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Today in Sports History: July 1st

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(Jeter's dive. Photo by Frank Franklin II, Associated Press)

There are certain days of the year where a lot of things have gone down: August 4th and June 19th are two that come to mind (to me, the editor). But there is no day of the year, at least so far in the history of Inhistoric, where more things have happened than on July 1st. That's right: July 1st is the most eventful day of the year in terms of interesting things that happened in sports. Why July 1st? Dunno. It is traditionally the first day of NBA free agency, so I guess that helps.

Anyway, figured I'd give an intro. Here are some of the things that went down (left purposely vague so you'll continue reading after the jump):

  • An NBA superstar gets in trouble
  • Jeter does "The Dive" vs. the Sox
  • The worst no-hitter of all-time
  • A Hall of Famer dons fake dreads
  • Gary Matthews' incredible catch
  • No Jordan. No Season.
  • A memorable minor league face-off
  • B-Dizzle leaves the Bay Area

What does it all mean? Read on...

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7/01/1982 - Fidrych faces Righetti

Mark Fidrych's last major league appearance occurred in 1981, with the Detroit Tigers. He attempted a comeback with the Red Sox organization in 1982 and 1983, though he was never called up. The most memorable of his minor league escapades occurred on the first day of July, 1982, when he squared off with the New York Yankees' Dave Righetti, who had been sent down to AAA-Columbus.

Righetti won the AL Rookie of the Year award in 1981, an award Fidrych himself claimed in 1976. It was a Sox/Yankees clash in the minor leagues, with big-name hurlers on the mound. 9,389 people crammed their way into McCoy Stadium, the home of the Pawtucket Red Sox, even though the capacity was at 6,000. It was a record that would stand until the Paw Sox expanded the bleachers in 1999.

Righetti struck out a dozen batters in five innings before ending his night, while Fidrych pitched poorly but threw a complete game. The Bird's team won, 7-5, and he received a standing ovation and a curtain call from the hometown fans, much as he did when he pitched for the Tigers.

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7/01/1985 - Schmidt wears a wig

Mike Schmidt expected a bad reception when his Phillies returned from a road trip in Montreal. Just a few days earlier, an interview had been published in which Schmidt called the Phili fans "a mob scene" and "beyond help." He was reacting to the hostile treatment he had gotten from the fans over the years, and though he backed off his comments, it was assured that his return to Veteran's Stadium would be an unpleasant one.

Sure enough, the Phillies fans came to the park ready to boo him out of the league. With the team out of contention and Schmidt having a terrible year, there was little doubt. But one thing no one counted on was that Schmidt would run to first base in a giant black wig and sunglasses, which he did during the introductions. Dressed in the most preposterous of disguises, the hometown crowd did the unthinkable and gave Schmidt a standing ovation. It was a new page for Phillies fans, who gradually warmed up to the Hall of Famer.

7/01/1990 - Hawkins loses 4-0 in no-no

Just two days after a pair of no-hitters by Fernando Valenzuela and Dave Stewart, Yankees pitcher Andy Hawkins performs a less than ceremonious one. In the bottom of the eighth inning at Comiskey Park, the Yankees and Chicago White Sox were knotted at zero. Hawkins had thrown seven-and-two-thirds innings of hit-less baseball, and he would retire the side and keep his no-hitter... but lose.

Two walks and a preposterous three errors allowed four White Sox players to cross home plate before the inning was over. In the top of the ninth, the Yankees failed to produce a run, thus handing Andy Hawkins a loss despite throwing a no-hitter. It was just the thirteenth time in history that a pitcher lost a game while allowing zero hits.

Afterward, the Yankees congratulated the veteran pitcher on his no-no, though he was hardly in the mood to celebrate. ''I'm stunned; I really am,'' he said. ''This is not even close to the way I envisioned a no-hitter would be. You dream of one, but you never think it's going to be a loss. You think of Stewart and Fernando, coming off the field in jubilation. Not this.''

Adding insult to injury, MLB commissioner Fay Vincent ruled one year later that no-hitters can only be considered no-hitters if the pitcher pitched the entire nine-inning game. Because the Yankees lost after eight-and-a-half innings, and because Hawkins could not pitch in the bottom of the ninth, his no-hitter was wiped from the record books.

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(Billy Hunter -- head of the players union -- and David Stern on Jan. 7, 1999. Photo by Ezra Shaw, Allsport)

7/01/1998 - The NBA lockout begins

Just a few weeks after Michael Jordan beat the Utah Jazz on a last-second jumper, the NBA announces that it is imposing a league-wide lockout of its players and personnel. It was the third lockout initiated by commissioner David Stern over the last four years -- the 1996 reprieve had lasted just a single day.

The major issue, as usual with labor disputes in sports, was about money. The owners believed that too much of it was going to cover players' salaries and that a firmer salary cap needed to be enforced. The players, of course, did not feel this way and refused to barter with the NBA. With the collective bargaining agreement expired, the league shut down operations for 191 days, when the players and owners finally agreed on a compromise. The new deal came on January 6, 1999 -- one day before Stern's self-imposed deadline to cancel the season.

The six-month lockout had several effects on the NBA. For one, the league could no longer tout itself as the only professional sports league to never experience a work shortage. The All-Star Game and marquee Christmas day game were scrapped -- NBC covered the latter with a repeat of It's a Wonderful Life. 428 games and millions and millions of dollars were lost, as was a good deal of respect for the league (more on that later). The season finally began in February with a newly drawn up 50-game schedule, reduced from the usual 82 games. For the first time in a decade, teams played games on three straight days, a decision that was necessary to complete the season in time.

The new C.B.A. gave the owners the monetary restrictions they had asked for, however it could not reverse what was a particularly bad moment in the history of the league. Both the players and the owners were seen as selfish and self-absorbed by people in the media. Similarly, fans could hardly sympathize with the blight of the billionaire owners and millionaire players, particularly since the league was coming off its most successful season (ratings-wise) in history, a season headlined by the retiring Jordan. The players in particular wound up looking clownish when they hosted, of all things, a series of charity basketball games where the proceeds went to current NBA players. Perhaps the most famous statement to come from the whole ordeal came from Knicks center Patrick Ewing, the president of the NBPA, who said, "Yeah, we players make a lot of money, but we spend a lot of money too."

In the end, the lockout hurt the league's approval rating, though not nearly as much as the 1994 players strike did to Major League Baseball's. Coming back to play most of the season was an important recovery step, as was a rare finals appearance from the New York Knicks. There was an immediate drop-off in ratings and attendance, although that was expected anyway now that Jordan was out of the league. The one positive thing to come from the shortage was the reduced season length, which many people found refreshingly succinct.

7/01/2003 - The Kobe case surfaces

It was on this day in 2003 that the public first learned of the scandalous accusations facing NBA superstar Kobe Bryant. The charge was that Bryant sexually assaulted a woman while spending the night at a Colorado inn. And though Kobe was never convicted of anything, the incident left a permanent stain on his reputation.

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

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(Reese dives into the crowd. Photo by Ezra Shaw, Getty Images)

7/01/2004 - Jeter's dive highlights 13-inning classic

There have been a ton of terrific Red Sox-Yankees games over the years, but few have been as exciting as the one on July 1, 2004. Pedro Martinez beaned Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez hit two home runs -- including the go-ahead blast in the top of the 13th -- and Yankees backup catcher John Flaherty hit the game-winning double in the bottom of the inning. But the crazy night at Yankee Stadium was highlighted by the two shortstops: Derek Jeter, and the guy filling in for Nomar Garciapara.

In the offseason, the Red Sox tried to acquire Alex Rodriguez by trading Nomar to the Texas Rangers. The Yankees eventually wound up with A-Rod, and Nomar was so upset over the attempted trade that some speculated that he was keeping himself out of the lineup when he wasn't seriously injured. Garciapara, citing a sore knee, would sit out this game as well, a move that many didn't appreciate considering it was the final game of a critical division series.

Filling in for Nomar at shortstop was Pokey Reese, who quickly made his presence felt. In the fifth inning, a Kenny Lofton pop-up drifted into the photographers seats, which had been specifically added for the Sox-Yanks series. Reese caught up with the ball and leaped into the box area, completely disappearing from view; he then reemerged with the ball in his glove, completing one of the most sensational grabs of the year.

As great a catch as that was, Jeter eclipsed it in the top of the eleventh. The Red Sox had men on second and third with two out and Trot Nixon at the plate. Nixon hit a blooper into shallow left field, and Jeter ran towards it at full speed. Jeter was going so fast that when he caught the ball near the foul line, he couldn't stop himself and dove into the stands. Jeter walked away with a bloody face and a limp; he left the game to a standing ovation from the New York crowd -- having just posed for the most famous image of his career.

While Nomar was sitting on the bench with an injury that many thought he could play through, his replacement and the Yankees shortstop were risking their bodies to make tough plays -- Jeter in particular came off as almost heroic; it was a watershed moment for Nomar and the Sox. It embodied why the Yankees were the 26-time champions, and why the Sox hadn't won it in 86 years.

Less than a month later, the Red Sox traded Garciapara to the Chicago Cubs. The Red Sox would go on to win the World Series without him, however the team voted to give Garciapara a championship ring anyway.

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(Gary Matthews. Photo by Tim Heitman, US Presswire)

7/01/2007 - Matthews makes amazing catch

The Houston Astros were leading the Texas Rangers 5-0 in the top of the eighth. Mike Lamb, who had already produced a double, a triple, and a home run, was at the plate. A single would haven given him the illusive cycle, but Lamb was looking for a two-homer game instead. On a 3-1 pitch from Bryan Corey, Lamb blasted the ball to deep center field. It looked like a sure home run.

Gary Matthews Jr. then went to work. The Rangers outfielder raced to the wall and jumped off his right foot. Elevating his glove a good three feet above the eight-foot outfield wall, Matthews caught the ball while barely getting a look at it, and then spun back and landed on his left leg. The Rangers would lose the game big, but Matthews' play stole all the headlines.

"It's going to go on the highlights for a while, and it should," Lamb said. "It just stinks that it happened to me."

"That's the best one I've made so far," Matthews said. "It was hit high, so I knew I had a shot. You go back, pick a spot and hope it's the right one. It hit right in the pocket."

Matthews' catch was the star highlight from his 2006 All-Star season. Once a journeyman outfielder with the Padres, Cubs, Mets, and Orioles, Matthews had career-highs in batting, slugging, runs, hits, RBI, doubles, triples, and total bases in 2006. That offseason, the Los Angeles Angels gave Matthews a 5-year $50 million deal in the hope that he would evolve into a five-tool slugger.

Three months after receiving his enormous deal, Matthews was linked in an Albany Times-Union article that exposed a pharmacy illegally supplying steroids. The store's clients included Matthews, Jose Canseco, and former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, whose buyer name was cryptically "Evan Fields."

It took Matthews sixteen days to issue a statement saying, "I have never taken HGH," and in that time, all his credibility had been lost. He fell back to earth in 2007; his batting average dropped 61 points and his fielding percentage was the lowest of any American League center fielder. Later that year, Matthews was named in the Mitchell Report.

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(Mike Dunleavy, Baron Davis, and Elgin Baylor. Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images)

7/01/2008 - Baron heads to L.A.

After three-and-a-half years in Golden State, point guard Baron Davis signs a five-year, $65 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. Davis joined one of the most unsuccessful sports franchises in America in the hope that Elton Brand, the Clippers' star power forward, would re-sign with the team. Brand instead signed with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Davis had an absolutely atrocious first year with the Clippers, so bad that they even offered to trade him back to the Warriors midway through the season. Davis averaged just 14.9 per game while shooting a disastrous 37% from the field. The Clippers ended the year with the second-worst record in the league at 19-63, but on the bright side, this gave them the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft: Blake Griffin.

Further reading:

Full of energy, No need to nap [New York Times]

What are the NBA players demands? [The Onion]