Today in Sports History: June 9th

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(The lone red seat at Fenway Park. Photo courtesy of md91180's photostream)

6/09/1946 - Williams hits red seat homer

Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams hits the longest home run ever struck inside Fenway Park. Facing off against Fred Hutchinson of the Detroit Tigers, Williams crushed the ball deep into the right field bleachers. The ball sailed a few dozen rows up, landing on the head of Joseph A. Boucher, a 56 year-old construction engineer, before skidding farther into the stands.

"How far away must one sit to be safe in this park?" Boucher asked Harold Kaese of the Boston Globe. "I didn't even get the ball. They say it bounced a dozen rows higher, but after it hit my head, I was no longer interested. I couldn't see the ball. Nobody could. The sun was right in our eyes. All we could do was duck. I'm glad I didn't stand up."

Williams' blast measured at 502 feet, an incredible feat considering he did it off a changeup pitcher. In the 1970's, Fenway replaced the bleacher benches with chairback seats; a few years later, Red Sox owner Haywood Sullivan decided to commemorate Williams' homer by placing a red seat where Boucher would have sat -- making it the only red seat in Fenway Park.

6/09/1985 - Lakers at last beat Celtics

The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Boston Celtics, 111-100, in Game 6 of the 1985 NBA Finals, winning their third of five championships in the 1980's. 38 year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was awesome, scoring 29 points, diving on the floor, and willing his team to victory. Magic Johnson played great as well, notching his second triple-double in a series-clinching win, but the MVP unanimously went to Kareem. It was the first time that the Celtics had lost a Finals series at the Boston Garden.

More importantly, it was the first time in franchise history that the Lakers defeated the Celtics in the NBA Finals. Their previous eight meetings -- in 1959, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, and 1984 -- had all gone to the guys in green. Just the year before, the Lakers lost a pair of close ones in Games 2 and 4 that, had they won, would have given them the series in a sweep. But their lack of success against Boston had motivated them tremendously. It made them tougher, more resilient, and hungry to silence the gleeful Celtics fan.

"People thought we couldn't work hard, that we didn't have the work ethic," Johnson said. "But we did. We showed everybody that we can dive, that we can make hustle players and we are a workman's team."

"The victory is even sweeter because we broke the stranglehold, the dynasty, against us," said Lakers coach Pat Riley. "Boston can never mock us again like they did last year."

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(Johnson hits the winning hook shot. Photo courtesy of Associated Press)

6/09/1987 - Magic sky hook beats Celtics

Magic Johnson provides the signature highlight of his phenomenal NBA career. With five seconds left in Game 4 of the Finals, the Lakers were again playing the Boston Celtics. Larry Bird had just a three-pointer from the left corner, which -- factored in with a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar free throw -- had the Celtics with a 106-105 advantage.

Johnson dribbled from the left side of the floor and was defended by Boston's Kevin McHale. Johnson penetrated into the lane and maneuvered around the lanky power forward. As he got into the paint, Robert Parish came over to try to block his shot. Magic, with a nod to the patented move of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, put up a sky hook that just got past Parish and McHale's outstretched arms. The shot, which Johnson called a "junior, junior sky hook" went in with two seconds to go, and gave the Lakers a 107-106 win.

"You expect to lose to the Lakers on a sky hook," Bird noted grimly. "You don't expect it to be from Magic."

"I used to try it in practice," said Johnson, who was later named the series MVP, "then I learned the basics of shooting it from Kareem. I didn't start shooting it in games until this season."

With the win, the Lakers took an insurmountable 3-1 series lead. The two teams split the next two games, giving Los Angeles their second championship in three years. That was the last time Magic and Bird met in the Finals -- the Celtics got old in a hurry and suffered heavily from the deaths of Len Bias and Reggie Lewis. Meanwhile, the Lakers were hampered by Magic Johnson's abrupt retirement in 1991, an exit that he made because he was HIV positive. There was no Lakers-Celtics rivalry in the 1990's.

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6/09/1999 - Bobby Valentine goes undercover

When Mets manager Bobby Valentine got ejected for arguing an interference call on Mike Piazza, he did something a tad unusual. Most managers stand in the hallway and relay strategies to their assistants when they get kicked out. Valentine went a step further, returning to the dugout in a pair of sunglasses, a Mets t-shirt, and a mustache made of eye black tape.

Despite leading the Mets to the Subway Series in 2000, Valentine was constantly hounded by the press in his tenure with the Mets. It was this stunt that would be referenced the most in their attempts to paint him as a joke.

Valentine didn't exactly help himself out when he denied allegations and visual proof that it was him. ''It was somebody else who didn't look like me,'' he told reporters. Baseball officials were not amused and gave Valentine a two-game suspension and $5,000 fine.

''It was an incident that occurred that I can't take back,'' Valentine said a few days later. ''It's one of those things that happened. If I had known what the responses would be and how seriously the outside world would take it, I never would have done it." ''Let's not kid anyone. I knew where the camera was. If I thought this was punishable by death, the camera never would have seen me. I didn't think it was that big a deal. But again I was incorrect."

Further reading:

Ted Williams established the seat of power [Boston.com]

Mets' Fourth Straight Victory Is Stunning [New York Times]

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