Today in Sports History: May 7th

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(Herb Score. Photo via the Cleveland Plain Dealer, via Cleveland.com)

5/07/1957 - Score hit with line drive

Through two seasons, Indians pitcher Herb Score had established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball. The talented left-hander went 36-19 in his first two seasons, leading the American League in strikeouts both times and earning a pair of All-Star Game appearances.

But it all came crashing down in a night game against the New York Yankees. Score threw a pitch to Yankees shortstop Gil McDougald, who hit the baseball directly his right eye. The line drive temporary blinded Score and kept him out of the lineup for a full year. He returned in the latter half of the 1958 season, having regained his 20/20 vision. However he was never the same; he pitched in only six more seasons, compiling a 19-27 record with a 4.20 ERA in those years.

McDougald, described as quiet and sensitive, was distraught over the incident, having inadvertently caused a gush of blood to stream out of the pitcher's face. "I'll quit this game if he loses his eye," he told reporters after the game. "The hell with it. I'm not playing anymore."

Score defended McDougald for the remainder of his career and even invited him to his wedding a few weeks after the accident. He blamed his later woes on a series of arm injuries, which he claimed had forced him to change his pitching rotation. But in most people's minds, it was McDougald's hit that had short-ended what looked to be a Hall of Fame career. "The evidence is pretty clear that Gil McDougald destroyed more than a pitcher when he drilled one back through the mound," wrote Jim Murray of the L.A. Times. "He destroyed a legend."

"He would have been probably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, left-handed pitchers that ever lived,'' teammate Bob Feller later said of him. "He'd probably have been better than (Sandy) Koufax."

5/07/1989 - Jordan beats Cavs in Game 5

It's not a great day in Cleveland sports history.

Michael Jordan hits "The Shot" against the Cleveland Cavaliers, sending the Cavs packing and the Bulls to the next round. It was the final leg of the four-part Cleveland sports curse, with its other counterparts being "The Catch," "The Drive," and "The Fumble."

To read more about this story, click here for an in-depth Inhistoric article:

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(Dikembe Mutombo. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)

5/07/1994 - Nuggets upset Sonics in five

In one of the greatest upsets in sports history, the Denver Nuggets defeat the Seattle SuperSonics, 98-94, in overtime in the fifth and final game of their first round series. The Nuggets became the first No. 8 seed to defeat a No. 1 and did it after getting crushed in the first two games of the series. When the buzzer sounded, Nuggets center Dikembe Mutombo -- who had eight points, eight blocks, and 15 rebounds -- was the last man holding the ball. As his team ran onto the court, Mutombo dropped to his back and cradled the ball above his head -- one of the most iconic images of the NBA.

It was a mortifying loss for the Sonics, who were thinking sweep after destroying them in games 1 and 2. With a 63-19 record, Seattle was the best team in the NBA and, with Michael Jordan's sudden retirement, were looking a championship directly in the face. They had four more great seasons with Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton as the stars, and even advanced to the finals in 1996. But by that time, Jordan had come back from retirment and his Chicago Bulls defeat the Sonics in six games.

As for the Nuggets, they added to the mystique of their upset by never taking the next step and becoming a contender. Although they pushed the Utah Jazz to seven games in the next round, they got swept by the San Antonio Spurs in 1995. In 1996 they lost 47 games, and then 61 games in 1997 before losing 71 games in 1998 -- giving them one of the worst records in history.

5/07/1995 - Reggie scores eight in 8.9 seconds

From 1993 to 2000, the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers met six times in the postseason. During those encounters, Reggie Miller had numerous performances that established him as the ultimate Knick-killer. His most remarkable performance came in Game 1 of the 1995 semifinals, when he carried the Pacers to one of the most miraculous wins in NBA history.

With 18.7 seconds left, the Knicks held a virtually-insurmountable 105-99 lead. The ball was inbounded to Reggie Miller, who took a long three from the left hand side and knocked it down with 16.4 to go. New York still had a three-point lead. but they were out of timeouts. With a five-second violation in jeopardy, Knicks forward Anthony Mason tried to force it in to Greg Anthony, who was being defended by Miller. Anthony fell down -- helped by a light push from Reggie -- and the ball landed in Miller's hands. Miller then took a step behind the three-point line, fired it from the same exact spot, and hit it -- tying it up at 105.

He wasn't done. On the Knicks' next possession, John Starks was needlessly fouled intentionally by Pacers forward Sam Mitchell, who was unaware that the game was tied. Starks, whose ability to perform in the clutch had long been questioned by the tabloids, did the unthinkable and missed both foul shots. Patrick Ewing grabbed the second of his two misses and attempted a short putback. His shot was off, and Anthony Mason fouled Reggie Miller as the two fought for the rebound. Miller hit both foul shots and gave the Pacers a 107-105 lead with 7.5 to go.

The Knicks missed their last shot and Indiana won, thanks to one of the craziest endings anyone had ever seen. Miller had scored eight points in 8.9 seconds to single-handedly give Indiana the win. As Miller ran back to the locker room, he loudly addressed his opponents as "choke artists!"

"He can't call the Knicks choke artists, but he can call me," said a distraught Starks. "I choked, simple as that. I have to take the blame for this. I have to put it on my shoulders. I had a chance to ice the game with two free throws, and I blew it."

5/07/1995 - Anderson steals ball from Jordan

We go from the highpoint of Jordan's career (The Shot) to the lowpoint of his career (The Turnover).

It was Game 1 of the 1995 semifinals series between the Orlando Magic and the Chicago Bulls. There were 20 seconds left and the Bulls were in possession of the ball; they had just taken a 91-90 lead thanks to an alley-oop dunk by Scottie Pippen and a steal by B.J. Armstrong. After a timeout, the ball was inbounded to Michael Jordan -- who had returned from retirement not even two months earlier. Jordan had had a bad game, shooting just 8-22 from the floor. But now all he had to do was hold onto the ball.

As Jordan dribbled into the frontcourt, the ball was slapped away by Magic guard Nick Anderson, who had snuck up from behind him. The ball went into the hands of Penny Hardaway, who passed it to Horace Grant for a breakaway dunk, giving Orlando a 92-91 lead. On the Bulls' next possession, an additional mistake was made by Jordan, who passed up an open jumper and threw it to the baseline -- thinking that Scottie Pippen would pop out for a jumper. Instead, Pippen ran to the basket and the ball sailed out of bounds. Orlando won it, 94-91, and took a 1-0 series lead.

"I knew he was behind me," Jordan said of Anderson. "I didn't know which way. I tried to stay in front of him. Really, I was just trying to avoid the foul and I really thought that they had to foul me. I misjudged him being on my right side and he just slapped the ball away."

This game proved to be an interesting moment in NBA history for several reasons. At that time, the young and talented Orlando Magic -- led by Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway -- were the best team in the NBA. Nick Anderson was the hero. Michael Jordan was the goat for maybe the only time of his career. The Magic would go on to win the series in six games -- they were the team of the future. The Bulls looked be on the way down -- they were the team of the past.

Within a year, everything had changed. Only one month after the high of stealing the ball from M.J., Nick Anderson missed four straight free throws in one of the more infamous chokejobs in history and cost the Magic from winning a game. Chicago regrouped and won 72 games the following season and swept Orlando in the conference finals. Chicago won an additional three titles in the 1990's while the Magic -- undone by the free-agent loss of Shaquille O'Neal -- fell back to earth almost immediately.

The game is also notable for being the final time that Jordan wore the No. 45 uniform. In Game 2, Jordan switched back to his trademark No. 23, a move that had not been authorized by the league and cost him $25,000. After Game 1, Nick Anderson had told reporters that "No. 45 is not No. 23," meaning that Jordan had lost a step since he came back. Most people believed that Jordan took it as a challenge and made the switch to prove that he still had it.

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(Dodger fans the day after the report. Photo by Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

5/07/2009 - Manny suspended 50 games

Only a few months removed from the report that Alex Rodriguez used steroids as a member of the Texas Rangers, baseball suffers another blow. Manny Ramirez, the eccentric and often crazy star of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is suspended 50 games for violating MLB's drug policy. Ramirez tested positive for hGC, a women's fertility drug often used by players who were cycling off their steroid use. Ramirez was also found to have a testosterone level abnormal for someone not taking performance-enhancing drugs.

With the suspension, Ramirez became the highest-profiled baseball player to get suspended under the league's anti-drug policy. The news was shocking to Dodger fans, who had quickly fallen in love with the once-sure-fire Hall of Famer. There had even been a portion of Dodger Stadium named after him, Mannywood, where fans could purchase a Mannywood t-shirt and a ticket for $99 (Manny's jersey number). Ramirez had turned once-unsellable seats in left field into the premier location at the ballpark. When Ramirez tested positive, Mannywood was disbanded for the time that he was suspended.

Ramirez did not challenge the suspension or claim that he had been incorrectly tested. He did, however, claim that the drug was given to him by a prescription doctor and that he had been taking it for his health, without knowing that it was illegal. Of course by 2009, everyone was so jaded when it came to steroids that Manny's excuse wasn't given an ounce of respect -- not when he was caught taking a women's pregnancy supplement.

The biggest losers in the Manny suspension, or so it appeared, were the Dodgers, who had the best record in baseball when he got suspended. They had even won 13 games in a row at home, the most to start a season in 123 years. But even without their super-star slugger, the Dodgers managed to hold on to the best record in baseball and finished the season with a comfortable lead in the National League West.

Later that year, Ramirez was linked in a New York Times article saying that he and David Ortiz had taken performance-enhancing drugs in 2003. For Ramirez, whose innocence had already been tarnished, the news was nothing shocking. For Ortiz, a noted advocate against steroid use, the revelation was front page news.

Further reading:

He's bad, he's bizarre... he's Reggie Miller [New York Times]

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