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Posted by on Feb 9, 2018 in Blog, Essays | 2 comments

A St. Louis Coincidence and a Great Sports Teams Question

 

WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMEBACK IN SPORTS HISTORY?

 

Today, a confluence of unusual events prompted the following thought-question-post:

A few years ago, Paul Harris (the radio personality) and Dennis Phillips (the poker player) took me to a St. Louis Cardinals home baseball game.  Paul, who lives in St. Louis, is retiring from talk radio today.  He spent 40 years in radio broadcasting.  I wish him well.  Memories of that experience when the Cardinals beat the Reds stuck with me and prompted my awareness of a few unusual coincidences.

So, why am I writing this post on the topic of greatest sports comebacks?

I’ll get to that in a moment.

Today’s local newspaper lists the odds of (still mathematically-possible) NBA and NHL teams winning this year’s championship.  The favorites are to be expected — Golden State Warriors in the NBA and the Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL.  The Las Vegas Golden Knights are the second-rated favorite.  However, some really bad sports teams are listed as ridiculous long shots.  Some might say they have no chance whatsoever.

Anyone out there want to bet real money on the NBA’s Orlando Magic — currently with a dismal 18-36 record, 14th place in the Eastern Conference?  The Magic are 2,000-1 to win the NBA championship.  How about the NHL’s Montreal Canadians — with a 22-26 record, currently in last place?  The Canadians are 1,500-1 to win the Stanley Cup.  Sounds like flushing money down the toilet to me.

The prospect of betting long shots later in the season got me to thinking — what are the most incredible MID-SEASON and/or LATE SEASON comebacks in all of sports history?

Many sports fans can recall surprise teams that ended up winning championships — 1999 St. Louis Rams (after a horrid 4-12 season); 1967 Texas Western (now UTEP, the first team with Black athletes to win college basketball’s championship); 1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack (Jimmy Valvano’s legendary team); and the 1969 New York Mets (from worst to first).  However, each of those teams enjoyed a great full season.  None were left for dead past the midway point of their respective schedules.

So…..

Can you name any team that came completely out of nowhere to win a sports championship? Google search has various lists of so-called “Cinderella” sports teams.  But there’s nothing listed about incredible mid-season comebacks that I could find.

Earlier, I mentioned there would be a St. Louis connection and odd coincidence in today’s article.  I’ll get to that now.

Based on my recollection of sports history, the best example of a late-season long shot ultimately winning a championship was the 1964 St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.  Most of us won’t remember that in late August of 1964, the Cardinals were 11 games behind the first-place Philadelphia Phillies in the National League race (there were no divisions back then, and no wild card teams).  As late as mid-September, the Cardinals were still 6.5 games back with only 12 games to play — almost an insurmountable obstacle to overcome.  Incredibly, the Cardinals not only won the National League pennant by a single game when the Phillies collapsed in one of the worst meltdowns ever, they also ended the New York Yankees 40-year dynasty by defeating them in the World Series of Baseball.

Which now leads me to the closing odd coincidence of today’s post.

The bat boy for those championship 1964 St. Louis Cardinals was Ed Hill — the long time poker pro who lives here in Las Vegas, who I have known for many years.  Ed served as the bat boy for most of the Cardinals’ home games that year.  Some of the players Ed picked up bats for included Lou Brock, Tim McCarver, Bob Gibson, Bob Ueker, and Curt Flood (who later became the catalyst for sports free agency).

Oh, and one more thing.  Today is Ed Hill’s 64th birthday.

Happy birthday, Ed Hill.

__________

 

2 Comments

  1. Nothing to top the 64 Cards, just wanted to thank you for mentioning Paul Harris’s retirement. He gave us some great years of morning radio at WCXR in DC, and since then on the Internet…

  2. My pick for greatest comeback/collapse is the ’51 Giants/Dodgers, a story I expect every educated sports fan to know well.

    To the extent that I have a sports hero, it’s Curt Flood. What a pity he was never revered during his time as he should have been. No joke, every professional team sport athlete should have a shrine to that man in both his home and his locker.

    Oh, and happy birthday, Ed! I’ve had the privilege of hearing some of his stories from that era. They’re amazing.

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