Friday, October 24, 2014

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


October 24, 2004, 10 years ago: A disgusting sporting event takes place -- and I don't mean a World Series game won by the Boston Red Sox, although that happened on this day, too.
 
North London soccer club Arsenal had gone 49 straight Premier League games without a loss, a record streak for English “football” dating back to May 2003. Making it 50 would have been great semantically, but more important was who they were playing in Game 50: They went into Old Trafford, home of the other dominant team of the era, Manchester United.
 
The game was scoreless going into the 72nd minute (out of 90, so 80 percent done), mainly because United's players were kicking Jose Antonio Reyes, Arsenal's young Spanish striker, into oblivion, rendering him too timid to shoot -- he was, literally, intimidated.
 
In addition, United's Dutch striker, Ruud van Nistelrooy -- nicknamed Van Horseface due to an uncanny facial resemblance to Seattle Slew -- had a challenge on Arsenal defender Ashley Cole that was clearly worthy of a straight red card. But referee Mike Riley gave only 2 cards to United all match, a yellow each to the Neville brothers. No, not Aaron and the New Orleans singers. Gary Neville was United's right back, and Phil Neville was a midfielder for them. Indeed, van Nistelrooy was retroactively given the penalty he would have gotten if, in fact, he had received a straight red: 3 domestic games. (2 yellows, which equal 1 red, would have been a mere 1-game suspension.)
 
In that 72nd minute, United's young striker, Wayne Rooney, executed a blatant dive in the box, and referee Mike Riley called a foul on Arsenal defender Sol Campbell, who never even touched Rooney. It was a completely bogus call, and he awarded a penalty, which Ruud van Nistelrooy converted, Rooney added another that he didn't deserve in the 90th minute, and United had unfairly won, 2-0.
 
In contrast to the 2 yellow cards on United, Riley had actually given Arsenal 3 yellow cards -- and the alleged penalty foul by Campbell wasn't one of them.
 
The fireworks were hardly over at the final whistle. Campbell refused to shake Rooney's hand, a deserved mark of disrespect. Entering the tunnel to head to the locker rooms, United manager Alex Ferguson was hit in the face by a slice of pizza from the postgame spread in Arsenal's room. The game becomes known as the Battle of the Buffet, and, as it turned out, the Arsenal player who threw the slice was young Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas. 

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

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

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

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

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

The aftermath?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

October 24, 1884, 130 years ago: The Mets lose the World Series. Well, not exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

BASE BALL
TO-DAY
POLO GROUNDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Edward Meeker made the first recording, but Murray appears to have been the first to sing it live. Murray had also recorded "Tessie," which became a ballpark chant for Boston Red Sox fans. Ironically, Murray was a fan of the New York Highlanders, the team that would become the Yankees. Von Tilzer didn't see a live major league game until 1928, Norworth until 1940.

It apparently took until 1934 for the song to be played at a major league game. In 1976, Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck noticed that broadcaster Harry Caray was leaning out of the press box, and inviting fans to sing the song with him during the 7th Inning Stretch. So Veeck piped Harry and the fans into the public-address system at Comiskey Park, and a tradition was born. Harry took it with him across town to Wrigley Field, and, with the Cubs' partnership with cable-TV "superstation" WGN, made the singing of that song at that stage of the game a national phenomenon. (And probably saved Wrigley for at least 2 more generations.)

Unfortunately, Harry always got the words wrong, and, to this day, the celebrities the Cubs bring on to sing it in Harry's place (since his death in 1998) have repeated his mistakes: They sing, "Take me out to the crowd," and, "I don't care if I ever get back."

In 1994, I heard it played at Mercer County Waterfront Park (now Arm & Hammer Park), home of the Trenton Thunder of the Class AA Eastern League. The Thunder didn't do too well in that 1st season of professional baseball in New Jersey in the modern era, and it inspired me to sing, "I don't think this team's gonna come back, for it's root, root, root for the home team, if they don't win, it's the same."

*

October 24, 1911: A 6-day postponement is over, and the field at Shibe Park is ready to play Game 4 of the World Series. With Albert "Chief" Bender pitching, the Athletics beat Christy Mathewson and the Giants 4-2, giving the A's a 3-games-to-1 lead.

Bender, a member of the Chippewa tribe from Minnesota, frequently had to hear fans taunt him with Indian war whoops. Knowing that this was a period of great immigration from Europe, he would sometimes yell at the fans taunting him, "You lousy bunch of foreigners! Why don't you go back where you came from?" He was elected to the Hall of Fame.

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

October 24, 1926: Yelberton Abraham Tittle is born in Marshall, Texas. Y.A. Tittle was a sensational quarterback at Louisiana State University, where one of his receivers was future big-league baseball player and manager Alvin Dark.

He starred for the San Francisco 49ers, joining with running backs Hugh McElhenny, Joe “the Jet” Perry and John Henry Johnson to form “the Million Dollar Backfield” in 1954 – the only season in which one team had an entire backfield that went on to reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Tittle has joked about the nickname, though: “They should have called us the Hundred Dollar Backfield, because that’s about what they paid us.”

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

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

In 1964, hit hard in a game in Pittsburgh, his helmet knocked off, his bald head dripping blood as he knelt on the field, a photograph of this scene won a Pulitzer Prize. Tittle retired after the season. Despite never winning a title, he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the Giants have retired his Number 14. He is still alive, at age 88, but is stricken with Alzheimer's disease.

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

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

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

October 24, 1962: Jay McKinley Novacek is born in Martin, South Dakota. The All-Pro tight end from the University of Wyoming (whose teams are also called the Cowboys) helped the Dallas Cowboys win 3 Super Bowls. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012, but, as yet, has not been elected to the Pro Football Hall.

October 24, 1966: Roman Arkadyevich Abramovich is born in Saratov, Russia. He turned an investment into the Russian black market into oil and aluminum empires, and developed a close relationship with then-President Boris Yeltsin, and has worked with Yeltsin’s successors, Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev. He has been indicted on numerous corruption charges, but has never been convicted. It’s good to have friends in high places. His fortune has gone up and down, but is now believed by Forbes magazine to be over $13 billion. Two divorce settlements and his sports investments have not helped in this regard, as you’ll see below.

In 2003, he bought Chelsea Football Club of West London, leading to its new nickname of “Chelski” (or “Chavski,” as the club’s popularity with London’s tracksuit-wearing, baggy-pantsed, jewelry-flashing, cap-turned-sideways, foul-mouthed juvenile delinquents (we don't really have a single name for such in the U.S.) has led to them being called “The Chavs”).

In 2004, he hired manager Jose Mourinho away from the Portuguese club F.C. Porto, and together they built a team that won the Premier League title in 2005 and again in 2006 – this after winning just 1 title in the team’s first 99 seasons, in 1955 (and that with a former Arsenal player as their manager, Ted Drake). Mourinho had enough of Abramovich's meddling and left for Internazionale in Milan, Italy, and that for Real Madrid in Spain, but has now returned to Chelsea.

Despite winning the FA Cup in 2007 and 2009, both the Premier League and the FA Cup (a.k.a. "winning The Double") in 2010, the Champions League last year and the Europa League this year, Chelsea is believed to be heavily in debt under Abramovich's ownership, due to the high sums paid in wages, transfer fees, and upkeep of the aging home ground, Stamford Bridge. He is believed to have sunk over 1 billion pounds – about $1.6 billion – into the club in his 11 years of ownership.

In 1999, he was elected to the Russian Parliament, the Duma, from the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, the oil-rich easternmost “state” of Russia, and from 2000 to 2008 served as its Governor, making him a “neighbor” of 2007-09 Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, as this is the part of Russia that she claimed could be seen from her home State. (But she never actually said, “I can see Russia from my house” – that was Tina Fey doing the impersonation.)

Twice divorced, the 48-year-old “Mad Russian” is the domestic partner of Daria “Dasha” Zhukova, a 33-year-old fashion designer known on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption as “Marat Safin’s Girlfriend” – while she was dating the Russian tennis star, the show’s co-host Tony Kornheiser slobbered over her so much it made my feelings for Catherine Zeta-Jones look mature by comparison. They are parents of 2 children, and Abramovich has 5 others with his first 2 wives.

*
 
October 24, 1972: Jackie Robinson dies. The 1st black player in modern baseball had been suffering from diabetes, which had robbed him of most his eyesight, caused such poor circulation in his legs that amputation was being considered, and damaged his heart to the point where it killed him at age 53.

Just 10 days earlier, he had flown from his home in Stamford, Connecticut (his wife Rachel, now 92, now lives near their old house), and was a special guest at Game 2 of the World Series between the A’s and Reds in Cincinnati. It had been 25 years since the great experiment that he and Brooklyn Dodger president Branch Rickey (who died in 1965) had reached its successful conclusion with the Dodgers winning the Pennant and Jackie making it through the season, not just surviving but excelling. His former teammate, Pee Wee Reese, was on hand, and former Dodger broadcaster Red Barber introduced him. Jackie said, “I’m extremely pleased to be here, but I must confess, I’m going to be even more pleased when I see a black face managing in baseball.”

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

Earlier in the year, in Los Angeles, Jackie’s hometown (if not the team’s), the Dodgers retired uniform numbers for the first time, packing away Jackie’s Number 42, Campy’s Number 39 and Sandy Koufax’s Number 32. Jackie was the 1st black player in the Hall of Fame, Campy the 2nd, and Koufax had been newly elected at the time of the ceremony.

It would be two more years, on October 3, 1974, before Frank Robinson, no relation, was hired as Major League Baseball’s first black manager, with the Cleveland Indians, the team that had been the first in the American League to add black players with Larry Doby and Satchel Paige. (Oddly, Frank beat Jackie to being the 1st black player to get his number retired: The Orioles let him go before the 1972 season, and, though he was still active, announced the retirement of his number on March 10 of that year.)

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

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

In 1997, on the 50th Anniversary of Jackie’s arrival, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced that Jackie’s Number 42 would be retired for all of baseball, as yet a unique honor. All players then wearing it would be allowed to continue to do so for the remainder of their careers, but no new players could wear it, and no current players could switch to it.

The last remaining Number 42 in baseball was Mariano Rivera of the Yankees; the Yankees appeared to have been waiting for Mariano to retire before retiring the number for both him and Jackie, but in 2007, on the 60th Anniversary of Jackie’s arrival, they retired it for Jackie, and did so again for Mariano when he hung ‘em up last year, just as they retired Number 8 for both Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra.

October 24, 1973: Jackie McNamara is born in Glasgow, Scotland. He won 4 Scottish Premier League titles and 3 Scottish Cups with Glasgow’s Celtic Football Club, serving as their Captain in 2005. He now manages a much smaller Scottish club, Dundee United.
 
October 24, 1974, 40 years ago: Corey James Dillon is born in Seattle. He set single-season rushing yardage records for the University of Washington, the Cincinnati Bengals and the New England Patriots. On October 23, 2000, he rushed for 278 yards against the Denver Broncos, breaking Walter Payton’s 1977 record of 275. Dillon’s record has been surpassed by Jamal Lewis and Adrian Peterson. In the 2004 season, he was a member of the Patriot team that won Super Bowl XXXIX. (By cheating?)

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

Also on this day, Jamal David Mayers is born in Toronto. One of the few black players in the NHL, the right wing was an Alternate Captain for his hometown Maple Leafs, and retired after winning the 2013 Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks.
 
October 24, 1975: Juan Pablo Angel is born in Medellin, Colombia. He began his soccer career in his hometown, at Atletico National. He later played for River Plate in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Aston Villa in Birmingham, England, before starring for the New York Red Bulls. He recently announced his retirement.


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

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

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

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

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

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

October 24, 1996: Game 5 of the World Series. Andy Pettitte, in just his 2nd season in the majors, opposes seasoned veteran John Smoltz, who is pitching in his 4th World Series. The Yankees take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 4th, thanks to an error by Marquis Grissom and a double by Cecil Fielder.

In the bottom of the 6th, the Braves put 2 runners on with nobody out. A bunt is attempted by Mark Lemke, but Pettitte snares it, and throws lefthanded to Charlie Hayes at 3rd base, nailing the lead runner. The next batter, Chipper Jones, hits a comebacker to Pettitte, who throws to Derek Jeter covering 2nd base for one, over to Fielder on 1st, and it's an inning-ending double play.

That’s the Braves’ last threat until the last out, when John Wetteland comes on to face once and future Yankee Luis Polonia, who lines a shot into the gap, which an injured Paul O’Neill somehow catches, to save the 5-hit shutout.

The Yankees have taken all 3 games in Atlanta, and take a 3 games to 2 lead back to Yankee Stadium, just as former Brave, now Yankee, manager Joe Torre predicted to owner George Steinbrenner. This is the last game ever played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, after 30 major league seasons (plus 1 preceding season in the minors), as the Braves move into Turner Field for the next season.

October 24, 1999: The Yankees beat the Braves, 7-2 at Turner Field in Atlanta, behind the pitching of David Cone and 3 hits from Bernie Williams, and take a 2 games to 0 lead in the World Series. Before the game, the winners in the fan balloting for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team are introduced. All the winners then living were in attendance:

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

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

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

Second Basemen: Rogers Hornsby and Jackie Robinson. (Both dead; Joe Morgan, one of the finalists, was part of the NBC broadcasting crew for this Series, and said that if he were one of the 2nd basemen chosen, and Robinson was not, he would forfeit his place to Robinson. Morgan finished 3rd in the 2B voting, so it wasn’t necessary.)

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

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

Outfielders: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Pete Rose, Ken Griffey Jr. (DiMaggio had died earlier in the year. Williams was already ill, but attended, and it turned out to be his last appearance in a big-league ballpark, following his emotional appearance at that season’s All-Star Game at Fenway Park in Boston, his former home field. As he did on that occasion, he tipped his cap to the fans. Musial has since died. Mays, Aaron, Rose and Griffey are still alive, and Griffey was still active and just 29 years old, making his election, at that point in his career, the result of popularity more than achievement. Aaron, who starred for the Braves in both Milwaukee and Atlanta, threw out the ceremonial first ball. Rose’s election to the team was controversial, as he had been banned from baseball for betting on the game.)

With the steroid accusations against Clemens and McGwire, the ban on Rose, and the “kid vote” for Griffey in mind, the next-highest vote getters at the positions in question were Greg Maddux for Clemens’ spot, Jimmie Foxx for McGwire’s, and Roberto Clemente and Shoeless Joe Jackson for Griffey’s and, ironically Rose’s; so if Jackson, also banned permanently for gambling-related offenses, is also removed, the next-highest outfielder was Reggie Jackson.

*
 
October 24, 2000: Game 3 of the World Series at Shea Stadium. The Mets defeat the Yankees‚ 4-2‚ behind the pitching of Rick Reed and their bullpen. Benny Agbayani's 8th inning double is the key hit for the Mets as they cut the Yankees Series lead to 2-games-to-1. Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez strikes out 12, a Series record for a Yankee pitcher, but loses a postseason game for the 1st time after 8 wins.

The loss ends the Yankees record streak of 14 consecutive wins in World Series action. This remains the only World Series game the Mets have won in the last 28 years.

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

The Giants now need to win just 1 of the possible 2 games in Anaheim to take their 1st World Championship in 45 seasons in San Francisco.
 
October 24, 2004, 10 years ago: The Boston Red Sox take a 2-games-to-0 lead in the World Series with a 6-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park. Curt Schilling, again wearing the Bloody Sock, gets the win. Orlando Cabrera‚ Mark Bellhorn‚ and Jason Varitek each drive in a pair of runs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Jim Leyritz Day!



October 23, 1996: Game 4 of the World Series. The Braves rock Yankee starter Kenny Rogers and lead 6-0 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. They close to within 6-3, but in the top of the 8th, they are 4 outs away from being down 3 games to 1 in the Series, their great season coming to a very disappointing close.

But they get two runners on, and backup catcher Jim Leyritz comes to bat against Braves closer Mark Wohlers. Wohlers throws pitches at 98 and 99 miles per hour, and Leyritz manages to foul them off. Then Wohlers dials it down a little, throwing an 86-mile-per-hour slider. Leyritz, a postseason hero for the Yankees a year earlier with his 15th-inning walkoff homer in the Division Series against Seattle, knocks it over the left-field fence to tie the game.

The Yankees load the bases in the 10th, and third baseman Wade Boggs, whom Torre had benched in favor of Charlie Hayes due to his usual magnificent hitting having failed him, is sent up to pinch-hit. Boggs draws one of the most important walks in baseball history, and it’s 7-6 Yanks. An error makes the final score 8-6 Yanks.

Not since the 1929 Cubs had a team blown a 6-run lead in a Series game. The Yankees were in serious trouble, but now the Series is tied, and anything can happen. In this 1996 season, lots of anythings have already happened for the Yankees.

The Yankees traded him in 1997. He helped the San Diego Padres reach the World Series in 1998 -- against the Yankees. In 1999, the Yankees reacquired him, and he helped them with another World Series, hitting what turned out to be the last home run of the 20th Century in Game 4. This led NBC's Bob Costas to say, "You could send this guy to a resort in the spring and summer, as long as he comes back for October." His career ended in 2000 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Leyritz has had his ups and downs since. In 2006, he admitted that he'd used amphetamines while playing -- legal at the time, and not nearly as performance-enhancing as steroids. (So if you want to invalidate the Yankees' 1996 and 1999 World Championships because of this, you can't.) In 2007, he killed another driver in a drunken crash. He ended up serving 10 days in jail and a year's probation. In 2009, he was charged with domestic violence for hitting his wife, although she later dropped the charges (but also dropped him through divorce -- they had 4 children).

In 2011, he was a coach for the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League. In 2012, he worked for the Yankee front office. He now hosts a radio show in Los Angeles. He is about to turn 51 years old.

Also on October 23, 1996, former Yankee pitcher Bob Grim dies at age 66. The New York native was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1954, and won the World Series with them in 1956.

*

October 23, 1845: In a rematch at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey‚ the New York Club (a.k.a. the New York Nine) again beats Brooklyn‚ this time 39-17. The New York Herald publishes a box score of the game showing 12 outs for each side during the game‚ 8 players on each‚ and 3 umpires.

Neither of these clubs leave any records behind, but it is likely that this game is not considered a "New York game," as would be defined over the next few months by the Knickerbocker club.

October 23, 1869: John William Heisman is born in Cleveland. He coached several college football teams, his tenure at Georgia Tech being the best-remembered. Upon his death in 1936, the national player of the year trophy first awarded the year before was named the Heisman Memorial Trophy in his memory.

October 23, 1876: The Chicago Tribune publishes season-ending batting percentages, based on the new method of dividing number of at-bats into number of hits. Roscoe "Ross" Barnes of the Chicago White Stockings (forerunners of the Cubs) leads with a .429 average‚ thanks in part to the fair-foul rule.

The following season‚ the rule is changed so that a ball hit in fair territory and rolls foul before passing first/third base is a foul ball.

October 23, 1886: The American Association Champion St. Louis Browns win the World Championship by beating the National League Champion Chicago White Stockings, 4-3 in 10 innings. This is the beginning of the rivalry between the teams now known as the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs, often (but hardly universally) considered the greatest in the National League.

Pitching his 4th game in 6 days‚ John Clarkson holds St. Louis hitless for 6 innings as Chicago builds a 3-0 lead. The Browns tie the game in the 8th‚ and Curt Welch scores the "$15‚000" run on a wild pitch in the 10th. St. Louis wins the entire gate receipts from the series ($13‚920)‚ with each of 12 players getting about $580.

October 23, 1894: Raymond Bloom Bressler is born in Coder, Pennsylvania. “Rube” Bressler was a pitcher-turned-outfielder, and a member of the Cincinnati Reds team that won the 1919 World Series.

Like his teammate, future Hall-of-Famer Edd Roush, he was interviewed by Lawrence S. Ritter for his book The Glory of Their Times. And, like Roush, he insisted that the Reds would have won that Series even if the White Sox hadn’t thrown it. He had a .301 lifetime batting average and batted over .300 5 times.

*

October 23, 1905: Gertrude Caroline Ederle is born in Manhattan (although many reference books had said 1906). In 1924, she was part of a U.S. women’s swimming relay team that won an Olympic Gold Medal in Paris. In 1925, she swam the 21 miles from the southern tip of Manhattan Island to New Jersey's Sandy Hook in just 7 hours. She was just getting warmed up.

On August 6, 1926, she not only became the 1st woman to swim the English Channel, but broke the existing men’s record for fastest swim of it, lowering it  from 16½ to 14½ hours. Already hard of hearing, she eventually went deaf, and spent much of her life teaching deaf children to swim. She lived to be 98.

October 23, 1910: The Philadelphia Athletics win the World Series for the 1st time, defeating the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs finish a streak of 4 Pennants in 5 seasons, and the A’s have just begun an equal streak.

Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown comes back to face Jack Coombs‚ who takes a 2-1 lead into the 7th. The A's get to Brown for 5 runs and a 7-2 win. The crowd of 27‚374 at Shibe Park is the Series' largest. The A's .316 batting average is a World Series record.

For this Series‚ cork-center balls were secretly used for the first time‚ and will be used in the majors starting next year. Previously‚ rubber-center balls were used. And yet, it would be another 10 years before what we now call "The Lively Ball Era" began.

The A's already have 3rd baseman Frank Baker, shortstop Jack Barry and 2nd baseman Eddie Collins. But 1st baseman John "Stuffy" McInnis is still a year away from becoming a starter. When he does, those 4 will become known as "The $100,000 Infield." My, how quaint the figure now sounds -- about $1.8 million in today's money, combined, for those 4. Baker is also a year away from the achievement that will get him nicknamed "Home Run" Baker. Collins, Baker, pitcher Albert "Chief" Bender, and manager/part-owner Connie Mack will be elected to the Hall of Fame.

The last survivor of the Philadelphia A's teams that won the 1910, '11, '13 and '14 American League Pennants was center fielder Amos Strunk, who lived until 1979. The Phillies, discovering that he was the last living player who'd played at the first game at Shibe Park on April 12, 1909, invited him to attend the last game at what had been renamed Connie Mack Stadium on October 1, 1970. He angrily refused, even though he lived just outside Philadelphia in Drexel Hill, still angry with Mack after 60 years, and not willing to be associated with him in any way, even though Mack himself had been dead for 14 years.

October 23, 1915: Dr. William Gilbert Grace dies of a heart attack. He was 67. I don’t know much about cricket, but the native of Bristol, in England's West County, played at the top level of the sport for a record 44 seasons, from 1865 to 1908, and was regarded as the game’s first modern batsman, and by many as its greatest player ever – which certainly suggests that he was the greatest of its early years.

Although he was a practicing physician, he was usually referred to publicly by his initials, “W.G. Grace,” rather than “Dr. Grace.”

October 23, 1923: Babe Ruth makes a post-season appearance in a Giants uniform‚ as the Giants defeat the Baltimore Orioles of the International League. 9-0. Ruth hits a home run over the right-field roof at the Polo Grounds.

The game is a benefit for John B. Day, the now-destitute owner of the Giants’ franchise from their arrival in New York in 1883 until 1892. He had also run the New York Metropolitans of the 1880s' American Association -- the "original New York Mets." He died in 1925, age 77.

October 23, 1925: John William Carson is born in Corning, Iowa.  Or, as Ed McMahon would have said if he'd been in the delivery room, "And now, ladies and gentlemen, heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Johnny!"

Host of The Tonight Show from 1962 to 1992, Johnny Carson made his share of sports jokes. For example: “Well, it’s fall again, and now, we here in Los Angeles can forget about the Dodgers, and concentrate on forgetting the Rams.”

Every year, around Christmastime, Johnny would break out the ideal toy: Dickie the Stick! Dickie the Stick was a very versatile toy. One time, Johnny demonstrated that, “With Dickie the Stick, you can hit a baseball like Reggie Jackson! Or scratch like Pete Rose!”

Also on this day, Frederick Alexander Shero is born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. “Freddie the Fog” played 145 games as a defenseman for the New York Rangers between 1947 and 1950, but is much better known as a coach. He led the Philadelphia Flyers to the 1974 and 1975 Stanley Cups – the only ones that franchise has ever won. He also coached the Rangers to the 1979 Stanley Cup Finals, their only trip there between 1972 and 1994.

His philosophy of hockey was simple: “Take the shortest route to the puck, and arrive in ill humor.” Before the clinching Game 6 on May 19, 1974, he told his Flyer players, “We will win together now, and we will walk together forever.” He was right.

*

October 23, 1931: The Brooklyn Baseball Club of the National League announces that Wilbert Robinson has been fired as manager, and the club will be called the Robins only in the past tense. Max Carey‚ a no-nonsense sort who had been a star outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates‚ will take over next year. The team reverts to its previous name: The Brooklyn Dodgers.

Robinson was not yet done, though. He was named the president of the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association, and held that post until his death. He had been involved in professional baseball in one form or another in 50 seasons. And, not long before both men died in 1934, he made peace with his arch-rival, former friend and teammate, John McGraw.

Also on this day, James Paul David Bunning is born in Southgate, Kentucky, outside Cincinnati. He is one of the few pitchers to win at least 100 games in both Leagues, and one of the few to pitch no-hitters in both Leagues, including a perfect game against the Mets at Shea Stadium in 1964. It was on Father’s Day, and he had 6 children. He would go on to have 9.

He served his native Kentucky in both houses of Congress, but in the last few years, the very conservative Republican was one of the Senate’s nuttier voices. Then again, pitching for the Phillies prior to 2007 (except for 1980) could do that to you. He is, however, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Phillies have retired his Number 14.

October 23, 1935: Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at a saloon in Newark, New Jersey, in what will become known as The Chophouse Massacre. As my father, a Newark native, would say, “No great loss.”

In 1998, Michael Walsh published As Time Goes By, a combination prequel and sequel to the film Casablanca, authorized by the estate of the film's writers, the twins Julius and Philip Epstein. In it, Walsh fictionalizes this shootout as being part of the reason Yitzik "Rick" Baline has to flee the United States and become saloonkeeper/casino operator "Rick Blaine."

October 23, 1939, 75 years ago: Zane Grey dies of heart failure in Altadena, California. He was 67. He had played minor-league baseball, and once he failed at that, he became a sportswriter. Eventually, he became a writer of Western novels, including Last of the Plainsmen, and was a favorite of another frustrated athlete, President Dwight D. Eisenhower. On M*A*S*H, Colonel Sherman T. Potter (played by Harry Morgan) was also a big fan of Grey's novels.

*

October 23, 1940: Edson Arantes do Nascimento is born in Três Corações (Three Hearts), Minas Gerais, Brazil. The most famous native of his country, we know him as Pelé. If he is not the greatest soccer player who ever lived, he is certainly the most celebrated.

He helped Brazil win the World Cup in 1958, 1962 and 1970. He might have won it in 1966, too, if the Argentina players hadn't literally kicked him out of it. He led Santos, the largest club in the city of Sao Paulo, to 10 championships of the State of Sao Paulo between 1958 and 1973, 5 national tournament titles and the Copa Libertadores (the South American equivalent to the UEFA Champions League) in 1962 and 1963.

He played his final 3 seasons in America, with the New York Cosmos, playing home games at Downing Stadium on Randall’s Island in 1975, Yankee Stadium in The Bronx in 1976, and Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands of East Rutherford, New Jersey in 1977, leading them to the NASL Championship that season.

When he got the entire stadium to “Say it with me, three times: Love! Love! Love!” prior to his testimonial match on October 1, 1977 -- playing the 1st half for the Cosmos, and the 2nd half for Santos -- heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who liked to call himself “The Greatest” and generally refused to take a back seat to anyone, said, “Now I understand: He is greater than me.”

These kids today who say that Lionel Messi is the best player ever? They don't know. These kids today who say Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player ever? He's not even the best Ronaldo the game has ever seen. (Or even the 2nd-best, if you count Ronaldinho.) They don't know: Pelé is the greatest. It's why the Brazilians call him O Rei: The King.

His greatest accomplishment is that he got our nation, notorious for insularity and not caring about what goes on in the rest of the world, to care about soccer for the first time -- it only lasted for a few years, but it provided the building blocks for American soccer fandom today. American soccer fans may not owe him as much as Brazilian fans do, but we're a strong 2nd in that regard.

Also on this day, Eleanor Louise Greenwich is born in Brooklyn. With her then-husband, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich wrote "Be My Baby", "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)", "Da Doo Ron Ron", "Leader of the Pack", "Do Wah Diddy Diddy", and "River Deep, Mountain High", and about a jillion other rock-and-roll classics.

In 1964 alone, 17 different songs that she and Barry wrote appeared on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100. The only songwriters, individuals or in a team, that’s ever topped that in the rock-and-roll era (1955 to the present) also did it that year: John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

She discovered Neil Diamond, and sang backing vocals on several of Diamond's hit songs. In the 1980s, her life and songs were turned into a Broadway musical titled Leader of the Pack. She died of a heart attack on August 23, 2009, age 68.

*

October 23, 1945: Brooklyn Dodger president Branch Rickey announces the signing of Jackie Robinson by the Dodger organization. Robinson signs a contract for 1946 for the Dodgers’ top farm team, the Montreal Royals of the International League.

Rickey also signs Negro League pitcher Johnny Wright on this day. But after playing with Montreal in 1946 -- as much to be a roommate and companion for Robinson as for any talent he might have had -- Rickey realized (as did Robinson) that, unlike Robinson, Wright did not have the temperament to make it in white pro ball.

He returned to the Negro Leagues with the Homestead Grays for 1947, retired after the 1948 season, worked in a gypsum plant, and died in 1990, at the age of 73.

October 23, 1949: Michael Walsh is born in Rochester, New York. Author of the aforementioned As Time Goes By, he is also the author of the novel And All the Saints, and several nonfiction books about music.

Sadly, he is a political conservative, having written for National Review and Breitbart.com. I used to appreciate National Review: Even though I agreed with little in its pages, it usually had good writing, reflecting the character of its co-founder and longtime editor, William F. Buckley Jr. Since WFB died, however, it's like they are no longer dedicated to truth, only to political gain.

*

October 23, 1962: Doug Flutie is born in Manchester, Maryland, later moving to Melbourne Beach, Florida and Natick, Massachusetts. Almost singlehandedly, he turned Boston College from a pretender to Division I-A grandeur into an Eastern football powerhouse.

Had there been a Big East Conference in 1984, BC would have won it, and even without the thrilling 47-45 day-after-Thanksgiving game in the rain which he won with a last-second pass to his college roommate Gerard Phelan, Flutie would likely have won that year’s Heisman Trophy.

But the NFL balked at him because of his height, 5-foot-9¾. The USFL’s New Jersey Generals tried him out, and then he was signed by the Chicago Bears, desperate for someone to step in for the injured Jim McMahon. His hometown New England Patriots – their 60,000-seat former home of Foxboro Stadium was used by BC for games too small for their on-campus Alumni Stadium, then half that size – also gave him a shot.

But it was in Canada where he achieved professional success, winning the Grey Cup with the Vancouver-based British Columbia Lions in 1992 and the Toronto Argonauts in 1996 and 1997. He was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player 6 times in 7 years from 1991 to 1997.

Finally, in 1998, when he was 36, the NFL could ignore him no longer, and he got the Buffalo Bills into the Playoffs. In 1999, he got the Bills into the Playoffs again, but coach Wade Phillips – who said he was acting on the orders of owner Ralph Wilson – benched him in favor of Rob Johnson for a Playoff game against the Tennessee Titans. The Titans won, on the play known as the “Music City Miracle.”

The Bills have not made the Playoffs since, leading to talk of a “Flutie Curse”; indeed, the Bills are the only NFL team not to have qualified for the Playoffs in the 21st Century. However, they have not gone as far as the schedule will let them since the 1965 AFL Championship, losing the ’66 AFL Title Game and 4 AFC Title Games, so if there really is a curse on the Bills, it goes back a lot further than Flutie.

He went to the San Diego Chargers, and closed his career on January 1, 2006 with his hometown Patriots. In his first attempted kick in NFL play, Flutie executed a dropkick for a field goal, the only one in NFL play since 1941.

He is now a motivational speaker, and the drummer for the Flutie Brothers Band. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and is the only non-Canadian in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. A short stretch of road connecting the Natick Mall in his hometown of Natick and the Shoppers' World Mall in Framingham is named Flutie Pass.

October 23, 1965: Alois Terry Leiter is born in Toms River, New Jersey. Al and his brother Mark Leiter, who also became a major league pitcher, grew up in nearby Berkeley Township and attended Central Regional High School. He both began and ended his career with the Yankees, won World Series with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993, another with the Florida Marlins in 1997, and a National League Pennant with the Mets, the team he grew up rooting for, in 2000.

He won Game 1 of the 1993 World Series and hit a double in the game. He started Games 1 and 5 in the 2000 World Series, stood to win Game 1 before the bullpen blew it, and gave it everything he had in Game 5 before the Yankees won it. He pitched a no-hitter for the Marlins in 1996, just 3 days before Dwight Gooden pitched his for the Yankees. He won 162 games in his career, despite much of his early career being riddled with injuries. He has since become a broadcaster.

Also on this day, Christopher Robison is born in Pittsburgh. Writing under the name Augusten Burroughs, he is the author of the books Running With Scissors and Dry.

*

October 23, 1975: Keith Adam Van Horn is born in Fullerton, Orange County, California. A 3-time Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year with the University of Utah, he played for several teams, but was generally considered to be a lazy player. He did reach the NBA Finals with the New Jersey Nets in 2002 and the Dallas Mavericks in 2006.

October 23, 1976: Ryan Rodney Reynolds is born in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Canadian actor starred in The Proposal with Sandra Bullock – ironically, as an American who marries Bullock’s Canadian character so she doesn’t get deported. Casting him as the superhero Green Lantern was a really bad idea.

As far as I know, he has nothing to do with sports. He used to be married to Scarlett Johansson, but no longer: He went from being a member of the Lucky Bastards Club to being a member of the Damn Fools Club. But he has gone back, having married Blake Lively.

October 23, 1979: At a hotel in Bloomington, Minnesota, not far from Metropolitan Stadium, then home of the Twins and the Vikings, Billy Martin is involved in a barroom altercation with Joseph Cooper‚ a marshmallow salesman from the Chicago suburbs. Cooper requires 15 stitches to close a gash in his lip. Billy’s 2nd tenure as Yankee manager soon ends.

Somehow, I think Billy, despite his small frame, got seen as a bully because Cooper has always been listed as "a marshmallow salesman." I can find no record of what happened to Cooper after his fight with Billy. He was 52 years old at the time, so, if he's still alive, he'd be 86 now -- not impossible, but unlikely.

What was Billy doing in Minnesota, anyway? He didn't live there, he wasn't managing the Twins (though he did, in the 1969 season, getting them to the AL West title before being fired due to, you guessed it, a fight), and the season was over, so the Yankees didn't have to play the Twins at that time.

*

October 23, 1981: Despite an uncharacteristic poor performance (9 hits‚ 7 walks), Los Angeles’ sensational Mexican rookie Fernando Valenzuela goes the distance in the Dodgers' 5-4 come-from-behind win in Game 3 of the World Series over the Yankees. The deciding run scores on a double play.

Yankee starter Dave Righetti lasts just 2 innings‚ walking 2 and allowing 5 hits‚ but it is reliever George Frazier who takes the loss. Ron Cey hits a 3-run homer for the Dodgers. Starters Valenzuela and Righetti are the 1st 2 Rookies of the Year, of any position, to oppose each other in the World Series since Willie Mays and Gil McDougald in 1951.

Also on this day, recently fired Met manager Joe Torre signs a 3-year contract to manage the Atlanta Braves. This tenure will be a bit more successful than his time in Flushing. However, after this World Series, the Yankees will not reach the Series again, and Torre will still not have reached it as either a player or a manager, until they come together 15 years later.

October 23, 1983: A suicide bomber kills 241 U.S. Marines in their barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. It remains the worst 1-day loss for the U.S. armed forces since June 21, 1945, the end of the Battle of Okinawa.

Also on this day, NBC newscaster Jessica Savitch is killed in a car crash along the Delaware River in New Hope, Pennsylvania. She was 36.

October 23, 1986: Game 5 of the World Series. Bruce Hurst outduels Dwight Gooden, and the Red Sox beat the Mets, 4-2. The Series goes back to Shea, and the Sox only have to win 1 of the last 2 to win their first World Championship in 68 years. The Mets are 1 loss away from one of the most humiliating defeats in the history of baseball.

*

October 23, 1991: The Atlanta Braves even the Series at 2 games apiece with a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Twins in Game 4 at Fulton County Stadium. Journeyman catcher Jerry Willard's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 9th is the deciding blow. Terry Pendleton and Lonnie Smith stroke solo homers for the Braves‚ while Mike Pagliarulo does the same for the Twins.

October 23, 1993: Game 6 of the World Series, at the SkyDome in Toronto.  The Toronto Blue Jays lead the Philadelphia Phillies 3 games to 2, but trail 6-5 in the bottom of the 9th.

Mitch Williams comes in to close it out for the Phils, but allows 2 runners, before Joe Carter comes to bat. Carter would go on to hit 396 home runs in regular season play, so he was no Bucky Dent, or Bernie Carbo, or Geoff Blum. He hit more home runs than Chris Chambliss, or Bobby Thomson, or Kirk Gibson, or Carlton Fisk. So giving up a home run to him was no shame, though you don't want to lose the World Series on any pitch to any player.

Carter sends a screaming liner down the left-field line, just clearing the fence, and just fair. Home run. Toronto 8, Philadelphia 6. The Jays have won back-to-back World Championships.

Only Bill Mazeroski, who ended a World Series Game 7 with a home run in 1960, has ever hit a bigger home run than this.

Williams, a.k.a. the Wild Thing, has often been blamed for losing the Series. But it was Game 6, so if the Phils had won, they still would have had to play Game 7, on the road, against the defending World Champions. The rest of the Philly bullpen hadn't been much better in this Series. Where the Phils really lost the Series was in Game 4, when they blew a 14-9 lead at Veterans Stadium and lost 15-14. The Jays were very experienced, already accomplished, at home, and the better team.  Besides, the Phils wouldn't have gotten into the World Series without Williams.

When the Vet closed in 2003, Williams was one of the in-uniform attendees, and was cheered, rather than subjected to the well-known venom of "the Philadelphia Boo-Birds." All was forgiven.

And in the 21 years since, the Phillies have played 46 postseason games. The Jays, none. Indeed, now that the Kansas City Royals have won a Pennant, and the Pittsburgh Pirates have made the Playoffs in back-to-back years, not only have the Jays gone longer than any other team without winning the Pennant (unless you count the Seattle Mariners having never won one, or the Montreal Expos with the Washington Nationals), they've gone longer without making the Playoffs than any other team.

*

October 23, 1995: The Yankees name Bob Watson their new General Manager‚ replacing Gene Michael, who becomes Director of Scouting. Now, they just need a new manager, to replace the recently resigned Buck Showalter.

Also on this day, plans are approved for a new $320 million stadium, with a retractable roof and real grass, for the Seattle Mariners. By mid-1999, they will be out of the ugly gray Kingdome, and in the shiny new Safeco Field, and their long-term stay in the Pacific Northwest will be secure.

October 23, 1997: Rookie Livan Hernandez wins for the 2nd time as Florida holds off Cleveland for an 8-7 victory in Game 5. Down 8-4‚ the Indians fight back with 3 in the 9th, but strand the tying runner on base. Moises Alou hits a 3-run homer for Florida‚ while Sandy Alomar matches him for the Tribe.

This Series’ games in Cleveland are 3 of the 4 coldest in Series history. They are the first Series games to have been played in a snowfall since 1906. And, despite the Indians having reached the postseason in 1998, ’99, 2001 and ’07, and the Cincinnati Reds doing so in 1999 (sort of), 2010 and 2012, this Game 5 remains the last World Series game played in the State of Ohio.

October 23, 1999: The Yankees beat the Braves‚ 4-1‚ to take the opening game of the World Series. Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez holds Atlanta to 1 hit in 7 innings for the victory. The Braves' only run comes on a 4th inning homer by Chipper Jones.

*

October 23, 2001: Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium. After 116 regular season wins, breaking the American League record and tying the major league record, the Seattle Mariners are down 3 games to 1. Their manager, former Yankee outfielder and manager Lou Piniella, has predicted, “We’re going back to Seattle for Game 6.”

Sweet Lou was a terrific player for the Yankees, and was often a good manager, but as a prophet, he was no Joe Namath or Mark Messier. More like Patrick Ewing: The prediction blows up in his face. Yankees 12, Mariners 3.

Yankee Fans, feeling every bit as arrogant as Mariner fans had all season – but unlike M’s fans, they had earned it – chant “One-sixteen! One-sixteen! One-sixteen!” And “Over-rated!” And, for the Mariners’ sensational Japanese “rookie” Ichiro Suzuki, “Sayonara!” It is the Yankees’ 38th American League Pennant, and one the City of New York really needed after the 9/11 attacks, 6 weeks earlier.

October 23, 2002: Adolph Green dies at age 87. With Betty Comden, he wrote several Broadway musicals. The songs they wrote include “New York, New York” (as in, “It’s a wonderful town” – sometimes “It’s a hell of a town”) and “Theme From New York, New York” (as in, “Start spreadin’ the news... “)

October 23, 2003: The Florida Marlins move to 1 game away from a World Championship as they defeat the Yankees‚ 6-4‚ to take a 3-games-to-2 lead in the World Series. Winning pitcher Brad Penny's 2-run single gives Florida a lead they never surrender. Jason Giambi hits a pinch-hit homer in the 9th to bring the Yankees within 2 runs‚ but Bernie Williams' attempt for a game-tying homer falls short at the warning track in center field.

The Yankees were a run away from going up 3 games to 1 last night, before Jeff Weaver screwed up. Now, the Yankees are in deep trouble.

October 23, 2004, 10 years ago: The Boston Red Sox take the opener of the World Series with an 11-9 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. Mark Bellhorn's 2-run 8th inning homer is the deciding blow, as Boston bounces back after blowing an early 7-2 lead. David Ortiz also homered for the Sox‚ while Larry Walker connected for St. Louis.

Also on this day, Robert Merrill dies at age 87. The legendary Brooklyn-born opera singer had been the Yankees’ National Anthem singer in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s. On Old-Timers’ Day, he would walk up to the microphone wearing Number 1½.

Also on this day, Bill Nicholson dies at age 85. No, not the 1940s and ‘50s slugging outfielder known as “Swish” for his many strikeouts. This was the longtime player and manager of the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club of North London. “Spurs” have won just 2 League Championships in their history, in 1951 with “Bill Nick” as a player and in 1961 with him as their manager.

He also managed them to the FA Cup in 1961 (making them the first English team in the 20th Century to accomplish “The Double”), 1962 and 1967; the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1963, and the UEFA Cup in 1972. But he resigned early in the 1974-75 season, "burned out" (as Dick Vermeil would later say when he left the Philadelphia Eagles job) over several things, including the disgraceful behavior of Tottenham fans in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, when they lost the UEFA Cup Final to host club Feyenoord, and causing Spurs to become the 1st British club to get banned from Europe. (Much like George Steinbrenner's 1990 ban from baseball, it was permanent, but they were reinstated after 2 years.)

October 23, 2005: Scott Posednik's walkoff home run in the bottom of the 9th inning off Brad Lidge gives the Chicago White Sox a 7-6 victory over the Houston Astros, and a 2-games-to-0 lead in the World Series. Paul Konerko's grand slam in the 7th puts Chicago in a short-lived lead, before Morgan Ensberg hits a solo homer for Houston.

Lidge had already given up a game-losing homer to Albert Pujols in the NLCS before the Astros won the Pennant in the next game. Lidge would recover -- but not with the Astros.

October 23, 2006: Extending his scoreless streak to 24 1/3 postseason innings, dating back to 2003 with the Twins, Kenny Rogers blanks the Cardinals for 8 innings, when the Tigers win 3-1, to even the World Series at a game apiece. The "Gambler's" recent play-off success comes under suspicion as TV cameras spot an unknown dark spot on the right-hander's pitching hand in the 1st inning, which he claims to be only mud.

October 23, 2013: Game 1 of the World Series. Having rallied their city following the bombing at the Boston Marathon in April, much as the Yankees did for New York after the 9/11 attack in 2001, the "Boston Strong" Red Sox beat the Cardinals 8-1.

David Ortiz, the big fat lying cheating steroid user, hits yet another postseason home run. But a more obvious cheat is that of Sox starter Jon Lester, who was caught with a foreign substance on his glove. He claimed it was rosin, which is legal, and the Cards chose not to press the matter. But this is a New England sports team, so are you going to believe them?

This was the Sox' 9th straight win in World Series play. The record is 14, set by the Yankees from  1996 to 2000. The Yankees had also won 12 straight from 1927 to 1932 (before losing in Game 1 in 1936), and 10 straight from 1937 to 1941. The Cincinnati Reds won 9 straight from 1975 to 1990, and haven't appeared in the Series again, so, technically, their streak is still intact.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to Be a Devils Fan In Pittsburgh -- 2014-15 Edition


Next Tuesday night, the Devils visit Pittsburgh to face Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.

I like Pittsburgh as a city very much. I admire the Steelers. I respect the Pirates and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers. But I loathe the Penguins.

Why? Because I have taste. And because Commissioner Gary Bettman loves Crosby and has fixed games for him.

Before You Go. Pittsburgh is at roughly the same latitude as New York City, so roughly the same weather can be expected. As always, check out the newspaper website (the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) before you head out. They're predicting low 80s for the afternoons and mid-60s for the nights, and humid, all 4 days of this weekend, and rain is possible on Friday and Saturday.

Pittsburgh is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to adjust your timepieces.

Tickets. The Penguins are averaging 18,618 fans per home game. That's more than a sellout, and it includes standing-room. This has been the case pretty much since Mario Lemieux arrived 30 years ago (has it been that long already?), and it will be the case as long as Crosby is around.

Penguins tickets are also insanely expensive. In the lower bowl, you can expect to pay at least $190 between the goals and $111 behind them. In the upper bowl, at least $96 between the goals and $75 behind them.

Getting There. I'm not going to kid you here: There’s only one way to do so, and that’s by car. You do not want to fly, because you’ll end up spending over a thousand bucks to go less than 400 miles, and the airport is out in Imperial, Pennsylvania, near Coraopolis and Aliquippa - it’s almost as close to West Virginia and Ohio as it is to downtown Pittsburgh.

You do not want to take the train, because the Amtrak schedule just doesn’t work. It's relatively cheap at the moment, $144 round-trip. But the Pennsylvanian leaves Penn Station at 10:52 AM, and doesn't get to Pittsburgh's station of the same name until 8:05 PM, after the first pitch. And there's no overnight train that would leave at, say, 11 PM and arrive at 8 AM. And going back, the Pennsylvanian leaves at 7:30 AM and arrives back at 4:50 PM. No good.

Greyhound isn’t much better, but at least you have options. There are 14 buses a day between New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal and Pittsburgh, but it's a bit expensive considering the distance, $149 round-trip (though advanced purchase can get it down to $48). Leaving at 6:15 AM on Tuesday will get you to downtown Pitt at 5:55, giving you just enough time to get to a hotel and then get to the arena for a 7:00 start. The Greyhound station is at 55 11th Street, across Liberty Avenue from the Amtrak station.

The only sensible way is by car – especially if there’s more than one of you going and you can take turns driving. It’s 359 miles from the Prudential Center in downtown Newark to the CONSOL Energy Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

Take any highway that will get you to Interstate 78: For most of you, this will be the New Jersey Turnpike (Exit 14), the Garden State Parkway (Exit 142), or Interstate 287 (Exit 21). Follow I-78 west all the way through New Jersey, to Phillipsburg, and across the Delaware River into Easton, Pennsylvania. Continue west on I-78 until reaching Harrisburg. There, you will merge onto I-81. Take Exit 52 to U.S. Route 11, which will soon take you onto I-76. This is the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the nation’s first superhighway, opening in 1940.

You’ll be on it for another 3 hours – Pennsylvania is huge compared to a lot of Northeastern States. The political consultant James Carville, who got Bob Casey Sr., father of current U.S. Senator Bob Casey Jr., elected Governor in 1986, says, “Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with Alabama in the middle.” He wasn’t kidding: Between Philly and Pitt, it is very, very rural, hence the nickname “Pennsyltucky.” It certainly explains the State’s love of football: The Philadelphia Eagles, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Penn State and high school ball.

You’ll take the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Exit 57, the signs showing I-376 and U.S. 22 – the same Route 22 you might know from New Jersey, which I-78 was designed to replace – and the sign will say “Pittsburgh.” Check this photo.

There will be several exits on I-376, the Penn-Lincoln Parkway, into the city of Pittsburgh. Most likely, if your hotel (which I hope you’ve reserved before you left) is downtown, you’ll take Exit 71B, “Second Avenue.” If you're not staying over, and just going for the game, take Exit 72B for Boulevard of the Allies. Make a right on Gist Street, then a left on Fifth Avenue. The arena will soon be on your right.

From North Jersey, you will probably need almost 6 hours just for driving. I recommend at least 2 rest stops, preferably after crossing over into Pennsylvania around Easton, and probably around either Harrisburg or Breezewood. So the whole thing, assuming nothing goes wrong, will probably take about 8 hours. In other words, if you're driving in just for the game, and leaving right thereafter, you should leave New Jersey at 10 AM to arrive by 6 PM, and then leave at 10 PM to arrive back home around 6 AM. (Again, I recommend getting a hotel and staying over. After all, you're not going to be in much shape to go to work on Wednesday morning, so you might as well ask for two days' off.)

Once In the City. Pittsburgh has, by American standards, a long history. It was settled by the French as Fort Duquesne (Doo-KANE) in 1717, and captured by the British in 1758, and renamed Fort Pitt, for Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder. The General who captured it, John Forbes (for whom the Pirates' former park Forbes Field would be named), was a Scotsman, and he intended the town that grew around it to be named "Pittsburgh" -- pronounced "Pitts-burrah," like the Scottish capital Edinburgh. From 1891 to 1911, the H was dropped from the city's name, and this was reflected on the Pirates' uniforms, which sometimes read "PITTSBURG," as seen on the famous 1909 "T-206" baseball card of Honus Wagner. But the Germanic "Pittsburg" went back to the Scottish "Pittsburgh," while keeping the Germanic pronunciation. (There is, however, a town named Pittsburg, with no H, in Kansas.)

With this long history, a great architectural diversity, and a dramatic skyline with lots of neat-looking skyscrapers, Pittsburgh looks like a much bigger city than it actually is. While the metropolitan area is home to 2.7 million people, the city proper has only 306,000, having lost over half its population since the nearby steel mills, coal mines, and other factories closed starting in the 1970s.

The reduction of blue-collar jobs led people to take comfort in their sports teams, especially in the 1970s. Either the Pirates or the Steelers made the Playoffs in every year of that decade, both of them did so in 4 of those 10 years, and the University of Pittsburgh (or just "Pitt," though they don't like that nickname at that school) had an undefeated National Championship season in 1976. The Pirates won 2 World Series in the decade, the Steelers 4 Super Bowls in 6 years.

Calendar year 1979, with spillover into January 1980, was an annus mirabilis, in which the "Steel Curtain" won Super Bowl XIII in January, the "Bucs" (or "Buccos," or "Lumber Company," or "Family") won the World Series in October, and the Steelers then went on to win Super Bowl XIV, with the Pirates' Willie Stargell and the Steelers' Terry Bradshaw being named Co-Sportsmen of the Year by Sports Illustrated and the city government advertising itself as the City of Champions. The the ABA's Pipers were gone early the decade, but the city got a fictional basketball team because, in 1979, it was considered cool enough to film a sports movie there: The astrology-inspired The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, starring Julius "Dr. J" Erving.

(It was also at that time that, in order to ride the Pirates/Steelers bandwagon, the NHL's Penguins switched their colors from navy blue and yellow to black and gold, but it was several more years before they became a championship contender.)

While the loss of industry did mean a sharp, long-term decline, the financial, computer and health care industries opened new doors, and Pittsburgh is very much a now and tomorrow city. And they love their sports, having won 14 World Championships in 19 trips to their sports’ finals (which gives them a .737 winning percentage in finals, the best of any city of at least 3 teams) -- and that doesn't count the 9 National Championships won by Pitt football, the Negro League Pennants won by the Homestead Grays (10) and the Pittsburgh Crawfords (4), or the 1968 ABA Championship won by the Pipers.

Pittsburgh has numbered streets, moving east from Point State Park, where the Allegheny River to the north and the Monongahela River to the south merge to become the Ohio River -- hence the name of the former Pittsburgh sports facility, Three Rivers Stadium. North-south streets start their numbers at the Monongahela, and increase going north.

There is a subway system in the city, and it's free within the downtown triangle. But outside that area, a one-zone ride is $2.50, and a two-zone ride is $3.75. A 75-cent surcharge is added during rush hour. These fares are the same for city buses, although they're not free within the downtown triangle.

The sales tax in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is 6 percent, and Allegheny County (including the City of Pittsburgh) pushes it to 7 percent.

The old Pittsburgh Press, once the 2nd-largest newspaper in Pennsylvania behind the Philadelphia Inquirer, went out of business due to a strike in 1992, before the city's remaining daily, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, brought it back in online form in 2011. That strike gave Richard Mellon Scaife, the current head of the legendary Pittsburgh metals and banking family, a chance to turn a local suburban paper into the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, spouting his right-wing fanatic views. It may be that the P-G brought back the Press to give the city 2 liberals voices against the 1 nutjob voice.

Going In. The CONSOL Energy Center -- the 1st word always in ALL CAPS -- is right downtown. The official address is 1001 Fifth Avenue. It was built across Centre Avenue from the Penguins' previous home, the Civic Arena, now demolished, and its address of 66 Mario Lemieux Place stricken from the U.S. Postal Service's records.

If you're driving in, parking is remarkably cheap for a big-league sporting event: It can be had at most nearby lots for as little as $6.75.

The new arena seats 18,087 for Penguins and other hockey games, including the 2013 NCAA Championships (a.k.a. the Frozen Four); and 19,000 for basketball, for college tournaments and, in the unlikely event the NBA returns to Pittsburgh, the pros. The building and opening of this arena means that, for perhaps the first time in franchise history, the Penguins' long-term future in Pittsburgh is secure. The rink is laid out north-to-south. The Penguins attack twice toward the north end of the arena.

Food. Pittsburgh is a city of many ethnicities, and most of them love to eat food that really isn’t good for you: Irish, Italian, Polish, Greek, and African-Americans with Soul Food and Barbecue. (Yes, I did mean to capitalize those last two. The styles deserve it.)

Unfortunately, the kind of variety available at the Pirates' PNC Park isn't nearly as available at the New Igloo. The legendary Primanti Brothers sandwich makers have a stand at Section 119, and Section 116 has several healthy options. There are Dairy Queen stands at sections 105 and 234. But there's not much specialization. Pretty much anything you can eat at a sporting event is sold there, though.

Team History Displays. A statue of star-turned-owner Mario Lemieux is in front of the arena. Because the Penguins are the arena's only major tenant, their championship banners are hung over center ice: The 1991, 1992 and 2009 Stanley Cups; the 1991, 1992, 2008 and 2009 Conference Championships; and the Division titles.

As the Devils do, the Penguins hang their retired numbers along the side. In their case, 1 on each side: 21, Michael Briere; and 66, Mario Lemieux. Most likely, the 68 of Jaromir Jagr will be retired when he retires from hockey -- which he will do, eventually. And, of course, the 87 of Sidney Crosby will also go up there.

The Penguins have a team Hall of Fame, but I don't know where the display is at the arena. The 18 current members are:

* From the pre-Cup years, 1967 to 1990: General manager Jack Riley, center Syl Apps Jr. (son of the Toronto Maple Leafs legend), right wings Jean Pronovost and Rick Kehoe, defenseman Dave Burrows and goaltender Les Binkley.

* From their 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup Champions: Team owner Edward J. DeBartolo (father of the former San Francisco 49ers owner), longtime front office executive Elaine Heufelder (one of the few women with her name stamped on the Stanley Cup), general manager Craig Patrick (of hockey's first family, grandson of Lester Patrick), head coach "Badger Bob" Johnson, center Mario Lemieux, right wing Joe Mullen, defensemen Paul Coffey and Ulf Samuelsson, broadcaster Mike Lange, organized Vince Lascheid, and locker room attendants Anthony Caggiano and Frank Sciulli.

So far, no members of their 2009 Cup winners have been elected. And, as I said, Jaromir Jagr has not been. Oddly, neither has center Ron Francis, nor defenseman Larry Murphy, both of whom have been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame and were instrumental in the Cup wins.

Lascheid was the organist at Three Rivers Stadium and the Civic Arena. Much like Gladys Goodding at Ebbets Field and the old Madison Square Garden, and John Kiley at Fenway Park and the Boston Garden, Lascheid was the answer to a trivia question: Who was the only man to play for the Pirates, the Steelers and the Penguins?

Stuff. The PensGear store is on the ground floor, on the northwest corner of the arena. Smaller souvenir stands are all around the arena.

There aren't many books about the team. Right after the 2nd of the back-to-back Cup wins, Dave Molinari published Best In the Game: The Turbulent Story of the Pittsburgh Penguins' Rise to Stanley Cup Champions. As for their more recent triumph, Andrew Podnieks wrote Year of the Penguins: Celebrating Pittsburgh's 2008-09 Stanley Cup Championship Season.

Highlight DVDs from the 3 Stanley Cup seasons are available. The NHL also produced a Pittsburgh Penguins: 10 Greatest Games video, but it was released before the 2009 Cup win. Not surprisingly, the 1991 and 1992 Cup clinchers are included. Also unsurprisingly, there are no games in the set from before Lemieux arrived in 1984. The set includes Lemieux's 5-goal-3-assist Playoff game against the Flyers in 1989, another 5-goal game from Number 66 clinching their NHL record 16th straight win in 1993, their 4-overtime Playoff epic with the Washington Capitals in 1996, Lemieux ending his 2nd retirement to score against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2000, Darius Kasparaitis' overtime winner against the Buffalo Sabres in a Playoff Game 7 in 2001, and, to your dismay and mine, 2 games against the Devils: The 1991 Playoff clincher and a 2006 game with Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, none more than 20 years old, all scoring to beat our boys.

During the Game. If you were a Flyers fan going into the CONSOL Energy Center, or a Cleveland Browns fan or (a little less so) a Baltimore Ravens fan, going into Heinz Field to face the Steelers, you might be in a bit of trouble. But as a Devils fan going into CONSOL,you’ll be fine. You can wear your Scarlet &Black gear without fear of drunken bums physically hassling you.

They're certainly not going to hurt you if you don't provoke them. Just don’t say anything bad about Lemieux or the Steelers, and you should be fine. And, for God’s sake (not to mention that of its inventor, the late Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope), do not mock or deface The Terrible Towel, that great symbol of Steelerdom. You might not see any at a Penguins game (though you may hear a stray chant of "Here we go, Steelers, here we go!" -- it's been known to happen at Penguins, Pirates and Pitt football games), but they take that particular item very seriously, even pointing out that other NFL teams have lost after mocking it, leading to the phrase “The Curse of the Terrible Towel.”

(The Cleveland Indians are in the American League, Pittsburgh doesn’t have an NBA team, and Cleveland doesn’t have an NHL team, so the Steelers-Browns dynamic doesn’t cross over into any other sports, the way Yankees-Red Sox becomes Jets-Patriots or Knicks-Celtics or Rangers-Bruins – or Mets-Phillies becomes Giants-Eagles or Rangers-Flyers. Being put in a separate Conference, let alone Division, and being mostly terrible since coming into existence, Ohio’s NHL team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, doesn’t generate much heat from Penguin fans. Even Penn State-Ohio State isn’t that big a rivalry. Pitt-Penn State is another story, as is Pitt-West Virginia, “the Backyard Brawl.”)

The Penguins mascot is named Iceburgh, and he looks nothing like either of the logos the team has worn over the years. Indeed, he looks more like something you'd find on The Muppet Show than at a hockey game. Like N.J. Devil, he wears Number 00.

Jeff Jimerson sings the National Anthem for the Penguins, and did so in the 1995 film Sudden Death.
The Penguins' goal song is "Song 2" (a.k.a. "Whoo Hoo!") by Blur. As far as I can tell, the Pens don't have a postgame victory song, but I don't think the current Pirates would mind if they adopt the 1979 Bucs' anthem, "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge.

After the Game. There are several sports-themed bars near the arena, many of which date to the glory days at the Civic Arena. Souper Bowl is at 5th & Washington, while Tailgaters is at Centre & Crawford. However, the amount of establishments around the arena is limited by the parking lot where the old arena used be on the north, and the Catholic (and therefore, at least officially, discouraging of drinking) Duquesne University campus to the south.

South of downtown, across the Monongahela River on the South Shore – or, they say in Pittsburghese, the Sou’side – is Station Square, an indoor and outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment complex. This is a popular gathering place, although as New Yorkers you’ll be hopelessly outnumbered. When I first visited Pittsburgh in 2000 (I saw the Pirates hit 4 homers at Three Rivers but lose to the Cards thanks to a steroid-aided mammoth blast by Mark McGwire), there was a restaurant with a Pittsburgh Sports Hall of Fame at Station Square, but as far as I can tell it is no longer there.

I searched the Internet, but could not find any bars in the Pittsburgh area that cater to New Yorkers. Usually, I can at least find something that welcomes Giant or Jet fans on their gamedays, but I guess the Steelers are so ingrained in Western Pennsylvania culture that establishing an outpost for “foreign fans” is anathema to them. (Anathema? Didn’t Rocky Graziano knock him out in Buffalo? No, wait, that was Quinella.)

When I did this piece last year, I was told by a local that the Brillo Box was owned by a New Yorker, but, not having been to Pittsburgh since, I cannot confirm this. And one source I found to back it up calls it a "hipster" place. If "yinz" (Pittsburghese for "youse") want to take your chances, it's at 4104 Penn Avenue at Main Street. Number 88 bus from downtown

Sidelights. Pittsburgh has a long and storied sports history, if a real hit-and-miss one. As I mentioned, the Civic Arena was across the street from the new arena, between Bedford Avenue, Crawford Street, Centre Avenue and Washington Place. The official mailing address for "the Igloo" in its last few years was 66 Mario Lemieux Place.

Built in 1961 for the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, it had a retractable roof before additional seating made such retraction impossible. It hosted the American Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Hornets from then until 1967, and then the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins until 2010. It was officially known as the Mellon Arena from 1999 to 2010, when the naming rights expired.

The Pittsburgh Pipers, later renamed the Condors, played there, and won the first ABA Championship in 1968, led by Brooklyn native Connie Hawkins. The Beatles played there on September 14, 1964. (And when the new arena opened on August 18, 2010, it was ex-Beatle Paul McCartney who played the opening night.) Elvis Presley sang there on June 25 & 26, 1973 and December 31, 1976. It was demolished in 2011.

Pittsburgh hasn't had professional basketball since the Condors moved in 1973. On May 12, 2014, the New York Times printed a story that shows NBA fandom by ZIP Code, according to Facebook likes. The Consol Energy Center is 132 miles from Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, but don't let that fool you into thinking that Pittsburghers toss aside their NFL-bred hatred of Cleveland to support the Cavaliers, not even to root for the returned LeBron James: They seem to divide their fandom up among 4 "cool teams": The Chicago Bulls, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. The Philadelphia 76ers, only 309 miles away? Forget it.

* PNC Park. The Pirates opened this 38,362-seat ballpark, which opens to a spectacular view of downtown Pittsburgh, on the North Side in 2001. It took them until last year to reach the postseason there, but they've now done so in back-to-back seasons. 115 Federal Street at 6th Street. Metro to North Side Station. Or you can walk there from downtown. over the 6th Street Bridge, now renamed the Roberto Clemente Bridge and painted Pittsburgh Gold.

Exposition Park, home of the Pirates from 1891 to 1909, was nearly on the site of PNC Park. The first home of the Pirates, Recreation Park, was roughly on the site of Heinz Field.

This was also the site of the first football game played by an openly professional player. Yale University star William "Pudge" Heffelfinger was paid $500 (about $12,800 in today's money) to play for the Allegheny Athletic Association against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, and scored the game's only points in a 4-0 Allegheny win. (Under the scoring system of the time, a touchdown was 4 points.)

There are historical markers in the complex for both Exposition Park (as one of the sites, along with the Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston, of the 1st World Series) and Recreation Park (as the site of the first professional football game -- though the 1st all-professional game was in 1895 in nearby Latrobe).

* Heinz Field. This is a far better palace for football than the concrete oval Three Rivers Stadium was. It has a statue of Steeler founder-owner Art Rooney outside, and, on gameday, 65,500 Terrible Towel-waving black and gold maniacs inside. There are plans to expand it to 69,000 or so seats in time for the 2015 season.

The Steelers hosted the AFC Championship Game in the stadium's 1st season, 2001 (losing it to the New England Patriots, and again in 2004 (losing to the Pats again), 2008 (beating the Baltimore Ravens) and 2010 (beating the Jets).

A 2007 ESPN.com article named it the best stadium in the NFL, tied with Lambeau Field in Green Bay. It also hosts the University of Pittsburgh's football team. This summer, it hosted a soccer game between English champions Manchester City and Italian giants AC Milan. On New Year's Day 2011, it hosted the NHL Winter Classic, but the Penguins lost 3-1 to the Washington Capitals. 100 Art Rooney Avenue. (Three Rivers' address, famously, was 600 Stadium Circle.)

* Senator John Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman Street at 12th Street, a couple of minutes’ walk from Union/Penn Station and Greyhound. It includes the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. (Senator Heinz, of the condiment-making family, was the first husband of Teresa Heinz Kerry, who nearly became First Lady in 2004.)

* Forbes Quadrangle, intersection of Forbes Avenue and Bouquet Street. This set of buildings, part of the University of Pittsburgh campus, was the site of Forbes Field, home of the Pirates from 1909 to 1970 and the Steelers from 1933 to 1963.

Included on the site is the last standing remnant of Forbes Field, part of the outfield wall, with ivy still growing on it. (Wrigley Field in Chicago wasn’t the only park with ivy on its outfield wall.) Where the wall stops, you’ll see a little brick path, and eventually you’ll come to a plaque that shows where the ball hit by Mazeroski crossed over the fence to win the Series.

Home plate has been preserved, in Wesley W. Posvar Hall, named for the longtime UP Chancellor. An urban legend says that, if it was in its exact original location, it would now be in a ladies’ restroom; this isn’t quite the case, but it’s still at roughly the same spot.

If you’ve ever seen the picture of Mazeroski in mid-swing, you’ll recognize the Carnegie Museum & Library in the background, and it is still there. If you’ve ever seen a picture of a Gothic-looking tower over the 3rd-base stands, that’s the Cathedral of Learning, the centerpiece of UP (or “Pitt”), and it’s still there as well. A portion of the wall, including the 406-foot marker that can be seen with the Mazeroski ball going over it, was moved to Three Rivers and now to PNC Park.

Pick up the Number 71 bus at 5th Avenue at Ross Street, and it will take you down 5th Avenue to Oakland Avenue. From there, it’s a 2-minute walk to the Quadrangle and Posvar Hall.

* Petersen Events Center, at Terrace Street and Sutherland Drive. The home arena for Pitt basketball, it was built on the site of Pitt Stadium, where they played their football games from 1925 to 1999, and where the Steelers played part-time starting in 1958 and full-time starting in 1964 until 1969. Part-time from 1970 to 1999, and full-time in 2000, Pitt shared Three Rivers with the Steelers, and they’ve shared Heinz Field since 2001.

Pitt Stadium was home to such legends as Dr. Jock Sutherland (a dentist and football coach), Marshall “Biggie” Goldberg, Mike Ditka and Tony Dorsett. If you’re a Giants fan, this is where they played the Steelers on September 20, 1964, and Giant quarterback Y.A. Tittle got clobbered by the Steelers' John Baker, resulting in that famous picture of Tittle kneeling, with blood streaming down his bald head, providing a symbolic end to the Giants’ glory days of Frank Gifford, Sam Huff and quarterbacks Charlie Conerly and Tittle. The Petersen Center is a 5-minute walk from Forbes Quadrangle.

* Roberto Clemente Museum. A fan group tried to buy Honus Wagner's house in nearby Carnegie and turn it into a museum, but this is the only museum devoted to a single Pittsburgh athlete. Clemente wasn't the 1st Hispanic player in the major leagues (white Cuban Charles "Chick" Pedroes played 2 games for the Cubs in 1902), nor was he the 1st black Hispanic (Minnie Minoso debuted with the Chicago White Sox in 1949). But he was the 1st to really take hold in the public imagination, to the point where later Hispanic stars wore Number 21 in his honor, and there is a movement to have the number retired throughout baseball as was done for Jackie Robinson (but it is not likely to succeed). 3339 Penn Avenue at 34th Street. Bus 87 to Herron Avenue.

Pittsburgh has never hosted an NCAA Final Four. Duquesne University reached the 2nd Final Four (not that it was called that back then) in 1940, and Pitt did so in 1941 -- no Western Pennsylvania school has done so since. In fact, Pittsburgh has never been a big basketball city: The Pittsburgh Ironmen played in the NBA's first season, 1946-47, and only that season, and are best known now for having had Press Maravich, father of Pistol Pete, play for them; and the ABA's Pittsburgh Pipers, later the Pittsburgh Condors, won that league's first title in 1967-68, but that was it. The most successful Pittsburgh basketball team may well have been the Pittsburgh Pisces in The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.

The U.S. Steel Tower, at 7th & Grant Avenues, is the tallest building in Pittsburgh, at 841 feet -- although there are 3 buildings in Philadelphia that surpass it for the title of tallest building in Pennsylvania. Built in 1970, it surpassed the 1932-built Gulf Tower, on the opposite corner from U.S. Steel.

There haven't been many TV shows set in Pittsburgh. Mr. Belvedere, starring Christopher Hewett as a butler to a family led by a sportswriter played by ballplayer-turned-broadcaster Bob Uecker, was set in nearby Beaver Falls, hometown of Jets legend Joe Namath, but it was filmed in Los Angeles. The most notable TV shows actually taped in Pittsburgh, at the PBS station WQED-Channel 13, were Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Fred Rogers was from Latrobe, and in spite of his show's success, he never moved the taping to New York or Hollywood. He notably had Steeler receiver Lynn Swann on his show, to show that even a big tough football player (or, at least, a graceful wide receiver) could love ballet (which explained how Swannie got such nice moves in the first place). A statue of Mr. Rogers, sponsored by TV Land, is near Heinz Field, as is one of Steeler founder-owner Art Rooney.

A lot of movies have been shot in Pittsburgh, due to its varied architecture. Many have had sports scenes. You may have seen the 1994 version of Angels in the Outfield, which involved the team then known as the California Angels; the original black-and-white version came out in 1951, and the downtrodden team they featured was the Pirates, and there's some nice shots of Forbes Field in it. Some nice shots of Janet Leigh, too. (Jamie Lee Curtis' mom -- no, unlike in some other films such as Psycho, Janet doesn't flash any skin in this one, but now you know why Tony Curtis married her, and where Jamie Lee inherited the goods.)

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh was a very silly, very Seventies movie, with Julius "Dr. J" Erving playing for the good guys and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing for the opposition. Sudden Death had Jean-Claude Van Damme trying to stop an assassination attempt at the Stanley Cup Finals. Both featured the old Civic Arena. Van Damme also filmed Timecop in Pittsburgh.

While most of The Dark Knight Rises was filmed in New York (with a few CGI bridges added to the skyline to create the atmosphere of the fictional Gotham City), and its 2 predecessors were filmed in Chicago, the football game scene was filmed at Heinz Field, with the fictional Gotham Rogues wearing Steeler black & gold. (They even made up a fake website for the team, including the Rogue Rag, a takeoff on the Terrible Towel.) Real-life Steeler legend Hines Ward returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown as Bane's bomb collapsed the field behind him, and playing the opposition's kicker was real-life Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. The scene where Gary Oldman goes to Matthew Modine's house to prepare for the final assault may also have been filmed in Pittsburgh, although the row-house style resembles Philadelphia. Some of the movie was filmed in Newark, but that street doesn't look like any part of Newark I've ever seen. You'd have to get as far south as Trenton to see Philly-style rowhouses in New Jersey, but then they've got 'em all along the Delaware River, in places like Bordentown, Burlington and Camden. Maybe it's a Pennsylvania thing.

One of Tom Cruise's first big films was All the Right Moves, a high school football movie set in Pittsburgh. He returned to Pittsburgh to film Jack Reacher. A movie with more life in it, the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead, was filmed in Pittsburgh. Its sequel Dawn of the Dead was filmed at the Monroeville Mall in the eastern suburbs, and the concluding chapter Day of the Dead back in the city. Gung Ho, with Michael Keaton, spoofed the decline of Pittsburgh industry. Flashdance, with Jennifer Beals, turned the declining Pittsburgh dream on its head. Boys On the Side seemed to wink at it. And Groundhog Day starts in Pittsburgh before moving east to Punxsatawney. However, those aren't sports movies. (Although, with Jennifer Beals, Drew Barrymore and Andie MacDowell in them, there may be some heavy breathing.)

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Pittsburgh is a terrific city that loves its sports, and PNC Park is one of the best of the new ballparks. Its Sunday games are scheduled for 1:35, while nearly every other home game, including on Saturday nights, is at 7:05. (Though, in this series, the Saturday game is a 4:05 PM start, as it's a Fox Game of the Week.)