Today in Sports History: January 19th

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(Notre Dame players celebrate their historic win. Photo by the Associated Press)

1/19/1974 - UCLA's 88-game win streak ends

It's fitting that Notre Dame, the school that ended the longest winning streak in college football history, also put a stop to the longest winning streak in men's basketball.

UCLA came into Notre Dame with an 88-game winning streak almost three years in the running. Bill Walton and the Bruins had accomplished back-to-back perfect seasons and were the winners of seven consecutive national titles.

Notre Dame was the last team to hand the Bruins a defeat, and they'd do it again on this night. The contest was certainly in the Bruins' hands for most of the way; at one point they were up by 17. With three and a half minutes left, UCLA led 70-59. The shot clock was still ten years from being used in the college level, meaning that all the Bruins had to do was hold on to the ball.

But the Fighting Irish picked up their defense and forced UCLA into several key turnovers. The Bruins never scored again and watched as their lead was trimmed to seven, five, three... They still led, 70-69, with half a minute remaining, when Notre Dame's Dwight Clay sunk a corner jumper to give the Irish the lead.

"I knew the shot was good as soon as it left my hands," said Clay. "We had practiced against zone defenses so much that I was deadly from those corners. I just never got the ball that often once we were in the game."

In the closing seconds, UCLA inbounded the ball to Walton, who missed a short turn-around. Two UCLA players got the rebound and hurled it at the basket to no avail. When the clock ran out, John Shumate flipped the ball into the air in celebration. Before the basketball could hit the hardwood, fans had already rushed the court. The Irish had won, 71-70.

Bill Walton called it the toughest loss he ever experienced, even worse than the double-overtime defeat to N.C. State in that year's tournament. "I have not gotten over it," he said years later. "I will never get over it." Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps was accurate when he stated that "In 10 years, when people think about the streak, they wont remember the details of the game -- just the team that ended it."

The Bruins got their shot at revenge only three weeks later. On their own home court, UCLA won 94-75 and reclaimed the No. 1 ranking in the nation.

1/19/1983 - Player traded for bus

One of the craziest trades of all time occurs. As reported by the Associated Press, "The Seattle Breakers of the Western Hockey League have swapped the rights to left wing Tom Martin to Vancouver British Columbia -- for a used bus."

That's right... a bus. As explained by Sports Illustrated in a 1989 piece on sports buses, "The Spokane Flyers of the Western Hockey League had bought a bus from Trail-ways for $60,000 and sunk another $15,000 into refurbishing it. Then the Flyers folded. The Victoria Cougars picked up the bus, only to discover they needed another $20,000 to cover the Canadian duties. Finding this too much to pay, Victoria dealt the bus to the Seattle Breakers, whose own bus had blown an engine only days before. In return for the bus, the Cougars got $35,000 and the rights to Martin, a Victoria native who had refused to play for Seattle."

The trade would earn Martin the nickname "Bussey" and made him a famous player from an otherwise unknown junior hockey league. "You know Kevin (Dineen) was there, he was with me, we didn't think that much of it at first," Martin told NHL.com in 2008. "You know, I went to bed that night but the next morning, the phone started going crazy and it ended up being a bigger thing than I thought and I got a lot of media at the time, phone calls from all the papers around the county and a few TV things. It was a pretty funny thing, I guess."

1/19/2000 - AL and NL consolidated into one

The four major sports leagues in America, the MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL, had all at one point joined forces with a rival sports league. In fact for all four organizations, the league starting with the letter 'N' merged the upstart league that began with an 'A' -- the NBA merged with the ABA, the NHL merged with the AHL, the NFL merged with the AFL, and the National League (nicknamed the "Senior Circuit) teamed up with the American League (known as the "Junior Circuit").

The last example was a little different though. Unlike the other three unions, the NL and the AL didn't actually merge; in the 1903 National Agreement, they agreed to act interchangeably with one another, allowing players and managers to change sides without consequence. It also created a championship game between the two leagues which would later be known as the "World Series." But the two leagues remained separate entities, even though they both operated under the umbrella of Major League Baseball. That's why when every other sports league gives out one award winner, such as one MVP, baseball hands out two: one for the NL and one for the AL.

That all changed on this day in 2000, when club owners voted to abolish the separate-but-equal system. No longer would there be individual league presidents who be the final say on matters such as suspensions -- powers such as that were given to commissioner Bud Selig, who was now able to govern both leagues at once. The only difference between the two leagues remained the designated hitter rule, which had been a part of the American League since 1973.

Further reading:

The Boys on the Bus [Sports Illustrated]

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