years).

Liddle pitched, and Wertz swung, and drove the ball out to center field. The Polo Grounds was shaped more like a football stadium, so its foul poles were incredibly close: 279 feet to left field and 257 to right. In addition, the upper deck overhung the field a little, so the distances were actually even closer. But if you didn't pull the ball, it was going to stay in play. Most of the center field fence was 425 feet from home plate. A recess in center field, leading to a blockhouse that served as both teams' clubhouses -- why they were in center field, instead of under the stands, connected to the dugouts, is a mystery a long-dead architect will have to answer -- was 483 feet away.

Mays, at this point in his career, was already a big star. Just 23 years old, he had won that season's NL batting title. He had been NL Rookie of the Year in 1951, but had missed most of the 1952 season and all of 1953 serving in the U.S. Army, having been drafted into service in the Korean War. He had become known for playing stickball in the streets of Harlem with local boys in the morning, and then going off to the Polo Grounds to play real baseball in the afternoon. This raised his profile, and made him an accessible figure to City kids. His cap flying off as he ran around the bases, his defensive wizardry, and his yelling of, "Say hey!" endeared him to Giant fans.

While he made the "basket catch" nationally popular, he didn't invent it. In fact, he wasn't even the 1st Giant to use it, as 3rd baseman Bill Rigney, who would succeed Durocher as manager in 1956, was using it in the 1940s.

Even so, the days when the Giants were the team in New York sports were long gone, this week's events notwithstanding. At this moment, Mays was, in the public consciousness, where Babe Ruth was in May 1920, where Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams were in May 1941, where Mickey Mantle was in May 1956, where Reggie Jackson was in September 1977, where Roger Clemens was in April 1986, where Derek Jeter was in September 1996, where David Ortiz was in September 2004: A star, well-known and popular, but not yet a legend.

Mays ran back to try to catch the ball. In mid-stride, he thumped his fist into his mitt. His teammates, who had seen this gesture before, knew that this meant that he thought he would catch it. But most fans, who didn't watch him every day, didn't know this. Watching on television (NBC, Channel 4 in New York), they figured the ball would go over his head, scoring Doby and Rosen, and that Wertz, not exactly fleet of foot, had a chance at a triple, or even an inside-the-park home run.

Willie has said many times that he was already thinking of the throw back to the infield, hoping to hold Doby to only 3rd base.

With his back to the ball all the way, he caught the ball over his head, stopped, pivoted, and threw the ball back to the infield. Doby did get only to 3rd.

The announcers were Jack Brickhouse, who normally did the home games for both of Chicago's teams, the Cubs and the White Sox, but was the lead announcer for NBC in this Series; and Russ Hodges, the usual Giants announcer, made nationally famous 3 years earlier when Bobby Thomson's home run made him yell, "The Giants win the Pennant!" over and over again.

Brickhouse: "There's a long drive, way back in center field, way back, back, it is... Oh, what a catch by Mays! The runner on second, Doby, is able to tag and go to third. Willie Mays just brought this crowd to its feet with a catch which must have been an optical illusion to a lot of people. Boy! See where that 483 foot mark is in center field? The ball itself... Russ, you know this ballpark better than anyone else I know. Had to go about 460, didn't it?"

Hodges: "It certainly did, and I don't know how Willie did it, but he's been doing it all year."

It has been argued by many, including Bob Feller, the pitching legend sitting on the Indians' bench, that the reason so much is made of this catch, to the point where it is known as The Catch, capital T, Capital C, is that it was in New York, it was in the World Series, and it was on television. "It was far from the best catch I've ever seen," Feller said. Mays himself would say he'd made better catches. But none more consequential.

Durocher yanked Liddle, and brought in Marv Grissom. Upon reaching the Giant dugout, Liddle told his teammates, "Well, I got my man."

Yeah, Don. You got him. As Jim Bouton, then a 15-year-old Giant fan who'd recently moved from Rochelle Park, Bergen County, New Jersey to the Chicago suburb of Chicago Heights, Illinois, would later say, "Yeah, surrrre!"

Grissom walked Dale Mitchell to load the bases with only 1 out. But he struck out Dave Pope, and got Jim Hegan to fly out, to end the threat.

When the Giants got back to the dugout, they told Willie what a hard catch it was. He said, "You kiddin'? I had that one all the way."

The game went to extra innings. Future Hall-of-Famer Bob Lemon went the distance for the Tribe, but in the bottom of the 10th, he walked Mays, who stole 2nd. Then he intentionally walked Hank Thompson to set up an inning-ending double play. It didn't happen: Durocher sent Dusty Rhodes up to pinch-hit for left fielder Monte Irvin, and Rhodes hit the ball down the right-field line. It just sort of squeaked into the stands.

On the film, it looks a little like a fan reached out, and it bounced off his hand. A proto-Jeffrey Maier? To this day, no one has seriously argued that the call should be overturned.

The game was over: Giants 5, Indians 2. The Indians, heavily favored to win the Series, never recovered, and the Giants swept. The Series ended on October 2, tied with 1932 for the 2nd-earliest end to a World Series. (In 1918, the season was shortened due to World War I, and ended on September 11.)

Still alive from this game, 60 years later, are: From the Giants: Mays, Irvin, and shortstop Alvin Dark; from the Indians, Rosen, and his usual backup, a pinch-runner in this game, Rudy Regalado.

Victor Woodrow Wertz, a native of Reading, Pennsylvania, was a right fielder and 1st baseman. He made his name with the Detroit Tigers, hit 266 home runs in his career, had 5 100-plus RBI seasons, and made 4 All-Star Teams. He went 4-for-5 with 2 RBIs in this game. He should be remembered as more than a man who hit a 460-foot (or so) drive that was caught, while another guy in the same game hit a 260-foot drive that won the game as a home run. He died in 1983, aged only 58.

Willie Howard Mays Jr., a native of Fairfield, Alabama, outside Birmingham, became one of baseball's greatest legends. He hit 660 home runs, collected 3,283 hits, made 24 All-Star Games (there were 2 every season from 1959 to 1962), won a Gold Glove the 1st 12 seasons it was given out (1957 to 1968), won the 1954 and 1965 NL Most Valuable Player awards, and played on 4 Pennant winners -- but 1954 would be his only title.

The Giants, with whom he moved to San Francisco in 1958, retired his Number 24, dedicated a statue to him outside AT&T Park, and made its official address 24 Willie Mays Plaza. He played with the Giants until 1972, when he was traded to the Mets, going back to New York at age 41. He retired in 1973, and the Mets have rarely given out Number 24 since.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in his 1st year of eligibility, 1979. In 1999, he was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team, and The Sporting News put him at Number 2 on its list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players -- 2nd only to the long-dead Babe Ruth, so Willie was tops among living players. No player has since come along to suggest otherwise -- not later Giant Barry Bonds, not Derek Jeter. Willie is 85 years old.

September 29, 1955: Game 2 of the World Series. Tommy Byrne goes the distance and singles in a run, as the Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers, 4-2.

The Yankees have a 2-games-to-0 lead as the Series goes to Brooklyn. Dem Bums is in deep trouble.

September 29, 1957: The Giants play the last game at the Polo Grounds, their owner Horace Stoneham having already announced that they're moving to San Francisco. Unlike the Brooklyn Dodgers, who played their last home game at Ebbets Field 5 days earlier, they have a farewell ceremony, including Blanche McGraw, widow of longtime manager John, who said that the move would have broken his heart.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, unable to even score off the Dodgers on Tuesday night, beat the Giants on Sunday afternoon, 9-1. The crowd is a pathetically small 11,606, and storms the field after the game. At one point, they gather at the center field blockhouse that included both teams' locker room, chanting for Mays, "We want Willie!" And, to the tune of "Good Night, Ladies," they sing, "We want Stoneham! We want Stoneham! We want Stoneham, with a rope around his neck!"

Stoneham had already said that the fans had no one to blame but themselves, as they hadn't shown up in sufficient numbers, borne out by the small crowd at the finale: "I feel bad for the kids, but I haven't seen too many of their fathers lately."

September 29, 1959: Game 2 of the National League Playoff, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Like in 1946, but not 1951, the Dodgers make sure the Playoff series doesn't go to a Game 3. They score 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th to send the game to extra innings. With 2 outs in the 12th, Gil Hodges draws a walk, Joe Pignatano singles, and Carl Furillo singles home Hodges with the Pennant-winning run, 6-5.

The Dodgers had won the 1st Pennant by any team west of St. Louis. The City of Milwaukee has had just 1 Pennant winner in the 56 years since, the 1982 Brewers; and the Braves wouldn't win another Pennant for 32 years, and by that point they were in their 26th season in Atlanta.

September 29, 1976, 40 years ago: Andriy Mykolayovych Shevchenko is born in Dvirkivschyna, Ukraine, then a part of the Soviet Union. The striker led Dynamo Kyiv to the Ukrainian Premier League title in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999; and to the Ukrainian Cup in 1996, 1998 and 1999 (all 3 of them League and Cup "Doubles").

He moved on to AC Milan, winning the Coppa Italia and the Champions League in 2003, and Serie A (Italy's national league) in 2004, also winning the Ballon d'Or as world player of the year. At West London club Chelsea, he won the FA Cup and the League Cup in 2007, known as the "Cup Double."

This past June, he was appointed manager of the Ukraine national team, and is regarded as the country's greatest player ever. He is married to Polish-American model Kristen Pazik. They met at a party held by the Giorgio Armani company, and speak Italian to each other. They have 4 sons.

September 29, 1977: Billy Joel releases his album The Stranger, including the title track, "Just the Way You Are," "Only the Good Die Young," "She's Always a Woman," and perhaps his best (if not his most-played) song, "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," a.k.a. "The Ballad of Brenda and Eddie." Or "Brender 'n' Eddie." It is one of the greatest albums in history.

This album wouldn't seem to have anything to do with sports, but the cover does show a pair of boxing gloves hanging from a nail on the wall.

On the same day, at Madison Square Garden, a building Billy owns as much as Willis Reed or Mark Messier ever would, Muhammad Ali barely hangs onto the Heavyweight Championship of the World, needing to win the 15th and final round to win by a close decision.

September 29, 1981: Bill Shankly dies of a heart attack in Liverpool at age 68. As a player, the Scotsman was a good defender, helping Lancashire club Preston North End win the 1938 FA Cup. But, like contemporaries Matt Busby and Stan Cullis, also good players at the time, he truly made his mark as a manager.

He became manager of Liverpool Football Club in 1959, and got them promoted to the Football League Division One in 1962, and they have never left. He led them to League titles in 1964, 1966 and 1973; the 1965 and 1974 FA Cups; and the 1973 UEFA Cup. His last match before retiring was the 1974 Charity Shield, England's annual season-opening match between the previous season's winners of the League and the Cup. Liverpool beat Leeds United, but the match was marred by a fight between Liverpool's Kevin Keegan and Leeds' Billy Bremner.

Although his assistant-turned-successor Bob Paisley led Liverpool to more glories, "Shanks" is still the most beloved figure in the club's history. A statue of him now stands outside the stadium, Anfield, which also has an entrance known as the Shankly Gates.

September 29, 1984: Per Mertesacker (no middle name) is born in Hannover, Lower Saxony, Germany. The 6-foot-6 centreback starred for hometown club Hannover 96, then won the 2009 DFB-Pokal at Werder Bremen, before moving to North London's Arsenal in 2011.

Arsenal fans -- fans of "The Gunners" are known as "Gooners" -- immediately embraced the man they called, in a nod to Roald Dahl's novel, the BFG. In the novel, it stands for "Big Friendly Giant"; to Gooners, it stands for "Big Fucking German." He has led the club to the 2014 and 2015 FA Cups, and is now the club's Captain. He also won the World Cup with Germany in 2014.

September 29, 1988: Kevin Wayne Durant is born in Washington, D.C. A 6-time All-Star, he's already played in an NBA Finals for the Oklahoma City Thunder (2012) and won an NBA MVP award (2014).

September 29, 2015: The Los Angeles Dodgers win their 3rd straight National League Western Division title, and away to their arch-rivals, no less. Clayton Kershaw pitches a 1-hit, 13-strikeout, 1-walk shutout, and the Giants beat the San Francisco Giants, 8-0 at AT&T Park. However, the Dodgers still have Don Mattingly as manager. The Curse of Donnie Baseball will strike again.

On this same day, across the Bay, the Oakland Athletics announce the hiring of Dr. Justine Siegal, to pitch batting practice for their off-season Instructional League team, in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, Arizona. This makes her the 1st female coach to be hired by a Major League Baseball team. This is the closest any woman has ever gotten to a major league roster.

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September 30, 1926, 90 years ago: Robin Evan Roberts is born in Springfield, Illinois. He was the captain of the basketball team at Michigan State University in 1950, but it would be in baseball where he would make his mark. He was the biggest reason the Philadelphia Phillies' "Whiz Kids" won the 1950 National League Pennant.

He was a 7-time All-Star, and 7 times won 20 or more games, 6 seasons in a row. In 1952, he won 28 games, a feat not achieved by any major league pitcher since, with 1 exception: Denny McLain with 31 in 1968. His career record, despite pitching for some terrible Phillies teams, was 286-246.

He is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the team halls of fame of the Phillies and the Baltimore Orioles. Phillies fans elected him their greatest all-time player in a 1969 poll, and named him to their Centennial Team in 1983. The Phillies made his Number 36 the 1st they ever retired, made him their 1st inductee into the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame (along with longtime Athletics owner and manager Connie Mack), and dedicated a statue of him outside Citizens Bank Park. A minor-league ballpark in Springfield is named Robin Roberts Stadium, and he is also in the Philadelphia Sports, Pennsylvania Sports and Michigan State University Athletics Halls of Fame.

He died in 2010, having lived to see their 1976-83 quasi-dynasty, the replacement of Connie Mack Stadium with Veterans Stadium, the replacement of The Vet with The Bank, the dedication of his statue, and their 2008 World Championship and 2009 Pennant.

He is not related to Robin René Roberts, the African-American ABC journalist who got her start doing sports on ESPN. She played basketball at Southeastern Louisiana University. Like Robin Evan (17), Robin René got her college basketball uniform number retired (21).

September 30, 1927: Babe Ruth hits a drive down the right field line at Yankee Stadium, off Tom Zachary of the Washington Senators. It is his 60th home run of the season, breaking the record of 59 that he set in 1921. The Yankees win the game 4-2. Herb Pennock is the winning pitcher, in relief of George Pipgras.

When Ruth gets back tot he dugout, he says, "Sixty! Count 'em, sixty! Let's see some other son of a bitch match that!"

Not until 1961 -- 34 years and 1 day later -- would another player match it. Roger Maris, also a right fielder for the Yankees, did, and surpassed it. Much is made of the small crowd when Maris hit Number 61, but when Ruth hit Number 60, only 8,000 showed up on a Saturday afternoon. It should be noted though that, in each case, the Yankees had already wrapped up the American League Pennant.

This game is notable for another reason: It was the last major league playing appearance for Walter Johnson, the Senators pitcher who would, like Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson, be 1 of the 1st 5 players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Oddly, he did not appear as a pitcher, although he could have, had the Senators tied it and sent it to the bottom of the 9th: The Big Train pinch-hit for Zachary. He did not reach base.

September 30, 1936, 80 years ago: Game 1 of the World Series. George Selkirk hits a home run, but that's the only run Carl Hubbell, in the middle of his 24-game regular-season winning streak, allows, as the New York Giants beat the Yankees 6-1 at the Polo Grounds. Dick Bartell homers for the Jints.

September 30, 1942: Game 1 of the World Series. Red Ruffing of the Yankees takes a no-hitter into the 8th inning against the St. Louis Cardinals, before Terry Moore breaks it up with 2 out. In the bottom of the 9th, the Cardinals score 4 runs, and then manage to load the bases, bringing Stan Musial -- then a rookie, a few years away from getting his nickname "Stan the Man," but already one of the game's top hitters -- to the plate as the winning run.

Yankee manager Joe McCarthy brings Spurgeon "Spud" Chandler in to relieve. He gets Musial to ground out. Final score: Yankees 7, Cardinals 4.

As historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, 3 months away from being born, would later say, "There's always these omens in baseball." Going into that bottom of the 9th, the Yankees led 7-0. Over the rest of the Series, including that bottom of the 9th, the Cardinals outscored the Yankees 21-11.

September 30, 1944: James Connolly Johnstone in born in Viewpark (now Uddingston), a suburb of Glasgow, Scotland. An outside right (a right winger in today's formations), Jimmy Johnstone, a.k.a. Jinky, played for hometown soccer team Celtic from 1961 to 1975, winning 9 League titles and 4 Scottish Cups, and was voted the club's greatest player ever by its fans.

In 1967, he was the big star of their team that became the 1st British side to win the European Cup (the tournament now known as the UEFA Champions League), defeating Internazionale Milano at Lisbon, Portugal (earning the team the nickname the Lisbon Lions). Later that year, he played for the Scotland national team that beat World Cup holders England, leading Scottish fans to proclaim their team "World Champions." (It doesn't work that way, as boxing does.)

In 1975, he played for the original San Jose Earthquakes, in the original North American Soccer League. He died in 2006.

September 30, 1945: John Sissons (no middle name) is born in Hayes, Middlesex -- now a part of West London. A forward, he was a member of the West Ham United team that won the 1964 FA Cup and the 1965 European Cup Winners' Cup. He briefly played in America, helping the Tampa Bay Rowdies win the 1975 North American Soccer League title. He is still alive.

September 30, 1946, 70 years ago: Bernardus Adriaan Hulshoff is born in Deventer, Netherlands. We know him as Barry Hulshoff. Playing for Amsterdam soccer team AFC Ajax, the centreback won 7 national league (Eredivisie) titles, 4 national cups (KNVB Beker), and 3 straight European Cups (the tournament now known as the UEFA Champions League), in 1971, '72 and '73.

Despite his playing pedigree, he only played 14 times for the Netherlands national team, and never made their World Cup squad. He later managed Ajax and several teams in the Netherlands and Belgium, but has been out of soccer since 2002.

September 30, 1947: Game 1 of the World Series. The Brooklyn Dodgers have won the Pennant, and, all together, Jackie Robinson and his 24 white teammates, stand on the 3rd-base line at Yankee Stadium, hearing the National Anthem. Jackie would write in his memoir I Never Had It Made that this was the highlight of his career: Not only that he had played in the white major leagues, but that he had been accepted by his teammates, and, together, they had succeeded. They were the National League Champions.

But they still had a World Series to play, in front of 73,365 people -- over twice the capacity of Ebbets Field. Dodger Captain Pee Wee Reese scores all the way from 2nd base on a wild pitch by rookie starter Frank "Spec" Shea in the 7th inning. But that's the only real highlight for the Dodgers, as the Yankees batter 21-year-old 21-game winner Ralph Branca for 5 runs in the 5th, and go on to win 5-3.

*

September 30, 1951: After being 13 1/2 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers on August 11, the New York Giants think they have the Pennant won, as they beat the Boston Braves 3-2 at Braves Field in Boston. The hero, with a home run, is 3rd baseman Bobby Thomson.

But the Dodgers, having blown that huge lead, aren't done yet. At Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Jackie Robinson makes a sensational catch at 2nd base in the bottom of the 12th inning, then hits a home run in the top of the 14th, and the Dodgers beat the Philadelphia Phillies 9-8. There will be a best-2-out-of-3 Playoff for the National League Pennant, starting the next day.

A coin is tossed to determine home-field advantage. The Dodgers win the toss -- and elect to host Game 1 at Ebbets Field, thus letting the Giants host Games 2 and 3 at the Polo Grounds. This will turn out to be one of the greatest blunders in the history of baseball.

In the meantime, the American League Champions, the Yankees, wait to see whom they will face in the World Series. Rookie right fielder, and center fielder in waiting, Mickey Mantle asks his teammates who he should root for. He's told it should be the Giants, since Ebbets Field seats only 31,000 people, while the Polo Grounds seats 56,000, and the gate receipts, and thus the winners' share, will be much bigger if the Giants win.

September 30, 1953: Game 1 of the World Series. Gil Hodges, George "Shotgun" Shuba and Jim "Junior" Gilliam hit home runs for the Dodgers. It's not enough, as Yogi Berra and Joe Collins do the same for the Yankees, who win 9-5.

Johnny Sain is the winning pitcher. The Yankees gave up Lew Burdette to get Sain from the Boston Braves. Burdette would help the Braves, by then in Milwaukee, drive the Yankees crazy in the 1957 and '58 Series. But Sain helped the Yankees big-time, so it was an even trade.

September 30, 1955: Game 3 of the World Series. The Dodgers get back into the Series, thanks to the pitching of Johnny Podres and a home run by Roy Campanella. They beat the Yankees 8-3, and close to within 2 games to 1.

September 30, 1956, 60 years ago: The Detroit Tigers beat the Cleveland Indians, 8-4 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Wayne Belardi hits a home run, and Billy Hoeft wins his 20th game of the season.

The losing pitcher is Bob Feller, who falls to 0-4 on the season, and 266-162 for his career, with 2,581 strikeouts, despite missing nearly 4 full seasons due to military service. Nearly 38, this is the last major league appearance for perhaps the best pitcher of his generation. It is interesting that it happens on the 29th Anniversary of Walter Johnson's last appearance.

September 30, 1962: Franklin Edmundo Rijkaard is born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The son of immigrants from the Netherlands' South American colony of Surinam (now an independent country), the Jheri-curled midfielder helped hometown club Ajax win 5 Eredivisie (Dutch league) titles and the 1995 Champions League.

This was in 2 separate stints with the club. In between, he played in Italy for AC Milan, along with fellow Dutchman Marco Van Basten and fellow Dutch-Surinamese Ruud Gullit. Together, they combined Dutch totalvoetbaal, South American samba, and Italian catenaccio defense to form perhaps the best club side in soccer history, winning 2 Serie A (Italian league) titles, and the European Cup in 1989 and 1990 -- still the last team to win the tournament now named the Champions League back-to-back.

The 3 Milan players also helped the Netherlands win their only international tournament to date, Euro 1988. Rijkaard also managed Barcelona to the 2005 and 2006 La Liga (Spanish league) titles and the 2006 Champions League. He and Carlo Ancelotti, another of his Milan teammates, are the only men to win the Champions League as both a player and a manager.

September 30, 1966, 50 years ago: The Yankees lose 6-5 to the Chicago White Sox in 11 innings at Comiskey Park. Roger Maris hits a home run, his last as a Yankee. But a single by Johnny Romano drives in ayne Causey, and makes a 20-game loser out of Mel Stottlemyre.

This drops the Yankees' record to 68-89, and assures that they will finish in 10th place in the single-division American League. This is the 1st time in 54 years that the Yankees have finished in last place. They have only done so once more, in 1990.

September 30, 1967: The Boston Red Sox host the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park on the next-to-last day of the season. They and the Detroit Tigers are all still eligible for the AL Pennant.

Oddly, NBC is not televising it as the Game of the Week. Fortunately, Boston's Channel 5, then WHDH, a CBS affiliate (it's now WCVB and part of ABC), is televising it, and keeps a copy. As far as we know, this is the earliest surviving entire color TV broadcast of a Major League Baseball game.

Twins starter Jim Kaat is cruising until the 3rd inning, when he is injured and has to leave the game. Jim Perry comes in, and holds the Sox off until the 5th. Reggie Smith leads off with a double, and Dalton Jones singles. Perry strikes out opposing pitcher Jose Santiago and Mike Andrews, but Jerry Adair and Carl Yastrzemski use back-to-back singles to turn a 1-0 Twins lead into 2-1 Red Sox.

The Twins tie the game in the 6th, but home runs by George Scott in the 6th and Yaz in the 7th make it 6-2 Sox. Harmon Killebrew homers for the Twins in the 9th, by Gary Bell (later to become famous as Jim Bouton's Seattle Pilots roommate in Ball Four) shuts the down, and the Sox win, 6-4.

The Sox and Twins are now tied. Whichever wins tomorrow will have at least a tie for the Pennant. The Tigers are rained out, and will play a doubleheader. If they sweep, a Playoff will be necessary. If they only split, the Sox-Twins winner takes the flag.

Also on this day, Philadelphia's new arena, The Spectrum, opens across from the north end zone at John F. Kennedy Stadium. To the north of The Spectrum, construction is underway on Veterans Stadium, to be the new home of MLB's Phillies and the NFL's Eagles.

The 1st event at The Spectrum is the Quaker Jazz Festival. Over the next few weeks, the NBA's 76ers and the NHL's Flyers will move in. Villanova University will also use it for games whose ticket demand exceed their on-campus arena. The building will be home to 4 championship teams: The back-to-back Stanley Cups of the Flyers in 1974 and 1975, the 76ers' 1983 NBA title, and Villanova's 1985 NCAA Championship.

It will be replaced as home of the Sixers, Flyers and 'Nova, and as the Delaware Valley's leading concert center, in 1996, by the building now known as the Wells Fargo Center, which will be built on the site of JFK Stadium. It will be demolished in 2010.

*

September 30, 1978: Ed Figueroa becomes the 1st pitcher born in Puerto Rico to win 20 games in a season (and is still the only one), pitching a 5-hit shutout. The Yankees knock Cleveland starter Mike Paxton out of the box before he can get an out, and Rick Wise pitches the rest of the way, with Reggie Jackson homering off him in the 5th inning. (Mr. October was pretty good in September, too.) Given the boost, Figgy cruises to a 7-0 victory at Yankee Stadium.

The next day is the last day of the regular season. All the Yankees need to do is beat the Indians again, or have the Boston Red Sox lose to the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park, and the Yankees will win their 3rd straight American League Eastern Division title.

They didn't get the win, and they didn't get the Boston loss. It would go to a Playoff at Fenway. Well, we know how that story ends, don't we?

September 30, 1986, 30 years ago: Olivier Giroud (no middle name) is born in Chambéry, Rhône-Alpes, France, and grows up in nearby Froges, near the 1968 Winter Olympic city of Grenoble. The forward starred for local club Grenoble 38 Foot and Tours FC, before leading the national league, Ligue 1, in scoring in 2011-12, and leading his club, Montpellier, to an improbable title.

That convinced Arsène Wenger, manager of North London team Arsenal, to sign him. Despite constant complaints from people for whom 2nd place is "failure" and 4th place (out of 20 in the English Premier League) is "midtable mediocrity" that he doesn't score enough, or that he isn't "world-class" or "clinical," the man known as Oli G has scored 57 goals in 137 appearances over the last 4 years. He also helped get the French national team to the Final of Euro 2016.

When he scores, the Arsenal fans sing, to the Beatles' "Hey Jude," "Na, na na, na na na na... Na na na na... Giroud!" They also sing, to "The Roof Is On Fire" by Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three, "Giroud! Giroud! Giroud is on fire!" He makes women swoon with his face and physique, and goalkeepers cry with his feet and, as sportscaster Arlo White put it, "The meaty French forehead of Olivier Giroud!"

September 30, 1996, 20 years ago: His contract with Japanese soccer team Nagoya Grampus Eight having run out, Arsène Wenger is free to manage another team, and he officially takes charge as manager of Arsenal Football Club of North London.

Wenger wasn't much of a player, winning Ligue 1 as a defensive midfielder at his hometown club, Racing Club Strasbourg Alsace (usually just listed as "Strasbourg"), in 1979. But as manager of AS Monaco, which is in the French league even though Monaco is a separate (but tiny) country, he won Ligue 1 in 1988 and the national cup, the Coupe de France, in 1991. He led Nagoya to Japan's national cup, the Emperor's Cup, in 1995.

Just short of his 47th birthday, and already successful as a manager, he seemed like a good choice for The Arsenal, who had won 6 trophies from 1987 to 1994, but had struggled in the Premier League, finishing 10th in 1993, 4th in 1994, 12th in 1995, and 5th in 1996.

But, at the time, it was rare for a manager not from the British Isles to manage in England. One newspaper printed the headline, "ARSENE WHO?" No less a personage than Arsenal's captain, centreback Tony Adams, asked, "What does this Frenchman know about English football?"

He knew enough to know that Adams had recently made a public admission of being a recovering alcoholic. He straightened out the team's diet (including no booze the night before a game) and exercise program. He also brought in several European players, including fellow Frenchmen Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and Nicolas Anelka, and Dutchman Marc Overmars. Together with already-present Dutch star Dennis Bergkamp, and the club's English core of Adams, David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn, Martin Keown, David Platt, Ray Parlour and the legendary striker Ian Wright, In 1997, he finished his 1st season in charge in 3rd place. In 1998, he won the Premier League and the FA Cup, a.k.a. "doing The Double."

He finished runner-up in both in 1999, and Anelka, only 19 years old, thought his performances demanded a big raise, or a sale to a bigger club. Wenger sold him to Real Madrid, and used half the profits to build a new training ground, and the other half to buy young French winger Thierry Henry, whom he converted into a striker, who broke Wright's club record for career goals. Wenger would also sign a great pair of wingers in Sweden's Freddie Ljungberg (in 1998) and France's Robert Pires (in 2000), develop great young defenders in Ashley Cole and Kolo Toure, and make the stunning acquisition (in 2001) of English centreback Sol Campbell, who had been captain of Arsenal's North London arch-rivals, Tottenham Hotspur.

Wenger finished 2nd and lost the UEFA Cup Final in 2000, finished 2nd and lost the FA Cup Final in 2001, won The Double again in 2002, finished 2nd and won another FA Cup in 2003, and, in the 2003-04 season, did something that had not been done since the League had only a 22-game season: He went unbeaten. As the broadcaster said after it was achieved: "Played 38, won 26, drawn 12, lost exactly none!" He would win another FA Cup in 2005, and reach the Final of the UEFA Champions League in 2006.

But the Arsenal Stadium, a.k.a. Highbury after its neighborhood, only seated 38,000, and its east and west stands had been built in the 1930s. A modern stadium was needed if Arsenal was to compete, but paying for it meant that transactions needed to be made, perhaps sacrificing trophies for expediency. The new Emirates Stadium opened in 2006, and here's what happened: Arsenal lost the League Cup Final in 2007, finished 2nd in the League in 2008, reached the Semifinals of the Champion League and the FA Cup in 2009, lost the League Cup Final in 2011, just barely scraped into Champions League qualification in 2012 and 2013, were struck by several injuries in just about every season, and had to sell several players because of financial concerns: Vieira in 2005, Pires in 2006, Henry in 2007, Manuel Almunia and Gilberto Silva in 2008, Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor in 2009, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in 2011, and Robin van Persie in 2012.

But Wenger built another great team: Signing Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky in 2006, Bacary Sagna in 2007, Aaron Ramsey in 2008, Laurent Koscielny in 2010, Per Mertesacker and Héctor Bellerín in 2011, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla in 2012, Mesut Özil and Nacho Monreal in 2013, Alexis Sánchez in 2014, Petr Čech in 2015, Mohamed Elneny in this year's January transfer window, and, just this summer, Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Pérez. The result has been continuous Champions League knockout round qualification, and the FA Cup in 2014 and 2015.

Wenger is known for his clichés, which seem a little grammatically odd when they move from his French mind to his English words: A player who is good, "He has the quality"; if he's smart, "He has the mental strength"; if he's unsure of himself, "He lacks the confidence"; and dropping the qualifier "a little bit" into phrases, i.e., "He lacked a little bit the confidence." He doesn't like it when opposing players foul his, but when one of his players is charged, he tells the media, "I did not see it."

His critics like to say, "The game has passed him by," "His tactics are shit," and that it's time for him to go. But he has just about paid off the new stadium, meaning he can put the profits into the team for a change. And, despite the crunched finances, he has kept The Arsenal in contention for trophies. He is a remarkable man, an idealist in a cynical age. Whereas some managers want to win in the worst way, he wants to win in the best way. He's done it before. Turning 67 on October 22, I have no doubt that he will again.

September 30, 1997: Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium. What is expected to be a pitchers' duel between wily veterans David Cone of the Yankees and Orel Hershiser of the Cleveland Indians does not develop.

The Indians torch Coney for 5 runs in the 1st inning. In the bottom of the 6th, it is 6-3 Cleveland. But Tim Raines, Derek Jeter and Paul O'Neill hit 3 straight home runs, to win the game 8-6, with Ramiro Mendoza getting the win in relief.

*

September 30, 2006, 10 years ago: On Arsène Wenger’s 10th Anniversary in charge, Arsenal visit South London club Charlton Athletic, and win 2-1. Robin van Persie scores a wonder goal.

van Persie could have been an all-time legend at Arsenal if he had stayed, or at his hometown club, Feyenoord in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, had he stayed there. Instead, he got greedy, and demanded to be sold. He has moved on to Manchester United, where he won the League title in 2013, then saw manager Alex Ferguson retire, leaving the club in a bit of a mess. Now, he plays for Fenerbahçe in Istanbul, Turkey.

He could have been a legend. Instead, he has become a footnote in the history of every team for whom he's played. That is what he got along with that 1 League title. Was it worth it?

Also on this date, Julio Franco breaks his own record as the oldest player ever to hit a home run in a major league game. He's 48 years old as he takes Beltran Perz deep in the 2nd inning. David Wright, Shawn Green, Ramon Castro and Endy Chavez also homer for the Mets, who beat the Washington Nationals, 13-0 at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington.

The Mets are the Champions of the National League Eastern Division -- the only time they will finish 1st between 1988 and 2015. They are the favorites for the NL Pennant as the regular season comes to an end.

September 30, 2007: This is the game that got Tom Glavine branded "The Manchurian Brave" by Met fans. Having led the NL East by 7 games with 17 to go, the Mets have collapsed, but they go into the regular-season finale, against the Florida Marlins at Shea Stadium, needing a win or a Philadelphia Phillies loss to clinch their 2nd straight NL East title, and a win or a Colorado Rockies loss to at least win the 1 Wild Card available at the time.

Glavine starts. He walks Hanley Ramirez. He gets Dan Uggla to ground into a force play at 2nd base. So far, not terrible. But the roof caves in. He gives up a single to Jeremy Hermida. He gives up a single to Miguel Cabrera, scoring Ramirez. He gives up a double to Cody Ross, and when the ball comes back to him in the infield, he tries to throw Ross out at 3rd, and makes a bad throw, and he becomes the 3rd run of the at-bat.

He allows a single to Mike Jacobs. He walks Matt Treanor. He gives up a single to future Met Alejandro de Aza, loading the bases. He faces the opposing starting pitcher, Dontrelle Willis, and hits him, forcing Jacobs in. Manager Willie Randolph has seen enough, and removes him with the score 5-0. He'd faced all 9 batters in the Marlin starting lineup, and had gotten exactly 1 of them out.

Jorge Sosa is the new pitcher, and he strikes Ramirez out. But he allows a double to Uggla, who drives in Treanor and de Aza, both of whose runs are charged to Glavine. When he finally gets Hermida to ground to 1st, it is Marlins 7, Mets 0.

By the time one of the most traumatic days in Met history is over, the Mets have used 8 pitchers, and lost 8-1. The Phillies beat the Nationals, 6-1 at Citizens Bank Park, and win a Playoff berth and the Division for the 1st time in 14 years. And the Rockies complet their own amazing surge, beating the Arizona Diamondbacks, 4-3 at Coors Field. It's not enough to win them the NL West, but it's enough to get them a tie with the San Diego Padres for the Wild Card berth, instead of it going to the Mets.

"I'm not devastated," Glavine says after the game. "I'm disappointed, but devastation is for much greater things in life." Feeling pretty devastated themselves, Met fans never forgive him for this, and he never pitches for them again. He is released, and returns to Atlanta for a final season.

September 30, 2014: The current and former Kansas City teams face off in the American League Wild Card game at Kauffman Stadium. The Oakland Athletics score 5 runs in the top of the 6th inning to take a 5-2 lead over the Kansas City Royals, but the Royals score 3 in the bottom of the 8th to stun the A's and send the game to extra innings.

It looked like the A's have it won in the top of the 12th, as Josh Reddick leads off with a walk, gets bunted to 2nd by Jed Lowrie, advances to 3rd on a wild pitch by Jason Frasor, and then scores on a single by Alberto Callaspo.

But in the bottom of the 12th, Eric Hosmer triples with 1 out, and Christian Colon singles him home with the tying run. Colon steals 2nd, and Salvador Perez singles him home with the run that puts the Royals in the Playoffs proper, 9-8.

September 30, 2015: The Toronto Blue Jays clinch their 1st AL East title, and their 1st Playoff berth, since 1993. They beat the Baltimore Orioles 15-2 at Camden Yards. And the St. Louis Cardinals defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-1 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, to clinch the NL Central title.

How to Be a Giant Fan In Green Bay -- 2016 Edition

On Sunday, October 9, the Giants will be in Wisconsin to play the Green Bay Packers. This is a rarity in the NFL: These two teams have been trying to crush each other since 1925.

Before You Go. You've heard the legends of how cold it gets in Green Bay -- and, indeed, it is further north than Toronto, roughly as far north as Plattsburgh, New York and Burlington, Vermont, which are about 300 miles north of Midtown Manhattan. However, this is the middle of September, so the bitterly cold weather they sometimes get will not be a factor.

By the way, John Facenda, the longtime Voice of NFL Films, never said, on any highlight reel, the words "the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field." (They've checked.) It is now believed that ESPN's Chris Berman, doing an impression of Facenda, made it up. Though I did hear another announcer, talking about the 1967 NFL Championship Game, the legendary Ice Bowl, say it was "a day savage enough to make a Saint Bernard whimper," and add, "It is called Russian Winter: The kind of cold that made Napoleon and Hitler flee in terror from the doorstep of Moscow. But, in Green Bay, it is known as Packer Weather."

(In fact, Hitler's troops never quite got that far, and he didn't go with them. Napoleon, to his credit, did share his troops' hardships, and they did reach Moscow, but the locals had burned it, leaving it not worth keeping, and Napoleon and his Grand Army left.)

According to the Green Bay Press Gazette, on Sunday afternoon, the temperatures should be in the high 50s. But the game will be played on Saturday night, at 7:30 PM local time, when it is projected to be in the low 40s, maybe the high 30s. So while you might not need a winter jacket in daylight, you will need one at night, during the game.

Green Bay is in the Central Time Zone, 1 hour behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. Unless you've already got them, or want to pay through the nose to a scalper, forget it. Last season, the Packers averaged 78,413 fans per home game -- a sellout. These people loved their football even before Vince Lombardi came along. Once he did, well... The Ice Bowl? Attendance that day was 50,861. That was the capacity of Lambeau Field at the time. So, for the coldest game in football history (or so it's been said), there was not one empty seat in the house.

Having sold out every seat since Lambeau opened nearly 60 years ago, and having a waiting list that makes the traffic backup at the Meadowlands seem small by comparison, tickets are simply not available at the stadium window or on the team website. I do see tickets available from the NFL Ticket Exchange on Ticketmaster, but most seem to come in pairs (in other words, you'll have to buy both seats), and they're starting at around $100. Most of them are in the $150-250 range.

Getting There. Downtown Green Bay is an even 1,000 miles from Midtown Manhattan, and Lambeau Field is 990 miles from MetLife Stadium. If you don't want to take most of a day to get there, you'll want to fly.

Yeah, good luck with that. There is an airport in Green Bay, Austin Straubel International Airport, but it doesn't have nonstop flights from New York or Newark. In fact, getting a nonstop flight from home just to General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee is something you're probably not going to be able to do. Your best bet may be to fly to Chicago and rent a car for the last... 194 miles. That's right: Instead of flying or driving, you'd have to do both.

(Billy Mitchell was an Army General from the Milwaukee suburbs, and an early advocate for air power. Austin Straubel was an Army Air Force Major from Green Bay who was killed in action in World War II.)

Forget the train: Amtrak goes to Milwaukee, but not to Green Bay, and there's no secondary service such as New Jersey Transit, Metro-North or the Long Island Rail Road to connect Wisconsin's major city with its football city.

Bus? Greyhound does go there, but you'd have to leave Port Authority, change buses in Chicago and again in Milwaukee. And, the way the schedules work out, you'll probably need 2 nights in a hotel. I don't know what your chance is of getting a hotel room within a 50-mile radius of Green Bay on an Autumn weekend is, but I'm not optimistic. Round-trip bus fare: $198. The Greyhound station is at 800 Cedar Street, at Main and Van Buren Streets.

So your best bet really is to drive. It's far enough that it will help to get someone to go with you and split the duties, and to trade off driving and sleeping. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. From this point onward, you won’t need to think about I-80 until you head home; I-90 is the key, until it merges with Interstate 94, which will merge with Interstate 43.

I-94 will split off from I-43 at downtown Milwaukee. Stay on I-43 North. Take Exit 180 to State Route 172 West. Exit onto State Route 32, and turn left on Pilgrim Way. You'll see a sign for Holmgren Way, named for the former Packer coach. On your right will be the Bay Park Square Mall. Turn right on Oneida Street. Before you reach Lombardi Avenue, you will see Lambeau Field on your left, and on your right, Green Bay's arenas: The old one, the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena; and the new one, the Resch Center (named for a local businessman, not Devils goalie-turned-broadcaster Chico Resch). The official address for the stadium is 1265 Lombardi Avenue.
The Brown County Arena, Shopko Hall (a concert venue)
and the Resch Center

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 hours and 30 minutes in Indiana, an hour and a half in Illinois, and about 3 hours in Wisconsin. That's about 17 hours and 45 minutes. Counting rest stops, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Chicago, it should be no more than 23 hours, which would save you time on Greyhound, if not on flying.

Once In the City. As you might guess, Green Bay -- named for the body of water it's on, and incorporated as a French fur-trading village in 1754, making it older than most of the big Midwestern cities -- is by far the smallest city in any of the 4 major North American sports: 104,057 people at the time of the 2010 Census, making it the 3rd-largest city in Wisconsin after Milwaukee and the State capital of Madison.

Its "metropolitan area" (if you don't count it as part of Milwaukee's) has about 300,000 people -- by comparison, Milwaukee has a little over 2 million in its area, making it the smallest in Major League Baseball. If you combine the 2 into one "market," in the NFL, they'd still be 26th out of 32, ahead of only Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Nashville, Jacksonville, Buffalo and New Orleans.

So why did Green Bay survive as an NFL city, when larger, but still not big, cities didn't get out of the NFL's founding era (1920-32)? Cities like Providence, Rhode Island; Rochester, New York; Pottsville, Pennsylvania; Canton, Ohio; Muncie, Indiana; Rock Island, Illinois; and Duluth, Minnesota? At one point, after a rocky beginning to their relationship, starting a rivalry between the teams that continues to this day, Chicago Bears boss and NFL co-founder George Halas stepped in and had his fellow team owners chip in to bail the team out of a serious debt. Between this, and the fact that the Packers are publicly owned through stock sales (the only such team in the big 4 North American sports), and the expansion of Lambeau Field, means the Packers will never have to move -- not to "nearby" Milwaukee, not anywhere else.

Walnut Street divides Green Bay addresses into North and South, but the only major road dividing into an East and West is Walnut, divided at the Fox River, which bisects the city. While the Fox flows into the body of water named Green Bay, a New Yorker might appreciate this: The city also has an East River, which flows into the Fox, downtown.

The sales tax in Wisconsin is 5 percent. As you might guess, a city as small as Green Bay doesn't have a subway. Public buses are $1.50. ZIP Codes in Wisconsin start with the digits 53 and 54, and for the Green Bay area, 541, 542 and 543. The Area Code is 920.

Going In. Green Bay Metro buses offer free rides from downtown to the stadium, which is 3 miles southwest. Lambeau is an island in a sea of parking, which costs $18. Not surprising, considering that this is the Midwest, Big Ten County, tailgating is encouraged.
When it opened, 1957

All stadium gates open 2 hours prior to kickoff, and are accessible to fans with disabilities. Fans with seats in the South End (i.e. section numbers ending with the letter "S") must enter through the Shopko Gate on the south side of the stadium, which is for the exclusive use of South End ticket holders. Fans sitting elsewhere in the stadium are encouraged to use the gate suggested on their ticket for the most direct route to their seats.
Expanded by 1965, it looked like this through
the Vince Lombardi era.

For most of its history, Lambeau Field was not an architectural marvel. It looked like a typical American sports stadium of the post-World War II era: Functional, but nothing special. It was the Packers who provided the glory, but how the stadium looked was not a factor.
1996, the season the Packers won the Super Bowl
with Mike Holmgren, Brett Favre and Reggie White.

A recent renovation, which expanded capacity to 78,200 (officially, it's 80,735, however 78,200 is listed as the record attendance), also changed the exterior. Whereas it was built in 1957 as looking like an oversized high school football stadium -- with an appropriate name, City Stadium -- and by the 1980s had a green exterior on the sides that held up the luxury boxes, now it's surrounded by a red brick exterior, trying to copy the look of lots of "Memorial Stadiums" throughout the country, especially in the Midwest, built in the 1920s as memorials to World War I.

(These include those at the universities of Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma, and the former stadium in Minnesota -- but not Indiana, as their Memorial Stadium was built after World War II and isn't nearly as classic-looking.)
This added exterior includes a new facility for the Packers Hall of Fame, and a bar called Curly's Pub, named for Earl "Curly" Lambeau, the Green Bay native and Notre Dame football star who founded the team, as a "company team" from co-workers at the Indian Packing Company, which was the team's initial sponsor.

(English soccer fans would call a company team a "works side." The arch-rival Chicago Bears were also originally a company team, based at the A.E. Staley Starch Company of Decatur, Illinois, and were known as the Decatur Staleys before moving upstate to Chicago.)

Lambeau played for the team from its 1919 founding until 1929, and coached it from 1919 to 1949. Like Bears founder George Halas, he was a good player, a very good coach, and, most importantly in the long run, a great administrator. The team wouldn't have gotten through the Depression, let alone to the post-merger era, without him, and without help from his rival Halas, who stood up for the NFL's last small-city team when that help was needed most. When Lambeau died in 1965, the new stadium was renamed for him.

(Halas stepped in again in 1955 to convince the other owners to chip in to build Lambeau Field. Perhaps this was his way of making up for almost killing the team in 1921, when he blew the whistle on them for using ineligible players.)

Stadium Tours are not available on game days. If you do stay overnight, you can take a tour on Saturday before the Sunday game. The Classic Tour includes the locker room, the field level, and a luxury box, lasts about an hour, and costs $11. The Champion's Tour includes the preceding, plus other amenities, lasts an hour and a half, and costs $19. The Legendary Tour offers more, takes 2 hours, and costs $28.

Don't scoff: The Packers are one of the few NFL teams that can legitimately do this, especially since they're 1 of only 2 teams that currently has a stadium that was in use, let alone hosting a championship team, prior to the start of the Super Bowl era in the 1966 season. For the next 3 seasons, the only other NFL stadium that's played host to Sammy Baugh, Sid Luckman, Steve Van Buren, Otto Graham, Norm Van Brocklin, Doak Walker, Chuck Bednarik and even Giants legend Frank Gifford, and the only one older than Lambeau (built in 1923 but not hosting an NFL game until 1937) is the Los Angeles Coliseum, which the returned Rams will use until their new stadium opens in 2019. (The next-oldest active NFL stadium is the Oakland Coliseum, which opened in 1966.)

Like most football stadiums, Lambeau is aligned north-to-south. Despite the cold weather, the field is natural grass. Knowing that the field tended to freeze, in 1967, Lombardi had a system of heating coils installed underneath. It was nicknamed Lombardi's Electric Blanket.

But on New Year's Eve, the morning of the NFL Championship Game, it was so cold (How cold was it?) that the heating coils' control system broke, and the field froze anyway, resulting in the Ice Bowl, and one of the greatest and most iconic football games ever played, pro or college -- and, as it turned out, Lombardi's last game at Lambeau, as he retired after the Super Bowl. (In his 1981 book Pro Football's Ten Greatest Games, John Thorn, who usually writes about baseball, called Bart Starr's winning quarterback sneak "the most famous touchdown in football history." Ahead of the 1972 Franco Harris "Immaculate Reception," although the Joe Montana to Dwight Clark "The Catch" happened a few months after publication.)

A better system was installed, and now, no matter how cold the air gets, the field is fine. Something for Canada to think about: Green Bay is further north than Toronto and Hamilton, and not much further south than Montreal and Ottawa, yet all 9 Canadian Football League stadiums have artificial turf, for the sole purpose of combating the cold.
Food. Tailgating not enough for you? As I said, Curly's Pub is now open, on the 2nd floor of the Lambeau Field Atrium. On game days, it is accessible only via a game ticket, from the inside of the stadium. The Atrium also offers Goin' Deep Pizza and, in a nod to the team's beginnings, the Meat Packing Company, a restaurant concept developed exclusively for Lambeau Field, featuring overstuffed sandwiches, giant bratwursts and desserts.

There are other concession stands throughout the stadium, but they stop serving entirely -- not just beer -- at the end of the 3rd quarter.

Team History Displays. No team has won more NFL Championships than the Packers, with 13: 1929, 1930, 1931, 1936, 1939, 1944, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1996 and 2010. (The Chicago Bears are next with 9, the Giants next with 8.) This includes 2 of the only 3 threepeats in NFL history: 1929-31 and 1965-67. (The other is the 1922-24 Canton Bulldogs.) It also includes Super Bowls I, II, XXXI and XLV (1, 2, 31 and 45). These titles, which gave rise to Green Bay's nickname of Titletown, are shown in yellow lettering on the green background of the skyboxes.
When this photo was taken, Super Bowl XLV hadn't yet been played.

On the other sideline's skyboxes are the team's officially retired numbers: 3, Tony Canadeo, running back, 1941-52; 4, Brett Favre, quarterback, 1992-2007; 14, Don Hutson, receiver-defensive back, 1935-45; 15, Bart Starr, quarterback, 1956-71; 66, Ray Nitschke, linebacker, 1958-72; and 92, Reggie White, defensive end, 1993-98. The Number 5 of Paul Hornung, running back, 1957-66, has not been officially retired, but it is rarely given out.
When this photo was taken, Favre's Number 4 had not yet been retired.

Outside the stadium are statues of the coaches (also general managers) who brought the 1st 11 titles, Lambeau (1929 through 1944) and Lombardi (1961 through 1967); and also of Starr, the only man to quarterback 5 NFL Championships. (And if Tom Brady becomes the 2nd, Starr will remain the only one to have done it honestly.)
Curly's hair wasn't all that curly. Then again,
he wasn't bald like Curly of the Three Stooges, either.

In addition to the preceding, the Packers have had the following players elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Quarterback Arnie Herber; running backs Johnny "Blood" McNally, Clarke Hinkle and Jim Taylor; receiver James Lofton; center Jim Ringo, guard Mike Michalske, and offensive tackles Cal Hubbard and Forrest Gregg; defensive tackle Henry Jordan, defensive end Willie Davis, linebacker Dave Robinson, cornerback Herb Adderley, safety Willie Wood, and kicker Jan Stenerud. Other Hall-of-Famers have played for the Packers, but these are the players generally considered "Packer Hall-of-Famers."
Lombardi's statue, based on what was
clearly a rare photo of him with his mouth closed.

The Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame has, along with a recreation of Lombardi's office, more inductees than any other team hall of fame in North American sports, 157. It recently reopened after its part of the continuing renovation of Lambeau Field. Members include:

* From the 1929-36 titles: Lambeau; backs McNally, Herber, Hinkle, Charlie Mathys, Verne Lewellen, Red Dunn, Swede Johnston, Hank Bruder and Bob Monnett; linemen Hubbard, Michalske, Cub Buck, Whitey Woodin, Jug Earp, Boob Darling, Lavvie Dilweg, Nate Barragar, Milt Gantenbein and Lon Evans. (Swede? Cub? Jug? Boob? Lavvie? Johnny Blood?They knew how to give athletes nicknames back then.)

* From the 1939 and 1944 titles: Lambeau; backs Canadeo, Joe Laws, Ed Jankowski, Cecil Isbell, Andy Uram, Charley Brock, Lou Brock (related to Charley but not to the baseball star), Larry Craig (no relation to the scandalous Senator), Ted Fritsch and Irv Comp; receiver Hutson; linemen Charles "Buckets" Goldenberg, Tiny Engebretsen, brothers George and Earl "Bud" Svendsen, Russ Letlow, Pete Tinsley, Carl Mulleneaux and Harry Jacunski.

(A personal note: The Jacunskis are from Connecticut, and Harry's son Dick moved to New Jersey. He, his wife, and their daughters lived next door to my parents when I was born, and what remains of each family is still close. I got to meet Harry a couple of times: Although football left him physically debilitated, and I never saw the man stand up, he was still mentally sharp into his 80s.)

* Between the Lambeau and Lombardi eras: Quarterback Tobin Rote, running backs Bob Forte, Fred Cone, Al Carmichael and Howie Ferguson; ends Bob Mann, John Martinkovic and Billy Howton; offensive tackle Dick Wildung; linebacker Deral Teteak, and defensive back Bobby Dillon.

* From the 1961-67 titles: Lombardi, assistant coaches Red Cochran and (Lombardi's much less successful successor as head coach) Phil Bengtson; quarterbacks Starr and Zeke Bratkowski; running backs Hornung, Taylor, Elijah Pitts, Donny Anderson and Travis Williams; receivers Gary Knafelc, Max McGee, Ron Kramer, Bowd Dowler, Marv Fleming and Carroll Dale; centers Ringo and Ken Bowman; guards Jerry Kramer, Fred "Fuzzy" Thurston and Gale Gillingham; offensive tackles Gregg and Bob Skoronski; defensive tackles Jordan, Dave Hanner and Ron Kostelnik; defensive ends Davis and Lionel Aldridge; linebackers Nitschke, Bill Forester, Dan Currie, Dave Robinson and Lee Roy Caffey; cornerbacks Adderley, Hank Gremminger and Bob Jeter; safeties Wood and Jesse Whittenton; and placekicker-punter Don Chandler.

Hornung and Anderson also did some kicking in this era. Thurston also played for the 1958, but not 1959, Baltimore Colts, while Gregg and Adderley also played for the 1971 Dallas Cowboys, making them the only 3 players ever to play on 6 NFL Championship teams. Lombardi called Gregg "the finest player I ever coached." It's not surprising, therefore, that he went on to become a successful coach, taking the Cincinnati Bengals to their 1st Super Bowl in 1982 (but losing), and then restoring the honor of his alma mater, Southern Methodist University, after their 1987 "death penalty.")

* Between the Lombardi and Holmgren eras: Quarterbacks Lynn Dickey and Don Majkowski; running backs John Brockington and Gerry Ellis; receivers Lofton and Sterling Sharpe; tight end Paul Coffman; center Larry McCarren; offensive tackle Greg Koch; defensive end Ezra Johnson; linebackers Fred Carr, Mike Douglass, John Anderson and Johnny Holland; cornerbacks Ken Ellis and Willie Buchanon; safeties Johnnie Gray and Mark Murphy; and kickers Stenerud and Chester Marcol.

* From the 1996 title: Coach Holmgren, general manager Ron Wolf, and team president Bob Harlan; Favre; running backs Edgar Bennett, Dorsey Levens and William Henderson; receivers Robert Brooks and Antonio Freeman; tight end Mark Chmura; center Frank Winters; guard Marco Rivera; offensive tackle Ken Ruettgers; defensive end White; defensive tackle Gilbert Brown; safety Leroy Butler; and placekicker Chris Jacke.

* Between the Holmgren and McCarthy eras: Running back Ahman Green and defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila.

* From the 2010 title: Offensive tackle Chad Clifton and safety Nick Collins. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and anyone else will have to wait a while; since Clifton and Collins both retired in 2011 and got elected this year, it looks like 5 years after retirement is the eligibility, as with most sports halls of fame.

* Spanning the eras: Team executives George Calhoun, Frank Jonet, A.B. Turnbull, Fred Leicht, Emil Fischer, Lee Joannes, Lee Remmel (a sportswriter turned team executive who'd been involved with the club from 1944 until his death in 2015, linking the Lambeau, Lombardi, Holmgren and McCarthy eras), Jack Vainisi, F.N. Trowbridge, Jerry Atkinson, Dominic Olejniczak, Tom Miller and Robert Parins; team doctors Webber Kelly and E.S. Brusky, and trainer Carl Jorgensen; broadcasters Russ Winnie, Ray Scott and Jim Irwin; team attorney Gerald Clifford; team photographer Vernon Biever and video director Al Treml; journalist Art Daley; longtime band director Wilner Burke; team Hall of Fame founder William Brault; and one longtime fan, Al Schneider.

Hutson, Gregg, Nitschke and White were named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team in 1994. They, Starr, Adderley, Davis and Favre were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Football Players in 1999. All of those men were named to the NFL Network's 100 Greatest Players in 2010.
Starr's statue, with the city's new arena,
the Resch Center, in the background

Stuff. Lambeau Field opened a new Pro Shop in 2015, and, along with smaller souvenir stands, it includes the usual items you'll find at a football game. What you won't find anywhere else is one of those big yellow triangular foam "cheeseheads." "Cheesehead" has been a nickname for a Wisconsan for many years, and when the Packers got good again in the 1990s, someone decided to capitalize on the nickname, and it stuck. It's been copied by the archrival Bears (a triangular foam wedge made to look like a slice of deep-dish pizza) and the Philadelphia Eagles (a cheesesteak head, naturally), among others. (Could lobsterheads be far away for New England, or crabheads for Baltimore?)

There are lots of books about the Packers, most of them focusing on the Lombardi era. For a general look at the team's history, Lew Freedman (author of a lot of sports history books, mainly baseball) published The Packers Experience: A Year-by-Year Chronicle of the Green Bay Packers in 2014. Leroy Butler, inventor of the Lambeau Leap (more about that in a moment), wrote Packers Pride: Green Bay Greats Share Their Favorite Moments.

The 2 biggest names in Packer history -- and, no, they're not Paul Hornung and Brett Favre -- have recent biographies about them: Lambeau: The Man Behind the Mystique, by David Zimmerman; and When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, by David Maraniss (who has also written superb bios of President Bill Clinton and baseball legend Roberto Clemente).

On the lighter side -- and I doubt that the very Catholic "Saint Vincent" Lombardi would have allowed this -- Judy DuCharme recently published The Cheesehead Devotional: Daily Meditations for Green Bay Packers, Their Fans, and NFL Football Fanatics.

Available DVDs include The Complete History of the Green Bay Packers (not so complete anymore, it came out in 2003, before the most recent title), the Packers' entry into the NFL's Greatest Games series (6 games, including Super Bowl XXXI, but none prior to 1992), and the official Super Bowl XLV highlight film.

I expect that, as the year 2019 approaches, the team will begin preparations for their 100th Anniversary (the first NFL team to reach that milestone -- sort of, the Arizona Cardinals began as a Chicago social club in 1898), and more and better items connected with the Centennial will be released.

During the Game. A recent Thrillist article on "The Most Obnoxious Fans In the NFL" ranked Packer fans 9th, just outside the top quarter, saying:

Packers fans like to present a welcoming aura of friendliness (tailgating at Lambeau pre-game is actually a fantastic time), but make no mistake, they will turn (on you or anything around you) in a HEARTBEAT if things go south for the Pack. Just look what happened to Brett Favre when he dared play for the Vikings. Which Green Bay now collectively pretends never happened. 

Hey, Jet fans would like to pretend Favre never played for them.

You do not have to worry about your safety at Lambeau Field. Maybe if you were a Bears fan, with the NFL's oldest rivalry taking hold; or possibly a Vikings fan, with the natural Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry kicking in. While the Packers have been playing the Giants since 1925, and the Giants have laid 2 famous Playoff knockouts at Lambeau on the Packers (they almost never lose at home in the postseason), the Packer Backers don't consider the Giants to be an enemy, either. Feel free to wear whatever Big Blue team gear you want.

The Packers hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. When the Packers receive their pregame introductions, and after every Packer extra point, their traditional fight song is played: "Go! You Packers! Go!" It was written in 1931, but the current recording is from 1992. When the Packers score a touchdown, instead of the fight song, they play Todd Rundgren's 1983 classic "Bang the Drum All Day." The usual Packer Backer cheer is "Go, Pack, Go," rather than the old-timey "Go, You Packers, Go."

Speaking of drums: The Packers now have a Tundra Line, a percussion group (not an entire band) that plays throughout the game. But the Lumberjack Band, so named for their flannel jackets, which entertained at Packer games starting in 1921, was disbanded in 1997. At least they got to play for the Holmgren/Favre/White title.

The Packers are one of 5 NFL teams that does not currently have a mascot. The others are the Giants, the Jets, the Washington Redskins and the San Diego Chargers. The Packers also no longer have cheerleaders.

In 1993, Leroy Butler returned a fumble for a touchdown. Seeing a fan in the south stands who had his arms out and, as Butler put it, seemed to be saying, "Hug me," he jumped into the stands. Thus was born the Lambeau Leap. I don't know what Curly or Lombardi would have thought of it, but Holmgren and his boys loved it. It became a Packer tradition, and, last season, outside the Pro Shop (outside the stadium), with Butler invited back to recreate the moment, the Packers dedicated the Leap Wall, a padded green wall with statues of 4 fans behind it (one waving a big foam "We're Number 1" finger).
Butler at the dedication

After the Game. You should be safe going out. As I said, Lambeau Field is in the middle of a parking lot, not in a neighborhood, good or bad. You might have a traffic issue, but not a safety issue.

The Stadium View, calling itself "Not Just a Bar & Grill," is a block away from the stadium, at 1963 Holmgren Way at Tony Canadeo Run. Shenanigans Pub, long owned by the late 1960s Packer guard Fred "Fuzzy" Thurston, is probably the most famous eatery or bar in town. 1279 Main Street at Irwin Avenue, almost right across the river from the site of City Stadium. A bar named Hagemeister Park, festooned with Packer memorabilia, now stands at 325 N. Washington Street between Main and Pine.

It's unlikely a city as small as Green Bay will have many expatriate New Yorkers, and would thus be a good place for visitors to take in. I also haven't been able to find a reference to any Milwaukee bar or restaurant that caters to New Yorkers.

If you visit during the European soccer season, believe it or not, despite being a small city, Green Bay has a place that shows the games: Gipper's Sports Bar & Grill, 1860 University Avenue, about 2 1/2 miles east of downtown. Unfortunately, there's no bus service at that time of the morning on the weekend.

Sidelights. Green Bay is a big town, but a small city. Aside from Packer-connected stuff, there isn't a whole lot to see there.

UPDATE: On February 3, 2017, Thrillist made a list ranking the 30 NFL cities (New York and Los Angeles each having 2 teams), and, due to its small size and comparative lack of options, Green Bay did indeed finish 30th and last:

This really isn't fair. Green Bay wouldn't even perform all that well on a ranking of cities IN WISCONSIN. Pitting it against the nation's great metropolises is like pitting opposing defenses against Aaron Rodgers. So yeah, it's a good thing the team is generally successful, because the town has all the personality of an AutoZone parking lot.

They're wrong about the personality. There are some things in town worth visiting:

* Site of Bellevue Park. The Packers played the 1923 and 1924 seasons at this minor-league baseball park. It seated just 5,000, and was east of downtown, across the East River. Although it probably saved the Packers in the short term -- any professional football team playing at a professional baseball park was considered to be of a higher class than one playing on a simple sandlot such as Hagemeister Park -- it was not a football stadium, and the Packers needed a real one. 1600 block of Main Street, by Franz Avenue.

The Brewers are the closest MLB team, 119 miles away; the Chicago Cubs, 204 miles; the Chicago White Sox, 209 miles; the Minnesota Twins, 278 miles. And the Brewers have a 75 percent stranglehold on Green Bay area baseball fans.

* Hagemeister Park and City Stadium. Owned by the long-gone Hagemeister brewery, Hagemeister Park was the Packers' first home, from 1919 to 1922. There wasn't much in the way of seating, and fans would often sit in their cars to watch games. George Calhoun, who founded the team with Lambeau, would get out and pass a hat for contributions at halftime, and that's the main reason the team lasted long enough to get a proper home stadium.

The park was cleared for the construction of a new building for East High School -- oddly enough, Curly Lambeau's alma mater. When the new East High School opened in 1923, on a triangle bordered by Walnut Street, Baird Street and the East River, City Stadium was built behind it. Originally seating 6,000, it was expanded into a 25,000-seat horseshoe, open at the south end.

Although the Packers won 6 titles there, it was seen as too small for the bigger game that pro football was becoming after World War II. Just as George Halas of the Bears saved them with the velvet glove 25 years earlier, in the mid-1950s he saved them with the iron fist, talking the other NFL owners into providing the funds to build a new stadium, or they would order the moving of the team, to Milwaukee or somewhere else. In 1956, the City Council voted to build new City Stadium, which opened the next year.
City Stadium, renamed East Stadium until the new one was renamed for Lambeau, remained the home field of East High School, and in 2008 was renovated, leaving no part of the original structure remaining. 1415 E. Walnut Street. It's within walking distance of downtown, unlike Lambeau Field.
* Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena. Across the street from Lambeau Field, this 5,248-seat arena opened in 1958, and from 1968 to 2002 was the home court of the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay basketball team. It's also hosted minor-league basketball and hockey (the Green Bay Bobcats played from 1958 to 1981, winning league titles in 1959, '60, '63 and '72), and pro wrestling. Elvis Presley gave one of his last concerts here, on April 28, 1977.

Other Wisconsin arenas to have been played by Elvis were the Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium in La Crosse on May 14, 1956; the Milwaukee Auditorium on June 14 and 15, 1972; the Milwaukee Arena (the MECCA) on June 28, 1974 and April 27, 1977; and the Dane County Coliseum in Madison on October 19, 1976 and June 24, 1977(The Beatles played in Milwaukee, but not in Green Bay.)

The nearest NBA team is the Milwaukee Bucks, 115 miles away, easily beating the Chicago Bulls (206) and the Minnesota Timberwolves (278). The nearest NHL teams are the Chicago Blackhawks (206) and the Minnesota Wild (268). And the nearest MLS team is the Chicago Fire (216). However, due to (fairly) recent success for the Bulls, but not for the Bucks, the Bucks lead in popularity isn't as much as it is in nearby cities like Oshkosh and Sheboygan. Indeed, in Madison, the seat of the University of Wisconsin, the Bulls are more popular.

What else is there to do in Green Bay? Well, there's Bay Beach Amusement Park: 1313 Bay Beach Road at Irwin Avenue. There's a Botanical Garden: 2600 Larsen Road, off Packerland Drive. There's a zoo: 4378 Reforestation Road of Sunrise Road. And a National Railroad Museum, 2285 S. Broadway at Bosar Avenue -- ironic, considering that Amtrak doesn't go to Green Bay.

There have been plenty of TV shows and movies set in Wisconsin, but never in Green Bay. You would think that, by now, someone would have made a movie out of the Ice Bowl. In 1973, 3 years after Lombardi's death from cancer (like Babe Ruth, his funeral was at St. Patrick's Cathedral), ABC aired a TV-movie titled Etched In Granite, with Ernest Borgnine playing Lombardi. Eric Simonson wrote Lombardi, a play based on Maraniss' book, that ran on Broadway from October 2010 to May 2011, and while it got some good reviews, it failed to capitalize on the Pack's Super Bowl XLV win in February. Dan Lauria, best known as the father on The Wonder Years, played the coach; Judith Light, best known as the mother on Who's the Boss?, played his wife Marie.

And if you'd like to pay your respects at Lombardi's grave, surprise: You can do that almost anytime, because he's buried in New Jersey. He is so identified with Green Bay that a lot of people forget his New York Tri-State Area roots. He was from Brooklyn, went to Fordham, coached at the now-defunct St. Cecilia's High School in Englewood, at West Point and with the Giants, before becoming the Packers' head coach. Marie was from Red Bank, and they are buried across the Navesink River, at Mount Olivet Cemetery, on Chapel Hill Road off State Route 35 in Middletown. Lambeau, however, is buried in Green Bay, at Allouez Catholic Cemetery, 2121 Riverside Drive at Allouez Avenue. (The late Jets and Madison Square Garden boss Sonny Werblin is buried at a Jewish cemetery, almost right across Route 35.)

For Milwaukee sites, here's my 2016 guide for that city. The Packers played a game at Borchert Field (home of the old minor-league Milwaukee Brewers) in 1933, 2 games a year at State Fair Park in suburban West Allis from 1934 to 1951, 2 at Marquette Stadium in 1952, 2 at Milwaukee County Stadium from 1953 to 1977, and then 3 at County Stadium from 1978 to 1994. It was only in 1995 that they've played all their home games in Green Bay, save for 1 exhibition game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, home of the University of Wisconsin, 136 miles southwest of Green Bay.

Horlick Field opened in 1907, and hosted the Racine Legion from 1919 to 1924 (including 1922 to '24 in the NFL), the NFL's Racine Tornadoes in 1926, and the Racine Belles of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1943 to 1950. The current 8,500-seat stadium on the site hosts high school sports. 1648 N. Memorial Drive in Racine, Wisconsin, 29 miles south of downtown Milwaukee, and 70 miles north of Chicago's Loop. Amtrak from either to Sturtevant, then Bus 8.

The Kenosha Maroons played in the NFL in 1924, at Nash Field. The 5,000-seat stadium also hosts high school sports. 5909 56th Street in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Even though it's closer to Milwaukee (34 miles as opposed to 60), it can only be reached by public transportation from Chicago, riding the train from the Ogilvie Transportation Center (the former Northwestern Station) to Kenosha, then Bus 2.

The Sheboygan Red Skins played pro basketball from 1933 to 1952, winning the National Basketball League title in 1943 (making them, technically, if not officially recognized by the NBA, World Champions in the sport), and were merged into the NBA for the 1949-50 season.

Due to Sheboygan's small size (about 50,000 people, smaller even than since-abandoned NBA cities Syracuse, Rochester and Fort Wayne), the rest of the league wanted them out, and got their wish. They lasted only 2 years in their new league, and folded. But they are still winners of a World Championship. They played at the 3,974-seat Sheboygan Municipal Auditorium and Armory, 58 miles north of Milwaukee (Bus 916) and 67 miles south of Green Bay.

*

Essentially, the reason to go to Green Bay is for the Green Bay Packers. They are the most storied franchise in the National Football League. The Giants have many stories, some of them great, but the Packers have the most stories, and some of the best.

But, seeing as how it won't be "Green Bay cold," you should be able to have fun watching the Giants play the Packers at Lambeau Field.