Monday, November 29, 2010

Bears vs. Packers, 1963

     The Bears-Packers game of November 17, 1963, was perhaps the most highly anticipated regular-season contest in NFL history up to that time. The archrivals came into the game with identical 8-1 records, and the winner would take a giant step toward the Western Division crown and a berth in the world championship game (which was not yet named the Super Bowl).
     “If we’re going to win this thing,” Bears head coach George Halas had said before the season, “we’re going to have to beat Green Bay twice.” It was a tall order: the Packers had beaten the Bears 49-0 and 38-7 the year before en route to an almost-perfect 14-1 record and a second straight championship. But the Bears had defeated the Packers 10-3 in the season opener at Lambeau Field, and now they had the opportunity to deliver on Halas’s prophecy.
     Over 49,000 fans turned out for the rematch at Wrigley Field—some of whom paid scalpers $100 for the privilege. As was true of all home games in those days, even sellouts, the game was not televised within a 75-mile radius of Chicago, so fans drove to taverns, bowling alleys, and American Legion halls in outlying areas of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. One group of 400 chartered an entire train, which they christened the Victory Special, for the 180-mile trip to a Galesburg hotel. Well supplied with liquid refreshments, these fans spent six hours on the train there and back for the chance to watch the game on television.
     They were not disappointed.
     The Bears’ J.C. Caroline set the tone on the game’s opening kickoff when he obliterated Herb Adderley after a return of just several steps. Thereafter, as George Strickler wrote in the Tribune, “the underdog Bears relentlessly carried the fight to the foe, on offense as well as defense.” The Packers were never in the game. They didn’t score until late in the fourth quarter, when they were already trailing 26-0. Only one other time, on a pass-interference penalty in the second quarter, did they advance inside the Bears’ 38-yard line. The Bears intercepted five passes and recovered two Packer fumbles. They limited Jim Taylor, the league’s reigning rushing champ, to 23 yards.
     “The Bear defense met every expectation,” Strickler wrote. “The offense exceeded even the wildest hopes of the most rabid Bears followers.” All season, the defense had been disproportionately responsible for the team’s success; when the two groups passed each other going on and off the field, Ed O’Bradovich remembered, he and his defensive mates would say to the offensive unit, “Just hold ’em.” But on this day, the offense more than held its own. With superb blocking up front and a balanced distribution of carries among Willie Galimore, Joe Marconi, Rick Casares, and Ronnie Bull, the Bears churned out 248 yards on the ground. They scored the first three times they had the ball, on two field goals by Roger Leclerc and a spectacular 27-yard gallop by Galimore. Leclerc added a field goal in the third quarter and another in the fourth before Bennie McRae’s 44-yard interception return set up a touchdown run by quarterback Bill Wade from five yards out. The final score of 26-7 could have been even more one-sided, but Leclerc missed four field goals in addition to the four he made.
     The Bears presented the game ball to offensive line coach Phil Handler, whose charges had completely dominated the line of scrimmage. Although the Packers were without Bart Starr, who’d been out three weeks with an injury, Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi offered no excuses. “The Bears were terrific,” he said. “They beat us up front where it counts—and both ways. I’m happy for Papa George [Halas]; he’s a hell of a guy.”
     Halas himself was virtually speechless after the game. “Thank you, fellows,” was all he managed to tell his team before being overcome with emotion.
     “Somebody may still beat the Bears,” Lombardi said wistfully. “I’m making no predictions. But they have four games left to play. So do we.”

Adapted from Heydays: Great Stories in Chicago Sports
(c) 2009, 2010 by Christopher Tabbert.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Bears on Thanksgiving Day

     All football fans know that the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys each play home games every Thanksgiving Day. The Lions have been doing so since 1934 and the Cowboys since 1968.
     Most fans probably don't know that in the NFL's infancy, a Thanksgiving Day matchup between the Bears and the Chicago Cardinals was customary. Those teams played each other on 12 consecutive turkey days from 1922 through 1933.
     The Bears remained a Thanksgiving Day fixture for five more seasons, serving as the Lions' guests from 1934 through 1938. Since then, the Bears have appeared only occasionally. Their overall record on Thanksgiving Day is 16-14-2.
     In 1925, the legendary Red Grange made his NFL debut as the Bears and Cardinals struggled to a scoreless tie at Wrigley Field.
     In 1929, Cardinals Hall of Famer Ernie Nevers scored six touchdowns and four extra points, accounting for all of the South Siders' scoring in a 40-6 rout of the Bears at Wrigley Field. Nevers still holds the single-game scoring record.
     In 1977, Walter Payton accumulated 137 yards as a runner and 107 as a receiver, scoring a touchdown in each capacity, as the Bears won their third straight game to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive. They ended the season with six in a row to make the postseason for the first time in 14 years.
     In 1980, Bears quarterback Vince Evans tallied on a four-yard run on the last play of regulation, and Bob Thomas's extra point tied the score with no time remaining. The Bears' Dave Williams took the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. This remains the shortest overtime game in NFL history.
     In 1997, the Bears led 10-0 in the first quarter and 20-10 in the second quarter before Detroit's Barry Sanders took over. The rubber-limbed Sanders scored on runs of 40, 25, and 15 yards as the Lions piled up 45 unanswered points.

Bears Thanksgiving Day games:

1920 - W 6-0, Staleys at Chicago Tigers
1921 - L 6-7, Staleys vs. Buffalo All-Americans
1922 - L 0-6, Bears at Cardinals
1923 - W 3-0, vs. Cardinals
1924 - W 21-0, at Cardinals
1925 - T 0-0, vs. Cardinals
1926 - T 0-0, vs. Cardinals
1927 - L 0-3, vs. Cardinals
1928 - W 34-0, vs. Cardinals
1929 - L 6-40, vs. Cardinals
1930 - W 6-0, vs. Cardinals
1931 - W 18-7, vs. Cardinals
1932 - W 24-0, vs. Cardinals
1933 - W 22-6, at Cardinals
1934 - W 19-16, at Detroit
1935 - L 2-14, at Detroit
1936 - L 7-13, at Detroit
1937 - W 13-0, at Detroit
1938 - L 7-14, at Detroit
1947 - W 34-14, at Detroit
1949 - W 28-7, at Detroit
1952 - L 23-27, vs. Dallas Texans at Akron, Ohio
1964 - W 27-24, at Detroit
1977 - W 31-14, at Detroit
1979 - L 0-20, at Detroit
1980 - W 23-17 (OT), at Detroit
1981 - L 9-10, at Dallas
1991 - L 6-16, at Detroit
1993 - W 10-6, at Detroit
1997 - L 20-55, at Detroit
1999 - L 17-21, at Detroit
2004 - L 7-21, at Dallas

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sox in Shorts

     Renegade baseball owner Bill Veeck, Jr., purchased the White Sox from John Allyn in December 1975, heading off the very real possibility that the franchise would move to Seattle. Veeck had earlier been the head man of the Cleveland Indians' world champions of 1948 and the White Sox' pennant winners of 1959, as well as the atrocious St. Louis Browns in the early 1950s.
     In his earlier tenure with the Sox, Veeck had introduced the exploding scoreboard that soon became iconic on the South Side, and has remained so for half a century. When Veeck ran the Browns, a vote among the fans determined pitching changes in one game, and three-foot-seven Eddie Gaedel appeared as a pinch hitter in another game, drawing a walk in his only big-league plate appearance.
     When the Sox took the field in 1976, they did so in unusual navy blue-and-white uniforms (designed by Veeck's wife Mary Frances) that harkened back to the 1890s. They featured prominent collars, untucked shirts, softball-style pants, and socks with no stirrups. Not content to stop there, Veeck also unveiled a variation that featured short pants which supposedly would keep the players cooler on hot days.
     As might have been anticipated, the shorts exposed the White Sox players to all sorts of ridicule from opponents and fans. To say the players hated them would be an understatement. The shorts were embarrassing and also unsafe, players argued, in the event that they had to slide into a base or dive for a ball.
     The Sox donned the shorts in several spring-training games, but in the end they wore them only once in a regular-season game. On August 8, 1976, the Sox beat Kansas City 5-2 in the first game of a doubleheader wearing the shorts, then came out for the second game in their regular pants. The shorts never appeared again.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cubs Gold Glovers

     This year's Cubs did not earn any Gold Glove awards, although center fielder Marlon Byrd performed well enough to at least merit consideration. Who will be the next Gold Glover for the Cubs? It's hard to say, now that perennial contender Derrek Lee has been traded.
     The Cubs have been well represented in past years, with second baseman Ryne Sandberg earning nine Gold Gloves for them, third baseman Ron Santo five, and first baseman Mark Grace four. Pitcher Greg Maddux won "only" six of his Gold Gloves for the Cubs, thanks to the disastrous mismanagement that allowed him to leave via free agency after the 1992 season. Maddux won 12 Gold Gloves elsewhere, mostly in Atlanta, for an astounding career total of 18.
     Below is a list of all Cubs Gold Glovers since the awards were first given in 1957.

Cubs Gold Glove Award Winners

1990 - Greg Maddux
1991 - Greg Maddux
1992 - Greg Maddux
2004 - Greg Maddux
2005 - Greg Maddux
2006 - Greg Maddux

1986 - Jody Davis

First Baseman
1992 - Mark Grace
1993 - Mark Grace
1995 - Mark Grace
1996 - Mark Grace
2005 - Derrek Lee
2007 - Derrek Lee

Second Baseman
1962 - Ken Hubbs
1968 - Glenn Beckert
1983 - Ryne Sandberg
1984 - Ryne Sandberg
1985 - Ryne Sandberg
1986 - Ryne Sandberg
1987 - Ryne Sandberg
1988 - Ryne Sandberg
1989 - Ryne Sandberg
1990 - Ryne Sandberg
1991 - Ryne Sandberg

1960 - Ernie Banks
1969 - Don Kessinger
1970 - Don Kessinger

Third Baseman
1964 - Ron Santo
1965 - Ron Santo
1966 - Ron Santo
1967 - Ron Santo
1968 - Ron Santo

1984 - Bob Dernier
1987 - Andre Dawson
1988 - Andre Dawson

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

1985 Bears Flashback: 44-0!

     November 17, 1985. One for the books. The Bears annihilate Dallas 44-0 for the worst defeat in Cowboys history. The game “was just as close as the score indicated,” Don Pierson writes in the Tribune.
     Even Bears head coach Mike Ditka is amazed. “Our defense, what can you say?” he asks. Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, Wilber Marshall, and Otis Wilson are everywhere—the Bears come in waves that make it look as if they are playing with more than the requisite 11 men. Their frenzied pass rush accounts for six sacks, causes three interceptions (two are returned for touchdowns), and twice knocks Dallas quarterback Danny White out cold. “I put the wood on him,” Wilson remarks.
     “It was just a matter of playing the kind of defense we’re capable of playing,” says middle linebacker Mike Singletary. “We’re still getting better.”
     Defensive tackle and part-time fullback William Perry provides some comic relief when he picks up ball-carrier Walter Payton at Dallas’s two-yard line and throws him into the end zone; he is flagged for illegal use of hands. “I didn’t know you weren’t allowed to do that,” he says. Even without Perry’s help, Payton gains 132 yards to put him over 1,000 for the ninth time in his career, a record. Ditka awards a game ball to every man on the roster and promises a gold-plated one for backup quarterback Steve Fuller, who gives another solid performance in place of Jim McMahon, who is banged-up.
     One of the game’s story lines is the meeting between Ditka and the man who coached him as a player and gave him his first job as an assistant coach, the Cowboys’ Tom Landry. “[Ditka] downplayed it,” said safety Dave Duerson, “but it was written on his face.” As the game unfolds, Ditka seems a little sheepish to be giving his mentor such an awful beating. He calls off the dogs early in the fourth quarter, replacing most of his starters. Even so, the Bears score two touchdowns with third-string quarterback Mike Tomczak at the controls, on a 17-yard run by one reserve, Calvin Thomas, and a 16-yard run by another reserve, Dennis Gentry.
     At 11-0, the Bears have equaled the best start to a season in franchise history (the 1942 Bears went 11-0 for the regular season but lost the championship game). The Bears have also clinched the NFC Central Division title; it’s the first time in league history that a team has clinched with as many as five games remaining.

Monday, November 15, 2010

White Sox Gold Glovers

     White Sox lefty Mark Buerhle received his second straight Gold Glove award last week as the American League's best fielding pitcher. He might have clinched this year's award on Opening Day with an incredible no-look, between-the-legs flip with his glove hand to retire a runner at first base. Teammates and opponents both agreed it was the best play they had ever seen. "He just has a knack for doing great things," said Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
     Buerhle is having a stellar career indeed for the White Sox, but he has a long way to go if he is to catch shortstop Luis Aparicio in the Gold Gloves race. Aparicio won seven Gold Gloves for the Sox and nine overall en route to the Hall of Fame. Outfielder Jim Landis and third baseman Robin Ventura each won five of the trophies for the South Siders.
     Shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who should have won a Gold Glove this year, will no doubt get his due before too much longer. His name will then be added to the list below, which includes all White Sox Gold Glovers since the awards were first given in 1957.

White Sox Gold Glove Award Winners

1974 - Jim Kaat
1975 - Jim Kaat
2009 - Mark Buerhle
2010 - Mark Buerhle

1957 - Sherm Lollar
1958 - Sherm Lollar
1959 - Sherm Lollar

First Baseman
1977 - Jim Spencer
1981 - Mike Squires

Second Baseman
1957 - Nellie Fox
1959 - Nellie Fox
1960 - Nellie Fox

1958 - Luis Aparicio
1959 - Luis Aparicio
1960 - Luis Aparicio
1961 - Luis Aparicio
1962 - Luis Aparicio
1968 - Luis Aparicio
1970 - Luis Aparicio
1990 - Ozzie Guillen

Third Baseman
1991 - Robin Ventura
1992 - Robin Ventura
1993 - Robin Ventura
1996 - Robin Ventura
1998 - Robin Ventura

1957 - Minnie Minoso
1960 - Minnie Minoso
1960 - Jim Landis
1961 - Jim Landis
1962 - Jim Landis
1963 - Jim Landis
1964 - Jim Landis
1966 - Tommie Agee
1970 - Ken Berry

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Quintin Dailey, 1961 - 2010

     Quintin Dailey’s story is a cautionary tale, reminding us that those who are blessed with exceptional athletic ability are not necessarily blessed when it comes to managing their actual lives. Dailey was a magnet for trouble of all kinds, a classic case of potential unrealized and opportunity wasted. His difficult journey ended Monday, when he passed away at the age of 49.
     Dailey followed in the footsteps of Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, and Bill Cartwright when he achieved All-American honors for the University of San Francisco. But in other ways he followed his own path. None of Dailey’s predecessors was convicted of sexual assault while playing for the Dons, or was paid $1,000 a month for a job that didn’t exist, or caused the university president to become so ashamed of the basketball program that he found it necessary to kill it off for three years.
     Just three days after his conviction for drunkenly assaulting a female student in her dorm room at USF, Dailey became the Bulls’ first pick (seventh overall) in the 1982 NBA draft. Dailey told reporters that he had pleaded guilty only to stay out of jail, that he felt no remorse, and that he had already forgotten the incident.
     "I was there when Quintin came in as a rookie,” teammate Dave Corzine recalled, “and unfortunately he had some issues that really made it more challenging for him than most.” Eventually, Dailey coughed up $100,000 and an apology to the woman he’d assaulted, and he played well enough to make the NBA’s All-Rookie team. Unfortunately, his self-induced problems continued.
     Dailey frequently showed up late for practices or missed them altogether. He once failed to show up for a game, only to be found hiding in a closet in his townhouse. He added 30 pounds to his six-foot-three, 180-pound frame, twice violated the league’s substance-abuse policy, and even attempted suicide. “I had to learn life by trial and error as I went along,” Dailey later said. “I erred a lot.”
     When Michael Jordan made his NBA debut on October 26, 1984, it was Dailey, not Jordan, who carried the Bulls to victory with 25 points (including 12 in the fourth quarter). But before long, Jordan proved that he would be the Bulls’ go-to guy from then on. It was a bitter pill for Dailey, who was used to having the ball in his hands when the game was on the line. He publicly complained that the Bulls’ coaches and organization were “favoring” Jordan. “I’m a player who likes to shine a bit myself,” he explained.
     Dailey left the Bulls after the 1985-86 season and played six more years without much success. He was just 31 years old when his career ended. “He had so much talent and was such a great basketball player,” Corzine said. “Unfortunately for him, he had issues off the floor. He never reached his full potential. A lot of his personal issues kept getting in the way of his basketball success.”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bears in World War II


     Soldier Field, the home of the Bears, was created as a monument to those who served in World War I. It was dedicated on November 27, 1926, with Army and Navy struggling to a 21-21 tie.
     George Halas, the Bears' founder, coach, and owner, served in the Navy during World War I and World War II. Halas left active duty in 1946, retiring as a captain in the Naval Reserve and later received the Distinguished Citizens Award, the highest honor the Navy can bestow on a civilian.
     Ed McCaskey, Halas's son-in-law, served in the Army during the war and earned a Bronze Star and a Combat Infantry Badge.
     More than 40 members of the Bears' organization served, including Hall of Famers Danny Fortmann, Sid Luckman, George McAfee, and Joe Stydahar. Luckman was originally posted stateside and permitted to travel on weekends to play in games, but he was later assigned to a tanker carrying gasoline to Europe. During the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944, Luckman was on a transport ferrying troops from Britain to France.
     One Bear did not return from his service overseas. He was Young Bussey, a Texas native who was drafted by the Bears out of L.S.U. in 1941. The five-foot-nine, 184-pound rookie backed up the great Luckman at quarterback, completing 13 of 40 pass attempts for 353 yards and five touchdowns. He also played some at safety and returned one punt, for 40 yards. Bussey joined the Navy shortly after the season ended with Bears winning their second consecutive world championship. He served until January 7, 1945, when he was killed in action during the Battle of Lingayen Gulf in the Phillippines.
     Young Bussey was one of an estimated 416,800 American service men and women who lost their lives in World War II.
     Today is Veterans Day, so hug a vet.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ed Litzenberger, 1932 - 2010

     Ed Litzenberger is one of eight Blackhawks to have won the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year, and he is one of four players to have captained the Hawks to the Stanley Cup championship. He is the only one to have done both. Litzenberger passed away Monday at the age of 78.
     Litzenberger broke in with Montreal, appearing in two games in 1952-53 and three games in 1953-54 while waiting his turn to crack the Canadiens’ talent-rich lineup. He became a regular in 1954-55, then was sold to Chicago in midseason as part of the NHL’s “Help the Hawks Plan,” a deliberate attempt by the league to prop up the floundering franchise.
     “I cried real tears,” Litzenberger said of the trade to Chicago—which he didn’t realize would turn his career around. He scored 40 points in 44 games to earn the Calder Trophy, and remained a prolific scorer for the next several years. Litzenberger was also Bobby Hull’s first center when the Golden Jet joined the Hawks in 1957.
     In 1959, the Litzenbergers’ car struck a viaduct on an icy Chicago road. Litzenberger suffered cracked ribs, a contusion of the liver, and a severe concussion; his wife was killed. Litzenberger was not the same player after the accident. He never again was much of a scoring threat, but he remained a workmanlike role player who could work all forward positions and kill penalties.
     Litzenberger served as captain of the Blackhawks club that won the 1961 Stanley Cup. He was traded to Detroit in the off-season, then dispatched to Toronto in time to win three more Stanley Cups in 1962, 1963, and 1964. He is the only player in NHL annals to win four consecutive titles while playing with different teams.
     “Success followed Eddie around like a hungry pup,” said Pierre Pilote, the Hall of Fame defenseman who succeeded Litzenberger as Hawks’ captain. “In his own quiet way, he was a top-notch leader, on the ice and off. He knew the total game, always thinking of defense as much as scoring goals. Off the ice, few players ever were better dressers or conducted themselves as gentlemanly. He was just one great guy.”

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

1985 Bears Flashback: The Payton and Perry Show

     November 3, 1985. The Bears visit Lambeau Field in Green Bay, and the greatest rivalry in the NFL reaches a new low. In the first quarter, Packers cornerback Mark Lee runs Bears running back Walter Payton out of bounds and all the way over the bench; Lee is ejected. Several plays later, Matt Suhey is standing around the pile when Green Bay safety Ken Stills levels him long after the whistle. “I don’t mind that,” Packers coach Forrest Gregg claims. “That’s aggressive football.”
     “Tempers flare,” says Bears coach Mike Ditka. “You don’t like to see it, especially when they cheap-shot a guy like Payton, who has given more to the game than anyone.”
     The two teams jog to their locker rooms at halftime having combined for six unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties (four by the Packers). “There was something going on every play,” Bears safety Dave Duerson says. “Let’s face it, it wasn’t clean on either side.”
     It is left to the immortal Payton to raise the Bears up from the mire. His 27-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter gives them a 16-10 win. Payton gains 192 yards on 28 carries all told. Ditka calls Payton’s effort “maybe as good as I’ve seen a guy with a football under his arm play.” It is Walter’s 13th 100-yard game in 20 career outings against the Packers.
     The tremendous performance by perhaps the greatest player of all time is nearly overshadowed by the continuing saga of rookie William “Refrigerator” Perry, who scores the Bears’ first touchdown. Ditka has turned the jolly 310-pound defensive tackle into a part-time offensive player, just for fun. Perry first lined up at fullback on October 16 at San Francisco and carried twice for four yards. On October 21, he scored his first rushing touchdown against Green Bay at Soldier Field. This time, Perry lines up at tight end, goes in motion, and catches a four-yard TD pass from quarterback Jim McMahon. “I had to keep a straight face when I got to the line,” he remarks with a chuckle.
     “They [the Packers] saw him coming and they got out of the way,” Payton says. The Payton and Perry Show makes the Bears a perfect 9-0 for the season.

Adapted from Heydays: Great Stories in Chicago Sports
(c)2009, 2010 by Christopher Tabbert