Today in Sports History: October 23rd

10/23/1931 - Dodgers fire Wilbert Robinson

The Brooklyn Dodgers announce the firing of Wilbert Robinson, their manager since 1914. Robinson was universally addressed as "Uncle Robbie" and and was so beloved by his players that while he was their manager, the team was known as the Brooklyn Robins. His firing was due largely to two things: a declining level of play over the years, and a bitter rivalry with Brooklyn half-owner, Steve McKeever.

With his ousting, the Brooklyn team officially changed their name to the Dodgers, whereas before they were known as the Brooklyn Atlantics, Grays, Bridegrooms, Superbas, Trolley Dodgers, and Dodgers for one season before Robbie took over. They would remain the Dodgers for the rest of their franchise, even after moving to Los Angeles. Max Carey took over as manager and only held the job for two years.

10/23/2002 - The Monday Night Miracle

Going into the 4th quarter, the New York Jets were getting pummeled on their own turf. The 5-1 Miami Dolphins held a 30-7 advantage entering the final period and had nearly three times as many total yards. The only optimistic person in the stadium was Arnold Schwarzenegger, who stopped by the Monday Night Football booth and in the process predicted a comeback.

"I'll tell you one thing, Wayne Chrebet is going to pull it off," he said. "I think, as usual, the Jets are going to come from behind. You will see."

The Jets had made several impressive comebacks earlier in the season, but doing so against the Dolphins, who hadn't allowed more 16 points in a game all year, would be unrealistic. And yet remarkably, stunningly, the Jets somehow completed the second-largest 4th quarter turnaround in NFL history.

Vinny Testaverde, who was 35 years old and probably should have been pulled from the game, had had a terrible night: one TD, three interceptions. In the 4th quarter, Testaverde suddenly became unstoppable, throwing for four touchdowns, three of which were caught by players who had never caught a touchdown before. Rookies Laveranues Coles and Jermaine Wiggins each caught one, as did Jets wideout Wayne Chrebet, who thus fulfilled the Austrian bodybuilder's prophecy.

Chrebet's reception briefly tied the game at 30. However, it took Dolphins quarterback Jay Fielder one play to connect with Leslie Shepherd for a 46-yard score, giving Miami a 37-30 lead with 3:55 to go.

With 42 seconds left in regulation, Vinny responded with another game-tying touchdown. This time the recipient was offensive tackle Jumbo Elliott, who bobbled a goal-line pass thrice before coming down with it. Not only was it Jumbo's first touchdown, it was the first catch of his 13-year career.

In overtime, the Dolphins won the all-important coin flip and elected to start out with the ball. Jay Fielder then preceded to do something that is rather astounding: throwing two interceptions to the same player in one drive. Three plays in, Fielder's pass was picked off by Marcus Coleman, who then fumbled the ball as Miami defenders pulled him to the ground. The Dolphins recovered, though Fielder would commit the same gaffe just a few plays later. His pass to Oronde Gadsden was too far in, and Coleman intercepted Fielder for the second time in three minutes.

Testaverde contributed 41 yards in setting up kicker John Hall -- 28 of which came from Wayne Chrebet, who provided another monster catch. With 6:35 left in the overtime period, Hall lined up from 40 yards away and nailed the game-winning field goal. Several Dolphins sank to the ground and threw their helmets in disgust, while the Jets walked off the field in pure euphoria.

"It was an incredible comeback," said Chrebet, "we basically got our heads out of our butts. At the half we had a gut check."

In coming back, the Jets accomplished what was likely the greatest 4th quarter in NFL history. Their 30 points was one shy of tying a 4th quarter record (which is ironic, since Jets coach Al Groh elected to go for two instead kicking an extra point early in the period). In that quarter alone, Testaverde went 18-26 for 4 TD's and 235 yards. It took the New York Jets over twenty-three minutes to get a first down, yet in the 4th quarter they had an unbelievable 20 first downs. To think that the Jets could make such a dramatic turnaround in one quarter and that they would tie the game on a pass to an offensive lineman was simply incredible.

In 2002, this game was chosen over more than 500 others as the greatest Monday Night Football game of all time (it was also the longest MNF game). With the victory, the Jets moved atop the AFC East with a 6-1 record, then lost six of their last nine games and missed the postseason. As an interesting side note, the Miami Dolphins became interested in Jumbo Elliott and scheduled to meet with him on September 11, 2001. But because of the terrorist attacks, that meeting never happened, and the Dolphins signed someone else to fill the offensive line.

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