Episode 63: Burleigh Grimes
Baseball outlawed the spitball in 1920. However, each team was allowed to designate two pitchers (if they already threw the spitter) to throw it until they retired. Burleigh Grimes of the Brooklyn (Dodgers) Robins was one of those pitchers. His spitball was quite unique in that he “coated” the ball with a special sap from a type of tree in Polk County, Wisconsin. Grimes continued to use his spitter, whenever he felt necessary throughout his career which ended after the 1934 season. Overall, Grimes won 270 games and was enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York by the Veteran’s Committee in 1964. A fierce competitor, Grimes never backed down from anyone and even let his teammates know it when he was unhappy with them. This trait – “fierceness” – might also be why so many baseball fans know the name Burleigh Grimes, but so few can tell you much about his career. It was Burleigh’s intense desire to win that actually proved to be a detriment to his career as he was shipped from team to team to team. In fact, Grimes changed addresses nine times during his 19-year career that saw him play for the Pirates (three times) the Dodgers (who were also known as the Robins, and we talk about that in this episode of SFH), the Giants, the Braves, the Cardinals (twice), the Cubs and the Yankees. In fact, after going 1908 in his lone season for John McGraw and the New York Giants, Grimes was traded because he just couldn’t get along with a few of his teammates. Well, maybe “getting along” is too strong, but he let it be known if he wasn’t happy with their play behind him when he was on the mound. And that’s too bad, because Grimes could pitch. He won 270 games during his career and helped four of his teams reach the World Series, coming out on the winning side once, 1931, when he went 2-0 for the Cardinals in the Redbird’s win over the Philadelphia Athletics. Author Joe Niese wrote a terrific biography on Grimes, “Burleigh Grimes, Baseball’s Last Legal Spitballer,” and is here to discuss the terrific career of Grimes and also talks about the unique spitball that Grimes threw.
Episode 62: Ray Billows
The 2019 U.S. Amateur was won by Andy Ogletree. Certainly not a name that’s on the tip of your tongue. But there are many past champions of the U.S. Amateur who are very much a part of our daily conversations, especially golf fans. Guys like the “King” – Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. To make it to the finals of the U.S. Amateur is a huge accomplishment. Not only do you need to make it through your local qualifier, then you have to make it through stroke-play. Today, 312 golfers qualify for the stroke-play portion of the tournament. From there, the top 64 players advance to match play. If, by the way, there’s a tie for 64th, they’re settled in a sudden-death playoff. Those final 64 players are matched up in a bracket very much like college basketball. No. 1 plays No. 64, No. 2 plays No. 63, No. 3 plays No. 62 and so on. It’s a grueling tournament as the match-play portion of the U.S. Amateur requires the winner of each match to play 36-holes a day until just two golfers are left standing; and then they face-off in 36-hole match-play final on Sunday. Today, the champion is awarded the Havemeyer Trophy. Ray Billows was one of the top golfers of his era at a time when amateur golf was bigger than professional golf. Billows thrived in the U.S. Amateur winning 74% of all the matches he played. In fact, he advanced to the final match three times, but he was never able to win. Each time Billows played in the finals, he lost. Not only did he lose, but Ray Billows is the only golfer in history to lose the U.S. Amateur three times, certainly one of the most disappointing facts about his career. Certainly, the fact that the U.S. Amateur wasn’t played for four years during the prime of his career because of World War II contributed to his disappointment. But to make it to the finals three times is a huge accomplishment. The fact that Billows played on two Walker Cup teams, won the New York State Amateur seven times and numerous other tournaments over the course of his career prove just how good Ray Billows was. The USGA recognized Ray’s brilliance on the course by honoring him with an exhibit at the USGA Museum in Far Hills, NJ. Tom Buggy, who had the pleasure of playing golf with Ray, wrote a book about Billows (long after he had passed) called, “Ray Billows, The Cinderella Kid,” and he’s on Sports’ Forgotten Heroes to talk about Ray’s career, the ups and downs he experienced and why he decided to play amateur golf instead of professional golf.
Episode 61: Ken Williams
Ken Williams was one of baseball’s most feared sluggers of the 1920s. A star for the St. Louis Browns, Williams was a career .319 hitter who hit 196 home runs for his career while toiling in relative obscurity for a team that usually finished near the bottom of the standings. Williams, who never revealed his real age, was reportedly five-years older than what he claimed; and his career was shortened by the fact that he didn’t make for good until he was 30-years old. But, once he did make it, he made a big statement. In fact, after slugging 24 home runs and knocking in 117 to go along with a .347 average in 1921 – his first full season with the Browns, Williams backed that up with his best season. In 1922, Williams stopped Babe Ruth’s run on leading the American League in home runs, which he had done for four consecutive years. Williams led the A.L. with 39 round-trippers, lead the league with 155 RBI and hit .332. While Williams never topped Ruth again in the home run race, he still terrorized pitchers, and he was one of the streakiest hitters the game has ever known. Dave Heller, who wrote the book, “Ken Williams, A Slugger in Ruth’s Shadow,” joins the podcast for a wonderful conversation about one of the game’s most overlooked and forgotten stars.
Episode 60: Hal Trosky
When you are competing for notoriety against the likes of Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx and Hank Greenberg, you have to be really good … great … to grab headlines. You need to hit a ton of homeruns. You need to rack up the RBI’s and you better have a terrific batting average to go along with all of that. Well, that’s exactly what Hal Trosky of the Cleveland Indians did. In fact, in his first four full years for the Indians, he averaged 33+ homeruns a season, over 136 RBI a year and his batting average over his first four years was .310. The guy could flat-out rake! In 1936, his best year, he hit .343 with 42 homeruns, 162 RBI and 405 total bases! His OPS was 1.026. In his first two full seasons, he played every inning of every game. Yet, he was a virtual unknown. Playing for a team that never contended, Trosky was relegated to playing in obscurity. At a time when baseball staged two all-star games a year, Trosky was never invited – a terrible injustice. How could a guy who hit the way he did, a guy who other teams had to plan for, a guy averaged 27 homeruns and 122 RBI a year for his career to go along with a yearly average of .302 be so overlooked? Hal Trosky is the true definition of what this podcast is all about – a forgotten hero. Perhaps, even more amazing is this, very few fans of the Cleveland Indians know his name. Well, on this episode of Sports’ Forgotten Heroes, we recall the career of Hal Trosky and remind fans of the Indians just how great he was; and here to help us do that is William H. (Bill) Johnson who wrote the terrific book, “Hal Trosky: A Baseball Biography.”
Episode 59: Ray Collins
So many baseball players have had their careers cut short by injury. Some of those careers might be considered marginal, and others might be considered a tragedy based on the fact that the career was on an upward trajectory and headed for greatness. Ray Collins, who pitched for the Boston Red Sox from 1909 and into the 1915 season had one of those careers. His last full season, 1914, at the age of 27, Collins went 20-13 – this followed a campaign in which he went 19-8. But, 1915, Collins developed shoulder issues, went 4-7 and never pitched in the Majors again. And that’s a shame because Collins was a stalwart on the Boston pitching staff. He was a key ingredient in Boston’s 1912 World Series win over the New York Giants, and was able to hold his own against opposing pitchers the likes of Cy Young and opposing hitters the likes of Ty Cobb. Collins, who hails from Vermont, is also regarded as one of the best ever to suit-up for the University of Vermont. In fact, Collins was enshrined into the University’s Hall of Fame. While pitching for Vermont, Collins also pitched in Class D minor league baseball, something you could do back in the early 1900s, and he was a dominant force. Several major league teams took notice of Collins and wanted to sign him. But, it basically came down to two: the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Collins decided on the latter, mostly because they played closest to his home state of Vermont. Tom Simon, somewhat of an expert when it comes to baseball players who grew up in Vermont, and a member of SABR, joins the podcast for a wonderful discussion on a career that was cut short by injury, the career of Ray Collins.
Episode 58: Mungo Park, David Brown, Jack Fleck
Three golf champions. Three remarkable championships. Three very unique stories about three guys who had never won before: Mungo Park, 1874 Open Championship; David Brown, 1886 Open Championship; Jack Fleck, 1955 U.S. Open. Each have very unique stories and joining Sports’ Forgotten Heroes to help tell their stories is Connor Lewis from the TalkinGolf History podcast. Connor is one of the foremost golf historians around, created the Society of Golf Historians and is absolutely enthralled with the game and its history. His knowledge is second-to-none and the stories he recalls and relates are absolutely terrific. Mungo Park won the 1874 Open Championship after spending 20-years at sea. David Brown won the 1886 Championship after he had given up the game to become a roofer. More remarkable is the fact that he was actually working on a roof when he was convinced to come down, tee it up, and then went on to capture the Claret Jug. Jack Fleck, who was in Normandy on D-Day, ultimately became a professional golfer, qualified for the 1955 U.S. Open, found himself 9-strokes back after the first round, climbed into contention, tied Ben Hogan on the 72nd hole and beat Hogan in an 18-hole playoff to win! In the episode of SFH, we take a look back at all three championships and talk about the careers of all three golfers.
Episode 57: Hank O’Day
Hank O’Day is one of the most unique and important figures in the history of Major League Baseball. He broke into the game as a pitcher in the American Association for Toledo in 1884. He finished his career seven years later with the New York Giants. During his career, on occasion, O’Day stepped out onto the field as an umpire and when his playing days concluded, he turned to umpiring permanently. Well, sort of. In 1912, O’Day stepped back into the dugout as the manager of the Cincinnati Reds and went 75-78. He was let go after that one season. In 1914, the Chicago Cubs hired O’Day to be their manager and he went 78-76 and was again let go after just one season. So, O’Day put his mask back on and went back out on the field as a manager and ultimately spent the better part of three decades calling games. Major League Baseball officials consulted O’Day throughout his career and after his days on the field were over to discuss the rules of the game, what new rules should be instituted, which rules should be tweaked and which rules should be abolished. Sometimes they agreed with Hank and on other occasions they didn’t, which of course, disturbed O’Day greatly. O’Day was also on the field to make one of the most famous calls in baseball history, the call that led to the New York Giants and Chicago Cubs tying 1-1 in the heat of the 1908 pennant race … the famous “Merkle Boner” game. O’Day dedicated his life to the game he loved so much probably to the detriment of enjoying a normal personal life. He was basically a hermit. Dennis Bingham, who umpires games in the Chicago-area, and is a member of SABR, is one of the most foremost authorities on the career of Hank O’Day and he joins Sports’ Forgotten Heroes for an in-depth conversation on one of the most interesting and unique figures in baseball history.
Episode 56: Roy Sievers
Roy Sievers was one of the most clutch hitters in baseball history. In fact, Sievers, who won the 1949 American League Rookie of the Year with the St. Louis Browns, hit nearly a quarter of his 318 career homeruns in the eighth inning or later. But, becoming a clutch hitter almost didn’t happen. After winning the ROY in 1949, Sievers fell into a slump and that was followed by a devastating right-shoulder injury that almost cost him his career. In fact, during the four-year stretch of 1950 through 1953, Sievers played in just 247 games and hit just 19 homeruns. But, Browns owner Bill Veeck worked hard with Sievers to help him overcome the injury, and Sievers did just that. After Veeck sold the Browns, the team moved to Baltimore and Sievers was traded to the Washington Senators. Great news for Washington, not so good for the new Baltimore Orioles. Sievers, not only recovered, he became one of the most feared sluggers in baseball. Over the course of the next 10-years, Sievers connected for 275 homeruns including an American League leading and career best 42 in 1957 to go along with 114 RBI. Sievers was named to five all-star teams and three times finished in the top-5 for MVP voting. Greg Wolf, the co-Director of the BioProject for SABR, and a frequent guest on Sports’ Forgotten Heroes, returns to the podcast for a wonderful discussion on Sievers, the Browns, Bill Veeck and more. Wolf, by the way, just finished working on a new book, “Wrigley Field, The Friendly Confines at Clark and Addison” and you can pick up a copy by visiting SABR.org or Amazon.
Episode 55: Seattle Pilots
2019 marks the 50th Anniversary of a Major League Baseball team few remember – the Seattle Pilots. In 1969, baseball expanded by four teams and split each league into two divisions. The National League added the San Diego Padres and the Montreal Expos (now known as the Washington Nationals) and the American League added the Kansas City Royals and the Seattle Pilots. The Pilots lasted just one year in Seattle (and most of spring training in 1970) before being “officially” sold and relocated to Milwaukee. Bill Mullins who authored the book, “Becoming Big League, Seattle, the Pilots, and Stadium Politics,” joins Sports’ Forgotten Heroes for an in-depth conversation on what happened to this team. It’s truly a remarkable story. There were politicians who wanted a team in Seattle, and there were many that were opposed it. Even residents of Seattle were split. But, perhaps, the biggest hurdle of all was the stadium. Seattle did not have a stadium that could handle Major League Baseball. Sure, there was the Sick’s Stadium and its 11,000 seats, but it was old and had so many issues. However, the American League wanted to put a team in Seattle and after much negotiation and finding a group that would come together to take on ownership, the Pilots were awarded to Seattle. But, they would have to renovated Sick’s Stadium and that’s where everything went wrong. From warped seats, to people having to climb the light towers to turn the lights on, to wet paint, to inadequate restroom facilities to low water pressure, it was a debacle. The team itself was a typical expansion team and finished last in the newly formed American League West … and that wound up being a problem as well after the team’s General Manager, Marvin Milkes, said it was good enough to finish third. The problems were many, the fans didn’t come and ownership stopped paying its bills. A most fascinating story, listen to the short history of the Seattle Pilots now on Sports’ Forgotten Heroes.
Episode 54: Dolf Luque
Dolf Luque won 194 games over the course of his 20-year Major League career. In 1923, he put together one of the greatest seasons ever for the Cincinnati Reds going 27-8. Luque, however, never again won 20-games in a season, but remained extraordinarily consistent. In fact, in 1925 he went 16-18 and finished in the top-15 (13th) in MVP voting and in 1933, at the age of 42, he went 8-2 for the New York Giants and finished 25th in MVP voting. In that year’s World Series, pitching in relief, Luque became the first pitcher from a Latin American country to win a World Series game. But like so many, the career of Luque is long forgotten, despite the fact that he is the 5th winningest pitcher in the rich history of the Cincinnati Reds. Even more surprising is the fact that he isn’t even mentioned is one of the most treasured pictorial histories of the Reds. How is this possible? Baseball historian Peter Gordon, a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) who has also written and researched about a variety of topics on the game, returns to Sports’ Forgotten Heroes for a conversation about Luque. One of the first from Cuba to play Major League Baseball, Luque also salvaged several careers including that of Sal “The Barber” Maglie. Luque, working as a coach in the rival Mexican League when Maglie was trying to work his way back to the Majors, taught Maglie how to pitch inside and that turned Maglie’s career around. Luque, who was inducted into Mexico’s Baseball Hall of Fame, is also a member of the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame for his career as a player and the fact that he’s the second winningest manager in Cuban baseball history … and he’s also a member of the Reds Hall of Fame.
Episode 53: Jimmy Demaret
Every spring when the Masters rolls around, the names that are mentioned the most are the names we’re most familiar with, the iconic names: Nicklaus, Palmer, Hogan, Snead, Nelson, Jones … and Player, Watson and of course Woods. Even in defeat, a guy like Greg Norman whose flair for the dramatic – and even his wardrobe – is remembered well. But there’s one guy whose name is rarely mentioned, a guy who had a wardrobe rivaled by few, a guy whose 31 victories on TOUR – as of this publishing – have only been surpassed by 15 others and a guy who was the first to win the Masters three times – Jimmy Demaret. Sometimes there is no explanation as to why some of the game’s greats just don’t get the recognition they deserve or are not remembered the way we think they should be and Demaret certainly falls into that category and on this edition of Sports’ forgotten Heroes, John Companiotte who wrote a wonderful biography about Demaret, “Jimmy Demaret, The Swing’s the Thing,” joins the podcast as we look back at a simply marvelous career … a career that saw Demaret contend into his 40s, a career that included the construction of one of golf’s great venues, the Champion’s Club in Houston, TX, and a career that included a unique friendship with one of golf’s purported most standoffish personalities – Ben Hogan. But it was Demaret’s game that was most impressive. A silky-smooth swing, the way he could play in the wind, his burning desire to win – despite the calmness he showed on the outside – and, of course, the fact that his accomplishments were recognized by his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame makes his story even more remarkable when you consider how little he’s talked about. It’s all covered on this edition of SFH.
Episode 52: Kansas City Scouts
The National Hockey League added two teams for the 1974-75 season, the Washington Capitals and the Kansas City Scouts, the latter of which just might be the least-remembered team in professional sports history. In fact, the Kansas City Scouts NEVER played before a full house in their home building, the Kemper Arena. From the start, the Scouts faced an uphill battle. Unlike today’s game, when the NHL makes an expansion draft somewhat fruitful for an incoming team like the Vegas Golden Knights, back in the mid-70s the Scouts (and Capitals) got virtually nothing for their entry fee into the league with the exception of the right to be called a professional hockey organization. The Scouts and Capitals basically were relegated to selecting fourth-line players, skaters who normally found themselves scratched from action, or players who were borderline minor leaguers. There were a few gems available, namely Simon Nolet from the then Stanley Cup Champion Philadelphia Flyers, goalie Michel Plasse from the Montreal Canadiens, and Wilf Paiemont who was signed out of the newly-formed Under-19 Draft. The Scouts put together a good management team in Sid Abel and Bep Guidolin, but financial challenges, an arena that wasn’t ready in time to start the season, and an ownership group that numbered more than 30-part owners are just some of the reasons why the Scouts barely made it through two seasons and were sold to a group that moved them to Colorado. Joining the podcast to talk about the Scouts is Troy Treasure who recently released a the book, “Icing on the Plains – The Rough Ride of Kansas City’s NHL Scouts.” Treasure’s research is deep and the stories he uncovered about this Kansas City franchise are fascinating and in certain instances – stunning. On this episode of SFH, we talk Kansas City Scouts hockey and their short-lived existence.
Episode 51: Ron McDole
Ron McDole played 18 years of professional football including eight with the Buffalo Bills (starting when they were in the AFL), and eight with the Washington Redskins. A defensive end, McDole still holds the record for most interceptions by a DE, and he was quite deft at blocking kicks as well. McDole’s unique perspective on the game and learning from two of the best, Lou Saban and George Allen, is captured in his book, “The Dancing Bear, My 18 Years in the Trenches of the AFL and NFL” and on this episode of Sports’ Forgotten Heroes, Ron McDole is here to share many of his stories. What is was like to play football and have to work during the off-season to earn a living, playing for George Allen’s Over the Hill Gang with the Redskins, and he reflects on many of the game’s wonderful personalities with whom he played including: Jack Kemp, Sonny Jurgenson, Billy Kilmer, Paul Maguire and Jim Dunaway. McDole also reflects on the great times he had off the field, his legendary Halloween parties and the fact that he and a few of his teammates were actually “banned” from eating at a few all-you-can-eat establishments. McDole also discusses how his career almost ended because of a serious bout with migraine seizures. On the field, McDole was agile, quick and relentless in pursuit. He still holds the record for most interceptions by a defensive lineman with 12, and proudly talks about the defense he played that did not allow a rushing touchdown for 17 straight games. We’re excited to have Ron McDole on this episode of Sports’ Forgotten Heroes.
Episode 50: Kentucky Colonels of the ABA
The American Basketball Association (ABA) lasted just nine years, but what a nine years it was! So many great names played in the ABA from Dr. J and Artis Gillmore, to Rick Barry, Moses Malone and Dan Issel (plus many, many others). Incredibly, though, only three teams made it all nine years and only two – the Indiana Pacers and Kentucky Colonels – actually played all nine years under the same name. The Pacers, in fact, were just one of four teams that merged with the NBA when the ABA folded. The others were the New York Nets (now the Brooklyn Nets), Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs. The Colonels, however, might have been the most celebrated of all, and yet, they were not one of the teams that merged with the NBA. Team owner, John Y. Brown, did not want to pay the entry fee and instead, disbanded the team. What a shame! The Colonels had such terrific talent, had won the ABA title just a year prior to the merger and were one of the ABA’s most popular teams. Gary P. West wrote a terrific book about the Colonels, “Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association, The Real Story of a Team Left Behind.” West also enlisted the services of Lloyd “Pinky” Gardner to help write the book. Gardner, who worked with the Colonels, has a treasure chest of Colonels paraphernalia including recaps of every game the team ever played. Gary P. West is our guest on this episode of Sports’ Forgotten Heroes as we take a look back at the colorful history of one of the ABA’s most historic teams, the Kentucky Colonels.
Episode 49: Cincinnati Royals of the NBA
One of the NBA’s original teams was the Rochester Royals. In fact, the Royals won an NBA Championship in 1951. But, Rochester was not an ideal location as the NBA was trying to grow and establish itself in larger cities. So, after the 1956-57 season, the Royals packed up and left for Cincinnati. Cincinnati welcomes the Royals with open arms – at least at first. Tragedy struck the team early on as young and upcoming star Maurice Stokes suffered a devastating head injury and that certainly affected the Royals performance on the floor. And while the tragedy of Stokes is a huge part of the Royals legacy in Cincinnati, they did enjoy some success on the court, particularly in the mid-1960s when they were led by one of the NBA’s all-time greats: Oscar Robertson. However, not even the “BIG O” could get the Royals over the hump and into the NBA Finals. The Royals made the Conference Finals in back-to-back season, 1963 and 1964, but like every other team in the NBA, they couldn’t get past the Boston Celtics. The Royals last appearance in the playoffs was 1967, and by the time 1972 rolled around, it was basically a forgone conclusion that NBA basketball, at least in the form of the Royals, would not make it in Cincinnati and the team relocated to Kansas City (splitting time, at first, in Omaha) and is now known as the Sacramento Kings. Of course, there’s a lot more to the Royals history in Cincinnati and joining Sports’ Forgotten Heroes to talk more about the short history of the Cincinnati Royals is Gerry Schultz the author of, “Cincinnati’s Basketball Royalty: A Brief History: A LOOK BACK at 15 years of Cincinnati Royals NBA Basketball”.
Episode 48: Red Kelly
Red Kelly broke into the NHL at the age of 20 with the Detroit Red Wings, and he impressed right away. Back when Kelly played (made his debut in 1947-48), it was rare for a youngster to make the “big” team out of his first camp. But Red did, and it wasn’t until after the 1966-67 season that Red finally hung up his skates for good. He spent 20 years in the NHL and along the way he was a member of right teams that won the Stanley Cup, he won the Lady Byng four times, the Norris once, and finished top-10 in Hart Trophy voting seven times. Red scored 281 goals and added 542 assists. He spent his first 12-plus seasons with the red Wings, but after a bitter dispute with one-time close friend and Detroit executive Jack Adams, Red was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs where he spent the final eight years of his career. More amazingly was the fact that, while with Toronto, Red also served his country as a member of the House of Commons. Later, after he retired, Red coached the expansion Los Angeles Kings and followed that with a stint as the coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins before ending his career as coach of the Maple Leafs. Red Kelly himself joins me on this episode of Sports’ Forgotten Heroes, along with Waxy Gregoire the co-author of “The Red Kelly Story” for a deep dive look at the career of this all-time great.
Episode 47: St. Louis Hawks
The NBA has played witness to several teams packing up an moving to new cities. The Lakers went from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, the Warriors moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco to Oakland where they play right now (they’re moving back to San Francisco), The Jazz moved from New Orleans to Utah … there have been many, but the one team few know the history of is the Atlanta Hawks. In fact, the Hawks moved to Atlanta from St. Louis, and when they played as the St. Louis Hawks, they were one of the NBA’s best. Actually, not only were they one of the best, they won the NBA Championship in 1958 and appeared in the NBA Finals four times in five years (1957, 58, 60 and 61); and had the ball bounced their way, the Hawks might have won another championship – or two? But winning and playing in St. Louis is only a part of the amazing story of this franchise. Had it not been for the Hawks, the great Boston Celtics teams of the 1950s and 1960s might have never happened. Bill Russell might have never stepped foot on the parquet floor of the old Boston Garden and the Celtics might have ceased to exist! Greg Maracek, founder of the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame and author of the book, “Full Court: The Untold Stories of the St. Louis Hawks,” joins the podcast for a terrific conversation about the former champions. Greg, who also was the paly-by-play voice for several St. Louis-area teams including the St. Louis Blues of the NHL and the St. Louis University Billikens basketball team is this week’s special guest as we take a look back at one of the NBA’s most powerful teams of the late 1950s and early 1960s, while also exploring the reasons why the Hawks left St. Louis for Atlanta.
Episode 46: George Taliaferro
George Taliaferro was sitting around with a few friends just a short time after he had signed a contract to play professional football with the Los Angeles Dons of the All-America Football Conference. The year was 1949 and up until that point, there hadn’t been an African-American drafted by an NFL team. Knowing that, Taliaferro thought it was a safe bet to sign with the Dons. Along came one of George’s friends asking George if had heard the news that George had been drafted by an NFL team. Of course, George thought his friend was joking. He wasn’t. George Taliaferro was drafted in the 13th round of the 1949 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. George was caught off-guard. However, as he would prove throughout his life, George was a man-of-his-word and honored his contract with the Dons bypassing the opportunity to play in the NFL. Unbeknownst to George and others, 1949 wound up being the last year of existence for the AAFC and in 1950 George Taliaferro suited up for the NFL’s New York Yankees and was off and running as an NFL player. But that’s just a part of an extraordinary story, an extraordinary life of a man who overcame so much and gave back in so many ways. Dawn Knight, a school teacher in Indiana who took classes from Taliaferro while she attended Indiana University, formed a terrific friendship with George and later wrote a book about George, “Taliaferro: Breaking Barriers From the NFL Draft to the Ivory Tower,” is on Sports’ Forgotten Heroes to talk about Taliaferro’s career on the field and off.
Episode 45: President George H. W. Bush
George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States, was not only a man who devoted his life to serving his country; but before he dedicated his life to such service, he studied at Yale University and while there, played firstbase for the Eli’s. While he wasn’t necessarily the greatest of hitters, in fact, he was what you would call a “light-hitting first baseman”, he did put the ball in play. His main contribution, however, was with his glove. In fact, his career fielding percentage is nearly 20-points higher than the first basemen he played against. Bush’s career at Yale spanned three seasons, 1946, 47 and 48, and the Yale teams of 47 and 48 played in the first two editions of the College World Series. Joining Sports’ Forgotten Heroes for this look at the college baseball career of Bush 41 is Herman Krabbenhoft, the author of a terrific and extremely in-depth biography of the President. Krabbenhoft, who self-published a quarterly baseball research journal for 10 years, has written many articles for SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) of which he joined in 1981. In fact, Krabbenhoft’s research is so detailed, Baseball Weekly had to correct its own research to match that of Krabbenhoft’s after Baseball Weekly discovered that Krabbenhoft’s research was much more thorough and accurate. Listen to Sports’ Forgotten Heroes to hear just how in-depth Krabbenhoft’s research is, and for a terrific retrospective on the baseball career of President George H.W. Bush.
Episode 44: Frederick Arthur Stanley … LORD STANLEY
The name Frederick Arthur Stanley might not mean much to many, but to the world of hockey, it is one of the most important names in the entire sport. In fact, almost every hockey player in the world hopes to one day get their name inscribed on the bands that help to make this trophy one of the most cherished in all of sport – the Stanley Cup. So, who was Frederick Arthur Stanley and why is the Cup named after him? Well, he was appointed Governor General of Canada by Queen Victoria in 1888 when Canada was still under the governance of the U.K. He spent a few years in Canada with his family following through with the Queen’s wishes and performing whatever business the Governor General needed to perform. Stanley was an avid sportsman, but his children participated much more and took a liking to the game of hockey; and it was his children who introduced him to the game. While Stanley who later became known as “Lord Stanley” enjoyed the game, he never became fully enamored with it. However, his daughter, the Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy, loved the game and convinced her father to donate a sterling silver cup to the amateur champion of Canada. Known as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, the Cup ultimately found its way into the hands of the National Hockey League and is now known as the Stanley Cup. Kevin Shea, one of hockey’s best-known authors, a man who has written, to date, 17 books on the sport he loves, co-authored the book (with John Jason Wilson), “Lord Stanley, The Man Behind the Cup,” returns to Sports’ Forgotten Heroes for another conversation … this one quite unique in that we talk about a man who had such a profound impact on a game he never played.
Episode 43: Gus Dorais
The name Gus Dorais is not very familiar to football fans, but it should be. He was one of the game’s greatest innovators and was the first All-American to play at Notre Dame. He was, arguably, the star of the Fighting Irish on a team that also included one of the game’s biggest legends – Knute Rockne. Dorais was the team’s starting quarterback, a stud runner and kicker, and a heckuva safety. He played professionally for the Massillon Tigers of the Ohio League before his career was cut short by another legend – Jim Thorpe. But, the biggest contribution Dorais made to the game was as a coach; and, perhaps, the biggest decision he made was his first decision – whether to stay in South Bend and take a job with Notre Dame, or move on to become the head coach at Dubuque. He chose the latter in an effort to help his best friend – Knute Rockne – who needed a job after his had fallen through. Of course, Rockne went on to help build Notre Dame into one of college football’s greatest teams, while Dorais built smaller programs: Dubuque, Gonzaga and the University of Detroit. After his college coaching days were over, Dorais took on the challenge of coaching the NFL’s Detroit Lions. On this episode of Sports’ Forgotten Heroes author Joe Niese and Gus’s grandson, Bob Dorais, who worked together to write the book, “Gus Dorais, Grid Iron Innovator, All-American and Hall of Fame Coach,” are here to talk about Gus, his friendship with Rockne, and his career on the field and on the sidelines.
For more on Gus Dorais: Gusdorais.com
Episode 42: Archie Moore
Archie Moore is the only boxer in history to face Rocky Marciano, Floyd Patterson AND Muhammed Ali. An absolutely terrific boxer, Moore captured the light heavyweight championship by unanimous decision at the age of 36 over Joey Maxim. Moore held the title for 10-years before he was stripped of the belt for failure to fight as a light heavyweight towards the of his 10-year reign because he wanted to win the heavyweight championship. Unfortunately, that dream never became a reality. But, what Moore did over the course of his career is absolutely incredible. His career lasted 28 years! He won 199 times and that included a record 149 knockouts. Later in life, Archie found himself on the big screen as Jim in Huckleberry Finn and the on TV in such iconic shows as Adam-12, Emergency and the Batman TV series. He certainly led a full life, but because he never won the heavyweight belt, his notoriety does not match that of the champions we know best: Joe Louis, Marciano, Patterson, Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield. But his ability in the ring was every bit as good, and the fact that he was a light heavyweight champion for as long as he was should never be overlooked. George Thomas Clark, author of “Death in the Ring” and who previously appeared on SFH (episode 6: Teofilo Stevenson) joins us once again, this time for a look back at the career of the Mongoose; Archie Moore.
Episode 41: Joe “The Jet” Perry
Joe Perry, nicknamed “The Jet” for his incredible speed was the first man in the history of the NFL to rush for 1,000-yards in back-to-back seasons. He did so for the San Francisco 49’ers in 1953 and 1954. More amazing, Perry became the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, but while he was still playing the great Jim Brown surpassed him and “stole” Perry’s thunder. That alone just might be the reason why so few know much about Perry – especially outside of San Francisco … and that’s a shame, because Perry was something special. In fact, until Frank Gore passed Perry in 2011, he was the Niners all-time leading rusher. For his career, Perry rushed for 9,723 yards over a 16-year career that included a 2-year stint with the Baltimore Colts and two years with the Niners when they were members of the AAFC. Perry scored 71 touchdowns on the ground and 12 through the air. Revered by his teammates and the fans of San Francisco, the Niners actually held a “Joe Perry Day” in 1955 despite the fact that he played through the 1963 season. An all-timer, Perry was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969. He was also a star in the San Francisco 49’ers famous “Million Dollar Backfield” with Hugh McIlhenny, John Henry Johnson and Y.A. Tittle. Returning to the podcast to talk about “The Jet” is football historian and Lee Elder who is also a longtime member of the Professional Football Researcher’s Association.
Episode 40: Joe Kapp
Joe Kapp is known to most fans of the Minnesota Vikings, but outside of Minnesota? Well, he is not a household name; after all, Kapp only played four years in the NFL, three in Minnesota and one with the Boston (now New England) Patriots. Kapps’s road to the NFL was a long one. He starred at Cal-Berkley and won a Rose Bowl as the Bears QB. Drafted by the Washington Redskins, Kapp never reported to the team because the two couldn’t come to terms on a contract. So, Kapp went north and played for the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League and later the British Columbia Lions. In fact, Kapp led the Lions to the Grey Cup championship in 1964. But he wanted to play in the states and after the 1966 season, he got his wish when the rarest of trades was engineered between the Vikings, Stampeders, Lions and the expansion New Orleans Saints. When all was said and done, Kapp wound up at Met Stadium as the QB for the Vikings and in 1969 led Minnesota to its only NFL Championship. They later lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFL-NFL Championship game (now known as the Super Bowl). But another contract squabble cost Kapp and, after just three years in Minnesota, he wound up with the Patriots. Boston was horrible and that spelled the end of Kapp’s career. But while in Minnesota, he certainly made his mark. Edward Gruver who has written several articles for the Professional Football Researcher’s Association, including a terrific piece about Kapp, and who has a new book coming out about the great rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders called, “Hell With the Lid Off: Inside the Steelers-Raiders Rivalry That Changed Pro Football,” joins the podcast for a look back at the fabulous career of Joe Kapp.
Episode 39: Duke Slater
Duke Slater is not a name many football fans are familiar with … but every football fan should know him. Slater was the greatest offensive lineman of his time. In fact, of the 99 games he was eligible to start, he started 96 of them, and it would have been 97 except for the fact that the state of Missouri didn’t allow men of color to play during that period of our country’s history. Slater also played every down – that’s offense, defense and special teams – in 90 games – that’s every second of every game! Simply stated, there was no one better. In fact, the great Red Grange said Slater was the best lineman ever and named him as one of the greatest players to ever suit up in an NFL game. Slater was voted into the inaugural class of the College Football Hall of Fame … and is a member of the Professional Football Researcher’s Association Hall of Very Good, which has actually been the springboard for several eventual members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. On this episode of Sports’ Forgotten Heroes, Neal Rozendaal who authored the book – Duke Slater: Pioneering Black NFL Player and Judge – joins us for a terrific look back at a legendary career that also had a lot of meaning to a lot of people off the grid iron as well.
Episode 38: Tinker and Evers and Chance
Tinkers to Evers to Chance, one of the most famous double-play combinations in MLB history and, yet, so many don’t really know their story. Some can’t even tell you their first names! But they were good. In fact, they were the key the greatest 5-year and 10-year stretches in baseball history! Yes, Tinker, Evers and Chance were in the center of a run by the Chicago Cubs that once saw them win 102 out of 120 games! Over the 10-year stretch of 1906 thru 1015, the Cubs AVERAGED 99 wins a year! From 1906 thru 1910 they AVERAGED 106 wins a year! The famous trio all wound up in baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1946. But who were they, where did they come from and what made them so special? Heck, what were their first names? On this episode of Sports’ Forgotten Heroes, author David Rapp who wrote the book, “Tinker to Evers to Chance,” and author Dennis Snelling who wrote the book, “Johnny Evers, A Baseball Life,” join the podcast for roundtable discussion on the lives and careers of these three middle infielders who were at the heart of the Cubs dynasty, in the middle of one of baseball’s most famous episodes AND you’ll hear a story that I’m sure will shock many when it comes to their relationship on the field.
Episode 37: Bob Allison
Bob Allison spent four years in the minor leagues before breaking in with the Washington Senators in 1959. When he made it to the Senators (now the Minnesota Twins), very few thought Bob possessed any power, after all, in four minor league seasons he hit just 28 home runs. Well, his rookie year stunned almost everyone! Bob connected for 30 home runs and drove in 85 on his way to a surprising Rookie of the Year award. From there, Bob established himself as one of the games feared sluggers. However, playing in a lineup that also included future Hall of Famer, Harmon Killebrew, one of the greatest to ever play for Minnesota, did not help Bob’s national popularity. But, in Minnesota, Twins’ fans loved him and revered him. Injuries robbed Bob of a long career as he was only healthy to play a full season in nine of his 13 years. But, if you calculate his career stats and break them down to what he would do on average if he played 162 games a year, Bob would have hit 27 home runs a year with 84 RBI a season. Joining the podcast is Gregory H. Wolf, director of the Bioproject for SABR, Greg has written over 150 biographies for SABR and has authored several books including: “A Pennant for the Twin Cities,” and “Winning On The North Side, The 1929 Chicago Cubs.”
Episode 36: Lefty O’Doul
Lefty O’Doul first tried to make as a pitcher with the New York Yankees and then then Boston Red Sox. But he languished on the bench for both teams and was sent to the minors. But O’Doul could hit and the Salt Lake City Bees convinced O’Doul to give up pitching and concentrate solely on hitting. Wow! If only O’Doul heeded this advice earlier in his career. In his first full season, 1928 with the New York Giants, he hit .319. Traded in 1929 to the Philadelphia Phillies, O’Doul came up one-hit shy of hitting .400 and finished the season with an incredible .398 batting average and the NL Record of most hits in a season with 254. As phenomenal a hitter as he was, because of his persistence to make it as a pitcher, O’Doul just didn’t play long enough to merit serious consideration for enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame despite finishing his career with baseball’s fourth highest batting average of all time – .349. However, he is in Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame, and for good reason. O’Doul played a pivotal role in helping Japan establish a professional baseball league AND, more importantly, helped ease tensions between the U.S. and Japan after World War II had ended. In fact, General Douglas MacArthur said what O’Doul did was one of the greatest acts of diplomacy in the history of the U.S. Author Dennis Snelling who wrote the book, “Lefty O’Doul: Baseball’s Forgotten Ambassador” joins the podcast for a terrific look back on one of Sports’ Forgotten Heroes.
Episode 35: Sal “The Barber” Maglie
When Sal Maglie finally made his Major League debut at the age of 28, all the years of hard work and persistence had finally paid off. After going 5-4 with a 2.35 ERA, however, Maglie did not make the New York Giants the following season. Deciding to play in the Mexican League proved to be a double-edged sword. Maglie, under the tutelage of Dolf Luque, refined his skills on the mound; but commissioner Happy Chandler suspended all those who left the Majors for Mexico. After other players sued baseball to get back in, Maglie finally got another chance. At the of 33, Maglie put on his Giants uniform once again and this time he stuck. A totally different pitcher, this is when Maglie earned the nickname “The Barber”. He owned the inside part of the plate and was happy to give batters a close shave with his fastball. Maglie went 18-4 in his return season and proceeded to dominate baseball for the next five years – and also pitched in three of the greatest games in baseball history. Peter Gordon, a longtime member of SABR, joins the podcast to talk about the terrific career of Sal “The Barber” Maglie.
Episode 34: Kiki Cuyler
Hazen Shirley Cuyler is better known by his nickname – Kiki Cuyler – and yet, very few baseball fans can recall this Hall of Famer despite the fact that he played 18 years and finished his career with a batting average of .321. In 1925 he set two records that still stand for the Pittsburgh Pirates, most runs scored in a season with 144, and most total bases in a season with 369. But his time in Pittsburgh was short-lived, and after just four full season with the Pirates he was traded away to the Chicago Cubs amid a few different controversies of which might have cost Pittsburgh the 927 World Series Championship. Cuyler played with some of the game’s most legendary names, and was a very well-known player as well. But for whatever reason, and with such a unique nickname that is actually pronounced “Cuy Cuy” very few fans of the Prates or the Cubs, whom he led to two World Series appearances can recall the man whom drew comparisons to Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Shoeless Joe Jackson. Joining the podcast for a look back at the career of Kiki Cuyler is Gregory Wolf, co-director of the biography project for SABR.
Episode 33: Lyman Bostock
Sometimes life isn’t fair. Sometimes you wind up in the wrong place at the wrong time and the consequences can be severe. For Lyman Bostock, a baseball player on the rise, a young superstar, that was the case. During a road trip with the then California Angels to Chicago for a series against the White Sox, Bostock visited his old hometown of Gary, Indiana and in a tragic series of events, was shot dead. Bostock did nothing wrong with exception of going out to dinner with family and friends. An awful, awful end to a man with incredible potential. A guy, who in 3 ½ season with the Angles and Minnesota Twins had hit .311 with an OPS of .791 … a guy whom the Angels had hoped to build a championship team around, a guy who was so much more than just a ballpayer, a guy who gave back to his community in ways few would believe. Author K. Adam Powell who penned the book, “Lyman Bostock, The Inspiring Life and Tragic Death of A Ballplayer,” joins the podcast for a terrific look back at the life and career of Lyman Bostock.
Episode 32: Ralph Guldahl
Ralph Guldahl joined the PGA TOUR in 1931, walked away from the game in 1934, rejoined the TOUR in 1935, and retired from the game for good in 1940. But in between, he was absolutely phenomenal. During his time on TOUR he won 16 tournaments including three Majors – the 1937 and 1938 U.S. Open and the 1939 Masters. He also won the Western Open in 1936, 1937 and 1938 when the Western was thought of as a Major too. In all, Ralph won 16 times on the TOUR and was named to three Ryder Cup teams. The great Sam Snead once said of Ralph, “If Guldahl gave someone a blood transfusion, the patient would freeze to death,” … that’s how cool and even-keeled Ralph was on the golf course. Tony Parker, golf historian from the World Golf Hall of Fame and Museum joins the podcast to talk about the forgotten career of Ralph Guldahl.
Episode 31: Giorgio Chinaglia
Before the MLS, before the Premier League, there was the NASL – the North American Soccer League, and while there have been attempts to revive the league, with the MLS now established as America’s highest division of soccer, the fact is, the “old” NASL will never come back and be what it once was. But at its height, the NASL was a league on the world’s stage. Players from around the globe flocked to the U.S. to get in on the action, particularly in New York where the Cosmos ruled. In a town that featured the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Rangers and Knicks, the Cosmos didn’t play second-fiddle to any of them, and leading the way was, perhaps, the most colorful soccer player to ever play in the U.S. – Giorgio Chinaglia. One of the most feared strikers in the game, Chinaglia is the greatest goal-scorer in the history of American soccer. Period. Sure, others might have been or currently are more skilled with the ball, but none of them scored like No. 9. In fact, he once scored seven (7) goals in one game; and netted 18 goals in the 1980 playoffs in just seven (7) games. In 213 games he scored 193 goals. Kartik Krishnaiyer from World Soccer Talk and terrific soccer historian is back on SFH to talk about one of the most flamboyant players to ever step on the pitch – Giorgio Chinaglia.
Episode 30: Dolph Schayes
Dolph Schayes was named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest, yet, so few recall him; and many confuse him for his son Danny (who played 20 years in the NBA). Dolph broke in with the Syracuse Nationals in the 1949-50 season after starring at NYU. The Nationals outbid the New York Knicks for Dolph’s services and reaped the benefits of Schayes’s ability to score and rebound. In fact, the 6-foot-8 center/power forward led Syracuse to the playoffs EVERY year of he played, including the magical season of 1954-55 when the Nationals won the NBA Championship. Despite how good Syracuse was, drawing fans was always a challenge and after the 1962-63 campaign, Syracuse left town, relocated to Philadelphia and changed their name to the 76’ers. During the team’s first year in Philly, Schayes served as its player/coach. He retired as a player to concentrate on coaching and after his third year was let go. But, as a player, he dominated and was actually the league’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder when he retired. Joining SFH to talk about Dolph Schayes is Dolph Grundman, author of the book, “Dolph Schayes and The Rise of Professional Basketball.”
Episode 29: Gottfried von Cramm
Gottfried von Cramm was once the No. 1 ranked tennis player in the world. But when he faced Don Budge in the finals of Davis Cup match played at Wimbledon in 1938, he was ranked No. 2. The pressure he was under was unlike any he had ever felt before, and a pressure unlike – possibly – any other athlete has ever felt before or since. You see, von Cramm was a German-Jew, a homosexual and was playing at a time when Adolf Hitler was just coming into power. In fact, the while German’s had an idea of what Hitler was about to do, the rest of the world didn’t … some from Hitler’s gestapo were in attendance that day in 1938, special guests of the King and Queen. The swastika was flying too. But von Cramm knew what was going on, and if he lost that match to Budge, there was no telling what wrath he would face. Author Marshall Jon Fisher recounts the events of that match so well in his book, “A Terrible Splendor,” and is back on SFH as we talk about that match and the career and life of a true hero – Gottfried von Cramm.
Episode 28: Urban Shocker
Urban Shocker was regarded by many as the best pitcher of his time. In fact, Babe Ruth said he was the best pitcher he faced. Other pitchers said that Urban was the best. Writers of the day, such as Damon Runyon, and others called Urban the best too. He started his career with the New York Yankees was traded to the St. Louis Browns and then several years later, the Yankees reacquired him. He was the one player of whom the Yankees said they made a mistake in trading. Over the course of his career he won 187 games. Yet, so few have ever heard of Urban Shocker. He played from 1916 through 1928 – and it was towards the end of the 1928 season in which Shocker succumbed to mitral valve failure, a condition he was able to hide from his teammates and his wife. He struggled with this condition for the last half of his career, and despite it, he was still baffling hitters with a variety of pitches. Steve Steinberg, author of “Urban Shocker, Silent Hero of Baseball’s Golden Age,” joins SFH to talk about Urban, how revolutionary parts of his game were, how dominant he was, and just who was Urban Shocker.
Episode 27: Roberto DeVicenzo
April 14, 1968 will go down as one of the most incredible events in the history of the Masters as Roberto DeVicenzo signed an incorrect scorecard and missed an opportunity to wear the Green Jacket. DeVicenzo signed for a score worse than what he actually shot and thus, in doing so, had to accept that score. Had he corrected the error, he would have played Bob Goalby in an 18-hole playoff to decide the champion. Special guest, golf historian and former host of Golf Talk Live, Peter Kessler, joins the podcast as we look back at the incredible events of that day; which ultimately overshadowed a terrific golf career that is rarely spoken about, the career of Roberto DeVicenzo and his 231 worldwide wins.
Episode 26: Gene Conley
Gene Conley did something no other athlete before him or who played after him ever accomplished – win a championship in two of the major four sports we follow (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL). Not Deion Sanders, not Bo Jackson, no one. Conley won the World Series with the Milwaukee Braves in 1957 and came off the bench to help the Boston Celtics win NBA championships in 1959, 1960 and 1961. On this edition of the Sports’ Forgotten Heroes, John Husman, team historian of the Toledo Mud Hens (a team that Conley played for prior to being called up to the Braves), a member of SABR and a long-time friend of Conley’s joins the podcast to talk about his old friend and his great career.
Episode 25: Vic Hadfield
He was the first player in the history of the New York Rangers to score 50 goals in one season. He was originally signed by the Broadway Blues to be an enforce, to add grit to the team. And when he joined teammates Jean Ratelle and Rod Gilbert to form the GAG line (goal a game), the fortunes of the Rangers turned around and they became one of the best team in the NHL reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 1972 only to lose to the Boston Bruins and Bobby Orr in six games. Despite never winning the Cup, the late 60s and early 70s were glory years for the New York Rangers and Vic Hadfield just might have been the heart of the team. George Grimm recently released a book, “We Did Everything But Win”, a terrific look back at the Rangers’ teams of that era, and he joins the podcast to talk about those Rangers and Vic Hadfield.
Episode 24: Dave DeBusschere
Dave DeBusschere was, simply stated, remarkable. A world class two-sport star who was raised just outside of Detroit, DeBusschere was a stud pitcher and an even better basketball player. Taken by the Detroit Pistons in the NBA’s territorial draft, he was also selected by the Chicago White Sox … and he played professionally for both teams. On the hardwood, DeBusschere quickly established himself as one of the NBA’s premier forwards. For the White Sox, however, he bounced back-and-forth between the minors and the majors. The Pistons, however, knew he was something special and to convince him to forego his career as a Major League pitcher, Detroit named DeBusschere player/coach when he was just 24-years old. Bill Pruden, who has written several biographies for SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) including a bio on DeBusschere is this week’s guest as we look back on a simply remarkable career.
Episode 23: Johnny “Blood” McNally
Johnny Blood is a member of the inaugural class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Inducted in 1963 in a class that included Sammy Baugh, Red Grange, Curly Lambeau, Tim Mara, George Halas, Bronko Nagurski and others, “Blood” might be the least known of all of them. Johnny’s given name is “McNally”, but gave himself the name “Blood” because, well, he just liked it (after he saw it on a marquee). Blood was big, and most coaches wanted him to play defense. But he would have none of it, and wanted to play offense, or else he wasn’t going to play. An all-around great athlete, and still the NFL record holder of catching the most TD passes in a season as a halfback, Johnny is one of four former Green Bay Packers with a statue erected in his honor. Ralph Hickok, author of “Vagabond Halfback, The Saga of Johnny Blood McNally,” enlightens us with some great stories and a look back on the career of this football great.
Episode 22: Don Budge
Don Budge was the first player in the history of tennis to win the Grand Slam. In 1938, he won the Australian Championships, French Championships, Wimbledon and U.S. Championships. In fact, after having won Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships to close out 1937, he actually won six straight Grand Slam titles. Rod Laver, who won the Grand Slam in 1962 and again in 1969, is the only other male tennis player to win the Grand Slam. Budge played at a time when tennis was king of the hill. It was, perhaps, the most popular sport back in the 30s and 40s when Budge was at his best. Marshall Jon Fisher, author of “A Terrible Splendor” a terrific book about one of the greatest tennis matches ever played, is the guest on this edition of SFH to talk about the great career of this forgotten hero.
Episode 21: Frank Ryan
Frank Ryan is the last quarterback to lead the Cleveland Browns to an NFL Championship and he joins the podcast to talk about his career and the Browns team of 1964 – the last year Cleveland won the NFL title. Lightly regarded when he came out of Rice in 1958, the Los Angeles Rams selected him in the 5th round of the draft because they were impressed with his arm strength. But, for most of his four seasons with the Rams, Ryan rode the bench … and when he did get a chance to play, coach Bob Waterfield had a quick hook when Ryan made a mistake. Frustrated with his playing time, Ryan requested a trade and prior to the 1962 season, the Rams met Ryan’s request and shipped him to Cleveland. The Browns QB at the time was Jim Ninowski and midway through 1962 he suffered an injury opening the door for Ryan to become the team’s starter. He didn’t relinquish that job until 1968. In between, Ryan led the Browns into two NFL Championship games including a 27-0 win over Baltimore in 1964. Author Roger Gordon who has written several books on the Browns also joins the podcast.
Episode 20: John W. Heisman
Who was John W. Heisman and why was the trophy to honor the college football player of the year named after him? Well, when you take a look back at Heisman’s legendary coaching career, the contributions he made to the game are many and most of them are still evident in the game we watch today. But, that’s only part of the story. Amazingly, Heisman didn’t want a trophy awarded – period! So, for someone who didn’t want a trophy awarded to begin with, the fact that it is named after him – The Heisman Trophy – makes this story even more incredible; and joining me on the podcast is the man charged with keeping and preserving the legacy of John W. Heisman – his great-nephew and co-author of the book, “Heisman, The Man Behind The Trophy,” John M. Heisman.
Episode 19: Ernie DiGregorio
Ernie DiGregorio was the NBA Rookie of the Year for the 1973-74 season. The No. 3 pick out of Providence after leading the Friars to 27-4 mark during his All-America senior season, Ernie was as exciting as they come. Standing just 6-feet tall and weighing all of 180-pounds, he was a magician on the court. If you were open, Ernie would find a way to get the ball to you. In fact, he set the rookie record for most assists in a game (25) and led the NBA during his rookie campaign in assists with an average of 8.2 per game to go along with 15.2 points-per-game. And, in his rookie year he led the Buffalo Braves to their first-ever playoff appearance. But, a knee injury cut Ernie’s career short. Tim Wendel, author of “Buffalo, Home of The Braves”, makes his second visit to the podcast as we take a look back at the career of Ernie DiGregorio.
Episode 18: Dennis Maruk
Dennis Maruk was one of the first hockey players to score 60 goals in a season and he joins Sports’ Forgotten Heroes to talk about his magical year, career and more. There was a time when scoring 60 goals in a season in the NHL was a very rare accomplishment. Phil Esposito was the first to break the barrier when he scored 76 in 1970-71. Guy Lafleur reached the 60-goal mark, so did Steve Shutt and Mike Bossy. Those guys were the NHL’s big guns. Few, though, had ever heard of Dennis Maruk … and even today very few recall Maruk. But he was one of the first to do it when he lit the lamp 60 times in 1981-82 for the Washington Capitals. Since then, the magical number 60 has been broken many times. But when Dennis did it, it was a huge accomplishment and hardly anyone noticed! Dennis just released a book, “Dennis Maruk, The Unforgettable Story of Hockey’s Forgotten 60-Goal Man,” where he talks about his career, playing in the shadows of some of the game’s greatest players ever, and his life afterwards.
Episode 17: Bob Waterfield
Bob Waterfield led the Cleveland Rams to an NFL Championship in 1945, and followed that by leading the Los Angeles Rams to an NFL Championship in 1951. In fact, Waterfield is the only quarterback to lead the Rams franchise to two NFL Championships. He is also the only rookie quarterback to ever win an NFL Championship. Waterfield played for the Rams from 1945 through 1952 and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965. He might also be remembered for his poster pinup wife, and high school sweetheart – Jane Russell. Jim Sulecki, author of, The Cleveland Rams, The NFL Champs Who Left Too Soon, joins the podcast to talk about this forgotten hero of the NFL: Bob Waterfield.
Episode 16: The Buffalo Braves
The 2017-2018 season is the 40th anniversary season of the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that, in recent years, has played with high expectations. However, Los Angeles is not where the Clippers got their start. In fact, prior to moving to home, the Clippers called San Diego home for six years. But that’s not where they got their start. In fact, the Clippers were born as the Buffalo Braves for the 1970-71 season and called Buffalo home for eight years. On this episode of Sports’ Forgotten Heroes, Tim Wendel, author of “Buffalo, Home of The Braves” joins the podcast for a wonderful conversation about a team whose legacy grows by the day.
Episode 15: Justin Fashanu
In 1980, Justin Fashanu catapulted his young career on the pitch into another stratosphere with a most incredible goal against powerhouse Liverpool. In fact, won the prestigious “Goal of the Year” Award, and earned Fashanu a $1,000,000-pound transfer fee from Norwich City to Nottingham Forest. It was the largest transfer fee, at that time, ever for a black footballer. But was it too much too son? Was Justin too young to handle this new fame and fortune? Was he emotionally not mature enough to cope with his new surroundings? Kartik Krishnaiyer from World Soccer Talk joins Sports’ Forgotten Heroes to talk about a most fascinating talent whose career had so much potential and ended in tragedy.
Episode 14: Cleveland Rams
In 1937, 80 years ago, the Rams made their NFL debut. Only, it wasn’t in Los Angeles and it wasn’t in St. Louis. The Rams were originally the Cleveland Rams, and after a tumultuous existence in Cleveland, the Rams packed up and departed for Los Angeles 27 days after winning the team’s first NFL Championship. The Rams continually struggled to attract fans, only twice reached .500, including their 9-1 season of 1945, and had to deal with a variety of issues that doomed their Cleveland existence from day one. Jim Sulecki, whose father was in the stands for the 1945 title game against the Washington Redskins, and who recently published a book, The Cleveland Rams, The NFL Champs Who Left Too Soon, joins the podcast for a fascinating look back at one of the NFL’s forgotten teams.
Episode 13: Amos Otis, OF – Kansas City Royals
Amos Otis was, arguably, the first real superstar in the history of the Kansas City Royals. Acquired from the New York Mets on December 3, 1969 (along with pitcher Bob Johnson) for third baseman Joe Foy, Otis enjoyed a terrific, if not, great career with the Royals. 1970 was his first full season in the majors and with Kansas City (the Royals second year of existence) he hit .284, stole 33 bases, led the American League in doubles with 36 and appeared in the All Star Game. For his career, he won three gold gloves while playing centerfield for Kansas City and appeared in five all-star games. A career .277 hitter, Amos Otis was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame in its inaugural class of 1986 along with pitcher Steve Busby. Bill Lamberty, a long time member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), and author of several articles for the SABR’s biography project, joins the podcast for more on Amos Otis.
Episode 12: Benny Friedman, QB – New York Giants
In 2005, QB Benny Friedman was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was an honor long overdue. Friedman is considered by many to be the QB to have turned the game of football from a running game to a passing game. In 1929, with the New York Giants, Friedman threw 20 touchdown passes. That number would not be equaled by anyone until 1977. In fact, no other team passed for 20 touchdowns until 1942! As SFH guest Lee Elder notes, there might not be a New York Giants or an NFL had it not been for Friedman. Friedman also served as a coach, and an athletic director after his playing days were over. But it was his mission to have pre-1958 NFL players included in the league’s pension program that might have delayed Friedman’s entrée into the Hall of Fame. Lee Elder from the Professional Football Researcher’s Association joins the podcast to talk more about Benny Friedman.
Episode 11: Hal Newhouser
Over the course of his 17-year career (15 with the Detroit Tigers and two with the Cleveland Indians), Hal Newhouser went 207-150. While not overly incredible numbers, it’s what he did from 1944 through 1949 that shows how dominant a pitcher he was. During that 6-year stretch, Newhouser went 136-67. In 1944 he was 29-9 and followed that by going 25-9 in 1945 and 26-9 in 1946. He is the last American League pitcher to win at least 25 games three years in a row. In 1944 and 1945 he won the MVP Award – the only pitcher to ever win the award in back-to-back years, and in 1946 he finished second. Yet, when it came to the Hall of Fame, Newhouser couldn’t garner the votes needed for induction, that is until author David M. Jordan launched a campaign to get “Prince” Hal Newhouser inducted. On this episode of Sports’ Forgotten Heroes, Jordan joins the podcast to talk about Hal Newhouser and his remarkable career.
Episode 10: Nate Colbert
On August 1, 1972 Nate Colbert led his San Diego Padres into Atlanta for a doubleheader against the Braves. Neither team was a contender. The Braves finished the year with a record of 70-84, and the Padres wound up 58-95. But on this particular day, what happened in Atlanta was the talk of baseball. Colbert put together one of the greatest performances in the history of the game. He went 7-for-10 with five home runs, 13 RBI and a record 22 total bases. It was the kind of performance one can only dream about … and Colbert did! In 1952, Stan Musial hit five home runs in a doubleheader for the Cardinals against the Giants and Colbert was in the stands to see all of them as an 8-year-old boy! Bill Swank, regarded as San Diego’s preeminent baseball historian joins Sports’ Forgotten Heroes for a look back at that incredible day and to recall the career of San Diego’s all-time leader in home runs.
Episode 09: Willie Anderson
Willie Anderson was one of the top golfers in the world during the early 1900s. Of course, this was at a time when professional golf tournaments were few and far between and amateur golfers were held in higher regard. Nonetheless, Anderson was as good as anyone. In fact, he was dominant and became the first golfer to hold two Major U.S. titles at one time, the U.S. Open and the Western Open (the Western Open was considered a Major back in the early 1900s). More impressively, though, Anderson won the U.S. Open in 1901, 1903, 1904, and 1905. He is still the only golfer to ever win three straight U.S. Open Championships and he won four overall. And, if not for a fourth place finish in 1902, he would have won five straight. Tony Parker, historian and researcher at the World Golf Hall of Fame and Museum joins us to take a look back at one of Sports’ Forgotten Heroes.
Episode 08: Dean Chance
Playing for the then Los Angeles Angels in 1964, there was no reason for anyone t o think Dean Chance was going to have a breakout season. After all, he went 14-10 in 1962 and followed that with a 13-18 campaign for the Angels in 1963 … and the Angels just weren’t a good team. In fact, Los Angeles finished 1964 with a record of 82-80. Los Angeles’s other team, the Dodgers, were led by Sandy Koufax who had won the Cy Young Award in 1963 and would go on to win it again in 1965 and 1966 (and with a 19-5 mark in ’64 to go along with a 1.74 ERA, Koufax could have won again in ’64). But 1964 was the year of Dean Chance. Flat out, he dominated the game in a way few have ever done. We’ll take a look back at Dean’s 1964 season and his career with 2-time Cy Young Award winner Denny McLain … and we’ll also explore Dean’s fascination with boxing and the IBA with boxing Hall of Fame members Bill Caplan and Don Chargin.
Episode 07: Tony Lema
Tony Lema had it going, he was on top of his game and was one of the stars of the PGA TOUR. He had won 22 tournaments around the world, 12 on the TOUR, and the 1964 British Open. He had such confidence in his game, that he thought the Big 3 of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player should have been renamed the Big 4. Lema was a fun-loving guy and golf galleries loved to watch him play. He was flamboyant, dressed to the nines, used gold-colored tees, and after every win he treated the press to champagne. To say he was loved by all would be an understatement. But it all came to a tragic end in 1966. After the final round of the 1966 PGA Championship at Firestone in Akron, Ohio, Lema boarded a chartered flight to a small town just outside of Chicago and the plane encountered problems and crashed on the 7th hole of the Lansing Sportsmen’s Club killing aboard. Family friend Bill Roland authored a terrific biography on Lema, Champagne Tony Lema; Triumph to Tragedy and joins me on the podcast as we look back on the career of Champagne Tony Lema.
Episode 06: Teofilo Stevenson
Cuba’s greatest athlete ever? Perhaps. Cuba’s greatest boxer? No doubt. Teofilo Stevenson is the only man to win three straight Olympic Boxing Gold Medals in the heavyweight division. Stevenson won in 1972 (Munich), 1976 (Montreal) and 1980 (Moscow); and there are many who think he would have won a fourth straight Gold had Cuba not boycotted the 1984 games in Los Angeles. When the Olympics rolled around, Stevenson was a household name even here in the U.S. He possessed one of the most devastating right hands of all time, and at 6-foot-5 he was as intimidating as they came. But Stevenson never fought as a professional and reportedly turned down millions to turn pro and fight for the World Championship against the likes of Muhammed Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman. Author, writer, researcher George Thomas Clark (Tom Clark) joins me on this episode of Sports’ Forgotten Heroes for a look back on the remarkable career of Teofilo Stevenson and what might/could have been.
Episode 05: Ed Delahanty
In the early 1900s, Ed Delahanty was the biggest star in baseball. Regarded, by some, as baseball’s first 5-tool player, he hit over .400 three times, and was the game’s most powerful hitter. But he was struggling financially and, essentially, had to pay his team to continue playing. Big Ed was caught up in a battle between the well-established National League and the upstart American League. He was so distraught over his situation that he left his team in the middle of a road trip and was never to be seen again. John Saccoman, a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) joins me on Sports’ Forgotten Heroes for a conversation about Ed Delahanty – his hall of fame career, and the tragedy that followed.
Episode 04: Bill Barilko Part II
In 1951, playing in their fourth Stanley Cup Finals in five years, the Toronto Maple Leafs squared off against their arch-nemesis the Montreal Canadiens. As hockey historian and author Kevin Shea noted, this one was going to be for the ages. And while only five games were needed in the best-of-seven series, the Finals couldn’t have been any closer. Every game went into overtime. In the fifth, and final game, Bill Barilko beat Montreal goaltender Gerry McNeil with a backhander to give the Leafs the Cup, their fourth in five years, and establish Toronto as a dynasty. However, it was to be Toronto’s last Cup until 1962 … and sadly, it was also to be the last goal Bill Barilko would ever score. In this, Part II of the Bill Barilko story on Sports’ Forgotten Heroes, Shea joins me for a conversation on game five, and the incredible tragedy that followed.
Episode 03: Bill Barilko Part I
Bill Barilko was a terrific, young defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was called up to the team during the 1946-47 season and helped lead the Leafs to the Stanley Cup Championship. The following season, Barilko established himself as a rock along the blue line and again helped lead the Leafs to a Stanley Cup Championship. In 1948-49, Barilko and his Toronto teammates became the first team in NHL history to win three straight Stanley Cup Championships; and they made it four in five years in the 1950-51 season. In fact, the ’50-’51 Finals was historic. Toronto vs. Montreal. Heated rivals. Every game of that series went into overtime. The Leafs won it five games, and in that fifth game Barilko scored the overtime goal to clinch the Cup. But it’s what happened during the summer following that championship that makes the Bill Barilko story incredible. Kevin Shea, hockey historian and author of the terrific biography on Bill Barilko, aptly named “Barilko” joins me on this podcast as we look back on the career of Bill Barilko.
Episode 02: Billy Cannon Part II
After winning the Heisman Trophy in 1959 at LSU, Billy Cannon signed a contract with Pete Rozelle and to play for the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL. But Bud Adams of the upstart AFL’s Houston Oilers also had his eyes set on the star halfback and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. On this podcast of Sports’ Forgotten Heroes, we take a look back at the controversy surrounding Billy Cannon and entre into professional football, his life after his playing days were over, his fall from grace, and his remarkable rise afterwards. Joining me again are Charles de Gravelles, author of “Bill Cannon A Long, Long Run” and Jim Weathersby from TheSportsHistorian.com. They take a look back at Billy’s career with the Oilers and Oakland Raiders, and how he transformed the tight end position into a scoring threat as well.
Episode 01: Billy Cannon Part I
Billy Cannon won the Heisman Trophy while at in 1959. A year earlier, he helped lead LSU to its first National Championship. After his college days were over, Cannon embarked on a fabulous pro career. But it’s what happened after his playing days were over that makes the story of Billy Cannon even more intriguing. My guests for this podcast are Charles de Gravelles, who wrote the book, “Billy Cannon A Long, Long Run”, and Jim Weathersby from TheSportsHistorian.com. Part I covers Billy’s days in high school through his playing days at LSU. It also explores Billy’s life off the field.
Episode 00: About Sports’ Forgotten Heroes
This podcast details what you can expect every OTHER Tuesday on Sports’ Forgotten Heroes. The fact that it’s about greats of the game not named Babe Ruth, Jim Brown or Michael Jordan. It’s about Billy Cannon, Dean Chance, Tony Lema, and other great, great stars of the past time has forgotten. Authors, writers, athletes, historians, and sometimes the star themselves will appear on Sports’ Forgotten Heroes.