Today in Sports History: May 18th

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(Pippen and Davis. Photo by Bill Kostroun, AP Photos)

5/18/1912 - Substitute Tigers lose to A's

The Detroit Tigers of the American League stage the first players strike in baseball history. They were protesting the indefinite suspension of Ty Cobb, who in a game three days earlier had beaten up a heckler who was unable to defend himself, having lost most of his arms in a printing accident. In protest of his punishment, the Tigers vowed to keep off the field until the Georgia Peach was reinstated.

Tigers owner Frank Navin was warned that he would be fined $5,000 for every game they forfeited. Fearing the worst, Navin ordered Tigers manager Hughie Jennings to round up any nine people who could take the field. As a result, nine players from literally off the street were given the go-ahead. Of the nine fill-ins, six were sandlot players with no professional experience, two were boxers, and the starting pitcher was a seminary student who would go on to become a Catholic priest.

In maybe the most lopsided matchup in the history of sports, the substitute Detroit Tigers went up against the defending champion Philadelphia Athletics, whose $100,000 infield of Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Collins, Jack Berry, and Frank "Home Run" Baker was the best of their time. The outcome was decided before the game even began: Philadelphia throttled the replacements, 24-2. Detroit's starting pitcher, who would later be known as Father Aloysius Joseph Travers, pitched all nine innings and gave up 26 hits, 24 runs (14 of them earned) and 7 walks. He later told baseball writer Red Smith, "Hughie Jennings told me not to throw fastballs, as he was afraid I might get killed."

None of the nine scabs would ever play in another game, with the exception of Billy Maharg, who later got an additional at-bat with the Philadelphia Phillies. Maharg would later act as an informant for the 1919 Chicago "Black Sox," who notoriously threw the World Series to gamblers. Additionally, 43 year-old Hughie Jennings and assistant coaches Joe Sugden (41) and Deacon McGuire (48) also suited up for the Tigers.

The next game between the two teams was canceled. Ban Johnson, the president of the American League, was livid at the spectacle of the blowout. He traveled to Philadelphia the next day and gave the striking Tigers an ultimatum: either return to the playing field or be banned for life. At Cobb's urging, the original Tigers ended their walkout after one game. They were then fined $100 apiece.

Cobb would only pay a $50 fine and was cleared to pay after ten games on the sideline.

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(Was it a foul? Photo by Bill Kostroun)

5/18/1994 - Pippen fouls Hubert Davis

For the second time in less than a week, Scottie Pippen is involved in a controversial finish. Just days earlier, Pippen had sat himself out of the final play of a postseason game against the Knicks, a game that ended with a buzzer-beating shot by Toni Kukoc. Now it was Game 5 of the semifinals series between the Bulls and Knicks, and Chicago had New York on the ropes. With 7.6 seconds left, the Bulls had an 86-85 advantage and were looking to go up 3-2 in the series.

The ball was thrown in to John Starks, who dribbled to the right and drew the attention of several Bulls defenders.With four players surrounding him, Starks kicked it out to the top of the key, where Knicks guard Hubert Davis had a wide-open look from just inside the three-point line. Pippen came flying at him as Davis released his shot. Hubert's jay was no good, but right after he got it off, Pippen and Davis' arms appeared to lock, and Davis went down. Hue Hollins called a foul on Pippen, sending Davis to the free throw line.

Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen were livid, but their protests went unheard. Davis sank both freebies and gave the Knicks an 87-86 lead with 2.1 to go. On the Bulls' next possession, Pippen thought he was held back by Knicks forward Anthony Mason and he never caught up with a lob pass that was thrown to him. The clock ran out and the Knicks ran off the court in celebration, while the Bulls fumed in their defeat.

Afterward, everyone was dissecting the call on Pippen, which seemed to be split evenly among the teams. The Bulls thought they were robbed while the Knicks contended that Davis had really been hit. "I saw Scottie make contact with his shooting motion," Hollins said. "I'm positive there was contact on the shot."

"I've seen a lot of things in the NBA, but I have never seen what happened at the end of the game like that before," said a furious Phil Jackson.

The ramifications of the call, one of most controversial in league history, were enormous. The Bulls went back to Chicago in Game 6 and won, evening the series at three games apiece. The series then went back to New York, where the Knicks defeated the Bulls, 87-77, in the seventh game at Madison Square Garden. Had the call gone in the Bulls' favor, they could have won the series in six games and possibly gone to the NBA Finals. Instead it was the other way around.

By the letter of the law, Pippen had fouled him. After looking at the replays, there was no question that the lanky forward had made contact with Davis' shooting arm. But the Bulls argued that it was a bail-out call. They contended that it was the sort of call never seen at the end of the game, that it would have never been called against a superstar like Jordan, and that Pippen's hit happened after the attempt and that it didn't affect Davis' miss.

Darell Garretson, one of the refs calling that game, explained why it was a foul: "I think it's important to define what a shooter is. A shooter remains a shooter until he regains his balance on the floor. Hue is looking for the 3-pointer and for contact on the shot.

"The perception is that referees should put their whistles in their pockets in the last minutes. But it all comes down to what is sufficient contact. There's an old, old adage that refs don't make those calls in the last seconds. Obviously, you hope you don't make a call that will decide a game. But the call was within the context of how we had been calling them all game. With one and one-half minutes to go, there was a very tight call against [Greg] Anthony."

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(Shaquille O'Neal and Nick Anderson celebrate Orlando's win. Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images)

5/18/1995 - Orlando sends Jordan fishing

For the final time in his career, and the only time from 1991 to 1998 (when the Bulls won six championships), Michael Jordan loses in the playoffs.

The Orlando Magic had the Chicago Bulls on the ropes in Game 6 of their semifinals series. Orlando held a 3-2 series lead and was looking to advance to their first ever conference finals, while the Bulls were looking to stay alive. The Magic led through three quarters but hit a snag in the fourth period. Chicago went a run and took a 102-94 lead with 3:24 to go. Magic forward Horace Grant was playing badly with a dislocated finger and point guard Penny Hardaway, who had outplayed Jordan for much of the series, was committing mistake after mistake.

It looked like the inexperienced Magic were going to fall. But Orlando coach Brian Hall subbed in Brian Shaw and Jeff Turner for his two ailing players. The Magic went a 14-0 run and prevented Chicago from scoring another bucket. The Magic won, 108-102, and advanced to play the Indiana Pacers.

Down the stretch, Michael Jordan -- who had come back from retirement less than 10 weeks earlier -- appeared tired and out of breathe. He totaled 24 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, four steals, and four blocks, but he couldn't make the shots when it mattered. Neither could Bulls center Luc Longley, who somehow missed a wide-open layup with under a minute to go that would have tied the game.

"We didn't finish the game," Jordan said. "In the past, we were able to capitalize and control the game down the stretch and not lose the lead. Obviously were not the same team as 18 months ago."

The following season, Orlando and Chicago met again in the playoffs. Orlando's roster was pretty much the same, while Chicago's only change was the addition of Dennis Rodman and the loss of B.J. Armstrong. Jordan was in much better shape that time around and the Bulls had little trouble crushing Orlando. The Bulls swept the Magic in four games and went on to win the NBC championship.

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(Paul Pierce and LeBron James. Photo by Jim Rogash, Getty Images)

5/18/2008 - Pierce and James duel in Game 7

The Boston Celtics' 2008 championship could accurately be described as a team effort. But when it came time to step up in the seventh game of their semifinals series, it was Paul Pierce who carried the load.

Playing at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Pierce scored 41 points and hit all the shots for Boston down the stretch. But the Cavs kept the score close, thanks entirely to LeBron James. James scored 45 of Cleveland's 92 points and single-handedly carried them down the stretch. The fourth quarter turned into a scoring duel between Pierce and James, as the two of them drained shot after shot. It had many remembering the famous duel between Dominique Wilkins and Larry Bird -- a game that also took place in Boston.

"I'm very aware of the game," Pierce said after the game. "They don't ever let you forget it when you look up to the jumbotron."

Both players got very little help from their supporting cast. The lone Cavalier besides LeBron to score in double-digits was Delonte West, who added 15. Zydrunas Ilgauskas had terrible game (eight points on 2-8 shooting) while Ben Wallace and Wally Szczerbiak, the other two starters, combined for just four points and five rebounds. The Celtics didn't do Pierce much of a service either. Kevin Garnett had 13 points and 13 rebounds but made only five of 13 shots, and Ray Allen was so bad (1-6 from the floor) that he was benched in favor of James Posey for most of the fourth.

However, Pierce did receive a little help from the bench, something James most certainly didn't. 38 year-old P.J. Brown -- who the Celtics had picked up near the end of the season -- scored 10 points on 4-4 shooting and hit a huge shot with under two minutes left that gave Boston a 91-88 lead.

The Cavaliers had a chance to tie the game at 91. With barely a minute left to play, James kicked it outside to West, who had a wide-open look at a three. His critical shot was off; the Celtics made their final six free throws to hold on. Boston won, 97-92, and advanced to the conference finals.

"We both tried to will our team to victory and, just like Dominique Wilkins, I ended up on the short end and the Celtics won again," James said. "I think the second round of the postseason, Game 7, these fans will finally have an opportunity to forget a little bit about what Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins did and remember what Paul and LeBron did. This will go down in history."

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