Today in Sports History: June 1st

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6/01/1988 - Madden debuts

John Madden Football, the first incarnation of the Madden NFL video game series, is released for the Commodore 64 and Apple II. Madden, a Hall of Famer who won a Super Bowl coaching the Oakland Raiders, served as a consultant for the game's design. When the developers stated that they wanted the teams to field only six players -- and not the eleven in real life -- Madden threatened to pull his name from the project. "I'm not putting my name on it if it's not real," he told them.

The series became a smash hit and made Electronic Arts, or EA Games, a household publisher. He was already a well-known announcer, but the longevity of the game series helped make Madden one of the most famous sports broadcasters of all time, right there with Howard Cosell and Marv Albert. By the time he retired in 2009, he was the only announcer to have worked for all four major networks.

While the game was enormously popular, a series of misfortunes seemed to follow the NFL players who appeared on the cover sleeve. The first athlete to do just that was Garrison Hearst, who suffered a gruesome ankle injury that nearly ended his career. In 2000, Barry Sanders was put on the front just weeks before he announced his retirement. The replacement cover boy, Dorsey Levens, saw his season rushing numbers drop from 1,034 in 1999 to 224 in 2000. Just like that, the legend of the curse was born.

[The 6.01.88 release date is from Gamespy.com and an article from Destructoid. I note this because there is no Elias Sports Bureau of video games, meaning that a lot of video game release dates are lost in the abyss. There's a chance it didn't actually come out on this day in 1988, but hey, whatever. I'd have to write about it anyway, so why not now.]

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6/01/1994 - Reggie torches Knicks for 39

Reggie Miller's reputation as the ultimate Knick-killer is born.

Through three quarters of the fifth game of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Knicks held a 70-58 lead over the Indiana Pacers. Indiana had lost 31 of their last 33 games at Madison Square Garden and were getting mediocre performances from their two primary scorers: Miller and Rik Smits. It was looking bleak for the Indiana Pacers and film director Spike Lee, the Knicks' most famous courtside celebrity, made certain that Miller understood it.

"Reggie is the king of talk and Spike definitely said something that set him off," said Pacers forward Antonio Davis. "I'm not sure what it was, but Reggie took us for a ride after that and we just hopped on board and everything flowed from him."

Lee, as he did with other visiting players, had heckled Miller throughout the series. Miller had heard enough and used the riffing as motivation. In one of the greatest shooting exhibitions in history, Miller lit up the Knicks in the final period -- he scored 25 points of his 39, made five three-pointers (a record for a quarter), and single-handedly outscored them. He seemed to have no limit to his range and even hit a well-contested shot from almost 30 feet away. After every spectacular longball that sucked the life out of the crowd, Miller ran by Spike Lee and yelled expletives at him, at one point even giving him the choke sign.

Within minutes, the Knicks' double-digit lead had been thrown to the wind. A 23-3 Indiana run sealed New York's fate and the game ended in a 93-86 Pacers victory. Afterward, Knicks fans blamed Lee for riling up one of the best shooters in the game. The New York Post ran a headline the next day titled: "Thanks A Lot Spike."

Things looked bad for the Knicks, who were only 1-6 on the road in the postseason. But the Knicks defense held Indiana to only 41.7% shooting in Game 6 and they prevailed in the do-or-die game, 98-91. They then went back to New York where they narrowly squeaked past the Pacers in Game 7.

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(Milton Bradley was kinda upset that day. Photo courtesy AP Photos)

6/01/2004 - Milton Bradley throws equipment

Dodgers outfielder Milton Bradley already had a reputation as a hothead -- the main reason he was in Los Angeles was because the Cleveland Indians, his former team, traded him after he got in a heated argument with manager Eric Wedge. So you can imagine how bad it looked when on this day in 2004, Bradley got ejected from a game before even reaching the batter's box.

Bradley took out his frustration in a very unique way. The first thing he did was remove his helmet, bat, and gloves, which he dropped on the home plate diamond in protest. As he walked back to the dugout, it appeared that he had calmed down. Yet when he got inside, he lifted the team's bucket of baseballs (as used during warm-ups), stepped back onto the field, and flung them across the baseball diamond. He then picked up a nearby baseball and angrily flung it down the left field line. He left the field with a standing ovation -- after all, he had given the crowd quite a show.

Bradley was handed a four game suspension. It would not be his last exhibition of rage in a Dodgers uniform: three months later, a fan threw a plastic bottle at Bradley while he was in the outfield. Bradley confronted the fan and slammed down a bottle of liquid at the front row. Although the crime was nothing compared to what Ron Artest did later that year, Bradley was suspended for the final five games of the season. He then vowed to take anger management courses.

The ball-throwing affair was the first major on-the-field incident for Bradley, who went on to have several more with several different teams.

6/01/2007 - Wellman goes nutso


Kevin Villa of the AA-level Mississippi Braves was ejected for using a foreign substance, and his manager, Phillip Wellman, reacted in a less-than-professional way. He would receive a three-game suspension for his antics. Even though he acted like a fool, it's hard to complain with anything that makes a minor league baseball game watchable.

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