Today in Sports History: September 5th

9/05/1791 - Town draws up baseball laws

On a Monday afternoon in 1791, the town of Pittsfield, Massachusetts voted to ban the game of baseball and other activities that had disturbed many of the townspeople.

In 2004, historian Jim Thorn, searching for the birth place of baseball, managed to ascertain the document that the bylaw was written on. By unearthing the 213 year-old document, Thorn had revealed the oldest credited use of the word "baseball," launching many to believe that Pittsfield was in fact the birth place of baseball.

This is what was written in the bylaw:

Be it ordained by the said Inhabitants that no person or Inhabitant of said Town‚ shall be permitted to play at any game called Wicket‚ Cricket‚ Baseball‚ Batball‚ Football‚ Cats‚ Fives or any other games played with Ball‚ within the Distance of eighty yards from said Meeting House - And every such Person who shall play at any of the said games or other games with Ball within the distance aforesaid‚ shall for every Instance thereof‚ forfeit the Sum of five shillings to be recovered by Action of Debt brought before any Justice of the Peace to the Person who shall and prosecute therefore And be it further ordained that in every Instance where any Minor shall be guilty of a Breach of this Law‚ his Parent‚ Master‚ Mistress or guardian shall forfeit the like Sum to be recovered in manner‚ and to the use aforesaid.

9/05/1980 - Meyers signs with Pacers

Ann Meyers, the sister of Milwaukee Bucks forward Dave Meyers, becomes the first -- and to date only -- woman to ever sign a contract with an NBA team. Meyers agreed to a $50,000 tryout with the Indiana Pacers, where she competed against nine male hopefuls who were also attempting to play in the NBA. Some questioned if the move was a publicity stunt, though Meyers dispelled those rumors in a hurry -- now that she had a professional contract, even if only for a tryout, she had lost her amateur status and could not longer compete in the Olympics.

"This is a challenge," said the 24 year-old. "I know it is unusual, but I've had dreams all my life. It is unreal, but something that I have wanted."

No girl had ever played in an NBA game, although two women had been drafted by teams but never signed with them: Denise Long by the San Francisco Warriors in 1969, and Lusia Harris with the New Orleans Jazz in 1977. Going farther in men's basketball than any woman before her, Meyers carried a ton of pressure on her back.

"I think she may be well over her head," her brother told reporters, "but on the other hand, I do think she could make it. She's the best women's basketball player in the country and one of the best in the world. I am just worried about her emotions in dealing with this situation. ... I just don't want her to get hurt."

Meyers was undoubtedly talented, having received All-American honors in her four years at UCLA. But at 5-foot-9, 140 pounds, Meyers simply wasn't big enough to compete in the NBA. One week after signing her contract, the Pacers announced that they were cutting her. Meyers, along with Lusia Harris, then went to play in the newly-formed Women's Basketball League, which lasted from 1978 to 1981. She later married former Dodgers great Don Drysdale and had three kids with him before he passed away.

9/05/1983 - Cosell calls player "little monkey"

The legendary career of announcer Howard Cosell was not without its controversies. In a telecast of Monday Night Football, Redskins' wide receiver Alvin Garrett had just completed a herky-jerky maneuver to get a first down. On the replay, Cosell remarked, "[Joe] Gibbs wanted to get this kid, and that little monkey gets loose, doesn't he?"

The apparent comparison of Garrett, an African American, to a primate got Cosell in a heap of trouble. However video evidence surfaced of Cosell using "little monkey" to describe white players as well. Evidence even appeared that showed that Cosell called his grandchildren "little monkeys." The terminology was Cosell’s way of describing the mannerisms of the play, not the player. Cosell attempted an apology to clarify just that. However, his tell-it-like-it-is persona made him come off as though he never used the term in the first place.

"According to the reporters, they were told I called Alvin Garrett 'a little monkey.' Nothing of the sort, and you fellows know it. No man respects Alvin Garrett more than I do. I talked about the man's ability to be so elusive despite the smallness of his size."

The incident wore on Cosell as the season progressed. By the end of the year, Cosell was so bitter with football and all sports that he resigned from the ABC booth. Despite it leading to his early retirement, the gaffe did not tarnish his legacy. Cosell was a longtime civil rights activist and friend of both Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali. Much like Billy Packer's use of the word "fag" to describe laziness, Cosell's faux pas was eventually forgiven because it was not intended to be derogatory or hateful -- and because he lost his job from it.

9/05/2007 - Bonds hits final home run


Barry Bonds hits the final home run of the season -- and subsequently the last homer of his career -- off of Ubaldo Jimenez at Coors Field. Bonds would sit out most of the remaining games of the year, allowing the younger players to get some time in (the Giants lost 91 games, so they had no reason otherwise).

For Bonds, it was home run No. 762 of his career. Like Hank Aaron before him, once he passed the total that made him the all-time record holder, his current number was more or less irrelevant. In Aaron's case, 755 only became a hallowed number when after thirty years he was still the all-time home run leader.

The home run ball, caught by Jameson Sutton, was eventually auctioned off for $376,612. Once Bonds reached 756 to surpass Aaron, Major League Baseball had stopped marking the baseballs, leaving many to fear that it would be too hard to authenticate the 762 ball -- whenever it would show up. Fortunately for historians and collectors, this was not the case.


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