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Today in Sports History: August 16th

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8/16/1954 - SI makes debut

Sports Illustrated hits newsstands for the first time ever. It would take a little while, but eventually SI became the name in the world of sports media... at least until ESPN came on the scene. SI remains extremely prominent and is still the most popular sports magazine in the country.

Eddie Mathews of the Milwaukee Braves was the first person to grace the magazine's cover. Just a few days later, Mathews suffered a hand injury that kept him out of the lineup a full week. And thus, the Sports Illustrated cover jinx was born. Since its inception, bad results have followed a litany of people who appeared on the SI cover. However, it isn't hard to disprove the curse: as of May 2008, the athletes who had appeared on the cover the more than anyone else were Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, and Tiger Woods.

8/16/2008 - Phelps ties Spitz in remarkable fashion

Without a doubt, the biggest storyline of the 2008 Beijing Olympics was that of American swimmer Michael Phelps, who was vying to win a record eight gold medals. At the previous Olympics, he had finished with six gold and two bronze, and now that he had perfected his training regiment and was a little bit older, experts believed it was his year. His expectations were not modest, as anything but a perfect eight-for-eight would be deemed a failure.

In his seventh event, Phelps competed in the 100-meter butterfly. If he won, he would tie fellow American Mark Spitz, who won seven gold medals at the Munich Olympics in 1972. 50 meters into the race, Phelps' quest for perfection was in enormous trouble, as he was in seventh place as they swam to the finish. But Phelps made up an enormous deficit and was neck-and-neck with Serbian swimmer Milorad Cavic as they neared the finish.

With just a few feet to go, Cavic was clearly ahead of Phelps; but he tried to glide to the wall, while Phelps made the crucial decision to attempt a half-stroke. Phelps' maneuver worked and allowed him to close the gap. In an unbelievably close finish, both men placed their hands on the wall sensor at almost exactly the same time. When both men emerged from the water, they stared at the scoreboard in anticipation, as neither knew who would come away with the gold. The results finally emerged, and the Americans in the crowd cheered ecstatically: Phelps, with a record time of 50.58 seconds, had beaten Cavic by 0.01 seconds.

''I'm really at a loss for words,'' he told reporters. ''I'm excited. I just don't know what to say.''

Serbian swimming officials immediately filed a protest, but they dropped their appeal after seeing the footage of the race. The race was so close that even still pictures of it appeared inconclusive. But Olympic officials looked over the material and confirmed that after several reviews, Phelps had indeed won the race.

Cavic described the loss as "devastating," but he tried to assure that he was satisfied in defeat. ''I'm stoked with what happened," he said. "I'm very, very happy. I don't want to fight this. It is a gold medal at stake. It's a difficult thing to lose, but you have to understand I came into this competition with the goal to win a bronze medal. I went my best time and did better than bronze. I got silver and almost got gold.''

The next day, Phelps completed his mission by winning his eighth gold medal of the Beijing Olympics -- an amazing feat considering that in his second-to-last event, he was just a few hundredths of a second from losing.

8/16/2009 - Y.E. beats Tiger

In one of the most stunning upsets in all of golf, Y.E. Yang -- the 110th ranked player in the world -- defeats Tiger Woods, ranked No. 1, to win the PGA Championship. The 37 year-old Yang was paired with Woods in the final round and began the day two strokes behind, but he made up ground thanks to several gutsy shots down the stretch. Woods struggled with the putter all day and finished with a three-over 75. The highlight of the final round came on the 14th hole, when Yang chipped in a 15-footer from the fringe that give him a one-stroke lead.

Going into the final hole, Woods was still trailing by a single stroke. Yang left nothing to chance and placed the ball squarely on the green, while Tiger's sailed into the rough. Woods missed his chip shot that could have tied it if Yang missed, but it didn't matter. Yang sunk his birdie shot anyway, giving him an unprecedented victory.

It was the first time that an Asian-born player won a major tournament. Yang had only started playing golf when he was 19 and had to wait to get out of the South Korean military to play it professionally. He had only just begun playing inside the United States and had won just a single event prior to the PGA Championship. Yang, whose initials stood for Yong-eun, received a congratulatory phone call from Lee Myung-bak, the president of South Korea, who was watching it live in the wee hours of the morning.

But the bigger story was with the man Yang defeated. Tiger Woods, who had been leading the tournament since day one, rarely lost on the final day when he was in the mix and had never lost when he was leading a major after three rounds (14 for 14). He had won 47 of 50 tournaments when he had a share of the 54-hole lead, including his last 36. He was Tiger Woods, the undisputed best, clutchest, most dominant golfer in history. And although he was having -- by his standards -- a rough season in his first year back from knee surgery, he had only solidified his status as the best golfer in the world by winning back-to-back golf tournaments two weeks before.

"I made absolutely nothing," said Woods, who spent much of the final round cursing himself under his breath. "I had a terrible day on the greens... I hit the ball great off the tee, hit my irons well. I did everything I needed to do except get the ball in the hole."

Further reading:

Phelps frame-by-frame [Sports Illustrated]