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A-Rod #500, Barry Bonds #755 August 4, 2007

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Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds both reached tainted milestones on August 4, 2007. Rodriguez hit his 500th home run and Barry Bonds got his 755th (tying Hank Aaron).

Bonds 755th – boos, cheers, and more boos

Jeff Blair, writing for the Globe and Mail called it “Barry Bonds’s desultory slog to slugger immortality.” He wrote:

Covering Bonds in San Francisco is one thing; it’s like covering a dictator’s political rally. Think Leni Riefenstahl meets This Week In Baseball.
This week, in the Giants’ three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, it was less about the fans (who gave it good to Bonds) than about how the game’s power brokers seemed almost embarrassed to get too close to Bonds. Commissioner Bud Selig was in Los Angeles and left. He essentially says his interest will be “day-to-day” after this weekend’s series in San Diego. Frank Robinson represented the commissioner’s office on Thursday, but nobody saw him. Players union chief Donald Fehr showed up on Wednesday and flew under the radar. He was in Los Angeles, he said, on other business.

For A-Rod on the other hand, it was mostly high praise and accolades. At age 32, he was the youngest player to reach the 500 home run plateau. He was viewed as a serious, legitimate contender who could eventually out-bomb Babe Ruth, Hank Aaraon, and even the disgraced Barry Bonds.

The only nay-sayer was Jose Canseco. A week before at a radio interview in Boston, Canseco said, “he has other stuff” on the Yankees slugger, who he called a hypocrite who “was not all he appeared to be.” Canseco who by that time had already admitted to his own juicing, was slammed by most of the baseball world and was accused of slinging mud at “poor little A-Rod”.

Four months later, The Mitchell Report was released (December 13, 2007). It implicated 89 Major Leaguers as having some involvement with the use of performance enhancing drugs including Bonds, Canseco and Roger Clemens. Rodriguez was not named in the Mitchell Report, but now Canseco’s allegations about him began to seem more legitimate.

December 16, 2007 – In an interview with Katie Couric, A-Rod lies about using Steriods

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Black Sox Banned from Baseball August 3, 1921

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Eight members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox, also known as The Black Sox, were banned from Major League Baseball, for life; on August 3, 1921. Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. (He was known as Judge Landis. Prior to becoming Baseball Commissioner, he served 17 years as a Federal judge.) issued this statement:

“Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ballgame, no player that undertakes or promises to throw a ballgame, no player that sits in conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball.”

Landis’s ban came the day after a Chicago jury acquitted the players of all the charges that they had faced.

Until the recent uproar over performance enhancing drugs, the Black Sox affair stood as the most spectacular scandal in baseball history, if not all of sports.

The Backstory of the Great Conspiracy From baseball-reference.com

While the origins of the conspiracy are unknown, it appears that there were two (or more) separate plans to fix the World Series. One involved Boston gambler Joseph “Sport” Sullivan, while another included retired pitcher “Sleepy” Bill Burns and his partner, Billy Maharg, a former professional boxer. These two gambling cliques were approached sometime between July-September 1919 by White Sox first baseman Arnold “Chick” Gandil and/or pitcher Eddie Cicotte. During the regular season, the Chicago White Sox had shown themselves to be the best team in the major leagues and, having clinched the American League pennant, were installed as the bookmakers’ favorites to defeat the Cincinnati Reds in the Series. At the time, gambling on baseball was rife and there were many stories about fixed games during the regular season, which were typically ignored by team owners and administrators.

Among the players, the ringleaders of the conspiracy are believed to have been first baseman Arnold “Chick” Gandil and pitcher Eddie Cicotte. Even in the pre reserve clause era of 1919, when nearly all baseball players were treated like chattel, White Sox owner Charles Comiskey was considered to be among the stingiest executive s in the sport. The players’ complaints against him were not without merit, although throwing the World Series, and getting paid by gamblers to do so, might not have been the wisest or most appropriate method of getting what they thought they were entitled to.

The scandal became a big, national, front page story as it unfolded, but the players’ grievances did not get a full airing until 1963 when “Eight Men Out” was published. It was a non fiction book written by Eliot Asinof.

Mr. Asinof, writing after painstaking research into the printed records, reconstructs the events with graphic skill. One clique of bettors pretended to represent Arnold Rothstein, the gambling tycoon. Another gambler did represent Rothstein, but appropriated for his own wagering most of the money that was meant for the players. Still another pair of shysters became go-betweens and prospered for a couple of the games that went according to plan only to be wiped out when the swindled players grew angry and really played. A jury eventually acquitted the players, but they were banned from baseball. Rothstein went on successfully from deal to deal, until he was shot.
The author feels that Charles A. Comiskey, owner of the Chicago team, should be blamed for paying the players too little and that he was slack about exposing the scandal. In many ways the scandal, as the book shows, was an indictment of American mores. It seemed like a tragedy then, but perhaps it was part of the human comedy that helped the American people on the long road toward maturity. NY Times Review

A film dramatization of “Eight Men Out” was released in 1988 starring David Strathairn and John Cusack.

In 1989 the movie “Field of Dreams” was released, starring Kevin Costner and Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe. It was based on the 1982 W.P. Kinsella novel, “Shoeless Joe”.

Shoeless Joe Jackson was not only the star of White Sox, he is one of the greatest hitters of all time. His career batting average of .3558 puts him in third place among all players in Major history. (behind Ty Cobb .3664 and Rogers Hornsby .3585. In 1920, his last full season before he was banned from baseball, Jackson hit .382. Moreover, in the in 1919 World Series, his “contribution” to the conspiracy was to hit .375. (The highest average among all the players on either team, with 10 or more at-bats.)

In 1998 Ted Williams filed a 58-page appeal with Commissioner Bud Selig, calling for an end to Jackson’s banishment, a move that would enable Jackson to take his rightful place in the Hall of Fame. So far Selig has not acted on that appeal.

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Willie McCovey Hits First Home August 2, 1959

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Willie McCovey Rookie Card  click here to see in eBay

Willie McCovey Rookie Card click here to see in eBay

Willie McCovey hit his first Major League home run on August 2, 1959.

Unlike like his teammate and San Francisco Giants slugging partner, Willie Mays, who was hitless in his first 12 major league at-bats; the other Willie (some other!), Willie McCovey, let the baseball world know from the gitgo that “The New Willie” was anything but, just another Willie.

McCovey made his Major League debut on July 30, facing Phillies Hall of Fame pitcher, Robin Roberts. The 21-year-old McCovey was so intimidated by Roberts that he went four for four, hitting two singles and two triples. On day-one he racked up eight total bases. He would go on to collect another 4,211 total bases to go along with his 521 home runs and 1.550 RBIs, before ending his career in 1980; a career that spanned four decades.

On his second day in the Majors the Giants played the Pirates, and McCovey gave pitcher Harvey Haddix a break, only managing a single in four at bats. On August 1, Giants manager Bill Rigney batted his new phenom third, between Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda. McCovey did not disappoint. He hit a first inning double off of Red Witt and scored on Cepeda’s single. It was déjà vous for Witt in the third inning, another McCovey double and another Cepeda single knocking him in. Then the Giants brought in Bennie Daniels who was able to strike out McCovey in the fourth. Daniels pitched three scoreless innings, but in the seventh McCovey touched him up for a single. Then Cepeda also singled, moving McCovey to second. At that point Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh decided to bring in Roy Face to pitch to Willie Kirkland (Yes, another Willie. The Giants had three). Kirkland singled and McCovey scored. Before the inning ended the Giants had four more runs.

McCovey didn’t homer unitl his fourth game, but in the three games leading up to it he was 8-13 (.615) and had 14 total bases, giving him a slugging average of 1.077. In the game when McCovey hit his first homer, it was his only hit in five at bats.

He played in a total of 52 games during the 1959 and wound up with an average of .354. He also hit 13 home runs, had 38 RBIs and was named National League Rookie of the Year.

McCovey never hit for average like that again, although he was National League MVP in 1969 when he hit .320, belted 45 home runs and knocked in 126 RBIs. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1986, his first year of eligibility.

New York Baseball Giants Announce Move to San Franicso

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1936 Olympics Open, Nazis Rule August 1, 1936

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Nazi Germany hosted the 1936 Olympics. On August 1 of that year, Adolph Hitler welcomed the world to Berlin for two weeks of fun, and nothing but fun, with just a little bit of political propaganda thrown in.

In 2011 on the 75th anniversary of the Berlin Olympics, Frank Deford wrote in Sports Illustrated:

While, of course, nothing can approach the horror of the terrorist murders at the 1972 Olympics, it is now the 75th anniversary of what were surely the most fascinating and historically influential Games—- those in Berlin that began this very week in the summer of ’36. It was novelty and glory and evil all in athletic conjunction as never before or since.

1931 Germany is awarded the games. 1933 the Nazis take over, and calls for Olympicb boycott begin

The games were awarded to Berlin by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1931, two years before Hitler came to power. In the German federal election in 1933, the Nazis won a plurality of the seats in the Reichstag. A few weeks after the election the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act which effectively gave Hitler full dictatorial power.

Almost immediately the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was besieged with protests calling for the relocation of the 1936 games. Responding to the uproar, IOC President Comte Henri de Baillet-Latour wrote to Avery Brundage, President of the American Olympic Committee (AOC), “I am not personally fond of jews and of the jewish influence, but I will not have them molested in no way [sic] whatsoever.” He added, “I know that they [the Jews] shout before there is reason to do so.”

In 1934 Brundage went to Germany to see for himself how the Germans were treating the Jews. While he was there, he convinced himself that the AOC should ignore the calls for a a boycott. After returning to the U.S. Brundage wrote in an AOC’s pamphlet “Fair Play for American Athletes” that American athletes should not become involved in “the present Jew-Nazi altercation.”

Brundage has his way. There is no boycott

And so the U.S. and the rest of the world all accepted the Nazis’ invitation to compete at their Olympics, and that meant that the Germans had to do some “housekeeping”. In June of 1936 the Manchester Guardian reported that “the more conspicuous and easily removable anti-Semitic displays posters and signs have been removed so that visitors to the Olympic Games and the competitors shall not get an unfavorable impression of Germany.”

But the U.S. Team does not get a warm welcome

Even though the U.S. team dignified the Nazi Olympics by showing up, they did manage to stir up a mild controversy as they entered the stadium for the Parade of Nations. The night before, the Americans changed their plans so that they would not appear to be giving even a modified Nazi salute. They had originally intended to extend their arms with hats in hands, but instead they decided to just remove their hats, place them over their hearts and look eyes right, at their host, Adolph Hitler. The AP’s Alan Gould reported that the Americans “were welcomed with a noisy whistling reception which some European observers suggested was tantamount to the European “raspberries.”

Carter Announces Olympic Boycott Threat January 20, 1980
U.S. Olympic Boxing Team Wins 5 Gold Medals July 31,1976
Carl Lewis Wins 9th and Last Gold July 29, 1996
Mathias Repeats in Olympic Decathlon July 26, 1952
Edwin Moses Wins First Olympic Gold July 25, 1976
Perfect 10 for Nadia – July, 18 1976
Flo Jo Sets 100-Meter Record July 16, 1988

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U.S. Olympic Boxing Team Wins 5 Gold Medals July 31,1976

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The U.S. Olympic boxing team won seven medals on the night of July 31, 1976. The haul for the American fighters included five gold, one silver, and one bronze.

Several members of the 1976 team went on to win professional championships, including Boxing of Fame member Michael Spinks and his brother Leon Spinks. After turning professional, Leon Spinks won the heavyweight championship, defeating none other than Muhammad Ali.

Other gold medal winners on the 1976 U.S. Olympic boxing team include Leo Randolph who won the bantamweight title; lightweight Howard Davis, winner of the Val Barker Tropy (awarded to the Olympic boxing athlete who exemplifies style during competition); and Sugar Ray Leonard, who won the gold as a light welter weight. Leonard had a spectacular professional career and is considered to be one of the greatest boxers of all time.

MONTREAL-Digging and blasting like prospectors who know exactly what they’re doing, American boxers shook loose an avalanche of gold tonight in the Olympic finals at the Forum. When the last stick of dynamite had been detonatedby Leon Spinks in the light heavyweight class, the young team many experts thought would be outslugged by East Europeans and Cubans had walked off with five gold medals. They could have used a pack-mule to lug the gold, because no other United States boxing team has ever won any more of it than they did tonight before an appreciative standing room crowd of 20,000.
Steve Cady, NY Times, read more

U.S. Olympic Boxing Team Wins 5 Gold Medals July 31,1976
Carl Lewis Wins 9th and Last Gold July 29, 1996
Mathias Repeats in Olympic Decathlon July 26, 1952
Edwin Moses Wins First Olympic Gold July 25, 1976
Perfect 10 for Nadia – July, 18 1976
Flo Jo Sets 100-Meter Record
July 16, 1988

Carter Announces Olympic Boycott Threat January 20, 1980

Dempsey Carpentier 1st $Million Gate July 2, 1921
Mike Tyson Rape (Alleged) July 19, 1991

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76ers Sign (Stiff) Shawn Bradley for $44 Million July 30, 1993

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Shawn Bradley, the 7’6″ former Brigham Young star, signed an eight year, $44 million deal with the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers. It happened on July 30, 1993.

The Sixers were hoping to follow the pattern set by the Orlando Magic who the previous year signed Shaquille O’Neal to a slightly less generous pact. ($35 million, seven years). O’Neal won the rookie of the year award, practically by acclamation, and went on to have a spectacular twenty-one year NBA career. Things did not turn out quite so well for Bradley and the Sixers, although amazingly, he managed to hang around the NBA for sixteen mediocre seasons.

Earlier in 1993, the Sixers selected Bradley with the second overall pick in the draft. Ten players who were drafted after Bradley scored more points more during their NBA careers, including such luminaries as: Rodney Rogers, Lindsey Hunter, and Calbert Cheaney.

The list of even better known players from the Class of ’93 who were drafted after Bradley includes:
Sam Cassell (24)
Allan Houston (11)
Nick Van Exel (37)
Vin Baker (8)
Jamal Mashburn (4)
Anfernee Hardaway (3)
Isaiah Rider (5)

At the time Shawn Bradley signed his contract with Philadelphia, he hadn’t played a competitive game of basketball for two years.(He was on a Mormon mission in Australia.) Prior to that, he played one season for Brigham Young averaging 14.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

Sixers general manager Jimmy Lynam defending his choice of the inexperienced Bradley, said that he was “”arguably as good an athlete at that size as we’ve ever seen.”

Rachel Shuster’s assessment of Bradley proved to me more prophetic than Lynam’s who who compared him to Bill Walton. “The game flowed through Walton. He was the focal point for everything. Shawn can be, too. He has terrific hands, he sees others so well, he can make others better.”, Lynam said. Shuster didn’t buy it. She wrote in USA Today, when Bradley signed with Philly, “Bradley is a project in the truest sense of the word, an athlete with skills (14.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.2 blocked shots a game at BYU) who lacks bulk and conditioning.”

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Carl Lewis Wins 9th and Last Gold July 29, 1996

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Carl Lewis 1996 Olympics Sports Illustrated Signed Cover $80.15 Click to see more Carl Lewis collectibles

Carl Lewis 1996 Olympics
Sports Illustrated Signed Cover $80.15
Click to see more Carl Lewis collectibles

Carl Lewis won the gold medal in the long jump at the Olympics in Atlanta, on July 29, 1996. Lewis had previously won the gold in the long jump at the 1984, 1988, and 1992 Olympics. Only three other athletes have won individual gold medals in four consecutive Olympics. Danish sailor Paul Elvstrom did it in 1948, 1952, 1956, and 1960. American discuss thrower Al Oerter won his gold medals in 1956, 1960, 1964, and 1968. Paul Ainslie, an Englishman, has won four straight Olympic sailing events, starting in 1996 through 2012.

1996 would have been Lewis’s fifth Olympic competition. At the age of 19, he won a place on the 1980 team, but the U.S. boycotted those games which were held in Moscow, protesting the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

More recently, Lewis became embroiled in controversy questioning the dominance of the Jamaican sprinters.

The reigning 100- and 200-meter Olympic gold medalist blasted Lewis in his press conference Thursday, ripping the former U.S. champion for remarks Lewis has made about the Jamaican team and doping in track.
“I’m going to say something controversial. Carl Lewis – I have no respect for him,” Bolt said. “The things he says about the track athletes are very downgrading. I think he’s just looking for attention, because nobody really talks about him. I’ve lost all respect for him. All respect.”
Read more, sports.yahoo.com

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