Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Scores On This Historic Day: March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan Is Shot

March 30, 1981, 40 years ago: President Ronald Reagan is shot in an assassination attempt. It happens as he's walking to his car outside the Washington Hilton.

It was 2:27 PM. A few minutes later, the news reached my mother and me, at the library in East Brunswick, New Jersey. I don't remember why I was there, instead of in school: It was a Monday, not during Spring Break (Easter wasn't until April 19 that year), and I was in the 6th grade, at a school that let out at 2:35. Maybe it was a half-day, due to parent-teacher conferences, or something like that.

No President had been assassinated since John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. My mother was in her senior year of high school; my father, in his senior year of college. Both were sent home early. There were 2 assassination attempts against Gerald Ford in September 1975, but neither came close to succeeding. So this was the first close call that I could remember, and it remains the only one.

Reagan was at the Hilton to give a speech at a luncheon of labor union executives. In his previous career, Reagan was not merely an actor, but served a term as President of an actors' union, the Screen Actors Guild. But he had turned on his fellow actors, and named names of those he suspected of Communist ties, and was never trusted by actors again. By 1965 -- at 54, hardly an age at which actors were, then as now, considered to be done -- his acting career was over.

He went into politics, and was elected Governor of California in 1966 and 1970. Supporters of his made a halfhearted effort to get the Republican Party to nominate him for President in 1968. In 1976, he nearly derailed the nomination of the incumbent President, Gerald Ford, who then lost to Jimmy Carter. In 1980, Reagan gave it one more try, and beat Carter.

Reagan was not friendly toward labor unions once he left SAG. This became obvious later in the year: Having survived the shooting, he exercised his authority as President to fire the striking members of PATCO, the union of air-traffic controllers. American organized labor has never recovered from the Reagan Years.

But that was yet to come. There was no reason to believe Reagan was shot due to his stance on labor. Secret Service Agents immediately pounced on the shooter: John W. Hinckley Jr., a mentally ill man who never should have had access to a gun. A court would find him not guilty by reason of insanity, and he remained incarcerated at a hospital for the criminally insane until 2016. He is 65 years old. With some irony, he shares his birthday, May 29, with John F. Kennedy.

Hinckley, not particularly caring that anyone other than Reagan might be hit, also shot White House Press Secretary James Brady. He was paralyzed, and an early report said that he had died. He was confined to a wheelchair, and became an advocate for gun control. He lived until 2014.

Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy was wounded. He remains the only Secret Service Agent ever to, as the common saying goes, "take a bullet for the President." In spite of this, he was the least seriously wounded man in the attempt. He later became his Illinois hometown's chief of police, and is still alive, age 71.

Also still alive is Thomas Delahanty, a D.C. police officer. He was there as part of Reagan's security detail because his usual duty had been interrupted: He was part of a police dog unit, and his dog was sick. The shooting happened so fast that he couldn't do much about it, and he's always regretted that. He was released from the hospital a day before Reagan was. He returned to the Pittsburgh area from whence he came, and is now 85.

Reagan was taken to George Washington University Hospital, a few blocks away. He was able to walk in, and said to the staff, "Please tell me you're all Republicans." But he was closer to death than anyone realized: The bullet had just missed his heart, and he ended up losing a lot of blood.

In the recovery room, the first people he saw were some of his staff members: White House Chief of Staff James Baker, Baker's deputy Michael Deaver, and White House Press Secretary Lyn Nofziger. Reagan looked at them, and said, "Who's minding the store?" When his wife Nancy was let in, Reagan quoted Jack Dempsey's line after losing the Heavyweight Championship of the World to Gene Tunney in 1926, when Reagan was in high school: "Honey, I forgot to duck."

He was released on April 11. He made a full recovery, although speculation on what the experience did to him, and to Nancy, psychologically has run rampant. He was re-elected in 1984, and served out his 2nd term.

In 1994, he announced that he had Alzheimer's disease. This had been suspected by the public as early as his re-election campaign. Even before that, in spite of his wit and sense of humor, Reagan was often thought of as not particularly intelligent. Certainly, he was intellectually lazy, and believed many things that were untrue, even ridiculous. He died in 2004.

March 30, 1981 was scheduled as the day of the Final of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, to be held at The Spectrum in Philadelphia. Had Reagan died -- or, perhaps, if his life were still in danger as tipoff approached -- the game might have been postponed. Instead, with the knowledge that he was in recovery, the game went forward, with a moment of silence held after player introductions.

Indiana University beat the University of North Carolina, 63-50. Bobby Knight's Hoosiers included Hall-of-Famer Isiah Thomas. Dean Smith's Tar Heels included Hall-of-Famer James Worthy. (Michael Jordan was in his senior year at Emsley A. Laney High School in Wilmington, North Carolina, but had committed to play at UNC. Laney was a prominent businessman in Wilmington.)

The Major League Baseball season had not yet begun. Opening Day would not be until April 8, so any games played on this day were still exhibitions in Spring Training, and didn't count. And the National Football League was in its off-season.

Nor were there any games played in the National Basketball Association: Its regular season had ended the day before, and its Playoffs had not yet begun. There were 2 National Hockey League games played. The New York Rangers played the Philadelphia Flyers to a 0-0 tie at Madison Square Garden. And the Boston Bruins and the Buffalo Sabres played to a 2-2 tie at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Top 5 Reasons You Can’t Blame the Syracuse Nationals for Moving to Philadelphia

March 26, 1963: The Cincinnati Royals beat the Syracuse Nationals, 131-127 at the Onondaga County War Memorial Arena in Syracuse, New York. Despite the Nats' Lee Shaffer leading all scorers with 45 points, 32 from Oscar Robertson leads the Royals to victory in this deciding Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals.

The Royals went on to lose the Eastern Conference Finals to the Boston Celtics. The Nationals never played again. At least, not as the Nats. The following season, they moved to become the Philadelphia 76ers, taking the place of the Warriors, who had moved to San Francisco in 1962.

The Nats were founded in 1946, as members of the Midwest-based National Basketball League. In 1949, they were one of 7 NBL teams admitted to the Northeast-based Basketball Association of America, a merger (for all intents and purposes) in a single league whose name became the National Basketball Association -- which still dates its founding to that of the BAA in 1946.

Their founding owner was Danny Biasone. He was also the father of the 24-second shot clock, which was instituted for the 1954-55 season. Biasone knew that a game was 48 minutes long. He thought a game would be best if each team took about 60 shots per game. So he divided 2,880 (the number of seconds in 48 minutes) by 120 (2 teams each taking 60 shots), and came up with 1 shot every 24 seconds. He died in 1992, having lived long enough to see the shot clock adopted everywhere (including college and high school), but not long enough to be elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame (he was finally elected in 2000).

The Nats lost the 1950 and 1954 NBA Finals to the Minneapolis Lakers, and then won the 1955 NBA Championship by beating the Fort Wayne Pistons in the Finals. (Given that they'd made the Finals the year before, it's unlikely that the institution of the shot clock made the difference for them, but it did end the Lakers' dynasty.) Indeed, not until 1971-72 would the Nats/Sixers franchise play a season and fail to make the Playoffs. Even in their last season in Syracuse, they went 48-32, playing .600 ball.

By 1963, the team was in transition. Hall-of-Famer Dolph Schayes, the big hero of the 1955 title, was winding down, and was now player-coach. The players who would become the stars of the 76ers' 1967 title were beginning to come in, including Hall-of-Famer Hal Greer.

But it was getting harder and harder to run a team in such a small market. And so, Biasone sold the team to Irv Kosloff and Ike Richman, who moved the team to Philadelphia. By 1967, the 76ers were World Champions. By 1970, the New York Knicks -- 248 miles away, but at least in the same State -- had won a World Championship (and, in 1973, another), and became the Syracuse area's favorite team, as if the Nationals had never even existed.

Top 5 Reasons You Can’t Blame the Syracuse Nationals for Moving to Philadelphia

5. The Arena Situation. From their founding in 1946 until 1951, the Nats played at the State Fair Coliseum. Built in 1927, it seated 7,500 people. It has since been renovated, with its seating capacity cut in half, and is now named the Toyota Coliseum.
From 1951 onward, the Nats played at the Onondaga County War Memorial. It seated 8,000, and was a decent arena for an NBA team of the period. It has also hosted a series of minor-league hockey teams: The Syracuse Warriors of the American Hockey League (1951-54), the Syracuse Blazers of the Eastern Hockey League (1967-77), the Syracuse Firebirds of the AHL (1979-80), and the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL (since 1994). It's also hosted arena football, minor league soccer, and lacrosse, which is popular in New York State.

It was renovated in 1994, and renamed The OnCenter War Memorial Arena. It was renovated again in 2018, and renamed the Upstate Medical University Arena at Onondaga County War Memorial. Most people still just call it "The War Memorial."
There's nothing wrong with it, as far as minor-league hockey goes. But for a modern major league sports team, it was already starting to lose its fitness by 1963. Syracuse University knew this: A year earlier, it opened Manley Field House on campus, and in 1980 built the Carrier Dome to host both baseball and football.

In contrast, in 1963, Philadelphia had the Convention Hall at its Civic Center, built in 1931 but bigger at 12,000 seats, with more amenities. The Warriors had played there from 1952 to 1962, and the 76ers would until The Spectrum opened in 1967. The Spectrum was already in the planning stages at the time of the move.
4. Television. Seeing Major League Baseball games on TV helped to kill the Negro Leagues and devastate the minor leagues. That didn't affect the NBA much, since there was almost no overlap in season.

But the rise of TV did give people a reason to stay home during basketball season. What's more, unlike MLB, boxing, horse racing and (eventually) the NFL, in the 1950s, the NBA didn't handle TV well. You'd think it would, since the court was small enough for cameras to easily follow. (Horse racing was then popular on TV because, despite having the largest "field," the horses were all bunched together, making for easy camera work.) Games were locally broadcast, but not nationally, and the teams just didn't get enough revenue from it.

3. The NBA. Like the NFL, it had started in smaller cities in the Northeast and the Midwest, and all those cities would turn out to be to small to keep the league going, and would lose their teams, except for Green Bay, Wisconsin.

There were 4 teams that didn't even survive the 1st BAA (NBA) season of 1946-47: The Pittsburgh Ironmen, the Cleveland Rebels, the Detroit Falcons and the Toronto Huskies -- and those were all big cities at the time. By the dawn of the 1950-51 season, Providence, St. Louis, Washington and even Chicago had lost their teams. The next season, Indianapolis followed. And the original version of the Baltimore Bullets, NBA Champions in 1948, folded early in the 1954-55 season.

The Royals/Kings aren't the only team that has made several moves. One of the charter BAA teams was the Buffalo Bisons. They didn't even make it to the New Year in that 1st season, moving to Moline, Illinois, next-door to Rock Island, and across the Mississippi River from Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa. They became the Tri-Cities Blackhawks. (The region is now known as the Quad Cities.) They only stayed until 1951, became the Milwaukee Hawks, and then moved again in 1955, becoming the St. Louis Hawks, the team the Royals played in their last game in Rochester. In 1968, they moved again, becoming the Atlanta Hawks.

The Royals weren't even the only team moving in 1957: The Fort Wayne Pistons moved to Detroit. (As with the Royals, the name made even more sense in their new city than in their old one.) In 1960, the Minneapolis Lakers, winners of 5 titles, moved to Los Angeles.

In 1961, an expansion team called the Chicago Packers began. After 1 year, they became the Chicago Zephyrs, probably because Chicagoans didn't want to root for a team called the Packers. In 1963, they became the new Baltimore Bullets. In 1973, they moved to Washington. In 1997, the Washington Bullets became the Washington Wizards.

So the moving of teams wasn't something the early NBA establishment frowned upon. They would have been more surprised if the Harrison brothers had tried to stay in Rochester. Especially when there were other options.

2. Philadelphia. It was then, and is now, a great basketball city. By 1962, when the Warriors left for San Francisco, it had already seen that team win the NBA title in 1947 and 1956, and introduced Joe Fulks, Neil Johnston, Paul Arizin, and the greatest player the game has ever known, Wilt Chamberlain, to the NBA.
Philadelphia, as seen from the Museum of Art,
before the skyscraper building boom that began in the 1980s

Furthermore, by this point, the city's "Big 5" had been established: The University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, La Salle University, St. Joseph's University, and Villanova University. High school hoops were also huge, with both the Philadelphia Public League and the Philadelphia Catholic League producing local legends, in basketball and other sports.

New York likes to think of itself as the basketball city. But there are a few other contenders, and Philly is one of them. A 1986 documentary made by NFL Films, The 10 Greatest Moments in Philadelphia Sports History, said of basketball, "It is the pulse of the city, the beat on the street."

So if it was accepted that the Nationals had to move, Philadelphia was a good place to move to.

1. Western New York State. While Philadelphia's population has shrunk significantly, Syracuse didn't have a whole lot of people to lose. Even in 1963, it was home to only about 200,000 people. Today, despite being home to a major university and the New York State Fair, Syracuse has only about 150,000 people, with a metro area of only about 650,000, less than any city in North America with a major league sports team -- except for Green Bay, Wisconsin.
A recent photo of downtown Syracuse,
including the white-roofed Carrier Dome.

This is matched by the other cities in Western New York. Rochester lost the NBA's Royals in 1957. Like Syracuse, Rochester has a longtime team in minor-league hockey, the  Rochester Americans. Both cities also have long had teams in baseball's Class AAA International League, the Rochester Red Wings and the Syracuse Chiefs. But not in the major leagues in either sport.
NBT Bank Stadium, home of the Syracuse Chiefs since 1997

As stated earlier, Buffalo had already lost the BAA's Bisons in 1946. Buffalo also had a team called the Buffalo Bills in the All-America Football Conference from 1946 to 1949, but when the NFL took 3 teams from the AAFC, they took the Cleveland Browns, the Baltimore Colts and the San Francisco 49ers. It became known as "The Screwing of Buffalo."

Buffalo would gain the AFL's version of the Bills in 1960, and the NBA's Braves and the NHL's Sabres in 1970, the same year the Bills became part of the AFL-NFL merger. The Braves would move in 1978, and are now the Los Angeles Clippers. And the Bills and Sabres have both faced the possibility of having to move. Today, both are still struggling, despite both being owned by billionaires Terry and Kim Pegula.

Remember the movie It's a Wonderful Life? George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart), operator of a building and loan association, is shown what his New York State hometown of Bedford Falls would have been like if he had never been born.

He sees that the company his father had founded had gone out of business, because George wasn't there to save it; the low-income housing George had built wasn't built; Henry Potter, the miserable old man who controlled everything in town but the building and loan, had changed the town's name to Pottersville; and, like an organized crime boss, he let other businessmen do what he pleased, so long as he got his cut.

And what businesses were doing well? Bars and casinos. The very things that, today, are pretty much the only businesses doing well in New York State, thanks to the local Native tribes getting casino licenses. In 2009, at the depth of a recession, a New York Times writer pointed this out, and contrasted it with the housing market that George Bailey once ran. The writer concluded that, for the sake of the future of the State of New York, the kindhearted Bailey was wrong, and the old bastard Potter was right. (And you thought the Times was a liberal newspaper.)

Put simply, New York State, from the capital of Albany on west through Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, simply can't support major league sports in the modern era.

VERDICT: Not Guilty. Whatever its benefits, Syracuse is not big enough to major league sports. The Nationals had to be moved.

And not once during this post did I mention the weather: Syracuse can get really cold during basketball season. (How cold is it?) It's sometimes known as Siber-cuse.

Top 5 Old-Time Yankees Who Would Never Make It in the Social Media Age (And 5 Who Would Thrive In It)

We live in the Social Media Age, where some people, including athletes, have elevated themselves, and sometimes even society as a whole -- and some have made fools, or worse, of themselves.

Which Yankee Legends would have made it in this era? And which wouldn't have?

10. Would never make it: Babe Ruth

The media of the 1920s and early '30s loved the Sultan of Swat. He was great copy. So they protected him against revelations of his peccadilloes: His drinking, his carousing, his womanizing, and being possibly the worst driver in the history of the City of New York.

But by the early 1960s (more on that later), things began to change. Some players, the ones who cooperated with the media, would still be protected. Others, the ones who tended not to cooperate, were ripped. By the dawn of the 21st Century, as the Internet became a factor, and social media was on its way, any slip-up that got found out would have been exposed. The Bambino would have been shredded.

Granted, the media might soon have buried such a story, and pushed his redemption. Look at Kobe Bryant. Look at Tiger Woods (if you want to go outside the realm of sports). Maybe they would have let the Babe redeem himself.

But the Babe's own mentality would get in the way. In so many ways, he was like a kid that never really grew up. It would be wrong to say he was dumb: He was smart enough to understand every aspect of baseball. But he may have had a learning disability, one which blocked his ability to understand things he should have.

And social media might have been one of those things. Money certainly was: He needed his 2nd wife, Claire Hodgson, to be a proper business manager for him. I can certainly imagine her having control over his smartphone. But it might not have been enough: She slowed his carousing down, but it didn't really stop. He would still have been vulnerable to phone cameras recording his shenanigans.

9. Would thrive in it: Lou Gehrig
On the other hand, the Iron Horse would have adjusted just fine. The press didn't cover his private life because he didn't seem to have one. Today, people would have seen that he was a mama's boy, didn't go out partying with the Babe and the boys, didn't get married until he was 30 years old, and never had children, and might guess that he was secretly gay. (As far as I know, he wasn't.)

Or maybe, like Roger Maris, people in the media, and in social media, would have found him boring off the field. And, unlike Maris, he was able to roll with the punches. Twitter might have gotten Ruth into a problem he would have needed a lot of help to get out of. Gehrig wouldn't have had such a problem.

8. Would never make it: Joe DiMaggio
The Yankee Clipper was fiercely protective of his privacy. The very wording has become a cliche. He would never have gone on Twitter, probably not on Instagram, probably not on Facebook, either. Just as Seinfeld suggested that it would be absurd for Joltin' Joe to go into Dunkin Donuts (they called it "Dinky Donuts," but who's kidding who), I can't imagine him sharing intimate details like his breakfast or a new suit.

And the stories that were kept quiet by a media that was cowed into submission? His connections with organized crime? His treatment of his wives, first actress Dorothy Arnold, then superstar actress Marilyn Monroe? His late-night "raid" of Marilyn's place with Frank Sinatra? His later feud with Sinatra, in which the two most famous Italian-Americans of them all became bitter enemies -- over Frank's moves on Marilyn?

Joe would never have held up to modern scrutiny. And his attempts to avoid scrutiny, including calling on his aforementioned connections, might well have gotten him into hotter water.

7. Would thrive in it: Phil Rizzuto
But the Scooter would have loved it. During the games he was broadcasting, he was always talking about his family, the friends he had, the restaurants he dined at, the golf courses he played, the far-off places he visited. He would have been good on Twitter, better on Facebook, and, holy cow, maybe the King of Instagram.

6. Would never make it: Mickey Mantle
The Mick was basically shy. While Phil and Yogi were extroverts, Mickey, so different from Joe in some ways, was every bit the introvert. He didn't want to share his life with outsiders. And, with his drinking and womanizing, he had things to hide. Plus, if the stories about him shooing away autograph-seeking kids is true, then how he reacted to unkind online treatment might also have been bad.

5. Would thrive in it: Yogi Berra
Lawrence Peter Berra didn't look like an athlete, and he didn't look like an intelligent man. But he was both. The way he handled the media career that unexpectedly grew out of his baseball career, I have no doubt that he would have been just fine online.

As the man himself might have said, he would have been an overwhelming underdog, but he wouldn't have made too many wrong mistakes.

4. Would never make it: Roger Maris
Another guy really protective of his privacy. I can't see him ever opening an account. Maybe Facebook and Instagram after he retired, but never Twitter.

3. Would thrive in it: Joe Pepitone
Joe Pepitone had a lefthanded swing tailor-made for Yankee Stadium (especially before the renovation, when it was 296 feet to the right field pole and 344 to straightaway right), a nice glove, and a bubbly personality. He loved the spotlight. He enjoyed being a New York baseball star. If the Yankees had kept it going through the Sixties and into the Seventies, he would have been the guy to succeed Mantle as The Next Great Yankee.

There were 2 problems with this. The Yankees didn't keep it going. And Pepi cared more about being a star than about winning ballgames. It's one thing to be a man about town if -- like Mantle, the Jets' Joe Namath, and the Knicks' Walt Frazier -- you have the substance to back up the style.

Joe was backup to Moose Skowron at 1st base on the 1962 World Champions, but didn't appear in the World Series. He was the starter on the 1963 and '64 Pennant winners, and hit a grand slam in Game 6 of the '64 Series, so he'd done all that within a few days of his 24th birthday.

He made the All-Star team in '65, and won 3 more Gold Gloves. But he only batted .300 once (in 1971, with the Chicago Cubs after leaving the Yankees), only hit 30 homers once (in 1966), and topped out at 100 RBIs (in 1964, and that was the only time he even topped 90). That .307 season with the '71 Cubs was his last full season, and he turned 31 right after it ended.

But, oh, how he would have loved to make his case on social media. Oddly, now, at age 80, and apparently in good health, he's not on any of the major platforms. So maybe I'm wrong.

2. Would never make it: Billy Martin
There's a fine line between genius and madness, and Billy the Brat passed out on it. For every story about how good a manager he could be, there are a dozen about how he was nuts. The best thing he could have done with social media was stay the hell away from it.

1. Would thrive in it: Reggie Jackson
Reggie has been called "a sensitive soul." And he has been burned by mainstream media: SPORT magazine lied about him in both Oakland and New York, the New York media always seemed to take Martin's side, and the national media, which has never much liked the Yankees, always used them as good copy, Reggie among them. It seems like he wouldn't have fit in well with social media.

But he managed to turn the tables. He used the media as well, cultivating good relationships with some reporters, and doing commercials for things people actually liked to use: Candy, TV sets, cars, and the gasoline needed to power them.

And as the son of a Negro League player, and having come of age during the Civil Rights Movement, Reggie managed to get black activists on his side. Once he retired and his ego -- never greater than those of, say, Pete Rose or George Brett -- was no longer a threat to a fan's favorite team, he began to be seen as something of an elder statesman of baseball.

And he's been pretty good on Facebook and Instagram. (On Twitter, to a lesser extent.) If he had the opportunity to use social media to go over the heads of his mainstream-media accusers of 1977, he might have been perceived differently then, and might even be better off now.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Scores On This Historic Day: March 25, 1911, The Triangle Fire

March 25, 1911, 110 years ago: A fire strikes the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York's Greenwich Village, killing 146 people, and sparking the modern labor rights movement.

Since the 1930s, "the Garment District" has been considered to be between 5th and 9th Avenues, from 34th to 42nd Streets. Before that, it was at the northern edge of Greenwich Village. This included the Triangle Waist Company -- the official name of the company -- on the 8th, 9th and 10th floors, the top 3, of the Asch Building, at 23 Washington Place (roughly, 5th Street), on the corner of University Place between 4th and 5th Avenue, a block east of Washington Square Park.

Owned by Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, Triangle produced women's blouses, then called "shirtwaists," hence it was widely known as "The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory." Blanck was the contractor who got the material into the factory, Harris the design expert. Harris married a cousin of Blanck's wife.

They went into business together in 1900, and opened the factory in 1902. It normally employed about 500 workers, almost all women and teenage girls, most of them immigrants from Italy and the Jewish sectors of Central and Eastern Europe. By 1908, they had made over $1 million, and were making 1,000 shirtwaists a day.

Harris lived in a townhouse on West 101st Street, when the Upper West Side was pretty much still being built, and had the cachet that the Upper East Side would later have. Blanck bought a mansion on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. Both were chauffered in automobiles, which most people didn't have yet.

There was a labor movement in America at the time, but it was weak. As a result, there were what came to be called "sweatshops," and Triangle had one of them. These women worked 9 hours a day, plus 7 more on Saturdays, 52 hours a week. They got between $7.00 and $12.00 for that week -- in today's money, $201 to $345. Multiply that by 4 weeks, and it's $804 to $1,380 a month. Not enough to rent an apartment anywhere in the New York Tri-State Area, especially in Manhattan. They had already gone on strike in 1909, and in early 1910 caved in to most of the women's demands, but still refused to let union organizers into the building.

And the women were working on a Saturday, March 25, 1911. Blanck was then 42 years old, Harris was 46, and most of the women working there were half their age or less, some as young as 14.

At 4:40 PM, 20 minutes before quitting time, a fire started on the 8th floor. As with the General Slocum fire on the East River 7 years earlier, the Fire Marshal concluded that it was probably an unextinguished cigarette or match that started it all. And with all the scraps of cloth, it was easy for the fire to spread.

There was no fire alarm inside the building. At 4:45, a passerby on Washington Place saw the smoke, and found a fire alarm. A bookkeeper on the 8th floor used a telephone to contact the 10th floor, but there was no connection to the 9th floor. Yetta Lubitz, a survivor, said that the 1st warning on the 9th floor was the fire itself.

There was a stairway to Greene Street, but the fire had already gotten to it. That's circumstance. The door to the stairway to Washington Place had been locked, to prevent early exits by the workers, for managers to check the women's purses for thefts, and to prevent union organizers from getting onto the factory floor. That's negligence.

The foreman and some employees escaped quickly. A few others got into the elevators and got down to the ground floor before the elevators were shut down. (Using an elevator to get out of a fire is dangerous, because smoke and flames can go up the shaft. In this case, it was the only available option.) There was one exterior fire escape, but it collapsed under the weight of would-be escapees, and 20 of them died.

The fire department, still using horse-drawn engines, got there quickly, but had trouble getting close to the building because of the dead bodies at the building's foot. And their ladders were only long enough to reach the 7th floor.
One hundred and forty-six deaths in a matter of minutes. To put that in perspective: According to the 1910 Census, New York City had a population of 4.7 million. According to the 2020 Census, it's 8.8 million. So it would be as if 270 people died today. That's about 1/10th as many as in the worst building fire in the City's history, on 9/11.

Blanck and Harris, themselves Jewish immigrants, got out early. They were indicted on manslaughter charges, but were acquitted, because the jury believed the prosecution had failed to prove that the owners knew the key doors were locked. In 1913, a civil suit found them liable of wrongful death, and were fined $75 per family of suing victim. Not much of a price to pay. 
Blanck (left) and Harris

Peter Liebhold, a historian with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, has said, "What is rarely told, and makes the story far worse, is Triangle was considered a modern factory for its time. It was a leader in the industry, not a rogue operation." In other words, if this was the best that the industry could do, then how bad was the worst?

Triangle went out of business in 1918, not so much because of World War I, but because fashions had changed to the point that not enough women were still wearing "shirtwaists." Finally, in 1923, Blanck was convicted on grand larceny charges, and sentenced to 6 months to 3 years in State Prison. I can find no record of when Blanck and Harris died, but both did so well after 1911, unlike 146 of their employees.

The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union organized a march on April 5, 11 days after the fire. It was attended by 80,000 people. The New York State legislature formed a Committee on Public Safety, which included an eyewitness to the fire, Frances Perkins.

From the 1850s to the 1960s, the Democratic Party in the State of New York, and especially in the City of New York, was run by a "political machine" called Tammany Hall, which got a lot of things done, often with corrupt means. In 1911, it was run by Charles F. Murphy, who saw a chance to strike at Republican leaders in both City Hall and the State capital of Albany.

The Assembly's Majority Leader was one of Murphy's guys, Alfred E. Smith. The State Senate's Majority Leader was Robert F. Wagner. They held hearings in Albany, inviting would-be social reformers to testify, and subpoenaing the negligent bosses. They got several labor and fire reforms passed into law.

Smith was elected Governor in 1918, and made Perkins one of his chief advisors. Wagner was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1926. When Smith was nominated for President in 1928, Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated for Governor. Smith lost in a landslide, FDR won in a squeaker. In 1932, FDR was elected President, and named Perkins Secretary of Labor, the 1st woman in the Presidential Cabinet. Wagner wrote the bills that became the Social Security Act and the National Labor Relations Act, and FDR signed them into law. Wagner's son, Robert F. Wagner Jr., was elected Mayor of New York in 1953, 1957 and 1961.

Rose Freedman, the last survivor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, died on February 15, 2001, at the age of 107.

You might guess that the City ordered the demolition of the Asch Building as unsafe. Asch to ashes, dust to dust, as it were. But that guess would be wrong. In fact, it still stands today, and hosted a 100th Anniversary commemoration on March 25, 2011.
*

March 25, 1911, as I said, was a Saturday. Professional football was in its infancy, college football was the dominant form of the game, and both were in their off-season anyway. There was hardly any professional hockey, almost no hockey at all in the United States. There was no professional basketball at all. And baseball? Its season wouldn't start for another 3 weeks.

Oops. Have I goofed? Were there no scores on this historic day?

Actually, there was one. It was a postseason exhibition. The team that had won the Stanley Cup on March 10, the original version of the Ottawa Senators, who had also won it in 1903, 1904, 1905 and 1909, invited the Montreal Wanderers, who had won the Cup in 1906, 1907, 1908 and 1910, on a postseason tour of the United States, to help grow the game here.

On March 20, they played at the St. Nicholas Rink in New York, also known as the St. Nicholas Arena, at 66th Street and Broadway, off Lincoln Square. It was demolished in the 1980s, to make way for the current ABC network studios. The Senators won, 7-2. The next day, also at St. Nicholas, the Wanderers won 8-5.
Then they headed north, to play at the Boston Arena, now the oldest active sports arena in North America, known as Matthews Arena and run by Northeastern University. On March 22, the Wanderers won 7-5. And on March 25, mere hours after the Triangle Fire, the Senators beat the Wanderers, 8-4. I wish I could find a record of the attendance at these matches, but I can't. 

Bobby Brown, 1924-2021

It's never good to have to say goodbye to the earliest surviving legends. But it's always good to remember them.

Robert William Brown was born on October 25, 1924 in Seattle, and grew up in San Francisco. He attended Galileo High School, as did fellow baseball players Joe, Vince and Dom DiMaggio; Ping Bodie, Tony Lazzeri, Frank Crosetti, Dario Lodigiani, Gino Cimoli, Frank Lucchesi and Walt "No-Neck" Williams; former Levi Strauss chairman and Oakland Athletics owner Walter Haas; sportscaster Joe Angel; football legend-turned-defendant O.J. Simpson and his teammate-turned-accomplice Al Cowlings; basketball pioneer Hank Luisetti; police detective Dave Toschi, the model for both Steve McQueen as Frank Bullitt and Clint Eastwood as "Dirty" Harry Callahan; and the current Mayor of San Francisco, London Breed.

Bobby Brown went down the Peninsula, and graduated from Stanford University. Then he got his graduate degree down the coast at UCLA. Then he got his medical degree at Tulane University in New Orleans. All while pursuing a baseball career.

While rooming with Yogi Berra on the road, he finished reading one of his medical textbooks, Boyd's Pathology, at the same time that Yogi finished reading a comic book, and Yogi said, "Mine was great. How'd yours turn out?" It sounds like one of those stories that Yogi's former across-the-street neighbor, catcher-turned-broadcaster Joe Garagiola, made up. But Bobby confirmed that it actually happened.

Bobby made his major league debut in the same game as Yogi, on September 22, 1946, the 1st game of a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics at Yankee Stadium. Wearing the Number 7 that would later become identified with Mickey Mantle, Bobby played shortstop and batted 3rd, and went 1-for-2 with a walk. Yogi caught and batted 8th, and went 2-for-4, including the 1st of his 358 career home runs (although not in his 1st at-bat). Spurgeon "Spud" Chandler went the distance, and the Yankees won 4-3. The Yankees also won the 2nd game, 7-4, with Bobby again playing shortstop, going 1-for-3.

Through most of his career, Bobby would wear Number 6 and play 3rd base. In 1947, he backed up Billy Johnson. He batted .300 as the regular 3rd baseman in 1948, but in 1949, Casey Stengel came in, and started his platoon system. Brown batted lefthanded, and Johnson batted righthanded, and Stengel -- who famously, and unfairly, said of Brown, "He looks like a feller who's been hitting for twelve years and fielding for one" -- would bat Brown against righthanded pitchers and Johnson against lefties.

Like many less-heralded Yankees, he became an "unlikely hero" who saved his best performances for postseason play. At that time, that meant only the World Series. He got hits in all 3 of his plate appearances in the Yankees' win over the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

He went 6-for-12 against the Dodgers in 1949, including a bases-loaded triple in Game 4 and a 2-run triple in the clinching Game 5. He went 4-for-12 against the Philadelphia Phillies in 1950, against with a triple in the clinching game, in that case Game 4. He went 5-for-14 against the New York Giants in the 1951 World Series.

After the 1951 season, Bobby married Sara French, a Dallas native that he had met at Tulane. They would go on to have 3 children: Son Peter, who also became a doctor; and daughters Beverley and Kaydee. They lived to see 10 grandchildren.

When Gil McDougald, a righthanded hitter, arrived in 1951, it might have spelled the end for Brown no matter what. But early in the 1952 season, he was drafted into the Korean War, having previously served in the Coast Guard in World War II.

He returned in 1954, but played in only 28 games. By that point, he had his medical degree and license, and no longer needed to play baseball for the money. He played his last game on June 30, 1954, moved to Sara's native Dallas, and became a cardiologist.

He briefly interrupted his medical practice in 1974. The local major league team, the Texas Rangers, was in disarray, and the team's manager, his former Yankee teammate Billy Martin, asked him to serve as the team's interim president. The organization stabilized, to the point where they had finished 2nd in the American League Eastern Division, he returned to medicine after the season.

He attended Old-Timers Day at Yankee Stadium every year, including in the seasons of 1979, '80 and '81, when another Bobby Brown played for the Yankees. This one was a black outfielder, who helped the Yankees win the Pennant in 1981. Neither one had any connection to the Bobby Brown who sang with the vocal group New Edition and was married to singer Whitney Houston.

In 1984, Bobby Brown the ex-3rd baseman was named President of the American League. He still attended Old-Timers Day, but, as a representative of the entire League, he decided it would be improper of him to wear a Yankee uniform, so he walked onto the field in a suit. In 1992 and 1993, with baseball not having an official Commissioner, he presented the Commissioner's Trophy for winning the World Series to the Toronto Blue Jays.
He left the AL Presidency after serving 10 years, and again put on Pinstripes for Old-Timers Day. As late as 2019, he was still attending Old-Timers Day. Due to the COVID pandemic, the event was not held in 2020.
Dr. Bobby Brown died today, March 25, 2021, at the age of 96. Sara had died on March 26, 2012.

He was the last survivor of the 1947 World Champions, the 1949 World Champions, the 1950 World Champions, and the 1951 World Champions. He was also the last surviving teammate of Yankee Hall-of-Famer Bill Dickey, and the last surviving player on either team from Game 6 of the 1947 World Series, the Al Gionfriddo Game.

With his death, the earliest surviving World Series winner is Eddie Robinson, from the 1948 Cleveland Indians. At 100 years old, Eddie was already the oldest living ex-MLB player, and the oldest living ex-Yankee, having helped them with the Pennant in 1955.

The earliest living World Champion Yankee is Art Schallock, who made 28 pitching appearances, plus the last 2 innings of Game 4 of the 1953 World Series vs. the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Yankees lost that game, but won the Series in 6 games. He's now also the earliest-appearing living ex-Yankee, having debuted in 1951. This also makes him the last surviving teammate of Joe DiMaggio. If he makes it to April 25, he'll be 97.

There are now 12 living ex-players who played in the 1940s: Eddie Robinson, Chris Haughey, Eddie Basinski, Tommy Brown (no relation to Bobby), Johnny Groth, Curt Simmons, Carl Erskine, Larry Miggins, Cloyd Boyer (older brother of Ken and Clete, both deceased), Del Crandall, George Elder and Bobby Shantz.

And there are 10 living men who are veterans of both Major League Baseball and World War II: Robinson, Haughey, Groth, Erskine, Miggins, Boyer, Shantz, Ed Mickelson, Bobby Morgan and Frank Saucier.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2021

    Top 5 Reasons You Can’t Blame Bruce Ratner for Moving the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn

    March 24, 2004: Real estate developer Bruce Ratner buys the NBA's New Jersey Nets, and announces his intention to move them from the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey to a new arena in Brooklyn.

    The Nets had just won their 1st and 2nd NBA Eastern Conference Championships in 2002 and 2003, and were contenders to do so again in 2004. For the 1st time since they joined the NBA from the American Basketball Association in 1976, they had legitimate aspirations for the NBA Championship. For the 1st time, they had fans coming to the Brendan Byrne Arena. For the 1st time, they were, beyond much doubt, the best basketball team in the New York Tri-State Area. (The New York Knicks had been bad before, but this was the 1st time the Nets were good and the Knicks were bad.)

    And, just as things had never been better for NBA fans in New Jersey, their team was being taken away from them.

    To make matters worse, the process of moving them moved very slowly. It would be 2012 before the Barclays Center finally opened. By that time, Ratner had sold the team, and was now just operating the arena, which was what he had really wanted all along.

    The Nets were a lame-duck team in New Jersey for 8 years. That was twice as long as for baseball's Montreal Expos (2000 to 2004). They had even moved from the Meadowlands to the Prudential Center in downtown Newark in 2010, while waiting for the Barclays Center to open. I had hoped that moving to Newark, a good basketball city, would bring crowds big enough that Nets ownership would say, "Hey, we can make lots of money by staying here, so let's stay here."

    They didn't stay. And have they made lots of money by moving to Brooklyn? Not really. Today, finally, the Brooklyn Nets look like NBA title contenders, and they're still not making money, because the COVID-19 restrictions are limiting crowd size.

    And suppose the Nets do somehow manage to win an NBA Championship here in the early 2020s. Would that make them the most popular team in the City? Or in the Tri-State Area? Hell, no. I honestly believe that a title for the Knicks would mean more to New Yorkers than for any other team.

    I don't remember the Knicks' titles of 1970 and 1973, but I've seen 7 titles won by the Yankees, 4 each by the Giants and the Islanders, 3 by the Devils, and 1 each by the Mets and the Rangers. A new Knicks title would exceed the joy for any of those, and for a hypothetical title won by the Nets or the Jets.

    A title for the Brooklyn Nets wouldn't mean as much to New Yorkers, even in Brooklyn, than a title for the Knicks would. If they had won one in New Jersey, it wouldn't have meant as much as those 3 Stanley Cups won by the Devils did.

    Switching colors from red, white and blue to black and white makes the Brooklyn Nets look like an expansion team. But the hanging of the banners from the team's Long Island and New Jersey years, as few as they are, makes it look like they never really came to New Jersey: Like the NHL's New York Islanders did (for a while), it seems as though they stayed at the Nassau Coliseum for all those years, and then went directly to the Barclays Center.
    Like it never even happened.

    So the Nets' move to Brooklyn doesn't mean that much for New York City, or even for Brooklyn. The insult to New Jersey means more than a title in New Jersey would have meant.

    It was a waste of time, money and effort. So was it worth it?

    Top 5 Reasons You Can’t Blame Bruce Ratner for Moving the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn

    5. The Meadowlands. Building a sports complex in East Rutherford, Bergen County, just off the New Jersey Turnpike, close to the Lincoln Tunnel and to New York City, seemed like a great idea in the 1970s. But after Giants Stadium and the Meadowlands Racetrack opened in 1976, the drawbacks kicked in.

    There was plenty of parking, but it was poorly managed. Getting in and out took forever. Taking public transportation was no good: You couldn't do it from most of New Jersey, as the Meadowlands Rail Line didn't open until 2009 (in time for the football teams to move next-door to what's now MetLife Stadium), and the buses from New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal got stuck in traffic on Routes 495 and 3.

    And the smell wasn't too good, even before all that exhaust settled over the area, and combined with the natural swamp air to form what Jerry Seinfeld might have called "some sort of mutant funk."

    The arena that opened in 1981 -- known as the Brendan Byrne Arena until 1996, then the Continental Airlines Arena until 2007, and finally the Izod Center until the building's official closing in 2015 -- didn't improve things.
    One level of concourse for two levels of seats simply doesn't work if there's more than 12,000 people in the building. Then again, until the Nets got good in the 2001-02 season, that was rarely a problem for them. It wasn't a problem all that often after that, either.

    The arena was drafty, especially in the upper deck. The sight lines weren't great: The older Madison Square Garden and Nassau Coliseum both had better ones. The sound didn't carry well, even though the sound system was always too loud -- perhaps to cover up for the fact that crowds generally weren't big, unless the Knicks, the Philadelphia 76ers until Julius Erving's retirement in 1987, the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Chicago Bulls once Michael Jordan started winning titles for them in 1991, were in.

    The Nets and the Devils both had to get out of that arena. Both did. But only the Devils really benefited. More on that in a moment.

    4. The Giants and Jets. While the Nets were the first team to have "New Jersey" as part of their name -- as the ABA's New Jersey Americans in 1967-68, before moving to Long Island, and then returning in 1977 as they played at Rutgers while waiting for the Meadowlands Arena to be built -- the New York football teams set the standard for insulting New Jersey.

    The Giants moved to the Meadowlands Sports Complex in 1976, the Jets in 1984. In 1986, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, owner of the Complex, had a marker identifying Giants Stadium as being in New Jersey placed at midfield. But it was removed in 1997. In 2000, the Giants switched back to their old "ny" helmet logo. Both Big Blue and Gang Green were ashamed of Jersey before most New Jerseyans ever learned who Bruce Ratner was.

    3. The New Jersey Devils. If the Nets had simply waited for the Devils to open their new arena, the Prudential Center in downtown Newark, on October 25, 2007, they would have been in the same situation that the Jets: Tenants, and thus second-class citizens. It was why the Jets wanted out of Shea Stadium (owned by New York City, with dates controlled by the Mets), and then demanded half-ownership of MetLife Stadium: Control of their own home destiny.
    The Prudential Center

    This came true in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, when the Nets were tenants of the Devils at the Prudential. The team that owns the arena controls the scheduling. There are 10 metro areas have arenas that currently host both an NBA team and an NHL team: New York (Madison Square Garden), Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Toronto and Washington. In the cases of New York, Boston, Toronto and Washington, the same people own both teams, so there's some flexibility.

    But the Nets, so long a "little brother" franchise to the Knicks, and in a way to the Devils as well, wanted an arena where they would have first choice. That wasn't going to be the Meadowlands, and it wasn't going to be any new arena the Devils would build, either. (In addition to the Prudential Center, a new one at the Meadowlands Complex was considered, as was one next to the Hoboken Terminal.) Regardless of the Devils' success, Nets management didn't want somebody else deciding when they could schedule home games.

    2. Brooklyn. Beyond once being the home of baseball's Dodgers, the Borough has a great basketball tradition. Carl Braun, Bobby Wanzer, Red Holzman (yes, he was a great player, too), Lenny Wilkens, Connie Hawkins, Larry Brown, Billy Cunningham, Roger Brown, and Bernard King. And, while he grew up in North Carolina, Michael Jordan was born in Brooklyn. All of these men have made the Basketball Hall of Fame.

    And that doesn't include other stars like Sonny Hertzberg, Ray Lumpp, Max Zaslofsky, Fuzzy Levane, Jack McMahon, Rudy LaRusso, Connie Dierking, Kevin Loughery, Doug Moe, Mike Dunleavy Sr., Phil "the Thrill" Sellers, Bernard's brother Albert King, Sam Perkins, Lorenzo Charles, Dwayne "the Pearl" Washington, Mark Jackson, Vinnie "the Microwave" Johnson, John Salley, Stephon Marbury, Carmelo Anthony, Quincy Douby and Jamaal Tinsley.

    So once it was established that the Nets had to get out of the Meadowlands, staying in the Tri-State Area may have seemed like a good idea. The possibility of moving to Brooklyn was appealing. It was never going to be the case that a successful Nets team could take the entire City, let alone the entire Tri-State Area, away from the Knicks. But they could become the most popular team in Brooklyn, population then about 2.5 million -- and, by extension, also Staten Island, Queens and Long Island, for a combined population of about 8 million.
    The Barclays Center

    But what about New Jersey? Didn't all those years of support from the Garden State -- or, at least, the part of it that tilted toward New York instead of Philadelphia -- mean anything?

    No:

    1. New Jersey Didn’t Care. During the Winter months, New Jerseyans turned their attention to the Devils. If they wanted to watch basketball, they could watch their high school or college teams. If they wanted to watch the NBA, they could watch on television, usually either the Knicks, or the Philadelphia 76ers if they were from Mercer County on south, or the Los Angeles Lakers or whatever team LeBron James happened to be playing for that season. (This season marks the 3rd straight in which that's one team, not two.)

    VERDICT: Not Guilty. The old line that Brooklynites had for the Dodgers, "They may be bums, but they're our bums," never really applied in New Jersey. Anyone shouting "Please don't leave us" never made themselves heard over the silence of people who just didn't care.

    Ratner buying the Nets may have been dumb. Ratner betting on the Nets being a success in Brooklyn may have been dumb. Ratner no longer owning the Nets, now that they may have more talent than at any time in their 54-season history, may be dumb. But moving them? It was insulting for some of us, but you can hardly blame him for doing it.

    Tuesday, March 23, 2021

    Elgin Baylor, 1934-2021

    My generation only knows Elgin Baylor as the least successful executive in NBA history. And that's not fair. He was a transformational figure in the game's history.

    Elgin Gay Baylor was born on September 16, 1934 in Washington, D.C. On September 9, 2017, the anniversary of the establishment of the District of Columbia, I listed my picks for the District's Top 10 Athletes. I listed Baylor at Number 2, behind Hall of Fame safety Willie Wood of the Green Bay Packers.

    Baylor attended Joel Elias Spingarn High School. Spingarn was an African-American educator and literary critic. In 1913, he established the Spingarn Medal, awarded annually for outstanding achievement by an African-American -- effectively, black America's Nobel Prize. The school closed in 2013. Its graduates include basketball legends Baylor, Dave Bing, Adrian Dantley and Sherman Douglas.

    forward, Baylor attended the College of Idaho, then transferred to Seattle University. He led them to the 1958 NCAA Final, losing to the University of Kentucky, but being named the Tournament's Most Outstanding Player. He was drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers, moving with them to Los Angeles in 1960.
    Baylor at Seattle University

    An 11-time All-Star, he was named the NBA's Rookie of the Year in 1959, and led the Lakers to the Western Conference Championship in 1959, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969 and 1970. The 71 points he scored on November 15, 1960 was a record, soon broken by Wilt Chamberlain. The 61 points he scored in Game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals remains an NBA Finals record.

    He was hailed as one of the earliest players to make the game "vertical" -- that is, to have airborne acrobatics near the basket. He was named to 11 All-Star Games, the NBA's 35th Anniversary Team and its 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players, and the Basketball Hall of Fame. His Number 22 was retired by both his college and his pro team. Seattle University named its court for him, and the Lakers dedicated a statue to him outside the Staples Center.

    But there's a cloud over him. Those 8 NBA Finals he went to? The Lakers lost all 8, despite also having Jerry West, and later Gail Goodrich, and, still later, Chamberlain. A knee injury began slowing him in the 1963-64 season, and it got worse during the 1965 Playoffs. Two games into the 1970-71 season, he ruptured his Achilles tendon, and was out the rest of the way.

    Nine games into the 1971-72 season, he retired. The very next day, the Lakers began a 33-game winning streak, which remains a record for any North American major league sports franchise. And they finally won the NBA title that year. They gave him a championship ring anyway.

    He was on the initial coaching staff of the expansion New Orleans Jazz in 1974-75, and later served as head coach, but never made the Playoffs. In 1986, he was named vice president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Clippers, and remained in that office until 2008, until he was 74 -- partly because Clippers owner Donald Sterling was the only NBA owner would put up with his poor record, and partly because Baylor was the only man who would put up with Sterling never giving a GM enough money to build a good team.

    He was named NBA Executive of the Year in 2006, but finally quit when even he couldn't take Sterling's abuse, racial and otherwise, anymore. He never worked in basketball again.
    He died yesterday, March 22, 2021, in Los Angeles, of natural causes. He was 86 years old. He was survived by his wife Elaine, his son Alan, and his daughter, Alison.

    Saturday, March 20, 2021

    Scores On This Historic Day: March 20, 2003, The Iraq War Begins

    March 20, 2003: President George W. Bush launches the Iraq War, to topple President Saddam Hussein of Iraq from power.

    April 9, 2003: Saddam fled, his regime of nearly 34 years coming to an end.

    May 1, 2003: Aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, beneath a huge banner reading "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED," Bush did not use those words himself, but he did say, "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

    To be fair, he added, "We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. Our mission continues."

    December 13, 2003: Allied forces captured Saddam. But this was not the end of the war, either.

    September 30, 2004: With the war still going, with no end in sight, Bush was running for re-election, and debating the Democratic nominee for President, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. Bush was asked why he started the war.

    He said, "The enemy attacked us." This was part of his continuing telling of the story that Saddam was involved in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, including the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York.

    Kerry responded: "Saddam Hussein did not attack us on September 11, 2001. Osama bin Laden did."

    Kerry was right. Bush was lying. That should have ended Bush's bid for a 2nd term right there.

    November 2, 2004: By a margin of one State in the Electoral College -- and we may never know just how much the Republicans cheated in Ohio, possibly in other States -- Bush was re-elected.

    January 20, 2009: Bush leaves office as one of the most unpopular Presidents ever, and Barack Obama becomes President. He had been elected partly on a pledge to end the Iraq War, which was still going.

    June 1, 2009: Dick Cheney, who from 2001 to 2009 had been Bush's Vice President, finally admitted the truth: "I do not believe and have never seen any evidence to confirm that [Hussein] was involved in 9/11. We had that reporting for a while, [but] eventually it turned out not to be true," Cheney conceded.

    December 18, 2011: President Obama withdraws the last U.S. combat forces from Iraq, leaving behind only a token force in a defensive role. There were 4,507 American soldiers killed, among 32,000 wounded. Other countries' forces in support, including the new Iraqi army: 18,000. Pro-Saddam and later ISIS forces killed: Approximately 37,000. Iraqi civilians killed: Officially, over 110,000, but probably far more.

    Benefits to Iraq: They traded one corrupt regime for another, with far fewer extrajudicial killings. In other words, things became better, but still not good.

    Benefits to America: The Bush-Cheney Administration's friends, especially energy companies and defense contractors, made a lot of money, and... uh... well... America remembered that war is a bad thing, and that just because you spout slogans and wave flags doesn't make you more patriotic than the people who say that war is a bad thing.

    March 20, 2003 was a Thursday. Major League Baseball was in Spring Training, so any games played in that sport on that day didn't count. The NFL was in its off-season. There were 3 NBA games played that night:

    * The Detroit Pistons beat the Philadelphia 76ers, 113-85 at the Palace in the Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills, Michigan. Chauncey Billups of the Pistons led all scorers with 29 points.

    * The San Antonio Spurs beat the Dallas Mavericks, 112-110 in overtime at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Nick Van Exel scored 35 for the Mavs, but Tim Duncan scored 25 for the Spurs, and Malik Rose and Tony Parker each added 22. The Spurs went on to win the NBA Championship.

    * And the Sacramento Kings beat the Los Angeles Lakers 107-99 at the Arco Arena in Sacramento. Kobe Bryant scored 34 for the Lakers, and Shaquille O'Neal scored 28. But the Kings got 26 from Chris Webber, 23 from Peja Stojakovic, and 19 from Mike Bibby, riding a 41-point 4th quarter to victory.

    There were 9 games played in the NHL, and 4 of them went to overtime: 

    * The only team in the New York Tri-State Area playing that night was the New York Islanders, and they beat the Montreal Canadiens, 6-3 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

    * The Philadelphia Flyers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-2 at the Philadelphia arena now named the Wells Fargo Center.

    * The Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-3 in overtime at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus.

    * The St. Louis Blues beat the team then known as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, 3-2 in overtime at the St. Louis arena now named the Enterprise Center.

    * The Colorado Avalanche beat the San Jose Sharks, 2-0 at the Denver arena now named the Ball Arena.

    * The team then known as the Phoenix Coyotes beat the Edmonton Oilers, 3-2 in overtime at what is currently named the Phoenix Suns Arena in downtown Phoenix.

    * The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Los Angeles Kings played to a 2-2 tie, in overtime at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

    * The Washington Capitals beat the Calgary Flames, 4-1 at the Saddledome in Calgary.

    * And the Vancouver Canucks beat the Nashville Predators, 7-3 at what's now named the Rogers Arena in Vancouver.