Today in Sports History: April 29th


(Randy Moss. Photo by Rusty Jarrett, Getty Images)

4/29/1970 - Jerry West sinks 60-footer

With just three seconds left in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, a jump shot by Dave DeBusschere gave the New York Knicks a 102-100 lead. The Los Angeles Lakers were out of timeouts and were 94 feet away from the basket; in any other situation the game would have been over. But the ball was inbounded to the Lakers' Jerry West, a man who would earn the nickname "Mr. Clutch." West dribbled for a few feet before flinging the ball at the basket, 60 feet away.

West's desperation heave was good and the game went to overtime, tied at 102 (this was a decade before the three-point line was instituted, so his shot only counted for two). In OT, all the momentum in the world did the Lakers little good, as West missed all five shot attempts and the Knicks won, 111-108.

The Lakers would go on to lose the series in Game 7, when an injured Willis Reed dramatically walked out of the locker room and onto the court. Still, West's shot is considered one of the greatest of all time, and is one several reasons why the NBA logo was modeled after him a couple years later.

4/29/1983 - Lee Elia goes on a rant

With a one-run loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Chicago Cubs dropped to 5-14 on the young season. The Wrigley Field crowd of 9,391 booed the entire way, and Cubs manager Lee Elia was not happy about it. When reporters gathered to collect his post-game thoughts, no one had any idea they would hear what they did: a tirade against Cubs fans that was so laced with profanity that, on average, he uttered a different expletive every four seconds.

"[Expletive] those [expletive] fans who come out here and say they're Cub fans that are supposed to be behind you, rippin' every [expletive] thing you do," he screamed ."I'll tell you one [expletive] thing, I hope we get [expletive] hotter than [expletive], just to stuff it up them 3,000 [expletive] people that show up every [expletive] day, because if they're the real Chicago [expletive] fans, they can kiss my [expletive] ass right downtown and PRINT IT!

"They're really, really behind you around here... my [expletive] ass. What the [expletive] am I supposed to do, go out there and let my [expletive] players get destroyed every day and be quiet about it? For the [expletive] nickel-dime people who turn up? The [expletive] don't even work. That's why they're out at the [expletive] game. They oughta go out and get a [expletive] job and find out what it's like to go out and earn a [expletive] living. Eighty-five percent of the [expletive] world is working. The other fifteen percent come out here. A [expletive] playground for the [expletive]."

If not for radio host Les Grobstein -- the lone man in the room with a tape recorder -- Elia's three-minute outburst (which goes beyond those two paragraphs) would've faded into oblivion. Instead, it became the enduring moment in Elia's 50-year baseball career.

"I made some comments that I don't even know how they came out of my mouth, because they were not comments that I normally would make,'' Elia later said. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think somebody would run out of there and put it on the air.'' Despite his brazen lambasting of the Cubs fans, Elia managed to hold on to his coaching job... until August.

The following season, things got better, just as Elia predicted. Newcomers Rick Sutcliffe, Ryne Sandberg, and Dennis Eckersley got the Cubs into the postseason for the first time in 39 years. Lee Smith, whose game-losing wild pitch led to Elia's tirade, went on to record the most saves in history (before Trevor Hoffman passed him). And the Wrigley attendance, which barely reached 10,000 fans on a given day, rose exponentially. When the Cubs went back to their losing ways the next year, fans continued to pack the ballpark, and still do, regardless of how awful their team is.

4/29/1993 - Lewis collapses to the ground

In the playoff opener between the Boston Celtics and Charlotte Hornets, Celtics forward Reggie Lewis inexplicably collapses to the ground as runs down the parquet court. He was taken to the bench and briefly returned later in the game, but he only played for 13 minutes. He finished with 17 points as the Celtics got the 112-101 win at the Boston Garden.

It was the last game Lewis played in the NBA. After an exhausting series of tests by what the Celtics called a "dream team" of doctors, it was determined that Lewis had a serious heart condition, the same condition that had caused college basketball star Hank Gathers to collapse to the ground and die in 1990. The Celtics team physician, referencing the recent heart-related deaths of Gathers and Pete Maravich, informed Lewis that his budding NBA career was in all likeliness over. "This is series," Arnold Scheller told Lewis. "You can die from this."

Lewis searched for a second opinion and was eventually able to find a doctor who believed he could continue playing basketball. Three months later, at the Celtics' practice facility, Lewis took part in a light workout when he again collapsed to the floor. The 27 year-old died that day, leaving an irreplaceable void in the Boston Celtics organization.


(Josh Hancock. Photo by Dilip Vishwanat, Getty Images)

4/29/2007 - Hancock dies in crash

Only five years after the death of pitcher Darryl Kile, the St. Louis Cardinals experienced another death in the family: pitcher Josh Hancock. While driving, Hancock, who was in possession of marijuana, intoxicated, talking on his cell phone, and had his seat belt off, plowed into a tow truck that was assisting a previous accident. Hancock, who had been in similar car accident only three days earlier, died almost instantly on impact; he was 29.

Hancock's father sued the restaurant that served his son the drinks, however the Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control stated that Josh was "consuming intoxicating liquor in moderation" and that the restaurant was not at fault. The St. Louis Cardinals banned alcohol from the clubhouse five days after his death, a decision that more teams would later enact.

4/29/2007 - The Patriots steal Randy Moss

At the 2007 NFL Draft, the big winners were the New England Patriots, who acquired superstar receiver Randy Moss in a trade with the Oakland Raiders. With the Minnesota Vikings, Moss had established himself as the best receiver in the NFL, but since coming to Oakland, his numbers were less than impressive. In his two years with the Raiders, Moss compiled "just" 11 touchdowns and 102 receptions, far less than his usual stats. With many believing that he was finished, the Raiders essentially gave him away.

Fortunately for the Pats, Moss was far from done. With perennial Pro Bowler Tom Brady throwing to him, Moss recorded 98 catches and an NFL-record 23 touchdown receptions in 2007. The Pats became the first franchise to win all 16 regular season games, and the Moss trade was labeled as one of the best ever. Not only did the New England Patriots add the best wide receiver in football to their already formidable team, all they had to give up was a fourth-round draft pick.

After the Pats' final regular season game, the one in which Moss caught his 22nd and 23rd touchdowns of the year, Moss told members of the media: "I don't think me breaking Jerry Rice's record is special. I think shutting you guys up is what made it special, all the negativity, all my critics."

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