Today in Sports History: February 2nd

Bevo Francis during his record-setting performance. (Photo courtesy of Rio Grande University Archives)

2/02/1936 - Cobb highlights first Hall of Famers

Major League Baseball announces the first members of its Hall of Fame.

The five players to receive the prestigious honor were home run slugger Babe Ruth, Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner, strikeout king Walter Johnson, screwball-thrower Christy Mathewson, and Tigers great Ty Cobb, who appeared on 222 of 226 ballots and received more votes than anyone. Ruth and Wagner received 215 votes; Mathewson had 205 and Johnson got 189.

Cobb, who retired as the all-time leader in hits, runs, games, at-bats and seasons batting at least .300 (23), was on a golf course when a reporter told him he was the immortal of immortals, No. 1 overall. Cobb was never the most cheery of individuals, but was gracious when he learned the news. "I am overwhelmed," he told the reporter. "I deeply appreciate the honor. I am glad (the writers) feel that way about me. I want to thank them all."

The top three players not to receive the required 75% of votes were Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, and Cy Young, who would all join the illustrious group the following season. While the Hall of Fame inductions began in 1936, the actual hall had yet to be built, meaning that it wasn't until 1939 that the commemorated players were actually enshrined in anything. That year, the 1936, '37, '38, and '39 inductees all went in at the same time.

2/02/1954 - Bevo scores 113

Clarence "Bevo" Francis scores 113 points against Hillsdale College -- setting the all-division record for points in a game, as well as single-game records in field goals (38) and free throws made (37). But because Francis played for Rio Grande, then a Division II university, his performance was listed in a separate category from the Division I record-holder. (Incidentally, just eleven days after Bevo's performance, Frank Selvy tallied 100 points against Newberry to set a new Division I scoring mark.)

Although he was playing against small-time opponents, Bevo's prolific scoring numbers made him a household name to college basketball fans. He averaged 48.3 points per game in 1953 and 50.1 per game in 1954, and adding to his mystique was that many of his highest-scoring games -- including a 116-point outburst in 1953 -- weren't officially counted because he was playing against two-year, non-NCAA schools. Hillsdale was a four-year school and the record counted.

"I guess I'm the luckiest guy in the world," Francis, who broke his old mark of 84 points in a game, said afterward. "I wanted to have a night like this because of what happened last year. I never cared much about points before, but I really did want to break 100 sometime this year. It seemed like I couldn't miss. And those guys who kept feeding me the ball are the greatest bunch of players in the world."

In April 1954, Francis signed with the Boston Whirlwinds, a barnstorming team that regularly played against the Harlem Globetrotters. Two years later, the Philadelphia Warriors selected him in the third round of the NBA draft, but Francis turned down the offer, citing that he could make more money "off the court than on it." This was in a time when the NBA was still a fledgling organization, and few could make an honest living playing basketball alone.

"I know it's not like playing before a big crowd," said Francis, who chose to work in a steel mill instead. "But I'll trade cheers for financial security any day."

2/02/1968 - Chamberlain records double-triple-double

In a game in which the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Detroit Pistons 131-121, Sixers center Wilt Chamberlain has one of the greatest statistical outputs in history -- perhaps even more impressive than scoring 113 in a college game. The "Big Dipper" compiled 22 points, 25 rebounds and 21 assists, giving him the first and only "double-triple-double" in NBA history.

Harvey Pollack, who was the PR man for the Sixers at the time, claimed that Wilt's 20-20-20 performance was the greatest thing he ever saw at the old Philadelphia Spectrum. "Nobody's ever even come close to it," he told PhillyBurbs.com. "Anybody gets a triple-double today and it's a big deal. When it was over, (the players) all knew what he had done."

Chamberlain, who miraculously never fouled out of a single game, had 78 career triple-doubles, though few if any were as impressive as this.

2/02/1996 - Magic and M.J. play again

For the final time in their NBA careers, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson compete against one another. Johnson, in just his second game back from retirement, played 32 minutes off the bench and scored 15 points on 6-13 shooting. Jordan scored 17 and added seven assists and seven rebounds; Scottie Pippen hit five three's and led all scorers with 30 points, while Dennis Rodman collected 23 rebounds and 10 points in 39 minutes. The Bulls cruised to a 99-84 victory, improving their record to 41-3 and extending their season-long winning streak to 18 games.

The Bulls, en route to an all-time best record of 72-10, would lose their next two games against the Nuggets and Suns. It was the only time that year that they lost two in a row (not including the finals).

Although Magic didn't play as well as he did in his first game back from retirement, when he nearly notched a triple-double, he was nonetheless glad to have played against his formal rival. "It was a great thrill ... because we're truly two of the most competitive people that you're ever going to meet," Magic said. "We love putting it all on the line and we love situations like this."

The Johnson-Jordan reunion was an improbable one to say the least. Magic had retired in November 1991 after learning he was HIV-positive, and Jordan had walked away from the game in 1993, shortly after the death of his father. Both had had to come back from retirement in order to face each other on Feb. 02, 1996 -- four and a half years after their previous meeting, in which Jordan's Bulls defeated Magic's Lakers in the fifth and final game of the NBA Finals.

Meanwhile, TNT -- who had cleared out their schedule to broadcast Magic Johnson's first game back -- canceled their previously-scheduled programming, the 1981 Ryan O'Neal film So Fine and a pair of Charlies Angels reruns, in order to nationally televise Bulls-Lakers. A meeting of NBA powerhouses in major markets normally meant ratings gold anyway, but because the matchup featured the Bulls, who had captured the attention of the country in their quest for 70 wins, and Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson just out of retirement, the ratings were through the roof -- even though the Bulls had led by as much as 26 in the third quarter.

TNT's broadcast of the game earned a 7.1 rating and a 13.1 share, making it the most viewed cable game in league history. And although that record was broken later that year when the Bulls and Magic played in the Eastern Conference Finals on TNT, the 1996 meeting between the Bulls and Lakers remains the highest-rated regular season NBA game to ever air on cable television.

Further reading:

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