10/06/1985 - Niekro wins his 300th game
Pitching for the New York Yankees, Phil Niekro pitches a complete game shutout as the Yanks beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 8-0, on the final day of the regular season. For Niekro, the win was the 300th win in his illustrious career; he would add another 18 wins to finish his career with a record of 318-274.
Niekro, who won more than 100 games after turning 40, was one of the last knuckleball-throwers in the 20th century and had an incredible record of longevity. At 46 years old he had been the oldest player to claim a 300th victory, and he finally retired in 1987 at the age of 48, having pitched in every season since 1964. Niekro's venerability would actually be held against him, as some believed his win total was more from sticking around than being a great pitcher. It took him several attempts to get into the Hall of Fame, which he finally did in 1997.
10/06/1993 - Jordan walks away
One day after throwing out the first pitch at a White Sox playoff game, Michael Jordan stuns the sports world by announcing his retirement from professional basketball. Jordan was only 30 years old and was in the prime of his career -- he had led the league in scoring in seven straight seasons, was coming off a third consecutive championship campaign with the Chicago Bulls, and had the highest scoring average of all time.
Fans of Jordan saw several reasons for his abrupt retirement: the pressure involved with being the biggest athlete on the planet, the NBA's investigation into his offseason gambling activities, and, most importantly, the death of his father James, who had been murdered in North Carolina two months earlier. Jordan was incredibly close with his dad and had even copied his habit of sticking his tongue out at work, which had become an M.J. trademark. But Michael insisted he had other reasons.
"I have nothing more to prove in basketball," he said at his retirement press conference, "I have no more challenges that I felt I could get motivated for. It doesn't have anything to do with my father's passing, or media pressure, or anything other than that I had achieved everything in basketball I could. And when that happened, I felt it was time to call it a career."
Jordan's retirement lasted for almost two seasons and he returned to the Bulls in 1995, feeling that his time was better served in the NBA. In lieu of professional basketball, Jordan played minor league baseball with the Birmingham Barons in 1994 and continued to attract national attention. He batted only .202.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls were now faced with the impossible task of replacing Michael Jordan, widely considered the greatest player of all time. Scottie Pippen certainly did his best. In the 1994 and 1995 seasons, Pippen played incredible and led the team in virtually every statistical category. Even without the best player in the league, the Bulls supporting cast of Scottie, B.J. Armstrong, Horace Grant, and rookie forward Toni Kukoc guided the team to a 55-win season in 1994. They even took the New York Knicks, the eventual eastern conference champions, to seven games.
The following season wasn't nearly as successful. Numerous injuries coupled with the departures of John Paxon, Bill Cartwright, Scott Williams, and Horace Grants led the team into a steady downfall. By the time Jordan announced his un-retirement in March of '95, the Bulls were on the cusp of missing the postseason. In their next three seasons with Jordan on the roster, the Bulls won the NBA title all three times.