One swing of the bat cost Frank Thomas his job with the Phillies. That’s because in batting practice on July 3, 1965, Thomas swung his bat and connected with Dick Allen’s shoulder. (He was still known as Richie Allen then.) The next day when the Phillies released him, Thomas learned that if you’re going to swing your bat at a teammate, it’s better to pick one who was not leading league in hitting (.341) ; or the previous year’s rookie of the year. Allen was both.
Accounts of what happened are varied and conflicting, but the consensus view is that there was a racial aspect, or at least a perceived racial aspect, that triggered it. After his release Thomas gave his side of the story, acknowledging that he told Allen that he was “running off at the mouth like Muhammad Cassius Clay.” Allen refused to speak publicly about the incident, probably because he was told by manager Gene Mauch that he would receive stiff fine if he said anything.
When Sonny (Charles) Liston’s body was found on January 5, 1971, he was just another washed up pug. His death certificate says he died on December 30, 1970, but that’s just an estimate the cops made, based on the number of unopened milk bottles and newspapers they found at his front door. (Historical note — milk used to be sold in bottles and a guy called “The Milkman” brought it to your house.)
From the LA TimesAlthough Liston-Ali II finished Liston as a big-money fighter, he continued to fight lesser names in the heavyweight division.
Then, in the first week of January, 1970, Liston’s wife, Geraldine, returned home from a trip and found Liston’s decomposing body on their bed, on his back, clad only in shorts and socks. There was blood on his face and chest, and a small glass of vodka on the nightstand.
The milk bottles and newspapers on the front porch indicated to police that he had been dead five or six days. Since the death certificate required a date, it was fixed at Dec. 30. Read more
From The Las Vegas Sun Officially, Liston died of lung congestion and heart failure.
But many believe Liston’s relationship with undesirables led to his fate. An autopsy revealed traces of morphine and codeine in his body, and an arm had fresh needle tracks. His wife, Geraldine, found him, badly decomposed, in their Las Vegas home. Marijuana, heroin and a syringe were found nearby. Read more
A decade earlier, he was considered to be the most intimidating fighter of his generation. Not until Mike Tyson burst onto the scene in the mid 1980’s, was there a professional boxer who scared the hell out of his opponents the way Sonny Liston did.
From East Side Boxing Is Liston in fact, THE single most successful heavyweight in all of boxing when it comes to being able to win fights through little other than scaring his man stiff – therefore making his adversary an easy, ready-for-the-taking, deer caught in the headlights, “victim?” Of course, Liston had other ring skills, a punishing jab and awesome punching power, to name just two. But without his ability at terrifying an opponent even before the first bell, Sonny was certainly a lot less effective a fighter. This was also very much the case with another legendary heavyweight – the former champ who lists Liston as one of his ring idols.
Mike Tyson’s name naturally springs to mind when thinking of heavyweight boxers who were able to win fights simply by reducing a challenger to relative helplessness through fear. And like Liston, when this particular weapon in the arsenal failed, Tyson’s effectiveness as a fighter was quite severely compromised. Take away either heavyweight champions’ intimidation tactics by refusing to fall to them, and you had a good shot at a win. Ali did it to Liston (and George Foreman, no slouch himself in the arms crossed, intimidate the hell out of you stakes!) While, most famously, James Douglas and later, Evander Holyfield, did it to Tyson. Read more
From Coxcorner The heavyweight one truly would not want to face, who was truly intimidating and had size, strength, power and the most menacing countenance of any fighter was Sonny Liston. Sonny’s frightening scowl had most of his opponents beaten before the opening bell. Muhammad Ali called Sonny “the scariest” opponent he ever met in a ring. Not only was Liston a monster in physical appearance but also in temperament. Sonny was an enforcer with the mob, he didn’t fear any man. He beat the hell out of police officers, he didn’t care. He was one mean mutha. When Sonny gazed at you with his baleful glare he literally wanted to burn a hole right through you. His opponent’s knew it too. Heavyweight contender Henry Cooper wanted no part of Liston. His manager said, “When we saw Sonny Liston coming, we’d cross to the other side of the street.” Read more
At the Seoul Olympics on September 24, 1988, competing in the 100 meter sprint, Ben Johnson won a decisive victory over his rival, nine-time Olympic gold medalist, Carl Lewis. Three days later, after tests revealed that Johnson had used illegal performance enhancing drugs, he was stripped of the gold medal (and his world record was revoked) and it as awarded to Lewis.
Johnson won the bronze medal in the 100 at 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Lewis took the gold medal there. (He also won the 200 meters, the long jump, and was on the 4×100 team that captured the gold medal.) This was not the first time that Johnson had beaten Lewis, in fact Johnson won five races in a row against Johnson between 1985 and 1987. After the fourth loss in Seville, Spain, Lewis commented, “A lot of people have come out of nowhere and are running unbelievably, and I just don’t think they’re doing it without drugs,”If I were taking drugs, I could do a 9.80 right away-just like him.”
Six of the eight finalists in Seoul would later fail drugs test or be implicated in their use. While before the race the IOC had largely been ambivalent on the issue, the embarrassment caused by the scandal lead to a new regime of drug testing. Read more CNN.com
Jose Canseco was the first Major League player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in one season. He reached the milestone on Septeber 23, 1988. The Cuban born Canseco was 24 at the time, playing for the Oakland A’s in his third season in the Majors.
On September 18, Canseco hit his 40th home run of the season in the first inning against Kansas City’s Brett Saberhagen. At that point Canseco had 37 stolen bases. He stole his 38th base against Minnesota on September 20th.
Then on September 23, Canseco took his 39th stolen base after singling off of Juan Nieves. Canseco became the charter member of the 40/40 Club, when while still facing Nieves, he again singled and stole second base.
Canseco did not steal any more bases in 1988, but he did hit two more home runs. For his career, Canseco hit .266, but in 1988 he hit .307 knocked in 124 RBIs. Both marks were career bests for him.
Before OJ Simpson became a household name because of that other thing that happened in 1994; he was a Heisman Trophy winner at USC (1968 season). Simpson was chosen by the Buffalo Bills as the first draft pick in 1969, but his first three seasons in the NFL were somewhat disappointing.
A New Coach and The Juice is Loose!
In 1972 Lou Saban became the coach of the Bills, and he tailored the offense around OJ. That year Simpson led the NFL in rushing with 1,251 yards. In 1971, his previous best season, he only rushed for 742 yards.
On September 16, 1973, in the season opener against New England, OJ rushed for 250 yards, tying the NFL single game record.
Buffalo won the game 31-13 and went on to finish the season 9-5, second in the AFC East, a big improvement over their 4-9-1 finish in 1972.
Playing a 14 game schedule in 1973, Simpson rushed for what was then an NFL season total record of 2,003 yards.
In 1984 Eric Dickerson broke Simpson’s record, rushing 2,105 yards, but he did not reach the 2,000 yard plateau until the 15th game of the season. Five other players have also rushed for more than 2,000 yards in a season, but all of them did it in 16 games.
Adrian Peterson now holds the NFL single game rushing record. He ran the ball for 296 yards on November 4, 2007.
44-year-old Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s record for the most career hits on September 11, 1985. It was hit number 4,192 for Rose.
Cobb’s record stood for a little more than 67 years. Rose broke it as player-manager for the Cincinnati Reds. He was facing San Diego’s Eric Show. He got his first hit, a triple off of Pittsburgh’s Bob Friend, on April 13 1963. On August 14, 1986 Rose got his 4,256th and last hit off of San Francisco’s Greg Minton.