This Week in Sports History: Dec. 2-8
Another week, another edition of This Week in Sports History, so let’s jump into it.
Starting with college football, this Friday holds a plethora of anniversaries. In 1945, Army fullback Don Blanchard became the first junior to win the Heisman Trophy. Herschel Walker was the second Georgia Bulldog to win the trophy in 1982. In one of the biggest controversies, Paul Hornung of Notre Dame earned the Heisman in 1956 over Tennessee Volunteers running back Johnny Majors despite Tennessee’s 10-1 record.
Saturday marks the anniversary of Marcus Allen’s victory in the 1981 Heisman race. Allen became the fourth Trojan running back to win the award and set a rushing record with 2,342 rushing yards in his senior season at USC, as the Trojans went on to finish 9-2.
Following Allen on the same day six years later, Tim Brown of USC-rival Notre Dame became the second wideout to ever win the award and ended a 20-year drought of no Heisman winners from Notre Dame.
In other college commemorations, Saturday also denotes the first use of numbers on the uniforms by Pittsburgh in 1908, while Sunday celebrates three legendary running backs winning the Heisman Trophy: Georgia’s Frank Sinkwich in 1942, SMU’s Doak Walker in 1948 and Texas Longhorns tailback Earl Campbell in 1977.
Switching to the NFL, Saturday celebrates the dissolvement of the Philadelphia Eagles–Pittsburgh Steelers merger in 1943. Due to so many players enlisting to aid the war effort in 1941, both organizations lost enough players to lead to the single-year formation of the Steagles.
Saturday also marks the creation of the Seattle Seahawks in 1974, but the team would not join the NFL until 1976.
Sunday remembers one of the stranger stat lines in an NFL game for Browns kicker Lou “Toe” Groza. He kicked eight PATs in 1953, as Cleveland defeated the New York Giants 62-14.
On Dec. 8, 1940, the Chicago Bears demolished the Washington Redskins 73-0 in the first NFL championship that was broadcasted on radio. An even crazier stat from that game: Bears quarterback Sid Luckman completed three of four pass attempts for 88 yards and a touchdown.
The NBA has its fair share of great moments to celebrate this week. Dec. 4 marks 23 years since the league suspended Latrell Sprewell for the rest of the season after choking Warriors head coach P.J. Carlesimo during a practice in 1997, which remains the largest blemish on Sprewell’s career.
This upcoming Monday also marks the settlement between the NBA and the referees in 1995 after officials decided to go on strike. While the NBA dragged out negotiations with the National Basketball Referees Association, the replacement referees were a disaster and led to the NBA finally caving in and bringing back their own officials on Dec. 12, 1995.
In addition, two great big men had memorable performances almost a day and two decades apart. First, Wilt Chamberlain lit up the New York Knicks for 67 as a member of the Philadelphia Warriors on Dec. 8, 1961. Dominique Wilkins of the Atlanta Hawks followed suit with 57 points against the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 9, 1986.
Furthermore, Dec. 10, 1995 saw the first meeting of expansion teams, when the Toronto Raptors defeated the Vancouver Grizzlies (now in Memphis) 93-81.
Going to baseball, Dec. 4, is one of the biggest days in baseball history, as Commissioner Kenesaw Landis finally allowed black players to be signed by any club in 1943. In 1964, the commissioner was given full power in all baseball disputes.
On the same day in 1988, Eddie Murray was traded from the Baltimore Orioles to the Los Angeles Dodgers, ending his 11-year run as the face of the O’s.
Dec. 7 also serves as a massive day for two of baseball’s most iconic franchises: the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. On that December day in 1939, Lou Gehrig was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame at the age of 36, while on the same day two years prior, the Red Sox acquired the contract of a 19-year-old slugger named Ted Williams, who became one of the best hitters in the history of baseball.
In 1955, another huge social justice moment in baseball occurred, as Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella won his third MVP award on Dec. 8, which elevated Campanella into the stratosphere of greatest catchers ever.
Matthew McLaughlin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Freshman / Broadcast Journalism
Matthew “Matt” McLaughlin is a freshman from Abington, Pennsylvania majoring in broadcast journalism at Penn State. He is a writer and analyst in all three departments for CommRadio. He’s been featured as an analyst on live shows such as Daylate Tailgate, State College Saturdays and Hail Mary.