As I was leaving the theater that showed the tremendous movie, "Miracle", I was asked how I would rate past sports events, and which ones I’d like to see personally if I could take a time capsule back into history. I considered the question, and here’s my answer:
#3. The "Miracle On Ice". The 1980 U.S. hockey team’s Olympic Gold Medal. The movie "Miracle" is a masterful depiction of the genius of Herb Brooks, as portrayed by Kurt Russell, and the winning hockey team he built.
#2. Jackie Robinson’s first at-bat in the major leagues on April 15, 1947.My hero changed the world of sports and society forever on that day.
#1. The 1936 Olympics, and seeing the U.S. shove it to Adolf Hitler. Not enough is known about those games. I will do a feature article in April on the 1936 Olympic games.
Story of the Week
The look of the tight end position changed in the 1960s, and it turned out to have the steely glare of Mike Ditka. Some say Green Bay’s Ron Kramer or Baltimore’s John Mackey started the revolution, but everyone agrees that Ditka defined and molded the position.
At 6-3 and a solid 230, he had the size to do some blocking, and he certainly had the demeanor. But what defenders failed to realize until they caught a look at the back of his jersey, headed toward the end zone, was that he also could go deep.
In 1961, his first season with the Chicago Bears, Iron Mike caught 56 passes, he scored 12 touchdowns and gained 1,076 yards, averaging 19.2 yards per reception. For a position full of plow-horses, that was a remarkable average.
Ditka was named NFL Rookie of the Year, selected All-Pro, and voted to the Pro Bowl in his very first season. Although he would never again gain more than 1,000 receiving yards, he’d put the NFL on notice. Ditka made the entire NFL realize the importance of the tight end position.
Ditka caught 58 passes in 1962, 59 in 1963, and 75 (a record for tight ends that would stand for 16 years) in 1964. And he displayed another Ditka trademark; toughness. Mike Ditka had the mental toughness of a fullback or a middle linebacker playing tight end.
He played for 12 seasons, including two with Philadelphia and four with Dallas, where he played on the Cowboys’ Super Bowl VI championship team. He caught the final touchdown pass in that game.
Ditka is remembered for a growling intensity, rattling blocks, and a nasty straight-arm, not to mention a downright nasty disposition in general on the football field. In 1982, Ditka took his intensity to the sidelines when George Halas hired him as Bears head coach. He became an icon in Chicago as he led the team to six NFC Central titles, and a victory over New England in Super Bowl XX during his 11 years at the helm. (Let’s gently pass on his coaching stint in New Orleans.)
He was the quintessential competitor, both as a player and a coach. And no one will ever accuse Mike Ditka of ever being boring.
Last Week’s Trivia
He was scouted by Pittsburgh in his native country, but the Pirates’ scouts determined that he didn’t have a major league fastball. He gave up baseball and became famous, actually infamous, around the world. Who is he? Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who holds the major league record for consecutive shutout innings pitched? What is the record? When? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.